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Our Tale, Such as it has been told, Part III

Fiction Date 2018-09-20
Last Updated 2018-09-24 17:18:11 - Update

Episode #100: The Lions of Tomorrow

The Burning World Campaign


NPCs mentioned in this Episode:

Batul hosts you over a couple of days, giving Faruq enough time to go over Lions of Tomorrow fairly well.

Assuming you share your stories with Batul (not necessarily the Geomancer stuff), he makes a generous offer to pay the rest of Aunty's debt.

Nog and Kadar


Practically everywhere one looks in the modern cities or jungle, one can see icons and ruins from the past.

The Ruined Kingdoms of Nog and Kadar left behind writings, inscriptions, and magical artifacts which long outlived their doomed civilizations. Without knowledge of the cultural context in which they were created, this historical legacy is often fragmented and meaningless. Most sages are sure that more than two ancient civilizations evolved along the Nogaro, a wide, crocodile-infested river twisting hundreds of miles through the jungle wilderness.

Given the mainland's two prominent ancient languages, some think that Nog and Kadar were the only civilizations of note in the region. However, historians have found evidence of at least four other cultural traditions along the Nogaro River valley, starting with the giants before the arrival of humans. Since none of these other cultures developed a strong written tradition, however, the truth about them may never be known.

The history of Nog and Kadar is convoluted and confusing, as the two empires seem to have gone through several ruling dynasties, some of which may (or may not) have ruled different regions along the Nogaro at the same time. Kadar is by far the older of the two empires, founded over a thousand years ago by the despotic Geomancers, a race of terrible sorcerer-priests who at one time held sway throughout the entire river valley. The Geomancers were toppled by pioneering missionaries of the enlightenment and replaced by a dynasty of corrupt warrior-kings, or khedives, who seized power in the wake of the western explorers' departure.

The Geomancers


No group of sorcerers has ever held as much sway over the Ruined Kingdoms as the ancient Geomancers. Through a frightening combination of wizardry and priestly magic, the Geomancers could predict the future, command towering monoliths, and cause the earth to heave in mighty earthquakes. Today they are (thankfully) gone and all but forgotten, but their geoglyphs and potent talismans live on, the last surviving legacy of their terrible power.

There is little doubt that the Geomancers once held the entire Nogaro River valley in their firm control, as their geoglyphs can be found in many of the ruins on the continent. Curiously, their talismans or geoglyphs are not found on the islands of Afyal or Sahu.

The Geomancers' ruling elite met in the Nine Council, each member taking a title according to rank and ability: Wihda, Ithnayn, Thalath, Arba, Khlams, Sitta, Sab, Thimaanya, and Tisan. Only one valiant group was able to stand up to the Geomancers: a young and fervent band of farisan remembered in legend as the Lions of Yesterday. Guided by Suhail min Zann, they confounded the Geomancers' divinations and smashed the power of the Nine Council, destroying eight of the wizard-priests. During that last battle, the ninth Geomancer, Tisan, withdrew to a secret stronghold called Tadabbur and vanished from sight, some say never to return. In Midani, the word tadabbur has come to mean foresight, or divination.

Now, Tisan's power was great, such that her strength equaled that of all the other Geomancers put together. After many years, the Lions discovered Tadabbur. Those who entered to confront Tisan met with a slow and horrible death, but the mighty Geomancers did not dare leave the safety of her last fortress.

Inspired by Zann, Imam Suhail enchanted a mighty talisman and used it to seal the entrance to Tisan's retreat. Calling upon Fate, the priest swore an oath that he would return from Paradise to council the Lions of Tomorrow, should Tadabbur's talisman ever be disturbed.
Suhail gathered the few surviving Lions and labored the rest of his days to destroy all traces of the Geomancers' existence, breaking their talismans and burning all the records he could find of their foul sorcery to prevent others from duplicating their spells.

The Book: Lions of Tomorrow


Lions of Tomorrow is written in Kadari, on parchment fashioned from seaweed dipped in iodine to foil Geomantic divination, which the author, Iman Suhail, feared might be used to predict the book's future location. The tome's cover and binding consist of thin silver tubes filled with mercury, skillfully soldered together by a master silversmith. These precautions effectively shield the book with a cloaked wizardry enchantment.

The very first page is incredibly difficult to decipher; it seems to contain an ancient and powerful summoning spell, apparently researched by Suhail.

The book continues in Chapter One with a life history of Imam Suhail, describing his ascendency to the priesthood and his first encounters with the Geomancers. Suhail devotes many pages to his epic battle with the Nine Council, at a stronghold called Majlis, somewhere east of the Nogaro River. Suhail describes Geomancer battle-magic in great detail, highlighting their ability to summon and direct earth monoliths in melee. After the battle, in which eight members of the Nine Council were slain, Suhail and his army razed the castle. After Suhail's victory, the castle was renamed Yinhani Abraaja, meaning "Leaning Towers." The imam reports having a vision and inscribing a short prophesy somewhere in the ruined castle.

In Chapter Two of the tome, Suhail discusses how to craft scarabs of protection. A powerful priest of any enlightened deity may use Suhail's procedure, provided the priest has access to a mosque or holy site in which to pray and the right materials (a brooch carved out of a precious stone, like sapphire or ruby of at least 5,000 gp value which has been sanctified in the Golden Mosque of Huzuz, City of Delights). Even with Suhail's completed research and the correct materials, it takes anywhere from 4 to 7 weeks to complete the task.

Finally, Chapter Three includes a general description of geoglyphs and how each of these could be foiled by a prepared and cautious individual. In particular, Suhail mentions that 1) Geomancers often managed to scribe the power of these glyphs into their own flesh as a sort of living, magical tattoo, and 2) The presence of salt water, or proximity to the sea, will disrupt the effects of most geoglyphs.

Geomancy


Geomancy is the study of the element of earth. Its practitioners, the Geomancers, sought to understand Fate through magic and thus command the entire world. What made Geomantic wizards and clerics different from common mages and clerics was their holistic philosophy, which combined the two forms of magic to make powerful runes, called geoglyphs.

Priest Geomancers


Although many Geomancers only practiced wizardry, the society was directed by Grumbar's priests. All members of the Nine Council were dual-classed priests/wizards of incredible power, but many did not begin their instruction in wizardry until they had mastered the most powerful of priestly spells.

Wizard Geomancers


Wizards were common in the Geomancer Empire, far more numerous than either the generalist clerics or specialty priests. Unlike the priests, specialization among wizards was not popular, as their spells, magical items, and runes required a broad background of magical expertise to employ.

Emblems and Geoglyphs


The Geomancers' emblem was the asfr, a nine-spoked wheel with a dark central hub. The asfr symbolized a relationship between Fate (the outer wheel), Magic (the nine spokes of the heel), and the world (the hub). This nonmagical symbol can be found on almost all their buildings or magical items, signifying ownership.

Nine was a sacred number to the Geomancers, who devised an elaborate system of magical runes and symbols called geoglyphs. Their symbols were organized into nine categories: whd, thnn, thlth, rba., khlms, stt, sb'a, thmn, and tsn, each with a different purpose or power. While geoglyphs could theoretically be inscribed by a single individual, they were almost always made by a group of nine wizards or priests, called a Council. Given the cooperative effort that went into creating them, geoglyphs are almost impossible to erase. For dispel magic to be successful, it must overcome the contribution of each member of the Council that created it. Otherwise it fails and the geoglyph remains. Even the magic of a wish only eliminates the contribution of the first (i.e., weakest) member of the Council; it can thus take up to nine wishes to remove a geoglyph.

When encountered in ruins, geoglyphs are frequently invisible, flashing with gold or blue light when triggered. Depending upon their nature, geoglyphs can be activated by touch or by command. In either case, the glyph discharges once and goes into dormancy, recharging its magical energy from the earth for nine rounds (or hours, or days; the more potent the effect, the longer the recharge time).

Geoglyphs by Priests


Councils of single-classed priests made the first three types of geoglyphs (whd, thnn, thlth) by scratching with a metal implement in earth or stone.

Whd: Dream glyphs. These glyphs are typically found in private chambers, where they work their power on sleeping minds. They were used to obtain minor divinatory revelations and to influence the dreams of enemies.

Thnn: Sight glyphs. These glyphs were inscribed on a wall, enabling it to serve as a permanent scrying device, similar to a crystal ball. More complicated configurations enabled the detection of sound and (in the most powerful) thoughts as well.

Thlth: Sending glyphs. If combined with sight runes, sending runes could enable two-way communication of sight, sound, and thought. When inscribed on the walls, floor, and ceiling of a chamber, the room became a one-way gate with a fixed destination. Sending runes enabled the Geomancers to establish an extensive communication and transport network in their empire. Their operation is unhindered by deception runes.

Geoglyphs by Wizards


Single-classed Geomancer wizards made the next three types of geoglyphs (rba', khlms, stt) by scratching on copper with a diamond-tipped stylus.

Rba': Ward glyphs. This broad family of geoglyphs includes all rune configurations meant to harm or destroy those who inadvertently activate them. They were used to protect the entrances of strongholds, secret chambers, and the treasuries of the Geomancers. Ward runes can be disarmed by a secret command word, muttered while touching them.

Khlms: Deception glyphs. These glyphs were inscribed on the surfaces of most Geomancer strongholds. In their most primitive configuration, they merely blocked divinatory magics, but in their more advanced forms they could misdirect divinations, giving a false reading to their caster. Deception runes can be modified to prevent teleportation and block dimensional travel both into and out of an area.

Stt: Calling glyphs. The most powerful group of wizardly geoglyphs, calling runes were used to gate in creatures from the Outer Planes. Few contain binding or protective clauses, leading to the conclusion that the summoned creatures were usually the Geomancers' allies or counselors. When encountered near treasure vaults, they summon deadly fiends (usually devils or yugoloth) charged with protecting the Geomancer's property. Such creatures are rarely amenable to negotiation.

Geoglyphs by the Dual-Classed


Dual-classed Geomancer priest-wizards could fashion the three most powerful groups of geoglyphs (sb'a, thmn, tsn) by sprinkling the powder of precious stones on surfaces of gold or platinum.

Sb'a: Time glyphs. These potent glyphs alter the subjective flow of time for all caught within their area of effect, which is usually small (no more than a few hundred square feet). They were sometimes used to hold advancing enemies in thrall while preparations were made to decimate them. They could also be used to speed up the passage of time in their area of effect, aging the victims to senility before they could escape.

Thmn: Past glyphs. A combination of sight and time runes, this family of glyphs allowed the user to scry upon known individuals or events in Zakhara's recent or distant past. These runes transmit an audio-visual image of the past, automatically translating foreign languages into Kadari.

Tsn: Future glyphs. A much more powerful (and elaborate) combination of sight and time runes, this family of glyphs allows the user to survey the tangled skeins of Fate and understand the probable course of the future if certain events are allowed to transpire. The runes do not show what WILL be, only what MAY be, under known preconditions. The far future is thus very difficult to predict, but very specific short-term visions are quite accurate.


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A Family Affair


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Our Tale, Such as it has been told, Part III