Sun Sep 13, 2020 8:32 am  
Listener to the Sphynx

Listener to the Sphynx

In the Land of Black Ice no place is more terrible than the Plateau of Leng but still it holds many mysteries that draw the inquisitive to it as flys to the corpse of a murdered man. It is not a place for men or even those who walk as men, but amid its wind swept desolation can be found the ruins of man. No record tells of the men from ancient Zeif dwelling in that terrible place, but the statues and obelisks of that distant land can be found jutting from the surface of the cold and barren tundra.

A cult of wild-monks, driven mad by their nearness to the dark and malevolent entities which dwell near the high plateau, speak with the statues of man, God and monster and they listen for a reply which is more than the moaning of the wind. These mad men speak of a lost city, of the terrible otherworldly music that floats down on the wind from the plateau to the low hills, of the things whose shape twists the mind and the bodies which must be gathered and burned by touch since none can see such things and live.

The monks have no name for their order and their dwelling place is usually no more than a hide or ragged blanket used as a cover from the brutal winds and merciless sun of the desolation of Leng slung from the edge of ruined stone, boulder or ditch. There is a secret temple buried beneath the baked earth of the plains near the foothills too close to the edge of the plateau to protect the sanity of man. The markings are the most ancient of hieroglyphs of Zeif and the story they tell of the rise and exile of their God-King Sutekh burns the soul of any reader as a surely as a brazier of coals would burn the flesh.

The temple, which the monks call The Hall of Mati, is protected by some terror known only as The Things of the Night. Whether these be the blasphemous soul-rending creatures which haunt the Plateau of Leng or some other foul and wondrous beings brought from the depths of stygian darkness beneath the sands of Zeif and transported to the Land of Black Ice no man knows, not even the monks who worship these living nightmares. The Things of the Night have no care for the monks though they do no more than torment them and haunt their dreams rather than devour their souls as they do to any who would profane the temple.

Inside the temple are chambers kept meticulously clean by the monks; chambers for worship and contemplation, a library of scrolls and books of all types and languages. A cadre of blind monks tends the temple and records the knowledge gained from their more wild brethren who wander the desolation around them seeking answers from broken fragments of Zeifian Gods and effigies of guardian monstrosities that litter the wasteland. The temple descends down into dark gulf by way of a series steps carved from a greenish stone. The mouths of myriad small caves are set next to the steps and on the outer edge, unprotected by rail or balustrade, lays an abyssal pit that seemingly has no end. As the steps are descended the roof of the cavern first disappears in a bluish haze then a darkness which becomes lit by a field of stars that roof no earthly heaven. a whispering is said to descend from these stars, beautiful and enthralling, and the bodies of men who died of thirst or exposure, for the stairway into the pit is colder than the mere chill of ice or snow, can be found staring up at this alien expanse with sightless eyes and the look of ecstasy frozen on their lifeless husks. Only the sanctuary of the caves can protect a man when he is called by the whispering from the stars, and even then he will never be free of the longing for the voices which called to him from the dark.

The caves upon that perilous stair are sometimes no more than a bare chamber but at other times they are portals to other places and other times. The monks are said to have charted hundreds, perhaps thousands of these caves, a chart that varies with the changing of the alien stars seen above. With their knowledge they travel beyond Oerth and within Oerth. They have visited ancient Suel, Aquaria, Zindia, Fireland, The vast Sufang lands, Zeif before the coming of man when the beast-headed Gods walked the deserts alone. These monks say they have walked among the stars. They search for items of vast power said to be the sceptre of Hodron called the Giver of Winds and a crystal tablet marked by the hand of the Falcon-God himself.

These things not even the wise and powerful believe true of the nameless wild monks of Leng. Though many wonder what they hear from the lips of their broken stone idols or how they survive the mad desolation and eldritch terror of such a cursed and unholy place.