Sunday, 2 October 2016

The History of Transoxalia, Part 1: The evidence from Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World

In this post I want to start examining the history and geography of an interesting part of Khul that I have so far not visited in my explorations of the Dark Continent - the area from Neuburg to Zagoula. Ken Beuden, in his interactive Map of Khul, calls this area Transoxalia, though it's not clear that this is where Luke Sharp intended that land to be (see my previous post on the topic). But I'm warming to the idea (it's not clear where else Transoxalia might fit, and the area is beyond a river, in this case the River Swordflow, which we can imagine having been called the 'Oxalis' in the long distant past).

Anyway, here's a map of the area I'm on about, by Steve Luxton from Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World:


This is a pretty key part of Khul during crucial periods in its history. Here's a summary of what we learn about the region from Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World (page references are A4/B-format). First of all Old Time (OT):
  • Small towns in western Khul unite under the rule of King Klarash Silverhair in 1510 OT, the nation of Klarash growing by 1565 OT to stretch from the southern edge of Scorpion Swamp to the River Swordflow. (38/73)
  • In 1542 OT, the first explorers from the kingdom of Klarash attempt to cross into the goblin-infested lands south of the River Swordflow. (38/73)
  • During the reign of Klarash III (the original king's grandson), a new capital for the kingdom, Shakista, was founded (near the later Ximoran). (38/74)
  • The southern goblins were eventually overcome and the city of Zagoula was founded in 1611 OT as a bulkwark against them. It quickly became a centre for learning and sorcery. (38/74)
  • By the end of the 2nd millenium OT, the kingdom of Klarash extended as far south as the garrison towns of Yaziel and Hyennish. Scholars and sorcerers from Zagoula travelled across Khul seeking new knowledge. (38/75)
  • In 1997 OT, adventurers from Zagoula found the Dead City, far across the Scythera Desert, and unwittingly unleashed the Forces of Chaos, changing the world of Titan for ever. (39/76)
  • The Forces of Chaos that had been unleashed quickly gathered and in the spring of 1998 OT, they swept into Zagoula, destroying the city. (39/78)
  • The exact movements of the chaotic armies aren't easy to explain following this, as parts of the army swept northwest to attack Kabesh at the heart of the continent, whilst another army made for the capital of Klarash, Shakista, but was stopped in the Anvil Pass through the Mountains of the Giants by a large force who had been warned of the invasion by survivors from Zagoula. The Mountains of the Giants are to the west of the lands of Klarash, and Ken Beuden, righty I think, places the Anvil Pass in the obvious narrowing of these mountains to the west of Shakista (as indicated in the map above). But why did the chaotic army that had sacked Zagoula so successfully retreat back into the centre of Khul and then attempt to attack by the Anvil Pass through the Mountains of the Giants, rather than push north from Zagoula across the River Swordflow into the heart of Klarash? (41/79)
  • In any event, the armies of Chaos pushed the forces of Klarash back to Shakista. Having held back the invaders for 11 days, the defenders of Shakista were finally relieved by the armies of Brendan Bloodaxe from Arion. The Forces of Chaos were destroyed by the combined armies of Klarash and Arion, though the capital had suffered so badly that it had to be demolished. (41/82-3)
And After Chaos (AC):
  • In the years after the invasion, Shakista was abandoned and the new capital, Ximoran, was built. The Klarash dynasty continued to rule from Ximoran for 60 years, but came to an end when the king died without leaving an heir. (43/87)
  • Following this, the lands of the old Klarash dynasty were ruled by the Council of Seven, a council of members from the seven main towns of these lands (Anghelm, Buruna, Djiretta, Kalima, Kelther, Neuburg and Ximoran) (24/39, 43/87).
  • Although Yaziel and Hyennish had survived the invasions by the chaotic forces, they were now sundered from the northern lands. (43/87)
  • Zagoula never recovered from its destruction at the hands of the Forces of Chaos, and it was abandoned by all but the ghosts that haunted its chaos-tainted  ruins (43/87). Titan tells us (24/40) that Zagoula is now "a terrifying place, shunned by all but the most adventurous. Some ruined towers and battlements poke above the shifting sands, but most of the city is now underground, and its streets are now tunnels wandered by strange subterranean creatures and a great many undead souls".
  • In the 'present day' from the perspective of the writers of Titan (284 AC), the lands of the Council of Seven stretch from the Coast of Sharks to the River Swordflow, where the "small walled city of Neuburg" is on the southern edge of the civilised lands. (24/39)
  • South of Neuburg are wild, unsettled lands, inhabited by Goblins and tribes of "short, swarthy humans", supposedly the original inhabitants of much of this part of Khul. Titan describes them as violent and warlike, engaged in raiding for slaves and hostages, but that "swift action by organized troops from Neuburg usually keeps them from doing anything more dangerous". (24/40)
For more discussion of the recent history of Ximoran, see my previous post on the topic. A couple of interesting details are worth pointing out in this brief recap of the history of Transoxalia since later Fighting Fantasy publications contain further interesting details about them. Firstly, Titan tells us that Zagoula was destroyed by the Forces of Chaos and abandoned thereafter. It's quite possible that this illustration (probably by Alan Langford) from Titan (24/38) is a representation of its deserted ruins (especially since in the 1st edition of Titan the illustration appears right next to the description of Zagoula's ruins, and the picture fits the description, given above, perfectly), though it might be Kabesh (but it seems unlikely that someone would be riding a horse through the centre of the Wastes of Chaos in the dead heart of the continent).

Secondly, the town of Neuburg must have existed before the end of the Shakista dynasty (some time after 60 AC according to Titan, 81 AC according the The Fighting Fantasy 10th Anniversary Yearbook), because the dynasty was succeeded by the Council of Seven, and Neuburg is named as one of the seven towns/cities which make up that council. But given the complete lack of reference to Neuburg in the OT period in Titan, and the fact that it is called Neuburg (= 'new castle'), we might expect that it doesn't have a long history before this point. Lastly, some of the lands south of the River Swordflow have been described in detail in later Fighting Fantasy publications, giving us a rather more complicated picture of these wild lands than is presented in Titan. I'll return to these issues in subsequent explorations of the history of Transoxalia and the rest of southwest Khul.

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