Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Death & Revolution

“Death revenges us against life, strips it of all its vanities and pretensions and converts it into what it truly is: a few neat bones and a dreadful grimace.”
- Octavio Paz
Death rules Zingaro in more ways than one.

This country of the New World, west and far to the south of the City, practices an unorthodox version of the Oecumenical faith that venerates the Barren Madonna, Our Lady of the Grave, “Sainted Mother Death” as its patron saint. This saint isn’t recognized officially by the church, and theological scholars speculate that she is either a syncretized pagan death goddess, or else an eikone of death dressed in an Oecumenical nun’s habit--or perhaps both. Her festival is the "Day of the Dead," where the people of Zingaro pay homage to the ghosts of their ancestors and offer gifts of skull-shaped sweets to any undead they encounter--which are not as uncommon there as in most of the New World, and no where so common as town of Cujiatepec.

Skulls are an important symbol to Mother Death, and the most powerful of the items connected with her veneration are the crystal skulls. Seven of are known to exist, but some thaumaturgical archaeologists believe there may be as many as thirteen in existence. These mysterious items predate the modern land of Zingaro, perhaps being artifacts of pre-historical New World civilization, or of drowned Meropis. Whatever their origin, the Lady of the Grave has claimed them as her own. Folklore holds they are the transformed skulls of men who so loved the Lady that she preserved a part of them forever--while taking their souls into her eternal embrace as God wills.

The skulls exhibit a variety of supernatural powers. An owner is able to focus a skull's power to strike an enemy in his sight dead once a day, and is able to raise one zombie a day to do his bidding. The skulls are also said to provide sporadic visions of the future. Most importantly, perhaps, brujos have predicted that the man who will rule Zingaro will possess one of the crystal skulls.

Death also rides Zingaro in the company of war. It began as a populist revolution over twenty years ago, but has become a bloody civil war with no end in sight. Various contenders for the presidency have bases of power in different parts of the country. They commit atrocities against other factions in the name of strategic advantage, and bleed their own people to fund their campaigns--which often require foreign mercenaries.

For the reason mentioned above, the various former generals, bandit chieftains, and populist leaders who via for control of Zingaro, also via for control of the crystal skulls. They are quit willing to pay adventurers to plunder Native ruins or old tombs in search of them, but probably just as willing to double-cross them when they have what they want.

7 comments:

Matt said...

nice work!

ancientvaults said...

Another very interesting post.

Trey said...

Thanks guys. Glad you enjoyed it.

Harald said...

The Barren Madonna? LoL!

I was thinking about how to integrate her into my world, but since I've just recently killed off my own god of death, I should probably wait a while before pulling a new one out of my as...er...hat.

Your world really is an eclectic mix, isn't it? Good work :)

Trey said...

It is sort of eclectic, yeah. :) As a general rule, anything that fits the vibe, and relates to the first half of the 20th century is fair game.

Harald said...

Where are you on mass-production? I should think you could cram all manner of evil and disturbing stuff into a factory-complex...

On a different note, have you seen City of Lost Children? I should think that one would have plenty of inspirational material for The City.

Trey said...

I've wanted to avoid "assembly line" magic like appears in some more technologically advanced fantasy worlds, but I absolutely think the weird and fantastic would get into the industrial process. I touched on its intersection with steel production in "Cities of Steel", and on the eikone Maker who governs industry in the "Spirits of the Age" post. I'd imagine something like the Stephen King-inspired film The Mangler would be quite likely, and if memory serves Thomas Ligotti has a suitably weird story that involves a factory. Then there's all those chemical factories with open vats that seem to appear in pulps and golden age comics...

I hadn't thought of City of Lost Children in a long time. You're right, it it is perfect fodder! Maybe its time to revisit that.