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The Truth Behind The Eternal Truth

by Andrew Theisen

al-Kalim was a follower of many Immortals during his lifetime, but now his followers tend to dismiss the belief in other Immortals? Why is this? And how was al-Kalim able to garner such a tremendous following in such a short time?

Perhaps the Eternal Truth of al-Kalim isn't as true as it purports to be.

The Truth Behind The Eternal Truth

Once upon a time, there was a mortal named Mohammed al-Kalim. Born in the desert wastes of the Alaysian basin, gifted with an extraordinary insight and abilities, this man had a vision. A vision of a lush, green valley, a bountiful oasis for his children, and his children's children. This was the Dream of the Desert Garden. No fool, the man knew that no such dream would come to pass in his

lifetime. Such a dream would take decades, perhaps centuries, to reach fruition. Yet, for all the efforts he put into instilling his dream into his friends, companions, and followers, the dream would not come about without continued guidance. Not within a mortal lifespan. But, perhaps, in an Immortal's lifespan?

al-Kalim sought guidance from the Immortal Guardians of the desert people. The Gnoll, Zephyr, many, many more. Their advice and influence led him, appropriately enough, to the Old Man of the Sea- for where else should the Dream of the Desert Garden lead but to water?

The Old Man of the Sea was notoriously apathetic towards the plight of the land dwellers, and so al-Kalim embarked on a series of increasingly dangerous tasks in order to prove his devotion and worth to the Immortal Guardian. Finally, convinced of the mortal's sincerity, the Old Man of the Sea revealed to al-Kalim what the mortal must do in order to ascend into the ranks of the Guardians. al-Kalim accepted his tasks generously, and determinedly.

Eventually, the pursuit of his tasks led al-Kalim to divorce himself from the connections to his mortal life. He left his Dream in the hands of trusted followers and friends, and allowed the world to believe him dead. Then he resumed his tasks, confident that he would succeed and become an Immortal Guardian. From his position on high, al-Kalim would be able to oversee the efforts of his fellow desert dwellers, and assist them in the pursuit of his- now their- Dream of the Desert Garden. Never looking back, al-Kalim strode out into the Alaysian desert to complete his quests.

For ages untold did al-Kalim quest for his goal, for his quests took him not merely to distant places, but to distant times, as well. al-Kalim witnessed many disturbing events as he sought to ensure the continuance of the nation he had helped found. Divisiveness within Ylaruam- factions fighting one another, losing sight of the common dream; Military invasions- both mortal and demonic; and more. Of most curiosity to al-Kalim, through all of his experiences, was amazement at not only the speed with which the Dream had spread, but how it persevered, despite his divine guidance. This was a mystery, to be sure, and one which he promised to investigate upon his final- and, he never wavered in his confidence- inevitable ascension to Immortality.

His assurance was well justified, for al-Kalim did indeed gain that desired position of influence. His tasks completed, the Old Man of the Sea assisted him with the transition to Immortality, then allowed his charge to go on his way- perhaps to be called upon in the future, perhaps not; the Old Man of the Sea was ever unpredictable.

After a period of adjustment to his new stature, and embarking upon some distant explorations, the Immortal al-Kalim recalled a promise made to himself while still mortal. Returning his attentions to Mystara, he checked in on the followers of the Dream of the Desert Garden. He monitored the progress they had made over the period of his departure, and at their current status. And he became alarmed.

Looking forward, through the futures he had witnessed as a mortal, he noticed the same trends. Not fully convinced, the Immortal al-Kalim studied more, until the truth could no longer be in doubt.

Someone or Something had usurped his following.

It was the only thing that made sense. Mohammed al-Kalim, the mortal, had sought for Immortality so that he could continue to foster the Dream of the Desert Garden among his fellow Ylari. He knew that the Dream, strong as it was, could never attain the degree of commitment and following it needed without the backing of the words of the Immortal Guardians. Yet somehow it had. The followers of the Eternal Truth were not only surviving, they were prospering. And many of them were able to call upon the powers of an Immortal they knew as al-Kalim- yet al-Kalim knew that he was granting no such powers.

While questing as a mortal, he had been fearful that something might have gone wrong. Yet he had held out hope that, perhaps, due to the vagaries of time travel, the events he had witnessed in his name might have yet been overseen by himself as an Immortal Guardian. Now he knew this was not the truth.

At some point during his absence from mortal affairs, another of the Immortal Guardians had usurped his calling, taking his name and leading his fellow Ylari in the name of al-Kalim. The Dream of the Desert Garden had been coopted by another Immortal, and the followers of the dream along with it. For what nefarious purpose was not yet evident, but the visions of the future al-Kalim had experienced were a harrowing bit of foreshadowing.

The Immortal al-Kalim took this evidence to the other Immortals. Surely, such an event could not be allowed to transpire! Yet ever was he met with a blind eye. First his patron, the Old Man of the Sea- apathetic as always- turned him away. So it went, all the way to Khoronus, Hierarch of Time, who wiped his hands of the affair, claiming fear of a temporal paradox if the usurpation were to be undone. The Immortal al-Kalim couldn't even learn the true identity of the Immortal who had stolen his name and his followers. Was the Dream of the Desert Garden to die along with the mortal Mohammed al-Kalim, as was his original fear? Was his quest on behalf of the Ylari for naught?

Only time may tell...

The DM's Eternal Truth

So what is the real truth? Who is the Immortal who has been masquerading as al-Kalim for over a century, and leading the factions of the desert nomads of Ylaruam in their crusades? Someone with a dislike of other Immortals, that much is true- why else would the Ylari abandon their ancient beliefs in the multiple Immortal Guardians for a faith in only one Immortal, al-Kalim?

Possibly it is someone with a long abiding interest in the Alasiyan desert and its regions. Someone skilled at subtlety. Ranivorus, possibly, who assisted in the corruption of the ancient Nithians of the same region? Or Thanatos, the eternal Evil himself?

And what has become of the Immortal al-Kalim? His following stolen out from underneath him, his every effort to salvage his faith, or to discover the identity of his enemy, met with apathy and sometimes disdain by his "fellow" Immortals? Will he uncover the identity of his ancient enemy and take the battle to the people- perhaps leading to the schism between the Preceptors and Kin factions of the Ylari? Or will he become so angry towards the other Immortals that he abandons his Dream of the Desert Garden and seeks revenge against the system that would allow this to happen?

Yet another possibility- what of the strange new Immortal Gareth, who claims to have returned from distant realms, and preaches against the Immortals, and inspires mortals to independent thought and action? Might he be the Immortal al-Kalim, in another guise, using the tactics of his nameless enemy- of adopting a new identity in order to usurp the followings of others?

Many questions, few answers. What is the Truth behind the Eternal Truth? I don't know. Perhaps there is none. Or, perhaps as they say on a popular TV show that I rarely watch, "the Truth is out there." It's for individual DM's to discover. But I hope it's at least been interesting reading. :)