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Nathonian Cycle (Origo Mundi)

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Cassander a prisoner on Uriel Island.
The Nathonian Cycle is the traditional romance epic of Ancient Azoz, as well as several other nations in the greater Mesallian culture. Its subject matter surrounds the reign and administration of the legendary King Nathon (or Na-Thon) "the Pious" of Azoz, as well as his collection of warriors and traditional lancers known as the Knights of the Pentangle of Perea.

Among the most famous knights in this circle is the legendary warrior Cassander, an immigrant from Mesallas, who was often considered the strongest and most charismatic warrior in the known world. Nathon's tutor and religious advisor, the mystical Prophet Isodore, has a collection of legends on his own right, most famously the pseudo-biographical Life of Isodore. Nathon's father, King Jair "the Lionhart", was a significant ruler in his own right in the late first century AR, his existence testified in Mesallian documents as having fought on the side of Ulmians during the Nykosian War. Together, the collection of legends and epic traditions ascribed to the generations of Jair and Nathon, down to the fall of Perea in 130 AR, are known as the Matter of Azoz.

As a consequence of the universal fame and epic tradition of Perea, the very name "Nathon" has become synonymous with incredible feats of piety and chivalry. Any other colloquial uses of Nathon or Na-Thon in any language in the western world have been totally eclipsed with that king's legacy.


Family and Background

Asmera and Danel

King Na-Thon traces his ancestry through the House of Taulut, or Thalut, which were originally anointed as the first Ulmian sovereigns of Azoz. King Taulut was appointed king by the Holy Patra Ramu in 9 AR, right after Nelrim's ascension into heaven. He only ever bore daughters during his reign, of which Asmera, traditionally the grandmother of Nathon, was the youngest. She is depicted as a strong and independent woman, much in the reflection of later sovereigns of Edom, frequently going on hunts and military training of her own. One day when she was 18 years old, Asmera was hunting a wild boar when she met Danel, hunting after the same boar, thus beginning their lifelong romance for each other.

Danel was the son of King Balerix of Frasnoq, traditionally considered the same Balerix who attacked Azoz during the Nativity of Nelrim many years ago, although this is most improbable. In any case, the romantic saga between Asmera and Danel is often depicted as a reflection of the struggle between God and Drokksid, as Danel descends from the demonic rulers of Drokksid and Asmera from the holy kings of Azoz. Asmera is often described as having converted Danel to Ulm, as was the case with their offspring. Four months after their son was born, the couple was attacked by an assassin named Tyrol. Exactly where Tyrol came from and his motivations are not entirely clear. One version describes that Balerix found out about the unholy union, and dispatched Tyrol to put Danel to death. Other sources claim that Tyrol was a Yannian sent to collect a head tax from the region, but this is clearly anachronistic. In all versions, Tyrol attacked Danel with a Xyston at close range, when Asmera threw her body in front of the spear instead, letting it plunge through her body. As her corpse weighed down on the spear, this left Tyrol completely unarmed and allowed Danel to overpower him. Shocked by Asmera's act of self-sacrifice, Danel immediately annotated himself to convert to Ulm, and named their new son Jair ("I see").

Isodore and Jair

Young Isodore and his mother before King Ashkenaz. A manuscript of Ebony Era art.
Isodore the Prophet is believed to have been born around the same time that Jair was, judging from the chronology. Jair was 22 years old when he became king, 76 years before the fall of Perea, giving a total time of 98 years. Isodore was said to be 100 years old at the fall of Perea, putting their ages as about the same. Isodore's origins however are clouded in mystery. He was said to be the child of a human woman of Frasnoq, who had been impregnated by an Angel disguised as her husband. When he was born completely covered in hair, his mother was convinced he was born of demonic origin, and so immediately brought him to a church to be anointed by Nelrim. Isodore grew up to reveal he had the natural ability to see beyond the physical world, able to recall the future as easily as one recalls the past, and read peoples thoughts and things hidden in the ground. One obscure text said that he was tutored in theology by the Prophet Korfun, the son of the Patra Ramu.

When Isodore was 12 years old, Taulut had been succeeded as King by his son-in-law Ashkenaz, who continued the ongoing war against Frasnoq. During the Siege of Esuqay, Ashkenaz found himself unable to capture the city completely, and so summoned the boy to help him find a way into the city. Isodore instructed the king to send his men to a specific cave, deep in a mountain outside of the city, and create a fire to fill the cavern with smoke. When the men returned to Ashkenaz, they reported that inside the cave there was a giant serpent that had dug itself under the walls of the city, but the warmth of the fire and smoke caused it to fall asleep, and they killed it. Ashkenaz was now able to move through the tunnel to take the city, but Isodore told him this came at a cost, for the giant serpent was an omen that his throne will be succeeded by a bastard.

When Ashkenaz laid dying some years later, he remembered the prophesy of Isodore, and immediately named his heir to be the son of Baalis, the Lord of Bangui, who was known to not be a bastard. However, the son of Baalis was struck by bandits and killed before he could return to Azoz, and was never heard from again. Jair, now a grown adult, appeared in the city at the same time that the son of Baalis was supposed to, and so was crowned king by order of Ashkenaz. After Ashkenaz died, however, Jair's true nature was revealed, the grandson of two kings through an unholy union.

King Jair, under the trusted advisory of Isodore, went on to fight many wars and battles for the sake of the faith of Ulm, particularly the First Mesallian War fought against Yannis in the cities of Nykos and Meshawatni. The cycle describes how Jair was universally beloved by all the cities he fought bravely in, earning the name "the Lionhart". This indeed helped give an impression to appear in contemporary historical records, as the Mesallian historian Parius refers to a "Commander Yair" leading armies in several battles. Similarly, an anonymous contemporary source refers to the source of Ulm as appearing in the "House of Taulut", being the first reference to the name "Azoz" in historical writing. His best and closest ally was the King Loegaris of Neum, being a convert to Ulm by the Patra Toneth and fought to establish his rules faithful rule against great opposition.

Early life of Nathon

Birth and Childhood

Jair, however, was a victim of his own indulgences in Neum, having fallen in love with Loegaris' daughter Sabina. Some versions of the legend say that Isodore encouraged Jair and Sabina to meet each other, as he could see the future of how their union would end up. Sabina eventually gave birth to Jair's child, given the name Na-Thon ("son of wisdom") under miraculous circumstances. Almost all versions describe that a great storm was going on during the birth of the child, which suddenly ceased as Nathon drew his first breath. However, some obscure versions say that the storm itself didn't stop, but the water from the rain had turned into honey. An angel descended from heaven as well, foretelling that the child will become admirable in both piety and bravery in every part of his calling.

Sabina was still ashamed by being pregnant out of wedlock, and so quietly dispatched the child to be raised by clerics in the White Basilica of Azoz. The Prophet Isodore volunteered to tutor the child as he grew up, nurturing him to become the symbol of chivalry that he is beloved as today. Often times, Isodore would use his powers to change his form or the form of Nathon, as a way of illustrating specific lessons.

Na-Thon wielding the Sword of Heaven
Jair unexpected died at a comparatively young age, leaving the kingdom in a state of division and anarchy. The cycle claims that the phrase "might makes right" was a common idiom at this time, as each component of the realm was under the de-facto control of local warriors and lancers, or basically whoever proved to be the strongest. After the Holy Patra of Azoz prayed for a miracle, a sword fell from heaven and landed in the courtyard of the White Chapel, bearing the inscription Whosoever can Lifteth this Sword is Right-wise King of Azoz and Frasnoq. All the greatest and strongest knights of Azoz came to lift the sword, but although they gave their hardest might, not a one could either move nor stir it. Na-Thon was 15 years old at the time, and didn't have any knowledge or interest in such things. However, when thieves came in to steal treasures from the White Basilica, Nathon immediately went to take the sword up and defend the honor of the church. As soon as he lifted the sword, a beacon of light shown down around him, and all people of the city immediately proclaimed him to be king.

Early Reign

King Nathon established the seat of his rule to be the Palace of Perea, the central capital of the kingdom. Although it was at one point destroyed during the Ebony Era, it has nonetheless remained as the royal residence of Azoz for the rest of their imperial history, but nowadays converted into a museum. Nathon had an inner circle of knights called to sit at Perea from all across the kingdom of Azoz, acting as a confederation of warriors capable of enforcing universal peace and putting an end to the anarchy. These knights are said to have sat at a table shaped as a pentagon, so that no seat is more important than the others, and hence they were called the Pentangle of Perea. The original Pentangle Table is believed to be housed in the Museum of Perea to this day. Nathon eventually extended his invitation to warriors of neighboring and allied nations of Azoz, welling up the prestige and power of his royal court.

At every holy feast day, Nathon would insist on determining a proper quest or adventure before partaking in the meals. These quests would often involve riding out into the unknown world, expanding the borders of the kingdom and spreading the Gospel of Nelrim. Across the Nathonian Cycle, each of the knights of the Pentangle would generally have their own scores of canonical adventures of their own unique quests. Some of the most famous of these knights include:

  • Uriel, the strongest knight of Azoz, most well known in the Tale of Uriel and the Green Knight described below
  • Cassander, the strongest knight in the world, who is most famous in the Tale of Cassander and the Sword of Heaven described below
  • Raphael, the most clever knight, best known in his own story of Knight of the Comet, but also appears heavily in the Quest for the Cup of Jamshid
  • Toriel, best known in his own story of Isodore's Mantel, but features heavily in the Quest for the Cup of Jamshid
  • Azriel, most famous in the story of The Valunian Witches
  • Metatron, most famous in the story of The Cows of Loegaris

Cassander was the most famous of all these knights, and appears in far more stories than any other warrior of the Pentangle. Uriel, however, comes a close second. Cassander was said to be the son of the King of Lysandria, and his father fought alongside Jair in the Nykosian War as brothers in blood. As such, Cassander had an unending respect for King Na-Thon, and eagerly attended his place at the Pentangle. Cassander's ultimate ancestry is traced all the way back to Leto, the great warrior of the Diomon War, from whom the continent of Letsia is named.

Epic Traditions

Uriel and the Green Knight

The "Loathsome Woman" who becomes married to Uriel
The first of the three greatest epics of King Nathon traditionally took place around this start of his reign. One Nativity day (the holiday of Nelrim's birth), as the warriors of Azoz were feasting at the Pentangle of Perea, a mysterious stranger appeared through the door. He was covered from head to toe in all green, with green hair and green clothes, and had a green axe with him. The Green Man challenged the King, asking him to give a blow to him with the axe in exchange he'll do the same blow back next year. Nathon, thinking he outwitted the stranger, took the axe and chopped off his head, believing he can't give the same blow back if he's dead. The Green Man then picked up the head, put it back on his shoulders, and declared he'll come back next year to claim his debt. However, he also said that he will forgive the king of this debt if he answered one question: what is the thing that women desire most.

All the warriors of Azoz were fearful of what may happen to the King now. Nathon immediately took action: he sent the knights in every direction on a quest to find a loophole how to get out of the King's debt. Uriel was the one to find an old hag in the far northeast of the Kingdom, who said she knew of the King's dilemma as well as the answer to the riddle. When Uriel asked what is the answer to that riddle, the old hag said she would only tell him on one condition, that he marry her. For the good of the King, Uriel reluctantly agreed, and took the old hag back to Azoz to wed. Some versions of the legend say Uriel was not allowed to tell anyone why he is marrying the old hag, or even to pretend that she was young and beautiful.

On their wedding night, as they lay in bed together, Uriel was silently miserable with himself. The hag whispered to him that she is not all she appeared to be, and could take one of two forms: either an ugly and faithful wife, or a beautiful and unfaithful wife, and the choice is his. Uriel thought long and hard, and in the end gave up and told her that it makes no difference to him, so he will let her decide. The old hag proudly said this was, in fact, the answer to the riddle, for the thing that women desire the most is: to have their own choice. Additionally, in gratitude for this answer she will become both beautiful and faithful, and immediately she transformed into the most stunningly beautiful woman in the land. Once the King was given the answer to the riddle, he pronounced it to the Green man who forgave him of his debt.

Cassander and the Sword of Heaven

The second of the three great epics of Nathonian revolved around the Mesallian warrior, Cassander. Cassander, the son or descendant of Leto, only appears in Nathonian literature long after these events took place, although he is attested in earlier stories native to Mesallia. Cassander is often described as the strongest and noblest member of the Pentangle, solely driven for the love of his lady Princess Sarai. One day around Rising Day (celebrating the resurrection of Nelrim), it was learned that Sarai was kidnapped by the evil Lord Messander, and was held captive in his castle. The warrior Raphael was dispatched by the King to recover her, and along the way he stumbled upon the force of nature that is Cassander, determined on the same goal.

Eventually the two of them worked together to track down the castle, braving many perils along the way, but in his impulsiveness Cassander fell right into Messander's trap. Cassander became trapped in the dungeon while the Princess was taken to another castle. Raphael managed to escape back to Azoz, and informed the King how to return to the castle personally to free the foreign knight. King Nathon went to the castle, defeated the guards who fled back to Messander, and cut through the cell walls using the Sword of Heaven. Cassander thanked the king, and agreed to join the Pentangle of Perea, but he had to continue on his quest alone. Nathon and Raphael continued by themselves, until they came to an inn with rumor they knew where the Princess was held. However, they were actually agents of Messander, and drugged both of the visitors.

When they came to, Nathon realized that Messander had now stolen the Sword of Heaven, and was preparing to kill the King in one-on-one combat. Before this death match could be held, however, Cassander arrived and challenged Messander to a joust. Messander couldn't resist the temptation of beating the son of Leto in battle, so picked up his Xysos to engage the joust. Cassander knew he could dispatch the fight easily, but instead he feigned weakness in order to distract the evil Lord, long enough that Nathon could switch the Sword of Heaven for his own. Once that was completed, Nathon returned to combat himself, and smote Messander from crown to crotch in a single blow.

Quest for the Cup of Jamshid

Jamshid and his Cup appearing to the knights of Azoz in a dream
The third and final epic of Nathonian tradition involves the Quest of the Cup of Jamshid. Toriel returned one day from this journeys to the southeast, and reported he had been pledged to be married to a woman named Regnelle, daughter of Izban the Giant. However, Izban will only release his daughter on a dowery consisting of the Cup of Jamshid, which has been lost for centuries. According to prophesies of Isodore, the cup can only be found by all of Nathon's knights together, although it will ultimately bring doom on Perea. So after an extended prayer to Nelrim and the True God, all the warriors of the Pentangle assembled on a grand ship constructed at Bangui, to begin their quest across the Southern Sea to find the Cup of Jamshid. This ship, called the Augra, was specially designed by Isodore himself, and commanded by the most famous of Nathon's warriors: Uriel, Toriel, Raphael, and Cassander. The voyage at sea braved against many legendary sea monsters and other adventures, until they finally reached a kingdom of seafolk on a remote island.

Many scholars have tried to piece together the geography of this voyage, although obviously many parts are fanciful, some of the locations remained staples of oceanic mapping for centuries afterward. However, the exact identity of the seafolk island continues to be controversial. At any rate, the knights of the Pentangle were surprised to find that the Cup of Jamshid, which was located on this island, was in fact held by Jamshid himself, who had remained alive all these years by means of magic he had acquired. Jamshid was delighted to hear news of how things had developed since he left the kingdom, and invited all the knights to dine with him, promising to show them the cup. However, a magic spell was used by Jamshid to put all the knights to sleep, and each of them dreamed they saw the cup in a vision, as Jamshid's way of ensuring that none of them would be able to take the cup after seeing it.

This plan almost worked, except that the magic was innefective against Cassander due to the holy relic he had with him given by Isodore. When Jamshid was distracted, Cassander managed to steal the cup and replace it with another, and gather the rest of the warriors to return to the ship and sail home. Jamshid was outraged to find his cup was missing, and immediately placed a curse on Cassander that no ship he stands on shall ever sail. In order to ensure the rest of the C returned home safely, Cassander gave them the cup and promptly dived into the sea.

Fall of Perea

The conquest of Frasnoq, which occurred around the time of the Fall of Perea in 130 AR, is traditionally attributed to the reign of King Nathon, although usually unmentioned in the Nathonian cycle. Most romance versions of the epic, written during the early imperial era, tend to describe Nathon's empire as far larger than it probably was, including control over all Frasnoq, Eskaladun, and Umbhala. Many monastic chronicles, however, tend to note Nathon as the conqueror of Frasnoq in their prologue, most notably the description at the start of the Fayyun Chronicle. It is generally believed by scholars that the collapse of Azoz at the end of Nathon's reign could be attributed to the over-extension of resources due to the conquest of Frasnoq, more than anything else.

After seeing his Cup had been taken, Jamshid decided it was time to invade the realm again personally, leading an army of sea monsters, golems and fishmen against Azoz. The Battle of Liyres Forest managed to crush Jamshid's initial attack, coordinating a strategy by Raphael, although countless lives were lost in the struggle. Ever confident, however, Jamshid decided to release the Bull of Heaven, an unstoppable monstrous creature kept in the service of Drokksid in preparation of the end of the world. The Bull came and rampaged through many cities of Azoz, killing many citizens in his wake. Every single knight and warrior, as well as the King himself, were required in finally defeating the cow, according to the prophesy of Isodore, and most of them were killed in the process. Even so, after the Bull was defeated it retreated across the sea to the far west, healing its wounds until returning in the end times.

Jamshid himself disappears from the narrative at this point, some late sources saying how he was swallowed up in the earth. Aftert his war was finally over, the kingdom of Azoz was in a dilapidated weakened state, and as such the throne was seized by Nathon's half-brother Luxan. This resulted in an immediate civil war between Luxan and Nathon, who eventually hit each other with mortal blows at the Battle of Kaspin Hill. The Prophet Isodore, praying for a miracle, laid Nathon and all his warriors to rest in a catacomb underneath the city, until the day that the followers of Ulm are in their greatest need. During this time, Cassander was first swallowed by a great fish, and vomited on a remote island in the Eastern Sea. He took several years to make his way back home, during which time he was trapped by the wiles of the witch Astalot, who governed the island. When Sarai heard the news of Cassander's imprisonment, she was convinced that he had left her for the love of Astalot, and promptly killed herself. In the same way, as soon as Cassander returned to Azoz and saw his love was dead, he killed himself as well.


Cassanderan Dynasty

In all versions of the Azouri kinglists, Nathon the Pious was succeeded by Cassius, the first ruler of the Cassanderan royal line. Cassius was traditionally considered the son of Cassander and princess Sarai, his true love, born sometime prior to the Fall of Perea. Although Cassander himself was never a monarch, the sheer prestige and reputation of that great Mesallian Knight owed to the royal house of Azoz henceforth known as the House of Cassander, being a cadet branch of the older House of Leto.

The kings of the Cassanderan Dynasty were relatively weak and decentralized, having only effective power over the city of Azoz itself. During the Ebony Era, the Kings of Azoz did not possess much strength to justify their rule, and so had to rely heavily on their own tradition and prestige. This could be a good explanation why they emphasized their relationship to Cassander so readily and early on. However, it is worth noting that romance traditions and legends of the Nathonian cycle didn't appear in much popularity until the early Imperial Era in the Chatna Empire. For that reason, the Cassanderan Dynasty's connection to the historical Cassander may in fact be accurate.

King Cassius is referred to as the "Lord of Uriel", and it is probably around that same time that the Uriel islands were first named, after the Knight that discovered them. Cassius was considered to have inherited possession of Uriel from Cassander, as he spent several years trapped on the island as its "ruler". Once Chatnaguri conquered Azoz and Frasnoq, the Cassanderan family fled to Neum, and ruled as their kings for a brief time before being subjugated by Chatna. Many other members of this family continued as lower nobles and officials in later dynasties of the Azoz Empire, disappearing from historical record sometime around the seventh century AR.

Extent Versions