This article originally appeared in Pyramid #16
by Christopher Meinck
The two well-dressed Englishmen seemed out of place milling about the backstreet stalls of Cairo examining the wares of the various merchants. One piece in particular, a beautiful hand-woven tapestry crudely nailed to an alley wall, caught their eye.
An old turbaned man clad in white, sitting on the floor next to the work, regarded the pair shrewdly.
"Are you interested in this rare prize, esteemed sirs?" he asked in Egyptian.
"Yes," one of them replied in heavily accented Egyptian, "it's Greek, isn't it?"
A twinkle came to the old man's eye as he replied in perfect English, "Indeed it is. You know, many people are not aware of this, but the myth of Arachne as it is told today is incomplete.
"Yes, it is true that she angered the goddess Athena when she claimed that she could weave better than the gods themselves, and it is also true that she was changed into a spider for daring to depict the indiscretions of the gods, but that's not the end of the tale. Arachne was so embittered at having lost her lovely human form that she vowed she would repair the tapestry Athena ripped apart and make it an everlasting monument to her own skill and to the misdeeds of the gods. Enlisting the aid of all spiders, she painstakingly rewove her masterpiece with silk webbing in such a way that it could never be undone. This is that very tapestry, esteemed sirs, and some claim that the curse of Arachne has given it strange powers ..."
Arachne's Tapestry is an exquisitely-woven wall tapestry ten feet high by 20 feet long. A close examination of the material reveals that it is made of the finest silk, and it appears to have been hand-dyed. It always looks clean and new, and never shows signs of wear or aging. Even if someone intentionally dirties it, his attention will be diverted away from the Tapestry for an instant by a sound or other disturbance . . . when he looks back, it will be miraculously clean. No method of analysis has been able to reveal its true age, and no one thus far has proven the Tapestry a hoax.
The Tapestry depicts the ancient Greek gods at their worst, focusing especially on the numerous illicit trysts of Zeus and the many dirty tricks that the gods have played on humans throughout history. Looking at the Tapestry for extended periods of time evokes a feeling of vengeful pride, as if the viewer himself had crafted it as a tribute to the power of the human spirit.
There are two primary manifestations of the power of the Tapestry. The first requires that the viewer of the tapestry have a specific object that he has actually touched in mind while he is looking at the Tapestry. If the viewer is intent on finding the object, then he makes an IQ check. On a failed check nothing happens, and the Tapestry will not function for the user for the next 24 hours. A successful check will activate the Tapestry, and thousands of spiders will climb from its fabric. Witnessing this requires a Fright Check at -3, or -10 if the viewer has arachnophobia or entomophobia. Once the spiders have emerged, they will quickly but painstakingly reweave the Tapestry into a detailed map that shows the object's current location. The scale of the map is completely dependent upon how familiar the subject is with the area where the object resides, but is always sufficient for the user to locate the object in question. The map will remain for as long as the viewer keeps looking at the Tapestry, after which the spiders will restore it to its original appearance and then vanish.
The second ability of the Tapestry is foretelling the future. Someone must view the Tapestry with a question about future events in mind in order for it to be activated. When this happens, the subject makes an IQ roll. A failed check means the Tapestry will not work for the viewer for the next 24 hours, but a successful roll causes the spiders to emerge as with the mapping ability. They will reweave the Tapestry into a single scene that addresses the question posed by the user. Simple and innocuous requests, such as "Will it rain tomorrow?" or "Will my child be a girl or a boy?" will receive straightforward answers. More difficult questions, such as "When will I die?" and "Will we succeed in our quest?" will have more cryptic answers. The GM is free to be as abstract and misleading as he likes when describing the images the spiders create. The picture has the same duration as the map.
Both of the special abilities of Arachne's Tapestry will function only once per week per individual. More than one attempted use will have no effect. Once a user has discovered one of the powers, he will instinctively know the other.
The Tapestry has a long and colorful history, with the earliest references to its existence dating back to ancient Greece. It is mentioned in many a shadowy occult tome, and people steeped in such lore will have a passing knowledge of it. Those who have owned the Tapestry have been wealthy art collectors, interested in it solely because of its incredible craftsmanship and beauty. When an owner learns of the special powers of the Tapestry, he becomes very secretive and will do his best to hide it. Eventually, however, these individuals go insane from the knowledge of a future they cannot change, and the Tapestry passes on to another owner. It has disappeared from time to time, only to reappear in a private art collection. To date no museum has ever housed the Tapestry.
An exclusively female secret society known as The Weavers has been searching for the Tapestry for over 1,000 years. No one is certain of the origin of this group, but their goal seems to be promoting the worship of Arachne as the human ideal of perfection.
Every member of The Weavers is accomplished in some field of the arts, but entry into the upper circles of the society is reserved for those who have mastered weaving. All Weavers are identified by a detailed tattoo of a spider on their left shoulder. A typical member has ST 10, DX 13, IQ 11 and HT 10. She has Ancient Greek-15, Staff-13, and some Artistic or Craft skill at 16 in addition to any other skills she may possess. Thus far The Weavers have been unable to locate the elusive Tapestry, but they have come close many times. They have many contacts in the art world and vigorously pursue any rumors about ancient Greek artifacts. The group is generally nonviolent but they have been known to use force when information regarding the Tapestry is at stake. What The Weavers intend to do with the Tapestry when they find it is unclear, but they may have some hidden knowledge about its powers or purpose.
Adventure SeedsThe PCs are searching for an unspeakably rare artifact and have few leads. Then, a mysterious contact tips them off that there is a device that could help them find it, but the current owner is a powerful figure in organized crime. The PC's must sneak into his mansion, use the Tapestry, and then escape alive!
The PCs are on a cruise ship when it is suddenly hijacked by terrorists. The prisoners discover that a priceless work of art is on board and it is what the terrorists are after. When they discover its true nature, can they let it fall into criminal hands?
The government hires the PCs to track down a group of notorious art thieves. They seem to be able to break into any museum or gallery to steal precious artifacts. The PCs discover that the Tapestry is allowing them to pull off these heists. If they bust the thieves, can they trust the government with the Tapestry? Maybe the real reason the PCs were hired was to get it so that the government could use it in a secret project.
A reign of terror has gripped the art world! Museum curators and art dealers are being killed with alarming frequency around the world, the only clue being a black marble spider left at every crime scene. The PCs are called in to investigate the murders. The Weavers are finally about to get Arachne's Tapestry, and they've abandoned their pacifist ways. This should be a globe-trotting romp to keep the Tapestry from The Weavers before they use it in some terrible ceremony (the nature of which is up to the GM).
Article publication date: December 1, 1995
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