Friday, June 7, 2013

Setting Snippet: Mhajapor III (Ni'kiowa, Quihochica, Quixican)

                Marking the westen extent of the Mhajapors, Ni'kiowa is an ancient plateau, now sunk almost to the level of the sea.  Only the eastern tip is mountainous and recent, as the volcanoes of the region have vented their molten fury here.   It is possible, if the day is clear and one has good eyes, to stand on the very south-eastern strand of Ni'kiowa and pick out the green coast of Dhonai, or else move to the north-east and spot the low haze of mysterious Radamalya.
                The sudden underwater dropoff around the island (over 3,000 feet in places), together with an unusual confluence of currents, makes the southern coast one of the richest fishing grounds from Hepmonaland to the Ni'hon Dominions.  It is said that a Ni'kiowan fisherman needs no more than a bucket, for he may simply lean over and scoop the fish out of the sea.
                Only a few breaks exist in the escarpment around the island, ancient canyons now flooded and reminiscent of nothern fjords.  These harbors are deep and sheltered, some of the best in the archipelago, but they are also heavily (and cunningly) defended by the lord of the island, the daimyo Koi Shuutogo.
                Strict laws of inheritance keep strife and feuds over property and titles to a minimum and the island civilized by Ni'honese law.  Ni'honese residents of the other islands have slowly collected here, as have the occasional travellers and exiles from Ni'hon, since the daimyo practices a careful policy of amnesty.  Her own family banned from the lands of Ni'hon, she will not turn away exiles or refugees -- but any of these found guilty of violating the laws of the land are either thrown over the cliffs of the island, or sold into slavery to the pirates of Dhonai.

                This fertile island is the domain of Rajah Ahur Asabaran.  Located in the eastern maze of islands, Quihochica is a low, heavily settled island, boasting one large town (Tohar), and several smaller villages and hamlets.  Several sheltered inlets exist, all protected by wooden watchtowers.  The island's deepest harbor sports four stone watchtowers, complete with catapults atop each tower.   
The reason for the abundant guards and protection is no secret.  Quihochica is the site of the largest and most productive jade mines in the archipelago.   Treasure ships, each protected by several light warships filled with guards, depart regularly for Mhaja and the booming market there.  Ahur, though nominally free and independant, gained and holds his position here through the good graces of Amad Bamhadula, and the Rajah of Quihochica is careful not to endanger his comfortable position.

                Heavily eroded by the passing ages, Quixican lies only a few feet above sea level, and would be unliveable if not for the natural stone dike that surrounds the island.   The islanders work steadily to maintain the integrity of the dike, constantly building it higher and thicker.
                Quixican is one of the breadbaskets of the Mhajapors.  The low, level ground lends itself to carefully managed salt-water irrigation and cultivation of sea rice, a salt-loving grain.  The sea rice extracts and stores the salt in thick root nodules.  The grain, though saltier than many mainlanders prefer, is a staple of the Mhajaporian diet.  The islanders trade the rice for basic supplies, including fresh water, and stone, which they use to fortify their dikes and irrigation channels.  They avoid mining stone from the island itself, fearful of anything that will reduce the level of the land.  The root is often traded to foreign ships for more exotic goods, since it can be dried and store indefinitely.  The nodule is little more than a thick woody skin surrounding a fist-sized lump of salt crystals.
                Quixican has been settled since the first Amixica arrived, but the small pyramids they erected have long since been incorporated into the dike.  The subterranean portion of the complexes, though, remain.  Flooded by the sea, the well-like entrances to these dungeons are avoided by the locals, who believe them haunted.  The dungeons themselves are nearly untouched by adventurers, and many treasures may lie in the dark waters below. 

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