The Tower of Mind and Law: Tales from 'Euphemia'

The doors are always open. An individual, previously known as the Euphemian Game-Carver, lays at the counter. The first tale is always theirs. A tale of the Deranged Solicitor.

&quotYou must’ve heard of the Iron Republic. They say it’s laws are as constant as a Master’s Favour. I wanted to prove these people wrong. I went there myself, bearing only lead, paper and ink. The ink left my side first. A BETRAYAL! The pot bore a knife of cheese to my side! I had to work with blood. Not my own, of course. Bloodletting healed upon the 37th day, and on no other. Lead received my words better than paper. It melted at the slightest touch when I finally began to write. I could not afford such a risk, as to write upon such weak material. Lead it was. It soaked our yellow liquids in like vitrum soaks in Glassmen. But, I’d digress. The discovery is most important.
Oh, what have I found. What have I found… There is law beyond what we see, and we are it’s letters! Action is it’s own consequence, there. I only wrote on the safe days. Either the 68th or the 28th. I knew them from experience. They did not last long. Both a blessing and a curse. Every minute, a new meaning is given to the streets and the signs. I had to be quick in my work, 'lest ten days would pass and the plaques would vibrate with the ticking of the clocks. Seven weeks later, I’ve returned! With my work intact! It was not allowed for printing, but I’ve got the original right over here.&quot They raise a black tome, titled ‘Law and Iron: On the Intricacies of the Republic’, before putting in down in front of them, allowing anyone interested to take a peak at the open page.

Minutes later, a shout &quotWhy’s the silence? I’m not here to just blabber to you! If I was interested in that, I’d self-publish. Now, tell me your tales.&quot

[OOC: I have gathered 7 Iron Republic Journals, which took a while, and decided to change my character to commemorate that. No more Game-Carvers here.
P.S. Music to set the mood for the first tale: Omen - Guilhem Desq (Hurdy Gurdy) - YouTube ]
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 7/14/2016

Looking around at the assembled faces, Barselaar, the Scorched Sailor, shifts in his seat and clears his throat.

“I’ve got a tale for you. A tale of love, of sorts, and of the zee, and other things as well.” His voice rasps, and he fingers the heavy scarves the swathe his neck. “Some of you might know that I am not as I used to be. Some of you might even be afflicted with the same curse that gripped me, that may grip me still. This curse left my life in tatters, and I am lucky to still be alive - such as it is - to recount this to you now. I will speak no further of it. Let it only be known that I had but one remnant of my life as it had been, and she was my ship. The Dream-Weaver, as fine a Pleasure Yacht as ever set sail. Once a voyage was underway the ballrooms rang with laughter, the cabins hung heavy with the scents of sweat and Honey and not even the terror of the zee could halt the revels.” The ghost of a smile flickers at the edge of his mouth.

“But she, too, was taken from me, scuttled somewhere North of the Chapel of Lights. I made it back to London, somehow, through the grace of Salt, Storm or Stone -” at this, he puts a hand to his temple and winces, as if the effort of recollection hurt, “- but the one thing I had retained from the days before this madness was gone. Sure, I could get a new ship. I scoured Wolfstack Docks for a suitable vessel, but even if I could find something to rival The Dream-Weaver, I had nothing left with which to buy it. So I had only one course of action left to me. I would get my old ship back.”

He looks around the room. “As you might expect, finding people mad enough to sail almost all the way the Avid Horizon is hard enough. Harder still when you’ve got no way to pay them. Even harder when you look like I do.” He takes off a glove and rolls up a sleeve to show a hand and forearm with skin like melted wax, burned into oceanic whorls and spirals, the damage extending up into the sleeve. He gestures to his scarves and heavy hood, and chuckles. “So I hope you don’t mind if I keep these on. Anyway, I searched for weeks, and gained many cuts and more refusals, but eventually I found the people who would help me: A Dilmun Club cartographer with an old tugboat, and an ex-Fisher King with a zubmarine. The cartographer, he just wanted to see what was out there. And her? Well, I suppose all urchins get a taste for danger.”

“I’m sure many of your are familiar with the perils of the zee. I won’t patronise you with an explanation of the horrors we faced dodging pirates in Gaider’s Mourn, of what terror we experienced huddled around a compass that pointed everywhere but where we were going, following the eerie light of the submerged zub and trusting in our senses. If you’ve been to zee, you know. If you haven’t, you don’t. Nothing I can say will change that. But eventually we found it, the stretch of ocean past the Chapel of Lights that had claimed my Dream-Weaver, and we combed abyssal darkness in the zubmarine until we found the ship herself. She was in bad shape, but she was whole, down there in the black. We ran chains to her from the tugboat, dragged her closer to the shores around the Horizon until the waters were shallow enough to attempt to right her. Miraculously, the holes in her side were above the waterline, and once she had been drained, it turned out that she floated yet. I had to threaten the cartographer in order to get the tugboat going again - he wanted to go further North, the idiot, scribbling diagrams and sketching shorelines - but soon, agonisingly slowly, we crept back towards the gaslights of home, dragging my ship behind us. The return voyage was oddly quiet. For some reason, nothing seemed to want to approach us as we hauled the empty hulk of The Dream-Weaver back to port.”

“Some of you might have seen her down in the docks. The workers at the dry-dock refused to go near her, told me she was haunted, so I had to do the repairs myself. It seemed wrong to fix her up too much, though. Any damage that wasn’t structural, that didn’t need fixing, I left. After all, I’m hardly a looker anymore either.” He chuckles once again. “Did I mention I won her from Mr Apples himself in a gambling den? I wonder what he’d think now, to see her, paint peeling in great swathes, stained midnight by the inks of the zee, ballrooms and parlours empty as the wind roars through the holes in her hull. I wonder what he’d think of her new name, one to fit the travails of us both, gained in the drowning, all-consuming North and christened with a bottle of Oblivion smashed across her bow: The Reckoning Postponed.”

He settles back into his chair, and levels a glance at the Deranged Solicitor. “How’s that for a tale?”

(OOC: Sorry it’s so long! Hope it entertains someone.)

A clapping noise comes from the counter. The Solicitor, ever so slightly risen, applauds the new tale. &quotWonderful, I’d say.&quot Their voice is sharp. As if a blade grinding against rock in a inopportune swing. &quotA rare find, this one. A tale of passion and sacrifice. But, we need not banter. There are still stories to hear, and tales to tell.&quot

&quotThat sounds like quite the adventure.&quot The Scorched Sailor gives Drake an admiring glance, and scratches something unseen beneath the scarves around his neck. &quotAlthough death is not so bad. You’d be surprised what you can survive, if you have a strong enough reason.&quot
edited by Barselaar on 7/14/2016

&quotIt was very interesting, Mr Dynamo, and a great piece of adventure.&quot

People turn their necks to see a small woman, that entered without a sound at some point. She looks young - at her twenties at most - but her hair has white streaks everywhere. She is playing with a crude walking cane.

&quotMy brother and I met bloodsucking creatures in my Surface days, you know? They have various names, depending on the country you see them. Vampires, vrikolakas, strigoi… Those Surface abominations are corpses that raise when the owner dies a violent death and is buried in certain special places, like isolated crossroads, blessed land and such. They can become mist and infiltrate everywhere, they need blood to avoid their decay, and they only have residual memories of who once inhabited that body. Because of those shreds of memories, they usually go back to the deceased’s house torment their family, until all of them are dead, and they sometimes can imitate the deceased’s speech. But it’s not normal speech, only a simulacrum done by something that is not alive, an accursed automaton that only want one thing: enough blood to heal itself, so it can go back to its tomb and rest.

Sunlight make those corpses lifeless again, but at night, they are back to terrorize their victims. Once they bite someone, they will come back, again and again, until the person is, too, dead. If they are buried in the same land as the vampire, they rise as vampires, too. The worse part? You can do whatever you want to them - chop their heads, shred them to pieces, burn them - and they will come back. Once they are invited to you house, they will come back unless they are destroyed.

There is only one way to destroy them. You have to bless their tomb to a point in which it is drowning in pious energy. Then, when you destroy them by burning them, or chopping their head until they become mist, the specter will not be able to get back to their tomb to build a new body, and it will disappear from Earth.&quot

Her hands rest on her cane, and she closes her eyes, remembering a far past.

&quotWe once came across a young woman. She was an Enthusiastic Academic, and had just discovered the world of forbidden knowledge, the allure of the things Man should not know. She wanted to know everything, to see everything. In one of her excursions, she met a friend that had similar desires. They swapped notes, exchanged secrets, made plans… One night, he took her to a place in which two roads crossed, in the middle of haunted woods. He pointed at a recent drawing in the ground, a kind of summon spell. All excited, she got closer to see what it was.

He stabbed her in her back.

The last thing she saw, as her vision faded, was the two points of a spirifer fork, and a green brilliant mist being dragged out of her. But it was a violent death. It was a crossroads. The academic died full of rage. Everything conspired to what happened next.

The corpse started to twitch out of control, as its eyes lit with a blood-red tinge. It all happened quickly and silently, and the traitor didn’t notice it, as he handed the soul to a devil, to seal a contract. There is no one alive and conscious that can say what happened next, but the woman suddenly woke up. Her traitorous friend and the devil were dead beyond recognition, beyond any chance of coming back as she did. Her soul was trapped in the monstrous essence that was now her body. She was alive and conscious in a body that should be dead. In a body that required blood to function, but that didn’t function properly anymore. All her senses were dulled, all the simple pleasures of flesh, denied. Even the small pleasure of seeing colours. But the worst? Differently from every specter before her, she had risen before being buried. She did not have a tomb to bless. Her ‘tomb’ was the dust in the crossroads, and dust scatters everywhere. There were no mercy kill for her. There was nothing my brother and I could do.&quot

The Professor stops for a minute, staring at her own hands, and continues: &quotWhat is made of her? I do not know. Maybe she is still roaming the Surface, trying to find a way to end that miserable mock of an existence. Maybe…&quot She raises her head, with a small mischievous smile. &quotMaybe she came to the Neath, where death is cheap and an unnatural vitality could let her live a more normal life, unless her wounds get too grievous and she have to heal too quickly…

Ha, no, of course she did not. I would have known, would I not? I am sorry. I should not have started to tell a story without a proper ending.&quot

The apologetic smile reveals a sharp canine, bigger than average. But it’s the Neath, when small body modifications are common enough to not be worrying. It means nothing, really.
edited by Professor Strix on 7/15/2016
edited by Professor Strix on 7/27/2016

She shakes her head. &quotOh, but they always do. Such is the price of immortality, Mr Dynamo. At least, if yours come back, maybe I can help you with it.&quot

The Inescapable Professor look at the others. &quotI liked the zailor’s tale, too. I came as he was starting to tell it, but I did not want to disturb it.&quot

The lady sitting in the back of the room wears robes in various toned-down shades of irrigo - but even toned down, they made the other people in the room forget she was there for a while. So everyone’s quite startled when she suddenly speaks up:

&quotDelightful. Absolutely delightful.&quot She tucks away a pencil and a small notebook. &quotI, too, have a story to tell.&quot

The room is absolutely quiet. Midnighters are known to collect secrets like magpies collect shiny things, but - just as magpies - they’re also notoriously unwilling to share their treasures.

&quotThis is no orphanage, but aren’t we all orphans down here, in some sense? I’m taking a more liberal approach to St Joshua’s traditions, anyway. Screw tradition, that’s my motto.&quot She smiles, her violet eyes blazing.

&quotI was one of those tankards of rum, only recently,&quot she says, nodding in Drake’s direction, &quotanother governor of Port Carnelian. Like you, I undertook an expedition into the interior of the Elder Continent. You see, an old storyteller in Apis Meet once told me of a fallen statue in the wilderness - somewhere far east, between the Mountain and Varchas. The description of that statue has found its way to my dreams, haunting my waking hours also, and I’d always hoped to find it mentioned somewhere. So, during my governorship all ships anchoring in the port could bypass the heaviest taxes if they gave complete accounts of their travels - everyone on board, from the Captain to the lowest zailor was questioned. I had the Percipient Secretary forward these accounts to me daily.

&quotOne particularly hot day, when I was sitting in my office almost bored out of my mind, every tale I read more insane than the last one, I finally found what I was looking for: a rusty tramp steamer’s gunnery officer was once part of a runaway band of pirates from Khan’s Shadow who were fed up with zee-life and had actually tried to build a permanent settlement at Point Livingston. It hadn’t gone well for them, let’s keep it at that - the gunnery officer was the only survivor. But she had seen a fallen statue just like the one I was looking for, not very far from the coast. I immediately bought her out of her contract with the steamer’s captain and made her a government agent. Then I put together an expedition including Clay Man labourers and an official representative of the Mithridate Office - I’d told them just enough for them to become interested. I also invited some mycologists and cryptozoologists from Benthic College, who happened to be there at the time, to come along. I left the Percipient Secretary in charge - I think if anyone can really be said to rule that place, it’s her anyway.

&quotSince the expedition was funded by two governments - London and the Presbyterate - money wasn’t a problem and we soon left port on a good ship and made our way east, to Apis Meet and further. We anchored at Point Livingston and soon found the sad remains of the pirates’ attempt at a settlement. We then followed the gunnery officer’s lead inland - she’s an old London street urchin, by the way, from the Knotted Sock. We became fast friends, of course.&quot She smiles. Phryne Amarantyne’s close ties to the city’s urchins are well known to everyone. &quotAfter three days without major incidents, we reached the place we were looking for. The statue was still there, and it looked exactly like she’d described it. It was almost 12 foot tall; but four Clay Men had no problems in putting it upright again. Upright, for the first time since who knows how long.&quot She pauses, not smiling any more.

&quotIt was draconian in shape, painted in what I would describe as a pale tortured blue. Its wings were etched with Correspondence sigils. I had no doubt that it was a statue of Storm. The blue paint was coming off in flakes, and I quickly deduced that it had not been painted like that by its original sculptors. Indeed, the style of the statue reminded me of the Third City’s feathered sky-serpents, while the blue hinted at the temples of the Fourth City’s descendants.

&quotI am not one of the Neath’s foremost scholars of the Correspondence, but I think even they would have been stumped by many of those sigils on the dragon’s wings. Still, what I could make out told me enough: there was ‘the hunger that visits knife-bearers’, ‘the slow bleeding of stones’, ‘a glint of light in a dark place, perceived by a creature that hates light’, ‘the span of time in which a judgement’s egg hatches’, ‘the bitterness of a god fallen from memory’ and ‘the false castle of rotten hope’.

&quotAt this point, our Mithridate friend became very uncooperative. He forbid me - yes, outright forbid me - to go any further. Of course, I didn’t listen. To prevent a diplomatic crisis, I had him trussed up… well, to prevent the crisis from occurring at that time, anyway. We proceeded due south, the Mithridate slung over one of our helpful Clay Man’s shoulders. We now came into Skite territory, but as you may know, these poor cursed people are no threat to anyone. We hardly saw a trace of them. The mycologists were in paradise for the whole trip, by the way. You should expect many publications from that corner in the coming months.

&quotThe land was steadily rising, and one day we discovered that we were actually travelling up a stair - completely overgrown, we hadn’t noticed it at first. Now it was my turn to become excited! We struck camp, and I left the mycologists and zoologists to their field studies - what lay ahead was of no concern to them. I had intentionally not included any archaeologists on this expedition - what I hoped lay ahead I wanted for me alone. The ex-urchin and I took a few small rations for ourselves and proceeded &quotupstairs&quot with only three Clay Men for company. We needed another four hours, during which my Clay friends competently shielded us from any attacks by giant lizards and mobile fungae. In the end, we reached what I had hoped for since that old man in Apis Meet told me his story: the Lost Temple of Storm! Maybe it was built by the God-Eaters themselves, I don’t know. It was at least four times the size of anything I’ve seen in books about the Third City’s people when they still dwelt on the Surface. And it was completely covered in that same pale tortured blue. The d–n Mongols had found the place and tried to reconsecrate it for their own gods!

&quotThe doors were open, and we cautiously proceeded inside. It was just one huge room, with a raised altar at the far end. The walls were covered in murals - and the ceiling had been, too! I say ‘had been’ because nothing was left - it had been thoroughly and expertly scratched and was now also painted blue. I threw a spitting frenzy right then and there, I’m afraid. Rather undignified, but the loss was just too great. I am absolutely convinced that the ceiling once held a complete map of the Roof - with a mark at the point where Storm is sleeping, to this day. To come so close and then be foiled!

&quotWell, there was still the altar. There was only one thing on it: a huge black egg, just ever so slightly pulsing. There was an inscription beneath it, in the knotted script of the Third City:

Release me back into the womb
That stellar ethereal tomb
Consciousness sleeps inside the stars
They will remember what they forgot

&quotI brought the Egg back to London as my only souvenir from that trip. I don’t know precisely what it is but I know what it means: the murals on the walls told the whole story. How Storm came through the Gate - the very same one you’ve been to, Barselaar - his parlay with the Bazaar, his gift: time. When the egg hatches, Storm will wake up and demand an answer from the Bazaar. And if he doesn’t like the answer, he’ll tear open the Roof and expose us all to the Judgements.&quot The lady shakes her head. &quotI would like to find him before that happens. I think I might be able to talk to him. I have some experience with dragons, you know. But that’s another story.

&quotI’ve brought my new once-urchin friend back to London, too. She’s tired of the Zee and far lands. I’ll let her publish the story of the Temple’s discovery; it’ll make her the new star of the academic world. She won’t mention the Egg, of course. Ah, and the Mithridate representative immediately intervened with London to have me replaced as soon as I set him free, naturally. I didn’t mind, I’d found what I had been looking for - partly, at least.

&quotI apologize for the length of my story but I hope you’ll think it was worth listening to.&quot

Credits for the correspondence sigils: Amélie Vaincoeur, Blackleaf, Deadcrystal, Lucan Ashfield, Snowskeeper, Zakamutt. Also, the idea for this story originally came to me while listening to the wonderful Gothic Metal band Draconian’s song &quotPale Tortured Blue&quot.
edited by phryne on 9/6/2016

A haggard bandaged wretch stumbles in, interrupting the ongoing conversations.
&quotLaudanum, just another drop. Just one more. Share some laudanum with me.&quot
The colonist hands you a bottle of vile liquid. You pinch your nose and drain the bottle dry.

You dream of a warm summer day. Strands of sunlight lazily set in the dusk, a breeze tussles your hair. Close by, drums carry a simple and rythmic tune. You’re alone. The others are behind you now, there’s no turning back anymore. Swarms of mosquito contrast against the dimming sky. The pleasant smell of smoke from the bonfire lingers. Your mind numbs, you thoughtlessly walk forward. The brush beneath your feet is thicker now, and long, paler blades of grass protrude in bushels from the low greenery. You move toward The waterside and lower yourself to one knee. The surface ripples at your touch. You cup your hands and bring them, brimming with cool water, to your lips.
Dragonflies hover over the lake ahead, some skirt low waves and melt into the blue beyond. You recline against a moss-covered tree-hull. More sounds: the chirping of crickets, birds fly low overhead or sing melodic tunes. Farther away, you hear the cheerful cries and excited chatter of your peers. Ignore it all. The catkins of a willow hang above, swinging in the wind. The pendulous motion is hypnotic. You stare at the tree’s odd flowers for what might be hours.
Finally, you rise. You can’t stay here forever, and the others might get worried if you stray for too long. You’ll return here, though. You always do.
edited by Infinity Simulacrum on 9/10/2016