The Charming Keekwee of Ekhono
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue.
The Keekwee are a warm, gracious people who are proud of their culture. And with good reason! Music, dance, art and a delicious cuisine you’ll enjoy no matter how experienced your palette.
They call their planet Ekhono, which means Haven in the local language. The lowlands are tropical swamps, which is why the natives made the sensible choice to live in the mountains. Cities are terraced affairs, with buildings made of stone and often recessed into the slopes. Herds of Branna, a long-haired herbivore, are moved seasonally in traditional patterns from one grassy slope to another. The Branna are notable for their extreme flexibility and the accuracy of their jumps from crag to crag! They rarely fall, and can prove a challenge for their shepherds to control; but they seem to easily avoid any native predators.
Singing and dancing, as well as elaborate costumed dramas, are performed in massive square amphitheaters. Hipball, the local sport, is all the rage! You’ll thrill too as you watch the players use their waist-yokes to move the ball up and down the court. Betting is encouraged, but a wise traveller is sure to be wary of the generous credit terms to be found.
If you’re the more adventurous sort, you’ll want to hire an expeditionary group and tour the jungles and swamps of the valleys, deep in the wilderness. Of course, we’ve already done the research, and the best guides may be found listed later in this chapter. The well-armed, well-prepared hunter will have their choice of magnificent trophies to amaze and astound!
The main starport is located on a plateau adjacent to the planet’s largest city, Kuakona. Adjacent warehouses hold trade goods ready for export: spices, liquor, textiles and other craft items are the most popular. And the Keekwee are always eager to bargain for your technology!
The city of Nomerae is the home of the world’s leader, the Priest King. Yes, the natives have an elaborate traditional culture based around their mythology, and this is his holy city. The Priest King is believed to be descended from the chief god in their pantheon, the giant called Axar. The center of their religion, the Temple of Exenar, is a gigantic stepped pyramid. It faces the palace from across the Grand Plaza.
Inside the Temple of Exenar is the most significant artifact of the Keekwee culture, the idol of Lord Axar. He is depicted with great wings unfurled, wearing the distinctive feathered headdress also worn by the Priest King. It is truly impressive, a massive bas-relief deeply etched into the native stone of the mountain. His Fist of Salvation is poised in mid-thrust above the Anvil of Creation. This construction is so ancient that scaffolding has been constructed to prevent the stone Fist from actually plummeting down to smash the Anvil, for tradition forbids the clan of stone-masons from actually making changes to the idol—thus no repairs may be made to the structure itself. But the artfully-carved supports in no way detract from the experience of visiting on a High Holy Day, the only time the Inner Court is accessible to the public.
Goru is home to the greatest natural wonder of Ekhono, the Pliscern Falls. Don’t miss the rainbows that surround the falls day or night in its plummet of almost one mile into the great inland Mirror Sea. But be wary of the broad-winged Setas, birds that can remain aloft for many standard hours, despite their large size and voracious appetites! The government maintains a battery of safety equipment to keep the falls safe for visitors.
Don't forget to sample the cuisine native to each of the major cities while you are there, Kuakona, Nomerae, Plestin and Goru. Nomerae is known for its spices, especially Meuno, ground into a dark powder, both sweet and spicy at the same time. The kitchens of Plestin are redolent with the scent of whipped Kruun eggs. Curiously, the egg shells are semi-soft when first laid. The crag-nesting Kruun mother holds the egg steady with her claws as it hardens, and its bottom surface actually flattens to prevent it from rolling away! Kuakona is where you can sample one of the population’s staples, Corbie meat. The Corbie is a large, shaggy burrowing rodent that is widely scattered in the mountain ranges, and its burrows are masked by the low shrub growth that is common on the slopes. Corbie meat is pulled into strings, grilled or fried, which are then molded into fanciful shapes and mixed with savory tubers and spicy yellow ball-peppers.
Of course, visiting the major cities will require crossing the shallow green seas, and you may anticipate a lovely trip on one of the planet’s luxury hover-cruisers. The sunsets are magnificent, reflected in the smooth surface of the waters, whose bio-luminescence seems to mirror the light from the sky. You may be lucky enough to see a Ghora, one of the world's aquatic megafauna. They’re quickly reminded that approaching the hover-cruisers is unwise; nevertheless, when the crew instructs you to return to your cabin during an appearance, you’re well advised to do so—reminding the Ghora of wisdom is not without its own dangers.
Each major city has a hub of six hotel “Palaces” for visitors, and hospitality is Rule Number One. Dining is a social event in special clubs, even for the simple worker, but the clubs attached to the visitor palaces will treat your senses to at least twelve varied courses! Don’t use the wrong condiment though; you’ll need to depend on your designated Culinary Adviser. (Tips gratefully accepted!)
Please see our detailed ratings below for the best, most reliable vendors who will provide the most value for your credits. And be sure to share recordings of your adventures with us - others do, and it’s a reason to “Keep your eye on the Horizon!”
Use this world description on whatever planet seems suitable in your game; the description should allow you to tailor it to fit various UWPs. Even the Keekwee themselves can look like anything at all, not necessarily Humaniti. There are several opportunities for adventure, including discovery of ancient Keekwee ruins, safaris and similar monster-hunting, rescue operations, underworld activities regarding the sports world, even scientific studies if players realize that the Keekwee have virtually no diseases (attributable to a spice that grows in the jungle environment). There are large mountain pouncers that are not described in the Michlin Guide, huge sea-creatures to menace the luxury liners, the large carnivorous flyers, the Seta; of course, the researcher could’ve been unaware of any number of things. I envision a rebellious faction among the worker classes, both urban and agricultural, that has been slowly brewing against the rule of the Priest-King and his caste (which again can be tailored to whatever Government Type fits your UWP). Players might get swept up in something, there may be a kidnapping event (off-worlders are great targets because the incumbent powers don’t want a fuss).
The various lists and recommendations alluded to in the article are omitted; the referee is urged to make up such lists as needed to fit your particular perception of the world
The major secret of the planet is that an Ancient civilization (not necessarily that Ancient civilization) has installed a means to move the planet into an orbit further from its growing sun. (The climate wasn’t always this hot, you know.) The Temple of Exenar is atop a plug that reaches well down into the crust, tapping the heat of the mantle to power the concealed machinery. The city itself is on an island within a ring of island volcanos; though they appear normal and natural, the concealed machinery once could actually control them as a reaction drive. The means to control the Fist of Retribution has long since been forgotten and has probably become inoperable, but if it were to be released to strike the Anvil of Creation (which is made of a highly-volatile, unknown alien substance, impervious to sampling by any known means), the impact would result in a massive outburst from the volcanos that would launch the planet into a more distant orbit. The Control Center is located under the Mirror Sea, near Goru. Of course, the only knowledge that has survived to this late date is that the Sea is sacred to the giant, Lord Axar. This secret can be used in many ways, including having the thing ignite and move the planet, or turn it into a dead world. Or perhaps someone would like a sample of that volatile Anvil of Creation… In any case, good adventuring!