October 2018


In great, dark Korton, it is well-advised to hire a guide that can deal with the perpetual blackness. One who was born in the city, or lived there many years, has had time to not only develop their other senses but also their knowledge of the metropolis.

Those who do not follow this advice often find their way to the so-called Alley of Laughing Children.

Children in Korton laugh as do any others, of course, from splashing games in the River Kor to a game known only there that the little ones call “The Echoes.” The latter involves shouting back and forth in a way that is intended to confuse and lead fellows astray; if a designated ‘seeker’ can find their fellowsdespite the cacophony of echoes, they are reckoned by their peers to be well-accomplished.

In the Alley, a game of “The Echoes” is almost always going on. It is distracting, even unnerving, to those who pass through to hear so many voices. But for those who pass though—is indeed they do so safely—the most unnerving thing is this:

None have lived in the Alley since a great conflagration centuries ago. And for every travel that goes missing, an new and childlike voice is added to the chorus.

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Revil Fen stretches for miles along the coast of the Silver Sea, a trackless marshland with few solid paths and fewer inhabitants. North lie the withering, deadly plains of Laïs, and proud, dark Korton on the River Kor; south, the only succor before the City of Bronze is the Chateau of Staeye in all its maddening infinity.

Those who would pass through Revil Fen on their way north or south would do well to hire a guide, perhaps a roper from Staeye. For there are far older and far more dangerous things in the swamps than the burbling horror of a drowning death.

Chief among these are the feared ‘treemen,’ trees that stretch above the mire on thick strong roots. When they sense an unwary traveler—or, better yet, a struggling one—they silently creep forward on their roots, causing nary more than ripples and rustling. With a speed surprising for their bulk, they will pounce on travelers and hold them under until the last breaths escape.

A year later, from that spot, a multitude of small mobile saplings will grow. Only one in a hundred lives to be the size of its sire, naturally.

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In the dead center of the sunless city of Korton, directly beneath the gaze of the cruel star of Køs, sits the great Sepulcher, the tallest and mightiest of the night-black edifices forever sealed behind great curtains of impenetrable ink.

For those unfamiliar with the faiths that predominate there, the Sepulcher is a tomb, an empty tomb, for the Creator that adherents believe was slain in a great battle with the master of evil and who will yet return. The Sepulcher of Korton is among the greatest, and some say that it is where the faith began.

Because its spires are so tall, so that they may always be visible against the sky, and so riddled with holes, so that they may always make an interesting and imposing silhouette, those faithful who rise in the twin bell towers to strike the hourly bells are in unique danger.

Once a year, perhaps more, an initiate will fall to their death off the spire because they failed to see the yawning chasm greedily before them. In time, of course, they all learn, but many initiates nevertheless traverse the area on their hands and knees, feeling carefully forward and shrinking back where they find a void.

More than one of the initiates and even the elder priests have tripped over the great hempen ropes that serve to bind the bells. And when the bells are cleaned once every five years to remove the caked on bat-muck and other filth, legend has it that the locals will place morbid bets on the number of Sepulcher priests, novices, and initiates who will perish.

LEgend has it that one year, miraculously, all survived and many of the bookmakers in Korton lost everything.

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What do I sell? Why, immortality, child!

Do not laugh, for I am very serious. No, I am nor a sorcerer or conjurer. You’ll certainly live longer if you eat my delicious foods and partake of my dried rations, to say nothing of the many armors and shields I have on offer, but I’ve nothing that’s protection against the will of the gods when it’s time for you to fall.

Ah, but how can there be immortality on offer if that’s the case, I hear you ask! Simple, so simple that it’ll take longer for me to explain than it will for you comprehend.

At my humble warehouse, your road to fortune and glory begins. Will it be a kingdom you win for yourself? A merchant empire? Or such wealth that will see you, hale and hearty at the end of your years, imparting tales of your exploits to eager great-grandchildren?

That is immortality, my friend, the kind of afterlife available to all and that swords cannot scratch. And that is what I sell, to those canny enough to see it.

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The Silver Sea is the only gateway to the lands beyond Kaïs to the east, but it is fraught with danger. Not only do storms whip up at a moment’s notice, and fantastic dream-creatures infest its depths, but touching its waters will instantly wake a sleeper, tearing them from their dreams.

Ancient docks rest on the shore, but they are often far higher than the current level of the sea, indicating that it once ran much higher. Occasional thunderstorms on the plains of Kaïs will sometimes swell the water level and sweep away the unwary.

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They call it the Infinite Chateau of Staeye, and it is situated on the very edge of the plain of Laïs, where the light is not intense enough to kill.

The latter part of its name is easy enough to parse; the chateau was for many years the home of the Staeye family when they had left the waking world behind for the dreamscape. It is not known if they built it, but they dwelt there for aeons of dreamtime and had certainly made it their own by the time their last living member succumbed to the eternal sleep of death and sailed away across the Silver Sea, the shore of which just touches the chateau.

It is called Infinite because it has rooms beyond number and beyond human reckoning.

Many enter it as it now sits, abandoned and decrepit, as a waystation before setting out for Korton, the only safe city upon Laïs. And this is not a problem, because the rooms never end. Ropes are generally kept at the entrance, and ties about those who enter. But it a rope should break, or a person should go in unwary with no rope, they will become lost forever.

Even those who do not die will face a fate worse than death: every dream for their remaining days will consist of wandering endlessly in a mansion with no beginning and no end.

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Q: Where are books on teflon kept in the library?

A: In the non-friction section.

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