The E'soa Ho-chi, also known as the Herald of Mei Lung or simply the Herald, was an artifact that took the form of a tome that told the whole history of the world—right up to the present moment and even into the future. A creation of the great Dragon Lord Mei Lung and a vital instrument of the Celestial Empire, it was kept secure in the Ko'Chung Gompa in Tabot.
The Herald was huge, about as big as a small shield and 6 inches (15 centimeters) thick and so heavy it took at least two men to lift. The covers were decorated with gold and pieces of jade of blue and green hues, of otherwise unremarkable appearance. Within, the pages were the thinnest possible paper and the text in an elaborate script written in golden ink. It was unreadable to anyone without a comprehend languages spell.
It was kept open at all times, with existing writing on the right-hand page and new writing appearing as one watched on the left-hand page. The page must be turned regularly to keep the magical writing flowing; anyone could do this.
The Herald of Mei Lung had the amazing ability to always and automatically record nothing less than the entirety of history, with every significant event and almost every minor event, in the past since the beginning of the world, to the present as events happened, and even beyond, in the future with events yet to take place. Its account was true and accurate, but frequently one-sided and focused on the history of Kara-Tur, with only occasional references to Faerûn if something interesting happened there. The book itself decided what was worth recording. The future, hidden away in the final pages, was still forming and fragmentary, as events were still coming together.
The person who turned the page with the still-writing text could focus the Herald's account of current events to whoever, whatever, or wherever they were interested in. They could also look back and research past events, but given the sheer length and scope of the work, this was a time-consuming affair, taking up to a hundred days of reading to find something specific. They could also look ahead and research the future the same way, but had no guarantee of finding anything useful, let alone complete.
The Dragon Lord Mei Lung was appointed by the Celestial Emperor himself as the Grand Historian of the Celestial Empire, the 223rd since the creation of the world. He was tasked with keeping a record of past, present, and future events in order that the Emperor know all that had transpired and be able to best judge the deeds of humankind.[note 1] With the end of history itself at stake if he failed, Mei Lung created a back-up to preserve his chronicle—the Herald of Mei Lung.
Moreover, should something terrible happen to him or his household that even he did not foresee, Mei Lung placed the Herald in the custody of the lamas and monks of Ko'Chung Gompa some time between Shou Year 585 (−665 DR) and Shou Year 640 (−610 DR) when the monasteries were established in Tabot. They were faithful, dedicated, and well-defended in their remote mountain monastery—perfect for its protection down through the centuries.
Thereafter, however, Mei Lung didn't pay too much attention to Tabot until he attended a diplomatic mission in Shou Year 2607 (1357 DR) with a desire to rediscover the land. He met the monk Pang of Pokarr Gompa, who would tell him all about the Herald.
The Herald of the Mei Lung was a legendary artifact of Kara-Tur and one of the few known artifacts of the multiverse to have no harmful powers—bar those of knowledge and history itself, of course. Readers were said to seek old enemies and lost loves within its pages. It gave priceless solutions to mysteries past and present and valuable clues on what was to come, to those heroes who quested through the mountains for it to help them in a greater endeavor.
The monks and lamas of Ko'Chung Gompa dedicated themselves to the defense of the Herald of Mei Lung. The monastery had been built to be a fortress since its beginning, the abbots were careful and resolute, and the monks professional fighters. A lama stood by at all times to keep turning the pages as the history was written and it was guarded by warrior monks who would fight to the death to defend it. Few others ever got the chance to see it, and only be special permission from the High Lord of Oceans of Tabot himself.
Regardless, a lot of powerful people desired the Herald. If thieves somehow took it, then all the authorities in Tabot and certain figures in the empires of Shou Lung and T'u Lung would be looking for the tome and the culprits constantly, to either return or use it for their own ends, giving the thieves no peace or safety ever again.
Should one desire the destruction of the Herald, it was proposed that one must persuade Mei Lung himself that knowledge was meaningless, or to travel back in time and prevent him from ever becoming the Celestial Historian. Moreover, it was believed that if he ever failed in his great task, then the universe would end, and if the universe ended, then history would also come to an end, and with it the Herald.
The magical book called the E'soa Ho-chi or the Herald was first presented with a short description in Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms Volume I (1987). It was later given a longer, setting-neutral write-up as the Herald of Mei Lung in Book of Artifacts (1993). When Encyclopedia Magica Volume IV compiled magical books together, it presented both the E'soa Ho-chi and the Herald of Mei Lung as separate items, despite having similar powers, creators, stories, and names, and on the same page. This article merges the different accounts back into a single item, but the varying descriptions could suggest companion books.
- While Book of Artifacts says Mei Lung was given this role "at the birth of the world", Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms makes it clear Mei Lung is only the 223rd Grand Historian, if over 2000 years old. The Book of Artifacts story may represent mortal belief or be mistaken, or else the first Grand Historian had the same name.
- Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), pp. 76–77. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- David "Zeb" Cook (December 1993). Book of Artifacts. (TSR, Inc), p. 37. ISBN 978-1560766728.
- slade et al (November 1995). Encyclopedia Magica Volume IV. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 1440–1441. ISBN 0-7869-0289-2.
- Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), p. 71. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), p. 3. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), p. 69. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), p. 73. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
- Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd (1996). Volo's Guide to All Things Magical. (TSR, Inc), p. 95. ISBN 0-7869-0446-1.
- David "Zeb" Cook (December 1993). Book of Artifacts. (TSR, Inc), p. 3. ISBN 978-1560766728.