The Flanaess has been home to a variety of civilizations and races over the ages, with the Flan being among the earliest of the humans to settle on the subcontinent. But, even they may not have been the first. Occasionally, a site is found which was a ruin when the Flan first walked the land. In the fog-shrouded Mounds of Dawn exists one such site, a city built of baked and hardened clay. Who knows what secrets out of the dim past are held beneath it's dusty streets, right under the noses of the Flan who live there today?
Author: Erik "Iquander" Mona
The Mystery of Exag
by Erik Mona (Iquander@aol.com) and Copyright by Wizards of the Coast
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author. Originally posted to the RPGA Living Greyhawk Message Board
In the lands of the Bitter North there remain a number of ruins unexplained by modern theories of the races of mankind, and their development within the tapestry of known Flanaess history. Discounting those anomalies so disturbing they trouble the senses, such as the bizarre and obviously magical City of the Gods, we are left still with a good number of mysteries. Exag, the walled city within the Mounds of Dawn, stands as one such location.
Unclaimed by Perrenland or the xenophobic gnomes and dwarves said to inhabit the Mounds of Dawn, Exag stands as a bizarre enigma. Tall, seamless walls of earth protect the city from some unknown invader. These display no signs of construction, and most who have seen them come away with the impression that the walls were raised from the ground itself. A single gate, facing southeast, opens upon a grand plaza of cracked flagstones of hardened red clay. Most of the structures within Exag seem to be similarly constructed. Within the walls, vast pyramids point to the heavens, while shorter, geometrical towers and square dwellings line the streets. The citizens of Exag trace their lineage to the ancient Flan tribes who settled these lands, but even they do not claim to have constructed the city. Their leaders venerate these folk, who they refer to as the Crafters, by allowing no construction within the city walls. Therefore, Exag’s buildings remain true to their original design, but have suffered badly in the years since their construction.
Thought to be among the most superstitious folk in the Flanaess, the men and women of Exag do not travel widely, and thrive off imports from Perrenland and the Wolf and Tiger Nomads. Because of this, little word of the mysterious "Crafters" has trickled to the civilized world. The most popular account, An Honest Appraisal of the City of Clay, evoked much controversy in learned circles upon its release in 587 CY. The book’s author, one Bearne of Schwartzenbruin, claims to have spent three summers in Exag, plumbing the depths of the city’s central pyramid. Bearne tells of a secret subterranean chamber that contains scores of hardened clay disks, upon which (in a language he calls Ameton) are scrawled several thousands of years worth of history of Oerth.
According to the disks, Oerth is but one of several worlds along a "metaphysical plane of closeness." The Crafters, travelers between each of these realities, observe momentous events upon each of these worlds, recording them for the altruistic purpose of ensuring eternal life through the preservation of knowledge. Many secrets of the ancient world are said by Bearne to be inscribed upon the disks, from an age in which great lizards walked the Oerth to the birth and dominion of dragons to the rise of the aboleth and beyond. No mention is made of humanity, and the Crafters write of abandoning Exag to witness a great battle to the southwest, on the plains below a great volcanic peak. Due to the lack of mention of humanity, Bearne dates the leave-taking of the Crafters at more than 15,000 years ago, much older than the earliest known appearance of the Flan. The scholar’s account ends with a tantalizing reference to the "last disk," which allegedly included a prophecy: The rebirth of the Purifier will herald our return.
The meaning of this last hint remains a topic of great debate among scholars. Many believe the Purifier to be Mayahaine, the goddess introduced to Oerth by Pelor during the Greyhawk Wars. Others demand that the Purifier is an artifact of great power, perhaps a sword or dagger. Bearne himself claims to know exactly what the Crafters meant, and allegedly has the last disk itself. His account ends with a daring escape from Exag while chased by an entire army of residents seeking his prize.
Sadly, Bearne attempted to cash-in on his modest fame among intellectual circles by appearing in public last year. A grotesquely fat man of limited social skills, the real Bearne contrasted sharply with the dashing rogue portrayed in An Honest Appraisal of the City of Clay. Further, his inability to produce the last disk, and the steadfast denials on behalf of Exag’s government that even a shred of Bearne’s account is true, have done irreparable damage to the sage’s reputation, and to his theory on the Crafters. Who exactly built Exag, and when did they build it? At least one "honest appraisal" seems to have failed to answer, but the question lingers still.