The coastal town of Cacheto-on-sea is a generally peaceful place with a long history of solid industry. The town’s salt mines have brought prosperity to the area, and many of the townspeople are quite well-off. Lately there have been strange happenings, however. A series of unusually aggressive diseases has struck randomly throughout the population — never the same disease twice, and never anything previously known to medicine. In the past few days there have also been one or two accounts of people going suddenly missing, all of them quite young and all of them completely healthy.
The diseases progress quickly and often fatally, so the town’s elderly priest is struggling to keep up with demand for his healing powers. He doesn’t know the source of the problems, but is starting to suspect that something has been stirred up by the work in the mines. The missing young people are a new mystery which he is baffled by.
A malevolent earth-spirit, disturbed by the mines, is abroad in the town. When it was first awoken, it intended to bring about the town’s complete destruction, tearing the earth and sending the whole place tumbling into the shadowy depths. However, a high-class woman who secretly practices dark magics has bound the spirit and prevents it from doing so. The spirit is compelled to serve the witch’s goals by helping her pull magical power from the roots of the world. Her seal on its mind is not perfect however, and the earth-spirit exacts what revenge it can by calling up terrible diseases throughout the populace.
The town’s missing young people have in common that they had recently spoken to the witch (in her public upper-class persona). They have been kidnapped and are chained up in her secret underground chambers, where she uses them to experiment with her new powers. One in particular, a shy young lady named Genevieve, has the dubious honour of being clamped to a wooden chair and forced to wear a magical armlet that protects the witch from physical harm.
The underground chambers are accessible from the mansion’s library by pulling a switch inside a hollow marble bust (a sculpture of the witch herself). The house servants have sometimes seen their mistress go into the library and then “disappear” without coming out again.
Smashing the great wall mirror in the witch’s hilltop mansion will break her hold over the earth-spirit. If it has not already been placated or otherwise controlled, it will immediately start rending open a huge chasm to sink the entire town, although this will take several minutes to accomplish. If it succeeds in doing this, it will collapse the hill under the witch’s mansion in a final gesture of contempt. It will then return to the deep earth to sleep.
The earth-spirit is not very deceitful and will make no secret of its loathing for mortals (especially the witch), if the players should speak to it. It is quite open about its desire to demolish the entire town, the better to ensure that its sleep is never disturbed ever again. If offered suitable guarantees about the mines staying away from its home, it might be talked into leaving the town intact. It is unlikely to stretch to sparing the life of the witch, whom it especially hates, but it will mention the existence of the kidnapped young people if the characters have failed to locate them.
The witch made a few unusual visits to the mine works shortly before the disease outbreaks began. Neither she nor any of her servants have been affected by any of the diseases, nor does she seem afraid of falling victim to any. Ever since the start of the outbreaks, occasional minor earth tremors have been noticed by people passing near her mansion.
Among the magical texts and enciphered notes in the witch’s hidden chambers is the fifth page of the Cadian text. Many other riches and luxuries can be found in the mansion.