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Generations ago, in this land’s more bloodthirsty days, the first Great Treaty of Unification was signed on the highest hill. Chieftains from all eight nations met in their best finery, with proud banners waving and armor clanking and weapons gleaming in the sun. Warsteeds snorted and stomped. Chainmail jingled. The urgent pattern of war drums rose and peaked, to be replaced with horns and string instruments heralding peace.
And the chieftains solemnly performed the ritual eating of teeth.
These were presented in velvet bags by the chieftains themselves, selected and sterilized and blessed by the priests. Each chieftain poured the bag into the communal vessel, which was shaken vigorously by the new High Chieftain. She then offered the vessel to the others. They chose blindly, and chewed up what they had selected.
The metal toothcaps given as a sign of rank made this task easier, but even so, leadership was not for the weak of jaw. And the slightest wince would have been a tremendous dishonor.
Not one chieftain flinched that day, including the High Chieftain, who had to eat one tooth for each under-chief, as a sign of allegiance and community. The nations were now one, and the High Chieftain would look after all of her people’s needs equally.
And so it was for many lifetimes, until newcomers from across the sea brought discord, along with treasures and religion -- the empire crumbled, and broke apart into squabbling factions. They fought with the newcomers and with each other, against the religion and against the ways of the past.
It was a long, dark time. But a new leader emerged, paving the way toward an even greater empire. One with ties to other lands, a connection to the wider world, and with a more enlightened view of the cosmos.
And so it is that today the chieftains meet again, and we will see a second Great Treaty signed.
The splendor is even more grand than that of days past, with fireworks coloring the sky, and rows of soldiers marching in intricate patterns, firing blank charges from weapons that their ancestors would have happily gone to war for.
The chieftains no longer wear armor themselves, content to let their people demonstrate for them. Instead they wear the finest clothing that the tailors can produce, and they greet their new High Chieftain carrying no weapons.
The velvet bags that they upend over the vessel hold bread -- tough brown squares the color of fertile soil. This binds the leaders to the land that they watch over, and all that lives on it.
But the teeth ground up into the bread are the important part.