The house called MacGregor stands where the old house stood, burned by the covetous Kimball in a fit of impotent rage. Kimball is still here somewhere. He built this house to stand as a grave marker for his victim and as cornerstone of a new empire to rise. Kimball Imperium. He was not alone in his designs on a new empire. They call the house MacGregor. Kimball was not alone in its design either. Kimball is still here somewhere, and the others. MacGregor kept them.
The estate was known as Citrine under Kimball. Abandoned suddenly, it was purchased by a slavedriver and taskmaster named Duplass and rechristened Heavenly Hills. The plague took Duplass and his possessions, and his people-possessions. The land fell into wild ruin and mists of memory until it was wrenched from the overgrowth by Vaughn. Wild nature does not like to be denied, and spurned his forceful efforts with a blight on the land itself now. Vaughn's hospital withered and starved. If any know of her now none choose to possess her, and most would be surprised to hear she still stretched untouched by calamity. Thriving. The last any set eyes on her, she was but Shambles, and was so named.
The Barn was raised by Duplass to house his animals. It was converted, partially, for use as a clinic under Vaughn, his patients given the run of MacGregor. They say it was painted in blood by the oppressed workers. It was painted in paint. The workers put the blood in the earth. The barn connects to a small stable.
Irrigation channels circle the Shambles and divide her into five sections. There are four main areas and an island of sorts created by the minor moat around MacGregor. It is thick with the milk of chalk and limestone, for the mine is neglected and flooded. There was never any gold or silver here, and no one is sure how long the mine has been here. MacGregor did not excavate and none since have had nearly his knack for taming the land.
Sooner or later everyone comes to the mine.
THE LAY OF THE LAND
F1 There is an old grave here for MacGregor's wife. There is an empty plot here for MacGregor's daughter. At night the wife screams and claws at her casket to be set free. Opening her casket unleashes the same plague which took Duplass. Nothing else will be found in the grave.
F2 There is a scarecrow here in the fields, which are high with wheat. At night the wheat will sway even though there is no wind, and the rabbits who have their warren beneath these fields will scream.
F3 There is a scarecrow here in the fields, crucified. This is the body of Vaughn. At night he struggles weakly but cannot free himself. His touch confers leprosy, and blights the wheat.
F4 There is a scorched and salted place here, and the rotted stake which once held a scarecrow. The windless stirring in the wheat keeps a constant cloud of dust here. You will cough, and be filled with hatred. At night, you are watched by shapes in the wheat with broken necks.
F5 There is no scarecrow here, where the farmland begins to be taken over again by the forest. There is a fence which has been broken, like a great thing leaped into the fields. At night the shapes of animals are here, beckoning with human limbs, and promising.
F6 There is a scarecrow here, dressed in effigy of Duplass' wife. At night she hops down and coquettishly beckons you across the bridge to the Barn. Following her brings the Thresher.
F7 A corpse tree. A hanging tree. At night it is heavy with the spirits of all the dead ever hanged here, hanging still, and the croak of them and the crack of the tree under their weight sounds like a thunderstorm. Many here were once miners. At the base of the tree the ground boils with red worms. The wood is white. The leaves are gold. This is where they found Duplass' wife.
F8 There is a scarecrow here in these rolling wheat fields. There is also a gopher snake in its burrow. One lidless eye is missing, and it constantly oozes milky white blood into the ground. Flies come and land on it, sensing a keen nursery, but they are trapped and drowned. The snake does not fear you. It waves at clouds passing overhead, blowing in time with windless wheat. It never sees full sunlight but then it never fully sees anything. It has been stepped on at some point. The blood is clotted and the wound withered. From ragged strips spill glimpses of oozing young, half-formed snakelets, dead in the womb and snakes do not even work like that. Ants crawl around on her open sore but she is never consumed. Her breath is deep earth. Her burrow is filled with the skin of a century. If she bites you, you will die. She is not venomous. At night she sings a song which arrests you. When she finishes an hour will have passed. This is not magic. It's life in Shambles.
F9 There is a bridge here leading to the hills. It is adorned with rodent skulls. At night the bridge goes on forever, and great weevils in the White River leap and snap at it. Beneath it there is a heartbeat.
H1 These hills are covered with scrub and sharp rocks. A trail zig-zagging up the hillside begins here, once much used but long neglected. You will only meet someone on this trail if you walk it always. There is the occasional copse, gaunt, strangled.
H2 There is a stone like an anvil peeking out above dense brush. This is where the Claimjumper's remains lie staked out. Vultures turn away from his dried flesh, and old blood darkens this hillside. At night you can see the Watcher standing with his diamond eye. He is gone by the time you approach. Voles come and lap at the fresh blood Claimjumper's corpse sheds in the moonlight.
H3 Strange and solitary trees begin to congregate here as you ascend, the fringe of the strange oppressive forest above. Walk here at night and be joined from the deep wood. They have always waited for you. You will take their hand.
H4 A bald rock juts out like a big nose. At night the stone is white like moonlight and it comes away at your touch like chalk. It will be coming for you now.
H5 This was where they found the axe.
H6 This is where she fell.
H7 The flies are thick here. They hatch out of the White River here every night and crawl ashore. A mass of clumped leaves reveals the form of a long dead leper, clutching a small little body.
H8 There is kind of a scarecrow here. It is more a marker of warning adorned with symbols, hide, and bone. Carrion birds linger here but do not touch the offerings. If you proffer food, they look to the wood atop the hills...
The Manor Grounds
M1 MacGregor stands shadowy and whole, though overgrown with black ivy and weathered by sun and storm. Its doors stand wide open, swinging out. Within are many rooms, decorated in the style of different decades, left as if their occupants simply vanished one day. Mold and decay are ubiquitous but are stayed by a will. There are additional entrances at the back by the kitchen and stairs leading to the second floor of the house, entering the hallway. At night there is no exit from MacGregor through conventional means. Kimball's body may be glimpsed here sliding in and out of the walls like a pool, but the house has fully absorbed his soul.
M2 A graveyard for carts, plows, and farming implements. Anything such as a carriage will be here, as well as all the old yokes and saddles in the place. They are piled as if to burn, but are only ruined. Always here you have the sensation of being watched. At night whips will lash and try to drag you beneath the heaving piles, over the sounds of screams.
M3 There is a bridge here across the White River. There is a gate held by rusted chain. These may be broken or picked easily. They rattle against these chains in the night. It's just the wind I bet.
M4 A choking garden of tangles overlooks the fields which were once tended under threat of death. It should be a beautiful place but it reeks of death. Wild fawns and foals are caught in rose and bramble here, rotting. The maggots in their eyes, at night, sprout glowing butterflies. A great thorny tower of antiseptic white roses rises here. At its base lies Duplass, the great bush growing from his heart and mouth.
S1 Over the White River from MacGregor stands the red Barn. It is nearly as large as MacGregor and was built as both barracks for farmhands and slaves and housing for livestock. Part of the barracks area has been converted into an enclosed set of rooms. There is a small room with a desk and old records and a larger room with esoteric and macabre-looking instruments lining the walls. There is a bridge here that crosses the White River into the fields. At night the Barn is filled with moans and the smell of septic flesh. The sound of sawing.
S2 These lands have become flooded and are a thick swampy mess. At night will o'wisps hang oppressively over the mire. It's hard to tell but the sodden remains of a second barn, torched long ago then swallowed by swamp, linger just below the green. It can be seen at night when from the wisps and other gases she seems to burn.
S3 These lands have become flooded and have become something like a shallow wetland. Snakes and muskrats fill the area, and a beaver dam seems to be responsible for the region's flooding. This dam has seen countless generations and has had more work put into it than the Barn. At night will o'wisps and fireflies dance together in the shadow of the nearby wood. The water begins to stink of rot. It reflects starlight seeming as yellow eyes. 30% chance of seeing MacGregor's daughter skipping along its surface clacking merrily to herself.
S4 These lands have become flooded and so have drowned the old mine. Its promise drew MacGregor here to begin with. They say he found his fortune here but none know what it cost him. MacGregor's skeleton can be found deep within, if you can hold your breath. At night the mine glows. In this glow the young daughter of MacGregor traipses without regard for death or the flood, white milky slime trickling from her eye sockets. She will curl up by her father at daybreak but will be gone when next you look.
S5 These lands have become flooded and have saturated the ground of a family graveyard. The remains of Vaughn's lepers are here. They are small remains. At night there is crying and the hungry ground sucks at your boots.
S6 Cemetery of the not-people-as-such who served and worked on this farm. It is thick with dead slaves, and the ground here at the base of the hill is hard. They were split and mixed as the dead were buried not only among but within the dead. The corpses do not lie deep. At night their bloody shadows do not lie at all.
W1 This wood is a child of the wood beyond the hills. Once they were one, before MacGregor came. These are orphan woods. The trees are black and unhealthy and they have been for an impossibly long time. There is a thing like a scarecrow here, a sign of warning. It has been thoughtlessly knocked to the ground. There are trailblazer signs marked into the bark of some trees, though no trail remains. Deeper into the wood the signs become unintelligible, then unusual and fearsome. At night the signs writhe.
W2 These are orphan woods. The stump is here. The wood becomes more dense until you come upon a lone stump in a fairy ring. You would swear it was impossible but sitting on the stump gives you a perfect view of MacGregor. After all this time. And the wood growing wilder. At night it's like the moon shines only for this spot. A stoat lives in the stump. It is a stump stoat. Its eyes only see all stars going out one by one. Morale 9.
W3 These are orphan woods. A long forgotten root cellar lies here. Pickled human fingers in jars. At night they rub against the glass of the jar creating an armonica harmony.
W4 These are orphan woods and at their fringe, still visible from MacGregor, is an old well. It was used by servant, slave, patient, and, known to few but MacGregor, the Hermit. The well is now choked with the bodies of the dead. Surveyors. Assessors. Tax men. Would be claimants to Shambles. Long-ago seekers of the Hermit's lode. At night the voice of endless rage speaks to all who will listen, a tongue which kills, all knowing, all hating.
W5 These are orphan woods and an orphan still is here. A ruined little shack, conquered by the wood, obscures a smaller, sadder, newer shelter. Mathilde's mother died so long ago and she was all alone. She had so many playmates over the years but they all left her. She is not malicious. She is alone. She is terribly alone. Alone, she is terrible. By day she waits. At night she breathes, gardens, and goes out visiting. She leaves her mother at home, ever the Hermit she.
W6 The animals are lazing. At night they rise to kill each other.
f1 The Thresher
f2 walking crows who slash your ankles like knives, climbing stalks of wheat and lying in wait, never flying
f3 you are lost and the wheat rolls on forever
f4 burned and broken-necked teenagers who try to crush your body into the earth underfoot
h1 The Watcher
h2 stones crumble and from each emerge two or more rats cat-eyed and susurrussing
h3 the mourners who secreted the creature within the limestone pit, lost now in these hills forever
h4 hurricane winds from above threaten to rip you from your handhold and break you on the hillside
m2 MacGregor carrying out a one-sided screaming argument with Kimball forever
m3 a force which throws you about, tries to crush you with antique furniture, shaking the house so you can barely stand
m4 a low moan that blasts you from the world of men, perhaps to return
s1 The Girl
s3 swamp fire
s4 fire quicksand
w2 the first animal you ever saw die
w3 a creature buried long ago, hiding, bribing you with centipedes
w4 a hand on your shoulder. “You came.”
A rumpled straw hat, a green scarf, and an old red coat. It is like a scarecrow, a man made of straw. It is not. It is the spirit of one hundred rages, the ghost of both a plague and a blight. It is the memory in the wheat. It will lash at you and bleed you out. You can hurt it, cut bits away, but it pulls the wheat around itself, fills itself with it. It is effectively immortal in the farmland and can grow ever larger or disappear into the waving grass altogether. It wears the whole blood-soaked land as weapon and armor. This is as close as you can come to kicking Shambles' ass.
It is too thin to be alive, its skeleton is too reedy to be human, its head is too big for its neck. You only ever see it at a distance, but its single eye clearly reflects a thousand facets of moonlight. That is pretty obviously a diamond the size of a watermelon. The empty socket trails white mist into the night. Once there was a horrible creature here, and it made a deal, and it went away. This is the memory of that thing. Watching back at things which can't remember it. Its vision will always elude you, only leading you on through further winding paths and more treacherous, dagger-like rocks, waiting for you to stumble and scrape and impale and grate yourself to death. It watches the gruesome Shambles at night and if it is pleased you only know it because it watches so intently.
MacGregor throws this body at you like a rag doll. Any injury done to Kimball will last until the next night or until Kimball is completely dismembered, at which point MacGregor puts him back together. Badly. This is only the body, the soul is long gone, though once you first see Kimball you notice that all the molding artwork in MacGregor seems to be of Kimball weeping at various places in the Shambles.
Young MacGregor is harmless unless approached and touched. She will otherwise turn away from you and skip straight to the mine, hurrying to the side of her father's body. Eventually everyone comes to the mine.
Only she can quiet the thing not quite a boy. Only she can approach the Watcher. Only she can end all of this because she is ultimately the aggrieved. Only she can forgive. She does not want to be alone. She has delicate hands which cannot beat a man to death. THIS IS WHERE THEY FOUND THE AXE.
THERE IS NOT A BOY
Once a deal was struck in the moonlight, in the shine of diamond eyes. He lived until he wracked and wilted. He was buried and left for dead. He is blameless in this but he drew the engine of Shambles' calamity. All the phantoms here are memories. There is a thing not like a boy who remembers everything. That was the deal.