Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: Magic, Theory and Practice

Wondering what the hell is going on with these blog posts? Well, head on over to this here post to get a general feeling for the Valley Kingdoms. If you'd like to read the other Valley Kingdoms pages, you can click the button up top or just follow this link to the index.

MAGIC
Theory and Practice
"A black stone, I saw, and it set my skin crawling. Vast, it was, endless vast, against the sky. It was wrong, somehow, and it shook me to my very heart. I felt each beat, stirring against my chest. 'You will be but an apprentice, when this is done,' said Arcath, 'but you will be changed. You will be marked by the stone. Viflusos. Marked, forever.' I knew I shouldn't approach. I knew it was wrong. Bile surged in my throat, tasted sour against my tongue. But o! to disappoint the High Masters of the Library? To be shamed before the others? No, better to go on. When my hand touched the Stone... Well, no one who has not can comprehend it. I was Marked. I was Changed."
Magic in the Valley descends from ancient Thingatha custom. Though there are other sources of magical tradition, none of these ever took root in the Valley and, as such, they are regarded as alien and fundamentally different. In ancient Thingatha, sorcery was known as the Gift of the Black Stone; sorcerers traveled to that empire's mighty capital and bowed before the throne of its God-Emperors before proceeding to the site of their pilgrimage: the Black Stone, a monolithic slab of jet that climbs, little by little, to the sky, a disturbingly organic looking thing, that sends the senses haywire: ears buzzing, eyes unfocused, fingers tingling. There are old rituals passed down from the first Valley wizards of Othan Kingdom who came from Thingatha that have been spoken and enacted by those seeking sorcerous powers since time immemorial.

Communing with the Black Stone has several effects. First, the priests of Ya warn that the immense hubris of wielding the Living Fire cuts the wizard off from the grace of Yasivan. Second, they have often intimated it opens the way for Yibrum to creep into the soul. More tangibly, it bestows upon each wizard who comes into contact with the Black Stone something called the Mark. This is a warping effect on the very person of the wizard, and is different from each to each. There are several broad classes of Mark, but its manifestation is always unique in some way. Most frequently, the Mark appears as a severe allergy to some natural feature of the world: silver, for example, or running water. More dangerously, the Mark can manifest as some severe disturbance of the mind or derangement of the soul which lurk latent in the wizard, only to manifest later when they have access to great magics. For this reason, apprentices who emerge from the process with no visible Mark are watched closely indeed.

Receiving the Mark is not the only step on the road to sorcery, however. Marked apprentices are still incapable of even the most basic feats of magic. In ancient days, magic was shared from one to another, as a craftsman to an apprentice, but since the foundation of the Library of Medenleb, wizardry in the Valley has always been a social skill, learned in an environment of extreme erudition. "The wizard who learns alone, dies alone," warns the great wizard Arusim in his Tractate on the Mysteries. He also cautions, that "without guidance, the wizard is consumed by madness." And indeed, there are many and varied ways in which magic itself appears to be connected inextricably to madness.

What, then, is magic? It is the Living Flame, the Will of Ya, the conversion of That Which Is Not into That Which Is. It is the potential to realize purely ideal forms into the material world. Some creatures perform magic by instinct: these are the so-called Mystic races. For mankind, however, magic requires the union of two distinct characteristics—the Gift of the Black Stone, and long and brutal training. While there are tales of wizards manifesting wild and uncontrolled bursts of magic, these are generally confined to legend and rumor.

Wizards refer to the manifestation of magic using a very specialized vocabulary. There is the rig, that is the physical alteration of the world that results from the use of spellcraft, as well as the yi, which is the power drawn upon to cause the alteration to come into effect. There is also the ikru, which refers to the mental construct of the spell, and the ingof, or the spoken words and movement that accompany it.

It is well known that wizards must mouth ancient formulae in order to bring their magic into existence. There are few spells that do not require this element, though the more powerful a wizard is, the minimum amount of fuss required to manifest the rig. Very mighty sorcerers, counter to what some believe, can bring about great change with very little outward signs at all. Wizards must maintain two contrary beliefs when they are enacting the ingof; that is, the ikru of a spell is composed of both the Way the World Operates and the Way the Wizard Chooses it to Operate. To hold both of these notions at the same time is extremely taxing. More stressful still is the channeling of the yi, the raw power required to fuel the magic.

Where does the yi come from? The religious, particularly Yasivan theologians, often point out the etymological similarity of the yi with the name of Yibrum, the darkness. However, this explanation has never sat well with wizards. Obviously, for who would wish to believe the Mark designates an eternity of nonexistence, or torment? Rather, wizards have, since the Thingatha Empire, hypothesized different sources for the yi. The earliest believed it came from the Black Stone itself. Arusim wrote in the Tractate that, "The force which brings each spell into existence is merely the force of language itself. This is why we speak in the Old Tongue, the Tongue of the Black Stone; the speech of the first wizards and the demons that walked the earth in those days is somehow separate from and different to our own. It is a speech of shadows and nightmares, with no referents. Where our languages all refer to things in the real world, the Old Tongue does not refer. It creates."

The ingof, then, are often thought of by Arusians as being merely mental aids; they assist the wizard in structuring his thought. The same, Arusim says, is essentially true of even the Old Tongue. "For a language resides not in the mouth of the speaker, but in his mind."

Monday, June 26, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: The Empire of the Throne, Founding

Wondering what the hell is going on with these blog posts? Well, head on over to this here post to get a general feeling for the Valley Kingdoms. If you'd like to read the other Valley Kingdoms pages, you can click the button up top or just follow this link to the index.

SIFHEM
The Empire of the Throne
The Founding
Pictured: Major roads and cities of Sifhem
Sifhem, the Empire of the Throne, was a great Valley-spanning empire that lasted for nearly one thousand years. The core of the empire was founded on the Isle of Shalpirith between the former Othan city of Vabaten and the newer, more northern city of Dariden.

In its early period, the Kingdom of Shalpirith conquered the neighboring island of Engen. King Tuvis the Magician led the conquest, overthrowing Engen's native armies and wizards and ending the independent Kingdom of Engen under Medenva. In what would become known as the First Year of the Faith (Fi Vosye, F.V.), King Tuvis made the archpriest of Medenva ruler over all the temples in Shalpirith and Engen both, beginning the War of the Cults, also called the Unification.

Under Archpriest Usar, brother to King Tuvis who was acclaimed after the conquest, Shalpirith began a war that spread through the northern kingdoms under the banner of Unification. Soon, the great leaders of the cults met Archpriest Usar and King Tuvis on the field in Pirian. This battle, known as the Field of the Faithless, decided the future of the Valley Kingdoms forever: the Lucklord of Vihu, the Twin Priests of Ram, and the Hammer of Iva were all slain there. The Sea Folk of Febass turned on their own allies, and submitted themselves to Usar at the climactic moment of the fight, when all seemed lost for Tuvis, who was alone with his honor-guard and surrounded on a hilltop.

The Febassan treachery, however, reversed the tide: the cults were swept into the sea. King Tuvis perished from an infected spear-wound several days later. On his deathbed, he bade his closest friends and allies, the High Wizards of Shalpirith, to choose a new leader. They did: the young sorcerer Ethas was elected king.

Thus, in the same battle that established the supremacy of Dariden over the north, so also was the Unification nearly completed, and the first Emperor of Sifhem elected. Ethas enlarged the Dariden army and provided for it to be purged of slaves and freedmen, to be a standing force supported by slave farms on Shalpirith, and to occupy the north. The remainder of his reign was plagued with rebellions and wars as a result of the Unification.

Ethas also began the Litha Palace, which to this day houses the Sorcerer's Throne upon which the emperors of Sifhem sat. The seat was the very first construction to be completed: a huge throne carved from solid purple Shalpiran stone, gilt and plated with gold and silver, set with jewels, and cut to resemble a massive tongue of flame supported by crouching basilisks. The throne became the icon of the Empire's conquest, and from every conquered land there were new gemstones and new tribute added to it.

The High Wizards became the great imperial electors at Ethas' decree. They served as a state council, generals, and masters of every aspect of the empire. Gainsaying them was impossible and even the old nobility struggled to keep them in check.

Ethas' successor, Katha the Studious, was elected on the belief he would make the High Wizards even more powerful. However, once he was reigning in the Throne of Sifhem, he undermined the authority of the High Wizards in favor of the nobility, attempting to balance the two forces in the empire before they tore each other apart. Thus, the High Wizards under Katha lost their immunity to the laws and their right to sit as judges and the nobility began to staff the high positions of the empire again as functionaries.

Selection of the Emperor devolved neither to a committee of imperial notables nor to the High Wizards, but to the people of Dariden themselves; while Katha provided that the Sifik Emperor had to be a sorcerer (and thus was very likely to be selected from the ranks of the High Wizards themselves), the sorcerer who would rule them was given to the legislative assembly of Dariden, which was known as the Tribe.

Thus, Katha established the three pillars of the Empire: the wizards, the nobles, and the common folk. This was a tripartite division that would inform imperial politics for centuries, even as the Tribe became the Thivatin, that is literally Those Who Are Called, a governing body that assisted in the administration of the entire empire, and thus was drawn from each of the Empire's major cities.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: The Summer and Autumn Period

Wondering what the hell is going on with these blog posts? Well, head on over to this here post to get a general feeling for the Valley Kingdoms. If you'd like to read the other Valley Kingdoms pages, you can click the button up top or just follow this link to the index.

We have examined the First Great Kingdom of Othan already, but the period that followed the collapse of that southern empire in or around 687 F.A. when the Last Empress destroyed portions of Old Dumyana and killed her chief advisors and generals, along with herself. Thus, Valley scholars have usually begun the "Summer and Autumn Period" in the winter of the year 687.

The Summer and Autumn period ended with the Unification of the Faiths by The Emperor of Sifum, in what is commonly referred to as the year 1 F.V. (Fi Vosye, Year of the Faith), which was also the year 2041 F.A.

Obviously, during the Summer and Autumn period, power shifted multiples times throughout the valley. The most important kingdoms and states are known by Valley scholars, but many of the more obscure intermediary kingdoms have long since been forgotten, save by those who live in the geographic region where the kingdom was found.

The Ascendency of Medenleb, 745—908 F.A.
Immediately after the fall of Othan, its smaller city-colonies grew into their own. By 745, the mightiest of these mercantile centers was Medenleb, who deified Empress Leb I as their protrectrix. The people of Medenleb served an oligarchic plutocracy that nevertheless managed to conquer most of the northern Sea of Yer and subject even far-flung regions of the valley to its economic control.

The golden medem became the standard currency in the Valley for generations, supplemented by the silver lebem and the electrum vivem. These coins can still be found today, in old hoards or ancient crypts of the Medenlebam people. They are extremely valuable, and sometimes worn as good luck charms from the ancient days of the Valley.

Another feature of Medenleb was its famed library of sorcery. It was founded by the sorceress Lilatha (which means mother in the Medenleb dialect) who brought her collection of books out of Dumyana after the Fall. It became a major political institution, operating as a priesthood of Leb, a sort of academy, and a legislative body all at once.

For all its influence, Medenleb was a sea-faring power, and never penetrated deeply into the landlocked regions. It encouraged the building of local ports, but not of road networks or development of hinterlands.

Medenleb finally fell as a result of the Sorcerer's Wars, waged in the late 9th century between competing interests at the Library. The modern Library in Medenleb remembers those wars to this day, and thus remains secretive, withdrawn, and apart from politics in all its forms. Meddling with the world at large is strictly prohibit by the Wizards of Medenleb.

The Library of Medenleb, Central Building

The Second Great Kingdom of Yer, 1021—1215 F.A.
The Second Great Kingdom was also formed along the southern shores, and contested with the Third (from the north) throughout its entire life. Many old colonies of Othan recognized Yer as the heritor to Othan glories but several of Empress Leb's key trading cities never would, as they had by now their own culture and independence.

The Third Great Kingdom of Vilus, 1071—1709 F.A.
Vilus was founded in the north of the Sea of Yer and represents the first non-Othan successor state to have real power in the Valley. It developed a system of internal roads and major cities, was almost constantly at war with its neighbors (including Yer, the City of War, the Ship Folk, Medenva, etc.) and strove for power in all things.

Its symbol was a spear, and its people were known as the Spearlords.

The City of War, 1323—1391 F.A.
For a brief time, the City of War dominated the eastern shores of the Sea of Yer. It is remembered as a brutal, awful period, when slave exact was high. Its defeat by Vilus was followed by the utter destruction of its site, the murder of all its inhabitants, and the burning of all its gods, as well as its proper name being stricken from all records so that it might be as though it never was.

The Time of the Ships, 1402—1488 F.A.
From 1402-1488 the Ship Folk raided the shores of all the Valley Kingdoms ruthlessly. They took slaves and retreated to the inner isles, working together in large piratical bands, until ultimately being hunted down and destroyed by the League of Cities, whose trade was constantly under threat.

The Ascendency of Medenva, 1929—2020 F.A.
Medenva, the Holy City, came to power first because of its command of the sea. It was ruled by a single thearch, who was eventually awarded the high priesthood of all the Unified Faiths under the Emperor of Sifhem. Before that time, however, Medenva commanded the loyalty of most coastal lands, whether directly or by cliency, for over a hundred years.

The Fourth Great Kingdom of Sifhem, 1—971 F.V.
The Current Year, 1010 F.V.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: A History of the First Great Kingdom

In order to understand the history of the Valley, it is important to understand the method of timekeeping currently in use. For many generations, time was recorded with reference to the rule of the local king. That is, when King Amolun was reigning the First Great Kingdom, the year would be the 8th or 9th year of the Reign of Amolun. This confusing system was abandoned after the Great Unification was undertaken by the Empire of the Throne (Sifhum); the year of the Unification became the first Year of the Faith (Fi Vosye). Time before that is known by the period of the first Great Kingdom, and runs forward until 1 FV -- those years are known as Fi Vashir, years of the Shadow (FA).


Ancient Othan Fortress Reconstruction

1 F.A. — 687 F.A. The First Great Kingdom (Othan). Founded in the south of the Valley, in the city of Dumyana, on the plain known as the Ogoss, the First Great Kingdom of Othan was as near to a universal kingdom the Valley had ever seen. Othan was formed out of the subjugation of ethnic Viraes tribes living in the central Ogoss.

Othos was the first King of the Great Kingdom, who elevated himself from a chief among chiefs of the Viraes to become the High Chief of all the Ogoss peoples. His settlement on the Fetham River, which was originally a simple collection of rude huts on the sluggish waters, but after his wars of conquest (lasting from what scholars imagine was the early part of Othos' life, perhaps age 17, until he was nearly 39), it became a permanent lodging.

Though Othos traveled between several major royal installations, the town at Dumyana was his primary residence. The first year of the Shadow is recorded from the day the foundation was laid for the High Temple in Dumyana, beside Othos' magnificent gilt-wood palace.

High Chief Othos died in 13 F.A. Dumyana had reached a population of somewhere close to 10,000 people. It drew trade from the entire Ogoss plain, and from many places farther north. Indeed, he was recognized as a petty king by the Thingatha Emperor, far in the south, and was given gold and silver to keep the peoples of Ogoss from moving into that ancient Empire.

Reign of Queen Athana 13 F.A. — 36 F.A.
After the death of Othos in 13 F.A., Othan continued to exist as an independent client state of Thingatha. Othos was succeeded by his daughter, Queen Athana, who defied the authority of the Thingatha Empire late in her reign and raised a hall in Dumyana to be the permanent residence of Othan royalty.

By ejecting the Thingathim embassy from Dumyana and seizing Thingathim quarries on the Ogoss plain, Athana broke her father's treaties. The Thingatha were not quick to chastise her or her progeny, however, as in those days the old Empire was collapsing: ecological change in Slithis led to a series of southern civil wars, and the Thingatha Emperors would never be able, from that point on, to launch an expedition into the Valley to enforce their rule.

Reign of King Floreyth (The Mason-King) 36 F.A. — 69 F.A.
Floreyth was a newcomer to Dumyana, from one of the outlying regions of the kingdom. Scholars have placed the locale of his birth somewhere near the southern shores of the Sea of Yer. He was a renowned carpenter, mason, and swordsman, and eventually won the acclaim of Queen Athana's court.

It was widely believed that he had an affair with the Queen near the end of her life, and that his whispers were responsible for the expulsion of the Thingathim. After the death of Athana, Floreyth moved quickly to disinherit her three sons and claim the throne for his own. A bloody civil war followed from 36-38 F.A. during which the old household of Othos and Athana was mostly exterminated. Those who supported Floreyth were spared, but greatly reduced in power and influence.

Under Floreyth's reign, most of Dumyana was rebuilt in stone. It was walled, and the Five Great Temples were constructed on the hill overlooking the palace. Dumyana became the largest city in the Valley under Floreyth, and certainly served as the heart of Valley culture. He raised the great Stone Lords that now dot the Ogoss Plain, as well as the Thousand Altars along the southern shores of the Sea of Yer.

King Floreyth also kept a number of women as his official wives; he sired children on these while he was the lover of Queen Athana. The eldest of his daughters, Leb, outmaneuvered the king in his old age; in the Garden of Roses outside the great Dumyana palace, Leb humiliated her younger brother, Rilu, in a game of wits and swords before the assembled chiefs of Othan. Unable to elevate the humiliated and emasculated Rilu to official heir as he had planned to do, Leb became heir and inherited her father's empire.

Reign of Empress Leb 69 F.A. — 105 F.A.
The first recognized "Empress" (rather than "High Chief" or "King") was Leb Floreythin, daughter of the Mason-King. During Leb's rule, the Sea People entered the Valley on their floating homes. The Empress was quick to realize that she could use the same strategies employed against the old Viraes tribes of Ogoss by the Thingatha: she paid the Sea People tribute, and soon established a network of far-flung colonies around the Sea of Yer.

Trade under Empress Leb flourished. She was renowned as a skilled tactician and diplomat, and as a fighter on the field. She planted the cities of Medenleb, Rubaden, Vabatden, and Medengez which would later grow into massive trade entrepĂ´ts. She also promulgated the Border Laws, declaring trade with outsiders to be suspect, and privileging the people of the Valley.

Empress Leb had a tumultuous personal life. She kept a clave of husbands, the chief of whom, Tha, grew jealous of the fact that they could not wield political power. Tha fomented rebellion against her, and several years were spent fighting Tha and the lords who betrayed her. When she was victorious, she executed her prisoners at the feet of the Stone Lords of the Plain, giving a sacrifice of some important personage in the enemy army to each of the great statues raised by her father.

In the years before her death, she passed a law permitting imperial power only to flow to her female-born children, and elevated her daughter Amem to be her official heir.

Reign of Empress Amem 105 F.A. — 121 F.A.
Like the rulers before her, Amem was forced to consolidate power within years of taking the throne. She had five brothers, each of whom sought to undo the dictate of their mother Leb, and each with a power base of their own through their fathers (all five brothers were born of different men from five of the powerful families of Othan).

This so-called "Six-Sided War" lasted for eight years, only finally ending with the razing of the colony of Medengez.

Reign of Empress Leb II 123 F.A. — 177 F.A.
There was a two-year interregnum after Amem's death as the imperial nobility forwarded possible heirs. One of Amem's younger daughters, named for her grandmother Leb, finally won out. Her reign was an unprecedented period of peace and trade. Sorcery first came into the Valley from the fallen ruins of Thingatha in this period.

The period of Leb II's reign until the death of her great-granddaughter Leb III was known as the Rule of the Good Empresses. Those four -- Leb II, Eles, Arath, and Leb III, are commonly known as the "Good Empresses" and are held up as models of beneficial rule, particularly in the southern reaches of the Valley. During the reign of Empress Arath, a scholar named Thubidis composed a political treatise still cited in the Valley to this day: The Book of Rulership.

Other Important Periods.
Rule of the Good Empresses 123 F.A. — 280 F.A.

The Sorcerers' War 297 F.A. – 302 F.A.
A brutal conflict between Empress Leb III's three chief wizards, Othi, Dishath, and Thul, broke out upon Leb's death. They each had their own puppet-empress. In the end, Thul was victorious with the Child-Empress Gedae as his candidate. She was installed, and Thul ruled through her and her successive three daughters for nearly 70 years.

The Slithan Invasions 409 F.A. — 520 F.A.
The shattered remains of Thingatha produced a series of invasions in this period as people attempted to escape the ecological disaster of the central desert. This put a great deal of pressure on Othan in the south, while the Spear-People threatened her northern border.

Reign of Amolun the Scholar 581–603 F.A.
A fluke in the long history of feminine rule in Othan, Amolun the Scholar took the throne when his elder sister, Ashbet, abdicated the throne in his favor. He was widely proclaimed a good king, and invented the writing system from which all Valley scripts are descended.

The Dameth Plague 592 F.A.
In the year 592, the Dameth Plague arrived from beyond the mountains. It destroyed the great cities of Othan, leaving many of them empty. Empress Nara took her own life by filling her chambers in Dumyana with suffocating smokes.

The Mountain Invasions 638 F.A. — 687 F.A.
An influx of outsiders to the Valley that eventually destabilized and destroyed Othan. The Last Empress, whose name is no longer known, was said to be a sorcerer as well, and when she discovered she had been betrayed by her most trusted generals, she took them into the great central processional and sacral square of Dumyana and destroyed them with a conflagration that left its mark on the stone today.

---

In modern times, the ruined City of Dumyana is known as the City of Tombstones. The Stone Lords stand silent and watchful vigil over the empty Ogoss Plain.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: Script and Language of the Valleys

The core language ("Tu") was generated using Vulgar and can be found here. However, Tu has some problems linguistically, and besides which it will only serve as the common origin of the diverse dialects of the Valley Kingdoms. Now you know where all those bizarre names came from.

The languages descended from Tu are written using the Vakazi script, pictured below. Vakazi is said to have been invented by King Amolun the Scholar with the aid of his court priests, Biyad and Brethi. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the triune script or the Amolum script.


This text is used in all the myriad dialects of the valley, and was propagated throughout the Valley's most ancient state, the First Great Othan Kingdom of the South, by the servants of King Amolun. It was preserved by the Priests of Yasivan and has been used throughout the centuries since. It is a particular point of pride of the Vakisrithi, as King Amolun's court was located in what is now the territory of Vakisrith, though the plain on which it stood lost access to its water some five hundred years ago, and the Othan capital is now a haunted ruin, peopled only by semi-nomadic peoples.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: Understanding Sivanism

The last entry focused on some basic concepts of the Sivan faith which pervades the Valley Kingdoms, but I don't think it was as organized or as thorough as it could be. Therefore, we will spend another episode of the Kingdoms contemplating the strange order of Ya and its subordinate deities, and addressing the modern narrative presented by the priests of Ya.

Excerpt from...
THE THEOLOGICAL HISTORY
(Roz Nangar deBayab)

IN THE BEGINNING the Valley was shrouded in the darkness of Yibrum, and there was only shadow. Yibrum is a vast god, neither male nor female, like our Yasivan of the Living Fire, who blanketed the whole earth. We do not know what happened outside the valley in those days, but there came a time when Yasivan entered our Valley and blessed it with light. 
This was the PROCESSION OF THE FIRE out of the wasteland. The Living Fire came in the hands of the High Priest, who brought it to Engan to reside. When it arrived there, the Valley Kingdoms began to awaken, to become truly Alive. Outside of the Valley, there are strange and many gods, but inside the Valley there are only those which were given life by the sacred presence of the Living Fire.

Sivanism posits that all of the pantheon of the Valley gods existed purely by reference to the Living Fire ensconced at Engan, which is itself an expression of Yasivan. If the Living Fire were to be extinguished, it is possible that Yasivan itself might be slain. Thus, the fanatic devotion around which the propagation of the Flame at various temples is faced is directly tied to the ontological need to keep the chief god of the Valley alive.

The Theological History is a narrative account of Sivanism, but the central holy texts are known as the Letheb Scrolls, which are the Scrolls of Trials. These were kept by priests entering the Valley and collected after the first settlements, to serve as a record of the rites and faiths of all the peoples under Sivanist rule during the very early history of the Valley. It is likely that the scribal workshop of Medenva gave that island its importance, causing the Yasivan priesthood to eventually locate there.

THE OTHER GODS
Yibrum. The god of darkness and unbeing, the primal opposite to Yasivan, Yibrum is not much worshipped in the valley. It is often associated with the lands beyond the mountains, and the wastes are said to be holy to Yibrum. In some ways, Yibrum is also identified with or perhaps in alliance with Febass, the Goddess of the Underworld.

Vihu. Vihu is the lord of luck and cats. His shrines are located in many small villages, and he is thought to be a good luck charm against travel, weather, etc. Cats themselves are considered sacred to him, and therefore many strays are fed and congregate at the little Vihan altars.

Febass. Febass is the goddess of both the open sea, and the underworld. Within the bounds of the Valley, water is the domain of her daughter, Flokay, who is much more pleasant than the chthonic and terrifying Febass. However, she is invoked at all ceremonies for the dead, and is asked to give them safe travels to her drowned halls where it is believed those with the Fire in them will be taken.

Ram. Ram is the god of roads and travel, and his waystations are seen all throughout the Valley Kingdoms. His appearance is often that of a horse, though he is often represented simply by a horseshoe or a wheel. Ram is a vagabond god as well, and his name is often invoked when someone is seeking hospitality from the road.

Othi. Othi is an angry and powerful god, who is in command of the storms, the skies, and the weather. He and Veged are said to be married, but he is known to have had dalliances with Ram. His altars are found in lonely places atop hills, or within the Yasivan temples along with everyone else's.

Iva. Iva the Smith is a mighty goddess, who is also called the Fabricator. She is the patron of all handicrafted arts across the Valley, and there are many potters, chandlers, and smiths who give her prayer. Her symbol is an anvil, which can be found in many homes or hung from many throats.

Veged. Veged is the goddess not only of the open fields, but of the dense forest. She is the tamed growth of the farm, and the wildness of the wood. She is a mysterious goddess, as powerful as the storms and as kind as the rivers. Her worship may have predated that of Yasivan, but her old forested altars have gone to seed, and she is only worshipped in the context of the united faith in these modern times. Her symbol is an acorn.

Rosu. The household goddess; Rosu is goddess not only of weaving, but of future-seeing, childbirth, and medicine. She is worshipped by physicians and midwives the Valley over. She is a kindly goddess, but furious when roused. Many families keep small icons of her distaff over their doors to protect their hearth and home.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Valley Kingdoms: Religion in the Valley -- overview and Yasivan

The faith of the Valley Kingdoms is a complicated one, accreted over many centuries by the influx of various peoples and cultures to the Valley. The earliest settlers, Sangaegrun from the desert, brought with them the faith of the Thingatha Empire. The Thingatha faith, known as Yafaba (the Light of the Fire), was focused on the worship of Ya, a principle representing light, flame, goodness, and creation. Ya was inevitably the creator of Yibrum, the Darkness, to whom he was immortally opposed. This dualism has marked faith in the Valley permanently.

A Note About Unity: Most faiths of the valley are unified under the worship of Ya. That is, priests of Ya serve as the general priesthood of the valley and specialized priesthoods often serve under them. The center of most faiths resides in Engen, the Holy Island, in Medenva, the City of the Fire, within the great Palace of the Priesthood overlooking that city. The Unification of the Temples happened under the Empire of the Throne, as part of a bid to reduce the political strength of many of the great temples.

As a result, the most powerful religions were subjugated beneath a single religious leader. This so-called Archpriest is the final authority on the Unified Faiths of Sivanism (see below).

A Note About Localism: The deities of the Valley are believed to be extremely local gods. That is, though they are very powerful deific beings, their spheres of influence do not extend outside of the Valley. Yasivan and Yibrum are the twin creative forces that gave birth not to the world, but to the Valley. The gods of the outside are unknown here, and the gods of the Valley have no power against those alien deities of the land beyond the mountains.

Yasivan, the Living Fire. Ya stands at the apex of Valley theology. Since the early Migration Age and the time of the Thingatha Empire, however, Ya has since been identified as an androgyne rather than a masculine principle. Her counterpart, Yibrum, is also utterly without fixed gender. Unlike the ancient Thingatha faith, Ya is not the first principle; rather, that distinction now belongs to Yibrum, the Dark. Yibrum is depicted as prior to, and not necessitated by, the existence of Ya.

YA is also called Yasivan, the Living Fire. The majority faith of the Valley is commonly referred to as Sivanism, that is the Faith of the Living. Yasivan altars are cylindrical in shape, and always contain a vessel (sometimes of bronze, copper, gold, or other precious metal, sometimes of stone) in which a fire is set to burn. The feeding of this fire is one of the chief duties of the Sivan priesthood.

Ancient Thingathi Yafaban Altar
Modern Sivan Fire Altar

When the early Sangaegrun priesthood entered the Valley, they carried with them a brand of the original Yafaban flame from the Grand Temple of Thingatha. This flame was placed into early Sangaegrun temples and legend claims that it fed the Sacral Fire on Engan, which burns to this day.

WORSHIP: Yasivan, the Living Fire, is worshipped in thousands of different ways, but the most common is the destruction by fire of various objects. It is not uncommon to burn small effigies of precious wood or clay. The fires are usually fed with incense and other fuming substances, and the priests of Yasivan are well known as manipulators of fire—that is, they carry with them many fuming incenses or powders to cause the flames to redouble, or swell, or change color.

Almost all towns have one temple of the Faith. Large cities have many more. These temples serve other gods besides Ya, as well, but generally at the bare minimum they will possess a few priests (called Attendants) to tend the Temple Flame, which is meant never to go out. If a Temple Flame is extinguished, it must be relit by the Flame of the next-largest temple, with the grandest temples only able to be rekindled by the Fire at Engen.

STRUCTURE: Priests of Ya adhere to a strict hierarchical structure, with the Attendants and Novices at the bottom.

Larger temples generally have a number of novices and attendants in service to a Divine Speaker, who will themselves be subordinate to the Lightbearer, or chief priest of that temple. In very large temples, there is a council of nine Lightbearers (nine being a sacred number). Lightbearers are subordinate to the High Divine of their region, which is a priest elected to the leadership of a large temple, usually one located in a major city. The High Divines answer none but the Archpriest himself.