Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beyond the Ninth Pylon-Gate (Siret-Nile, Part One)

This is an except from the post: Nothing New Under the Sun? that was originally posted to the Old School Heretic Blog.  Below are the Riskail-specific bits.  You can check-out the original post for the other, non-Riskail stuff.

Besides having been a life-long interest of mine, Egypt is one of the real-world places that I've been looking to for inspiration in terms of how to handle the implications of the whole Chakra-to-Attribute sub-project.  They have a wide variety of tombs, and as I develop the High Tombs of Yuddoth for Riskail, I want to incorporate some more versimilitude into things.  Also mummies are cool.  So are Scarabs (especially as a possible player race option).  And then there is the little matter of the rivers that flow into Devukarsha via the Twelve River Gates that form the cascading waterfall of the River Senube.  Each of those twelve rivers flow into the Senube's headwater-basin from another world.  But those rivers aren't just the waters flowing from one world to another, oh no; each of these rivers has their own networks of river-gates leading back across hundreds (in some cases thousands) of worlds, all of which are interconnected into one incredibly complex ecosystem encapsulating worlds without end, at least according to the prevailing public viewpoint.

The Ninth River cascades from its massive pylon-flanked gate from Thebu-Amur which in turn flows back to the pylon-flanked gate to Khefnum which flows back to Ntalat and on back to Rhakishu and to Djefbek and onwards and ever backwards through countless worlds to Siret iteself.  Siret is the main seat and legend-shrouded core-world for the numerous subsidiary, splintered and sequentially-segmented cultures that dominate the banks of their shared river that all the ancient records claim connects back to the very Nile itself.  Certain banned and censored scrolls dare to whisper subversively that anyone daring enough or auspiciously guided by the gods themselves just might be able to make it back to Old Earth by following the river backwards to its source.  Several such attempts have been recorded, none have returned.  Most people don't think it's a worthwhile endeavor.  The media are reluctant to cover such attempts as they tend to be utter wastes of time.  The Teeth of Xobek, sharp rocks jutting out of the river like black crocodile teeth, make the passage backwards treacherous, dangerous and incredibly difficult and they only become more numerous, and some say aggressive, the farther back one goes.  Even mentioning a previous attempt gets people uneasy, making the more pious perform various apotropaic gestures and stirring-up bad auspices for those around anyone so crass as to raise such an uncomfortable subject to the light of day like a corpse disinterred by tomb-thieves.  It is considered very bad form, poor manners and a terribly vulgar thing to do in public.  There is also the matter of the plagues that have come down along the river from whatever lies before Siret, terrible plagues that have lain waste to several once-elegant metropolises that now stand as barren and deserted ruins and grim monuments no one will visit for fear of the hideous death that awaits anyone foolish enough to expose themselves to the plague-phorms.  To speak of what lies before Siret is to invoke plague, pestilence and a wasting death.  It just is not done.

And this does not even cover the amiteret (leopardpotamus-crocodile hybridized hominids who ritually remove the hearts of their foes in order to prove their fearsomeness in combat), the amaunetiri (horned and plumed snake-things that willfully and purposefully flood the river unless placated through sacrifice or bribery) , babadru (nasty and all too intelligent baboon-things),  mutontu (wicked harpy-ish vulture-falcon war-forms) or the other feral and vicious creatures who prey upon the unfortunate, the ill-advised and unprepared.

In time, as such things are wont to do, the plagues passed and life returned to some semblance of normality for the survivors.  The river-gates remained open, the Siret-Nile flowed onwards and the once Great Houses of Siret-Nile became a memory, a myth and a cautionary tale told to the young who grow a bit too brash or cocky in their youth.  There are still numerous Dynasties along the Siret-Nile, immortal emperors and philosopher-pharaohs who rule over great and shining city-states along the banks of the river or who maintain roads and canals that let their people access the river from behind fortified citadels where autoi and chitoi servitors stand vigilant and ever watchful for the next black barge, the next plagueship orginating from one of the dark and deadly plague-ravaged worlds that lie out before Siret itself, past the Teeth of Xobek, where no one sane willingly goes and no one has ever returned.
"Out of our... lineage, minds will spring, that will reach back to us in our littleness to know us better than we know ourselves. A day will come, one day in the unending succession of days, when beings, beings who are now latent in our thoughts and hidden in our loins, shall stand upon this Earth as one stands upon a footstool, and shall laugh and reach out their hands amidst the stars."  H.G. Wells
The Discovery of the Future (1902)
Along the lush and fertile banks of the Siret-Nile are numerous Dynastic Enclaves founded upon the various Successors, Inheritors, and other bio-sects that have descended from the Nine Great Houses of Siret-Nile, each of which was founded in antiquity by a collective of biomantrists who had acquired, each in their own ways, the gene-profiles and lineages of every known and recovered potentate and noble from the myriad dynasties of Egypt's glorious days in the Deep Past.  Each of the Great Houses of Siret used these gene-profiles in their own ways both aesthetically and reproductively to recreate ancient lineages or to form fresh new combinations that partook of both the ancient past and the living present.  For decades the Great Houses of Siret-Nile busied themselves with developing their gene-based arts and building their carefully designed societies, each one following the river through the various gates along its banks to their own private worlds where they each set themselves up as allied techno-satraps and divine-emperors, philosopher-kings and pharaohs.  A golden age ensued and the Great Houses of Siret-Nile fell prey to the principle of diffusion.  They allowed their numbers to spread out, to scatter amongst the worlds along the various branches of the river-gates that in time they had little in common with one another and even less interaction.  Then the plagueships came down the river.  Whole megapoli were robbed of their incarnate populations in the space of mere weeks or even days.  The Great Houses fell into chaos, fear and turmoil.  Demagogues and warlords arose from amongst the decimated populations and the virts as well, each promulgating a program of violence or extermination, either seeking to conquer the domains left bereft of their kindred or setting off across the unknown regions of their respective worlds to settle far, far away from the river that had once been the very core and spine of their collective civilization.  Many city-states fell to the plagues, even more were ruined in pointless internecine warfare or rioting or bizarre religious ecstasies rooted in the most primal reaches of the human psyche that so many of the Great Houses had thought they had evolved beyond.  


  1. I like :). Just the right mixture of really-world versimilitude and psychedelic weirdness.

  2. As always, thanks for the great ideas and wonderful links. :)

    I'm a bit iffy on Dr. Hawass myself, though that's mostly because I have the historian's mistrust of people trying to write history for pre-historic peoples, and because he seems a bit enamoured with his own myth. Still, can't be denied there's some great work being done these days.

  3. Freaking Epic...travel up the plagueriver to find Olde Earth!

  4. Oh Hawass is certainly enamoured with his own myth! Egos are powerful adjuncts to accomplishment in the sciences, and if any of us had his job of overseeing the antiquities of Egypt...well, I wonder how many of us would be as level-headed as he has been.

    that said, I fully agree with you on the rewriting history for prehistoric peoples by academics far removed from their frame of reference. It's all so much fiction, really. Best guesses and pet theories, that somewhat fit the bits of evidence on-hand and that can get totally blown apart by later findings.

    And the politics rolled-up in archaeology. Wow. Seriously twisty stuff to be sure!


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