The Doom That Came to Sarnath
The Forefathers came to the Valley Ib over one thousand years ago. Where they came from is a name now forgotten, but tradition holds that it was a fallen kingdom far to the east. When they arrived, they found the valley to be dangerous but fruitful, and already occupied by a strange race of seemingly sentient but silent creatures with bulging eyes and slimy gray-green skin, that the Sarnathi came to call Kattu.
The Forefathers tried to live peacefully with the creatures, but over time their strange rituals to the savage god Bokrug cast a deathly pall on the young city. To rid the people of their witch-craft, a great warrior led the city’s defenders to drive back the wicked Kattu. Her name was Maravan, first of the Aethernauts. Not only strong and skilled in battle, she was also skilled in the lore of gods and plants, and first learned to wield the wood of the marata trees as protection against the radiance of the Wild Gods.
Maravan’s Conquest lasted ten years and ten days, culminating with the Battle at the Spire, where she threw down Bokrug himself. With him defeated, the Kattu broke and fled, and the Sarnathi had hold over the whole of the Valley.
Maravan was the unquestioned leader of Sarnath during her lifetime, but left no heirs. A council took up rulership upon her death, but over the ensuing decades they came to be seen as weak, as settlements outside of the Windwalls fell to the remaining Kattu who dwelt in what was now called the Greening Yawp. Sarnath’s independence was threatened by its larger neighbors, Ylarnek, Theraa, and Kadateron, and the only thing protecting it, its isolation, was also a cause of economic stagnation, as its traders were forced to find innovative ways to brave the dangerous jungles that surrounded the valley.
In this troubled time, a man stepped forward, claiming to be the bastard grandson of Maravan. Whether or not his claim was true, the people saw something of Maravan’s legend in him, and so the council were swept aside and the reign of Zokkar the Oldenking, first of Sarnath’s monarchs, began. Under Zokkar, the Gauntlet was strengthened, and the settlements of the Sarnathi were protected from the ravages of the Wild Gods and their Kattu hordes. The Pilots’ League was established, and the first dirigibles sailed from Highport, carrying traders that would go on to establish Sarnath’s place along the Maynar trade routes. Treaties and foundations of friendship were established with Kadateron, and Zokkar’s eldest son, Zionatt, was married to the Princess of Kadateron, Nehiyjaara the Beauty of Flame.
Zokkar’s most impressive achievement, however, was in building the Great Canals. Sarnath’s isolation had served it in its nascency, but to be a great power, he saw that it must have greater access to the Middle Ocean. He redirected the flow of the great River Ai from its path into Ylarnek and into the Valley Ib, and built great tunnels under the Nattutara Mountains that flowed into Dragonfly Bay, and from there connected to the Middle Ocean, giving Sarnath not only access to the great kingdoms of the east, but also control of the strategic mid point between Punath and Theraa.
With the vital river trade stolen Ylarnek’s kings declined in power until they had no choice but to swear fealty to Sarnath. Kadateron’s line of succession failed, and the descendants of Zionatt and Nehiyjaara pressed their claim. The relationship between Theraa and Punath soured, and Theraa turned to Sarnath as its new chief alliance, and over generation of intermarriage, Theraa too became a protectorate of Sarnath.
The reign of the kings continued unchallenged until the regency of Gispaire the Unbloomed, who was killed under mysterious circumstances five days before his coronation. Civil war rocked the country, while claims were pressed by multiple parties. After seven years of bloody conflict, King Haesel of Aseema took the throne. His reign was not readily accepted by the Sarnathi, who saw him as foreign due to his Punathi heritage.
After nineteen years, General Yvan Sagnier led a military coup that saw the King and most of his household slain, with his queen and two sons sent into exile in the Yawp. According to tradition, Yvan’s eldest daughter, Justine, slew Bih-Piru in the Royal Harem, and his blood turned the many pools and streams of the palace dark red. The city fathers of Sarnath established the Senate in the following months, and due to the power of the noble families that comprised the coup, financial and military backing allowed the young Republic to reassert its hold on those border territories rocked by the civil wars and the unpopular reign of King Haesel.
In the two centuries following the fall of the Kings, Sarnath waxed considerably. Lands far north along the River Ai were razed and turned into farmland, expanding the system of Windwalls for over 100 kilometers. The Sarnathi windfleet and seafleet grew in power and secured dominion over the lands of Mutal, Yammpalan, Skai, and Punath, and new protectorates Ben’azic and Nariel. The ascent of the importance of Tamash fueled the power and innovation of the Guilds, and their inventions further cemented Sarnath’s hegemony on the world stage.
Nearly one hundred years ago, a rival challenged the position of Sarnath; Rokol, an empire far to the northeast but with wide reach and vast armies, raided Sarnath’s distant settlements and plundered its trade routes. Many battles were fought on land and on the sea and in the skies, but when the Governor of Punath betrayed the Republic and pledged loyalty to Rokol, it created a true crisis. At the same time, a cultural shift was happening whose reach can still be felt; the first whispers of the Doom. In 912, a heretical book began circulating, called The Memoirs of Taran-Ish, in which an ancient prophecy going back to the city’s founding was described, saying that in the year 1,000 a doom would come to the city, born in “the land of milk and honey”. People began to interpret the pastoral culture of Punath as the birth of the doom, and Sarnathi at all levels of society called to destroy the erstwhile colony.
A great war was fought, ending with a victorious Sarnath, but a Sarnath too depleted to push its claims, and so a war-ravaged Punath continued to pledge loyalty to Rokol. The year after the war ended, a population swollen with refugees from the war zones, bled dry by war-time taxes, and composed of orphans, widows, and dismembered veterans rioted, in what became known as the Verminite Uprisings. The original instigators were a religious cult centered around a legendary figured called Grandmother Cockroach. Implicated, and accused of trying to initiate a coup, were many senior members of the Gauntlet.
In the aftermath of the First Punathi War, other colonies, once so secure, began to take liberties, and many openly rebelled. In Mutal, a dictator declared himself king and ruled for ten years before he could be displaced. The Narielese island of Jarava declared itself independent and began privateering Sarnathi trade ships. In Skai, taxes dwindled in a clear insult to Sarnath’s power. Even in Ylarnek, there were rumors of people of remote villages flouting Sarnath’s religious precepts and even engaging in worship of Bokrug.
After decades of tense peace, in 980, Rokolian vessels began attacking Sarnathi ships once more, precipitating the Second Punathi War, which ended with the sacking of Weldihya, its once shining capital city, and the slaying of most of the Punathi pantheon. Punath survived however, and even now it continues to rebuild itself, aided by its Rokolian allies, and no doubt planning its revenge.
And so the present day, the year 999, sees a Sarnath in turmoil. Still hurting from internal conflicts and strife, its distant colonies continue to test the limits of Sarnath’s military reach. In the distance, Rokol plots against its rival, with its treacherous proxy, Punath as the spearpoint. To the far south, the privateers of Carcosa threaten the Narielese holdings, while on the northern Frontier Country, the violence and frequency of Kattu raiding parties increases. Locust Gods appear with greater frequency, becoming an almost yearly event in the far north. The Senate is torn asunder, the centuries old peace between the noble houses at a tipping point, divided on what path forward to take. And everywhere in the city, whispers of the Doom, blasphemous but ubiquitous.