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Thread: [ANW - Civilization] The 'Illami

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    Barry Goldwater's Avatar Mr. Conservative
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    Default [ANW - Civilization] The 'Illami

    The Narrow Path of the Righteous: 'Illam and the 'Illami
    Modern recreation of the Star of the Righteous Many, also the standard of their Sept of Esoph ('Illami)

    The third and smallest of the three notable Mun'umati nations to emerge from the Riverlander Dark Age were the 'Illamites, or 'Illami - the 'Righteous Many', in their own tongue. Despite their relative weakness compared to the Shamshi and Taibani, as well as their location in the fairly remote northern reaches of the old Zaba-Tutuli Empire, they are actually the best known of the three, on account of having recorded their history in their religious scriptures: the Qabal hith el-'Ilm, or 'Teachings of the Righteous'. While obviously the 'Illamites' retelling of their history is heavily influenced by their teachings, and there are more than a few parts which modern historians believeto be either exaggerated or outright impossible, the fact remains that the Righteous Many left behind a far more complete picture of what they went through during the dark age of 10,015-10,500 AA than either the Shamshi or Taibani did, and in fact a fair amount of what is known of those other two Mun'umati tribes was derived from what the 'Illamites wrote of them in their scriptures.

    According to the Qabal, the 'Illami people got their start with the patriarchal figure Hizzar bet-Haimon, a shepherd with seven sons who heard the voice of the Lord Above (their god) while tending to his flock one night. Hizzar was informed that, on account of his simple but virtuous character and lifestyle, he had been chosen to father a nation of 'the righteous many' ('Illami) whom said Lord wished to inherit a promised land & turn it into a paradise on Earth. At the urging of their God, Hizzar and all his kin left their oasis town in the southern Great Sand Sea and began the arduous trek to this promised land, which is referred to as the Heshlema (simply, 'our land', though it was also called the Lem hith el-'Illam or 'land of the righteous' by the 'Illamites themselves after they settled on it), following the North Star which the Lord had proclaimed to be their guide. However, Hizzar died long before they left the Great Sand Sea, passing naturally in his bed at the age of ninety-six (after thirty years of travel, by which point he was called Bel-Hizzar or 'Lord Hizzar'), and it fell to his sons and grandsons to lead the migration which, by this point, had been swelled as more and more Mun'umati joined the growing 'Illamite tribe. Those seven sons of his would thus become the progenitors of the seven clans or 'Septs' - more accurately, castes - of 'Illamite society.

    A woodcut illustration of the Lord Above directing Hizzar to follow the North Star

    However, the 'Illami would not complete their journey in those seven sons' lifetimes, nor in the lifetimes of the next few generations that succeeded them - indeed, by the third generation, they opted to stop at a large oasis they'd found, still short of the western edge of the Great Sand Sea. According to the Qabal, 'sixty-and-six-hundred years' after Bel-Hizzar's passing they were surprised and enslaved by the 'Awali, still many leagues away from their final destination. For two thousand years, the 'Illami had to labor as slaves beneath the yoke of the 'Awali, who are referred to as the 'river heathens' in the Qabal and were condemned for their cruelty and tendency to draft 'Illami men for their endless wars, while also taking their daughters for the Paramount King's harem. (Zaba-Tutuli records indicate the enslavement of an 'Ilali' tribe around 8200 AA and the 'Awali were not known to be particularly gentle taskmasters in general, so this part may well actually be completely true)

    Around 9,900 AA, the prophet Emel bet-Emek reportedly proclaimed that 'soon' great hordes from the East would descend upon the river-heathens and lay them low; razing their great cities to the ground, butchering their armies and carrying their own women and children, from the elaborately dressed wives of the princes to humble crofters' women and daughters, away in chains, as the punishment the Lord Above had prepared for that prideful and tyrannical lot. While Emel was promptly executed for his preaching, it turned out that his prophecy was only off by a hundred years. When the rest of the Mun'umati assailed Zaba-Tutul's borders just a little over a century after Emel's death, the 'Illami instantly and unanimously rebelled to support the invaders under the leadership of Yuvel bet-Esef, who the 'Illami venerated as their 'First Prophet', and bravely fought on the side of their erstwhile liberators through both defeats and victories.

    According to the Qabal, the famed Yuvel was born to the priestly caste, though his family was annihilated in a periodic 'Awali purge of the 'Illamites' elite following a rebellion in his infancy, and he was then adopted & raised as a son by the infertile 'Awali princess Balitani: a niece of the 'Awali Paramount King, Mu-eni-bal, whose marriage had produced no children. Upon his sixteenth birthday, Yuvel flew into a fury upon witnessing the savage beating an 'Awali taskmaster was meting out to a pair of slaves (little did he know, they were his cousins), forcing him to flee into the eastern sands. There, he lived for ten years and married the Shamshi lady Idriya, a daughter of the mighty Luminous King Harith bar Hassur. However, upon being saved from heatstroke after getting lost in the desert by the Archangel Cheshmal and informed of his true heritage, Yuvel returned to 'Awali lands just ahead of the Mun'umati invasion to organize a rebellion among his compatriots, and secured the support of all seven of the great Sept elders after impressing them with miracles that included making fresh water flow from a rock, turning his staff into a serpent and then back again, and feeding a throng of starving 'Illami with but four loaves of bread. In a tale considered to be of even more dubious historicity by modern scholars, he also personally appealed to Mu-eni-bal to let his people go in exchange for being spared from Emel's prophesied horde, only to be repeatedly spurned by the man he once looked up to as an uncle; accordingly, the Lord Above and his Archangels afflicted the 'Awali with eleven great disasters in preparation for the twelfth and greatest of them all, the Mun'umati invasion itself.

    Artist's imagining of Balitani's discovery of the infant Yuvel, c. 9,980 AA

    Yuvel's background in the royal court of Zaba-Tutul and princely education, no doubt including martial pursuits, gave him an insight into how the 'Awali war machine worked, and he was able to lead his people to victory over their foe time and time again as a result. After the eventual Mun'umati victory and the destruction of Zaba-Tutul, he was universally acclaimed the first Steward of the Lord Above on Earth (or simply 'Samerah', 'steward') by the 'Illami - essentially, their first recognized supreme leader since Bel-Hizzar, superseding the council of seven great elders who had governed them between Bel-Hizzar's death and the defeat of Zaba-Tutul - and following the disintegration of the Shamshi-Taibani alliance, he went on to lead them to Heshlema with no further molestation, using the North Star as their guide just as their ancestors did. Unfortunately, once the Righteous Many arrived at their land of milk and honey at the mouth of the great River Hasbana, they found that there were still 'Awali colonies and pre-'Awali native tribes living there; no doubt, they would have to be expelled, assimilated or exterminated if the Righteous Many were to have any chance of converting the region into Heaven on Earth...

    Artist's illustration of Yuvel directing the 'Illami to cross the Hasbana, c. 10,020 AA

    Which was, of course, exactly what they did. An entire book of the Qabal, the First Book of Stewards, records the wars waged by the 'Illami against the natives of their new neighborhood over an approximately 500-year period (the same length of time it took for the Shamshi to pull themselves out of the dark age they helped inflict on the Riverlands), and frequently describes war crimes following their victories (which, to be fair to the 'Illami, were not exactly exceptional for the time period) in manners as clinical and laconic as 'and upon achieving their victory, the Righteous Many cleansed these lands of (X)' or 'and when the Lord Above had delivered (Y) into their hands, the Righteous slew all the men they could find and took the women and children away in chains'. A few persistent foes did emerge to trouble the 'Illami over the course of many Qabali verse and chapters; chief among them were a pocket of surviving 'Awali towns, led by the city of 'Umm midway up the Hasbana, and the Enezi, a rival Mun'umati tribe that lived in the marshes southeast of 'Illam. Unlike the 'Awali and to a lesser extent the Shamshi, the 'Illami actually recorded their defeats, though they almost always ascribed losses in battle to not being sufficiently faithful to their Lord Above.

    Throughout these wars, they were led by Yuvel and more Stewards after him, including seven more notable 'Great Stewards' - Simcha bet-Tomer, Shachar bet-Yanev, Anat bet-Chabed, Pabel-zeg bet-'Aim, Zalalel bet-Jachin, Atarah bil-Melelem (the only woman among the Great Stewards) and Galad bet-Lior - who were mentioned in more than one chapter of the Qabal, and at least thirty-six 'lesser' Stewards who were mentioned only once or twice each. None of these Stewards inherited their position: rather, they appear to have been elected by a general assembly of the Septs' free men and then blessed by the chief priests of the 'Ilmi, the foremost of the seven tribes of 'Illam. (or, as the Qabal would say, they were 'chosen by the Lord Above and anointed by his foremost servants on the Earth', presumably meaning that the Lord worked through the Septs' voters) The 'Illami do not appear to have used the title of 'king', believing that the only King of the Earth and indeed all creation was the Lord Above, and that their leaders were at best Stewards appointed by Him to...well, steward His chosen people.

    The Steward Zalalel bet-Jachin has two followers hold his hands up in prayer while his men battle the Enezi (the 'Illami win as a result), c. 10,377 AA

    The Illamites are thought to have emerged from their own murky dark age with the ascension of the first hereditary Steward around 10,500 AA: Elech bet-Eyal, a mighty warlord born to the Sept of Rechab and the favored of 'Ilm-Shekhar. According to the Qabal, when Elech was still a young child his father Eyal took a mortal blow for the Steward Galad bet-Lior in a battle with the Enezi (a rival Mun'umatic tribe), and to repay his debt Galad took Elech into his own household. There, he became fast friends with Galad's son Lior (mentioned to have been a boy of the same age) and proved to excel at his martial training - no other young aspiring warrior in the Steward's household, young Lior bet-Galad included, could shoot faster or more accurately than him, ride faster than him, throw a javelin further or with more precision than him, or defeat him in sparring sessions with spear, sword, ax or club. When Elech and Lior were sixteen, Galad took them with him to the great Battle of the Vale of Haz'rath against the Shamshi, whose host reportedly outnumbered the 'Illami five to one and included a Golga mercenary called Gulg by his foes. Gulg taunted the 'Illami, daring any man brave enough among their ranks to come forth and meet him in single combat, and even lifted his loincloth to flash them. Though they must have been burning with shame, not one of the 'Illamite soldiers and officers, not even Galad himself, stepped forth - until Elech did.

    What happened next was a duel that would enter the realm of legend. At the prospect of fighting an untested warrior, still half a boy, Gulg laughed and told Elech to run home to his mother. Yet Elech persisted, and after he proclaimed that the Lord Above would deliver Gulg's head into his hands, the giant became sufficiently irate to charge at him, iron-headed spear raised high to turn the lad into a bloody smear. Elech stuck three javelins into the earth before him, and threw them one by one at Gulg; on the first he invoked the name of his patron 'Ilm-Shekhar but still it went too high & grazed the titan's helmet, the second he dedicated to Ben'e-Rehman only for it to fall too low & barely slow the charging giant down after impacting against his vest of bronze scales, and the third - dedicated to the Lord Above - struck the Golga in the eye & sank all the way into his brain. Gulg took one quick step, then a slower one, and finally skidded to a halt (carried forth by the momentum of his charge) before collapsing at Elech's feet. Upon witnessing Elech drawing his downed opponent's great sword, decapitating him with it and then raising the head up in his hands, the 'Illami cheered to the skies and proceeded to defeat the demoralized Shamshi, routing them 'with as much ease as their champion had had in slaying that of the heathen enemy' according to the First Book of Stewards.

    Elech prepares to strike off the fallen Gulg's head while the Shamshi flee in terror, c. 10,495 AA

    At a feast held after the battle, the overjoyed Galad proclaimed Elech his foremost champion and promised him the hand of his eldest daughter, Herut. But this lady was described as plain-looking and five years older than Elech, who in turn had already found himself a love-match in the lowly but beautiful Fayna bil-Ilan, the daughter of a farmer whose homestead he'd passed through with the rest of the 'Illami army on the way to the Vale of Haz'rath - the second-lowest of the seven Septs of Illamite society. While Elech could not refuse Galad publicly, that night he and Fayna eloped, humiliating and outraging their overlord. Galad sent his soldiers to scour the land for the two runaways and bring back their heads, but Lior defied his father and worked to allow Elech and his chosen wife to flee the Steward's wrath for the 'land of Itai', now understood by modern scholars to have been a general term that referred to lands beyond 'Illam's northern borders.

    Three years later, a Shamshi-Enezi alliance invaded 'Illam and crushed Galad's army at the Battle of Benyas, where the Steward was killed and Lior captured. In the confused political situation that followed, Galad's cousin Meit bet-Rotem seized power with the support of his wife Basya bil-Efir (actually his much younger second wife, his first wife and the mother of Herut & Lior having been mentioned as passing away from an illness several verses earlier) and chief scribe Eiran bet-Doron, whose brother in turn was the most senior surviving captain in the 'Illami army. This triumvirate made an unfavorable peace with the Shamshi and Enezi, making significant land cessions and promising to pay a tribute of 1,000 cattle and 2,000 bales of wheat every year; and, cursing the Lord Above for not aiding 'Illam and granting them victory, turned their backs on him. Instead, Meit crowned himself 'King of 'Illam' and married Basya, and ordered the veneration of all three of them as 'Illam's new flesh-and-blood gods. Whether this act of insane hubris actually happened as described and was fueled by the connivance of one of the demonic Dark Princes of 'Illamite lore (as the Qabal claims), was just a suicidal action born of madness and despair on the part of two men and one woman who felt their God had abandoned them, or was simply a coup which had spiraled out of control and misrepresented by its opponents is lost to history, for only the conventional 'Illamite account survives.

    Lior bet-Galad gives Elech his sword as he advises him to flee

    Neither Meit's proclamation of godhood nor his surrender were accepted by most of 'Illami society, and within a year Elech and Fayna returned to find their homeland ablaze in a vicious civil war between the triumvirs (now backed by the Shamshi army) and numerous, but disorganized and leaderless, conservative rebels. Elech naturally aligned himself with the latter and, upon proclaiming that he would restore the old faith and ways, was named a 'man after the Lord's own heart' by High Priest Meshul'el bet-Keshor, unanimously acclaimed Steward by the insurgents and anointed Steward with the holy oils before a statue of the Archangel Hak-hulam...on the condition that he take Herut as his second wife, thereby unifying the most conservative elements of the rebellion with those from the lower Septs. Once Elech accepted and was properly anointed, Meshul'el and the remaining faithful priests conducted a ritual to endow him with the power of an Archangel. After a week of chants, prayers, arcane circles and the lighting on undying fires, they succeeded, and Elech proved his new power by walking into a fiery furnace and back out without so much as a singed hair on his head.

    Having become a 'Herald of Holy Flame' - an avatar directly possessed by the Archangel 'Ilm-Shekhar - Elech easily defeated Meit's armies and his Shamshi allies time and time again, pursuing the triumvirs' forces from one burning battlefield to another while they were wracked by internal divisions. By this time, Basya had seduced Eiran's brother into assassinating him after she came to suspect he was planning to order her own death, and was later herself strangled by Meit after trying to poison him at supper without taking into account the likelihood that he'd have a food-taster on hand. It did not take long at all for the triumvirs' armies to start disintegrating entirely, as soldiers and officers alike feared fighting an avatar of godly power, while the masses - their faith rejuvenated even if it had flagged at first by the sight of Elech's fiery miracles - welcomed the army of the faithful into town after town with singing, kisses and flowers. The Shamshi too soon sought a ceasefire, for their own sun god had refused to descend into their own Luminous King and recommended they make peace with Elech instead.

    Alone and abandoned by virtually all of his followers, the increasingly unstable Meit fled 'Illamite lands around 10,499 AA with his treasury and organized an army of sellswords before Elech could consolidate his rule, but he was defeated and slain in the Battle of Pinchon on the 'Illami-Shamshi border; according to the Qabal, when the battle was lost he dressed himself in woman's clothing and attempted to flee, having garbed one of his slain bodyguards in his own ostentatious armor, but was run down and killed by Elech himself. As part of the peace terms, the Shamshi had to return all of the land Meit ceded to them and release Lior, while the tribute the 'Illami owed them was reduced by half (and, within a year, went unpaid). Thus did Elech emerge as the undisputed ruler of the 'Illami, and his founding of their first permanent capital at the mouth of the Hasbana - which he named Sa-Bel, 'seat of the Lord', in honor of his people's divine patron - marks the end of the Riverlander Dark Age north of Shamshi territories.

    Steward Elech enters his new capital of Sa-Bel in triumph, c. 10,500 AA

    The early 'Illamite language
    The language of the 'Illami belonged to the broader Mun'umati language family, but shows markedly less 'Awali influence than Shamshi. Instead, it appears to be more heavily influenced by their Mun'umati rivals the Enezi as well as non-'Awali natives of the land around the River Hasbana, well north of the traditional 'Awali homelands: after all, it marked the northernmost reaches of 'Awali power and was settled by relatively few 'Awali from their homeland between the Abanarir & Muryurir Rivers further south.

    Modern speech Proto-Mun'umati Early 'Illami
    Man, men Mat, umati Bat, bat'i
    Woman, women Nisa, ranisa Bil, bil'isa
    Fire Saťa Sethas
    Water Ha'mul Hem'el
    Virtue Mayit Me'et

    'Illami society
    The society of the early 'Illamites can be best described as a theocratic caste system. While officially led by a Steward elected by an assembly of all free men of each of its seven Septs to rule for life, these Stewards mostly served as war-leaders, and internal affairs were largely handled by the first of the Septs: one comprised entirely of priests and their families, who were also judges and jurists capable of initiating proceedings to depose Stewards who displeased them & outlawing members of the community for any crime. It was governed by the Twelve Commandments handed to Yuvel by the Lord Above in the last chapter of the Qabal's Book of Flight, upon which all other 'Illami laws were based, indicating that they were indeed as puritanical as a society as their Shamshi and Enezi adversaries described them:
    Quote Originally Posted by The Twelve Commandments of the Lord Above
    1. Thou shalt have no lord but Me, the Lord Above, and no king save I, the King of All Creation.

    2. Thou shalt invoke My Name only in praise or prayer, never in vain.

    3. Thou shalt keep the seventh day of the week holy, by performing no labor and consuming no alcohol.

    4. As thou honor Me, the father of all Creation, so too should thou honor thine own father and mother.

    5. Thou shalt not murder.

    6. Thou shalt not engage in sexual relations outside of the bounds of lawful matrimony.

    7. Thou shalt not covet anything that belongs to thine neighbor, nor want more than what is thine fair share and which thou need'st to live.

    8. Thou shalt not utter deceit, but serve My Truth with all thine strength.

    9. Thou shalt not shy away from work in the name of the Lord Above.

    10. Thou shalt not overindulge thine appetites.

    11. Thou shalt not oppress those weaker than thee among the faithful, but defend them from the depredations of the unjust mighty.

    12. If thou should breach any of the above Commandments, thou shalt sincerely confess and repent for thine sins with the utmost haste.
    As mentioned above, these Commandments were then used as the foundation of 'Illami jurisprudence. Any free man of 'Illam who had been charged with a crime was supposed to be guaranteed a trial before a jury of their peers (specifically, seven randomly chosen men, one from each of the 'Illami Septs) that was presided over by an ordained priest, with the jurors deciding his guilt or innocence and the presiding priest then issuing his sentence based on said jury's verdict. Curiously, the 'Illami legal system operated on a presumption of innocence even in this dark age. The extra-Commandment laws and some recorded cases (likely for the purposes of demonstrating how these laws worked in practice), stretching from the time of Yuvel to the days of Anat, were compiled in the Book of Commands, some examples being:

    Excerpts from the Book of Commands
    Quote Originally Posted by Book of Commands, 10:15-21, 11:1-9
    Be careful to obey these commands I am issuing unto you, which I do at the command of the Lord Above in turn, so that you might please Him and do nothing but good in His sight.
    The Lord Above will deliver into your hands the faithless nations that occupy Hashlema. But when He has done this,
    you must be certain not to be ensnared by so much as inquiring after their false gods, nor their foreign customs.
    You must not turn to their gods, which have no power and have failed them, nor revere the Lord Above in their ways, which are despicable in His eyes, but instead raze their temples and destroy their idols when you see them.
    Those among the Righteous who do turn to the false gods of foreigners are apostates, and must die.
    This, above everything else I am about to command of you, you must be diligent in observing.

    If a prophet or warlock appears among the Righteous, and promises signs and miracles,
    and if the sign or miracle takes place, yet the conjurer ascribes his works to a god other than the Lord Above, and encourages you to follow that god of his,
    you must turn a deaf ear to his words, for he in truth serves the Lord Below in one of his many masks, as do all heathens.
    It is the Lord Above whom you should solely serve. Keep His commands and listen only to His words.
    The prophet or warlock must be put to death for trying to incite rebellion against the Lord who freed your ancestors in your heart, and for trying to lead the Righteous away from the narrow path which He has set for them.
    If your brother, your wife, or your son or daughter secretly entices you to embrace a false god,
    do not heed them, express pity or understanding for them, spare them or shield them from your wrath and the wrath of the Lord Above.
    They must die, and your hand must be the first in putting them to death.
    Let all the Righteous know what you have done, so that they may be filled with fear and wonderment at your zeal which pleases the Lord Above, and so that no other will ever attempt such a thing again.
    Quote Originally Posted by Commands 11:8-10
    If one among the Righteous steals something belonging to another, he must be punished.
    He who has stolen for the first time shall pay with his good hand;
    he who has stolen for the second time shall pay with his life.
    Quote Originally Posted by Commands 12:25-29
    If one among the Righteous is found guilty of maiming or slaying another, what he has done must be done unto him in turn.
    If he has struck a blinding blow, he must be blinded;
    if he has amputated a hand or foot, he must lose a hand or foot of his own;
    if he broke a bone, the same bone within him must be broken;
    and if he killed his fellow Faithful, so too must he die.
    Quote Originally Posted by Commands 12:35-36
    If one who professes to walk the Righteous Path violates another, he must be put to death.
    You are to take him from even the altar of the Lord Above, who permits this so that he may die.
    Quote Originally Posted by Commands 13:10-16, 14:15-16
    Those among the Righteous cannot be placed in bondage by another among the Righteous; for we Righteous are all slaves only to our Lord Above.
    If one who professes to walk the Righteous Path should enslave, sell into slavery or purchase in chains his brother or sister in the faith, he must die.
    Only if one among the Righteous intends to immediately set free a brother or sister in the faith who has been enslaved by foreigners, can he purchase him or her.
    Your slaves must come from the godless around you; from foreign heathens, you may purchase foreign heathens as slaves, and to them you may also sell foreign heathens as slaves.
    You may bequeath your slaves unto your children and your children's children.
    If you sire a child with a slave, that child will not be a slave, but must be raised and treated as a full-blooded member of your Sept.

    If one among the Righteous owes another a debt and offers to work it off, the debtor may become an indentured servant to his creditor.
    But he must be released from indenture when he has worked off his debt, and even should he die in indenture, his debts will not pass on to his children.
    Quote Originally Posted by Commands 14:1-3
    If a foreigner dwells among you, you must not mistreat him without due cause.
    Instead, show him the hospitality you would show a guest from among your fellow Righteous.
    As honey attracts more flies than vinegar, so too will kindness and open arms be more likely to compel him to see the righteousness of the ways of the Lord Above than cruelty and a closed fist.
    Quote Originally Posted by Commands 16:1-7
    In times of war, if the Lord Above has delivered a heathen foe into your hands, this is what you must do.
    You must raze their temples, destroy their idols, burn their sacred poles and kill all of their priests and wise men, so that your children and your children's children may grow old in ignorance of their heathen ways.
    Unless otherwise commanded, you are not to slay those among their men who yield to you, but take them away in chains.
    Unless otherwise commanded, you are not to slay their women and children who are not orphans, but take them away in chains.
    You are to adopt any orphans below the age of four into your household, raise them as you would the son of a fallen friend, and ensure that they learn our ways without learning any of their fathers' ways.
    You are to give any orphans above the age of four to the care of the Sept of Shur, where they are to be raised in our ways.
    If you are one of the Shurim, you may adopt orphans above the age of four into your household, and personally teach them the ways of the Lord and raise them as if they are your own.
    Quote Originally Posted by Commands 18:14
    Do not charge a brother or sister in the faith interest; not on money, not on food, not on victuals or anything else that may be lent on interest.
    You may, however, charge interest on anything you loan to a foreigner.
    Quote Originally Posted by Commands 20:1-7
    You must not lie with your neighbor's wife;
    with women who you are not married to in general;
    with your close kin;
    with the beasts;
    if you are man, with another man;
    if you are woman, with another woman.
    For these are all abominable in the sight of the Lord Above.

    'Illami society was divided into seven tribes or 'Septs', each of which were further divided into clans comprised of dozens of closely-related individual families, and the chief clan of each tribe claimed descent from one of the seven sons of the 'Illami patriarch Bel-Hizzar, who gave his name to the overall Sept; Esoph, Kan'ah, Rechab, Deror, Vel'el, Sever and Shur. While in the 'Illami's early days each of these Septs functioned more or less like the average tribe within a greater confederacy, by the time of Elech they had become more like castes and factions within a more organized and hierarchical society, with each Sept being accorded a rank in the 'Illami polity, having a specific role for which they were raised practically from birth to fulfill, and being restricted in their marriage choices: one could only marry within at most one Sept above or below their own, and naturally in-Sept marriages were preferred. The father's Sept determined the Sept of his son or daughter. These Septs were supposed to work together for the betterment of the Righteous in general, and it was expected that their synergy and division of labor would produce an efficient and harmonious society.

    Among the 'Illamites, magic was considered a morally neutral force, a burden and a trial that the Lord Above allows His universe to foist upon individuals to test them. These unearthly powers and visions can be both a blessing and a curse, and it was up to those who wield them to decide which of these two categories their magic would fall under. Consequently, the 'Illamites believed in keeping mages under a close watch, in instilling the need to follow the Righteous Path and behaving virtuously at all times, and overall in ensuring that they knew their place in society - essentially, that magic was to serve man, not rule over him. The only two Septs that were supposed to have mages in 'Illami society were the Esophim and Kanahim; any mages born to a non-Esophim Sept would be required to join the Kanahim as soon as they manifest their abilities, in the only example of mass social mobility in the usually quite inflexible 'Illamite caste system.

    The Esophim, whose leading Bet-Esoph clan claimed direct descent from Bel-Hizzar's eldest son and whose starry blue-and-white standard is thought to have been the flag of the 'Illami faith and nation in general (certainly it was flown above all other 'Illami standards on the battlefield), occupied the pinnacle of 'Illami society and were in effect a priestly caste. Esophim boys were required to study the Qabal from their third birthday onward, were taught how to read and write at the same time, and took vows to abstain from wine, grapes, liquor of any sort, and any substance (including vinegar) made from the above; to never cut their hair; and to never defile their hands by touching a corpse or grave, not even those of their close kin, at the age of twelve. By the age of fourteen they were expected to start reading from the Qabal to others and to have held at least one public sermon, and two years later they would be drafted into the Sacred Band, the sole standing regiment of the 'Illami army which served as temple guards in peacetime and an elite mixed corps in wartime, for a five-year period. Upon reaching their 21st birthday, one in every five Esophim boys would remain part of the Sacred Band, while the rest were formally ordained into the priesthood. They are thus also known as 'Those Who Pray'.

    As clerics, they were responsible for reading from the Qabal and sermonizing to their flock every seventh day; for leading public prayers and major religious celebrations; for presiding over trials and sentencing criminals who had been found guilty by a seven-man jury comprised of randomly chosen men from each of the Septs, including a second Esophim; for anathematizing apostates, heretics and dissidents (exiling them from 'Illam, depriving them of the right to any sort of religious rite and making it legal for anyone to kill them on sight); and for counseling the Stewards together with the Kan'ahim and Rechabim. Their mages were healers, elite soldiers of the already-elite Sacred Band, and cloistered prophets who lived in austere, near-total isolation with the company of only one or two other Esophim whose duty was to report any notable dreams or visions they might be having. In matters of law, only Esophim could ever be judges, and although they allowed both sides of a dispute time to present their cases, their judgments were final and unappealable. The Esophim also, alone out of all the Septs, retained veto power over the election of new Stewards in this early period. Perhaps not by coincidence, most Stewards of the time (including Yuvel and Galad bet-Lior, first and last of the pre-Elech Stewards of 'Illam) were Esophim.

    Artist's imagining of an ordained Esophim priest in his white-and-blue robes, c. 10,500 AA

    The patriarchs (defined as the oldest living male, irregardless of his degree of kinship to the preceding patriarch) of the Bet-Esoph clan proper occupied a unique position, as the High Priests of old 'Illam. They were the supreme religious leaders of the Righteous Many, and no major decision (such as going to war) could be made without their presence. It was they who performed important animal sacrifices to please the Lord Above, who accompanied 'Illami armies to war to boost morale with further religious services, and they alone could initiate proceedings to depose a Steward whom they judged to be insufficiently pious and competent. High Priests were expected to remain aloof from the general populace except when conducting major ceremonies, and thus could not mingle with anyone outside of the ranks of the Esophim, be seen in public outside of his ceremonial robes and jeweled breastplate, or enter a public bath, for example.

    Meshul'el bet-Keshor, the High Priest in the time of Elech, in ceremonial garb c. 10,500 AA

    The Kan'ahim, whose leading Bet-Kan'ah clan claimed descent from Bel-Hizzar's second son, were placed directly below the Esophim on the 'Illami socio-politico-religious ladder. They were the designated scribes, scholars, physicians, book-keepers and above all mages of the Righteous Many, and like the Esophim, were taught to read and write from a young age. Unlike the priestly Esophim, they were not permitted to conduct religious ceremonies. Instead, the Kan'ahim busied themselves with the writing and preservation of records & new copies of the Qabal on papyrus; writing letters for illiterate high-status 'Illami; engaging in jurisprudence, accounting, poetry, storytelling and treating the wounded or ill of 'Illam; and studying magical theory & practicing, refining and ultimately applying their sorcerous talents, preferably as far away from everyone else as possible for both their own safety and that of other 'Illamites. In peacetime they frequently participated in diplomatic missions alongside the Vel'elim, and in wartime they were 'Illam's chief siege engineers, logisticians and war mages. They are accordingly also known as 'Those Who Write'.

    All 'Illamite mages not born into an Esophim family were moved up into the ranks of the Kanahim as soon as they manifested magical abilities. Unlike mages born to Kan'ahites (whose parents had the responsibility of training them in addition to raising them), they would be assigned to a senior Kan'ahite, displaying powers similar to their own, who would then mentor them in the magical arts until they came of age; the mentors in turn could expect to have to provide for and teach 'classes' of up to twenty sorcerous pupils. Interestingly, unlike cultures that isolated their mages (assuming they even let their magi live) such as the Hyperboreans, per recorded Esophite and Kan'ahite regulations it appears that Kan'ahite mages were allowed to see their birth family one day a week, and that no effort was made to prevent them from fraternizing with the other septs as much as they liked, although they still needed to be escorted by two Rechabite guards on such excursions. Kan'ahites could even marry outside the sept, though this was actually discouraged and any non-magical children they had to be assigned to the non-magical parent's sept and be raised by their side of the family. It's highly probable that these were not simply gestures of compassion, despite what the 'Illamites themselves liked to say - a well-adjusted magus was more likely to be a happy and loyal magus, after all, and it would be much easier to persuade a Kan'ahite mage to fight to the death to protect his society if he was allowed to befriend and even intimately get to know the people he was defending.

    The Kan'ahim standard was recorded as depicting a crown (representing the Lord Above, King of all Creation) above a golden eye and open hands (representing the observant Kan'ahim themselves & their duty to use their knowledge for the betterment of their fellow faithful), from which descended a winged and twisted staff (representing knowledge, given from above). Yuvel's immediate successor as Steward, Simcha bet-Tomer, came from the ranks of this Sept, as did Meit bet-Rotem and Eiran bet-Doron - two of the usurping triumvirs who tried to turn 'Illam from the narrow Path of the Righteous in the time of Galad bet-Lior and Elech bet-Eyal.

    Modern recreation of the Kan'ahim standard

    A Kan'ahim scholar, c. 10,500 AA

    The Rechabim, whose leading Bet-Rechab clan claimed descent from Bel-Hizzar's third son, fell in line behind the Esophim & Kan'ahim. They were the warrior caste of ancient 'Illami society, with the boys training to fight and sparring with one another in training yards, racing in the riding grounds and competing in the archery ranges as soon as they could walk. In wartime, while all able-bodied 'Illami were expected to contribute, the Rechabim would undoubtedly provide the bulk of 'Illam's best troops, a solid core of professional soldiers that would form the center of any battle-line and around whom the men of the other Septs could rally around. On their sixteenth birthday, each Rechabim boy would be assigned to a specific battlefield role (determined by exactly which areas they excelled in during training) in which they were to serve for life; some became masterful skirmishers, but most were slated to become heavy infantry and cavalry, and thus form the heaviest fighting arm of 'Illam's hosts. Who got to serve as the officers of the 'hundreds' and 'thousands' (apparently regimental units within the Rechabim contingents) were decided in contests of strength, where dozens of the highest-born Rechabim would clobber each other in (non-lethal) sparring sessions, with the top three victors being made into commanders. Rechabim women were known to exhort their menfolk to either return with their shields or upon them, as well, and retreating in battle without explicit orders was considered so disgraceful that the man who did that would have little alternative to becoming a social pariah beyond suicide. They are accordingly also known as 'Those Who Fight'.

    The Rechabim standard, as recorded in the Qabal, depicted a black-and-grey Lightbringer on a blood-red background, denoting their grim role as the bloody-handed defenders of the Righteous and the vanguard of their religion against all who have yet to be enlightened - whether it be by the word, or by an ax leaving a big enough hole in their skull for the Lord's light to shine through. Elech, the first of the hereditary Stewards of 'Illam and one of their greatest heroes, was one of the Rechabim - indeed he was the nephew of the Rechabim patriarch at the time, though on account of his relative youth when he attained Stewardship of 'Illam, he himself didn't become the Sept's official patriarch until he was 50.

    Modern recreation of the Rechabim standard

    A Rechabim heavy spearman (with the shield that he's expected to return with, dead or alive), c. 10,500 AA

    The Derorim, whose leading Bet-Deror clan claimed descent from Bel-Hizzar's fourth son, were the fourth great tribe in 'Illami reckoning. They were the Sept of landowners or, as the Qabal calls them, 'lesser stewards' in charge of managing the lands of the Earth in the name of their Creator and true owner. The Derorim were thus one of the most powerful forces in the 'Illami countryside, a hereditary caste that ruled estates worked on by slaves and serfs from the Septs of Sever & Shur from manorial fortresses in a manner that was not all that dissimilar to the Shamshi Amyrs. In times of war, they were responsible for providing the army with horses and mules (and early on, camels as well), and typically fought as cavalrymen when required to serve in a more direct fashion. They are accordingly also known as 'Those Who Rule'.

    The Derorim standard, as recorded in the Qabal, depicted a queen bee, which ruled its colony as they were expected to govern their feudatories. The only woman known to have served as Steward in the pre-Elech 'archaic' period, Atarah bil-Melelem, was one of the Derorim, and known to have been a staunch conservative who fought few wars (surprisingly, given the role of the early Stewards as warchiefs) but won all of those that she did fight, notably enslaved the entirety of the Had'ri tribe of rival Mun'umati upon defeating them around 10,410 AA, and collaborated with the Esophim to reinforce the divisions between & social roles of the Septs.

    Modern recreation of the Derorim standard

    A Bet-Deror patriarch embraces his son, c. 10,480 AA

    The Vel'elim were the fifth Sept in 'Illami reckoning, and the Bet-Vel'el clan which sat at their head claimed descent from Bel-Hizzar's fifth son. Theirs was the Sept of merchants, explorers and diplomats, whose members were the first to be sent as envoys to foreign powers and freely engaged in commerce. The Vel'elim thus drove the construction of new road networks, frequently exhorted the Rechabim to keep said roads clear for trade or else saw to it themselves by hiring their own guards, managed trading caravans and seaborne or riverine convoys, arranged trade deals abroad, and shared the burden of accounting with the Kan'ahim. They also lent and borrowed from each other and members of the other Septs in addition to foreigners, though they could only charge interest on loans made to foreigners. They are accordingly also known as 'Those Who Trade'.

    The Vel'elim standard, recorded in the Qabal, reportedly depicted a blue-and-white anchor with scales on a white-and-blue field. The one Steward known to have been provided by this Sept, Anat bet-Chabed, implemented the usage of seashells as currency among the 'Illami; besides that, they do not appear to have played much of a role in early 'Illami society, though the founding of Sa-Bel as a major trading port and fixed capital by Elech would tremendously strengthen the Sept in time.

    Modern recreation of the Vel'elim standard

    A Vel'elim caravan winding through the countryside, c. 10,500 AA

    The sixth Sept of ancient 'Illami society were the Severim, whose primary clan of Bet-Sever claimed Bel-Hizzar's sixth son as their progenitor. They were the Sept of farmers, both freeholders who owned their own small plots of land (and who might even have a small number of other, less fortunate Severim working for them as hired laborers) and technically free tenant farmers who worked on the fields of the Derorim. Regardless of whether or not they owned the land they lived and farmed on, however, the Sever'im were effectively bound to it - freeholders always had to worry about envious neighbors breaking the Seventh Commandment and moving in on their farmstead while they were away, while tenants legally could not leave until they accumulated enough wealth to purchase their own plot of land and also found a willing buyer in a time period when few Derorim and fellow Severim alike wished to part with even a fraction of their estates. They are thus quite aptly referred to as 'Those Who Farm'.

    Due to the Great Cooling and their more northerly location, away from the 'Awali floodplains and the larger Abanarir & Muryurir Rivers to the south, Severim farmers tended to grow wheat over rice (which remained the primary crop of the 'Awali and later Shamshi, at least at the mouths and sources of the two great rivers) and alongside barley. Accordingly, bread replaced rice as the staple dish of the 'Illami.

    The Sever'im banner, recorded in the Qabal, depicted a black ox's head on a plain brown field. Fayna bil-Ilan, the chosen wife of the Steward Elech, was from a Severim family.

    Modern recreation of the Severim standard

    Two Severim women chatting as they work in the fields with their families, c. 10,500 AA

    The last and least of the Septs in all but numbers were the Shurim, whose leading clan of Bet-Shur claimed descent from the seventh and youngest of Bel-Hizzar's sons. They were the tribe of servants and craftsmen, toiling away day by day for the other six Septs in various capacities: some helped their betters farm or fish or cut wood in the fields and rivers, others baked mud-bricks and thatched roofs for houses, and still others made simple clay pottery or worked as wet-nurses for the children of priests and landowners, et cetera. Despite its lowly position however, this Sept was also the largest, being the most likely to absorb new 'Illami - namely, the orphans of destroyed rival peoples who were then to be brought up in the 'Illami ways - and also the most flexible socially, as Shurite children would traditionally spend some years (usually between the ages of 11 and 15) in the service of a family from a higher Sept and could be promoted to that Sept's ranks if they sufficiently impressed their temporary masters. The Shurim were referred to as 'Those Who Serve' in their time.

    The standard of the Shurim, recorded in the Qabal, depicted a plain black ant (quite fittingly, as it is a humble yet numerous and hard-working insect) on a light brown field. Of all the Septs, the Shurim provided few notable individuals and certainly nobody that ever came close to becoming Steward in the dark age of the Riverlands, but were noted to act quite effectively as a bloc when sufficiently oppressed or threatened by the higher Septs.

    Modern recreation of the Shurim standard

    Shurim women carrying water jugs under the watch of a Rechabite overseer and a fellow Shurite guard, c. 10,500 AA

    Although the Septs were supposed to live in harmony and work together flawlessly to support one another & turn 'Illam into paradise on Earth, this was not always the case, to put it mildly. The general assemblies of the Septs to elect a new Steward when the old one died always promised to be rowdy affairs, and at these gatherings the Septs functioned more like political parties than castes or tribes: there were, after all, no secret ballots, and each caste voted as a bloc. Certain voting patterns and electoral alliances emerged: the three lower Septs would on occasion band against the four above them, and some assemblies devolved into violence - most notably the assembly of 10,158 AA, where the three lower Septs were unexpectedly joined by the Kana'him in their bid to get the Sever'ite Mat'el bet-Edan elected Steward; the Esophim, outraged at the unexpected defeat of their own candidate, exercised their veto, and as a result 'Illam was plunged into a nine-month civil war until the conservative coalition of Esophim, Rechabim and Derorim relented and a new election was held, where Anat bet-Chabed of the Vel'elim emerged triumphant as a compromise candidate. In another case of intra-'Illami violence, the Severim and Shurim joined forces in a major rebellion against the abuses of the Derorim around 10,400 AA, which ended only when the High Priest arranged another compromise in which he repealed most of the late Stewardess Atariah bil-Melelem's oppressive laws, banned the seizure of Severim farmlands while their men were off fighting in war and proclaimed that Shurim could not be flogged by their masters for not continuing to work after the sun had completely set.

    When Elech consolidated the 'Illami state and founded Sa-Bel, he also set the stage for a sociopolitical realignment. The strengthened Vel'elim and many Shurim would find it natural to enter an alliance with the Kana'him, forming a commercial, progressive (by the standards of the time) and urban bloc that stood in opposition to the provincial and traditionalist alliance of the Esophim, Rechabim, Derorim and Severim; thus did the theme of general class struggle start to wane in importance compared to new struggles between urbanites and rural-dwellers, merchants and those who were bonded to the land or sword, and scholars who pursued worldly knowledge and clerics who searched for divine truths. But, that is a story for another time.

    For a map of the land of 'Illam as of 10,500 AA and the location of Sa-Bel, see the map in the main Mun'umati thread.
    Last edited by Barry Goldwater; January 01, 2019 at 10:40 PM.

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    Default Re: [ANW - Civilization] The 'Illami

    The 'Illamites, continued
    'Illami religion
    The Tansim el-'Ilm or 'Path of Righteousness', as the 'Illamites call their religion, is best defined as a Mainstream faith of Clerical soul and possessed of a Bastion-of-the-Faith mentality. It is known in far greater detail than the traditions of the Ahl al-Shamshi and Ahl al-Nebu, in large part due to how rigorously the 'Illami recorded and preserved its myriad strict teachings and ordinances in their holy book, the Qabal hith el-'Ilm or 'Teachings of the Righteous'. For this entry, only this first four books of the Qabal are relevant, those four being:
    • The Book of Creation, detailing the creation of the world and humanity and the early stages of the eternal struggle between the Lord Above and His foes.
    • The Book of Flight, detailing the captivity of the Righteous Many beneath the 'Awali, their war of liberation alongside their fellow Mun'umati, and their voyage to the Promised Land.
    • The Book of Commands, a combination of restating the Twelve Commandments handed down from on high and the myriad laws written by the Esophim over the ages.
    • The First Book of Stewards, detailing the reign of various elected Stewards over the Righteous between Yuvel and Galad.

    Like the other Mun'umati religions, the Tansibet was explicitly monotheistic: the deity it revered was called Bel-Azer, the 'Lord Above'. It was said that He was one two beings that existed at the beginning of all things, and it was He who indeed created the material universe in six days before taking the seventh to rest, as outlined in the Book of Creation - the first book of the Qabal:
    • On the first day, the Lord Above created light amidst the dark void that was the then-unborn universe - thought to not just be light in general, but also the sun, moon and stars in particular - and from this light He also created the host of angels.
    • On the second day, to sate the thirst of His angelic creations, He created water and parted it from the firmament, creating sky and sea.
    • On the third day, He and the refreshed angels created the Earth and planted upon it the great Tree of Life, the first plant on which all other life was placed and sustained.
    • On the fourth day, He created all other plant life, which was tended to by the angels.
    • On the fifth day, He created the beasts of the earth, sea and air.
    • On the sixth day, He formed the first two humans from dirt and breathed life into them with a kiss: Ka'han and Sanna. To them He entrusted stewardship over the Tree of Life and all else that lived amidst its branches, while His angels retreated to Heaven.

    The Lord Above shapes the Earth in His hands

    However, despite His power, Bel-Azer is not said to be a completely omnipotent and omnipresent being, capable of doing anything. He has been opposed from the beginning of time by Bel-Bezar, the 'Lord Below', His equal and opposite who found that the light of the sun burned his skin and that the stars blinded him on the first day of creation; in a sudden fury he tried to push these sources of light out of his way, causing the first sunset and darkening Creation. When the Lord Above demanded he explain why he did what he did, the Lord Below instead reached out to some of His angels (as he was a purely destructive force, he could not directly create any minions of his own) and told them that together they could create a better universe than their Creator, one where neither he nor they would have to feel pain or discomfort; and so they went to war with Bel-Azer and those angels who stayed loyal to Him. The rebels were defeated and the survivors cast out from the light forever, to wallow in the abyssal darkness with their master, but there Bel-Bezar devoured them and proclaimed that though he may have lost the first battle of the two deities, their war was still on and would end only when he had corrupted or destroyed all of the Lord Above's creations.

    While the Tree of Life grew above the earth, the Lord Below twisted together a dark and crude imitation in the form of the Lifeless Tree beneath it. Since the second and third days of creation, the Lords Above and Below have remained locked into an unending, evenly matched struggle for control of Creation and the souls of men: Bel-Azer being associated with the light, law & order, logic, peace and creative powers (essentially a divine manifestation of the superego), and Bel-Bezar being associated with darkness, chaos, violence, base emotions and entropy (essentially a divine manifestation of the id).

    Painting depicting the Lord Above chaining & casting the Lord Below through the Interstice and back to his abyssal lair

    Late in the seventh year of creation, Bel-Bezar slipped through the Interstice between the two Trees' roots and, disguised as another human, seduced Sanna away from her husband's side. He brought her beneath the earth, where he revealed his true face and took her by force until she broke beneath him. From what remained of her emerged their seven daughters, all but the youngest said to be 'abominations in human skin' who had their mother's looks on the outside but burned with their father's cruelty and malice (Creation, 2:4-10) - the first demons, though the last at least knew what was horribly wrong with her father and despised him. With these daughters he fathered a legion of monsters, who would serve as his warriors in the war against the Lord Above.

    The Lord Below tempts Sanna

    Meanwhile, Ka'han was naturally enraged at the abduction of his wife, and descended into the Interstice alone in an attempt to rescue her. Against the power of the Lord Below, he obviously failed, and had to be dragged away to safety by a legion of angels...though not before he got to see the mutilated remains of his beloved. Swearing vengeance, he asked the Lord Above to let him and his three sons dwell on the earth, just above the roots of the Tree of Life so that they could stand close to the Interstice's entrance - and thus, close to the home of their foe. The Lord warned him that by permanently descending from the higher reaches of the Tree of Life, Ka'han and his descendants would lose their immortality and be exposed to the diseases and elements of the earth below, but for the love he bore his wife and the righteous fury against the Lord Below that blazed in his heart, Ka'han persisted: thus did man come to age and die naturally. To compensate for his loss of immortality and the resulting inability to learn of every bit of knowledge the Earth might have, the Lord Above created more humans to assist Ka'han; at first, three girls who could grow up to become his sons' wives, but later hundreds, thousands, and finally tens of thousands more men who could help him gather resources and fight the minions of the Lord Below, as well as women with whom these new men could mate.

    Since then, the human race has served as the vanguard of the Lord Above against His foes below the earth. However, there have been some...hiccups along the way, as living on the Earth has left humanity more vulnerable to corruption by both worldly things and the Lord Below than ever. Hiccups like Ka'han's eldest son Av'edan being corrupted by the Lord Below into murdering his younger brother Ben'eqeh in a fit of jealousy as they argued over who should lead humanity while their father's corpse cooled, or worse still when the descendants of Ka'han - bound by fear of death and an inability to learn absolutely everything there is to know - grew increasingly twisted by the machinations of the Lord Below and his demons in the centuries that followed this first murder. The latter culminated in Bel-Qa'mat, a hundredth-generation descendant of Av'edan, unifying the human race, sacrificing his own firstborn to the Lord Below and making preparations to tear open the seal between the Interstice and the earth to let demonkind invade the latter as a stepping stone to rest of the Tree of Life; the response of the Lord Above was to ravage the world with pillars of divine fire, and then send hosts of angels down to kill anyone who survived and wasn't among the ten thousand chosen innocents (interpreted as just children, split into 5,000 boys and 5,000 girls) who were hiding out in a flying ark, built by the 'last among the righteous' Y'nosh before Bel-Qa'mat's minions descended upon and martyred him. Bel-Qa'mat and almost the entirety of the corrupt human race obviously died as a consequence, allowing these innocents to inherit the Earth and build a new, hopefully purer society atop their ashes.

    "And in His righteous wrath, the Lord Above rained fire, rock and choking smoke upon the Earth for forty days and forty nights..." (Creation 9:9)

    Twenty generations after this 'Flame Deluge', the descendants of the Ten Thousand Innocents had multiplied and united into a second Kingdom of Men, and invaded the Interstice & Lifeless Tree under the leadership of their proud and mighty king, Bel-Bel'iq. While the angels cleared a path for them through the Interstice, they were able to take the fight to demonkind for the first time and compensated for their individual lack of power with numbers, zeal and technology ('swords, axes, spears, hammers and daggers of iron, and all the panoply of war' - Creation 10:4), killing 'many multitudes of abominations' and forcing even the Lord Below himself to surrender at the taproot of his Lifeless Tree (Creation 10:1-30). Yet Bel-Bel'iq did not kill the Lord Below on the spot as the angels counseled, but instead took him back to the surface in chains and kept him as a prisoner, serving forever as a reminder of his power.

    The Lord Below promptly manipulated Bel-Bel'iq into freeing him from his chains and making him an adviser, then whispered lies into his ears to turn him against the Lord Above; that the Lord Above was actually a tyrant keeping humanity weak and ignorant by preventing them from realizing their full strength, that his ancestor Ka'han had actually been cast out of the higher branches of the Tree of Life, and that with the demons he could crawl back up said Tree, reclaim his birthright and defeat death. Bel-Bel'iq ordered the construction of a great tower, high enough to reach the lowest branch of the Tree of Life, though he told the truth about his ambitions to only a few and deceived the majority of his subjects, telling them that the tower was just to let him communicate more directly with the Lord Above. Unfortunately for the King of Men, he didn't count on the Lord Above being able to see through mortal lies; another host of angels promptly descended upon the tower as it neared completion, and in the ensuing battle Bel-Bel'iq was killed with his fellow conspirators and their most loyal soldiers, while those workers and overseers who had remained ignorant of his true intentions simply scattered in fear with their lives. The Lord Below fled back underground and reclaimed dominion of his own demonic subjects, while the Lord Above sundered the ancient common tongue of men partly as punishment and partly to ensure they could never be directed to a single purpose as Bel-Bel'iq had done, causing the disintegration of this united human empire into a mass of feuding tribes speaking in tongues that were incomprehensible to one another.

    Well, this certainly could have ended better for Bel-Bel'iq

    According to the 'Illami, it is critical for all humans (but especially them, as the people specifically chosen by the Lord Above to be His vanguard of righteousness) to do their utmost to thwart the schemes of the Lord Below and weaken him to the point that the Lord Above can destroy him utterly at last, both metaphorically by following the Righteous Path laid out with the commandments of the Lord Above & the laws of the faith's elders - and more directly, by seeking out and converting or destroying heathens, whose false gods and spirits are considered nothing but the myriad disguises of the Lord Below and his demonic minions. No less is demanded of them, and they must do these things proactively lest the Lord Below regain enough of a foothold to drive humanity to repeat the sins that resulted in the Flame Deluge and the Great Sundering. Bel-Hizzar may have been the first man to whom these truths were told, but Yuvel is honored as the First Prophet for having received the Twelve Commandments, actually reached the Holy Land and organized the Righteous into a sufficiently coherent society to enforce and spread their teachings on a large scale; it is also prophesied that some day into the distant future, the Lord Above will send a Second and Third Prophet to further guide the Righteous Many into His light, and lead them in cleansing the earth of sin & sinners.

    The role of the clergy
    As one might guess from its characterization as a Clerical religion, the clergy were of tremendous importance to practitioners of the Path of the Righteous. Drawn exclusively from the Sept of Esoph, early 'Illam's ordained clerics were responsible for directing rituals and religious services every seventh day of the week, administering rites, advising and deposing Stewards as required, and serving as judges.

    Some of the rites administered and rituals or holy days presided over by the 'Illamite priests included:

    - Bet Ch'yot (for boys) and Bil Ch'yat (for girls): Upon reaching their thirteenth birthday, every 'Illami boy and girl is considered old enough to be held responsible for their actions, and is to be fully confirmed into the ranks of the Righteous in a ceremony presided over by the priest. They are ritually baptized in a specially-prepared bath; anointed with the sign of the hexagram in holy oil; swear vows to serve the Lord Above, to follow His commandments and the laws set down by His priests (who are His voices on the earth, after all) and to oppose the Lord Below and his servants at every turn and all costs; and (in the case of young Esophim boys) permitted to read a chapter from the Qabal to the rest of the community, all of which are done in sight of their community. Once this is all done, the community can celebrate, with the newly confirmed youth being allowed to taste wine for the first time at this celebration of their coming-of-age.

    - Ekhen, Shekhen and Sefet: 'Illamite marriages must be presided over by an ordained priest to be considered valid in the eyes of the law. First, the man and woman must enter a formal betrothal at a ceremony called the Ekhen (signing), where they announce their intent to marry within seven-times-seventy days before a priest and at least two witnesses (one from the groom's family and one from the bride's) while a Kan'ahite scribe records their vows and writes up a marriage contract on a papyrus scroll. The Shekhen, or 'binding', is the actual wedding ceremony itself, where the groom & bride speak their wedding vows to one another, are literally tied together at the wrist with an ornate ribbon, seal their love with a kiss and proclaimed husband & wife by the priest. Normally, 'Illami can only take one wife (though nothing prevents them from engaging in amorous relations with a slave...) and can never divorce, though in cases of spousal abuse or political inconvenience the priest who married them can also issue a document of actually-but-not-officially-divorce called a 'sefet', or 'separation'. (divorces seem to have strictly been something for the 'Illamite elite, however; those of the lesser Septs were truly wedded 'til death did them part, and adultery was to be punished with death for both the adulterer/adulteress and their extramarital partner with no exceptions) There have also been a few unusual cases of men taking multiple wives in the Qabal, most (in)famously Elech bet-Eyal, who married two women - though, considering the consequences of his two marriages, that part of his story was definitely not supposed to be a good thing, and likely a warning against polygamy in general.

    - Shomayn: When an 'Illamite has died, he or she is supposed to be buried, returning to the earth from which his progenitors were made. A priest is required to purify the body with special oils and blessed water, dress it in a pure white burial shroud, lift it into a plain casket (regardless of rank in life, all are considered equal in death) with the help of the deceased's kinsmen and friends, and finally pray that the Lord Above forgives the transgressions of the deceased, welcomes his or her soul into Heaven and looks after his or her surviving kin as the casket is lowered into the ground and buried. The rite of shomayn must be administered if the soul of the deceased is to have any chance of ascending upward into the branches of the Tree of Life and find eternal salvation, otherwise they will surely be doomed to wander the Interstice as a lost and confused spirit until the end of time.

    - Yam Chag: Every seven days, the community would gather in their local temple to the Lord Above: the men would immerse themselves in a small bath called the neyilah, after which they would enter the main chamber and be seated to hear the local priest read from the Qabal, and then deliver a sermon. They were invited to discuss and debate the day's verses after the priest had finished delivering his sermon. Women had to wait in an antechamber until the men were done, after which they would do the same in a different neyilah and enter to hear the exact same reading and sermon; however, unlike the men, they could not discuss the day's reading. Children who had not yet undergone the rite of Bet/Bil Ch'yot were read to last of all (in the event that the priest did not deem the verses he read out to the adults suitable for children, he may read an entirely different set of verses to them instead), and were also forbidden from debating whatever verses the priest had deemed child-appropriate for that day. No work was allowed on this holy day, which was to be a day of rest, relaxation and introspection.

    - Elisan: The 'Illamite New Year, considered a special time to curse the Lord Below. Meat is served in great quantities, to physically strengthen the Righteous for their struggle with this immortal enemy, and everyone in every town is expected to stone an idol depicting the Lord Below in the sight and with the approval of their local priest.

    - Beresit: On the first day of spring (traditionally, the first day of the fourth month in the 'Illami calendar) the 'Illamites have their great festival of lights, celebrating the creation of the world by the Lord Above, offering up prayers that His divine Light might prevail over the darkness of the evil Lord Below, and calling on Ben'e-Rehman the Archangel of Light & Order to intercede on their behalf before the Lord Above. Homes are to be cleaned and decorated with designs of flower petals & colored sand at least a week in advance of the festival. When the sun has set, every family in every town and village is to light seven oil lamps, candles and/or lanterns arranged in a hexagram pattern around their dwelling. Then they are to congregate before the nearest temple, around which the priest and his family have also lit up a hexagram with braziers and hung their own great decorated tapestries, and receive a blessing, a reminder of the Lord's acts of creation, and issue prayers to strengthen His hand in the war with evil before engaging in feasting and merriment. Each family, the priest's own included, is meant to bring their own food to eat and share, and outside observers noted that the normally stoic and strait-laced 'Illami really cut loose on this day. As the Shamshi 'Ibar bar al-'As reported when his travels took him to the 'Illami village of Horon:
    Quote Originally Posted by 'Ibar bar al-'As
    On the day which they call 'Beresit', the people of the north, whom I had found to be joyless and stern most days, truly came to life after the Sun had gone down. Amidst the dazzling fires set by their priest, the villagers indulged in all sorts of meat and vegetable stews, sweets, and fresh-baked bread with aplomb. Three great oxen had been butchered and roasted for the festivities, and the priest had bought a cart of salt and herbs with which to flavor their flesh; I must confess, his wife and daughters cooked the oxen most excellently, and even managed to make a good soup out of the beasts' tails. Wine flowed freely and plentifully.

    I found the local landlord rubbing shoulders with men he'd normally be exhorting to work harder in the fields or threatening with the scourge. The priest himself, whom I thought could not smile, sat loudly laughing and joking with some of the town's men while in the midst of what must have been his tenth cup of wine that night. Men and women who would normally not even be allowed in the same chambers in their temples could openly dance, embrace and kiss beneath the stars. Some of the youths of the village snuck off, away from the fires, to engage in amorous activities.


    The next day, it was as if the events of the previous night had not occurred, and everyone in the village had gone back to their old dull selves.
    - Tzen: A 30-day fast held between the late summer and early fall, commemorating a fast undertaken by 'Illami ancestors in the last month of their captivity under the 'Awali. All the food in every town was to be gathered at the temple and kept under lock & key by the priest, who would distribute just enough portions to everybody thrice a day to keep them from starving. The fast was to be broken with a lavish celebratory feast and dance halfway through the ninth month of the year, where the Archangel Mana is celebrated and her intercession prayed for.

    - Besh'e: The summer solstice is also the day on which the 'Illami commemorate and repent for the centuries of sins that their ancestors engaged in, leading up to the Flame Deluge. On this day of mourning, all the community - even the priest - go barefoot, don sackcloth, wipe ashes over their cheeks, and at night they shout, pray and wail for forgiveness and guidance to the Lord Above while marching in a hexagram formation around a massive bonfire, with the priest himself leading the procession. All healthy adults are required to abstain from food and alcohol all day, save a loaf of bread and an apple (said to be the first fruit encountered by the Ten Thousand Innocents after the Flame Deluge's end) at lunch, though they may still consume water. 'Ilm-Shekhar, the great Archangel of Valor, is called on to intercede on behalf of the faithful and to help provide them with the strength to resist temptation & overcome their vices.

    - Ir'at: The winter solstice is also the day on which the 'Illami commemorate and repent for Bel-Bel'iq's folly, mankind's collective failure to off the Lord Below when they had the chance, and the disastrous chain of decisions that led up to the Great Sundering of humanity's ancient common tongue. All must spend the day barefoot, avoid bathing and the use of perfumes & lotions, and abstain from food, drink (except water, which is permitted) and sexual relations for a 23-hour period, instead dedicating all of their time and energies to prayer. In the last hour of the day, the community gathers at the temple to bask in the light of seven braziers, arranged in a hexagram, and the priest leads them in one last prayer of repentance for their ancestors' sins and their own, followed by a prayer beseeching the Lord Above to forgive them their transgressions even if they are not worthy, and break their fast on roast bull and goat (although no wine is permitted until the next day). Petitioners pray to La'gael, that her scythe does not take away their loved ones' lives during the season and that she intercedes on their behalf before the Lord Above to send a mild winter upon them.

    Bastion of the Righteous
    As one can also guess from the characterization of its mentality as a Bastion of the Faith and from the commandments warning against apostasy & idolatry, the Righteous Path was a highly exclusive and insular religion, mirroring the general xenophobia of 'Illamite culture. One could not convert to the Path as an adult, but instead had to be raised within the faith and hear its teachings from as early in childhood as possible; hence why the (probably orphaned or soon-to-be-orphaned) children of enemy nations could be adopted into 'Illamite families and raised as 'Illamites, but everyone in their teen years and above were to be killed or enslaved. And as the Book of Commands made abundantly clear, there was no leaving the Righteous Path, either; apostates were to be killed on the spot, and if the person who butchers them is their own kin, all the better, for the Lord Above approves of the sort of man who would put Him above their own sinful blood relations.

    While men were permitted to ask questions of and debate readings with the priest on Yam Chag, the priest's word was final when it came to doctrines, interpretations and the lessons to be learned from the day's readings. Further pressing the issue could lead to a stern rebuke in front of the entire community, or worse, anathematization: casting the troublesome individual out of the community, denying him or her rites, and effectively outlawing them by allowing anyone else to kill them without repercussions. An anathema could only be lifted by either the High Priest himself or the priest who issued it (or if he has died before the anathematized party, his successor).

    While Commands 14:1-3 teaches believers to be welcoming to foreigners and not to kick them out or kill them without provocation, this had its limits. Foreigners could still be taxed, loaned to at interest, and expect harsher sentences than 'Illamites for the same crimes (ie. the death sentence, instead of 'just' having a hand lopped off, for their first theft). They were also strictly forbidden, under pain of death, from preaching or publicly practicing their heathen religions while in 'Illamite territory. In more extreme cases, there have been stories of 'Illamites from the higher and more conservative Septs who went as far as to discriminate against other 'Illamites - born to 'Illami parents - just for having been born outside of 'Illam's borders: many were opposed to the Stewardship of Anat bet-Chabed because his Vel'elim parents were trading in an 'Awali city under Shamshi suzerainty when he was born, for instance (1 Stewards 4:6-7). Marriages with non-'Illamites were not actually illegal, but they were heavily frowned upon (even when the prophet and Steward Yuvel did it) and the 'Illamite involved could expect at least temporary ostracism for going through with it, especially in the case of 'Illamite women marrying non-'Illamite men.

    The 'Illamite calendar
    The 'Illamites measured time from the creation of the world by the Lord Above, which they purported to have occurred 4,000 years before their war of liberation against the Shamshi around 10,000 AA. Therefore, instead of that war ending in 10,015 AA, as far as they were concerned it ended in 4,015 Eblath-Keris (After Creation), or EK/AC. Theirs was a lunisolar calendar, with twelve lunar months (whose beginning & end was determined by the new moon) in an approximately 354-day solar year, further divided into 7-day weeks.

    The Tree of Life and the Lifeless Tree: Salvation and damnation
    The Tree of Life and its under-world mirror are generally understood to not be literal and physical constructs, but metaphorical and spiritual/extra-dimensional ones by orthodox 'Illami priests. From the Tree of Life sprouts twelve Fruits, or she'voti-mi (singl. she'vot), each representing a virtue that must be expressed & lived by believers in order to reach salvation. Those who have embraced all of the virtues to the fullest, in so doing submitting themselves wholly in mind, body and soul to the Lord Above, become those most like Him and are permitted to ascend to Heaven - Shem'el - where they will live new lives of unending peace, happiness and prosperity in the presence of the Lord Above Himself. The Fruits Above are:

    • Order: Living structured, routine lives; deferring to the lawful authorities; honoring social and cultural traditions that do no grave harm; defending the social order from those who would overturn or usurp it; accepting one's place in society and not 'rocking the boat' or seeking undue social advancement. Represented by the Cardinal Archangel Ben'e-Rehman, the Prince. The associated angelic choir is that of the Malk'atim, the Crowned Ones.
    • Truth: Zealous submission to religious authorities; seeking out divine insights, asking questions of the clergy but also accepting their answers instead of delving into heresy; not bothering with material possessions beyond the bare minimum required to sustain oneself; and living honestly, avoiding engaging in even white lies or lies of omission. Represented by the Archangel Hak-hulam, the Hierophant. The associated angelic choir is that of the Abelim, the Martyred Ones.
    • Compassion: Giving generously and without reservation to those in need; avoiding any options to advance oneself that would hurt others; caring for the sick and elderly, and consoling the dying; defusing arguments and avoiding violence wherever possible; and standing up for those who can't defend themselves. Represented by the Archangel Cheshmal, the Caregiver. The associated angelic choir is that of the Hesedim, the Kindly Ones.
    • Valor: Bravely confronting one's fears and enemies; being relentless in the pursuit of one's goals; not being afraid to seriously examine oneself, point out one's own flaws and challenge oneself to be a better person; welcoming struggle and hardship as crucibles to strengthen the self rather than fleeing from them. Represented by the Cardinal Archangel 'Ilm-Shekhar, the Conqueror. The associated angelic choir are the Berim, the Burning Ones.
    • Honor: Maintaining personal integrity at all costs, from impoverishment to death; upholding any oaths one has sworn; and hunting down oathbreakers, lawbreakers, and other miscreants who violate societal or individual codes of honor. Represented by the Archangel Hodel, the Father of Honor. The associated angelic choir is that of the Geliyim, the Imposing Ones.
    • Judgment: Obeying the law to its letter; aiding the authorities in pursuing those who break it; and being as perfectly just and fair to everyone as possible, without allowing personal biases to cloud one's judgment. Represented by the Archangel Gabbor, the Judge. The associated angelic choir is that of the Vernehim, the Pledged Ones.
    • The World: Existing in harmony with nature, for after all the natural world was created by the Lord Above; not living beyond one's means and being content with what one already possesses instead of tearing up the earth for more; making peace between hostile parties, thereby preserving peace on earth; and, in general, reaching out and establishing connections with fellow living beings. Represented by the Cardinal Archangel Mana, the Lady of Waters. The associated angelic choir is that of the Elisim, the Watery Ones.
    • Awakening: Appreciating inspiration found in others, the self or the natural world, then converting it into works of art that inspire others in turn; bringing joy and enlightenment to others; pursuing and trying to realize intangible (positive) ideals and passions. Represented by the Archangel Libanah, the Muse. The associated angelic choir is that of the Tabayim, the Heartening Ones.
    • Beauty: Acknowledging the inherent beauty in others; striving to protect purity, innocence and beauty wherever it is found; falling in and pursuing love; maintaining chastity until after marriage vows between oneself and the target of one's affections have been sealed. Represented by the Archangel Tohar, the Maiden. The associated angelic choir is that of the Ishimarim, the Impassioned Ones.
    • Death: Accepting that all who live die someday, and not trying to unnaturally extend one's lifespan through sorcery; avenging wrongs inflicted in the realm of the living; in general, bringing death down upon people who deserve it ahead of schedule; and not ending the lives of the innocent before their appointed time. Represented by the Cardinal Archangel La'gael, the Reaper. The associated angelic choir is that of the Ash'arim, the Scourging Ones.
    • Life: Nurturing the young until they reach maturity; being curious enough to explore whatever secrets the Lord Above has scattered across the world He made; and having enough wisdom to know when to stop such searches when one approaches dangerous topics or things that should not be unleashed on the rest of creation. Represented by the Archangel Safna, the Crone. The associated angelic choir is that of the Halakhim, the Purifying Ones.
    • Togetherness: Prioritizing the needs of one's community above oneself; doing no harm to the weakest members of the community, such as children or invalids; loving one's family and friends, to the point of being willing to do anything for them; and respecting the rites that add to and honor the family, from marriage to funerals. Represented by the Archangel Bianisa, the Night Mother. The associated angelic choir is that of the Kishim, the Binding Ones.

    Curiously, although the Qabal makes reference to angels existing before humanity or even the world itself was created, it hardly goes into any detail about these primordial angels. Instead, all of the named archangels and angels actually elaborated upon in the Qabal's pages and in 'Illamite mystical tradition are of human origin. The 'Illamites have no problem depicting them in the form of statues, paintings and icons (in which they are invariably depicted as looking like 'Illamites themselves, when they aren't just seen as purely inhuman) since they do not worship these entities, but instead venerate them as quasi-saints of a sort and ask for their intercession before the Lord Above or for help in the Fruits that they govern in prayers. This is because the Lord Above is believed to have taken a more passive role in mortal affairs since the destruction of the last united human empire and the sundering of the ancient common tongue of men, so the angels and archangels are naturally perceived by the 'Illamites to be the more active agents of all that is good, just and orderly in the world of mortals.

    Painting of the Tree of Life, which believers must (metaphorically and spiritually) climb to reach salvation

    Beneath the Interstice lies the Lifeless Tree and its own she'voti-mi, crawling with all sorts of demons who torment and gnaw at those who died in sin: these 'Fruits Below' are twisted shadows of the Fruits Above that represent 'Illamite virtues and are associated with their angels -Tyranny, Abuse, Lies, Terror, Hostility, Torment, Greed, Gluttony, Morbidity, Lust, Longing and Annihilation. At the 'crown' of the Lifeless Tree is the Lord Below's home, where the souls of the forsaken are subjected to tortures crueler than any mortal can even begin to imagine until he grows tired of their presence and devours them, ending their existence through total annihilation. The cruelest and foulest of sinners are offered a way out of eternal torment, by forsaking whatever remains of their humanity to become full-blown demons in thrall to the Lord Below's own spawn and lieutenants, the Dark Princes and Lords who are each un-living manifestations of one of the Fruits Below. As the Lord Below has, like the Lord Above, taken a less active role in mortal affairs of late, these Dark Princes and Lords, together with their formerly-mortal demonic minions, have become the active agents of chaos and villainy in the world.

    A contemporary, if more risqu than usual, mosaic of Mana, Lady of Waters and third-most important archangel in the 'Illami faith, dated to 10,457 AA

    Artist's rendition of lesser angels and demons clashing in the Interstice

    Since angels and demons alike are beings of pure spirit with nothing tying them to this world outside of their mortal memories and emotions, they fundamentally require (preferably living, sentient and sapient) hosts to directly function on the earth; otherwise, they are limited to trying to influence people through their dreams, visions and even drug-fueled trips, during which the consciousness' link to the physical body is weakened and becomes much easier to reach from the world of spirits. The 'Illamites naturally assume that angels only ever possess willing channelers while demons are much more likely to just force their way into people's heads, although given the record and known abilities of spirits worldwide, there really isn't any reason to suspect this is the case outside of their obvious religious bias. Those who host an Archangel or Dark Prince/Lord are known to the 'Illami as Heralds and Harbingers, respectively, and obviously tend to be much more powerful than the hosts of lesser angels and demons.

    People who die and are not properly buried with rites administered by an ordained priest are doomed to wander the Interstice - lost in the void between the supernal, material and infernal realms forever, unless one side should finally prevail over the other and put them out of their misery, whether it is by finding them a place in the Tree of Life as the angels would...or devouring them, as the demons would. This is yet another reason as to why priests are so important to the 'Illami.

    For more information on the assorted Archangels (Cardinal and lesser alike), Dark Princes and Lords, see posts #2-6 here:

    Holy sites and focuses of worship
    'Illamite worship was conducted in temples called shul (pl. shul'et). Each town, no matter how small, was to have a shul, and each shul - also regardless of size and significance - was to be separated into a hikal (sanctuary) where most rituals were performed; an outer courtyard; an antechamber between the hikal and courtyard, where there was a small bath for the congregants to ritually immerse themselves in before attending services; and the living quarters of the priest and his family, who after all were expected to live directly in the temple itself. Every shul was supposed to be austere in appearance and thus went undecorated, lacking much in the way of flashy ornamentation fashioned from precious metals or jewels, though the priest and his family were commanded to keep the sanctuary 'immaculate' and to light & maintain a fire in a large gilded iron cup set on the hikal's altar at sunset, for it would be the only source of light in the chamber at night - symbolic of the presence of the Lord Above as the source of light for a universe that would otherwise be suffocated by the darkness of the Lord Below.

    Modern painted sketch of an 'Illamite priest reading to the congregation, c. 10,500 AA

    Outside of the shul'et, the Lord Above was said to be present in the Arak Shau'lot, or 'great palace' - actually a large, unadorned acacia chest in which the original tablets bearing the Twelve Commandments, Yuvel's rod and Bel-Hizzar's preserved heart were stored. The Erek Shau'lot, covered in a great white-bordered blue cloth onto which the sign of the star was embroidered in pure white, was carried by a team comprised of seven chosen men, one from each of the Septs, into battle, so that the Holy Spirit of the Lord Above could manifest itself in the hearts of every 'Illamite warrior and carry them to victory. Whether present on the battlefield or stored away in the tent of the Esophim patriarchs, the Erek Shau'lot was to be always guarded by the Sacred Band.

    A party of the chosen faithful carry the Arak Shau'lot into battle, c. 10,450 AA

    'Illami military
    The 'Illamite army, much like its civil society, was supposed to be like a living creature, comprised of many cells and limbs drawn that all had different functions that could pull together to flawlessly function towards a purpose (namely, victory). Each Sept provided its own contingents, all of variable roles and sizes, but all uniformly expected to seamlessly work in unison to defeat the adversary. The Stewards were the undisputed war-leaders of the 'Illamite armies, and could appoint and dismiss a rudimentary command staff (ahem, 'war council') and subordinate commanders solely from the Sept of Rechab. Though often outnumbered (the inevitable result of relying on purely 'Illami families, clans and tribes to provide manpower instead of reaching out to subjugated peoples like the Shamshi did), the 'Illamite armies were noted for their great courage and iron discipline - after all, not one man among their ranks was supposed to be fighting for personal glory or enrichment (and in fact the priests and Qabal warned, more than once, that divine punishment awaited those prideful or greedy enough to try), but rather for the glory of the Lord Above alone.

    The Esophim contributed two types of warriors: their priests, who in truth were not warriors but certainly hung around to give the 'Illami army spiritual leadership and morale boosts with their presence, prayers and the Arak Shau'lot, and the Sacred Band. Of the former, 'Illamite war-priests were said to wield their magical powers by the grace of the Lord Above, and if true this would explain some of the feats attributed to them in the Qabal that are supposed to be beyond ordinary mages' abilities. The first of these instances was the Siege of Ahi (a walled 'Awali town near the mouth of the Hasbana that had been occupied by the Enezi) soon after the death of Yuvel, where the 'Illamite army's priests sang, danced and blew trumpets around the city walls for seven days, as instructed to by the Steward Simcha and the prophet Nab'el bet-Fab'el. On the seventh day, when they blew their trumpets to honor the Lord Above, the walls crumbled (1 Stewards, 18:1-7).

    Regardless of whether the priests of 'Illam were able to directly call upon the Lord Above, what is certain is that at a minimum, magically endowed or not, they would have led soldiers in prayer sessions for victory and administered abbreviated rites of shomayn before battles, so that any 'Illamite who dies on the battlefield would be able to go to the afterlife immediately even if 'Illam was defeated. Priestly mages conducted rituals to invoke the Archangels' blessings and were less likely to fight on the front lines than the mages of the Kan'ahite sept: instead, they frequently worked just to enchant the equipment of the soldiers - sharpening blades and spears beyond what an Iron Age smith with a grindstone could do, weaving enchantments into a bundle of arrows so that each arrow could change its course mid-air to seek out foes, or inscribing Primal runes into shields so that they could be used to nullify enemy magicks - and to heal the wounded. In a time when the most advanced medicine was a herbal poultice or drink, boiling wine was the best known antiseptic, anesthetics were unknown and the concept of keeping surgical environments & equipment sterile was unheard of, having a priest on hand to cleanse and mend one's injuries by magic often meant the difference between survival and an excruciating, drawn-out death from a botched surgery or infection for many 'Illamite wounded.

    Reenactor portraying a high-ranking Esophite, probably a son of the High Priest, attired for combat

    The latter was an elite regiment comprised of male Esophim youth, mostly between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, who were divided into two corps: one of infantry and one of cavalry, led by veteran officers who stayed part of the Sacred Band long after their twenty-first birthday. Their equipment was described in detail in 1 Stewards 6:1-20: each man wore white linen clothing and a gilded helmet of bronze, a vest of gilded iron scales, and gilded greaves and gauntlets for armor, regardless of whether they fought on foot or horseback. The infantry were to be armed with an iron-headed, ash-shafted spear approximately 2 m in length; an iron-bladed hacking sword, ax or cudgel; a long curved iron dagger, as a secondary weapon; and a round wooden shield, large enough to cover their torso and neck, set in an iron frame, covered in a thin sheet of bronze which in turn was engraved with the words 'TEL MIT EL-BEL-AZER' or 'Trust In The Lord Above' (one of the 'Illamites' most prolific battle-cries) and infused with Primal magic so as to forcibly disperse any Quintessence that came close to striking it, essentially nullifying or at least reducing the impact of magical attacks directed at the wielder. The cavalry wielded a two-handed, iron-headed lance approximately 3-3.5 m in length in place of the infantry spear, and swapped out the round shield for a smaller crescent-shaped one. This Sacred Band functioned as an elite reserve force on the battlefield in most cases, and off it, as the guards of the Arak Shau'lot, a duty which they took as seriously as their status in society; anyone caught trespassing anywhere near the Arak Shau'lot was to be killed on the spot, and any non-Sacred Band soldier caught with a Sacred Band shield was also to be killed on sight.

    Those Esophites who were born with talent for magic but didn't feel like being the healers, clerics and enchanters of the 'Illamite army invariably remained with the Sacred Band. They were veteran holy warriors whose rite of confirmation involved cutting their forearm to swear a blood-oath binding them to the Archangel who best reflected their powers and personality, and they almost always served as officers alongside the 'mundanes' who stuck around past their 21st birthday. Their power, though already latent during their prior service in the Sacred Band, would be amplified to new heights by the grace of the Archangel they just swore themselves to: a man whose powers belonged to the Sphere of Prime and who was sworn to Ben'e-Rehman could nullify enemy magicks with sheer will, another who belonged to the Sphere of Forces and had bound himself to 'Ilm-Shekhar could cut himself to set his weapon alight with a fire so hot that any water thrown at it simply boils into steam, and so on. While it was theoretically still possible for a sufficient number of mundane opponents to bring one of these 'paladins' down, they almost never fought alone outside of pre-arranged duels with enemy champions so as to avoid this exact outcome as often as they could.

    Drawing of Esophim priests leveling Ahi's walls with the aid of the Lord Above while the Sacred Band cheers, c. 10,030-60 AA

    After the Esophim, the Kan'ahim chiefly contributed war-mages to the 'Illamite fighting forces. They were, after all, the sept dedicated to the study, refinement and application of the magical arts, including those which could be used in battle. When people think of 'Illamite wizards flinging around fireballs or bursts of unearthly energy while shouting praise to the Lord Above, they're thinking of the Kan'ahites, who indeed took on a front-line role quite unlike the majority of the sept above theirs. Small numbers of Kan'ahite mages were embedded into Sacred Band, Esophite and Derorite contingents, on an average of one magus for every 20 men. They supported the mundane fighters from afar with their war magick: whether it was throwing around fireballs or thunderbolts, performing on-the-spot emergency healing to save wounded casualties so they'd survive long enough to be tended to by the Esophim, or forming barriers of Quintessence to protect their comrades from arrows and magical attacks alike. Kan'ahim rarely fought armored (so as to be able to maneuver and focus more easily without the sensation of heavy equipment weighing them down) and therefore could be dispatched by an arrow they didn't see coming or any halfwit who got close enough to them with a club in hand, nor could they target an opponent they couldn't see or launch their spells over the same distance as an arrow or sling-bullets, necessitating the presence of other soldiers to ensure they didn't get slaughtered a few minutes into a battle.

    A Kan'ahite magus parts the mist for the mundane soldiers and archers trailing behind him

    Of course, not all members of the second 'Illamite sept were cut out for combat. Those Kan'ahim who lacked the courage to fight, were reluctant to shed blood, or simply weren't as gifted at combat magic as their peers still had their brains and scholarly education, so they could contribute as cartographers, siege engineers and logisticians in the 'Illamite army - though naturally, they were hardly as well-known as their war-mages. Accordingly, Those Who Write combined scouts' reports with what their own magical senses could pick up to draw maps, designed battering rams and catapults, mapped out where to dig trenches and sappers' tunnels for maximum effect during sieges, and ensured that the army had enough rations to sustain itself and warned the Steward when supplies were running low in these respective capacities.

    Kan'ahite scribes taking inventory of an 'Illamite army's supplies, c. 10,350 AA

    The Rechabim, as the tribe and later de-facto caste of warriors, provided the overwhelming majority of 'Illam's standing soldiers. They were available as a body of several thousand highly trained and well-equipped fighters, having been drilled in the ways of war from childhood, and were apparently divided into three corps: infantry, cavalry and archers. The infantry and cavalry were armored uniformly: they were attired in iron helmets, cuirasses comprised of a breastplate of iron scales and a back-plate made of pressed linens, and iron gauntlets and greaves, to be worn over white and red clothing and leather gloves & shoes or sandals. Their archers went without the cuirass or gauntlets, instead keeping only the helm and greaves. Officers and distinguished soldiers were permitted to coat their armor with a thin sheet of brass, setting themselves apart from their subordinates and peers without trying to copy the gilded armor of the Esophite Sacred Band and thereby disrespecting their social superiors.

    According to 1 Stewards 7:1-12, most Rechabite infantrymen wielded iron swords, axes and maces together with light square-shaped wicker shields, with one in four men instead carrying a short pike about 4-5 m in length and a small round wooden shield that could be strapped to their wrist; their strategy was for the pikemen to form the front line of a four-rank-deep block formation, capable of either fighting defensively as the core of a fixed battle line (presenting a phalanx of sorts to the foe) or offensively as a mobile assault square, capable of operating independently under their own officers or together in a larger group. When on the attack, these squares would rush to clash with the foe; the pikemen would engage first and lock the enemy down, while the men behind them fanned out and tried to flank or otherwise bullrushed the enemy with their hand weapons, which were better suited to close combat than the long and unwieldy pike.

    Rechabite cavalry reportedly wielded two-handed lances and crescent-shaped shields like the heavy cavalry of the Sacred Band, and fought in an identical manner - as heavy shock cavalry which wielded enough discipline to charge an enemy formation, then peel away to reform and charge again, over and over until the foe was broken. Where they differed was that one in five Rechabite riders rode camels instead of horses, and these appear to have been deployed as anti-cavalry cavalry.

    A fully armed Rechabite soldier in brass-coated iron armor, c. 10,500 AA

    After the Rechabites came the Derorites, who typically only provided the 'Illamite army with horses, camels and beasts of burden instead of actually fighting - someone had to stay behind to run the farms, after all. However, when they did appear on the battlefield, they were described as a uniformly cavalry force (1 Stewards 22:3-7 and 29:5-16, among other mentions). In these Qabali passages, the Derorim were said to have entered battle in dressed 'gleaming helmets of brass and iron, from which sprang feathers dyed in the colors of the rainbow, and vests of alternating bronze and iron scales that glimmered in the sun', and besides functioning as yet more medium and heavy cavalry they were also the only known 'Illami to still field chariots. These chariots, according to both the Qabal and scant reports on confrontations with the 'Illami from the Shamshi, were lighter than 'Awali and Shamshi standard: they were quite small, supported by spoked wheels (like any sane charioteer's vehicle by this point in time...), pulled by a single horse and supported a two-man crew, comprised of a Severite or Shurite driver and the Derorite aristocrat; the latter would fight chiefly with the bow and arrow - unlike 'Awali chariots, 'Illami ones did not tend to directly charge into enemy ranks - though he also carried both a pike and a sword or ax with which to defend himself in close combat. Derorim chariots were reportedly not as fast as the three-horse, three-man vehicles favored by the 'Awali and later Shamshi, but they were more nimble and able to execute risky turns or navigate rough terrain with less difficulty.

    A Derorite chariot contingent bearing down upon a Shamshi battle line ahead of the rest of the 'Illamite army, c. 10,500 AA

    The Vel'elim who came after the Sept of Deror were not known to be a particularly warlike tribe, especially considering they were chiefly merchants and traders. Yet their skill as explorers also made them excellent light cavalry and infantry, at least better than the Severites and Shurites beneath them. Vel'elite soldiers were described in only a few Qabal passages, as men who 'wore helmets of burnished but plain iron' and rode 'fleet-footed horses and camels'. It can be assumed that they wore little to no armor, in comparison to the much more heavily armored upper castes' soldiers, and would thus have served chiefly as skirmishers and scouts, racing ahead of the main army to find the enemy; screening the advance of their own forces; covering retreats; and peeling away from the main host to needle the opposition's flanks and rear. The Vel'elites were also known to put their money to better use in hiring mercenaries, who in all likelihood would have been better fighters than they (as, again, a tribe of merchants and not trained warriors) were anyway.

    A Vel'elite javelineer, c. 10,500 AA

    Finally, the Severim and Shurim made up the bulk of an 'Illami army, providing masses of poorly trained and unarmored but zealous light troops capable of working with the heavier upper-Sept soldiers. Like most other lower-class conscript troops of this time period and region, they probably had no armor and fought with slings and bows, crude short spears, farming implements or tools turned into weapons (ex. straightened scythes, smiths' hammers, kitchen knives, etc) and carried at best wicker shields for protection. More Severim appear to have been armed with melee weapons and tasked with supporting the heavier Rechabites in close combat, while for the Shurim it was the other way around - they were chiefly skirmishers.

    Severim and Shurim about to charge an Enezi column immobilized by sudden flooding, c. 10,350 AA

    Modern military historians have managed to reconstruct the way an 'Illami army with all seven Septs present would have operated: their preferred formation seems to have been the fairly standard infantry center + cavalry on the wings + a reserve. Of the first, the Rechabites would have been stationed at the very center, creating a disciplined and armor-clad core around which Severim light infantry would stand; the Shurim and Vel'elim would form a loosely-ordered screen of missile troops in front of this tightly-knit block of infantry. The cavalry on the flanks were posted a long ways away from the infantry, opening them to the risk of being outflanked but also strengthening the 'Illami horsemen and chariots' own ability to outflank the foe in turn. The Sacred Band would remain in reserve with a handful of Shurim and Severim, to be committed at decisive moments or to cover a retreat in case of defeat.

    The Righteous Many seem to have fought quite aggressively and made effective use of combined arms if the Qabal is any indication, with the infantry rushing to engage the enemy's own center after a preliminary exchange of missiles while their cavalry circled 'round the flanks, engaged and hopefully routed the enemy's own cavalry, and then plunging into the unprotected flanks or rear of the enemy army. Of course, there were times when this formation was changed up - for example, the posting of the Sacred Band to reinforce the Rechabim in the center, or the placement of the cavalry closer to the center than usual, and there were plenty of battles where not all of the Septs participated - but, by and large, this appears to have been the 'Illamite default battle arrangement.
    Last edited by Barry Goldwater; December 31, 2018 at 04:03 PM.

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