Pestilence that beckons from beneath the mountain. No one knows the true appearance of the celestial stag. It lives in complete darkness and, when brought forth into daylight, becomes a foul liquid.
- The celestial stag is a perfect fit for any underground dungeon crawl. It's voice could lure players to treasure or to their doom - whichever you decide.
- You could design an encounter with a celestial stag in its liquid or gaseous form, but I recommend thinking of them as an environmental feature or trap.
- Local miners have been hearing strange voices under the mountain. Recently one of them has contracted a deadly illness.
- An eccentric scholar has been studying strange markings on the gravestones in an ancient cemetery. Many stones are marked with a strange sign they cannot decipher.
- A prominent druid has come to the city to beg that they put a halt to their mining operation. They warn that the gods of the earth have become angry, and that a pestilence will soon rise from the ground.
Celestial Stag Lore
In the hazardous darkness of the mines, dwell many strange creatures. One such is the celestial stag. They live deep under the earth and desire nothing more than to come out into the light of day. They use their human voices to plead with miners for release. A common trick is to tempt them with false promises of valuable ore. When the miners refuse them, their speech becomes offensive. Some say that their sharp words may even cut flesh when roused enough.
The true form of the celestial stag is not known. Underground they dwell in utter darkness. When released into the world above, they immediately transform into a noxious liquid that spreads pestilence. The release of a mature celestial stag can spell doom for an entire village: their deathly liquid may further evaporate, becoming a gaseous cloud of disease.
In his book "Chinese Ghouls and Goblins", Gerald Willoughby-Meade chronicles this strange creature (and many others). I will leave you with his accounting of the creature, its history, and the many remaining mysteries surrounding it.
An unaccountable tale is told in the Tzů Pub Yü of the Celestial stag, which lives in underground mines, and guides the workmen to the veins of gold and silver. If these creatures are hauled up into the day light, they change into an offensively-smelling liquid, which deals pestilence and death around. If the miners refuse to haul them up (apparently they can speak, and are anxious to get out), the stags' molest the miners, and have to be overpowered, immured in the mine, and firmly embedded in clay. Where the stags' outnumber the miners, they sometimes torment the men and cause their death.
The Chinese writer of this legend classifies these monsters with corpse-demons, or ghouls that feed on the dead; and it may be that the word used for 'stag' in modern Chinese is merely an imitation of a local or foreign name for the mine-devils.
On the other hand, a 'celestial stag' is sometimes carved on gravestones (a practice which had been in existence over 2000 years), together with another mythical animal, of which very few details are available.
Mining has never been seriously undertaken in China at any great depth,for fear of angering earth spirits; otherwise a few more stories might have been available, to throw light upon the subject. In Cornwall and in Germany, mines are associated with uncanny happenings of various kinds, possibly because of the dark, dangerous work and the utterly un accountable noises heard below ground at times.
Written by Giles Ravensong.