| Zeluzh |
|Capital||Sumateguhi & Rerãnahi|
|Major cities|| Mearenami & Rubiseashim |
Gukelihi & Pumekor
|Government||council with elected monarch|
|Created by|| brandrinn,|
Geography and Climate
Zeluzh consists of three main zones: a very narrow coastal strip (about 15 km wide at maximum), a broader arid strip up to 200 km wide, and a high volcanic mountain range - the Seahagazhi. Originally the name Zeluzh (literally meaning "dust sea") referred only to the arid zone, but later came to refer to the entire Zele-speaking area, which stretched for over 1500 km along the coast.
The northern part of Zeluzhia is on the edge of the tropics, and as such is subject to hot and generally dry weather. However, the large area of Zeluzhia generates a monsoon effect, with the southern part of the continent developing a powerful anticyclonic system in the southern hemisphere summer; this draws moist air in from the surrounding seas. As a result Zeluzh itself is subject to a cooler winter with a moderate amount of rain, followed by an intensely hot and dry summer. Close to the coast, this is tempered by sea breezes and dew.
The arrival of the Isles people
The region was settled in the middle of the second millennium BP by Isles peoples fleeing the invasions of the Wendoth. Archaeological finds dating to before this time are scant, but indicate that the indegenous peoples were not very populous, subsisting mainly on coastal fishing and some herding.
The Isles peoples brought with them a strong agricultural base and a good understanding of animal husbandry. This allowed them to quickly establish their dominance, as they could support a relatively high population even in the marginal climate.
In the centuries after their arrival in Zeluzhia, the immigrants, referred to by historians as the Proto-Zelic peoples, diverged into two main groups - the Zele, living on the northern side of the Seahagazhi, and the Kiizwaye south of the range.
The Isles immigrants mainly settled in small villages in the narrow coastal strip and on the lower slopes of the mountains, the areas most suitable for agriculture. Around -1000 YP, permanent towns started to appear in both these areas, but with a peculiar twist - the mountain towns and coastal towns were associated in pairs (kelebashazh) with one town in each zone. The two factors causing this development appear to have been the climate (the mountains were more productive in spring and summer, the coast in autumn and winter) and the domestication of the camel (zesushim), which greatly eased travel across the desert zone. By -500 YP it was not unheard of for more than half of the population in a kelebashazh to migrate from one town to the other each season.
By the coast, fishing continued to be a major source of food, but cereal crops were the staple; these were supplemented by drought-tolerant fruits such as dates and olives. In the mountains, summer fruits such as apples and pears were grown. The practice of transhumance also encouraged herding, since herds could be brought along with the seasonal migration where crops could not. The favoured animals were goats (shãyam) and sheep (mimazhi).
The most favourable areas for this system were those where the mountains reached down to the sea. This meant that seasonal migrations were shorter, and produce could be easily transported between mountain and coastal towns. A handful of the best-placed towns came to dominate the region: Mearenami and Rubiseashim, Sumateguhi and Rerãnahi, Gukelihi and Pumekor. (In all of these kelebashazh, the mountain town is named first.) The more stable cultivation, with less need for seasonal migration, encouraged these towns to grow to a considerable size, with populations exceeding 15,000 for the largest kelebashazh.
The development of cities
As the towns grew, there was an increasing need for organisation. During the early first millennium BP, governing councils developed; they were called tsonãsosh and generally comprised the leaders of the most important clans (meazuhi). These councils served a number of purposes - arbitrating disputes, allocating farmland, overseeing civic building work, and coordinating defence.
This last was a concern because of growing rivalry between kelebashazh, and also because of the threat of raids from jealous nomadic Zele. Weapons at this time were simple, consisting mainly of spears (nemazh) tipped with obsidian (seayulihi). However, conflicts could be bitter; the nomads had capable fighters and considerable mobility, while the towns had strong defences, including stone walls (shonoafabam) and a ready supply of obsidian, and in emergencies could mobilise forces into the thousands of men.
One contributing cause for the towns' rivalry was the increasing importance of trade. Camels were well-established as the mainstay of overland travel, and allowed the larger towns to send trade forays across the mountains to the savannah inhabited by the Kiizwaye. Boats developed quickly, too; the Zele had not forgotten their homeland of Tuysáfa - which they called Tsashigimi, "the great North" - and kept building seagoing vessels (mer) in which they could make summer voyages across the sea and trade for the produce of the temperate zone. (In winter the prevailing winds are in the wrong direction.)
War and unification
In -227 YP all-out war broke out between Mearenami-Rubiseashim and Gukelihi-Pumekor over the control of a stretch of coast between the two that was rich in pearls (tedãmãhi, an important trade good). Gukelihi-Pumekor won a crushing victory on the field of battle - but, not content with this, attacked Rubiseashim itself by sea and occupied the city. Mearenami fell a few months later. This fledgling empire, flush with this success, prepared for a campaign against the other major kelebashazh, Sumateguhi-Rerãnahi. However, the fear of invasion pushed the smaller towns into forming an alliance; Sumateguhi-Rerãnahi also joined and soon came to lead it (albeit in a rather informal sense). Gradually, the smaller towns of the alliance pressured Sumateguhi-Rerãnahi to grant them representation on an overall council, the Mati Tsonãsosh or "wide council", which convened in Sumateguhi or Rerãnahi depending on the season; this was agreed to, in exchange for a formal pledge of military support.
In the spring of -224 the alliance raised an army and laid siege to Gukelihi, eventually starving out the defenders. The army moved on to Pumekor and captured it by force (although fewer people were there anyway because of the season). Mearenami and Rubiseashim surrendered soon after this; many of the townspeople were grateful to be free from the Gukeli occupation. Sumateguhi-Rerãnahi were wary of rebellion, and decided to ease the hardship of conquest by granting the defeated cities councillors in the Mati Tsonãsosh, which soon came to take on the functions of government.
Although the individual kelebashazh retained their autonomy in most matters, with decisions made by their own councils, the Mati Tsonãsosh took control of the armies; most of the soldiers went back to their ordinary jobs - there were almost no professionals - but a small force was maintained for suppressing banditry and keeping watch on the nomads. It also worked to improve communications between towns (including building proper roads), to coordinate trade expeditions to the south and to Tuysáfa, and to mediate disputes between kelebashazh much as ordinary councils did for their citizens. The actual amount of power exercised by the Mati Tsonãsosh was limited, mainly because of the lack of serious external threats; in spite of its relatively small size Zeluzh was one of the larger and more advanced states on the continent. Nevertheless, it was too indecisive as a body to deal with any immediate issues that could arise, and chose a leader or zhealenam for this purpose. Over many years this position came to dominate the Mati Tsonãsosh, and although in principle they could be removed by their fellow councillors, it became customary for a new zhealenam to be chosen only upon the death of the previous. Most historians therefore consider the zhealenam of the mature Zele state to be an elected monarch, rather than just a council leader.
It is notable that unlike in contemporary states in Peilaš, there was no particular barrier to a woman becoming zhealenam, although there were more male rulers (zhealekãmabi) than female rulers (zhealekispibi). At most levels, Zele society seems to have been relatively egalitarian; war, and times of war, were the only circumstances in which men were unquestionably preeminent (and even then, a significant minority of fighters were women).
By 100 YP Zeluzh was still in the strict sense a chalcolithic society; it had no writing, little metallurgy, and few cities of any size. However, while it was not as technologically advanced as the contemporary civilisations of northern Peilaš, it was not as primitive as such a simple assessment might suggest.
Stone and metal
One of the most important factors in the development of Zele technology was the scarcity of wood and coal in the region coupled with the ready availability of obsidian. With little fuel available, the process of smelting metals (tabisosh) was difficult and expensive; obsidian, though it has some drawbacks compared to bronze or iron, is common in the Seahagazhi and as such was favoured for making tools and weapons. It was also a significant export of Zeluzh.
The only metals worked in any significant quantity were silver, copper, and gold, all of which occur in the region as pure metals. Other metals (such as bronze) were known from trade with Tuysáfa and were used as ornaments and weapons by the élite, but these were expensive to import and do not seem to have been considered particularly more useful than obsidian.
Other, more common, kinds of stone (sumazhi) were used extensively by the Zele for a wide range of purposes. Most buildings were constructed from stone, although mud bricks were also used in river deltas. Stone tools, such as pestles, mauls, and hammers (tsedabi) were very common, as were the characteristic granite millstones (renastizh - often so large that they could only be turned by a donkey). In cities, the streets were paved with stone slabs, and roads between towns were marked at regular intervals by stone cairns.
The Isles tribes that travelled to Zeluzhia following the invasions of the Wendoth were already settled agriculturalists, cultivating wheat (matatazh), barley (mashor), bitter vetch (tsoyaban) and chickpeas (tsozhim) along with a variety of vegetables. They had also domesticated the sheep, goat, and donkey (rorazhi).
In Zeluzh, these crops and animals continued to be staples of agriculture, but developments continued to be made. The camel was domesticated around -1000 YP, and superseded the donkey as the most important pack animal. The other significant invention was irrigation; the use of simple canals for watering fields greatly increased the area that could be used for crops, and allowed further increases in population.