The sun is high and hot in a cloudless, brilliantly-blue sky. Rowed by six stout men, your canoe skims across the surface of the river like an enormous, many-legged dragonfly. The pace of their rowing-song is quickening, for they know that their long and arduous journey is almost at an end. You saw the first smoke from the city’s cookfires about midday yesterday, and beached your craft last night by the furthest of the maize fields which surround Cahokia, the City of the Sun. Only now, after several hours of paddling, do the red-tiled roofs of her highest palaces come into view.
Behind the fence of an ironwood palisade more than 40 feet tall rise a succession of earthen mounds: man-made mountains rising as high as a hundred-and fifty feet above the vast immensity of the Great Plains.
Even from here, at the edge of the city proper, the sounds of humanity are surprisingly loud. Today, like every day in Cahokia, is a market-day. Traders arrive from all across Turtle Island to hawk their wares here in the shadow of the Great Mounds, bringing seashells from the Gulf of Aztatlan; copper and strings of delicate purple wampum from the Great Lakes; porcelain and jade figurines from Fusang; obsidian daggers and featherwork shields from Aztatlan and Mayalatolli; indigo dye and masterwork rifles from Columbia; sugar and rum from Nueva Espana and the Caribbean; mother-of-pearl earrings and bentwood boxes from the Pacific Coast; ivory carvings and scrimshaw from the land of the northern giants; quillwork robes and beaded moccasins; and horses from the broker-tribes of the Great Plains.
Darting like dragonflies between each other and the larger river-barges , your canoe makes its way to the wharfs along the riverfront, in the shadow of the granaries and the warehouses. Above the crowd, merchants sway in the seats of their sedan-chairs, carried by strong young men in rich liveries. Here and there, you catch glimpses of especially fine sedans with glass windows and silken curtains, emblazoned with the Seal of the Great Sun: a Mound Lord checking on his investments!
The players arrive in Cahokia, City of the Sun, via their separate routes along the Missouri, Illinois, and Mississippi rivers. Disembarking from their respective crafts as they dock along the wharves, they each take a moment to stretch their legs, pay their fares, and take in the sights and sounds (and smells) of the greatest city in the continent of Vespuccia.
Nearby someone shouts a warning, and a porter stumbles to his knees. His comrades lose their grip on the ventilated wooden crate they were carrying, and it smashes open on the docks, spilling what appear to be half a dozen flying human heads onto the crowded wharves. Women scream, and men scramble to get away from the monstrosities, while others call for help.