Nations Appendix: 1 of 4
Nation Profile: Aztlan
Aztlan is a nation run by a strict theocracy. The gods themselves take shape in Aztlan, and must be appeased by the sacrifices of all who oppose them. Or so the public story goes. In reality, the "gods" of Aztlan are very human. In reality, they are human thaumaturges from a parallel universe, stranded by a teleportation accident. They impersonate the local gods as a measure of social control. However, few know the true agendas of the Gods.
The Times Before
The civilization of Aztlan has a long one. From the first settlers seeing the eagle carry the snake in its talons, to the formation of the first Aztlan empire, and its succession of countless king-priests going back through the aeons. These prehistoric times are referred to as the Times Before, as here, stone age technology was still the cutting edge. All that would change, soon.
The Heavens gave good omens to the Aztlan empire. The empire originally was an alliance of three powerful city states, Tlaloc, Tenoch, and Tizoc. Both Tlaloc and Tizoc were strong on their own, but Tenoch comprised the dominant state. Originally, Tenoch was little more than a tribal settlement that was hired as mercenaries by other city-states.
Eventually, the Tenoch had a legendary leader, who helped "civilize" them by borrowing advancements from the cities he had worked for, and constructed the city that bares his name to this day. Eventually, Tenoch's heirs would make the city surpass even Tlaloc and Tizoc, and dominate nearby tribes. The city was built on a set of islands in a massive lake, and has an immense workforce for city sanitation alone.
One thing that the local religion depended on, though, was human sacrifice. The newly "deified" sun god, Tenoch, needed human sacrifices to keep rising and falling. The amount of victims sacrificed numbers in the thousands. The rituals normally comprise simply ripping the heart out, though other, more painful and bloody ones exist.
The nation had also developed some notable developments. An intricate system of roads was constructed, despite a lack of wheeled vehicles. There was even a system of public schools. All children, whether commoners or nobles, were required to attend. There was some schooling in the arcane as well. Also, the military itself underwent a shift. As most significant regional threats had been subdued, the empire started to use warfare as a means to acquire sacrifices. Instead of spears and bows, bludgeoning weapons were used in ritual warfare, for the sole purpose of taking captives alive, for sacrifices later on. The constant demand for captives ensured a well-oiled military machine. This would change, however.
The Night of Fire
One night, several high priests around the Aztlan empire took note of strange events. Lights of unknown origin were seen in the sky. High priests, soldiers, and countless commoners watched the strange lights, uncertain how to interpret them. The following morning would see the beginning of one of the most pivotal eras in Aztlan history.
The high priests and emperor were uncertain how to interpret the omens. The high priests determined more sacrifice was necessary, and soldiers went out to seize captives. However, these soldiers reported strange sightings. Several claimed the gods had appeared to them, and ordered them to stand down, as sacrifices were no longer necessary. The priests did not know what was going on.
Soon enough, the gods appeared again. This time, it was in person. The gods claimed they had fallen from the sky due to a war in heavens, and soon saw the high priests in person. Within a matter of weeks, the empire of Aztlan was transformed into a strict theocracy, directly under their control.
The Acts of the Gods
The gods took several aspects of society and altered them dramatically. There was a public school system of sorts in place before, but the gods did an overhaul of it. Schooling in the arcane was added, as were the new sciences of metalworking and mechanics. Much to the surprise (and shock) of several high priests, human sacrifice is now dramatically reduced. The only ones to be sacrificed are political foes of the gods, as well as the most ruthless criminals.
The gods have given Aztlan various technological advances. Metalworking was the main key. With metalworking, normal steel weapons can be fashioned. In addition, basic fluid mechanics allows construction of things such as indoor plumbing, public baths, sewers, and clean water. Also, basic mechanics allows devices such as crossbows to be readily mass produced.
Schooling in such fields allows the population to be widely familiar with it, though soldiers are the main users. The gods also help arrange marriages more often. To have a divinely selected mate is to be blessed. There is even a special section of the War Academy that helps train those 'disabled' in some areas to become lethal combatants. For example, a blind person, given enough training, can become the perfect operative for fighting in darkened places and caves.
Warfare has also undergone a significant shift. Instead of merely a way to take captives, it is now returned to its lethal roots. The main weapons are now crossbows, as they are easy to mass produce and easy to train soldiers to use. Hand crossbows are often the sidearm of officers in the new Aztlan military. In addition, schooling in the arcane created an elite corps of warmages and spell-casters suited for battle. Since Aztlan has large stretches of jungle territory, crossbowmen (and women) are given machete-like knives for use hacking through the thick foliage. These also can be used as "bayonets" of sorts for most Aztlan manufactured crossbows.
With the continent mainly subdued, the Gods set their sights across the seas. Large ocean going vessels are also being constructed, as the gods have mentioned there are lands across the eastern and western seas. Aircraft, of sorts, had also been constructed. Primarily powered by intricate arcane engines, they resemble flying versions of the Aztlan pyramids. Rumors abound of the Gods of Aztlan making deals with an ancient entity in the endless jungles. Such a deal allowed them control of thaumaturgically domesticated dinosaurs to use as auxiliaries. Pterosaurs are used as defensive fliers, plesiosaurs are used to attack from under the waves, and raptors and triceratops were used as cavalry and beasts of burden. With such an army, the potential expansion of Aztlan seems guaranteed.
Origins of the Gods
Alas, the Aztlan gods are not true gods. Instead, they are very human. They are from an alternative dimension, trying to open a portal to scout for worlds ripe for conquest. Instead, they found themselves sucked into Aztlan unprepared. They are unprepared in the sense of not being able to summon reinforcements or contact their home plane due to planar turbulence.
The way they got the locals to worship them was read the minds of priests with their powers, then use illusions to disguise themselves. In the meantime, they constructed suits of animated armor (a sort of living stone statue) of that god, and reside inside it. The wizard can survive indefinitely inside the statue, though they sometimes claim they "take human form" to "select those worthy enough to mate with the gods," or in plain language "party and drink."
In the meantime, the Gods are pursuing their own plans. A lot of the reforms of the gods have military goals in them. After all, a theocracy is of little use to imperialists when crusades cannot be started. The inclusion of metalworking and mechanics in the schools, for instance, is to educate the populace on war machines that would give them an edge over technologically inferior weapons. Even the arranged marriages by the gods ties into the war-mage academies. It is actually a magical eugenics program designed to breed together those with arcane potential, so they can produce more powerful offspring for use in the military.
The goal of most of the Gods is to build a military capable of conquering the new world, but there is rumored to be some dissent. Some humans, and one of the gods, has claimed he is "only human." The two other chief gods of the Aztlan pantheon on very silent on the manner.
The citizens of Aztlan enjoy a high standard of living. Most citizens, even those poor, tend to have access to things such as a running water and a basic dwelling. All citizens and their children have access to education. The only education system is also publicly run by the Gods and their High Priesthood. The education system is ruthlessly efficient, and tends to instruct children in the loyalty to the gods. There is even a professional league of ballplayers. The Aztlan ballgame traditional involves a rubber ball and two stone hoops.
Most people tend to have instruction in the arcane, as well as some military training. Even the poorest peasant family has knowledge of cantrips and minor spells that allow for easier living. Hygiene cantrips are some of the more popular ones. Also, due to a propaganda soaked upbringing, most people are fanatically loyal to the Gods. However, some prefer to be loyal to the "local" Gods. Each of the three chief Gods of Aztlan reside in one of the three major cities. Each God reasons that in the event of a civil war, it would be advantageous to them if their local territories all worshipped the nearest Gods, to establish a base of local, popular support.
For those who do not agree with the way things are, things often end violently. Normally, those who overtly protest against the Gods are used as human sacrifices. Many innovations in Aztlan society, such as flying pyramids, military enchantments, and weather control, are dependant on sacrifice. While animal sacrifice has taken the place that human sacrifice had in previous centuries, humans are still sacrificed. Nonetheless, there are some devoted guerrillas fighting the Gods' theocracy. Some rumors abound that some Gods fund guerrillas to undermine their rivals, but given the fact the Gods depend closely on each other, this seems unlikely.
Tenoch is the capitol of the Aztlan Empire. Located on an artificial lake and connected to both the Eastern Ocean and Western Ocean by an intricate system of canals. Tenoch has a system of "public transportation" in the form of small gondolas taking people across the city's channels. The God of Sea and Sky resides here, and can be often be seen flying about his palace. This city is a key hub of shipbuilding, as canals connect it to both the eastern and western oceans.
Tlaloc is the most important city in the arid northwestern part of the Empire. It is also the place where the most important of the War Academies are located. The harsh environment makes for good training grounds. The Goddess of War and Sacrifice herself resides here, and trains the elite of the Aztlan military. Tlaloc is also where the most human sacrifices take place. Politician dissidents are used as both target practice and sacrifices to improve the military's arcane might.
Tizoc is the most important city in the southeast point of the Empire. The city has one of the oldest, and most intricately made sewers in Aztlan. Here, top arcane priesthood schools exist. The top instructional facilities of the High Priesthood are. The resident patron deity, the God of Artifice and Engineering, also resides here and instructs the High Priesthood on thaumaturgical manners and basic mechanics. In somewhat of an ironic situation, the local God has stopped referring to himself as 'divine,' and says he is, "One of you." There are also rumors he is funding a guerrilla group bent on overthrowing the theocratic order, but he has neither affirmed nor denied this. The alleged leader of the group has been sighted around the palace on a number of occasions, however.
The Garden is a complicated entity. It is a sentient ecosystem that relies in a virgin stretch of jungle north of Tizoc. The Garden is an ancient entity, and has several dinosaurs and ancient animals living inside it. It keeps such organisms dependant on it by controlling various chemicals in the ecosystem. This entity was bargained with by the Gods of Aztlan, and gave them control of various dinosaurs and ancient animals in exchange for being left alone.
Gateway to the Underworld
North of Tenoch, there are a network of various coast caves and sinkholes. This is where the "gods" of Aztlan first found themselves in the world. Before the Gods arrived, the natives offered sacrifices to the sinkholes, as they believed it was the gateway to Xilbalba, the underworld. Since then, it still remains a place of entry to the underworld, but sometimes, raiders of unknown origin appear out of the caves and take captives. The fate of such captives is unknown, as even the Gods are not sure of the identities of the invaders, other than the fact they are human.
The Azca Lines
Created untold ages ago, the Azca Lines predate even the Gods' arrival. They are in a desert region in the southwest part of the Empire, near the western ocean. They are several shapes that can only be seen from the air. The Aztlan military uses it as a training ground for their fliers and air units.
Aztlan has an intricate system of canals and sewers. It is possible, in some places, for a canal to even take a seaworthy ship from the eastern ocean to the western ocean, or vice versa. The canals serve as a form of public transportation, as most families live near waterways. The capitol city, Tenoch, is connected to both oceans by canals.
The Northern Plains
In the northeastern part of the Empire, there are open and grassy plains. Near Tlaloc, the Goddess of War prefers to train her cavalry here. Many of the native tribes, who are from nomad cultures, often find a niche in Aztlan's military as decorated cavalry.
The Deep Jungle
Much of Aztlan, especially in the south and around Tenoch, is covered by jungle. Simply, a lot of people who go into the jungle to not come out. The Gods ensure the jungles are good breeding grounds for monsters and savage creatures, which they use in various sacrificial rituals.
Tonacoya, Goddess of War and Sacrifice
If any deity can claim to be chief among the Aztlan deities, it is Tonacoya. Her form is a giant statue of an armored woman holding a macana in one hand, and a shield in the other. Often quick to sacrifice all who doubt her, Tonacoya is nonetheless an accomplished military commander of no small skill. Using Aztlan's network of canals, she can reinforce and re-supply troops all over the Empire. She normally resides around Tlaloc most of the time. When the time she takes human form, she can be seen hiring the services of the most 'attractive' male courtaseans. In human form, she has a skin tone notable darker than most inhabitants of Aztlan, but a stronger build.
Itzli, God of Sea and Sky
Itzli is a deity traditionally revered as a merciful one. He is worshiped by sailors, canal workers, air force fliers, and even farmers. Farmers praise him, hoping his rains will give them a bountiful harvest. When displeased, he is capable of using a destructive hurricane, which can ground flyers and destroy cities. His form is a massive stone version of the quetzal bird, with gemstones, gold, and other precious materials lining his sleek form. His form is capable of both flying and walking. In his human form, he has black hair, a thinner build, and brown eyes. He rarely takes his form, and prefers to work behind the scenes in most cases.
Atl, God of Artifice and Engineering
Atl is the god traditionally associated with mechanics, structures, and thaumaturgical research. His palace is covered with completed automated constructs, made of intricate clockwork and powered by the arcane. An engineer of no little skill, Atl considers himself the least removed of the gods. He can be seen often helping construct sewers, buildings, and machines around his city, sometimes in his human form, and sometimes in his 'divine' form. His human form is a fairly tall, pale-skinned man, with blue eyes. His 'traditional' form is a large man holding a hammer in one hand and a carving knife in the other.
Ix, Heretic Leader
Ix was originally a student of the High Priesthood in Aztlan. However, her brother was accused of being tied with a radical group, and was sacrificed to the Goddess of War. Since then, she had joined, and now leads, a rebel group devoted to overcoming the false Gods. She is rumored to have been seen around the palace complex of the God of Artifice.
The bulk of the Aztlan are called the Jaguars. Originally, the Jaguar Infantry were an elite, but small military unit designed to capture sacrificial victims. With the arrival of the Gods, the Jaguars came to refer to all of the enlisted soldiers, from elite to peasant conscripts. Normally, the Jaguars are dressed in padded cotton or light leather armor, given a ceremonial headdress, and various survival tools. The primary weapons used by the Jaguars are various types of crossbow. New soldiers use single-shot models, while more decorated soldiers use repeating crossbows. They are often used with a variety of poisons for faster killing. A sidearm and common tool of soldiers is a machete-like blade for hacking foliage, or finishing off a wounded foe. Small axes are also common tools.
Plainsrunners gain their name from the nomadic tribes of the Great Plains. Once, they used dogs as beasts of burden, but once being absorbed into the Empire, the tribes used beasts of burden. Using a type of dinosaur unknown as the raptor, many tribes found a way to combine speed and lethality onto one mount. Plainsrunners now at as the primary cavalry unit of the Aztlan Empire, and their riders are normally armed with spears or light crossbows.
The High Priesthood trains many soldiers in the arcane. Those who show promise in offensive spell casting become acolytes. These specialists in arcane artillery ride armored triceratops as a sign of their status. They are capable of shredding infantry, and if they cannot reach a place where enemies cower, the acolyte can simply blast it to rubble. Also a triceratops is an effective anti-infantry creature, and can protect its rider quite well.
The skies of Aztlan are defended by the pterosaur riders. These airmen and women started out as an air mail service, but the Gods were quick to see military potential. By training an elite corps of pterosaur-riders, they gained a way to intercept any potential lumbering enemy air units. Since no enemies so far have used significant air units, the use of pterosaurs as air defenders is questioned by some, who often end up as pterosaur food if they question too much.
Smaller pyramids of Aztlan can be lifted into the air. Originally used as a show of the Gods' power, they are now used as a bomber of sorts. An altar at the top, powered by blood sacrifice, levitates the pyramid. The pyramid then can fire blasts of arcane energy at targets on the ground. Due to the massive blood requirements, normally smaller but more numerous animals are used, such as goats or even rabbits. However, the psychological effect of sacrificing several humans to power such a monstrosity is obvious.
The acolytes have special training against air units. If attacked from the air, the acolytes summon a thaumaturgical effect called the wisp. Ball lightning was a common occurrence in Aztlan, and the Gods developed a way to control it via thaumaturgy. The wisp is essentially a controlled form of ball lightning. It seeks small enemy flying units, but suffers against larger ones.
Several creatures from the Garden, such as raptors, triceratops, and pterosaurs, were used effectively. Another such creature is the pleisosaur. This archaic marine reptile can capsize ships and snatch at infantry near the shoreline. It can attack from under the waves, granting the ability for a snack attack on any enemy fleets.
An early design created by the Gods, the wingship is a light, and sleek ship. The name comes from the peculiar arrangement of the sails, which are mounted on the sides. This gives the ship its namesake. It is capable of heading across the seas, though it is mainly used for coastal patrols. An acolyte onboard protects the ship from any enemy air or undersea attacks.
The theurgeme is the most cutting edge ship in Aztlan's fleet. Powered by a bound water spirit, the ship moves without need for sails or oars. A small ship, but one with a very powerful ramming attack. Weapons onboard allow for hard-hitting power against surface ships and enemy air attack. However, it is somewhat vulnerable to undersea attack. This causes them to often have wingships around for defense.
Nothing screams with the power of Aztlan like the Arcane Pyramid. This structure is a massive step pyramid and fortress, defended by acolytes and arcane spells. Inside, there is normally a garrison of elite troops. These structures are very much built to last.
The War Academy is actually a series of schools rather than a single place. War Academies can range from massive campuses in cities to a series of tents near a battlefield. Troops are trained here, and supplies are readied for military campaigns. Logistics is key part of the Aztlan military system, even as much as training itself.
Sacrifice has always played a part in Aztlan culture. Previously, humans were sacrificed as a religious ritual. Now, it is a punishment for political dissidents. The arcane energy gained from human sacrifice has been amplified by the Gods. While the God Atl prefers to use livestock in place of humans, the other Gods use it as a means of social control. They turn a potential rebel into an arcane power source.
Logos Thaumaturgy (AKA "The Arcane")
Aztlan prefers to view the thaumaturgy as a science. This view of thaumaturgy is also referred to as "the arcane." The Gods nickname it the "Logos Approach" to thaumaturgy, as logic is used. Even the religious ritual of sacrifice can be used to power several massive spells. Two of the more common uses of this power are:
Garland Wars: Originally, the term "Garland Wars" referred to a war for the sole purpose of taking slaves and captives. Now, it refers to a special type of military sacrifice. The sacrifices for a military unit are sacrificed, and it allows greater number of military units to fight with more intensity.
The Hurricane: A favorite of the God of Sky and Sea, this massive storm creates intense gusts of winds. Flying units are forced to the ground, until the winds of the storm subside. It gains power over the ocean.