Mikash, Magical Strangers
After the chaos of its new-found independence died down, Mikash began sending expeditions back to the ruins. When they arrived, hoping to find a treasure trove stacked up in their absence, they were sorely disappointed to find the temples empty. They settled in to work on excavations, instead, and were relieved when the scrolls began appearing again the next day. However, the scrolls were far newer in number. Most of the space in the rooms was now taken up by large statues.
20 feet tall, masterfully carved from single blocks of stone, and with tremendously detailed painting, the first statues depicted a human woman, seated on a throne and holding an open scroll. The excavators were understandably startled when the the statues that appeared the next day depicted a bare-chested, falcon-headed warrior with a spear and axe, and matters only got more unusual from there. The excavators would move the statues out into the camps, only to awaken the next morning to find them gone, with enormous footsteps leading out into the sands. After a brief panic and some nonsensical theories about statue-stealing invisible giants, some of the members of earlier expeditions, remembering the fortuitous wall collapse, suggested it might be worth the time to follow the tracks.
The tracks led out to the other temples of the Strangers, and it was in the largest of the temples that the mages finally came face to face with the source of all these wonders. The expedition entered the temple, expecting it to be abandoned but half-new like the rest, and was startled to find that except for some decay at the edges it was perfectly intact; even more alarming, they heard voices in the distance. A careful approach led them to a table, where the falcon-headed man and the enthroned woman sat arguing. Realizing that the 20-foot statues had been accurately sized and that these two – if not more – had been guiding them the entire time, the mages managed to control their terror and approach; thus Mikash was introduced to Horus and Isis, the first of the Strangers to reveal themselves in physical form.
Encountering what seemed to be actual gods in the flesh very nearly threw Mikash’s government back into chaos. Horus, as the patron of nations, kings and sovereignty, was almost immediately declared to be the patron god of the new nation, and just as quickly undeclared when the more level-headed mages of the council declared that religion would be left a personal choice of the citizens, and not of the government. Some remnants of the brief religious fervor do remain, as the mages’ council still has a good deal of Horus-related wording in their ceremonies. This decision was made after disasters quickly began to occur following the decision to abandon the wording, which many of the population took to be a good omen; Horus’ displeasure at being left out of state ceremonies is widely regarded as proof that he has adopted Mikash as his own.
The discovery of the other Strangers at temples further in the desert brought great magical power to the land; while unofficially barred from office, the priests of the Strangers in Mikash are enormously powerful individuals, whose inscrutable goals make them much-feared by the populace, even those who are members of the same faith. Mikash also became the only nation in the entire bay to develop technology unrelated to that of the Veshadiin, with the aid of the craft-god Ptah. Gunpowder originated here, among other things, and Mikash’s craftspeople wield more effective tools than their counterparts.
The expeditions, however, came to an abrupt and brutal end; one temple, the last to be discovered so far, proved to be a haven for a great number of horrible magical diseases, which the expedition mages accidentally unleashed during their explorations. The diseases ran rampant for years, killing tens of thousands of people. Finally, the Strangers themselves combined their powers to contain them – and disappeared. The diseases still strike, but they are rare, and no longer seem to be contagious at all. However, Mikashi religion has taken a heavy blow from the disappearance of their deities, and further exploration of the desert paths worn by the statues has been deemed too dangerous.