Sir Clavicus Hammershire writing (with joy) to the Society of cultures and abnormalities.
It is quite a pleasure that the Society has granted me permission to collect my findings about the peoples of the mounds and pyramids into this one volume. I am thoroughly grateful for the amount of funding that has gone into my research project. Now, I shall waste no more ink on formalities and discuss the topic that has brought you to read my assessment.
For some time we have called these mound builders “Ock’lam,” for that is what a more local Orc tribe referred to them as. Having met and spent extensive time with these people, I have learned their given name - the Caztalan, in their ancient tongue “The First of Men.” Whether this means they believe themselves superior to other human cultures, or that they were the first humans upon the face of the land, I have not yet deduced.
At a glance, the Caztalan traders that often come to and from the larger cities and smaller villages of the world would seem no more than any tribal society, like Orcish camps or the evasive Snow Elves, but make no mistake, these people are city builders. Their cities may look odd in comparison - they are not as cramped nore are most made with the construction methods seen in Lyconia, Domus, Tyrconis, and so on, but they rival those large dwellings in population, and due to their very nature are healthier for the body, and perhaps for the soul.
Caztalan cities vary in size, with the smallest being only a few dozen people, to the largest in the hundreds, perhaps thousands of inhabitants. Many have walls around them, and are situated with a central courtyard, with various mounds surrounding it. Houses often adorn the top of these large piles of soil, some stretching as tall and wide as some cathedrals or forts. Typically, there is one, tall mound within a village, and this hosts the village chief, who also acts as shaman. City layout varies on village size, however, and not every mound has a home upon it. Some of them hold their dead, and many of those do not reach the height of a human. They are often, though not always, shaped like various animals.
The Caztalan all rely heavily on trade, both within their culture and from foreign entities and caravans. They have not adopted the monetary system for trading, at least not within their settlements. Most gold coins or bullions or what have you I observed were either stored for stubborn foreign traders, or were smelted down to make jewelry or other decorative items.
Their society is highly stratified. The people who live atop the mounds are of higher status and/or have a significant role in each village. Some are medicine men, some craft weapons, others are good traders. The shaman chief, whom I previously mentioned, is always situated at the highest mound, and for good reason - it is believed that he or she is descendant from the gods themselves, and the higher you are to the heavenly plane, and the sun, the closer you are to them. Same goes for some of the others who dwell upon the mounds, they can be either descendant from the gods or chosen by them for various tasks. Everyone else lives in houses on the ground level.
As for the gods, this is an area that has baffled other members of the society, but I think I have sussed everything out. The names of the Caztalan deities differ from that of the great pantheon adopted elsewhere, but if one looks closer, they shall see that almost all of these gods are just variations of that pantheon - there are no new gods that watch over us….as far as we know.
Their chief deity is To’lev - the God of the Sun and the Sky. This god is actually a merging of two of our gods over time - Koa’tole, and the great Leviathan himself. Looking at their depictions of this deity, a sun with rays much like a squid’s tentacles, the idea of an “all-father” type god eventually merged with that of the sun, the most powerful and most apparent force that affects our daily world. This begs a question from me - do both Koa’tole and the Leviathan hear the Caztalan’s praise and pleas, or do they ignore them for blasphemy?
Their second most important deity is La’ee, our Gaela. Interestingly, she is considered both a lover and a sister to To’ley (this was an artifact of when sibling marriage was practiced in their society. It’s been abolished for at least a century.) The rest of their pantheon is easily equated - Hirap is Naphira, H’ran is Torran, Nerfe is Ferne, Asillo has not changed (some of the Caztalan do practice magic and have been known to go to mage towers to study on occasion), Naj is Joban, N’za is Azana, Fan’ch is Xafyn (as well as a curse word), Lica is Cecillia, and V’Cess is Cesservaunt. Their application of these deities to their lives varies compared to the rest of the world, and considering that a godly lineage gets one a high status, the gods certainly seem to get busy in Caztalan society.
There is one other deity in their pantheon, however, and I would consider it third to the Sun and Moon - Tl’ach. There is no agreement onto the particulars of this god. Some towns say Tl’ach is a man, others a woman, some that Tl’ach is something else entirely. Some say that Tl’ach was a human who ascended, others that they were born of the gods. I’ve found not definitive starting point for this deity. It could have been some folk hero, or some natural event that rocked their way of life, but what Tl’ach ultimately represents in Caztalan life is Perseverance. In all the tales of Tl’ach, the god would face tough challenges, ones of great physical prowess, mental fortitude, and emotional strife, and yet Tl’ach always pushed on through, no matter what. Sometimes on his own, but sometimes with help. If it is not too bold of me to say, perhaps we should all be like Tl’ach in our daily lives.
In writing this, it is evident that the Caztalan people place a great deal of importance to religion, though what is quite amusing is that they accused me of blasphemy when I explained our own pantheon. As I wrote, the way they treat the gods is different to us, different enough that to ehse people, they are entirely different characters. Oddly, even though I was accused of blasphemy, no one seemed to mind my presence in these villages. It was only later that I learned that they did not bother with trying to actively convert outside populations (the “unenlightened”, amusingly) for what purpose would there be to it? Besides, trade is important to them, and to try to trade and convert, well that would just be too much now wouldn’t it? Same goes for their battles - while these people go to terrible war as every other civilization does, I have found no records or tales that it was ever over religion, at least when they were the aggressors.
In warfare, they are extremely vicious. Despite lacking modern armor or steel smithing, I have no doubt that these peoples could go toe to toe with any modern force. One day I happened to witness a group of bandits of various racial mixup try to attack one of the Caztalan’s smaller villages. They were able to slaughter one or two in the surprise, but once the warriors formed I tell you now I have never seen such ferocity or dedication in any soldier of any other conflict, dare I say even those who fought the Val’darim. Their weapons, made from obsidian, sharp stone, and even jaws, were only as effective as the fighters, and in no time flat I saw them tear through human, dwarf, and elf alike. There was an armored orc among the bandits, and the young man who fought him made leaps and dodges around then upon him it was hard to keep up. He knew just where to strike to get through both the gaps in the armor, and the tough orcish skin, and in the span of 11 seconds the orc lay dead. Blood on his hand, he smeared it across his face, and then continued on to aide his fellow warriors.
Keep in mind, these are people that will fight (and live) bare chested (save for the women, who seem to share that one decency as the rest of us.)
In all my talk of culture and religion and war, I have neglected to mention one thing - the “Great Cities.” These are supposedly the largest and most well organized cities of Caztalan society. They are located somewhere in the south, in the jungles, but I have never laid eyes upon one. Unlike the mounds of dirt we see, those cities have tiered stone pyramids, and supposedly host paved roads and amenities comparable to our own cities. Again, I, Clavicus Hammershire, have nay laid an eye upon one of those metropolises, though I have no doubt in my mind of their existence.
The Caztalan may be tribal, but they are by no means primitive. They are hardworking, curious, and tenacious. Consider that they lack the equipment a modern society has to make those large mounds over many, many years. They just rarely take the time to actively seek out other peoples, and most people never leave Caztalan society, they simply move to another village or city within. If one should meet them, bring shells, precious gems, obsidian or something else to trade with - you’ll surely gain something far more valuable in return.