Dreadlords What Was Left Behind

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Mieri

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The Ruins of Vel Basten - Near the Falwood

"Well." Mieri declared as she ascended the final step to the central dais of the temple. "This is fucking creepy."

Vel Basten, or what this ruin had once been called, had once been a city built after the second Elven War. A creation and wonder constructed by the victorious Anirian people after their domination of the Elven folk, the city stood not on the cusp of the Falwood, but within it's breadth. Built within the span of a hundred years, in it's time it had been a marvel of engineering and sophistication.

Meant to be a taunting mark of humanity against the Elves, it had been the first to fall when the third war began almost three hundred years ago.

Since then it had been abandoned. A piece of Anirian history that was let go at the behest of the treaty which ended the war. It's population, or what little remained of it, evacuated to safer territories and the city itself left behind to be reclaimed by the forest around it. Trees and vegetation now sprouted from the ancient stone, and the buildings crumbled slowly as time continued to wear down upon them.

Much of Basten's history was lost, and for many it remained a piece of idle curiosity. A sight to behold, though one that not many braved due to it's place in the Falwood. A fact which had not done anything to deter the band of researchers whom Mieri and the other Initiates had been sent to retrieve. None of whom had been heard from in nearly a month. Long passed when they were due to return.

For nearly a week now the Dreadlords in training had made their way through the Falwood until eventually arriving at the city gates. Both of which had been long torn down. As they stepped into the city proper, they found it silent save for the soft patter of rain that began to fall from the heavens. "I guess we should look for a basecamp."

Mieri offered to the others, slowly turning her head and pushing some of the wet hair from her face. "They'll have set up somewhere."
 
At the opportunity to trek into what had long since become myth and legend of Anirian history, Maseno was hard pressed to say no. Not as if an Initiate had a choice very often, but he'd been given an option between two missions and, well, that wasn't a common occurrence.

"It's...beautiful," he remarked after Mieri, descending onto the dais behind her and turning to look around. What a lucky home to have for their research, he wondered to himself, and turned to look to Mieri with a nod.

"The main structures still seem fairly stable, perhaps they set up somewhere inside."
 
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Baby sitting duty. Again.

Silver Crow could weep. But that wasn't a part of his duties. Cooking. Cleaning. Keeping the magical brats alive. Those were his duties here. Let them focus on their mission while he did his best to make sure they didn't die from a fly bite or elven arrow.

The man's gaze swiftly took everything in. His armor the kind soldiers wore minus the markings and insignias of the Vel Anir army. Shield, hand axe, and dagger his weapons. A pack with pots and pans his tools.

He liked none of it. Better served sending a unit of soldiers than a bunch of kids that lacked sense cause they had weird powers.

"No guards. Guess what that means little lords."

Silver Crow didn't bother to wait for their responses. He had orders. Little mistress had said to look for their camp. He was going to look for their camp. Somewhere protected and dry. Preferably somewhere they could easily escape if things soured. And he had a feeling they were already a lime.

Mieri Maseno Luana
 
As a member of the search party, Aelita journeyed to the ruins of Vel Basten. As the group neared the Falwood and abandoned city, Aelita’s smile remained ever present while her eyes drew sharper.

Some may have heard that Aelita was part of a mission into the Falwood – a mission that ended in failure and the deaths of Dreadlords, Initiates, and Guardsmen.

Aelita’s staff rested on a shoulder as the ruins came into view.

Mieri recommended to search of a base camp. Aelita saw Silver Crow immediately comply with this as an order.

Do you recall what this group specifically wanted to find?” Aelita asked allowed.
 
He was told that to become more than an Initiate it wasn't enough to excel in his studies. One needed field work, one needed to throw themselves into mortal danger and come out of it victorious. Otherwise at best he'd be given the third level.

If Aecmald wished for more, he'd have to accomplish more.

When he heard of this expedition he signed up immediately. A creepy abandoned city in an even creepier and elf-infested forest?

Sure, why not.

"I suspect it was not for the ruined city's architecture." Aec answered Aelita absently while still drawing something in his little pocket book. The fact he was to trapeze around a damp forest in the middle of a forsaken city did not mean he couldn't get some homework done. "Nor its wondrous sights."

Silver Crow did not seem to be all too happy to be here however.

"Perhaps the guards were swallowed whole by monsters." A sanitized way of saying 'murdered in the dead of night while their researchers were imprisoned or worse by things of the dark'.

He scanned the grounds and surroundings for signs of scuffle or something worse. But other than moss, a heavy arrangement of wild plants coming through the ancient tiles, Aec didn't notice anything too untoward you wouldn't expect from a spooky abandoned city.

Not yet anyway.

Aelita | Silver Crow | Maseno Luana | Mieri
 
"Perhaps the guards were swallowed whole by monsters."​
Accolon sighed. "Don't say such things, Aecmald," he chided, in his usual disaffected tone. He indicated Silver Crow - already irritable and shiftless - with a nod, "You'll scare the manservant."​
If the state of these ruins were any hint, the other party had probably gotten bored and left. Was there really anything to be learned from this dreg heap at the edge of their civilized world? Aside from a crash-course in 'where not to build cities.'​
He'd prefer to be back at the capitol, but if you sat around doing nothing for too long, people started complaining. So now he shrugged against the cold and damp, and drew his cloak a little closer.​
 
Mieri nodded along with Maseno's words. "Yeah, it is pretty. Pretty creepy."

Chuckling to herself, she looked over towards the Guardsmen accompanying them, then glanced to Maz as if saying; What's with this guy?

Then simply continued forward towards the Temple.

"Kress, I hope it's monsters!" She said excitedly at Aec's comment, practically skipping towards the front steps of the Temple. "Caeso and I threw down with some Kivren a little while ago, but it's been a while since I punched anything bigger than a cow."

Mieri did always enjoy a challenge. While beating up thugs and rampant criminals was all well and good, it was never quite as fun as fighting something big. On one mission, almost a year ago now, she'd run into Chimera! She'd practically been spoiled for choice on which face to punch.

Hopefully they'd find something like that here. "I don't know exactly, Aelita. Don't think even the Guard knew. Proctor Ebersol said it was something about the city itself. How it got destroyed or...or something about what happened because of it?"

Mieri recalled as they continued towards the open door of the Temple. With the barest hints of light casting through the clouds it was difficult to see the inside, but as they approached it quickly became apparent that the Luana Initiate had been right.

Tents, four of them sat arrayed in a circle, a firepit in the midst of it and several tables laid out with dozens of pieces of rubble and stone laying upon them.

Equipment and other things lay scattered everywhere, but there was no sign of the researchers or anyone else.
 
"I hope it's not monsters," mumbled Threnn.

He pulled down the hood of his chain coif and shook his head, allowing wavy strands of wheat-gold hair to tumble free. He already held his helmet in one hand and started tying it to his belt.

"Gods, this is hot."

Cold and damp it might be, but in the helmet, padding, and coif? Threnn felt like a loaf of baking bread.

Threnn looked around, a smile tinging his lips as he saw the colossal ruins spilling out all around them. He could imagine it as a teeming city, full of life and splendor.

"How many people do you think lived here?" he asked no one in particular as he approached the foot of a column and stared up its length.
 
Maseno afforded Mieri a wayward smirk and a shake of his head in the direction of their assigned Guard. He couldn't fathom why the man had been sent along, but he was grateful for his presence nevertheless. Silver was their senior by many years and his experience out in the field could end up being very useful. Following after the redhead, Maz's gaze continue to rove about the far corners of the ruin.

"This far into the Falwood ... could be anything. Monster, beast," his eyes shifted to Aelita in an easy glance, "undead."

The history of the ruin and the many decades it had spent abandoned and empty left a lot to the imagination, but more to the realm of possibilities. Given the general malaise of the group, however, it seemed best not to focus too much on the what-ifs and to, instead, simply remain alert.

How many people do you think lived here?

"Doubtless hundreds," Maseno replied as he moved to carefully inspect the campsite within the main chamber of stone, "or more, if the historical texts were as accurate as they proclaim." His brows furrowed as he looked around, "There is no sign of struggle or attack. It's as if they simply walked away and did not return."

"Mieri, did Proctor Ebersol provide you with a map of the city? Anything of that nature?"
 
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The bones of the once great fort were still intact. Older layouts and methods than what they did now, but still worth keeping if repaired properly. Silver Crow was surprised the building materials hadn't been stripped away and repurposed by the elves. Waste nothing and you can live on little. Clearly not something the elves seemed to understand. Probably the reason they could never capitalize on their victories or hold their gains for long.

But something was bothering him. No rats. No birds. No insects. Seemed to be only plants and chiseled stones. Vel Anir military doctrine held that all forts and fortified settlements bring pigeons and pigs after construction. Food sources that could easily care for themselves and could prolong sieges to stave off starvation. A tactic as old as the founding of this fort itself.

Yet where were the ancestors of those vital rations?

A frown formed as he searched. Thankfully someone found the camp. In the main Temple. Protected and dry. Good. Easily to escape from? To be seen.

The soldier followed the initiates into the Temple. His eyes narrowed a bit upon the camp. Civilians. Placement didn't allow a good escape route should an emergency arise. Doors were the only seeming way in and out. If those doors had to be shut and blocked then they would be in for an ill prepared siege. One they lacked even rats to prolong.

His eyes picked up a pile of elven equipment stored away. Further inspection revealed holes the size elven arrowheads and shafts would make in some of the tents exposed to the doors, but patches meant there was likely more that had been repaired. No blood on the floor.

"Elven raid. Repelled and repaired." Silver Crow's gaze moved about the equipment. "Suggest we search for food and journals. If we don't find any means they left."

And if they did.... He didn't want to think on what that could mean. This lime was souring.

Mieri Maseno Luana Aelita Aecmald Accolon Threnody
 
The group delved deeper into Vel Basten.

Aecmald and Maseno mentioned monsters as the likely culprit. Maz just had to add a bit about undead too.

It’d be better if it was that, if something did killed them,Aelita replied with a somber smile.

In not too much time, they stumbled upon what appeared to be an abandoned camp.

With a snap, Aelita materialized a ball of light. She tossed it up in the air – where it would float and provide some relief from the dim lighting of the ruins.

Aelita walked over to the firepit first. Its flame long burned out prior to the Intiates’ and Silver Crow’s arrival. Aelita hovered a hand above the pit for a few seconds. Then, she gingerly prodded it with her fingertips.

After that, Aelita dug a hand into the firepit and pulled out some of the ashes.

Not hot, but there’s a bit of heat,” Aelita informed everyone.
 
Mieri was too excited for a fight by a long mile and Aelita was stuffing her hands into filth. Not his idea of conduct befitting of Dreadlords. But such were these modern times, as his father sometimes complained.​
Everyone set about fussing over the abandoned campsite. Maseno offered an assessment that was immediately contradicted by the manservant, and that got Accolon to scoff quite audibly. How mortifying.​
He strolled half-heartedly by one of the tables, pausing to take one of the stones arrayed there. Accolon was unlearned in matters of rocks and architecture, so he gained absolutely nothing from this. He just wanted to look busy for the proles, and so ended up setting it down after only a few cursory seconds of inspection.​
He remained by the table, hand resting indolently on the hilt of his sword, idly surveying the area with bored, half-lidded eyes.​
 
Aecmald wasn't certain what he was supposed to do.

All of them got into action.

Some were digging through the firepit to determine when it was last lit. Some were searching for journals, for food, one asked for a map. It was all rather exciting. Accolon was even staring at stones as if there was some hidden message in them.

How impressive.

"I did not realize you were familiar with geomancy, Accolon." He murmured as he came to rest a few span away from the fellow Initiate.

"Anything to share with the class?"

Aec seemed genuinely curious. He crouched down to study the shadows dancing back and forth as the light shifted in response to their movements. If Aecmald was more than an Initiate he could have done something impressive.

Such as forcing the shadows to repeat their earlier patterns before their group arrived here.

His hand raised out. It required focus, intent and purpose. Just as the Masters said. His eyes closed and a hand began to tremble from Aec's effort. A shadow shivered.... and then continued to behave entirely ordinary, ignoring his request.

"Worth a shot, I guess..."
 
Mieri shook her head in answer to Maz. "No, and she seemed pretty upset that she couldn't."

Vel Anir, as a matter of principal did not enjoy acknowledging it's failures, and Vel Basten certainly was one. Not that Mieri had the thought. She only knew what Proctor Ebersol had told her, and the fact that she had sworn about 'them' always doing this.

Not that it really mattered.

The little redhead stepped forward, joining the rest of her companions in searching through the encampment. Aelita called about the flame, and the Guardsmen mentioned Elves. A frown touched her lips as she ducked into one of the tents.

Outside the sun began to set, cresting on the outer crumbled outer walls and slowly disappearing.

In the tent she found a footlocker, pulling it open with a clatter and pushing aside some clothes. Her search bore fruit, finding a small leather journal that she cracked open. Eyes flickered as she scanned through the pages.

"They ran into some elves." She confirmed. "But not here in the city..."

A small flicker of doubt touched her tone. "Apparently after they...settled the attack, the elves even warned them not to come here."

That made sense, though why didn't the elves just turn them around? She'd have thought they would stop them at least, and at worst-

Before she could finish the thought a howl of wind pulled through the Temple, a gust so strong that the canvas of the tents flapped back and forth, almost collapsing as howl resounded through the ancient building. Like the call of a thousand dying men.
 
“I didn’t realize Dreadlords were expected to be investigators,” said Threnn, wide eyed as he watched the others roam about inspecting burnt out fires and studying the stones for answers.

He looked around then kind of just sat down on a nearby bit of moss-covered rubble.

“I was only ever taught to, you know,” he waved at a nearby bit of stone and it absolutely shattered into a dozen pieces with an overly loud CRACK.

“Oh shit, was that too loud? Sorry, sorry.” Threnn grimaced and gave a sheepish look.

Had the others gotten some sort of advanced classes in tracking and geomancy? Threnn thought the Anirian guard was doing a good job looking into the disappearance. As far as Threnn went, he was just here to provide another martial body if they encountered elves.
 
With the advent of added light, Maseno blinked into the bleak darkness of the campsite, "Thank you, Aelita."

Always so helpful, that one. He followed her as she moved toward the spent campfire, then gave a passing glance to the others that had joined the mission. It was perhaps overkill to send so many, but if the old ways hadn't yet been fully blanched from the new system it wouldn't surprise him if the intent of the managing Proctor was in hopes that some of them would not return. Frowning at the thought, Maz moved into another tent to look around.

Mieri's words sounded beyond the canvas housing and he noted as he looked around an array of wound dressing and a blood-stained bedroll. Nothing serious, so far as he could tell.

Ah. Upon opening a crate the scent of souring food hit his nose with such power it reminded him of that one Initiate that no longer walked among the living. Delven. The kid never stood a chance under the old regime, the power of smell was never going to impress the Proctors ... though he had managed to make some rather noteworthy perfumes. Mostly he'd just overwhelmed any opponents by socking them with a face full of skunk or onion.

Maseno's eye twinged at the memory.

"Food and rations in here," he called just loud enough for them to hear, "stale and turned."

No journals. He vacated the tent, "Seems we must search beyond. Two groups will cover more ground. This place will take forever to search as one."
 
Thankfully some of these dreadlord initiates were more intelligent than the others. Blonde girl and amber eyes picked up on details the others missed. Red had done what he asked and looked for journals. Attack was confirmed and mentioned a warning. Rations were inedible from spoilage. Fire was warm not cold still. Unpleasant clues that were not matching up well enough for his liking.

The others were warm bodies at least to throw at any future problem bound to show up.... Was his job being taken from him there? Gods he could only hope so.

His own search into their equipment proved only to further prove time had past from the gathered dust. Not helpful. Amber eyes had a good idea though. Be better for them to expand their search perimeters.

After leaving the tent, he pointed to Aelita and said, "Clever work with the fire and that ball of light. Dreadlord level work."

Then he turned his attention to Mieri. "Good work finding a journal. Elves don't warn about danger. Concerning."

A glance to Maseno before he said, "Think you're right about our next move. Who do you suggest for each group? Don't know any of you well and the servant here. Not my place to decide anything for you initiates."

Was sounding like an instructor now. Might need to reign that in a bit. Wasn't his concern if some of these kids were more serious and clever than the others. His concern was just on making sure he supported whatever plans and goals they came up with for the mission.

Aelita Accolon Aecmald Mieri Maseno Luana Threnody
 
You’re welcomed,Aelita reflexively responded to Maz.

Then, Crow gave his compliment.

Dreadlord level?” Aelita muttered in response.

Aelita rose from the firepit and shook the ash off her hand. She gave the camp one more good scan. She saw the rest of the group rummaging through the rest of the tents and supplies to get snippets of what may had happen.

Two groups? Alright.

After hearing that the plan may be to split up, Aelita took a quick headcount.

Threnn and I to separate teams, at least,” Aelita said, “In case it gets darker further within.

Before everyone would split up, Aelita also asked, “Where and when should we regroup, by the way?
 
Aecmald was bothering him now. Accolon didn't even look at him. "You're welcome to look yourself."​
A horrid wind tore through the structure, and it sounded to Accolon not unlike a collective death rattle. He felt a chill descend his spine, and fastened his hand a little tighter to the hilt of his sword. Something rather grim was afoot and it had the effect of drawing him in to care - just a little bit - about this unfolding situation. Although no one else seemed to even remark on it.​
Too busy figuring things out, it seemed. More power to them.​
Accolon meandered away without a word, off to inspect the entrance and glance around the immediate area outside. Make sure the source of that fell wind wasn't in their immediate vicinity.​
 
Accolon | Silver Crow | Aelita | Maseno Luana | Threnody | Mieri

Accolon seemed to be in a foul mood.

But he wasn't his keeper, so he let the boy run off to chase the wind.

"I have no preference for a team." Aec responded to the suggestion they split up. "But I do have to point out that 'splitting the party' is more often than not the catalyst towards everyone being murdered by the end of the quest."

A pause there.

"At least in the dramatized retellings I have read, but I am sure you all know quite better." Aec was not being sarcastic, but in fact was quite literal.

This was his first major outing after all. Who knew what reality had to offer?

"Perhaps we can regroup at the entrance to these ruins? At least it will offer us a quick exit, if we end up disturbing... something here." Yes, Aec had noticed the strange tidings that Accolon decided to follow, but the studious lad was a bit more focused on his self-preservation.

No, he would not stalk some creepy wind, if it was possible to stay with the larger group.

Thank you very much.
 
Mieri chewed on her lip for a brief moment, glancing out the tent hollow as she contemplated what they had learned.

Her head perked up as Mas called, though she remained silent as her thoughts were consumed with the howl that had echoed out through the building. Just the wind.

She told herself, and then slowly snapped the journal shut. Tucking it into her satchel before she stepped outside and listened to the others converse. Her head tucked along in a nod, but a wide smirk covered her face as she stepped over to Aecmald and slapped him playfully on the back.

"Don't always trust things you read in the stories, Ace." The chipper pugilist said with a smile. "I once read in a book about a guy who killed a ghost by throwing salt at him."

She chuckled. "Boy did that not work."

The Dreadlord she'd been with on that particular mission had not been pleased.

"Mas, and Aelita and I will head to the city center." Mieri offered, glancing around at her fellows. "The rest of you should head to the Keep."

In the journal those two spots had been of particular interest apparently. The former being where Vel Basten's City Hall and markets where, and the latter being where humanity made it's last stand against the Elves in the city.

She glanced at the Initiate besides her, jerking a thumb. "We can meet back here if things go wrong like Ace said."
 
What could she have possibly meant by that? Separate teams in case it was darker within? Perplexed and stymied, young Threnn did work his jaw and lo did his lips open and shut, open and shut - a fish gasping for air on the beach.

The wind tore through, disrupting his thoughts. He turned, staring up and around, then back to the group.

"I suppose that-..."

Alas, everyone had already begun wandering off. Threnn followed the wake of melancholia left by Accolon's passing, soon catching up with the subdued, sallow-eyed initiate.

"What do you think she meant by that, Acco? Aelita, I mean."
 
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That made good sense. The Keep seemed to be quite an expansive place to search - the larger party would be able to handle it a bit more quickly. Maseno nodded in agreement with Mieri, "If anyone meets trouble or finds the missing researchers, send up a red signal spark."

By the book, so far as Initiate training went. They all had attended classes in the fundamentals of college magic, and while some took to it more easily than others, there was a broad enough variety of skillsets within both groups that someone from each would be able to manage. He turned to visually collect his companions and set off with them in the direction of the city center.

"That wind earlier," Maz remarked to the girls while they walked, "did it seem strange to you? There were no signs of a storm in any direction."

Aelita Mieri
 
Divide to cover more ground in their limited time. A good idea. The blonde girl was pulling her weight already as was the pair that formed a group with her. Be surprised if they didn't come back with at least some small hint or clue as to what had happened here. If this was a broken pot they were still missing too many pieces to make it hold water once more. Needed to change that.

The ones he was left with didn't seem to be the most actively involved. More the kind of warm bodies they would throw at a wall to probe for weaknesses. A thought that got a bit of a frown from him. One he knew wouldn't do anything to help if his study of a random rock was any indication. One was enthusiastic but held more air than anything else in his head it seemed. And the last was the other blonde that seemed confused by the current plan of action.

Group was in dire need of a stronger leader and he was forbidden to do any of the sort. Not the best circumstances. Been nice if at least one of the competent ones would switch out. But they would have to make due with what they had.

Who knows, maybe one of them would actually step up and prove they were competent after all?

Silver Crow rummaged around the tents till he found lanterns for the lot of them. Inspected, filled, and then lit. He brought around one to hand to every member of the Keep search party. Their travel supplies left in the camp so as not to weigh him down.

"Which way shall we head first?"

Question to bait out someone to take the initiative and lead. Hopefully wouldn't need to keep doing this. No one is wants to be or is proud to be a master at baiting.

Maseno Luana Mieri Aelita Accolon Aecmald Threnody
 
Got it,Aelita replied to Mieri.

The party split was set.

With that, Aelita departed with Maz and Mieri toward the city center. As they would journey, a ball of light hovered over Aelita’s head. If requested by Maz or Mieri, she was able to sent it over to a spot of their choosing that was not too far away.

Asked about her thoughts on the wind, Aelita replied with, “Scared by a little gust?