The Mith’lani Records – Prologue

“I’m sorry, Thalvic, but if your demeanor was as bitter as this swill in front of me, I’d throw myself from the highest peak of the Mithulan Mountains within an hour of your company.”

Thalvic bellowed with laughter from deep within his rotund belly for what seemed like an eternity. Aelfwine Theodwita withdrew a handkerchief from a pocket in his sleeve and began to remove the spittle that had flown from Thalvic’s gaping maw onto the historian’s plain brown cloak. Both men wore similar weatherproof cloaks of heavy flax, lacquered to keep out the snow and hail, though the traditional Mith’lani feather, hide, and bone fetishes that adorned Thalvic’s cloak were notably absent from Aelfwine’s. Even with an ocean and half a continent between him and Greatvale, the historian retained a distaste for all things ostentatious shared by many in the Folkdeed.

Thalvic wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, obviously fighting back a few remaining laughs.

“So you dislike svanka?” Thalvic asked. “This is the lifeblood of the Mith’lani! You wish to know what it is to be a child of Mother Mithulan? Then drink deep the milk from her teats my brother!”

With a slap on the back that nearly knocked Aelfwine to the floor, Thalvic refilled the historian’s iron tankard. The scent of the svanka, a liquor made from fermented lichen and flax, sent Aelfwine’s head spinning. It was his belief that to learn of a people’s history, one must understand the people as they exist today. Learning of the Mith’lani was proving to be as much a physical challenge as it was an academic one…

“I meant no offense, brother.” Aelfwine spoke the Mith’lani words slowly, but with an impressive level of fluency.

“Nonsense, is already forgotten!” Thalvic meandered back to his bench opposite the historian. As he lowered his significant girth, the wooden boards groaned – it was a testament to Mith’lani craftsmanship that they held at all.

“Brother, continue where you were. You were preparing to ask another question I believe?”

“Yes, I was.” Aelfwine paused momentarily, considering the consequences of his next question. While his host was showing himself to be a paragon of hospitality, he also knew that strapped to Thalvic’s right thigh was a traditional nuthlak hunting knife. In the Mithulan Mountains an insult was met in one of two ways; with a hearty laugh, or with tempered steel sliding across your throat…

Aelfwine withdrew a piece of parchment and dipped his quill slowly into his inkwell.

“Thalvic, why did the Mith’lani invade the Kastan’ose Valley, before the Vazj arrived?”

The large man stopped mid-movement, his tankard frozen just in from of his parted lips. Slowly, he set the drink down on the wide table in front of them, and met Aelfwine with a stony gaze. Aelfwine met the rock grey eyes across from him, knowing that to look away would be tantamount to suicide. Thalvic kept his gaze locked on Aelfwine for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally, the silence was broken.

“Let me refill your mug, historian. And you best fetch another piece of parchment.”

The Kastan’ose Civilizations

A Brief History of the Djunna, the Last Surviving Civilization of the Kastan’ose Valley

Compiled by Aelfwine Theodwita, Senior Historian of the Gaderung of Education, 1213 AC

The Kastan’ose Valley Civilizations represented a unique amalgamation of cultures in their golden era, from roughly 600 PC to 806 AC. Born from the gathering of several distinct nomadic tribes drawn to the Kastan’ose River and the rich vegetation of the surrounding Kastan’ose Valley, these civilizations were born not from the blood of conflict but rather from fires fueled by mercantile and aesthetic competition. For more than a millennium the Kastan’ose Valley contained some of the most materially affluent and culturally rich societies within memory; of more significance, however, they created what may be the most advanced cultural community to have ever claimed the Sunset Lands as home. While the Kastan’ose knew something of the vastness of the world (Lu’Amina as they called it) they held to the concept that to know one’s land was all that was needed to live a fulfilled live. Know the Kastan’ose Valley they did, for even at the height of their population, the densely packed Civilizations knew never to exploit their land beyond its limits to recover. Left undisturbed, the Kastan’ose Valley Civilizations would likely inhabit their homeland today. Instead, their end came from sword and swine…

To understand how they died, one must understand how they lived. The Kastan’ose Valley, which follows the Kastan’ose River due west for roughly 40 leagues after its birth in the snowcapped Mithulan Mountains, lies near the northwest coast of the Sunset Lands. The Valley was a natural breadbasket, with citrus trees lining both slopes and a thin grain called leshhni growing on the banks of the river. Birds and amphibious life was plentiful, and herds of a dog-sized rodent (the now extinct shna’mina) roamed the foothills nearest the Mithulan Mountains. It was here that nomadic tribes, at least thirty that we know of, began to settle in the Kastan’ose.

It is a rare thing to speak of a peaceful encounter when more than one people first meet. But the tribes that settled in the Kastan’ose found no need to engage in competition; both resources and land were plentiful for wandering groups that rarely accounted for more than several hundred. Interactions were fueled by curiosity, not survival. Soon, specialization occurred among the various groups. While all had enough to live comfortably, the resources of the Kastan’ose were not spread equally. The Djunna, settled near the beginning of the river at the foothills of the Mithulan, began to hunt and eventually herd the shna’mina. The meat soon became a delicacy throughout the Valley. Other tribes traded in citrus, or fish, or in the case of the northwestern most tribes the strong wood from the evergreens of coastal plains. These tribes remained separated geographically, and by localized customs, but became deeply intertwined economically.

As the languages of the Kastan’ose tribes began to meld, allowing for more efficient trade, the different ideals and myths of the once nomadic groups began to spread and intermingle. As mentioned earlier, there was a word for the world at large: Lu’Amina. Of much more importance, though, was the Lu’Kastani. The former translates to “our world,” the latter to “our land.” Knowledge of the Kastan’ose Valley was of the utmost importance to these tribes. To know the world beyond the slopes of the Valley was unimportant, and left to a handful of impetuous youths. To know the land surrounding the Kastan’ose River itself, specifically to understand how to draw her resources while focusing on conservation of the intertwined systems within the Valley, became the focus of their varying religions and philosophies. Regardless of the gods or spirits they worshiped, all people of Kastan’ose held this concept as central.

The Kastan’ose were among the few people to be unaffected by the Catastrophe, so isolated were they. The first contact the Kastan’ose had with an outside group was with the Mith’lani, or “men of stone,” in 806 AC. The Mith’lani, natives of the Mithulan Mountains, had developed a mighty war machine fighting off incursions from the barbarians to the east of the mountain range (located near what is now called the Bay of Fingers). While they were in truth men of flesh and bone their iron swords and simple plate armor fooled the Kastan’ose, who knew nothing in the way of metallurgy, into believing they were of the Mountain itself. The Mith’lani descended into the foothills near the beginning of the Kastan’ose River. The Djunna were overwhelmed; armed with nothing but the long throwing spears used to hunt shna’mina and with no armor of any kind, they surrendered within a few days of the invasion. The Mith’lani used their captives’ habitations as a forward barracks, and forced the Djunna to gather as many shna’mina as possible to be slaughtered for the army. Many Djunna resisted, as this order was tantamount to an assault on Lu’Kastani itself. It is estimated that for every five Djunna who lived before the invasion, three were killed in this first week. The rest submitted.

With a foothold in the Kastan’ose Valley the Mith’lani planned to march west and seize as much land as possible, possibly continuing past the valley to the coastal plain. This plan was halted by an unexpected unification of the Kastan’ose people. It seems the Mith’lani underestimated the importance the Valley itself held to the Kastan’ose people as a whole, regardless of their cultural differences. Despite their technological advantage, for three cycles of the Moon the Mith’lani were cheated their easy conquest by a people who knew their land as intimately as they knew themselves. This continued until the night of the third full moon, when the Vazj arrived from the Sunset Sea.

The coastal city states that existed en masse at the time were razed to the ground by these mysterious peoples. They quickly marched through the plains and into the Valley. Within a week from their arrival they had marched to the Mithulan Mountains themselves. The Kastan’ose and Mith’lani were killed in equal measure, a slaughter so immense that few details of these vile men (if they were men at all) exist today. It is believed that the Vazj marched east over the Mountains all the way to the coast of the Middling Sea. Whether they changed their direction to the north or south, or somehow departed into the Middling Sea, no one knows. They vanished as quickly as they arrived, leaving behind nary a single Vazj body or artifact, only death and destruction.

While the slaughter was immense, it was not complete. Of all those killed, it was the defenseless Djunna who survived. The exact reason is a matter of speculation; the most popular theories hold that the Djunna were able to hide in the thick forests where they were forced to hunt, or perhaps the Vazj showed uncharacteristic mercy and spared the defenseless slaves. For whatever reason, the Djunna were the only living women and men left in the Kastan’ose Valley. Lu’Kastani had not been spared such mercy, though, and what the Djunna inherited resembled in no way the fertile land settled by their ancestors.

The only detail of the Vazj army that we know of today is their use of some sort pig or boar as a war beast. They stood as high as a man’s breast and likely weighed as much as a warhorse. It is believed that the Vazj released them before their army moved forward; this stampeding juggernaut of gnashing teeth and goring tusks would cause massive damage to an enemy before the army itself ever arrived. Their existence is known primarily from the many skeletons buried in layers of rock and snow near the zenith of the Mithulan Mountains. It would seem they were not prepared for the bone-aching chill of the peaks.

Within the Kastan’ose Valley, however, they carried out their mission with horrifying efficiency. A land once composed of lush vegetation and thick groves set among rolling hills became a cesspool. The swine, and the army that followed, devoured or otherwise destroyed most of the intertwining systems of life that defined the Kastan’ose. The river was dammed by the felled forests, and today the Kastan’ose Valley is little more than a lifeless swamp interrupted by intermittent hills. The only plant still found in the area is the leshni grain. It is on this alone that the Djunna survive.

At the end of the invasion, over 400 years ago, nearly three thousand Djunna survived. Today, there are barely four hundred. They are a ghost, a vestigial reminder of a once great civilization. They are phantoms passing through a 40 league long graveyard.

Rumors spread through the northwest of the Sunset Lands, though, that could bring the Kastan’ose Valley back into the forefront of the land’s events. Civil war is brewing throughout the Duchy of Gurefren, the region’s main power, its political stability worn thin from expansion beyond the northern highlands into the plains and coasts surrounding the Kastan’ose River… To the west, in The Sunset Sea, strange ships are said to have docked on the Isles of Empty. It is said that these vessels carry not just men, but herds of beasts standing high as a man but with the girth of cattle. It is said they carry these tusked beasts by the score… and to the east, something stirs in the Mithulan Mountains, and on the tongues of all Djunna is repeated one phrase, Mishallan Shin’Amina: The World’s Bane.