A lot of times in writing the Gazetteer, I got to name-drop something mysterious, reference in a few other articles, and by the time I wrote the entry itself I had a pretty good idea of what it was. Zinclum was a fun departure from this as it is a standing mystery, a place that nobody can explain but many have designs on.
I love a good mystery, and I love leaving a bunch of mysteries for players to toy with and for individual tables to decide what’s “really” going on. Is it a relic of a forgotten prehistoric culture? Did an unknown cabal of time mages create it? Was it ancient aliens? It’s all up to you!
…also please tell me what you decided it was in your game, I’d love to hear about it!
Without further ado, though, here’s the entry:
This ancient stone construction is a circle of massive calendar stones atop a tall, narrow butte at the northeastern end of Xenix Gorge. The site has been used for rituals for the totality of living memory, including coronations, child namings, marriages and weavebonds, and especially funerals. Zinclum funerals consign the dead to the elements and the region’s carrion birds via sky burial. Other visitors to the site seek to unravel its mysteries or study the stars.
The purpose of the site is broadly understood as a calendar, as the stone positions mark the solstices and equinoxes as well as a number of prominent stars and constellations. The site can also display an animated lightshow of the sun, moon, and stars. The lights are triggered by any release of spiritual power, whether that be intentional summonings of a wizard’s inner power or even the mere presence of vimstones, which are quickly drained to power the dancing lights. The broad, flat stone in the circle’s center is a very functional sacrificial altar.
The circle is made up of four arches and eight individual standing stones, all of which stand on a foundation of regular and interlocked flagstones. The arches mark the solstices: sunlight at sunrise and sunset fall through an arch and onto the central stone block. The equinoxes are marked by a pair of standing stones which cast a morning and evening shadow on the center. The remaining six standing stones align with prominent stars on the winter solstice.
The site’s construction stands as a persistent mystery. The oldest written records as well as oral tradition consider the site ancient even at their own inception. The stones are granite, not native to the Gorge, and it is unclear how they were transported to the top of the butte. The site’s location at a convergence of ley lines also implies the builders possessed a level of magical sophistication otherwise unknown in prehistory. While the mystery mirrors that of the Gracia Span at the other end of the gorge, the two constructions are vastly different in both materials and the construction techniques.
Stranger still, the position of the arches and standing stones appears to mirror the pattern of ley lines that surround The Canton, a correlation for which no one has developed a satisfactory explanation.
The entire butte and the precipitous trails leading to its peak are presently controlled by a cabal of vine witches. The Zinclum cabal in turn pledges fealty to a local warlord who controls the surrounding butte fortresses, but the witches do a brisk business independent of her authority. Access to the site is granted in exchange for gifts and favors bestowed on the local community. Strangers typically pay much more than neighbors, up to and including gifts of Hardhollow steel. The villages surrounding Zinclum are some of the most prosperous in the entire gorge.
Some have questioned whether anyone should control, let alone profit from, a holy site sacred to so many. The Zinclum cabal insists that their custodianship is both demanding and necessary. They tell a story of a priest and faith healer who once came to them, insisting that the site’s arcane resonances could cure ogrification. Trying to keep an open mind, they allowed him access to the site only to discover that, among his ritual materials, he was smuggling a live ogre. Said ogre broke free, threw the priest off the side of the butte, and threatened to destroy the site entirely. If the Zinclum cabal had not fulfilled the sacred duties of its custodianship and removed the ogre (by hiring a few adventurers), it would still be there to this day.
There’s a bunch of juicy references; which one shall we read up on next week?