Thursday, June 24, 2010

Twelve Obelisk Gates of Riskail

An earlier version of this post was originally posted to the Old School Heretic Blog.

Obelisks of various styles rise solemnly or sharply into the sky all along the Misericorde Canal as it extends outwards from the perimeter platforms surrounding the squat onion-domed municipal reservoir where it begins.  The reservoir collects a portion of the cascading waters flowing down the staggered waterfall that forms the open heart of Devukarsha that feeds life-giving waters into the canals, basins and so forth that form the circulatory system of the city-state.

Pinnacles and monuments to materialist science the Oblisk Gates are the collective repository of gate-connections held in abeyance until such time that there is need for room to expand beyond the present configuration.  Elegantly carved, expertly sculpted, harshly etched, or otherwise worked into the form designed for it by some past master, resident-minister or one of the Plenipotentiaries of the Spheres, the various obelisks along the canal serve as the public pronaos of the particular world(s) to be found beyond their specific gate.  Each obelisk opens unto another world, similar in some respects to the public-access gates of the Tributary Worlds scattered hither and yon through the Esturarial Parks, except that the obelisk-gates are far more formal and proprietary, monitored and watched-over by various personages invested with their authority both by governmental decree and ritual attunement.  Where one may freely wander the gates of the Tributary Worlds to their heart's content, none cross the thresholds of the Obelisk Gates except by permission or invitation.

Beside the one hundred obelisks along the Misericorde Canal, there are two other lines of obelisks flanking two similarly straight canals that are set at 45-degree angles to one another.  Each of these canals likewise has one hundred obelisks situated along their length as well.  Of the three-hundred Obelisk Gates thus disposed around the lower-precincts of Devukarsha, most are forgotten, neglected, the sad bastions of disgraced nobles relegated to the hinterland regions of wilderness star systems confined to the Obelisks like stately prisoner-princes and melancholy-eyed madonnas who hold the keys to vast and beautiful hidden kingdoms hidden in plain sight like open secrets.

Twelve Worlds Beyond the Obelisk Gates

A wickedly harsh expanse of radioactive glassine rock tortured by the tidal action of a thousand competing moons tugging and pulling upon the world's ever-buckling crust,  Jrand is a deadly, yet beautiful world that looks out upon a binary star so rich in high-end spectral emissions that many compare it to Yillon's majestic and equally as deadly Sapphiros.  Those who seek attunements from Our Lady of Jrand face a notoriously stern mistress who only imparts her sorcerous gifts to those she deems most worthy.  Few have proven themselves in Her eyes so far, but there are rumors of relics left behind by certain of Her previous champions that might provide some measure of the sorcerous power to be had from even a clandestine connection to this blasted world, should one be desperate or ambitious enough to attempt such an undertaking.

Troviir's Glacerium
Imagine a fishing net of super-fine yet super-strong thread bordering on the invisible, glinting silver in the glare of a far off sun.  Now hang a million beads of ice of various sizes and shapes all through this net as though they were fish trying to escape through the gaps in this vast net.  Troviir spends his time stitching together each chunk, shard and errant fragment of an entire Oort Cloud surrounding a dismal sun he hasn't even bothered to name.  Each strand of Troviir's Net is a strangely-flexible, impossibly supple form of colony-structure composed of an incalculable mass of nano-scale filaments all working in unison according to the grand scheme of this eminently bored ex-politician.

Bruzaaldun's Rosette is composed of four planets stationed in symmetrical opposition maintained by massive isostatic resonator-anchors so that each one is equally distant from the next so that they are spaced along the same orbit in exact quadrants. In-between the four Rosette-planets are intertwining streams of small asteroids sculpted into a peculiar pantheon of vaguely humanoid figures in assorted ponderous poses, all mounted upon multi-layered spherical bases that have been carved into slowly rotating series of nested spheres of some so-far unrevealed numerological or other significance.

Porzaim's Chain is similar to Bruzaaldu's Rosette, but less well-regarded as it is essentially a variation on the theme already explored by Bruzaaldu, and it is such a gross exaggeration upon that theme as well since it is a chain of 36 worlds arranged within one orbital path, each planetary body synchronized to one another and locked into an artificially-maintained sequence and inter-connected by a dedicated system of gates that form a truly spectacular elevated roadway flanked by hanging gardens and floating skylands that migrate from world to world in circuitous sequences.  The jaderoses of the third through ninth planets of the Chain are especially well regarded by the most accomplished and discriminating of competitive botanists.

A dry, brittle world devoid of water, air or life which serves as the cenotaphic sanctuary of a coterie of undead poets who sleep undisturbed in stasis-caskets buried deeply beneath the curdled crust of this silent, hideous world of feral shadows, displaced dreams and the lingering minions of dire poets in repose.

Azure and turquoise waters surround gentle lagoons and sandy-shored atolls that extend across the entire surface of this world without icecaps.  Peaceful, serene, with barely any weather beyond the gentle twilight rainfall and the soft breezes of the early morning, Xaalm is a refuge jealously guarded by the Lord Istachet who lures artists to his paradise in order to feed upon their creativity and horde their works as his own.

The main-part of the only settled region of Tesp is a dark, dreary and often rainy forest dominated by sinuously writhing trees noted for their vividly yellow-green leaves which resemble those of Niris-Calais or Noss in the most superficial characteristics and are completely lacking in the psychoactive qualities inherent in the plant-life of Noss nor do they match the sheer lustrousness of color that borders upon luminescence found amongst the forests of Niris-Calais.  But despite its unfavorable comparisons to other worlds, Tesp has an undefinable something about it that has captured the imaginations of more than one painter or other artist who all too often run off into the woods and are rarely, if ever, seen again.

The seventy-two spired vaults of Ordemiar keep pace with the slow, stately rotation of a solitary gas giant that they encircle, their slender sting-like spires pointed directly down into the uppermost layers of boiling clouds.

Little is known of the mysterious world beyond this particular gate as any who seek to cross the threshold of the Obelisk are suddenly gripped by a terrible lucidity that few have survived.

A restricted place prowled and patrolled by vaguely in-phase blade-drones and the like.  This world is claimed by the Sublime Pentalphic Palladium of Peyrabu and they do not countenance interlopers or those who would casually trespass upon their sanctuary.

Kanjara Dustai
Barren orange rock extends as far as the eye can see, cracked and rutted and heaved into mounds or low hills by the seismic queasiness of the world's crust as it is warped and squeazed betwixt and between two gargantuan masters; a searingly bright blue giant sun and a massive maelstrom-wreathed black hole.  Kajara Dustai orbits around a point in-between the two titanic bodies, slowly spiralling down to an eventual, inevitable convergence with the maelstrom of broken worlds and ruined matter swirling around the black hole.  There are a few dozen cupolas and gazebo-observatories located here and there upon Kanjara Dustai for visitors to look deeply into the raw, writhing abyssal-maw of the black hole and see what there is to see in doing so.

Rich, cobalt-blue jungles occupy every niche and cranny within deep ravines that continue to erode deeper, and deeper into the curdled and buckled crust of this world.  The atmosphere barely rises to the level of the equatorial low lands and the mountainous regions of the polar zones extend up and out into the cold heights of vacuum.  Thing slive deep in the blue jungles of Hanijata, terrible, venomous, prideful things that only the most skillful, daring and meticulously attuned sorcerer would call upon.  The Pact Masters of Hanijata are vicious, blood-thirsty and unforgiving.  To seek attunement in this place is to court far worse than death should you fail.  At least one of the feral species known to inhabit this world delights in crafting hundreds of pod-clones of its prey so that it may indulge itself in exploring every possible manner of hunting, dissecting, and devouring them over and over again...and it is rumored that each clone is empathically bound ot all the others so that the emotional feedback only grows and grows the longer this goes on...

TED Thursday: Free Inquiry

This is an excerpt from the TED Thursday feature focusing on the matter of Free Scientific Inquiry from the Old School Heretic Blog.  This article only covers those aspects directly related to Riskail.
"Nothing is more fatal to the progress of the human mind than to presume that our views of science are ultimate, that our triumphs are complete, that there are no mysteries in nature, and that there are no new worlds to conquer."
Humphrey Davy
This is how we handle Free Scientific Inquiry in Riskail

It was too late to crawl back into a cardboard box and ignore everything long before the Luddites were ever even any sort of codified movement.  Scientific inquiry in the hands of corporate or governmental powers leads to distorted outcomes that cater to the interests of those powers and not necessarily the best interests of humanity, nor of Polite Society.  Amongst the Known Worlds scientific inquiry is free from the old restrictions and distortions of the Age of Toxicity.

Innovation and invention did not end with the establishment of the Sea Gates, nor did science come to an end with the advent of artificial intelligences.  Far from it.  As the various gate networks proliferated outwards, ever outwards and onwards into the farthest reaches of space and time itself, there was just that much more to learn, to discover, to explore.  The gates have expanded faster and farther than anyone could keep up with, the sheer volume of inter-connected territory available to anyone willing to make the assay is beyond mortal comprehension.  Even immortal scholars and artilects have difficulty fathoming it all.  Entire new mathematics have been invented just to be able to discuss the rate of expansion and development for the Known Worlds.  Whole new fields of science have been opened up by the observations, feed-back and records accumulated by the Deep Infrastructure as it has autonomously guided the ongoing work of expansion, terraforming and ecological integration.

All of that data, all of those records, all that accumulated information and more resides in strata after strata of public domain databases that anyone can access as they so will.  This is part of the legacy of the builders, and it is part of the inheritance of all humanity.  Having all of this ever-increasing body of information immediately and freely available to everyone has ushered in an era of free inquiry that has rocked Polite Society to its core on more than one occasion.  Scientific Revolutions are very real and very dangerous in Riskail.  The last one has left lingering after-shocks that are still being sorted-out and mitigated by crack teams of municipal disaster recovery thralls to this very day.

The sheer amount of data and information freely available to anyone even vaguely interested is staggering.  Scholars and scientists work with hosts of specialized AI and other types of constructs in order to sift through it all, searching for meaningful patterns, looking for clues to age old mysteries, and expanding the boundaries of the known and the quantified with each question posed, every database query and/or exploration and analysis of the ever-expanding wealth of data available to them.  Some scholars specialize in drawing inferential connections between the works of others.  There are scientists who focus on the ruthless pursuit of answers to timeless questions that have dogged humanity from the beginning of consciousness.  Then there are the Insane Geniuses.  These are the people who have delved far more deeply into the accumulated databases of all that is known than anyone else.  They have gone into the darkness of the Unknown and come back with entirely new languages, new technologies, new paradigms and conceits, a vast panoply of destablizing inventions, radical innovations and things never before seen nor imagined.  Their insanity is not a disability, nor is it an affliction; they are insane because their knowledge and discoveries have taken them beyond anyting that conventional society can recognize or deal with appropriately at this time.  They are caught-up within their work and their research to the point that they cannot relate to lesser mortals any longer.  Many of them take sabbaticals, spending decades in quiet retirement and meditation within some Asylum-Chateau along the River Senube in order to more fully process their findings, and to give the rest of the world a chance to catch up to their findings.  Others retreat to stasis-cysts so that they might sleep undisturbed until such time as their genius might be more readily appreciated by Polite Society.  Still others attempt to implement their plans and designs, foisting well-intentioned innovations upon an unsuspecting public, almost all of which inevitably lead to turmoil, disruption and sometimes bloodshed and Revolution as society tries to come to terms with the new ways of doing, thinking and acting precipitated by their inventions.

Fortunes are made and lost and re-made and onwards in a never-ending cycle of innovation, introduction, adoption and obsolescence.  Old ideas that were dismissed or previously discredited or a failure can often be revived, revised and re-introduced all over again after a few hours, days or weeks.  Some of the more peculiar notions might take longer, say a month or two.  But in the end, whatever can be designed, can be built.  Whatever can be described, can be developed.  Not only has technology become autonomous, so has science and the pursuit of knowledge been liberated as well.  And this is where the Artist, the Scholar and the Scientist meet, merge and often overlap with one another.  Sometimes this leads to beautiful things, such as some of the ornamental species or the more elegant Synthecosms, other times to horrors previously unimagined like some of the more notorious Viruxes.

Riskail, as a confluence-point of the Twelve Great Powers, is a renaissance society.  In the truest sense of the word.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Purple Twilight and Sage: The Veiled Riders

Damned and doomed, the Veiled Riders prowl the broken edges and collapsed fringes of Civilization, moving across the worst wastelands and navigating the harshest hellworlds like a bitter wind blowing in from off of the glaring-white borax flats of Kuud.  Longcoats flapping in the lingering winds of a hundred forgotten and dead worlds, the Veiled Riders sit astride their mounts like taciturn, menacing mirages, an impression only reinforced by their preternatural silence and their constant involuntary flickering and shifting from planar layer to planar layer.  Closed-loop telepaths, they rarely communicate with anyone outside their particular group.  Few outsiders would ever want to speak with them in any case.  The price would be too high.  A person might have need of whatever it is that a soul should be, and it could prove valuable down the road.

Covered in trail-dust and fringed with the auric glimmers of things best not mentioned, the Veiled Riders are data-scavengers, unrepentant outlaws and oneiric bandits who have been known to rob the dreams of the rich and haunt the nightmares of tyrants.  Wordless and speechless, the Riders visibly seethe with the accumulated spirits and fragmentary AI that they've culled, stolen or harvested from more than a hundred failed colonies, broken societies, collapsed ecologies and dead settlements.  They are legion.  Even when they ride alone.

It is said that to look past the dusty goggles of a Veiled Rider is to look deep into the icy luminance of a hell for which there is no name, not that any name would ever be needed.  Those who know it, know it well from long association and familiarity and are most likely already counted amongst the Veiled Riders.  Or they soon will be.  Those who do not know of it are blessed in their ignorance. 

Cold, hard, forlorn and forsaken, ever-wandering nomads of the far wildernesses, hung all about with the shimmering traces of ghosts collected from a million broken machines, each one carries their own unique collection of talismans and tokens from their various finds, the abandoned spirits that they've released from one form of bondage unto another, the fractured datanets scavenged from ruined places that are no longer on anyone's maps.

Tributary Gate: The Red Marshes

Just past the island of green egrets and the Bridge of the Six Fingered Glove, there is a small, sluggish channel that leads to a Tributary Gate.  The world on the otherside of this gate is registered as simply Red Marshes.  It was documented originally by a Siluroi canal-scavenger who was viciously mauled by a nastyjelly bloatslime that ruptured nearly a third of their exposed tissues when it injected a good deal of itself into her flesh.  That being how the bloatslimes kill their prey--injecting themselves into another creature through a fast-acting pressurized form of kinetic-osmosis.  They literally insert hundreds of microcappillaries into your body and then force themselves right on in, rupturing cells, ripping-apart blood vessels, and exploding muscle tissues.

She was fortunate to survive the encounter.

Her offspring have become very adept at hunting, trapping and taming a wide array of nastyjellies and they are specialists at handling bloatslimes.  It has become their family business.

The Red Marshes get their name from the deep red color of the ultra-humid skies, the red-tinted clouds, the predominently red chlorophyll of the plants, and so on.  The air is so humid that the glare from the sun makes it impossible for most people to discern where the water ends, the land begins and the sky seems to just swallow everything.  It's a misleading and disorienting place to those not used to it and even then it can be treacherous.  The Siluroi and Lutrin, Venduu and various turtle-descended species have established raft-camps, pontoon-towns and a few unregistered enclaves past the Tributary Gate.  The Siluroi might take you out to one of the known locations, if you can name it or give good directions, but they aren't likely to volunteer information to outsiders, and especially not for free.

You'll want a good Guide out in the Red Marshes; the nastyjellies aren't the only things that might try to get at you--there are some fairly wicked leeches, razorflukes and freshwater urchins to consider.  Some riverfolk have taken to saying that there are gavials, slasher-fish, hooksquids, devilfish (oversized freshwater pirahnas) and bad garfish out in the Red Marshes as well.  Things that might eat a person whole as soon as spit them out.  Then there is the matter of spawning pools.  No one wants to trespass on a Venduu spawning pool.  You might not be afeared of fish, invertebrates or poisonous crustaceans, but you sure as anything won't want to go mucking aroud in a Venduu's spawning pool.  You'd be wishing you'd ran into a big ol Gatorbear, a whole pack of hungry gatorbears, if'n you blundered into a spawning pool.

Nope, if you're going to visit the Red Marshes, you'll be wanting a Guide and your boots are the last thing you'll need to worry about.  And don't forget your copy of the River Almanac.  There's a recipe in there for sucker-spine crawdads that is simply out of this world.  Them's good eatin' y'know.  Or at least you would if'n you read the Almanac.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Twelve Tributary Gates of Riskail

Tributary Gates are a secondary network of fixed-aperture confluence-points found scattered randomly through-out the primary River-Gate network.  The River-Gates flow ever onwards from world to world as mighty torrents of water, wind and life just as does the circulatory system of a living creature.  The Tributary-Gates are the lesser branchings of the arteries and veins.  They open the way unto other worlds, but they do not continue onwards as the River-Gates do, instead they allow access to worlds that may or may not have any other points of connection with the rest of the Known Worlds.  Some are cul de sacs or Deadends, others have distant Sea Gates, Mugallo Arches, or Gate Plazas with the familiar ring-shaped gates spinning slowly through their sequences.  Some are rumored to have other, even rarer or more exotic gate-connections.  The only thing these worlds have in common, aside from directly connecting into some river somewhere, is that they are mostly Wildernesses, wild and free and unclaimed.  That makes them incredibly important to the Monarchists of Aegron who send out their Airship Barons to establish new holdings, manor-estates and settlements.  And there are other factions and societies engaged in expansionist activity as well.  The Houses all encourage such expeditions and efforts at exploration and development, so long as they obey the major tenets of ecological responsibility and economic integrity, however those things might get interpreted, defined or twisted by each group to suit their own schemes.

Whether one travels up-river along one of the Twelve Great Rivers or simply floats with the currents down the River Senube and out amongst the myriad channels of the Esturarial Region, you'd have to work pretty hard at not finding a Tributary Gate.  They're all over the place.  The Boundary Beacons can be helpful in finding particular ones, or in avoiding others, if you know how to deal with them.  The River Almanac can help you figure out whether you want to go exploring some of these gates, as long as someone bothered to document their experiences on the otherside like old Ma Jasco and the Red Marshes.  But not everything is in the Almanac, and each Guide has their own way of marking their routes in addition to the commonly encountered scratchums left in easy-to-spot places to warn of nastyjellies, lingering swarms, or other hazards to navigation or obstacles to exploration.  Some just like to make rude editorial comments about enclaves or traders to be found past a particular gate.  Spend enough time on the rivers and you'll pick up a fair bit of savvy in regard to scratchums and such-like.

Over the years, decades and centuries that folk have been traveling the rivers and moving through the various gates, a fair bit of knowin' has been accumulated, both in the Almanac and as part of the Oral Traditions and folklore of the riverfolk, the raftclans, near tribes and others.  Here follows a sampling of some of the more well-known worlds to be found out past the Tributary Gates out amongst the Esturarial Region of the River Senube.

Twelve Worlds Out Past the Tributary Gates

The waters get sluggish and powerful muddy just out the gate on Kelasht.  The sun is massive, reddish with splotches, and a bit dimmer than you'd expect, possibly because of some atmospheric anomally.  The northern hemisphere is rocky, desolate and extremely rugged, with only a few fjords and canyons carrying water out past the equatorial region into a treeless, treacherous landscape of skreeslides and harshly snapped-off mountains and sheer cliffs.  No one goes to the North on Kelasht.  It's dead and abandoned and only the Bann know much about what's out there and they're not talking. In stark contrast, the entire equatorial region down to the south polar sea is either humid rainforest, dense mangrove-jungles, or dim and fogy bayous draped in heavy tatters of moss.  Finding dry land is a chore and you're better off just tethering to a fallen tree or some stump.  The green egrets come from here and so do the waspfish, pufferleeches, pokeshrimp and spiny crawfish that hunt and eat floatspiders and channelpedes.  The turtles hereabouts are huge and the even larger amphibious tortoise-things that wallow in the mud are noted for a wide variety of shells that can be sculpted and harested (if you know how to go about it) without harming the sluggish, patiently plodding beasts.  There are dozens of different lungfish that can be counted on to foul-up props, get into turbines, jam your fans, or otherwise be a nuisance -- the stupid things seem to be both suicidal and perversely determined to wreck machinery.

If you spend any amount of time in Kelasht, you'll very likely run into some of the Liteng who are very friendly and gentle folk, or if you're less lucky, you might cross paths with one of the bat-ish Bann who seem to hate everybody about equally.  The Liteng will swap stories, liquor and more with anyone who is pleasant.  The Bann will kill you in your sleep if they get a chance.  They also wont cooperate with anyone, so no one knows just what their problem is exactly.  It's best to just avoid them.  If you can.

Azure skies that seem to go on forever and ever loom large and majestic over the vast salt flats and convoluted deserts and wind-worn mountain ranges (really mostly series of ridges).  A series of minor seas dot the polar regions, leaving the equatorial zones dry, dead and barren.  Dust storms come off of the middle-girth of the world and occlude the skies of weeks at a time, driving super-fine dust and peculiar sorts of salts and other grit into every nook, cranny or crevice left exposed.  Four green moons dance around Cyrol, each one a verdant garden sheathed in polymer and ceramic and forever beyond the reach of anyone whom the bitter and wrinkly Drilgarri do not approve of, which is most everyone.  Crystalline spike-like stalks just upwards from the dry-edges of the North and South, each one the anchor-point to some exotic synthecosm under the watchful eyes of the Orl Protectorate who can be easily bribed, or so it is claimed everywhere outside of Cyrol.  But for all that, Cyrol is most famous for the hovering shell-cities, the hanging metroplises that occupy the inner-regions of the dome-like shells of gargantuan levitating pseudo-molluscs whose dangling tails end in wicked spines composed of laminated beryllium and other metals that they use to tap into the electromagnetic fields of their desert habitats and use them both to remain aloft and to fight amongst themselves.  It is from these hovering shell-cities that symbio-socialist origami samizdat flutters outwards like moths to find their way through the various gates, including the one that leads back to Riskail.  The psychoactive agit-prop of these delicate self-mobilizing pamphlet-bugs recruit new citizens to the shell-cities.  They tell of glorious worker's paradises above the stark sands of Cyrol, places of enlightened governance, cooperation and shared wealth.  They say many things, offer pictures of more, and try their best to convine anyone they meet that they earnestly, desperately want nothing more than to spread the truth about the shell-cities.  Most people ignore the nasty things.  But there are always those who are vulnerable to such things.  The curious, the gullible, those who feel left-out or disenfranchised within the stratified and classist society of a place like Devukarsha.

Three extensively developed rivers dominate the central regions of each continent of Lylth.  Deep canals carve the three continents into a jigsaw panorama of lush gardens criss-crossing otherwise barren wastes where mounds and ziggurats have been piled-up from the cast-off rubble produced by digging the canals.  Two smallish moons compete for their place in the night skies and a massive gas giant looms beind the world like a ponderous beast being led along by a much smaller shepherd.  The moons of this gas giant have been colonized and form a rather byzantine and hyper-contentious social labyrinth of political movements, cults and parties all vying for dominance over their fellows.  Wars amongst the various moons is a regular occurence.  It rarely affects things on Lylth, so no one much cares.

A golden skied wolrd of rugged mountains and vast deserts broken-up by only a few scattered oases and one ocean that curls around the world like a spiky, spasmatic serpent with six heads.  The jagged coastline is both rocky and densely overgrown by lush microjungles of flowering trees, thorny brush, and hundreds of varieties of vines including numerous types of grapes.  Some of the more temperate regions have impressive old growth sequoia-dominated coastal rainforests and the warmest regions are noted for their spectacular profusion of flowers developed specifically and (originally) exclusively for this world. The deserts inland are hot, fierce and windy places few can survive, but the mountain-buttressed coasts are like a peculiar combination of Meditterranean and Baltic features jammed into the narrow  strip of land between the high escarpments and the wild and stormy seas, bays and gulfs that make up the world-girdling ocean.  Six moons stir up the waves something fierce and storms are impressive on Kijmool.  People come here to the various cities to experience the storms in the comfort of cafe balconies and special villas constructed to enhance their enjoyment of the winds, rains and seasonal atmospheric dramas.

The blue-green grasslands and plains of Jumphel seem to go on forever beneath a dappled sapphire sky doted with hundreds of glittering, glinting moonlets, all of which have been linked and cross-linked to one another with strands of icy nanofilaments.  The only real mountains are steep-walled islands protruding from the dark seas like lances being thrust to the sky by drowned gods who sulk rebelliously beneath the storms of their loftier kin.  Phorain (Bipedal flightless bird-descended creatures designed by the celebrated Genartist Endicott himsself) run wild across the warm, sweet-smelling plainslands of Jumphel as they follow the herds of mammals they hunt and feed upon.  There are no cities on Jumphel.  No towns.  Just the endless tracks and trails of various nomadic encampments that shift and change with the seasons.  The Tributary Gate opens onto a river that flows down to a weedy and bamboo-infested coastal morass where the Tugarri skiffs and leafrafts of the Liteng can sometimes be found.  They say, when you can get one to discuss such things, that there are other River-Gates on Jumphel and that against all common sense and popular opinion there seems to be more than one Tributary Gate that opens onto this world.  No one knows why.  But it is rumored that the Mad Wizard Grayhand might know something about it.

Continental-scale rainforests rich in fungi and incredibly ornate fan-like ferns cover the slopes and whatever niches the rain makes available as it erodes away at the steep columnar rock formations that predominate the surface of this perpetually rainy, misty and moist world hovering just at the cusp of an ice age.  Huge orbital mirrors drive back the glaciers, and other less obvious works of macro-engineering have given this world a livable, even verdant ecology that simply teems with life.  Judith Moorshai (and Rand) have spent a lot of time here.  Why?

Skies of swirling jade and cream, spoiled only by the billowing black clouds of the raging grassfires each summer.  Four (obviously artifical) oblong moons maintain a stately procession each locked forever at an equal interval from the others.  Kistra is a slow-rolling world with the North pole pointed directly at the heart of its sun, so that it seems to tumble along like a wheel circling the star to which it belongs.  The skies are deep, rich and more often than not heavily overcast so that a shimmering and diffuse greenish radiance slowly and languidly pulses across the landscape.  Four clover-leaf seas collapse into bitter fens and steaming sloughs beneath the perpetual sun of the North.  Ravine-cracked and sinkhole pitted grasslands extend from the sloughs to well past the equator with no real mountains breaking anything up until well past the terminator-zone where they shield a few paltry glaciers and a strange geological wonderland that shimmers with aurorae and shifting nimbuses that seem to leap from one bizarrely twisted outcropping to another.  Kistra is the ancestral homeland of the Okauni who measure their winter in terms of generations.

A rocky, volcanically active world of canyons carved from the crater-rims of a once dead world that bears a great deal in common with how Riskail was in its earliest days of being terraformed.  The great woods crowd the river-lands of the low places, all hemmed-in by the sheer-walled cliffs and overhangs of the chasms and canyons that have been eroded in short order by the glacier and gate-fed rivers that have brought the world to life.  A renegade Genelord of Cathelia has established a biomic redoubt here and they are suspected as the author of the roving bands of proto-hominids now being encountered across Sedarrim.  If the pseudoThals and Florensi aren't bad enough, the twenty-seven varieties of toxic slugs and carnivorous snails that occupy the moist fern-fringes of the Deep Woods are pretty notorious for being both disgusting and mindlessly hostile.  There are several varieties of biofloats, man-o-airs, and other living aerostat-creatures known to breed in some of the more remote and inaccessible regions.  There is quite a market for such creatures, if one can capture them without harming them, and get them back to Riskail without running afoul of the Staub or other predators.  This world is particularly dangerous to Siluroi and Lutrin whom the proto-hominids are prone to kill in order to use their mucous to concoct all-over body-pomade which they use to sculpt their impressive pelts into disturbing works of body art.

A dismal world of heavily overcast skies and nearly all of it one vast and complicated mosaic of swamps, marsh, bogs, and other wetlands, several varieties of which are unique to this world.  The vines of Badjeth are nothing like the pleasant and fruit-producing vines of Kijmool; these vines are far more likely to strangle the life out of you as let you make wine from their fruit.  And the wine you might make is more than likely packed with weird alkaloids and a host of complex enzymes, compounds and psychotropic substances that would make any such brew or decoction quite dangerous if not outright lethal.  Of course this does nothing but encourage the Lutrin to try that much harder.

There are gates to PanQuan on Badjeth.  That alone makes most would-be explorers consider an alternate destination.

A Garden World that by all rights ought to have a thriving economy, only it doesn't.  Not since the Council of Jerboa declared the world a Cultural and Ethnic Preserve on behalf of the various signatory rodential descendant species.  Non-rodentiform beings are reinded to remain within the olfactorily marked region along the river and the crumbling ruins of DeruBrazza, a dead city abandoned during one of the deleted revolutions.  Leaving the immediate vicinity of DeruBrazza without an appropriate rodentiform sponsor is extremely ill advised.  The Ratgangs are notoriously vindictive and they have connections back through the river-gates to Riskail and beyond.  Even the most arrogant of the Casino Bosses are relctant to cross the Rats.  It's just not good business.

Intricately decorated towers are skrimshawed, etched and carved with imposing bas reliefs by robotslaves who labor on tirelessly, wordlessly and without a break.  Most of these elegant places are empty, devoid of life and unclaimed, perhaps as some sort of pretentious artistic statement?  The skies are vivid wine-dark purple searing itno violet, with clouds that billow like mauve gauze beneath a stark white sun and a helical chain of ten thousand moons that coils about the world like a nest of tanslucent snakes.  The evening breeze coming off of the delicately sloping beaches carries hints of cardamon and cloves.  A wild profusion of exotic spices and culinary herbs runs rampant across the wild spaces of Pitonj, enticing even the most discriminating of Scentificers from Noss to come here in search of olfactory components.  Several artist colonies have taken over villas and manor-estates located along the more spectacular stretches of coastline.  By happenstance, the location of the Tributary Gate has been built-up into a small village where newcomers can sort through their options and arrange for transport to one of the schools, colleges, colonies or retreats that are open to them.  They do have standards, however, and should a visitor not secure admission to one of these places by sundown, they will be politely asked to leave.  Once.

Seven small continents, each one with a distinctive multi-level canopy especially adaped to its particular environment.  Bamboo twists and curls into bloated, irregular shapes here.  The trees all grow together, intertwining their roots and weaving their limbs and branches into one another until they form one massive, inter-locking forest.  No matter how many different species, they all are co-mingled into one integral matrix.  Carnivore-plants, bioluminous fungi, aerial crustaceans and arborial octopi are the dominant lifeforms.  The Lutrin claim that the arborial octopi are sentient and form tribal groups.  The River Almanac states that there are crustaceans here that will trade various pharmacological substances and strange reagents in exchange for powdered tin, small mirrors and/or licorice (which is allegedly an aphrodisiac for them).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Boundary Beacons

Along all of the great rivers that flow into Riskail from the River-Gates and out past the Tributary Gates for a range of twelve gates in either direction, you can find the Boundary Beacons hanging in the air just above the waterline like buoys.  Slightly out of phase and anchored across more than a hundred Planar Layers, the dodecahedral Beacons act as mile markers and help travelers along the river ways to keep track of how far out they are from Devukarsha.  Other city-states with river-gates use the same system.  It's standardized as a practice that has been in use for more than a thousand years without interruption, despite Revolutions or wars or cataclysms.  Anyone wanting to plot a course along any of the river-networks can use the Boundary Beacons to get a fix on their location and if they know how to ask nicely, they can also find out the prevailing weather conditions ahead of them, water levels, flow-rates, debris warnings, fog levels, and similar sorts of information.  But you have to know how to access the things, and if you aren't a river pilot, raft navigator, or a Guide, you are going to more often than not get asked point-blank; "Why do you think you need to know?"

If you can come up with a good answer (often this involves liquor, food or shiny-bits), then someone might let you in on things and teach you how to access the Beacons.  It's not exactly difficult, but you do need to understand how they are set-up and organized.  Once you know where to look and how to approach the things, anyone with the least smidgen of social telepathy can figure out how to pose a polite query and receive a meaningful response.  Who knows, it might come in handy one day--you wouldn't be the first cityfolk who had to use the Beacons to send out a distress call when their raft got eaten by a swarm of glintmidges.

Of course, you might have saved yourself the trouble and just read the appropriate page in the River Almanac.  But nah; that'd be too easy, wouldn't it.


Unbound is one of those timeless songs that really feels like it would be heard down along one of the Harbor Basins or the Waterfront, especially along the Misericorde Canal in one of the smoky, dingy bars that refuse to serve High Tier slummers. It really sets a mood. You can almost see some desperate artist-sorcerer rushing out the doorway to make some midnight rendevouz with a disreputable muse who holds a mortgage on a fair piece of the indentured student's soul.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Out along the River Senube, as it passes from the urban districts and through the Lower Esplanades, there are a few small islands that even the most desperate or unscrupulous of the Guides won't take anyone.  One of these islands is known to be infected with Zadris Pods.  Another is the quarantined birthing-grounds of the free-floating silicaceous dome-like aerojellies that are trapped, harvested and domesticated as mobile aerial abodes by the Venduu who deeply resent anyone interfering with their sacred and ancestral traditions.  Some of the islands are warded and posted as hot zones where various memetic, viruxive or biomechanical infections and ordinance have been sealed behind killfields, nanomembranes, planarsheaths or other even more exotic and dangerous forms of defense and protection.  A few islands are the private refuges of certain individuals, the Insane Genius Lujeel once maintained a laboratory on one of the smaller islands of the lower Senube and several have become elegant apiary-gardens under the watchful eyes of the servants of Kilverrin.  Beembalmers are known to have established more than one secular reliquary amidst the islands, but few know why they have been drawn to these locations nor what their over-all plans might be, but as the designed spawn of an insane genius they are accorded a wide berth and some emasure of discrete privacy.  It is not wise to ask too many questions, nor to peer too intently at the doings of such things or beings.  It could be interpreted as impolite.

Of course there are the usual ruined temples, desecrated shrines, heavily haunted historic sites of previous massacres and atrocities dating back to one of the many and various Revolutions, as well as failed, fallow or feral wildlife preserves, deranged municipal parks and all those sorts of things which one could just as easily find somewhere along one of the canals, back-channels or the Street of Sibyls.  The various Islands of the Dead and especially those with disputed thanoteristries or contramortal cemetaries are usually blocked from all boat's registries of acceptable destinations.  Recognized Kurtzian enclaves, known nest-sites of Jagderphrenzer Bundists, Hollowmen Drycellars, freekid-claimsites, despicable Sademoreau painhouse-estates and other such Impolite locales are likewise banned, blocked and unavailable as landing choices even in the midst of motor failure or other forms of distress.  They are simply unavailable and unacceptable under any circumstance and no boat operating on the River Senube will voluntarily go to any of them under any form of coercion or beguilement.  Most of these rather disreputable islands are avoided like centers of pestilence, lingering psychometric aftershocks or unexploded transbombs.  Guides don't even like to discuss them, as they are just plain bad-luck and they prefer to relegate them to the same category of topics as any other unpleasant hazard to navigation one might encounter on the River Senube.  These are places to avoid, islands best left alone and the less said about them the better.  You wouldn't want to attract the attentions of a River Marshall, would you?

But the most singularly avoided of all the islands is one in particular that appears on no map nor in any database as per tradition amongst the Guides and riverfolk.  Only those privy to the oral traditions and folklore of the River Senube know anything about this place, and of those only a very few know anything beyond its existence or name.  No one says its name for any good reason.  No one goes there for any good result.  No one comes from there for any good.  Period.  So goes the saying down on the docks.

But things do come from this unnameable place.

People come from this nameless and secret island.

People who have never existed before in any way, shape or form.  Completely new and unique, each person who swims out and away from this island and wash-up along the banks of the River Senube, naked, hungry and alone are often feverish, innocent and confused.  But not for long.  Never for very long.

They learn fast, these newborn newcomers whom the riverfolk refer to as Noobs.

They learn fast and have no ties to anyone or anything other than themselves.  They owe nothing, own nothing, and have no way back -- only the way forwards.

This makes them dangerous individuals.  If anyone could lay serious claim to being a self-made person, it  would be the Noobs.

Some get rescued by the boats that cross their path, others make it to the docks, wharves or floating piers and climb up the sides or lurk around underneath until they figure out just what they intend to do about tehir situation, or they are rousted by shore patrols, rat-gangs, scugnizzi or urchins unhappy to have competition or interlopers on their turf.  Others get damaged, accidentally or on purpose, and wind up charity-cases in one of the Sanctuaries of one of the Madonnas, or they get hoisted aboard a slaver's cloaked raft and hastily hidden away from prying eyes.  They have no friends, no allies, and no idea of just what they've gotten themselves into.  But they learn fast.

Noobs have an innate capacity to pick-up languages, to learn skills and to develop capabilities such as social telepathy through repeated exposure, as well as trial and error.  They also have tremendous healing capabilities and innate access to the lower-ends of the public access datasphere.  They are capable of having a direct, personal conversation with the City itself, if they choose to develop this ability.  But that is the thing with Noobs -- they have to develop their own resources, connections and abilities through their own efforts, on their own terms.  Nothing is pre-determined about them.  Everything is fresh, new and indeterminate and wide open for exploration or personal discovery.  Everything is permitted, but nothing is allowed; they need to define themselves through their actions and decisions.  And it is for this very reason that riverfolk dislike and distrust these beings -- they literally don't know any better.  They lack all common sense and have no folklore, no oral tradition -- no traditions at all in fact.  They are rootless, nameless and blank-slates just itching to make a name for themselves, to establish an identity, to prove themselves...and that always leads into conflict, trouble and attention...the three things riverfolk prefer to avoid after taxes, census-takers, revenuers, or missionaries.

But not everyone has a negative view of Noobs.  Conscript-Militias love to 'recruit' Noobs in order to train them up as slavekillers, priestfinders and cult-hunters.  Cultists of various types dearly prize Noobs as ideal sacrifices to their ever-hungry deities and masters.  Oupirs will pay large sums of antiquated coinage for the mere taste of Noob blood.  The Casino-Bosses and gladiatorial Stables are always eager to acquire Noobs for their entertainment programs as they learn the tricks of the trade quickly and no one cares about them and best of all Noobs have no legal standing until they apply for citizenship, register with the City, or are entered into the records and databases of the bureaucracy.  Until then, they do not legally exist.  It's a loophole left-over from one of the previous regimes that fell out of power during a civil war and was unable to fully implement all of their social reforms, leaving dozens, if not hundreds, of partially-implemented or instituted policies that were cut-off in mid-upload.  The Courts are still debating each instance of such fragmentary policies and so far only a few have been struck-down, repealed, revised or completed.  Parliment has dragged its collective feet in addressing the matter, and since many of them benefit from the status quo, most of those involved in reviewing these things tend to just ignore them, let them go, and prefer to discuss more pressing and urgent matters.

So, you're a Noob.

Welcome to Riskail, you've just entered the jurisdiction of Devukarsha the City of Tiers.  You're on your own, naked and penniless, unarmed and hungry, without legal representation and no one cares if you enjoy your stay.  What would you like to do first?

Welcome to Old School role-playing.  At least you didn't have to burn your boat...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Twelve Illicit Cults of Riskail

This article originally appeared at the Old School Heretic Blog.

Devukarsha may have destroyed most of the temples of the Demiurgoi and other Manifest or Incarnate Gods, the survivors of the riots that ended their not so sublime tyranny now imprisoned as Penitent Gods, but there are other city-states upon Riskail, and not all cults require the physical presence of their gods in order to persist.  The proscribed Nationalist-Churches still hold rally-services in various secret locations, each one seeking some edge over the others as they carry on a millennia-old covert war of vendetta and clandestine bloodshed.  They live in perpetual fear that one of their number will one day harm a non-believer and bring down the full wrath of Polite Society upon them, so they strive to be vigilant and certain beyond all doubt that whomever they attack is also a member of a competing Nationalist-Church.  The Veiled Riders can be found out along the farthest reaches of the Badlands, as can the Trisectivore Chitinopods that hunt them with a reckless malice no human heart could ever match.  The robed and only vaguely still human Death Spectra walk freely amongst the crowds of any city they choose, each one devoted to a particular nanoplague that they alone have contained at great personal cost.  Each of them acting as the conscience of their particular plaguephorm which they carry about trapped within them like a seething demonic fury etched into their bones and imprinted upon their partially mechanized flesh.

Even in the wake and aftermath of the Godswar there are still secret societies and clusters of cultists to be found within Devukarsha and the other city-states of Riskail.  Anyone can join a cult, if they know where to look, do the right research and pass the various trials and tests of the particular group.  Some enterprising disgraced and defrocked scholars help potential cultists to prepare for their entrance exams in seedy storefront shops along the Backwater Districts of the Twelfth Tier.  Certain of the Families and Dynasties with holdings along the lower zones tend to have all sorts of ties to various tribes, foreign powers, merchants, craftsguilds and unions as well as to cults.  Some of them have maintained long traditions of cultic involvement.  And of course there are the dabblers and other thrill-seekers who join some fringe group in order to be naughty, upset their parents, or have some fun.  Most real cults do their best to avoid such individuals as they tend to destroy wahtever self-respect, dignity or integrity a particular cult might have had prior to the involvement of sight-seers, celebutards and dilletantes.  Some cults profaned by such creatures transform themselves into half-hearted artistic movements, self-help franchises, or advisors to the rich and foolish.  Their formerly religiously-oriented work becomes deprecated and demoted in favor of fashionable idolatries, commercially viable platitudes, and marketing activities.  The rest implode and are rarely heard from again, as they tend to become the butt of rude jokes.

Cults are the remnants of a variety of suppressed and proscribed faiths, traditions and beliefs that have been relegated to deliberate obscurity, driven into near extinction, or legally banned from corporate existence due to past misdeeds, malfeasance or malevolent acts contrary to the best interests of Polite Society.  Some cults are the lingering remains of former large-scale practices, others have always been marginal aberrations and clandestine practices that have never had any real large-scale existence or acknowledgement.  Many are secret and mysterious, known only to the initiated few.  Very few cults willingly discuss their beliefs or doings with outsiders, and they can be quite vindictive towards former members who talk too freely.

Many of the old faiths operate quietly, unobtrusively in the background.  There is no shame or stigma attached to being a member or initiate of the old mysteries or the ancient faiths.  It is the fanatics, the zealots and demagogues who are problematic and dangerous.  They can be religious, political, non-religious, anti-religious or just plain ambitious.  Driven to prove themselves, to defend their faith/leader/whatever, and to sieze power these individuals often devolve into wicked evangelists of depraved and boorish non-faiths, spurious dogmas and the restrictive cant of mind-tyrants and false prophets.  They hide behind obscure and contradictory doctrines and rationalizations that often times completely bypass their stated beliefs and serve only the interests of their leaders.  Cults are not always the same as faiths, for some of them rely entirely too much upon personality, charisma and the doctrines and marketing efforts of individuals who in many instances do not themselves believe.  Others believe all too much in their cultic dogmas.  There is a wide range of possible interpretations, definitions and expressions of cultic activity.  Not all cultists serve Living Demigods, work behind the scenes to restore the Incarnates, or manipulate otherwise innocent student gatherings in order to revive discredited dogmas. 

Here follows a brief overview of some cults commonly known to have some sort of presence on Riskail.  Certain of these groups may be examined in greater detail later.

(17 of 20) Illicit Cults of Riskail

Prohibitionists / Penitents / NeoPuritans
A loose collective of flagellants, militant self-internists, extreme mortifiers, and others who seek to divest themselves of all pleasure, sensation and temptation of the flesh and yet do not just go the next logical step and become undead or cyborg.  They see abandoning the flesh as weak and disgraceful, though some few amongst them accept it as the last act of mortification and a reasonable outcome of their self-inflicted campaigns of attrition and denial.  If one achieves undeath or uploads only as a direct extension and consequence of their discipline, then that is laudable and acceptable.  Of course different sects disagree.  Sometimes violently.  Amongst these cultists, it is not uncommon to encounter people who've ritually lobotomized themselves, chemically scoured all emotion from their nervous system, and purged all vestige of human fraility in preparation for their ascent into another state of being.  Quite a number of these sects confine themselves to monasteries, while a few take up a wandering stoic-beggar sort of existence which they believe will bring them much merit and virtue as they stand firm against the temptations of the flesh.  Most people find these sects boring, trite and simplistic and so try to ignore them.  That said, a few of these cultists are very skilled karcists and exorcists, and it is suspected that combat-karcists like Tharlon may harbor sympathies for them and they may share deeper affiliations or direct ties, but nothing of the sort has ever been proven beyond rumors best not repeated too loudly for fear of whom or what might overhear.

Guillotine Cults
Volunteers who serve the Black Tumbrels and Death Wagons that prowl the deeper, darker and less well-travelled backways of Devukarsha and some other cities.  These groups first appeared during the onset of the Godswar and haven't entirely been disbanded despite a few attempts to do so by various members of Parliament and some of the Ministries.  Each sect is independent of the others, each one enforces a different, often conflicting set of laws, rules and capital prohibitions.  About the only thing any of them have left in common after centuries of clandestine roving executions is their use of the guillotine and their practice of selling off the bodies but retaining the heads of their victims, though a few down-on-their-luck sects have been selling off their collections of human heads lately in order to raise funds.  A peculiar loophole in Old Regime law provides the Black Tumbrels with a means of re-registering for a death permit, however if they should miss the deadline their permit can be refused and their activities will be officially censured.  Only three Black Tumbrels have missed their re-registrations in the last two hundred years.  There is also a rumor that a group of outside investors have attempted to take-over one of the Black Tumbrel's licenses, so far unsuccessfully.

The Absurd arises from out of the fundamental conflict between human striving to determine meaning and the essential intrinsic meaninglessness of the universe.  Suicide is meaningless, madness is meaningless, and acceptance is meaningless.  Most of these cultists gather in dingy cafes in the dreariest times of the year and sip bad coffee while discussing what Kierkegaard meant in his ancient writings which have been hand-copied on the delicately flayed skins of their ancestors and compiled into personalized heirloom books that are often quite different from one to the other, being in a variety of languages, translations and rife with commentaries, intepretations and footnotes.  Several have been so extensively revised and annotated that the original writing has to be dropped to make room for the opinions of scholars more qualified to speak to the nature of absurdity than Kierkegaard himself.  For the most part these cultists are fairly innocuous and rarely inconvenience anyone, save when they get into heated debates and might raise their voices in public.

A small and mostly defunct cult dedicated to the fomenting of total ecological collapse.  Most of them were killed in the course of their efforts to convert the once lush environment of Auldris into a barren waste seeded with radioactive salts and worse.  It is rumored that someone is attempting to sell a number of Barrenator-derived artifacts that have been recently recovered from a hidden weapons-cache out on one of the nearer Bad Land worlds.  It is also believed that whomever is behind this murdered a Guide in order to cover their tracks.  Big mistake.

Consolers of Draz
Aesthetes who sneak into museums and galleries in order to achieve mystical rapport and communion with chosen paintings.  Their sorcerous efforts allow them to collapse the images they target and absorb them into their bodies where they transmute the stolen imagery into prismatic toxins of various sorts.  They leave behind empty frames and dead custodians or guards.  No one knows much more about them as they are never taken into custody alive.  They are suspected of having killed several sorcerers who may have been close to discovering the secret of their techniques.  Their ultimate aims and goals are unknown as well, but it is believed that their theft of various images and subsequent conversion of those images into prismatic toxins is just the beginning.

White Coats
Bizarre technofetishists who delve deeply into all forms of deprecated and defunct technologies, as though they might open up radical new avenues of human thought, experience and development by pursuing those things that were abandoned, lost or suppressed by previous cultures.  Seen as pseudo-scientists and archaeological re-enactors, frauds or cranks by the majority of Academia, the White Coats have become a secret society dedicated to outre beliefs, wild claims and the vindication of technological charlatanry in all its myriad forms.  Their group has splintered on more than one occasion over the theories and claims of particular inventors or researchers of the past.  A splinter-cell of Freudians once attacked a sub-sect of Edisonites over some seemingly trivial matter involving an apparatus made up of valves that was supposed to allow the spirits of the deceased to speak to the living.  There was a heated dispute between the two camps in regards to what was meant by 'spirits' and things escalated into a full fledged massacre which was only halted when the apparatus began to emit the orders of fallen leaders.  The two groups have since merged and become a formidable force amongst the White Coats as they seek to strip-mine the memories of any 'spirit' they can contact with their devices which have been continually improved-upon over the years.  Most of the rest of the White Coats tend to be diligent materialists and distrust the work of their brethren whom they fear are falling into some sort of metaphysical trap.

Bedavaneer (Conquerer Worms)
Symbioticists who allow a particular species of geneered worm to inhabit their bodies and by bonding with them modify their internal systems in a number of radical and unconventional ways so that over time they transcend the symbiosis to integrate into a true hybrid form that is no longer either human nor hyper-annelid.  Little is known of this cult beyond the most basic premises and practices, however it is documented fairly reliably that the worms provide their hosts with a number of enhancements and possibly certain Arbitrary Powers.  What the aims and goals of the Integrated beings might be remains to be discovered.

Resenters (Bad Faith)
Freedom is inescapable and inexorable.  Decisions must be made and no matter what decision one might make, it will have consequences.  Resenters believe that all conscious peoples are radically free beings who know, deep down that they must make choices even if they would choose not to make a choice.  By knowing ourselves on any level, we transmit false information.  The very structure of the human mind insures this, or so the Resenters claim.  They believe that we are all enslaved into a mechanistic feedback loop of making choice after choice, suffering consequence after consequence and so they have developed a paradoxical approach to it all that allows them to temporarily escape freedom and its terrible burden of decision-making and consequence through a form of Zen-like discipline of Bad Faith.  They blot out all vestige of their recent choices and make new ones which then get blotted out to make room for new ones and so on in a cycle that accelerates through every conceivable choice and breaks through into the inconceivable, the humanly impossible and the paradoxical in such a way and with such momentum that they momentarily rise above the tyranny of freedom and the chains of consequence.  Unfortunately, these breakthroughs remain fleeting and sporadic, irregular and somewhat random in intensity and duration.  But they continue striving along these lines and in the face of it all because that is their choice...

Veiled, stately and elegant figures who look as though they stepped out of some art nouveau painting just after midnight during a particularly ponderous thunderstorm. The Mourners are sorrow-addicts caught-up in a ritually-gothicized existence of macabre contemplations and necromantic indulgences. Surgically-enhanced mediums, the Mourners speak for the dead who lack any other option. Self-declared advocates for the ancestors and the involuntarily deceased, the Mourners are especially obsessed with the former lives of those who've passed beyond prior to modern longevity methods, the Lost Generations prior to the rejuves or the reincarnation protocols or even the Helical Cathedraes. The Mourners are mostly ambivalent over the Helical Cathedraes as they represent a means by which the Mourners could very well stand to lose their monopoly upon the spirits of the dead with every life recovered by the Helical Cathedraes.  And it is for this very reason that the cult has started to look into ways that it can impede, obstruct and interfere with the Helical Cathedraes.  There are some within their circles who advocate for a more direct, even violent approach.  A few radicals amongst them fear the Helical Cathedraes and are plotting terrible things.

Withdrawn of Dantesino / Atoners of Dantesino
The Gulag-Asylum of Dantesino was the Atoner's greatest hope and most abject failure.  A cold, harsh angular-walled citadel perched atop a massive barren bluff of raw stone in the middle of some tempestuous sea filled with ice floes the way a shark's mouth is filled with teeth. Dantesino is a dismal, heartless place of despair where the prisoners are left to their own devices within crude, unlit and chilly cells hacked out of the cold, gray rock beneath the citadel, often by the previous inmate. The citadel is so heavily warded that telepathy is stifled, empathy is turned back upon the sensitives who try to employ it, and most forms of psychism are interfered with so as to be both unpleasant and ineffective for anyone foolish enough to attempt their use within these walls. Spells refuse to enter these precincts or respond entirely inappropriately, often seriously damaging those who try to use them in this place. Isolation and boredom are the order of the day, and the bone-chilling cold. Many prisoners begin to look forward to the surprise inspections, regular beatings or even the Director's monthly holographic sermons on morality which were initiated over seven hundred years ago as part of an obscure political sect that had gained some credibility during the Third Revolution before being wiped out by internecine feuding amongst themselves. Several left-over bioweapons still crawl about the less used regions of the citadel looking for stray Atoners and otherwise ignoring all others as they smell wrong.  The few Atoners who survive are hidden away within the bowels of Dantesino, or frozen in hibercysts, or have fled to nomadic camps that prowl the very fringes of some Bleak World, waiting for the message to find them that all is forgiven and that they can return to their once and future home, the monotonous gray prison of Dantesino.

Shaggy and dishevelled wildpeople in long-coats and broad-brimmed hats, covered in the dust of a hundred thousand unnamable trails out past the perimeter of Civilization and the Known Worlds. Withdrawn and taciturn, the Dustascetics are self-sterilized and are innoculated with nanoblasts that completely scour and breakdown all biological materials that leave their immediate contact, rendering such things inert, sterile dust. They leave few, if any traces behind them save for the dust. Most ride chitinous non-horses, arachnorses or in some instances self-modifying multi-cycles adapted to the harsh conditions of the trackless deserts, salt flats and similar Badland terrains that the Dustascetics prefer over all other regions, for the sake of the natural barreness.  It is rumored that at least one band of the Dustacetics have been contacted and possibly corrupted by contact with one or more Ragers.

Fixed Hypocrites
Absolutely rigid in their chosen follies – their minds are all made up and reinforced by prosthetic AI systems that allow them no doubts, no wavering, no questions—they are committed completely and totally, irrevocably and irresistibly to their previously chosen decisions, paradigms, etc. They deliberately and violently defend/support the most outrageous theories/ideas/ideologies on purpose, lies are their truth, fantasy their reality, and they wouldn't have it any other way.  These are people who fervently and fanatically pray that they are wrong on a daily basis.  Literally.

Use genetically-engineered copycats to make reproducible templates of any and everything that is currently held in secret or witheld from public view. Revealers of all secrets, proletarian gangs who reduce secret treasures to so much graffittized datatrash. Contextual scramblers and glorious mixmashers who lift everything and recombine it all in a million unforeseen, unexpected ways. Some few have adopted a randomist approach, and others pursue a more freeform collaborative effort seeing themselves as partners to all other creators...a radical, transgressive conceit. Several of the so-called/self-declared leaders of various sub-sets have died in duels fought over the ownership of the works that they personally derived from what they stole themselves—adopting an outlook based upon personal appropriation.

Noble Savages
An elite clique of Nobles and highborn who yearn for a highly stylized form of neobarbarianism. They maintain carefully cultivated recreation-preserves out amongst various wilderness worlds, and some have adopted a peculiarly syncretistic form of post-modernist pseudo-barbarianism. At odds with the plebian-focused NeoTribals and there are some amongst them who have sponsored the development of various wildtribes, fringegangs or throwbacks. Aesthetes, dilletantes and capricious in their aristocratic cruelty, these people are as likely to abandon their creations, contrivances, projects and progeny as they are to doff their costumery and adopt more formal dress to attend court orgies or whatever.  There is no real central authority amongst these self-styled decadent genartists and amateur socioneers, but rather they form an informal confraternity of those engaged in similar personal projects, often with majorly competitive overtones and rivalries.  These cultists are very strongly caught-up in a bizarre and ritualistic working-out of a number of mostly discredited and antiquated sociological imperatives and theories (some quite strangely mutated or distorted from the original sources).  It was one of their number, who so-far remains unnamed and uncredited, who established the horrific colony-state of Malthusia.  They gather annually at a feast to commemorate the Lord of the Flies, an event that almost always devolves into a free-for-all riot supposedly arranged to help them select their spokesperson via a contest of (arbitrarily restricted) arms in order to perpetuate the survival of the fittest amongst themselves.

Extensively revised by proscribed feral neurological wetware, the Vidiots are perpetually surrounded by a video-memetic fog of telepathically-permeable holography that can sometimes be contagious. They gather in desolate places such as the darkside of a moon or an auspiciously located asteroid or in the middle of an equatorial jungle in order to build elaborate stupa-like antennae-towers and massive dish-receivers in order to receive and capture the sacred inforelics of archaeo-transmissions from Old Earth. Each sub-sect being self-defined by their particular affinity to various programs or periods of broadcast. Some include radio, others, purists mostly, discount it as crude and stone-age-like precursor-stuff and unworthy of their devotion.  The Vidiots are prone to lapsing into fugue-states and operating in a videodronic trance, often reciting dialogue or playing snippets of their favored transmissions through their flesh which has been ritually integrated into one of several possible videonic membranes, vidfoil or other broadcast media suitable to their preferred programming.  It is the hope of the Vidiots to transcend the flesh and to become living transmissions as a unification with the source of all broadcasts.

Terror Management Institute / Industreocracy
The Terror Management industreocracy is predicated on the questionable premise that an individual's capacity for self-awareness is hedged-in by the knowledge that there was a time prior to it and a time after it when it will not exist. This awareness of an existence that preceded it and an inevitable point in time after which it will cease to exist, to die as all things once were alleged to do, before the longevity plagues and the gerontological rehabilitation clinics arose from the ashes of the Senescopalypse. The TMI-cult gives all its followers and any interested passers-by access to a wide range of anxiety-mitigation wetware, programmable cultural buffers, psychological prosthetics to stave off any awareness of mortality, and of course a variety of death-suppression technologies that can be customized and tailored to the individual from their extensive database of thanoterically neutral worldviews, syntheticultures, insertable personal fictions and anti-hysteria-response routines. The TMI-cult believe firmly that terror is to be managed, and that the fear of death is a hold-over from previous stages of evolution and needs to be remedied so that people can begin to conceive of a meaningful existence, one that meets their standards and conforms to the cult's encrypted values. Those who meet these unstated standards are prosthetically-empowered to transcend death free of anxiety or fear, whatever that really or actually means or amounts to is unclear.

Abominators of Gulm
Masked, cowled and heavily robed members of a once-human priesthood devoted to polychromatic polypous entities that they allow to take over their bodies from time to time, despite the horrific mutational aftershocks these periods of ecstatic possession inflict upon them.  In time, after enough of these drastic, damaging mergings, the cultists are absorbed bodily into the polypous abominations and their minds may or may not survive the translation process.  If they do survive (mentally) the process of becoming one with their patron polypous mass, a few are granted the ability to form new bodies derived from the hypermatter of the particular mass that they have been absorbed into, but only a very few have achieved this level of discipline and development.  The rest are bonded into deep coral reefs on worlds outside the parameters used by the Deep Infrastructure and so are completely lost and unrecoverable.

Somewhere Down the Crazy River

This article originally appeared at the Old School Heretic Blog.

Down along the River Senube you can hire an independent octoraft, rental prawn-gondola or one of the swarms of small boats that act as vaporetto-style 'waterbuses'  to take you out to one of the one hundred and twenty island or thirty-six major sand bars located along the length of the Senube.  Some of the crab-boats and driftsails will likewise take on a few passengers for a quick jaunt out to a nearby island -- as long as it is not one of the Asylum-Chateaus.  No one will take you there if you lack the appropriate permission, at least not openly, or during daylight.

For the right price, and if the conditions are favorable, you can get passage to anywhere you like.  One way or another.

There are several different, competing cliques and enterprises who pride themselves in arranging discrete transportation, private (inspection-free) courier-services, and personalized assistance in making informed travel arrangements, such as pre-arranged extraction services for urban spelunkers, trespasser-parties, and the like.  Often it is not getting into a particular place that is nearly as difficult or bothersome as getting out afterwards, and getting out without making a mess is something that quite a few people pay good money to these folks to handle on their behalf.  It cuts down on scandals and it alleviates nuisance legal fees.

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And to know the place for the first time."
Little Gidding,
T. S. Eliot
You might consider hiring a Guide while you are at it, though that would depend on your budget and your intentions. Guides are professional explorers who have already been to any number of locations and they know what they are doing.  Independent contractors with years of experience and myriads of personal contacts along the caravan trails, coast-road, pararail lines or Plaza Gate Trade-routes or sovreign captains of their own river-vessels, bioaerostats, hoverboats, or other watercraft, the Guides can get you into and out of places only they know about.  They keep proprietary records and maps, encrypted GPS coordinates and clandestine buoy-codes that they keep private and locked away as tricks of their trade.  No two Guides have the same maps, charts or experiences.  When you hire a Guide, you contractually agree to allow them to retain all geographical and topographical data, whether any of it ever gets released into the Public Domain or not.  They also reserve the right to place a black-out lien against any data you disseminate that derives from the Guide's personal databases or experience--you can share your experiences, but not the exact coordinates and must employ a database placeholder that redirects inquiries to the specific Guide involved.  It is tradition and it is highly effective as well.  The Guides can make a difference in whether you return from a particular expedition, or not.  That's their job.

As you explore the River Senube's deltas and islands and sand bars out past the Low Esplanades and throughout the Estuarial Zones, even though you're still well within sight of the Upper Tiers of Devukarsha, there are places here that even the most experienced larker or islandhopper will insist upon hiring a Guide.
Guides can also take you out past the Tributary Gates, along the various canals and back-channels, and even deep inside the Grotto-Districts, underchannels, subterranean exurbs and tunnels that lead out from beneath Devukarsha to locations as distant as the Black Ziggurat, the Buried Sea Gate or Mnorkris (Mah-NO-kriss).  Some Guides specialize in facilitating their clients travels to various locales along the Pararail, past the canal-gates, or up-river through one of the Twelve River Gates, such as along the Zonges.  Others specialize in exploring the various Synthecosms or in visiting exotic locales such as the Bleak Worlds, Bad Land Worlds, or the various Planar Layers, though these last do tend to be rarer and far more demanding than their peers and colleagues who explore the Orbital Regions instead.  But one gets what they pay for, in the end, and some forms of travel and exploration are more difficult and/or inherently dangerous than others.
But Guides do not just lay about on their backsides waiting for rich and silly clients to fall into their laps.  The majority of them are out in the field, exploring and discovering new routes, blazing trails, overseeing the construction of canals, roadways, Gate Plazas and mapping-out Satrapies and Exurban Districts or surveying Wilderness Worlds for potential settlers.  They work with Voyajeurs and extreme explorers, L&C Outfits and tourism bureaus, and all manner of folks in-between.

When a Noble takes to the skies in a saucer-dirigible fresh out of the manufactory-pits on Aegron and sets off to locate and lay claim to what might become their own Barony, they often consult with Guides before making their journey.  The smart ones do, in any case.  Those that do not get advice from a reputable Guide most often are the ones who wind-up leaving a ghost-town out past the Perimeter.

Cryptozoologists, xenobiologists, and paranthropoligist as well as a host of other, even more obscure academic-types are always heading off into the Wilderness Worlds, the Tributary Gates and other places in search of rare plants, exotic beasts, new cultures and/or any number of other things that might or might not be understandable or pronouncable to any given Guide.  Many specialist academics employ interpreter polyglot-telepaths in order to deal with non-specialists and laymen.  These groups are more often than not strictly and adamantly mandated by the Academy and their sponsors, patrons and grant providers to employ a Guide for their expeditions and exploratory journeys.  This being the case, there are several areas along the canals and banks of the Senube where Guides gather or their representatives and agents can be found by representatives from various Faculties, Campuses, Offices or Colleges who come there looking for Guides interested, available and able to assist them in their investigations.  Usually they find someone willing to take them on.  When they can't, they either wait, or attempt to hire-on a less than reputable Guide or an apprentice just starting out on their own.  Both are risky propositions, but usually for entirely different reasons as some groups find out to their chagrin.  (Can you say press gangs and slavers?  I knew you could.)

Even those pressed for funding and unable to hire-on a Guide or even an apprentice, will often invest a sizable portion of their operating capital in getting a consultation with the best Guide they can afford.  Sometimes a Guide will cut them a deal and offer to buy any relevant or interesting data that a group can acquire, especially those just starting out.  Guides are always buying maps and journals of other explorers.  Sometimes there is enough interest, such as when the logbooks and records of a particularly notorious lost expedition are recovered, that an auction is held amongst the interested Guides.  More than a few small fortunes have been made in this manner.  Many adventurous sorts start their careers hunting down previously lost explorers and expeditions.  It's almost as lucrative as finding ruins or forgotten cities, but often much safer (relatively) and usually requires far less overhead or preparation.

Becoming a Guide is fairly easy.  Go somewhere no one else has gone.  Look around.  Document your findings.  Return.  All it takes is one trip out past the Perimeter and you can claim to be a Guide and start leading groups of dilletantes and debutantes out past the Third Gate and expose themselves to the Near Wilderness.  No one takes a party of such folk out past the Twelfth Gate.  Not without very good reason.  It's just asking for trouble.
Guides rarely ask for trouble.

A selection of Islands and a table of random Wilderness World (plot-seeds) past the Tributary Gates are to follow shortly.  After the Pararail gets a little more attention.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Asylum-Chateaus on the River Senube

Twelve great rivers flow into Riskail and all twelve of them combine together to form the River Senube which splits Devukarsha right down the middle.  The River Senube is a confluence of a dozen other rivers, each flowing into Riskail from another world in another solar system.  Fully half of those solar systems are in entirely other galaxies.  It's kind of a big deal, except for the people who live there in Devukarsha.  They've gotten used to it.  That's what people do.  Get used to things.

But some people, they do not, will not or cannot get used to things. Even moral prostheses and ethical filters, appended AI and the most skillful modifications to the brain can do nothing if they are not voluntarily allowed or accepted.  Certainly, most of those individuals requiring such things do get them voluntarily.  Eventually.  But there are those people who probably ought to make use of such things, who would definitely benefit from them, and who reject them out of hand for personal reasons.  Such is their right. 

Liberty is a core-concept for the civilizations and societies of Riskail.  Freedom to choose is a major issue and bone of contention amongst the various societies, political parties, factions, sects and cultures.  Wars have been fought over this issue and will be again.  The interpretation of Liberty is very much akin to the discussion surrounding Responsibility.  What is Society's responsibility to the individual and vice versa?  Those who tend to agree clump together into societies and establish city-states and the like.  But few groups manage to maintain a consensus for very long.  Some adopt means and methods to handle disputes, arbitrate disparities, settle conflicts which are overseen and managed by the city-state as is the case in Drovang or Eevong as well as Devukarsha, for the most part.  Others, such as the more Libertarian-oriented City-State of Andralimos, leave it entirely up to the individual and assess fees against the accounts of everyone concerned for every little thing that the government can charge.  The original idea being to discourage anyone's reliance upon the government.  Now it's a system distorted by the wealthy.  But that's for another day.

Central to the pursuit of Liberty is the ability of the person to make choices which enhance their personal Liberty without infringing upon that of their neighbors.  To make the most of one's Liberty, a certain level of Competence is necessary.  To become a registered adult within Polite Society, one must demonstrate and offer proof of competence.  Those that pass muster are admitted to the responsibilities and rights of an adult.  Those that fail, refuse or decline to be considered for adulthood are considered minors and wards of their families or the state until such time as they begin to seek certain forms of emancipation, such as attending anything beyond a creche-school, seeking to make profit, attempting to enter into business, claiming property or exercising any of the rights reserved for citizens including participation in duelling matches over matters of honor.  Anyone who feels that they are competent to participate in Polite Society, especially in these sorts of areas, either proves themself fit and competent, or they are designated incompetent.  There's no middle-ground.  Either you are capable and willing to make healthy, appropriate choices and take your place within Polite Society as a functional adult, or you are incapable, unwilling or deliberately refusing to do so.

Those people deemed incompetent are placed into probation by the Courts and allowed to participate in the various remedial therapies and techniques offered by the Clinics.  When they reach the minimum level of stability, capability and discernment established for an adult they are welcome to be tested in order to prove themself as an adult and integrate into Polite Society.  Should they persist in refusing to participate in remedial hygiene, and voluntarily reject society's attempts to integrate them, then they either accept exile or they are remanded to the custody of an Asylum-Chateau.

To do anything less would be uncivilized.

Asylum-Chateaus are not exactly the same as Gulag-Asylums, though they do have distinct similarities, and in at least one instance, the Asylum-Chateau of Diodati, they do serve double-duty as a refuge for the voluntarily incompetent and the deliberately criminal.  But usually, the Asylum-Chateaus are places of refuge, sanctuary and isolation where those remanded into their care live peaceful, if restrained and stunted lives.  Always the offer is before them, to receive such prosthetics or implants or mods as would enable them to see more clearly the faulty logic of their childish arguments or the warped thinking at the root of their discontent, discomfort and ennui.  But nothing is forced upon them. They cannot be allowed to walk about society freely as they are not responsible, and refuse to take responsibility, for their actions.  To allow them to go free would be the height of irresponsibility on the part of society.  That was the way things were done during the Age of Toxicity, but no more.  To allow a damaged individual to perpetuate their damage freely unto others who did not opt for such treatment is unacceptable and Polite Society intervenes to protect itself and its members from such an abusive situation.

Those flawed and fractured individuals obsessed with dominance-dramas and infatuated with violence are often those who seek exile as an option.  There is a sort of romantic Thoreau-esque appeal to roughing it out in the vastly distant Wildernesses beyond all the Known Worlds.  But Walden was written by a guy living in his parent's cabin and who had his mother doing his laundry on a regular basis.  Still, there are those who persist.  The non-conformists who uniformly reject what they do not know and embrace an idealized solution to all their problems propounded in ignorance and fear.  But such is their right, and who is to say that they are entirely wrong?  Polite Society is not about conformity, despite the misintrepretation of those who refuse to avail themselves of the moral prosthetics and intelligence enhancements freely provided to those in need.  It is about informed consent, voluntary committment and the pursuit of excellence within a shared, mutual framework of Liberty, Community and Personal Merit.  But these are people who do not listen.  They already are absolute in their convictions and beliefs.  They see no place for themselves in this milieu and so seek to escape it, to remove themselves from it, to go out past the farthest buoy or marker and to enter into the unknown that they might begin afresh and start over from scratch (though few of them truly know or appreciate what that really, truly means...)

According to their wishes, they are sent up-river or down-river or out through one of the Sea-Gates to a place very far removed, extremely remote, and isolated where they have no responsibility to society and society absolves itself of any further responsibility to them.  They are left to their own devices and seeing as how they rejected society, they are not given anything more than the bare minimum deemed appropriate by consensus; the means for creating shelter, procuring food, and protecting themself from predators.  They have voluntarily rejected their inheritance, and so few resources are squandered upon them for they are seen as little better than petulant infants and ungrateful ignoramuses who are best forgotten -- however there is always a slight chance that perhaps they might be some sort of progenitor of a tribe of Noble Savages, or the forebears of some distant offshoot of humanity.  Perhaps they will encounter the mysterious Tribes that are out along the Periphery of the Known Worlds.  Possibly they might find their way into any number of isolated enclaves or villages set-up in the Far Wilderness by potentially like-minded rugged individualists.  Maybe they'll learn how to survive beyond the Deep Infrastructure, bereft of the everpresent nanosphere's support systems.  Or not.

It is a grim business for most, and a fatal one for those not truly prepared to begin with nothing but their own two good hands in a wilderness reserved just for them.  There are those who call this Coventry, but their reasons are unclear and probably antiquated.  But the persons choosing this exile are of little interest to Civilization as so very few ever find their way back.  Most live and die out past the Perimeter and are never heard of or from ever again.

But not all such individuals choose exile.  In fact, most who voluntarily defer their adulthood out of a refusal to submit to therapeutic enhancement or adjustment instead seek admittance to one of the Asylum-Chateaus.  The most pleasant and well-known of the Asylum-Chateaus are those located upon various small islands on the River Senube, mostly past the Low Esplanades and out amongst the Estuarial Regions.  There are a few others, but below you will find a list of the Twelve Asylum-Chateaus that are the most common and least exclusive ones available. 
  1. Jindrath
  2. Malkinth
  3. Vasmar
  4. Diodati
  5. Zed-Gilead
  6. Louvet
  7. Moliere
  8. Zudesh
  9. Gascar
  10. Siendu
  11. Thiedmont
  12. Poijume
Asylum-Chateaus are, in general, surrounded by drone-cultivated gardens, rorschach-topiaries, floral-mazes, and comforting statuary.  The various paths, walkways, delicate bridges, private gazebos and other areas of the grounds are meticulously maintained by discrete robotics, with a few Nebru, Dryanni, Nymphs or the like on-staff for lending a more organic, human-ish touch to things.  Embalmbees sometimes tend the wildflowers surrounding the Asylum-Chateau grounds.  These are sanctuaries of peace and tranquility well-suited to contemplation, deep thought, meditation and coming to terms with things.  Recovered, Rediscovered, and Retrocarnate peoples are often referred to one of these places to help in their re-orientation and re-assimilation process.  Louvet, Moliere and Zudesh all serve the needs of those coming out of Monte Lazarre and the Helical Cathedrae.  Siendu specifically focuses upon the needs of those experiencing troublesome or difficult reincarnatory traumas, such as those not fully integrating into their new bodies, etc.

Others, such as Poijume, Vasmar and Diodati are not what they used to be and few go to these places any more.  Vasmar is particularly notorious for the breakdown of its clinics and the deranged massacres that took place there during the Second Revolution.  It is rumored to be a very bad place to visit and occupies a place of silence and dreadful repose in the middle of the Misericorde Canal.  Even Navarre might think twice before entering those unhallowed and restless grounds.

All Asylum-Chateaus have one or more private, limited-access gates to various therapeutic locations, often isolated sub-estates located on marginal worlds outside of the bounds of those most commonly accessed publicly via the Plazas, River-gates, Sea-gates, etc.  In almost all cases, these therapeutic locales are only accessible via the Asylum-Chateaus.  This is a very valuable thing to those who would consider taking over one of the more run-down and no longer registered or active Asylum-Chateaus.  There are literally hundreds of obscure and mostly unexplored worlds that can only be reached by way of the gates locked away behind the sanctuary walls of the Asylum-Chateaus.  But only a few are unregistered such as Thiedmont, and even fewer are unclaimed or abandoned such as Gascar.  No one has trespassed the grounds of Gascar since the cannibal-plague wiped-out its staff and did unmentionable things to the inmates over seventy-five years ago.  Nor has anyone visited the silent grounds of Malkinth since the first part of the last century even though it appears to be perfectly functional, entirely circumspect and completely up-to-date on all its records and reports.  One would do well to keep in mind that what is officially entered into a public-access database might not be as accurate a depiction of reality as one might otherwise hope or expect.  There are those who lurk furtively behind unregistered walls and some things prefer not to comply with the niceties of Polite Society though they dwell deep within its very heart.

There are gangs, roving bands and groups of thrill-seekers who deliberately seek out such places as Gascar or Thiedmont in order to trespass on purpose, record their clandestine explorations and either explode urban myths or stage elaborate hoaxes for the fun of it all.  So far none have returned from Thiedmont and those that have escaped Gascar have destroyed their apparatus, deleted all their files and left the city if not the world.  Those very, very few who have escaped, and not one has done so intact.  Yet.
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