Their intimidating factory looms over the land, endlessly spewing forth the emanations of the labour of its mysterious operators. P&H: The Supreme Order of Pantologists and Hierophants. Little is known of them, and even less of their purpose. The people of the land know only this: their factory has always been there, and the nightly dreams of entire generations of children have been fed by the unfathomable sounds that escape the cold, stone depths of its oblique walls — a steam-clank gear-gnashing of machinery beyond their imagining.
There is a story about The Supreme Order of Pantologists and Hierophants, told only by the eldest of those who live in the mighty shadow of the factory, and then only in the hushed tones employed by those who understand they risk everything in the telling, for the story dares to suggest an understanding of the Order’s machinations.
Once, the story goes, long ago, a great storm raged over the land, lasting several days. Floods ravaged all, destroyed crops and villages, drowned livestock. Thunder crashed deafeningly and ceaselessly, threatened to drive all who lived beneath its reverberations mad. That which was not washed away by the churning waters was burned into ashes by lightning strikes. Except for the Great Factory of The Supreme Order of Pantologists and Hierophants — it stood fast, defiant and undamaged, the smoke and steam of its industry that plumed forth from the stack barely visible through the driving rain. As all below and around it was laid waste, the P&H factory continued its mysterious fabrications, the lower six stories of its windows and doors remaining as they had for all of human memory: walled up, sealed. For no one ever entered the factory, and no one ever left. And yet, the people of the land knew that The Supreme Order of Pantologists and Hierophants indeed resided within those walls — and on the final night of that Great Storm so long ago, the story goes, they were offered a rare moment of proof. For those lucky (or unlucky) enough to witness it, it was a mad and wondrous sight: upon the roof, his dark robes whipping about him in tempestuous frenzy, a pale figure, his thin voice almost lost in the thunderous cacophony of the storm. A fist raised in defiance, a finger pointed in accusation. This lone member of the Supreme Order of Pantologists and Hierophants stood upon the roof of the Great Factory and screamed at the skies above him. Not all of it could be heard by the people below who clung to life and whatever floated past them, but, the elders say, part of it was unmistakable and rang with a sonorous clarity: the entirety of human knowledge, the man is said to have screamed at the raging skies — the entirety of human experience, the ESSENCE of humanity! We must NOT — But the rest was lost to the wretched people who struggled below him, obliterated by thunder. And seconds later, the defiant figure who stood upon the roof of the Great Factory of the Supreme Order of Pantologists and Hierophants was himself obliterated by a terrifying blast of lighting. On the next day, the storm abated and the flood waters receded. The P&H factory continued its arcane work as it had for all of known time. Of the lone robed figure on the roof, no trace was ever found.
And that is all that anyone knows of the Supreme Order of Pantologists and Hierophants — their unceasing factory, their relentless endeavors of unknown purpose, and the ravings of a single madman — a resident of the village who had somehow scaled the factory’s walls to escape the rising floodwaters and who had been rewarded for his efforts with death. Or so stated the sparsely-worded leaflets that had fluttered into the soggy streets of the village the day after the storm’s end — dropped by unseen hands (with what must, one assumes, have been the most casual flick of a wrist) from the highest window of the monolithic factory of the Supreme Order of Pantologists and Hierophants.