The ktuvoks live, as they have for at least 30,000 years, in two swampy regions in eastern Ereláe, the Elmunkhâshi Marshes on the Tmêkh river east of Sarnáe, and Sarcainor on the Moriln river in the far east.
Munkhâsh was formed around -1350 by the conquest of the Eynleyni peoples in between the two swamps. This area, Demóshimor, was the core of Munkhâsh and of modern Dhekhnam as well. The Eynleyni at the time were hunter/gatherers, and they were as much bribed as conquered: by accepting ktuvok rule they acquired agriculture, domesticated animals, bronze weaponry, and the prospect of being on top during the next round of conquests. The promise was upheld with the conquest of Tyellakh (c. -1150).
They did have to kowtow to reptile-like predators, participate in their wars of conquest and occasionally in intra-ktuvok wars of status, and sometimes sacrifice their children to Gelálh and the other Munkhâshi gods.
In the -500s the Munkhâshi started to conquer Sarnáe, then occupied by more Eynleyni; but they were pushed back almost to the Dagêsh range by Monkhayu, who poured into Sarnáe after -375, fleeing the invasion of the Eastern peoples. (As the chief reward offered by the ktuvoks was the fruit of conquest, it was not as easy to rule a shrinking empire. Setbacks could take centuries to recover from.)
In the 100s they began their advance again; by 250 they had reached the Ctelm mountains bordering Eretald. The Cuzeian In the land of Babblers relates their probing of the defenses on the other side of the Taucrēte Pass. They were able to establish friendly relations with the local Caďinorian barons, in effect overcoming the barrier of the mountains. They also mastered two important military innovations: the ability to ride horses into battle (rather than relying on chariots), and the forging of iron weapons.
The struggle for Eretald
In 440 they poured over the Ctelm mountains. Within fifteen years they had advanced almost to the Svetla and occupied half of Eretald. Sacking but bypassing the minor Caďinorian kingdoms of the Svetla (including Ctesifon), they besieged Eleisa, capital of Cuzei, for three years.
The Cuzeians (with crucial help from the iliu) beat them back, in 458; this ensured that the western half of Eretald would stay free, but left the eastern half under occupation for centuries. There was no question of impressing the Caďinorians and Meťaiun with gifts; they could only be controlled by brute force. Millions were killed in battle, by genocidal raids, or as sacrifices to the gods.
Over the next centuries Cuzeians, Caďinorians, and Meťaiun fought back. Progress was fastest along the upper Svetla; the kingdom of Aránicer had almost reached the Ctelm mountains by 950. Caďinas, the kingdom centered on Ctesifon, wasted time with the conquest of the declining remnant of Cuzei (1024), but soon refocussed; by 1150 they had liberated all of Eretald.
By this time the Qaraus had mastered horsemanship as well, and used it to conquer Tyellakh (the region of Munkhâsh most suitable for horses).
The continental war
The Caďinorians, now master of all of Eretald, pushed on into central Sarnáe, reaching the Shkónoro by 1320. Meanwhile the Meťaiun kingdom of Awoilas conquered northern Sarnáe, and the Monkhayu were busy in the south.
The latter two states were obviously the weak points in the attack. In the late 1500s the Munkhâshi concentrated all their forces on them, bypassing Caďinas entirely. They succeeded in occupying both Monkhay and Awoilas, and then proceeded to conquer Leziunea; this left them in position to threaten Caďinas with an enormous pincer movement, bypassing the Ctelm mountains entirely.
To facilitate the upcoming war the Munkhâshi relied to an unprecedented degree on diplomacy at a continental level. In Eretald and in the new Kurundasti Tej they did their best to foster division: in the first this helped lead to a civil war between the usurper Sevurias and his nephew, the rightful heir Ervëa; among the Tžuro the conflict was between the pagans, who wanted to conquer Skouras, and the Jippirasti, who were eager to defeat Munkhâsh.
Agents were active in Axunai as well, offering a military alliance in return for the promotion of Gelalhát. When the niveï in Weinex rejected the offer, the Munkhâshi shopped it around to other grandees; Neirimi, the governor of Moun province, accepted. As a result he was able to start a civil war in which, for awhile, he looked unstoppable. He held more than half of Axunemi territory before the Munkhâshi recalled their army, as it was needed to fight the Tžuro.
The scale of Munkhâshi operations is breathtaking, unmatched by any human state before the burgeoning colonial powers of nearly two millennia later. For contemporary humans this needed little explanation— ktuvoks are evil!— but the unexpected creativity deserves a better explanation. In part it must have been desperation: they had been on the defensive for centuries, and their only chance was some dramatic move. It is reminiscent of the iliu-ktuvok wars told in the Count of Years; perhaps the ktuvoks called on memories of their earlier greatness. Some historians believe that the scheme represents the political maturity of the Demoshi, better placed than the ktuvoks to understand human politics and motivations.
In any case, the attempt failed. An early setback was the complete victory of Ervëa in the Caďinorian civil war, which caught the Munkhâshi before they were fully prepared for their invasion; they also underestimated the unity the Caďinorians would be capable of after the succession fight. They rallied, however, and their high point was the year-long siege of Ctesifon in 1643-44. But then Attafei succeeded in convincing the Tžuro to dedicate their considerable energy entirely to Munkhâsh. The Munkhâshi actually sacked and burned Ctesifon in 1646; but their fate was sealed.
It was a long struggle nonetheless, and more difficult for the allies as they approached Demóshimor; but they defeated the ktuvoks’ human allies, and then marched into the swamps to subdue the ktuvoks themselves (1667). This took boldness— ktuvoks average nine feet in height and even weaponless have formidable teeth and claws. On the other hand, they rarely have to fight on their own behalf, and accounts of the final battles record that as many as a third of the ktuvoks offered no resistance at all. The victors considered slaughtering them all, but held back; nonetheless, the war probably eliminated half the total population of ktuvoks. Some creatures also fled to Arcel, trying to establish an empire there. This led to unification of Beic tribes under a government known as the Men's Empire.