Decan 27, year 427, Storm Age - near Thunder River
Nine centuries ago, as the Sun Age waited below history's horizon, a family had lived here. These coloured tiles had formed a mosaic on their entry-hall floor. Now Katsiu was hard-pressed to identify the protective totem beast the tiles had once formed.
"Who were they?" she murmured. Adjusting her skirt, the half-elf knelt in the trench. Two lizard-men had dug the trench for her, in return for her services as a scribe. Their village was negotiating a trade route with the Merchant League. Their race had not existed when the tiles had been laid down.
Katsiu traced the contours of random tiles. She wiped some dirt away. From the distinctive size, aquamarine hues and - she checked the horizon - alignment with the winter sun, this was the place.
A friend at the College of Thoth had shown her a scroll, half-destroyed by time, written in a forgotten language. It had taken Katsiu a month to confirm the sprite's translation. Even then she had been hesitant. The implications of the scroll's veracity were as unsettling as they were profound.
"Border," she breathed. "There would be a border to the mosaic." Unmindful of her skirt, Katsiu crawled along the length of the trench. She almost did not want to know. Halfway along, uncharacteristically impatient, the scribetook a knife from her belt. Scraping furiously, she started prying tiles loose.
A few minutes later, her knife freed rune-carved tiles. Katsiu wasted no time. Removing her headscarf, she bundled the tiles into it and clutched them to her chest as she rose. Without pausing to dust herself off, Katsiu scrambled out of the trench.
She could wash later - after cleaning and inspecting the tiles.
"Scribe." A lizard-man stopped her as she turned toward her camp. "You leave now."
"Our village attacked. You leave now." Muscles rippling under drab scales, he dragged the protesting scribe by the arm towards a riding-lizard.
"Attacked? By the golden ibis, let me go!"
He shoved her against the saddled reptile. Its statue impression was convincing. "Dead return. Storm dead. Go." He lifted the struggling woman to the saddle.
"Storm dead?" Katsiu found herself seated on the lizard. Since a Demon Prince had overthrown the Lord of the Underworld a few years ago, not all those who died in an Aura Storm passed into the afterlife. At least, that was the fireside tale.
Katsiu dug in her saddlebags for her coin pouches. "Here." She tossed a pouch at the lizard-man.
Groaning in displeasure, the riding-lizard lurched into motion at the slap to its flank. Lumbering away from the dig site, it picked up speed.
"Mordis in a day," Katsiu calculated. She did not want to find out if restless souls barred from the underworld attracted fierce Aura Storms. She did want a bowl of beer over which to plan her next move. She also wanted one of those shiny knives of the metal the gnolls called steel, but that would have to wait until she returned to the Citadel of Hawks. Until then, she prayed.
If the runes on the tiles matched those on Avari Star's scroll, it meant two things. By Thunder River, a thousand years ago, a culture had existed that matched none in recorded history. Someone had meant to make sure that culture stayed out of recorded history.
The timing of the attack on the village could be no coincidence. In recent years, the gods had made the half-elf scribe's life more interesting than
"This can't be worse than Oppidum Veto," she told her uninterested mount. "Had to fly out of there by ornithopter. The Royal Court won't give me a permit to go back. It was snake cultists that time. Wonder what it'll be this time."
Her mount did not venture any opinion.
"I'll rip Avari's wings off if it is snakes again."