"I wonder if that was from the pastrami rueben I had yesterday?"

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Legend of the City of Atuan

When the conquerors from the north first came to Illandria some 350 years ago, the Elves treated the invaders not with alarm but with curiosity.  They had heard of no lands to the north, let alone one large enough to support a human settlement some 20,000 strong.  When asked from whence they came, the humans answered only, "Atuan." 

This single word has captured the imagination of cartographers, explorers and treasure hunters throughout the ages.  It has been the cause of many an expedition to disappear without a trace, and each successive attempt only fans the flames for those who still hope to make the discovery of the lost homeland of humanity.  All attempts have met with abject failure, usually resulting in the presumed deaths of all involved to the inhospitable seas and icy winds to the north of Illandria. 

Alex the Bold and his crew of his ship, the Jeweled Scabbard, are reputed to have made it the farthest in the Y.L. 201, travelling some 500 miles to return bearing tales of a frigid wasteland known as Kaltlund.  Alex told of endless tundra, rolling hills of ice and snow populated with strange creatures great and small, but no trace of any men or ancient settlements.  He brought home the white pelts of a great bear, a large fish with a horn like a unicorn, and a single tooth the size of a man's hand which Alex pried from the hull of his ship, but of Atuan, he confessed he saw no sign.  The floating ice surrounding Kaltlund made for slow going, and stretched on for miles east and west if his accounts are to be believed.

The voyage of the Jeweled Scabbard inspired many would-be copy cat sailors, most of whom were never heard from again.  But in Y.L. 225 Horatio Helgott, aboard the stout ship Red Selig, confirmed the existence of Kaltlund.  Unlike Alex, Horatio reported contact with tribes native to Kaltlund, not quite beast nor man but some sort of cross between the two.  The creatures had large pointed teeth meant for tearing and rending meat from bone, but used crude tools and weapons fashioned from bone.  They also bore thick white pelts similar to those brought home a quarter century before.  Horatio attempted a parley with the creatures, resulting in over half his crew ending up in the pot for the savages.  With little evidence to back his claims of a tribe of sub humans living in the ice and snow, Horatio was derided as a fool and a hack, and he died penniless and drunk, mumbling stories that people had long since stopped listening to years ago.

Vindication would come for Horatio, though not in his lifetime.  His great great grandson, Juno Helgott, was inspired upon finding the log of Horatio's voyages some 50 years prior.  Juno was a young aspiring shipwright, and he crafted his own vessel, the Rechtfertigung, using a loan he took out from the Bank of Abadar.  He hired on a crew and successfully made the voyage once again, using Horatio's logbook as a guide.  Taking his great great grandfather's warnings to heart, he came well armed and prepared for conflict, and when he made contact with the savages he sent them fleeing with flaming ballistae shot.  Two of the creatures' corpses were taken relatively intact, and the memory of Horatio was exonerated upon Juno's triumphant return. 

With the advent of the air dirigible some 30 years ago, several pilots have made the journey across the North Sea attempting to retrace the steps of those who came before them, and in hopes that some trace of the cradle of humanity in this region.  Kaltlund has been mapped thoroughly, and if Atuan lies within it's borders it lies covered in snow and ice.  The origins of man in Illandria may remain forever a mystery, and so long as they do there will be explorers galore attempting to find it and plunder its lost riches.