The third volume about the land far accross the Great Salt Desert, or Moghra'yi. This volume focuses on the rise of the Esper, Freeman 0th, and the foundation of the city of the same name.
It covers 0th's rise as a rebel leader and self-styled prophet, as he attempted to free the indentured Espers of the freeholds. Eventually 0th ended up in a war against King Rhodos of the freehold of Perth. Despite taking some losses, 0th and his host ended up winning the war, slaying Rhodos, and capturing the city, which he thereafter renamed 0th, after himself.
In the last pages, it goes into detail on the society and government of 0th, as well as the vicious process of Stithening: introducing a parasitic worm to a host's brain, which, among many lesser problems, forces Espers to submit to the mysterious Elder Cant and venture into Moghra'yi towards Qud.
Obviously and unfortunately, no primary sources are available from these distant lands. Much of this record draws upon the accounts given by fungi who crossed Moghra'yi on the backs of dromad merchants.
As a matter of convention, I date all events according to their chronological distance from an event of paramount historical significance, namely the publication of these volumes. Accordingly, note that the events' parenthetical dates signify their occurrence "prior [to] publication".
Oth is a freehold in the central Sunderlies populated by the esper cult called the Tyrants. The youngest of the major freeholds in the region, it was settled by Freeman Oth in 61PP after the Lost War. The freehold consists of the furnished comb-caves along the faces of the towering bluff known as Maidencomb before the war.
Origins and the Lost WarEdit
In the early months of 62PP a mysterious figure began murdering the bandit hosts in the central Sunderlies around Maidencomb. Though the neighboring freeholds originally named the murders blessings, soon reports from river merchants of queer gatherings in the comb-caves -- howling men igniting the rivers and the night sky with fire -- disquieted the Sunderlies' seats of power. Rumors spread that esper-bandits had forsaken their bands, discarded their guns and bows, and sworn fealty to the shadowy figure.
These merchant anecdotes and rumors continued into the winter and were substantiated when several merchant sketties were captured by the dark host. From the man who identified himself as Oth the Free, the merchants learned that he had indeed organized the esper-bandits and exiled voidcanters from the fiefdoms of Odrum. Each sketty was made to return to the freehold from which it came with a document the host named the Annuls of Oth, in which Oth, a self-styled prophet gifted with prescience, recounted a series of his visions and demanded the immediate release of all espers indentured against their wills to the freeholds of true kin.
The comb kings were predictably unswayed by the Annals and ignored Oth's mandates. However, by the end of 62PP, no merchant who rowed within twenty leagues of Maidencomb was seen alive again. Dozens of sketties were found drifting downriver with the charred or drowned corpses of their rowers in tow.
About the same time, the Annals of Oth began to spread like wildfire throughout the river freeholds. Several free espers left the freeholds to join the host, while those indentured espers who were found to sympathize with Freeman Oth, as he was known in the freeholds, were largely killed or gelded.
Of particular interest to Oth and his host were the windweirds of Perth. The windweirds are a caste of indentured espers who foretell (and in rare cases alter) the strength and duration of the seasonal trade winds over the Pale Sea. Oth's host rowed westward, and his acolytes infiltrated the Seahold and roused support amongst the windweirds.
Having suffered the months-long trade blockage at the hands of the Freeman and now forced to watch Oth's seeds of discord sprout within his own kingdom, King Rhodos of Perth gathered his strength and rowed the winding canyon rivers east toward Maidencomb. A series of skirmishes ensued; the might of Rhodos's navy was such that the Freeman was forced to cede the combs he had taken and retreat to the fortifications of Maidencomb. Rhodos sieged the comb for several weeks, entreating the kings of Athenreach and Irisveld for support. When no aid came, King Rhodos chose to take Maidencomb with his own strength.
The Battle of Maidencomb lasted for four bloody days. Ultimately, Rhodos's losses were too many, and he was rebuffed and driven back toward Perth. Oth missed no opportunity. He gave chase to the weakened navy and slaughtered nearly a thousand more Perthic men. Rhodos eventually reached Perth, but the might of the espers was too great. Oth breached the combs' sapped defenses, sacked the freehold, and slew King Rhodos himself. Several of the windweirds chose to join the Freeman, while many others remained in Perth (a few left the freehold without Oth).
The espers rowed back to Maidencomb with their spoils and lifted the trade blockage, directing their efforts toward settling the comb. Oth gave his name to the freehold, and was known thenceforth as the Free Seer. He ruled the espers until his death in 38PP when his successor forsook his own given name and adopted the title of Free Seer. So that tradition continues in present-day Oth.
The name "Tyrants" itself owes its origins to an ironic interpretation of the entreaty sent by King Rhodos to King Ercarthus of Athenreach during the siege of Maidencomb. The envoy was captured by the espers before it made its way upstream toward the northern freehold. The relevant excerpt reads:
Row the Twining Thaw. Bring your sketties to bear on Maidencomb. Join your strength to mine, that 'neath the coupled banners of the Seahold and Athenreach we might sunder these half-men, these tyrants who would wrest from us what is ours by right and deed.
The scroll on which the message was written still rests in the Hall of the Free Seer, along with the charred skull of King Rhodos.
Life in OthEdit
Oth is ruled by the Free Seer who resides in the Hall of the Free Seer deep in the heart of Maidencomb. After the tradition of Freeman Oth, the Free Seer must be psionically prescient. He may also have influence, though it is not required. The Free Seer chooses his successor, often naming the esper with the most promising precognitive abilities. Though the Tyrants are free to leave Oth at their leisure, within the freehold the Free Seer's rule is absolute.
While the Tyrants mostly pursue isolationist policies, they do trade with the neighboring freeholds. However, they only deal directly with true kin in the rarest of circumstances and they insist that merchant caravans include a mutant envoy. As for trade goods, the Tyrants rarely offer the services of their voidcanters, but people are known to come from far and wide to audit the prophecy of the seers of Oth. The Tyrants' most coveted imports are cherrydotters from Irisveld and ghost sap from the rust-caves of Qud.
Along with the Tyrants, Oth is cohabited by a caste of people (both true and mutant) with no psionic aptitude. After the Lost War, these people, called the undermensch, left Perth with the Tyrants of their own accord. They were mostly fisherfolk and craftsmen, and they serve those same roles in Oth. Their motivations for leaving Perth were never well understood; it is unknown whether they serve now as free kin or as psionic thralls of the Tyrants.
Stithening is the name given by the Tyrants of Oth to the process of introducing a cherrydotter to a host's brain through the ear canal. The scarab-worm is attached to the host's ear where it sheds its shell, crawls toward the ear drum, and burrows into the brain. Once entrenched there, the parasite feeds on the temporal and parietal lobes, inducing several changes to the host's body including loss of hair and nail, loss of weight, and yellowing and greening of skin pigment. The changes occur gradually over a period of several weeks; immediately after a stithening, though, the host undergoes a violent period of bodily adjustment with several side-effects including vomiting and fever.
Notably, in the case of an esper host, the feeding also reduces and ultimately eliminates the esper's ability to resist the Elder Cant. Thusly all stithened espers leave Oth and venture into Moghra'yi never to return.
Stithening is usually reserved as punishment for high crimes such as treason, but some of the most devout espers choose to undergo the process. Once a year, one member of the Mirthful, the Free Seer's royal guard of voidcanters, is chosen by the Free Seer to be stithened. The esper's name is recorded for posterity in the Hall of the Free Seer; this is considered the greatest honor that may be bestowed upon an esper of Oth. A new esper is chosen to serve the Free Seer in a ceremony called the Rite of Mirth.