Broken Lands: Human Factions
Joined: 02 Jul 2014
Posted: 08 Apr 2015 at 13:24
From the History of Loss and Hope, by Llanawi Puresoul of the Halls of Care, Chief Physician of the Office For Cleansing.
In the days before the Sundering, human villages dotted the many islands of the eastern seas. Fishermen and skilled navigators, these Kapikami were amongst the most loyal subjects of the Order of Silver Light.
Far from the magesâ€™ great towers, local chiefs were left largely alone, to rule their islands, worship their sea gods, and follow their own laws and customs. All that was required was that they supply navigators, sailors and boat-builders to serve the mages. For their services they were well rewarded, and their people, in these long centuries of peace, were not put in any great peril by their service. And so as servants to the mages, they knew peace, purpose and prosperity.
But when the uprisings against the Order of Silver Light began, the Kapikami came to be seen as collaborators. Their craftsmen and sailors in distant lands were victims of attacks by the mobs, and their chiefs were insulted by the rebel leaders. The mages were compelled by circumstance to make ever-increasing demands upon them, pressing into service many unwilling young men to be sailors, to die in the wars. Chiefs who objected had to be removed, of course.
So, the treachery of the rebels forced the mages of the Order to act more firmly with their servants, and here we see how rebellion and chaos causes misery to even the loyal. Yet the great tragedy of the Kapikami was yet to come.
At length the Order of Silver Light realised that they could not control the chaos of the rebellions, and were obliged, in order to cleanse the land, to unleash the Sundering. All know the legends. The hills rolled, mountains fell, stone turned to liquid fire, flaming bolts fell from skies. This is how we remember those days. It is not how they remember them.
When the land churned and rolled, the seabed, too, did the same. Huge storms destroyed their fleets, drowning all who were at sea. Many of their islands were swallowed by the sea floor, plunging under the waves, drowning whole populations. And the upheavals on the coast unleashed towering waves, high walls of water, which swept towards the islands and crashed over their western coasts.
The geography of the seas was changed, with the small islands vanishing in a single day. But the way these people think, too, was changed.
They had worshipped the sea, loved and adored her, honouring the gods of the waters. And they had submitted to the authority of the Order. Now, they say The Wizards Turned The Gods. By this they mean that the mages turned the gods against them. This was not, for them, a mere cataclysm. It was also the most profound double betrayal. They think that their temporal overlords forced their watery gods to destroy them, unjustly.
A major religious centre, Maraupoe is the departure point from this world to the next for those of high rank. Once ritually dried and salted, the corpses of great leaders are brought here from the islands far to the south, and sent off on an unmanned sailing ship, for their final voyage to the Paradise of the Kapikamai - where "there are a million islands in emerald seas, and there are no wizards nor gods nor other torments."
Parataoti is build around the great Temple of Loss. Each Kapikami male hopes to make pilgrimage to this temple before their wedding day, to petition the gods to permit him a happy marriage, healthy children, and the strength to support them. Foreign visitors may be more interested in the rich market which has sprung up around the temple, as Kapikami petitioners sell their finest handicrafts in order to buy suitable offerings for the temple.
After the Sundering a lone survivor from the Order of Silver Light came to Oramatete to demand the obedience of the people. They tore out his tongue and crushed his fingers so that he could no longer work magic, and then the priests cursed him that he might never die; then they tied stones to his feet and cast him into the harbour. It is said that his howls of anguish can still be heard echoing through the waters, five hundred years later. Not coincidentally, Oramatete is the favoured venue for Kapikami chiefs to meet with foreign diplomats.
The chiefs of Mahareva trace their ancestry back to a single legendary survivor who, of all the Kapikami at sea when the Sundering struck, had the skill to survive that huge storm. Legends tell how she piloted her little boat through seas churning with waves as high as mountains, and to this day it is said that her descendants are the finest sailors and navigators in all the Broken Lands.
From the daily reports of Commander Cirian Danorian, deep reconnaissance mission.
Day 7, evening: We have camped by a huge rock, with a crude carving chiselled into it. The figure is vaguely humanoid, but has no eyes. Our scribe tells us that it is meant to be a spirit called Melloris. Allegedly the spirit has manifested to the leader of a local community, who described it as being made of gold, supremely beautiful, but blind. The lack of eyes might have indicated blindness, but the strange shape of this figure does not suggest beauty, just a very poor stone carver.
Day 8, afternoon: We have spotted a stronghold high on a cliff. Its stone walls look ancient, but are partly ruined and have been recently and crudely patched with wood. Still, its position makes it seem impregnable. As we approached we found human farmers working small fields in the valley beneath, but they fled at our approach. We have made camp, and sent scouts up the cliff path to investigate.
Day 8, evening: Our scouts have not returned. We have also had visitors. A group of armed men, armoured, carrying bows. They said that they were a search party from the stronghold. They said they were looking for â€œHeretics who have fallen from truth and fled from the light of Mellorisâ€, who they wanted to find in order to â€œsaveâ€ them by taking them back to the community. They were very well armed for a friendly search party.
Day 9, noon: Our scouts have returned. They say that they were worried about climbing back down the cliff path in the dark. They also mentioned good food and warm beds in the settlement above. They report the community being confused by their visit, but there was no hostility. We will all trek up the cliff this afternoon, as a safe and comfortable place to stay would be welcome.
Day 9, evening: We have found passable food, warm beds, and solid fortifications. It is a welcome change from sleeping in a camp in the wilds. The locals are little inclined to talk to us, however.
Day 10, noon: The inhabited settlement is small. Just a couple of thousand people, but the location is so secure that no army could assault them. The people still avoid us, and lots of doors are locked. The old ruined parts of the stronghold are extensive, however, and merit more investigation. We are not the only visitors, as there is a small market. We found a small band of ragged elves trading here, and they say that the locals are as unfriendly to them as they are to us.
Day 10, afternoon: I was summoned to appear before the communityâ€™s leader. He sat on a large but crude throne, wearing the vestments of a priest and a large silver crown. I vaguely remember him. In Virten when I was young he was called Jerrian, and he was considered a possible future King of Virten. He was renowned as a virtuous man but the College of Silence suspected that he was mentally unstable. Now he leads this self-exiled community, and I was told to address him as Blessed Prophet of the Golden Spirit, not by his â€œformerâ€ name. He had summoned me to complain about one of our expedition. Apparently our scribe had been â€œspreading lies, infecting the minds of the true believers, promoting falsehood and immoralityâ€. I doubt it. None of us have spoken much to the locals. But he clearly wants us to go, so I said that we would leave early tomorrow. I have no idea why he is hostile to us, but there was no point arguing.
Day 10, evening: Organised a search of the ruined areas, without alerting the locals. We found several rooms that looked like ritual areas, abandoned for centuries. Most interesting was a grand mural, dusty and cracked, from before the Sundering. It seemed to show a wizard or arch mage, depicted with a great staff, one eye covered with a patch, and one of his hands shown as being gold.
Day 11, morning: We set guards last night, and they woke us before dawn. They had seen movement where our horses were stabled, and they intervened, uncovering a partially dressed local woman and one of our animal handlers. He said that she had seduced him and asked him to stay and marry her. She said that he had tricked her into spending the night with him. I believe him, not her. He doesnâ€™t have that much guile, and I donâ€™t trust these people. We are leaving now. I would rather be out in the wilds than have to contend with the lies and paranoia that confound us here.
Perched atop a high cliff, this ruined stronghold can be approached only by a narrow, winding path. Traders are welcome in the market, but will have to leave waggons at the foot of the cliff and carry goods up on foot. The climb is arduous, the location inconvenient, but this inaccessibility is the very thing that brings people here: roaming warbands in the wilds below cannot hope to violate the Mellorians' Sactuary, which remains an oasis of peace in a violent land.
South Oceans Company
From Phaeloses of Newharbour, regarding the establishment of the first trade posts of the South Oceans Company of Larn.
Good my lord,
I pray that you are in fine health, standing in good regard with our blessed king, and so on and so forth. I am short of parchment, so please assume that the usual greetings are intended, even if I omit them here.
I thank you for the copy of the Charter which you have supplied. It is well that the King has blessed our venture. No doubt there will be criticisms. But with Royal patronage these will be muted.
First, allow me to clarify the situation with regarding rare woods and herbs. There is no shortage of resources in this new land. But there is also no shortage of danger as the locals feud constantly with one and other in this lawless place, while there is a shortage in expertise for gathering such resources. So such goods are present, but hard to gather.
By contrast, life is cheap here, and so people are cheap. Slaves can be had at a low price. Either we can use these to work plantations here, or we can send them back to Larn. No doubt the royal court will benefit from the cheap labour, and mine owners are always happy for cheap and expendable workers.
I have noted that the Royal Charter allows us only to buy slaves who are convicted felons. I have no doubt that when we buy slaves the seller will vouch that their captives have been convicted of something or other.
I was unsure what we could do about the youngest child slaves. We can say that we are saving them from penury and civilising them, but then what do we do when they are grown? But I have a solution to this.
The Charter stipulates that we must mourn for the loss of freedom of our slaves. The usual mourning rituals take some time, of course, and frankly I have a great deal to do. So, I intend that we should establish temples here which can adopt young child slaves. We can use them for these rituals, and to maintain the temples, so that they will become useful servants to us here. It is not ideal, but it will do until we can persuade our wise King to accept that we can trade in slaves beyond criminals; no doubt this change will come when the advantages become evident, as doctrine habitually follows the pragmatic course, just as rivers follow valleys, but this may take some time.
Beyond slaving, I am not certain what we will be able to secure here. Territorial conquest for the Kingdom of Larn seems unlikely, given the violent nature of these lands. But there may be more trade to do when we are better established.
To this end we now have two trade posts, unassailable due to their locations, and with further ancient fortifications which we can rebuild. Beyond these locations I do not advise that we expand. We will set up markets in both locations, and will see if those can grow, as the locals currently lack secure trade centres amidst the jungles. The tax revenue may allow us to become self-sustaining, and in time might allow us to impose our will upon the region if we so desire.
Landingstown [South Oceans Company]
The first Larnish stronghold in the Broken Lands, this was chosen for its strong defensive location with a good port. Unfamiliar with the lands, the traders failed, however, to consider other important factors for survival here: with wells that draw up murky water, and bordered by damp, mosquito-infested ground, the settlement is often racked by sickness; arrivals from the north, unaccustomed to the local diseases, often expire within just a few months.
Royalport [South Oceans Company]
Named to honour the King of Larn, this port is nonetheless entirely independent, ruled by a council of merchants whose loyalty is to profit, not to the crown. Several of these trader-councilors are already amassing notable fortunes, principally trading in spices and slaves, and have begun to build themselves impressive townhouses in the Larnish style.
From Phaeloses of Newharbour, regarding the establishment of the first trade posts of the South Oceans Company of Larn.
Good my lord,
As ever I pray that you are in fine health, in good favour at court, and such. As usual, parchment is in short supply, so please take the usual formalities as read.
I write to inform you that we are not, as we had hoped, the first to cross the ocean and establish a presence here. We were aware that the Illyria Trade Council have sent delegations and intend to establish fortified trade posts. But both they and we were chasing another. It seems that colonists have arrived from Port Tal.
They have made made camp on ancient temple ruins. The locals, being superstitious savages, believed that the temples were haunted, and so think that these exotic men who have sailed the endless ocean and driven the spirits from these temples must be the gods returning to claim their homes. They have therefore taken to revering the Tallian colonists. So, these warlike savages have submitted meekly, joyfully, to the instructions of their supposed deities.
I wish we had managed to pull off something like that.
Still, I cannot but fear that this might all end badly for the people of Tal. There are few of them, hugely outnumbered by their adoring subjects. What would happen if their followers lost faith in them, or became too demanding?
The savages believe that some centuries ago their gods raised a wall of stone and fire to protect them from horrendous magics unleashed in the far south, that their gods saved the whole jungle land from destruction. They may have high hopes for the might of returning divinities. And what might a horde of pious savages do to gods who fail them?
New Tal [Tal Colonists]
The port of New Tal sits at the foot of an ancient ruined temple, and the colonists have made their palace, barracks and stronghold in the temple courtyards. Their native servants believe that the people of Tal are returned gods, and so the colonists live a fine life, adored by their new devotees. But visitors should note that it is unwise to mock the Tallians' supposed divinity, since the pious natives insist that the penalty for such blasphemy should be death.
The Pirate Kings
From the journal of Barnard of Shelton, master trader in the employ of the Illyria Trade Council, recording his journeys to the Broken Lands.
I was welcomed in Belgorrian with trumpets blaring, a rich carpet rolled out on the dock to great me, and rows of men-at-arms lining my procession to the Royal palace. There was a formal presentation to King Ulharadd in his throne room, and then a great feast in the evening.
This, I thought, is a pirate city? I had expected rough cut-throats, carousing in stinking taverns, making threats upon my life. But instead I was being wined and dined in Royal style, treated to a display of courtly splendour and shown every respect.
The following day I rode out to hunt with Ulharadd and some of his courtiers.
â€œWe are the true Warrior-Kings of these lands,â€ he assured me. â€œOur wealth, it is true, often comes from plunder. But raiding is a traditional noble pastime, a source of wealth and honour, and a training for war. People call us pirates, because we prey upon ships that will not bow before us and offer us due payments. In much the same way land-locked nobles will extract loot from subjects who refuse to bow to them and pay taxes. Are the worldâ€™s nobles all bandits? Only then are we pirates.â€
Ulharaddâ€™s views of other local rulers was not entirely complementary. He had the highest praise for Ramoar, Surriem and Azoash, the other three so-called Pirate Kings, with whom he is closely allied. But he was dismissive of the Kings of Virten, who he mocked as â€œcommoners without breeding, training or experience, raised above their abilities to rule, unable to cope, reliant upon the College of Silence to secure their election and then twice as reliant on the Collegeâ€™s advisers and spies in order to rule.â€ In other words, the Kings of the west were, in his view, incompetent puppets, manipulated by the College. For the New Light he had even less kind words, dismissing them as power-mad maniacs. And when I asked about the Drek-Hhakrall he only laughed.
â€œWe have no enmity to these people,â€ he shrugged, â€œbut we do not pretend that they are true kings, such as ourselves.â€
Ulharadd explained that his own lands were ruled by men trained for war, taught from birth how to rule, and supported by families with experience in combat, administration and leadership. They were, he said, as any good noble should be, an elite superior in breeding and training, ruling over those less capable.
What was unusual, he conceded, was that he and his fellow kings laid claim not only to land but also to water â€“ specifically to all the waters around their islands, north as far as the jungle and south to the icy shores. Then he said that he hoped that the Illyria Trade Council would soon become some of his most honoured water-borne subjects â€“ that we would bow to his throne, accept the protection of his fleet, and pay him royally.
The court was spectacular. The food, the entertainments, the quality of courtesy and conversation, the discipline of the troops and the fortifications of the city were all of the highest standard.
But such trappings do not disguise that rulers who blackmail and prey upon honest trade ships are nothing but pirates, and are the enemies of all honest merchants.
Belgorrian [The Pirate Kings]
Belgorrian is the stronghold of King Ulharadd, one of the four Pirate Kings who lay claim to the waters of the middle seas. The city gates are open to traders, both honest and dishonest, but His Highness is particularly keen to welcome troubadours, artists, sculptors and builders - any who can beautify his castle and court, any who can make his home seem a centre of art and beauty, rather than a den of water-borne bandits.
Argmaenor [The Pirate Kings]
King Sullahadan, lord of Argmaenor, is said to look south for his plunder. He has established fair relations with the orcs of Thujn-Kuckut and has even sent ambassadors as far as Trazurk in search of allies (or perhaps, victims). Orc mercenaries are a familiar sight in the streets, and the king's advisers collect intelligence on raiding targets in the south-eastern lands as well as on the high seas.
Patradan [The Pirate Kings]
Patradan is the oldest of the Pirate Kings' strongholds, founded to as a raiders' base immediately after the Sundering. But its preeminence has been eclipsed by the wealth and glory of Belgorrian, and its young, aggressive ruler, King Hanarad, is eager to prove that he is worthy of his infamous ancestors.
Gordarill [The Pirate Kings]
King Lagromah holds a stronghold far from the rich shipping lanes which the other Pirate King prey upon, and he has proved unable to craft a plan to win booty for his followers. Disenchanted, many in Gordarill have turned to freelance piracy and brigandage, winning plunder through free enterprise when their King cannot satisfy their greed.
The First Decree of King Lucios I, the New King, founder of the Kingdom of Virten, at the dawn of the present age:
Let no man be King because he is mighty. Let no man be King because of his birth.
Neither the amassing of power nor the practice of warlike arts will guarantee that a man be just. No parentage or lineage will guarantee that he be wise.
Each of you who stand before me today, have lost family and friends in the Sundering. For each of you who stands here, a hundred have been killed by tyrants, who believed that their lineage and power gave them the right to rule as they wished, to abuse who they wished, to slaughter wherever they wished.
As you grieve for those whom you loved, as you give thanks for your own survival, and as you pray for a better future, each of you will swear now, and each of you will swear again each year, and each of your descendants will swear every year until the end of time, that you will uphold this decree.
The daughter of the King shall inherit the land, but shall not rule.
The daughter of the King will marry whatsoever man be foremost in the kingdom in justice and wisdom. Her husband must be calm and purposeful, able to resist the temptations of the highest office, not afraid of acting without sentiment if needs be, but striving always to aim for the highest standards of morality, conducting himself with absolute integrity, ruling always for the good of the land.
The husband thus taken will be King, and will rule.
This is my first decree.
Thus may we hope that a new kingdom, a better way of life, will rise from the atrocity of the Sundering. It is a hope that you and your children must be ready to fight for, and perhaps to die for. But in this way we may hope that the tyranny and destruction of the last age will never be repeated, and that we can build a future of peace, wisdom and justice for our descendants.
A chill wind blows from the sea and the across the flat lands around about the stronghold, and as it is funneled between the dense packed towers and buildings it often howls and moans. The superstitious say that the different sounds in the wind bring omens of doom or prosperity for the town.
Catmont was founded as a refugees' haven after The Sundering. From the chaos and squalor a city emerged, but simply based on the layout of the shacks: there are no boulevards or grand squares - the whole city is a mass of alleyways and narrow streets, with no logic. Visitors are advised to hire a trustworthy guide.
A dour town of grey stone buildings with slate roofs, Stoneberg is whipped by chill winds that blow down from the mountains, and can be bitterly cold in winter. It is famed for a huge ice monolith which sits in its main temple. Legend says that the pillar will endure while peace is sure in Virten, but if it starts to melt then the Kings will fall and war will come.
Moonvale is home to a sacred relic of Virten's early history - the First Council Table. This battered, round table was supposedly the table at which Virten's warlords swore allegiance to the New King after the Sundering. Now housed in the city's main temple, it is said to be watched always by the gods, and by local custom all important oaths are sworn before the table.
Since Virten is a monarchy of merit, where the most virtuous are chosen to rule, it must be that the sons of the Penn family (landlords of half of the buildings in the city which carries their name) are naturally virtuous or especially well brought up, since one third of all Virten's past Kings sprung from their line. And likewise, the ostentatious wealth of the Penns and their city could not be to do with any favours, but must be due to their own commercial acumen and the blessings of the gods. Of course.
Princevale is home to a rare statue of a past King of Virten. While the land's monarchs are rarely memorialised, an exception was made for Hendren the Usurper, who ruled from Princevale during his attempt to transform Virten into a hereditary monarchy two hundred years ago. A giant statue depicting his execution dominates the market square.
Far from the centre of the Sundering, the damage to this distant island was severe, but not cataclysmic. It became the centre for a movement to rebuild a better world, to reestablish communications, to help refugees, to rebuild an order based on justice and compassion. And eventually the New King, was crowned here. On the edge of the current realm, Virten's royalty rarely even visits now, but the city is still honoured as the birthplace of a new, better world after the horror of the Sundering
Helnsbere was founded as a distribution centre immediately after the Sundering, to gather food and redistribute it to refugees. Even five centuries later its huge barn dominates the city centre, and extensive stockpiles of grain are still maintained here by royal command in case of famine or calamity.
The most heavily fortified of Virten's strongholds, the first Kings expected this to be the northern extent of their dominions, little guessing that their successors would extend the Kings' peace into Northmarch and beyond. The fortifications still stand, but are now rather picturesque, with ivy and climbing roses scaling the ramparts, and dovecotes in the high guard towers.
Southforge was a headquarters and provisioning centre for the Kingdom of Virten's early wars to pacify the Westmarch and Northmarch. Its military past is now long forgotten, and the huge Old Barracks that overlooks the city square has long been put to civilian use: visiting merchants can hire accommodation in re-purposed dormitories, and lock their goods safely away in its former dungeons.
A deep pit in the centre of Greybriar marks the site of the Kingdom of Virten's most incongruous ritual - a site, each year, of a live, willing, adult male, human sacrifice. Here annually a townsman chosen by the people leaps to his death as a gift to the gods. Many outsiders question how the compassionate and enlightened kingdom can tolerate such barbarity; the usual answer is that Virten guarantees peace and prosperity, so critics should stay silent.
Ludisfold is the northernmost of Virten's great strongholds, and the most recently founded. Founded as a strategic port 300 years ago, when Westmarch was pacified, it still has a reputation for being a wild, marginal place, and reports persist that dark cults, perhaps from the chaos after the Sundering, perhaps linked with the Cult of the Black Oak, still meet in secret in quiet cellars and hidden shrines.
Mourlake is an administrative and trade centre for the Kingdom of Virten's subjects on the plains east of the Chulbran Marsh. Its lakeside location has led to the evolution of its famous Floating Market, where traders in small boats ply through the canals and along the lake-shore, and shoppers walk the narrow walkways beside the canal or browse from their own small boats.
Kendbrook is not a romantic city. It is cold, the landscape is grey, the architecture is ugly and functional, and the southlands round about are full of orcs. Yet many wealthy trading families have started their careers here, and newcomers arrive every day to seek their fortunes. To a pragmatist, a great natural harbour, a vibrant mercantile community and access to a navigable river make up for a lack of aesthetics.
Snaresheath is ridiculed as a historically, geographically and architecturally unremarkable city. Its greatest claim to fame is the quality of the apples in the surrounding orchards - which make truly wonderful cider. The locals retort that in a world where fame so often comes from slaughter and atrocity, it is no bad thing to be renowned only for fine fruit.
Elscrick is a sleepy city, deep in ancient woodland. Its location on two rivers makes it a natural trade centre, and a granite tor provides an unassailable perch for the royal keep, but it is not at all a busy place, and for many it is just a quiet place to break a journey on the way to Banderstol.
The Kings of Virten have long denied that this former orc stronghold is their capital city. They love all of their people equally, they say, and single out no city for special treatment, simply staying here often, and basing their law courts here for pure convenience, as Banderstol enjoys a central location in the realm. The plaintiffs, diplomats and petitioners who flock here are untroubled by semantics: where the King most often is, is in effect his capital.
Newchapel claims to be the spiritual heart of Virten. It is here that the Kings are crowned, and here that many of them are cremated. But the city is an artificial creation, built by the Kings of Virten to provide ceremonials for their rule, and has been criticised as being all show and no heart. Those seeking profound learning or spirituality are advised to look elsewhere.
Excerpt from 'Journey Across Illyria', by the half-elf minstrel, Rakkos Meillo
Fatigued from the many days of travel, they finally made it to the southernmost tip of the western mainland.
And it was as beautiful as the ancestors of the Kadu said it would be. The coastline was spectacular, the water crystal clear, and the weather pleasantly warm. They built wooden shacks at first, but within a year, the population had doubled, as their health started to improve and they gave birth to the next generation of their people.
They learned the ways of the sea and ocean, and never had to go hungry again.
Life was good.
At least thatâ€™s what the people thought, until the day the Dragon arrived. It asked them for treasure, and they had none to give. It asked them to sacrifice noble blood, and they had none to give. It asked them for magical knowledge, and they had none to give.
Finally, frustrated with the people for not having anything valuable to give it, the Dragon asked them "Is there anything you can give me, in return for me not razing your village to the ground?"
A young man stepped out from the crowd. "I can give you fish, majestic Dragon," he said, showing off the large fish he had caught this morning.
A young girl stepped out from the crowd. "I can give you this coral necklace my sister made for me this morning, glorious Dragon", she said, twirling the coral necklace in front of the Dragon.
A man stepped out from the crowd. "Noblest of Dragons, I donâ€™t have any gold or silver or treasure, but I can make a poultice to treat that wound on your right front paw."
There was indeed a scratch there, an injury from its earlier battle with another dragon; it hadnâ€™t even noticed it until now.
It looked down at all the villagers gathered before it. It saw the young boy smiling, showing off his fine catch to all the other villagers to see. It saw the young girl, still twirling the coral necklace with glee. And it saw the earnest face of the man, gazing up into its eyes, a look of concern for what was just a graze to the Dragon.
And then the Dragon laughed, a deep, sonorous laugh that echoed across the water and over the whole village. It accepted their offer, and in return for their kindness, bestowed a gift upon them.
It was no physical gift, but one of knowledge, one of power. It was a song, or rather, a way of singing, from which the people have woven a whole tradition of song.
They sing songs to hide their settlements from Harpies and Melders. They sing songs to keep water from their little fishing craft. They sing songs to coax fish to their nets and the wind to their sails. They sing songs of easy voyages even in roaring gales. They sing of the air and the wind and the Dragon, and their songs make them masters of wave and reef, storm and tide.
The people have lived in peace and plenty, and in time they have come to be known as the Windseekers.
The central citadel of Hanlif is imposing, and it is hard to imagine that any army could take it. But it is small, and the city itself, very large. Most of Hanlif is made of simple shacks, semi permanent hovels, and temporary camps made by fisherfolk sheltering beneath their upturned boats. Every evening, it is said, the city is different, and visitors report that half of its population seems to leave or move or arrive on the tides each day. This is not so much a place that the Windseekers live in, as a place that they wash through.
A small Windseeker flotilla was blown south on a gale, generations ago, like leaves on the waves, to make a home on the waters around Aelif. More have followed, seeking new seas to sail. Some still travel back every few years, for trade or for weddings, but even for the skilled sailors of the Windseekers the ocean crossing is perilous, and the links between these families and their northern cousins are more cultural than practical.
From Phaeloses of Newharbour, regarding the establishment of the first trade posts of the South Oceans Company of Larn.
Good my lord,
May your storehouses be full, the King wise in his love of you, your children bringing honour to your house, your wife be a beacon of virtue, and so on and so forth.
We have heard excellent news since my last letter to you.
Events have taken a very bad turn for the Tallian colonists.
The priestesses of the local savages have bathed themselves in the blood of sacrificed beasts, chewed upon their secret herbs, inhaled the smoke of sacred fires, and spoken in the language of the dead to deliver oracles as to the nature of the Tallian settlers. And their holy insights are, by all accounts, that the men of Tal are not, in fact, the gods returning.
Thatâ€™s hardly a surprise to us. But it has caused chaos amongst these peoples, who are now fiercely divided. Some have sided with the Tallians. Most have stayed loyal to the war-chiefs and priestesses.
Even better, the oracles have pronounced that those who serve the False Gods are traitors and blasphemers whose crimes can never be forgiven. That means that we have a war on our doorstep, from which I expect that we can profit greatly.
In a way this is all predictable enough. These local savages, whose full name is, translated from the local tongue, something like the Ten Pure Tribes Who Follow in the Footsteps of the Fire Gods Who Graciously Sheltered the Revered Ancestors Behind the Divine Wall (more conveniently delivered in a shortened form, Yuraquncha) are held together by their reverence for the priestesses. The savages have many proud war-chiefs, each competing with one and other, but it is the priestesses who guide them, and ensure their unity.
The war-chiefs are prone to grandiose boasts, temper tantrums, and, especially if their pride is pricked, roaring threats. But they cannot shed blood unless the oracles of the priestesses permit it. Unsurprisingly these oracles usually forbid bloodshed, and chiefs who want oracles to favour them have to listen closely to the guidance of these priestesses. So, we can expect that the priestesses would not be impressed by the arrival of foreigners whom their people have started to revere as divine. The colonists are a threat to their authority. These recent oracles, denouncing the colonists and all who follow them, seem an inevitable defence of their authority.
Of course we have received desperate entreaties from the Tal colonists, who are terrified that the locals now wish to slaughter them as blasphemers. And we have made sympathetic replies, without committing ourselves to any action to help them.
Meanwhile, we have made embassies to the priestesses, and convinced them that the arrivals from Larn are quite distinct from the False Gods from Tal. We have shown them the shrines the we ourselves are building, and explained how important reverence and ritual are to us. Naturally we have sympathized with their outrage, and complimented them on their readiness to stand up for what is holy. They seem impressed.
This war seems set to become a permanent feature of the region, and, as we will remain uninvolved, this is much to our profit.
Zaqcha is laid out in a circular plan, resembling a giant calendar: the temples stand at the centre; the royal palace is at the point corresponding to the present date; the market - selling things made recently - stands on a plot relating to the recent past; the warriors' halls, safeguarding the future, stand on the other side of the palace; the privileged and wealthy consider it auspicious to live in areas relating to the future, while the poorest dwell in the past, and magicians occupy the area around the start (and end) of time.
Boyaquira is the site of an annual festival, where young men from the Yuraquncha come to perform a ritual dance, and the stronghold has grown up around the dancing pit. The victorious dancers win for their star the right to dwell in the court of the gods - that is, the privilege of being ritually sacrificed at the end of the festival.
Yuraquncha tradition states that when the gods gave Time to the world, the people of Suiqias went into hiding; they did not want Time, for they did not want to live in regret for things they could not change, nor accept the finality of death. A long epic tells how the gods eventually persuaded them to accept Time, but a suspicion remains that this place is, in some way, apart from the flow of history. It is the home of many fortunetellers and storytellers, who say that here they feel closer to the past and future.
Tayaribe is, according to the Yuraquncha, the place where the world began, and the place where it will end: here the first seed of the world was planted by the gods, and here the last spark of life will fade away. In the centre of the settlement in a broad, empty area, where few dare to tread: this is the start and end point of the world, and few are brave or foolish enough to step here.
Edited by Fiona - 15 Apr 2015 at 18:39
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