Huec

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The Huec people are the inhabitants of Tatlhuecan, a vast jungle valley in western Arad. They believe that their god, Toteoh, created the valley and brought his people there over Temicotli, the Way of Dreams, from another world. Indeed, nobody can seem to trace the Huec history back to connections with any other race - they were already present and established in the valley when the Faewyr arrived from the north, and their culture was radically different from any others present on Arad, or anywhere else in the known world for that matter.

Their naming scheme is in Aztec/Nahuatl fashion.

History

The Huec people hail from another world described as a tropical jungle paradise, free of any troubles or strife. Unfortunately, foreign creatures discovered the paradise through the celestial pathway known as Temicotli and invaded, seizing the world and corrupting it to suit their own purposes. Toteoh, the god of the Huecs, created a new jungle paradise for his people in a world discovered through the Temicotli and transported them there, to what we know as the Tatlhuecan valley in Arad. Unfortunately, the combined strain of creating the valley, transporting his people, and fending off the eldritch invaders caused Toteoh to fracture and shatter into countless splinters across the land. While they are all part of Toteoh, individually they represent various aspects of the god's character and power. One of these splinters merged with a mortal man, who became the first Necuametl (God-King) of the Huecs. This spirit splinter of Toteoh would pass from leader to leader throughout the ages to always be with and guide his people.

When the Faewyr raiders landed in northwest Arad and begin establishing a new nation there, they discovered the Tatlhuecan valley and its people. While it is generally believed they intended to invade and conquer the valley, the foreigners soon learned that virtually every individual to spend a significant amount of time in the valley suffered from serious diseases and maladies, and so the Faewyr, after some initial interest, stayed well away from the valley. This is assumed to be the reason why, as the Kingdom of Aetgard grew increasingly larger and more powerful around the valley, no attempts were made to conquer or assimilate the Huec people.

Originally unified as a single nation, the Huec empire was shattered when the priesthood body unanimously disagreed with the Necuametl, but the priesthood itself was split exactly in half regarding the issue. The issue at hand was the increasing presence and spread of the resen infestation. The Necuametl believed this to be an act of Toteoh, as the Shattered God was upset with the disobedience and constant fighting and bickering between his people, and that those "infested" were in fact being taken over by Toteoh's will. The priesthood, on the other hand, were unified in their disagreement, and thought the infestation was getting out of hand. Unanimously overruled, the Necuametl was sacrificed to allow the splinter of Toteoh within him to pass on.

However, the priesthood was divided on what to do about the infestation situation. One half believed that the infestation should be eradicated completely rather than allow it to remain a constant threat to the people, and they proclaimed the man Tezcacoatl as the new god-king. The other half believed that the resen was to be tolerated and given its natural place, but kept in check, and proclaimed the man Huemac as the new god-king. As the two sides bickered and fought, a third candidate named Namacuix proclaimed himself god-king and expressed anger and chastisement on behalf of Toteoh. The local people, including the warriors making up the standing army, supported Namacuix as they believed the priesthood to have been in error, being divided evenly and unable to come to an agreement after wrongly sacrificing the previous Necuametl. So the two halves of the priesthood and their own claimed god-kings were driven from the capital city, and each went their own way to find support and establish their own splinter kingdoms. Thus it was that the Empire was split into three, with Tezcacoatl and his people claiming the western coastal region, Huemac settling the easternmost region, and Namacuix retaining his hold on the central capital region of Tatlhuecan. The regions are now named after the leaders of that time: Tezcapetl in the west, central Namacupetl, and Huemapetl in the east. Wars between the three kingdoms are frequent, and while one the other have at times teetered on the edge of complete destruction, they have all managed to remain. The most frequent conflict is that between Tezcapetl and Namacupetl, as might be expected.

The Huec people have thrived in the Tatlhuecan jungle valley for ages, and have showed little, if any, desire to expand out beyond the valley. They are extremely defensive of their land, not wanting to be forced from their home again as happened in the past, though they do participate in trade and accommodate visitors to some degree - at least, those hardy enough to survive the exotic atmosphere and associated diseases that thrive there.

Societal Structure

The three city-states of Tezcapetl, Namacupetl, and Huemapetl all have roughly the same structure: A main capital city ruled over by a Necuametl (a god-king imbued with a splinter of the god Toteoh), surrounded by outlying smaller cities and villages. The Necuametl is considered the ultimate authority, though he can be overruled if the priesthood unite against him on some matter. The priesthood helps the Necuametl administrate the kingdom in both spirital and civil matters, though there are bureaus of the priesthood that structure some specialization between the two. A standing army of warriors serve as a police force to help enforce laws and decrees.

Settlements invaribaly have a temple, regardless of size. Small villages may have little more than an altar surounded by a ring of sacred stones and stacked cairns, while larger cities will often have massive stepped-pyramid temples, often growing in size over the years as newer temples are built over the old. These temples serve as places of worship, sacrificial sites, and residences and workplaces for administrators. The sacrificial altar is always at the highest point of a temple.

The typical family unit does not exist in Tatlhuecan, and biological ties are rarely emphasised. Marriage exists in a basic form, though it is rarely exercised - usually, individuals will move from partner to partner regularly, as moods and situations change. Casual, brief intimate relations are not frowned upon.

Mothers will occasionally choose to remain with and watch over their own young for a time, though this is uncommon. Instead, the family unit is more of a large-scale communal family: young are cared for by the community at large, and when old enough will wander about until they are discovered by someone who wishes to mentor them in some profession. Adults are expected to find their place and do their part in the community - those who don't contribute are often shunned and effectively exiled.

Cities are broken up in to community districts. Most citizens live together in large, open communal buildings that are broken up into large sections for sleeping, cooking and eating, bathing and hygiene, and so on - privacy is typically not a consideration beyond some small furniture near one's designated bed where personal possessions can be stored. Citizens with established jobs tend to keep their private possessions in their workplaces, where there is more a sense of personal space and private possession. Those with especially prestigious jobs or duties may end up residing instead in a section of their workplace, the afforded privacy a sort of reward for their success.

Tatlhuecan is something of a meritocracy - advancement in society is based on one's ability and achievement. This perhaps accounts for the largely competitive nature of the Huec people, as those who are lazy, overly meek, or lacking in ambition will be left to the least-desirable of civilian duties. While foreigners may see this as a ruthless and cut-throat system as the ambitious fight with and stamp out their competition, it should perhaps also be noted that achievement and success in Tatlhuecan is never held back by things such as lineage or other forms of predestined or societal shackles - a man born to the humblest street-cleaner can, if he has the ambition and talent, rise to be a celebrated athlete or warrior, or a powerful administrator such as a high priest.

The competitive nature of the Huec people is also evident in the fact that some of the most revered professions are that of the warrior and that of the athlete. Competitive sports are hugely popular in Tatlhuecan, the most popular being the ball-game: a sport involving two teams competing to get a ball through a stone ring, never allowing the ball touch the ground. The ball-game is in fact such a staple of Huec culture that a ball-court is often the second thing to be built in a new settlement, after the temple. Toteoh himself is believed to enjoy the sport, and playing it can be considered a form of religious service to please the Shattered God.

The Huec people are well-known for their herbalists and alchemists, and are considered second to none in these fields. Unfortunately for the outside world, they jealously guard their higher knowledge and secrets in these fields. It is said that there is no disease, poison, or other bodily ailment that the Huec healers cannot cure. Many a foreign noble stricken with incurable disease has been taken to Tatlhuecan, along with a vast donation of wealth, to be cured of their affliction. Rumors persist that they have cures even for the canim disease and resen infestation.

Religion

The god of the Huec people is Toteoh, though He was shattered into countless splinters when He and His people came across Temicotli to Tatlhuecan. The Huec people accept many of the prominent Immortals as splinters of Toteoh, though others they see as unassociated local gods or spirits.

The mortal leader of the Huec people are god-kings known as Necuametl, a splinter of Toteoh housed within a mortal body. When the Necuametl dies, the divine splinter soul is passed on to a new mortal body.

A large body of priesthood helps spread and enact the will of the Necuametl and help administrate the empire. The priesthood is even capable of uniting to determine the collective will of all the scattered god-splinters and overrule a Necuametl who has been corrupted by the mortal flesh. A number of times Necuametl have even been sacrificed in order to allow the spirit of Toteoh to pass on to a new, more acceptable vessel.

Qetzicotl is regarded as the most powerful and influential deity of the Huec pantheon. When the god Toteoh shattered, the largest piece was swallowed by a serpent. This caused the serpent to sprout wings and grow to an enormous size. Qetzicotl embodies Toteoh's wrath as well as his protective nature, particularly for his own people. Serpents, the winds, and the sky are part of Qetzicotl's domain. It has often been said that those who threaten Toteoh's people or otherwise incur his wrath will receive a fierce gale of wind as their first omen. There are offspring of this powerful serpent-deity, called "wind serpents", that are rumored to inhabit the highest peaks found in or bordering the Tatlhuecan valley. These winged serpents are considered sacred creatures, and to kill one is to invoke a terrible curse upon oneself.

Teonanacatl is a prominent figure in Huec religion, being the spirit of the new world awakened by a splinter of the shattered god Toteoh. This deity takes the place of the Gaea as the spirit of the world itself in the Huec pantheon. While regarded by the Huec people as perhaps the most powerful singular deity, it is still something of a foreign and aloof entity technically outside the Huec pantheon, being the spirit of a new world that was awakened by, but not controlled by, Toteoh's influence.

Aphraen is, to the Huec people, the guardian of Temicotli, Way of Dreams. He ensures that the eldritch creatures that devoured the first world of the Huec people will not follow them across the Way to their new world. His domain includes the night, the moon, the stars, sleep, and dreams.

Human sacrifices are often performed for various reasons. The purpose of the sacrifice determines the fate of the souls of those involved. Volunteers will often compete to be chosen as sacrifices made in appeal for miracles or other supernatural benefits, as their souls will be empowered and augmented in order to bring about the desired miracles, viewed as something of an ascencion to a greater state of being beyond mortality.

The Huec people are known for their extraordinary immunity or high resistance to many diseases, which allows them to thrive in their valley home while foreigners are highly likely to contract debilitating diseases there. The Huec people call this Toteoh's Blessing, a divine protection granted by their god to allow them safety and peace in their valley home.

Appearance and Personality

The Huec people are typically taller than average, with dark skin, eyes, and hair. They tend to prefer brighter colors in their clothing, particularly bright yellows, oranges, greens, and occasionally blues. They often use dark browns and greens as a contrast. Those with the means to purchase nicer clothing will often wear garments decorated with beads and geometric designs. Other typical clothing adornments are feathers and animal fangs or claws.

Although known for their fiercely competitive and intense nature, the Huec people also have a reputation for joviality amongst friends and guests. Indeed it is said that a Huec can turn from your best friend to your worst enemy in the space of a single breath, and vice-versa. Nonetheless, the Huec people are known to enjoy friendly competition and social gatherings, and often go to great efforts to please and serve guests. One must simply be careful never to reject or insult a Huec's efforts and offers of hospitality.

Language

The Huec language, both written and spoken, is widely considered easily the strangest and most difficult language for a non-native to learn. The spoken language involves sounds that are not used in any other language, and slight differences in tone can change the meaning of a word or phrase dramatically. Even context or the mood of the speaker can change a spoken word's meaning completely.

The written language, such as it is, often proves the most difficult for foreigners to grasp, as it consists primarily of pictographs whose meaning can change dramatically based on context or even by the identity of the writer. It likely doesn't help that the Huec art style is highly exaggerated and stylized, making it often difficult for foreigners to grasp what the pictographs they're looking at are supposed to be.

Architecture

Huec architecture is fairly simple for the most part, though they enjoy building on a large scale. They utilize outdoor or unenclosed space frequently, not having such an emphasis on enclosed indoor spaces as other cultures - workplaces will often consist of little more than a raised or lowered slab of stone in the open, for instance. Even "indoor" scructures are often less so enclosed, and simply covered by a roof supported by stone pillars with no walls to speak of. Wealthier areas, however, can still appear fancy and luxurious - Huec stone-carvers are famed for their ability to decorate floors, ceilings, and columns with the exaggerate stylized art and pictographs of their culture.