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by Marco Dalmonte English translation by Gary Davies

Atzanteotl - Corruption, deceit, vengeance, betrayal, destruction
Quetzalcoatl (Atruaghin) - Diplomacy, wisdom, balance, temperance, combat evil
1. The Azcans (modelled on the ancient Aztec civilisation) are an ethnic group derived from the Oltec civilisation that claimed its own independence in 3500 BC, after five centuries of difficult coexistence in which war alternates with commercial exchanges (start of the Age of Conquest). Because of the devastation brought by the Great Rain of Fire in 3000 BC and of the imminent danger of extinction caused by the earthquakes and climate changes, the Immortal protectors of the Oltecs and Azcans (Ka and Ixion) decided to transfer a large number of these tribes into the Hollow World in order to preserve them, and positioned the Azcans on the western Icirian coast, on the shores of the Northern Atlassan Ocean (beginning of the Age of Preservation or Age of Destruction, when namely the Immortals destroyed the ancient world saving only the chosen). The centuries passed and the Azcans expanded to found a real empire, waging war with the Neathar and even sporadically with the distant Oltecs, with who the rivalry was never slept. At the end of the XVI century BC nevertheless, the influence of the evil Atzanteotl (a surface elf who had discovered the Hollow World and has remained fascinated by the Azcan culture) changing the power relationships in the empire, and with the hunting of the just King Atruatzin (who later became Atruaghin) the followers of Atzanteotl began a new epoch (Age of Revelation), in which Atzanteotl became the one and only Immortal that was worshipped, superior to any other Immortal, the one who had led the Azcans towards world-wide domination (the Age of Great Conquest, according to the prophecy of the Azcan priests, which would close the cosmic cycle beginning exactly with the Conquest). It was thus that the Azcan priests rewrote part of the past history, in order to make Atzanteotl appear as the saviour of the Azcans and the only Immortal that can rule them, and the enduring cults were tarnished and controlled by the dominant clergy, so as to not have any problems of insurrection. The domination of Atzanteotl on the Azcans of the Hollow World lasted for over two millennia, but the Azcan civilisation is based properly on the continued flow of one circle following another, and therefore this change has not been prevented by the Spell of Preservation, like so the future change and the rise of Quetzalcoatl turns out to be a natural fact in the course of Azcan history.
2. The Azcans are ruled by the Tlatoani (Emperor), who is always the High Priest of Atzanteotl (Coatl Atzanteotl Tlamacazqui). The Azcan Empire is a powerful theocracy divided into provinces, each led by a Tecuhtli (a noble or a administrator elected by the emperor), usually a cleric of Atzanteotl. Under the noble caste is that of the bureaucrats (Calpixqui), which formed the apparatus of control and of administration of the state, and that of the priests (Tlamacazqui), the majority of these are faithful to Atzanteotl. Under the priests and the functionaries are the common citizens, in which reside the majority of the Azcans (even if they distinguish between themselves on the basis of personal wealth): this class doesn’t have rights, only duties, and the only difference between them and the slaves is that that they cannot be killed at the pleasure of the nobles, but only in case of hurt or of crimes against the state. At the lowest step of the social scale remained the slaves, for the most foreigners captured in the raids that the Azcans make in the neighbouring regions or individuals so power that they are unable to resolve their own debits who were made slaves by the creditors.
3. The pantheon of Azca (culture described in the adventure HWA1, Nightwail and in the supplement HWR1, Sons of Azca) comprises practically all the existing Immortals in the world of Mystara, since within it every Immortal can appear under different forms, each one to show a different aspect of his personality, therefore aren’t included within this manual. The Azcans are a people of a strong mysticism and of often brutal and violent practices (like that of the tlachtli, a popular national sport based on a contest between teams), because of the influence of Atzanteotl, who demands ritual human sacrifice in order to satisfy his sect of blood and bring prosperity to the empire. The cult of Atzanteotl, also called the Winged Viper, is the state religion to which all the Azcans and their slaves are called to obey. Hundreds of other Immortals exist, but none are as important or as powerful as Atzanteotl according to the current philosophy.
4. The ancient cult of Otzitiotl and Kalaktatla (Ixion and Ka, which once constituted the ancestral patrons of the Azcan people), has lost value from when the Azcans entered into what according to their mysticism is the age of the Fifth Sun (started with the destruction of the ancient world which ended the epoch of the Fourth Sun), dominated by Atzanteotl. The ancient cults survived in the veneration of the Four Hundred Rabbits, a term that indicates the unending amount of all the ancient Immortals, among which that also fallen back are Kalaktatla and Otzitiotl. The priests of Atzanteotl watch from nearby all the moves of this cult’s members and are extremely skilled at controlling their moves, orchestrating “fatal incidents” in order to avoid that one of them could attract too much attention and threaten the power of the clergy of Atzanteotl.
5. For nearly a millennium in the land of Azca has been spread a new religious philosophy to which many Azcans have adhered in secret to any layer of the society, even in the official clergy and among the nobles. The sect of the New Way indeed is declared illegal in Azca by the will of the clergy, since it negates the supremacy of Atzanteotl and incites the people declared false and deceitful the promise of the Immortal and of his priests. The followers of the New Way pursued such a radical creed to be considered heretics and punished with the ritual sacrifice. For this the identities of the members of this sect is secret, and when they meet they have always worn masks that hide their real faces and use nicknames initially represented by the glyph relating to their own day of birth. These faithful act in order to free Azca from the tyranny of Atzanteotl and believe that only the return of the chosen, Quetzalcoatl (the Azcan identity of Atruaghin) will return peace and justice in the world. The New Way indeed teaches that all the ancient Immortals abandoned the people of Azca the day after the destruction of the world and that this void was useful for Atzanteotl, who usurped his place with deceit and locked the Azcans in a great illusion that lasts until today (the present world). They therefore impatiently await the moment in which a new Sun (the Sixth) rises, and his sacrifice will be the last to assist the Azcans, since his blood will satiate the hunger of Atzanteotl and destroy him, giving rise to an age of prosperity and peace. The New Way identifies this epic saviour in the figure of Quetzalcoatl, which according to the mythology was a just and benevolent king who reigned over the Azcans shortly after the end of the old world. He doesn’t ask for human sacrifice, loves his folk, and tries to protect them according to justice. Atzanteotl nevertheless was envious of his felicity, and when Quetzalcoatl refused to hear the promise of the Immortal, the latter used his black magic in order to set the priests against the King and usurped the throne. Quetzalcoatl was hunted by Azca but was able to escape the killers of Atzanteotl, becoming more powerful to rival his ancient enemy, and now wanders the world, in search of the way home. When he finally returns, Quetzalcoatl will dislodge the usurper Atzanteotl (his evil twin and nemesis) and again give freedom to his people.