Exalted – Creation (The South)May 18, 2010
The South is a vast desert, ranging from scrub in the northernmost sections near the Great Inland Sea all the way to literally pure heat near the Elemental Pole of Fire. Most of its civilizations are city-states, banding together with (or against) the indigenous nomads to survive. I’ll be giving overviews of the city-states of Chiaroscuro, Paragon, the Lap, Gem, Harborhead, Varangia, and An-Teng.
Chiaroscuro was a prosperous First Age city made entirely of enchanted glass. That came crashing down (literally) at the end of the Shogunate, when the Scarlet Empress used the Realm Defense Grid to annihilate the last of the Shoguns who refused to surrender to her. Now, it is a prosperous merchant port, where the citizens live in (relative) harmony with the Delzhan horsemen as a nominal tributary of the Realm. However, there is a power rising within the Delzhan that could threaten the entire South’s stability… or be its salvation.
Paragon is ruled by the Perfect, a heroic mortal who found an ancient artifact of the First Age. He uses this staff to brand his subjects with tattoos that enforce obedience to the laws of Paragon or suffer mystically inflicted agony and eventual death. As such, Paragon is a peaceful place, save for the Perfect’s ongoing skirmishes against the desert bandits, but it is a place where freedom is sacrificed for security.
The Lap was once not a city, but a statue, a massive artifact carving of a monk in lotus repose called the Last Supplicant of Power. Its current residents have little to no idea that their civilization, nestled (as the name suggests) in the lap of the statu’s crossed thighs, was ever anything but a prosperous, calm, uneventful satrapy of the Realm. While loyal, the Lap is a long way from the Realm, and sitting on a massive stockpile of power, just waiting for someone with the right memories to activate it.
Gem is a scavenger city, owing nothing to the First Age. It was founded by Guild merchants, who use slaves to mine the nearby mountains for jewels, gems, and ores. It is a wealthy city, contributing largely to the South’s prosperity, and it is the primary source of firedust, the alchemical substance that gives firewands their kick. It is also embroiled in constant, subtle warfare with both Paragon and the Realm, both of whom would love to possess its riches.
Harborhead was once subjugated by the Realm, and, while now a “loyal” satrapy, finds its freedom somewhat bewildering. Numerous native peoples are forced together under the eye of their one-time oppressors, at the time when the Realm needs them most as a base of operations against Thorns to the north. The culture of Harborhead is a warrior culture, with strong worship of Ahlat, the Southern God of War and Cattle, but their fierce independence finds itself at odds with a history of slavery and internecine warfare.
The Varang City-States are, as the name suggests, a collection of city-states ruled by uncompromising astrology. They have a distinct and unchanging caste system, denoted by elaborate tattoos. Their obsession with astrology means that astrologers and fortune-tellers are treated as aristocracy. Their culture is a remnant of a much older age, however, and with the Time of Tumult upon them, they may be forced to let go of their rigid ways of life.
Finally, An-Teng is the western-most nation of the South, living in the fertile southwest crescent, west of the fiery, volcanic mountains. Externally, they are a modest, well-behaved satrapy of the Realm, having been beaten down again and again during the Usurpation and Contagion. However, beneath their calm exterior there are many secrets, including Yozi cults, blasphemous gods, and even Anathema.