Bald Hill Colloqium, 22 Octum 1222
Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2022 4:17 pm
A new book has been added to the countless volumes to be found among the Library of Qamar's collections. The text is available to the public for perusal and is hoped to contribute to their edification.
Bald Hill Colloqium
at the Qamari Library
22 Octum 1222
Lecturer: Doctor Zotikos
Transcriptionist: Florenza C.
--Transcription of lecture begins.--
Dr. Zotikos: It is reasonable to expect most of those in attendance today are familiar with me. For those who are not, I shall introduce myself. I am Dr. Zotikos, a skilled surgeon and member in good standing of the Guild of Scholars.
Dr. Zotikos: I am not native to the Lost Lands. In fact, I arrived here, intentionally crossing the quarantine, that I might study the Aetgardian plague and the Undying phenomenon. Remember the latter point, for it shall be again touched upon.
Dr. Zotikos: Today, my intention is to discuss findings regarding certain pre-Aetgardian constructions whose true name has been long forgotten. These structures are now collectively known only as Bald Hill. I will connect the significance of these structures, as implausible as it may appear, to the trinkets handed out by commoners during the seasonal festivities of Octum. Let us first discuss Octum.
(Transcriptionist's Note: There is a table where Dr. Zotikos has set an iron pyramid, an iron ankh, and a glyph-embroidered cloak. He indicates these objects.)
Dr. Zotikos: During this month, the Wraith observes all. And the Wraith's influence stimulates netheric activity, leading to malign spirits who roam the roads, as you are all no doubt painfully aware.
Dr. Zotikos: During this season, commoners wear macabre costumes in the erroneous belief that, in doing so, they will escape the Wraith's notice. Thus arrayed, they roam door-to-door, being offered trinkets and charms by others. These charms are purported to ward off nethrim. The charms perform no such function, apart from more useful ones as torches or so-called netherbane oil, but three trinkets in particular engaged my attention.
Dr. Zotikos: I shall not beleaguer the audience with a lengthy description of these objects. You are encouraged to research them here in our esteemed library in your own time. Suffice it to say that the ankh is a commonplace Nuumic symbol of life. The pyramid is *the* central fixture of Nuumic existence in each of the four great extant cities of their realm. And the glyphs are, of course, the foundation of arcana, mastery over which is Nuum's pre-eminence. Perplexing, is it not?
Dr. Zotikos: Is it not perplexing that commoners in the Lost Lands, of all places, would hand out Nuumic symbols, seemingly without understanding the true meaning of the trinkets? What possible connection might the Lost Lands have to Nuum?
Dr. Zotikos: I fully admit I am not even close to the first scholar to address this subject. The present consensus, as I understand it, is that the traveling Nuumic priests made contact with pre-Aetgardian peoples, possibly the indigenous Hopta, whereupon those peoples incorporated Nuumic symbols into their culture, eventually passing those along to the present-day inhabitants of the Lost Lands.
Dr. Zotikos: A brief aside: if you are unfamiliar with the Hopta, I encourage you to venture to the landmark known as Two-Stone Arch and study what can be found there.
Dr. Zotikos: As I said, this may be the present consensus. Nevertheless, I believe it to be incorrect. In my estimation, it is in fact entirely backwards. Nuum did not travel here from outside. Nuum *originated* here, in these very Lost Lands, and migrated outward.
Dr. Zotikos: I can hear you clucking to yourselves already: 'Ah, Doctor, here you reach too far with your hypothesis. For if the people of Nuum originated in the Lost Lands, then surely there would be more evidence than a few trinkets handed out during a seasonal holiday.' And to that I respond: indeed, there is.
Dr. Zotikos: We have discussed Octum. Now let us turn our gaze to Bald Hill and the crypts therein.
Dr. Zotikos: The evidence is strong that the Bald Hill Crypts are Nuumic in nature. The crypts are lined with glyphs. There are embalming tools to be found within the crypts similar in nature to those encountered in contemporary Nuum. The manner in which the corpses are wrapped is also suggestive of the Nuumic tradition, and there are Nuumic markings to be found less than a minute's ambulation, at a particular megalith.
Dr. Zotikos: A further connection: At Needlesmith Mheb's wagon, the one located upon the Octum festival grounds, categorized amongst her book of tattoo designs under symbols of Immortals, is a familiar sight: a sleek, point-eared hound bearing a closed-eye upon its forehead--the very same symbol that can be found throughout the crypts of Bald Hill. The ubiquity of the icon suggests to me that, at least in Nuum, the Watchful Hound is worshiped as an Immortal in its own right.
Dr. Zotikos: Finally, there is the mural to consider. If you are unfamiliar with it, I have produced accurate sketchings thereof. Examine the sketching and pass it to a nearby individual. Do forgive me: I managed only four copies before my hand began to fail me. I am getting on in years. The original mural can be found at the end of the eastern chamber immediately after descent into the catacombs of Bald Hill. How are we to interpret the mural?
Dr. Zotikos: Archaeology teaches us that, when examining stylistic representations of persons in frescos, murals, and the like, the figure which is largest in size is the one with greatest religious or political significance. The robed woman, being the largest and central figure of the mural, is thus not only of singular importance but also, as indicated by her triangular corona, enlightened or holy. And what is she depicted doing in this mural? Given the netheric presence beneath Bald Hill, some may be inclined to respond that the woman of the mural is creating nethrim. A facile answer. The truth is obvious: she is raising the dead. No, we can be more precise than that, can we not? What is the Lost Lands known for? Ah, yes. She is creating the Undying.
Dr. Zotikos: And who is she? I postulate that the identity of the woman in the mural is none other than Nu, the founder of Nuum.
Dr. Zotikos: The Undying are not found outside of the Lost Lands. Indeed, most dismiss the phenomenon as mere legend. I came here to discover the truth--and I myself would not have believed it had I not observed it firsthand, and had I not discovered that I am, in fact, one of them. For I have died and returned, and here I yet stand before you today.
Dr. Zotikos: The connection between this mural and the Undying is made all the more tangible with the iron pyramid charms handed out to seekers. The Undying often report visions of a pyramid, but no city of contemporary Nuum has ever documented the Undying to exist within them. Only here. Only within the Lost Lands.
Dr. Zotikos: Why? How? What is the connection between the Undying and the Nuum? The missing piece of this puzzle is Nu herself.
Dr. Zotikos: I posit that Nu is from the Lost Lands. She and her tribe originated here. Under her direction, guided by her knowledge, they constructed the Bald Hill complex and set a Watchful Hound to guard it. Nu herself, using the knowledge gleaned from communion with old gods whose names are now forgotten, employed her occult powers to create the Undying.
Dr. Zotikos: Then, after her work here was finished, she and most of her tribe migrated away, seeking the great desert and the other places of power revealed to her. Some of her followers remained behind in order to settle the Lost Lands, but as the centuries wore on, her followers' descendants eventually forgot their past. They forgot all of her except her symbols--to them, charms and trinkets whose meaning they do not fully understand. I understand if the enormous implications of my hypothesis leave you skeptical. Scoff if you must. But there is one final piece of evidence I shall apprise you of.
Dr. Zotikos: Many of you look upon this evidence of Nu every day, as a matter of fact, but no longer truly observe her. Her existence is such a familiar sight that she is now overlooked, that no one stops to truly ponder her. I speak, of course, of the statue that dominates the center of Shadgard--the statue of the robed woman. Yes, I submit to you that the identity of this robed woman is none other than Nu, founder of Nuum, her arms outstretched as if presenting a gift, and the gift that she presents is the Undying.
Dr. Zotikos: Therefore, taking all of what I have said together, I conclude that the Undying phenomenon, instead of being sorcerous in origin as previously supposed, owes its existence to occult arcana, the result of the arts of Nu, founder of Nuum, whose origin is from these very Lost Lands themselves.
Dr. Zotikos: Now I shall receive questions. Please raise your hand if you wish to submit a query, and I shall call upon you in the order thereof.
--Transcription of lecture ends.--
--Questions and Answers Section--
Zakalwe: Do you posit, then, that the Undying phenomenon is linked specifically to the glyphs on Bald Hill? Some sort of massive arcanic project?
Dr. Zotikos: I do believe that the phenomenon of the Undying is indeed connected in some fashion to Bald Hill and the glyphs within.
Bo: To what end did she create the Undying? Why create them and then leave? How would they get from Shadgard to the lands known as Nuum now? And, I suppose most pressing of all, why create it here, and not elsewhere?
Dr. Zotikos: I fully admit that I do not know the why. There is no indication of *reason* within the mural. As for how they left--recall that this is the pre-Aetgardian era. They may have even had arcanic means of travel.
Dr. Zotikos: In any case, it is my intention to continue studying the Undying phenomenon.
Bo: I have to admit, the pieces you place seem to fit, but I hesitate to validate their parts in this particular puzzle. I'll leave it at that. I can't think of any evidence against it, but what you've provided today is hardly what I would consider substantial.
Citrine: I would like to know about the symbology, and its relation to the arcane working at the crypts. Did you notice any sort of pattern in their layout? Spirals, circles, any sort of symmetry in arrangement, or in repeating themes?
Dr. Zotikos: The glyphs are interspersed with not only the symbol of the Watchful Hound but also hound statues themselves. My suspicion is that the Watchful Hound is an entity, if not outright Immortal, empowered by Nu placed to guard the crypts of Bald Hill.
Citrine: And would you say that it is containing it? Or assisting it, these glyphs? My apologies, I am focusing on the language of arcane workings. I do apologize, if it is outside of your field.
Dr. Zotikos: Both. The Watchful Hound and associated nethrim have been observed to fight non-aligned nethrim. They do not leave the confines of Bald Hill. I encourage you to hire an escort and observe the complex for yourself.
Hoss: A moment to collect my thoughts... have you considered, given the way the mural was drawn, that the golden lady as I call her, possibly Nu, might also just be a thaumaturge? Such designs seem similar to how Viali folk draw the Torchbearer.
Dr. Zotikos: Unlikely. Nuum is well-known for its mastery of occult arcana, is it not? Observe the glyphs engraved into the tunnel walls beneath Bald Hill. There is ample evidence of arcana. It thus stands to reason that thaumaturgy is unlikely.
Dr. Zotikos: As the guardians of the crypt are netheric in nature, I will admit that perhaps some combination of occult powers is possible.
Hoss: Unlikely... but I've heard that them thaumaturges can do all sorts of healing, maybe even bring folks back from death's door. Way I see it, kinda fits with that theory, or it can at least, since the golden lady there has that... golden triangle around her head.
Dr. Zotikos: We shall require more evidence.
Mack: I got two things to bring up. The first is, none of your theory touches on the Leech that has been fettered in that dark hill, nor that those that have touched the primal locus of the Watchers ain't seen as enemies of the guardians and hounds, nor has it spoken to Shethsut. How could the Nuum had worshiped the old god Shethsut, who is said to be related to the Leech who's name I shan't speak, if they started here, and traveled to Nuum, in the stead of vice versa? Especially since the Leech ain't one of them older immortals. And, you got an ankh. But you ain't got one of these. Have you seen these afore, or this a new relic for your eyes?
(Transcriptionist's Note: Mack is speaking of an ankhetaa, which she shows to Dr. Zotikos at this time.)
Dr. Zotikos: I have heard of this artifact, but I have yet myself to study it. But if it is Nuumic in origin, then I believe it is merely more evidence to support my hypothesis of a Nuumic connection between the Undying and Bald Hill.
Mack: And the Leech, and Shethsut? Shethsut were abandoned long ago, by the Nuum. But the Leech ain't been worshiped 'til pretty recent, far as I know. How is the Nuum going to abandon an Immortal afore they even become the Nuum?
Dr. Zotikos: As for the... entity worshiped by the mad cultists--the so-called Leech--I theorize Nu constructed the complex in order to contain it. Those tunnels are not originally connected, as Nacreous observes, to the main chambers.
Dr. Zotikos: As for Shethsut, I am unaware of any evidence for that Immortal at all within the crypts.
Mack: I don't think them Watchers was empowered by a mortal. I think they was a primal thing, a Spirit tasked with keeping the Leech bound. Strange how them cultists never go into that chamber with the pedestal, even though there ain't no hounds guarding the other way around.
Mack: The Leech has a connection to Shethsut. I figure the Leech used to be Shethsut. Bad things happen to Immortals and Spirits whose names is forgotten. Look to Ommin-Di, or the Great Spider.
Dr. Zotikos: Regarding the Watcher, I disagree. Belief in the Watchful Hound is far more prevalent than simply Bald Hill. The popularity of the symbol as a tattoo in lands beyond our own is indicative of that.
Mack: Watchers. More than one. They's three.
Dr. Zotikos: There may well be more than that, if my hypothesis has merit. There may be Watchful Hound installations in each of the great cities of Nuum.
Pigeon: Thank you. This is a peripheral question, I am afraid--not part of your learned debate.
Dr. Zotikos: Very well. Go ahead.
Pigeon: I simply wished to clarify something you said. Is it in fact true that, as far as is known, there has been no verified instance of Undying outside of these lands? Really?
Dr. Zotikos: Correct. In Tol Rhun, they were little more than scoffed-at rumors. I, however, wished to make a name for myself as a scholar, and thus came here to investigate them.
Pigeon: Huh. Thank you.
Zakalwe: I thought, when I first came here, of confirming the rumors--but I decided my family in Tol Rhun had no right to know. Doctor, I am curious if you've considered the possibility that at one time, many people may have been commingled here, and that this is why we see evidence of multiple specialized magics in one location?
Dr. Zotikos: It is entirely possible. For example, before the Aetgardians, there were once ancient peoples known as the Hopta. I strongly suspect the belief of 'Ommin-Di' to have been passed down through their culture.
Zakalwe: I believe that would strengthen your argument, Doctor. It would, potentially, dispose of the question of individual groups migrating so far from this point. Thank you.
Dr. Zotikos: I will resolve to consider it.
Suzy: Hello. Yes. Today is... I would like to present a theory, and ask your thoughts on it. Please, everyone. Look at where I'm... at this.
(Transcriptionist's Note: Suzy indicates the first large figure on the drawing of the mural, and then at the pale-skinned ones below that figure.)
Suzy: Their skin colors differ, you see. I have a theory. I think the people of this area, not Nuumic, simply worshiped the Nuum who were in that area. Doctor, you once mentioned the fact that some people believe that the Nuum came from the east and settled here, sharing their culture with the... yes exactly. (Transcriptionist's Note: referring to Mack suggesting the Hopta, referencing the plainswoman passing on the story of the Snowbird being pale.)
Suzy: That woman was pale, and so are the ones in that picture. Also, look at where the figures are at on the mural. They come from the east.
Dr. Zotikos: The color of their skin is indeed different. If I am not mistaken, the Nuumic belief is that Nu's skill and mastery of the occult arcana was such that she changed not only the world around her, but her physical appearance, darkening the hue of her skin and creating crystalline eye colors that the Nuum are so famous for. And the small figures, whom I believe to be Undying, are depicted to the west. I will admit that is evidence in your favor, certainly.
Suzy: Look at the figures. Some are not clothes. Some are, in a sense. Progress. And the dark-skinned woman is gesturing at them, as if... empowering or guiding them. This makes me believe that the Nuum came and settled, and under their rule, the people progressed technologically, and they saw the Nuum, with magical powers that they did not have, as gods.
Dr. Zotikos: Intriguing, but the small figures are depicted upside-down, however. In pictography from this era, that almost always indicates the dead or slain.
Suzy: Yes. Do you remember that table before the mural, by chance?
Dr. Zotikos: The embalming tools, yes. I desire to someday commission a skilled smith to produce a fine set of my own.
Dr. Zotikos: It is not implausible that human sacrifice was performed. There is the entity. But I theorize that Bald Hill was constructed in part to contain it. There are many pieces to this puzzle as yet undiscovered. Why *three* triangular shapes? Does this indicate three pyramids?
Suzy: I am thinking, as um... as native beliefs mixed with the Nuumic ones, the people too, started to sacrifice themselves and their blood. Maybe to Shethsut, maybe to Nu, or some other god. Anyway, this mixing of beliefs and that sacrifice maybe empowered a new entity. That temple might have been meant to honor this god, and to possibly tell the story of how they came to believe in them, under the Nuum's rule.
Dr. Zotikos: I remain skeptical. All evidence points to the Blood Cultists having disrespect for the sections of the crypt that they themselves do not control.
Suzy: In sum, the people came to be ruled under the Nuum, easily swayed by their magical abilities. The loincloth may symbolize their progress under this rule, and in turn they might have adopted the building style of the eastern settlers. The robed figures are priests that came from the five cities who brought their beliefs with them which then went on to mix with that of the natives, or maybe replace it. I do not know if the natives took part in human sacrifice, but either way, this immortal went on to become the Leech, and this temple was built by the natives, both to honor their overlords, and to worship this entity. Thank you.
Mack: I think it's a tomb for a dying Immortal. Brought far afield from home to stop the old worshipers from digging it up again.
Dr. Zotikos: And the pyramid, Boysenberry? Why do the Undying have visions of one despite there being no known pyramid in the region?
Mack: 'Cause people worship things they ain't understand. They's things that is beyond mortal kenning. We can come up with ways to describe things, but describing a thing ain't the same as understanding it, or even knowing it. I ain't know if you're wrong, about all of this Undying business. But I reckon you're wrong about the Nuum being from here.
Dr. Zotikos: I will be the first to admit that more evidence is required. However, it is my hope that we have made some progress and educated the peoples of this land in the meantime.