Ulgotha'Nator, the City of Serpents


The city that would become Ulgotha'Nator was founded 4,812 years ago by a wave of refugees fleeing political persecution on the Eastern Isles. A low island separated from the mainland of Oklina by a long, shallow u-shaped channel was chosen as its initial site, out of fear of the dreaded Klin living in the dense tropical forests of the mainland. It's original settlers numbered about three thousand. They named the island Haarmondos (meaning 'Our Children's Fortress') and the city itself Tyoovaaryiius ('Beginning Again').

Over the next decade the small colony struggled with famine and unfamiliar tropical diseases. The ferocious Klin did indeed become aware of the colony and although the shallow river channel did indeed allow the settlers to defend their city against Klin incursions, the viciously hostile People of the Wilds made it impossible for the Tyoovaarii to settle the mainland. Over and over again, the colony very nearly perished, with only the relatively advanced city planning, engineering, and weapons technology the Tyoovaarii had brought with them from the Eastern Isles allowing any of them to survive.

However, the colony did survive and after a few generations to weed out those susceptible to the sub tropical climate, the unusual local diet, and the malarial epidemics, began to grow. The five diverse Temple Clans that had originally founded the city intermarried and over the next ten generations the original Clan distinctions began to vanish as a new race of Tyoovaarii supplanted it. The Clan Councils of the Eastern Isles eroded as the Clans

themselves became little more than powerful names, and a rigid hierarchy of professional guilds rose up to take its place.

As the original settlers had been in rebellion against the Holy Laws of the Eastern Isles, the colony had no established religion, and worship of any of the known Eastern gods was forbidden.

Knowledge of the original technology brought from the Eastern Isles was carefully preserved and slowly individual innovators and inventors improved on it. However, Tyoovaarii and its surrounding areas were poor in accessible metals and other necessary materials and therefore the relatively high state of technological advancement could not be maintained past the first four generations. Weapons devolved from gunpowder fueled pistols, rifles, and bombards to throwing darts, firebreathers, nets, and obsidian studded clubs. Rare children began to be born with powerful magical abilities who were trained to be an elite class of warriors to protect the city from the Klin. With each succeeding generation, the frequency of these births increased slightly.

By the colony's 75th native generation, a powerful upper class of adepts ruled Tyoovaarii absolutely. Beneath them was an elaborate social structure of professional guilds with varying amounts of status and political power. Under the protection of the adepts, extensive cattle and produce farms had been established on the nearby mainland and the Klin had been driven into a permanent, sullen retreat. Tyoovaarii had long since begun trading with the

Eastern Isles, exporting various items of tropical produce - bananas, coffee, chocolate, cocaine, various shellfish, tropical leathers and feathers and furs, and most importantly, sea salt and Tyoovaarii pearls - in exchange for metals and other Eastern Isle products.

The ruling adepts had banned any further developments of weapons technology, or, indeed, any further technological innovations at all, since they wished to maintain their positions as the most powerful entities in the city.

In the 1,572nd year since the founding of the Colony (3,240 years ago), Tyoovaariius was conquered by a large invading army from the Eastern Isles. This army consisted of priests and warriors of seven separate Temple Clans -- the Ulgatho, followers of Ulgathi, Mother of Serpents and She Who Cannot Be Seen; the Yarmagatho, followers of Yarmagatha, the Addergod; the Nathagotho, followers of Nathagotha, the Constrictor; the Suthagaro, followers of Suthagari, the Sun Serpent; the Umagatho, followers of Umagatha the Water Serpent, the Uthagartho, followers of Uthagartha, the Earthsnake; and the Shalla Agotho, followers of Shalla Agothi, the Dreamsnake. Led by the Serpent Gods themselves, this invading force took control of Tyoovaariius in less than thirty days. The few adepts to survive this either fled into exile or were put to death. The city was renamed Ulgotha'Nator, and the island it rested on came to be known as Dor Ulgatha Errheesh (The Island of the Serpent Gods).

The Holy Laws of the Eastern Isles were re-established and strictly enforced, including the Laws of Clan Segregation. To facilitate this, the various Gods and their Temple Clans divided the city into seven separate quarters to cut the large population down to a more manageable size for each of them. Sumptious temples were built in each quarter as residences for each God.

Other than re-establishing Eastern Holy Law, the Serpent Gods made few changes to the social structure of Ulgotha'Nator. The rigid hierarchy of professional guilds was left intact, with the Priesthood of the new Gods taking the place of the now extinct ruling class of adepts. All magic, witchcraft and other unnatural abilities were strictly prohibited by the Gods and their priests, but the adept rulers had also forbidden such powers to any but themselves, so this made little difference to everyday life in the city. Within each of the new quarters, each subdivision of the population found themselves adopted into their new ruling Temple Clans, and virtually all social fraternization (especially sexual and/or marital) with other Temple Clans was forbidden. Each God and each Priesthood encouraged their own Temple Clans to feel like the most superior of all the city Clans, and interquarter professional and athletic competitions were established to foster and encourage Clan rivalries to develop.

The members of the invading force, soldiery and priesthood, were forbidden to intermarry with their new Clan members.

Over the past three millenia, four distinct human subraces have emerged from the polyglot genetic mixture of the Tyoovaarii. These are the Tharis, a race of tall, slender, bronze skinned but fairhaired people with little or no body hair; the Karday, who by contrast to the Tharis are short, stocky, and brown skinned, with black, springy hair and whose men have heavy beards and body hair; the Alanni, a hairless race with deeply black skin, of medium height and build, and the M'Kar, who are a sallow skinned race with upward curving eyes that seem to be almost colorless, prominent widows peak hairlines, and deep black straight

hair. In addition, the hereditary Priest class is of the Eastern race known as the Kyal, being of short to medium height, medium build, with milky pale skin, blue eyes, and thin hair ranging from light brown to dark blond.

Because of the constant dredging operations that keep the island's shallow river channel free and unconstricted, the island itself seems to grow slightly but measurably in size every year. As the expanse of piled up mud shore outside the original city walls has grown, so too has the urban sprawl of the city itself extended to these mud flats, which are commonly called Flattown or the Mud Quarter. This is an area where the social outcasts and untouchables of the city proper (which is to say, halfbreeds and mulattos and others who are less than racially pure) reside. No God or Priesthood claims the Mud Quarter as its domain, although Umagatha, the Watersnake, rules all maritime operations including shipping and the river dredge fleet, so the Umagatho Temple Clan has probably greater influence in the Mud Quarter than any other Temple Clan. Although most of the population of the Mud Quarter is clearly half or quarterbreeds, a growing fraction of it seems to be almost on the verge of becoming a separate polyglot race of its own. The Temple Clans take it in turns to patrol the Mud Quarter, and pogroms to arrest and execute heretics and traitors go on constantly there.

Nontheless, despite this, the Mud Quarter is a lawless and chaotic place, especially in contrast to the rigid social structure of the city itself. Smugglers, thieves, brassbitches, assassins, witches, grifters, pushers, bratsnatchers, fences, beggars, exiles, runaways, corsairs, brigands, strongarm men, copperboys, lepers, blood-drinkers, adderpens, and every other kind of human refuse crowd its winding, stinking, filthy narrow alleys and entryways.

Only the racially pure or those legally enslaved to the racially pure may enter the City proper. The racially impure who are still free and who choose to remain that way may not enter the City under any circumstances, on pain of death if they are caught doing so. Racial purity is something that most City dwellers are very sensitive about, and each City dweller carries with them two elaborately faceted and carved gems, usually set on rings or brooches or pendants or some other prominent piece of jewelry. One gem details their Clan status, the other their Guild status. Guild membership is often and traditionally hereditary in the City, but a child who shows an aptitude for a Guild other than his parents can nearly always be cross adopted.

All City dwellers, then, are racially pure members their particular Temple Clan who are intimately and extensively familiar with their relative status inside their own family and their own professional guild. The most powerful Guild is that of the various Priesthoods, which is strictly hereditary. Within the Priest class is a sort of sub class, the Eresh Skal or Sacred Soldier. These are dedicated servants of the various Temples. Each Temple has its own

particular sort of martial training it gives to its warriors, and each Temple also has its own special Secret Weapon that only its warriors may bear. These Sacred Soldiers are fanatical devotees of their Temple, Clan and God.

The Priesthoods each have their own distinct clerical regalia, but all priestly uniforms are entirely concealing.

Only certain professional Guilds have the right to bear arms in Ulgotha'Nator. Most prominent of these are the Scales of the City Guild, which provides the armed guards who patrol the streets of the city and arrest lawbreakers. Each quarter of the City provides a thousand volunteers for the Scales of the City, who have fairly high social status and a prominent voice on the City's Guild Council. The Scales are unusual in that once a man joins, he is considered to be outside his Temple Clan for all political and social purposes for as long as he remains a member of the Scales Guild. Thus, those who join are generally second and third sons who cannot find advantageous Clan marriages or who have not been able to join their preferred professional Guilds, for the Scales cannot marry nor father legally acknowledgeable children. To further prevent any Scale from showing Clan favoritism, no individual is ever assigned to patrol a sector in his native quarter.

There are two other legally acknowledged armsbearing Guilds. One is the Goldenfang Brotherhood, which provides armed mercenaries to those who wish to purchase more armed protection than the Scales of the City already provide. Upper class professionals and wealthy merchants often hire additional guards for their places of business, shops, and/or warehouses, and Eastern Holy Law allows a particular Temple Clan to have up to one thousand permanently armed retainers at any given time. This means that wealthy Clan members who wish to have armed household guards must bid competitively for these thousand free slots, and it is therefore considered to be a symbol of high social status to be seen in public with an armed bodyguard or two. The Priesthood never bothers with armed guards, since only a madman or a rival Priest (meaning, a rival God) would order a Priest killed and risk the wrath of his patron deity and their Eresh Skol, and if that should happen, no armed guard is going to be any help at all.

The last legally acknowleged armsbearing Guild is the Society of Vipers. Unlike the two other Guilds, the Society of Vipers does not openly go armed, but carries its weapons concealed. This Guild provides a sort of human disposal service; for one of two set fees, the Society of Vipers will undertake the assassination of anyone in the city outside the Priesthood itself. If only the lower fee is paid, the Society gives the intended target warning a day or

so in advance, and an opportunity for the target to buy off the contract for twice the amount of the fee already paid. If the higher fee -- three times the amount of the lower -- is paid, then the target is given no warning and may not buy off the contract under any circumstances.

To be a member of the Society of Vipers is to be respected and feared, and the Society has high social status and a great deal of political power. The Society also has the unheard of legal right to wear a badge of another Guild, but only when they are actually engaged in a commission.

The general level of weapons technology in Ulgotha'Nator is fairly primitive, due to the regional lack of accessible metal. The Scales of the City bear stone studded war clubs (often edged with embedded obsidian flakes), flint-headed javelins, nets, venomed darts and dart-throwers, and tall, light bamboo shields against missile fire. Their officers are usually equipped with a steel shortsword or long dagger. The Goldenfang Brotherhood bears similar weapons to the Scales of the City, although those working for the very wealthy are often equipped with metal swords and steel tipped polearms as demonstrations of their patron's riches. It should be noted that unless the patron is vastly wealthy indeed, and can afford to equip his guards with nearly priceless Eastern stainless steel, these guards spend an inordinate amount of time keeping these metal weapons free of rust and rot in the swampy, humid tropical environment. This is another factor, along with the rarity of metal itself, that keeps metal weapons to a minimum in the City. Because strings tend to stretch and quickly rot in the humid air, bow weapons long ago fell into general disuse and are now almost entirely forgotten. Similarly, due to the extremely hot and humid climate, no heavy, protective clothing of any sort can be worn for any length of time without succumbing to exhaustion, prostration, and heat stroke.

Because of all of the above factors, Ulgotha'Nator has become an area where unarmed fighting disciplines proliferate. Many organized systems for wrestling and various hand and foot strikes have been developed there over the past several thousand years, mostly in the slums outside the city, where almost no one could ever possibly become a legally authorized arms bearer. The best unarmed fighters often work as bodyguards to the wealthier Flat Lords, who, being halfbreeds and outcast scum, cannot hire Goldenfang Brothers.

One of the most popular social events in Ulgotha'Nator, for City dweller and Flattie alike, is the azatoth games. Each individual city Guild has its own azatoth team, which compete within their own Quarters all year round. At the end of each year, the best players from each Quarter are assembled into a sort of Quarter All Star Team, and the Quarter Teams play off against each other in an order determined by various political and priestly negotiations that have gone on for the entire preceding year. The Quarter whose team wins the azatoth championship gains status and certain privileges for the next year. The individual members of the championship team are showered with adulation and usually receive lucrative adoption offers from various Guilds (causing their own current Guilds to offer them promotion if they want to keep them on) and excellent marriage contract proposals from the well off households in their individual Temple Clans. Even the Flatties take sides during the Azatoth Play Offs, with heavy betting done on each game. Although azatoth is not a professional sport, in that none of the players are actually, officially, paid for their athletic endeavors, winning the City Championship can make a player effectively wealthy for life.

And, it's rumored, occasionally losing a City Championship can enrich a player even more...

While each Quarter contains several small azatoth arenas, the Play off and Championship Games are held outside the city proper itself, on a large, floating barge specifically constructed several decades before for this purpose. The money and labor to build the barge was provided by several well off Flat Lords, who did so in exchange for the City Guild Council's guarantee that the Play Off and Championship Games would be held there, and that one thousand seats would be reserved for Flatties for each game. Since the hosting of the yearly azatoth Play Offs had become a virulently and often violently disputed privilege between the Quarter Priesthoods, leading to several priestly assassinations and nearly to an actual Holy War, the Gods themselves had told the priests to solve the problem peacably, and this seemed as good a solution as any. However, in the past few years, a few Quarters have adopted the somewhat shocking policy of bringing in Flattie ringers for the City Play Off games. Although Flatties can't enter the city as free men, and only free men can join Guilds, there is no actual law requiring Guild members to actually live in the city. Thus, various Guilds in various Quarters can 'adopt' athletic Flatties as 'honorary members', which makes them eligible to play in the Play Offs, since those are now held outside the City proper.

Many Guilds and prominent Clan Members have voiced great outrage that these 'mudstreet azatoth thugs' should be allowed to play on actual Quarter teams, but so far, the Priesthood has made no ruling about the practice.