An ancient civilization prospered on both sides of the mountains, ruled by kings who worshiped the sky-god. They wielded amulets shaped like dragonflies that had the power to heal or protect their users. Supposedly, the amulets could not be made, only given to certain people by the sky-god.
Others resented those in power and found a way to make their own amulets, shaped like scorpions. These could be bent to the will of the user, and not just be channels for the sky-god’s power. The holders of the dragonflies and the holders of the scorpions began to fight to control the land.
Soon others joined the struggle. Some wanted to stamp out all of the supposed magic. Others were just trying to defend their homes and be left alone.
The war waged for decades, and more men were drafted into service to one or another of the factions. The land west of the mountains lost so many men it was nearly depopulated. The few women and children who remained mostly died of hunger. Pirates burned the towns and cities on the shore; bandits looted those in the interior.
After sixty years or so, some wearied of the fighting. They could see no end to the war, and reasoned it would only end when all were dead. Over time, groups from different factions fled westward, taking their families with them.
Most of the first group were those who wanted to stamp out all magic, and they were the ones who founded Tlefas. They felt that the first cause of the civil war was the competition between the religions of the amulet holders, so they abolished all forms of worship, whether of the sky-god or any other deity. They also believed that envy played a role in the conflict, so they decreed everyone would be the same, have the same, live the same. There would be no difference between anyone, so that cause of discontent would be eliminated.
They also felt that everyone was tired of war and danger and death, so keeping everyone safe became the first concern. Rules for conduct and safety were written. Fairness and safety would rule the day. Punishment for breaking the rules was harsh: children could be publicly mocked. Adults could be brought to court, or if the offense was serious enough, they would simply disappear.
By the time others arrived, Tlefas was already established and the king was ready for newcomers. Any who were willing to assimilate were welcome. Otherwise, they were met with swords and bows.
Some, not willing to accept the new conditions, fled to the hills or wild places. Of these, many joined the pirates or became bandits.
Then a new group appeared, a well-armed group of those who supported the holders of the dragonflies. After a few years of skirmishing, a treaty was formed. This group could live as they pleased, as long as they stayed on the mountain slopes, had little contacts with the villagers, and helped ward off bandits. These mountain dwellers became known as “riskers” as they didn’t place a premium on safety, and took unnecessary risks.
Highly regulated trade was established between the riskers and the villagers, with only a few licensed traders permitted to venture to risker camps. These licenses were prized, because trade with riskers was lucrative. Those holding the licenses didn’t have to travel as far or work as hard to make their annual allotted salary.
After a hundred years or so, the trickle of refugees dried up. Everyone in Tlefas assumed that those left on the eastern side of the mountains had all perished in the war. No one was interested in making the trip to find out.
Want to know more about Tlefas? Stay tuned for my upcoming novel, due out by Christmas!