Where grand doors should have been, was only crumbled wall and rubble that littered the uneven cobblestone road. The whole group stopped at the entrance, staring in shock. "Everyone be careful... The passage of time didn't down this gate. It was breached. I don't know how long ago either. There might be unexpected residents here." Desmond's big brother hollered, scaring a flock of ravens perched on the city's edge.
Desmond's big brother Randol looked back and saw the students not bothering to pull their weapons. "That means get your weapons out kids. Large ruins could house a number of dangers!" He hissed, displeased.
Navara and Desmond glanced at each other, a sheen of excitement, but also a hint of caution. Both of them reached from under their cloaks and pulled out their wands. Staves were the traditional magic user catalyst, but wands were also useable - just harder to use. On explorations, they often went for wands as they were lighter and easy to carry when delving into ruins.
It was said that the ancients could cast without using chants or magical catalysts such as staffs and wands, but when they did, they were heaven-defying. Able to summon the elements into massive storms and magical wonders. Some were said to even summon mounts from thin air. Now, chantless magic was considered the exception rather than the rule. Many of those wonderful spells lost to time when they all disappeared, leaving only empty castles and lands.
And Fable's end was considered the nirvana of all magic. The tomb city of the Hearth Mother. The Ancient who united the other ancient against the forces of evil. Even defeating the Demon King and taking his very fortress as her home!
Statues of her even have the power to repel monsters and demons. They were often found by major roads and areas she had once visited. Yet now, the Theocracy had declared them symbols of heresy, almost all could only be found in the wilderness. Used only by Monster Hunters who used them as camps. It's even said that the Guild of Hunters had a map of all known statues in the wilderness, but denies it.
Fortunately for Desmond, they had managed to dig up the stone tablet in his hand in ruins nearly a hundred miles from here. While there were many written accounts, most were lost to time or war. Very few accounts were left, leaving the tablet in Desmond's hand a priceless historical artifact Looking down, Desmond reread the ancient Elven text as the other students sighed and pulled their armaments from their sheaths and bags.
[Here slumbers the child of Death and Life, Gods of Moon and Sun.
Rejected from their original, they created Eos to embrace her.
Yet, now ]
When the Ancients disappeared, the world - who depended on them - was plunged into long years of darkness. War, monsters, and demons plagued the land because the heroes were not around to hold them back. Soon the makeup of the land changed. This meant that historical documents and accounts were lost to time as well, leaving many of the Ancients' ruins to be forgotten. Even Fable's End was lost.
The world's largest mountain it was called in its time. Such a grand geographical landmark should have been already explored, but the world was vast. It sat in a sea of trees nearly thirty feet tall and populated with strong monsters. With the world fighting with the Demons, they couldn't spare much manpower to the exploration of ruins. Leaving the task to would-be adventurers, monster hunters, and Academies.
Desmond managed to find a map to Fable's End inside the ruins of a guild called Holy Paws. Strange name, but apparently the Hearth Mother was the leader... However, this tablet rested with the map. It only then did Desmond find out that this amazing discovery had a problem.
Fable's End rested in an unexplored area that was teeming with dangers. He didn't trust to tell his father, who would have happily given it to his Crown brother Edin, he managed to persuade his second brother Randol to gather a team and go. However, Randol said on the basis the school list it as a free-exploration. Meaning students could sign up, but they were free to pick a place to explore and keep what they find if they found anything on their exploration.
They managed to pick up people with his brother's name listed on the security team though...
Looking at the small gathered students from his Academy, most the girls joined to try to woo his brother while the boys who joined either joined with the girls or came to explore and maybe fight some monsters since they could only leave the city on explorations.
Most of the girls held wands in their hands, some even had full staves. Decorated with small ornate carvings and or trinkets, they shuffled uneasily when they held them. The entire trip here was oddly peaceful, with a few monsters that were dispatched by the knights; the students hardly had to lift a finger.
Now they all brandished their weapons with the boys taking the lead with swords and some wands, standing behind the knights - they began to weave through the rubble of the old gates. Desmond took up the rear with Navara, not keen on trying to show off like his fellow students, he examined his surroundings with interest.
The first thing to greet them once they made it over the rubble was three, five-foot tall grey stone barricade blocks nearly three foot wide and three foot thick. They were uneven and appeared to have been chiseled hastily. The uneven stones were now worn by countless seasons with the scars of war marking them. The structures on the inside were attached to the wall further out, making any invaders having to go through the narrow blockade.
Nature had somewhat reclaimed the ruins as grass grew heavily on the ground with patches here and there of weather-worn cobblestone. Thick vines climbed the structures around them. Even trees grew on the rooftops, but that may have been planted there.
Advancing further, the knights noticed that the stone barriers were pushed inward by the collection of cobblestones and their formations behind them. The knights gave each other a look "What'ca think did this?" One knight said to Randol, gesturing with his head to the blocks. Randol took a quick look then looked at the buildings on either side. Vegetation climbed the walls of the structures he assumed military in nature. Through the small patches of visible wall, large scratch marks could be seen.
"Something we don't want to find out." Randol sighed before telling everyone to keep moving.
The city itself was laid out in a strange fashion. The buildings were set into blocks of two, with the main road leading straight through. The main road itself was nearly thirty feet in length with the side roads only fifteen. The destruction of the buildings on the main road was heavy. Grass covered craters, half-collapsed buildings, and even some half-skeletons remains strewn around one intersection. They didn't even bother to go down the side roads. Most of the mere blockaded with those grey stones with a few broken through.
"Whoever invaded this place must have been serious about it..." One of the student warriors cooed in amazement at the destruction of the main street. "Probably the demons. Fable's End was the old base of the Demon King before the Hearth Mother defeated him." Desmond said nonchalantly. The students in front turned in shock. "H-Hearth mother? Wait! This is Fable's End?! The tomb city?!" one of the girls cried out.
Desmond looked confused" Yeah. Didn't you guys read the exploration notice?" The students who were shocked now turned and just looked forward with false curiosity "This place is pretty nice.", "Yeah, I was looking forward to this place the whole trip!" and other mutterings. Navara laughed then whispered in Desmond's ear "Hehe, not everyone is as scholarly as you Dessy. Most people don't read the bulletins so long as they have a chance to go out into the world for free"
Desmond's brows scrunched up, not understanding why they'd do such a thing. "Don't bother, you won't understand their plight!" She said with a dramatic gesture of almost fainting. She had known Desmond since he first came to the Academy and had a crush on him since then. Sadly for her, he stuck his nose into books too much to notice. In the end, she was happy to spend more time with him knowing his family situation wasn't good. So long as their time was peaceful, that's all that mattered in the now.
After half an hour, they came to a major scene of a battle. Large skeleton remains of a giant monster boar the size of a noble carriage laid to the left of the road. The building caving around it. A large gash in the road crossed over to the right side and through a large hole into a two-story corner building. " Damn!" One of the students said as he walked over to the skeleton remains. "What kind of monster is this?" He asked as he toed it with his leather boot.
"Not sure. There were a lot of species it could belong too." Randol answered half-heartedly as he and a few knights examined the hole in the wall. The hole in the building across from the remains was slightly larger than them. "Whatever killed it, came from here..." One of the knights said off-handedly.
He was about to step in before a figure crashed into him. "Gah!" He fell backward onto his rear trying to steady himself. As his fellow knights readied themselves to fight, they noticed it was just a White-Dotted Mountain deer. It's beautiful huge antlers bobbing as it ran down the main street startled. "Haha! Almost done in by a deer! I'll make sure to put that on your tombstone!" The knight closest to the down man said as he helped him back up. "Yeah, I'll tell your wife that you got felled by a great whore!"
"You damnable old man!" the knight growled before slapping his gloved hand on the man's back. "Alright, keep it in check or I'm telling both your wives that you got felled by whores." Randol said as he walked stuck his head through the hole. Once he checked there weren't any more deer inside, he made his way inside. "Don't be like that Captain!" They both said while chuckling.
After a few minutes of the group waiting outside and examining the destruction, Randol called out to Desmond. "Little Dessy, come look at this!" Navara and Desmond looked at each other before they both went through the opening. Inside, the layout reminded Desmond of an inn. WIth worn polish floor, dusty from the passage of time aside from the large black marks leading out the hole, it was relatively intact.
At the end of the marks was a largely armored golem. It's entire left side completely crumpled or torn off with its head half smashed. It's armor rusting away, it looked pitiful; even to Desmond. "Ancient tech?" Randol gestured to the golem with his right hand, sword sheathed. "Yeah, but it's not salvageable. The fact that the metal hasn't rusted completely away with this much exposure means the armor is either magically imbed or it's a higher tier than steel." Desmond said as he made his way to the front of the golem.
After poking around, Desmond sighed. "It's not steel, I can tell that much. However... Nothing can be salvaged due to the damage." Desmond kneeled by the outlaying left hand."Poor thing... Died protecting it's home." Three rays of light poured in through the three windows on the second floor with the middle one. Even with the heavy rust, there were still large gashes. Guessing by the layout of the scene, it was probably from tusks that made those marks
"They're just magical familiars, don't get sentimental over them..." Randol said. He didn't feel a thing about them. They were made for war. "Yeah.." Desmond replied half-heartedly with a frown. He did feel for them though, but he assumed they were treated much better by the mistress of this city.
. . . . . . .
Shortly thereafter, the group left the ruined building, stepping back out on the main road. The further in they got, the more fierce the tells of war became. Indents in the road, filled with still rainwater that reflexed the sky. Eventually, the barricades on the side streets were long gone, but no one felt brave enough to go down them alone. They came to an intersection of a terrible skirmish. The remains of a Gaint, torn apart with its moss-covered limbs strewn across the road.
Several golems rested, thrown about. Two rested against a wall, leaning on each other - upper bodies caved in. Another golem's lower body dangled half ripped from its body from the building's roof, two stories above. Legs dangling with long vines curling down and hanging from the tips of its feet. Two halves of a single golem rested in the now bony hands of the giant.
The scene sent a chill up their spines, leaving everyone silent as they weaved through the old battlefield. Scenes like those became more common the closer they got to the Elven city's center. Trudging through piles of rubble or bones, they kept moving. Randol kept stopping every now and again. He had a nagging feeling like someone... or something... was watching them.
Pushing through thick overgrowth, the explorers found themselves walking into a large clearing. The clearing was two-by-two football fields large, with large craters and remains littered it sparsely. Most of them rested at the foot of a circular stone platform the nearly twenty-feet in diameter. On top rested a statue draped in moss and vines as if someone had covered it with a thick blanket of nature. A few nests dotted the shoulders, but they were empty and long abandoned.
The group began to spread out, seeing the destruction of the buildings on the edge. Some examined the golems and skeletons. Desmond, however, walked up to the statue - his curiosity peaked. The platform itself was nearly half his height. With some effort, he heaved himself onto it and noticed there was a stone tablet resting, untouched by time or weather; resting in a snug fitting at the foot of the statue. Broken in half, he got to his knees and examined it.
There was a missing piece and the tablet piece in his hand fit!
'Place it... Free her...' A lone voice whispered sweetly in his ear. For a moment, he felt his hands move on their own. "Desmond!" Navara had followed him but stood off the platform as she checked out a strange skeleton hidden under a Golem's body. She had just glanced at Desmond when she saw him shiver before reaching to put the tablet piece into the hole!
But before she could even stop him, the piece fell into place and Desmond blinked with confusion at what he had done. Before he could even think about what happened, the tablet glowed and hummed before it exploded into a blue blinding light and a concussive wave sent the two flying backward!