Tazima and the Thin Forest

South across the Middle Sea is the great city of Tazima, land of the the Long River, guarded by the Thin Forest.

Approaching from the sea, with the south-westerly wind in your sails, from far off you will first see the great Lamp-Fires atop their tall monoliths, and as you approach, the many faces of their many gods will watch over your ship as it comes in to port. Here, the river is a great delta, and many farms grow rice and crops of all kinds in the shallow mud. You sail up the deepest channels at the certain times of day to stop yourself from being grounded. Not far ahead are the 7 great pyramids that make up the city of Tazima.

They are arranged in a ring formation, six ziggurats surrounding a central seventh. The outer ziggurats have four steps, but the centre one has five, and they are all always topped with pillars of smoke, visible even from far off.

They sacrifice men to give the Dying God of the River more time.

The city of Tazima recognises many gods, but they revere (and equally fear) three in particular.

- The Dying God, whose blood is the river (which is named for them). They dwell far off to the south in a prison of mountains.
- Jaguar, who governs the jungle while the sun shines, and is noble, proud, and fierce.
- Panther, who rules the jungle while the sun is gone, and is secretive, cunning, and really quite personable.

Much of life in Tazima is focused on placating the three gods of their microcosm.
The hearts and bloods of their honoured warriors are cut out and drained and stored. Each year, when the river is at its weakest, the boats are set up-river to deliver a cargo of blood to the mountains. They never return, but the river floods again next year, so the cycle continues.
The bodies are left to the jungle to be eaten by Jaguar, Panther, and their courts. It is assumed that they do not mind that the hearts and bloods are missing, since their forest relies on the river just as much as Tazima does.

Almost all the other bodies are given to the river.

A tiny few are given to the desert beyond the far edge of the jungle.
Everyone in Tazima dreads the desert. Hungry spirits who wear the skins of jackals and the wings of vultures dwell in those spectre-haunted dunes.
But beyond that, the Desert represents a more existential terror. The Dry Wastes are eternal stasis; death in the jungle or the sea is rebirth, a return to the eco-system; death in the Desert is an endless non-life, relegated to a swirl of dust on the wind.

The Jungle is another world altogether.
A mad riot of life and vibrancy, continual death and renewal, ruled by twin-kings, haunted by mysterious spirits. All kinds of tales are told by the hunters who salvage meat from the fringes; howling spirits who dangle from the trees, snakes who can grow big enough to swallow trees (though they die and leave behind a great skeleton in the process) and insects who speak with the voices of dead-men.
The strangest sights are seen most commonly not deeper into the jungle, for it is a thin place, but further up-river, where even the men are strange, and the earth itself rebels beneath your feet.
In general, as long as one is courteous, and brings the proper gifts, your safety is usually assured. It takes a bold beast indeed to go against the guest-rites of the jungle, but it has been known to happen.

Within the city itself however, life is a competition, in almost every aspect.
Each of the seven Ziggurats is something of a mini-city within the greater whole; each is governed by a Great Family whose primary concerns are spiritual, followed by political.
Each tries to out do the others to raise the most sacrifices each year for the annual offerings; leading to inter-city raids, war-parties sailing out into the Middle Sea to raid nearby cities, and even up-river slaver-bands to steal people from the yet-more mysterious cities close to the Dying god.

Of course, only the most honoured warriors and leaders are worthy sacrifices for the offerings, luckily for the commoners of Tazima.

Plot Hooks in Tazima:
1 - The annual offering is due to leave when the river hits its lowest in 2d4 days. One of the great families would rather like some honourless mercenaries to head on over and steal a few hearts for their ships instead...
2 - This year, one of the Great Houses is rather inclined to have their ships returned to them after making their offering. They are looking for capable warriors to guard the ships.
3 - One of the Princes of the city has been kidnapped and left to die in the desert. Someone who isn't totally terrified of the sand needs to go out and rescue him.
4 - A spirit of the Jungle came back into the city with a hunting party, impersonating a warrior. Someone needs to find it before it causes any problems.
5 - A great spirit-king of the jungle has captured a group of hunters, with a voice like howling wind and fur like fire. The Great Families would really like their honoured warriors back, regardless of the whims of the Spirit.
6 - A classic; one of the heads of the Great Families is really too good at his job. For the sake of the whole city, they need to die.
7 - A rather large spirit in the guise of a crocodile has taken one of the inter-pyramidal bridges as its new lounging spot, and is apparently asking the populace to pay a toll of either a tooth, a chicken, or a riddle. Deal with it before it gets out of hand or really hungry.
8 - A spirit of the forest has been stealing the hearts of hunters in their sleep, it is unknown how it is accomplishing this.

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