The Caďinorian Plain
Dhekhnam: The empire of the ktuvoks
Xurno: A land ruled by artists
Tžuro: Heirs of Attafei
It's an interesting pragmatic point: the enmity with Dhekhnam runs so deep that it's assumed as background information. Only an idiot could ask about it; thus, the supposition that you must be asking about rivalries within the Plain.
In ancient times Munkhâsh, the empire ruled by demons across the Ctelm Mountains, invaded the Plain (ZE 440), conquered the Caďinorians, and enslaved and terrorized them for seven hundred years. The Caďinorian Empire was founded in the struggle against Munkhâsh, and the Caďinorian pagan religion was deeply marked by the conflict. The demons were thrown out of the Plain by the Emperor Keadau (1150); and when they invaded again their empire was completely destroyed by the Emperor Ervëa in the 17th century, in alliance with the Tžuro atej Attafei-- a victory celebrated annually to this day.
The demons were really ktuvoks, of course; and few Caďinorians ever saw a ktuvok face to face. No matter; their human subjects were bad enough, and the Munkhâshi occupation remains the permanent nightmare of the Caďinorian past, deeply marking Caďinorian thought. (A Caďinorian marriage ceremony, to this day, includes a call to the young couple to raise more warriors to fight the demons.)
The ktuvoks were ruled by humans for centuries, and Caďinas colonized the Shkónoro plain, which they renamed Sarnáe, Easternland. In the Dark Years, however, control over the marshes where the ktuvoks lived was lost, and they soon (2537) established a new empire, Dhekhnam, over the local humans, this time on a higher social and technological level.
Dhekhnam, for instance, has a written language, a market rather than a command economy, has fleets of effective traders, a cunning diplomatic corps, and of course modern weaponry, including cannons and cavalry. Many of these innovations are due to the highest-ranked of the empire's humans, those of Demóshimor.
The effectiveness of the cavalry, however, is largely due to the Carhinnoi. The Dhekhnami could not defeat these fierce nomads till they began to attack not the barbarians but their horses. The Carhinnoi scorned their enemies' cowardice; but horses were their wealth, their military transport, and in time of need their food; they were reduced to starvation during the war with Dhekhnam. Today they form the cream of its army. Alone in Dhekhnam they were allowed to keep their religion, Jippirasti.
Dhekhnam began the reconquest of Sarnáe soon after the absorption of Demóshimor. When they once again reached the Ctelm Mountains, Verduria counter-attacked, and king Estdorot forced them back over the Shkónoro (3048). But the Sarnáeans could not resist squabbling, and Verduria entered a dark period under the wizard Utu, and the Dhekhnamis finished off Sarnáe and advanced once more to the mountains.
There they have stayed, for the moment. The Plain is no more unified than it was in Munkhâsh's day. But Munkhâsh faced a disorganized mass of (Caďinorian and other) barbarians, with the civilized state of Cuzei far away to the west, in the Eärdur valley; while Dhekhnam faces an array of civilized states, with Verduria, probably the most advanced state on Almea, right across the mountains. And of course the Plain learned its lesson, and is alert to the threat from the east. (The neglect of the Cuzeians toward the eastern "babblers" is the subject of the Cuzeian classic, In the Land of Babblers-- coming to a bookstore near you when I can find a publisher.)
Nonetheless a confrontation is inevitable, probably within the next century, due to the nature of the Dhekhnami state. Even ktuvoks cannot make an empire run based solely on fear. They offer rewards to their slaves-- chiefly, dominion over later-conquered peoples. Thus the Demoshi are above the Qaraumcán, who are above the Tyellakhi and Visecrans and Coruo, who are above the Sarnáeans and Monkhayu. These in turn will become a source of unrest, unless further conquests can be made.
The barbarian Easterners, whose northern elements we already met pouring into Eretald, invaded the Xengi plain in -325. Within a few centuries they succeeded in conquering the Wede:i states, and established the ancient empire of Axunai.
Axunai began as a racial empire: the invaders, who called themselves the Ezičimi ('the Powerful'), lorded it over the native Wede:i, who were little better than slaves. In a sense the Wede:i had the last laugh, however. First, there were more of them, and second, according to Ezičimi tradition the children of an Ezičimi man were Ezičimi.
So, as Ezičimi took Wede:i wives and concubines, the proportion of Ezičimi grew: within a milennium there was no longer an identifiable Wede:i subpopulation. And thirdly, the Wede:i had a more advanced civilization, which in a sense absorbed its conquerors. The structure of Axunai's religion (the worship of Meša and other gods) and its philosophy were inherited from the Wede:i; the Axunašin language was written using an adaptation of the Wede:i syllabary; and the irrigation-works necessary to support the large populations of the Xengi valley had to be maintained by the natives.
Axunai, entirely centered round its niveï (emperor), was an unstable entity, frequently riven by civil wars. The barbarian invasions suffered by Eretald afflicted it as well; indeed, the great empire of the Gelyet succeeded in conquering Axunai completely (2483), burning the ancient capital of Inex.
In 2530 the state of Xurno was founded along the middle Xengi, centered on Curau. Xurno was organized from top to bottom as a military state, focussed on resistance to the barbarians. Its cities were surrounded by enormous fortifications, with fields and sources of water inside; in case of invasion the peasants simply came inside, where a siege could be resisted for a year or more, far longer than the barbarians' attention span. There was a new, more dynamic religion, Endajué, to liven up the masses and the warrior class. And every peasant was given military training. By 2620 Xurno had reconquered almost the entirety of the ancient empire of Axunai.
The Xurnese expanded, indeed, to the edges of the Caďinorian Plain, establishing a colony on the Hasun (Xazen) river, south of Cerei. (In bad times this colony, Xazno, has been independent, and has maintained itself against the surrounding Šualsannoi-- the Horselords of the Barbarian Plain.
When the barbarian threat abated, the tyranny of the military state did not, and this eventually led to revolution-- the Revaudo revolution which began in 2984, one of the strangest episodes of Almean history.
The revolutionaries were an uncomfortable alliance of reformist clerics, urban intellectuals, and ambitious nobles; but the leading elements were artists, and they created a state organized around the arts, and in which artists were rulers.
Entry into the ruling class required demonstrating mastery over one of the recognized artistic disciplines. This was in accordance with Endajué teaching, whose highest metaphor for the cosmos had always been the Dance, and which saw divinity in artistic inspiration.
The highest organ of state is the Academy (Bicikes), consisting of nine Salons (poetry, opera, music, painting, sculpture, weaving, dance, gymnastics, and prose), each consisting of 99 Academicians and a large number of lesser artists. The Council of the Academy (Bicikesu Jurumíex), elected by the Academicians, oversees the actual administration of the state and the military.
It should be emphasized that the Xurnese conceived of the artist as a disciplined and religious person, not as the antisocial substance abuser of our own culture. The Xurnese artist was expected as a youth to adhere slavishly to convention, and in old age to create daring and original works. The artistic disciplines, and thus the avenues of power, were open to both men and women.
Over the centuries the revolution has calmed down, and rather than a state where artists are rulers, it would be truer to say that in Xurno rulers are artists. As in any established state, those who seek power learn the language and skills required to join the ruling class-- piety in a theocracy, populist rhetoric in a democracy, painting or dance or whatever in Xurno.
However, the artistic orientation of Xurno definitely has its effect. Justice for the poor, for instance, was never a particular goal of the revolution; but campaigns against "ugliness", including the construction of parks and fountains, the building of canals, and the reconstruction of slums, have certainly benefitted the lower classes. The largest buildings in Curau or Inex are museums, galleries, libraries, theaters, gymnasia, Salons, and the palaces of eminent artists. And Xurno is certainly the only state where exceptional artistic ability can be parlayed into a political career.
Babur did not succeed in converting all the Tžuro by the time of his death (1510). However, the pagan and Jippirasti tribes agreed that the Tžuro should be under one Tej (one rule); the first Atej was the Jippirasti noble Kurund. There was some dispute over what part of the world to convert next: Munkhâsh, the realm of Kulig, Jippir's opposite and enemy, or the rich southern states-- Axunai and Skouras? Kurund was inclined to strike north from the Tžuro heartland, the Lenani Steppe, at Munkhâsh; but on his death his son Burudusi led the Tžuro south against Skouras.
Burudusi died in combat, and his brother Adubum became atej, taking the name Attafei (Almighty) in token of his ambition. Attafei made a wager with the pagan Tžuro: if they could conquer Munkhâsh, it would be proof of Jippir's power and they must convert; if not, he would abdicate, and they could resume the pillaging of Skouras.
They accepted, and Attafei invaded-- none too soon for the Caďinorian emperor Ervëa, who was in the midst of a life-or-death war with the Munkhâshi. Where Ervëa was a master of strategy and of the exploitation of slim opportunites and meager resources, Attafei was simply stubborn: He pushed his men forward; if he met resistance he threw men at it; if the obstacle was insurmountable he went around it; if the odds were hopeless he trusted in Jippir. His men quaked when he told them to enter the marshes of the ktuvoks; he simply strode ahead into the waters. His men marvelled, and lost their fear.
Attafei and Ervëa triumphed, meeting face to face, their enemies vanquished, in 1667. Attafei lost no time in collecting on his bet; 200,000 Tžuro converted to Jippirasti in one day. And, at the age of seventy, he began plans for the conquest of Skouras. They were carried out, but by his sons and grandsons.
The demons were in some ways easier to handle; they understood power, and Munkhâsh was for all its strength no more sophisticated than the nomads' empire. Skouras was an ancient, literate, highly urbanized, civilized land, whose wealth was based on agriculture, trade, and the sea-- all domains alien to the Tžuro. The conquest was difficult, but complete; the displaced Skourene lords vowed to return to liberate their homeland, but died leaving their vow unfilled to their sons; and so it went for generations.
The Tžuro looted the nobles' treasure houses; but when they settled in to rule had no choice but to hire the Skourene stewards to manage their affairs. They imposed their religion on the country, but the country imposed its way of life on them. Within a few centuries the unity of the Kurundasti Tej was gone; the northern Tžuro, still faithful to the nomadic way of life and to an uncompromising form of Jippirasti, could not subsist in a single state with their urbane brothers; the Tej split in 1825. (The conquests in Munkhâsh broke away too, though for centuries they were ruled by allies: the Carhinnoi, Qarau tribesmen who had been converted to Jippirasti.)
The old Skourene nobles, known today as the Skurendi, never managed to reconquer their ancestral homeland. The time they came closest (during the time of the Čisre Empire, 2591), the people of Skouras, far from treating the Skurendi as liberators, resisted them as they had any other invader.
Skouras was protected from the barbarians by the Edei mountains to the west and by its coreligionists to the north; but one tribe, the Sainor, succeeded in conquering Skouras in 2795. The Tžuro resisted fiercely, and were just as brutally pressed back; but they slowly pushed the Sainor out of the country.
With the decline of the nomads, the Lenani steppe became a backwater; dynasties and religious revivals come and go there without the outside world taking much notice.
In contrast Skouras has regained its ancient prosperity, and is today one of the more progressive areas of Almea. The religion is still Jippirasti, but church and state are separated, and the atej is less important than the Senate. Relations with the Littoral, where the Skurendi live, are even cordial, as befits remote cousins (the Skurendi and Tžuro speak related languages in the Lenani-Littoral family).
High in the Edei mountains is an unlikely success story, Belšai. The area is an ethnic mishmash, where virtually every movement of peoples in the last few milennia-- Wede:i, Axunemi, Sainor, Sevisor, Lenani-- has left a few farmers and shepherds as a remembrance of their success in reaching this inhospitable land or their failure in holding onto homes elsewhere. The organization of the state is cantonal: each little village or valley is self-governing, but pledges to defend the others if attacked. The prosperity of the first cantons encouraged others to join; and nowhere in southern Ereláe has there been more openness to new ideas, such as the Verdurian žuyse onteca.
Čeiy (or Ṭeô as its inhabitants call it), shown at right, is an offshoot of ancient Axunai, and speaks a language related to Xurnese. The Xurnese consider Čeiy part of the larger Axunemi nation; the sentiment is not reciprocated. Čeiy diverged in mores and values from its parent long ago. It has long been republican where Xurno was imperial. Being farther from the Barbarian Plain, it has been less terrorized by barbarians and therefore more resentful of the militarization needed to resist them; and pursuing rainfall rather than irrigation agriculture, it sees little need for the massive centralized Xurnese state.
In addition there is a religious difference; Čeiy never accepted Endajué (nor Revaudo), although its nihilistic offshoot Bezuxau was more successful in Čeiy than in Xurno, and long dominated the Čeiyu ruling class.