City hall of Xelsamt
|Etymology: Gfiewish "place of the plains"|
Xelsamt (Gfiewish IPA: [xɛɭʂamt]) is a town and county in Gfiewistan and the capital of the northwesternmost state of Tlulmerd. It is located in the center of the state and known for being the center of the Tlulmerdi community, an indigenous ethnic minority of Gfiewistan, which unlike Gfiewish people traditionally adhere to Orthodox Iovism rather than Ystelian Iovism. As a result, it is also the main center for Orthodox Iovism not just in Gfiewistan, but all of Ystel.
The oldest archeological records date Xelsamt's founding as a seat of a chiefdom to the late 10th or early 11th century, and a minor center for local trade in the region. By 1080 it had already become a major rival of Hatariew, evidenced by a war breaking out between the two towns that lasted about a year and brought about little meaningful for either of them.
Written sources, available from the 14th century on, document a second war occurring in 1379 that saw Xelsamt gain control of a significant amount of territory to the west of Hatariew, allowing the town to prosper and become a regional center of pottery manufacturing and trade. Its location on the route connecting Tanlariewis and the river Ersaj led to additional wealth being brought into the settlement, which was used to build various religious sites such as temples and prehistoric observatories in the vicinity of the town, outside its protective perimeter. Unlike in most other wealthy and influential Gfiewish towns at the time, no monumental stone buildings such as castles were built in the town itself.
The oldest writings in the Tlulmerdi language date from this period as well and concern in-kind tithing by the chief to support these and other local religious sites and their defense against attacks, as well as agreements between local nobility and the chief for the former to be guaranteed land and preferential treatment in return for military service. The emerging state came to becalled Tlulmerd (from Old Gfiewish 'tl' "of" + 'ulmerd' "oaks"). In the 15th century, with the rise of the city of Hatariew as seat of one of the two major Gfiewish chiefdoms at the time, trade declined and so did the political influence of Xelsamt. By 1521 they felt compelled to join in an alliance with their former rival Hatariew as a junior partner as they called for aid against attacks by the towns of Tanlariewis and Weishriew that lasted three years.
When Sigfret the Pious (also known as Brotanoda), chief of Slakkariew began the Great Unification War of Gfiewgjknsiorjgiostan in 1567 that had him unify all Gfiewish chiefdoms by force using the religion of Iovism, Xelsamt alongside all of Tlulmerd avoided fighting and war destruction by adopting Iovism peacefully. The chief of the Tlulmerdi had known how weak his political position was, and after serious quarrels with local spirits he was said to also have genuinely become interested in alternate connections to the divine, and so promised conversion after hearing an envoy of the would-be first king of Gfiewistan praise the tenets of Iovism and the advantages of joining the emerging union.
However, the chief demanded to see original religious documents, to be able to accept the religion on its own terms. Thus he ended up taking tenets directly from the source, rather than accepting the interpretations and changes of Slakkariew’s court, which was regardless claiming to be representing real orthodox Iovism and ignored the differences between the two practices, as the political alliance was the more crucial part to Sigfret the Pious. This alliance allowed the town to stay on relatively good terms with the royal court in the following centuries, although to a large degree it was also due to its remote location in the far north, its small size and its lack of importance when it came to trade, production of goods or resources.
The later republican revolution in 1852 changed little about it. In fact, many Tlulmerdi were skeptical about it, fearing the new nationalism spreading like wildfire would also bring renewed assimilation attempts with it. However, when the revolutionaries accepted the help of the Iovist temples and promised to protect their position, these worries were alleviated and unlike Lufasa Tlulmerd did not push for independence.
Unlike other state capitals in Gfiewistan, Xelsamt, stands out by its traditional Tlulmerdi wooden architecture. Whereas plastered buildings, concrete jungles and brick house dominate to various amounts in towns like Dillariewis and Tanlariewis, and more recently glass facades, in Xelsamt wooden houses are still prevalent, as traditional wooden housing continued to be used even during times of prosperity and during the industrial revolution in the early 20th century, when other materials became more popular in most of Gfiewistan. Even the town hall is a simple wooden construction with 2 stories and attic, as opposed to the castles and palaces of other capitals. In the second half of the 20th century, among urbanization pressures and the build-up of a food industry, some neighborhoods sharing the more typical Gfiewish characteristics of brick residential buildings were erected, but those remained marginal.
Another notable characteristic of Xelsamt is how local Iovist temples took their architectural inspiration directly from the homeland of Iovism, Upper Ekuosia, giving them an appearance not seen anywhere else on Ystel. Many monasteries were built in or near the town as well, where people could ponder spiritual questions in groups of like-minded people and reduce contact with the outside world. This distinction between temples and monasteries is not upheld by Ystelian Iovism.
Ancient rites, such as market dances, that allow sellers and buyers to connect on a personal level before engaging in business and rites of passage involving young adults temporarily becoming a wandering shepherd regardless of where they lived continue to be maintained, and the preservation of the local language and self-government even under the growing influence of the large city of Hatariew to the east is another hallmark of local culture.
Historically, agriculture and pottery dominate the local economy, which both have undergone a measure of industrialization in the past century, with a number of factories opening. However, traditional artisanal production continues, and more recently has even been growing as the demand for traditional food and goods across the country has been growing.
The unique local culture and cityscape so different from other towns in Gfiewistan also make the city an attractive destination for cultural and historical tourism.