In attempting to create a world through short fictions, posing largely as grand non-fictions, it emerged early on in the process that I was required to create a complete, yet condensed literature. I took real world literature as my model, specifically the portion of it which I knew myself, this comprising various novels, poetry, histories, essays, travelogues, diaries and so forth. I wanted to, rather than create a static history and culture, as one might find in an Elder Scrolls game, particularly in more recent, simplified instalments like Skyrim, build something as contradictory and bizarre as the sum total of human thought in the real world. I wanted books to challenge each other directly, for a single sentence in one source to call into question the very fabric of another, I wanted furthermore for the player to be able, in reading a book about a particular place featured in the game, to go there and confirm if what was said was true or not. Book A says such and such about so and so, while Book B claims something else as truth, and the word on the street is both books are bullshit, but ultimately the player’s own experience may lead them to conclude differently still.
I began by attempting to write a book, an official dispatch from the Cathedra Magna, on how to spot demon worshippers and black magic users. Taking my cues from a smattering of words remembered from the Malleus Maleficarum, a tedious Mediaeval tome on witch hunting that I kinda sorta maybe skimmed through a little bit once at 3AM whilst wired on caffeine, I was halfway through writing the second paragraph of this first book when I realised that I had no idea how the Church of Eadra defined “demon”, nor how such a being would fit into the overarching conception of the world as laid out by this particular religion. It didn’t take long to conclude that for me to establish this I would have to write the holy scripture. So I got to work, crafting a story of creation, of holy war between gods and demons, and of human (or “Eadratic”) history, making it as fanciful and fantastical as I could, veering towards comic book vulgarity at points but always pulling back, as if the tale were being invented on the spot by a cleric trying to entertain a troop of children while retaining some kernel of doctrinal truth. Once this big book (by far the longest I wrote at 8000+ words) was completed, I had in all its garish and vulgar excesses the core around or even against which everything else could be written. I could invent literally anything and work it around this one document with its over the top violence, clichéd world history, bad poetry, and pointless final chapter.
The idea that the Church should be a kind of paradoxical cultural dinosaur, too large and fearsome to be a joke but too ridiculous and toothless to be taken seriously, is encapsulated in the Caudex Magnus, which we learn is actually presented to us in abridged form, and of just one section at that. How ugly must it be when viewed in full? As I pondered this it also became apparent to me that the laity, for whom such an abridgement would be intended, would be considered fairly dumb by Church standards. After all, the Church is the primary educator in the land, and the educated either work for them or for some other branch of the government. The average man on the street, the butcher, the baker, the shepherd, the poor sod who has to thresh barley all day, they don’t want treatises on the nature of justice or the “divine mathematics”, if they can read at all what they want is a story about really powerful beings hitting each other with swords. They want anime. Anime shall they get. And we’ll throw in the famous guy being sick and writing a bad, overlong poem about trees or whatever as a freebie.
For all its bombast, the Caudex Magnus doesn’t amount to much more than a poorly preserved collection of folkloric stories originating in some distant land that has been edited and translated many times, moving around the room of history like Chinese whispers, resembling its sources less and less with each passing generation, only once you get to the last person in the circle the original whisperer can’t clarify the situation, they’ve been dead for thousands of years. Perhaps just as well, if Dostoevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor is anything to go by. In the case of our Caudex Magnus, and the Church of Eadra, to untangle the mess we have to look back to a person by the name of Eadranismus. Who was Eadranismus? He was a scholar who lived in a city state called Lazulide, on the continent that was then called Iqhvadhgh. Eadranismus lived in a time when the religion of his own day had become garbled and corrupted, which, while considered a tragedy among certain of his classicist colleagues, he found quite liberating. It meant, for example, that he could partake of certain magic rituals which would have been blasphemous in prior centuries.
One particular ritual of which Eadranismus was fond was the corrupting of magical energies using magical “diseases”. These diseases, so-named colloquially and of course inaccurately, are similar to yeasts in the way they operate, feeding on a component of the energies, as a yeast feeds on sugars, and causing them to undergo changes like fermentation. When the energies of a magical tome are corrupted, the effects of that tome upon the reader can be vastly altered. What might ordinarily cause the reader to experience, through an induced meditative state, the techniques and processes of forming and controlling magic fire with the mind, might when corrupted cause the reader to experience visions of other worlds, “out of body” experiences, or hallucinate ghostly apparitions. Eadranismus didn’t really know if the things he saw when he read his books were real, but he transcribed them anyway and presented them as scholarly findings on the nature of the universe, and life beyond the known world.
Living in a time when intoxication, especially at orgies, had become fashionable, Eadranismus’s rather more academic book experiments were public knowledge on some level but hardly ever thought about. After all, without transcendental group sex, what good was tripping balls in the first place? While carnal delights were sought in the streets of Lazulide, it was in a private wing of the great academy there that Eadranismus began to write down his experiences, and those experiences would be transformed over generations into legends and myths and, ultimately, the Caudex Magnus. He wrote of his voyages to the worlds of Saverinh and Drakhjadem, his meetings and conversations there with ancient and prodigious spirit beings who could attain corporeality on a whim, but spent most of their lives immaterial, unseen and unaffected by time and the motions of the cosmos. He wrote of their conflicts, and how they had come to war as each of them had splintered from a single greater consciousness, which was perhaps lost forever if the reunification of their spirits could not be achieved.
Towards the end of Eadranismus’s life, conservative movements in the Lazulidean government banded together to wrest control of the city from the laissez faire “banqueteers”, so named for their hedonistic lifestyles, who had begun to enter the ranks of government with the liberalisation of the patrician classes over successive generations. The new conservatives set armies upon the streets to flush out the orgiastic revellers, including Eadranismus and his disciples, whom he had educated in the ways of magic corruption. Being owed a favour (it is not known for what deed) from a powerful figure among the new conservative government, Eadranismus and his students were saved from death, but exiled forever. Using their rich educations for all they were worth, they were ultimately able to break bread with some of the savage tribes in the southern lands of Iqhvadhgh, and in time their descendants (sorry, Eadranismus died between the lines) were regarded as seers, possessed of the spiritual geographies of worlds beyond the physical.
At this time four of the tribes had begun to unify, soon referring to themselves as Eadranites. This unification was the basis for the “Eadratide” section of the Caudex Magnus, which speaks of the First Council of Man arising from a gradual coming together of morphologically and culturally diverse peoples from four extremities of the planet. Over a few hundred years the Eadranites absorbed more and more of the southern tribes, each one adding a piece of their own folklore while reluctantly losing the rest to time. This southern area, known as the Great Seat, would also become central to the future Church of Eadra, as it is the source of “Cathedra Magna”, the name of the Church’s highest authority.
The voyages of Eadranismus were reinvented for each new generation, losing their essence and gaining distance from their sources just as the original tribes had. Saverinh became Sapherion, Drakhjadem became Draxiaadem, the unique gods of the tribes became the Aspects of Sapherion, those beings who had split from the grand consciousness Eadranismus described were now so many fragments of Sapherion. For the Eadranites, Sapherion slowly became their all-encompassing, multi-faceted creator, and their protector. They were his chosen people, and his supposed direct interaction with Eadranismus became a piece of evidence in support of their status as such. Sometime between then and now, the exodus of the Eadranites from Iqhvadhgh to Omidius began, and the stories became transcontinentally distended, losing their meanings, their contexts, and their lingering essential truths at rates far greater than the speed at which their ships could carry them west across the Dauud sea. The lineage gets even more complicated when you consider that some of the Eadranites landed on Omidius on the north side of the Tocanum mountain range, eventually founding Eòrna, while others ended up south of it, founding Thoria, where the Cathedra Magna more or less reigns today.
But why the exodus? Well, I needed some way to get ’em from one place to the other, and I hadn’t really come up with a good reason by the time I was done working on the damn thing. My initial idea was that the Eadranite seers prophesied a lush, temperate land to the south west, and received from their bookish wanderings some knowledge of basic naval engineering. I also thought probably most of them should die because their boats would be shit, but Lazulide in general ended up being more advanced than I had planned for, so maybe not. Definitely not when, if an old man and some pasty intellectuals could reach some of the original tribes on foot, the geography separating civilisation from the wilderness cannot have been all that vast. It is highly likely for there to have been cultural exchanges between the Eadranites and the Lazulideans over the centuries, almost certainly when taking into account the expansion of both peoples. It is even possible that the Lazulideans came to fear the growth in numbers and technology of the Eadranites and began a campaign of genocide, and the departure of the Eadranites was a last ditch effort for survival.
Who the hell knows? The Caudex Magnus, dismal mutant coda to what once, we may at least hope, was a somewhat noble scholarly endeavour, was shaped by histories that must largely remain unseen. Not only because to plot them out in full would be totally superfluous, but also because I would go insane, and I can do without that.