Wednesday, June 29, 2016

NYX: After Humanity

 I don't think I'll do too many more of these, this setting feels like it stands on its own based on only a few pieces.  Nyx continues on here.  My #Solarpunk splashing into #SpaceWestern goes on here.  SolarWestern?  IDK.

There isn't a humanity anymore.  Not according to the purists.  The human genome isn't a singular thing anymore.  It's been over two centuries since the term Humanity fell into misuse.  The Corporates still cling to the old term.  Even if they have no qualms with altering the genome to suit their needs.

The term human doesn't apply if one refers to the species of the same name in a genetic sense.  The pure, unaltered version.  There is a collection of slang and terms for the new versions.  Posthumanity, Neohumanity, transhumanity.  Most people don't dwell on the fact.

It seems, within the Cooperative, that the old tribalism of who is and isn't human has faded.  Psychological heuristics within autogov still find it from time to time.  But the course within even those remote parts of the Cooperative is disregard for it.  The old fear of the Other no longer governs.  It is a sideshow.

Humanity isn't.  As more than one sarcastic philosopher has stated, "Humanity is Dead."

That said, most organic humaniforms think of themselves as humans, just as organic felineforms think of themselves as cats.  It's easier to text.

Organic and Synthetic Life.

Sapient life comes either in organic or synthetic flavors.  But some lines get blurred.

Synthetic life is thought of as AI.  Not just intelligent, like a tool, but sapient like any human.  Electronic, artificial, whatever.  Most of these are Bots.  Shells tend to have Bot bodies too.

Bots are original, synthetic lifeforms.  There are four types, but sapient bots are often Type-3.   Varmints is the nickname for Type-2 Bots.  They aren't sapient, and are on par with the intelligence of rodents and other animals.  They'll perform their programmed functions.  But without the wisdom or sense to stop when those functions harm others.  Sapience isn't a programmed quality.  It is somewhat emergent.

Shells are like Bots.  In that they tend to share the same kinds of machine bodies that Bots prefer.  Synthetic copies of organic minds.  Shells are a form of offspring to their organic originals.  But copying over a organic mind doesn't destroy the original.  Nor can one copy an mind entirely onto a pure organic brain.

Type-4 Bots are mentioned here in passing.  Type-4 sapient AI are known as Spirits.  Their minds process and operate at scales far beyond anything organic or type-3s can do.  Most AutoGovs operate via Spirit minds.  

Type-4 bots, along with ubiquitous combat drones, render organic soldiers useless.  In combat, bots almost always are superior to human ones.  It has freed up humans, putting them outside of the dire necessity of dying in conflicts.

Modded Subcultures.

Genehacking and cybernetic enhancement are ubiquitous throughout the System.  But there remain subcultures devoted to cliques of mods.  The Gened are a variety of genehacked. They vary from those with mixed animal features to those with synthetic genehacks, like bioluminescent skin.  Cykes are a variety of cybernetic enhanced. They include those using steampowered mods to those with nonhumaniform body attachments.

Those who identify as Gened or Cyke are much like those who identify with a specific gender or sexual preference.  The fluidity of it doesn't matter as much as it did centuries ago.  Early on, these categories were sources of discrimination under the rule of the Old Nations.

Between Shells, Antigeriatric drugs and other mods, almost all organic and synthetic sapients in the Cooperative look (and live) at their prime.  As in all things, there is no true immortality.  Even spirits degrade over time.  Centuries have shown that most minds break.  Dementia sets in.  Age pushes sapient minds too far.

Uplifts, Bioroids and Nyctians.

Bioroids blur the lines between modded and bots.  Synthetic organisms, Bioroids aren't born from a live womb.  Instead, they are grown in a birth chamber, often modded.  Like Bots, Bioroids used to be owned property.  They can possess specific genehacks or cybernetics from birth.  Sometimes bioroids have specific purposes designed into them.  This can put them on par with Bots for some capabilities.  A bioroid can have the centaur genehacks of a gened clique, the z-g implants of a Cyke cult and a Nyctian's psychothalmus.

Uplifts refer to organic, live birth nonhumaniforms.  Uplifts dislike the term.  It implies a superiority between their animal ancestry and humanity.  They own genehacks, cybernetic implants and whatever else needed to put their nonhumaniform bodies on par with humaniform bodies.  The first group of Uplifts were the Gor- uplifted Gorillas. They are best known for inventing artificial gravity.  The colonies that would create the Cooperative would've never formed without that key technology.

Nyctians possess an odd mutation in human brains from before Earth's Unification centuries ago.  Ported over to humaniforms today, the Nyctian genome possesses the psychothalmus organ.  It allows Nyctians to sense higher dimensions of reality.  This manifests in an extrasensory perception over vast distances, often at superluminal speeds.  The term Nyctian refers to the Nyx League, an organization founded before the Cooperative.  The Nyx League sought rights and freedoms for Nyctians.  Over time, the Nyx League would help found the Cooperative's larger basis.

All three of these groups blur in some degrees as well.  Like all societies, each form their own subcultures.  Cooperative communities value and treat them as equals.

Monday, June 27, 2016

NYX: Corporates And The Pledged.

I have no idea why I'm writing these, but these round up the last of my thoughts on things started in NYX: Cooperative and NYX: Firespace.   I don't think I'll do too many more of these, this setting feels like it stands on its own based on only a few piece.

The Corporates.

The diaspora of Corporates out of the System began when the Old Nations couldn't stop the adoption of autogov.  Convinced that the machines had conquered the System, the Corporates took drastic action.  Two hundred years they moved out of the System into interstellar space.

The Cooperative doesn't know if they survived. A few corporates stayed behind in the remote corners of the Kuiper Belt.  But they are terrified.  And they are convinced they are freedom fighters.

Did those Corporates that entered deep space survive?  Have they discovered firespace?  Or did they discover their own wonders in the cold black?

Unlike the Cooperative, Corporates cling to the ancient rites of capitalism.  To them, a few humans have the true merit to ascend to lead them.  A hierarchy divides those who have from those who work for them.  Their long paranoid of machines oft manifests against Bots.  They avoid giving bots the same free rein they have in the Cooperative.

They think the Cooperative to be the harbingers of a Machine plague.  Every Corporate dreams of retaking the System.  They do whatever they can toward that dream.  Toward using their united greed to achieve that.

Even the poorest members of a Corporate obsess over their greed.  Individual sapients convert their own bodies into organ farms.  Others commit all sorts of atrocities for the sake of garnering more credits.  The belief that any of the poorest Corporate employees can earn a greatness and liberate Earth dominates.  Employees almost never break free of their lifelong struggles.  Yet they believe they can break free of it, "one day."

The Pledged.

As the Cooperative has found an alarming thing in recent years.  Their Corps of Discovery is not the first terrestrials to visit alien worlds.  Corporate piracy has complicated interstellar relations.

Alien civilizations use a different word to describe Corporates.  They call them "Slavers."  



The Corps of Discovery has had few direct encounters with interstellar Corporates.  Most gathered is hearsay.  Encounters with known extraterrestrial lifeforms have been tense.  As the Corps maps regions of Firespace, it hopes to find a way to curtail Corporates.  But their primary mission remains exploration, not military.

Those Corporates within the System have long been tolerated on variable scales.  Colonies can be exempted from autogov if they wish.  Some of those colonies are also home to the few remaining Corporates in the System.  These Corporates do engage in piracy.  They steal.  They take from Cooperative communities on the fringe.

The Cooperative's answer to this is an extended application of the Corps of Discovery.

Called the Pledged, each Pledged group numbers fewer than ten sapient citizens.  These are tiny, fixed communities made up of volunteers.  Their autogov serves over tiny groups, who act in service to several other communities.  Like ancient militia, these tiny communities and their governing AI spirits protect their neighbors.

They investigate the Corporates.  They stop pirates.  They agree to complete service to their autogov.  They do not fight.  These are the places that study and employ military science and combat drones.  If the Pledged cannot find a peaceful solution, then their autogov employs the means to control rogue threats.

This is by self-design.  Communities of the Cooperative negotiate conflicting issues through their autogovs.  They have no need to police within the Cooperative, but the frontiers need protection.

The first Pledged formed on their own volition.  They believed more harm would come from the formation of a large, centralized military. They don't need soldiers, they have bots.  Their sapient members are political, criminal and military scientists first.

Each Pledged community investigates, studies and moves on its own.  But they always act to avoid violence.  The Pledged also subject themselves to all sorts of external scrutiny.  They treat the United Corps of Discovery as their superior body.  This is despite any actual chain of command making that so.

As the Corps of Discovery explores more, more Pledged journey out of System to help protect them.  Corporate Pirates might plague any System attempts to extraterrestrial colonize.  If so, then more Pledged starships will recruit from member communities of the Cooperative.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Inksketches, Week of June 24th

Every day I try to do an inked sketch.  Then with my Iphone, I scan it and alter it so the pencils aren't visible.  I've neglected posting them here on deathisntanending.  So, I'm going to remedy that.  Weekly, I'm going to post my week's inksketches.  

I don't know if I'm going to use this as a way to "cheat" out one of my three posts a week.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

On instagram and twitter, I also post these as I do them.  Inksketches I like will sometimes get shaded and colored, ending up on my deviantart page.  I might include links to that with these, maybe not.

If you are impressed by this sort of art, I always am open to commission work.

  1. Friday sketch was a falcon.  The use of a flaming greek symbol for the sun is a reference to my own personal mythos where the falcon serves as sigil for a particular lineage of fire mages.
  2.  Thursday sketch was an image of Cleaver, an obese Android in Crux.  He unnerves Maralda to an extent.  A butcher, he's always looking for fresh, unique ingredients.  Maralda has noted before how strange it is to have met an Android obsessed with food.
  3.  Random landscape thing.  IDK what it's supposed to be.  I've been toying a bunch with the idea of some ancient, forgotten civilization in the Rocky Mountains, whose ruins were destroyed by dragons.  Still haven't made a full story out of it yet.
  4.  Goes with the Falcon sketch for friday.  A helm, ancient magic relic thing, blah, blah, blah.
  5. Maralda sketch that also got used in the last part of Life Is Pain.  It sort of is from the bit where Maralda sneaks back while invisible, eavesdropping on the Spice Khan.  This one turned out great, in that I managed to get Maralda's profile right.
  6.  Father's day sketch.  Colored it later, which turned out great.
  7.  And last Saturday, where I drew an Axe.  So, yeah.  There's that too.  Been drawing a lot of hands lately.  Practicing them.  Can never stop practicing your hands.
Creative Commons License
Artwork on this page is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  That means you can use them however the heck you want, as long as you use the same license and attribute back to me.

NYX: Firespace

The myths and vids from the old American Commonwealth all foretold the advent of FTL travel.  Their stories created a story device called hyperspace.  Intriguing as the name could be, hyperspace had simplicity.  The idea remained the same, one that turned out to have some basis in fact.

Huma's discovery of Firespace involved applications of wave-particle fluctuation.  These first use of such technology came with the invention of artificial gravity.  Whereas mythical hyperspace is omnipresent, firespace isn't.  Firespace is a separate universe all on its own.  Only its reachable parts are where our universes cross over.

Black holes and massive stars, for instance, have no access to firespace at all.  A large chunk of the Milky Way galaxy seems to have no firespace access.  While the Large Magellanic Cloud does.  FTL travel is available via Firespace.  But that is only because Firespace lacks the same our universe's gravitation constants.  Travel between firegates still requires massive speeds.  Gravity drives can achieve these, but not at the fantastical speeds ancient stories predicted.

Firespace is an expanse of violent energy.  The name for it, firespace, is a nickname of how it looks to humans entering it: regions of constant fire.  The raging plasma sea that is Firespace can be navigated by solar sail.  A good portion of the Cooperative's research on Firespace are on the many different kinds of navigational drives could be used in it.

The soup of electromagnetic flux makes navigating firespace dangerous.  Without proper shielding, it fries most machinery.  The unique psychic capacities of Nyctians allow them to help navigate.  But until firespace is mapped, it remains risky to travel.

Expeditionary teams from the Corps of Discovery work to map Firespace.  They also have established a few forts and firegates in nearby star systems.  The Cooperative hasn't yet started a colonizing effort.  In time, though, firespace will come to expand the Cooperative out of the System to a broader chunk of the Milky Way as a whole.  It might even lead to answers regarding prior mysterious encounters with extraterrestrial intelligent life.

Firespace is not the only intersectional universe.  Others do intersect as well.   Firespace is the first on the spectrum of accessible universes that matter can transverse.   There are many universes, different "spaces," that each have their own vibrational constants.  Firespace lacks gravity, making it useful for FTL travel.  Other intersectional universes have their own unique points where they intersect with ours.

Like firespace, this is something the Cooperative's scientist Spirits look to research deeper.  Huma's work seems to just scratch the surface.  In time, it could help shift the Cooperative into an interstellar society.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Patreon Launched!

Been meaning to establish a Patreon for the blog for awhile now.  The idea is create a way for readers to support the blog in a direct fashion.  Click here to visit the Patreon page, if you want to support this blog.  Also, I made a video for the patreon too.  Weird, I know.

The most important goal is just me getting the patreon setup.  I don't see it ever providing a huge amount of money, but it seems the best way to get me resources to expand the blog.  There are other projects I'd like to try out, but atm lack the time/resources to really dig into.

Webcomic: One of my "secret" side projects is a webcomic I've been working on the side for months now.  I haven't yet been able to get enough of it done that I'm happy with posting it.   I still take too long to get a page done to want to start a webcomic.  One of the first things success on the Patreon can do is help me be able to get more time to work on the webcomic and launch it.

"Zine": I don't know how useful this idea is, but the plan is compile a monthly .pdf of stories and art from this blog as part of the patron rewards.

Video Tales: I'd like to experiment with more videos.  This goal, while not tied to the Patreon per se, would benefit from it as well.  I have a bunch of flash fic and stories I know aren't going to be published- the few "this might get published" kind of stories I have are so few I don't pretend it's something I'm trying to do.  Reading aloud some of the stories I like but don't think would get published and making them into video stories, this seems like a experiment worth trying.

Commissions: Not for my art, but commissioning others to art for my blog has always been a goal of mine.  I'd like to pay people for art, but still lack the funds to do what I'd like.  Artists never have enough money.  That and I'd love to see other people's interpretations of some things.  This I might still do, but right now I've slid it under the Patreon.  Part of the patreon's goals is pay for commissions for the blog in some ways.

Also, I'm going to try to put more art on this blog in particular.  It seems like I artificially separate my writing and art.  The two tend to be tied together after a fashion.  So, I'd going to try to tie my daily inksketches to the blog in some fashion.

Any questions from regular readers on this?  I'm open to other ideas for the patreon, be it on promoting it or doing it better.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Secret History: Fire In the Sky (Flash Fic)

When a man fell from the sky in Idaho County that night in 1935, it changed things.  Not just any man, but one who was on fire.  Idaho County is older than even Idaho state.  They named the state after the county.  Even way back in 1935, some things were always the same way.  

Nothing could challenge that.  I couldn't.  Or I thought I couldn't.

That man fell.  While ablaze.  Burning hot flames.  Like a falling star.

As he fell, I stood on our front porch.  My father had gotten drunk that night.  I should've repressed these memories.  But they still stick inside me.

"You think you can just come in here like this?"  He stood over them.

The brown-skinned men and women looked up at him in fear.  I didn't know how, but my father had managed to chain the lot of them together.  His shotgun waved back and forth.  We hated them.

They spoke Spanish in fright at my father.  My father didn't listen, beating one of the men with the stock of his shotgun.  My brothers and cousins stood out there with them.

I didn't know why we hated them.  Just that we did.  That we were going to lose our home.  They'd come, and now our home was going to go next.  We had nothing.

But I watched the sky above us.  The flaming object materialized.  It became a man on fire, not just some shooting star.

My father didn't see it.  He kept going.  His rant made no sense.  The Mexicans cowered.  They knew they were going to die, and some sort of fiery thing just dropped from the sky on top of that.

The man on fire landed.  He didn't crash.  He didn't hit the ground.

Like the swoop of a raptor, he hit the ground.  The memory of that stuck in my mind.  Years after, no one else seemed to remember the same thing I saw.  They claimed he jumped from the roof.  Or that he had wandered in from the road somehow.

The man wore a helmet.  Nothing covered his face.  The metal of the helmet didn't look shiny.  It looked twisted.  Like it had been wrought and beaten into jagged metal.  Shining false flames.  In the gaslight, it looked like metal fire covered his brow.  He wore regular clothes.  A dark, gray beard on a scarred face, his eyes pierce with a color I'd never seen on a person before.  His red irises seemed to glow.  They matched the brown leather coat he wore.  Symbols of all kinds covered it in red, markings that looked like some insane misinterpretation of the alphabet.

"Hello."  The fiery man tilted his head.  "Any reason you're waving that gun around like that?"

My father, my brothers, Mexicans, everyone turned to stare at him.  Maybe curiosity had set in.  Maybe we were too stupid to think of some way to respond to him.

The fiery man walked over to my father.  His eyes studied the chains on the Mexicans.  The wounds my father and brothers had inflicted dragging them here.

"This is justice.  Mind your own business, stranger."

"I don't care whose business is whose."  The fiery man stated.  "But are you an officer of the law?"

"Excuse me?"

"You are following the law in this?"

"The law don't give a fuck about me-"

Before my father could finish, the fiery man stepped up him.  It happened so fast, my father never finished speaking.  Fire wrapped his hands.  He grabbed the shotgun.  Flame congealed around it, bathing the metal.  My father screamed in pain as the shotgun melted, then in his arms, exploded its charge.

"You do not have just cause for this then."

My father fell to the ground.  My brothers moved at the fiery man.  But he became covered in fire.  They couldn't come any closer.  The heat kept them back.  It grew so intense, the grass nearby caught fire.  The chains holding the Mexicans melted.

"The fire has decided not to take your lives this night."  The fiery man said.  "Count yourselves lucky that a Son of Ra isn't so weak he needs a gun to make his bread."

Monday, June 20, 2016

City of Curses: Life Is Pain. (Maralda's Notes) Part 3.

Previously, Maralda had an interview with the gigantic Spice Khan, getting herself thrown out on the issue of slavery in Maliph.  Forgetting her notebook, Maralda now has to get it back.  This continues the #Crux story about the Spice Khan and the attitude of the Maliphi overall.

"Every day is followed by every night."

The first bit was easy enough.  The little mnemonic phrase unlocked Maralda's spell.  She felt the words whirl around her.  They altered the air.  They bent light around Maralda's body.

The tingling of the Invisibility spell always tingled her mind a bit.  Maybe it was the change in light around her.  Either way. Maralda now could move hidden from view.

Not by sound or scent.  Sound she could handle.

"Hopefully my perfume won't set off those Gnolls."  She muttered.  Then Maralda cursed herself for saying her thought out loud.

She moved quick.  Her best friend, Lahm, had a few horrible habits.  Being a skulking burglar, he had rubbed off on her a bit.  Maralda was glad the sneaking had rubbed off, not Lahm's continual dalliances.  He could not say no to a nice looking man.

I'm not jealous at all, Maralda told herself.  An inner part of herself didn't believe her.

Maralda took short light steps to get back to the barge.  The Janissaries marching up and down it at guard proved awkward to dodge around.  Biting her lip, Maralda mixed minor magic chicanery with some acrobatics.

Throwing her voice through one spell, she bounced from one foot to the other.  Her deft feet danced around one group of janissaries, then the next.

It took Maralda five times as long as to sneak into the barge as it had been to be escorted out.  She took a leap toward the barge.  Almost falling into the water, she clutched tight onto part of the canvas tent.  It covered the Spice Khan's barge, thick enough she could grasp it without pulling it down.

"Ack."  Maralda sputtered, pulling herself up.

How did Lahm do this all the time?  Maralda's heart felt like it was about to explode.  She clutched tight to the side of the barge.  She had jumped to avoid being in the entrance way to the tent.  She bit her lower lip, uncertain how to proceed.

If she moved the canvas too much, she'd been given away.  How would she explain that away?  She couldn't.  Of course, she could've just asked to go back for her notebook.

But what if they refused her?  Or worse, they found it and read it?  Both of those thoughts unnerved her.

Maralda knelt down, beginning to feel around.  Maybe if she crawled, she could get to a place where she could see the notebook.  She crawled around.  She stopped when the big voice of the Spice Khan spoke.

"Excuse me?"  The Spice Khan's voice thundered in Malic.

Maralda succeeded at not screaming out.  She remembered her other spell, the one translating Malic for her.

"She isn't speaking to me."  Maralda chided herself.  "Idiot, focus on getting the notebook."

"Child, you should speak with more respect to a representative of Your Shah."  A deeper voice.  Maralda didn't recognize it, but it spoke in a different version of Malic.

He didn't quite sound as big as the Spice Khan.  But he acted like he was speaking to someone beneath him.  Maralda's ears perked up.

"You continue to disrespect me."  The Spice Khan retorted.  "Worse, you think I should let a Vizier-"

"I carry Shah Venomfang's full authority.  His Gloriousness acknowledges your concerns about the Revolution.  The Shah continues to turn down your requests.   Maliph will not follow the folly of the North."

"I heard you say those words."  The Spice Khan's tone sounded incredulous.  "But you choose to not communicate to me the reasons why."

"Why is obvious.  You are a whelp.  You have yet to even prove yourself to be worthy of your title."

"I am the Khan of Nephkha.  My father-"

"Died."  The arrogant voice interrupted.  "And you know inheritance means nothing to a true Maliphi.  You've spent too long with the Scarless."

"I know better than you."  She growled.

"Mayhap.  But you also are from a tiny land.  You think because you pay the highest tribute that earns what the rest pay for in blood.  You still have fewer scars than the rest of us."

"You think because I'm younger than you that I lack the foresight to see what is coming?  Slavery is going to boil into something we can't contain.  Ith has shown ways to navigate, a future."

"They have their own servants, the Unsorcerous."  The Vizier or whoever he was, let out an annoyed sigh.  "Your choice to pay attention to these people speaks of your own weaknesses."

Maralda remembered why she was there.  Not as an observer.  She hurried about some more, although paying attention to the conversation.  The Bard and Writer didn't stop listening to what sounded like intriguing details.

"I spent two decades of my life here in Crux.  Perhaps you should pay attention to it yourself.  Learn something rather than nod your wrinkled brow to whatever Karim says."

"Our diversity is our strength.  And unlike the other major powers, we aren't going to fall apart to rebellion.  The last thing we will do is listen to them or whatever mad ideas they have."

"Don't listen to me, then, Vizier.  When the mob comes to you, remember my warnings.  They'll tear us apart."

"If they do, it'll just be another pain."

Canvas shifted around Maralda.  She guessed that whoever he was, he had left.  The barge shifted in weight as Maralda heard the Spice Khan grumble.

"Life is pain," cursed the Spice Khan.

Maralda felt the familiar texture of the leather bound notebook.  She picked it up, smelling the rich vellum of it.  She'd found it.  Great.  Now for her to get out of here.

Maralda maneuvered herself, trying to find purchase on her way out.  She resisted the urge to just jump into the water and swim.  The water in the docks would be cold this time of year.  Worse, given the tide, probably as much dead fish and garbage as water.

The Bard found her way, crawling until she could line up a leap back to the planks of the dock.  She braced herself.  Maralda took in a deep breath.

"I hope you understand my position.  I love this city, but my people think me tainted by it.  Kind of like being a vampyre's daughter, isn't?"

Maralda made the jump across.  Then she ran as fast as possible, scared out of her wits at the Spice Khan's words.  She didn't know how, but she was certain the Spice Khan had arranged that.  How or why didn't matter, it still worried her that she hadn't seen it coming at all.


Friday, June 17, 2016

City of Curses: Life Is Pain 2 (Maralda's Notes)

Previously, Maralda started her interview with the sand giant and magnate, the Spice Khan.  This continues the #Crux story about the Spice Khan and the attitude of the Maliphi overall.  Enjoy!

Maralda scribbled down notes.  The hour or so of conversation with the Spice Khan had given her oodles on the nature of Maliph.  The Spice Khan's native province seemed not just exotic anymore to her.  Maralda could envision the tiny khanate in her mind, like a Maliphi twin to Crux.

"Nephkha intrigues me,"  Maralda said, looking up at the Spice Khan.

The sand giant woman had been snacking on something.  Maralda paled as her maw swallowed a cooked mass.  The huge chunk of cooked meat had been the same size as Maralda's head.  The Spice Khan ate it without chewing.

"I've only visited my father's home infrequently.  But the stunning white of the pyramids always enchants the heart, I think."  The Spice Khan said.

"Nephkha is the only places I've ever heard of that matches the Grand Bazaar in terms of commerce.  But I have a question, you mentioned sail.  What about steamships?  Haven't they altered how your people deal in trade?"

The Spice Khan let out a sigh.

"You've caught on faster than the other Khans.  They don't see that they seem to think my ships will always bring in wealth to them."

"How can they do that?"  Maralda shook her head.  "Can't they see the changes technology is going to bring?"

"How about you?"  The Spice Khan then turned the tables on Maralda.  "You are as clever as I've read.  Are you really just a tiny journalist writing for tiny print houses that never go past Zyan Street?"

Maralda shrank up.  She looked down at her empty cup.  "I... This just helps pay for my classes.  Eventually, I hope to get a novel or two written.  I have... some ideas."

"Really."  The Spice Khan drew closer.  "A clever little thing like you only has ideas for two?  I suspect you might remake the world if given the right sort of patronage."

Maralda blushed at the compliment.  She opened her mouth to reply.  Nothing came to mind.  She had trouble keeping herself from voicing one of many stories she'd stored up in the back of her mind.

"I've always considered the need for a skilled writer.  Someone who might see the real context what is going on.  Speak the truth."  The Spice Khan continued.  The sand giant pointed one of her big fingers at Maralda's head.  "Someone who could write the right things for me could be a very wealthy woman indeed, don't you think?"

"You want me to write for you?!"

"Of course, I do!  This interview is another way to introduce yourself to a good employer is it not?"

"Uh... No."  Maralda shook her head.  "I just needed the interview for the piece.  I wasn't trying to attract your attention at all."

The Spice Khan rolled one of her fingers as if waiting for gears to shift in Maralda's mind.  "C'mon.  You didn't think the Ariast Times is so strapped for stories about foreign countries do you?"

"You paid Zhamie to have me interview you?"  Maralda failed to hide the incredulity in her voice.

"Some would think you to be too young a voice.  But I like to invest in stock I think will grow into world-shattering forces."

"What do you want me to write?"

"I need someone, perhaps anonymous, to help persuade this city."  The Spice Khan smiled, her teeth gleaming in the light.  Maralda noticed how sharp they looked.  "Essays that can help drive them to support some of my more ambitious projects.  At first, you would help with essays here.  But I imagine that once you visit Soram, the Jade Lands or other exotic parts of my trade empire, you will have plenty more material to draw inspiration from.  A grand series of stories about the glorious trade of Maliph."

Maralda felt that enter her head.  She could travel the world.  She could write about all sorts of people, stories from all over.

The price, however, she had trouble to stomach.  Maralda would ride with slavers.  She'd be a fishmonger for them.  Covering for crimes against liberty with sweet songs.

She would never have to deal with her father again.  All Maralda would have to do is be willing to bend to the Spice Khan's will.  To hurt others for her own gain.

"You would have me wear a collar of gold?"  Maralda said, averting her gaze from the giant Spice Khan.  "A slave to you, shackled with coin and debts?  A slave that would paint the chains you cast into something palatable to others?"

The Spice Khan's throat let out a growl.  Maralda fell down.  Shivers over took part of her.

"You Scarless don't understand us.  You think us so barbaric compared you?  I offer you wealth and honor and you spit it out like it is poison?"  The Spice Khan slapped the barge floor next to Maralda.  The floor rattled, throwing Maralda away.


"No!"  The Spice Khan stood up.  "You are my guest.  You dare suggest I would shackle you, my guest, here in my home?  That I lack honor?  That I am like some criminal blood baron or mindbending enchantress?!"

Maralda scurried back.  Fear gripped her.  Why did she open her mouth like that?  Idiot, she thought, this is how you get yourself stepped on.

"Life is pain,"  The Spice Khan said.  "You fail to understand me or my people, despite all I've told you.  Consider my offer and leave now."

"Hold on, I didn't mean-"

The Spice Khan hissed at her.

"Do not try my patience, little Bard.  I still want your services.  I am lenient enough to not try to take you right now and show you how slaves are treated since you think you know so much.  Instead, be glad that the Khan of Nephkha would rather see your words be printed and not 'chained.'  How dare I offer such a shameful thing to you!"

Maralda hurried out of the chamber, leaving the enraged sand giant behind her.  Halfway up the dock from the Spice Khan's barge, she stopped.  Her notebook.

"Do I go back or do I leave it?"   Maralda pondered.  "Twins damn it, I have to get it back."

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

City of Curses: Life Is Pain (Maralda) Part 1

#Crux, City of Curses is a dark fantasy setting I've been working on for two years now- inspired by the Jacksonian Era America, Legend of Korra, Pathfinder the Roleplaying Game, Hellboy and more- full of dark intrigues, horror, magic and weirdness.  Here's part 1 of an interview between Maralda and a prominent representative of a foreign nation in Crux.  The Spice Khan is a wealthy giant of a young woman, whom Maralda interviews in the hopes of writing some sort of essay on the nation known as the Immortal Khanates of Maliph.

Maralda didn't want to be there.  She didn't have much choice in the matter.  Maralda Inculti needed the money from her writing.  Well, if she didn't want to rely on her vampyre father and his estate, she needed to do things like this.

The Ariast Times had asked her to delve into recent matters with Maliph.  As Maliph had become more and more prominent in Ithic politics, the magazine wanted her words on it.  How did Crux and Maliph relate?  What do visiting Maliphi think of the City of Curses?  What could we learn from each other?  Things like that.

Interviews didn't bother Maralda that much.  Most of her writing required it.  She relished getting details from those she spoke with.

What put butterflies in her stomach was meeting with the main ambassador and consul for the Immortal Khanates of Maliph in the city of Crux.  The Spice Khan.  She had a huge presence.  Big enough that it scared Maralda.  Not just a charismatic one.  The Spice Khan, as she had been known for decades in Crux, was a Sand Giant at least sixty feet tall.

"Hopefully she looks before she steps,"  Maralda muttered to herself.  She tried to drive the image of being killed in a brief, vicious moment.  Knowing the Ariast Times, Maralda knew they would still find a headline in that.

'Dhampyr Bard Has Fatally Flawed Interview,' it would say.

A gnoll dressed in Maliphi finery grunted at her.  Maralda resisted urge to leap up in surprise.  The gnoll nodded, lifting up the canvas of the massive tent.  The Spice Khan's massive barge opened up to Maralda.  She gritted her teeth and entered the massive tent that covered the surface of the barge.

A big voice, not a deeper one, but one that came from a definite large source.  Maralda moved through the edges of the tent.  Some sort of insectile being flittered in the air above.  Maralda didn't recognize it.  But the human-shaped insect person wore the same finery the gnoll had.

A grunt from behind Maralda interrupted her notetaking.

"Sorry!"  Maralda said, hurrying forward.  She tried to keep one eye up while busily scribing down details as she saw them.

The big voice asked something.  Maralda looked up.  The Spice Khan.  Maralda froze.

The sand giant woman laid in front of her.  Dark curls of hair fell from her brow.  Purple and blue robes covered her head to toe.  She took up so much space.  Skin the same shade of white sand clashed with her dark eyes.  Maralda almost thought the Spice Khan to be a massive statue.  But when the giant moved, Maralda jumped back.

The sand giant chuckled.  Unnerved, Maralda tried to keep her composure.

The Spice Khan propped her head on her hand.

"Uh..."  Maralda bowed.  "I... Your... Khan... Khanness?  I'm Maralda Inculti-"

The Spice Khan let out a question in Malic.  Maralda recognized the tongue.  She didn't speak it per se.  Maralda's eyes glowed as she recited a line from a poem.  It cast the spell, altering Maralda's mind.  Maralda's fluency with Malic shifted from brief familiarity into mastery.

"I can speak in Malic if you need,"  Maralda said after the spell had been cast.  "Your Khanness."

"No need."  The Spice Khan smirked at her.  "You are a bard.  How much shame are you to your father?"

"Uh..."  Maralda tried to think of a response to that.  Only one thing came to mind.  "Stories need to be told."

"Ah.  Baron Inculti has managed to spawn an ariast, then, hasn't he?  In Maliph, you always invite the dancers in for the night.  You give them food, and they dance a tale.  Another tale that keeps death back another night."


"Ariasts here worship the Singer of the Song, in the Khanates, we call her the Dancer of the Tale."  The Spice Khan leaned toward Maralda.  She opened her other hand.  Gnolls in finery carried in a table, a pitcher, and a cup.  All of which were of normal size.  "Dancer, drink?"

Maralda's nose wrinkled at the scent of wine.

"Uh...  I don't know if I should..."  Maralda closed her eyes.  She decided against following own inclination.  She poured herself a cup of wine, gulping it down.  She turned to the gnoll.  "Awfully obedient gnolls."

"Janissaries."  The Spice Khan corrected.

"Janissaries."  Maralda nodded.  "Slaves, aren't they?"

"Like your people's androids?"

"You dress them better.  I've heard many stories about slavery in Maliph.  That the Khanates enslave anyone they think are weak or are cowards."

The Spice Khan rolled her eyes.  "Life is pain.  Besides, we treat our slaves better than your northfolk treat the unsorcerous.  Not all slavery is chattel slavery.  My Janissaries all were taken from birth. Then trained and granted great wealth in exchange for their services to me.  They obey.  They are awarded for it."

"Ah."  Maralda paused, realizing she'd started the interview by going off in her own direction.  The miffed reaction on the much bigger Spice Khan's face made her stop.  She considered the enormous possibility that getting into a semantics argument with a giant might not end well.  "I... see..."

The Spice Khan let out a sigh.  "Little Bard, I'm not going to squish you if you disagree with me."

"Uh..."  Maralda's eloquence knew no bounds at that moment.

"I own thousands of plantations that produce sugar and spices.  My ships travel most of Orphos carrying my goods.  Besides you, I have dozens of meetings with accountants and clerks."  The Spice Khan bent her head down, getting close enough Maralda could feel her breath.  "I find the assertion that I would mistreat because of my size offensive.  Yes, I have strength, but my strength is weakened if I fall to barbarity with it."


"The Khanates aren't some land of anarchy.  We believe that Life is Pain in Maliph.  That there is a struggle in it.  Pain.  But all of that is meaningless if you are incapable of the sublime."

Maralda sensed a theme to the Spice Khan's words.  "Ithish have their own peculiar views on outsiders.  I never considered that... Well, I'm the daughter of a vampyre.  I should've recognized the importance of restraint."

The Spice Khan leaned back, away from Maralda.  "I believed this interview could provide a chance to help illuminate some of that.  Perhaps more."

"I..."  Maralda paused, jotting down notes.  "Maliph has some exotic customs, but it and Ith both share a willingness to embrace the more... monstrous among us.  But the Khanates aren't ruled by strength?"

"Each Immortal Khanate has its own... ways of doing things.  I believe restraint and civilization are signs of superior strength.  Brutal physicality is no match for outspending your opponent."

Continued... Part 2...

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Sacred of the Wild (Essay)

Sunlight.  It warms the flesh.  It had rained the night before.  The scent of rain filled the air.  Sunlight had crested the nearby mountainside.


The mountains are still there.  No roads.  No cities.  Things never paved over by the growth of civilization.  Wildness.

The dark rainy night passes.  Here, one isn't defined by the words of others.  The things that divide us fall away.  In the wilderness, a person is a person, with no false pretenses against them.  The rainy night passes, the storm is forgotten.

It's easy to be frightened in the storm.  To miss the beauty of nature to fear.  To kneel to it.  To give up.

But the wilderness doesn't care about the storm.  It comes and it goes.  Nature doesn't care for civilization.  It doesn't care about the night.  It doesn't even care about the sublime warmth of the morning.  The Wilderness has no memory.

One can be part of that wild again.  It is still there.  Out past the edges of what or who we are, it's still there.  Wilderness.  It is the sacred temple that humanity can always return to.

There is no hate there.  No murder.  Death is part of the root and branch, something that helps move the wheel forward.  Nature isn't a bigot.  It is tainted by politics.

The lie is civilization.  The truth is in nature.

Civilization's failures are when it fails to help strengthen the truth in nature.  When it keeps some from being free.  When it enables hate.  When it helps the mad murder the innocent.

Nature is still there.  The sun always rises.  The Wild doesn't murder in the name of evil or mad beliefs.  It doesn't care about your failed relationships.  It doesn't care if you work a dead-end job.  The wild cares only about living.

The mountains don't care about politics, sexual orientation or skin color.  I always remember them.  My spirituality is in the pine, rock and wild.  It's comforting to know that the world will always go on, no matter how evil others actions are.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Rocky Mountain Horned Dragons and the DSU

"Feathered like the Coatls of Central America, but horny scales cover it as well.  It bears semblance to the Horned Lizard.  Although it is unknown if it can spit blood like it's lizard counterpart.  The feathers are brown, gray and yellow.  Formidable with earth and air magicks.  

This brood of dragons evaded the dragon slaying that dominated pre-Columbian North America.  They are now near-extinct, thought to have been extinct until recent reports.  Unlike European or Asian broods, dragons in North America were almost wiped out entire by Native American Slayers.  The typical adult female is forty to fifty feet long, with a sixty-foot wingspan.

Fewer in number, these dragons are far more vicious than even their European cousins.  Evidence suggests that this brood destroyed major Rocky Mountain Civilizations (the Obelisk People).   This would have been around 400 CE.  Native American Slayers drove them to near extinction.  But not before these Horned monsters succeeded in making core cities impossible to recognize.  The ruins are slag works easily mistaken for rocks or volcanic activity. 

The United States Multiversal Survey believed that any remaining members of this brood were either too old or too remote to be a major threat.  That has changed in the last few years.  

They've recommended the formation of a new Dragon Slaying Unit.  Congress has denied the funds to the USMS to begin the program on a repeated basis.  If any younger members of the brood emerge, it could result in devastation.  They could create vast damage in the Rocky Mountain regions within the US and Canada."

USMS Dragon Consensus Report, from its North America Region Supernatural Survey Unit (April 2012).

English immigrant Amelia King founded the first Dragon Slaying Unit in 1790.  It began as part of the treasury department.  Alexander Hamilton hired King after her stunning killing of Old Salt.  Old Salt was a vicious dragon that had migrated to the east coast.  Known as the Bureau of Draconic Management, they operated on their own for most of the 19th century.  Theodore Roosevelt merged them into the new United States Multiversal Survey in 1907.

The DSU has had continued off and on since.  Protests in the 1970s led to the disbanding of the five regional Dragon Slaying Units.  Most dragons had been slain, or so protestors claimed.  News refused to cover the protests.  Worse, several congressmen opposed funding the division.  The belief that dragons either were extinct or never had existed, which drove funding away from the DSU.

The USMS itself went under restructuring in the 80s.  The lack of multiversal and other supernatural events gave their decades of records no merit.  The DSU and other parts of the USMS were seen as government waste or nepotism.  Their loss has always been cast as being part of efforts to reform.

Private Dragon Slaying companies, on the other hand, never achieved the same rate of slayings as the DSU.  Even before being part of the USMS, the DSU put down around fifty dragons that had come to terrorize the west.  Dragon Slaying companies and other private ventures would only protect land belonging to Railroads.  Small towns in the western US that came across dragons turned to the DSU for help and often got it.

Recent years have suggested the return of many ancient Dragon Broods native to North America.  The suggestion that Dragonsteeth or some other means has led to their return, remains unconfirmed.  Ancient Dragons are unknowns.  No DSU currently exists in the USMS.  Few, if any Americans living today, possess the know-how and experience to slay a fully grown dragon or be able to withstand their dragonfear.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

City of Curses: Maralda and Androids (Fiction)

#Crux, the City of Curses is a dark fantasy setting I've been working on for two years now- inspired by the Jacksonian Era America, Legend of Korra, Pathfinder the Roleplaying Game, Hellboy and more- full of dark intrigues, horror, magic and weirdness.

On the Nature of Androids. 2.

Tinkertown, if exists, would be a bonanza for escaped Android collectors.  I've tried to make some way about where it could be.  But I've never seen a bit of it.  

Androids, if they have such a secret community, aren't willing to share it.  Maybe the stories about them lacking the confidence has merit.
-Maralda Inculti, 1785

Tinkertown, Poorfellows.

Maralda slid down the ladder.  She'd learned the last time not to trust the rungs.  Androids never used the ladder.  They jumped down the thirty feet from the sewer grate to the town square of the clandestine village.

She ended the harrowing climb.  Tinkertown.

A familiar, mechanical voice greeted her.

"Looking for more android stories?"

An Android woman with her dark, curled hair greeted her.  Ribbons in hair kept the curls in a fashionable pattern.  In a light red dress, the android lacked the traditional cast iron manacles of her people.  Glowing blue runes covered her waxen face.  The features moved with the conjured, magical way all androids moved.  But she had seams, here and there.  Without the subtle reminders, androids could look like just another human.

"Flash?"  Maralda looked her up and down.  "That's a new dress."

The android looked down.  "Well, I had other plans today.  But seeing you again is always an interesting experience."

"I hope so."  Maralda clasped Flash's android hands, drawing her close.  Surprised, Flash mimicked the gesture.  Flash had a bit of age for an android.  Enough that Maralda knew she didn't have to explain everything in order to have a straightforward conversation.

"More stories?"  Flash asked.  "Or pictures?  I do hope you'd reconsider-"

"I am not doing nudes."  Maralda shivered.  She tried not to look revulsed.  "I know you don't mean anything by it, but..."

"-human stigmas about dress and whatnot."  Flash finished.  "There are some Androids here who spend their entire days and nights naked.  They find our need to mimic human culture... not as important as learning about ourselves.  I think it has merit, to bare it all at times."

"Even as a learning exercise, I don't feel like sharing an image of my body like that.  Most Tomasi would find it... Well, some Tomasi don't mind I guess."  Maralda paused.  "Nudity is subject avoided at some levels.  I don't think many humans are ready to question it yet."


"Everything changes."

Flash gave her a smile.  "One day, then.  I still haven't been able to have the chance to compare to a base human.  I do really want to see what differences there are

between androids and humans."

"Flash..."  Maralda paused.  "I'm here for some research.  Not photos.  Or stories."

"Oh.  What do you need to know?"

Flash led Maralda down a well-lit lane in Tinkertown.  Some of the streets were unlit.  Others, too bright for Maralda to be able to see clearly.  Maralda never thought of Tinkertown as a village of Androids.  It felt more like some sort of cloister.  Almost each Android seemed to engage in their own forms of research or experimentation.

Each acted like the others were their own siblings.  That was true in a sense.  But friendly siblings, the kind who are there when one needs them.

Maralda thought back to her sisters.  She hated being around them.  Lizzie always told the most embarrassing things from Maralda's childhood.  Stories that Maralda could never live down.  Maralda other closest sister, Bella, had always snapped back at her.  Maralda actually liked Bella, but the older Vampyre wanted nothing to do with her.

"You always win," Bella had said.  Maralda shook off the bad memory.

Flash continued to stare at Maralda.  Maralda frowned.

"Sorry, lost in thought.  Your people... they all seem familial to one another.  I noted it in my head."

"Ah."  Flash waited.  Patient as a tree, she almost seemed frozen.

"Why I'm here.  Right.  Flash, you're one of the oldest Androids around, aren't you?"

Flash sighed.  "I am... old as you put it."

Maralda looked back, pale.  "I didn't mean it as an insult, uh, I'm sorry-"

The android woman waved her hands.  Maralda was taken back by the conciliatory gesture.  It looked human.  Very human.

"No insult.  I believe you're supposed to act that way about age."

Flash stopped in front of a old sewer wall.  The mosaic of bricks were covered in hooks.  Cast iron collars hung from each hook.  Thirty or more collars dangled on the wall.  Maralda took them in.

"That's a human thing, I guess."

"I don't age."  Flash reminiced.  "But I feel older.  I don't have the wrinkles or gray hair of you humans.  Everyone decays, it seems.  Moments are... fleeting.  Even the Tinkerer can't last forever."

"Well, that happens to everyone."  Maralda looked at Flash.  The Android's eyes seemed to glow a different color as she studied the discarded android collars.

"Yes, that's how it goes it seems.  Androids and vampyres."

"Right."  Maralda looked down.

"Does this android have a number or a name?"

"Cleaver.  He calls himself Cleaver."

Flash counted collars hanging on the wall.

"7253."  Flash shook her head.  "Cleaver, now.  Errors always seem to happen to androids forged that end in fifty-three.  Obese.  Worked as a Farm drone.  Started eating things."

Maralda blinked.  "That... does sound like him.  Why did he start... eating?"

Androids didn't need to eat.  Or sleep.  Or drink.  Maralda hadn't seen an android do that before.  They never seemed interested in it.

"Errors.  Imperfections in the wax.  Tainted aetherfire.  Maybe the templating blood admixture wasn't pure human during the alchemical gestation."  Flash shrugged.  "Something wrong.  He had a fascination with his tongue when I first met him."

"So he came here?"

"No."  Flash clutched her arms tight to herself.  "He refused.  By that point, he'd started gaining weight.  Changing his form."

"Something he ate?"  Maralda asked, more to herself.  This was running a chill up her spine.

"Where did you run into him?"

"A pitball game, yesterday evening.  He...  He is a worshipper of the Singer of the Voice.  I have suspicions, and I don't want to... well, offend him too much.  He seemed like a rather unique android."

"Don't go looking for him."  Flash turned to Maralda.  The android woman gripped Maralda's hand tight.  "Some of my kind aren't worth saving, Maralda.  They're broken.  They should have never come off the line."

Maralda felt her hand start to go numb from Flash's grip.

"You're hurting me."  Maralda told her.  But Maralda's was more curious than her fear.  She had to ask.  "Why?"

Flash let go.  She looked away, guilt in her mechanical eyes.

"He eats things, Maralda."  Flash said.  "He eats them.  Each time, he tastes the flesh and it makes him worse.  It's like your kind, your family.  That hunger.  The kind that devours people."

"Not the metaphorical kind."  Maralda whispered.

Flash nodded.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Gaming Materials: One Missed Call (First Impression)

One Missed Call is one of those things I didn't expect to find.  Sure, I haven't played it.  I read it.  It's easy to do.  It's really short.  It just shocked me with how interesting it sounds.

It's a game for two players.  The page describes it thusly:

"One Missed Call is a story game for two players about loved ones separated by space, drifting apart or growing closer. It takes about thirty to ninety minutes to learn and play. It’s free, so please download the PDF and give it a try!"

Yeah, free is part of it.  OMC intrigues me because of one mechanic I like.  A list of phrases each player can use.  The game ends based on whether these words have been used.

The idea is to work those phrases into the conversation going on.  Its recreates the conversation, while giving players the tools to structure it somehow.  Without a script.  But with a script.

That interests me, although I still need to actually play the game a time or two.  This isn't a review per se.  It is more of a "this is neat" post.

This is one of those things I feel like stealing parts of the idea.  I love the premise.  The central idea puts in mechanics to do something that most tabletop RPGs don't do.  I don't think it could be used in every sitch, but I think one could adopt and hack it.  That hero versus villain confrontation at the climax of a melodrama?  The classic villain "explains" their plan trope?

This feels like it could play into recreating those RP-kind of moments.

One of the things I tend to do as a GM is to have players play NPCs.  Giving them a list of key phrases spoken by an NPC by itself seems better than doing any sort of script.  A checklist is handy because it gives a player some sort of goal to aim for.  Like how scenes work in Microscope, where they are questions the players RP to find the answer for.

RPGs benefit from tools like this.  Especially for things that aren't about combat.  They can help players with less RP savvy, to give them material to lean back onto.  It can give more experienced players ways to help the less RP-savvy players to adapt to RP.

Most importantly, they give us defined "ends" for RP.  Roleplaying has this side effect since it tends to be improv, to last longer than necessary at times.  It's hard to sure what the end state to an RP conversation should be.  After all, you can't RP every moment in a characters life.  Some conversations, some moments never come up.  They shouldn't when they aren't about what the story is about.

But it's hard to know what is and isn't good for the story when you don't have an idea of what the endpoint is supposed to be.  Worse, as a GM, I understand the constant worry of giving away the big secret.  That big surprise that makes a twist work.  But that adds vagueness to the conversation, which hinders what everyone is doing.

One gets lost in the details, I think.  OMC feels like it avoids that by forcing some specificity that forces RP to end.

Friday, June 3, 2016

City of Curses: Neighborhoods: Perdition Hill, In Depth

A #Crux post today.  Perdition Hill, the ancient series of labyrinthine prisons that overlooks the city of curses.  A look at this neighborhood and what to expect from it.  Kinda the closest to a pure "megadungeon" in the setting overall, but my opinion can be weird and a bit off, I guess.  Crux is a dark fantasy setting in the City of Curses, a city of dark intrigues and early industrial technology founded upon the site of the massive skull of some long forgotten god.

Perdition Hill.
Aspect: Thousands of Doors Without an Exit In Sight
Connected To: Havershill (to the South), Northcrown (to the West), Blood Quarter (to the South, underground)
Most Significant Icon: The Prince
Well-Known For? Prisons, Jails, Labyrinthine Complex, The Prince's Prisoners

I'd been putting this off for awhile.  

The dark spires of the Hill loom over the City of Curses.  It has always been a foggy place.  The dark grey and black bricks look like some sort of infernal sculpture.  

Grotesques from a thousand different eras line the outside walls.

I can't tell what wall is the outside wall.  The layers of stone, concrete and statuary make it impossible to get an idea of what is where.

I walk through the black cast iron double doors.  I study the reliefs cast into the doors.  Angels chaining children.  Tears.  Screams.  Pain.

Inside, each part of the Hill feels like its own castle.  Fortresses and Prisons.  Down one hall, Builders work on a new wing for the Prison.  Down the opposite, black market covered in a century's worth of grime. 

"Perdition Hill."  I try to steel myself.  I hoped the stories of getting lost in its maze weren't true.  I'd rather read about that than find out for myself.


Perdition Hill has served as a holding place for the criminals of Crux for as long as the city has existed.  The plethora of layered prisons makes the hill look like some infernal castle.  It looms at the northern edge of Crux, a dark gothic crag.  But it didn't become a hill until later.  Perdition Hill started as a quarry.

We know that Perdition Hill once had one of the rare adamantine ore veins in the world.  The Prince founded the Gaolers who oversaw the prisoners who mined the ore for the Prince.  By the time of the Tomasi Empire, the vein has long since been drained of ore.  The Tomasi used the quarry for political prisoners.

Tomasi expanded on the Prisons.  Every generation has seen its own attempt to change or expansion of Perdition Hill.  Each Warden of the Gaolers strives to build more facilities.  Over time, it became a hill that rivaled Havershill for overlooking Crux.  At one point, dozens of prisons functioned at the same time on top it.

Only one of the prisons on Perdition Hill functions as a prison these days.  The Incorrigible Gaolers continue their work in the name of the Prince.  The Guild also has registered to work with the Metropolitan Police.  The Prince doesn't seem to care who else they work with, so long as they do the work that he sends them.  They do as he bids, even when the Metro Police would disagree.

The Maze and the Lost

The Gaolers use only a small part of Perdition Hill over all.  Entire wings of the older prisons were abandoned.  Condemned, many of those rooms have fallen apart or into disrepair.  Parts of the lowest depths of Perdition Hill connect with the vast undercity of Crux itself.  The Blood Quarter has its own access to these lower mazes.  Some vampyres employing abandoned parts for their own use.

The complex layers of Perdition Hill are a horrible maze if one leaves the designated paths.  Gaolers see this as an added benefit.  Another kind of wall that keeps prisoners and convicts from trying to escape.  But the use of convicts for forced labor within Perdition Hill, some always manage to escape.   They escape into the Maze outside the working Prison, sometimes trapped.  A few do make it out, but worse for wear.

Repeated attempts have been made to map out The Maze itself.  But some suspect planar junctions have formed throughout the Maze, warping reality in it.  Gates to Hell and other planes alter some passages.  Beings from all over reality roam the corridors of it.  Old and abandoned projects attract other creatures.  Gaolers sometimes use prisoners or even outside contractors to help remap the landscape.

The alterations of Perdition Hill aren't just physical ones.  Not the collapse of an old story, nor the opening of some sealed ancient passageway.  Parts of Perdition Hill touched by other planes sometimes experience other circumstances.  Places where gravity reverses itself.  Extradimensional pockets that cause some rooms to be larger within than without.  Some rooms even seem to move on their own, as if alive.

The Gaolers and Reformers. 

The other point of contention for Perdition Hill is that it is the remnant of an older era.  Ith as a whole has gone out of its way to reform its prisons.  Perdition Hill remains to still be the most ancient in its practices.  They use Manacles and irons.  Other Ithic prisons eschew them in favor of simple magical constraints.  Gaolers ignore the Rights of the imprisoned Sorcerous.

Ith sees Prisons as ways to rehabilitate criminals.  Perdition Hill seems to enjoy dehumanizing its convicts.  It resists reforms, viewing those trapped in its walls as little more than slaves.  Gaolers have made in-roads to work with Ith itself, while fighting against reform.  They also use their connection to the Prince to deflect attempts to alter the way they do things.  Cash often greases whatever wheels they need.

Gaolers aren't the only major faction at work within Perdition Hill.  Escapees over centuries have formed their own trapped places within the Hill.  Lycanthropes manage to escape the Beast Wing of the Prison only to become trapped.  Those lycanthropes lost in the maze often go mad.  Within the Prison, the Lycanthropes have high numbers.  More than a few were born inside Perdition Hill.  They're descended from generations of lycanthropes deemed enemies of the Prince.

Deeper still, the Gaolers keep a tight hold on a mystical artifact that holds a dozen or so in deep chronic stasis.  Few from outside have studied it.  The Gaolers consider the Stasis Chamber their primary holding.  What or whoever they keep in it, they refuse to let any outsider encounter.  Within Perdition Hill, the Stasis Chamber is the source of countless rumors.

They suppose the Prince's greatest enemies are kept within them.  The Scions of forgotten vampyre clans.  Lycanthropes of great power that couldn't be slain.  Some even suppose the Prince's own children are there.  Imprisoned for refusing to serve him.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

NYX: The Cooperative.

Our community throughout the Solar System and its colonies is called the Cooperative.

Not Alliance.  Not Federation.  Not Union.

All of those suggest some sort of unified, central authority.  That is not what makes the Cooperative as strong as it is.  The Cooperative ousted the Old Nations, the Powers That Were.  How?  And more importantly, why did it do so?

The Cooperative is the name for the relationship between the automated democratic artificial genius loci of each colony in the system.  That complicated phrase of gobbledegok is nicknamed Autogov.  It isn't a direct democracy.  It is a direct republic and has been since the first colony adopted it.

Autogov AI aren't a singular entity, but reflect the living social and legal strata of its residents.  This has its roots in the socialization of social media centuries before earth's unification.  Social media, AR and telepathy all form the basis of Autogov.  Within an Autogov apparatus, non-sapient AI form electronic representatives.  These are formed on a daily basis.  The number of residents, how they vote, their organization, all of that, is determined during their daily server update.

Citizens don't vote, but each citizen's online presence and actions are processed by autogov.  Most autogov's have a privacy czar- an individual or agency whose job is make sure that individuals whose privacy has felt violated are reviewed and used to correct the system.

There is no centralized autogov.  They exist on local levels.  The Cooperative isn't centralized that way.  It refers to how each autogov works with the others.

Technically, conflict could still occur.  But the Cooperative lacks any true military these days.  A centralized governing authority doesn't exist.

The Cooperative's closest analog to a central governing body or military is known as the United System Corps of Discovery.  The USCD is a research body.  Each autogov that patronizes it benefit from the shared research projects the USCD performs.

AI Spirits, artificial sapient minds of immense processing power, such as Huma work for the USCD.  Scientific endeavours like the Firegate prototypes are examples of their work.  As FTL travel becomes more and more of a possibility, the Cooperative buzzes with the possibility of having to make something new.  A new set of rules and thinking to handle the changes it'll bring.

The suggestion for some sort of autogov that connects all the members of the Cooperative together, a federalized technological achievement, is one suggestion.  The question of where this autogov would be housed, how it would select its digital representatives and the limits of light-based communication make it a daunting concept to bring to fruition.