Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Wine-Faced Sea

Teleleli and the surrounding islands stand in the Wine-Faced Sea. Why the sea is so named is disputed. Some say that it is because it may be calm, even sleeping, and then suddenly violent, without cause, like one far gone in drink. Others claim that the Great Race, perverse in all things, drank light blue wine - or that the fluid originally referred to was something else entirely. Yet others point to the way that those most harmed by the sea can be most devoted to it, even against their will.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Trade between countries, guilds, and the most powerful individuals, is often governed by the rule of Moka. Under this rule one side will give a gift of great value. This will create an obligation for the recipient to give a greater gift, or a favour of comparable worth. This second gift will create an obligation for a still-greater gift, and so on. The skill of Moka is to give a gift of such value that the recipient will prefer to owe a favour, rather than being able to give a counter-gift, or ending the cycle by refusing the gift and thus creating a state of hostility or even war.

Adventurers may be hired to fetch an appropriate object to give as a gift, or to deliver it. This second task may be as dangerous as the first, since if the gift-bearer meets with an 'accident' before delivering the gift it has no value. Yet if a gift is delivered in public sight anyone who values their position must acknowledge it and protect the person of the gift-giver.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Land is never traded, for any currency. There is nothing illegal about it, just as someone in our world may freely trade their grandmother's grave with her not a year buried - yet one is unlikely to find either buyer or seller, or think well of them should they be found.

Land may certainly be given in return for service. The devious reader may wonder whether this distinction is simply a pretty form of words. Fie on your suspicions! Giving land is a weighty gesture of support, that almost amounts to adoption. One who gives land will be judged by the actions of the recipient, and the two will be assumed to be close allies. In any case, the vast majority of people have no land. In some areas all land is held by the nobility. In others it is held in common.

It should be noted that 'land' is considered by everyone to mean agricultural land only. The land on which a house sits is freely traded like any other commodity. The merchant nobility of the city, aping the nobility of the sword as ever, may feign reluctance to trade their 'land', but this is mere show.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Neighbouring farming communities often come into conflict over grazing rights, or personal grievances. This is especially true where one community raises cattle, and the other sheep. The outlook of cow- and sheep-based farmers is totally different.

It is well-known that shepherds are kind and gentle. Indeed would-be shepherds whose nature is too stormy are often made to take angora management courses.

By contrast, most bullies are cowherds at heart.

Herding cattle is much more aggravating, since the animals are harder to care for. Often the hills are alive with the sound of moo sick. Thus cowherds are often sadists, displaying 'cowdenfreude'; taking joy in the misfortunes of udders.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Word of Caution

On the subject of labour, it should also be noted that "no one hires a butterfly to carry wood or a maggot to dance." A band of armed, scarred vagabonds might be employed as farm labourers. Perhaps there is a shortage of 'hands', or the farmer took pity on them. But they should ask themselves whether, perhaps, they have been hired for some other work. Is there a feud? Might they be asked to take young Cadwyn with them as far as the next city, and avoid patrols if you can? Are there missing children, and rumours of voices from under the river at night? Perhaps young Cadwyn only wants to escape the semi-slavery of life under a noble, using the traveller as a human shield as it were. But truly is it said, "the seed is not planted for the ground's sake".

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Trade Outside Teleleli

The shell, 'salt' and 'namber' are accepted in cities and larger towns, in inns and other establishments on the road between such settlements that cater to travellers, and by most travelling traders. But smaller towns and villages do not use money.

The Noble Spices are accepted as currency in many places, but in others it will be considered improper or even blasphemous to offer them in trade. Perhaps a temple may render what services they have if such spices are burnt on their altars, but they will look most unfavourably on vigorous bargaining. Herbalists and the like will of course be likely to buy or sell certain spices, depending on their needs at the time.

Barter is the most common form of 'currency'. The traveller should bear in mind that very few people have any need for such things as weapons and armour, and those that do will have found more reliable sources. The only exceptions may be desperate groups such as bandits and rebels. Horses and other mounts, by contrast, will find a market anywhere, and canoes anywhere near the sea or a river. Good quality blankets and lamps are similarly useful for smaller trades.

In large cities, as in Teleleli, almost anything of value will be accepted in trade. A notable exception is the City of the Amazons. The Amazons have never taken to currency and so in that city only foreigners, if anyone, will be likely to accept it.

Thus an unwary adventurer fresh escaped from the underworld, loaded with clockwork statuettes and the most delicate and symmetrical corals, and expecting to be treated like a very prince, may instead find themselves in the position of the proletarian in the works of Mister Marx, having nothing to sell but their labour.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Noble Spices

The Eighteen Noble Spices are those spices which are useful in magic. They are as follows:
  • cinnamon.
  • cloves.
  • cumin.
  • ginger.
  • grains of paradise.
  • liquorice.
  • mustard seeds.
  • nutmeg.
  • pepper.
  • peppermint.
  • salt.
  • star anise.
  • strawberry leaves.
  • sweet cicely.
  • tea bush.
  • thyme.
  • witch-hazel.
  • wormwood.
Some speak of Twenty Noble Spices, counting black, white and green pepper separately.

They are sometimes accepted as currency.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


These bird-like creatures look exactly like two hands with the thumbs hooked together.

They sometimes use one 'hand' to hold prey such as mice, and flap the other to fly. Naturally this is clumsier and slower than their normal, two-handed flying.

Every so often two of these creatures will find a private place, upon which the hands will unlock, and swap, forming two new creatures. Thus we might sometimes see a creature formed from one old and one young hand, or one male and one female. They are, however, almost always careful to swap hands for one of like size, lest they be rendered unable to fly straight.

It is not known how the creatures breed, or if the above practice is related.

A Bird-In-Hand, with one human and one goblin hand, is an emblem of the Conspiracy of Equals.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Conspiracy of Equals

This organisation is devoted to the overthrow of all rulers, and the sharing of all wealth.

They are loosely structured by conviction, and for security.

Leaving no records and raising no monuments, the history of the group is unknown, even to themselves. They believe that they were founded by "fathers and mothers, who came out of the ground from a cave."

My research has led me to the story of the uprising of the Roman slaves, led by Spartacus. The slave army is said to have split into three. One part, led by Spartacus, marched on Rome and was destroyed. A second part, convinced by the arguments of Crixus the German, marched over the Alps and out of the Roman Empire. But the fate of the third part is unknown. It may be that the founders of the Conspiracy were none other than this lost band - especially since they are said to have included Egyptian slaves of great learning.

It is rumoured that some of the Conspiracy meet in the sewers beneath Teleleli.

The society uses many emblems, including the 'Baccara' or black rose, a mother holding a child, and a Bird-In-Hand, one of whose 'hands' is human and the other goblin.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Falling-Down Stick

This magic item appears to be a forked stick. If it is held by one fork, and pointed at an enemy while an incantation is spoken, that enemy will fall down, and will be unable to get up for several minutes. The incantation is 'pew! pew!' spoken in a high-pitched voice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yafir and Yiraf

Travellers in the underworld sometimes find that the layout of the place appears to make no sense. They might find a large monster in a room, with no way for it to get out, and no apparent source of food. Or they may find a kindly hermit living next door to a band of murderous cultists.

The explanation is that large parts of the underworld have more than the normal three spatial dimensions. In the first case there will indeed be an exit and a source of food, but it will lie in a direction that the monster can see but the explorers cannot. In the second case the opposite will be true: the explorers will have travelled in a direction that is invisible to the hermit and cultists.

A similar effect can prevail in the deepest forest where no humans dwell. This can account for the sometimes otherworldly or magical nature of events there.

The sage Isaac the Loquacious says that the extra dimensions are named Yafir and Yiraf. Each direction, he writes, may be entreated to reveal itself. He states that Yafir is like an adult, and must be wooed as one would a lover, with gifts of precious stones and the Noble Spices, and sweet music and poetry of appropriate subject. Yiraf, on the other hand, is like a child, whose moods and taste change from one day to the next, so that a toy or sweet which was a favourite today may be refused with angry contempt tomorrow.

The Glorious Hand of Arriving By the Nameless Path may allow one to travel these directions, or may work on another principle altogether.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Isle of Roses

Here a stone idol sits in a palace and is worshipped as a living god. Hundreds of women are forced to live in the palace as the idol's wives. Giant, castrated guards prowl the gardens of the palace. They burn with rage at the thought that men from outside will scale the walls of the palace, and tempt the women into adultery.

The palace has many secret doors, known only to the priests, which open on to shafts, which in turn lead down to sealed and hidden levels of the palace. Through these doors men and women are let down on ropes, and the ropes thrown after them, and the doors closed. There in the darkness they are hunted by unknown things. Their screams and lamentations are clearly audible to those dwelling in the main part of the palace. Thus the latter go about their business always attended, as it were, by tormented ghosts, and take fear or pleasure in the fact according to their nature and circumstance.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Dung-Haters

The followers of this religion believe that their excrement contains foul and murderous spirits. To thwart these spirits they must be sealed in decorated jars, rather like those used by the Egyptians to contain the organs of mummified kings. Since the storage of large amounts of waste is impractical, all but the most holy of priests will perform a brief rite to extract the spirit into a tiny portion, and seal that.

At certain times of the year these jars are taken on pilgrimage to sacred caves or fissures in the ground, where they are thrown in, then covered in a flammable mixture of water, cloves, pepper, and oil, and burnt. The position of fire-lighter dooms the one who takes it to ritual impurity, so that no one will associate with them. In this they resemble the Untouchables of the Hindoos, or menstruating women in many cultures. It is also believed that the fire-lighter's soul will inevitably be taken by demons. In lands where this religion constitutes a majority the job is given to criminals of the vilest sort, and they are thrown onto the flames they light. Where the religion is a minority, as in Teleleli, the office is supposed to be voluntary, and the one who volunteers is showered with treasure and luxury of all kinds. Although even here it is said that those who are caught in ill deeds may be offered the position in preference to execution, that they run the risk of murder at the hands of the devout, and that they are shunned.

Their aversion to dung extends to nourishing the soil thereby. Indeed most will refuse to eat anything which comes out of the ground, unless it be purified by lengthy ritual. Those who transgress have been known to starve themselves to death in penance. Naturally this attitude has stunted their progress in agriculture, and since the adoption of this religion thousands of years ago it is believed that their numbers and territory have slowly but surely reduced.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


This desert species shed their skin yearly. At certain significant points in their life - for example, for female lizard-folk, the first shedding after giving birth - the skin is the object of religious veneration.

Some groups will ritually eat the skin. Others will preserve them until the time comes to move (most lizard-folk groups being nomadic), upon which the skin will be burnt. Yet others believe that the skin is a soul - their "child soul", "youth soul" or similar - and will preserve them in familial urns, fearing that the loss of the skin would, if prolonged, cause the loss of all memories of the relevant period in the creature's life, and at worst could give a witch control of them. Many epics of this folk are related to quests to recover a stolen skin. A group, or individual, who displays skins publicly is seen as powerful and confident - even more so those who take them into battle. This might account for the practice of some desert-dwelling humans, of displaying animal skins outside their tents. The theft of skins through battle or cunning, that they may be ransomed, is the aim of many young warriors.

These beliefs may be compared to those of the Dung-Haters.

It is rumoured that a certain desert covers underground cities of a fallen lizard-folk civilisation. These cities are said to have no rooms, only tunnels, and contain untold treasures, even the rare gold. This ancient civilisation is said to have had the power to create utter darkness by magical means, which they used in their slave raids, riding in a long line across the plain so that nothing travelling outside of the walled cities could escape them. By use of this art they reduced the places around them to ruin, and so finally fell themselves, and this is the origin of the desert.

The so-called 'royal lizard-folk' of the Desolation of Ozymandias are most likely an unrelated species.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Desolation of Ozymandias

It is said that some of the oases in this desert are filled with wine instead of water. Each was a drop spilled by the Father of Wine from his cup, which he still held as he fled from justice. While some may think this paradise, many are said to have died from the false courage and quickness to anger that result.

The Mothers of the Desert, the benign spirits that watch over oases, are said to be absent here.

Some come to this desert seeking a certain cave. There they stay for three days and nights, eating nothing and drinking only water. At the end of that time, if they survive, they will cast strawberry leaves and handfuls of mustard seeds into the desert. Finally they will torture themselves, using implements of exquisite beauty and craftsmanship. It is said that the torture must continue until the supplicant does not recognise their own screams of pain, but believes that they are torturing another, and have nothing but hate and contempt for that other. At this point those who sleep beneath the desert will awaken.

Others come seeking the Arms Dealers. These creatures will give anyone a new arm in exchange for removing their current one. They will trade even if the current arm is deformed, diseased, ruined in an accident, or otherwise unsound. They will trade for an arm that has a hand missing, but not for one severed anywhere below the wrist. They will only take living arms from their owners, but have taken arms from people brought there by third parties and under obvious duress. They will never trade a right arm for a left, or vice versa. Indeed they seem to regard the idea as disgusting.

They will never take anything other than the arm itself, and the hand if it is attached. If someone with painted fingernails were to trade their arm, they would be given back the nail polish. They will likewise remove and return tattoo ink.

There seems to be no profit possible in this trade. Yet it seems to occupy all of their time. It is also unclear why, given that they seem to desire interaction with people, they choose to live in isolation. It is true that, if someone has no arm to trade, they will charge a very high price. But they have never been known to spend any of the money so gained.

It is said that once they gave the arms of a murderer, and they strangled against the will of their new owner.

They have been known to enter into bargains with adventurers wherein the Arms Dealers, who never leave their desert home, will instruct their hireling to track down someone with an arm that they particularly desire, to try and persuade them to trade. They always pay in items of great power, never money.

Yet others seek that Ozymandias who gives the desert its name: an ancient king whose capital is said to lie, pregnant with many treasures, somewhere under the sands.

At the edge of the desert, living in caves, is a group of dwarves. These dwarves learned the technique of growing their beards so long that they were able to imitate tumbleweeds, thus giving them the ability to approach their foes and ambush them in the open.

It was long thought that the hair of the beard alone was strong enough, being wiry where the hair of the head is fine. Thus it was believed that female dwarves were unable to learn the art. However some eventually learned to strengthen their hair with beeswax and use the same technique.

Some of these dwarves are also able to hide fierce birds within their beards and release them in combat. Others use their beards as a storage-place.

The use of underarm hair or, worse, the hair attending the generative organs for this purpose, is said be most effective, but to increase the sex drive of any who try it to dangerous levels. Those who travel this dark path will also avoid bathing, since such hairs will cling to any soap that comes within a mile of them. The resultant combination of heightened desire and lowered prospects can easily lead to insanity.

The desert is also home to lizard-folk, and the so-called 'Royal' Lizard-folk. The latter are larger than the common lizard-folk, and utterly devoid of magic other than the ability to send forth gouts of breath which causes the flesh to bubble and hair to fuse though no heat is felt nor flame seen. They are most likely no relation to true lizard-folk. They themselves are said to claim descent from both humans and dragons.

Friday, October 15, 2010


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Shelley.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Isle of the Fat Kings

The body of every human being fits into one of three broad types. These types are found in every race, in our world and this.

The ectomorphic type tends to great height and a slim frame.
The mesomorph tends to moderate height and a muscular frame.
The endormorph tends to short stature and a portly frame.

The people of this island developed a social structure based around these three types.

The ectomorphs served as priests, philosophers, administrators and the like.
The mesomorphs served as warriors, labourers, and farmers.
The endomorphs served as an emergency food source.

The endomorphs naturally rebelled against their lot, and would often run away (obviously not very quickly). As this spoiled their flavour, resigning the endomorphs to their lot was a major preoccupation of the ectomorphs.

Male endomorphs were at first castrated. This kept them from lustful activity, which is physically draining and stressful, and provokes a preoccupation with appearance, all of which tend to slimming. However this practice was abandoned, in the hope that this concession would satisfy the endomorphs, and distract them from thoughts of escape. It led only to more aggressive and energetic endomorphs.

Endomorphs were then given an increasing series of privileges, such as houses and land. The religion of the island turned towards praising the endomorphs' willingness to sacrifice for the good of the community. As their status rose, the island became more wealthy through trade, meaning that fewer and fewer were eaten.

At the time of writing the endomorphs are now the effective rulers of the place, with the other two body types acting as their servants. Those who are eaten are usually the losers in political struggles, or the worst criminals.

The primary god of the island is the sun, which they call The One Who Goes Forth Shining. They make no roads, nor even corridors in houses, that run directly east to west, that path being reserved for the sun itself. The only exception is certain important temples, and these passages are only walked during ceremonies.

Travel directly west to east is also disdained by the more pious, the sun being thought to travel in that direction through the underworld at night.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Calendar

In Teleleli, and the surrounding towns, the year is measured from the supposed time of the city's founding.

The Telelelene year ends on Crones-Night, the mid-winter darkened moon (the opposite of a full moon). The cold (by Telelelene standards) and the long, dark night, mean it is considered the 'low point' of the year. The next clear night, when the new moon can be seen, is considered the start of more pleasant weather, and is a time of celebration.

Telelelenes generally consider months to begin with a new moon, and end with a darkened moon, rather than having a set number of days.

The exception is the monsoon, a season of almost continuous heat and rain, which runs for roughly three or four months, during which no moon can be seen.

The calendar runs thus:

NameDescriptionNotable Holidays
Young MoonThe final month of Telelelene winter.First New Moon (first clear night after Crones-Night)
Worm Moon or Crow MoonThe month in which the ground-worms (and some other creatures) end their winter hibernation, and migratory birds return.Return of the Bell
Pink Moon or Walking MoonThat full moon which appears lowest in the sky.
Flower Moon (sometimes Rabbit's Moon)The month which sees the flowering of various plants and herbs, notably the cherry blossom, which only flowers for a few weeks every year. It is said that the falling of the cherry blossom, which lasts roughly a week, is the best time to work magic relating to convincing others to kill themselves in despair.
Thunder MoonThe last time a full moon can be seen before the monsoon.Lost Saturday and Don't Talk Like A Pirate Day
MonsoonSome three or four months/moons in length.Marriage Day
Red Moon, Lightning Moon or Dog MoonThe first time a full moon can be seen after the monsoon.New Eyepatch Day
Corn Moon, Harvest Moon or Barley MoonThat full moon which appears highest in the sky.
Hunter's Moon or Beaver's MoonThat full moon which appears smallest in the sky.
Oak Moon or Cold MoonThe onset of the brief and mild Telelelene winter.
Old Moon or Wolf MoonThe second moon of winter.

Some Moons may be combined, or not occur at all, in particular years.

The Old Moon only occurs every four or five years. Whether it does or not, there might be some cloudy days between the last month of the year, and the start of Young Moon. These days are not considered to be part of either year. They are a time for spiteful pranks and revenge under cover of darkness.

In many years the Pink Moon will occur at the same time as either the Worm Moon or the Flower Moon.

Likewise the Corn Moon and Hunter's Moon often occur at the same time.

On the rare occasions when a Thunder Moon is mis-named, and another full moon appears before the monsoon, that moon is called the Cunning Moon.

The major holidays are as follows:

Don't Talk Like A Pirate Day: On this day pirates imitate the nobility, prominading in their best clothes and buying presents. The festival arose because the time before the monsoon is a time of unusually rough and treacherous seas. Thus sailors are traditionally in port, spending time with friends and family.

New Eyepatch Day: On this day the priests of the sea god Numen Mari parade through the streets, giving out free eyepatches.

Many sailors, whether law-abiding or pirates, wear eyepatches. They believe that using only one eye strengthens it. They will usually move their patch to the other eye once a month - traditionally on the full, or 'open' moon (the Moon is believed to be the eye of a female giant, which opens and closes over the course of a month). This practice also has the virtue that the sailor who goes below decks does not need to wait for their eyes to adjust to the darkness. They need only move the eyepatch to the other eye, and open the eye previously covered.

A successful captain might have an eyepatch for each day of the week, each studded with a different precious stone. Poor sailors might only get a new eyepatch once a year, on New Eyepatch Day.

Corpses of the priests of Numen Mari are preserved and turned into sacred puppets, with strings made from rope that has been used on board ship. Rope from ships which have sunk are particularly valued. Drowned corpses which wash onto the beach may be bought by the temple, and initiated as priests to be turned into puppets. The living priests manipulate these puppets on the New Eyepatch Day parade, and in certain other, more solemn ceremonies.

The puppets are filled with sawdust. The most holy priests have their mouths filled with semi-precious stones. As they parade through the streets the stones dribble from their mouths - this is said to symbolise the value of their preaching (although some say that this is secretly a representation of the jewels said to be set in the Sky-Skull).

Return of the Bell: This day commemorates the recovery of the bell of the Temple of the Crone. A replica of the bell is paraded through the streets, ending at the Temple where a feast takes place. The previous week is known among members of this religion as The Loss of the Bell, and is a solemn occasion of fasting and lamentation, not marked by the general population of the city.

Note that the impious continue to whisper that the bell was never recovered, but that the senior priests caused a new one to be forged in order to keep this knowledge from the faithful.

Lost Saturday: A carnival marking the last summer days before the monsoon. On this day queens (female talking cats) can court toms (males).

Marriage Day: Observed only by the Shallow Ones. It is held on the first rain of the monsoon season.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Unreliable Guardians

The creatures, or people, are enemies of the Angels of Poetic Injustice. Often they will not turn up when Angels threaten. At other times, they will give advice only. At yet others, they will do anything but show themselves to the feared automotons. And at other times again, they will take up their sword and fight. It is unclear how they determine what role to take.

They appear to be men and women of great age, but unusual vitality. They are long of hair (including a white beard in the case of those that appear as males), and wear plain clothes like those of country folk, usually of grey or brown. They wield swords. Some who claim to have spoken to them say that they mention historical events as if they were present. Some authorities speculate that they are long-lived, others that they are able to travel in time, still others that they lie in un-aging sleep most of the time, waking only when they decide to take a hand in the affairs of the Angels of Poetic Injustice.

It is not known whether they are related to the Come-at-a-Bodies, a group which appears to also oppose the Angels of Poetic Injustice, but who appear as human-sized scorpions.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Angels of Poetic Injustice

These creatures are automatons of bamboo and ceramic. Whenever they appear they enforce oaths and promises.

When King Thoukydides, secretly called Milk-of-Corpses, swore that he would never practice sorcery, it is said that an Unreliable Guardian would interrupt every ritual he attempted to perform, until finally the king hurled himself from the battlements of his castle. Yet they are equally likely to appear when a parent has declared that "I'll strangle that kid if he doesn't start behaving", and force them to do so, or to to imprison someone who has said "I'll never get out of here" until they starve to death, then seal the remains in glass so that they may not be removed.

It is unknown how they choose which broken promises to mend. They seem to have no preference for great matters over petty ones, nor good over evil. Nor do they treat offhand promises any differently to those bound with solemn ritual. It is, however, believed that they survey the world from on high. They have never been known to enforce oaths made on cloudy days, or indoors.

Upon completion of their mission, the creatures inevitably explode, spreading deadly shrapnel over a wide area. They will find an isolated spot to die if able, but if not they seem to have no hesitation in endangering others. They destroy themselves so thoroughly that no clue to their construction has ever been found. A blob of material rather like honeycomb has often been found in the wreckage. It is speculated that this is the creature's heart, brain, or soul, or that the 'creature' is but a vehicle, and this material is the corpse of the driver.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Lolz is the spider-goddess of the dork elves, a group of elves who live in "the basement of the world", under the ground.

Every year the dork elves hold a festival in her honour, Lolzapalooza. It is attended by creatures such as shog-goths and roc chicks, as well as the younger and sillier vampires and demons.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"No Other Institution Is Left Standing..."

No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre...And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's.

Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hemianthropoi, or Halflings

Like dwarves, these people resemble a much shorter version of humans. However they are curly-haired, and the men grow no beards. Both genders have hairy feet, and usually go barefoot. They also tend towards fat where dwarves tend towards muscle.

Halfling language is reminiscent of archaic Greek. Perhaps that fleet of colonists which disappeared on their way to Samaria some 2500 years BC found their way here.

Both 'hemianthropoi' and 'halflings' are names they use to outsiders. Their own name for themselves is a secret. So sacred is it that they will sue any who write it down.

They excel in agriculture, cooking, and mathematics. Hemianthropoi were the first to compute the value of pie, and it was a hemianthropos who wrote A Brief History of Thyme.

They are home-loving and amiable. However many of them suffer from Took's Syndrome, a condition marked by symptoms including spare-hankerchief deficiency, getting into trouble in foreign parts, and damn-fool behaviour. Sufferers from this syndrome have ranged far and wide, and it was a group of such sufferers who first met the roving Sun Heroes.

These wandering hemianthropoi are aided by the crown of halfling science, pipe-weed. This herb is smoked in place of tobacco, or drunk as we would drink tea. Its many varities have effects useful to the traveller. Thus the adventuring halfling is seldom seen without at least one pipe and flask. The most common types of pipe-weed are as follows:

Wicked Sorrel, or Wicked SorrowWicked Sorrel improves vision, so that one is less likely to wander into ambush, be taken unawares by pick-pockets, and so on. It even helps one see through magical illusions.
Tisane, or What-Ails-YerThis variety of pipe-weed improves the body's natural defences, so that sickness will be thrown off, and wounds close, more quickly. It is also said to help wounds resist infection.
Burley, or Oh-Be-JoyfulThis plant helps refresh the body and mind so that one may, for a time, avoid the effects of lack of sleep.
High John, or High John the ConquererThere is said to have been a foreign prince or wizard who was taken into slavery. Unable to escape or to incite his fellow captives to revolt, he turned himself into a plant. His indomitable will gave the plant its power to fortify the heart, so that fear is lessened. Those who take this herb are also armoured against those who would control their mind through sorcery.
Black CaptainBlack Captain slows the flow of blood. This lowers the need for food and water, and lessens the effect of poison. However this comes at the cost of making one sluggish and lethargic. It is thus recommended only for those who are resting.

Pipe-weed is not considered one of the Noble Spices, since it must be treated before it has any virtue.

The most distinctive clan of hemianthropoi are the Chumpforts. Generations ago, so family legend says, the founders of the line escaped from a cannibalistic sorcerer. As revenge he cursed them to turn their skin bright blue. A similar legend holds that an ancient snake-like race enslaved halflings, to sacrifice in their occult rituals. They bred the halflings in different colours, to indicate their suitability for different rituals. Both versions of the legend hint that the enslaved halflings, and their captors, may still live in some unknown location.

All males in the Chumpfort family have the condition. It effects females very rarely.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Courage-Seller

Phoedocia is a hideous creature of unknown type, somewhat resembling a cross between a skeleton and a grasshopper (although the size of a man).

She is the only example of her kind, other than her cousin, the Memory-Buyer.

The two creatures' voices are like that of women, but supremely calm in all situations.

She has a shop where she buys and sells courage. It is extracted from sellers in the blood, which Phoedocia sucks out of the arm of the seller and spits into a pot. This pot grows flowers, which when eaten grant courage to buyers.

The courage of women is particularly intoxicating, and the buyer should take care, lest they develop a taste that they cannot control, and become a heroine addict.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grumpy Old Ones

Powerful ancient beings, who lie half-dead, neither awake nor sleeping, in various temples and ancient cities. Should they ever be fully woken, it is said that the world will ring with their cry

"You damn kids [all living things]!
Get off my lawn [the universe]!"

The accursed book Azaf contains the phrase

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

"In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu is trying to get some damn sleep for once."

Azaf says that the Grumpy Old Ones are guarded by the Mi-Go-Reng, or Spicy, Delicious Doom.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Inflatable Minion Seller

This shop sells inflatable guards and monsters. The budget-conscious goblin chieftain, bandit queen or mad sorcerer will have some real minions, but give the appearance of having far more by using these cheap devices.

They are, obviously, more effective at night, and against animals. For animals who rely on their sense of smell, the buyer may 'dress' them in their real minions' dirty clothes.

If attacked the loud pop can act as an alarm, and at a slightly higher cost they may be filled with pestilent gas instead of air.

Although the owner does not say so, inflatable dragons (for example) may be used to terrify the gullible.

Monday, October 4, 2010


A rat-queen begins when two or more normal rats' tails become intertwined. The tails may become stuck together, for example by blood or dirt, and will then grow into a knot.

The rats will try to ensnare other rats, and will become more and more cunning as more rats become joined.

At last, when there are 36 rats, they will become of one mind, with great intelligence and malice. They will dominate normal rats, and both queen and servants will attack people and livestock. They will spread disease, even more than normal rats.

It is said that a rat-queen can cause her heads and claws to seperate from her body, and do evil on their own. If the top of the claws, the bottom of the head, or the equivalent parts on the body, are covered with certain of the Noble Spices, they will not be able to re-attach, and that rat will die.

When one or more of the rats in a rat-queen dies, the rat-queen will diminish in power. However it will remain a rat-queen as long as two rats remain alive. Rats which are seperated will become normal rats, and run from the rat-queen in apparent terror.

Some say that a rat-queen and her servants will only attack people who sleep in their own beds. Thus, after an attack, many will sleep on their porch or in the streets.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Great Race

It is a near-universal belief among the various species of Teleleli and the lands around that there was once a mightly civilisation, now lost to history, but from whom all invention derives.

This accord breaks down, however, when one moves on to the details. Were they human? If not, are their descendents one of the other intelligent species? Beasts? Are a given race slaves of the Great Race who rebelled, or perhaps animals given intelligence by their art? Did the Great Race fall in a magical disaster, the wrath of the gods, war, a gradual decline? Or did they simply leave, and if so where - over the sea, another planet, under the earth, a mist-shrouded valley or secret rooms under the city, from where they still control the world's governments? Were they rulers of a great empire, the world, or many worlds?

One may find wise sages who will attest to all of the above. One may find others equally learned, and equally certain that the Great Race is merely the name given a succession of different civilisations, or entirely a myth. The sage Hiram Abiff states that the Great Race were not material creatures at all, but numbers. He claimed to have travelled to the Heaven of Perfect Forms, from whence they came.

However certain myths and folk-beliefs suggest to me that the Great Race may have been the Lost Tribes of Israel. If so, perhaps they travelled here using knowledge now lost, learned from the Ancient Egyptians. This would explain how the Israelites could have spent 40 years travelling from Egypt to Palestine via Mount Sinai - which works out to just over 50 yards a day. It may be that they went via these lands, leaving a portion behind who became the Great Race.

This theory, I submit, is also likely to shed light on the mysterious land of Sheba spoken of in the Bible. The reader will no doubt be aware that the black queen of that country, one of the "daughters of Jerusalem", travelled to ancient Israel to bless King Solomon, and to give gifts of spices, precious stones, and rare wood (note that gold, virtually unknown in Teleleli and nearby lands, is not mentioned). She then returned to her own country. The location of Sheba has never been determined.

Solomon is said to have considered her as beautiful as "a company of horses in Pharaoh's chariots", with lips "like a thread of scarlet", and teeth "like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them." Tradition holds that they had a child together. A child of the revered king in Jerusalem (or one believed to be such), would have had no difficulty being accepted as a ruler.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Why, All the Saints and Sages...

Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd
Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

Omar Khayyam. Translated by Edward FitzGerald.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Cycle of Cultures

Some scholars believe that cultures rise and fall in a vast and undending cycle, which they describe as follows:


The state where a group knows no cities or written language, although they may have many arts to distinguish themselves from the beasts, such as domesticated herds, or complex systems of kinship. Indeed some claim that the barbarian is further developed in virtue than the civilised.

Some scholars divide the barbaric mode of life into three types:

Hunter-Gatherers who have no agriculture or domesticated animals, except perhaps hunting dogs or the like.
Nomads who have domesticated animals but no agriculture, and thus must wander from place to place, since their herds quickly eat all the grass in a given area.
Sedentary Barbarians who have both domesticated animals and agriculture.


The state of living in cities. It is characterised by written language, and by arts unrelated to wringing a living from the soil. Where the barbarian tribe may have a single shaman, and many hunters and gatherers, the city will have an unending variety of trades. Some say that the scholar is the representative of civilisation. Others point to the merchant, the noble, and the thief (perhaps with a rhetorical questioning of what essential difference divides the three). Still others, perhaps more practically-minded, point to the fact that each city-dweller is fed by many farmers.


At some point, it is said, a civilisation may develop to the point where it develops not just new devices, but a new kind of person. The inhabitants of enlightened cultures are said to be supremely virtuous. Some say that they disdain eating animal flesh as we disdain cannibalism. Some are said to watch ghouls feasting on corpses, that they may gain a horror of meat-eating. Indeed it is rumored that some cultures develop the ability to live without food altogether, surviving entirely on prana, the energy of the sun.

They are also said to possess wondrous mental powers including the ability to fly, to sense the emotions of others no matter how well hidden, and to cause those with weaker minds to be unable to move. Although magic and technology may be able to achieve all these results, these methods are expensive and unreliable.

Although some speak of enlightened beings as long-lived or even immortal, others say that, on the contrary, they have a serene acceptance of death, which gives them courage, but may inhibit their survival.

Some daring souls have claimed that a state of enlightenment is the same as godhead; either that the gods were once people, or that the gods are memories of a time of enlightenment blurred into legend.

By contrast, others claim that there is no enlightenment, only higher and higher levels of technology, each seeming godlike to those below, but in reality differing only in degree rather than kind.


In this phase a society is said to become, as it were, the victim of its own success. Removed from the need to struggle for mere physical survival, yet unwilling to engage in higher pursuits, the people turn to ever more ruinous pleasures. The inhabitant of a decadent society is said to be physically wasted by their pleasures (yet, due to higher tolerance, most resistant to poisons and intoxicants). Finally, dark magic becomes ever more common; perhaps in a search not for power, but for mere distraction from boredom.

Scholars differ as to whether decadence follows enlightenment, or is an alternative fate to it. Others have claimed that civilisation and decadence are the same: that everyone simply denounces the present as decadence, while holding up the past as civilisation.


If a civilisation falls due to its own decadence (as opposed to destruction by natural disaster, or conquest which is not facilitated by decadence), the survivors will be tainted by moral weakness and the effects of the strange practices of the decadent. They may be twisted further by inbreeding. Often they will seek dark places. In short, the degenerate resembles the barbarian in the level of technology, but is far removed in both mind and body.

Some scholars say that degenerate populations that do not die out evolve back into human form, beginning the cycle again. Others claim that degeneracy is a permanent change; the survivors become literal beasts, prowling mute and uncomprehending in the ruins of their works, which finally crumble to dust, unremarked and unlamented - for who is left with tongue and brain to remark or lament?

Comparison to the Life of an Individual Person

Some say that the rise and decline of a culture is like the age of a single person. Barbarism is said to be childhood, civilisation is adulthood, enlightenment is old age, decadence senility, and degeneracy death.

Alternatively enlightenment may be compared to one who gains the wisdom of age, and decadence to one who attempts to recapture their youth.


Some claim that this cycle applies to humans only. Species such as dwarves and elves are said to have reached an unchanging state, although perhaps they were subject to change in the past. Others claim that non-humans are subject to the same rise and fall as humans, but on a vastly slower scale. Yet others say that humans and those kindred who resemble them may have once been a single species, until one branch fell into degeneracy then rose, or conversely became enlightened then fell. The so-called Ancestral Dwarves and Elves are claimed as evidence for many of these theories.

There is also disagreement as to how a group moves from one state to another. Some say that this is a natural development, while others argue that a group can only be uplifted by the gods, or by the technology or magic of an advanced species (although this raises the problem of how the first civilisation arose).
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