A little way up the narrow valley, before they reach the woods, the PCs notice the squat, tumbledown buildings by the riverside. They are hardly big enough for a human to stand in, and the complex cogs and shafts that occupy the central cavity of one of the buildings are perplexing. What were these buildings? And how safe are they to explore?
Alternatively a desolate place is the perfect setting for a derelict chapel or croft. There needn't be any actual physical encounter involved, but it adds atmosphere to a place to see its dead history. For instance, in the Outer Hebrides there are whole deserted villages which were razed to the ground by the English during the Clearances. Such stories give a setting authenticity and character.
Mages/ wizards and such use cards (playing cards or tarot cards) as training tools. The patterns created by certain layouts of cards are mnemonic devices to teach key elemental associations and paths. With such interesting names as the Tree of Life, Phoenix's tail, Rythm of Heart, and Balance of the sphere, there pattern represent the matrices used by magic users to focus and present power. Spell processes can be represented by a sequence of cards.
So mages will often be seen handing around hands of cards.
Wizards will have a deck of cards with them. Since cards were used to train wizards in legerdemain, Since they have cards with them, they frequently know how to use them. Guild magic users often have a knack for fancy shuffles, palming cards, and a variety of card tricks and games.