The small animal is running across the snowy field even before the bell tower starts to sway. Disturbed from hibernation by deep tremors in the ground around him, the marmot-like creature had left his winter den in favour of an above ground escape route. His kin take part in the diaspora, fleeing the elven settlement in every direction.
As the tower begins to shift and roofs creak from subtle movements below, birds launch themselves from their roosts into the air. They call out to each other in frantic and erratic tones, circling above the town before dispersing as well.
In their wake, pillars of shining iron pierce the sky.
The metal spires erupt from the ground under the squat buildings, but the largest punches a hole through the temple at the village's centre. Stones, snow, and frozen earth are thrown into the air because of the force of the eruptions, and elven screams join the bird calls dying off in the distance.
A series of dull clangs punctuate the cacophony, the brass bells housed in the temple's tower falling to the ground amid clouds of rubble, only to be hoisted by new towers of iron. These new towers shine with a polished brilliance, despite having emerged from deep beneath the ground.
Some of the elves living near the edges of the settlement flee into the plains, but fall to the ground in terror and disbelief. Their screams turn to moans, and some try to muster the courage to sing. In the chaos, though, none can focus on their songs, none can ask the stones to lie still. They beat the ground with clenched fists and pull at fiery red hair.
If they could tear their eyes from the vision of destruction before them, they would see that, on the horizon all around them, sparkling pinpricks are emerging from smoky dust clouds. Each of these glints signifies another spire of iron, another temple at another waypoint destroyed by the smooth metal.
The birds and marmots knew of the widespread destruction and fled to the mountains. There were few waypoints in the mountains, and their ancient pinnacles are untouched by the tremors.
One grief-stricken stone elf stumbles toward the ruined village, now a huddled mass of tall iron. The few other survivors either do not notice him, or are too consumed in their own emotions to warn him from his fate.
Tears are flowing freely down his dirty cheeks when he reaches the new landmark. With his hands curled up into fists he strikes a small outcropping of iron, crying out from the pain of it. He does it again and again, each time letting loose a feral bray.
By the time he falls to his knees in front of the metal spire his hands are bright red, and the skin that had made contact with the iron is covered in torn blisters. There are streaks of blood on the surface of the pillar.
His cries become more pained as the numbness in his hands gives way to a burning sensation, the iron's poison entering his bloodstream. He faints before two other men drag him away, a woman following at their side sounding like a banshee. They know they cannot save him from the poison, but they will show him mercy in the only form they can dispense.
Far away in the mountains, the marmots are searching for new dens, and the birds for roosts amidst the crags. None hear the screams from the plains, pierced with polished iron.