The Past Singer

Taxlatl ~ Gagarasss! Lekharasss!
Lu asar atl lakhtassa ~ Tassarasss go asssach!
Namee nalekhar a gokhasssakh
Nassegara mesakhar a sheetasssa
Eekha sakhar sstelasssa tasara lakhtassataxl!
People of the Cities, rise up and remember!
You are a great People, build upon your Past!
Do not forget your transgressions,
But let them not keep you in squalor
For you have a Destiny to shape this world.
— the Death Song of Asssach Khasssah, opening stanza
Asssakh Khasssah Sings to the City
ince the beginning of their time upon Cartyrion, the Taxlatl Folk have relied upon a talented few of their number to ensure that their history and lore are preserved. These few use their special talents to not only remember the history of their people, but to spread it among all their Folk in ways that are well-remembered. Among the Taxlatl, these are the Past Singers, and without them, the lizardfolk would not be who they are today.

Throughout history, there have been notable Past Singers, but none has been more influential than the one all Taxlatl know as Asssakh Khasssah. For without her, the very tradition of Past Singer, and likely the memory of the greatness and potential of the Taxlatl, would not exist today. She is more than just "a Past Singer"; her very name proclaims that she was - and shall always be remembered as "THE Past Singer".

Asssakh Khasssah's Life

What's in a Name?

The Taxlatl language is complex, and while it does not rely upon syllabic stress as do many of the other languages of the Folk, it does rely heavily on the degree to which certain phonemes are "extended" to imply particular meaning.

The Taxlatl word khasah is usually translated as "one who sings", or "one who is singing". But by extending the middle "s" sound, one changes the meaning from "anyone who is singing" to "one whose profession - whose calling in life - is to sing". So a khassah is a bardic performer of some sort.

The Taxlatl word for "something in the past" is asakh. With this minimal "s" sound, the word is adjectival: as in "a past event". Extending the "s" sound changes the word, though to a noun which means "the Past", or "the collective period of time which came before now". When combined with the word for performer, we get assakh khassah: one whose purpose in life is to sing of the Past. In Commonspeech, these are the Past Singers - bards who recall tales of past Taxlatl greatness. To one fluent in Taxlatl, this is a far cry from asakh khasah, which is simply somebody who sang something once or twice a while ago.

This brings us to our bard, Asssakh Khasssah. To any fluent speaker of Taxlatl, the meaning is unmistakeable: this is the name of the greatest Past Singer that ever was. A Past Singer of remarkable musical talent, whose knowledge of the ancient lore and history of the Taxlatl was unsurpassed. None since her have gone by that name; she was and still is THE Past Singer... the greatest that ever was.

Early Life

Little is known of Asssakh Khasssah's earliest years - the years just before the The Great Strife's devastation was visited upon the world. Even her given name was lost and forgotten in the turmoils of that time.

It is presumed that as a youngling, she demonstrated musical aptitude and the ability to remember the songs and tales she was taught. It is these skills that catch the eye of Past Singers who are seeking to train their replacements; something that every Past Singer strives to do in order to ensure the preservation of all the lore of the Taxlatl.

Age at Death
Uncertain. About 215 years old according to the tales. (This is about three times the life expectancy of a typical Taxlatl, but Past Singers have been known to be exceptionally long-lived.)
Place of Birth
Taxl gra Kalakhrassa in what is now the Coldmarsh Fens
The mentor that trained her was more than just a village lorekeeper; he was Tasakhee Sashta, the personal Past Singer to the priest-king of Taxl gra Kalakhrassa, and the kingdom's official Keeper of All Lore.

During her time a student, Asssakh Khasssah had the opportunity to absorb practically all of the tales of Taxlatl achievements and greatness. She learned of the rise and fall of their First Civilization, which was brought down by disease after first contacts with the Humans who had recently been Awakened in the world. She learned tales of overcoming the hardships that followed the fall, and tales of the gradual restoration of Taxlatl technology, mastery of the arcane, and culture until the Second Civilization was greater than its predecessor.

The Great Strife and the Fall of the Taxlatl

Asssach Khasssah is believed to have been about thirty years old when the Great Strife erupted out of the heavens to engulf the entire world of Cartyrion. She was still officially a student - and would be as long as her mentor lived - but she had already surpassed her mentor in skill, particularly because she was an accomplished Crest Singer while he was not. She could sing from memory all of the Tales that were known in the city that was the seat of the Second Civilization, and her audiences were enraptured when she did so.

When the God-War came, Tasakhee Sashta, who had no love and little respect for Humans and Elves, urged the king to fight on the side of the Dark Gods. Asssakh Khasssah disagreed, and after a falling out with her mentor and the king, she was forced to flee into the wild lands beyond the great Taxlatl cities. She spent the next hundred or so years among small bands of like-minded refugees, singing the songs and telling the tales to inspire them to persevere. It is said that truly gifted Past Singers can draw upon the magics of the world to keep themselves invigorated; this certainly seems to be the case with Asssakh Khasssah, for when the god-war ended, she was still alive and thriving, despite being at least twice as old as most Taxlatl could ever hope to be.

The Past Singer of Taxl gra Akhrassa

The God-War did not go well for the Taxlatl. By the time it was over, the great cities of their civilization all lay in blasted ruin. Many of their Folk had perished in the wars, and many more died of starvation at the war's end. Such was the fate of a culture that chose the wrong side in a conflict among the gods. But, of course, some Taxlatl survived, and one of these was Asssakh Khasssah.

She found herself living among a small band of refugees who had fled Taxl gra Kalakhrassa as it was being shattered, and it was she that led them back into the ruins of the city once the Great Strife ended. She had learned the tales of hardship that followed the fall of the First Civilization, and she used these to inspire the survivors to remember their heritage. Almost nightly, she would be found sitting around a campfire with some of the survivors, singing and telling the tales of how the Taxlatl rose again after their first fall. Her inspiration kept despair from defeating the last of the Taxlatl.

The refugees renamed their settlement Taxl gra Akhrassa, which means City of the Swamp in their tongue, to reflect the fact that the once rich and fertile grasslands that surrounded the area were now a sunken, fetid marshland as far as the eye could see. They knew it would be a long time before their people would recover, but thanks to Asssakh Khasssah, they never abandoned hope.

Crest Singing

All lizardfolk possess chambered nasal and cranial ducts that can be used to generate sounds, but only a few among them can manage anything more than a single-toned honking sound. Many cannot even manage that. Some of the more gifted develop the ability to control air passage through these bony ducts to produce controlled multi-tonal sound called Crest Singing.

Asssakh Khasssah was one of these gifted few. It is told that she could create and modulate clean, crisp tones pleasant to even a non-Taxlatl ear. She could even accompany herself when she vocalized one of the many tales of the Taxlatl. Only a handful of Taxlatl throughout all of history have ever been able to master that ability.

Asssakh Khasssah's Journeys

As the people of Taxl gra Akhrassa slowly rebuilt, Asssakh Khasssah would occasionally venture out into the wilds beyond the city. She searched for other pockets of Taxlatl survivors of the war, travelling to the sites of the many smaller settlements that had dotted the lands around her home city. But the few she was able to find any trace of were abandoned and shattered. Her people had truly suffered.

Over the years, she undertook more of these journeys, extending farther and farther from what was the center of her civilization. For a long time, though, she found nothing but decay and devastation. But after several years, she finally came across a small group of lizardfolk eking out a living at the rocky edge of the sea.

She discovered that these Folk were all that was left of what had been a
reasonably sized settlement. Their lifestyle was harsh, but they were prospering. There were even children in the settlement - children who clearly had come along since the end of the war.

Asssakh Khasssah was shocked to discover that these children knew very few of the tales taught to all younglings of the people. The elders remembered them rather poorly, if they could remember them at all.

She felt that these were Taxlatl who were being raised in ignorance of their true heritage and potential, and for a simple reason: the settlement did not have a Past Singer!

Asssakh Khasssah stayed with these folk for two months, singing the tales of Taxlatl past greatness to inspire

them. But she also searched among them for a talented youth that she could train - a youth that would not replace her as Past Singer of Taxl gra Akhrassa, but who would become the Past Singer for their own settlement. Finally, she found a young boy that she felt would be capable. The settlement's elders, who knew the value of a Past Singer, were more than obliging when she asked if the boy could accompany her and learn the craft.

When she finally left the settlement with her new student, she did not return home. Rather, she journeyed for three more years, reaching further and further from home in her search for other settlements of the Taxlatl. She found several, and in all but one she found them also lacking a Past Singer. She finally returned home with six pupils in tow.

The Past Singer of All the World

Asssakh Khasssah knew she had a mission to fulfill. She realized that she was not just the Past Singer of Taxl gra Akhrassa; she needed to be the Past Singer for the entire Taxlatl world. She and the people of Taxl gra Akhrassa considered themselves the last bastion of Taxlatl civilization, it was therefore their duty to ensure that this civilization would be restored not just in this region, but across the world.

And so, at the Past Singer's direction, scouts were sent to scour the entire world for pockets of Taxlatl folk who had survived the Great Strife, but were in danger of forgetting their heritage. These scouts were trained to recognize the
qualities of a Past Singer, and tasked with returning prospective candidates that could be trained and returned to their villages.

Asssach Khasssah chose these scouts for their dedication to the cause of Taxlatl Civilization, but also for their memory, musical and story-telling abilities. Each was carefully taught one song - the Song of the Makers - considered to be the most inspiring of all tales in the Past Singers' repertoire. The scouts would use it to remind any they found of the Taxlatl greatness and potential, and kindle in them the desire to obtain a Past Singer of their own.

Asssakh Khasssah's Legacy

Asssakh Khasssah's own Death Song tells us that she lived for almost sixty years after the end of the Great Strife, and for most of those years, she was training younglings who were brought to her. During this time, her scouts and searchers managed to locate every last pocket of Taxlatl settlement, and thus she was able to know that, as her life drew to an end, she had ensured that not only the people of her city, but all of the Taxlatl folk, wherever they were in the world, had a Past Singer to gather them together and relive the greatness of their people. All Taxlatl younglings would know of the past achievements, and the future potential, of their people.

Asssakh Khasssah summed up her life work in what have been passed down as the last words she sang before death: the world would one day again know the greatness of the Taxlatl.

The Death Song

One of the things taught to each Past Singer is that they should chronicle their own life and pass that chronicle along to the one who replaces them when they can no longer perform their duties. Since most Past Singers don't pass the mantle until they're about to die, these chronicles have come to be called the Death Songs of the Past Singers.

Far from dirges or laments, Death Songs are written to be inspirational. They are always sung by the new Past Singer at the funeral/memorial service held for the deceased Past Singer. But sometimes a Past Singer will perform it themself as a last official act. The tales say that Asssakh Khasssah had her death-bed carried out to the central plaza of Taxl gra Akhrassa so she could sing hers to all the people of the city, and that she expired as the last words and notes sounded around the square.
Gagarasss Taxlatl !
Tasarasss eekha geshatl tasarat !
Tassarasss eekha geshtatl tassarat !
Khotarasss ssstelakh
Eekha geshtatl khotarat !
Lakhtassataxl mosha lagatala
Lakhtassa Taxlatl !
Rise up, People of the Cities!
Craft as your ancestors crafted!
Build as your ancestors built!
Master the powers of the world
As your ancestors mastered them!
The world will once more know
The greatness of the our People!
— the Death Song of Asssach Khasssah, final stanza


Please Login in order to comment!
29 Jan, 2022 14:30

Wonderfull article Bob! I like the part about the language with the s, ss and sss differences. But also how she basically saved their whole culture is awesome.

31 Jan, 2022 18:32

Thanks for taking the time to comment. It's always greatly appreciated. Yeah... this article turned into a Conlang exercise in addition to a bard building exercise, but it was fun (and needed for my lore).

Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
1 Feb, 2022 14:03

Great article! First off really like the layout with the various containers throughout making it visually pleasing to read through. The language and crest singing section were also pretty interesting and well thought out. Great that the stories of their culture survived in the end!

Feel free to check out my latest challenge article the Avaronian Empire if you want to see what I am up to!
1 Feb, 2022 14:24

Thanks for the read, like, and comment! Yeah... I've got plans for my Lizardfolk... their past is the major source of plunderable ruins in the world, but their civilizations were advanced enough to make that plundering worthwhile. And they themselves want to recover that civilization, so... hiring PCs? clashing with PCs at sites? Lots of options.

Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
1 Feb, 2022 16:34

That's great! Gives some good opportunities for stories.

Feel free to check out my latest challenge article the Avaronian Empire if you want to see what I am up to!
2 Feb, 2022 16:49

The really great layout of this article caught my eye right away! It works really nicely to serve up all this interesting and lovely info on your bard. I think being a teller, or in this case, a singer of past stories is such a powerful concept -- I love the way she provides inspiration and motivation for the refuges, after the time of war. And yes all the conlanging you did for this was really great too :D

Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
3 Feb, 2022 13:41

Thanks for the read, like, and comment! It's great to know that someone is actually looking at my stuff :)   The conlang stuff just sort of happened... One of these days I'm going to really dive into that rabbit hole and complete one of the three or four languages that I've started for Cartyrion. In the meantime, the lexicons grow!

Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
5 Feb, 2022 08:06

Absolutely! <3   You're a braver worldbuilder than me, conlanging stuff is terrifying xD I suppose the fact that it just happened is a good sign, though!

Cathedris, the world of God-husks and New Magic, welcomes you.
Sage eccbooks
E. Christopher Clark
6 Feb, 2022 21:38

I love oral history, so the concept of Past Singers is right up my alley—and Asssakh Khasssah certainly seems to have earned her name. Other than that, I wanted to mention that your use of sidebars in this article is fantastic. I particularly liked the one about the language, which really added a lot of extra depth to the story.

Check out the Bekiskpan — originators of the chain mail bikini and my entry for “On the Shoulders of Giants.”
10 Feb, 2022 13:49

Thanks for the read, the like, and the comment! All are greatly appreciated. I've been experimenting a lot with sidebars - not only for articles and challenges, but for what I hope to be a series of published sourcebooks and adventures some day. Sometimes a tooltip will do, but I thought the language and crest singer needed a bit more up-front explanation. It's good to hear that I'm on the right track.

Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
15 Feb, 2022 21:40

What a central figure for her people and what a legacy she had to carry to preserve what was left. Beautiful story. I already fell in love with the culture just from the details given - very nicely done. She seems to have grown into a leadership role, considering she was a (sole?) surviving past singer with a mission, and her access to scouts. I wonder if she also told the story of what led to the war, and whether she had ambitions to make sure this mistake would not be repeated.

If you have some time, I would much appreciate your feedback on my entry for Adventure April: Carbon Copy Paradise
17 Feb, 2022 13:42

Some of your questions will be answered in a new project that I hope to get started on soon! (Writing this article lit a spark, and gave me the idea for a novel (or two... or three...) based in what is now an RPG campaign environment. We'll see how that turns out!

Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
16 Feb, 2022 08:29

Great article :D I really like the linguistic details and the explanation of how those people "sing". and the story itself was very nice and inspirational :D I guess the people have fully recovered by now? Do they often sing the Death song of all Past Singers, or do they only remember those of the most well known one? There must be thousands otherwise to remember or something like that, right?

To see what I am up to, here is my civilisation challenge article.
17 Feb, 2022 13:45

2000 years later, and the Taxlatl are still living in swamps for the most part. Recovery for them - and the rest of the world as well - has been slow.   It would not be uncommon for a Past Singer to incorporate some of the Death Song of their mentor into their own, so in some sense, fragments of many survive. The truly inspiriational ones may survive intact, or be modified into "tales" that are taught to future generations as well.

Teams of turtles pulling barges... villages that appear and disappear overnight... check out the: Redflow River
Powered by World Anvil