Despite their legendary and ubiquitous presence in lore, holos and the Antares’ media, Gatebuilder artefacts are incredibly rare. Indeed, when they are discovered, many of those are little more than fossils, giving little more than hints and clues to the technology of the Gatebuilders. Such relics provide no more information than that of the imprint of a bone or leaf: perhaps valuable and collectable, and even worthy of study, but unlikely to reveal anything more than an archaeopteryx fossil gives about bird evolution.
The real trouble – or opportunity – is that, when discovered, even semi-functional Gatebuilder artefacts operate on such vastly different technological principles that they inevitably lead to a dramatic change in scientific understanding and have life-changing effects on Antarean culture. In the past, such technologies include the ubiquitous transmat and even the space drive used by all the advanced Antarean factions – the gravitational annihilation (GA) drive developed by the Isorians.
So real Gatebuilder artefacts are incredibly valuable, leading to a swarm of treasure-hunters whenever there is even a hint of an ancient artefact.
Actual Gatebuilder ruins are even more rare, being virtually non-existent hints in the landscape that archaeologists love but others look on with puzzlement and confusion. The only Gatebuilder ruin of real interest in the 7th Age was the planet Xilos – and that was much more than a ruin. Whilst some of the Gatebuilder tunnels and chambers in the Xilos crust had collapsed, the majority were still in good condition. Further, the Gatebuilder technology – apparently a gate construction device – was still in operation after hundreds of thousands (or millions?) of years.
It is likely that the technology within the underground manufacturing or research facilities was linked to the planet, whether to draw power or because of geological stability is not known. What is known is that Xilos is almost unique in having Gatebuilder artefacts within a Gatebuilder structure, one based on a planet. The tropical jungles that built up around its equatorial continents was incidental, the result of natural evolution from what had been present when the planet was first occupied by the Gatebuilders.
It is what makes – or made – Xilos so valuable.
Sure, Gatebuilder artefacts are often found within ancient ruins and may be the only item standing, perhaps sealed in a stasis capsule or somehow having an ability to resist deterioration. No doubt those long-lost civilisations who studied such relics were unable to break them open to reveal their secrets. But the ruins in which the artefacts stand are often those of long-lost civilisations, those from previous ages before even humans burst across Antares.
Such ancient ruins often vary wildly in design, layout and level of decay. Whilst this is partially due to the cross-time linking of Antarean gates, the original builders of such ruins are unable to be found anywhere on Antares. It is believed that such an even is part of the Antarean chrono-stability: whilst Antares can connect to the past, it has to connect to a past that is in the future of when a system was previously connected. Experiments in time-manipulation and chrono-plasticity, such as the Vorl and Isorian chronophasic devices, inevitably lead to another Antarean collapse.
This leads to a combination of misplaced artefacts and ruins, some from ancient, long-gone cultures, others from the Gatebuilders themselves. Whilst the Gatebuilder artefacts are the most sought-after relics, even artefacts from previous civilisations can be valuable, whether they provide useful technology or otherwise (the Freeborn can always make something of them!). And whilst Gatebuilder ruins are virtually non-existent, there are plenty of ruins or decaying buildings across Antares that explorers think are Gatebuilder ruins or which could hold remarkable ancient artefacts or – the prize above all prizes – an actual Gatebuilder artefact itself.
Those who find such artefacts become rich or influential – often both. Though often hazardous, the artefacts’ usefulness to any faction is beyond measure.
No wonder there is so much conflict over any ancient, Antarean ruin: what lies within inevitably change lives.