Merres and Ella Cornwall
Merres and Ella Cornwall were a pair of self-styled "battling sorcerers" (though they had no magic) who lived in the early Second Age. Inspired by the romanticism of the Golden Age, they were explorers and archaeologists who made to visit remote sites and recover lost treasures on the Greater Continent. Though reviled by mainstream academics, they were beloved by the public and remained popular figures in in historical fiction for centuries after their deaths. Both were born in The Blue Sea region during the time of Air Culture.
Methods and Style
Like Finious Aberton, the Cornwalls sought to visit and rediscover important sites known of but abandoned since the Mage Wars. Unlike Finious, they "Didn't want to die sick and in bed because we didn't pay attention to radiation warnings". As such, the Cornwalls never ventured into the vast Interior, and stuck to sites within a thousand miles of the coastline.
The Cornwalls regarded themselves first as explorers, and described their journeys as an end unto themselves. While they were prolific writers and documentary film makers, they often boasted that these exploits were simply a way to finance their lifestyle. Later historians were divided on the validity of this statement, as the pair did live quite well. By the same token, the lion's share of their income was spent on high-tech equipment and financing their journeys, so it could go either way.
The Cornwalls mostly explored the area of the Nara River basin, the Summer Lowlands, and the great expanses on the north-eastern quadrant. Regions then sparsely or even completely unpopulated. While they made a few early expeditions on foot or by boat, they primarily used rugged vehicles or light aircraft. Perhaps most famous is their tendency to go out with just the pair of them; mastering whatever skills were required to make long, dangerous treks alone. While definitely dangerous, it gave the pair a great deal of mystique.
Their most famous vehicle was a hybrid light aircraft, called 'The Wilting Bird', painted a vibrant shade of clean white. A sophisticated twin-engine floatplane with retractable landing-gear, theirs was specially modified with then-state-of-the-art equipment. While they mainly traveled by plane or small boat, they were accomplished trekkers and both skilled at navigation.
The Cornwalls made dozens of credible major discoveries in the regions they explored, including numerous lost cities and Mage Towers. Because of the remoteness of the sites visited, they were limited in the artifacts they could bring back; primarily anything with writing that could later be translated and studied. Their most famous credible discovery were the Gnecti Compili, a set of clay tablets from a city called Uray. Originally believed to be a lost language, the tablets proved to be written in Common, but in a script that used wedge-shaped indentations, easier to stamp into clay than modern curved letters. The discovery demonstrated that Uray (a previously unknown city-state) had been a flourishing bastion of culture, with high rates of literacy and a well-developed mythology.
While the Cornwalls did indeed visit and map several remote sites, and brought back minor artifacts of considerable significance, they also released a number of obvious and poor-quality forgeries. In one instance, they claimed to have discovered the Horn of Agraya, presenting a very beautiful and ornate item of modern vintage. Since the actual horn was known to be fictional, the discover sparked much controversy. When questioned about their fact-checking, Merres replied that "Given as nothing of historical importance hinges on the validity of the artifact, not much time need to be expended on considering this matter further. We had a grand adventure, we sought to delight the senses and inflame the imagination, and that is all that need be said about that.".
The horn was one of half a dozen such finds, either entirely mythical or definitely not what the Cornwalls presented. However, rather oddly, they never profited from these presentations (except in notoriety), and many suspect they were elaborate practical jokes. The Cornwalls were well known as eccentrics, and they never stuck behind any of these "discoveries".
Later Life and Writing
Eventually, the Cornwalls retired from adventuring and settled in Arindell, where they began to write autobiographies, then accounts of specific adventures, and finally their original field notes. Their style of writing much improved during this period and their popularity soared. Eventually, when they ran out of actual adventures to relate, the pair started to write fictional accounts of their travels. These were never presented as fact, but rather "inspired" by their real life, and written simply to satiate the public desire for more tales of adventure and discovery. They spawned a whole genre of adventure/explorer novels that continued in some form until the middle of the age.
Eponymous "Other Writings"
While mostly famed for their wild tales of adventure and travel, towards the end of their lives the pair released a series of works. First under a nom de plume, then later published posthumously under their actual names. These writings were considered most scandalous for the time (it being mired in the Golden Age's idealized version of morality), and were briefly banned and declared pornography. While the literary value would later be recognized, most scholars agree that these writings were definitely intended for 'a certain kind of pleasure'.
These books described, in very lurid detail, the sex life of the Cornwalls, including their own likes and dislikes, habits, and frequency. Others told wild tales of finding un-contacted tribes deep in the remote wilderness and joining them for wild, orgiastic rituals. Still others spoke of sex cults right in Arindell or in other modern cities. None has been historically verified, and these works are definitely regarded as fiction. They have been quite popular at various points in history, being republished and updated. Sources close to the Cornwalls admitted that the couple did have 'a side' to them, and had probably been working on this body of writing for decades.
While Galactis would only comment on these works in detached vagaries, he did praise them for their skill and once mentioned briefly his appreciation for the topic, saying only that "Well, you know... some things never change."
Scholars would spend milennia going back and forth on the Cornwalls. Some thought they were frauds, others luminaries, still others accepted them merely as eccentrics. It is known that while they were shameless self-promoters, they were always keen to sell 'the adventure', and never bothered to defend their discoveries. When their hoaxes were recognized, they simply walked away from them; and when their conclusions about actual discoveries were questioned, they simply released their notes. On her death bed, Ella recounted how it was never about finding something, it was about looking. So long as one person looked, that was enough.
Historian Herbet Patric Galactis finally vindicated the pair in the Fourth Age, including a lengthy section on them in his Accepted Histories as well as two books on them. He made no secret of citing their works as one of the things that 'got him into' history, and often listing them as the two historical figures he'd most like to have dinner with.
Galactis said "The Cornwalls weren't archeologists. They weren't historians. They weren't airplane pilots or sailors. They were story-tellers; some of the stories were ones they wanted to make, others merely stories they wanted to tell. Today they are as much a part of history as the places and cultures they uncovered. Their stories, the ones that happened and the ones that didn't, are beautiful, and have value. But some of their work is definitely not safe for children."