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"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 ██████████████████.