(part one of two)
The Kingdom of Nawlins
a city state and thalassocracy,
Nawlins - or New Orleans, as it was known in ancient times - is one of the largest cities along the Mississippi, and it's by far the largest city in the Mississippi Delta.
The city is situated on the land, peninsulas, islands, dykes, ruins, shallows and artificial islands between southern edge of the bay of Ponzartàin and the main branch of the Mississippi.
The city itself consists of a great variety of different buildings, varying from half-ruined ancient skyscrapers (several of which have been continuously inhabited since the Fall), even more ancient low-rise buildings (many of which have litterally resurfaced thanks to the dropping sealevels over the past century), post-Fall stone buildings (whose architecture often copies that of the most ancient buildings in Nawlins), along with the more primitive huts and brick houses that have been built on the dykes and small islands, while there's large numbers of stilt houses and living boats in the shallows.
Due to its location, Nawlins is a major trade centre in the region, and it is where the coastal trade routes of the Gulf meet the Mississippi river trade routes, which in their turn connect to the eastern arms of the Great Skag Way.
And for several generations, Nawlins had been one of the biggest pirate nests in the region, and it's been an actual corsair state since 2373 AD / 253 AF.
The Government of Nawlins
Nawlins is a kingdom that is politically dominated by its Rasta community, and is ruled by an aristocratic elite that's largely of Ethiopian descent.
The royal court of Nawlins is styled after the old Ethiopian imperial court, and the aristocracy, government and army mainly use Ethiopian ranks and titles;
The king's main title is Bahr Negus, meaning "King of the Sea", and likewise, his wife bears the title Bahr Nigist / "Queen of the Sea".
The members of the reigning dynasty, which is a side branch of the Solomonid dynasty, use the titles Leul (prince of imperial blood) and Leult (princess of imperial blood). The reigning king also uses the title Leul Ras (a title that could be translated as archduke), though the title Ras (which can be translated as prince or duke) is rarely used in the kingdom of Nawlins.
The second most powerful person in Nawlins is the Tsehafi Tezaz, whose role and position is pretty much analogous to that of a prime minister or supreme chancellor.
Fitawrari is the title of the main commander of a raiding fleet or other assault force, the Grazmach and Qegnazmach each control half of the kingdom's standing army and fleet, the Asmach is the main commander of the palace guard and the city guard of Nawlins proper, and the Dejazmach is the supreme militairy commander of all of the kingdom's forces.
Lique Mekwas is one of the most prestigious positions in the kingdom; there's only one or two of them at any given time, and they are the king's most trusted and most capable captains. They ride in the same boat, vehicle or elephant with him on public processions, they join the king in battle, and lead his personal expeditions.
The kingdom also controls a number of fortresses and towns outside Nawlins (most of them being overseas), the most important of which is Istroum.
The fortresses are commanded by militairy governors that bear the title Balambaras, while the towns are commanded by civilian governors that bear the title Mekonnen.
In spite of having a strong aristocracy, the kingdom's society is not exactly stratified, and there is plenty of social mobility.
All offices of the government are open to commoners, noteworthy archievements are often rewarded with non-heredetary noble titles, and intermarriage between the royal family and defacto commoners is the rule rather than the exception.
The History of Nawlins
Nawlins was one of the last great ancient Nourikan cities to be abandoned during the Time of Troubles, which was primarily thanks to the fact that it was used as a major base of operations by the Mexican forces that were attempting to oversee the evactuations and provide disaster relief in the decades following the events of the Fall.
Nawlins was also one of the last parts of the former US where the Mexican militairy ceased its operations and withdrew; the Mexicans maintained a presence in the city until only only about a few months before the collapse of Mexico's central government.
After that, the combination of unusually high sealevels, frequent storms and hurricanes, dyke-breaks, the failure and collapse of what little was left of the local government and epidemics of diseases like cholera and typhoid, resulted in most of the city's remaining population leaving and being dispersed across the South and eastern Mexico. 
A few small communities remained in the remnants of the city, and for several decades, even the Archdiocese of New Orleans ceased to function.
With no central authority, barely any contact with the outside world, and the threat of roaming pirates, scavengers, and the many kinds of mutated things that seemed to be increasing their numbers by the day, many of the members of the small surviving community turned towards beliefs that preceding generations had denounced as primitive superstitions.
Voodoo became popular once more, and using charms and seeking the intercession of spirits, ancestral or otherwise, became a popular way to attempt to ward off the countless evils that haunted or were thought to haunt this post-apocalyptic land.
The people of Nawlins had always been familiar with the half-legendary Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, and even the staunchest disbelievers in Voodoo and all things occult respected her in some way for the major role she played in the city's history.
But during these dire times, the ancient Voodoo Queen became more, much more, than just another long dead historic character.
Once more, Marie Laveau came to be commonly regarded and revered as the guardian spirit and patron saint of Nawlins.
During this period, a young widow and occultist who called herself Michelle Laveau rose to prominence in Nawlins. She claimed to be a direct descendant of the ancient Voodoo Queen, and managed to gain many followers (even including many outside Nawlins). She acted as an oracle, allegedly summoned many spirits, and she is even said to have performed miracles.
Her strong personality, intelligence, wisdom, and alleged miracles were enough to convince many that she was indeed a legitimate descendant of the ancient Voodoo Queen, and she quickly became a central figure in the Nawlins community.
Michelle cemented her position by proclaiming herself to be the new Voodoo Queen of the city, and become the founder of the Voodoo Queen dynasty that more or less ruled Nawlins for most of the following century, and still exists until this day.
With one interruption, this Voodoo state has dominated Nawlins in some form until the rise of the RiverKats, who conquered Nawlins in 2378 AD.
The exact history of Nawlins during the decline of the Voodoo Queens and the rise of the RiverKats in the region is not very well known or understood even among neighbouring states and cultures - the historians of the Southern Orthodox Church assume that the RiverKats brought down a declined but otherwise stable Voodoo state, while the historians of several other factions (for example; the Church of the Shining Star) simply admit that there's large gaps in their knowledge when it comes to this period.
But, as can be expected, this poorly understood segment of history is more complex than is commonly believed.
One of the main reasons behind the decline of the Voodoo Queens was, quite ironically, their success.
It is thanks to them that Nawlins developed into a stable, independant and thriving community, which resulted in the city attracting immigrants and becoming a centre of trade.
But many of these immigrants did not share the locals' Voodoo beliefs, and particularly the Roman Catholic Church, which regained a lot of influence in Nawlins as the city grew, proved itself to be rather effective at undermining both the religious authority as well as the political power of the Voodoo Queens.
The influence of Catholic Mexicans, who were unfamiliar with Voodoo and tended to regard it as primitive superstition, witchcraft or paganism, was a particularly important factor in the gradual decline of the authority of the Voodoo Queens.
And on a political level, Nawlins suffered from the fact that the Voodoo Queens and their followers, in spite of their success, never managed to develop a proper standing militairy.
Over-reliance on mercenaries, volunteers, charismatic war leaders, and the spiritual authority and persuasiveness of the Voodoo Queens prevented Nawlins from becoming a militairy power of lasting significance, and it happened a few times that pirates or unscrupulous mercenaries attempted to take over the city.
Through most of the 23rd century, the Voodoo Queens were still commonly respected and feared to such a degree that very few pirate or mercenary captains had the courage to stand up to them - but at the turn of the 24th century, it had become appearant that this situation was changing.
In 2302 AD, the pirate captain Black Jack Blanca tricked the citizens of Nawlins into hiring him for protecting shipping in the waters surrounding the eastern Delta, which he used as an opportunity to catch Nawlins by suprise and loot the city for ten days straight, which resulted in the Voodoo Queen and the city's foremost citizens trying to get other pirates and mercenaries to help them out, which was not without unforeseen and/or unpleasant consequences either...
And in 2309 AD, the situation had gotten so bad that Archbishop Alvaro Garcia Aguilar recruited a number of Catholic militants from the city of Veracruz in order drive off the more notorious pirate groups and restore order in the city.
The Archbishop's plan worked - in fact, it worked so well that he became the defacto leader of Nawlins, and remained in charge until his assassination, nine years later.
Whilst the Archbishop had managed to restore order in the city and successfully fought piracy in the region, he also proved himself to be an uncompromising religious hardliner in an environment that didn't really appreciate this, and the fact that he maintained rather close ties with a number of Mexican merchant families didn't help either...
After Alvaro Garcia's assasination in 2318, bishop Etienne Batiste, a man of Haitian ancestry and a person who had a much more favourable view of Voodoo et al, was ordained as the new Archbishop, and he closely cooperated with the Voodoo Queen and the Nawlins citizens. The authority of the Voodoo Queens, however, was already irrevocably damaged at this point.
A yet more insidious threat to the Voodoo Queens and the Voodoo establishment came from the Maruthas, who had no respect for the Voodoo Queen's position, and whose religion and dark arts opposed Voodoo and the Voodoo Queens on a religious/occult level.
The Maruthas are a wandering people with pre-Fall roots, who practice Daevayasna - the worship of the daevas, the evil/wrong deities described in the Avesta and other Zoroastrian writings. They established a presence in Nawlins during the late 23rd century.
Whilst the Maruthas and other Daevayasnis do not believe the daevas to be evil or explicitly malevolent entities, they still do associate them with things that are commonly considered wrong or sinful by outsiders, such as wrath, lust, imperialism, banditry, and the evil eye.
The Maruthas provided what could be called an alternative to Voodoo, an occult outlet for those who had somehow incurred the wrath the Voodoo Queen or prominent Voodoo practicioners.
The cults of various daevas and the services of the Marutha usijis became quite popular in Nawlins - especially among the pirates, smugglers and professional criminals.
Outsiders often underestimate the influence that the Maruthas directly or indirectly had on the society of Nawlins, but nonetheless they played a crucial role in the general mentality shift that resulted in the Voodoo Queens losing a lot of respect and authority. And of course, the Maruthas directly and indirectly stimulated the more unscrupulous pirate and bandit groups to establish themselves in Nawlins.
In all, the arrival of large numbers of immigrants who did not practice Voodoo, the reign of Archbishop Alvaro Garcia Aguilar, the corrupting influence of the Maruthas, and the rise of piracy in the region, all contributed to the decline of the Voodoo Queendom as the main political and religious factor in Nawlins.
And because of this, Nawlins had devolved into a poorly organized pirate nest by 2330 AD, which paved the way for the RiverKat conquest that would come about fifty years later...
The Rise of the RiverKats
The origin of the RiverKats doesn't lie in the environs of Nawlins or Istroum. It lies much further north, in the shrublands, fields and muddy riverbanks in the land between Covinton and Luzianna.
Around 2350 AD, human petty states like the Duchies of Covinton, Bliethval and Jonesboro had begun to reclaim this once-wasteland from the savage tribes that dwell in the unforgiving wilderness.
But nature abhors a vacuum, and even decades before organized human societies first begun their attempts to reclaim these lands, there had been some kind of order in this land.
The Maqtillas, they were called.
Named after that Luziannan spider god, Mikta, and using a spider as their symbol, the Maqtillas' organisation consists of a number of mutant and human clans and families that are allied with one another.
Originally a loose alliance of clans and families that were struggling to survive in this region's initially harsh conditions, but once things had started to change for the better, they quickly developed into something much more than that.
Fully exploiting their knowledge of the local terrain, ruins and mutants, along with their extensive contacts with the local tribes of mutants and savages, it didn't take long before the Maqtillas developed into what's essentially the mutant mafia of the Mississippi. The more the human cities in the region grew, the more the wealth and power of the Maqtilla syndicate grew.
Even the major merchant clans paid protection money to the Maqtillas.
And the Maqtillas have always been a diverse lot, too; membership is not restricted to any particular species or mutant type, and there's plenty of intermarriage (including arranged marriages for the purpose of maintaining ties between the families) and interbreeding between the different types within the Maqtilla organisation.
Along with the Maqtillas, there were also two major, independant mutant clans active in the region; the Stikks and the Cawbones.
The Stikks are nocturnal mutants with some vaguely bat-like/feline characteristics, and they specialize in banditry and assassinations. They used to roam the forests and shrublands on both banks of the Mississippi south of Memfis.
The Cawbones are a mutant clan with significant transgee admixture, and they have also mixed with some experimental aquatic enhanced humans. The Cawbones are amphibious, often vaguely resemble catfish and/or giant salamanders, and many subtypes among them can breathe underwater to a certain degree. They're known to practice river piracy and smuggling, and were originally found from Luzianna to as far north as Covinton
Both clans were occasionally hired by Maqtillas and their clients, but remained quite independant from both the Maqtillas as well as the human petty states.
Of course, an area that's so horribly infested with all sorts of mutants was bound to attract the attention of the Spiral Brotherhood.
And sure enough; during the rise of the local statelets, the Spiral Brotherhood became rather popular due to its operations against the mutant tribes that lived off of banditry and other crime.
Then the local cells of the Spiral Brotherhood decided to turn against the Maqtillas, which kinda went awry.
The Maqtillas had been established in this region for well over a century, and they not only had extensive contacts with every mutant tribe in the fields and wastelands on both sides of the river, but they also had plenty of supporters and indebted individuals among the aristocracies of the human petty states.
The Spiralists were fools to think that they could uproot a syndicate like this that easily.
After this rather disastrous operation, about half a dozen Spiralist cells in the region decided to follow Vic Toledo, a charismatic and pragmatic, if somewhat quirky, Spiralist leader that had fallen out of favour with the local human elites (including a few fellow Spiral leaders) for reasons unrelated to the Spiralist-Maqtilla conflict.
The lot went underground, even dropping the Spiral identity and cutting ties with the other Spiralists, and integrated themselves in what's essentially the local criminal underworld.
During this phase, Toledo's followers made extensive contacts with the other gangs and the Maqtilla-affiliated families, and they even went so far as to arrange a few strategic marriages with members of influential Maqtilla families.
They exploited these contacts in order to gain more information about the local mutant tribes and clans, and eventually, they used the information and influence they had gained in order to create a number of conflicts between the Maqtillas and the Cawbones, and worsen the relations between the Maqtillas and the Stikks.
The ultimate result of this was that the Cawbones ended up being driven out of all areas north of Memfis, formed an anti-Maqtilla alliance with the Stikks, and left a rather weakened Maqtilla syndicate.
Barely a year later, the last duke of Covinton died without issue, resulting in the rather bloody Covinton succession crisis.
And the Maqtillas, already being weakened by their conflict with the Stikk-Cawbone alliance, took another hit during this regional war, and Toledo's followers took advantage of this by coming out in the open, creating a new movemen, called themselve "the Shining Way", and decided to give exterminating the Maqtillas and other local mutants another try.
The Maqtillas survived, but the Shining Way was markedly more successful than the Spiralists had been more a decade earlier.
The Stikks and the Cawbones, seeing how the Maqtillas were now the ones being hunted down and what kind of mess the area of Memfis and Covinton had become, decided to migrate southward.
The two clans moved deep into Luzianna, and in 2378 AD, they actually managed to take over the pirate nests Istroum and Nawlins.
After that, they decided to specialize in piracy (both river piracy and marine piracy), and the two clans ended up merging, absorbing elements from local mutant groups as well.
The Reign of the RiverKats and the Eve of the Rasta Invasion
Of all the pirates that ever set foot in Istroum or Nawlins, the RiverKats are remembered as being, by far, the worst and most brutal, and many stories, poems, and chronicles have been written detailing the many crimes and atrocities committed by the RiverKats.
In one of their most notorious acts, they humiliated the 67-year old Voodoo Queen Anna Laveau II by publicly stripping her naked, flaying her until she couldn't stand on her feet anymore, and then tied her to the mast of an old ship and left her to die - this event actually happened, and popular legends tell that this was the punishment for replying to a direct order with a witty sarcasm, though the truth is that she was involved in a conspiracy against the RiverKats and was found out.
But it should be pointed out, though, that the RiverKats weren't any more brutal than the other pirate clans that had set up shop in Nawlins and Istroum before them - it's just that they were much more powerful and lasted a lot longer, and therefore left a much stronger impression on the collective memory.
And one would be wise to keep in mind that the legends and chronicles about the RiverKats are not free of Rasta and Solomonid propaganda - the city's previous rulers may have been impopular with the local citizens, but that doesn't mean that one shouldn't use propaganda in order to cement one's own position.
And, of course, the fact that most of them looked like inhuman monsters also contributed to the current perception of the RiverKats. Human psychology can be suprisingly simple and predictable at times...
Popular chronicles and legends claim that the Rasta invasion of Nawlins was sparked by a general outrage over the many atrocities comitted by the RiverKats, varying from systematically enslaving humans to demon worship and cannibalism.
But again, almost all of the reasons stated by the popular legends are either rather distorted and exaggerated descriptions of actual events, and whilst there indeed was some outrage over the brutality of the RiverKats, the fact remains that this had more to do with the fact that they had attacked some Rasta targets, which was not only interpretted as an "attack on those of our kind", but also as a rather non-subtle declaration of war.
The Rastas were, after all, a large, loosely organized bunch of rather experienced corsairs themselves - and the fact that the RiverKats were now competing with them for targets and even had the nerve to attack Rasta ships had much more to do with their reasons for going to war than any real or alleged atrocities the RiverKats may have comitted in Nawlins.
And then there was another factor influencing this conflict as well; the secret Order of the Seal of Solomon.
 Lake Pontchartrain
 Baton Rouge - the name Istroum is derived from Fort Istrouma, which was established after the Fall by the Mexican militairy, and was in its turn named after the Indian settlement that existed here before colonisation.
 itself a result of the runaway greenhouse effect reaching its peak around this time.
 which really only survived as long as it did thanks to Mexican aid.
 these developments were also described in the legends about Nawlins that were known to captain Camargo et al.
 direct descent through the female line, to be precise.
 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans was eventually restored by the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico, and it became part of the RCCiM rather than the Reconstituted Nourikan Catholic Church.
Thanks to the coastal trade routes, the city's old ties with Mexico, and the fact that the Luzianna forests and marshes are quite an effective barrier, Mexican Catholicism always had much more influence in this region than Nourikan Catholicism.
 it wasn't just local the Voodoo practicioners - a bit further away, the Southern Orthodox and the Yucatec Mayans weren't exactly happy to see a Catholic hardliner being in charge of Nawlins either...
 which was a bit of a compromise, really - the Church wanted to avoid any conflicts in this region.
 derived from usij, which is what the daevayasna priests in the Avesta and other Zoroastrian writings are called.
Among the Maruthas, usiji denotes a male Daevayasna priest or witchdoctor, while usija denotes a Daevayasna witch or priestess.
 it took nearly two days before she was dead.
 for example; whilst the RiverKats were some of the most prolific slavers in the region, they enslaved humans and mutants alike, and the group that suffered the most from them are actually the Aquarians, thanks to their rarity and the fact that they're so in demand among mutant breeders.
The accusations of demon and devil worship are somewhat distorted accounts of RiverKats taking part in Daevayasna cults and rituals, which were rather popular among them.
Much better is it to distinguish ourselves through our choices,
rather than to impose our values upon a world that disagrees with us.
The Cradle of Man and Beast
Last edited by Ran Exilis; 09-07-2009 at 07:07 PM.