Before the Empire

My extant version of the Arashálinu Enáthaga began with the first Emperor and only briefly mentioned Alénach, who had arisen as the leader of the White Alliance before the Empire’s founding. Nevertheless the early history of the Dhéruhir is fairly well-detailed in my archives, with an account of the migrations of the then-nomadic Laghá into the region, their assimilation of the Vádzh already living there, and the development of city-states and in time a loose alliance to ward off incursions by still-barbaric tribes dwelling to the west.

It seems to me that the chroniclers would not have started their account cold, as it were, especially given that the dynastic history was begun a century or two after the Founding, and was likely intended to be a history of the Empire to that point. Leaving out all context as to the Founding would seem unlikely. So I’ve written a prologue along with additional Editor’s Notes which I may well expand at a later time.

Long years before the Empire the Laghá came to the lands of the Dhéruhir from the west and brought with them the faith of Kórbrak. They settled among the lands of the Vádzh, and soon they were one people. They grew millet and wheat after the manner of the Vádzh, and their numbers swelled, and soon they built cities where all manner of tradesfolk might gather behind high walls in safety. Yet to the west there were still the unlettered tribes of the Laghá who were called the Rekóna, with whom they warred. The great chief Hásteka led the western clans against all the cities, and Verékha and Henésta fell to them. So the Lords of the cities made the league which is called the White Alliance, and defeated the western tribes on the banks of the Menúr. Yet Hásteka fled and lived many years yet, often raiding in force though he feared to come once more against the whole army of the Alliance with his sworn tribes, so the Alliance endured for three generations.

In the last of these arose Alénach, a man of Dravá, and he became most prominent among the Lords of the cities, and the other Lords were coerced to do his bidding, lest all fall to the Rekóna, among whom yet another chief had arisen who thought to weld all the tribes into a great horde. It was Alénach who led the armies of the Alliance against the tribes, and in a campaign of six years subdued them and forced them to submit to the will of Dravá, yet not to the Alliance. After this none could gainsay him, and he set about gathering all powers to himself in Dravá, which had grown to be largest and mightiest of the cities of the Dhéruhir.

Editor’s Notes

There are reasons to think that the transition between the loose mutual defense league called the White Alliance (for so it seems in the fragmentary records available) was not so abrupt as the tale in the Arashálinu Enáthaga would seem to imply. But records of that time are extremely scarce and have often been subject to revisionism and reinterpretation over the centuries, and a full account of the theories of historians of that age is beyond the scope of this work.

What can be known is that the people of the cities of the Dhéruhir (the claw-shaped peninsula that juts out from the eastern Surathan coast into the Luésh Alén (the “Green Waters” in Draványa, called the Sea of Doorways by many other peoples living on its shores,) were literate from at least BF 200, and possibly earlier. It is thought that the migrating Laghá and the indigenous Vádzh formed a unique cultural union to which the Laghá brought a warrior ethos and cultural pride and the Vádzh instilled agriculture, literacy and many other endowments of civilization.

Lineage and Language

I have closely guarded the Arashálinu Enáthaga for many years; already I have shown more of it in the last two posts than ever before. Part of the reason for this is its status in a yet-unfinished state, even though there is a lot of material that’s pretty final as far as matters of history go.

nounsThe bigger part of the issue is the language. As the vanishingly few regular readers of this blog and older Ytherra websites may know, I have developed the Draványa language to a fairly high degree of detail. As the years have gone by, however, I’ve taken formal classes in linguistics and Latin and learned tiny smattering of German and Spanish on my own, so I have learned quite a lot about languages and conlangs. Draványa has therefore evolves considerably since the very early days when I had a couple of pages of notes about name endings and such; now it has a large array of information on noun cases and declensions, verb inflections due to tense, mood and voice, a lexicon of over a thousand words and an abundance of notes on particles, cardinal and ordinal numbers, clause sructure, etymology and so on. It’s rather short of being a full formal grammar (not least for not being written up in that way,) but it’s vastly more than I had 15-20 years ago when I first set down the names and titles of the Arashálinu Enáthaga.

This means that the dynastic history of Arál Draván, rife with usage of Draványa, is linguistically very badly outdated and in need of revision. It’s this that’s kept me from posting it for so long. At the same time, the Arashálinu Enáthaga is in many ways the keystone of Ytherra’s history, and not being able to use it as a reference has held me back. Its gaps are also the gaps in that history, and with thirty-nine centuries to cover there are all too many of those.

The original Ytherra website, now only a memory but still preserved in my archives, focused tightly on Arál Draván. In recent years I’ve done more development on the Selureans, Mánthezar, the cities of the Haddanai and various other topics for precisely the reasons given above. Yet Arál Draván remains central to my long-term plans for Ytherra, so it’s important that it be brought back into the fold and its histories righted.

In recent weeks I’ve given my inflection tables a thorough going-over and the rest of the grammar notes a review, and begun a new version of the lexicon from scratch, painstakingly checking each word of the old lexicon before moving it to the new one, often with changes and corrections. I’m using the Arashálinu Enáthaga as my roadmap for this, moving slowly through the list of rulers and revising as I go, and sometimes adding new bits, especially in the Editor’s Notes.

At the moment the first thirteen rulers, into the Third (Morúku) Dynasty, are fully revised. In many cases regnal titles have changed slighly or completely, and other bits of Draványa have been fixed up or added as well. I plan to post these regularly as I keep working at it, along with additional commentary.

Of Lazhám the Betrayer: The Arashálinu Enáthaga, Part 2

Today’s writing sample is another piece of the Arashálinu Enáthaga, detailing the second ruler of Arál Draván and his reign. The document itself, although with much else about the world of Ytherra has been sitting my my archives for many years. It’s tough to say how old this piece is in particular, but it’s from pretty early on, maybe as much as twenty years old. I originally patterned the document after Tolkien’s The Kings of Númenor, as found in Unfinished Tales, but it soon took on a life of its own, with sometimes extensive notes added to the account of each ruler.

The Arashálinu Enáthaga is not “finished,” in that the prose dynastic history is yet incomplete. What is done, however, is the complete list of rulers with descriptive titles and the years of their reigns, and a lot of notes on various Emperors and Empresses along the way.

A brief note about the history: As previously mentioned, Arál Draván uses the Imperial Reckoning (IR) calendar, which counts years from the founding of the Empire by Zhómach. The current year in this calendar is 3841. So Arál Draván is an exceptionally stable and enduring nation… but there have been many, many bumps along the road, and some seismic shifts in the Empire and its society.

In the Empire’s thirty-nine centuries there have been 182 Emeperors and Empresses in twenty-one dynasties. There have been four major interregnal periods, the longest of which lasted more than three centuries, and innumerable disturbances and civil and foreign wars. The Empire is still strong and still a major power, but it has contracted considerably from its greatest extents, and there are those who hold that its fleets and legions conceal a hollow heart.

Lazhám Ithkayu, the Second Árashal

Lazhám, called Ithkayu, the Betrayer, was born thirty-eight years before the Imperial Era and ruled in the fifth year of Empire. He betrayed Zhomach and his two eldest sons at the Battle of the Isán Rivers and surrounding himself with forces obedient to him he seized the City. He fled with loyal troops after 17 Ghelishu, the Day of Red Streets, until his death in battle on 3 Maleravu. He is held to have reigned as Emperor for seventy-three days. The swords of those loyal to Lazham were cast into an iron seat by Varlesh in memory of both their valor and their treason, and spells of preservation were laid upon it, that it might never succumb to rust or decay. It has ever after been called the Traitor’s Throne.

Editor’s Notes

The most ancient extant records include Lazhám as an Emperor of the Zhomachu Dynasty, though he was not (so far as is known) related by blood to Zhomach or his father Alenach, and despite his illegitimate seizure of the throne. Many scholars over the centuries have argued persuasively for his removal from the Zhomachu Dynasty in favor of an interregnal period, or even his excision from the Arashálinu Enáthaga altogether. Nevertheless, the tradition stands, with Lazhám accounted the second ruler of Arál Draván.

Arashálinu Enáthaga, Part One

Today’s writing sample is not new. Actually it is many, many years old, and only given a quick once-over in the last few days. It’s a part of a significantly larger document that I wrote as part of the history of the Empire of Arál Draván, the greatest surviving nation (for so say its people) on the World of Ytherra.

I have just made public a number of older posts about Ytherra’s geography, mythology and languages, some of which may be in need of light revision. And there’s a great deal more of this particular piece which I may be posting over the coming weeks, as I get to lightly tweaking it and as interest warrants.

The Arashálinu Enáthaga

Lo! Now shall be told the names of the Emperors of the City and the Imperium, names great and obscure, reigns decades long and mercifully short, the mighty and the corrupt, saviors and black magicians, and deeds of glory done in ancient days. Learn well ye proud citizens the names and deeds of these heroes and villans of old, for they are the blood and stones of the Empire.

Editor’s Notes

Arashálinu Enáthaga is literally “The Names of the Emperors,” an ancient record, maintained since the founding of Arál Draván, that names the Emperors and Empresses and their deeds. In point of fact it is more than a mere listing of rulers and their reigns, but a dynastic record and a document of central importance to the Dravanin cultural heritage. The original is supposedly still extant, preserved somewhere in the Imperial palace in Dravá. Copies of varying currency are available in virtually any major library in the Empire.

In Dravanya, the title of a ruling Emperor is Árashal, loosely translated as a “magistrate above magistrates,” and rendered as “Emperor” for the purposes of this translation. Árashal retains its original form from Archaic Dravanya, the form of the Dravanya language which was spoken around the time of the Empire’s founding. By courtesy this title is sometimes granted to certain other heads of state, notably the Emperor of Kondú.

It should be noted that the term Árashal is generally used regardless of the gender of the ruler. In this translation the English words “Emperor” and “Empress” have been used to denote either male or female heads of state respectively, but the Dravanin themselves do not normally distinguish Empresses by a separate title. There is, nevertheless, a feminine form of the term, Aráshala, which is occasionally used in informal conversation or in poetic compositions, or when the distinction is deemed significant, but only very seldom in Imperial documents.

Throughout this document Imperial dates are used, given as the more modern “Imperial Reckoning” (or IR) or as the archaic “years of Empire.” Dates before the founding are denoted BF.

The First (Zhomádu) Dynasty

The first dynasty of Arál Draván, begun by Zhómach in the founding year and carried on by his descendants in direct line until the death of Angkésh in the one hundred and eleventh year of Empire. Six Emperors ruled in the First Dynasty, for a total of one hundred and eleven years.

Zhómach Ulách lúa Hamúl, the First Árashal

Zhómach, called Ulách lúa Hamúl, the First and Founder, was born fifty-five years before the founding on 16 Olgathu, the eldest son of Alenach. He conquered the city-states which were neighbor to Dravá and dissolved the White Alliance, and great Dravá rose to hegemony under his guidance. The Imperium of the City was woven by his hands and he placed the calendar in the trust of the priests of holy Zerem, and thus the years are counted since the beginning of those days when he ruled. He decreed the first day of the new year to be the Vernal Equinox and called the first cholach after himself. He was father to Várlesh, who would succeed him upon the death of the Usurper. He died on 6 Leresu in the fifth year of Empire, betrayed by his disloyal general Lazhám, who would usurp the throne.

Editor’s Notes

The calendar month of Olgathu was renamed Hulenu to honor Huléng Teleshénu, “the Chaste,” the twenty-first ruler of Arál Draván, in IR 844, by decree of Vádroth IV Relkatán, “the Celebrant.” The earliest known records indicating Zhómach’s birth date as 16 Olgathu (Hulenu) date from the 23rd century IR. Prior to that, several different dates were used, until scholars came to near-consensus on the issue at that time. In recent centuries an Imperial holiday, the day of the Founder, has been held on 16 Hulenu.

Little is known of Zhómach’s near-mythical father, Alenach, save that he was the foremost leader and principal driving force behind the White Alliance, a loose union of several Laghá city-states, of which Dravá was the largest and most influential, even at that time. He is said to have seized power from local landowners in 58 BF, and cowed the temples and the Greatclans into accepting him as chief magistrate of the city. The founding of the White Alliance is assumed to have taken place after this. Alenach is thought to have died in 26 BF, but this is little more than conjecture.

Welcome to the New Ytherra Blog!

The minuscule number of regular visitors to this blog will notice that a major change has been made. The look of the place has been changed and the vast majority of posts have been pulled backstage. Nothing has been deleted, and certainly all Ytherra material is recorded elsewhere. But this blog has been re-purposed. It will no longer serve in its original role of releasing Ytherra material to the public — at which it was an utter failure anyway.

Instead, this will be the general-purpose blog for Ytherra Games Studio, a “soon” to be launched publishing effort with the aim of getting several of my projects (including Ytherra) into print. So welcome to the new place!

A Reminiscence of Tékumel

I came to Tékumel late. When I started roleplaying in the very early 80s Empire of the Petal Throne had already assumed the status of a legendary artifact from the earliest days of RPGs. When I started collecting a diverse array of RPGs in the early 90s the only thing in print was the Different Worlds semi-reprint of the original game. I’m not sure when I picked that up but it must have been in the period around 1993, give or take a couple of years — I do remember the long-dead store I bought it from. I found it instantly compelling, and started accreting what would become a substantial collection, at great difficulty and often great expense.

I have sold off a lot of RPG products over the years, but my Tékumel stuff is and will remain on my “from my cold dead fingers” list. I never did meet Professor Barker, nor did I have any significant contact with him on the Tékumel mailing lists on which he was sometimes active, nor did I ever make it to U-Con for the Tékumel track there, much to my regret. Nevertheless, Tékumel remains one of my greatest influences — Barker’s elaborate depiction of Tsolyáni among other languages are why my own invented language of Draványa exists as it does, and why I ended up taking a Linguistics class a few quarters ago, and why I found it easy — because I had already done a lot of reading on my own in the field, inspired by Barker.

The Ytherra of earlier epochs showed Barker’s influence very clearly. The current one not so much unless you know where to look, but it’s still there, in the languages, in the deep history and the naturalistic cosmology and the unknowable terrors that gnaw at the roots of the world of men, and in the races much more alien than one finds in traditional fantasy. This will someday, I hope, see print, and if it does I’ll acknowledge the debt it owes him.

Barker’s death was not unexpected, I’m afraid — he had been unwell for some years. He did, however, create before his passing the Tékumel Foundation to carry on the work of Tékumel, and to preserve his copious notes and artifacts for a new generation of fans. It’s remarkable not that Barker has died, but that he was with us for so long, still creating until near the end.

It’s been said that hardly anyone listened to Velvet Underground albums, but everyone who did started their own band. I think Tékumel is like that — so brilliant, so ahead of its time — that it spurred others to embark on creative journeys of their own. It did for me. It’s still ahead of us today, in many ways, a work as challenging as it is inventive.

So Farewell, O Ye of Wide Journeyings. You left us a great legacy that we’ll be struggling to live up to for decades to come.

Of the Nine Ingots and the Siring of Light

It is agreed among the followers of all the Gods that the stars were shaped before the world upon which Men dwell. Among the oldest of the Gods there are Zerem who speaks not and Symbrac, the Forge-Lord. In the days before the siring of Dragons Symbrac set within the Earth the Forges of the Velkánd, heated by the fires of the blood of the world which yet flowed upon its unfinished surface, in which He would later forge things of wonder and terror and legend. He labored long in the days before the world was fully shaped, and sought within the deep places that then were vast and empty, for fuel for His fires and for ores from which to forge such things.

In those days the stars were not yet set in their appointed places in the dome of endless night, and some among them fell to earth. Upon one such came Symbrac, and He knew that things of great potency might be made from it. Yet the stars were the domain of silent Zerem, and the Forge-Lord had no claim upon it, and no knowledge of the smelting or shaping of the steel therefrom. So to learn these mysteries Symbrac flew to the peak of the tallest mountain upon the world, whose name has been forgotten, and upon it lay the Looming Hall of Zerem.

Before the Silent Lord Symbrac made the sign of respect and asked of the secret behind the star-stone, which was of like kind to iron but would endure forever and was possessed of strange virtues besides. Yet Zerem was silent, as ever, holding to his mysteries. A second time Symbrac made the sign of bargaining and asked to learn the secret, offering Zerem many of the treasures made in Velkánd from the fruits of the earth that are now exhausted. Yet the Lord of the Sunless Sky was silent still, watching. A third time Symbrac, making the sign of wrath, demanded to know the nature of the star-metal, and still Zerem stood silent.

Yet now Zerem stood and spread the Cloak of Night, and the endless dark of the sky was revealed, and even mighty Symbrac was filled with awe and fear. And Zerem opened his two hands, and there in his left hand was revealed a bargain to be made, and in his right was a gift for the making, nine ingots of the star-metal, smelted and ready for the forge. And the bargain was for a mingling of the essence of each God, for Zerem though silent is mighty in thought and lore and knows all the secrets of Men and Gods, and is beyond the limits of woman and man. So Symbrac consented to the bargain which would bring forth a great light to keep the dark at bay, and then did Symbrac and Zerem join once and never again, and from the union of star and fire was born Ilmántar, who is the Sun, alike and yet different from his fathers.

Of the secret of smelting the star-iron Symbrac knows it not and seeks it still, but though the skies of Ytherra are not foreign to Him, He has ever after kept close to the earth, haunted by the memory of the things lurking among the stars beyond the sight of Men, older and mightier even than the eldest Gods. But the nine ingots of star-iron he kept close to Him in the Forges of the Velkánd, and in the Inexhaustible furnace at its heart he made mighty works of craft over ages before and after the epochs that are remembered: the Anvil of Doom upon which the fate of the world is said to be forged, the Ashen Blade of Kórbrak, the Shining Claw that cut its way to Empire in the hands of Men, the Chimes of Jehén that will sound the world’s ending and others long forgotten. And it is said that one ingot remains in the great smithy of the Velhánd, and that Symbrac will not touch the fire of the forge to it until the Last Days draw near.