Umla & Tamra

Umla & Tamra
(As told by a Storyman in Illi)

Umla once lay in darkness.
Umla was alone.
Umla slept in his loneliness and darkness.
And there was no life.

Tamra soared above Umla.
Darkness was dispelled.
Umla awoke and looked above him.
Above Umla was Tamra.

The Light of Tamra shone upon Umla.
Umla reached up to Tamra.
With Umla reached the reeds.
With Umla reached the waters.
With Umla reached the earths and soils.
Tamra smiled down on Umla,
At dawn and dusk, Tamra blushed at Umla’s yearning,
But Umla could not touch Tamra.
In her sorrow, Tamra wept,
And the waters fell upon Umla.

The Light of Tamra shone upon Umla.
Umla reached up to Tamra.
With Umla reached the trees.
With Umla reached the fishes.
With Umla reached the waters.
Tamra smiled down on Umla,
And Tamra wove a cloth of bright stones for Umla to wear,
And Umla wore Tamra’s gems in his waters.

Umla reached forth to Tamra,
And with him reached all things that crawl,
And all things that walk,
And all things that swim,
And these things leapt and danced with Umla,
Bathed in her smiles,
Bathed in her blushes,
Bathed in her jewels,
Bathed in her tears,
But Umla could not touch Tamra.

Tamra sighed and whispered her love for Umla,
And her sighs and whispers carried forth,
And moved the reeds,
And moved the waters,
And moved the trees,
And moved Umla,
And Umla reached forth to Tamra,
And with Umla reached the creatures that fly,
And they danced upon Tamra’s sighs,
And they soared upon her whispered love,

Umla felt Tamra in all things,
And Umla sent forth all things to be embraced by Tamra,
And as we come from Umla, we look to Tamra for light.
We are bathed in her tears when she weeps for Umla.
We are caressed by her sighs and whispered love.

Elefloe

About two days northeast of Old Cratera, the ancient stones of Elefloe may be found gleaming dully green against the white of snow and ice.  Many things are said of Elefloe: its grounds are haunted, the tower is cursed, it is a city of ghosts, never built for the living, and in the deepest winter months, evil spirits who roam the ice sheet hold court here.  These untruths are popular stories in southern towns where no true scholars and historians reside.

Like Jorgora, the ruin known as Elefloe was discovered by cartographers surveying Ungoza and charting the bounds of the Ice Sheets.  While a few remote dolmens have been happened upon in even more forsaken places, some far deeper in the ice than Elefloe, none of these have been mapped or studied (many could not be easily found again) due to their isolation. Elefloe’s size and proximity to the Old Cratera site, however, made Elefloe easier to find than other sites.

Owing to its architectural similarity to certain structures seen in Polaris, Elefloe is thought to be a late-Tyuravelinai site, perhaps only abandoned 400 to 500 years ago.

Elefloe consists of a single tower and three concentric rings of walls or other ruined structure, ultimately 180 feet in diameter.  All of the remaining structure is made of hewn milky green stone.  Petrologists have compared samples from Elefloe to the crater glass and other stones found in Ungoza, finding it composed of a mineral wholly unknown to the region.

The outermost ring of Elefloe was comprised of at least four well polished Orthostats.  Very little of this outer ring remains, the northern orthostat having fallen on its side, the eastern, partially shorn off near its base with its remainder missing, and the western gone

altogether.  Only the southern stone still stands in its place.  These stones formed a perfect cross with the tower at its exact center.

An intermediate ring is only supposed to exist based on the ruin’s precise use of measurements and strata found between the Orthostats and the inner ring.

The inner ring, which lies 25 feet from the tower and 50 feet in from the outer ring, is a thoroughly ruined wall, of which only four segments remain.  At one point, the inner ring had a large archway at its southern end and seven smaller archways or windows evenly distributed around its circumference. The base of the large arch, and three other segments bearing the smaller arches remain intact, along with a few large wallstones scattered.

The tower of Elefloe is circular, reflecting somewhat the inner ring, and 30 feet in diameter. The tower is somewhat more intact that the surrounding ruins, seemingly hewn from a single giant rock, though the upper portions of the wall are worn down, crumbling and in some places missing, so it is impossible to determine its original height.  At present, the highest portion of the tower wall stands about 40 feet from the ground, 30 from someone standing in the tower’s center. Only 5 feet (from the interior) of the wall remains in some places, particularly on the eastern portion.

Around its wall are eight inornate engaged columns or pilasters with an even 10 feet between each one.  The tower’s southern face is approached by stone slab steps between two of these.  Between the pilasters, on the northern, eastern and western faces are small windows, though the eastern window is missing much of its upper portion.  From each of these portals, one would be able to see the standing stones at the cardinal points of the ruin.

The pilasters of the tower form either a cross or eight pointed star, at the center of which is a round capstone.  At one point, the capstone featured many engravings, however most of these are weathered to oblivion.  Only the word “Elefloe” is distinguishable on the stone’s side.  It is from this that the ruin gets its present name.  No archaeological expeditions that have studied Elefloe have come equipped to remove the capstone, so it is not known what, if anything, it covers.

Beneath the three windows of the tower are shallow cists, one of which (the western cist) had been covered with smaller rectangular stone.  Within were found 3 sealed clay jars, each containing several scrolls in various states of preserve, all written in the language of the ancient Northern folk.  A few of these scrolls, which are now kept in the royal library of Gatia, have since been translated, giving some small insight into the Northern Civilization.

Most appear to be poems and song committed to paper, including the most complete manuscript of the Romance of Tyuran and Velina.  Most of what we know about the Northern Folk comes from these scrolls, combined with old myths told by the Ungozan Storymen and the dream poets of Polaris. In the years following the discovery of the Elefloe scroll cache, little new information could be gleaned from studies of the ruin itself.  The difficulty in reaching the ruin, extreme colds that any crews would need to come prepared for, and a lack of new finds brought about a near cessation of explorers and researchers.  Every now and then, a particularly daring treasure hunter may make their way to Elefloe, only to leave disappointed by a lack of easily carted off artifacts.  Thus, Elefloe has suffered only a little to vandals and robbers.  Now, the academic community has redirected its efforts to comparative study of the writings found at Elefloe and what we know of the people of Polaris.

Of note, Jorgora, which is thought by some to be a ruin, has not been found mentioned in any of the writings thus far translated.  No excavation has found any artifacts of actual inhabitation (bone, pottery, refuse, etc.).

A full scale reconstruction of a ‘restored’ Elefloe has been built as a folly in the imperial gardens in Gatia.

Galbarrow

Galbarrow is a mid-sized port town several days southeast of Agalla, the largest town in Ungoza after Cratera, and perhaps the oldest permanent settlement in the region.

According to town legend, Galbarrow is so named because Arqua dan Gal, a famed old seadog from Solaris, was buried here.  Arqua dan Gal had acquired quite the reputation as both a gentleman smuggler and foe of pirates when Ortia was incorporated into Cirsova’s dominion three hundred years ago.  Wanting no longer to be Ortians or Cirsovans, Arqua dan Gal, who was a wealthy ship captain, his wife, crew and their families set sail north from great port of Solaris across the Dawnsea.  Dan Gal offered free passage to anyone who wished to join him in his journey.  A few other “noble smugglers” heard of dan Gal’s plan, joining the exodus. Along the way, Arqua dan Gal fell ill and died.  His final request was that his ship and wealth be used to build a haven for nationless sailors.  Today, a statue of Arqua dan Gal, facing south toward the sea, and his wife, looking inland, stands in a square just beyond the harbor.

For many decades, Galbarrow had a reputation as a haven for pirates on the Dawnsea (ironic, considering dan Gal’s own feats against piracy).  It had been nearly forgotten about, save for the rumors heard in the alehouses, inns and docks of Korsha and Diirdec.  Even the relatively peaceful conquest of Ungoza failed to betray the location of Galbarrow to the Empire.  As the Marshfolk had amicably traded with port for many years, though, its discovery was only a matter of time.  The Cirsovan army, upon learning that the legendary pirate stronghold had been found, bore down upon Galbarrow.  What they found was a quiet fishing village with maybe a dozen ships. Following Galbarrow’s rediscovery, a road was built from Agalla and sailors from Korsha and Diirdec began an influx of trade and persons to the town. Much of this growth was fueled by the stories of Arqua dan Gal and his idea for a free port, which appealed particularly to captains who wished to reap rewards of trade between Korsha and Solaris in a less-than-legitimate manner.  Would-be pirates who had been driven to near extinction in other cities along the coast of the Dawnsea suddenly found a new home in this frontier port.

Though nominally under Cirsovan rule, Galbarrow operates under supervision of a dockmaster, harbormaster, and captains’ council which together keep the peace.  The rule of thumb in Galbarrow is ‘what happens at sea stays at sea, and the land shall be no wiser”. Violence and vice are not welcome on the streets and docks of Galbarrow, and are met with swift retribution.  By keeping the streets clean and remitting taxes (often paid from booty) to Ungoza’s autocrat in Agalla, the Captains’ Council has kept the Empire satisfied and Galbarrow left be.  Off the streets, anything goes.  Galbarrow’s gambling and drinking halls are said to be second to none; though blood sports are officially frowned upon by the Captain’s Council, they are not forbidden, provided they do not interfere with smooth operation of the docks.

Today, Ortians make up only a small percentage of the population.  It is they who put up the statue of Arqua dan Gal and his wife.

Jorgora

Jorgora is a mound or ruin of indeterminate purpose and origin in an isolated northern region of the Cirsovan Empire, on the edge of the ice sheets.  It was discovered by imperial cartographers who were surveying the boundaries of Ungoza following its annexation.  It lays along the southern ice sheet, nestled in a corridor between the GreatNorthernForests and the GatlianMountains, completely isolated from the rest of Ungoza.  Though it is within the boundaries of province, it is considered inaccessible, except for the southern approach from Davou in Cirsova.  Because of its remoteness, it has not been studied extensively.

The mound takes its name from the legendary Jorgora, whose origins are extolled in a handful of surviving fragments written in the Northern tongue; whether the mound in Ungoza and the mound in the stories are the same is unknown.  Interestingly, descriptions of fabled Jorgora in late pre-contact Polaran writings closely match the geographic features of the mound and its location.

Some scholars, such as Garick Hellos of Owen, have proposed that the Tyuravelinai may have discovered the mound and attributed this mysterious outcropping with mystical properties, ascribing the legend of Jorgora to it.  The mound would have been located at the far, southern range of their civilization and in a particularly isolated region, adding to its mystery and fascination; accounts of Jorgora on the edge of the ice date back only as far as late Polaran writings.  If this is the case, legendary Jorgora and this mound could be one in the same.

The legend of Jorgora, in brief, is as follows:

The ancient Northern Folk, the Tyuravelinai, believed that powerful dreamers could manifest their dreams in the waking world as well as in the dreaming world.*  Jorgora was built both in the waking world and the dreaming world by an unnamed individual who had consumed a large quantity of Shuul.  Apparently, an undertaking as large as the construction of a palace would have required consuming an inadvisably large dose of Shuul, thereby rendering the dreamer, regardless of power, inanimate for such a period of time that severe dehydration and death could occur.  Thus, the creator died, with his dream palace becoming an eternal tomb for his mind.

Jorgora is therefore seen as an allegory for reaching for grandiose and impractical goals with poor preparation or foresight.

In addition to following the valley north from Davou, some have claimed that Jorgora may be visited by direct route by the Shuul users of Polaris, though the validity of any such account is going to be in question.  Individuals visiting the mound by this method describe Jorgora as a radically different place than the one which adventurers may find through natural means.

*: This conclusion may be inaccurate.  Shuul’s role in the Northern Civilization is not fully understood.  A growing minority of scholars also believe that the legend of Jorgora, at least as we understand it today, is uniquely Polaran, with any connection to the old Tyuravelinai tenuous at best, as no manuscripts recording this oral tale pre-date any last known inhabitation of Elefloe or any other cities of the Northern Folk, save Polaris, whose inhabitants never speak to outsiders about the fall of their civilization in the wake of the growing ice sheet.

The Agalla Bypass

The Agalla Bypass was supposed to save Agalla, and all of southern Ungoza, from falling into isolation, in hopes of drawing trade and travel from Gatlia into the province by a more direct route.  However, most Gatlian merchants are more apt to send their goods south into the Cirsovan heartlands; the Marshfolk prefer their own traditional foods to the fare grown in Gatlia, and Galbarrow has local fishers who more than sustain it.  The Bypass is often so desolate that even bandits avoid it, ironically making it one of the safest imperial roads in the far north.

Jorgora, a Poem

As translated by Garick Hellos of Owen.
(presented without annotation)

Who was, indeed, the greatest sleeper?
And Who was a mason and a craftsman
And a scholar? That none went deeper
Than he who built Jorgora.

Such a grand and majestic undertaking,
That king or wizard could commission.
Between the bounds of dreams and waking
That he did build Jorgora.

Imbibing Shuul, and lain on straw,
Some northern elf or mighty dreamer
Closed his eyes, and there he saw
The grounds around Jorgora.

As the evening sunlight died,
He dreamed of a forbidden act
That no great dreamer yet had tried,
His thoughts upon Jorgora.

The somnambulistic artisan raised
His hands, issued forth command.
The workers’ dancing torch fires blazed
Round what would be Jorgora.

Trenches dug and trenches filled,
The stones in place, the towers high,
Thought he might a palace build,
The palace of Jorgora!

The sun rode burning in one world,
Though time stood still for fools,
The dreamer’s banners were unfurled
On the walls of grand Jorgora.

A hunger fell upon the men,
Who’d labored through the dream,
And then nightmare settled in,
A Barrow was Jorgora!

All there and, with a sick and dying sound,
The great halls and the courts did sink,
Consumed by the grassy fields around
The tomb that was Jorgora.

He could not awaken from his dream,
Nor those he’d found to help him.
From his bed there was no scream
From he who dreamed Jorgora.

Onna

Onna is located east of Illi, deep in the Eastern Marshes and far from the influence of Empire, her laws and ministers.  Most imperial maps show Onna connected to Illi by road; when it was announced that the imperial road would be built, even to this far-flung village, mapmakers were quick to include it in official imperial maps.  However, the road was never completed.  There are rare occasions on which Illi and Onna are connected by floating wooden causeways across the Eastern Marshes, but these are always temporary, as leaving them in place would hamper travel by boat and barge.  For this same reason, combined with the difficulty in building roads through the marshlands, the road was abandoned.

Whereas the native Ungozan Marshfolk of Illi are known for their welcoming nature and willingness to share their culture with outsiders of an open mind, the people of Onna are perhaps as reticent as their cousins are open. Despite these differences, due to the semi-nomadic nature of the Ungozan Marshfolk, many families may lash their barges at Illi one month and at Onna the next.

The people of Onna are ambivalent to Imperial rule when the topic is broached, but generally they are more apathetic than anything else.  Why shouldn’t they be?  The Cirsovan armies chose to leave the Native Ungozans be those hundreds of years ago when they claimed the Crater, Marshes and coast as imperial demesne, there is nothing they want from the marshland in terms of resources, and, so long as the Marshfolk do nothing aggressive to provoke their overlords, they have no cause for reprisal.  Thus, Onna’s vassalage is not a particularly onerous one.  The people of Illi are so generous with their tribute of Cowrie shells and canoes to Agalla that the fact that Onna has paid no tribute to the empire in generations has gone almost completely unnoticed.

Unlike Illi, there is no central platform at Onna, rather “Onna” is a small island in the marshes with a mound no taller than a man.  This “Onna” is surrounded by a series of temporary wooden causeways which barges may lash to.  None may set foot on the Onna itself, however, except for the Storyman, of which Onna has only one.

It is forbidden to bring Ungoza crystal, raw or finished, within sight of the Onna.  Anyone displaying finished crystal from Polaris in the presence of the Marshfolk here risks death.  It is spoken by the people of Illi that those who bring the stones to Onna are cast into the marshes, never to be heard from again.  Other stories say that the Onna itself is where people who possessed the crystals were once killed and buried, the marsh grasses growing over them.  Of course Onna is still subject to imperial laws, and murder is a crime, however disappearances of travelers in the Eastern Marshes, so far away from any offices of imperial authority, are rarely investigated, even if word does make it back to Agalla.  Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough that anyone wanting to visit Onna leave any Ungozan crystal they may possess at home or in the care of someone in Agalla.

There is little to visit Onna that cannot be found in Illi, but with greater hospitality. However some anthropologists who have taken a particular interest in the ties of Native Ungozans to the lost Northern Culture prefer studying the Onna folk, valuing their isolation from Cirsovan influence which may have seeped into Illi culture over the last two hundred years. While the Illi Storymen often have a greater range of homily, there are certain tales which are only heard from the Storymen of Onna.  These stories, which are only told on the night before the new moon, are often grim apocalyses which make allusions to northern ices and the ghouls which stalk them.

North of Onna, the marsh turns cold and frozen. There is nothing beyond Onna to the east but more salt marshes and the sea.  It is unknown where the waters end and the ice begins; no ships, not even the pirates of Galbarrow, have cause to sail as far north as Onna.

Illi

While Illi is recognized as a single settlement by the Empire, there are many small drifting
communities that comprise Illi. The few hundred people of Illi live directly on the marsh
waters on pontoon barges connected with vine rope and wooden causeways. It is inhabited primarily by the native Ungozan Marshfolk who prefer their own ways to that of the Cirsovan heartlanders.

Some stories say that before the imperial road was built, Illi’s location was not fixed, the
Ungozans moving their village about the marshwaters as need demanded. In some ways, this is still true in that each structure and causeway may be unlashed and moved on the water.

Nowadays, where the imperial road arrives at “Illi”, a particularly large wooden octagon, some 200 feet across, serves as a fixed core to which other barges and causeways may be joined. The native Ungozans do not refer to the settlement as Illi, some going so far as to insist that there is no settlement, but rather refer to the central platform as “the Illi”. During the day, people may be found trading crafted goods (food is never traded for but always shared), trading stories and news of the Marshes, and doing carpentry work that would require a greater allotment of space than would be available on the smaller barges.

At the center of the Illi is a giant iron dish, the Gulloda, which is 8 feet across and one foot
at its deepest, suspended over a shallow stone cooking pit. All manner of things are added to the dish, including saltwater crabs, fish, waterfowl, turtles, snakes and occasionally voles or muskrats. The day’s finds are brought in by hunters and fishers in the early afternoon, where they are slow-cooked into a stew called Gullodana. In the evenings, braziers are lit at each of the eight corners of the Illi, with a series of additional smaller torches going in towards the Gulloda. Any native Ungozans and visitors who are present on the Illi are welcome to partake in the nightly feasting. The native marshfolk are said to have such a sophisticated palate that they can tell from a single taste of Gullodana the exact composition of that day’s stew, how many of what was added and its relation to what was left from the previous night’s Gullodana.  Most visitors to Illi are the adventurous sorts, who are particularly interested in sampling this unique cuisine of the northern Marshfolk. Natives may often extend a friendly challenge to visitors who would also attempt to guess the composition of that night’s Gullodana. Outsiders who guess most closely to the truth may be offered the privileges of an intimate cultural experience.

Illi has a very simple division of labor: hunter/fishers who gather food, those who work with wood to make homes and boats, and women who take care of most everything else. Illi also has 8 “Storymen”, who serve a priestly shamanic role for the community, offering homilies and maintaining their traditions orally. Each of the 8 Storymen have their barge perpetually docked to one of the 8 sides of the Illi. Anyone may go to them for wise counsel at any time, including outsiders (those who have guessed what is in the Gullodana are encouraged to do so for their reward, though it is not requisite). Over the course of 8 nights, beginning with the new moon, each Storyman will take a turn to tell a story to the people of Illi from the causeway of his barge. On the night of the full moon, a special story will be told, followed by ritual and song.

Based on some of the tales told by the Storymen, the Marshfolk of Ungoza were aware of the Northern Civilization, perhaps even as far back as a time prior to the abandonment of Elefloe.  A theory that the Native Ungozans are descended from or intermarried with refugees escaping the ice sheet was briefly in vogue among anthropologists in the decades following the discovery of Elefloe. Today, the northern parts of Ungoza, particularly the areas near the ice sheet, are considered taboo-land by the Natives, who rarely leave the northern boundaries of the EasternMarshes.

The Marshfolk of Illi maintain a relatively amicable relationship with the Empire. Occasionally, one of the Storymen will tell a tale of how they came to be part of the Gatian Empire, but their allegiance to Orrin Tormant and Cirsova likely do not often cross their minds. Indeed, the Empire did once send a mighty army to subdue and subjugate any northern threats, however outside of the old pirate colony of Galbarrow, the empire found little to subdue or subjugate in the way of the Illi. A testament to the magnanimous nature of the Cirsovan people, the Empire built roads through the marsh and allowed the native Ungozans to pay only token tribute to the emperor (generally paid in canoes loaded down with cowry shells) through the magistrate in Agalla. The Ungozans long ago yielded their greatest treasure when their Storymen revealed to the Cirsovans the location of the Ungoza Crater.

Agalla

Agalla is the nominal capital of Ungoza.  Despite that, it is the smallest Cirsovan city in the province, not benefiting from the mineral boom of Cratera and only receiving minimal boon from the port in Galbarrow.

Tribute and taxes from Illi, Onna and Galbarrow, such that they are, are collected by the autocrat here before being sent southward to Gatia.  Tarriffs and incomes generated by New Cratera and the Long Road are remitted directly to the imperial magistrates in Davou, thus Agalla sees little of Ungoza’s profits in her own coffers.

Agalla was originally founded so that there would be a Cirsovan city which settlers and bureaucrats could call home after the annexation, as most heartlanders found life in the Eastern Marshes difficult and unpleasant.  Agalla is largely Cirsovan, however there are frequent native Marshfolk visitors, and occasionally even Ortians may be found conducting business. The Cirsovan people here lack the general optimism and imperial pride of their cousins to the southwest; much of the frontier zeal wore off after the road to New Cratera from Davou was completed.

Those wanting to journey eastward into the marshlands, where many native Ungozans remain, may do so from Agalla.

Old Cratera

Popular tales declare that Old Cratera was founded under the accursed shadow of Elefloe by explorers and geologists who were charting the Ungoza crater’s northern boundary.  In truth, Old Cratera is a good day or so to the south of Elefloe and was likely never intended to be a permanent settlement, but its proximity to the ruin has led to no shortage of rumors and legends.

For some time, it was used by archaeologists and anthropologists for whom it would serve as a base-camp in their forays into the ice sheets searching for clues to the lost Northern Civilization.  Even today, the occasional commissioned study may utilize its remaining structures, however Old Cratera has not had any permanent inhabitants in recent memory.

Despite the mineral’s abundance, the green crystals of the crater were never mined here to any great extent, as it was deemed too difficult to construct a road across the crater to connect the settlement to the rest of the Empire.  Inclement weather, isolation from the rest of Ungoza, its nearness to the ice sheet and nearness to Elefloe (who is reluctant to yield any more of her mysteries to the academic community) all proved too discouraging for any long-term residence in Old Cratera.