Thursday 2 June 2016

A History of Eärwa Part 1: The Fall of the Ark & the Cûno-Inchoroi Wars

Ahead of the release of Scott Bakker's The Great Ordeal in July, this is the first in a series of posts looking at the story so far.

Eärwa, the Land of the Felled Sun, in the days before the Fall. Nine High Mansions were built by the Cûnuroi (or Nonmen). Only the locations of Ishoriöl, Viri and Cil-Aujas are known with certainty. The locations of Siöl, Nihrimsul and Illiseru are more speculative. Both the names and locations of the other three mansions remain debatable.

Before the dawn of human history the lands of Eärwa were the domain of a beautiful, ancient and long-lived race. They called themselves the ji'cûnû roi (or, more familiarly, Cûnuroi), the People of the Dawn. Men, not known for their flights of the imagination, would later call them Oserukki, "Not Us", or in everyday parlance, the Nonmen.

The Cûnuroi in those days were not immortal, but their lifespans were measured in centuries. They raised great citadels - mansions - within the mountains of Eärwa and forged mighty artifacts and items of glorious beauty. They were the first to master the art of sorcery through their Qûya mages. Their warrior caste, the Ishroi, became renowned for their absolute mastery of combat. The Cûnuroi did not give up their long lives lightly in battle, but from time to time strife was incurred and the mansions would go to war. But for the most part they lived in peace.

A powerful Qûya, one of the sorcerers of the Cûnuroi.

At first they paid little heed to the savage race of fur-clad primitives who spread across Eärwa, dwelling in the forests and between the mountain peaks. They called this race j'ala roi (more familiarly, Halaroi), the People of Summer, for their lives were fleeting but flamed hot and passionate. But as the Halaroi spread in number, breeding at a far faster rate than the slow-burning Cûnuroi, they saw the wisdom in subduing them. The Nonmen Mansions broke the spirit of these men, reducing them to become the Emwama, a tribute race who existed as slaves of the Cûnuroi. They delved the deep mines for their long-lived masters and tilled the fields for them. The sole exception was in the uttermost north, where the Cûnuroi of Viri instead employed men and treated them with more respect, to the derision of their peers.

The total number of Nonmen Mansions is unknown, although it is known that the mightiest, the High Mansions, numbered nine. The names of six have survived through recorded history. Greatest, most powerful and most populous was Siöl, lying under the titanic peaks of the Northern Kayarsus. The proudest and most fiercely independent was Nihrimsul, located under the south-eastern Yimaleti Mountains. Cil-Aujas lay in the east, under the peak of Aenaratiol at the south tip of the Osthwai Mountains. Ishoriöl, the Exalted Hall, lay in the far west, beyond the Demua Mountains near the shores of the Great Ocean. Viri, in the north, lay under the peak of Antareg in the Urokkas, a small range of mountains overlooking the Neleöst, the Misty Sea. Illiseru lay far to the south, under the Betmulla Mountains. Other High Mansions lay under the Araxes and Hinayati Mountains, and the last in the hills near what is now the city of Domyot, but the names of these last three mansions remains unknown to us.

Viri controlled a great swathe of territory. Its dominion extended across either side of the River Sursa, reaching north and westwards through thickly-forested lands to the frigid Yimaleti Mountains and eastwards around the curving shoreline of the Misty Sea. Many Halaroi dwelt in these lands, but the Cûnuroi of Viri treated with them and bartered for their service, to the amusement of their southern kin. The Nonmen of Viri nevertheless lived peacefully and prosperously. Until the waxing of Imburil.

Imburil was the name given by the Cûnuroi to the pole star, the brightest star in the sky. Men would later call it the Nail of Heaven, the star around which all others turned. One night the star suddenly blazed with a strange, sudden intensity. This waxing lasted a time and then abated. The Cûnuroi could not explain it, but then dismissed it as a curiosity and moved on with their lives.

Three years after this curious event, death came swirling down.

Some scholars date the arrival of the Golden Ark to more than five thousand years before the time of Kellhus, over a thousand years before the legendary Breaking of the Gates. The dating of this event remains fiercely debated, however.

A colossal crack sounded around the world, briefly shaking even the foundations of Cil-Aujas some two thousand miles to the south-east. The skies turned red as far away as Siöl, and it was clear that something momentous had happened in the far north-western corner of Eärwa, in the southern reaches of the Yimaleti Mountains.

The Nonmen of Viri had a far closer view.

There, the shaking came as terrific, terrible waves of destruction. Some of the lower halls of the mansion collapsed. Passages caved in and the great mines were laid waste. Tens of thousands of Cûnuroi was killed. Some, in desperation, attempted to flee the mansion altogether. Those who did beheld - briefly - a firestorm sweeping out of the west, destroying all before it. The great forests of western Viri were vapourised, the farmlands obliterated and the outer walls of the mansion scorched.

The devastation was total and the intensity of its fury was terrifying: Viri was four hundred miles from where the cataclysm had taken place. Almost equidistant was Ishoriöl, which lay to the south-west of the Yimaleti Mountains beyond the Leash, the long straits linking the Great Ocean to the Misty Sea. Ishoriöl was luckier, however. The south-western Yimaleti Mountains and the hills around Ishoriöl helped deflect the worst of the damage away. Furthermore, the fertile hinterlands of Ishoriöl - Injor-Niyas - were located further to the south and were not affected by the cataclysm. Although damaged, Ishoriöl was able to recover without outside help.

Cû'jara-Cinmoi, High King of Siöl, accounted the greatest Cûnuroi ruler of the age. However, his wisdom and might were later threatened by his hubris, and his great victory on the fields of Pir-Pahal was later undone by his ill-advised alliance with the Inchoroi and the unleashing of the Womb-Plague.

The same was not true of Viri. Its rich tributary lands had been utterly destroyed, its population reduced catastrophically. Its few surviving Halaroi client-tribes were reduced to begging at the gates of Viri for aid. Foreseeing disaster, King Nin'janjin sent word to Siöl and begged for aid from King Cû'jara-Cinmoi, the greatest Cûnuroi ruler of the age.

The Sky has cracked into potter’s shards,
Fire sweeps the compass of Heaven,
The beasts flee, their hearts maddened,
The trees fall, their backs broken.
Ash has shrouded all sun, choked all seed,
The Halaroi howl piteously at the Gates,
Dread Famine stalks my Mansion.
Brother Siöl, Viri begs your pardon.           

Cû'jara-Cinmoi read the message and realised he had no choice but to act: his armies swept across the borders of Viri and invaded the territory of Nin'janjin. Incredulous but unable to resist, Nin'janjin chose subjugation. He allowed the forces of Siöl to occupy his kingdom without giving battle. It was humiliating, but it also saved his mansion. The forces of Siöl sent aid and succour to Viri and prevented its extinction.

His bloodless victory assured, Cû'jara-Cinmoi turned his eye west to where the cataclysm had taken place. The land was still scarred and blackened, but the immediate firestorm had burned out and the way was passable, for someone with the will. Cû'jara-Cinmoi chose Ingalira, a great hero of Siöl, and sent him into the heart of the storm to learn what had transpired.

The Golden Horns of Golgotterath. The Horns are all that can be seen of the Incû-Holoinas, the Ark-of-the-Skies whose cataclysmic arrival foreshadowed the ruin of Cûnuroi civilisation.

Ingalira returned to Viri three months later with his report, which was hard to fathom. According to him, a great golden vessel had been responsible for the devastation. It had fallen from the sky with great speed and crashed into the mountains with tremendous force. A vast circular depression (estimated at well over a hundred miles wide) had been created by the impact, with a new range of peaks, the Occlusion or Ring Mountains, thrown up around its edges. Most of the vessel was buried underground, with only two titanic golden horns reaching skywards from the site of impact. This vessel was dubbed the Incû-Holoinas, the Ark-of-the-Skies. Ingalira attempted an exploration of the vessel, but its inhabitants were unpleasant to look upon and made noises devoid of meaning. For this reason, and the fact that they came from the empty skies, they were dubbed the Inchoroi, or People of Emptiness by Ingalira. Ingalira brought two of these creatures back with him, but Cû'jara-Cinmoi was so revolted by their aspect that he had them slain on the spot.

History may have been better served had the Cûnuroi marched on and destroyed the Ark immediately, but Cû'jara-Cinmoi had already seen a greater opportunity afforded by the Arkfall. His forces bolstered by the survivors of Viri, he chose instead to make war. His armies marched on Cil-Aujas and Nihrimsul and subdued both in battle. Cû'jara-Cinmoi became the High King of Four Mansions, his reach extending from the Sea of Neleöst to the Sea of Meneanor. The might of Siöl was uncontested.

The skies above the Incû-Holoinas cleared and the lands cooled. Western Viri had been reduced to a wasteland, Agongorea, the Field Appalling, which stretched from the edges of the Ring Mountains to the River Sursa, under the very walls of Viri. Nothing would grow there and nothing could live there. Viri's power and might had been exhausted, even before its conquest by Siöl. Nin'janjin brooded on Cû'jara-Cinmoi's betrayal and the reduction of his mansion, and dreamed of vengeance.

A Watch had been placed on the Incû-Holoinas. The Ark was ringed by sentries and forts, but somehow a delegation of Inchoroi slipped through their lines. They came to Nin'janjin in secrecy and spoke to him, but this time in the Ihrimsû tongue of the Cûnuroi. They claimed that the descent of their vessel was uncontrolled and the devastation suffered by Viri unplanned. They regretted the cataclysm and offered to make amends. The Inchoroi would make alliance with Viri and stand with them against Siöl. They would give Nin'janjin the power to avenge Cû'jara-Cinmoi's treachery. Against the advice of many of his Ishroi and Qûya advisors, Nin'janjin agreed.

Viri revolted. The Siölan forces present were slaughtered or enslaved. The Inchoroi swarmed from the Ark under the command of their king, Sil, and overthrew the Watch. Only the two great twin heroes of Siöl, Oirinas and Oirûnas, survived to relate news of the peril to Cû'jara-Cinmoi. The High King gathered his armies and marched west to meet the threat on the field of Pir-Pahal, south-east of the Sea of Neleöst. Nin'janjin assembled the might of Viri there to await them. However, when the Inchoroi host arrived the Ishroi of Viri became disturbed, for the Inchoroi wore festering bodies as garments of war. Their obscene appearance offended the Cûnuroi of Viri as it had Cû'jara-Cinmoi. Gin'gûrima confronted Nin'janjin and realised that the king's desire for vengeance and redress had overthrown his reason. "Hate has blinded him!" he cried, and soon most of the host of Viri had taken up the cry. They refused to fight alongside the Inchoroi. The Inchoroi, fearing that the Nonmen planned to join Cû'jara-Cinmoi and turn on them, attacked first, hoping to destroy them ere the arrival of the might of Siöl.

The battle was hard-fought, the Cûnuroi valour and skill at arms and sorcery proving a match for the Inchoroi's lethal weapons of light, which scythed through their ranks with abandon. The Inchoroi would have likely won regardless, but the Nonmen of Viri only had to hold back the threat until the armies of Siöl arrived. Finding his once-vassals beleaguered, Cû'jara-Cinmoi threw himself into the fray.

Cû'jara-Cinmoi, High King of Four Mansions, faces Sil, King of the Inchoroi, at the Battle of Pir-Pahal. At this battle Sil wielded Sûrgoil the Shining Death, which history remembers better as the Heron Spear, the most famous weapon in the history of Eärwa.

The battle lasted a day and a night. The armies of Siöl were tested by the Inchoroi weapons but triumphed. Cû'jara-Cinmoi himself faced and defeated Sil, slaying him where he stood and seizing his weapon, Sûrgoil, "Shining Death", which in a later age men would call the Heron Spear. The Inchoroi broke and ran, fleeing back to the Incû-Holoinas. The Cûnuroi followed, planning to destroy them once and for all, but word came of disasters in distant corners of the Siölan empire: Cil-Aujas and Nihrimsul had revolted and broken free of the yoke of Siöl. Believing the Inchoroi broken and finished, Cû'jara-Cinmoi ordered Oirinas and Oirûnas to return to the Ark and set a renewed Watch on it. Cû'jara-Cinmoi then took the bulk of his forces back south to retake the rebellious mansions. He won back Cil-Aujas in a hard campaign, but Nihrimsul and its king, Sin'niroiha, refused to concede. Dozens of bloody battles resulted to no end, but proud Cû'jara-Cinmoi refused to treat until Sin'niroiha became King of Ishoriöl through marriage. Hearing the news, Cû'jara-Cinmoi relented and sent a message to the King of Nihrimsul: "A King of Three Mansions may be Brother to a King of Two."

During this time Cû'jara-Cinmoi had been forced to denude the Second Watch of Ishroi warriors. To replace them, Oirinas and Oirûnas recruited from the primitive tribes of men. Among them was Sirwatta, a man who had seduced the wife of a high-ranking Ishroi and gotten her with child, a daughter named Cimoira. Cimoira was raised as a Cûnuroi but Sirwatta was banished to the Watch. During his exile, he chose to enter the Ark. He disappeared for a month and was assumed dead, but then emerged, deranged and speaking stories so worrying that he was borne directly to Cû'jara-Cinmoi. What news was related was unknown and Sirwatta was ordered to be put to death. For reasons unknown, this order was rescinded and Sirwatta merely had his tongue removed.

More years passed and Cû'jara-Cinmoi grew old and infirm. His eyesight dimmed and the end seemed to approach. At this time Nin'janjin returned, begging Mercy and Penance as per the ancient codes. Cû'jara-Cinmoi granted him audience, but was amazed to see that Nin'janjin had not aged a day since he last saw him on the Field of Pir-Pahal. Nin'janjin confirmed that the science of the Inchoroi preserved him. He told Cû'jara-Cinmoi that the Inchoroi lived in stark terror of the might of Siöl, so remained in the Ark in misery. They begged to sue for peace. Nin'janjin asked what tribute they could pay to temper the High King's fury.

The High King said, fatefully, "I would be young of heart, face and limb. I would banish Death from the halls of my people". His counsellors urged him otherwise, but Cû'jara-Cinmoi had seen Nin'janjin's vigour and it awoke in him a greed for the return of his own youth and strength. The Second Watch was disbanded and the Inchoroi allowed to minister to the Nonmen of Siöl as their physicians.

The Inchoroi gave the treatments and ministrations to the Cûnuroi that would both bless them with immortality and doom them. Soon their effectiveness became clear, as the Cûnuroi of Siöl grew in strength and skill, their youth restored to them. The other Mansions abhorred the Inchoroi, but the fear of death gripped them all. One by one, they gave in and allowed the Inchoroi to practise their arts on them as well.

All seemed well and the power of the Cûnuroi grew again, until Hanalinqû, the legendary wife of Cû'jara-Cinmoi, died of an affliction. The Inchoroi strove to save her, to no avail and Cû'jara-Cinmoi praised their diligence. But soon other Cûnuroi women started to die, first a few and then scores. The Inchoroi fled en masse, abandoning the mansions to return to the Ark. Cû'jara-Cinmoi realised with utter horror that he and his entire race had been deceived, and poisoned. The Womb-Plague, as it was called, consumed the entire race and killed every single woman it touched. Within a few scant years fully half of the Cûnuroi race had been obliterated, and the ability of it to reproduce ended.

Cû'jara-Cinmoi called for a muster of arms like nothing before seen in Eärwa. Not just the mansions under his control, but every stronghold of the Nonmen between the Yimaleti Mountains and the shores of the Three Seas in the uttermost south responded. The might of the Nine High Mansions assembled. Cû'jara-Cinmoi led this army through the Occlusion and onto the Inniür-Shigogli, the Black Furnace Plain that lay about the Golden Horns of the Incû-Holoinas. There he laid down the body of his slain wife and demanded that the Inchoroi answer for their crimes.

A Nonman Qûya battles a Bashrag, a foul creation of the Inchoroi.

But the Inchoroi had prepared for this day. For many long years they had practised foul skills, melding technology and flesh to create hordes of horrific servants: Sranc, a piteous abomination of man, given to hungers of the flesh; powerful Bashrags, tall, fierce and hideous warriors of tremendous size and strength; and Wracu, winged beasts whom men would later call dragons.

The Cûnuroi may have yet carried the day, for their numbers were immense, their shields tall and their sorcery strong. But the Inchoroi had seduced the Qûya practitioners of the Aporos, the form of sorcery focused on negation. These sorcerers had created for the Inchoroi devices they called Chorae, trinkets, later called by men "Tears of God". Each Chorae was a small iron sphere, banded in runes inscribed in the Qûya language and one inch in diameter. Anyone wearing a Chorae was rendered immune to sorcery. If a Chorae came into contact with a sorcerer, it killed them instantly, transforming their bodies into pillars of salt. The Chorae turned the tide of battle, slaughtering the Qûya by the dozens and reducing the struggle to one of swords, teeth and talons.

The heroes of Eärwa struck back. Ciögli the Mountain, strongest of the Ishroi, broke the neck of Wutteät the Black, the Father of Dragons. Oirinas and Oirûnas fought side-by-side, slaughtering Sranc and Bashrags by the score. Ingalira strangled Vshikcrû, one of the mightiest of the Inchoroi, and cast his burning body down into the screaming hordes. The Cûnuroi would not relent and would not yield.

The battle only turned when Nin'janjin, his hatred not dimmed by the passage of generations, found and battled Cû'jara-Cinmoi. He slew the High King of Siöl and severed his head from his body. The mighty Gin'gûrima fell, gored to death by a Wracu. Oirinas was slain by an Inchoroi spear of light. Sin'niroiha, the High King of Nihrimsul and Ishoriöl, rallied the surviving Nonmen and they began a fighting retreat, withdrawing to the Ring Mountains.

The Chorae, or Tears of God, are fatal to sorcerers, destroying them utterly and reducing them to piles of salt upon contact. They are the creation of the Aporotic school of sorcery, all knowledge of which has been lost to the modern age. Tens of thousands of Chorae still exist, allowing the non-magical rulers of Eärwa to check the power of the sorcerous schools.

The Inchoroi, despite their hordes of slave-warriors and their Chorae, were reluctant to pursue. They had suffered grievous losses. The Black Furnace Plain was covered in the bodies of Sranc, Bashrags, Wracu and Inchoroi themselves. The Inchoroi chose not to pursue their foe but to regroup.

This proved to be a mistake, although at first it did not seem so. The Cûnuroi retreated to their mansions to raise fresh troops, but they could not replenish their losses. The Inchoroi bred countless more Sranc and Bashrags to throw at their foe, and the Isûphiryas, the record of Cûnuroi history, recorded nothing but defeat after defeat for decades. But the Inchoroi were also a dying race: they could bree more Sranc but they could not replenish their own ranks, and every Inchoroi that fell was a major victory for the Cûnuroi. And the Cûnuroi were, even in their reduced state, far more numerous.

The Inchoroi were also overly reliant on their weapons of light and their technology, but these were reliant on the Ark and the Ark itself seemed to be failing (some reports say that the Ark was even alive in some unfathomable sense, but that it had "died", either in the Arkfall or afterwards). One-by-one, the Inchoroi weapons ceased working. Their other weapons likewise failed, and their ability to create countless Wracu, Sranc and Bashrags became reduced. They were forced to let the creatures breed instead, and this was a slower process.

Finally, nigh on five centuries after the defeat at the Black Furnace Plain, the Inchoroi were driven back into the Ark. No longer did the Cûnuroi call it the Incû-Holoinas, the Ark-of-the-Skies. Now they called it Min-Uroikas, the Pit of Obscenities, Golgotterath in the tongues of men. The Cûnuroi set about a methodical eradication of the Ark, scouring it hall by hall. It took twenty years to explore and secure every last hold and every last corner of the vessel but finally it was done. The Inchoroi were pronounced eradicated, destroyed and defeated. Unable to actually destroy the vessel itself, Nil'giccas, King of Ishoriöl, ordered the Qûya to raise a glamour about it to hide it away from the rest of the world. The Cûnuroi were forbidden from speaking of the accursed place, or telling others where it lay.

The Cûnuroi had achieved their victory, but at catastrophic cost. Millions of their race had been slaughtered. Every last Cûnuroi woman had been killed. There was no way to restore their race, or save it. They were ageless, but not invulnerable. They could die in battle or they could be gripped by madness. The very passage of time exacted a toll on their souls, their memories fading until only the most horrific and scarring remained, and soon they began to descend into madness, becoming Erratic.

The Age of the Cûnuroi dwindled even as, in the lands of Eänna beyond the great eastern mountains, the Age of Man began.


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 Prince of Nothing Wiki was helpful in providing spelling checks and putting the timeline of events in better order.

Scott Bakker provided a few new bits of information for this history (the locations of the High Mansions and a few more names), and of course wrote the Encyclopedic Glossary, which provided the first account of the no-Inchoroi Wars.

Obviously, Scott Bakker also 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 Aspect-Emperor
The Judging Eye (2008)
The White-Luck Warrior (2011)
The Great Ordeal (2016)
The Unholy Consult (2017)


profgrape said...

Awesome! I've been wondering about the location of Siol for basically ever.

wps said...

Fantastic! Thanks for doing this.

Madness said...

That's really cool, Wert :).

Yonis Yusuf said...

As a long time fan of r Scott Bakker I was surprised to find bits of history, that I did not recall reading. Thanks for writing this and looking forward to more.

Unknown said...

Thanks a lot! Sadly, princeofnothing wiki is stub on many accounts. Hopefully you will do recaps as well.

>A powerful Qûya, one of the sorcerers of the Cûnuroi.
More precisily it would be 'One of Qûya, the sorcerers of the Cûnuroi', since Qûya = nonman sorcer (member of sorcery cast)

Unknown said...

Thank you, Adam. This will make getting back into Bakker's world a lot easier for me.

Anonymous said...

Well done. Nice work.

Unknown said...

brilliant work again dude.

Adam W said...

A terrific write up (as always)

Zigûr The Mighty said...

This was great. I loved the bit about the Nail of Heaven!!

Unknown said...

This is awesome

Anonymous said...

"It took twenty years to explore and secure every last hold and every last corner of the vessel but finally it was done. The Inchoroi were pronounced eradicated, destroyed and defeated."
So clearly their investigation wasn't thorough enough lol. I assume the Inchoroi's return is going to be explained in Part 2? Amazing summary btw very helpful

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Wert. This is great background that I have been trying to find on other sites this past 12 months after reading all of the series again to get ready for The Great Ordeal. I am waiting impatiently like a child at Christmas for July 5th.

Hrishi Diwan said...

Thanks a ton Adam -fantastic work as per usual! I'd forgotten this was coming out, and being in the middle of reading "Fall of Light" by Erikson, there's no time to do a re-read. Look forward to reading all your posts and then jumping right into The Great Ordeal! :)

Unknown said...

I haven't read any of bakker's work but I was getting ready to start the darkness that comes before but wanted some foundation of the world before I started, will these articles spoil my reading?

Adam Whitehead said...

The first four parts should be fine, although they do incorporate some worldbuilding revelations from later books in the series.