Sunday, February 22, 2015
City of Curses: Gruudl, In Depth
Aspect(s): Wonders of An Earlier Age; Who Knows What Is In The Dark;
Connected To: Palace Hill (Above), Wolf Quarter (A Tunnel in the Southwest Corner), The Blood Quarter (to the North), The Skull Catacombs (to the North)
Most Significant Icon: The Archdruid
Well Known For? Ancient Starship Graveyard
Notable Sites and Locales: The Bonewall, The Old Temple, The Clan Citadels
To enter Gruudl at all requires permission from the Archdruid; my request was met politely, and I found myself being escorted by a young priestess and her two awakened wolves. The trio said little, but I sensed they found me boring.
The first thing about the Ursyklon ruins is the smell. It does not stink like other ruins in the city, no smell of mildew at all. Instead Gruudl smells of fresh earth.
It is a wondrous sight to behold, when you cross over the gate into the main chamber of Gruudl. Stone starships stretch from clear waters into the ceiling above. They look like no architecture on the surface, covered in ursyklon runes, with no sign of tool having carved them. Solid rock and stone, shaped by druidic magic to their unique forms. Here few folk live or walk, as the ursyklon protect their ancient stronghold as a sacred space. But there are spots of desecration here and there.
The Priestess points out to me the ancient Tomasi graffiti on one ancient citadel. Signs of a time when others controlled this place. But it still has its own beauty. The ancient wonders in Gruudl speak of a different time. This is a preserve of noble history, with echoes of a savage war lost to time.
Gruudl was the first settlement of Ursyklon in Crux's history. They would eventually leave it, however, forced to relocate by the Tomasi Empire and others later on. But its history continued.
Ursyklon have long forgotten how to operate the wonders, technologies and living starships that are in Gruudl. Many of these starships still live. Passages within Gruudl change with the seasons and year to year. Some citadels and buildings respond to kind words, while others have long since gone senile, trapping anyone foolish enough to enter them.
The Tomasi Legions took over Gruudl, but soon found the place too dangerous. Most of the living starships longed for their Ursyklon masters, and attacked any legionnaires wandering around them. After an entire legion went missing while trying to tame Gruudl, Empress Transiana the Third declared that Gruudl would be buried. She erected the first palace atop the hill of dirt, stones and other debris piled over Gruudl. The Tomasi sealed everything in Gruudl off, and assumed from then on that the ancient Ursyklon ruins would bother them never again.
The Tomasi Imperial family would continue to build more and more elaborate palaces atop the newly dubbed Palace Hill. But in time, the old ghosts of Gruudl got their vengeance. The imperial family, over the course of three generations, grew from competent to mad. Legionnaires reported attacks from ghosts. Over time Palace Hill became vacant, and with the fall of the Tomasi empire, considered cursed by Gruudl itself.
The Othebean Empire would later unseal Gruudl, giving it back to the control of the Archdruid and Ursyklons. The Archdruid had aided the empire in their crusades against the Ithic city-states, and in return, they recovered a part of their ancient heritage. Since then, Gruudl has always remained under the control of the Archdruid. Others seek her permission before entering the ancient starship graveyard.
But the gate to Gruudl is not the only way in. There are other ways to enter Gruudl, dark passages that connect to the rest of the undercity of Crux. Some claim the deepest parts of Gruudl are host to a race of Mongrelfolk, the mutated offspring of Human and Ursyklon pairings. Others say there are ancient starships deep in Gruudl who long ago betrayed their masters, becoming living servants of the Aboleth. Unfortunately, few have fully explored Gruudl, and fewer have the inclination to try it.
The Bonewall: This narrow corridor runs the length of part of Gruudl. Both of its walls are lined with bones and skulls, all from the dead enemies of the Ursyklon. At fifty feet at its tallest, the Bonewall is a monument to the many victories of the Ursyklon's conquests. But also it bears signs of other times as well, where graffiti from Tomasi Legionnaires can still be seen. Many secrets have been hidden in the Bonewall too, stowed away by those wanting to hide them for a better day.
Aspect: Full of Bones
The Old Temple: An ancient temple of the Wolf Mother, in the center of Gruudl. Once a year Ursyklon in Crux make a pilgrimage to it for the Festival of Howls. The Old Temple is simple, a circle of adamantine statues of various Ursyklon clan totems. This is one of the holiest places for the Church of Lupa The Wolf Mother. A sacred site the Ursyklon protect at all costs. It is also home to many ghosts, many of whom died defending the place from the Tomasi.
Aspect: Holiest of the Wolf Mother
The Mad Ship: No knows her name, but she never is seen in the same place twice. A living starship like many in Gruudl. She went insane, her mind fractured by the stress of some ancient conflict. The ship wanders about the ruins. Unlike most of the ships, she seems to never have gone to sleep like the others. She also talks, albeit irrationally. It likes to invite others into her, eager to have someone, anyone to listen to her. More of a child, the ship refuses to let anyone go. She never wants to be alone again. At least, not until she breaks her guests again.
Aspects: "I Don't Want to be Alone."; Why Do All My Toys Break?