I recently wrote a folk horror short story for a local literary magazine. The plot changed quite a lot during writing and some of the changes were due to my thinking of how the material could be also used as the basis for a small-scale RPG setting. Here are most of the salvageable aspects:
Amidst the tree-nurtured shadows of west Pelion mountain (or any other seaside wilderness) survives a centuries-spanning cult. This cult worships Seryia, a woman chained at the bottom of the Pagasetic bay (/in the bottom of the nearest sea). A thousand years ago she was a great artisan who sculpted stones into people – such was her skill, such the life-likeness of the forms she created out of rock, that the sculpted stones were convinced that they were humans and so they walked, breathed and talked. They even built a small village, promptly forgetting that they ever were stones.
A lawful goddess (Holy Mary in the story) was enraged with Seryia; she could not abide the chaos and fluidity of forms that the latter’s art expressed and realised. She descended to the unnamed village one day and whispered to the ear of every villager, reminding them that they never stopped being rocks. As soon as the words were said, each villager turned back into plain, formless stone. The village was lost and angels scattered the stones all over the sea and mountain.
Seryia was imprisoned beneath the waves, bound with chains made of constellations and sunlight. Her needles, the tools of her trade, were hidden by the goddess/Mary. Seryia has since been in an unbreakable underwater slumber. Only when the night sky is covered with clouds does the bonds’ strength lessen somewhat, and Seryia’s dreams start looking for her needles. Their shadow can be seen in sea caves, beneath the waves and in silent beaches.
The cult appeared almost immediately after Seryia’s imprisonment and has been searching ever since. Their uttermost goal is of course to liberate their artisan/saint. This involves not only finding the exact location of Seryia’s prison, but also finding her two needles, the only items supposedly able to shatter her bonds.
Being unable to locate either, the members of the cult wander the countryside and the sea all year round, looking for the stones that the goddess/Mary scattered in earth and sea. The ones they find they place on the cliffs above the sea. One night per year, on the anniversary of Seryia’s imprisonment, they visit those standing stones and carve faces and bodies on them with their nails and burned sticks, and then they proceed to question them in a ritualized way, for directions about the needles’ location. Sometimes the faces answer, albeit in cryptic fashion.
Some facts about the cultists:
- They wear thick long dresses drenched in sea salt and dark mud. They are difficult to visually spot in the night, though the salty smell can betray them if far from the sea.
- Their figures are horrible to behold; even faeries and goblins (the latter like to dance with their gold coins) run in terror when they appear.
- When searching, their figures are short, gnarly and resemble ruined wells. Salt water always trickles from their right sleeve. When standing still they can be mistaken for an abandoned well – any who tries to look down the well hole may fall in their enormous pockets.
- They wear metal fingernails which plow the ground, tracing strange patterns throughout the countryside. Some of these trails are magical; if crossed by a non-cultist they may create various effects (cause a very localised rain of frogs, sound a hollow bell-like alarm, turn back the clock by half an hour, etc)
- When on land they mostly wander through wind-lashed coasts and low trees.
- They search in natural holes of the earth and in any abandoned chimneys they can find (sometimes in working chimneys, too).
- They open graves so as to shake the longer bones, to listen if the goddess/Mary hid the needles inside.
- They take the oars from any grounded boat, and break them upon rocks to reveal their insides.