Of Poets, Fools and Madmen. . .
Historically the youngest race of Panisadore, the Malenosha have nevertheless had significant impact on their world. Their origins shrouded in myth and legend telling of stories once known but now long forgotten, their minds and thoughts push ever forward, probing the realms of possibility. Where the Fehladurh in times past had excelled in developments of applied research, particularly with regard to arcane mechanics, their frame of mind had always been turned toward practical application. It seems that the certainty of “knowing where they came from” had manifested in an equally predictable sense of “where they were going,” coupled with a preoccupation with developing the specific means of “getting there.” Not so among their human offspring. Uncertain as to their origin, they proved equally uncertain as to their future, and responded to this uncertainty with startling originality and imagination. For the first time a people eagerly embraced the concepts of the theoretical, asking questions of “what if?” and “but what if instead?,” exploring the realms of “pure” research and theoretical knowledge developed purely for its own sake. The quantum leaps and breakthroughs in thought along with the synthesis and variation in practice which this approach precipitated continues to shape the world around them.
Since the return of the New Sun, humans have spread far and wide across the face of the world in their exploration, developing networks of settlement and communication which clearly reflect at once both the migratory movements of their Khurorkh ancestry and the sedentary patterns of their Fehladurh forebears. While displaying a unique flair for the synthesis of seeming disparate and contradictory elements into unexpected and highly synergetic new forms, humans also appear to be constantly pulled in many directions at once, creating fierce conflicts between those dichotomies which ultimately prove to be mutually exclusive for one reason or another. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the religions and ethos of their two solar deities from which the humans derive their name as a people: Malenosha meaning “People of the Sun,” in a melding of Fehladurh and Riminoshan linguistic roots.
Although they were aware of the Primordial Deities from their beginnings, the origin of their race during a period of such severity in the manifestations of natural forces produced nearly as much a sense of antagonism among the fledgling race as of reverence. The Primes then were seen as beings more to appease and court favor of than beings to worship out of love. More significant to the humans was the warmth and light of the great red sun. Initially they had no memory of a second solar presence and looked to Shalireah as providing what was most needed for life and survival, as well as the warmth of love and the fire of passion. By the time the Malenosha re-established contact with the races from which they had descended, their perception and worship of Shalireah had undergone significant alteration, such that they were worshiping a different being entirely, similar in some ways, but very different in others. The church of Salistreah was already much as it is now, but contrasted differently by the Old Sun.
The most significant religious development during the AOS (Age of the Old Sun) worldwide was the ascendancy of the goddess Thelema as a guiding presence informing the many cultures. Given the different spiritual perspectives of the Burrowing Peoples regarding the fundamental state/condition of the natural world (as most fully expressed among the Dwarven Clans of Will in their relationship with the Great Matrix and the Will of The World,) rather than any of the Primes, Thelema then became the first truly universal deity among all six races. The over-riding concern among all was the results and ramifications of their choices and actions as they influenced future events. A widespread cultural backlash had occurred well across the board regarding hasty action in light of the widespread determination not to repeat the horrendous errors of misunderstanding which had so exacerbated the terrible escalation and continuance of the Kith War. As a result, all races had come to appreciate the need to grasp more fully the ramifications of their choices and actions and sought guidance in perceiving the results which such might ultimately attain, for good or ill.
Further informing these Children of the Sun, and literally heralding the rising of their teachers on the horizon then came Varrul Morningstar, a distinctly human god of knowledge and learning both pragmatic and for no other goal than the desire for awareness and understanding itself. Although never more than a lesser deity among the many, it is his ethos and the acts of his students which have no doubt had the greatest impact upon the world overall as there is truly nothing in existence which lies outside the scope of his interest or the exploration of his pupils. Over the course of the AOS numerous cultures and societies came forth and retreated as the expanding humans experimented and explored, often through trial and error, the vast kaleidoscopic possibilities of interaction among their own people and others.
When the light of the Old Sun retreated a second time and much of the world was again covered in ice, all of the peoples were engaged once more in the struggle to survive. Though much better prepared than before for this eventuality, the 2nd Glacial Period was still characterized by hardship and war. As the ocean waters retreated, the glaciers expanded, forcing new migrations once more toward the warmer midlands and into the caverns below them. Although the climate changes had no appreciable affect upon the Underdark and its peoples, those populations living in the outer and liminal caverns had come to rely in part upon resources traded from the surface. As these populations swelled with the retreating numbers of Beneadresha and Surenashi among the delves of the Rimenosha they likewise found need to move many of the delves into closer proximity to habitable surface lands. At the same time, the numerous warring tribes of the Pahrorkh with whom they had been in constant competition for such cavernous regions were likewise displaced from the colder extremes. Forced closer and closer together, the Burrowing Peoples and Pahrorkh clashed with ever greater frequency, until they were engaged in a nearly constant state of war. Nor were the predations of the Pahrorkh limited to the upper caverns. Raiding parties and even entire armies spilled forth upon the surface time and again to despoil needed resources and spread slaughter among all whom they encountered.
During the waning centuries of the AOS, as the Light of Thelema was slowly occluded behind Salistreah’s greater orb, the Rimenosha had reluctantly shared with the other races their knowledge of extracting and working the ores of the Coldstone, long known to them from its abundance in the Underdark where their people first were formed. Unspeakably saddened by the knowledge that this gift would be used to make the tools of war, they nevertheless believed it necessary to the survival of all the races. (To this day among the Rimenosha and many others, it remains forbidden to speak in the foundries when steel weapons are being forged. Should someone inadvertently do so all pieces in progress are immediately slagged, the fires banked and a purification performed before the forges are relit and work begun from the beginning once more to ensure that the intent of the work not be contaminated in any way which might lead to even greater harm than the accepted necessity of it. Notable exceptions to this of course are those rituals encompassing the forging of magical weapons. The restrictions placed upon these however are even greater.) Even with the knowledge of its working, access to the ore was quite limited for a long time, although iron prospecting became a major influence upon the directions of subsequent migrations.
As the equatorial sea retreated, the island nations found themselves isolated once more. The waters they had learned to cross were again gradually replaced by vast, treacherous salt marshes and bogs. Worse still, the Pahrorkh, who had never developed seafaring capabilities, could now, albeit with great difficulty, reach their formerly island homes. Their cities became fortified mountain tops which they were forced to defend ferociously with little hope for outside help. With little access to viable metallic ores, they had to conserve their meager coldstone tools and weapons, melting any down which were broken or otherwise no longer useful and reforging them in new forms. Part by accident and part by deliberate experiment they developed better refining techniques of the cruder iron castoffs and numerous alloys along with other metals. Most significantly, they developed the technique of folding and refolding these more refined alloys, patiently hammering the folds together over and over again to make much harder and more durable tools for both peace and war.
In the regions where the two continents had been closest to each other, the countless islands of the Neck were now peaks upon a low mountain range over and around which both Khur- and Pahrorkh fought bitterly. As the latter were forced off of the eastern slopes they also found themselves engaging the isolated human city-states in the western expanse of the great marshlands. They spread out and settled in numerous similar outposts, so that the latter half of the glacial period was a time of nearly constant raiding and warfare between the human cities and the hidden Pahrorkh fortresses. Having little commerce on their islands with the Khurorkh during the AOS, they made little distinction between the two groups and their earliest legends of how they had come to live on the islands did not depict their race as a whole in the most flattering light. While the same could be said of the Fehladurh in general, their Fehladurh ancestors were at least remembered as having watched over them and taught them many of the basic aspects of their civilization in the distant past before disappearing upon the eastern ocean. So, even though they eventually drove the Pahrorkh tribes out with the return of the New Sun, the humans of that region continue to view the entire race, regardless of color, as enemies to be eradicated.
North and south however, the Malenosha fared better with allies among the Kith and greater access to subterranean trade. Many of their cities and homelands had been established in temperate regions which remained inhabitable, so fewer were forced to move from colder climates than was the case among the peoples of the Kith, and likewise fewer were dislocated by the rising waters when the New Sun returned. A marked distinction in thinking arose between the Malenosha isolated in the salt marshes and those to the north and south of them. While both continued to pursue investigation and learning, a shift occurred among beleaguered equatorial cities as they searched for solutions to specific pressing problems. While still open to exploring theoretical concepts, they began to perceive that the process of doing so invariable led to the isolation of a single, best solution which, once discovered and implemented, obviated the need for any further pursuit of lines of theory and research regarding that particular case, permitting them to move on to exploring other matters. The remainder of the race on the other hand, continued to engage in multivariate solution models which did not accept that any one solution would best suit all permutations of a given question, nor where successful, could be expected to remain so when conditions eventually changed. When the New Sun returned this change in perspective among the equatorial civilizations would have deep and pervasive ramifications upon their further development.
The Age of the New Sun has been one of great innovation and change. From its very beginning, as the second sun began to appear from behind the larger once more, this epoch has either incorporated or reacted to the teachings of its associated deity, revealing himself specifically to the Malenosha as the Law Giver Jessanak, the True Sun. While Jessanak is known to human cultures throughout the world, it was primarily among those isolated around the equator that his teachings took greatest root. Jessanak had revealed himself directly to many human leaders as the 2nd glacial period was ending, offering to teach and guide them, their people and ultimately their race to a place of supremacy in the world. While many did learn and adopt at least some facets of his teachings upon social structure, order and law and prospered thereby, to the city states which had been forced of necessity to stand alone within the safety of their palisades throughout the long sun’s absence, his offer constituted the presentation of the single, optimal solution they were seeking to numerous troubles of security and welfare experienced within the many discreet and singular tribal fortresses. His counsel was received so enthusiastically throughout the region that by the time the equatorial sea had refilled the lowlands and encircled their island cities once more, his worship had effectively supplanted that of every other deity in the region, in particular that of Salistreah which had begun there. Adherents to the latter were not marginalized easily, and the claim of Jessanak as the “True Sun” was especially offensive to them. Given further that the ethea of the two are nearly diametrically opposed, the ensuing rivalry was inevitable.
With the appearance of two comets, the “Little Suns,” which became trapped in an orbit around the stars, two new deities were introduced into the religion as subjects of Jessanak. Melangen and Renosha came to embody the ideals of unswerving loyalty and service to the greater whole in the context of the social institutions which relied upon this service to provide for the welfare of all. As the society of the island states became more codified a distinct system of class stratification emerged in which everyone was perceived as having a necessary place or role in society essential to the overall benefit of the whole. This gradual shift in social values served to further displace the ethos of Salistreah in the region so that by the time, thousands of years later, the islands were unified in the founding of the Malenorean Empire and the Church of the True Suns established as the state religion, the outlawing of her worship was a mere formality.
In other regions upon both continents her religion has fared much better and she remains probably the single most popular of deities commonly worshiped by humans. Along side of her worship a number of other deities have arisen, reflecting the development of other cultural values, and numerous orders and societies associated with them and their various interactions and rivalries. Additionally, the worship of a number of other deities was introduced through the increasing interactions with the Burrowing peoples as they repopulated the surface once more. Notably, the worship of Thelema has also remained constant among all the races, even if less of a driving cultural force among them. Instead, the age has been characterized more by open investigation, curiosity and exploration, both of geography and ideas leading as often into conflict as cooperation.
Although the Malenosha have not become the most populous race upon Panisadore, their nations are by far the most numerous as distinct social entities. The fluidity of Khurorkh movement has prevented that race from establishing many clear domains (as remains their wish) and the general reserve of the Fehladurh tends to permit the Malenosha freeplay to explore and expand upon the surface as their nature moves them. Likewise the Burrowing Peoples do not compete with them for territory, in fact many human domains were initially established in close proximity to, if not directly above, the delves of the Rimenosha on purpose and in such localities the two races continue to exist happily side by side with conflicts over sovereignty rarely arising. Since reemerging along with the Surenashi from the liminal cavern regions proximal to the dwarven delves, the Benaedresha have readily established themselves in an integrative fashion among the Malenosha quite easily. In many regions the two races have become nearly inseparable in their interactions and commerce, sparking a creative synergy between each other which has resulted in most of the significant innovations and developments of the present age. Rare indeed are the human realms which are home to no gnomoii houses – The Malenorian Empire being the most distinct of them, while human populations in many areas may be found under gnomoii rule and cooperative integration by and large is rule of the day. This is not to say that there is no racial tension, such close interaction actually produces it frequently in localized instances over a wide variety of causes, but on the whole relations between the two races can be characterized more by cooperation than conflict and little can be said of the activities of one in the world without taking into account the other. Like the Khurorkh, the Surenashi have likewise remained a very fluid population upon the surface, largely preferring to simply seek more hospitable ranges than engage in what they would view as pointlessly unpleasant relationships with boorish hosts.
The principal hallmark of the Malenosha then by which they have left their distinctive imprint upon the ANS has been a driving ambition and curiosity to seek improvement of, or at least any possible alternatives to, whatever conditions they may find adhering as applied with a remarkable syncretic ability to successfully adopt elements and concepts independently from disparate sources to different purposes than originally intended to a startlingly high level of comfort with open ended self-experimentation. (This serves to explain many things, including why many dwarven intoxicants have had to be outlawed in numerous human realms. . . ) To illustrate further the different racial mindsets, a party consisting of one member from each race might approach the need to deal with a dragon in its lair as follows: The elf would see no point in rushing matters, but would rather take the (ever abundant) time to carefully plan the encounter in advance to ensure the success of their goals (while offering to duel anyone who might question the honor, integrity, or motives behind such goals and plans,) the orkh would be psyching himself up to be fully present and certain in his actions in response to whatever may come, while the gnome will be trying to find out what the dragon wanted and see if some kind of deal could be negotiated. The Dwarf would accompany the gnome to ensure that negotiations remained entirely above board and in good faith, and should this fail, weep profusely as he joined the orkh in the sorrowful necessity of conducting a devastating and awe inspiring assault upon the recalcitrant opponent. Meanwhile the halfling would have made it perfectly clear that while he saw no reason to fear the dragon, neither did he see any reason to feed it and since anyone with the slightest bit of common sense could see that there are plenty of dragonless caverns, a smart person would simply go and find one. Only a human would say, “Well, honestly, I’m scared shitless and I really have no idea what the best thing to do is, but the only way we’ll ever find that out is to go ahead and see what happens and then deal with that as best we can when it does, so I’m going in anyway!” (This serves to explain many things, including why the Malenosha have not become the most populous race upon Panisadore.)
This human drive for innovation is certainly at the heart of the breakthroughs in arcane theory and application credited to The Arcane during the last glacial period, and the Malenosha like to point out as well that the other two Ascended Masters are likewise half human. The wide variety of governmental and social structures developed by humans are also something of a trademark characteristic of the race and viewed by the other races essentially as social experiments typical of the Malenosha at least worth observing even if they might not care to participate in some of them.
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