Days pass while the magical supplies are prepared.
During this time, Mishka spends a few nights some distance from the kaer, observing the skies to the east. On the second night of her vigil, she watches one of the large winged creatures pass within a quarter mile. On the third night another flyer passes within a couple hundred yards. The wingspan must be at least 40 feet. When Mishka shouts a greeting, the creature waggles its wings and points its head east. Then it beats its wings to gain altitude and turns toward the mountains.
Shynya receives a note from Zinder, stating the he has been detached to Yamousoukro Oasis. He expresses his regrets that they cannot meet before she leaves, and looks forward to that future time when they can be together again.
Finally, everything is ready and eight camels leave Kaer Uqbar as the sun sets. Each person rides one camel and has one remount. Skirting Uqbar City to the east, the group heads south then west, angling toward the Tassa-Takorat range and hoping to find evidence of this clan. After two days of fruitless searching, they consider abandoning the effort and resuming a southern course. Then Mishka notices a half dozen mantis construct tracks.
Mishka follows the tracks to a small oasis. She sneaks into the oasis, and discovers an empty pond surrounded by brown and brittle fields and the bones of cattle. There are also the desiccated corpses of Tassa-Takorat.
Hundreds of green-robed bodies lay amongst the grasses. Some wear red sashes. Half-orc, human, dwarf, and troll bodies have been arranged end-to-end in some giant pattern. Straight lines and curves composed of people cover the ground. Everyone suddenly realizes that the design spells the word OGLAT in massive letters.
The group spends hours gathering the bodies into a large pile that becomes a pyre. As the smoke curls into the air, they mount up and continue south. The next day Mishka experiences a vision while in the saddle.
Your sight blurs for a moment, and you see a walled town. Armored dwarves watch diligently from the parapets, armor gleaming in the bright sunlight. A final few stranglers hurry inside before the gates are closed. For a moment, you marvel at the beauty of the construction before your eyes are drawn to a nearby bridge that spans a meager river.
A host of constructs mass on the other side of the bridge. Five groups of mantis constructs, each at least a hundred strong, stand in neat squares a quarter mile east of the bridge. Thin, loping constructs with two mouths and skin color of oxygen depleted blood mill at the fringes of the formations. Humans on horseback, accompanied by large eyeless dogs, ride at the head of the construct columns.
For many minutes, the walled town and the construct army face off. Then a human barks orders, and the mantis formations lurch forward. Silently they march across the bridge and up to the walls. The two-mouths clamber up the walls and the humans fling spells upon the defenders.
That view fades and you hear a voice in your head, which you know to be that of Upandal. “My people lay as they fell, a hundred and fifty years ago. Bring them peace, and you shall gain my blessing in crossing the Tainted Land.”
Mishka relates the vision to her comrades, but is unsure of what it means.
Soon the group reaches the Imperial Highway and decides to follow it south. Near marker stone 1630, they notice four stone stele about thirty yards east of the highway. The stele have been arranged as corners of a large square. Each stele is a pyramid about 3 feet high, and each face of the stele bears a carving of a stylized equilateral triangle.
Mishka falls into an air shaft and tumbles into a subterranean room. She is attacked by two large mold creatures that exude a corrosive acid. Oglat follows her down the shaft and dispatches the mold creatures with his flaming blade. Perhaps responding to the noise of combat, two zombie-like dwarves enter the fray and are destroyed rather easily.
Shynya and Yaryar climb down the shaft via rope and the group begins exploring. They quickly realize that this is part of a larger complex, most of which has collapsed. But the few accessible rooms contain some valuable items: a tome on airship construction, a book listing donations to a temple of Upandal, and an ancient map of the area. The map shows locations absent from the kaer’s pre-Scourge maps, including a town called South March and a mine; the area south of the town is designated as the Tainted Land. Mishka also tidies up a shrine to Upandal.
Perhaps a day south of the underground ruins, Shynya experiences a headache that steadily grows in intensity. She must retreat north to relieve the symptoms. Mishka and Yaryar cautiously move forward and within a mile discover a wide chasm that bisects breaks the Imperial Highway.
It is unclear whether the group can proceed south without harming Shynya. Instead, they turn east, seeking the mine indicated on the map from the ruins.