Nations and Places
Section I: Nations
Section II: Places of Renown
There was a time – not very long ago – when Ibrollene was called the Hub of the World, for it seemed that all proceedings in Gushémal were centered around this land, this Beautiful Nation (as its inhabitants have always been proud to call it). After the loss of the Arrufat Peninsula to the hordes of the Tonomai Empire in the 26th century, the Divine Speaker and the centers of religious worship had relocated to the Ibrollenian capital of Sirap, granted their own district where they had built the most marvelous temples in the past five centuries. Ibrollene, with its mighty army, and its precipitous position barring the further assault of the Tonomai, rose to great prominence in those years.
From Arrufat came artisans and artists aplenty – those who had gathered around today’s Faithold, the old and now again seat of the Divine Speaker -, all the top of their respective crafts. Refugees accompanied them, who would soon be put to task as laborers in the rebuilding of the Divine Speaker’s district as well as to other functions. Sirap, followed soon by other major cities of the realm, became the prized jewels of architecture, of sculpture, of painting, and of literature, both that of the entertaining arts as well as that of learning.
For five centuries Ibrollene maintained and expanded on its standing in the community of nations. A Cayaborean king in the 29th century labored hard to transform his nation into a copy of Ibrollene, only to fail miserably (not least of all because of the resistance of all layers of Cayaboré’s society, which – as some have suggested – led to his early death in dubious circumstances). Lands as far away as Chazevo eagerly set up their embassies, to converse with the reasonably most important nation of Gushémal – and gain its support in the various dealings of diplomacy.
The literature of Ibrollene was often considered unmatched in the entire world, although as a whole it was always centered on itself. “Why should I write about the jungles of the north,” a writer of minor import in the 28th century is quoted as saying, “when the whole world is right here at home?” (Some literary critics might take exception to this, since there have always been bright lights of literature in other places. But on the one hand, many of those geniuses tended to move to Sirap after all, and on the other hand, their grandeur was rarely matched by their fellow countrymen. If one considers a luminary such as Archer Melt the Divine, neither his Arrufatian home province nor his current abode of Milonisi has ever produced a writer of his stature.)
That was Ibrollene. The land we envied for its beauty, for its magnificence, for its faith.
Yet the Hub of the World has ceased to be that, a mere decade ago.
It became something new, something dangerous. Had the root always been there, or had it risen out of nowhere. As a scholar of geography and history, I fear the former is the truth. Neither I nor the majority of my brethren in the Darawk clergy have seen the signs of dissent, the rotting within the timbers of Ibrollene that brought the Beautiful Nation crashing down.
“Our own tavern – what a dream that has been, and now it is here! Fradrik is beaming all the time, from the time he wakes up next to me in the morning until we go to sleep at night. I can hardly believe it has all come true, what he promised me on the day we were wed. A tavern of our own, in the capital, in Sirap, where we would make a fortune, and we would meet all the people that Father Abbay always spoke about.
“This morning I spent an hour just standing in front of the building, looking at the green-painted timbers we put up as a façade – and that I spent half of yesterday cleaning of leaves and the like that had stuck after the paint was put on (wherefore I did not write a diary entry for yesterday). So beautiful. The Singing Swan, Fradrik insisted on calling it, and he painted the sign himself, with the white swan on a blue pond of lilies, its beak open to sing. I didn’t like it at first, but this morning, looking at the sign and the people passing by, it is so beautiful.
“We opened in the afternoon. There weren’t many guests, so work wasn’t difficult. It will surely change, for the few who came rained cheers on our heads for the good wine we served, and for the displays of books in the back of the tavern. (Ahh, Fradrik, you must never read this diary. How I have misjudged you! That one man spent most of the evening pouring over the books, ordering wine after wine. Such a good idea, Fradrik!)
“I am so delighted, I can hardly wait for tomorrow!”
her diary, 15 Aqualun 3132 A.E.
“The fifth book this week was stolen from our library. It’s getting so expensive to fill it up again, but Fradrik thinks our income makes up well for it. Oh, Fradrik, have you ever looked into our money box lately? I spend more time scouring the book shops than standing behind the counter! Why, Seelany works so many shifts I think she is going to keel over one of these days, and Seelan is a young girl who is about to get married. What are we going to do then? So many of our barmaids have proven untrustworthy, dipping into our money box whenever I wasn’t looking. And Fradrik hardly ever does!
“I spoke to Magistrate Vallis about the thefts today, serving him a particularly well filled glass of wine. (Costly, but it pays to keep up with the magistrates, even though Fradrik doesn’t want to hear about that.) He said that he would ask the police to post a jaundarm in the tavern. As if there weren’t enough jaundarms here at any time of the day! And I suspect that Tauriel has taken at least one of our books. I don’t trust elves. How can the magistrate permit them to join the jaundarms?
“As if that weren’t enough, I saw three of those dark-clad fellows in Master Remônzau’s book shop today. Again. They were holding several books in their hand, discussing them in a whispered tone, agitatedly about the aristocracy and about the Divine Speaker’s supposedly evil plans for taking over the land. Master Remônzau doesn’t think much of it. They buy a book every now and then, and that’s all he’s interested in. But I have seen so many of their kind in the city lately, some even coming to our tavern. They can’t be up to any good, I know.”
the diary of Laurônz Dartanyô, 3 Gahleb 3133 A.E.
“A new tax has been announced today. They call it an ‘artist’s tax’, but it doesn’t tax the artists so much as the ordinary people. Paying for the great works of art, that’s what they say. King Relaume wants to raise a mausoleum for himself, that’s all it’s really about. He’s paying the architects, the sculpturers and the fresco painters – from this new tax. A silver crown a month! A silver crown!
“At least Magistrate Varnón has agreed to excempt the Singing Swan from this tax. The reason he put forward to the Council on Taxation is that we serve a large number of artists, so that we may be counted as part of the artist community ourselves. How fortunate a development. Fradrik accepts it as if there was nothing behind it. Should I be glad, or should I worry about that?
“I cannot say. Oh, diary, what if your words should ever be published? I would die of shame. Even more than I do on those nights when Magistrate Varnón gathers his reward for excempting us.”
From the diary of Laurônz Dartanyô, 12 Larest 3134 A.E.
“Vrony spoke her first word today. Her first real word, dear diary, not those I pretended to hear before. ‘Mommy!’ she called to me when I changed her diapers, and when I smiled, she couldn’t stop saying that. Oh, my little Vrony! Even Fradrik was cheerful, although he had laid down bets with his friends that Vrony would say ‘Daddy’ first.
“His friends. I wish he’d stop talking to those dark-clad fellows so much. I thought I’d seen the last of them in ’34, when the Councils sent the jaundarms after them, on the orders of King Relaume. Well, officially it was Relaume. Varnón told me that he had only signed the papers. (That man! It took him nearly a year to tell me! As if he didn’t know that I could be trusted!) In fact it was the Council on Pacification, of which Varnón is a member, who had decided on banning them from the city.
“Such a pity that Relaume died in Xyrell that year, and his son Lùdig replaced half the Council on Pacification with his own cronies. Varnón can’t stop complaining about them! The blackrobes were allowed back into Sirap, and Varnón says that King Lùdig even reads their pamphletes. Why would he do that when they are condemning him to the darkest abysses in their rants? Why would he seem so taken with them?
“Everybody knows that the taxes are harsh. Such is life! We have so many good things to accomplish in our nation, and we must have money for that. The crowns that have to paid are needed.
“Oh, dear diary, I mustn’t forget to tell you that Fradrik took Vrony for a walk tonight. I should be angry with him since he left me alone with our two barmaids to take care of the Singing Swan, but it was such a beautiful sight, him walking with our little Vrony out on the street. And not a single blackrobe around! No, that is wrong. The only good thing about the blackrobes is that they all love our little Vrony. As far as my daughter is concerned, I do trust them.
“But Fradrik… Fradrik… Why haven’t you noticed that I insisted on naming her Varónik? Why couldn’t you tell how close it is to Varnón?”
From the diary of Laurônz Dartanyô, 17 Radobun 3136 A.E.
“Fradrik keeps asking me what is wrong with me. All day, as if he hadn’t heard the news. Only concerned with his blackrobes, he is. Yesterday I found a robe like that in his closet. Hidden away, in a box at the bottom. Too late to tell you, my diary, I fear. I wanted to burn it. Burn it in front of his eyes, to tell him what I think of him and his mad friends.
“What is wrong with me? Why didn’t I do that? Why didn’t I face the consequences?
“Yes, I know, my only friend. Because then I would be exiled from my home, along with my Varnón. That was the king’s decision today. To exile Varnón. The head of the Council on Pacification, the head of the jaundarms. How could he do that? Why, oh why?
of the blackrobes and their sultry, disastrous whisperings. ‘Varnón
wants to replace you. Varnón wants a revolution.’ I’ve heard the like
from Fradrik. In my own house, under my own roof, I’ve heard him speak
of it. That Varnón is planning a revolution, that he’s conspiring with
the priests against the king. And I could not say anything, could not tell
him what a fool he is, that Varnón is all that stands between us and the
“I couldn’t even say good-bye to Varnón. He was gone when I went to his house tonight. Vrony and Little Fradrik were there with me, but his house was locked, and there were jaundarms posted around it. Including Tauriel the elf. He told me that Varnón had been sent away immediately after the king’s declaration of exile, packed into five coaches with the other exiles.
“Lately I have been reading my old entries again, dear diary. I have faulted Tauriel. He may be a skyface, but he’s not a bad man. He didn’t tell the new magistrates that I had come to Varnón’s house, and he gave me an apple for Vrony. (Of course he knows who her father is. He’s known forever, I think. Nothing gets past that skyface. Now why can’t I but smile at that? Oh, Varnón, forgive me that I could possibly smile on this day!)”
From the diary of Laurônz Dartanyô, 4 Destrab 3139 A.E.
“Three books have reappeared in the Singing Swan’s library. The poems of Jâk Vellaum, two volumes, and the fourth part of Randol’s “History of Ibrollene”. All three had vanished in ’34, about when I suspected that Tauriel had been stealing from us.
“I think I was right back then. The skyface has been sitting in the tavern all night, with his ears drooping and wine running down into his beard. (Hasn’t he started to grow the beard after Varnón was sent into exile?) Well, he’s paying well for his ‘extended’ borrowing. Nothing but the best wines. If I hadn’t refilled our supplies, we wouldn’t have gotten his crowns! Fradrik obviously hasn’t remembered – when did he ever think about such things as supplies?
“He’s been gone all night. With the blackrobes, I’m sure. I wish I could tell Tauriel about that. The jaundarms are none too happy about the new rules and the exile of Varnón. The new head of the Council on Pacification, Garold, I’m sure he is a blackrobe himself secretly.
“But I mustn’t say a word. What would become of me and my children if Fradrik were revealed as a blackrobe? What if…
“Nothing, that’s what. My diary, why can’t the king understand that the blackrobes are evil? That they sway him to false paths? All I might accomplish was brand Tauriel. There might be blackrobes among the jaundarms. Who knows how many of them there are today?
From the diary of Laurônz Dartanyô, 24 Glymarion 3139 A.E.
“Fradrik wore his black robe in the tavern today. I can’t believe he did that. And he kept glaring at me, that I would protest. As if I would give him the satisfaction! I let him gloat, the fool. He’ll see what will come of this. Leastways I no longer share a bed with him. Does he have a whore among his blackrobe friends? Probably. The man never could keep from women.
“He’ll get his, soon enough. Tauriel is looking very confident today. Such an image of a man! Proud and strong. And he doesn’t look a day older than back in ’34.
“It makes me sad, that’s what it does. My hair is starting to turn gray, and my breasts are so heavy, and my body is so lumpy. How can Tauriel bear to talk to me with that smile of his, when I am becoming quickly an old matron? Vrony surely will be a matron before age starts taking a toll of Tauriel!
“Why, oh why, do I keep thinking about that? I filled pages of pages herein about age, and how Tauriel doesn’t age. How he stays the young, wonderful man he is.
did I stop writing about Varnón? His last letter arrived three months
ago, but I scarcely read it. Varnón only talks about the Topay Coalition,
about this hamlet of Mercurham. It can’t be more than a hamlet, no
matter how he talks it up.
“No, Varnón is still himself. He says that not all hope is lost. He says that he will be back one day, but I know that he won’t return. And that there is a woman with him. A noble lady, I’m sure. Why don’t I cry about that? Why won’t the tears come? Why do I see instead Tauriel?
“There is news from Marsey. Fradrik read the missive aloud in the tavern, about the Blackrobe Council that was installed there three days ago. The blackrobes declared that all nobles were to pay a special tax, while the burden on the peasants was lifted. The temples were also burdened with new, heavy taxes. New regulations, new rules, and new rulers. Rulers who do not care about literature and the arts. Did I mention that Fradrik threw out the library? He wanted to burn the books! Burn them!
“Oh, thanks to Tauriel, none of that happened. We stole all the books last night, brought them to a safe place. Below the city, in a place where – I shouldn’t write too much, Fradrik might find these pages. But it is a place where elves consort, in secret from the rest of Sirap. None of them likes the blackrobes. Our books are safe there.”
From the diary of Laurônz Dartanyô, 8 Glymarion 3140 A.E.
“Yes! Oh, joy, oh wonderful joy! Varnón is back in Sirap! And Tauriel was by his side when Varnón rode into the city, at the head of an army! An army!
“I hadn’t thought it would be possible! He brought so many soldiers together, some of them jaundarms, but so many of our regular soldiers who pledged support to him that he may rid them of the blackrobes. As I told you last month, the Divine Speaker had been jailed for treason against the King! The Divine Speaker, the holiest of clerics! In the dungeons, languishing until a court could be convened. But who would have sat in justice over him? No priest of Decirius but a blackrobe, or perhaps the king, sweet-talked by the blackrobes.
“It’s over now. Thank the gods! Varnón has brought his army here, and they have defeated the blackrobes and their minions. Lùdig was put into prison, into the cell where the Divine Speaker had been. Now he will be tried for treason, and the Speaker himself will preside over the trial, I have heard.
“A wonderful day! Not to mention that I am finally rid of Fradrik. Tauriel came by in the evening, exhausted from the day of fighting – the poor man! -, and he arrested Fradrik. The fool of a blackrobe will be so near to his beloved traitor Lùdig, that I weep in joy!
“Vrony and Little Fradrik don’t understand. I’ve tried to explain to them what has happened, that it is all for the good of the land, but they keep asking me when Daddy will be home. That hurts, that they can still believe Fradrik to be a good man, their father, when he has never been that but by appearance!
“Ah, but soon Varnón will call for me. And then Vrony and little Fradrik will live with him, and I’ll have Seelany take over the tavern. She’s been such a good barmaid, ever since she came back to work for us, and her husband will make a good innkeeper, I’m sure. She deserves the good fortune, the godsfearing woman that she is.”
From the diary of Laurônz Dartanyô, 10 Quorun 3142 A.E.
 His full name is Varnón Vallis. It is interesting that this is about the last time that Mistress Dartanyô refers to him by his family name. Ever afterwards, it is “Magistrate Varnón”.