The Kingdom of Dasak – History and Politics

The challenge for Day Two of the Worldbuilding Blogfest is to describe the history and politics of your world. So lets begin with the map again:

Dasak_color_map_2

Three thousand years ago, this kingdom was home to humans who worshiped the Taaweh. I’ll be giving more information about the Taaweh tomorrow, but for now let’s just say that they were the original gods. Then a rival tribe of gods called the Stronni moved into the valley from the northeast and declared war. After two thousand years of fighting, much of the valley had been laid waste and the human civilization had been reduced to small bands struggling for survival.

Then the Taaweh disappeared and the Stronni declared victory.  The humans were allowed to rebuild their civilization under the guidance of the Stronni, who taught some of their magic to their new charges, in exchange for obedience and worship.  (More on religion and magic tomorrow.)

The ruins of the ancient keeps were rebuilt and walled cities grew up around them.  These were ruled over by warlords known as dekan.  The dekan vied for power for several centuries, until the warrior king Khemed united what would later be called the West Kingdom, from the Great Chasm to the ocean, and forced the most powerful dekan in the east to pay him tribute.  He proclaimed himself emperor and the Old Empire was born (though of course, it was merely “the Empire” at the time).

Several generations of emperors followed after Emperor Khemed.  The empire expanded to include the East Kingdom, roads were built to connect the city-keeps, and the Emperor Salekh Bridge was built to span the chasm.  This both facilitated trade throughout the empire and strengthened the emperor’s hold on the East Kingdom.  It was the great achievement of the empire, along with the great temples built to honor the Stronni.

About a hundred and fifty years after the death of Emperor Khemed, Emperor Agrehn foolishly attempted to imprison the ömem—women dedicated to the Stronni goddess, Imen.  These women possessed the ability to see through the Eye of Atnu by day and the Eye of Druma by night, and they provided their services to the emperor and the rulers of the city-keeps for extravagant fees.  Agrehn thought that he could force them to serve only him, but the ömem retaliated against him.  They chose the best of his guards and promised them great power, if they would swear to serve the ömem and betray the emperor.  In one bloody night, Emperor Agrehn and all of his most loyal nobles were slain, and the samöt came into being—a deadly brotherhood of assassins magically linked to the Sight of the ömem.

For centuries, the empire was subject to internal conflict as emperors rose to the throne, only to quickly fall to coups or assassination.  Then in the eighth century after the Great War, the Salekh Bridge collapsed under disrepair and effectively cut off the East Kingdom from the capital, gü-Khemed, on the western shore.

The emperor was forced to appoint a regent in the east.  The vek, as the regent was called, soon became immensely powerful in his own right. Though the dekan have diminished in power over the centuries, they still rule their respective city-keeps (known as tondekan), paying tribute to the emperor in the west, or the vek in the east.  The Kingdom of Dasak is now effectively two kingdoms and civil war is threatening, as tension mounts between the emperor and the vek.

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Writing Ourselves Back Into History

To the best of my knowledge, my YA novel Seidman is the only book that describes what it might have been like to grow up in the Viking Age, knowing that you feel a strong attraction to another boy.  I’m not boasting — I’m merely commenting on the fact that, after twenty years of researching this time period (mostly focusing on Viking Age Iceland), I’ve never come across a novel that explores this subject.  If anyone reading this knows of such a book, please feel free to tell me about it in the comments.

This statement can be said about many historical periods and cultures: with the exception of adult gay romance, I haven’t seen many depictions of LGBT men and women, or LGBT youth, in different historical periods.  There are some — Dorien Grey’s Calico; Jere’ M. Fishback’s Josef Jaeger — but not nearly enough.

There are people who make a concerted effort to pretend that the LGBT community sprang whole cloth from the 20th-century, as if we simply didn’t exist before before Stonewall.  I’ve angered people on discussion groups about Vikings for suggesting that there may have been gay Vikings.  I was told that only “decadent” civilizations, such as ancient Greece, would have allowed homosexuals to exist.  The Vikings (more properly called “Norse,” since not all of them were Vikings) would never have permitted such a thing!

Except that they had no choice.  The idea that any culture, no matter how homophobic or obsessed with “manliness,” could prevent people from being born gay is utterly ludicrous.  It’s true that, until people first began being diagnosed as “homsexual” in the mid 1800s, people didn’t tend to think in terms of being gay or lesbian or bisexual or trans.  It was more something that a person did or did not do.  A man might feel an attraction to another man, or a woman might prefer to learn swordsmanship and wear men’s clothes.  If they acted upon those feelings, they could be big trouble.  Both of these things were punishable by death in many cultures throughout history.  But keep in mind that behavior that we would consider to be “gay” or gender related was more often viewed as “manly” or “unmanly”; “womanly” or “unwomanly” — not specifically “homosexual.”  It was about the role you were expected to play.  People played the role society had cast them in and remained discontent, unless they found themselves in a situation where they could act on their desires in secret.

But the fact that it was kept secret doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.  GLBT men and women have always been here.  We didn’t just miraculously appear.  Many people want to believe that.  They want to believe that, if we suddenly came into being with the advent of “gay rights,” then taking away “gay rights” will make us go away.  But that isn’t the case.  We are simply lucky enough to live at a time when it’s less dangerous for us to be open about ourselves than it used to be (though obviously we have a long way to go), and that is due to the hard work and suffering of the GLBT men and women who came before us.  They existed and their existence should be celebrated.  It’s time for us to reclaim all of those centuries that we’ve been expurgated from.

Part of the YAM Magazine 2012 LGBT Blogathon.