In The Depths of Chelm

   While the history of Atheria is littered with powerful individuals and lost devices and records, relatively few such items are likely to have survived from the early days of the settlement better than six thousand years ago. Some were unstable on Atheria, others have been intentionally destroyed, and not a few have simply yielded to the pressures of time. Even fewer are priceless for the clues to the ancient world which they contain, rather than for whatever powers they may possess. The more notable items which have been lost in Chelm since the ancient days include:

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The Ichian Oriux Soulstones:

   Before the rise of the Dralithar and the fall of the ancient world, mages meddled – as they do yet – with forces they did not understand. They created anchors for their souls and powers, so that – if they should be slain – they would be reborn, once more truly living. The Dralithar corrupted this process and set it’s touch upon their hidden hearts. They were reborn to the living world, yes, but remained dead – and bound to the power of the Dralithar. Thus were many of the eldest and most mighty mortals of the Ancient World bound to the service of the enemy. By heroism were some redeemed – to stand, terrible beyond death, against the Dralithar.

   And to fall, for the hand of the Dralithar was yet upon them, and neither the living nor the dead might stand against it.

   Their allies, the yet-mortals to whom their anchoring talismans had been entrusted, carried those anchors with them out of the ancient world and beyond its doom – but the touch of the Dralithar upon them could not be redeemed by what little magic remained to men, or what they were to learn within the next few generations. The Ichian Oriux, the once ever-living, were born again, dead, and decaying in both mind and body. Yet, despite their madness, all their terrible powers, the sorcerous skills which had defied the laws of life and death, remained theirs – and, as they had once so desired, they rose once more after each fall.

   But as men spread across Atheria, and into the deep south, rumors came to the rotting ears of the circle of the dead, to enliven the withered hearts of the Ichian Oriux. Tales of realms of blood and life, where – perhaps – even they might once again be genuinely reborn.

   And so the Ichian Oriux, and their anchoring talismans, passed South, into Chelm, and out of history.

   The ancient tales give various numbers of the Ichian Oriux, and state that some of them were not even remotely human even in life – but, if they still exist, and can be stirred to recover memories seven thousand years old, they are among the last remaining eyes which have looked upon the Ancient World, beheld it’s gods, and witnessed the power of the Enemy. Within their minds, and the binding talismans which anchor their essences, are secrets which have been lost for seven thousand years.

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The Kether Scrolls

   One of the most legendary treasures of the Ancient World, the indestructible Kether Scrolls had long been believed to contain the magical secrets of that world’s creator gods, and had required centuries to decipher – but had given immensurable power to the mages who did so. Moving them to Atheria revealed the Scrolls to be something much simpler, and in some ways more terrible. They did not record the deepest magical secrets of the ancient world – they simply mirrored the deepest basis of magic in whatever domain they were in. While only the most skilled of mages could understand enough of the magical structures the scrolls displayed to accomplish much, they were still an invaluable aid in the settlement of Atheria. Unfortunately, of the three scrolls known to have been brought to Atheria, one was lost in Chelm, one off the shores of Nial, and one was carried to HuSung.

   In game terms, the scrolls are a relic: +36 Spellcraft: Specialized, requires hours to decipher, cannot more than double the user’s basic Spellcraft skill (3 CP) with Unique Returning (Specialized: Only applies to the Scrolls themselves, 1 CP). They may – indeed, they probably do – have other powers, but that’s enough to start with.

   Asurater the Nightbane, a double-bitted battleaxe forged of adamantium-steel, sapphire, and lapis lazuli, hosts a spirit of the ancient world with a variety of mental powers of its own and control of the celestial magic forged into the axe itself. Asurater opted to associate itself with the city of Thalassinus, by the Sea of Jade near the borders of Chelm. It safeguarded the city against raids and chelmian infiltrators – magically revealing those who fell to their control and striking down the creatures of the jungles – for many centuries, until it was lost during a series of major border conflicts. A very substantial reward for its return is still recorded in the imperial archives.

   The Malachite Bindings are inscribed on wafer-thin, but apparently indestructible, sheets of Malachite, and deal with both commanding the spirits of the dead and with the imprisonment, compulsion, and transformation of minds and spirits. It’s pages include both horrific lore and terrible spells – which the original tome allows its readers to use without formal training if they are mad enough to do so and tough enough to withstand the resulting drain on their personal energies (later, and mostly fragmentary, copies do not have this effect). The book is generally regarded as one of the darkest magical works to be brought to Atheria from the Ancient Realm and was carried into Chelm by the surviving Children of Suthek, the sworn servants of that god of Darkness, shortly after the Settlement. Those few historians who take an interest in matters from nearly seven thousand years ago believe that the Malachite Bindings, and possibly the Children, may have played a pivotal role in the development of the Chelmian Rekorathi

   Saingen Bonecrusher, a monstrous feline avatar of Parath the Beast, supposedly accompanied the founders to Atheria, but was either driven mad in the process or simply gave into his rage and bloodlust once the immediate danger was past. Saingen fled southwards, and may have taken up residence in Chelm: their Beast-God Apanka bears a substantial resemblance to the ancient accounts of Saingen and is relatively weak – which might be expected of an isolated aspect of a greater god. In fact, their crocodilian War-God Tiskian bears a similar resemblance to some ancient descriptions of a another avatar of Parath who’s name is now lost. If either local “deity” both exists and is indeed an aspect of Parath, they should have a great deal of otherwise forgotten information.

   The Quincunx Ruby, also known as the Oathstone, is a massive slab of ruby, with a shape resembling a casket inscribed with complex runes and set into a golden necklace. It supposedly contains a living fragment of the god Nor, and allows the bearer to manipulate the forces of destiny. On Atheria, the Ruby has a turbulent early history; a series of odd quests and wild coincidences caused it’ possessors to carry it throughout much of northwestern Atheria, including in and out of the Great Northern Barrens, the Boreal Sea, the Mri Desert, the Trackless Forest, and Chelm all within the first few centuries of the settlement. It’s last known possessor was Canis Valerus, a religious fanatic from 4847 who raised a force of tens of thousands of men, women, and (especially) children from current-day Dernmarik, the Imperium, and the Barbarian Lands and attempted to cross the Sea of Jade to reach the “undying lands” that lay beyond the “gates of the underworld” which supposedly blocked land access through Chelm. He and his followers were never seen again. Canis is still ritually cursed once yearly in a few traditional ceremonies at some of the oldest temples of the Imperium and – while only historians know why – the name “Canis” is still considered unlucky.

   The Quincunx Ruby is supposedly cursed, both because – apparently – its wielders have lacked the wisdom of Nor and have failed to properly define their wishes and limit how they come about and because attempts to decipher the runes inscribed upon it have often proven fatal, somehow draining the would-be reader of life and causing massive magical disturbances at the same time.

   The oldest Rekorathi or Stelea of Chelm were apparently created within a century or two of the colonization of Chelm – whether due to a desire to evade death, in imitation of some of the devices of the Ancient World, or to aid survival in an exceptionally dangerous environment – and thus may have spirits bound into them which date back to shortly after the settlement. While the Imperium would view binding such revered ancestors to service with a very jaundiced eye indeed, attempting to seek them out and interview them would be a well-worthwhile, if extremely risky, endeavor.

   The Bloodlord himself, a figure from the first millennia of the Imperium, is said to have earned the eternal curse of the Forgotten Gods of Kharidath by carrying the Staff of Rey from the Imperium) where it had long been the object of diplomatic attempts by Kharidath to reclaim it) into Chelm. While the staff is supposed to have been a relatively minor item before the Fall of Rey, it supposedly inherited some fragment of his divine illumination after his fall.

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   At least thirty expeditions into Chelm were lost in the first few centuries of the Imperium. While Carius Augustus was content to organize Alaria proper, many of his successors were either more ambitious or less wise. Lesser devices that were lost in Chelm during this period include:

   The Necklace of Worlds appears to be a simple necklace of clay beads, glazed with white, blue, green, brown, and a variety of other colors. Closer inspection will reveal that each bead is entwined within a cage of fine wire, rather than pierced. The beads are, in fact, maps – each either blank and awaiting experiences or bearing the wearer’s observations of a particular world or of the routes between them. If touched and named, a bead will project an image of the relevant world which may be “zoomed”, rotated, and moved both forwards and backwards in time. Unfortunately, the beads record only those things which the wearer has seen; they are superb recorders of maps, but no more.

   A considerable number of personal journals, maps, and accounts may still exist somewhere in the jungles thanks to the spells of durability which are routinely applied to such items. While finding such items is difficult, durability charms are fundamentally related to Order magic – which means that they can be detected at close range. Items which were actually charmed in the imperial capital, drawing on the Sigil of Order, are both even more durable and detectable at longer ranges. Unfortunately, of course, such lost journals are likely to have been left wherever their original owners perished – and thus are probably in some of the most dangerous areas of Chelm. On the good side, many of them have been lost for a very long time indeed, and thus conditions may well have changed.

   Several sentient devices – although only a few old enough to have come from the Ancient Realm – have also been lost in Chelm. These include Grimward the Bulwark, a shield apparently capable of transforming itself into a modest fortress or other structure, Thirst the Lifedrinker, a blade which steals the vitality of those it strikes, the Phoenix Helm, said to be unconquerable, the Pendant of Witness, which offers wise council and support, and the Steeds of Rason, figurines which transform into fabulous mounts. All remain lost.

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The Nalydia Expedition:

   A sample, and comparatively more recent expedition – to whose fate the group may have recently found some clues – was that of Nalydia Sem Manellius (circa 3942-4003, Alarian chronology, dating from the acclamation of Carius Antoni Augustus, Imperator) of the Imperial Academy. A formidable Geomancer, Mystic Architect, and Sorceress, Nalydia was attempting to analyze the substructure of the boundaries between the various magical domains through comparison with the magical techniques of the Ancient World as recorded in sources now lost. Her expedition into Chelm – the only known location where domain boundaries shift and fluctuate chaotically on a daily basis – was intended to examine the structure of domain boundaries while they were changing and restabilizing and, if it proved possible, to use Mystic Architecture to set up and stabilize a balance point between them. Nalydia theorized that a child born at such a balance point would possess both Birthrights, and – further – that this might be the origin of the occasional Barbarian child with a “Dragon Totem”; they were born at a moment of precise balance between the influence of two totems. The expedition was lost, and divination at the time proved inconclusive – not surprising when divining into Chelm – although there were some indications that she at least partially succeeded. Given that, for better or for worse, her research might have resulted in the birth of more powerful Chelmians, the next institute director opted to shelve the project. It has remained shelved, save for being referenced as an example of over-ambitious and ill-advised research, for three thousand years since.

   With the groups discovery of some of Nalydia’s personal jewelry, and the use of psychometry and divinatory magic on it, they are now aware that either the balance point summoned something terrible into being or – possibly – the child of one of the pregnant slave-girls who had been brought along to give birth at the experimental nexus for testing purposes became something very much inhuman. Of course, mystic architecture is noted for it’s self-sustaining and self-repairing durability – and while most of the lesser landmarks such divination revealed are probably gone by now, the greater ones – the double waterfall, the three peaks, the great valley, and the plateau – have almost certainly survived a mere three thousand years, and should suffice to get the group to the general vicinity of the site.

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