Tuesday 29 June 2021

The Empire of Gormenghast

 I am re-reading the Gormenghast trilogy, which is pleasing to me. Don't know how long ago I read it but I must have been through a lot of changes since then because the writing is amazing in a way I have no memory of.

That for later; for now the thoughts which idle through my mind before sleep are about the world around Gormenghast.

A tiresome enough conceit you might think and an irrelevant one as the book is such a coherent whole and with such a dreamlike sense of its own reality that subjecting it to something as mediocre as worldbuilding is a bum concept.

Nevertheless, this is part of what we do here and I may come up with something interesting so here we go.

(I am only part-way through 'Titus Groan' and don't remember much about 'Titus Alone' where he actually goes outside Gormeghast - so all this is even more of an extrapolation).

Ian Miller


the creation of Gormenghast requires a great supply of time, the building being composed as much of Time as of Stone,  of continuity, as others have pointed out – it’s in part a transference of a European aesthetic to a pre-maoist Chinese scale of cultural time.

Instead of rome falling, chaos, and 500 years of building castles and then letting them moulder, imagine something like the same culture, but with 5,000 years of building castles and letting them moulder, moulder until the culture lives in and off its own ruin.


Ok after brief check, the oldest Earldom in the U.K. the Earl of Arundel, has about 35 earls in total, the original founding is 1176 - just under 900 years ago. That makes roughly 24+ years per-earl. Titus Groan is born to be the 77th earl of Groan, suggesting, if things were equivalent - 1,848 years. Put the technology level of the castle at pre-electricity, say 1800?, so the equivalent date of the first Earl of Groan would be about BC 48, around the period of Ceasars civil war.

So a kind of castle/English country house/villa/fort, developing with a continuous culture from the birth of the Roman Empire to the War with Napoleon - with no cultural revolutions, invasions or replacements, and with a sustained base of economic power to keep it stable and even growing.

Yes that about makes 'sense' of Gormenghast, if we were trying to make sense of it. I don't think we need 5,000 years when almost 2,000 will do just as well. A noble family and house that had lasted intact, with preservation of records and language since the time of Caesar, we can maybe imagine some great roman-style castle on the borders of Rome-proper, with a defensible position and significant land holdings, a place where, even as napoleons armies marched, the family still spoke Latin in the classic style and still had records on crumbling wax tablets. It's on the border of possibility and imagination

Ian Miller


There doesn't seem to be any political or economic activity relating Gormenghast castle to the outside world, there is not even a hit of any visible economic activity, though the castle must possess and disperse enormous, even gargantuan funds in order to use the resources it does.

There is not even a road to it mentioned in the first half of the first book.

The candles alone, think of it.

And no-one of noble caste in Gormenghast seems to be ever prevented from attaining any small physical thing they desire by lack of funds. By psychology, ritual and machinations yes, but not by poverty.

There must be, somewhere, a great, a huge and perhaps near-constant delivery into Gormenghast of all manner of foodstuffs, lighting, kindling, books, clothes and many other things, and a reverse flow of Gong, scraps, who-knows-what.

I choose to imagine that this occurs via underground river. Likely some ancient Earl of Groan built some form of underground docks, perhaps discovering an underground watercourse, or more likely diverting and remaking a pre-existing one. They did this because the humble and tumble of commerce, the endless deliveries the whinnying of horses (the DUNG) and brawling and carrying on of Cartiers, offended them, so they gave and order, and with the seemingly infinite power and resources of Groan, a cave or river was found, mined, expanded and linked to a dock deep beneath the castle, or perhaps under a far-distant wing. Now silent barges arrive at this lamplit underground dock, unload what they have, load up with waste and whatever else, and proceed on. Having entered at the 'upper port' far beyond the sight of Gormenghast itself, then now travel on to the 'lower port' perhaps a place near the sea, a village by a cave where an entire industry has grown up around the material waste and castoffs of Gormenghast, so long have their fields been fertilised by the castles Gong that the farmers have become accustomed to fragments of the castles half-digested history turning up beneath the plough; a bone, a fragment of parchment, a broken sword, once every century a gem or comb.

Anyway, a key theme of Gormeghast is that everyone knows their role and understands almost nothing beyond it - their world is as small as their social world, or as small as their work, and both are a ritual to be maintained.

So there are actually two sets of bargemen.

One set lives in the upper port, they receive goods and ship them down through the underground canal to the Gormenghast docks, (though they themselves don't sell, buy or own any goods, or even know what they are, they simply take the barrels and crates from the black timbered warehouse and load them into the barges). Having made the trip to Gormenghast, they greet the dock-keeper (an ancestral role) and leave the barges, walking the long underground (and dangerous, several days dark travel) path home beside the canal (every so often one falls in and drowns and there is a position in Gormenghast for a body-catcher who is meant to pull them out).

The men from the 'lower docks' the 'sea docks' travel up the canal in small coracles (moving against the flow) and find the docks empty, except for the barges full of waste, which they then transport home.

A third class of person has the duty of carrying the barges overland from the lower docks, around (behind) Gormenghast mountain. Back up to the upper docks, but this is a cursed occupation and neither the lowerdockmen, nor the upper docksmen, who know of each other only by inference and scratched illegal messages, are willing to communicate with the masked barge porters.

If one were to travel over the mountain from Gormenghast, one would find a sharp-pebbled track upon which single black barges moved, carried on the backs of desperate silent men who's only task and knowledge is to carry the boats. The black craft float across the landscape like leaden dreams. They only go one way. The supply seems infinite. No-one doing it knows why it is done. Men have gone mad, not from the terrible weight of the work, but from the seeming infinity of boats.

Ian Miller


What are the 'rules' of Gormenghast and how would they be expanded to a world?

One serves power.
One may not look at power.
One must never go towards power.

Know your role - maintain it, and only that. Be content with your own small life, lived within the rituals, for there is nothing else and no way out.

No-one in Gormeghast seems to know anything, or at least, to mention anything about any kind of outside world - unless it applies to the history of Groan.

You could extend this to cover a nation, an empire, a world. Huge systems could be made up of colonies of people who only know what they do, and not why, who live by ritual and repetition without ever understanding or even thinking much about the context of anything outside that ritual.

A continent - an Empire made up to serve that nation, its entire economy and culture bent towards the sacred centre. A world shaped by that empire to serve it in turn.

Ian Miller


A nation which rules, dotted with ruins, to which no-one ever goes, except for one ship, this loaded with wealth and fine goods.

perhaps instead of one ship one fleet goes to this nation. In the same way that Gormeghast is supplied by its underground canal this nation is supplied with rare outside goods by a treasure fleet - like the Spanish silver ships from the new world.

All of the wealth of this global empire is gathered together, and the gathering is managed by ancient mercantile interests - themselves bound in ritual. But these banks and tax farmers themselves don't keep the treasure, or even carve much off the top, instead their perceived power comes from the management of the treasure, as far as the rest of the empire, the rest of the world, is concerned, they are a kind of global government or bureaucracy - a mighty administratum to whom obedience must be paid, but as far as they are concerned, their only purpose and duty is to manage the tithe.

In distant lands and far-flung cultures, great slow, grinding conflicts might take place as a consequence of small matters in the taking of the Tithe, but all the Tithemasters know is that they must fulfil the ancient writ and send all that is claimed and all that is stated in the great treasure fleet to the ancient nation - centre and silent master of the world-empire.

None of them can ever go to the sacred nation, nor would they wish to, it is far above their narrow station. It is enough that the slow, wallowing ships of the treasure fleet be sent on the high tide of the summer seas, and when they arrive, the goods are counted, assayed and declared, (which takes perhaps half a year, leaving little time for the now high-riding ships to make it back to the city of the Tithe), and depending on the nature of the declaration, from 'Sufficient' to the wonderous 'Very Acceptable' to the nightmarish 'less than desired', great families and lineages of Tithemasters can rise and fall, purges and pogroms and revolutions, bankruptcies and ascendancies, all depending on the flags flying from the ships of the black treasure fleet as they make their way back to the city of the tithe.

On the shores of the sacred nation, in the city of the Black Ships the great guilds of assayers likewise live ritual-bound lives, they do not really understand where the ships are coming from, or the fundamental nature of the assay they are meant to make, but they have written documents, with extensive addendums and commentaries, making a kind of common law of how to assign value to various things, dating back 2000 years to the time of the first Groans, and in this city of the black ships, there are also terrible torments should a fleet prove 'less than desired' and great relief and celebration if it should be 'Acceptable' or even (only fifteen times in seventy generations) 'very acceptable'.

And in this nation, of which the City of the Black Ships is its greatest, and perhaps only, port, what becomes of the treasure?

The wealth of the Treasure has, of course, already been spent. All the Noble houses are in terrible debt, to each other, to the guilds of the city of the black ships, to various banks and agencies created to manage these debts.

Most of the treasure 'belongs' to particular lines of descent. So the Earl of Groan, for instance, as well as being the owner of the Groan Lands, is the in-absentia owner of the Groan Lands-Beyond, which in total make up a small but meaningful fraction of the worlds inhabited surface, although spread so widely and so partially (a building here, a field there) that even accounting for all of it is a lifetimes work), (the accountants of Groan being another often-inherited role).

Being based on ancient compacts and forgotten writ, this tax is paid often in kind, so for instance, a half-tonne of beeswax candles made by bees which have fed upon the mountain blooms of far Purloon. Acquiring such volumes of wax being enough to bring war and chaos to the towns of Purloon as they fight over the accumulation of wax and the management of bees in order to fulfil the tithe.

But this make up only a tenth of one percent of the Tithe owed to the House of Groan, and certainly almost no-one 'in' the House of Groan has even heard of Purloon or even smelled one of its candles or been lit by its light. 

The House of Groan is in significant debt, and that debt is being serviced by a trade in futures, based on the expected recovery of the Tithe each year from the Black Ships, and that Futures Market itself depends on the result of the Assayers etc.

So where do the candles go? It is not clear.

It is possible they are being stored in order to raise or lower their rating on the futures market, it is possible they have been destroyed, or melted in order to raise the perceived value of more arriving.

Ultimately, they may have been partially melted, mixed with paraffin or other substances, (because there is little demand in the world beyond for the smell of the mountain flowers of Purloon), and transformed into cheaper odourless white candles that burn with a guttering yellow flame, and then shipped out as ballast in the bellies of the black ships, in the hope that the sale of such might go some way to offsetting the terrible risks of the futures market, (which will not be so bad for we hope for a great bounty of candles from Purloon next year).

This example of the candles of course, being only a fragment, a grain of sand in the economy of the world of Gormenghast.

Alan Lee


Is Gormenghast castle itself the centre of all things, or merely one of a range of near-forgotten castles which ring the still-more occluded centre?

It is only one of a range. Forgotten even by the forgotten. The centre of the world - the castle of castles of which Gormenghast is but a sentinel, is unknown to the Groans. They know only that their duty is to guard it, which they have done for 75 generations.

Monday 21 June 2021

What’s promised in Gong shall be paid in Gong.

You Hear

The Gongsongs, shanties of Gong and the Gong of times gone. [GONGSONG INSERTED BELOW*] The sloshing of liquid in barrels and tanks. The jangling of hanging charms. The cawing of crows. The squeezing of accordions. Or is that the wheezing of pedal-powered pumps, or levers pressing?

You Smell 

Need you ask? To the true Gongsman, no Gong truly smells the same, but to you, you poor sojourner, this sacred wisdom is a blank page. They smell of Gong and only of Gong, and a powerful scent it is.

You See

Blue flickering peat lamps, bedraggled crows held high on smelling poles hung with strange recoveries of the gongfarmers art and jangling charms to the Hydraulic Saints.

They labour beneath plastic tanks filled with sloshing Gong and struggle with patched together pipework and jury-rigged pumps to suck the gong forth. 

What is the texture of the gongfarmer? Need you even ask? It is wonderous, a wonderous texture - they bulge with muscle, they drip with mysterious fats, they bristle with patched magnificent hair. Strong as apes, twice as brave. 

Meeting Gongfarmers

What kind of being, what manner of entity - could, or would, consider such a path?  The great-souled Gongman - a wonder of the age. A stalwart of the Servile Class. Mad for the Gong he is, for Gongs his love and passion.

At labour or traverse they sing their old gongsongs playing accordions and singing their gongsongs. They tell strange tales of fatbergs and pulsing entities, of secret paths through fractured pipes, of the nightmare of zero-gravity gong. 

A creaking barrel, a translucent tank, a secret destination, a clever way in their manner, perhaps a sly look.

Who could argue with a jovial gongfarmer? And who would dare? They carry a sharpened blades of bone, rusted revolvers, baseball bats studded with old syringe needles, blunderbuss loaded with sharp gongfruit. 

Their Job, Service And Position In The Palace

"Blessed be the Pipes" say the Priests of the Hydraulic Church.

"Yet all pipes fail in time." replies the Gongfarmer, (though quietly, for such speech is blasphemy).
The Blessed Pipes return all foulness to the Crypt of Melinoe, where it is purified and made good. But what if the pipes should fail? 

Enter the noble Gongfarmer - penetrating to the centre of all things, extracting Gong and going gently on his way. Their only price? Why the Gong itself, for Gong is the Gongfarmers Gold.

The Gongfarmers scurry away with their caskets and barrels of Gong, and carry them to secret vaults of which only Gongsmen know; the Septic Banks. 

Here, in even vaster chambers, the Gong is left, allowed to settle and rest in anerobic conditions. Over time, this results in nearly-clean water which can be decanted and sold, to Drip Pigrims or others, and a thick layer of black gold; near-pure loam for the Nitrate Lords.

The Knowings Of The Gongfarmers


A wise Gongsman, familiar as they come to be, can tell much about the health of someone from their Gong, and unlike those who might call themselves Leeches or Doctor-Men, the advice of a Gonsman is free, except for the Gong itself, which they take in lieu.


The Gongsmen know much of the welfare of many peoples. Wherever Gong is collected, they can recognise the diet, regularity, substance and health of the population. Whether they strave or thrive, if they drink water or blood, be they sick or hale. 

The Gong of Darkness/Winters Gong 


Imagine, a black lightless void, with no 'up-and-down' or 'here-and-there'. Freezing cold, but not cold enough to de-liquify the Gong. And its your job to go in there and get that gong. Aye there's many tales of wealth to be won in Winters Realm, of vast isles of frozen gong, the smallest of which would buy a man his own halls, and each isle encrusted with strange treasures of forgotten realms. But seek ye not winters gong my smiling faces - BEWARE! For tis the gong of darkness, gong which none may seek and return alive.

The Septic Banks

All Gongfarmers guard with closed lips and terrible violence, the secret of the Septic Banks. The Gong must be left to settle for a good long while before it can become black gold and clear(ish) water, and the Banks are terribly vulnerable for all of that time.

The Gong Promise

Can a man truly be poor if he hath still Gong to give? Gong being currency, it’s hard to fall out of credit. For those who fall upon hard times and lack even that, the Gongfarmers will offer the Gong Promise; enough to sustain life;  water (of a sort), a little food, perhaps some simple weapons or basic tools - all they ask in return is a promise of Gong, by weight or by date. It may be your Gong, it may be others.

But beware the interest rates on Gong, the percentage required can rise so quickly that it become impossible to repay. And if your needs now are great, the future Gong you offer must be greater still.
One would not wish to be in debt to the Gongfarmers. They are clannish. Offend one and you offend all, and if you owe them gong, they will be sure the debt is paid. If that involves capturing and force-feeding you until accounts are settled, then they shall. 
What’s promised in Gong shall be paid in Gong.

* [The Gongsong "Ripe, rich brownfruit]

Our Hands and Hearts are all in Gong
Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.
We'll pump and squeeze for it won't take long,
Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.

Chorus; Oh, be black fruit, brown loot
Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.

Our Queens and Ladies do command
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
We farm the Gong and clear the land.
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)


Its through the Palace we must go
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
From throne of Night to Melinoe.
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)


So give us gold for old Queen Mab
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
She'll swear us all that we can grab.
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)


You've been through Queens and been through churls
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
So spring and dance you merry black girls
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)


Burst and bubble, rich and rare.
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
We'll take you by your wet black hair.
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)


Struggle not, be bold my Miss
(Come out, you ripe rich Brownfruit, Come out.)
We'll squeeze and tread for a golden kiss.
(Come out, you ripe rich Gongfruit, Come out.)

Friday 18 June 2021

Xopht – The City where the Sculptures Sleep

Built deep into the air is Xopht. Its altitude is high. Those not used to it are often dizzy and sick for a week, and thereafter, short of breath for months.
Steep and crooked are its streets. The city is said to be built on a hill of black glass; a mountains core. Little of this is visible now; built over in the cities piled-up, tumbledown style where walls and buttresses even-out the incline for building and terraces hold flat beds of soil for private gardens.
Still a few old unpaved streets, now covered in dust and scratched to grit-grey by the passage of a thousand wheels and hooves, are still of black glass, and this contrasts deeply with the white limestone which makes up many of its buildings, the white stone smoothed and polished by Xophts dry hot winds and occasional rains until it glows like pearl.
This limestone, and finer marble, is also the basis for the Sculptures of Xopht, of notable citizens, academics, world-famous craftspeople and figures from the cities folklore. All the sculptures are depicted sleeping, as the tradition of the city demands. Nothing may be sculpted with its eyes open, awake, and aware.
White and black make up much of Xophts visual aesthetic. Black streets and white stone, or black and white tiles or cobblestones interspersed.

The ritual approaches to the city famously have two great gates, one of ivory, the other of horn inlaid with silver. Both are guarded by quiet, watchful packs of black dogs who are kept only for this purpose.
They gates are mainly used by tourists now, but anyone wishing to undertake City Business must ritually enter Xopht at least once, and choose only one gate, and let that be known.
Within, Xopht is a city of terrible silence. Every footstep seems padded and all its industries are quiet.
Famously hot and dry, it never seems to rain, though the skies sometimes glower. Dust trickles across the scratched black glass. The cities architecture seems to funnel wind into spirals and dust-devils are common; small micro-tornadoes about the size of a man, whirling with dust, hanging poised in forgotten corners when the wind rises or tracking oddly down the street, as if they were out shopping, before falling to nothing.
Xopht does have sounds, just rarely loud ones. The droning of bees is dimly audible everywhere. The city loves its beehives and its honey. The bees take advantage of the many greenhouses, rare plants and private gardens (invisible from the streets) and few large homes are without a beehive of their own.
Some of the Bees of Xopht even travel a night, tending to the cities nigh-blooming flowers.
With the buzzing comes the sound of rain. Xopht is famous for its watchmakers and artificers  (though its clocks have no tick); all the public clocks of Xopht are water clocks. At well as this, every house and business has one.
Even in the dry heat, the low plinking sound of rainfall is continual, the dripping of each clock coming so faintly from each house and home that it is individually inaudible, but combines to a susurrus of rainfall.
The third sound of Xopht is the tuneless piping of the Black-Sun monks. This mendicant order of zen-like meditatives has its House in Xopht, (and always has done), they are a common sight upon its streets, sometimes constructing complex mandalas of Owl-Feathers, inevitably blown away by the dry wind, but more commonly piping through their basket-masks, wandering at a slow, arrhythmic pace.
A common sight on the streets are the black carriages of Xopht. Anyone of certain status is expected to maintain a carriage, even if they don't use it, simply to be respected at the invisible circles through which such respect is allowed.
The carriages are pulled slowly by the pale horses of Xopht, a breed unique to the city and capable of dealing with its heat, fine air, high altitude and spiralling streets, through they only move slowly and cannot run.
The only roads with a low enough incline to be horse-accessible, spiral and crook up and down the city in switchbacks and curves, while pedestrians can tramp directly up or down steep stairs. This means a walker heading up or down can encounter the same carriage with the same pale horses, slowly ghosting past them, from side to side, again and again.

At night the stars are incredibly bright. Xopht is high and the atmosphere clear. By law lamps must be shaded from above, to save the sight of the sky for the cities astronomers (and astrologers). The only time you might see the bats of Xopht is as one flashes between you and a dim lamp, its orange glow further dampened by the bats translucent wings, for a second of time.
The locks of Xopht glitter and sparkle in the starlight, for the city has no keys. Its old way is that every door has a silver combination lock, with its symbols in the glyph-tongue of the city. So that in Xopht, access comes not through objects, but knowledge. Perhaps this serves to deepen the culture of the city in which the sharing of any information is to be approached with significance and care.
Strange smells abound on Xophts night streets. The city is said to have many Opium houses and, beneath the surface, a serious drugs problem, not that you would be able to tell. A pungent aroma may be such, or could be simply the venting of a greenhouse, perfumier or night-grinding apothecary.
As dawn come, the silver dew of Xopht sparkles on the silver locks and the white stone walls. Though it rarely seems to rain, the dew comes every morning and the city has many dew-traps and water catches set to replenish its stores of water.
Xopht has few industries, focusing on craft and high-skill work, but almost all the work it does is quiet. The city is known for it’s perfumiers, painters, embroiderers, tailors, beekeeping, the gardening of rare or dangerous plants in greenhouses, scribing and illustration, watchmaking (but their clocks have no ticks or alarms), pottery and fine ceramics, bookbinding, heraldry, astrology, astronomy, kite building, papercrafts, locksmithing, the production of cards, tokens and other gaming ephemera, cosmetics, apothecaries and drugs, medicine, psychology, bookshops, fortune tellers, wines and spirits, baking, scholarship and religion (in particular the House of the Black Sun Monks is here, and always has been). Xopht has a well known, and highly specialised university and there are many private libraries - (open by invitation only), as well as a and a world famous public library (open to scholars) of the occult.
Xopht largely seems to govern itself. Composed largely of scholars and skilled workers, with functional power split between guilds and councils of its various professions and groups, Xopht is almost completely unpolitical in a wider sense, the city drifts through the penumbras of Empires and Hegemonies as they rise and fall, without ever seeming to change.
Those Civil Matters which require government are managed by the Tired Council.
Its full name; The Tired Council of the Moon Under Water
The Moon Under Water is the most venerable Games House in the City, (of which there are many). When Xophts last hereditary lord gave up in despair and went away (where, no-one knows), its greatest and most wealthy gamesters became the de-facto ruling council of twelve (the 13th vote is always given to the moon).
To gain a place on the council  you must beat seven of its members at a game of their choice, the whole council will then vote on whom to eject in your place, with the Moon deciding any split vote.
To come before the council is much simpler, anyone may approach the Council with information and they listen with feverish attention to everyone, beggar, madman, child or fool, it makes little difference to them.
The Tired Council is said to command an unmarked police and investigation force called  the 'Nemo People', for in their work they have no name.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Dreaming of Beastmen

I still go to sleep some nights day-dreaming of Beastmen, Beastmen and what they could be...



Beastmen and Flowers;

This could be a whole thing. They probably don't have much interest in "treasure" but attaining a flower that only grows in a super-difficult area and gifting it to a high status war leader or shaman as payment or tribute would be cool. There are not enough beastmen garlanded in roses and lilies. There is no reason for Beastmen not to like flowers.

Beastmen and Realmstone;

Being bestrewn with lumps of raw realmstone would be good. It's raw magic, and therefore the stuff of chaos, so they should have a natural affinity for it in its raw unworked state and also, having a contempt for people and cultures who work realmstone and *use* it, because as the stuff of primal transformation, it should be respected and honoured, not utilised as a tool. The ritual destruction of such things and pilgrimages to return them to their natural place would be interesting behaviour.

Beastman standards and Trophies

They should have way more stuff from cities they have destroyed, like the skulls of kings with the crowns nailed on, a pyre or brazier fuelled by burning books, the skeletons of formal magicians used as fetishes. HEAD SHRINKING - its been a while since we have seen that!

Beastmen and the Penumbra of the Realms;

This is chaos-land, but not Chaos chaos. Reality decays into strange abstractions, impossible to survive, but this seems like a natural place for Beastmen to hang out - in the Ballardian apocalypse - those who went compulsively towards the perimeter inimical and were changed by it. Turning into a Beastman is a very Ballardian thing to happen; "Oxton glanced at the neighbours dog, he could smell its pregnancy.
"Odd horns old chap," blathered Winstabley as he fumbled with the keys to the Jaguar, its sky-bright surface pulsing incandescence under the lamps of passing traffic,

 "fashion is it?"

"Mm yes," murmured Oxton, "the wife you know. Trends." He would piss in Winstableys face and rape the car.

More Religiosity;

The fact that the Beastmen have and actual value system, other than just "wreck stuff", should be move visibly present in their armies. They should have fanatical priests, dervishes, sacred items or holy mutants they take along with them . Or maybe their sacred objects are the sacred things of other cultures, just defiled, like the book of Sigmar pissed on. Interesting in that idols of the chaos gods, nagash AND Gork and Mork would also be there - it would be pretty cool if you had a beastman standard bearer carrying an idol of defiled icons with Sigmar and chaos and everyones symbols all piled in together - the ultimate "fuck all of you"


Beastmen wearing the rags of fine ballgowns should be a thing, the very high-status wear of a destroyed city, defiled, altered and adopted as both a gesture of contempt and an adoption of power. A little like Native American adoption of fragments of western dress but in a strange or misaligned way - wearing them as totems. But yeah, a beastman wearing the shitstained rags of a debutatnes ballgown with the debutantes head tied around his neck by her long fine hair like a medallion, a judges wig, a magicians beard skinned from their face and worn.


these should be more obviously the weapons of other races or groups taken and altered - having poles and hafts made up of parts that clearly come from different cultures and realms - much more of a bricolage.


Even Skaven have one but Beastmen have to trudge along using the same octed that has already been colonised by the shitty godworshippers, they should have their own cool thing, like a version of the octed but primal and simpler, maybe an inward-turning spiral, or a stick-man with an inward-turning spiral for a face.

Adrian Smith?


Honoured Spawn;

Funky new spawn models, hung with incense and silks, set with silver chains and braziers hanging from the tentacles, strewn with petals, carried forth on palanquins.

Nascent Turnskins "Half-Hooves"

Normies who reached adulthood, or puberty before they began to mutate into beastmen or otherwise, so like a half-mutated rabble, kind of like the Beastmen version of Imperial Fanatics - having been directly rejected by civilization they will be hyper invested in tearing it the fuck down - but many of them still wearing the rags of clothes and tools from their former lives. Used by the Beastmen as chaff but if they survive and keep winning they can become Beastman _spies_, covering over their mutations with a beggars rags or acolytes robes, infiltrating the despised cities, reporting back and working out how to destroy them. Someone with the memory and experience of civilisation but who has turned against it. Then maybe they can even get leadership positions.


Beastman chariots drawn by lines of enslaved humans (GW too COWARDLY to give us this!)

Turnskin General;

A named character. Like a half-beastman wierdo who is just *that good* at winning battles that they run their own brayheard, maybe he only grew one twisted horn so the other one is beaten out of gold taken from his enemies crowns & is strapped to his head, or their swords. The mutational space between a human and a beast is sculpturally interesting, in some ways much more horrific than a simple goat-man.

Super-Mutation Primarch-Level Beastman;

(I guess they already have this with the "Gorfather", though so far he exists only in lore I think). Something like this must happen occasionally, a freak where all the mutations worked out just right and you got an awful kind of winged animal angel - a nice big hyper-charismatic model for GW to make bank off, could go back to Medieval Devil Imagery.

Weird little abortive goat foetus shaman guys;

Being carried around by a bigger dude obviously,

Ivar-The-Boneless Spawn General

Someone who got chaos-spawned but kept their mind and individuality, this makes them sacred to the Beastmen as a raw example of Chaos untainted by any particular pseudo-god. They are fucked up and random like a Chaos Spawn but have all the accoutrements of Lordship, like beastman chicks to fan their hideous cancerous bulk and they are holding a wine goblet in one pseudopod and holding up either a telescope or a monocle to their giant insane egg-yolk eye.


Hardcore Sam-Harris Daoist immortal/Purtitan Beastmen. Like the Beastman versions of Sigmarines, in character at least, so juiced up on unbelief and sacred ritual that they can resist and undo the work of gods. The more powerful and singular your model is the greater the effect they have.

Humanoid Riding Beasts;

Like huge naked mutated asymmetric men, all a bit different and skew-wiff - hair and beards dragging in the murk, being ridden by wierdly attractive multi-breasted female beastmen YEAH I WENT THERE YOU KNEW WHAT I WAS YOU KNEW


and I want them modular too! Spawn Legions - some real super-random Hironimus Bosh apocalypse legions shit, look like they are literally made of crazed human sins combined with teratomas plus a circus freakshow. 

Thursday 10 June 2021

The Ungulix!

What are these posts even? They started out as Scrap doing reasonably sensible hooks and have decayed into me just ranting about the monster in question...

Never mind, whatever I am doing, I shall do. let us move on to... the;


What qualities are mentioned in their description;

- No-one believes they are real, (only the writer of the text, Juglangsing Leptoblast, believes in them).
- There is no record of them anywhere.
- They are compressible winding creatures, tractomorphic, about a wolfhounds size in strength.
- Like a big lizard plus a rabid dog.
- Sharp spines, but these also bend.
- They have clawed feet - these extend and rasp when hungry, they also grasp the ground to keep the Ungulix attached.
- The Ungulix has a maddening crazed head, its eyes are oddly coloured pearls.
- They are coloured like a diseased dirty dove.
- Their presence brings a ruined air blotchiness or spattering of space, with inversions of light/
- THEY COME FROM BELOW. Specifically, from under beds and wardrobes, bookcases, things like that. Reading into it, it seems like there needs to be at least some space for them to come from, its not clear they could come from beneath a carpet or a dropped sheet of paper. And the thing they are coming below seems to need to be some kind of discreet object, or at least not something utterly huge, amorphous or super-small.
- They exist under inverted gravity, their up is our down etc. If they fall up into the sky they disappear.
- They come when you are drunk (or perhaps otherwise disordered).
- "imagine secret wolves"
- If they miss you once, they come back.

Whatever reality powers they have, they know when and how to attack only those who will not be believed, (maybe this is a quantum entanglement attention thing). They need prey, and they can go anywhere, so long as they come "from below".

so the qualities they need to "find" are

1. Prey, (preferably human it seems though who knows)
2. Plenty of accessible 'below spaces'.
3. A roof or something to stop them falling into the sky.
4. A "lack of attention". This could mean drink or drugs or witlessness
could it mean sleep, this is a difficult question. Maybe they need some specific brain activity - so if you fall dead asleep, into REM sleep, they can't do anything, they need you in the "in-between" world.
5. A clear fate line. As they are outside time and space, maybe they can only enter timelines or fate lines, strands of causality where they can be certain they are never confirmed to exist... (Yet if they can perceive timelines from the outside its clearly not well enough to be certain they will catch their prey, unless they are playing very five-dimensional chess every time they hunt.


- Taming the Ungluix

What properties might a captured, tamed ungulix have? Could they even be tamed in any way which make sense to us? Trapped in a glass sphere perhaps? If they can't be known to exist what does a "Tame Ungluix" even mean? An imaginary hunting dog "owned" by a half-mad drunk who wanders the roads, and no-one has ever seen his "dog" but anyone who messes with him tends to go missing.

- The Parts of the Ungulix

What if you get a tooth, some bones, those strange eyes - they are wonderous things. By their very nature the world cannot accept that they are pieces of 'The Ungluix' because the Ungluix cannot be known to certainly exist) - so perhaps they are permanent zeros in the world, JOKERS IN THE PACK, and if you get your hands on some you can almost force them to be what you need, so long as it makes sense. I'm imagining here something like a PT Barnum Exhibit, but its actually from a real impossible interdimensional predator but it seems to be almost anything, or everything else, including a ginned-up fake, but perhaps whatever you can persuade people it is.

- Those being Hunted by the Ungulix

What could be done with someone being hunted by the Unglulix? The only way to save them is to get them off the sauce - or drug they are on, or heal their mind, in which case they may well decide that they were imagining the Ungluix all along.

People don't believe the Unglulix is real. That doesn't necessarily mean they don't know about the Ungulix at all. Perhaps the culture has adapted and regurgitated the Unglulix concept, the idea of them was immediately absorbed from Leptoblast and turned into a 'meme', being - the Unglix is the monster that old drunks think they are being hunted by when they fall over or go into rages - like a version of 'pink elephants', so that if someone turns up and says they encountered the Ungulix, well its ridiculous, sad and a little pitiful and look at the mess they made of their walls.

There are a range of ways the PCs might encounter them;

> They guard an old drunk, but stay aware, they never encounter the Unglix themselves but hear the sounds of crashing and banging and see the old fool running from the house - very sad!

> They are guarding an old drunk but they do *not* stay aware, they get drunk or high and... THE UNGULIX ATTACK! a battle is on and if the old fool gets dragged away then the PCs have to answer for it, all they can say is that the Unglix took them, so they are arraigned for murder and conspiracy. (Also they themselves are not really sure what really happened. Strange wolves? Bandits wearing masks?

> The PCs are hired to protect an old drunk but get them off the sauce and behold - the Unglix is gone.

> The very sad and horrible idea of the Ungulix hunting old people with dementia - is there even a way to permanently defeat or ward against it? 

> Can you get real wasted and follow the Unglix into the topsy turvy world - I mean that sounds utterly reasonable to me, maybe you can make some kind of drunk bargain with the Unglulix toothed goddess 

- The Wards of the Ungulix

Lets say that, like sharks, getting bits and pieces of the Ungulix can ward against them, they don't want t go too near the bodies of their own kin. Of course no-one really knows what these strange doodads are and they seem like the leavings of a carnival curio cabinet or the back room of a shop that sells incense. But the effect is good, fill your house with bonkers curious and mad taxidermy and the Ungulix will stay away.

Building models or fetishes of them - and leaving them upside down in the ceiling or under furniture - if the Ungluix sees another Ungluix from a different pack it will assume they are already hunting here. 

- Treasures of the Ungulix

- The knobbly scaled skin. Make leather of this and you won't be see, and if you are see, you won't be believed. Write your conspiracy theory on this and you will be believed, at least from those who read it from your own hand.

- The funky teeth. A necklace of these delirious fangs would be good protection from Witches and madmen. You won't lose your head in dreams or astral projections and your memories cannot be read.

- The terrible eyes. Children using these as marbles will give correct divinations, but only if the questions are phrased in terms that make sense to the childs world-view. Children lose interest quickly and once given an Ungulix eye cannot be repossessed. If one rolls a bunch of Ungulix eyes down stairs they continue past the lowest floor and if you chase them you can gain access to the "other floors".

- The warped spines. More like most of its bendy skeleton. Baffle audiences! Use it as an 'Oddity Hook' - a pseudo-grapple that gives you access to unlikely spaces. Use it to escape those guards chasing you! Where will you end up? Anywhere in the Multiverse! It’s worth a try maybe?

- Post-Ungulix Comedown

Even after you have an adventure with the Ungulix you are so fucked up from it that you can't really decide if it was real or not - was that a drunken dream you had, were you all wandering around wasted and not really knowing what you were doing? 

An ungulix adventure should be like strange violent dream, things should fade into each other, you don't quite know how you got places - rapid scene changes, things cutting out in the middle, not saying or doing quite what you intend the way you intend it - roll a fumble - scene change! roll a crit? flashback?

- Ungulix City

A place where everywhere is nowhere, where the Ungulix live and eat people with knives and forks, here they are fine fine gentlemen and we are beasts who crawl upon the walls. Why would you go there and can anyone ever get back?

Saturday 5 June 2021

What would Imperial Gothic sound like?

 How would Imperial Gothic actually sound if we could listen to it?


Of course this will only be even slightly possible if we assume a massive slowdown in the rate of language drift.

Proto Indo-European is about 6,000 years ago. Fragments of core word sound remain, so if you are listening to those descended languages they do all sound different to something like Chinese or Khoekhoe.

But Imperial Gothic is, as they say on the front of the box, 40,000 years in the future, if language change continues at the same rate then any spoken tongue would be so different that even the wildest projections based upon what we do know now would be totally inaccurate.

English has perhaps slowed down in its shifting, the last 500 years at least would at least be generally comprehensible to each other. Some of this must be due to printing, and the expansion and integration of different populations - is it fair to argue that the rate of language change in human culture slows down a LOT over the next 40,000 years?


I will also imagine that English, or more likely something that has some strong influence from English, remains important in human language.

One reason this might be the case is the way English is closely locked in to a lot of the scientific and technical language of the world. People speaking very non Indo-European languages seem to have an easier time learning English than the other way round and lots of scientists speak it or a version of it to communicate in.

Still I don't imagine the actual English language remaining.

I would argue that what might remain is a combination of phonemes; word sounds and voice-shapes, syntax, since the pattern of a language is much more resistant to change than its individual parts, and some scientific and technical terms, since those seem 'sticky', like legacy programmes locked into the structure of technology which, even when replaced, might generate symbols of themselves in the systems that consume them, like the 'recycle bin' in a drive an 'IP Address' or 'Boyles Law'.


I imagine a growth and massive mutation of English, absorbing words and concepts from all cultures, blurring together with them, over millennia, changing in its contents, and over tens of millennia, the 'technical terms' which provide the unchanging spine of the language of engineers and computer programmers, and whatever super-scientists exist in the future, forms and kind of backwards proliferation in which the meanings and potentialities of those terms are worked back into the everyday language of ordinary people. Like an engineering term describing a glitch or feedback becomes a common term for a mistake or returning and recycling error, until that term itself comes to mean 'mistake'.

So that’s a common lingua franca I imagine prevalent at the start of the dark age of technology.


During the dark age of technology we can imagine a massive expansion of humanity, does this mean greater diversity of language or greater integration into unified tongues?

Well, it doesn't matter because 90% of the population die during the age of strife and 99% of the technical data and non-hardcopy digital records are either destroyed or turned into murder-memetics - or in the case of warp possession, literal bad dreams that eat you.

What remains, and specifically what remains on Earth, is probably a mass, very simplified, argot, based on Tech (but with maybe 5000 years of diversion plus fragments of holdover archived knowledge).
This would make things harder to predict but we have a handy assistant - the Emperor of Mankind and his big project, the Empire of Man.



The Emperor wants things CENTRALISED - he wants the entirety of humanity to be able to speak together (specifically to pay him taxes and so his crusades can be organised) so wherever he conquers (everywhere) he is going to enforce a single language of state. HANDY.


The Emperor fucking loves old empires and human history. He is one of few people who remembers them. So where possible he will probably, like with his buildings and his military, try to reintroduce a 'greatest hits' of Human historical language usage. Also handy for us.


Though he probably started from and adapted from the basic argot of age of strife Terra he (being a massive autocrat) will certainly have taken steps to engineer Imperial Gothic in ways which reinforce the structure, uniformity and stability of the culture that uses it.


BUT - also like an autocrat, we know there is a 'High Gothic' (sometimes represented in books by Latin) and a 'Low Gothic - a demotic version of the language.

Nothing that surprising about that. In Rome the elite all spoke Greek, during the Renaissance most of the European elite spoke Latin, I think the Chinese had a version of this too. The idea of the Nobility speaking literally or effectively, a different language which the proles don't or rarely have access to, makes sense and for all we know, may make a society more stable.

It’s here that we re-integrate the descended Sino-Tibetan languages. They, or the word forms and sounds descended from them, never really went away. Can we suppose that people brought up in an Indo-European tongue find it harder to learn a Sino-Tibetan tongue than the other way round?

If the common tongue (Low Gothic) has a root in 'Tech' then it’s likely to be good at clearly and simply describing direct material things. Maybe it’s not a 'poetic' language, with a range of possible meanings to various things decided by circumstance and context, but quite a brutal "i will do this" "this thing will happen than that thing" kind of language.

So High Gothic, I imagine as drawing much more from the Sino-Tibetan and general South Asian word and sound pool, and, as a reaction to, and deliberate differentiation from, the practical and physically descriptive nature of Low Gothic, I imagine it being bestrewn with varied meanings and suggestive interpretations.

Mastering the varied possibilities is part of proving yourself as a noble, its not meant to be easy, its meant to be hard, and even within that to have layers so different versions of the aristocracy can do status games with each other.

I imagine High Gothic to have a lot of the Tonalities from Chinese and other Sino-Tibetan tongues which Low Gothic doesn’t have. You can produce very complex variations in meaning and suggestion by adding the layer of tones and they are very hard for someone without a lot of resources and experience to learn and master – it’s a 'master' language.

So my final analysis is;

If you were listening to someone speaking Low Gothic it would sound a bit like someone with a foreign accent rapidly reading out single syllables from the back of a scientific textbook, and very occasionally, maybe once every 1,000 words, you would hear a fragment of a sound or phrase that you almost recognised, like "somethingsomethingsomethingnegativfreqsomethingsomething". But of you could take the time to learn it, if you were an English speaker, you could probably do so reasonably well. All the words and concepts would be different but sentences and word ordering would be much the same.

If you were listening to High Gothic, I think that (if you were an English speaker) it would sound like someone speaking a schizophrenic mangling of the above tongue, but in a Chinese accent, with lots of non indo-european words, lots of tonal shifts you couldn't quite trace, and probably softer, slower and more sonorous. Like a child singing sad garbled pseudo-Chinese, as opposed to the more guttural, faster and aggressive sounding rat-a-tat of Low Gothic.