Alright! The first installment of some further details, this time on the very important Creatures of the New World. I’ll post these here first, and then probably fit it into the Wiki a little later.
Admittedly, it’s longer than I expected it would be. Comments, questions, contradictions I missed?
The Creatures of Ponte Luka:
“I bear it! I bear Tacius Black’s head!”
-Shouted from the ramparts, during the Black Seige of Ponte Luka
The Men of the Empire, more particularly, the Men of Ponte Luka are a varied and adaptive people, yet time and scarcity has had its effect on them. They have spent many years striving for sustenance and the next winter. They have been fighting, more than anything, for some sense of normalcy and civilization, something they cannot seem to achieve. They are surrounded only by harsh wilderness and suspicious, foreign eyes, their “allies of convenience”.
Five years ago, however, The Black Fear, flagship of a desperate pirate navy, sank under Ponte Luka’s Combined Militia, and the cadavers of a pirate army have proved a kind fertilizer to the growth of the city. The tensions that plagued the city have begun to ease and the varied species are meeting on grounds other than war, need and suspicion. It seems that finally, Ponte Luka may stand on its own two legs. Now Men have the luxury to wonder, how much do we know about these strange creatures? What do they want from us, really?
The cautious and cynical quietly store supplies and bide their time, knowing that people celebrate far too early, and that Ponte Luka will never be far from collapse.
The Great Wolves
“The interminable strength of a ‘pack’ follows from the uncharacteristically hopeful view that Wolf-hood and the trial of survival and procreation is the greatest Gift. Every Wolf bears the mark of ‘Great Grandfather’, and together they are the only light against the ancient and the hollow.”
-From An Introduction to the Predatorial Testament, by Enciammand Astrezza
Great Wolves in appearance are just that, wolves magnified. They stand four to six feet tall at the shoulder, with disproportionately large teeth and claws. They are mainly terse when interacting with other races, eagerly cutting to the heart of a discussion, though their motivations are sometimes impenetrable to non-Wolves.
The Great Wolves do not, for the most part, live within the city, but rather in man-made clay caves, along the walls of Ponte Luka (The “Kennels”). Within them live pregnant females, newborn pups and the ‘Aunts’ and ‘Uncles’, assigned to raising the little ones.
Dominant wolves are rarely within sight of the city walls, but they have sworn to cooperate with the Men of Ponte Luka and the surrounding villages, and they always arrive when properly called. It’s hard to keep track of all of the various packs that visit and leave Ponte Luka, but if a Man informs even one wolf of important information or a need, it spreads to its intended target with a supernatural speed.
The Great Spiders
“…for the servitude and protection of the two-legger wall-guards from time of White to Black and then again from Black to White again, We write that We shall taste our brethren in the air, and hence devour them, and so provide greater protection than walls that would not delay a hatchling.”
-From Treaty of Mutual Protection, drafted by Handmaiden Zi of the Great Overnest
The Great Spiders are large creatures, anywhere from one to six feet long, and sit low to the ground. Size often expresses importance, with the matriarchal females known as “Handmaidens” being the largest. They may be all variety of spider, bodies depending on how they live and their necessary role.
Recently, the Handmaidens have agreed to use the strange expertise and senses of the Great Spiders to help guard the walls from things that would not be stopped by brick and mortar. Before then, however, they seemed to do very little except for build their vast Orb Home. There are many theories as to why the ruling council welcomed the Spiders into Ponte Luka. Some say it was just too dangerous to leave them out. Some say that a silver-tongued spider manipulated his way into the council. Some say it is clear that their strange web runes will ensure Ponte Luka’s safety. Some say that regardless, there will be Spiders to feast on all of us when we are dead.
The giant Orb of webbing, or “Great Overcity”, stands pressed up against the northern wall of the city, protected from the weather above by a ceramic dome, and is protected on all sides by thick tarps of carpet (hand-sewn by the Hsigo). These also serve as a general limiting barrier for smaller Spiders who lack express permission to enter the city, as it is clear that without barriers there would be eggs and webs everywhere.
“The Prophet spoke into the ear of the mighty Celestial Emperor and said, ‘Grant them wings, so that they may attain the heights of the mountain most holy and pay you proper worship.’ And so it was done.”
-Introduction to The Analects of the Prophet, Central text of The Celestial Emperor
The Hsigo are chimerical creatures, in appearance. They are monkey-like, with large eyes and sad, expressive features. On their backs they have large, feathered wings which they use to fly all across their Sacred Mountain (The “Vedanta Hsigaeri”). Around Men, they wear loose-fitting silk robes, bartered from the Great Spiders.
If you asked a Hsigo what they provide Ponte Luka, they would look at you condescendingly and answer something akin to “Illumination”. Some Men agree, it is clear, as the many subtle rules and ceremonies of The Celestial Emperor have gained some popularity. Children, too, enjoy listening to the endless myths and morals that the Hsigo tell. But Men more concerned with the survival of Ponte Luka (in this life, at least) see their value elsewhere. Hsigo are consummate explorers and mappers, although they do not always keep to the plan, or understand exactly what the Men want, they are a great resource for learning what lies beyond this strip of land.
The relatively few Hsigo that live in Ponte Luka (most finding the city to be too flat live in) find their home in a strange construction that is part shanty town and part mansion. Just south of the great Empire Temple strange, ramshackle rooms and towers build off of each other precariously, alternating from hedonistic luxury to scavenged trash. Perhaps stranger, from every corner you’ll find cage of rare and fantastic birds.
“The Summer, the moldy Summer – Oh! The honeymoon
Will be a flower bed and his children will fill his home
With a thousand roses!”
-Fragment of an Odonata mating poem
The Odonata (“Odonata” being singular and plural) are five foot long, talkative dragonflies, yet it would be hard to not call them beautiful. Their chitin of every color, and their shining, transparent wings have given many painter reason to pause and watch the sun reflect from their exoskeleton. The Odonata know that they are beautiful, and they are beautiful for a purpose which is their constant occupation and interest: Mating.
The Odonata were the first to forgive the Mankind for their aggression, and the first ‘monstrous’ citizens of Ponte Luka. They leapt into the politics of Ponte Luka, claiming that the shows of power and dominance were perfect parallels to their other main pursuit, a comparison some officials find disconcerting. Some would consider the Odonata to be useless chatterers, but in truth, many of races which joined Ponte Luka did so through their efforts.
Just south of the Noble district, the Odonata live in large, glass aeries, homes that have become an extension of their natural colors.
The Roden of the Below
“Most were trapped within the lands of Men. They were forced to seek safety in what would be known as the Below. Beneath the vast cities of Men were forgotten labyrinths of darkness. In the hills were carved caves of pitch-black nothingness. Into such places the Leavers fled. There they found refuge, and Corruption.”
-From the Histories of the Field Roden
The Roden of the below, natives of the Old World, are three to four foot tall rat-men, with an unusual, if consistently dolichocephalic (long headed) combination of rat and man parts.
Although they are the scavengers that they were in the Empire, the Below Roden of Ponte Luka deserve particular mention as being the entrepreneurs and frontiersmen of the subterranean. They work to build a new Below, better than any city in the Empire. They seem bent on exploring the entire White Mountain which Ponte Luka rests upon, under the guiding hands of their sometimes friends, the Chiropterans.
The Field Roden
“Within the obscuring shadows of their caves, there is neither grain, nor berry, nor root, nor cheese to curdle. Aecer protect us.”
-A common end to Field Roden liturgy
The Field Roden are similar to their old-world cousins. They look similar but they tend to be chubbier, with short, furry tails (rather than long and naked). They are perhaps a little more friendly as well, but similarly have been both headache and boon in varying measures.
They are skilled farmers and gatherers, and make up at least half of the population of the farming villages near Ponte Luka. However, their devotion to Aecer, their god, leads them to see the Roden living below the city as the ‘missing children’ of their histories. A few surprisingly violent skirmishes have broken out between the Field and Below Roden leading to a number of deaths, and not all of them Roden. Currently, the council is of the opinion that the best thing to do is to keep them as separate as possible.
“All at once, it started. It wasn’t a choir like they said it would be, and it wasn’t like any instrument I’d ever heard, even in the Kaprika music halls. It was.. it was a like thousand instruments, ten thousand… all being tuned at once, again and again and again, and when the echoes came back, Milo fainted on the spot and I had to hold him up to stop him from cracking his head on the cave floor. It was all too much, you see? And to imagine that those Bats could see it too, all at once…”
-Testimony of Alphonso Pausimer, First Ambassador to the Chiropteran people
Though they call themselves the Chiropterans, they could be called Great Bats, in their physical similarities to Great Wolves and Great Spiders. They are five to six feet tall bats, of the flying fox variety. They are intelligent, verbal and polite creatures, with a great interest in sound and music.
Chiropterans have mainly received a cold reception in Ponte Luka. The religious art of the old world depicts daemons as being similar creatures, usually possessing giant bat wings and the same black eyes. However, though the Chiropterans live in an entirely different world from that of Men, those who get to know them often find a kinship they might not have expected.
The presence of such a large number of Chiropterans below Ponte Luka is really pure luck. A little less than a mile below the city streets is an air pocket that amounts to a naturally-formed grand opera chamber. The Below Roden discovered this cave early on in the settlement of Ponte Luka, and in a negotiation that lasted a full month, sold the cave to the Chiropteran Nobles, in exchange for their knowledge of every tunnel in the White Mountain. As Chiropterans have no maps or written language, it is not unusual to see a few Roden traveling with a single Chiropteran guide.
“Looks like a Troll in Summer”
-A sculptor’s saying, describing quick, ugly work
Massive, ape-like creatures covered in scales, horns and fur, who turn to stone under the sun’s gaze. Because they seem to be inherently frustrated creatures, and unable to understand even the simplest agreement, they are not equals in Ponte Luka. Inside the city, they are labor slaves and tend to work underground. Outside of the city they are simply solitary, greedy and mean.