In the morning, as the elves cross the meadow to explore the areas of human activity, Hepalonia asks her cousin if he thinks there will be ghosts in these ruins.
“There’s probably a higher chance of there being ghosts here than in a lot of other places,” he says knowledgeably. “There was a ghost in the ruined keep, although… that could have been a recent addition.” He remains unsure of the relationship between the ghost and the keep’s most recent inhabitant.
Heppa thinks back on the creature. She did not have very much time to observe it, but she recalls that it had a humanoid-type skull and was the approximate height of a human, though there was no flesh on it. “Is this a common problem for humans? To have…”
“Ghosts just lying around? Well, if someone dies violently or in some morbid emotional state…” Tric Manu begins musing, and Hepalonia smiles. His speculation really does help her explore the search space of possibilities.
The cousins bat around ideas on what makes ghosts and what signs indicate their presence. Although they have limited personal experience with the topic, they scrape together an understanding from the stories and legends they have heard from Breda, Glammur, and Thrandolil. If somebody dies in a situation in which they cannot be given the appropriate burial rites, that creates the potential for them to become a ghost, but it does not guarantee it—just makes their soul fodder, as it were. A battlefield of the type that would have necromantic artifacts fits those criteria. For there to actually be ghosts, though, magic must be involved; ghosts are not naturally occurring. They are brought about on purpose, by intentional action and only through necromantic magic. When a necromancer creates a ghost, they give it orders that it has to follow; a ghost will not exist without a mission.
“Huh. I wonder what that ghost’s mission was,” Heppa says, thinking back to Kachen’s keep.
“I think it was to keep dwarves out,” Tric opines. “I still put it at fifty-fifty whether Kachen summoned the ghost or it had been there for a long time.”
Heppa is pensive, thinking this all over and trying to puzzle out how it works. “And then, what? You just leave the ghost behind when you leave? How effective would it be? Maybe he’s not a very advanced necromancer?”
“I think that’s also possible,” Tric agrees. “Maybe he’s just dabbling in necromantic arts.”
“Does raising a ghost really make you a necromancer?” Heppa asks.
“Yes,” Tric states flatly.
“Oh.” Her cousin jokingly asks her if she has a pet ghost, and she tries to think of an appropriate mission for one. “Maybe just: watch our things.” In broad daylight, in an open field, ghosts seem a lot less scary than they did in the dark at the ruined keep.
Here around them now, though, are more ruins, ones that require their attention. Tric’s first order of business is to select a new campsite. The treeline is far enough away that it does not make good sense for them to hike all the way back and forth every day of their exploration. He pulls out a stretch of ribbon and looks around for a good place to tie it. No roofs remain, but there are quite few stone enclosures. Tric chooses one of these rather than one of the pockets of trees scattered about the area. Those seem to be mostly made of short skinny specimens, though each has one really tall, well-established tree in the middle shading the others. None of the buildings are quite as spacious as Kachen’s keep, but Tric finds one with ample space for just him and his cousin. The stone walls only go up to hip-height here, and the interior is actually dug down a bit into the earth. He wonders if this might have been a stable rather than a human home. Having made his selection, he reconsiders putting up a ribbon just yet. Best to wait until morning, in case the night proves this location to be too creepy. He would not want them to have to hastily flee the area, leaving a ribbon behind to mislead others into thinking it is safe.
Hepalonia, meanwhile, pokes around the area looking for anything interesting whatsoever. There are no boxes of potatoes or piles of bog iron here, but she does find various utensils and tools. The most promising are a large pair of tongs and an old rusty knife. She also finds evidence of where wooden fences used to be, suggesting that there were animal enclosures or perhaps gardens. Many of these are overgrown, with wildflowers and grasses returning them to natural meadow conditions. In other cleared locations, young trees have taken root. Certainly, it seems like farming and pasturing of animals happened in the area. There are the remains of quite a few homes, the nicest of which Tric has chosen for their own accommodations.
A squeaking sounds nearby, and Heppa looks up nervously at a nearby cluster of trees. She does not hear the fluttering of wings, but she cannot help thinking of the bats that attacked her in the tunnels. She hastily rejoins her cousin, presenting the implements she has found while they share lunch together at their new campsite. Tric looks at one rusted-through pan, wondering what she expects him to do with it. Heppa proudly shows off the tongs, thinking they could be useful for making doughnuts, but Tric assures her that he will take care of all food preparation himself. She happily plays around with the long-handled tongs for a while, using them to move around whatever she can get them to pick up.
Tric has little interest in the mundane tools Heppa has found; their practicality reminds him too much of dowsing rods. However, the rusty knife does catch his eye. Compared to this knife, Tric’s has been well-taken care of. Whatever wooden handle it once had is gone now, leaving the tang completely exposed and the blacksmith’s symbol visible. This maker’s mark matches the one on Tric’s own knife that the dwarvish blacksmith Garbor revealed to him. He takes this as a good sign that they are on the right track, but it is accompanied by a flutter of nervousness in his stomach.
There is a clatter as his stack of firewood collapses. Tric looks over to see Heppa with the tongs, trying to grab one of the fallen branches that he gathered earlier. He smiles at her antics and brushes aside any moodiness. “No staves yet?” he asks her, returning to the job for Uncle Thran. “Wands? Crystals? Funny-looking rune stones?”
“No, just a bunch of household tools. I didn’t see any signs of battle, but I was mostly looking in the buildings. These could be useful though,” she says, finally succeeding at snagging a branch with the tongs and moving it to the stone circle he has set up for a firepit.