In my 10 book series, the historical time line turns on the fact that the greatest nation in the major continent's history, disappeared overnight during a national celebration.

This nation was enjoying its Golden Age and was an industrialized-type nation on the verge of becoming technological.

The entire nation disappeared leaving only maybe 15 or 10 percent of unusable terrain. In my story, this nation was situated in the middle of the continent and left nothing that was familiar on the spot where it once stood.

There were no survivors nor any debris from their advancing culture left behind, and the many advances that they had made, many of which, they had recently accepted trade deals to share with the international community, were nowhere to be seen.

Right now, I have a lake of toxic fluid occupying the spot. But, could I have a kingdom-sized abyss? And, if so, how would this change the weather pattern?

The disappearance of this pivotal nation drove the remaining continent into a Dark Age.

Using what principles of Physics or geographical phenomena could I believably apply, to make an entire nation physically disappear? Since, this series uses this cataclysm as a central mystery, earthquake is too predictable.

I will accept if entire districts disappear simultaneously leaving only rocky outcrops or barren cliffs. So long as more than 80 percent of the nation is gone.

  • $\begingroup$ Brigadoon says go ahead and handwave it. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Oct 12 '16 at 3:56
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    $\begingroup$ This is one of things I would discourage, because i view it as bad writing, especially if it's the central mystery of what you're writing. You don't know it can be done (because it largely can't be) but youv'e built a world regardless which means you really didn't consider the world when building it and any and all clues are pointless to readers because it is not founded on something reasonable that they can figure out from reading other than you flat out telling them whatever you've made up. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Oct 12 '16 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ Earthquake breaching a natural dam to flood an inland depression. $\endgroup$ – Stuart Allan Oct 12 '16 at 13:44

An asteroid impact or a volcanic eruption are two possible options.

You can tailor the asteroid impact to destroy as small or as large an area as you wish by altering the size, angle of impact, and speed of the meteor. There will be a lot of collateral damage around the primary impact area but by placing it right you can keep the worst of the devastation to just the target kingdom.

However there is another option and one that feels considerably less arbitrary.

Imagine if the kingdom was built in the caldera of a supervolcano. The Yellowstone caldera for example is 34 by 45 miles across. That's enough for a substantial part of a kingdom, and certainly the capital city, to be contained inside. Additionally if the eruption was followed by Flood Basalt then a huge area around the central city could be covered in molten rock.

It would even make sense for the city to be built there, the flat land inside would be fertile and good for building. The mountains would offer a natural defensive border, and volcanoes on that scale only erupt after hundreds of thousands of years.

Either the supervolcano eruption or the asteroid impact would have global climate impacts but after a few years those effects would start to fade and the rest of the world would start to return to normal. These environmental effects would help knock the rest of the continent back as well with long winters, poor summers, and probably famine. This would help contribute to the dark age.

  • $\begingroup$ I am not ashamed to tell you, this is brilliantly streamlined! What a fantastic idea! $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 16:57

For millenia, the sea of sulfur* lay peacefully underground, stretching over several hundred miles. It had dug through the brittle ground, eating away the rocks and leaving gigantic empty caves. It lay peacefully, with little, strange and marvellous creatures playing and living in and around the underground lake. Plants and moss adapted to the dark and hostile environment. Hot sulfur springs and geysirs brought warmth and comfort into the caves. Over the milleania, it continued eating and eating... while on top, right in the middle of the giant cave complex, some idiot built a nation.

And one day, a bit later, on a very unfortunate day, the sea had eaten away too much. The structures could no longer hold up the ceiling of the cave - it collapsed in a gigantic chain reaction. The state fell downwards for miles, right into the sulfur sea, taking most of its secrets with it into the depths. Where the state once was, there is now an abyss, several miles deep, with a sea of sulfur on the bottom, and caves that lead to strange and eerie places. From time to time creatures unknownst to man creep from the depths, and glowing plants can be seen below.

Brave adventurers can try to venture below into the depths, and sometimes, rarely, they can recover strange artefacts. Most usually they die to toxic vapours, boiling hot sulfur geysirs, falling down, drowning or being eaten by 40ft long sulfur crocodiles....

Something like that?

*sulfur will not do the trick, place any sufficiently toxic and acidic substance instead, but i was too lazy to research that myself.

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    $\begingroup$ maybe i should have stated that my answer wasn't meant to be hard-science. I was trying to give a more creative, fantasy-esque answer. The question in itself was not really suited for a hard-science answer, was it? And it's at least as believable as a magic nuke from space...even though, it would help me and other readers a lot if you could give me some insight into which parts you believe defy geography and physics? $\endgroup$ – Andreas Heese Oct 12 '16 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking along similar lines but with natural gas pockets slowly seeping through the ground. The gas may kill everyone but not destroy the tech. Unless some stupid geologist decides to burn off the gas to prevent the spread and created a literal door to hell. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Door_to_Hell $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Oct 12 '16 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ Hm... door to hell... how about something like the Centralia Mine Fire, in Pensylvania, which is still burning after 53 years and keeps opening fissures under the town? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia_mine_fire $\endgroup$ – SRM - Reinstate Monica Oct 12 '16 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ You guys are simply killing it! Please, I hope you get something from this too. $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ Nice one, SRM. That goes into my folder! $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 18:19

If your world was a simulation, it might have been caused by a software bug. If the rest of the simulation was in a good shape and still served the original purpose, restoring bugged region might be to distributing, so they might have left it as it was, only making sure it was now inaccessible for sims outside.

If erased nation was going to become technological, removal might even be intentional. No need to show your sims the limits of your simulation software. Easier to delete them, than to edit them all, right?

  • $\begingroup$ I love this idea Molot! You can be certain that it goes into another story. $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Owlitz Glad you like it. I was pretty sure it's not what you're looking for this story, but it answered the question, so I posted anyway. Good it turns out to be useful :) $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 13 '16 at 8:08

Tunguska Event of 1908. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunguska_event

Essentially a meteor deteriorated and flattened 2000km^2 of forest in Siberia. Literally flattened. No crater because the rock exploded in midair as it came in, disintegrating into small pieces.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting thought, but this would not wipe out an entire kingdom, and definitely not in the way that is asked for in the topic. It would leave plenty of remants $\endgroup$ – Durakken Oct 12 '16 at 4:30
  • $\begingroup$ You could have a large asteroid break up into several to dozens of tunguska sized meteors. That way the damage can be spread throughout the kingdom. Or if a asteroid breaking up like that isn't feasible, you can have a family of asteroids arrive at the same time... $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Oct 12 '16 at 21:03

While certainly effective, a circumstantial disaster like the asteroid in TimB's excellent answer will seem like the cheap plot device it is to your readers. What you need is a reason for a great empire to culturally and, to some degree, physically collapse. To this end, I would suggest the failure of whatever makes the empire prosperous.

A Historical Example
The Ma'rib Dam was an engineering wonder of the ancient world. It captured and contained monsoon rains and allowed the Sabaeans to irrigate otherwise inhospitable land. It was maintained and improved for millennia. However, on several occasions, the dam was breached due to lack of maintenance, causing massive flooding. The two major floods, in 145BC and 575CE, were so disastrous for the local agriculture that thousands of people were displaced.

Fictional Application
Let's apply this idea to your scenario. You have some additional constraints not met by the historical flooding:

- No survivors
- Technological advancements destroyed
- Dark Age

I think "No survivors" is a bit unrealistic, so I'm going to settle for "few survivors". Here's the scenario I had in mind:

The Empire was formed around this dam in the middle of an otherwise inhospitable desert. Being the sole trading stop between the nations on either coast, the Empire became fabulously wealthy. It's capital grew to be nestled below the great dam. The wealth of goods and ideas passing through the city allowed technological developments to prosper.

The sudden collapse could have many causes. It could be an earthquake as Stuart Allan and GrinningX have suggested. Or it could be that the opulent leaders simply neglected to maintain the dam (making the flood a fitting retribution for their national celebration). Get creative here, but don't make it too unrealistic.

After the collapse, the Empire crumbles. The flood utterly destroyed the capital, leaving thousands dead and technology ruined. Agriculture fails as a result of the flood and subsequent lack of irrigation. The land slowly returns to the desert wasteland it was previously. With no critical waypoint, travel through the desert all but ceases, severing trade between the nations on either side of the desert. The lack of goods and knowledge being traded stifles the growth of these nations and cripples technological development.

  • $\begingroup$ Wonderful social fallout here, very much in line with my thoughts. Even, the few survivors fit in nicely! $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ I was grinning madly as I read each of your posts with gratitude. I know I would love to hang out with all of you for daily conversation. Job well done! You all killed it! $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ The scenario is based on a true story, although, on a much smaller scale! My grandmother told it to me as a youth when I asked her why there were so many crocodiles endangering the public. They used to be so numerous and daring that they would crawl out of their domain and bask in the middle of the only local highway and refused to be moved. These creatures had the local population in terror and diverted traffic through other laborious routes. $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ This domain was the Yallahs Salt Ponds, a doubled-stretch of water that had a tale attached to it. Apparently, some time back in pirates' days, it was a prosperous sugar plantation for the famous British colony of Jamaica. It was successful and was owned by two brothers who had inherited it from a dynastic family. $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ Some of the details are mixed here, but what is confirmed is that it disappeared in its entirety in one night. The people who walked up and rode up to start their work day were shockey to see only a stretch of flat water where before there had been dirt roads, old forest giants, blocking out the sky, hills and dells, etc., all vanished. $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 17:39

There's one answer that really stuck out to me straight away, it's based mainly on the point that the nation is more advanced than any other on the continent.

Something different happened to this nation that didn't happen to other nations. The big factor that we know is different is that they are a lot more advanced.

OK. If the nation is more advanced, they can't build their mechanical and technological advancements on grass. They will have factories, and if they are the greatest nation on the continent, they will have lots more factories and manufacturing plants than the other nations.

Pollution or waste by-products from these factories are pumped or dumped out in the surrounding land in tips, artificial lakes, or processed in waste treatment plants, etc. A certain element (or elements) however seeps out in to the environment, probably in a liquid form that seeps into the land mass. As the nation advances and progresses it fills it's country with more and more manufacturing plants to keep up with demand and to allow it to progress further. This results in the nation's landmass becoming saturated with the pollutant that is unknowingly a danger. Maybe this pollutant destabilises the land mass, perhaps reacting with substances under the surface (mineral or element deposits), but this is not obvious as the liquid pollutant sinks relatively far down and leaves a "cap" of land above it which is relatively stable.

One night a tremor occurs over the continent or in the region of the nation. The tremor doesn't have to be big enough to do much damage in itself, but because of the nation's saturated, unstable landmass, LIQUEFACTION occurs, and the whole mass sinks, the polluted, toxic liquid is displaced and expelled above the sunken mass. If this was extreme enough, this would obviously swallow everything above it without a trace, or if acidic, this could dissolve anything in it.

Obviously the gases from this would affect the whole environment, but I'm not going to start on that because this answer is long enough as it is!

I'm guessing that if surrounding nations are following this nation's lead, they may suffer the same fate in decades to come, but because they are not so advanced, their land mass is stable and solid.

I thought this over and it seems to fit all the facts! Let me know if anything doesn't quite fit and I'll try and explain it further.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, Tomy-rex, i was looking into this but the believeable toxic cause of settlements below the surface had stumped me. Your explanation just answered this! $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 22:45

Assuming there is no magic or supernatural material (if there is you can come up with tons of cool cataclysmic events)

You could have a sink hole, A mountain lake or below sea level city. If you want it all to turn poisonous maybe they were just starting to learn about radioactivity but didn't really understand it so there was lots of poison that was about to kill them anyway.

As for the fall out I would look at things like the fall of Rome and just escalate the timeline significantly and adjust for what that would do. To adjust for those things maybe look at situations where a nation has gone to civil war or closed it's borders. That might help give you an idea of how it effects trade routes.


An Earthquake Followed by a Flood

Not knowing anything about the geography of your story is not helpful, but it allows me to take a few liberties. To start with, let's go with the idea that the kingdom is below sea level. Maybe it exists entirely in a large valley, or in a very old crater. Certainly the natural walls around such an area might increase its defensibility.

Then, unfortunately, there was an earthquake somewhere that produced a crack in the surrounding earth and allowed a nearby river to drain into it. That river happened to be about as large as the Amazon, flooding the entire basin "overnight" (OK, it took a few days, but every given survivor did lose their home overnight).

Outlying (higher elevation) areas were spared, but the great majority of industry and invention happened near the capital, which was at the bottom of the basin.

  • $\begingroup$ I know that I can wonderfully incorporate many of these theories into the foreign cultures later on in history that try to explain what happened! $\endgroup$ – Owlitz Oct 12 '16 at 18:27

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