Putorana plateau, 2013 [source: dikiy.me]
Whenever one went southwards from the Rumelian lands, one thing which would swiftly become apparent was that there was good reason why no one, even those who lived in the furthest south of the realms, would venture back in the direction their ancestors came by. It was a plateau which, at the place where Irannika's grandmother lived, loomed over the lowlands as a huge cliff wall stretching many hundreds of miles. The ones who had come to Rumelia during the Settlement of the North must have had arrived here after a large detour around the landform, and had probably since forgotten the way back. In any case the plateau itself was a place of serious taboo; the land yielded scant life, being in most places a rocky terrain covered in most places by a blanket of lichen, and it was said to be infested by ghouls, pripyatines (people of an untouchable caste), mutants and the few bandits who remained undaunted by the previous, making them all the more ghastly and formidable. The demon Lenin, who in his living days had cursed Rumelia three feet into the sod since the days before the Settlement, continued to hover over the plateau as a perennial, malevolent presence.
What the Rumelians miss, since they were so intent of looking elsewhere, was that this barren highland housed a place of sanctuary. If you asked anyone living there and was lucky to find a human being who also happened to speak in human tongues, they would know it as the Abbey of Saint Francis of Amatodate, the Amatodachi Piran-senpashe Kerka. The abbey is immediately recognisable as a cluster of hewn-rock buildings, almost a fortress, always next to a freshwater lake somewhere in the featureless landscape. It was unique not only as one of the rare few sedentary establishments in a country ruled by life of the more nomadic sort, but also a place of mystery that some looked to as solace and other looked to with incomprehending dread.
It is useful to think of the abbey not simply as a building, but as a group of people who maintain it: an order, if you will, of men and women who vow to follow the way of Saint Francis of Amatodate and to maintain a place of refuge in a cruel country, giving protection to people threatened by violence and food for the starving. The members of the Order of Saint Francis of Amatodate follow a curious double life: one one hand, an intensely contemplative life of masses, hourly prayer and adoration, centered on the worship of the Yeshua; and on the other, a rugged tenacity, and a special bloodlust reserved for any miscreant who would come to upset the peace of the sanctuary. And miscreants were all too common, for among the brigands circulated a legend that the abbey housed a cornucopia, in the form of an pot, a basin, a silo, or even a small cup (no one is really sure) from which the Order can readily procure any amount of edible grain as was asked. By this rumour, the legendary object became the object of greed and a target of plunder of the people across the region.
Procuring this cornucopia, however, was no simple feat. Few attempts at overrunning the warrior monks, armed to the teeth with vicious improvised weapons, actually succeeded. There are few among the pripyatines who hear of the cornucopia to cast a curse on those who have acquired it by force; only the Order could reap any benefit off it, and it provided only as much as asked for. The raiding party who seized the cornucopia would invariably be confronted with an empty, useless vessel with no discernible powers whatsoever. There was once a group of brigands who had reached the cornucopia, then in the form of a grain tower, after murdering the entire Order in their sleep. When it became clear that no more food was ever to be found springing from the silo, they became so disgusted and enraged that they had the cornucopia, and along with it the abbey itself, doused in vodka and burned to the ground. The pripyatines say that they have never heard from them since, not that they're sure that they had even left the abbey when its buildings were completely consumed by fire, it seemed.
Curiously, the abbey always restored its presence, even after instances of complete extinction. A new abbey would always emerge, built by human hand not too away from the ruins of the previous abbey and always next to one of those beautiful lakes in the mountains. This would always be accompanied by a whole new posse of divinely inspired individuals who often seemed to appear out from nowhere and who were ever armed with a fervent focus on peace and charity, carrying the torch of Saint Francis of Amatodate. It was through such inexplicable reincarnations that the Order propagated itself through the ages.
A clue as to whence these people came from could probably be found in a story told by the pripyatines which dated to the earliest days of the Order, back to the days of the Settlement. The first Order of Saint Francis had been a group of Korean monks and sisters who built the abbey by a glacial lake in to remember their former abbacy, wrested from them by the fiend Lenin and his minions in a period of great spiritual strife in Korea. After a few years, these first members of the Order were then murdered by a group of Japanese-speaking robbers, who took over the abbey and took to maximising its capabilities as a fortress, hoping to use it as a defensive ground against rival gangs. After the leader died, his charismatic next-in-command was ushered in to lead the band. The new leader was who people later named the Piran-senpasha, since it was he who compelled his compatriots lay down their arms, convert to the Christian faith, and thenceforth lead dedicated lives of prayer and charity.
The abbey had been named Vuokuan by the Koreans, after the location of one of their locations back in the country. This was changed in Piran's generation to Amatodate, a name alluding to the ancestral homeland of the abbey's new owners. Even though since that time, for three thousand years, vagrants, exiles of many tribes and races had taken their turns to repent and answer their life callings in the Order of Saint Francis of Amatodate, the names themselves have been preserved to the present day, and the conversion of Piran and his fellow murderers at the abbey continues to be recounted in local folklore, being at once a sign of defiance and a thorn in the side of the fiend Lenin.