Fantasy Book Teaser 4: A Brief History of Ornaphesa

A brief history of Ornaphesa

 Wizened old Lusors used to say that history began when belief shaped manifested reality out of undifferentiated unity. That is just plain gobbledygook. Pragmatic  Upeccian scholars claimed that it began with the beginning of time, but they neither define “time”, nor the exact point when that was supposed to have begun.

In the books they teach us about the famous four zones. I think the Zartirian scientists are now also starting to debunk that, as there has never been any proof of anything more than two types of reality.

 

According to theory, the most undifferentiated plane of existence is the fourth, which is called “Zonis Ignotis.” Shapes and even ideas – supposedly connected – can manifest themselves, but never reach an absolute form. Lusors were convinced that this Zonis is where “the Art” works initiatially. I say that is mumbo-jumbo, allowing them to forever escape scientific scrutiny.

The third plane – again, this is theory only – is named “Zonis Vitacederis.” It is here where ideas and forms are said to gain a foothold, the beginning of a consistent universe of both perception and manifestation. There are some Eccarian priests who, in the age of the terrible Aeran-Mortu Sclepiaczu perhaps, have proposed that dreams are actually a fluid form of subconscious reality where the threads of the unlimited and the limited meet and together weave the stories of perceived existence. Well, I can attest to having interesting dreams, but a third plane still sounds like too much imagination, and too much spare time to me.

The second plane is referred to as “Zonis Vularis.” Now, science is starting to prove its existence with experiments, and field measurements done in Oragena, and the wilderness of Xortaeron, where all the skins – with unique physical characteristics – come from that have more influence on our economy and technology than most care to admit. This Zonis is where mother nature’s evolution does experiments with whatever monstrosities it can get away with within consistent reality.

The plane which we are most familiar with is described as “Zonis Manifestis.” It is the physical reality – and to some, also consistent psychological reality – where we are born into, and with which we finally part when we die. It is what we breathe every single day. And although some historians with too much time on their hands went as far as to make bold statements, about how the different Zonises interact to guide the course of history, I am of a more humble mind. For me, history starts in a fully settled Zonis Manifestis, with a complete, consistent physical and biological reality.

 

Well, since we are talking about humanoid history, we will ignore all the theories about other organisms. Lacking sources pointing to alternatives, we are forced to start with the Mayiora – our true common ancestors.

They were a people that originally lived in harmony with nature, hunters-gatherers in essence. The myths tell of a connected mind that was one. At some point they started moving around, a transformation to a more nomadic existence, and when they spread throughout all the then accessible continents, they finally started settling. Lusors and Eccarian priests both equally claim that the roots of the Art of Omniscillation has its roots in that timeframe of humanoid evolution. I beg to differ.

 

The settlers and the tradional hunter-gatherers started competing and the former, vastly outnumbering the latter, finally forced them into extinction, if not oblivion. Our knowledge of the hunter-gatherers is mostly based on primitive rock paintings made by the settlers.

The settlers were assumed to be a very homogenous group, but due to causes that are only speculation – like, for instance, the theory that the first and the second plane were interacting wildly, like in some areas of Xortaeron – a lot of subspecies started to emerge. They then lived in areas separated by geographical and other obstacles – some suggest that the Breath of Feelithin, which surrounds Oragena with her deadly embrace, already existed back then.

 

This – again, only theory – is said to be the time when the earliest ancestors of the Xortaeronese, Orburirians, and Eccarians arose and developed into their very distinct natures. Prolonged separation and exposure to geophysical traumata helped them evolve into unique species. On the same geographical scale, the original Mayiora settlers also continued to flourish, but because of more gentle, forgiving circumstances, they kept most of their features. Most anthropologists agree that the Pryosophan, Oragenese, Covenentumese, Upeccian and Zartian branches have those Mayiora as their common ancestor. However, they do think that the Zartians separated much earlier in the process.

 

What happened then is actually, from a realistic historical point of view, poorly understood. A hiatus in the records, a hiatus in knowledge. We know from the many objects and samples collected from that period that many humanoids died due to still unknown causes. The weather and atmosphere had changed drastically, fatally as a matter of fact. Two things are claimed by those historians that are less strict in applying the basic premises of science. One concerns the Mayiora who are supposed to have perfected the Art. They believe that a group of wise mystics with ultimate knowledge of the omniverse had created a catastrophy, were brutally slaughtered by those they deemed “lesser”, or for some other reason disappeared from the face of the earth. This group was referred to as Donim Docin and it is said that their teachings are the apotheosis of Omniscillation learning. Since no evidence of their existence is available to us, we may consider it mythology, most likely spread by the likes of the Lusors. The second unjustified claim is that during this same period, there were numerous natural disasters, unusual in both intensity and occurrence. That need not be considerd really outlandish, but it is further said that the physical-spiritual reality was distorted, inviting otherworldly creatures to spread terror and allowing chaos to shake the natural order that had persisted for ages. This has also been attributed to the actions of the Donim Docin by many of these pseudohistorians, so we know exactly with how many grains of salt we should take their take on “truth”.

 

Regardless of what one thinks about the aforementioned claims, it is generally agreed that a new natural equilibrium eventually favored growth and migration. It is in this period that we find the first traces of the earliest Pryosopha culture, still archaic, but promising. Equally promising were the first settlements of the civilization that eventually would give rise to Covanentum. Although not artistically and technically impressive, they seem to have been better organized and both the tools and the fruits of labor appear to have been distributed more equally in the population. So the roots of their highly disciplined and well-organized society go back as far as pre-ancient times.

 

Expansion meant that collision with other cultures was unavoidable and so it happened. In the case of the Xortaeronese, that most likely resulted in skirmishes, between tribes and, in the rare cases where they actually formed alliances, battles with other civilizations. But warring tribes did not shake the ground endlessly and war was not the only cultural season. Some men – and, mayhaps on very unique occasions, women – figured out that trading with other cultures would be more beneficient in the long term, because it created both stability for growth and a steady input of resources otherwise hard to acquire. Some courageous historians dare assume that the “skin trade”, the trade in the skins of unique fauna from Xortaeron, was the greatest economical denominator. Interestingly though,Xortaeronese tribal life and traditions appear to have changed little over time, even up to this day. Maybe it is because of the extreme natural conditions, or the fact that they are so different in their make up – paleonthologists have never been able to, or never had enough material to, trace back the common ancestor linking them to the main hominid branch.

 

It is very likely that the earliest Eccarian societies did not profit from these blessed times of prosperity. Otherwise, how would one explain the rise of the fearsome priest Aeran-Mortu Sclepiaczu, the Doomed One, who would make the ancient Oath of Doalora, and allow for darker arts and the sacrifice of human lives? And that to the extent of almost eliminating half their population?

 

While the Eccarians were being decimated, the other races were growing exponentially. The first cities started to emerge, most famed the Oragenese miracles, envisioned by the dream-inspired ruler, Soutyana Bentamare. Had they survived the elements of time, we would be able to prove whether they were truly created with help of the Art. All we have now are the battered stones that are but a poor testimony of all the grandeur ascribed to these “wonders of the civilized world” in the books and paintings which are themselves not in the best condition either. Retrospective analyses have left us with very different accounts of what she was like, this Soutyana. She seemed, for whatever reason, to have had contact with the Orburirans, most notable Gheist Ur Alsh. But sources have either been removed, or were scarce in the first place. They might have talked in a language of war, or with words of wisdom, there is not way to tell.

 

What happened at the end of this era is considered by many to be the single greatest historical event. The Zartians discovered the way of manipulating energy, a secret that, they claim, is no longer fully known to any person alive today. It is true that given the many centuries since, in which we used the technology based on these energy cells, we should have uncovered that secret already. However, we haven’t, so we might just as well claim that it is Omniscillation, controlled by a secret group of Lusors, or any other imaginative source.  To be more precise, the technology is in use only for a few decades, on a small scale, because it was very costly, not to mention inefficient. Zeljko Stojec is the Zartian to which the secret is attributed and of course, he is considered the legend of legends. But really systemizing, manipulating and applying this energy in any useful way is a very recent development and at first it was only availble to the rich and powerful, and with a high rate of failure. So the legend of legends did not give rise to a steep industrialization curve.

 

After failing to revolutionize their tools and creations, the Zartians put all their energy into building the massive cities built of the strongest stone available at that time. The architecture is what pleases mostly mathematicians and lovers of angles and perfection, and it is not very unlike what we consider “Zartian Style” today – with as only difference the fact that they NOW ARE ABLE to use energycell-derived technology to add light and mechanical systems and make the hard stone come to life. But both then and now, the Zartians have always abhorred the Art, in whatever way possible. So while in Oragena so called “Purperland cities” started to emerge, the Zartians tried to use alternatives like mechanical inventions, Xortaeronese skins with special attributes, and of course their famed wits. The Oragenese cities were so called, because their constitution documents mention Ferdinand Purperland, the historical figure that is said to have organized the Lusors into the Consilium Lectori – and later, Sapientia Chordarum, their larger organization. According to Lusor propaganda, this could not have happened at a better time, because lawless tribes of Xortaeronese, later united under the terrifying Motom Horvix, started plaguing their neighbors, and eventually the ripe fruits of Oragena.

 

When the dust of the pillaging Xortaeronese started to settle down, the Upeccians managed to increase their sphere of influence, under the reign of Teerhanah Perhatianunh – a legend in many nations except her own, where they now take her “mysticism” and “flirts with the Art” to be the reason why the corruption and lavish lifestyles of the happy few were made possible. Some small battles and skirmishes were fought, but the civilized world would not see massive destruction for some time, especially also because the Orburironese “genius” Ashmi I Kunzr – for reasons that still escape me – decided to start building the massive monstrosity called Furriuk, to separate us from them, or them from us.

 

But eventually, war would sweep across the continents, the greatest war Ornaphesa had seen until then. It is not clearly understood which civilizations allied with which. The most accepted view is that there were no real alliances at that time, that all powers were seeking a greater sphere of influence. Xortaeronese tribes were a threat, but lacked the necessary organization and unity to make a difference. The Oragenese, Covanentumese, Upeccians and Zartians all had strong armies at that time and it is considered very likely that the atrocities of the war helped inspire the alliance that exists today, and that most of today’s borders were agreed upon after that conflict. The Eccarians were feared, but they had no ambitions to expand their empire and neither did the Orburironese, who were still working on the massive project of Furriuk – emptying their treasures in the process. One could say that the Upeccians were the victors of that great war, since they acquired the most land in the treaty afterwards. Rajat Murhazzrath was unlike most of his kind, a very straightforward leader with a mind of action and rash decisions. Even though the aristocratic elite today is the very opposite of what he represents, they venerate him either way.

 

Some experts on historical politics are of the opinion that the conquests of Murhazzrath did not give Opeccus a name and empire without a price. It was paid in blood and the sacrifice of both artistic and financial wealth. Because in the following decades, corruption seemed to infest almost all layers of society, beautiful buildings and works of art deteriorated – or were sold – and the elite started to embrace lavish lifestyles so decadent it seemed like they drained the whole nation of both money and spirit. This downward spiral was blamed on the artisic philosopher-regent Ammukhayyarah Khersheeadha, whose portraits and appearances were later removed from every public place, her remembrance turned into oblivion. She cared more about art and wisdom, which is exactly the reason they supported her position in the first place. After the war, it was believed that Opeccus had a surplus in their treasury and favorable economic conditions, because Rajat gave them land, recourses and loot.

But, in reality, the costs of the war – not just in terms of treasury, but also in human lives – had been so gigantic that it might just as well have crippled the economy before Ammukhayyarah even rose to power. But regardless of whether she was to blame or not, the positive outlook of the people made them confident and ambitious. The reason they chose HER, was because they needed an identity that would allow them to compete with the Pryosophans, who were, at that time, considered the pinnacle of all cultural and philosophical advancement. Indeed, Pryosopha reached the peak of her development, which is the reason why many of her learned men and women were asked to teach overseas. One example, as we will see later, is Simonis Skadivornis. Be that as it may, Opeccus wanted to distinguish herself with her own wisdom, and Kersheeadha was the perfect answer. But the economical wounds that festered unbeknownst to the cheering crowds and self-indulging elite, would eventually turn into severe sickness and cripple both the economy and the political system.

 

Somewhere in this era – historians are unable to date her properly – Minodorah Regepph came to power and even though she was said to be a good ruler, at some point during her reign, she suddenly decided to take all the contents of the treasure and founded the world wonder of Opeccus Azzmirahi, the least understood place in Ornaphesa. Legends tell us that she wasted all the wealth of the people to create a mystical city where a race of women was to be raised, perfected for some unknown purpose. We cannot deny her in the annals of history, because of the abundant references to her from various sources, but we cannot fully confirm the legends about her either. Many adventurers have perished trying to seek imagined treasures or enchanting women, there are no records of anyone ever returning from Opeccus Azzmirahi.

 

Covanentum, at that time, was a power to be reckoned with. Though they imported most of their culture and philosophy from Pryosopha, and knowledge of the Art from other nations, they were so efficient, organized and disciplined that they were considered the most stable empire of Ornaphesa. The great figure of that time was the celebrated Jennicus Celmencius, who helped shape a general language for all nations – the reason why we, today, are able to speak with the other races without having to learn a complicated new language. Of course, the linguistic intelligence was not his, but was hired in the form of the Pryosophan Simonis Skadivornis.

 

With great empires on paper, but internal turmoil and instability in reality, it was only a matter of time before the bubbles of idealization would burst. Awoken from a dream, but with an insatiable hunger, coupled with the bad aftertaste of frustration and the fear of loosing even what little had been accomplished, the rivaling civilizations sharpened their blades and emptied already empty treasures for a new confrontation. However, this time, the leaders of the “civilized world” had learned their lesson: fighting each other would only make them weaker in the face of greater opponents, those enemies being Eccarius and Orburiron. The Zartian commander, and leader of the Zartian people, Dimitar Maximar, convinced Oragena and Covanentum to form an alliance, and to make peace with the aristocratic elite of Opeccus – the nation that would, from then on, always remain neutral in large-scale conflicts. Commonly accepted historical theories hold that Maximar swayed the other powers to consider Eccarius and Orburiron to be the single greatest threat – because, it was said, they had formed an alliance themselves. Some critics find it highly unlikely that this official version of history has any basis in truth. They refer to the isolationist practices of both nations, and the fact that the Orburironese have always been skeptical of “the Art” and violently opposed any type of religious organization. Regardless of ones opinion on these matters, it is beyond doubt that Dimitar also planned to invade Xortaeron, to put an end to the annoying pillaging practices. But the invasion would most likely also benefit the skin trade. Dimitar Maximar was a strong, but cold ruler, respected or even worshiped by supporters, but feared by others. He was the strength that Zartia needed, the legend who left the greatest historical footprint of all – according to Zartian historians, of course. Strong he may have been, lacking the wisdom and subtlety of other Zartian figures, he often seemed to have rushed headlong into confrontations. Had his political allies submitted themselves less willingly, we would have seen a very different course of history, no doubt.

The Oragenese lady Carmel Satijnenacht was not just famed for her beauty and her passion for the arts, but also for her lack of courage and spirit. She has been hated much longer than she had been loved.

Lucianus Escuderum made his appearance on the world stage as a proud and ambitious politician, representing the discipline and power of a great people. But there are those who think he had been manipulated and eventually villified by his enemies – whoever they were. Official historical records speak of betrayal and desertion, but that can hardly be accepted by those who have even the least bit of understanding of the Covanentumese people.  But since all references to and portraits of him are lost to us and even the ruins of his once majestic home, Pulvus, lays buried deep under layers of sand and secrecy, we can not prove the alternative theories we have.

But, together, these three leaders managed to demonize Orburiron and Eccarius, and to convince their respective peoples to support a war. Some experts call this the First Great War, rather than the previous one, since it was a full-scale conflict, rather than a series of battles and skirmishes. And the price was equally “great”, as the earth trembled while the weak and innocent were trampled to a bloody mass and their properties smashed to smithereens. It is said that smoke darkened the skies for days on end, due to all the fires of destruction. Their adversaries were equally legendary.

Oannah Avromati was the first High Priestess of Eccarius and her influence on their later culture was such, that they speak of the “Avromatization of Eccarius.” Some anonymous sources claim that she actually started forbidding the horrible practices of her predecessors, like the sacrifice of human lives, and call her the “Enlightened One.” But since they cannot be verified, most of us stick with the official story, depicting her as “another Aeran-Mortu.”

The Orburironese were lead by one of the most brilliant military commanders to have ever walked on the face of the earth, Rykui Na Yamra. We only have reports of the Alliance units that were slaughtered by his’, so we can only guess at his tactics, but it is beyond doubt that the Phantoms of Duritasa, the most deadly stealth weapon of all time, are associated with his rule. Ornaphesa bled and wept, and would have been utterly destroyed if not for the Armistice of a Thousand Hours at Sistena’s Veil. This truce, in effect, still applies today, as the hostilities have never officially ended.

 

The world being weary and tired of war, politics shifted to a more moderate climate and civilizations could slowly start to recover. Moderate times called for moderate rulers and whatever else one might call him, Aleksandrum Philipparvum was moderate by any definition we know. Not that he lacked for greatness, but rather than shower the fields with blood and waste the resources of his people, Aleksandrum made serious efforts to unite the world. His inter-nation agreements on the Zonii and Loceii made navigation, and by extension, trade and transport so efficient that it most likely was the main contributor to the healthy economy that flourished not long after his reign.

 

It is evident that, regardless of his contributions, he was not revered among his own people. Especially the decendants living in Covanentum will never be able to forgive him for how he allowed the great empire to be split into two smaller nations: Covanentum and Covanentum Denui. Perhaps in the latter, they will be more forgiving, as they would not have had their independence if not for Philliparvum. Covanentum Denui was to be ruled by Emmanuella Fariada, from a family that had always criticized the government and was finally able to find a safe haven. But they met opposition and unpleasantries even in the new homeland, and they often said that Emmanualla was selected without the consent of the people – a puppet in the hands of greater, foreign puppeteers.

 

Stability persisted for some time, at least until the first reports of terror, afflicted by what the writers called Eccarian darker arts. They spoke of “nightmares come alive” and these tales were enough for the “civilized powers” to strengthen their alliance and to solve this Eccarian problem “once and for all.” The new pact was called “The Indigo Union,” named after the color of the traditional garments that the highest political officials in Oragena wore in important meetings. Eccarius once more was isolated and, whatever measures they had taken, it seemed to ward off “evil.” Ditmar Krassog represented Zartia. His family had always waited for an opportunity to replace the Maximar family in the highest political echelons, but Ditmar was not Dimitar. He had more wits than the legend, but he also lacked his strength and decisiveness. He successfully helped install Ciprio Miridum in Covanentum, but this pawn had trouble supressing the rebellions against his regime.

Covanentum was not of much use to the Union, neither was Covanentum Denui. Vinamarta Picciati was warned by her predecessors that the people would not accept her diplomatic way of conducting politics, but she tried hard to be a strong and fair ruler. She most likely signed the treaty of the Union mainly because of civil unrest and to silence the conflict between her own moderate family and the fanatic, nationalistic family of her husband. Oragenese Justina Offrande-Bardenzaal posed a different challenge altogether. She outwitted all three of her allies and was respected by her people, because she had risked her life in a lethal fight against her political opponent and had won by using her intelligence. However, she also signed the treaty and after that her decisions were rarely seen as favorable to the Oragenese interests. That’s why it is often said that the other political powers had found a way to manipulate her.

 

The nation that benefited the most from the Union was Zartia. The excellent inventor Akoz Szarabog found a way to make Zartian technology stable and efficient enough to scale up production. Since Akoz, technology would invade the world, rather than remain the plaything of a small elite. Without Szarabog, we would still live in a primitive world of superstition and ancient mechanics. And while Zartia lead Ornaphesa into an industrial revolution, Covanentumese aristocracy, for the first time in history, emerged as a power that could challenge the political elite. The Upeccians, in turn, profited from this change by strenghening their ties with these families. The impetus this gave to trade and the economy in general is not to be underestimated, but eventually, we would mainly see the rise of big technology producers and merciless monopolists.

 

The invasion of technology in daily life also gave the people confidence to challenge old traditions, like the Lusors and everything associated with “the Art.” Many became suspicious of mysticism and users of the Art and this in turn was what made the consequent witch hunt possible. The Silverblossom trade was the first to suffer. Traditional herbs and medicine were no longer seen as trustworthy in the light of “modern medicine.” In addition, some suspected that this trade was just a disguise for a secret organization, possibly related to the Lusors. Then the great hunt began, all men and women even remotely associating with Lusors and the art were hunted down and executed without a trial. Although he probably did not make his own hands dirty, Phadim Gromanog, the current Zartian Magistratis Princei, has been linked to those executions too many times – the most famous ones being the Xortaeronese spiritual leader Ogis Bokaris and Louisetta Zuyverstem, keeper of many secrets. Official history does not mention it, but we have reason to think that Orburiron never really wanted to close Furriuk, but the witch hunt apparently affronted Hiroak O Mat to such an extent that he nevertheless decided to it.

 

And now we live in a world where the old is being devoured by the new and people of all societies live in uncertainty. They marvel at the new technological advances and all the comforts these bring, but they lack a cohesive identity. Many wake up sweating, believing that the ghosts of the past will haunt them and curse them for forsaking their ancestry and traditions. Only time will tell how wrong or right they are.

Love for writing and people