The sounds of life died away as he strode further south into the forest. Here the trees grew darker and shorter, but closer together, casting ominous shadows in every direction as the sun sank in the evening sky. Darkness was falling, and with it a hush of silence as even the critters knew better than to make any sound that might give them away.
He was on the trail, following the supposed source of the gnoll invasion. The mystery of the glowing purple eye haunted his footsteps as he walked into the deep shadows.
But he was well accustomed to places much darker than this. The terrors of the lower planes far exceeded anything this plane could offer. His pace was quick, but out of curiosity rather than nerves. Following him closely was his minion, a dark creature of the void.
He paused for a moment at the base of one of the dark trees, this one curiously straighter and smoother than the others. Muttering something in a harsh and gutteral language, he waved his hands in front of his eyes and shivered. The cold grasp of the fel sight hung around him like a cloak, allowing him to see what mortals dared not to.
His eyes fell at once on the tree he stood next to. It was not a tree, but rather a pillar of stone engraved with strange glyphs now visible to demonic eyes. He studied the markings carefully, discerning from it more information than any lesser mortal could hope to understand.
A frigid breeze whipped through the trees, rustling his robe yet not disturbing even a blade of grass. The winds of the nether touched only him, the wearer of the fel sight. He glanced around quickly, seeing no other anomalies, and dismissed the shroud with a wave. The breeze vanished immediately, yet he still shivered for a moment.
Even without the fel sight, he noticed now that there were pillars interspersed with the real trees all around him. He stood inside a massive ruin long since overtaken by the forest. Slabs of marble lay strewn around the forest floor, the remains of what was once beautiful architecture. This had been a place of great power, and even now he could feel its lingering traces.
He walked over the broken flooring and found a crumbling archway, twice as tall as he was and as wide. Beyond the arch was a raised stone altar, cracked and covered in vines. As he neared it, a burnt stench filled his nostrils, and he saw char marks on the table. Fresh marks. A deep red substance dripped slowly from the vines on the altar, pooling on the ground. The nature of the ritual performed here was becoming ever clearer.
A deep thundering noise broke the silence. It came from beyond a large marble wall, still intact, to the east. The thundering was repeated, and again in a rhythmic pattern. The source was some distance away, yet even from here the ground shook slightly.
Master and minion moved quickly toward the disturbance. As they approached they could recognize several distinct rhythms. Something or some things were moving in the distance.
Closer to the large, smooth wall the pillars and trees thinned out gradually, toward what would have been a very large courtyard in ages past. Their view was obstructed only by the wall, which now seemed to be a hundred feet tall at least, and stretching a long way into the distance on either side.
Up close, the marble was not as smooth as it looked from afar. Chunks were missing here and there, tiny chips and larged pieces had fallen all around on the ground. A large vertical crack appeared a little to the side, one wide enough for a human-sized figure to slip through.
The wall was thick, at least 10 feet straight through, and the crevice narrowed uncomfortably on the other end. Yet through the opening he could say what lay beyond.
A gigantic bonfire dominated the center of an enormous ritual circle. Rows and rows of smaller fires were set at intervals out in a circle at varying distance from the center. The flames danced furiously, spurred on by a violent wind. The ground itself heaved under the weight of several dozen incredibly large figures surrounding the bonfire.
The stench alone should have been a giveaway. The thundering roars, the bloated masses of flesh and disfigured faces illuminated by the flames only confirmed the terrifying truth.