Excerpt from 'Before the Dawn'

Lumenshard Team
Taken from the third edition foreword to Before the Dawn, a sixth-Cycle historical accounting of the Cult of Astor. Scholars debate the text’s authenticity, and the original author is unknown. Foreword written by Zevos Lutransk, a popular figure in contemporary occult research. Reprinted with permission from the Ironlight Press.

What is the power of knowledge? When asked, most will rush to tell you about its active uses. With a pen, the educated statesman can demonstrate their mastery of language, their superiority in the understanding of law, or of diplomacy. With only their hands, the sorcerer can create tools to chart the stars, or pull aside the mists of reality to peer beyond the limits of their own eyes. With knowledge, they will say, you can have a career. An income. A sense of place in this world. And to get these things, you need only share what you know.

A terrible waste, the Astorites would say back.

The true worth of knowledge, they would say, is in the not sharing. Of course, in actuality they would say nothing, as to do otherwise would defeat the purpose. They would smirk from the shadows, from whence they had listened to the entire conversation, then carry on with whatever business they had in your neighborhood that day. Because to their cohort and to their god, information is at its most powerful when it is held close. To gain access to that guarded secret is to own some small part of the mind that carries it.

Consider the last time you pondered a thought, or performed an act, that you would rather never be known to others. Did you not whisper a prayer to Astor, that it might remain between the two of you? If you are the average sort, if you have no grand aspirations that might run counter to his unknown goals, that will be that. Astor will file your secret away in his vault, his infinite collection of things not known, and you can be sure it will remain there. But if your secret is useful to him or, worse yet, you attempt to hide it from the God of Hidden Things, you might find that your secret makes it out into the world all the same. And the Cult of Astor will be responsible.

Or, so “Before the Dawn” will threaten, should you continue on through this book. In reality, most of what we think we know about the Cult comes from within these pages, and there is no confirming the truth of their existence. There are only a handful of verifiable accounts of their actions in written history, and there have been none since the Second Calling. It is possible that Astor departed with the other gods, and his worshippers disbanded as so many others did. However, I find it likely that the modern era has produced a more selective, capable Cult.

In our increasingly connected world, publishing the wrong information in the right paper can shift the thoughts of thousands. A politician threatened with knowledge from their past can use their position to sway the hearts of many more, lest their career be ruined. Hidden knowledge produces great change when brought to light, if applied properly. Agents of Astor, on a mission to use his collected learnings to shift our world to his whim, would find their reach massively expanded today. The scale of possibilities boggles the mind.

Whatever our reality, “Before the Dawn” invites these questions and others, reminding us that though the gods no longer walk among us their influence has not waned. Most still have their loyal adherents, and it would be safest to count Astor among them. Even if they do not gather in public places of worship, the Cult of Astor likely once existed and so still would.

A gray eminence backed by deific power, dealing not in lies or blood but in the truth sharpened to a point?

Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Find your own truth in the chapters ahead, and decide how you will carry your knowledge. With or without the Cult, what is secret rarely remains secret for long.

Additional pages reserved by the Ironlight Press.

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