Eleint 2, 1479, Year of the Ageless One
The elven boat made its way downriver closer to the ruins. The forest, with its vibrant colors, surrounded the river on both sides.
From the boat, the group could clearly make out the ruins with its stark-white walls. One building stood on the east side of the river, while more ruins stood on the west side. Every building was a single-story structure that was spread out over a large area.
They also saw an old wooden bridge that spanned the river just north of the ruins. Just passed the bridge, they also spotted a stone column rising out from the center of the river. The column, some thirty feet high, was topped by a large iron sphere.
From where they were, everyone could hear the distant roar of a waterfall farther down the river, just beyond the ruins.
“There,” Luthan said pointing to a spot along the river’s eastern edge just passed the wooden bridge. “We can beach the boat there and explore the structure on that side of the river first.”
Monro gripped the tiller and guided the boat towards shore.
No sooner had the boat stopped when everyone heard loud screeching coming from the east, above and beyond the structure before them.
Everyone immediately looked up and spotted two winged females flying towards them. Their arms ended in wicked claws, while their legs ended in sharp talons. With each flap of their large, powerful wings, the creatures were quickly making their way towards the group.
To Luthan, a ranger by profession, the female creatures were as beautiful as they were terrifying.
Most in the group recognized the approaching creatures as harpies—one of the most deadliest creatures of the feywild.
Patch knocked an arrow and aimed his greatbow at the closest harpy. He let loose an arrow that struck it in the chest. The harpy screamed in pain, nearly dropping in flight. But it beat its wings once and dove towards the awaiting group. It was quickly closing the gap between it and the adventurers. Patch quickly jumped off the boat and waded onto shore.
Jobek, seeing the fast approaching harpy, shot at it with his bow. His arrow tore into the creature’s leg. Undaunted, the injured harpy soared past the boat, turned, and hovered some fifteen feet from the boat, above the river.
The other harpy shot past the bow of the boat and it too, turned to face the adventurers while hovering above the river.
Patch, safely on shore, shot again at the harpy he struck earlier. A second arrow sprouted from the creature’s leg.
Jobek also took a shot, but his aim was off. His arrow zipped past the creature, which screeched at the dwarf in anger.
Meanwhile, the uninjured harpy let loose a brutal scream. Like a peal of thunder, the harpy’s scream reverberated through wood and bones alike. Only Patch, who was safely off the boat, didn’t suffer any painful effects from the harpy’s cream. Quickly taking advantage of the injured Fredara, the harpy focused her scream at her, forcing the human fighter to stumble and fall into the river where she quickly went under.
Luthan, his ears still ringing from the attack, fired his bow at the hovering harpy—and struck it.
For the next several breaths, both sides fought each other. One harpy was killed in short order, thanks to the powerful range attacks brought on by everyone, like Monro who struck it with a radiant beacon of light.
But the other harpy proved far more formidable than the first. It used its alluring song to coax people into the river. Some, like Luthan and Monro nearly drowned or were nearly swept downriver towards the waterfall.
At one point in the encounter, Patch found himself risking his life by jumping into the fast-flowing river and swimming after anyone unfortunate enough to be lured into the river by the harpy’s song.
To add to the danger, the iron sphere whirred to life—perhaps activated by the proximity of the adventurers to the obelisk and sphere. The large iron “eye” on top of the stone column opened. A white ray of light flared then streaked towards the unsuspecting adventurers fighting the remaining harpy.
Those struck by the iron eye’s ray found themselves moving slower, their muscles aching with each strained step. And to the group’s horror, the sphere completely ignored the harpy and shot its ray only at them!
And moments after being shot by the ray, Luthan went unconscious. Fortunately, he was on shore, exactly where Patch had dragged him to after rescuing him from the river.
While the others continued to fight the remaining harpy, Patch—using his enchanted boots that allowed him to tread on water—made a dash for the obelisk. When he reached it, he began to climb, forcing his fingers into thin cracks along the column’s slick surface while finding footholds wherever he could.
Within a few moments, Patch had nearly reached the top of the column just as his friends had finally slain the remaining harpy. The creature fell into the river and was quickly swept downriver. Seconds later, everyone saw the harpy’s lifeless body disappear over the waterfall.
With every ounce of strength he could muster, Patch pulled himself up and stood precariously on top of the iron sphere. He almost lost his balance when he made the mistake of looking down at the river, some thirty feet below him. Focusing on his balance, Patch unsheathed his sword and brought it down hard on the iron sphere he stood upon.
Jobek, safely on shore, shot but missed the sphere since he was trying to avoid hitting his friend, Patch. Luthan having awakened from the effects of sleep brought on by the ray that struck him earlier, shot and struck the sphere. At the same time, Monro moved his beacon of light and shone its radiant beam directly on top of the sphere. Although it seared the iron sphere, it did nothing but illuminate Patch on top of it. To the others, the elven fighter shone like some epic heroic figure from a chapter book they had read as children.
Orva, the gnome arcanist, shot a scintillating bolt at the eye, while Vyn threw his shield at it, leaving a dent on the sphere’s surface. Just as before, the shield boomeranged back to Vyn.
Suddenly, the eye beneath Patch began to glow brightly. The fighter knew what was going to happen next.
Keeping his grip on his sword which was deeply imbedded in the sphere, Patch leaned back as far as he could. He nearly slipped and fell when a brilliant shaft of light suddenly shot straight up—just missing him by mere inches!
Regaining his balance, Patch saw the others attack the sphere from where they stood at the river’s edge. Arrows and a wildly spinning shield whizzed past Patch and the sphere. Only Monro’s beacon of light damaged the eye as Patch planted his feet firmly on the sphere to keep his balance as the iron sphere spun beneath him to face his allies below.
A ray of light suddenly shot straight towards his friends. Fortunately the ray did not seem to have affected anyone.
This has to end now, Patch thought.
Pulling with all his might, Patch freed the sword from the sphere and then brought its sharp point straight down into it. The blade bit deep. Sparks flew as wires and oil-filled tubes were cut.
With a final twist of his blade, Patch destroyed the iron sphere.
Curios, Patch examined the eye. Using what knew of the arcane, he determined that the sphere was a magical construct, as he suspected. The etched runes that covered the sphere, and even the tubes inside, further indicated that the eye’s ray caused anyone struck by it to suffer effects from sleep-like magic.
Patch was just glad it was all over.
Below him, the others cheered in triumph at having successfully slain two harpies and a magical construct.
To Patch, it was just another day in the life of an adventurer.
Back on shore, everyone caught their breaths and congratulated everyone for fighting well. In particular, everyone praised Patch for his heroic act of climbing the stone column and destroying the iron sphere.
With the deadly encounter over, the group turned their attention to the building before them.
The wide building was stark-white in color. Symbols and words—or rather names were engraved onto its surface in a random pattern. Everyone noted that the names were all written in elven and were in fact, elven names.
As the group carefully scrutinized the names and symbols, a sudden and horrifying thought occurred to them.
“Are these—” Vyn began to ask.
“—gravestones?” Monro finished for the drow paladin of Mielikki. “Indeed, Vyn. I do believe they are.”
“By Moradin’s beard,” Jobek swore as he walked up to touch the structure. “The entire building is made up of gravestones mortared together. No dwarf would have built such a foul thing.”
“And no elf either, I can assure you.” Monro said.
“There must be hundreds of elven gravestones here.” Fredara said.
A sudden realization swept across the entire group. As one, they turned around and looked across the river to far side. There, they saw even larger structures built similarly with white elven gravestones. Thousands of gravestones. Enough to fill a cemetery the size of a town.
It seemed as though an entire cemetery had been turned into a madman’s architectural creation.
Turning back, the group walked to the closed wooden door that afforded entrance to the building. They found it unlocked. They walked in and saw that it was as strange inside as it was outside. Walls were built with sharp angles and curves that disappeared into shadowy recesses.
Inside, the group saw a lit brazier suspended from the ceiling. It swung around like a pendulum above a sundial, and offered the only illumination in the otherwise dark interior.
The brazier’s oscillation caused the sundial’s shadow to move quickly across the hours carved into it. To the group, the rapidly moving shadows seemed to suggest that time was moving at a fast pace in the room.
The group suddenly heard a soft whimper come from around a nearby corner.
When they approached, they saw an eladrin woman manacled to the walls. She looked disheveled.
As the group approached, the woman leaned forward. “Oh please, help me!” she pleaded. “The others were captured and taken, while I was brought here instead. I’ve heard that I am to be sacrificed!” She began to cry for joy at the sight of her would-be rescuers.
“Who are you and what others?” Patch asked. He looked closely at the manacles that held the woman’s wrists closely together. Something about them looked odd to the fighter. To him, the manacles looked…fake.
“We were traveling through the woods when several strange flying creatures—women with wings like birds—swooped in and attacked us. One of my companions was killed, while the others ran. I ran for cover. I saw the others get snatched up and taken away.”
“So how did you come to be here?” Monro inquired.
Patch turned to the others. “My friends, let’s step to the side and discuss something before—”
The fighter didn’t get a chance to finish what he was saying.
Suddenly, the woman pulled her arms apart. The manacles easily snapped away from her wrists.
As the group stepped back, they were horrified to see the woman’s image transform before them. Her legs melted away to form hundreds of beetles that swarmed over each other. Her arm, too, became an appendage made up of hundreds of scuttling beetles.
The eladrin woman had become a thing straight out of their worst nightmare—a lamia.
Continued in “The Garden of Graves” Part 2.
Luthan Graythicket (male half-elf ranger companion, from Elturgard), Orva (female gnome arcanist companion, from the Feywild)