Month: June 2017

Mapping Bathos

Below is a map created by Damon Orrell, which depicts the City of Corruption.

Bathos Map

Bathos Map Key

  1. The Emperors Palace: Few have ever seen King Vlad’s dark visage on anything else but the coin of the realm. Even the Emperor’s inner circle, who tend to his needs and carry out his commands see only his shadow-cloaked figure on a gold plated throne made from the bones of his enemies and encrusted with blazing rubies. Servants of the King tell stories of footsteps echoing down the vast halls and disembodied voices speaking in strange tongues in the dark of the night. The palace is filled with winding corridors that go nowhere and staircases that descend and ascend into blank walls. Hidden passages and rooms burrow in and below the palace, filled with strange artifacts, rare treasures, horrible death traps, and demonic beasts. Several brave thieves have made their way past the towering walls that enclose the palace and slipped past the phalanxes of armored guards, only to disappear within the twisting mazes inside- and never to be heard from again.

  1. Bloodring Arena: Bathos holds many violent and bloody spectacles to divert the populace from its own woes and to entertain the nobility. The bloodring is a strange mix between the intellectual and the savage. The arena is laid out like a board game, with concentric rings intersected by spokes that lead to a center platform. Unarmoured warriors attempt to breach the defensive circle and meet the champion at the hub.

    The players control the fates and destinies of the men on the board. When these men meet in adjacent squares they battle to the death. Balance and speed are crucial. When an unarmoured challenger meets the outer defensive ring he loses the majority of the time, but many dying men have carried their opponents into the pits twenty feet below- only to kill them on the upraised spikes embedded in the floor.

    The key to the game is not necessarily the combat; the key is strategy. An expert player can sometimes maneuver the offensive men past the defensive ring and have them go unchallenged until they meet the champion at the center of the blood ring.

  1. Graveyard: The graveyard rises above the Mid-City, surrounded by a wrought iron fence. This is a burial place for solely the rich and noble. Past kings are buried here amid rumored wealth. Ornate statues of fantastic craftsmanship guard the dead. City guards patrol the inside and outside of the graveyard and have killed many grave robbers intent on quick riches.

  2. Mid City Governor’s Keep: Irastos keeps a tenuous hold upon the title of governor. Balancing power between the guilds and fighting the other governors who would like to grab a portion of his tax revenues is a full-time job. Irastos will do whatever it takes to maintain and increase his power. The keep itself is a well-guarded bastion that belonged to the wizard Lord Templar who was found dead in his locked room four decades earlier.

  1. Old Bathos Governor’s Keep: At one time this was the Palace of the Emperors and only they knew what secrets were hidden in its chambers and catacombs beneath. Though some of these dark concealments have been discovered, others remain dormant or still hidden. The governor, Feltha, is getting on in years. In his younger days he was a ruthless and power hungry man. Though few know it, he has slipped into senility and his young cousin Bramthi controls the governorship with equally ruthless abandon. Bramthi retains the Assassins Guild to guard the palace in addition to his regular contingent of private guard hired from the Warriors Guild on a permanent basis.

  1. Old Bathos Arena: Though the Bloodring is suitably violent, its intellectual aspects tend to attract a wealthier and higher-class spectator. For pure spectacle without the pretense of intellectuality, inhabitants of Bathos attend the Old Bathos Arena. Enemies of the king are fed to ravenous beasts or thrown in the pits to fight trained and armoured gladiators with meager weapons or none at all. One of the most popular attractions is when massive aqueducts are opened and the arena is flooded while combatants battle for one piece of high ground that will keep them from drowning. After this event, boatloads of combatants are sent out on the waters to re-enact sea battles in truly realistic fashion. The gambling is heavy and fortunes live and die as the combatants’ fates are decided in the arena.

  1. Under City Governor’s Keep: This part of the city is the oldest of Bathos, even older than Old Bathos. It is also the most dangerous. At night, thieves and cutthroats roam the crumbling streets in packs. Stinking bars and houses of ill repute dot the landscape, and there seems to be no lack of customers. The streets are winding and crooked, jumbled upon each other in a bewildering maze where the unwary are trapped and then robbed or killed. Many refugees from justice make this part of the city their home and find it the ideal place to hide.

  2. Bartertown: During the day this area is filled with thousands of merchants booths. They sell everything from grain and vegetables, meat and clothing to drugs and slaves. If enough time is spent, nearly anything can be found, and if the price is right, purchased.

  3. Low Bathos Governor’s Keep: Low Bathos is the epicenter for the city’s religions. A few sects teach to treat others as you would have them treat you, but, unfortunately, those religions have few members. Many of the sects teach do unto others before they can do unto you. These teachings tend to appeal to the masses. Though many people make their homes in LowBathos, they know that to venture out into the city unescorted and unarmed late at night is to make themselves a target for kidnapping and sacrifice by one of the local cults.

    Trenchant is the high priest for the cult of Elkenah. He is also the governor of Low Bathos. Much of his time is spent in enforcing the will of his religion upon others who would resist its inexorable spread and growing power. His mystical powers make him a formidable opponent. Many of those who have dared to oppose him have died from his mystical assassinations.

  4.  Hilltown Governor’s Keep: Hilltown is known for being an enclave for disenfranchised craftsmen and artists. During the summer, street festivals and entertainers attract inhabitants from the other parts of town. A wide variety of merchants make their home here, as well as several guilds. A number of former sailors, thieves, and others who have made their fortune often decide to retire to this part of Bathos. One of those sailors is Icarod, a former slave who escaped and returned with unimagined riches. Now he governs Hilltown. His free spirit often brings him into conflict with the other governors, and he chafes under the tax burden of the Emperor. His keep is defended by a contingent of ex-sailors and former pirates. Some of these are members of the Sailors Guild. This misuse of personnel is strictly against the rules of the Warriors Guild and has created much enmity and some violence.

  5. Siege Rocks: This was a makeshift defense line constructed of boulders, which was used mainly in ancient times. The citizens of Wharftown believe the rocks to be haunted by the dead soldiers of past battles. Strange apparitions are sometimes sighted and wizards occasionally visit this area to learn information from the dead and to draw upon its strange mystical powers.

  6. Straden Keep: This fortification is built upon an island in the center of the mouth of the Tiber River. Every boat that goes to the port of Bathos must pass underneath the great arches of Straden Keep. Enemies are showered by catapult, ballistae, flaming oil, rock, and arrow. During the last century it has proven a very effective defensive against sea borne attack.

  7. Drowning Man’s Prison: Even a short prison sentence can spell a death sentence if the criminal is sent to Drowning Man Prison. The place is infested with wharf rats, and when the river rises it often drowns the inhabitants of the lower levels of the prison. Other times the rats get hungry and eat unfortunate prisoners.

  8. The General’s Stronghold: This rather exclusive enclave holds a large number of officers. Low level military personnel are sometimes allowed in for certain purposes. All the comforts and vices of the big city are combined on a smaller scale within the walls of the General’s Stronghold.

  9. Merchant Hold: A group of high-rolling merchants have set aside this small part of Bathos. Their homes and merchandise are kept under tight guard in this walled encirclement. Often, the really exotic goods pass through this area; stolen antiquities, strange mystical artifacts, and rare treasures. Outsiders are not tolerated.

  10. Seagate: Bathos’ fleet of ships are kept in this bay behind the sea wall. The sea wall is fitted with defensive towers that are armed to repel any ship that might have managed to make it past Straden Keep or the River Gate.

  11. Shiphaven Governor’s Keep: Ship Haven is where a large part of Bathos’ military complex resides, from the Emperor’s fleets to his vast armies. The guards are careful who they let in to this area, but the Emperor’s might is so impressive and his fortifications so massive that they sometimes get lax.

  12.  River Gate: Though not as impressive as Straden Keep, this is an effective defensive against tribes of the interior that sometimes gather their forces and lay siege to Bathos.

Stilt Town: This part of Bathos is not surrounded by a protective wall. In search of land on which to live, inhabitants of Bathos have built on this floodplain. They have constructed this part of the city entirely on poles and stilts with interconnecting bridges. Also, they have built massive gardens above the ground, and pump filtered floodwaters up from below for irrigation.

Tiber Side: Wharves line the river on the Tiber side of Bathos, and the city is built heavily on this side of the river also. As one travels further out, though, it becomes primarily a collection of farmers and their fields. Bathos gets much of its food and grains from other cities, but when shipments are late, the grain grown here becomes very much in demand.

Wharf Town: This is a melting pot of the foreign and exotic. Bathos is the center of the known world and all goods and trades flow through it. Many bars reeking of spilled alcohol and sweat line the waterfront. Merchants do much of their business in this part of town and the port is always busy with longshoreman loading and unloading ships. Captains are always looking for fresh blood to man their ships, trying to replace the ill or dead of their previous voyage. Stragglers need to be wary, however, because often press gangs are sent out to recruit new sailors.

 

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Never Trust a Hungry Hobranx

 

Never Trust a Hungry Hobranx 600x527

The Muvari and other of the Martian Tribes have a number of proverbs, which are used to instruct children and remind themselves of basic truths. One such proverb is:

Trust a hungry hobranx and soon he will no longer be hungry.

This, of course, is a cautionary proverb about the perils of putting faith in those who are untrustworthy … or of turning your back on an insatiable beast.

 

 

The Galbran

 

 

Galbran

The Galbran are Martian tribes who have fallen into the degenerate worship of such gods as Baalbrock and Naalbrock. The different tribes, and there are many because they constantly are splitting or splintering, are constantly jockeying for power or territory.

They eschew work and so largely subsist by hunting or raiding, though some tribes will take slaves and force these to cultivate food. Because of the constant shortages of food many of the tribes resort to cannibalism–raiding enemy tribes and taking prisoners, which they will later eat.

Cannibalism is also a component of their religions, which involve human sacrifice and then the eating of the victims.

Some of the tribes retain the semblance of a family structure, but others mate at will and children are placed in a collective orphanage (for in these cases all children are effectively orphans) and are raised by overseers, much in the way that cattle is raised.

There is little in the way of education unless a child is lucky enough to be taken as an apprentice to one of the few craftsmen who ply a trade. Most of the children will be taught only how to fight, and the process is brutal and unforgiving. Many Galbran children die in training, long before they ever have the chance to go to war with an enemy tribe.

Galbrans prefer close fighting and fit their fingers and even toes with blades which they use to slice apart their enemies. Out of practicality, some Galbran tribes use knives and swords.

Many Galbran tribes make their homes in caverns near arshen pits, where they can slay these slug-like creatures and use their skins and pitch to make wings, which makes the tribes dangerously mobile. Often the edges of these wings will be studded with razors, so that a Galbran might sweep down and slice at an enemy.

 

 

Lambrin

Lambrin 600x715

An exile from the Elkshant tribe, Lambrin fell in with a group of exiles led by Sharone and the American astronaut Arnold Stechter, the self-styled “Lord and Master” of this group of renegades and outcasts.

During her residence with these exiles, they acquired the brilliant scientist Sar Savaht who had been displaced when the Warlord Shaxia was slain. Stechter immediately pressed Sar Savaht to work in recovering ancient technologies which might allow them to slip into enemy strongholds, bypassing the defenses.

Lambrin, attracted to Savaht’s intellect and kindness, though he was some fifty years older, began sneaking away to visit him. Eventually she was caught by Sharone, administered a whipping and thrown into a cage which was lowered into an arshen pit.

When Savaht discovered this he demanded that Lambrin be set free and be allowed to marry him. Stechter, realizing it was in his best interest to keep the scientist happy, relented.

Savaht used an ancient device that regenerates cells to heal Lambrin’s wounds. Here, they dwelt until later Garvey and Ntashia Dire freed them from the subjugation of Stechter and his exiles.

Savaht, Lambrin, and her three children (Than, being the oldest son who is named after the legendary Caladrexian scientist Than Shib  ) were brought back to the City of Ledgrim and thereafter Savaht used his skills in the service of the Muvari Tribe.

In this period, Savaht was able to experiment with ancient cellular therapies that actually have reversed the course of aging, bringing him nearer to Lambrin’s health, vigor and youth.

Lambrin has had several opportunities to demonstrate her prowess with the sword in defense of her husband. Though she has not been able to bear any more children beyond the three born in the camp of the exiles, she and Sar Savaht added to their brood, when they were attacked by renegade technopriests and used a rifle designed to create a pocket of slowed time that would retard the actions of the enemy.

This rifle malfunctioned and caused two of their enemies to regress to infanthood. In consequence they have added Exarin and Vyann to their family. Though they dare not mention to anyone just where those infants came from, Garvey Dire and his wives strongly suspect.

 

 

Pile of Reading

book stack 6-17

My tottering tower of leaning literature is once again growing out of control. In addition to published books I’m currently reading a couple of manuscripts. One is Aubrey Arthur and the End of Magic by Russ Anderson Jr and co-author Michael Fogg. I’ve been reading this one nightly with my 9 year old daughter, and just the opposite of being the end of all magic, the vivid prose captures magic in a way that puts JK Rowling to shame.

Also, I’ve got the sequel to Rob Mancebo’s five-star-rated Section Seven in the pile, and I’m working my way through an edit of Dogs and Sorcerers, which will be the third book in my Tales from the City of Bathos fantasy series.

Nailed Naked to a Board

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Some tribes, notably the Ekshant Tribe from which Lambrin was exiled, will administer punishment for violations of law by tying the criminal up to a board and whipping them. In some cases, where the sentence is death they will nail the criminal to the board.

This has given rise to the saying, “I’d rather be nailed naked to a board” when some task or event seems particularly odious.

 

Caladrex Steel

Caladrex Stee 600x500l

Caladrex or Caladrexian steel was used to forge weapons of superior edge and durability by the blacksmiths of that ancient and now lost city. An entrance to that now buried city was discovered by Garvey Dire and Ntashia Dire through a cavern in the cliffside of the Rift, and there is another known entrance through the Valley of Diamonds.

This lost city beneath the Martian planetary crust was at the time partially controlled by a malicious computer entity known as Sved who could also appear in apparitional or semi-substantial form. Another portion of Caladrex is controlled by Thenylis, High Priestess of the Omnipotent Vackri, who rules over the remnants of the once great people.

Caladrex steel may or may not have been actual steel at all, but in reality an alloy unknown to exile, Galbran, or Muvari, and even to the mad wizard Sar Savaht.