Saturday, January 31, 2015

The cities of Yaghan: An overview of Gond

Gond is probably one of the most important cities on the face of the planet for a variety of reason. I wanted to write a short description of the city since I need to write stuff about my world to know it, and I thought, well, why not sharing it with you guys?

An overview 

The natural formation that protects the city is actually completely unnatural. In the middle of the Great Plains, suddenly, a massive wall of black rock emerges from the horizon. Riders that get closer to it soon realize that it's not a wall but a kind of cylinder that emerges from the earth, somewhat like a volcano but with its sides way steeper than any natural mountain.

Facing west, there is a massive chasm at the foot of the cylinder, and across the chasm, one can see a great gate carved in the rock's face. This is the main entrance to what lays inside of the protective walls of rock. But what exactly is behind hidden in there?

No one could expect it from the outside, but the mountain hides three bowl shaped valleys, somewhat like 3 volcano craters right next to each other... Each valley could also accurately be described as the inside of a bowl. The valleys are loosely connected by passes, and like the external rock face, they do not look natural at all... Because indeed, they are not.

Inside those valleys lay the different parts of the city of Gond, one of the most advanced cities on the planet. All of the valleys have the wall facing south covered with terraced fields that provide a good portion of the city's food. Similarly, the rim top of every valley is covered with fortifications (more on that later) and windmills that provide electrical and mechanical power to the city. Yes, the city does have electricity, although it is used only in the most important facilities. People's houses typically do not have electricity.

One valley houses the main city, with the south face being covered with terraced fields. The second one houses the heavier industries, that can be polluting and unpleasant to live near to (tanneries for instance). Finally the last one is the buffer with the outside world: it contains all the accommodations for visitors, the hospitals, the guard houses, the open market...  And it is protected by the legendary Battle School. The presence of those elite warriors discourage any kind of trouble in this cosmopolitan part of the city. This buffer used to restrict the access of strangers to the main city, not because they are not trusted, but mainly to prevent the eventual propagation of diseases coming from the Outside.

The whole city is completely autonomous when it comes to its energy. It is provided by the wind, and in a smaller fashion the sun. The Wind Wielders insure that there is always enough wind to power the city. There is very little dependency on fossil fuels, they are only used just for things that can't be done any other way, like smelting ores for example. The city also has it own source of water in the form of an underground water nappe. The only thing the city has to import is food. The output of the terraced fields is barely sufficient to provide for the most basic needs of the population (with a vegetarian diet), and the city imports vegetables and spices from the Outside, as well as meat that is hunted from the Great Plains. Also, virtually every unused space of the city is used to plant crops: the roof of houses, the side of the roads, the parks, the walls of the buildings... There are no spaces in the city that do not have a use and the landscape is actually really green, with things growing everywhere. Even the caves of buildings are used to grow fungi and certain molds. The only thing really lacking is meat. It is actually one of the main exports of the tribes that roam the plains. Gond also has to import its natural resources: ores, fossil fuels, wood... The city is located above an iron vein, but it is reserved for crisis and not exploited. Gond depends heavily on the other cities of the federation and mainly those near the Rohini mountain range, that provide it with most of the materials it needs to develop. This dependency is what prompted the construction of the railway system that links the cities of the federation.

The origin of Gond

The rock formation that protects the city hardly seems natural and indeed it is not: it is a product of the greatest magic ritual ever seen on the face of the planet. This ritual happened during the darkest days of humanity, during the Dark Age that followed the Fall. Scavengers from a small community of survivors discovered extremely well preserved artifacts from before the Fall, and in particular, they found something that could help humanity rebuild: working generators, that could be hooked up to windmills to produce enough electricity to power the artifacts they found. They also found electronic devices, with most notably a library containing video movies and archives from Earth. It was only a small personal computer and not one of the massive supercomputers that once powered Yaghan's network so there was very little usable technological books, maybe what would be found in the files of a moderately curious computer geek. Even though, a lot of the information proved useful to rebuild: things like calculus did not have to be reinvented from scratch, basic chemistry did not have to be re discovered and so on. It could not enable humanity to rebuilt to the 23rd century standard, but it was a start, and a good one at that. 

Shortly after, the community that had discovered the artifacts came under attack by one of the biggest horde of morlocks ever seen in those dark days. They survived only thanks to the help of the  newly formed Numu tribes, and had to flee the scene. But a man in the community, a powerful mage, saw the potential that laid in this treasure trove of knowledge. He was the first to have the idea of a fortress that would be used to protect and disseminate all that information.  He managed to collapse the ground under the artifacts, burying them in order to protect them, then fled. 

This man made it his mission to become the greatest mage on the planet so as to realize what he had envisioned. He traveled the continent of the Great Plains, then the planet, in search of more and more knowledge and power. When he came back, he was vastly more powerful and he tried once again to build a rock fortress with several of his companions. They all died in the effort, killed by the drain of such an impossible endeavor and he only survived, but his body was broken and unable to do large scale magic anymore. 

But he did not give up. He founded a school for mages that he called the Battle School. For a long time, it was located in one of the fortified cities on the foot of the Rohini range, the mountains where most communities of survivors had hidden themselves. There, the man took upon him to teach what he had learned, and trained what would become the best warriors of the planet centuries later. His pupils went around the planet, trying to teach their talents in order to improve mankind's odds against the morlocks... But they had another goal: they recruited gifted individuals that exhibited the powers they sought: individuals that could heal, individuals that could manipulate the earth, individuals that could strengthen the magic of others... The Old Man had a plan, a way to make the ritual work. But he never saw it because the required individuals were not found during his lifetime. 

It took almost three generation but at last, 9 gifted humans were reunited (one could say they were bred) that had the requisite abilities. Together, they decided to try the ritual the Old Man had envisioned once more. The only way for such a great feat to be performed was to be able to withstand an incredible drain (the drain of a magic act is proportional to the effect wanted, and creating a mountain ex-nihilo is something that should not be possible), and for that, the Old Man had devised a plan: one of the mages had to turn into a morlock, thus benefiting from their increased health and resistance before he completely turned into a monster. 

What happened next is not well known. The ritual worked, that's for sure, the city is the proof of that... But of the mages, only 3 survived. They never spoke of what had happened so it is open for conjecture. Some say the "lost" mages are buried under the city, but nobody knows for sure. After they recovered, one of the mages, of Callistan descent, left to bring back his magical knowledge to his land. For reasons unknown, one of the other survivor went after him, and they were never heard of again. The last survivor became the head of the Battle School, but she refused to teach the ritual, and she forbid the other mages of the city to do so. A vast amount of knowledge about magic was lost during that period, and it is open to conjecture as to what exactly the survivors feared. 

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