Kingdom of Calakmel
Deep in the Eastern Forest of Altera where the trees begin to give way to dense jungle lie the last bastion of darkness in the world, or so the Alterans would have people believe. The reality is that within the reaches of this massive jungle is one of the five Great Nations. From the jungle floor rise great Ziggurats that reach to the sky and lift their people, defying the will of those who would tear them down. In each city, six great terraced platforms rise from the jungle floor. The classes of the Calakites mirror the construction of the mighty step pyramids. The first tiers are several miles across and house the Ek-Chuah along with all sustenance providers, from farms to small pens of livestock. Beyond that, additional tiers are built with increasingly more elite residency, with the national leader the Lugal and immediate family living on the fifth tier. The final tier is dedicated as a temple to the First Ancestor and guardian of that city. At every door and on every level, temples and shrines are welcome to be built for any of the First Ancestors, but here at the zenith of the pyramid rests the physical home of one of the Elemental Lords and is solely dedicated to that Elemental alone. They have been empty since construction but serve as an enduring promise that the Great Exile will end and those who are the rightful lords of creation and destruction will return.
Once in the Highest Shrines, the Lugal, Ahau, and Aliwu would perform their rites. At times those would be done outside the sanctuary walls and all who recognize their own chains were welcome to attend. In these rites the people are reminded that they were not any more free of their masters than a pot can be free of a potter. Guilt offerings for transgressions, both great and small are offered – sometimes going into a great fire and sometimes poured onto a sacrificial altar. A great Crusade brought the Alteran Armies down upon the heads of people of the Ziggurats and has been an ever-present hand since then. The culture is controlled and many parts of ancient traditions have been forced into the shadows of society. The unspoken truth however is that there are rites still performed in secret. In the deep heart of the Ziggurats the old ways continue underneath the nose of the Alteran oppressors. The final screams of a criminal can be heard in the dark of night. The details of these sacrificial rites are closely guarded secrets known to only a few. More often than not, they are dismissed as some kind of a fevered dream and those who know make sure that there is no evidence for Alteran Paladins to follow.
Here, deep in a dark corner of the world, Calakites have found peace and light. They accept the chains that the Alteran Crown would have them wear as readily as those that the First Ancestors would demand. Even in oppression the Calakmelites find order, structure, and tradition. They need no army to enforce good behavior and need no complex contract to know what to expect. Here in the Ziggurats, no one goes hungry or cold in the night. Each person has what they need, not only to live, but to live in some degree of comfort. They count their blessings for in this way they are far richer than any of the other nations. Most importantly, they have fear of the First Ancestors and, that fear is why they will survive.
The large majority of Calakmel is dominated by massive forests which darken into even more dense jungle. Rain here is common and when it is not raining, the humidity can be oppressive. Great broad leafed plants, ferns and vines cover the landscape. Above the canopy is a blistering sun and beneath the canopy are the dark, perpetual shadows of the jungle floor.
Calakmel maintains a strong patriarchal family where the concepts of traditional roles and place in society are clear to every person. Marriage focuses on social stability and procreation. Matters of “love” are much less important than issues of peaceful compatibility and procreation. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each person to have enough children to replace themselves in the service of the First Ancestors, should they die. All proposed marriages must bring a sacrifice to a priest who uses blood augury to seek omens from the First Ancestors. If the omens are against the marriage then the relationship is immediately dissolved and never brought up again. If the omens are positive then the couple may begin living together for up to a year during which the priests evaluate their ability to exist as a unit within the culture. If the relationship continues to prove stable at the end of the year then a second sacrifice is offered and a priest again looks for omens. If the omens are again favorable the marriage is formally recognized. If the omens are poor then, as before, the relationship is dissolved.
Calakmel is perhaps the most metropolitan civilization. Or so they would claim at least. They argue this point because no one lives outside the walls of the Ziggurats which means everyone lives in a city of some fashion. The first tier of the Ziggurats are dedicated to the agrarian needs of the village and the second is where the tradesmen, merchants, or soldiers live. Between these two terraces live the majority of Calakmel society. This is consistent across each Ziggurat within the nation. The Ziggurats maintain a low steady hum of industry and labor. Time and resources are all managed by the Priests and by the will of The First Ancestors. The well planned time tables control levels of craft production in the city; times and amounts of harvested food; times that merchants can arrive and depart; each aspect of life is meticulously detailed and thought out. Everyone knows what is expected of them and when it is expected – so the people of Calakmel have adopted a slow but steady pace for their lives.
The Calakmites revere ancient gods which they call the First Ancestors. Alterans call them Demons but for the people of the Ziggurats, they are the first creators, bringers of laws and order out of chaos. To appease these great and incomprehensible beings, Calakmite priests use all manner of sacrifices including, at times, human sacrifice. The highest tier of each Ziggurat is reserved as the physical home of one of the First Ancestors. One day they will return and the sacrifices of the Calakmites will be rewarded.
Calakmel is a lush tropical region dominated with great forests that often become dense jungle. Their ornate wood and ivory carvings are valued in all nations. While they are shunned for their open practice of worship to Demons, the Calakmites remain tolerated because they produce most of the world’s medicinal herbs as well as have the worlds most robust timber industry. With hundreds of different types of wood for every purpose it is likely that beautifully crafted wardrobe in an Alteran’s bed chamber is made from timber cut in Calakmel. Not only that, but they hold the secrets to crafting the land’s most potent compounds and would have seen the world he world fall to blight several times over were it not for Calakmel.
Fish, small game, nuts, berries
Calakmites typically wear simple tunics of lightweight fabrics that are browns, greens, blues, and white most often. Those of higher status might have tassels or other embellishments however the basic wardrobe is the same across all people. Only those of suitably high status would further embellish with more exotic colors.
Common Types of Magic
Warlocks and Druids
Outlawed Magic, Cults, or Societies
None are expressly outlawed however, those who espouse views not embraced by the Priests are often silenced in one way or another.
Real World Cognates
Mayans, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Sumerians
What Makes Calakmel Great?
Calakmel is a nation of great stability. Everyone knows what their place in society is and there are no doubts. The pace of life is a comfortable steady hum instead of a rushed or panicked sprint. The People are deeply tied to the history of their own people going so far as literally scaring themselves at times as a living memorial to the past. The People have a quiet unshakeable connection to the past which, despite their best efforts, the Alteran Crown has never been able to truly crush. If you want to be quietly subversive, if you want to learn ancient oral traditions, if you want to play as part of a large community above all else, if you want to fight from the shadows then Calakmel is the culture for you.
What Makes Calakmel Less Than Desirable?
Calakmel is a defeated nation. They live under the boot of Alteran law every day and few Alteran’s will let them forget that. The nation has found some stability in this occupation and most people are unwilling to cause a fourth Strife that would be needed to gain real independence. One day the Great Return will happen but until then the destiny of the People is not their own. If you don’t want to at least pay lip service to a foreign power, if you want to be an independent lone wolf, if you want to play a righteous paladin, then Calakmel may not be the right nation for you.