I'm posting this in reply to a comment in the previous entry about Vorropohaiah. Hetepheres is the deranged sphinx-queen of Venthir and this excerpt is taken from the (now close to 550,000 word) Encyclopaedia Elyden detailing her life. I've also attached a map of extant Venthir below so help navigate the regions/places.
Hetepheres the Strangler, Queen of Venthir: sphinx and fierce paranoid ruler of the nation of Venthir since 201 RM. She is descended from the Nathi sphinxes and is believed by many scholars to be amongst the last few members of her race (certainly the most infamous), though the creatures’ reclusiveness makes this impossible to prove.
Her first recorded sighting was in the Venathi empire (the natural successor to Nath)-3 RM, where she ostentatiously entered the city of Teira under the light of the Ivory Moon Siella. The Nathi sphinxes became the victims of a series of genocidal wars (over resources and land) at the hands of the Nathi empire, and by c. -309 RM they had been all-but destroyed. It is thought that Hetepheres was born early in this time of conflict and bore the bitterness and anger of her people, carrying the last memories and hive-thoughts of her kin with her (possibly the source of her madness). Records from the time indicate that she offered the humans of Teira redemption of their sins. A cult of personality appeared with her as the centre and by c. -1 RM she had become espoused as a living-deity and a symbol of her races’ martyrdom.
Followers of Hetepheres would travel across the region, disseminating her word, sermonising anyone who would listen. But Teira was but one city amongst dozens, and the regions’ cities of influence remained Venath and Merakhi. Many opposed this new cult, and in 8 RM an army of her opponents marched against Teira, seizing it and capturing a great deal of her followers. Most were slain with the others exiled from Venathi cities. Hetepheres willingly left the city and settled the ruins of Enaath with what remained of her followers. The abandoned ruins were franticly rebuilt and fortified over the next years, with an exodus of people from surrounding cities flocking to the Enaath, which by 18 RM had burgeoned into a fledgling city known as Hetepheropolis. Allying itself with Teira, it formed a new powerbase that the western cities of Venath struggled against.
Over the coming decades mystery-cults began to appear in most Venathi cities. Those that were discovered were destroyed by the Venathi government, but their popularity was undeniable and by c. -50 RM the cults were an open secret and had become an unofficial religion in the region, deep-rooted in Teira, Hetepheropolis and Taar Al (later known as Taarom). It was amid this rise in her cult that Hetepheres disappeared after a large sermon at her main temple in Hetepheropolis in 57 RM. This would lead to her deification and the official funding of the Religion of the Sphinx later that year. In subsequent years the church would grow to such strengths that it brought about the unification of the regions’ people and the subsequent birth of Venath as a true nation in 64 RM.
The Venathi empire’s growth was explosive and by 132 RM it was in control of Sarastro, Nárthel, Tarati and Naareth. Though its expansion had been too rapid, and its ruling Asanate struggled to maintain its borders. The death of its ruler Labaisingh the Strong in battle against Char Mâthi in 151 RM fractured its government. That, coupled with the growth of the Korachani empire to the north-west would leave the Venathi empire ruined by c. 170 RM. The region was allowed to crumble, its once-proud cities falling into strife and decline and were it not for the return of Hetepheres in 194 RM, the region would likely have continued to decay.
The reappearance of the sphinx-goddess renewed the hopes of her beleaguered people and her armies conquered cities that remained loyal to the Asanate. Her worship became near-universal amid the remnants of the Venathi empire and her power and influence waxed exponentially. The capital in Venath had been struggling against a slowly retreating coastline for centuries an in 201 RM Hetepheres renamed the region Venthir, and had the capital moved to Hetepheropolis, which by then had become a thriving metropolis.
Her rule was harsh out of necessity. The region as still unstable after decades of chaos and law had to be enforced. Martial law restored order and trade to the region, which served to further unite the cities. Though as law was restored within Venthir’s borders, the lands without brought new challenges. The Korachani empire continued to expand, taking Zion in 212 RM, and declaring war on Sarastro soon-after. The worsening climate and ever-withdrawing seas of Elyden left many coastal areas barren; many cities and thousands of people suffered, shattering the stability that had been wrought by Hetepheres. Disillusioned by the realities that beset her people she became insular, secreting herself deep within her odah-chambers in her temple-complex in Hetepheropolis, leaving the subjugated Asanate to rule in her stead – the handful of rulers she had not slain following her rise to power. In 232 RM they attempted to warn her of the Korachani empire’s war against Sarastro, but she denied them audience, leaving them to cope with the threat of war alone. In 233 RM they sent reinforcements into Sarastro, realising that if Sarastro were to fall Venthir would be next to draw the attentions of Korachan. This was in direct contradiction of her laws.
This war continued unbeknownst to her for decades and it was only in 318 RM, when an imperial lictor infiltrated her temple-complex and spoke with her, telling her of the war and of the Asanate’s defying her edicts. She emerged from her chamber, slaying slaves and servants and generals alike. Following this she ordered her armies to withdraw from Sarastro against the urges of her advisors. Upon their return she strangled her generals and their families; hundreds lay dead in the palace, its floors slick with blood. This act earnt her the moniker of ‘Strangler-Queen’, which she propagated in a bid to spread fear. The awe this instilled in her people was palpable and the next years were dominated by the erection of colossi, temples and other idols in her name – a constant reminder of her presence, though she herself had retreated into her lead-lined temple-complex once more. Outside Venthiri borders, Korachan took Sarastro in 339 RM, the withdrawal of the sphinx’s armies partially to blame. Imperial pressure on Venthiri borders increased, until in 359 RM events took a sudden change.
The details behind Queen Hetepheres’ abdication of Venthir to Korachan are buried beneath millennia of history and are likely buried on purpose. What is undeniable from imperial records is that the Archpotentate Malichar, alongside a massive retinue of his loyal followers, entered Venthir early in 359 RM on a diplomatic visit. Staying in her palace in Hetepheropolis, he and his diplomats were treated to displays of Venthiri armies on parade and other propagandist shows of strength. Hetepheres emerged from her solitude and spoke with Malichar on occasion, even appearing publicly, drawing the crazed admirations of her people, despite her haggard appearance. During a tour of the nation late in the year, Malichar spoke with her alone in the ruins of the ancient settlement of Maphani, sowing what are believed to be the seeds of corruption that would take root 2-years later when Hetepheres unceremoniously prostrated herself before him and his armies, effectively handing Venthir over to Korachan.
The monument of Symari was constructed in honour of the occasion, its monolithic height dominating the horizon of southern Venthir. Though it remained largely autonomous and she remained its regent, Venthir was accountable to Korachan. Patrician families flowed into Venthir, bringing with them technarcana and other imperial beliefs and practices. The imperial administration was fully established in Teira in 376 RM within the monolithic Acropolis of Caur, an edifice built in true imperial design with its grand granite-and-steel architecture contrasting with the local structures. Teira became the centre of imperial influence in the region, though Hetepheropolis remained its heart, where Venthiri culture survived in its most unadulterated form. Relations with Sarastro and Nárthel were re-established, with trade flowing steadily in-and-out of both regions. Venthir prospered.
The Religion of the Sphinx was allowed to remain though in a controlled form and as a sub-cult of the Church of the Machine, which advocated her as a prophetess of the imperial Church from c. 380 RM, following years of religions tension. Hetepheres herself remained a recluse though was forced by imperial law to make public appearances, where it was revealed that she had become obsessed with technarcana and orthoses – her retinue of advisors and politicians replaced with technarcanist, alchemist and penumbrist sycophants – her face hidden beneath an archaic stylised technarcane mask. By 575 RM the patrician House of Ashura had risen to full power in Venthir, taking on the role of administrator, slowly becoming a hereditary monarchy that took on the title of Adonis. Hetepheres remained as little more than a cultural symbol and the custodian of Hetepheropolis. Her rule there became dark and whimsical, life cheap. She would round up the poor and rich alike, and pit them against each other in gladiatorial fights designed purely to sate her bloodlust. During all this she would continue to dabble in the art of technarcana and every public appearance brought with it a new orthosis – less flesh, more machine; her lifespan increased through artificial means. Few know the true reason for this, though the mysterious disappearance of a sect of scholars in 995 RM leads many to believe that she was attempting to create a barrier, separating her thoughts and dreams from those of her kin in distant lands (sphinxes were renowned for their hive-consciousness and the ability to communicate through dreams with one another).
In 1402 RM, following a 9-year conflict that arose between technologists and ecclesiasts following the Secular Dissolution of 1393 RM, Hetepheres had thousands of her opponents slain (their bodies displayed outside her palace in Hetepheropolis) and advocated the art of technarcana openly. A technocracy was established in Teira and the region to become a hub of technarcane arts, with colleges and manufactories increasing over the coming centuries. Seven days following her victory against the ecclesiasts in Venthir two ancient sphinxes arrived outside her palace demanding an audience, admonishing her bloodthirsty rule, blaming her for the slow degradation of their species. She killed the two, taking their skulls and wings as trophies which adorn her throne to this day. This exacerbated her obsession with technarcana and her desire to sunder her thoughts form those of her kin. In 1593 RM construction was completed on a gigantic engine deep beneath her palace, its engineers all entombed within the engine itself. None who now live know is full purpose. Hetepheres withdrew from the public following this and disappeared for centuries, emerging suddenly in 1905 RM.
Where once she had been a being of unbridled grace and savage grace, now she was a changed thing, twisted and wretched, unrecognisable save for the savagery with which she attacked technarcanists and technologists without provocation. With her armies she obliterated her nations’ main industry and by 1921 RM its technarcane colleges had been destroyed, its scholars killed or exiled (where they would eventually fund the nation of Saragos). The most knowledgeable were sworn beneath her aegis and remained only as her own personal cadre to support her growing technaracane needs.
Her careless actions then obliterated the golden-age of Venthir, whose wealth was the sole reason it managed to survive the ensuing centuries. Its many metropolises dwindled and strife slowly took over, with starvation spreading to its larger cities. Law broke down and the nation became a shadow of its former self.
In the years since that time her appearances became fewer and fewer; her appearance over the last 2,000-years numbering little over a dozen, almost all of which saw her attacking sects or groups or cities with her loyal technarcane armies before retreating into the shadows of her temple. Her last recorded major appearance was during the War for the Shadow and the Helix, where she fought during the Siege of Char Mâthi, killing the champion Ari in single combat.
Leadership of Venthir became the sole responsibility of the Adonis’ of House Ashura, though Venthir would never recover from its sphinx-queen’s destructiveness and apparent invulnerability. During this bitter fall, Hetepheres remained in her palace, brooding, dreaming in solitude.
|Venthir, c. 4008 RM|