There are no Cirsovan settlements further north than Norigon.  Only Polaris lies deeper in the barrens.

Norigon serves only one purpose: it is a wonderful place for traders on the Long Road to turn back and go home.

Though many merchants choose to stay with their goods from Delivals to Norigon, few are willing to take the risk of completing the journey to Polaris.  Many merchants will sell their goods or trade for finished Polaran glasswork to local traders who are willing and properly equipped to brave the ice when the road is open.  Those willing to brave the perpetual cold and having the patience to wait for many months to sell goods may find great profit in Norigon.

Warehouses make up the majority of buildings in Norigon, housing the many goods bound for Polaris. Throughout the empire, warehouse space in Norigon is bought and traded as investment, with merchant rent being paid to the various shareholders.  Individuals who operate warehouses, whether they own them or not, are called ‘Lords’.  The Lords are responsible for all intermediary trading with merchants who do not wish to continue to Polaris. Additionally, a Lord may accompany the caravan to Polaris to negotiate on behalf of merchants.

Norigon’s isolation at the far reach of the empire has led to a distinctive culture that, while Cirsovan at its corer, is far more superstitious than any heartland community.  Part of this may be due to their exposure to Polaran culture, its own myths and mysteries.  Norigon is the only Cirsovan city in Gatlia where regular Shuul use may be found, though its said that its most renowned properties are felt far less strongly here than when consumed nearer its source.

Norigon has no agriculture, getting most of its food from Delivals, but hunting in the wastes is considered an admirable calling.  Norigonian hunters are known for their bravery and taciturn nature and are often hired by merchants (especially those who seek to bypass the ‘Lords’ and maximize their potential profits) to escort goods along the Highway of Ice. The careers of Norigonian hunters are notoriously short, with many dying in the barrens from exposure to the elements or being eaten by wolves and ice bears.

Because of the extreme cold, Norigonians wear heavy fur clothing at all times, typically made from elk, caribou or the fur of animals brought from the southern parts of the empire.  For instance, a very wealthy Norigonian may have leopard furs brought from Paelnor.  Hunters will often wear the furs of ice bears they have slain while protecting caravans.  In Norigon, ice bears are known for attacking shipments of food and stealing children who stray too far into the barrens.  Some Norigonians believe they are not bears at all, but descendants of northern wizards who turned themselves into bears to survive the cooling that destroyed the Northern Civilization.  The Norigonians often refer to them only as “the enemies of man.”

Because it has so few permanent residents, Norigon is not represented in the Gatlian council in Syflanis.


Gatlia lies in the northwest corner of the Cirsovan Empire, bounded by the Ice Sheet to the north and the Dusksea on the west.  Unlike Ungoza, where the lost northern civilization is manifest only in ruins and legends of the Marshfolk, Gatlia has within its borders a living antiquity in the city of Polaris, the last known city of an otherwise vanished kingdom.

Gatlia is home to the northernmost cities in the Cirsovan Empire; even her southernmost cities lie along higher latitudes than Cratera in Ungoza. Most of the population of Gatlia is found in southern Gatlia, which was settled some two and a half centuries ago, in the valley of the AmbellaRiver.  Southern Gatlia is shielded from the harsh northern climates by the Gatlian mountain range, warmed by gentle breezes blowing in from the Dusksea, and nourished by the Ambella.  The several small quarrying towns, farming villages, baronies and larger cities of southern Gatlia are connected by a portion of the Long Road often referred to as the Gatlian Highway.

Crystals from the crater region of Ungoza are just one of the many rare commodities traded along the highway. The Gatlian Highway also sees plenty of stone and livestock being moved to market. These goods make their way to the port of Syflanis and are shipped north to the port of Delivals.  From Delivals, goods are sent by land north to Norigon, where caravans are met by those hardy enough to brave the Highway of Ice to Polaris, the DreamingCity, the northernmost city in world not yet abandoned in the face of the slowly encroaching ice sheet.  Strange and beautiful wonders of art and artifice are created by those living in that far off city and are shipped south back along the highways and by sea, eventually making their way back to Pelliora, from which they disperse throughout the rest of the lands.

As with all lucrative trade routes in the world, the Gatlian highway is sometimes fraught with the perils of highwaymen and banditry.  Traditionally, quelling banditry had been the roll of either the Baron of Nortune or of Sotune, depending on which side of the AmbellaRiver the bandits were harassing.  Typically, the banditry runs in five year cycles, as well, perhaps because of the fluctuating trade volume from the east.

Gatlia is also subject to an unlikely experiment in governance. The province is nominally ruled by a Duke, who answers directly to the Emperor in Gatia, but most matters of state are determined by a council of representatives sent from cities within the province, acting on behalf of the lesser noble families, in the case of the Lordly Representatives, and acting on behalf of local merchants, farmers, workers, etc. in the form of Popular Representatives.  How these representatives are selected varies from town to town, either by appointment, election or hereditary. The council’s primary concern is the smooth traffic of goods through the province and allocating provincial resources to those ends.  The council meets regularly in the port city of Syflanis, which serves as the provincial seat.

Winter Break

I’m going to be away from Cirsova for a bit, because I’m going to be on Christmas Holiday, visiting relatives with my lovely girlfriend, so comments might not be approved until sometime later next week.

All Encyclopedia Entry, Art and Music posts are scheduled far in advance, so there won’t be any interruptions.

Have a wonderful Christmas, everyone!

The Ice Shall Take Us

Originally posted here as part of the Winter Is Coming Blog Carnival.

This song arrives to us in a fairly ramshackle form, such that its origins and meaning may be open to debate for some time, however the grim outlook contained in the poem, its link to the lost Northern Civilization in context of what we know of them through Polaris, brings sufficient concern to the academic community in regards to how we perceive the Northern Civilization, how Northern Civilization perceived itself and how the Polarans perceive their relationship with the heartland Cirsovan culture.

The song itself is only known to have been committed to writing in recent history, not long after the rediscovery of far Northern culture.  A linguist from Delivals, who travelled with one of the first parties to entreat Polaris to open her doors to trade, claims to have heard the song sung in the court of Gaciall.  It is important to note that the linguist claims to have never heard the song in its entirety, nor did the song sound the same upon subsequent hearing.  The order of the three stanzas he preserved is an interpolation; and a note accompanying the manuscript remarks that each of the three stanzas was never heard in accompaniment with the other two.  It is therefore thought that there are either three different songs, with similar structures, themes and lyrics that were sung in the court during their visit, or a single long-form song that may have been sung over the course of many nights.  In either case, these three stanzas are all that remain of what is probably a significantly longer piece.

Also problematic, the text is based on an early attempts at phonetic transcription of the then unknown language of the Polarans (who, it is said, were able to pick up Cirsovan in a matter of days “…as though the tongue had been their own, once, in a near forgotten dream.”).  Since the poem was written down, much has been learned about the language of the Polarans, and from that, corrections, interpolations and a translation has been able to be made.  This translation, which has been more or less accepted by the scholarly community, was done (unfortunately) with little to no direct input by any delegation of Polaran academes, who refuse to acknowledge the manuscripts as anything but fabrication and deny that it was ever sung by the minstrels in the noble houses of Polaris.  Despite this insistence, the corroborating reports and similar transcriptions (which have been used to eliminate many lacunae in the earliest version), indicate that this song, or a variant thereof, was still being sung for a few years after initial contact. At present, the song is not sung in Polaris or anywhere else.

1          Someday, the ice shall take us,(1)

And thus we wait and dream.(2)

Our brothers and sisters have gone before us (3)

Taken by the ice.

5          What sins we must atone for,

Grave they were indeed,

That we must forget them, lest we commit them again.

Ignorance is our curse, to take with us to our grave

The unspeakable atrocity to our name (4)

10        That none below us know. (5)

Someday, the ice shall take us,

And thus we wait for death.

The wizards of old had conspired against us (6)

Condemning us with ice.

15        Their sins are ours and ours theirs,

Grave they were indeed.

We still remember in our dreams, where we commit them again,(7)

That which we forget upon waking, yet strain our thoughts

To remember that which we must remember to forget(8)

20        That none below us know.

Someday, the ice shall take us,

And thus we wait to starve.

When traders will not brave the roads for us,

And all remains is ice. (9)

25        Our beds and dreams are all we have

And Graves they are indeed.

We shall sleep a final sleep, and in dreams shall come again

To that distant land we called dominion, kingdom, home,

That we may escape our past (10)

30       That none below us know.

1. This line appears as the first in all stanzas, in all transcriptions, in all accounts of the various songs.

2. Because we know so little about the Northern Civilization, we are unsure if the use of Shuul is exclusive to Polaris or if it were ubiquitous throughout their culture.  As the ice sheet grew, more and more of their cities must have been either abandoned or destroyed.  Thus, it cannot be said with any certainty that the song originated in Polaris or was an older traditional lament.

3. The words here used for “Brothers and Sisters” are actually proper names (Tyurani and Velina), either of gods or historical figures whose name have become synonymous with Men of the North (“Tyurani”), Women of the North (“Velinai”), and when used together, as here, “People of the North” (“Tyuravelinai”). No Polarans have ever confirmed or denied that they are or refer to themselves as “Tyuravelinai”

4. Lines 5-9 refer vaguely to a crime or betrayal, but many of the Polaran words used here have awkward translations; some Polaran linguists claim this is best described as “the Thing Which Should Not” (be done, be forgotten, be remembered, etc.; this is a commonly used phrase in Polaran).  Some anthropologists argue that this may be a reference to the story of Jorgora. However, since neither this song nor the tale of Jorgora have any known dating other than that they were composed before Cirsovan contact, the Jorgora connection cannot be confirmed.  A more popular theory supposes that it refers to something which occurred deeper in the heartland of the Northern Civilization.  Whatever it was, many theorize it is part of a deep-seated cultural guilt on which they blame (justly or unjustly) the Ice age which pushed their civilization to ruin.

5.  The word Polarans use for outsiders, “wyhossa”, means “those who live below (to the south) of us”, hence the choice of translation for this refrain. Whether “wyhossa” here means outsiders (non-Northerners) or more literally “People to the south of us” is uncertain, muddying speculation on whether the song was Polaran or had its origins further North.

6. Some versions, “dreamers” instead of “wizards”.

7. Lines 15-17, again, the collective guilt for a deed they feel has doomed them.

8. Lines 18-19 are a commonplace riddle or tongue-twister, still used now and then in Polaris by Shuul users.

9. Though lines 22-24 appear to refer to the Long Road, the circumstances could very well be universal among Northern Cities that were falling victim to the encroaching ice.  There would come a point that the surrounding areas would be too barren to provide enough food for the populace and the city would be forced to rely on imported food to sustain itself.  As the cold moved further south, the cities could be cut off from roads and slowly starve.  One case made for the farther north origin of the song is that scholars question why Polarans were already singing of the trade-route closing just as it was being opened.

10. Lines 25-29: Little is known about the beliefs of the ancient northerners, but it would seem from this, and other writings, many preferred to remain in their doomed cities than migrate to warmer climes. Oddly, neither the word “Shuul” nor reference to “the Kingdom of Shuul” is found in any transcriptions. Again, we do not know if these songs reflect the contemporary and modern views of the Polarans, as the songs have not be sung there for some time.  Still, it gives us a fascinating glimpse into the outlook of the first Polarans encountered by the Empire, and perhaps a snapshot of a culture that had resigned itself to disappearance.

Interview with Francesco Perdona of Arte Sacra Atelier

As I said before, I would be posting an interview with Francesco Perdona of Arte Sacra Atelier, whose new album “Ade” is out now on Retro Virus Records.

Without further ado, my interview with Arte Sacra!

First off, tell us a little about yourself. Who is Francesco Perdona’ and why does he make the music he does?
-Well, first I want to thank you, Alex, for this opportunity; we know the each other since the “old MySpace time”, when the social network really was a place where listen new sounds from the world and was easy to talk with other fellas. I am a poet, I am Italian, I am living now in Texas; I always have been a listener/collector of music than, reading a Robert Wyatt’s interview, I decided that I didn’t want be only a listener but I could “do” some music too. We were at the end of the ’70, so with some friends we created a Band, Aurora, and we play in Northern Italy. Than, I created some other bands but there are not releases of these periods, we were ante internet era… All this has been for the urge to communicate something, my words-for example: r’n’r has always been a powerful medium for that. ….

You make a very unique style of music, which I’ve seen you describe a number of different ways over the years. How would explain what you do to someone unfamiliar with noise-music?
-I call myself a noise-crooner, now: I am recording all by myself what I want, always creating, exploring noise and silence, that actually is my new frontier. Silence is the key to take away, not to add. Noise is the freedom on earth: I can stay hours working on white noise, I am fascinating from the possibilities to create by myself songs in a different way, I’d say. And I invite you all to go to a noise live set, because is really a form of art, is something that happen and is created only in that moment and no more reproducible. About myself, my search with noise is a question of sensitivity and not to be tied in the forms of indie rock, that is boring.

Once upon a time, your project was called Societas D’Arte Sacra; for the last few years, however, you have been releasing music under the name Arte Sacra Atelier. What is the difference and why the change of name?
-Societas, in ancient Latin language, is a group of people which work together, but now I am not collaborating with any one to my project. I see myself as a painter, locked in his atelier, creating paints with sounds and words.

Can you explain for us the new album’s title?
-Ade is the ancient classic world for Hell, in the Roman culture; it was a dark river that the souls of the deads had to cross of their living days. I see this opera as a journey in another dimension, to cross the River of Ade to an unknown land, unknown and dark. I have been educated in a classical way in Italy so I cannot forget my roots, I think some ancient words and feeling still talk to me/us. Just listen.

Alfa Romeo is an old song of yours that you are revisiting on this album. Tell us a little about it.
-I love a lot this song: Alfa Romeo is the brand of an amazing car made in Italy, Nera it means Black in English, so it’s a Black Powerful Car to bring us to hell. This is the meaning of the all track.

What sort of instruments and equipment did you use in recording this album?
-I use some keyboards, a Casio, and softwares. That’s it.

Tell us about some of the other things you are involved in musically?
Well, I have two side projects: one is called the The Schopenhauers, after the German Philospher Arthur Schopenhauer, very important because without his work, we maybe couldn’t read Nietszche or Freud and many others. With this project I am exploring contaminations among classical music and noise and the tracks are only instrumental. I have just released the third album, La Viola Da Gamba

Second project is called Mala Culebra, with a powerful Argentina gentleman, Mr. Ariel Chapui from the Playing with Nuns, with we have a nice and relaxed cooperation, the only collaboration I have, actually.

What are some of the differences between the noise music scene in Italy and here in the US that you have noticed?
-In Italy first there are not many places where listen and perform noise/experimental music. Radios and halls prefer or indie rock or pop music, many guys just to pick up some money are involded in so-called tribute bands, doing carbon copies of some other bands (U2, Led Zeppelin, etc…the two that are coming in my mind now…). Only in big cities there are spots available, many musicians go to Germany or England or experiment in their houses, thank God. It is very sad. Here in Usa is different: not only it’s easy to find spots where perform but also find people coming just to listen you: this is very important, so you stop to watch yourself at the mirror and check the feedback from the audience. I am actually very interested to a live dimension, maybe because my age- I’d feel like Mick Jagger…..I have a sense of shame, hahaha….but never say never again.

What is in the future for you and Arte Sacra?
-The future never knows, as John Lennon said….I only can hope to go ahead with my experiment and have enough money to pay bills with that. HAHAHA.

The new Arte Sacra album “Ade” may be bought and shipped anywhere in the world for $5.70 + Shipping and Handling.

Arte Sacra Atelier – Ade, New Album Out

In my other life as a record label executive, I have put out a handful of albums, covering goth, punk, metal, and industrial.  The latest album to be released on Retro Virus Records is “Ade”, by an artist of whom I am a huge fan, Arte Sacra Atelier.  You can buy it here!  It’s only $5.70+ shipping.

If you’re looking for something audio-wise to spice up your dungeon crawling, I highly recommend it!

1. Alfa Romeo
2. Baby
3. Fenice
4. Inverno
5. Mexican Tones
6. Mozart
7. Rain
8. Swans
9. Tu Sei Chi Chiamo Madonna

Later, I’ll be posting an interview with Francesco Perdona, the genius behind Arte Sacra Atelier.