Welcome to a land of vast beauty and fierce savagery; a land of magnificent opportunities . . . and dark menaces. It is truly a New World, only now cast open before the adventurer’s footsteps. At least, it is new to those adventurers who hail from the Sword Coast, and other known regions of the Forgotten Realms. But for some, it is the land they have always known, the place of their heritage and ancestry - and now, the place of their very uncertain future. Maztica is a land of varying cultures, with unique treasures and magics. It is strangely vulnerable to the powers of the Old World, yet it is resilient as well. It bends without breaking to the pressures exerted upon it, and in so doing it combines the strongest features of its native cultures with the strongest aspects of the invaders. Journey there now, as creatures and cultures come together to make a new place - a land that all types of adventurers can call their own.
(Much of Naltecona.s tale is covered in the Maztica novels. Readers who wish to remain surprised by developments in those stories are forewarned that some of those events are summarized here.)
Naltecona ascended to the throne of the most powerful empire the True World had ever known. At the time, he was an accomplished warrior, famed for his good judgement, intelligence, and mature understanding of his world. A handsome, impressive man, he had several devoted wives and a vast court of nobles and advisers. He wielded more power than any man on his continent ever had before.
Twelve years later he was dead, killed by forces he couldn’t begin to understand. Around him, the wreckage of his empire smoldered in chaos and war, while the future of humanity itself – at least, on the continent called Maztica - seemed to lie in some doubt. New, dark forces arose in the seat of his power, and the surviving peoples of Nexal once again fled through the desert as refugees.
Certainly the trigger that began this collapse can be found in the arrival of foreigners - Captain-General Cordell and the five hundred men of his Golden Legion - on the shores of the True World.
This event, while earth-shaking in import, was only one cornerstone of the collapse, however. When the reign of Naltecona is cast against the rise of Nexal through the preceding centuries, it develops like a grand tragedy, inevitable in its collapse, despite its strengths. For in its foundation, at its very root, it was an empire based upon evil - upon the taking of innocent human lives to feed a bloodthirsty god, a god claimed by the clerics of his cult as being essential to the well-being of the world.
At the time of Axalt’s death, the Nexalan empire was basically at peace. The subject lands of Pezelac, Huacli and Kolan paid their tributes regularly. The Kultakans, while always troublesome, were no more of a threat than ever. Trade flourished, with merchants journeying even to Payit, where they could barter for brilliant feathers unlike the plumage that native Nexalan and Pezelac feather workers could trap.
The Last Omen
On the tenth anniversary of the day stars arrival, the nobles of the court stood in nervous anticipation around the throne. Naltecona, pretending nonchalance, could barely conceal his own agitation. Unfortunately, for palace decorum at least, they had to wait for the duration of the long day, for the final omen did not arrive until sunset. At that time, Naltecona led the procession of priests and captives to the top of the great pyramid. There, under the darkening sky, the Revered Counselor performed several of the ritual sacrifices himself as was his right and, occasionally, his custom.
Immediately after he had thrown these hearts into the maw of the Zaltec statue, the portentous moment arrived. The tenth omen came in the form of a beast from the sky, a creature unlike anything previously seen in the True World. It descended to the top of the pyramid, and all who could see it - which included most of the city’s population - trembled in awe.
It was described, by the cleric Coton, as “shaped like a bird, having no feathers, and covered in leathery skin like a crocodile”. Modern speculation tentatively identifies the creature as a wyvern, though a unique one.
Unique because its chest was formed of a dark, shiny substance, like a mirror. All who witnessed the creature saw themselves reflected in that mirror - all, except Naltecona. He stood close to the creature, and stared into the mirror. There, he received the final omen.
From the counsellor’s later descriptions, it seems that in his vision he saw evidence of the ships of the Golden Legion, and of mounted soldiers and footmen wearing steel breastplates. All these things were so foreign to him that he may perhaps be forgiven if he suspected that he witnessed the coming of a god. The coming of the wyvern, incidentally, coincided almost to the day with the first landfall of Cordell’s troops, along the coastline of Payit.
Faced with this indisputable evidence of great changes occurring in his world, Naltecona tried desperately to overcome his fear. Although he was a man well-prepared to face the known challenges of his empire, this was an invasion from beyond his world; something that his imagination could not effectively grasp.
His reign, from this time onward, is marked by tragic indecision. Counselled by his priests and war leaders that his nation was being invaded by men, he could never bring himself to fully believe that these invaders were mere mortals. Always in the back of his mind lingered the legends of Qotal’s return, and in the person of Cordell he suspected that he faced a returning, omni-powerful deity…