“What kind of a world, then is Tékumel? Socially and culturally, Tékumel
is as complex—and as alien to modern thinking—as Byzantium,
ancient Egypt, Tenochtitlan, or the India of the Mughals.”
M.A.R. Barker, Introduction to Swords & Glory Volume 1, Copyright ©1983 M.A.R. Barker.
The Colonisation of Tékumel
No records exist for this period.
Some 60,000 years after the Twentieth Century, the planet of Tékumel was discovered by human explorers. It was almost inhabitable; poisonous purple vegetation covered the land; many-legged mucid monsters splashed in tidal pools of stinking slime; quaking seas of mud roiled with vermiform life; brooding, crumpled mountain peaks raked skies filled with clouds of yellow gas. The semi-subterranean Ssú and the insectoid Hlüss were advanced enough technologically to make human conquest difficult at best.
Tékumel, however, lay upon an important interstellar trade route. Mighty weapons cut swathes through the jungles and drove the Ssú and the Hlüss back into reservations. The deadly flora and fauna were poisoned and replaced, the atmosphere was cleared, the planet shifted in its orbit, and the day was made to conform to the standards of Terra, now long lost and far away across the galaxy. Great eternal engines buried deep in the planet’s core adjusted its gravity. All of this took over a century to achieve, but in the end Tékumel became a residential planet, some what hotter, perhaps, than one might wish, but the powerful came down from the stars to build villas and palaces, parks and pavilions, and to shed their fatigue beside its lazy seas. Elegant aristocrats and their glittering companions feasted and danced and visited one another through a planet-wide network of underground tube cars. The skies thundered with the mighty ships of interstellar commerce. Tékumel relaxed into being a graceful, somnolent pleasure world, a place to which every lesser man yearned someday to retire.
The allies of man came too; the slender Pé Chói from Procyon, the reptilian Shén from Antares, the stumpy Ahoggyá from Achernar, the Pygmy Folk from Mirach, the little Tinalíya from Algol, the aerial Hláka from Ensis, the clever Urunén from Betelgeuze, the forest-dwelling Páchi Léi from Arturus, and the Swamp Folk from Unukalhai; each race was granted a region in which to settle. Uninvited, certain of man’s foes arrived; the vicious amphibian Hlutrgú from Algenubi and the stinking Shunned Ones from Regulus, the aquatic Nyaggá from Alhena and the translucent crystalloid Hókun from Markeb set up secret observation posts in remote areas of Tékumel. The mysterious Mihálli appeared without warning and established themselves in the northern wilds.
In their ancient fastnesses the Ssú and the Hlüss brooded, waited , and bided their time. Patches of the Old Vegetation adapted and flourished in the remotest hinterlands.
The Mythic Cataclysm
No records exist for this period.
Only a few fragments of folk memory still exist of The Time of Darkness, a time when the hills rose up, the seas walked the land, flame spouted from the brazen mouths of the mountains, and the stars went out forever. Tékumel and its solar system fell, or were thrust, through a warp in the fabric of space-time itself, into a pocket dimension in which no other matter existed.
The reasons for this terrible catastrophe can only be guessed, but for a time the survival of life hung by the slenderest of threads. Dazed and shocked, the survivors looked up into the black emptiness of the night sky and despaired. Communications and commerce were gone; cities sprawled in ruins, new lands rose from the oceans, while others sank beneath the waves. The machines of former times became great prizes and assumed an air of wonder and of sanctity, and one by one the lights went out, bringing about a darkness which was not only of the skies and the cities but of the mind ...
The Ssú and the Hlüss also suffered in the cataclysm, but as the planet stabilized once more they began to see it as a blessing. The Old Races exulted and dreamed dreams of reclaiming their world, but they did not reckon with mankind’s more rapid birthrate or with his genius for military action. In they end, mankind and his allies still held the greater part of the planet—remote mountain ranges, distant island archipelagoes and expanses of windswept tundra became the domain of the Old Races.
Mankind's other foes prospered as well—the pallid Hlutrgú spilled out into the coastal swamplands and had to be driven back in a long series of brutal and bloody wars; the sinuous Nyaggá built their undersea cities and troubled no one except for an occasional raid; the Shunned Ones sealed themselves in domed cities filled with noxious gases more to their liking; the insect-like Hokún pretended to cooperate with man for a time, warred with him, enslaved him, ruled him as gods, and were eventually defeated by him. The Mihálli went about their strange affairs as usual, but eventually a king of one of the cities of the Latter Times so lusted after the imagined treasures of their underground city that he unleashed one of the last planetary bombs upon it, destroying not only most of the Mihálli but himself and his people.
Mankind’s allies began to drift into enclaves of their own. The heatloving Shén spread along the equator, the Páchi Léi and the Péi Chói into forest regions, the Tinalíya and the Pygmy Folk into mountainous regions, the Swamp Folk and the Ahoggyá into the bogs and swamps of the coastal lowlands, the Urenén to the southern polar regions, the Hláka to high mountain eyries; each race to climes reminiscent of their lost planets.
Slowly Tékumel's inhabitants began to learn the techniques of agriculture and a less technological way of life. Man and nonhuman alike survived and eventually prospered again. It is said—although it is not known for certain—that the Time of Darkness lasted for more than fifty centuries.
From the Tablets of Llyan
Kabárikh hiLlyán lél Máisurmra Kolumébabŕr
(The Story of Llyán and his Empire)
in Tsolyáni, preserved in manuscript in the Temple of Thúmis in Khéiris
Tsa’kélikh hiTsáipamoguyal hiLlyándŕlisa
(An Examination of the Artifacts of Great and Mighty Llyán)
in Tsolyáni, available in most temple and Imperial libraries throughout Tsolyánu
Nothing of the world before the Time of Darkness now remains on the surface of Tékumel. The elements have had their way with the fragile cities of men. Some of the great shuttle ships still stand, perdurable towers of never rusting metal, half buried in the debris of millenia; here and there, too, buried beneath the strata of later settlements, one finds the remains of the underpinnings of the cities of the ancients, bits of corroded and unintelligible machines, fragments of plastic. A very few of the devices found in the labyrinths are still operable: some of the little tubeway cars still stand brightly lit at their stations, awaiting the richly clad passengers who come no more. The wonderous items cached in the Latter Times are both awesome and dangerous—men have died from thinking ladies’ perfume to be liquor, from travelling in a tubeway car to a destination where the tunnel has collapsed, and from a thousand other simple, silly causes which could have been avoided if only the languages of the ancients were still known. But aeons have passed; the cultures of modern Tékumel no longer have the technical ability or the cultural orientation to understand the manuals even if the grammars and vocabularies were available.
The oldest written records date back only some 25,000 years—and this dating is doubtful at best.The industrious scholars of the Engsvanyáli Empire worked from sources now lost to compile portions of a language now termed Llyáni. The longest and most complete Llyáni text is the Tablets of Llyáni, written upon leaves of imperishable gold and now kept in the sanctuary of the temple of the Livyáani deity Qame’él in the city of Tsámra. These speak of a soldier adventurer named Llyán, whose capital was apparently at Tsámra itself. The names of the cities and provinces which he subjugated are now meaningless, lost in the mists of history.
Nothing else much remains of Llyán's ‘mighty empire’: fragments of walls, a few statuettes depicting unamed gods, crumbling rings of monoliths set high upon knolls all across Livyánu and southern Mu'ugalavyá, shards of red-glazed pottery—these are all that is left upon the surface. Below in the catacombs which underlie many of the ancient cities, there is more: chambers and halls and sepulchres below Ch’óchi in Mu’ugalavyá, empty shrines beneath Tsámra itself, an intricate circular labyrinth under Khéiris in Mu’ugalavyá, and occasional hoards of curiously thick coins stamped with the image of a naked man bearing what seems to be a wand or a two-handed sword.
By Llyán’s time the technology of otherdimensional power had become ‘magic’ for all intents and purposes; the scholars of this age compiled voluminous compendia of ‘spells’ and magical instructions detailing the means of utilising energy from the Planes Beyond. The ‘skin of reality’ was thinner in Tékumel’s new ‘pocket dimension’, and it was therefore easier to open gateways between the Planes. It is unfortunate that so little of this wisdom has been preserved.
Even less is known of the political history of Llyán’s empire.There are only hints of wars with the Hlüss and with the other human states, whispers of religious strife and fragments of economic records and temple donations.
Cities of the Great Triangle
Savályal hiPáchuyal hiFánuldáli
(The Cities of the Lords of the Great Triangle)
in Tsolyáni, preserved in manuscript in the Temple of Karakán in Jakálla
Contemporary or just subsequent to the Empire of Llyán, another human state arose in the plains of southern Tsolyánu. No material artifacts of this society have been identified since the three capitals of this nation—Úrmish in the west, Jakálla in the south, and Thráya in the east—have been rebuilt many, many times, and any smaller sites now lie buried beneath the Mssúma River delta.
Almost all the evidence for the Three States of the Triangle comes from their conquerors, the Dragon Warriors who swept down from N'lüss in the far northwest. According to their records, the armies of the Three States did battle with the nonhuman Churstálli, a semi-intelligent species related to the Ssú, and also with the Mihálli. Both of these statements must be mere legend, or else the geographic spread of the Churstálli and the Mihálli must have been far different from what can be inferred today. More certain is the alliance of the Three States of the Triangle with the reptilian Shén in a series of wars with the Hlüss; this is corroborated by Shén records.
The Discovery of the Gods
During the latter days of the Empire of Llyán some unknown scholar made contact with certain of the mightiest beings of the Planes Beyond. These beings are for all intents and purposes ‘gods’; unimaginably powerful and transcending man’s understanding, yet willing to aid those who serve their enigmatic goals.
It was soon discovered that rivalries exist between these ‘gods’ themselves. One ‘alignment’ supports Stability: a status quo, a tranquil progression of time and space on towards a final amalgamation into a perfect and eternal ‘Light of Being’. The other urges Change: endless ephemerality, with all Planes perpetually undergoing violent upheavals, birth, death, and renewal. There are also interplanar beings who stand outside of these two parties, as well as whole hierarchies of lesser inhabitants of other dimensions who have greater or lesser talents and powers than does mankind.
Human moral terms do not apply to these alignments’; the boundaries which separate these two positions surpass mankind’s understanding, and various aspects of a ‘god’ may appear as members of different ‘alignments’ in different times or periods, or separate deities in one land are combined into one in another. What the ‘gods’ disclose is all that can be known with certainty—and even this can be only partial and beyond man’s ability to grasp.
The Barbarian Invasions
Original manuscript in the Temple of Thúmis in Khéiris, but copies are commonly available
Tsárnu hiFatlán and Koyón Bashánvěsumkoi
(The Great Expedition to Tané)
in Tsolyáni, available from most book-copyists in Béy Sü
The Dragon Warriors were hardy barbarians, scattered tribes who lived in the harsh mountains of the far northwest. They were both stronger and taller than the peoples of the south, averaging about 2m in height to the southerners’ 1.56m, and rode into battle ‘dragons’ that ‘flew upon brazen wings’, were ‘armoured as though with iron’ and ‘slew with tongues of flame’ (scholars from Engsvanyáli times to the present have disputed whether these dragons were in fact aircars preserved since before the Time of Darkness or living beings, perhaps related to the Sró, a species of huge flying reptile brought originally from one of the Shén worlds).
If the Dragon Warriors were anything like their modern descendants, the N’lüss, one can well imagine the terror of the soft and civilised peoples of the south when confronted with serried wedges of these gigantic barbarians, each led by its war-chief, every man swinging a two-metre long two-handed sword, flanked by yelling, ululating hordes of women and youths hurling stones from slings, firing arrows, and running in like madmen to display their courage!
One of the reasons for these invasions was the establishment of the worship of Vimúhla, Lord of Fire. N’lüss culture is based upon violence, and the chiefs and shamans of their ancestors quickly seized upon that ‘god’ who best suited their ethos: mighty Vimúhla, Lord of Fire, Power of Destruction and Red Ruin, the All-Consuming One, whose function is violence, catharsis and rebirth through the cleansing transition of the Flame.
Their tribal shamans became a red-robed hierarchy, and the squalid log huts of the village of Malcháiran were transformed into the proud towers of the capital of a theocratic empire. Soon a thousand captives went to their deaths each day in the furnaces named The Cupped Hands of the Flame atop the truncated pyramids of Lord Vimúhla. The Red Robes sparked the greed of the tribes, united them, and led them out in a mighty wave upon the lands of the south, very much like the raging conflagration which they worshipped.
Thirty years after their first incursions the Dragon Warriors had overrun the many city-states of what is now Mu’ugalavyá and sacked the mighty city of Ch’óchi. Within 50 years they had destroyed the remnants of the Empire of Llyán. The Shén states stopped their progress in the south, but they turned east, plundered the coasts of what is now Yán Kór within another century and became locked in a death struggle with the Three States of the Triangle. The latter fell, and by the end of the second century of their great adventure their banners of painted human skin flapped from the towers of Tsatsayágga in Salarvyá. Here their empire reached its greatest extent. Frustrated in the north by the barren peaks of Jánnu and Kilalámmu, blocked in the east by the Ssú enclave of Ssúyal, and confronted in the south by the rising vitality of the Salarvyáni feudal states, over-extended and too few to maintain their sprawling conquests, the Dragon Warriors set up their boundary stelae and swore to go no further.
The Empire of the Dragon Warriors maintained its internal cohesion for only some 200 years; by the year 500 of their dynasty, a number of remote regions had begun to splinter away, local rulers arose who were only part-N’lüss, or who were not descended from the Dragon Warriors at all. The hotter climes and softer ways of the south took their toll. The history of the next 1,500 years then reads like a compendium of petty wars, personal intrigues, rivalries and vengeances—and always endless, pointless, self-serving greed ...
The Dynasty of Gémulu
Most sources books for this era are in either Salarvyáni or Pecháni:
Gupaggáli nga Shshí
(The Might of Our Ancestors)
in Salarvyáni, preserved in manuscript in the Royal Dome of Glory in Tsatsayágga
Nganjjá pa Ssú
(Flee, Ye Ssú!)
in Pecháni, kept in the House of Skulls in Mechanéno
and a few relevant passages in the Imperial compilation:
(The History of the World)
in Tsolyáni, available almost anywhere in the empire
During the last centuries of the Empire of the Dragon Warriors, the subject peoples of western Salarvyá were united by a minor lordling called Gámulu from the city of Fénul in what is now the Chaigári Protectorate in Tsolyánu. Gámulu first obtained the allegiance of the lords of Khúm and Koylugá, then drove the last of the decadent heirs of the Dragon Warriors from Tsatsayágga, Nrikakchné, and the other rich metropolises of the western plains of Salarvyá.
Gámulu’s most deadly foes, however, proved to be the nonhuman Ssú, who had come forth to ravage what is now Pecháno, firstly to conquer the ruins of their ancient capital Ssuganár, and then on to sack the city of Benésh. Benésh never rose again and is now a grass-grown mound near the city of Mechanéno. When the Ssú moved north and threatened even the high eyries of the Hláka, the latter made alliance with Gámulu’s human forces, and the Ssú Wars raged for the next 25 years.
In the end Gámulu was victorious—the foe was driven back into the deep labyrinths beneath Ssuganár. Gámulu reigned for another decade, but perished of a wasting disease contracted while holding a victory celebration in the whispering ruins of that ancient city. Even today when a person dies of an unforeseen minor consequence of some great deed, men speak of it as ‘dying the death of Gámulu’.
The Fisherman Kings
Many of Gámulu’s sons had fallen in the Ssú Wars, and others died in the struggle for the Ebon Helm when he was gone. Hó Etéhltu, his 12th son, seized the throne and spent the remainder of his long life consolidating his domains, building the navy of small, fast galleys which give this dynasty the name of ‘The Fishermen Kings’. His black ships took Háida Pakála in the south, struck eastward as far as Peléis, and northwestward seized the Dragon Warrior strongholds on the isles of Gánga, Thayúri and Vrá. Jakálla was beseiged but untaken, and the vicious Hlutrgú prevented any expansion along the coasts of Káija. In the end the Fishermen Kings were largely contained within the borders of present-day western and central Salarvyá, plus the northern peninsula of Háida Pakála.
The Doomed Prince of the Blue Room
During the reign of the 22nd king of Gámulu’s dynasty another ‘god’ was contacted: Ksárul, the Ancient Lord of Secrets, Doomed Prince of the Blue Room, Master of Magic and Sorcery, Worker of Transitions. Ksárul is also famed as the Rebel of the Gods. In some mythic age, at the mighty Armageddon known as the Battle of Dórmoron Plain, the Lords of Change and Stability fought, but even Ksárul’s allies came to see his overweening intellect as a threat. They turned against him and imprisoned him in an other-planar place called the Blue Room, where he is said to lie in eternal sleep upon a catafalque of deep azure-purple. According to legend this place can only be accessed with the aid of Keys, three of which are are known to exist. The endless search for the Keys goes on.
Even asleep, the powers of Lord Ksárul are great, and the mysteries of his faith spread throughout the realm of the Fishermen Kings. For a time there were religious persecutions between the Red Robes of Vimúhla and the silver-masked Black Robes of the Doomed Prince. Only the passage of centuries has brought about a tentative reconciliation and peace.
The Lords of Change
The surging wave of the Fishermen Kings took half a millenium to subside. The Red Robes dominated the west and the Black Robes the east, and secular power passed from ruler to ruler and dynasty to dynasty. In far Livyánu the temples of Vimúhla gave way to faiths which had been old when Llyán’s empire was yet unborn: the dark cults of the Shadow gods. Some say that these are but other members of the race of beings known as ‘gods’, while others assert that they are combinations of familiar deities.
Although the worship of the other Lords of Change began during this period, there is no record yet of their opponents, the Lords of Stability, nor does there seem to have been any attempt to codify the gods and fit them all into one pantheon. Sárku, the Lord of worms and Master of the Undead, is seen for the first time on monuments from the Kráŕ Hills and Dó Cháka. Shrines to Hrü’ü, the Supreme Principle of Change, are found in the now-ruined cities of Hmakuyál and Ngála. The goddess of pleasure, Dlamélish, rose to become the favourite deity of the lords of sybaritic Jakálla. Each of these deities had many lesser servitors, but was always served by one sub-deity who was a sort of steward: the Cohort of the god. Thus, the Cohort of Vimúhla is cruel Chiténg; that of Ksárul is Grugánu, the Knower of Spells; Sárku is served by corpse-like Durritlámish; Hrü’ü’s Cohort is Wurú, the Many-Legged Serpent of Gloom; and that of Dlamélish is fickle Hriháyal, the Dancing Maiden of Temptation. Again, there are as man hypotheses concerning the natures and relationships of the Cohorts as there are scholars, and no one can say which is true. The truth is known only to the gods themselves.
The Bednálljan Dynasties
Kolumélan Ssána hiPathái
(The Royal Courtesan of Love)
in Tsolyáni, preserved in the Imperial Archives in Béy Sü and also in many other collections
Bednállja lel Béy Sü
(Bednállja and Béy Sü)
in Tsolyáni, the original manuscript of which is in the private collection of Sirukél hiTuritláno, the renowned book collector and antiquarian of Béy Sü
Most libraries have shelves of scrolls and books devoted to various aspects of the First Imperium, and the student should seek the aid of a knowledgeable librarian.
The First Imperium began with the inconsequential incursion of a band of nomads from the deserts of the Dry Bay of Ssu’úm into the fertile southland—such caravans are still common. With this one, however, was a 13-year old girl, said by some historians to be the daughter of a clan-chief, by others only a slave. In time the nomads entered great Purdánim, a metropolis now lost but thought to lie beneath the plain east of modern Usenánu. There the wild desert child soon became a courtesan and, passed from hand to hand like a pretty toy, she rose to become the First Concubine and later the Chief Wife of the Clanmaster of Purdánim. But she was not satisfied. She took five years to lay her snares and establish her power: an official here, a priest there, a captain in this legion, and a eunuch in that palace. When all was ready, the pretty toy systematically destroyed her owners one by one. For her innocuous husband she reserved a special fate: he was cast naked and alone into the sealed shrine of the goddess of the Pale Bone in the labyrinths beneath Jakálla.
Seven years transformed Nayári the child-courtesan into Queen Nayári of the Silken Thighs, royal Mistress of Purdánim and Jakálla and the Myriad Jewelled Cities of the South. Beautiful and ruthless, she employed intrigue, war, poison, sorcery, the dagger, and the delights of her body all with consummate skill. A succession of alliances—and suddenly dead husbands—gave her Fasíltum in the northeast, Tumíssa in the west, and Sokátis in the east. Amalgamating the rag-tag militias of her city-states into one force, she set the model for a systematic modern army.
Within three more years Nayári's troops had conquered the last quarrelsome heirs to the Dragon Warriors’ empire, the princelings of Mu’ugalavyá. Smaller forces moved along the coast of Yán Kór as far as modern Dháru. Another year saw Nayári’s legions tramping through the narrow streets of Khúm and Koylúga in Salarvyá to the far southeast. In Tsatsayágga, the simpering courtiers showed her generals the corpse of Gámulu’s 55th descendent seated upon the Ebon Throne, transfixed with a hundred slender stilettoes. As their reward, they were promised ‘an ocean of treasure’—and all were pitched from the battlements into the sea.
When Fasíltum revolted, she put 10,000 of its inhabitants to the garrote. Her capital of Purdánim rose against her at the instigation of certain nobles of the old dynasty, and a mountain of skulls was built in the great square. Even today any terrible catastrophe is referred to as ‘Nayári’s Hill’, and her name is used to frighten children into obedience all across the Five Empires.
The First Imperium
Nayári perished by her own art, kissed with poisoned lips by a young lover. Her children warred briefly, until her son by the murdered lord of Tumíssa ascended the throne under the title of Ssirandár I, renounced his mother’s ruthless policies and spent the next 50 years building and unifying. The beginnings of the Sákbe Road system, the network of mighty fortified highways which spans the continent, are attributed to him. Perhaps haunted by the ghosts of the dreadful past, he removed his capital to Jakálla. Purdánim became the ‘Old City’, and lingered on for half a millenium more, but without its officials, courtiers, soldiers, and artisans it fell into ruin. There is no further record of the city after the visit of the scholar-traveller Turshánmu in the 12th year of Ssirandár IX.
Utékh Mssá, grandson of Ssirandár I, moved the capital a second time a hundred years after Nayári’s death. This new city was meant to be the material manifestation of all men’s dreams, a utopia and a monument for ages to come. Hither were brought the produce and the tribute and the plunder of a thousand lands and a thousand years. This was Béy Sü, whose name means Soul of the World in Bednálljan.
The splendour of the First Imperium endured for 3,000 years. There were good kings and bad, conquerors and cravens, sages and fools, but there were no external foes capable of challenging it, and the military and administrative structures built by Nayári and her successors survived any disruption. Trade was initiated with the yet independent nations of Livyánu and eastern Salarvyá. Missionaries went forth to the unknown realms of the far northeast. For the first time men heard the names of Jánnu, Mihállu, Nuru’ún, and other nations.
For the first time in millenia, too, the isolation of the nonhuman enclaves was broken. Men warred briefly with the Shén, but soon there were battalions of the more adventurous Shén serving as mercenaries in the Bednálljan armies, and human traders dwelt in alien Ssorvá. Men grew accustomed to the Ahoggyá, the Pé Chói, the Páchi Léi, the Pygmy Folk and the Tinalíya. Of the inimical races, the Shunned Ones remained aloof within their cities, the Hlutrgú kept to their swamps, and the Hlüss and the Ssú brooded, hated and waited.
Had there been more of certain raw materials, notably iron, and less reliance upon the ‘magic’ of the Planes Beyond, perhaps Tékumel would have begun the long climb back up the ladder of technology. The certainty of the existence of the ‘gods’ and their immanence in mankind’s affairs stifled intellectual curiosity and hampered the philosophising which might have led to a Renaissance and an Age of Reason. The societies of the planet grew ever more formalised, structured, and conservative, borne down beneath the panoply of imperial glory and the weight of hoary tradition.
The Kingdom of the Gods
The library of the Governor of Tumíssa is the best source for materials relating to Éngsvan hla Gánga. For a fee, the custodian will display the Book of Priestkings, the last copy known to exist. It was calligraphed by Aruchúč, the greatest scribe of his age, illuminated with gold-leaf and colours made of powdered gems, and bound in plates of electrum all set with sparkling jewels. It is also said that if one watches the miniature pictures upon its pages, that these will move and visually display the story written in the accompanying text.
Shártokoi Guál Dáimi
(A Priest There Was)
in Tsolyáni, the manuscript of which is kept in the Temple of Avánthe in Jakálla, but copies are commonly available
Éngsvan hla Gánga, Kolumébabŕrdŕlisa
(Éngsvan hla Gánga, the Mighty and Powerful Empire)
in Tsolyáni, the original of which is kept in the Temple of Karakán in Béy Sü
The first Imperium was finally swept away—by just one poor, crippled, middle-aged priest from the island of Gánga in the gulf south of Jakálla, an inconsequential backwater. This priest, Pavár by name, was originally devoted to Ksárul, but in the course of his meditations he stumbled upon a means of contacting yet others of the race of ‘gods’ and thus altered the flow of history.
The ‘gods’ summoned by Pavár were the Lords of Stability. First came gentle Thúmis; then Hnálla himself, the Supreme Principle of Stability. Later there was Avánthe; then golden Belkhánu, the Lord of the Excellent Dead and lastly Karakán, Master of Heroes. A flood of knowledge poured forth upon the lowly priest: information concerning the two ‘alignments’ and the pantheons, servitors and Cohorts of these new Lords of Stability, the topography of the many Planes, and the secrets of life after death. All this Pavár set down in his cursive script.
The Scrolls of Pavár
The Scrolls of Pavár described the Tlomitlányal, the Five Lords of Stability, and the Tlokiriqáluyal, the Five Lords of Change. Although he realised these were but mighty entities farther along the scale of existence than mankind, he also stated that for all practical purposes these were indeed ‘Gods’ since man is too limited and transitory to comprehend their vast purposes. Pavár set forth how each ‘god’ must be served, and how life is to be lived—unfortunately, the Scrolls also put an end to man‘s certainty that he alone is the highest being in the universe, the quintessential ‘reason for it all’, and thus the Scrolls cut short man’s attempts at analysis of his universe.
Pavár’s doctrines spread far and wide even during his lifetime, mostly touching the hearts of the common folk. Pilgrims came to sit at the feet of the crippled priest, and in time a city arose on his island, and when at last he died and was entombed near his simple home, it became a great metropolis. Temples were erected to Pavár’s new gods, and missionaries propounded the doctrines of Stability with all of the zeal of the newly converted.
The priests of the old faiths waxed wroth, and the kings sent forth soldiers and inquisitions. In what is now Tsolyánu some regions threw aside the Lords of Change almost immediately, while others clove to their familiar deities. Abroad, the Livyáni clung to their Shadow Gods. The folk of Mu’ugalavyá were too steeped in the doctrines of Vimúhla to change. The Mu’ugalavyáni elite evolved another cult, however: the worship of Lord Hrsh, either another ‘god’ or an amalgam of Ksárul and Vimúhla, or perhaps one of the Lords of Stability garbed in the trappings of Change. The Salarvyáni produced an amalgam of Avánthe and Dlamélish, named Shiringgáyi. Smaller nations also did not escape this religious upheaval, and even the nonhuman enclaves were affected.
Eventually, the zealots became plump priestly bureaucrats, and temples of Stability stood side by side with those of Change. Of course certain deities still dominated some areas, but in the interests of peace most of the sects (even those of distant lands) agreed to a great Concordat of the Temples. This prohibited any overt religious hostility; and slowly society was brought under control.
By the third century after Pavár’s death, secular power began to shift away from the weakened kings of Béy Sü to the hierophants of his island of Gánga. In the ninth century the last monarch of the Bednálljans stole away from his decaying capital to the islands north of Yán Kór. The capital of the empire of the Priestkings was shifted from Béy Sü to Pavár’s island, and thus was established Éngsvan hla Gánga: 'the Kingdom of the Gods'.
Éngsvan hla Gánga endured for over ten millenia. The exploration and conquest of most of the great continent was completed. Livyánu capitulated and became only another prefecture, though it held yet to its Shadow Gods. Engsvanyáli legates held court in Dlu’nír in the islands of Tsoléi, in humid Gorulú in Háida Pakála, in cool Nenu’ú in the wild land of Nuru’ún, and in the storm-blown Ai’ís in the Farisé Isles. Of the friendly nonhumans, only the Shén kept their independence, while the inimical races were driven back into preserves.
This was the the greatest flourishing of human culture since before the Time of Darkness. Art, architecture, music, literature, science, and a thousand other crafts and skills all throve mightily. Social and economic affairs prospered as well. The Sákbe Roads wound across the continent bearing the commerce of nations. Armies evolved first into standing garrisons and then into glorified police forces. Taxes were regularised, temple tithes restricted, merchants protected and laws established.
It is must be remembered, however, that the Priestkings were theocrats; their rule was based upon temple power and the swords of their armies. Those who opposed their laws were executed or resettled. The Tólek Kána Pits, the terrible prison constructed by the Bednálljan emperor Báshdis Mssá I just south of Béy Sü, was refurbished and expanded; armies of slaves toiled to build the Sákbe Roads and to carve a mountain crag into the fortress-palace which later became Avanthár, the capital of modern Tsolyánu. Religious and secular powers were combined into one, and it was a rare individual who attempted to swim against the current. Society flowed on like a broad, somnolent river.
Éngsvan hlá Gánga Ends
(The End of the Mighty Empire)
in Tsolyáni, available in the library of the Temple of Avánthe in Jakálla
(Men of Power)
in Tsolyáni, in the private collection of the Governor of Béy Sü
(Great Wizards of Antiquity)
in Tsolyáni, available from most book-copyists throughout Tsolyánu
Éngsvan hla Gánga perished suddenly—the causes are not fully known, although it is clear that vast seismic convulsions were initially to blame. The western end of Pavár’s island tilted up and the eastern end fell beneath the waves, carrying the metropolis of the Priestkings and all its glories with it. At the same time, the shallow inland sea of Yán Kór rose up, spilling its waters north to drown the coastal islands and south to thunder against the Thénu Thendráya Range. In time the upper highlands dried up, and today the sands of the Desert of Sighs sometimes blow aside to reveal the crumbled ruins of Engsvanyáli cities. The Spouting Mountains of the Shén domains erupted to bury that region under volcanic ash, and in the east jagged Dríchte Peak, the ‘Hag of Flame’, vented its fury upon the forestland of Nuru’ún and the Plains of Glass. A whole new continent rose up like a leviathan of the sea south of Ssórmu, remained thus for a hundred years, then sank again, its place now marked only by the dangerous rocks of the White Water Shoals. Lesser cataclysms occurred in a hundred other locations as well.
No region escaped the economic, political, and psychological consequences of the disaster. Commerce faltered, crops failed, the Sákbe Roads fell into disrepair, and the cities emptied as refugees sought safer ground. All unity of purpose and of spirit drowned; local loyalties and hatreds, long suppressed, re-emerged to divide mankind, and war was reborn. Province fought province, city battled city, and devotees of Stability clashed with those of Change. All of the ancient ills which had ever beset Tékumel came forth again at the setting of the sun of Éngsvan hla Gánga. The Ssú and the Hlüss made exultant forays into human regions, the Hlutrgú seized much of Káija and the shores of Msúmtel Bay, and even the friendly races took the opportunity to expand their domains. Within two centuries after that first savage paroxysm, the corpse of the Kingdom of the Gods was picked apart by a thousand greedy scavengers and another Time of Darkness overspread the land.
The Time of No Kings
Some say that the ‘Time of No Kings’, as the Tsolyáni historians name this period, lasted for six millenia, others claim ten. History becomes a confused babble. At one point over twenty independent principalities ruled in what is Tsolyánu today. Some regions continued to employ a debased form of Engsvanyáli for their inscriptions and monuments; others chose to raise their own local dialects to the status of literary languages, thus giving birth to modern Tsolyáni, Mu’ugalavyáni, and a host of other tongues; in not a few areas the art of writing itself was lost.
It is to the Time of No Kings that many of the folk legends of present-day Tékumel refer. There are innumerable tales—Tsolyani peasants sing yet of the mighty warrior Hagárr of Paránta, who still wanders the world exchanging old wisdom for new; there is the necromancer Nyélmu, condemned by the gods for his arrogance to live forever in the timeless ennui of the Garden of the Weeping Snows beneath old Jakálla; there is Subadím the Sorceror, whose insatiable curiosity led him to seek the Egg of the World in the dizzy crags of Thénu Thendráya Peak, and who is later said to have visited the Home of the Gods themselves.
There is great Thómar the Ever-Living, whose ensorcelled towers appear in the wastelands to provide weary travellers with hospitality—and the chance to gain wealth and magical power through performance of his quests. One hears of fumbling Turshánmu the Summoner of Demons, whose enchanted ship lies buries beneath the sands of Milumanayá near Pelesár and whose abilities, though great, are marred by occasional absentmindedness. The tale-spinners tell of Qiyór the Many-Tongued and how he duped the demon princes of the Planes Beyond until his cleverness led him to attempt one trick too many. The Mu’ugalavyáni relate the legends of brave Pendárte of Khéiris and his battle with the minions of She Who Cannot Be Named in the Citadel of Ebon Light below the city of Ch'óchi. All of these tales, and many more besides, can be heard round the fires of the clanhouses in almost every town and village in the land.
It is quite possible that some of the wisdom of Éngsvan hla Gánga survived in the sanctuaries and hidden retreats of the ancient priesthoods. Such monasteries exist today, although the powers of their sages are certainly less than those of the heroes of the tales. There are many reports of encounters with some of these mythical protagonists. The truth of these legends can only be conjectured.
The Empire of the Petal Throne
Balamtsányal hitůplanKólumeldŕlidŕlisayal hiKólumebabŕrsasa
(The Histories of the Beloved, Very Great, and Powerful Emperors of the Most Mighty Imperium)
in Tsolyáni, available in almost every library in the Empire, voluminous and somewhat outdated
Balamtsánikh hiGardásisasayal Lúmimra hiWísu
(The History of the Mighty Deeds of Our Realm)
in Tsolyáni, procurable everywhere
By the time the histories began to be written again, the foundations of the Empire of the Petal Throne (which rules modern Tsolyánu) had already been laid—indeed, formalised and crystallised. The peoples of this part of Tékumel have a predilection for elaborate ceremonial, visual display, and the security brought about by knowing exactly where one stands in the social order. The earliest records of the Second Imperium (those of the fifth Emperor, named Trákonel I ‘the Blazing Light’, whose reign lasted from 139 to 195 of the current era) already indicate that most of the apparatus of the modern Tsolyáni state was in existence. It has changed very little since.
The first Emperor is known only by his clan-name: ‘the Tlakotáni’. There are no records of his antecedents, who he was, or how he came to subdue the other petty states then ruling in the region. All that is certain is that he had a considerable body of supporters, an army of sorts, and a base of operations somewhere near present Béy Sü.
He also possessed an ancient technological device which struck awe into his contemporaries: this was the Seal of the Imperium, which produces impressions upon parchment, stone, or metal which cannot be counterfeited and which seem to contain—if one gazes deeply into its whorls and convolutions—hints of fearful other-planar power. The original purpose of this device is not known, but it serves to surround and enhance the Imperium with all of the power and mystery of the ancients and of the Gods. This Seal (Tsolyani: Kólumel) is more than just an emblem; it stands for the organic, living persona of the State itself. Kólumel also denotes ‘Emperor’, and a feminine form, Kólumelra, signifies ‘Empress’.
The dating system of the Second Imperium begins with the putative first regnal year of the first Tlakotáni, and all years thereafter are termed tuKolumel ‘after the Seal’, abbreviated to ‘A.S.’ As of this writing, the year is 2,358 A.S.
The War With Yan Kor
The nation of Tsolyánu is currently engaged in a war with its northern neighbour, Yán Kór, whose ruler is known as Baron Áld. Born in Sa’á Allaqí, Ald travelled south and joined the Tsolyáni army as a mercenary. He rose through the ranks to become General of the Legion of the Scarlet Plume, before he was betrayed by Tsolyáni politics during actions against the city-state of Yán Kór. His legion was wiped out, and has never been rebuilt; Áld himself was offered a position in the Yán Koryáni forces.
Áld welded the armies of many small northern states into a fighting unit capable of repelling the many Tsolyáni missions sent to defeat the rebellious northerners. During the last expedition, Tsolyáni forces besieged a city whose defence was being directed by Áld’s beloved mistress, Yilrána. Yilrana refused to surrender the city believing the Baron’s forces to be nearby, but her judgement was misplaced. The Tsolyáni forces broke into the city, and (following their usual practice) impaled Yilrána as the leader of the defenders. Upon arrival, Áld discovered his slain lover and has vowed implacable revenge on all things Tsolyáni, going so far as to form a secret alliance with Prince Dhich’uné of Tsolyánu to overthrow the emperor.
The Death of Hirkáne
In 2368, the war in Yán Kór involved many of the Legions of the Empire, and two of the major Princes, Eselné and Mirusíya, followers of the war-gods Karakán and Vimúlha respectively. The death of the old Emperor Hirkáne, ‘the Stone on which the Universe rests’, started a chain of events which plunged the entire Empire into a civil war.
Prince Dhich’uné, a priest of the worm-god Sárku, chose this moment to make a play for the throne. Citing the war as a need to have an Emperor on the throne, he forced an early Kólumejálim (the ceremonial process by which the new Emperor is chosen), timed such that neither Eselné nor Mirusíya could attend. Those Princes and Princesses who could attend chose to renounce their claims to the throne, avoiding the ritual slaying of the failed candidates at the end of the selection process. Dhich’uné ascended the throne, styling himself ‘Eternal Splendour’. Many were uneasy, both at the haste and unseemly proceedings of the Kólumejálim, and at the choice of title by a follower of a god whose worshippers can expect to rise as undead.
The Civil War
Factions led by several Princes took to the field, involving almost all the military forces of the Empire in a many-sided war. The Mu’ugalavyani took the chance to seize the city of Butrús and surrounding territories, and for a time chaos reigned. During the fighting, Dhich’uné attempted to have Baron Áld killed so as to remove one potential problem, but Áld escaped is currently holding Yán Kór together.
Dhich’uné, against tradition, left the Imperial city of Avanthár to travel to a religious ceremony in the city of Sárku, and a military force led by Prince Mridóbu, a Ksárul worshipper, entered Avanthár and took the throne. His reign lasted two days, and was ended by an invasion of Dhich’uné’s undead army from below the city, amid much bloodshed and horror. Mridóbu’s current whereabouts and health are unknown.
Eventually, in 2369, the factions of Princes Rereshqála, Mirusíya and Taksuru united and forced Dhich’uné to flee Avanthár, and indeed the world of Tékumel for another Plane. A Kólumejálim was called in Béy Su, and representatives of the major power blocs—the assorted political parties, the temples, the military and the clans—were all present, as well as the Imperial heirs themselves. The only potential problem was that, since he was still alive, Dhich’uné could challenge for the throne, and a challenge was something no-one wanted. The final act of the drama took place in the High Chancery of the Palace of the Imperium in Béy Sü. The legions, most of whom has supported the late Prince Eselné (he had died the previous year, ingloriously, of a wasting disease) declared their full and total support for the Imperium, allaying fears of a military coup. Mirusíya announced his claim to the throne. Most of the other heirs renounced their claims, but Taksuru announced that he too would challenge for the throne. This shocked the whole crowd; Taksuru had been expected to bow to Mirusíya. At this point, seeing that there would be a challenge, Jayargo, Dhich’uné’s secret representative at the proceedings, tried to have the proceedings declared illegal—Dhich’uné was, he declared, the rightful Emperor. This declaration was thrown out, and with the challenge of the false Emperor over, Taksuru declared that he would, after all, bow to the Mighty Emperor Mirusíya.
Mirusíya has been now been raised, unopposed, as the new Emperor, taking (at least for now) the throne name of ‘The Flame Everlasting’. He faces the monumental task of restoring the mighty Empire of Tsolyánu, and repulsing the forces of those who have invaded his nation. Tsolyánu seethes with intrigue and factional politics. There are interesting times ahead.