Terra Immortalis Story 001
The dust finally settled from the structure’s collapse. Maron coughed repeatedly, trying to clear his lungs and breathe fresh air. He had been the last one to make it through the doorway, out into the clearing before the ruined structure. Two others had been behind him. They had not made it out.
"Blood and Death!" Maron swore. He looked around at the rest of his group. The six men and two women with him all nursed various wounds and injuries, but they were all glad to still be breathing.
"No secret passage, eh?" Laur asked sarcastically. She was Fierthi, from the university in Pelarné-Moln, and had been sent to oversee the expedition. Maron was the guide that was supposed to keep everyone alive and get them to where they were going. He had been doing poorly at both so far.
Maron limped as he stood up and walked over to the rest of the group. Dargin was Kintahl, a Barol who had been using his skills almost exclusively for healing injuries the entirety of the expedition. He approached the guide and bent to tend his wounds.
The guide had no words. Nearly a year ago now, Maron had found a tome in the ruins of a former city. He hadn’t been sure who had lived in this city. It didn’t appear to have been inhabited by any of the major races still existing. There hadn’t been much left to find in the city, as looters had already picked most of it clean. Still, he had unearthed enough to make him a sizable profit when he brought his finds to the renowned university. He had helped in the translation of some of the text, as he was an expert in the Old Speech of Charon. And what he had read there had excited him.
The book spoke of an underground passage in an ancient city. Even at the time the tome was written, it claimed that the city held untold wonders. Brave merchants and traders would risk the voyage. The tome mentioned nothing specific of the dangers, but alluded that the journey was fraught with peril. The prospect of such a city made Maron’s bones ache. He had considerable renown as an accomplished archeologist (and an equally disreputable reputation as a tomb robber). But a find of such magnitude would be the crowning achievement of his career.
The university had agreed to fund the expedition, and several hardy individuals had agreed to participate in the voyage.
Maron looked over what remained of them. Laur and the other two from the university were tired, miserable and near mutinous. Just like scholars, they expected to be lead directly to where they could study. Dargin and the others at least had field experience in these matters. Still, Maron had to admit this expedition was more hazardous than most.
They had started from some of the more well-known ruins west of Goldava. It was a rugged and dangerous terrain, but not necessarily lethal if one took the proper precautions. Grotterlings could be avoided, and with Dargin nearby the Undead they ran into were merely a nuisance. Still, various creatures had killed two of their party before they reached the end of charted territory.
They reached the limit of Maron’s previous expeditions two days ago. He had successfully lead them to the ruins of this city. The other explorers had been impressed, for the trail had been exceptionally difficult to follow. Still, they were all disappointed when they discovered that the ruins had already been looted. The only thing of any note left in the ruins was the Trapper that had killed one of their number and had forced them to cave the structure down atop it to give them a chance at escape.
The other explorers realized the difficulty Maron had faced in getting them even this far. Many of the maps and trade routes mentioned in the tome dated to before Moonfall. The lay of the land would be considerably different now. He had avoided several predators throughout the journey, or his knowledge of them had aided them in defeating the creatures. Still, they had little to show for their journey thusfar. A few relics, a handful or pottery and jewels from pre-Moonfall. But no Aura Gems. And they had yet to find their prize.
"What now, oh great leader?" Laur asked. Maron gave her a withering glance and was tempted to tell her where she could put her funding. Fortunately, Dargin interceded and calmed everyone down.
The party waited for Maron’s decision. Though they had met with limited success the past few days, the other explorers recognized Maron’s experience. He had unearthed more discoveries and lead more expeditions safely than the rest of them combined.
"Let me consult my maps," he said. They set up camp in what had once been a town square. Maron poured over his sheaf of maps and charts. He looked to the stars, and performed small Manipulations to determine the direction.
By morning, he had made his decision.
"We are in the right place. This must be Fal-Halon, a small outpost spoken of in the book. This is the starting point for the tunnel to our goal."
Laur shook her head in exasperation, crossing her arms. "Fie. There is nothing here. You have wasted our time and money, quite possibly our lives. We are no closer now than we were at the beginning."
Maron smiled. "Ah, but there you are wrong. You see... I know where the tunnel is!"
The others shot to their feet, looking wonderingly at him. A dozen questions assailed him at once. Finally Dargin’s drowned out the others.
Maron pointed to the recently collapsed ruins. "It is there. I am now sure this is the gateway."
Laur laughed, her feline eyes blazing. "There is nothing there but rock and a recently fed spider."
Maron’s smile grew even wider. "Exactly."
The others were confused, so he continued. "Where exactly do Trapper’s make their homes?"
One of the explorers exclaimed, "It’s using the tunnel! Of course."
Several of the men began packing up their supplies. Maron was excited, looking over at the ruins. There would begin the greatest expedition of his life.
Laur walked over to join him. "Do you think the Trapper’s dead?"
Maron shrugged. If it wasn’t, they would finish the job.
"Even if it is," Laur continued, "there’s no guarantee the tunnel hasn’t collapsed since Moonfall."
"Of course," Maron replied, grinning. "But that’s the beauty of what we do. We won’t know, no one will know, until we find out."
Maron walked towards the fallen structure as the others fell in behind him.