Many people have wondered how the small town (pop. 137) of Butthole (pronounced “beaut-hoe-lay”) in Mississippi got its name. The road signs for Butthole (pronounced “beaut-hoe-lay”) were a constant source of amusement for out-of-towners and frequently stolen by pranksters until the town ordered them replaced with painted boulders to deter theft in the manner of Shitterton, Dorsetshire.

It has been suggestion, by analogy with the town of Bad Fücking in Saxony, that the name Butthole (pronounced “beaut-hoe-lay”) is simply another language that seems scatalogical to English speakers. After all, Bad Fücking simply means “the baths of Fuecke’s people” after a long-dead merchant named Johannes Fuecke.

However, none of the theories about the origin of the name Butthole (pronounced “beaut-hoe-lay”) have thus far held up to scrutiny. The oft-repeated tale that it has its roots in a Cajun place name, Beau d’Holey, neglects the fact that “Holey” is not a known word or place name in French. Another theory, that the town was named after a hole in a local butte, is belied by its location in board-flat Mississippi floodplain country. And despite the suggestion in a Saturday Night Live skit from 1987 that brought the town a burst of worldwide notice, there never was a “Cyrus Q. Butthole (pronounced “beaut-hoe-lay”), Esquire.”

Even the notion that the name was adopted with full knowledge of its actual meaning is troublesome, as the scatological term is unknown before 1859 (and then only in the West) while Butthole (pronounced “beaut-hoe-lay”) was founded in 1822. No source reflecting on the humor of the name can be found in any contemporary accounts, even from the Union troops who occupied the area in 1863 and who would have had good reason for a laugh at their adversaries’ expense.

In the midst of all of this, the town of Butthole (pronounced “beaut-hoe-lay”) is laughing all the way to the bank. Despite being overwhelmingly rural, conservative, and Republican, the town nevertheless makes a healthy profit selling t-shirts and souvenirs in person and online.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

At Pelusium, when the Persians and Greeks shattered his lines, did Nakhthorheb have any idea that three thousand years of an Egypt ruled by Egyptians was coming to an end? Or that his defeated kingdom was only to suffer ten years under the Persian yoke before being made part of the largest empire the world had ever seen?

The Egyptians had a story in which Nakhthorheb fled the country, fled to Macedonia, and sired Alexander the Great, his eventual successor in secret. I prefer to think he watched the Macedonians parade through the Siwa Oasis from beneath a cloak, and smiled.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

The primary religious faith for humans in the Kingdom of Pexate and other states that were once part of the northern Crimson Empire is the Universal Sepulcher of the Creator, also known as the Universal Sepulcher, the Sepulcher of the Creator, or the Sepulcher of the One. “Sepulcher” is an obsolete word for a lavish tomb, and this reflected the overall belief among adherents that the Creator (whose holy name it was forbidden to speak) had been slain in mortal combat with Muolih, the Destroyer.

According to the most familiar version of the narrative, after crafting the world and its inhabitants, the Creator was challenged for primacy by his one-time right hand, Muolih. Their conflict spilled over into the world at large, and many of the sapients that exist in the world are held to be the result of their battle. Many humans believe, for instance, that goblins and orcs were created by Muolih as shock troops while ascribing elves and dwarves to the Creator to bolster Its ranks. Needless to say, this view is not shared by the sapients in question.

At a final great battle, Muolih and the Creator supposedly slew each other. The Creator was laid to rest in a fabulous tomb–the search for which has incidentally consumed many an adventurer–and Its servants now act in Its name to preserve the world. For, as the stories go, the Creator promised that It would return to life after an aeon of slumber on the eve of the fateful battle. At that time, all rights would be wronged–as they would for those souls who joined the Creator in Its repose.

Conversely, Muolih was consigned to the abyss after its death, but its followers are supposedly constantly seeking to revive it with offerings of souls and wicked deeds. Thus, for the Sepulcher’s faithful, good deeds lead to notice from the Creator’s proxies and eventual redress of wrongs, while bad deeds draw the gaze of the Destroyer’s minions and the possibility of consignment to its abyssal funeral pyre.

In Pexate, as in most of its neighbors, local groups build their own Sepulchers as focuses of worship, either to the dead and dreaming Creator, to Its still-vital intermediaries, or to those noble souls felt to have joined It. Memorials are held regularly, and many choose to take their devotion still further by taking up the life of a monk or friar.

The Sepulcher is regarded with varied feeling by other sapients. Elves often find it convenient to profess belief, especially if they are in high positions, while often remaining secretly devoted to the Eternal Way. Dwarves, whose religion was thrown into turmoil by the fall of the Shattered Isles, converted to the Sepulcher in great numbers though many remain dedicated to their native Twilight Courts of Dvangchi and Qingvnir. Orcs by and large regard the Sepulcher with contempt in favor of their atheist Hamurabash, though there are some converts in larger human cities. Goblins follow the precepts of the Sepulcher but in a unique way, seeing themselves as tainted by their association with Muolih and bereft of leadership and succor but what they provide for themselves.

And it goes without saying that just as the other sapients are not monolithic blocs, neither are humans. While the Sepulcher is the majority faith, the New Order (or often simply the Order) rules unquestioned over many of the southern lands of the Crimson Empire, and the Way of Being is also popular in areas along the great trade routes.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Envy you the artists and their chosen canvasses
The writer poised at desk with quill in hand
The painter poised over palettes of mixed oils
The composer with liqid-flowing baton in hand
The photographer with viewfinder pressed to light
Politician, diarist, singer, and architect
Cook, stylist, surgeon, and businessman
Not for their gifts, not to envy them those skills
But for the simple fact that anyone who creates
Anyone who makes, anyone who crafts, anyone at all
Has made their mark upon our world, enduring
And will live larger-than-life, forever, eternal
So long as even a single creation remains

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

There it was, again: the unmistakable outline of a cuttlefish, all eyes and tentacles beneath a looming mantle. Drawn in what seemed like chalk but indelible and raised to the touch–a paint pen, perhaps, or something similar. Like the others, it was on metal rather than the surrounding pavement, a street elevator door this time rather than a drainpipe or capped steam radiator.

I added another pin to the map that was evolving on my cell. Since seeing my first cuttlefish graffiti a month ago near the Modern Times bookstore, I had noticed them proliferate across the city where I worked as a delivery driver. Always on metal, always on white, always more and more of them.

Once, I delivered a package to a deli whose owner was trying to scrub one of the glyphs off of a standpipe. It resisted his best efforts with rubbing alcohol, turpentine, and even sandpaper. I lent him a bottle of the Goobusters liquid we use to get rid of sticker residue, and not even that potent petroleum distillate made a dent.

What initially started as an idle way to pass the time on my various delivery runs quickly became a mild obsession. As I saw more and more of the things, always on metal, always on something connected to the ferrous sinews that ran beneath the city, I began to feel increasingly uneasy.

The pins on my map were beginning to resolve into a discrete form, and it was not a form that bespoke a crude campaign of stick-it-to-the-man scribbling.

It was a form that suggested the closing of the world in a maelstrom of madness.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

All of the various sapients–humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, and others–share a relatively recent common ancestor. As such, hybrids between them can be and often are concieved. However, the number of chromosomes involved varies considerably: humans have 32, elves 38, dwarves 36, orcs 34, and goblins 30. This means that any offspring will have an odd number of chromosomes and therefore be sterile and unable to produce any offspring of their own.

As such, sapient hybrids tend to be called “mules” by analogy and have never formed more than a small percentage of the general population. Genetics being what they are, mules can favor either parent but generally appear to be an admixture of traits falling between the two extremes.

Mules with an elvish parent, for instance, generally have a faster metabolism and thus shorter lifespan than an elf but a slower metabolism and thus longer life than their other parent. Mules with an orcish or goblin parent will often have a greenish tinge to their skin but will lack the chlorophyll to actually convert the sun’s energy into nutrients with the same efficiency.

In societal terms, mules are often seen as outsiders or perversions of nature and viewed with suspicion or outright hostility. Elvish culture demands that any mule and their elvish parent be ejected from the family for such a lapse, for instance. Dwarven mules are typically regarded as useful warriors with heads full of rocks and little else, while mules with a goblin parent may find themselves ejected from both cultures.

Sadly, mules are often exploited because of their cultural vulnerability. Elven-human mules, for instance, are sterotyped as courtesans and prostitutes because of their legendary beauty and inability to concieve, leading to many unfortunate cases of kidnapping and sexual slavery. Dwarven-orcish mules are believed to be the finest warriors in the world, and are therefore the subject of intense recruiting efforts from sports and mercenary organizations despite the relative paucity of dwarves and orcs living in close proximity.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Goblins’ origins are obscure and surrounded by many myths and legends, but it seems likely that they evolved in a similar arid environment to that of the orcs as they share the chlorophyll-laced skin of the latter, though they lack similar dentition. They also have only four fingers and four toes on each limb, a trait unique to their biology.

Another uniue biological curiosity is that unlike other sapients, goblins do not undergo a growth spurt at puberty. Instead, they continue to grow at a steady rate that slows slightly as they age. Their often impoverished and violent lives mean that the average goblin is shorter than man-sized, though particularly old or renowned goblins are able to reach impressive heights: Aepebo Manbynk (“Treeboy”), the great leader of the Goblin Revolt, was six-foot-five by the time he was captured and executed.

Goblin religion is a unique variant of the Sepulcher of the Creator, the faith embraced by a significant portion of humans. Goblins believe that they were created by the dark lord Muolih, the fallen left hand of the Creator, as his servants. They regard this as an act of blasphemy that forever stained their people, and so with the deaths of Muolih and the Creator in the Greatwar of legend, goblins generally hold themselves bereft of purpose and of any divine influences whatsoever aside from minor spirits. They believe that, due to Muolih’s taint, they are owed nothing and entitled to nothing but what the can get for themselves.

As such, goblin culture is based around achievement; individuals are born without a name and must earn one through their deeds. Unnamed goblins are referred to using a variety of workarounds: the word bac (“you there”), adjectives (“tall,” “sister”), and as often as not, simply “goblin” or “gob.” A goblin who has earned a name is stripped of it upon surviving a defeat but is allowed to keep it if they perish during said defeat, a cultural convention that leads to the often suicidal disregard for self seen in goblin battle formations.

Stereotyped as crude, stupid, and weak, goblins are actually as intelligent and creative as any other sapient. Their low position in societies and their unique culture of self-depreciation belies their general aptitude for construction, chemistry, and mathematics. The arquebus is their most notable arm, and goblin arquebusiers (ottaobynk, “gun boys”) were and are common sights across battlefields.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,257 other followers