© 1991, 2006, Kevan Hashemi

The Calipanti of Calipan

The following is a translation from Satian of a hand-copied essay. The author of the essay gives his name as Rakesh Ptukenamen, Emissary of Rah, and was probably written some time in the second half of the twenty-fourth century. Rakesh asserts that Calipan is three thousand years old, but most scholars believe it to be no more than seven hundred.

On the Western shores of the Blood Sea, on the East side of Leaena, four great rivers break into vast deltas. No man would choose to live among the crocodiles, monsters, and swarming, poisonous insects of that delta. This is the land called Calipan. It is here that the calipanti have gone farthest to shake off the mantle of their bestial ancestry.

Calipan, the nation, is thousands of years old. Its people have grown immune to the insects. They have ploughed the land and made the higher ground dry and, by their reckoning, comfortable. The sea is shallow for hundreds of miles off the coast before it begins to deepen, so the people of Calipan are not constrained by the kraken, but nor do they sail, except for their renegades, who flee into piracy.

The Calipan, for so we shall call the people of Calipan, have chosen to keep to themselves. In the Tamaran desert south of our own great nation, may Rah shine upon it forever, the deformed die swiftly. Of their children there, only one in every four survives even today. Those that are too deformed are left out in the sun to die. In Calipan, the nobles decide who shall have children together. Medicines are given to women to ensure that they do not conceive of the wrong man. At first, the Calipan did not have an adequate understanding of what they did. Their people grew still more deformed and stupid, but after three thousand years they have become masters of the science of breeding. It is their greatest labor. They have no sorcery. They do not worship the gods, for they consider themselves outcasts, and are too proud. They do not know of the great Rah, who gives them life and warmth, and thank him not, but such is his mercy and patience that he tends them still.

The Calipan study breeding, swordplay and a game they call kens, which is of their own invention. A Calipan noble is a champion of kens and sword fighting. To become noble, he must defeat another noble first at kens and then at single combat. This combat is not to the death. The Calipan are not bloodthirsty. They rarely kill each other. But nobility is not challenged lightly, for if the challenger loses, he must forfeit his sword and his kens stones to the victorious noble. He may also be banished from the noble's estate for ever, and is never permitted to challenge the same noble again. If, however, he is victorious, he receives the estate of the noble he defeats, he gains the mark of nobility, which is a scarlet star painted upon the forehead, and in turn strips the loser of his nobility. The demoted noble keeps his sword and kens pieces, so that he may challenge again himself, and perhaps regain his nobility, but he may not challenge the one who defeated him. Sometimes a noble will die with his nobility intact, especially so if he is a great kens player. In this case a tournament is held, and all aspiring nobles are free to attend. These tournaments can last for many weeks while the aspiring nobles spar and recover to spar again.

Kens games, in all conflicts, begin at dawn and must end by sundown. Judges are appointed to measure the time each player takes to make his moves, half the day's length being allowed to each player. The victor inherits the nobility and the estate of the deceased, if such an estate exists. Nobility can be won only by these means. There is no favoritism towards the children of nobility. The Calipan do not favor their children above those of others. It is not natural for them to do so. They would consider the idea unhealthy. There is no prejudice against women aspiring to be nobles. The traditions of nobility and its acquisition hope to ensure that the wisest and strongest are in power.

Kens is a game played upon a stone table outdoors. This is inevitable, because the Calipan do not have doors. Their houses are arrangements of walls and tables and stone beds without cover. The only covered areas are for things that must be kept dry, or in the occasional alcove where one might sit in the shade on a hot day. The homes of the nobility are set amidst masterfully arranged gardens. Streams run through them with rocks placed carefully in the water so that the noise of its passing will delight the ear. Or the branches of trees are guided over the centuries into lattices that entrance the eye, scattering the huge red sunsets of that land over your face and hands. There are stones large and various set amidst fragrant grasses where you can lie down on the soft earth and run your hands along ancient surfaces, smooth and cold in one place, rough and warm in another.

Kens tables are found only in the gardens of the nobility, for it is only there, according to tradition, that the game may be played. It is also tradition that all of a noble's people should be encouraged to play there whenever their labors permit. Many do so, especially aspiring nobles, but many Calipan are still incapable of the game, although the numbers that play are believed to be rising every century.

Kens is played with fifty-three stones per player which are placed upon and removed from the board during the course of the game. The board is a hexagon with lines drawn from each apex to thirteen points on the two opposing faces. Where the lines meet, the stones may be placed. The aspiring noble must have a sword if he is to fight for nobility, but he need not have his own set of kens pieces. However, all of them do, for they make their own from droplets of dyed glass. Upon their pieces they stamp a mark that they have chosen to be their symbol. This is not a hieroglyph or a letter, for the Calipan have no writing, just as they have no money.

Calipan is divided into thousands of autonomous estates. Each estate extends over areas of high ground set amidst the marshes of the deltas. Each is ruled by a noble who is called lord of the estate. The noble will attract perhaps thirty aspiring nobles who act as his police. The most intelligent of his people will do his bidding in the management of the affairs of the estate. The peasants regard all nobility with a great awe, although whether that awe is inspired by fear or love depends upon the noble in question.

There is no code of morality among the Calipan except the code pertaining to the earning of nobility and the conduct of wars. They war with each other frequently over trifling disagreements, but the wars are not brutal. It is considered poor form to kill anyone if you can stop at wounding them. A master swordsman is marked by his ability to disable his opponent without maiming him. Certainly it is taboo for nobles to seek to slay each other. In these wars, defeated nobles may lose their estates, wives, husbands and animals but they do not lose their kens pieces or their swords. Nobles take pride in the self-sufficiency of their estates, where food is shared equally among the peasants. For the most part, the land is fertile, the population is controlled, and there is more than enough food for all. Iron is prized, for there is little iron ore to be had in the country. Also prized are the animals the breeders of Calipan have bred from the domestic beasts familiar to man. Livestock are larger, less temperamental, easier to raise, survive with less food, don't move around so much and consequently provide an abundance of tender, nourishing meat-- although it is a little bland, this being the rule with Calipan cuisine, where a dish is described as exotic if it has too much salt on it.

There are extraordinary pets to be found: dogs that can fit in a man's hand, cats with fur of red and gold, birds that astonish you with their vocabulary. There are the shagrai, six legged mounts derived from the hippisna of the swamps. The hippisna is a cousin of the osquip, the creature whose hide is used to make sylvian leather. The osquip is a foot at the shoulder, while the hippisna can be as large as five feet at the shoulder. Its hide is tougher than sylvian leather, but makes fine clothing. The creature is expert at trotting through swamps. The Calipan crossed it with a number of other creatures and created the shagrai. The shagrai has six seven foot long legs with large webbed feet that allow it to carry its rider at speed through the swamps. Its head has two horns curling forwards over its furry monkey-like face. Its neck is long and reptilian, its back is coated with fur over which the Calipan throw thick cotton cloth as armor and saddle.

Most magnificent of all the Calipan creatures is the Nostil, which is the newest of their treasures. These are akin to horses, but breeding has given them rear legs which are stockier than those of a horse, and they stand ten feet at the shoulder. They are intelligent enough to understand speech. They can carry their rider at ninety miles per hour and leap twenty foot walls. They are a marvel equal to the pegasus, but like the pegasus, they are free-willed.