Thursday, April 23, 2009 - 1:34 PM

In my campaign setting, there was once a fiercely human empire of great power and influence, where experiments in magic, art and science changed the world on a regular basis. The empire was destroyed, and only those few citizens who were not in the nation at the time were spared. All the rest were slain by the disaster.

A session ago, the player characters found a fellow who once belonged to this empire during its heyday. He was stuck outside of time, due to the influences of a magical amulet, and having freed him, the party made sure to see him safely to a patron of theirs. They were worried about him going mad once he found out his former home was gone, but they also recognized what a rare source of information he would be. Given how things are going, it might be a while before they chat with him again, so I thought I'd present a little piece of his point of view here.

On the map, the wide peninsula extended south from Morugai. Roughly in the middle, the peninsula's center was gnawed hollow by a huge, abnormally perfect circle of ocean. Ambrose could see a few spots there, indicating islands. The mapmaker had drawn a larger circle in red, centering the hollow, and written the rune for 'Forbidden'. Written over the water-filled crater was the word 'Umar'.

To Ambrose, it had only been two weeks ago when he'd walked down the gleaming sapphire cobbles of a wide thoroughfare, where tall trees of crystal and translucent ivory cast violet shadows across the road leading to the Zurunan Palace of Arcane Learning. He'd sat down for a meeting in a vast hall where blue-streaked pale marble had been literally grown into vast caryatids, whose huge arms supported a domed ceiling of perfectly polished silver which would never tarnish. He remembered looking up at the constantly shifting orrery of burning spheres there, hovering and spinning in perfect harmony to cast a shifting, warm light through the hall as a tiny ceramic golem poured rare Deshune frostmountain tea into chalcedony cups. There, he had sampled sliced fruits from places as far as the Ixte jungle and the cold, dripping forests of Shanmora, discussing philosophy and metaphysics with men and women whose educations beggared some of history's great sages. Like the nation of Umar itself, they were makers of history. The world would not stand on their shoulders to greatness; the magicians of Umar would teach the world to fly.

But three hundred years ago, Umar plummeted from the sky and was obliterated. The Zurunan was dust. The arcane explosion of Umar fed upon itself, perpetuating for over a year in a seething beautiful cataclysm, leaving behind a chewed-out crater that the ocean filled. Even after so long, the area was full of agonized cobwebs of magic, wracking time and space as easily as flesh and bone. No one dared approach.

Ambrose had learned that the world now feared Umar. They saw his people as having been arrogant, careless and decadent.

In the quiet of the archmage Caradoc's library, he sat in a simple but comfortable chair, with a small cup of mundane green tea, and shut his eyes against the present. He was very alone.

Yes, he was thankful to Caradoc for being a peer and a friend, however reserved the archmage was.

Yes, he was thankful to those who released him from the effect of his amulet, and thankful to them for their own compassion.

Yes, he was even thankful that he survived, because at least some truth from Umar survived with him, some part of the great dream that hadn't been stained with three hundred years of despise and fear.

Hands folded around his teacup, he sat in silence, inhaling the clean, paper-scented air of the library, and forced his emotions to stillness. Concentration was normally easy for him, bu today it was slippery, tangled in the swelling feeling deep in his chest.

Even though his home was gone, and all of those who he'd known and loved were gone, there was something much greater missing from the world Ambrose found himself in. Looking at the small stack of books he'd consumed in the past couple of days, catching up on the three hundred years he'd lost, he finally understood what it was.

When Umar died, a vision died with it. Ambrose saw the tiny hints, the unspoken gaps in the histories and accounts. He read the whispers behind the words when people decried the works of Umar, and spoke out against the ambitious. They thought it was Umar, but he came to understand their fear was not of Umar or Umaran works. They were afraid of failure, and did not want to see others succeed.

Fear of failure had never been a part of Ambrose's world.

This is something that I can give to the world, he thought. That and I carry with me traditions that were lost or shunned centuries ago... so, in me, Umar does survive. My world does exist, and perhaps humanity may learn to fly again.

Letting the thoughts console him, he sighed, sipped at his tea, and then abruptly smiled. The smile turned into a small, pleased laugh.

He knew of at least four people who did not fear failure, and he sincerely hoped he would see them again.

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