We men are beat. We don't know enough. We've got to learn before we've got a chance. And we've got to live and keep independent while we learn.
Creed of the Scavenger Scholars
Somewhere in the Far South, past the terraced walls of the Eternal Fortifications, deep within the green-veiled isles of the Septagoorean Archipelago there is said to be a fallen city so old no one remembers its name. Not even the serpentine sages, nor the bound savants of the Ruby Domes can reveal the identity of this nameless city. Few have gone there and returned. Most who come back from this place are changed in strange, unsettling ways. One woman, a pirate of sorts, returned to her ship and resumed command without a head. Another explorer was found wandering and raving in the perfumed jungles, all his teeth turned to emeralds and his eyes encased in immaculate gold. Only the tribes of Monikins who keep the oldest ways alive through oral tradition and ritual scarification seem to be able to visit the place and not be unduly transformed or torn apart by prowling invisible demons.
A small colony of scavenger-scholars has grown up around the mouth of a river that leads deep into the nameless city. They send small parties of intrepid artists and poets up the river in fragile canoes fashioned from prawn-shells and penguin-hide in the hopes that each one will bring back some small, but ultimately significant piece of information such as a sketch, a description, something that can be added to the meager stock of what they've been able to accumulate so that someday they will have finally amassed enough bits and pieces to unravel the mysteries locked within this place.
Eager to learn all they can about the nameless city, the scavenger-scholars have forged an alliance of sorts with the Monikin tribes. In exchange for instructing their young in the ways of writing, reading and related matters, the tribes share their stories and lore with the transcribers and recorders of the colony. How much of what the Monikin elders share is true or merely fables or self-serving lies and fiction remains unknown, unverified. The scavenger-scholars live in constant titillation and terror; they desperately wish for more data, but dread the possibility that someone will someday awaken something terrible that slumbers deep beneath the gleaming green walls of this place.
The Monikin elders say that once one gets past the outer precincts, across the bridges that span the outer canals, the streets of the inner city are paved with gold and lead, that there are fantastic inner courtyards where the walls are sheathed with emerald tiles and that there are gems dangling from weird trees that whisper all manner of secrets...
Inspiration: The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by R. Heinlein, The Cosmic Computer by H. Beam Piper, The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, H. P. L.'s Nameless City, and Sir Richard Francis Burton's translation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night...and that odd little tablet with the high-falutin' Victorian speech written all over it. Perhaps this is where the Gem originated?