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Shazak, Ator, and Cay

In my homeland and other states of the eastern Savage Coast, the reptilian peoples of the Great Bayou are seldom seen. I have, however, encountered them in various other places and have briefly visited each of their nations. From the diminutive caymas to the large, vicious gurrash and the wise shazaks, the lizard folk present great diversity. I do not know enough about them to judge their reactions to the Red Curse, but I do believe the actual creation of these races might be related to it in some fashion. I would welcome them as a part of my quest if for no other reason than to study them.

The Chronicle of the Curse

by Don Luis de Manzanas

The western end of the Savage Coast is home to three races of lizard kin: shazaks in the Kingdom of Shazak, gurrash in the Kingdom of Ator, and caymas in the Kingdom of Cay. Each of the races was created by the mages of Herath, who intended them as servants and slave-warriors, but all three proved unsuitable and were released into the Bayou or nearby areas. Since that time, the lizard kin have struggled upward to varying levels of civilisation.

The Kingdom of Shazak

The oldest of the three races of lizard kin, shazaks are very similar to the lizard men described in the MONSTROUS MANUAL tome. Ancient Herathian records indicate that these lizard men existed in the region at least 3,000 years ago, when they were servants and slaves to the human and elven mages who founded Herath while the araneas were disappearing from the region.

The mages later performed experiments to improve the primitive lizard kin. The results were less than satisfactory, and the Herathians eventually abandoned them in the Bayou.

Few of those first lizard kin survived, but those who did grew tough and cunning. They gathered under the leadership of a warrior named Shaz, eventually taking her name as their own ("shazak" means "child of Shaz"). With perseverance and some faith in the Immortals (especially Ka), the early shazaks became more advanced. Later lizard kin were adopted into the tribes of shazaks, and the tribes grew stronger as the toughness of the swamp dwellers was combined with the learning of those who had lived in Herathian cities.

Centuries later, the shazaks were forced to leave the Bayou. The gurrash, another abandoned Herathian experiment, began to displace them. The shazaks adapted to the forests north of Herath, which was a positive factor in their evolution as a species. No longer confined to the wetlands of the Bayou, they developed primitive art forms and a written language.

It is because of the gurrash that the shazak tribes eventually united behind a single war leader almost 250 years ago. Their leader is known as the Shaz, honouring the race's ancient guide. The role of Shaz is now hereditary, much like a king in human society. A Shaz usually has at least one Wokan and one Shaman acting as advisers.

Herath has long been a quiet ally of Shazak because the shazaks form a buffer state on Herath's northern border, keeping the goblinoids and rakastas away. Some caravans even travel all the way to Ah'roog to trade with the shazaks. The Herathian traders then return with pelts, pottery, feathers, rare woods, bat guano (a great fertiliser), live monsters, and such. Some nobles of Herath also hire shazaks as mercenaries. While not as ferocious as gurrash, shazaks are more dependable. Herathians have traditionally used them as expendable front-line troops in times of war. Though Herath is currently at peace with Bellayne, this policy intensified the conflict between Shazak and Bellayne over the forested area between Ah'roog and Bellayne's Marches of Wyndham.

Rakastan war parties have been known to raid into Shazak as far as the battle site called the Rakasta Grave. During the past fifty years, several battles have taken place in that vicinity, within as little as a mile of each other. The shazaks have never been able to really threaten Bellayne's border because of the ominous presence of the hated gurrash to the west. Gurrash incursions into Shazak are as common as they are savage.

In the past century, shazaks have learned to domesticate huge bats found in the caverns under the hills of T'lak between the Shady and Gatorbone Rivers. One or two bats can usually be found in each village, with more in Ah'roog. Shazak has a corps of Beast Rider "knights" who use these huge bats, which are also sometimes used as mounts by important Shamans and Wokani or by the Shaz.

Capital and Ruler

Capital: Ah'roog (population 7,500 mostly shazaks, a few tortles and caymas). Ruler: Shaz XII "The Slick," son of Shaz XI "No Tail." The tribal domain includes the forested area between the Bayou's eastern edge and the rakastan Forest Marches of Wyndham. Patron: Ka'ar.

Ah'roog is a large town composed of communal wooden longhouses, each occupied by an extended shazak family unit. This town also contains a few longhouses reserved for visitors and even one devoted to tortles. To the west of the town are large burial mounds, each devoted to an individual family. About two dozen huge mounds some built to cover entire trees are devoted to the older, more honoured families of shazaks. Numerous smaller mounds are used for newer families or those from other towns. Paths wind among the mounds and the trees, and the mounds are painted in symbols and geometric patterns. Shazaks hold these mounds sacred.

The Kingdom of Ator

The gurrash were a dismal failure on the part of Herathian wizards, at least as far as the wizards were concerned. It was hoped that a cross between shazaks and alligators would produce a tougher warrior race to fill the ranks of Herath's armies. This mix resulted in the creation of the gurrash. The gurrash turned out to be very tough, very tall, and quite bloodthirsty, while remaining very crude and totally unruly. Early specimens had a tendency to turn against Herathian human troops. They were also absolutely incompatible with shazak troops, whom they viewed as tasty food.

A few attempts at developing a more controllable breed took place, but a large batch of the creatures escaped from the laboratories, forming an uprising and wreaking havoc among the Herathians. After this bloody episode, the surviving gurrash fled into the Bayou despite Herath's frantic efforts to eradicate the whole species. Herathian rulers hired bounty hunters to rid their area of the frightening gurrash threat. It made bounty hunting a booming business for a few decades, but the gurrash quickly outbred the hunters, causing the hunt to become increasingly perilous.

Once the bounty hunters had been discouraged from preying upon them, the gurrash quickly turned against the shazaks, who populated the Bayou at that time. Within a century, shazaks had all but abandoned the Bayou. Fortunately for the shazaks, the gurrash stopped their territorial expansion at the edges of the Bayou, preferring to remain in the murky waters of the wetlands. Since then, the gurrash population has stabilised. Diseases, parasites (many introduced by Herathians), and limited food cause weaker hatchlings to perish.

Occasionally, when the number of gurrash increases beyond what the Bayou's ecology can sustain, the creatures go on a massive rampage into one of their neighbours' territories. Gurrash Shamans usually incite these raids on behalf of their patron Immortal, Goron. The raids are now sacred ritual in which a warrior supposedly gains Goron's favour by spilling the blood of foes in the most savage ways imaginable. Bringing back food is of course useful to the community, but the Shamans secretly understand that the true goal is to limit the gurrash population lest they learn to feed upon one another.

Gurrash monarchs establish themselves by savagery and cruelty. Their rule is based on fear, brutality, and support of the Shamans. A gurrash who equals or bests the current ruler in savagery during a raid as attested to by at least three Shamans can challenge the current ruler. A challenger who defeats the current ruler establishes a new hereditary dynasty (until another challenger comes up). This is what recently happened when Ator defeated King Osh III. She killed the aging king and crowned herself Queen Ator I, thus supplanting the Oshite dynasty with her own Atorite dynasty. She then renamed the nation after herself. She has ruled for 25 years. Should she die unchallenged or undefeated, one of her heirs would become King or Queen Ator II.

Some trading does occur between the gurrash and their mysterious neighbours of the Wallaroo Grasslands. A gurrash Shaman once noticed that if he left something at the southwestern edge of the swamp, the next day something else might be there, usually something of use. After a century, gurrash have come to believe that Goron takes these goods and repays them with something else.

Of course, this is just myth. In fact, wallaras (chameleon men) inhabit these grasslands and conduct the trade. The first "trade" was accidental; when a wallara found a gurrash's huge stone axe, he was so surprised that he left his backpack on the site and walked back to camp with his discovery. Over the years, wallaras found out that if they left something of value after picking up a gurrash item, soon more gurrash objects would be found there. It has led to a regular trade with the unwitting gurrash, and spots have become known for the kinds of items expected there. In some areas food is traded, while in others it could be weapons, shells, or ornamental stones.

The gurrash never raid or even dare venture into the grasslands, for they believe the region to be Goron's home, taboo to all upon pain of death. The wallaras recognise this taboo and use their camouflage ability to preserve the gurrash beliefs. This provides them with some wealth and a precious immunity against the gurrash's fearsome raids.

Capital and Ruler

Capital: Gurr'ash (population 3,200 gurrash, a few shazaks, and a handful of cayma slaves and "snacks"). Ruler: Queen Ator I "Old Grey Fangs," slayer of King Osh III. The tribal domain includes all of the Bayou. Patron: Goron.

The Kingdom of Cay

The last creation of the Herathians was nearly a success. Abandoning attempts to create gigantic and deadly servants, Herathian wizards produced the small caymas. They were bred to become slaves and builders, smart enough to understand construction plans, agile and quick enough to do the job well and without delay, yet small enough to make them weaker than their guards.

The plan almost worked, but the caymas were terribly pretentious and not as bright as expected. Their pride got in the way when a construction flaw needed correcting or when the caymas simply disagreed with the architects. Endless bickering ensued between caymas and their Herathian masters. In the end, caymas deliberately allowed flaws to remain in the Herathian monuments without alerting the architects. Exasperated by a rash of catastrophes, Herathians gave up on all lizard kin experiments and dumped the caymas north of the Bayou.

The tastes of modern caymas are unusual. Never bred to become architects, the caymas still attempt to build things to prove themselves. They lack understanding of sound architecture and engineering, leading them to erect such dubious structures as the Great Citadel of Cay (see below). While these constructions get in the way of raiding gurrash, they would not last long against the experienced military of Bellayne or Herath. However, that is unimportant to the caymas, who are still very proud of their accomplishments.

The people of Cay copied the social structure of other kingdoms and established their own monarchy. Queen Ssa'a presently rules and has been behind the cayma expansion into the open lands north of Cay. The caymas have learned a very primitive way of raising herds of wild aurochs. For herding, they have domesticated small lizards, which they harness to tiny war chariots. Caymas trade some of their auroch meat with the shazaks. They also trade a little cinnabryl from a mine near Hwezzah. Cayma forging and metalworking is quite primitive, but they are learning.

Capital and Ruler

Capital: Tu'eth (population 8,900 all caymas). Ruler: Queen Ssa'a IV "Silver Tail," daughter of Queen Roha'a II. The tribal domain includes forested land north of the Bayou. Patrons: Kutul, Cay.

Tu'eth is built around a mesa about 50 feet high and perhaps 500 yards in diameter. The mesa is surrounded by the Great Citadel of Cay, an amazingly rickety assemblage of planks, tree trunks, bamboo, stones, ropes, leather, nets, and random portions of adobe walls with arrow slits. All of these things contrive to form a 20-foot-tall palisade that circles the mesa's walls at a distance ranging from 10 to 100 yards, up and down the hills and crags, using large trees and boulders as anchor points. A 15-foot-wide moat full of muck surrounds the entire thing. Several towers of respectable height (but debatable stability) overlook the palisade at rather unpredictable intervals. Rope bridges, catwalks, and flimsy looking drawbridges hang just about everywhere, running from one level to another like some sort of mad, three-dimensional maze. Any enemy who climbs the palisade will most likely just become hopelessly lost. At the centre of the citadel, within the mesa itself, are the Queen's burrows.

Surrounding the citadel in a haphazard manner are small mounds with wooden doors and round windows; these are the homes of typical citizens.

Immortals of the Lizard Kin

For further information on Immortals, refer to "The Campaign" chapter.

Cay (Terra): Patron of the Kingdom of Cay, earth, life, fertility, and good luck.

Goron (Demogorgon): Patron of Ator, victory, bravery, and death. This reptilian queen of evil interfered with Herathian experiments, instilling the gurrash with the racial instincts that make them brutal and bloodthirsty.

Ka'ar (Ka): Patron of Shazak, trade, wealth, and better life in general.

Kutul (Kurtulmak): Patron of Cay, war, fire, and territorial gains. Kutul contrived to have the caymas create a caste of warriors headed by Shamans and devoted to him. Kutul balances Cay's lawfulness with his own brand of chaos.