Tuesday, 7 January 2014

A City On The Edge Of Deception

On the border between Hell, and the Plane of Despair, is the river ‘Corruption’ a glacier of poisoned coins and frozen blood. The coins are all those used to bribe and betray, the frozen blood is that which fell from unsuspected wounds struck by false friends. When bribery, corruption and betrayal end, the glacier will melt and fade away

In the centre of the glacier of red and gold, is a shining island, made of compressed knives, whose earth cuts unshod feet. The knives are those used by backstabbers traitors and thieves. The island is constantly carried away by the glacier of groaning poisoned gold and frozen blood, and constantly it is renewed.

On this island is a city. The city of Ganglia Moor.

Many palaces are seen there, facaded in marble and ceramic brick. All deceptions, fronting warrens of black decay. Within, chained madmen and foul-smelling cells, the doors banging wide. Without, are cold ice-mists, and in the mists an eternal and unceasing Secret Police.

Ganglia Moor is known to the rulers of both Hell, and the Plane of Despair, and regarded as a secure border between the two. Politically inert. A kind of Casablanca of Pain. Few go there, but sometimes the souls of the betrayed, or accidental suicides are sent as payment to maintain detente.

Arranged, as it is, on the borders of Hell and Despair, Ganglia Moor specialises in marginal cases of corruption, depression and loss. When corrupt police force a bag over the head of their partner, just before shooting them in the back, the city they see rising up inside the grey is Ganglia Moor. When liars and deceivers die in shame, sometimes they come here. Suicides of a particular kind as well.

Ganglia Moor is ruled by a madman, Duke Blight Liken. This insane Duke of Hell is convinced of infinite conspiracies against, within, and beyond, the throne of eternal hate. Maddened and obsessed by the endlessly spiralling schemes that only he can sense and find, he has turned his city into one vast ceaselessly self-policing counter-intelligence cell and madhouse. Everyone informs upon, spies upon, imprisons and tortures everyone else.  There is no trust but only paused contempt. Duke Liken exerts the most unrelenting and murderous villainy and has never been observed to smile.

You will find the court of Ganglia Moor gathered, in a cellar somewhere, around a vast machine of valves and wire. A Security Organ. There, you will see Duke Liken, his wife, Recto Lath-Liken, (half naked, poorly fed and chained to a wall,) Doctor Damned Me-Hilt who built the thing, but only repeats the following words; 

“he is the talisman” again and again and again.

There you will also find Judge Comer Host-Jackles, taking notes on information received from the machine, making a merriment of the business, offering weak quips with grins.
“I’m here to see fair play”, he often says.

The Organ is attended and operated  by Lady Magno Vowel. Watching her gloved fingers play across the keys, is Lady/Lord Iris He-Arc, foul mouthed, low minded, dressed in yesterdays fashion and throwing out coarse guffaws.

This Organ, (always being tested and refined) spits out regular reports on treasons done, or about-to-be-done about the town. With each report received, new arrests are made and new tortures  planned.

Many monsters haunt the misty streets of Ganglia Moor. Well known are the Fog Dogs, shaggy centripetal blue-eyed wolves that climb and writhe. Also known, the Mist-Men, wrapped in vomited binding sheets.

The Anaemics, coal-eyed wastrels make up the citizenry/bureaucracy/police.

Malefic Ashen Automita. Gracile machines of stained unpolished brass, moulded metal hoods over masks with downcast eyes and tragedy-mask mouths that breath out continual flecks of just-warm ash that rapidly cools. The eaters of evidence. Powered by the ghosts of fires.

The Caliphs Of Wire. Rarely seen behind the faraday-cage veils of their antennae-palanquins. They are hauled about by Anaemic teams to perfect listening posts. They gather intelligence and can hear the thoughts of any creature that lies as it is lying. These double/signals fall in waves from the world above and the movements of the Caliphs, if recorded, look like the shifting of iron filings in a magnetic storm.

The Blue-Grey Chasm Cats create mile-deep metre-wide chasms as they leap across your path.  Then leap back, bringing your shattered body to the surface for them to feast on.

The Icelings are corrupt children with spires and blades of broken ice growing from their bones out through their skin. They make a tinkling as they walk, a shattering as they run, and are impossible to grapple with.

The maddened Ice Elves live out on the glacier of coins and blood that oozes round Ganglia Moor. Savage immortal hunters.  Looking for something. Never finding.

And that is all they know, in Hell, of Ganglia Moor….

Is not the truth.

Because nobody and nothing in Ganglia Moor is what it seems.

And it is not called Ganglia Moor.

It’s name is GreysLot-Coad, and it is a city of spies. And each and every one is Lawful Good in full.

In every corrupt precinct there is one policeman who refuses to be bribed. In every dictatorship there is a Judge that tells the truth. For every thousand con-men there is one who does no harm. For every million monsters there is one who turns away.

The number of these rarities is not large, but souls are eternal and they build up over time. Brave and lonely watchmen, dying in the mud, shot through the back, bagged and executed, murdered in their homes, poisoned, drowned, betrayed.

All experts at seeming what they are not. Shards of inflexible honour, carefully masked. Splinters in the systems of the vile. Collected here, disguised, and trained.

GreysLot-Coad is a Potemkin village of evil, it is a Pirate-City of justice and an Underground-Railroad out of Hell.

The Ice-Elf barbarians out on the glaciers sides keep watch for lonely souls, chased and seeking to cross. When searching patrols arrive, all that’s found is blood and an Elf with a barbarous grin.

The Fog-Dogs are friendly and will secrete you in their coils to keep you safe, the Mist-Men are Mist-Women, carefully wrapped and in disguise.

The Chasm-Cats hunt counter-spies, the Icelings interfere with the visiting Nobility of Shame. Despair-bound creatures cannot see through the cold cages of their icy blades.

The Caliphs of Wire are listening for calls for help. They lies they are seeking are honourable words.

“There are no children in the cellar.”
“I don’t know where they went officer.”
“Of course I am loyal to the Empire.”
“I hate the slaves, burn them all.”

They cannot bring help often, but they do.

It’s presence in the Plane of Despair gives GreysLot-Coad occasional access to anyone in a state of total despair, they are looking for a particular kind and cause.

Very occasionally, for those at the final extremity, when there is absolutely no hope left, the city will take the enormous risk of sending its grey tendrils into reality, the glacier of blood and gold will unfold before those lost, like a fever-dream of ultimate despair.

Then, Anaemics (in reality, souls of the cunning but honourable dead) will sweep the victims off to secret vaults. The Ashen Automita will consume any evidence. The city will disappear as quickly as it came, and if anyone asks questions.  It was just another suicide claimed.

GreysLot-Coad puts itself at enormous risk every time it rescues people from the material plane. It’s only security is total obsessive secrecy. If anyone found out, they would be easily destroyed.
But, that is the reason the city is there, and they will not fail a trust.

The Nobility are not what they seem. They are the deepest undercover souls. Experts at socialising with the courts of Hell and Despair. Capable of fooling entities of godlike power. The longest, subtlest of cons. The madness is an act* and their true names are not known, but they have codes.

Blight Liken is ‘Bill the King’
Magno Vowel is ‘Glove Woman’
Doctor Damned Me-Hilt is called ‘The Middle Man’
Judge Comer Host-Jackles is ‘Schoolmaster Jack’
Lady/Lord Iris He-Arc is ‘Sir Archy’ though their gender is not known.

And Recto Lath-Liken, half naked and chained to a wall these thousand years? Who knows? Perhaps a captured double agent of Hell, perhaps part of an impossible millennia-long double bluff.

The Security Organ is exactly what it claims to be, it’s action is reversed. The secret waves of the machine tease out invisibly through the air, with the lightest of touches it fans the flames of suspicion, madness and rage inside the minds of the Dukes of Hell and the Grey Court of Despair.
It turns them endlessly against themselves in Gordian counterplots, and cripples the efficiency of the dammed.

It’s known in Hell and in Despair that Ganglia Moor is badly run. That souls go missing and are never seen again. But Lord Lath-Liken is insane.  And the city is small, and not our problem anyway. Leave it with the other ones, across the way.

Why waste the time.



  1. Wow. At first I was all "this is beautiful but really bleak", but then, wham, desperate, urgent, quiet heroism. The honorable lies really got me.

  2. Descriptions of cities in False Machine remind me of Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities".

    Cool stuff.

  3. The Air-Loom Gang!