Thursday, October 10, 2019

Setting/game concept: REVANESCENCE_

I've been keeping this in my head for too long, so instead of putting it in a kickstarter or zine rollercoaster seat which never departs, I'm going to put the basis of it on this blog. If there turns out to be a crowd for it, who knows, maybe it does have a future as a bigger project.

This thing is called REVANESCENCE_. It's, if you will, esoteric cyberpunk, a brainchild of my love for Ghost in the Shell, RUINER, Transistor, Blade Runner, Neuromancer, all those classics and then some. The Earth is a Kowloonesque megacity. It doesn't even resemble a proper planet anymore. Everyone worships the Lucky Golden Zodiac, a fivefold of modern demons that embody the pillars of boundless hypercapitalism. The bones of the planet have all broken under the weight of the obese mass of greasy blubber that is humanity. You've got as many lives as you can buy. Let's go.

Movie poster for ALIEN (1979, Poland)
You'll die over and over again. Your HEART_, a gizmo in your body, builds you back again and again, ready to go another round. It builds you with BIO_, biomass plus energy that's kept in your COFFIN_, your outsourced bank account of extra lives. but BIO_ ain't cheap to buy, or cheap to steal. When you run outta BIO_, you're nothing but a cute little computer gadget trapped in a corpse. Lots of scrap-built hardware uses the HEARTS_ of poor fools as processing power, if they can crack them (people who do that for a living are called Heartbreakers). Makes them haunted, full of traces of people. Lost memory scraps someone couldn't burn out. Glitchy relicts of people everywhere. Maybe you think that's fucked up. Maybe you just wanna play pong over some dead gal's trauma.

The Zodiac's on every street corner, on every tacky new year poster in Chinese or Russian or English or whatever, on every happy takeout menu, wherever you like it. It's rat, tiger, pig, crab, monkey.

Art by waneella
First one's real name is RAT_KING_, demon of hierarchy, dominance, ambition, backstabbing, will to power. Then there's VIDEOMANCER_, demon of fake images, fake beauty, fake emotion, fake love, big industry porno, monetised intimacy, exploited and manufactured body ideals. THE_HOLLOW_, who's never got enough. Consumption. Resource exploitation. Neocolonialism. Mining, overfishing. Gorging. Hogging. IMMORTAL_P_, demon of plastics, synthetics, nuclear waste, all that shit that humans keep making that'll outlive em a millionfold. He's pollution and he's carcinogens. And then there's APEMIND_. The corporate data-mining of human behaviour, human tendencies, human psy- and sociology. Tying the species' evolutionary roots to its fingers and using them as puppet strings.

Ghost in the Shell, 1995
Maybe you're not made of meat, maybe you ain't got no HEART_. Then you're AI, android, computer. Programmed to be something. If you're a pop star, a celeb, then you're as fake as can be. Your codelines got nothing but smiles in them. And the brand of course. Gotta sell the brand. You're a happy shiny sociopath, your mind eating up whatever the audience preference algorithm shits out, telling all those love-starved fans to BUYBUYBUY. You're a slave to love, and you're a love slaver. You're the ultimate soulless idol of a maxed-out Kpop industry. There's no people in those quirky sparkly clips no more.

Art by Sachin Teng
Everything except the top layers (of society, of the ladder, of the planet), no actual human being from corporate actually deals with anymore. They just let the algorithms run on autopilot, let the programmed androids do their job. The stuff does a well enough job maintaining itself just enough for the cash flows not to stop coming. Mobs and gangs and Zodiac cults run it all- there's at least two that call themselves the police. Corporate doesn't mind. Even gangsters need to BUYBUYBUY. They don't care where the money comes from, so long as it comes. There's rebels too, but they ain't got no power. It's all just pirate radios and angry graffiti. And violence, 'cause all that anti-corpo hatred that can't reach up to the shiny white of the top layers has to go somewhere. Everything under the polished top is strata of rust, shit, and smiling sunny billboards.

Art by DeadSlug
The Zodiac's cults in the strata are a lot different than the ones topside. Down they're supplicants, up they're profiteers. The strata ones are cargo cults hoping for money and power and beauty and all that shit, so long as they worship, and sacrifice, and idolate. The topside ones are like masonry lodges and illuminati entwined with corporate hierarchies and bureaus, serving the Zodiac because they actually DO gain from it. Because it DOES give them power. All the shit the strata ones do and give up and serve and BUYBUYBUY, that doesn't give THEM power, it gives the topside ones power.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Why are Wizards Wizards?

Because wizards know.

Wizards know.

That's what defines them. An incredible information asymmetry.

Trying to understand the occult is like skimming the top of a miles-deep cold pool with your hand. As good as all of it you'll never come into contact with unless you jump into the pool. But once you get in you invariably sink all the way down. And then you're a wizard.

The occult mystery relates to a deep part of you, one that no acquaintance or friend can ever reach. It's so complex and stimulating to explore but you can't do it with anyone by your side. Conversation, friendship, it's all nice but it feels like talking about the weather and about what brand of cereal you like to eat. It's skin-deep. It fails to even approach to address this core element that's come to define you, this cosmic adventure you are immersed in but have to undertake solo.

You're quite terribly alone in the matter, and relating to anyone else becomes awfully difficult. You can only let yourself be absorbed by the intricacies of the mystery to keep the terrible loneliness at bay.

That's the Sadness

You can think of understanding magic as being in on the world's greatest and most complicated conspiracy theory. And knowing that it's true. But talking to anyone about it majorly weirds them out. And they keep asking why you are wearing all that funny stuff, and what you need that industrial shipment of plastic Garfield alarm clocks for. You know of course. But there's simply no way of just telling them. For that, they have to immediately be filled in on the whole thing to get it. And that would take years, not to mention they'd also have to become a wizard. You see the world differently. Everything has a different meaning, defined reasons and utilities and purposes are all turned on their head. It's everywhere, in everything. It's a new dimension to the three you were used to seeing. Most of everything you do, your habits, your dress sense, seems harebrained to other people. No matter how much they observe you there just doesn't seem to be a discernable method to your antics. Not to mention you'll do the most bizarre and affronting and horrifying things, and you know that's what you have to do of course, but nobody else does.

That's the Madness

It gives you a kind of power. With the right means you can do things that are, to normal people, simply incomprehensible. But everything you say and do is incomprehensible to normal people.

That's the Magic

When a wizard meets another wizard, their behaviour towards each other is hard to understand. Sometimes they'll become soul mates. Sometimes strictly business partners. Sometimes mortal enemies. The criteria for this are undoubtedly to be found somewhere in the vast byzantine facets of the arcane mystery. Somewhere. Probably.

"Magic. Madness. Sadness. MMS runs through all magic users." -Betty Grof

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Topographical Anomaly: Empty_Map

Spaces that should be empty get a bit stuffy and quite uncomfortable when they're suddenly full of people. They lose their charm. Usually to the eighth plague of Egypt, rain of tourists, who are a lot harder to clean up than frogs since they are 50% plastic and clothing fibers.

People have an energy. The presence of people is a distinctly loud energy. When it disappears there is a void which is filled through osmosis by a quiet energy. The energy of emptiness. It's like the low buzz of an electric wire. When it is present in a normally crowded place we are put on edge by that energy. It has invaded a space that doesn't belong to it. The energy of emptiness is a lot more alien to us than the energy of people.

Art by Arthur Chaumay
"Empty_Map" is the classification label of a bizarre phenomenon that could occur in post-apocalyptic settings, modern settings, but really in any kind of setting. It's a large cityscape that is in tip-top condition, as if under permanent maintenance and impervious to erosion. In Empty_Map, it is always sunny but not warm, there is never any wind, and there is always the sound of cicadas. It is also completely and utterly devoid of any animals or humans. You can hear those cicadas, but you'll never see them.

Empty_Map does not look as if it has been recently used or left behind in a hurry. There's no signs of a sudden immaterialisation of the populace, like car crashes or clothing piles or anything like that. It's perfectly orderly, dollhouse-organised. Clothing is all folded and in drawers, sorted by colour. Cars are all perfectly parked. If you find a basketball court, the ball is sitting still exactly in the middle of the court.

Empty_Map has a kind of homeostasis mechanism. If you change something, like move the ball, leave a door open, something like that, it will seemingly have reset when you come back to it. When you alter something from its original configuration, it'll return to it once you are either far enough away, asleep, or otherwise not observing it for a prolonged period of time. If you take something from Empty_Map outside of it, the same rules apply, but the unobserved time it needs to disappear is a lot shorter. Any dead bodies in Empty_Map disappear as soon as you take your eyes off them, but bloodstains will require standard ignoring time to vanish.

Art by Arthur Chaumay
When you create a serious imbalance in Empty_Map, either by causing mass disorder or staying there for too long, it'll try to remove you actively.

Chambermaids are called this because they are kind of Empty_Map's maintenance crew. They don't speak, but they have to look at each other to communicate it seems. They'll show up randomly outside of your immediate field of observation. They have guns. They will shoot you with their guns. Then you'll vanish as stated above. If you kill them, they die and bleed like normal humans. But they'll vanish too. They wear white raincoats and hazard masks. Touching them, alive or dead, will give you a severe electric shock.

Art by Yun Ling
Empty_Map can come into existence spontaneously in a place where it shouldn't be, like in a desert. Or maybe, an area could have been converted into an Empty_Map version of itself: you could be walking through a derelict post-apocalyptic ruin, and suddenly stand at the border of a perfect and pristine Empty_Map.

What is Empty_Map? A reality glitch? An experiment of some kind, either being conducted on it, in it, or by it? A sort of weapon? The fallout zone of something? An alien lifeform? 

Hard to tell. There's just nothing to go on, really. It's just there. Any instance of Empty_Map seems to have been there forever according to locals, and has never been and is still not there according to any official documents or testimonies.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Miracularium Two: Demons are Divine Revolutionaries

I'm not quite mad enough, yet, to make something called Miracularium Two, without having first made something called Miracularium One. You'll need that to make sense of this. Find it here.

First of all a small addendum to the previous post. Someone asked me what exactly the metaphysical aspect of a God was, given that I meantioned it as a metaphysical being while mainly talking about ethics. Well, the end product of the process to create a god is not so much the resulting physical device, but rather, the metaphysical entity that results from it. That's the God's self, the sequence of code grafted onto universal ontology which defines the God as a being. When it is born, a God is nigh impossible to destroy (though some try very hard and sometimes succeed, see later) because its metaphysical self is independent. The destruction of its physical aspects matters little because its metaphysical aspect is still there: it must exist, so in some form or another it will simply regenerate.

Another example is a God's ultimate weapon for when it decides you're simply incorrigible: its ability to inflict EGODEATH, which means that it overwrites your metaphysical self, with its metaphysical self. You cease to be an individual being and lose everything that makes you different from the God. There is no more distinction between you, and it. Your free will is destroyed. You are enslaved to the morality, like it is, and you also cease to be human in the categorical sense. You've been turned into a Godhead.

A God's name is absolute. It is synonymous with its metaphysical self. When you speak its name you cannot lie about it, cannot describe or imagine it in any way that is inaccurate from it. When you hear its name, you immediately know exactly what it is and therefore (because it is perfectly moral) exactly what it expects of you. You also immediately know the appearances of all its Godheads, because they are it.

Art by René Magritte, 1937
Okay, that's out of the way. Now then, it's time for demons.

If you remember my post about the Orkus, you'll know that incredibly powerful beings can arise as avatars or embodiments of thinking creatures' sentiments. In the Orkus' case, that's the terror risen from the fear of decay, creating an apocalyptic formless boogey man of rot and filth.

The case of demons is somewhat similar, only instead of one entity they are manifold due to the more divided nature of what lies at the heart of their progenitive element. Demons are produced by the sentiment of rebellion and revolution. They are the want and the need for the establishment's destruction, the beheading of the king, the death of God, the burning of Olympus. They are the Rage Against the Machine.

Demons are not like Gods. They have a free will, and a personality. They are effectively a race of  highly divergent individuals self-malleable in both mind and body, which is after all appropriate since they embody the angry desire for freedom, specifically from the Gods. However, this also means that they possess the core trait inherent to all anarchists and revolutionary philosophers: that while there's one basic idea to which they all subscribe, they don't agree on anything else. The why, the how, the what happens when we have actually done it.

Art by Jean-Francois Millet, 1874
Demons are, essentially, made of synphysical soul fire. In the higher spheres, this flame can exist as a form in and of itself. In the physical world it must fill a receptacle, so it forms a carapace of flesh and chitin and many other materials, according to what accords to its sense of self. They are natural shapeshifters, being able to change their carapace as they wish, but most of them find the need for self-expression to be stronger than what benefits a covert or mimic form can offer them. Some however are notorious masqueraders. The flame's identity cannot be concealed, only the physical carapace's.

There are demonic "factions," which amount to a handful of demons (it is never more than this) happening to agree enough on their worldview that they decide to act in an organised way. However, these factions constantly form, fall apart and reform at a higher speed than rock and roll bands. It should come as no surprise that demons do a great deal of infighting. 

There are definitely demons who act in tricky and puppeteering ways with regards to their peers, but this can't really reach further than a few individuals. Demons are so wildly divergent in thought that there isn't really much of a common denominator to manipulate them en masse with. Manipulating a demon requires careful individual attention to the way they think. This is why being a daemoniac or demon summoner is such a difficult branch of wizardry: aside from great technical understanding of the thaumaturgy, you must be a cunning socialite as well.

Art by Annis Naeem
Demons can be killed, by destroying their flame. Damage to it, since it is also their soul, may alter their personality altogether and warp their identity, much like brain damage would do to a human. Destroying their physical vessel means that they lose their ability to exist physically, until they get a new one. The new carapace may be forged in magma, may be virgin-birthed from some devout priestess, may be grown from a lonely date tree in a desert, may explode out of a random noble's head, as long as there's some way to form the new body.

A new demon soul is not created, like a God, and is also not born like a human by a reasonably understandable biological process. There is a something, which is the thing that originally arose from the collective sentiment of human rebellion, a mysterious and unknowable entity with a status like a demonic Kaaba. Once every demonic year (their year count is based on this cycle), a new demon emerges from it, with great intelligence, but a blank slate in terms of ideas and opinions.

The way this situation is handled is that around the something, a gigantic colosseum has been built (perhaps the only recorded instance of large-scale demonic collaboration) to which each demonic school of thought sends one or multiple emmissaries when a new demon is about to be born (given how divergent demon thinking is this means that usually as good as the entire species is present). Once it emerges, something much like a bidding on an auction starts, where each speaker tries to outline its ideas in the hope the new demon will choose to join them. This takes a big long while and usually there are some fights between the speakers, and sometimes even with the new demon.

The result is practically always that the new demon doesn't fully agree with anybody, and goes its own way which leaves everybody stumped and sort of angry. This is right and good according to the freedom-obsessed demons, but well, it never hurts to try.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Miracularium One: Gods are Divine Machines

What is a God?

It's a divine machine. Says so at the top, doesn't it? But what, pray tell, is a divine machine then?

Gods have a tendency to be considered celestial beings that predate humankind, perhaps even created us and the other creatures that populate, well, God's green Earth. And everything else too. Heavenly jurors who decide the fate of human souls in the afterlife, who govern the forces of nature, and so on and so on. Depending on how you look at it, there might be only one, or there might be plenty, and if they're plenty they possibly have quite a bit of drama going on between one another. 

Well, in this case, most of the above is poppycock.

God did not in fact create man, rather, man created God. In his image, no less! That is to say, very specifically in the image of the people that created the God in question.

Art by M.C.Escher, 1953

When you hold a specific kind of morality, you are to at least some degree convinced that that morality is the right one to hold, and to exercise. Some people, perhaps even many, are very convinced that their morality is the right one though their argument for why that is may differ in quality. And, if you are right, that must then mean that people who don't think the same, are not. They're wrong. What's to be done about that? How do you, noble and well-thinking person of power that you are, ensure that everyone can be as right as you? If you're naive and optimistic, you may try explaining to them why they're wrong. Unfortunately that doesn't tend to do the trick. Especially when whatever ethics they believe in are a lot easier to practice, or just a lot more fun, than yours. In fact, there may even be times when you yourself are having a hard time sticking to what you think is right, in favour of what is either convenient or agreeable to you. 

How do you solve this problem?

If you have the power, the resources and the knowledge (the design is quite intelligent) to do so, you could create a God.

Gods are divine machines. I'll clarify: they are a divine engine that enforces the morality which it is imbued with upon its creation. A synphysical (both physical and metaphysical) construct that has no personality, no will, no choice. It is governed entirely by the presupposition that the ethics of its creators are objectively correct, and is a slave to infinite goodness according to them. If X is morally the right choice, then a God MUST choose X. In this sense a God does not have a consciousness or free will, only a core axiomatic logic from which it cannot deviate and from which it must derive all of its possible actions. Like a computer code. Like a machine. 

Art from the Book of Hours commissioned by Louis de Laval, ca. 1480
In addition, a God is a tyrant. Its purpose is not to be infinitely good, that's only a symptom of its role. Its purpose is to be as succesful as possible in making humans live by its pre-programmed morality. After all that is why the creator(s) made it. They wanted their morality, which they considered to be the right one and the only right one, to be unilaterally practiced.

Now, here's a little paradox. What if a God must do something that is morally wrong, in order to make sure that its subject humans do what is morally right? Obviously it can't do that itself, it's simply impossible for it to do. So, a God will in 99.999% of cases create angels. Angels are a handy workaround for this problem. An angel is not a human, so the God is not obligated to make it behave morally. Nor is the angel God itself, so it can act immorally. Hence, angels serve this purpose: to do everything immoral that results in a net increase in morality of the God's subjects. Smiting, in other words. Scourging the sinners. Angels are a God's fear stick.

Devils are not dissimilar to angels, but they differ somewhat in purpose. A God creates a devil, you see, as its own flip side. While a God must always act morally, a devil must always act immorally. Devils are a God's picture book of evil to show to its humans. An anti-role model, which is sure to cause humans plenty of grief when let loose among them, thereby cementing that everything devil-associated is bound to be interlocked with human suffering. Devils are also tempters because naturally, causing a human to act immorally is an immoral act in and of itself, and therefore they must commit it when they can. This reasoning is why gods encourage crusades: making others behave morally is a moral act, and therefore humans are more moral when they commit it, hence it is also in the God's interest to make humans do this since its prime directive is to optimise human morality.

But, you ask, if a devil spreads immorality, is it then not in the God's interest to destroy the devil it has created in order to maximise morality?

Entirely correct. This is a rather annoying system fluke no God-creator has managed to patch. However, take note that devils are far from created equal to the God. No, devils are far, far weaker, their influence much less powerful. They are a simulacrum of a nemesis, because in fact they are merely a caricaturally evil strawman, which a God or its Angels can defeat with impunity. So it's not exactly a substantial problem. And people need something on the basis of which they can demonise after all. Makes the morality business a lot easier.

Art from Neon Genesis Evangelion, 1995-1996
What to take away from this? Gods do not spontaneously come into existence, by virtue of belief or symbolism for a phenomenon. Gods are created by humans. More specifically, they are created by select humans with power, resources and knowledge. Gods have no free will, they must adhere to the moral principles of their creator. Their function is to propagate said moral principles among humans. They will create angels and devils to perform immoral tasks they cannot perform themselves, but which ultimately further the net increase in morality.

Gods are incredibly powerful, and incredibly dangerous.

The existence of Gods has caused strife and a simmering, floating web of rebellious thoughts among the humans Domine-ted by them, as is to be expected when tunnel-visioned celestial tyrants are not only metaphysical, but also very physical when they so desire. Gods are only ever created by the elite: only they ever have the sheer capacity to do so. Hence why they are so often chauvinistic and moralistic overbearing monsters. The frustrated masses can perhaps not create celestial machines, but their sentiment is powerful enough to give rise to a new species of celestial.

Demons are divine revolutionaries. See you in Miracularium Two. Fly me to the moon.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Parasites and Afflictions of the Elf

I initially thought that with my first and second post, I'd have said enough about bizarre aphid-like clonal elves. However, an astute commentor on the red post gave me the brilliant idea of making some plague-taken elf encounters. So, that's what this is about. The curious, tragic and aesthetically entrancing interplay between horrible disease, and beautiful creatures.

There are a few particular parasites and sicknesses that have been ails to the elves for generations, lurking in the shadow of their luminous forms with with mould-cloak and virus-dagger. After all, the gene reshuffle of the red form only ascertains their untouchability for so long, and these cunning parasites are the first to regain entry to the sanctuaries of the elf. When a trace or symptom of any of these is detected, the victim is immediately killed and incinerated, and the whole enclave is maniacally sanitised. There are many mythic depictions of these illnesses in Elven culture despite its fragmented nature (due to "Elven culture" being just a collection of many cases of hyperisolated mini-cultures). 


Wolfsnow is an airborne mould, drifting through the air and growing in beige-white fuzzy spots on the skin resembling snowflakes. For elves, given their stark white skin, this is very hard to spot, only clear when the mould starts secreting its blood-red pearls of bird- and insect-attracting liquid, which it uses to infect birds and flying insects and spread itself through flaking off them, and ending up on carrion that other creatures may feed off of.

Creatures infected by Wolfsnow become covered in the white snow-like mildew, oozing sweet-smelling dark red syrup substance like blood. They cough terribly since the mould is in their lungs, and this sounds like barking. The fungus will continually be flaking off them, leaving a trail of floating snow in the air. When infection is strong, the victim is compelled to climb trees and seek high places- this allows the flakes to spread better with the wind. Wolfsnow is both hard to eradicate, and spreads very easily once one or a few victims of considerable size have been infected. Wolfsnow infects almost any animal, not just elves.

Areas heavily infected by Wolfsnow become eerie fake winter landscapes soiled with dark red "blood", a layer of fungus flakes covering the ground and floating in the air like falling snow. The area is absolutely rife with flying, buzzing insects attracted to the syrup. Corpses of its inhabitants hang in trees and are heaped on top of tall buildings, or are collapsed on stairs and ladders, spreading more fungus on the wind. Barking choughs of the few still living victims echo in between the buzzing. Everything smells of syrup and carrion.

The fresh, minty and clinical air in elven settlements is caused by the powerful fungus-killing detergent they vaporise everywhere. Insects that attempt to enter are turned to ash by magic. This is effective, but not flawlessly foolproof.


For a long time Elves thought Dryaditis is caused by an unbalanced diet and excessive consumption of fiber, which even to this day they pretend to all believe to socially enforce good eating habits. Elves micromanage their diets, as is to be expected from them, and generally don't eat meat, not out of empathy or pity for animals (in fact they tend to find them disgusting), but out of fear for parasites and such. Ironically enough the only kind of meat elves find somewhat acceptable to eat, because they are certain it is free of disease, is, well, Elf meat. There are some grisly stories to tell about that. But another time, another place.

In truth Dryaditis is caused by a beetle, Scolytus incubus, which has a symbiotic and parasitic lifestyle. It comes in many variants, all linked to species of its partner in crime, the Lamiasalix genus of trees. The beetle obtains a seed of the tree, and then carries the seed around until it finds an appropriate host, namely an unsuspecting elf. Once ready, it flies at her with the seed clutched to its thorax, and with its bore-like mandibles, burrows into her skin, inserting both the seed and its eggs into the wound, and secreting a clotting agent to prevent them from being removed with ease. The beetle dies there, as an additional obstruction to clawing fingers.

As you have probably guessed, the tree seed, when it finds itself in sufficiently warm conditions, buds and grows at an abnormal speed, consuming the elf for biomass. Not awfully efficient, but efficient enough to produce some sturdy branches with plenty of leaves that bear spores for the sexual generation of the tree (which looks like a relatively normal tree). Now, the beetle's eggs are in there too, ending up as little galls on the branches, and once they hatch, the larvae have an immediate supply of the leaves they need to eat. They'll metamorphosise, and scuttle away, carrying the spores around as they go. They pick up the seeds of the non-parasitic trees, mate somewhere along the way to produce eggs, and there you have it, the circle is round. The awful, disgusting circle of nature. Charming!

What does this mean in practice? You'd think that one elf turning into a tree isn't exactly a community-wide issue and quickly incinerat- er, cured. Well, unfortunately the buggering beetles, when the trees deposit their seeds, are all looking for an elf nanny to take care of their precious babies. And since elven communities are so sparse, they flock to them in droves when they do. The result is either a beetle genocide if the elves are lucky, or a pristine shining city full of listless emaciated bug-hive tree-zombies if they aren't.

What do elves do against this? Well, they always have ungodly amounts of pesticides at the ready. In fact, the soil of elven enclaves is already one of the most poisonous forms of dirt you can find anywhere, since they empty watering cans of bug killer onto it. Drinking water that's been within a mile or so of them is highly ill-advised.

Art by Anja Millen
Chemical Poisoning

That's right. Not another fantastical parasite. I was writing this and thought, well, you can probably come up with some viruses and shit on your own. And this post is already pretty long. So I think I'll devote short paragraph to perhaps the most common affliction among elves. Chemical poisoning. And don't be mistaken, they do it themselves. This post has made clear that their enclaves are swamped with pesticides, fungicides, everything-icides. They purify everything extremely harshly of any infection or bacterium. However, that leads to many elves, especially the very old ones who are the most germaphobic, having irritated and bloodshot eyes, being constantly nervous, having frayed and sickly-looking hair or even going bald. They cover this up with layers and layers of cosmetics and wigs and all such things, because they're awfully fond of their beauty. In fact they're much like victorians in the time where there was still mercury and lead in make-up and such things.

Every once in a while an Elven encale is suddenly completely wiped out, without a trace of disease or violence or any such thing. The unfortunate truth of these cases is that, well, they got so poisoned by their own cleaning chemicals that they became infertile. And if you have to give birth to yourself every week to survive, well...

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Psychedelic and Poisonous Terrors of the Jungle

This post is technically an addition to the pseudo-Caribbean setting of The Lawful Neutral, where the Old world meets the New one.

Because I am gracious, even if you are a thin blooded gaunt and a worm-spined egg stealer and therefore will not explore this setting’s other posts, everything in this one should still be clear enough to use. If you are however of fair heart, look here for the setting’s idea, here for the background generator, here for a guide to Hoodoo.

Here’s a quick thematic summary, for the egg stealers.

In the Old World, there’s no wilderness left. No real wilderness. The King of Woods, the King of Beasts, the whole lot all have nature on schedule, playing neatly to the pan-flute tunes of the monarchs that preside over it. The boars and eagles and fish and bugs may as well be dancers in masks, all choregraphed to the neatly designed dance of how nature ought to behave- for it is only proper. Nature will never be a problem in the Old World, it’s just a scenery. A décor.

In the New World, there are the gods, or perhaps it is more appropriate to call them spirits, or loa, or kami, or something along those lines. Their relation to the land is much less one-directional. Are they the spiritual expression of a nature both physically and metaphysically untamed? Is the wilderness the material vessel of the capriciousness of the spirits? This question remains unanswered, for a large part because it is of little importance to the native population. They are much more concerned with surviving yet another plague of giant wasps whose venom turns your bones and teeth into sugar crystal. Hence, their approach to the matter of theology is very different from that of the Old World. Here, the best people can hope for is to placate the gods, to please them and to coax from them the safety of one’s people and the blessing of the jungle’s bounty. Priests, spirit doctors, mambos and houngans are first and foremost skilled in dialectic between worlds to maintain a relationship with the spirits where the wasps only come if someone deserved it.

That's the idea. Now I can talk about what I want to talk about. The unknown. The terror. The wilderness. THE JUNGLE.

art by Henri Rousseau, 1907
The landscapes, fauna and flora of the New World's continent are fucking bizarre. The jungle is a mishmash of landscapes that squeeze out the minds of dandy Old World explorers into their own eyes like extra sour death lemons. Not only is the nature completely different from anything native to the continent the settlers came from, even the laws of physics have little say over this place.

Here are some places you could find in the jungle:

Shadow forests where there are no animals, but only the shadows of them. The canopy is your best protection against the tiger and snake shadows that are eager to rip you to pieces once you enter the light. The shadow figures you make with your hands become actual animals here. Be careful when making a fire, because where there is light, the predators can exist. If they kill your shadow you're bound to the forest. You have no shadow anymore and can't leave. There's a ritual fire you can make that if you light it in front of you, you'll regain a shadow- but it also works backwards, making real tigers to fit any shadow that enters its light.

Dream-cities, places where old explorers or natives have died, and the plant(?) called Li Ki Bati has taken seed in their brain to form parts of life-sized buildings using their memory by eating their dying soul. Because of this it rains a lot in dream-cities. The buildings are usually not complete and different pieces of architecture interlock to become a ruin that never was anything more than a ruin. Inside the buildings it is incredibly cold, and there grow many flowers that are typically of the colours Cosimand, Vanta-white, or just orange, and they grow fruit that attracts Li Ki Manje, who eats humans and looks like a giant-moth-komodo-dragon-man.

Blood Swamps are filled with insects and flies that eat carrion, and most of the bigger animals that live there are animated skins cut open at the stomach. They fly like kites. The swamp itself is filled with the innards of these creatures, the water is reddened with blood and stray organs and such float in it. They are all connected, like a web of water plants or a mangrove of entrails. Lots of colourful flowers bloom from them and there are human skins that ferry through the swamps with boats made of all the bones of the native animals. Beware the dense muscle dredges: they're like quicksand except, well, undulating muscle. On brain islands, there grows a herb with broad purple leaves that induces a spirit trance when chewed.

Art by Arthur Gurin
Tower mangroves have only a sparse amount of trees, but they all go infinitely high up. That's not a superlative. They keep going. When they're sawed through, they don't fall down but hover in place, and faceless grey apes come up from the water to repair the cut with the mangrove's mud. When it dries and falls off the cut is healed. A mangrove ape's hand makes crops bear plentiful fruit when it is buried in a field, but they come up in gangs, have the terrific strength you would expect of an ape, and their saliva is paralytic. Some of the trees are hollow and filled with water. Fish swim up and down them.

Siga Yo de Grans Bwa are thick hollow pillars the size of skyscrapers, made of dried mud and solidified basalt, and underneath them is an active volcano. Inside, where it is very hot and filled with smoke and ash, live petro spirits who can cause forest fires, and giant termites who drink rum that they brew to appease the spirits so they don't possess them. If you breathe in the ash a spirit can possess you and make you act rash and hot-headed and possibly commit arson. At the base of the pillars everything is petrified by the heat and constant ash clouds, but the Pompeii-ified animals can become possessed by the local petro.

Flat forests are like if you had found yourself in a giant pop-up book. Everything is flat. The trees, the plants, the rocks are all flat, and they seem to turn so that you are always facing their front if you look at them (they appear to do this for everyone at the same time). If you have a head in both worlds (are a sorcerer or a Vodou/Hoodoo priest), or you possess the eyeballs of one, you can avoid this trickery by walking backwards. On the backs of the flat scenery lizards with dragonfly wings sunbathe, and on some the back is a horrific face that will insult you and put a curse on you if you look at it and will try to eat you if you come close.

Starry Lakes are lakes that are mostly shrouded in the canopy of trees with broad thick palm-like leaves that grow out of the water. Where the water is in the shadow it looks like a starry night sky, and you can only paddle through it if your boat has a live bird on it, else it will fall downwards into the upside down sky. There are islands in these that are made of a red rock which is hot like coals to the touch. On them live white crocodiles that turn into constellations when they dive into the lake. Touching the sky-water affects you with radiation (constitution damage) and frostbite.

In dinner gardens there are birds called Koulè San Fen, which have psychedelically colourful patterns on their feathers and eat only the fruit of an pomegranate-like tree and the meat of dead monkeys. What kills the monkeys is unknown, but they always appear boiled or grilled expertly, served with fruit and sauce and a glass of port wine on a set table. If there suddenly appears a seasoned monkey in the garden, leave it to the Koulè San Fen. If you sleep here, there is a chance you wake up cooked and being eaten by pretty birds. The boiled monkeys are called Makak Dine Yo. If you eat one, you will become a cannibal and your children will have the faces of monkeys. The Koulè San Fen will also be royally pissed.

Art by Henri Rousseau, 1910
That should give you an idea. Also, a lot of things in the jungle are poisonous. Flowers or plants, the bite/sting/claw/spikes/eyes/touch/sound of an animal, the water of a lake, the water of the rain, the sunlight, the shadow, the air, all kinds of things could be a terrible venom to outsiders.

Here are some things those venoms might do to you:

Turn your bones and teeth into sugar
Make you delirious and give you a fever
Make you vomit fire
Add vertebrae to your spine until you rip in two
Make you very drunk
Turn your eyes inside out (blindness)
Give you gangrene
Turn your flesh into papery layers like a wasp’s nest
Give you haemorrhage so bad your bloods runs out of every pore
Skin you over the course of a week
Eat away your memories
Make your face less and less pronounced until it is gone
Make a baboon burst from your chest cavity
Turn your nails and fingers into beetles (they grow back and do it again)
Lurch you into another dimension
Slowly cleave your spirit from your body
Make you sweat petrol
Make your teeth grow stuck together
Make you possessed by spirits
Turn your skin hard like an oyster shell

Every poison has a cure, however, the cure tends to be some obscure plant that grows in a dangerous place, or something like aged hippo manure. Spirits could cure a poison for you as well, if you can please them enough.