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Wartorn Cluster: Masogan 
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Evil Genius
Evil Genius
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Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2007 1:16 pm
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Post Wartorn Cluster: Masogan
Yeah, so I'm going to keep the various domains of my new cluster separate for now instead of cramming them all into one thread. I'll link them up later if I can get it done. ^^;

'Thus in plain terms: your father hath consented
That you shall be my wife, your dowry ‘greed on,
And will you, nill you, I will marry you.
Now Kate, I am a husband for your turn,
For by this light, whereby I see thy beauty—
Thy beauty that doth make me like thee well—
Thou must be married to no man but me,
For I am he am born to tame you, Kate,
And bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate
Conformable as other household Kates.
Here comes your father. Never make denial.
I must and will have Katherine to my wife.'
-- Shakespeare, 'Taming of the shrew'.


Quote:
Masogan at a Glance:

Cultural level: Savage (1). Hunran's compound alone is Renaissance-level (9).
Ecology: Sparse
Climate / Terrain: Arid plains, desert, hills, mountains; small forests and fields of scrub grass
Year of Formation: 700 BC
Population: 76.000
Races: Humans 70%, Alchemical Children 20%, Dwarves 5%, Paka 5%
Human ethnicities: Masogan* 60%, Aiel 13%, Lilliend 10%, Vistani 1%, Other 16%
Languages: Duan*, Aiel, Aumes, Dwarven, Patterna
Religions: Thunder-Father*, the Cat Lord, the Light and the Shadow, the Spirits
Government: Autonomous tribal chieftains
Ruler: None
Darklord: Hunran Serpent-Trail


I do not care for your accusations and complaints, my Master. School yourself to patience for a change, and you will soon understand why I am late in delivering this report on the next domain in this blighted land. Your threats are meaningless just now; I am in considerable pain already and would only welcome it if you torment me into unconsciousness. Hell's bells, I would not even mind if some blight finds and kills me during this time! Leave me be...

Yes, I am here. I said I am here! Very well, I am recovered enough to report.
Despite all the warnings from the people I questioned in neighbouring lands about the state of affairs in Masogan, I have indeed scouted the land for you. In deference to those very warnings, I arranged for a disguise before I crossed the border. Considering the nature of the warnings, I applied a mixture of mascara and mud that made my skin look leprous, and I added stained clothing fit to hide my actual shape and make me appear virtually sexless.
As I crossed the border into Masogan, I found myself freezing in place and looking all about. I could have sworn I heard the sound of a woman crying, but look about as I might, I saw no one. I felt unnerved and added several divinations to my search... Nothing. To be safe, I made sure to travel with at least one pistol hidden in my sleeve at all times. My disguise was a fortuitous one in that it allowed me to keep my cane out at all times. What is a leper without a walking-stick, after all?

Landscape
Masogan is a dry land. It gradually rises to hills and then mountains the deeper one penetrates into the interior, which gives it an oddly symmetrical shape which would be more aesthetically pleasing if one did not know what kind of things go on within its borders. The various mountain ranges and hilly areas go largely unnamed; locals may declare that this or that hill belongs to their tribe and stake it out, but they do not name them. For religious reasons, all but one mountain range goes unnamed. This would be the highest-reaching of the lot, which is known as Thunder-Father's Seat. Various myths surround this high-reaching range, whose peaks are constantly hidden by clouds that fail to dissolve into rain or blow away, but all agree that the mountain is most likely the seat of the domain's supreme deity.
The hills and mountains make up roughly 30% of the whole surface of the realm, however, and the rest is mostly sun-baked plains and desert. It is important to pay close attention as to which of the two one is walking on; while the plains are relatively safe to walk on and allow for good visibility in all directions, alerting the cautious traveller to danger long before it arrives, the deserts are far more difficult to traverse. Loose sand slows the traveller down, allowing for slipping, falls and in very nasty cases death: sinkholes are hardly uncommon, and any creature unfortunate enough to step into one and does not receive immediate help is surely doomed.
There are no known rivers in the land; locals believe that the great Birgesblot and Wittwentraen rivers, which might otherwise have irrigated the land, are completely lost in the mire that borders the mostly abandoned battlefields around Vieuxlyons, to the immediate west. Just one more reason for the locals to hate their neighbours, if they ever think about the matter at all...
Personally, I suspect that thick layers of bedrock must underly Masogan, which prevent the water from rising to the surface. I intend to look into this matter further when I investigate realms beyond. I did not find an opportunity to dig down deep enough to verify my theory, but it is supported by the fact that the land supports so few trees. Small forests are found only in the shadow of the central mountains, where there is a slightly greater chance of rain than there is in the rest of the land.
I do not exaggerate when I say that rain only happens in the deep interior of the land, where clouds slowly accrue around mountain peaks and then deposit a measly amount of water which might, in good years, bless the plains as well as the hills, allowing the plants that stubbornly cling to life there to continue to do so. Larger creatures can find water only at the ancient water-wells, deep shafts that have been pounded into the earth, lined with unusually smooth stone and most of which are covered with great lids of stone, which have been defaced by countless tribal markings. It generally takes at least two men to shift one of these stones and get at the water below, but I found that some magical enhancement can take the place of an able-bodied helper. In addition, there are forgotten, uncapped wells where the animals drink - and which are viciously defended against humans by the wild creatures that depend on them for their very lives.

Flora
The forests that grow at the foot of the mountains are composed of various subspecies of acacia. They are universally hardy plants, whose root systems grow wide to maintain purchase and suck water from a wide area. I had occasion to study a tree which had been torn loose from its perch due to a recent rockslide and noticed it lacked a taproot. More supporting evidence for my theory that the whole land is layered onto solid bedrock, perhaps.
The forests are small and widely-spaced, as the acacias are in constant and brutal competition with one another. Each tree's roots are tangled around those of its neighbours', constantly seeking to steal the water the others are also desperately searching for and trying to dislodge their competition's grip. I observed that specimens losing the fight quickly grow more skeletal in appearance, their branches warping until they look for all the world like the hands of a corpse, reaching for the heavens in a plea for mercy...
Your pardon. The sight of those trees was more unpleasant than it had any right to be.
The inner hills - those closest to the mountains - are covered in scrub grass the year round. The further one travels from the mountains, though, the thinner the grass becomes, until it abruptly ends once one leaves the elevation and steps back onto the plains. While the grass is sharp-edged, short and stiff, it provides nourishment for some creatures and its root system keeps the sandier hills together. If ever the grass were eradicated, I theorize that most of the hills would soon erode, leaving only mountains and plains - and spelling doom for those few locals who sustain themselves by keeping herd animals.

Fauna
In a sparse land such as this, animals are understandably not numerous, but they do exist.
One soon becomes aware that the desert is home to various poisonous snakes and lizards, which seem to survive by preying on each other and scavenging for any handy carrion. They sometimes provide themselves with the latter by killing larger creatures and waiting until decay causes their remains to soften. I can personally vouch for the fact that most varieties of the local reptile life are themselves fairly tasty, so long as they are prepared with care.
I encountered a pride of lions not long after entering Masogan. Or at least their ancestors must have been proper lions; these big cats were predatory enough, but they slunk like jackals and trailed me in hopes that I might keel over of my own account, rather than trying to drive me into an ambush. A single bullet shot into the ground near their leader, a male with a particularly mangy mane, made the whole 'pride' (an inappropriate term for beasts like these) turn tail and scatter in all directions.
The lions' main competition seem to be packs of jackals, which are actually more successful. The domain's lions may be scared off if one does not allow oneself to feel fear and makes a good show of force, but driving off the jackals requires shedding a significant amount of blood. Had I not been alert even after sundown and were I not in the habit of preparing at least some combat-ready spells, I might now not be reporting. Like the lions, the jackals move in silence. Unlike the lions, they attack quickly and ferociously and make good use of pack tactics. I was fortunate to encounter the pack I wound up decimating near the mountains, where I could put something against my back to prevent them from attacking from all sides at once.
Rats, mice, rabbits and other rodents are fairly numerous in the hilly regions, but rarely venture out onto the plains, where cover is hard to come by and predators lurk. Consequently, weasels and ermines do well for themselves in the hills as well, and the domain's birds of prey also prefer to hunt in the interior, rather than spend their energy patrolling the desert. I personally observed hawks, falcons, crows, ravens and even eagles in the air over the hills and mountains, all of them eager for prey.
The sky over the arid plains and deserts is the exclusive territory of vultures. There is a surprising variety of these, considering the sparseness of the land - or perhaps it is not so surprising that they would be able to maintain their population, giving the local 'funerary' customs and the harshness of the locals towards the locals. I suspect that this is also the reason why the lions and jackals have not died out yet inside the borders of Masogan; humans provide them with ample nutrition.
I am no experienced mountaineer, my Master, but I managed to go high enough into the mountains to find spoor which suggests to me the mountains are host to herds of wild sheep and wild goats, as well as cougars - or animals that are so close to cougars as makes no difference. None of the elusive creatures revealed itself to me, apart from my evening fire reflecting in a pair of emerald eyes one evening. I tried to shoot the beast for dissection and study, but it fled the instant I drew my pistol.

In addition to all of these wild creatures, I suppose I must say a few words about the domestic ones.
Some of the more advanced locals manage small herds of goats and sheep, and keep dogs for protection. The sheep and goats are really not that impressive, generations of bare-bones survival in a harsh land having made them lean and rendering their coats thin and tough. As for the dogs, I found them to be half-feral even at the best of times, and spotted several disturbing parallels between them and the wild jackals that prowl the plains.

History
Piecing together the history of Masogan is an exercize in patience, if not in frustration, from beginning to end. The locals are averse to any notion of scholarship, relying on the memories of their elders to record important facts and on their storytellers to impart education to their sons. Actual history blends seamlessly into mythology as the locals believe the past is unimportant except as entertainment and the future is a dream until it becomes the present, where they live.
After months of tottering up and down this wretched land, talking to the rare local willing to talk in a rational manner instead of immediately attacking me with a flint-tipped spear or running off shouting prayes to the spirits to save him from disease, I have managed to piece together a very rough history.
According to the locals, they were once gathered in one single, nomadic tribe, which they very imaginatively call 'The People'. The People wandered around the lands of Masogan, which saw more rain in those times and was blessed with fine herds of fat cattle. The men of the People hunted the cattle while the women gathered plants and made sacrifices to the spirits at home, and together they ate what they brought together and made babies.
For reasons which the locals attribute to events on the level of the gods (See Religion, below), the land started to become drier and less and less rain fell. Initially, the People managed to weather the withering of their land by working together more closely, with women now accompanying men on their hunts so they could propitiate the spirits to bring their men good fortune, could help carry more meat back and could gather plants further from their caravans. Then, the Great Tragedy struck: the women started dying in childbirth, and no new women were being born.
To this day, the locals believe that the Great Tragedy is a punishment from their god, enforced by the spirits which imbue every aspect of reality. I have gathered a list of the symptoms for you to consider, my Master, and would like to posit the possibility that Masogan is infested by some sort of pestilence. Regardless the cause, the effect is that any female creature which gives birth inside the borders of Masogan starts to hemorrhage blood and is normally dead by the time the baby has slipped out of her on a crimson flood.
Having learned of this, I made a more thorough study of the various fauna of this domain and discovered a startling truth; the wild animals actually migrate out of the land to give birth or lay their eggs! Those few locals who maintain small herds likewise drive their pregnant cattle over the borders so they can bear their young without dying, hoping and praying to the spirits every moment that no one will raid their own territory before they are able to return.
After the Great Tragedy, the People fragmented thanks to the word of their Great Prophet. The Great Prophet - whose name appears to be lost to time - declared that the People had become weak and corrupt by following the teachings of Thunder-Father's women, and that the Great Tragedy was Thunder-Father's gift to them. "You must walk apart and grow strong," every source quoted the words of the Great Prophet. "Become true men among men, and you will regain Thunder-Father's favour."
The numerous smaller tribes immediately fell to squabbling among themselves as to who might take the lion's share of women, so as to preserve their numbers as long as possible. Men shed each other's blood for the first time, and since then there has been bloodshed every time two tribes meet.
The land has only grown drier and less hospitable since then, but the men of Masogan survived and grew strong by fighting each other and the 'monsters of the mountains'. From context, I conclude that some of these 'monsters' are the Dwarven tribes that dwell in and under the mountains of the interior. The description of some of the other 'monsters' put me in mind of the creatures better known as Paka, although I do not think I encountered any.
In order to maintain their numbers, the men started to raid the 'soft, weak lands' that neighboured their own for new women, took them home and made more men with them. In the words of all my sources, "And so it has been since, out of eternity into eternity, until Thunder-Father decides anew."

Quote:
Dread Certainty: A Land for Men

Any child conceived inside the borders and on the surface of Masogan is guaranteed to be male, regardless what kind of creature is conceiving it. Burrowing creatures and the deep-digging Dwarves do still give birth to women.
In addition, any female giving birth, laying an egg or otherwise bringing its child into the world inside the borders of Masogan, regardless whether this is on the surface or beneath it, starts to hemorrhage and must make a DC 20 Fortitude save or lose a level. Even if the unfortunate mother makes the first save, she must make consecutive saves every following round, with the DC increasing by 5 every time, until the mother reaches level 0 and dies, or until she becomes the subject of a Remove Curse and a Remove Disease spell, cast by the same character in a single round.
Even if a mother becomes the lucky receiver of such curative magic, she must still make another DC 20 Fortitude save, or else she is rendered sterile.

The animals of Masogan instinctively move across the border to give birth and lay their eggs if they are at all able to do so, but any strange animal moved into the domain lacks this instinct.


Populace
Appearance
The natives of Masogan are a surprisingly heterogenous group, due in no small part to their tendency to raid across their borders for women, with whom they conceive the next generation of sons. Painstaking comparison - most of it from a safe distance - of traits common to the native tribes suggests that the original population tended to short, stocky builds, with hair colours ranging from dull brown to pale blonds. Masogan's relentless sun blasts all skins a dark shade, regardless one's ancestry, so I do not feel qualified to theorize as to the original tribes' skintone.
A relatively small but significant exception is formed by the Sha'da, a tribe of Aiel which moved into Masogan roughly three generations ago as the locals reckon time. Fierce warriors backed up by primal magic that they are, the Sha'da have resisted all attempts to wipe them out for their women, and so they display their classic racial traits. The Sha'da are long of limb and body, with hair ranging from fiery reds to unexpected blondes and eyes generally pale grey or blue.
The Dwarves of the mountains are as Dwarves everywhere; short, stout folk with piercing gazes and in many cases a beard you could camp out in. As the Paka (if any are present) blend in with the humans, I would assume they maintain their classic appearances when among themselves.

Fashion
Virtually nonexistent.
The Aiel and Dwarves dress in their time-honoured styles, and the locals are primitives with no concept of fashion when they think of their clothes, only of purpose. Animal skins are tanned, roughly cut and sewn into the desirable shape, or just wrapped around the owner. Due to the high temperatures of the domain, it is not uncommon for the locals to go stark naked when in their communities, where shade is provided to protect skin from the relentless sun and the possibility of skin cancer.

Language
Duan is the language of the tribes. It is a language with as many dialects as there are tribes, but two speakers from different tribes could understand each other if both spoke slowly - and did not immediately try to kill the other. In addition, most of the locals speak at least a few words of Aiel and Patterna; the Sha'da's (not always successful) tendency to raid the local tribes has brought elements of their culture into that of the locals. In addition, Vistani merchants are grudgingly allowed the run of the land because of the exceptional quality wares they offer for sale, and so the cannier locals have learned to speak their tongue.

Lifestyle & Education
Sadly, I have no information to offer as to the lifestyle and education of the domain's Dwarves, other than one thing; like all other living creatures that value the lives of their women, they make the perilous voyage for the border once the time to give birth has come. Married couples, bedecked with armour and bristling with weapons, hurry for the border as quickly as they can, accompanied by trustest friends and comrades. Those who make it must then make the equally perilous trip back to their subterranean homes. Needless to say, those who fail are brutally killed by the locals or enslaved by Aiel raiders.

The locals of Masogan are primitives in every sense of the word - with one notable exception, which I will discuss later in this report. They live in conditions which belong in the Stone Age, crafting weapons made of sticks and whetted pieces of flint or obsidian. As noted in the Fashion section above, they dress in the skins of their kill - disturbingly, they do not distinguish between the hides of animals and those of other humanoids they slay in the endless round of inter-tribe warfare and their raiding across the borders. I personally witnessed a proud hunter dressed in a tight suit that was made of pieces of human skin, crudely stitched together, with a man's bearded face as its fur-lined hood. Instead of making shoes, they wrap their feet in strips of hide.
Education is completely goal-oriented, with young men learning the arts of hunting and fighting from older men as much through observation as practical instruction. There is no formal curriculum; every grown man is allowed to take on a single apprentice, who must first respectfully ask for instruction. Only once the elder is satisfied that the younger is a man in good standing is the apprenticeship dissolved and are both free to take on a new apprentice.
The natives' life is likewise goal-oriented; tribes slowly follow ancestral trails through their territory, travelling from one ancient water-well to another, with small groups branching off from the main group to hunt, forage and scout for both intruders and opportunities to raid and enslave. Such scouting parties are generally composed of three people; an elder man to instruct, a younger man to learn, and a woman or eunuch to carry what the men gather.
I can probably no longer delay in reporting the disparate gender roles of the native humans. Men are roughly educated; men hunt; men forage; men rule the tribes; men go to raid; men may speak to the spirits and the gods. In contrast, the women are kept purely as breeding chattel and slaves. Women are kept in corrals when the tribe is at rest and they are not needed to clean, prepare food or assist men in baby-making; when the tribe is in motion, they are generally led along by long ropes tied to their wrists if their menfolk are feeling generous, and by their piercings if the men are not.
One of the many unsavoury customs the natives inflict on any woman who falls into their power is that they receive piercings of the nose, the lower lip, nipples and labia majora. Rings of rare metal - gold and silver predominate - are manually applied to punctures made with needles made of bone or flint, without the benefit of anesthesia. In the case of juveniles, the only thing pierced are the nose and lip, but the other piercings are applied as soon as the victim - I do not hesitate to use the term - starts to demonstrate signs of sexual maturity, ie., the development of secondary sexual characteristics. Personally, I shudder to think how many poor women have died of painful infections due to the barbaric method used to inflict these mutilations.

In contrast, the Sha'da Aiel have built strongholds at the southern borders of the domain. These fortress-like dwellings, made mostly with building materials they have stolen from the lands of their kinfolk south of Masogan, are viciously-defended fortresses positioned around precious wells. Inside these fortresses, the Sha'da tend their own herds of sheep and goats, which I am content to report are equally as miserable as those kept by the natives.
Men and women have roughly equal standing in their society, although there is evidence that the chieftains listen closely to the advice of the Wise Women, who are surprisingly well-organized and often display access to the primal magic used in lands to the south. Of course pregnant women needs must make the journey across the border in order to give birth, and the Sha'da frequently choose not to conceive in Masogan, but instead travel south wholesale to conduct the whole process of impregnation, pregnancy and delivery there.
As the Sha'da put it, their kin to the south may kill them for returning, even if it is to create new life. Masogan will definitely kill them if they do not, at least to create new life.
Of course it is important to remember that the Sha'da also make frequent trips to the south to raid their kindred, which I suspect does more to turn the other Aiel against them than their relatively brief return to conceive.
In addition to raiding across the border, the Sha'da are prone to viciously attacking the locals, taking both men and women as slaves if they manage to win. Their successes would vastly outnumber their losses if only their magic-users would accompany their raids, but this appears to be a strictly-enforced taboo.
Surprisingly, there exists a small and cautious amount of trade between the Sha'da and the native humans - in slaves. Both sides have a tendency to barter away any slaves they themselves find objectionable for one reason or another, and are pleased to push their 'leavings' onto people they despise and receive a slave in return who might be more acceptable. Of course, if the trade goods prove equally undesirable, the Sha'da stake the disappointment out for the sun and the wild animals to kill. I personally observed this process and can testify the Sha'da keep a close eye on the process - all while making bets as to how long it will take the unfortunate to die and what they will die of, and chatting companionable among themselves.

Attitudes toward magic
Again, I can not speak for the Dwarves due to my inability to locate the entrance to their subterranean dwellings.

In contrast, I can vouch for the following:
The Sha'da Aiel hold their primal magic in awe, but consider it to be the sole territory of women. Any man caught using the primal art are either run off or killed on the spot. Any woman who shows an aptitude for the art faces years of harsh training and instruction under elder magic-users, aimed at making her strong in magic and will, as resistant to the slings and arrows of cruel fate as any warrior, but tougher by far.

The native human tribes also hold magic in awe, but only the magic of the Cleric, the Druid, the Adept and the Spirit Shaman. Men who display talent to propitiate the spirit world and the gods are given great respect - after an apprenticeship so brutal that it frankly makes the Sha'da's tutoring practises look like a kindly tea party. Apprentices are submitted to branding, starvation, solitude and other forms of privation and torture, and only those who do not break are eventually allowed to represent their tribe. Those who do break are castrated on the spot and enslaved.
Displays of arcane magic, no matter how innocuous, from anyone, man, woman, human or other, are considered to be hideous blasphemy against the Thunder-Father in that arcane magic is believed to be a 'gift' from his despised brides.
Spiritual spellcasters who have been released from training with the approval of their mentors are known as Chosen Men and invariably command great respect among their people, and form an exception to the rule that each tribe will kill or enslave every stranger it meets; a Chosen Man may demand mazel, a right to parley with any strange tribe's spiritual representative, and be confident in his ability to walk into a strange tribe's territory and out again without having suffered harm at the hands of any of its warriors, though possibly not those of its own Chosen Man and his apprentices if the mazel goes particularly badly. Of course, if a Chosen Man demands mazel of a tribe that does not have a spiritual spellcaster of its own, they may find themselves offered the position without any hesitation.

Religion
The dominant religion of the local humans is that of Thunder-Father.
Local mythology claims that in the 'First Age', Thunder-Father could be seen sitting atop the highest mountain from everywhere in the land. Likewise, his many wives could be seen sitting on the lower peaks. Thunder-Father was the First Man, the Greatest Man, the lord of the sky and the rain that brought life and prosperity to man, beast and plant, and so he had all the goddesses of the earth for wives.
This was a golden age, which was ruined because Thunder-Father's women started to look at each other with jealousy instead of taking pride that they shared in their husband's affection. Each wife wanted to be first in Thunder-Father's affections, and so they started fighting each other for supremacy. That was a terrible time, when the earth heaved and tore, living creatures fought each other on the wives' behalf, pestilence scourged the land and all became chaos. Finally, Thunder-Father regretfully stretched out his hand. He sealed his wives underneath the mountains that had been their seats.
Saddened by the damage that had been done, Thunder-Father drew the clouds around his high Seat so no one could see him again, and only spoke through his Chosen Men. He only rarely brings the rains anymore, for he is waiting for men to prove themselves. To this end did he send the Great Catastrophe, so that men would have a reason to prove themselves and women, who were once the representatives of his wives, could no longer lead them astray.

Quote:
Thunder-Father

Symbol: Man's fist filled with lightning-bolts
Alignment: CN
Portfolio: Sky, air, storms, men, fertility
Worshipers: Native men of Masogan
Cleric alignments: CE, CG, CN
Domains: Air, Chaos, Strength, Weather
Favoured weapon: Shortspear or halfspear


Priests of Thunder-Father pray for spells at dawn, when light fills the sky and Thunder-Father's presence is most palpable. They celebrate few holidays, but rain is considered a blessed event and always good for an impromptu festival.

Quote:
Dread Possibility: the Empty Seat

Although no native human of Masogan would ever consider doing so, it is theoretically possible to climb to the highest mountain peak in the land and look upon Thunder-Father's Seat. While it is highly unlikely that anyone will find the god there, they are more than likely that anyone who dares trespass on the Seat will encounter its guardian, Blögog.
Blögog is a CE Storm Giant Cleric 6 of Thunder-Father who climbed up here to worship at his deity's feet so long ago that even he doesn't remember how long it's been. He did not find Thunder-Father, but his belief has not waned in the slightest; every time he falls asleep, he awakens to find signs that someone or something has been there, and he at least believes he feels the aura of his patron.
When he believes himself to be alone, Blögog holds worship ceremonies for his patron or meditates, pausing only to eat food he creates with his Clerical magic or sleep. If he detects strangers approaching, however, he hides and prepares to ambush them. Blögog is not about to let anyone desecrate Thunder-Father's Seat, and will sacrifice anyone he catches alive. Those too difficult to capture, he will gleefully throw off the mountain.


Second to the worship of Thunder-Father is the awe the natives feel for the Spirits. This is an animistic faith, which holds there is a spirit in every object and creature, and that the spirits can be communicated and bargained with for the wellbeing of the community. Chosen Men spend many hours asking the spirits for bountiful hunting and foraging, health for their tribe and fertility in its women, while also calling down the reverse on the tribe's enemies - typically the Aiel and any other tribe in the area. Although I suspect Thunder-Father may simply be a sky-spirit which gained supremacy in the eyes of the faithful over the years due to the importance of water in this barren land, the natives hold that all spirits are his subjects; the results of his many couplings with his imprisoned wives.

Third in the domain is the worship of the Cat Lord, the ancestral deity of the Paka. While I did not encounter any Paka myself - that I know of - I did stumble on a temporary shrine while I was looking around the mountains. While it is difficult to be absolutely certain that this was a place sanctified to the Cat Lord, it did radiate a sufficient amount of unholy energy to make me feel deeply uncomfortable and had been decorated with images of feline creatures tearing into human-like stick figures. In blood.
Yes, my Master, I know that this is not the most damning evidence of Paka activity. Finding a human corpse in a shallow grave nearby, its wounds seeming to indicate it had been attacked by a cat standing on its hind legs, was more persuasive.

Fourth and final is the odd faith imported by the Aiel out of their lands to the south: The Light and the Shadow. I expect I will learn more about this subject once I go there. From what little I can tell you about it now, the Aiel believe Light and Shadow lie at the basis of all creation. Their constant battle led to the creation of the physical universe and all life, as their energies clashed and mingled and they ultimately shaped it deliberately to create a new battleground for themselves. Their continuing clash is also the source of the primal magic practised in lands to the south (and, I suspect, elsewhere as more initiates flee the lands to the south in hope of a better future elsewhere), as their mingling energies continue to rain down on the physical universe and mortals 'channel' it.
The natives of Masogan appear to have incorporated the Light and the Shadow into their view of the spirit world, seeing them simply as mighty spirits, not the equal of Thunder-Father.

Quote:
The Light and the Shadow

Symbol: A double spiral of black and white, turning both in and out
Alignment: N
Portfolio: Creation, destruction, evil, good, power, transformation
Worshipers: Sha'da Aiel, native humans of Masogan
Cleric alignments: CN, LN, N, NE, NG
Domains:
The Light: Creation, Healing, Protection, Sun
The Shadow: Darkness, Death, Destruction, Trickery
Favoured weapon: Whip


Quote:
Dread Possibility: the fifth faith

Unbeknown to the surveyor, there is another spiritual power bloc in Masogan: a small minority of the natives of Masogan who worship the Brides of Thunder-Father. There are many conceivable reasons for them to do so; some believe Thunder-Father is himself responsible for the conflict that ended the mythical First Age because he played his wives one against the other for his own amusement; others are good people at heart who are appalled at the fate of women in Masogan and hope that the Brides, if released, could undo the Great Tragedy; others are true to the animistic faith of their ancestors and see no reason not to worship all spirits, regardless their nature.
The Silent Men, as they name themselves when among each other, form a second layer of the native human society that crosses the boundaries of tribe - and of species, as well!
Recently Moirag, a CN Paka Cleric 3 from the lands to the north, has joined the Silent Men. While she initially meant to trick the Silent Men and murder them, she was startled to find herself imbued with spiritual magic after participating in a ceremony to honour the Brides. Now, Moirag is one of the foremost members of the faith of the Brides and their strongest advocate for a more proactive strategy to undo the cruelties performed by the other natives and the release of the Brides.
The faithful of the Brides meet at the dark of the moon and pray for their spells at midnight, times when the darkness of the earth lies upon the land and Thunder-Father's presence seems most distant.

The Brides

Symbol: A black circle in a square of lightning
Alignment: N
Portfolio: The earth, animals, fertility, plants, women
Worshipers: Native humans of Masogan
Cleric alignments: CN, LN, N, NE, NG
Domains: Animal, Earth, Plant
Favoured weapon: Sickle


The Realm
Government
Each tribe has its own chieftain. This is either the greatest warrior or the most powerful Chosen Man of the tribe. Chieftains of different tribes rarely work together - and when they do, it is always to someone's net deficit.

While I did not witness this personally, I was told during my stay with the last tribe I would experience that on occasion, tribes agree to set aside their usual hostilities to enhance their ability to inflict harm on others. This could be another tribe which has been getting too big and prideful for its own good, but it is more common for this to be the inhabitants of one of the countries that border on Masogan.
Once the raiding has been done and the loot has been dragged back, the allied tribes ideally split everything fairly and go their separate ways. In reality, this is the time when the tribes are most likely to turn on each other, the stronger devouring the weaker to increase its net benefit.

Diplomacy
None worth mentioning.

Sometimes the tribes come together to do violence against another. Sometimes the tribes and the Aiel exchange slaves. No other diplomacy exists; the natives are convinced that the countries which surround them are inhabited by effete weaklings who deserve only to be raided.

Lilliend
Although these two countries no longer border each other, the natives of Masogan still reserve a special hatred for Lilliend. The local storytellers keep reminding the tribes that Lilliend's population is mostly composed of women and that its men die soon after the birth of their first daughter. In the minds of the natives, this is a disgusting perversion of the natural order perpetrated by insane murderesses, as well as a deliberate insult to the edicts of Thunder-Father. If the tribes had their way, they would drag every woman in Lilliend back to Masogan and show them what their 'proper' station in life is.

Vieuxlyons
The natives hate Vieuxlyons only slightly less than they do Lilliend. Since the small domain appeared, attacks on Lilliend have become even more difficult than they used to be; now the tribes don't just need to fight their way up the mountains and skirt the many booby-traps awaiting them, they first need to cross the fetid swamp and the toxic battleground that surround Vieuxlyons' inhabited area - if they can even get that far. In recent history, the Darklord of Vieuxlyons has closed off the borders of his tiny Domain every time the tribes surged across them, obliging the tribes to either make the perilous treck around Vieuxlyons or go home with their tails tucked between their legs.
The tribes would love to simply sweep away the tiny village, but they are leery of testing the legendary war machines of the domain again.

The Broken Wheel
As far as the natives are concerned, the lands to the south are quite like their own, so they would not mind conquering them and living there - if not for the fact that they are teeming with Aiel. Still, the tribes might not mind going to war with these doughty warriors and enslaving their women, if not for those very women's propensity towards the primal magic. After generations of conflict, the tribes still haven't figured out how to distinguish a regular Aiel woman from a Wise One (the clothes can be very telling) and so consider the Aiel to be 'cheating' at warfare. An enslaved women should submit when she is beaten, not suddenly start hurling around fireballs or cause the earth to swallow her new masters.
If the tribes will ever make a real push towards the south, rather than engaging in quick raids, they would likely move in force and wage a war of extinction before they start settling down.

Fell Fields
The lands to the north reinforce the tribes' overinflated opinion of themselves. There are many vulnerable communities for them to raid, and the locals are more likely to flee than fight. Little do they understand that this is because the locals' spirits have been broken by their oppressive Tyrants Three. If the tribes ever try to set up a permanent presence in these 'soft' lands, they are likely to experience true power from any of the three kings that rule the land.

Sites of Interest
Sha'da'hel

Largest of the Aiel settlements along the southern border of the domain, Sha'da'hel (a name I overheard while shadowing a patrol) is a formidable fortress-city which mimics the spire-cities of the Aiel to the south. I managed to glimpse the thoughts of one of the patrolling warriors with a spell, and saw a city of many levels; great pylons of solid stone support the various levels and rope bridges allow natives to clamber from one level to the other, but there were no provisions made for carts or other heavy traffic.
The Aiel prefer using slave labour to move heavy cargoes from one level to the other. I saw images of lines of white-clad servants, their faces devoid of hope, endlessly trudging along on various errands. Unfortunately I could see no more, because I was detected at this point and had to run. To my lasting regret, I discovered too late that this patrol included a Wise One. She pelted me with bolts of condensed air and water as I fled, which quite ruined my disguise.

To my even greater regret, I wound up running into a group of natives who had themselves been spying on Sha'da'hel, and I spent the last days of my time in Masogan as a prisoner of the natives myself.

I will not go into detail as to what was done to me. At the first available opportunity, I intend to have these damnable piercings removed from my person. The memories of the other indignities will fade in time - or possibly I will extract them through applied alchemical philosophy, if I can find a deserving target for such... filth.
I might have made my escape attempt sooner if not for your damned directives, my Master; I was set to break out before the tribe's damned shaman first approached me with his bone needle if I had not overheard mutterings that the tribe would detour to 'the High Shaman' to purchase new metal rings and see whether he wanted to barter some women who had proven to be sterile.
During all my time in Masogan, I had not yet found anyone who seemed likely to be the land's dread lord, my Master, and so this seemed like my only available hint. It is your fault that I had to endure - !

Yes, I have regained consciousness. I will continue my report.

Hunran's Compound
The tribe slowly made its way to a compound built near the edge of the outer hills, in the eastern quarter of the domain. It was a curiosity in this backwards land; a permanent structure, a sprawling villa made of stone in an architectural style I did not recognize, but which seemed highly advanced. The compound was walled, and there was a trench dug before the wall, its floor bristling with stakes and half full with some vile, alchemical sludge that soured the air long before we came close enough to spit in the trench.

The tribe's Chosen Man was ordered to announce the tribe. He showed more apprehension about this than any other native man would otherwise dare to display, but he did go. After he had shouted at the compound for a few minutes, a small drawbridge was lowered and an... individual came out. I tried to stay behind the other slaves as much as possible. These coarse savages might not be capable of recognizing an alchemically-brewed construct, but I myself have been versed in that art - Yes, my Master, by you - and I knew the tell-tale signs.
The Chosen Man negotiated with unusual politeness with the construct, which was cast in the form of a beautiful woman in a shimmering white garment, and an agreement was reached: ten barren women captured by the tribe for ten of the quality barren women bred by the High Shaman. The Chosen Man beckoned to his chieftain and the unshaven lout who had claimed my weapons belt came to collect ten of the slave-women awaiting their fate, myself included.
At this point, my Master, one of your other directives took precedence, and this once I found myself in full agreement. No good purpose can be served by my being dissected and possibly betraying certain facts to a golem-crafter. To the warrior's surprise, I yanked my pistols out of their holsters and unloaded them into his belly. While he fell down screaming and his gormless chums still stood watching, I snatched my weapons belt off of him, buckled it one-handed and cut my bindings with the other hand.
At this point, chaos ensued. Furious warriors descended on me, shouting threats and upbraiding me for blasphemy; the slave-women screamed and cried for their freedom; the Chosen Man started running in our direction; the alchemical golem calmly went back across the drawbridge. I panicked a bit. I cast the strongest spell of destruction still in my memory.
After the thunderous rapport of my Fireball had died away, I was running across the plains, the ex-slave-women following behind me - those that had managed to snatch up weapons from the corpses and free themselves. You may recall I keep more in my weapons belt than just weapons, my Master, and I was glad to find the natives had not discovered its secret compartments. My compass was where I needed it to be, and with the aid of that little tool and the stars, I plotted out a course for the border.
We had to run and keep running, my unintentional charges and I, for the natives were not long behind us. Nor were they alone; a company of more alchemical golems, these cast in the shape of men, ran alongside the disorganized rabble. We ran all night and then we ran all day. I am not too modest to admit that it was my magic that kept the women going and allowed us to stay ahead of our pursuers. Twice, their Chosen Man fired spells at us and each time, I managed to rip the magic to shreds before it could do real harm. After that, he seemed a bit shy about engaging me again.
Finally, we approached the western border. Ahead lay the stinking mire of Vieuxlyons, but it looked as welcome to me as any of the pastoral meadows described by Hesiod. I charged across the border, the women followed after - and fell on the ground, screaming and writhing like damned souls caught in Hell. I froze; so did the natives that had been following us. The golems stopped, but seemed unconcerned with the pain of my companions. Rather, they looked at me with a kind of clinical interest.
While I watched, the bellies of these poor women swelled as if they were going through rapid pregnancy - this in spite of the fact that they were supposedly barren! Some tried to crawl back into Masogan, but these were soon killed by hurled projectiles, courtesy of the natives. This went on until the golems turned on them; some warriors were slain, but most fled, rather than fight the alchemical creatures that had supposedly been on their side.
Me, I did not know what to do. And I did nothing.
Before my eyes, those poor women were drained of life and vitality by their unnatural pregnancies - and then torn asunder as their 'babies' clawed their way out into the world. I could see these were just more alchemical golems. Golems cast in the image of their 'mothers', only younger.
We stood staring at one another for a while, the golems and I. Then they turned around and all trotted back the way they had come, whereas I... I limped on into Vieuxlyons to recover. To recover and, if I can but find anyone vile enough to deserve some of the memories I now carry, to forget.

Final Thoughts
I am not satisfied with the results of my research of Masogan.
Of all the piercings embedded in my flesh, only those which would have been shielded by clothing and the one in my lip have come out. The one in my nose is stuck fast, in spite of the efforts of the doctor, a blacksmith, and my own spellcasting. When I probed the miserable thing, I detected a faint pulse of magic, but have been unable to determine its purpose. I can barely look in the mirror without feeling chagrin over the bloody thing making me look like a cow to be lead to market.
This leads me to suspect that whoever reigns inside that stone compound I told you of may be the dread lord of Masogan. Who- or whatever it is, the dread lord must hold considerable magical and alchemical might to command the level of fear I saw in the natives. In addition, I suspect he or she or it must have a sizeable staff of golems with considerable skills. Who else would mine and smelt the metal turned into these damnable rings? Still, I cannot be certain, and that galls me.
What also galls me is what I saw at the border. You may not be overly concerned by this, my Master, but the way women - females of all kinds, really - are treated by the very nature of this land sickens me and fills me with a more abstract concern. In Lilliend, we saw men die as soon as they had conceived a woman. While it is rare, some men do live to ripe old age, so long as they can only produce sons with their wives, and so there is hope. Masogan does not offer such hope at all; any woman who is fertile dies in childbirth, and she will be forced to bear offspring soon. Girls too young to give birth are used as slaves until they are ready. Sterile women are also used as slaves, until their looks start to go - and that is when they are sold to whoever dwells in that stone compound.
How many generations has this despicable state of affairs been going on?
How long has this golem-crafter been active?
How many golems does he, she or it already have, labouring away - and at what purpose?
I recall the golem-builder sells guaranteed sterile women with beautiful forms to the tribes who trade him their own sterile women. No doubt these are yet more golems, but what purpose does their travelling with the tribes serve, other than netting the golem-maker more genetic material to base alchemical golems on?
I can answer none of these questions, but I am left with a nagging sense of foreboding, my Master.
Masogan is a savage land with negligible resources - except for its people. As backwards as they are, they are strong and resilient, to survive in such a land and not be overrun by the Sha'da, the Dwarves and the Paka. Something tells me that it would be unwise to disregard the domain completely and so we come to my recommendations for

Conquest
The quickest, easiest way to weaken the population would be to poison the wells used by the nomadic tribes. As they are constantly on the move, it should be possible to poison a significant number of these with impunity.
Once the people are weakened, I recommend executing as many of the Chosen Men as you can get your hands on, using lurid displays of arcane magic. These people are strong, but savage. Intimidate them, let their anger and hatred turn to fear that gnaws at their bones in the dead of night.
If you can break a number of tribes to your will and keep them broken, it should only be a matter of time before you can take them all. As each tribe prefers to travel separately and there are no long-standing alliances, a tightly-controlled coalition should be able to sweep up more and more followers until no mortal force can stop you.

Provided it is not too late already.

Yours in Contempt,

F. B

_________________
Res Mira starts here.

As of Saturday 09-04-2016, this is the latest page.


Tue Jul 21, 2015 9:21 am
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