Chapter 72-The Land of Religious Fervor
"The Land of Religious Fervor"
"The Land of Religious Fervor"
As he imagined, the brief cold spell faded rapidly and the pleasant--if late--spring of the north of Japan returned to Eishou-ji and all Ishikari Province. Jikken sat with Gaiyuchul outside of the monastery, sipping green tea on one such pleasant morning. His mind lay occupied with what he read in Gaiyuchul's Saga of the Peoples of the World, surely the most detailed text of its sort he ever encountered even if he found Gaiyuchul's flowing Namal prose challenging to understand. In particular, he grew curious of the peoples of southern Fusania, supposedly a warm and sunny land of many valleys and high mountains, and in particular their strange religions that Gaiyuchul described.
"Brother, you have seen a lot of things and been a lot of places in your lifetime, what might you tell me about the Kuksuists of South Fusania?" Jikken asked in an unusually curious manner. "How accurate are their beliefs compared to the truths we reach for as monks?"
"I know much of the peoples of the south," Gaiyuchul said after a long stare into the distance. "More than I ever wanted to know. Countless nations of strange barbarians live in that land with customs as diverse as their country's landscape. Their faiths are secretive and disturbing to me in what they demand of their believers, in particular that of the god Kuksu."
"Such as?" Jikken asked.
"Sacrifice for even the least Lodgemaster. One must devote everything toward protecting the secrets of the god Kuksu," Gaiyuchul explained. "When I fought as a warrior, the men and boys of the Kuksuist lodges attacked myself and my men with the most savage ferocity I ever witnessed and feared not their own death. Kuksu, and by extension the Lodgemasters, granted them their land, their animals, their crops, and the stability of the world. The gods of our people never demanded we perish like that to defend a priest or a shaman."
"What sort of god is Kuksu?" Jikken asked, wondering what sort of being might inspire this devotion.
"As I have discerned from my meditation, I believe he was a powerful being and a great teacher who lived countless years ago and walked the path toward enlightenment bringing many others along the way," Gaiyuchul explained. "Kuksu's stories are fabulous, his deeds impressive, and his patience in dealing with those southern Hillmen vast. Certainly he must have known other great beings from times long ago like Coyote and Raven. It is tragic his followers take toward such secrecy and frenzied yet ultimately meaningless devotion."
"Frenzied devotion..." Jikken reflected on Gaiyuchul's appraisal of Kuksu and his followers, devotion that reminded him of stories of the most fanatic warrior monks.
"Little could not exist without the Kuksu Lodge which controls the lives of so many people in the south of Fusania," Gaiyuchul said. "It is for their fanatic yet meaningless devotion I pity the Hillmen of the south as the most tragic race. Unlike other Hillmen, they build grand monuments and cities almost like our own yet they fundamentally misunderstand their god's intentions. For all of this, the Pillar King ended up striking down so many of them in those years."
"They did fight in many great wars, didn't they?" Jikken said.
"Indeed, many wars. I tried to paint an old story I learned from a prince of the greatest Tahsis , a story that described a battle of his ancestor Khutsaayi. Yet I could never bring justice to the Kuksuist warrior in his fury I witnessed myself." Gaiyuchul stared out at the cherry trees, no doubt thinking of some old battle he once fought in. After a while, he sighed as he repeated a truth he long since came to terms with. "We warriors of the Pillar King were just another invader among many to those Kuksuists. Our leaders came from different tribes of Atkhs yet to them we were all Atkhs. Countless perished in that strange country thanks to those fanatic men, a blessing from their god Kuksu who rewards them despite their misinterpretation of his wisdom."
Far to the south of the Wayamese Empire lay a diverse and rich country of mountains, valleys, and desert where all manner of people lived. Half of all Fusanians lived in this country and although it borrowed much from the peoples to the north it developed its own distinct culture rooted in its native faiths and centered around the village lodge. The people rejected institutions like the autocratic nobles of the Imaru Basin or vast servile populations and instead zealously preserved the rights and freedoms enjoyed by their ancestors thanks to the teachings of their gods which taught them the formulas to keep the world correctly ordered in their favour.
In the Central Valley and adjacent regions of this country lived the most prominent and in later times "typical" example of the South Fusanian peoples, those followers of Kuksuism. The bulk of them lived in the Central Valley and the Atkhs grouped together under the name Qatmaqatkh ("oak people") from whence comes the Chinese name Kama. The other great cluster of Kuksuists--the Micha, Menma, and Sani lived north, south, and east of Daxi Bay respectively, drived from their ancestral lands by the invading Wakashans . Alongside the Woshu, Monuo, Yayi, and Mayi to the east and the Menma to the west of the Valley, these groups combined made up the so-called Kuksuist world.
The 11th and 12th centuries saw a great crisis in South Fusania as the Medieval Warm Period brought far worse cycles of droughts and floods to the areas. All manner of internal population migration occurred and conflicts with nomadic peoples in the mountains such as the Mayi, Yayi, and Hill Tanne intensified. The worst conflicts of all came from the people known as the Sea Walkhs, the South Fusanian term for the Coastmen. These Coastmen came from numerous different coastal ethnic groups yet their dominant component lay in Atkh-speaking peoples who moved south from Wakashi Island following whale migrations and seeking wealth since the late 8th century--for this reason, historians term them as "Wakashans" and their expansion the "Wakashan Expansion."
The Coastmen raids brought devastation to much of South Fusania, and as with the Vikings in Europe, the Coastmen eventually carved out their own states and tribal confederations along much of the South Fusanian coast. The most notorious and legendary of these raids came in 1125 when the ethnic Ringitsu warlord Khutsaayi alongside the Wakashan warlords Chakhwinak and Chikhatmiik led a coalition that sacked the powerful state of Suchui and thereafter betrayed his South Fusanian allies and devastated other major centers in that region like Esach'atuk . The Wakashans settled much of this area and founded the city of Tahsis on the ruins of Suchui where their descendents became called the Suchuatkh or to the Chinese the Xi people.
Historians term this alliance between the clans of Khutsaayi, Chakhwinak, and Chikhatmiik and their many followers and vassals as the Central Coast Confederacy. They ruled a network of coastal city states from Dakhwa in the north to Tahsis in the south and held shifting alliances with various South Fusanian peoples as well as other Wakashan clans. Periodically they mounted great raids into the Central Valley and by the 1140s extended their rule and settlement into the region around Changmang Bay where they established the prominent city-state of Chabasapis . Their ambitions lay checked only by massive coalitions of local nobles and Kuksuist officials and frequent warfare against other Wakashan warlords who sought to carve out territory independent of these men.
All three of these legendary Wakashan warlords died in the early 1150s, traditionally in victorious raids against their opponents, and all three--in particular Khutsaayi--became venerated as demigods among the Xi people and many other Wakashans. They left behind a network of city-states united by blood and clan ties that ensured the continuation of the Central Coast Confederacy. Yet no leaders as charismatic as Khutsaayi, Chakhwinak, or Chiikhatmiik emerged to truly unite the confederacy. As a result, the Central Coast Confederacy never again mounted raids as great as in earlier times and even lost ground to rival Wakashans, internal dissent, and concerted pushback from local South Fusanians. This marked the beginning of a nearly fifty year period of reduced raiding and general peace in the region.
These increasing successes against the Central Coast Confederation proved to the South Fusanians the power of their lodgemasters. Despite turmoil in the Kuksuist faith during the 11th and 12th centuries over the invasions and natural disasters, the Kuksuists survived and now regrouped more powerful than ever. This Kuksuist revival likely started in 1155 after the successful defense of the sacred city of Koru coordinated by its Kuksuist lodges against the forces of Khutsaayi and Chakhwinak--both of these men died within a year of this victory, further enhancing Kuksuist prestige. With a proven record of success against the discredited nobles, the Kuksuist lodges regained their influence and domination of society.
Further benefit to South Fusania came with the destruction of their enemies to the north. Coastman raiding in North Fusania combined with the rise of the Wayamese Empire caused a glut of slaves in the markets of the Imaru Basin, making slave raiding in the south less profitable. The greatest slave-raiding state, the Maguraku confederation centered at Ewallona, collapsed under Wayamese assault at the Battle of Winanp'asha in 1153 and were eliminated as a threat for almost a century afterwards. Freed of this drain of manpower from warfare and the slave trade, South Fusanian societies entered into a golden age of their own. Part of the South Fusanian Terminal Chalcolithic (1150 - 1300), in this region it is known as the Kelu Culture after the Chinese name for the powerful city of Koru.
The most powerful Kuksu lodges since the dawn of history were Koru in the center of the valley and Pasnomsono at the northern end. Koru's lodge gained legitimacy from being at the sacred mountain Onolaitol, while Pasnomsono's lodge gained its power from the sheer wealth of that city due to its position on the trade routes. Like all Kuksu lodges, wealthy citizens of each city dominated both lodges yet only in Pasnomsono were the highest ranking positions such as Director and Lodgemaster hereditary among the dynasties of the city's elite .
Both lodges competed for the domination of the Kuksuist world, an area consisting of almost 2 million people spread over 180,000 square kilometers. Initiated Kuksuists ranging from members of lodges in small mountain villages to the Lodgemaster of a large city like Wayhuwa  traveled to either Koru or Pasnomsono--or often both--to seek spiritual wisdom from the sacred sites there. Many went for secular reasons as well, seeking to study crafts as diverse as smithing, carving, and music among the guilds at either city. As a result of the growth in prestige of these two lodges, a certain uniform nature to Kuksuist rituals and beliefs emerged, although many sharp regional and ethnic distinctions remained, in particular those of the far south of the Central Valley among the Nankama of Lake Pasu whose Kuksuists often ritually consumed the psychedelic datura plant and held several of their ceremonies publically in open air .
Under the influence of these lodges, the South Fusanians increased their skill at war. Guilds emerged for training men in the use of weapons and tactics in warfare, while other guilds trained in constructing fortifications or teaching men to craft high-quality weapons and armour. These "guild men" formed the warrior class in Kuksuist cultures and proved every bit as capable as their Coastmen adversaries at combatting raids. Archaeological evidence of armour and weapons shows their increasing standardisation and proliferation, suggestive of this military revolution. The great weakness of the Kuksuists lay only in their poor coordination of raising and leading units larger and more diverse than several hundred men linked by ancestry, common origin, or lodge associations--this political fragmentation often caused the elected commander of an army a great many headaches in battles or long campaigns.
The competition between the Pasnomsono Lodge and the Koru Lodge came to a head in the late 12th century where they reputedly fought four wars over a sacred mask by the Koru lodge. This sacred mask, worn at ceremonies to impersonate Kuksu himself, had reputedly been stolen from Pasnomsono by the Koru lodge yet the Koru lodge believed it legitimately gifted. The War of the Mask, fought 1169 - 1189, pit much of the Central Valley against each other and formed the dominant political conflict of the day.
Unlike the violent wars in the Imaru Basin fought for the submission of enemies, this war, as with other intra-South Fusanian Wars, featured far more structure and ritual. Each Kuksuist lodge chose for themselves whether or not to participate in the coming battle, and the Lodgemasters and Directors could only seek to persuade their community to lend soldiers. When the soldiers gathered, they marched to an agreed-upon battlefield as determined by omens and traded insults, war dances, and single combat between champions until the moment they saw fit to start the bloodshed en masse. At this moment, the battle commenced in full and the armies sought to drive each other from the field and seize the standards. Campaigns took place in the spring and summer, rarely did more than 2 or 3 battles occur in a single year.
Despite this freedom from obligations, Koru and Pasnomsono each defacto controlled a large coalition that remained from their wars against the Wakashans and mountain raiders. Few lodgemasters and village councils refused the call to arms and the resulting ritual battles ranked among the largest in South Fusanian history with thousands of men on either side. Disobedient soldiers who found their logistics stretched periodically committed depredations against hostile villages, a practice the leaders turned a blind eye. At times, this resulted in sieges and completely "unscripted" battles and ambushes.
The war lasted twenty years and killed hundreds of thousands of people. Only attacks from the Coastmen interrupted the cycle of seasonal campaigns and raiding. Dozens of battles occurred in which tens of thousands of men died. Reputedly, the war only came to an end when the prominent Lodgemaster of Wayhuwa, who attempted to remain neutral before that point, accused Pasnomsono's Lodgemaster of using the war to establish permanent control over hundreds of villages and towns. Wayhuwa's Lodgemaster sent a great force alongside Koru and decisively defeated a demoralised Pasnomsono force somewhere south of the city. Afterwards, an internal coup in the Kuksu lodge of Pasnomsono resulted in the arrest and exile of the Lodgemaster and his clan.
Historians believe the war's end stemmed more from economic factors, viewing a wealthy city like Pasnomsono as having little reason to submit to Koru's requests. The violent conquests of Wayamese Pillar King Tsanahuutimna in the Imaru Basin were in full swing during the late 12th century, greatly disrupting trade as the Wayamese simply seized what they needed rather than purchase it from South Fusania. At the same time, Pasnomsono became unable to export Pasnomsono copper, a favoured metal for weapons and tools, thanks to the domestic need for them. With its economy in shambles and allied villages increasingly frustrated by the war, Pasnomsono surrendered their claim to the sacred mask in 1189.
The ramifications of this conflict echoed through the centuries. It ensured the Kuksuist lodge of Koru, rather than local lodges, remained the most prestigious in the Kuksuist faith. Although Kuksuists and the Kama peoples detested all but local rulers, the prestige won by the lodge of Koru ensured they looked to that city and traveled there as part of religious pilgrimages and for training as part of the various Kuksuist guilds. The lodgemaster at Koru became the only Kuksuist leader to take the title commonly rendered as "Grand Lodgemaster," signifying his spiritual power and wisdom.
Contrary to popular belief, neither Koru nor its Grand Lodgemaster ever led a centralised state or exerted any serious control over Kuksu lodges outside of its immediate area. He "ruled" as first among equals and others listened to him as simply the wisest man. The city council of Koru and its presiding "prince" they elected further balanced his power, even if those nobles themselves were members of the Kuksu lodge and thus his subordinates. The Grand Lodgemaster at Koru need not even hail from the city. The city's rapid growth in the late 12th century ensured a constant supply of new migrants to city, drawn by its religious prestige and local economy. In the internal politics of the lodge, they offered a counterbalance to any perceived attempt by the city's nobility to increase their own standing.
The peoples of South Fusania rejected the idea of a centralised state. They relied on each other first and foremost and the leaders existed to serve their needs. Each decision from any leader relied on popular ratification, with demanding and authoritarian leaders considered "acting Wakashan" (a reference to perceived authoritarianism among the Wakashans). Communities governed themselves, listening to no one but their own people. While nobles, the wealthy, and prestigious held great sway, their people held the final veto as they were free to abandon the noble assuming he abandoned his duties toward them.
Yet despite holding no organisation larger than a city, the Kuksuist lands of South Fusania produced works of engineering thanks to their communal model. Kuksuist lodgemasters often traveled and spoke with each other, and one topic they discussed and consulted local villages on was the building of earthworks, dams, and other improvements necessary for flood control in the valleys of South Fusania. Village leaders spoke among each other, proposed it to their people, and organised labour drafts, often attending to the project themselves as managers and foremen. Workers might travel many days away to a job site where they worked until its completion, upon whence they either returned home or cooperated on another project.
While the late 12th century saw a great uptick in the number of dams, perhaps the most notable example of South Fusanian ingenuity was the system of levees, canals, and earthworks found in the Yuliu Delta . Numerous Sani lived in this marshy area, taking shelter from aggressive Wakashan tribes, often joined by similar refugees. Through their collective effort--and the aid of unfortunate Wakashan prisoners of war--they raised polders out of this land and reclaimed it from the sea, holding it down with groves of oaks. This Sani community centered around the growing city of Yatuk which by the 13th century largely supplanted Esach'atuk and cities to the west due to the ease of defending the city amidst the endless swamps and narrow channels .
Such cooperation facilitated through the Kuksu lodges naturally led to allegations that the Kuksuists led an "invisible empire" that encompassed the entire Central Valley and a few adjacent areas with the directors and lodgemasters as shadowy enforcers. The lurid works of Gaiyuchul and other North Fusanian writers who visited South Fusania established this stereotype that became endlessly repeated in Chinese and Japanese histories, literature, and popular culture that in turn bled into Western conceptions of the region. But such "shadow empire" was nothing more than a shadow itself--no village faced coercion to participate in these labour drafts.
The Kuksu lodges spent great effort on mining as well. Mining fell under the control of various mining guilds, whose members were all initiated Kuksuists, who sold ore to various other guilds for smithing. Men from these guilds negotiated mining contracts with villages, typically paying them compensation for both the privilege to mine as well as harm done to plants and animals in the area. These mining guilds then recruited men from that village and others as miners where they extracted metals and stone from beneath the earth. With the population expansion in the region, many men turned toward mining to make their living.
Some of these mining communities grew to much prosperity, such as Ustamah in the north of the "gold country" of the eastern mountains, Nochuchi in the south, and Ilemo in the center . These communities held large Kuksuist lodges which helped direct the exploitation of the mining. In addition, these mining centers served as centers for towey goat breeding and weaving, necessary for the frigid winters in the mountains.
The construction and expansion of mining communities often led to conflicts. Although the mountain peoples such as the Mayi and Yayi had their own Kuksu lodges by the 12th century, they viewed the mining guilds as dominated by lowlanders and a means of cheating them of their land. Often they ambushed and killed outside miners or prospectors which invited retaliation. Typically the Kuksuist lodges settled these conflicts through mediating restitution or other justice yet at times open war broke out between villages. Here, the Kuksuist lodges almost always succeeded at forcing battles to occur as ritual ceremonies of bloodshed where soldiers met at a spiritually determined location for battle.
The products of these mines went into the most treasured possessions of the Kuksuists, their art. The late 12th century saw a great fluorishing of the arts as smiths and artists alike explored new metalworking and casting techniques thanks to the glut of metals in the economy. Kuksuist lodges especially desired elaborate metal masks and jewelry in their rituals while the increasing wealth in society led many to show off their new status.
This artistic innovation spilled into the architecture of the region. The traditional wooden houses and earth lodges became replaced with stone and wood construction for the wealthy, often richly painted with murals reflecting family tradition and folklore. The Kuksuist ceremonial halls greatly in size and while still sunk made of earth and sunk into the ground became surrounded by a ceremonial shell. Their most characteristic symbol became increasingly elaborate gates formed from tall columns studded with metals to reflect sunlight or occasionally arrays of stones such as cinnabar or deep blue seastones--the actual door lay behind this gate.
Regardless, the people of South Fusania prospered thanks to these mines that formed their main exports. With North Fusanian mines often suffering a lack of workers thanks to warfare, South Fusanian mines supplied an ample amount of copper, gold, and silver to the Imaru Basin. Minerals like cinnabar and orpiment also formed an important part of exports as South Fusania contained vast quantities of those substances. North Fusania considered cinnabar, realgar, orpiment and similar substances mined in South Fusania to produced more vivid hues than local deposits of those minerals. Crystals of varying sorts saw wide export, especially the deep blue seastones mined around the remote T'epot'ahl town of Ts'ayuam .
Asbestos mining and processing formed yet another unique product and export of South Fusania that developed in the late 12th century. In North Fusania, asbestos was rare outside of Ringitsu lands yet in South Fusania it was found abundantly. The Kuksuist guilds discovered the strange nature of this fibrous substance in repelling fire and wove shrouds and tablecloths from asbestos that became famed for their magical nature throughout Fusania. Lamps with ever-butning asbestos wicks lit Kuksuist lodges. Second to it's copper, Pasnomsono's most famous export were its heat-resistant, heat-retaining pots and wares crafted primarily from asbestos mined in the mountains to the north. While these goods were popular imports in North Fusania, some viewed them as spiritually tainted--as a result, Wayamese Pillar King Aanwaakutl banned shamans and priests from owning or touching these items in his legal code, a law sometimes cited early forerunner to modern asbestos bans .
South Fusania's economy also prospered thanks to their role as exporters of luxury goods from spices to cotton and by the 12th century, silk. Silk in particular became the most precious export of South Fusania thanks to the semi-domestication of the Fusanian silkmoth (Antheraea polyphemus)--as this silkmoth produced far less silk than the domesticated silkworm, only the absolute wealthiest might afford to wear garments made from it.
Writing in the 15th century, Gaiyuchul describes the price of silk and the secrecy of its production:
"In the grand market of Pasnomsono I saw a most beautiful garment shining as gold-tinctured silver and holding the most impressive softness to my touch. I asked the merchant who did serve the household of the great Lodgemaster of the city the cost of the good and he spoke unto me 'A great noble such as yourself shall foresake half of his herds for this finery.' Even in the lands whose people grow silk, one must give away all!
I inquired unto the merchant as to where and how the silk came from and he answered 'Only the wisest of the Kuksuist lodge know these mysteries yet all know the silk comes from the same oaks the finest of acorns fall from. The magic of the weaver's guild makes the trees fruitful in both acorn and silk.' Such hidden powers we might take as but another secret guarded by the wisest of the Hillmen of this country."
After the War of the Mask, the Kelu culture of the early 13th century lived largely in peace, despite occasional village squabbles mediated by Kuksuist lodges. This era consequently saw a large expansion of population and much activities aimed at clearing new land and effort at maintaining and improving it. Without the interruption of warfare as in North Fusania, South Fusanians were able to engineer their environment at a greater rate despite their more spread out population and less efficient tools.
Urbanisation increased as clusters of villages united together under the leadership of both their nobles and the local Kuksuist lodge. Often they united at the impetus of a powerful Kuksuist leader taking a position at a local lodge. As common in South Fusania, the quarters of the cities maintained their own identities and only coordinated with each other thanks to the Kuksuist lodge. The largest cities of all, Koru and Pasnomsono held around 10,000 people each with Wayhuwa not far behind and likely dozens of smaller cities contained at least 1,000 people.
Like North Fusania, the 13th century saw great disaster befall the people of this region in the form of the Great Drought. Starting around 1225, the remainder of the 13th century saw below-average rainfall nearly every year. Agriculture was imperiled as reservoirs dried up. Even much of Lake Pasu, the source of water for hundreds of thousands of people and the large city of Wayhuwa, receded in this drought. Wildfires spawned by the drought, accompanying heat waves, and expansion of human settlement ravaged the land, devastating mountain communities. Terrible famines occurred with regularity.
Unlike the Oasisamerican cultures, the Kelu culture and Kuksuist world proved more resilient, if only because of their more bountiful lands. Their staple food, acorns, stored for years and still produced in a drought, albeit less frequently and fewer in number. People clustered more and more around the main rivers and abandoned water-hungry crops such as maize or omodaka in favour of more drought-tolerant plants. However, this decreased available food surpluses, increased poverty, and led to periodic local famines. Worse, it left South Fusanian villages more vulnerable to flooding during the wetter years.
Warfare between villages and cities greatly increased as the combination of drought and flooding left people with few other options to survive. They clashed primarily over access to food and accusations of sorcery that kept away the rain. Often larger cities stoked this violence, lending their support to coalitions of villages in order to gain their own share of resources. In this tumultuous era, the Kuksuist lodges and their clergy only nominally adhered to their traditional role as peacekeepers as they refused to cede any political or military power to the nobility.
While pre-arranged battles still occurred in these 13th century conflicts, more often than ever a village might be attacked with no warning by a sizable raiding party. The raiders targetted the shamans and their kin, capturing and ritually executing them. Frequently they abducted young women as well for marriage, as many young men became too poor to pay the traditional bride price. Men and boys of fighting age they slaughtered to prevent them from taking revenge, leaving their dismembered corpses strewn about the burnt village. Always wary of supernatural vengeance, the victorious raiders often attempted to fell the oaks around the destroyed village and torched them for firewood to destroy the ancestral spirits of that village they believed the oaks channeled.
As in North Fusania, epidemics caused great hardship starting with the arrival of chickenpox and mumps from North Fusania during the late 1230s. As elsewhere in the Americas, South Fusanians lacked immunity or appropriate cultural responses to the epidemics which killed hundreds of thousands of people. Sweathouses and crowded ceremonial halls acted as the perfect vector for further spread of disease, and these traditional rituals left the patient exhausted and more vulnerable to death. Naturally, this produced vast amounts of death and caused regional collapse and political instability across the land.
The other great epidemic, seal flu, tore through South Fusania in the 1240s, exacerbating the ongoing famines in the land. This disease, far more lethal than the previous epidemics, killed about 1-in-6 people as a result of its inherent lethality and the poor treatment practices. Society reached a breaking point. It killed many members of the Pasnomsono lodge, but few of the Koru lodge, firmly cementing the Koru lodge's position in Kuksuism. Numerous prophets and religious movements emerged, not the least one centered on the use of cinnabar, realgar, and mercury as a cure for the epidemic and a means of divining the future.
Much as North Fusania used sacred copper plates to aid in curing these new diseases, the South Fusanians turned to cinnabar, realgar, and various mercury compounds. As in China and other parts of the world, the Fusanians attributed all manner of healing power based on the actual antimicrobial properties of these substances. No other region of the Americas employed mercury and arsenic in healing nearly to the degree as South Fusania. It was taken orally in powdered form, rubbed on the skin, or burned alongside herbal mixtures in hopes of curing illness. However, these drugs held few beneficial effects other than antimicrobial and purgative properties and carried harsh side effects which the South Fusanians attributed to shamans spiritually attacking their patients.
The Menma people of Changmang Bay in particular developed many uses for mercury thanks to the endowment of their lands with that substance. Legend tells their sages discovered all manner of uses for mercury, including pioneering its use as a medicine. The greatest center for both mining and the production of mercury lay in an isolated valley at the remote city of Ts'apanah . The Kuksuist lodge at Ts'apanah guarded the secrets of cinnabar and manufactured various substances like their famous liquid mercury basins used for divination.
Around 1250, a unique method of producing arsenical bronze found nowhere else in the world emerged in Menma lands where smiths added realgar directly to the copper they smelted out of the cultural belief in the powers of the ore. They used this arsenical bronze to produce tools for sacred rituals such as masks, knives, and copper plates, the latter likely a cultural diffusion from the nearby Wakashans. They believed the spirits of the smiths remained within these items, thus ensuring their wisdom remained even as their physical bodies decayed from arsenic poisoning and the ever-present threat of disease.
Regardless of these adaptations, the increasingly hostile world produced all manner of adaptations in Kuksuism. Various codes of ritual fasting proliferated in this time, many of which also advocation cession from drinking water or juice. The most notorious of these was the Rain Fast, found among the Nankama of the Lake Pasu region that they believed summoned rain. In this festival held around the first full moon of autumn, inducted Kuksuists (and those who sought to follow their example) ceased eating or drinking for three days and spent their time meditating, praying to the moon, and consuming datura. After the fast, they sacrificed towey goats and rehydrated themselves on a mixture of goat's blood, mildly alcoholic manzanita cider, and holy water gathered at sacred springs and held a great dance and festival for three days. Naturally, many died of dehydration or exhaustion during the fasting or the dance that followed, yet the Nankama considered this ceremony necessary for the rain to return in the months that followed.
The old enemy of the South Fusanians, the Wakashans, took advantage of this time of chaos and weakness. Suffering from the drought themselves, Wakashan raids increased in scale and scope once more. They captured thousands of slaves in these raids and killed thousands more. Yet things changed from earlier eras. The Wakashans themselves were never more divided, and new Wakashan tribes continued to arrive from further north, driven by political events in the coastal states. Acting as both allies and enemies, they aimed to take full advantage of this great age of chaos in the south.
This is my first South Fusania (TTL's term for pretty much all of California and a sliver of northwestern Nevada) chapter since October 2019, so almost two years! I'd suggest referring back to Chapter 13-15 for an introduction as to the Wakashan migrations, the Kuksuist faith, and the general organisation of society in South Fusania. I tried to recap some of the elements as well as display how they've evolved and changed as a result of events both external and internal. Culturally and linguistically, the Kuksuists are a very diverse group, but because of their mostly shared religion and secret society and its regional influence, there's a lot of uniformity. If you are wondering, the Kuksuists draw influence from both OTL California Indian governance as well as African acephalous cultures like the Igbo who have similar classes of nobles and powerful religious secret societies.
Because of its acephalous nature, South Fusanian society is naturally very misunderstood by North Fusanians, East Asians, and Europeans who encounter it. I should note that even though it's much more egalitarian than North Fusania, a careful reading of this and earlier chapters will show it isn't a utopian society and it's still full of hierarchal structures.
This chapter specifically covered the Kuksuists and Wakashans, who dominate Northern California. Next chapter I will cover the Wakashan perspective on these events as well as their continuing expansion southwards. Then I will at last introduce Southern California, or Far South Fusania, which shares some similarities but also many crucial distinctions, namely the much different environment and the more localised religions rather than the more united Kuksuist faith. Updates will continue at a slower pace for the foreseeable future.
 - Tahsis ("doorway") is a common toponym among the Atkhs and peoples of Atkh descent. The "greatest Tahsis" refers to San Francisco, CA and in particular the Presidio. It was formerly called Suchui.
 - Daxi Bay is San Francisco Bay. See Chapter 15 for the Wakashan invasion of Daxi Bay.
 - Esach'atuk is Antioch, CA
 - Dakhwa is Manchester, CA and Changmang Bay is Monterrey Bay
 - Koru is Colusa, CA, and Onolaitol is the Sutter Buttes, a sacred mountain both TTL and OTL. Pasnomsono is Redding, CA.
 - Wayhuwa is a little north of (former) Lake Tulare, near Lemoore, CA
 - Lake Pasu is Lake Tulare
 - The Yuliu Delta is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
 - Yatuk is near Stockton, CA.
 - Ustumah is Nevada City, CA, Nochuchi is Mariposa, CA, and Ilemo is Placerville, CA
 - Ts'ayuam is northwest of Coalinga, CA near the headwaters of the San Benito River and seastones are benitoite, a semi-precious gemstone whose highest quality stones are found around its place of discovery, San Benito County, CA. Seastones are occasionally used for navigation by the Wakashans and later the Ringitsu.
 - California had numerous productive asbestos mines in the 19th and 20th century, such as the King City Asbestos Mine, the last operating asbestos mine in the US. In antiquity, asbestos was often used for the purposes I described while asbestos pottery was used by some prehistoric cultures
 - Ts'apanah is New Idria, CA