THE CIRCLE OF LIGHT
The Book of Tomorrow
In the years just before the Scourge, the Dwarfs of Throal do not remain idle. Years of administering Barsaive under Theran domination have taught them much. They know that during the projected time of the Scourge, six hundred years, much of society and culture will wither within the kaers. The Theran plan prepared for every aspect of physical survival; they provided for magical plant nurturing, air and waste recirculation, and breeding cycles. However, the Therans had neglected the less tangible things.
To this end, the Dwarfs created The Book of Tomorrow. In this book they set down the history of Barsaive and Thera, the great tales of the day and others past. They wrote out the dwarf language in its entirety so that children in the kaers could learn to speak, read, and write a common tongue. The book told them how to rebuild their homes and lands once the Horrors had gone. The book told them how to use arts and crafts as a continuing sign that one was free from the influence of a Horror, for the Dwarfs had learned that a person Horror tainted could not create things of art and beauty. And most important it told the Dwarfs how to tell when the dark days of the Scourge were over.
Those kaers that hold copies of the Throalic Book of Tomorrow know the magic ritual that will tell them when they may safely reenter the world. Those lacking this ritual must guess and hope. The magic itself is basic: a simple ball of True earth is enchanted and placed over a dish of True water. The magics of the ritual keep the ball suspended over the water. As the strength of the world’s magical aura wanes, and the Horrors are forced to retreat, the ball of True earth descends until it finally touches the True water and the two mix.
How the Book of Tomorrow Came to Be
As part of this effort, a group of linguists headed by the legendary dwarf scribe Mabbon Destroggus created a book listing all the Throalic words in common use in Barsaive at that time, adding the rules of grammar according to dwarf custom. As the time of the Scourge drew near, the purpose of this book changed to eventually include the history of Barsaive and Thera, the province’s tales and legends, and the knowledge that Throal possessed concerning the coming Scourge. What began as a book of language became the Book of Tomorrow, offering Barsaivians counsel on surviving the coming Scourge and how they might one day resume their normal life after the Horrors departed our world.
King Varulus II commissioned countless scribes to copy out this tome so that the book could be sent to communities all over Barsaive cities, trading towns, T’skrang crew covenants, farming towns and villages, Ork tribes, and so on—until nearly every settlement, big or small, had received a copy.
Most communities received their copy just as the Scourge was about to strike, and so the people carried the Book of Tomorrow with them into their kaers and citadels. During the four hundred years of hiding, the Book of Tomorrow became a symbol of hope for the people of Barsaive, a link to their past and the promise of a brighter future.
Those of us now living in Barsaive must understand that the people who sealed themselves away in the shelters even those who knew no other way of life—never accepted that state of affairs as natural. People hid because of the Horrors; the Horrors were terrible, and therefore living in shelters was terrible. Each generation told its children stories of life before the Scourge, of living in a world with a warm yellow sun, vast green jungles, blue skies, trails of white clouds, and grassy expanses that stretched as far as the distant horizon.
The Book of Tomorrow reminded people of what they had lost and what they would someday regain. The word for “sun” was clearly defined in the book, so that every day people could open the book and know that the sun existed! Every day people could read and speak words that referred to things they had never experienced, things that they had lost generations before when the Horrors tore the world apart. Sky. Mountains. Farms. Airships. Flowers. Riverboats. Races not represented in certain kaers were remembered as well: elves, dwarfs, orks, windlings, and so on. Though the people in their kaers and citadels had little firsthand knowledge of the wonders described, the Book of Tomorrow ensured that little was forgotten. As generations passed, the words for things in the world they had lost took on the mystique of magical talismans. And gradually, the peoples of Barsaive developed a deep reverence for the land they could only dream of.
Generation after generation learned the language of the dwarfs. As the Book of Tomorrow gained mythic proportions, entire communities began to adopt the tongue that spoke of the promised land we would find once the Horrors retreated to their own astral plane. Pronunciation varied wildly, of course, as each community spoke according to its own way. But when the people began to emerge from hiding again, a common language with which to communicate made it easier for Barsaive to begin its long road to recovery from the Scourge.
As a boy, I learned much about the world that I could not verify as true. The warmth of the sun, the majesty of the airships, and the beauty of the elves all seemed too fabulous to be believed. And neither had anyone I knew ever seen these things, for the last people to see the sun had died centuries before.
A Few Remaining Curiosities
Because written Throalic is a complicated language, formed by pictures adorned with elaborate symbols, only a few, well educated people in any community could read and write it. These more literate folk took on the task of teaching the spoken language to the rest of their communities. The inability of most ordinary citizens to read Throalic added to the mystique of the Book of Tomorrow and of the words within it.
Almost universal access to the Book of Tomorrow had another unexpected effect. Because the book described many dwarf customs, attributes, and ideals, most Barsaivians emerged from the kaers and citadels already feeling a comfortable familiarity with the dwarfs and their ways. Though generations had passed without contact, the Book of Tomorrow established the dwarfs in the hopes and dreams of their countrymen. It was that which allowed the small subterranean people of the Throal Mountains to play such an important role in unifying the land and attracting other races to their cities after the Scourge.