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Silver Gate of Wormz
Crag Mouth #10: Interlude
© 2023 James LaFond
Old White ranges the Silver Gate of Wormz, which is the winding canyon track pass wending ever upward among the crags towards The Keens of the Scarlet Kells. Most of his time is spent collecting fire wood from the surrounding mountains, to include evergreen boughs for his bedding and tea. He hunts in the taigia north of the Scarlet Mountains, and 2 in 6 portions of his time is spent away there, leaving only Eesh, his son by Bess Long, behind.
Old White keeps this path as his toll road, demanding gifts. He prefers food, beer and trinkets, the latter which he hopes to form into a great collection to woo Bess Long. A day’s trek up into the towering peaks where the air thins, Old White has made a wooden gate of pole pine lashed with rawhide wedged between the narrowest portion of the trail, being three paces, or a good spear length, one pace for Old White, who is as large as Big Crag but less agile and lame in one arm.
He stands behind the gate while his grog, Eesh, crouched above on a rocky platform with a boulder to squash offenders on the west side of the gate. From the east side, Old White speaks, haltingly, slurring, with a perpetual mumble, not as articulate as Red or Big Crag. The latter has maimed Old White, his jaw broken and imperfectly healed and his left shoulder half lame, that arm barely as strong as that of a strong man. He keeps a large stone that he throws under-handed with his left and a great club that he wields one-handed with his right.
Eesh is the oldest grog in the mountains, the son of a nomad woman from the north, who was the woman who transformed his sire and who died in childbirth. He is gray, nearly as hairy as a skunk ape, has a wide square head and sings beautifully but never speaks, only communicating in song in the nomad language of the north, which he learned form one of their shaman, who fostered him for Old White.
Old White is lonely for human company and remains in love of Bess Long, who he released, [1] but hopes to draw back into his lair with his great collection of trinkets, feathers and art [being chalk and dye portraits of Bess on the cave walls]. Any who agree to view the back portion of his cave where he has made a chamber for Bess, and decorated it to the best of his ability, even attempting a rude cabin within the recess, [2] will be escorted past the Silver Worm by Old White, who knows the incantation to stay the keen of the steely beast. Old White had been a shaman of his kind, a Feathered Contrary, once, before transforming. Old White will ask those who take his leave to speak with Bess on his behalf. Not only is Old White afraid of Ranger Jon, he has promised Bess that he would not harm her human husband.
Orl Phane, malformed monstrous son of Bess and Old White, will aid his father against any evil acts by the adventurers. If Big Crag is still active behind them, Orl Phane will enlist his sire to aid the party.
In order to access The Keens of the Scarlet Kells, wayfarers must take the canyon, situated at about 9,000 feet, up through a tunnel. If it is snowing they may require Eesh and Old White to push the snow for them, which is accomplished with short timbers once cut for a mine and evenly planed. At the highest point, Silver Wormz Pass, where the lower mountains and, the Red Hills, the Willows, the rolling plains beyond to the west, the greater cedar forest to the east and the bog to the south may all be seen in the lower distance, is a tunnel.
This tunnel descends and appears to have been made by man, with timbers still bracing the entrance. A point of light may be seen at the lower distance, down a 15% grade of perhaps sixty paces.
The tunnel is three paces wide. Halfway in, is a silver-chased, steel dragon head embedded in the right hand wall, looking like, the head of a battering ram, which it was. There is a cone like ear on the left hand wall just before this menacing device. Old White and Eesh know than incantation and will speak it for gift bringers and others who have proven friends of them, rescuers of Orl Phane [who also knows the incantation].
The incantation is whispered in a language unknown to humanity, it being the hoots of the Skunk Ape, and prevents the head of the ram from keening. The keening of the dragon head causes a save versus charisma or will. Failure results in abject panic and flight back to Willow Hamlet. Success results in The Keening of the Scarlet Kells described in the next and final encounter, cursing the survivor and reversing the boons granted by the Kells. The latter should be done to effect a quest for a further adventure, placing them in the position of redemption, not ruin the character.
Characters that flee to Willow Hamlet will not be molested by any creatures as they will be regarded as cursed. The people of the hamlet will be kind and understanding and seek to induct the shaken adventurer to join their community. A consultation with Lisa Dream Catcher can purge the fear and panic and enable a return to the Tunnel of Silver Wormz.
The Keens of the Scarlet Kells are all that remain of this adventure unpublished. The complete work may be had from the author at by emailing him at jameslafond dot com at gmail dot com
Crag Mouth was re-plotted in memory of Randy Boyer, and play tested by Felix, age 14 and Dominic age 12, in Portland, Oregon in March of 2023.
-1. Bess Long actually cares for Old White, is terrified that she might abandon her ranger husband for a return to the mountains and feels an abiding guilt for leaving her malformed son, Orl Phane, half-orphaned. If she knew that Orl Phane was being held by Big Crag, she would assist the party in gaining the help of Old White, via a mountain goat track that only She, Eesh and Old White know of. This track traces due north from the point where the Red Hills and Hide Forest meet and comes down to Silver Wormz Pass at the point where Eesh camps on clear nights above the gate.
-2. Old White is making a sincere and ham-fisted attempt at appointing a living space that could be tolerated by a woman. The main portion of his cave is drafty and hung with bison and mammoth hides, with a great pile of various hides where he and Eesh sleep, between the fire pit and the back recess where he hopes Bess will return. Old White moans by night and sniffles by day.
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