The man known to history as Seswatha and to the Sranc as
"Chigra", "Slaying Light", was born in Year-of-the-Tusk 2089
in Trysë, the son of a caste-menial bronzesmith. Whilst still a child, he was
identified as one of the Few, those that carry the mark of sorcery. He was
taken to Sauglish to study with the Gnostic School of Sohonc, at the time the
largest and most powerful of the sorcerous schools. Seswatha was a prodigy, his
grasp of the Gnosis subtle and strong. Circa 2104, at the age of fifteen,
Seswatha would be proclaimed a sorcerer-of-rank, the youngest in the School's
Eärwa in Year of the Tusk 2089, the birth year of Seswatha. The Three Seas were home to great powers, the mightiest of which was Kyraneas which dominated the lesser nations of Shigek and Amoteu. The Shiradi Empire controlled the eastern Three Seas. But the true powers were in the Ancient North, dominated by great Kûniüri.
During this period Seswatha befriended Anasûrimbor Celmomas,
the heir to the imperial throne of Kûniüri who was studying with the Sohonc.
The same age as Seswatha and both intrigued by history, they became fast
friends and allies. As Seswatha grew in power and authority through the ranks of
the Sohonc, so Celmomas became famed as a warrior, general and scholar. Their
great friendship was tested, however, when Celmomas's most beloved wife Suriala ("Suiyela", according to Mandate sources)
gave birth to their son Nau-Cayûti. Celmomas knew that Seswatha and Suriala
shared a mutual affection and became concerned that Nau-Cayûti was not of his
blood. But such was his love for his friend - and his inability to conclusively
prove the truth of the matter - that he did not have him rebuked, merely
withdrawing his friendship for a time.
Seswatha was a master sorcerer but also a keen politician.
He befriended Anaxophus, a young prince of Kyraneas, and treated with
Nil'giccas, the Nonman King of Ishterebinth (the "Exalted
Stronghold"), as Ishoriöl was now more frequently called. Seswatha's
insights were keen, his mind sharp, his sorcery formidable and his manner one
of ease, all formidable attributes that saw him rise to become Grandmaster of
the Sohonc in his early thirties.
What happened next remains a matter of great debate.
According to legend and The Sagas,
Seswatha received a delegation of Nonmen in Sauglish. History refers to them as Siqû, indicating they were there as teachers and advisors, not just as emissaries. Although the Nonmen
Tutelage was not reinstated, Seswatha had nevertheless forged closer ties with
Ishterebinth than had been seen since those times. According to some accounts,
Nil'giccas rewarded Seswatha's friendship with intelligence which was not so much disquieting as downright alarming.
It had been long known that the School
of Mangaecca had fled Sauglish to
seek refuge in Golgotterath. Its dark leader, Shaeönanra, survived thanks to
Inchoroi knowledge and his own sorcerous research. By the 14th Century, he had
even been given a new name: Shauriatas, "Cheater of Gods". The
Mangaecca had not been seen since, but their hand, and that of their Inchoroi overlords,
was suspected in the Great Sranc Wars, a series of strikes by hordes of Sranc
out of Agongorea against Aörsi to the east which had sorely tested that nation
and led to the construction of a major stronghold, Dagliash, on the Urokkas (in
fact, atop the very ruins of ancient Viri). But in those days Sranc were not a
numerous, constant threat blanketing the North. They were mostly confined to
Agongorea and the Yimaleti Mountains,
and although their numbers were concerning, they were not as inexhaustible as
in later centuries. Or so it was supposed.
The Siqû warning was stark: the Mangaecca yet lived within
the golden halls of the Ark and
they had formed a forsaken alliance - an Unholy
Consult - with the surviving Inchoroi princes, Aurax and Aurang. Worse still, their delvings
and explorations of the Ark had uncovered ancient secrets and disturbing ways
of using the Tekne, the ancient art of science and engineering that the
Inchoroi had once employed to create weapons such as their staffs of light and
creatures such as the Wracu and Sranc, but had seemed to lose more and more
knowledge of with every passing year.
The Siqû warning convinced Seswatha that a threat was
building in the pits of Golgotterath and that, left unchecked, it would
eventually destroy the world. This threat was given a name by the Nonmen, one that Seswatha held close and only told those closest to him: No-God.
Seswatha took this knowledge to his old friend, who know
ruled as Anasûrimbor Celmomas II, High King of Kûniüri, the greatest nation in
all Eärwa, and lay the facts before him. Celmomas may have been inclined to
distrust his old friend for the alleged betrayal with his wife, but he also
respected his judgement. In the end, Celmomas was convinced that Golgotterath
remained a threat to the world and that threat needed to be destroyed before it could unleash a horror that would bring about the end of everything.
The opening battles of the Apocalypse: 1. Sursa (2125). 2. The Great Investiture (2125-32). 3. Dagliash (2133). 4. The Burning of the White Ships, in Aesorea (2134). 5. Shiarau (2136).
In Year-of-the-Tusk 2123, Anasûrimbor Celmomas II called for
the Great Ordeal, the assembling of a vast host of armed and sorcerous might to
be cast at Golgotterath, to bring down and end the threat of the Consult
and the Inchoroi once and for all. Aörsi, which lay in the shadow of the Golden
Ark, rallied to the call almost immediately. King Anasûrimbor Nimeric
contributed many tens of thousands of warriors already hardened in battle
against Sranc and Bashrags and the use of his fleet for transport and resupply across the Neleöst.
Nil'giccas sent Qûya mages and Ishroi warriors from Ishterebinth, and Kyraneas
sent a detachment of troops, reflecting Seswatha's friendship with Prince
Anaxophus (the prince himself was still only fourteen, and it is unclear if he
took part in the Ordeal at such an early age or had returned to Kyraneas).
In 2124 the Great Ordeal crossed onto the plains of
Agongorea but was engaged by a host of Sranc and Bashrags. The resulting battle
was indecisive and the Ordeal withdrew across the Sursa to winter in Dagliash.
Celmomas renewed the offensive in the early spring, fording the Sursa before
the Consult could prepare a defence. They were forced to retreat to
Golgotterath and allow the Ordeal to encircle it. The Great Investiture lasted
for six years but failed to starve the Consult into surrender.
This period was marked by squabbling and petty jealousies
erupting between the commanders of the Ordeal, along with military
disagreements on how to proceed. The Investiture was complete, but the Consult
seemed able to resupply. The Ark
was too well-defended for any conventional assault to succeed, and the Consult
mages were capable of resisting even the combined might of the Qûya and Sohonc. Several raids on the Ark ended in disaster. In
2131 a more serious dispute erupted between Celmomas and Nimeric, resulting in
Celmomas withdrawing the Kûniüri contingent of the Ordeal, to the disbelief of
A Gnostic sorcerer battles a Wracu of Golgotterath.
A year later the Consult went on the offensive. Employing
passages reaching under the Black Furnace Plain and into the Ring
Mountains, the Consult launched
devastating assaults into the Ordeal's rear and flanks. Much-reduced by the
absence of the Kûniüri forces, the Ordeal's army almost collapsed. Qûya and
Sohonc sorcery allowed at least a small part of the army to escape, but
Nil'giccas was so enraged to learn of the deaths of at least two of his sons
that he recalled the Cûnuroi contingent of the Ordeal altogether, leaving Aörsi
to fight on alone.
In 2133 Dagliash was taken by the Consult, allowing their
armies to cross the Sursa in force. Western Aörsi was
overrun and Nimeric withdrew his forces to his capital, Shiarau. Celmomas
realised his folly and rallied Kûniüri to rejoin the war in 2134, but it was
too late. The Aörsi fleet fled across the Neleöst to seek shelter in the Kûniüri
port of Aesorea,
where it was promptly destroyed by enemy agents in the event known as the
Burning of the White Ships.
In 2135 Nimeric took a mortal wound during the Battle of
Hamuir, dying soon afterwards. In the spring of 2136 Shiarau fell, and with it
Aörsi itself. Kûniüri stood alone.
The latter course of the Apoclaypse: 6. Ossirish (2137). 7. Shiarau (2137). 8. Dagliash (2139). 9. The Second Investiture, ending in the Coming of the No-God (2142-43). 10. The Fields of Eleneöt (2146). 11. Trysë (2147). 12. Sauglish (2147). 13. Eämnor
(2148). 14. The Fords of Tywanrae (2149). 15. Kelmeöl (2150). 16. Inweära (2151). 17. Kathol Pass (2151). 18. The Betrayal of Cil-Aujas (2152). 19. Shir (2153). 20. Sumna (2154). 21. Mehtsonc (2154). 22. The Battle of Mengedda and the Fall of the No-God (2155).
The situation seemed bleak, but in 2137 Anasûrimbor
Nau-Cayûti, Prince of Kûniüri, won a stunning victory over the Consult at the
Battle of Ossirish. The armies of Kûniüri had been hard-pressed by a Consult
offensive, but Nau-Cayûti rallied his men by facing and slaughtering the Wracu
Tanhafut the Red in direct combat, a feat undreamt of since the Cûno-Inchoroi
Wars. Nau-Cayûti then led the victorious army to rout the Consult at the ruins
of Shiarau, driving the remnants back across the Sursa by the end of 2138. In
2139 he recaptured Dagliash before launching several major raids across
Agongorea, designed not to reinvest Golgotterath but simply slaughter Sranc and
In 2140 the Consult abruptly switched tacks and kidnapped
Aulisi, the beloved concubine of Nau-Cayûti, bearing her to Golgotterath.
Infuriated, Nau-Cayûti may have decided on a rash assault (possibly the
rationale for the act) but was talked down by Seswatha. Seswatha proposed
something else instead: a raid on the Incû-Holoinas, such as that undertaken by
some of the Nonman heroes of old. Many historians consider the story of the
raid that followed as being apocryphal due to sheer unbelievability, but
Seswatha's descendants in the School of Mandate have confirmed (thanks to their
sorcerous ability to relive Seswatha's life) that it is true.
Nau-Cayûti and Seswatha entered the Golden Ark, descending
through chambers and passageways that had been desolate and empty for well over two thousand years, since the Cûnuroi had sacked the vessel from top to bottom.
But, deep in the vessel's cavernous hold, they did find a city of horrors,
guarded by Sranc and Bashrags. They failed to find any trace of Aulisi but they
did find something that abruptly changed the fortunes of the war: Suörgil, the
Shining Death, the Heron Spear
"I lied. Because I couldn't succeed, not alone. Because
what we do here is more important than truth or love. We search. We search for
the Heron Spear." - Seswatha (The
They bore the weapon back to Sauglish in great triumph, but this turned
sour when Nau-Cayûti died soon after, allegedly poisoned by his wife Iëva (some
say out of jealousy over Nau-Cayûti's infatuation with Aulisi, and the fear the
other woman would supplant her). Iëva insisted on Nau-Cayûti being buried rather than burned, as this had been his wish during life.
The Consult resumed the offensive in 2141, perhaps hoping
for a loss of Kûniüri morale following Nau-Cayûti's death. This hope proved
false. General En-Kaujalau soon destroyed a Sranc horde at the Battle of Skothera.
In 2142 General Sag-Marmau inflicted a very serious and debilitating defeat on
the Consult (according to some legends, Aurang himself took the field but was
forced to withdraw) and again drove them back to the Ark. Anasûrimbor Celmomas II began the Second Investiture in the fall of
The No-God's Carapace under construction in the depths of Golgotterath, before he became animate.
happened, an event second only to the original Fall of the Ark
in importance and dread.
To this day no-one knows exactly what transpired, save that
in the pits of Golgotterath the Consult finally achieved what they had been
attempting to do for some considerable time, sparking the very warnings that
had led to the Ordeal in the first place. They completed the construction of
the Carapace, a sarcophagus of Tekne origin, fused with eleven
Chorae to render it immune to sorcery. Inside the Carapace they created - or
unleashed - an entity of supreme and terrible power. This entity went by many
names: Tsurumah ("Hated One" in Kyranean), Lokung ("Dead-God",
by the Scylvendi), Mursiris ("Wicked North", by the Shiradi) and
Cara-Sincurimoi ("Angel of Endless Hunger", by the Nonmen), as well
as the Great Ruiner and World-Breaker. But his most famous title was the one
first bestowed upon him: Mog-Pharau in
Ancient Kûniüric, "No-God".
The No-God first drew breath in the spring of the
Year-of-the-Tusk 2143. The instant he did so, every unborn child in the world
was stillborn, and no woman fell pregnant afterwards (leading to the period known as the Years of the Crib). A feeling of dread fell across all humanity,
drawing their eyes to the northern horizon. Sranc, Bashrag and Wracu, including
some who had escaped taking part in the wars so far, were compelled to answer
his call and descend on the Black Furnace Plain and Golgotterath.
The host of Sag-Marmau was destroyed utterly. But the Horde
of the No-God did not march immediately, instead waiting as vast hosts of Sranc
gathered and bred. This gave Kûniüri a very brief space in which to cry for
aid. Eärwa answered, the armies of Ishterebinth marching under Nil'giccas and
Kyraneas sending a significant army to lend support. Other nations began to muster but the distances were too great and time ran out.
Anasûrimbor Celmomas II led the so-called Second Ordeal into
battle against the Horde of the No-God on the Fields of Eleneöt in 2146, the fields that in a previous age had been called Pir Pahal, where Cû'jara-Cinmoi had slain Sil and won the first great victory over the Inchoroi.
No such victory came this time. The
Horde engulfed the Kûniüri army. Celmomas knew the only hope was to use the
Heron Spear against the No-God. However, although the
vast Whirlwind that symbolised the No-God's presence gathered on the far
horizon, the entity itself refused to give battle, letting its vast army of
minions do the work for it. Celmomas is said to have thrown himself into battle
with a rare fury and slain dozens of enemies, only to be mortally wounded.
Seswatha led a rallying force to retrieve the High King, who lived long enough
to impart a prophecy: that an Anasûrimbor would return at the end of the world.
Then he died.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, his heir Anasûrimbor Ganrelka
outlived him, becoming the High King of Kûniüri. According to popular legend,
Ganrelka also died on the Eleneöt Fields, but in reality he survived thanks to
four brave Knights of Trysë. Ganrelka escaped home, gathered his household, and
marched west into the Demua Mountains.
In the remotest peaks, protected by both geography and utter secrecy, the
Kûniüri High Kings had built a stronghold and a shelter, Ishuäl. Ganrelka took
up residence there, but disease followed and wiped out most of the
family...save for Ganrelka's bastard son, the last living blood of House
Anasûrimbor. He and his line fell out of history for two thousand years.
The No-God, protected by the ever-present Whirlwind.
By the end of 2147 all of Kûniüri was overrun. The great
river-cities of the Aumris Valley
were obliterated. Trysë fell the hardest, the great Ur-Throne of the Kûniüri High Kings
lost. Seswatha was captured by the Consult during this battle and borne
to Dagliash, where he was pinned to the Wall of the Dead and tortured by
Mekeritrig for knowledge of the location of the Heron Spear. But the
Spear had vanished at Eleneöt and Seswatha did not know its resting
place. He did take heart, however from the knowledge that the Consult
had not found it. Seswatha soon escaped, but was not able to save the rest of the Aumris Valley cities, which fell one after the other. The destruction of Sauglish was particularly horrific, the Wracu Skafra leading a flight of dragons to drive the Sohonc sorcerers from the sky before the hordes of Sranc and Bashrags swept into the city and put the Great Library to the torch.
The Nonmen of Ishterebinth retreated over the Demua
Mountains to their Mansion, but the
No-God chose not to pursue. Instead, he turned south and destroyed Eämnor
(although sparing its capital, Atrithau, due to the complications of attacking
a city raised on anarcane ground and immune to sorcery) in 2148. Akksersia was
destroyed in 2149 following the epic Battle of Tywanrae Fords, where Consult sorcrers burned hundreds of soldiers as they tried to cross the river. The Meöri Empire collapsed in 2150, despite a hardy
defence, sending hordes of refugees both south (into what is now Thunyerus) and south-west (into what is now Galeoth). Inweära was cast down in 2151, although the Horde chose to spare Sakarpus to instead rush the Kathol Pass
- the gateway to the entire Three Seas
- before it could be fortified.
The Battle of Kathol Pass, fought in the autumn of 2151, was
an unexpected victory for the forces of men. A retreating army of Meöri
warriors led by the great hero Nostol ran into an advancing force of Nonmen out of Cil-Aujas,
led by King Gin'yursis, a powerful wielder of the Gnosis. They made common
cause and successfully repulsed several waves of attacks from the Horde on the
pass, buying the Three Seas and the world another year of respite. Shockingly, the Meöri turned on and betrayed the Nonmen, slaughtering
their army and then sacking Cil-Aujas. The reasons for this are unclear, but
may be related to the rising levels of religious fervour amongst the Norsirai
refugees (perhaps hoping that the Hundred Gods would intercede and destroy the
No-God for them), including the commandment to destroy the False Men. It is
also possible that the Meöri believed they could use Cil-Aujas as a refuge
should the No-God advance further south. Gin'yursis's death saw him curse the
Meöri for their betrayal, a curse sometimes used to explain the famous
fractiousness of the men of Galeoth (founded by the Meöri descendants), although Gin'yursis's curse had in fact been reserved for all of mankind.
During this period the populous and packed cities of the south cried out for succor and divine intervention. They prayed to the Hundred Gods, but received no answer. The people begged their priests to explain why the Hundred had not interceded and the priests could not answer. Many years later, confused records of this time suggest that the priests had in fact petitioned for help and gotten only bizarre responses: the Gods could not see the No-God, only the destruction that followed in his wake, which they blamed solely on humanity itself. The Hundred could not intervene because they could not even perceive the problem in the first place (and it may be that that this nullification of divine perception is one of the reasons the No-God was named as such).
In 2153 the Horde of the No-God destroyed the Shiradi Empire
and turned west to invade Kyraneas. Anaxophus, Seswatha's old friend now ruling
as King Anaxophus V, led his nation with skill and cunning. The Scylvendi, the
long-established pastoralists living beyond the mountains to the north-west,
had unexpectedly declared for the No-God and invaded Kyraneas's flank,
threatening to trap the kingdom in a vice at the Battle of Mehsarunath.
Anaxophus evaded the trap and escaped to the south. He chose not to defend
either the royal capital at Mehtsonc or the holy city of Sumna (from where the
Tusk was evacuated by sea to Nilnamesh) instead choosing to fight a war of
irritation and attrition, testing the flanks of the No-God's horde and
withdrawing when the enemy attempted to respond.
Anaxophus V, the High King of Kyraneas, unleashes the power of the Heron Spear against the No-God at the Battle of Mengedda in 2155.
Kyraneas was effectively overrun and destroyed by the end of
2154. But Anaxophus V and his army, and Seswatha, survived. They withdrew
through the mountains to the ruined, ancient city of Mengedda.
The city had once been a trading post between Shigek and the cities of the
Kyraneas Plains when the age of man was young, but innumerable battles had been
fought there over the past two thousand years. The blasted landscape and ruins
provided Anaxophus and his army with cover and defences. More importantly, the long,
attritional warfare favoured by Anaxophus had helped reduce the size of the
Horde to one where victory by sheer weight of numbers was no longer certain.
Anaxophus's gamble worked: to ensure victory and the destruction of the last enemy who may be any
threat, the No-God took the field directly, the terrible Whirlwind moving
towards the Kyranean lines and asking, as it had done all along, "WHAT
DO YOU SEE?" This allowed Anaxophus to do what he had been planning ever
since his knights had secretly seized the Heron Spear from the Fields of Eleneöt eleven
years previously: he used the weapon directly against the No-God.
As the Apocalypse began in doubt and uncertainty, so it
ended with a clear victory. The Whirlwind burst asunder, the No-God was
destroyed and his armies were routed. According to some reports, the Carapace
itself was destroyed and reduced to ashes, ashes which were carried by the
winds to all the corners of the Three
Seas where they caused the Indigo
Plague. However, Mandate scholars insist that the No-God's body (if it could be
called that) was saved by Consult sorcerers and borne back to Golgotterath.
The end of the war was draped in controversy, for the knowledge that Anaxophus had stolen the Heron Spear and kept it secret for a decade as the Ancient North and the Shiradi Empire (Kyraneas's great rival to the east) was overrun and destroyed did not endear him as the saviour of mankind, has perhaps should have been the case. However, Anaxophus claimed that the disaster of the Eleneöt Fields had happened because the Heron Spear had been deployed prematurely before the No-God had engaged, and that he had no choice but to wait - no matter the cost - for the No-God to show himself before he could risk using the weapon. This tactical claim has been supported - although not altogether wholeheartedly - by the Mandate.
The end of the war resulted in the infamous Indigo Plague, which caused great misery and suffering around the Three Seas, but also in a regrouping of civilisation. Seswatha gathered together the few surviving Gnostic sorcerers and founded the School of Mandate, based at the fortress of Atyersus on an island in the middle of the Three Seas. Seswatha knew that the No-God had been destroyed and the Consult defeated, but the Inchoroi Princes yet lived, the Consult sorcerers yet survived and the hordes of Sranc and Bashrags (and even a few surviving Wracu) only dispersed. But most damning of all was the prophecy given to Seswatha by his friend and ally Celmomas at the moment of his death:
"Did I ever tell you that my son once stole into the deepest pits of Golgotterath? How I miss him, Seswatha! How I year to stand at his side once again. I see him so clearly. He's taken the sun as his charger, and he rides among us. I see him! Galloping through the hearts of my people, stirring them to wonder and fury! He says such sweet things to give me comfort. He says that one of my seed will return, Seswatha. An Anasûrimbor will return at the end of the world!" - The last words and prophecy of Anasûrimbor Celmomas II (The Darkness That Comes Before)
The First Apocalypse was over. Now the Mandate had to prepare humanity for the Second.
All of the artwork for this article was created by Jason Deem, known as
Spiral Horizon, and used with his permission. You can find more of his
spectacular work here
. The maps are from Scott's website, adjusted by myself.
Unlike the first part, I didn't request any new information for this third installment, so any errors or confusion are on my part.
Scott Bakker wrote the Second Apocalypse novels, for which this history is merely the backdrop and the scene-setting that comes before. Those novels are:
The Prince of Nothing
The Darkness That Comes Before (2003)
The Warrior-Prophet (2004)
The Thousandfold Thought (2005)
The Judging Eye (2008)
The White-Luck Warrior (2011)
The Great Ordeal (2016)
The Unholy Consult (2017)