|1. The Beginning
2165 - 2241
1. The Giveridim Exodus
The Giveridim Exodus from Ormathad brought the population of that nation’s Oann province north to establish the nation of Niveriku within six years. This migration included some 50 million people, roughly 30 million of whom were fighting men. They were led by Duke Kouzusi of Oann, who was in fact a changeling who had secretly been substituted for the true ducal heir in infancy by Saevlid sylphs.
Only a few hours after Duke Kouzusi’s party had crossed the Ziemi River, he abruptly vanished, leaving his empty armour and clothes on his horse. The duke’s attendants and advisors who rode beside him all attested to seeing the duke simply disappear in an instant and said that it was a clearly magical occurrence.
The Knights of the Fire, the elite military force and nobility of the Oann people, managed to keep confusion and dismay from turning into panic and loss of resolve, mainly because the Oann people were extremely disciplined. And ultimately, they still believed that their destiny was to conquer the northern Lakguene nation. The official word from the Fire Knights was that Kouzusi had been called to Everi’s side to oversee the conquest from heaven. This story would eventually become part of Giveridiin canon.
Kouzusi had no legitimate heir, so leadership passed to the captain of the Fire Knights, Sir Dansu Faidith. He led the conquest of the Lakguene north of the Kuriduyun River (the river known as Yur’s Tongue by the faeries). Like most lands where Lakguene dwelt, this was not a proper nation, but rather a land where Lakguene, generally living alone or in groups numbering no more than three, formed a loose, violent sort of community. This particular group of Lakguene referred to themselves as the Olshpyor. They were no more than ten thousand and most of them were easily taken by the Oann army. This occurred during the summer of 2166.
2. Settling Wimgedi and the Goers
As the people began to settle into their newly founded town, which they called Wimgedi, they employed many of the stronger Lakguene, like ogres, trolls, and dark elves, as slave labour. The settlers quickly learned to circumcise female Lakguene and castrate the males who were not kept for breeding, as Lakguene with their genitals intact were far more difficult to control. Some males even had their genitals removed entirely, but this was not often attempted as in most cases the Lakguene bled to death. Lakguene slaves were to become a cornerstone of Niverikiin society.
The winter of 2166 was especially difficult for the settlers as the northern climate was quite different from Oann’s more moderate climate. It was the first time any of the settlers had encountered snow. The humans found themselves forced to take cues from Lakguene and wear crude, heavy furs after the Olshpyor fashion.
There was also a food shortage, as there were no farmers among the people from Oann. They had expected the Lakguene nation to include farms, not foreseeing that a group of formidable beings would still rely solely on hunting and foraging. Those few among the Oann who knew anything about growing plants—primarily apothecaries and Raelyreen clergy, who kept herb gardens on church grounds--had not been able to make anything grow during the summer. Game for hunters grew scarce, too, in the winter.
Attempts to eat Lakguene meat led to yet another problem. Humans who ate Lakguene flesh or drank Lakguene blood became Lakguene themselves; vampires, werewolves, zombies, ogres, and a variety of other frightful parodies of humanity. Some Lakguene humans barely seemed to change at all, except to become lascivious and nasty people. Unlike naturally born Lakguene or faeries, human Lakguene were not harmed by iron or steel. Silver, though, burnt their flesh and was as dangerous as iron was to faeries.
Other diseases afflicted the settlers as well, some resulting from extended close proximity to Lakguene slaves, who, though as unaffected by diseases as any other faerie, could still carry them. Other diseases were contracted from the unfamiliar local ecology. Wyn Bog, thirty leagues west of Wimgedi, was likely the source of many of the diseases, carried to the settlers either by Lakguene slaves or human scouts.
More than 25 million people died in 2166. It wasn’t until 2168 that amateur farmers began to see good crops; barley and oats, mainly, as no-one seemed able to grow wheat. Domesticated aurochs were starting to breed in serviceable quantities, too. It was in the managing of livestock that ogre slaves proved particularly useful, so long as they were kept from devouring the animals. Farmhands used light iron flails to this end. Ogres, trolls, and dark elves were also useful for catching fish from the nearby Kuriduyun river.
The rigorous discipline enforced by the Fire Knights, who hoarded rations from Ormathad, and the time and spirit consuming struggle for survival, kept revolt from the peasantry at insignificant levels during the first year. By 2168, though, during the summer, as it appeared there would be at least a small harvest, a proper rebellion began to take shape, comprised primarily of people who wished to return to Oann. Called the Goers, the group was underground, had only around two thousand actual members, but a lot of sympathy from the general population. The Goers were led by one of the two remaining Raelyri priestesses of Oann (the others having died during the winter of 2166), Leishuna Megni. And the sole surviving Raelyreen bishop of Oann, Osurtha Mishal, privately sympathised with and provided supplies for the Goers, though the Goers never managed to accomplish much more than the distribution of leaflets and one aborted raid on a guard post.
Meanwhile, some of the more magically talented, indigenous Lakguene were having a bit of fun with the humans. Banshees disturbed and killed settlers with nightly wails, doppelgangers drove humans to madness, and succubi worked mischief amongst the celibate Fire Knights.
A succubus named Zojtya Bompua visited the dreams of Sir Oltugit Dobthel, who was regent governor of the settlers and captain Fire Knight after Dansu Faidith had been killed by a banshee. The magically talented Lakguene enjoyed having the humans around to torment, so Bompua came to Dobthel in the guise of Everi and gave him information regarding the movements and hideouts of the Goers.
While there was sympathy among the settlers for the Goers, there was a great deal of resentment for the remaining Raelyreen clergy. Hardly anyone attended services, and the clergy were generally only considered useful for their horticultural talents. The dislike for the Raelyreen was exacerbated by Bishop Mishal’s denouncement of Lakguene slavery. The Oann Raelyreen still considered the Lakguene to be faeries and therefore sacred, while the followers of Giveridim quite comfortably referred to Lakguene as Limneen and regarded them—even the humans infected with the Lakguene curse—as expendable. Bishop Mishal argued that, even if the Lakguene were the creations of Limn, then they existed to test the grace of humans, not to cultivate their sadism.
Mishal also faced a more personal Lakguene problem as she began to be stalked by her doppelganger. The practice of this particular creature was not to behave in a manner contrary to Mishal’s personality, but instead to imitate her and anticipate her actions. So Mishal would be on her way to visit an acquaintance, only to behold an apparition of herself speaking to that acquaintance about whatever thing Mishal herself intended to speak. The doppelganger would vanish as Mishal approached, and it came to be believed that Mishal was cursed for renouncing the destiny Everi had bestowed upon the people, which only added fuel to the general resentment harboured for the Raelyreen.
When Dobthel pronounced Mishal, the Raelyreen, and the Goers as traitors, and revealed the connexions between the Raelyreen and the Goers, few spoke against the condemnation. After the years of stress and monotony, settlers enthusiastically assumed the role of audience as Fire Knights stripped the Raelyreen and prominent Goers, dragged them naked to the centre of town, and tortured and executed them one by one. Bystanders groped and threw garbage at the condemned. This happened in the autumn of 2170.
3. The Rise of the False Everi and the Creation of Niveriku
Delighted and emboldened by the sequence of events she had set in motion, the succubus Zojtya Bompua appeared before the Fire Knights’ council, claiming to be Everi. Dobthel vouched for her, though Bompua’s glamour in itself contributed considerably to the beguiling of the knights. Under the guise of Everi, Bompua declared herself Queen and named the human colony Niveriku in the spring of 2171.
By now, only 15,000 settlers remained. People had continued to perish in the winters from starvation and exposure, though at a drastically declining rate as apothecaries and their assistants grew more skilled at cultivating crops and people learned more ways to keep warm.
Lakguene were responsible for a number of deaths—indigenous Lakguene as well as human Lakguene, the numbers of whom were increasing as many wantonly passed their curse on to others.
Of the remaining settlers, thirty-seven were Fire Knights, one hundred forty-six were soldiers, and the rest were serfs. The various hardships the Niverikiin people had endured largely seemed to target the men, leaving a population that was over seventy percent women. Bompua ordered all female infants born in 2171 to be killed, a fact which engendered some dislike for the Fire Knights. However, although Ormatheen culture had been conditioned by Raelyri to respect women in leadership roles, the culture of Oann had gradually grown patriarchal, and Giveridim had taken the process several steps further, so that most women were now afraid even to protest mass infanticide. The codes of celibacy among the Fire Knights had fostered among them a great deal of hostility towards women, and over the years, physical abuse of women had become increasingly tolerated.
Now, however, what few Fire Knights remained were becoming weaker each day, as nocturnal visits from succubi sapped their vitality. Three other succubi had already been taking advantage of the knights before Bompua took power, and in the guise of Everi, Bompua demanded daily tribute from the knights, forcing them to strip, lay about her in a circle, and submit to her sex. The last of the Fire Knights died in the autumn of 2173, though their authority and status within the society had all but disintegrated over the course of the previous year, leaving Bompua directly in charge.
4. The Creation of the Everi Maidens and Desubie
Succubi had little influence over people who were not attracted to women, so Bompua refused to grant audiences to any but the highest ranking heterosexual soldiers, primarily two to whom she granted the title of duke, Sithudin Begit and Fadursh Ibthed. Of course, she immediately began draining their life-forces as well and both perished within two years of their appointments, neither leaving an heir. Bompua went through a steady stream of “dukes”, all of whom died within a couple years of their appointments, but Bompua escaped suspicion for forty-three years.
Women were forced into roles traditionally occupied by men, including the running of farms, supervision of construction as Wimgedi expanded, overseeing Lakguene slaves, and defending the town against free Lakguene. In early 2178, a company of female warriors, numbering a hundred twenty-eight, named themselves the Maidens at Everi’s Behest, or Everi Maidens, modelling themselves loosely after the Knights of the Fire, even taking vows of celibacy, though choosing not to practice most of the strange sexual and exhibitionist rituals of the Fire Knights.
Almost immediately, Bompua ordered all the Everi Maidens north on a prospecting mission. There was no dire need for metal at the time, as the loss of so many fighting men had left an enormous surplus of armour and weapons, many of which were already being melted down and recycled for building and farming materials. However, it was obvious Niveriku would eventually require mines.
The mines of Ormathad had all been located in the Ithorsh Mountains, in Aisud Province, but as fortune had it, there was one man, previously from Aisud, among the settlers with knowledge of ore prospecting. His name was Hasned Githjuri, he was forty-five years old, and in surprisingly good health, especially considering how difficult colonial life had been on the male population. He was the only male to accompany the Everi Maidens north. After six years searching the southern foothills of the Diurkea Mountains, Githjuri finally found what promised to be a suitable deposit, and the Everi Maidens began constructing a mine according to Githjuri’s specifications.
The mine was called Desubie, as was the town that was built around it. There were a few Lakguene attacks on the settlement, but, as the Everi Maidens had constructed what was essentially a fortress town, with strong walls, the attacks were, for the most part, easily repelled.
5. Wimgedi Castle and the Cool Lakguene
In Wimgedi, meanwhile, Bompua had, in 2181, ordered construction of a castle, which was completed in 2202, well after regular ore shipments began arriving from Desubie. There were now almost no men remaining in Wimgedi, and suspicions and concerns began to arise among the populace, especially as no woman had yet laid eyes on “Everi,” who was, according to the Raewond, supposed to prefer the company of women to that of men. But Bompua ordered to death anyone who questioned her authority in any way. Time, the otherwise good progress, and the lowering of yearly fatalities, had made people reluctant to stir up trouble.
Githjuri died in 2206, and afterwards, Desubie saw no men for three years. Then, in 2209, a handsome, twenty-four year old man named Niktolim Resurth travelled to the town to visit his Everi Maiden sister.
A somewhat hot-blooded, wilful, nineteen year-old Everi Maiden named Malupka Tesres carried on a secret romance with the man, but was discovered after a few months. The offence was without precedent, and Lady Covsin Methek, Captain of the Everi Maidens and regent of Desubie, was debating whether or not to sodomise Tesres, as would have been the Fire Knight response to the breach of celibacy. But, before she could reach a decision, the town was suddenly attacked by Lakguene.
The attack was the worst Desubie had yet suffered, and there were thirty-two Everi Maidens killed and twenty injured. It seemed foolish to withhold any willing and able warrior, so Tesres was sent into battle. There was an unspoken understanding between her and Methek that Methek was allowing Tesres the opportunity to die in battle before she might be raped.
The Maidens were victorious after two days, and it was thought that Tesres had perished. However, the young woman reappeared the next morning, covered in blood, her armour missing, and her clothing reduced to rags. She had been seen fighting with a mad ferocity on the first day of battle before disappearing into the hundreds of Lakguene. Tesres described chasing into the hills several dark elves that fled at her approach and at one point finding herself so overcome with mindless rage that she bit an elf’s throat and swallowed the raw meat.
She was eventually overwhelmed by ogres, dark elves, and trolls, but they couldn’t seem to kill her. She described a strange calm that came over her which abided even now. It was evident to everyone that she must have become a Lakguene after ingesting the elf’s flesh, yet no-one could explain Tesres’s passive demeanour.
Tesres had always been irritable and quick to anger. Somehow, the Lakguene curse had stripped her of emotion, except for a persistent lust. When Methek broached the subject of discipline for Tesres’s indiscretion with Resurth, Tesres immediately stripped off her clothing and spread herself with no discernable shame. Unnerved by the sight, and unwilling to enslave the former Everi Maiden, Methek chose to banish Tesres.
In love with the Lakguene woman, Resurth insisted on accompanying her, even though Tesres claimed to feel nothing now for her lover. Each day, Tesres wanted more sex from Resurth than he was physically capable of providing, but otherwise she seemed to have no feeling except a vague sadness at what she lacked. Finally, the couple decided to undertake a dangerous quest to find the faerie city of Tenlea and discover whether or not the faeries possessed a cure for the Lakguene curse.
6. The Lakguene Cure
In 2211, after two years of searching, Malupka Tesres and Niktolim Resurth found the city of Tenlea and were admitted under heavy guard. The faeries had no answers for the two. In fact, the faeries had not known it was possible for a being to become a Lakguene who wasn’t born a Lakguene until they’d witnessed the phenomenon among the settlers from Oann. Several faeries, especially elves, wanted to study Tesres, and she readily allowed all manner of close scrutiny.
Tesres and Resurth spent six years in Tenlea. The faeries told them about the changeling, Kouzusi, and how many of the fundamental beliefs of Niverikeen society were based on the sabotage by the Saevlid sylphs. Tesres and Resurth also learned about Eronoa and Lakual, how Eronoa had created the Lakguene to resemble Lakual. More than a few faeries noted that Tesres’ persistent apathy actually more closely resembled Eronoa herself.
In 2217, an elf man named Jethudim Ilsthem decided to try allowing Tesres to bleed for a period of time, to see if the disease could be expelled thusly. Ilsthem was inspired to take this course after he learned that Tesres had not menstruated since becoming Lakguene. Bleeding worked, and Ilsthem determined the Lakguene curse to be a malevolent bodily humour. Tesres and Resurth decided to journey to Wimgedi in order to teach the technique to human physicians.
7. New Giveridim and the Fall of the False Everi
Despite the periodic killing of female infants, the population of Niveriku was, by 2211, more than 30,000 with only around 5,000 males, most of whom were younger than twenty. It wasn’t only four succubi targeting the men anymore—fifty succubi were working on the population. Discontent was quietly mounting, but it wasn’t until 2216 that a woman named Esteya Gurad snuck into the castle and beheld Bompua for what she was.
Gurad had been harbouring a mostly quiet jealousy for the time her husband, one of Bompua’s personal guard, was spending in the company of Niveriku’s ruler. Gurad’s friends who had perceived the woman’s feelings had urged her to suppress them, as it was still widely felt that such a reaction to the desires of Everi was sacrilegious, and, in fact, Gurad had been a devout Giverideen for most of her life.
But discontent provoked by the deaths of children and men was strong enough for Gurad to gain a following of enough size to take the castle and capture Bompua, restraining the fey woman with iron manacles. This event was called the Red Dirt Coup d’Etat, named after a passage in a well-known poem about a mass grave of infants. Bompua was taken to the centre of town and burned at the stake. The heterosexual male soldiers who had served under Bompua violently resisted, but were mostly imprisoned. Only twenty eight were killed.
There was now a power vacuum, and eyes turned to Gurad as the default authority. As a soldier’s wife whose life experience consisted almost entirely of running a humble household, Gurad did not feel qualified to run the state, so she deferred to the two Everi Maidens who happened to be in town, and who had participated in the coup, Ladies Ithini Genlim and Nelune Yorosh. These three women met with community leaders, and it was decided that Lady Covsin Methek and her second in command in Desubie would be sent for. Then, the leaders would discuss the future of Niveriku.
The meeting that took place after the two women arrived from Desubie was known as the Reaffirmation Convention. Upon its conclusion, Lady Methek was made Countess of Desubie, Ithini Genlim was made Niveriku’s queen, and Esteya Gurad became the first usretess of what was at that time called the New Giveridim. The New Giveridim was to establish bishops and priestesses in roles similar to those under Raelyri and would, also like Raelyri, be an entity distinct from the government, though also a subject of it.
It was part of New Giveridim canon that Lakguene were Limneen, creations of Limn to test and thwart humankind. Mastering Limneen, either by killing them or enslaving them, was now to be considered a spiritual victory.
The Everi Maidens were to assume all roles and duties previously assigned to the Fire Knights, though not all of the sexual practices were adopted. Usretess Gurad ruled that many of the laws governing the Fire Knights were based on the fact that a Fire Knight’s penis was a sword that belonged to Everi. An Everi Maiden’s body belonged to Everi, and pregnancy would be an inconvenience to a warrior woman, so celibacy was still mandatory, but an Everi Maiden could not enforce Everi’s will with her sexual organs. Transgressions were not to be punished sexually, but Gurad did rule that Everi Maiden squires would need to observe the Boy Skinning—in this case, the Girl Skinning—ritual. The Everi Maidens had thus far chosen not to emulate this particular Fire Knight practice, but Gurad determined that the Skinning was a necessary lesson in humility.
It was also decided that the institution of Fire Knights would be remade. Boys no older than thirteen were to be taken on as squires by Everi Maidens. Once there were again enough Fire Knights of age, the elite among them would mate with elite Everi Maidens and their offspring would be the prospective heirs to the Niverikeen throne—a pool of princes and princesses from whom the worthiest would be chosen.
8. The Lakguene Cure in Niveriku
Two years after the Reaffirmation Convention, in 2219, Melupka Tesres and Niktolim Resurth came to Wimgedi and presented the bleeding technique they’d learned to cure Tesres of the Lakguene curse. However, there were several things working against them; Tesres did not appear any different, physically, than she had when cursed and it was known that Countess Methek had banished Tesres from Niverikeen territories. No one questioned the wisdom of New Giveridim that Lakguene should be subjugated at all costs, as, in addition to having been ruled by a succubus for nearly fifty years, regular assaults by indigenous Lakguene and formerly human Lakguene were still a constant problem.
And finally, there was Tesres’s volatile temper, which had returned when she had been cured. The moment it seemed as though she and Resurth were meeting with resistance, she loudly derided Giveridim as being a lie founded on a faerie trick. Both she and Resurth were executed.
However, a clerk named Carsira Uyik, who happened to be a werewolf, overheard the description of the blood letting technique. Uyik was deeply ashamed of her condition, and had managed to keep it a secret from her social circles. However, she had confided in her apothecary, a woman named Eresi Curay, who restrained Uyik at nights when she changed form. Curay tested the blood letting technique on Uyik, and was surprised to see that it worked perfectly well and Uyik was cured. Curay shared her knowledge with a few physicians whom she trusted, but the blood letting technique was never accepted by the Niverikiin government and the subjugation of Lakguene remained a key element of Giveridiin and Seruveridiin dogma.
Physicians found to be administering the cure were executed, as was anyone known to have knowledge of the cure. And yet, the cure managed to survive.
An even more dangerous knowledge came into the possession of an apothecary named Jivuyi Yosede who, in 2617, experimented with using the cure on natural born Lakguene. It worked—first on an ogre named Rooshbo Gishyoz and later on a succubus named Woyla Segjyo. Gishyoz eluded capture and managed to live out his days as a hermit, but Segjyo, driven mad by her need to sap life from men while suddenly lacking the persistent desire to destroy, killed herself within a few months of being cured.
The knowledge that natural Lakguene could be cured managed to pass into underground medical lore, but actually using the cure was rarely risked.
It was thought that many Lakguene slaves were inadvertently cured when bleeding after castration and that the resulting change in their behaviours was mistakenly put down to the effectiveness of the castration.
9. The New Knights of the Fire
By the time squires were finally promoted to the position of Fire Knight in 2222, Niveriku was solidly a gynaecocracy. Though the Fire Knights were nominally of equal status to the Everi Maidens, in practice, the men found themselves deferring to the authority of their female counterparts, who had trained them.
There were no incubi in Niverikiin lands, and succubi continued to plague men, which created a popular impression of an inherent weakness in the male sex. It was illegal for a man to sleep without a woman present. If a man of property had no female relations, a nurse was assigned to him.
A regular army took shape in Niveriku in the form of retinues surrounding individual Everi Maidens and Fire Knights. Everi Maiden retinues were on average made up of mostly women while Fire Knight retinues were exclusively men. It was generally considered unbecoming for a woman to serve a man, even a Fire Knight.
The Skinning ritual was practised by the Everi Maidens, but men were expected to make themselves scarce during such events. The inverse did not hold true for Boy Skinning, an event that peasant women and Everi Maidens took much delight in viewing. The use of sodomy for discipline was also observed among the Fire Knights, occasionally monitored by Giveridiin clergy.
The institution of creating a pool of potential heirs by mating elite Everi Maidens and elite Fire Knights was not put into play until 2230, when a sufficient number of knights had gained prestige. Ten knights and ten Everi Maidens were chosen by Usretess Gurad, and she oversaw the coupling of each pair in the chapel of Wimgedi Castle. In each case, the Everi Maiden was older than the Fire Knight, who, as many quietly remarked with some amusement, tended to be more accomplished in beauty and charm than in battle.
New stories of the Fire Knights of Oann were contrived and circulated. Parables such as one about a Sir Guithan who undertook a dangerous quest to retrieve a golden goblet for a noblewoman he could never be with, or a Sir Monurm who withstood the charms of a succubus and sacrificed himself for a group of peasant women. In modern Niverikiin life, however, Fire Knights were a quiet group of men who seemed constantly flustered, and only too happy to defer to other authorities.
10. Anison and Lakguene Slave Towns
While the state of the Fire Knights amused many, Queen Ithini was not pleased to find the kingdom supporting an elite class of fops. She decided to give them an opportunity to prove themselves.
Everi Maidens from Desubie had founded another mining town in 2228, Arosuya, northeast of Desubie, also by the Diurkea Mountains, at the south-eastern edge of Dajikoyo Forest (called Lilmli Forest by the faeries). So, Ithini appointed Lady Ristuyi Omthil, an Everi Maiden prospector who had assisted in finding Arosuya, to accompany seventy of the currently existing eighty two Fire Knights on a prospecting mission along the north-western foothills of the Diurkea Mountains. The Everi Maiden and the Knights were all accompanied by their retinues as well as around five hundred Lakguene slaves. The only women were Lady Omthil and thirty female foot soldiers in her forty seven strong retinue, so with Ithini’s order came the controversial decision to allow the Fire Knights and their retinues to sleep without female guardians. Many mothers protested, but vehemence was generally tempered by the universal acceptance of the fact that the Fire Knights needed to be tested.
There were no female Lakguene slaves in the group. Although slaves were castrated and there was no unmonitored breeding, Fire Knights and Everi Maidens alike found they could not bear the regular spectacle of ogres and trolls copulating in broad daylight. If a male Lakguene was seen attempting to mount another male, he was beaten with an iron or steel flail.
The two towns that had been established between Wimgedi and Desubie, Belnet and Dithodit, were essentially hubs of Lakguene slave plantations. Actual breeding of the slaves was rarely necessary, as Lakguene were as immortal as any other faerie. But it was necessary, from time to time, as some Lakguene were killed by their difficult labour or by overzealous punishments from their masters. And many, of course, were killed by their fellow Lakguene. Succubi and banshees were almost impossible to enslave, and they preyed on their enslaved cousins as much as they preyed on humans.
Lakguene slaves were mostly either unable or unwilling to learn Saevlidik, so slave masters were forced to learn at least a little Olshpyorzi, the language of the Olshpyor Lakguene. Over time, this had already produced a profound effect on the Niverikiin dialect, but it would be another hundred years before anything resembling the modern Niveriken language took form.
The Fire Knights did finally establish the mining town of Anison, and found themselves able to keep succubus assaults to a minimum. Songs and tales of Sir Monurm were proliferated in the hopes of steeling men against the threat, but no man possessed such strength by will alone. It appeared that there were simply very few succubi in the region.
1. The Giveriwon
The Raewond had been the holy text of Giveridim since its inception, but, by the 2300s, the differences between the Raelyreen beliefs expressed in the Raewond and the beliefs of Giveridim had grown too extreme for the book to have much meaning for Giveridiin. The language, too, had grown too foreign for Niverikiin readers, who now spoke a combination of Saevlidik and Olshpyorzi, changed also for the natural evolution of dialect after hundreds of years, called Niveriken. Only clergy, nobility, royalty, and merchants could read and write and only clergy, royalty, and some of the nobility could read and write fluent Saevlidik.
So, in 2322, Usretess Mariyo commanded her subordinates to begin drafting a new holy book, a text which would come to be known as the Giveriwon. Work on the book was carried out by a group of two hundred clergy that included bishops, priestesses, and clerks in Wisaji’s Cathedral in Wimgedi.
The stories in the new book were generally bloodier and more morally ambiguous than those in the Raewond. The most striking difference was the new set of sins;
1. To allow innocent people or faeries to come to harm.
Many of the beliefs of Raelyri did carry over, most obviously in the goddess Everi and her role as maker of laws and enforcer of them. The goddess was regarded now, though, as chief among the pantheon. Rostan (Or Rosutan, as he was known in the Giveriwon) was still the inseminator, but now it was Everi who gave birth to the world and she had commanded Rostan to provide the seed. Imperfections in the world were portrayed as Rostan’s messes that Everi needed to clean up.
Limn played a larger, more adversarial role in the Giveriwon, and a large section at the beginning dealt with a war between Limn and the other gods. Molyi, however, was omitted entirely.
Faeries were described as prototypes of humanity and reflections of fundamental human dreams. But the Giveriwon mandated the subjugation of Limneen. Their existence was described as a perversion of human dreams.
Although the chief deity was a goddess, the Giveriwon nonetheless explicitly held men to be the superior sex, describing them, collectively, as the other half of the goddess. The relationship between the church and the Everi Maidens had grown somewhat cool by this point, though there was rarely any outright hostility between the groups. However, high ranking clergy generally preferred Fire Knight escorts when travelling.
Incidents of Knights and priestesses carrying on covert, sexual relationships were growing common enough that a secret belief propagated in some more liberal sections of the clergy was that this was simply an act of masturbation, since the flesh of both parties belonged to Everi. The church tried its best to keep knowledge of these affairs hidden, but the inevitable rumours, and illegitimate children, emerged.
The Raelyreen holidays of Athruset and Lefaemet were still celebrated, though in the Niveriken tongue they were called Atoruse and Refeme. The meaning ascribed to Refeme changed to a celebration of human achievement, rather than a celebration of the gifts of the faeries, of which the Giveriwon makes no mention.
2. Niverikiin Provinces
By 2500, the population of Niveriku had increased to roughly 2 million. The country now extended from the Vudin Sea in the east (Livis Sea to the faeries) to the freshwater Sea of Hobika in the west (Sea of Wirlib to the faeries), a distance of nearly 200 leagues.
The prowess of the Fire Knights was proven by the successful founding of Anison and over the next several centuries their territory grew in the region as they established more towns and cities, even as Everi Maidens established settlements east of the Diurkea Mountains, until, by 2546, it was clear that there were two distinct provinces, to which the current Queen, Mijora, gave the names Irosutan and Furuke, the former being the western province and the latter the eastern. Irosutan and Furuke were the names of two orchids that Everi, according to Giveridim, gave to humanity; Irosutan gave warmth to the human body while Furuke gave physical sensation.
The Queen appointed a duke for Irosutan from among the Fire Knights in the Royal Legion, a man named Haforu Dimatu. From the Legion’s Everi Maidens she made Lady Gurusi Tosuikin into Duchess of Furuke. Wimgedi was located directly on the border of the two provinces and belonged to neither.
The Queen exerted her power over the provinces through taxation, law, and trade regulations. But, by 2600, the rulers of both provinces levied a variety of taxes of their own. Irosutan taxed its farmers while Furuke taxed merchants. Tensions between the Everi Maidens and the Fire Knights became severe, and it was only the Royal Legion that ensured that both sides properly respected the needs of the other.
Only around 400,000 people lived in Furuke, as it featured the harshest climate of the two provinces, earning the Everi Maidens a reputation for hardiness. More than sixty percent of Everi Maidens by now were lesbians, as it was mostly only young lesbian serfs who found the Everi Maiden lifestyle, which often involved being stationed in remote locations surrounded only by women, to be appealing. And sexual conduct between two people of the same sex was not deemed a breach of celibacy by the Everi Maidens any more than it was by the Fire Knights. Most Fire Knights, however, were not homosexual, as serfs who desired knighthood usually did so in order to attain power and status.
The preponderance of lesbianism amongst the Everi Maidens also made them vulnerable to succubi assaults. This problem was largely solved, though, with the discovery of the succubus ward in 2664.
Few farms existed in Furuke and grain needed constantly to be imported from Irosutan, which helped give rise to Niveriku’s powerful merchant class.
Most of Furuke’s cities were little more than bleak, fortress or mining towns. More than 40% of the Furukiin populace dwelt in or around Furuke’s capital, Katurin, located by the Kuriduyun River. Duchess Furuke resided in Katurin Castle and the city also featured the Giveridiin Meduju’s Cathedral. Furuke’s main value still rested in the mining cities of Desubie and Arosuya. Furukiin smiths were also generally better at metalworking than their Irosutiin counterparts and merchants profited by moving Furukiin steel to other parts of the kingdom.
Another valuable Furukiin commodity came in the form of treasures obtained from the faerie city of Dormice, with which the Everi Maidens had established good relations. The people of eastern Furuke had become able seafarers, discovering the faerie city on the isle of Yumibo (Sidoru to the faeries) in 2479. Soon, merchant vessels under Everi Maiden escort regularly travelled the length of the Kuriduyun River, all the way to Wimgedi, to trade faerie goods. A faerie product particularly in demand was silk, a material that had grown popular amongst the royalty, nobility, and Wimgedi’s wealthier merchants.
Over 1 million people lived in the western province, the southern portion of which received a high quantity of yearly rainfall. Farmlands north of Wyn Bog were exceptionally fertile and produced barley, oats, rye, and wheat as well as carrots, jujubes, pomegranates, blackberries, and grapes.
Irosutan held a number of distilleries, producing vast quantities of ales which were traded throughout the country and, to a far lesser extent, wine. Not only were all of these commodities important for Wimgedi and Furuke, but they were also the only items for which the faeries of Dormice would barter. This resulted in a situation that somewhat exacerbated the existing tensions between Everi Maidens and Fire Knights:
Everi Maidens taxed merchants heavily who took the Kuriduyun River or passed through Furuke territory to bring Irosutiin products to Dormice. So merchants demanded to pay lower prices for the goods they purchased from Irosutan. Irosutiin resources were abundant, but the Fire Knights were needled by what they saw as a deliberate provocation by the Everi Maidens. The Knights continually lobbied for the Queen to impose stricter regulations on how the Everi Maidens taxed the merchants. However, the royal court was reluctant to anger the Maidens due to the popularity of silk and the growing worry that one of the two sides would attempt to usurp the throne.
The merchants also put pressure on the Queen to side with the Everi Maidens. It was easier for the merchants to turn a profit by demanding lower prices for products from Irosutan. They did not necessarily need to take these products to Dormice and therefore did not necessarily need to pay Furukiin tariffs.
5. The Bidoch Succubus Ward
Irosutan did not impose significant taxes on merchants who conveyed Irosutiin food to Furuke because Furuke controlled the succubus wards.
By the 2600s, Furuke’s mines extended north along the Diurkea Mountains and prospecting had gradually ventured further into the mountains as well. As harsh as conditions were in most of Furuke, nothing had prepared the prospectors and Everi Maidens for the terrible cold of the northern Diurkea Mountains. Mining was extremely hazardous; twenty eight mines collapsed within the first fifty years of exploring the mountains and many expeditions simply vanished entirely.
And yet, in 2664, a Furukiin expedition discovered that faeries dwelt among the icy, jagged slopes of rock. The expedition sighted imposing silhouettes of silent minotaurs, watching their progress through snow shrouded winds, before encountering one of the caves that made up the faerie city of Bidoch. Within, the humans met pixies, minotaurs, and cat people. After some cautious introductions, Lady Sevi Rushina, leader of the expedition, managed to acquit herself and her companions well to the cat people in particular.
Contributing considerably to the amicability of discourse was the fact that all of the faeries seemed greatly amused by the expedition’s Lakguene slaves. The Furukiin expedition then learned why the Fire Knights had not encountered any succubi in Anison; the cat people had mostly driven them off.
Centuries earlier, succubi had also been a problem for male Bidoch faeries. At some point, though, it was discovered that the urine of cat women repelled the Lakguene seductresses.
Relations between the Everi Maidens and the Bidoch faeries improved considerably over the next several years. The faeries helped the Furukiin prospectors survive in the mountains, and the humans traded some of their metal products—which were new to the Bidoch faeries--for cat women’s urine.
The Everi Maidens managed to keep secret the source of the liquid for many years, selling it in vials to merchants at tremendous prices. But the merchants, especially the male merchants, quickly learned the value of this commodity.
6. Wimgedi Culture
Most of the population of Niveriku’s capital consisted of merchant families. Having grown wealthy from the nation’s need to move commodities throughout its vast territory, the heads of the families coordinated their enterprises from lavish mansions in Wimgedi. Though still ostensibly serfs, they were almost never pressed into service as neither the nobility nor the royalty wished to engender their ill will. The children of merchant families did not necessarily become merchants themselves, and a modest bohemian subculture emerged in the city from misfit children who used their family wealth to support their lifestyles as debauchers or artists.
Children of merchant families also often became Fire Knight or Everi Maiden squires. The Royal Academy of Knights and Maidens in Wimgedi taught male and female squires collectively in a co-ed scholarly institution. Each squire was bound to a patron Fire Knight or Everi Maiden, but it was not unusual for a squire to not see his or her patron for long periods of time. Unlike the standard apprenticeship of a squire, Royal Academy squires studied more than combat. Mathematics, carpentry, etiquette, dance, art, literature, history, and music were all important parts of the curriculum.
Upon graduation, a Royal Academy Fire Knight or Everi Maiden had two choices. He or she could petition to join the Royal Legion, or he or she could choose to serve in one of the provinces. The latter option was rarely chosen, as the academy trained Knights and Maidens tended to look down on what they considered to be their backwater brethren. The hostility between Everi Maidens and Fire Knights was also generally regarded as puerile amongst the academy squires and graduates.
Members of the Royal Legion and their retinues were garrisoned in and around Wimgedi. A group of fifty Fire Knights and fifty Everi Maidens were kept in Wimgedi Palace, forming a royal guard for the King or Queen and the Royal Progeny.
Academy Fire Knights and Everi Maidens, while abjuring what they considered to be the petty squabbles of their country counterparts, were also generally more rigid in mien. The Everi Maidens preferred stiff, concealing garments when not wearing armour, the Fire Knights were effeminate, and both sexes were somewhat ascetic and often inordinately pale. Breaches of celibacy were extremely rare among them, which was why the clergy of Wisaji’s Cathedral preferred to recruit Fire Knights from the country for their guards and escorts.
Every five years, during Atoruse, champions were chosen by reputation and commendation from the country warrior nobility, as well as the Wimgedi variety, to take part in what was known as the Braiding Fair. A series of jousting, archery, and fencing tournaments would take place, which the peasantry were permitted to watch. Ten Knights and ten Maidens would emerge as winners of the tournament and take part in the Flame of Everi ritual. Each Knight was paired with a Maiden, and each couple would have sex in the presence, and under the instruction, of the usretess, thus conceiving princes and princesses to add to the pool.
The Everi Maidens thus impregnated would be sequestered in Wisaji’s Cathedral until their children were born, at which point the Maiden was sent back to her post. The princes and princesses were raised and instructed by the clergy, living in Wisaji’s Cathedral until they were thirteen years of age, at which point they were sent to live in the palace. There, they would gain new tutors on etiquette, government, and standard scholarly material, as well as continued religious education.
There were usually around a hundred potential heirs to the throne at any one time. When the King or Queen died, the usretess chose the next monarch from the pool, called the Royal Progeny, almost always choosing a woman of at least thirty years of age.
7. Kakeshya Shizuve
The Fire Knights keenly desired to learn the source from whence the Everi Maidens procured the succubus wards. Count Guduje of the Irosutiin city of Yosangu sent a number of spies into Furuke, and by this means, four years later, learned that the ward was in fact the urine of cat women. So, in 2750, an expedition of Fire Knights journeyed into the Diurkea Mountains to find the faerie city of Bidoch. They never returned.
The current Duke of Irosutan, Modaro, concurred with the general opinion that the expedition had been ambushed and slaughtered by Everi Maidens. Unnerved by the lengths to which the Maidens were evidently willing to go in order to protect their secret, the duke nonetheless proceeded to order an even larger expedition into the mountains. This time, five terrified footmen returned, describing how they’d come upon what appeared to be statues of the previous expedition dressed in clothes and armour. And, moments later, they’d witnessed all their companions turned to stone almost at precisely the same moment. They said they thought they’d heard a shriek, and had the impression of some kind of monster, but none of them had actually laid eyes on it. In fact, what the five men had in common was that none of them had been looking in the direction in which the rest of the expedition had been looking at the time of the encounter. From this, the duke conjectured that whoever looked at the beast was turned to stone and that the creature was a faerie guardian.
Knowing that few men would be willing to undertake the hazardous quest of killing the creature, the duke sent for Sir Deruzo Egudiru, a Fire Knight living in the country northwest of the Lakguene slave town of Belnet. This Knight, living near the provincial border, was known for his violent temper and his particular hatred for the Everi Maidens. But he was also known for his cunning. The duke knew he could not fail to accept the quest as it promised to grant the Knights an advantage over the Maidens, and he knew that Egudiru’s intellect was formidable enough to be useful in circumventing the creature’s spell.
Egudiru’s expedition included his retinue of one hundred fifty footmen as well as twelve prospectors from Anison to act as guides, and seventy Lakguene slaves. Egudiru managed to keep secret from his team the manner of peril which they faced.
Finding two especially keen eyed and loyal dark elves, Egudiru ordered them to travel ahead of the expedition at a distance of at least one furlong at all times. The main body of the expedition travelled with ten dark elves at the front followed by ogres, trolls, and finally by the humans.
When one morning the two dark elves on point were reported to have stopped abruptly and completely, Egudiru ordered the eyes of two ogres to be gouged out. The crazed Lakguene were then driven forward by men with steel lances until they were running fiercely down the path, flailing their arms and roaring. A moment after they passed the stone elves, a shriek unlike anything the men had ever heard rolled over the rocks, striking the air like hollow iron, causing a painful ringing in everyone’s ears.
Taking no chances, Egudiru sent two dark elves forward holding silver mirrors and walking backwards. One of the elves returned reporting that they’d seen something strange and incredibly horrid crushed and bloody in the snow. He’d seen it through his mirror, but his companion had looked directly upon it, so was now stone.
The creature had appeared to be merely a tall woman in thick layers of ragged cloth, but with what looked like a mass of snakes covering her scalp. The elf described feeling far more disturbed and even sickened by the sight than the actual details ought to have accounted for. He said that if rock could sour, then the rocks surrounding the corpse had done just that.
The elf was given a few cloaks and was ordered to cover the body. As the elf was leaving, Egudiru thought he spotted someone crouched behind a boulder, so he sent two of his men to investigate. He watched the men, when they came to the rock, stop as though startled, and then laugh hesitantly. One of them yelled back that they’d found a child with snakes for hair, but that they, obviously, were not turned to stone. Still, Egudiru took a mirror and turned his back before ordering the men to bring the child to him. As he listened to three pairs of feet crunching snow, he saw five of his men and one troll, all of whom were looking towards the area behind him, instantly become stone. But everyone else seemed unaffected.
The girl in the mirror was dressed in mouldering rags and her arms were noticeably thin through the cloth as the two men gripped them. She was looking directly at him with glowing, lavender eyes, and though her face was composed, he could tell she was afraid. Thick, black snakes writhed on her head like oozing tar, glimmering in the morning sun.
“What’s your name, girl?” Egudiru asked.
“Kakeshya Shizuve,” she replied, tonelessly.
“Did you do that?” he pointed at one of his men who’d turned to stone. The others had backed away from their transformed companions, and everyone was averting their eyes from the child.
The girl didn’t respond.
“Did you turn my men to stone just now? Answer me.”
She still did not reply. Egudiru was reluctant to beat the dangerous creature for disobeying him. Instead, he said, allowing an edge of threat into his voice, “Don’t do it again. All right?”
She said nothing.
There was silence for a few moments as Egudiru and the girl regarded each other through the mirror. A plan was quickly forming in the man’s mind.
“Listen, Kakeshya. I’m afraid I have some . . . bad news for you.” He paused. “Your mother’s dead.”
The girl did not react. Egudiru wasn’t sure if she’d seen the ogres or if she’d connected them to her mother’s death. “My men discovered her body with two of my ogres. They’d all three been killed by a group of women who call themselves the Everi Maidens. Do you know of them?”
“No,” said Kakeshya. “And my mother’s not dead.”
Egudiru nodded, “You have no reason to trust me. That’s perfectly understandable.” He ordered his men to show her the body, which three of them did with the assistance of the dark elf who had just returned from covering it.
When the men returned with the child, she was shaking with sobs, and her wide opened eyes darted about wildly.
“My dear, I’m sorry,” said Egudiru, still looking at her through his mirror. “The Maidens are cruel and intend to abuse these lands and everyone in them.”
She looked at him without seeming to understand what he was saying. He ordered the men to bring her to his side and, still careful not to look at her directly, put his arm around her. She soon relaxed against him and gave in to unrestrained weeping, pressing her face to his stomach. He kept his gaze angled upward, looking down at her through the mirror.
8. The Sacking of Bidoch
Though he seemed to have earned her trust, and she seemed comfortable sleeping in his tent, Kakeshya spoke little to Egudiru or anyone. Egudiru took care never to look directly at the strange girl, always keeping a mirror close at hand.
He did learn a few things from her. He learned that her mother was a creature known as a gorgon and that her father, who had died a year earlier, was a cat man. Cat people were apparently the only living creatures the girl’s mother had encountered that were not affected by the gorgon’s spell. But the faeries would not accept the gorgon among them after she’d turned several minotaurs and pixies to stone. So she and her cat man husband had left to live underground, where they conceived Kakeshya. After the death of her father, Kakeshya’s mother brought her to the surface, apparently with the intention of allowing her child to see the sunlit world.
Most importantly as far as Egudiru was concerned, he learned from her that Bidoch was only a few miles north of their current position. He sent Kakeshya towards the first Bidoch cave they came across with the instruction to turn all the minotaurs to stone. When the minotaurs ran past the cowering Kakeshya to slaughter the front ranks of Lakguene slaves, Egudiru was infuriated. After his men and slaves eventually defeated the minotaurs and cat men, Egudiru made to strike Kakeshya with his gauntleted fist. In so doing, he looked upon her for the first time, and instantly became grey stone.
Kakeshya ran before any of the other men could overcome their astonishment. Egudiru’s second in command, Murishugi Yorida, did not order a search for the girl when he took charge. Instead, the group continued their raid on Bidoch, capturing 285 cat women and taking them to Anison.
9. The War of the Orchids
Deliveries of bread and jewellery were normally taken to Bidoch by an Everi Maiden and her retinue from Arosuya. In late 2752, Lady Seshuna Vuhi was assigned this task, and she found the devastation of Bidoch two months after the Irosutiin force had left it. The caves of Bidoch were utterly deserted, except for Kakeshya, who’d been living off of Bidoch’s food stores.
Two of Vuhi’s retinue turned to stone upon sighting the girl, but somehow the lady decided Kakeshya was not an enemy. Kakeshya had decided Egudiru had been lying to her about her mother’s killer, so she didn’t hate Vuhi when she learned Vuhi was an Everi Maiden. The two even developed affection for each other and slept in the same bedroll on the trip back to Arosuya. Vuhi gave Kakeshya her first orgasm, teaching her how to stimulate her clitoris. Though the half-gorgon girl was only fourteen at the time and Vuhi was thirty eight, their sexual relationship wasn’t strange. Everi Maidens often carried out such relationships with their squires, which was one of the reasons Vuhi decided to take on Kakeshya as her squire.
Vuhi determined that Kakeshya had no control over whom she would turn to stone. The lady, her officers, and her physician discussed the matter at length, eventually supposing that there must be some common aspect of the personality or perceptions of those who were susceptible to Kakeshya’s spell, but they could not guess what that aspect might be.
The Everi Maidens learned from Kakeshya that it was a group from Irosutan that had assaulted Bidoch and taken the cat women captive. From this, the Maidens inferred that now that the Fire Knights could generate their own succubus wards, they had no reason not to heavily tax grain destined for Furuke. This would not only make food more expensive, it also threatened to shift the allegiance of the merchants.
Duchess Basuvi of Furuke decided to travel to Wimgedi herself in order to petition Queen Keroya to impose tougher restrictions on how the Fire Knights might choose to control Irosutan’s farmers. But the duchess and her Everi Maidens had underestimated the resentment that the Fire Knights harboured for the Maidens; the duchess had only been in Wimgedi a day when an army from Irosutan led by a Sir Gijumo Ivosha attacked Desubie. Thus began the Niverikiin civil war later referred to as the War of the Orchids.
Desubie was well situated to repel attacks, but the numbers of Irosutiin infantry were so overwhelming, and the attack so unexpected, the city fell within a day. All of the city guard were killed and the eight resident Everi Maidens were taken hostage, as was Yiova, Countess of Desubie. Each noblewoman was given to a Fire Knight, who would keep her bound in his newly appropriated quarters in Desubie Castle where he would repeatedly beat and rape her.
When word reached Wimgedi, Duchess Basuvi begged the Queen to dispatch the Royal Legion, but the Queen refused, concerned that the Knights would soon set their sights on the capital. The current usretess, Sekufa Heru, proclaimed the church’s position as being with the Fire Knights and demanded that the Everi Maidens submit to the traditional sodomy discipline if they wished to remain an active order. Some of the merchant families fled the city, and it wasn’t long afterwards that an Irosutiin force made up largely of Lakguene slaves attacked. The Royal Legion showed itself to be woefully inexperienced and inept compared to the country Knights and their retinues, nearly all of whom had experience fighting wild Lakguene.
Wimgedi fell to the Fire Knights after two days, but Queen Keroya, Duchess Basuvi, and the Royal Progeny had time to board a ship and flee up the Kuriduyun. Archers on horseback pursued, but they were stopped by Everi Maiden forces who’d rallied in Dithodit, where Furuke was attempting to establish a strong defence with their own Lakguene slaves.
Duke Modaro was made King Modaro of Niveriku by Usretess Sekufa Heru. The new King proclaimed his respect for the merchant families and promised them Fire Knight protection and much lower taxes now that one faction controlled all the nation’s resources, providing that they refrained from doing business with the Furukiin. All faerie merchandise was declared illegal, except for the succubus wards, which would now come through the government.
Everi Maidens were divided as to whether they ought to attempt to retake Desubie or Wimgedi first, but they had not pondered long before Dithodit was struck by forces from both directions. Initially, the Maidens took heavy loses of Lakguene slaves, but after a day, the battle came to a stalemate. The Fire Knight strategy at this point became one of attrition, as there was no possibility of fresh resources getting through Dithodit’s walls. The wisdom on both sides was that victory for the Fire Knights was inevitable as they controlled all the kingdom’s major resources with the exception of Arosuya.
A small force was sent from Desubie; two Fire Knights, their retinues of fifty men each, and two hundred Lakguene slaves. Most of the men and Lakguene who’d taken Desubie were engaged at Dithodit.
As soon as the Irosutiin forces had amassed outside Arosuya’s walls, Kakeshya Shizuve appeared on the battlement and cast off her cloak. 91 Lakguene and 62 men, including the two Fire Knights, immediately turned to stone. The remaining forces fled in complete panic. When news spread of the victory at Arosuya, morale rose considerably for the Furukiin.
Originally, the Queen and duchess had planned to take refuge in Katurin. Meduju’s Cathedral had been commandeered by the Everi Maidens and Bishop Oruva had been taken captive. Country clergy had generally remained loyal to their local Ladies, and a priestess named Removi was placed in charge of the cathedral. But there were rebel Giveridiin active in the city, and despite the victory at Arosuya, Furuke was still expected to lose the war. So when the faeries of Dormice offered sanctuary to the Queen, the duchess, and the Royal Progeny, the Queen accepted.
However, en route to the island, a south wind carried the ship too far north into the Vudin Sea and the vessel was lost with all hands and passengers. A siren dwelt on the isle of Sikamo (Waev to the faeries), and Furukiin mariners typically avoided voyages north for this reason.
10. The Lakguene Revolt and the Defeat of Furuke
The Furukiin had no access to the succubus wards and final defeat for the Everi Maidens was brought about by an unforeseen circumstance of this. Mischievous succubi infiltrated the dreams of the Maidens’ Lakguene slaves and turned them into berserkers, no longer fearing the frenzied lashings from their masters. These slaves slaughtered every Furukiin man, woman, and child in the city. Spooked by the sudden massive, bizarre bloodshed, Irosutiin forces refrained from entering the city. But the Fire Knights had no need to push any further east because, a day later, Countess Beakeru of Katurin issued the Furukiin surrender.
King Modaro decreed that no more captured Everi Maidens were to be raped by vaginal intercourse, but the sodomy discipline that had before only been applied to the Knights would now be applied to Maidens. Fire Knights could take on female squires now whom they were required to sodomise routinely and the King, counts, and dukes were granted the right to sodomise Everi Maidens at whim. The Girl Skinning rituals were to be carried out in view of men from now on, as well. For all these changes in policy, the new Fire Knight government had the full support of the Giveridiin church. Sexual congress between Knights and clergy was now also no longer considered a breach of celibacy.
1. Fire Knight Niveriku and the Gorgon Province
The Braiding Fair was replaced by a series of tournaments in the capital during Atoruse that only pitted Fire Knights against other Fire Knights. The winning ten Knights were then able to choose their mates from the Everi Maidens or the clergy, and of the resulting children, only the males would be considered part of the Royal Progeny.
The first five years after the War of the Orchids was spent mostly in dealing with the feral, berserker Lakguene slaves from Dithodit. They all needed to be killed as the succubi seemed to have permanently damaged their minds, rendering them no longer sensible to pain or language.
After this, the Knights began pressing serfs into migrating to establish new territories. It wasn’t especially difficult as, with a population now exceeding 5 million, new farmland was becoming scarce. There were already a number of farms east of Irosutan, south of the Sea of Hobika with minimal protection. The province of Buivotsu was established in the west, Posari in the south, and Oreijo in the southeast, where prospecting in the Idont Mountains began in earnest. New mines were needed for the expanding population, the increased difficulty in mining in the Diurkea Mountains, and the fact that the Fire Knights were afraid to occupy Arosuya or the lands north of it. Referred to as the “Gorgon Province”, travel into these lands was forbidden. But many people—Everi Maidens, and both men and women from the Royal Academy--made their way to the Gorgon Province, so that there were almost 500,000 people taking refuge there.
They subsisted on meagre game and berries from the taiga Dajikoyo Forest, wherein most of the refugees dwelt for the first fifty years after the war. But once they felt secure within their domain, as it became clear that the Fire Knights would rather invest their interests elsewhere, the people of the Gorgon Province established the towns of Guresena and Misumeru on the northern coast. These towns helped to augment the people’s resources as they made walrus hunting more convenient, yielding larger quantities of useful meat, tusks, and bone. And from these towns, the people received ships and selkies from Dormice, who would trade fruit, edible deep sea life, and wine for jewellery. The faeries were keenly interested in the prosperity of the outcast people as the Fire Knight regime was outright hostile to them, sometimes even sinking vessels travelling between Yumibo and the Gorgon Province.
Kakeshya Shizuve, the half-gorgon who inspired fear among the Fire Knights, remained in Arosuya Castle and wore heavy black robes and a mask at all times. The last of the original group of humans who’d seen her uncloaked died in 2791. Kakeshya’s lover and mentor, Lady Seshuna Vuhi, had died in 2788, and a profound loneliness settled over Kakeshya. But she remained ready to aid her compatriots in any way she could. She was, by now, a master warrior, though she could not use steel or iron weapons. Kakeshya wielded bow, quarterstaff, and leather whip.
The refugees in the Gorgon Province renounced their titles as Everi Maidens and Fire Knights, most even unsure as to whether they still believed in Everi. Both male and female warriors referred to themselves simply as paladins.
2. The Fool’s Ink Revolution
Many among Wimgedi’s bohemian culture were intensely dissatisfied with the new Fire Knight government, for several reasons: Horror stories proliferated of Everi Maidens being abused at the hands of their new lords and there was an increasing suicide rate among the warrior women. The artists of Wimgedi felt the lack of faerie imports was to the detriment of Niverikiin culture. Tales of farmers forced to leave their lands to expand Niverikiin territory were sometimes exaggerated as well, to stress cruelty to the farmers at the hands of the Knights. All of these different stories worked their way into art and writing in Wimgedi.
The Fire Knight establishment began to dismissively refer to this as the Fool’s Ink Revolution, and the misfits involved as Fool’s Inkers. But when a play by a man named Morume Ishi portrayed the King as a murderous idiot, the Knights began to take the Fool’s Inkers very seriously. Ishi and thirty other Fool’s Inkers were rounded up and executed. After this, the King declared extremely wide-ranged laws curtailing behaviour and speech.
Many of the Fool’s Inker’s were children of prominent merchants, but as the years had passed, the influence of the merchants had waned as the King gradually placed tighter restrictions and taxes on them.
3. The Siren of Sikamo
In addition to occasional attacks from Fire Knights, ships and selkies travelling between Dormice and the Gorgon Province also journeyed in peril of the siren residing on Sikamo Island. So in 2815, a paladin named Amuvedi Redoi set sail for the island, determined to vanquish the creature. She and her crew plugged their ears, but once they set foot on the beach of salt frosted stone and barren, icy soil, there was no defence against the song. The siren’s voice rang through the ground and into their bodies like her touch, and Redoi and her four companions immediately bared their ears in complete rapture.
Fall to me my sweet beautiful wet meats
Fall away from false light blue metal sky
Pull your pulsing ropes to and round my rocks
Fall away from false light blue metal sky
However, the siren herself was shocked into silence at the sight of the five entranced travellers. Although the siren was a Lakguene, and quite deliberately drew ships and sea faeries to the dangerous rocks, she did not have great physical strength, or any means of overpowering a trained human warrior. She was like a naked human woman with talons, white feathers, and enormous wings which she kept wrapped about herself for warmth. The wings were of very little use otherwise as she did not actually possess strength or anatomical balance for flight.
Free of the spell in the absence of the song, the five humans easily restrained and gagged the siren. Among the group was the ship’s doctor, Fyotoru Dofuja, who happened to be aware of the Lakguene cure and convinced Lady Redoi to allow him to use it on the siren. They all of them, even in the absence of the enchantment, felt a strong affection for the creature, whose song was the most beautiful and intimate experience any of them had ever had. So Dofuja carefully bled her on the rocks while the others made camp. The siren lost consciousness, and when she awoke the next morning, she seemed disoriented, though she recognised the humans from the night before. After some hesitation and debate, Redoi had the siren’s bonds removed and the humans watched the bird woman shiver and look carefully at them and at everything, as though finding in them new significance.
The siren accompanied the humans back to Misumeru, and during the voyage, she and Lady Redoi made love. It was Redoi who gave the siren her name; Vudiseru, or song of Vudin, referring to the Vudin Sea. The sea had been named after a Giveridiin demigod, who, aside from being a warrior, was also very wise and a gifted poet. So the name seemed appropriate to Redoi.
Upon reaching the city, they found most of the people wanted simply to execute Vudiseru. But calls for blood were silenced when the siren sang for them;
Nothing falls and nothing rises here now
A bird’s cry melts in an arch over me
Let us lie together by the cold hearth
A bird’s cry melts in an arch over me
Eventually people came from all over the Gorgon Province to hear Vudiseru sing. The siren visited Arosuya so that Kakeshya Shizuve heard the song as well and wept. Many of the people who had lost faith in Giveridim said that they found Everi again in Vudiseru’s song. By 2817, Vudiseru had become the central figure in a religion referred to as Seruveridim.
There were no sins enumerated by Seruveridim, no stipulations on behaviour. The thesis of Seruveridim was that sensation was all. Everi’s law was regarded as something immutable and inviolate, so nothing that could happen could possibly breach Her law. Songs and art were worshipped as glorifications of Everi’s will.
5. The Naiads of Surlusu and the Hobika Knights
The town of Kuroisu was founded in 2772 by a group of twelve Fire Knights, their retinues, 1,500 serfs, one Giveridiin priestess, and 900 Lakguene slaves on the north western shore of the Sea of Hobika (Sea of Wirlib to the faeries). The purpose of the town was to harness the great potential resource of lumber in the deciduous Oyini Forest (Meimdel Forest to the faeries). However, the humans were not there long before they encountered faeries from the hidden forest city of Maimu. Spriggans played tricks on lumberjacks and dryads poisoned their lunches.
The population of Maimu was mostly made up of centaurs, and a group of these met with Kuroisu’s twelve Fire Knights. In exchange for bread, grain, and jewellery, the centaurs agreed to allow the Niverikiin humans to harvest lumber in carefully defined portions of the woods.
Over the years, relations between the humans and the faeries became increasingly amicable. Isolated as they were across the Sea of Hobika, the humans of Kuroisu became very different from other Niverikiin, who were typically suspicious of anything having to do with faeries. By 2780, when ships from Kuroisu put in to port at Hanorudu to exchange lumber for jewellery, they found that were commonly regarded as a bewitched people.
As the human vessels passed over the freshwater sea, their crews were unaware of another community of faeries observing them; naiads and mermaids from the underwater city of Surlusu. The settlers of Kuroisu were not only the first humans they’d ever seen, but also the first men. They admired the humans silently until 2785, when a naiad named Thraemily timidly approached one of the Fire Knights, Sir Eiburo Fizuio, when he was bathing at the beach, early in the morning. At first shocked by the sight of a naked woman rising from the water, Sir Eiburo quickly calmed. They regarded each other quietly for a moment.
“Who are you?” asked Sir Eiburo.
Thraemily told him her name and said, “I wanted to . . . look at you.”
She approached him, her expression halfway between a smile and a frown, before she touched his chest, running her fingers across his skin, and he compulsively embraced her. The two made love.
Sir Eiburo reported his indiscretion the next day to Pari Guratoi, the Giveridiin priestess. She knew she ought to prescribe punishment from the Count of Kuroisu, Givoho Lumubo, but it suddenly didn’t make sense to her to punish someone for having innocent sex, which was not an unusual opinion among the people of Kuroisu. Friendship with the Maimu faeries had done a great deal to loosen rigid Giveridiin modes of behaviour.
Lumubo told Sir Eiburo she’d keep his secret, and advised him not to confess it to anyone else. But three days later, the townsfolk awoke to the sight of more than two hundred naiads wandering about, examining buildings and tools, and smelling the air outside the bakeries.
Thraemily was among them and she asked about Sir Eiburo. Soon, all was revealed, but Count Givoho and the other Knights were as understanding as Lumubo had been. It wasn’t long before naiads wandering the streets was simply part of normal daily life in Kuroisu and all thirty seven of the Fire Knights currently occupying the town eventually made love to several of them.
They knew that if their brethren across the sea ever learned about how they were living, there would be terrible consequences. Count Givoho swore an oath to the naiads that he and his comrades would protect them at all costs. No longer considering themselves Fire Knights because their practices and worldview were so completely changed, they took to calling themselves the Knights of Hobika in 2814.
6. The Siren War and the Fall of the Fire Knights
It wasn’t until 2821 that Wimgedi got reliable word of what had been happening over the last several decades in Kuroisu. So the current ruler of Niveriku, King Robuda, ordered ships across the Sea of Hobika to take the city and arrest its Knights. All of these ships were quickly sunk by Surlusu’s naiads and mermaids, so Duke Beruviga of Irosutan, who was coordinating the attack on Kuroisu, sent another force by land north, to travel around the sea.
Meanwhile, the paladins of the Gorgon Province attacked the northernmost Niverikiin city, Zievuji. Most of the country’s fighting men were allocated to the west, so after easily taking Zievuji, the Gorgon Paladins, as they came at this time to be called, swiftly took Otsueno, Katurin, Dinitere, and Mezuye.
Both land forces and heavily armed galleys travelling down the Kuriduyun River converged on the capital. Merchants who’d been almost completely disenfranchised by the Fire Knights, gave tactical information to the paladins, but the battle for Wimgedi was extremely fierce. Fire Knights from all over the country had been marshalling around the city, and the forces attacking Kuroisu had been recalled to the astonishment of the Hobika Knights.
When word reached Kuroisu of the assault by the Gorgon Paladins, the Hobika Knights decided to lend their assistance to the faerie friendly nation of outcasts. Kakeshya Shizuve had remained in Arosuya as she was deemed likely to be as great a threat to her comrades as to the enemy but Vudiseru accompanied the paladins on a galley, converting thousands of people at a time to their cause.
With the addition of the Hobika Knights attacking from the west, Wimgedi fell in 2832, and Wisaji’s Cathedral was razed to the ground. So ended the influence of Giveridim on the country of Niveriku, and so was Seruveridim instated as the official religion, which the Hobika Knights found to be perfectly amenable.
Uruguro was made the new capital of Niveriku in 2837 and Lady Naujisa Wubeve, who had been leader of the assault from Gorgon Province, was installed as Queen. A cathedral, Vudiseru’s Cathedral, was built in that city and became the permanent home of the siren Vudiseru. The female paladins took the title of Everi Paladins while the males became Hobika Knights. A new Braiding Fair was established in Uruguro similar to the old one that utilised both Fire Knights and Everi Maidens.
The most peaceful era of Niveriku began. The cat women were freed from captivity in Belnet and traded their urine freely with the humans. Good relations were established with all neighbouring faerie cities, including Vyurel, the oldest and largest faerie city in the world. The merchants now established a powerful network of trade between the provinces and the faerie cities.
The gorgon, Kakeshya Shizuve, finding she was no longer needed in Arosuya, left to wander the continent. Eventually she came to reside near Vyurel.