Oncario is the largest remaining population center in the Percentalion as of 1995 ADR, during the events chronicled in The Eye of Kog. In the course of that tale, this proud outpost and trading center becomes a corpse-town.
In the Age of Despair, when the rule of the Earth-Demon Kog reduced much of the Percentalion to a hell on earth, there was yet some method to his madness. Needing weapons and other manufactures to equip his armies and answer the vassal-call of his Liege Kun, the demon evidently created a zone of relative calm in the area near to the center of his lands (or else, the proximity of Skysword weakened his power to bring complete chaos to the area). This fortress, established more than forty centuries ago, served to arm his forces by plundering the deep earth close to Kog’s true home in hell. Garruk tribes promulgated in droves here, while Men and some few Elves of Despair labored to craft ever-more awesome weapons including many of the dread Makine.
Following Hope’s victory in the Years of the Balance, the new king Areghel established his capital Reghalion at the base of Skysword, and rebuilt a fortress on the site which formerly held Kog’s armory-city. He named it Oncario for its location on an island between the wide banks of the strong River Cario, then a tributary of the River Sweeping south of it. True to his preference, Areghel laid out the main building in the same style as that of his palace in newly-founded Reghalion, though in most ways the original city plan resembled a massive version of his standard army outpost. The bridges were rebuilt and guarded, making hostile approach to the base of Skysword nearly impossible. Finally, the territory coming between Reghalion and Oncario, covered mostly by a forest of enormous trees, was either ensorcelled to confound overland travel or still held some remnant of Kog’s influence, in either case making the direct route to the capital impassable.
Over time, the new fortress grew a modest population primarily to support its garrison, and taking on some of the economic activity that the local resources had previously afforded their enemies. Strict rules were laid down to prevent over-use of the land, and to avoid any contact with the previous taint of Despair which had so deeply scarred the region. With the loss of the ruling line in Reghalion (1572 ADR), the One Hundred Castles were thrown on their own resources. The ruling Primaras in Oncario increasingly moved to increase trade with surrounding kingdoms, delving deeper into the earth and aggressively farming the surrounding forests for fuel to boost production.
The population of Oncario probably exceeded 50,000 in the early 1700’s, but the growing chaos limited trade and inhibited the city’s prosperity. As of the 1990’s, Oncario’s population was just over 40,000, still one of the largest cities in the Lands though completely cut off from the world.
The region around Oncario is singularly favored by natural resources, none of the shiny kind such as gold or jewels but replete with the darker, mundane wealth that can drive a more modern economy.
- The river Cario itself is a major source of power, and before the curse took hold over the Percentalion, provided easy transport to the River Sweeping and the kingdoms of Hope in trade. Fishing was also an important secondary industry mainly for domestic consumption by the large population. In recent years, the river north and south of the city has disappeared, but curiously the current still flows past the city as if the Cario still fed the Sweeping. The slowing of the current has led to more swampy terrain on the western bank.
- Iron ore was once plentiful near the surface in the bluffs over the eastern bank, and is still found by small-time miners. But the largest veins were always subterranean and the once-forbidden mine shafts first dug by Despair have been re-opened in recent years to replenish the city’s supply.
- These same shafts also lead to substantial deposits of hellrock, a crumbly yellow-orange mineral that smells like rot and can ignite under proper circumstances
- The western pine barrens are fertile ground for coppiced tree growths, used in char-coaling. Kilns cooking the wood into charcoal show trails of smoke in most seasons.
- The river-banks were always a good source of clay, used in brick-making, and the recent lowering of the river’s flow has revealed a rich supply in recent decades.
The interaction of these resources, under the skillful leadership of the Primaras of Oncario since 1572, has created a strong economy and vigorous, pre-industrial culture in the isolated city.
- Clay baked with charcoal in enormous iron cars moved by water-power furnish bricks which are the city’s principal building and paving stone.
- Iron ore, hellrock and niter from the droppings of bats (in the riverside caves and tunnels both on the island and eastern bank) have been ingeniously mixed to create a crude blasting powder, useful for opening the mines and clearing land for new building.
- Iron heated at high temperatures achieved by charcoal and blasted with air using water-powered bellows allows the forging of steel, enough for export in the glory days and now more than sufficient for domestic experimentation and innovation.
Ecology and Demography
Oncario sits in a temperate zone in normal times, experiencing all four seasons with a climate somewhat similar to that of Georgia or the Carolinas in the Alleged Real World. Since the river has slowed and its level dropped in recent decades, the western bank has become swampy with inlets sheltering amphibians and reptiles as large as boa snakes and crocodiles. Cedar and weeping tree-variants can be seen, giving way to a large pine barren which extends through gently rolling hills much further into the Percentalion than any other pocket of normality in the kingdom. There are few natural predators in this forest, and when monsters roam in from the chaos-lands about, the presence of lumberers tends to scare them off. The locals whisper of a howling beast that seems most active during the full moons, and avoid working outside on those nights.
East of the river is a deciduous forest with a variety of hardwoods, many quite old, ending in bluffs of rock or scree at the river banks. Caves dot the bluffs in many places there, as well as on the eastern side of the island, housing enormous numbers of bats who feast on the rich insect life of the swamps and pines (reducing the hazard and annoyance for the inhabitants). The ground here contains plentiful ores and at some distance from the city are deep mine shafts, whose entrances are usually guarded.
The largest indigenous threat to the inhabitants of Oncario are a degraded race of Garruk, known as Grinaki. While violent and aggressive, these humanoids are much smaller than their more dangerous brethren, standing usually around four feet high. While they are unpleasant and primitive, they don’t have the killer instinct of the Garruk and can stand each other’s company– if not, they would surely have died out long ago. As it is, Grinaki band together in tribes and since they have the fecundity of Garruk, their population can quickly run into the thousands absent losses from raids or famine or the effect of climate. They lurk in the barrens and the hardwood forest to either side of Oncario, risking trips to the river when driven by the need for food. They carry small weapons suited to their size, and count on overwhelming advantage in numbers to win, or else flee without honor.