I continued traveling into the wasteland, more due to the foreboding I felt rather than despite it.
Such troubles had been reported, over a number of missive’s I had personally archived for Council as part of my current responsibilities. It was among such buried pleas I learned the Bardelaisch March’s stones were apparently losing their efficacy. For decades they had been as effective as any of Arcory’s stones in dampening the great and terrible magicks which still tainted such old battlefields as I was riding across. I soon traveled to a point where I could see the reports had been, in all actuality, quite understated. To be fair, Council missive’s are by nature dry in content. One has to read between the lines more often than not to glean the living truths beneath their language.
And, as I was the one who originally placed these particular stones, my curiosity, and concern, had been aroused. Upon finally with leave to travel across the decaying expanse, the lands were notably and significantly transformed, carrying not only dry dust in it’s hot season breezes, but the lingering bitter choke of old battle magicks: hex, counter-hex, counter-counter hex and more.
The rather unhealthy moor and brush I traveled through soon gave way to a kind of desolation which was far more wide-spread than even I could have anticipated. The land offered a deep and disturbing reminder of what the land had been like in the years after the Riven War ended. Such magicks now prevailing had been contained by the three Arcory Stones laid within it’s borders, at least up until the last two years, but as I could see and feel… no more.
I decided, after but an hour of riding, to delay my more direct journey east to the Donlands, and instead, rode from the Margrave’s crumbling and abandoned border keep to the edge of the now parched swampland in search of the barrow where I had placed the protective stone three years after the Riven War had finally come to its bloody close. Even though it had been near six decades since that act, I expected to sense far more of Arcory than what I found on my approach.
The hump of barrow, and its surrounding ring of tall moon stones was no more, there was barely a rise of earth noticeable above the peat. I looked to the surrounding rises. Yes, my memory of where I had placed the stone was true. This was the location, but the standing stones, even the surrounding grove of alders, were gone. The drying swamplands, fields now spongy and dry, once leagues from this spot, now stretched as far as the eye could see in all directions.
My steed offered and loud appreciative whinny as I dismounted. I felt my boots sink into the soft ground, but not far. The peat bogs were no less parched as the hills were dry. Each of my steps away from the gelding lifted up its own particular unpleasant odor of moldy decay.
I crept slowly across the spongy ground, my staff poking easily through the crumbly soil, reaching soon the spot I was certain marked the outer circle of stonework which had once stood in defense of the barrow. I crossed my palms in the third pattern and whispered the spell of Raising. A weakened stone would not have the power to directly affect such focused casting. Even at my age, it would take at least four of them to effectively dampen channeling living magic.
The casting completed, I stood still and watched the earth, the thistle and weeds now growing from it, the small pool of dank rippling water a few yards to my left. Something large indeed was bubbling to the surface, something which coiled and slithered over itself. I backed away, prepared for battle. What my spell had raised was no stone at all, instead it had summoned a huge mire wyrm that burst forth from the bog, erupting foul mud as it’s huge form sprang forth!
Stepping back quickly, I pulled my staff out from the peat and directed its jeweled apex at the ascending and stinking great serpent, while the black mud it had blown like a geyser fell around me like a think and putrid rain.