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The Land of Tanistri, or the Jornigumo

The following is an account by an Imperial scribe of the place and its people, whose details and location, as you will discover, will be listed with much contempt and arrogance. The laws of the Empire compel your friend to relate this work among all priestly schools in our district with great energy. I can think of no better demonstration of verve than to append this fine work with corrective statements. I hope my energy serves to conduct all children of the Imperial schools away from faulty and arrogant opinions, no matter their lineage. While the details related here regarding this maligned folk may in fact have their merit, their truth nevertheless disserves an honest heart. Further, one must find on this occasion a wish to notice the gentle writer’s very pointed avoidance of the shit upon the Imperial foot. So says Ilfareno, Third Elder of Helontam, on this the 2nd Sun Day of the Year 1006 as the Wolf counts. Thus is the teaching:

In accord with learned tradition, I, Hurtharsal1, Scribe of the City2 and Modest Companion3 of Our Famous Father4, offer this account of the land and people so named Tanistri. The Annual Record of the Book for the edification of the Emperor’s people5 shall of these words be amended. I have fully walked the land of which I now write.


Outside the northeastern periphery of the Kingdom7, and upon the far bank of the oft-crossed River8, lies the land of the Tanistrikendo, or, so say the Tanistri themselves, the people of the Hatanish Fort9. In the world’s tongue10, it is named Derdandas11. Often, though, we call both the land and its people by the name Tanistri, as I will herein. Diligence commands I include this unfortunate country once more in our annual list even as I surely despair in the thought that not one new and pleasurable trait among the Tanistri has come to light, nor that an improvement wrought by native hands should have come into existence. Still, I will consider each aspect of the place as my office requires.

The seasonal cycle in Tanistri, though considered multifaceted, can be reduced to two portions: the rainy and the snowy. As our party traveled in late spring and early summer, we suffered no cases of frostbite but truly the worst cases of mildew. To my annoyance, my driver sneezed from one end of the country to the other.

This place of herd-animals and Tanistri lies at the feet of the westernmost branch of Cloudywall12. Aside from the Border River13, which belongs to our colleagues14, only two rivers worthy of mention drain the land; a land which seems merely a bleak slope inclined to a frigid sea. These rivers are, in the north, the Jorni, which indicates a local god of apparent note, and to the south, the Kliun15, a designation regarding the river’s stony bed.

A forest is scattered where Tanistri are not, generally of pine—great and small—though also of the rarest cedar, which I recommend to any venturous men. If such men take my advice and seek a fortune in the country, they should beware to hire armed men of some outside race before they cross the River, and let Tanistri bear ax or bill only in the company of these armed men.

Wild animals—bears, goats, badgers, beavers, as well as the famous boars and ghostly gray foxes—proliferate throughout all the country. From the very north, hard by the Bay of Winter’s Kiss, up to the treeline of the Cloudywall in the east, and down south to the churning depths of the Border River, itself teeming with the most delectable fish, all these kind can be found without much effort. The great red deer also flourish in Tanistri and these animals’ many-tined antlers beautifully adorn red deer heads and then, less so, Tanistri lintels.

None of these animals, the traveler will be surprised to discover, are kept house with by the Tanistri, since none are considered fine enough by the Tanistri for such purposes. Other animals, however, do not cause as much aversion among them as the Tanistri mix among them in their own houses.

The bear, meanwhile, serves as a sign of the Tanistri well enough, since it abounds, and as its skin-coat adorns countless numbers of the people—all named Jornifar or Jornidun, it seems.

Though most of the Tanistri live on small familial and communal farms, the swelling of these numbers have compelled many to settle at Jornigum, the first and only city16. Once a seasonal gathering place and the holiest of sites among the devotees of Jorni, Jornigum serves as a fine summation of Tanistri itself. Built entirely of wood, the town appears a fine place as one approaches, with its lofty palisade and sacred tower, but, like the whores of Draclebe Street17, suffers when considered directly. The men of Jornigum make a point of avoiding the use of paving stones and the town lacks even the merest idea of refuse disposal save the distance a dweller might throw it from his own door. For these two pointed reasons, one would be ill-advised to leave one’s carriage. If a man must debark his gentle seat, it is prudent he set planks down as he proceeds—as if he might, by his feet, lay a Cernandean marsh-road along the way. I sent away for a cart of planks myself as I arrived and after an interminable wait found it quite enough to serve my purpose. But the disgust sure to overtake the most patient traveler in any event may find relief at the presence of the king, Jorni’s very delegate, in the center of town. I said the traveler may find relief for, despite the king’s rather regal bearing and the abundance of attendants, there remained the impolite fact that his household avoids none of the worst habits and circumstances of the humblest Tanistri hovel. In fact, it can only be said the animals with which he sleeps outnumber those belonging to the impoverished souls, thus indicating a most strange and unexpected approach to perfection by the latter.

After a mildly amusing reception by the king, I left Jornigum. Upon the north road—a mere, vaguely marked track—one soon finds the true measure of the barbaric first state of the Tanistri, a still-rare offense after the discovery of the brutish second state. Traveling by day, and sleeping at night amidst the circle of the guard, we passed after a time into the old heart of the land. In that place are uncomplicated huts joined together in an odd fashion and encircling a communal space in which the most unpleasant rituals take place.

Upon your arrival, once it is discovered you are not one of the village’s many enemies, drink will be offered to you. If it is not among your manners to decline even the most disagreeable gift, prepare for a gut-turning incident.

Once this incident is endured, drunkenness comes on hard and fast. This will help, for, sitting among the folk, you will quickly notice their stink. But be gracious and forgetful and you will witness acts Hoirotharos himself, whose name is Great One, surely forbids you to commit. Countless blessings of our priests were necessary in order to avoid our corruption.

Regarding the unclean nature of the Tanistri, it should be said it is merely the natural state of all those that live as they do. I am only able to avoid the deterioration of my person in such places by the practice of taking my bath with me. Fortune and the Great One’s blessings have ensured I possess the requisite number of mules to transport and servants enough to set up and prepare my bath just at sunrise each day. By this method I was able, even in the wild, to bathe in the manner expected by civilized men.

But what of the rituals? Some men and boys—prisoners from the Tanistri’s ceaseless feuds—are often brought drunk to the center of the village and their blood is let into a cauldron. There it is mixed with the Tanistri’s native brew and soon after some priests partake of it. The sacrificed victims are hoisted to the sky on pales, as a begging offer to Jorni, and the entire village watches as the leading men dance around the skewered corpses—rendering oddly dolorous all but those who were wise enough to keep in their stomachs the aforementioned and misnamed drink.18

In the wilder districts and in those places where the Tanistri engage in organized fratricide—which is to be considered distinct from the more general kind you see everywhere in the country—they have built walled enclosures and round houses, often of stone, yet mostly of wood. Displaying a primitive cleverness, they devise nooks in the thick walls just inside their doors in which armed men may hide to chase off rivals and wild animals. These fortified houses, called ‘voruns’ by the Tanistri, have proved particular irritants not merely to the armed rabbles of the local king set to enforce his rule and his laws, such as they are, but as well to the armies of our colleagues, sent to bring light and clean manners. Needless to say, the method of burning-out19 has been implemented to solve this problem. These days, the Tanistri are forbidden by our colleagues to build such structures in any region south of the sources of the two rivers, that is, in the region of most concern to the Magistracy—a just enough law, surely.20

My journey into and through the land of the Tanistri reached its end at the northernmost outpost of our colleagues on the river Jorni, there a mere stream tumbling among boulders. Within a fence wrought of lengthy pines, a separation was made from the surrounding wild. There I happily found an agreeable approximation of civilized manners and circumstance, if only that of soldiers on the edge of an uncultivated country. The commander’s quarters served our recuperation well enough before the onset of the return journey through the wooden country, for which I was fully rested, yet only partially eager.

Of the journey back to the south and out of the dreary land, there occurred no events worthy of mention. After passing through Enodavyas on the banks of the Kliun, and traversing our colleagues' out-lands, I met at last the highway marked with the signs of the True God. I arrived at Bolnora, our colleagues' finest city, on the twenty-third day after midsummer21 when the heat is quite pronounced. Nevertheless, said arrival was a relief and certainly a true blessing of Hoirotharos, who is called Great One.22

Ilfareno’s annotations:
  1.      A name meaning ‘child of the Sun God,’ and likely the title of the head of an order of scribes.
  2.      Varšambekon, capital of the Empire of the same name and a city proud and jealous in all its dealings.
  3.      ‘Modest Companion’ denotes a second rank seer, as opposed to a first rank seer, a Great Companion.
  4.      The Emperor Anduso Protalo.
  5.      The Seerage, a society comprised of seers of two ranks as well as three ranks of priests.
  6.      Seers are “brothers” while priests are referred to as “fellows.” Documents, though they may be used by other are always addressed to one’s peers.
  7.      An imperial designation for the former kingdom of Artago, and at the time of this writing, a semi-autonomous province of the Empire of Varšambekon.
  8.      Meaning the Šúndla River; called oft-crossed because of the many rebellions that irritated both Artago and The Empire, compelling them to cross it.
  9.      The locals, the Tanistri, call themselves Jornigumo, people of Jorni, a god stone and thunder. The term ‘Hatanish Fort’ refers to previous Hatanish colonization of the area and is in fact a term avoided by the Tanistri—or, Jornigumo—despite Hurtharsal’s claim to the contrary.
  10.      Vyasgalean.
  11.     ‘Land (at the) Outmost’.
  12.      Cloudywall Mountains, a direct translation of Napsunšu Thamoá, a mountain range that is itself a branch of the Olnasa Thamoá, the Stony Mountains, and which half-encircles the country of the Kodar as well as Vodo Wood.
  13.      Yet another name for the Šúndla River.
  14.      The Artagoans, though they are certainly subordinate to the Imperial House, are flattered as “colleagues” in official documents.
  15.      Kliuntor is an epithet of the god Jorni meaning “stone-tosser.”
  16.      The matter is more complex than this, one might guess. In truth, though Jornigumo farms had indeed proliferated prior to and up to the arrival of the Imperials, this had not caused many problems. However, once the Imperials imposed their own manner of trade among the Jornigumo, and in fact, confiscated numerous lands for Imperials, the number of displaced Jornigumo grew and many of them made Jornigum their home.
  17.      A district of the capital Varšambekon notorious for its rather unhealthy prostitutes. Draclebe Street means “new bread” street and originally was a baker’s area.
  18.      The sweet souls that inhabit the Shining Realm grieve of these strange rituals yet hesitate not to sacrifice countless more Jornigumo, and many others besides, to the worship of their own glory.
  19.      “Burning-out” entails burning men, women and children to death. In addition to this crime, another is added. Generally, once a Jornigumo vorun is burned-out, its stones are removed, or its charred stumps uprooted, to a remote location where a shrine is erected by an Imperial or army priest celebrating with cynical mockery Hostu, the Jornigumo god of disease and misfortune.
  20.      The bones of countless sad Jornigumo likely fill the pantries of the Horrid One, this Valkon of infamy. Each of our kind must call out in remembrance of these folk and worry our masters if they should come into our land to send us on in such a way!
  21.      Given that Midsummer celebrations among the Imperials, while heartless, are indeed lengthy, it would mean our chronicler arrived at the Artagoan city in the last week of July.
  22.      It is the guess of this writer that the Jornigumo were as happy as Hurtharsal for his departure .

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