Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Shadow Appalachia: Boone Saltwoods

The salt came first, even before the coal. When the hollers were not yet born, the Iapetus Ocean covered everything. Some say the ancient blanket of buried salt keeps what shouldn't be out of the woods. Others say it subtly whispers to the Old Things, inviting them to the gullies and high places across West Virginia.

Down south of Charleston, past where the Kanawha River branches off into the trickle of Loop Creek, are the deep woods cramped-in around nowhere towns like Kinkaid and Artie. This was wild land even before I-64 was abandoned and fell apart under the forest canopy, and now it's all but primeval landscape, peppered with cabins and hunters and things best left alone.

Felix Riano - Artstation

Wandering through these parts might reveal (d20)...

1-4: d4 dump trucks. Belonging to Aracoma Mining Co, thrumming down a country backroad. Each containing two workers [1]* with a Remington 870 (d8, bulky) mounted above the cab seats.
1: Driving at high speeds. Two company fixers [2] with Beretta 92s (d6) follow in a Jeep.
2: Tipped over with engines hissing. Workers on phones. Coal is spilled across the road.
3: Blaring horns as an oncoming train of RVs filled with fleeing locals blocks the way forward.
4: Covered in heavy tarps. Low, pained moans come from within. d2 dire wolves [2] are tied down under the tarps. The wolves have human faces. The drivers look nervous.

5-8: Wandering folk [1]. Typical West Virginians or transients from nearby states. Plain clothes, a gun or bow slung over their backs. A walking stick and/or janky old phone at their side. Curious.
5: Pete Crichton, a hunter with a bloodhound and friends, looking for "skunk apes." Drunk.
6: Dawn Tallman, an elderly woman in a feathered shawl, wandering with her sister(s) and seeking the grounding stone for the "Evening Coven." Her eyes are pitch-black and she has a rasping cough.  
7: Roberta, a lost girl of eight years. Her hair is matted and filthy. She doesn't make eye-contact. The air vibrates around her. A silent man attends her from a distance. He has many throwing knives (d6).
8: Dan and Tom Rogers, brothers whose truck broke down a ways away and are now stumbling around, delirious and dying. Their clothes are shredded and they have many long-clawed wounds.

9-11: d6 bootleg shiners [1] hiding out around their still. Surrounded by crates and jugs with a rusted-out pickup truck nearby in the brush. They prime shotguns and rifles (d8, bulky) at your approach.
9: Older men, all blind, offering you "Second Sight" from a flask, capable of letting you "see beyond the veil." Taking a swig allows you to see liminal spaces around you for d6 hours. Nightmare fuel, basically.
10: A cadre operating a rolling meth lab in a Winnebago. Armed with assault rifles (d8, blast, bulky). Currently in the employ of "the fancy man who lives beneath the holler."
11: Laura and Rod, a middle-aged couple running a serious shine operation. Unwilling to let you leave after you've stumbled upon their still. They'll radio in support if threatened.

12-15: Cryptids of various stripes, doing whatever it is that cryptids do when no one is looking. The woods go quiet as you approach. Your hackles raise to stark attention. You're being watched.
12: d8 naked, lipless goblins [1] hiding out of sight around an abandoned mine entrance. They chirp together in a high-pitched, rhythmic cadence. Will flee from you. Will rob you blind.
13: d2 devil dogs [2], large and muscular, covered in wool-white hair and bearing down with curled ram's horns. Far faster than their bulk suggests. Will hide and mimic keening child voices.
14: d10 red orbs floating above the treeline. Will not approach you and disappear if chased. Scorch-marks and burning plastic smells follow their progress. Anyone watching closely is dizzy for d4 hours.
15: A dogman [3] slipping through the trees above you. Very likely you will not see it, but only the mysterious shifting of the canopy. Will hunt you for days, eating your food and killing your pets.

16-18: Mysterious objects sitting in a clearing or under a tree. No evidence of recent traffic suggests these things have been here for a long time. They look dangerous. They look inviting.
16: A heavy, oaken bookshelf sits in the middle of the woods. Standing upright without being anchored to anything, thick, old tomes line each shelf. Titles such as The Demozain, Killing the Secret Fire, and Practical Choral Magick stand out, begging to be opened and read.
17: Two leather briefcases sit atop each other next to a tumbled cairn of stone. A ring of yellow salt encircles them. The first contains a row of kaleidoscopic fluids in slim vials, each sealed tightly. The second contains thirteen lead figurines of women with owl heads. 
18: A bleached human skull, elongated slightly and sprouting two four-point antlers. A blue triangle is painted on its forehead. In each eye socket is an uncut ruby. It feels ice cold and weighs far more than it should. With each touch, you hear distant whispering in the Shawnee tongue.

19-20: A smartly-dressed man in an untimely hooded cloak [3] walks in front of you. He pauses, his face obscured by the hood, otherwise wearing a fine three-piece suit and smelling of roses.
19: He is folding up a broad quilted blanket, singing to himself in a dramatic Romantic melody, perhaps something from Schubert. Beside him lay a row of severed pig heads, all staring blankly up into the canopy. He pauses to light a cigarette.
20: He is closing the trunk to an unassuming Chevette. The windows are darkened and you hear subtle gasps from within. He leans against the side of the car and begins to whittle a piece of pinewood. 

*For all NPC statlines ([1], [2], and [3]), see this post.

1 comment:

  1. This is... seriously powerful. Very, very evocative of a tone that's hard for me to put my finger on, I think mainly because I'm not from the US (and if I start listing shows and media, other commenters might say "That was Missouri, not Virginia!")

    So to avoid that: just the terse descriptions... situations evolving, arising from an unspecified event in the past. Best 1d20 table of the year!