Some scholars say that the legend of the Civitas Caeli (translated into the Low Tongue as the City in the Sky), the City of Gold, was started when a Lunist tribe conquered a sun-worshiping one. Somehow, the idea that the sun was a city crept into Lunism, and from there the world, and ever since people have been telling their children ever since.
The Civitas Caeli is the world's most widely spread legend of a utopia. All the stories agree that it is a perfect place, where happiness is eternal for its denizens, and that pain and death are impossible. Amongst its golden walls, the horrors of the petty human condition are mere myths to be forgotten, and things such as greed and pride and all the other sins are no longer a threat.
However, no matter the tale, a hint of sadness is almost always present. Melancholy crept into the stories somehow, ill-befitting a tale of perfection and happiness. A tragedy of some sort is always occurs. Some scholars claim that some mother, early in the creation of the legend, lost her child when he decided to go looking for it, and bemoaned the tale, while others say that its because in the storyteller's subconscious, he realizes that such utopia is impossible in the modern world, which saddens him.
Note that the stories are taken from modern Atheus. Descriptions are thus taken from that perspective, and not that of those that originally told the tale. Political propoganda has as well crept into the stories- for example, in the Obstarian tale, those that question the status quo and rebel against the authority figures are left with nothing but the memories of wonder, which drives them to depression and never-ending tears.
Once the world was forest, and the people were happy. The forest provided for the forest-dwellers, and gave them a source of food and of meat, a source of warmth and source of shelter. But as such things go, the young people began to cry out for change. They decried the ways of the elders, saying that there has to be a better way of life.
As if in response to these prayers, the forest-dwellers looked up, and saw the sun descending. They saw that it was a city, a great and beautiful and elegant city.
The walls of the city were made of gold, and of a gold so pure and so valuable that it glowed. The city, which the forest-dwellers called the Civitas Caeli, for it had descended from the heavens, settled into the earth. The light from its golden walls flashed once, and burned away a circle of trees around and below it, and there it sat.
The young people saw the Civitas Caeli, and rejoiced amongst themselves, saying that this was a gift, a gift meant for them. They immediately entered the gates, acting against the warnings of the wise elders, and saw the city.
Within its gates, they saw that everything was constructed of gold or aluminum. Lesser metals were nowhere to be seen. Fountains adorned squares, raining rainbow-adorned jets of water, and the finest statues that could ever be made were scattered about as if worthless.
The people who filled the streets smiled and beckoned the young people in. They sat the forest-dwellers around a magnificent table, and bestowed upon them utensils of aluminum, while they themselves used gold, and feasted them with delicious and marvelous foods. The city-dwellers asked them during the feast about their lives, and so the forest-dwellers told them about the recent war they had with another tribe. The city-people were shocked and curiosity about the concepts of war, death, and mourning, and professed to not having any such things in their society. They then led the forest dwellers each to a different room, and they slept the best sleep of their lives.
For a month, the city stayed and the forest-dwellers lived the happiest days of their lives, experiencing luxuries of each type beyond anything they could possibly experience elsewhere. But then one said to the others that perhaps they should tell the rest of their tribe of this wonderful place. The city-dwellers, upon hearing this, opened their gates for them to leave.
When the young people left to go tell the elders, the Civitas Caeli rose into the air, and all the tribe could see, upon returning to the clearing it had inhabited was a vanishing dot in the sky that soon took up its old job of being the sun. The young people, having experienced the wonder and had it slip away, lamented their decision to leave, and fell into a deep depression. One of them, so against the notion of having to return to the base and imperfect lifestyle of the forest-dwellers, went into the forest and hung himself.
The Golden Lake:
In the land of Obstaria, near the north east, an offshoot of the main river leads to a lake. This lake is called the Golden Lake. As it is almost perfectly circular, some say that this was where the Civitas Caeli descended from the heavens. Indeed, the people in the area add a part to the tale describing how those that went into the Civitas Caeli and left cried for so long and so hard that the basin the basin the city had left filled with tears and became a lake. There is some evidence to support this, as the river that feeds the Golden Lake, as well as the lake itself, is a favorite of gold-panners, as gold more commonly floats down this path of the river than the main way.
There were once three brothers, who after their family and tribe had been ruined by an orcish attack, fled on horseback. Seeking a place to call home, as their old one was in flames, they traveled the width and breadth of the plains, when at last they came upon a marvelous site.
A city of gold lay before them, with no lesser metals to be seen. With a look of wonder on their faces, they rode towards the gates, which swung open on their arrival. Inside, they saw a host of people who welcomed them in and led them to the stables, where they cleaned and fed their horses.
They then led the brothers to a grand castle, with walls and bricks of gold, and washed them and bathed them. The City-dwellers then feasted the brothers on a large array of magnificent foods. The brothers learned of how the people who dwelt in the city of gold did not know war or death, pain or sadness. In fact, a utopia was the only word to describe it. When they were done with the feast, they took them to their room, where the three brothers discussed all they had seen.
The eldest brother felt that they should leave, as they were too quarrelsome and too competitive to fit in in a society like this. The brothers would always be the odd ones out, the eldest argued. Though it was nice to experience it for today, tomorrow they should leave.
The other two brothers argued against this. With such a perfect place, there would be no equal elsewhere in the world. Living here would be excellent, and everyday would be filled with happiness. They would eventually learn the customs and change themselves to fit those customs.
They argued, and at last they decided to leave the city.
The next day, the three brothers rode their horses to the gates of the splendid city. Seeing the wealth and luxury of the city, the younger two brothers changed their minds back to their original positions, and when the eldest brother had crossed from between the gates, lingered within.
The eldest brother begged them to come, so as not to split up the only family he had left, but when the youngest two brothers decided to leave with the eldest, the city began to rise. They tried to race to the edge, but it rose too quickly, until by the point they could jump it would be suicide. The eldest wept and mourned the loss of his brothers, whom he had tried to save, and knowing that they would be forever trapped within the utopia, which he would later call Civitas Caeli- the City of the Sky.
Isador is a city located in southern Tauria. They believe that the eldest brother, after losing his brothers, wandered until he met his wife, and settled the place which would become Isador. They also believe that he named the city after himself. The only real proof that this is true is that the eldest brother claims that he is quarrelsome and competitive, which are the two words that describe Isador the best. Before Tauria was unified, Isador was always one of the biggest and strongest and most warlike city-state in the area, conquering large swathes of territory. It even had the beginnings of an empire, which lasted for two generations before losing ground and joining the ranks of the city-states and small countries once more.
The truth behind Civitas Caeli is that it did indeed descend from the heavens to Atheus in ancient history, before the rise of the city, though towns and farms were common knowledge. It descended, and did in fact land in the Golden Lake in Obstaria. There, three tribes, each human, saw it. The tribes united temporarily to determine the nature of this new city, and each sent one person to explore the city together. This was how the Taurians got the 'three brothers' detail from- three people came in, and later versions changed it to brothers. This is also how the Obstarians get their details of exploring the city.
Later, one of the three left. The other two were stayed within the City for all anyone knows- Isador, the man who left, refused to tell anyone of his experience, and went off. He would later meet a woman, and start a farm where the city of Isador now is.
In fact, as wrangled with edits and propaganda as it is, the stories and versions Tauria and Obstaria present are fairly accurate. Both feature people coming into the City, leaving it, with some misfortune arising because of those two actions. Tales of the Civitas Caeli, the farther east and west you go from the Golden Lake, get more and more far-fetched and inaccurate.
But there is one detail that most tales include that simply isn't true. There are no people inhabiting Civitas Caeli. It is a ghost town.
A Utopia for Death
There are three main planes, realms, that Atheus involves. That of Atheus itself, is one, with the Afterlife and Congeria being the other two. But this is not the limit to the planes, and there are a great deal more that interact with only a select few others.
Civitas Caeli originated from one of these other planes. It manifested itself in several planes, picking up hostages, before arriving in Atheus. Once here, it settled into the world for a month before leaving with its new supply of people.
How does it do this? Civitas Caeli is constructed of desire. The most expensive substances that the people of the world it visits lusts after are what its walls are made out of. This is how it attracts people to enter. They stay for a while, because the city provides entertainment according to the cultural values with purely imaginary constructs. And then, the walls and expensive things slowly start sucking you in.
First you start staring at the walls made of the expensive substance- in Atheus' case, gold- for longer than necessary before going back to whatever delights the city has planned. Then you simply sit and stare at it for hours on end. And then finally you reach out and touch it.
At this point, the city has you. It sucks you into the wall, and once you join the fiber of the city, it starts using you for what people are best for: labor.
Well, in the city's case, not exactly labor. More like energy. The souls of the people it sucks into the walls provides a source of pure magic, which is siphoned off by the city to power it, and let it move about to the next source of energy. Greedy for more and more, the people within never die, and the amount of energy they provide simply halved, year after year, until they are too wretched and tired and magic-deprived to do anything but watch as the next batch of unfortunates walks though the gates.
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? Responses (9)-9
An interesting tale, and I like the fact that it is presented through multiple lenses, with the truth version presented in the end. It is strange, beguiling, and inviting. I like it. I want to map the city out like a living cell, with the inpenetrable fortress/tower/nucleus in the middle and the golden walls as the cell membrane, and the other various cellular apparatii having their own manifestations within the city.
How would the golden city respond to being looted? Gold is soft, so chopping hunks out it out of a wall wouldn't be hard for anyone with even bronze or stone tools.
Looting? I had not actually thought of that. I don't think that the city would appreciate it, and would actively try to stop it, though only quietly and stealthily and normally. Like having someone learn about stealing, and then the 'city-dwellers' decide that the best course of action would be returning the gold. Or having someone quietly steal the gold from the PCs in the middle of the night.
Of course, as the city is mostly made of desire, and is powered by magic from souls, the gold would probably revert to being some worthless substance, maybe stone or a collection of pebbles or something.
So, It would seem that from the stories that one can resist the desires of the City. Is desire required as a final key to becoming a part of the city? If it is, as they stare out into the new batches of batteries coming in do they bemoan there decisions or are they happy to see new visitors? Are the entrapped part of a hive mind? I know that's allot of stuff, but let me say the picture you have painted ins outstanding.
As Holmes might say, 'there are several points of interest to this case, Watson.'
Quite an interesting take on the 'Eternal City' trope. Great visual, with some unique perspectives. Scras and Renlim ask good questions. As for me though, I would say that less is more, and I don't necessarily need every mystery of this city spelled out. The vagueness adds that certain je nais se quois.
A Hell disguised as a Heaven. Owch.
I was ho-hum till the last paragraph myself. Good legends, nice thoughts, but the kicker that tied it altogether and caught me off guard was what it truly is. 'until they are too wretched and tired and magic-deprived to do anything but watch'
5/5 + adding this to my Awesome favorites tab.
Well done caeser :)
+1 to Cheka Man for HoH'ing this.
As this came up in my vote Golden, yeah, why not :)
A bit light for a HoH vote, but it's a nice sub.