Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
The Tanthusiad is one of the most important pieces of literature in the world — a classical Numan epic recounting the twenty-five year voyage of General Thanthus, who struggled to find his way home after an Avalon storm blew he and his shipmates off course. It has been the subject of countless plays: the greatest playwrights of l’Empereur’s court have expanded on their favorite adventure from the epic poem. Vaticine scholars have written countless books, analyzing and dissecting Gurlan’s most famous work, while countless Montaigne dinner parties have been ruined by pretentious fops quoting from it endlessly.
The tale of Korlak ur-Nagath, in particular, doesn’t hold up to scrutiny at first glance. The narrative places the island of Nagath in a stretch of the Trade Sea that has since borne a staggering amount of traffic, yet there no one has found any trace of an island that would support a city like Nagath. Scholars scoff at the idea of a ninety-foot tall statue of solid gold; such an artifact would quickly collapse under its own weight. Others quickly point out that the Syrneth were capable of seemingly impossible feats of engineering, but the Syrneth never created anything in human form, and seemed to shun representational work of any kind.
Fifty years ago, however, during a sea battle, a Castillian sailor made a startling discovery. Under the water, he saw the ruins of a great city, matching the descriptions of Nagath almost exactly. Scholars and explorers investigated the site with ships and divers and soon came to the conclusion that that city of Nagath, as described in the Tanthusiad, did indeed lie beneath the waves. The island had sunken before the fall of Numa as a result of a volcanic eruption. Even the
existence of the statue seemed plausible. Two pedestals marked what was once a narrow inlet to the island’s bay, spaced far apart enough for a ninety-foot tall statue to stand. Unfortunately, no trace of the statue itself was ever found.
Stories quickly surface regarding the statue and many other items from the Tanthusiad. Scoundrels and rogues have made small fortunes selling maps to Trogel, the Island of Talking Beasts (and large fortunes selling maps to Listruta, the Island of Willing Maidens). Charlatans have produced
countless fakes of the masks of the Hornet Men, and one enterprising mountebank has built an entire industry around buying and selling the fangs of the Serpent of Tryphus.
The great statue of Korlak ur-Nagath, though, is the most sought-after prize of them all. Many members of the Explorers’ Society have dedicated themselves to follow any leads, no matter how flimsy, on the statue’s whereabouts. Many pirates, as well, would literally kill for a chance at
such a treasure.