I am Thaldha, true son of Amtran, in turn true son of Rhatimis, in turn very son of Nicha, in turn very daughter of Kilemetra, in turn true son of Daryius who was both very daughter and one of the first chosen of Aramath. Five generations has my blood line been given the honor and duty of keeping and sharing the story of our people. A story that begins in the time before this time as you know now, when the land was different and there were many tribes in many lands.

I tell you that the land was not always as we see it now before us. Our ancestors tell of a much different land before the holy fire of the new beginning from which all things that we know now once came from. Before the holy fire there were many people living in many tribes. All of these tribes lay claim to many different lands. Lands seen and unseen, lands known and even unknown to us. There were lands within lands, lands joining lands, and many tribes lived in these lands, bonding with other tribes in the ways that we do today. Like all people, like all tribes, some chose to follow the path of what is right and good, while others instead chose to follow a darker path, the path of destruction and ruin.

I tell you now that several of the largest tribes became powerful enough to rival even the might of the gods, and these tribes, in their arrogance, sought to enslave and control the other lesser tribes with their great power. The greater tribes fought the lesser tribes and massacred them, taking their possessions, their land and either killing or enslaving their people. There came a time when there were no laws and all became without order.

Tribe fought tribe.

Bonds were made and broken at whim, oaths meant nothing. The sound of battle filled the land as the spirits of the fallen and the dead cried out in anguish to their many gods. All peoples in all lands became as warriors, choosing their gods and their leaders and using their gifts to make tools for conflict, to wage war. The different tribes fought to destroy any tribe who did not choose the same path as they did, who would not bond with them in their ways, or who would not share their possessions and gifts.

The gods watched all of this and became very angry with the people.

None can remember the time of the old tribes, of the people and the tribes that lived before the fire, or of the anger of the gods, for all those people are gone and their stories are lost forever in the ashes of the land that is no more. Only our people’s story, all that we have remembered and kept sacred, gives us vision into the land as it was long, long ago. A time before all people and all things suffered greatly for their arrogance.

Many tribes went to war, and their war covered this land that we can see, and lands far away that we cannot see and lands still further away beyond that. This great war filled the sky during the day and during the night. This great war even flowed out onto the top of the great waters and some say far below them as well. Entire tribes of people were destroyed and forgotten, their story ended, their history lost. The gods grew angry at how the people wasted the gifts that had been given to them by the gods, especially the gifts of fire, of metal, and of lightning and thunder. For over nine generations the old tribes fought until the gods could watch no more and the gods punished the old tribes with a fury never before seen.

Fire sprang from the ground and fire fell from the sky, the land cracked open and swallowed people. The ground bled hot red rivers of fire that consumed and covered everything in their path. The great waters turned to steam, the big rivers dried up, the people’s crops died, stone turned to dust, the great ice turned to hot water, and parts of the land and many tribes in that land fell into the great waters never to be seen again. Old mountains fell and new mountains rose and even the great waters were angry, flowing far into the land to drown the wicked and flood their homes. The air became hot and thick with smoke and ash, and the water was turned black and made bitter poison to drink. Plants and flowers and trees and fruit and the animals of the tribes died, and the gods chose to put out the light of the sun for a long time, even the lights in the night sky and the moon were taken away from sight of the people. Sickness and pain were given to all the people of the land and many died from the great unseen sprits that walked the lands freely in those days.

Entire tribes and whole peoples were wiped out by the anger of the gods, entire lands far away were left without people to walk or tend them, cleansed by the fire from above and below, felled by the unseen spirits and the eternal servants of the gods let loose upon the land during the time of fire. The gods also chose to curse some tribes for their arrogance, disfiguring them, bending and breaking them without killing them, making them shun the light and the contact of others of their kind, and causing them to seek refuge far below the land where no light from the sun ever shines. Their bodies became hosts to the great unseen spirits who dwelled among them and fed from their souls. The cursed people grew angry at the gods and shunned them, hiding underground from them in spaces that they made with their hands and they began to worship the dark gods and dark spirits and found refuge in their beliefs. The cursed people, hungry for the flesh that was once of their own kind, still live below the land today, and hunt the forbidden lands for any who would be foolish to explore there. Beware the cursed people, for their lineage can be traced back to the time before the holy fire, touch is death, their hunger for the living flesh is without end, and the great unseen spirits travel with them.

The wrath of the gods was mighty to behold, for it changed forever the land and the people. But not all people were made to suffer; twenty tribes were chosen by the gods and judged to be worthy of mercy. The twenty chosen tribes found much favor with the gods and were therefore set aside to be spared from the cleansing fire, the fury of the unseen spirits and the eternal servants of the gods. Those chosen tribes who would lead their people with wisdom instead of the edge of the blade were spared the wrath of the gods. The gods instructed the chosen tribes to hide underground, to take refuge under the land so that the very land itself would lend its mighty strength to protect them from the time of wrath.

Of the twenty chosen tribes who were to wait for this new land, we can draw lineage directly to the tribe of Aramath.

Aramath was a wise and learned man, a great warrior and a great leader. As the other tribes fought and died, as great men and women were put to the edge of the blade and slain, Aramath laid down his weapons and his armor and chose twelve other great warriors to come with him. Each of those twelve warriors in turn chose a hundred people more to follow them. Together, the combined tribe of Aramath, twelve hundred and thirteen strong, entered a garden under the ground, a garden prepared for them by Aramath, and there they dwelled for many generations.

Aramath’s garden lay deep below the land, in a place where the sun and the moon could not share their light. Aramath’s garden was tended by many of the eternal servants, and watched over by gentle, unseen spirits that worked to harness the power of lightning and thunder for use by the people. The garden of Aramath drank deeply of cool water brought up from the great black depths of the land and drew its heat from the land itself, harnessing hot rivers of molten blood. Even as far down as the Garden of Aramath lay, the tribe could still hear the sounds of the angry gods, and sometimes the land moved or moaned, but always the Garden remained, and Aramath watched over his tribe.

It was Aramath himself who taught his people about the lands to come, and what would be required of them when it was again time to leave the garden and walk the land above ground. He taught his people many wise and just things, he gave them twelve gifts; thunder, lightning, sohma, metal, light, heat, cold, flex, and many more. His teachings were recorded for all of his people and studied by young and old. The Chosen Twelve of Aramath were made into powerful leaders under him, but each was equal only among themselves for the tribe was Aramath’s and all answered to his law and his judgment. The Chosen Twelve were the best that Aramath could bring with him, from the strongest and most pure blood lines. In the world that existed before the holy fires, the names of the twelve carried much weight and honor, some as much as Aramath did himself. Included among the Chosen Twelve was Aramath’s own daughter, his only child, Daryius, a powerful warrior in her own right, and very knowledgeable in the ways of fighting. When Aramath talked to the gods, he was told that the land would not be prepared for his people for a long time to come and that he and his people should sleep until such time as the land was ready.

Aramath and the Chosen Twelve instructed all of their people to sleep. The tribe of Aramath slept for a very long time, watched over by the spirits of the gods and their loyal eternal servants until such time as the gods commanded the people to awaken and come forth and repopulate the land. Aramath and his tribe, all of his chosen, dreamed of a new time, of a time without conflict where tribe held bond with tribe and walked the land in peace. The gods watched over their chosen people as they slept, for many generations, as the gods rebuilt the land, and created a new land above for their chosen people, moving mountains, changing rivers, making forests, and filling lakes. The seasons came with great regularity, and the changes the gods made took hold and were good. The barren land turned green again, and new creatures and new things replaced those that been done away with. Those that the gods chose to keep, some they changed, others they gave great strengths to, and still others they left disfigured or as punishment. Some works were perfect and were left unchanged at all. These were few.

But the faith of Aramath’s tribe was not as strong as he thought, and his people awoke before the time that was to be theirs. The servants and unseen spirits of the gods that had watched over Aramath for so long were growing weak, some were dying, and they could watch over his people no longer. The garden would not keep Aramath’s protected, for even the garden was dying and the tribe of Aramath had to leave quickly for an evil unseen spirit had grown within the garden and taken root, driving out the chosen, killing those who did not heed the warning to leave.

Aramath led his people forth as they left their garden under the ground. It had been many generations since the gods had brought their wrath down upon the lands yet Aramath and the twelve found that the land was still harsh, untamed. They found that the animals and creatures that roamed it were angry at the tribe of Aramath and looked upon them as little more than prey. The land was not friendly, or easy to work, parts were still angry and moved often, the hot blood of the land flowed sometimes, killing many of Aramath’s people in their journey, and destroying what homes they might build. The rains brought floods of foul water and strong winds that were cold. The hot seasons brought dryness, and the plants that Aramath and his chosen people tended withered and died before they could be harvested. But hardship is the test of the people, and those who did not die grew stronger because of the hardships. Aramath’s people became warriors once again, and fought the land.

The chosen of the people grew to great strength, fighting the creatures and taming or slaying them. Thus Aramath and his people gained favor with the gods and the land grew quiet, it did not bleed as often, and the unseen spirits that made the people sicken and die visited them no more. Aramath and his twelve chosen children came together in council, forming the first such gathering, and each at that time choosing to form one of the twelve original tribes of Aramath and to these twelve did Aramath give each one of the twelve Gifts. The Gifts were presents from the gods, taken with Aramath when he and his people first went underground, to be used to bond the tribes together, to help repopulate the land, and to give each tribe a difference between all other tribes, a difference to lend strength, a gift to build upon another tribe, a gift to share. But even in this council of tribes there was deceit and treachery, and tribe plotted against tribe, man against man, people against people. The ways of the people once again drew the anger of the gods, and the gods walked among the people, bringing fury and punishment and sorrow. The council fell with the death of Aramath, the tribes scattered, each under the leadership of one of the original twelve of Aramath, fighting and taking what they could from other, weaker tribes. The land flowed red with the blood of the children of Aramath, and their spirits cried out. Twelve against twelve, brother against brother, man against man, woman against woman, child against child. For two generations did the twelve tribes fight among each other, for two generations did the chosen of Aramath dishonor his teachings.

Our ancestor, Daryius, was the only daughter of Aramath, a warrior of great legend who led our people forth from the broken council and took with her the Gift of the Sohma, a nourishing grain that would grow in almost any climate. Daryius protected us from Grishayl and his wanton lust for the Gift of the Sohma of our tribe and the power it could bring to him and his tribe. Daryius, with the help of three gods, hid our people away once again underground while Grishayl and his tribe searched for us in vain. Daryius hid us, sheltered us, and protected our people until Grishayl and his tribe was in turn consumed and put to the edge of the blade by the tribe of Thandos who held the Gift of Metal. Daryius and Thandos made a pact, and each took their people and their Gifts, far to the south, to lands that Aramath had told of. Promised lands, rich lands, lands where the gods smiled and the people could find favor with the seasons and the gifts of the land. Daryius and Thandos sealed their tribes kinbond with a union that brought forth three children, the wisest of which was my great, great grandfather, Apafion. Our two tribes became as one, and the number of the people was many and they were strong and determined.

Five generations ago Daryius and Thandos brought our people across the burning sands where many were made sick and died from the touch of the unseen spirits that lurked there. Daryius and Thandos led us over the white topped mountains where Thandos died fighting the unclean people who lived inside the moutains and worshipped dark gods and ate of the flesh of those not like them. Grieving for our loss and hers, Daryius led all of the people to the shores of the great inland sea that is lit by the plants that grow there. She led us across the hills and across the Great Scar and finally across to the grass covered plains whose beginning lays a full nine days ride from here. The people, her people, our people, settled in this valley, in the time of my great, great grandfather Apafion whom Daryius then chose to keep and remember the story of all the people and their long journey and of those who never lived to see these beautiful lands. Under Daryius’ wisdom and guidance, learned in turn from the great and wise Aramath and some say who he in turn had learned directly from the gods themselves, all the people began to claim this land as our own, to shape and mold it. All the people worked together without conflict, pushing back the angry beasts and hungry creatures that would hunt us, working to build our simple homes above and below ground as Aramath had taught us to do, and taking what we needed only by the product of our labor, always giving back more to the land than we received, leaving it better for the next generation of the tribe. Such was the way of the land, such were the teachings of Daryius and of Aramath before her. The spirit of Thandos watched over us in those days, for no other people came to our lands. The Gift of Sohma took root, and flourished, and the people went without hunger, turning their studies and labor to acts other than simply growing food for nourishment. We began to relearn the ways of the old land, of the land before the time of the fire, before the gods became angry with all the people. We learned slowly, carefully, so as not to upset the gods again and bring their wrath down upon us and undo all that Daryius, Thandos, and Aramath had worked so hard to give us.

This is as it has been for five generations now, our people grow more learned with each generation, we trust the new generation to build upon that which was taught to them by the generation before. I grow old, only a few seasons more can I hope to see the light of this land, but it is my duty as keeper of the story of our people to tell you of all that has come before you, as my daughter will surely one day add your works to the story that is all that our people are, all that they have been. You are all that our people will be, you are our future. The story is for nothing if you do not continue it, if you do not learn it and pass it on, if you do not take the lessons to heart and live by them.

You must remember what I have told you, and use the teachings of Aramath and Daryius to guide you, draw upon the strength of Thandos in times of need, and shun the dark desires of those who were foolish like Grishayl. As our people work together, so do the Gifts of the Sohma and the Metal work together, one grows and another reaps. So must it be with all things in life, for life is a time to grow and a time to reap, a time to offer, and a time to cull. Let the teachings of Aramath guide you in your life, to offer gifts to any of the people you may meet. Offer the Sohma, your kindness first and the edge of the blade, you anger, only as a last resort.

This morn’s dawn will bring an end to your trials, an end to your time as a child, an end to your teachings. Those of you who are selected by the elders will be given the task of completing the greatest journey yet ahead of you; the rite of passage. The people, myself included, can teach you nothing more. The land beyond this land awaits you, and explore it you must for it will now be your teacher. You will see many things, learn many things, you must not let your heart become cold, or your mind forget who you are, what ancestral lines your blood flows backwards to. Some of you may not return, for the land beyond this land is not a kind land. There are other people who are not people like us, but who serve dark gods and worship the unseen spirits. May the gods of the people, the gods who have guided and protected us for five generations now, smile on you, and give you the strength to do that which is ahead of you. May the gods send their own unseen spirits to protect you in your journeys, to watch over you and to give you the courage to add much glory to the story of our people.

You are the chosen of the many. We are the many of the people. We are the story of our people and the story has no ending.