Tag Archives: Poul Anderson

Houska Castle – Adventure Seeds Pt. 2

Here we go with part two of the 13 adventure seeds based on Houska Caste.

Part one can be found here and my post about the castle’s history and legends is here.

6. Lost Pagan Gold – In 1255 Ottokar II, king of Bohemia, joined with the Teutonic Knights and launched a campaign against the pagan Old Prussians.  Villages were sacked, temples were burned, and blasphemous alters were toppled.  The treasures of the old gods were seized and their priests put to the sword or burned at the stake.  As the flames consumed their bodies, the priests shouted curses long forgotten by those who followed the Christian god.  Ancient spirits of avarice and greed were bound to the gold and jewels.

Ottokar found himself in possession of a vast treasure trove, but the price for his victory soon became apparent.  Dissent broke out in the ranks of his forces.  Thieves tried to steal from the coffers.  Loyal captains killed each other over promised shares of the treasure.  The entire force was in danger of open revolt.

That night the Archangel Michael appeared to Ottokar and the next morning he gathered 12 of the most pious knights and 12 of the most spiritual priests.  The company left with the treasure, riding hard for Houska Castle where they lowered the cursed treasure into the caverns beneath the castle.  To protect the treasure the 12 knights and 12 priests were also sealed in the caverns.  Then all records of the treasure were destroyed and all who knew it’s location, except for the king, were given a martyr’s death.

The treasure remains in its hidden vault and its guardians still keep their vigil, but time has eroded their faith and the power of the old gods has slowly reshaped the undying sentinels.

7. Sellswords of Mars – The 30 Years War continues to devastate the European countryside.  After a string of defeats the company of mercenaries under command of Captain Oronto has deserted the war and turned to banditry.  After a series of raids they have retreated to the ruins of Houska Castle to set up a base of operations.

The castle had been silent for several months with no sign of the brigands.  The local peasants were begining to spread stories that the legendary beast-men of hell had slaughtered the company when Oronto and his band reappeared, storming down from the castle with new and fearsome power at their command; power so great that people believe the brigands have been hired as Satan’s personal guard.

The mercenaries now wield pistols and muskets of terrible power, whose bullets explode with force greater than a canon.  They drive fierce war beasts before them; huge white furred monsters with four arms and terrifying strength, though these beasts tire quickly and die if they spend too much time away from the castle.  Oronto plans to use his new power to carve out a kingdom of his own and put to route all the great armies of Europe.

Oronto has discovered a portal to Barsoom in the caves beneath the castle, the world of Mars created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his John Carter books.  Oronto and his company discovered how the lower gravity of Barsoom gives them great strength and speed and he launched a campaign of raids across the martian landscape.  But Oronto has no interest in ruling the dying red planet.  Instead he has collected an arsenal of radium pistols and rifles and a menagerie of fierce white apes, though the latter suffer from Earth’s higher gravity and will die if not returned to Barsoom.  He even plans to build a martian flying ship.

8. Gateway to the Borderlands – Terror stalks the forested mountains around ancient Houska Castle.  The legends of the beast-men that creep from beneath the castle seem to be true.  Boar-headed men stalk the night, waylaying travelers and carrying them off, and they are becoming more bold.

Recently isolated farms have been attacked.  The few who escape report that the monsters use nets and strange wands to subdue their victims.  People in the village believe it is only a matter of time before they will attack the village itself.

An old and noble family still lives with Houska Castle but they are of no help.  Those who have sought their aid report that the family are bewitched, oblivious to the horror around them.  Some in the village talk of storming the castle and burning it to the ground.  Others warn that this would throw the gates of Hell wide open.

Characters who discover the caverns beneath the castle, either through exploration, tracking the beast-men, or being taken as prisoners, will find that the caverns lead deep beneath the mountain and into a nightmare dimension.  They find themselves in a vast arena beneath a dark sky filled with more stars than they’ve ever seen.  In the gallery are the titanic figures of ancient and unknown gods sitting nearly immobile but with eyes burning with a cold fire.  In the center of the arena is a replica of Castle Houska, but enormous in scale and carved from an alien green stone.

All the people taken by the beast-men are found in the arena and their is a palpable feeling of anticipation.

9. They Came from Beyond – In the early 13th century king Ottokar II was marching north of Prague when a brilliant light burst from the sky.  A shining chariot of the gods in the form of a great luminous disk swept down from the heavens and landed before his host.

The king and his men stood terrified as a ramp lowered to the ground.  Emerging from the ship was a monstrous form, a great grey-skinned humanoid with almond-shaped eyes.  The creature moved down the ramp and pointed a strange device at one of the king’s knights and in a burst of heat and light the knight was incinerated, his armor transformed into a pool of slag.

The army was about to run when another unexpected thing happened.  Reflexively the captain of the king’s archers loosed an arrow at the alien, striking it between its large eyes and toppling it to the ground.  What flowed from the wound wasn’t red, but the king’s knights knew blood when they saw it.  Swords were drawn, the charge was sounded, and suddenly the alien invaders found themselves in close combat with battle hardened crusaders.  The aliens attempted to flee, but were cut down by the knights.  The flying saucer tumbled out of control and crashed into the mountains.

King Ottokar had Houska Castle built over top of the crash site to conceal the alien craft and over time the story passed into legend.  The flying saucer is now a lost tomb for the would-be invaders.  However though its systems are crippled the ship itself is still very much alive and its repair systems have not been idle.

That’s it for today’s post.  Tune in next time as we wrap up the 13 Adventure Seeds of Houska Castle.  Today’s list draws inspiration from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series, William Hope Hodgeson’s House on the Borderlands, and Poul Anderson’s High Crusade.  



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