The Redemption of Rahymn
The Lost Empire
Long before the recorded history of the current inhabitants of Rahymn, an unknown race created an empire which spanned the entire world, known today as the Hyphaen or Lost Empire. The ruins and remnants of that civilization have fueled many of the major developments of current society. These ruins litter every known landmass of Rahymn, though they are often buried under sand, sea, or miles of rock. Many of the major ruins have been thoroughly picked over, and though much remains to be learned about what was scavenged, it is no longer accessible to the common inquirer. In some cases the ruins themselves have become private property, particularly among the Free Cities, many of which are built on the sites of former Lost Empire cities.
Art, in all its forms, was a major part of the culture of the lost empire, and though much has not survived what remains is frequently awe-inspiring. Slender, intricately fluted towers rise above wide terraced plazas that pour down the sides of canyons to where shattered crystal domes, baroquely scalloped, line long-dead waterways. Archways wide enough for an army to pass through a hundred abreast lead to beautifully ribbed and vaulted, echoing halls, devoid of life or marking. Minutely detailed sculptures decorate almost every wall, ceiling, and corner abandoned palaces, their features worn by rain and wind. For reasons that remain unclear, the civilization’s artwork includes no representations of the people themselves, though it often depicts fantastical animals, which—if they ever existed—survive no more.
At the heart of many dead cities is an enormous palace-cathedral, raising up on flying-buttressed supports to crouch like some gothic scorpion above the city around. Segments connected only by needle-thin stone walkways rise in tiers above one another, and gothic arches reveal the shattered forms of painfully beautiful stained windows. A recurring symbol, particularly in the cathedrals, is that of a cracked sphere, emerging from the opening a feather-winged something, its body hidden within. Also frequently sighted is an elaborate symbol, which some have argued is in fact a diagram or visual depiction of an equation (smelter dwarves are particularly fond of this theory, and whole societies have arisen dedicated to deciphering it).
Part of the reason for this speculation is the considerable evidence that the Lost Empire possessed a technological ability far beyond what any current society has achieved; their engineering prowess is visible not only in their impossible-seeming architecture, but in hydraulic-powered lifts, chambers that rotate at will using geothermal energy, and irrigation networks that still produce thriving harvests today, after millennia without tending. Many ruins have been only partially penetrated, as the mechanisms required to access further reaches have broken down, or remain opaque in their operation to would-be explorers. Astronomy was also a fixation of the vanished populace, and most cities include dozens of observatories, planetariums, and star charts, containing information so sophisticated as to be largely indecipherable to current scholars.
The exploration, excavation, and investigation of the remains of the Lost Empire is a constant occupation for the tiny civilizations that have risen in its ashes. Companies, societies, armies and thieves all dedicate considerable efforts to finding and seizing whatever might be of use or value. Intermittently some group too smart for history will send an expedition to the Lowlands, a frigid landmass greater than any currently inhabited, deep in Rahymn’s atmospheres, where it is rumored the heart of the empire once stood. Almost none return, and those who do have invariably been driven quite mad by the thaumic fallout which pervades there, legacy of the Cataclysm’s devastation tens of thousands of years ago.