Saturday, May 28, 2011

Soundtrack for the Third Night

I chose to name the chapters of the Third Night after specific songs that I felt represented the mood of the chapter. When I was heading the chapters with quotes, I used the lyrics from each song. When I went back and removed the quotes (as well as the attributions) a lot of context for the chapter headings got lost.

I'm still trying to decide if I want to open my chapters with quotes or not (it's a struggle I'll talk about in another post). While I grapple with that issue, I can at least put the context for my choices here.

"Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix: This one should be a fairly obvious choice. What better way to introduce a tale about a drug trip than "Purple Haze?" The fuzziness of the song complements Gaven's fuzziness after waking up with a mild concussion from his adventures in the previous night. At this point, Gaven doesn't yet realize he's been dosed with the Dreamlily, so any effects he's feeling at this point he ascribes to having been beat up and then treated by strange medications. He's about half right. The drug hasn't hit him yet.

"Ziggy Stardust" by David Bowie: This is the chapter that introduces Jereth Dythanus, and I wanted to pick a song that seemed to encapsulate the flamboyant elf. I modeled Jereth after Jarath The Goblin King from "Labyrinth," so I wanted a Bowie song to help the connection. "Ziggy Stardust" just seemed to fit like a glove. I also considered songs from the actual Labyrinth soundtrack, but none of them were really about the character of Jareth. So as much as I would have loved to use "Dance Magic" or "As The World Falls Down," I couldn't justify it. Though I might use "Within You" as a Villainous Breakdown song sometime.

"Play Me Backwards" by Joan Baez: Ah, the introduction of Aelia, as well as the first hints that something is very wrong in Lair Dythanus. This chapter represents Gaven's first brushes with the dreamlily visions as the drug starts taking hold. However, it's also opening him to psychic impressions left in Miir (this will be important later). Gaven doesn't know it yet, but he's gained a new ability--the ability to actually see The Shadows and their effects without them having to manifest themselves to him. This is very much a blessed with suck sort of power. The song I chose here is about finding the dark truth behind a hazy veneer of normality (the character in the song is undergoing repressed memory therapy and digging up "memories" of being in a Satanic cult as a child). I thought it fitting.

"Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" by The Beatles: The first of (many) Beatles songs I chose for this night. I'm an unabashed Beatles fan ever since I was introduced to them through my mom's vinyl collection, so there will be many, many more Beatles songs referenced. And this was off one of the later psychedelic albums, so it fits even more. I wanted to find a song that suggested a dark, depraved carnival. There's a lot of such songs out there, but since this part of Le Cirque d'Aberrations is less dark than what will come later, I felt this song would be the best among the choices.

"Helter Skelter" by The Beatles: This was the point where Le Cirque gets very dark. I wanted more confusion, heavy riffs, and creep. I chose Helter Skelter because of the Manson Family connection. As a companion to the previous chapter, this worked well.

"How To Make A Monster" by Rob Zombie: This chapter went through several name changes. This is the downside of using the "name chapters after songs" technique...sometimes the name you want just doesn't work. I originally wanted to call this chapter "Wheel of Fortune" because of the dilemma The Jester presents to Eric. The two songs I found with that title were unsuitable. The first was a poppy 80's thing that just did not fit the mood of the chapter at all. The second was a piece from the "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men's Chest" soundtrack, which, while good, had no lyrics to quote (this was when I was still using chapter quotes, and part of the reason I gave up on them). I waffled about for a bit, then decided to go with "How To Make A Monster," which described what was going on in the chapter, had a depraved carnival/old horror movie vibe, and fit the tone. I'm not perfectly satisfied with the choice, but Meh. It works.

"Blue Jay Way" by The Beatles: Another Beatles track. I chose this one for the tone and the lyrics about being unable to find one's way. This was very much a tone-based decision. I'm going to be heavily revising this chapter, but the theme of being lost and wandering will remain.

"Gallows Pole" by Led Zepplin: Sometimes I choose a song because I like it. This was one of those cases. I might have to change the song to better fit the tone, but this was written before I'd decided on the Hangman being one of the Shadows Gaven would have to deal with. Still, it's about allies providing help but ultimately failing to deliver escape from peril, and that suits the ending of this chapter quite well.

"Welcome To My Nightmare" by Alice Cooper: I really wanted to use this as a title chapter, but it worked so much better as the name of the whole section. This whole part of the Third Night is a waking nightmare for Gaven. The title reflected that, and is a good song to boot. Welcome to my nightmare. I think you're gonna like it.

"White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane: I chose this for the same reason I chose "Purple Haze." The drug references, trippy images, and the Alice in Wonderland vibe of traveling from one state of mind to another just worked so very, very well. You'll notice a lot of drug references in this night...that's intentional.

"Break On Through (to the other side)" by The Doors: This was chosen because it's an active song, and it's Gaven's first battle with the Shadows. It seemed to fit Gaven's struggles. I suppose it also foreshadows the chapter "One" that comes later, which wasn't intentional but is fine with me...I like happy coincidences.

"Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple: Mostly I chose this because I like the song. This is another title chapter I'm going to wind up changing later. As it is, the only connection it has to the action in the chapter is the reference to fire in the sky, tying it in to the volcano that Gaven and Aelia watch.

"One" by Metallica: Finding a song to fit this chapter was difficult at first. This was a very difficult chapter for me to write. Being trapped somewhere alone and unable to contact help is one of those deep primal fears I have buried away in my subconscious. This chapter took a long time to complete partly because I feared I wouldn't find a way for Gaven to escape. I chose this song after examining the's about a guy who is trapped inside his body after his limbs and face are damaged by mortar shells, leaving him concious but unable to see, hear, smell, move, or otherwise interact with the world in any way. The bleakness of the song is something that echoed Gaven's situation (and my own primal fear of being reduced to locked-in syndrome, a coma, or dead and existing in eternal darkness and somehow being aware of that fact) well enough to be put front and center.

"Happiness is a Warm Gun" by The Beatles: The chapter where Gaven flips out entirely. It starts out low and peaceful, but there are hints of disturbing mixed in. I chose this song because the structure of it follows the action of the chapter: Gaven cuts up his hand, then showing up to the suddenly re-appearing Aelia, then moves to Gaven getting sedated and treated, then Gaven flipping out entirely and attacking Aelia because he's gone all paranoid. In Gaven's case, happiness is a cold knife.

"Die, Die My Darling" by The Misfits, though I'm thinking of the Metallica cover here: I chose this song because of Gaven's threat to Aelia here. Gaven is not running on all cylinders, and this is an active song that mirrors Gaven's crazy as he holds the knife to her throat. Aelia is able to break him out of it before he crosses the Moral Event Horizon...I had trouble writing this because if Gaven had actually harmed Aelia here I would have lost all sympathy in writing him, which would have killed the book.

"Revolution 9" by The Beatles (noticing a trend?): The crazy comes back. This song is a collage of noise and random, and because Gaven winds up in a madhouse, that's what I wanted to convey.

"One Step Closer"by Linkin Park: I chose this for a couple of reasons. The first is that it's a song about getting close to that edge of madness, which is the theme of this whole section. And it also serves as an echo of the action, as the Wall that talks to Gaven is taking him closer to understanding and enlightenment about his situation and the nature of the dangers he faces. He's one step closer to the edge of understanding...and then Despair hijacks the voice and attempts to rape his mind with another Hannibal Lecture, driving him one step closer to breaking down entirely and giving up, at which point Despair will have him.

I'll be editing this post when I have more chapters to talk about, but here are my thoughts for now.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I do not write in silence

I've heard people bandy about the merits of whether or not they can write while listening to music. Some do, some don't. As you might be able to guess from the title of this post, I do.

I listen to music because I would be distracted without it. White noise of some sort is essential to my working process, and I'd rather be listening to music than the news or the rumble of my air conditioner. Sometimes I'll build a soundtrack for whatever project I'm working on, to help get me in the mood, but just as often I'll set my genre lists to Shuffle and let Windows Media Player play what it wills. Building a soundtrack is a lot of time, especially with the silly amount of mp3's I have, and I can get lost in the soundtrack process. So my standard lists tend to be my "go-to" lists for when I want to actually be productive.

My music tastes are ecclecitc and go in cycles. One week I'll be listening to the Alternative stuff I grew up on (mostly Grunge, Post-Grunge, Nu-Metal, and other rock), then the next I'll crank the Techno and Electronica, and then I'll put on Nine Inch Nails for two weeks straight, only to dip into the Classic Rock of Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper and Aerosmith. Or I might decide to hunt down a game soundtrack like the Silent Hill series, or listen to rock-turned-lullabye music from Rockabye Baby. It gets very eclectic sometimes, moving from Carmina Burana to Lady GaGa.

The point is, music seeps into my mind and helps me filter out other distractions that could derail me. That's why I tend to prefer instrumentals when I'm writing, and I hardly ever listen to the lyrics of songs...I'm more interested in how the lyrics sound as they complement the music itself. I'm pretty sure that this is because of my fondness for Alternative music, which is not known for song clarity. (I could tell you about the time that I embarrassed myself singing "Lola" during Karaoke, but that's another story entirely).

This is why I used song titles for the chapters of the third night (both parts). This was the soundtrack I was deliberately cultivating for Gaven's drug trip experience.

I can't think of anything else to say on this subject, so I'll just leave you with a song.

State of the Blog: May

A somewhat productive month. Not so many story chapters done, but I got some background info on Ivthia and House Dythanus done (even with Blogger eating the Ivthia post for a short time). And at least Chapter 8 of Welcome To My Nightmare is finished and in the can.

I estimate there's about three more chapters are left in The Third Night. Possibly four, so I'm breaking the rule I had about each night being 9 chapters long. I already broke that long ago, though...Le Cirque d'Aberrations grew in the telling.

Since I want to get more out of this blog, I'm going to start sharing some other behind the scenes info on the writing process. Some of this will be world-building stuff...this world is a lot bigger than just The Tale of The Exile, thanks to the World of Aldora project that spawned this story in the first place. Sadly, Aldora itself is defunct, though there are plans to publish the Encyclopedia and a selection of stories from the old site, rescued by one of our former members. And, of course, some of us still keep in touch and brainstorm world's just a lot harder to keep track of these days. I'm going to need to launch an Aldora wiki with the information I have, but that project is a long ways off.

For now, I'm just going to noodle on with The Tale of The Exile. Gaven's story is going to grow in the telling. Enjoy it with me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Tale of The Exile Chapter List

In which Gaven Morren, a luckless thief, is sentenced to survive seven nights on the streets of the cursed and haunted city of Miir.

The First Night: Into The Shadows

In which the thief Gaven Morren is sentenced to Exile, and discovers the perils of Miir by night.

Part 1: The Sentence
Part 2: The Man in the Empty Room
Part 3: Miir By Night
Part 4: Lost
Part 5: Jolly Red Caps
Part 6: Jessamine
Part 7: The Shadows of Miir
Part 8: Over The Pen Wall
Part 9: Dawn

The Second Night: Through The Belly of Miir

In which Gaven Morren attempts egress through the sewers of Miir, with the help of another.

Part 1: Swallowed Down
Part 2: Another Version of The Truth
Part 3: Fortunes
Part 4: Saints and Jokers
Part 5: There's No Place Like Home
Part 6: Vermin
Part 7: The Nest
Part 8: You Make Your Own Hell
Part 9: Pain and Penance

 The Third Night: Le Cirque d'Aberrations

In which Gaven is captured by the nobility of Miir, and shown just how noble they really are.

Part 1: Purple Haze
Part 2: Ziggy Stardust
Part 3: Play Me Backwards
Part 4: Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite
Part 5: Helter Skelter
Part 6: How To Make A Monster
Part 7: Blue Jay Way
Part 8: Gallows Pole

 The Third Night: Welcome To My Nightmare

In which Gaven Morren faces shadows both external and internal.

Part 1: White Rabbit
Part 2: Break On Through
Part 3: Smoke On The Water
Part 4: One
Part 5: Happiness is a Warm Gun
Part 6: Die, Die My Darling
Part 7: Revolution 9
Part 8: One Step Closer (NEW!)

See also the Cast of Characters.

The Tale of The Exile -- The Third Night: Welcome To My Nightmare (Part 8)

Part 8: One Step Closer

“Number nine...number nine...number nine...number nine....number nine...”

Everything aches. I've had time to rest, let the adrenaline wear off, and as it goes the pain comes. Nothing's broken, hail god, but that just makes my thrashing feel that much more humiliating. I shouldn't have let myself get drawn into that stupid monkey dance with Gotz. I should have just run when I had the chance.

The cell is dark, but I still have those fireglass chips. I pour them out. Multicolored shards color the padded walls with light. There's a cot and a chamber pot, and the room has that stink you only get when you stick a man in one place for years and years. The guy in the next cell just will not shut up. He's been repeating that dragon-taken number since I got here.

This is a crazy place. It's bad for the mind. It's bad for the soul.

“Number nine...number nine...number nine...number nine...”

I ignore the rambler and pick up the shards. I've got five. Each is a different color—your standard orange and yellow, a deep red, green and purple. I have no idea how the elves got the fireglass tinted that doesn't look like a glaze. The red one isn't even fireglass. It's a crystal, not a glass, faceted instead of chipped. It's odd, and probably worth a nice bundle out in the world.

Here, all it does is keep the Shadows at bay. I arrange the shards into a semicircle around me and lean against the padded wall. I want to sleep. My body is bruised and I just don't have much to get up for at the moment, but if I nod off the Shadows might come and get me. Jereth's promises to keep me safe are a load of dragonshit. Being inside in his nice little prison didn't keep that whispering darkness or that grim figure with the rope from stalking me half the night. Running and hiding from the Shadows isn't going to do me any good. I need to find a way to fight them.

“Number nine...number nine...number nine...”

Great. Wonderful. Easier said than done. How am I supposed to fight supernatural forces of evil? Boil it, what do I even know about these things that would be the slightest bit useful?

“Number nine...number nine...”

“And god's tits, would you JUST SHUT UP for a moment so I can think!?” I shout at the wall.

“Sod off, ye tosser!” the fellow on the other side lobs back.

“Cork it up your mother's backside with a plowhorse!”

“Least I know who me mother is! Yer the son of a thousand fathers, all bastards like you!”

“I'd rather be the son of a thousand bastards than a whorespawned git of a three-legged goat like you!”

“Ye come over here and say that, ye son of a bitch-dog!”

“What do you expect me to do? Tunnel through the wall with a spoon?”

There's a pause, and then we both break out laughing. “Well played, sor!” the man behind the wall says. “Well played.”

It's been months since I played the snaps with anyone. Anyone I insult in Miir takes it deadly serious. For a moment, it's not so dark.

“So if you don't mind my askin', what is so important yer thinkin' about that you have to interrupt a perfectly good madness mumble?”

“I'm trying to figure out how to kill the Shadows.”

Silence. Then, “Cor. Ye don't think small, do ye now?”

I lean against the pads. “Can't really afford to. I'm an Exile.”

There's a chuckle. “Well, I suppose that would do it. Maybe I can 'elp. Care to bounce some thoughts off me, see what sticks?”

“And how can I trust you?”

“I ain't the nutter talkin' to a wall, mate.”

“Point taken.” I begin smudging the floor with my finger, jotting thoughts down. “I suppose the big problem is that I just don't know what these Shadows actually are. Everyone I’ve talked to has given me a different sodding story. Demons, the sins of man, delusions, living stories...which am I supposed to believe?”

“Well, what is it ye know about them?”

“Not enough.” I sigh, then start sketching things out on the tiles. “They can make people see things. They can possess the dead. They can turn floors and walls into goo to trap people. They can take scary forms. They can be summoned by name. They can be solid or insubstantial. They can be in one place, then another. They don't like the sun. Lights go dim when they're around. They can make you lost.”

“Can all of them do all those things?”

I stop writing. “Good question. Maybe the Shadows each have different powers.”

“How many different Shadows have ye seen?”

I squiggle a quick tally. “Hmm. Naros, the Other inside Jessamine, that Despair creature, the Hangman, the other Exile...” and possibly Aeila, too. “Five or six in all.”

“Do they all do all them things ye mentioned?”

“Another good question.” I start drawing some connecting lines. “Most of them can just appear. I think most of them dim lights. The Other didn't do either of those, come to think about it, but it was the only one that possessed anyone.” Did Aelia dim lights around her? Every time I saw the lights dim tonight, she was there, but so were other Shadows. That's inconclusive. “Only Naros has attacked me physically.” I touched Aelia, though. She's the only one I've touched. The Other was inside Jessamine, Despair melted surfaces around me, the Hangman hasn't gotten close enough to strike...except that once, when he attacked Aelia instead. He could have gone after me, but didn't. Why did he go after her?

“And making ye see things?”

I can't be sure. I think Naros was behind the maze when I first tried to escape from his fetch quest. I think Despair was behind the other maze, before the Other confronted it. I don't know which Shadows were responsible for Eric and I being lost in the Belly, or for Aelia and I being lost in the mansion's halls.

If Aelia is a Shadow, she could have been misleading me, keeping me away from Jereth. But she seemed genuinely confused and upset by winding up in the wrong place when we came to the courtyard. The Hangman set that trap.

“Do ye suppose the Shadows are a unified force, or bicker among themselves?”

I make some more marks. Naros was chasing the Other to keep it from leaving. The Other chased away Despair. Naros couldn't simply appear and take Jessamine away from me...he demanded I hand her over. He also told me NOT to interfere with Eric's suicide attempt. He claimed he was keeping the other Shadows away from me. The Exile claimed he was tapped to help me because the Saints weren't allowed. Despair moved in for the kill only after I invoked the Hangman. Despair attacked me the first night, despite Naros assuring me he was keeping the other Shadows at bay, but the Hangman only appeared after he stopped helping me. Aelia helped me attack Despair, and the Hangman strangled her. Did he attack her because she helped me?

“There's something here.” I make a few more marks. “There's lot of pieces, but I think they're coming together. Give me a few more questions...I've got to write this all down.”

“Write? With what? What could ye possibly be using for ink, sor?”

A horrible chill raises all the little hairs up my back as I look down at my notes. The tiles are stained with crimson words and lines and diagrams. The bandages on my right hand are dripping red. I must have torn one of the stitches in my hand. The other exile was found surrounded by bloody writing...

I fight down the urge to retch again. Oh God in Heaven. Oh Dragon Below.

“Ain't that a kick in the 'ead? Ye're awful quiet in there, sor. 'Ad a fright, 'ave ye? It 'appens, 'ere in the madhouse. Makes ye want to scream an' scream an' scream 'til there ain't nothing left in your lungs but pain and the certainty that yer a broken wreck. Go ahead and scream about it, if ye like. No one'll come. That's why these walls are padded, ye know. T'ain't for our benefit. Oh no. It's so them pointies don't 'ave to listen to us. So they can forget about us 'til we're needed. That's the point o' them 'aving these cells 'ere in the first place, sor. They ain't takin' care o' Dreamers out o' the kindness o' their 'earts. We're just a bunch o' tools, stashed away 'til we can be useful.”

I stare at the bloody marks all over my floor. One part of my brain is trying to hide comprehension of what I'm staring at from the rest of it to keep me from freaking out entirely. It's not doing that good a job. I'm going to wind up like that empty-eyed Exile, babbling insanity and bleeding to death, my last words a bunch of bloody marking that won't make sense to any person that finds me. Just scribblings of doom to be talked about for centuries. My life forgotten. The real me swept away forever.

“And would that be such a bad thing?” The voice from the wall says. “You're not a good person, you know. Hardly worth being remembered at all. You're a robber and a murderer.”

“What the fuck do you know about it?” I scream at the wall. “What the fuck do you know about anything?”

“I know you're a parasite, Gaven.” The wall says back. It's getting very dark in here. “You take what is not yours because you believe the world owes you for your wretched beginnings. You justify it by telling yourself that you only take from those who have extra to spare. You do not see those people, Gaven. You only see what they can do for you. You take from them because you believe they don't deserve it. But what have you ever done to earn what you take?”

“Stop it!” I shout. The fireglass is barely glowing. Only the red crystal still shines with any strength. “Just shut up!”

“You had the chance to give it all up. To walk away. You knocked up that pretty girl, said you'd take care of her and the baby.” The begins to bulge in towards me. Stretching as something from beyond tries to push through. “You said you loved her. You lied, Gaven. You lied.”

“No!” I scramble towards the furthest corner away from the deformed wall, trying to squeeze myself into the cracks and hide away. “No! You're wrong!”

Wrong? Why did you really keep up your jobs on the side? You could have been a better shopkeeper if you'd put in the effort. But it was easier to keep burgling, wasn't it? Easier to just hurt others, take the things they earned through the sweat of their brow and feed yourself and your family. And if you'd had your way, you'd have just fed yourself, isn't that right?

“No...” I pull myself into a ball and shiver. That thing can't be right. It's not! I'm not this horrible man it's describing...

You're not? Tell that to the elf girl you traumatized, the one who tried to tell you the truth and who in your madness you almost destroyed. You didn't want to believe her, so you turned on her. No better than a dockside thug after all...

“NO!” I won't let this thing win. I won't! I grab the chamberpot. Large, round, iron. It's not going to do a dragon-taken thing to the monster in the wall...but there's the fireglass. All of them dim, except the red crystal. The red crystal shines as bright as it did when I pulled it out of the wall. It's not all light that goes away when the Shadows come after all.

Light. I need more light. Need to keep it away! I grab the nearest fireglass chip and start striking it against the chamberpot. Sparks bloom, fly, vanish. Need something else...the padding! I start flicking the sparks at the batting, and I'm rewarded when it catches. Flame licks its way up the wall. The thing stops pushing its way through, begins to retreat. I've done it! I've...

I've set my fucking room on fire.

I hear a chuckle in my mind. Congratulations, Gaven. Very clever. What are you going to do now?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The Ivthian Subcontinent comprises nearly the entire southeastern quarter of the continent of Demurra. The population of Ivthia is primarily human, though they do not claim to have originated from the Western Isles and instead beleive their ancestral homelands lay somewhere to the east.

Ivthia is primarily semi-arid plateau, desert, and steppe, though small forests and marshes can be found in the coastal regions.

The Ivthian people have a clan-based, nomadic culture which espouses separation from the rest of the world, through violence if necessary. The city of Miir, the primary hub though which Ivthians conduct trade, is as much a fortress as a trading post and was built primarily to keep other cultures out.

During the Epoch of Dragons, great numbers of the beasts settled in the Targash and Western Ivthain mountain ranges, which helped enforce the legendary Ivthian isolation. The Ivthains revere dragons, and every generation a "dragon lord" is born who possesses the power to speak with the creatures and serves as an ambassador between the two races (though the draconic word for the Ivthian Dragonlord translates more accurately to "pet monkey" than "honored leader").

Ignorant Demurrans assume that the city of Miir is the capital of Ivthia, a mistake which most Miirians would make as well. Truthfully, most of the nomadic desert tribes view the "shadow-worshiping freaks" of Miir with only slightly less contempt than the "degenerate and decadent scum" who live to the west.

The Great Houses of Miir: House Dythanus

The following is an excerpt from  "The Traveler's Guide To Miir" by Volo Magrathe, published 1300 YA:

The Great House Of Dythanus is the youngest and most dynamic of the six Houses of Miir. It holds interests in the Physician's Guild and the Entertainer's Guild.

House Dythanus (the clan elders eschew the "von" honorific used by the other Great houses) is unique in that it is the only house primarily composed of a non-human race. The Dythanus family are the descendants of a clan of elven physicians, expatriated from Horeti for unethical practices.

History: When the Dythanus clan settled in Miir (circa 1174 YA), they sold their services to House Von Mordok. The alchemists coveted the elvish medicines and herbal recipes, and entertained notions of using this boost in their power base to reclaim the Tower of Miir, which the house had not controlled for centuries. House Von Mordok also wanted to check the recklessness of House Von Hastur, which had spent most of the 12th century engineering the fall of several of the oldest institutions in Miir, the Great Houses of Miir and Morgan. This paid off in 1179 YA, as House Von Mordok succeeded in ousting House Von Kaje from the Tower.

The Dythanus family expected to be well-rewarded for their help in raising their allies the Mordoks to Lordship. What they got was more demands from their masters, barriers placed on their ability to rise high within the ranks of the House, and about as much respect as the servants who shined the Mordoks' shoes. This lead to festering resentment. When House Von Kaje took back the Tower in 1196 YA, the Mordoks blamed the elves, imposing even more sanctions on elvish medical practices through the Magicians and Alchemists Guild, forbidding them to treat patients outside of their house, and generally being royal pains in the backside. The Mordoks thought they could whip the Dythanus elves into submission. Instead, they were sharpening a dagger pointed at their own heart.

Forbidden to make money off medical treatments for Miir's population, the elves could still make money off the medicines themselves. The first decade of the 13th century saw an explosion of narcotic use among Miir's lower classes, especially use of Dreamlily (an elvish plant that causes hallucinations in humans). The Alchemist's Guild sent investigators to try and track down the supply of these narcotics, but since this was considered scut work it was delegated to the elves. Since the investigators were also the ones with the supply, not a blessed thing was done about the "Dreaming Plague."

Also during the turn of the century a great number of new gambling halls started operating in the Cobwebs, halls owned on paper by Miirian citizens but overseen by pale, sharp-toothed, pointy-eared patrons. The same thing happened to a number of brothels. Word of mouth spread that those establishments with "the elvish touch" were the best--the brothels had the cleanest and loveliest girls, while the gambling halls paid the best odds. Elvish moneylenders offered deceptively good loans to those seeking quick investments -- the term "loan shark" hadn't made it's way to Miir from Arden yet. Many of these loans were made with money given to the Dythanus family from House Von Krueger, one of House Von Mordok's perennial enemies.

By 1206 YA, the Dythanus family was ready to make its final play, openly breaking from House Von Mordok to petition for Great House status from the Lord of the Tower. Lord Rudolf Von Kaje hose to grant the petition, and House Dythanus was born. It was the first Great House to rise since the end of the Imperial Occupation. In order to consolidate itself, House Dythanus threw open its doors to all elves and half-breeds in the city. Though the House has since closed those doors, this initial boost gave the House the numbers it needed to weather the retaliation of its former employer. To further cement itself, the House hired on a band of mercenaries lead by the ferocious Ten Monkey "Halfcheek" Xien.

The house took the motto "ingratis servire nefas," which is Imperial Demurran for "It is wrong to serve the ungrateful." This would turn out to be hauntingly ironic.

In 1217 YA, at the Annual Ball on All Fool's Night, Lorwyn Dythanus had an argument with Ten Monkey Xien, allegedly about the fact that Xien and his, shall we say, peculiar habits and customs were being flaunted for all of Miir to see, while his combat prowess was set by the wayside. Xien was of the opinion that Lorwyn had hired his band to act as warriors to defeat Dythanus enemies, not clowns to parade about for the elves' amusement. Lorwyn ended the conversation with the infamous phrase "Your job is not to question your betters. It is to do as your told! House Dythanus is the teat that feeds you sodomites, so get on your knees and suck!"

Xien stormed out of the ball. That night, he gathered all his followers, along with House Dythanus' servants, eunuchs, and concubines, and robbed the Lair of thousands of aecus in gold, silver, precious gems, and fireglass artwork.

Overnight house Dythanus went from prestigious up-and-comer to city laughingstock. Worse, the Von Mordoks chose this as their opportunity to strike back at the upstart elves, and the two forces got embroiled in a House War. That conflict ended in the Eagle Street Massacre, when both sides of the conflict were set upon by a motley force consisting of soldiers, whores, and eunuchs. The misfit band routed both sides, then vanished into the Belly.

This was the opening battle of what would become known as the Gorgeous Gang Rebellion. Over the next several months the Houses were attacked by the Gang, which seemed to be growing larger with every engagement. House Von Jeggett (the current ruling house) put the city under martial law and evacuated The Pen, and the Great Houses all put aside their enmities to hunt down the Gorgeous Gang. The Gang managed to outwit the Houses and had an uncanny knack for slipping behind the house lines, but eventually they were surrounded and cut off. The Gorgeous Gang made its last stand at the Drunken Crane bar and brothel, inflicting 3 to 1 casualties on the House forces before they were slaughtered to a man(/woman/eunuch). Xien's body was never positively identified, fueling rumors him raising havoc and striking at the nobility long after his probable death.

House Dythanus was not nearly as crippled as the other houses were by this fight. Their main contribution to the battles had been in support and medical roles, so their forces remained relatively lightly damaged. The elves used this opportunity to grab a firm hold on the prostitution industry of Miir's back alleys. Whereas before the house had been the largest player in that field, they became the only player. This monopoly allowed House Dythanus to pull in the funds it needed to push out independent pawnbrokers and moneylenders. With control over both gambling and moneylending, the elves prospered. They even managed to recover about a third of the treasure Xien had stolen from them (though the rest is still lost to history and rumors of The Gorgeous Gang Treasure has fueled folklore ever since).

The House grew so powerful, in fact, that in 1225 House Dythanus ousted House Von Jeggett from the Tower, an impressive feat for a house less than two decades old and still smarting from the Gorgeous Gang fiasco. This moment of glory was short-lived...the Nobles of Miir didn't take well to being ruled over by a foreign species. The Dythanus only held on to the Tower for 11 years, one of the shortest tenures as rulers of Miir since the Imperial Occupation.

Still, while House Dythanus hasn't managed to rise quite to the heights of it's former glory, it has remained a powerful force in city politics. The Physician's Guild is widely regarded as having the finest doctors in the city, as well as the most accomplished midwives. The Entertainer's Guild oversees all the city's prostitution, gambling, bliss dens, and theatres.

In recent years House Dythanus has started experimenting with alchemy and magic, accepting half-bloods and caliban into its ranks in defiance of the Magician's Guild ban on cultivating such members. House Von Mordok regards this development as a threat to their existence, since the elves have a strong alchemy tradition in their study of herbalism and medical remedies and it wouldn't be difficult for them to turn such knowledge to military purposes. There is no proof that the elves are secretly training an army of wizards, but then, there wasn't much proof that the elves were running brothels and gambling dens before they broke from House Von Mordok, either. It may be very interesting to see how this situation develops in the future.

Friday, May 13, 2011


I had a nice post on Ivthia, but Blogger ate it during the downtime. It sucks. While I mourn my missing post, I can at least repost the picture I put up for it. Enjoy!