With thanks to Bots Velez for some of the ideas used here …
Murogan is the fourth-largest island of the Bakonawan Chain, and has a reputation for being particularly wild and difficult to settle. It is known for its tigers, its savage ikugan – monkey-like giants, with fur and tails, who attack settlements in marauding packs – and the enormous crocodiles and serpents of the Maragusan Marsh.
Kota Pangil is a small but rapidly growing kingdom on the mouth of the Maragusan River, being the main trading post for Murogan’s natural wealth. It was founded by Lakan Tupas, of the line of Datu Ragasa, who killed a huge tiger here and named the place after his prize trophy, one of the tiger’s fangs.
Kota Pangil’s wealth comes from the sandalwood and camphor groves of Mount Karagan, the gold mined on the upper Maragusan River, and the pearls found in the Lumaya Gulf. These are traded with the kingdoms of the Sriratana Islands and Uparaya on the ancestral homeland of Arundwipaya; because of this, the language spoken here is quite different from the Vijadesan spoken in the islands to the north.
Kota Pangil is in constant, deadly rivalry with the kingdom of Kotaraya, which lies on the other side of the Maragusan estuary.
Kotaraya is a small but powerful kingdom on the mouth of the Maragusan River. It was founded by Datu Lumaya of the Matakutano Baginda line, and because of its connections to the Bagindas, has become a major pirate base in the south.
The rajahs of Kotaraya have become wealthy and powerful by leading raids into the Sriratana Island kingdoms and even to Arundwipaya, often choosing these over Vijadesan targets as they are actually closer and, being without navies, cannot retaliate.
Kotaraya is also in rivalry with Kota Pangil for mastery of the Maragusan River trade, and occasionally ambushes their traders travelling up- or down-river. The two kingdoms have fought several naval battles on the Lumaya Gulf and on the river, and Rajah Bantug, the current ruler, opened his reign six years ago with an unsuccessful siege of Kota Pangil.
Kota Nahalin was a fort built by Datu Dilao of Kotaraya on the upper reaches of the Maragusan River. It was destroyed, supposedly by the ikugan giants, two years after its erection, with no survivors. Warriors sent to investigate found the tracks of many giants, but some swear they also found parallel ruts in the ground that they couldn’t understand. It has after all been centuries since any Vijadesan saw chariot tracks.
Ruins of Batawan
An ancient temple and idols of the Nayyalinga style have been found along the banks of the Maragusan River, near the village of Batawan on Mount Karagan. The ruins indicate that the Nayyalingas, or perhaps Vijadesans under the first Hari Ragats, were already settling the Janggalans even before the Exile.
However, the Vijadesans preserve no memories of this settlement at all. Even more mysterious is the state of the lost colony – from the ruins, it seems to have been abandoned at the height of its wealth.
Batawan village, twenty miles from the ruins site, is a community that lives entirely in tree houses at least forty feet from the ground. This, they say, is the reason they have survived the attacks of the ikugan giants, who despite their monkey-like appearance cannot climb too well. The people of Batawan are tributaries of Kota Pangil.
Mount Dapala is a sacred mountain and said to be the home of the ikugan giants. The rulers of Kota Pangil and Kotaraya have both send expeditions to extirpate the giants, but to no avail; some expeditions returned without seeing a single ikugan, and some never returned at all.
Mount Karagan is a mountain in the interior of Murogan that is famous for its sandalwood and camphor groves, where they grow so thickly that the scent of the air is intoxicating, and for the enormous game animals that haunt its slopes. The wild boar of Mount Karagan are said to be, on the average, nearly twice the size of boar anywhere else in the Janggalans. It is thus no wonder that the tigers here are also huge.
Maragusan River and Marsh
The mighty Maragusan is the largest river in all the Janggalans, nearly a mile wide along much of its meandering course, and is surrounded by impenetrable jungle on both sides. At its terminus the river splits into many channels as it passes through the Maragusan Marsh, which divides the kingdoms of Kota Pangil in the west and Kotaraya in the east from each other.
The marsh is a vast labyrinth of channels, lakes, and low islands overgrown with thick reeds and jungle. It is known for its incredible variety of waterfowl and colorful fish, and for the enormous crocodiles that haunt its muddy waters. Tigers sometimes venture into these wetlands to hunt water buffalo, and occasionally, man.
There are also persistent rumors of large gray beasts, with snake-like appendages on their snouts and long white tusks, traveling in herds through the remotest parts of the marsh.
Old Iron Back
Old Iron Back is an ancient crocodile, said to be a thousand years old, so ancient it has become quite intelligent and spiritually powerful. This seventy-foot long monster haunts the inner reaches of the Maragusan Marsh, where it is worshiped by the Katalong-Buaya community as a god.
The Katalong-Buaya say Old Iron Back protects them from other crocodiles, ikugan giants, and human invaders; his price, a youth every year. Old Iron Back has a skin so tough it is impenetrable by ordinary weapons.
A people that call themselves the Katalong-Buaya, the ‘befriended of crocodiles,’ lives in the Maragusan Marsh. Their community is made up of outlaws, exiles, escaped slaves, and other fugitives, from all over the Janggalans, come here to escape persecution.
Anyone who wants to join the Katalong-Buaya may do so, on condition that they follow three laws: worship Old Iron Back, renounce all former ties, and swear an oath of brotherhood with all other Katalong-Buaya. The community lives by hunting and fishing alone, shunning all contact with the outside world, but resisting any invaders with deadly guerilla warfare tactics.
The Katalong-Buaya acknowledge no rajah, lakan, or datu: their ruler, they say, is Old Iron Back himself.