The Cottrite Chronicles: Provenance, Historical Context, and Significance of the Cottrite Codex
by Hano Fontana do Caz Eviatád ne Val Mara i Elarcon Danya
The Cottrite Chronicles (Cottrite Codex 1.1–18.7) provide a window to life in the long, dark interhistorical period of the Great Lacuna. The Espanyo and Hengliss peoples who inherited the Methgoan continent after the global population collapse that ended the Ante-Lacunar Era (approximately 2900 B.P.E.) were by and large nonliterate. Thus, until the Cottrite Codex appeared, little was known directly about these tribal cultures. And, although written messages from the Mercan period abound, in the absence of Cottrite’s translations of documents in the Mercans’ dominant languages (“English” and “Spanish”) into Espanyo, no one could read them.
As most of our readers will recall, the manuscripts were serendipitously discovered in the far reaches of northern Vada by two itinerant sheepherders who, forced to take shelter in a cave by a sudden, violent desert storm, came upon a well preserved wooden box full of papers bearing writing which, of course, they were unable to decipher. Intending to use their find as kindling and fuel for warmth, they dismantled the box and burned it and an unknown number of the codex’s manuscript pages. After the storm passed, however, one of the shepherds, curious about the nature of the unusual-looking documents, stuffed a few of the remaining pages into his pack and carried them to his employer, Nayugi Vuchahara Filyo do Tenebra i Ca Endreha do Gapellira.
Vuchahara Filyo, one of the largest land managers and food suppliers in the Vada region, recognized them as of possible historical or archaeological value. She had them transported to the Southern Oda Institute of Research and Learning, where, by even greater serendipity, Professor Labano Barenes lo Chorradas do Keyte ne Morezes i Ca Filyo Haras held a temporary appointment to the Aide-Helmikka Endowed Chair of Western Anthropological Studies. Barenes lo Chorradas, at this early point in her career already gaining recognition (not to say fame) for her now celebrated Theory of Intuitive Dissemination (TID), instantly recognized the writing that covered the crumbling shreds of crudely made paper as an example of Early Classic Espanyo cursive. Although, as she reports in a retrospective monograph dedicated to her teacher, Harmodias do Filoza (B lo C, “Discovery” 283), Early Classic documents were and remain somewhat unusual, she did not at first ascribe much importance to the find. The fragile sheets were filed in the Institute’s preservation room and forgotten for several months.
It was not until Barenes lo Chorradas’s student Tesa Rablín do Meghina i Abranzala do Ghitta Laia, now a leading exponent in TID studies and Director of the Seaside (Bahagalifone) Institute of Oceanic and Desert Cultures, needed a project to complete his final research thesis that the fragmentary pages were recovered from storage and studied with some care. Rablín do Meghina agreed to lead an expedition to the cave to further investigate the site, little knowing the significance that his neophyte research project would have for the advancement of historical and archaeological knowledge (R do M, Interview 54–62).
The events that followed are so generally known they need not be rehearsed here. For detailed discussion of the studies that identified the author, see Rablín do Meghina, Cottrite Codex: A Chronological Review (Lower Galifone City: Institute Brezidentiale, 2793, 4 vol.); Barenes lo Chorradas, Report to the Archaeological Commission of Western Region 3 (Mendo: A.F. Government Publications, 2788, 6 folios); and Howze Rennom lo Menhoro do Sudamen Beltrase ne Delzinto i Zkenaya, “A New Perspective on Cottrite Codex 3.2,” in Memorial Essays in Honor of Harmodias do Filoza, ed. Rablín do Meghina, Seaside: Publications of the Institute of TID Studies, 2795). Reports in popular broadsides should be regarded skeptically, for they contain many misconceptions and errors in fact.
How the papers came to be stored in the cave above Lago Arni, where Rablín do Meghina and his research crew found them, remains an unresolved question. Under the direction of Barenes lo Chorradas and Rablín do Meghina, extensive archaeological excavations of the Sand Digger ruins around the lake were conducted. No evidence has been uncovered to indicate that any pre-Present Era culture more advanced than the subsistence-level hunter-gatherer Sand Diggers ever inhabited the region. Whether Hapa Cottrite himself visited the area and hid his manuscripts in the cave is unknown. Nor, indeed, do we know whether Cottrite lived out his life in Okan, or whether he left the northern regions and returned to his home in Lek Doe some time after he had spread the seeds of literacy among the Hengliss tribes. It is possible that Cottrite, for reasons unclear at this time, dispatched an emissary carrying the papers into the wilderness. More likely, a descendant of Brez Fallon Mayr of Cheyne Wells or of Representative Duarto Escodero y Minyos do Portalez en Mosarín rescued the documents during the unrest that followed the Uprising of Cham Fos (ca. 895 B.P.E.; for discussion of this speculative conclusion, see the virtuoso monograph by Research Specialist Kala do Recchez la Ca Raino i Tammur do Eztavan Gayo, Cottrite Codex 2.9: An Application of Intuitive Dissemination to Deductive Historical Reasoning, Seaside: Publications of the Institute of TID Studies, 2798).
Whatever the explanation, Rablín do Meghina collected the documents, which were scattered around the cave’s floor, and transported them from Lago Arni to the Southern Oda Institute of Research and Learning, where they were preserved and prepared for further study. When Barenes lo Chorradas and Rablín do Meghina formed a partnership to found the Institute for TID Studies, controversy erupted over the Cottrite Codex. The TID Institute claimed possession of the documents on the grounds that its senior scholar, Barenes lo Chorradas, had discovered them and directed the in-depth research which continued and showed no sign of abating. TID argued that the documents rightfully belonged in the immediate proximity of the researchers who were conducting studies that promised to reveal hitherto unknown secrets of the Interhistorical Period and Mercan Antehistory. Southern Oda responded that the codex was best kept in its preservation vaults, where the crumbling paper would be protected from further deterioration. A regional court ruled that the codex should go with Barenes lo Chorradas and her research team, on condition that TID first build a new preservation room adequate to the job of storing the documents (Proceedings, CFGRC, 437). After a vigorous fund-raising campaign, the Institute for TID Studies constructed its justifiably celebrated Archive for Historic and Archaeological Preservation, a wing of the Cottrite Museum of Hengliss Research, where the Cottrite Codex now resides.
Hapa Cottrite wrote primarily in Middle Espanyo, although he created and wrote in a system for transcribing contemporary Hengliss as well. Cottrite was a man of wide erudition. An indefatigable chronicler of the fireside stories that comprised Espanyo and Hengliss oral history, he apparently had an antiquarian bent that led him to collect and transcribe scraps of ancient documents which, Cottrite reports, were preserved as holy writings by the few and far-flung religious votaries who could, after a fashion, read them.
The Cottrite Codex consists of a series of stories describing events that occurred among the Hengliss tribes of Okan and, to a lesser extent, southwestern A’o during the times of the Okan rulers (the Hengliss term was brez) Bron Kubna of Miduhm, Rojja Kubna of Oane Lek, Lhored Kubna of Grisham Lekvel, and Fallon Mayr of Cheyne Wells. Scholarly estimates of this period’s duration range from fifty to seventy-five years (R do M, History; BP do G, “Note”; R la C R, “Dating”; B i B, “Internal Evidence”; B lo C and R do M, Period). In addition, the eighteen-segment codex contains word-for-word transcriptions and translations of the following documents:
- A late Mercan religious tract called “The New Age Bible,” in English, the predecessor language to Hengliss (Codex 17.1-18.53)
- A one-page document, with illustration, describing an alcoholic beverage known as pepsi generation, in English (Codex 16.2)
- An illustrated fragment in Spanish, the immediate ancestor of Espanyo, demonstrating the use of incense sticks called marlboro, apparently thought to have medicinal or aphrodisiac properties
- Several small fragments, in English, which scholars believe to form parts of a guide to personal conduct, called “Empl.y.e Man..l” (Codex 10.4)
- Three sets of prayers in Spanish begging divine redress of wrongs committed by enemies (Codex 11.6-9)
- A fragment of a recipe, in English, titled “M..ro.aving Y..r Pi..sbur. .evil. .ood C.ke” ( 16.3)
- A fragment of a moral/hygiene tract, in English, titled “Airb.rne AIDS: Prot..ct.ng ..ur L.v.d On.s” (Codex 15.4)
- A booklet in Spanish titled “Instrucciones Para Votar,” whose purpose is unknown (Codex 15.5).
- Five small, apparently related fragments in ancient English and Spanish containing survival instructions, for members of displaced populations (Codex 15.6–11)
Of these, the most important is of course the last, because the juxtaposition of material in the ancient English and Spanish languages, together with Cottrite’s transcription into Middle Espanyo, allows us to decipher much about the two extinct tongues. Clues gleaned from these fragments have made possible ongoing translation of the very lengthy Codex 15.4 tract, which was written in English, and the written prayers in Spanish. These documents, plus the personal conduct guide, are providing priceless insight into the nature of the Mercan culture, whose ethos and organization were virtually unknown prior to the discovery of the Codex. Scholars are beginning to form a clear idea of who the ancient Mercans were, what they accomplished, and why their culture abruptly disappeared.
Life among the Ancient Mercans
The arts of archaeology and geology had already revealed, long before the discovery of the codex, that the continent of Methgoa was once occupied from sea to sea by a civilization of considerable technological sophistication, undoubtedly the basis of folkloric tales about a golden age dominated by mythical Mercans who could fly through the air in enchanted chariots.
Remarkable as this society may have been, most scholars agree that its members did not fly about. They lived in large cities scattered across their empire and linked by an extensive system of paved roads, over which they traveled in vehicles powered by refined derivatives of oil (petroleum). Probably the speed with which their vehicles moved made them seem to fly; hence the exaggerated metaphor that has come down to us in folk tales. Their highways were engineering marvels, spanning rivers and soaring over deep canyons, crossing vast stretches of empty prairies and deserts, and leading through even the Sehrra Máderes with seeming ease. Today, many of our modern roads follow the original Mercan routes, whose construction was so lasting that they continued to be used long after the paving had crumbled into pebbles.
Most of the continent was also crisscrossed with electrical power grids, allowing even the humblest home the comforts of light and heat. Many of their cities were extremely large, housing several million inhabitants in dwellings that ranged from sturdy block structures to far less permanent mud-composite and wood-chip-composite affairs. Mercan cities sprawled across the landscape, consuming enormous tracts of ground that might have been used for farming or forestry, necessitating imports of food and other goods from distant sites; thus the need for an extensive, well maintained highway system. Because of the obvious difficulties of providing services for such a vast population, the Mercan megalopoli were dotted with satellite government office complexes known as malls. These regional municipal centers evidently functioned as local marketplaces as well, surrounded as they were by large, flat open spaces appropriate for trade booths.
Arts and Games
The ancient Mercans enjoyed an active cultural life. Almost every excavation has uncovered more than one stadium, many theaters, and centers called skools believed to be dedicated to the training of young athletes and actors. Other, often larger cultural centers associated with the word university appear to have been used to teach children the engineering and organizational skills required to maintain the complex technological basis of the electric- and petroleum-driven infrastructure. Every university that scientists have found to date also has an associated stadium, leading to the conclusion that even very young children were tutored in athletic skills. The presence of theaters in virtually every skool and university suggests the ancients were obsessed with dramatic arts and music, although some scholars have suggested the structures were used less for performances than as town halls for political meetings.
It is clear, from the prevalence of stadiums in every part of the Mercan empire, that athletic prowess and display formed a central fascination for these people. The nature of the games played out in these huge centers, some of them capable of holding tens of thousands of spectators, is unclear. Given the ferocity of the Mercans’ Hengliss descendants, it is probable that they had a taste for blood sports. Indeed, Recchez la Ca Raino has argued convincingly that the stadiums served as gathering places for religious rites involving human sacrifice; she notes that the ancient Mercans routinely put to death certain classes of criminals, and proposes that the stadiums were used for public executions of malefactors, who were kept caged in separate complexes called prisones (R la C R, “Functions”). Her thesis is given credibility by the Cottrite Codex’s explicit and blood-curdling description of the ritual sacrifice of a Hengliss brez (Codex 8.11).
Public visual art held a prominent and respected place in Mercan culture. Roadways everywhere were lined with huge wooden and steel frames that displayed enormous paintings. Parisque do Scottarla has shown that these were often quite colorful, undoubtedly designed to elevate aesthetic taste among the common people. Exquisite sculptures survive to demonstrate highly developed three-dimensional techniques of representation, rendering men, women, children, and animals in painstaking and vivid detail. A few examples of tile murals have also come down to us, depicting interesting scenes of daily and public life. Toward the end of the empire, the skills of the ancient artists deteriorated, ultimately extinguishing themselves in chaotic and nonsensical constructions that seem to represent nothing more than the chaos that was fast overcoming the Mercan civilization.
For the ancient Mercans, religion had an element of theater, as did their ubiquitous and undoubtedly violent sports. Edifices marked with the words chirch or cathedral, evidently religious gathering places, have as their focal points stages similar to those found in the many theaters uncovered at virtually every archaeological site. One can only wonder at the mentality of a people for whom so many crucial messages were communicated as performance, rather than as story. Evidently literacy was not widespread, despite Hengliss myths to the contrary (see Codex 2.17, in which Hapa Cottrite records a myth attributing the end of the Golden Age to the malign effects of the written word on the Mercan populace).
Almost nothing was known of Mercan religion until Cottrite’s transcription and translation of the tract designated “The New Age Bible” appeared (Codex 17 and 18). If this document is to be taken literally (Higaso i Dretar has argued that it is in many respects allegorical; see H i D, “Allegory”), the Mercans conceived of divinity as a vast, feminine presence emanating from the earth itself and permeating all forms of life. In other words, their faith was pantheistic. They apparently believed certain stones contained particularly distilled essences of the divine and thus had curative or psychological powers. The human psyche was seen as intimately linked to physiology and geology. After death, this psyche was reincorporated into the divine presence from which it sprang at birth. Disseminative thinkers have diverged from both literal and allegorical interpretations of Codex 17 and 18, noting that a careful study extrapolating backward from Hengliss and Espanyo practices as described in Cottrite’s journals reveals a quite different picture.
Badero Vinanha do Riho Adayo Zur i Wahanurin abayo Enriczén, a leading exponent of the burgeoning school of disseminative religious history, points out that Hengliss beliefs in a male, anthropomorphic deity who dwells in a quite concrete, visible world to which the chosen are said, in no abstract terms, to migrate after death, could hardly have been invented out of whole cloth. In a dazzling philosophical tour de force, Vinanha do Riho Adayo Zur convincingly demonstrates that Hengliss theology, such as it was, could have originated nowhere else than in Mercan belief (V do R A Z, “Origins”), and he questions the authenticity of “The New Age Bible.” Vinanha do Riho Adayo Zur posits a theology in which three male deities oversaw a creation that consisted of three dimensions, one on the temporal plane and two in the afterlife. The chief deity, who reigned over the paradisaical afterlife world of the righteous, dispatched one undergod to communicate directly with humanity and the second to punish the wicked by inflicting disease and suffering in the temporal world and by subjecting them to painful harassment in the afterlife (V do R A Z, “Received”).
The realm in which the Mercans truly excelled was technology. As we have noted, they constructed a vast web of paved highways interconnecting every inhabited site on the entire continent of Methgoa. This road system enabled the Mercans to deliver food and other raw materials in regions remote from their population centers, and to return finished goods from manufacturing centers to scattered towns and cities in agricultural areas.
Over these roads they sent vehicles fashioned of metal, glass, and lightweight materials unfamiliar to us (called in ancient Spanish “plástico,” possibly a type of reinforced paper). Evidently the vehicles were powered by small, light motors that ran on refined petroleum and were capable of great speed. As we have noted, it is from this velocity that Espanyo and Hengliss myths of flying machines derive.
The Mercans mined petroleum and ore of all kinds from sites scattered widely across the continent. They had a sophisticated metallurgy and were capable of fashioning virtually anything of iron, steel, copper, brass, and aluminum. They used large quantities of steel in construction, which enabled them to reinforce masonry and concrete to form buildings that rose hundreds of feet in the air. Large vertical structures, necessitated by the enormous size of the Mercan populace, housed thousands in crowded, box-like individual shelters, whose main virtue must have been a commanding view of the cluttered cities below them. Copper, iron, and steel (as well as concrete and plástico) went into enormous centralized plumbing systems, capable of delivering water to and draining waste from virtually every occupied dwelling.
As noted above, they also had a sophisticated system for delivering electricity from generating stations that ran variously on water, coal combustion, or enhanced heavy-metal radiation. Apparently, they developed a communication technology that allowed them to transmit voice, visual, and written messages in tandem with the electricity. This enabled leaders in the highly centralized Mercan government to oversee activities in distant farming districts, as well as coordinating administration of their far-flung empire.
Perhaps nowhere is the Mercans’ technological prowess more evident than in the stunning engineering feats they performed in pursuit of water in the arid regions west of the Sehrra Máderes. Archaeological evidence suggests they dammed most, if not all, of the major rivers in the western part of the continent, diverting vast quantities of water into a canal system whose remnants are still used today, in some areas. Ervay Umanas-Balamo i Verduna do Vaya Reya imagines, given the amount of free water available prior to the present ice age, bleak deserts turned green with food and fiber crops as far as the human eye might see. She argues that most of the culture’s sustenance depended on this complex irrigation system and that, as changing climate caused widespread drought and disrupted weather patterns, the ancient Mercans could no longer feed their bloated population, which collapsed in widespread famine (U-B i V, 349ff).
As we shall see, it was in their technology that the seeds of the ancient Mercans’ demise resided.
Who Were the Mercans and Why Did They Disappear?
For most of the empire’s lifetime, the Mercans appear to have been culturally and ethnically distinct from the Espanyo peoples who are our direct ancestors. Physically, they were distinctive in appearance: long-headed, rather tall, with yellow or pale brown hair. Barenas lo Charradas has suggested that today’s Udan aborigines, with their pale complexions and often blue or greenish eyes, are direct descendants of the Mercans (B lo C, “Children”); this hypothesis has attracted support from W. Eva do Keranha i Padrigiól ne Ghitta Dov i do Garo i Mardeana and other linguists, who speculate that the Udan language, unrelated to any contemporary Methgoan dialect, is actually a debased form of ancient English (E do K, “Linguistic Relic”). The Udan, of course, suffer many congenital abnormalities resulting from centuries of isolation and inbreeding; other scholars note that their odd coloration may have more to do with this than with any imagined connection to the ancient Mercans (see, for example, Gilomu do Robbinya, “Fraternity”).
Whatever the reality of this issue, there is no question that throughout most of the empire’s existence, the dominant language was English. This changed during the late empire, when migration from the Spanish-speaking southerly regions began to displace the aboriginal Mercan people. By the final century of the empire, English-speaking peoples had retreated to the northerly provinces which eventually became what we know as Hengliss territory, and Spanish speakers, who apparently resembled modern Methgoans more than they did their contemporary Mercan rivals, occupied most of the continent.
For some time (possibly as long as two centuries), this situation prevailed; despite a tendency for English-speaking Mercans to concentrate themselves in the northern provinces, living standards remained relatively stable. However, a period of global warming began about 3250 B.P.E., altering the climate in ways that affected agricultural production across the entire continent (for a summary of geological evidence establishing this early date, see Aderi do Dridda’s survey, volume one, chapters four and five). As this warming trend intensified, economies were disrupted, coastal cities submerged, inland deserts that had been reclaimed by the Mercans’ vast irrigation systems were rendered uninhabitable, and intermontane plains formerly used for food production turned to fields of dust.
These changes were not restricted to the Methgoan continent; they affected the entire planet. By approximately 3100 B.P.E., steeply rising temperatures world-wide led to widespread social unrest, the collapse of economies everywhere, famine, and constant warfare. Within a century, the planet’s population began to collapse. Starting about 3000 B.P.E., a series of plagues spread across the globe. Some global ante-historians have posed the horrifying possibility that these diseases were engineered microbes spread among various target populations as acts of war. The leading exponent of this theory, Kadi Magour do Nilalin i Ramoz do Agazár ne Val Jagrin, paints a grim picture of the aftermath. In the absence of an economic infrastructure, faced with famine, and decimated by disease, survivors lost their grip on civilization. Simply put, no one survived who had the expertise required to operate electrical plants, maintain complex communications and transportation equipment, mine and refine metals and petroleum, or conduct large-scale agricultural operations. This failure to maintain the culture’s technological structure created a cascade of calamities that ensured continuing starvation, disease, and conflict. Thus, in the last half of the twenty-ninth century before the present era, global famine and plague led to an abrupt world-wide population collapse. By 2900 B.P.E., human populations had dropped to about one-tenth of the planet’s 3000 B.P.E. population. In other words, over a span of less than a century, 90 percent of humanity was exterminated. The Mercan empire disappeared because most of its citizens were dead (M do N, 2:434-689).
Humanity entered the tribal period of the Great Lacuna, the inter-historical era that stretches from about 2950 B.P.E. to the beginning of the present era.
Espanyo and Hengliss
Ironically, the Cottrite Codex has made it possible for us to know more about the remote Mercan civilization than about our immediate ancestors, the Espanyo of the inter-historical era, among whom writing was not widespread until near the end of the Great Lacuna. It appears that the Espanyo tribes descended from once-populous Spanish-speaking peoples who occupied the southern reaches of the Methgoan continent (a region known by both Espanyos and Hengliss as “Mezgo”) as well as the entire Ajentían continent all the way to its southernmost tip, Gabo do Ornas. These peoples were anything but homogeneous, however. Some tribes, such as those occupying the region of present-day Ghitta Laia, were dark-skinned, long-headed people known as “Nehro” or Onerho whose physiognomy differed markedly from the surrounding populations and from that of present-day Methgoa; another variety of Espanyo resembled some present-day peoples of northern Hezha. Whether these extinct types were indigenous to the continent is today unknown; some ante-historical documents suggest that the Nehro descended from dark-skinned immigrants from the continent of O Vreha, whose present Zemidico populations are, of course, little different in appearance from today’s Methgoans (Luco do Sobin, “Ethnic Groups”).
The Hengliss peoples, to the contrary, were rather distinctive, with pale skin, blue or gray eyes, and light brown hair (frozen mummies found in Vazhindano districts and in northerly parts of the Sehrra Máderes actually have yellow hair like that of a golden sheepdog). As Magour do Nalalin explains (M do N 2: 707-26), the Hengliss represented the ragged remnants of the once-great Mercans’ dominant ethnic stock, identified in ancient English as the “Anglo.” When the empire collapsed and global warming spread, these Anglo groups retreated northward before advancing populations of Espanyos, who themselves were migrating north in search of cooler, more habitable climates. Isolated and, after the Worldwide Climate Reversal occurred midway through the Great Lacuna (ca. 1450 B.P.E.), pinned between glacial fields to the north and hostile tribes to the south, the Hengliss lived a precarious existence. The Espanyos, enriched by trade with Mezgo and the peoples to the far south, regarded the Hengliss as backward and primitive. (Although marked by intermittent, extremely violent conflict, Espanyo and Mezgoan tribes and city-states experienced periods of relative peace).
Rivalry between these two groups, Hengliss and Espanyo, was vicious. Their tribes existed in a state of constant warfare, which further curtailed their populations and, along with increasingly harsh climatic conditions, prevented the expansion of either society. Blocked from growth by the climate as well as by human enemies, Hengliss culture remained static and remarkably stable for an estimated 1,700 years. The body politick, such as it was, revolved around loyalty to a two-tiered hierarchy of hereditary warlords, kubnas and mayrs, of whom the kubna was the higher-ranking. A kubna or kubnath (the latter being the word’s feminine form) controlled a set of cowndees under the protection of his house, a term that designated his physical home as well as his own cowndee’s political identity. Thus, for example, under the kubna Kaybrel Fire-Rider, the House of Moor Lek commanded allegiance from the townships of Moor Lek, Oshin, Cheyne Wells, Honey Hame, O’a, and Elmo. The mayrs and mayreths administered their own home townships (in effect functioning, like their kubnas, as regional dictators, since the agrarian townships comprised large tracts of agricultural fields and woodlands).
In the Hengliss stae’ (territory claimed by a loose alliance of cowndees) called Okan, and, to a far lesser degree, in A’o, mayrs and kubnas pledged their collective loyalty to a single elected leader designated brez. The Okan Hengliss, according to Hapa Cottrite, believed their brez was literally the son of God, who cyclically returned to Earth to inhabit the body of a specific kubna or mayr. Thus, election was less a democratic process than a search by a group of religious wise women and men for an appropriate vessel to house the godhead. This was the status of the body politick during the final millenium of the Great Lacuna; virtually nothing concrete is known of earlier Hengliss social organization other than what can be intuitionally deduced from the oral histories and folktales Cottrite recorded in his journals.
The Cottrite Codex confirms a peculiarity of Hengliss society which had hitherto been a matter of confused speculation: that the Okan and A’oans, at least among the warrior classes, practiced polygamy (Codex 1.9, et passim), and that Espanyo cultures—those with which Hapa Cottrite was familiar—did not. Cottrite expresses amazement at the custom, perhaps more at the fact that decisions about who would marry whom were left to the women than at the practice itself. Evidently single or widowed men formed a kind of pool available to women who desired to make an alliance; the man was said to be “chosen” by his first (senior) wife. Subsequent wives were selected by the senior wife, in consultation with the husband (if he was lucky) and the junior wives. Spousal abuse evidently was unknown to Cottrite, who remarks that any of the wives of the warrior class could choose to live independently; quarrels between spouses were settled by local religious leaders, or, as appropriate, by the kubnath. Many of these women, particularly the senior wives, were mayreths or kubnaths in their own right; alliances between houses consolidated power and created an efficient ruling class. Very probably, this arrangement came into being as a result of conditions brought on by the Ice Age, which naturally were harsher in the north than in the southerly latitudes occupied by the Espanyos. Disease and privation took many Hengliss; the addition of war as another killer undoubtedly ensured a surplus of women and an imperative to produce as many offspring as possible (see, for further discussion, B lo C, “Hengliss Marriage” and R do M, History, chapter 12).
It is clear that, by the time of Brez Lhored Kubna of Grisham Lekvel, the Okan Hengliss enjoyed the highest standard of living and the most sophisticated politico-religious administration of any northwestern tribes. Cottrite’s journals indicate that the A’oans were regarded, even by their Okan cousins, as little better than savages. The Foshinden tribes barely eked out a subsistence clinging to the edges of the frozen wasteland that was their territory. The Hengliss tribes who existed east of the Sehrra Máderes (which they called the Rogga Muns) were unknown to the Okan, A’oans, and Foshindenites. Brez Lhored flourished about 935 B.P.E.; under his leadership, the Okan forged an alliance with the A’oans that continued through the times of several succeeding brezes, certainly until well after the Uprising of Cham Fos. It is known that they were no longer solidly allied at the time of the first Espanyo occupation of Okan, and of course by the beginning of the Present Era, those Hengliss who had not been extirpated in the Wars of Expansion either scattered and died in exile or were absorbed by the dominant Methgoan culture.
Except for facts that have been deduced through intuitional reasoning, little is known about Espanyo culture until near the end of the Great Lacuna, when written records begin to reappear. Most of Cottrite’s observations pertain to Hengliss culture and customs, which for him must have seemed exotic enough to be worthy of note.
Like all inter-historical Methgoan peoples, the Espanyos were quickly reduced to a tribal state after the population collapse of 2900 B.P.E. Warfare between Espanyo and Hengliss tribes soon became a normal part of life. Espanyo warlords battled for ascendancy over their brothers, and once united in ephemeral alliances produced under the dominance of one or another powerful individual, they had to fight off incursions from the Hengliss, who routinely raided the southern provinces, where more food was produced than the harsh northerly climates would allow.
The Espanyos, probably under the impetus of these repeated raids, tended to gather in larger cities than did the Hengliss. At the height of its power, for example, the city-state of Roksan, on the Rio Mendo, may have counted as many as 15,000 men, women, and children within its walls and in surrounding hamlets. That Brez Lhored of Grisham Lekvel’s army probably did not number more than about 5,000 (some believe it was much smaller; see R do M, History, 226–29) is a measure of the enormity of his accomplishment in subduing this formidable enemy. Espanyo territory, taken in its totality, was also much larger than the Hengliss’s: Espanyos occupied all of Socalia down to the Gulf of Socalia, all of Zoni, and most of Galifone, and they laid claim to (although could not occupy) the desert region called Vada. Much of the time, too, relations with neighbors in Mezgo, to the south and east, were conditionally friendly. This gave the Espanyo an enormous trade advantage over the Hengliss; archaeological studies have traced artifacts found at Roksan and Lek Doe to Mezgoan sites east of the Sehrra Máderes and to cultures prevalent in northern Ajentía, half a continent to the south (Aerubavelo do Zando Karlor, Trade Routes)!
Thus during Cottrite’s lifetime the Espanyos were far more developed culturally than the northern tribes of Okan, A’o, and (certainly) Foshinden. Residents of Espanyo cities and towns had access to more and better material goods, food, and community support, although they were subject to the same Ice Age winters and waves of disease that afflicted their Hengliss rivals. An Espanyo city was part of a province ruled by an alacaldo, a warlord who likely obtained his power through inheritance and kept it by force. Cities and towns were governed by badróns, who were the alacaldo’s appointees, and by often bloated bureaucracies of underlings. Like a Hengliss kubna, an alacaldo commanded a train of influential local leaders who were expected to muster their followers into armies for the skirmishes and outright warfare that filled the summer months. These leaders united under a single regional brezidiente, who in some provinces was elected by the alacaldos and in others took power by main force (Bedro do Gindinor, Espanyo Military Origanization).
Ethnically, the Espanyos were related to the surrounding Mezgoan tribes, and of course it is from the unification of those two groups, during the early part of the present historical era, that our own people springs. They were similar in appearance to modern Methgoans, although possibly not as homogeneous: round-headed, often compact in build, with attractive dark hair and eyes—altogether rather handsome stock (Conelle-Dawen do Zan Varezgo, “Ethnology”). A sophisticated trade system, a tendency to form powerful centralized governments, and, late in the inter-historical period, an impetus to build and import elaborate gunpowder-driven weapons gave the Espanyo a cultural advantage over the Hengliss. After the Okan-A’oan alliance dissolved, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable occupation of all Western Methgoa. If the legendary Holiár do Cortazín had not appeared, a similar warlord would have taken his place in this process (B do G, 539-699).
Situated in vaguely claimed territory on the eastern slopes of the Sehrra Orendal (in Hengliss, the Serra Muns), Lek Doe was universally regarded as a neutral city-state. By long-standing custom, hostilities ceased the moment opposing parties reached the town limits. This tradition allowed the town, located on the shores of a deep clear-water lake, to develop into the largest trading center west of the Sehrra Máderes and north of Ghitta Rado (then called Guitat Gorado). Because neither Socalia, on the western side of the Orendals, nor Vada, mostly desert wasteland, exercised much influence on the eastern slope, Lek Doe existed as an independent sovereignty. It was governed by an elected official called a seeyo, who appointed a seefo and a five-person council called the boda’ drectahs.
Populated by trade and mercantile workers from all over Socalia, Galifone, Vada, and Mezgo and visited (at least through the spring, summer, and fall) by a constant stream of merchants and freighters, Lek Doe enjoyed an affluent and cosmopolitan culture. Recent archaeological excavations have shown that the region has been occupied since early Mercan times. The present-day lakeside habitation, Lag Othoa, rests atop a mound of detritus that has been accruing for centuries, and some observers believe its inhabitants daily walk atop the hidden remains of Hapa Cottrite’s Lek Doe (Ezabella do Loncon, “Late Lacunar”).
Hapa Cottrite and His Time
Hapa Cottrite dwelled in Okan during the time of Brez Lhored Kubna of Grisham Lekvel and Brez Fallon Mayr of Cheyne Wells. Cottrite joined the Hengliss when a band of Okan and A’oan raiders, allied under Brez Lhored, passed through Lek Doe, where Cottrite happened to be at the time. The reign of Brez Lhored took place around 935 B.P.E.; his successor, Brez Fallon, is believed to have survived to 915 B.P.E. and perhaps as late as 910 B.P.E.
During this period, the latter third of the Great Lacuna, the Okan as well as everyone else on earth were locked in the ice age that began with the Worldwide Climate Reversal, which set in about 1450 B.P.E. By Cottrite’s time, the Hengliss were highly adapted to the frigid conditions that prevailed throughout their territory. As we have noted, their practice of polygamy is believed to have been one such adaptation. Housing and clothing were designed to protect against cold, and with human numbers perennially depleted following the global population collapse of 2900 B.P.E., reforestation permitted enough fuel to warm most homes even in the northerly latitudes. Cottrite describes Okan architecture in detail, and from his journals we have a picture of thick-walled structures of stone or fired block, huddled together to create as many common walls, unexposed to ice and snow, as possible.
Hapa Cottrite is believed to have come from somewhere in northern Galifone. Although the codex is written in Espanyo, internal evidence suggests he was a native speaker of a Hengliss dialect (for a detailed discussion of these hints, see Robintar do Zepada-Evo, “Languages”). He was not a native of Lek Doe, nor does he seem to have been an ethnic Espanyo; he describes himself as stocky, with pale brown (perhaps gray?) hair and a ruddy complexion (Codex 2.2). He may have guessed the Espanyos would prevail; or possibly he wished not to have the documents read by the Hengliss, about whom he may have felt some ambivalence. Possibly he expected to return to the south, where he may already have cultivated a circle of readers who spoke Espanyo.
Cottrite learned to read and write from his mother, an approved reader and therefore probably a religious votary; Espanyo and Hengliss tradition concurred in recognizing the dangers of the written word and in blaming the spread of uncontrolled literacy for the self-destruction of the vaguely remembered Mercans. Cottrite, ever an iconoclast, showed rather little fear of the written word. Indeed, the “indiscretions” of which Cottrite speaks (Codex 1.1) evidently had something to do with his habit of teaching his acolytes to read and write, both illegal activities. Whatever their nature, it appears that Lek Doe’s seeyo, Babra Puehkenz of Raino, seized an opportunity when she “invited” him to leave her town with the Okan bands. Cottrite indicates the invitation was in fact an order.
Duarto Escodero i Minyos do Portalez en Mosarín, who became Representative of the House of Cham Fos some years after the events depicted in the present volume, was one of the young men and women whom Cottrite taught. A letter attributed to him appears among Cottrite’s papers (Codex 4.2), in which he describes his mentor as patient, learned, and even more widely traveled than the reknowned sojourner, Kaybrel Kubna of Moor Lek. Escodero i Minyos, a fluent writer, makes it clear that exile from Lek Doe did nothing to dissuade Cottrite from spreading the literacy virus. It is known that Cottrite taught Escodero i Minyos; several daughters of the House of Cham Fos (including one who became kubnath); a step-daughter of the House of Moor Lek who later was senior wife to Duarto Escodero y Minyos; a mayreth of Rozebek who became senior wife and mayreth of Cheyne Wells; and possibly Ottavio Ombertín i Boleda do Gansoliz i Corruedo, a Roksando refugee who became one of the most prominent craftsmen in the Okan region. The consequences of these acts resonated through the generations. Rablín do Meghina has argued convincingly that the spread of literacy destabilized the Hengliss cultures, setting the stage for the Uprising of Cham Fos (ca. 895 B.P.E.) and subsequent unrest that made possible the Espanyo occupation of the northern territories (R do M, “Power”).
Cottrite wrote relatively little about himself. Higaso i Dretar has used intuitive extrapolation to deduce that Cottrite probably sprang from a midwestern district of Galifone, and that he had traveled through Galifone, Socalia, Vada, and Mezgo before he arrived at Lek Doe (H i D, “Cottrite’s”). After his initial time at Cham Fos, he spent at least two winters at Moor Lek (Codex 2.6-3.3; 4.1-5.2), and he visited Grisham Lekvel, Oane Lek, Puns, Cheyne Wells, and Miduhm over the course of several summers. Whether his journals break off because he died, because he left the region, or because circumstances forced him to quit writing is unknown. Nor is anything known about what became of Cottrite after the decade he records of his life in Okan. He appears from nowhere, inserts a tiny, scintillating shard of history into the vast darkness of the Great Lacuna, and then fades away.
That small twinkle of light cast a long beam.
—Hano Fontana do Caz Eviatád ne Val Mara i Elarcon Danya
Ghitta Hetachepi dol Sud
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