Nemahay: The Ravaged Land
Tenko Before the Age of Isolation
Before the Scourge, the Desiccated Plains were a lush and vibrant jungle. The jungles were a source of many exotic materials, both mundane and magical. But the riches of the wilds were not easily claimed. To support expeditions into the jungles, a variety of outposts were built along the eastern edges of Nemahay. Tenko was one of these outpost towns.
Tenko was primarily south of the Desiccated Plains and lay on the easiest route to both the rivers of the Five Families and to the port region of Phibium. These routes would provide the most expedient method of trade to Vasheen to the west and all the way to Aztlan in the south. Less frequently, the trade would even continue east across the Sea of Storms (then the Calm Sea) and work its way through the competitive markets of the Silver River.
At its founding, Tenko was a simple village. It was a place for a dozen farming families to come together and trade. The position of a small, natural, fresh-water lake became a reasonable middle-ground for these families.. Slowly, business cropped up around these monthly trades. Once the infrastructure was in place, explorers with eyes towards the jungle began arriving. Supporting these travelers changed the village from subtle shadow of a town to a permanent outpost. Farmers saw their investments in infrastructure return many times over and a symbiotic relationship materialized.
The Founding and the Five Circles
Tenko was officially founded and Named when the flagstones were laid in five concentric circles, beginning construction on the neighborhood that would become eventually become known as the inner rings . The center of town was dominated by a large manor house. This house was meant to serve as the home of various family elders, but quickly evolved into a government building and place of business. The rest of the interior circle region was converted into subsistence farms and gardens. The small lake that the city was founded near became enveloped in this inner circle.
Surrounding the town center were the permanent businesses. Three massive inns, a blacksmith, two grocers, clothiers, as well as a well-reputed trading station (specializing in appraisal of goods from the jungles). A dozen other businesses of less prominence rounded out the inner ring. 12 spokes cut up the ring and allowed access to the second circle.
The second circle, like the first, also primarily hosted businesses. For hundreds of years this ring was left open to the air and it stood as the free market that the farmers would use to ply their goods. As the city expanded, entrepreneurial adventurers also began selling things in this market. Over time this sprawling market was broken into districts. Protection on these open stalls tended towards privatization and many of these areas had enormous structures built. They would be able to keep the stalls running in inclement weather and limit the options of fleeing thieves. Of the eleven blocks, ten had some semblance of a structure to protect valued stalls, three were turned into enormous and sprawling malls completely protected from the elements.
The third and fourth circle were turned into housing. The spoke system broke down as the affluent asserted control over city planning and carved out sections for private manors and drives. The poor (and businesses that would attempt to prey on them) built homes haphazardly. Both of these circles could be maze-like, even the four thoroughfares were not entirely free from obstruction. Once the city expanded beyond the simple ‘circles’ structure, the poor were moved out of the area and turned into denser housing for an increasingly growing number of affluent citizens. Wells were dug throughout these living areas, about a dozen all told. The natural lake water came from a reservoir deep below the surface and could support the constantly growing town.
The fifth circle was built and maintained as service buildings. These buildings (some privately owned, some by the founding families) were used as storehouses. Wagons could come and go to this outermost circle easily, converting their goods from wagonloads to horse-loads or even armfuls, where they could be brought to the second ring. Water sources were common here, but not mandates, so wells of high-quality construction were few and far between.
For hundreds of years the shanties that steadily grew around the town were haphazard, but eventually the founding families (and the Senate that they had grown into) realized that they had to take a more firm stance on city planning.
A circular wall would be built well beyond the current make-shift town borders. This would increase the town’s security as well as prevent further accidental growth. In addition, four thoroughfares would be made and designated as no-build zones to keep traffic moving throughout the city. Each of these main streets would end in secure gates. Lining these boulevards would be businesses. The buildings would be constructed on the government’s coin and the buildings rented by shop owners. The buildings would be limited to three stories in height. Further back from the main street, buildings would be allowed to grow to five stories. In rare cases, a block would be allowed to expand to ten stories. Nearly all construction was done with stone pulled from quarries to the west.
Each block became something of a community unto itself. Those closer to the main streets were generally more affluent than those furthers. Each block had its own markets and businesses capable of assisting in day-to-day life. Many first-story businesses were topped with four or more sets of apartments and homes. The most influential of people would live within the circles themselves, followed quickly by homes in the blocks near the center of town.
As the Scourge drew near, an attempt at a Vasheeni-style kaer was made. An enormous complex of underground tunnels would be built to shelter the City’s massive population. The first floor of these tunnels primarily connected surface homes to other surface homes as political meddling over-ruled sound design and safety. Quickly a revised plan was made, from these first tunnels, a few well-warded passages would be created to lead deep down below.
Once again, in impressive lack of forethought saw these digging projects stymied time and time again by flooding tunnels. The aquifer beneath Tenko was cracked and tapped, suddenly drying surface wells and making once wealthy districts become abandoned seemingly overnight. Prospectors and magicians were brought in to keep the underground tunnel project moving avoiding wells and standing water. The end design was a cavernous maze of tunnels that in some places could be as deep as twenty stories beneath ground level. A patchwork of tunnels near the surface remains, but the truly impressive work is at least five stories below ground level.
This poorly designed and implemented tunneling plans caused the kaer strategy to fall out of favor with the senate. The city had paid a vast sum for the coveted designs of Vasheen but now they fell back on the freely distributed plans of Kintani. They raced against the clock to to build a dome of orichalcum up from their own city walls before the inevitable arrival of the Horrors.
The people of Tenko completed this project, but only just. They sealed their gates well after even the people of Kintani, yet for a time it seemed that they had managed to avoid the worst.
The Death of a City
A few decades into the Scourge, the orichalcum dome of their city collapsed. It crushed the center of town and brought it and most of the innermost circle down into the tunnels below. The collapse did not stop at the tunnels, it poured down further into the cavernous regions of the lower kaer. In one catastrophic collapse, the city was invaded by the horrors, large swaths of the leadership were crushed, and a vast majority of the kaer’s protective spells were cracked wide open.
Some have speculated that this collapse was far too unlucky to be mere coincidence and that a horror likely worked from within the wards of Tenko to cause maximum damage to the town and its people. Others, however, cite the rushed work and clear lack of foresight in the town’s leadership, claiming that a catastrophic failure such as this was really just a foregone conclusion.
As the years wore on, the walls of Tenko continued to crumble. The northern quarter of the walls were hit the hardest, large chunks of orichalcum fell and collapsed into the city destroying blocks upon blocks of property. Cracks spread throughout the walls all the way down to their foundations. By the time the horrors had ended their rampage, more than two dozen gaps had formed in the walls that were large enough for a grown man to crawl through. These gaps were, for the most part, regulated to the north eastern portions of the town.
The surface level of Tenko became a graveyard not long after the dome’s collapse. Many of the stone constructions of Tenko’s government remained standing. The thoroughfares in particular fared shockingly well. Near the center of town the buildings grew choked with vines and hardy plants. The closer the buildings stood to the orichalcum wards, the less likely they were to be reclaimed by nature.
The underground tunnels of the city also did not withstand the test of time. Complexes containing more influential (or prepared) individuals triggered emergency wards and protocols, cutting themselves off from the primary system of tunnels that experienced the catastrophic failure. One by one, each of these insular communities fell for one reason or another. Some starved, some went mad, in yet others the wards were weathered and beaten down entirely. Rumors persist of an untouched complex beneath the city, where Namegivers still scratch out an existence, but those rumors are almost certainly false.
After the Scourge and the Founding of Ahtenko
The Knives and their Grand Design
As mankind returned to the world, the steamy jungles that had made Tenko thrive no longer existed. In their place stood either a vast, inhospitable desert or a roiling bog with fog so thick one couldn’t see a threat until it was close enough to come to grips. The Family’s network of rivers was thoroughly damaged and the direct water connection from Phibium to the Enlightened Ocean became a distant memory. The once peaceful natives had grown unpredictable and made for undesirable neighbors. The strategic and practical value of the once thriving city of Tenko was approaching near zero. And then the Knives arrived.
The Jubilant Knives were a group of nearly two dozen adepts that hailed from all across Nemahay (and some even from beyond). Every one of the Knives was a renowned personality in his own right. They had protected growing communities since the earliest days after the Scourge. Each was tried and tested against Beast, Horror, and Namegiver alike. Some were masters of one-on-one combat, some experts in squad tactics, and a rare few had even been involved in battles of massed troops of the people of Aztlan or the Tir.
The upper echelons of the Jubilant Knives came up with a plan to strike it rich and to make a point to all the mortals of the world, they would reclaim the ruins of Tenko.
Seven years ago, the Knives made their move. They spent a fantastic sum of their gathered riches. They called in every favor that they had earned wandering the land as the protectors of Nemahay, and they reclaimed the ruins. Dozens, if not hundreds, of mercenaries died during the first year of the reclamation, but all of the most foul things on the surface were either slain or, where that was not possibly, chased from the ruins and forced into the wilds.
The next year saw massive rebuilding. Near the end of that second year, two of the city’s original four gates were re-opened and the city was rebranded as ‘Ahtenko’. It stood as a new beginning for this ancient city.
The Reclaimed City
After the reclamation, the Knives could take stock of what remained of the ruined city. The north region suffered from massive collapses. Only perhaps one building in ten remained standing in that third of the city, and less than half of those were stable enough to traverse. The east was better off, but not by much.
The Inner Circles had gone through a very extreme transformation. The sudden collapse at the dome’s peak saw the center and inner most circle of town thoroughly destroyed. The natural lake, the original reason for the town’s founding, had been slowly flowing back to the chasm in the center of town, filling the enormous sinkhole bit by bit, day by day. Cracks in the kaer walls deep in the chasm force water from the aquifer into the tunnels. Some of these caverns collapsed more than others and entire regions of the ruins have become underwater pools. The water has yet to fill all the gaps and return to the surface.
The second circle, furthest from all the magical wards, was the most readily reclaimed by nature, the enormous malls quickly consumed by plant growth. Short and stunted trees had found purchase in the more open areas and, in some places, one could forget they were standing in the ruins of a city (if not for the buildings sprawling out towards the immense walls beyond).
The third and fourth circles, still maze-like, had also been reclaimed by nature. Many of the water wells in this region had grown tainted and foul. Regions close to this tainted water resulted in equally tainted plants and creatures. Some buildings in these circles fell to the depredations of nature, but over half still resemble their former glory, though far fewer would actually be safe to explore thoroughly.
The outermost circle also saw natural growth, though less than its peers. The privately built wells had mostly collapsed, but the vast majority of the other constructions remained intact. The few wells that remain accessible in this circle seem to have pure water and the plants here tend not to resemble the foreboding and stunted things further within the
Navigating the run down, poorly planned, and poorly documented tunnels beneath Tenko is a foolhardy exercise as best. In some places the tunnels have collapsed, in far more the tunnels have been entirely flooded by redirected water, but both of these situations may be preferable to the alternatives. Dark things still live beneath the surface here, some entirely cut off from the city above. The ruins of civilization are likely to be trapped safe and sound below the earth, but the creatures that caused the city’s destruction are just as likely to remain within.
A City Reborn
Goods began to trickle out from the city, ancient pieces that would fetch a high price from knowledgeable buyers. But the actual quantity of valuable finds remained low. Many of the best riches had been lost to the floods, or consumed by the rubble. Still, the reputation of the Knives as mighty slayers and protectors, combined with the chance to strike it rich in one lucky find, saw people begin to move to the city in droves. Over the next few years, the two opened gates had their thoroughfares slowly restored.
The western thoroughfare, travelling to the Main gate, has been nearly fully restored. Nine buildings in ten are populated along this street, though fewer than a quarter of these are serving as businesses. The vast majority of these former storefronts have been converted into housing for the various citizenry. Once off of the main thoroughfare, the level of reclamation plummets drastically. Collapsed buildings are few and far between, the most rickety of the rubble having been cleared by new government conscripts.
The southern thoroughfare to the postern gate is doing approximately half as well. Perhaps only four in ten buildings along the thoroughfare have been populated, and most of these are towards the outskirts of town. Despite the patrols best efforts, people generally feel safer leaving the town via the postern gate, circling the city to the main gate, and approaching the center from that direction. The Knives have made bold claims that this southern thoroughfare will be just as vibrant of a home as the western one by the time their city is ten years of age.
The only other well-populated region of the city is the outermost circle. What was once warehouses and infrastructure buildings have been converted into living quarters and governmental facilities of the Knives. This region is almost entirely populated by the Knives and their hangers-on. The western and southern sections of the circle are far more lived in, though expansion north and east is beginning in earnest.
During the Scourge, the northeastern wall developed many crevices large enough for Namgeivers to traverse. These unsecured entrances have caused numerous people to move into the ruins of Ahtenko. While the worst threats from these areas WERE cleared years ago by the Knives, it is not recommended to live in this region and the area remains un-patrolled. Typically, the only reason to live in this section is to avoid the (admittedly high) taxes of Ahtenko proper, but the risks are enormous. Typically it is assumed that, if you live in the north east, you must have something to hide. Less than one building in ten of the original Tenko construction remain in this area. Though, for each five story stone building standing, there are a handful of less permanent structures that have been erected in newly cleared sections of the ruins.
Few these days venture all the way to the central crater. Those that do will find an immense pit surrounded by foul looking plants. The pit drops off between fifty to one hundred feet (depending on the recent rain) before turning into a noxious puddle of sludge. After heavy rains (which commonly come careening from the Sea of Storms during the wet season) trickles of water can turn into impressive and beautiful waterfalls that careen into the caverns below. If the seasons have been dry and the water level is particularly low, various side passages become visible from the surface, but no true expedition has been launched into these tunnels since the Knives first arrived over seven years ago. Each year these tunnels are above water for fewer and fewer days, within a decade they will likely be entirely submerged and lost to memory.