The legend of what happened to the followers of moon god Oezn when he was cast out of the Azza’at pantheon. The legend is first; read on for a Pyanni scholar’s notes about the veracity of the account and some historical background.
Photo credit: Martin Cathrae
In the twelfth century of the Azza’at Empire, the whole land gasped for water. Over the years, the sun had grown hotter and the rains less frequent. Even the winds had changed course. The rivers trickled, the crops withered and browned, and the cattle died by the herd. Everyone looked for something or someone to blame.
All eyes turned to the pantheon temple, to the High Priestess of Da’atal. If this catastrophe was not her failing, then whose?
When the High Priestess cast fault, she aimed high. She blamed the moon god Oezn. The Temple had long embraced Oezn as the lover of Da’atal Iznat, the almighty sun goddess. Now, the High Priestess claimed that the triad had grown unstable. Oezn had driven a wedge between Da’atal and her husband, the earth god Karad, upsetting the natural order of sky and earth.
Ending a centuries-long debate, the High Priestess declared that Da’atal’s son Zanbo’ar had only one father, and it was Karad. In a single sentence, she transformed Oezn from half-father of the beloved rain god into outcast.
Oezn’s statues were smashed, his icons torn down, his prayers cut from the rituals.
Oezn’s followers, the Children of the Moon, were first shunned, then openly assaulted. In the streets of Iznatl—the City of the Gods and seat of the empire—the Guard refused to intervene. Mobs burned down Oezeni temples, attacking anyone showing the mark of the moon.
Within a month, death and desertion had decimated the Children. The priest Azaqu quietly gathered all the faithful he could and led them from the city.
They wandered across the increasingly barren out-country as pariahs. No village would shelter them. No farmers would sell them food. If they stopped on the banks of the grand Tarq, the locals drove them away before they could fill their water bags.
Azaqu and the other priests prayed, begging Oezn for a sign. One night, Oezn appeared to them. Oezn promised he would lead his people to a new home, an oasis where they would be free and safe, if they all vowed to keep the Moon Days holy.
The vision guided them to travel south, deeper into the desert, away from the Tarq. Many protested. To leave the Tarq was certain death. But Azaqu insisted. Oezn had spoken.
The Children of the Moon slogged over trackless sands. As supplies ran lower, the people worried. Each night, Azaqu calmed them. Each day, the fear grew. Then, just when the last hope was fading, a star fell from the full moon. Azaqu proclaimed it a sign from Oezn, marking the way.
The next day, they found a glorious oasis. Cliffs shaded a deep valley, filled with clear springs and a bounty of vegetation. The people were overjoyed.
When Azaqu explained that everyone must keep the Moon Days holy—exactly as prescribed in the sacred scrolls—the Children readily agreed.
The lands around the new Moon City supplied the Children with everything they needed. They built deep-homes of adobe, and broad bricked plazas, and high walls to block the drifting sands. They gathered olives and dates and nuts and nettles, planted beans and shortwheat, trapped desert runners and birds, and made sour-sip from sheep milk. They erected a magnificent temple to Oezn in the middle of their new city, decorating it with pounded gold and colored tiles carried from Iznatl.
On the night they dedicated the new temple, Oezn came to Azaqu in a vision. Oezn was pleased. He would reward his people with great wealth. When Azaqu went to the place Oezn had described, he found countless gems lying in the sands. The Children covered the temple walls with these desert gems, and made them into amulets and prayer rings and holy beads.
The Children felt so blessed by Oezn that they happily followed the rites. On Moon Days—the three days of the full moon—everyone said the prayers at dusk and midnight and dawn. They fasted during the day, eating only under the moon. They abstained from gluttony, drunkenness, and lust. They avoided touching or spilling blood, eating only dried meats, and banishing women on their blood cycle from the sacred city.
Despite their prosperity, or perhaps because of it, some became lax in their worship. Back in Iznatl, only the priests were tasked with the full restrictions every month. Even on the first Moon Days of the year, few people observed them as strictly as priests. Followers began questioning the orthodox interpretations. Surely Oezn would not be so petty.
People secretly ate during sun-hours on Moon Days. They drank more than they should, and once drunk, shed their inhibitions about other rules as well. They said the shortest prayers possible, made excuses for skipping them. When Oezn did not punish them, they became bolder, openly ignoring the rituals and prayers.
Azaqu admonished the followers, giving them dire warnings of their fate if the observances were not kept. Each time, he pushed fewer people back over the line to compliance.
One Moon Day evening, Azaqu found a raucous gathering in the square. Instead of prayers, they sang bawdy dancing songs. Many were drunk. Azaqu denounced them for their wickedness. The revelers argued among themselves. Some knelt and repented. Others railed against the strict rules. Disagreeing led to yelling. Yelling led to blows. Blows led to knives being drawn.
Two men flung themselves at each other, snarling accusations. Before anyone could stop them, one stabbed the other, spilling blood right in front of Azaqu.
Everyone suddenly quieted. Careful not to touch the blood, Azaqu soaked it up with a cloth. He led the somber crowd to the temple for a ritual cleansing.
After the rites, Azaqu warned the crowd that their brazen behavior would bring them all to ruin. Each reveler accused another of being the instigator. Tempers once again ran high. One man waved his knife at another. Azaqu intervened to keep the peace, but the two men were already inflamed. In the confusion, one of the men stabbed the priest.
Azaqu cried with dismay, realizing the import of this event. Time seemed to stop. The circled crowd stared helplessly as the priest crumpled. His blood seeped from his wound in red drops, falling towards the temple floor.
When the first drop of blood splashed against the tiles, a rumbling came from deep underground, growing louder with every heartbeat. Mighty winds roared around the temple, whipping at the torch flames.
Some people prostrated themselves, wailing fervent prayers. Others fled the temple. They were no safer outside. Gales rushed toward the city from all directions, strong enough to knock men over and pull babies from their mothers’ arms. Gigantic waves of sand swept into the city, blanketing whole streets in a single surge. People seeking refuge on rooftops screamed as the sands climbed higher.
Azaqu knelt where he had fallen, anointing the blood on the temple floor with his tears. He begged Oezn to punish him alone, to let the others live.
Oezn never answered.
Soon, sand filled the valley, covering even the temple tower. When the winds died down, there was no sign a city had ever been there.
From their tent outside the sacred valley, the women on their blood cycle saw the storm winds circling the city. They wept and ripped at their hair. Some desperately dug, hoping to save their loved ones. The sands sucked them under. The other women screamed with shock, yet found themselves drawn toward the temple. One by one, mad with grief, they moved closer until the sands took them too. When the last woman disappeared, the winds wrenched their tent from its posts and whipped it high into the clear sky.
Other Children of the Moon had been away herding sheep or hunting. When they tried returning home, the paths had all been swept away, and they could not find the city. Some tried returning to other lands, but the survivors of Moon City were all inexorably driven to seek their lost oasis. In time, they all found it, and therein, their doom.
It is said that Moon City is still there, with the bodies of the fallen buried in cursed sand, surrounded by untold riches. It stands as a testament to the power of faith and the consequences of angering the gods. A wise man would leave the sacred city lost, secret, undisturbed.
For none who seek it ever return.
From the notes of scholar Ataena Esronnat of Thoronit (Pyann), circa 475-485 JE:
The account of the lost Moon City come from the great Oezeni Prophet Akaal It, who claims to have seen these events in a series of visions. Her writings were preserved in the Moon Temple outside Panpoq Il (ed: the second-largest city in the Azza’at Empire), although only one third-hand copy is known to exist. According to contemporary accounts, the Moon Temple at Panpoq Il literally disappeared during the scourging of the Moon Children, after Oezn was cast down from the Azza’at pantheon. Some months after the collapse of the Azza’at Empire, the temple reappeared in the same location, completely intact. Given the thorough destruction of most other Oezeni temples, it boasted the largest remaining repository of Oezeni works.
Unfortunately, many of those works were destroyed in subsequent years, as the temple was used as a fortress, shielding Oezeni and others against the continued instability and violence in the region.
Three centuries later, a troop of Pyanni scholars and soldiers braved the dangerous desert journey to rediscover the temple, which was thought abandoned. The Pyanni explorers claimed they found the temple empty but well-fortified and filled with traps. Their mission was to salvage the temple’s holdings, and they brought what little they could find in the way of wealth, relics, and books back to Pyann. However, certain anomalies in the explorers’ reports indicated the temple may actually have been occupied at the time. These include mentions of a village at its base and an odd local guide they depended upon who was unusually knowledgeable about the temple. Furthermore, the interior of the temple they described was considerably smaller than earlier accounts and missing key areas, suggesting they failed to uncover much of the temple. When a second party of Pyanni explorers returned a decade later, they could not locate either the temple or its village. It has not reappeared in over two hundred years.
Some scholars have argued that the story of the lost Moon City is apocryphal, conjured to explain the disappearance of the cult of Oezn from Iznatl. However, given the disorder prevalent at the time, the loss of a group of refugees, or indeed entire villages and towns, required no divine intervention.
If Oezn did put a curse on the city, it could be nullified now, as the Moon City was likely within the boundaries of Fentoron when Amandanae adopted that country. When Amandanae abolished all other deities from that region, much divine magic suddenly malfunctioned or ceased working altogether. Notable examples include the famed Silver Dancers of Za’aloz in Iztaaq, which stopped dancing, and the floating Temple of Balza’ar and the Ice Bridge in Koez, which both collapsed. Although exact dating was poor in those chaotic days, it is believed that all such wonders stopped working on Dabi’azu, the day the Fentoren dedicated themselves to Amandanae. There are stories of other divine magics that continued functioning after Dabi’azu, but the reliability of these accounts is questionable.
Countless relics and gems have been claimed to be from Moon City. The fact remains that no group that has sought the city has ever returned with any verified artifacts, and most who venture into that desert seeking it are never seen again.