Report on Terra Nova by Nick Reineck

17th of September, Gaius Marula, Master Cartographer of the Roman Empire.

We have only been on the continent for a few days and what an exciting few days they have been! Terra Nova possesses one of the most diverse ecosystems I have ever encountered, rivaling or even surpassing that of the African interior. Not an hour after landfall, we encountered a pack of behemoths, a species thought only to live in the Far East. The behemoths were not unlike the small bird-like pack hunters—raptors, I believe they are called—that I’ve encountered in Mongolia, only these were large enough to look me in the eye! I suspect these are not the only behemoths here; much larger ones can be heard in the distance. Despite our hesitance, we eventually ventured deeper inland and toward the unknown.

One of the first things one notices about Terra Nova (if one is attuned to such things) is the magic. I never had the aptitude for the art, but our company’s mages claim that the magic in the ley lines feels “wrong” and that they refuse to cast any spells while touching Terra Novan soil. Fortunately, we had suspected this and had supplied a number of soul gems and witchfires as replacement energy sources for them.

With the help of a guide who joined our party in Atlantis, we were able to navigate our way to an outpost set up by the Atlanteans. The outpost was more of a small town than a fortress. A small market place lined the buildings as both Atlanteans and Terra Novans moved, going about their business. A barrack has been set aside for my men and I. I plan to meet with the Atlantean captain—Kytarus, I think his name is, to see if I could borrow some troops for our journey tomorrow.

18th of September,

According to Kytarus, the river a few miles away from the outpost is the farthest anyone has traveled inland, at least from an Atlantean or Roman standpoint. The Terra Novans do not feel it is safe for anyone unaccustomed to the land to go farther. So be it. Thankfully, our guide managed to find us some Terra Novan hunters willing to take us as far as the Great Lakes (wherever those are), but they assure us that they are quite far, so we’ll be sure to gather plenty of information along the way.

We left the outpost not too long after sunrise. Our company included myself, eight legionnaires, two battlemages, the Atlantean translator, and the Terra Novan trackers. We traveled mostly by horseback, making good time. With the help of our translator, I was able to glean some information out of the trackers (who have been mostly silent thus far). According to them, humans are very low on the food chain here, but if one knows how to live without taking advantage of the land, life is much easier.

Late, nearing midnight,

I feel as if I’m being watched. The low, red glow of the witchfire does not do well to penetrate the primordial darkness of the forest. This is a place not meant for man. A legionnaire and the trackers are on watch. Do they see the red eyes staring at us from the dark or hear the flutter of large wings on the air? I do. Something is out there…

 19th of September,

Turns out I’m not mad after all. Soon after we set off this morning, I asked one of the Terra Novans about any nocturnal predators in the forest. He proceeded to list off every creature he knew from behemoths to wolves to even something called a “Wendigo,” though those only exist much farther north. Finally, he told me about the Mothman, called so because of their nocturnal tendencies, wings, and not much else. Here’s what I was able to learn:

The mothmen are a mysterious species of large, winged humanoids. They are highly intelligent (on the same grounds as a human) and live off a strictly carnivorous diet. While not possessing any magical abilities, their primary means of hunting are powerful psychic attacks, crippling their prey’s minds before carrying them away to wherever they go during the day. Their bodies are completely black, rendering them almost invisible at night, apart from their large, glowing red eyes.

I told our guides of what I saw last night. For a split second, the impassive exterior of the hunter broke. With that, I fell back into the company, not wanting to scare our guides any more than need be.

As I write this, a large herd of elephant-like animals not unlike the great mammoths of Siberia have decided to walk alongside our caravan, though these are smaller and look much more primitive. The trees are more spaced apart here than they were farther south. I have a feeling that we will be seeing much more of the larger fauna the farther north we go. The calves of the mammoths have started to wander closer to our company; they are nearly the size of our horses.

The herd stayed with us for nearly half of our trek today. I would have loved to get closer to them for further study, though I’ve been informed that that would have resulted in the immediate trampling of us and our horses. Lovely.

Late,

I don’t see it, but I can feel it. In my mind. Studying us, studying me. I guess I would say I’m honored, if I didn’t know what the end result was.

 23rd of September,

Not much to report for the past few days. More of the same forested landscape, the occasional deer or wolf or something. Anything vaguely interesting is quickly dismissed by the others; they say we need to keep moving. As if they know what we need. I am the one who is supposed to report to the Emperor.

The mothmen still stalk us, though I have no idea where they go during the day. You would think that someone would see something. Other have started to notice them as well, first the mages and the Atlantean, then the rest of the company. We pretty much only stop for the horses to sleep now. Everyone else just lies awake waiting for the shadows to jump out and take them.

24th of September,

Well, last night was certainly an experience. I had my first true encounter with a mothman. It was all very strange. We had settled down for the night as the sun started to set and the fire had yet to reach full force. And just like that, everyone present (with the exception of myself) started dropping like flies into a deep slumber.

That’s when I saw it, standing on the edge of the shadow, advancing forward as the sunlight retreated into the depth of the forest. It looked like a shadow gliding across the forest floor, giving no indication that its feet were touching the ground. The mothman wrapped itself in its wings, leaving no head or neck; only two glowing red orbs revealed where its head lay amidst the shadows. Only the fire separated us now. Even its glow was not strong enough to shed any light on the creature. As if it was so dark that not even light could show its true nature.

We have been watching you, Gaius Marula. Will you not sit? The mothman crouched (or sat; I could not say) next to the fire. A single hand, thin and clawed, appeared from beneath its wings and gestured for me to sit. A normally familiar gesture, but the way this thing moved had an alien quality to it, as if it had only learned the gesture for this meeting and did not understand what it meant or how to properly do it. Reluctantly, I sat.

“Who is ‘we’?” I asked.

The hive. Its red eyes were unblinking. You can navigate the cave. You can open the gate to Agartha. Bring back Those Who Left. Your soul is strong; it will serve nicely. More red orbs appeared in the distance, at least a dozen, by my guess. With that, a thin, jagged red line, which glowed like its eyes, grew across its` face. Sharp, black angles formed as the line curved up its face. A smile. The thing had tried to smile. And a very comforting smile at that.

“What are you talking about? Explain yourself, creature!” I managed to say to the mothman. A pressure formed in the back of my skull as the other mothmen intruded themselves into my mind.

The mothman continued, Descend to the depths of Gaia (Midgard, Jord, Geb, Earth). Open the gateway. Release the First Ones. And sleep.

All I remember next is waking up this morning next to dying coals and one Hades of a backache from sleeping on the bare earth.

Something must be said about their voices. They speak through your mind, their voice coming from all directions, as it echoes throughout your skull.

25th of September,

After inquiring throughout the company, no one seems to have any recollection of anything out of the ordinary happening at all last night. In fact, the paranoia that seemed to follow us like the plague is entirely absent as well. I have a feeling that I know why. Which begs the question, why am I the one the moths want? It is my understanding that the souls of magic users are much more powerful than those of a normal mortal and we have two perfectly fit battlemages and an Atlantean. Surely, they must know I am less qualified than them… and much more valuable.

Later,

Our company has suffered a terrible blow. Not an hour after my last entry, we were attacked by behemoths. The raptors, at least two varieties, and a Rex. From our arrival, I knew there were behemoths in Terra Nova, but a Rex… I had only ever seen one in the Coliseum, a gift to Caesar from the Jade Emperor, but this beast would have torn Caesar’s to pieces. I now see why the scholars have taken to calling them ‘terrible lizards’.

It all happened so suddenly. Within seconds, raptors were on us from all directions. The larger ones went directly for our horses while the smaller ones, the same species as those I saw earlier, leapt at us. The soldiers were able to hold them off somewhat easily (at the expense of all but two of our horses) while I managed to avoid getting my throat torn out by the sickle claws of the raptor tearing my horse out from underneath me. We thought we had won when the raptors started to retreat, but we soon learned that the attack had attracted something much worse. The Rex lumbered into view, our battered company formed a tight circle, shields ready (as if they would help), and it seemed like it was going to avoid us if we let it have the horses. That’s when I saw them, up in the trees: the glowing red orbs focused on the Rex. It turned its monstrous head in our direction, its eyes filled with a newfound intelligence. The beast roared at us, a deafening sound (even now my ears still ring) that broke through our ranks without the monster even moving. Then it charged.

We scattered as the behemoth headed our way, but not all of us were fast enough. One legionnaire was crushed underneath its foot, steel armor doing nothing to protect him from the weight of the creature. Another was knocked aside, like a child’s doll, by a swing of the Rex’s head, the force of the blow throwing him into a far-off tree. A sickening crunch accompanied the impact, though I doubt he was even still alive by then. Arrows, fireballs, and lightning bolts flew at it, hoping to drive the beast off, but to no avail. If anything, it made it worse. Two more down: one of the Terra Novans and another legionnaire. His lack of armor meant the Rex had no qualms with eating the Terra Novan alive, a sight I wish I could forget.

As darkness grew, the mothmen began swooping down from the trees. They plucked us from the ground the second we entered the shadows, all the while screaming into my mind, We warned you, Gaius Marula! You will help us, Gaius Marula!

“Stay in the light!” I tried to warn them, but I was lost amongst the chaos. Then, as if our prayers had been answered, a new shape leapt from the darkness. A huge, burly form collided with the Rex’s head with enough force to render it unconscious. More of the shapes appeared, knocking the mothmen from the sky and tearing off their wings with their bare hands. This was enough to convince the remaining mothmen to retreat. We survived, some of us at least. The First Ones will be awakened from their slumber!

All that remains of our company is myself, a battlemage, two legionnaires, and the Terra Novan that wasn’t eaten alive.

27th of September,

Our rescuers have begun traveling with us since the attack. And as it turns out, they’re not human. Of course. Like the elusive keepers of Shangri-La, these are large, beast-like humanoids. Without our Atlantean translator, communication has been difficult, but I learned that the Terra Novans call them Sasquatch. The Sasquatch are roughly an arm length taller than the average human and are completely covered in coarse, brown fur, which grants them excellent camouflage both day and night. While they seem quite intelligent, they don’t speak, or if they can, they don’t do it much. Which is all fine by me as long as they stay out of my mind.

After several minutes of communicating with the Terra Novan, I learned that before we reach the Great Lakes, we’ll come upon a river. This would not be a problem if we hadn’t lost most of our horses and almost all of our soul gems to the behemoths. But he assures me that that’s still a few days away so I have plenty of time to figure it out. Lovely. I’ll swim across if I have to. I don’t care what monstrosities lurk in there, waiting for me.

Night,

I feel like I should just leave the company entirely. I could make it on my own… What am I saying? Everything on this continent is looking to kill me and everything else for that matter. That being said, I feel like we’re much closer than the Terra Novan let’s on. We’ll just have to wait and see.

28th of September,

We found the corpse of a behemoth. A big quadruped not quite as large the Rex. Though, I must say, it has quite an impressive skull. The skull itself is nearly ten feet long, sporting a large frill covering the back of its neck and large horns sprouting out on its nose and above the eyes. The two horns above the eyes are almost four feet long, with the nasal one much shorter. The behemoth appears to have bled to death, as there are several large slashes across its lower side, no doubt thanks to the raptors we encountered earlier.

We quickly set to work cutting off any edible meat from the body since we were running low (the Sasquatch eat a lot), and went back to the trail. A corpse that big is bound to attract more predators and I don’t care to be around when they show up.

Late,

We stopped for the night near the top of a ravine. According to the Terra Novan, there’s a cave at the bottom. A cave. A cave. A cave I need to navigate. Someone is sitting on the outskirts of the camp. I need his lantern…

Later,

What have I done? I’m inside the cave. There’s blood on my hands and on my sword. My only light is this one lantern and there is no opening anywhere near that I can see. I can hear bats (at least I hope they’re bats) flying above me.

I picked a direction and started walking, though it would appear that I have gone deeper into the cave. My chosen path was level for nearly an hour, before I fell down a steep slope. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to find a spot gentle enough for me to climb out.

My best hope is that the cave has other entrances further down. Thankfully, the witchfire in my lantern has not gone out, though I must be careful. Without a magic user to control it, one loose spark could burn me alive.

Later still,

I have lost track of time, with no sun, no light, other than this accursed lantern. The cave just runs deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper still. The low blue glow from the patches of soul gems growing out of exposed ley lines are the only respite from the constant red of my lantern.

30th of September (so I’ve been told),

I’ve never thought I’d see the day where I’d be thankful for a mothman. After my last entry, one of the creatures found me and proposed a deal. I find this gate they spoke of and in return, they will fly me safely from the cave. It even went so far as to clear my head from the madness that was beginning to set in.

Deeper still, you must delve. Gaius Marula. Gods of Beyond tried to hide the gateway, but we found it and now you must open it. Adorned by the bodies of those who are waiting, the Great Gate to Agartha stands ready.

Later,

I continued in the direction the mothman said. I expected it to follow to make sure I would go through with my end of the deal, but that would not appear so. No glowing red eyes to be seen.

The deeper I go, the greater dread I feel. I now understand what my battlemages must have felt when they entered this land. The exposed ley lines no longer form soul gems, just spark and seep their unnatural energies onto the cave floor.

I have reached a large chamber, the largest I’ve seen since entering the cave. There appears to be only one entrance, though there’s no real way to be sure. On the far end of the room is the Gate. I cannot see it yet, but the closer I get to the far wall, the more I wish to tear my own guts out.

It takes all my being to not run in terror as I write this. The Gate is just that, a massive door built into the cave wall, reaching from floor to ceiling. The top of the door is carved with the skulls of great beasts like the behemoths and the mammoths, while those of man and lesser beasts line the sides. The door itself is a single piece of smooth stone; the only mark is a circle containing a multitude of handprints. Further inspection shows that there is a handprint for each of the major races of mortal beings, from the slender four-fingered hand of the naga to the wide palms of the dwarves.

“What is the meaning of this?” I yell, but there is no one to answer me.

The answer seems obvious. I must place my hand on the mark of man.

I placed my hand of the mark and almost immediately, the carvings started to glow. The eyes of the skulls lining the door burn with a green flame. Despite no longer being in contact with the door, I can feel my soul being drained away. I don’t know how much longer I will last, but I will try to record the events as best I can.

As my soul is pulled through the Gate, an opening is appearing, split down the middle of the unbroken surface of the door.

Sun. I can see sun. Not our sun. A wrong sun. The Gate is open enough to see into. It looks like Gaia, but not. Overgrown, primal, old trees cover the landscape as far as I can see. Something is approaching, something monstrous. It wants out.

I cannot let it. If this journal is found. Let it find its way to Caesar. No one can open this gateway. No one must ever come close to the Gate ever again. As I write, the being draws near. If I pass through, maybe the Gate will close…

●  ●  ●

5th of October, Tidus of Crete, Battlemage serving under Gaius Marula.

 It has been seven days since Master Marula ran into the cave alone and only now are we finding any trace of him. Aranck, the Terra Novan tracker, was able to get us this far. We found the lantern he killed Marcus for, his journal (in which I am writing now), and his sword, but the trail ends here.

I do not wish to stay here much longer. The door carved on the far side of the chamber is releasing a massive amount of Wild Magic, almost as if it is the source of it all.

The last entry before my own says that no one should come back here again. I couldn’t agree more.

●  ●  ●

13th of November,

By order of Caesar, Emperor of Rome, and Maera, Empress of Atlantis, there is to be no further exploration of Terra Nova by Roman or Atlantean forces. Henceforth, Terra Nova will be under the complete control of its native inhabitants.

The journal of Gaius Marula will locked away within the vaults of Rome until such a time that its contents are no longer considered dangerous.

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