Culture – Erstürmen [er-steer-men]

Inspiration: Like most cultures in The Relevation Trilogy (TRT), the Erstürmen culture has real-world influences. Beyond creating interest for me as an author, the links between real-world cultures and cultures in TRT have an important narrative implication, highlighting exchanges that have occurred between Ostamp and Earth. That is, other travellers (besides Tom Anderson) have used the eyes of lost souls to travel between worlds – either bringing new cultural elements with them, or returning with new cultural elements.

Hence, cultures in TRT represent a merging of worlds.

Both ancient and contemporary Germanic cultures influence aspects of Erstürmen culture. This is most obvious in the use of certain German words in the Erstürmen language (see Table 1). Also, first names adopted by royalty are often ancient Germanic in origin (see Table 2 for the origin of names in the Heine Empire). 

Table 1: Some of the German words that appear in When Darkness Descends, their translation and how they’re used in the book.

Table 2: The origin of ancient Germanic names used by Erstürmen royalty from the Heine Empire. All this information comes from the following website: https://www.behindthename.com/names/usage/ancient-germanic

Social structure: The Erstürmen culture is a patriarchal monarchy. Only men can rule, the future king being the oldest son of the current king. If a reigning king has no sons, then his oldest brother will take the throne and his sons will be next in line. If a reigning king has no sons and no brothers, the closest male relative will take the throne.

In When Darkness Descends (WDD), King Ewald is the 5th king in the Heine Empire, which began with King Giltbert (see Figure 1).

In WDD, the patriarchal monarchy is threatening to fall apart. While this may take some time, change is in the wind, which could see the emergence of a new dominate social structure in Enthilen.

Figure 1: Reigning kings and immediate family of the Heine Empire.

Time: If you’ve read WDD, you would have noticed that ‘time’ is a loose concept in Enthilen, being measured in different ways by different cultures (for example, for stone-grells, time is circular, not linear). For the Erstürmen, a ‘yarle’ is a basic measure of time, being 360 days comprised of 6 seasons of 60 days each. They count the number of yarles between important events, but never adopted a starting point (i.e., yarle zero) for any given time period (e.g., there isn’t a Yarle 2020 in this culture). Long periods of time are often referenced by the number of generations passed (a generation being 50 yarles).

The idea of 6 seasons came from the grells, indicating adoption of cultural elements across the cultures of Enthilen. The Erstürmen call the 6 seasons the harvest season, storm season, long dark, season of blossoms, season of strong winds, and the growing season.

In Enthilen, no culture has instruments that measure time during the day or night. This is done using the sun, moons and stars.

History: The Erstürmen consider their ancestors as the first ever settlers of Enthilen, back when Volerdie ruled Pergamos. When Volerdie fled Pergamos, the city fell into squalor and disrepair, and the settlers left and colonised the land now known as Nordland. There, they built the city of Thyatira, but this also fell into ruin when barbarians routed the Erstürmen from Nordland. (Hint: Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Laodicea, Ephesus – these names might sound familiar. I’ll leave it to you to work out where they come from).

Nordland was abandoned after the barbarian invasion and the fall of King Giltbert. [The ‘Nordmen’ now rule Nordland in a loose collective of villages and small towns. Each village has a Chieftain, and the major settlement of Nordland is Ephesus, which straddles the Afonwee River, the eastern half of the city ruled by the Nordmen and the western half by the Germalians].

After the fall of Giltbert, King Faramund led the Erstürmen refugees from Nordland to Enthilen. They came as conquerors, invading the Dobunni city of Bethesda (and renaming it Laodicea), building Sardis and establishing various military outposts (e.g. Gestade and Süden Forst).

The early rule of the Erstürmen in Enthilen was mostly a time of turmoil and conflict. Although often ruthless against the Dobunni, King Faramund was generally considered an honourable leader, negotiating the truce that saw the division of Laodicea into four quarters. By comparison, his son, Alaric, was a brutal and cruel leader, possibly a result of him inheriting the throne at a very young age. He routed the last of the stone-grells from Malang Gunya, and desired to uncover the location of the lost city of Pergamos to elevate himself to deity status. 

Given the events in WDD, it might be surprising to learn that Oldaric’s rule as king was mostly a time of peace. After the repression of Alaric, King Oldaric was a much more respected and liked ruler, devoted to the faith of Volerdie, which he promoted at every opportunity. The adoration of his subjects led to Oldaric’s reluctance to cede the throne to his son Ewald when he reached 50 yarles (Erstürmen lore is that a reigning king must cede the throne to the next in line when the king reaches 50 yarles of age).  

Supporters of Ewald and Oldaric battled inside the inner circle of Sardis, Ewald emerging victorious and subsequently expelling Oldaric from the royal city and any role within the Erstürmen Kingdom.

At the time of WDD, the reign of Ewald is full of paranoia and indifference.

What happens next? 

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