Southwest of the continent Dragora, close to the Arcaian equator is the continent of Mazatil. It is a wild and forbidding continent, wrapped in jungle, desert and forbidding mountains known as the Skyspears.
Unlike Dragora's history, which began with a draconic civilization, Mazatil started much earlier as the home continent of the enigmatic race known as the Old Ones. High up on the slopes of the Skyspear mountains, which in some places top 50,000 feet, these otherworldly creatures built their domains. For eons this race continued to live and work high above the continent, until a new race began to develop beneath them in the eastern section of Mazatil.
This was a race of lizard men that evolved from the reptiles that ruled the humid jungle, and settled along the rivers and swamps of southern Mazatil. Calling themselves the Slisss'pok (with the ' standing for a click on the tongue), these lizard men were great builders and excellent animal breeders, and their civilization became quite advanced around the same time as the Draconic civilization reached its height in Dragora.
At some point there was a conflict between the Old Ones and the Slisss'pok in the Blackwraith Desert, which caused the Old Ones to disappear. Relatively soon afterwards the Slisss'pok civilization fell into savagery, which they never recovered from. To this day, tribes of lizardmen roam the jungles, barbaric, but wise and very knowlegable of the creatures and plants within their domain. Their once mighty cities are a lure to adventurers, but they are known as death traps filled with the decendents of the Slisss'pok's domesticated animals.
The Old One's civilization is a much more problematic venture. Very few have the skills to surmount a 50,000 foot climb and all that entails. Even the atmosphere is thin at that range (although not as thin as it would be in a normal physics scenario). The cold at that height and the shreiking winds make it a dangerous climb. The few accounts of explorers that suceeded in entering any of their habitations tell of cyclopean tunnels and lightless galleries that stretch far into the center of the mountains. The Old Ones dabbled in what can only be termed as bio-magical golem construction, and surrounded themselves with unearthly creations that served many bizarre purposes. Many of these creations were never truly alive in any sense we know, and they are still prowling the darkened depths.
About 3,000 years ago, a tribe of humans landed upon the shores of Mazatil, possibly from farther west towards the twin continents of Seng and Avmar and the Coral Sea. During the millenia that followed these humans interacted with the remnants of the Sliss'pok and began what became known as the Xoltec (shoul-tek) civilization.
The Xoltecs were dominated by a class of necromantic wizard-priests who worshipped the flayed god Xipe Totec. These priests refined and perfected the art of raising undead, animating the bodies of the many sacrifices they made to Xipe Totec, which they then used as cheap labor to construct their temples. As time progressed, they began to animate specialized undead minions to fight for them, and to keep the populace of the cities cowed. As the Xoltec priests grew in power and arrogance, a resistance movement known as the Jaguar's Shadow developed among those who would see Xipe Totec's priests cast down.
The Jaguar's Shadow was a mix of elite Arcanists and rogues who despised the priests for their iron control of the Xoltec cities and their taboo on exploring Sliss'pok and Old One ruins. In secret they began to explore the forbidden ruins, gaining knowlege over many forgotten arts. About 500 years ago, they decided to strike.
The Shadow War was brief but horrid. For roughly three years the battles raged among the Xoltec cities, with the Jaguar's Shadow (or Shadow Men as they became known) losing ground after a few brief victories. They simply didn't have the manpower to fight waves of fearless undead minions. In desperation, the Shadow Men unleashed a previously unknown magical effect which broke the priest's control over the undead. The vast Xoltec army of undead turned on their former masters and the surrounding populace in what became known as the Night of the Bloody Bones.
After the Night of the Bloody Bones the Xoltec civilization collapsed completely. Several other magical curses manifested themselves at the same time, transforming some Xoltecs into feral beast creatures or undead monstrosities. The main temple of Xipe Totec at the capital city of Chichen Ipec was abandoned to the swarming undead. A plauge of monstrous spiders followed soon afterward, scattering what few survivors there were.
Cuurently the remaining Mazatilians have formed a political body called the Zapatec Confederation, a collection of citystates that are strung along Mazatil's eastern coast. Opal is a member of this confederation, but due to its remote location and unique history it remains its own distinct culture.
the Free City of Opal:
Right on the Southeast corner of the Mazatil continent is a sheltered stretch of water known as Turquoise Bay. A city has grown there on the bones of far older civilizations. Opal is a city of outcasts, of refugee gentry from the wars in Dragora and the survivors of the Xoltec Empire.
Opal is a study in contrasts, old and new, rich and poor, civlilized but wild. In its present form Opal was founded by refugees from the Night of Bloody Bones when the Xoltec Empire fell. Relatively soon after refugees from the Wars of Consolidation in Dragora began arriving looking for somewhere to settle. The surrounding area was in need of brave settlers as there were still many rogue undead in the surrounding jungles to contend with. The melding of the two civilizations created the modern Opaline society.
Although the surrounding jungles are dangerous, there is much wealth to be had for the brave. Many Opalines and immigrants alike start farming communities. These farms are usually held in fief by a local feudal lord. There is a lot of undead/monster activity from the jungle and most freeholders know how to fight and recognize the need to underwrite a military class. The feudal gentry are very competitive as well as deadly and enjoy a lot of intrigue among themselves during the Opaline social season.
The city and most of the surrounding area is ruled by the Grand Duke of Opal, who traces his family back to both the Zapatec and Vellasian royal family. The present Grand Duke's ancestor Arturo, the second son of Vellasia's last king, fled his country after its fall to Auria during the formation of the Golden Empire 300 years ago. He mockingly called himself the Grand Duke of Opal after the title offered to him by Avros I's agents if he returned to administer Vellasia for him.
Arturo and his adherents were given leave by the Zapatecs to settle along the Opal River to help secure that valuable area and assist the people there in their constant fight against the hordes of undead still wandering the jungle from the Night of Bloody Bones. Although nominally a Zapatec city, the unique melding of Dragoran and Mazatil influences and its remoteness from the core of Zapatec society makes Opal its own unique civilization.
The land itself is intensely fertile, and lush farms of sugarcane, tobacco, chocolate, and oranges (among others) dot the Opal River's banks. West up the Opal River is the Uplands, a string of high hills/low mountains that are producers of Arcaia's best coffee beans and tea leaves.
Along with the fertile wealth of the farms there are veins of ore and gems to be had from the Uplands streams that feed the Opal River. Many prospecting teams hope to find wealth in the thinly settled Uplands, but it is not a journey for the faint at heart. The Opal River was first named that from the fantastic black opals that can be found in some of the Uplands and often wash into the neighboring streams.
The fishing is very good in the Turquoise Bay area as well, with the Kraken clan of aquatic giants ruling the undersea part of Turquoise Bay and bringing in huge catches. The Kraken clan is also known for their pearls, which they hunt in the depths from the giant oysters that thrive in the brackish waters where the Opal River empties into the Turquiose Bay.
Opal also does a thriving trade in antiquities from previous civilizations. The Sliss'pok and the Xoltecs also built at the very foundations of modern Opal, and Opal uses some of their original sewer layouts underneath its streets today. Most of the artifacts recovered in the jungles of southern Mazatil flow through Opal.
Opal is also the prime jumping off point for any exploration of the southern jungles. It is the only large city for any appreciable distance, and the only other city in Southern Mazatil, Threepenny Port, has a dark reputation. Opal is one of the few cities that has an actual guild for adventuring. Any new arrivals looking to explore the wilderness are encouraged to join, and there is always plenty of work for the strong of arm.