My son for whom I choose to die

A woman and her son are on opposite sides of an age-old war between secret societies, but she refuses to release him without a final ultimatum. A short story, 4700 words, set in my blood magic world called Haem.

My beautiful son,

Your mother is an Anuvite. You know that, of course – you have just never accepted it, despite my whole existence to the contrary.

But no matter – I have given up trying to convince you. Your mother is also dead, or she will be by the time you have read this. My companions in Anuva are coming for me as you insisted they would.

Your mother says no more. She is silent in her zeal to love selflessly, proud to plunge into oblivion for her son. But I, Refoan Omzynyes of Anuva, say to you: you cruel, blind fool. How do you presume that you can love your bride, sacrificing for her and glorying in her and crushing your soul for the smallest chance to make her life better, when you cannot even love your own mother? Of course, you would insist that I am not so worthy of love as Couryan is. Very well, then. Let us examine that hypothesis. I am not worthy of love, being an Anuvite with her fingers entangled in metal and numbers, so you never bothered to love me (though you could have if you had wanted, naturally). Meanwhile Couryan is worthy of love, being a very pretty Suyn girl with Sight, ethereal and half-lost in heavenly worlds – and so you will bother to love her, and you are sure that you can.

I have a different hypothesis. I say that I am worthy of love – I will even say I am as worthy as Couryan, an almost perfect Anuvite as she is an almost perfect Suyn. That you didn’t love me shows that you couldn’t love me, and so you cannot love Couryan. You will break her heart, too. She will also fall prey to her own companions, her Suyn companions, too gloriously devoted to her heavenly worlds to see or care that they come for her. But at least she is yours to crush.

Your father was a Suyn spy planted in my Anuvite cell. I realized this soon after I realized I was pregnant with you, but I had you anyways. You were my son to have, my chance to remake the situation. I was too good of an Anuvite to use our Anuvite technology. On you, at any rate: as it turned out, your father’s Suyn blood magic calling to the gods of Couryan’s heaven could do almost nothing against our Anuvite metal bullets that we’d shaped with our own hands.

There was little patience in Anuva for a young woman raising a child on her own while trying to contribute to the work. Our city Odiry was expanding back then, and they needed some way to cross the Huaryens river that ran just on the outskirts. Either we of Anuva would build a bridge, or Suyn would come in with their magic, muse over their Sight for a while, and then command the water or the animals or do something else deep and mysterious. We were fighting hard with them for Odiry’s public works department – no time for a small, whimpering child. I had you anyways. I stayed at home with you. I kept you out of the fight over Odiry, the bridge, the Huaryens itself. I chose to let you play in the Huaryens instead, bringing you there on bright summer days while I tried to rush through our engineering manuals and sketch out plans, distracted by your hair turning from blond to red and gold and by your first words: water, bird, grass.

When you were five Suyn got into the police department while we weren’t paying attention and framed and exposed our cell, and we were all being hunted down. Anuva’s scholars advised us to remain composed, stay together, keep our covers and let them question us so Anuva would not lose its foothold in Odiry altogether. Suyn didn’t have strong enough cases against most of us as it was, but they would if we fled in the night and were mysteriously missing the next day. But the scholars were true Anuvites and could not order us or force us. My colleague Zoanos, who went without sleep for days calculating forces and drafting the bridge that we built over the Huaryens, chose to stay in Odiry and was executed by Suyn. Not because of anything Zoanos did wrong – because my other colleague Diefen, who worked in her same division of the public works department and had rejected her years ago because Diefen was too intimidated by her brilliance, had become terrified and fled rather than choose his way rationally and hold his ground to protect his companions. We hated him. And then I followed him out of the city, for your sake, so that Suyn would not find you if they found me and make their usual ridiculous assumption that I would try to force a young child who couldn’t choose for himself into Anuva, where we are all there by choice.

You and I wandered for years. I had chosen to wander, and so I chose to make it an adventure, hoping that you would choose so too. And you did – you looked at the huge sunsets that washed over the fields of wild wheat near Namyuenes and saw fire, glory, and wonder; you laughed for delight at the swarms of indistinguishable grey-brown birds descending on spilled food in Renoin; everywhere there was nature or animals, you were happy, while my ears rang for lack of city noises and buildings clattering up from the ground and numbers rolling through my mind. I found an apartment in Sofyues, where one window looked out on a little garden of flowers for you, and the other at a building with Nurevian facades for me to stare at and dissect. We stayed there for four years before I saw, like a ghost, the face of the woman who had arrested Zoanos. You know her face very well: it is well reflected in her granddaughter Couryan.

We left the apartment with you in tears for your flowers – though you refused to acknowledge either the tears or the flowers as we left – and we wandered again. Your soul healed in the emptiness and continual surprises of the wild lands we traveled through, while mine clutched at every schedule, list, and semblance of order I could create in the rolling irregularity of nature. We came to Somony, which was so full of Anuva that every government department had one of us leading it and every grid-spaced, evenly paved street had a number. I felt safe, and I thought you would adjust soon and perhaps enjoy your lessons more coming from a teacher in a school than from your mother, but we only lived there for two years before Couryan’s grandmother was hovering in the corners of my eyes again. We moved to Eneyues. You asked me why we were moving again. I told you that there were people who hated me and wanted to hurt me, and might hurt you as well, and I had to protect us. You asked why they hated me. I said I couldn’t tell you for your own protection, and that I would tell you when you were older. Which was stupid, and set you on fire with curiosity, but what could I tell you? About Suyn and Anuva, hidden in every corner of your beautiful world, locked in eternal mortal combat? That your mother was Anuvite and you too were hunted and torn from every place-that-might-become-home because of Anuva, because you were with Anuva, because as far as they were concerned you were Anuva regardless of anything you did or chose?

I want you to make your own life, my son – and if that life is with Couryan of Suyn, then go live that life with all your being and energy and love. But if you cannot love, you cannot love Couryan and you cannot have the life you desire. You’ll only trap yourself again with a binding to pain you did not choose.

We went to Eneyues, which was also teeming with Anuva, and I threw myself into the cell there to make something more of my life than just fearing, running, reacting. I needed to be proactive. Unfortunately, Couryan’s grandmother was also proactive, and she was there in a few months. I packed up again – and then my Anuva colleague Tonoas appeared at my door and demanded to know why I was leaving. I told him about Couryan’s grandmother and a little about my connections to the disaster in Odiry, and gave a very impressive speech about how my priority was to protect my son first, and then he told me, “Well, of course. That’s my priority too, and that of any other sensible Anuvite I know. Stay right here and just see how safe your son will be.”

They started to trail Couryan’s grandmother, close in around her, pin her down. Tonoas tarried in our neighborhood, drifting by every now and then to intimidate any hypothetically present Suyn, and then he tarried in our apartment, and then my bed. As far as I was concerned, I had made the world I wanted: it was Anuvite, ordered, full of freedom for me to work and to love, and for you to go to school and learn all you wanted about the sky and birds and flowers. Even what the Suyn said about sky and birds and flowers – that they were messengers of heaven, not carriers of wildness, strange powers, and fear. Nature’s wildness started to infect you, and you thought it was heaven. The Suyn told you it was heaven, and you chose to say yes.

I didn’t know this was happening and that the Suyn were getting to you, even though the signs were obvious, because the signs were you. Nurturing plants in the dirt for hours while oblivious to your own safety, watching flocks of migrant birds from improbable secret hideouts you’d found, constantly yearning for open and fresh air and leaving doors and windows open to send disarraying drafts through my papers – that was your soul, your true will. I was happy for you because you seemed as full of freedom and delight as I was. As far as we were concerned, I had chosen Eneyues, and you had chosen Eneuyes, and I had chosen you, and you had chosen me, and I had chosen Tonoas of Anuva and you had chosen Couryan of Suyn.

I think you told me once, or else I overheard or saw when looking through your letters, that Couryan was like a bird herself or a sunset or a flower – beautiful, ephemeral, capricious – only she knew. Nature didn’t know its own nature – it simply was, blindly. Couryan saw who she was and sought for it with all her heart and mind. She did in fact See: she had Sight, she could See for all of nature and know what it was, and then push it towards its truth. You could say that Couryan chose who she was – except that her choice was always aligned with her Sight and always aligned with Suyn. She never wanted anything else, never worked, never struggled, never suffered. The choice was always sitting there fully formed in front of her for her to pick up.

In this case, the choice was you. You were obviously in love with Suyn’s loves, the wild unordered things – you fit in her Sight of heaven. And she fit with your common, mundane sight of heaven, with her golden hair and delicate, open face. You spent a great deal of time together at school, and then at Couryan’s house while I was delighted to suddenly have plenty of time to be with Anuvites and work for Anuva. Two years passed, Couryan’s grandmother only making very occasional appearances. Then my colleague Nonoany was murdered.

Anuvites have exceedingly little patience for murder. Suyn can have the same level of distate for it, for sure – unless the murder is part of their Sight of heaven, in which case it is as beautiful as a wave throwing itself into a beach or a tree crashing in a forest. Evidently, Nonoany’s body crushed by the stones of her house and splattered with blood was beautiful. And so Suyn made it so.

We of Anuva immediately went on the hunt for Suyn, trawling through every street of Eneyues for who could have done this to our companion. We can have a great deal of patience for killing, too, when it comes to someone who has broken every rational moral law by murdering an innocent human being. And so we eventually came to Couryan’s house – Couryan and her grandmother’s house. You were there when we got there. You were there with Couryan, playing with blood, playing with magic.

Everything was clear in a moment. An Anuvite mind is always running, collecting data and finding patterns, clicking together pieces of puzzle on the edge of awareness until suddenly a sharp image leaps out from the pieces and crashes through into your consciousness. It happens when I’m working on an engineering problem, trying this way, trying another way, this number or that number or this particular configuration or what can possibly – yes. The insight breaks through and consumes me for a moment. In the space of a second my will is one with the universe.

You crashed into my mind, you and Couryan and Suyn and Couryan’s grandmother and me and Nonoany – you with Couryan, you with blood and Suyn magic – you with the same Suyn magic that had killed Nonoany, you part of the same group we wanted to kill to avenge her – and I grabbed you and rushed past my Anuvite companions out of the house, firing my gun into the ceiling to distract them, except that some of the bullets bounced off and came hurling down into them, and I heard Tonoas scream, all of them screaming, really, either from their wounds or their shock. I didn’t even stop to get anything from our apartment. I just left. With you, horrified and terrified and angry with curiosity, but safe.

And you were right to be angry, and I knew it. I had snatched you away from the home, the people, and even the things you loved, violently and suddenly. I knew I’d have been angry if I were you. I couldn’t bring you back – you had already marked yourself as complicit in Nonoany’s murder by being with Suyn and using Suyn magic, and now I had branded myself a traitor too by trying to protect you and possibly hurting Anuvites in the process. So all I could do was tell you the truth about these mysterious people who hated me. You were thirteen; you were beginning to become a man with a fully-formed will.

I told you about Anuva, and I told you about Suyn, and I hoped that your experiences with Suyn might help to balance out the bias in whatever I said about them. I told you that I was Anuvite, and every choice I’d made to protect you I’d made because I was Anuvite and I was determined to make a good life for us and not give up my will into fate. I said I was sorry, deeply sorry for all you’d suffered because of me. I told you that I knew what you were feeling about Couryan because I was feeling that way about Tonoas. (You hugged me then, your red-brown-gold hair against my cheek and your awkward, stretched-out adolescent body pressed into mine its echo.) I told you that I didn’t want to force you into anything, that you weren’t Anuva unless you chose to be, and you shouldn’t let yourself be Suyn either unless you chose to be. In a perfect world you wouldn’t have already been treated and made to suffer because people thought you were Anuva or Suyn: but it was not a perfect world. It still isn’t a perfect world. Is Anuva, that I love so much, about to kill me now because I ever chose Suyn?

You hugged me. But you didn’t say anything. You released me, and we continued on our way down the endless road. We came to Denyory eventually, where I thought we might be safe because it was so Suyn. Surely Couryan’s grandmother and her granddaughter wouldn’t think to follow us there.

I don’t know how quickly they did, because you never told me. You ate your meals with me, and then you went out into the fresh air to do whatever you did. You had to go out, of course; I wanted to stay hidden, and somebody had to buy all the mundane things we depended on. I hated not having those small regular chores I could control to mark out my days and weeks, but I did it because I thought we were less likely to be caught by either Suyn or Anuva if I stayed inside.

I slowly started to integrate into the tiny local Anuvite cell, easing my way in with another name. You were probably part of the Suyn cell at that point. You were sixteen and very handsome, with strong arms from working in the ground and delicate fingers for handling flowers. Only my hands are strong – for writing, for drawing, for holding books, for adjusting machinery, for knitting even fabric and handling small, precise guns. I have good eyes, too – especially for surveillance, after Tonoas’s training. So I started to go out sometimes to watch for Anuva, hiding in dark corners and buildings and simply observing for hours at a time. I tipped them off to a plot to murder an Anuvite, and they started to trust me. Life seemed to be working. It was moving, at least. I was always afraid, and every hour you spent away from me made you seem more alien and opaque, but years were passing without Couryan’s grandmother appearing. My plan was working.

I’ve deduced by now that I didn’t see her only because they’d decided to get me through you, instead. I slipped out of Couryan’s grandmother’s fingers too easily when she went for me directly, but if my son could catch me instead? Remove a pesky Anuvite whose existence threatened heaven, and make a Suyn with nowhere else to go but that heaven. It was clear. I could see it even then. I just didn’t dare to speak about Suyn and Anuva again with you – to force your will, or see what it truly was. I wanted you to be free, and I was afraid to see how you were free. I remained in our apartment or my surveillance cubbyholes, silent.

I saw you one day, kissing Couryan. Your passion for her was too beautiful, too full of life – I snatched bits and pieces of it and then had to look away from the pain of it and my reverence for it and the knowledge of what it entailed. I was determined to let you love Couryan if you would. You came home every day with the same blank-faced and somber expression you’d learn to put on, and I wanted to throw my arms around you and scream at you to go and love Couryan and leave me to suffer in joy. But I was afraid of what it might do to your love, and of course what it might do to me, if it might spring the trap being built around me. Still, I couldn’t contain myself. I started to be sloppy as I left my cubbyholes, hoping you would see me. At home I didn’t pry about how you’d spent your day, but I talked to you about sunsets I knew you’d find beautiful and small daily rituals I knew you enjoyed, hoping you would notice.

Don’t you see that I loved you? I desperately needed you to realize it. But if you ever did, it only makes that way you’ve treated me that much more unlike love.

I think Couryan saw me first. I’m guessing that she started to pressure you into finally acting and getting me out of the way. I just kept letting her see me, and letting you see me, and aching for you to figure out for yourself that your joy would only expand mine. But you remained silent and stone-faced.

Then one night you suddenly turned to me and said, “Mother, you need to be careful.” Your face had emotion in it. In a moment, I was blinded with hope. “You’re so exposed here like this with no one protecting you if the Anuva from Eneyues ever want to go after you. You need to…” You trailed off.

You were giving me a chance. You had built in an escape plan, for me.

“You can’t trust Anuva to protect you,” you said. “You were afraid they’d kill you. They want to kill you, not protect you. You need to…”

You looked me in the eye. “You need to get out of Anuva. They don’t care about you; you need to get out of it before they kill you.”

In a moment, I wasn’t blind anymore. I saw clearly.

But my silence just encouraged you. You’d spent too much time with Couryan, who actually indicates agreement by silence; I never do that, I speak my mind. But you just continued, “You need to find someone else to help you. I could help you, I have so many friends here. Just leave Anuva, stop relying on them – I know you must be relying on them to protect you here. Then my friends can help you…”

This was the out you gave me. This was your idea of a chance. Of a choice, even, a free choice. Leave my very self, the reason I suffered and you suffered, the only thing that held the pieces of my life and memory together, the only reason you even exist – and have my son. Or lose him, the last person I love, as he kills me with his own trap that he made for me, but do it as myself.

This was your idea of a choice. This was your idea of giving someone a choice. This was your idea of love.

How will you love Couryan? What kind of choices are you going to give her? Perhaps you are already giving her something delightful like “keep your Sight and the aura of otherworldliness it gives you that keeps me so madly in love with you, or else lose me if you ever come just a little too much more down to earth”? Maybe you’re giving her the wonderful freedom to kill an innocent, frightened woman made foolish by love, or else make herself despicable to the man she loves by betraying everything he thinks she stands for? Or perhaps you’ve already participated in her liberation, her choice to seduce the strange Anuvite boy before she was even a woman with her grandmother egging her on, rather than go against everything she knows and leave alive the woman whose existence threatens heaven?

I have had to make such choices. I’ve made them over and over again, for you. I’m Anuvite and I have to make my life out of my choices, somehow, even if they are terrible, if they are not real choices at all. But my family and my companions, the people of Anuva, should fill my life with real choices. We are here together to give each other freedom and make the fickle world with its fleeting sunsets and wild flowers hold us down a little less. But Suyn wants to hold us all down, to fix us into their tapestry of heaven or cut us out if we don’t belong. Make our choices for us so we never even have to think about freedom.

Maybe you think that you love me. Maybe you think I should consider that better than hating me purposefully. No, it’s not better. If you think you love me, you have so misunderstood love that you are twisted and dangerous and you will trap Couryan forever in the frozen vision of heaven where she is already losing herself.

But you made your choice. And I made my choice. I said to you then, calmly, “I can’t leave Anuva. The people who want to kill me aren’t the only Anuvites. I’m still safest with them.”

You pled with me a little more. Not that much. You did at least make it obvious that you intended to do away with me by telling the Anuvites of Eneyues where I was, probably making it seem like killing me would make the whole Suyn structure in Denyory collapse. Instead, of course, your purpose was to get me out of the way and potentially have evidence to convict a whole cell of Anuvites of cold-blooded murder. If it came out that I was Anuvite, all the better – they were even killing their own. It was the kind of thing that got Anuva dragged out into the open, exposed to the horror of the public like had happened in Odiry.

Assuming the Anuvites of Eneyues would forget about the oddly helpful anonymous tip-off, however. They know you and Couryan and her grandmother, and the minute they got any whiff of you they’d start going after you too, as my Suyn collaborator. They’d only become angrier when they realized I had been innocent. We’d all be dead in the end, justice done.

Except that I told them first. I wrote a letter and sent it to Tonoas and everyone else from the cell whose addresses I’d had. I told them that I was a Suyn spy, that I had killed Nonoany, and that you were innocent. You were always a double agent, secretly working for Anuva while pretending to be Suyn like your mother. You embedded yourself deep into Suyn to keep your true loyalties safe and to learn as much as you could. But now you’re about to marry a Suyn girl, and you’re not sure you can keep up the deception any longer.

The letter’s in your handwriting, you see. I didn’t teach you how to write for years for nothing. It’s written in your voice, in your handwriting, with your signature, or at least what your handwriting could be extrapolated to have become in the three years since Tonoas has seen it.

This is the out I’m giving you. This is my idea of love. I’m going to die anyways – I’m sitting right now in the room where my letter in your voice said that I would be. The Anuvites are likely coming from Eneyues now. This way or your way, they are going to kill me – it is coming at me from every direction, unstoppable.

But maybe I can still make the world a little more free for you. You can stay with Suyn if you want, or you can choose my story for yourself and join Anuva of Eneyues. You could join them and then beg to simply be left to live in peace, severing connections to both organizations. A real choice always involves more than two options. You could also use the opportunity to ambush the Eneyues Anuvites as they travel back and help make the world a better place. You could do nothing, simply let them kill me and return in peace. You could join them and try to overthrow the Denyory Suyn. You could ambush them and try to overthrow the Eneyues Anuva. You could do anything.

But whatever you do, your bride is waiting for you, and you love her. You want to love her. You want to love her as much as I know I love you.

And this is how I think you can love her that much, creating your own love out of your own choices. Be Suyn, be Anuva, be anything, but this woman that you would transform your whole life for? Let her be free too.

I think it should go without saying at this point that I love you, and that I am of Anuva, both forever, until death. You should realize that by now. And so I choose to die for you.

Refoan Omzynyes

“The world is evil, but the will is strong.”

Map of the Nations of Drisije

Here’s a map of the countries on the planet of Drisije and their colonies and territories. As always, you can click on the picture to see it larger.


Drisije is still very much a work in progress, but I do know a few things about the nations I’ve drawn here. Rooskhel (in the southeast) is the first place that humans settled on Drisije, and it used to be the head of an empire that encompassed Droigel and Dagri as well as the areas that are still Rooskhel’s colonies. Now, however, Rooskhel is more of a crumbling bureaucracy, eclipsed by more industrialized nations like Dlozuau and Fetsa Wenelafosiçek (which I’ll just call F.W.F. from now on for obvious reasons). Speaking of Dlozuau, it’s probably the most powerful country at the moment in Drisije, though don’t let its size fool you – most of that land is just hot, wet swampland. But those swamps hold a lot of peat that Dlozuau burns to power drainage systems and factories to support large cities. Dlozuau was originally settled by people outcast from Rooskhel for misuse of their magical powers, and there’s historically been a lot of tension between these countries. It’s rarely turned into outright war, however, because both countries rely on exports from each other.

Farther to the north, F.W.F. is another deceptively large country – it’s really mostly barren deserts and mountains. Like Dlozuau, it was settled by people who took issue with Rooskhel’s policies on magic. In F.W.F.’s case, however, the settlers were against any magic use at all; their religion teaches against it. But thanks to this same religion’s emphasis on hard work and a wealth of natural deposits of stone, gems, and valuable minerals, F.W.F. has wound up doing pretty well…though there are the occasional outbreaks of religious conflicts or war with Dlozuau (Dlozuau wants F.W.F.’s natural resources but F.W.F. doesn’t want to trade with people that are so liberal with magic use).

In central northern Drisije, most of those small countries are made up of former citizens of Dlozuau and F.W.F. who are divided by religion and politics; the citizens of all those countries are more or less the same ethnicity, they just disagree about how a government should be run. In the east, Dái Hranimá, Haddáá, and (a little more south) Ludaay all used to be one country and still speak closely related languages (as is evident in their names).

The last of the countries I know much about is Gözh. It’s actually not really one country; it’s a territory populated by a variety of settlers and small communities but without any one government regulating it all. Because it’s so far north, and because Drisije has no seasons, most of Gözh is frozen or at least very cold all year round. Modern technology has made it a bit easier to grow food and stay warm there, but it’s still not an easy place to live. Nevertheless, many people from all over Drisije have chosen to move there rather than stay in their old countries. I think that some people in Gözh may also have magic different from the usual Drisijan magic, but I’m not sure yet.

As for all those other countries – well, I just don’t know much about them yet! I’ll have to see what my brain comes up with.

Map of Drisije

This is a map of the tectonic plates, geographical features, and climates of a new planet I’ve been working on. (It’s a much-improved version of the working map I proudly showed you the other day.) This planet is called Drisije – that’s supposed to be pronounced DRI-si-yay, but I am also happy if you pronounce it dri-SEEJ; I specifically chose a spelling of “Drisije” that would sound okay to me even if mispronounced. I could have made the proper pronunciation clearer by spelling it “Drisiyei” or “Drisiyay”, but I just don’t like how those look.

So, here’s the map! Dashed lines show the boundaries of tectonic plates; arrows show which way the plates are moving; brown designates mountains; gold designates dry, rocky land; yellow is desert; light green is temperate fertile land; and dark green is swampland. Click on the image to see it larger.


Drisije is a small planet, perhaps a quarter of the size of Earth. It isn’t tilted on its axis, so it doesn’t have noticeable seasonal changes in weather. But it has several moons that produce large regular tides as well as increased volcanic and seismic activity. Once you get to the surface of the planet, Drisije has a few other interesting attributes. For one, there are no trees. Grass, bushes, flowers – yes. But no trees. (This is why the equatorial areas are swampland, not rainforest.) Additionally, certain warm parts of the sea are filled with a membranous yellow stuff called nam – a life form, similar to a plant, that powers itself by the salt and heat in the sea. This makes the sea look golden-yellow in some areas. Some cold parts of the sea, meanwhile, are filled with dead nam that’s been pushed there by currents, and this makes the sea look red.

I haven’t worked out yet what other life there is on Drisije, but I do know that it’s the home of a few hundred million people that were brought there from Earth several thousand years ago by Sheesans. These people are just like normal human beings, except that some of them have magical powers – given to them by Sheesans as part of an experiment. I may post later about their powers and about other aspects of Drisijan life and society.

The Arandui calendar

I’m back! And just as I said, I didn’t post anything during my America trip. So now I’m working on a bunch of different things that I hope to post during the next few weeks – some songs, some stories, some things about Sheesania, and, of course, that mammoth review of Mistborn: The Final Empire. (It’s currently 3,155 words long and I’m only halfway through my outline. Ouch.) But for now, we have a calendar system.

I’ve developed one other Sheesanian calendar before – the Thomoraii calendar, with its system of interlocking solar months and lunar months. This Arandui calendar is similar in how it uses both the solar year and the lunar year, but it has an added twist – the calendar is very closely tied to the practices of the Arandui church.

The history of the Arandui calendar

As you can read in the article about my map of Arandu, the Arandui people are originally from Egeld, where they were mostly farming peasants. These ancient Egeldish peasants used a simple calendar to track seasons for their farming. The calendar was based on the phases of Sheesania’s biggest moon (Aranduis call it Wisaan), which made the date easy to track (just look at the moon and you know about which day of the month you’re on)…but then it also added an extra two weeks every three years to accommodate the fact that the lunar year doesn’t match up to the solar year. If they didn’t add these weeks, their calendar would drift over time and wouldn’t match up with the seasons anymore, making it much less useful for farming. (See the Islamic lunar calendar for an example of such an effect.)

Then some of these Egeldish peasants converted to Schesianism and eventually moved to Arandu. Their new settlements were still farming communities, in need of the agricultural calendar…but now they were also religious communities, in need of a religious calendar, too. So the Arandui church added several new quirks to the calendar, creating a system that’s a little more complicated but is useful for both farming and religious activity. Since this calendar is pretty accurate and most of Arandu is still Schesian, Aranduis continue to use their calendar today, even though most of them aren’t farmers anymore.

Now let’s look more closely at the actual structure of the calendar.

The basic calendar

It takes Sheesania about 411 and 2/3 days to go around its sun – or in other words, its solar year is about 411.67 days long. The moon Wisaan, however, takes 29 days to complete a cycle, so there are 29 days to the month according to this moon. Unfortunately, the 411.67-day solar year clearly doesn’t match up nicely with these 29-day cycles. So the Arandui calendar defines a year as 406 days, split up into fourteen 29-day moon months. Then every three years, the calendar adds an extra fourteen days in order to make up for the 4.67 days lost each normal year. So basically, every year has fourteen 29-day months, with every third year adding 14 leap days to the end. Every three-year cycle is called a cataruus.

The Arandui calendar has two other basic features – weeks and seasons. The Schesian religion calls for people to work for 6 days and then rest on the 7th day (yes, the Schesian religion is a form of Christianity, the explanation for this is forthcoming), so the calendar also divides the year into 58 seven-day weeks. Finally, the calendar splits the year into two seasons – the first half of the year (the first 203 days/29 weeks/7 months) makes up the dry season (which is also cold), and the second half makes up the wet season (which is warm).

In the end…

  • A normal year will have 2 seasons.
    • Each season will have 29 weeks.
      • Each week will have 7 days.
    • Each season will have 7 months.
      • Each month will have 29 days.

Church phases and cycles

In addition to all the categories I talked about above, the Arandui church organizes time as a cycle of nine repeating phases representing various times in the history of the church. Each phase is either a celebration phase or a mourning phase. There are four pairs of celebration/mourning phases, then a central celebration phase, then another four pairs, this time of mourning and then celebration. Here they are, in order. All of their Arandui names are borrowed from the Arandui holy language (I’m not sure yet on the details of what exactly this language is, but it’s probably a variety of the Ner language spoken in Bodia), except for Taas and Entahier, which are native Arandui words.

  • Námadyai (celebration) – the creation of the world
  • Shávadyai (mourning) – the fall from grace
  • Śúdyai (celebration) – the birth of Jesus
  • Taas (mourning) – the death of Jesus
  • Curáwadyai (celebration) – the resurrection of Jesus
  • Jóladyai (mourning) – the Great Persecution of believers in Egeld
  • Entahier (celebration) – the foundation of the Arandui church
  • Ozraish (mourning) – the Great Tribulation discussed in Revelation
  • Páladyai (celebration) – the “Redemption of the Universe”, the “making everything new” also discussed in Revelation

(By the way, the numbers nine and four are both significant in Arandui religious numerology. Nine is significant because 3 is the number of the Trinity and 9 = 3 x 3; 4 is significant because 7 is a central motif of Revelation, and 7 – 3 = 4; also because 3 x 4 = 12, the number of apostles. If you think this is crazy, please read Dante’s Divine Comedy.)

Each phase takes up two lunar months in the calendar, but because there are 9 phases and only 14 months, the church phases and a year of the calendar don’t match up exactly. Instead, after a year has begun with the first phase, Námadyai, it takes nine years for the church phases to complete a cycle and then start a new year again with Námadyai. One nine-year cycle is called a haelce. By the time a complete haelce is finished, each phase will have started on every odd month of the year.


Instead of counting years like we do (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003…), Aranduis count haelces from the foundation of the Arandui church. The current Arandui year, for instance, is the 2nd year of the 50th haelce. But actually an Arandui wouldn’t say that it’s the second year of the 50th haelce – they would say it’s the Ozraish year of the 50th haelce. This is because the phase that starts each year of a nine-year haelce is completely predictable:

  • Year One: Námadyai (Creation)
  • Year Two: Ozraish (Tribulation)
  • Year Three: Jóladyai (Persecution)
  • Year Four: Taas (Death of Jesus)
  • Year Five: Shávadyai (Fall from Grace)
  • Year Six: Páladyai (Redemption of the Universe)
  • Year Seven: Entahier (Foundation of the Church)
  • Year Eight: Curáwadyai (Resurrection of Jesus)
  • Year Nine: Śúdyai (Birth of Jesus)

Years 2-5 all start on mourning phases, and years 6-9 and 1 all start on celebration phases. So because Aranduis evidently love to organize things and give them lots of names, years 2-5 of one haelce are called its dry season, and years 6-9 and the first year of the next haelce are called its wet season. So you could say that it’s the Ozraish year of the 50th haelce, or to be more vague you could say it’s the dry season of the 50th haelce. Or you could just say it’s the 50th haelce. Lots of options!

The significance of the calendar to the church

The Arandui church observes special ceremonies at the beginning and end of every phase, and each one has its own special starting and finishing ceremonies. There are also many other rites and rituals throughout the year that change according to phase. So, for instance, if you’re currently in a mourning phase, you would mostly sing songs calling on God for help when you’re singing in a church service. But if you were in a celebration phase, songs of thanksgiving would be more frequent.

In addition, the church celebrates special holidays on the extra weeks added to the end of every third year. The first set of extra weeks in a haelce falls during a Śúdyai (Birth of Jesus) phase, and they’re used to celebrate the life of Jesus; they’re called the weeks of Cúesdyai. The second set of leap weeks in a haelce, the weeks of Tavoraci, falls during a Jóladyai (Persecution) phase, and there’s a special holiday in these days to celebrate the journey of Egeldish believers to Arandu after the persecution. The final set of leap weeks, the weeks of Naas, falls during a Páladyai (Redemption of the Universe) phase. Part of the celebrations during these weeks look forward to heaven, but there are also many celebrations for the beginning of a new haelce.

A real calendar!

Finally, here’s an Arandui-style calendar of the current haelce, marked with everything I talked about. The numbers note the number of the week in the year, and the turquoise-shaded days are rest days.

Arandui calendar

Higher Education in Egeld

Egeld doesn’t really have any institutions for higher education like universities. Rather, there are lots of independent teachers specializing in different subjects who individually accept, teach and are paid by students. So after a student completes their initial elementary education (usually at a local physical school), if they know the specific subject, the little niche, that they want to go into, they’ll find a master teacher on that subject. Then they’ll devise a plan of study to help them eventually be accepted into the teacher’s classes. Most master teachers publish recommendations for study before their courses to help guide such students. If, however, a student doesn’t know what they want to do, they would make a preliminary plan of study to help lead themselves to a decision of field.

Whatever the goal is, this plan of study would mostly include courses of various lengths from different independent teachers. Someone wanting to eventually take a master teacher’s class on how to combat government corruption in parliamentary democracies might take a year-long “Introduction to Parliamentary Government” course from one teacher; a 2-month statistics course from another teacher in a different city; a 3-month “Introduction to Governmental Reform” in another teacher in yet another city; a 6-month research project led by another teacher in another country; and so on. Each course would be hand-picked by the student from the huge selection of courses available to students in Egeld and in other countries – though of course they would probably get advice and would have to keep in mind limitations of expense, distance, and so on. Students usually find courses in huge, Yellow-Pages-style directories organized by subject. Elementary schools and government offices often have copies of these directories available for students to look at, or students can buy them if they have the money.

Each course requires it own application, which is generally read and judged by the teacher themselves. When a student is accepted, they generally need to pay the teacher an initial deposit before the course begins, and then the rest of the cost after the course is finished. Finally, if the student does well in their course, the teacher gives them a signed certificate saying so…which the student then usually includes with the application to the next course on their plan. Teachers will also often contact each other to get information about students they’re considering.

Additionally, most students supplement their courses by reading books, doing projects and internships, and so on. Students often write short summaries or response essays to books they’ve read to show that they’ve understood the material, and then sometimes include these responses in their applications. Other programs for students have processes similar to those of normal courses for applying, paying, and getting a pretty certificate once you’re finished.

Once a student believes that they have enough background in their chosen field, they can then apply to a master teacher for what’s called “comprehensive certification.” Once they’ve been accepted, the teacher will give a course on their very particular area of specialty. Then the teacher will also assign and judge various exams, papers, projects, and so on so their students can prove their knowledge in the whole field – not just their tiny area of specialty. Once the teacher has been satisfied, they will sign a “comprehensive certificate” saying that the student has a good working knowledge of the whole field with especial knowledge of the teacher’s own area. This is more or less like a degree.

Comprehensive certificates from some teachers require little work, while others require many years of study – it all depends on the teacher and the field. This makes higher education very flexible for Egeldish students. So say, for instance, that you’ve been studying for a year or two, aiming to eventually specialize in how to combat government corruption in parliamentary democracies, but you decide that you want to stop, settle down, and have a family soon. This is perfectly possible. You could just see what courses you’ve already taken and find a master teacher who could give you a comprehensive certificate in some field of political science given your amount of knowledge. Then you could always continue your studies later and get a better comprehensive certification. So this system allows for many levels of specialty and depth.

Now how do such students live and pay for all their courses and projects and whatnot? After all, teachers almost never provide housing or food or anything to their students. In general, students work at the same time as they’re enrolled in courses. Jobs in factories, on farms, as assistant teachers, and in the government are particularly common. Students usually live together in shared apartments, generally boarding-house-types where an established family supervises the students and cooks and cleans for them to some extent. Moving is very common, as most students need to go all over Egeld in order to take all the courses they want. As a result, students avoid having many possessions. Another result is that marriage among students is quite rare – even if two students were married, they would need to be separate for long periods of time in order to pursue their own studies, or they would have to take all the same courses. But even taking the same courses would be difficult, since the couple couldn’t be sure they’d both get accepted by a teacher. Even if a student had a spouse who wasn’t a student at the time, the spouse would have to move constantly. And certainly even married students leave their studies if they have children, except for a very adventurous few.

One more tricky thing is mail. Reliable mail service is important so students can contact and apply to teachers, receive replies, communicate with family and friends, and so on, but moving constantly makes delivering mail reliably rather difficult. So students generally pay the government in their home provinces for a “Student Mail Service.” All mail for them goes to the province’s central post office. The student can always go there and look at their mail. But then the post office will also send copies of their mail to whatever address the student is currently living at; whenever the student moves, they write to the post office and change the address to forward the copies to. Sending copies like this ensures that nothing important will get lost, since the original will always be at the central post office. (You can see why the major fire at the central post office of a northern Egeldish province in 1499 was such a problem.) However, the government-run mail service in Egeld is limited to letters, magazines, flyers, and other kinds of writing. You have to use a privately-run mail service in order to send other types of things.

Outline of the phonology of Thomoraii

This is part of the third incarnation of my language Thomoraii, otherwise known as Tǎi, Tą and Tâï (the current name is Thomoraii or Tǎi). My translations of a seakitty notice and a scene from Super Paper Mario are in the second version of Thomoraii, so they’re outdated at the moment. This rough phonology is the beginning of a new grammar of the modern, standard literary dialect of Obtobian Thomoraii.


Thomoraii has only 13 consonant phonemes. In their basic form:























But then Thomoraii has 15 vowel phonemes. These are generally divided into three sets – the basic set, the pharyngealized set, and the epiglottalized set. Thomoraii grammarians typically call the basic vowels the green vowels, the pharyngealized vowels the blue vowels, and the epiglottalized vowels the black vowels. I will be using this traditional terminology throughout this grammar.

Green vowels:







Close mid



Open mid




Blue vowels:







Close mid



Open mid




Black vowels:






Close mid




Open mid




The actual phonetic realization of a consonant depends on the color of the vowel nucleus of the syllable it’s in. In syllables with a monophthong nucleus, the nucleus determines the realization of both onset and coda. In syllables with a diphthong nucleus, however, the onset is determined by the first sound of the diphthong, and the coda is determined by the second sound of the diphthong.

Here’s a table of how consonant phonemes are realized according to the color of the determining vowel. In general, green vowels are associated with lack of voicing, blue vowels with retroflex place of articulation, and black vowels with voicing, but many phonemes break these patterns. Please also note that this chart only shows the general realization; there are a few more processes that occur after vowel color has its say.






































The phonological processes that occur after vowel color determination vary by dialect. Here are a few of the major processes that occur in most modern Obtobian dialects.

/ai/ and /oi/ of any combination of colors are diphthongized
[kʰ] → [g] before blue /i ɛ u/
[h] → [h̰] before [i ɛ e] of all colors
A single vowel following [h̰] is nasalized
Doubled consonants are not geminated


Most syllables are CV or VC, with any consonants being allowed in the consonant slots. However, there are several other possible syllable shapes, too:

CV(/s r m n t θ/), e.g. [tʰas], [baŋ], [joʃ]
[stop]/r/V, e.g. [tʰra], [dɻa]
/s/[stop]V, e.g. [stʰa], [zda]
V, but this syllable shape is rare in roots – it’s mostly found in inflected words and loanwords


Stress patterns vary significantly by dialect. This grammar, however, will assume typical Obtobian stress, which is always initial.


Thomoraii is rather tricky to romanize, since if you do it phonetically, there are too many sounds to be able to elegantly represent them. But if you do it phonemically, the romanization does not clearly show what the actual pronunciation is. Since neither is ideal, this grammar will use a phonetic romanization when it is important to emphasize how something is pronounced, and will use a phonemic romanization in all other cases.

Phonemic Romanization

pʰ <p>
tʰ <t>
kʰ <k>
h <h>
f <f>
s <s>
j <y>
w <w>
l <l>
r <r>
n <n>
m <m>
θ <sh>




i <i>

i <ǐ>

e <î>

u <u>

u <ǔ>

u <û>

o <o>

ə <ǒ>

ɵ <ô>

ɛ <e>

ɛ <ě>

ɛ <ê>

a <a>

a <ǎ>

a <â>

Phonetic Romanization

Vowels are romanized in the same way as in the phonemic transcription.

pʰ <ph>
p <p>
b <b>
tʰ <t>
ʈ <ţ>
d <d>
kʰ <k>
q <q>
ɢ <qh>
h <h>
ħ <hh>
ʔ <‘>
f <f>
v <v>
vˠ <vg>
s <s>
ʂ <ş>
z <z>
j <y>
ɰ <yg>
w <w>
l <l>
ɭ <ļ>
ɫ <lg>
r <r>
ɻ <ŗ>
n <n>
ɳ <ņ>
ŋ <ng>
m <m>
mˠ <mg>
θ <th>
ʃ <sh>
d͡ʒ <j>

The Thomoraii calendar

Unlike Earth, Sheesania has years of about 411.68 days. (The length of each day is different from the length of an Earth day, also, but I’m not going to address that in this article.) Different Sheesanian cultures have measured years differently, but one of the most sophisticated Sheesanian calendars in common use today is the Thomoraii calendar. Its ancestor was a calendar created in the early days of the Thomoraii empire to help make administration easier. Later on, as it became more and more clear that the calendar didn’t quite align with the year, the famous Thomoraii emperor Amjâi commissioned some scholars working for him to revamp the calendar and make it more accurate. Their final result, more or less, has been used for hundreds of years in Thomoraii and is still very common today, though the Uniatic calendar is also widely in use in Thomorai.

This calendar divides the year into 21 months – 11 cold and dry months and 10 hot and wet months. The first 20 months each have 20 days, and the last month has 12 days. Every three years, about two days of the last month are lost to compensate for that fraction of a day in the length of a Sheesanian year. Years are counted from what’s considered the foundation of the Thomoraii empire – Emperor Fesǎnsolai’s official establishment of his capital in Ôbtobâi. The current Thomoraii year is 2219.

Then there are names for each week in a month – the first week, the second week, etc. – and the days of the week. To refer to a specific day of the month, you can combine the name of the week with the name of the day of the week. So for example, here’s what the first month of the year, Yakaʔîri Nǔmiâira or the Month of Nŭmiâir, would look like.






























In colloquial speech, you’d probably leave the “bâl” off the names of the weeks – bâl just means “week” – and you’d also probably leave the “dâh” off the names of the days of the week – again, dâh just means “day.” However, more commonly in colloquial speech, you’d refer to a day of the month using its name in the Thomoraii lunar calendar. Here’s an example of what names you might give to the days of the Month of Nŭmiâir according to the lunar calendar.






























So when would you use the solar calendar and when would you use the lunar calendar? In general, you’d use the solar calendar for names of weeks, days of the week, and months, but the lunar calendar for the names of days of the month. You’d only use the solar calendar for days of the month if you were trying to be very formal or very accurate, or sometimes if you wanted it to be easier in the future to tell where a day was in the month. For instance, newspaper articles in Thomoraii generally use the solar calendar for days of the month, since they want to make it easier for researchers in the future to keep track of when specific articles were published.

Here’s a PDF of a complete calendar, including names for days of the month according to the lunar calendar, for the Thomoraii year 2219. This calendar also shows the name of each month.

Marriage Among Scholars in the Thomoraii Empire

I recently had to write a paper on marriage for school. This got me thinking about marriage customs and kinship systems, and so guess what happened? I ended up creating my own! Then I found myself facing the tricky question of how on earth such a structure could ever develop in a human society. Unfortunately, I first encountered this problem while trying to go to sleep and lost a good hour or two of sleep as a result. Fortunately, I did come up with an answer in the end. Here it is. By the way, feel free to skip the long paragraphs of introduction and just read the explanation of the system itself if you feel so inclined.

Traditional Thomoraii marriage and the evolution of pledge marriage

In the rainforest islands of Thomorai back in the days before civilization, when most people lived as part of wandering tribes, marriage was primarily done through a straightforward system of exogamy – marrying outside your group. Once a generation of young men from a tribe had reached adulthood, they would go into the jungle and live together for a while. They would travel around hunting and collecting food, and occasionally stay with other tribes to trade – and also look for wives. Once a young man had found a woman from another tribe that he wanted to marry, he would go through a ceremony of promising allegiance to her tribe. The couple would then live together in that tribe for the rest of their lives. Intermarriage like this generally worked out pretty well – for one, it helped to keep the tribes from killing each other in conflicts over land and resources, since if you started a war you would probably end up killing your own relatives.

However, some of the people from these tribes eventually began to settle down in towns. These settlements were initially trade hubs, places where members from lots of different tribes could meet together to exchange goods. But soon people staying in the towns began to do agriculture, too, planting particular valuable crops and raising animals, and they developed specialized crafts like carpentry to help in agriculture. In these towns, the tribes were all jumbled together or were split up with some members living in towns and some still living traditionally in the jungle. As members of different tribes got used to living in the same place, and as people got used to living separately from the rest of their tribe, the old tribal groups became less and less defined. It became less and less important for them to try to avoid conflict by allying with each other through intermarriage.

Meanwhile, what people were looking for in marriage was changing, too. In an old, traditional marriage (called a “house marriage” today in Thomorai), a person would choose a spouse out of attraction or some other romantic inclination. Then the man would pledge loyalty to the woman’s tribe and marry her. Following this, the wife and the husband would take on different roles – the wife would take care of children, cook, and do other jobs close to her home, and the husband would hunt, fight if need be, and do other jobs that were dangerous or farther away from his home. They would spend most of the day away from each other pursuing their different jobs, and each spouse was not expected to be involved or even take any interest in the other’s tasks. Any children would be expected to obey their parents until they were adults. At this point they would still be expected to respect their parents and other elders, but they could do pretty much whatever they wanted otherwise. Divorce was also fairly easy in a house marriage, though once a man had pledged allegiance to a tribe in a marriage ceremony, he was expected to stay within that tribe even if he got divorced. So if he wanted to remarry, he would need to marry another woman from that same tribe.

However, in the new towns and cities, women had many more opportunities to do business, run farms, or pursue other things, and they wanted more freedom from the traditional strict gender roles. Additionally, men now usually spent most of their time working at home running a farm or a business, and consequently had to spend a great deal more time in their wives’ company. So many of them wanted to find spouses that, for one, they genuinely enjoyed being around, but preferably also someone who could help them in their work. Also, in large towns without strong tribes where you had to look out for yourself, it became more and more important to have people that you could depend on – like a wife or a husband who worked well with you and who couldn’t easily divorce you.

And so a new type of marriage, which people (rather confusingly) called “pledge marriage”, developed. Instead of choosing someone for a spouse that you happened to be in love with, you would try to choose somebody whose temperament and personality worked well with yours. Romance was beside the point. Then, instead of having the husband promise loyalty to the woman’s tribe, both partners pledged loyalty to each other. After you were married, you were expected to work together and be thoroughly involved in each other’s lives. Yes, many of the old gender roles were still followed – women still usually worked at home and men still usually worked jobs that involved more interaction with people outside of the home. But husband and wife were expected to advise each other and help each other with their jobs. Additionally, the children of such a marriage were supposed to participate in their parents’ jobs, too. If you had a business, your children of a pledge marriage would all be expected to work in the business and inherit it after you died. Divorce was also much more difficult in a pledge marriage than in a house marriage – you could generally only leave your spouse if he or she was significantly unfaithful or abusive, much like a man could only be released from his pledge to a tribe if the tribe betrayed him or mistreated him badly.

This new type of marriage became very common among the middle and high classes in cities, even as house marriages continued at the same time. In fact, it was fairly common in rich families to have multiple marriages. You could only ever have one pledge marriage at a time, but you could have multiple house marriages at the same time. It was much more common for men to have multiple wives than for women to have multiple husbands – mostly since then there was the issue of figuring out who was the father of a child – but both did happen.

Scholarly societies and their role in marriage

Meanwhile, many of the members of these middle and high classes were joining scholarly societies to study history, philosophy, science and other subjects that were flourishing at the time. At this point technology like writing, papermaking, and even simple bookmaking had been developed. More and more families in the cities were getting rich, too, and so more and more of them could afford to let a child or two dedicate his or her life (because these people were often women) to study. At this time in history, these societies were usually quite small, as cities were still not that populous and most people were not interested in spending lots of money and effort getting an impractical education. This caused some problems when a member of a society wished to marry another scholar (as many did), but there weren’t very many people in his or her society to choose from. Also, people in scholarly societies were often related to each other, particularly in the early days when only a few rich families could let their children spend their days studying esoteric ideas.

So scholars began to travel to other cities and visit other societies looking for educated spouses. There had already been quite a bit of visiting of other scholarly societies in order to share ideas or get information from a particular authority, but when scholars started to visit different societies searching for marriage partners, it increased significantly. All this moving around and interaction between scholars of different societies and backgrounds led to wonderfully fruitful sharing and cross-pollination of ideas. Scholarly societies began to form connections with each other and exchange teachers and students so people could learn more. Those with knowledge shared it with more people, and scholars from different cities collaborated on projects. It was at this point, even before the formation of the Thomoraii empire, that Thomorai truly began its great tradition of study and research.

Soon many of these scholarly societies started to help arrange marriages between their members. Many societies had different strategies for finding potential spouses who could work well together, but who would also be able to exchange ideas and learn from each other. (In fact, some areas of Thomoraii psychology were first founded by people trying to figure out ways to match-make effectively.) By the time the Thomoraii empire was founded, virtually all scholars who wished to marry had marriages arranged for them by their societies.

Later on, the emperor Amjâi the Great combined all the scholarly societies in his empire (which now consisted of all of Thomorai except for Kafa Monica) into one huge organization, then formed an elected council to run it. This council eventually decided on one standard system for arranging marriages between scholars (though it determined other parts of their lives as well), which would be used for hundreds of years until the dissolution of the Thomoraii empire. Their system required a great deal of travel (they were hoping to encourage the exchange of ideas this way), which was reasonably easy in the peaceful and prosperous Thomoraii empire. The prosperity of the empire also gave plenty of people the opportunity to become scholars – people with lots of money could support scientists, writers, thinkers and so on that they liked, or they could pay for their own studies. Eventually, however, the Thomoraii empire fell apart after a long war with Unia and Santa Meluna, and the old system had to be given up. But remnants of it are still in use today.

The system

Here, finally, is the system of descent groups and marriage restrictions that was used by Thomoraii scholars in the days of the Thomoraii empire. As far as I can tell, it’s technically a “subsection system” – a societal structure where people are divided into different groups based on their ancestry, and then there are rules about what groups are allowed to intermarry. (The Wikipedia article on Australian Aboriginal kinship, a system which was part of the inspiration for this one, may be enlightening.) However, this kinship system determines a lot more than just who you can marry.

First of all, it determines where you’ll grow up, or at least where you’ll get a degree (I’ll discuss this more later). This place can be one of five Thomoraii islands – Ôbtobâi, Kishmorai, Kakabâi, Piskovǎi, or Alashtian. (There are another two Thomoraii islands, Alaqǎwai and Kafa Monica. But Alaqǎwai had no real scholarly tradition to work with when this system was developed, and Kafa Monica has always been considered thoroughly barbaric by most Thomoraiis.) Secondly, your place in the kinship system determines your general area of study. This can be one of five subjects:

1. Hoipiǎir, or philosophy. Religion, some kinds of psychology, and some branches of linguistics are also included in hoipiǎir – pretty much anything that has to do primarily with the mind, the soul, the heart, and other mushy, invisible, spiritual things.

2. Tôhǎqsiâ, or the study of people, though it’s usually translated as “history”. It includes history, anthropology, genealogy, politics and many other fields primarily studying human beings.

3. Jawâǎqsia, or technology. It includes engineering, physics, some kinds of public administration, and other fields that involve physical, human-created things. Many students of jawâǎqsia were involved in public service projects and the government, and they were also quite popular as advisors to politicians…why they were is a long story.

4. Shǐwinǎqsiǎ, or the study of speaking, though it’s usually translated “literature”. Shǐwinǎqsiǎ includes public speaking, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, and, of course, literature, among other fields.

5. Bêafuǎqsiâ, or natural science. This includes biology, chemistry, astronomy, medicine, etc., though many of the more practical aspects of these sciences were reserved for the lower classes. You would certainly have never found a well-educated Thomoraii scholar doing surgeries, for instance, or raising animals to study them.

And finally, your place in the system decides who you are allowed to marry.

Now how does this kinship system determine all this? Well, when you are born, you’re given what I call a “descent group signature”, which is determined by the descent group signatures of your parents. It has four parts: your future area of study, your same-gender parent’s area of study, the place where you will grow up (or get a degree – again, I’ll explain more later!), and the place where your different-gender parent grew up. Firstly, your future area of study is decided by those of your parents, according to this chart.

Father’s Subject

Mother’s Subject































(Those blank spaces will be explained later. Trust me.)

So, as the chart shows, your subject of study will always be different from that of your parents. The people who developed this system were hoping to keep families of scholars involved in lots of different areas this way, which would help different ideas and viewpoints to interact.

Then the subject of study of your same-gender parent also becomes part of your signature. So if you were a girl and your mother specialized in shǐwinǎqsiǎ, you’d take that as the second part of your descent group signature. If you were a boy and your father specialized in hoipiǎir, you’d take that as the second part of your signature. It will all…okay, it will mostly make sense later.

The place where you will grow up, much like your future subject of study, is decided by where your parents grew up. Here’s another chart showing how this works.

Father’s Country

Mother’s Country































And then you would also include the place where your opposite-gender parent grew up in your signature. So if you were a girl and your father grew up in Ôbtobâi, you’d have that in your signature.

In the end a girl might have a signature like Hoipiǎir/Jawâǎqsia Kakabâi/Ôbtobâi, showing that her future subject of study is hoipiǎir, her mother’s subject is jawâǎqsia, she will grow up in Kakabâi, and her father grew up in Ôbtobâi. You might put it like this:

My own

My parent’s







Marriage is then restricted this way: the attributes you took from your parents must be the same as your spouse’s, but your own attributes must be different from your spouse’s. So our girl above must marry a man whose father studied jawâǎqsia just as the girl’s mother did. But the man himself could specialize in shǐwinǎqsiǎ, in tôhǎqsiâ, in bêafuǎqsiâ, or in jawâǎqsia – anything that is not the girl’s own specialty, hoipiǎir. This man’s mother must also have grown up in Ôbtobâi just as the girl’s father did. But he himself could have grown up in Ôbtobâi, or Kishmorai, or Piskovǎi, or Alashtian – anywhere other than Kakabâi, where the girl did.

Why on earth would anybody restrict marriage this way?!

Well, the main idea here is to encourage the interaction of different ideas and areas of study, though this kinship system also has the added benefit of preventing incest. (This is, by the way, one of the main purposes of real-life kinship systems like this one.) This is why you have to marry somebody who studied something different and grew up somewhere different. But the people who developed this system also wanted spouses to work well with each other and be able to understand each other, and they believed that you are best able to understand somebody who came from a similar culture as you. The Thomoraiis who worked this system out figured that most of your personal culture came from your parents, and thus if you married somebody whose parents came from similar backgrounds, there would be a much greater chance of being able to understand and relate to him or her.

But then what about the weird same-gender, different-gender split there? Why not just always, say, take your father’s subject and your mother’s country, instead of having girls take their mother’s subject and boys take their father’s subject and girls take their father’s country and blah blah blah? Let me explain. The Thomoraii developers of this system believed that you have both a “casual culture”, meaning the way you think and act when you are just hanging out and relaxing, and an “academic culture”, which is how you think and act when working, or thinking through a problem, or doing something else brain-intensive. Now in most Thomoraii pledge-marriage-based families of this time, mothers would usually train their daughters and fathers would usually train their sons. All the members of the family would interact with each other, of course, but mothers and daughters, and sons and fathers, would have a more serious, work-focused, and, well, brain-intensive relationship. And so daughters would get most of their academic culture from their mothers, just as sons would get most of their academic culture from their fathers. And then daughters would get more of their casual culture from their fathers, who they had more casual relationships with, and sons would get more of their casual culture from their mothers.

Now these same clever developers of this kinship system also thought that your academic culture was influenced by your educational background as well as your same-gender parent, and that your casual culture was influenced by where you grew up as well as your different-gender parent. So the idea was that your same-gender parent’s academic culture would be strongly influenced by his/her educational background, and that then they would pass that culture on to you, and so you would in the end have an academic culture derived from your same-gender parent’s educational background. And so a spouse whose same-gender parent had the same educational background – e.g. who studied the same subject as your same-gender parent – would naturally have a similar academic culture. Similarly, your different-gender parent’s casual culture would be strongly influenced by the place that s/he grew up, and then they would pass that casual culture on to you, and you would have a casual culture developed from your different-gender parent’s country. And so a spouse whose different-gender parent grew up in the same place as your different-gender parent would have much the same casual culture. See?

Some examples

Let’s look at a few examples of how this kinship system might end up working. First, here’s a chart of a small family and their descent group signatures.


In this diagram, men are triangles and women are circles. For each person, I show his/her given name first (e.g. “Surila”), then his/her area of study, a slash, and his/her same-gender parent’s area of study (e.g. “Bêafuǎqsiâ/Tôhǎqsiǎ”), and then the place s/he grew up, a slash, and his/her different-gender parent’s country (e.g. “Alashtian/Kakabâi”). So you can see here how Kulas, a boy, took his father’s area of study but his mother’s country, and how Tibâ, a girl, did the reverse.

Let’s add a few generations and see how that would work out…


Now here’s a question. In this system, would you be able to marry your cousin? Let’s add a few people and find out…


Aha! See Tibâ and Nǎralǒi down there? (Feel free to click on the diagram to see it larger.) It could work. But if Jâihara had married someone who had studied something different…


…it wouldn’t work, since now the second part of Nǎralǒi’s signature, the subject taken from his father, is different from Tibâ’s. So it depends – sometimes you could marry your cousin, sometimes not.

Now here’s a super big diagram that you could study if you want, showing how a large family might end up.


Phew! I was really running out of names at the end there.

Numbers, probabilities and how you could possibly find a marriage partner

With any system that restricts marriage like this, it’s enlightening to see how likely you are to find somebody who’s eligible to marry. Let’s crunch some numbers and figure this out. First of all, let’s see how many possible combinations of attributes there can be in somebody’s descent group signature. The first attribute can be one of 5 subjects, then the second attribute, the subject taken from your same-gender parent, came be one of subjects, since it’s impossible for your first and second attributes to be the same. Then the third attribute can be one of 5 countries, and the fourth one of 4 countries, since again it’s impossible for the third and fourth to be the same.

5 x 4 x 5 x 4 = 400, so there are 400 possible combinations of attributes – 400 types of people that could be in this system. Wow.

Now let’s calculate how many possible combinations of attributes a person eligible for marriage could have. The first attribute could be one of 4 subjects, since your potential spouse can’t have the same first attribute as you. Then the second attribute can only be 1 thing – the same as yours. The third attribute could be one of 4 countries, and again the fourth attribute could only be 1 thing.

4 x 1 x 4 x 1 = 16, so there are 16 possible combinations of attributes that a person you could marry could have.

So then out of a pool of 400 different people with all the different combinations of attributes, 16 would be eligible for marriage (not considering gender!), or 4%, or 1 eligible to every 25 ineligible. If you do take gender into account, then only 2% of people would be available to marry, or 1 eligible to every 50 ineligible. Yikes!

How on earth could you ever find someone to marry?!

Here’s how. First of all, as you saw with the charts above, it’s often possible for cousins to marry. So your parents would probably keep track of the descent signatures of any cousins you might have, and if any were eligible for you to marry, they might try to prepare you both to marry each other from when you were young. This was quite common in the Thomoraii empire.

Also, if two friends of opposite genders grew up in the same place, it very often works out for their children to marry each other. Consider Firliǎir and Koslai at the top of the chart below.


They both grew up in Kakabâi, and so perhaps they were friends. They had to marry other people, of course, but because Firliǎir and Koslai had different subjects of study, and Firliǎir’s husband specialized in the same subject as Koslai’s wife, and Firliǎir’s husband and Koslai’s wife grew up in different places, their children Amjâi and Surila could marry each other. So your parents might keep tabs on old friends who grew up with them, and then perhaps try to arrange a marriage with any of their children who were eligible to marry you.

So you can see that often a Thomoraii scholar’s parents would be able to find somebody for him or her to marry from a family they already knew. However, they would probably also hire a matchmaker to search for an eligible marriage partner, and then the scholar in question might travel around visiting different people who might work…which encouraged more traveling, which was just fine by the people who developed this system! And so generally it was not too difficult for Thomoraii scholars to find good spouses.

How this system worked in practice

After getting married, if they were planning to have children (and most did), two Thomoraii scholars would generally move to the country that would be their children’s country so they could raise them there. This actually was not required – the country of a person in their descent group signature just says where s/he needs to get his/her degree, not where s/he needs to grow up. (Please do note that an empire-era Thomoraii academic degree was quite a bit different from the type we have on Earth. For instance, your final project was usually collecting a number of books about a very specific subject and then writing what was basically a glorified library catalog of them.) So you could grow up in any random country and then just move to “your” country to get your degree. But most parents chose to raise their children in their children’s country, mostly to make it easier for them when they did eventually study for a degree.

After getting a degree, if a scholar was female, she would probably try to get married right away through her parents, a matchmaker or both. This was because female scholars generally wanted to have children early while they were young and healthy, and then continue on in their studies and their work once their children had grown up. Men, however, generally kept studying and working for a while before seeking out a wife.

Here are some answers to some other questions you might have.

What if you didn’t like the subject decided for you by your descent group signature?

Well, the subject that your signature determines for you is quite broad. There are all kinds of different specialties you could go into within any of those subjects. For instance, take shǐwinǎqsiǎ. If you enjoyed stories, you could study literature. If you hated reading but enjoyed things like math and science, you could study logic. Or jawâǎqsia. If you liked math, you could go into one of the engineering branches of jawâǎqsia. If you hated math but enjoyed interacting with people, you could be involved in public administration. So you still would have a lot of choice. It would probably also help that your parents had been preparing for you to study this subject from before you were born, and that you were always expected to go into it.

That being said, it would still be possible to get a degree in the subject decided for you, then go and get another degree in something else you preferred. Or you could just leave the community of scholars and not get a degree at all.

What if you didn’t want to marry another scholar? E.g. you wanted to marry somebody from a different social class?

You could. But if this person was from a lower class, this would definitely hurt your reputation in the community of Thomoraii scholars, and any children of the marriage would have to re-enter the kinship system on their own (see below). If the person was from a higher class, on the other hand, then your fellow scholars would probably consider it that you were being promoted out of the restrictions of being a scholar and into that higher class – you were leaving the community of scholars and its restrictions for a more prestigious community

What if people outside of the system wanted to become scholars? How would they have joined it?

They would take on just the first and third attributes of a descent group signature – their subject and the place where they got their degree in it. They could then marry any people who had different subjects and places of study, and their children would have normal signatures. Do note that if they got any sorts of degrees from places other than the five places included in this kinship system, Thomoraii scholars wouldn’t consider them proper Thomoraii degrees. Our hypothetical person would have to get another degree in Ôbtobâi, Kishmorai, Kakabâi, Piskovǎi or Alashtian like a good Thomoraii.

Why did people do this to themselves, anyways?

For the high-up scholars who ran the system, it was worthwhile because it helped to encourage the interaction of ideas and established a structure for people to find fellow scholars to marry. For the rank and file, they had to follow the system in order to be part of the scholarly community, which gave them the opportunity to study and have a respected place in society. And many lower-rank scholars believed anyways in the value of forcing people to move around and interact with others in different areas of study.

What happened when the Thomoraii empire fell apart and people couldn’t keep using this system anymore?

At first many scholars still stubbornly tried to stick to their kinship system, but they soon started to relax the rules and eventually gave them up altogether. Many of them had to leave their scholarly pursuits anyways once the empire fell, since they needed to focus all their energy on keeping themselves and their families alive and well. Once Thomorai grew more stable, the scholarly community never revived the old system – it really was too much of a pain.

The system’s impact on society

Just as its founders intended, this crazy kinship system forced different people with different ideas to interact, which helped to generate new ideas and created a strong synthesis of learning. The scholarly community in the Thomoraii empire was incredibly prolific, doing huge amounts of research and producing many significant theories and ideas, and this kinship system probably contributed to its success. More practically, the system aided in the formation of a standard scholarly dialect of Thomoraii, which was used in the administration of the empire’s government and in trade all over Thomorai. This kinship system also made the scholarly class seem more exclusive and prestigious, which helped to give it more power. Today, this kinship system is no longer used, but scholars are still highly respected (thought many more Thomoraiis are educated these days – the scholarly class is much less exclusive than it used to be). Thomorai is still a center of education and research, drawing scholars from all over Sheesania. And a descendant of that scholarly dialect of Thomoraii is still used today as a lingua franca in Thomorai and parts of Fircudia.

There’s one more mark this kinship system has left on modern Thomorai. You see, scholars in the Thomoraii empire used to cite each other in their books and articles using each other’s names and descent group signatures, as Thomoraii names by themselves generally aren’t enough to identify one specific person. Today scholars still cite each other using a modified form of a descent signature. For instance, in the novel I’m currently writing, my academic protagonist puts this in at one point in a formal report:

…See Thesolaî Hualai H. Ô. Ô. pub. 13 “Silence in Traditional Thomoraii Religion”.

Thesolaî Hualai is the man’s name, and H. Ô. Ô. is an abbreviation for “Hoipiǎir Ôbtobâi Ôbtobâi”, showing that his field is hoipiǎir, he got his degree in Ôbtobâi, and his mother was from Ôbtobâi. The second attribute, the same-gender parent’s subject, is gone, and the fourth attribute now only indicates where your different-gender parent was from, not where s/he got his/her degree. But it’s still based on the descent group signatures of the old kinship system.

Andêhostai Erelas and the Development of Thomoraii Poetry

I’ve recently been enjoying Robert Greenberg’s Great Courses video lecture series on “How to Listen To and Understand Great Music.” His method of teaching about significant musical works while also telling stories about their composers – with lots of primary sources, thank you! – has been great fun. Partly inspired by Dr. Greenberg’s style, I decided to write about Andêhostai Erelas, one of my favorite Thomoraii writers. Of course, Andêhostai’s imaginary, but that’s just too bad. I sure do wish his works actually existed. One note – all the marks on the vowels in Thomoraii words and names have meanings. I didn’t put them on just to amuse myself.

It was the Golden Age of the emperor Trusǎi in the continent of Thomorai when Andêhostai Erelas was born in 1301 MSY [Modern Sheesania Years; Andêhostai’s birth was in about 1814 A.D. our years]. All of Thomorai was at peace under the rule of Trusǎi, and the middle class was swelling as many people grew rich trading with Unia, Santa Meluna and other nearby countries. The arts were flourishing under the patronage of these wealthy middle and high classes, but most of all under the patronage of Trusǎi himself. The emperor was particularly fond of poetry, and so during his reign he supported many of the best poets in Thomoraii history.

At this point there were three main types of Thomoraii poetry. There were the folk poems: rhymes and fables and other such things, passed down by oral tradition and not taken very seriously by the patrons of the arts at this point. Then there were the epic poems, grand sagas of mythological or historical events that focused on telling great stories in beautiful language that would also teach the reader about morality and human nature. These epic poems typically featured archetypal characters and themes and were filled with abstract ideas from philosophy, psychology and other such subjects. They were not supposed to have realistic, complex characters, deal with everyday problems, or teach practical lessons. They were supposed to be grand and sweeping and inspiring rather than down-to-earth, detailed and practical.

Then there was the personal poetry, or tuôlenǎ, an art form meant just for the writer. Tuôlenǎ of this time period was typically short but very descriptive and detailed, and involved the specific feelings and ideas of the writer much more than epic poetry. There might be a story to a tuôlenǎ poem, or it might just be a description or a comment. Writers of tuôlenǎ might occasionally show it to friends or family, and indeed many scholarly families kept books of such poems that had been written by members of the family. But in general tuôlenǎ poems were meant only for the poet.

Andêhostai Erelas was born in Ôbtobâi, the capital country of the Thomoraii empire, in the golden age of the epic poem. His mother, Fidêl Truwêm, was a singer, and his father, Erelas Pǎityǎr, was a musician who worked for Trusǎi. While Erelas was not a very high-ranking musician among those that Trusǎi hired, he was quite well off and knew many of the musicians, writers and artists that Trusǎi was funding. Erelas intended for his son to become a musician, and so he began giving Andêhostai lessons in all of the major Thomoraii instruments when the boy was four. But while Andêhostai enjoyed studying and playing music, he was not particularly gifted, and Erelas realized that his son could probably never be skilled enough to get a good job in music – there were so many gifted musicians in Thomorai at this point that the competition for patronage was quite intense. So Erelas began casting about for something else for Andêhostai to study.

Meanwhile, Andêhostai’s mother Fidêl was teaching him to sing just for their own enjoyment – she liked to write short songs and she thought that it would be very nice to be able to sing duets she had written with her son, and Andêhostai, as mentioned before, enjoyed music despite his lack of natural ability in it. In the course of her teaching, Fidêl taught him bits of epic poems set to music, parts of opera-like dramas that she occasionally performed in. Andêhostai loved these poems and began writing poems and music for them himself, despite the fact that the music he wrote was rather bad. When his father saw the poetry he had written, he told his son to quit writing the music and focus on the poetry, and then he went and got him a teacher to help him. And so Andêhostai started taking lessons in writing epic poems when he was eight years old.

Andêhostai’s teacher Bêlûzdâzlai Kedê’a was a stern, grumpy old man who had been writing epic poetry for Trusǎi for decades. He was a tremendously demanding teacher, even more so when he recognized the talent Andêhostai had with words and images. He was horrified that, while Andêhostai’s parents had taught him to read and write quite well, they had not given him epic poetry to read or brought him to public performances of such poetry. So he began bringing the young Andêhostai to poetry readings twice a week, and had him read all the great works of poetry in the Thomoraii tradition over at least three times. “First time, look at the story. Second time, look at the philosophy. Third time, look at the writing style,” he said, “and if you enjoy any of it, read it a fourth time and try to look at it all.” Andêhostai later wrote to a friend, Palǎjân Ǎrazas:

I believe that I had practically memorized The Wandering of the Meshobai, The Return of Eriliair, all the works of Dûhǎlas Amjâi, The War for Kafa Monica, all the works of Thesolǎi Kulas, and all the works of Lǐshlai Lǔralai by the time I was fifteen years old. I couldn’t help it; any time I said anything at all about liking one of the poems I was reading, Qǎhai [professor] Bêlûzdâzlai immediately assigned me another reading of it. And then any time I wrote anything good at all about the poem I was reading, he assigned me another reading. And then any time I showed any signs of influence from the poem I was reading in my own poetry, he assigned me another reading. And if for any other reason he decided I needed to read it again – if he thought I had missed something, or misunderstood something, or needed to learn the lesson the author was trying to get across (this happened a great deal when I was a teenager and rather full of myself), or if he was just grumpy that day or if he thought was grumpy and needed some cheering up – and obviously more reading would do it – he’d assign another reading. I think I read Lǐshlai Lǔralai’s The Call of the Firebird sixteen times in the year I was fourteen alone. Of course, now I return to it quite often for inspiration or just for some relaxing reading, completely on my own initiative.

Bêlûzdâzlai drilled the rules of epic poetry writing into Andêhostai, forcing him to revise his poetry again and again. More than anything else, he forced Andêhostai to remove unnecessary words and details. “I had a tremendous tendency to go off on tangents of description at that age,” Andêhostai wrote to Palǎjân, “but Bêlûzdâzlai would have none of it. I would write five pages of a poem and he’d cross out four pages of it, and in the remaining page every third phrase would be crossed out. ‘Unnecessary! Unnecessary! Unnecessary! Focus on your story! Nobody cares what color the banana leaves were!’ he’d say.” Andêhostai did learn a great deal from his teacher. But the disciplined, strictly rule-abiding Bêlûzdâzlai and the dreamy, descriptive Andêhostai very often came into conflict over what was necessary and what was not.

One day when Andêhostai was twelve years old, Bêlûzdâzlai happened to mention the genre of tuôlenǎ, dismissing it as a “messy, unorganized, sentimental load of pointless mush with no rules.” Andêhostai had certainly heard about tuôlenǎ before, and had now and then tried his hand at a tuôlenǎ poem or two, but when he heard Bêlûzdâzlai’s rant a lightbulb went on in his head. Tuôlenǎ had no rules! There would be nothing to stop him from going on those descriptive tangents he loved so much! The contrary side of him, the side that always wanted to be different and always wanted to mess with the rules, was delighted. He started filling notebooks with tuôlenǎ poems documenting his feelings, his experiences, his reading and his writing. At first his tuôlenǎ poems were, indeed, messy, unorganized and sentimental without any real form or structure. But as he became more serious about tuôlenǎ, he began to apply what he was learning in his studies with Bêlûzdâzlai to his tuôlenǎ poems, and they became better and better. He became skilled at using small details to evoke a large, rich, image, to illustrate the moods of his characters, and to show people’s emotions in ways that he never could with the stock archetypal characters he worked with in epic poetry.

When he was fifteen, Andêhostai wrote a series of tuôlenǎ poems that tell the story of two cousins from a middle-class family. In the beginning, they are walking together through a plantation, discussing their lives. The older cousin tells the younger about how he fell in love with the daughter of a poor farm laborer, a gentle and sweet woman, but with no money or education. Afraid of what his family would think, the cousin married another woman from a middle-class family. As he tells his story to his younger cousin, he tries to convince him, and himself, that he made the right choice. The younger cousin listens, but does not really agree.

The scene then shifts to one right out of Andêhostai’s life. The younger cousin is being assigned by his poetry teacher to write a scene for an epic poem on the life of Raǐsh, a great warrior. The younger cousin writes the first stanza of the poem in proper epic form. Then, thinking of his older cousin’s story, he refuses to give in and write in the strict form of an epic poem. Slowly, stanza by stanza, he transforms his epic poem into a tuôlenǎ one, adding more and more descriptive images, more and more details of the characters’ feelings, and breaking the strict phrase structure of an epic poem more and more until it has become a tuôlenǎ poem, free of any particular structure and full of detail and description. It is an amazing work, but Andêhostai did not show it to anyone other than Palǎjân until years later, and it was not published until a few years before his death. But it shows how already, at that age, he had perfected the art of the tuôlenǎ poem and was already experimenting with how he could meld it with the epic genre.

When Andêhostai was nineteen, Bêlûzdâzlai finally grudgingly admitted that he had taught Andêhostai everything he could. It was now time for the debut work. Andêhostai would write a full epic poem completely on his own, without any input from Bêlûzdâzlai or anyone else. Once he was finished, he would show it to Bêlûzdâzlai, and if the teacher thought it was good enough, he would organize a time for Andêhostai to perform it for some significant poets and patrons of poetry. Hopefully the poem would be good enough that the patrons would be interested, and then they would bring various proposals for hiring Andêhostai to Bêlûzdâzlai. Bêlûzdâzlai would bargain with the patrons until they had all agreed on a few concrete proposals, which he would then bring to Andêhostai to choose from.

Andêhostai chose as his subject the myth of the hero Narâzas. In this classic Thomoraii story, Narâzas accidentally discovers that his father Fezêrlas, who his mother had always said had died before he was born, is actually alive. Narâzas then goes on a journey to find his father, overcoming various trials and making many friends and enemies along the way. But this is just the first part of the myth. At the end of this first part, he finds Fezêrlas, but then at the beginning of the next part, Narâzas discovers that Fezêrlas is actually a traitor aiding an enemy tribe. This is why his mother left his father and why his mother never told Narâzas that his father was alive. So Narâzas then goes on a quest to stop Fezêrlas’s treacherous actions and defeat the enemy tribe once and for all. Naturally, he succeeds, and in the end of the second part he becomes the leader of his tribe and marries a beautiful woman named Surila. There are further parts with more adventures, but Andêhostai’s poem focused on the second part.

Now, Andêhostai did want to write a good, solid epic poem. This was, after all, going to be his debut work; it had better be good, or else he would have a hard time ever getting a decent patron. But now that he was not under the critical eye of Bêlûzdâzlai, he wanted to experiment a bit and play with the story and the structure. Most of all, he wanted to incorporate some of his favorite elements of tuôlenǎ: the descriptive details, the emotions, and the fleshed-out characters. So for starters, Andêhostai changed the story a bit. In the original, Narâzas’s bride Surila contributes very little to the story before the marriage in the end; she offers Narâzas some advice once or twice, that’s all. But in Andêhostai’s telling of it, Surila actually dies in the finale of the first part (he begins his poem with the first part’s finale, but other than that he sticks to the second part). Her spirit then returns in the form of a red bird to guide Narâzas in his struggle against his father.

Surila was the first of a long line of female advisors, very often animals or spirits, and very often romantically involved with the hero or with some other major character, that appear again and again in Andêhostai’s poetry. Such advisors and companions do appear in other Thomoraii poetry and in Thomoraii myth, but definitely more in Andêhostai than anywhere else. Many scholars have hypothesized that these advisors were inspired by Andêhostai’s own lifelong relationship with Palǎjân Ǎrazas. This young woman was the daughter of Andêhostai’s father’s best friend, a fellow musician. She studied almost all the arts and sciences that were popular in Thomorai at that time: music, poetry, art, theater, philosophy, biology, psychology, and so on, but she never specialized. She was very intelligent, loved to analyze, and spent much time listening to music, reading poetry and watching various sorts of theatrical productions, then writing critical analyses of them in letters to friends. But Andêhostai wrote that “she does not dare create anything herself. She has a brilliant mind, a wide experience, a great ability with words and a beautiful straightforwardness, but she is afraid. I am not quite sure what she is afraid of; maybe that with her great taste she will never be able to stand anything she creates herself; maybe that all the artists she criticizes will attack anything she creates in revenge. I do not know. But I know that she is afraid, and everything I try to say to her to coax the writer, the composer, and the painter out of her does not move her resolve one bit.”

Andêhostai and Palǎjân often played with each other when they were children, and Palǎjân sometimes joined Andêhostai’s music lessons with his father and poetry lessons with Bêlûzdâzlai. She read epic poems along with Andêhostai – though she did not read them over quite so many times as Andêhostai did – and she went with Andêhostai and Bêlûzdâzlai to performances of them. Andêhostai often showed her his work for comments and criticism, and they would frequently discuss a writing assignment together to help Andêhostai get his thoughts in order before he actually started writing. When they were both twelve, Palǎjân and her family moved to a plantation in rural Ôbtobâi, and Palǎjân and Andêhostai began exchanging letters. When Andêhostai began to seriously write tuôlenǎ, he occasionally showed her some of his work, and she often suggested improvements or pointed out particularly good bits.

They were still frequently writing letters to each other and were still very close friends when Andêhostai began writing his debut work, which he was calling Narâzas and Fezêrlas. But Andêhostai had begun to fall in love with Palǎjân, and when he began Narâzas and Fezêrlas he was trying to decide what to tell her and what to do. Almost unwittingly he began to explore his relationship with Palǎjân through the relationship of Narâzas and Surila in his poem. Surila guides Narâzas but never makes any decisions herself, just as Palǎjân guided Andêhostai in his writing but never wrote anything herself. Surila and Narâzas grow and change throughout the poem, sometimes coming into conflict, but ultimately they support each other even when they disagree, just as it was with Palǎjân and Andêhostai. Most notably, Surila and Narâzas love each other, but the fact that Surila is, in truth, a dead spirit in the form of a bird presents a rather large barrier to their marriage, much like Andêhostai felt that Palǎjân’s opinions towards him and towards love and marriage presented a barrier to them ever being married.

Even though he knew that to be true to the spirit of the story he had to keep Surila in her bird form, and he had to make it impossible for her and Narâzas to ever marry, he still struggled with this decision and searched for alternate options throughout the poem. It gives Andêhostai’s Narâzas and Fezêrlas a certain very real quality that is completely lacking in the other epic poems before it. Nazâras and Surila actually struggle with their situation and try to find ways out of it. There is not the foregone conclusion, the ending that everybody knows, that there always is in epic poetry before Narâzas and Fezêrlas.

Narâzas and Fezêrlas has a number of other new qualities, too. For one, Andêhostai actually thoroughly fleshed out his central characters: Narâzas, Fezêrlas, Surila and a few others. He gave them realistic emotions; he made the good characters make mistakes; he made the bad characters do good things. Additionally, he filled his poem with descriptions, most often small details to evoke moods and feelings without many words. Such devices were all highly unusual in epic poetry before Andêhostai, and they were all things he had learned to do well in his tuôlenǎ. But these new elements aside, Andêhostai stuck to the traditional form of an epic poem. He kept the basic structure of the myth of Narâzas; he included lofty themes and philosophical ideas; and he was very careful about the sound of his words, one of the key aspects of Thomoraii epic poetry of the time. Light, happy scenes were filled with words that sounded smooth and flowing, making little use of the Thomoraii language’s deep, throaty vowels. But sad, heavy scenes were filled with pharyngealized and epiglottalized vowels and consonant clusters. Happy characters often rhymed or used alliteration; sad characters often used short, choppy words, almost as if they were speaking in between sobs. It might seem rather silly to someone used to English writing, but this was a standard in Thomoraii epic poetry at the time, and Andêhostai did it well.

Andêhostai wrote, revised, revised, revised, revised and revised his poem again for nearly a year. When he realized that he was close to finishing and would soon have to show the poem to Bêlûzdâzlai, he threw himself into another flurry of revision as he tried to make it good enough that it would be acceptable to his teacher. He was terribly worried that Bêlûzdâzlai would hate the unorthodox new elements he was including, and would be disgusted that he did not properly follow the epic poem structure. It was also frustrating to Andêhostai that he could not show his work to Palǎjân for comments – the creator of a debut work could not get outside work or advice before showing it to their teacher, and even after the teacher saw it, they couldn’t change it before performing it. But finally, just two weeks short of a year after he had started it, he made a final word change in Narâzas and Fezêrlas and then brought his manuscript of it to Bêlûzdâzlai (who was living in the same house as Andêhostai at the time). Andêhostai then sat down and wrote a frenzied letter to Palǎjân describing the moment, even though

…nothing that much happened, really…I went to his room, held out the manuscript, and said, “Here it is, Qǎhai.” He said, “Thank you, Andêhostai.” He took it, glanced at it, put it onto the stack of papers and books next to him, and looked at me. I knew I was supposed to leave so he could read it in peace. But I could not help but say, “Oh please, Qǎhai, just, if you’re worried, if you don’t know, if you – just keep reading! Just – ” and he cut me off and said, “Of course. You know what I think about how to read an epic poem,” and then he kept looking at me, so I left. But I thought as I was going into the courtyard that his business about reading something three or four times was only for a good epic poem. He also always said that if you realized something was trash, read it for another hour, and if it’s still trash, give it up.

Andêhostai finished his short and agitated letter to Palǎjân and sent it, but then he could not find anything else to do as he waited and waited for Bêlûzdâzlai to finish reading his poem. He could not stand to read another epic poem, as he usually did in his free time, since he had been “drowned” in poetry for the last few weeks as he tried to revise quickly, and he was thoroughly sick of it. He tried to practice the instruments he still played, but he was too nervous to play well at all, and, in fact, broke a string on one of them. He replaced the string, and then tried going out for a walk. But he quickly returned home when he saw how hot and sunny it was outside, and besides, he did not want to keep brooding about what Bêlûzdâzlai would think, and a quiet walk would probably encourage brooding. Finally, he decided that since he was already in “such a thin, stretched, crazy state, so nervous of Bêlûzdâzlai that any other stress would seem a relief,” he would accomplish something else that had been a stress on him for some time and would have put him into a thin, stretched, crazy state if he hadn’t already been in one: he would write a marriage proposal to Palǎjân.

Andêhostai had written her several months back about what he was thinking and feeling about her; she had responded coolly and a bit indirectly, saying that she was sure they would always be friends, but she was not so certain about love. Andêhostai had figured that she needed time to think, and besides, it was not really in keeping with Thomoraii culture for a woman to express affection towards a man before there was some commitment between them. If he proposed marriage, he would show that he was serious, and there would be enough of a commitment for her to comfortably say what she was thinking. It would also open up discussion between their parents. And besides, he did want to marry her. So trying to keep his thoughts of Bêlûzdâzlai and Narâzas and Fezêrlas at bay, Andêhostai once more sat down and wrote to Palǎjân, “I must once more write to you about something that has been on my mind for some time…”

He was almost done with this second letter to Palǎjân when a servant called him for dinner. Andêhostai, thinking that Bêlûzdâzlai would very likely come and eat with his family, went down to the courtyard where they ate in a “tremendously distracted state.” But Bêlûzdâzlai was not there. He had asked for his dinner to be brought to his room, where he was still reading. Andêhostai desperately questioned the servant who brought Bêlûzdâzlai his meal about what he had seen, but the servant could only shrug and say that Bêlûzdâzlai was looking at papers and seemed just as grumpy as usual. After dinner, Andêhostai returned to his letter to Palǎjân, and once he had finished that, he tried his best to go to sleep.

In the end, Andêhostai had to wait another full day to find out Bêlûzdâzlai’s verdict. Finally, in the morning two days after he had delivered the manuscript of Narâzas and Fezêrlas, Bêlûzdâzlai called for him to come to his room. Andêhostai wrote later that day to Palǎjân:

I entered Bêlûzdâzlai’s room and stood there in front of him. He was sitting on the floor with my manuscript in his lap. He had big stacks of papers and books on either side of him. One stack was topped by his dictionary; the other was topped by his [grammar book]…He took a deep breath and said, “Well, my son, I have read your poem. I must say that when I began I was quite alarmed. I’ve known about your…habit” (I could feel the word “bad” perched in his mouth there, passed over but kept ready at hand) “of writing tuôlenǎ for some time, despite what you might think, and I was concerned at first that you had come up with some grand idea about combining the two, epic poetry and tuôlenǎ. And you know what our dear Lǐshlai says about grand ideas” [here is a quote from The Call of the Firebird about pride, one that Bêlûzdâzlai often quoted at Andêhostai when he showed arrogance as a young man] “But…well. Your poem isn’t perfect, you know,” he said, very businesslike and stern all of a sudden, but it made me feel a little glow of warmth…because I know him very well, Palǎjân, and I know that he always does that before he praises me, because he always has to qualify any compliment he makes. That’s just who he is. But anyways, this all flew through my mind in the brief breath before he said, “but…well, then I read this,” and he quoted a piece from near the beginning, a piece that I have very much wanted to show you, Palǎjân, but which I can’t until my performance of the whole thing. Let me just say that it is a piece from the meeting of two friends, but after one has been greatly changed. [It’s from the place where Narâzas first meets Surila in her bird form.] So Bêlûzdâzlai read this piece of my poem to me, and he read it very well, and then he was quiet for a moment, and he said, “My dear son, I have been part of your life for a very long time, and I honestly do not know how you know what such a meeting feels like. But somehow you managed here to push through all my annoyance and alarm and all my fine critical capabilities, all my filters and walls and glasses over my eyes, and echoed something inside me, and so you got inside of me. And my dear Andêhostai, at the end of the day, that is all that matters in art, isn’t it? I don’t care what color the painter uses; if he can make me start and see and realize something in myself, he has done the great thing, he has fulfilled his art. I don’t care what instruments, what forms, what keys and notes and harmonies the composer uses; if his music reaches inside of me, if it gets past my mind and my cold judgment, that is all that matters, isn’t it? Now of course there are colors and instruments and so on that are superior for certain things, and your poem is not all perfect, not at all, and very often it reaches past me and over me and – ” And suddenly, Palǎjân, he leaned forward and bowed his head before me and touched my feet with his hands, and I felt like I was in a dream, and I felt like I was Tebî in Thesolǎi Kulas’s The Quests of Bêkiair and something was being offered me that was too beautiful and too grand and too humbling for the person offering it for me to accept it, and I gasped and said to him, “Please, Qǎhai – !” and then I said, “Tell me what I did wrong!” and he sat back and sighed and said, “I wish I had your [heart].” And then he swallowed and composed himself and began pointing out all the mistakes I had made. It was very thoroughly unsettling, Palǎjân, and I still feel like Tebî when I think of it. I am afraid that he thinks I am better than him at writing poetry. Maybe I know now why you are afraid to write anything.

Throughout the rest of Andêhostai’s career, Bêlûzdâzlai would often take issue with the details of how he modified the traditional epic form. But ultimately Bêlûzdâzlai was completely behind Andêhostai’s experimentation, since he believed that Andêhostai had the skill and the talent to pull it off.

Unfortunately, Andêhostai did not have the same happy outcome with Palǎjân as he had had with Bêlûzdâzlai. Three days later, as he was preparing to perform Narâzas and Fezêrlas, he received a very frank letter from Palǎjân. She said that she sincerely appreciated Andêhostai’s honesty with her, and was also very flattered and honored to be the recipient of his love. But, she said, while she very much wanted to keep his friendship for the rest of her life, she did not want to complicate it, stress it and change it with the addition of a romantic relationship. She wrote:

In the world today, the husband rules over the wife, and the wife has got to scheme and plan and be subtle and clever and manipulative in order to get a word in. I have no desire to be ruled by you or to manipulate you. I have found great joy in our status as equals and I do not want to change it…Very honestly, I don’t care if you say that you would never treat me that way, because even if you don’t want to, everyone around you is going to be expecting it. And even if you are all stubborn and full of grand ideals and ready to take on the world now, are you really going to have the same energy to defy our society twenty or thirty years from now, when you are tired of resisting everything and everyone – including me? Because I am a stubborn women, and I will no doubt frustrate you at times such that you will desperately wish you could order me to stop. And am I going to have the will to defy you when you try to assert your power over me? No. It will not work. We would destroy both ourselves and our happiness….And besides, I am not in love with you, though of course being in love has very little to do with the question of marriage in most cases. But I am just a bit nervous that you think love does have very much to do with marriage, and so if I marry you you’ll expect me to be in love with you. And at the same time, I also feel like Thesolǎi’s Tebî, I feel like the one who is offered something too grand and beautiful, and something that will, in the end, be too painful for the one who offers it for me to accept in good conscience. Yes, Tebî did accept in the end, but she was in a story; I am trapped in truth and in reality.

Andêhostai acknowledged Palǎjân’s response and withdrew his proposal. But he never really gave up hope of being able to marry her. He was, in fact, married to two other women during his life – Sonolan Alfěslǎi and Fidêl Tělěfes – and Palǎjân herself married another man and had many children with him. But Andêhostai always held out hope, however foolish it might have been, that somehow it would work for the two of them to get married. And those female advisors, so often romantically connected to the hero, but so often unable for some reason to actually be married to him, continued to appear again and again in his work.

Five days after presenting his poem to Bêlûzdâzlai, Andêhostai read Narâzas and Fezêrlas aloud in front of an audience of several significant epic poets of the day, including one of his favorite authors, Thesolǎi Kulas. The audience also included some of Ôbtobâi’s greatest patrons of epic poetry; the emperor Trusǎi himself had sent a representative, Kulas Dûhalǎs, to see if Andêhostai was worth his patronage. Additionally, Andêhostai’s family and Palǎjân were in the audience; for them, it was much like attending his graduation. The reading took about four and a half hours. Once it was done, the poets in the audience were split on the merit of Andêhostai’s poem, particularly on the merit of the new, tuôlenǎ-like elements that he included. But the patrons loved it, and by that evening, Bêlûzdâzlai had quite a number of proposals from them to present to Andêhostai.

Andêhostai ended up writing a poem on the foundation of Obtobian civilization for an army general, and a poem called The Death of Numiair, based on an old myth, for the head of the Thomoraii government’s tax department. When Trusǎi’s representative Kulas Dûhalǎs read these poems, he finally decided that Andêhostai’s work was mature enough to deserve Trusǎi’s patronage. Two years after Andêhostai’s debut reading of Narâzas and Fezêrlas, Trusǎi hired him to write a trilogy of epic poems on a mythological topic “to be decided.” The resulting works were the three volumes of Andêhostai’s classic Bêkiair Cycle: Bêkiair and Tebî, The Wanderings of Bêkiair, and Bêkiair and Kedê’a. After reading these phenomenal works, Trusǎi decided to hire Andêhostai for life.

Andêhostai continued to work on perfecting his synthesis of epic poetry and tûolenǎ until he died. At first his style was quite controversial, with some critics loving it and many others citing it as an example of the sloppiness of modern writers. But as his work became more polished and his style lost some of its alarming novelty, the critics of his day mostly settled into praise, though of course there were still quite a few that hated his writing. The patrons and readers of epic poetry, on the other hand, almost all loved it from the beginning. Printings of his poems were bestsellers, and readings of them sold out. His wife Sonolan Alfěslǎi set several of his poems to music, starting with The Death of Numiair four years after it was published, and the resulting works were also quite popular. Additionally, his Bêkiair Cycle was adapted into a opera-like music-and-drama production five years after it was first published, and this work remains a classic of Thomoraii theater today.

Much more notably, Andêhostai’s style was a huge influence on the younger epic poets of the day. They loved his way of writing description, his complex characters, and his liberal use of emotion. Expanding on this, they began to write epic poems that were not based on historical or mythological tales. One writer, Amjâi Bêlûzdâz, wrote many poems telling stories he had completely made up himself, set in the time when he lived, featuring normal middle-class characters – very unusual among the hordes of gods, nobles, warriors and peasants that filled the old Thomoraii epics. Other writers began to include more practical morals and ideas instead of just the rather grand philosophical theories that earlier epic poems were filled with. And, most of all, there was a new focus on complex and realistic characters. Old heroes and villains were reimagined with more sophisticated motivations, personalities and moralities, and many new heroes and villains were created, too.

Through his skilled combination of epic poetry and tûolenǎ in his beautiful works, Andêhostai Erelas started a trend towards humanistic realism in Thomoraii poetry. His focus on the details of life, human experience, and human emotion struck a chord with his readers and inspired many future Thomoraii poets. Today his work is some of the most classic in the Thomoraii literary canon; The Death of Numiair and the Bêkiair Cycle, in particular, are very famous and are required reading for many students. Now Thomorai’s future poets read Andêhostai over and over again just as he once read the classics of his day over and over.

Arandui music

This post has been a long, long time in coming! I usually try to post something every week, but this article has taken so long to produce, and I’ve had so many unexpected complications and technical difficulties along the way, that I decided to chuck the posting goal while I finished it. And now it’s finally here! I hope somebody enjoys it. I also hope that I haven’t made any big, stupid mistakes, especially considering that I haven’t been studying music for very long…but if you catch any, please comment or contact me and let me know!

So, in the past few weeks my roving curiosity has gotten stuck on random subjects relating to music. I spent a few days reading everything I could about Pythagorean tuning, then I read about chords and harmony and counterpoint, then I went back to the subject of tuning and read about meantone and well-tempered tuning, then I investigated different types of scales, then I tried to wrap my mind about what a mode was. (Thankfully now I’m down to only one browser tab relating to music, but if I think about it too much I’ll end up with more.) So naturally I not only ended up with some understanding of historical Western tuning systems, I also ended up with a musical system for Arandu, my favorite Sheesanian country at the moment. And here it is.

I’ll start with an overview of the history of Arandu and Arandui music and how it developed, then discuss some of the more theoretical aspects of Arandui music – the tuning systems (of course!) and the scales and modes – then talk about the different instruments used in Arandu, and finally show a few examples of complete Arandui songs. (In English, since I haven’t worked on the Arandui language enough yet for me to translate a song into it.) Two notes: Firstly, the Arandui musical system is, admittedly, very close to the modern Western system. As I was thinking about it, I decided that since I don’t even know that much about Western music, it would probably be a bit too ambitious to try to come up with something really alien. But later on, once I understand Western music better, I can come up with weird musical systems for other Sheesanian countries. Secondly, if you’re curious about how I made all the examples throughout this article, I did them by writing a small program in Java, using the excellent JFugue library, to produce MIDI files with the proper tuning. Then I used TiMidity++ to generate .wav files from the MIDI’s. But where’s all that music from in the first place? All of it was written by either me or my sister – some of the examples are mutations of songs my sister and I have made up; other examples I wrote on the fly.

Background: Egeldish Music

Arandu was originally settled by religious refugees from Egeld, and so naturally they brought their Egeldish musical traditions with them. Now, Egeldish music is very strictly segregated between sacred music, which involves a variety of instruments (particularly string instruments), but is only played by certain priests; and popular music, which is not allowed to involve any instruments other than drums, a certain type of crude vessel flute similar to an ocarina, and foreign instruments (even then, if a foreign instrument is too close to one used in Egeldish sacred music, it’s not allowed). The priests that play sacred music have very jealously guarded their instruments and their techniques for centuries, warning people that they will incur the wrath of the gods if a non-priest tries to produce music in a sacred style. Foreigners visiting Egeld have at times been killed for playing music too similar to Egeldish sacred music without the authorization of these priests. Today many parts of Egeld are a bit looser about these restrictions, and certainly nobody will get killed nowadays for bowing a violin, but most Egeldish people are still very nervous about sacred-style music that isn’t authorized by the priests. You might not get killed for bowing a violin, yes, but you will make everybody afraid to associate with you.

Well, the Egeldish refugees that settled in Arandu had very little concern for these restrictions, because they had an entirely different religion and thought that all the priests’ warnings about divine retribution were a bunch of hogwash. Indeed, they were quite eager to defy the restrictions on Egeldish music now that they were out of Egeld and out of reach of the priests. The problem? Most of the refugees were low-class peasants who rarely even got to hear the priests’ special music, and certainly never got to study the priests’ carefully guarded instruments and techniques. While there were a few men among the refugees who had once been priests, none of them had ever studied the sacred music. But the refugees had stolen quite a few sacred instruments as they left Egeld, as part of a larger effort to take revenge on people who had opposed their religion (lords and landowners were also targeted). And so now they had a few different stringed instruments and flutes and other miscellaneous things that they had almost no idea how to play. (Sometimes they didn’t even know what they were. There was one particular miscellaneous thing that the Egeldish refugees just could not figure out how to play. Eventually a former priest realized that it wasn’t an instrument at all; it was a doodad used in certain rituals.)

So what did they do? They messed around with the instruments and invented their own new musical system based on what they could make the instruments do, and, of course, based on what little understanding of music they already had from Egeldish popular music. In the end, two main types of music developed in Arandu, loosely based on the Egeldish distinction: sacred music, which mostly uses instruments based on those stolen Egeldish sacred ones; and popular music, which uses the instruments from Egeldish popular music, refined and improved, as well a few new ones borrowed from the sacred musical tradition. In general, however, there’s a lot more overlap between Arandui sacred and popular music than between Egeldish sacred and popular music. And in Arandu, anyone can buy a sacred instrument and play it however they want without their neighbors killing or ostracizing them. Not so in Egeld!

As I continue the rest of this article, I’ll note what different scales or tuning systems or instruments are used in sacred music or popular music. The examples section will also have examples of both.

The Theory

The Arandui octave is divided into seven notes; starting from one note, a whole step up, then a whole step, then a half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, and finally a half step to reach the note an octave above the first – the same as our major scale. So if you look at part of a typical piano keyboard (original image found here)…

Western octave

…we have twelve notes in an octave – seven white keys and five black keys. The Arandui octave is equivalent to the seven white keys.

Arandui octave

The Arandui notes are usually called, starting at the note closest to our D, fińa, hula, civoor, tyiis, sroi, para and lia. These names come from the first words of each line of an old Arandui hymn. They’re also occasionally called jueńśa, parazune, talianpara, zune, cyiru, hool and tamaanpara after their corresponding popular modes (or, in the case of zune and cyiru, the names of the other keys of the jueńśa mode), and these names are sometimes shortened to ju, pa, ta, zu, cyi, ho and ma.


How this octave is tuned depends on what sort of music you’re playing. Popular music uses straightforward Pythagorean tuning, which I’ll explain a minute; sacred music uses a variation on Pythagorean tuning that allows for different sorts of harmonies. This means that you can’t really use popular-tuned instruments and sacred-tuned instruments together. For this reason, instruments that aren’t easy to tune (like flutes) are usually either only used in one style, or are sold in two different types, one for popular and one for sacred.

So, Pythagorean tuning! This tuning system was initially developed by, surprise, Pythagoras and was used in medieval church music. It’s based on the fact that a note played at the same time as a note seven half-steps up (so a C and a G, or a D and an A, or a B and an F#) – a perfect fifth – sounds quite smooth, restful, and generally pleasingly harmonic. Pythagorean tuning uses a series of these perfect fifths to produce the notes of a scale. So, say you were going to tune an Arandui cumaas, a type of stringed instrument that looks a bit like a dulcimer. You’d start out by tuning one string using something like a tuning fork; this is just a basis to start from. Let’s say you tune the first string to D. You’d next tune the A string – a perfect fifth up – adjusting it until it sounds good with the D string. Then you’d tune the E string, another perfect fifth up, adjusting it until it sounds good with the A. And then you’d do the B string until it sounds good with the E string, and the F# string until it sounds good with the B string, and so on – that’s the basic idea.

With this tuning system, perfect fifths sound very nice, so popular Arandui harmony tends to use a lot of perfect fifths. Fourths (notes five half-steps up, so D and G, or C and F) also sound good. Major thirds (notes four half-steps up, so C and E or D and F#), however, don’t sound very harmonic, so they’re used in popular Arandui music to create dissonance. Arandui sacred music, on the other hand, does use major thirds as harmonic (like modern Western music does). So the tuning system for sacred music basically adjusts the popular Pythagorean tuning in order to get nice, smooth thirds (minor as well as major, actually). The main downside is that one fifth, E and B, ends up sounding pretty bad. But this particular combination of notes isn’t used that often in sacred music, so it works pretty well.

A last note on Arandui tuning: both popular and sacred tuning is based on the note fińa at 300 Hz. Standard modern Western tuning, on the other hand, is based on A = 440 Hz. In Arandui tuning, both popular and sacred, the note closest to A is 450 Hz.

Finally, nerd alert: here are two big tables of Arandui popular and sacred tunings. First there’s the popular tuning, which is really just straightforward Pythagorean…
Arandui Note Closest Western Note Frequency (Hz) Ratio to Fińa Cents from Fińa
Fińa D 300.00 1:1 0.00
Hula E 337.50 9:8 203.91
Civoor F# 379.69 81:64 407.82
Tyiis G 400.00 4:3 498.04
Sroi A 450.00 3:2 701.96
Para B 506.25 27:16 905.87
Lia C# 569.53 243:128 1109.78
Fińa D 600.00 2:1 1200.00

…and then we have the sacred tuning, which is a tad more interesting.

Arandui Note Closest Western Note Frequency (Hz) Ratio to Fińa Cents from Fińa
Fińa D 300.00 1:1 0.00
Hula E 337.50 9:8 203.91
Civoor F# 374.93 5:4 386.00
Tyiis G 400.00 4:3 498.04
Sroi A 450.00 3:2 701.96
Para B 499.91 close to 5:3 884.05
Lia C# 562.40 703:375 1087.96
Fińa D 600.00 2:1 1200.00

Scales, Modes and Keys

Arandui sacred music almost always uses a nice, straightforward heptatonic scale (one with seven pitches to the octave) made up of all seven Arandui notes. Here’s a recording of two Arandui church instruments, a syiđa and a petashuisplaying this scale.

Arandui popular music, on the other hand, uses five different types of pentatonic (five pitches to the octave) scales, each with different characteristic melody types and behaviors – in other words, five different modes. And one of them is also used in multiple keys. Much more interesting! Each mode is associated with a different type of music, and each one is named after a different time of day. I’ll go through each one and explain the structure of the mode, its name, and the type of music it’s used for, and provide an example recording of the scale of that mode and a short example of a song using it. First, we have…

Tamaanpara (Sunrise)

Starting from lia, this mode is composed of a semitone, a tone, a tone plus a semitone, a tone, and two tones. In Arandui notes, lia fińa hula tyiis sroi lia, or in Western equivalents, C# D E G A C#. An Arandui cuśa playing this scale:

This mode is used often for love songs and also for enéntanoa (or in the singular, entanoa), “walking songs,” which are traditionally sung by travelers as they walk to their destination. Here’s a part of one traditional entanoa using the tamaanpara mode.

Jueńśa (Day)

Starting from fińa, tyiis or sroi, this mode is composed of a tone, a tone, a tone plus a semitone, a tone, and a tone plus a semitone. So, for instance, in Arandui notes, fińa hula civoor sroi para fińa, or in Western equivalents, D E F# A B D. If the jueńśa scale starts from fińa, it’s called jueńśa lane or just lane; if it starts from tyiis it’s called jueńśa zune or zune; and if it starts from sroi it’s called jueńśa cyiru or cyiru. A cumaas playing the jueńśa lane scale:

Jueńśa is most often used for happy songs and children’s songs, and it’s one of the most common Arandui modes. There will be a full example of a jueńśa song at the end of this article, so I won’t show an example now.

Parazune (Noon)

Starting from hula, this mode is composed of a tone, a semitone, two tones, a tone, and a tone. In Arandui notes, hula civoor tyiis para lia hula; in Western equivalents, E F# G B C E. A cuśa playing the scale:

This mode is fairly unusual in Arandui music, but it’s used occasionally in music supposed to evoke tension or mystery. In modern music it’s sometimes used as an intermediary when changing between talianpara and jueńśa. Here’s an example using parazune, part of a larger work that eventually resolves to jueńśa lane. This example is played by a cuśashoi.

Talianpara (Sunset)

Starting from civoor, this mode is composed of a semitone, a tone, two tones, a semitone, and two tones. In Arandui notes, civoor tyiis sroi lia fińa civoor, and in Western equivalents, F# G A C# D F#. A cumaas playing the scale:

This mode is almost always used for sad songs. Here’s a bit of one played by an ilanydriis.

Hool (Night)

Starting from para, this mode is composed of a tone, a semitone, two tones, a semitone, and two tones. In Arandui notes, para lia fińa civoor tyiis para; Western equivalents, B C# D F# G B. A cuśashoi playing the scale:

This mode is also used for sad songs, but talianpara and hool have different connotations of “sad.” Talianpara is considered tragic, weepy, emotional; hool is more mournful and despairing. So say you had an Arandui tragic play where the hero loses his love. When he first hears the news and is going through a lot of emotions, he might sing a song in talianpara. At the end, when he’s finally resigned to his loss and is quietly despairing, he might sing a song in hool. Of course, this is just the general difference; both talianpara and hool are used all sorts of ways in Arandui music. Here’s one bit of a song using hool.

The Instruments

Now that we’re done looking at the theory I’ve come up with for Arandui music, let’s look at the instruments that Aranduis use to play such music! For each instrument, I’ll explain what it is, where it’s from and how it’s used, and then give an example of the instrument being played.


The cuśa is a four-holed fipple flute; similar to a recorder, but, again, with only four holes. The design is based off a similar Väolki instrument, but it’s played much like flutes are in Egeldish sacred music. Cuśas are generally only used in popular music, as they can only play pentatonic scales. They’re made in all the different popular modes, and they’re the most popular and well-known Arandui instrument. People generally play them with one hand while accompanying themselves on a drum or a cumaas with the other hand. Here’s an example of a solo cuśa playing a short jueńśa lane tune.


The cumaas is a stringed instrument that looks a bit like a dulcimer. It’s most likely based on violin-like instruments that are used in Egeldish sacred music, but it could have also been based on the Hysleft guitar, an instrument from Carafilier. Cumaases come in two types: five-stringed versions, which are made in different modes and have a string for each note in the scale; and a seven-stringed version that has one string for each note in the full Arandui octave. The five-stringed versions are generally played at the same time as a cuśa; the player plucks strings on the cumaas to add harmony to the cuśa’s melody. The eight-stringed versions are usually plucked or strummed to play both notes and chords, with the player using two hands. However, five-stringed cumaases are sometimes played solo, and eight-stringed cumaases are sometimes used to accompany a cuśa. In general, the cumaas is most popular as accompaniment for a cuśa. In such a situation, the cumaas & cuśa player will often have multiple cumaases of different ranges so they can play more than just five notes.

Here’s an example of a cumaas playing solo.

Cumaas ihiisleve (or Hysleft guitar)

The cumaas ihiisleve is a direct borrowing of the Hysleft guitar, which was invented by the Hysleft people of Carafilier and Latrigle. While the cumaas ihiisleve is basically identical to the Hysleft guitar, it’s played a bit differently. Hyslefts play both chords and individual notes on their guitars; Aranduis generally use cumaas ihiisleves only to play chords (because if you need to play individual notes, well, that’s what a cumaas is for!). Cumaas ihiisleves are also only used in popular music, never in sacred music. As for an example…well, I would show an example, but it would be quite difficult to produce a proper one using my program, so I’m afraid there will be none for now.


The cuśashoi is quite like a pan flute, and was probably derived from similar Väolki instruments. Cuśashois are made in both ten-tubed versions, which are used in popular music, and fourteen-tubed versions, which are used in church music. Both kinds are usually constructed out of wood. The ten-tubed cuśashoi is fairly common in Arandui popular music, but it’s certainly not as popular as the cuśa. The fourteen-tubed cuśashoi is common in northern Arandui sacred music, often replacing the much more complex and expensive petashuis, but it’s fairly rare in sacred music from the rest of Arandu. Here’s an example of two cuśashois playing a bit of northern Arandui church music.


The ilanydriis is a vessel flute similar to an ocarina. It’s descended from the crude clay vessel flutes that were used in Egeldish popular music, but it’s far more capable and much better sounding than these Egeldish instruments. Ilanydriises are still usually made out of clay, however, though you might occasionally come across a ceramic one. There are two types: the plain “ilanydriis” can only play a pentatonic scale, and is made in all the different modes. However, this type is actually quite unusual nowadays. Modern players usually play what’s specifically the “church ilanydriis” instead, which can play a full heptatonic scale and has a large range. Such church ilanydriises are used in both popular and sacred music. In sacred music, they usually play harmony (the idea being that they’re quiet enough to play harmony without messing up the people trying to sing the melody); in popular music, they’re used for both harmony and melody.

Here’s an example of three ilanydriises playing a bit of sacred music together; one’s playing the melody and the other two are adding harmony.


The syiđa is a stringed instrument similar to a violin, and almost identical to the seneduā that’s used in Egeldish sacred music. Because it’s expensive and much more difficult to play than popular instruments like the cuśa and cumaas, usually only churches are willing to pay to buy syiđas and train people to play them. So it’s almost exclusively used in Arandui sacred music. In such sacred music, the syiđa usually plays the main melody, and so often has an important role. Here’s a syiđa playing a bit of a classic Arandui hymn.


The petashuis is a double-reed woodwind instrument much like an oboe, based off a similar Egeldish sacred instrument. Like the syiđa, it’s fairly expensive and difficult to play, and so it also is usually only found in Arandui sacred music. It often plays the melody with the syiđa or occasionally by itself, or sometimes it plays a simple harmony. Here’s an example of two petashuises playing some sacred music together.


The ńeregoi is a type of natural trumpet constructed out of brass, derived from a similar Egeldish sacred instrument. Unlike most modern Western brass instruments, it isn’t curled up, so it’s rather long and unwieldy. It also has no valves, fingerholes, or other such mechanisms, so it’s difficult for a player to produce standard Arandui scales without a great deal of training and practice. So, in general, the ńeregoi is only found in rich churches that can afford to train people to play it.

Here’s a sample of a ńeregoi playing part of a hymn.


“Tadudú” is an all-purpose Arandui term for a drum played with the hands (instead of with drumsticks). There are many, many types of tadudú – some derived from Egeldish instruments, some from Väolki ones, some from Suclapoi ones, some originally Arandui. Some particularly popular types are the tadudú jianame, a tall, slim drum with a deep sound; the tadudú nicone, a smaller version of the tadudú jianame that produces higher-pitched sounds; the tadudú shizhae, a drum the size and shape of the tadudú nicone but with a thinner skin stretched across the top and with a body that’s always constructed out of metal, producing a different sort of sound; and the tadudú soonane, a drum that looks like a huge tambourine without the metal jingles (rather like a bodhrán). All are used in both popular and sacred music.

Unfortunately, since I don’t think I could produce proper examples of all those drums, I’m afraid the sounds of Arandui tadudús will be have to left to your imagination for now.


The sozózona is a pitched percussion instrument composed of a number of small metal disks, much like little cymbals or the jingles you would find on a tambourine. It’s played by hitting the disks with a wooden mallet. Most sozózonas have a range of about two octaves, with disks for each note in the standard heptatonic scale used in Arandui sacred music. The sozózona was probably invented in Arandu (though similar instruments are played in other parts of Sheesania), and it’s very common in Arandui church music – it often plays arpeggios in a steady rhythm to accompany other instruments. Here’s a sozózona playing some arpeggios (though a real sozózona’s sound resonates for quite a bit longer than the fake one in the example).


The shelala is a percussion instrument very much like a tambourine, though it’s usually quite large. It was based on the tadudú soonane (which itself was based on a type of Egeldish drum) with added metal jingles probably inspired by the sozózona. It’s common in northern Arandui sacred music as well as popular music, but outside of northern Arandu, you’ll only see it in popular music. As with the tadudús, I’m afraid I couldn’t produce a proper example, so just imagine a deep-sounding tambourine.

The Examples

And finally, at long last, we have reached the full examples of Arandui songs! First we have an Arandui hymn – so sacred music, of course – based on Psalm 43, written by a man from northern Arandui, Hitrial Dohona Haellimoon (you can see his hometown, Haellimoon, on my map of Arandu). It’s a type of song, a lament, traditionally sung during what we call Holy Week, the time before Easter.* Men sing one part; women sing another part (though the parts rarely overlap – they mostly take turns), but you’ll hear me singing both parts since I don’t have any men handy. A petashuis and a syiđa carry the melody, with the petashuis playing the men’s part and the syiđa playing the women’s part; this is quite normal for songs like this. There there’s an ilanydriis and a sozózona playing harmony to round it off.

Here’s the recording! If you’d like to see the sheet music I wrote up for this song, which includes the words, I have a PDF of it here.

Secondly, here’s a song in the popular Arandui style using jueńśa lane, one of those old children’s songs that you learn when you’re little and play when you’re first getting the hang of an instrument. I sing the melody along with a cuśa while a cumaas plays harmony. You can find the sheet music of this song (and the words!) here.

*Yes, the Arandui religion is more or less Christian. And yes, I do have an explanation for how people on another planet are following Christianity, but that’s out of the scope of this already very long article. If you’re interested, please let me know and I’ll write up the story!