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.

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