Lazlo Alberdinne (1188-1244) has been called the Father of Maps. The man’s impact on the field of geography cannot be overstated. Prior to his dissemination of the Atlas of the Mother Countries, the primary cartographic authority was held by the akashic rememberers; it is a journeyman’s exercise to assemble a comprehensive map of the Mother Countries from the fragments of local-geography held in the minds of peasants the world over. Such knowledge is transient, however, and the totality of information is limited by the capacity of the rememberer. Further, the wide casting of the net-of-memory means prejudice and rumor are held in the same esteem as firsthand accounts; if enough peasants believe that Yadd Island is a perfectly circular, even conical island, it will appear as such to the rememberer, overpowering the contrary thoughts of Yadd Islanders themselves.
“Geography is like sex; everyone thinks they know all about it,” said Alberdinne, and declared his intent to compile a dispassionate and objective atlas, one based on first-hand experiences and extrapolated from trade routes and traveler’s tales. Alberdinne himself toured the Empire of Perfection and the Southern Peaks between 1216 and 1220, then emigrated to the Diamond Isle and surveyed its territory from 1220 to 1223. The final leg of his tour, an island-hopping journey from Habadad to the Vadd to the Northwest Archipelago, occupied him from 1223 until 1230. During this fourteen-year sojourn he assembled copious notes: his own accounts and those of the sailors, merchants, and mendicants he interviewed. The transport of this voluminous notebooks eventually became a significant logistical challenge, ridiculed by Alberdinne’s political enemies, and giving rise to the popular expression “heavier than Lazlo’s papers.”
“Culture is like sex; everyone has unshakable opinions about it,” said Alberdinne, and made certain to include in his Atlas descriptions of the towns, cities, and nations that covered his maps. In a few thousand words per location, he encapsulated the distinctiveness of a given culture: how the citizens of Artmaland believe this world a failed first draft, replaced in the Creator’s eyes with a superior copy; how the fishers along the southern edge of the Perfected Island, raised in isolated coastal villages, declare virginity a sin; how only the elderly of Moon’s Reach are permitted to wear green clothing; how the Million Gods are still worshipped with faith and sincerity on certain outlying islands; how Yomno came to decide It is a god; and so on.
“History is like sex; everyone lies about it,” said Alberdinne, and declared his intent to compile a comprehensive history of the Mother Countries, building on written records in much the way history prior to Living Memory is studied. For though the art of memory is infallible (according to Living Memory) it is inaccessible to those who are not students of the akashic techniques. Begun in 1235, his History of the Mother Countries was never completed. Over the course of his research Alberdinne became slowly more and more erratic; questioning the reliability of the texts he read, of the official records of the Diamond Isle and the Empire of Perfection, and of Living Memory itself. An unsuccessful assassination attempt in 1238 convinced Alberdinne he had been targeted by what he dubbed “forces of Darkness,” a possible reference to the Dark wells of power and the Tower of Tongues. Until his death by fire in 1244 (the official investigation indicated an oil-lamp accident gone out of control, eventually consuming Alberdinne, his wife and daughter, his townhouse, and all his notes) Alberdinne’s paranoia grew to unhealthy and dangerous levels; he feared persecution from all sides.
In the two and a half centuries since the Atlas was published, it has come under attack from all fronts: moralists decrying the lurid descriptions of the lifestyles of certain degenerate and remote islands; akashics denying the existence of Fire-In-Water Land, described by Alberdinne from second-hand accounts; priests and scholars critiquing Alberdinne’s often-breezy overviews of religious and cultural differences in different countries. The sheer size and scale of his research, however, have kept it in its place of honor on the reference shelf.
SEE ALSO: Fire-In-Water Land, Religion in the Mother Countries, Yadd Island