Scholars have always argued over the exact nature of Achten Tan. It is generally, if not universally, accepted that “Achten Tan” roughly means “Place of Rest” in the Old Tongue, but beyond that there is little common ground. Is Achten Tan the homeland of our people, the ancient realm to which our modern civilization can trace its roots? Is it a mythology, spun from oral traditions and pointed allegory, used to explain such things as our prohibition against the consumption of ants and the ritual consumption of barbecue ribs during High Fletchings? That is what Professor Elud of the University of Droth argues in his recent article, “Achten Tan: Gustatory Echoes of a Polymorphic Semiotics,” and more than a few in academia subscribe to his view.
Is Achten Tan the fever dream of a drug-addled prophet, the last remnants of an alien race, proof of parallel universes, or even a practical joke spun out of control? Some have pointed out that “Achten Tan” spelled backward is “Nat ‘n Ethca,” but while the absurdist poets Nathanael D’cor and Ethca Loristol certainly were capable of such an extended and high minded concept, it seems unlikely that even those late-century literary geniuses could have managed to pull the wool over our collective eyes so completely and for such an extended period.
And so, ultimately, what we are left with is the texts themselves: this sometimes marvelous, sometimes frustrating, always fascinating corpus of bizarre writing. Existent only in a single manuscript -- the infamous Codex Covidica no. MMXIX (known more commonly as The Achten Tan Codex) -- the contents run the gamut from somber to lighthearted, from sublime to profane to ridiculous. It seems impossible that such diverse texts would be the work of a single mind, but it seems equally unlikely that any literary collective would have created such a chaotic melange.
Every few years the old conspiracy that the Codex does not, in fact, exist at all, rears its preposterous head. The fact that you are holding this book in your hands belies that notion. Stalwart fools will insist this publication proves nothing, as the original Codex has not been seen outside of Baron Covidica’s private collection since 1287 C.D.E, and even before then only a handful of select lexicographers, ethnographers, and cryptozoographers were ever granted access to the manuscript, all of whom have died under under mysterious circumstances.
Of course, the Baron’s own account of his discovery of the Codex does nothing to sway the skeptics. That such an important and obscure volume would be found in a locked cabinet in a disused lavatory in the basement level of a local municipal planning office is ludicrous -- though, of course, such ludicrosity is par for the course in any small town bureaucracy. Any familiar with such byzantine systems will know that this very unlikelihood serves, ironically, as some degree of proof.
But now, at long last, thanks to this definitive edition (made possible by the trustees of Blelchor University, as well as the generous contributions of my patron, the esteemed Baron Covidica himself) you can make up your own mind regarding the nature of Achten Tan. Is it a hoax? A glimpse into our forgotten, collective past? An eschatological treatise attempting to warn us against repeating an apocalyptic past we do not remember? Is Acthen Tan a tragedy? A satire? A modernist passion play whose message has been lost forever along with the cultural context in which it was written?
Perhaps none of the above. Perhaps all of them, consecutive and concurrent.
But whatever it is, Achten Tan is now in your hands. For those of you who have yet to pace the hot desert of the Bone Wastes in your mind: I envy you. If this is the first time you will smell Old Crawmans ribs as they sizzle behind North Ribs Ribs, your first time making the acquaintance of dear Drizko Tinkersbane or Fizzlewink, your maiden voyage accompanying the brave An’chers as they ride their six-legged steeds into battle, to you I say: enjoy! For where, when, or whatever Achten Tan is, or was, or will be, the one certainty is that it will change you forever. Godspeed! Factum Est Bonum!
With Fear & Trembling,
Brother Artimius vol Xentor, Q.E.D.
High Archivist and Rector of St. M’lestor College