Khutal

Published November 2, 2016 by


Description

The city-state of Khutal lies northeast of the Beyond in the volcanic desert region that also contains Vralk (Note, map position limitation prevents accurate marker at the moment. Khutal’s location would be farther north than it appears on the map).  Khutal is within a week’s march of Vralk, but the followers of the Red Gods have never been able to conquer the city.  The god-monarchs of Khutal look after their own.

Khutal enjoys a temperate climate despite being located in an arid region.  This is due to a powerful Numenera artifact called the Cloudstone that circles the city.  The Cloudstone provides rain and shade sufficient to convert the torrid desert into a tropical biome.  The stone orbits far enough out that the inner edge of its shadow is two miles from the center of the city, while the outer edge is five miles out.  Another half mile separates the fields from the stronglass wall that surrounds the city.  Khutal’s first line of defense is nearly a quarter-mile in height and over two-hundred feet thick.  There are thirty towers spaced equidistantly around the circumference of the wall, and each one contains a solar cannon capable of destroying armored vehicles.

Khutal has been a city under siege for over a hundred years… which is impressive for a city that wasn’t there two-hundred years ago.  A group of refugees found the city while fleeing Vralkan conquest through a region that had been empty the previous year.  When they sought shelter within the walls the city beckoned them into the palace and installed the group’s leader as god-queen (she was not consulted).  The new god-queen declared Khutal a sovereign nation.  When age finally claimed the god-queen a new ruler, a god-king, ascended the Yellow Throne.

The god-king’s rule has been mostly benevolent, but there have been several strange edicts.  Because of the original settlers’ low numbers it is required that every adult produce at least two children.  Khutal is also quick to adopt refugees and lost travelers.  Every new arrival is granted an audience with the god-king… and those meetings never end well for spies.  The god-king also requires every citizen to serve for at least a year on caravan duty – Khutal sends regular shipments of food to Vralk and other communities in the area.  The Vralkan government explains this to their people as tribute, but the truth is that a dozen attempted conquests of Khutal have failed to date.  The caravans run anyway, and Vralk needs the food too badly to harm the caravaneers.  The Khutali are divided as to whether the shipments are motivated by their ruler’s compassion or if it’s the god-king’s way of killing the Vralkans with kindness.  Either way the Khutali lurk behind their wall smiling and waving at would-be conquerors and welcoming new citizens with open arms.

Details

Rulers:
The god-king (or god-queen) is known only by title; once chosen by the city that person has no name.
Population:
About 6,000 and growing; the city can easily support ten times that number.
Capital:
Khutal is a city state with no holdings outside the wall.
Region:
Other
Khutal Hearsay:

The Goldgleam Cage:

Khutal’s walls are good at keeping invaders out, and there are those who believe that they are equally good at keeping the Khutali in.  Neighboring communities claim that the god-king doesn’t permit his subjects to leave the city ever again once they have served a term on caravan duty.  Khutali refuse to comment on this… but there are no confirmed reports of citizens who have served their caravan commitments being seen outside the city.

The Guns of Khutal:

The solar cannons atop the towers are more than potent enough to destroy a non-Numenera siege weapon with a single blast, and even Numenera devices can be severely damaged.  The cannons can fire indefinitely during daylight hours.  No one outside of Khutal knows how many times they can fire at night.  All thirty towers are manned at all times, but only eight of them have ever been seen to fire.  There are those in the Vralkan high command who believe that the remaining towers are nonfunctional, but the disciples of the Red Gods aren’t committed to testing this theory… yet.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King:

There have been two rulers, a god-queen and a god-king, so far, and rumor has it that the god-king is growing frail.  When the ruler dies the city will choose a new one from among the citizens who are currently there… or perhaps from among the visitors.

The Weird of Khutal:

The Cloudstone:

The source of Khutal’s prosperity circles the city at a height of two miles – about quadruple the height of the city’s tallest tower.  The Cloudstone appears to be made of black marble shot with glowing golden veins.  The stone is a mile in diameter but its shadow extends a mile to either side.  Gentle rain constantly falls into the area of the stone’s shadow.  No one knows the source of the water, but it tests as pure enough to have been distilled.  The Cloudstone orbits the city twice a day.  Attempts to use it for timekeeping have revealed that it is on a 27-hour cycle.

Matchmakers and Midwives:

A long-term resident of Khutal – anyone who has lived in the city more-or-less constantly for at least a year – has a biomechanical companion creature that resembles a bird, bat, or insect.  The creature’s appearance is not quite unique; it matches that of only a handful of others.  For each man there will be two to four women whose companions, which the Khutali call matchmakers, look exactly like his.  Each of these women will be an excellent genetic and psychological match with the man in addition to being friendship-compatible with each other.  Khutali tradition requires a man to marry all of the women with whom he is matched.  Records show that the number of matches was greater in the city’s early days – three to seven matches per man – so this disparity is clearly the city’s way of increasing population.  Khutali scholars are sure that the number of matches will decline when there are more people living in the city.

Whenever a woman who is a resident of Khutal goes into a difficult labor her companion will merge with those of her husband and co-wives into a single hound-sized hexapod.  Khutali call such creatures midwives.  A midwife is specialized in obstetrics, post-partum care, and neonatal medicine and will dissolve back into individual matchmakers when it is no longer needed.

The Yellow Throne:

The throne appears to be a large ball of translucent amber-colored gel that shapes itself to the occupant’s body.  The god-king – or god-queen, as the case may be – sits or reclines in the throne at all times.  The ruler of Khutal is completely naked and adorned with nothing but a palpable aura of power and wisdom.  Nanos who have scanned the ruler attest that the substance of the throne has thoroughly infiltrated the occupant’s body. It is common knowledge that some kind of AI is using the god-king as an interface for interacting with humans. Even the Khutali find this prospect rather gruesome, but they consider it a fair price to pay for their prosperity and safety.  Besides, enough of the original human personality survives that becoming the god-king is not quite a death sentence.

Points of Interest:

The Field Ring:

The ring of fertile ground that surrounds the city proper is divided into sectors that grow different crops.  Some of the plants are native to other parts of the continent, and not all of them are edible by humans.  The field ring produces far more food than the current population of Khutal can eat, so they export much of it to nearby communities.

The Palace:

The god-king’s palace consists of a central half-mile tall spire surrounded by three towers about three-quarters as tall.  The towers are made of the same stronglass as the wall (the rest of the city seems to have been carved from black sandstone).  The spire is made of the same material as the Cloudstone.  Every child born in Khutal is brought to the palace to be presented to the god-king, and most weddings are performed there as well.

The Wall:

The wall has stood between Khutal and the rest of the world since the city mysteriously appeared on the sands. It is strong enough to withstand bombardment by catapults. Numenera siege weapons would probably breach it (the Khutali think so, anyway), so any who approach the city openly with such devices will be fired upon without warning.

  • Creizzan

    So every man marries 2-4 women. Why are there 3 times as many men as women? Is only one in 4 births male? Or do the women each also marry multiple men?

    • tygertyger

      Excellent questions! This is why I like getting another pair of eyes on these things.

      The first refugees to reach Khutal just happened to be mostly women — probably due to a “women and children first” evacuation policy and many men staying behind to cover their retreat.

      Once the people settled there the God-Queen figured out that they would need to increase their population quickly, and the most efficient way to do that (for humans) is for each man to father children by multiple women. This is because, given a 9-month gestation period, a woman can only bring one pregnancy to term per year. A man can theoretically sire a child every night. So, for fast population growth, polygyny beats polyandry. The God-Queen/King has been manipulating conceptions to ensure the skewed sex ratio until it is no longer needed, and the reduction in the number of matches per man indicates that the policy is being gradually phased out.

      It would not be amiss for this stuff to be at least hinted at in the write-up, so I’ll look into making some edits. Thanks for the feedback!