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In the Age of Haïta, before the Ways were opened to mortal men, there was a city in the farthest reaches of the world, its great form looming over the land of Lormun. Tevak of the Red Sands was its name, for it had been erected amidst the red dunes of the Uhmar. Tall and mighty were its walls, its towers, its spires, built from star-substance, pale and hard unlike any rock on the land; colossal were its temples, palaces for the nameless idols that watched over the darkness, carved with glyphs and names in tongues unknown; and silent were its streets, walked only by ghosts and wind, for though it could have housed a thousand thousand men, Tevak was as empty as a starless night over the sea of dunes.

Thus was Tevak known as an aberration, a city built but never inhabited, a child born but never claimed. No one knew whose hands had erected it, none could tell for how long it had stood. All the people of the land understood, nevertheless, a knowledge vested on them since words had meaning, since the first men had arrived on the fertile banks of Lormun: that the city's name was Tevak, and that it stood silently amidst the red sands of the Uhmar.

And with this knowledge, the people knew dread, for though empty and unclaimed, still Tevak remained unspoilt, its walls unmoved by the rage of the elements, its towers strong as if they knew not the ravages of time, its streets clean as if built the night before. It was, they said, as if something, something older than men, older than the world, had died and given birth atop its corpse to the empty spires and palaces of Tevak, to its dark temples and cavernous houses, and still kept watch over its spawn.

And all the while, silence, like an omen, reigned.

And so the city came to be known as Tevak, the Silent City of the Red Sands.

For millennia untold, Tevak remained deserted, unclaimed by people or empire, its dreadful stillness unmolested.

But the will of men is strong, and from the north one day came down a strong, hardy people born in a place called Erheta. Exiled from their home by sword and magic, they wandered through the desert, begging and trading and praying and fighting to survive. Upon arriving on the land, they were rejected, turned away in every city and village, for the men of Erheta were grey of skin and blue of eyes, and the people of the land thought them demons from beyond the stars.

Thus, the men of Erheta were forced to take refuge on Tevak, for it was, like them, unwanted and unclaimed.

The men of Erheta entered the city, shuddering as elder walls breathed out the dread silence of yore, as the terrible stillness of its stone houses and palaces welcomed them past the arched gates. They looked in fear and fascination at the uninhabited buildings, at the vacant squares and gardens, at the desolate temples shrouded in darkness. They trembled as they realized their solitude amongst the edifices, the absence of those who had built Tevak, if it had been built at all.

Thus was the first night spent in Tevak, and the second, and the third, and so on and so forth. And though they still feared the star-spawn stone and its drowning silence, the men of Erheta laid claim to the walls and houses, and made the city their home. And at last Tevak's squares and palaces were lit with homely fires, and its streets filled with great crowds of grey flesh and azure eyes. And the silence ended, and the city lived, and the people of Erheta knew peace and joy.

And for a time, Tevak the Silent became Tevak the Mirthful.

And for a time, all was good.

The Age of Haïta marched on, cities grew and men multiplied. The people of Erheta remembered their old name no longer, known now to themselves and to others as the people of Tevak.

The men of Tevak the Mirthful carved a great empire through the desert, the ancient city their seat of power. Their conquest of the place believed cursed by the others had emboldened them, and out they went, conquering and to conquer. By force of blade and coin the other cities and kingdoms of the land bent their knee to Tevak, and within a few years all who had denied the men of Erheta paid tribute to the grey-skinned, blue-eyed lords of the once Silent City of the Red Sands.

Tevak grew mightier still. Its people, fed by the abundant crops they sowed, became so numerous that, if they all sang in unison, their voices would reach the heavens. Its riches, collected from across the land, were so many that their glistening could be seen from several miles in the distance. And Tevak the Mirthful became known to every merchant and traveler as Tevak the Glistening, the Gem-City of the Uhmar.

As Tevak's power grew, so did its people's pride, and the silence which had once ruled over the city passed into myth, a tale to scare children at dusk. And little by little, the memory of the first night on Tevak was barred from the minds of the grey-skinned, azure-eyed men, as was that which had transpired during the taking of the city.

And in the vaults deep below the city, locked away from the sight of men, something long-forgotten stirred.

One morning, a great cry echoed through the dunes, a lamentation unlike any ever heard by men. Under the shadowy dawn of the newborn day, the people of the land saw aghast what the turning of the heavens had brought… and shuddered.

The people of Tevak, from richest of nobles to the lowliest of peasants, had vanished. Where last night the streets had been crowded, the fires lit and the temples full of worshippers, now stood solely the mighty metropolis of stone, as silent as it had been before the arrival of the men of Erheta.

No use was it that men and beasts dug deep into the arid ground, that search parties ventured deep into the city and far into the desert endlessness, that people cried and prayed and begged for deliverance. The city was empty, and none remained to tell the tale.

And Tevak the Glistening, Gem of the Uhmar, became Tevak the Silent anew.

The whispers of the fate that had befallen Tevak travelled far and wide across the lands of men. Every soul heard and despaired at the vanishing of the city's inhabitants, gone in the blink of an eye as if their lives had been but a mirage. People turned to the heavens, to the desert, looking for answers, and received none.

Many rumors circled about the cause of the vanishing, each wilder than the previous. Some said that the sorcerer-priests of Tevak had offended their gods, bringing about divine judgement that had smoten the city and all who lived there into the void beyond. Others still, thought that the sands had opened up and swallowed Tevak, spitting back out the empty city and retaking that which had always been their right. None dared utter the word, the fearful possibility, that something other, something elder, ancient, had awoken in the depths of the city, something that had always been there, before the men of Ehreta had claimed the city as their own… none wished to remember the silence, the stillness…

Days passed and became weeks, weeks passed and became years, until Tevak was nothing but a distant memory, its history and fate interwoven with legend, shifting as it spread from mouth to mouth. Whatever grey-skinned people remained, they became pariahs in the new world, shunned as their ancestors had once been, cast out in fear that they brought with them whatever curse had caused their home to be wiped clean of life. None wished to share the fate of the Gem of the Uhmar.

And for the longest of times, none dared set foot on the corpse-city of Tevak of the Red Sands.

Centuries passed and the world went on, as life often does in the aftermath of catastrophe. Empires were born, expanded and fell; earthquakes and storms scourged the land; seasons came and went. And still, Tevak remained abandoned beyond the banks of Lormun, the mystery of its people's vanishing left unanswered; for though wise men and adventurers from across the land had come to see the city, none could bear to enter its walls and face the great metropolis of stone that had swallowed its populace whole. And the silence went on and on…

One night, however, the voice spread that the fires of Tevak were lit, and that murmurs emerged from the city, whispers carried by the roaring desert wind. From beyond the walls, a shrill chanting was heard, a litany of voices not unlike the men who had inhabited Tevak the Glistening. The sound rose at night as the sun fell, and faded away as the new day dawned, as if those who howled and sang their supplications could only ever do it at the cover of night.

Frightened by the sudden haunting of the dead city, the men of Lormun spent but a few days deliberating on what to do. Though the chanting unmistakeably meant that something again lived within the city's walls, what it was the men could not tell. No one had yet come out the gates of Tevak to announce their claim to the city, no movement besides the nightly fires had been observed. Whomever or whatever had moved into the Silent City of the Red Sands wished not to extend a hand in friendship or a blade in enmity. It seemed, the men thought, that the city was now truly inhabited solely by wraiths and shades of ages past.

The chanting went on every night, fires lit like a thousand stars in the shroud of darkness. Dread crept through the hearts and minds of the people of Lormun as even the wind's howling could not drown the horrid litany, the maddening roar of a thousand thousand voices prostrate in worship of the unseen. The silence was gone, its absence filled by the cries, the echoes of rituals unknown.

And every night, as the chanting rose from the corpse-city, the people dreamt…

The dream spread through the land like a plague, madness swirling from the deepest recesses of the mind, from the dark, primal corners of memory. It burned, a blight upon the souls of those who found it in their slumber. In the numbness of the abyss they found not release, but the waiting horror of the plague, of the sickness of the mind. They saw the face, the eyes, the gaping mouth from whence came black words of doom. They whimpered and begged for help, even as they were defiled, devoured, but none could wake them, not even as their eyes opened and the light of day revealed them not to have returned from the dreamlands, but to be perpetually entombed in the nightmare's screaming maw. To close one's eyes was to commit one's mind to lunacy and chaos.

Cities burned and kingdoms fell, the tide of madness ravaging the known world, the raving crowds dancing their orgiastic celebration of death and bloodshed, corpses littering the streets, the temples, the desert itself. Blackened words were uttered, supplications to forces unknown, to bring about collapse and oblivion.

Sorcerers and priests and scholars tried to stop the plague, the dream, to tear it from the minds of men root and stem, but the sickness, like a weed, grew back a tenfold stronger, fingers digging into flesh and eyes gouged out in monstrous celebration of its triumph. The land was sown with salt, and the sky blotted out with rising ash.

At last, the men of the land turned to the source of the madness, the corpse-city of Tevak of the Red Sands, its walls and streets occupied by the enemy unseen, the bringers of the plague. With what weapons they could fashion, the surviving men of the land of Lormun mounted their last stand, a hundred of their kin venturing past the shadowed gates of Tevak, and into the unknown, off to slay whatever fiend had brought doom upon the land.

Inside the city walls, all was quiet, for the day aster had yet to hide beyond the horizon. Long shadows were cast by the colossal stone buildings, black spaces where a man could be swallowed whole by dark of dusk. Steps echoed through the empty city as the men advanced through the streets, towards the great square they knew to lie at the center of Tevak. There they hoped to find the cause of their ills, and strike it down.

Minutes turned to hours as the men walked on, but found themselves no closer to the city's center. The sun went out over the horizon, and the cold moon cast its light over the city, but the march continued still, as the city itself changed in unnerving forms, eerie shapes not of earthly origin that grew stranger and stranger as the troupe headed deeper into Tevak's bowels: buildings stretched to heights impossible, piercing the heavens until they became lost amidst the darkness of night; houses and palaces melted into one another, fused in horrid fashion as if made of living tissue and not cold, lifeless stone; doors and windows, steps and wells formed haphazardly, emerging from walls and floors and ceilings with no apparent order or design; the city's streets, once orderly and efficient despite their vacancy, had turned mazelike, an incoherent, labyrinthine abomination of dead ends and meandering corridors.

And all the while, the chanting echoed throught Tevak.

Closer, the men ceased not their advance, though they shook with horror and confusion at the maddening sights that had replaced the Silent City. Deeper they went, even as some of their number went missing in the branching maze, in the darkened corridors lit only by moonlight and dying torches. Closer.

The chanting grew louder as the men finally reached what could be none other than the center of Tevak, and found the horror waiting for them.

A throng of grey figures chanted and danced around a great, blazing pyre, mouths voicing the horrid words of doom that spilt forth from the people maddened by the plague of dreams. Their faces were misshapen, eyeless, black orifices where their blue orbits had once known the light of day. They raised their arms towards the sky, towards the shadows that watched over their feast, over their sacrifice, looming shapes of pale visages made from the same star-born stone as the city itself. To them they raised their prayers, their supplications, their sacrifices.

The chanting was as loud as thunder, but only strong enough to barely drown the other sound, the noise that came from the adjacent buildings and the walls and the floor itself, as the men of Lormun slowly realized they stood not on polished stone of skilled craftsmanship, but on a heterogeneous mass of writhing limbs and screaming mouths, grey skin barely distinguishable from the space rock in which they were embedded, fused to the stone as a coral to the seabed. On it the men of Lormun had treaded, and only now, at the zenith of the entombed's agony did they realize the fate of the inhabitants of Tevak, the once-men come from Erheta.

The creatures that had been the rulers and inhabitants of Tevak wailed and threw themselves about the air and ground, their frenzy reaching climax even as the horrified men of Lormun raised against them blade and pike, as their flesh was rent and their bones shattered. And over the blood spilt and the creatures slain, over the climaxing dancers and fearful slayers, over the writhing ground and the screaming walls watched the stone faces of the idols of Tevak, the ancient things that had long awakened from their slumber in the catacombs below.

And the screams died out and the fire burnt bright, and thus silence reigned again over Tevak.

It transpired that the men of Lormun found truth as they extinguished the last of the eyeless worshippers, as their blades drew the last blood. How this knowledge had been vested upon them they did not understand, but it had arisen in their hearts what the once-men of Erheta, then Tevak, had strived to hide, to stamp out of history and remembrance: the truth of their first night amidst the silence of Tevak.

The men of Erheta had found Tevak as empty as could be, not a single soul not of their kin breathed in the dead of night. Fearful but decided, they ventured deep into the great metropolis of stone, and shuddered and wondered at its magnificence.

But the stone houses and palaces of Tevak were cold and unwelcoming, unable or unwilling to host the likes of man. And so, the men of Erheta had been forced to seek sanctuary in the temples of the nameless gods of Tevak, at whose feet a brazier could be lit, and fire summoned against the freezing darkness. Still they looked upon the visages of the idols who presided over the city they gazed, and their empty, polished eyes gazed back at them, filling the people with woe.

Among these pale, nameless colossi, one stood out, an effigy chiseled into the image of a Woman. Her blank orbs stared blindly into the void, her arms extended as if receiving worshippers into her embrace. But her hands were like talons, her limbs thin like dead branches. Her mouth was agape, a serpent uncoiling from the orifice like a dreadful spell uttered in the primordial bareness of the sanctum. Silent she stood, like her city, wondrous and dreadful to behold.

The men of Erheta knew fear in their hearts as they looked upon the Woman, upon the Mother of Tevak, and with haste they lashed at her, tearing the statue from its pedestal, though they dared not to shatter her under the strike of hammer or club. Unbroken, it was carried out of the temple, spat on and cursed by the fearful people, and buried deep within the darkest vault of the voiceless city, locked away to be forgotten by generations to come.

In time, every idol in every temple on Tevak had been torn down and thrown into the catacombs below the Silent City of the Red Sands, replaced by the deities of the men of Erheta, who were fairer in their eyes than the terrible effigies that once lined the temples of the Silent City. Unto them they offered sacrifice, enshrined in the old sanctums so that they may be adored by natives and visitors, by priests and common folk alike. Upon their images were the best crops offered, the most tender sheep slaughtered, the most haunting songs chanted, so that their power held against the idols who, in their slumber, still aimed to retake that which had once been theirs.

But man is frail, and not even their faith may hold against the remembrance of sin and heresy. And so, the strange idols of Tevak stirred in slumber and shared their dream with the usurpers, to drive the nail of madness deep into the hearts of men. And as the people dreamt, they faded from this world, sinking into the depths of the cursed dreamspace of the ancient stone, cast into the maelstrom of madness that swirled beneath the waking world.

And now, as ages passed and men grew bolder, as the memory of Tevak turned to myth, they returned changed, molded in the image of the blind idols of star-spawn stone. With their tongueless mouths and eyeless orbits they would sing and witness, dance and worship, sharing their dream with the rest of the waking world, to serve the blind, silent wills of the nameless idols of Tevak of the Red Sands.

And the dream would take root, and the world would know madness.

With this knowledge did the men of Lormun return from the bowels of Tevak. With this knowledge did they burn the remains of the once-men of Erheta, shattered and buried their idols deep in the desert, where they would be forever lost among the red sands of the Uhmar.

And when the deed was done and the stone necropolis was again silent and empty, the men of Lormun returned to Tevak and razed the city to the ground. No stone was left upon stone, no house left standing, no temple left undefiled. All was torn down, all was destroyed.

After two days and a morning, Tevak was no more. On the place where it once stood in the desert, a grey monolith, the only stone left intact, presided over the land, a tombstone for the great necropolis of yore.

And the red sands, ever silent, shifted.

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