Heroes of the Ashford Valley (MicrOSR20)
Yarkand the Great Stag
Yarkand is known as the Emperor of the Valley, the Lord of Forest, Farm and Field
The Ashford Valley contains a wide variety of wildlife, herds of deer in the forests, mountain goats in the hills, packs of wolves along the rivers, wild boar in the brush and brown bear wandering among the Runestones.
One such animal is the paragon of animals – Yarkand, the Emperor of the Valley, Lord of Forest, Farm and Field. Yarkand is a gigantic red stag , reputed to be over 18 feet tall and 900 pounds, with a long history in the valley.
Yarkand is supposed to be as intelligent as a man, friendly with the elves (they refuse to confirm this) and conversant in many languages. He is claimed to have magical powers, mainly dealing with nature, and can command woodland creatures, including wolves and cougars, to do his bidding.
Legally, a symbol of Yarkand is included in the Lord of the Ashford Valley’s coat of arms and has a tie to the ruling family (or any future ruling family by tradition). The laws on the books concerning this stag are surprisingly simple: “Leave Yarkand be or face the ultimate in penalties.”
Culturally, the love of Yarkand is deeply ingrained in the people. According to legend, this giant stag is as old as the valley itself, one of the earliest inhabitants, even before the first peoples who created the Runestones, well before the current inhabitants’ ancestors arrived. Yarkand is the true Lord of the Valley by these stories, responsible for forests, farmlands and fields (as the name), and that the gods set him here to watch over it.
When the Valley’s human lord gets too old or sick and is close to death, it is said that it is Yarkand, not Death, who comes for them and carries them to paradise with the gods. A good lord is treated well by Yarkand while an evil one is carried off so that the giant stag can trample them to dust beneath his iron-sharp hooves.
To think of harming the stag or even hunting it is considered sacrilege and may get the talker in trouble, as the commoners take pride in the Emperor as their own and the belief that Yarkand is the protector of the forest and the field. A few cases of near lynchings have been reported but nothing worse than that – so far.
Claims to have seen Yarkand are taken seriously and obvious liars are shunned for their impudence, while those who actually have seen the stag are treated with respect and reverence. Yarkand, however, is rarely seen and to have witnessed the Emperor of the Valley is to have been granted either a lucky life by the gods or an opportunity to greatness (often full of trouble) will soon present itself to the witness.
If the PCs are lucky enough to see the stag, what could that portent for their future? Perhaps a glimpse would be all that is necessary to get them into a trouble that they’ve not expected. Perhaps an encounter in a glade will lead them to a treasure-trove. How the stag crosses paths with the PCs is up to the GM, but having the stag as an “off-stage” patron is always worth a thought.