Friday, October 30, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: The Cat-Earred Child (Flash Fiction)

Sorry for the late post!  This isn't necessarily Halloween themed, but it is a #Crux bit of #FlashFiction.  Intended to be a tad... tragic?  Horrific?  IDK on that.  Felt good to write though, even if it has a dark end to it.  

A letter to Othebea from Dr. Lyam Kyringer, whose journey to the Irons ends badly for him.  Hope you enjoy it!  Very short, but if you like it, please share and let me know what you think!  Always glad for more input! :D


Letters To Othebea: The Cat-Earred Child


My Dearest Angela,

By the time this letter reaches you, I will have long been dead.  My handwriting may differ from what you are used to, as a companion of mine is writing this for you.  I'm sorry, my love.  Things have broken and it's all my fault for not seeing it happen.

I had wandered far from the grand bazaar.  The air grew more acrid and foul.  I guessed it to be the Rag Coast, near where the hellish factories of the Irons poison the city.  The darkness, even in daylight, of the city of curses clung to every surface.

I should've gone back to the Skullmount.  Anything but what happened next.

"Ompf."

I nearly tripped over into the brick and cobble underneath me.  Someone had stumbled into me from the fog.  Her body caught my leg and we fell into a pile admit the smoke.

"Hey! Watch it!"  The tiefling girl spat at me.  She crawled away from me, her skin a ash-purple.  She had no horns, but a pair of feline ears.  Her blue hair clashed with the earthy rag she worn.  The child couldn't be more than eight or nine.  Her long tail looked like a cat's tail.  Bruises.  Her face looked like it had been beaten.

"Are you okay?"  I asked her, disentangling myself from her.

"Mind yer own drek."  She said.  When she tried to move away, though, she winced.  She limped.  One of her legs slid behind her.

I offered her a hand up.  She ignored it, continuing her own pained way away from me.  I breathed a quick prayer to the Summer Rose.  My hands warmed and I touched her leg.

"Hey!"  She tried to wheel on me.  Light glowed as the spell healed the wound.  She looked down in confusion.

"I'm Doctor Lyam Kyringer.  Can I help you child?"  I asked.

She scrunched her nose at me.  "Thanks for the spell."

"Can I help you?"  I asked again.

"No..."  She shook her head.  "I've got to go."

"How did you get those injuries?"  I asked her.

"Life in the Irons."  She quipped.  She then disappeared into a nearby bank of smoke.

I followed.  I shouldn't have.  I should have turned around.  I went into the Irons.  I followed the tiefling child.  My faith and my heart told me I needed to find out why.  Why this girl had been hurt.

A harrowing journey followed me.  The Irons is more hellscape than anything else.  The air choked me.  I covered my face.  But I followed her.  I kept looking for the tiefling girl.

I did find her outside a factory.  A dark-skinned thing towered over her.  It angrily beat at her.  The horned, needle-toothed creature belittled her.  I shook my head and stepped up to the Devil.  It had to be a Devil.

This city, where they call monsters and infernal things to serve.  Armed with my faith, I interposed myself between the child and the towering devil.

"Leave the child be."  I told it.  "Lest you-"

The devil grabbed me by the throat.  "You think she needed your help?  Ye be a sweet treat she gave me, thickheaded lot."

Needles clicked.  Purple saliva dribbled down his chin as my windpipe snapped.  My vision blurred.

In my last moment, I heard the Devil and the Tiefling Child giggle at my death throes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

In Transit Monsters 24 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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Charlie (H minus 14 Days)

My avatar's eyes avoided looking at my feet.  This conference room looked identical to the one in the facility.  I wished Whiskey was next to me.  Maybe her presence would keep me from trying to analyze my toes.

"Your shyness always throws me off."  Nasr said.  "After being so bold, so willing to take the extra step, you still act like that around me."

"Sometimes it's easier to not look."  I replied, my tone automatic.

"Perhaps.  But that isn't why you're here in this dreamspace, though."

"You've never asked me into one of these alone.  Not since Nicky."

"You haven't been trying to get in since Nicky."  Nasr pointed out.

"Into your head?  I couldn't.  Not anymore."

"Learn a lesson, of a sort?"  Nasr asked.

"Weird."  I said.  "You never told me there was some sort of lesson to go with that."

"Your Oneiros is one of the most powerful things Hecate cooked up.  You can host multiple dreams within your BrainSys.  And you've constructed many Daemons, although you never used that word."

"Nicky used that word that word.  I googled it.  I thought making daemons was illegal."

"Not unless you're working to save humanity."  Nasr informed me.  "Daemons can do more than just predict the actions of one human and act in anticipation on it.  Imagine a battalion of soldiers all acting in sync because they share a Daemon?  It isn't a true hivemind, but it feels like one."

"You have a Daemon?"  I asked.

"Of course."

The thought didn't chill me.  I mean, the upper conscience of my mind had learned that should be wrong.  But my gut said the line between Daemons and my Oneiros blurred.  Nasr had to have one.  It made sense.  It sounded useful.  A tool we needed.

"You can't fight the enemy without one."  I said.  "Why didn't I see that before?  Of course you need to something to act on predictions before you can approve them.  Duh."

Nasr nodded.  "Enemy jams most electronics.  Only organic BrainSys, without WiFi, exists on the battlefield."

"Anyone who has served has had access to one, then."  I observed.  "Nicky or anyone who survived a battle knows about it, or could at least find ways to copy the heuristics."

"Yes.  Regrettably."

"Has anyone tried to stop that?  Wait, I just answered my own question: you can't.  Software and designs like that are impossible to stop from leaking out."

"People have been conjuring guns regardless of the bans or lack of updated designs."  Nasr said.  "You hope that, instead, they fear the technology enough to keep away from it."

"That's..."

"Next to impossible?"  Nasr pointed out.  "Humans created technology to help ourselves.  Naturally we can't unstopper the genie whenever it gets out."

"You said I've constructed multiple Daemons already?  I guess you can call them that."

"Your Oneiros hosts plenty.  And you can connect dreams with anything that thinks.  I remember what you did for Nicky."

My heart pounded for a moment.  "I just kept her from feeling pain."

"By writing a subroutine that took hold in her own brainsys.  You somehow managed to get into the OS and added something into it."  Nasr chuckled.  "Her brain took the hint and rewired a bit in response.  You rewrote her brain to give her a way to ignore the worst part of the nanosheath.  No one has done that before."

My avatar blinked.  I looked up at Nasr's Avatar.  Unlike most times, it looked like Nasr did in realspace.  A olive-skinned man.  His dark hair looked like it needed a cut.  His eyes drooped from wrinkle lines.  Scars crisscrossed all over the skin that poked out from under his clothes.  His smile looked strange.

"Thanks."  I whispered.

"Eh?"  Nasr asked.

"Thanks."  I spoke up, a smirk growing on my face.

"Good.  You do need to smile more.  Your avatar looks better for it."

"How would you know?  You always make me look like... like my normal self.  You barely seen my dream avatar."

Nasr's avatar stood up.  "Well, somethings were necessary."

"Necessary for what?  We've been training for over a month.  You keep referring to H-day, but we aren't any better prepared than when we started.  You keep saying we're all going to die on Mars, and no one will tell us when.  When?  When do we get to die so you can be right?"  I told him.

"Soldiers don't get comforts."

"We aren't soldiers."  I spat back.  "I'm tired of being treated like some sort of... of..."

"Monster."  Nasr supplied.  "You are all monsters."

"Well... I..."  My voice stammered as I realized I had been yelling at him.

"It's alright."  Nasr looked up.  Tears streaked his eyes.  "I know.  It's unfair.  It's stupid."

I sat back down.

"Nasr- I'm sorry."  After a moment, I added, "sir."

He smiled.  "No need.  I... I've lost people, Charlie.  You remember how I taught all of you about Battle of New Haven?"

"Yes.  It was the largest colony Earth ever established.  Almost a billion people died when they used the Zeus Protocol."

"Zeus.  Protocol."  Nasr shook his head.  "Something the Romans taught us, that we as a species couldn't stand to forget."

"What's that?"  I asked.  Romans.  My ancilliary brain started to research them.  Interesting.

"Salt the earth."

Images of wastelands hit me.  My ancilliary brain retrieved knowledge on the Punic Wars.  A conflict that wiped an ancient power from the planet.  But long before the invention of nuclear warheads or drones.

"That's so wrong."

"That's what it feels like when you transit as Zeus Protocol hits."  Nasr said.  His eyes glistened, remembering.  "You get to see the world darken.  The worst thunderstorm you ever get to experience.  Lightning from the incoming nukes.  Thunder from the transit."

My stomach roiled a bit at that thought.  "You experienced it firsthand then."

"New Haven had people on it.  Then we nuked it rather than concede to the enemy.  We had to.  Charlie, we only ever slowed the Enemy down when we've nuked it.  Nothing else has ever worked."

"Nothing?"

"You are unique."  Nasr pointed at me.  "New.  Different.  You are a walking Daemon.  That's why I'm making you the troop commander."

"What?"  I tried to understand what he said.  It didn't make sense.  "Me?  Why me?  I'm the worst possible choice!"

"You are the best option.  You can communicate.  You don't hesitate.  And the others all listen to you when you speak."

"No they don't-"

"Foxtrot is in love with you."  Nasr said, point blank. "If anything, I'm surprised you never put that together."

I reeled back from that.  "That's... Ok, that makes no sense."

Nasr shook his head.  "She'll listen to you.  She only clashes with you because she keeps misinterpreting what you tell her.  She tries to ask you things, you hit her.  She hits you, you run away.  At every turn, Foxtrot has tried to tell you what she feels, and you manage to make that seem like a bad idea."

"Even if that were true..."  I shook my head.  "It can't be.  She's the popular one."

"Have you ever visited her dreamspace?"  Nasr asked me.

"No."

"Why not?"

I tried to come up with a answer.  I stumbled over excuses.  None of them seemed right.  I remembered romances from the stories and movies that Aunt Miri had given us to watch over the years.  Almost all of them involved couples finding love and being together forever.  Some sort of eternal happiness.

"We're monsters."  I whispered.  "We don't to have that."

"Maybe."  Nasr scratched his stubble.  "You understand the stakes.  You want to know the truth?  I do think you could die on Mars, Charlie.  And I also think you are the best chance the rest of them have to survive."

"So many uncertainties."  I said.  "Why can't anyone see or predict something more certain about all this?  We can predict the future actions of a single human, but nothing about the enemy?"

"We know nothing about them.  We know nothing about what you and your fellow monsters are capable of.  You each are unique beings. You each have organic supertechnology no human ever tried to make real before.  Hecate has no clue what will happen with you.  Charlie, you are the only being, human or electronic, that has been able to construct a Daemon that functions for one of your kind.  So maybe you are the best to forecast what will be coming.

"Or maybe you'll do better than that.  I believe, from what I've seen, you can find something that's eluded us ever since we first ran into the enemy.  A strategy to stop them.  A plan.  A way to hit them back."

"Or we die."  I whispered.

Monday, October 26, 2015

City of Curses: Neighborhoods: The Irons District

This neighborhood in #Crux is more of a recent thing.  I created it after wanting to have some sort of factory district.  When preparing a map handout for my players, I added it.  Here is some words to go along with it.  Maybe if I get some more inspiration, I can try to detail out some of the faces of the Irons here too.

The Irons District
Aspect: The Irons Never Stop Burning
Connected To: Rag Coast (to the Northeast), Wish Quarter (to the East)
Most Significant Icon: None.
Well Known For? Factories, Smithies and Workshops

The sulfurous bellows of the irons burn the nostrils.  Brick and iron greet the eye, if you can see past the steam and smoke.  Wheels and pumps use the fury of the Locke to power their motors and engines.

Even with the river rushing alongside it, the smell still burns.  Some places within are deadly to breath.  Gases collect and can slay anyone who breathes them in.  

As I walk through the fresh new cobble of the Irons, the constant fiery heat can be felt.  They say the irons never stop burning here.  The factories run all day and all night, tended to by factory android drones.  The androids need no sleep.  Thus, the irons always glows like a hot coal.

History

The Irons is a nicknamed coined for the area near the southern bank of the Locke River.  Centuries ago, a ferry had been located in where the Irons would emerge.  A critical juncture for any trade with Blackcliff to the south.

The Church of the Machine and the Esoterium Machine first employed waterwheels for mills along the Locke River.  Next were the steam engines from Othebea.  These helped to establish the first textile mills in Crux along the southern banks of the Locke.  Over time, though, the location proved convenient for other trades.  Smithies and steel mills hired arcane machinists.

Tieflings in the nearby Wish Quarter, adult and child, proved to be an ideal workforce.  Unable to find work in the rest of Crux, the tieflings agreed to inhumane work conditions in the mills.  Their fire-resistant flesh was ideal.  The steel mills burned with arcane fire hot enough to melt iron and other metals.  Tieflings worked day and night.

Tiefling factory workers were laid off in recent years.  The advent of Androids let many factory bosses to buy workers and layoff the rest.  The fears of illegal unions having formed led to crackdowns.  A cadre of icons, the Banker, the Spice Khan and the Police Commissioner- did their best keep the peace.

Today, androids work day and night to keep the factories moving.   The Irons has the highest population of Androids in all Crux.  Even more than Tinkertown underneath Poorfellows.  The factories never stop.  The androids toil day in and day out.  The irons always burn.

Industrial Dangers.

Most of the Irons' factory work is textiles and steelworks.  But Crux's slaughterhouses are located in the irons too.  The concentration of industrial runoff and arcane energies leads to perennial problems.  Oozes and other things awaken.  Pockets of noxious gases and superheated runoff make some streets dangerous.

Tiefling gangs from the Wish Quarter use their own fiendblooded resistances to ambush those lost.  They steal from the factories.  They take Androids, reselling them in the Grand Bazaar.  The Prince's City Watch often clashes with them throughout the Irons.  Even then, some of the dirtier City Watch prepare ambushes of their own.

No icon in Crux has a total claim over the Irons District.  The Prince seems to show no interest in the area.  The Banker has many clients in the area, but doesn't want to take direct control.  Too much of a risk.  The Spice Khan owns factories in the Irons.  She doesn't but not enough to be the most powerful force there.  The Archwitch and the Tinkerer too, both have people who have interests in the area.  This conflict hasn't boiled over into anything yet.

The Devil You Know.

The employment of Androids and the reliance on arcane conveyances aren't the only sorcery that has been made within the Irons District.  Most Factory bosses have forged pacts.  Industrial Witches and Conjurers bind Devils to supervise their factory floors.  Forced to serve, Imps and other devils keep order.

Most of them dislike and hate their work here.  Constant magic maintenance is required to keep them from clawing their out to escape.  Wards and runes constrain them.  Some of these devils like the city they've seen.  They are eager to escape.  A few do escape.

Those who don't throw their frustrations onto their android drones.  This constant abuse sometimes mangles and leaves a Android inoperable.  Other times, though, Androids react to it.  Something changes, and their bodies start to give off more sulfurous glows.  A few mirror their devilish masters, escaping to drag others into the factory floors.

The Irons District feels like a miniature of Hell to some of these Devils.  They can feel a link to their homeland through it.  Unlike those who escape, they redouble their efforts.  They know how to dig a hole, and the factory bosses seem eager to help them wedge a door open.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Reading Materials: Steampunk!


I tend to not like the term steampunk for the genre of stories set in a victorian era or that equivalent.  It's a personal thing.  The more "specific" a genre goes, the more I worry.  I worry that genre's stereotypes and tropes are going to overrule everything else going on.  That's what happens when a lot of people identify a piece of fiction.  They are aware of what tropes will be present in the story and build expectations based on that.

That and I don't know if Steampunk knows what it is.  Industrial age adventures with machines?  We got those.  Where does the Time Machine and a Thousand Leagues Under the Sea fit into that?  Steampunk's pedigree is that of being the child of cyberpunk.  

That doesn't help either.  Cyberpunk is just a form of Sci-Fi dystopia.  When people do things steampunk related, does it carry any real punk with it?  I don't know.

I love the era these kinds of stories are trying to evoke though.  I grew up learning the history of the 19th century.  I have spent my own time digging deep into industrial revolution and the stories around it.  Crux itself kinda is my own tabletop RPG reflection on it.  When fantasy blends with it, I get kind of excited.  

The upshot to Steampunk that bleeds into fantasy is that it helps break up that genre.  Fantasy tends to be this same sort of fictional world.  Everyone know what the generic fantasy world is.  When I even use the phrase "generic fantasy world" you've already got an image in your head about it.  Steampunk at least can help broaden what fantasy can be.  Especially by bringing in new setting elements and new ideas.  Like urban fantasy, it interests me a bit more than the rest.

Dragons Versus Cats

In keeping with writing Crux a lot, I've been reading more and more Steampunk and the like.  Of the two recent reads, one I didn't like.  The other I couldn't put down.  Considering the latter was written by Jim Butcher, my reaction shouldn't surprise anyone.  

The Dragons of Dorcastle didn't make me want to continue the trilogy it's meant to be part of.  The main part that turned me off of it had to be the lack of any secondary characters.  That wasn't the only thing, but it didn't seem appealing to continue.  I didn't care what happened, and it went a little too close onto the plot rails for fantasy.

But the latter book I finished, Aeronaut's Windlass, that got me excited.  To be sure, I get worried that I follow particular writers, rather than following particular stories.  But the Dresden Files' appeal to me has to be with its characters and what happens with them.  So where Dragons of Dorcastle felt dry and a bit thin, Aeronaut's Windlass felt like a fresh thunderstorm to experience.

Aeronaut's Windlass.  The name itself makes you curious, doesn't it?  Aeronauts.  You want to see them and what that means.  It's only part of the title though, as it is the first another new series, the Cinder Spires.  Which is fine.

Series aren't problematic for us book folk these days.  If the stories are good, we'll line up.  Aeronaut's Windlass delivers on that count.  The infrastructure of the setting is seen through the characters.  The novel must be Butcher's first to deal with this many POV characters.  POV characters that experience key events from many viewpoints.

So.  Kewl.

The one thing Jim Butcher excels at is creating interesting characters.  Ones that you want to see succeed.  Brilliant people.  Great people.  Even the villains are intriguing.  Then he bloodies the fuck out of them.  Hence the last name of "Butcher."

Madness For the Road, Please.

The worldbuilding within the novel is quick.  The main locale is a greater region called Spire Albion.  Which evokes that british steampunk feel once you toss in the airships.  The surface of the planet seems overrun with vicious jungle life.  This has forced civilization to stay within massive spires.  Each of which has airships and conflict with one another over resources.  

Reminiscent of the late 18th century, in a way.  Cats are a intelligent society of their own, with their own language and POV character.  There seems to be more going on as well, like a lack of herd animals.  The phrase vat meat comes out early on.  Something happened, and space seemed to be one of the big concerns for each Spire.

But the last part that I enjoyed is the closest thing the Cinder Spires world has to spellcasters.  Etherealists.  Without spoiling it, their powers seem to leave them as a whole insane.  It's a trade off it seems.  One where they get neat magical abilities, yet seem unable to do certain functions.

I regret not having this in my brain before writing Crux stuff.  The idea of a magic system wherein you lose part of your mind in exchange for insight and powers.  Strikes me as kewl as the furycrafting in Codex Alera.  But that's the important part of fiction like this, it always helps generate new ideas.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

In Transit Monsters 23 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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Ghale (H minus One Month, 15 Days)


I sat down after the final floating hologram had ended.  Across our table, Martin steepled his fingers.  We both let out a breath.

"No investigation."  I repeated the last line the UN Security Council had said to us.  "That's... Better than we could've hoped for."

Martin frowned.  "Everything we do is some sort of slimy dodge from morality."

"Martin, we don't them deciding to change how we run Pygmalion."  Or worse, have them learn one of the monsters is my daughter.  A genetic descendant of mine, altered to be a war machine.

"EpicVentures suggests they don't press for a investigation.  Even though it involves terrorism at the highest levels."  Martin shook his head.

"You aren't conflating your opinion on corporations with this?"  I asked.  "We aren't their oversight."

"The UN Security Council cleared everyone we've hired here."  Martin said.  "They've filtered our employees.  And done whatever they could to make sure no one within Pygmalion could do something like this.  Every preventive measure went through them.  Yet it still happened."

"And they are covering their asses."  I pointed out.  "They have all the relevant information.  They don't need to have a investigation here."

Martin closed his eyes.  "No investigation."

"There is going to be something."  I insisted.  "Just not here."

"No."  Martin shook his head.  "They aren't going to even let it surface to the public.  Stifle it in the crib.  The UN Sec Daemon already is maneuvering.  Social media is watched.  People are being tracked.  If anybody here tries to whistle on it, they'll disappear first."

I blanched.  Pygmalion allowed anything.  Anything.  Civil liberties disintegrated in the face of it.  When pushed to the wall, humanity didn't care about its morals.  Some might claim even the illusion of that would drive us to forsake our ideals for feeling secure.

"Ugh.  We've always known that never works."  I said.

"Daemons and machines do what they're told."  Martin observed.  "The technology serves us.  If we choose to walk that path, it'll pull out the chair for us."

"And we aren't supposed to use them that openly either."

"They do.  What's worse, we keep pretending that the tech handles it.  We distance ourselves and don't embrace it."  Martin leaned back in his chair.

"You're drifting."  I said.  "We should be happy about this."

"We deal with less interference, that's a plus."  Martin nodded.  "But it's epidemic of something bigger going on.  I worry that Nicky and this... this religious extremism is part of something bigger.  We have to go public in a month."

I tapped my fingers on the desk for a moment.  Public.  Each of Miri's monsters streamed across the globe.  Humanity's last attempt to save themselves.  Well.  Not the last attempt to save themselves, if you believed the Joiners.

"Yes.  We need to expand our internal security then."  I said.  "I'll reassign some AI to work out different predictions."

Martin grunted.  "EpicVentures leaves a nasty taste in my mouth."

I smirked.  "They've helped us so far.  That greedy old SOB Rick Whyte died.  His nephew is markedly better than he ever was."

Martin fingered his hands for a moment.  He sighed.  "Tactically, I'd prefer the fool who lacks subtlety.  Rick kept revealing his hand.  Davyd is better than him.  They were up to something, and Davyd isn't even showing any hint of it."

"He's defended us more often than anyone else at the UN Security Council."  I pointed out.

"He's ten times smarter than his uncle ever was.  Respectable.  Dedicated."  Martin shook his head.  "I don't know what is going on.  But I smell something."

"That isn't our job, Martin."

"Yes.  I know."  Martin said.  "We tend to the gates to where they keep the monsters.  I think we're allowed to point out the monsters that should be behind our gate."


...


After the meeting I went home.  The incident with Nicky had been jarring.  The girl seemed close to Charlie and the others at the facility.

Charlie.  Thoughts about her drifted into my head again.  Morgan had a point on that.  I used to dream about what she'd be like if she lived.

She did live, though.  I could see her.  I could talk with my daughter.

I prepared a simple meal.  Potatoes.  Meat had gone up in price again.  As much as I'd like to indulge my position, I couldn't stomach the means to get requisitions for steak.  Potatoes would be fine.

What did Charlie eat?  I wondered.

"No."  I told myself.  I tried to enjoy my meal.  But thoughts repeated themselves through my head.  My large apartment, in the middle of nowhere seemed more vacant of life than anything else.  I never had bothered to decorate it.

I worked out of the living room most days.  Comfort and simplicity.  Most days I'd avoided thinking it.  A nearby cage rattled.  I blinked.  All this thinking about Charlie had distracted me from Folly and Molly.

"Sorry guys.  Guess I sort of forgot about you."  Guilt riddled me.  That was unfair for the two of them.  The two of them deserved better.

I walked over to their massive cage.  One of the distractions I'd enjoyed most of my life had been some sort of pet or family to be part of.  I needed someone to have in my life.  Somebody who'd be there for me.

I lifted the blanket off their cage.  The two albino ferrets clawed at the side of their massive cage.  Of course they wanted to be out and about.  That's the trick to ferrets.  Always need some trouble to get into.  To climb over or find.

I let them out to play.  Molly and Folly outpoured with chuckling, dooking sounds as they tumbled about.  I smiled watching their antics.

Activate Melampus.

Melampus had been a tangential bit of technology.  A heuristic AI would analyze and use brain patterns from my two pets to create speech for them.  That seemed silly, but for most mammals it turned out to be remarkable accurate.  Subtle, anthropocentric things sometimes couldn't come across.  But for most species you could hold conversations of a sort.

Dolphins and others had used Melampus as part of a ongoing motion to gain recognition as citizens.  The United Nations continued to put off a serious discussion on it in the face of the enemy.  But even little creatures like my two ferrets could communicate with humans through Melampus.

It didn't translate anything for the animal, though.  There were BrainSys implants for some animals.   The BrainSys would help convey one or two concepts and their context.  But it couldn't convey everything.  It didn't make them super-intelligent.  Then again, animals like ferrets were far smarter than most people expect.

"Hi!"  Both tumbled in unison at me.  Of course both of them had a basic BrainSys.  Enough to allow some conversation.  Enough they could activate a automated feeder and some other things.  Enough that I had been on a constant vigil on the net to keep the two of them from trouble.  The two proved apt at hacking their way into all sorts of places.

"Hi."  I grabbed at both of them.  They tumbled around me, pleased to be out of their cage.

The three of us played.  The one thing the two of excelled at was making the world seem worth waking up to.  They didn't know something was coming to destroy everything.  They just were themselves.  Curious and troublesome.

And it kept Charlie out of my mind for a little while, at least.


Monday, October 19, 2015

City of Curses: The Forgotten Guild of Ragwalkers (Fate Core)

Hey.  More #Crux for you.  Here's a worldbuilding-ish one: where does the waste go?  The garbage, the offal, the shit, the piss and all of that?  Well, someone has to do something about it.  In Crux, it's a guild with few members and even less reputation: the Ragwalkers.  Dirty fellows, they dare in the sewers to keep the city of curses clean enough for others to live in.

Secrets And Rats

I cleaned my teeth and looked up from my spot among the ragged waste.  Certainly a nice bit of a
price, all considered.

"If only we had enough rats to eat all the drek and filth they want us to make go away."  Gwan said.  The balding Ragwalker smiled down at me and my clutch of ratlings.  "Alas, not all of it is ratfood, now is it?"

"A needed job is still a job."  I pointed out from my spot.  Most feyborn rats didn't like to dine like their common brothers and sisters.  I didn't feel the need to abandon my kind just because I knew how to speak with the Ursyklon and Humans.

"A thankless job collects more flies than it does praise."  Gwan shrugged.  "Gots to be done."

"Yeah.  What do y'all do with it?  City never seems to overflow, despite all the filth you lot take away."  I observed.  I blinked.  Point of fact, I almost never saw where the Ragwalkers took all of it.

Gwan smirked.  "Archdruid and the Prince pay us to take care of it.  No questions asked, and they gladly pay the price for it.  We just struggle to keep up the numbers to do the job."

"But what do you do with all of it, Gwan?"

The Ragwalker tugged on tight his dirty gloves, their fingers missing.  I could see his human fingernails, all covered in their grim and filth.  They never seemed clean enough.  Gwan also kept his eyes covered in blue-tinted goggles.  He smirked, tugged something out of his pocket.  A brassy object the size of his palm, that looked more like a pocketwatch than anything else.  He flipped it open and revealed it to me.  

"Oh."  I didn't believe it.  "That... that's kind of a scary thought."

"Lots and lots to do, so little that never gets done."  Gwan smirked at me.

"You ragwalkers, ugh."  I shook my snout.  Humans.  Never could understand them.  Always with the bad jokes.


Guttermages, Moldwranglers and Streetcleaners.

Crux has its own myriad of problems.  One that most don't bat an eyelash about in the center of town is garbage and filth.  The unwanted job is a well paid one.  They are the Ragwalkers.  Their numbers are small.

Ragwalkers take care of the sewers, the filth and the garbage.  None of them look like wealthy people.  They must be, having contracts with both the Archdruid and the Prince.  They are a cadre of guttermages, necromancers, conjurers, rogues and spelunkers.  They always are on the lookout for new recruits.  But often the dangerous side of their job drive most potentials away.

Crux's sewers and landfills are millennia old.  Oozes and other things lurk, needing to be contained or taken care of.  Ancient wards that prevent the animation of undead have to be maintained.  Aberrations and other things crawl up from the undercity that have to be identified. Then exterminators have to hired to deal with them.  Many dangers have killed a Ragwalker investigating a section of sewer tunnel.

Those are the active, monstrous dangers.  Diseases, molds and worse fester in dark corners.  The Ragwalkers do what they can to keep them from turning into epidemics.

In other words, the job is never done.  There is always another pile that has to be dealt with.  Ragwalkers are tasked to take care of the entire city's waste needs.  Unfortunately, these days they barely can keep the neighborhoods around the Skullmount clean.  Part of why they choose to keep the job has to do with how well paid they all.  Of all the city services in the employ of the Prince, the Ragwalkers are the best paid.

The Ragwalkers have purchased about fifteen Androids, which they have perform the most dangerous work with.  Even then, they have to replace one once every few months.  They disappear or break down so badly they Ragwalkers can't use them anymore.  This helps keeps their numbers up,  but it is one of the practices that makes folk like the Voice or the Tinkerer see Androids being used as tools and slaves, not people.

These Androids are unpaid, of course.  If anything, their silence seems more disturbing than whatever things the Ragwalkers have them do.

Kafkaella's Cleansing Crusade.

The Ragwalkers take their name from their founder, a guttermage by the name of Kafkaella.  They nicknamed her Ragwalker.  A resident of the Docks of Crux three centuries ago.  Ragwalker lived in landfills that piled up along the docks.  What little we know about her seems monstrous.  Kafkaella always remained covered in cockroaches.  She had a pair of antennae, or so they say.

In those days, Crux's streets tended to be more offal and sewerage.  The ancient tomasi sewers had become overused.  They were too small to handle all the material going through them.  Newer monsters migrated upward from the undercity. This in turn blocked off key sewer junctions in Old Crux and Poorfellows.  Ragwalker lived in the rot and the filth.  She crafted golems and constructs from the rot and castoffs.

When filth and plague broke out, though, Ragwalker became drafted.  The Prince offered to pay her to deal with it, to employ her skills to contain the growing problem.  Ragwalker, a tiefling, is said to have thrown the Prince's letter away.  The person who convinced her had been the Archdruid.  How the Ursyklon Priestess of the Wolf-Mother convinced Ragwalker remains unknown.

Ragwalker's solutions seemed mysterious.  She cleaned large swaths of street in mere sweeps.  She unblocked blocked sewers.  She cleansed  plague-ridden pockets.  She took up apprentices to help with the task too.  Within two decades, the landfills and streets became cleaner than they ever had been.

Never Die Down There, Girl.  Better Ways To Go.

The question remains, yet, about what Ragwalker and those who followed in her footsteps do with all the filth they collect.  Conspiracy theories abound on the subject.  Some think they feed a host of mongrel aberrant folk under streets with it.  Others claim they burn the stuff in pools of lava deep under the undercity itself.  The craziest claims are that the Ragwalkers know spells that let them shrink the waste.  Then the shrunken material is pocketed and teleported to a site far away from Crux itself.

Ragwalkers will explain that they use magical means to make the waste go away.  They can go into specifics.  Most don't dwell on it.

They also find bodies of the dead, thrown into their wastes.  Ragwalkers sometimes will take bribes to help make some troublesome corpses up and disappear.  Such things are supposed to reported.  But in a order desperate like theirs, they always are willing to make allowances.

The Ragwalkers have failed on repeated occasions to expand into the new parts of the City of Curses.  Areas like the Wish Quarter, the Irons and Northcrown fall outside their purview.  Sometimes they even fall outside their ability to even visit.  The Tieflings of the Wish Quarter think this is on purpose.  The Ragwalkers are the first to claim they don't play favorites.  They just lack the people-power to reach as far as they'd like.

Their greatest trouble these days are Wererats.  Calling themselves Groka's children, the Wererats have nests in every part of Crux's sewers.  The Ragwalkers aren't adapted to fight them.  They bring in outsiders, but each case is its own individual, dangerous situation.

Their most common trouble, is dealing with the old things they come across.  Ragwalkers interact with the outskirts of the undercity on a daily basis.  They find odd things.  Strange things.  Magical items and cursed knicknacks.  Paths and gates to places they don't want to wander into ever again.

Their motto is "Never Die In the Below."  That fear dominates their actions, their attitudes.  A Ragwalker doesn't dress well, doesn't act like a target.  They make friends.  They do whatever they can to make sure someone will come looking for them.

They never want to die down there.


A Bit of Mechanics.

Ragwalker Aspects: "Never Die Down There"; Raggedy Guttermage; Sewercleaner;

Ragwalker Stunt

Sewermap: You always know where one sewer connects to another.  You can navigate them, even blindfolded.  If chasing or trying to move quickly through sewers, it takes you half as fast to get from one point to another. This is so long as you are travelling via sewer in Crux.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thoughts on Hacking Microscope

One of my favorite story games is #Microscope.  Zooming in and out of a history, while you are forced to be creative, that gets my blood pumping.  I'm a history nerd.  Making one up just makes me giddy.

I don't get to play it enough, though.  By myself, I played a game of Microscope, which led me to creating Noah: the Kaiju-Song.  Noah is about a city on the bottom of the ocean dealing with psychic mutants called Angels and Demons.  Yes, Crux is also a city-based setting.  

I have a recurring theme it seems.

Fractal Hack-Manship Ideas.


Hacking Microscope seems apt.  Or something everyone who plays it thinks of doing.  As a setting creation tool.  My first curious thoughts is seeing if I can use part of Microscope's fractal design.  To hack and the like.

The first thought I had was to have a sort of use of the Create Advantage option from Fate Core.  Have a established timeline for your setting, and allow it to be fluid.  You have a defined "now" point the Fate Core game takes place in.  A player who takes time, like days or hours can make a Create Advantage action to create an Event or Scene in the setting's timeline.

This means time is a fluid, changing thing.  Maybe this would reflect time travel well in a Fate Core game.  Which would be a fascinating twist for something like Microscope, on second thought.  Since Scenes are just asking questions, it seems like a apt tool to bring over to Fate games anyway.  One could try to run a session where your scenes all are based on questions.  Each of these questions the player has asked beforehand.

Go around in order, giving each player a chance to "ask" a question.  You should start with some sort of theme or tentpole.  But still, that could lead to interesting adventure design.

Timey-Wimey RPG Mini-Game Thingy.


But as a setting history tool, I'm curious.  What if you made a bunch of fixed points?  Prompting tentpoles for the rest of the timeline you need, if you will.

In Microscope, you already do that: the starting and ending periods serve as tent poles.  They establish how the rest of the timeline will start.  In my idea for a variant, you don't allow players of the minigame to create new Periods.  Those are already established beforehand.  You, perhaps, give each player a chance to elaborate or alter them to taste.  But what "spans" of history are already there.

They are prompts.  Like leading questions or another mechanic. They are open-ended questions the players can answer in their own way.  You let each player get to define, describe events throughout the timeline. Do so in the fashion of Microscope.  One player is the lens, and that player defines the focus each turn, etc.

I imagine you might have to have a checklist of Foci to go down.  Once done, the setting's history is completed.  The end goal should be to not have a comprehensive timeline.  Instead a timeline that all the players know and have some investment in.

Scenes you could play out like in Microscope.  Or if you want, you can have questions about various setting history stay unanswered.  They are ported over to the game you plan to set in this history.  These could be the basis for various issues, factions, etc.  So Scenes become "Questions" rather than full RP moments.  Flavor to taste though.  Some questions might be better answered, not left open.  Having a chance to play it out for the sake of feeling those answers out might be worth your time too.

This also means a GM might have to define ahead of time core components of Microscope setup, which is easy to do.  It isn't the intent of how the game is meant to be played.  For one player to decide the course of the history, without consulting all the others.  A game master should remember to try and get all players on board with some of the ideas. You see if they want to take part in this sort of thing beforehand.  Settle these questions before even starting this sort of thing.

Communication, again, being the cement your gaming group should rely upon.

An Example From The Fall.


My example is this.

Five periods, all for a timeline based on the seed of "The Fall and What Came After."  In this timeline, each period covers a period of two to five years.  The periods are, in chronological order:


  • The Good Old Days (Light).
  • The Big One (Dark).
  • The Fall (Dark).
  • The Struggle After (Dark).
  • The Rebuilding (Light).


In Microscope fashion, I've given each of them either a dark or light tone.  Each are vague.  You can tweak the period as the game goes on.  I haven't mentioned where the game takes place.  I'd set it in the last Period, for a nice post-apocalyptic game.  BUT you could use it as a set of "predetermined" events that lead up to a disaster that ends the world.  Or you could go for somewhere in the middle.

I should try this out, I guess, but I think it could be a neat way to set up a setting for a game.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In Transit Monsters 22 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

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Charlie

I opened my eyes.  Darkness.  Smoke.  Shadows.

Nicky's dreamspace towered over me.  Massive.  Smoke cascaded far above me.  I blinked at it.  Something screamed in the distance.  Something huge.

It made me shiver.

I crawled behind a nearby tower of dark wood.  In the shadow I noticed the grain.  Larger than it should've been.

"Big."  I said to myself.  "Everything is huge here."

That added up.  This wasn't a tower of wood with smoke up in the sky above.  Furniture.  I hid behind the foot of some sort of furniture.  A pew?

I'd seen images of churches.  From the net.  My dreamspaces rarely had them.  Religion had never interested me.  Aunt Miri never mentioned her faith, although I'd heard her use the word God from time to time.  I think she believed in something, but didn't want me to know about it.

My avatar was a tiny doll in a church on fire.  With some sort of giant in it.  Or maybe the giant could be a person.

"Nicky."  I said.  It would be her.  Why would her dreamspace be like this?

"DEMONS!"  Nicky's gigantic voice thundered from above.  The pew cracked as she plowed through it.  "THEY TRICKED ME!"

Blood covered her body.  Nicky's skin looked covered in sores.  Like those you get from thorns.  Blood dripped.  Her eyes glowed white.  She tumbled, her strength enough to shatter the pew above me.  Pieces flew as she flew to the ground next to me.  Fire consumed her hair.  It flicked each time she spoke, as if her voice could make it brighten and dim.

"Nicky?  Whats- why are you doing this?"  The words escaped my mouth before I could think about them.  Her glowing, huge white eyes turned to me.  Eek.

"YOU!"  Nicky's face turned to rage.  She reached out to grasp me.

I tried to run away.  Fingers tried to snatch me.  I skidded away from her.  "This is a dream.  You got this.  Use it."

The words of Nasr echoed in my mind.  Ideas and tactics flowed into my mind.  I started to hack her dreamspace.  My Oneiros inserted itself into the dream around us.  I needed to distract her.

"GET OVER HERE!"  Nicky screamed, making the ground rumble around me.  She had too much control.  I needed to loosen it.

"Please, Nicky.  I just want to help you.  Don't make-"  She interrupted me with a fist.  I caught in my doll-sized hand.

"WHAT?!" Nicky blinked in surprise.  Altering physics took no effort.  I held her fist down with my right arm.

"Look around you, Nicky.  This place is on fire."  I told her in a quiet tone.  She could hear me.  "Why is it on fire?"

"LET ME-" She launched her other fist at me.  I dodged it.  Then I started to reduce her size in the dreamspace.  She lost too much control trying to just hit me.  She started to shrink as my Oneiros adjusted things to my new parameters.  Within a moment, Nicky's avatar stood just as tall as me.  Both of us stood the size dolls in the burning church around us.

"No."  I told her.  "I want to help you.  I know you want to kill me and my sisters.

"Demons."  She muttered to herself.  "You did this, you poisoned the Daemon, to make it turn on us."

"I didn't do anything like that."  I said.  "I just tried to keep you from opening a transit to the sun."

"The holy-"  Nicky sighed.  Her eyes twitched.

Her eyes closed for a moment.  I looked over Nicky's head.  The fire.  Something else was in here too.  My Oneiros adjusted.  Something else lurked around us.

It's avatar had been the fire.  Oneiric dream-code fluttered through my eyes.  An external neural interface.  That sheath she'd been using.  It had connected to her brain functions.

"Ah."  I said.  "I get it now.  Hold on, let me rewrite some of your code, then."

"Don't touch my mind, Demon!"  Nicky struggled.  I ignored her.  Three lines of code later, the fire on her head ceased, leaving smoke behind.

Nicky's eyes started to water.  She curled up into a ball.  I let her disentangle herself from me.  I looked at her avatar's body.  Nicky but much younger.  As a child, maybe.  Her clothes seemed to big, covered in blood still.

I sat down next to her and crossed my legs.

"I'm..." Nicky shook as she spoke.  "It stop hurting."

"Yeah."  I scratched the back of my head.  "I kinda of suck at... um..."

"Talking."  Nicky smiled.  "Always the shy giant."

I blushed a bit.

"Did it make you do all that?"

"I-"  Nicky's voice sounded higher pitched.  Like a kid caught in a lie.  "No.  Charlie, I'm sorry.  I thought using the sun to transit would be fast and quick."

"You chose to do it."  I shook my head.  I had hoped some had programmed Nicky or something to do it.  That maybe the Enemy had used her somehow.  Or that maybe this was a training exercise from Nasr.  But no.

Nicky had always been the one to understand what bothered me.  Aunt Miri always listened, but Nicky got me.  She had always helped to keep Foxtrot away.  To keep us from fighting as much, when she could.  I remembered when I first met Nicky.  She'd been crying.

"Yes, I did."  Nicky sat up.  "I shouldn't have.  But... I had to.  IDK, Charlie."

"But you were going to kill us."  Not a question.  A statement.

"It isn't that simple."  Nicky said.  "You don't understand- well, you do.  You always understood.  The other... the other..."

"Demons.  You used the word demon."  I repeated.  "Another word for monster."

"I guess everyone calls what they don't understand a monster."

"You thought I did something bad to you too.  Why?"  I asked.

"I'd blacked out and then you were here and..."  Nicky let out a breath.  "I first came to this project to sabotage it.  I really did.  But each time, you were there.  I... Charlie, you understand.  You and the others are monsters."

"And that means you should kill us.  We deserve it?"  I tried not to let tears come out.

"No!"  Nicky sat up.  "Yes... I don't know.  You kind of prove my point, then you make me think... Charlie, have you ever read the Bible?"

I shook my head.  I'd never been into religion.  Not like that.   Science and other knowledge always held more interest in my mind.  Science fiction too.  Especially stories with girls fighting their oppressors.  Religious stories never seemed to have much of that.

"Well..."  Nicky waved a childish had.  "In the last days, angels are to appear and break these seals upon the earth, to purify it for Christ.  One of those is the angel Apollyon, with his horde of locusts and-"

"Locusts?"  That sounded weird.  "Why locusts?"

"The Enemy."  Nicky explained.

"The Enemy are locusts."  I shook my head.  "That makes no sense."

"Just look at it like this."  Nicky said.  "It's a metaphor.  God has created them to help purify us.  A crucible to make humanity stronger."

"But they've killed so many."  I didn't say 'us.'  I wasn't sure if I counted as human or not.  Aunt Miri always said so, but I didn't think so.

"Technology is a crutch."  Nicky explained.  "We've gotten corrupt and have poisoned so much of the universe.  Transit only let us spread further.  Technology is the antichrist- it has only made humanity grow and grow.  We've lost so much of our morality.  Our sense of right and wrong.  We killed each other over it."

"Transit ended most of the wars over water and resources."  I pointed out.

"Transit let us spread all over the universe, regardless of what we found."

"You believe something created all this sorrow, just to make humanity fit some standard?"  I asked.

Nicky blinked.  "Standard?"

"You said crucible."  I pointed out.  "That means you think there is some deeper purpose to all this.  That some being is going to do something important because of it."

"No, we get to have this glorious appearance and... Charlie, Humanity needs to let God return.  We can make it happen."  Her voice frightened me when it mentioned the word God.  Reverence.  Something that reminded me of those vids Miri showed us of superheroes.  That tone villains held for themselves.

"I'm corrupt because I am technology."  I said.  "I have to die because of that.  To make your world... your god appear."

Nicky nodded with guilty look.  "But... I..."

"You..."  I shook my head.  This wasn't going to anywhere.  But I couldn't dismiss what she'd said either.

"Nicky."  I picked her up, her child-avatar, in my arms.  "You've always been kind to me.  But please.  Don't do this.  Don't fight us.

"I... I was born for war, Nicky.  You helped make me.  Somehow you embraced this... IDK what to call it, idea.  This memetic virus.  This concept that somehow I had no purpose but to stain you.  To keep you from your true potential.  I'm not.  I promise Nicky, that all I really want to is to help.  To make things better."

She shook her head.  "Don't go.  Please.  The fire will come back."

"I-"  I thought about that.  "The block will remain so long as you stay asleep.  Being awake will bypass it."

Nicky gave me a hug.  "Such a nice girl."

I closed my eyes.  I walked away from Nicky's dreamspace.  I needed to find a place to cry.


Monday, October 12, 2015

The Martian: SCIENCE > FICTION

Going to do a quick "blog" post today.  In Transit Monsters is going to continue at some point this week.  And maybe I'll think up something Crux-ish, but this is heavy on my mind.
Poo-Tatoes.
I saw the Martian this weekend.  I've spent so much time talking online and offline on the subject, I'm going to go off in a single direction on this.  WE NEED MORE sci fi like the Martian.  Not explosions.  Not "science dun bad!" but actual, genuine awesome in space.  One of the phrases in the movie catches what I want from the genre: Let's Science the shit of this.
Also, been watching Doctor Who and Agents of Shield again.  Both shows kinda signify I might need to get more NEW shows in my repertoire.  Eek.  
The Martian is based on the book by Andy Weir from 2011.  It's hard scifi, in that the science feels and looks like science.  Not fake look, but the kind of science that has some meat and metal under the drywall.  It tells the story of how an astronaut in a near-future Mars mission survives.  After his crew has him left for dead.
The story is factual.  It presents the actual issues of attempted survival on Mars.  The book goes into length on some of it, which I ate up.  I worried the film might've ducked some of that.  It didn't.  It didn't lecture you on NASA's policies or whatnot, but it conveyed some of the critical ideas.  
What happens if JPL hurries a project?  What could go wrong with the logistics of travel between Earth and Mars?  Astrodynamics and the headaches with adjusting orbits?  SLINGSHOT?
It has all that sweet, sweet science bacon.  Without some sort of bastard of a villain.  Characters that screw things up, make mistakes, but none of which are bwahaha villains.  Technology doesn't kill or maim or be something that "humanity isn't ready for."  Our tools help us save the day.
Hell yes.  I can grok that.
That's kind of what I've been wanting from science fiction.  It's what the genre has been lacking to an extent in mainstream science fiction.  SciFi without science being the source of the big bad.  Even the media isn't portrayed as an antagonist.  
It's because the story is against nature.  Which is where science and technology should be, in a scifi tale.  They exist to help humans win.  The interest in the story then comes from whether it'll work or not.  Will the uncertainty of this idea or that plan fail?  What will go wrong?  How bad will things get before we can make it?
That's the thing about the Martian I enjoyed.  It wasn't a psychological study or about some conspiracy.  It felt like a real take on science.  
So this is me being the geeky guy who is 100% pro-science.  One of the highlights of my weekend being able to go see it.  Go see it.  Nerd it up!
OTHER THOUGHTS
Series 9 of Doctor Who has been a joy, because I love Capaldi's Doctor.  The version of the character that is a bit antisocial appeals to me.  The guy who needs cue cards to deal with normal people, yeah, that makes me giddy.  The excitement came in the last of the two-part episodes (Before the Flood).  The Doctor explaining a sort of paradox with beethoven as the cold open?   Very neat.
Agents of Shield is on season 3.  And they've matured.  People wrote off the show in its earlier seasons because it was immature.  Now they've gotten some of the nails down in their style, I look forward to seeing how they use Inhumans in the MCU.  It feels unique, different and the show kind of benefits from it.  I can't wait for Jessica Jones to drop in a month or so, but I'm certain the Netflix shows won't cross over with AoS.  If given a season or two, I could see crossover stuff happening. 
Whatever they do, it'll be something we aren't expecting.  Which is nice to know could be in the wings.
Ok.  That's it for this post.  I don't go rambling on TV and movie stuff.  The stuff had been on the top of my mind, so it felt apt to share with anyone who cared.  The nature of this blog is to be my stream of consciousness anyway.
Got to get back to inktober 11, too.  See you around.  Thanks for reading.

Also have been antagonizing and trolling libertarians for some stupid reason.  IDK why.  Maybe the part where they make extraordinary claims with no evidence to back them up?  Yeah, I'll go with that.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Center Cannot Hold: Autumnal Holidays

A shorter post today, but still kind of flavorful for the sake of flavor.  Some holidays in Crux.  #Crux is a fantasy setting I keep writing on, run a home #FateCore in and more or less spend a large amount of time thinking about.  Click here for more information about it if you're interested.  I thought about tying in some holiday specific stunts, but couldn't think of any good effects with the time I had.  I suspect the idea could be kewl, and have filed it away for later use.

Autumnal Holidays

Here are a few autumnal holidays of Crux.  The months of Lastharvest, Ghostwalk and Feastwatch are the autumn months in the Othebesian Calendar.  That is the main calendar in use.  These each are celebrated in the city of curses.

Geistide: Honoring The Dead, Inviting the Ghosts.

Three different faiths celebrate the holy days of Geistide.  It originated with the Church of the Twins.  The faiths of the Wolf-Mother, and Ariaism all have adopted it as a holy day.  Geistide is a triad of days in later Ghostwalk and early Feastwatch.  Geistide is a time to honor the dead, and the ghosts that remain of them.

The first day is to honor the lost souls and the souls of those that never were.  This often just a series of prayers.  Although often they share sweet deserts of various kinds.  Among the Ursyklon, the first day is to remember all the smallest animals who've died.  Some Ursyklon Ectomancers take to calling forth the ghosts of dead Feyborn animals.

The second day is to remember the souls of family and friends gone from us.  Ariatics recite family songs or favorite ballads of dead loved ones.  They have a practice of creating enchantments that allow the living to hear the singing of the dead.

On the last day, most believe that Geistide is at its fullest, and the realm of the dead is at its closest to the living.  This is the day to remember all the dead, from the forgotten children to the greatest of heroes.  Worshippers of the Black Rose maintain shrines.  They add candles and presents for the dead.  With each day, the shrine grows in complexity.  This lasts until the last night of Geistide, where they pray in mass.

Crux.
Ghostwalkers and Geistrakers have observed higher numbers of Ghosts during Geistide.  Why remains a matter of debate.  Both raise concerns that Geistide attracts the dead.  Both groups work to either contain or prevent the emergence of powerful ghosts.   Such as the ghosts of dead gods, cities or worse.

Geistide, in Crux, is a feast celebration.  The Spice Khan often hosts festivities.  Her own people find the idea of Geistide interesting.  But they don't focus on remembering the dead.  Instead, she and her fellow Maliphi see it as a time to embrace life today, and to laugh at the face of death.

Yoku-Och: The Halfling Day Of Goodbyes.

Yoku-Och first was the traditional feast day for the Bear totem of the Ursyklon.  Yoku-Och has since
become a seasonal celebration of goodbyes.  It tends to forecast when several animals enter hibernation.  This means that the holiday tends to be a celebration of winter coming into full fruition as well.

Yoku-Och among Ursyklon is a day to say goodbyes.  Goodbye to the long gone.  Goodbye to those who slumber.  Goodbye to those too far away for us to see.  Yoku-Och takes place in late Feastwatch or early Shadowrose.  The date varies based on interpreted signs and the weather.

Crux.
Ursyklon children are often left alone for the day.  Their parents leave them in remote parts of the city.  Most young Ursyklon look back at it with fond memories.  Others have regrets they sometimes never share until much later in life.

Pajagan: The Birdfolk Day of Friendship.

Tengu celebrate the Autumnal equinox with Pajagan.  It is the holiest day for the patron wind of ninjas.  It is a feast day.  It is a day where violence is not permitted.  Pajagan is time to confirm bonds: friendships, debts, vengeances and curses.  Most Tengu celebrate it by honoring friendships.  They exchange small interesting gifts with one another.  For ninja, it is a day where each of them must renew their faith in Paja-Kazi and meditate on why they are ninja.  Tengu bake a confectionary of honey, sugar and nightcrawlers- what non-Tengu call Pajacake.

Crux.
Most non-Tengu in Crux are unaware of Pajagan.  But there are humans and ursyklon who've come to enjoy the taste of pajacake.  Often those with Tengu friends or companions find the holiday to be a
enjoyable night.

The Ludi Triviali: The Mundane Games of the Tomasi.

Tomasi humans practice Ludi Triviali in mid-Feastwatch.   The Ludi Triviali come from the Tomasi empire.  They were the mundane games.  This contrasted with the annual games enjoyed by those ancient Tomasi with sorcerous ability.  In later years, though, the Ludi Triviali have become a autumnal festival.  Most often the tomasi attend circuses and outdoor performances of all kinds.  The games part still remains as well, with most Tomasi communities holding various games.  They crown the winner of the games Pontifex Triviali of that festival.

Crux.
In Crux, most of the events of the Ludi Triviali take place in the Grand Bazaar.  But Poorfellows and Northcrown also celebrate their own separate Ludi Triviali.  Once in a great while, some attempt to unite all three festivals.  Poorfellows often resists such efforts.  For Poorfellows, this is a time for their community to enjoy themselves.  They'd prefer to do it without competing with the wealthier parts of town.

Heartsday: The Cecaelia Ritual To Keep The Storms At Bay For Another Year.

The autumnal holy day of Heartsday comes from the Cecaelia.  It commemorates the ancient Cecaeli
witch Zargeret the Dirt-Walker.  Zargeret saved them from a great disaster.  Ten-thousand years ago, she crafted a spell that altered the oceans forevermore.  The heart of the sea keeps the oceans from erupting into massive storms.  For the Cecaelia, it also meant safety.  They tell of a ancient enemy buried in the seafloor, who would only emerge when the storms came.  The Heart keeps that at bay.

The Cecaelia converge at the site the spell was cast, at least once in their lives.  This pilgrimage makes the transition for most Cecaelia witches from apprentice to full witch.  The rite is always conducted east of Crux.  Outsiders know little about it.  The Cecaelia remain someone hesitant about allowing non-Cecaeli take part.

Heartsday always takes place in Lastharvest.  Sailors take note of the day in Crux.  On Heartsday, catching anything is impossible.  Afterward there is always an explosion of fish and shellfish.  But on that day, Sailors believe it's folly to tempt the Cecaelia too much.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

City of Curses: Geistrakers

#Crux is this ongoing thing I keep writing setting pieces for.  I run a home game set in it, and it tends to use #FateCore.  If you want to know more about Crux, this page is probably a good place to start, rather than here. 

Geistrakers are intended to be a counterpoint to the Ghostwalkers.  In Crux, they serve the people of the Wish Quarter, including the Archwitch.  Scientists, they see Ghosts as resources to be exploited for the sake of the people.

The Geistrakers 
"Wherein we strike against the bastard-walkers of our ill-begotten Prince.  The best of us dare to fight against them.  Geists are ours to command.  This city needs to learn to fear our chains."

The dead are numerous in Crux.  The further one departs from the center of Old Crux, the harder it is for the Prince to maintain his control.  Ghostwalkers, like the sewers and sanitation magic, don't venture past Palace Hill much.  As Crux turns into stink, garbage and offal, the Demon's Orphans are more and more easier to find.

The Geistrakers are one of the many gangs that make up the Demon's Orphans.  The Ghostwalkers try to serve the ghost denizens of Crux.  Instead the Geistrakers chain and bind them.  Geistrakers provide a service to their neighborhoods, collecting ghosts and putting them together.  They combine bits of alchemy, spiritualism and ectomancy.  A Geistraker not only will remove a poltergeist, but will repurpose it.  He will turn it into a tool that helps the neighborhood around it.

Education.
Ghostwalkers tend to come from Cleric backgrounds, while  Geistrakers studied science and arcane magic.  They all studied at the University of Crux.  Geistrakers are Alchemists, Arcanists, Ectomancers, Occultists and Enchanters.  Geistrakers believe that Ghostwalkers mistake ghosts and other spirits as being intelligent entities.  They are certain that they are just echoes.

Geistrakers know how to alter and control these echoes.  They study and use ectomancy.  They study ghosts.  They don't pray.  Most of them don't, anyway.

The Chains.
Geistrakers use chains for repurposing captured ghosts.  Made with alloys of silver, steel and ectoplasm, each Geistchain requires precision to use.  Geistchains exist in both physical and ethereal planes.  Ghosts can feel them.  Ghosts can touch them.

Once chained, a Geistraker can move the ghost, even against its will, away from the anchor it haunts.  Most geistrakers reprogram captured ghosts to anchor with their chain.  They merge ghosts together, often looking to piece together traits they see as desirable.

A Geistchain can serve countless purposes.  In the Wish Quarter, they act as eyes, ears, lights and more.  There aren't that many Geistchains.  They aren't a common good that others can get outside the Geistrakers.  Those existing the Geistrakers tend to put out in the open.  Geistrakers do what they can to help those in their neighborhood.   They offer their services out to the wealthy of Crux.   They collect errant ghosts and spirits for a fee.  Then they repurpose them to provide free services for those living in the Wish Quarter.

 All without the interference of the Prince.  Or so they claim.

Geistrakers have installed critical geistchains in the Wish Quarter.  One provides clean drinking water for many residents.  Another helps the Justicars of the Iron Cage maintain their prison.  There is one that collects offal and waste from the streets.


Feud With The Ghostwalkers.
The Geistrakers are certain that the Ghostwalkers are misleading the public.  They think its an abuse of the Prince to spread the lie that ghosts are sentient or even intelligent.  Geistrakers and the Guild of Esteemed Ghostwalkers have long opposed one another.

Their conflict rarely explodes into violence.  This is unlike other clashes between the Prince and the Archwitch's people.  But each side is certain the other is abusing someone.  Ghostwalkers see the Geistrakers as the most dangerous kind of slavers.  Geistrakers see Ghostwalkers as dangerous because they mis-educate people about the dangers about ghosts.


Geists
Demons.  Fae.  Angels.  Devils.  Aboleths.

Geistrakers identify all these as geist attractors.  These are like rotten meat for attracting flies.  The most intense geist incidents tend occur after the appearance of poweful entities.  Geistrakers document each of these events, out of curiosity.  The Esoterium Machina sometimes asks them research incidents involving fae or angels.

Geistrakers always interfere with any attempt to summon such beings.  The geistchains they rely fail or can malfunction in the presence of strong entities.  They have failsafes, but the Geistrakers are paranoid of the dangers.  As such, they contain their most dangerous geists in their headquarters.   The headquarters is often nicknamed the "firehouse."

The Geistrakers fear anything happening to the Firehouse.  The sudden release of so many entities might create something they call a 'ghoststorm'.  They do what they can to keep that from being a possibility.

Sidebar: But I thought that... Ghosts...
In the Ghostwalkers piece, I touched on Ghosts being citizens of Crux This grants them rights because Ith grants rights to any sorcerous creature.  The Ghostwalkers believe and always have, that Ghosts are the dead.  Geistrakers disagree, and they have their own reasons to believe otherwise.  

Geistrakers point to how magic can alter ghosts.  They also point to geists, entities not formed from the dead, but the echoes of traumatic events.  Geists aren't as plentiful as ghosts and they aren't the result of a living creature dying.  Instead, something more abstract emerges from a event rooted in severe emotion.  Poltergeists happen to be insane melds between ghosts and geists.  Often this creates a mad entity that lashes out at those around it.

Geistrakers also have demonstrated the ability to create ghost images and objects in ectoplasm.  This suggests that they could create new ghosts without needing a dead person at all.  But this would need further efforts and research on their part.

Ghostwalkers have always countered that this doesn't dismiss the inherent nature of ghosts themselves.  Ghostwalkers are certain, even as echoes, ghosts still are people of a sort.
End Sidebar

Face: Ydrian Taan
Geistraker Ydrian Taan is, perhaps, the closest thing to a outlier the the geistrakers have.  A sabizi
tiefling, her family never abandoned her like Tomasi or Salish humans do with tieflings.  They raised her, and she came to embrace the faith of Shraxes, but as a metaphor for her family as a whole.

She demonstrated a talent for ectomancy at an early age.  Her parents, too poor to afford tuition for university, turned to the Archwitch for help.  She granted them their wish.  Three years into training to become a wizard, Ydrian's mother, aunt and cousins all died when a cadre of City Watch had a firefight with Justicars in the Wish Quarter.  Ydrian joined the Geistrakers, but had become fascinated with being able to speak with the dead, to try to reconnect with her dead family.

Ydrian has always keep an open mind in regards to the idea that ghosts have intelligence.  Her views haven't forced her to be shunned, but she has contributed some tenseness to any ongoing hypothesis.

She asks the dead for their help, hesitant to alter them too much.  She's crafted geistchains of her own, but Ydrian is still looking for solution that could satisfy her urge to reconnect with the Geistraker philosophy of using ghosts to help the community.  She could prove a vital contact in the Wish Quarter, or she could be a grey shaded rival.

Monday, October 5, 2015

In Transit Monsters 21 (A Story of the Hecate Project)






 

Hi! This is #InTransitMonsters, a serial/novel about technology as messiah, in a dark future where humanity faces extinction against a threat that it can't comprehend or understand.  Frankenstein, but with more magical names for technologies and attempts to go away from conventional storytelling ahead.  Click on Index for cast details or Start if you want to read from the beginning.

Previous (20) | Start | Index 

Nicky (H minus One Month, 17 Days)
One doesn't choose their finest moments.  They are presented to us when God is kind enough to show them to be open.  Despite the regrets and feelings I had for them, I still had my duty to perform.

Apollyon must come.  The seal must break.  Our world needs it.

DammnitThanks to the nanosheath I clung underneath the bottom of the carbon fiber catwalk.  Above me I could hear Nasr's heavy footsteps.  Despite his persistent lowered gaze, the Major had always carried himself with his head up high.  I didn't fault him for not being of the one true faith.

He mourned.  But he still walked like a warrior.

@LastKnight: @Nicky_ProjPygmalion, you've gone active?

Now?

@Nicky_ProjPygmalion: @LastKnight I was made.  Activated my sheath.  Trying to get to the reactor controls now.

Of course he'd decide to criticize me on this now.  Years of complaining I'd gone native, now he participates in micromanaging me.

@LastKnight:  I told you clinging to that devil's brood would end this way

@Nicky_ProjPygmalion: one of the girls tried to punch me, Steven.  I don't think my hesitance had anything to do with it.

Nasr paused as I clutched tight.  The hard part so far had been the lack of feeling in my body.  The pitch black gunk covering me deadened pain.

My prayers to the holy mother kept me from losing control.  Something drove me, instinctively to want to reach out and slice into Nasr.  To cut up his body while making love to it.

Parts of my vision twinkled.  I pushed down my attraction to Nasr.  My urges.  Nasr might be able to understand why Hecate had to fail.

But letting my sinning flesh decide that wouldn't be righteous.  It would be wrong.

@LastKnight: the Daemon is reporting weird information.  It says you should be dead.

@Nicky_ProjPygmalion: What?  Daemons don't report false predictions like that.  You must be misreading it.

@LastKnight: I'm not.  Look at the Daemon's feed if you don't believe me

I tried to push down my irritation.  While clinging to the underside of a catwalk in the dark, Steven decided now to start messing with our cell's Daemon.  The artificial intelligence could predict our actions and decisions ahead of time.  It was so accurate, Steven should know exactly what I was doing.

Our holy crusade followed the tenets described in the revelation of John.  Babylon had led man to spread to far and vast across the galaxy.  The Holy Mother would send angels and signs.  But sometimes we could help the cause.  Apollyon's legions, what most called the Enemy, they were critical.  Apollyon needed to cleanse the earth and punish the doubters.  Those who followed the antichrist needed to be ousted so Christ could return.

Even if I felt something for Miri's abominations, I couldn't shirk my duty.  The holy mother needed me.  Apollyon had to rise.

I opened a link to the Daemon's feed.  It surprised me.  Not by what it reported.  The Daemon accessed my Nanosheath.  It didn't turn it off.  But the sheath fluctuated.  I panicked, clutching tighter to the carbon fibers of the catwalk.

"Nicky?  I can sense you in here."  Nasr's voice echoed.

Shit.  He heard me.  In the Lord's Name.  The stupid Daemon had betrayed me.

"Go away Nasr."  I retorted back.  My voice echoed off the walls.  The nanosheath modulated it, causing the sound waves to sound as if I were at the opposite end of the catwalk.  "I wasn't going to end us.  We would've survived, Nasr."

"Opening a transit point with the sun isn't something you walk away from."  He said.

"We need to help break the seal."  I said.  "These are the end times, Nasr.  Apollyon's hoard of locusts are coming to take the sinners."

"You can't believe that bullshit."

"I've seen you pray, Nasr.  You believe in God, don't you?  You might be a Muslim, but we believe in the same being.  She is coming, Nasr.  We have to help her pave the way."  I didn't want to kill him.  I crawled closer to Nasr.  I liked this man.  He was a hero.

But he had been wrong to stop the alien locusts.  The Enemy would cleanse humanity.  He needed to see that.

"I- Nicky, I have to pray like that to keep from falling apart.  I've never believed any of it."  Nasr's voice sounded a bit raspy.  "But if I don't have something to distract my beliefs, to keep me at bay, I'll fall apart.  I've lost everything I loved."

"God will love you back if you let him in, Nasr."

"Or he's cruel enough to trick people like you to murder innocents."  Nasr retorted.  "You kept calling them girls, Nicky.  I remember.  You and Miri both love those-"

"You think they are monsters."  I said.  "They are Nasr.  They are the creations of the Beast.  Hecate?  This all is the work of a pagan witch, Nasr.  This technology can only end us humans."

"Technology?"  Nasr asked.  "You think they are just technology?"

"The kingdom of heaven isn't digital or electronic."  I replied.  "Apollyon is coming to punish us for playing god, and we respond by trying to recreate ourselves as giants and monsters?  Someone must stand with the angels."

I stepped onto the catwalk behind Nasr.  He couldn't see me.  A pair of drones floated above his head, illuminating the path in front of him.  My voice still came from in front of him.  If I could keep him distracted-

But I could try to save him.  We weren't just supposed to fight the forces of the antichrist.  We had to save people.  Nasr was a hero.  He'd saved people.  He'd lost love ones.

"Nicky, please.  Come out and surrender."  Nasr said.  "I'll speak for you, do what I can to keep them from killing you for treason.  You haven't done anything that bad yet."

"Nasr."  My voice grew low and mournful.  "I know you lost someone.  She can bring them back.  The Holy Mother can do that, Nasr.  You can be saved from this place of horrors.  I know what the beast wants you to say, please consider my words."

Nasr stopped.

"At what point did you stop and the sheath start?"  He asked.  "I mean, it’s an addictive thing.  We used in the field.  Best way to kill a soldier was to assign her as a berserker.  You believe this mumbo-jumbo?  Then why are you about to slice my neck?"

I froze.  "You can see me?!"

"My Daemon knew where you were from the moment I stepped onto the catwalk."  He said.  "You, Miri and Ghale- all of you have been part of her computations since I started here.  Security measure."

"Daemon."  The word rattled around in my head.  Daemon.  Demons.  Spirits.  Tempters.

I had been about to slice into Nasr.  But was that me or the demons doing it?  Our Daemon had tricked me into doing this.  The demons were the machines.  They were trying to use us.  The antichrist used them to get me to use the nanosheath.

"Daemon."  I started to shake violently.  "Demons.  The Demons... this sheath... they're controlling me.  The devil and his seed are all over my body.  My mind..."

"Nicky, don't-"

I ignored Nasr as my nanosheathed claws dug into my flesh.  Each was a ultrasharp, carbon fiber.  Hard as diamond.  I ripped at each piece of the demons in my flesh, in my body.  I needed to be pure again.  I needed to get the devil out of me.

Then everything went to black.