Evidence In Further Support of Extra-Planar Influence on the History and Formation of the Aveyrone Empire

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The origin of the Gravonian peoples who inhabited the regions of Aveyrone before the rise of the Empire has been a favourite topic of scholars of ancient history for centuries. This is due in part to the scant evidence remaining and accessible, which allows for some rather creative interpretations. Since the emergence of House Rat, scholarly interest in the Gravonians has increased, though there is little new accessible evidence. I hope to present new information – at least new to Aveyronnais historians – corroborating some more recent theories by scholars such as Antje Dihn and Loch du Champ. I would also like to thank some of our society members for their assistance with this work, namely Mlle. Ilphère de Quessenet, Mlle. Nycaise L’Averti, and Mr. Seth Argo.

Histories of the Cozovodë Elves are not familiar territory for most Imperial scholars, but they present rich ground for mining new insights into earlier periods of human history. Religious accounts such as The Revelations of Jahrom, and especially the Foundation Cycles, contain admittedly biased accounts of the lands encountered by Cozovodë arriving on this continent from unknown lands far across the eastern sea. When considered in relation to other accounts of the Early Dynasty, especially some surviving Gravonian works preserved both in the Empire’s great libraries – at the Castalia, and in the Athenaeum – and in some of the great monasteries of Cozovodë where I have had the privilege to visit, a more detailed picture emerges.

Much has been published on the few scraps of Gravonian texts known to Imperial scholars, but nevertheless a brief review of the most pertinent works is in order here. Alain de Gramercy’s initial translation of the Gravonne Cache remains the classic work, from which most other Imperial scholarship derives. Liesse Walther’s work on the Rhenean Inscriptions is likewise known to most scholars of ancient languages. This pair provided the basic work establishing the syllablaries used today. More recent work by Antje Dinh and Loch du Champ has greatly elaborated our knowledge of these mysterious ancient peoples.

Du Champ was one of the first people to have contact with the members of House Rat, and consequently the first to recognize the relationship of their language to the written Gravonian texts. His connection with House Rat elites appears to have allowed him access to a number of artifacts and tablets which confirmed this connection, and with assistance from Dihn, he constructed the following scenario:

The Gravonian culture was composed of two castes. At the top was an extra-planar, elf-like, elite called the Shadar-Kai, and below these, enslaved humans. When the nomadic tribes who eventually formed the core of the Empire entered these lands, the groups clashed violently, and the Shadar-Kai retreated to their home plane. The nomads settled here, in Diablotin, at the site of the city previously known as Sarakynel. Du Champ hypothesized that members of the Rat tribe interbred more freely with the remaining population of slaves than the other tribes. Dihn pressed this argument further, suggesting that they were shunned socially because of resulting political issues, and these led to their long term isolation in the tunnels beneath the city.

The sources accessed by du Champ were lost or destroyed during the Re-emergence and, despite the apparent robustness of their arguments, some more conservative scholars have dismissed his and Dihn’s work on account of the lack of corroboration. Much of his account can, in fact, be supported by material available in Cozovodë libraries.

The Revelations of Jahrom is a religious text, chronicling the flight of the Cozovodë people from their homeland in view of religious persecution. This is a complex and heavily layered work, incorporating historical and astrological events into a single metaphorical account. Despite the multiple levels of abstraction, there are passages that most Elven scholars believe to describe the peoples of this land encountered by the founders of the Cozovodë Empire. While the terms used are quite biased, it is clear that the landscape they encountered was populated primarily by tribal groups of nomadic humans. These were similar to, and may well have actually been, the same tribes who pressed into the lands of the Shadar-Kai, or Gravonians. Although I have not yet examined the timeline extensively, I believe it is possible that the resource pressures of the establishment of permanent settlements in the Cozovodë Mountains contributed to the mass migrations which forced those tribes further west, and into the conflicts outlined above.

The Revelations also contain references to the Gravonians – the closest group with any kind of permanent settlements and therefore, in the eyes of the Founders, any semblance of culture. The Founders appear not to have cared much for what they found on closer inspection, however – the name ultimately given to these people translates best as ‘those who know not the stars,’ or ‘those of no substance’. Having made this assessment, little more consideration is given them. This terminology, in a roundabout way, supports du Champ’s theory that the Shadar-Kai were of extra-planar origin, as Cozovodë scholars have long made the same assessment. According to the teachings of Jahrom, everything of this plane draws its substance – form, life and magic – from the stars. Those without substance cannot be native. The Foundation Cycle, which contains additional references to encounters with these people, refers to them also as ‘thieves who face away from the sun’ and ‘children of the serpent’.

Apart from these admittedly somewhat abstract references, during the course of my studies I have had access to other texts which I now believe refer to more recent connections in the history of the Shadar-Kai and the Aveyrone Empire. The most significant of these is a fantastical tale in epic verse whose title translates roughly as ‘The Citadel of Light’. While it is not in the Gravonian language, it is clearly a descendant tongue.

The unnamed narrator undertakes a journey, despite the advice of friends, to go to the Citadel of Light. His/her reasons for going are not entirely clear, but seem to relate to a vow or oath taken long ago in 'lost Saraknyal'. The friends warn that, if the destination is reached, the narrator will lose his/her soul, but this does not deter him/her. The journey is long and perilous. The hero, with only a faithful hound for company, passes out of familiar surroundings and into a wasteland. Many strange and terrible things are to be found there, including 'blind guards' (which seem to be eyeless warriors of some sort), twisted, tentacled trees, or tree-like creatures, called 'hangmen' which attempt to grasp and strangle the traveller, and, most vividly, a sea of black ichor in which float pieces of dead bodies, twisting and writhing in eternal suffering.

As he or she gets closer to the elusive Citadel, the narrator begins to be confronted by visions of strange ghosts or figures of colour who flicker in and out of existence disconcertingly. The narrator and dog then pass into a netherworld of some sort, a grey and misty landscape, lacking even a discernable ground or sky. They are swept up in a strong wind, buffeted here and there. The narrator begins to despair of being lost forever, but the faithful hound encourages him/her to go on, possibly through an empathic link of some sort, as it doesn't seem to be able to speak. Finally they come before a shimmering curtain, the light from which is strong enough to stun the narrator momentarily. With trepidation, he or she pushes through it, and finds him or herself in a strange city, full of colour and noise – the Citadel of Light.

The narrator is simultaneously enraptured and horrified by the place, and avoids contact with its inhabitants, fearing being corrupted by them. At last it becomes dark – a strange phenomenon to the hero. The narrator wanders in the relative peace and quiet for a time, looking up at the distant specks of light that dot the sky, and admires their beauty, but then stumbles upon a high hill, blackened and bereft of all life, at the heart of the city. This apparently symbolizes the death and cruelty that the Citadel is built upon, and the narrator is horrified by it. He or she attempts to flee back to the shimmering curtain and escape, but is cornered by light-wielding attackers and beaten. He or she knows that his or her soul is being consumed. But the dog defends its master, and its bark sends the attackers running. It manages to drag its master back to the shimmering curtain and through to the relative safety of the other side. The poem ends with the narrator unable to return home, yet unwilling to return to the Citadel, simply wandering the grey mists with his/her hound forever.

I believe that this tale represents an incursion, possibly fictionalized but deriving from more factual elements, from the home plane of the Shadar-Kai to our own. The reference to Sarakynel, the same name given by du Champ as the Gravonian city now known as Diablotin, is the strongest evidence as to the identity of the City of Light. In consultation with other society scholars, however, I also believe that the Shadar-Kai can be positively identified as denizens of the Plane of Shadow. There are metageographical conjunctions which result in close natural connections between these two planes, and allow for passage between them. The ‘curtain’ described in the poem is one of these conjunctions. Furthermore, the language used to describe colour, as an alien experience, correlates with the lack of colour reported from that plane. The poem’s narrator’s fascination with the stars, likewise absent on the plane of Shadow, is also suggestive of this connection. Modern research into that plane further suggests that the material used in the construction of the Arch, long a mystery to Aveyronnais scholars, may be native to that plane. Finally, and most tellingly, the name used for the modern inhabitants of the Shadow Plane is the same as that given by du Champ for the extra-planar master caste of the Gravonians.

Other than the reference to Sarakynel, there are a few other passages in the text which clarify the association of the City of Light with Diablotin – the high, blackened hill, for example, relates to the Black Down, prior to the movement, or restoration, of the Arch to its current position. If this poem is set in this city, then, clearly it unfolds in Rhenea. There are a number of other significant geographic references– to a high gleaming dome associated with the ringing of bells, and to a place of trees and greenery. These can be reasonably associated with the Greysmoke temple, constructed in 1686, and the Templewood. The narrator passes through the curtain and appears outside, in an area relatively proximate to both of these landmarks.

In recent consultation with Mr. Argo, we undertook a preliminary expedition to see if we could find and identify the place where the narrator of the Citadel of Light emerged in the city. We have successfully pinpointed the location as an alleyway known as Sarah’s Knell. Although a number of fanciful origins have been suggested for this locale, it seems clear to me that it is simply a corruption of the city’s original name – Saraknyal. In support of this identification, on behalf of Mr. Argo and myself, I would like to announce a very significant discovery: we have found not only the location of the curtain referred to in the poem, but the actual curtain itself, passing from this plane to a mysterious elsewhere.

I feel strongly that this portal does, in fact, lead to the Shadow Plane, and will thus confirm the position that the Gravonian race who built and once controlled this city came from the Shadow Plane. There is only one way to prove the point, and to that end, I would like to propose a Society organized expedition through this passage, for the improvement of our knowledge of the past, this city, and planes that lie beyond.

-Presented to the Society by Sanadhìl Órecalo, Eighth-month, 2247