Xurno is by far the largest nation of Xengiman, the great southern plain of Ereláe. Although there are plenty of mountains just outside its borders, the terrain within Xurno is almost entirely flat. Agriculture is well established there; near the Xengi river, the practice dates back to before the year -4000. The climate is cool, comparable to northern Europe.
The next largest city after Inex, the capital, is Curau. Cities with a population between 120,000 and 500,000 are Etak, Jinayzu, Lirau, Lozauš and Lij, and those with a population between 60,000 and 120,000 are Bizagak, Musi, Reyruni, Brundau and Mešac. Population is concentrated near the coast and the banks of the Xengi River; Mešac is the only city of substantial size in the north.
- Links to provinces: Xazno, Bolon, Bozan, Bukanel, Jeor, Rau Niormen, Niormen, Rajjay, Šiyku, Šuzep, Rau Xengi, Gotanel, Tanel, Idzinar, Nior.
- See also Xurnese emperors
The Xurnese city-fortress
Xurno arose during one of the darkest periods in the history of Xengiman, the conquest by the Sainor and then the Gelyet barbarians, in the 2480s. Unlike the Bucair, who had lived alongside the Axunemi long enough to develop respect for civilized life, the Sainor were interested in little but plunder, and thought nothing of expanding their grazing lands by displacing peasants, who if they were not massacred were likely to die of starvation. The Gelyet were even more brutal, especially to anyone who dared to rebel against them.
The barbarians had great advantages. Each tribe comprised an entire cavalry, trained from birth in horsemanship and archery; the minor states of the Age of Petty Kings could not field an effective resistance, and if they retreated to their fortified cities, could be starved out.
Rejabriš, king (nye) of Curau from 2518, developed a counter-strategy: extended fortifications, including fields and springs within the city walls, plus a top-down militarization matching that of the barbarians. The initial construction, in Curau and Xiau, was hidden from the Gelyet occupiers as aqueducts and irrigation works, and hastily completed while the bulk of the Gelyet were up north conquering Sarnáe (2530).
In full defense mode, almost the entire peasantry was conscripted to serve as an army: men as pikesmen, women as archers. Nobles served as cavalry and as officers. The city’s fields were tended by children and old people, but soldiers were also given two days a week to help them.
With the numbers thus provided, Rejabriš resisted the Gelyet counter-attack, and extended his system to the remaining cities of the middle Xengi. Sensing that he was onto something big, he named his nascent empire Xurno, the Dawning Country. His son Miudis liberated the Xengi delta, Niormen, and Rajjay, and Miudis’s successor Isaoric conquered Jeor, Bolon, and Tanel— largely pushing the Gelyet out of Axunemi lands.
The militarized Xurnese state was reinforced by religion. The Hermit Masters of Endajué had disdained war and warriors, but their successors had accepted nobles as acolytes, and with them developed the Jueši endi, the Ways of War. These encompassed strategy and tactics, mental and bodily disciplines, and an ethical code, but above all sought to cultivate xal ‘spirit’— an indivisible blend of toughness, inner calm, and justice which marked the ideal warrior— the xáleš zalay or xaleza, the warrior of spirit.
Xurnese nationalism and its discontents
The new nation appealed as well to Axunemi nationalism— something of a novelty in Ereláean history. There had previously been no particular shame attached to being ruled by foreigners. Xurno explicitly fought for all Axunaic peoples; this was a great help in inciting revolt against the barbarians, but did impose natural limits on the empire.
The first non-Axunaic people to come under Xurnese rule was Jeor, still largely Jeori-speaking. Jeor had been ruled for centuries by Gurdagor and then the Gelyet, and suffered greatly under both; it accepted Xurnese rule with a sigh of relief. Over the next few centuries the region was effectively Axunized.
Čeiy was another story. A branch of the Gelyet, displaced from Xengiman by the Xurnese, conquered Čeiy. The Xurnese took this as a challenge; by 2660, under the emperor Imdax, they had liberated Čeiy— only to find that the Čeiyu wanted no part of them. They did speak an Axunaic language, but their culture was by now strikingly different. They had never accepted Endajué, and disdained empires, preferring the Skourene idea of senatorial government.
The Čeiyu revolt received unexpected support from a new religious movement, Bezuxau, named for the radical Endajué cleric Bezu ma-Veon. Bezu preached the utter worthlessness of the material world— he only occasionally promised something better in another— and from his island fortress of Šušumbör directed a campaign of assassination and terror against the Xurnese. By 2840 the Čeiyu had succeeded in establishing their independence— from Xurno, at least; Bezu’s followers still wielded disproportionate influence.
The apogee of empire
Čeiy was only one of the empire’s adornments. Xurno expanded into the Xoranas (2660), reoccupied Xazno, the old Axunemi colony on the Hasun (2670), Pronel and Edinel (2690-2720), and finally the leading Uṭandal state, Čisra (by 2750). The emperor Kipric, conqueror of Čisra, could contemplate an empire that dwarfed any other Ereláean state of the time, and compared respectably to any in history. Xurno extended to the mountains in all directions, and controlled most of the Mnau peninsula.
All of the non-Xurnese-speaking areas were lost within a century, and the Xoranas, Bolon, and Xazno as well— a loss usually blamed on a series of weak nyew (emperors), but also perhaps to a realization that the far reaches of empire were both culturally incompatible and unprofitable. Xurno was highly militarized, but its forte was defense, not offense— despite the Jueši endi, its principal strengths were its impregnable cities and its peasant levees— products of dense regions, and not easy to apply outside of them. The imperial era was a period of adventure, and perhaps wisely abandoned.
The Revaudo revolution
Around 2900, a religious revival called Revaudo (‘newness’) swept Endajué. Its doctrine was, at first, hyper-orthodox; but orthodoxy can be used either to support or challenge the authorities, and it was clear that the Revaudo dzuséy considered the nyew to be corrupt, greedy, murderous, and hubristic. A message of dissent found a ready audience, especially as there were no official avenues of complaint; people were tired of the levees, high taxes, and their own poverty. Even the nobles were tired of the strong hand of Curau, and the increasingly important merchants chafed under a feudal system that had no place for them.
As the movement grew, the state grew increasingly alarmed, and pressed the dzuséy to back down. This was effectively prevented by the loose organization of Endajué: dzuséy were not answerable to any master. As soon as there were a fair number of Revaudo dzuséy, no religious authority could rebuke them. By the late 2900s the radical dzuséy were advocating civil disobedience and the nonpayment of taxes.
It was too much for the nyei Imdax IV; he ordered the imprisonment of the dzuséy in 2984. In many areas his orders were carried out, but elsewhere (notably Rajjay and Gotanel), local officials defied them. Within half a year Xurno plunged into a civil war that would last more than thirty years, and transform the nation.
The first phase ended with the capture of the royal capital, Curau, in 3017. (The Revaudo capital was Inex, which had fallen five years previously.) The more radical elements of Revaudo had become mainstream: fierce egalitarianism, hatred of nobility and royalty, devotion to the Endajué ideals of the Dance. The dzuséy were uninterested in temporal power; the aristocracy was decimated; the merchants were too unspiritual; the class most willing and able to take power was the urban intelligentsia, the artists and academics.
The dzuni or Royalists still controlled about a third of Xurno, mostly in the west. In 3087 war broke out again, and in ten years the Revaudo forces succeeded in conquering the whole country (and even liberated Bolon from the Seia).
Revaudo Xurno was, if not democratic, at least meritocratic. At first it was ruled by artists, but there was not even a question of becoming a new hereditary elite; art belonged to the universe, as a manifestation of the Dance. Anyone who had the talent could (and should) become an artist; any artist could be accepted into the ruling elite. (Naturally, those who were already in it were well placed to ensure that their children would be too; but artists had to actually produce art, and that required study and intelligence; not all artists’ children made it, and many outsiders made their way in.)
The organization of the state was a parallel of that of Endajué. In the nine Salons (xamunari, corresponding to the genres of art, originally poetry, drama, music, painting, sculpture, weaving, dance, gymnastics), an artist started as an ammírcis, an Apprentice. Mastering the forms and methods of the art, he or she became a raysu, a Member. The elite of the genre, the masters and innovators, were the bicikeséy or Academicians, who governed the Salon and held official positions in the government.
The state, of course, required more organization than the religion. Each Salon had 99 Academicians, for a total of 792. The Academy (Bicikes) was in effect the legislature and administration of Xurno. They elected a five- to ten-member body known as the Council of the Academy (Bicikesu Jurumíex). Most of the time this was the highest power in the government, but in wartime one Councillor was named Supreme Commander.
The Prose Wars
In the 3230s there was a period of unrest, the Prose Wars (gejupudo nao onomú). On the surface, the agitation (ultimately successful) was for the creation of a new Salon of Prose (gejupudo); the deeper issue was to force an elite which had grown insular and aloof, focussed almost exclusively on the artistic heritage of Xurno, to confront the rapidly changing outside world. Northern powers (especially Kebri and Érenat) were growing stronger and were understanding the physical world in new ways; a new continent, Arcél, was being explored; more darkly, Dhekhnam loomed to the north, now larger than Xurno. “Prose” was, in effect, science or scholarship, much of it focussed on the study of these new things. The new Salon allowed Xurno to become a modern nation with little further political upheaval.
One of our most interesting Almean documents dates from this period: A Diary of the Prose Wars, a set of personal reminiscences by several people both central and peripheral to the events of the day, including perhaps the key figure, the brilliant and tragic Enirc, perhaps the first man in Xurno to dream of a Salon of Prose, and whose reward for his indefagitable work on its behalf was calumny and exile.
Today, four centuries after the revolution, it's widely considered that Xurno is not so much a nation ruled by artists, as one where rulers must study art. Artistic talent can still lead to a political career; but loopholes have been found so that Academicians may be mediocre artists. (One is, alas, art theory: write a good enough book on the great painters, and you can become a member of the Salon of Painting.)
Militarily, Xurno has profited from the continued decline of the nomads. Its borders are almost as extended as in the days of Kipric; only the mountains themselves are out of its grasp. For some time Cuoli, the only nation still speaking a descendant of Wede:i, attempted to build its own empire in eastern Xengiman; at its height (after 3180), it had conquered Bozan, the upper Xengi, and parts of Gotanel. It was greatly weakened by the failure of its attempt to conquer Belšai (3220-2), and over several wars Xurno recaptured the upper Xengi, Gotanel, and Bozan.
Xurno is rarely at the forefront of technology— the northern states, Belšai, and Skouras are more advanced— but it has rejected feudalism and embraced science in its own way, and its sheer bulk makes it one of the richest and most urbanized nations of Almea. The capital, Inex, is perhaps the largest city on the planet, with over 700,000 inhabitants; simply to handle this metropolis, it has created a sewer system and the equivalent of a zoning board, which oversees expansion and preserves the city’s parks and canals.