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Returned Maztica

Tonbo_Karasu

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I'm just wondering whether you've read Aliette de Bodard's Obsidian and Blood novels. They certainly have inspiration for Fantasy meso-america.

Also, the kelpie and bunyip could be re-skinned to work as stand-ins for the Ahuizotl (which really sound like they were designed by D&D designers).

To return (if you don't mind) to pluma and hishna. It is a few years since I last read the trilogy but I distinctly remember that the plumaweaver and hishnacrafters couldn't actually cast spells, but could create magical effects through crafting their chosen substance. I like your first step towards it with that artisan ability. Would it be worthwhile spinning off a thread to create an artisan/artificer/whatever class that could then be used for any setting with magic item crafters?
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
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...I don't want to google that, do I? Rule 34.
Too late:




Anyway, the final and shortest booklet in the Boxed Set is titled Gods and Battles - Portfolios and Statistics for the Dungeon Master

https://img1.etsystatic.com/070/0/9113818/il_570xN.814871027_w7e0.jpg

Half of the book is taken up by explanations how to use the BATTLESYSTEM™ rules with Maztica, which we can largely ignore. For one thing, there are no mass combat rules for 5e yet, and for another Maztican warfare will likely have been completely overhauled in the past 128 years. I do note however that the BATTLESYSTEM™ doesn't seem to use a "point buy" system for its armies - similar to a more modern fantasy warfare system (Warhammer Fantasy: Age of Sigmar).

Three scenarios are listed. The first one is from the early days of the Nexalan Empire, when they fought against the mountain town of Cordotl in order to absorb it into their empire. Not relevant unless I want to revisit Cordotl at some point, in which case I suppose I can maybe turn one of the commanders into an undead renevant or something. The second one is about the first battle of the Golden Legion when they conquered Payit. Surprisingly, the Golden Legion doesn't seem to have any gunpowder-using units listed, even though that is explicitly mentioned earlier in the rules section as one of the things causing a morale check for Maztican units when they first encounter it. The third one details the Battle of Tukan, when the Nexalan refugees and any allies they were able together make their Last Stand against the Viperhand monsters pursuing them.


Now we come to the more interesting chapter - Powers of Maztica (remember, that was in the era when TSR frequently called gods "powers", though this was not uniform - in fact, the main text itself in this booklet keeps on calling them gods).

First we start with a primer on Maztican temples. These are usually built on top of pyramids, which are not the temples themselves but merely the structure supporting them. The pyramids are sometimes solid, but many of them have secret passages, burial chambers, treasure troves, or hidden meeting places - in other words, they are excellent dungeon locations, which is as it should be. A pyramid currently in use will always be kept clean of dirt, and stones will be repaired with plaster or replaced if they crumble. The sides will be covered by colorful mosaics and murals. A pyramid can even be dedicated to more than one deity - for example, the Great Pyramid of Nexal was dedicated to both Zaltec and Tezca (though I wonder whether this meant that two temples were built on top of the pyramid, or that there was a single shared temple).

The text goes on to explain that Maztica have a very large variety of deities, some of which are aspects of each other - but for brevity's and simplicity's sake they are only describing the 11 most important deities. Which I think is a shame - I love coming up with strange religions and I think there could be entire "Cults of Maztica" sub-line of products. Also, I think players should be explicitly encouraged to make up their own Maztican gods to worship, especially if they are playing clerics.

Then there comes a long-ish section entitled A Note About Alignment, where the author passes on a (in my view) unnecessary Value Judgement that human sacrifice is evil, but that the societies that practiced them are not universally evil. Which should go without saying - I mean, the practices of Roman Empire and the British Empire also were very, very evil, but their societies were not universally evil.

The author goes on that those priests who practice human sacrifice are also universally evil, even though their gods commanded it. For my version, I want to make this a bit more ambivalent - in my view, it is not necessarily the "human sacrifice" part, but the fact that they are killing helpless captives. In other words, a Jaguar Knight who dedicates the kills he makes on the battlefield to Zaltec is a more grey area, as long as he does not go out of his way to kill those who have already been defeated. Also, killing sacrifices who consent to being sacrifices is also a more grey area in my opinion.

Furthermore, the fact that the gods come in many different aspects also helps to muddy the waters. Someone could worship Zaltec in his aspect of the patron of honorable warfare without being evil.

The text then explains that practicing pluma or hishna magic do not necessitate being good for the former and evil for the latter - unless you reach the highest levels of craftmanship, whereupon you must be devoted to the "correct" god. Frankly, I think I will ditch that one - during the Godless Time the arts of pluma and hishna will likely have developed further and no longer need that much dedication to a specific divine patron.

Finally, the text notes that Necromantic and Summoning spells are not available to priests who worship Maztican powers. That is... frankly boring, and makes me wonder how the Elementals got into the list of monsters for Maztica since they generally need to be summoned to appear. Also, what's the point of having cool "Monsters of Twilight" in your mythology if evil priests cannot call upon them?
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
I'm just wondering whether you've read Aliette de Bodard's Obsidian and Blood novels. They certainly have inspiration for Fantasy meso-america.
I will check them out, although my current reading list is already getting rather long - if I read everything, I will never actually get around to writing a product!

Which brings be to my general publishing plan:

- The first publication will be a "Player's Guide to the True World", which is basically a discussion of all the relevant game mechanical options for 5e as well as an in-character overview of the current status of Maztica. This is intended as very bare bones, so that I don't have to contradict myself too much if I come up with better ideas later on.

- The next publication will be "Ulatos - Gateway to the True World" which details both the city and gives a gazeteer of Payit. This will serve as a model for further "location" books - I will pick one city in each nation and describe it in detail while also providing a gazeteer for the larger nation.

There might also be shorter publications in a variety of sub-lines. I already mentioned "Cults of the True World" detailing specific gods and their followers, and another candidate is "Monsters of the True World", which will detail specific creatures of Maztica as well as their behavior, ecology, and interactions with humans.

Also, the kelpie and bunyip could be re-skinned to work as stand-ins for the Ahuizotl (which really sound like they were designed by D&D designers).
Well, the Ahuizotl already gets a writeup in "Fires of Zatal", so there is no need to re-skin anything. Re-stat yes, but not re-skin.

To return (if you don't mind) to pluma and hishna. It is a few years since I last read the trilogy but I distinctly remember that the plumaweaver and hishnacrafters couldn't actually cast spells, but could create magical effects through crafting their chosen substance. I like your first step towards it with that artisan ability. Would it be worthwhile spinning off a thread to create an artisan/artificer/whatever class that could then be used for any setting with magic item crafters?
A good idea, but I think I will want to finish a draft for the class first.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Now let's delve into the writeups of the Maztican gods!

Kukul: Ancient Father of the Gods is associated with stars, meteors, and gold - in fact, one myth claims that the gold in the earth are the remains of his body. It is believed that he is the father of all the other gods but died due to grief about the strife between his sons. Being dead, he bestows no powers, but he is worshiped by sages and chroniclers. The priests of the younger gods also speak highly of him, and always blame some other god for his death.

In the current age, I think any Matztican theologian will associate Kukul with Ao. After all, Kukul is remote and bestows no spells - just like Ao. "But wait!" says the Faerunian priest. "Didn't you just say that Kukul was dead?"

"So what?" says the Maztican priest. "Apparently he came back from the dead. Gods tend to do that. Consider your very own Mystra, Bane, Bhaal, Amaunator, Helm... Really, you are being stupid! They are gods! They are not bound by life and death as we are! And if your gods made such a ruckus that Kukul woke up from his death and gave them a stern talking to about what is and what isn't proper behavior, then what's so hard to grasp about that?"


Speaking of gods that are dead-but-dreaming, we get to Maztica: Mother of Life, The World. She is associated with mountains (which means that aarakocra might have affinity for her), the soil, and silver (which is going to make Cerico really unpopular with her followers). I've already talked about her a bunch, including how she is the only Maztican deity who stayed with the Mazticans during the Godless Time because she was the land itself. However, during the Godless Time there were some cults who tried to resurrect her, with dubious methods and results. One of them raised an entity that they call the "Green Mother"... think of it as a Shub-Niggurath cult, and you are not far wrong.


The next god is Qotal: The Dick^h^h^h^h Feathered Dragon. He is associated with feathers, butterflies, mays, wind and air, clouds, couatls (also dicks), macaws, and eagles (they do look rather shifty, come to think of it). His most common portrayal is as a golden dragon with plumage instead of scales. Interestingly, this text claims that he left Maztica because of an abhorrence to human sacrifice, and not because he was too weak from an extended post-coital slumber after raping his sister.


Zaltec: Bringer of War and Eater of Hearts is associated with hearts, skulls, macas, knives, a bloody hand, talons, fangs, jaguars, and rattlesnakes. He generally looks fairly humanoid, but his face is beastlike - sometimes with teeth of a jaguar, sometimes with fangs like those of a rattlesnake. He is a patron of warfare, and said to favor hearts offered on the altar, although slaying on the field of battle is also gratifying to him. His priests fast constantly and often mark themselves with ritual wounds. Their garb is usually a black, soiled robe and use the blood of their victims as hair gel to get it nice and spikey.


Azul: Giver of Rain and Taker of Breath (also called Calor among the Nexalans) is associated with rain, ice, octal (the local alcoholic beverage of choice), fish, and frogs. He is said to favor sacrifices of young children which are drowned in a ritual pool - since Maztica has so many dry areas, this ritual is mostly adhered to in order to ensure rainfall.


Plutoq: Master of Earth and Stone is associated with mountain peaks, obsidian, copper, adobe, dust, jade, turquoise, clay and pottery - I suspect in the current time he has also added iron and steel to his portfolio. It is believed that earthquakes and avalanches are caused by him when someone disrespected him. However, he does not require human sacrifice for appeasement - instead, shattering pottery or jewelry on the ground will do. He is also believed to be the master of the regions above the treeline, which are "rumored to be strange places, inhabited by bizarre and dangerous creatures." Presumably, he is viewed as the patron of Cerico.


Tezca: Ruler of Sun and Fire is associated with flame, the sun, fireflies, snakeskin, lava, smoke, fire, and lizards. He too requires human sacrifices each evening so that he will return each morning. He is especially popular among the Kultakans, who hold him in higher esteem than Zaltec.


Kiltzi: Giver of Health, Growth, Nourishment, and Love is associated with flower buds, pregnant women, babies, rainbows, and the moon (as well as getting raped by Qotal). She is invoked during weddings, pregnancies, and after childbirth, as well as wild parties. Her priests are the most effective healers among the Mazticans. Occasionally, a shock of mayz or a bag of seeds is burned at her altar. "The more common form of devotion to Kiltzi is performed privately between a man and a woman".


Eha: Wind Sprite is associated with clouds, snoke, steam, wind, flutes and horns - which has some overlap with Qotal's associations (who probably stole them from her, the dick!). She is generally held to be insubstantial and of shifting form. She is seen as largely benevolent, as even at her most angriest her winds are not as deadly as the wrath of the other gods.

Her protean nature makes me inclined to believe that she has some connection to the fey and the Feywild, which I will try to explore at a later time. In a pantheon of fairly "humanoid" or at least solid deities, she rather sticks out.


Watil: Guardian of Plants is associated with lily, mayz (which Qotal likely stole from her, the dick!), cactus, leaves, and blossoms. Her priests generally bless crops and live in forests or swamps where they study and care for exotic plants - often in secret, as some of them have developed unusual strains with bizarre powers. She does not demand sacrifices, but is frequently held as a weak pawn of Azul, hostage to his life-giving rains.

I feel Watil has a lot of potential too - for the "secret plant strains" alone. 1491 and 1493 had a lot to say about all sorts of specialized corn and potato strains which were only in use in individual villages of Mesoamerica, and these priests competing for the most awesome plants they can grow can translate into some interesting adventures.


Nula: Guardian of Animals is associated with the jaguar (which Zaltec stole from her, the dick!), the hummingbird, snake, buzzard, and monkey. In fact, she generally appears in the guise of a wise, long-limbed monkey - although said monkey is prone to sudden mood swings. Possibly because she gets little respect from Mazticans, who don't require much of her for survival. However, it is noted that with the advent of the foreigners her stature has grown as these foreigners have introduced horses, cattle, and swine. After the Godless Time she has likely become a rather important deity - especially in Pezelec, with its ranching culture.


That's it for the listed gods. One comment, though - the priest "spheres" they have access to seem to be fairly weak when compared to AD&D 2E generalist clerics, at least as far as I remember them. Only Kiltzi gets access to five Major spheres, and all the rest get four or less - more evidence of "Maztican characters must suck when compared to the not-Europeans!" You can bet that this will be dumped with the other baggage.


We are almost done with the Boxed Set. Only one further item bears mentioning - the "Voyages" map which shows a bit more land than what can be seen on the two big poster maps of Maztica. Unfortunately, this map is not exactly accurate, but it does show some further details - such as the sahuagin realm of Itzcatli and the Poscadar elves further north (as well as the rough outlines of the coastline up there).

That's it! Thank you for following me on the first "Where I Read" section of this thread, and your comments. More is to come - since it is so important to the setting, I think I will start tackling the "Maztica" trilogy of novels ("Ironhelm", "Viperhand", and "Feathered Dragon") starting tomorrow.

However, I feel there is something missing for this task. From what I remember, these novels fall pretty blatantly into the "white guy from an invading culture falls in love with a native girl" genre - the same genre as Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, Avatar, and so many others. And now I wonder if there is a drinking game for this genre - can anyone help me out?
 

$40_In_A_Checking_Account

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Hi, I've just finished reading all this, and i want to throw my two cents in.

As a big fan of expanded super-settings, i care a lot about the relations between continents.

Returned Abeir, as you noted, is tiny, which means we need to ask :what did happen to Anchorome? Did it go to Abeir too? If so, what happened to it there? Alternatively, if it remained behind, was there a cut-off to the ocean, forming a new coastline to the north of Returned Abeir (which is apparently called Laerakond by the locals, BTW)? Did the return of Maztica replace this coastline, leaving Torilian ships grounded in the retuned land? Where was the cut-off, and what does that mean for the geography you laid out?

I think the easiest reconciliation is saying that there was a cut-off, north enough of Returned Abeir that between the distance and being so busy establishing a new naval power structure that they didn't manage to noticeably sail south. And maybe those who did just got eaten/enslaved by dragons. On the Maztican-Abeir end of things, you could just characterize all that as mostly desert, with some features for interest. You could say that was nominally ruled by that (blue?) dragon, but whose interest mostly kept it occupied in the south. This would create an far land/outback territory, for that kind of adventure.

Katashaka seems intended as a not-Africa, and as you saw the map of the days of thunder, you noted that the outlines of the coast there match Katashaka. Katashaka detached from Chult apparently in the first Sundering, the one where the elves raised Evermeet at the cost of wrecking Faerun. So when the couatl and yuan-ti first start fighting, the landmasses are connected. Furthermore, in faerun, the couatl are transformed sarrukh, the creator race that made the yuan-ti; though, not the same group/empire of sarrukh.

So, you could say the couatl view the yuan-ti as rebellious slave subjects, and the yuan-ti see the couatl as degenerate gods/fallen angels/demons. I've always liked Katashaka as not-Africa because it means that a not-Kush might have developed pyramids with their northern pyramid-building neighbors the Mazticans (Lopangans? The Incans also had pyramids), the same way Kush built pyramids in conjunction with Egypt.

You changed your mind about the functionality of pluma/hishna halfway, but you also suggested having the dragons work out a strictly arcane variant. Why not say they did that, but it required a feather from an old-school feathershaping as a component. Perhaps that got away from the dragons, and led to advancement in the practice. And now that the gods are back, its child's play to get the tiny spark you need, preserving and opening up the advancement.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Hi, I've just finished reading all this, and i want to throw my two cents in.

As a big fan of expanded super-settings, i care a lot about the relations between continents.

Returned Abeir, as you noted, is tiny, which means we need to ask :what did happen to Anchorome? Did it go to Abeir too? If so, what happened to it there? Alternatively, if it remained behind, was there a cut-off to the ocean, forming a new coastline to the north of Returned Abeir (which is apparently called Laerakond by the locals, BTW)? Did the return of Maztica replace this coastline, leaving Torilian ships grounded in the retuned land? Where was the cut-off, and what does that mean for the geography you laid out?
I am assuming that Anchorome went to Abeir, too - considering that Laerakond showed up pretty much where Anchorome was supposed to be. Presumably it had to deal with its own dragon problems, but the details on that are way out of the scope of my current project since we barely have any information on the continent in the first place. Eventually, I might get around to dealing with the southernmost portions - those that have become part of the Kultakan Empire or which are in the vicinity of the City of Gold.

Katashaka seems intended as a not-Africa, and as you saw the map of the days of thunder, you noted that the outlines of the coast there match Katashaka. Katashaka detached from Chult apparently in the first Sundering, the one where the elves raised Evermeet at the cost of wrecking Faerun. So when the couatl and yuan-ti first start fighting, the landmasses are connected. Furthermore, in faerun, the couatl are transformed sarrukh, the creator race that made the yuan-ti; though, not the same group/empire of sarrukh.
Ah, interesting - I just checked out "Serpent Kingdoms" (p. 55/56(, which explains the story behind that and even mentions Qotal, who accepts them as "divine minions" (hey, who wouldn't?) except for a splinter group which decides to follow Ubtao instead.

Interestingly, they acknowledge Qotal as "Jazirian" reborn - Jazirian is a fragment of the World Serpent who had transformed them into couatls and was slain by his darker twin Ssharstrune. The World Serpent in turn was the original deity of the sarrukh (the "Golden Skins of the World Serpent" was the original name of the Nether Scolls, penned by the Sarrukh), and had a tendency to "split off aspects" that reflected its followers changing needs.

One of these aspects was "M’daess, whose task was to purify the souls of unclean sacrifices and make them equivalent to sarrukh." Yes, the sarrukh practiced the sacrifice of sapient beings - originally, sarrkukh only chose sacrifices among their own numbers, but eventually they started to sacrifice humans - hence M'daess.

Now, all this "human sacrifice" business does sound awfully familiar. Maybe various of the Maztican gods were originally aspects of the World Serpent? Maybe the region was originally controlled by the sarrukh who sacrificed their human slaves - but then the couatls arrived, swore allegiance to Qotal and the resultant warfare much diminished their numbers. But the now-freed human slaves just continued the practice and sacrificed to the same deities, which gradually took on a more human form.

Yes, I think I will keep that. Maztica could use more in the way of prehistory.

So, you could say the couatl view the yuan-ti as rebellious slave subjects, and the yuan-ti see the couatl as degenerate gods/fallen angels/demons. I've always liked Katashaka as not-Africa because it means that a not-Kush might have developed pyramids with their northern pyramid-building neighbors the Mazticans (Lopangans? The Incans also had pyramids), the same way Kush built pyramids in conjunction with Egypt.
I'd like to keep the South Continent as not-South America, but the distance to what I have identified as Katashaka/the ancient homeland of the Tabaxi, is rather short. So we have plenty of space for not-African kingdoms in the eastern lowlands, not-Incans in the highlands, and interesting hybrid cultures in between.

You changed your mind about the functionality of pluma/hishna halfway, but you also suggested having the dragons work out a strictly arcane variant. Why not say they did that, but it required a feather from an old-school feathershaping as a component. Perhaps that got away from the dragons, and led to advancement in the practice. And now that the gods are back, its child's play to get the tiny spark you need, preserving and opening up the advancement.
Dragons are not exactly known for sharing their magical advancement. I think I prefer it if the Artisan class emerged as a collaboration of plumaweavers, hishnashapers, and Lantanese exiles.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Let’s get started with Ironhelm, the first book of the Maztica trilogy!



Prologue

We start with an excerpt of the the Chronicle of the Waning, inscribed by “Coton, Grandfather Patriarch of the Golden God, Qotal”. So one of the aliases of Qotal is “Golden God”, while the temples have “Patriarchs” as rank, with “Grandfather Patriarch” presumably being especially exalted among them.

Much of the excerpt details the existing situation in Maztica, pre-Golden Legion, but one sentence stands out:

“In Nexal, warriors, priests, lords, sorcerers, all struggle for their own ends, complacent in the eternity of Maztica, the True World.” (Emphasis mine)

So “sorcerers” were known as a concept in Maztica even before the Golden Legion arrived. Does Coton refer to the “Ancient Ones” (i.e. the hidden drow cabal) or other people? Since this was in the AD&D 2E era, he could not have been referring to the “sorcerer class”, but we can assume that some strange magic-users were living in and around Nexal, or at least believed to do so. Which might be actual (i.e. class) sorcerers, but warlocks might be a better fit, especially since they don’t have as many Spells of Mass Destruction.

He also once uses the phrase: “As my immortal master, the Silent Counselor, so wills…” Is this another appellation for Qotal, or does this refer to another entity serving Qotal? Perhaps we shall see…

Chapter 1 - Threads

We begin with Cordell as a survivor on an unnamed battlefield. His soldiers have just been slaughtered, led to failure by the overall commanders. He is rescued by an albino elven woman who seems to know him, but he never stops to question why (presumably a charm effect). She casts invisibility on them for their escape - quite possibly greater invisibility, as she casually throws a fireball at a troll who smells them. Cordell, quite possibly in shock, decides that the crimson banner he fought under sucks and decides that in the future he will fight under a banner of gold - in other words, the Golden Legion.

We jump to Erixitl, our Native Female Protagonist (for there has to be a Native Female Protagonist, in this kind of story) who is still living with her father, who is a plumaweaver. Her brother, on the other hand, has been chosen for the priesthood of Zaltec. The nearest big town is Cordotl, and Erixitl wants to go there on a clear day so that she can see Nexal itself from the pass (the last three times the weather was cloudy). But, like Owen Lars told Luke, she has other chores to do and will have to wait for another time. As a consolation, her father gives her a small pluma token.

There is mention of a “High Counselor of Palul”, so I am assuming that “High Counselors” are the rulers of cities and “Revered Counselors” are the rulers of nations. Presumably, “Counselors” are the chiefs of towns and villages.

There are also mentions of pluma workings. Her father does the “simple country sort of feathermagic”: “Feathered armor” that are “light yet study vests that could shatter a flint spear tip or deflect the jagged obsidian blade of a sword”, or the occasional “floating litter for the speaker of the village or as a tribute to Nexal”. If even a village speaker can get a floating litter, they must be fairly common.

The feathermasters of Nexal are said to have created (at least, according to Erixitl): “Huge litters that could bear a noble and his entire retinue; great, swirling fans that cooled the palatial homes of great nobles and warriors; or vast lifts, soaring gracefully up the side of a great pyramid with their burdens of devout priests and weeping victims.”

Say what you will about those priests: They might sacrifice you at the tops of great pyramids, but at least they won’t make you walk up there.

We follow Erixtl as she collects birds birds from bird snares for her father’s work - a dead, suffocated parrot, a live macaw whose neck she snaps. Yeah, for all that plumaweaving is associated with a “good” deity, it sure requires a lot of dead of animals.

Then she suddenly spots a couatl! She is like entranced and follows it to catch another glimpse, but then is pounced upon by a jaguar - which turns out to be a Jaguar Knight, part of a Kultakan raiding party who capture her and take her with them.

In the bushes, the couatl mutters: “Just as planned…”

Then we visit High Counselor Naltecona as Nexal experiences the First Omen, the Star-That-Shines-By-Day. Naltecona sarcastically demands explanations from his high priests, and this is what he gets:

Grand Patriarch of Tezca Caracatl: “More blood for the blood god!”

(Priest of Azul/Calor) Atl-Ollin: “Eh, I dunno. I guess this is important, but Calor hasn’t seen fit to tell me anything.”

Patriarch of Zaltec Hoxitl and Viperhand leader: “I must confer with the Ancient Ones (that is, the drow coven) immediately! Still, more blood for my blood god would probably a good idea - it’s been more than a year since we had a proper Super Bowl, er War Victory sacrifice.”

High Patriarch Coton of Qotal: Says nothing because he has sworn an oath not to reveal any plot-critical information to anyone, like all the other priests of Qotal.

Naltecona speculates whether this sign might represent an omen of Qotal’s return, but decides on the prudent thing and orders 12 sacrifices for Calor’s altar the same evening, as well as another war against the Kultakans in order to get some more sacrifices for Zaltec.

In the bushes, the couatl mutters: “Just as planned…”

Speaking of which, how did the couatl create this and the other effects of the omens? Last time we checked on him, Qotal was too weak to do much in the physical world, so presumably the couatl needed to create this effect in some other way. Looking at the 3E version of the couatl, they count as 9th level sorcerers - hardly weak, but not enough to create a great light like that over Nexal for twenty days.

So here is my interpretation: The “Star-That-Shines-By-Day” (as named by Atl-Ollin) is a strange, alien entity that counts as a “Great Old One” as far as the 5e rules for Warlock Patrons are concerned. I mean, if Kezef the Chaos Hound, Tyrathraxus the Flamed One, and Dendar the Night Serpent all count (according to the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide), then an eerie light that shines in the sky should fit right in. And we need some good Maztica-specific Warlock patrons anyway - so let’s say that the Star-That-Shines-By-Day has appeared from time to time in different regions of Maztica, and sometimes it touches people.

Speaking of which, Dendar is also be said to be guarded by Ubtao - remember, the guy who received the allegiance of a whole lot of couatls who didn’t want to stick with Qotal. So what is the relationship between Dendar and the Maztican gods (crypto-serpentine or otherwise), or the Sarrukh World Serpent, for that matter? So far, this is unclear.

But to tie in Dendar with the Maztican mythology, let’s say that Dendar is the father and/or mother of the zizimime, the “Monsters of Twilight” that were mentioned in the “Afterlife” section of “Maztica Alive”. And looking at a Nahuatl-English dictionary, let’s give Dendar the alternate name “Yohuacoatl” (“Night Serpent”). And the zizimime are lurking on the threshold of darkness and punish or devour souls that have gone astray, just like Dendar devours nightmares and eventually the world.

Back to the story! Now we visit our White Male Protagonist (because if you get a beautiful native girl as a Female Protagonist, then of course there will be a White Male Protagonist) who was orphaned by a war and taken in as an apprentice by a Red Wizard of Thay. So far he has mastered magic missile, sleep, charm person, and light. However, his apprenticeship ends abruptly as his master summons an Eldritch Abomination (with too many tentacles, eyes, and other stuff) which proves slightly too powerful - which causes a fumble at a critical juncture, causing the master to be devoured and Halloran fleeing for his life, souring on magic.

We return to Naltecona, who just receives word that the expedition to Kultaka has been a disaster. He orders the expedition leader, an Eagle Knight, to be sacrificed to Zaltec as a penance along with to other Eagle Knights and three Jaguar Knights. The knight raises no objection but takes this punishment stoically. Naltecona’s nephew Poshtli advises that Nexal should only march against Kultaka again once they have been rebuilt after this disaster, and Naltecona concurs. Then everyone gets to witness the second omen, as the pyramid of Zaltec burns and melts down to slag. Naltecona orders the pyramid to be rebuilt. Until then, the Pyramid of the Moon is to be used for sacrifices to Zaltec.

Interestingly, Tezca and Azul/Calor are referred to as “the two favorite sons of Bloody Zaltec”, while p. 7 of “A Journey to the True World” describes them as the children of Kukul and Maztica - Zaltec’s and Qotal’s brothers.

We now turn to Hoxitl who travels up Mount Zatal to the “Highcave”. Mount Zatal is said to “house the sacred soul of Zaltec himself”. He encounters one of the Ancient Ones (which we know to be a drow, although this isn’t mentioned in the novel yet) who tells him without prompting that his words to the Revered Counselor were correct - that Zaltec hungers for more hearts (indicating magical scrying). Confusingly, the second omen is not mentioned - indicating that this must have happened immediately after or during the time of the first omen (which lasted for 20 days). Additionally, the Ancient One orders the death of Erixitl within the tenday (curiously enough, “tendays” are the Faerun equivalent of “weeks”, while the closest equivalent of Maztica are the “unal” which represent 20 days - see p. 93 of “A Journey to the True World”). Erixitl is described as living in Palul.

Obviously, they will fail as Erixitl has just been captured by Kultakans. But it is interesting to note that the Ancient Ones actually know about her, and realize her threat as the Female Protagonist of the story.

We return to Coton and the Chronicle of the Waning, which basically tells us that there is a ten year time skip.
 
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Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
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Chapter 2 - The Conqueror

This chapter starts with a battle between an army of buccaneers from the Pirate Isles and a badly outnumbered (six to one) Golden Legion. The pirates also summon a group of 10… fire elementals? Beings of fire, anyway, and send them against their foes.

On the defenders’ side, we have Captain-General Cordell, Bishou Dominicus, Captain Daggrande (dwarven leader of the crossbowmen), and the cavalry Captains Alvarro and Halloran - the latter having just received a field promotion because his superior became too injured to fight. There is a Rivalry between the two, and while Cordell considers Alvarro the better horsemen, he sees Halloran as having better potential for leadership - which is why he gives Halloran overall command of the Lancers. There is also Darien, the “albino elf” wizard who has become Cordell’s lover.

Then we return to Hoxitl, who has been summoned by the Ancient Ones who inform him that Erixitl - who had been presumed dead - was discovered to be alive in Kultaka, owned by a former Eagle Knight and follower of Qotal. They now plan to combine their “talonmagic” (quite possibly wizardry) with Hoxitl’s sending spell to send their magic to Kultaka.

We turn to Erixitl, who has been bought by one Huakal, who treats her more like a “troublesome niece” than a slave and even teaches her some of his knowledge of the world. Unfortunately, he has an “arrogant boor” of a son named Callatl who dreams of becoming a Jaguar Knight - and while Huakal has prevented him from molesting her, she fears him nonetheless.

Unfortunately, when she brings him hot water for a bath, he becomes the target of the talonmagic sending and attacks her. She defends herself, shattering a jug in the process, and then uses a shard to stab him, causing him to be seriously injured. His father arrives, and promises that if he dies she will be sacrificed to Tezca at the next dawn.

Meanwhile, we witness some nice combined arms tactics with the Golden Legion. Dominicus and Darien take out the fire elementals, and Darien’s magical prowess is elaborated upon - allegedly she can even cast meteor swarm, a 9th level spell! She doesn’t use it today though - just some cone of cold spells from her wand, a few fireballs, and some teleports to get back to safety. The rest of the pirate army is broken by the crossbowmen and the lancers.

Back in Nexal, Naltecona witnesses the 9th Sign - the steaming lakes. About the only thing Naltecona is currently happy with is his nephew Poshtli, who has proven his merit as a war leader. The text also notes that the court has a number of “magicians” who “possessed few real powers, but practiced spells that allowed them some knowledge of future events”. Which is curious - they are not priests, who would have access to divination magics, but they can’t be plumaweavers or hishnashapers either, since those don’t have any appropriate divination spells in their spell lists. So is there a minor tradition of wizardry in Maztica after all, which has only access to a few divination spells?

Anyway, Naltecona sends all the priests away for the day, except for Coton - and then talks himself into believing that these are signs of Qotal returning to Maztica.

In the bushes, the couatl mutters: “Just as planned…”
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
Validated User
Chapter 3 - The Council of Amn

Cordell is about to receive his reward for the successful anti-pirate campaign from the Amnian Council of Six and propose an even bigger deal. Darien proposes to magically charm the Council - “one spell, and we would have them all!”, hinting at both her power and her lack of good sense. Cordell slaps the idea down and instead uses his own rehearsed pitch. The land route to Kara-Tur has recently been closed thanks to screaming Tuigan hordes, and so he plans to sail west (and slightly south) in order to get there. According to him, “astrologers and sages have long said that such a voyage is possible. Also, they consulted a bunch of augurs (including Bishou Dominicus), and they all saw “gold” in their vision - which seals the pitch.

Interesting, no word here of any Christobal Colon-style numbers-fudging about how far the distance to Kara-Tur actually is. Looking again at the world map, the distance to Kara-Tur from Amn is maybe 3/4ths of the globe’s circumference - while the distance the Golden Legion is actually traveling is merely one-sixth of the circumference. Though maybe he intended to stop at Osse on the way…

Back in Kultaka, we learn that Callatl has survived - but apparently Erixitl did not only damage his throat in a way that makes him unable to speak properly, but also rendered him infertile. You go, girl! A few months later, however, Huakal sells her to Kachin, a cleric of Qotal from Payit. The price is high, too - “a chest of cocoa, ten mantles, and two quills of gold dust”, which according to Erix could “buy a dozen able-bodied workers”.

The priest is elderly, and described as “well-fed” - Erix muses that “perhaps the Feathered God did not require his devotees to fast as frequently as those who worshiped Zaltec and the younger gods”. Huakal is overcome with emotion at the end, calling her “a rare treasure” and a “child of grim destiny”, and wishing that “the gods [may] be kind” to her.

I suppose that this is as good as time as any to discuss slavery after the Godless Time. Does slavery still exist by that stage?

Mostly, yes. Not in Payit, as the genasi maroons were instrumental in overthrowing the dragon and demanded their freedom. Pezelec, as the next freed country, probably formally abolished it but has structures still in place that are very much like slavery. The remaining dragon-held areas - Far Payit and Huacli - obviously maintain the custom, and Nexal and Kultaka will also keep it - after all, what’s the point of being proud warrior people if you can’t enslave your victims?

That leaves Kolan and Tukan. Kolan never had any real reason to abolish it, and I suppose Tukan doesn’t either, despite being the home of the “heroes” of the Maztica novels. But presumably unlike the other nations Tukan uses one of the least offensive forms of slavery, with laws and customs against their mistreatment as well as the ability of slaves to purchase their own freedom.
 
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