In the year 731 the University of Il Aluk, one of the largest scholarly institutes in the core, granted Anthony Markis, a lector of Anthropology, permission for a project in cataloging and archiving general cultural, historical and archeological information in Western Darkon. The project lingered in the university for several years, with several students gathering information and storing them in a archive that soon outgrew the small office that it had been assigned. In 734 the project closed when funds ran out, and the archive was moved down two floors to the office of Nivert Breesk, a young secretary in charge of the universities office supplies.
Eventually, Breesk complained to the faculty on the time devoted to maintaining the collection of notes and reports, as they went largely unused. The university decided upon closing the archive, and set a student, Marcus Dianesti, to clearing the files. The young man was astonished to find a treasure throve of information among the appears, not a small portion of it relating to geographical data. As a son of a merchant of Borca, Dianesti knew how hard it was to come by good and accurate routes for travel. The information would suffice to make a map of the western reaches of Darkon that would be remarkably more accurate than the types he knew. He took the idea to the council, claiming that throwing away these notes would be a terrible waste of resources.
There was, unfortunately, some reluctance amongst the university elders. They were not very willing to spend any more money in maintaining the files, so Dianesti took charge of it himself. He even coursed Breesk to help him transfer the files to his own study, where the two spend weeks gathering the notes and making a make-shift map. Knowing that the counsel would merely scoff at their efforts, they took the result to a smalltime printer in the slums of Il Aluk, and had several copies made.
The maps did not, initially, sell as well as the students had expected. While still a rough draft, the map was more accurate than any of its predecessors, which had been created mostly by seafaring folk, and contained little information about the countryside. But sales did not go well, until a large merchant house purchased some of the maps from the students. By then, however, the university intervened. The maps were university property, the counsel said, and were not meant to be sold for profit. The archive was confiscated and returned to the university’s basement.
Dianesti was furious, but there was little he could do but try to gain support for his project. He lobbied for several months without much appeal. People of the university staff seemed disinterested in his cause or did not have any influence in the council, and the merchant family withdrew its support when the first mistakes in the maps showed up. It came therefor as a surprise when the student received an invitation from an influential noble, who claimed to be a ‘fellow student’ in the history and cultures of Darkon. It is not known who the sudden benefactor was, nor what was actually discussed during his meeting with Dianesti, but the net result left the student with a small budget to proof his worth, as well as the claim of an office on the university campus.
Thus, the Society for the Geographical Study of Darkon was born.
And, initially, that was what the small group of students set forth to do. But as the archive grew, so did the ambitions of the members. Originally a student project, the society began drafting other folk as members, some of them not connected to the university at all, and the scope of their studies increased to include the northern core, the Core, and eventually all domains known to man. They moved from cartographing domains to mapping cities, and eventually to the drawing of building floor plans. They first changed their name to the Society of Cartographers in Darkon, then to the Cartographer’s Society, and finally to the Il Aluk Cartographic Society. The last name stuck with the society for the next decade.
The maps sold poorly, and if it wasn’t for the resilience of it’s members and the few donations of a select group of nobles interested in the sciences and arts, the Society would surely have collapsed. A small – and short – breakthrough came after the Great Upheaval. When the core was shaken and trading routes had seemingly changed overnight, there suddenly came a demand for new maps. The society was able to supply these in an amazingly short time – some claim that a bit of magic might have something to do with it, but the truth is that the society had by then quite an efficient member network. For once, the Society actually earned money, gaining a name among scholars and the larger merchant houses. Unfortunately the prosperous times did not last long, and despite the short bloom, the Society never managed to reach beyond the higher educated crowd.
In the early years, the Society frequently changed the board, though there were always five members. The last board consisted of Dianesti, Breesk, the elder professor Markis, the young student Liederick Meier, and Melchior Avantas, a merchant of Il Aluk, who brought in a commercial vote.
It was the prompting of this Avantas that eventually set the society to re-evaluate the way maps found their way to the public. Up till then, use was made of a number of printers, but none of them seemed to make maps in the manner and quality that pleased the board. In addition, maps stayed hard to sell, and the expenses of printing outgrew the profits. Avantas proposed to take the printing in their own hands. As Liederick Meier was the most experienced in the printing business, he was given a small budget to acquire the necessary means. With the sum, he bought the Duncan and Son print shop in Mordentshire, a place where he had worked before. The take-over was controversial, as the older printer had died in a fire that had destroyed the building – though not the press – shortly after it had published Van Richten’s Guide to the Lich. There were some accusations of foul play, and some suspected the involvement of Darkon’s Kargat. Still, nobody objected when Liederick established himself in Mordentshire, and the shop even gained some name as it continued printing such works as the guides of the famous van Richten and the tales of Alanik Ray, mostly to cover the expenses of the maps.
The maps that came from the shop were of high quality, and for almost a decade there was a constant coming and going between Il Aluk and Mordentshire.
Then Il Aluk was destroyed. In one fell swoop, Lord Azalin disappeared, and everyone in the city was killed, or worse – turned into an abominable undead creature. The society was wrecked. Of the board, only Liederick Meier, safe in Mordentshire, seemed to have survived. Almost all other members, as well as some the nobles who had supported the society by donations, were killed, even though rumors say Marcus Dianesti survived due to the possession of a mysterious, lifesaving amulet. Of the undead members, only Nivert Breesk, now a wraith, could escape the grasp of Death, the new lord of the necropolis. He still dwells in the ruins of the university building, guarding the treasures of the societies archives.
The society’s few members that remained were scattered, left without leadership, and most of them withdrew, despite Liederick’s attempts to reorganization.
What was once one a large scholarly society, was reduced to a few handfuls of wanderers, adventurers, and madmen. The university’s Society for the Geographical Study of Darkon was dead. And from its ashes arose the Mordent Cartographic Society.