Expeditions into the Forbidden West

Reader, if you would know of the Forbidden West, there are none more qualified to be your teller than I, the Considerate Udain, healer of Blazon Arch. Why? For I yet live, unlike the outlanders who gasped or shrieked the tales that follow. Foolhardy blazons and madcaps all, they were brought to me near death, poisoned, mortally-wounded, or driven witless by what they had experienced in the lands beyond the Daunt. With such wounds, it was all I could do to ease their pain and try to make notes from their ranting.

As the Sun shines upon me, I cannot vouch for the full truth of these tales. I only hope they will satisfy your curiosity, and turn you from the path that led these imprudent explorers and daredevil trekkers to their deaths.

Though each account differs, it is certain that the Western lands are most unlike our own. Some crossed deserts of palest white, others deserts the color of fire, or even limitless sweeps of blue sand that seemed to reflect the sky above, broken only by the remains of ancient machines.

Others spoke of vast prairies of tall grass, each blade sharp enough to draw blood, dotted with shivering black flowers. Or incalculable plains of dried mud, cracked like a great mosaic.

At night, unknown animals watch with glowing eyes, and strange birds, all the colors of kites and fireworks, chitter and call out in men's voices!

Most extraordinary of all are those reports of a lake one hundred times the size of the Daybrink-- so wide the far shores cannot be made out, and so deep that an entire city of the ancients stands drowned within. The water is sour to the taste, and sickening, and it is said to rise up and push back against those who attempt to cross.

It would seem that dead cities without number have been consumed by the shifting dunes in the West, their skeletal towers mired in seas of sand. The wind is heard to sing a low, mournful song through these ruins, or through the skeletons of vast metal birds now fallen, or over great metal bowls now filled with depths of black water, where fish dart like shooting stars. That song of ruin, rising from a hum to a howl, still haunted these men and women as they thrashed and sweated in unquiet sleep.

But though the Western lands are harsh, and even their beauty hides dangers, it is not the land alone that swallows up all who venture within, that inflicts the brands and wounds suffered by those few fortunate enough to return. Oh yes, all have spoken of new machines in the West, machines more strange and terrible than any found in the Sundom. With their fingernails, dying witnesses have scratched out impossible shapes, or, if they still possessed several limbs and vocal organs, mimicked jerking movements and imitated awful sounds, all belonging in the throes of madness.

And what manner of men can live where the Sun goes at night? These tales were the most chilling. One spoke of drinkers of machine blood, their lips and tongues stained, their teeth replaced with metal. Another described youths as pale as ash, all wearing the same faces, who hunt silently and tirelessly in the night. Still another told of a tribe, seen only from afar, whose folk busied themselves digging deep pits in the sand only to fill them in again for unknowable reasons, while another tribe was only glimpsed on the waters of a great lake, riding their thin dark boats.

O Sun, a half of me regrets scribing these stories, for they inspire questions that can only be answered by yet more doomed expeditions. And yet, I must tell the tales, for what else remains of these poor and wretched men and women? If they sought riches, they found none to bring back--nothing save a handful of black silt, or a curiously-stamped piece of metal, a chunk of desert glass with shifting hue, or an odd smooth shell. I have kept all these things, to remind me of those who went in search of the forbidden, and paid for it dearly.

Reader, if you think yourself an adventurer--heed the warning in this old man's collection of strange, small things, and go not into the Forbidden West!

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