Asta shook her head in disbelief, “You can say that again.”
Loden was having a difficult time processing what he was seeing. Some of the ruined towers looked like they had been smashed by brute force, others looked as if they had been hit with heat so intense that parts of the structures had melted away. He could see many sections of the town where heat had melted stone. “Wow. What happened here?”
“A great battle of some sort. Maybe… we should take a look.”
“Yeah.” Loden moved past her and approached the arched gate that lead into the town. The gates stood wide and they looked like they were made of stone, beyond lay the shattered ruins. He paused before entering, and though he saw nothing hostile or dangerous he drew one of his short swords and took a good look around.
Asta came up along side of him, they stood under the massive arch of the gate and tried to understand what had happened. Loden was amazed at the ruins themselves, regardless of their present state, this place had once been a town of impossibly massive architecture. It was built on the side of a mountain, overlooking a waterfall and the valley below. From what he could see of the intact buildings and walls, the place gave the impression that it had been sculpted. The stone of the structures was not the stone of the mountain and he had no idea how such a feat could have been accomplished.
Asta was silent for many moments, then she shrugged, “This can only be a place of the ancients, the Eldra.” She crouched down and picked up a handful of silty dirt. There was a layer of it across the town, much more of it had drifted into corners and crevices while areas exposed to the winds were mostly devoid of such accumulation. She let the fine dirt fall between her fingers and then brushed her hands together. She sneezed.
Loden could see no obvious threats, though he did wonder about the integrity of the ruins, some of the sections of fallen towers appeared to be precariously held in place. Certainly if any were to roll free they would cause serious damage and squish the two of them as though they were insects. Along the lower edge of one of the fallen towers he could see some sort of metal. He pointed with his sword, “Do you see that?”
“Sure, armour maybe? A weapon?” Together they cautiously moved forward into the ruins and approached the unknown object.
Loden poked it with his sword and it gave off the sound of metal scraping metal, some of the silt fell away and it did appear to be armour or a shield. Asta crouched down and dusted off the rest of dirt. What they found was a person, of some sort, who had been crushed under the tower. The person appeared to have been in plate armour with a full faced helm, only the head, upper torso and one arm was exposed, everything else was crushed under the fallen section of tower.
Asta brushed away some of the dirt from a space near the arm. She uncovered the hilt of a great sword, though judging by the size of the fallen creature’s gauntlet, the weapon was likely intended as a hand-and-a-half sword. She was able to get both hands around the hilt and lifted it free of the dirt and silt under which it had been buried. She stood up, lifted the sword, the dust fell away to reveal a beautifully crafted, double edged, blade. With the point of the blade resting on cracked stone the pommel came up to her nose, there was no indication that the blade had spent any amount of time exposed to the elements.
“Careful.” Loden advised as she stepped back and raised the weapon.
“It’s very lightweight.”
Loden bent over and tried to flip the helmet visor up with the tip of his blade, it did not budge. He could see that fine dirt and ash had filled the visors viewing slit. It felt wrong to try and kick the helmet clear of obstruction. He looked around.
Above them a section of tower lay suspended between the mostly intact curtain wall, near the falls at the edge of the cliff above the valley. The nearer end had completely demolished a residential building, two other similar structures had also taken substantial damage, the tower wedged in place between them. Where the nearby wall of one of the residential buildings was broken, Loden could see into the structure. It was hard to make out much detail, but there appeared to be furniture and boxes mixed in with chunks of rock, piles of slagged stone and more bodies.
“Hey, do you want to keep this?” She rested the blade’s point on the ground and flipped it from one side to the other, inspecting it carefully.
“It is not the sort of weapon I’d normally use.”
“Likely very valuable too, if you could find someone willing to pay the price.”
“Yeah.” She looked a bit disappointed but continued to consider the blade.
Loden wandered around the building he had looked into, the windows were high up and oddly some of them still had brightly coloured panes of glass in their frames. He came around to the next facing and found a door, it was open. There was another silt covered body under the lintel, the lower half was inside of the building. At the point where the body was outside of the building he could see considerably more buildup of dirt, ash and silt as compared to the lower half of the body. That was unusual. It appeared to be a woman, a full length dress or skirt was discernible on the lower half, she had also worn fancy boots by the look of it.
He pushed some dirt away, then shifted the body a bit. He thought the dirt was mostly ash, there was an odd skull, with a glittering jewelled web of intricately worked chains, delicate. He blew away more of the dust and grit. Asta sneezed as she approached. He saw other small pieces of delicate jewellery, more had fallen clear of the body. As he cleared the ash from the top part of the dress he saw more gems, jewellery and long chains. He had been about to examine a rather complicated necklace when he noticed the colour in the material of the dress shift to a brighter tone, he saw a small cloud of dust puff out from the dress and then slowly settle to the ground.
Loden sat back, looked to Asta, “Did you see that?”
Asta sneezed, nodded then sneezed again.
“I don’t think that ash is very healthy.”
“Did you see that dress? It just cleaned itself.”
They could clearly see much of the shape of the creature within the dress as well, or at least the skull, hands, including a number of rings, and part of the spine. Although humanoid, it was clearly not human. She must have been between six or seven feet in height, assuming that the skeleton belonged to a woman by the clothing. The skull was significantly different in that is was more elongated and the brow and bone structure around the eyes was more delicate with wider sockets and extra ridges within the cheekbones.
Loden started to strip the skeleton of its clothing, jewellery and other accoutrements. He felt a bit weird for doing so, but it was more wealth than he had ever seen before.
Asta seemed pleased with his actions, she clapped her hands, like a girl half her age, then went back to retrieve the sword. “I think we should keep this too.”
She came back over and placed the sword against the wall, then took off Loden’s smelly coat., “We can make a bundle with this.”
“Sure, I guess. You might find other clothing inside.” He suggested.
“I’m not really into all the glitter, but maybe they didn’t dress like that all the time?”
“Why doesn’t this bother you?”
She looked around, then asked, “You mean looting the dead?”
“Yeah, save the rest of it for another time.”
“Aright. Simply enough, I don’t know these people and they likely never followed or worshipped the Goddess of Mercy. Additionally, they died a long time ago, the dead have no requirement for mercy. A funeral is a mercy for the living kin and those well beheld by the recently departed.”
“What happens to people after they die?”
“The cycle comes around again.”
“What do you mean?”
She moved passed him into the building, “I’m going to look for some clothing.”
He would have spat, but his mouth was dry. He watched her move carefully through the entry room, she looked around then moved into one of the back rooms. He continued looting. He put some of the smaller jewellery pieces in his pouch, all the larger pieces he lay on top of his jacket, where Asta had put the sword. He also found a curved knife in an ornate sheath and a pouch containing pieces of crystal and loose gemstones.
“Heh! Loden! You better come see this.”
He put the last few odds and end into one of the coat pockets then went into the house. Nearly everything inside was a jumble, the entry lead into a central room. Things were surprisingly clean and dust free here. Asta came into the frame of a nearby doorway and waved him over, she had a serious expression on her face. He moved past her, the ceiling and part of the roof had collapsed and that, coupled with the tower, blocked most of the back part of the room. Dirt and silt covered much of the jumbled furniture and some chests, Loden recognized some of what he had seen from outside. Laying on a bed that had been partly smashed then pushed off centre into the room’s wardrobe, Loden saw a body with a faint shimmer around it. He went to the bed and could see that one of the mans legs had been crushed, as had his hip and lower abdomen. Blood soaked his clothing, but not the bedding, it looked fresh. Oddly the expression on the mans face seemed to be one of peaceful repose, his somewhat alien features were not that different than his own, though the hair was long and had a golden hue he had never seen before. He looked young.
Oddly the man’s nostril were covered with a delicate looking membrane.
Asta clapped her hands together and rubbed them vigorously back and forth.
“What are you doing?”
“I’ve a feeling the Goddess led us to this man?”
“Great Mother of Mercy, I call on your gifts to heal and revive this man.” She lay her hands gently on the mans head and his chest.
“Oh goddess.” Loden breathed with trepidation. He suddenly felt a shift within his internal energies and then he felt very tired. Asta briefly blazed with a brilliant blue and green aura.
Then Asta swayed and started to fall backwards, Loden quickly stepped forward and grabbed her, though he felt woozy and nearly passed out himself. The room swirled to darkness then faded back in, he had fallen to one knee though he still supported Asta. He lowered her to the floor.
He looked up to the wrecked bed as the man laying there sat up and regarded him with large mauve coloured eyes. Loden was amazed that the bloodstains on the mans clothing were fading.