For generations, this village has stood a rustic portrait of heaven on earth. Folk till the soil, work the mill, and take their livestock and produce to the towns for trade, free from the cares of the great cities. Young lads and lasses play at love in the meadows and dream of a life far away.
But the world is changing. War has come. The land now quavers to the thunder of godless hosts. The rule of law is put to the torch. And, even as the high lords wage their bloody games, shadows reach out over sleepy Black Elm.
Men have come to the village by night - men in dark cloaks and hats, gilded steel at their belts. They name themselves adjurors, in the name of King and Church. Their avowed charge: to hunt down evil, and all who traffic with it, and deliver God’s justice therewith by fire and sword.
By sunrise, half a dozen stand accused in the village gaol. Through that first day, folk shudder at the screams from within those dreaded walls. Pyres begin to be built in the village square. There are whispers, but no-one dares stir in defiance, for the word of the adjurors is law.
Black Elm stands divided. Who are these outsiders? Are they merely torturers, exercising cruel license under the royal seal?
Or are they truly what they claim - and the Devil is indeed abroad in Black Elm?
The Pyres of Black Elm is a story of a witch-hunt and its impact on the lives of a rural community, set against the backdrop of a village seemingly beset by the powers of darkness.
The cult classic film Witchfinder General, as well as similar works such as Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, serve as inspirations.
This is not intended to be straight historical fiction. As such, I have elected to keep the setting vague - despite the resemblances, it’s not Puritan England. There is a Church, but a Church of what, I don’t know. People invoke the name of God, and abjure the Devil, but speak of ‘the Son’ or ‘the Savior’ instead of Christ. And so on. I hope this approach will allow players freedom to improvise, and take a hand in crafting the world.
However, Pyres is at its core a grounded, human drama. I do not intend for supernatural elements or actual, metaphysical ‘black magic’ to feature; this is a mundane world, where the only laws that apply are those of nature.
Players assume the roles of ordinary individuals who find themselves in Black Elm a few days after the adjurors arrive. All cards are open to customization: you can be a local of some standing in the village, or a traveler, or even a clergyman if you feel theologically inclined.
In general, though, this is a time of superstition and religious mania - a time when a cruel Church holds total sway in the lives of nobles and common folk alike. Be mindful - a 17th-century Bill Maher would not be welcome to say the least.
Period dialogue is encouraged, although not a must. A useful reference for this style of speech is the script of The Crucible, available here: http://bit.ly/1u2xBsI (PDF).
Hosted and narrated by:
Chester Teck (Syrmaticus)
Scenes played: 5
License: Community License