"a masterpiece manuscript describing a fantastic world set in an age long before any known to us and only hinted at here and there in old books that you may have read.
Only by chance did I come across the most entertaining book I’ve read in a very long time. Hidden within is a fantastic journey deep into the earth."
Long hath shadow and powers dwelt in lands under our feet, where vast caverns lay hid, mazy mountain innard or meandering stream, and other regions antique: ash-buried city or the vain monarch’s trap-laden tomb, or deep grottos that echo the ceaseless drip-drop. Short are the days of the world’s green surface turning her cheek to the warming sun, whose rays stir up water and wind, the ever-changing landscapes, elements destroying and wearing away all things, together with every monument of record, be they of flesh, leaf or stone. Not so the places beneath, not so: down there many things lay lost or buried, bits of lore long forgotten, bones of creatures millenia extinct, and many other mysterious things to be recovered and known.
Many revolutions of men have I lived through, and still I survive and will travel again the four worlds, the pages of many annals turned. Yet for so long did I sojourn in the depths, in cavernous mazes searching, and did slumber ‘neath silvery mushroom, that I cannot now reckon how many orbits, measured of Calduin, I have breathed the dank airs of places unseen Yea shall I return more, save ye, accompanied only by the worthiest yeomen, and never any followers of Drake the coward. Choose me companions worthy of trust, you deepseigers, not esteeming too highly anything of skill or talent.
Still do I mourn the passing of great heroes once known to me, men of high exploit, whom I conducted into darkest caverns of earth, unflinching fool that I was. Be thou comforted, my soul, the Lays of Illystra may yet preserve their valorous deeds from oblivion.
Tell I unto thee, now, in frank writing, of all matters concerning the histories of the intermundane realms. First I say: known there is, yet little of full. Knoweth I less more so than commonly, saue for the scriptings of The Black Book which I took up in hand to memorize. Of whatsoever I do provide, in faith, pray, deem it most lawful and complete.
Many things once recorded in the Black Books of Melancholy are included, as much as I had set in memory while I possessed the several tomes before they were lost. That being so, I beg ye mark: not even of your sunlit world be there sufficient access to archaeonic works, especially since the days when Nystul, the great city of magian scrolls, began confiscating all writing of every furthland. How much less therefore can be learned of obscure lore, of deep caverns or old understone halls? This hear ye, not well known is it, that of the histories detailed in The Black Book, there are those which date back even before the origin of the elven sky-rings. This I do know, having seen the cryptic words.
There are places of peril unsighted, dim lands better left undisturbed. Most of the manuals teach nothing of stillness or silent listening, so be thou not surprised to hear about fools who, in torment of mind, hurry to excauate the wondrous things beneath, but who are quickly lost. In righteous resolve they endeavor to the dark caves upon some deep-delving quest, and in an unexpected turn, they awaken what should not be awoken.
The pious may at first consider these my insights to be of a questionable nature, perhaps they even suspect these lines will lead to some blasphemous instruction. Do I not value my head?
Learn faith, and know that some thoughts may at first come across as unfamiliar and strange, but they will reep much wisdom if well ruminated upon. Afterall, is it not true that in the deepmost corners of the mind there persist the contemplations of the Ancientmost, who is ever so uastly beyond our keen?
The mind itself is a kind of luminous library that keeps long record of such ghostly visitations, and of dark portents as well, stirred up by the euil spirit that scurries about, deceiving men to misdirect the course of the world. But it is written: “Know them you will when See you them and hear you of them.”
There a suspicion of the dark deeply set in the hearts of all men, albeit even in the kindred: dwarves, gnomes, and elves. Nay, in me would not fear prevail. The stygian places of the world, hear it, I entered many a time.
Soon my harvester will come, yet bear I fruit only rotten if I tarry longer on this surface and do not venture into certain lower levels, so as to rescue poor souls. Aye, can we, who are chosen, neglect it? So warns the vine-tender: and woe betides if we degrade the light reviving each leaf and branch of that vine. Is it not the case that most men in their day become strangers to themselves? Are they not like those branches torn from the vine? Wither and die they must, unless you and I graft them by our subtle work.
Wherever cruel masters have exiled rightful faith from men there is found little hope or understanding. Even the soul may in short lapse become as alien to a man and his ouun native ways. I have witnessed it; a spirit-contagion ripe among the races of men. It was to such an extent that they thought it wisdom to be driven in fruitless direction. That is a lying wisdom rooted in their hearts keeping them on the run from true knowledge.
In order to fetch some remedy for men I thought it best to search out the innards of earth. I went down to the more olden of creatures, to partake of their word, at their pleasure, harkening to their stupendous wit. It was back in the day, before the Revelation, when I harboured the conviction that somewhere in the intermundane expanse, in the depth of time undiscovered, The Prime Mover would keep some habitation. Nay, not in the sky rings, as the burn of my pipe fancied, the turning rings be no lodge for such sublime stillness.
It is a speculation that I yet ponder, and although by race a gnome, men do still include me in their tales. I am, afterall, a being by nature akin to your forefathers, some of whom sleep far off in other crypts, (or sepulchres insatiable not only for flesh, but blood and spirit too). Therefore be aware that these expeditions of mine have engendered in me a zeal for the revelatory, and that life of keenness in the knowing.
how the dwellers- beneath take their origin in variouS ways
Since earliest times men have robbed, raped, butchered, and killed their fellows; this I have witnessed and mayhap thou as well. Every illustrious civilization that sought to end the mischief has, for a time, succeeded. But lo, the grand houses always return to the clay from whence their bricks were baked. Or, in the case of a great city, she becomes but a shell of her former glory, as do great souls themselves in old age.
Therefore I must differ with those who call themselves pious, who are watchers of the sky-rings, (p.235) for the sky-rings create and destroy one another in the course of ages. They be but a whirlwind not perceptible to the human eye.
It is just the same as when a bull dies and feeds the earth’s creatures its carcass. Within days, the hard working bees design a many-chambered lodging of honeycomb in its rib cage. In the same way the ruins of the ancients supply a structure for the building of a new civilization. So also the former’s dwellings may become a crypt or underworld palace hidden below.
The under-realms have their seed there, in the forgotten stronghold of some vain prince doomed, whose escape route was burrowed connecting tunnels to the great caves further down. Now left upon the surface are just a few rocks of his palace here and there. The bricks be not much to look at, and far wanting in comparison to those glorious houses which the courtly elves left behind. They still stand hidden in the forests in all their splendor. If you could travel that far and if you had something greater than mortal sight, o human, you would behold those abandoned wonders. But be thou careful. There were civilizations of dark elves as well, and other denizens beneath, alien to human record. Such long-age enduring be some of these, that they calculate time with the passage of water over rock, or by the depth underground they have sunk, or learn the century by record of the positions of galaxies seen through a deeply-delved bore-hole.
Believe I that there be places ‘neath the ground that await for (script unclear) ...to come and leave footprints there (script unclear), they wait to watch (the bodies wither?), or to torment and play with the ghosts and spirits loosed of mortals who leave their lives above, letting out the dark famoth (meaning unclear, word unknown). Places I have been, mark ye, to which I would not willingly return. The rodent of the memory gnaws upon my mind.
Further I must insist ye harken and confess it true if thou hast reckoned well. Truthful only let my speech be, and remember it henceforth: that contrary to the conceits of the pietistic scribes, it is not angelic or demonic creatures, fairy breed, elven folk, goblins, dwarves, or any of the kindred, such as that to which I share lineage, but man himself to which I admonish this point: he be the oldest creature that walks the earth above and below, and the most dangerous. The other races are but merely the stuff of legend, hurled into reality by some mystery, soon to vanish from the world. This being so, I am not ashamed to admit, for I am a man as well, and my destiny is wrapped up in his. For man has been since the earliest of times, and will remain even after the closing of these times.
There is an often quoted vanity that a deepseiger cannot avoid awakening a dragon, and so surprise and forthright assault is best. This is what the so-called experts, filled with much ale and little experience, profess. Believe it not, for it is otherwise: to challenge a horned terror is quite beyond natural ability. Beware thou, accept none of the so-called famous methods, but rather learn to rely on heaven’s grace, a help which is quite beyond explanation. Much advice do survivors relate and heroes of old, but remember the foremost is this: a man must first enter into himself, or else dare not undertake the risk.
The bold, by guarded discipline, are to form an iron will for the bloody work. They must descend into Earth, where long-slumbering dragons lay upon a bed of gold and dream of glory and days of yore. The heroes will quickly enter places of great danger prepared by the dragon’s lord, mazes and terrible traps, and if they survive the mysteries, they might have a chance at tracking the beast. What will happen next no sage can rightly say or seer clearly see.
It is commonly known that dragons will not tarry long where solar beams bring life to growing things and green leaf. It is however not a well known furthlore that some dragons fly forth from their stony lairs during hours when light fades from Sky and the Milky way begins to appear. With vast wings outstretched they glide upon the steady breezes of the upper atmosphere and are invisible to all but the keenest watchers.
In ancient days these creatures dwelt easily on the surface, and one might even spot them aloft before the Sun was upon the horizon. They loved dawn’s rosy light, whose pale glow drives sleep from every bird and beast, from every human and kindred. This was before the years when in fear of the elven hunters they turned their cheeks to Earth’s ever-dark caves.
For both long living and long slumbering dragons, it is right lore that the upper world is now become intolerable. Seasons hurl elements and alter landscapes constantly, so aeon-rest is not possible. What is more, Nature’s strife can obliterate a dragon’s hard-won fame: water and fire endanger the world’s written testimony. Flesh, leaf, and stone, or whatever material upon which men set down true accounts and heroic record, in the ages come and gone, have either been damaged beyond repair or utterly destroyed. They crumble apart, becoming an unsolvable puzzle of countless pieces, or else lose the human reckoning of their spoken spell as when the mortal bards must sleep in the earth never again to sing their song.
Even the “immortal fame” of the few saga-worthy dragons requireth occasional restoration. If a dragon wishes to gain back his ferocious reputation, diminished after a thousand years of aeon-rest, the vain creature must awaken and search the hollow earth, even take to wing upon the world’s surface. He must once again prove his fury, breathing fiery smoke or freezing blast upon upstart adventurers and would-be slayers.
Of the archaic dragons much more must be said. First however learn from me something of remote worlds past. Though many words have been written, yet few reveal right gainful knowledge. Therefore take heed: many, unperceiving, stroll upon the sunny lands and say many things, and they propose to discourse upon what dwells below. They seize upon that which is unsearchable, even claiming to chart places lower than the unknown tombs, alien realms where sun and seasons cannot pass. Wherefore have they surveyed the dark and timeless places that they can speak thereof?
I have passed through many a mysterious gloom that no others have passed through, and have read what no eyes read, nor ears heard, nor tongues told, and my own tongue will sometime also grow still. Therefore, I am compelled to make record of these many things, so that you may not tread the deepearth without some precious aid.
Be then warned, I do not tell of the many living things having their abode under Sky, where the bright beams shine down, physic rays stirring wind and water to wear away earth. No, the visible domain of day is not my theme, but for the sake of things out of sight and deep below does my dark ink flow.
There do creep pale creatures in dim regions, and consider ye that no solar rays drive the elements to and fro, and many remnants of former things persist much longer. Learn it: there brood immortal seas of silence, while far above the heavens also abide, ever resounding with song, (whereas there be a curse upon Earth’s surface, I confess it, which are the sounds of so many vain things). No so in the deep. Silence is upon the nether-shore. All for naught, few surface-kinds remember the song and even fewer can endure silence.
Yea, soon must I return there, and go forth again into the deep, chambers unseen. Vouchsafe ye, oaths upon gilded sword-hilt could not testify against me, nor any league with mercenary hands untested. Such souls conceal cruel ambition for deep-buried gold. They feign to be rugged archeologues, but nigh every time their innards do weaken, overcome by the terror of dark silences. They, by in large, are followers of the undisciplined way, “drakers”, and their grand exhortations prove mere butterfly when some bloody task is suddenly at hand. They were duly and fairly warned. Such stomachs cannot hold this manner of draught.
Rather let battle-tried companions come, clad in chainmail, and with few others let me descend. Pray therefore that thy soul govern fear with fire, as it was written in the Eldark books: “he whose blood burns like a prophecy hold thou fast and bring holy terror into shadowy places.”
Into darkest caverns I went. A mere belly, reckless and untrained, more than once did I pay dearly for my lack of judgement.
Truly did the ages teach me huge caution in all things. Yet some things in the dark, mind ye, chill to terrors beyond understanding, and the good survive only if long practiced. But even the man known for happy resolve, if he be without right edification, not at all prevails in the face of the frightful unknown. Lo, he surrenders to fear. Timid flesh has been the government over his spirit, and thus fear governs his soul.
Know first that much noble blood was spilt that ye might hear of these things. Know also that within this magical text, I, Kruthius Eleusinion, have implanted many a puzzle for the dreaming mind to labor upon, in order that whatsoever be of mystic import concealed, the same may unlock them by the soul’s decipher, and so may impart unearthly truths.
Pray, reader, be patient with my wording, for I do not know this tongue from my youth, although soon you may understand my diction more easily. Forgive me when my sayings twist like the labyrinth. First I must discourse a while on the subterraneous expanse and explain in what ways Nature and Time hath fashioned her. Then various inhabitants and creatures who never see the light of the physik Sun must I treat on, but not in full, only those things which commonly vex explorers. On these I shall tell ye episodes for each, that I might implant certain grave things in your memory.
The great burning and sudden demise
of every mortal record
Of worlds gone by many claim understanding, but few are they who might tell, few who might recount the ways long passage of Time hath altered the land, or who could relate the stories that lost ruins keep. Again, I urge ye, ask yourself and search your memory: who of the living has seen the deep monuments or who among you knows the lore? Much has been writ, but mark ye, little is yet understood of such things.
Therefore know this: that of each kingdom on these shores who kept histories and sciences, or once copied sacred wisdom, and recorded notation for songs, many precious works, many ages laboured through; they were all together in a short span of years collected mass, but all at once destroyed, obliterated all of them in but a single day. They were caught up in an inferno of wrath, a chastisement, some say, from above. The agency was a conflagration prepared at the hands of untaught men who had never a scroll or book seen. So were the unworthy designs of certain betrayers accomplished. All sage wisdom, science, and history of each Furthland went up in smoke when the city of mages, Nystul, fell to the barbarians. Precious book and scroll wisped away forever from human grasp.
So now in our own era of Whitehawk many have been longing to know of their origins, and of history, and of civilizations forgotten, whose gold-piled tombs are obscured in silence. Down into the dangerous underground shafts many go a-questing, not even for gold, but for lost writings. There in the dark by misadventure nar seldom does Death take them, and unburied their souls must wander through the nether-regions until they find some outward portal.
Some archeologues do find the lost writings they seek, inscriptions or scrolls they extract with delicate care from the bony hand of some monarch long entombed. But is the written wisdom so recovered honest or decietful? Did not decievers walk in brilliance even among the magnificent angels in days primordial? Today, ye see that many claim understanding of remotest history, and of secrets, but of the living how rare the one who wields enough knowing power to translate the texts and discern the interior meanings of things.
Some cunning men have hurried to fill the void of knowledge. Common throughout Whitehawk are books of seeming wisdom, and these have been widely copied. Rare is a tome that preserves authentic knowledge of things. There walks every manner of well-fed scribe or exalted professor to offer thee some self-pleasing doctrine, or some charming tale, or to interpret some sacred text. Vainly do they comfort mortal fears and thereby win both thy coin and thy soul. Woe unto them. They write much and know little, and use they many pleasing sentences. Know they all of nothing on the deep-born mysteries.
Of all created things which the human eye can discern, only Earth and Sky endure through endless years. Consider how the many elements are drawn to one another by some invisible force and combine violently. Are they not in turn rent asunder by strife and in every way destroyed? Nor can anything remain if through many years the smiting rhythm of various elements continuously diminishes them: do you see not how flesh, leaf, and stone continually wear away and perish? To these materials the furth-generations of men once entrusted many writings: to vellum, papyrus, and tablet.
Consider again how the alternations of cold air and hot, the blowing winds, baneful moisture, and growing things brought forth by the living earth, all in a ceaseless vortex subject writings and inscriptions to trials unseen. Unless some great thought or story urges the scribes and monks to keep making new copies, a work left in a forgotten chamber or study, some seldom visited place, may be preserved not more than a few generations of men. Even glorious works of profound skill must eventually be stripped of their fame, if not by the warring of elements then by the forgetfulness of men. Obscure is the rhyme of the eld poet who has slept in the tomb through a thousand eclipses, and the arcane writings of the philosopher even more quickly hurry towards oblivion.
On identifying the PECuliar Race of gnomeS
Understand that my race is very old, nay indeed older than any of the kindred, not made of clay as thyself, but more like an elf of the old tales. My kind is more akin to stardust rather than clay, for I am of the gnomish clans, and of us there are few who remain. Most have fallen asleep or have been imprisoned by the infernal monks, or have turned to mischief. Hear ye and know this, human: that your cousins, the kindred, the Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and the other legendary races, they are together related, we are elphim.
When traveling in dangerous lairs beneath earth, ye will likely see us wearing decorous helms, some tunic of chainmail, and provisioned with other bright war-gear. Our beards are both long or short regardless of age because God hath in that way rendered us. we trim in a way unlike dwarves, and these beards, though curly, are less coarse, and sometimes sport a golden luster. Though we may grow a full length of beard, many prefer a trimmed sheep-style beard, that is, a beard which covers the chin but has no hairs about the mouth. Do not believe the lie that our beards are made of the white gold, for that tale was contrived by the enemy to lure the greedy into planning our capture.
If however ye see a Gnome who has a goatish style beard, or off-color beard, be ye slow to trust him, for such a beard may be a sign of adherence to certain vanities, or to goatish heresy.
(I also sport a large nose by mortal measure, but it does not seem large to me).
As duly appointed Arcavir for this region my work is rather dangerous, for I tread into the underworlds and retrieve forgotten or stolen texts. Unlike the dwarves we Gnomes prefer the solitude of our forest lodges to the busy mines in the mountains. Nevertheless the desire for lost knowledge drives our kind underground toward forgotten places. Dwarves accompany us and protect us with their fighting-craft, their famous axes being feared by dragon and fiend alike. In return we record their heroic deeds, as immortal songs, after the rhymes of the Illystran epics, songs of the saga-sayers, whose schools are passing from the memories of both elphim and men.
Among sober dwarves we are considered sacrosanct, keepers of the lore, and mediators of undying fame. Sometimes, (though rare it is indeed), I will sing likewise for a mortal, if a maid of excelling virtue or beauty, a knight of high exploit, or a far-famed king. I will draw down a meandering song from the Muses’ loom and give his mead-drenched mind some taste of immortality. It takes much strength of spirit to project such a rolling rhythm, to render uncertain chords. I must seek through dark waters of my memories’ chasm. So do I manage it, even doing this for mortal men, they who fall away swiftly like leaves from an oak tree. Afterwards, loaded down with honey cakes and gold wreathes, I will return through the town Whigg and retire for a time into my remote hill-tower Torgrith. I have afore-vowed, together with all other right-hearted Gnomes, to keep all the songs well practiced in my own memory.
In choosing rightly from either getting lost in the mazes of library stacks, or else wading into the actual deep places in order to hear accounts first-hand from the subterranean denizens, an archeologue choses the latter. In this way foolish embellishments of eager story-tellers are avoided. Certain feudal clans have kept, some for many generations, accounts of buried treasures and secret hordes. They usually refuse to say much, keeping the location a secret, and even refusing the identities of those involved. They often do consent to speak of dangers, of grey beasts, ghosts, and of troubles, in order to discourage explorers. Some refuse to reveal anything whatsoever and have chased me away. Also, what things I myself recorded as witnessed by dwarves and others, these I wrote down exactly as I heard them, making no emendations and adding nothing of embellishment, (and accepting no coin in exchange for contriving heroic odes).
The Vanity of all the world and purpoSe of training would-be ArcheologueS
As said I before, this, hear ye, well known it is that tracts of crucial lore are compiled in most wondrous and rare tomes. Know ye this work to be in seven volumes enclosed and titled The Black Books of Melancholia. The volumes are called black because of the strange dark covers of geometric design, and the work is called melancholy for the wondrous knowledge and prophecies some volumes doth hold which cause a certain melancholy disdain for earthly life, and consequent longing for the heavenly.
Abject though it may be to those who title themselves “righteous,” darksome facts we Archeologues do grapple. Yet mention it not openly, for fear of the jealous authorities of this world.
Let thyself imagine and see everything in your own mind to perish, every being and image, even the celestial things and those which are below, the angelics and the thoughts, the bodies and the powers, all unecessary beings themselves. Imagine them all to fail, but yet it is impossible that Truth itself might not remain. Truth is that which not from else preceded and which not else causes. It is Truth alone who abides.
Do ye suppose that straightway without counsel ye should my path assume? Do ye think that ye might drink of the same cup? Many are the dangers which lurk below, but especially lovely books of mischeivous power, and one must first learn something of how to identify these. Few can teach you what surety feeds the soul and which others lead to ruin. Do ye know something of what tales were told by the ancients? Beware, ye know not enough. Do ye hope that some spirited doctrine might guide you to the inner treasuries or gold, or horde of some long sleeping monarch? Lo, ye are about to be trapped. Let not eagerness for underworld gold, chill coins of cities dead, guide thy hope. Some higher cause must compel the treasure hunt if ye would return from such netherlands as I will describe...