Al'Anathar (The Anathari)
Translated by Daelric Ulbeth,
Royal Archivist to His Most Beneficent Majesty, King Jarom Brightblade
Chapter 1: The Sowing of the Seed
Of our coming legends speak only in whispers, as if the truth were such a fragile web that to grasp it fully would leave one clutching nothing but a few stray silken threads. Yet they would be fragile fibres that vibrate with a song that echoes within every Anathari. The refrain of our forefathers who constructed this great civilization of Anathara, a people who have challenged the munificence of the Sylvaran Elves and the ardour of the Dwarves, but who I fear are now succumbing to those vices that haunt us all. So I write this in the hope that the tale of our people will purge us of that which divides us, will reinvigorate us so that the wonder that was Anathara can be reborn.
As is known by every child that graces the streets of Pharadis, our predecessors arrived through three vast gateways. Portals to another world whose name has long since been shorn from our memory, a land which the Gods themselves are said to have forsaken, and from which a few hardy souls escaped. Perhaps the danger was in the form of the goblinkin that are so prevalent in areas of Antaron, or from the deprivations of famine, but the truth has been lost to us and I fear it will never be known by those enslaved to this mortal coil.
He that is the most beloved, Sakalzar, was the one who led the Anathari over what must have been an epic journey, for mere hundreds stood at its end, when they had departed as a host of thousands. Yet, perhaps it made the moment all the more sweeter when the first steps of a shattered people fell upon Antaron. A land that that had been untouched by the ravages of time, that had remained in hushed silence awaiting that moment when it could burst into song.
Sakalzar ordered his people to stop upon that first day, as the pleas of their fatigue fell upon his ears. Yet it was not to rest, but to offer their voices in supplication to he that had led them to salvation, the god Rydor. Their prayers carries far in the night air, startled animals that had yet to hear human song, and fell upon the ears of a fair-skinned human tribe that had claimed the area. Hularin was what they called themselves after their leader Hular, whose veins coursed with anger at the apparent invasion of their territory. Anger was to become fear as he rode to confront the Anathari and his gaze fell upon the dark-haired, olive-skinned people, whose keen swords flashed in the moonlit sky. Yet, soon the fear was to become awe, for it was not the tip of a blade that greeted Hular, but an outstretched hand. The Chieftain fell to his knees before Sakalzar, confessing his previous intent and offering his life in reparation, but his words fell upon deaf ears. Already our Founding Father had moved to embrace Hular as a brother, and the Anathari locked hands with their Hularin counterparts. Their blood mingled, and through the marriage of the two peoples the Anathari gained the strength with which they could flourish.
A mighty city was now constructed, which I'm sure you all know to be Pharadis. [Editors note: I'm sure this evidence will finally silence those naysayers who stated Pharadis was nothing but a myth] Its beauty is unparalleled, though I fear to describe the ivory towers and blazing banners is a task best left to bards, for only they can recite the ode to humanity that these walls in which I now sit truly are. No less than fifty years passed in its construction, and as its spires rose from the earth, humanity from throughout Antaron flocked to our standard, learnt that which we taught, so that mankind stood as a single, united people.
However, even as the last stone was laid, Sakalzar felt D'hurgen's touch upon him, and so it was that he called his people into the square where his mausoleum now stands. He spoke of his passing, of the legacy he would leave, and of the faith that had sustained him, but such was the suffocating nature of D'hurgen's embrace that his words came out in a whisper. It was then that Rydor is said to have sprung to his aid, suffusing our King with his divine essence so that he might speak. The crowd fell upon their knees at the sight, awed into silence even as Sakalzar chose a lowly chambermaid as his successor, before succumbing to his final rest, and an elevation to the pantheon of the Gods.
'Ilkho-Azranal' was the cry that shook the city of Pharadis as the people greeted their Queen, a monarch appointed by the gods themselves. Yet beneath many of the smiles, lurked envy, and souls that were rapidly consumed by jealousy. Under Azranal's rule over the next seventy years, Anathara's flower flourished for the world to see, but in the moment of triumph the seeds of what might prove to be our destruction were sown.
Chapter 2: The Flourishing of a Fragile Flower
The years passed. Men and women sprang anew from the sun's early light, toiled as it beat down upon sweat-ridden brows, and greeted the long night with a smile, as weary souls finally escaped their mortal chains. Upon the sacrifice of these countless thousands Anathara was built. So that their children's children could grew tall, could grow proud, as Azranal's rein waxed on, and as Mirrenel donned her mantle after it finally waned. Far to the South and West the Anathari rove, built mighty cities that challenged the dominion of the shadows that had cast their shroud over the land. In the north our legions marched unchallenged, and their footsteps echoed into the depths of those hollows where the goblinkin lurk, introducing the pangs of fear to hearts cast in stone. To the east the Priesthood of the True Church (Sakalzar) formed mighty bastions that quelled the elven tide, and taught to them a new melody, a refrain to the might of humanity.
One by one the petals of the Anathari rose were unfurled, a flower so beautiful that to merely glimpse it once is to leave one blind to any other beauty that may exist in the world.
Yet upon Mirrenel's death, the first signs of an impending autumn could be seen, and winter's whisper heard upon the breeze. Many Anathari have cities graced Antaron over the years, but only one has attempted to surpass the wonder that is Pharadis, Ilozran. A town that stood as a monument to its founder, a man who had responded to Sakalzar's summons with a confident smile, but had left with a grimace etched upon his face, and so built a monument to his angst. Its golden towers are said to challenge even those of Pharadis, but beneath the golden gilt lies stone of the deepest obsidian hue, matching the black heart of its founder, Ilozran. Ilkho-Mirrenel met her end there, struck down in the summer of her life by an assassin's dart. A wave of sorrow coursed through Anathara, but even the hopes and dreams of collective thousands could not fill Mirrenel's empty throne.
Messages were sent upon her cruel death to all the notables throughout Anathara, to gather in Pharadis at the behest of the Archprelate of the True Church, and either out of respect or a desire to maintain their appearance they came. Urkulunath was his name, and he called for one of those present, man, woman, or child, pure heart and soul who would step forward and accept the blessing of Sakalzar. As one, hands were thrust in the air, but few of those were not moved by greed. Sapthiran, the long-standing Steward of Mirrenel was one. Legends speak of how he was led behind a vast curtain, how a terrible cry shattered the reverie, and how Urkulunath emerged with a bloodied blade. Another was asked for, and Imrobel, First Lady of Pharadis, tore herself away from her cowering husband and answered the plea. And again Urkulunath emerged with fresh blood upon his saffron robes. Men and women cowered in fear as he asked for yet another, but a mere pageboy, Zarbe, was willing and surrendered himself to his god.
From the Account of His Most Holiness, Archprelate Urkulunath:
"Will there be another? Will there be one amongst you who will sacrifice all for the glory of Sakalzar, the Father of our People?" But I knew as my eyes met those of the congregation, that there would not be. For there was no love, nor loyalty, nothing beyond fascination with the garb they wore, and the worship of the laden purses that hung at their waists.
I reached for the curtain, and tore it down, revealing Sapthiran, Imrobel, and the boy, unharmed but for the tears that had rent their clothing. "The look upon your brothers and sister who dared to believe, who gave of themselves for you, and know that you have damned us all."
Sakalzar had spoken to him, had conveyed to him the need for five Inzil-Sakar (Beloved Ones). The gift of wisdom he would grant them and together they would rule over the Anathari. But his gift was spurned. They were only four throughout Anathara that would do their Gods bidding.
In the end, the fifth seat was given to Nallazir, Lord of Ilozran, and together the Council did rule. Yet he and his progeny were to prove notes of discord in an otherwise perfect harmony, which reverberated through the fragile flower and purged it of the dew that had given it succour.
Chapter 3: The Withering of the Anathari Rose
For two centuries and more the Council ruled, and they stoked well the fire that burnt in the breast of many Anathari. Over the endless seas we sailed, confronted strange peoples, and took from them all that they had until they looked upon us as fickle gods. Exquisite treasures shaped by a lifetime and mores work, were surrendered to us by the dour dwarves, as eyes cast in fear looked upon the gleaming spears of our arrayed hosts. Mighty palaces shone as bejewelled stars upon out streets, drawing to them congregations that worshipped new gods: avarice, pride and gluttony. The fire that had been stoked drove the Anathari to seeming unending greatness, but the flames of the brilliant blaze licked at our souls, seared them and shrivelled them until little remained.
They gilded that frail flower in gold, made it into what they thought would be an everlasting monument for generations to fawn over, whilst that which they sought to preserve withered and died under the duress, so that it became nothing but a mausoleum. After two hundred years few remembered the words Urkulunath had spoken, and those that thought of it as a tale to frighten young children. But those years were but a blink of an eye to those that govern from above, and soon a myth that haunted the dreams of our children became a living nightmare that afflicted us all.
Famine descended upon the Anathara, and with a touch drove any vestiges of life from the land. A harsh, coarse soil was all that was left, one that barely took the seeds we sowed, and introduced the ravages of hunger to the Anathari. For those that remained locked within ivory towers, the cries of untold thousands were but a whisper on the wind, only to be noticed when gaunt faces and bloated bellied afflicted even they, and the streets were filled with motionless masses awaiting the opiate of death for lives that had become to painful to bear.
In a time when gold proved what little worth it has, men and women cast off their finery, searched within themselves for the strength and spirit of our ancestors who triumphed through adversity, only to find an empty cavity where once that flower had bloomed. To the Church of the True Faith they came, as their false gods lay in ruins about them, beseeching the clergy for a deliverance that could not come. For long Archprelate Yanumrun had knelt in supplication before the image of Sakalzar, asking for forgiveness to which there was no answer. No response to the near-silent wails that blanketed the streets of Pharadis at night, adding a new verse to that refrain of humanity, but one that sang of human folly.
Year upon year, skeletal waifs that had once been merry children, would look upon the fresh dug graves of their parents whilst clutching in their tiny hands the meagre harvest that was their legacy. Day after day thousands would flock to the temples and prostrate themselves before the True God, whilst thousands more embraced those faiths that revelled in the long night. Hour after hour, a thousand voices would echo a brief chord of pain that would shatter the most uncaring of hearts, before being silenced for eternity. Famine was all-triumphant and her consort Pestilence rode hard on her heels, so that few were spared even amongst the Council, where only Tanubel, Steward of Azranal, and Rumatthel, Lord of Ilrozan, still stood amongst the dying embers of Anathara.
Truly were they opposite sides of the same coin. Tanubel the soldier, who had long ridden against the foes of Anathara, but stood as a mere babe in a world defined by the swiftness of one's wit and that of one's sword-arm. Rumatthel, a man whose right arm hung lifeless by his side, but whose glibness could more than made up for that which he had lost. Like the Sun and Moon who fight for the dominance of the sky, so the two fought, as the Lord of Ilrozan proposed that the Council be disbanded, and the Steward that it be infused with fresh blood. But a war of words could only produce on victor. As a spider that weaves its subtle web, so Rumatthel spoke, growing in confidence until Tanubel lay ensnared in his rhetoric, and poisoned by his lies.
Rumatthel proved himself to be the legitimate heir of Ilrozan, for even as each city was granted their autonomy so he whispered to those Lords and Ladies, spoke to them of the wealth that resided still within Pharadis and the mountains of grain that had been hidden from their view. The gold the city of Ilrozan had donned as a mask was finally cast away, to reveal those towers that stood as a monument to the endless night. The kilns of the city raged in anticipation, and one by one Anthari cities, the petals of that once fair flower, fell under the sway of the Lord of Ilrozan.
War was waged. A war that has lasted for forty years that has no beginning, has no end, for a generation who have born and died under a banner of blood. But there is hope at last. The hostilities have ceased and Zirkaman, ruler of Ilrozan, has pledged peace. I have heard tales of vast fires that plague the woodlands of the South that leave nothing but desolation in their wake. Yet amidst the burning embers and grey ash, frail flowers sprout from seedlings, reach the height of their beauty as the burst into bloom with unparalleled grace. So I hope it may be for our Anathari rose, that it may rise again and grow fairer than it ever was, as we learn from the mistakes of the past.
Chosen by the True Church, and Faithful Servant to the Father of our People, Glorious Sakalzar.
[Editors note: This addendum was written after the main text in a scrawled script]
Even now I hear the heavy footsteps approaching and know that I ought to be quick. The city of my birth, the city that had inspired ballads from a hundred bards, is no more. Pharadis has been betrayed and as it smoulders, so the dream that was Anathara is no more. Zirkaman came, talked eloquently of peace, and in the moment of reconciliation revealed his true self. Figures emerged from the shadows, cruel parodies of men who were cloaked head to toe in shade, and instigated a slaughter in the name of the Dark Lady, Tyrannis. How long it has been since Ilrozan fell under the sway of that evil wench I cannot say, butâ€¦[text becomes unreadable at this point]
â€¦I know that I have been a foolish old man, but is it so wrong to dream, to believe? Sakalzar be praised, and may heâ€¦They come for meâ€¦
||Arrival of Anathari
Sakalzar's Death/Elevation into the Pantheon of the Gods
||Anathari reach as far as the Kachiri Islands
||War's conclusion, and elvish recognition of Anathara
||Mirrenel's Assassination, and Anathara left without a monarch
Inzil-Sakor (5 Beloved Ones) invested to rule, constituting:
The Steward (Sapthiran and his line)
The Fearless One (Imrobel and her progeny)
The Pure of Heart (Zarbe and his descendents)
The Unwilling (Nallazir, and the Lords/Ladies of Ilrozan)
The Archprelate of the True Church (initially Urkulunath)
||The 'Golden Age'
||The Great Famine
||Tanubel and Rumatthel dissolve the Council, and grant autonomy to individual Anathari cities.
||'The Endless Night', civil war rages.
Betrayal of Pharadis, and end of any records that speak of Ilrozan or any other Anathari cities.
Thanks to Ginafae for this contribution!