The Great Journey
|The Great Journey|
|Event Name||The Great Journey|
|Dates and Times||1-4 AC|
|People Involved||Asha, Altalar|
The Great Journey was a migration spanning a continent, a movement of peoples second in magnitude only to the fabled Eronidas Invasion. Shortly following the destruction of the Cataclysm and Wildering, and the destruction of the Altalar Allorn Empire, the many Asha slaves still within found their masters weakened, and without their arcane arts. This enabled them to throw off their chains and begin to move, following the call of their coastal tribes to seek the remnants of their own ancient Empire and re-establish a state that was created for, and by them. The Great Journey is one of the most important events in post-Cataclysm history because it established the fate of hundreds of thousands of emancipated Allorn chattels and saw the Asha claim a homeland for the first time in thousands of years.
Shortly after the Cataclysm, a magical disaster that wracked the known world with natural and unnatural disasters on a scale seldom seen, all regions not protected by shields or pure luck came under severe duress. This included the vast majority of the Altalar-run Allorn Empire, a state spanning the entirety of Daen and with a population in the hundreds of millions. For many centuries before the Cataclysm, the Allorn Empire had been dependent on the enslavement of Asha for its manual labor element, something still present in Altalar Culture today, where the general population is incapable of tasks from mining, to digging ditches, to construction work. Suddenly, an immense population which had been kept viciously in line through the use of Magic found their oppressors without their historical power and made vulnerable by circumstance. After a brief and vicious exchange of hostilities not so much unlike the Eronidas Invasion occurring simultaneously in the west of the continent, many large groups of Asha independently found themselves freed of their old masters, and in need of direction. It was at this time that groups of their people who had existed free of Altalar servitude, in hiding, came forth. These were called the Siwath-Khenu, the coastal tribes. Coming west from their holdouts as guides and messengers, they directed the movement of vast peoples eastward to find new homes, built upon infrastructure left to them by their own historical Dewamenet Empire. This movement, wrapped up in the general chaos of the post-Cataclysm era, took several years to fully complete but was remarkably quick for the sheer number of individuals on the move. To travel so far was not an easy task, and the Asha not only had to reckon with the hardship of the road but also with combat against hostile Ailor and, though they shared history in servitude together, this did not make them any less difficult, and early Ailor warbands significantly hindered their progress. The Great Journey also represented a major blow to the reeling Altalar slaver Princes, many of whom were knocked over again just as they began to locally reassert themselves, and its effects can still be felt today in the political constitution of eastern Daen and the population distribution of the Asha throughout their homeland of the Ashal Islands.
The separation of the Asha from their Altalar masters can be understood to have a stage of revolt, which is more complicated than meets the eye. Rather than a concerted political movement that arose over decades of careful planning, the Asha liberation was instead an instantaneous and spontaneous event that occurred simultaneously in many different places at once. This is important because it both highlights the urgency with which the will to acquire freedom was felt, as well as the disparity between individual situations. In certain places, the local Asha who had been treated especially badly went out of their way to inflict violence on those who had formerly lorded over them, while others simply left them to suffer in the ruins of their Empire and sort things out on their own. What the revolt period manifested as was the sudden emergence of pockets of ten to fifteen thousand Asha straddling several plantations of countryside estates, collectively creating rudimentary voting councils and governments among themselves, and deciding what to do next. This was done continent-wide, with remarkable cohesion for something so sudden, and it is generally accepted that within a week or two of Cataclysm all major populations of Asha, in a stunning feat of their immense sense of pragmatism and adaptability, had both successfully liberated themselves and assigned internal authority.
Before true movement could begin, several skirmishes occurred, wherein those surviving enemy Princes who remained assigned armies to quell what they considered a revolt of their property. Though the Altalar ignore this fact, it is equally generally accepted among all non-Nelfin historians that the pitiful remaining Princely garrison armies were crushed by the nascent power, and within a week or two of first contact (two to four weeks after Cataclysm) the Asha were both liberated and had destroyed any opposition to their newfound liberation within a relevant distance of them. After this point, the question arose of what to do. Some parties advocated that they should seize the land they were on and till it for themselves, but a strong opposition immediately arose to this because this was not their place to live, but rather a country they had been brought to in chains against their will. The former Allorn lands could never be a true homeland for the Asha, because the soil itself had been polluted by the deeds committed there, and they would never know peace from their memories until they departed. This faction won out after temporary squabbling, spurred on by the fact that despite their cohesion, these large pockets of Asha began to feel the strain of their limited supplies. The councils they possessed ruled by consent, and maintaining consent in the face of possible starvation was too difficult to keep up for long, so the urge to move rapidly developed to become rather great.
The next stage of the Great Journey begins with the so-called Siwath-Khenu, or the coastal tribes. These are clarified as the groups of Asha who entirely escaped Allorn subjugation at the destruction of their Empire millennia prior, and carved out an existence in the caves and gullies by the shallow coastline of eastern Daen preserving what memories they could of the ancient past. At the arrival of the Cataclysm, these tribes felt that they had achieved the principal moment to both strike their ancient enemies and achieve their purpose, and so rapidly sent out couriers to ascertain the situation. When the weakened state of the Altalar became known, contact with liberated Asha slaves was established pocket by pocket, and woven into a clear chain of command that ran from east to west and began to draw these pockets towards the state of Bestaal. Bestaal, specifically, was the target because it contained within it a surviving Dewamenet Gate, a pathway to outlying islands a distance off the coast which permitted an extending bridge to be built through the use of Living Metal, an item which the Asha possessed plenty of. However, the monumental amount required to construct an architectural piece of such immense size would require hundreds of thousands of Asha.
From this necessity, or perhaps out of sheer kindness and desire to reunite with their long-lost brethren, the Siwath-Khenu explicitly instructed the free portions of the Asha population to travel eastward and make their way to a rallying point in Bestaal so that enough of them could muster in one place to activate the ancient Living Metal bridge. It is important to note that this did not always go as planned. In some instances, paranoid newly liberated Asha executed the Siwath-Khenu messengers as magically disguised Altalar subverts, and in other places, the struggle against the Princes had not succeeded, and instead of being greeted by their fellows, the couriers were greeted by a lengthy and cruel interrogation to force them to divulge the secrets of their missions. However, it can be generally said that the Siwath-Khenu did succeed because even Altalar records confess that within one to two months great numbers of them began to lead parties of Asha numbering in the thousands eastward towards Bestaal. The islands near to it were of such importance because they contained surviving Dewamenet infrastructure that the Siwath-Khenu claimed, through the citation of folktales and legends passed down from father to son, would ensure the prosperity of their people for all time.
Journeying through a Wildering-wracked Daen would prove difficult, even for the extremely motivated and seasoned Asha. What infrastructure there was had been torn to pieces by the grisly vengeance of Estel, and any surviving Altalar were less than keen to provide them any sort of aid. This fact was made even more complicated by the immense numbers of women and children who made up each caravan, and their length. An Asha traveling party during the Great Journey would stretch anywhere from ten to thirty-five miles, all journeying on foot and having to forage for themselves each day. Luckily for them, the Allorn ruins that were available provided a positive bounty of provisions in the form of barrels of cured meat and other chance finds. The more northerly an Asha pocket, and the closer to Bestaal, the more likely it was that they would arrive within mere months, in good order and with their grouping intact. The southern Altalar states that had remained strong were able to block not only internal uprisings but the movement of peoples through their thoroughfares, and so were successfully avoided by the canny Siwath-Khenu, who found new routes to lead their charges through on the way to safety. As well, the fact that large groups of Asha controlled the major surviving Allorn roads meant little to them, but quite a bit to the still maimed Altalar, who were unable to repair anything for several years due to this occurrence.
A critically important fact sometimes glossed over is that the Asha and Ailor also found themselves at odds during the Great Journey. Much like the Asha, large parties of Ailor were finding their independence from Altalar servitude, but unlike them, were perfectly content to annex the land they were standing on. Despite their shared history and the generally amiable attitude of the Asha as they moved east, the bestial features of the Race terrified the Ailor, and more often than not warbands of those who would become Daendroque and Bragacao Ailor met the Asha with violence rather than open arms. This accelerated and precipitated their motion, shattering unified caravans into small parties of fleeing stragglers, a fact which would be met with retribution after the establishment of the Asha Fleets sometime later with consistent Corsair raids on the descendants of these warbands. Though the Asha held the principle of seeking their homeland in high ideation, it had not been established yet, and some leaders among them doubted either its true existence in full form or its viability for mass settlement. It is very possible that if the Ailor had not also turned against them while liberating themselves from the Altalar, some of them would have elected to stay and carve their own countries out of the inland Allorn holdings, but this did not come to pass, and all free Asha continued east to Bestaal.
Those Asha who did arrive in Bestaal found themselves part of a burgeoning, though rather cramped, power. Constructing rudimentary staying-places from the driftwood and low-hanging trees that were available, they massed in slums near the beaches and awaited the arrival of the rest of their brethren, tallying the numbers each day and growing ever closer to the amount required to cross over to the islands which meant so much to them. The first waves hit several months in, while the second took one year, the third one year and eight months, and the fourth a full three years. This disparity in timing is owed to the fact that between the eastern Altalar states and the powerful western ones, the inland steppe cities were relatively poor and depopulated, as well as already harangued by the raids of the cultists of Suel (now become Avanthar in their own right), so the last major wave of parties coming from what is now northern Talant Ilha Faial had to walk some thousands of miles on foot across a destroyed Empire without roads. The fact that they even made it has ascribed a legendary quality to Siwath-Khenu pathfinders, who remain the most prized of any people for their extreme and unerring accuracy when it mattered most.
When enough had arrived, the Living Metal bridge was created. A once in a lifetime event, its summoning involved “endless strands of liquid-heavy metal leaping up from the water’s surface to caress the air, lapping at the currents of the wind and the will of its chorus of wielders, singing in peace and harmony together, the resolution of thousands of years, and the fulfillment of a new era borne on the back of tragedy”, as it has been written. The crossing was swift but almost reverent in nature, no chatter carried across the calm waters east of Daen that day. And one by one, over the next few weeks, the Asha began to pour across what would come to be called the Ashal Islands, re-activating the ancient Living Metal infrastructure that was found under their sands and beginning to set about rebuilding their civilization. The events which occurred after this are no longer considered part of the Great Journey proper, because while there were years of internal movement within the Ashal Islands and individual Asha traveling place to place, establishing themselves, and pushing through the great manual work of finding every single piece of ancient technology to re-enable it, all Asha peoples had already arrived at their homeland, and so further transit is seen as the appendix and-or next step, rather than a component.
The effects of the Great Journey are widespread, and concern Daen as a whole. Not just the Asha themselves, though it is relevant to them most of all. Firstly, it directly led to the modern situation regionally. That is, all Asha peoples who are free are concentrated inside their own states, and that they all occupy a singular contiguous region in eastern Daen, rather than being scattered, separated, or divided like the provinces of other Daen peoples tend to be. As well, it ensured that those states were overwhelmingly populated by Asha and even now continue to be a fact untrue in the Ailor holdings, which are hopelessly ethnically divided for a multitude of reasons.
Secondly, it was one of the many things bludgeoning the post-Allorn Altalar while they were down. The successful revolt of the Asha matched the Eronidas Invasion in its ferocity and mirrored its destruction of the western Princes with an effective and uncannily rapid crushing of the staggered eastern Princes north of the thick jungles of Teled Methen proper. Delaying the Altalar recovery by at least fifty years and damaging their already on the verge of total collapse population even further, it can be said that the Great Journey was one of a multitude of factors that would end up keeping the Asha safe for many years to come, as the Altalar Princes were too fatigued to even dream of attempting to get their revenge on those who had formerly served them.
As well, the Great Journey has colored Asha folklore and folk tales since its occurrence, with poetry and song being focused on the wonderful experiences that the Asha felt for the first time while on it. A sense of freedom, whimsical exploration of the verdant fields and oak forests, sharing privacy and comfort with one’s loved ones, all are framed in the context of the Great Journey and spoken of long into the night at almost every Asha party, because the event is so singularly important to them and their development. It is common as an artistic reference, and the names of certain Siwath-Khenu caravan leaders have been recorded, immortalizing them as heroic figures who braved great danger to come to the aid of their brothers. Some Asha make a habit of celebrating it even today, when they can and how they can, because of how much it meant and still means to them.
- It is a well-known Asha jest that someone late ‘must be stuck on the Journey’, and will take a while yet to arrive.
- The road in Bestaal which leads to the Dewamenet Gate is richly decorated, and flooded with tourists each year.
- Penny-novel Ailor alternate historians like to fantasize about the Asha ‘meeting the Eronidas in the middle’ and destroying the Altalar for good. The upset Nelfin have a habit of burning their books when they can, but more always seem to crop up.