Appendix A. Current Situation, 4 Tarsakh 1513
By Spymaster-Captain Kincade Winkwllow, Silver Raiders
Current status of relations between US (Silver Legion as representatives of Southold, in efforts to aid the war effort against the Cortals) and THEM (various indigenous, if not necessarily native, inhabitants of Aztaltica):
Itzapan: The most relevant, due both to being the most closely aligned with the ‘good’ gods revered in Arik and to being the host nation to our colony, Port Nuada.
While the prevailing power (Revered Councilor Caxal) in the region favors the benevolent Qotal above other deities, this hierarchy belief is held merely by an effective majority, while others continue to hold strong belief in the other three gods. By strengthening the majority to the point of beheading the structure of the second-most-held belief (the evil Sotek), we have tipped a balance off-scale, and I, for one, am rather concerned with the back-swing. Legend has it that once nearly all the Itzapan worshipped the good deities (Qotal and Azul), but that the worship of Sotek became more necessary as war became more prevalent. Far Itzapan to the east is rumored to retain much of the past glory of Itzapan; perhaps war (and Sotek) has not touched as deeply there, and some clue can be found as to how a balance is yet retained.
In practice, the Legion has attempted to replace the protection of the warlike Sotek with that of Nuada. Although we have proven ourselves mighty in battle and tactics, and halted the tribute paid to the Zlatan, how visible are these accomplishments to the populous? It is clear to the people we have a great ‘appetite’ for gold, if not for hearts. If we are to be accepted here, we must make evident how much better off they are not to live in fear of the sacrificial knife. If we truly bring peace and stability to the region, we stand a better chance of minimizing the worship of Sotek.
In terms of military might, roughly a third of the available Itzapan force (5,000 troops) is attached to the Legion in occupied Zlatan, with the remaining 10,000 at home in Itzapan.
Huatepec: Nation of mountain tribes, North of Zlatan.
Revered Councilor Takamal is inclined against the Legion since the Special Mission Unit’s assassination of his Sotek- and Zlatani- allied heir, Prince Haramal. If the aged Councilor dies, however, the other Prince, Pacal, may be more solicitous, since it was at his behest and suggestion that the Legion did eliminate his brother. Some 10,000 troops sit here, largely static and neutral.
Zlatan: Recently defeated nation, aligned with heart-eating Sotek.
Similar circumstance as with the Itzapan, only moreso, given that the prevailing worship here was to Sotek. Proselytizing efforts by Demetrious and his converts are proving abrasive. Legion is stuck in difficult position, since we cannot afford to lose numbers to kidnappers (especially since the sacrifice of those nabbed affords great power to our enemies), but we lose sympathy towards our cause by stepping on relative innocents. We need to find ways of striking at the source of insurgency, rather than flailing away downstream where the evil is diluted amongst the general population. There are Zlatani who are appreciative of being free of mass sacrifice, but the benefit is even less evident to them as they see their nation stripped of wealth.
Speculation on how to strike against the influence of Sotek? Destroy icons? Dismantle consecrated chacmools? Find and destroy main statue? Instrument some localized disjunction?
Military situation: Roughly half the Zlatani force at the capital was killed, wounded, or captured in the main battle, but that still leaves 10,000 troops to contend with, currently restrained in garrison as they are deemed unreliable in fighting their insurgent countrymen. Another 25,000 still occupy the main passes—not hostile given Revered Counselor Nahuatyl’s orders, but by no means secure or under control. Another 5,000 Zlatani occupy Atlan, reportedly combating an uprising there. Given the current situation, the possible 8,000 Atlani conscripts currently revolting will probably not count amongst our enemies, and perhaps could eventually sum to our side. Meanwhile, in the central Zlatan Valley itself, Revered Councilor Nahuatyl retains some power and so long as he bows to our demands we are relatively safe. As his people’s confidence in him erodes, however, it becomes more and more probable that large numbers of warriors will accumulate under a new, more vengeful head.
Atlan: Client state to Zlatan.
Reportedly in uprising against Zlatani occupiers. Recommend emissary as soon as practicable to claim responsibility for halting sacrificial tribute and gain additional ally thereby.
Other nations: Similar recommendation as per Atlan. We removed threat of imperial invasion, therefore potential alliance is possible.
Saurians: Variety of reptilian races, currently arising (sometimes quite literally) from a dormant, nearly legendary state.
More questions than answers, thus far. Have attacked us only twice—at outlying Itzapan city of Balul on the jungle frontier after we stopped Sotek sacrifices and at the Arena of Gulan, also near deep jungles. At least the second attack apparently targeted Special Missions Unit members specifically, then involved in the scrimmage. Atahuelpa reports they (“El Saurim”) have briefly come from the jungles at various times in recent history, slaying all before them.
What motivates them? Merely reclamation of land? Escape from incarceration? Revenge? Is there anything we can do to change the pattern (location, timing, severity) of their attacks? Do they have sufficient intelligence to reason/parley?
Caste structure amongst races? Masters/subordinates? Warriors, messengers, flyers, swimmers, … We have direct experience with several types: little Skinks (orange/red crested), Vogon-sized Saurus (blue/green skinned), and large Kroxigor. Some wield shamanistic magics. A few are albino.
At least one high mucky-muck: Toad-like creature that was imprisoned behind sealed door in temple structure of the lost city of Quetza, guarded by Helmed Horrors (animated armor)… much of which defense was removed by ourselves on exploratory mission.
General and/or monarch? Godhead? Only one, or one of multiple?
Any dissention between castes? No evidence of this thus far. They act in a single-minded manner, suggesting either complete control by a higher power or virtually identical motivation.
Manipulable elsewise? Hunger? Fears? Susceptible to illusion? (See Screams entry) In battle, the Saurians are completely emotionless, suggesting resistance to influence of passion/fear. They only once retreated, precisely en masse, likely under orders when threatened by overwhelming force at the Arena of Gulan.
Is there a connection between the reduced Sotek sacrifice and the uprising Saurians? Possibly held at bay while pantheon in balance, but given opportunity to arise (again?) due to power void? Or more intentionally called forth by Sotek in retribution? I doubt an intentional summons by worshippers, for we would surely have seen some sign in the missives we were able to intercept.
Screams: Hideously effective predators with enormously extensive warren system in porous rock.
How do the Screams figure in? Clearly ancient – take eons to hollow out those caves. Videssians in cocoons. Uruk and his band playing doorkeepers. Maybe it is best to leave him in place, after all. Prefer his cheating, lying, leverage-using ass over those critters anyday. ‘To think of it, he’s really not that much worse than my cousin Jethro, extorting our stemsugar lest he let the crickmonster get us. These monsters at least have teeth.
They show no signs of having any political structure worth soliciting.
Are they at all related to the Saurians? Aligned? Opposed?
Have there been past interactions? To their mutual detriment? Possible/Desirable to repeat?
The Screams and their gatekeepers occupy a site of valuable resource. The mine provides access to that most rare of local treasure: iron. The ferristite material could be used for weapons and other objects of durability not encountered elsewhere on Aztaltica. Could the same colossal strike which brought the ore have also brought those horrible creatures from afar?
Tall, Black-cloaked Assassins: A mystery with several clues
One seen spying on Legion. A band of them attacked, killing Lady Ailea and stealing magic, including the flying carpet. A Videssian dagger left behind (a plant, or a legitimate clue?). The manner of attack, the use of a Soul Reaver, suggests an Arik origin to these attackers. I am reminded of the machinations of the Cortalish sage Vladimir and the monks he commanded. He already had some interest in the Hellstorm, and it is not impossible to me that another contingent from our home continent is here.
Is there a way of verifying this? Are there spells which would allow scrying of the past owners or experience of an object such as this Videssian dagger?
What magics do they have at their disposal? Assume they are able to use the carpet. What else did they take? It would be good to know what they have access to in order to be prepared.
Odds & Ends:
Uxma: Mystic featherweaver (avatar of Qotal?) in a pyramid near Balul, later spoke to us after victory at Gemnia Pass; implies our role in Az is momentous and unclear.
Native, feral Halflings: occupy jungle on the frontier between Zlatan and Itzapan, wield powerful poisons
Unknown savior to Arkane: heal and carry, but to what end?
Hellstorm: Evidently predates Cataclysm. Created by Thonians? Response to a threat? Strong elemental component. A forebear of Arcane’s, Kahn, apparently visited Az. When?
Dates/timeline: Have yet to explore this line of thought thoroughly. Is there a pattern to be discerned in the years/months of major events (reckoned under any calendar)? Hellstorm initiation, Ultima Thule settlement, Cataclysm, Scream emergence, Saurian uprising (x2), split with far Itzapan?