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Obvious Correlations Defined

Hmm. Did some googling on my own; trying Semagic, I'd heard its name mentioned once or twice. Seems to be working so far. Plus, it auto-inserts html when you 'ctrl-i' for italics, etc. Which I have to say, after however long writing out the whole </i> etc. every time? Nifty.

Ooh, and it does auto-lj cuts, too. Not that those are difficult, but not having to use html = more fun than having to use html. I decree it thus.

Anyway, where were we? I believe we were at the state of the Keissat empire in 2254 AL. The Keissat object to the 'AL' standard of time-measurement, by the way, although they don't actually have a given date--or even, really, a decade--to put up in its place, and hell, it does work...anyway.

--Keissat: Thirty-second recap, competing and significantly younger empire, up from the hemisphere-spanning skinny peninsula on Manessah, coming up between the Aillon and Dola rivers towards Letasacia.

The thing about the peninsula of Keissat is that it's fairly thin, and very mountainous, with little in the way of good boat-building timber or beaches. So its entire history is more or less a function of every subsequent group of people only ever having the neighbors to the north and the neighbors to the south, and all contact with the outside world being filtered down from the north. They're not entirely un-ancient Greek. Rocks, oceans, goats, olive trees, goat cheese, grapes and wine, figs...these are the things that grow well in this kind of terrain. It gets harder and rockier farther to the south, because while the northern bits of the peninsula are very Mediterranean, the southernmost point is just a little bit more like Siberea. Think, like, the Andes mountains, a little bit.

So for many centuries, they even had a pretty typical routine on this peninsula. The people from the north would have pretty warm, fruitful, manageable lives, while the people to the south would be hardier and more warlike. Every once in a while, a wave of warriors from the southern tip would give up in disgust and jealousy, and sweep up towards the north. After a while, they'd run out of steam, end the invasion with a sigh and a raggedy edge however many miles north they'd gotten, and settle in to start farming and defending against the next wave to come up from the tip, some decades later.

You'd think sea-travel would be a big thing with these people, and it would have been, to some degree, if they'd really had supplies for building good-sized boats. Also, the water off either side of the peninsula for quite a ways is perilously rocky the whole way up and down, which makes it difficult for inexperienced seamen in a row boat to decide it's a good idea to see what's way out there off the end of the world. In fact, it was more or less a pretty standardly expectable religious belief for a very long time--that there was no rest of the world, just the one long strip, from the ice to the south to the...whatever-the-hell was up there to the north, and ocean off forever to either side.

There were gods of all the places where people didn't go--of the sky, of the wide parts of the ocean beyond the fishing dinghies, of the deep under-earth below the metal mines, and of the secret, hidden high mountaintops, where it's difficult to breathe and even the hardy wintergrasses won't grow, where there's snow even so far north that it's always summer. Those from the far south also had a god of icy, snowy wasteland, but those were about it. Maybe both side-oceans had different gods, maybe there were a thousand of them for different places, but traditionally Keissat has taken a very detatched perception of their gods. They dealt with nature; they created it, they controlled it, and humans didn't play around with it. Likewise, when the humans stuck to the low places in the mountains, the inner bays of the seashore, and their farms, and their livestock, the gods more or less stayed out of it. Craft, art, agriculture, learning, reading and writing, these were all human things. And sure, the gods were powerful enough that they could interfere if they wanted to, IE storms and natural disasters, but the more civilized things were, the less deities were really at all an issue. Human attitude has traditionally been a very respectful, 'They'll do their thing, we'll do ours.'

So there they were for a very long time, doing their farmy-thing, and then two or three boatloads of Letasacian merchantmen got blown way, way off course a lot more easterly than they intended, and put into landfall on the land they hadn't really ever known was there. The boats were more or less irreprably damaged, but the locals were very friendly, the women were attractive and willing, and the sailors were pretty content to stay put. Except for the whole, 'City? What's a city?' thing.

So they decided to stay, and the more commercially-minded among them (it was a pair of merchant vessels, after all) went up to the nearest local trading post and talked the natives into enlarging it and city-planning it into a fairly respectably sized settlement. It had a good-sized market, and was gaining a few live-in artisans who were good enough to buy their sheep's wool and dyes and clay as opposed to having to farm it out themselves. Its real success, though, came about eight or nine years after its founding.

The original sailors, and some few of the locals, had formed a sort of coalition of people with weapons and some training over the years. They dealt with crime, and also with wild animals, did some exploring-and-civilizing up into the savager parts of the mountains; there may have been lions occasionally involved. Anyway, this was all in their spare time, between building the city, maintaining the city, and farming goats and possibly alpacas and so on. There was also a city wall involved. So, nine years down the line or so, the next regularly scheduled invading wave from the south came up. People were pretty used to this by now, where the hordes in their funky furs with their big, clunky swords would sweep up, do some raping and pillaging, take some of their better crops and possibly lands, and generally make a nuisance of themselves for a while. They'd leave a few of their number around at intervals when they decided they wanted to settle down or declare themselves governer of what was more like a primitive protection racket, and then continue on farther north, somewhat significantly smaller and more bedraggled than when they set off from home. You could measure the sucess of a given wave of invaders by how many final settling places of previous waves they hit; there were one or two very recent ones south of this settlement, the first city of Keissat, called 'Mirathi' which means 'landfall' in Old Sacian. It was annoying, but the people had dealt with it for time immemorial, and learned to grit their teeth, mar their prettiest daughters, and get through it.

So, this wave, the natives all got ready to fort in and ride it out, and the Letasacians looked at each other, grabbed weapons, and promptly beat the invaders soundly back. Then they built a city wall, in case they didn't stop the next group half a dozen ridges out from ever even glimpsing it. This created something of a hubub amongst the locals, who figured they could really get behind this 'defensible fortress' sort of thing.

The idea of a city-with-a-wall spread like wildfire up and down the coast. Marketplaces, governers, public works, and the whole idea of a standing military force under centralized city control...they did a lot of failing, what with not having a clue what they were doing, but it ushered in a new era in terms of trade and so on. Those towards the south were particularly happy for the idea of using multiple shelters as windbreaks; they already had 'insulation' down pretty well.

So, things were running along rather smoothly, heading briskly towards the 'city-state' era of things, as evinced by some of the more intrepid southerners getting up the bright idea to take their standing city army and proceed to try and set themselves up in the next couple of cities over. Now, the founders of Mirathi were dead some many years, but Mirathi was still significantly better-handled, better-organized, and far more competently governed than most of the rest of the peninsula. Enough so that the other cities tended to do a lot of corresponding back to its governer to ask for advice on how to handle, say, public sanitation issues, or the new invention of that so-important figure in the course of history, the town drunk. So the leaders of Mirathi looked at their army, which was still mostly farmers but also had a few officers who were police, peacekeepers, and military full-time, and sighed, and said, 'Okay, enough is enough. You people are incompetent and keep making us tell you what to do anyway. We're going to go take over the peninsula now.'

They started by heading north, actually, because Mirathi was far enough up the coastline that most of the north hadn't had to deal with invaders in a very long time. Commandeered city after city in a very matter-of-fact sort of way, given that the argument of, "Look, you and I both know that we're much better at this than you, so seriously, Mr. Governer, go back to the vinyard, it's really better for everyone. Especially the town drunk," was so hard to, well, argue. Proceeded to institute much more effective systems of public works, and draft a certain selection of young men to help them in their up-and-down-country overtaking quest. So by the time they got down to the southern tip, they had a pretty decently-sized military going for them. It took them a leisurely few decades, even though it was pretty much just a straight-up-and-down and there wasn't much difficulty in takeover, because each time they picked up more territory they ended up doing all sort of fixing-up of the cities, and they had to actually build the roads to get them from one end of the peninsula to the other.

So, that took a while, and at the end of it Keissat was all pretty much under centralized government at Mirathi. It was a pretty loose centralized government, willing to go in and interfere when things were messy, but not too power-hungry while things were going well. At any rate, the Keissati, once they had some actual instruction, really got into this whole urbanization thing. Civilization, building up of culture, art for art's own sake, currency--these were all discovered to be good things. Many of the more northern cities did some serious trading with what they could access from around the peninsula's mouth, and developed pretty extensive libraries; also, of course, philosophy had been discovered and people were writing up and down Keissat, too. And then there was the storytelling...yeah, vaguely like the Greece you sometimes picture when you hear people talking about all of its great contributions to philosophy and mathematics, with a significantly lesser attachment to history, traditionalism, the gods, and patriarchialism. Universities got established, which dealt with philosophy and technology, both magical and non-magical--some of the best trained mages in Manessah come from a Keissati university, in terms of very specific kinds of magic. Nature magic was more or less blasphemous, what with there still being that whole 'The gods do their thing, and we do ours' idea ingrained into the culture.

This is where the Keissati idea of 'apotheosis' came into the culture, though; and while it's not a very central one, it is rather interesting. Basically, there's the idea that okay, in terms of nature, humans cannot be as powerful or knowledgeable or anything near the gods. But in terms of just straight-up power, a very well-learned human in the realm of human things could reach levels equal to the gods, possibly even universe-creating levels. This was all more or less theoretical, and frequently debated, but...it was a thought.

What exploring they did was all mainly along the coast to the east, as to the west was Letasacia, and they knew just enough to be afraid of what Letasacia would do by way of invasion if they found out just how worth invading Keissat really was. They learned to do naval, ship-buildy things in the eastern ocean, so most of their very old trade was with the eastern half of Manessah. There actually isn't any way around the peninsula, although there are a few places where, at very high tides and with some canal-digging, it's become possible to take smaller boats across it.

But time goes on, and the world gets smaller, and people learn things about exploration and sailing technology, and after a while Keissat got all sorts of intrigued in the stuff to go on in other places that weren't Keissat. They spent several decades building an army and drawing up plans just south of Mirathi, in a city called Irrat, which is to this day known for being the best and central military training ground etc. for the empire. Then, once they were sure they knew what they were doing and were ready for the hypothetical problems involved in taking over and civilizing places farther out, plus defending the empire once people figured out there was a whole lot worth taking over down there, they marched up the central roads and along up the Aillon river.

Since Letasacia is a honking huge country with a honking big army, the element of surprise has only been so useful in heading up the Aillon river, and they stalled out somwhere a little south of Ketthel. They've opened up significantly more trade with the west, becoming a presence in Vara and even in Letasacia, if under somewhat strained relations. Now, they would really very much like a way into Letasacia, since the rest of the world is cool and they sort of want to own it now, and Ketthel would be extremely attractive to them if that ever became available...plus, they wouldn't half mind taking Zhaitannatel or Toledero for themselves, either. But they're an empire. Conquering's sort of what they do.

--The plains of Toledero: A self-contained geographical area somewhere to the east, mostly containing centaurs don't ask.

If you ask the centaurs who live there, the plains of Toledero are in fact a perfect square-shaped block of territory, given them before time immemorial by the god of earth. Of course, not even the geography around Toledero is square-shaped. So it's entirely possible that if you were to keep talking to them, and they told you about their Earth-god and his siblings, and their mother the spirit-moon, and that the sun wasn't a god at all but just a great ball of fire pretending, and that Destiny sometimes talked to the rarest among them through their hoofbeats...yeah, mostly you'd ignore them, but if you didn't almost-a-little believe the Destiny thing, you probably wouldn't be in Toledero in the first place, so there you go.

This is an Earth-land. Stubborn and proud and strong and stable, tough, difficult to break, fertile if it's given care, nurturing if you know how. It was given to the centaurs, they say, and so theirs it remains. They have things almost like cities, low-ceilinged buildings with two or three or all four walls missing, grouped together for the herd during the weather, to store clothes and food and tools and weapons, surrounded with high stone walls and protected well. Wolves, possibly, used to live in Toledero, but not s'much any more.

Their governement is hierarchical and based on family line, patrilinial for the lead stallions, matrilinial for the mares. Divorce, adultury, or 'playing around' outside of a set pair, selected based on strength and rank, is generally discouraged. Trading with the outside world doesn't happen much; they see no need.

The centaurs are very good at using their weapons, very good at defending their territory, and have been for time immemorial. Many, many hundreds of years ago, they showed this on point of spear and sword and arrow, and then forted in solid and tight, and somewhere along the way lost so much of what little air-fire-water influences they had to begin with. They've gone Earth-overboard, too stubborn, too traditional, willing to banish or kill their own if they step too far outside the established order.

Their borders tend to get violated regularly by their neighbors, especially the Zhaitannatel, who also violate Letasacia's borders with a shrug, or would if the Kitari mountains weren't more trouble to cross than they were worth. This is met with a certain amount of good-nature--they do not anger easily, at least--and some good few humans do live within and farm on Toledero, though subject of course to the centaurs' supreme authority.

In terms of the Destiny thing--as Anarchy chose the children of fire, Destiny chose the children of earth. Direct interfereing, esp. after Anarchy's move went so hugely and disasterously for everyone else, was distinctly not a thing anyone was going to do, but she's still a little closer with the centaurs than any of the other gods. Some of the more religious, more structured centaurs, then, are also prophets--significantly more in terms of centaurs than in terms of, say, vampires or dragons. (Water gets prophecy, too, but that's a whole other story. See Sikreth.) Nobody's altogether sure how these centaur mystics recieve their prophecies...but sometimes they just do.

A hundred years or so before Isabella first showed up, one of them wrote down a prediction of Hawkfire-returning, if somewhat more cryptically than all that. This has been somewhat important to Isabella ever since she accidentally let Zhesske XVI get away pregnant. She's been trying to draw out the destruction of Aerie for centuries--not so very much longer than it's taken her to destroy one or two cities before, but still, it's been a very long time. She won't consider her job done until Hawkfire is, which means Aerie doesn't get finished until Jessie comes back. (Yes, this backfires on her rather spectacularly. She's even more OCD than I am. Whatchya gonna do?)

Which brings us to...

--Sikreth: Creepy, creepy river-people along the Dola. I love them very much.

So, Toledero is Earth gone too far. Sikreth is Water.

Sort of, at least. I mean, the Dola was historically a naga-given river, like Toledero was given to the centaurs. But unlike earth, which is firm and closed against the outside world, water's generally very succeptible to outside influences. It just sort of...takes them in and makes them its own, after a while.

There was a group of people settled along the same length of the Dola where the naga were living, where the land was moist and cold and fruitful, and the fish were plenty. They were not cut off from the outside world--but the river carved a long valley, with high mountains on the west side, and Toledero to the east, and they settled down along the river and on it as comfortably and easily as if they'd flowed into it. They taught the naga their ways, and the naga taught them in return, mixing like a coctail in a shaker, until it was no longer sure whose language had been whose, or the idea to weave the nets to catch the strong and powerful pike, or the words of the language, or the changing-magic.

They were peace, mostly, tucked away there. Sometimes the rest of the world happened by. They would pass through on the river, ferocious in its turns, and sometimes pay the toll of King the Naga, sometimes in gold, sometimes in goods, sometimes in blood. Or they would stay, taken in by the naga or the people, taught their ways and their cultures, and little pieces of their lives past would diffuse in return, touching, in some small way, the life of the entire valley. Too, some would try to take the river, or the valley close in around it, and they would have no success; their armies would be chipped away as they marched through, swamped and drowned, and though they might think they were pushing the river-people in one direction, all they ever needed do was turn around and realize they'd flowed back into place as though nothing had ever been done.

It did not get the name 'Sikreth,' which means 'destroyer' in a language not Sacien or naga or human at all, for many, many years. But they were a quiet, quiescent valley, and in the darker hollows and places, things grew and changed, far away from the rest of the world. It is true that life was change--to be changed into something else by circumstances, to change them back yourself--and when the outside world did not interfere, they grew new things within themselves. The humans learned from the naga and the naga from the humans, and the both of them from the pike and the eel and the trout and the heron, from the beaver and the frog and the dragonfly, and the moon that nightly reflected in the surface of the water. They became more and more like each other, and less and less like the rest of the world, as time went along. And meanwhile, more and other things would pass by, now and again, and some flow back out again, and some stay, if they were like the ones here enough. Humans, yes, and one or two of the great dragons that had been naga once, and of the centaurs, who were proud and unyielding and cut down by the river or those that lived in it, quickly when they lost their precious balance or over a long, slow time, save a few who learned that to swim first you must not be afraid to drown, and gave themselves to the river and the people altogether. The quick-winged, capricious harpies, before and after they grew so bitter, who ran back out again or were caught and drowned, or who finally learned patience and calm. Even a vampire or two, who tried to light fury and destruction in the valley and found themselves washed under instead.

A water left too long alone stagnates and grows strange, and so it was for the Sikreth here. It is a quiet, deadly place of lurking teeth. The people do not quickly or ever trust those not like them, and lie, and mislead, with suspicious eyes. There are rumors of naga, of strange beasts with no names, of the humans themselves, eating raw the spleens or livers of unwary travelers. Only the bravest take the river, only at its most necessary; and most of those reach the other side battered, if at all. Any who goes into the territory of the Sikreth and returns again is in some way different forever, quieter, harsher or more gentle, slower or more quick.

It is said that their magic can turn a man into a frog or a bird or a naga, can turn a vampire or a dragon or a centaur into a man, can restore the old to youth and bring the dead to life. It is said that their witches see the crumbling walls of Time in their scrying-pools, all of what is to die, and some of what will someday be born after. They have no government, even the naga, every man and woman family and solitary, none queen or king. The laws are unstated, understood, enforced with harsh thoroughness. They do not form armies to invade--but they have moved up the Dola since Isabella came, as areas were in dispute, were unprotected, were free to slip into, quiet and quick and easy.

There is some cruelty to the Sikreth, and some kindness, but little enough of either; in main, only a cool, calm, soothed uncaring, that might echo peace or death. They are brittle and unfriendly in the winter. Armies of countries that surround them keep an eye on the edges of their lands warily, and sometimes, though not always or by command, shoot on sight.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 29th, 2006 01:37 am (UTC)
Dragons and centaurs and vampires, oh my!
Oct. 29th, 2006 08:25 am (UTC)
So, there are places in this world where I go frantically detail-accurate historical, trying to make it all sensible and realistic. And then there are places where I'm all, 'Fuck it, this is a little girl's fantasy world, and those centaurs have been in this story since the seventh grade.'

And the dragons are significantly better than the gryphons we'd have been dealing with a few years ago. Oh, yes.
Oct. 29th, 2006 01:21 pm (UTC)
Haven't heard s'much about gryphons in a while. Why not explore?

And Sikreth - majoro neato, though the Toldero and the centaurs of course sounds nifty!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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