Thursday, September 30, 2010

There Will Come Soft Rains.

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Sara Teasdale.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Must Go Down to the Seas Again...

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

John Masefield.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Moral Compass

This device shows a creature which appears to be half-mouse and half-human. It has two pointers, which are its arms. One arm, which is skeletal, points to the nearest torture device, book of black magic, vial of poison, or similar object. The other, which looks like the arm of a new-born baby, points to the nearest source of drinkable water.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What is a Woman...

What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre.
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

Rudyard Kipling.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Horses, and other Riding Animals

Any reasonably-sized expedition into the wilderness or underworld will almost certainly need at least some animals to ride, or to carry supplies.

The best solution is to keep a variety of riding beasts, and choose the best ones for the given expedition. But this is too expensive for most frequent travellers, and incompatible with the roving life. The adventurer is most likely to buy animals as needed and sell them later. This, of course, has the disadvantage that the right animal for the job might not be available.

In any case, some relevant differences between common riding beasts are given here.

Horses, Mules and the Like

A mule, as the reader will no doubt be aware, is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. The offspring of a female donkey and male horse is the much rarer hinny. The Telelelene breeds of mule, donkey and hinny are identical for our purposes. All male mules and hinnies, and most females, are unable to produce offspring.

Horses may go without food for a few days, but must get water every day. Mules and donkeys, by contrast, need food every day, but may go a day or two without water.

Horses are much faster, but also weaker (which is why donkeys are preferred as pack animals), and prone to panic. The 'stubborn' mule, when sensing danger, is likely to refuse to move, whereas the horse will tend to 'bolt'.

None of these beasts should be ridden when they have recently eaten. Strenuous exercise on a full stomach can give them colic, a condition which is inevitably fatal. In the wild, horses graze almost constantly rather than eating 'meals', so that they can safely bolt when endangered.

Note also that, once domesticated, these creatures will tend to eat whatever they come across, whether it be poisonous to them or not, unless their rider or handler is vigilant.

Giant Lizards

Giant lizards are very placid, and can usually fit two riders comfortably. However they are very slow, and although they can cope with heat very well they may refuse to move in cold weather, or even go into a hibernation-like sleep. This can be fought by the use of certain stones, which can be heated over a fire and then given to the beast to eat. They release their heat gradually and keep the creature warm. The difficulty lies in getting the lizards to accept the stones, and in getting the stones hot enough to have an effect but not so hot that the lizard is injured or made sick.

In addition, lizard-folk believe that giant lizards are cousins to themselves, turned into beasts of burden by sorcery, and so they may lead to unwanted fear and hostility in desert regions where lizard-folk can be found. Giant lizards are most useful in the underworld, where there are less extremes of temperature, few lizard-folk, and where other riding animals may be less comfortable with the frequent darkness.


Camels are, of course, very useful for desert regions, despite their foul temper and low speed and maneuverability compared to the horse, due to their tolerance for heat and ability to go for long periods without water. There are two main species of camel. One resembles the dromedary, or Arabian camel, of our world. The other is similar, but its hump has a tap, allowing it to be used as a source of water. The desert-dwellers who are lucky enough to have domesticated these rarer camels can often be found gathered around one, discussing the day's news.

A General Warning

Given the nature of travel in Teleleli, it should be pointed out that beasts of any species may well ignore their rider when the smell of blood is in their nostrils. There are, of course, 'warhorses' who are specially trained for such circumstances, but they are rare and expensive.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Search-Engine

This clockwork machine resembles a spider. It is about the size of a small dog. The owner speaks the name of a person, place or thing so that the Engine can hear. The Engine then goes forth. Some days later it will return, and may speak directions to find that which is desired. However, often it returns without directions, but carrying erotic etchings.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Incubi and Succubi

Incubi and succubi (singular incubus and succubus) are creatures with sorcerous power, who use humans to reproduce. Each of these creatures is both an incubus and a succubus; 'incubus' is the word for their male form, and 'succubus' refers to their female form.

They generally reproduce by visiting a sleeping man while in succubus form, and engaging in intercourse with him.

The man's sperm is then changed over a period of several days. At the end of this period they turn into an incubus, and visit a sleeping woman, who they impregnate with the sperm.

If a child results it will appear to be human, but will in fact be an incubus/succubus. It will stay in the form of one gender (and indeed does so until puberty). When the child is a few months old the parent will visit the woman again, and steal the baby.

Unsurprisingly they are hated and feared by humans. Thus the belief that a few drops of their blood, dripped into the mouth of a sleeping person, will cause them to sicken and die, may be a myth.

The Thirsty Rose clan have a slightly different method of reproduction. They seduce humans in their waking hours, and during the act spit a blood-red egg into their victim's mouth. If the victim is a woman, they will become pregnant (regardless of their age and fertility). If the victim is a man, they may pass the egg into a woman during sex, and that woman will become pregnant.

Another clan, the Cavaliers of the Slums, likewise seek out partners during their waking hours. They entice men into having sex (the quickest and easiest part of the process, they claim). Tiny parasites attach to the male's organ. When he next has sex with a human woman, the parasites enter the womb, where they develop into a baby. This clan still takes male form for half of every month, but they do not seek intercourse in this time.

The sacred texts of all clans are the Scrolls of Going Forth By Night. They are said to have been written by the first of their kind, the Red Mongrel.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Old Cairo is Itself a Storybook and a Dream...

Old Cairo is itself a story-book and a dream—labyrinths of narrow alleys redolent of aromatic secrets; Arabesque balconies and oriels nearly meeting above the cobbled streets; maelstroms of Oriental traffic with strange cries, cracking whips, rattling carts, jingling money, and braying donkeys; kaleidoscopes of polychrome robes, veils, turbans, and tarbushes; water-carriers and dervishes, dogs and cats, soothsayers and barbers; and over all the whining of blind beggars crouched in alcoves, and the sonorous chanting of muezzins from minarets limned delicately against a sky of deep, unchanging blue.

HP Lovecraft.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hungry Houses

Even the most luxurious mansions in Teleleli will have some mice, roaches or owls, which the servants will be instructed to feed. This is because of the universal fear of Hungry Houses, huge predatory beasts shaped like houses, who trap and consume people. It is believed that vermin will never enter such a false house. Thus owls on the roof, or rats in the larder, assure guests that the host is not one of those wicked folk who (it is said) act as panderers to these beasts.

Hungry Houses are believed to be mobile, but naturally are reluctant to move when anyone can see them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Isle of the Wizard

On the shore of this island stands a huge pyramid of coloured glass, wherein lives the wizard Oom the Omnipotent. He fashions and sells various magical artifacts. Some say he is greedy and dishonest, and his artifacts are poor imitations of older work, bringing only confusion and disappointment. Others say his artifacts are marvels of wonder and delight. In any case, it cannot be doubted that he is greatly wealthy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Groan-Yard

This is (so far as is known) the only abode of the Groaners.

They have the appearance of gigantic human heads - to be precise, the top halves of human heads - buried in the dirt. A Groaner's head generally sticks out of the dirt about six or seven feet.

Whether they have bodies underneath, or indeed entire heads, is unknown. They seem to consider the question offensive.

They are named for their language, which sounds like a constant muttering complaint. Those who claim to have deciphered it say that it is a florid and scholarly version of the trade-pidgin of Teleleli. They actually seem to be content with their lot. They gain nourishment from the rain, sun and soil in the manner of trees.

The only reason anyone pays them any mind, other than idle curiosity, is the marvellous powers of their spectacles, which are of such cunning construction that they can be used in many different ways. A single lens used one way might show things more clearly than any telescope, in another increase a tiny detail until it seemed to bestride the whole world, and in a third way distort the world beyond all recognition. For this reason unscrupulous poachers often try to steal them. A Groaner who loses their spectacles will utter a great sigh, then die. This sigh is so melancholy that many poachers have themseleves died before they could get away with their ill-gotten prize. The sigh is especially dangerous to those whose feet are touching the ground when it is uttered: deaf thieves have been known to die of sadness from the vibrations alone.

They are most sensitive to all artifacts from the Isle of the Wizard. Indeed the very mention of one in their presence can set off a round of groaning discussion which lasts for days.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The All-Seeing Apparatus of Vigilant Virtuosos

This small box, when opened, reveals a red velvet stage on which sit four tiny musicians.

If any creature attempts to sneak up on the owner of the box, be they invisible, camouflaged, hidden in the darkness, cloaked with magic, or just creeping quietly, the musicians will pluck the strings of their violins.

The sound is not loud enough to wake a sleeper.

Friday, September 17, 2010


This shop caters to barbarian adventurers who may be in the wilderness for long periods, but want to look their best. She specialises in wholesale hairspray and makeup for the ladies, and conditioner and body-hair removal products for men.

The famous bandit Lawless Lucy is rumoured to visit Teleleli in disguise in order to buy from Sonja's.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Lady of Charity

The Lady of Charity is mainly a goddess of the sea, but sometimes also the protector of prostitutes and the love-lorn. Telelelenes consider the sea to begin when one can no longer see the bottom.

She appears as a beautiful woman clad in coral and night. She is often depicted as pregnant. Her beauty is said to be like the word "sky" whispered by one who squats in darkness in a prison without windows.

She is sometimes said to be the same as the sea god Numen Mari. Either the god is considered to be both genders, or it is said that the worshippers of Numen Mari mistakenly (or blasphemously) consider the goddess to be male. Some believe that the two are separate and married. Others say that Numen Mari is a demon of the sea who causes shipwrecks, and is the enemy of the Lady.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Telelelene ships are always named. Some common names are:

  • Beggar Thy Neighbour (particularly for pirate ships)
  • Revenge, or variants such as Queen Anne's Revenge or Wanderer's Revenge.
  • Liberty and the Amity
  • Scourer
  • Snapdragon
  • Delivery
  • Mermaid
  • Fair Isle
  • Cloud-Horse
  • South Wind, North Wind, Fair Wind, Monsoon, and the like.
  • Flying King, Flying Empress, and so forth.
  • Indigo
  • Dancer
  • Rose
  • Dolphin
Ships are also frequently named for
  • Places; for example Forthead, Isle of Sky.
  • Gods, particularly The Lady of Charity and Numen Mari. Star of the Sea, another common name, is a reference to the Lady of Charity.
  • People, particularly the captain's spouse or children.
  • Diseases. It being thought that naming a ship after a disease will keep that disease at bay, there are ships with names such as Scurvy, The Crots, Red Ruin, and Bloody Flux.
Types of Ships

There are three main classes of large ship: the argosy, longship, and trireme.

The argosy is the largest class of ship, with much space for carrying cargo and a large crew. It is powered by sail not oar.

The name 'argosy' means 'merchant ship'. Ironically, this type of ship is also used by pirates. Ample cargo space and many crew, equalling many hands for battle, are equally useful for them as for their prey.

The longship is powered by both sail and oar. It has a single row of oars on each side, usually around 10, but up to 25 or more. Unlike on a trireme, the rowers sit in the open air.

It is, as the name implies, long and thin, having no spare space. It is thus unsuitable for carrying cargo.

It is, however, capable of extended voyages. Thus it may be used for small-scale military use, voyages of discovery, and the like.

Some longships may be fitted with benches. In others the rowers will sit on chests, which perform the double duty of holding their belongings.

The trireme has three rows of oars on each side. They also have sails, but they only augment its speed.

There are usually 10 to 12 rows on each side, making a total of 60 to 72 oars. However large ships regularly have as many as 30 rows.

Since each oar has its own, single, rower, the crew of a trireme must be quite large. The conditions below decks, where over a hundred rowers may be sitting encased in airless darkness, are hellish. Some poor wretches have been known to cut off their own thumb, or even a hand, to ensure that they may not be trireme rowers.

The combination of the large required crew, and the terrible conditions for rowers, mean that the trireme is mostly used by governments and armies, particularly those who practice slavery. They are not, however, used to carry slaves, having little cargo space (captives may not immediately be set to rowing: it requires a surprising amount of training).

The trireme is not suitable for extended voyages. Indeed its light wood may become waterlogged if left in the water overnight. Thus it is usual for the boat to be dragged ashore at the end of the day (an operation which will usually require over 100 crew).

Miscellaneous Notes

Argosies, and less frequently triremes, may be fitted with diving equipment, allowing interaction with the denizens of the sea. Generally only one or a few crew will dive at a time. However if battle is expected the entire crew may go, leaving only a few dressers on board to maintain the machinery.

Although sail and oar are the most common means of propulsion, some ships also have a propeller attached to a giant rubber band, which is wound up before the journey.

Generally the longer a ship is the faster she will be, but the less easily she will maneuver.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Celestial Muse

It is unclear if the Celestial Muse is a goddess, or even alive. She is not the subject of regular worship, and has no temple nor priests.

It is said that every thousand years or so there comes a time when she may be courted with flowers and ardent poems, brilliant of wit and rigourous in form. If this is achieved, then she will appear "as a face in the sky". Some say this refers to a bright star. Others speak of the Muse literally appearing as a face. All agree that it can only be seen in a small area, and that its influence only extends over this area.

For as long as she stays, it is said that everyone's thoughts will run more quickly and purely. Some versions of the story say that she whispers truths to all who seek them. Others say that she sings a song which stirs the blood. The mathematician will find all problems easy, as if numbers were arranging themselves into the correct answers. The poet will find the necessary word always first in their thoughts. The paths of the forest will seem clear and true, so that no one will be lost, even at night. And, likewise, off-notes will nowhere be heard and all will sing like birds.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Lost Fleet

Sailors talk of a fleet somewhere in the Wine-Faced Sea or in outlying oceans, which never enters any port, but continues sailing forever.

They are careful to distinguish this Lost Fleet from the various stories of ghost ships, sea-giants who wear a hat resembling a ship in order to lure prey, and other horrors. The Lost Fleet are said to be humans. Indeed some say that they have been friendly, giving packages of food and fresh water, or allowing sailors to rest for a time on their craft. They are agreed to never let a visitor wander freely or stay long, however.

If they exist, they are clearly not lost as such, for they have been known to flee from ships.

Their language is said to be unlike any other.

Some say they travel on conventional ships, while some speak of a single, gigantic raft. Others report villages of metal, with long legs that allow them to walk through the sea like waders at the beach. Yet others refer to giant swans, with each family having a house on the back of a single swan, and one black swan which is reserved for their greatest hero.

Their origin, and the reasons for their self-isolation, are unknown.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Tomb of the Kings

On a great plain of grass live many tribes of nomads, horse-worshippers who carry many treasures. In the middle of the plain stands their holiest place, the Tomb of the Kings.

It is a group of four statues of monumental size, now greatly overgrown, said to be of four ancient kings. The tomb is said to be underneath the statues. In the nomads' hour of greatest danger, they believe, the statues will split open. Then the four kings, and their herds of mighty horses, will wake and ride into battle.

An alternate belief holds that the statues themselves are the kings, turned into stone by magic.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


If a cow or goat is slaughtered, and milked at the exact moment of its death, and appropriate incantations are performed all the while, then this substance is produced.

It appears identical to milk, but drinking it causes terrible weakening of the bones and teeth. However those who are lactose intolerant or otherwise allergic to milk will find that drinking it causes, along with its evil effects, the banishing of headaches, nausea, cramping, bloating, diarrhoea, and flatulence.

Vegan sorcerers have been known to produce soy klim, a substance which is produced by sacrificing a block of tofu.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hands of Glory

These artifacts look like exquisitely accurate sculptures of human hands. They display every feature - even fingerprints and sometimes even solid 'hair' in the case of some of the 'adult male' hands. The only thing missing is fingernails. The Hands are as hard as metal. Chipping at the 'skin' does not reveal any muscle or bone beneath - they are entirely solid.

Rather than looking as if they were cut off at the wrist, a Hand of Glory will taper off in a shape that looks rather like the curled tail of a lizard.

Each Hand will be covered in an intricate series of patterns. In appearance they remind one of those brides of the East whose hands are adorned with the juice of the henna plant. These patterns will always include a stylised eye.

It is said that Hands of Glory are artifacts of the ancient land of Take-You-May; a name most ironic, since they are inevitably difficult and dangerous to find.

If the eye pattern is pressed, a beam of light will issue forth from the Hand. This beam will have one of several different effects on any living thing it hits (although generally it also confers immunity to that type of light for roughly 24 hours). The light of a given Hand will always have the same effect. However there is no easy way to tell what that effect will be, beyond practical experiment. Each Hand will only produce light a finite number of times. Again, there is no easy way to know how many applications a Hand has left.

Some say that the combination of the patterns on the Hand, and its apparent gender and age, may be read to deduce the type of light it will produce. Some even claim that the number of times it will produce light may be read in this manner (certainly the patterns change each time the Hand produces light). If true, it is a most difficult art.

There is but one aspect of the patterns' meaning which is clear. The stylised eye will be 'open' - showing a pupil - if the Hand is still operating, and 'closed' if not.

The most common types of Hand are as follows:

The Glorious Hand of Overwhelming HorrorThe light of this Hand causes the target to lose courage, sometimes to the point where they temporarily lose all reason and flee.
The Glorious Hand of Arriving By the Nameless PathThose hit by the light of this Hand do not feel any different. Yet, for the next few weeks, they will find that when travelling, they reach their destination far more quickly than they would otherwise. They do not appear to travel any more quickly.
The Glorious Hand of Overcoming All Physical AdversityThe light of this Hand can cure sickness. In those that are not sick, it can accelerate healing of wounds. In those that are unwounded and in good health, it will have no effect.
The Glorious Hand of the Ecstatic Madness of LoveThe light of this Hand increases the luck and beauty of its target, but greatly decreases intelligence. The effect lasts for several days.
The Glorious Hand of Climbing the Wall of TonguesThe light of this Hand has no effect on creatures with only bestial intelligence. For those posessed of reason it grants, for up to a week, a strange bond with anyone else who has also recently bathed in its light, so that the two will be able to work out what the other is saying, even if they possess no language in common.
The Glorious Hand of Neither Rising Nor FallingFor several hours, sometimes as long as half a day, one who has been hit by the light of this Hand can not move upwards or downwards for any significant distance. Thus, for example, they may not enter the top floor of a house (or, if hit while on the top floor, they may not descend to the street below). If they are carried they may move without hinderance.
The Glorious Hand of Striving With ChivalryThe light of this beam renders its target, for several minutes, unable to use ranged weapons, nor to use any spells or magical items for combat (including Hands of Glory). They will also be unable to attack anyone who is unarmed (spells and natural weapons such as claws may count as being armed), including someone who throws down their weapon, or anyone who already faces an enemy. If the target suffers wounding in any way which breaks these 'rules', the effect of the Hand is broken.
The Glorious Hand of Stealing Fae GlamourIf the target is an elf, fairy, leprechaun or similar creature, they will lose some of their beauty. Casting the light of this Hand on such a being seems to increase the number of castings the Hand has left rather than decreasing it.

This Hand has a similar effect on magic which relates to seduction, diplomacy etc. Spells are likely to be erased from spell-books or the minds of wizards who know them, and magical devices are likely to lose such powers if they have them. All this seems to feed the Hand in the same way as elves and like creatures.

If the target has no glamour to steal, they will temporarily be blessed with good luck.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Under the Connecting Feeling of Tropical Heat...

Under the connecting feeling of tropical heat and vertical sunlights, I brought together all creatures, birds, beasts, reptiles, all trees and plants, usages and appearances, that are found in all tropical regions, and assembled them together in China or Indostan. From kindred feelings, I soon brought Egypt and all her gods under the same law. I was stared at, hooted at, grinned at, chattered at, by monkeys, by paroquets, by cockatoos. I ran into pagodas, and was fixed, for centuries, at the summit, or in secret rooms: I was the idol; I was the priest; I was worshipped; I was sacrificed. I fled from the wrath of Brama through all the forests of Asia: Vishnu hated me; Seva laid wait for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris: I had done a deed, they said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at. I was buried for a thousand years, in stone coffins, with mummies and sphinxes, in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed, with cancerous kisses, by crocodiles; and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy things, amongst reeds and Nilotic mud.

I thus give the reader some slight abstraction of my oriental dreams, which always filled me with such amazement at the monstrous scenery that horror seemed absorbed, for a while, in sheer astonishment. Sooner or later came a reflux of feeling that swallowed up the astonishment, and left me, not so much in terror, as in hatred and abomination of what I saw. Over every form, and threat, and punishment, and dim, sightless, incarceration, brooded a sense of eternity and infinity that drove me into an oppression as of madness. Into these dreams only, it was, with one or two slight exceptions, that any circumstances of physical horror entered. All before had been moral and spiritual terrors. But here the main agents were ugly birds, or snakes, or crocodiles, especially the last. The cursed crocodile became to me the object of more horror than almost all the rest. I was compelled to live with him; and (as was always the case, almost, in my dreams) for centuries. I escaped sometimes, and found myself in Chinese houses with cane tables, etc. All the feet of the tables, sofas, etc., soon became instinct with life: the abominable head of the crocodile, and his leering eyes, looked out at me, multiplied into a thousand repetitions; and I stood loathing and fascinated.

Thomas de Quincey.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Isle of Angry Lamps

This island is populated by tools which have gained life, and resent their owners due to being left out in the rain, or otherwise not cared for properly. Objects may gain life if they are of sufficient age (at least one hundred years), and exposed to magic. It is not known what happens to tools which are well-kept by their owners.

The most common tool on the island is lamps, followed by umbrellas.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Dark Cities of Mythology...

The dark cities of mythology, which exist outside of normal times in some strange location of extremity.

Will Insley.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Book of Faces

The sorcerer who unlocks the secrets of this book will gain the ability to learn the location of people that they used to know.

If they study further, they will gain the ability to appear far younger than they really are.

If they study still further they will gain the ability to cloud the minds of others, so that they will accept the sorcerer as their friend.

The book, however, will charge a price. The more it is used, the less intelligent the sorcerer will become.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Spindly Pete

This 'monster', also called Boko Bill, is actually said to be a human, with an unusual lust for halfling women. As such, he haunts the taverns frequented by halflings, pretending an interest in pies, real ale and pipe-weed, but in fact hoping to seduce unwary halfling-maids and -wives. In some stories he is a perpetually-frustrated figure of fun; one who is always, as the Telelelenes say, "only two ladies short of a threesome." In others he is a demonic menace, who kills and eats his belles.

He is said to be as different to a halfling as can be. He is straight of hair, heavily bearded and with a luxuriant mustache, with tiny, hairless feet covered in heavy shoes, and tall and thin even for a human.

It is unknown whether Spindly Pete is a myth based on halfling men's fear that the 'Big Folk' outstrip them in masculinity, some kind of demon created by those same fears, or an actual person - and if real, whether he is really murderous, or simply unwanted competition. Indeed halfling women often speak of Spindly Pete with a mixture of fear and fascination; rather like the vampire in our own world.

The Phantom of the Mead-Hall is a similar figure (if not the same person), known among the dwarves - although he is described as beardless.

Friday, September 3, 2010


This island city is a jewel of wanton cruelty to rival Rome of the Caesars, or the slave-markets of Zanzibar.

The laws of Karsh forbid any citizen of that city to steal foreigners for slaves. Instead, the law-abiding Karshian will pay one country for prisoners taken from another. By this policy they have set all their neighbours at one another's throats, and rendered Karsh safe from well-deserved vengeance. Indeed all are dependent on the slave-made weapons that Karsh sells, and the manacles sold through the widespread Karshian franchise McDonald's Family Restraints.

This policy has a subtler virtue (if one may call it that). It convinces the Karshians that they bear no responsibility for the slave trade. After all, they argue, they merely buy those who already slaves - and who knows if they may not have faced a worse fate in the pens of their barbaric captors? That their neighbours are barbaric is obvious. Every town lives in fear of its neighbour. Indeed every village bully and strongman wants scant excuse to sentence some poor fellow to slavery, and profit thereby. Some will sell even their own family, so that the bonds of familial love are like to be replaced by leaden chains. And thus Karsh is satisfied in its own superiority, like one who carries a plague, infecting all around, yet spared the worst of the sickness themselves.

Among the shameful practices of the city is that of raising 'spiders'. As babies some boy slaves have their torsos bound and restricted, so that they do not grow normally. The victim will end up with normal-sized limbs and head, but a grotesequly small body, twisted and wrinkled so that it resembles an Egyptian mummy, or a Japanese bonsai tree. They are trained in singing and poetry, and used as a kind of pet by the noble ladies of Karsh and near places. The fact that the poor wretches are castrated no doubt spares them from yet further indignities.

Karsh is known as Karsh the Wicked, or Karsh of the Red Sands, the latter for its gladiatorial arena.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lover's Leap

A certain hill in Teleleli has a pit, which leads no one knows where. It is said that if lovers cannot otherwise be together, and jump into the pit at the same time, they will be taken to a place where they can be together. It is also said that if one whose love is truly hopeless jumps into the pit, they will "become like a bird, and their sorrow will be forgotten." In both cases folklore emphasises that the pit will show no mercy to any who jump into it when they have any hope in Teleleli.

The atmosphere of the place is somewhat like that of the Road of the Second Chance, though Lovers' Leap is less frequently used, owing to its assocation with love in particular, and to some vague but sinister tales of the fate of those who use it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Road of the Second Chance

This place is also known as the River of the Second Chance - but in fact it is neither road nor river.

It is a strip of unknown material, about ten feet wide, which has the strange property that it is usually in motion, carrying any who stand on it at such speed that they seem to disappear. It seems the road is in motion about two-thirds of the time. Very careful examination might reveal whether it is moving or still, but determining its direction has proven to be impossible. Likewise it is unknown whether it moves in both directions or only one. It stops and starts apparently according to nothing more than its own whim. It happened once that the Road stayed still for a whole year - or at least that no one caught it moving.

It runs through an overgrown area of wasteland at the edge of Teleleli, terminating at both ends in caves. Those who have followed the Road into the caves have reported that there came a point where it was impossible to explore further without stepping on the Road.

Riding the Road is by no means easy. Putting one foot on it while it is in motion, and the other on the ground, will merely result in the unwary traveller being hurled away at great force, probably leading to broken bones or even death. The traveller must instead run up and jump, landing on both feet at the same time. Of course there is no way of knowing if this is safe, or merely causes a person to be injured or killed wherever they end up.

The place is full of priests, trying to recruit the desperate souls who come here. Merchants try to get a good deal from those who sell their worldly goods before setting forth, while others sell equipment suitable for journeys into the unknown. Beggars come to take advantage of those who believe they will need no wealth in their new home. Some come to plead with their loved ones not to go, others come to find thieves and debtors before they disappear. Kind-hearted souls mend the wounds of those who have tried to ride the Road and failed, or bury the dead. The park also attracts those with more sinister motives, who reason that those who come to travel the Road will not be missed.
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