In the basement was a big pile of assorted junk, and a small pile of assorted goblins in unnatural poses. By prodding them we confirmed that they had been petrified, presenting Chrysta with a quandary since she detests goblins but loves rocks with an unnatural passion.
While none of us was disappointed to find the goblins indisposed, unexplained petrification events are a cause of concern. I summoned an earth elemental to scout around, on the assumption that petrification wouldn’t bother it too much. It explored the junk pile and retrieved four suspicious-looking eggs.
From reading Zogby’s Catalogue of Cryptofauna (Collector’s Edition) I suspected cockatrice, and almost immediately my suspicions were confirmed as our sharper-eared companions heard squawking from above. We rushed upstairs to see four cockatrices approaching, but they gave us little trouble; if I recall correctly, two of them were shot down before even reaching us and we made quick work of the rest.
Chrysta wanted to cook the cockatrices and eat them, but we suggested that eating the flesh of a creature known for petrifying by touch JUST MIGHT be a bad idea? Perhaps? Instead, Zakaroth and I dissected them for parts.
From the junk pile we gathered that the goblins had been here first, and the cockatrices had taken over. We scrounged some valuables from in among the trash, and Vall paid me back a nice chunk of what I’ve lent him for enchanting.
Exploring further, we found some more ruined buildings – the remains of an old town, and yes, a portal stone. We used the stone to jump back to the capital, giving Alessandra the cockatrice eggs. (Good parenting involves encouraging the kid’s interests and challenging them, right? And yes, we did tell her what they were.)
Afterwards we stepped back to the old settlement and continued north. According to records this had once been prime farming land, but it was now too windy and dry. (What happened to the climate? Is this related somehow to the wetness of the other phase we encountered?) The country was lonely here, with few signs of life other than low grasses and an occasional skeleton from some migrating beast. Still, it made it relatively easy to follow the old trade route.
After a couple of days the trees began to thicken again and the trail veered westward. We came to a small collection of huts, and a trail of smoke suggested that they had been quite recently inhabited. There was also an old portal stone, which we activated, after testing a point of curiosity: these stones don’t radiate magic until after they’ve been activated.
Vall scouted the hut with the first and found food in the larder. The huts looked relatively new, primitive constructions on ancient foundations, and the bedding was a primitive weave that looked to have been scavenged from remnants of other cloths.
Near the huts were footprints, light as if they had been deliberately concealed, and very fresh. Chrysta was muttering something paranoid about trees and grass. We followed them, and saw one of the bushes moving up ahead.
Zakaroth shot an arrow near the bush as a warning and called out in Elven: “Show yourself!”
A creature emerged, apparently some kind of elf but hard to see even in the open; some magical effect was disrupting its appearance. It was speaking a very old form of Elvish, and I cast a spell of translation, but even so it was hard to understand, as if the creature was speaking its own language badly.
Still, we were able to manage some slow communication. He (apparently it was a he) told us: “I am the eldest. We are those who remain.” We gathered that a small number of them had remained after “the bad”; they lost favour and the world went dark some ten thousand years ago.
Curious. According to the portal stone records, this place was known as “Aramoor” a thousand years ago, with no mention of extremely ancient elves. More and more it feels as if there are multiple worlds overlapping.
Pondering: the huts are quite recent. Is it possible that these elves were in another world again until we freed the gods a few months back?
Shiny points: 22 carried over, +1 for summary = 23.