The Kingdom of Tokavsk, Session 13: A Missive from Ambassador Tomon Inket to Roshevian Emperor

There is not much that can be said of Tokavsk’s king.  Stergye is a hard man, perhaps harder than he need be, but the same can be said for nearly all monarchs.  He is the second member of his noble house to be raised to the throne, and he carries that fact with him wherever he goes.  House Tallat is one of the smaller Houses in the kingdom, and his ascension fifteen years ago was a surprise to say the least.  I noticed that some of his contemporaries in the more powerful houses—Shanay, Helkat, and Jondrav—bore resentment toward him.

Much of what I gathered of his character was through rumors.  As such, I am not certain as to their veracity.  Some said his hardness makes him cruel, others said it is a front and that he is more emotional than he lets on.  Those of his age and older who competed for the crown say he is willing to leave the fat on if it means he stays ahead.  He is both ambitious and meandering, angry and carved of ice, personal and distant.  He did take my interests into my consideration, so I can testify that the rumors of his stubborn refusal to listen are false.  When I did interact with him, I tried to assign the traits I had heard to the man standing before me and found little success.  He is as elusive as he is public, methinks.  He said little about Your Majesty beyond what he thought of Your policy toward the Hentars, but beyond that he took care not to let me observe his character.

You wanted me to study him for violent tendencies, and I am afraid I have failed this part of Your request.  I spent little time around him, instead conducting most of my affairs with administrators toward our Empire.  He remained a figure lurking on the fringes, never quite emerging from his hiding space.

There was one rumor that warmed my brain the most.  I heard it but once, but it has stayed with me since.  The young Lord Mortshana said in idle conversation that the time would soon come for Stergye to select his heir, as he is nearing fifty.  I asked him what this would mean for diplomatic affairs.  He did not answer me, just returned to his frivolous chatter.  I took his evasion to mean the tensions in the Tokavskan court would reach a breaking point, but I could not be certain.

The Kingdom of Tokavsk, Session 12: An Procedural Questioning of a Roshevian Ambassador

Dierk—Roshevian law scholar and interrogator

Tomon—Ambassador recently returned home from Tokavsk

Dierk:  You testify before me and the scribe that you have submitted the proper documentation upon your return.

Tomon: Aye.

Dierk:  And you affirm that intentionally straying from the truth will lead to swift and justified punishment.

Tomon:  Aye.

Dierk:  Remind the record the reason for your travel.

Tomon:  I was serving the interests of Emperor Iera in the court of King Stergye Tallat in Tokavsk.

Dierk:  Which interests?

Tomon:  What mean you?  I serve only the interests of the Emperor.

Dierk:  And the interests of Emperor Iera were to…?

Tomon:  That is of no concern to you.

Dierk:  May I remind you that under penalty of the sword—

Tomon:  Under penalty of the sword, I cannot say what has been passed to my ear from the Emperor.

A silence.

Dierk:  This is customary proceedings for all officials who return from abroad.

Tomon:  I understand.  But our dealings with Tokavsk are not something a man of your status would comprehend.

Dierk:  Your dealings with Tokavsk are vital to—

Tomon:  I cannot share them here.

Dierk:  By law, you must state your dealings before the interrogator and the scribe.

Tomon:  There are things about King Stergye that are not to be discussed here.  Let it be acknowledged by this scribe such that my words are not held fire to the blade, but I shall say no more of it in your presence.

Dierk:  That does not change the law—

Tomon:  The law forbids me from discussing it.

Dierk:  Pardon, Ambassador, but I am bound by the sword to adhere to what is written.

Tomon:1

Dierk:  Very well.

A silence.

Dierk:  I do hope the Emperor’s interests have made your secrets worth the while.

A silence.

 

  1. The blank space implies a vulgar utterance or critical information.

The Kingdom of Tokavsk, Session 8: The Confession of a Traitor to the Court

Tokavsk has a tradition of forcing those convicted of high treason to confess their crimes.  The reasons for this tradition are unclear, and some argue it is unwise to disseminate the internal logic of the condemned.  The below confession is different in that, in addition to being the only letter we have retrieved from the current King’s reign, it is hardly a confession at all.  Rather, it reads more as a rant.  It also makes attempts to level accusations against the King, though it provides no specific examples, perhaps due to the intense fury of the author.

Iron-blooded is an apt sobriquet for him, more than apt.  They might as well have told me he was a fiend outright and shown me the antlers upon his head.  I’m laughing at the irony of it.  I was warned never to cross him, but I never thought his reaction would be as extreme as this.  To be a courtier is to serve the King, but it is also to fight for your House and your province.  That is what the system has always been, what I have been told.

I did what was within my limits.  I never meant to tear the hide, but by the time I realized I had it was too late.  You want me to explain why I did what I did.  You want me to glorify the King, but I will not, will not, will not with my dying breath.  Let me fall into the Iyentsh River and never feel anything again but cold.  You have already condemned me to the eternal chill.  Nothing I write will reverse my fate.  See, I laugh—I laugh as I’m writing this, laugh to keep from screaming.  ‘Tis a cruel joke bestowed upon me.  The end was obvious from the beginning.  There is no freedom, not for anyone who does not agree expressly with the King, His Royal Majesty Stergye Tallat the Iron-Blooded, Short May He Reign.  Anyone who shows his dissent will end up as I have.  Let them know my name—let they who inhabit this cell after me feel it in the cold stone walls, taste it in the gruel meant to keep them alive until their execution.  Let them remember my essence, even if everywhere else the memory of my existence is stricken.  I know what happened to the ambassador.  I know what the King does to keep you close to his torch.  Those secrets will not die with me—someone else will find them—I promise you that.  Promise you with the same fervor with which you love your king.

Signed,

[Name stricken]

Industrious Illustrating #21 – Two-Tailed

Hello again, and welcome back! When I was abroad vacationing in Spain and Portugal over Thanksgiving break, I saw a lot of interesting art and architecture, but one particular image I saw depicted on tiles particularly stood out to me (warning for some partial nudity): 

After seeing the twin-tailed mermaid, I immediately had the idea of making a drawing where her tails more closely resemble legs. This is what came out of it:

I’m swamped with final projects and assignments at the moment, so I didn’t have the time to push this further than a black-and-white sketch, but I hope to develop this piece and this concept further in the future to make something interesting out of it. Good luck with the last few weeks of this semester, everyone, and see you again next week!

The Kingdom of Tokavsk, Session 7: Stars and Tokavskan Culture

The great importance placed on the stars by the early Tokavskans carries into modern customs. Holidays dedicated to the emergence of certain constellations thought to be vestiges of ancient Tokavskan religion or influences from neighboring cultures are celebrated. Most modern-day Tokavskans are more dedicated to performing the customs than understanding the reasons for their existence. However, the dedication to practicing the elaborate star ceremonies, known in the Zheren tongue as Brzadrat, remains fervent.

In addition to celestial holidays, stars have a pull on everyday life. Brzad and variations thereof are found in both given and family names; astronomy is considered a vital academic skill; and two days of their seven-day weeks are named after constellations.

However, the most prominent example of the everyday influence of stars on Tokavsk is in is calendar. The Tokavskan calendar is divided into 360 days and nine months of forty days each. Because Tokavsk is a land of eternal winter, the positions of the stars are used to mark the passage of time; the dominant constellation, which is in Tokavskan culture the constellation that rises in the west.

1. Arku (Hawk)
2. Torotahen (Lost Soldier)
3. Letoka (Fir/Pine)
4. Rairden (Rabbit)
5. Adoto (Archer)
6. Krenya (King)
7. Krenyaka (Queen)
8. Dzegor (A primitive tool similar to a compass)
9. Kadan (Bear)

The Hawk, Fir, and Bear are the three most notable constellations, and it is no surprise that these are the most venerated months. However, it should be noted that the beliefs that the positions of stars affect one’s mood and disposition are largely obsolete. Rather, these months are valued for what they stand for. The Hawk is considered the physical manifestation of God in Tokavskan culture; the Fir is a symbol to Tokavskan strength and resilience; the Bear is a being of kindness and friendship. Thus, these months are in principle periods of showing respect to these beings.

It should be noted that younger Tokavskans tend to be less deferent to the established customs. There are complaints from the gentry that their generation is the last that will revere their ancestors, that Tokavskan culture is in danger of dying out. Whether this claim has any veracity is not to be investigated in the scope of this report.

The Kingdom of Tokavsk, Session 6: From an Unsent Letter of a Southern Ambassador to his King

The air here is made of cold.  It breathes with the land and seeps into your bones, and when you take off your furs after being outside the beads of your fingers are yellow-white.  You have to learn to move with the cold lest it takes you, the locals say as they shudder behind layers thinner than my own.  As I write this, warmth and color have returned to my fingers, but they do not have full feeling yet.  I pray that is soon restored.  I know not how they survive in this eternal winter, the people of Tokavsk.  I know not how I will.

Their language and customs flow with the cold.  They have a saying here that he who nurtures winter’s chill will come to find spring in the snow.  This aphorism, I believe, combined with their strange affinity for those lumbering beasts, are what keep them same amidst the bitter winds that strip the tree of their color and the sky of its light.  A gruff courtier poorly learned in Artrudian [the writer’s presumed native tongue] explained this to me in broken lurches of language, but I gathered what I could in knowledge and pieced together what became my interpretation of the sentence above.  I began to observe in the nightly feasts the king held in a dark wooden room to celebrate the first week of my tenure an atmosphere of tenuous warmth clinging to the roast meats on the odd round plates and the braziers on the walls.  Wavering and yellow, it trickled across the dishes with names I know not made from roots and spices that sit pale on the tongue.  There was a hearth cut into the wall on each end of the room lined with stone, as even they know wood loves to burn.  Wood and scraps of food and bone served as fuel for the flames.  This peculiar ritual I learned was called ilskat, the burning of life.

I have already written you about the nature of these feasts, so I will spare you the details a second time.  Rather, I will focus on a particular custom that I should like to emulate.  The men here cover their faces in animal fat, which they say staves off the worst of the cold.  It is an old hunters’ tradition.  I am not sure if this method has credence, but the tenderness of my nose, ears, and cheeks each time I venture beyond the walls is sufficient to compel me to try.  I aim to ask a fellow named Vasel tomorrow through my interpreter.  Vasel is quick to ensure my needs are met.