Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ekundayo (1/3).

((In an effort to move away from the scattered parchments piled up high on the desk of Roberick Litte's office-bedroom for once, I've attempted to get into the spirit of Samhain-Saints-Oween Eve. Of course I'm garbage at writing actual horror, so my goal for this piece is closer to instilling a temporary sense of vague discomfort.))

The quick, damp slaps of bare little feet through the mud broke the uncharacteristic silence of the mangrove forest. The fog had killed the stars and moon hours ago, and the frantic patter of feet halted frequently as their owner slipped upon the spongy earth or fell between the overlapping snarls of roots which formed little islands in the swamp.

The girl with the scorched and tattered dress was small and quick, but the sounds she made as she thrashed through the water and trees drew them ever closer. Her shins were scraped by the ground and her cheeks slashed at by passing branches, splashing her brown skin with a raw and bloody red in places. But still, she ran on. She had to.

She had to get away from them.

The ones who reeked of earth and death. Gaunt old things, with lolling heads and a lurching gait. They shambled on two legs or crawled on all fours, but they never seemed to tire, unlike her. Again and again, the swamp turned her around or snagged her, and there they were again- gangling limbs stretched out toward her and gnarled claws groping blindly. There may only have been three, but there may as well have been three dozen. She'd lost track of how many hours it had been already. Shouldn't the sun have already risen?

Did she even remember the last time she had seen the sun?

Skidding to a halt at the edge of a river, the girl craned her neck and twisted it around, looking up and down the length of both banks. The curtain of grey hid the far side from her, but the sounds which touched her ears from that direction were enough to turn her away. Another one had gotten caught in the mangrove roots, she thought, and it was breaking through either wood or bone in order to free itself. One had cornered her minutes or ages ago, only to become trapped amid the slimy old husks, and she had kicked it so hard in her escape that its jaw had unhinged on one side.

Now, as before, the guttural, half-choked groans reminded her of a dog being strangled. It always went on for too long, but this time it was without end.

Revulsion filled her and made a shiver wrack her body as she thought she heard some deeper familiarity in those noises. But the rasp of long-fingered branches behind her wrenched her attention away from it. She'd stayed still too long.

Its distended paunch looked bloated and hard, but the rest of it was loathsomely thin, so that it looked like little more than grey-mottled skin stretched tight over bone. The dull ambient light reflected off of the almost glossy clot of dark, blackish blood which anointed its caved-in temple, and a break somewhere along its spine ensured that this horrific side profile was always tilted and aimed at her. No matter how violent their first deaths may have been, nothing seemed to stop them. One listless, milky eye swiveled in its socket until it settled on the youth, and then its mouth opened wide- unnaturally so.

A dry hiss came first, stopping and starting as it gave a glottal stop to voiceless words. But then the death rattle rose up from its throat and echoed high throughout the dripping canopy, eliciting cries in response from elsewhere in the darkness. They were much closer than even she had feared, and coming from every direction. She hadn't been escaping. She'd only been hedging herself in deeper from the start.

It didn't dawn on her as she stood there, transfixed by the dead thing's gaze, that it had stopped in its tracks as well, so that not even its exposed knee joint clicked and ground as it audibly had before. All she knew was the stab of terrified instinct at the base of her skull, and it screamed at her to move.

So her feet pounded upon the earth, root, and stone again, and in response the thing's screech was cut short with a sound of alarm. She dove into the trees through a space too narrow for them to pass through, but now the cracking and yielding of roots was at the back of her neck. A sob passed her lips as she scrambled forward from the convergence of tattered things blindly.

Up ahead was another tree. It was massive, towering above the mangroves all around it. It was an ancient thing, broad-trunked even before the rivers had swelled and flooded the deltas. Its roots dug deep rather than lacing across the surface. It was also dying, slowly poisoned by the land to which it no longer belonged. But it was still standing, and that was enough for her.

Dress hiked up about her knees, she clamored up against the giant and reached out for a handhold. The rotted bark gave way before her fingertips, but in a moment she'd found purchase elsewhere. She pulled herself up, higher and higher, legs propelling her desperately upward with barely enough time for her hands to hang on. The thump of bodies against the base of the tree came as they reached her, but she only felt the dead air shifting and billowing slightly below her toes as their flailing arms reached in vain.

Inch by inch, she savaged the side of the tree with broken little nails until the light of a hundred glinting stars exploded behind her eyes. To her dismay, they were not the stars in the sky. The torn bits of scalp and curly black hair upon the crown of her head told her that she had struck the underside of a bough. She grabbed a hold of it, and pulled herself upward.

Seated upon the branch, she could see them in the mists down below faintly. But by their motionlessness, she knew that they could see her perfectly. Her eyes tore away from the awful shapes and looked to the edges of the clearing, seeking any way out of this self-made prison. The limbs and roots of trees all melded together to create a twisting latticework of mud and weeping canopies, save for the ugly gash where the shambling things had forced their way in. It existed only for a moment under her view, before it too was filled up by something.

It was bent and narrow, but walked with far more control and purpose than the dead. It had a liveliness that made her breath catch in her throat. Could it be? No, of course not. She didn't even have time to think the words. The glimmer of desperate hope became stillborn as the things of rot down below turned to behold the newcomer, only to regard it with more mindless moaning before returning their gaze to the girl. The figure halted, seeming content to do nothing.

She hid her face away. It might still be a dream. If the sun came out and she opened her eyes, they would be gone, and this would all be over. She clutched at the blackened, ashy patches on the hem of her dress and wished she hadn't gotten lost. She wished for a lot of things. She wished that she didn't hear the groaning of the wood underneath her, or the thunderous crack as the bough suddenly gave way.

The gangling limbs and rattling cries rose up to meet her, as she plunged back down into the fog without a word.

Click here for Ekundayo 2/3.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Lowlander's Gloss of the Rise & Fall of the Pach-Pah Empire, Part 5.

Click here to view Part 4 on the Pach-Pah Empire

"I call to order the 298th Grand Resolutions Council, and the 2,980th Convening of the Large and Small Workers' Assemblies!"
- Officiator Thonapa Namdol, at the most recent overlap in annual and decennial meetings between the loose governing bodies of the People's Anarcho-Syndicalistic Communes of Pach-Pah Yul, 293 AR

- An election season leaflet from Pansech Province, circa 246 AR.

The last Miqh Pach-Pah was buried without blessing or ceremony (but also without further insult or defamation) in an undisclosed location in one of the gardens of his palace. The bodies of his advisers would hang over the broken gates for some time in cages gilt with all of the precious stones and metals which they had fostered the mining of. The empire without an emperor entered a deep and extended period of mourning and protracted activity. The Pach-Pahs vanished from international commerce and society almost entirely as they attempted to piece their homes and lives back together, to say nothing of the internal struggles of understanding who and what they now were.

With the collapse of the semi-divine cult surrounding the Miqh, those with faith shaken yet unbroken turned in greater numbers and in greater piety toward the other gods of the mountains. They threw themselves upon the mercy of the deities of right conduct and justice, and prayed for those who had been lost to the underworld. A deep, collective sense of grief, guilt, and catharsis kept them united, where once the ties of common government had done the same.

This marked the point in time when the gods of the underworld were also venerated. Prior to that, stretching as far back as the early period of Pach-Pah history, those of the deep and dark places had been feared and warded against. Evil was associated with them, and they were only appeased in an attempt to ward off misfortune. Now, the fear remained truer than ever, but it was laced with a desperate hope that those whom they had taken into their keeping were being treated well. Indeed, the living hoped that the same could be had for themselves, if a buried death awaited them in the end. the practice of digging architecture entirely below the surface was abandoned in the same decade as the Collapse, save for when a temple dedicated to the gods below needed building.

The surviving instances of nobility throughout the provinces remained in the custody of various groups of revolutionaries for some time, but further spilling of blood was out of the question, now that everyone had seemed to finally "wake up" from the illusion of bloated royalty. The memoirs of former governors and their children are well-documented in the following century, as they attempted to reintegrate with those whom they had stayed above and separate from. Progress was slow, and famine was frequent in those regions where infrastructure had been damaged the most heavily. But in their reduced state, the people of the mountains consolidated, and experienced a measure of regrowth.

Eventually the question of "what next?" was difficult to ignore. And unlike the aftermath of our own experiences of disaster, vast gulfs of distance between major players did not prevent the highlanders from achieving greater cooperation once again. In the first of many summits to come, the representatives of each former province met at the base of the peak where the ruined imperial palace once stood. With each was an entourage of representatives of each industry found in that province, for over the course of the empire's history, its people had undergone quite a significant degree of specialization into various disciplines.

The various members of each regimented form of livelihood, whether they were the heads of valley ranches or of stoneworking groups, quickly found themselves in agreement about what their respective peoples needed and wanted for the future. Of course they did not agree so readily with each other group's decisions, and bickering ensued. It was only by taking on a role of arbitration did the representatives of each province at large manage to instill a state of quiet order, from which the first rough agreements on group policy were drawn up. Each industry would work toward both representation and self-regulation, and each regional government would work together to maintain a level of cooperation and public welfare between all moving parts. "Solidarity Without Kings" became something of a rallying mantra for the Pach-Pahs.

It would be a dizzying and frankly impossible task for an indigenous expert on political history of the Pach-Pahs to produce a comprehensive and all-encompassing list of the various changes between that point and now, and being that I have neither the blood ties nor the training to do so, it would be doubly so for me to attempt. But I can say with confidence that, despite nearly three thousand years of time passing, the Pach-Pahs have maintained a remarkable degree of faithfulness to that first council's resolutions. There have been many changes, transformations, and upheavals since, with more than one Trade War or would-be monarch inflicting themselves upon the people of the mountains. But in the spirit of perpetual revolution, each of these challenges has been met, dealt with, and then spun to resemble that old precept.

Before my more aristocratic readers tear this document up in a white-knuckled rage, be aware that though they constantly push against it, hierarchy is difficult to avoid entirely within this patchwork blanket of industry-communities. Furthermore, a continued and heavy emphasis upon family lineage among all Pach-Pah groups maintains a somewhat clannish divide between larger industrial groups, as well as a fairly consistent and conservative outlook on (albeit recently-created) tradition.

This, as well as limited international trade, has occupied our southern neighbors since before our own empire was divided. All things considered, they have done remarkably well for themselves. And I dare say that we have many lessons in adaptation, damage control, and human spirit to learn from them.

On a more scholastic note, I would also like to take the opportunity to push the support for Pach-Pach archaeological research. The discipline has its roots in the mountains, yet has enjoyed relatively little adaptation to the lowlands, even in regions as fixated upon its past as the denizens of Deneroth.

It is with determined optimism that I state my recently-approved budget¹ for an expedition into the mountains to accompany one such archaeological project will generate enough northern interest in the practice that Deneroth or even Nambar may soon host their own departments of history-through-earth-sifting.

¹ The initial offer of ten pounds of electrum is barely enough to cover the costs for equipment and non-university personnel, let alone the need for transportation and lodgings over a four-month period. It was quickly expanded to twenty-five pounds once I pointed out to the treasurers' council that they and everyone else on the University's campus would be free of me for a full quarter of the year if the funding was sufficient.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Lowlander's Gloss of the Rise & Fall of the Pach-Pah Empire, Part 4.

Click here to view Part 3 on the Pach-Pah Empire
Click here to view Part 5 on the Pach-Pah Empire

"I pity the last emperor. Had he known what the world was like outside of his own guarded existence? What might he have done, if given the opportunity to experience humanity?"
- Gyalchup Inti, offering a revisionist perspective which has gained traction over the past century-and-a-half.

"The champions of the revolution butchered the advisers of the Miqh only because they could not lay their hands upon him personally. Theirs was the crime of denying the just their deserved vengeance; all others laid upon Umaq the Deserter."
- Dema Jortli, offering an opposing view.

It may come as a surprise to my audience to find that the Rupture was not the only horrific event to attack the world in clearly written history. In fact, the lands of the south felt something of much greater magnitude than what would become known to us thousands of years later. This is of course a matter of perspective. This is by no means an attempt to diminish the magnitude of the hardship which our forefathers had faced, and I would sooner be struck dead than dishonor the Eternal Scholar Laizij and the memory of Haraal.¹

Now that the precautions are out of the way, it is time to understand the fundamental difference between north and south when it comes to experience of the Rupture and other Rupture-like Events. In the north, it was a gradual affair, with death and affliction spread out over a great period. Likewise, it was a time of cold, and stillness of the earth. But in the south, past the beginnings of the Pach-Pahs from whence the smoke and ash had first arisen both times, the greatest magnitude of destruction and human suffering came within the first days- nay, hours. And they came in fire, and in a violent animation of the land beneath one's feet. It was a time in which the people of the Pach-Pahs were irreparably damaged in number and in spirit.

Today, the warning signs are obvious. But in that historic moment, the chain of volcanic eruptions which awoke the ancient sleepers of the mountains were quite unexpected. The sacred peaks of their homeland turned into pillars of flame and toxin, spreading mass confusion and collapse of basic functionality across the empire. But the pain in the earth came from much deeper than the reactivated mountains. Earthquakes rent the underworld asunder, grinding the crusts of the world against one another irrespective of the structural integrity of the deep-delved mines or the density of the populations living there. Once again, we have no concrete knowledge of what the mining cities experienced in their final hours, but speculation has been refined over the years. Some tunnels collapsed. Others were rent open and exposed to yawning abysses or lakes of churning, molten earth. Others were taken by the intrusion of noxious fumes from smaller tears on the world around them. All were destroyed.

One million unknown and unknowable lives were snuffed out in the time it took the Miqh Pach-Pah to return from his rudely-interrupted tour of the gardens where imperial chewing leaves were grown. He was immediately evacuated to the gold-foiled, jewel-studded palace which was the home of his family for generations, and the entire area was placed on lockdown by the largest contingent of trained and professional soldiers in the empire. In the scramble to ensure the safety of the royal personage and all other courtly matters, the cadre of senior advisers forgot or neglected to attempt to send messengers across the empire to ascertain the degree of damage and the need for allocation of resources.

This deathly silence was taken as absolute contempt for the people of the empire, and the insignificance of their suffering in the eyes of the elite. The resentment which had festered among them for generations found the only way it could vent at long last, in which the same way that the earth Herself was venting her divine upset. Fury swept up the hearts of those overtaxed farmers and artisans, those underfunded provincial governments not blessed with membership in the "Great Family", and those precious few miners close enough to the surface tunnels to escape the abject destruction faced by their kinfolk. This motley collection of the disaffected and downtrodden joined together, all differences of province or class melting away under the red-hot glare which all affixed to their shared foe.

They took up hammers and wood axes, grain sickles and clubs, shepherd's staves outfitted with spearheads, and the looted weaponry of the countless imperial regiments who either defected from their generals, or simply turned tail and dispersed across the mountainsides. Where order was strongest, the rebels organized themselves into communicating units and overtook the existing administration of a region with its governors placed under house arrest. Where order could not be found, their fellows tore down the opulent capital buildings of their homes and hewed their occupants to pieces. Where imperial order was strongest, these atrocities were met in kind, and often redoubled several times over. The masses had righteous indignation on their side, but the military still had disciplined ranks armed with iron, armor of quilted cloth, and broad shields of wicker and wood. It is said that the imperial guard stationed in the city of Pachuxo were defeated only once "the blood of their victims had ran like a river around their knees, tripping and dislodging them".

Quickly, groups of rebels linked together upon the high, narrow highways between terraced cities following their victories, and the rebellion started to become a revolution.

During all of this the Miqh was limited under guard to his bedchambers, which while several hundred feet in all dimensions, was effectively a prison cell within the complex of the imperial palace. He sat there alone and confused, for he had no wife or children, and over the early years of his rule, he had been divided from his closest relatives. When there came the sounds of many people closing in from a distance, the guards posted at his door told him nothing. When the sounds became a commotion, and thumps could be heard coming from the grand entrance hall, his retainers abandoned him. It was only once the resounding crash of two gates filled the palace, that he was again met with company.

But they were not his guards. And surprisingly, they were not his unexpected visitors, either.

They were his senior advisers.

Langdah Umaq Miqh Pach-Pah was by all accounts a fairly placid Miqh, a product-as-representative of the decay of his empire rather than an active demonstrator of it. While the list of arrests and executions under him were numerous, they were all at the behest of his advisers, and merely had his seal of blindly-given approval for each. Likewise went his decrees, and any amendments to the convoluted first attempt at a codified body of law first attempted by his predecessor five generations earlier. It is known that those quietly opposed to the workings of the royal family belittled and dismissed the man, often deriding his slurred speech and unusually shaped head in private. But it is unknown how badly he was hated by his own empire. That dubious honor is relegated to the chief advisers to the Miqh, and it is telling (in my eyes) that their names were stripped from history, rather than their liege's.

And so it comes as no surprise that, faced with imminent capture by those whom they had wronged for so long, the wizened old men who had raised the Miqh as their ward and puppet fell upon him with rods of oak and ropes of silk. They detained him and strangled him, and then lifted up his body to present to the triumphant invaders mere moments behind. Before they could begin to utter their first false words in support of the revolution, the crowd fell upon them in turn. Each was stripped of his robes and marks of rank and dragged screaming from the ruined gates of the palace, where such detailed punishments as recorded in the Codex of the Revolution are detailed and illustrated.

In a dozen battles, the surviving titles of nobility of the Pach-Pah Yul were reduced by half, either through renunciation or through attrition. In the murder of a single frightened monarch, the second half vanished.

The memory of the final Miqh remains a controversial one today, with each generation of reflective Pach-Pah men and women treating him, his advisers, and the revolutionaries slightly differently. I could not begin to offer an overview of that debate, for it would be an even greater disservice to the topic than this gloss is to the many sources of history which I've attempted to synthesize thus far. But one thing is certain.

While they attempted to wrestle with the possibilities and consequences of their new identity, the people of the former empire had an immense amount of rebuilding to do.

¹ Just as I would never threaten to censor or bar from publication another honest scholar's work simply because it does not lend itself entirely to the established narrative of an institution. I look forward to our next "sanitization" session over brunch, Senior Editor Adelbramp. Do be sure not to misplace your black marker again the next time you █████████ behind the curtains of the ██████████████████.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Lowlander's Gloss of the Rise & Fall of the Pach-Pah Empire, Part 3.

Click here to view Part 2 on the Pach-Pah Empire.
Click here to view Part 4 on the Pach-Pah Empire.

"They were like children. We all were, back then. That is the lesson to take from our history. That we must grow up as a people."
- Scholar's Guild representative Metok Chicheuilte, offering a surprisingly gentle alternative to the usual stance on the mental faculties of the last reigning Miqhs.

- Inscription upon the steel head of a pickaxe salvaged from an archaeological site in the lower northwest Taneqas region. Dated to approximately 2000PR.

Eccentricities began to develop among the scions of the narrowing bloodlines of the Pach-Pah Yul royalty, as the generations wore on. Given the cult of personality which was fostered around each such individual by that time, especially the Miqh, these tendencies were only encouraged. Thus, long strings of tragic individuals became increasingly hidden from day-to-day matters, left ignorant of how to properly go about their duties when, if even faintly, the hope had existed that they could grow and develop to be wise and competent individuals. But the circumstances of high society had become so convoluted and bloated with a combination of decadence and anxiety that the later emperors did very little which could be seen as "kingly". Still, the reigning members of the family branches remained rather docile, delegating actual work to unrelated servants and administrators, and generally keeping to their own prestige-driven affairs. Civil strife all but vanished, and unknown to the aristocratic heart of the empire, their frontiers became the first sites of cultural and economic contact with the peoples of the lowlands.

But every few generations there was born a strong and vigorous "Great Miqh", often termed "Mad Miqh" in modern scholarship, who disrupted this cycle of maintenance and gentle stagnation and substituted their own idea for the world. For example, the severe deflation of currency in the 38th century PR was caused by the removal from circulation of all copper coins thanks to two successive Miqhs having a rare yet highly pronounced copper allergy. The ruinous war which was fought to conquer the unneeded hill country south of the Pach-Pahs from its now nameless and faceless aboriginal inhabitants was declared by Gulzar Quexo Miqh in 3464PR. Evidently, she had wanted to name the place as her footstool, in reference to the concept of the Miqh straddling the world (i.e., mountains). To this day, the region is said to be so devastated and scarred that not even the ████████████████████████████ bothered to settle the land during the northward push of ███████████████.

The most infamous of the Mad Miqhs was Intli Dzonlar Miqh, consecrated in 3112PR. His love of gemstones and precious metals was legendary, and it is written that his greatest dream was to have his entire temple-palace covered in a layer of gold broken only by studs of garnet. He directed enormous sums of money toward investment in mining, which up to that point in time had been small and relatively primitive among his people. Surface mining in and around stone quarries evolved into the dedicated and systematic strip-mining of entire valley regions within half a century. Numerous styles of mining were experimented with, such that today in some areas vast honeycombs of mining chutes can be seen pocking the surface, connecting with the long-abandoned remnants of shafts and tunnels, all less than a mile away from the edge of spiral-shaped open-pit mines.

It was an invigorating thing for the wealth and economy of the empire, at first. Despite the fact that Pach-Pah religious belief generally placed the roof of the monster-infested underworld approximately one hundred feet below the surface, the quietly ailing empire was given a new purpose, and great rewards for its toil. Trade and fine artifice bloomed as the Pach-Pah people took swiftly to their new, precious medium. But there existed an ever-increasing demand for more bodies to work these gaping wounds in the mountains. Entrepreneurs and the odd ancestral digger did not provide the numbers needed. And so the eyes of the powerful and wealthy turned toward the lowest of the castes which had developed over the centuries. The urban and rural poor, and even the disenfranchised masses of untouchables descended from criminals, political prisoners, and mixed foreigners were relocated and made into miners. The mines deepened every year, and before long the laborers were carving their own semi-permanent homes into the sides of their vast, subterranean thoroughfares, miles from the entrances which their parents and grandparents had initially camped around.

With the marriage and union between the Dongyal Miqh-ma Quya (roughly analogous to "empress dowager") and her nephew Kunak Poma, the last man in the almost unbroken line of purported seventy-seven Miqhs was born in 2704PR.¹ Langdah Umaq Miqh Pach-Pah, heir to a dizzying list of hereditary seats and titles², was the result of a tangled family tree, grown through a reproductive bottleneck, opening up into a thimble with one hole poked in the top. Beyond his closely-related parents, Langdah Umaq's paternal uncle was also his grandfather, and the father of that man was simultaneously Umaq's grandfather and great-grandfather. All eight of his great-grandparents were the children of only two great-great-grandparents, who were themselves the products of many cycles of brother-sister marriage originating with the Mad Miqh Intli Dzonlar Miqh himself. Umaq's rule was consecrated in 2698PR at the age of six when his mother and father had died within several months of one another due to what are described in the chronicles as seizures and an attack of the liver, respectively.

Even prior to that age, Umaq was made well aware and regularly remound³ of his own heritage, excellence, and purity of bloodline. He was seated in his court weekly by his anxious cadre of advisers to hear the refreshing of oaths of fealty given to him by those few remaining provincial kings and chieftains who had not been subsumed within the overwhelming single bloodline of the Pach-Pah nobility. Then, once he had heard the praise of these people (who were by this point kept as royal hostages in the capital city, communicating with their home provinces only through messenger), the Miqh would then dismount his ornate throne festooned with silks, beads, and jewelry, turn to face it, and then rehearse the oaths of fealty by himself, for himself, in the names of the seventeen provinces of which he was also governor. He would then bless himself as his own high-priest, and then depart upon a litter guided by his own voice and direction, as the chief attendant to his own royal personage. His very name was like a mantra to him.

Modern re-imagining of those days often casts the government of the entire empire as being an absolute self-parody, and as a case of grand ignorance allowing for the widespread practice of monstrous cruelty. The Earth itself is commonly anthropomorphized as a mother sobbing under the cuts and infantile howls of her own children. but it is impossible to say exactly what the common surface-dwelling man or woman felt about their homeland in the twilight years of the empire- before the revolution, at least.

By Umaq's time, the population of the massive under-kingdom of the Pach-Pahs outnumbered the surface. He was not one of the mad emperors, but his advisers (and most everyone else, for that matter) had become so deeply invested in the way of things that any policy or decree enacted in Umaq's time was liable to be one giving greater freedom to begin mining operations, or more strict insurance against runaway laborers. As the centuries passed, the original houses delved by huddled little mining families had expanded outward into underground towns and cities complete with foreman-governors, and living memory of sunlight and fresh air quietly died out among the dusty masses. With a profound darkness before them and the cracking of their masters' whips at their backs, those who had become little more than slaves could do nothing but press on.

The highly ritualized and religious practice of shipping loads of ore up to the surface was an affair which took months of constant travel along roads of steps and rails, yet news and knowledge from the surface spread even more slowly. After a certain depth, the miners were no longer providing metal and stones for their emperors and markets. They were sacrificing them to the dour and demanding gods of the above-world, and placating the lashes of the overseers who had become instruments of divine wrath. We can only speculate now how these people lived, loved, buried their dead, or governed themselves in the absence of any royal families willing to send their scions into the benighted underworld.

One million candle-lit stories of hardship, artwork, exploration, and ingenuity set against ever-increasing quotas and vanishingly thin resources are lost to history, thanks to what was about to come.

¹ At present, the scarcity of records detailing the names or reigns of various Miqhs following the widespread destruction of chronicles and monuments throughout the Pach-Pah Yul has resulted in only twenty-four emperors being confirmed and identifiable.

² The full list of titles attributed to Langdah Umaq Miqh Pach-Pah, as recovered from numerous royal archival fragments, is currently being translated by a most gracious graduate student of the Linguistics Department, and is sure to be available for citation at a later point in this piece as soon as it has passed routine censors.

³ After being alerted by the Committee for the Conservation of Language no less than eight times in the past year of my repeated use of "remound" as opposed to "reminded", I have been well and truly motivated to make "remound" a dedicated part of my lexicon, and I shall share its aesthetic practicality elsewhere, when before I'd have done nothing to propagate its use. All thanks go to the CCL.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Lowlander's Gloss of the Rise & Fall of the Pach-Pah Empire, Part 2.

Click here to view Part 1 on the Pach-Pah Empire.
Click here to view Part 3 on the Pach-Pah Empire.

"Hearken to the braying trumpets of the Miqh Pach-Pah.
His head touches Heaven. His legs straddle the Mountains.
The womb of the Earth adorns Him."¹
- Inscription lining the borders of a marble votive plaque set in the wall of a royal tomb which predates the fall of the Empire by approximately two centuries. All figural images depicted therein have since had a line drawn across their eyes or throat.

"The Benighted Age began when first the people of the earth raised one of their own above others, and named him Miqh."
- Tzo-Ngrub Codex, sheet 18. The inclusion of written text alongside more traditional pictoforms within this folding book is a clear indication of its age, making it no older than the end of the Revolution.

Sociopolitical developments and innovations aside, the way in which the peoples of the Pach-Pah Yul live today is not terribly different from their earliest history. They existed as decentralized tribes with areas of highland and lowland under their loose control, taming the rugged land enough to allow their flocks to flourish. They only dealt with their neighbors occasionally, and aside from references to the mountain people as "all the peoples of the world" in recordings of oral traditions, there are few references to them as a single, unified group. This lifestyle remained unchanged for ages before a great hardship befell each tribe in equal severity, regardless of wealth or position in the mountains.

Some chronicles describe the invasion of a foreign people, or a great monster rising up out of the underworld, or even a blight sent down upon the lands by an astral wind. Regardless of the calamity, the solution was for the Pach-Pah to band together more rigidly, and with greater structure. Outstanding tribal elders became chieftains, who became kings, who began to treat with other kings whom they held in high regard alongside themselves, now separated from the common folk by the confoundingly immaterial quality of nobility which we know so well today.

In these petty-kingdoms developed greater, more efficient ways in which to extract wealth from the land. During this period we also see a flourishing in the record of material culture, when artwork was produced more often and with greater sophistication, often incorporating the styles of other kingdoms. Trade too was established as a norm between settled states, rather than as an infrequent formality used to cement favorable relations between two transient groups which have encountered one another on the mountain slopes. Today it is believed that these trade connections were fostered via the fictive sacral kinship which developed between petty-kings and their quickly-expanding royal families.

Modern scholarship often treats the transition from many states to one as a simple inevitability, but self-reflective (and perhaps somewhat propagandistic) Pach-Pah narratives of the present day see the transformation as a long, slippery slope with countless intervals in which their people fumbled and tripped, not stopping until they had passed what they perceived to be a point of no return. This point where the early age ruptured from the middle period is typically described as being the crowning of the first Miqh Pach-Pah, an emperor of the people of the mountains.² This emperor was mostly symbolic at first, lacking the ability to mobilize every facet of the territory over which it was claimed that he ruled.

But over time, the formation of bloodlines begun by the earliest kings expanded to encompass a diverse range of high administrative and military offices. Each of these offices was hereditary, and in circumstances where members of two differing kingdom-provinces were betrothed, the titles which were descending through them were joined in any children produced by their union as well. So it was that an only child could become the king of one region and the high-priest of its neighbor. And these royal scions typically were only children, as a means of avoiding the nastiest fratricidal or sororicidal conflicts which are alluded to in legend. Of course fertility is not something which we peoples of the world have perfect control over, and for the Pach-Pah this is no different. In the inevitable cases in which multiple children were born to a couple of royal distinction and lucrative inheritance, either titles were split between them and each child was raised to be as accepting of this as possible, or, particularly in the case of brothers and sisters, they were simply married to maintain the family's sovereignty and control over the future.

While it may only be a rough inference based off of popular literature of the time, instances of sibling marriage seemed to occur progressively more and more often than sibling division or conflict throughout the empire.

One begins to see where this is all leading.

¹ Note that this popular translation does not capture the nuances of the final line. Here, "adorns Him" stands in for "has been made to adorn Him in this manner". While somewhat lacking in brevity, it does better to articulate the Miqh's power over all mines in the mountains, such that he could force the Earth to comply and adorn him with the wide variety of jewelry which can be seen in the plaque itself. Note also that what is rendered here as capitalization is the doubling of characters vertically or horizontally alongside the main body of text for emphasis. The codification of written language and adoption of outside influences on grammar did not occur until about three hundred years later.

² There was of course no "crown" to be worn by the first Miqh, because the mining of precious stones and metals did not occur to any significant degree by this point, and so the smithing required to produce an item of such care would come later. The earliest images of the Miqh do depict them with a scepter adorned with a crystal of some sort however, so it is very possible that interest in such materials was present in the culture, even if access to them was limited by whatever was found on or nearest to the surface.