This was originally posted on [Rec.Games.Frp.Cyber Rec.Games.Frp.Cyber] by David Henry when the Aztlan Sourcebook came out. I thought it was so good it needed to be placed on a web archive.
OK, speak and you will receive. The Aztlan book finally made it to my home state last night, and I read it all in one sitting that same night. For those who were wondering, confused, apathetic, or just stuck here watching everything, here's my take on an Annotation of the comments of certain long-lived individuals in the Aztlan sourcebook. My qualifications for this are simple: I'm a SR gamer who wants to write it up. Feel free to add on as you see fit. I'm also the quasi-official keeper of the SR/Earthdawn comparison FAQ, and I have all the Shadowrun AND Earthdawn material released so far (sigh...), so I catch most of the inside comments. But, anyway, here we go. Needless to say, this post contains spoilers for the Shadowrun universe, not only in Aztlan. Read on only if you want to...
The Big 'D' is Dunkelzahn the Great Dragon, as has been confirmed in numerous other sourcebooks (and in this one). Dunkelzahn has shown an interest in not only the lifestyle and psychology, but welfare and well-being of the "little races" that share his planet with him for millenia. Many of the other immortals in the SR universe dislike him because his apparent empathy for the metahumans makes him prone to "spilling the beans" about various magical phenomena that others would rather keep secret (so they can profit from it, of course).
Comments in this book make it clear that of the "hidden commentators" in the Aztlan book, Dunkelzahn is the only dragon present. Apparently most, if not all, of the other attendees at Dunkelzahn's node are long-lived elves.
Hecate is unknown, although I'll make other guesses about her later.
Lady of the Court is Lady Deigh, the leader of Tir na nOg, Tir Tairngire's main rival. Comments made later in this book show interesting sides to her personality and position in this "star chamber" of powerful individuals.
Umsondo is unknown, but for reasons presented later is most likely South African.
His position of "Watcher" will be dealt with later.
Dunkelzahn has tricked all the other attendees (from now on called "elves" as a group, even though Jungle Cat, Hecate, and even Umsondo may not be elves) into attending this virtual conference by apparently promising all of them that they would only be meeting him alone.
Note Dunkelzahn's reasons for bringing them there: each of the elves is important to the shadowy world of SR immortal influence because of both their personal power and "in most cases" of who they represent.
Harlequin represents just himself (plus maybe other disaffected immortals), the two Tirs have their reps, of course, and Jungle Cat is there for Amazonia. There is one other major Elven Awakened nation in SR, and that's the new South Africa (Azania?). It's mentioned in the novel "Nosferatu". Osmundu, by virtue of his references later, is almost certainly from there (it also fits in by giving the other large Elven nation a presence). No presence is given for the small Elven duchy of Pomorya near Germany, but maybe they're too small for Dunkelzahn to worry about (and maybe Hecate is from there). This still leaves the question as to who Hecate is. By her references later, my best guess is that she's the Blood Queen from the old Blood Wood, of the Fourth World of Magic, currently living in Tir Tairngire. She has many insults directed at Dunkelzahn throughout this document (especially early on), and she has been involved in some form of corrupting blood magic. A very strong hatred of dragons and involvement in some really nasty blood magic that makes Aztechnology look like Captain Kangaroo is all typical of Blood Elves. Hecate as the Blood Queen is only a "best information" type of guess, though.
Brightlight is unknown, but is almost surely an immortal Elf.
Noting how Lady Deigh refers to him, it's apparent that Brightlight has ties to the Irish Tir. He may be the founder of Tir na nOg, who left his rulership position to tread the Path of Kings a few years back (and who saves the day in "Nosferatu"). Then again, he may just be yet another immortal elf.
Note Hecate's comments here to Lady Deigh. Lady Deigh may have the potential of immortality, but she's very young -- she was probably born in the 21st Century. The older elves obviously view her as somewhat as a very gifted, but very foolish, child. Note that in the story "Wyrm Talk," Harlequin gets very apprehensive when Dunkelzahn threatens to go to Lady Deigh for an interview subject. This is very interesting, and fits in with her revealed personality: she's been appointed to a very important position, but she feels inadequate compared to all the power brokers around her, and thus tries to overcompensate in various ways. Harlequin may very well have feared that the relatively unsophisticated Lady Deigh would have cracked under Dunkelzahn's gentle questionings and let out "more" than she should have on international tri-vid. No record if Lady Deigh ever appeared on "Wyrm Talk" exists. Since she's so young, she will invoke names of Elves she's close to or has ties to to reaffirm her status among the Immortals -- thus making my main evidence that Brightlight is an Irish Elf.
Dunkelzahn next notes that the Aztlan file may contain information that could threaten all of them gathered there. It's a subtle threat, delivered behind a request for no bickering on the bottom of the left-hand column, but it's still there. This lends credence that there is something very wrong going on in Aztlan.
Dunkelzahn is much older than ten-thousand years old. He is, at least, twenty thousand, and probably much older.
Jungle Cat makes references that he already knows what's going on in Aztlan, and refers to them as his/their "ancient enemy". Which could be a reference to old human tribal disputes, or could be something else entirely.
Lesser dragons are the common dragons. Great Dragons, like Dunkelzahn, are vastly more physically (and especially magically) powerful than normal dragons, and apparently are a leadership type among dragonkind.
The insult that Dunkelzahn did not take was offered by Jungle Cat -- Cat inferred that Pobre really was a Great Dragon in disguise, contradicting Dunkelzahn's knowledge. Notice that Umsondo can apparently act as a judge on various people's actions, undoubtfully a power of his position as a Watcher. Dunkelzahn graciouslly ignores the insult.
Notice that all the various Elven nations (assuming Umsondo is Zulu) are giving help, even if just a little, to the rebels. Note that Hecate is the one who prods the leaders into speaking, meaning she's probably not a leader herself. This does subtract from the chance that she's the Blood Queen, since the Queen enjoys a position on the Tir Tairngire Council of Princes.
Once again, Umsondo apparently acts as an arbitrator of everyone else's touchiness. If someone think's they're being slighted in some minor way, Umsondo can apparently rule whether they were or not... and even Harlequin accepts (if with a bit of good humor) his decisions. Umsondo must be one level dude.
Ehran's comments about "Cat should know" indicate that Cat apparently is the one of the group who should know the most about Aztlan.
Dunkelzahn is showing how he feels his philosophy of telling the metahumans what to watch out for is a good one, here. It should be noted that Dunkelzahn wanted to tell everyone about the Universal Brotherhood before Chicago got blasted, but was outvoted by, among others, Harlequin.
Hecate's comment on 8,000 BCE is humorous since she was alive and well back then, enjoying the heights of whatever magical culture she was part of then (see the Earthdawn game for more details).
Once again, Lady Deigh tries fitting in only to get squashed. Poor lady.
Umsondo's matters of "graver import" are unknown. Around 2048 was close to when the terribly silly Secrets of Power trilogy took place, however (the first SR book series), and in that series a beginning shaman named Sam broke an ancient magical lock against some Horrors from Australia and took it to try and cure his sister of her metahumanity. There was an aborigine immortal elf from Australia in that series who followed Sam to America to try and get the stone back; his position there may be linked to Umsondo's position as a Watcher in South Africa. Umsondo's matters may be linked to Sam's theft, or may be something else altogether.
"Down-cycle hunting" is a reference to how some elves, probably sympathetic to designs of the Blood Wood, carried their hatred of dragons into action during the cycle of no magic. How they found and killed sleeping dragons is unknown.
Umsondo's comment means he has a Great Dragon as a sworn enemy, the Rain Queen. The Rain Queen is a Great Dragon who lives right above Cape Town, if I remember "Nosferatu" correctly, and is very much opposed to the all-elven Zulu nation right next door.
This is the main evidence that Umsondo is Zulu.
The apparent truth about Atzcapotzalco will be discussed later on in this document.
A Locus is undefined so far in SR/ED magical theory. However, in Earthdawn, anything that has a Name (you, your dog, Aztlan) has a Pattern. By weaving threads to that Pattern (in SR terms, bonding with it by paying Karma), you increase your magical abilities in regards to that Pattern. However, you have to be physically touching the Pattern to bond with it. A Locus is quite possibly the physical spot in Aztlan where Aztlan mages can bond to the Pattern of their country. This can greatly increase their magics if they know how to do it; in an attempt to translate ED rules to SR ones, they could easily at least double their effective Initiate level by doing so. Many countries even in the Age of Magic of Earthdawn never got to find their Pattern for their country -- that Aztlan should be able to do so is truly incredible, especially at this time in the mana cycle.
"Corrupt" is a reference used to two things in Earthdawn: Horror magic, and the magic of the Blood Elves (which is not Horror-spawned at all). Either one could upset Lady Deigh, since Tir na nOg is the closest thing to the current incarnation of the Blood Wood. Blood magic is not usually needed in ED when you have Pattern magic, since Pattern magic is far more useful and wide-ranging, thus Jungle Cat's comment. Blood magic is quicker, though, and more immediately effective.
"Gifted," in this company, probably means possibly immortal, not just magically active.
Dunkelzahn's comments point out how much older he is than any of the elves.
Umsondo's comment in the second column is his adjudging for the insult in the first column on this page. In short, he's saying:
"Harlequin was not intending an insult, he was just guessing with insufficient data."
Ehran's comment is that they can tell if a computer is alive by astrally assensing it -- after all, all living things have an aura.
They are all talking about a Horror mark, if not outright Horror possession, of a dragon. Horrors are astral entities from the deep dark metaplanes that are responsible for, among other things, the bottle in Bottled Demon. They arrive on Earth when the mana level gets high enough to let them manifest all across the planet, and they consume all they meet. The Horrors are a definite threat -- there are billions of them, and the most powerful of them are near the power level of Lovecraft's Great Old Ones. Life on Earth has so far always survived by hiding under strong magics when the Horrors arrive (see Earthdawn for more on Horrors). The idea of a Horror-marked dragon, so early in the mana cycle, means that there may not be time to raise the necessary magical power to save anyone's life, let alone your own precious one, this mana cycle. This is Dunkelzahn's concern.
Harlequin's comments to Ehran's jibing are in reference to the Harlequin's Back adventure. There, he found the mana spike created by the Great Ghost Dance was allowing the Horrors back into the world centuries before they should be showing up (they shouldn't be arriving until the year 4000 or so). His astral quest to seal that bridge (which is Harlequin's Back) has apparently not entirely been believed by his contemporaries. Harlequin's last comment on this page refers to how he sees himself as a battered, lonely knight, fated to keep fighting against impossible foes, possibly forever -- very Moorcockian of the fellow. Harlequin has most recently struck against the "early Horrors" in the novel "House of the Sun".
Aztlan has apparently rediscovered the basics of fighting Disciplines -- specialized forms of spellcasting physical adepts, as per the Earthdawn setting. Lady Deigh's comments show how various of the guards in the Tirs are already effectively physical adepts of this type.
This, for me, is the most chilling part of the book. Forget that a Horror is probably running Aztechnology; that various beings, for the good of the world, set out to destroy human faith, and then see nothing wrong with their means, just the ends, is far more scary to me.
Note again that Lady Deigh is out of the loop as far as the actual activities among the immortals.
The second section is in reference to how the Aztlan church apparently generates mana for use in Aztlan in general. Ehran's comment about places this has been done before is either in reference to a Fourth World kingdom, or to how the Tirs have reforested and "cleaned up" their lands with magic.
Harlequin's comment about the Spike Point is in reference to Harlequin's Back. He is reminding Ehran that if the magic was strong enough there to make a bridge between the real world and Horrorlands, then the blood magic in all the Aztlan temples may very well be as strong.
More of the same from the previous page. Coleman is Daniel Coleman, the Great Prophet who learned, somehow, from something, how to dance the Great Ghost Dance.
Note that Dunkelzahn is, once again, the most humanitarian of the lot, oddly enough.
The importance of titles is obvious to Ehran, who can practice Pattern Magic: if you are the Named head of state, you have access to the Pattern Magic of that office. When the head of state changes, by keeping the title the same the next head automatically inherits the same powers.
Ehran is hopelessly addicted to social analyzing, which is probably where his comment on petitioning comes from. He also comes from the Fourth World (if not earlier), and the main form of "worship" there really was petitioning -- you'd ask the Questor of a Passion to try and invoke the Passion to help you out.
Hecate's comments indicate that she's been involved in high-level blood magic herself, and sees no trouble with the general practice, assuming apparent appropriate safeguards. If it wasn't for her not knowing how the Tirs are politically backing the rebels, this comment would cement her as a Blood Elf, and probably the Queen.
More blood magic comments from Hecate.
The calendar that is "true" that they're talking about is the Mayan Long Count calendar, which Dunkelzahn himself has pronounced as pretty darn accurate. Unlike the Aztec calendar, the Mayan calendar goes back for millions of years. The Mayan cycle of the Long Count is approximately the length of time for a cycle of magic in the SR/ED world.
The appearance of the Insect spirits in Earthdawn was viewed as a harbinger of the Scourge (the Scourge is the time when the Horrors walk the Earth). Note that Harlequin again is having trouble convincing his peers of the threat of early Horrors.
"So you have seen!" probably means that he's spent time personally trying to convince people, such as Hecate, and apparently he's not doing so hot.
Dunkelzahn's comment is that the power behind Atzcapotzalco is the one who is getting the life energy.
More on how the Irish Elves are being opposed by the Catholic Church. Note that Harlequin's comment lends credence to the idea that Brightlight is from the Irish Tir.
Ehran is wondering what that means ("This spellworm -- was he alone?"). Dunkelzahn wants him to stay quiet and figure out that the mage was probably sacrificing other people to cast the spell.
Once again, Lady Deigh almost spills the identity beans. She's also commenting on the activities of Harlequin's Back.
The Place Harlequin's mentioning is the first encounter on his Astral Quest, to all appearances a post-Scourge Seattle where all spellcasting is done through blood magic.
Lady Deigh's comments on the "surrogates" refers to how it was discovered that various incarnations of Harlequin were found across the metaplanes, all involved in the quest to stop the Horrors one way or another. Harlequin was opposed in Harlequin's Back by an Aztlan mage, by the way.
Ehran is implying that whoever is teaching the Aztechs their magic is doing so so that the nation of Amazonia, who is right next door, won't suspect any immortal (or even Horror) influence in doing so.
Harlequin makes a comment about Hecate and dangerous blood magic again.
Note that Dunkelzahn considers "his kind" to be only Great Dragons.
Jungle Cat's comment is a reference to the Fourth World. Among other things, hydras were created by an elven experiment in dragon blood magic (the dragons were not particularly pleased).
Harlequin's comment echoes one he made in Harlequin's Back.
The Horrors may need a high mana level to come, but they can survive with a much lower once once they're here.
The implications of foveae to SR/ED magical theory are beyond the scope of these Annotations.
Note that Hecate once again has apparently used willingly pretty bad blood magic herself. This almost certainly makes her a Blood Elf... but which one?
Ehran is trying to make peace; his country, Tir Tairngire, apparently contains elements of all three major elven powers in the Fourth World (Blood Wood, Thera, and the neutral elves).
No idea how Ehran knows of what's going to happen in Bogota. He does have a retreat in Amazonia, though.
The "weapon in Chicago" was the nuclear blast in the novel Burning Bright, which Ares used to try and kill a mondo-major Insect spirit hive.
The irony of Lofwyr, the Great Dragon who owns Saeder-Krupp and who sits on the ruling council of Tir Tairngire, owning a nuclear weapon is not apparent. Perhaps he may be willing to use it on Aztlan?
Jungle Cat is obviously involved in some of the great reforestation magics going on in Amazonia. What "Great Rituals" are is unspecified; probably spells of Circle 13 or higher in ED terms.
Harlequin's comment on death bringing on new life is very close to how the Earth always survives the Scourge.
Hecate obviously used some form of horrible blood magic to survive the Scourge. Ehran is obviously horrified by the blood magic. The magic in question must be the Ritual of Thorns.
Deigh's comment on "third or fourth stage Lesser Rituals" does not have enough context to analyze.
Cat's comment about the Locus is to reassure Harlequin that he will not have to do another astral quest to shut down a Horror bridge because of the Amazonian actions.
Once again, Deigh's age becomes a point of sniping.
In "Nosferatu," the Zulu elves were often associated with lion shamans and other big cats. Umsondo's comment about that is another clue that he is Zulu. In Earthdawn, Awakened lions are one of the major anti-Horror beasts, having a glowing eyesight that can cause pain to Horrors.
The comments here will be dealt with in order.
Umsondo's comment on the "moment of suggested return" is a reference to Dunkelzahn forcing the conversation back on track when it got sidetracked with Atzcapotzalco. His comment on "construct" is important, and will be dealt with later.
Note that now Dunkelzahn even comments on Hecate's previous use of terrible magic.
Now, on to "construct": A techical term in the Fourth World was that of a Horror construct. Most Horrors have the ability to, in Shadowrun terms, basically turn any form of life, sentient or not, into toxic forms of itself. These forms can be as hideous and brutal as the Horror's magic and desires allow it to be -- or they can be specialized and quiet, to act as the Horror's agents. Only a powerful Horror is capable of turning a metahuman into a Horror construct (and only the most powerful can do so to a dragon), but Umsondo apparently believes, along with Dunkelzahn, that Atzcapotzalco is a Horror construct. The implications? That a Horror is, indeed, running Aztechnology one way or another, be it through a Construct or a Horror-marked dragon, or even manifest itself in the heart of the main temple.
It should be noted that in the Paranormal Animals of Europe book, it is said that Aztlan is very thick with Wraiths. Wraiths are, as per Earthdawn, a very weak form of Horror. The implications are clear, even if it's made with irony that the only two elves who are apparently going to do anything really big about this are the old foes Harlequin and Ehran -- a Horror nests inside the Big A. What you do with it in your campaign is up to you.
For what it's worth, most Horrors are able to create Undead with a flick of their mental willpower, so even if Atzcapotzalco isn't a construct, he could very easily be kept alive beyond his years as an undead. The only sticker for this story is that Ehran and Jungle Cat, both powerful mages from the Fourth World, met with Atzcapotzalco and apparently didn't assense any Horror-taint on him at all. This is the sign that either the Horror hypothesis is either partially wrong, or that it's a _really_ powerful Horror sitting in the Pyramid.
Well, there's my analysis. Probably overdone and underused, but make of it what you will. And happy hunting.
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