Tlaloc, son of Chaac, was the last of the Water Serpent People. His tribe had been destroyed by the never-sufficiently-damned Moon Tortoise People. The two Peoples had once been allies--Tlaloc had even been promised to marry a daughter of the Moon Tortoise People. But a traitor (may his name be ever forgotten) taught them the secret ways into the Water Serpent home, and that was the end. Only 6 of the Water Serpents had escaped, Tlaloc among them, mainly by being out hunting when the attack happened.
Returning home to find the home fires out and the heads of the men and old women of the tribe on totem poles around an abattoir, they fled into the night. Three fell within the next day, victims of Moon Tortoise ambushes. The survivors headed south-west, toward the only refuge they knew. The Drowned City, home of ghosts and monsters lay on the coastline. Few who entered ever left, but the People had a legend. That if one were strong enough, brave enough, desperate enough to fight through the dangers to the central temple, they could gain great powers. Tezcal, son of Omet, was the first to fall--a giant crocodile, larger than any seen in the People's history, swallowed him in one bite. Metztli, daughter of Omec, trainee shaman to the People, died to poison darts that flung themselves from holes in the wall of the temple. But Tlaloc survived. The grand central chamber, once ornately decorated in praise to some long-dead god, now stood flooded with murky, brackish water, the walls dripping with a softly-glowing slime. As Tlaloc stood, panting from exertion and stress, at the edge of the pool, a soft, strange voice echoed in his head.
"What brings you here, son of Change, land-dweller? What have you to offer me, the great Illuun?"
"I offer myself", the bitter youth cried, "body and soul. Just let the Moon Tortoise know the full weight of their deed and suffer for all eternity!"
The unknown voice laughed, gurgling. "Vengeance, is it? Such a petty thing. You land-dwellers are so limited."
"Vengeance is all I have. My people are dead, butchered and enslaved. My friends are gone. Only hate remains."
"Very well, then, I am amused. It has been a long time, as your mayfly lives go, since I dealt with mortals. Come, throw yourself into My Pool, and let us see if your body can serve as the instrument of retribution. I must warn you, however. Either way, you will not survive the process."
"What do I have to live for? My only wishes are for my enemy to know pain and to join my people." With this, Tlaloc, son of Chaac, threw himself into the dark waters.
Tlaloc did not survive, it is true. But his body, now bearing the face of a squid, walked out of that pool some time later. The renegade cell of Leviathan, the comiedai Illuun, placed a parasite in his brain. This parasite, having devoured all the memories and knowledge of young Tlaloc, and bearing the strange mental powers of his kind, rose up and, true to Tlaloc's wish, wreaked horrific vengeance on the Moon Tortise People. The tribe went mad, with mocking words whispered in dreams and visions in the daylight. Brother turned against brother. Sister against mother. Father against child. Those that did not die lost their minds, becoming husks, puppets controlled by Xolotl (as the being who once was Tlaloc now called himself).
But Illuun's design did not stop there. Xolotl then turned to the other Peoples. Some he conquered by subtle words, by flatteries, insinuating himself (disguised, of course) into their inner circles and supplanting their leaders. Those that would not yield to honeyed words, he conquered by force with his army of ghouls and mind-slaves. Soon, all the surrounding peoples were his.
For a long time, Xolotl's gaze turned inward, toward building a unified nation. No longer Peoples, free to roam and to hunt and to gather, each with separate traditions, now they were the Tlalocana, the People of the Waters.
Nation and Culture
A city was built, Tlaltotexanan. Utilitarian and severe, the City of Standing Water exemplifies the life of the Tlalocana. The central building is the great and solemn Darkwater Temple, a step pyramid housing a sacrificial well—into this well those deemed worthy of “the change” throw themselves; some arise later as be-tentacled Servants of the Waters, the elite members of society. With this transformation they are given a new name by Xolotl, who bears the title of Chief Servant. A court at the front of the temple contains the execution grounds, where condemned criminals are brought before the Servants and their minds are burned out, turning them into zombie-like husks. Lesser criminals are “re-educated”—mind magic is used to bind them from committing that same crime again.
The society is placid on the surface, with everyone putting forward a happy face and working hard. Underneath, fear rules the day. No one knows who might be an informant or a disguised Servant. Efficiency is the rule—do your assigned task quickly and without complaint, lest you be punished. Inability to perform up to spec is only tolerated in children, and even those have their tasks. Those that perform above expectations are rewarded with status and slaves to handle the necessary tasks, freeing the high performers to do even more. Marriage and long-term families are tolerated, but disfavored. Having children by high-status people is encouraged. Women are strongly expected to have as many children as practical; children are raised in communal creches from a very young age by slaves and women too old to work effectively to free their mothers to go back to work. As a result of this and extensive magical aid with crops, the Tlaltocanan population has been rapidly expanding for the last two generations and now stands near 400,000 (including slaves, which make up about one quarter of the population). Slavery is not generational—children of slaves are considered citizens (as long as they obey the laws) just like children of free-men. On the flip side, those who falter in their devotion to the Way of Pure Thought are doomed to become slaves, just like those captured in outlying areas who know not the Way.
Dissent or free-thought is only tolerated in one group—the Followers of Rushing Waters. These special people are those identified as innovators and super-intelligent seekers of new, more efficient ways of practice. They are granted privilege to ask questions and consider thoughts that others cannot. They are not granted high rank and can never rise above their status. They are both pariahs and respected (albeit odd) members of the community. Their sign is one red sleeve, as well as a tattoo of a waterfall across their back. Counterfeits (magical or not) of this garb are a capital crime.
The Tlaltocanan army is organized to a degree not seen in most other nations. They build forts at rigid intervals, all identical. They also build roads (mainly using slave labor) through the jungles. Without ready access to many sources of good iron (the mines being in the monster-infested hills), their weapons are made of bronze (spears and short swords) and they wear layers of cloth, stiffened with leather, for armor and carry shields. Javelins are the ranged weapon of choice, every soldier carrying three or four.
Currently, Tlaltocana directly rules an area between two major groups of hills, about 18,000 square miles of jungle. They founded towns every day’s walk, and all neighboring towns are connected by roads of stone, shell, and cement. An outer ring of forts, the nuclei of the next ring of towns, bridges the gap between the hills. The People of the Water dominate the area around this as well, despite not formally controlling it. Raiding parties search for remaining tribes (most having fled north already) to enslave or surviving pre-war ruins to plunder, as well as mapping out sites for new towns.