The lands southeast of the Danarine Sea, from the Varaku Tableland to the disputed border between nomad-claimed savannah and lizard-ruled rainforest, lay under the aegis of the Lady of Knowledge until the gods’ noninterference pact and self-expulsion. Knowledge removed herself to her vast library-realm, but left entrances to it open in many of the hundreds of libraries and courthouses she had established during her rule.
In her absence, and thanks to the surprising cessation of hostilities from Loahravi’s warriors—due to their own infighting in the nascent empire of Lisalhan—the people of Knowledge’s former lands began forming their own governments in relative peace. Settlements on the border naturally remained alert for attack, but in the interior there was a great relax of tension, as well as a tentative movement toward separating into city-states.
It was not that the people of Knowledge’s lands wished to war with each other, or could not stand to be ruled by a higher authority. There were few tribal affiliations left among them–so mixed had they become during their centuries as the ogres’ slaves and then as scholars gathered at the goddess’s feet—and no desire to delve into their roots except as an academic exercise. Instead, it was in the spirit of competition that many of Knowledge’s cities declared themselves independent of the others, and set forth into the sciences both arcane and natural in attempts to outshine their neighbors.
Thus flourished a golden age in what were known at the time as the Tome Cities—for each played host to one of Knowledge’s Grimoires, and often focused their efforts in complement to the grimoire they protected. The city-state of Rassevar, which kept the Grey Grimoire of History, became the unofficial centerpoint of the Tome Cities and a bastion of political, economic and social theory; by contrast, the city-state of Taradzur, which kept the Red Grimoire of Magic, boasted the largest arcane academy in the world—as well as a thriving community of merchants, entertainers and craftsfolk who supplied the mages’ worldly needs. In the southeast, among the fertile plains and placid lakes of the mid-continent, the city-state of Ashnahar kept the Green Grimoire of Nature; a vast arcology, it served as the region’s breadbasket and a constant source of new cultivars. It also forged strong ties with the lizardfolk of the rainforest and Surou’s people in their dreaming temples, and sent constant streams of researchers into both places to locate the plants and animals indicated in the Grimoire.
Though competition fostered jealousy within and between the city-states, they coexisted for some time without outright conflict. When Lisalhan coalesced into a formal empire and opened its borders to trade, many of the cities leapt at the chance to interact with this new source of revenue and learning, and many who had been squelched by the laws of the Tome Cities—in particular, the lingering cultists of Loahravi and Death and the necromancers and other troublemakers that had learned from them—took the opportunity to pack up and move to more welcoming lands.
Just the same, though, many Tome City mages and scholars made their way to Lisalhan to learn the dangerous magics they had long been denied, and many Lisalhanian sorcerers crossed the border to spy on their neighbors. The age of competition escalated along this permeable border, with Tome City outposts fortifying themselves with magic in case of a Lisalhanian sneak-attack, and the Lisalhanians building up their own defenses in response—and sometimes sending nightmares or strange, ephemeral, frightening tricks and dream-creatures across the border to mess with the City-folk. The High Reader of Rassevar tried to dictate standards of behavior to the border cities, but as they were a coalition and not actually in thrall to him, they did not listen.
It was also during this time that the culture also began to shift away from the Lady of Knowledge as its deific focus. Knowledge still kept her doors open to her faithful, but had withdrawn deep into her realm and rarely interacted with mortals; she had become obsessed with a part of the White Grimoire, the Book of Destiny, and could be found hovering near it constantly while her mortal scribes struggled to decipher it. She had never been much for giving guidance anyway, preferring to present the information and let her people choose, so when cults of the Sun and Moon cropped up and began to expand through the Cities, she did not mind.
The cults had been begun deliberately by keen worshipers of Light and his shard Iroliyale, and of Moon-Shadow and her shard Tatska. They were originally meant to be gathering- and jumping-off points for surveillance of Lisalhan, as Daenivar’s minions policed cult activity too tightly for the two celestials to form a solid base within Lisalhan, but with how present both celestials and their shards were in the lives of the people, the cults soon expanded beyond mere spy-rings. All along the border, Moon-Shadow became the protective goddess of women and the night, while Light guided hunters and warriors by day; they were even given the local names of Dalatha and Andar, and sometimes styled as great dragons whose eyes lit the sky.
Thus, when Rhehevrok of Lisalhan attacked Tatska the Night Wind, the uproar on the Tome Cities side of the border was religious as well as moral. War was seriously considered, and skirmishes occurred along both sides of the wall, with Lisalhan’s necromancers and nightmare-spinners harassing and provoking the City-folk, who retaliated with swords and spells.
Only when the gods included the demigods in their pact and forced Daenivar to step down from the Lisalhanian throne, and Rhehevrok to leave the world, did the furor ebb. However, Iroliyale and Tatska were forced to leave as well, and tensions between the two lands never truly eased.
Light and Moon-Shadow experienced a surge of popularity afterward, as if they had been the ones to force Daenivar away, and their worship spread inward from the border to slowly encompass all of the Tome Cities. Knowledge was still held in great reverence, but she and her followers were slowly sidelined as priesthoods and rituals developed to call upon the grace of the celestial gods.
Though they had agreed to the nonintervention pact the same as all the other deities, Light and Moon-Shadow still had significant presence in the world by their very nature. They found that they could exert tiny efforts and thus change weather-patterns, tides and migrations in favor of their followers—though somewhat to the detriment of others—and so pleased were they to have their own joyous celebrants after such long ages as mere observers that they were willing to show favoritism to the Cities. Green Ashnahar spread and flourished beneath the warm rains; red Taradzur drew power from the keen rays of the sun; and violet Marinseher’s long, seductive nights were ever lit by the moon’s soft glow.
Progressively, the priesthoods of sun and moon in each city-state began to reach out to their neighbors, and it was only a matter of time before meetings of priests and priestesses brought about a meshing of the separate City temples into two formalized, monolithic partner-faiths. In keeping with the unofficial authority of the grey city of Rassevar, the Temples of the Moon and the Sun made their main bases there—further marginalizing the priests of Knowledge, who went from ruling the land quietly to simply being the bookkeepers of the real rulers. With Knowledge making no effort to support her followers, many defected to the Temples.
The religious shift also brought about a cultural one, with men and women beginning to segregate themselves from each other—as, according to the Temples, the sun and moon rarely shared the sky. Though that was manifestly untrue, it became a matter of practice that the genders were only to socialize with each other during formal occasions at dawn or dusk, with an exception for married people and those with children.
It was also dictated, however, that Sun and Moon were equal in their separate domains, and thus one could not have power over the other. This meant that once past the age of majority, a son could not be commanded by his mother, nor could a daughter be commanded by her father, and the children were obligated to leave their parents’ household unless they were to live with a widowed parent of the same gender. As religion spread like wildfire through the cities, the Temples took over almost all of the Knowledge priests’ former tasks–including the education of children–and sliced the schools, and then the cities themselves, into great single-sex blocks.
Some cities resisted the change–most notably Taradzur, with its continued dedication to the arcane arts and, through them, to Knowledge. But most slowly fell in line, and separated themselves into male- and female-only quarters, with markets and family housing along the borders and great temples and schools at the centers of the sections. Women followed the Moon alone; men followed the Sun; and soon the traditional marriage-pledge between the High Priest and High Priestess became the bonding of a holy couple: Emperor and Empress.
So thoroughly had the faith seeped into the land by then, and so blessed were they by the sun and moon, that few objected to the reclassification of their lands from city-states to empire. Thus the Empire of Yezadra was born, and the world altered to suit its desires.