Gum Ditch and his friend Archie used to be treasure hunters. Several years ago they tracked down infamous cargo thieves and used the rest of their clues to bring in the largest haul in recorded history. Both Gum and Archie became very wealthy. The incident left Gum, who was younger, with a hollow cynicism concerning the mortal races’ ultimate worth in the cosmos.
Gum enrolled in a City university to study archaeology. He figured that understanding past cultures would help him believe in the mortal races’ potential to do good, to have redeeming qualities.
Archie (Art) made plans for retirement and married his long-time sweetheart. After a few years of freelancing, Archie quit treasure hunting for good.
While Gum was at City University he met a pianist named Larry. The two struck up a solid friendship over late night discourses on the tragedy of Mortalia. Rather than assuaging Gum’s fears, archaeology school revealed that the mortal races follow predictable, repeating patterns, of which none of its individual members are aware.
Nonetheless, Gum completed his program. After the mandatory study abroad program, Gum’s ability to see people as determiners of their own fates was restored somewhat. He was comforted by the similarities cultures share across Mortalia. The experience so comforted Gum that he signed up with several “treasure hunting companies” over the next year and studied additional cultures firsthand before coming back to the World.
On one of these trips, Gum became intimate friends with a goblin who wanted to travel to the World and see if he could make it in the big city.
When Gum had finished seeing the sights, as it were, on the other shardplanes, he returned to the town he grew up in: a farming town. He stayed in the cabin his parents had left him when they mysteriously disappeared one night when Gum was a teenager. (Later that year Gum ran away to become a treasure hunter and Archie took him under his wing.) Gum watched all the folks in his town behave exactly like all the other farming people he had seen across the shardplanes. So he left them to go into the big city to look up his old pal Larry the pianist.
Over cocktails in a bar Larry was playing one night, Larry convinced Gum that he should spend time looking up dead cultures — he’d have no one to repel him that way. Furthermore, Larry was convinced that it Gum fulfilled his childhood dream of finding the angelic artifacts of legend, he would end being a lot happier.
Plus — there was a practical side. Research into cultural movements had primarily been conducted on other shardplanes where the histories of the natives were felt to be less exact than that of the World. As a result, although the World had an exciting and detailed History, much of what was recorded had not been substantiated by third party scientific research. Larry felt that Gum would feel that such activity would be both healthy and rewarding.
“Plus, you may get to some of those angel artifacts you keep talking about.” According to legend, angelic societies existed right up until the History began. “If you could find movements back into prehistory, you might track down whole lost civilizations. That’d be cool!”
The night continued over a round of drinks. Larry resumed playing for the evening and Gum thought about all his options. At last call he got up to leave.
“Hey, thanks. I think I’ll do that.”
Larry nodded, his fingers never leaving the keys.
As Gum opened the door of the bar, his friend Rukt the goblin walked inside. He looked like he’d taken a beating. He was bleeding all over the place. Gum took him to the nearest hospital and stayed the night with him. In the morning when everything had been taken care of Rukt pledged life loyalty to Gum.
Eager to begin work at his new calling, and with a new helper at his side, Gum left the hospital straight for his friend Archie’s house. From there Gum and Rukt would head for the fabled “Lost Continent,” a peninsula and archipelago at the southern edge of the Great Sea.
On the way, Gum and Rukt find a disturbing anomaly near some relatively tame archaeological ruins from the end of the great Conflux. In early history, humans from all across the World banded together with allies from the other mortal races to defeat an ancient race of evil warriors. According to the History, they had been defeated more than a thousand years ago and their memory adequately laid to rest before the task of gathering the Human Lore could begin. As the History was an offshoot of the Lore, the known recorded history of the world begins with defeat of those ancient warriors. However, Gum and Rukt find remains not belonging to any known race of mortals in a place that was only eight hundred years old.
This is where the story begins.