Ambrose Francois spent his younger years as a student of an prestigious arcane academy, but decided after completing his qualifications to strike out on his own. Since then he has been a relic hunter, delving into ruins to find valuable objects to sell to researchers or collectors.
20 years ago, a new frontier town settled between the northern borders of Illivan and its neighbor. A group of exhibitioners soon started to scout the nearby forest to see if they could find anything useful; a lake, some rivers, local wildlife. They happen upon an ancient ruin…
The ruin is unlike any known civilization. It’s unique style of architecture is foreign, and any designs that may have been present had eroded away centuries ago. The first and second foray into the ruin were failures, the explorers driven away by a population of forest goblins. Short, black-skinned burrowers that have made the ruin their own.
Now, rumors have spread about a mysterious ruin and they have reached Ambrose’s ears. Ambrose has arrived at the frontier village and has spent a few days gathering information from the locals about the location of the ruin.
Ambrose rises for the day and meditates as dictated by his morning ritual. He sets out into the forest, a tangle of vines and roots, until he finds a riverbed. The banks are rocky, but clear of obstructions. He’s right on track per his investigations, and continues up the bank. He’s able to make it to he ruin, but not without an odd encounter. A number of dead deer have been left strewn across the rocky banks decomposing for no more than a day or two. Their bodies only partly eaten. Chunks of hide are cut away and the rest is left in the sun. Must be goblin work.
After arriving at the ruin, Ambrose circles around it to find an ideal entrance. There are many holes where the ruin has collapsed, but Ambrose stops when he sees two goblins emerge, bickering. The fighting escalates until one goblin hits the other in the head with a rock. The collapsed goblin wails in pain until a third emerges that takes both inside. Taking the opportunity for a distraction, Ambrose sneaks in.
The goblins have burrowed deep beneath the ruins. The deeper Ambrose delves the worse the stench. In trying to save his nostrils and avoid detection, he stays close to the surface. A tunnel opens into a vestibule inside the ruin, major openings in the walls light the room with sun. Two goblins sunbathe while napping. Ambrose is able to sneak by but is startled when directly in front of the napping monsters when he hears a deep growl from behind him, deeper in the tunnels. Something much larger than a goblin.
Ambrose hurries along into a tunnel that was a part of the original ruins. There are murals in here, safe from the weathering effects of the world. They are simple, depicting a crowd growing until it surrounds an object or maybe a person. Strangely the subject in the center is too worn away to make out. Ambrose continues to the end of the passage where it ends in a small room. A slight crevice in the wall lets in enough sunlight to light the pedestal in the center. Upon it sits an ornate, bronze lantern with four opaque, colored panels; white, blue, red, and black.
Sensing the ominous atmosphere of the room, Ambrose steadies himself to lift the lantern; nothing happens. He briefly inspects it and places it gently in this backpack. As he make his way out the way he came it is immediately noticed that the murals have changed. Instead of people crowding there are now rough, black strokes. In the center before is now a single large eye.
The paints seem the be as old and weathered as the old murals and not fresh in any sense. Concerned, Ambrose hurries to the vestibule. The sun outside hangs far lower than it should, something is wrong. He is suddenly made aware of a man-sized monster on a ledge above where he first entered the room. How long has it been there? The beast heaves with its breath. Inhaling deeply and aggressively. Ambrose books it for an exit in the wall, jumping out just in time to avoid the monsters charge that follows him through the exit
Outside on the edge of the ruin, Ambrose begins a fight for his life against a monster unfamiliar to him. The creature reminds Ambrose of a goblin, but it is much too large. The beast breaks its club on the ground when he misses Ambrose with his swing. Tossing it aside the monster draws a nasty, broken blade. It drips a horrid black ooze. Ambrose sidesteps and gouges deep into the monsters abdomen with his longsword, but the beast is able to make a cut on Ambrose’s shoulder.
The beast staggers to the ground, roaring, while Ambrose makes his escape, certain that the beast is too wounded to follow. Running through the forest, he starts to feel slow and heavy. Ambrose has been poisoned, though he struggles to keep going. He makes his way to the dead deer he saw earlier; they are now half-rotten. Ambrose collapses.
He wakes with a jolt under a small hunter’s shelter. A man is sitting on the ground nearby and is happy to see Ambrose awake. He introduces himself as Alton. He tells Ambrose he found him passed out in the forest and brought him near the town. To thank Alton, Ambrose offers what he can to make even. Alton suggests he let him travel together to Illivan. Ambrose agrees, no harm in that.
Ambrose heads to the inn to retrieve it he rest of his items. The townsfolk are worried when they see him, alerting him that he’s been gone for several days. Ambrose collects a crowd of locals as he explains what happened and reveals the lantern. There is a crack formed on the white pane, it stretched all the way across, branching once. Was that there before? When asked who found him, Ambrose remarks Alton. The townsfolk aren't familiar with the name and don’t know whom he means, but attest that there are many hunters who come and go every few weeks. It’s not uncommon. Ambrose leaves the inn with the good faith of the townsfolk. He meets up with Alton and takes off to the next village, a day away.