Cities of Tirenia - Zigura
Zigura, the Hidden City
History: Zigura was the largest city in the White Mountains, to the west of Tirenia. It had a population of 10,000, mostly gnomes and humans. It was founded in the Heroic Age by the Tiguri, a group related to the Tarchanians who settled in the mountains rather than proceed into the subcontinent. Accordingly, they speak a dialect that is most distantly related to Tirenian than most other dialects. The Tiguri settled in different valleys and passes, forming small clans that often feuded among themselves. Zigura was the largest of the mountain communities, and much of the internecine fighting in the mountains was the result of Zigura positioning itself as the leaders of the other clans. Zigura was also the home of the gnomes, former fairy spirits who forsook their immortality in order to be able to remain in the world after the War of the Host.
In 491 A.A.S. Zigura invited the Auromian Empire to interfere in the clan warfare. Once the area was pacified by the bronze dragons, Zigura leveraged this alliance to solidify its role as the leaders of the clans. When the Empire fell, this alliance broke up once more. The western mountains sheltered the monsters that poured into Tirenia, and many of the clans were devastated or destroyed entirely by them, but Zigura was able to escape largely unscathed.
Zigura was conquered by the white dragon Quarza after he was driven out of Medilano by the silver dragons. Rather than the slow infiltration pursued by dragons in other cities, Quarza simply landed in dragon form in the middle of the city. Zigura’s inaccessability did not protect it from a flying enemy, and the gnomes and humans were forced to surrender. Fortunately, Quarza was not a particularly attentive lord: he was happy to collect tribute and otherwise leave the Zigurans alone.
In 1001 A.S., after nearly a hundred years of enslavement, the gnomish trapper Guglielmo Dire slew Quarza with a crossbow bolt. Dire had taken advantage of Quarza’s negligent rule to organise a resistance with other clans across the mountains, many of whom were ruled by other dragons. Their plan was to kill their dragon lords one by one, and to establish an alliance of the mountain clans. The first part of their plan worked perfectly: the gnomes and humans were able to trap Quarza, and while the dragon struggled to free himself, Guglielmo Dire shot the dragon in the eye, killing it. Envoys from Zigura announced the city’s freedom throughout Tirenia, and encouraged the other cities to do likewise. Less than a week later, the dragons made an example of Zigura. A flight of dragons of many broods assembled in the skies above the mountains. With fire and ice and lightning and acid and gas, the city of Zigura was destroyed, and all its people slain.
That was what the gnomes wanted them to think, in any case. Guglielmo Dire knew that one way or another, any attack against the dragons would invite retaliation. Before killing Quarza, he had discovered a series of caverns under the mountains, near Zigura. The resistance created an entire underground city, before using gnomish trickery to deceive the dragons when they attacked. Some Zigurans were killed during cave-ins caused by the dragon attack, but the vast majority escaped. While the rest of the world thinks that Zigura is no more, it is in fact the only city in Tirenia that has managed to free itself from the dragons. Guglielmo Dire is now biding his time before making his next move.
Government: Most Zigurans dwell in small, isolated communities. They have a strong tradition of independence. Leaders are followed because they are respected and have proven themselves, rather than their descent. This means that Zigurans tend to be roughly democratic, with representatives of different community groups working together to determine policy.
Religion: The gnomes of Zigura have always had a complicated relationship with the Church. They believe in Salvationism, but they do not actually want to purify their souls and go to Paradiso: they used to be immortal spirits, and they’re happier the way they are! This has spread to engender a very irreverent attitude towards religion in Zigura. Recently, this has begun to change: in the caverns of New Zigura, the refugees discovered a natural cathedral, filled with crystals and illuminated by a beam of light from a crack in the roof. In the stone wall, there appeared the weeping faces of a man and a woman. The people believe these to be the images of the patron saints of Zigura, San Regulus and Santa Felicia, and took it as a holy sign.
Geography: The ruins of Zigura are located in a plateau high in the White Mountains, which gave it excellent natural protection. The new city of Zurich is located in grottoes which have been extended to reach under the plateau. The full extent of the cave system has not yet been discovered, and the settlers are occasionally subjected to attacks from monsters that have come up from the deeps. It is possible that the caves go all the way down to the Inferno.
Culture: The music of Zigura is very iconic. The long gnomish horns are designed to be heard from valley to valley. The gnomes also sing with a distincting ululating style known as ‘jodelling,’ which is often mocked by Tirenians; it has its origins with the calls of herders in the mountains.
Zigura is known for its fine clockmakers. They are hired throughout Tirenia to construct and maintain the great clocktowers in each city. The wealthy may also be able to afford a personal mechanical clock, or even a pocket watch or wrist watch, although these are basically novelties and jewelry rather than serious time-telling devices.
Zigura also has a unique cuisine style. Many farmers make their own wheels of hard yellow cheese, which have a sweet and nutty taste. Sausages, which include various herbs and spices, are also home-made and may be cooked or fried. Zigurans also like baked pastries such as fruit pies. Many Zigurans brew their own cider using apples or other fruits. This emphasis on home recipes mean that each village often has competitions during feast days where prizes are awarded for the best cheese, the best sausages, the best pies and the best ciders.
Esoterica: The White Mountains are closer than usual to Faerie - it was this that allowed the gnomes to settle in Zigura. The lands on the other side have not been claimed by a new faerie queen since the departure of the gnomes, and so the area is a sort of spiritual hinterland, full of monsters and spirits. The most powerful fairy in the area is Perchta the Huntress, who leads the Wild Hunt that chases down monsters, as well as any stray townsfolk who may have been led astray in the mountains. The gnomes have passed many legends down about how to avoid the attention of these beings, but some of the stories may simply be inventions to satisfy the gnomish sense of humour!
Perchtenstag is a ritual reenactment of the Wild Hunt, which is believed to roam through the mountains during the month of Carnevale. Citizens wear masks representing devils and fairies and parade through the village, so that the real Wild Hunt does not need to pass through. In the spring, the Zigurans celebrate Sächsilüüte, a fire festival. They light bonfires which are kept burning day and night, and burn Böögg, effigies of spirits of the ice and snow, symbolically dispelling the winter. The people of Zigura also believe in hanging special lanterns made of hollowed out and specially preserved gourds, which ward off the spirits. In a festival at the beginning of autumn, they make these lanterns, and then children run around the town with them, making loud noises to scare away evil spirits.
Politics: The clans of the White Mountains have a reputation as some of the best mercenary soldiers in the world, especially when it comes to the use of the pike. With Zigura ‘destroyed’, the largest remaining expatriate communities of Zigurans are mercenaries who were absent during the city’s downfall, many of whom are unaware of the city’s survival. The surviving Zigurans have used the opportunities provided by mercenary work to gather information about the state of the world, and to secretly repatriate their kindred.
Future Developments: The New Zigurans are still working on their great plan. Killing Quarza was only one step. The next step is the simultaneous elimination of the remaining white dragons. The gnomes have been extending their tunnels for rapid movement throughout the mountains, and stockpiling the money that Ziguran mercenaries send home ‘to look after my poor aged mother and father’ in order to purchase weapons. When the time is right, the white dragons will suddenly find the floors of their lairs collapse under them, explosives detonated to drop the ceiling on them, monsters from the mountains lured in to fight them, or just shot by an army of angry infiltrators.
Image: Detail from the Heiligentaler Altar. Hans Bornemann, c. 1445.