Long before the Twin Cataclysms there were whispered stories of lost empires of the Flannae; the Occluded Empire of Vecna, the Isles of Woe in the Nyr Dyv, Veralos near the Rift Canyon, Tostehnca in the Griff Mountains and Sulm in the Bright Desert.
But long before any of these, there was another. So
long ago that even the resilient gnomes of the Headlands, the enduring dwarves
of the Iron Hills, the long lived elves of the Rieuwood and the ancient treants
of the Menowood are hard pressed to remember. But it is whispered . . . Caerdiralor
. . .
Zipheron pulled his cloak tightly about himself. The wind coming from off the Azure sea had a definite bite to it. He absentmindedly rubbed at his new tattoo; the symbol of Mok'slyk.
Zipheron thought it an amazing thing, a race of beings with god-like powers known as the Ancient Brethren who vied with the Gods for dominance. One of the Ancient Brethren had contacted him during a trance in which he had tried to join with his patron, Boccob. This particular member of the Ancient Brethren was known as the Serpent, and was the very embodiment of Magic.
For many years Zipheron had served the Archmage, but the God faithfully lived up to his title, the Uncaring. The Ur-Flan Empire of Caerdiralor was headed down a path Zipheron did not think the Empire should travel.
'Bah, the Council does not listen to my advice and the Uncaring One does not heed my prayers. Those accursed priests of Tiamat hold sway in Caerdiralor! Or at least they think they do. But I have found out their secret!'
It was just as the sorcerer had suspected for some time now, there was something much darker and far more sinister enveloping Tiamat's high priest, Nechmeya.
'Yes, my divinations have plumbed the depths of your treachery, Nechmeya. The great Mok'slyk came and spoke with me, allowing me to discern your mysteries. The Serpent's motives may be yet unknown, but I cannot deny that this Ancient Brethren has given me far more than the Lord of All Magics has these last few years. For it is by the power of Mok'slyk that I know your secret Nechmeya. Yes, I know whom you truly serve . . . dread Tharizdun.'
Zipheron shuddered at the thought. The revelation explained much, it explained everything. Survival for his people only lay in flight.
The Sorcerer looked out from the upper most window of his tower, which opened out over the harbor where several hundred adherents to his cause boarded ships. Most of them were of the low caste but they were still of the Ur-Flan, his people would survive. But mixed among these followers were members of two of the most junior of the empire's noble houses; Sulm and Itar.
'The royal princes are young and distracted by their intense dislike for one another, they should give me no trouble.' Zipheron chuckled. 'They see an opportunity for their own aggrandizement. Mohoshon of Sulm and Melemon of Itar know they are too far down in the Empire's hierarchy to ever attain real status or power in Myrsyma.'
Zipheron watched as the two princes boarded their ships. 'Yes, fear of the unknown will keep them in line for now. It is only important that their houses are among the least debauched of Caerdiralor's noble families. No one in Myrsyma will miss them.' Zipheron smiled, all was going according to plan.
"My lord. All is ready."
Zipheron nodded. "Very well Ziriniah, let us go to the ships."
He paused to look around the old, familiar room once more. He was leaving his tower for the last time. The books, scrolls, tablets, tomes and instruments had all been packed away and loaded the day before. He would rebuild as his people would rebuild, there was still a good deal of time before the empire's actual fall. With a shrug Zipheron turned and departed with his apprentice.
* * * *
"This ship is an old one, master."
Zipheron and Ziriniah stood upon the dock observing as the last of the provisions were placed aboard. "It's the finest ship we have."
Ziriniah looked at his master quizzically. Zipheron smiled and waved his hand, "None of these 'newer' ships you think so grand are as good as this one. We were once a great seafaring people, Ziriniah. We have lost much of that skill. The shipwrights of today are less skilled and their ships are of inferior quality."
"Then why are they not punished for building such inferior ships?"
"Because Caerdiralor's rulers do not know that the ships are inferior. Much of such knowledge has been lost to us." Zipheron pointed. "Even this ship is not the finest our people have ever built, but it's the best we have at present."
"I had no idea we once boasted such great fishing vessels, master."
Zipheron burst out laughing. "No, Ziriniah! Not fishing vessels, though we had those too. Ours were great merchant vessels and warships. Our people were not always inhabitants of the Dragonshead peninsula. We came from a far, far land, from across the great Ocean of the Sun, itself."
Ziriniah almost stumbled in his surprise. Zipheron took him by his elbow and steadied him. "Enough. It is a story for another time and we will have plenty of that on our journey. Come." They climbed the gangplank and boarded the ship.
* * * *
"They are leaving Myrsyma."
"No, Saliyel, they are leaving Caerdiralor," replied Nechmeya.
"You will allow this?"
"I don't know that I could stop it," replied Nechmeya. "And I wouldn't want to." He raised his hand to silence the next question. "Zipheron is far more powerful than you know. He leaves because he has discovered the truth about the temple. No one would believe him of course, our Master is long forgotten and our grasp upon the Council is too strong."
Nechmeya caressed the leather strap wound round his waist. It was black and oily and gave off purple emanations which distorted the air and obscured his waist. Anyone in the room with Nechmeya fixated upon it; it took an act of will not to. Along the high priest's right side a portion of it hung down, revealing a leather handle with a wrist loop; a whip.
"A battle with the magician is one we would lose . . ."
"But Tharizdun . . ."
Nechmeya whirled upon the junior priest. "Never say that name out loud!" He quickly looked around, then turned his malevolent gaze back upon his acolyte. "Fool, only in the inner sanctum is that name to be used!"
"I . . . I'm sorry . . ."
"Silence!" Nechmeya snatched the handle and quickly pulled the whip from around his person and lashed out. A terrible, black tear rent the very air itself, a pulsating, purplish light outlining the hole. Saliyel rapidly backed away and seemed to shrink in upon himself, wishing desperately to be someplace else, anyplace else. He knew well that whip's power.
"A fight with Zipheron would reveal all," Nechmeya continued harshly. "He has powerful patrons. Our Lord is not yet ready to face his foes."
"I understand," stammered Saliyel.
Nechmeya sneered and lashed the air again; another tear. "You understand nothing! Leave me!" The young acolyte seized the opportunity and ran for his life.
'Fool,' thought Nechmeya. 'He would destroy everything in his ignorance.' The high priest raised the whip to his face. Caressing it, he stared in wondrous admiration. This was his Master's way of demonstrating His approval, this wondrous gift, this artifact; Tharizdun's Whip.
Nechmeya smiled, soon all of Caerdiralor would be his.
* * * *
Mok'slyk had assured him it would be an effortless journey and so it had been. They had sailed south, into the Azure for one day before turning due west for another three, then due north until reaching a foreign shore. They sailed along that shore to the west and north west, past a range of hills, around a small peninsula until they could see an old, worn down mountain range to the north and here they landed.
Now Zipheron stood upon the shores of a verdant land. Across a quarter of a mile of beach and scrub brush, to lush grasslands that seemed to stretch out to the horizon. Off to his left he could see the range of old and worn down mountains and to his right, far in the distance, stood a forest. It was all that he had seen in his visions.
He turned to look upon the people that had followed him into exile; Village headmen and priests of Tiamat, a few house magicians and scribes and even a couple of priest of Beory. Those last two he was particularly interested in. He had examined them closely and found them true to the Oerth Mother. They would prove invaluable to him.
And then there were the three young princes. Three? To his amazement he had discovered during the voyage that an unimportant house, long out of favor in Caerdiralor, had joined his exiles. This young prince was Rikiah of the House of Truun. Younger than his contemporaries, the two elder princes treated him with disdain. But House Truun were not devotees of Tiamat, which explained their unfavorable position in Myrsyma. This only served to make house Truun superior in Zipheron's eyes.
'I will attach myself to Rikiah. Mohoshon and Melemon already plot assassination and usurpation, but I shall insure that they fail. House Truun will be an important house within the new nation.'
"Friends." They turned to look at him. "Though we stand upon a strange shore this day, it is not the first time. Most believe that the land of the Dragonshead is our true home, but that is not so."
The people turned to look at one another and began to speak in low voices. Zipheron raised his hands for quiet.
"Friends, it is true. Our people, the Ur-Flan, did not begin there but originated in a far distant land, a land now lost to us and long forgotten. I assure you that at one time the land of the Dragonshead was just as 'foreign' to our forefathers as this land now is to us.
"But our forefathers overcame all obstacles that would obstruct their rise to glory. They carved out a great kingdom for themselves in their new lands, a kingdom to which we stand heir. But the rulers of that now shadowed empire choose to walk down a path into darkness, and so we gathered here chose exile. Such a thing as this has happened before, when our forefathers long ago left our original homeland, and for much the same reasons. And just as our forefathers did before us, we shall carve out for ourselves a new kingdom here in this luxuriant country. We shall build a city and call its name Utaa Ul-Bakak.
"And our future shall be glorious and it sparkles
brilliantly before us. The Gods which we here serve have decreed that this is
to be so. We shall thrive and prosper anew here, here in these . . . these Bright
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