Nations and Places

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Nations and Places

Table of Contents

Preface

A Map of the World

The Calendar of Gushémal

Section I: Nations

Section II: Places of Renown

 

Lands Beyond Our Ken (2)


 

The Isle of Hunters

 On the 23rd day of Tabrokun, 3021 A.E., a shipwreck was found on the coast of Mrodûn, to the west of Modayre. We must thank the gods that it was an ambassadorial expedition from Chazevo who found the wreck, for the Chaymera population of Mrodûn would scarcely have mentioned the discovery, much less given our ambassadors access to explore the ship.

Amongst the embassy were several priests of Darawk, charged with assisting the civilian leaders (and secretly with missionary work amongst the Chaymera, a fact that would see the ambassadors expelled within a year’s time). They immediately saw that this vessel had not been built for humanoids, and equally not for the quadrupedal Chaymera. Some elements of the construction were similar to the Chaymera fishing boats, in particular the strange wooden bowls that served as seats. Yet when one of the fishers who accompanied the expedition tried to squat in the bowl, he tipped over, incapable of coming to rest. A strange hole to the back of the bowl indicated also that some kind of appendage – perhaps a tail? – might be supposed to fit there.

Otherwise the craft was entirely alien to both humans and Chaymera. Never before, according to the fishermen, had a vessel of its kind been seen in Mrodûn, and neither could anybody imagine what kinds of beings had built and manned this ship.

What was immediately understandable, though, was the reason for its being wrecked. Storms had torn most of the sails off the mast, chunks of the masts had smashed holes into the bottom. There were struts that probably had held lifeboats, all empty when the crew had fled.

The sole Decirius priest amongst the embassy spoke the Leaves and Wreaths for the sailors, adding the hope that they had survived the storm and the funeral prayer was unneeded. After that, one of the Darawk priests was dispatched to the local capital, to ask the Chaymera lord’s permission to investigate the ship further. Once the permission was obtained, a small group of clerics and civilians dedicated themselves to the investigation of the wreck, intending to work on it for a week or so before returning to their main assignment.

The week turned into three months, the official reason being that the embassy’s task was proceeding smoothly. Trade agreements were signed and put into effect, diplomatic relations agreed upon, maps exchanged, and so on. There was no need for the investigators on the shores to involve themselves with the diplomatic efforts, and truth be told, the work on the wreck consumed them completely.

To the modern-day reader it might come as a surprise that the shipwreck would become a celebrated focus of society within a short while, spoken of in the lands between Chazevo and distant Robhovard. (That includes the Tonomai, although the Empire was still reeling from the loss of their holy city Leahcim.) Many books were written[1] and sold widely, to an audience ranging from the high levels of aristocracy to simple villages where a local priest would read them to the populace. An entirely new civilization had been discovered, an entirely new species – and people were caught up in the whirlwind of discovery. Alas, as so often happens, after the initial surge of interest, when no new findings were made, interest died down, and bit by bit the alien shipwreck was forgotten. Now that the Chaymera have closed off their borders, even their existence is little more than a myth amongst the people of our 32nd century.

The discoverers thought that they had found the involuntary messengers from an alien, a new, civilization living on an island a few hundred miles out from shore. Far from thinking that such an island could be as vast as our Cotechi, they believed it to be an island more like Albinavia (home of the knightdwarves) to the southeast of Robhovard. I cannot disprove that claim, but from my own perusal of their findings, I believe the shipwreck to be the work of a much larger civilization than they thought. Much of what was on board were personal effects, the majority of which were never identified. There was nothing like a spoon, for instance, nor anything that could be identified as an eating utensil as our sailors usually carry to sea. The discoverers did identify fishing nets, quite clearly the purpose of the vessel, and there were knives – but the latter could only be called thus because of the metal blades, not because of the strange handles or the curvature of the blades themselves (like Tonomai weapons).

The lead investigator, Master Senoj, called the alien sailors the “Hunters”, because he and his colleagues had found many drawings and paintings of what they thought were hunting scenes. In the presumed captain’s chamber, there was a painting made of colored grains of sand, fixated by an unknown method. It depicted a lush, green forest, bent at strange angles, in the background, while the foreground was taken up by an apparently wide area, covered by yellow-greenish stubble that could be an unfamiliar kind of grass. Three beings were shown in the sand painting. Two seemed like a cross between spiders and scorpions – four actual, armored legs; two appendages that had taken the function of arms, with less armor; pincers around the arachnoid head; pinkish white fur covering the bulbous body which ends in a tail quite like a scorpion’s sting. These two were holding weapons in their arms, apparently projectile weapons like bows but very different in their appearance. (The projectiles were included in the painting, which is our best clue to their function.) The third being in the painting was running away from the pair of spider-scorpions, and it was a bird – although a ferocious and apparently flightless creature with a terrible beak, a vulture-like head, and thick, long legs that ended in deep claws. It was bleeding on one flank, with an apparent arrow embedded in its flesh.

Before Senoj saw that painting, the other drawings – some carved into planks, some on medallions that had been forgotten by the crew in their flight – had not made any sense to the discoverers. The creatures there were too stylized, so that the depictions had been discarded as meaningless – or at least incomprehensible – scribblings.

Putting it all together, Master Senoj concluded that this civilization was very keen on the hunt, indeed that it must have held some deep religious connotation to them. How else to account for the plentitude of these depictions? At the very least the hunt must have been, Master Senoj wrote, a pillar of their society. Hence he called the aliens “Hunters”.

We have no other proof of their existence. Some have gone so far as to call the entire ship a hoax, a means for Master Senoj to gain importance in scientific circles. (I find that unlikely. Amongst the discoverers was one person, Master Trar’ycon, who was always the sharpest critic of Master Senoj. It is quite improbable that he would have agreed to collaborate on a fraud with his archfoe.)

 

The Snow Queen’s Realm

Is it proper for me to rely on children’s tales to speculate on far-away lands? Perhaps these are the works of fiction as which they are presented, yet I find a few of them eerily reminiscent – despite the fact that they originate in many different places.

The tale of the Snow Queen is one that I have poured over since I was a boy of six years. How strange it was for a boy growing up in a hot and humid place as Chazevo to imagine a place of ice and snow! I had never seen snow (and I must confess that little has changed about that in the decades since; once I travelled as far south as the border of Robhovard, but that was my sole encounter with snow.) The paintings in my children’s book sent my mind soaring, and I imagined my hometown covered with a sleet of white snow. (Of course I failed to understand the meaning of cold.)

It remained a cherished memory of mine until I began my journeys in the service of the Seeker of Knowledge, during which I visited a great number of lands and places of Cotechi – and found that the Snow Queen was familiar to them as well, although by other names and varying descriptions. At first I discarded that information, since it is very likely that this tale has travelled along with our forefathers when they settled Chazevo.

Then I began to correlate – on a whim – the various stories and found that there were many matching details. In further studies I found that the Tonomai have a similar story, and so have some elven and dwarven clans. That was the crucial discovery. Humans may have disseminated a children’s tale amongst themselves, retold and adjusted it over the centuries, but there might still be an original story hidden under the alterations. But why would other races tell an essentially human story to their children? Considering the ideas many dwarves and elves harbor about us, it is very much inconceivable. (The same is obviously true in reverse, as my readers – whichever race they are a part of – can attest in their everyday lives.) After all, an open-minded elf might enjoy a human tale – but would she tell it to her child, in lieu of an indigenous tale?

It is for that reason that I believe the Snow Queen’s realm has a root in actual history and geography of our world. The matching elements that I have sifted from the diverse stories are that this realm would have to be located to the south of Robhovard and the land of the Furrag, probably deep within the iceland where few humanoids have ever gone. Polar dwarves are known to live on the edges, in their remote and well separated villages – so far apart that they rarely know their neighbors, except from chance encounters and tales of the same handed down through the generations. So we cannot hope to find any revelations about the Snow Queen’s realm from them, except through their own legends which do involve a mythical land where breath turns to ice, where you have to bundle up your throat, lest the air freeze in your mouth and choke you to death. (Ahh, yes, the very lines from the children’s tale that are omnipresent in the various versions, although the polar dwarves’ version is far more gruesome, underlined by the fact that they have at least seventy-eight words for kinds of cold weather.)

We cannot be sure what species the Snow Queen and her people would be members of. They are said to be colored a pale blue, unlike elves, humans or dwarves. Otherwise they are always adjusted to whoever is recounting the tale, with tapered ears among the elves, a squat build among the dwarves, and so forth. There is always a female ruler in the tales – hence the Snow Queen -, but further details about the society vary greatly.

The queen always rules in an ice palace, constructed by magical means. There are no fires, the queen and her subjects are themselves as cold as ice. (Some variants do mention fires, perhaps to make these people more comprehensible to us.) They use large bear-like creatures as riding mounts, with the bears sometimes walking on their hindlegs, sometimes on all four.

By rank of nobility, the snow people have growing magical abilities which allow them to control ice – craft objects of varying size, move the ice, and so forth, without ever using their hands. The tales contain many examples of this, with great differences, yet the basic ability to sculpt and master the ice is a constant factor. (Personally, I am loath to give up on the fire beams that the Snow Queen of my childhood’s tale could fire from her eyes. Unfortunately it doesn’t fit any of the other tales, nor does it truly belong to a queen of icy cold.)

There are more details that I could enumerate here – mostly concerned with geography, important places and their descriptions, some phrases and names -, but they would far exceed the space I have granted for this overview. I recommend the book that a colleague of mine, Master Snah Nesredna from the Leahcim Darawk Academy, will publish next year (3166 A.E., by the time of this writing, the title is still undecided). Snah and I have collaborated on the basic research, although it was my friend’s work to put it together – not least of all because he is more versatile in the analysis of folk tales. He is sure to answer most if not all your questions regarding the tales of the Snow Queen.

I also direct your attention to the expedition that the Nash’Geo and Darawk clergy of Shtet Lyariov in Kraznyczar are preparing for the end of this decade. They are planning to explore the depths of the polar dwarves’ abode, and – if possible – beyond. The goal is to find the edge of the world that the proponents of the flat world theory decree is there. (How curious that I would ask you to rely on information garnered by those who strongly disagree with my own view of the world. Yet as a cleric of Darawk, I would welcome to be corrected if they should find that edge.) With some luck they are going to find out how far the ice extends down there, and whether – as my preferred theory of a round world would predict – the climate of ice would shift at some point, the pole of the world. Beyond that temperatures should rise again. Judging by the degree of preparation and care that the clerics are putting into their endeavor, I am quite hopeful that we should glean a marvelous amount of news from them.

 



[1] This includes the documentation of both the discovery and investigation of the wreck, written by Tercar Senoj in 3022 A.E. (“Hunters’ Wreck”, currently available in a combined edition – called “Speculations on other Civilizations”, 3152 A.E. – along with several other works of Master Senoj’s, some of which also dealt with this discovery.