The Grey Lady and the Age of Plenty
“No one knows who or what the Grey Lady really was. She may have been the last survivor of a race ancient beyond belief. Perhaps she gave birth to herself in the crawling chaos and darkness before time itself began. Perhaps she was just a human, in possession of great pleromic powers. No one knows.
What IS known, however, is that she figures in myths from every single culture in this world. Human or non-human, Acitan or Aquurian, Tapi or Pict; they all have legends and tales of her.
The stories differ in detail, but they all seem to agree on two key points: She ruled the world unchallenged for a hundred life-spans, and then she vanished without a trace….”
A thousand years before the advent of the current, human-predominant, world order, there was the reign of the Grey Lady, an enigmatic being who ruled, immortal and supreme, for many, many generations. This period in the history of the world was truly a golden age, without war, hunger or need. Under her command, crystalline, alien creatures – who had unsurpassed knowledge of the arts of pleromic manipulation - built floating cities in the air and turned the wilderness on the ground into lush parkland of wealth and fertility.
But the Lady was lonely, and so she opened rents or portals into other realities through which all manners of strange and incredible creatures came through to share and excel in the wealth she had created.
Among the first to arrive were the Seir, an advanced, benevolent race with almost god-like pleromic abilities and technology, who left their dying world behind to come into this fresh realm. Seeing in them the perfect shepherds for her diverse, teeming menagerie, they quickly became the Grey Lady´s favourites, her lieutenants and ambassadors.
Much, much later, humans arrived, a lowly, primitive race that, nevertheless, were accepted and flourished under the rule of the Seir and their Lady, taking part of the knowledge and power of their semi-god masters, as had the many hundreds of species that had arrived before.
But as the millennia wore on, the Lady became increasingly distanced from her creation. She withdrew from the public view into the depths of her citadel and communicated ever more infrequently with her minions, leaving the affairs of her empire in the hands of the Seir. Then, one day, she disappeared. No one knows where she went, or if she is alive or dead. Her Citadel was sealed and impregnable, its galleries of pleromic mechanisms silent and unresponsive in the absence of its mistress.
From what can be deduced from what records remain, the Seir, for a time, concealed the Lady´s absence from everyone else, but, in the end, the secret leaked out. And, among the upper echelons of the Lady´s court, there was a power struggle which soon escalated into an all-encompassing, many-fronted civil war.
Some flocked to the banners of the Seir, who fought to keep the empire intact and running according to the Lady´s policies, while others joined the Nerak Moiety, a rebel conglomeration of races who wanted the Lady´s powers for themselves. Others still, among them the human race, were too insignificant to figure in the larger picture, and were merely crushed underfoot as the giants struggled.
It is hard, due to the insufficient records of the time, to determine which side was good or evil. Most probably, as in every war, atrocities were committed by both sides equally as the realm was sundered and laid waste to by gigantic war-machines which strode across the land, spewing forth devastating viral theurgies, reality-skewers and vacuum-lances. Biothaumically modified abominationshaunted the earth, while the heavens were rent asunder by pleromic battles and many lesser races returned to a feral state.
What is known, however, is that after a hundred years of conflict, the Seir and their allies won, but at a terrible price. In desperation, the Seir assembled a ritual of such pleromic potency that the world itself was mortally wounded. Their final blow against the massed hordes of the Nerak Moiety released powers of such magnitude that the sun darkened, the mountains flattened and the stars fell from the firmament. Reality itself ripped and bled, bleaching the heavens and staining the earth. Darkness fell, temperature plunged and an ice age, destined to last for eons, arrived.
In the ashes, darkness and ice left behind by their victory, the remaining Seir, now broken and spent, turned their backs on their charges and retreated back into their few remaining cities, sealing themselves away from the world outside. The less powerful races were left behind to fend for themselves in the cold and the dark.
As the ice age wore on, one by one the Seir enclaves were swallowed by the ice and ground to dust under the advancing, mile-thick ice sheets. The Seir, apathetic and broken, did nothing to stop their advancing doom. By their own free will, they had stopped propagating, their reducing numbers congregating into fewer and fewer of their impregnable cities, until only one haven was left – Akelor. Here, sheltered from the advancement of the ice, the last remnants of their race gathered, and one by one over the years to come, they died of age and grief among a vast hoard of wonders and treasures of their age.
The last Seir alive, a seer and pleromach of great power, as he felt his life ebbing from him, contrived to erase the records of his race from history. Working a great magic, he sealed away the libraries of Seir knowledge, their amassed wealth of science and pleroma, their wondrous machines and artworks – even the mummified bodies of his kin - in some unimaginable place behind the sky, far from any conventional reality.
His task done, his powers spent and his body disintegrating from pleromic overuse, he kneeled and let his battered flesh dissolve into nothing. And so the Seir faded into oblivion, their fantastic city left behind, unprotected, to the advancing ice.
But by a strange fluke in the weather systems, a trick of geography, Akelor remained untouched by the grinding glaciers. The ice sheets passed this valley by, split in two by a nearby mountain peak, and so Akelor itself was preserved for those who would come after.
“The world is ending. On the last day of battle, darkness fell and did not lift again. Ashes cover the bleached bones of our kin and the acid rain stings the skin of those of us unlucky enough to be alive. Our masters have abandoned us, locked themselves away in their mountain fastnesses. There is no shelter, no food, no untainted water. We are alone in this desecrated land, and soon we, too, will be no more.
These are the last chronicles of Agay Two-suns, sole survivor of the Kansa clan. Stranger, this is the account of how our world died”
- The Kethopic Manuscripts, Sheet I, Paragraph I
In 161, the famous Locastrian explorer Solomon Kethop discovered, deep within a cave system of the Lower Thunderhead Range, a collection of basalt cylinders sealed with lead, which contained a much fragmented (and, some say, delusional) account of the final days of the War. Stamped in relief onto copper foil, the angular glyphs of the ancient language told a cryptic and bleak tale of the aftermath of the Grey Lady´s disappearance, recorded by one of the few humans left alone and sane in the eternal cold and darkness that followed the War.
The Kethopic Manuscripts, as these became known, were taken back to Locastus and subjected to intense study. The ancient glyph-alphabet in which they were written was largely unknown to the scholars, but enclosed with the Manuscripts were keys to deciphering the language – and by chance, these illustrated dictionaries to a long-dead language were, by and large, well preserved. It was clear that Agay Two-suns of the Kansa Clan, the chronicler of these the last days of the dying past, had meant for his records to be found – and understood.
However, the eons had taken their toll on the metal records. Many were so badly corroded that nothing could be extracted from their verdigris-splotched pages; others were reduced to little more than colorful metal-salt encrustations on the inner walls of their basalt containers. But some survived, and those contained historical accounts of incredible and terrifying significance.
Containers IV to XII, for example, were remarkably undamaged, and contained an account of the Grey Lady, her 1000-year reign, her eventual disappearance and the power struggles which erupted among her minions when they realized she was gone. These manuscripts, in translated and embellished form, now constitute the central dogma of the Grey Lady cult, a politically influential religious movement in Locastus today.
In containers XXI to XXV, despite having sustained considerable damage, lays the only known first-hand account of the mysterious Seir. Unfortunately Agay Two-suns, slowly succumbing to disease, malnutrition, madness and grief, became increasingly erratic in his accounts in the later sheets, and thus the information gleaned from the Manuscripts is enigmatic at best. He describes the Seir as alternatively “twice as tall as a tall man and with skin like burnished copper” or “with eyes like faceted onyx and with many tongues”. Somewhat more obscurely, he states that: “The Seir are unfathomable behind their faces like Khûl-opera porcelain masks”.
The largest remaining Kethopian fragment that mentions the Seir, found in container XXIV, tells us that: “The Seir, the Radiant Master, came among us, pleroma crackling on his facial horns (…..) grievously wounded by the grey fires of the Enemy, his scent was that of spice and thunderstorms (…..) he spoke in our heads and breathed his last, ejecting a plume of glittering spores…”.
From these passages, we may deduce that whatever the Seir looked like, they were nothing human-like.
Another, less eloquent but more graphic, account of the Seir can be found within the caves of Aquur, a continent of deserts and shrubland, far to the south. In the Black Heart desert, where the Rakhasa oasis snuggles up against the Throne of Heaven Mountains, the steep cliffs are riddled with caves wherein a small tribe of survivors of the War settled and managed to survive. Despite the near-animal state to which these unfortunates had been reduced, they covered every plane surface within these caves with beautifully detailed paintings, done in pigments of ochre, lapis and charcoal, in a pathetic attempt to remember the wonders which were now lost.
In the cave designated 3b, one of the most famous of these cave-paintings (of which sketches was brought back to Locastus by a 152 archeological expedition) shows a group of humans clad in bright colours kneeling before a tall, orange-skinned humanoid, at least twice as tall as the prostate figures surrounding it. The creature is thin to the point of emaciation, with limbs that possess more joints than any human. It is holding what appears to be a sphere above its head, with rays radiating off in every direction. The creature is naked apart from what appears to be black bracelets or bracers and a broad belt.
The figure´s face is clearly nonhuman, an elongated, visor-like mask reaching down to its middle chest, with almond-shaped, insect-like eyes and a series of V-shaped vents in place of nose and mouth. Two downward-curving horns, antennae or possibly mandibles sprouts from its lantern jaw. It is not known if this is the native appearance of a Seir, or if it is dressed in some form of armor or environmental suit.
At the time of their discovery, the Rakhasa cave paintings were thought to depict a tribal totem or mythical scene. With the discovery of the Kethopic Manuscripts, and their concordance in detail with the primitive arts of the Aquurian caves, what had seemed the mythology of a primitive civilization was suddenly revealed to contain the only known depictions of the Seir.