From the writings of Utta Marvew, Wanderer of Cyrrn
A Preparatory Word
It has been many months since my last entry and I apologize for my absence, though it was not of my own design. There were many readers with whom I spoke after my last publication who expressed confusion and in some cases outright disbelief at my reporting of how magic works. This was expected. What I did not expect were the more magically-inclined individuals who felt my writing was too informative and “politely” invited me to be their guest while they determined if anything I conveyed could cause them some potential harm. Such folly.
Time passed and my hosts eventually came to the gracious decision I could be let loose, with the condition I focus on more historical and less magical matters, less I desire a more permanent accommodation, which I do not. I made my way to the nearest ship leaving Cyrrn for I have found a bit of distance between parties, such as an ocean, a good way to make sure everyone lives up to their agreed upon obligations.
I write this new entry with a hot sun baking my head and warm waves lapping my toes. It has been too long since I last visited the Summalen Isles. There are so many spots of paradise here populated by the friendliest of peoples that a man can be lost forever if he so wished. It is actually advantageous for me to be in this region as I will relate to you the tale of the Sum Sum Kingdom, born upon these very waters in days long past.
My original intention was to begin with an explanation of how magic becomes organized and released as a spell, but I think it would be best to leave be such details for the sake of my own freedom. If you are truly interested, visit an Order and ask a mage. I recommend bringing along a few large friends.
Early Magic and Shiman
The use of magic extends back before there were magi, the Magus, or even spells. Five thousand years ago, the Ashon Road trade route snaked through the ports and cities of eastern and southern Cyrrn, transporting goods, people, and most important of all for our purposes, stories. Scholars examining fragments of records left along the ancient route have discovered mention of apparent magical rituals the traders encountered on their journeys.
One such merchant, known to us only as Larl, wrote of a harvest celebration he witnessed which included “wild fire and streams of light that reached into the sky and whirled in circles.” The person conjuring the magic was the town’s shiman, a term found in other records and roughly translated to “dawn mother.” Larl did not say if this shiman was female and scholars do not know if it was simply a title given to those capable of channeling, or birthing, magical energies.
The magic worked by a shiman was unstructured and primitive, consisting of bursts of light and sounds to amaze and beguile onlookers. There is no record of them employing magic in a structured, repeatable form, as would be a spell, to perform a task or cause change in some manner. It is possible such things took place out of sight of traveling strangers, or recorded and lost to history, or not yet discovered.
The risks a shiman faced in accessing energies beyond their understanding is evident in descriptions of displays going out of control with terrible results. There are accounts spanning years of shiman exploding or melting into puddles. In one horrific reporting, a shiman was engulfed in black flames which could not be extinguished and grew so hot no one could approach yet the shiman remained alive. Unable to help, the villagers could only leave the shiman alone, screaming for days before finally crumbling into ash. In another record from a hundred years later, a traveling merchant returned to a favored town only to find a scorched crater and nothing else. Nothing.
It is obvious not all who discovered the ability to tap into the Magian Plane suffered for their efforts or there would be no magi or Orders today, (This may or may not be a bad thing depending on your experiences with them, personal feelings aside). No matter the hazards, shiman and those who came after them continued to seek the power and knowledge of magic and their eventual success was exemplified in the grand days of the Sum Sum Kingdom.
The Sum Sum Kingdom (3,000 to 800 years before End Day)
Even before I planned to write these entries there was nary a place I went where the people did not know something of the Sum Sum Kingdom. Though recognized as the first great seafaring power, they were not the first to set out upon the great seas. The earliest sailing ships date back thousands of years before their emergence from these islands, but the Sum Sum mariners were the first to mix exploration and trade. They were master navigators who circled the globe many times and established trade routes in the ports of Cyrrn, the Penkal Sects, and nearly all other nations of the time. We can only speculate if Krell was part of their trade routes, but I think it is reasonable to believe they were given the Sum Sum’s reputation of being fair traders who offered not only goods but knowledge, which ultimately proved to be their greatest commodity.
The Sum Sum were not only incredible shipwrights and sailors, but poets, playwrights, engineers, and scholars. We know this from surviving ledgers of the age listing transactions of Sum Sum tomes in exchange for goods. One package of tomes included eight poems, three plays, and surprisingly, ways to improve sail rigging, keel construction, as well as navigational charts into new waters.
The trading of knowledge became a common occurrence as the influence of the Kingdom grew. In this way, the Sum Sum not only introduced new goods and spices from around the globe to new peoples, but they educated the world about everything from increased farm output, improved sanitation and health, and mathematics, to the names and mysteries of the worlds around which we share our star. One must wonder why, in an age when greed so easily turned peace into war, they would trade away information which could provide an envious nation with the ability and inspiration to attack them. It turns out the Sum Sum scholars knew more than anyone could have imagined and wisely kept their greatest secrets to themselves.
Yulyen was also a southern island nation during the time of the Sum Sum Kingdom with a trade network not nearly as large but with an experienced and feared fleet of war galleys. The Yulyens used the knowledge gained from the Sum Sum to strengthen their might and set forth an armada of over two hundred of the deadliest ships on the high seas to claim the Kingdom as their own. Fishing boats from neighboring islands told of the huge fleet sailing towards the calm waters of the western seas towards the island homes of the Sum Sum. The fleet was never heard from again. There was no retaliation by the Sum Sum nor was any needed. Once word spread of the armada’s defeat, the Yulyen nation was invaded and their territory divided.
An unseen naval victory does not prove the Sum Sum had magical abilities, but it was enough to convince the other islands that the Kingdom controlled some mysterious power. Confirmation of the Sum Sum sophisticated magic use came not during a time of war but in the midst of a storm.
The preserved log of Captain Gefray Da’Kurrn, of the Penkali merchant ship Blue Dawn, wrote of a gale spanning the horizon approaching from the north, too fast for his ship to avoid. The waves thrashed the ship as thunder and lightning cracked the black skies. Most of his crew of thirty men tied themselves along the deck to avoid being washed overboard, but it did not matter. Da’Kurrn wrote of a wave which would “overshadow a man’s darkest nightmares” rising up before them. The Blue Dawn’s bow pointed to the sky as the wave flipped and cracked the vessel in half. The good Captain hit the water tied to the sinking ship with the rest of his men. Just before the waters engulfed him, he spotted a bright light through the storm.
Captain Da’Kurrn awoke on a mat in the hold of a Sum Sum ship. The rest of his men survived as wel. The Sum Sum crew tended to their wounds and gave them food and drink. The calmness of the ship made Capt. Da’Kurrn think they were unconscious for the duration of the gale. When he asked to speak with the ship’s captain to give his thanks and ask how they were rescued, a crewman escorted him to the main deck where he fell to his knees and wept in shock at what he saw.
The gale still raged fiercer than before but neither one drop of rain nor wisp of heavy wind battered the deck. Waves rose and crashed upon a “glowing bubble of light” which surrounded the ship, allowing it to pass through the storm’s fury with the smoothness of drifting on a lake on a clear day. The crew tended the lines and sails without worry or harassment.
Captain Da’Kurrn soon regained his composure and met the Sum Sum captain, whose name he did not record in his log. There were no other names listed of the ship or crew. Whether these omissions were by intention or some other reason is open to speculation based on the events which followed. What is known from the logs is that they remained on board for five days until the ship made port in the Penkal city of Jurestin. During the journey, Capt. Da’Kurrn learned the shield which protected them from the storm was a magical spell that also keeps the ship safe from attack (as we can imagine the Yulyen fleet learned as well).
If the Sum Sum captain elaborated on how the spell worked or how they developed their magical abilities Capt. Da’Kurrn did not enter it into his log. The Blue Dawn’s story spread far and fast and ignited a global interest in magic. People no longer wished to just channel wild energies like the shiman but were determined to uncover the dynamics and steps to shape raw magic into spells which could be formalized and taught. The efforts were successful for within a generation of the Blue Dawn’s fateful encounter, the Penkal created the earliest known non-Sum Sum spells. They then went on to establish the first magical training school, still in existence today.
It took me hours of digging and sneezing my way through dust caked manuscripts in the archive of a regional Penkal Sect library to locate the listing of the first master enchanters. Perhaps I devoted the time to the search because somehow I knew I would not be surprised by the name at the top of the roster, Gefray Da’Kurrn.
Although much was known of Sum Sum knowledge little was known about their culture. For as extensive and active as their trade networks were, the Sum Sum Kingdom conducted business in the ports of the world but the world did not come to the Kingdom. Ships which entered Sum Sum waters were quickly intercepted by a small host of ships and asked to return the way they came. If the visitors were from a territory interested in establishing trade, one of the Sum Sum ships would accompany them back home for negotiations. We can only guess ships which refused to turn around met their end.
There is one element of Sum Sum culture we know of and its link to their untimely fate. Once per year, all Sum Sum ships and peoples returned to the Kingdom’s big island for a grand celebration. Tales passed down from seafaring families and trade guilds describe the month long event as a huge festival which included drink, food, dancing, and fantastic demonstrations of spells and magical creations. We can only suppose these reports are from details gleamed from friendly Sum Sum sailors or pure flights of wishful imagination. Regardless, over time, the spring festival became known as “AlzSumm” meaning “Without the Sum Sum” in the dialect of old southern Cyrrn, and the month is still honored on our calendars today.
And now we come to the mysterious end of the grand, glorious, and benevolent Sum Sum Kingdom.
As with hundreds of prior years, AlzSumm approached and the Sum Sum people, some of whom had established homes in Cyrrn and Penkal ports, loaded onto their ships and voyaged home. However, this year was different for they did not return once AlzSumm ended. Weeks passed and not one Sum Sum mast broke the horizon. Furthermore, the weather had changed. The air turned oddly cool and haziness shrouded the sun and sky.
A fleet of vessels from some of the Sum Sum’s largest and oldest trade partners set out to discover what happened. They included sailors who had been turned away from Sum Sum waters in their youth and were now quite old, but they were the only reliable guides to be found. As the flotilla crossed into Kingdom waters, no ships came to meet them. When sailors searched the outer islands, they found no people in the towns and no ships in the harbors. Also absent were tomes or scrolls of any kind. When the people left for the festival, they took every written word with them.
The first indication of tragedy was discovered on an outer island. Teardrop shaped pieces of black glass littered the ground and roofs of the buildings. They ranged in size from specks to oranges. The fleet sailed onward and on the next islands, they found more of the black glass, but these included boulders half buried in the sand or sitting atop crushed buildings. It was clear some horrible bombard had occurred.
In case you do not know, black glass is not blown glass but a rock of a bright midnight shine formed when molten volcanic rock cools very fast. It can be broken but its broken edges are so sharp you will not even feel the pain when you cut yourself handling it. Penkal markets and traders sell it to the curious but it has never been seen in the sizes described here.
After weeks of travel the flotilla approached what they believed to be the Kingdom’s main island, but something was terribly wrong. The island had been described as a lush paradise surrounding twin peaks by Sum Sum sailors, but the steep slopes of the northern peak was barren and lifeless. When the fleet sailed around the island they were stunned to find the single peak was all which remained. Much of its southern slope ended with a sudden drop into the sea where scattered outcrops of jagged rocks forced the ships to skillfully maneuver less they be scuttled. The fleet continued its search in the hope they found the wrong island but everything pointed them back to the ruined peak. In later years, surveys of the shallow sea floor around the surviving peak suggest nearly 80% of the island, home to thousands of people, was destroyed, and with it, the rich culture and remarkable secrets of the Sum Sum Kingdom.
We still do not know exactly what transpired during the last day of the Kingdom but we are reminded of the tales of shiman who pushed the limits of magic too far and paid with their lives. Did the Sum Sum push their limits, and in so doing released a force which doomed them all? What spell could they have been attempting, channeling such devastating force? We may never know, but we can hope whatever befell them, it was swift and painless. We can honor their memory and the knowledge they shared with the world by always seeking to use magic for peace and learning and never hatred and war.
Unfortunately, history has shown such hopes to be thin and fleeting. The domestication of magic, as some have called it, continued throughout the centuries after the fall of the Sum Sum Kingdom. The pinnacle of its success did not foster an age of peace and enlightenment for the world, but rather the opposite, for it heralded the coming of the Magus.
And the world burned.