Americana (DnD Campaign Setting)/Places

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Phillip Hermanson's map of Americana, drawn in roughly 65 A.G.. Accuracy is debatable.

Montana[edit]

Montana was once known as the land of big skies--sitting just past the precipitous end of the Pacifics, the Paso de Amarillo spills out into a land of steep, rolling foothills bracketed by large rocky outcroppings called buttes. Cold, rapidous rivers pour and tumble down this tall country to the coasts, which feature steep cliffs and many stony islands as much of their length. The remainder, and a good portion of the rest of the land, is covered in the rain-forests--stands of impossibly tall pines with high canopies sheltering dense underbrush, like no other woods in Americana. These forests are packed with many strange creatures, and even during the Great War were known for incredible amounts of rain which fueled the lush country.

Now, of course, much of Montana is different. The land hasn't changed much, but the skies aren't as big anymore. Seattle's constant rain has changed everything in a radius of many miles out from the Sky Needle, and life that remains has adapted alarmingly fast--developing thicker coats, darker coloration, and incredible natural waterproofing to help survive the storm. The land itself hasn't changed--almost unnervingly so, thanks to Seattle's preservation magics. The forests and hills under the cloud today feel very slightly off, like parts of a painting that haven't been altered when the rest of the composition has changed--a state which Seattle acknowledges, but says is preferable to there being no land at all left (which is certainly true). Those parts of Montana which lie outside the rainclouds, including those further inland in Seattle's territory and those ruled by Portland, still look the way they used to, and include the dramatic natural amphitheater known as the Bowl, around which Portland has built their largest real town, Great Rock.

Seattle Proper[edit]

Seattle itself features none of the high walls or regimented streets of other major cities--indeed, only the largest buildings can be seen aboveground, so that the city appears to be a very tall and compact town. The tallest of these is the Sky Needle, a sweeping metal structure erected with powerful magics and surmounted with a glass and metal building subdivided into many rooms. The Sky Needle acts as a powerful focus for surrounding magics, housing for the Magister-General and his retinue, and secluded storage for Seattle's more powerful reagents and advanced laboratories.

The bulk of the city, however, is partially or entirely buried underground, in a manner cribbed off of their sister enclave in Phoenix. This helps insulate against the pervasive chill and dull the drumming of the endless rain, as well as restricting the amount of going outside necessary. Seattle's warrens crisscross an area much larger than the surface town, enabling them to keep up their peculiar defensive-aggressive warfare policy; an enemy anywhere within the tunnel networks' range will find itself constantly harrassed by magical attacks from no less than three directions. Seattle uses magical artificial sunlight to power its vast underground greenhouses and keep the population from going mad from seclusion from the sun; nevertheless, while Seattlites are fiercely proud of their tenacity and the meritocratic nature of their culture, and capable of enduring enormous periods of time in poor conditions, nobody is as happy to see a sunny day as a Seattlite.

The Cordillera Coast[edit]

Los Angeles Valley[edit]

The Southern Desert[edit]

The Pacific Mountains[edit]

Yellowstone Valley[edit]

Salt Lake Pan[edit]

The Neon Lights[edit]

The Paso de la Paz isn't very interesting geologically, but Las Vegas itself features a very interesting... feature.

Very early on in its history, Las Vegas was seriously considering folding its cards--in only three years since their declaration of nationhood in 30 A.G., they had been the subject of repeated attacks by goblin bandits at the Plains end of the pass, a year-long, bloody Crusade of Regulation courtesy of Los Angeles, and general disdain and disregard from big markets like Chicago and Dallas--the result being that trade had slowed to a trickle, and the city was barely getting by.

The Council voiced this concern to its people, and was pleasantly surprised to find widespread indignation--many of them had been thrown out of the other Nations and would have nowhere to go if Vegas disbanded. Few, however, had solutions. One did, however, and he caught their eye. Konstantinos Neon was a sorcerer, and had fought in the Great War itself under General Rodriguez, but then had been thrown out of Los Angeles shortly after its founding because he thought their Holy Audience thing to be a bunch of rubbish. When he spoke up to the Council now, he was nearing ninety, and was completely blind in one eye. But he spoke up strongly, and went straight for the Council's throat--he asked them to try his idea at least once.

Even though Neon's plan involved the use of the nation's twelve best magicians and enough spell materials to empty what was left in the treasury, with it worded like that, they couldn't well refuse.

For two weeks, the thirteen magicians could be seen moving around the city, scribing something in magical runes on every vertical surface that wasn't made of glass--and some that were. Other magic-users tried reading them during that point in time, but found the runes incomprehensible. It seemed like a fool's errand, but Neon had not declared that he was done yet.

He never would, either. On the fifteenth day, Konstantinos Neon, a master of Abjuration who would later be remembered as a truly epic Sorcerer, climbed unaided to the highest point in the city (at that time, the roof of the five-story-high Council Hall) and, in front of the Council, the Everyman, and several hundred curious onlookers, blew himself apart in a flurry of magical energy that melted the spire off the dome of Council Hall.

Before the fireworks atop the Hall had had a chance to fade, however, the whole city exploded with light. Neon's runes, scrawled all over Las Vegas' outer walls and most of its buildings, formed the largest web of wards and guarding spells ever seen--and it is very doubtful that they will ever be surpassed. Neon, being a sorcerer, left behind no spellbook for study, but eight of the twelve magicians who had aided him had been wizards, and he had had to teach all of them how to do what was, to him, second nature. That knowledge is now Las Vegas' greatest secret, but it is definitely not a lost one--whenever a Crusade of Regulation ends, or a swarm of orcs is finally driven off, everything else that was damaged gets to wait until the Council Mages have fixed any gaps in the runes.

Nowadays, Vegas is lit in a myriad of lights and colors that give it a garish, almost cartoonish look. Almost all of them are magical. But whenever you pass one of those buildings lit by thin, brilliant lines, rest assured--you're safe in the glow of the Neon lights. And if you happen to arrive when the gates are closed, you can catch a glimpse of the man who created them.

As hard as it is to believe, Las Vegas is closed. Be sure to come back soon!
-Konstantinos Neon
—inscription on the underside of the drawbridges of Fort Las Vegas.

Carlsbad Caverns[edit]

The massive Carlsbad Caverns cave system runs deep underneath the South Pacifics--too deep. Since before history it had been home to the mines and cities of the kobold kingdoms, housed in glittering grottos thousands of feet below the windswept surface. Even to this day, the Caverns are still a fantastic sight--if you can manage to see them. Some caverns feature huge farms of glowing mushrooms, which give off a spectrum of soft lights that paint anything that moves in a multifluous array of shades as it passes by. Others wound their way through veins of ores and stones, which glint and glitter in the walls with tantalizing promises of impossible wealth. Still others feature networks of vents, steamers, and geothermic pools, heated by some action deep within the earth similar to those observed in Yellowstone, which the kobolds claim could cure any illness with their steams and mineral waters that the mushrooms and cave fungi couldn't help. At least one--one of the most well-known, for it sat on the Phoenix arm--featured a long, sunless sea of milky-white water, lit by vast crystalline growths and populated by blind, languid fish. The largest cavern housed the heart of the Kingdom; a vast limestone cave, huge stalactites and stalagmites jutting from the roof and floor, carved out with generations of care to house dozens or hundreds of kobolds, and criscrossed with spindly bridges that looked architecturally impossible.

Most of this might still exist--since the kobold kingdom fell, nobody really knows. The mind-eaters were observed to be completely indiscriminate in damaging the environment in their rush to fall on the kobolds, but by the same token, didn't seem to care much about causing damage when there were minds to be eaten. This was fifty years ago, of course, and very little of the mind-eaters' activities have been observed since. The heart of the kingdom and most of its environs haven't been seen since the Fall, and anything could be going on down there.

Steps were quickly taken after the Fall to contain the threat--with the aid of the escaped kobolds, the many minor exits and bolt-holes into the caverns were permanently sealed off with blasting powder. Dallas quickly established a permanent policing outpost at the main eastern entrance which would later grow into the police-state of El Paso; Phoenix took them one step further by completely relocating their growing town so that it surrounded and blocked off the western entrance and its nearby oasis. But for thirty years, nobody dared to venture any further into the Caverns than the sunlight could reach.

Carlsbad One[edit]

[1] The majority of the Carlsbad Caverns have become uninhabitable. But that has never stopped human ingenuity before. Almost immediately after the fall of Kurt'yip'yak, Dallas began sending regular scout patrols into the caverns, to keep an eye on the squidheads' activity--many have died on the Carlsbad Watch since then. But by 90 A.G., the mind-eaters had settled down and retreated far enough in that Dallas found it worthwhile to send in a colonization team (perhaps spurred on by their shortages of resources and the fast-expanding conflict that would later be known as the Twenty Years War).

The team settled on the main access bridge to the upper caverns, roughly a mile inside the east entrance. The bridge was large enough to support extensive construction, and as the war flared up, Dallas evacuated many civilians into the cavern, causing the bridge to abruptly bloom into a full-blown city.

Carlsbad One is the only proper underground city in all of Americana (Phoenix's workings, while extensive, are counted along with the aboveground portions of the enclave), and since the end of the war it has become a paradise for mechanics and machinists seeking to work with geothermal energy--the bridge-city is built over a deep geothermal vent, and siphons the vast majority of its power and systems from the depths of the crevasse. The city is also the largest majority-kobold settlement in Americana today, and has whipped up great discussion among the korir nomads with its relative success. Many have come to Carlsbad One out of nostalgia for the life they once had, though the majority stay away, not wanting to have anything to do with the virulently xenophobic Dallasites.

Note: Kobolds living in or coming from Carlsbad One are to be considered traditional kobolds, instead of the vagabond kobold variation that predominates in most areas.

The Nation of Chicago[edit]

Chicago is the largest Nation in terms of land area, and except for the extreme west areas it is FLAT. The nation's borders are marked in the west by the foothills of the Pacific Mountains, on the north by the Sea of Ontario, in the south by the St. Louis River, and in the east by a low stone wall built after the Treaty of Missouri to mark the west edge of the new Nation of St. Paul. Essentially the entire state is dominated by plains and small lakes, with a network of thin streams and rivers coming together to either the Minnetonka or St. Louis rivers (flowing east to the Mizibi River and west to the coast near Seattle, respectively) or the Greenfield River (flowing north through Chicago proper to the Sea of Ontario). The land between the St. Louis and Minnetonka is primarily agrarian, pulling in vast crops of wheat and corn to feed the populace of Chicago and beyond. The land north of the Minnetonka is kept mostly as grazeland, with timber forests taking over as the sea draws near, raising the famous Chicago beef cattle. But under that same land run the vast Chicagoan coal mines, drawing out the precious black rock through mines dotted all across the region to keep the continent running.

Chicago Proper[edit]

Chicago, at heart, is a trading hub pure and simple. The city itself is not quite as big as New York for population or size but now far exceeds it in wealth and importance, sited on the Greenfield River in the middle of the Plains. From the west, over the Pacific Mountains, come wagon trains and airships brimming with the riches of the Coast- gold, silver, tin, and various crops. From the north and northeast come Minnesotan iron and timber, carried on the waterways by the vast barges of the Paulites. From the far east come forged goods and equipment, hauled by the carts of Detroit and New York.

But the greatest trade in Chicago is produced by herself, going outward. Though the city is well-known for its meat, especially its beef, the biggest commodity to pass through her gates is coal. All of Americana runs on coal, and the largest deposit by far sits deep under the surface of nearly half of the nation's land. All the country north of the Minnetonka River is studded with coal mines and processing plants, hauling nearly four hundred thousand tons of coal a year from the ground. That means an awful lot of money for the nation, which is the richest on the continent and constantly under construction.

The city's richer citizens live primarily in the north of town, while the south is home to massive transportation yards and storage compounds. The industrial sectors of the city are crammed into the section in the middle, along with most of the city's housing and office buildings. The Greenfield River runs through the heart of town in a perfectly straight line (a feature which needed only minor help from the city to create) from the south end to the north, heading towards the Sea of Ontario.

Chicago herself was once primarily made of wood- though some of the ancient buildings had survived, over 70% of the city had either been flattened by the war or damaged so heavily that they had to be flattened. However, that all changed after the Great Fire- a huge conflagration of unknown source that erupted one night after a long drought and lasted for three long days before a rain squall put it out. The nation's riches ensured that the city would be rebuilt, and the casualty count and ambition of her politicos ensured that it would NOT be of wood. Architects from all across the country descended upon the city and started a boom of construction that has yet to stop, and which transformed a vast but low-lying prairie town into a stark, towering metropolis of iron and glass that makes aims to rival- or maybe even surpass- the great New York. The greatest building thus far is the twenty-five story Royal Tower, which uses magical wards to supplement the science that keeps it up and houses not only all of Chicago's royal family, but the bulk of the monarchy's apparatus as well. It is generally considered tasteless in the extreme, due to how much taller it is than any other building, but it withstood the Twenty Years' War without so much as a scratch and is slowly coming into vogue by dint of continuing to exist.

Chicago does not like looking back. Much history has been lost in the move to evolve and expand the city, but few protests have been made- they are the best, after all, and if they want to remain the best they have to make sacrifices. Still, traditions survive here and there, such as the Ceremony of the River (which takes place on the first Monday of every summer month, and in which the city's Chief Mage forces the Greenfield River to flow backwards for eighteen hours in memory of the Miracle of the River) and the Fire Festival (which is a huge citywide ceremony giving thanks to the gods- specifically the rain god, in certain religions- for ending the Great Fire). These and other small festivals mark general "days of rest" for celebration, and almost all businesses and operations- government, private, and even illegal- close down for the day to join in the fun.

Minnesota Territory[edit]

St. Paul, as far as territory is concerned, could easily stand up to Chicago in might and girth. But there the resemblance ends; St. Paul is a young nation, sparsely populated, and in the northern areas, except for a few native villages and outposts on the coast, there is no civilized life to be found.

The Minnesota territory, in the more heavily inhabited areas, greatly resembles that of Chicago- flat plains with low, rolling hills and the occasional deciduous forest. All of the land is heavily covered with water- it is estimated, in fact, that almost half the nation's surface area is lakes or rivers, all flowing down to the deep-cut channel of the Mizibi, which winds its way up the Duluth Peninsula before dumping off the tip into the Thunder Bay.

Following the Mizibi north, one watches the terrain change. The plains vanish, the hills grow steeper, and by the time you reach the latitude of the Thunder Bay's southernmost shore the rivers are winding through marshes and bogs nestled between rocky hills and forests of pine so dense you need a machete to clear a path in places. It is beautiful country, but also somewhat dangerous- beyond the monsters and creatures, the native Minnesote are absolute masters of this land whether on the ground or the water, and they will take violent offense to any who trespass without their express permission.

The dual nature of life in Minnesota makes it easy to tell who is in charge before you even enter a town. Minnesote villages are stockades made of pine and birch, with the only non-wood buildings in town being the housings for their "mosquito fleets". They are generally of simple construction and offer little in the way of luxury, but this does not mean they lack the basic amenities- and it should also not be taken as a sign of stupidity among the populace.

In contrast, Paulite outpost villages are almost all metal- iron and stone constructs ringed by steel walls. They hum with activity, usually processing timber or iron ore for shipping back upriver, but in many cases offer few more services than the Natives.

Though the land can be pleasant enough in the spring, summer, and fall seasons, it is not advised to attempt traveling during a Minnesota Winter, which (due to the nature of the terrain) are easily twice as harsh as winters anywhere else, and as a result invoke consequences (like movement penalties) that are twice as brutal.

St. Paul Proper[edit]

Due to the odd nature of Minnesota's populace and governorship, the nation actually has TWO capitols, seated opposite each other on the banks of the Minnetonka River, less than three miles upstream from where it flows into the Mizibi. St. Paul City sits on the north bank.

The central home of the Paulites was originally established by the Detroi to act as a local diplomatic post with the local Minnesote Natives, and this is immediately evident upon seeing the town, which looks like Detroit in miniature. Encircled by a massive wall of stone and iron with over a hundred cannon mounted atop it, the city is a fortress in itself, built around the St. Anthony Power Plant. That plant, which is built next to and over the Falls of the same name, produces the electricity that keeps the city humming, processing an endless stream of iron ore and timber from upstream that is either used in-city to forge the machines and weapons to supply the young nation, or sent back to the Mizibi, where it is met by Detroi traders to be exchanged for gold and equipment before being hauled over the Atlantics to the Iron City.

Though their gear and products are somewhat more rugged in design than those of Mother Detroit, St. Paul can offer an adventurer all the benefits and amenities of any East Coast city. And anything that can't be found in the "Pig's Eye" can likely be found across the river, in the native capitol of Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Proper[edit]

Minneapolis is the largest and most sophisticated city built by Natives on the entire Americana continent, and the only permanent settlement of the Minnesote. Built on the south shore of the Minnetonka and connected to St. Paul by the Three Brothers bridges east of the Falls (one for foot traffic, one for cart traffic, and one bearing a short-run railway), the city is practically a mirror of her northern neighbor, but rendered in wood and stone rather than iron. As could be expected, she offers much the same services- inns, taverns, merchants, and the lot- though the vast smithies and forges of the Pig's Eye are not to be seen.

However, while Minneapolis may lack metalworks, she holds other secrets that the Paulites lack. The Minnesote know the terrain of the Nation far better than the Paulites, and if you need to hire a guide or an escort- or simply buy a map- you'll find none better. The Minnesote have also put their ability to travel unnoticed on the water to a profitable use, and if you have the money they can ferry you unnoticed to any town on the north river system, from Thundermouth at the Mizibi delta to Plain's End at the base of the Pacifics, deep in Chicago territory. But though soldiers and bandits may not take notice of your trip, creatures are much harder to fool, and if you intend to make the trip a long one you should be advised to pack a weapon.

The Great Plain[edit]

The Great Plain is the heart of the continent; the uncharted, trackless expanse that the Indians love and the Nations covet. Bounded on the north by the Mizzou River and on the south by the Amarillo Hills, on the west by the great Pacific Mountains and the east by the foothills of Atlantica, the Plain occupies an enormous stretch of territory larger than any two nations put together and teeming with life. The great buffalo roam in their wandering pattern around its girth, deer and small game flourish in the hollows and scrub forests, and the ponds are rich with fish. Underneath the long grasses that dominate the Plain, great riches are rumored to dwell--precious metals and minerals that all who could use them crave. But for now, they remain out of reach.

Geologically the Plains consist of a series of low, rolling hills, with creeks and small lakes scattered among them, sloping gently away from the mountains on three sides to the north, where the mighty St. Louis River hauls the rain of most of a continent towards Seattle and Rainer Bay. Some small rivers carry through the Amarillos to the south, but few. Almost the entire expanse seems to be carpeted with grass as high as a man's chest, sometimes higher, with the occasional small forest and stand of pine. The land would be almost completely blank were it not for the pre-War ruins that dot it like shrapnel; dozens have been cataloged on the borders of the Plain alone, and the interior has never been mapped. For all these reasons many nations, Chicago and Dallas in particular, slaver at the thought of adding it to their empire; however, the Natives have stood against them for decades, and recently have united into the Council of Eight Fires, so as to better discuss how to hold onto the largest chunk of Wild Americana left.

The Southlands[edit]

The south of the continent is widely varied; rain sweeping in off the Gulf makes the east fertile, but the Pacifics make the west as dry as bones. Starting from the south end of Los Angeles, the green of the Cordillera Coast melts with shocking suddenness into a dry, baked desert, where water is scarce and yet life thrives in strange, fascinating ways. Dry lakebeds and ancient oases dot the main trade route through the region to Phoenix, the City of Fire and Shadow, and continue in deepening sands eastward towards the lands of El Paso.

At El Paso, the desert gives up the ghost, and small creeks and winter lakes help dampen the desert into the dry scrublands of western Dallas. Short, hardy trees and tough grasses highlight this region, and little lives here that can't bear hardship well. It is on these scrublands that Dallas itself is built, and much of its ranching takes place here, in the vastnesses between Fort Benton, Fort Texarkana, and Fort Galveston--the Triangle. Wild mustangs run here, the descendents of ancient war-cavalry, and Dallas lets them run free until a new breeding line is desired--the wildness helps the blood, or so they believe. To the south, the desert creeps back around to wall off Mexico save for a brilliant green strip along the coast, and shallow swamps dot the Gulf Coast as it curls back towards Fort Galveston.

Beyond the edge of the Triangle, the land gets marshy and wet as the Big Red River draws near, and sulfur bubbles to the surface of the land in big patches hostile to all life. To the south, the peninsula of Houston juts out into the sea like a defying fist, tightly regimented into farmland and city and kept from the ocean's embrace by means unknown. Beyond these lands New Orleans beckons, and the Bayou Coast with it.

Phoenix Proper[edit]

On the surface, Phoenix barely rates a town--low, flat buildings hiding behind a deeply filigreed wall depicting the history of the Academy. At the center, a glass dome rises over the Oasis itself, with the town square surrounding it and a number of small, glass-roofed buildings next to every street running off. Phoenix aboveground is serviceable--but step into any of those small buildings and you'll see a stairway going down, to the true marvel.

Belowground around the Oasis sits a cavern that was once filled mostly with water--now a magically contained column rises up to keep the lifegiving oasis supplied from its sources far below. In place of the water, the true city of Phoenix stands--carved into the walls of a massive cavern in the same blocky style, now glowing with runes and magic lights that give the whole cavern a red, warming glow. Mines, farms, and mushroomeries run off the main cavern in every direction, carved impossibly perfectly from the rocks by magic and serviced by the country's first tram system, drawn by cave-raised horses. In the north of the cavern, the Academy of Phoenix sits glowing softly from within, rounded glass and wrought iron looking more like a growth from the walls, or a great egg of some mythical beast. Tubes and bulbous branches burrow into the walls and hang out over the city below, anchored to the cavern roof. Off to the northeast, the tunnels that once stretched to Carlsbad sit, sealed with great stone doors and powerful runes of warding.

Phoenix's population actually lives mostly underground, but by decree of the Archmage everyone spends at least two days a week aboveground, often on Saturday and Sunday, a practice which has become known as the "week-end". The population is the usual menagerie of species that any academy attracts, but a higher than usual portion of goblins and kobolds live there (naturally).

Dallas Proper[edit]

WHOOPS I FORGOT THE DESERT HAD ITS OWN ENTRY HOLD PLEASE YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US

The Bayou Coast[edit]

The Mobile Valley[edit]

The Potoma Marshes[edit]

The Atlantic Mountains[edit]

The Appalachian Coast[edit]

The Northeast[edit]

Canadia[edit]

Theoretically, there is nothing preventing people from living in Canadia. No magic line has been drawn in the earth defining the north border of Chicago and Seattle, and the gigantic Niagara Falls aren't so treacherous that no boat can pass them to reach the lands beyond. However, little in the way of organized society exists in Canadia--a couple of isolated fishing villages on the Appalachian Coast, nothing more. In the summers, Canadia is cool, breezy, and teeming with game, coming out of its dens to seek food and live, if briefly. The springs and autumns are short and wet, with any ground not anchored by foliage turning to quicksand-like mud. And if Minnesota is hostile in winter, Canadia is downright antagonistic--incredible blizzards, temperatures as much as fifty degrees below zero, winds that tear across the open spaces and make the endless pine forests howl like banshees. There is life in Canadia, aplenty--but in winter it becomes hard to find.

Canadia's soil is thinner and rockier than that of Americana, making it less than ideal for farming--only near the coasts is life regularly viable thanks to the bountiful oceans. The coasts of Canadia are populated with these fishermen--hard-living humans as tough as old leather and worn from working the fishing boats all their lives, but given to partying at the drop of a hat and as warm and hospitable as any Atlantean. Three major settlements exist along the eastern coast: Mt. Royal, Halifax, and St. John's, none of which can claim to be much more than a town, let alone a city or nation. Beyond them, little organized life can be seen.

The most famous residents of Canadia, of course, are the moosemen. They are rarely seen during the spring, summer, and fall, roaming deep in their heartlands far from Americana. In the winter, however, they migrate south, which didn't used to be a problem before someone decided to put all these nations in the way. Moosemen in winter are extremely aggressive at hunting for food, to the point of nonreason, and as most Americ encounters with them are in these desperate times their reputation is that of senseless barbarians. The truth is likely more complicated, but only bits and pieces of this are deciphered so far.

Mexico[edit]

Mexico, in terrain as in all things, is chaotic and dramatic. The spine of the Pacifics continues marching south with only a minor halt in the Paso de Sur, continuing rocky and barren through the baking deserts and strange mesas that separate Mexico from Americana. Once past the Rio Rapido, however, the land changes. The flat deserts on either side of the mountains give way to increasingly fertile plains, much narrower west of the mountains than east. The mountains themselves slowly decrease into a broad jumble of tall hills, studded with lakes and precipitous rivers and carpeted with scrub and short trees. Real settlement of Mexico begins at this point of the country, with the rancheros and their vast herds, but the first real city is Chihuahua, the great herders' city with its famous guard-dogs.

From here, the real Mexico begins. The country erupts with life as the hills lower just a little more, lush carpets of greenery and rich orchards carpeting the oceanic plains. Up in the mountains, the great jungles begin, scattered at first but coming into cohesion on the south shore of Lake Texcoco, wherein sits the vast floating metropolis of Tenochtitlan, a city which can rival New York and Chicago in size. Here sits the palace of the Emperor, and the great Temples of the Sun and Moon, and the vast floating gardens which can feed the entire populace of the city without anyone ever setting a foot on the lakeshore. The city most Americs will know the best is the trade-city, Oaxaca, which sits due north-east of Tenochtitlan on the coast of the Great Gulf. Ornamented with precious stones and beautiful painted frescos, Oaxaca boasts the largest market in Mexico and one of the greatest ports on the Gulf, and is constantly abuzz with news, rumors, and hearsay. The Emperor's troops keep a close hold on Oaxaca, and with it their main lifeline to the rest of the world, but other than that and the Great Trade Road to Tenochtitlan, little else is assured. Travelers passing overland to Tenochtitlan can pass through as many as three countries or one, depending on the current state of the empire. The Empire's cultural center, Guadalajara, sits on the west coast in rough opposition to Oaxaca, and despite being a frequent source of rebellion is afforded many special privileges. If Tenochtitlan is the heart of Mexico, Guadalajara is the soul, and none could ever bear to see it harmed or threatened, even the Emperor.

South of Tenochtitlan, the jungles pour out of the mountains like green water and cover over the land, and the further south you go, the hotter it gets and the more wild and remote it becomes. Mexican society generally stops after Veracruz, the secluded getaway for the Mexican nobles, and further south from there is little explored if at all. Rumors of what lies further south abound--a water passage from one ocean to the other, sprawling cities of gold where the sun sleeps at night, the blazing realm of Nixon himself. Nobody truly knows.


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