- Raven Magill
Quest Setting & Environment: Sonder, The Quiet Village
The Zilkalni Forest boasts pine trees that reach 100 ft into the sky, a rich ecology of creatures large, small, and rare, a sprawling footprint that would take days to traverse, and an unusual, little-known secret tucked close to its heart.
Large villages or cities that border the forest hold few residents that have ever heard of the Quiet Village, much less seen it, but for the even rarer few that have visited the secluded hamlet at night, Sonder (as the locals call it) is an enchanting dream.
Sonder by Day
After at least a day’s travel into Zilkani, the first signs of Sonder are the lanterns. They’re carved out of solid wood, sprouting from the ground like trees at an interval of every 15 feet, clearly marking a boundary. Even during daylight hours the lights inside these wooden lanterns glow a pale green, like a dense cloud of fireflies.
Beyond this line of lanterns is a tangle of trees, dark wooden buildings, and slate-lined streets. At first glance, Sonder appears to be a village in miniature. Sprawling out and between the trees are the houses, shops, and streets that are just a little too small, and a little too close together. The tallest building’s peak doesn’t break 13 feet, and the roads between the buildings are more like footpaths, built from irregular slabs of slate stone, bright green moss lining the path like living grout.
There is an eerie peace here. And though there’s the occasional sound and sight of birds and small creatures, there’s otherwise no sound or movement to be detected in the village. It appears to have been abandoned.
Sonder by Night
Between the hours of dusk and dawn, Sonder sheds its reputation as the Quiet Village. The pine and smoke-scented wind carries the sound of singing out beyond the faint glow of the lanterns through the trees. A gentle rumble of laughter is as likely to catch a traveler’s attention as the column of sparks rising from a bonfire at the center of the village. Those who endeavor to cross the lantern’s border will find a cozy and vibrant community of fey creatures and various humanoids nestled in the dark woods.
Village in Hiding
Sonder did not always exist on the material plane, and in some ways it still doesn’t - certainly not during the daylight hours. Sonder is a small, peaceful village that originated in the fey realm, and was nearly destroyed when a threat began to stalk the denizens at night. The clever fey devised a spell that would establish the village on both planes, but shift its people into the material plane at night, when the threat was greatest, and return the people to the fey realm during the day when it became safe again.
For the inhabitants of Sonder, a ceremony at birth inscribes a Keeping Rune on to the bottom of their feet which corresponds to symbols and magical workings that have been embedded into many surfaces throughout the village. Only creatures with this rune on their person can return with the village to the fey realm during the day.
Any visitors who find themselves in the village as dawn is breaking will see the inhabitants and their belongings disappear before their very eyes.
A Nocturnal Lifestyle
Sonder’s villagers have chosen to sleep during the day, when they’re safe in the fey realm, and conduct their business and lives in the evenings on the material plane. Although they are safer in the material plane at night than they are in the fey realm, they still recognize that it’s not their home, and the curiosity of their existence could attract unwanted attention and activities. They have decided it’s better to be alert on the foreign plane.
Stories by the Fire
A bonfire burns in a clearing at the center of the village. It is encircled with short wooden benches that gleam, polished by many years of use and care. Most nights, this place serves as a social hub, but on the quarter, half, full, and new moon, the bonfire is reserved for storytellers. On the rare occasion that travelers join them, they’re encouraged to share a tale at these all-night events.
The inhabitants of Sonder are diverse and include fauns, faeries, gnomes, halflings, harengon, and elves. Some have long lived in the village, while others are temporary guests, gifted the use of the Keeping Rune. Among this population there are a few individuals who are especially eager to speak with visitors.
Omari, a Father in Need
Faun, he/him, 32, wears a colorful woven scarf and a simple dark brown clothing.
Omari can be found stalking the boundaries of the village, and even venturing beyond the lantern-light occasionally. When not peering into the depths of the Zilkani forest, he spends much of his time around the bonfire, on the lookout for visitors who may be coming from one of the villages beyond the forest. After observing the party for several minutes (and not at all being subtle about it) Omari will approach to ask them if they’ve heard of or seen his son either in the woods, or beyond.
Omari’s son, Leto, disappeared several weeks ago. The young boy, only 5 years old, wandered into the woods one night and hasn’t been seen since. Omari doesn’t know what happened to his child, but he’s willing to give the adventurers a precious family heirloom if they can find Leto and return him to Sonder safely.
Leto’s fate is such that an unsavory group moving through the woods, not far from Sonder, found the boy and scooped him up. Fauns are a rarity in this part of the world, and they thought to bring him to the nearest village and show him as an attraction, or perhaps to sell him to an enterprising wizard. Your party may have seen Leto before heading into the woods, or may come across signs of him when they pass through and arrive at their destination.
Marko, the Firekeeper
Changeling, they/them/he/him/she/her, 65, wears the same outfit no matter what face/race/appearance they choose: a simple, loose cloth shirt, delicately embroidered, and leather pants.
If the bonfire is the heart of Sonder, then Marko is its soul. They are not nearly as old as the wisest elder, but their passion for storytelling and performance has installed them as Sonder’s de facto Firekeeper. Marko delights in sharing stories of the fey realm, and any and all stories that they’ve picked up from visitors over the years. If pressed, Marko may even tell the story of the horrors that own the darkness that surrounds their village back home. If your adventurers are present for one of the nights that Marko is in his role as Firekeeper, they will invite your group to share a few stories. In return, Marko will use their intuition and insight to share a story that they feel will be particularly useful to your group.
Bringing Sonder to Life
Intricately carved wooden decorations on every building.
Candle light and fireflies. Hanging lanterns.
A shop lit up with warm magical light from within, full of carved wooden toys, colorful penants, knitted sweaters, woven blankets.
Women singing quietly inside one of the houses.
Chatter around a crackling fire.
The hush of wind pushing through pine boughs.
Woodsmoke and incense
Moss and night-blooming jasmine.
Freshly carved pine.
Gauzy linen curtains pulled out from an open window by the night’s breeze.
Deer hide draped over polished wood benches around the bonfire.
Hard slate interspersed with spongy moss.
Bringing Players to Sonder
Sonder once had a protector who lived beyond the lamplight in the village. Ruwen, a tabaxi druid, would regularly travel to the nearest village for supplies. However, he hasn’t been seen in a while. A friend in that village knows about Ruwen’s role, as well as the nature of Sonder, and is concerned for him. Ruwen’s friend will gladly pay the adventurers to bring back news on whether Ruwen is alright. When the adventurers arrive at Sonder and question the inhabitants about Ruwen, they will be informed that the druid had to move on for mysterious reasons that he would not go into, but they are welcome to investigate his nearby cabin for clues.
A Passersby shared stories about lights, laughter, song, and strange smells coming from the heart of the forest when they last traveled through.
A strange, young Faun is being displayed like a side-show attraction at the nearest village.
The Zilkani forest may be necessary to pass through as part of the journey your adventurers are already taking.
Weaving Sonder into Your Story
What if a storyteller at the bonfire, another visitor, shares information that’s important for your party?
What if your party needs to get to the fey realm? And Sonder is the only point of entry that they’ve been able to find?
What if the dark forces that are lurking in your world are related to the threat that has pushed Sonder into its unique existence?