[WHFB] Estalia - Altos Aires on the Culchan Plains

Cayetano de Talavera.

Founder of Altos Aires.

Born in Estalia.

Bloodied in Lustria.

Killed in the East.

Buried nowhere.

“We are estalians. We have nothing to lose except our lives.”

- Cairn of Talavera. Altos Aires. Culchan plains. Lustria –

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Among the lustrian colonies founded by oldworlders consumed with gold fever, Santa Magritta on Colombo’s Island has long been the estalian doorstep into the green hell. Estalians are quick to boast of the colony’s wealth and success, even though it is actually a precarious, benighted place, dependent on shipments of food and arms from Magritta to survive, and periodically ravaged by fevers and pirates. The governor is for all practical purpose a tyrant ruling peons from his hacienda. He forbids colonists from leaving the island, as he needs every hand available to defend the colony, and he claims the right to organize every expedition into the continent along with a substantial share of all plunders. Many estalians flee misery at home only to find drudgery in Santa Magritta, without any hope of leaving or taking their destiny into their own hands.

This might help understand why Cayetano Díaz de Talavera entered history through mutiny.

Amongst the crowd of pirates, sailors, soldiers and all around cutthroats plaguing the lustrian coast, Cayetano Díaz had a few small but decisive qualities. He was a veteran tercio soldier, he could read and write, and he had no intention of exchanging a landowning master in Estalia for another one across the ocean. And above all, he had allies: country fellows, all from his town of Talavera, who for years survived all that Lustria can throw at a man. Their brotherhood had only strengthened, along with their desperate desire for another fate.

After years of dutiful, frustrating service, hoarding information from passing fleets and crumbling maps, he gathered his people, traced a line in the sand with his sword and made them a simple offer:

“Make me captain, and I will take you away from the beaten paths, away from disease, and away from the governor. Cross the line and come find with me the gold and glory a man can wrest from the world with the tip of his blade. Or stay and serve magrittan scum like we did at home. Make the choice, men of Talavera! We are estalians! We have everything to win and nothing to lose except our lives!”

Weeks later, four overcrowded ships escaped port on a moonless night. The talaverans and a few trusted allies took only what they deemed indispensable, their wives and sons not always being on the list. Cayetano took his charts, his brother Remigio and his goddess, the statue of Myrmidia Invicta they had carried all the way from their hometown.

They sailed south, always south, away from known waters, following Lustria’s coast, looking for proof Cayetano’s maps were truthful.

Until one day, they found it.

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To the south of the temple-city of Oyxl, the jungles gives way to a vast and fertile savannah stretching many hundreds of miles to the southernmost extent of the continent. In the north, the Plains are dominated by shrublands and marsh, transitional lands from the jungles and swamps to the north as one moves south into the grasslands. These deep pampas stretch beyond the horizon, and they make for an eerie place, steeped in arcane mystery, where strange lights streak across the sky at night. Travelers know it as the Culchan Plains, though this vast expanse of land has only been visited by a handful of explorers.

When Cayetano ordered to land on that coast, his people obeyed. When he ordered to burn the ships to erase all traces of their presence, they did. When he marched inland carrying the statue of Myrmidia Invicta on his back, they did not questioned him, no more than when he told them something was telling him where to go, for who but the goddess could?

The expedition marched inland for days, following the increasingly wide eyed Díaz brothers, until they stood on a wind battered hill overlooking the empty surroundings and Cayetano set the statue on the ground. On that hill they would build a temple to their goddess. And all around it, the garrison-town of Altos Aires was born, so named to emphasize the lack of mephitic pestilence so characteristic of the jungle colonies.

Like Cayetano predicted, the place was spared the endemic jungle diseases, but that did not made it a safe haven: scorching summers, freezing winters and occasional massive storms are only surpassed by the fauna. Jaguars, bloodwasps, carrion ants, giant ground sloths, large armadillos with mace-like tails, giant bats, prides of massive sabre-tooth cats and of course, the culchans, the top predators of the plains, large, flightless, carnivorous birds with powerful legs that allow them to run at great speed and a massive hooked beak that is strong enough to crack a man’s skull. Dangerous fauna a man can hunt and kill, as the talaverans soon did to feed their families.

No fevers, few lizardmen, and a vast land to explore and plunder, the estalians thought they had found the perfect place for their ambitions to thrive. But as months in the plain turned into years, they would discover Lustria has many ways to defend itself from intruders.

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Being far away from the jungles does not spare a man the attentions of the unseen magical barriers placed by the slann to protect the land. The more time they spent on the plains, the more the estalians felt something growing in their souls, a sense of melancholy, of insignificance. The priests would soon confirm this phenomenon was far too massive to be natural, and that an unknown malice is at work on the Culchan Plains, unless it is the land itself, saturated with magical energy, that reacts to their presence. Facing the vast expanses of the empty plains brings depression and suicidal thought to the unaware. It would have spelled the end of the expedition, until a cure was discovered by the always focused Cayetano.

The cure is activity, having a purpose, something the Diaz brothers never lacked and were quick to spread. Military discipline, religious fervor or simple greed can be the difference between life and death in Altos Aires. For this reason only the focused ones survive, those who search for something and never give up, never allow themselves to wander. This gives Altos Aires a dynamic yet unsettling air to newcomers. Talaverans drill incessantly; horsemen come and go, hunting culchan birds with spears and bolas on the pampas; the temple of Myrmidia Invicta is packed at all times with supplicants studying the word of the goddess and praying for purpose, much to the delight of priestesses and inquisitors. The population goes from songs to brawls to building and rebuilding.

And expeditions… always expeditions in search of riches or forgotten knowledge in the ruins dotting the land. Even druchii war parties are greeted with a sinister eagerness. The only cure to the ailing of the soul is to never lose sight of the reasons for being there. Those who fail inevitably turn irresponsive, apathetic, or loose themselves on the plains until their dried husks are found months or years later.

Unlike the anarchic cutthroat dens of northern Lustria, Altos Aires resembles a military garrison… were every soldier is a cutthroat reaver. More than anywhere else, the talaverans who mutinied to follow Cayetano embody that old estalian truism: only the disciplined can be undisciplined.

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What delightful background! How very colonial Estalian as well. Excellently crafted as always. Do you happen to have anything more in store for Altos Aires? :smile:

Also, what coincidence met me here: I was just starting to catch up on long-planned tasks on CDO and reading through background topic notifications half a year old. I had just posted a story for an artwork by @forgefire , written in raw format during 2017 and finished today, which feature the pampas of the Culchan Plains. And the first background topic in the list I then stumble into happens to be your wonderful background for Altos Aires.

It must truly be the will of Myrmidia. Praise be to the Goddess! Set sail!

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Thanks! That’s some coincidence! I love the margins of the Warhammer World. It provides us with so much to explore.

For now these are just a few snipets to give flavor to my estalian army project. There’s a few more texts in my painting thread.

We’ll see if more comes as I keep painting. Probably though, I have some ideas that need polishing!

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