Oranbega

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Oranbega is no lost city. No empty sepulcher of abandoned stone. Every hall, every chamber is filled with us. We have floated through uncountable eons, here in the city we built before history, before we lost our own humanity. Oranbega is no ruin. Oranbega is a living city. A living city of the dead.

- Akarist, Circle of Thorns Mage


We have behaved as animals do, brutally, savagely, without mercy. I have wept for those who die by our crimes, but have not stayed my hand. I wonder: in saving our lives, have we destroyed everything we once were?

- Tyoss, Circle of Thorns Mage



Oranbega.jpg


Oranbega

The history of Oranbega is also the history of its inhabitants, today known as the Circle of Thorns, so this article uses info available to tell the tale of the two.


Contact Small Akarist.jpg

In the earliest periods of human existence some nature spirits evolved beyond control of the elements and became gods who needed worship and devotion from mortals. These gods formed pantheons that aligned themselves with the first human tribes in northern Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. Conflict ensued between the pantheons. One in particular, led by the god Lughebu, discovered something better than being the recipients of mere worship. Instead, they fed on human emotions—namely those of pain, fear, and suffering. A great civil war between the gods erupted. Led by the goddess Teilekku, the benevolent pantheons managed to strip the souls of Lughebu’s pantheon from their bodies and banished them to the spirit realm. We know them today as the Banished Pantheon. [1]


Ley Line, source of Magical energy and possible cause of Eermeth's choice of place for his new city

Among the other pantheons, the discovery, use, and teaching of magic by Tielekku became a decisive issue. One student, the god Ermeeth, sought to impart these secrets to humans, who as magically empowered beings would no longer have a need for gods. A situation the other gods, naturally, deemed intolerable. Another conflict erupted, this time between Teilekku and Ermeeth. Teilekku’s faction, led by her most promising pupil Hequat, managed to defeat Ermeeth in a titanic battle. With his surviving followers, Ermeeth fled towards the sea.[1]

Details are somewhat contradictory at this point. Some sources say Eermeth's followers used great ships in their journey [2], while others, such as the Testament of Ermeeth show the god leading a great exodus of people as they walk along the bottom of the sea. [3]

Whatever the means were, Eermeth followers eventually formed the great city of Oranbega along North America’s east coast[1]. A probable explanation of Eermeth's choice of this place concretely over others is that the zone had an high concentration of Ley Lines: powerful forces of mystical energy that crisscross the planet [4] and Nexus: meeting points of several Ley Lines which make magic stronger for miles around [5], had much to do in this: a place full of energies, for a society largely based on spell casting.


Mu'Rhakmet's driving force: The Goddess Hequat, sworn enemy of Oranbega

In their new city, Oranbegans lived in peace and prosperity for many years. The shaman Peter Stemitz, who has the strange ability to remember his past lives, including the one he lived in Oranbega, describes it as "Sweet. Grace, tranquility, intellectual achievement: that's what it was all about". This was probably the era he lived in [6]. But that era ended with the coming of Mu'Rhakmet's rebellion. It began small at first, with attacks on Reasoners and Philosophers, and then progressed into street riots and open conflicts. Soon, Mu'Rhakmet's followers held banners with his stern visage everywhere, demanding that the people of Oranbega return to the worship of the gods we had so long forgotten. Most still kept shrines to Ermeeth the teacher, or said a swift prayer to Tielekku before a scholarly examination, but Mu'Rhakmet demanded we return to a total subservience to the gods of the past. He gained followers among those who felt disaffected by the enlightened civilization, and among those who were disenfranchised by a lack of skill with magic. not until it was too late did the Oranbegans learn that there was another force behind them. That Mu'Rhakmet practiced as he preached, and was in truth the earthly instrument of she who had forced their ancestors across the sea: The goddess Hequat. She who had turned upon her lover, the Divine Teacher Ermeeth; she who had rallied her followers and forced them from their lands; now she had found them again and sought to undermine their society. Soon the city was engaged in a civil war for control as those loyal to the principles fought Mu'Rhakmet's zealots in the streets of the city. Ultimately, Mu'Rhakmet's rebellion failed. Oranbegan histories say that Mu'Rhakmet and his followers fled across the sea. They assumed that they had returned to the old lands of their goddess, and this assumption would lead the Oranbegans to disaster. For what they did not know was the Hequat had provided a new land for her people. An island risen from the sea, an island that she would call Mu.' [7]

Mu then flourished, instructed by Hequat to hate the Oranbegans and to fight against them for generations. [8] They believed that their chosen place upon this world was to serve as the righteous implement of her will, and in their deeds and customs did they enshrine this so that to do otherwise would be unthinkable. At her command they performed generations of what would now be called eugenic breeding in order to strengthen the magical power within their blood lines to unheard of levels. At her command they crushed all contrary thought, and made no art that did not praise her name. [8] At this point, in Mu, all men were sorcerers, as were all women and children. [9]
Eventually, and at their Goddess' command they attacked Oranbega on a spring day [8], thinking they would be an enemy too weak to fight back. [9] Truth is, at this point, Oranbegans thought Ermeeth and Hequat were both legends [10]. The surprise was so complete that the initial stages of the war were a complete success for the Mu: the first few days of the conflict, Mu Skyships rained a magical fire down upon the outlying Oranbegan cities [2]. The surprised Oranbegans took drastic measures: they sank their city beneath the earth to shelter it from bombardment by Mu sky ships. [8] [11]


The Tower, which ended in Mu's power


It was probably at this point that the Oranbegans were desperate enough to try to contact his lost deity, Eermeth: they built The Tower, a great portal to the heavens. The Oranbegans planned to use it to reach the heavens themselves, and contact their long-lost god. But the Mu learned of the great portal, and interfered: They found a way to splice into the portal-stream, and connected the Oranbegan portal to reach the spirit world of their long-forgotten faith with a conduit to the spirit world of the Mu goddess, Hequat [12]. The resulting mayhem slew many of the Oranbegan researchers, and drove others, such as Maros, mad [13]. As they tried to recover, the Mu captured the part of the portal in our world and hid it, sealing it away in their deepest vaults [14].Apparently, the history of The Tower survived enough to reach Old Greece, as the book "Lost Tongues of the Tower Makers", compiled by Greek scholars, is described as "a guide to the ancient languages of a lost civilization that built a tower to the stars" [15] and fits perfectly these events.


And the Mu kept pressing, and then, the Oranbegans turned to other powers from darker worlds. A Prince of Demons came to them and offered his aid. The Circle of Thorns, the ruling council of Oranbega, debated greatly, but in the end they bargained with him. [8] [11]


Help from the Hells: The Envoy of Shadows

Things started to change then: the demons' first gift to the Oranbegans was the Thorn Blades, demon swords that turned men into blood-frenzied monsters. Armed with these they turned the tide, and the slaughter was indescribable. But Mu wouldn't surrender: The wizards of Mu found new tactics, however, and blunted the Oranbegans' attack. Again they struck bargains with the Prince of Demons, and they brought forth troops to fight on their behalf from the depths of Hell. With wraiths and spectres did the Oranbegans march upon the Mu. With Behemoths of the land and Leviathans of the sea did they fall upon their men, their city, their very land. The fiends had bargained for the slaughter of every last man, child, and woman of Mu, and on that fine point the Oranbegans faltered.[8] [11]

As the demons fell upon the last survivors of Mu, the demon-thralls of the Circle of Thorns were held back by the Circle's own, when the Oranbegans felt mercy. Then a demoness general called Lilitu rose from among the horde, and told the Circle mages to stand away. She said that the deal with the King of Demons was for the utter destruction of all the people of Mu. Still, the Circle mages protected the children and the elderly of the Mu who were their enemies. Their power alone hold back the horde until their great negotiator, the wizard Akarist, could arrive to bargain for the Mu's lives. And still Lilitu shrilled for the Mu's deaths, and warned of the dire fate that would befall all of Oranbega unless the contract would be upheald and the demons allowed to spill the last drop of the blood of Mu. [7]

Akarist did not arrive in time to the bargain, [7] but the Oranbegans let some Mu escape to far shores. When the fiends discovered this, they were both outraged and gleeful, for they had hoped for just such an outcome. [8][11] The Oranbegans would pay dearly for their mercy: In the end they had to sacrifice their mortal forms, and were only able to escape the wrath of the fiends as bodiless spirits in their sunken city. Such was the cost they paid for their mercy. [8]
In the end, the war ended with no clear winner and both civilizations decimated. Still, Mu and Oranbega had survived and would continue their war in the future once again.


Oranbega, now a myth sought by some... who would pay for it


Oranbega, now an empty subterranean ruin full of incorporeal spirits and demon fiends became a legend and sunk into myth. It would take thousands of years to be rediscovered by someone.

But the Oranbegan legends had somehow survived. In the XVII century the legend about "El Dorado of the east coast", as some called it, was still appealing to some. The Novus Cartago Expedition in 1602 [16] wanted to find the fabled city pictured by Girolamo da Verrazano in his 1529 map of his brother’s explorations [17]. Landing at what we call today Terra Volta [16] they were successful in finding an entrance to the sunken city, or at least close enough to find evidences and be noticed by the still active Circle of Thorns, who ambushed and killed part of perhaps all of the expedition [18].
Whatever the result, the book "Spells Of The First Order", a tattered vellum folio rumored to be an original translation of the first spells ever taught to mankind by the gods, was written the same year [15]. Perhaps someone managed to survive the expedition and gained the knowledge, or perhaps its just an strange coincidence.

After the Novus Cartago expedition, Oranbega remained dark and silent for at least another 300 years more.


1823: Oranbegas' land has new owners: Paragon City is founded

But meanwhile, in the surface, in the land Oranbega had once occupied, events that would change the Oranbegans' life -or unlife, if you prefer- forever were taking place: during the 18th century there was already a quiet collection of colonial villages in the area. In the XIX century, in 1823, the village of Smithport united with neighboring comunities and became Paragon City. By the time of the Civil War Paragon become a bustling port city. After the war it became a center for industry, science and commerce in America [19]. None of the city's inhabitants could even suspect the existence of the grim secret under their foots.

Some decades later, in the 1890’s, in England, upper class found itself amid a tremendous upsurge of interest in the occult. Most of these dilettantes were more interested in the carnal aspects of ritual magic than in any kind of true arcane knowledge. There were, however, a few exceptions…among them the Baron Zoria.

The charismatic Zoria came to England in 1890, allegedly from Russia. Some said his mentor was Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin no less, though there is some doubt as to whether they had ever actually met [20]. Zoria quickly developed a reputation as a fanatic, outré, and decidedly unpleasant figure. Despite (or perhaps because of) this reputation, the Baron managed to acquire a small circle of devotees. [17]

Zoria’s burgeoning cult focused most of its energies on searching for signs of the long lost city of Oranbega. Although most people believe the mythic city was “invented” by Girolamo da Verrazano in his 1529 map of his brother’s explorations, Zoria believed the ancient underground city to be a real place.

Baron Zoria, the Circle of Thorns "founder"

He was more right than he ever imagined in his wildest dreams. Zoria somehow knew that Oranbega had sunk beneath the earth tens of thousands of years ago during a war between the Sorcerer Kings of Oranbega and the Warlords of Mu. Zoria felt that if he could unlock the key to entering this lost city, untold powers would be his to control.

Rather than mounting archeological expeditions or combing through dusty archives, Zoria chose a more direct approach. He set about contacting the spirits of the dead Oranbegan Sorcerer Kings. Apparently he was successful, for in a ceremony on the winter’s solstice of 1898, the Circle of Thorns was born (at least for the people of XIX century).

Zoria and each of his followers took a strange thorn, given to Zoria by the Oranbegan spirits. They simultaneously drove the bizarre spines into their chests, sinking them straight into their own hearts. The wounds closed as quickly as they had opened, sealing the enchanted thorns deep in their bodies and imbuing each with unique magical powers beyond anything they had ever possessed. [17] In 1914, as war broke out on the continent, the Circle of Thorns left en masse for the United States. Varrazano’s original map had located an entrance to Oranbega on the east coast of North America. [17]

Although later copies of the map showed the city in New England, Zoria believed this to be a deception. His own communion with the spirits pinpointed the location as being beneath the burgeoning metropolis that we know today as Paragon City. [17]

Throughout the next six years the Circle of Thorns disappeared from view. Many in Europe thought that some no doubt well-deserved occult disaster had befallen them. In fact, Zoria and his core membership were busy searching for a physical entrance to Oranbega. To hear them tell it, they were successful. [17]

The Midnight Squad. Founded by the Dream Doctor, this Magic based hero group would opposse Oranbega and the Circle for decades

All of a sudden, the Circle re-emerged, this time with a decidedly public face. They formed a private but well-known gentlemen’s club that became one the most notorious speakeasies of the Prohibition era.

The Roaring ‘20’s were a golden time for the Circle of Thorns. The hedonists of the Jazz Age embraced Zoria’s dark and dangerous reputation and the Circle went on a barely concealed black magic spree. They performed human sacrifices, summoned demons, and magically manipulated events with impunity. [17]

Then came the stock market crash in 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. Decades of unbounded expansion left Paragon City particularly vulnerable to the depression's ravages. The economy collapsed, bringing social and political order crashing to the ground with it. Crime, organized and random, moved in to fill the void. The bootlegging gangs of the roaring twenties had already established themselves during Prohibition. Now the mob bosses, through bribery, intimidation, and murder, seized control of the city itself.
Paragon became a city where every cop was on the take, every politician under a mob boss' thumb, and one out of every two people was out of work.[19]

But the Circle's mystical divinations prepared them for the coming Great Depression and the Circle and its members lived out hard economic times in relative luxury. What they didn’t divine was the rise of the masked crime fighter in American society.
In 1933, when children from poor neighborhoods started disappearing from their homes in the middle of the night, police and heroes alike were entirely baffled. There were no signs of forced entry, no clues at all. It wasn’t until the new hero known as The Dream Doctor started on the case that the true nature of the Circle of Thorns became public knowledge. A master of sorcery himself, the Dream Doctor recognized the hand of black magic in the kidnappings and traced the mystic trail back to the private club used by the Circle for its meetings.

At midnight on the anniversary of the Circle’s founding, The Dream Doctor burst in upon the foul cultists just as they prepared to sacrifice the poor children. As preternatural night engulfed the ritual chamber, the hero moved among them, his mystic blasts and spirit allies smashing through the cultists and freeing the children before Baron Zoria and his cronies knew what had happened.
While the Circle’s highest-ranking members escaped, The Dream Doctor managed to capture most of the rest of the cult and bring them to justice. That night in 1933 was the end of the Circle of Thorn’s existence as a public organization. Baron Zoria and his followers literally fled into the underground, allegedly taking up quarters in the dank and dangerous ruins of Oranbega. Their first order of business was taking vengeance upon the man who had ruined them: The Dream Doctor.

Knowing full well what would happen to him, the Doctor gathered about him a group of civic-minded magicians, occultists, and scholars to help protect the city against future threats from the Circle of Thorns. He called this group the Midnight Squad, and the organization persists to this day as one of the premier superhero organizations in Paragon City.

Over the next few decades, the Circle of Thorns and the Midnight Squad continued to skirmish back and forth. Unfortunately, since only the Circle knew how to enter the lost city of Oranbega, they always had a safe and secure base to retreat in when matters grew desperate. [17]

Despite the blunt end to their golden age and their unfinished business with the Midnight Squad, in the following decades the Circle of Thorns kept sending spies to the surface to know what was happening, or at least it did once: in the 60s the Circle of Thorns mage Dyaomesk was ordered to observe the outside world, and he stumbled onto the Cold War. He met Roger Vrabel himself somehow, and learned of his Titan Project. He came up with a plan and got approved by the Circle: He took a body and offered his services to help him hunt down other mages for this group. He intended to provide Vrabel the average and funnel the best along to the Circle for their own use, all the while working to indoctrinate Vrabel into the Circle's service. Sadly for him, Vrabel could not be subverted, so Dyaomesk falsified his own death and returned to the safety of Oranbega. But the Circle kept sending him out on missions. Much later, after the Rikti War, Vrabel's associates, the Malta Group, learned of him and tried to hunt him down, which has forced Dyaomesk to cooperate with government agencies in exchange for protection [21].
Though it didn't work against Vrabel, the degree of infiltration the Circle and Oranbega gained in the Malta Group is unknown as of today.


Invaders from Beyond: The Rikti. Just like the surface inhabitants, Oranbega would soon suffer the Rikti onslaught

Oranbega and the Circle inhabitants would enjoy a period of relative safety... prelude to much bigger problems: The Midnight Squad could not crack the mystery of the sunken city, and by the 1990’s the Circle of Thorns seemed to have dwindled to a mere shadow of its former might. Except for the occasional museum theft or kidnapped antiquarian, the villains seldom seemed to rise from their chthonic chambers. All this would change in 2003: During the Rikti War, the extra-dimensional attackers used the subway tunnels and other underground chambers as bases of operation. [17]

They excavated more rooms as they needed them, using a variation on their portal technology. Apparently, the magical runes and protection spells hiding Oranbega from the rest of the world had no effect on technology from another dimension. The Rikti had accidentally discovered the vast underground lair of the Circle of Thorns.

Although most of the city’s heroes are loath to admit it, this unintended revelation may well have played a key role in turning the tide of the Rikti War. The Circle, long dormant, was not nearly as dead as many had imagined. The aliens found themselves not only fighting super powered heroes on the surface, but magic wielding, demon summoning fanatics down below. The now quite aged Baron Zoria himself led the charge at the head of his elite Thorn Wielders against the aliens, pushing them out of Oranbega and the surrounding caves.

No paper ever reported the Circle of Thorns’ role, nor did any of the hero organizations acknowledge the existence of Oranbega. Indeed, few of them knew for certain what exactly had happened to the Rikti underground. Nevertheless, after the war, rumors told of ancient, gold encrusted ruins beneath the streets of Paragon City. Fortune hunters, amateur archeologists, and even some heroes went down into the depths in search of fame and fortune. As might be predicted, none of them returned. At least, none of them returned as they were when they went down.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. With their impenetrable magic cloak destroyed by the Rikti, the Circle of Thorns knew it was only a matter of time before the Midnight Squad or some other noisome hero group would get curious and start causing trouble


The demoness general Lilitu, who still believes the contract with the Circle can be fullfilled

And so Baron Zoria and his followers decided to take a more proactive approach in their own defense. They began with those initial explorers, capturing the trespassers and then supplanting their souls with the long-dead spirits of the original Oranbegans. When folks learned better than to go looking in dark caves for lost cities, the Circle of Thorns began to more actively “recruit” new members.

They sent expeditions to the surface to snatch more innocents for Oranbegan supplantation. In the meantime…they sought new — if less effective — ways, to hide their secret city from interlopers.

Today the Circle of Thorns has swelled in membership because of their press gang practices. Now, for the first time in decades, Baron Zoria’s ambition seems to be stirring. With the city in such a chaotic state, the Midnight Squad believes that The Circle is preparing to make a play for real power in the surface world.

Robe-clad cult members have been seen on the surface in several locations. Strange new social clubs and cults have popped up in many neighborhoods, espousing beliefs very similar to those of the Circle, and many of these have turned overnight from simple spiritual movements to murderous cabals.

Now the Midnight Squad is busy trying to put a stop to this burgeoning occult threat, but the more problems they encounter in Paragon City, the harder it is to find time to search out entrances to lost Oranbega. Which is, no doubt, just as Baron Zoria intends… [17]


Recently, the Oranbegans have learned that they can still fulfill their contract with the Prince of Demons. Should they destroy all of the Mu, the bargain will be reversed, and they shall have their old forms returned. This knowledge has fanned a long-forgotten desperation among them, and now they draw plans against those descended from Mu [22]. To this end, they have already summoned the demoness Lilitu and proven before her that the Mu still exist, and the contract is still open [23]. A new chapter is about to be written in the Mu-Oranbega War.

The City

Crystals are extensively used in Oranbega, as energy sources, medical resource, information storage, or even as cells


The city itself is an extensive structure of corridors and chambers done in stone and crystal of unknown extension. Many sections seem to have collapsed.


The city and its inhabitants are known for its extensive use of crystals, which can be found almost everywhere inside: some can revitalize those near them, others can heal, and some others even emanate deadly energies, causing physical pain.


Summoning Portal. Oranbegans are well known for their demon summoning skills

The city also has portals, some of which can reach places such as far away as the strange Shadow Shard. Oranbega has many summoning chambers, as the Circle is adept at the summoning and binding of extradimensional demons: the Circle is well-known for its mastery at summoning fiends, some as powerful as The Envoy of Shadows or Lilitu herself. The city is also known for its vast magical libraries: Among the tomes you can find there are The Translation Stone, Spells Of The First Order, Lost Tongues of the Tower Makers, Of the First Ones, The Red Dust Tome, The Obsidian Libram [15], the Tome of Tormvodel [24], and, of course, the Tome of Bloodlines, and any others the Circle can acquire as well. Not surprisingly, Oranbega's language used by the Circle to record their books its called just Oranbegan. [25]


Of special relevance is the Great Library of Souls: A place where the Circle keeps crystals containing the souls of their captured enemies... and of many power hungry lesser mages fool enough to deal with the Circle as well. The souls of hundreds, possibly thousands of Paragon's missing are trapped there.


Though magical runes and protection spells were once used to hide Oranbega from the rest of the world, all that ended with the Rikti War and now anyone who finds a phisycal entrance may reach the sunken city... if he's brave or foolish enough to do so.


In game, a player will start seeing Oranbegan maps in his missions once he reaches level 25.

Oranbega in the Multiverse

Interestingly, Portal Corp has discovered that Oranbegans can vary greatly from one dimension to another: In Tau Gamma 9-24, Oranbega won their war against the nation of Mu. First, they eliminated the nation of Mu. Then, fearing for their safety, the Oranbegans conquered the rest of the planet. Whole civilizations were ground under their heels. Later, repentant, they made a pact. No violent magic may be performed upon that world. The knowledge of such spells has been purged from their libraries, and it is death to perform them. Perhaps that philosophy of pacifism has trapped them, and now they are unable to defend themselves against extradimensional invaders. [26]
On the other hand, in an unnamed dimension Portal Corp probe teams discovered that the Circle of Thorns analog of that dimension successfully annihilated all human life on the world except a slave sub-class in the year 1968 AD. The world has been classified as a prohibited dimension. [3] This variety has been known to cause hostility between our Oranbegans and the alternate ones, who are appalled by the Circle's practices when they learn about them. [6] Apparently, Oranbega has the potential to become a paragon of knowledge and enlightment or a nation of bloodthirsty monsters. Only time will tell.


References

  1. a b c The Paragon Times June 15 , 2005 : Beyond Contact: Azuria and MAGI
  2. a b Look into Akarist's kidnapping from Cadao Kestrel
  3. a b Stop the Rikti transdimensional expedition before the alternate Circle discovers our Earth from Angus McQueen
  4. Faultless Mystic Badge
  5. Mystic King Badge
  6. a b Stop the Circle of Thorns from contacting an alternate world from Cadao Kestrel
  7. a b c Defeat Infernal from Magus Mu'Drakhan
  8. a b c d e f g h Defeat Aurora Borealis and take the books from Magus Mu'Drakhan
  9. a b Save the Wyatt mediums from the Circle of Thorns from Allison King
  10. Disrupt the ritual and look for signs that Hequat is returning from Cadao Kestrel
  11. a b c d Steal the Envoy's gifts to the Circle of Thorns from Cadao Kestrel
  12. Get info from Mu'Drakhan, Punish the Mu Traitors from Scirocco
  13. Capture Eukrisal & research from Scirocco
  14. Speak with Diviner Maros, Raid the Vaults of Mu from Scirocco
  15. a b c Deliver the Scroll of Tielekku to Dr. Cheng from Laura Brunetti
  16. a b Terra Volta Reconoissance officer
  17. a b c d e f g h i j CoH Official Site: Circle of Thorns
  18. Help the soul within the crystal orient itself from Peter Stemitz
  19. a b CoH Official Site: Paragon City: Founding and the 20's
  20. Paragon Times, October 27 , 2004: The Hammer of the World
  21. Extract the Circle of Thorns informant from Crimson
  22. Recover Ancient Mu Soul Crystal from Magus Mu'Drakhan
  23. Rescue Mu Mystics from Circle from Magus Mu'Drakhan
  24. Get the Tome of Tormvodel from Ghost Widow
  25. Prevent Circle from Controlling Bat'Zul from Virgil Tarikoss
  26. Save the Oranbegans from the Malta Group from Tina MacIntyre