Days of Albion
The Xia (pronounced “SHE-ah”) lived on Albion long before humans, elves, or any of the civilized races arrived. Their ruined temples and fortresses dot the landscape. Surprisingly little is known about them. There is Xia writing all over their building walls and on stone tablets, but little of it can be translated. The name “Xia” came from one of the few tablets that was ever translated.
They left some art, but none of it actually depicts a Xia person, so we do not even know what they look like. We can’t even judge their size because their ruins range in size from halfling to giant. All of the ruins are similar in architectural style and have the same writing, so they are certainly from the same civilization. Some scholars think they are shapeshifters. Others think they must have been as small as the smallest ruin suggests and had servants of larger sizes, requiring the larger corridors. Yet other scholars say there was a wide variety in the shapes of the Xia people, almost like the variety in dog breeds, or that the Xia were not a race at all, but were a collection of different races joined as one civilization.
No one knows what happened to the Xia, whether they left voluntarily or died off. No Xia corpses have ever been found, not even bones in burial grounds. They simply vanished before the first settlers came to this continent. Some of the savages native to the continent, like orcs and kobolds, claim to have coexisted with the Xia, but they have no written language, and the accounts of such creatures are dubious at best. Even if they could be trusted, doubtless their collective memory of the Xia has been changed by the centuries. Some savages, namely the orcs, claim that they slew every last Xia, but this seems doubtful unless the orc civilization has severely fallen since then. The Xia magic left behind is formidable indeed, and it is hard to believe that orc savages could have bested it and killed a single Xia, even with an orc army.
The Xia language is like nothing the scholars have ever seen. Instead of symbols representing sounds being strung together to form pronounceable words, like every other civilized language, the Xia writing is made of complex symbols that represent entire words. At one time scholars assumed that the shape and makeup of a symbol must represent how it is pronounced, but after long study they have dismissed this theory. There seems to be no logical correlation between a symbol and it’s pronunciation.
Xia writing is extremely resistant to magical translation for some reason, and certain texts are harder to translate than others. Sometimes spells will simply give the user the ability to pronounce the symbols with no comprehension, and sometimes nothing will happen at all, as if the caster were trying to translate random scratches. The reason for this is unknown. It could be that the Xia were so different from modern mortals that we could not understand their writing even if we could translate it, or that they used so much magic that it interfered with their writing, or even that they purposely obscured the meaning of their language.
No entire tablet or block of writing has ever been successfully translated. Individual words have been translated here and there, and sometimes the general meaning of a section can be guessed at, but in general Xia writing has been no help at understanding their life and culture.