Tales of a Horse Thief, Part 2b

Tales of a Horse Thief, Part 2b

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The hills along the great river contained many more ruins than Flint had expected to find. Most of what he first encountered were ruined homesteads or small keeps, often showing crude building techniques. Most of these newer ruins had not been inhabited since the orc migration. As he moved northward above the riverside cliffs he started to encounter older ruins, harder to spot because they were often covered with dirt and scree. These ruins were often much larger and from hilltops he could see them better than if he was down amongst them.

Korumnda said that these ruins had belonged to the hill people, the Loopee, though they did not look like the Loopee ruins he had seen in the Kaffern Hills. When he found areas more exposed he noted that the building techniques seemed more advanced and the stone was better cut or shaped, as well the buildings were typically larger than what he had seen elsewhere. This puzzled him, though he was no architect nor historian, he was curious as to who these people had been. By the end of the second day since he had left the road, he realized that the unidentified ruins had been nearly continuous for well over twenty yat along the river. If they were all from the same period than whatever city this had once been was larger than GreensBridge, though nothing he saw seemed similar to the ancient Eldra structures of that city.

Near sunset he came across a spot where the remains of goblins were scattered around a large fire pit. There was not much left of the bodies and given their deteriorated state they had likely been left there previous to last winter. After a careful inspection of the area he had found eight skulls, all adult. So they had likely been part of a hunting or raiding group, though Flint had not heard of any goblins in this area. The only recent traffic had been a few small animals, there was no sign of men or goblins having passed through the area recently.

Two more days passed, winding through the ruins scattered across the cliff top and neighbouring hills. It rained lightly during the early morning of both days. He found further sign that goblins had been in this area over the past year or so and he found many ruins, but most of these were newer. He had even found an area where an ornately decorated door frame, carved in the natural stone, had lead down into what seemed to be a large underground complex. Though curious as to the extent of the ruins and wondering what might be found below, he did not investigate this discovery past the setting of the sun. It was more important to find the Rover Hall.



During the next day he spotted the road from one of the higher hills he crested, then a while later smoke from a small fire, perhaps a homestead within a couple of yat of his location. He debated seeking out the source of the fire but decided to keep tracking northward through the hills, as of yet he still had not seen what he would consider Loopee ruins. Perhaps the dwarf had been wrong, as difficult as that was for him to accept. Hopefully it was just a matter of mistaking one type of ruin for another and not a case of generally bad information.

Later in the day dark clouds rolled in and it rained heavily. He sheltered in a small cave for the worst of the rain; his new tattoo was itchy. The clouds and a lighter drizzle persisted but he did not mind the damp. Near mid-afternoon, by his reckoning, he spotted a series of Loopee standing stones. The first three were along a nearby ridge and after reaching the peek of the hill they were on, he could see more standing stones running northward across other hills. The first three stones were not overly large for what they were, but he could see a few Loopee characters carved across the surface of all three. From what he could make out, this had been a boundary marker. He also noticed scat around the stones from what was likely a large cat, perhaps a cougar.

Heartened by this discovery he followed the standing stones northward, mostly moving across the low ground between the hills. Although he found further indication of a large cat in the area, none of the signs were recent. Near sunset he climbed a high hill with a stone circle at the top. He found eight standing stones, the outside facing carved elaborately with imagery of ancient gods and goddesses. A narrow space between each standing stone, wide enough to squeeze through side-on, in the center was a cairn. The inside facing of each of the standing stones were carved with the old Loopee characters. He spent some time trying to decipher the story, but other than the fact the dead man buried here had been a beloved chieftain or lord, the rest was lost to him. The few characters of Loopee he knew were likely many hundreds of years newer than what he was seeing here.

Flint moved back out of the circle northward, he did not think it wise to sleep on a dead mans tomb. The outer surface of the north-facing standing stone was carved with the easily recognizable image of the North Sister, one of the three river goddesses. In the last light of the day, the sun dropping below the clouds, he could see that lone standing stones continued northward across the hilltops. He felt optimistic, with luck these stones would lead him directly to the area he sought. He settled for the night, sitting with his back against the north standing stone. His sleep was deep and peaceful, lulled by the sounds of flowing water and the presence of the North Sister. Her visit was of an erotic nature, her nearer sibling the East Sister looked on and the stars in the dream-sky were brighter and more numerous than he had seen before.

When he awoke the next morning he found he had slid a bit downhill, off the edge of his tarp, wrapped around his right wrist was a piece of simple hemp string with a small blue-silver charm depicting the North Sister. He was startled by this discovery, even dismayed. The attention of the old gods was unusual. Flint decided to leave the charm on and stood facing east, he sang the old song of light’s return. Before leaving the hill top he left an offering of his best arrow with a bit of beeswax. Atypical for him these actions may have been, but better to be respectful, such attention was considered a boon, though he was unsure of the meaning.

Flint made good time that day, feeling energized, he found plenty of spring berries in the hills and crayfish in a small brook he travelled along until midday. The standing stones had been consistent, though in the early afternoon he spotted one on a nearby hill that had been knocked over or broken and the next few were in a similar state. Around mid-afternoon he climbed up to one of the broken standing stones, it seemed to be the last in the line. It appeared as if the stone had been deliberately broken, though weathering indicated that the vandalism had taken place long ago. Further north he could see no standing stones, he did note however that the Linklow Forest pushed into the hills north of him and not far to the east he could see the trade road. A lone rider, with an extra horse moved northward but gave no indication that they had noticed Flint.

As best as Flint could guess he should to be close to the Rover Hall, though there was no further sign of Loopee ruins. He decided to move closer to the river and was soon moving along the edge of a drop off to the water below. The East Sister was narrower and deep at this point, the far bank slightly over a half dozen yat across was similarly steep and rough. Late in the afternoon he did come across ruins again, but they appeared to be like the unknown ones he had seen earlier and not of the Loopee. The forest’s edge was closer, a bit less than a yat away. The hills less rough and he could see more variety in the grass and brush, there were more birds, the brown hare were numerous and seemingly unconcerned with his presence.

By the old dwarf’s description he should be close to that which he sought.

He made camp not far from the edge of the cliff, sang the setting of the sun and made a small fire to cook the crayfish he had gathered. As full darkness settled he spotted a number of small fires to the east, most likely along or near the trade road. Shortly after he had noticed them, most of the fires were put out. Only a couple a fair ways southward burned brightly through the night, perhaps a caravan or the lumber camp. There was supposed to be a fair sized lumber camp somewhere around here, or so the dwarves had told him.


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