Carefully, Alchos inspected the glow emerging from a large sinkhole about twenty paces from where he hid. It must have been created by the Highbarrow canal project.
Villagers from Highbarrow, a few days to the northwest, had tried to create a canal from the river towards their fields. Mostly, they'd upset the folks in Edith's Crossing and cause a few minor floods. And, apparently, created this sinkhole.
Definitely firelight down in the hole. Shifts but not like something moving about; every once in a while it flares, probably when whoever is down there adds more fuel. He ducked low, almost onto his belly, and crept forward. As he did, he slowly became aware of a low sound, repetitive and breathy.
"Qaiidœl Kelur, Qaiidœl Kelur, lethu jo qebeex, dufõxå jo fõ kij œdib, lethu thokuy mbiatha thouy..."
It repeated, clearly some sort of chant in a language Alchos didn't recognize. What he did recognize, however, was the race of the two individuals knelt face down near the fire. The elder was a Genasi woman, of fire soul, her szuldar pulsing in time with the chanting. She glared at the hooded figures around her, but made no move to challenge them.
The other was a younger male Genasi, earthen souled. He looked enough like the woman to be of some relation to her, but he was not nearly as defiant in his gaze. He stared bleakly at the ground, his szuldar pulsing in the same time as hers, only fainter. Alchos frowned at the scene, creeping closer to the edge of the sinkhole. The drop was at least 20 feet, but already he was sizing up the need to commit to it.
One of the hooded figures broke from the bunch. Throwing back her hood, she revealed herself to be Half-orc, bald and...
Those cuts almost look like szuldar...
Alchos couldn't quite make out what that could mean. The Half-Orc did not appear to have any Genasi blood, and her cuts oozed a dark red, almost black. She seemed to be unarmed, but she stretched a hand out towards each of the Genasi as she continued to chant. As far as Alchos could make out, she had three accomplices, who circled the Genasi and Half-Orc, also chanting.
Quietly, Alchos drew his daggers. The fire dimmed. Alchos' gaze darted to it, but it looked unchanged save that the light shining from it had weakened somehow. Shadows stretched from the hooded figures and Half-Orc, creeping towards the Genasi. Now or never.
Alchos leapt into the sinkhole, daggers hurtling from his hands. One sank into a hooded face, but the other went wide as the chanting ended abruptly and a second hooded figure rolled away. The Half-Orc roared and the third chanter drew their own dagger, circling towards Alchos. As he landed, Alchos drew his swords and spun to face the Half-Orc.
"What in the name of the Gods is going on here?" he snarled. The Half-Orc sneered back; the two hooded figures stayed silent. The Genasi woman croaked, "They took us from our parents' farm! They said they had a use for us..."
"None of it good, I'm sure," replied Alchos, as the hooded figures charged him. The closest swung high and missed as Alchos ducked slightly, the trailing figure managed to score a slice along Alchos' arm. Alchos hissed, but spun, returning the favor and cutting the figure along the chest. They fell, bleeding heavily. The Half-Orc yelled a portion of the chant and the light of the fire went away, albeit briefly. The two captured Genasi screamed; their szuldar flared. In that brief darkness, Alchos could almost swear the Half-Orc had glowing lines on her skin, but as the light returned, she looked shocked and the lines faded. Alchos didn't wait. Dashing past the last remaining hooded figure, he plunged his sword into the Half-Orc. Up close, he could see that her skin had been ravaged by some sort of ritual scarring, with old wounds re-opened and bleeding. She coughed blood at him.
When he looked around, the final hooded figure had retreated. For a moment, he considered going looking for them, but instead chose to free the two captives. The shadows seemed to dance around him at every moment, but no attack came before the three could leave the sinkhole.
(Language created using Vulgar, Seed for this language: 0.8010841223189176)