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TACNES II - A Far Green Country

Discussion in 'Never Ending Stories' started by Thlayli, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    10,397
    Location:
    In the desert
    TACNES II – A Far Green Country

    “A civilization is a heritage of beliefs, customs, and knowledge slowly accumulated in the course of centuries, elements difficult at times to justify by logic, but justifying themselves as paths when they lead somewhere, since they open up for man his inner distance.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    “And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared.” –Homer​

    ---

    Modus Operandi:

    Thank you for joining me in this new endeavor.

    My name is Thlayli, and we are here to attempt to create history. The act of the Never Ending Story has a variety of elements which make it an exciting activity. Some tend to emphasize realism, others the power of story and myth. Some relish competition and the test of wills, others prefer cooperation. Everything is permitted and all is possible. This is a tableau upon which your desires will become reality. You are now the fates and the muses; you are death, the destroyer of worlds.

    In the attempt to forge history, that which appears beautiful and that which appears real should not be mutually exclusive. Story should not be sacrificed on the altar of dispassionate understanding, nor should the reverse be true. In order to truly craft history, you must be poets and scientists both. Because of the degree of difficulty this challenge represents, I have selected a few individuals, and placed in their hands great creative responsibility. They are not kings, nor are they nations; they are more like demi-gods. They will create many peoples and set them against one another. In time, their wills will clash, but for this brief moment, they act in isolation.

    We begin in the midst of a revolution: Independent of one another, in various places across the globe, a chosen few have abandoned an existence of migration. They have gathered in large groups, larger than ever before. Some have learned to symbolize their thoughts in an abstract fashion. For the time being, these people are aberrant heretics, but their prophecy has begun.

    Goals:

    This is a TACNES, which stands for Thlayli Accelerated Civilization Never Ending Story. Our goal is to realize a fully alternate world, as detailed as our own. We shall accomplish this by passing through a period of Eras, similar to the 'BT' format used by so many of our predecessors.

    Before this development phase becomes a normal NES far in the future, we shall advance to a period during which much of the world is on the brink of glimpsing modernity. This is understandably vague and poetic, as it would be presumptuous of me to assume where that natural ending point will be. As the world grows in detail, the players will grow in number, and many shall play their parts in time.

    Expectations:

    For each Era of history, I will require a minimum of three submissions: Political, Cultural, and Expository.

    The Political Submission will advance the political timeline in the region of your control. What is the region of your control? For the time being, it is your genitive “cradle,” as the common parlance has it. If you are ambitious, you could expand this region of control to an entire continent or more, though it is unlikely your fellow creators will let you do this unopposed. For the moment there will be no clashes between your political narratives; when disagreement does ultimately occur, one of my functions as moderator will be to resolve it. You are given the choice in this submission to interfere with your neighboring creators’ visions, to interact with them in mutual cohesion, or to leave them alone. Stylistic choices for this submission are variable, but a dry tone will not harm you here, though narrative concessions are welcome. Please provide the world with a wealth of individuals to make use of, not simply abstract plans.

    The Cultural Submission will introduce new concepts, practices, and beliefs into your region, and develop previously existing ones. This is a potpourri of anthropological information which can include, but is not limited to: Linguistic and writing information, religious beliefs and rites, architectural descriptions, dietary information, local customs, philosophy, music, economic structure, technology, and social organization. You are given a vast amount of leeway for this submission, with one maxim: More is better. If you decide to have multiple cultural families cohabiting in your region, more than one submission of this type may become necessary. Different sub-cultures within the same cultural family should be separately examined in the same submission.

    The Expository Submission could be summarily described as an “in-character story” of some sort. The idea is that this submission is supposed to look like the authentic production of one of your societies. Creativity is not just welcome here, it is practically required, as this submission is where you truly differentiate and deepen your people. For a good example of what would make a splendid Expository Submission for my NES, I recommend reading the heroic cycle of stories written by das in N3S III – End of Empires. This does NOT mean you should all write heroic cycles; your submission could be anything from a tomb stele to a priest-king’s edict. Multiple Expository Submissions per turn certainly improves the background, but is not required.

    Since there is little need for secrecy at this point, these submissions will fulfill the function of orders.

    Explanations:

    I apologize that I cannot currently accommodate everyone who would like to play. After the first turn or two, I envision opening up one or two additional regions to be guided by new players. You are welcome to put your name forward in the feedback thread for consideration, or to speak with me privately. Furthermore, as we progress and ever more highly developed cultures come onto the stage, the cradle-controlling players will have the option to bring in apprentices to handle one of the cultures under their control, with my approval.

    Current Objective: Era 1, The Mythopoeic Era

    The Mythopoeic Era – This is an era defined by its pseudo-historical character. Political figures and events have a high likelihood of later being distorted and mythologized, and when compared to the subsequent, more concrete historical record, the distance here between myth and history is not far at all. That is not to say that concrete achievements are not possible; urbanization, monument-building, and cultic ritual are all possible routes of exploration. Furthermore, this is a time of ur-culture formation, from which many children shall spring.

    It is entirely possible that you will have a well-recorded historical tradition that will survive this era into the ones to come, but do not ignore the all-encompassing power of myth, which dominates your thought structures at this time. The widespread usage of agriculture and bronze will become common to your societies throughout this period, projected to last for approximately 2,500 solar years.

    Exploratory seafaring is possible, though mostly through coast-hugging, as the seas are dangerous and maritime technology is unproven.

    The deadline for the submissions of the first Era, the Mythopoeic Era, is February 20, 2012.

    Please do not post yet, and if you are not a member of the invited players, do not post at all.
     
  2. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    10,397
    Location:
    In the desert
    Cradle Information:

    Light Blue: "Mediterranean"
    Sea Green: Temperate Forest/Partial Coniferous/Seasonal
    Green: Warm Temperate Grasslands
    Darker Green: Sub-Tropical/Non-Seasonal Forest
    Darkest Green: Jungle/Rainforest
    Light Brown: Desert
    Orange: Semi-Arid/Sahel/Savannah
    Brown: Steppe

    Region 1 - das



    Cradle Description:This region is one of contrasts. It is cloven by a vast, glacial mountain range, the peaks of which have an average height of 5000m. This range proved sufficient to arrest the migration of the reasonably dark-skinned people migrating westward along the coast from the hotter, dryer east. A small number of this migratory group managed to squeeze past the mountain range along the coast, but the few inhabitants of this land north of the range were displaced when a second migratory group or groups came out of the north and northeast some years later.

    In contrast to the southerners, darker-skinned people with mildly epicanthic folds, dark straight hair and universally gold eyes, the invaders north of the mountain range possessed lighter skin, rounder eyes, a number of hair colors ranging from light brown to blond to red, and a variety of eye colors. This somewhat heterogeneous collection of peoples might in fact have been a gradual flood of a variety of different migratory groups coming from different regions.

    The south, while barred to large-scale migration by the mountain range, manages to keep up a trickle of maritime contact with the peoples of the islands, though the tribes north of the range are currently not worth speaking to. It is almost certain that the more sedentary southern peoples, having been here longer, are better agriculturalists, for the moment.

    The peoples of the islands do not look like either the northerners or the southerners. They have olive skin, almond-shaped eyes of many colors, and almost all possess dark, curly hair. They are relatively more adept at technology than the northerners (who remain largely attached to hunting and gathering), having mastered seaborne fishing. Agricultural activities supplement their diet.

    Plant Domesticates: Rice (south), Grapes (islands), Wheat (islands, north [minor]), Olives (islands), Spices
    Animal Domesticates: Oxen, Horses (north, minor), Cows, Ducks, Water Buffalo (south), Dogs

    Region 2 - Masada



    Cradle Description: Though those who populate this land derive from the same stock, the terrain itself is a study in diversity. Sand dunes lap the far northern boundaries like waves; slowly they give way to scrubland, then increasingly dense forest cover as one moves southward. At the isthmus, this transitions into a fully-fledged rainforest.

    In the far east, the sea clearly dominates all, dividing a ring of green land. Many rivers run into these waters – in the south they issue from the endless forests; in the west they trickle, then flow out of the drier landscapes. Deep in the central north, aside from the river-carved valleys, numerous ridges dominate the landscape, with the occasional large lake in the defiles between. As one continues to the southwest, the divots in the landscape become ever more violent, and the ocean creeps into the valleys, slowly carving away at a continent that has fractured at the edge. Volcanic activity is a frequent visitor here.

    The peoples of the region tend towards the black and curly-haired, and tend to have darker skin than anywhere else.

    Plant Domesticates: Maize, Breadfruit, Mangoes, Yams, Millet (north), Grain (minor), Palm, Spices
    Animal Domesticates: Donkeys, Elephants, Chickens, Horses (very, very minor), Exotic Beasts, Cats

    Region 3 - NK



    Cradle Description: The south of this region is likely the most verdant and sheltering of the early civilized areas. Gently rolling hills and a pleasantly seasonal deciduous forest surround a calm river valley system, which empties into the eastern sea. Both seas are salty, and a connecting channel (which has the appearance of a river, but is salty) carves dramatically through the rock of the highland bluffs, passing through a series of cataracts and gorges. The eastern sea is on a plateau of considerably higher elevation than the western, and it is this gradient that creates the salt-river.

    The highland plains, less suited to agriculture due to the salty river, eventually transitions to true desert in the far north. In the south rises a remarkably steep snowcapped mountain range that is nigh-impenetrable. The foothills of the southern mountains are known to grow many varieties of tuberous starchy vegetables, the cultivation of which is proving to be highly effective. In the river valley, rice (of a very different variety than that seen in Region 1) is cultivated as well as a secondary crop to supplement the potatoes in times of blight.

    The people's skin gradates from light brown in the north to a pale vaguely sallow color in the south. All of the people have pronounced epicanthic folds.

    Plant Domesticates: Potatoes, Rice, Apples, Tomatoes, Berries
    Animal Domesticates: Yaks, Llamas, Turkeys, Capybaras, Elk, Dogs

    Region 4 - Iggy



    Cradle Description: This region is dominated by a desert. This desert extends east endlessly, as far as the inhabitants can tell. A vast, occasionally stormy sea lies to the northwest. To the northeast, the grasses of the steppe proliferate, home to a number of migratory peoples. To the south, the desert turns to foothills filled with hot scrub and the occasional copse of trees. Further to the south, a fragmented chain of peaks bearing the hallmark of a highly eroded, ancient mountain range shelters a number of saltwater lakes.

    It is a difficult region in which to live, outside of the banks of the great river. Large, flightless birds and other megafauna once provided a major source of sustenance, but many have been hunted almost to extinction, a development which is leading to the rapid transition to agriculture in the valley. The river itself, despite being large, does not flood quite well, which has given the people of this region great skill at artificial irrigation, and an organized (perhaps survivalist) mentality that has not quite established itself in other regions yet.

    Herding dominates the lifestyle of the peoples who live in the southern foothills. These semi-nomads are in contact with the settled people of the river valley. It is unclear what the peoples of the steppe do, besides periodically trade with and menace those who live in the valley. Almost all of this region's people have brown, suntanned skin, and wavy dark hair. A scattering of blonde-haired, lighter-skinned people live in the steppe.

    Plant Domesticates: Wheat, Millet, Barley, Oats, Chickpeas, Dates, Figs, Citrus (minor), Olives
    Animal Domesticates: Horses (minor), Goats, Sheep, Chickens, Donkeys, Large Flightless Birds (minor), Cats


    Repository:
     
  3. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
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    Location:
    In the desert
    Abbreviated Timeline:

    Historical Entities:

    Current Entities:

    Minutiae:
     
  4. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

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    Location:
    In the desert
    Those of you who are players may now post. Outside of official NES material, like submissions, please post in the OOC thread.
     
  5. Kraznaya

    Kraznaya Princeps

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    Location:
    Land of the Successor
  6. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    Location:
    Osaka
    Yo, I'm offended and stuff for not being accepted in the first round. Whatever, I know what economics is and stuff like that. I also like oceans and islands.
     
  7. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
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    Location:
    In the desert
    There will be opportunities for you to play. Though you might have been confused, please post in the OOC thread.

    Edit: Removed fish from the list of domesticates, since technically everyone has access to fish, and they're also not a domestic animal. :p
     
  8. Disenfrancised

    Disenfrancised Beep Beep

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Only the News You Need
    A) Whats the scale on these maps?
    B) Could you please use a yellow for Mediterranean climates, this cyan hurts my brain as I keep expecting it to be tundra or cold.
    C) George Hadley is going to fecking cut you for those climate distributions. I'm not going to be far behind.
    D) Disease burden is going to be important - if humanity evolved near one particular cradle, the jungles there will be much less amenable to settlement.
     
  9. Disenfrancised

    Disenfrancised Beep Beep

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    Quantities of fish vary enormously by region, and salted fish is a very valuable trade good, you should at least mention places in the cradles where fishing can support urban communities.
     
  10. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

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    Location:
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    I'll answer these questions here, but in the future we'll do such discussions in the OOC thread.

    A) See NK's response in the OOC thread.

    B) I'm not stopping you from recoloring them for your personal use. :p

    C) The climate belts make somewhat more sense when you see the big picture. AT LEAST major climate zones conform roughly to the latitudes you'd find them on Earth. I'm not inherently opposed to retconning certain climates after the fact if there's an extremely compelling reason, but the general picture is what it is.

    D) The jungles at the southern extent of your region are an effective barrier to settlement for this very reason.
     
  11. North King

    North King blech

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    My dreams broke troubled last night.

    I saw the coming of a three-fold man. His eyes had eyes, and those eyes of his eyes had eyes as well. He looked through me, and saw three layers deep – my eyes, my thoughts, my soul. I knew him as a shaman from the start, but he did not answer my questions. He just saw, and stood. I grew angry at him, cried out at him, tried to hit him, but I could never quite seem to reach him. He always stood beyond my grasp without ever seeming to move...

    I saw the building of some pale temple. It was carved, I believe, from the white stone of a moonlit hillock, and from its peak, from the room of the temple fire, you could see the whole vale.

    What? Yes. It had eight sides, and it rose in three tiers. Four-fold steps fell from each side, and I ascended each corner of the temple simultaneously. I saw as I cannot see now – through eight eyes, seeing the northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest – all at once. I could see the pitted markings and weatherings in the one set of steps, and then the sun-beaten discoloring of the other... I cannot explain quite how. None of my visions stood distorted. They simply were.

    Pillars rose from the base of each tier, carved with leaves, branches, and berries, and their crowns with wolves and fire-birds. The wolves, I think, were to ward the eastward and westward sides, the birds to welcome newcomers to the temple.

    Some strange scene greeted me in the shrine – a sacred fire burned and lit a ceiling carved to look like the heavens above. I could see familiar stars – the Hunter, the Pyre, the Headscarf... and some shapes I had never seen before, shapes from some alien sky.

    No. I do not even think I remember them fully...

    There the three-fold man appeared to me again, with two of his brothers, and this time he spoke. This is the temple that your children's children shall build, he said, the eyes of his eyes of his eyes whirling mad gyres within themselves. This is the temple of your people.

    I asked him what lay in the second tiers and the third tiers, if I had already witnessed heaven in this one. And he smiled and said, that is not your dream. Yours is the first tier, and yours are the first people, the ones to see the dream. Your son shall see the dream within, and his daughter shall see the dream without. And her children will put the capstone on the temple, and it shall be a beacon for a thousand peoples, the first temple. And none shall forget the glory of this temple until the end of days, when all men have died and the dream within has faded.

    And I cursed him, and asked why it should be my children's children's children that see the whole of this temple, and not I, not I who would begin work on it and devote my life to it. And he told me that I would see it, in another life, but that I could only attain this desire if I took the greatest of care and diligence.

    And then he faded, and I saw the stair leading to the second level. I yearned to ascend further, but something told me if I did, then I would never leave the dream. And though I wanted to stay here forever, so beautiful and so golden it was, I knew I could not. For I had a temple to build.

    Of course I do. And you will help me. The Pale Temple shall be the first and last of its kind. None can properly emulate it, and none will want to, for it will look across the face of the world.

    Thus I have seen it.
     
  12. landlubber

    landlubber Scottish Nationalist

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    1,534
    Hello, everyone.
    I've never played an NES before, and I'm considering joining this one. Are sign ups open, and how do I get started?
     
  13. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

    Joined:
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    Location:
    In the desert
    Read the rules first off. Signups aren't exactly 'open' but in time, you can still play. And then if you're interested, post your interest in the OOC thread. Perhaps someone will decide to use your talents to describe one of their sub-cultures.

    Welcome to NESing.
     
  14. North King

    North King blech

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    Fragmentary inscription found near the ruins of the Pale Temple

    1 Lo, I am Alaxuk, promised, destroyer. 2 My dominion over men knows no bounds; all who draw breath must bow before me. 3 All men live within the bounds of my realm, for I have subdued all men; beyond the bounds of my realm lie only the witless and the weak.

    4 My father was Sadabak, whose father was […] whose father was Xas, first king and father of all men. 5 Lo! observe that my lineage is of Xas, incomparable among men, the mightiest of warriors and the proudest of lords. 6 He who was first, I am of his blood.

    7 His blood runs through my veins; and my rule was foretold in the dream of the shaman Camyd. 8 He foretold that my reign would bring bounty to the lands watered by the Bela, and lo, so it has. 9 He foretold that my reign would bring all the lands of the Bela under my sway, and lo, so it has. 10 He foretold that my empire would wash its feet in the Alynaz and rest its head against the mountains, and so it does. 11 So I have ruled according to the dreams of the shaman; mine is the promised reign.


    * * * * * * * * *​

    I dreamed of my father's temple last night, and the three-fold man. I am no shaman, to be sure. But a prophetic dream it surely was, for I have seen what no one else has imagined.

    I have seen the second tier.

    But I wander. The dream began, as most of mine do, under a starry sky. The three-fold man appeared there, and though his visage terrified me – eyes within eyes within eyes, his ears and mouth of bizarre shapes – my father had warned me of him, and I did not flinch. We stood looking at one another for a long time; my eyes locked with his many eyes. At length, he turned, and as I looked beyond him, I saw the Pale Temple, rising like a sliver of the moon out of the forest.

    But something caught my eye. The Temple had a second tier.

    My heart started to race. I reached for the temple, and like in any dream, I suddenly stood at its base. I ascended the steps, and I saw it all with perfect clarity – the stone facade, rippling like white waves down the side, the first tier, great columns standing taller than four men atop one another, the artifice of a generation, wolves and firebirds and more such things. The fires within the shrines burned still, and the ceiling, already stained with soot, showed an unknown sky.

    And then I kept climbing, and a stair that I had never seen before continued on into the sky, and I came to the second tier. Here, too, the columns rose. Their sides were patterned with dead vines and leafless branches; their crowns by the skulls of the animals that had guarded the levels below. A relief above the gate that led into the temple had hollow eyes surrounded by a tessellation.

    I stepped within the second tier, and there again I saw the three-fold man, and he spoke with an awful voice. This is the temple of your father. It is a place of shape and line, art without life. This is your temple. This is the temple of your children, and your children's children shall see it complete. Yours is the second tier – the one of the dream within. For though the dream is all-encompassing, it is made of a billion little dreams. Everyone has a dream within themselves, struggling to gain voice – sometimes many dreams, thousands or tens of thousands, and to ignore them is folly. For is not the smallest thought of a man as real as the grandest sweep of the dream?

    You, then, must look within yourself, and find the dream within, the dream that has a thousand sisters and brothers in your own kin. The dream within, then, is the thoughts of man and woman, and in it you conceive a reality that is both greater and lesser than the reality through which you move. In it are all of your follies and your glories.

    This is your heritage – that you may build the second tier of the temple. Your daughter shall dream of the third tier, and the dream without. Her children shall be allowed to place the capstone on the temple, and thus shall the Pale Temple be completed – like a silver mountain that gleams from the mountains to the Alynaz.

    Do not grieve, that you will not see the Pale Temple complete. For the dream within continues even as the dreamer dies, and you shall see it in another life.
     
  15. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

    Joined:
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    12,396
    Location:
    Osaka
    The Song of the Bitter Water People

    Nbele. Nbele. Nbele.

    Once the water was sweet
    sweet enough to drink;
    but now, bitter water
    bitter water and not sweet.

    Nbele. Nbele. Nbele.

    Once the land was green
    Green enough to eat;
    but now there is nothing -
    nothing to eat.

    Nbele. Nbele. Nbele.

    Once we walked
    But now we bow;
    Past fields of green
    No longer ours

    Nbele. Nbele. Nbele.

    Tears once flowed
    Down green banks
    Past where we sat ;
    Now tears flow from
    Eyes not banks
    Where we sit -
    whips on back

    Nbele. Nbele. Nbele.

    Once upon
    Long ago
    It was ours

    Nbele. Nbele. Nbele.
    Nbele. Nbele. Nbele.
    Nbele. Nbele. Nbele.
     
  16. North King

    North King blech

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    OOC and yawn inducing. Woohoo. This acts as my two OOC submissions simultaneously.

    Yr-Azva Cultural Complex

    The most settled people in the region by far, these peoples have begun to rely almost exclusively on domesticated lowland rice for their sustenance. Their exploding populations have prompted the construction of numerous settlements all throughout the Bela River system, with the majority and the largest of these concentrated at the fork between the Bela and the Kazun. The most prominent of these sites are the city of Xuday and the nearby Pale Temple. The culture displays sophisticated religious and political systems, a wide-ranging trade network that essentially incorporates the entire cradle, sophisticated art and architecture, and so on.

    Historical Overview

    A detailed history of Azva, as with nearly all early civilizations, would be completely impossible to reconstruct. Peoples of the time, after all, wrote infrequently at best, and those with access to writing had little interest in recounting events accurately, if at all – thus only Retellings, inscriptions, and some scant literature survive as sources from the Yr-Azva themselves; neighboring cultures (especially the Thakaz) had a rich oral tradition, later written down, that provides a few more tantalizing hints.

    From what we can gather, Yr-Azva cities had been constructed for centuries before what we might call the Empire of Azva emerged. The mythical founder of the civilization, Xas, and his shaman-wife Simyl may well have existed, but any polity they created vanished immediately after their deaths.

    The rise of the city of Xuday started around the time of the reign of the emperor Sadabak, who almost certainly was the one who began the construction of the Pale Temple under the advice of his prominent shaman-guru, Zama. His successor Alaxuk continued and ultimately completed its construction, as well as the construction of the palace at Xuday and the island-fort in the nearby river. Alaxuk also seems to have been responsible for the bulk of the territorial acquisitions of the Empire, conquering nearly the whole of the Bela River valley.

    His most significant roadblock, and indeed the people who frustrated Yr-Azva ambitions repeatedly for the next few centuries, were the Thakaz city states in the north. Alaxuk managed to subdue them after a protracted campaign, but his successor Imic utterly failed to hold onto these gains, and the Thakaz quickly resurfaced as independent polities. For the moment, though despite their intransigence, the Thakaz remained able only to thwart immediate Yr-Azva ambitions – the greater Empire of Azva remained largely intact for almost a century after Alaxuk's death.

    Ultimately, of course, the Empire would fall, and fall quite spectacularly – but that is a story for another day.

    “Religion”

    The Yr-Azva cosmology and “religious” beliefs are developed enough, perhaps, to call them a religion. But they lack many of the characteristics that we associate with that word.

    There are no Yr-Azva gods. Not even metaphorical ones, or invisible ones, or mystical ones. Spirits exist, and indeed pervade the world in a very animist fashion, but the idea of a god-spirit that is somehow infinitely more powerful than the others around it is completely antithetical to how their mysticism functions.

    The world is a dream, or so the Yr-Azva hold. The dreams we have are a sort of microcosm or distillation of the whole world – most of them are set in the same world, and we dream about our friends or family more often than not. The “real world” is a shared dream by many billions of dreamers, who needn't all be people. In many respects, indeed, it is quite dreamlike – things happen for completely inexplicable reasons, and very small actions by any given dreamer can change the world radically.

    The dream influences and is influenced by every dreamer, and as such prayer is nonexistent, at least in forms we'd recognize. Nor is there a “priesthood.” Instead, there are shamans, who use ritual and magic to influence the world; they are all of them prophets and magicians, healers and mystics. Stuff that would be waved off as superstition in our world is the canon here; the stuffs of organized religion elsewhere would be laughed off as superstition here.

    Shamans are special from their childhood, often apprenticed under another. They are are marked by “magics,” the gift of healing and, more prosaically, dreams. With the growth of cities they have begun to congregate in temples, often built on places of great spiritual significance – which usually means a place which has particular potency for magical ritual or dreaming – and run by a spiritual leader of repute, a guru. These usually coincide with striking geographic features, or lie on points of significance – the most prominent early temple (the Pale Temple) stands on the most impressive hill near the capital of the Empire of Azva.

    A shaman's dream is a sacred thing. Their visions of the three-fold world are not mere trifles: while any man may have a prophetic or meaningful or insightful dream, every dream of a shaman's is accorded this status. If they seem pointless at first, it is because we are not ready to read them, or we have been too impatient, or overlooked something. They are blessed and cursed in this way, and thus their visions are treated with the utmost reverence.

    As such, the moment they awake in the morning, another shaman will hear their visions and memorize them. A Retelling is a sacrosanct thing, unalterable for any reason – every word they speak is recorded in the memories of the other, none are added. They sometimes take on the character of one side of a conversation – answers to questions which are quickly forgotten.

    In time, the memorization process and the difficulty of passing down hundreds of dreams prompted the invention of record-keeping systems – whence the Yr-Azva writing system, detailed below.

    Other superstitions and whatnot exist, of course. Yr-Azva consider buildings with west or east-facing walls to be unlucky; most cities are built with the roads on a northeast-southwest/southeast-northwest axis. Forests and living things are quite sacred; the Pale Temple itself is situated on a hill in the middle of a significant grove that has been isolated by the expansion of agriculture, a ring of trees surrounded by rice paddies.

    Government

    The origin of Azva lies in the city of Xuday, at the fork of the Bela and the Kazun. City-states had fought for hundreds of years, subdued one another, and occasionally grown, but Xuday was the first city to conquer far and wide – and then to have to hold them. It was the first city that had to contemplate the problems of lasting governmental and physical infrastructure for empire-building; it was the first city that had to face the challenge of ruling alien peoples completely unlike the Yr-Azva.

    Yr-Azva rulers typically had a single wife, but preferably numerous children. Succession passed not to the eldest, but to the “promised,” that is to say, whichever son was dreamed to be the successor. The favorite of the imperial shamans usually had the honor of choosing the successor – their actual input varied wildly depending on the shaman and the reigning emperor in question. Sometimes the “dream” was a mere formality to confirm the successor the emperor wanted, while sometimes the shamans manipulated the emperors completely. Usually it was a more balanced, level-headed discussion. Occasionally it was a literal “dream.” The other sons might suffer any of a variety of fates – from death to exile to lordship.

    Below the ruler himself existed hundreds of nobility. In the early Empire of Azva, these nobility differed only in wealth and absolute power; their actual rank remained equal until later. Military and merchantry, farmers and artisans ranked below them. A bureaucracy had to be constructed.

    Military

    The Army of Xuday eventually managed to conquer all Azva, but this was less a function of innovation and more a function of manpower and stubbornness. For the most part, they relied almost entirely on traditional techniques – a mixed force of spearmen and archers, skilled in pitched battle but not too much else. Siege warfare typically involved starving the city out, a brutal assault, or bribery. The biggest challenge facing any Yr-Azva force tended to be logistical concerns – the development of the road system as the Empire grew in wealth and power proved to be crucial for moving large numbers from place to place.

    Economic

    Ancient Azva ruled almost exclusively over the Bela river valley, a temperate region of wooded lowlands surrounded by hills. The lowlands turned out to be perfect for growing rice, which was domesticated reasonably early; Yr-Azva civilization relied almost exclusively on the crop for its staple food. The vast majority of their economy revolved around the production and transportation of said rice, though other agricultural practices supplemented it somewhat – llama herding, turkey farming, and potato farming, particularly in the chillier and drier uplands.

    The Yr-Azva trading network extended throughout and far outside the boundaries of their native river valley. Much of their local trade happened over the rivers, as they were readily navigable by birchbark canoes and later, larger watercraft. Eventually, roads began to snake between the cities, but their usage without large draft animals remained rather limited, and they existed primarily for military use.

    Art

    As the first urbanized bronze age culture in the region, the fact that the art of the Yr-Azva lacked the sophistication of later ages can hardly come as a surprise. But nonetheless, they displayed creativity and verve in several fields.

    The majority of Azva's energies – at least, post unification – seem to have been devoted to the construction of grand architectural monuments, devices of wood and stone that would impress anyone who happened upon one of their cities. Xuday, of course, held many of the most impressive. A massive wall ringed the city proper, which was dominated by a great rectangular palace complex. Much effort had been put into excavating the area around the palace, so that emissaries or supplicants would pass under the outer walls of the palace; a great rampart surrounded it and protected it from river flooding. The palace contained a number of amenities – a tremendous series of royal kitchens, luxurious rooms, a baths open to all of the emperor's retinue, and of course a cavernous reception hall, ringed by thirty foot pillars, with the king seated high above anyone who would enter.

    Immediately outside the city, of course, stood the Pale Temple, an octagonal structure with four ascending staircases and three levels, representing the three levels of understanding that a person could achieve. The Temple stood an awe-inspiring three hundred feet high, but in truth this is less impressive than it sounds – the core of the temple is a natural hill; it had merely been resurfaced with white limestone to give it a glimmering coat; the priests erected the shrines of the temple in three concentric rings on the hillsides. Occasional torrential rains could seriously damage the temple, causing landslides that cast away great sections of the coat and wrecked havoc on the shrines, but these would only come by every few decades – so long as Xuday remained preeminent, the temple would stand.

    Azva's architecture tended to focus on two things – ornate carving and the quest to overawe. To the latter end, most entrances sloped downwards into a lowered amphitheater, with the privileged waiting to accept comers – effectively putting the latter on display. Columns kept the heavy ceilings aloft, though a lack of superior structures prevented the Yr-Azva from ever building too large. The former was on display most frequently in delicate sculpture that adorned the outsides of columns and sunken decorative reliefs in the walls – most frequently using nature motifs.

    Smaller-scale sculpture, especially of bronze, wooden, or stone figurines, circulated all through the empire. These overlapped to some degree with their written glyphs (see below).

    Yr-Azva literature had a limited existence due to the extreme cumbersomeness of its writing system, but oral stories abounded, as did the aforementioned rich tradition of dream Retellings.

    Yr-Azva music was among the most clearly articulated of early cultures. Primitive forms of the notation systems that would later be used throughout the region co-evolved with writing itself; from what we can gather, the majority of their music involved vocal melodies with a lyre's accompaniment. Occasionally flutes would be used instead of voice; the use of later-ubiquitous reed instruments would have to wait until the development of more northern cultures.

    Language

    Phonemes:
    A (ah), E (eh), I (ih), Y (ee), U (ooh)
    L, K, B, P, M, N, V, D, R, C (ch), X (sh), Z, S, H, TH (as in “the” or “there”) T (primarily in loanwords)

    Vocabulary:

    Nouns
    Laxuk (LA-shook) – destroyer
    Proper Nouns
    Alynaz (ah-lee-nahz) – The central sea
    Azva (AHZ-vah) – the Yr-Azva name for themselves.
    Bela (BEH-lah) – the southern river system
    Dec (dech) – easternmost tributary of the Bela.
    Kazun (KAH-zun) – longest tributary of the Bela.
    Kupe (KOO-peh) – southernmost tributary of the Bela.
    Articles
    Na – the
    Particles
    Yr – modifier; makes a noun into an adjective.
    Za – indicates a verb is past tense.

    Writing

    Long strands of finely carved beads of wood or stone (or still later, glass) that began quite crudely but rapidly became refined artworks in their own right. Each bead would carry a three-dimensional glyph which represented, usually quite literally, some word. The first strands thus acted as memory-aids, essentially telling the main points of the story; a dream about the death of a king might contain the beads for “death” and “king.” Later strands would start to use various knots symbolizing common words like conjunctions or articles in between the beads.

    The vocabulary of glyphs was hardly stable or standardized – shamans carved new ones as they saw fit. Common words ended up with similar glyphs across most strands, but exceptions abounded.

    Naturally, this system proved unwieldy for the vast majority of people; only the priesthood and the elite used it to any great extent. A parallel records-keeping system existed in the primitive bureaucratic arm of the Yr-Azva government, but it lacked any sort of poetry. Ultimately, a valuable, multi-function glyphic writing system blended elements of both systems – though it was mostly used for governmental purposes.

    Names

    Female
    Bethay
    Simyl
    Paza
    Malbaz
    Zara
    Thany
    Valay
    Dabany
    Elzul

    Male
    Betham
    Danax
    Pasam
    Xas
    Samic
    Kotham
    Salam
    Alaxuk
    Sadabak
    Juthem
    Camyd
    Sud


    Xuday and the Pale Temple are located on the east bank of the main Yr-Azva River, immediately across from the place where it meets the tributary dominated by the Thakaz.
     
  17. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

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    The Beginning of the World

    Liktwm was barren and infertile before it came.

    Kwlkekkimw had wandered the eternal desert, feet burning with every step over the lifeless sands.

    Ahead lay the destination, the great mountain cirque of Sepekwmek.

    At last, the journey was finished.

    Kwlkekkimw cast the Godstaff Mirw into the heart of Sepekwmek.

    The Wanderer’s features dissolved as his flesh became the endless waters of the Great River of Life.

    Kwlkekkimw stretched from the mountains to the desert, and where it touched the land grew green.

    At the head of Kwlkekkimw, Mirw rippled and transformed into the Godtree.

    From the Godtree’s myriad fruits spewed for the life life abundant, from lowliest grass to mightiest beast.

    Liktwm grew rich, as Kwlkekkimw fed the spawn of Mirw.

    Samikatw, wife of Kwlkekkimw, watched from the great cirque of Sepekwmek as Liktwm blossomed.

    In the fertile cirque Samikatw gave birth to nine daughters and a son.

    In Sepekwmek, the children grew strong and healthy.

    Mkwektw, the son, took a sharp stone and eviscerated his mother.

    The children feasted well that night, and cast their mother’s body to join their father, the river.

    Mkwektw took his sisters as wives, as his father had taken his daughter as his wife.

    The first family traveled downriver, and found Samikatw’s body turned into a great hall.

    So began the tale of the first city.
     
  18. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

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    Early Liktwmic Civilization

    Human remains along the Kwlkekkimw river have been dated back over 40 000 years, and the first clear signs of civilization, and agriculture date back to roughly 8000 years before the present. A rich variety of grains, pulses and fruits were domesticated around this time, providing the agricultural stimulus for the formation the first permanent settlements. These early communities had populations of up to a few thousand, with little differentiation between the mud-brick buildings providing indications of social stratification.

    By 7700 years ago, a culture on the central Kwlkekkimw known as ‘Pottery A’, named for comparatively advanced and artistically-painted pottery, begins to appear on the historical record. Their settlements contained a more diverse range of building sizes, indicating the development of a more developed social hierarchy. This culture spread, over the course of the next few centuries, up and down the length of the river, from near to the headwaters down to the marshy delta, either assimilating or exterminating all other cultures in the way.

    By 7000, all technology, from pottery to textiles to architecture, seems to be influenced if not directly descended from that of the Pottery A culture. The communities seem to steadily grow in size, and the first alleged ‘writing systems’ appear around this time. However, it remains unclear if these simple marked clay blocks are some sort of art, a long-forgotten tally system, or actual writing. The first definite writing systems seem to evolve gradually from pictograms, which had become abstracted to the point of unrecognizeability by 6500. By this point, the Pottery A-descended cultures had diverged into a range of different societies, which differed on a continuum along the length of the river.

    Powerful city-states with heavily mythologized kings thrive from 6500 to 5500. There are several myths referring to certain kings uniting ‘all of Liktwm’ and the entire length of the Kwlkekkimw, but these stories rarely corroborate with each other, and their logistic bases are flimsy at best. More notable events from this time include the development of organized religion (as judged from the construction of large religious structures and the wide distribution of replicated tablets bearing stories of the River-Man and his kin, and the sagas of the God-Staff.

    Also important was the opening of contacts between the riverine civilizations and their neighbours. Nomadic steppe tribes occasionally crossed the arid lands to trade, and in several instances settled on the river themselves, disrupting the smooth cultural continuum into something more resembling a patchwork. To the south, Liktwmic civilizations traversing into the mountains beyond the headwaters of their holy river. The pastoral Jinglau tribes, who inhabited the arid valleys around the salty seas nestled in the heart of the Gurlen mountains, provided a great deal of valuable trade goods, crops and animal domesticates which triggered a minor agricultural revolution on the Kwlkekkimw.

    Warfare seems to have been regular between these early city states. Most warfare was fought between forces armed with slings, war-clubs and spears, in the rare cases when long, straight pieces of wood were available. Armour was composed of tightly woven reeds, with wicker shields.

    Various alliances and brief empires are recorded during this time, but none succeeded in making a major mark on history until Mrk, just under 5000 years ago. One of the furthest upstream of the Liktwmic cultures, Mrk also enjoyed the greatest of the fruits of contact with the Jinglau, and found itself in possession of both greater wealth and greater manpower than its downstream counterparts. Collecting a grand army, Mrk embarked on a long campaign of conquest which would see the entirety of the Kwlkekkimw united under a single Lktwmic Empire.

    This First Dynasty, or Mrkid Empire as it has sometimes been referred, spread a unified style of architecture across the Kwlkekkimw, bringing with it a consistent code of laws and a unified interpretation of the shared religion of the region, one which placed particular emphasis on the divine descent of the Monarchy via the male lineage of Kwlkekkimw.

    Not only did the Mrkid Dynasty serve to unify Liktwmic culture, it also spread its customs outside of the traditional range of its people on the river’s shorelines. Pushing out to the coastline for the first time, the Mrkids incorporated the semi-nomadic Huala to the north of Kwlkekkimw’s efflux, even extending far north enough to contact the Vitkr, primitive seafarers and fishermen living on the eastern shore of the great bay. To the south, Mrkid kings traversed Sepekwemek to enter the lands of the Jinglau. The southerners proved to be somewhat more resistant to conquest than their northern counterparts, but could ultimately do little to avoid conquest in the long term. Several isolated valleys held out, but the vast majority of the region fell to Mrk. Now spanning from the distant ocean all the way to the salt seas and mountains of Jinglau, Mrk was a resplendent monument to the achievements of the Liktwmic people.

    In a century, it would be dead.
     
  19. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

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    Human Cultures at 8000 years before the present*.


    *'Present' being an entirely arbitrary time.
     
  20. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Osaka
    The Great King dances around his domain, turning great circles as his sparkling subjects rise and fall with the seasons change. It is He who watches over this land, and it is to him we turn when the harvest fails, when the bull elephant attacks our huts and when the Great Nbele take to their spears and turn upon us. He is our solace in dark bitter water nights, He is our solace in the fields not our own when the Master is asleep, it is He who guides us to freedom on the endless plains, and it is He who guides us across the endless plains when our world ends.

    Nbele, a people and place, indeed a world entire. It was not always so because before the Nbele were the people of the Sweetwater, the Wah-ska, who lived upon the great plains, along the great river, among the marshes and in the hills of Nbele. With the coming of the 'Great Lords' of the Nbele all that changed; the 'Wah-ska' or those who bore that name became exiles, slaves or dead we are told in Nbele sources. Even the word Wah-ska ceased to be used and indeed we might never had stumbled across it were it not for the fact that Kbla was definitively linked to the Nbele words for weak, meek and forgiving twenty years ago. This spurned a detailed analysis of the source material, which with some difficulty and a great deal of luck revealed Wah-ska.

    The story of this discovery deserves its own book but it will suffice for here at least to reproduce it in short. What happened is this: using infrared photography on a 3500 before present (BP) year old statue revealed, near to the base, barely legible script of a style of writing even older still (dated with confidence to about 4500 BP). With some care these were deciphered and found to contain a short inscription asking the chief Nbele god to strike down some troublesome 'Wah-ska' a word hitherto unknown. With the assistance of some linguists it was possible to determine that the word itself, one of a rare few, was of Wah-ska origin. Further analysis narrowed down the meaning to something like 'People of the Sweet (Fresh) Water'.

    How these dates added up, the statue itself being rather a great deal younger than the text itself was a matter of some controversy. Some suspected that the text was not as it seemed and was perhaps representative of a novice stone cutter practicing on a piece of stone that was later employed in a statue. Evidence for this case was the difficulty of actually reading the work, efforts had been made to remove it, and the inferior quality of the stone itself which was not of the type typically found in statutes of that kind. The solution, and a remarkable piece of detective work, was this: the statute was a copy of an original dated to around 4500 BP, which was subsequently copied 3500 BP when the style of writing had changed, such that the original text already old was in effect illegible and utterly unintelligible to everyone alive.

    The kicker was that the text itself was from another piece, details of which can still be seen in the copy, that was scrapped clean for another purpose. For whatever reason this wasn't done properly, the time sensitivity of the tomb piece has been suggested as a reason. The net result of which was that when the original was copied, these unusual features and markings were carried over into the present piece. This whole sequence of events tells us two things (1) how far advanced the study of Nbele and Wah-ska culture has advanced in the last two decades alone and (2) how thorough the destruction of Wah-ska culture was.

    We don't know a great deal however, as this episode might suggest, of the Wah-ska. We do know from archaeological evidence that the Wah-ska did farm and raise animals; though it seems likely, on balance, that the Wah-ska were for the most parts still hunter-gatherers. There is some support for a gradual increase in the areas under cultivation and in the number of animals on the plains courtesy of a careful study of ancient pollen. Though this is hardly definitive and is not as has been suggested evidence of a thriving eden. The evidence found in burial sites of violent deaths, the high numbers of infants and young children and the low average age of those buried should be enough to disprove this narrative. Interestingly, the prominent place of elephants in Nbele society is already evinced in Wah-ska burials as whole elephants were sometimes buried in the same sites and often the same graves as people.

    Evidence for an actual migration of Nbele is even scantier. In actual fact there is no evidence. Much that was supposed to be emblematic of 'Nbele' settlement, the burial of elephants for instance, have since been proven to have a basis in Wah-ska material culture. Embarrassingly, 'Nbele' long spears may have been adopted form the Wah-ska, though the shorter stabbing spears might have been an original Nbele invention. (Though there are now some questions about this). There is some evidence of a change in burial customs, which corresponds with the supposed irruption of the Nbele, but these 'war-furnished' inhumations have been found in areas outside of the supposed settlement spread of the Nbele.

    This is not to say that a migration did not occur; the presence of a distinct language would seem to suggest it. But this should not be taken as anything more than a migration not a great one as was claimed in propagandist, and frankly racist, works of the past. What it should be instead viewed as is the introduction either of a linguistically distinct elite, who managed to place themselves atop the Wah-ska, and through a long process of assimilation slowly smothered the Wah-Ska. The alternative view is that the Wah-ska themselves adopted Nbele culture and language as a conscious move arising out of a respect of the prestige that Nbele culture afforded them. It is difficult to reconcile either with the rapid demographic transition that occurred in the 4000s as the population rose and land was put under much more intensive and expansive use but there's no sense in forcing the narrative to suit either observation.

    One thing that might be ascribed to Nbele influence - elite or otherwise - was the rise of the Cult of the Great King. The use of Nbele sacral words and how it spread would seem to support this narrative. Though the rapid adoption of the Great King by the Wah-ska should admit some caution. The Great King known at that time as the Great One perhaps for want of a specific word for King was often depicted in his aspect of the Great Elephant. Although some scholars have cautioned against reading back the Great Elephant into the very distant past; it might just be a coincidence. The archaeological evidence is inconclusive on this matter, the image is depicted very early and seldom again until 3000BP when it became his premier symbol.

    At this point we can skip ahead to around 4500PB when the first of the 'Great Kings' enter the archaeological record. It should be stressed, that the presence of a Krall need not mean that there was a Great King present; or that the term had even entered use. But for want of a better one it will be employed here. These early Kralls were circular, with walls made of branches which were sunk into a half meter earth breastwork; the Great House was not much larger than those the dozen or so houses surrounding it, and really only differentiated by the circumference of the walls and the height of the breastworks. By 3500BP cities had begun to form, built around a central Krall raised on a high central mound as high as 50 meters with breastworks heaped up to 10 meters. The purpose of these were not defensive, the actual defenses were located further out, but symbolic of the power of the community built as they were labor extorted from other communities. Those living in the cities it seems did not contribute to the mound or breastworks, but instead contributed to the socially acceptable practice of war, warring and sometimes it seems irrigation and field maintenance.

    OOC: I need to fix up the dates, they don't quite work. And I'm about half way there. Just the description of how the states operated, a bit on the archaeological sites of the period, i.e. a description of some of the cities and a short overview of the state of affairs at the the end of the update: it's going to coincidence with a growth in epigrahpical remains. I'm also going to describe the Cult of the Great King in more detail though I haven't decided quite how I want it to work yet. Further editing will also be undertaken tomorrow at lunch.
     

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