Friday, June 18, 2010
Twelve Tributary Gates of Riskail
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).