Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pergerron: The Vumaskans and Atakans of Ruined Gatana, and the Freeport of Kordalos

The inner city of Gatana shrouded in darkness beneath the great towers
Gatana was a vast and impressive city in ancient times, a monument to the power of the ancient civilization which worshipped the Primordials, though not part of the Empire of Sar, believed to be a frontier city along the westernmost border of an eastern empire sometimes called Striasha. As Sar is believed to have been populated by the ancient elves Striasha was said to have been the dominion of the now rare vumaskans, tall blue skinned half-giants of great strength and intellect. The vumaskans were noted for their six-fingered hands and feet as well as their exotic cobalt blue skin. Some say vumaskans were gifted with a third eye granting them mystical sight by the primordial Vos Kar, but that this gift was just as quickly stripped away by the enkanneth Suliversa. Today one in twenty vumaskans are born with the mystical third eye, which they can manifest or dispel at will; this orb manifests as an actual third eye upon their forehead.

The vumaskans are a sparse race, for their numbers were devastated in the old war between enkanneth and primordial; the purging magic of old bathed Striasha in eldritch fire and killed many of their kind. Today they are an unusual race of scholarly wanderers and nomads, plying their trade as merchants and explorers of the rare, unusual and occult. Wanderers….except for two locations: a vigilant tribe of vumaskans have made an unusual home out of the young Freeport of Kordalos, formed by the ataskan warriors who proudly follow their leader, Kord. Kord is an ataskan warlord and magician who claims that he is in communion with a young new god named Shuutol. Though some believe Shuutol is one of the primordial spawn, Kord claims that Shuutol is the first of a new generation of gods to rise to power, birthed centuries ago from an ataskan mother in virgin birth, he grew to full adulthood in one day and became a great prophet among his people for nearly two centuries before one day building a vast tomb for himself in the ruins of Gatana. There Shuutol entered, proclaiming that through his magic the path to true enlightenment lay at the end of the maze-like structure of the tomb complex beneath his pyramid. Those who were pure of spirit could enter, either in spirit after death or theoretically alive in the flesh and follow the true path to heavenly paradise; if, of course, you were truly enlightened. Kord is a high-priest and sorcerer dedicated to the Way of Shuutol, and his flock strives to follow the teachings of Shuutol as revealed through Kord’s spiritual communion with the demiurge.

When the atakan tribes following Kord arrived in the region twenty years ago they found that the city of Gatana, which had been occupied by atakans in Shuutol’s time, had since been overrun with serpent men, lizard men and other monsters who served another of The Ten, the demiurge Sibitsen Muukol. The atakans were strong but not numerous enough to drive out the monstrous squatters in the ruins, who had spent a great deal of energy erecting a great monument-pyramid to Sibitsen Muukol on the eastern edge of the city. They established the Freeport of Kordala, named after their leader, thirty miles south at the mouth of a tributary and formed a new community. It was only a few years later that the vumaskan nomads led by imperator Hamagas happened upon their growing community and asked for permission to settle in the region. In short order Kordala became the largest local city of primarily nonhuman citizens in the River Anansis region.

Two decades of hostilities, truces and periodic efforts at invasion have led to a constant state of conflict and tension between the river port of Kordala and the denizens of Gatana. Many human mercenaries have traveled to Kordala, driven by the prospect of easy money in service to Kord or Hamagas, and still others arrive with an eye to steal the guarded wealth of Gatana.

Where once there was a handful of atakan settlers there is now a prominent young city with great walls being constructed and farmland for miles around. Kordala today has a population of roughly twelve thousand atakans, 1,500 vumaskans and a medley of other races, including roughly four hundred elves from the Sybariti tribe which migrated into the area after the orcish raids out of Mt. Gol left them homeless, and a tribe of halflings called the Glimmerwrights, known for their staggering artisanal skills and intimate familiarity with the vast delta region of the coast. As is inevitable, perhaps five thousand human men and their families have migrated into the region, though they are required to acknowledge Kord as their proper ruler and swear fealty to no human king.

Western Gatana on a sunny day
A mere thirty miles from Kordala rests the ominous ruins of Gatana, a great and largely intact array of skyward-reaching ruins noted for their ancient, alien architecture and the immense earthenwork pyramid to the eastern edge of the city that appears to be under endless construction. The nominal rulers of Gatana are the serpent men priests of the ophidian demiurge Sibitsen Muukol. Their leader is the grotesque chaos hybrid called The Hydra of Draedas, a serpent man born of the taint of chaos, said to have been fathered by Sibitsen Muukol on the night of a blood red moon during a profane alignment of the stars. This serpent man stands taller than most and has three heads, each of which moves and speaks independently….and can cast spells independently. Rumors that his very blood is poisonous are told as well, that no one can strike him lest they succumb immediately to the vapors emitted by any wound upon his body.

Despite their dominance in the ruins, the serpent men willingly let other monstrous kin occupy the area, so long as they recognize the greatness of Sibitsen Muukol. The lizardfolk of the coast serve them as cheap labor and soldiers, while other monsters such as trolls, ogres and orcs occupy the city in some sort of tragic pantomime of reali civilization. The monsters of Gatanas seem decidedly primitive, even wild compared to their kin elsewhere; orcs can be very organized and even cultured (from a certain point of view) but the orcs of Gatanas are little better than wild men and thieves.
Serpent priest of Sibitsen Muukol
Gatanas holds many secrets, few of which have been plumbed. The two-century old pyramid of Shuutol is one, resting near the heart of the city alone in the center of a vast plaza. The pyramid is regarded as a dangerous place haunted by the spirits of the dead, and left alone by most monstrous denizens in the area. The immense ruins themselves, some of them creaking frameworks of ancient buildings that rose a hundred stories tall, loom large throughout the city like jungle-draped canvases of decay, suggesting that the power of the ancients was vast. The skeletal frames of these ancient buildings appears to have been made from some sort of material similar too but lighter and stronger than metal, and does not decay. Many of the monsters of Gatanas have built elaborate layered lairs using wood and other materials to stretch out between the girders of these skeletal ruins.

Artifacts always drive interest in the ruins, for both monsters, tomb robbers and the atakans of Kordala. The artifacts of the ancient people of Striasha were truly wondrous; weapons of great destruction, devices which no longer work but hint at unimaginable magic and the relics of other impressive devices clearly suggest a command of technology and magic far beyond modern understanding. Whether the ancient vumaskans were technomancers of the highest order or something else is unknown; not even the vumaskans, who while long-lived by human standards (up to 150 years old) remember much of their old ways, only that the fall from their peak of civilization was great, and when it was all said and done 99% of their people had perished, their history, lore, culture and technology all but lost.

Imperator Hamagas

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