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Author Topic: Centas- the Hundred Cities of Mechana  (Read 1318 times)

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Offline CaptainPenguin

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Centas- the Hundred Cities of Mechana
« on: June 30, 2005, 09:55:37 PM »
Let me be straight-speaking:

I have been many, many places. I have seen a thousand places so strange you couldn't even imagine them.

I have seen the lands of Hundar, in the east, where the inhuman Eternal Prince rules a vast city full of philosophers. I have seen the empire of the blacks in the burning north, where the dark-skinned men dwell in monolithic sculptures and wear cloaks of rainbow feathers. I have visited the Unknown Lands in the far west, beyond the Sea That Boils. I went (for a short while) to the icy archipelagoes of the south, to the Hive Kingdom and the Witch Island, and to the Nameless Island in the utter south, which I will not speak of, not ever again.

But I have never visited a more wondrous place than Centas, the Hundred.
In that place, there are wonders never dreamed of:

The rails and iron trains, like lightning across the surface of the land. The airships and zeppelins, which soar above. The vast cities which clank and growl and are filled with steam, the towers which belch smoke.

The warriors clad in gleaming armors which run on clockwork and steam. The fearsome weapons which they call firearms, spitting balls of iron. The assassins with bows firing red-hot arrows. The merchants and their vast armies, battling over precious, filthy lucre.

And adventurers, that motley culture, bearing all manner of weapons, with clothing of all manners, from all lands and backgrounds, bearing wondrous weapons, clockwork swords and red-hot bows and muskets enchanted by mystics and shields that fire darts, and all clamoring to be the one who will, in the end, rule the Hundred, the Cities, the Land of Mechana, Centas.
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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Questions Answered
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2005, 06:58:56 PM »
What Is Centas?

Centas is a large continent which lies between the equator and southern polar region of a world. Though I envision this world as a flat earth which expands in all directions, it's not my place or my desire to tell you what to think about the location of the Centas- for you, it might be a spherical planet, a huge cylinder, or whatever.
In any case, Centas lies in the southern hemisphere of the world, and so it's climate is reversed from what is generally accepted, i.e., the hot, tropical lands are in the northern land, and the farther south one goes, the colder it gets (hence, the "burning north" and "frozen south" of our narrator above). It has a very wide variety of landforms and climate types, including deserts, jungles, large forested areas, inland seas, large swamps, badlands, huge mountain chains, plains, and other more esoteric areas. In terms of size, Centas might be very roughly analogous to North America.


What Is On Centas?

Centas is the home of the Centasi, a fractious people who are full of contradictions- warlike and artistic, wild and restrained, innovative and tradition-bound, all at the same time.
There are no traditional "nations", as such, on Centas- after the collapse of the Old Kingdom, the Centasi reverted to a society of thousands upon thousands of individual city-states, and thus, the common term for the societies, cultures, and land of Centas is The Hundred.
Several hundred years ago, the Hundred experienced a scientific revolution as the Centasi underwent a vast period of industrialization and strong scientific development. Then, abruptly, during a period which is sometimes called the Death of Progress, or by those less inclined to theatrics, the Slow Period, when most major scientific progress ceased, and the Hundred fell into a deep economic depression.
Though the Centasi have not yet left the so-called Slow Period, and have not experienced significant innovation in development, the Hundred are now recovering from the depression, and throughout the Slow Period have still lived with the vast benefits of Mechana, their technology, which includes steam technology, clockwork mechanisms, and things which we more prosaic people might consider magical.

What's Beyond Centas

North of Centas is a much larger continent which lis separated from Centas by a small gulf; the two landmasses are connected by a landbridge (similar to Central America) and many island chains and archipelagoes.
This continent is termed by most Centasi "the empire of the blacks", due to it's population, who, unlike the olive-skinned Centasi, are almost uniformly black or dark-skinned. Almost all of the continent is ruled over by a single warlike empire. Most brown-skinned folk in Centas have come from this continent, or are descended from those of it, excepting the Polynesian-looking people who live in the equatorial regions between the two.

To the east of Centas is a pair of two small continents called Hundar, a strange place ruled over by the Eternal Prince, who has declared that the borders of his nation be sealed. Hundar is home to strange ideas, a strange society, strange magic, and strange people. It is a land of strangeness, but very few ever enter or leave, because the Eternal Prince controls all movement through it's borders with strong laws and a powerful military.

In the west are the vast, unexplored regions of the Unknown Lands, which have are near totally unknown to the Centasi (though it is rumored that explorers from the empire of the north have entered that heart of darkness). The Unknown Lands are full of terrible unknown dangers and strange things which are not found anywhere else; the main barrier between it and Centas is the Sea That Boils a strange stretch of ocean which is a poisonous, boiling brew full of bizarre and deadly creatures.

In the south are the frozen islands and chill seas which stretch from Centas' southern reaches to the Great White Land, the frozen bottom of the world, which, even moreso than the Unknown Lands, is totally unexplored.
Currently Reading: "Kafka On The Shore" by Haruki Murakami

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Offline CaptainPenguin

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Who Are the Centasi?
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2005, 08:48:40 PM »
Who Are The Centasi?

The Centasi are, of course, the people of Centas. Though Centasi have a wide variety of cultures, a wide variety of homes, and a wide variety of traits, there are some which are common among most or all Centasi.

First, their...
Phenotype
It would be needlessly difficult to pin down an exact description that fits all Centasi; rather, the phenotype presented here represents the greatest majority of all Centasi, rather than every single individual. Some areas will have folk more or less fitting this phenotype; others will have folk who fit it not at all (In other words, this might be the caricature you would use to describe the stereotypical Centasi, just as the stereotypical features of an Asian are epicanthic folds, roundish face, and so on).

In any case, Centasi tend to be within the range of 5'2"-5'11" (157-180 cm), and tend to be slim and "sleek" in appearance. They typically do not have very wide shoulders or thick bull necks, but frequently have wide hips or strong leg and calf muscles. Centasi men tend to look somewhat slim, but athletic, somewhat like a male gymnast or bicyclist, while women often have voluptuous hips (Older Centasi tend to develop a nice layer of "extra padding", though true obesity is rare in most traditional Centasi societies).

The stereotypical Centasi facial features are diamond-shaped, with high cheekbones and a long "sharp" aquiline nose, a thin, v-shaped lip, and round eyes. Generally, Centasi have brown or green eyes. Centasi have hair that is straight and sort of downy and soft in texture, and is typically a dark brown or black, with highlights of a caramel or reddish tint. Curly hair is rarer, and more prized because of it's rareness. A very small portion of the population is born with hair that is stiff and somewhat spiky in appearance (think Tidus from FFX); this trait is referred to as "lightning hair" or "storm hair" and is generally believed to be a sign of God's will that the child will be a strong warrior (a superstition which has often proven true; see the heroes Nastra of the Lightning Hair, St. Lo Stormcloud, and so on). It is extremely rare to see Centasi with red hair, and almost as equally rare to see Centasi with blue eyes.

Centasi typically have olive-toned skin. In the north, this tends to have a bronzed look, while southerners are generally paler in complexion.

(More to come...)
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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Who Are The Centasi, Continued...
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2005, 11:54:11 AM »
Culture and Society
Centasi cultures have been widely diversified by the balkanization of their city-states, but many societies share certain characteristics-

-Humanistic world perception (Man is God's chosen being)

-Oligarchic or autocratic rule; holdovers of monarchy are not uncommon, while true republican or democratic governments are very rare

-Perception of scientists and wizards in the same light, that is, as men with supernatural power.

-Plutocratic wealth-based social orders (houses ennobled by their association with strong trade rights).

Religion
98% of all Centasi belong to the religion which is known to them simply as the Faith, but which others call the Centasi Church, the Divided Faith (due to it's dualistic nature), or the Dual Church. It is a monotheistic religion revering a distant deity called God, or the Deity, or any other number of epithets; it is not a moral-based religion so much as it is an adoration of the quality of rightness (not goodness), which God embodies. There is no reward for rightness, there is no heavenly afterlife; all of the dead go to the same place, the grey and slumberous peace of the Starlit Lands. Opposing God is his twin brother, the Shadow Himself (also called the Shadow of God) who created wrongness in a failed attempt to emulate the Deity.
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The Howler and the Fall of the Old Kingdom
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2005, 01:22:14 AM »
The events recounted here are the stuff of ancient legend to Centasi; as antique to them as would be to us the stories of the Roman Empire, or the Bible.

In all of Centasi history, from the mythical prehistory of the Old Kingdom to the countless wars and petty conflicts of the modern age of the Hundred, there is no figure so feared, so influential, so historical, as...

The Howler

"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness."
- Joseph Conrad


Nobody truly knows where the Howler's legacy began.

Perhaps, as some believe, he was just one among many of the Old Kingdom's wandering black mages, walking the songlines of Centas with a necromancer's spotted dog on his heels.

Or, perhaps, as some of the pious say, he was the only (mis)begotten son of the Shadow Himself, or even the Shadow come to walk upon the Earth, in defiance of God's rightness. Or, he was the fist of God, come to punish the Old Kingdom which had been corrupted by wrong-ness.

Perhaps the Howler was a devotee of the cult of fearful Lord Sarku, flesh-eating Master of the Undead; Perhaps the Howler was the prophesied Wurm of Power, who the prophet Aglab Huy had said would be born in that year; Perhaps the Howler was
But whatever the Howler had been before, it was what he became which is relevant to history, for the terror he engendered in his day was unimaginable.

In the elder days of the Old Kingdom, as the perfumed and decadent Lotus-Kings who sat the Throne of Kadessa mouldered deeper and deeper into maddened debauchery, and as the Kingdom army lost control of the peripheries of the Kingdom, a dark stain spilled across the lands of the central northeast. Hidden between the upheavals of peasant revolts, droughts, rebellions, famines, the total economic collapse of the western regions of the Kingdom, a cancer was growing in the very fabric of the empire.

Among the Hundred, the 15th day of the Month of the Dragon shall be known as the Day of Blood, also called Bloodmas, Fearday, and simply Dread. On this day, it is traditional among Centasi to dress in silver and purple (the Old Kingdom colors which mourn the death of kings) and to light a candle above the door of their home; some traditionalists even continue the tradition of holding a funeral servicefor the Old Kingdom, though in these cynical times it is more common simply to hold the wake.
There is a reason for this holiday, and that reason is simple: on the 15th of the Dragon in the year 2303, the Howler himself was revealed.

Among the ranks of the Kingdom armies that day, soldiers, colonels, special units, divisions, even entire columns drew swords and turned upon their brothers-in-arms. Among the common folk, men broke into the houses of their neighbors and slew entire families, women strangled their lapdogs and burnt the homes of Kingdom governors. Among the government, entire provinces ceded randomly, taking their governments with them, and across the new borders were raised black silk banners proclaiming the reign of the Howler.

As civil war overtook the continent, as the feared Shadowsquads, riding ghostly horses, rampaged through the land, as soldiers armed with toothbombs and howling swords and fear-masks layed waste to Kingdom armies, terror spread through the remaining Kingdom. Stories were told of the dark sorceries of the Howler, of the prowess of his Cabal, his circle of lieutenants: the Snarl, his second-in-command (who, it was said, wore the heads of thirty men upon his belt and carried a musket which fired lost souls), the Hint, herself a formidable witch (and, it was told, the Howler's lover), the Corpse, a horrible creature who was also a dark genius, and the Arrow, leader of the Howler's Slanhoi, his assassin squads. The Howler was a strategic genius and a logistical master, and with his Cabal, he was near unstoppable.

It was then that the Vibos Club, the secret circle of the Kingdom's generals and politicians, was revealed to be the true rulers of the Kingdom, those who had guided it through the mad excesses of the Lotus-Kings, revealed themselves, banishing the last King with his family to Meshor, the Great White South, never to be seen again.

Taking total control, the Vibos Club's generals one a series of stunning victories against the forces of the Howler. In hard-fought, hard-won campaigns, they slowly retook the lands which had been those of the Kingdom, inch by bloody inch.

But the Howler was not done. Among his black-bannered ranks there were soon seen the dark priests of the Shadow Himself, who gathered upon tors and at ancient cromlechs to summon up foul beings from Hell. Among his ranks appeared bolt-hided Sark-warriors with withered skulls, undead slayers who wept and wailed apologies to those they slew. This, it is believed is what has engendered the stories of the Howler as the son of the Shadow Himself, or as a servant of the Lord Sarku, though it is more likely that in the course of his revolution, the Howler simply made deals which he should not have.

The end of the War Against the Howler came in the year 2307, when the General Syagrius, the last surviving member of the Vibos Club, was approached in the night by the Hint, one of the Howler's Cabal lieutenants, and, it was said, the sorceror's lover. Appearing in the night before Syagrius in the impregnable Kingdom fortress at Falbar and revealing to him secrets of the Howler's walls and fortresses about Howl Dig, secrets of his forces and deployments, and even secrets of the Howler himself, and then, the Hint vanished.

For two months, Syagrius argued with his generals over the use of this information. Most argued that this was a trick, yet another deception from the creature known as the Lord of Deceptions and the Master of Lies. But Syagrius had faith in the Hint, and in the end, he used his right by the Kingdom Mandate (which he had previously foresworn to use) to override all others and order one last, desperate attack upon Howl Dig, the foul heart of the Howler's domain.

The Battle of Howl Dig is one of the greatest legends of Centasi history. The countless tales of heroism, villainy, and glory on that battlefield could fill volumes; the tales of Crawfoot the Trickster and his Tin-Pan Armor, fighting off the squads of toothbombers; the tales of Mohannes Aediles and the Liar Sword; the tales of the Shadowsquads against the Lightbreathers; the Northerner against the Slanhoi; and others. In the end, in a murderous combat of attrition on the absolute edge between collapse into the dark depths of Howl Dig, Syagrius himself dueled the Howler to standstill, and, using a secret passage through the Howler's shield of screams given to him by the Hint, struck off that dark mastermind's head.

It is said that as the Howler's head fell from the cliff, it's hateful gaze locked upon the Hint, and it softly hissed the only intelligible words ever heard from the Howler: "Applaud, friends. Darkness falls."
The meaning of these words is still not known.

For a matter of hours, the Cabal's forces forced back the soldiers of the Kingdom from the body of the Howler. During that time, the Howler's lieutenants met for the last time, and separated the pieces of the Howler's corpse among them, save for his head, which must still lie at the bottom of Howl Dig.

The Snarl took his pieces of the Howler, and, along with the remnants of the Howler's army, whom he rechristened the Thanes of Darkness, fled far to the west, where it is rumored there is a dark and hidden empire of Thanes, a foul place of which only dark things are said.

The others of the Cabal vanished, never to be seen again.

But it was too late for the Kingdom; the Pyrrhic victory of the Battle of Howl Dig was all for nothing, all ashes, for in that very year, the infrastructure of the Kingdom, destroyed from years of chaos, collapsed; society fled to a hundred-thousand city-states, insulated themselves against the ruined battlefields of Centas, and the Centasi fell into a Dark Age which lasted 400 years.
Currently Reading: "Kafka On The Shore" by Haruki Murakami

Currently Listening To: "Piece Of Time" by Atheist