A cleared area shows signs of scattered digging. Probably Yavanna Culand’s work, and fairly recent since the foliage has not yet reclaimed the site. Moss covered stone blocks litter the ground, the edges and corners worn smooth by time. A few have been overturned to expose bare rock.
Two low walls rise from the center of the clearing, joined together at a 120-degree angle. Ranging from knee height at the ends to chest height at the vertex, the walls are scored with ancient pockmarks and ragged scrapes that resemble claw marks. You have not seen such markings on other Harlass Orn ruins.
Suddenly, the space between the walls sparkles as if innumerable droplets of water are suspended in the air. An electric tingling rushes over your limbs, and the hairs on your arms stand on end. Light reflects from the glittering points in a kaleidoscope of color, gaining intensity until you are momentarily blinded. A sharp crack like God’s own bullwhip rends the air.
Once more, you can see and hear. Framed by the wide V of the walls, two creatures embrace in combat, howling in pain and rage. One resembles a Swamp Man in dented and stained armor of some dark metal, a curved blade of the same metal clutched in his left hand. A broken dark metal shield rocks from side to side on the ground beside him.
The other creature appears to be a grotesque cross between a man and an insect. Half again as tall as the Swamp Man, its arms and legs are extraordinarily long and folded around the Swamp Man. It flails a sinuous tail, aiming a dagger-like stinger at its foe. Overlapping bone plates protect the creature’s skin.
Blood and grime coat both combatants. They are locked together so tightly that, at least for the moment, neither can strike at the other. Yet the scaled creature seems to be winning.
As the seconds drag on the fight gets even more desperate as the stinger lands another minor blow on the back side of the Swamp Man’s shoulder.
Mistress Bianca steps up and says, “Save the swamp man or save the bug guy. Or we wait it out and see if the winner is friendly…”
The Swamp Man dips and drops in towards the construct to free itself of the lashing metallic tail.
Darren: “That bug thing does not look so friendly and we know that swamp men can be reasoned with.”
Mistress Bianca: “I am willing to save the swamp man.”
Rikard Castleberry preps his weapon as he gets ready to charge in.
Rikard Castleberry: “Yeah I’ll go help him out.”
In a desperate move the Swamp Man continues his drop and turns it into a roll towards the wall. Sparks fly as his shield scores the low wall.
Darren: “Alright, I’ll take that as a yes.”
Rikard Castleberry tucks his head down, and starts to run as fast as he can towards the fight ahead of him, closing much of the distance.
Darren takes in a deep breath and lurches forward with uncanny speed, into firing range of the creature.
Darren stops and before the dirt settles under his feet he fires his crossbow
Darren’s crossbow is a poor imitation of thunder as it lets fly a bolt. The bolt lands home and splinters on one of the constructs armor plates located in the chest region.
The red glowing eyes of the construct glance at the new interloper. The glance is brief, then it moves to crush a leg of the prone Swamp Man.
The blow seems to land true but at the last possible second the Swamp Man rolls out of the way using the movement in an effort to regain his footing.
Mistress Bianca steps up and delivers a silvery purple ethereal fist flying towards the bug man.
With another crack of sound a ball of churning air leaps forward and slams into the construct. The wind seems to churn up a lot of plant and debris but the construct is unmoved.
The Swamp Man regains his footing and spins around like a tornado. His move is so fast you can only register that one moment he was down, then spinning; now he stands face to face with the construct, but the constructs dagger like tip has been severed from an incredible precise stroke that cut between two overlapping plates.
Bart cuts the remaining distance in half.
The construct lashes out with its tail at the Swamp Man.
The Swamp Man jumps and the shortened tail crushes one of the ancient bricks into shrapnel.
A piece of the stone shrapnel nails the Swamp Man in the lower leg and he lets loose a terrible hissing roar.
Mistress Bianca steps a step to the right to clear a shot and fires another ethereal fist.
Again the staff spits forth powerful air and pushes back some of the stone splinters to the base of the wall. The construct is hit by a few of them, but does not slow down.
Rikard Castleberry moves up to within range of the construct and attacks it, holding his weapon in 2 hands, for further range
Rikard Castleberry’s blow slices along the forearm and slips in between two plates, a viscous liquid spurts out and covers his blade.
Rikard Castleberry takes the opportunity to stab at it again quickly, while it is slightly distracted
Rikard Castleberry spins the blade around and follows through with a strike to the same location. The plate bends back further and there is a stream of fluid leaking out of the arm now.
Rikard Castleberry shakes a little of the liquid off his spear as he prepared to be attacked shortly.
Darren pumps in another bolt, takes aim and fires.
Darren accurately hits the construct and this time the bolt glances off a shoulder plate and flies wildly, end over end beyond the low stone wall.
The Swamp Man pushes everything he has with both hands and shoves his blade forward into the Construct.
His first blow glances off the chest plates and bounces into the air. He snatches it with his other hand and slices at the neck.
It hits the vulnerable area beneath the chin armor. Another spray of black liquid splatters everyone within 10 feet. The left eye is no longer glowing and the head is tilted.
Darren pumps in another bolt, takes aim and fires.
Darren’s shot lands, but fails to get through the armor.
Bart moves up and tries to damage it between the plates with his short sword.
Bart’s blow rings out loudly without causing more than superficial damage.
Rikard Castleberry continues his assault from where he is currently standing.
Rikard Castleberry strikes twice hard, greatly damaging and fatally wounding the beast.
The second eye winks out, just like that the beast stops moving. Liquid pumps out of the neck and arm though the rate is already slowing.
The Swamp Man’s sword springs to life in a slow arc that ends with the point planted deeply into the earth. He then turns as his legs fall out from under him and lays against the base of the wall gasping for breath.
The dying Swamp Man gasps for air and stares at you. His eyes plead…but for what? Then he coughs and flecks of bloody spittle sprinkle his chin. A rasping voice struggles to form words, painfully forcing air through broken lungs. “Tarass Shar Orn…ossan tshalissi-urh.” His eyes go wide; he exhales a final breath, and goes limp.
Mistress Bianca: “That was anticlimactic.”
Rikard Castleberry frowns at the words, not understanding the last bit, but recognizing the beginning.
Darren steps forward to examine the creatures.
Darren looks over the swamp man for heraldry.
Rikard Castleberry pokes the construct again with his spear.
The kaleidoscope of color returns briefly, this time all around you. This time there is no crack of thunder but when the color goes so too does the metallic construct. Though the ground where it fought still retains the recent footprints.
Closer inspection shows the Swamp Man’s gear to be of the finest quality yet severely damaged. Engraved swirls and circular patterns chased in gold flow over every curve of the armor, still breathtaking despite the cracks and dents. Although scored by massive claws, the shield bears a recognizable design of three concentric circles. Only the dark metal sword shows no damage, the fine edge gleaming in the sunlight. The pommel has been wrapped in some sort of scaled green leather reminiscent of swamp dragon hide.
Mistress Bianca: “Remove his equipment and separate it.”
Darren tightens his crossbow to his chest and complies with Bianca’s wishes.
Rikard Castleberry takes a moment to shake off the constructs blood from his weapon.
Darren: “It takes minutes to remove its armor.
Mistress Bianca helps while she uses the spell to determine what is magical and what is not.
Mistress Bianca (puzzled): “Interesting.”
*Rikard Castleberry: “What is it? “
Mistress Bianca takes the pouch and looks inside.
Rikard Castleberry hands Bart the shield.
Rikard Castleberry: “Here, hold onto this for now, sometimes a warriors shield is proof that we saw him.”
Rikard Castleberry: “It could be useful later.”
Mistress Bianca: “No one drink this until it has been identified. It may kill you for all we know.”
Darren: “I wonder if it would revive it?”
Rikard Castleberry: “If it’s not clean water, or ale, I’m not interested.”
Mistress Bianca: “I have never heard of anything bringing the dead back to life.”
Rikard Castleberry unclasps the sword and sheath and attaches them around his waist, opposite his short sword.
Rikard Castleberry: “You mean, aside from whatever left those skeleton footprints?”
Mistress Bianca: “They are still dead. And I do not wish to create one of those.”
Rikard Castleberry: “This sword is of pretty good quality. I’ll hold onto it for now. You can never have enough backup weapons.”
Mistress Bianca: “I suggest we take all of his things. Either we will run into someone who would know where he is from and would want them, or Yavanna could learn from them.”
Darren tears a small, damaged plate from the armor and pockets it.
Rikard Castleberry: “Do you really want to take his clothes? We should leave him at least that dignity.”
Darren: “The dead care not for dignity and getting this analyzed might provide a clue to where this swamp man came from.”
Mistress Bianca: “Bart would probably disagree with you Darren.”
Mistress Bianca: “He just doesn’t seem too talkative tonight.”
Darren: “Obviously these 3 rings, interwoven like they are, are some form of heraldry.”
Rikard Castleberry: “The armor should be ok, but we should leave him his traveling clothes.”
Mistress Bianca: “Clothes are fine. I have already committed his last dying words to memory. They seem familiar.”
Darren: “One moment, they were not here and the next, a crack of lightning and thunder and they appeared.”
Darren: “That strikes me as very unusual.”
Mistress Bianca: “Get used to it. Happens to us all the time.”
Rikard Castleberry: “At least we came out of it none the worse for wear, this time.”
Everyone sees Darren’s head tilt and his eyes go as glassy as his mouth does wide. He is staring at the wall with intense interest.
Darren steps up and traces some of the marks upon the wall with a finger.
Rikard Castleberry: “What’s got you spooked there Darren?”
Darren: “Look at these marks.”
Mistress Bianca: “What marks…?”
Darren: “Some look very recent…but some…look to be hundreds of years old.”
Rikard Castleberry looks at the marks, and pretends to know he is looking at something he recognizes.
As you all look closely you see claw marks and sword marks that age from recent to antiquity.
Darren: “These claw marks made by that creature that disappeared.”
Rikard Castleberry: “So what you’re saying is, um, well, what are you saying?”
Darren: “That fights such as we witnessed here have happened right here, many times before.”
Mistress Bianca: “It would appear so.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Hmm.”
Mistress Bianca: “I can come up with a number of suppositions as to why this is, but at present I have no information to base them on apart from why we just saw.”
Darren: “What is very strange is that these two came from someplace, sometime and appeared right here.”
Darren: “As we approached.”
Mistress Bianca: “Like I said before, get used to it. Lots of freaky shit happens with us around.”
Darren: “Well obviously this place is magical; I would not be surprised if this happens again.”
Rikard Castleberry: I would hate to end up somewhere else in a flash of lightning and be in their place. Wait, what if we already are somewhere or somewhen else? I don’t like that idea very much!”
Darren: “Not likely, those trees around us have not grown or shrank due to age.”
Darren: “Or lack thereof.”
Rikard Castleberry: “What if they are magic trees?”
Mistress Bianca: “Well be that as it may, it is nearly nightfall and I for one do not want to go wandering about in the dark. For REAL this time.”
Darren: “Well, where should we camp then?”
Rikard Castleberry: “You’re such a picky person sometimes, B. “
Mistress Bianca: “By the boat.”
Mistress Bianca: “I know I know. I just wish to have a good night’s rest before something really weird happens.”
Darren: “You mean, weirder than what we just witnessed?”
Rikard Castleberry: “Yeah, most likely.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Let’s go then, and set up shop for the night.”
Mistress Bianca: “Yes. Transporting things is not new to me. What I am wondering is why we are still alive.”
Rikard Castleberry: “We’re alive because we made the thingies eyes go dark, I’m pretty sure.”
Darren: “Yes Rikard, you are very nasty with that spear of yours.”
Mistress Bianca: “If it was truly weird, I would have wings and you would have lost the ability to speak…on second thought that sounds pretty good on both accounts.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Wings wouldn’t be very subtle.”
Mistress Bianca walks back to the boat.
Darren shrugs and follows.
Mistress Bianca: “Never said I was subtle.”
Rikard Castleberry notices Bart is very silent on the matter, he probably said a few words over the swamp man’s corpse
Darren: “I’ll take first watch, ill man the crossbow in the skiff.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Sounds good to me. I’ll take the odd middle one, I’m quite rested.”
Bart smiles more and is more relaxed than his usual state. He seems to like it out here.
The night passes and you awake wet from the constant humidity. It is a quiet time of day before the mists burn off and the insects rule the land.
Rikard Castleberry: “Ah yes, a night without ambush, I like those.”
The ruins turn out to be the low wall you are at. Perhaps the island contains more ruins, but at this landing spot this is it.
You burn about half a day being thorough about it though.
Darren: “Perhaps we would have more luck at another site?”
Mistress Bianca: “One more thing.”
Mistress Bianca packs moss mud and dirt into the scars from the last battle on the rock.
Mistress Bianca: “If another happens while we were gone it would be tough to tell.”
After some effort the wall is dressed with nature’s bounty.
Darren: “Perhaps, for some reason, this battle happens here every so often.”
Mistress Bianca: “So let’s continue on.”
Mistress Bianca: “I will let Bart’s nose guide me.”
Rikard Castleberry: “I would trust his eyes more.”
Mistress Bianca: “His spiritual nose then.”
Bart seems to thinking inwardly, grinding all the information he has witnessed. He has no answers for you but has a vague feeling whatever was to be done here has been done. It is as if the area is at peace.
Darren: “Well, if I were Bart.”
Darren: “What if this swamp man requires this gear to fight again.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Err.”
Darren: “There is no evidence that the body decomposes.”
Darren: “Rikard, may I see your spear?”
Rikard Castleberry: “By all means.”
Rikard Castleberry hands Darren his spear.
Darren checks over the spear, particularly, the tip.
Darren: “You know, this metal of the spear looks exactly the same as the armor, the shield and the sword.”
Rikard Castleberry: “We would probably have to ask Yavanna about it, it came from her.”
Mistress Bianca: “Which is why if we cannot find his kin, she would probably enjoy looking at this stuff.”
Mistress Bianca: “Let’s not try putting together a 500 piece puzzle when all we got is 3 pieces, not one being an edge.”
Rikard Castleberry: “I like puzzles. Especially when they have animals as the picture.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Well, shall we go find another spot to look around?”
Mistress Bianca: “Yes.”
Mistress Bianca: “Ok…everyone, back to the skiff.”
As you pole along you see many sites where there are ruins. Stone walls that stand alone, a few cut blocks here and there, a foundation formed in the shape of a hex.
As the day fades you reach a large landing site. The trees are cut down though brush has grown over the large area. It is near where you would expect to reach the fresh water spring and ruin marker.
Rikard Castleberry: “Excellent. I wonder what will happen when I walk inland this time.”
Rikard Castleberry steps onto shore and takes those fateful first few steps.
Mistress Bianca: “If there is something here like the last place it has not presented itself.”
The night passes without event.
Rikard Castleberry: “Excellent, another uneventful evening.”
Darren: “So, southwest to the ruins?”
Rikard Castleberry: “We should head to the water first. Then the ruins.”
Mistress Bianca: “Yes, to the freshwater source first perhaps.”
Darren follows Bart.
After a few hours of cutting you reach a small pool with a split rock that trickles water from the crack into the pool.
The rock is glassy, black, smooth, and has moss covering the top of both halves.
Darren takes the time to fill his water skins with the trickling water.
Rikard Castleberry tests a bit of the water by drinking a little bit.
Bart: “The water is fresh. This pool provides water for many animals around here.”
Bart: “There are tracks of Carnivorous Lizards around here. I recommend caution.”
Darren: “Like um…swamp dragons?”
Bart: “It is unlikely this far from the greater waters, but who knows?”
Rikard Castleberry fills all his flasks and drinks heavily from the clean water.
Mistress Bianca hopes Bart wasn’t asking her or Rikard. Eyesight not their strongest traits…
Rikard Castleberry: “We just killed a construct from the past, and you’re worried about a swamp dragon? We will be fine.”
Mistress Bianca fingers the scar on her neck.
Mistress Bianca: “Always be mindful of swamp dragons Rikard.”
Mistress Bianca: “We have had our fill of water, now les proceed to the ruins.”
Darren: “Now Rikard, carve us out a path to the ruins if you would please.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Sure, just point me in the direction and I’ll start hacking.”
Mistress Bianca notices Bart point southeast.
A few more hours takes you to another well defined dig. This one seems to have been even more recent than the last one you were at. Here you see three cairns of stone. One of them is about 100 yards long and over twenty feet high. The other two are more a scattering of stones over a distance of several hundred feet. In a line, but broken and at a ground level.
Rikard Castleberry looks around for an obvious path away from this dig.
Rikard Castleberry walks up to the large stones, seeing if anything is hiding on the other sides of them.
Darren walks around the ruins, looking at the stones and signs of anything out of the ordinary.
Bart: “This site has been worked as recently as today.”
There are many signs of digging, canteens, picks, shovels, and pry-bars lying around.
Rikard Castleberry: “Bart, does it look like people were chased away from here? Or did they normally leave?”
Mistress Bianca: “Want to wait for them to return?”
Bart: “I detect no reason for their leaving but…and this is disturbing…some of the prints are skeletal.”
Rikard Castleberry: “We can either wait, or follow the other cleared path. Both have risks.”
Mistress Bianca: “Hmmmmm.”
Mistress Bianca: “Some? Not all?”
Bart: “Booted feet, bare feet, and skeletal prints.”
Bart: “It looks like around 20 to 30 all told, given the differences. About equal in numbers.”
Mistress Bianca: “What direction did they go?”
Bart: “Towards the water.”
Rikard Castleberry: “That’s a rather large expedition.”
Rikard Castleberry notices smoke coming from the northwest.
Rikard Castleberry: “There’s something over that way guys.”
Rikard Castleberry points through the gaps in the jungle.
Darren looks in the direction Rikard is pointing.
Rikard Castleberry: “I suggest everyone be combat ready from here on out.”
Darren: “Probably, their camp.”
Darren: “I could go take a look.”
Mistress Bianca: “Ok.”
Darren drops his pack at Bart’s feet.
Darren: “I won’t be long.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Let’s move a bit to the side here then, instead of being right in the middle of their dig site.”
Mistress Bianca emulates Rikard.
You get to where you can edge into the jungle and see for yourself what is going on.
As you look out at the landing Rikard cut open only this morning you see a huge fire. It is indeed your Skiff; it has been pulled ashore and put aflame. You see no one tending the fire and some of the grasses have burnt but they are pretty damp and have not gone more than twenty feet in any given direction from your burning skiff.