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Before the onset of the Slow Burn, a few, a very few, saw what approached over the horizon inexorably. These began an ambitious project to store away the world's knowledge in a persistent form, something those who followed them could use to rebuild. Into a mountain in cold, dry north, around their slow, slow clock, they hoarded the works of the world, and agents to protect and ensure them. Their descendants, both physical and intellectual, hid themselves away from the burn, around this ticking trove, and waited.

Decades crept into centuries crept into millennia, and this slight, monastic order guarded their clock and their minds. They dipped into its treasures ever so rarely, bot to make sure it was running apace, and that their vision had not wavered. The perils of the wild and the desperations of the masses were avoided through the use of subtle illusions. Those rare occasions when one of the order was observed trading outside the enclave they seemed to step in and out of air, and few could remember their passing clearly - they earned the name Ethereals.

As man grew to trust man again, and the roads cleared, ever so gradually the Ethereals saw spires rising from the forest. When they saw these same furtive spires in flames, they knew the world had need of their charge again. Over the course of several years, they prepared a series of texts and images and instructive inoculations from the materials stored around the clock, being what they hoped was a distillation of mankind's collective wisdom. It is recorded that three caravans totaling half their number set forth from the mountain in different directions while the remainder strengthened their wards to keep their trove safe for the future should the world not be ready to receive them.

One of those caravans found its way to the far north of the land some were beginning to call Gasmithon. In time they settled there and many became married into the clan who would be known as Aylar. As that clan gained in power, Tarsus College emerged as a center of learning and the seat of influence for Vitae. After several hundred years as the only organized center of learning in the region which would become the Lands of Still Waters, the organization elected to send a body south into the realm of Jorvik to found a sister school. This event was so unprecedented, the state of Hendam still bears the name of that delegation, though the two schools have grown apart ideologically since the signing of the Treaty.

The Ethereals themselves are much diminished in power and something of a mystery cult now, their original influence having flowed to the clans and schools they founded. Though not spiritual, their members wish to find the fate of the other caravans from those hundreds of years past. Even more fervently, they believe the time of isolation for the mountain of the clock has passed and wish to connect it to the Lands, though its location is lost. They demand more accord of the Aylar clan, Hendam, and Tarsus than they are accorded, a fact which brings them no end of ire and humiliation.