Remarkably pleasant people for such an unpleasant land, so long as you can keep all the details straight!Constructed on the largest island of stone among the shallow pools of Khasanganay, Tshoggan is a city-state of invaders and natives long since mingled but still burdened by scars of atrocity. Its roots are since long set into the region, sprawling out from its walled island to reach across the pools in search of food, wealth, or glory. In Tshoggan, superstition carries the weight of laws behind it, and folk-magic mix with brutal practicality. Among the leech-infested bogs and drumming wings predatory insects, the Tshoggan hold fast to their traditions.
If not for the wall, I would have thought we were stumbling into the nest of some Far Deep monster that had the courtesy to hang up some lights!Tshoggan is stacked on the Zao island, the largest piece of dry lang among the thousands of flooded caves of Khasanganay, nestled into a cavern of great size. Formidable fortifications rise along the edges of the island, with openings to the sprawl beyond. The city-state has since long consumed every stretch of land available to it, and now extends out across the pools with stilts and bridges from those openings. Inside the wall, the city grows tall, with nowhere else to go. Bulbous structures made from wasp pulp dominate the city-state, supported and reinforced by Hattick, stone, or chitin.
Outside the city itself, Tshoggan farms and ranches are scattered among the pools. They wall off sections of the larger pools to create their holdings or strike out into smaller caves isolated from the greater flow of water in search of resources or territory. Boats come and go from the city-state harbor at all times, illuminated by countless Ahi Bug lanterns. At the same time, workers struggle to expand or maintain the bridges of stone that reach ever-deeper into Khasanganay.
The PoolsAll territory outside the city walls is often called simply 'the Pools'. These range from lonely cave-estates and ranches far from the city, to massive farm-pools just outside it. Such work is dangerous, and Tshoggan rewards those who can establish some successful industry beyond its borders with status, wealth, and other favors. Tiny villages dot Khasanganay, and Tshoggan claims rulership over them all - whether they like it or not.
The PortsWrapping around the city's walls on platforms of stone and hattick, the ports of Tshoggan are vital lifelines of commerce and transportation. Food from the Pools and tribute from villages flow into the city, while merchants depart to distant towns and city-states. Those too poor to live within the safety of the city congregate here if they have nowhere else. Ramshackle shanty-towns edge the platforms or cluster underneath them, just above the waterline. The busiest part of the ports is the Cauldron, named for its shape - it is reserved for privileged merchants, usually those with goods from other city-states or carrying luxuries.
Tshoggan boats are slow, flat-bottomed crafts that let them skim the shallow pools. Many have wheels or paddles for getting over the stone that sometimes separates pools.
The RingThe outer layer of the city is reserved for laborers and the poor, for conscript and low-ranking soldiers. It is a cacophonous part of the city, industry and daily life squeezed in with the city wall on one side and structures on the other. By law, no building in the Ring can be taller than the walls that shield it, so space is always at a premium. A few attempt to dig downwards, often striking water and flooding whatever home they were hoping to build in the process. Others succeed, and such enterprise under the city inevitably attracts the attention of those who would hide their business.
The HeartThe center of Tshoggan is known as the heart, reserved for the powerful and wealthy, their families and servants, bureaucrats, and honored warriors. Once driven by necessity and the constraints of space, the inhabitants of the heart build upwards, clustering buildings on top of each other. Now, it has become a mark of social standing to live higher up in the Heart's many layers, while entire sections of the street have been covered by hattick support and stone columns. The grey pulp-nest structures are adorned with colored glass, rare pulp or Hattick, and elaborate carvings.
Some say there are tunnels through the heart now, in parts forgotten and build over. They frequently feature in Tshoggan theater as ways for clandestine lovers or treacherous plotters to meet and travel.In addition to this division of the city, every part is further divided into smaller fiefdoms, each run by its own magistrate and his or her court.
A Legacy of Strife
It is a city built on the bones of those who came before.Tshoggan is an old city-state now, and its founders have long since passed into myth. They were explorers and conquerors from another part of the Inner Shell who came to Khasanganay to find glory - and did so, at the expense of the natives of the pool lands.
More than two centuries have passed since the first bloody subjugation, but the scars still ache. Tshoggan has become something of both worlds, mixing the customs of the people of Khasanganay with those of the conquerors. Most who live in the city-state now don't know or care where their ancestors came from. As far as those who were once conquerors are concerned, they consider themselves citizens of Tshoggan only.
Everywhere you go, there's an ill omen or some token of good luck.The people of Tshoggan are a friendly and energetic bunch, quick to take offense and equally quick to forgive. They value their culture, take pride in their achievements, and always seem to argue something or another. In another land, such debates would seem almost on the verge of escalating into a fistfight, but in Tshoggan they are just part of life. It is a place and a people of strong opinions, and ever ready to express them, in as colorful language as the situation requires. Those unwilling or unable to participate in this sort of vigorous debate can often struggle to advance in Tshoggan. To outsiders, their experience in the city-states depends entirely on how they handle themselves in such arguments.
Tshoggans are known to have particularly expressive body language, often incorporating props to make their point.
In the upper echelons of Tshoggan society, some of the spirit is traded for decorum. Here, things move at a deliberate and ritual pace, always in observance with ritual and tradition. Breaching the courtly etiquette is among the foulest sins one can commit in these circles. Much of their efforts revolve around maintaining or salvaging face, responding to slights, or delivering their own.
'Arguments' aren't a bad thing for the Tshoggan. Friends argue and spar over the most mundane things over a meal. It's a way to pass time, to sharpen wit, and occasionally get into an invigorating, friendly scuffle.Superstition and magic are integral elements of Tshoggan culture and daily life. Every street, every business, and every court in Tshoggan consult priests and magicians to ensure good fortune or ward off evil. Tokens of good luck are everywhere, traded as greetings between friends. Central to Tshoggan folk-lore is the Banthur Cauldron; magical pots where priests and magicians brew spirits and gods to bless their communities and curse their foes. It is common practice for each community to keep their own Banthur, feeding the power within with sacrifice and calling their spirits during ceremony. Magi and witches called Wu tend these cauldron and lead such ceremonies. They are important parts of Tshoggan communities, often able to exert considerable influence in the city.
Tshoggan is ruled by a democracy of sorts, where important posts are elected positions rather than hereditary. Such titles are divided into two - those of the wealthy, and the rest. Only those who own land are eligible for certain positions, and a certain level of wealth is required to vote on such esteemed stations. Other, lesser spheres of influence are open to the poor to cast their vote, and carry significantly less weight in the politics of the city as a whole. Even so, they offer power and importance on a local level, and Tshoggans are as a general rule lively participants of their governance - with some outsiders comparing it to their version of the Saen-Kaw sport.
The highest honor an outsider can be afforded is the right to vote - a sign that the Tshoggan consider them one of their own.
Political PositionsGreater court positions are reserved for land-owning, wealthy citizens. Only their equals may vote for these positions, as well as occasionally favored "lessers", winning such votes through deeds or valor, as a prize in games, or other circumstance.
MagistrateMagistrates run the different parts of the city. They collect taxes, are responsible for upkeep and peace, and ensure that everything is right and proper. It is a coveted position - as long as nothing seems amiss, the Magistrate has wide latitude in deciding where that tax goes in, including their own offers. Magistrates wear tall headgear to symbolize their office, usually with a symbol of either their own family or the territory they control.
Court WuRich or poor, every place in Tshoggan require a magician to divine the fortune, decipher omens, and conduct ritual. Court Wu fills this role among the wealthy courts in Tshoggan and is one of the few that is by decree rather than vote. Each magistrate designates their own Wu, and competition for the title is often cutthroat. Court Wu paint their faces while in their official capacity, usually corpse-white with black lips.
WarlordSometimes called Princes of Tshoggan, Warlords oversee and lead Tshoggan's many struggles. They conscript troops, hire mercenaries, and command forces in the field. There is no set number of Warlords in the city, but are appointed as required. Reducing their number after is always a delicate, difficult political matter, however. Warlords carry Xhar Blades as a sign of their office, with some passing through generations of Warlords.
SpeakersSpeakers are diplomats and ambassadors, not only to other city-states and towns, but within the city-state itself. With every Magistrate running their own part of the city, they coordinate and bargain when the support of another court is required, with mixed success. Speakers within the city-state wear short, wide-brimmed hats, while those outside the city usually dress to impress with regal gowns and dramatic accessories.
Water is rare in much of Araea but is abundant in Khasanganay. It is through this bounty that Tshoggan lives and dies, farming the pools for leeches, insects, jellyfish, and water-snakes, among others. As metal rusts easily in the humid climate, Tshoggan relies heavily on Cadaverurgy for everything they make, most notably their wasp-pulp homes. Hunters and harvesters set every day out on boats into the darkness of Khasanganay to gather material for the insatiable forges of the city. Almost everything in Tshoggan was crafted from a corpse, from chitin armor to claw-bladed axes.
The water in Khasanganay is only occasionally safe to drink, with most polluted either by toxins or dangerous wild-life. Tshoggans rely on Horoi or Ghauns, a sort of long-legged moss-beast, to purify their water. Selling purified water is one of the most valuable exports that the city-state has, quenching the thirst of places as far away as Mharaji. In turn, they buy gemstone, metal alloys, and hattick.
Metals that don't rust are in high demand in Tshoggan, and often flaunted as a sign of wealth.Tshoggan food is famed in other city-states, but only dried and preserved goods make it out of the city-state. On occasion, a merchant caravan will set out with a cargo of living creatures and a master chef to sell a feast to wealthy patrons in other city-states.
Fight for the city first, glory second, wealth third.Tshoggan relies on a conscript force to fight its war, drafted as the situation calls for it. Any able-bodied citizen can be called to fight for the city, though the magistrate of war greatly influences who does and doesn't get called. Among those with the means to do so, it is common practice to pay for someone else to take their place - sometimes another citizen, sometimes a mercenary. The poor are outfitted by the city-state, usually with simple chitin mail and a short pole-arm suitable for either large caverns or narrow tunnels.
Most of the time, Tshoggan fight either bandits and pirates, Xuat raids, or monsters from the pools. About outside threats, the Tshoggan often say that any fool who wishes to wade through the pools to get to them should be a funeral procession.
The city-state also keep a menagerie of war-beast at its disposal, some less controllable than others. Hard-shelled Chu slugs carry riders and can be made to vomit a short-ranged stream of acid on opponents, while angry wasp-beasts are launched at the enemies to unleash their blind fury. Keeping monsters is a time-honored tradition that brings great prestige, as well as frequent injury, missing fingers, or even limbs.
Khasanganay Dominated by a multitude of massive caverns filled with knee-high waters, Khasanganay is an Inner Shell region of vibrant, often murderous life. While water is rare in much of Araea, is is in abundance here - infested with ticks and spined worms, wasp-like horrors, flying jelly-fish, and predatory kelp. Tshoggan is a point of light, surrounded by hungry, dark waters. Read More About Khasanganay
City of NestsA vast majority of Tshoggan is constructed with the fibrous pulp-mash harvested from the wasp-like creatures out in the pools. It is heated until it is pliable enough to glue together into a desired structure, often around columns of stone or hattick struts. Though sturdy, it is not as tough as rock but insulates well against Khasanganay's humid environment. The grey, globular buildings made from it make Tshoggan resemble an enormous, unwieldy wasp nest.
Not all wasp-pulp are made the same, with some waspers producing nests that shiny as if shot through with metals, glittering glass, or unusual colors. These expensive luxuries are reserved for the wealthy and powerful and dangerous to harvest.
Foreigner's QuartersOutsiders who wish a place to stay within Tshoggan are usually limited to the Ports or the Ring, unless a citizen is willing to vouch for them. Visitors who are only staying temporarily can find lodging anywhere, as long as their wealth is sufficient. The inns and lodges in the Heart are sometimes reserved only for citizens, but most are happy to take any coin.
XuatsSometimes derisively called 'Poolers', Xuats are the native people of Khasanganay. They lived in the region long before Tshoggan was established and still do in towns and small cities out among the pools. Many have come to live and mingle with the citizens of Tshoggan, trading old wounds and grudges for new opportunities, but few forget. Tshoggan owes many of its customs and traditions to the Xuats, and without their skill in surviving the caverns of Khasanganay, it is doubtful Tshoggan would ever have survived. Read More About The Xuats
At Their BestTshoggan is fast to make friends and if times are good and food plenty, quick to invite even strangers in for a meal or a drink. They are egalitarian and take pride in their meritocratic government (though some have more merit than others). Though lively in their debates, they always listen. Many think that Tshoggan has some of the best food in Araea, and they're keen to prove it, and are generous hosts.
At Their WorseBound by culture and superstition, Tshoggans can be quick to see offense where none were meant. To others, they are argumentative and loud, prone to getting into people's faces, supremely sure of their side of the conversation. The wealthy of Tshoggan consider themselves cultured beyond any other city-state, looking down on their equals from other lands as barbarians.
Watching other people argue is a popular past-time in Tshoggan, with onlookers often egging the argument on. Sensing the ebb and flow of support is a vital skill for Tshoggan agitators to possess, especially if the debate ends in a good-natured brawl. As the Tshoggan saying goes - being right is good, but outnumbering the other party never hurt either.