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Disappearances (Solnis' Ruins)

Legends of the lands
By: MothballMilkshake (2017 Legend Contest Winner)

The inhabitants of the Etain desert know well the ruins of Solnis, and the boon they provide to both travellers and the village folk alike. For most of the year, the ruins provide a peaceful refuge, with shade, fresh water and shelter for those who come unprepared for the deserts harsh temperatures during the day, and freezing cold nights.
      Once a year, however, when the day is short and the night longer than any other, the desert folk warn travelers to stay away from the ruins. They shutter their windows, shore up their doors, and put their children to bed long before the sun sets, giving way to the starry night of the desert.
      Many a weary merchant has ignored these warnings; not realizing the night would be upon them long before their journey ends. They see the walls of the ancient city rise like a beacon in the night, and direct their mounts to the safety of the walls, beyond the talons of night predators and the icy grip of the desert darkness.
      More wary companions remind them of the warnings, but their headstrong friends won't listen.
      This is the last the daring travellers are seen. They vanish into the city, leaving their cohorts to camp outside, waiting for them to emerge come morning. They never do.
      Those remaining venture into the abandoned city, trawling through abandoned rooms lacking furniture, calling for their lost companions. They search endless hallways, finally reaching the center of the lost city, wherein lies the well that has granted sustenance to plenty of past visitors.
      Not a scrap of evidence remains to say their friends had ever set foot inside the place – not a knapsack, a bedroll, or even a water skin by the well.
      Disturbed, the remaining traveller leaves, hearing the leaves of the garden rustle in the wind as they do.
      They only realize later that there was no wind to be spoken of.
      The disappearances at Solnis' Ruins would have remained a mystery, were it not for one brave, somewhat foolhardy mage, determined to seek out the cause.
      Speaking to the people who return after losing a colleague, Volnir Aberothin discovered that many reported the same thing during the night – a wind whistling through the abandoned city. Some of the returnees describe it as musical, though many dismiss this as a fancy of their imagination, being alone in the open desert having gotten to their heads.
      Despite the warnings, and the village residents pleading with her not to visit the city during the long night, Volnir made camp just before the sun set, and sat staring at the city, waiting to hear this noise.
      Just after sundown, she heard it - a faint, keening whistle. Turning her ear to the sound, she had to admit, it did sound musical.
      Carefully, she approached the city, the sound growing louder as she did so. The closer she came, the more it sounded like ancient flutes, or panpipes, playing through the empty rooms of the ruins.
      She stood to the entryway of the city, torn between investigating further, and fearing what would happen should she enter.
      As she stood there, she experienced the strangest sensation – she reports that the wind began to sound like a voice, telling her it was ok, that the city would shelter her from the elements.
      Moonlight shone on the walls on the edge of her vision, and, thinking that she glimpsed a person, she turned to seek them out, warning them to stay away.
      Nobody was there, simply moonlight glinting on old stone, and she laughed uncomfortably at her folly.
      The same light appeared on the other of her vision - further into the ruins. The wind pushed gently at her back, as though urging her forward. The noise was starting to make her head pound with ignoring it, trying to reason with herself that it couldn't possibly be forming words. A dreadful sense of foreboding settled over her, and she felt certain that were she to cross the threshold, she would not return. Strangely, though she knew this should worry her, she felt at the same time an almost irresistible sense of calm, as though remaining in the city would not be a bad thing at all.
      With great effort, she took a step back. What at first sounded like peaceful, calming flute music became once again the howl of a desert storm. Moonlight shone in her eyes, reflecting impossibly off the stone walls, until she was forced to close her eyes against it and look away. The lingering light appeared to take the form of a woman, etched onto the inside of her eyelids.
      Volnir stepped away from the ruins, her arm against her face to shelter it from the sand that would surely be blowing in such a strong desert wind. The further she went, the quieter the noise became, until she felt safe enough to uncover her face and open her eyes.
      Looking around, she was astounded to see that the desert lay quiet and still as it was when she made camp, no sign of any storm to speak of. Her lean to could be seen some meters off, her lamp glowing warmly in the middle of it.
      Turning around, horror gripped her to see that the ruins were almost entirely covered in a swirling vortex of sand. The storm she had heard was real enough, though contained to barely a meter away from the outside walls of the city. She stepped back, fleeing to her campsite as the city was engulfed in this impossible sandstorm.
      After returning from her journey, Volnir issued a warning that was to be relayed to anybody travelling past the Solnis' Ruins - Heed the advice not to go in on the longest night of the year, and should you be tempted by sweet music and images to enter, ignore them and remain at your tent. Do not, for any reason, enter the ruins after sundown, for she is sure you will vanish as surely and mysteriously as the original inhabitants did, all those years ago.
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