Nations and Places
Section I: Nations
Section II: Places of Renown
“The law of the beiqua was cherished by the people, and gifts were lavished on the heralds bringing the news to every village and town of Tonomat. All memories of Acheen and its unholy beliefs was quenched by the glory of the One God.
“And soon, that glory was brought further, as warriors, enlightened by the God’s spirit, crossed into the east, to face those who had barred themselves against the law. They could not stand against the One God’s soldiers, carrying the image of the maiden in their hearts, carrying the words of the beiqua on their tongues.
“Petty kingdom after petty kingdom went to its knees, acknowledging that there was only one deity, that there was only the One God, and his power was supreme. People after people burned their idols, painted their temples the divine white and learned the words of the beiqua by heart. Statues were erected, cherishing the memory of the maiden. Her clarion call hailed further and further from the city of Leahcim, and its golden words reached out to embrace more and more believers.
“In Leahcim, the dynasty of the Atavids – named so after the maiden’s first daughter, from whom they descended – built their palace, their shrine to the One God from where they ruled the realm. It was there the high priestess Ghartala, daughter of Atavi, announced that a new land had come into being. Not only a new land, but an empire. ‘The law must be spread further,’ she cried out to the crowd gathered under the balcony of the palace. ‘It must be preserved, as hallowed and sacred as it is. Who can you trust to protect the law?’
“The question echoed over the plaza, as the thousands fell silent, all cheers quenched by the dire thought. Who indeed could be trusted, who would be worthy?
“And then the answer hailed over the plaza, shouted by ten thousand voices, ‘Only the maiden’s descendants!’
“Ghartala, daughter of Atavi, first daughter of the maiden, accepted the power thrust upon her by the people. In her palace in Leahcim, she was crowned the next day empress, first empress of the Tonomai Empire, and her golden rule would be treasured in history for millenia to come!”
“Empress Ghartala’s rule was cruel and harsh. One needs not resort to sources outside Tonomat, the official records of the empire tell enough of the story. Records of mass imprisonments, mass tortures, and of beheadings run throughout Ghartala’s reign, as if the supposed granddaughter of the maiden could find no better amusement. (Supposed I say for more than a few doubts have been cast on her ancestry even in the days of her rule.)
“She made the beiqua the single official rule in her land, both the river valleys and the former Acheen, as well as the new provinces in the east. Judges were installed in every major city – called the tera’qua – to enforce the law; they were given large military escorts to help them in this endeavor. The tera’qua also empowered lower judges – the zu’qua – to act as their representatives in smaller settlements. Together they forged a new system which would prevail for the better part of Tonomai history. Although no judge was part of the priesthood – being males, they were not permitted – they always were closely tied to the clergy, not seldomly by marriage to a priestess. Rather than limit their powers, this connection expanded it, and they could freely interpret the beiqua in cases that had not specifically been dealt with.
“(The beiqua focused on the relationships between the lord and the servant, man and woman, as well as murder and theft. Questions of petty discourse, such as inheritance, had been touched upon but were not clearly explained. The judges drew on the tales of the maiden’s life to silence the disputes brought before them. Thus they created precedence which would be used by their succeeding tera’qua and zu’qua.)
“As strict as the judges were, they did achieve a general peace in the empire. Everyone knew the punishments that waited for any misdeeds, and the deterrence clearly worked. Neither may the fervor be ignored that burned in most of the Tonomai, no matter whether they had been born into the faith or converted. For the belief in the One God, they followed both the beiqua and the judges’ rulings to the letter.
“Historically, it isn’t important how the peace was achieved. What is important that it allowed trade to flourish, and the religious fervor inspired artists to create wonderful works of art. The empire spanned a quarter of the continent, from the river valleys of the Legnezre to the eastern, continental coast. Each region – or province – had their special produce, for which ample demand could be found in some other province of the empire. The unified law, unified currency and unified faith made it easy to find such a demand, and to arrange for trade routes – secured by the judges and their military escorts.
“As a result of this, regions that had been lacking in some supplies suddenly found themselves inundated with them, and in return their own produce was sold at good profits. Wealth spread throughout the empire. Certainly it must have seemed to the people of those days that it was the will and the law of the One God that gave them this wealth – and to a certain degree they were right.
“Unfortunately, this fueled their fanatic devotion to the One God, and to the words in the beiqua that called on the believers to carry the faith to new lands, ‘to raise your blades to spread my law’. Once the new Tonomai Empire had been well established, the hunger for new conquests was roused, and the priestesses and judges did their best to fan the flames of desire, all in the name of the One God.”
“The Tonomai met with firm resistance on their western border, from the kingdom of Tanci’rhes – the only realm in the area that worshipped our own familiar gods. The Tancirians were heavily supported by the Thousand Islands, whose king deeply mistrusted the Tonomai – rightfully so, as they would attack the sea realm only a few decades later. Although the Tonomai managed to conquer only a few of the islands, they held on to their new possessions for more than two centuries before the Thousand Islands could return them to their original nation.
“The Elfadil Desert proved a rather unprofitable target, and their forces quickly gave up trying to conquer the Gerouad. Some priestesses would prowl the desert for the coming centuries, but they met with little success as the sandpeople stood fast to their own beliefs.
“Further in the north, the Redrob Fault also halted their progress. Crossing the fault in large numbers was difficult, for at the time there were no bridges. (I suppose the people of the day lacked the technical or magical knowledge to build such bridges. Looking at today’s bridges, spanning two miles in some cases, with priests in watchhouses every five hundred yards, you can tell how much study has been necessary to construct these marvels.) Often ravaged by earthquakes, the empire saw no need to risk any of its troops in the dangerous area.
“(Supposedly there were plans to ship troops around the area, and some that envisioned armies marching right across the Elfadil. If that is true, I have no idea why they were never executed. Considering the might of Tonomat at the time, they could actually have succeeded.)
“There was an easier target for the One God’s holy war, and it lay right across the Straits of Stevereev: the Arrufat peninsula. Only a few miles of ocean separated the southernmost tip of Tonomat from the peninsula – a distance that could be handled by the current ships of the empire, sailing ships that were bound to the coastlines.
“Infused with the fanatic spirit of the One God, the Tonomai armies boarded their ships and set across the Straits to begin their assault on the Arrufat peninsula, called Nuâsdal in their tongue. On the side of Arrufat, it would become known as the Unholy Assault, but to the Tonomai it was but a continuation of their sacred warfare to spread the law of the beiqua.
“As we all know, they succeeded for the most part. Almost all of Arrufat fell and was incorporated into the Tonomai Empire, and for centuries Nuâsdal was as much a part of the Empire as Leahcim.
“It was at this time that Tonomat reached its greatest expanse, though at the time people all across Gushémal lived in fear that the empire would never cease growing, and that it would swallow the entire world in its fervor.”
Atavi she claims to descend,
God’s good will she claims to have,
she claims to be.
the borders are frozen,
armies are still in their fortresses,
no blades are wielded to further the law,
arrows fly to pierce faithless breasts.
she the maiden’s true heir
her words reach only the believers?
her voice ring as sweet as the maiden’s
whom she claims to descend?
poem about the Atavid empress,
“The regional governor of the Elbacre province, Bairel tel Nequôz, had moved his capital further inland, away from his previous seat at Shetein on the coast. On the banks of the Umlaht river, he built a new city which he called Dagba. The reason for the move had been that he considered Shetein too difficult to protect; although defenses could be built on land, the harbor was open, and enemy ships might all too easily land troops at the port. Dagba, on the other hand, could not be reached by the massive ocean-faring ships, and troops had to be moved over land – against which the governor’s troops could defend.
“Dagba flourished quickly and grew to a size of more than three hundred thousand people. It was the envy of all the empire, and Governor Nequôz enjoyed his feeling of superiority.
“The empress at Leahcim enjoyed it very little, and she felt that her home city – the capital of the empire, no less – was dwarfed by Dagba’s quick rise. Soon she tried to force the judges to divert trade from Dagba to Leahcim, using her imperial powers. A few of the judges immediately followed the orders, but the majority considered their own advantages – and profits -, which stood to gain more from trading with Dagba.
“Conflict was rife, and the governor of Elbacre decided not to bow to the empress. He produced documents that proved that he, too, was a descendant of the maiden – documents that bore the official seals of the empire, indubidably from the early days of Ghartala’s rule. (The Tonomai have kept these documents under close watch to this day, so we do not know whether they are real or have been forged by the governor. Personally this author tends toward the latter, not least because some people doubt that the Atavids themselves are true descendants of the maiden.)
“According to Nequôz’s documents, his ancestor was the eldest daughter of Ghartala, Tia’mai. She had been in line to succeed her mother on the Maiden’s Throne, but was passed over in favor of a younger sister. Nequôz now claimed that an ancient scandal had been uncovered. The law laid down in the beiqua had been broken in Ghartala’s time, and the rightful heir to the Maiden’s Throne was in fact the daughter of Nequôz!
“(There are many explanations why a younger daughter had inherited Ghartala’s throne. Today we cannot definitely judge which Nequôz had put forward. In fact he may have posited several theories, each more serious than the first. It is also interesting that the original beiqua actually does not deal with matters of inheritance, certainly not with the imperial line. ‘Original’, I write, because the beiqua was changed in later times to address these issues.)
“Civil war broke out shortly afterwards. It was a brutal war that lasted for ten years, and it exhausted the Tonomai resources severely. In the end, the Atavids had to surrender, and the empress was decapitated on the great plaza of Dagba. In her place the daughter of Governor Nequôz was enthroned. She changed her name to Tia’mai, decreed that Dagba was now the imperial capital, and that a new dynasty had taken over – the Tiamids.
“Their rule was not immediately challenged in the homelands of the empire; it would take over a decade before the lands had recuperated enough that others laid claim to imperial descent and tried to copy the Tiamids’ successful ploy. Those attempts would fail for some one hundred and fifty years, reaching the year 2900 of our calendar.
“Across the Straits of Stevereev, though, the province of Nuâsdal had kept well out of the civil war. The local governor, Ishikir Ata’lamek, proclaimed that it was his people who kept the flame of the beiqua alive. It was they who had conquered a new land and converted the inhabitants of the Arrufat peninsula to the good faith. For that reason alone, they deserved the imperial crown more than anyone in either Leahcim or Dagba.
“Ata’lamek was careful not to actually claim the throne for himself or any female relative of his. Instead he declared that Nuâsdal was now a province of the One God rather than the empress. He no longer was a governor enthralled to orders from across the sea, he was the One God’s direct civil representative to Nuâsdal – the umal’qua. (The word is closely related to the word for judge, including the syllable qua which means law. The same syllable is also included in beiqua, the name for the holy text of the Tonomai.)
“As such, Nuâsdal was still officially part of the empire – and yet it had just declared its effective independence, with Ata’lamek and his descendants installed as the new rulers. After a generation of their rule, the dynasty began to be called the Umalquai, for their original title. So two dynasties ruled at the same time over sizable portions of the Tonomai Empire, and while the Tiamids kept gazing greedily across the Straits of Stevereev, the Umalquai defenses were too powerful to be easily overcome. No repeat of the Unholy Assault was possible.”
“Throughout the Atavid dynasty’s time, the fanaticism of the believers in the One God had hardly waned. It was fed by the preachings of the priestesses, the public announcements of the empress, and the rulings of the judges.
“The Tiamids kept the system of the judges in place. If anything, they expanded the powers of the tera’qua, so that they became more powerful than the official regional governors – but there main purpose was to keep trade running. Trade and wealth was the most important goal of the Tiamids, no doubt a heritage of Governor Nequôz – the priestesses and their sermons sank in importance, and so did the fervor of the people.
“It was a great time, a time of marvelous achievements and discoveries. For the first time in Tonomai history, wizards returned to a place of importance, and their towers began once more to dot the landscape, while their academies turned out spellcasters – and new spells – aplenty. Merchants rose in prominence, along with their caravans and ships. A saying at the time claimed that ‘Tonomat is run by gold torkyn’, and it is the most apt description of the situation.
“But as the fervor and faith diminished, so did the unity of the land. It took many decades for the first signs to surface clearly, covered as they were by the greedy desire for money that concerned most people.
“Ironically, the river valleys of the Denya and the Legnezre first gave rise to discontent with the empire. In some places, the imperial forces uncovered idols of the old gods, and in 2857 A.E. the first shrine devoted to Umahar was found on the banks of the Denya. It isn’t clear how many people secretly returned to the old ways, apparently only a tenth of the population. Far more than this felt that the Tiamid rulers neglected the original home of the faith, that Leahcim was no more than a wayward province which counted little in the eyes of the empress at Dagba. Was Leahcim not the holiest city of the faith? Should it not be accorded the respect it deserved?
“In 2878 A.E., the first insurrection took place. Chanting prayers to the One God, a small army assaulted the imperial barracks at De’kra, and took it after a one day siege. A priestess at the head of the army, Olagesh, declared herself the new, proper empress. Two weeks later, the Tiamid forces crushed the insurrection, and Olagesh was burned at a stake.
“The unrest did not stop there. Olagesh’s name was carried in the hearts of the river valley people – some claimed that she had been saved by the One God from burning, and that she had founded a new dynasty. Every now and then in the coming decades, a priestess appeared on the scene, claiming to be a descendant of Olagesh, and that she would lead the new Olagite dynasty to power, that she would return both Leahcim and the One God’s faith to its deserved position. All of these attempts were crushed brutally by the imperial power.
“But while the Tiamids concentrated on the river valleys, they neglected similar discontent in other provinces, both in the former Acheen and the eastern, coastal provinces. More rebellions broke out. All too often the imperial armies counted too little soldiers to provide opposition, and months passed before new, more numerous troops could be brought to bear on the insurrectors.
“In the last decade of the 29th century, it seemed that a multitude of rebellious fires were burning all across the Tonomai Empire. Everywhere save in the Arrufat peninsula where the Umalquai dynasty – the representatives of the One God – had preserved the Atavid system, honing it to perfection. The province of Nuâsdal, as the peninsula was called by the Tonomai, was tightly controlled, and the One God’s faith was as strong as ever.
“At the head of the Umalquai at that time was – for only the second time in the dynasty’s history – a woman, Vereshyl Ata’lamek. Although no priestess, she had found herself ruler of Nuâsdal since her father had left no other heirs. (The Umalquai did not follow the current edition of the beiqua that had been re-written by the Tiamids, rather they held on to the original beiqua.)
“Vereshyl was distraught by the events in the empire. Could the unrest spill across the Straits of Stevereev to her beloved Nuâsdal? Or could the impossible happen and the empire fall prey to its own weakness? In that case, trade would be threatened, the steady supplies on which the wealth of Nuâsdal relied. New sources in the lands of the faithless could be opened, of course, but there were two problems. First of all, the faithless had sworn eternal war on the Tonomai (which probably could be circumvented by the promise of profit). Second, and more troublesome, was that the beiqua had forbidden any contact with unbelievers except during warfare. Although one can suppose that neither Vereshyl nor the majority of the Umalquai had too many problems with the beiqua’s law in this regard, that would surely have weakened the faith of the people of Nuâsdal.
“And that had been the cause of the empire’s problems, had it not?
“In other words, to secure the position of Nuâsdal, Vereshyl had to stabilize the empire itself. In 2897 A.E. she mounted a well-sized army to cross the Straits of Stevereev. The Umalquai army found the first coastal cities easy pickings, and they reached Dagba in the fall of that year. But at the city walls they were stopped, and a long siege began that would last for nearly two years. The Umalquai faced several attacks by the imperial army – which left the eastern provinces especially unguarded, as a result of which some declared their independence and fortified their borders. In 2899, finally the siege ended, and Vereshyl took Dagba. The Tiamid empress was publicly executed, yet her family was graciously allowed to survive. Vereshyl explained this by the beiqua, in which it was stated that only a criminal should be punished, not his family.
“The Umalquai rule over Tonomat was not as perfect as Vereshyl had expected. After her death in 2921, the new dynasty began to suffer the same troubles as the Tiamids had before them. The easy life in Dagba affected them, made them as negligent as their predecessors had been. Even Nuâsdal receded in their attention, and slowly the Arrufat peninsula’s defenses began to weaken.
“That led directly to the reconquest of Arrufat, which began in 2974 A.E. when the first troops from Ibrollene arrived, supported by armies from the Blue Land (the so-called Roman Empire) which were led by General Marcus Augustus Hanfalken. Progress was slow, but it never stopped, rolling like a thick, gelatinous mass over Nuâsdal.
“Their own homeland threatened, the Umalquai empress tried to gather her forces to the defense, yet several generals of the imperial army refused to follow her orders, claiming that their goal was to defend the ‘real’ Tonomat, not a wayward province across the ocean. If the Umalquai had stayed true to Vereshyl’s ideas, had strengthened the position of the priestesses and the faith, things could have been very different, and perhaps the reconquest of Arrufat would never have succeeded.
“As it was, the Umalquai were toppled in 2982 A.E., and a new empress installed herself in Leahcim, claiming – as so many others – to be a proper descendant of Olagesh. The Olaghid dynasty lasted – more or less – for some sixty years, always contended. Numerous counter-empresses claimed the Maiden’s Throne. Countless claims to descent from this or that historical personality were thrown about, and the empire quivered under the onslaught of the different empresses.
“A near-fatal blow was delivered to the Olaghids in 3012 A.E. when the Sacred Army landed its ships on the southern coast of the empire, at the mouth of the Lengezre. This army had been raised by the Divine Speaker, leader of all the believers in our own gods, in Ibrollene, and the Speaker himself was at its front. (You should read the excellent book “Speaker and General” by Tamus Waggoner, a Cayaborean Darawk priest, if you wish to know more about this colorful Divine Speaker.) The Sacred Army was fueled by a similar fanaticized spirit that had strengthened the Tonomai forces of so many centuries ago, and it rolled over the river valleys like the wrath of the true gods. In that very year, Leahcim itself was taken, and the Olaghid empress had to escape, bringing the Maiden’s Throne back to the hated Dagba.
“The Sacred Army stopped its war after conquering the river valleys. They built fortresses, manned it with strong troops and installed their own governors in the area. (Five years later, Ibrollene gave up on their colonies, and the river valleys returned to their own control. They never fell to the empire again, and today the river valleys maintain both their independence and a strange mix of faiths. Believers in the One God reside there as well as those who pray to the old gods and to ours.
“Let us mercifully ignore the phase of general unrest that followed this period. The empire was nearly torn apart in the following century, with provinces detaching themselves and being reconquered, with empresses and dynasties declaring themselves all-powerful rulers. What is important to note is that the last Olaghid empress and her entire family were slaughtered in 3041 A.E.”
“In 3119 A.E. the civil war came to a head. By that time, all the eastern provinces along the ocean coast had been lost, as had been the river valleys to the west. The Arrufat peninsula (or Nuâsdal) had been almost completely reconquered by the Ibrollenian armies. Only a small part of the province remained, but it still clung fervently to the name of Nuâsdal – and to the fact that its ruler was a descendant of the Umalquai dynasty.
“In the mainland, the Umalquai had taken the Maiden’s Throne again twice in the preceding century – called the Second and Third Umalquai dynasty -, but neither had lasted very long, and in the 32nd century they were considered eradicated. Everywhere except in Nuâsdal, of course.
“Two great persons arrived on the scene in that time: In Nuâsdal, Hyero Ata’lamek took the provincial power, while in Obrosvek, on the Cheselain river, Atavi Ghalar was a high priestess of the One God. (Atavi claimed to be descended from her namesake, the maiden’s eldest daughter. Strangely enough, her claim has been inspected by a large number of scholars – including Darawk priests! -, and this claim appears to be much stronger than that of Ghaltara, the first empress, had been!)
“In rather short order both raised large armies on the mainland, and both claimed to be infused by the spirit of the One God who demanded that they reunite the empire. What they did is split Tonomat in two, almost equally large parts, with nearly the same strength. A civil war was fought in 3119, but quickly it became apparent that any victory would be turned into a loss by the Tonomai neighbors. The empire would be so weakened that it would be the easiest of preys for any invaders.
“As charismatic as the leaders of both sides were, as intelligent they were, and as reasonable. They decided to meet along with their representatives and discuss a way out of the situation.
“It is probably unwise of me to believe the tales that have been written about this meeting, for they seem so… impossible. They seem like fairy tales, like stories made up to cover a sober event, but… Oh, well, I am given to romantic ideas, and so I beg you, dear reader, to take the following account with a grain of salt.
“The discussions began, and heated they were. Angry words were shouted by the members of both dynasties, of both armies, tempers flared. Often the conversations were about to turn into brawls, or into a battle, as the soldiers outside were ready to take up arms.
“But every time either Hyero Ata’lamek or Atavi Ghalar raised their voices to calm the spirits, quoting from the beiqua, or simply reminding them of their true purposes. And bit by bit, the two found that their arguments were the same. They found that their goals were the same.
“And even slower, but with the force of an avalanche gradually building and gaining enormous momentum, they came to realize that they needed no discussions. Moreover, they enjoyed each other’s company. They realized that the One God had put them on Gushémal for the reason of uniting the empire indeed, uniting it both as far as the land was concerned – and in person.
“After two months of official discussions, the generals of both armies sought for their leaders who could nowhere be found. To their shock, they found both Hyero and Atavi – in a bedroom of the palace at Dagba. Another month later, both were officially married, and Atavi took the Maiden’s Throne as the new empress, with Hyero her vizier. A new dynasty was founded, one that merged both the maiden’s descendants and the heirs of Nuâsdal into the dynasty of the Atalquai.”
All in all, the Atalquai dynasty has succeeded in uniting and soldifying the empire – as it stands today. There have been a few border wars, and in the early days a few more provinces broke away, but since 3127 A.E. the Tonomai Empire has stood unchanged.
The Atalquai re-installed the system of judges, both tera’qua and zu’qua, whose powers and rights had been neglected in the past century. The priestesses were returned to their high honor. The army was seriously reformed, insuring that their pledge of fealty was to the empress of the Atalquai.
Still, the empire is far from the glory it had once reached, and that has given rise to discontent among some Tonomai. Rebels lurk in some areas, hunted by the imperials whenever possible. They don’t pose a serious threat to the Atalquai, not least because this dynasty has shown that there is a fire burning within them.
Perhaps it is the spirit of the One God, I cannot tell. And neither can I say what will happen to the Tonomai in the future, whether they will once again threaten our own lands. Personally I find that somewhat doubtful, for the Atalquai have reformed the faith of the One God as well. They allow trade with outsiders – although the beiqua still officially forbids any contact with unbelievers, that law is never enforced -, they have permitted embassies of other nations in Dagba and sent their own emissaries to other countries.
As the Tonomai faith stands today, it is a more civilized belief, one that is honorable and respectable. It may very well return to its fundamental and violent roots, but I hope that reason persists. That, I think, is the true heritage of the founders of the Atalquai dynasty, both Hyero and Atavi.