Long, long ago, before the Great Circle of Ages turned to the Time of Fears, a group of primitives groped and shambled in the black mud of a tiny lake, a pond really, surrounded by a festering marsh. These primitives had no racial memory, no sense of family. They were merely a group of savages, banding together for protection. They stumbled, day after day, through life, living as animals would, eating snakes and frogs, sleeping in the reeds and the mud, fearing the wild beasts and the vengeful gods of nature.
But one day, upon the dawn, one of these primitives crawled from his mosquito-ridden bed in the mud, scraping dirt-caked dreadlocks out of his eyes, and looked, this fear-ridden, sickened, dumb-voiced One Man, toward the rising sun.
The One Man’s neighbors were immediately fearful of him, for it is the nature of men, especially the savages, to fear that which they do not understand. And indeed, the One Man was confusing and strange, and unlike any other man or woman upon the muddy shores of their scummy mosquito-mere. He wove for himself a roof of dry reeds in the rocks above the lake. He washed himself free of the caked filth of primitive existence, and he wrapped a simple garment of lion-skin about his hips. He made noises to explain and describe the things around him.
Strangest of all to the savages, this One Man woke every morning, stepped from his little reed hut and hailed the dawn. Not with the fear that savages have of dawn, the fear that this dawn is the final dawn, and it is the day in which they will meet the cold grip of Oblivion, but with the loving warmth that a friend gives to his peers.
It is also the nature of man, when he overcomes his fear, to be curious, and in this way, the One Man won over his smelly primitive neighbors. One morning, as the One Man gave thanks to the dawn which had opened his eyes, his neighbor-savages crept through the marsh to the edge of the rocks which surrounded their water-hole universe. This was novel. This was very novel, very extremely new, for to savages, their home is all the universe, they are the center, and beyond their little microcosm is the Fears, the Terrors, and the thing that gnaws at all men in the end: Death. When a savage grew bold enough, he or she would dash from the reeds with a hoarse screech and quickly paw at the One Man’s lion-skin raiment and his sun-browned skin. Gradually, the savages would stay longer and longer, and they learned of something novel: Names.
The One Man was called “Nep”. The muddy ones were called “Hu”. Reeds were “Ub”, mud was “Nur”. The water, the precious water, was “Ka”. The frogs were called “Croak”, after their sound, and the snakes thus were “Suhs”, and the mosqitoes thus “Vaa”. Slowly Nep the One Man taught his newly discovered language to these savage people, and his ways, and the ways in which he thanked the shining sun for his mind.
In this way it began.
Now the Circle of Ages turned a little more. A thousand years after those filthy men crawled from the mud to meet Nep the One Man, the ancient and primal plains of the early world were ruled by an empire, an empire of humans all descended from Nep and his muddy bunch, and also, the sun, or so the legends said. These people built their proud cities of sandstone and marble and jade in towers and pyramids to the skies. They were no longer afraid. They were no longer voiceless and powerless, no longer simple animals. The ancient water-hole was the site of their holiest temple, the combined temple of Nep the One Man and the mightiest god, the Sun. For that was there greatest god, the solar disc, and the motif of it’s flare was a common decoration. They were powerful, but their universe was still limited only to the plains.
The Circle of Ages creeps on, and the world sags a little after three-thousand years. The sun-worshippers now ruled the world, the ultimate force. Their extravagant cities of sandstone, gold, and marble, and jade, and reeds, still a little.
Their empire stretched from their beloved and burning hot plains, to the foetid jungles of the deepest south, and to the wind-whistling pines of the north. Their mighty armies, outfitted in bronze, and some in new-found iron, subjugated barbarians, smashed uprisings, kept the peace.
Their great emperor, descended in a direct line from Nep Himself and the Holy Sun, ruled from their ancient holy city, built around the Shrine Upon the Lake, which had expanded to a huge, ornate, and beautiful complex, a temple, a senate house, and an imperial palace all in one.
Their generals were brilliant and strong, their magicians and priests skilled, and their god, the mighty golden sun, was strongest of all.
Another thousand years, and the Circle of Ages had ground away at the universe. The empire of the sun-worshippers hit it’s peak, and all of the far-flung civilizations, the Radoths in their pines, and the Gunds in their boats, and the Arcturians in their houses of stone with their banner of the eagle, and the remote Lengs in their awful and horror-soaked plateau, and the snake-worshipping Islanders, and the Hothaks in their longhouses in the snow, and the fierce warrior Yatagans riding upon their steppes, all of these scattered people and more had for their masters the Sun Worshippers.
The greatest of all their generals, who would one day be known as First and Night-Crowned Wolf, revelled alongside the Emperors and the Nobles, and the Peasants worked patiently, and the Merchants did what they are wont to do.
The world now groaned beneath the weight of the Circle of Ages as the Time of Splendor was ground to dust. After two-thousand years, the Empire of the Sun-Worshippers had fallen into terminal decadence. The revels became more bizarre and outrageous, the laws more unfair, the peasants more repressed and bitter, the barbarians more numerous, the wars more pointless and bloody. Decay was the order of the age. The Empire wormed its way through pointless hedonism and killing, while all its far flung splendor fell, decaying, dying, the Empire dying, crushed beneath the weight of Time and the sheer hugeness, the titanic boulder, of Man.
One, and only one, final, climactic, Apocalyptic spasm rocked the empire, a cluster of battle after battle, orgies and drugs, and riots and hunger, and gluttony and greed, and with a sense of indignant rage, the Empire of the Sun-Worshippers, who’s hunger could never be ended, devoured itself and died, and its death throes shook the foundations and four corners of the mortal world.
But even after that hideous death, the black heart of the Empire, the Holy City, refused to die, refused to stop beating, refused to stop spouting its corrupted ichor. But even this eventually ceased, and fell into decay, and a darkness fell over the ruins.
The Circle has turned over once again. The sun-baked plains of the Empire have turned to desert. A great earth-shaker has thrown the land into disarray. The jumbled, sawtoothed cliffs upon which the Last City now broods are a shelf of land that has been thrust into the air like a wall cutting off the desert and heralding the start of the mountains. There is only one way up the cliffs, a crumbling, dangerously small stairway carved by some madman in a fit of insane creativity. The city is a shadowy wreck, a skeleton of its former glory.
Even now, a certain wrongness is about the place. The desert people will not go near it, and call it Tismeq, Devil Place. Animals will no more go into the ruins than would they leap from the cliffs. The city is an awful ruin, and because of it’s evil reputation, nothing has been removed, artifacts, marble, jade mosaics, nothing. The hideously ancient pond still exists, as a sad little pool clouded with scum in the center of the ornate and richly appointed corpse of the palace complex. It is said that somewhere in the complex, there is a tomb, a deeply buried, indescribably old tomb, simple, dusty, carved with an epitaph in a language and alphabet long forgotten. It is said that within this tomb is the dust that once was Nep the One Man, and with him is a jewel in which he entrusted all of his power.