Tlon

This is a world-building sketch for my Project Mintaka work. Tlon is one of the most important places in this milieu, even if may not be the story’s central setting. The name itself is a nod to Jorge Luis Borges, who created one of the strangest realms ever in fiction. My Tlon, though, isn’t his. I do like that Borges’s Tlön threatens to take over our reality.

The oldest city on Ourin is Tlon. This is where all civilizations began. Tlon is where the year, the orbit around the yellow sun, and the millennial year around Mintaka was realized. At the center of the city was the Stone of Memory, a twenty odd foot megalith believed to sentient but also the source of human telepathy and gifts. And it was long held that the Stone of Memory drew humanity to it. First they built Tlon around the Stone and then branched out to build other cities and mark spots of power with stones and cairns. Of all the sacred places in the world, the Stone of Memory was the most powerful and pilgrims throughout history constantly came to Tlon to visit it.

For seventeen millennia, Tlon was the center of empires, the source of culture, and the root of religion and philosophy. The cultivation of human gifts centered around it and the School of Wisdom grew in response. Before the School with its emphasis on using knowledge and the gifts as means for enlightenment, the shamans interacted with and interpreted the Stone of Memory. The School absorbed the shamans and then gave the world astronomy, history, mathematics, chemistry, medicine, and much of the early sciences. The earliest known universities on Ourin were affiliated with the School of Wisdom. The Wisdom priests also studied the gifts much more systematically than the shamans ever did, and they refined the practice of the powers. While the shamans were capable of healing illnesses or opening portals to other worlds, the Wisdom priests applied much more focus to the application of these extraordinary acts. Through much practice, they wrote down the hows of psychic healing along with their body of medical science. Frequently going through the doorways to other worlds, the Priests developed a coordinate system which enabled them to travel to the other worlds with the help of the Stone of Memory or the other sacred places. The School of Wisdom would become one of Tlon’s most enduring institutions, operating in one form or another when kingdoms came and went, when Tlon was destroyed and later resurrected, and when the republics rose as modern nations, only to become obsolete themselves.  The School of Wisdom would shape not just the culture of Tlon but those of all the kingdoms, empires, republics, democracies, and even civilizations with systems that defied conventional understanding.

Writing and poetic expression have been a part of Tlon for eighteen millennia before its destruction. The Tlonite writing system became that of the Sutanese Empire, then the Kingdom of Itan, and later the standard written language of the United Republic of Itan and Sutan. The script also spread to other nations, thus becoming known as Universal. The Universal script consisted of thousands of ideograms and characters, much like Chinese, with a few thousand for common and practical use. Alphabets have come and gone with many of cultures on Ourin, but even with its inconvenience, Universal was adopted as the mutually intelligible medium. Many felt there was an elegance and a conciseness to the characters, that meaning was more immediately conveyed than if the word was represented with several phonemes and letters. To read poetry in Universal was to experience its meaning. A traditional art form was the calligram, which takes the lines of poems and arrange the characters in a visual way. One was to arrange the lines to form a picture, while the second variation resembled a crossword puzzle. Poems told stories, expressed thoughts and feelings, and were even composed by some Wisdom priests and practitioners as a form of meditation. Poetry and Universal script, like the School of Wisdom, were also enduring Tlonite institutions.

The Principle of Poetics, an ancient philosophical document from the Third Millenium, influenced epic and narrative poetry, drama, and later the novel. The novel, as an Itanese literary form, was long held in low regard for a few millennia, despite its success with the general public from the mid-19th millennium to the early 21st millennia. Even though the forms of story telling in late 20th millenium cinema and television dramas often operated on the basis of the Principles, they were often viewed with more disdain than the novel. Much of Itan’s cultural innovations were treated with contempt, especially by Itanese culture snobs.

Over 18 millennia (and a few thousand years of unrecorded history), Tlon had evolved from an agricultural village to a rough, Mycenean-like kingdom to to a culture that was just beginning to discover fine engineering on the level of European cities during the Renaissaance. By the late 17th millenium, the printing press was refined and perfected, with printer shops resembling libraries with shelves and shelves of movable type. The Wisdom temples contained gigantic pipe organs where songs were played to aid meditation. While they perfected their centuries-old technology, Tlon and other cities in the Sutanese empire were starting their Industrial revolution with cog-and-wheel mills and factories. And craftsmen built clockwork automata to entertain the Tlonite court. At the height of its cultural and technological development, Tlon would be destroyed. Though some historians would describe Tlon of that period as decadent and in decline.

An event that would lead to Tlon’s destruction was the uprising of the Itanese tribes. General Chanen, a tribal chieftan’s son and a one-time slave of the Sutanese empire, united the tribes and fought back against the oppresion of the Sutanese. As highly developed as the Tlonite culture was in Sutan, the Sutanese and the Tlonites had little regard for the barbarians of the north. The Itanese were primitive tribes that engaged in their petty wars and raids against each other for millennia and only became a bother when they started to raid the frontiers of the Empire. Conquering them and teaching them civilization seemed to be the only reasonable solution. Except that the tribes that once freely roamed the Atosa plains, the northern mountain ranges, and the northeastern coastal area found themselves less than even second-class citizens, slaves and people who needed to be kept in line with racism, division, and the demeaning of their millennia old ways. Though they could hardly tolerate each other, they all found unity under the guidance of General Chanen.

First, Chanen broke down the defenses of the frontier and advanced to the Sutanese vassel kingdoms and prinicpalities, conquering most of Sutan. When he reached Hladdat, the most important kingdom under the Sutanese Empire, he was recognized by the oracle Xochitl as the Great Destroyer-Preserver long prophesied as Harbinger of the Destruction of Tlon and the ultimate preserver of Tlonite culture. Surprised that the oracle did not fear him, Chanen asked her how he can make his empire great, and she said to adopt the Tlonite institutions for Itan, to use the culture of the newly conquered as the basis for his own. Given that he had sent an invasion force to Tlon, he planned to over see the conquest. However, Xochitl counseled him to stay in Hladdat, to assemble the the nobles, the magistrates, and the lawyers, and to work out a treaty and covenants.

The royal family of Tlon, knowing that the barbarians were soon coming, The king and queen sent their children and related nobles out of the city to take their citizens to safety, but they would remain with the soldiers defending their ancient city. But the Stone of Memory had other plans for the young Princess Aresh, one of the most gifted people to ever live. The Stone had her use her powes to blast and level the great city of Tlon, killing everyone – the king, the queen, the Tlonite solidiers, the invading Itanese army, and the few Tlonites who remained in the city. Only the Stone of Memory was left standing. Tlon would not be conquered.

As for Aresh, she vanished. In the year 19962, a girl in early adolescence was found near the ruins of Tlon. She wore people of that era would describe as a medieval caftan and she spoke in an archaic dialect. Some believed she was Aresh of Tlon thrown through time, but there was no way to verify it. She had no memory of how she got there. No one bothered with DNA tests. The remains of Aresh’s older sister, Lady Ynesh, lay in the cold glacial country of Tchon, where she and her company had fled to from the Itanese.

After the destruction of Tlon, the surviving Tlonites would scattered all over the world. Some settled in the former vassal cities of Sutan, others helped build the new cities of Itan, some joined the Ndanthans in their sea trade voyages, and some even went across the vast eastern ocean to Alys and some of its neighboring countries. Xochitl had given Chanen the prophecy that the children of Tlon would some day return to rebuild the city. With that, Chanen had a covenant written, stating that when Tlon would be rebuilt when the Tlonites returned. Naturally, Chanen’s answer was publicly stated when some Sutanese nobles asked if they could rebuild their former capital.

The Tlonites have remained in diaspora up to the late 20th millennium. And Tlon will rise again.

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