Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Going Downhill: The Pem-Pah, Part 1.

[In a remarkably short period of time, Roberick Bertrum Litte's already haphazard subscalanean office/dormitory has become even more disheveled. With no one to man the half-door to the utility closet during Litte's extended archaeology leave (all two days of it so far), its discount stationery and other discreet acquisitions have been ransacked by his usual customers. For the most part they haven't intended to disturb his personal effects, but when the wooden board nailed to the half-door was bumped into during an entry, the makeshift desk was nearly torn free, and all of its contents scattered across the minority of the floor which was not already taken up by shelves and a bed. While many papers have been looked over for "thesis seeds" by desperate freshmen, this sheaf of unpublished papers is the only one which has been read through with any amount of interest so far.]

"It is the well-known law both domestically and inter-communally that the possession of this volume of taboo metals and gemstones is strictly forbidden. You are fortunate I am not also charging you with intent to smuggle or sell."
- Ortej Tella, customs officer of Quibgyal Commune.

"N-Now tarry just a moment! Surely you know that the laws also state that a provision is made for the cultural folkways of all ethnic lowland-folk! And I'll have you know my grandmother was one quarter full-blooded Pem-Mih!"
- Junral Chyok, amateur peddler, clueless to the fact that Ortej was a matrilineal cousin of his.

It would be entirely remiss of me to suggest that the Pach-Pah community¹ is limited only to their ancestral mountains as well as a handful of border towns on the slopes to their north. Their ancient history was filled with pioneering folk, as well as those whose bravery and soaring imagination brought them down from the peaks of their birth. This led to the ethnogenisis of many inspired peoples who continue to exist in some capacity to this very day, not least of which among them being the Pem-Pah.

Pem-Pah is an exonym of highland origin, meaning "the people who went downhill to water". This is quite an apt description of the group's migration and eventual settlement along the southwestern coast. However, in everyday speech in their native dialect, the people known as the Pem-Pah refer to themselves simply as "the people". For the purpose of keeping the two groups distinct in my writing, I will continue to use the term Pem-Pah.

At some point in prehistory a group of people from the Pach-Pah Yul began to migrate away from the valleys and watered slopes of the mountain chain's interior, moving outward in successive waves toward the west and south. Eventually these waves of settlers pushed past the borders of the mountain range and the hills at its feet, into the lowlands and coastal regions bordering on the western sea. The highest concentration of people during these last settlement waves seemed to be in and around the Khaitom-po, a massive body of water fed by several rivers which has been described variously as a bay, estuary, or brackish-water lake.

As evidenced by the handful of digs which have been conducted outside of the Pach-Pah homeland, the ancestors of the modern Pem-Pah readily took to fishing here. This has inspired a cuisine vastly different from that of their cousin culture, as well as more than a few unique cultural points of view or folklore tropes. First the spear, and then the hooked line and net were used, after which developed the earliest boats and rafts known to the people in and around the mountain chain.

This is thanks in part to the relative abundance of wood found in the lowlands, compared to the scarce and carefully conserved pygmy forests of the mountains. Reedy grasses and palm trees unheard of in the highlands allowed for the construction of wooden vessels as well as buildings, alongside the tradition of stonework which--due to the Pem-Pah lack of involvement in the events leading up to the Collapse--was never forsaken. The settlers maintained their traditional forms of herding and weaving throughout, but also broadened and intensified their practice of agriculture to include and take advantage of the wider variety of crops which could not thrive in the mountains. Even jewelry which makes use of precious stones or metals continues to be made in Pem-Pah territory, much to the chagrin of those who were against the inclusion of Khaitom-po into the Communes with partial membership.

The people who would come to be known as the Pem-Pah proper are first mentioned in civil records from the imperial age of Pach-Pah Yul starting at about 400 years prior to the Collapse, and the death of the last Miqh Pach-Pah. These records are of trade and business transactions, suggesting that the Pem-Pah were already quite established as a culture and an economy, and that commerce and exchange between them and their upland neighbors was at least somewhat regular and normalized by that point. But because the Pem-Pah were not a part of the Pach-Pah empire and an effort was apparently never made to incorporate them, they do not often appear in official, imperial records. According to the reckoning of the Pem-Pah themselves, they were established no less than 1,200 years prior to the time of that exchange. This would make them contemporaries of the earliest incarnation of the empire, as well as the last of the pre-imperial petty-kingdoms. Little work has been done by uninvolved scholars on these old records however, owing to the extreme rarity of visits to the Pem'Pah homeland by outsiders.

This paucity of visitors is not from lack of effort or hospitality, however. Many travelers throughout the eras were known to have set off for the lands of the Khaitom-po, with few of them making it many leagues beyond the border markets.

By that point, they tend to either run screaming back home, or to collapse from need of urgent medical attention.

¹ I would also like to apologize to the Pach-Pah community for my varied and repeated mistakes in rendering its name. Being that Pach-Pah literally means "People of the Earth", it has been brought to my attention by thoughtful readers that all of my uses of the phrase "Pach-Pah people(s)" or the colloquialism "Pach-Pahs" have been erroneous and redundant. I will also make an effort to use the grammatically correct singular Pach-Mih, or simply mih² when appropriate.

² I would also like to point out to my uninitiated readers how mih is etymologically linked to--though very separate in meaning from--the old kingly title of Miqh. Mih is a person, while Miqh is a "great" person.

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