Haf vacillates between despair and wracking his brain for a solution to his dilemma. In frustration he is absentmindedly digging at the ground with a piece of stick when the only option he has occurs – he will need to excavate and uncover the passages connecting the towers. It could take many days, but what other choice does he have? The Wratha emanating from this site may continue to spread unchecked if he cannot find a way to contain it. 

[Discover a formidable site: Ancient/Corrupted Ruin – The Ruined Towers (progress reset to 0)]

[Delve the depths +wits: weak hit, mark progress]

At first Haf plans to sort through the rubble of the towers, removing the fallen stone block by block until he can find a way in. However the scale of the destruction seems too large and the vines growing over the wreckage orient to him when he gets near. He will need to try another approach. Haf recalls traversing an underground passage from the first tower and has a fair idea of where it should lie. Surveying the area he makes out a small hole in the ground which turns out to be in the roof of the passage. He sets to widening it and after an hours’ work and a pile of blunted branches he makes the hole large enough that he could climb down. He releases a small amount of ritual-captured light [-1 to Light track] and binds it to the end of his staff then lowers himself into the passage below.  The passage extends back to the ruins of the tower and forward into darkness.

[Delve the depths +wits: strong hit, mark progress, Find an opportunity]

[Find an opportunity: The terrain favors you, or you find a hidden path, +1 momentum]

Haf decides to ignore the room with the portal and head towards the tower basement – he doesn’t trust using the portal and risking being teleported into rubble. He carefully passes down the ancient passage, when he was last here it was already in poor repair and its condition has only worsened. The walls have collapsed in places spilling earth and rubble into the passage, but the roof holds as he gingerly picks his way through the worst of the damage. When he reaches the end of the passage there is a rubble choked staircase heading up. Haf curses as he remembers this was his route last time. However the damage to the site has also exposed a hidden opening in the passage across from the stairwell. Haf looks through the opening and sees another passage extending beyond.

[Delve the depths +wits: strong hit, mark progress, Find an opportunity]

[Find an opportunity: A clue offers insight or direction (Oracles – action: fortify, theme: memory). +1 to next move]

The passage is narrow and musty and after a short while transitions from stone block construction to carved from the bedrock. The path through the rock curves gently before opening into a small alcove like room. On the wall is an inscription that at first looks like a spider web. On closer inspection Haf believes it represents the five towers and connections between them: tunnels, skyways and portals. The central tower is linked only by portals except for one tunnel – he believes this is the location he seeks. He thinks he has worked out a route that can get him to that tunnel, providing it is still accessible. 

[Delve the depths +wits: miss, burn momentum —> weak hit, mark progress, +1 momentum from Find an opportunity]

Haf continues down the hewn rock passage which has thus far resisted the damage affecting the rest of the site. The passage ends at a stone door with a collapsed hinge which Haf has to shove and slowly grind open. He is in the basement level of another ruined tower. The stair is collapsed and choked with rubble but across the chamber a passage leads out.

[Delve the depths +wits: miss, Reveal a danger: unstable floor above a new danger —> you face an environmental or architectural hazard]

Haf warily enters the passage. It is made of stone blocks and the roof is on the verge of collapsing in multiple places. He hesitates before entering but this is the only way forward. Haf slowly navigates the passage, prodding at any precarious stonework with his staff. With his attention focused upwards, Haf fails to notice a large crack in the floor. The stone breaks and gives way under his foot, sinking into the earth below.

[Face danger +edge: strong hit, +1 momentum]

As the floor gives way Haf quickly jams the butt of his staff into the ground ahead and levers himself to safety. The floor continues to crumble as he scrambles away from the hole. When the collapse stabilises he peers down and can see a small sinkhole has formed below the passage. He spies movement, there are tree roots throughout the loose earth below, slowly moving and writhing upwards. Haf chooses to face the risk of vulnerable stonework and darts ahead down the passage, trying to quickly put space between him and the corrupted plant.

[Delve the depths +edge: miss, Reveal a danger: blocked or broken passage]

Haf races forward heedlessly, not wanting to be trapped underground near the animate tree roots. When he reaches what he assumes is the base of the next tower the entire structure has collapsed above and below ground, spilling stone and earth into the passageway. The only way forward is to excavate and hope it does not collapse further.

[Scene challenge (dangerous): excavate the collapsed tower basement]         

Before digging Haf takes a few minutes to look over the piled rubble, trying to determine where is safest to excavate.

[Secure an advantage +wits: strong hit, +2 momentum, +1 to next move]

The walls and what he can see of the doorway are still mostly intact, if he can remove stone from the opening and reinforce the walls he may be able to prevent further collapse.

[Face danger +wits: strong hit, mark progress, +1 momentum]

Haf starts scraping away loose earth to uncover solid blocks of stone. He is able to clear out the doorway and stack any unbroken stone blocks against the walls.

[Face danger +wits: weak hit, mark progress and countdown]

Haf then begins digging earth and shifting stone out of the room. It is sweaty and anxious work, with the piled rubble regularly making small shifts. He shores up the doorway with as much stone as he can fit and still get through, however it narrows the space for removing debris and slows the speed of his work even further. Just when he starts feeling like significant progress is being made a large section of earth and stone tumbles down from above. He is unharmed but much of the area he has cleared will need to be redone. Haf resigns himself that this is expected with the mass of the collapsed tower above and gets back to excavating.

[Face danger +wits: strong hit, mark progress]

Haf continues his methodical digging, stopping regularly to assess the safest places to remove stone and where to place it to best prevent further collapse.

[Face danger +wits: strong hit with a match, mark progress]

Haf’s careful work bears fruit and he eventually uncovers enough of the tower basement that he can see a passage on the other side. It looks to have been hidden by a secret door, but the collapse has forced the door open. However the doorway and passage seems mostly undamaged and safe to exit through.

[Resolve challenge: strong hit]

Haf scrambles over the pile of rubble and into the relative safety of the unexplored passage. He is exhausted from many hours of physically and mentally taxing labour and decides to take the opportunity to rest for while. He feels partially reassured by the rubble pile at his back that nothing will come unannounced from behind.

[Make camp: strong hit, +1 spirit, +1 momentum]

The silence and dark under the ruins is surprisingly conducive to engaging in his mediative exercises and Haf loses himself in stillness for several hours. When he returns his awareness to the dank stone surrounds he feels rested and ready to continue. He slowly pushes ahead into the dark, taking his time to look and prod at any stonework he feels uncertain of.

[Secure an advantage +wits: strong hit with match, +2 momentum, +1 to next move]

Haf travels slowly, investigating every piece of stone in view before pressing forward. His patience yields an unexpected discovery, a hidden doorway built into the stone wall. He finds a loose block that pushes in, releasing the door and he is able to swing it open on grinding stone hinges.

[Delve the depths +wits: strong hit, mark progress, Find an opportunity]

[Find an opportunity (alternate version): This area offers a captivating ambience or comfortable environment. If you Hearten here take +1 spirit on a hit, +1 to next move]

[Hearten (from Starforged): strong hit, +2 spirit, +1 spirit & +1 momentum from Find an opportunity]

The secret door reveals a passage carved into the rock. As Haf walks down the tunnel he smells a dank earthiness and hears his footsteps echoing ahead. The passage curves and descends sharply before eventually opening into a large cavern. The chamber is surprisingly large and lit by a faint blue glow emanating from outcroppings of crystals growing out of the rock. Haf’s sight senses an abundance of Wyrhta here and no presence of Wratha, although whether due to being under the earth or from the crystals he cannot say. He suspects that the reason the towers were built on this site may have been due to a natural abundance in Wyrhta here. He spends long minutes marvelling in the scene and feels his hope rise that the spreading Wratha above is defeatable.

Basking in the presence of the crystals it becomes clear to Haf that they are infused with Wyrhta, he opens his sight fully to them to see if he can draw on their power.

[Secure an advantage +wits: strong hit, +2 momentum, +1 to follow up move]

Haf allows himself to resonate with the ebb of Wyrhta in the crystals and feels that they are safe to touch. He places his hands on one and feels the life contained within vitalise him. He senses the Wyrhta will remain contained within the crystal for a time if he removes it from the cave. He is reluctant to cause damage but in the interest of purging the site of corruption he finds a crystal which can be easily broken off and places it into his pack.

There is no sign of other exits from the cavern so Haf retraces his steps and continues along the stone passage, hoping to find the entry to the middle tower.

[Delve the depths +wits: miss, burn momentum –> strong hit, mark progress, Find an opportunity]

[Find an opportunity: The terrain favours you, or you find a hidden path, +1 momentum]

Haf continues carefully through the passage, maintaining his vigilance for signs of potential collapse or a hidden passage. The passage is half collapsed in several locations, requiring Haf to nervously squeeze through at risk of setting off further collapse. Ahead Haf can see the tunnel collapses completely and for a moment slumps his shoulders in defeat. As he advances, resigned to many hours of dangerous work, he notices a gap in the mortar surrounding one of the stone blocks. Inspecting closely he can see there is a secret door here and pushes on the errant block. With a click the door releases and he slides it open. 

[Delve the depths +wits: weak hit, mark progress, -1 supply, Reveal a danger]

[Reveal a danger: a discovery undermines if complicates your quest]

[Oracles – action: break, theme: loss]

The passage runs dead straight, carved out of the bedrock. As Haf cautiously advances he becomes uneasy, his sense of corruption ahead is growing: the sight; the smell of rot and decay; and just a gut sense of wrongness. The passage extends for at least a hundred yards before coming into a large chamber. He has been here before, it is where the mystic portals from elsewhere in the towers emerge, although the doorways are now absent the glow of  magic. The once vaulted chamber is strewn with stone from the collapsed roof. The stair winding upwards is also covered in rubble but looks to be intact enough that he could reach what remains of the room above. Clearly the Tree of False Life still survives, the profusion of roots growing down from the chamber above suggest that it is thriving and growing. As Haf  begins navigating the stairs with trepidation he notices movement from the corner of his eye. The roots nearest him stir and break free from the ground, beginning to writhe towards him. With a shock he realises that the artifact’s roots must have spread throughout the entire site. Realising he risks being overwhelmed and cut off from reaching the tree he launches himself up the stairs, heedless of the danger of slipping or collapse.

[Face danger +edge: strong hit with a match]

As Haf runs up the stairs and clambers over tumbled stone more and more tree roots are dislodging and moving towards him. He flicks away the first roots to reach him with the end of his staff and dodges past but the next root latches onto his pack. As he rips free from its grasp supplies tumble out of his torn pack. Haf can see a large clump of roots breaking free of the walls above, he won’t have any chance of getting past once they are free, so he grits his teeth and continues his ascent. With a loud crack and  explosion of soil and rock the roots dislodge, but they are still tangled in a clump and fall off the wall, their weight sending them swinging into the centre of the chamber such that they are hanging in the air from the roof. As Haf makes a final panting sprint for the chamber above the roots disentangle, but hanging in the air they can only sway and writhe and are unable to threaten him. However the movement of the mass of roots has dislodged much of the stone and soil choking the top of the stairs and Haf is able to squeeze through the collapsed doorway into the chamber above.

[Locate your objective: weak hit]

The half collapsed chamber is now completely taken up by the artifact, its branches laden with sickly ripe red fruit clogging up the room like a dense thicket. [increase threat to extreme]

[Scene challenge: Tree of False Life]

Haf can sense the flows of power in the room as almost physical forces. There are traces of Wielda but more than ever Wratha dominates here.  He feels the awareness in the artifact rouse and attend to him, the taint of its presence is sickening. He raises forth his staff and releases the captured Wyrhta from the grove of the Elder Mystics. A surge of vitality and life fills the room. Almost immediately he senses the artifact begin to corrupt the life energy into Wratha, but for a time it will provide a buffer against the artifact’s power [reduce threat to formidable]

Haf opens his sight fully, watching the flows of power for the presence of Wielda, seeking the core of magic that powers and drives the artifact…

[Secure an advantage +wits: weak hit, +2 momentum,+1 momentum from Sighted]

…Wratha threatens to overpower any other magic in this place but amidst the blackness Haf senses the power that resides in the artifact itself. He reaches forth with his mind, seeking to establish a connection…

[Face danger +wits: strong hit, mark progress, +1 momentum from Sighted]

…Haf’s mind touches the awareness of the artifact and he holds his nerve, presenting himself to it as a user of Wielda. Whilst he is not trained in the arts of Wielda, he is human and bears the gift of sorcery – he senses acknowledgement from the artifact. He draws in a steadying breath and exerts his will, attempting to force the artifact to acknowledge him as its controller…

[Face danger +heart: weak hit, mark progress, mark countdown, +1 momentum from Sighted]

…at first the artifact acquiesces, it was fashioned by human hands many centuries ago to be used by those who created it. However it has lain here abandoned for many years, dwelling in the Wratha its magic has spawned. The power within it has taken on a simplistic intelligence, albeit twisted by Wratha – all it knows is rage, domination and consuming life force. No sooner has Haf taken the reins of control than it flares with power trying to resist. Haf senses it mobilising its energies but maintains his hold. He focuses his attention trying to force its rudimentary but immense will into submission…

[Face danger +heart: miss, mark countdown]

…the artifact pushes back with force greater than he can muster and he senses it reject him as its wielder but instead a source of sustenance. Nearby branches creak as they bend towards Haf, seeking to latch onto him. He knows he will be quickly overwhelmed if it latches into him as last time he encountered it. He flings his pack down and grabs the Wyrhta filled crystal, holding it before him. The artifact orients to this strong source of magic, temporarily distracted as it engages in its primary purpose of drawing Wyrhta and turning into Wielda. Haf closes watches the flows of magic, looking for an opportunity…

[Secure an advantage +wits: strong hit, +1 to next move, +2 to momentum, +1 momentum from Sighted]

…the artifact hungrily draws on the power within the crystal and Haf sees Wielda pulse within it, then channel into further red fruit which rapidly sprout from the branches. Haf realises this is his chance – the artifact cannot be defeated by Wyrhta, it will only consume it, but if he can use the Wielda it generates against it he may have a chance…

[Face danger +wits: strong hit, mark progress, +1 momentum from Sighted]

…Haf grabs at the fruit on the nearest branch.He sees it throbbing with Wielda and allows it to flow into him. He feels a giddying surge of power completely unlike Wyrhta. It is intoxicating and he has the urge to simply grab for more, forgetting his purpose here to simply get more

[Face danger +heart: strong hit, mark progress]

…Haf reins in the wild surge of desire. So this is Wielda, the force that bends nature to its will and begets Wratha. Best I use it quickly, afore it bends me to its will

Haf focuses the power running through him on the artifact, forcing it to submit to the only power it understands…

[Face danger +wits: weak hit, burn momentum —> strong hit, mark progress, +1 momentum from Sighted]

…using Wielda to access the artifact feels like he is speaking another language to it, one it understands. Haf now has control of its functions, but he knows from last time that it will resist forcefully if he tries to shut it down. He gently manipulates its functioning, to see what it can do and how he can stop it…

[Secure an advantage +wits: strong hit, 1 to next move, +2 to momentum, +1 momentum from Sighted]

…Haf is able to watch as Wyrhta is drawn into the artifact and transformed into Wielda. The corruption that is created  from this process is an unintended consequence, in their hubris and lust for power its creators did not count on this occurring even though they surely must have known it was a risk. Haf has a thought: if the artifact were instead to draw on Wratha, not only would the spread of corruption cease, perhaps it could even be lessened. He expands his awareness to the surrounding Wratha and commands the artifact to instead draw in it…

[Face danger +heart: strong hit, +1 momentum from Sighted]

…the artifact remains under Haf’s command and he attempts to alter its source of sustenance. 

[Oracles – action: debate, theme: peace]

The artifact groans and creaks as its limbs and foliage reorient, trying to access a different form of power to that which it was created for. Haf can sense a change in the flows of power around him. The artifact is no longer drawing upon Wyrhta and has opened itself to the surrounding Wratha, but I t seems to be struggling to do anything other than let itself be further corrupted. As Haf watches he is torn, is this enough? The immensity of Wratha in this place is overwhelming, dare he try to reverse it or be content with a possible stop gap? He notices the crystal in the artifact’s branches, still pulsing weakly and then looks to the fruit hanging from the branches. What if the tree could be made to concentrate the Wratha in the same way it has stored Wielda in its fruit and the crystals in the earth below had stored Wyrhta? He reaches out to the artifact again and tries to command it to create a new corrupt fruit…

[Face danger +wits: weak hit, mark progress, mark countdown]

…Haf keeps his mental connection with the artifact, trying to guide the flow of Wratha. He realises instantly this is a foolish move as he can’t help but be touched by it. He feels sickening blackness wash over him. His instinct is to let go of his mental contact immediately but he struggles to hold on for a few moments more to guide the artifact’s actions…

[Face danger +heart:  strong hit, mark progress]

[Resolve challenge: weak hit, suffer -3 spirit]

[Endure stress: miss with a match, -1 momentum]

[Oracle – mystic backlash: You alert someone or something to your presence]

[Fulfil your vow: weak hit, 2 experience, you realise the truth of your quest]

[Oracles – action: hide, theme: path]

…Haf lets darkness ride over him. He is awash in a sea of blight and awful power but keeps a fragment of his will focused on his instruction to the artifact until it is too much to bear and he lets go. He purges his stomach and his head swims. When he comes to his senses he focuses his sight. The artifact appears to be doing what Haf has directed it to, even now he sees black fruit beginning to grow on its limbs. If the artifact is able to continue drawing the blight into itself it will be a slow process, the area surrounding him is still awash with Wratha and after his exposure he feels unable to bear it. Before he closes himself to the sight he notices something else, a presence or awareness that is vaguely familiar. He opens himself to it and for the briefest of moments touches awareness with the Elder Mystics. As always they watch all, however in this moment their attention is focused on the flows of power in this place – the flow of Wielda and Wratha that has just been cut off from them. There is more than disinterested observation, there is yearning. Haf slams his sight shut, although he does not really believe this will place him or this site outside their awareness. His mind is reeling, any sense of success over what he has just achieved is overpowered by dread over what is happening with the godlike beings that dwell on the great plateau. He looks around and suddenly experiences a driving urge to get away from this place. The tree of false life has been neutralised as a threat, harnessed into an asset if he can call it that. But he is still surrounded by Wratha and the decay it has wrought. Looking around he can see a sliver of daylight creeping through the piled rubble on the far wall. He scrambles up and begins digging madly, no longer caring about collapsing the structure further. He is able to make a small hole and forces his way through, crawling out into the piled rubble of the central tower. He climbs down and once he hits stable ground breaks into a sprint, running until he can no longer. The next day or two is a blur as Haf pushes himself through exhaustion to get away from the zone of corruption as quickly as possible before collapsing in a heap. 

When he wakes an unknown time later, he can still feel the presence of Wratha nearby, but he can also feel the spirit of the Wilds here and sobs tears of relief. He continues his journey back to the Elf village, Etana and a small band of hunters meet him half way and escort him solemnly. They do not ask him questions, but Haf suspects Etana will know something of what has occurred. When they reach the village, the clan welcomes him in song. Haf joins them, shares food and then sleeps for two days straight. 

[Sojourn: weak hit, +2 spirit]