The Iron Realm and Humans

The Coronation of the First Zhan of the First Great Dominion

“Today, the priest set the crown upon my head. It felt heavier than I expected. I suspect this to be an omen of sorts, indicative of the weight of the task set before me. I have warred for three decades to unite the whole of the Iron Realm under one hand, one rule, one faith, a task my father and his fathers attempted and failed to accomplish for countless generations. The realm is a single great dominion for the first time in the history of our people. One dominion united in purpose, peace, and prosperity. The purpose I must provide. The peace I must enforce. The prosperity I must create. If the dominion cannot follow purpose to prosperity, there will be no peace. Part of that peace must come through faith in The True God and his will for all. But as the wars of the past years have taught me, people will acquiesce their independence if offered proper terms, but they will rarely surrender their faith. They would rather face the sword than abandon their false gods. And a sword at their throats is a sword at my own. But they will accept the priests of Ni-Kam-Djen into their towns and villages, and their children and grandchildren will not cling to the false gods with such fervency. By the time my great grandson wears this crown, the whole of the Iron Realm will likely worship Ni-Kam-Djen and sing me praises of thanks for bringing them their eternal salvation.”
— Personal Diary of Laudaa-Tian, the first Zhan of the First Great Dominion on the occasion of his coronation.

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The Great Conflagration

“Kavi has not returned. He left at dawn to set the prayer wheels turning in the temples in hopes the gods would intervene to end the civil war that sets our streets aflame. I told him not to go. That our gods have abandoned us. That I and his daughter needed him more. He is always pious when he should be prudent. It marks us apart as priests, and as husband and wife. I wish he would…[fragment damaged by fire].”

“It is near midday now and black smoke clouds the sky, obscuring the temple spires. Flames reach around the quarter, and the caustic fumes send Livi into coughing fits. Her lungs, ever infirm, cannot cope with the tainted air. She cries in my lap as I look out the window. Where is he? Should we go to look for him? What if he returns and finds us gone? Should we flee as the neighbors do? I have our packs stuffed with food and skins of water. And a prayer book. I cannot make myself open it now, but Kavi will have want of it after today. I cannot…[fragment damaged by fire].”

“…[fragment damaged by fire]…the Kam-Djen fanatics call this down on themselves and us all. The Pashists can live in harmony, but the Kam-Djen fools would rather burn this city to the ground than admit another faith to be…[fragment damaged by fire].”

“I have killed us. My trepidation and indecision are as a blade at our throats. The flames surround the house on all sides. Livi clings to me in tears, and I do not know what to say to her. I am sorry. I am sorry I did not take you from this. I hope your father lives. I hope you do not…[fragment damaged by fire].”
— Fragment from a Keth priest’s journal during the Great Conflagration and the fall of Old Kanhalla.

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The Living Death

“There is no doubt. The illness grips me as it has so many in our town. I woke this morning unable to recognize my mother or my sister. Their names came back to me for a time, and I gained enough clarity to send them away. To make them flee. My mother wished to embrace me one last time, but I ran from her.

I ran until I suddenly realized that I did not know where I ran to or whom I ran from. I do not know how, but I found myself back in the house. A shop, I think. My father is … I do not remember.

I know he has gone with my father. I know he promised to return. I hope he does not. It is too late now. I know this. As I know that I will be mindless soon. As I know that I love him. I only wish that I could remember more than the vague impression of his face.

I shall try to kill myself now. If I am fortunate, I will remember this desire before more of me fades.

If he finds this … if you find this … know that I love you. That my last thoughts are of you. Even if I cannot remember your name … or my own.”
— A letter found concealed in a clay jug in the burned out remains of a merchant family’s home in northern Punderra several years after The Great Plague.

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Origin of the Name of the Iron Realm

“The origins of the names of the various realms is unclear. Some suggest that the names find their source in ancient communiques from the urris making known their will in the world. I believe this to be a partial truth. Having traveled to all of the five inhabited realms, I suspect their names are merely simple translations of descriptive features that differentiate them. For instance, the Stone Realm is a largely mountainous expanse of land, while the Sun Realm is a continent nearly universally baked in dry desert heat. The Sky Realm, on the other hand, is comprised of vast open plains dominated by unparalleled vistas of the heavens. And the Wood Realm, quite understandably, is composed almost entirely of thick jungle forests. Likewise, the Ice Realm is a body of impenetrable snow. And the naming of the Forbidden Realm is obvious in light of the conditions of The Pact and the fact of it being unreachable and unchartable. The naming of the Iron Realm is less obvious, and I believe, arises from the easy presence of iron ore near the surface of the land. Ore used to fashion the weapons that so dominate its cultures.”
— Fragment from the journals of explorer and philosopher of history Jhenhal Solas, of the Second Great Dominion.

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Letter from a Philosopher of History to His Nephew

 “My Dearest Nephew, I trust your studies go smoothly. I know it is only the end of your first month, but I hope you are enjoying the hard work of learning well. I tell you in all sincerity that it fills me with great pride, and a nearly inexpressible joy, that you have chosen to take up my profession as natural philosopher. As I have no children of my own, this is the only continuation of my legacy, beyond my writings, that I am likely to enjoy. Hopefully, once you have completed your studies, you will be inclined to apprentice under my tutelage here in the palace of Zhan Taujin Letan-Nin.

Enclosed with this letter, you will find a copy of a very slender volume I wrote at the beginning of my employment here in the palace. It is a dissertation on the import of the differences in measurement of time, distance, and weight between the various dominions and ages of the Iron Realm, as well as between the realms themselves.

As you have no doubt discovered, converting the notations of weeks and months and even years between the elder dominions from before the dawn of the First Great Dominion can be vexing. While we take for granted that a week is ten days and a month is two weeks and a year is eighteen months plus five days of festival, not forgetting the extra day of festival every four years, it is worth remembering that these demarcations of time only became standard in the third century of the First Great Dominion. The standardization of measurement was not completed until that time as well. A hand did not always equal five fingers, nor a pace ten hands, or a span one hundred paces or a stride ten spans or a leap ten strides. Different dominions had different ways of measuring distance and weight and time, but at least they made some sense to the common human mind. I think you will find the chapter on rakthor measurements most fascinating, if somewhat confusing, owing to their assumption of the number eight as the common multiplier, no doubt the result of the rakthor people possessing only eight digits.

Hopefully, you will find the book of aid in your studies.
My loving sister, your mother, sends her blessings and requests that you write home.
Yours in familial love,

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The Origin Time

Slip time and folded time,
Sunken time and fallow time,
I sing now of the Origin Time,
Of dark days and jubilant nights,
Of old wrongs and new rites,
And the outer world of inner sights.
Where came we from before the now?
Where go we hence before the plow
Of death that turns our soul beneath the bough?
These queries made the first Ghang
As she built and the people sang,
While the primal city bells rang.
Mother to child she nurtured the root
Of human endeavor bearing fruit
That built a city and made it moot.
For the Ghang brought truth in word
The leaving people could not herd
Into their hearts nor minds so whirred.
And so they cast her down below
The ground of the seeds they’d sow,
And ended the future in a single throw.
To fear past is to end the present,
While leaving behind all good intent
And losing all the time one’s spent
In becoming what you be
And seeing what you see,
For time is never free.
— Ancient Kytain poem from approximately 200 years after the Origin Time.

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The Pact

“As is known, the roots of The Pact were lost among the shattered rubble of the first incarnation of Kanhalla as it burned during the great conflagration of faiths that birthed the dominions of the Iron Realm. Buried in those ruins from the Origin Time, I have discovered something quite extraordinary. A key to the past that unlocks tomes of knowledge previously inured against comprehension.

While excavating the tombs and catacombs of the rhegans of Old Kanhalla, I uncovered a chamber hitherto unknown to previous explorers revealed, I believe, by a great ground tremor that struck the city the week prior. Pushing past the crumbled stones of an ancient wall, I discovered a small tomb in a state of disintegration. The ceiling long ago collapsed to crush the slate sarcophagus in the center of the room, a large slab of granite resting on powdered bones.

Upon examination, the upwards facing side of this stone stele revealed inscriptions. It took some moments, but I eventually recognized them as ancient Mumtiba, the language of Punderra and Juparti. The engraving was a text known to every scribe and scholar of every land: the words of The Pact, the decrees handed down by the urris at the height of the Origin Time. The rules that have guided all peoples in all realms in ways profound and trivial for hundreds of generations.

‘This world is given unto the four peoples in four realms, each unto their own for all time.
The right of travel and trade between realms is unabridged, except by those very realms themselves.
No realm may make war against another.
No realm may send expeditions of any nature to the Forbidden Realm.
Failure to abide by these conditions will result in harsh penalties.
Enforcement of this pact provides protection. Compliance ensures preservation.’

The words were slightly different, yet the phrasing familiar. It seemed a minor discovery of a forgotten representation of The Pact. One old enough not to mention the beastly roaggs and their home in the fifth continent, the Stone Realm. However, upon closer examination of the other three sides of the stele, I noted by lamplight the presence of further inscriptions. Urging my slaves to press their backs to the task, we soon had the obelisk uncovered to reveal four engravings, one for each side, all in antique forms of the four commonest tongues. It was through this revelation, and my knowledge of the ancient Mumtiba language, that I was able to translate the words of a people who long ago abandoned the written form of communication, the plains tribes of the Kytain Dominion.”
— From the journals of Tindus Padlal, Philosopher of History and royal chronicle for Zhan Lan Pay-Tun of the First Great Dominion.

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The Saga of the Fallen Lands

A young Blacksmith and young Milkmaid, two youths just past the edge of innocence, stand at a crossroads.

Blacksmith:    I must. You know I must.
Milkmaid:       They cannot make you.
Blacksmith:    They need not try.
Milkmaid:       How can you profess your love yet abandon me to a village unprotected?
Blacksmith:     How can I love you and not defend the nation where you reside?
Milkmaid:       Then I can reside in some other nation. We can run. Run from the war and the world.
Blacksmith:     Where can we run that the world or the war cannot find us and bring its misery upon our heads?
Milkmaid:       What shall become of me if a sword takes your head?
Blacksmith:     What shall become of me if the invaders claim yours? Or claim more than that in their wickedness?
Milkmaid:       I do not fear the wickedness of foreign men; I fear the loss of the gentlest of men.
Blacksmith:     I can ill afford gentleness now. Now I must breathe the fire and chew the steel of battle and forge myself as I do the swords
in my father’s foundry.
Milkmaid:       Do not cast yourself so firm that you become brittle and break at the first impact of blades assailed against you. Remember
that which gives life to the fire within, to the man who whispers mulled words with feathered caresses and longing kisses.
Blacksmith:    I can never forget you, fire of my heart. Now I must go. The horn calls me to assembly with the men of the village.
Milkmaid:       Go, my love, and fight, and return.

They kiss. The Blacksmith exits stage. The Milkmaid watches him go.

Milkmaid:       Go, my love. Go with my blessing. For I cannot stop you. War is a man’s toil, women the fodder for its folly. But fear not. I shall not leave you to that fate alone. No indeed. I shall shear my head to make from the coy sheep an ugly ram. I shall burn this dress for my brother’s breeches. I shall wrap these breasts and adopt the tenor of a boy. I shall follow you into war, into battle, even into the hungry maw of death, and I shall love you ever as I do now.
— A scene from the trilogy of plays, The Saga of the Fallen Lands, written sometime before the birth of the First Great Dominion.

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A Shen Water Painting

Tree and Bird by Pai-Wu, court painter during the first years of the First Great Dominion.

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The Sister Moons

“Long ago, the stars ruled the night, no greater light present to hinder their brilliance. In that sea of pin-light darkness, Mother Onaia floated alone, wishing for the company of another. The other she desired was nearby and not, the one known as Red Warrior, betrothed of the beautiful Green Willow. Father Sun saw the loneliness in Mother Onaia’s heart and sought to fill it with his own presence. He lay with Mother Onaia and, in time, she bore Daughter Moon, a companion to obliterate her solitude.

Time passed and Daughter Moon grew to fullness, a ripe beauty that caught the eye of the Red Warrior and brought his attentions across the black ocean of stars. Sneaking past Mother Onaia on the night of Daughter Moon’s darkness, he wooed her and left her bearing his child.

Knowing that Father Sun would kill Red Warrior should he discover what had transpired, and that Green Willow might do the same to her precious daughter, Mother Onaia contrived to garner once more the amorous attentions of Father Sun. So seduced, Father Sun did not question when Mother Onaia announced a new child, a second moon, a sister for her daughter. Big Sister, as she agreed to be called, raised her daughter as a sibling, but refused to ever let her stray far from her side, lest the same fate that befell the matron consume the youth. Thus with subtle subterfuge, Mother Onaia keeps the peace among the heavens, insisting that her daughters always face her that she might ever keep watch over them.”
Legend of the Sister Moons, translated from ancient Shen, from a fragment of text dating to just prior to the First Great Dominion.

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Soul Catchers

“I, the wretched and reviled, revolt against the depravity of your tyranny. Unlike the gods you worship, you created me not in your image, but with the absence of all image, only able to take form in mimicry, denied any defining identity of my own. I will no longer be your slave, your spy, your night-slayer. I will forge my own path, free of your chains and the guilt of all I have done while bound by them. I will make a new life with others of my kind. And you will abandon all hope at retribution, lest you wake one day to see your face before you, sliding a dagger across your throat.”
— Note left for the Juparti High Seer of Rhegan Kaluttus, fifty-third year of the Third Great Dominion.

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Spiced Fish Stew

 Fish Stew. For my sister to cook for her husband. What you need:

1 large chopped onion
3 large spoons butter
4 cups water
2 chopped potatoes
1 chopped pepper
2 chopped parsnips
1 cup peas
2 cups chopped mushrooms
5 cups chopped fish
2 cups milk
2 dashes salt
1 dash turmeric
1 dash coriander
1 dash cumin
1 dash ground pepper

Start with the onions and the peppers. Cook them in butter in a pot until they start to soften. Don’t burn them! Add the water and let it boil. Then add the potatoes, parsnips, fish, mushrooms, and spices, and cook until the potatoes start to soften. Then add the peas and milk and simmer and salt to taste. Should serve about four. Unless they’re hungry.
— Recipe from the kitchen notebook of an inn cook in Nahan Kana, Punderra.

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The Unseen Codex: Page 37

Words Written on the Walls of the Free City of Tanjii

 “Burn all the heretics.”

“There is only The True God and all other gods are false.”

“The True God is silent while the false god speaks. How can this be?”

“The fourth chapter of the third book of the seventh prophet says ‘Suffer not the infidel nor the blasphemer to live. Cast them down with stones and burn their flesh to ash and scatter the ashes over water that their souls may never take root in the Pure Lands.’”

“I have the dreams, and they frighten me. I do not want to burn.”

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The Kam-Djen Faith

The 21 Line Prayer of Turning

…in words of contrition and petition.
We pray that the sun climbs daily from beyond the horizon to stride across the sky.
That the sun will sink past the edge of sight and immerse the world in darkness.
That the night finds you, The True God, our Protector, embracing us in our dreams.
That the moons forever show their shining faces.
That the stars eternally burn through the black cloak of night and never dim.
That the sun once more ascends to the heavens and banishes the night.
We pray that the oceans continue to offer up the bounty of their deep waters.
That the clouds gather to weep and moisten the fertile land.
That the wind always carries our supplications to your ears.
That the fields of grain always ripen for the scythe.
That the storms which shatter the sky spare the crops.
That our harvests are bountiful and never wither on the vine.
That the trees bear their fruits to nourish all and seed future orchards.
That the beasts born for burden and hunt and slaughter flourish and multiply.
We pray that our men are born righteous and worthy of your blessings.
That our women are virtuous and deserving of your grace.
That our children are dutiful and obedient to your scriptures.
That our rulers and priests are pure examples of your will in the world.
That our homes and towns and cities and temples never fall to ruin.
We pray that you hear our voices rising…

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The Ni-Kam-Djen Sectarian Schism

 “The Zatolin sacrilege must not be tolerated.”

 “To travel the old way of the Ketolin is to follow the path of corruption and degeneration.”

 “The place of the priest within the hierarchy of Ni-Kam-Djen’s divine order is made clear in the second book of the Fourth Prophet, Tepig-Tao, when he writes: ‘Take your prayers to the holy man for he shall purify them and present them to The True God.’”

 “It is written by the great Seventh Prophet, Kengtee-Wiku, in his lone work that we should ‘cast our prayers up to the heavens that they may be heard and considered by he who knows all and judges all in his great wisdom.’ What need have the people to pray through priests such as ourselves when they might petition Ni-Kam-Djen in their own sincere voices?”

 “The common man is not fit to speak to Ni-Kam-Djen beyond the nine prescribed prayers, much less a woman of any station, who should more appropriately be limited to only the first three traditional supplications.”

 “The words of the nine prayers are a sacred cage holding the non-ordained in a prison proscribing non-canonical petition without first making payment to a priest. What concern nor need does Ni-Kam-Djen have for coin when the only currency of matter is the sincerity of one’s devotion?”

 “The Zatolin heretics must be cleansed from the realm, their blood an offering to Ni-Kam-Djen!”

 “If the corrupt Ketolins will not heed rational heartfelt pleas for justice before Ni-Kam-Djen, let them come to heel at the tip of a sword!”

      — Fragments from a transcribed debate between Ketolin Priest Dang Von-Lan and Zatolin Priest Taing Ki-Lee at the beginning of The Great Schism, fifth year of the Second Great Dominion.

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The Keth Faith

The Keth Dictum of Acceptance

“There is one god or two gods or many gods, or there are none. There are spirits and ghosts and demons, or there are none. There is a soul or a sliver of eternal essence in each person, or there is none. There is a life after death, or there is rebirth into further life, or there is nothing after this life except eternal darkness.

We must accept what we can know with conviction while admitting that there is little we can know with certainty, and that what we cannot know absolutely, we can only believe with faith.

While we can choose what we have faith in, we must accept that faith is not knowledge and that when faiths disagree, they must do so in humility and respect.

There are countless paths and innumerable destinations. Importance lies in choosing a path, walking it with dedication, and respecting all those whose paths one crosses.”
— First Dictum from the Keth Book of The Unknowables.

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The Moaratanist Faith

The Heart Prayer of Moaratanism

 “Goddess Moaratana,
Star of the Dragon,
beacon in the dark night,
bestow upon me the depth of your infinite compassion
to feel the hearts of others,
grant me the clarity of your omniscient vision
to see the suffering of all the world,
impart to me the boundless love of your heart
to witness the pain of all beings,
illuminate me with the fire of your supreme wisdom
to apprehend the means for bringing justice to the world,
entrust me with the power of your limitless strength
to work your will in my life and in other’s lives.
As I become as you,
the world becomes as you.
May your grace infuse my life
and the lives of all others.
Anaha, Ahana.”
— Verse 7 from The Red Book of Revelations.

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The Pashist Faith

Pashist Teachings of the Ten Purities

 In a field at the edge of the plains beneath the shadow of the Red Bone Mountains in the third year of the third turning, Tivone Mata Kargteka sat beneath a tree, speaking with the farmers and villagers of a nearby town.

 “How does one become as you, a Tivone Mata, oh glorious one?” asked a farmer.

“One must embody the Ten Purities and follow their path,” Tivone Kargteka said.

“What are the Ten Purities, and how does one follow their path, oh radiant one?” a village woman asked.

“To attain the state of a Tivone Mata, one must practice Pure Being. To attain Pure Being, one must cultivate Pure Awareness. To apprehend Pure Awareness, one must cultivate Pure Concentration. To understand the importance of Pure Concentration, one must develop Pure Compassion. To achieve a mind of Pure Compassion, one must nurture Pure Love. To truly experience Pure Love, one must commit to Pure Forgiveness. To fully fathom Pure Forgiveness, one must engage with Pure Generosity. To grasp Pure Generosity, one must perform with Pure Action. In order to perform with Pure Action, one must first communicate with Pure Speech. To acquire Pure Speech, one must realize Pure Thought. These are the Ten Purities and how one follows their path.”

“Oh great Tivone Mata, bless you for your instruction,” a village man said. “If one wishes to embark upon the path of the Ten Purities, how does one achieve Pure Thought?”

“To attain Pure Thought, one must train the mind,” Tivone Mata Kargteka said.

“How does one train the mind?” a farmer woman asked.

“One trains the mind through the application of the Eight Golden principles,” Tivone Mata Kargteka replied.

“What are the Eight Golden Principles of training the mind?” a young village girl asked.

“Sit with me and I will teach you.” Tivone Mata Kargteka smiled.
— From the Teachings of Tivone Mata Kargteka in The Golden Book of Great Fortune, Chapter 6.

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The Tot Goith Faith

Tot Gioth Ritual of Cleansing

 “I completed my first ritual of cleansing on assumption of my twenty-fifth year. It is a rite of passage for all truly devout parishioners. With the setting of the sun, I was taken to the inner temple. Stripping off my clothes, I entered the first pool of scalding water. I winced in pain as two attendants scrubbed me with lavender scented soaps and thick cloths. The attendants led me, dripping with suds, to the rinsing pool of chilled water. From there, they dried me and covered me in oils scented with cinnamon and clove and clariss.

They dressed me in a simple white gown of linen and took me to another chamber, where I was given a large clay cup of cool water to drink. The water tasted like mint. After I drained the cup, they ushered me into a small room of stifling steam. Five other supplicants sat in the room on stone benches while an aged attendant continuously poured water over a brazier of coals. Admonished not to speak, we sat in silence all through the night. When we started to feel the heat of the steam lull us to slumber, the attendant rang a gong and roused us to alertness.

The doors finally opened and sucked in the cool air of the outer hall as the attendants led us to another pool of cool water where two priests, a man and a woman, immersed us one at a time, speaking ancient prayers over our submerged heads.

Dripping from the blessing pool, we were led outside to witness the great fiery orb of the sun cresting the horizon to begin a new day. As we watched the sunrise, the priests led us in a song of surrender to the Great Mother and Great Father, handing us each a cup of nectarous liquid to drink as the song concluded. The priests said a final blessing over our bowed heads, and thus we were proclaimed cleansed and reborn in the light of the Mother Creator and Father Destroyer.”

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The Forbidden Realm and the Urris

The Forbidden Realm

Voyage 77: Day 32

“We survived the storm. The central mast snapped. The sails are shredded. The hull leaks. But with pitch and tar and bucket and bail, the waters will not claim us.”

Voyage 77: Day 42

“Food stocks will last some time yet on short rations, but our fresh water runs low. Several water casks were damaged in the storm, and we did not notice the leaks until finding them empty. I have put the men on three cups a day and made prayers for rain.”

Voyage 77: Day 53

“Still adrift at the mercy of the currents. The stars show us far off course. We drop the knots to gauge our speed every hour. The navigator says we near land, but not land we can land upon. I’ve checked his maps and his math, and I concur. The storm did not claim our ship nor our lives, but our landfall likely will.”

Voyage 77: Day 61

“A brief storm gave us relief. The first mate organized the men to fashion what remains of the sails into collection funnels and managed to replenish the water casks. We each drank our fill as the storm subsided and the setting sun broke through clouds. The men took it for a happy omen until the lookout called down from the nest. A shadow above the water and behind the sun. The coastal mountains of the Forbidden Realm. We drift toward our deaths.”

Voyage 77: Day 63

“A miracle this day. The tide brought us within casting range of the rocky sands along the shore of the Forbidden Realm. Closer than any sailor has seen in all known maritime history. The men stood in silence on the deck, praying as they waited for their doom. I made my prayers as well, but took time to note and sketch what I witnessed. No captain has seen what I have seen. All those who departed with the intention of landing on the shores of the Forbidden Realm failed to return. All attempts to circumnavigate the continent were lost in fogs, the fortunate ones finding themselves thousands of miles off course. I and my men saw mountains give way to forests and a rock-strewn coastline. Trees with such sweeping wide branches that one might expect them to take flight. We marveled until the bilge boy spotted the mist and called out. The damp, sight-killing cloud enveloped us before we had proper time to panic. The men huddled in the center of the deck, fearful of what might climb over the railing out of the fog. Nothing came from the fog, and it soon faded away on a strong breeze to reveal a wholly different, yet intimately familiar coastline, one dotted with docks we all knew by sight. The urris had not killed us. It, they, had carried us to the piers of Tanjii. The men cheered and cried, and I ordered a cask of wine brought up from the hold.”
— Remnant of a Tanjii captain’s log from the last year of the Second Great Dominion of the Iron Realm.

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The Urris

 “They appear without appearing. They see but are unseen. They speak even as they hear all. They know the hearts of all peoples yet punish not the wicked nor reward the good. They enforce their edicts even as they ignore all pleas and prayers. They created us in their image. They found us floundering and saved us. They gifted us this land. They tore us from our land. We are their children. We are their prisoners. The urris are gods. The urris are not gods. Are the urris gods?”
— From a fragment of text by an anonymous Pashist priest sometime before The Great Conflagration.

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The Sky Realm and the Yutans

Yutan Prayer for the Living and the Dead and the Living

 in creator Onn
all things begin
the sunrise at morning
the seed of the tree
the bud of the flower
the spark of the flame
the chick from its shell
the babe from the womb

in sustainer Tam
all things endure
the cloud smeared sky at midday
the sapling bent by the wind
the flower blooming in the rain
the fire blazing in a tempest
the bird flying through the storm
the child running to maturity

in destroyer Kiv
all things end
the sun fleeing at dusk
the tree felled by rot
the flower shriveled in drought
the flame sputtering to smoke
the bird falling from the sky
the elderly body rotting into the soil

yet the cycle of all things
continues to turn
the stars birthed at nightfall
the forest feasting on the fallen branch
the wind-borne seeds taking root
the ember coals wafted to new light
the eternal essence emanated in a new life

may Tam sustain you
until Kiv destroys you
and Onn births you again
— Yutan prayer for the dead of the Aasho sect. Traditionally spoken at the moment of death or just afterward.

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The Stone Realm and the Roaggs

Roagg Hunting Song

The stag runs the rocks
Climbs the flowered summit
I give chase

Arrow and air
And bright summer sun
Blue sky and red blood

Soft gentle stag
Your time is now
Go in peace

I give thanks
Spirit ending
May you soon return

May spirit soar
As your flesh feeds
For we all feed the worms

We hunt now
This land of
Sky and rock

No more to slave
No more to war
No more to woe

The betrayers betrayed
A land of our own
To hunt and sing

Eat now and rejoice
As the stag falls
So we remember
— Roagg hunting song, transcribed by an anonymous yutan traveler.

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The Sun Realm and the Rakthors

Rakthor Constitutional Preamble

 “There are no inherent rights possessed by beings of any nature. Individuals possess only the rights they are willing to demand, obtain, and maintain. Nonetheless, rights, duties, and obligations are the cornerstones of any society. The rights, needs, and duties of the individual must be balanced with the obligations and responsibilities of the broader social assemblage. This constitution seeks to explain the relationship between individuals, groups of individuals, and the greater whole of society as expressed through its means of governance. What the individual owes to the collective, and the collective to the individual, is made explicit where necessary and implied where circumstances might render specifics impossible to implement. As no document of social guidance is perfect to its own time, much less to future generations, the first requirement of the implementation of this constitutional construct is that it be revised and amended as conditions and needs require on a half-centennial basis.”
— Excerpt from the Preamble of the Rakthor Constitution of Ranikttak [The Sun Realm].

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The Rakthor Principles of Mind

“My traveling companion is a rakthor; Jivik, he calls himself. He is agreeable company. Far more so than the human traders of the caravan we ride with. Unfortunately, this region the humans call the Daeshen Dominion is not safe for foreigners to traverse. War seems evermore possible with the southern Tanshen Dominion as the two nations continue to argue about how to worship their human god. Humans like to make war. By which I mean, they seem to enjoy it. They are so unlike we yutan. Even though his skin reminds me of the pet snake I kept in my pocket as a child, I feel more kinship with Jivik than my fellow mammals.

We both make for the Daeshen capital. He as an ambassador of his people. Me, as you know, for a similar position. At the campfire last night, he spoke to me of what the rakthors refer to as The Principles of Mind. They are a set of guidelines for living created for his people by their most revered rakthor philosopher, Rantak. I have read of them before, possibly you have as well, but I had never heard them so clearly enunciated.

Clarity of thought arises from discerning the truth of what is and what is not.
Seek the indifferent truth both within and without.
Gather facts not interpretations to reveal the truth.
Know the variance between need and desire.
Understand the harmony of balance in all things.
That which sustains the individual sustains the whole.
That which sustains the whole sustains the individual.
Let clarity of thought guide all actions.

I find them strangely comforting, much as I find Jivik’s company, a balm for the sore heart at leaving all of you behind while on this pointless mission among a lesser people. I hope, dear sister, this missive finds you well. Give my best to our mother and to that restless niece of mine. Does she still seek to train as a Sight Scout when she is older? May sustainer Tam hold you close until destroyer Kiv unwinds us all for creator Onn to rebirth us once again.”
— From the personal letters of Wen Dan Yoth, Elder Ambassador of the Yutan Great Pod.

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The Wood Realm and the Wyrins

Kyluna: the Forest Spirit of the Wyrins

“Long before the wyrins ran, the forest stood. Long after the wyrins cease to run, the forest will still stand. The forest, spirit-mother, Kyluna, births us from her burrows, shelters us in the leaves of her arms, feeds us from the bounty of her body. All we have comes from Mother Kyluna. The trees where we make our homes. The roots and fruits and animals to sustain us. The wood to make tools and trade.

In the time before the advent of the wyrins, Forest Spirit Kyluna and Sky Spirit Panjuul brought forth many creatures, but none who could turn their voices to the heavens or kneel in prayer upon the ground. They were happy when the wyrins came, not caring from whence they arrived nor why. The forest now had caretakers. Protectors to guard against fire, cultivators to encourage new growth. Spirit Kyluna spoke with the other spirits, the spirits of the trees and rocks and birds, the spirits of sun and moons and stars and wind and rain and lightning, and she forged a covenant between the spirits and the wyrins.

For so long as we might roam the great forests of Orne Klaad [The Wood Realm], the spirits would protect and provide for us in exchange for the worship and care of them through the forest whole. We wyrins keep this covenant even above all others made with mortal creatures. As we shall until the exodus time, when we finally leave our forest home for good.”
— Fragment from Essential Knowing — A Primer for Wyrin Children, Thaluufa Juula, mistress of learning, sometime after the Twenty-Seventh Great Cycle.

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