While researching for a project I'm working on for my Patreon short story page, (me? subtlety? never!), I found an interesting item on Wikipedia. The topic was tumulus, aka barrow mounds, and call me crazy but I had no idea people were still building those.
Yet they are. In 2015 a group of enthusiasts built a Long Barrow outside the village of All Cannings, aiming to sell space as a crematoria memorial. Pay a small fee and your relative can stay forever in a purpose-built chalk mound, designed in the traditional style.
Moreover it's not the only company to have colonized this niche in the market. Shortly after the All Cannings experiment - all its spaces were quickly snapped up - the owners of Soulton Hall announced their intention to construct a similar barrow on their property. As with the All Cannings barrow the intent is to provide a spectacular funerary experience, and since Soulton Hall already hosts weddings and provides short term holiday rentals I can picture a unique kind of all-inclusive experience; marriage, wedding anniversaries, death and burial all in the same location.
Frankly it's all a little creepy, in the best folk horror traditions. I can imagine Hammer Horror in its heyday making something memorable with this idea, probably with Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing in the lead. Nigel Kneale would have to write it, of course. Not that I think for a moment this is what the Sacred Stones designers intend, but it's impossible to contemplate something like this without remembering the Wicker Man, or the Stone Tape.
I'm also amazed it took this long for someone to build a new barrow. I'd have thought someone inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th Century or someone in the folk-horror infused 1970s would have had a go. Though possibly someone did but decided not to use it as a public cemetery. It does sound like the perfect Folly, now that I think of it, though traditional Folly-builders preferred Classical motifs.
So what can be done to gamify this?
Night's Black Agents: This is clearly a Node. The only question is who's using it? As a sanctuary almost any kind of vampire could be lurking in those urns. Damned or Supernatural vampires probably positioned the barrow very carefully for mystic architectural purposes; no doubt a ley line flows through the site, or the stars line up perfectly at a certain time of year. It could also be a communications or resupply point, as with the Dracula Dossier's Red Rooms. Alien or Mutant vampires are probably using the site to disguise some other kind of activity; maybe the floor rolls away to reveal some kind of laboratory, or the excavated remains of the alien craft that brought them here so long ago. Or there's always acoustics to play with; the barrow might be designed for its acoustic properties, the better to create an infrasound effect intended to [fill in the blank, but it's not going to be good news]. My go-to would be that the barrow's infrasound helps weaken the barrier between our existence and wherever it is vampires come from, allowing the vampire-thing to possess a human host.
Trail of Cthulhu/Bookhounds: Much depends on when the barrow is built. Assuming a kind of Arts and Crafts project then this could easily be happening in the 1930s, which opens up possibilities for Bookhounds Keepers. Perhaps there's a sociopath out there collecting every book or paper she can to do with Neolithic burial practices, the better to refine her long-term goal of creating a new home for an Entity from beyond the stars. Or perhaps some wealthy scholar is trying to realize the ultimate passion project, but his ideals are being perverted by one of his assistants. Or even the design itself, unintended, pulls something across the void. What would building a barrow in or around London - tricky thought that may be - do for its Megapolisomancy? Could it be part of a larger design to drawn power from the city in order to create [a power store? a special Lever? a place where Megapolisomancers can cast without spending their own power?] What would you have to do to build a barrow like this within London - and would it have to be a traditional barrow, or could you do this with other materials? Bones, say? Even if you do have to use traditional materials that could be a story in itself, as the stones are laboriously transported, in secret, to the construction site. Or maybe the construction site is in plain view - at the Crystal Palace, say, as part of the architectural exhibits.
Esoterrorists: Now here's a question: is the mound intended to weaken the Membrane, or is it something the Ordo built to cover up or bury something it didn't want the rest of the world to see? A funerary burial mound - all spaces already bought and paid for, of course - could be the perfect prison/tomb for something the good guys can't kill but don't want roaming around. Or perhaps this is a mystic interrogation/holding facility for captured Esoterrorists. Cue the ultimate jail break, as their colleagues close in, guns and monsters at the ready. Or if this is intended to weaken the Membrane, then was it built with that purpose in mind or is it being manipulated by outside forces? Maybe one of the burials is actually a kind of Trojan Funeral, intended to sneak something into the mound that will corrupt its mystical energies into something malign. Or, in the best Phil Rickman tradition, the mound could be the plaything of a rich dabbler in mystic arts, intended either to reawaken something foul that once ravaged this site or to channel mystic energies for some hideous purpose.
That's it for this week. Enjoy!