Start Date: August 23, Year of the Badger, mid-morning
Start Status: Wet is getting old
Start Location: In the Wilds
After spending the rest of the day working on the campsite defenses and shelter, the party spends a wet night huddled beneath tarps, except for those on watch, who get to walk around in the rain, peering into the gloom. Sometime after midnight there's a final flurry of rain and wind, and then the storm relents, pushed aside by cooler air blowing in from the west. Morning breaks pleasantly cool and misty, but a gusty breeze promises clearing weather.
As some prepare breakfast and recheck the camp, Rawon and Mordikarr scout around the immediate area, looking for any sign of hostile forces. It's a somewhat futile search, as the rain and wind has wiped away any signs from previous days. After the morning meal the group headed to the ruin prepares to depart, taking only a few days food with them. Saurabh, Jonquil, and Gorvil are assigned to camp duty, along with the mules and the two lynx kits. This trip is intended as a scouting expedition only, an exploration of the ruins and the immediate surroundings. The goal is to spot any potential hostiles in the area, and to locate a way into the Maze, if, in fact, this is the right place.
The hike to the ruin is uneventful, save for occasional groans from Raúguey, who is feeling the effects of last night's minor wine binge. The sun shining the on lake and its surroundings makes it look more hospitable. The ruin's outer walls form a rough square, with five-foot wide walls rising ten or twenty feet above the mucky ground and scattered pools of the lake shore. A line of broken wall extends northward into the lake proper, eventually linking up, after many breaks and gaps, with the isle fifty yards out. More walls rise there, but no one really feels like a swim, and the wall sections that rise above the water make a precarious bridge at best.
"I wonder if that was once a causeway or bridge?" says Ohwatoo to himself as the group eyes the ruin from a clump of stubby trees.
"Perhaps, but I don't think we'll see what's out there. Giant lizards, remember?" answers Raúguey.
After watching the silent ruins for half an hour, the group advances, circling the outer edge of the site first. There are many breaks in the walls, and almost at once Rawon, Dagmarten, and Mordikarr spot narrow trails leading into several of these openings. None show any sign of recent activity. "None since the rains last night at least," says Dagmarten.
As they circle the group begins to make sense of the structure. An outer wall, several square towers, and one larger central structure built on a low mound. All still and quiet. "I guess stealth isn't really an option," says Rawon, looking behind the group at the line of fresh footprints left in the muddy ground. "Even a kobold would notice that trail. Let's go further in."
The group enters through a break in the west side, skirting several large pools of murky water. Locky probes one with a stick and says, "They're not too deep, and it feels like stone below."
"Perhaps this soil has built up over a flagged courtyard," says Ohwatoo.
"Here's where some of those trails meet," says Ingvild, gesturing at a ring of burnt and blackened stones near a wall. "Someone has camped here, more than once by the look of it. Not recently though. The ashes are old."
Assured that there are no immediate threats, the party begins moving with more assurance. They backtrack to the south side. After a quick lunch, Ohwatoo pulls out quill, parchment, and ink to sketch a map, while the others fan out, calling out descriptions of what they see.
"Why do you think there are two runs of stone on these outer walls?" asks Locky.
Durego answers, "To save on construction. The space between would be filled with rubble and earth, giving you a wider wall at less cost. It looks like a lot of the filler is gone, or perhaps it was never there."
"If it was earth, maybe it was washed out," says Maro, kicking at the ground. "Maybe we're standing on it. Who knows how long this place has been here."
"Guys! Over here! Look!" Raúguey's cry brings the group running, around a corner and into the squared off central ruin that may have been a keep or great hall. There, nestled in the juncture of two still-standing walls, is a narrow staircase of slime-slicked granite winding down into darkness. "Is that it?!" asks the big guy, already pulling a torch from his pack.
"Woah Raúguey, let's finish what we started up here before we go diving into the depths," says Durego. "We should finish mapping out this area, there might be other entrances."
"Spoilsport," mutters Raúguey as he reluctantly puts away the torch and rejoins the others in poking around the ruins. The group's patience is rewarded, and Mordikarr finds another stair, this one in the northwest corner, perhaps in one of the outer towers. Another hour sees the entire site examined and mapped. Two staircases leading down, one camp site made by parties unknown, and several small trails leading through the area is the net result. It's late afternoon when all is said and done. "Now can we look downstairs?" asks Raúguey.
|The Walls of Blackpool Maze|
Rather than risk noise the party backs out and heads for the northwest stair. This is a straight shot leading west, and Ohwatoo notes that the surface level is a good twenty feet lower than the other stair due to the slope of the hill the ruin is sited on. The stair runs thirty feet or so, before ending in a small chamber with a passage leading away to the south. "I guess this is what Vukota was talking about," whispers Maro, eying the two-foot deep water that fills the chamber and the passage as far as dim lantern-light reaches. "I wonder how deep that gets."
Rawon stoops and examines the wall while Raúguey wades a few paces to the south and peers into the darkness. "From the water marks on the wall it looks like it gets pretty deep. Four or five feet at least," says the elf. "Good thing it's been dry this summer."
"I can see a door to the west, and it looks like it opens out beyond that," calls Raúguey.
"Shhh!" hisses Durego. "Do you want to let everything know we're here?"
Mordikarr glances back up the stair to where the lowering sun is casting long shadows. "Sun getting low. We should go back to camp. Tell others what we find. Make plan for next sun."
The others agree with greater or lesser degrees of reluctance. The party backtracks up the stair and leaves via the west edge of the ruin. As they head away from the site, Rawon suggests they spread out and try to confuse the trail back, making it harder for anyone to follow. They spend an hour winding back and forth between the pools and patches of brush and head southeast in three widely spaced groups. Once they get to firmer ground they form up and head back to camp, taking a new route back. The trip is uneventful, and they reach camp at dusk.
End Date: August 23, Year of the Badger, dusk
End Status: A tunnel. It goes pretty far back too!
End Location: The Wilds, south of Blackpool Maze