Written by Alana
The Rending of Atha
By Bentan Wobbleroot, Proud Gnome and Collector of Historical Anecdotes
In my time as a researcher and hobbyist traveller, I have come across many cultures and their stories. One that seems consistent across those that I have encountered is the story of Hetlentys.
This is the best theory that I have found supports the idea that “The Tear” did indeed occur and that “This Tear” was a cataclysmic event.
The gnomes of Splishenfellow, the elders along the ocean shores in particular, have passed this story onto their younger ones. Due to the political climate there it is often repeated in hushed tones, like a fae-tale, and it is unknown what is real at this point. I have listened to many tellings of the tale of The Tear. I imagine embellishments have been added on over the centuries, as is common with oral tradition, though the consistent story goes as follows:
The Old King ruled all of Ariel, and he so loved the world that he cared for all of the races that walked upon it. And those races loved him. They would send tithes to his under-lords who then passed their tithes unto the king on long, connected roads twisting across the face of Ariel. This was possible without ships because back then, nearly all the great kingdom was indeed one land. All of the lands touched, and all of the people could reach each other on foot. There was but one city that stood alone, separate: the Great Island City of Hetlentys.
When it came to equality, the gentle harnessing of energies and the pursuit of knowledge they were the true leader of the world. The separation of this land both physically and politically from the Old King’s Lands infuriated him. Their stone walls were high and enchanted, surrounded in such impressive magics that despite the multiple attempts on seizing the city and passing those walls, Hetlentys was too strong to let in the armies of the world.
This could not stand. The Old King demanded access to the riches of Hetlentys. He grew bitter and obsessed. The jewels and money he had gathered from the people of Ariel were not enough. He hatched a plan. Rather than using brute force, he would send in a spy to trick Hetlentys. This spy, the betrayer, negotiated his way past the city walls with the promise of new wonders: the outer lands and new studies in thought. The Hetlentians did let the spy in, for where they were unyielding when it came to unique, magical defenses, when it came to sharing wisdom they were weak, and perhaps they were kind. The spy told this to his King.
This spy was met with the wonders of the isolated city. The place was infused with magics, and the citizens respected them. Power would ebb up from wells in the earth to the point that children could easily gather and shape it in their hands. It could be harnessed as a tool and fuel for mills, carts, and the preservation of food. There was enough magic available for the city and more, though all who lived there knew there was a balance. They knew to take what was offered freely and care for each other with its power. The spy told this to his King.
The spy was smart. He knew how wells worked. He knew to travel further down into the earth to find the source of this magic. He had just had to convince the Hetlentians. The weakness for true knowledge seized some of the citizenry. The Spy and the convinced, for the first time in the time of Hetlentys began to dig down. The spy told this to his King.
The best diggers in all of Hetlentys were of course the Dwarves. The dwarves developed drills and hammers run by the magic that flowed from the wells, taking nearly all for their venture down. The beautiful beaches surrounding the city were destroyed as rock from below was piled there. The Dwarves dug so much they had nowhere else to put it. The magic would have overflowed the city, so it was stuffed into barrels and stacked 10 high inside the border wall. When the walls were full, the doors to the city carefully opened and magic was ferried across the sea to the long, winding roads to the King.
One day after months of work, a deep well was discovered. The magic released was so forceful that the ground began to shake. Some of the mines near the deep wells collapsed. Parts of Hetlentys began to sink in. The spy told this to his King- and wavered.
The spy was smart and could see that something terrible was about to unfold and begged to stop the digging. The King was smart also and through threats kept the exploration deep down going. The Elven King was proud and had become greedy. He had enjoyed bolstering his armies. He would not lose face over retracting this decision - not when so much raw power could be gathered.
The spy now worked to save the people of the city he could and secreted them away in boats to the mainland with a warning - get as far away as you can from this place.
This power was meant to be respected and cared for. It was an offering from within Atha that should have been protected.
The tipping point came when the magic outside grew to be just as strong as that within Hetlentys. The Elven King could trust his spy no longer and forced his way into the city. Many dwellers feared what would happen next. Their land of free thought and isle of unique wonders would be no more. They knew the greed of the King and they knew that not everyone in the world bore love for him.
With desperation and thirst for power, he took over the city. He would be loved. He would be feared. He would control. When the Dwarves pleaded with the King, when they asked on their knees with hands bleeding from tearing up the rock, the King would not hear them. The King seized the barrels of magic from the border walls and twisted the Dwarves into magical servitude. The Dwarves were then commanded to dig even deeper despite the cracks in the earth they heard, despite the warning they swore they heard the rock scream out. They insisted Mother Atha was begging them to stop. The King would not allow it. They dug down further. The heat below grew so high that they needed to use the same magic they had harvested to protect the Dwarves and tools as they worked. And still, the King’s hubris would not stop his goal.
Despite the warnings, it still came as a surprise- the Cataclysm began. Atha’s fury was made clear. Tremors wracked the ground. Mountains began to crumble and split as the land was torn apart, separated by great distances. The earth cracked open, spewing molten rock. Beldon’s sea waters rose up to the sky and crashed down, washing away towns, roads and trees, moving to soothe the hurts the King had inflicted upon Atha herself. All of the races that were joined under the King’s rule were now separated physically by the roiling waters. It was an unspeakable, terrible loss.
Some were fortunate. Some managed to withstand the waves. Those pockets of life from lands that had been destroyed, broken and lost to the new seas made their way ashore to new lands. They found new places to live, but would not forget the King’s Hubris. Hetlentys, the jewel of the world, the crown of all things good, fair, and clever, where dreams were made real was gone forever.
If you are clever, and if you are lucky, you may one day be able to see how the land masses on a map look as if they were made they were made to fit as one piece of earth, all together. That’s because, before the Old King’s pride, they were.
In present day, many Gnomes along the shores of the “New Seas” claim to be of Hetlentian heritage and that they washed up with the debris. One group in particular claims their ancestors were so disoriented and tired, lost without their magic as they tried to sustain themselves on the floating bits of the world that they almost didn’t survive. It wasn’t until they saw seals in the water in what would become the harbour of Splishenfellow they knew they were nearing dry land. They found this land under the Crescent of the mountains both new and old. The shores were riddled with little rivers and inlets from the drainage of Beldon’s care, where they could drink clear water, travel easily by boat and could allow their children to splash. They saw meadows of green fields where they could grow food to live on, still fallow. It is claimed that this is where the name of the city Splishenfellow comes from, why their nation’s flag is that of a seal, and why their Gnomish inventions can seem just a touch otherworldly. They descended from legend.
Was Hetlentys real? Evidence aside from these stories is scarce and difficult to connect. Dwarves may not have always had such trouble learning the ways of magic, before their enslavement at the hands of the Old King. When studying Atha’s ley lines, some researchers report that they grow hard to follow over some ocean ranges. A miscalculation? A distortion indicating the lost wells of Hetlentys? No one knows for sure.
What do we learn from this story of old Hetlentys? I contend that it means we are not apart from our environment. We are part of it. We cannot harness what the natural world offers to us without utter destruction. It is a blessing and a responsibility. If the wonders bestowed to us are seized for the benefit of few, the world itself will be torn apart.