Chains of Khoros
Hope’s End is a penal colony full of former prisoners of war and political dissidents. The majority of the population is Fengzhi, having long ago been subjugated by the Khorosian Empire, but there are quite a few Khorosians as well, themselves made up of the different patchwork peoples of that Empire (they’re kind of Roman Empire-Persian Empire hybrids). Here and there you’ll find other mysterious peoples who ran afoul of the Empire, and with the recent war, there’s been a big influx of Xoltecs.
The inhabitants have largely been left to their own devices in the intervening years – they can’t easily get off the island, and they need food, so they mine orax crystals in return for food shipments from the mainland. It is only recently that the Legion garrisons have been beefed up, and the hand of the governor been more heavy, both due to the presence of the Xoltec, and an increased demand for orax.
The orax crystals are the result of the meteor crater which dominates the peninsula. They are inimical to life (miners live short lives, get something kind of like black lung, the trees of the nearby forests are warped and stunted, and the soil is largely barren, causing dependence on food shipments from the Empire) and recently of renewed importance due to some aid they provide Khorosian sorcerers.
The Xoltecs see themselves as conquerors and the chosen of the gods, yet they are losing a war to the Empire and those exiled to the penal colony face the ignominy of having been captured rather than killed in battle. They also find themselves without the means to effectively resist on their own. So they have allied themselves with the Fengzhi as a matter of necessity. The Fengzhi have numbers, and excellent metalwork, mining and architecture skills. They do not, however, have many people here to who remember how to fight, especially in organized warfare. The Xoltecs are also hoping to build ships so that they might harry shipping, or better yet, destroy any Legion reinforcements at sea before they can be brought on shore. But there is not much wood to be had locally, and they have nothing to trade for wood even if they could make it to the merchant islands to the east. Capturing whatever shipping could be found at port at Oraxabad (the capital) might be a useful mission.
The Learned Master (who turned out to be a tengu swordsman) is a mysterious figure who lives north of Tengkou and had shadowy visions of the PC’s destiny. It was he who sent them north and under the Empty Valley to a sunken city, where the characters recovered the Scepter of the Iron Duke, meant to serve as a symbol around which the otherwise docile Fengzhi populace might rally. The Learned Master was briefly the prisoner of an oni/ogre mage and members of the Society. The Society are ninja-like assassins – I basically had the governor of Hope’s End hire them to recover the Scepter and take out the leaders of the resistance. I thought it would be nice to have some Fengzhi who were not allies. (Although I didn’t see them as enemies per se, either…just opponents. For the Society, it’s a business matter, and they could be swayed/hired back to the side of the resistance…)
Speaking of the governor, we had the rebellion in its early months, and thus far, there was a stalemate. The two easternmost towns, Tengkou and San-zu-tep, had effectively seceded from the colony, removing the last vestiges of Imperial control. The governor had thus far tried to keep news of the rebellion quiet, trying to salvage his career, and possibly, his life. He had declared martial law and assigned “advisors” to each of the governments of the other towns, but had thus far resisted calling for more troops lest he draw the wrong kind of attention. Instead, he hoped to quell the resistance before word of his incompetence spread. We had no word of the other towns.
The Xoltecs had thrown all the Fengzhi out of San-zu-tep and renamed it Quenotzin or something like that. Some guy had proclaimed himself King-in-the-West, and the characters had run-ins with his arrogant son, as well as another more even-headed guard captain who was a smilodon knight. [We had knighthoods analogous to the Aztec knighthoods, but instead of eagle knights and jaguar knights, we had condor knights, smilodon knights, and thanks to their seafaring capabilities, megalodon knights!] The prince (Nuatloc, maybe?) went with my character to the Monastery of the Seven Harmonious Winds and came away somewhat begrudgingly impressed with what he saw there, but Xoltec-Fengzhi relations are still really shaky. Maybe a good old-fashioned political marriage is called for…The Xoltecs want bodies (cannon fodder and maybe the occasional sacrifice…), wood, and metal weapons.
We know little of Khorosian magic except it is evil and nasty and lets the wizards rule most of the provinces of the Empire. (Possibly the Governor of Hope’s End is unGifted, since he has a backwater charge…or then again, maybe he is a sorcerer too.) The degenerate ape-men of the Sunken City are likewise unknown – like something from Conan, they could be the last remnants of a lost civilization, and we could just as easily find more such civilizations made up of lizard men, or maybe there will be more of the ape-men to the north. The headhunters are also an enigma – we could try to recruit them to our cause, but what can we possibly offer them? (The answer is not a pretty one.) As the rebellion spreads, or at least holds its own, the Empire will inevitably come in greater and greater numbers…although could some of the Legions they send be turned against the Empire, if they too are of a once-free people?