Bonus game and background post for the Sunday Campaign-- current state of Pavis and the Zola Fel Valley
Some notes on Pavis and the Zola Fel Valley in the present--
It took me three additional jumps beyond what I had originally plotted to finally arrive at Pavis, well, not Pavis itself, but at the Valley of Prax and the River of Cradles. I finally found a Wayfinder at Umulthea with more greed than sense and some knowledge of the ways. It is, as I had feared, the case that the Paths of the Ban have been shifted. Whether it means the struggle goes on or that they've managed to uncover some of those powers, I cannot be sure. Certainly Virocana has become more isolated, which could be action from any of the sides involved. I could have stepped myself, but things have become strange of late and even with my old familiarity, I'm loathe to take those risks.
So I found myself in Corflu again. I stood on the piers and looked out into the ocean and remembered when I'd last been here. When I'd watched the Giant's Cradle go down into Magasta's Pool, taking with it to the other side a host of heroes and villains. The skies here had burned that day and Corflu itself had nearly been destroyed. Still they'd managed to rebuild this horrible port in the middle of a swamp, the Zola Fel's delta maintaining the awful humidity here. Wood from the Great Tree had been brought in for reconstruction, but even that had decayed over time. A century had passed, but little seemed different here. Even the mosquitoes seemed to know me, judging by their bites and excitement.
I spoke briefly with a Neried, an exile willing to come close to the town, decayed by feeding off of the offal and waste in the water, but still proud. She told me the water ways reached southward, allowing a few small ships to connect to the Riskland settlements which had grown. Other ships, led by Wayfinders, sometimes came to Corflu, mostly from Holy Country with its new Pharaoh, smugglers from Heortland, Nocheti, and the very occasional water vessel of the Lunar Empire-- since they mostly used other means.
That would then be a surprised for me, to see the Lunar Garrison here at Corflu. I'd assumed that with the struggle between the three Emperors that either Prax would be forgotten or else the White Emperor would have control here. The breaking of the Temple of the Reaching Moon and the dissipation of the Glowline from here...I would have thought that the Lunar Heartland would be a distant memory. But I was proven wrong. It took time and quiet inquiries, but I discovered that the Lunars controlled the northern mountain pass and the Waypath of the Ban there-- leading back to the east of Dragon Pass. After the ban, the Valley had been cut off and independent, and then for a time the White Emperor had ruled here, but twenty years ago that had shifted-- some far off battle had given the Red Emperor control and his forces had returned to Prax and Pavis, driving out the heretic Lunars.
The situation would be more complicated than I'd expected. I changed over some coins and wheels among the newtlings and arranged to travel with a merchant barge up the Zola Fel to Pavis. It felt strangely familiar, and yet at the same time alien and different. Though I could not see the Ban I felt its presence, how it had closed over so many things.
Travel upriver in the Valley remains as unpleasant as it ever has been. While I saw more stopover points, including hostels, many of these had been abandoned and stripped for building materials. I should explain. Prax remains, by any stretch of the imagination, a poor area-- resource and supply poor. Much of the valley is rocky and dry with the rest plains and scrub. The greenest belt lies along the Zola Fel where irrigation can be used to create a greenbelt. However, before the time of the ban, a dramatic incident occurred which changed the economy-- the downing of a giant tree in the far eastern lands-- where the borders of the lands and the mythic grew weak. That tree managed, for nearly a generation to supply a vast amount of high quality lumber throughout the region-- used here and also transported to other regions. For a time, Corflu was a bustling trade hub with the beginnings of a shipbuilding industry. However, conflict with the Lunar Empire, the forces of the Heortlings and others eventually disrupted this trade and industry. When the Ban fell, it took with it the area which once showed such promise for the region. Still, everywhere in Pavis and every major settlement in the Valley one can find evidence of that boom-time-- carefully kept up wooden furniture, carvings, and even house frames.
As far as I could tell, the major ethnic and cultural groups remain within the Valley, though some things seem to have changed within them.
The Riverfolk, also know as the Weeders, still maintain their presence along the river in those places less hospitable to irrigation and farming. They have little voice within politics here but mostly serve as a settled but poor population.
The Grantlanders have expanded and spread their influence. They hold some of the richest lands along the river, as well as those lands closest to Pavis. Seven families, Garhound, Ronegarth, Weis, Abbadyos, Soldevane, Lemnear, and Rahzgali, hold sway. Most of these families came from the original Lunar and Carmanian settlement and the grants given in an attempt to settle the area more closely with Lunar ideals. The remain and have become more of an upperclass nobility-- married and tied to the old Pavic families, which has made them less Lunars than native Pavic. Once I would have described the two groups as having very different goals, but today there's a real sense of blending, with an aristocracy to the city. That's meant the adventurer and warrior population has gotten more of the short end of the stick in city affairs.
The Pavic Orlanthi: Times have not been good to the followers of Orlanth-- or some might say, they have been too good. Orlanth placed himself as the rebel, a figure of storm and air who acted to fight and lead the battles of the thanes. However, with the shifting of the role of the gods, Orlanth has taken on a more static leadership role-- an established figure who prizes order over change and rebellion. The Orlanthi in Prax and the Zola Fel valley have always been at the margins, exiles from their own homelands, and now they are divided. There remains a cult of Orlanth Rex, preferring the most established steads and those closest to the city. These have made some kind of peace with the Lunars-- claiming an equality of exchange in return for stability. However, as elsewhere, other central figures have risen in the place of what would once have been groups devoted to Orlanth.
I saw two of these in my time here, and while there seem to be others, they have the greatest number of followers. In some groups, Odayla the Huntsman has become the cult of the tribal chiefs. That seems appropriate for the region and it must be said, they have better relations with the Praxian Nomads than the other Orlanthi have. Also notable were the groups who had taken up Elmal as the thane-figure. The local Yelmalio see these Orlanthi as an affront, with their claim to the rites and aspects reserved to their own god.
The Nomads of Prax: The tribes of the Grazers still remain potent here-- given the grasslands and plains nearby. They still despise treat the Zebra folk badly, still count odd tribes among their numbers (the Yelnorans, the Basmoli, the Newtlings, the Baboon Tribe and so on). If Waha has changed, I cannot say-- though I did see more signs and symbols of individual cults among the Nomads I saw here. They consider themselves aloof from the affairs of the urban elite and still raid caravans and lone settlements when they feel like it.
The Sun-Domers: West of Pavis along the Zola Fel lies Sun County, a settlement which has only slightly expanded over time. The Yelmalio worship there has shifted slightly, with a new understanding of Yelmalio as both the son of Yelm and his reincarnation after the time in the Underworld. They remain practical, stubborn and incredibly uptight. When I went to the settlements there I had my bags and luggage searched extensively in case I might be bear forbidden tracts or licentious material. That I'd hidden well enough and did manage to trade for some interesting information.
That's what I saw on my rough and bone-wearying journey. And I heard tales of Broo and other beast who still haunted the corners of the Valley. Despite the destruction of the Shadow Haunt to the south, Chaos beasts and creatures still survived, though their raids came less frequently. Most still found their way into the Rubble and the mountain outskirts.
Which brings us to the Rubble, and Pavis itself.
Until you've been here-- you can't really appreciate it. Pavis is a city, really more of a large town. A new set of settlements has arisen on the northside, but generally it remains as I remembered it. Expanding the actual walls of the city would be a challenge, so that stockade outside remains a permanent temporary establishment. Inside the walls, things have grown more densely packed-- wooden structures supplement the old stone building, rising higher and higher. Mind you, the wood's gone now, so actually maintaining and repairing those structures will be a trick in another couple of generations. The city's bigger, denser and more potent than I remembered.
And yet, it still pales in comparison to the Rubble behind it. Those walls...I've rarely seen anything like them-- slabs of stone said to have been hauled by the giants-- forged and worked together by the Mostali. They hang over the city, a looming brother remind us of just how transient this supposedly timeless empire is. The Rubble still draws people-- and still has its own population. Fewer come from outside now, the paths being so difficult. But there's always a wild son who gets the idea that venturing into those massive ruins will actually lead to fame and honor. And, though smaller, there remains a sizable contingent dedicated to servicing those adventurers-- and a local government dedicated to taxing them. That government represents the Lunar Empire, but comes chosen from the Grantland nobility themselves-- Governor Peeric Rahzgali rules Pavis, and by extension, all of the Zola Fel valley.
That rulership being a nominal one in many respects-- since the Sun Domers have autonomy, the Elmali and Odayla rebels skirt the rules, the Nomads ignore everything, and the bandits still sneak their way in and through. Plus the host of minor cults and various folks who'd come here fleeing from elsewhere, bringing their own ways and methods of flaunting the rules for the melting pot. I'd expected that, but not the other group I found here in Pavis-- the Artaleni.
He would have hated that-- that so much of his severe and strict pursuit of the ways of Malkion would have been forgotten, and instead his tower and settlement would become simply a training ground for wizards-- not necessarily Malkioni or Meldek, but just magic users. His name would be worshipped. I, of course, blame Kerza for that, but I have to say I'm surprised by the resilience of it. It isn't a Covenant, by any means, but merely a substantial training grounds for those arts. The Lunars tolerate it, but those of strong Carmanian ancestry, like the Abbadyos family, hate it. I saw hedge-mages and fortune tellers here that in other places I'd been to would have been strung up. Those with money employ a household sorcerer of some kind and the current master of the Artaleni, Fengost, has managed to build almost a guild structure here-- with non-Malkioni mages being forced to take up at least a license to be able to practice. Classic and smart. They'd bear watching.
All that having been said, I think my biggest surprises came towards the end of my visit there. I saw a figure dressed in dark-colors, marching through the streets with anger and death in his eyes. I'd taken him for a Humakti, the typical death-follower. Then I noted the absence of a real blade and the bow upon his back. I waited until he passed before asking a crier who the warrior had been. Helscane of Nacht I was told. Nacht...an up and coming death and war god who'd found his ascension battling the Red Emperor-- a rebel figure not very popular with the establishment around here. It isn't bad as far as Hero Cults go-- though I have to say I was more pleased when I found the temple to Egrim. I spoke with a warrior priest there who tried to tell me the stories of his hero-cult, badly. I didn't try to set him that straight-- he had the heroism and dedication right. His cult's still forming, with a confused philosophy about how to deal with the Lunars. I'll be curious to see where that ends up.