The trail is faint and difficult to follow, winding between trees and underbrush in a west-northwest direction. After two hours of hiking the party crosses another leg of the now-familiar abandoned road network, little more than a few scattered stones here. On the far side, the trees are denser and darker, hemlocks and firs replacing oak and ash. The thick needles that cover the forest floor leave little trace of whatever it is the party is following. An hour after crossing the road, the scouts have lost the trail. The group confers and agrees to keep going; the trail has been fairly straight so far.
Three hours later, Ingvild raises a warning hand, bringing the party to a halt. When the group gathers, he says, "I saw a glint ahead, sunlight off something maybe?"
"Ava goes to look. Back soon," adds Mordikarr.
The owl returns a few minutes later, and after a brief hooted conversation, Mordikarr continues, "She say big rocks and water. Open space. Bad place."
"We should look, get a better idea of what we're facing," says Rawon. The other scouts nod their agreement, and the trio moves forward, leaving the others with the mules.
The scouts return in about an hour. Rawon describes what they've seen. "It's a large, bowl-like depression, about 150 paces across. The rim is lined with huge cut-stone pillars, a streaked white and yellow stone I've not seen before. The pillars are fifteen feet high at least, and six or eight feet across. There's a round pool at the bottom of the bowl, about 30 feet across. There are four stone doorways cut into the slope, one in each of the cardinal directions. No trees in the bowl at all."
|Image CC by Stoney Littleton. Source: https://flic.kr/p/NavxA|
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