When asteanic merchants first arrived in Kali seven centuries ago, they encountered fortified cities and a population that was hostile and unwilling to trade with them. The Itza clan, led by Tzeki, was in the midst of a war with neighboring groups and needed help. The asteanic merchants provided this help in the form of iron and tin, which were valuable resources in Kali because the region has few of these metals. The asteanic iron aided the Itza clan in their war, and within a few decades, they were able to conquer the surrounding islands and the city with the Yaxchila temple.
Since then, the Itza clan has ruled the city and the surrounding archipelago. The Itzas completely monopolized trade with the asteanic merchants and the intermediation of iron and tin to distant states in Kali. Over the centuries, the Itza state grew powerful and large – it controlled all traffic in the archipelago with a huge fleet, fought successful wars with other states of Kali, and its capital became one of the major cities in the world. To demonstrate their wealth and power, the Itzas built a palace covered with iron plates. This Iron Palace was the greatest wonder of the Kali world at the time, no other king had so much iron that he could even dream of anything close, there was not even enough iron to produce weapons. However, the Itzas simply nailed the expensive and necessary material to the walls, where it had to be oiled and rust cleaned every day because in the climate of Kali such standing iron quickly rusts. The Iron Palace brought even more fame to the state of Itza and at its height, there was no state in Kali that would not pay tribute to the Itzas in gold and jewels, even the emperor of the Asteanic empire had to send gifts of iron to the small Kali kingdom to ensure the safety of its merchant ships and merchants.
The adoption of ocean-going ship types a couple of centuries ago changed everything. The asteanic merchants could now sail directly across the ocean to their southern provinces without having to pass through the greedy Itza king’s archipelagos. This marked the beginning of the city’s decline.
Nominally, the city is ruled by Wadcha VII Itza, who calls himself the Iron King like his ancestors, but the city refers to him as The Rust King. The Itzas’ giant Iron Palace is in disrepair and largely deserted, its walls covered in rust and the streets around the palace filled with rust dust. Wadcha’s power over the archipelagos has declined, and very little remains of the once powerful naval fleet that used to collect tribute from all over the world.
The Rust King clings tenaciously to his waning power and is therefore extremely unpredictable, willing to ally himself with even the Xibalba demons or worse – asteanic trading house or company – if it means salvaging his last remaining power.
The Rust King is in his 40s and has not yet found a suitable bride to marry. Other rulers do not want to enter into a marriage alliance with a kingdom that is doomed to fall, and brides from lower castes are not suitable for Wadcha.
Nene is the head of the personal guard of King Wadcha VII Itza. Around the same age as the king and raised in the palace with him, Nene may or may not be the king’s secret mistress. Rumors circulate in the city, but no one knows for sure. However, it is known that Nene and her personal guard are the last military units in the city and kingdom that still actively serve the king.
Nene is a harsh and ruthless military leader who does not hesitate to spill the blood of civilians if she believes they pose a threat to the royal power. Nene and her personal guard serve as accusers, judges, and executioners in all matters involving resistance to the royal power. And as the king’s power slips more and more from his grasp each day, all matters involve this. Therefore, it is not wise to stand before Nene and her personal guard on any charges.
But if the PCs decide to choose from among all the potential factions in the city to support the king, Nene becomes their main employer and ally. Nene pays the PCs for any information that threatens the king and may also order them to carry out secret assassinations or kidnappings of the king’s enemies.
The rewards given by Nene are never as large as those of the city’s criminal factions, but the result is something much more valuable: the king’s gratitude in the form of titles, lands, offices, and the like.
Yaxchila is an ancient Kali ruler who reigned over the city hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Yaxchila still exists and resides in a palace that is in the otherworld of his city. He first became a lich so powerful that through his own willpower attained the status of a lesser god. He now mainly acts as a tourist attraction and a guardian deity for his city.
Yaxchila is a herald of Twice Plague, one of the main gods in orenic pantheon, and is a minor god in his own right. This makes visiting him twice as useful to all priests who are looking for gods to make pacts with. He is friendly to humans despite his jarring appearance. He is willing to make pacts with himself as well as a representative of the god Twice Plague. He is known to heal the gravely ill who gather in the city to be touched by his healing power.
This means that pilgrims from over the land gather in the city. The sick and weary come for healing, priests gather to step into pacts with the healing god Twice Plague and the curious come to see his palace in the otherworld as it’s one of the only few that can be visited without the usual dangers of the other side.
A priest can buy the following spells when consummating a pact with Twice Plague:
Yaxchila is a shaman ancestor type of minor God and by entering into a contract with him, a priest can obtain spells:
Blessing and cursing
Ritual: protective circle
Protection from the evil eye
Improved protection from the evil eye
Herald of the gods
In order to enter into and maintain a contract with Yaxchila, a priest must follow the rules or prohibitions set by Yaxchila. It is the responsibility of a Yaxchilan priest to heal and assist the sick to the best of their ability without seeking payment in return.
Notes for GM:
During the day, Yaxchila can be found in his throne room where he meets with pilgrims. At night, he moves to the back rooms of the palace where he carves his life story into stone. The walls of the palace are covered in hieroglyphics and engravings that tell the story of his life. If you analyse them (History check DL 20), you will find that they are full of contradictions and may not be true at all.
Yaxchila is not involved in the affairs of the city, despite being nominally a protective deity. He is not concerned with the city’s fate.
Yaxchila will not readily engage in chit-chat. He may heal PCs if they are suffering from an illness (he does not deal with simple wound care), or enter into contracts with them as priests. He will not engage in casual conversation.
Yaxchila does not bring back the dead, although he has the ability to do so. However, he may be persuaded to turn a PC into an undead revenant. Persuasion check DL 20 (“Death is a natural part of life and goes against my principles”) and DL 20 (“My grandmother Seven Deaths may be upset if I do not allow spirits to move on as they should”).
Kuklan Zipaniza and the Zipaniza clan
For hundreds of years the Zipaniza clan has belonged to the aristocratic leaders’ class of the city. Zipaniza have shifted their focus to Yaxchila temple from which they derive their power and wealth. The clan now hold the positions of high priest and all other high-ranking priests.
One of the main sources of income for the city are tourists and pilgrims that come to visit Yaxchila. To meet the god these pilgrims and tourists must pay an entry fee to the clan. Kuklan, the patriarch of Zipaniza is clever and understands humans well. It is almost impossible to fool him when it comes to paying entry fee and so every pilgrim and tourist must pay him according to what is left in their money bag after their journey to the city.
Yaxchila’s temple and its surroundings have become Zipaniza’s fortress. The high priest Kuklan Zipaniza is the one to decide the comings and goings on of this fortress and the temple.
The 70 year old Kuklan has become paranoid and hides his eyes behind sunglasses to protect himself from psychics whom he fears. Kuklan never leaves his fortress temple and access to Yaxchila gets more tedious and expensive with each passing day. Kuklan and other priests demand visitors reveal their questions and motives towards the god before entry and accompany all visits. If the Zipaniza members do not like the intentions of visitors their entry is barred. Some suspect it’s all a show to scam ever increasing amounts of wealth from pilgrims while others think something even more sinister is happening within the temple walls.
Rumors about Kuklan Zipaniza & Yaxchila’s temple:
Some say Kuklan has killed the real Yaxchila and replaced him with somebody else or is performing some type of role play. This would mean that priests who sign contracts with the god do so with someone else entirely.
Some think Kuklan has gathered an unimaginable amount of wealth within the years and has hidden it somewhere in the temple. They say he’s lost his mind in greed and spends time every day rolling around and “bathing” in his riches. They think it’s the fear of thieves that has forced him to close the temple.
Others say Kuklan is scheming a coup of the city and armed the temple with cannons and his clansmen with muskets.
Some suspect the ancient god-lich Yaxchila is becoming more dangerous, he’s awakening, and nobody knows what plans he might undertake once he exits his palace once more. Kuklan and his clan are preparing for the potential outcome of that event by gathering weapons. The cannons and weapons are pointed at Yaxchila and visitation time is restricted to keep Yaxchila calm and keep him from awakening fully.
Phra pneh Morena Truthseeing
The orenic phra pneh (chief of chiefs) Morena Truthseeing has arrived in the city with her fleet from the far south.
The tall Orenic priestess-queen has come to the temple of Yaxchila as a pilgrim with her warriors, seeking to make a pact with the lich-deity, but she has not yet been allowed to enter. The high priest, Kuklan Zipaniza, constantly finds new reasons to keep Morena out of the temple, and the short fuse of the phra pneh is starting to run out.
In the meantime, Morena and her warriors have set up camp near the city on the beach, where they have also pulled their catamarans ashore. There they are making their plans, but it is only a matter of time before the orenic warriors in the big city get up to some kind of mischief.
When meeting Morena Truthseeing, the second thing that draws attention, after her growth, is her glowing blue eye. Morena has made a pact with the Asteanic samurai god Tengu Jin and sacrificed her eye in order to see the unseen. This pact does not earn her much respect among her own people – many see Morena as a turncoat to the asteani. However, her warriors adore her – Morena has proven herself to be a brave and fierce warrior who does not give up in even the most difficult situations and always finds a way to victory.
Lardes la Naxos-Lazura
There is a new Asteanic merchant in town, a dashing young man named Lardes la Naxos-Lazura. The la Lazura house has a long history in the city. Centuries ago, when the city was still a hub on the south-north trade route, the la Lazura house was one of the most important and powerful asteanic merchant houses in the city. However, with the shift of trade routes, the family’s power center moved north to the Republic of Five Houses, and palazzo Lazura has stood empty for the last hundred years, only spared from demolition or sale by chance.
To everyone’s surprise, the representative of the family, the nillwring’s (the title of the head of Asteanic houses) own nephew Lardes, has arrived in the city, and not alone but with a ship, soldiers, goods, and secret plans unknown to the townspeople. He publicly speaks of reopening the family’s trading house and seeking trade partners in the city.
In secret, Lardes begins to weave his web in the city and may offer extremely lucrative job opportunities to PCs who are not afraid to break the law. In the city’s more suspicious underworld PCs may hear that Lardes is looking for people “who are not afraid to do a little bit of dangerous work for the sake of big money.”
Lardes can be found in the old seafront la Lazura palazzo, where he lives with his war band. He offers the following job opportunities:
Smuggle 20 cannons and 200 rounds to the high priest of Yaxchila, Kuklan Zipaniza. It is not possible to bring such an arsenal through the city during the day, and Lardes suspects that the king may already be watching him.
Reward: 500 GD
Steal one of the spears of the mythical hero Nine Spears from the Iron Palac (royal palace), which is said to be hidden somewhere there.
Reward: 1500 GD
Steal a mysterious obsidian strongbox from the Otherworld of Yaxchila temple, from the lich-deity Yaxchila himself. Reward: 3000 GD
It is relatively easy to convince Lardes to pay more for all of these jobs, up to double the fee, with a persuasion roll of 10.
On the other hand, the king would be very interested to know what that asteanic newcomer is planning in his city.
Tzakla Ulu, the Iron Runners and Blacksmiths district (Iron district)
Tzakla Ulu was a blacksmith’s son who was expected to become a blacksmith himself, but fate had other plans.
Tzaklas youth falls in the final decade of the war between the great Itza kingdom and the Zapopani kingdom, during which the blacksmiths of Irongate had their hands and feet full of supplying the navy and army with weapons and other necessities. Since there was not enough iron ore in Kailand’s soil to make mining it worthwhile, all the raw materials for the blacksmiths came from the Asteanic merchants, who in recent decades had been visiting Irongate less and less. Therefore, during this war decade, the city had a law that iron could only be sold to blacksmiths who worked for the army, navy, or directly for the king. This was a big problem because, in a city of 100,000 inhabitants, there were all kinds of other things made of iron that were needed.
Tzakla and some other young and restless blacksmith’s sons and daughters took the problem into their own hands and supplied blacksmiths with iron so that they could also take on civilian orders. Where Tzakla’s iron came from – usually it was stolen. But sometimes they managed to make a deal with some Asteanic merchants. Tzakla and his Iron Runners were respected figures in the blacksmiths’ district at that time – although their criminal activity was a public secret.
Tzakla’s gang’s greatest moment of fame came with the adventure immediately after the destruction of the Itza’s navy – the Iron Runners stole a large amount of iron from the king’s own palace (the palace is covered with iron plates that are now rusting on its side). This act brought fame to the gang, but also made them the most wanted criminals in the city.
After the war, everything changed in the blacksmiths’ district. Since the empire had collapsed and the navy had been destroyed, a large part of the district lost its customer base, on which the entire business was based. Rich blacksmiths had to lay off their apprentices and assistants and switch from the mass production for the military and navy to smaller orders for civilian customers.
The wealthier blacksmiths, after the war, took their earthly wealth and left the city in search of better hunting grounds. However, the unemployed common workers and apprentice’s sons have nowhere to go – evicted from their living quarters in the workhouses, they live in alternative housing, or abandoned blacksmith’s workshops and mansions in the same district. The lack of work and future prospects has led to a sharp increase in drug use and crime.
Tzaka Ulu and Iron Runners were also left without work – the stolen iron was no longer needed in such quantities. The Iron Runners, known for their criminal activities from a young age, found it easy to shift their focus to even greater criminal endeavors. The group continues to live secretly in the blacksmith district, engaging in illegal activities such as:
- Selling imported Asteanic drugs to the residents of the district.
- Participating in territorial disputes with other criminal groups.
- Extortion of both residents of the district and others.
- Individually committing theft, robbery, and murder.
- Providing illegal services to the wealthy and powerful in the city.
Tzaka Ulu and Iron Runners, are NPCs that will carry out tasks for Lardes la Naxos-Lazura if the PCs do not.
If the PCs enter the blacksmith district, they will likely have to deal with gang members who may try to extort money, sell drugs, or even rob them.