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Postfest XIII(Brewfest 2009): The Haunt of Gol Usan
Posted on Thu, December 10, 2009 by LordCeb
mortellan writes "

“Our band was on the trail of a coward thief hiding near a wooded lake when we came upon the hovel of a strange old hermit. Before we had a chance to question him, he began to threaten us! He told us that we should leave the woods before night fall or else forfeit our lives. Of course we ignored the fool. We couldn’t turn back now for the Orakhan would have our hides instead. The hermit wouldn’t speak anymore even after we sacked his home searching for the thief. He just stared and smiled. Then our dogs picked up a new scent so we set off into the woods once again just as the sun was setting and an ill wind began to blow across the mesa. What happened over the next several hours was a nightmare. If only we had known the legend of the Haunt of Gol Usan; the old hermit was trying to warn us.”

- Testimony of Khurai, sole survivor of the Teeth of Ulakand.



The Haunt of Gol Usan.

By mortellan

Gol Usan or Ghost Lake in the common tongue lies within the central wilderness of the Ulakand mesa found south of the Plains of the Paynims on the indefinable borders of the wicked land of Ull. This lightly wooded region with its abundance of water and game is a popular campsite for parties traveling between the town of Ulakand on the western cliffs and the rocky mesa heights to the east. The lake is tranquil and unusually foggy for its location leading most to believe this is reason for its ominous name. Unfortunately few locals are aware of the obscure legends surrounding the true danger that exists here.

Every generation for nearly as long as men have settled the mesa, entire encampments are said to have vanished or fled in terror after encountering some sort of ghostly inhuman killer. Pieced together accounts of the Haunt’s appearance vary from a barefoot Baklunish male in tattered clothes wearing a scarf over most of his face, to a shirtless half-ogre with a sack over his head secured by the frayed remains of a noose. All survivor stories agree that the Haunt silently rises from the murk of the lake to relentlessly track down trespassers wielding a ghastly polearm.

The Haunt of Gol Usan never goes beyond the vicinity of the woods, and doesn’t stop until all those intruding on its territory are dead. The Haunt either does not or cannot speak and is utterly silent when moving through the woods despite carrying a bulky two-handed weapon and appearing drenched from head to foot. Worse yet, witnesses claim he can even walk on water and travel from one fog bank to another in the blink of an eye. The Haunt does not discriminate or hesitate against armed opponents, except on one rare occasion when it was rumored to have spared a Baklunish female for some particular reason. A couple boastful tales if they can be believed, say the undead villain can be slain although clearly no authentic evidence has ever been recovered save the wounds caused by his weapon. Even if he can be defeated it is likely the Haunt of Gol Usan will merely vanish back to his lake until he can reform years later to terrorize again.

In more recent times, a crazed hermit with no name has taken up residence on the fringe of the woods leading to Gol Usan. The old man normally keeps to himself except to pester passing travelers with cryptic warnings or blessings, and is otherwise no danger. For those willing to stop and listen to his babbling rants, the hermit claims to have a superior knowledge of the legends concerning the Haunt of Gol Usan although nothing he knows has ever been useful in fighting the villainous being. Paranoid individuals say the hermit must know the pattern to when he manifests or that he is the one who is responsible for summoning the Haunt in the first place. Whatever the case, the old hermit seems to be the only person not considered an intruder in the woods unless he is withholding some way to ward his home against the vindictive Haunt.

DM’s notes: The hermit’s knowledge concerning the background of the Haunt of Gol Usan might be slightly inaccurate but he alone may be the closest to the truth. A thousand years ago during the reign of Hengek Orakhan’ the Cleaver’, it was not uncommon for the power hungry ruler of Ull to execute anyone he thought was a threat to usurp him. One such person was the leader of Hengek’s personal bodyguards, a man of uncertain family origin but whose loyalty was unquestioned among his peers. Likewise his prowess in combat led friends and foes alike to respect him more than his bloodthirsty master. Naturally Hengek’s jealousy extended to the guard’s personal life as well, as the Orakhan desired to add the man’s young wife to his stable of concubines.

The woman was originally a slave-girl claimed by the bodyguard from a captured Zeifan caravan. As she grew up her beauty and cultured talents became the envy of all in Ulakand and the bodyguard eventually decided to take her as his wife. This is when Hengek finally made his move to claim the woman, giving her newlywed husband a choice between his service to Ull and his disputed ‘property’. The guard knew choosing her over his duty to the Orakhan would mean his life so instead he fled with her to hide out in the wilderness of the mesa. Using the opportunity to be rid of the warrior legally, Hengek personally led a hunting party out to track down and kill the guard then bring the woman back to Ulakand.

The search took a few days but the pair was finally cornered at Gol Usan. Outnumbered and welding only an old polearm, the bodyguard brutally slew half of the attackers but was finally slowed by an arrow wound to the neck. Before Hengek could come to claim his prize however, the distraught bodyguard summoned the last of his strength and at his wife’s behest took her life as she kneeled waist deep in edge of the lake. Once the deed was done he threw the bloody polearm as far as he could into the dark lake then collapsed. What transpired afterward is unclear but either the bodyguard was hung from a tree beside the lake or he was similarly bound and thrown in the lake to drown. Ever since then it is thought the Haunt of Gol Usan is awakened by extreme emotions of hate or to merely extract vengeance on unwary armed parties.

Game notes: Due to the nature of the Haunt, this villain is best used as a side-trek threat for an ongoing campaign set in the land of Ull or any similar temperate wilderness. His use as a recurring villain is only good in a long term campaign focused on finding out the history of the Haunt and a means to exorcise his evil spirit from Gol Usan. The following is information is intentionally left editionless so that individual DMs can customize the challenge level for this villain toward their own player characters.

The Haunt of Gol Usan is a semi-sentient, corporeal undead sharing most of their standard traits such as immunity to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep effects, stunning, paralysis, disease and death effects.  Furthermore the Haunt takes ½ damage from blunt and piercing weapons and likewise ½ damage from fire due to his water-soaked body. The Haunt also takes no cold damage but is instead slowed for 1d4 rounds. Clerics can use Turn to force the Haunt back toward his lake but he cannot be destroyed by such powers. The Haunt has great strength, low intelligence and average dexterity and wisdom. The Haunt cannot run but can charge, otherwise he unerringly moves silently when walking only leaving wet footprints behind. He has two special movement modes; the first is Water Walking at will but at a walking rate only and the other is Fog-Walking, which works similar to the Shadow Walk spell but only within the misty region of Gol Usan or any Cloud-type spell effect within the same bounds. The Haunt has the ability to Track at will at his normal rate of movement.

Offensively the Haunt of Gol Usan has an Aura of Fear with a 30’ radius that causes any who fail to make their saving throwing to become paralyzed in horror for 1d4 rounds. Each time the paralysis wears off those still in the aura must make another saving throw. Those that successfully make their saving throw don’t have to make further rolls. The Haunt is treated as a Fighter of comparable level in skill or proficiency. His preferred weapon is the Ghost Polearm which counts as a +2 weapon, does 1d10 damage, has a 10’ reach and is treated as a Sword of Sharpness for critical hits. The weapon cannot be permanently broken or disarmed for long. In such cases the Haunt can retrieve his old polearm or create a new one in his empty hands as a standard action.

The Haunt regenerates 2 hit points per round until he is killed and can even fight on with severed limbs (although this makes using the Ghost Polearm difficult). If slain, the Haunt vanishes back into the misty waters of Gol Usan and very slowly reforms after 1-6 years; plenty of time for a new party of unsuspecting victims to wander into its territory.

“After witnessing a terrifying litany of death only hours ago, all was quiet and the coast was clear for the thief to come out of hiding from the top of a tall tree. He had to laugh a bit for he had survived the night and could see the sun beginning to rise to the east. Suddenly his tree began to shudder and shake, finally toppling over to crash into the lake. The thief pulled free from the tangle of broken branches before he drowned. It was then that he saw standing on the bank, a silhouette of a man holding a polearm. The rogue screamed and without thinking began to swim in the opposite direction towards the middle of the lake. As he took one last frantic look back, a pair of slender female arms emerged from beneath the water to drag the hapless thief down into the murky depths never to be seen again.”

"
 
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Re: Postfest XIII(Brewfest 2009): The Haunt of Gol Usan (Score: 1)
by Icarus on Thu, January 07, 2010
(User Info | Send a Message | Journal) http://wkristophnolen.daportfolio.com/
Very nice, Mortellan! 
I couldn't help but think that there were shades of "The Princess Bride" in the story of the fate-bound lovers running from the ruthless and jealous ruler ... escaping into the dangerous wilderness, and all. 
The really great part was the idea of "what makes a ghost become a ghost?", so to speak ... a great story.

The part that I love the most though, was that the woman was part of it at the end, and she was still in te lake.  An unexpected twist, to be certain.  Well done, and bravo!

Icarus




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