Thursday, July 15, 2010

Something to Do With Death

Far to the south, and west of the City, beyond the southern border of quarrelsome Freedonia, is Zingaro, a nation torn by civil war, and home to a peculiar brand of the Oecumenical faith marked (or tainted) by the mysteries of death. No where is this influence more felt that the strange city of Cujiatepec.

Cujiatepec (or sometimes Cueyatepec) is an old town, older than the City, and founded to exploit rich silver veins by immigrants from Ealderde. Though much of the silver was mined out long ago, the city has held on to its wealth in subterranean vaults, and would be a target for one revolutionary army or another, if not for the cities association with (un)death that causes many to superstitiously give the picaturesque town wide berth.

The cemeteries to the west of the city have been found to have eldritch properties. Most of the dead buried there were somehow mummified, and don’t decay at a normal rate--but that’s the least part of the strangeness. The corpses there interred are transformed in a month’s time into undead. These creatures remain in a torpor until exhumed, but once this is done they’re as active as any zombie, and as intelligent.

The town fathers of Cujiatepec place a stiff “grave tax” on all burials. Families that can’t pay have their loved ones dug up and sold as undead slave labor. The same is done to vagrants or strangers that die in town, and to criminals. The local church supports this practice by suggesting that those dead thus employed are serving penance for sins in life, and earning their soul’s way into heaven by the labor of their soulless bodies. At any given time, a hundred undead may be working in the city as labors or auxiliary police.

It’s rumored that the heretical clergy of the local church long ago discovered blasphemous rites which may allow a ritually prepared body buried in the weird soil of Cujiatepec to retain more of its intellect and personality following transformation.  These differ, it is said, from the usual abdead of Zingaro in that they are animated by unholy energies and wholly malevolent. Some believe that there is a secret lich cabal of such creatures that rules the city behind the scenes and controls its riches.


Gothridge Manor said...

Nice Trey. I love the grave tax.

Tom Fitzgerald said...

Beautiful work, as usual. I've been away for a while and I see the setting is growing at a terrific rate. There is a whiff of High Cromlech about Cujiatepec. I get a feeling of a very austere and penitent Quakerish brand of the faith being practiced by the heretics - maybe with some eldritch Day of the Dead influences from the older religions; Appollonian facade with churning Dionysiac undercurrents.

This makes me think of American Gothic, the Grant Wood painting.

When are we going to see Screamin'Jay Hawkins-style orcs and Halfling Okies played by Jimmy Stewart?

This setting is pure gold.

Unknown said...

Nice take on the intersection between undead an respectable religion. I'm also reminded (slightly) of the old Warhammer module "Something Is Rotten In Kislev". I suppose having zombies employed by a town isn't terribly new, but I absolutely love how you explain it for Cujiatepec. The pseudo-Mexican spin certainly adds to its unique flavor.

Trey said...

Thanks guys.

Tim, I wish I could take full credit for the grave tax, but Guanajauto, Mexico charged one in the 1800s. Of course, they didn't have zombies. ;)

Tom, you're right about High Cromlech, and Mieville gave me "abdead." Zingaro as a whole will show more of this influence and the others you cogently mention. Stay tuned.

Also, look for hobo-goblins tomorrow. :)

RisusThe big inspiration here was the mummies of Guanajuat, so I have them to thank for the mex flavor. :) The name I cobbled together from Nahuatl.

John Matthew Stater said...

Hail, Hail Freedonia!

Trey said...

Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo, and....Matt? ;)

netherwerks said...

So if you can't pay the grave tax, the poor might get disinterred and coverted into design-elements of the local churches/temples, like in Eastern Europe...
Abdead is too good a term to not use.
Screaming Jay Hawkins rules!
This is a fantastic setting that is just a lot of fun to watch come ot life.

Trey said...

Thanks, NetherWerks. I'm glad you enjoy it as much as I do.