According to the
History Of The Blue Thunggars
, the Thunggarchii, all of the tribes of the steppe- the Blue Thunggars and White Thunggars, the Rayghog, Xanggur, Oyurppor, the Beyorxor (who are Mitraists), and others, including the mongrel Thongog (and, some say, the Hugach, though this is disputed), are descended from the ancient nomad people known as the Yughort. It is said that this shadowy people, remembered in the legends of settled people as a great empire of cannibal riders who worshiped severed heads, were descended from the copulation of the red stag Hayach and the blue wolf Orrxort. Their child was Yugh Bronxur, who is remembered as the legendary founder of nomadic steppe cultures of the current era.
Yugh Bronxur’s people, the Yughort, rode the steppes in ancient days and were the bane of the settled folk. Much is said of the insane cruelty and demonic bloodthirst of the Yughort warriors. It is said in the
History Of The Blue Thunggars
that they "worshiped War as other men bow down before the altars of gods, and held the killing of men to be a holy sacrament". They are most commonly remembered for their extermination of the Kighui people, one of the ancient and noble cultures of the high steppes, an act which has from then on deprived the steppe peoples of a written language. It is said that Yugh Bronxur himself ordered the Kighui massacred, stating that "the scroll, the book, the pen- these things chain my people down".
The Yughort were not a people completely without permanent things. To this day, the ritual structures erected by the ancient Yughort remain on the vast plains, though most have crumbled to ruin. These structures include the honor-temples within which the Yughort would enshrine the severed heads of particularly pernicious enemies (most of these temples have collapsed, and the heads have been stolen for their ritual power), the small walled areas where the Yughort would trade with merchants from beyond their empire, and, most notably, their distinctive burial towers.
The most common of the remaining structures of the nomadic Yughort empire, these towers are typically clustered on the plains in a contained area, built near to each other, like an eerie, silent village of stone huts. They were typically built from worked stone and plaster in a very distinctive "upside-down goblet" shape.
Slave families lived near the burial areas to work the stone and construct the towers, though maintaining tradition, a Yughort would always place the capstone, inscribed with the image of the banded night-hawk of the steppes, the animal which swallowed the spirits of the dead. Later in the Yughort empire, these slave families gained great political power due to the fact that only they retained the rituals necessary to lay Yughort dead to rest.
These structures contained only one tall chamber. The floor was typically about 10 feet below ground, so that those entering the sacred burial space would descend a circling wall staircase.
Each burial tower belonged to one family; typically, all the families of a clan would have their towers in one region (though families were known to exchange their oaths and join other clans). After the funeral ceremony, which was held with pomp and great ceremony outside of the tower, the corpse would be carried into the burial chamber by specially-purified attendants (often the deceased’s closest friends). Within the chamber, the arms and legs of the corpse would be broken to prevent it from rising again. Then, it would be stacked (wrapped in a shroud) atop the corpses of its family members, stretching back generations. This made burial towers a gruesome place to enter- cold, dripping stone chambers, with stacked rows of stiff corpses, some possibly frozen or mummified, others rotting, some collapsing in skeletal heaps.
Yughort dead were not buried with any goods. Their burial tokens and the valuables they carried to the afterlife were instead burned during the funeral ritual. However, Yughort burial towers were still sealed at almost all times, to prevent vengeful clan-foes from stealing the heads off corpses or disturbing the bones of a family’s ancestors and releasing angry spirits.
With the collapse of the Yughort and the rise of other steppe empires (most following the nomadic example of the Yughort and expanding upon the fragments of the cultures of the Yughort, Kigui, Tarxob, and other peoples), cultures, and tribes, the burial towers have become neglected.
The sealed door-blocks have mostly fallen away or been stolen; some of the masonry towers have collapsed or partially crumbled with age. Others are intact, but lie ominously open and doorless.
Given the fearsome memory of their dark ancestors, and the funereal nature of the towers, these structures are a source of no small fear and superstition among the peoples of the steppe, who avoid them as homes of restless dead and demons.
They are not wrong. The Yughort burial practices and methods show a curious terror of their dead rising again, and it seems that they were aware of some kind of racial curse, for the Yughort dead do not sleep. On certain pleromatic or stellar convergences, those dead within the burial towers sometimes rise again, wandering the burial yards and flitting from shadow to shadow, clutching at ancestral bones and squatting in darkness awaiting the coming of living blood and meat.