The Vanadium Era

 

Continued from Nalre Zitpoidl and the Great Winter

Character of the era

 Era 23, the Vanadium, was the longest by far of all the eras of Ooranye's history: it lasted 55,391,027 days, or 2,256.7 Uranian years, the equivalent of 189,565 Earth years. 

Syoom itself was the arena almost entirely; there were few expeditions into Fyaym, and indeed, often Fyaym was forgotten, as though sfy-50 were the edge of the world.  The four hundred million square miles of Syoom amply sufficed for the adventurous urges of most of the people, who had been reduced in numbers by the Great Winter and were kept from increase by the waste of war and other conflict in this least intellectual and most swashbuckling of all eras. 

Indeed there was little need for the challenge of Fyaym, when Syoom seemed bigger, more chaotic and perilous than ever.  More of it became forest; velng multiplied their huge mounds in the plains, sometimes holding humans captive for generations inside these artificial mountains.  Abatis, planted for the protection of towns against various perils of the plains, themselves grew into dangerous ecosystems or rogue states.   Reformers and heroes puctuated the mediocrity of hereditary monarchies.  The powers of Fyaym, looking on, discovered no threat to themselves, and perhaps encouraged the longevity of era 23.

It was a golden age for the strong and the adventurous, the cheerful risk-taker and the soldier of fortune.  A Terrestrial teenager who has thrilled to the tales of Barsoom, would naturally love to read about the Vanadium Era more than about any other of the eras of Ooranye.  Yet it should not be dismissed as a mere adventure playground, for it was so vast in duration that almost everything set down in these paragraphs was contradicted at some point or other - thus occasionally rewarding the student of more subtle aspects of history. 

Politics and society 

During the early days of this era, Nalre Zitpoidl was still alive, an old man now, wandering from city to city.  Was he still Sunnoad?  Or had one of the deposition ceremonies, which had been enacted during the Great Winter, been legal?  If he had been deposed, this was one of only a handful of such cases in Uranian history.

Zitpoidl wrote his memoirs and left them to be rediscovered and published many eras later.  He alone had noted that the tajarens had returned to Syoom, had looked the land over and had seen that there was no longer anything in its civilization for them to gain a purchase on - Man was now too simple to allow them to strike a deal with his racial unconscious; Man had ducked below such blows....  This could be seen as Zitpoidl's vindication, though few knew of it at the time.

The uncertainty surrounding Zitpoidl's status reflected upon the subsequent history of the sunnoadex in Era 23: the institution continued, but frequently passed many lifetimes in a state of reduced effectiveness, almost of abeyance.  The Noad of a powerful city such as Vyanth or Ao or Pjourth might possess more influence than the person who wore the golden cloak of Skyyon.

As has been noted, city-minds were reduced in awareness during the Great Winter.  Their somnolence continued into Era 23.  One of the effects this had on human society was that people had to undertake many of the tasks which formerly the city-minds had willingly performed under the guidance of the "coaxer" professions: engineering and maintenance works; manufacture of tools, weapons, vehicles.  A new labour-intensive culture developed.  This gradually led to more class distinction, originating with the contrast between skilled and unskilled labour, and becoming intensified with the development of extremes of wealth and poverty - though no one ever became destitute in a Uranian city.  Aristocracies of birth arose; after a while even hereditary monarchies - anathema to most ages of Uranian history - evolved in many cities.  Dynastic selfishness led to the evil of war between cities.  The final consequence of all this, as will be seen, was the downfall of the era's culture, originating in the creeping onset of the institution of slavery. 

The evils of war and (during the final fifth of the era) of slavery, were mitigated by the fact that the millions who lost their lives or their freedom during the course of its enormous span of time, almost all had another life left to live: this is because the Vanadium Era was fairly early in Uranian history, and most of its people were living the first of their two or three incarnations. 

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