A (Near) Complete History of the Jaguar Empire and Surrounding Lands

A (Near) Complete History of the Jaguar Empire and Surrounding Lands

By Royal Advisor Nochtli.

With additional material by Binti and Pukiq.


Part One – The Beginning

Nobody is entirely certain how our world came to be. I imagine that not even the Gods are completely certain. Hence, most of the first part of this tome will be speculation, or what I could gleam from communication with whatever deities were willing to talk.

There are many prevailing theories concerning the creation of the world. Some say it was an explosion, or the hatching of a giant egg, and others claim it simply came into existence on its own. The story taught throughout our Empire is that Exmetechutli – the chief god of the Jaguar Empire’s pantheon who is both male and female- thought the world into existence whilst daydreaming.

It should be noted that at this point while I was writing this down, Binti pointed out to me that it is told throughout her own country, the Ember Deserts, that a god created the world through an act of… the less crude way to put it would be ‘self pleasure’. Upon hearing this, I immediately told her how disgusting it was and that I was definitely not putting it into my account. But upon further reflection, I thought I should at least note what is believed in the Ember Deserts.

When I asked Pukiq this same question, she stated that the world was once nothing but water until rocks fell down from the sky. When I asked her where the rocks came from, she shrugged and answered, “A big bang”.

Before humans or animals, even before the land itself, there existed the gods. None of us are certain where these gods came from and whether or not they existed before this ‘big bang’, so I won’t get into it.

Pukiq may well be correct in her assertion that the world was once nothing but water, as this is believed in the Jaguar Empire, too. Yet in our version of the story, the rocks which formed the land didn’t come from the sky. The gods dipped their toes into the ocean to lure the great crocodile beast cipactli up from the bottom of the sea. The great clods of mud gathered upon his back made up the land. At least, they made the land upon which the Jaguar Empire now stands. Kamalei, the chief of Hanaleila, claims that his own islands were pulled up from the seabed by one of their own gods, and I do not doubt the truthfulness of his story because he is not one to lie.

At this time, the world was entirely dark, for there wasn’t yet a sun or moon. This is likely why even today, creatures of the seas are so adept at living in complete darkness. Light came to the Jaguar Empire in the form of Nyzotlyz, the winged serpent god of the sun (who is commonly believed to be reincarnated into the form of our great Emperor). His brother Woropoca, the mantis god of the night, created the moon to illuminate the night.

Contrary to popular belief, it was not us humans who first inhabited the world, nor even the animals or beasts. The gods speak of the First Beings who lived uncountable years before any of us in the time when the sun and moon were still young. What shape these beings took I can’t say for certain, but it is possible that the unexplained bones sometimes found in the foundations of new houses could belong to them. Others say the birds are their descendants.

At some point these First Beings either died or changed to another form and us humans came to walk the ground. It is likely that when the gods lured cipactli up from the ocean, it also lured up humans. Or at the very least, it provided the gods with the clay they needed to shape us, and the soil to plant us like seeds.

Scholars from Morteus have theorised that we were originally fish who over the course of many years and many generations shed our fins and learned to walk on land. These fish creatures became monkeys and then humans. Studying a monkey’s paw and seeing the close resemblance to a human hand certainly gives weight to this theory. Others say the great intelligence of monkeys and apes also proves this, although I’m not certain. I once saw an ape in the palace menagerie excrete into its own hand then eat it.

I should note that the scholars who presented this theory were hunted down and beaten to death. I find this ludicrous as it is only one of many stories for how us humans came to be. Pukiq informed me that a legend in Fortis states that humans were born from one god getting another pregnant. Back then, all of Fortis’s gods were male, so this god became the first female in order to give birth. I don’t see why this theory is any more or less valid than that of the Morteus scholars. Certainly nobody has been beaten to death over it.

Just as humans were granted life, we were also gifted with death. One story claims that the first human to die got startled by a quail and fell down a pit, and this is why bodies are buried in the ground. I’m not certain because it seems to be more out of convenience.

Shortly after this revelation, it was decided upon the gods that one of them would have to guide departed souls to the world of the dead, since they tend to be confused and lost immediately after death. Another would have to put them through trials to determine which eternity they should enter, or if they should enter the cycle of reincarnation. The first position was easy to fill, and Xolcotl took the job willingly. The second position was harder to fill, as no god wished to take charge of the dead. There were many arguments amongst the gods whilst human souls drifted around lost and confused. Many of them have seemingly stuck around as ghosts and spirits. Eventually, Ipuzcutli took the role and became God of the Dead. It is believed that he was either forced into the job or took it out of wickedness. I don’t believe this to be true. I believe he took it out of pity and makes the bravest sacrifice of all the gods, which is why I leave offerings to him regularly.


Part Two – The Jaguar Empire

The first story to tell in this section is that of how our nagual or shadow selves came to join us, as it is also the story of the first Emperor. The brother gods Nyzotlyx and Woropoca were close in the past, such as when they created the sun and moon. But eventually, as is often the case between siblings, the two had a falling out. I’ve seen it happen amongst people I know and it is never easy to watch a family be torn apart by petty jealousy.

At this time, the land which is now the Jaguar Empire wasn’t inhabited by people but by a long dead race known as the Puma Men. You can guess by the name what form they took. They were not kind or just rulers and desecrated the land which the gods had created. When humans eventually migrated to the land hoping to find new places to settle, they were kidnapped and enslaved by the Puma Men and made to build their cities through backbreaking labour.

Nyzotlyx saw this and wished to help, gathering a legion of other beasts and spirits to aid him. He extended the invitation to his brother who turned it down, believing that since their land had been devastated, they should leave mortals to their own fate.

He was right in his assumption, for the Puma Men were powerful and the battle did not go well. Many were slain. Eventually, Nyzotlyx was close to being struck down until a human by the name of Cutli came to his rescue. Working together, the human and god unleashed an army of jaguars upon the Puma Men, killing them all. This is how our Empire gained its name.

Nyzotlyx was so touched by Cutli’s gesture that he and the other spirits decided to join with humans, choosing one whom they felt a strong connection with. But Nyzotlyx didn’t become a nagual. He instead chose to end his immortality and his life as a god in order to be reborn as a human and guide the people of the new Jaguar Empire as one of them, rather than as a god. He was born as Tuca, the first emperor, and it is said that his descendants are also his reincarnations.

This of course greatly upset Woropoca, who not only disagreed with the decision, but felt that humans were robbing him of his brother. His greatest concern was that since Nyzotlyx was no longer a god, he was no longer given tributes, and that meant fewer offerings for all of the gods.

To gain his revenge, Woropoca also allowed his divine self to die in order to be reborn as a human. He used trickery and cunning to worm his way into the Emperor’s council (the Jaguar Empire was on its third Emperor by this time). He became a close friend of the Emperor Chimalli, who had long since lost his memories of being a god and didn’t know he was facing the reincarnation of his own brother.

Woropoca used this trust and friendship to get the Emperor high on peyote (a cactus which grows in our Empire and is used for vision quests, although others use it for casual use despite it being illegal). Once his brother was sedated, Woropoca seduced his wife. The Emperor was so devastated, he launched himself on a raft onto the lake and never returned, although his followers at the time believed and hoped he would return someday. It’s been over 1,000 years, so I doubt that’s happening. Nyzotlyx has since returned again and again as his descendants. Although he no longer bears the memories, he still holds the anger and has never forgiven his brother.

This next part of our history is not one I share with any joy. Even if I claim it wasn’t our fault or that it happened long in the past, it still happened and us humans have to claim responsibility for it. While it is not our fault as descendants, it is still vital that we learn about it to ensure it cannot happen again.

Offerings to the gods used to take the same form they do now; gifts of food, handmade crafts, or simply fond wishes. Woropoca felt this wasn’t enough and insisted upon more. His human reincarnation convinced people that human blood was needed to make the sun rise and give us light and life. He did this by writing a spell which would turn the sun black on his command. He used this spell to temporarily turn the sun black and convince the people that they needed to make sacrifices to restore it. It was convincing enough that people believed him. As much as it pains me to say, they began sacrificing their own. Woropoca used a reversal spell to bring the sun back, convincing them that the sacrifices had worked.

Even after Woropoca’s human form had died, the belief still held and sacrifices continued for centuries. The sun remained in the sky and continued to grow crops, so people were convinced it was working. They didn’t run the risk of stopping as the possibility that the entire Empire would starve to death was too great of a risk to take.

After hundreds of years, the practice was finally stopped, although this story is equally as gruesome. By this time, the Jaguar Empire was beginning to build relations with other lands, but once envoys from these lands viewed the human sacrifices, their opinions of the Jaguar Empire quickly soured, as did their relationships. The Empire was suffering compared to other nations, with none to trade with or build close ties. Any citizens who tried to move to other countries were shunned and believed to be dangerous.

However, Pharaoh Hemempotah of the neighbouring Ember Deserts wished to change this and make amends with their neighbour. He had a daughter, Kanika, who was about the same age as the Emperor at the time, Yolqui, and offered her as his bride in order to form an alliance between their two countries (I should state that I do not agree with this practise of political marriage, as I saw it fall apart with our last Emperor and his second wife, but at the time it was the only way political alliances could be forged).

The Emperor willingly took Princess Kanika. When the Pharaoh arrived at his palace the next day for what he believed would be the royal wedding, he instead saw the Emperor wearing his daughter’s skin as a robe. In a horrendous mix up, he’d assumed the Pharaoh was gifting him his daughter as a sacrifice.

The Pharaoh was naturally devastated and declared war on the Jaguar Empire, the first and so far only time in history the two nations have been in conflict. By the time the war reached the palace, the Emperor had seen the error of his ways and declared that he would end the practice of human sacrifice in order to end the war. When his own people argued that it would kill them all if the sun didn’t shine, the Pharaoh pointed out that it still shone in their own land and they didn’t need to perform sacrifices. The Emperor, stricken with grief and guilt, symbolically threw himself into the sacrificial fire, the last to ever do so.

Although the after effects of this war were felt for many years afterwards, it nonetheless ended the hostility between the two nations and we have been on good terms ever since. Princess Kanika, an innocent victim of an outdated practice, is now highly venerated even today and her statue stands in one of our temples.

One good thing did come out of this horrific war, however, which is still in place today – the jaguar knights. Since it became apparent the Empire needed soldiers, warriors and magic users were called up to form this army.

They were given jaguar pelts to mark them out, something else still in use today (I should note these aren’t the pelts of the jaguars which killed the puma men and saved our Empire, merely of wild jaguars which threatened our villages). The jaguar not only represents our Empire, but the jaguar’s strength is given to the warrior who dons it. I found evidence that an original costume design was a full body jaguar suit, but I’m assuming this wasn’t used, as sending in our warriors dressed head to toe as big cats would have been silly, and no doubt lost us the war through pure humiliation.

The knights were ordered not to kill enemies in combat but capture them alive. I would like to say that this was out of compassion, but it was actually so they could be used as human sacrifices. Suffice to say, after the war this practice was ended, although the knights do still take enemies alive whenever possible as a test of skill and show of confidence.


I am writing this section on spare scraps of paper by the light of the moon and some of our last few remaining candles. I will have to stuff the pages into the already completed book, but I feel it is important to get this down in writing while I still can. I’m lucky that I was able to salvage this book, as all the rest in the palace, and I believe throughout the entire Empire, were burnt. There were only a few I was able to smuggle out through my friend Binti, including the only one which can save us from this plight. But I still had to send it away with her, otherwise it would have been destroyed along with the others and our last hope lost forever.

During my time working at the palace, first as a court magician and later as royal advisor, I have seen the Jaguar Empire at the most prosperous it has ever been. The former Emperor Tenoch and his wife Xiomara had a son named Tezcacoatl and all was well. That was until the Empress died, devastating the Emperor and prince. Although he still grieved for his wife, he still entered into a marriage with a princess of the United Empire named Camelia. There was no love in this marriage, as it was purely for political reasons, as our two nations haven’t been on solid terms over the past decades. The Emperor knew this and yet he did it anyway, knowing his duty.

This resulted in the birth of a child, Panen. Perhaps the Emperor married because he wanted a companion for his son who had just lost his mother. It certainly worked, for the two boys were the best of friends, just as Nyzotlyx and Woropoca once were.

Alas, despite our best efforts, relations with the United Empire eventually fell apart. The marriage wasn’t strong enough to hold it together, and the Emperor’s second marriage also fell apart. His wife, or I should say ex-wife, left the Jaguar Empire, leaving behind her son. If Ramon showed any resentment for being abandoned by his mother, it didn’t show, for he and his brother were still the closest of friends and their father loved them both.

But as Panen grew older, I began to notice changes in him, and not the regular changes from childhood to adolescence. He became sullen, argumentative, and distant. By the time I had figured out why, it was already too late. One of the terms of the union between the United Empire and our Jaguar Empire was that the eldest child born to Tenoch and Camelia would become the next Emperor, even though Tez should have been the next in line. But once the alliance fell apart, so did this agreement, and Tez became the heir once again.

It didn’t matter to me which one of them became the Emperor, as I knew they were both good boys and either of them would make a fine leader. I didn’t understand at the time the level of entitlement and resentment Ramon must have felt. He’d been promised since the day he was born that someday he would be an Emperor, but one day it was all taken away from him. He not only lost his mother, but his beloved brother, his only friend in the world, was whisked away for his schooling and other duties as Prince Regent. Anybody would feel resentment under those circumstances. If I had only realised that, I could have prevented many things.

Once he came of age, Ramon left the palace and returned to his homeland. His father and brother objected, but he was an adult so there was little they could do to stop him. He made only scant appearances during the years that followed.

What he did caught us all by such surprise that we were completely unprepared. Even though the alliance with the United Empire failed, the Empire had been at peace for many years. It caused us all to let our guard down. The jaguar knights became nothing more than palace guards and street patrols. They were unprepared for what was to come.

It started so innocently that none of us could have anticipated it. Ramon returned to the palace in Cizon after many years away. Many of us were suspicious, with good reason, but Tez opened his arms and embraced his brother, and Ramon returned the gesture. He claimed that he wanted to mend the rift between them and return to what they had once been. We all believed him. We wanted to believe him. Even when I caught him sneaking through the archives, I didn’t suspect anything. If I had, I could have prevented what happened, and I have had to live with it ever since.

Ramon’s return coincided with the festival of Woropoca, held during spring to give offerings to the god to bless the fields and crops. As this was such an important festival, all of the Empire’s most important nobles and politicians had gathered, as had Binti and Empress Leilani’s father and relatives from Hanaleila.

There was dancing and music and much alcohol and peyote taken. That is what made us let our guard down. Even the jaguar knights weren’t on duty, as nobody saw any need for them.

That was when Ramon started his Inquisition. He took out Woropoca’s spell which he had stolen from the archives and cast it to turn the sun black. In the darkness and confusion, his armies closed the gates and blocked off any escape. They had snuck into the Empire using stealth and cloaking magic to remain undetected.

Then, they attacked. We were so unprepared that our forces were defeated easily. The jaguar knights were already half-intoxicated. They hadn’t faced a threat like this in many years. They only had their basic weapons for everyday patrols, which were insufficient for a battle of this scale. There was nothing they could do to protect our people, and had no choice but to retreat into the palace along with the rest of us.

Our innocents were slain. Many nobles and politicians were killed, for they had been the main targets. They wished to leave us weak. I’ll never forget the look on Tez’s face as he realised his brother had betrayed him, or the expression on Ramon’s as he laughed.

Some were able to reach the boats in the harbour in time and escape. The envoy from Hanaleila was able to get away. Binti was able to lead the princesses away to safety out of the back entrance of the palace along with the few books I could salvage, but poor Leilani perished trying to find her son. I didn’t see what became of Prince Toa, whether he died, was captured, or escaped with his grandfather.

Ramon’s target wasn’t only our people. He ordered his armies to burn our libraries and archives, even those held in private. They pillaged any gold and valuables they could salvage. They didn’t merely want to defeat our armies. They didn’t even want to add us to their Empire, as they usually did. Ramon’s only goal was to wipe out any semblance of our society and culture. And he succeeded.

With our capital devastated and our important leaders killed, the invading army was able to spread out and do the same to all the other cities, and even the smallest villages. Once they were finished, they simply withdrew their armies and left. Ramon didn’t even kill the Emperor, and I believe this was his intent. He wanted him to suffer, not die. He wanted to leave him with a devastated kingdom he couldn’t possibly save.

And that’s what we are living in now. We can’t leave this palace because there is nowhere else to go. I can only hope that I will see Prince Toa again someday. But then again, who would want to return to a ruined country?


Part Three – The Ember Deserts


This is Binti here. Nochtli said I should write this section on the history of the Ember Deserts.

Firstly, I should point out that there have been many claims in recent years that the Ember Deserts and its ancient monuments were formed by so-called ‘sky demons’ who bestowed their knowledge upon our ancestors. But these are all blatantly false and created only to sell false history books.

Secondly, the Ember Deserts is one of the oldest countries in existence, and only the ancient part of our history makes up half of all known history. That’s why I’ve had to abridge it quite a bit. If you want the full history, there are many books in the Kheru University Library, but it may take an entire lifetime to read them all.

Our country started out as groups of nomadic tribes who would travel across the desert and live in tents to follow the flood patterns. Eventually, some of these tribes formed permanent villages and some of those grew into cities which formed their own small kingdoms. These kingdoms weren’t kind to each other, however. They were constantly fighting with each other over who could claim the best land or the most resources. Sometimes they did it seemingly just out of spite, like when one town stole the other’s bucket from their well.

This fighting ended when our first Pharaoh Theoris united all the kingdoms together, becoming the leader of them all. The word ‘pharaoh’ is an old word for ‘leader’. Theoris’s descendants ruled this combined Ember Deserts for many years until her bloodline was ruined by generations of in-breeding, but I don’t exactly want to get into that.

Theoris’s last descendant died young without any surviving heirs, leaving the Ember Deserts in a state of panic for who would continue to rule and untie the land.

Amongst the many arguing over claim for the throne was a vizior named Shat. He claimed that the last Pharaoh had named him as his successor before he died, although others claimed this couldn’t be true as the Pharaoh’s jaw was so malformed from in-breeding that he could hardly speak (based upon the murals I’ve seen, this seems accurate).

Shat had studied magic, and used this for his own means. Anubis are creatures of the realm of the gods who have long lived in the Ember Deserts as guardians of the dead, watching over tombs and guiding souls after death. Shat found a way to use magic to twist them to evil and used them as his personal army to take over.

The anubis weren’t the only creatures he manipulated into evil. He also used his dark powers to trap and enslave the jinn. Jinn are difficult to explain to outsiders, as they don’t have physical form in the same way humans do, but they are not strictly spirits, either. Whereas humans were created from the earth (as our legend says, anyway) jinn were created from fire, and their forms are more like smoke invisible to the human eye. Yet even that explanation is too simplistic to really understand jinn.

But anyway, jinn have been around for longer than us humans and learned the ways of magic before we did. They are master crafters, can enter and manipulate dreams, and can possess humans. This power is what made humans wary of jinn for many centuries, even though possessions are rare and can be cured through an exorcism. In truth, most jinn stayed away from humans as they believed us to be dangerous, using our own magic to trap or destroy them. Those that did watch over humans would only look upon us with curiosity, the same way a bird watcher will crouch and watch flocks of birds for hours on end.

They also appreciate beauty and especially like jewellery and tight spaces such as lamps where they can make comfortable homes. Shat used this to his advantage, using his magic to trick jinn into lamps and bottles then trapping and enslaving them, killing any who rebelled. This has led to a belief in some places that jinn exist only to grant wishes to humans, which isn’t true. They will only do so if a human saves their life.

With the jinn, the anubis, and a book of spells he had put together, Shat was all powerful and ruled the Ember Deserts with a cruel hand. His end came almost comically, however, as his actions were so repulsive that he was murdered in his bed by his own guards. They had technically committed high treason, but everybody was so glad to have Shat gone that they decided to put his death down to an unfortunate heart attack, even though everybody knew the truth.

With him gone, the anubis and jinn were free again. Shat’s book of spells was deemed too powerful and dangerous so it was put into a box, and that box was put into another box, and it was thrown into the river and subsequently forgotten about for many years.

It was also at this time that a new Pharaoh was chosen, and it was decreed that they could marry commoners, removing the risk of inbreeding. It was also decided that if the Pharaoh died without an heir, a replacement would be chosen by the populace. So far, this system has worked far better for us than the old one.

As for the jinn, the incident made them realise they weren’t safe from humans, and humans realised that whilst jinn weren’t as dangerous as they’d previously believed, their power could be turned against humanity if mishandled. So, humans and jinn instead created a symbiotic relationship with one another. When humans discovered their true selves, they would be bonded with a jinn who chose them. A ceremony is held at a temple in which they receive a piece of jewellery for the jinn to make their home in whilst still being available whenever their human companion needs them. This way, both of us can reside together and help one another, and it is a tradition kept up to this day.

It was hoped that the days of tyranny were over for the Ember Deserts. We forgot about them for centuries. But they returned eventually. At the time, the Ember Deserts were building relations with many other nations. Some of these were rocky, such as the war with the Jaguar Empire which Nochtli told, but it did end with our two countries becoming friends.

The same cannot be said of the United Empire. When their missionaries first came, they claimed it was on a mission of peace. They only wanted to share the message about their god and their religion. It worked, for many people from the Ember Deserts were intrigued and decided to convert to their religion, and still practise it today.

But gradually, their true motives became more and more apparent. It wasn’t good enough for them to simply introduce their religion to us. They tried to get rid of ours entirely. It started with demanding their followers abandon their jinn, then replace our temples with images of their god. Whenever our people refused, they used force. When we fought back, they sent their greatest conqueror Gore to make the Ember Deserts part of their empire.

Gore is known in the United Empire as ‘the just’, but we have a different, far ruder name for him which doesn’t directly translate. He brought more lands into the United Empire, and expected ours to fall just as easily. He even captured and used our elephants as part of their war machine, even though we had mainly only used them for transport across the desert up until that point.

The greatest trick Gore had wasn’t just his prowess in battle, but also his lying tongue. He claimed to be liberating us from tyranny, when he was the one repressing us. He spread rumours to other lands that our temples and palaces were built using slave labour, when he was the one taking our people as slaves. He called us primative and stupid when he was the one burning our libraries and universities. It was only thanks to a collection of Jinn that our oldest university and its library, that of Kheru, was saved. If not, we might have lost all of our historic knowledge.

In the end, Gore’s quest for domination was his own undoing. He learnt from one of the books he hadn’t destroyed about Shat’s spell book which had been cast into the river many centuries before. He sent his men out to retrieve it and bring it before him, as he wanted to use its power for his own. It worked and he opened the long-sealed box right in the palace he had claimed for his own.

What nobody realised was that Shat’s spells had been stewing for so long that they had evolved into a living god, who named himself Soeyar. That god wasn’t happy about being ordered around, so he quickly killed Gore and all of his followers.

We were afraid for a while that Shat’s magic would create an oppressor even worse than him and Gore combined, but Soeyar had no such desire. He instead took on human form to retrieve the treasures which had been robbed from our tombs and palaces and placed in museums and private houses throughout the United Empire. He has retrieved many so far, but many more still remain lost. But I remain confident that he will return them all someday.

These are all the most significant events which have taken place in the Ember Deserts up until the modern day. We live in peace now and retain good relations with our Jaguar Empire neighbours. My only fear is that this peace could make us complacent and the United Empire could use this to try another invasion. For now, all I can do is wait and see what will happen.


Part Four – Fortis

Nochtli asked me, Pukiq, to complete this section. Unlike the Jaguar Empire or Ember Deserts, our stories have not been written down until fairly recently but retold over and over in poems and campfire tales. But I still feel they should be written down for posterity. Although it should be said that reading these stories in a book is nowhere near comparable to hearing them told around a fire.

Anyway, long ago before our people moved to the land of Fortis, they were nomadic and travelled between different lands based upon the seasons or where the best game could be found, much as Binti described also happened in the Ember Deserts. We would not settle in Fortis for a long time, as for many thousands of years, the land was inhabited by ice giants. These giants could never get along and were always fighting with each other. Yet this was how our land was shaped. The mountains were created by them piling rocks together into their homes, and the glaciers and lakes were created by them hauling rocks at each other or throwing each other down in fights.

The giant’s constant fighting is eventually what destroyed them all. Their battles were so fierce that the only way for them to kill their enemies was to fight so hard that it killed themselves. Eventually the giants must have reached a point where there weren’t enough left to maintain their numbers and they went extinct.

Many years later, several tribes from several different areas came to the land when they realised the giants were no longer a threat, and they discovered that this millenia long giant war had left them a perfect place to make their home. The plains they had flattened were ideal for herding animals. Many of them had been taken over by forests which could be used for making houses, fires, and home for game. The holes the giants left in the ground were filled up over many years to make lakes, which provided the settlers with fish and freshwater. Even the mountains provided ample shelter. This was how the land of Fortis as we know it was born.

Thankfully we haven’t had to worry about the giants since then, despite the occasional rumours of people seeing them, which is usually down to alcohol. Parents will sometimes warn their children that if they misbehave, the giants will eat them. I know it sounds harsh, but it worked on my children.

Any visitor to Fortis will note that despite the absence of the giants, there are many other beasts inhabiting our land and seas which are almost as dangerous. The truth is they can be a threat to any unfamiliar with them, but shamans like myself have developed bonds with them so we can coexist peacefully. This was all thanks to a girl named Kesuk.

Kesuk was known as the most beautiful girl in her village and had many suitors, but she turned them all down to focus on looking after her own family, and also because she wasn’t interested in marriage. One man, Qannik, was particularly persistent, coming to Kesuk every day to ask for her hand. Every day she said no. This angered Qannik so much that he kidnapped Kesuk and carried her away in his boat to make her his wife. When she still refused (as any woman would) he became so enraged that he chopped her up with his axe and threw each piece of her body into the ocean.

This would have ended up as yet another tragic story except that Kesuk possessed magical powers so great they manifested even after her death. They combined with her anger and vengeance over her death and each part of her body morphed into a beast. These beasts rose up and killed Qannik out of revenge then spread across the land, seeming to retain Kesuk’s anger and kill any others who tried to hurt others as Qannik did.

Ever since settling on Fortis, our magic users, naming ourselves shamans, had been learning how to utilise the natural magic from the land and form close bonds with the spirits. Many had even begun to bond with these spirits, which they called their spirit animal. This practice has evolved so much that all our people, shamans or otherwise, perform a ceremony after coming of age to bond with our spirit animal.

Through practice and study, our shamans were eventually also able to communicate with and bond with the beasts, taming them and aiding each other. We still use the remnants of Kesuk’s anger, but only for justified vengeance.

I would like to say this is how the history of Fortis ends and we have been living peacefully and happily with our spirit and beast friends ever since. But life is rarely so kind.

While outsiders rarely travel to Fortis due to our harsh winters and difficult travel conditions, some have made the journey regardless. One such people were the missionaries from the United Empire. They didn’t come out of curiosity or a desire to bond with us, however. They looked upon our lives and called us ‘backward’ and thought we needed saving. They spread false rumours in their own Empire painting us in a negative light, such as claiming that we eat raw meat (which is untrue). It is just as Binti said happened in the Ember Deserts.

They tried to convert us to their religion and whilst some did willingly, and many of our towns and villages have churches for their God, they didn’t consider this good enough. They would only accept complete and utter dominance. They did this by kidnapping our children and forcing them into boarding schools, punishing them for speaking any language except theirs or for failing to worship their God. The only reason these schools closed and the United Empire moved away was because these schools, and their takeover were deemed as ‘ineffective’ so they decided to leave. They have not been missed.


Part Five – The United Empire of Virtue

This is Nochtli again. I derived most of the information for this section from the Empress Camelia before she left, and more from Prince Ramon. Although he grew up here in the Jaguar Empire, he has always retained close connections to his mother’s home land and bears a strong love and appreciation for it, which was why he was so eager to tell me all about its history.

The United Empire, back before it was an Empire, started as a small island country named Marino. By all accounts it was a civilization matching that of the Ember Deserts in ancient times, with towering temples, philosophers wandering every street, and art like the nation has never seen since. They paid regular tribute to their pantheon of Gods, and it seemed the Gods rewarded them in turn.

This changed when a preacher started spreading the word of a new religion he had invented (or ‘discovered’ in his own words). While it took some time to catch on, eventually enough people were swayed that they declared their old beliefs false, tore down the temples, and made worship of the old Gods punishable by death. Their funeral rite ceremony was reappropriated into an arena fight for punishing criminals, which the United Empire named Gladiatorial games. Their senate was dissolved and all power given to the Emperor, who also served as high priest. The means by which they enacted this complete change was so brutal I dare not repeat it, although Camelia told it as if it were completely justified.

Yet Marino wasn’t satisfied with being the only nation to practice this religion. They insisted every other nation should do the same and show their God, who they call The One Which is Many, the praise they felt he deserved. That was when they started expanding into new territories, calling themselves an empire and changing their name. They acted as if the old country of Marina had never existed, or if it did, it was a primitive and backwards country worthy of mockery.

While some nations did willingly follow this religion and still retain close ties to the United Empire, Morteus being one of them, this forced expansion naturally put the Empire at odds with most other nations. Near-constant war became normal for them.

The gladiator arena games had been growing in popularity and scale since the Empire’s formation. What had started as a yearly tradition and punishment for captives or criminals became a monthly, or even bi-monthly, event and so popular it required an entire colosseum to be built. Monsters are captured to fight combatants. Other contests such as chariot races are included. Apparently they occasionally fill it with water for mock sea battles, which I must admit must be worth watching.

The Emperor attends every one, more so for entertainment than anything else, and gives the final signal whether a combatant is allowed to live or die. Gladiators are now trained professionally, rather than being kept as slaves. The arena also served as an ideal way for the Empire to ‘take care of’ war captives, and sometimes even defeated foreign leaders.

The Empire’s conflicts with other nations goes on to this day. Whilst the political marriage with Emperor Tenoch didn’t work out, I hope that someday our two Empires can reconcile.


Part Six – Hanaleila

The history of Hanaleila and its surrounding islands was told to me by Empress Leilani and her father Kahawai, the chief of Hanaleila. I find it curious that just as the Jaguar Empire was raised from the sea by gods, so was this island.

Hanaleila’s ancestors were oceanic nomads who were called The Sea People. They lived and travelled by boat, but since this couldn’t provide them with all they needed to survive, they had to resort to piracy and plunder to get what they needed. This gave them a negative reputation with others, who saw them almost as a supernatural threat.

This is why the God Mokotoko raised an underwater volcano, inhabited by the Goddess Ygdria to the surface in a great, fiery eruption, giving the Sea Peoples a place to settle. Many of their former victims were surprised at their sudden disappearance, giving many the belief, even now, that they were entirely mythical, or else spirits.

While the Sea Peoples, who now called themselves Hanaleilans after their island, now had a stable place to settle, their lives weren’t entirely easy. The volcano which had given them life and created new land and fertile soil did have a tendency to erupt and kill them on occasion.

The only solution they could see was to make sacrifices to Ygdria. Food or animal sacrifices proved ineffective, so they resorted to human sacrifices, just as our ancestors in the Jaguar Empire did long ago. I don’t condone these actions, but know they were done so out of desperation.

It seemingly worked for there were no more fatal eruptions. Yet during an expedition deep into the volcano during later years, it was discovered that Ygdria had been keeping the sacrifices alive in her realm. In fact, she had taken them as her lovers. I can only imagine the awkwardness which came with this revelation.

In any case, it was decided that Ygdria was satisfied enough for years, so the sacrifices were stopped and she and her harem are now left alone.

It seems that Hanaleila has been lucky so far. We have maintained a close friendship for years. The United Empire has been trying to annex them for a while. They claim it is to rescue them from their ‘backwards’ religion, but I feel it is for their strategic island location and their natural resources. In any case, it hasn’t worked so far for the people of the island have studied magic extensively and know how to keep themselves concealed. I won’t share how, because that would be too much of a giveaway.


Part Seven – Morteus

This last section will likely be the shortest and least accurate, as it is coming entirely from second hand accounts. I visited Morteus only once a few years ago, accompanying Emperor Tezcacoatl for a state visit. I did admire the country and its stunning architecture and curious fashions, despite the lacklustre sanitation and constant grey and rainy skies. When I asked the local scholars about the country’s history, they scoffed and acted as if I should have known it already. Hence, I’ve had to put this section together myself from scant tidbits of knowledge, and a tourist pamphlet.

I do know that Morteus is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, which still stands today as one of the greatest in the world. The only university I know of which is any older is Kheru University, although the Morteus scholars seemed insulted when I brought this up and insisted that theirs was older, even when I presented them with evidence to the contrary.

Another well-known fact about Morteus is its troubled history leading to many revolutions. There have been so many that I cannot keep track of them all. As far as I can tell, there have been at least one or two per century, so I don’t think they have been wholly effective. In fact, many times after removing one king, the same king has been reinstated to the throne only a few years later, only to continue the same lifestyle which caused him to be deposed in the first place.

At some point, Morteus became a willing member of the United Empire, embracing their religion, which remains in place to this day. I couldn’t find the reason why but at some point Morteus fell out with the United Empire and either took the land back for themselves or was abandoned. Either way, they are no longer cordial with the United Empire, although it hasn’t yet resulted in full out war.

One major change which came from their brief unification with the United Empire was the introduction of coffee to the country, brought over from some of the other parts of the Empire. Whilst viewed as strange at first and perhaps mistrusted for being foreign, once people tried it, coffee became incredibly popular in Morteus, perhaps moreso than in the countries where it is grown.

This led to a boom in coffee shops where people preferred to spend their time. I suspect the reason the revolutions stopped so abruptly is because they were too busy drinking coffee. So many gathered in these coffee shops that it led to many groups discussing philosophy, academia, and the arts. This is why these fields are now so revered throughout Morteus and are now the most integral parts of Morteus culture. It led to the building of the libraries, theatres, and universities. When I brought up that the old city slums were cleared out to build these places, I was glared at and knew not to bring it up again.