“Who would deface a statue and desert a village? That’s more to the point.” said Miklos. “How do empires crumble? From within mostly. I fear civil war is what brought the Hukaatan culture to its end.” He glanced sadly about the decrepit buildings. “Alas the chances for finding our answers have worsened!”
Stephan cautiously walked around the ruined statue. Debris from the defacing still littered the area. He found on one side a broken finger with an intricately carved ring. The ring bore a symbol that appeared to be a crescent moon and two stars.
Taking out his own Hutaakan he’d found years ago, he compared it to the remains of the larger. The two were very similar but of course, detail was lost in the smaller. Try as he might, he could not discern a ring on the finger of his statuette. But the cape on the figure’s back also had the same moon and star pattern.
“It seems they wanted to remove the face as a priority. And the ears.” He looked around for any remains of the jackal head but found nothing.
Ludo shrugged his shoulders at the question that Miklos raised, “Whoever did this wanted to erase whoever lived here completely, if they did this to the locals what will they do to visitors? I suggest we be on our guard. I wonder where the people who lived are, or where the bodies are buried.
“Very strange, indeed, Miklos,” said Hasan, studying the wreckage. “It is hard to believe their great magic, which kept outsiders at bay these many years after they disappeared did not save them. A job from inside the walls, it is clear. Let us continue on into the central valley, to see how far the revolutionaries were able to push things.”
Feldard nodded his agreement to Maruc’s question.
While Ludo checked around for tracks, Feldard kept watch in the distance for sign of any threat. His mind kept going over what Miklos had said about the Sons of Night. What could draw them here? Power obviously. But what manner of it. Some magical weapon? Some lost lore? Perhaps, question was where to look for it now. Not rural villages he surmissed. A stronghold, temple or a library seemed more likely places to keep such a thing.
As they proceeded on the dwarf kept watch for such a building.
“From what we know of the surviving Hukaatan relics beyond the valley underground is where we are most likely to find answers Miklos.” Maruc suggested turning away from the statue. “I agree with Hasan, we will need to hunt around before we can make any further judgements. I hope the valley holds friends and not the un-quiet spirits of a lost culture.”
The group set out to explore the western part of the valley. An uneasy feeling of strange desolation permeated their surroundings. Stephan felt as if he was being watched. Hasan thought he heard distant sounds, but no one else could pick up on them. Ludo’s palms began to sweat. Feldard’s back developed an annoying itch between his shoulder blades. Miklos thought he saw a dark shape out of the corner of his eye, but whatever it was, if there was anything at all, left no trace.
Every now and then, they came across footprints on soft stretches of ground. Some appeared human, others were human-like but narrow and clawed, and then there were the large prints of some form of animal which not even Hasan could identify.
They came across many decaying buildings in the valley, some standing singly and others in close village-like structures. They also found more various defaced and smashed Hutaakan statues, shrines, fountains and arches. After a little over half a day’s journey, they came to another shrine. As they approached it seeking clues, a trio of rock snakes emerged from inside of its cracked facade. After being momentarily startled, the elf quickly distracted and then calmed them with the movement of his bow. Despite the threat, it was actually a relief to see something else alive in the valley.
From their new vantage point about six miles in, they could see from the valley walls that there was an entire new larger side of the valley that opened up to the west.