In a remote region of Provincia Pannonia (the province of Pannonia, encompassing parts of modern day Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina) sits a village much hated by its neighbors. High in the mountains the village of Xuthltan is populated by peoples unrelated to anyone but themselves, a squat and stock, powerfully built race said to be mixed with the blood of the wild men of old. It is whispered they worship dark gods, practice black magic, summon demons and make human sacrifices before a tall black monolith. No one really knows what the truth is about Xuthltan, for outsiders who visit the village seldom return, and the few who do are usually insane. For the most part the people of Xuthltan keep to themselves and are shunned by the few outsiders who know of their existence.
However on certain nights of the year youths and children vanish from the villages surrounding Xuthltan are taken. Some are forcible removed from their homes by raiders, others are snatched off trails via ambush, and no survivors of these attacks are ever found. The tracks from these attacks always lead back to Xuthltan, but the terrified locals do nothing. Their legends say that once the villagers tried to attack Xanthan, in revenge for such raids and to put down these degenerate sorcerers and devil worshippers once and for all. The attack ended in failure and now the villagers simply watch over their children, lock their doors, and keep weapons close at hand whenever the seasons begin to turn.
The Legend of the Attack on Xuthltan – A force of three hundred armed men set out to attack Xuthltan but fewer than twenty warriors returned alive. These men were horribly maimed and stark raving mad. For months after the attack the villagers say that they were plagued with horrible dreams for a month. Many killed themselves to escape the torment while others were driven insane by the ordeal. During this time the raids dramatically increased. Nearly fifty young men, women, and children were taken from their homes in the surrounding villages, never to be seen again. Since this dark time no one has dared to mount an attack against them. However this story may be nothing more than folklore, legends and superstitions, as no one alive today remembers any of this firsthand. Those who know the tale learned it from their great-grandparents, who swore until their dying days they were speaking the truth.
However times are changing. The region has been a part of the Roman Empire for almost a century now (since 20 AD) and the village of Xuthltan has come to the attention of the central government. They are not concerned with inter-tribal rivalries or prejudices, ancient grudges and wild stories of monsters and magic. They are concerned with the proper and efficient collection of taxes, and Xuthltan has yet to be visited by any Publican (tax collector). This oversite is due to be corrected shortly.
Adventure Hook – The investigators are hired to escort the local Publican (or one of them can be appointed as a Publican by the governor of Pannonia) to visit Xuthltan in order to make a revenue assessment and collect the due taxes for the village. While the investigators are promised a percentage of the collected taxes they may be lucky just to escape with their lives. The people of Xuthlan are physically formidable, magical powerful, stealthy raiders and skilled killers. They do not like trespassers nor recognize the Empire’s authority over them in any way.
For Keepers – The villagers of Xuthltan are sub-human, a degenerate race mixed with the blood of mountain wild men of old (an extinct variant of early man, possibly Neanderthals). They worship the God of the Black Stone, The Great Old One Gol-Goroth. They summon this vile deity on the nights when the seasons turn and make offerings to is, namely the youths and children stolen from the surrounding villages. Gol-Goroth appears before the Black Stone at the conclusion of a ritual filled with drumming, dancing, torture, and the sacrifice of a human child. Their high priest wears a mask of an animal skull, carried a long whip, and is adorned with a chain and pendant (a rendering of Gol-Goroth itself). This location and cult are taken directly from the story, The Black Stone by R.E. Howard, and keepers should be familiar with it before running an adventure involving the Cult of Xuthltan.