The people have spoken, and the Sun Empire emerged victorious to claim control of Orazca!
However, we were prepared no matter which faction won, and the remaining (now non-canon) stories are too great not to share.
Enjoy these looks at what could have been!
Tishana watched as Huatli departed on the back of the elder dinosaur.
The great booming of the dinosaur's footsteps faded as the beast walked farther and farther away, until, finally, Tishana was alone.
She looked around the city.
It was shining and golden, of course, and the emptiness of the place now was comforting. Her own footsteps echoed against the soft metal of the plazas and passageways. Motes of dust floated through the evening air, and occasionally birds sang from the tall archways that lined the routes of the city like vertebrae.
It would be a shame for this place to remain so empty.
Tishana considered her options. The Immortal Sun was gone, but some memory of it remained in this place. Orazca was a city that teemed with magical energy. Every tile in the floors and fleck of gold in the walls pulsed with an ancient energy. It made Tishana feel uneasy.
The Sun Empire was still ruled by Emperor Apatzec III, after all. Huatli may have been certain a peace agreement was possible, but Tishana did not share that optimism. Humans were mercurial and finnicky. They lacked decision-making skills. They supplanted reliability for impulsivity. Most worrying of all, human success seemed mostly to come from one-upping one another in a series of dares. By and large, they were an exhausting lot.
Orazca may have been made by them, but it did not belong to them.
Tishana felt now for the tendrils of connection that ran through the city.
They crisscrossed and weaved from the top of the temple to the outskirts of the ramparts. Little extensions ran to the river that segmented the city, and through the river, Tishana could feel Orazca's power flowing from one end of the city to the other.
She sent a beacon through this connection, and felt for the elementals that stood guard at each entrance to the city. Tishana willed them to stand guard, to be ready for any non-merfolk force that may try to enter Orazca. She felt as the elementals bent to her will and stood at attention, then receded from the connection to the land in her mind.
Tishana smiled. That night she would summon the rest of the shapers. They would come to Orazca, feel the power of this city for themselves, and they would come to a resolution. Orazca may have been built by the Sun Empire . . . but the land below it belonged to them. The River Heralds would settle here permanently, and they would use the river that flowed through the city to secure their claim. Tishana would not leave the city again until the rest of Deeproot Tree had joined her. They would rename this place. Orazca was no more. The City of Golden Water would be forever.
After all, what had been true for millennia remained true now.
We were here first.
Legion of Dusk
Vona scowled as she followed Saint Elenda through the thick of the jungle.
Elenda was silent, radiating divine fury and utterly ignoring every one of Mavren Fein's pleas for forgiveness. He had been rambling the whole night through, a scolded dog begging for its master's love.
Pathetic, Vona thought to herself.
She paused on the path. Her ears were full of birdsong and her nose was full of the stench of damp earth. Everything about this wilderness repulsed her, but she couldn't help the feeling that it was not yet time to leave. The Immortal Sun was gone, but Orazca still remained. It was a city literally made of gold. She couldn't just leave it unattended.
"Vona," Saint Elenda called from up ahead.
Vona snapped back to the present. She tried to arrange her face into something resembling contentment. "Yes, Saint Elenda?"
"You are lost in thought. Speak your peace."
Vona ground her teeth together. A fang caught on her bottom lip and she tasted blood. Her stomach gurgled with want.
"I will not return to Torrezon empty-handed," she said.
Mavren Fein froze where he stood, sweat beading on his pasty forehead. "We are not returning empty-handed," he said. "We found Saint Elenda."
As if that were impressive, thought Vona.
"We were assigned to take the Immortal Sun. Queen Miralda sent us here to conquer, not to come home with our tails between our legs."
"Then go," Saint Elenda said in a peaceful, measured tone. "Claim Orazca for your own. I will sail to the East."
Saint Elenda turned and began walking again without another word, and Mavren Fein followed. The two vanished into the dark of the rainforest.
Vona was stunned and elated at once. She smiled, blood smeared on her teeth, and turned back toward Orazca.
She laughed almost the whole way back. By the time she found her way back to the city, the moon was high and silver overhead. Its light glinted off the spires, and the city was bathed in starlight.
"It is mine!" she called, giggling as her voice echoed through the empty gold expanse of the city.
The gold looked strange in the moonlight. Its yellow hues were gone, replaced with a pale metallic glow. Vona appreciated this version of the city much more.
"A butcher for a queen!" she laughed, and a distant rumble answered.
Vona stopped where she stood. Something was moving through the city.
She did not care. The city was hers! Orazca had been claimed for the Legion of Dusk!
Vona wandered to the plaza in front of the central temple and looked up at the stars, the same stars Queen Miralda was looking at back home. She grinned, and thought of all the people she had killed to get where she was. She realized that not a soul had died to earn her Orazca, and thought that was a pity.
Something rumbled behind her.
Vona stowed her smile and turned around. She couldn't help but gasp.
Above her stood an immense dinosaur, its teeth as long as her fingers and its claws as sharp as her blade. A long strand of saliva dripped from its mouth down onto her helmet.
Vona did not have time to scream as the dinosaur snapped her up into its jaws.
And Orazca was quiet once more.
"REVENGE! RESCUE MISSION REVENGE!"
Malcolm and Breeches were soaring high above the spires of Orazca, weaving in and out of its high needles over the broad gold wash of the city.
"FIND CAPTAIN," Breeches screeched into Malcolm's ear. The goblin was clinging to Malcolm's head with sharp nails and grimy little fingers.
Jace's voice had spoken calmly in both of their minds only minutes before. If Malcolm didn't know better, he would have thought Jace had been lying to them. But Jace was a terrible liar.
"Captain's orders are to let her go, Breeches. Jace said the same."
Breeches went quiet for a moment. He pointed downward at several of their enemies as they left the city and wandered, separately, into the jungle.
"Orazca empty," he said. "Everybody went home."
Malcolm's heart leapt. "Everyone . . . ?"
"Everyone but us," the goblin grinned.
"Everyone but us . . ."
ONE WEEK LATER
Azor's sanctum was littered with tables full of ale and playing cards and pirate songs.
Dozens of crew members from the Belligerent laughed and cheered, and piles of looted gold and jewels were stacked to the ceiling. The distant scent of cats had been replaced with an omnipresent pirate stink, and gold-glutted sailors toasted to their crews under the hole in the ceiling.
One of the pirates looked up from her pile of gold. "Co-emperors are here!" she yelled in warning.
The rest of the pirates cheered a welcome as Malcolm and Breeches strutted into what was once Azor's sanctum. They eyed the crowd, and nodded at each other.
"Will you join me for ale and cards, Co-Emperor Breeches?" asked Malcolm.
"Yes, Co-Emperor Malcolm!" The goblin grinned, and screeched his delight at the rest of the room. "GOLD AND ALE AND CARDS!"
The room erupted with approval, and their chanties echoed through the golden halls of Orazca.