We really thought the bent and weathered metal poles were just what survived since the Great Collapse… I’m positive we were wrong.
They are a warning.
Where other ruins are steel skeletons that rise high above the ground, here it’s the opposite. Instead, the metal rises only a single story of a modest house. The metal is curved, arcing inward like ancient rib bones rising out of the snow.
The foundation outline suggests there were originally several buildings. Each one with multiple rooms intended to house dozens of individuals. Time, the elements, and other destructive forces have robbed the site of evidence to explain what those rooms were for.
However, the true marvel lies below ground.
A metal, possibly steel, vault door was discovered leading below the foundations. Carved in the stone above that door was the word, “Natoce”. Scholars argue over the meaning of the word, as it fits none of the few translations from the Ancient Order. They all agree, as do the Lorekeepers that explored the ruin… that is the name the Ancient Order used for the site.
Beyond the ice encrusted door, there is a network of chambers and tunnels that stretch deep beneath the surface. Ancient lanterns, by some miracle, still held some old magics to provide some light to see by. Lorekeepers took note that this suggested those without the darksight visited the location.
At first, these intricately carved tunnels were thought to be mines. It was easy to compare them to the ruins of Dehur Kol or other lesser abandoned Dwarven mines and fortresses. The craftwork on the stones that fit perfect without any use of mortar suggested just that. Yet, not all the tunnels were of the same design.
Some rough hewn tunnels close to the surface branched off into small, cave-like “longhouse” chambers. They are well constructed but not as old as the main tunnels. The only explanation Lorekeeper teams could provide is that those “longhouse” chambers are later additions. Perhaps even by the Qitanni, Hascona Cliff-dwellers.
The craftwork of the tunnels was magnificent. Dwarven masterwork at its finest. What we found next… that left me speechless.
Marvels of the Ancients
The main tunnels extended down a few hundred feet before they opened out into a massive underground ruin of the Ancient Order.
Hundreds of dark metal platforms are suspended by ropes from pulleys on the roof and walls. These platforms are not kept at the same level, some are higher, others lower. There are even some ropes that extend down into the depths to unseen platforms in the pitch darkness of the immense shaft.
Despite their age, the ropes are coated in some unusual substance, something of Ancient Order creation, that preserves the fibers. Lorekeeper arcanists confirm they used magic mixed in with the coating on the ropes. This coating is both weather and heat proof.
If we could decipher how the Ancient Order made that mixture… the use it could be put to makes my head spin.
These ropes are connected to gear boxes with a set of levers on stone platforms that lined the walls of the underground shaft. Steel and a mysterious glimmering black metal make up the pillar-like support beams for the entire complex. Those are thrust down through rock and stone, obviously supporting the entire weight of the ruin.
The best measurements by the Lorekeeper teams judge that the support beams may extend down to a level below the ocean's surface. This would mean the ruin extends for at least a mile to two miles underground.
After some experimentation, the Lorekeeper teams discovered the use of the gear and rope system. Through a careful application of levers, the suspended platforms could be raised, lowered, and even interconnected. Several days of study revealed that the platforms had specialized uses. Some held carts the Ancients used to transport materials. Other platforms held multistory buildings of metal and stone, all of dwarven craftswork.
The genius of the location and the system is that the gear and pulley arrangement, combined with platforms of differing sizes, shapes and uses, meant that the entire ruin could be “reshaped” without having to re-excavate the surrounding rock. Lorekeepers were able to catalog at least ten different configurations, from ‘mining’, ‘fortress’ to ‘construction’, and even what suggested ‘fishing’.
Diagrams and documents were recovered from rooms in the upper levels, hoping the Ancient Order notes provide better insight on what the mysterious purpose of the Natoce Ruins was for.
Isone joked that maybe the Ancient Order dug too far down? Maybe played out whatever they were mining? What little I’ve been able to translate of the Ancient Order books says something else.
I think something dug its way up toward the surface that the Ancients weren’t prepared for.
Dire Turn of Events
Windtracer expeditions delved several floors down into the complex. The architecture remained the same fine craftwork as above. However, there were signs that the Ancient Order may have uncovered something unpleasant.
At the deeper levels, not even halfway the length of the ruin, hastily erected barricades and other defenses were found. Those had been deformed and still resonated with lingering, powerful, elemental magics.
Lorekeepers recorded encountering misshapen, withered creatures that skittered over walls, ceiling and floor. Surviving teams penetrated at least two chambers at those levels before having to retreat from the ruin.
With them came books and manuals on magic and devices of Ancient Order design. However, the dialect has proved difficult to translate, leaving Lorekeepers only the drawn diagrams as a guide to the intent hidden behind the writings. Also, samples of the creatures that attacked them were recovered.
With withered bodies and enlarged eyes, they seemed equipped to walk on two legs but possess four arms. Their frame is an amazing blend of leathery hide and ice, as if they are a hybrid of ice golem and a withered ant-like insect.
More Lorekeeper groups are expected to drive deeper into the ruin once they have acquired better equipment.
I don’t know what those things were. But the closer we got to the middle levels, they swarmed us by the dozens. We lost Rindowl and Kieran on the initial rush before we got our feet under us.
Isone lost an arm. Only… it grew back by the next morning once we camped in the safer upper layers. It was like her 'new' arm was part her… and part ice golem…
Is this something left over from the Great Collapse? Or part of what caused it?
When I return with better equipment, I intended to learn more!
Acropolis / Citadel