Part 1 can be found here.
Word of the great victory at Shimeh spread to all the corners of the Three Seas. The Holy War had triumphed. The heathen Fanim had been put to rout and the Holy City restored to the Faithful. But even more remarkable were the stories that accompanied the news. A new leader had emerged from the ranks of the Holy War. He had survived death, performed great miracles and pulled the battered, bloodied remnants of the crusade to a victory against odds unthinkable. Here was a story from the very Sagas brought to life.
Anasûrimbor Kellhus was born in 4076 in Ishuäl. A Dûnyain monk, he left his home in 4109 at the command of his order, to search for his father whom it had feared had gone mad amongst the Worldborn. By 4112 he had joined and conquered the Holy War, mastered the Gnosis and been crowned Aspect-Emperor of the Three Seas, the greatest - and most reviled - figure in history since Triamis the Great.
Anasûrimbor Kellhus was proclaimed the Aspect-Emperor of the Three Seas by the Shriah of the Thousand Temples. Tens of thousands of Men of the Tusk, forged in the burning heat of the Great Carathay and tempered on the battlefields of Caraskand and Shimeh, swore themselves his eternal subjects, his Zaudunyani, the “Tribe of Truth”. Even three of the sorcerous schools (the Imperial Saik, the Scarlet Spires and the Mandate) had sworn to his service. His victory, his rule, seemed unquestionable.
But history is never so simple. Across the Three Seas there was shock that this man, this prince of nothing, had come out of nowhere and seemingly subverted the Holy War to his own ends. Many dismissed him as a fraudster, or even a Ciphrang, a demon from the Outside sent to lead men to their destruction. Some who may have been tempted to hear him were disgusted to hear that he preached of the threat of the Consult and the Inchoroi: children’s stories that no-one but those doddering old fools in Atyersus took seriously. Armies were summoned, swords forged and bows strung as the opponents of the new Aspect-Emperor, the Orthodox, braced themselves for war. Likewise, Maithanet’s support for Kellhus had shattered the Thousand Temples, leading to many priests – the Schismatics – taking up arms in defence of the faith.
Only one nation declared for Kellhus in its totality: Conriya, united under the rule of Nersei Proyas. Every other nation splintered, the entire caste-nobility of the Three Seas divided. Provinces and palatinates and principalities declared for or against Kellhus, often depending on the zeal of their troops and rulers still encamped with the Holy War around Shimeh. Most of civilised Eärwa teetered on the brink of civil war, moreso in the Nansurium after the unexpected deaths of both Emperor Ikurei Xerius and his heir, Ikurei Conphas, on campaign, with no heirs left to them.
But the Holy War was not done. Refreshed, reinforced (by the Mandate and other sorcerers flocking to Kellhus’s banner) and resupplied, the Holy War struck south and west into Kian proper. The long war had exhausted the fighting strength of the Fanim and they could offer no effective resistance. Fanayal ab Kascamandri was unable to rally his people and melted away into the Carathay Desert. By the end of 4113 the Holy War had seized Nenciphon and installed the Emperor and Empress in the White-Sun Palace. Many soldiers formerly loyal to the Empire now switching their loyalty to Anasûrimbor Kellhus. Massar ab Kascamandri, the brother of Fanayal, underwent the Whelming, the spiritual induction into the ranks of the Zaudunyani, and swore his entire nation to the service of Kellhus.
In 4114 Kellhus published a tract on sorcery. The Novum Arcanum attracted great attention for its revelations and insights into sorcery and logic. The following year Kellhus announced a great gathering of sorcerers from across Eärwa and they came in unprecedented numbers to learn from him and hear his great Rehabilitation of Sorcery. All Shrial and Tusk condemnations of the practice were rescinded and sorcerers were no longer held to be anathema. Through such acts Kellhus won every sorcerer of rank and power in Eärwa (save one) to his side, the sorcerous schools united under his banner.
A witch of the Swayal Compact. Steeped in the Gnosis and outstripping the other Schools in sheer numbers, the Swayal may be the most powerful force in Eärwa save only the Aspect-Emperor himself.
Kellhus also made his second great proclamation: the Manumission of the Feminine. All limitations – legal, spiritual or moral – placed on the comportment of women were struck down. Women now had full equal rights to men across the Three Seas. This was initially a more controversial declaration, and seized upon by Kellhus’s opponents as proof of his madness, but it was also popular amongst, of course, the women of the Three Seas, particular with regard to inheritance and property rights. Even more dramatic was that the combination of the two declarations effectively ended the ban on women joining the Few. For centuries women wielding sorcery had been scorned as witches, burned at the stake or stoned to death even by those men who trafficked with sorcerers themselves. Now they were allowed to come out of the shadows, in numbers which caught the men of the Three Seas by surprise.
Even more breathtaking was what Kellhus did for these women: he commanded the Mandate to instruct them in the ways of the Gnosis, and gave to them the abandoned Cûnuroi Mansion of Illisserû in Holy Amoteu as their stronghold, now renamed Orovelai. He made them a simple promise, to support and empower them in return for their support in turn. This became known as the Swayal Compact, the name also taken by the witches (a name many of them now wore with pride). Within a decade their knowledge and mastery of the Gnosis rivalled that of the Mandate and their numbers far outstripped them.
Kellhus won loyalty, even fanatical and maddened loyalty, in his own way. Within a year of the fall of Nenciphon, his missionary-zealots had begun making their way across the Three Seas. They became known as the Zaudûn Angnaya, the “floating college” of young aspirants who learned from Kellhus whenever they could. They sought to persuade through argument, reason and, whenever that failed, conviction. Horrified stories spread amongst the Orthodox of “suicide sermons”, when Angnaya would slit their own throats in front of the vast crowds to prove their absolute faith. At first they used such demonstrations as proof of Kellhus’s danger and insanity, but the unshakeable faith and certitude of the zealots shook the Orthodox, who had no spiritual answer for them.
The Unification Wars. Between the fall of Shimeh in 4112, at the end of the Holy War, and the capitulation of Nilnamesh in 4122,Anasûrimbor Kellhus conquered the entire Three Seas, eventually being decreed its political, military, religious and sorcerous leader: its Aspect-Emperor. More than 75 million people lived and died at his command.
By the end of 4114 war had come: the Fanim inspired a massive uprising in Shigek, but this had been crushed by Rash Soptet, Lord of the Sempis. The growing rift in the Thousand Temples erupted in bloodletting, the War-between-Temples. Nilnamesh, long separated from its Inrithi brethren by the width of the Kian Empire, also declared against Kellhus.
In 4115 Prince Shoddû Akirapita assembled a large army in Nilnamesh and moved to defend the border. The Zaudunyani were defeated at the Battle of Pinropis, to their surprise. Kellhus took time to regroup, during which time his allies achieved greater victories: in 4116 Coithus Narnol declared for Kellhus and delivered Galeoth almost intact to his banner. King Hringa Vûkyelt likewise unified Thunyerus in Kellhus’s name and expelled the Schismatics from the kingdom. The following year both Ce Tydonn and High Ainon became divided in a bitter civil war, followed by the declaration of Ce Tydonn for Kellhus in 4118. Cironj also fell in this year.
High Ainon presented Kellhus with a major problem: the nation was vast and unruly at the best of times but unified in its fear of the Scarlet Spires. But the Holy War had almost destroyed the order altogether, with barely a dozen sorcerers-of-rank surviving the conflagration at Shimeh. To their humiliation, Kellhus award the Mandate command of Kiz, the former Scarlet Spires stronghold in Carythusal. From there the Mandate was able to bring the rule of the Aspect-Emperor to lower Ainon, but the full capitulation of the kingdom took longer. In 4120 the Sack of Sarneveh took place, Kellhus himself leading the capture of the city. Although successful, the Toll of casualties (a meticulous accounting of the cost of victory) recorded more than five thousand children slain. This news escaped the city, encouraging further resistance to Kellhus. However, by the end of 4121 High Ainon had fallen and declared for Kellhus.
At this point, a curiosity took place, one which even the most fanatical Zaudunyani have struggled to reconcile with their extolling of Kellhus as a messenger of the divine. Following the conquest of High Ainon, Kellhus spent four months in Kiz as a student of Heramari Iyokus, the famed Blind Necromancer and a master practitioner of the Daimos, the sorcerous art of communing with demons. At the end of this tutelage Kellhus emerged with the two grotesque heads of demons bound to his hip by their hair: the Decapitants. Kellhus demurred on explaining their origin, often ignoring the question altogether. Rumour said that the Aspect-Emperor had somehow plumbed the very Hells themselves and returned with the heads of trophies of war, and to remind the Aspect-Emperor of the fate awaiting all those who were damned.
Also in 4121, the Nilnameshi capital of Invishi had finally fallen to the Zaudunyani. However, Prince Akirapita refused to capitulate, gathering a new army. It was not until this army was destroyed at the Battle of Ushgarwal in 4122 and the Prince slain (his body was found in a well in Girgash in 4123) that Nilnamesh could finally be said to have been brought into the fold. This left only Fanayal ab Kascamandri out of the Aspect-Emperor’s many foes, and his forces were reduced to a few tribesfolk of the Great Salt.
The Unification Wars were declared over in 4122. Maithanet, having won the War-between-Temples, crowned Anasûrimbor Kellhus the Aspect-Emperor of the Three Seas in Momemn, which Kellhus had taken as his capital. Kellhus and his wife, Esmenet, now had several children – Kayûtas (b. 4112), Theliopa (b. 4114, in Nenciphon), Serwa (b. 4115) and Inrilatas (b. 4117) – and more would follow, the twins Kelmomas and Samarmas (both b. 2124). They had also adopted the son of Cnaiür urs Skiötha and Serwë, Moënghus II (b. 4111) as their own. The result was that they had already established a dynasty, one with the power to rule the Three Seas for generations to come.
But the new goal of the Anasûrimbor family was not to simply rule. Kellhus declared war on Golgotterath and the Unholy Consult. He declared his goal was to destroy the dread Ark and cast down its Golden Horns forever. His purpose was to forestall the return of the No-God, prevent the Second Apocalypse and to save the World itself. To this end he commanded the establishing of the greatest army in human history. Swords and armour were forged on a titanic scale. Horses were bred in their tens of thousands. Supply caches were established in the northern Empire, near the Kathol Pass leading to the vast Istyuli Plains. Sorcerers were called to train and learn as they never had before, and to prepare for the war to come, which would be known as the Great Ordeal.
The artwork for this article was created by Jason Deem, known as Spiral Horizon, and used with his permission. You can find more of his spectacular work here. The maps are from Scott's website, adjusted by myself.
The Prince of Nothing Wiki was helpful in providing spelling checks and putting the timeline of events in better order.
Scott Bakker wrote the Second Apocalypse novels, for which this history is merely the backdrop and the scene-setting that comes before. Those novels are:
The Prince of Nothing
The Darkness That Comes Before (2003)
The Warrior-Prophet (2004)
The Thousandfold Thought (2005)
The Judging Eye (2008)
The White-Luck Warrior (2011)
The Great Ordeal (2016)
The Unholy Consult (2017)
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