Our Lady Melinoe
The Pure Food
all else is rightful flesh
Serve the Saints
Praise the pipes
Calm Our Lady Melinoe
Sacred are the Pipes
Sacred the Pure Food
All else is rightful flesh
What is strong cannot be eaten
what was eaten was not strong
Weak songs soothe not Melinoe
Weak souls serve not the Saints
Weak minds know not their place
Weak lips seeks the Pure Food
Weak was whatever was eaten
Strong was whatever did eat
Strength serves the Saints
And the strong song soothes Our Lady Melinoe
The Souls of Acheron (1898) by Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl
The rust smell, warmth and verdigris of the Halls infiltrates from its portals and if the dark warmth of the Halls meets a continual, or even regular, light source then green mossy lampenflora bloom in the boundary.
While the rest of the Palace can be fractured, anarchistic and often ruined, it is usually dry, often sterile and freezing as the cold fingers of winter press against its cell, here in Melinoes Halls, things are low, muggy, steamy black and hot. The warmth of compost or a butchers shop, home to strange plagues, rust and decay. The Halls stink. The ambient glitchfaries pixilate out and fracture in the air as the emitters which support them corrode away. Burning peat torches replace lamps and electric light disappears, except for a few flickering bulb maintained but rusty batteries.
The place roars and moans with the churning and gurgling of pipes which seem to speak. The pipes wrap the walls, hang from the ceiling, run across the floor and meet at odd junctions. Patched, dripping, gurgling and leaking, they are everywhere.
They smell and the whole Halls smell, visitors and high status residents burn incense to war with the stink.
All things flow and all things return to the Halls of Melinoe. Largely shit, piss, foul water, blood, rags of body parts, flushed experiments, dangerous chemicals, laboratory runoff, nuclear waste, used fuel rods.. Pipes spewing out rivers of filth with mudlarks poking through them, hunched cloaked figures like rabid men. Hydraulic Dominance - everything runs from the pipes, control of the pressures is all.
Yet they are strong. One must be strong to survive here, strong and useful. All may be eaten and the cannibalism which is indulged secretly or taboo in the rest of Mabs Palace is simple law in the Hall. Anyone may be eaten, except for the Three Uneaten Things, and the only protection is immediate strength and the revenge of a clan or a group. Either that or be too toxic to come near, too wasted, thin or diseased to be worth even cracking your bones or visibly insane enough to either worry or enthral the children of Melinoe.
'The Pure'. Barely verbal somewhat leperaous claimed descendants of the last human crew who escaped here in the Reign of the Queens. These primitivists eschew all forms of transhumanism, even those with a peg leg to replace one of the inevitable injuries will be ostracised. Proud of their blood purity, though likely horrifically inbred and who knows what gen-phages or alien proteins have worked on them over the years.
Hardly traitors, but the Parliament of Beasts is so radical and revolutionary an institution that those who's politics remains still even for a week can find themselves on the wrong wing and may only escape the Guillotine by fleeing to the Halls. These cybernetically and genetically altered animals range from mere unfortunates to hardcore republicans who denied the Queens to a handful of Quixotic Faustian Human Supremacists.
At some point either a race of insectoid aliens, or a human/insect transhumanist experiment, or a bunch of alien eggs, got into, and were purged from. the rest of the Palace but survived in the Halls. These Mantis people have totally forgotten any other culture they used to know and are simply one of the peoples of Melinoe, occupying roles all over the place. They cannot breed without consuming a host but will contract with one to carry their eggs, this will kill them but up until that point they will be cared for and protected.
Bundles of digitised memory and personality fleeing the Court of Dreams by copying themselves into progressively worse and worse processor cores inside worse and worse mechanical bodies. Forecd to watch their old selves die as their current body corrodes in the damp, trying to hang onto the shape of who they once were, trading for rare electricity yet at least not food for most, many become Endothermic Knights
Who knows with this lot. The Queens make and re-make flesh, form, memory and mind as they will. Though most become their toys its possible that anything could turn up.
The raids of Her Grace of Wyrms on behalf of the Queens can bring back almost any kind of being from the biomes they attack and a few of these might escape the touch of the Queens or the Guillotines of the Parliament of Beasts, (or be allowed to escape). Mad seers, rusty war-bots, traumatised transhuman soldiers. One clan claims to be the President and Bodyguards of some colony world. Not that this means anything here/
Servants of the Church of Pipes. They carry pipe staves which they bang and blow through lke digeridoos to show their authority and wear tattered robes stitched with half-recalled high-vis symbols, the only bright things in the torchlight. In charge of maintaining and securing the pipes, technically no-one is meant to fuck with them, and there is at least a reasonable chance of retribution from the church if someone does
Not a slave or a serf, they would have been composted or eaten otherwise. A Myceoman may actually own or control a small patch of fruitful fungus farm. Maybe a naturally rusted half open pipe, maybe some dripping nitrates, who knows. They may not even be hungry today.
The Guild of Corpse Fishers
An honourable profession who go after only the most high-status of catches in the flow. They get very angry if they hear of anyone breaking their claimed monopoly.
Merchants more than farmers really. Serve the Nitrate Lords. Its a simple job for simple people. If you can carry Gong from place to place you can join. Carry Gong far enough and it might be worth the journey.
These specialists in recovering technology, have an important right, and an important duty - stop any dangerous tech before it reaches the saints. Specifically anything nuclear or any high-tech toxins. They can live large off the rust-rights but if a Saint is damaged they will pay in their own flesh
Drip Pilgrims of the Moisture Clans
Purifiers, lets say, not quite purifiers as creating pure water is heretical, but 'sustainers' of drinkable non-lethal water, often harvested from dripping condensation.
The Endothermic Knights
These safeguard the Saints and control access to the heat of the nitrate piles which powers much of the halls and charges the energy of the mechanicals. One of the few ways to get something really hot is to get it in there. They are also general guardians of whatever might be considered the 'law' in Melionoes Realm.
The Nitrate Lords
Anyone who can command or at least threaten a handful of Mycoplants & moisture clans, maybe for a stable alliance with a Guild, even see Our Lady Melione if they can find a special gift. Status is largely meaningless down here, it doesn't make you safer but people still seek it out.
Heretics of Depth banging pipes with tuning forks to discover "solids" and grab them before they are recovered. They have to betray the Church and break into the Pipes to do it which makes them traitors to the realm. Everyone hates them and everyone has either done it or thought about it at one point.
By Kali Ciesmier
Ultragrubs - like grotesque alien angels. Bioluminsescene - glowing like gods in stained glass but held in ragged armatures of rust and metal, punctured with pipes and pressure gates, sending out thermal conversion tendrils into nearby compost mountains thrumming with heat, soaking in and sucking up the foulness and transmitting it into the Pure Food, the divine food of the Queens of the outer world. To taste of this is a foul sin, we below are not meant for such things. Giant living filterlivers and hyperkidneys which take in the effluvia which pipes towards them and spreads out in estuaries of shit. Like huge pulsating vertical caterpillar/nudibranch creatures, they cannot support themselves and are held up with rusty scaffolding, itself held together with barbed wire and genmanufatured hair.
OUR LADY MELINOE
All adore the Melinoe and her mercies. An exact genetic clone of the Queen of Life sent down into the dark to oversee the organic recycling. High Priest of the Hydraulic Church, Mistress of the Endothermic Knights, Guarded by the Bone-Fingered Man; a murder-bot its hands replaced by bone knives sharpened from ribs.
Great censers of incense fume, pile of saffron and spices make the air muggy with scent. The Bone-Fingered man plays slowly on a harp of electrical wire. Half-asleep, dazed by the fumes of saffron and burning incense, dressed in the finest things any in the Halls can find, is Melinoe;
Human, clear and perfect, whole - the only complete being in the Halls of Melinoe. Kind, sympathetic, calm, reasonable, (though her councillors are not). Skin white but iridescent, glimmering like oil or ravenwings in ultraviolent. Countershaded shadows move across her like swift liquid.
Behind a screen, making up part of the throne, a sleeping dragon. Centauroid, alien, human cybernetic. An exoskeletal biohorror with her face distorted as if in nightmare. Clawed ichor and venom sacs, twitching thorn whips and chemical organic coolant. Chem warfare ejectors. Uneven, horrific, a palette of biological monstrosity curled quiescent like a giegeresque drake.
Her other self, a testbed for the horrific transhumanist experiments of the Queen of Life, an exactl genetic clone of Melinoe. This one, the clear whole human body, is a remote - an immortal clone for Melinoe to live through.
ALL FOOLS DAY
Weapon-limbs extend, neurotoxin glands hyper-actuate, psychotropic spores go into fast breeding. She goes beseark, and rampages through the halls, mad, screaming, singing and destroying, howling crazed vengence against her mother/clone/torturer. Maybe she is the true original, who knows?
The worst is not the violence but the madness, she spreads absolute manic schizophrenic frenzied insanity wherever she goes; by systemic emission of EM wide spectrum mestatising glitch-code, by her screams and song, by venom barbed poisoned sting and thorn, by spore and breath, by her wild colours like the cuttlefish, the many-handed one, her halo of shimmering feathers.
In these storms of madness the society o the halls is utterly disrupted - clanmates kill each other, the underworld is turned upside down, identity and histories are wiped out, rewritten, made illusory, strange new memories and desires introduced as natural.
In her passing the fruit of madness grows, the Gift of Melinoe. A rust-feeding fungi, found only here and not lasting long after being picked which imparts a violent and revelatory madness to all organic beings and can perhaps even infiltrate and glitch cyberware and programmes.
Good news - when she calms down, runs out of energy, damages herself so much that she is forced to sleep or when the supply of the Pure Food is disrupted and the Queens put forth their power to quell her rage, the terror-angel sleeps, the neural link is restored and the queen of mercy awakens. Order and society are restored, the saints are praised once again, the Pure Food flows. Though many are dead there is much flesh to be consumed. A jubilee of meat! And many parts to recover. A time to breed, for the weak to become string and the strong to become weak.
"Call Melinoe, saffron-veil'd, terrene, who from infernal Pluto's sacred queen,
Mixt with Saturnian Jupiter, arose, near where Cocytus' mournful river flows;
When under Pluto's semblance,
Jove divine deceiv'd with guileful arts dark Proserpine.
Hence, partly black thy limbs and partly white, from Pluto dark, from Jove etherial, bright
Thy colour'd members, men by night inspire when seen in specter'd forms with terrors dire;
Now darkly visible, involv'd in night, perspicuous now they meet the fearful fight.
Terrestrial queen expel wherever found the soul's mad fears to earth's remotest bound;
With holy aspect on our incense shrine, and bless thy mystics, and the rites divine."