The Book of Old Times

The Book of Old Times comes to us from scores of fragmented, individual copies of its contents. Bits and pieces of the ancient story have been found on crumbling scrolls of soulstuff, caked-over walls in the catacombs and everywhere inbetween. And it has been painstakingly assembled, translated and poured over through the ages, just to make certain that it's as correct as can be.

The oldest copies are all written in Etruscan, as one might expect, given the genesis of the Gods of The Order. More "modern" versions were set down in Greek and Latin, with one later copy written in Germanic Runes. Given the importance of the subject matter, and the wide variance in the narrative that occurs in later copies, anything written in pre 4th century BCE Etruscan is considered to be the most accurate. However, even contemporary copies have been prone to variance, and The Order has had to go with consensus, and hope they are correct.

The Book of Old Times consists of five chapters, which have thirteen stanzas apiece. The most complete chapters are the first and third, while the fourth is missing one stanza, and the second is missing four. In both cases, it seems that the stanzas describing Charun's fight with the "new world" have been lost, which makes it hard to understand the scope of the conflict.

The fifth chapter is both the most fragmentary and the most disappointing. Only six full stanzas have been found and confirmed, and of those missing, it would seem that most of them are prophetical in nature. While we know, courtesy of the rites of The Order, that Charun and the Ferrymen will come back on the Day of Dominion, the signs that point to that time have yet to be satisfactorily unearthed.

"Why not ask the Ferrymen?"

That's an excellent idea, son. But it's been tried before. And, just like most things you try with them, it's failed.

Oh, it's not that they don't know, I'm sure. It's just that they just won't answer the questions, is all. You can put it as simple as you like - even get it down to a simple 'yes' or 'no' - but all you get is that stony, hard silence of theirs. That and the feeling you might want to stop wasting their time...

I did get an answer, once. Not quite what you might expect, though. I'd been trying to get Germanicus - that's the one in Westminster Abbey - to just tell me if I was barking up the wrong tree or not. And when he refused to so much as look at me, I finally lost my temper, and said 'how the hell are we supposed to know any of this is true at all, eh?'

And he turned around, real slow like... looked right at me... and said 'have faith.'

Yeah. Just that and nothing more. Went right back to ignoring me. Bastard.


The Chapters:

The following is a summary of The Book of Old Times, broken down into chapters for ease of comprehension, and without much in the way of critical comment. Sheer volumes have been dedicated to uncovering, rewriting, reconstructing - and, of late, deconstructing - the ancient history of the dead, and to skim even the top five of each theory and countertheory and present them, here, would threaten to confuse the beginning reader.


In Ancient Times

There were Ghosts, in ancient times - indeed, it would seem that every soul, upon death, became a Ghost of sorts. They were permitted to walk in their sleep, and go about their business as they saw fit. But when they Awoke they were taken away by the gentle hands of the Gods, and their Ferrymen, and taken down the River of Death - also known as the Black River - by the Ferrymen.
The destination of their journey was the great City of the Underworld. There they were brought before the throne of Charun, there to say of their lives, their deeds and their ends. Those who met with the Emperor's approval were escorted to the paradise that awaited, there to dwell in rest and splendor for an eternity as his subjects. Those who failed to impress him, however, were destroyed.  


The Sundering
But the ancient idyll was not to last. The Gods came to Charun to tell him that something was changing in the world, and to seek his aid against an "evil star." This change was apparently prophesied by no one, and even Vanth - who sees all that is and all that will be - was quite violently prohibited from seeing what would happen.

We are later told that the world is going from old to new, but we are never told what that really means, due to the loss of four entire stanzas. All we know is that a man died, and that his death created "a new world."

With the death of the "greatest idea" came the birth of another, and a mighty Storm - the greatest ever - raged across the world for a "season." The Damned {Charontes} made merry in the world of the living and the dead, and even grew so brazen as to attack the City, itself.


The Concord

The great Storm pushed the worlds of Life and Death away from one another. Between them came the Barrier, which blocked easy passage between the two. Charun had clearly been forced out of his previous position as lord of the dead, and he sent the Ferrymen to try and breach the surface, to see what remained.

The Ferrymen eventually got through the Barrier, though we are not told exactly how they did this. They reported to Charun that the dead now "went somewhere new," but those who Arose were left behind, and not accounted for. Worse still, those souls that remained behind were somehow kept from following after the Ferrymen.

Needless to say, this angered Charun, and he sought the advice of Vanth once more. She told him that looking after the forgotten dead "was his mandate made plain." Thus did Charun proclaim the Concord, taking a year and a day to come up with the simple rules of its governance, with help from Vanth, the shades of old and his Ferrymen.


The Injunction

At Charun's instruction, the Ferrymen went once more to the surface to proclaim the Concord, and rule in his stead. They were to be the arbiters of his law, and maintain order - most notably the Injunction - amongst the Arisen. It is from these days that The Order springs from, though the leadership was given unto the Ferrymen, and not mere Wraiths.

However, the "new world" was displeased by this turn of events. Storms and the Damned were let loose upon the world to show its displeasure. Due to a missing stanza, we are not certain of how the conflict came to a head, except that Charun clearly "acceded to the new world's demands." At the same time, there appears to have been some kind of compromise: the "new world" says that the dead may "chose" to follow Charun, but Charun - and, by extension, the Ferrymen - may not directly interfere.


The Day of Dominion

The last chapter of The Book of Old Times is the most savagely incomplete, with only six stanzas remaining in full. This is extremely unfortunate, because the narrative is just getting to the signs which signal the "approach of the day" when it cuts off. All we are told is "By the light of the..." which could mean almost anything, and has led overly-enthusiastic members of The Order and the Believers to tidy their lives up at every bright astronomical event.

What we do know is what will happen after Dominion Day. The Barrier will fall, and the Black River will come back, and with it the Ferrymen. The "new world" will be knocked down by a return of the old, and those who have kept the Injunction will be allowed to follow the Ferrymen to Paradise, and Charun.