"What in the Nine Hells is that?" Harold asked.
The little thief stared at a broken form not much taller than himself but broad and muscular as an ape. It had a coat of greyish fur and a thick mane of black hair surrounding a face like a cross between a human's and a wolf's.
"That," said the ranger turning the dead body over with his foot, "that is a gibberling."
He bent and felt the muscles in its hand then touched its neck, the spine snapped like a stick. "Still stiff, killed last night, thrown, look at that stone, that's what broke its neck."
Underneath the dead beast's head was a rounded block, a large square of stone worn down by time.
"That is an odd stone," the ranger touched the grey rock, it was speckled with bits of black, cold and smooth under his hand. He pulled up a clump of weeds that grew beside it and revealed the corner, cut stone; a building had stood upon this spot, but long ago. "...as I thought."
"What?" Harold asked. "What do you think?"
"Here," he said pushing back a thick bush so that the stump of the plant was visible, "more stones. We're standing near the foundation of some building, or in it."
"Where?" asked Little Rat twisting around to see.
"Tumbled down," Harold told the orc. "Just stones now."
"Oh," Little Rat said in a disappointed tone.
"You two wait here for the others," said the ranger, "if there is one gibberling, there are a hundred."
"Are they dangerous?" squeaked Harold.
"Very," the ranger smiled. "But not in daylight. We have half the day to get beyond their reach."
North of where he'd found the body of the gibberling the ranger broke through the thick underbrush and stood within a wide swath of torn and uprooted plants. There was a circle where the trees were knocked down and the ground torn up, the oerth churned as if from a plowman's blade. Mixed with the dirt were the shards of bones, splintered, the marrow gone. A minute's search turned up a skull, stripped of flesh and cracked open then hollowed out. A giant fought and died here, then was eaten raw. The destruction ran west-east, the tracks, hundreds of them, pointed toward the east; they'd gone toward the rising sun. The dead and drying leaves were still alive the day before, sometime last night the gibberlings had passed, or so the ranger judged from the signs he found.
* * *
"Gibberlings," said Telenstil standing over the body.
"Strange to find them here," said Talberth.
"What are they?" asked Ghibelline, "Nothing of nature surely?"
"Drones perhaps, like ants, they may have a queen and spring from eggs, "said Talberth, "We studied them at university, I have seen one splayed open, preserved, they are not male or female, these do not reproduce."
"A wizard's creation, yes." said Telenstil."That is my thought. They are extremely dangerous, though not during the day."
"That is what Harald said," spoke up the thief.
"They are rare to find like this," mused Talberth, "they eat their dead. You only find their bones, or when the last of a herd has been killed."
"He said it was thrown, and that rock is part of a building."
Ivo bent and ran his hand along the stone as the ranger had done. "He was right, at least about this rock. And these, Telenstil, these are old, very old. This is not the work of gnomes or dwarves."
"Giants?" asked Talberth.
Ivo laughed. "Giants no, well not Nosnra's kind," he looked closer at the block, "not the giants of stone and rock either, I know their work; Human hands perhaps. Another mystery, back at that hill, a trail leading up to nothing, and here, something was built here."