As the World Burns
Draj is a backwater city-state held firmly in the grasp of a mad sorcerer-king. Draj has never known peace, for warfare and conflict are among its highest ideals. Warriors hold power, and their vaunted status is something all aspire to attain. When not waging war against Raam or defending their home from reprisals or conquest, Draji raiders prowl the surrounding wastes, plundering villages for fresh slaves to replace those expended in labor or sacrifice.
Draj owes its sinister nature to its sorcerer-king. Tectuktitlay, the Father ofLife, is a pervasive presence in the city-state. His visage adorns walls and buildings, his symbol ripples on banners, and his templars (known as moon priests) are everywhere, enforcing his laws and instructing the people in his perfect divinity. No one would suggest it, but in fact, the sorcerer-king’s features have little majesty. Tectuktitlay has narrow eyes, a wide nose, heavy jowls, and round,pouty lips. Other regal images include the feathered serpent found on banners carried by sol diers in war. The jasuan, or ambush drake, also has a place of prominence in Draj.
Tectuktitlay’s influence is so insidious that most Draji dare not question his divinity, doubt the deeds attributed to him, or disobey the commands given by his moon priests. All citizens know that dissent invites the sorcerer-king’s ire, and his anger can be quelled only by blood sacrifice.
Other city-states have larger populations, but only Raam rivals Draj’s sprawling size. Draj commands the Tyr Regions easternmost extent, where the old Road of Kings curls east and then northward to legendary lands and the world’s edge beyond. The rich mud flats that surround the city-state for miles give Draj its strength and resources. Grain and hemp grow abundantly in fields worked by slaves day and night under the moon priests watchful eyes.
A causeway of stone cuts through the muddy fields and brackish ponds. Along this narrow path travel House Tsalaxa’s merchant caravans, laden with flour, rope, textiles, and other goods, casting a deep shadow across the smaller clans that struggle against this mercantile giant such as Draj’s Elven Market, which consists of a string of shabby little tents and booths along the causeway. The ancient stone road cuts through the fields until it comes to the outer city, which is called the Gift. No wall protects the Gift; a wide, muddy ditch filled with sharpened stakes and vermin is the only barrier. Javelin-armed guards patrol the perimeter of this moat. The only route across is a stone bridge, its footings sunk deep into the mud.
The Gift is a lively community that fills the space between the ditch and the 60-foot-tall walls that surround the inner city, known as Two Moon City. In the Gift, roads wend among clay buildings that are stacked atop one another like childrens blocks. Wood or hemp ladders offer access to the upper stories and roofs. Here and there lie public squares with great wells and the fat, round towers of grain silos.
The Golden Moon Gate is the only passage from the Gift into Two Moon City. Upon entering Tectuktitlay’ s inner domain, the first sight that visitors see is theFather and Master Temple, an enormous step-pyramid that commands the entire city-state. At its peak is the Gods Altar, where Tectuktitlay sacrifices slaves, dissenters, and enemy soldiers by tearing out their hearts and discarding their corpses to the arena hundreds of feet below. Channels cut into the pyramid’s sides carry blood down to ground level and into the compound. On days of sacrifice, crimson streams trickle throughout the inner city.