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Fall of Old Sartor

Four thousand years before Sherwood Smith's main stories begin, there was a loose empire established, called Sartor. No one knows when humans came first to the world--or which group preceded which, since the time is unreliable not only on the world but through the Gates. What is clear is that what eventually became Sartor (and they hide their origins the best) got access to magic first. The clearest and most believable story is that an angel appeared to women washing clothing beside a river, singing as they worked. Mages who've dismissed then re-examined that myth for milennia are now fairly certain that the 'angel' was probably a water being, maybe sent by the indigenous life forms, and took a human form that was pleasing, and which also gave authority. the impetus was to improve the lives of these creatures, and the probable cause was the sound of the women's singing.

At any rate, women got access to magic first. They used it to improve life, learning swiftly, and teaching it to their daughters. At first (this was before written records were kept--or else before someone stopped destroying records in order to reinvent history) so it's unclear how long this went on. But from some ambiguous works of art (mostly gone now, except a couple of cave paintings near an underground lake) the women took on forms of religious leaders in order to bolster their authority--and to keep magic from men. The idea of queenship came from outworld, and was adapted to the situation, so that central governing authority and magic were inextricably combined. Queens were life-givers, mages, and power-wielders.

Somewhere in there humans were threatened with annihilation, and the cause is still unclear, because the only art or myths are all from afterward, in other words, first sorrow and threat, and then triumph. But the annihilation did not happen. Humans scattered, which diminished the impetus to war. The major spells were developed, imposed, and with them,

Magicians--mostly women--worked hard on improving quality of life, which included a now deeply kept secret, a deliberate plan of genocide to eradicate sexual predators; the impetus here was fear that the indigenous species would eradicate all human life, so appalled (if you can assign human emotions to non-humans) they were by the horrors of human behavior on their world. The next goal was to eradicate the instinct for violence and warfare, which almost worked.

But not quite. The government processed yearly between cities established in a longitudinal line down two continents, and the idea of government changed as the culture did, with the addition of kings. Both kings and queens had a tendency in the early days to eradicate older records that were inconvenient to the mystique of Sartoran monarchy, particularly as personal magic spread and became everyday. The yearly governmental Process was in part to remind people of central power, but also in part to establish an over-riding authority, and to circumvent wars.

The basic spells altered life in subtle but far-reaching ways for human beings, bringing profound changes to the developing cultures.

Indigenous magic also enhanced human potential; most people spoke mind-to-mind, and controlled the aging process from within, which meant one could take decades to age if one wished. Ideally death was a time of personal choice, and as such a process of completion, not an ending. Since they recognized the body, mind, and spirit as a kind of triune whole--called dena Yeresbeth 'unity of the three'--death was considered a translation to another existence.

They were still human, and evolving, so not everyone was equally happy or tranquil.

As their abilities were enhanced, so too were their healers, who learned to use an indigenous material known as disirad. It looks like a cross between metal and stone, would be a metalloid on the Periodic Table, somewhere around Palladium, but with the addition of a third bound state of quarks besides proton and neutrons, which makes magic possible. This non-Palladium, disirad, might be considered the balance point in the Periodic Table of Elements on S-d, as its neutrons, protons, and this third nucleod are balanced in number. Disirad resonates through everything in that world, including humans, enabling them to effectively divide the three (body, mind, and spirit) for purposes of restablishing harmony. Since it was only found in few places, it had to be mined, and healers fashioned it into easily portable aids called dyra. The dyra were used by trained healers, called dyranarya.

There were--these being humans--those whose motivations were too complex for the healers; those who desired a control beyond death, because part of the accepted translation was the surrender of ego into the greater whole. They wanted, in short, power, and of course the desire for power is manifested in a spectrum of goals.

Those people coalesced into a group, around what might be another type of being from elsewhere, one that could be called a life-vampire: not sucking blood, but identity and being, which translates into power. This being deliberately chose a form of great beauty, a morvende, called Ilerien. Ilerien's origin was blurred by the fact that his human form came from the future. An identifier for this group was assigned by the Norss--the guiding council--of the third world, Songre Silde. Those who opposed the Norss were Norss-endar, a term which was adopted by Sartorans and altered into Norsunder.

Who were the other Norsundrian leaders, and what happened to them is explored slowly through the stories. To summarize drastically, four thousand years before the stories here begins, Norsunder made a bid to take control of two of the worlds--Ildaraeth (now called Ilithon) and Sartor--and as the strengths and wills of the foes were fairly evenly matched, Ildaraeth was very nearly all destroyed--not just the population but the world as well. And sartor take a major hit as well: among other disasters, the population was drastically reduced, and disirad effectively vanished. Norsunder could be said to have won--but they didn't get much for their triumph. And so they withdrew behind the time barrier to wait on the rebuilding of Sartor in population and strength.

One of their key players was their single captured and switched dyranarya, named Detlev y Reverael ne-Hindraeldre. One of the very best of them, he was brought down by personal loyalty--forced into a surrender through the trapping and tormenting of his twelve-year-old nephew, Siamis Y Reverael. He was kept a prisoner outside of time. When he surrendered, he was asked to prove his obedience first by the suborning of the morvendes' most brilliant and gifted young mages, a boy named Ilerien. Debate was intense until the late 4700s about whether or not he knew it was a set-up, whether that event propelled his career or evil, or how to explain his motivations and subsequent actions. The answer took hundreds of years to come.

On Sartorias-deles, so much of Sartor had been destroyed it took a couple millenia to rebuild. Abilities like dena Yeresbeth were also nearly forgotten, relegated to puzzling references in the scarce old records stored in the remains of some of the old cities.

Magic has changed as well, for people can no longer control it as they had once. The single agreement (tacitly made) between Norsunder and those left was that what came to be called the old magic would no longer be used; it was too easy to lose everything. [1]


  1. Sherwood Smith's Website: Background
Page last modified on June 18, 2022, at 12:33 PM