At the Frontier of Acot
The ruins of the temple of Huir Gaoa contain an ancient map. Scholars believe that the map is a depiction of the world as it was when Huir Gaoa was known as a god, before he had faded from the earth. The likelihood of this is uncertain. The map is marvelously well preserved beneath a clear glass shell. It does not contain records of any cities or nations, but does accurately portray mountain ranges and oceans. Curiously, the map changes from time to time. Mages and clerics are unable to account for this as they claim that there is no magic present under the glass bubble. Certainly, manual manipulation is not possible as well. Although, an account from the first of the explorers to visit this place, Gwenylvina, reads as follows:
”...I had scarcely removed the last boulder from the entrance when an extremely old and hooded figure parted the rusted metal doors. He was dusty, his fingers ink stained, and his visage was alien to me. I thought at first to be threatened, but a few tense seconds revealed that this man, or creature, was not going to harm me. He invited me and allowed me to sit with him. It appeared he had been camping in this ruin for many years. Scrolls and devices were scattered about though the script was foreign to me and the purpose of the devices was mysterious. He spoke haltingly in an strange tongue, as though he had not spoke for years. I answered him that I did not understand. Oddly, he seemed to comprehend me and switched to a dialect of elvish that was difficult to decipher. I gathered, after a time, that he was asking me to tell him about the lands outside. I told him as much as I could. He pressed me and seemed to ask whether the races remembered the sy-senses. I replied that I had not heard of such things, and if it might be a type of magic. He explained a bit about processes and experiments, but I could not quite see his intent. This is where my tale grows to proportions I find hard to believe. The old man gazed at me for a moment in, what I perceived, great sadness. He whispered that his purpose was lost. He pressed a scroll in my hand and claimed that it contained knowledge that could transform the world and bring prosperity to many people. Then he seemed to say a prayer to Pelor and Erathys and dissolved. I could not find a spec of him, not clothing nor any part that would prove he existed. Further, the ruin seemed to grow colder and the scrolls and devices turned to dust. There was naught I could do to preserve them. The paper he had given me was written in that same elvish script. I had hoped for some powerful ritual. Alas, it was only a list for some procedure or method. I tucked it away in hopes that it would be useful later or that I could sell it to some mage or another. The whole encounter lasted most of the morning and into the afternoon. I busily scrambled to explore the rest of the ruin while some light remained…”
The tale is almost certainly an account of a meeting with Huir Gaoa himself. He had faded by then from god to ancient one. His powers had waned to non-existence. The tale is doubly interesting for the description of fading. There are few stories of the ancient ones allowing themselves to be witnessed when they finally choose to pass. This tale lends credence to the belief that they pass their powers on to the current gods. Huir Gaoa’s prayer seems to support this theory. Now, the sy-senses that Gwenylvina wrote about may play some part in the functioning of the map. Powerful clerical divinations have revealed that these sy-senses were used to understand the world and as a foundation for something which the ancients called “tek”. No further information on this subject has been recovered. The scroll given to Gwenylvina may contain more clues, although the knowledge is believed to be lost. Gwenylvina herself was lost some 300 years ago. Some scholars discount her journals, believing that they were poorly translated at best and outright hoaxes at worst. Certainly there are some passages that cannot be believed, but I think that the discovery of Huir Gaoa’s temple is probably true. One can, after all, view the evidence of that discovery. It can be theorized with some confidence that the map is maintained by “tek” and that this “tek” is powered by the “sy-senses”. We have yet to learn more, but I have heard of a new type of magic known as “psionic”. Perhaps a psion will be able to detect this “tek” and how it works. I have invited several to assist me in my studies, but have so far met with polite disinterest.
Now, as to the content of this map. I believe it is an accurate depiction of the world as it stands today. If so, then the world is much larger than we had ever guessed. So large that it is hard to guess how much our own lands take up. I begin to suspect that we are only a small part of the lands shown. Here I will no doubt meet my most determined academic adversaries. They will claim that the known lands make up most of the map and that the map depicts a time when the land was vastly altered. They will point out that the map does not show the boundaries of our divine nations. It did not show the building of our roads, our cities, nor our great architectural works. Further, and most convincing, when the mage Muhollid raised the mountain to honor himself, the map did not show it. Regarding these objections, to the first I say Hubris, to the second I say no artificial works are displayed so again Hubris, and to the mage Muhollid, I say the map DOES show it. Section 7 R, a mountain stands alone in a plain. Surely it looks like a hill compared to some of the other mountains shown, but there it is. It suggests that the mage’s accomplishment is not so mighty after all. So, even the third objection rests on Hubris.
If I am right, then the world is vast. It is unexplored and untamed. There are realms that will not be discovered in my lifetime, or the lifetime of anyone I know. There is an ancient elvish story that says that two suns revolve around the world. One is an eye looking at what is, the other views what was. I think it is amazing only in that it suggests that the world is so vast that we have alternating suns to view it with. Although, on this point sticks and I am unable to prove it.
Nevertheless, it is an explanation for the world that deserves credulous thought.
Now, as to the nature of the world, this is more difficult. The world is ancient. No one disputes this. We have built our culture on the backs of those who came before us. There are ruins discovered annually. Each is in its own state of decay. Certainly this has helped those of the scholarly profession, as each Nation has invested resources to explore and catalog these ruins lest some other nation find an ancient and powerful magic another nation knows nothing about. This has yet to happen, but one does not underestimate… or discourage… the paranoia of a politician. Particularly when that paranoia funds one’s studies, no?
Despite these efforts, we have only scratched the surface of this pre-history. There are writings and artworks galore, but we cannot place them. We can only say that mighty races existed here and are no more. It is a sobering thought. Perhaps the most interesting piece of evidence for these past civilizations are the gods they left behind. Now, as you know, I am not talking about artworks or temples, or even stories and holy books (although we have these). I am talking about the ancient gods themselves. Those entities who played stewards to their civilizations and remained long after the culture that birthed them passed. They are guardians of whole epochs in history. Certainly they have knowledge we can only guess at and covet. Yes, these are the Ancient Ones who were once gods. Evidence of them is common, and if one is inclined they can be sought out. Experiences can vary, some are insane and violent others are benevolent if strange. Almost all of them lack the vital energy to convalesce into a viable god once again. There are exceptions, such as Corvus Corax and Hiljvin. These remain exceptions to the rule as most are tired and long for their lost followers. And yet there are rumors of others still that band together in hopes of becoming one creature. I am speaking of the fabled Pantheon and the Malvox. Fearsome tales if true. The Ancient Ones still number some mighty specimens. I think though that most simply dream of fading and contemplate which of the current gods will be the beneficiaries of their remaining divine power. No one knows how the current gods view this. If anyone has been cheeky enough to ask them if they will become like the Ancient Ones, it is not recorded.
excerpt from “Studies on our Existence” by the scholar Jovan Macetigon
Greetings your Majesty,
As ordered, I bring to you a report of the lands and the welfare of the people.
I am sad to report that the news is grim. Acot struggles with the conflict with Pernok and the war will no soon be won. The people know this and their interest in this war wanes with everyday we receive news of casualties and the other privations of war.
First, on the lands occupied. Pernok has claimed all of the lands from the Grand River mouth to the artifact and several leagues past the artifact as well. Pernokian raiding parties have been encountered as far east as the hourglass roads. Our own forces have made permanent fortifications along those roads and have several divisions of soldiers camped in semi-permanent tent cities to the west of Port Onett and West Royale Bridge. We have so far successfully defended against further incursions, but have not been able to push the Pernokians away from their gains. The new fortifications along the hourglass roads are not yet named, though the soldiers refer to them as Fort Hourtill for the northern fort and Fort Hourpast for the southern fort. I know your majesty had hoped to name the forts for your sons, but the names have spread to the common folk and are not likely to be replaced now. Our defenses are considerable, and our supply chain is so far in tact, if expensive. This is a general overview of our efforts in the war. Further detail may be had from our battle reports and expense reports.
We have confirmed that Pernok has invaded on religious grounds. They believe that they are ceasing the artifact for Pelor. I have questioned some of the clerics of Pelor within our borders and I am satisfied that they knew nothing of this. No one can say what this portends.
Regarding our lands not yet touched by the war, I am pleased with your majesty’s foresight in hiring that mercenary company to safeguard Shavenfell. I have heard that the orcish tribes to the north are riled and have started to raid our lands. Due to those mercenaries, I’m sure we can quickly squash that threat. I have heard reports of that followers of Vecna and Orcus have been sighted in our lands. I am not surprised, though I do not have the resources to track down those secretive bastards. One can only say that they circle like vultures when there is war. They are pernicious and difficult, but will hopefully spend most of their time fighting each other and leave us alone. Luckily, the church of the Raven Queen has been present. We might hope that they offer some assistance on this matter, ugly hyenas that they are. Aside from that, the people are weary of this constant conflict. I would ask that your majesty contemplate some way to give them hope? Perhaps raising some local heroic fool to titles? It has worked before I guess, although that was only part of a surprising outcome, I’m sure your majesty agrees.
The dwarves have a new enclave to the east and north in the mountain passes. They send word that they have reclaimed an ancestral hall. I believe they wish to establish trade. Does your majesty know of any city close enough to do so profitably?
Your majesty, to close my report I must do so somberly. The land is in turmoil, the north is undeveloped and all but useless and the south will quickly become exhausted if nothing changes. Troop morale is steady for the time being, but will fall quickly if our supplies are disrupted.
May the gods grant that this conflict ends soon.
Sealed by my own hand,
General Boulandrick Shieldheart
Prosecutor of the Invaders
Defender of Acot
Duke of Kryst
A letter from the General of the Acoti armies to the King