Sunday, March 20, 2011

Desolation Cabaret

In 5880, writer and Great War veteran, Geoffersen Turck, arrived in the Republic of Staark intending to write a travelogue of post-war Ealderde. What follows is from Turck’s journals...


Like home, the capital of Staark has an old name, which nobody bothers to use. It’s just “the Metropolis” these days.  I have to admit, it outdoes the City in some ways--giant skyscrapers are everywhere, with aircars flitting busily between them like insects, interrupted by the stately passage of the occasional zeppelin. Automata direct traffic in the streets, and there’s the ever-present hum and vibration of the underground factories and power plants. You could almost forget the country was flatten by war, then buried by debt--but of course, glittering towers and airplanes keep you looking up, instead of at the faces of the poor walking the low streets.

Then there’s the dark side--what they call “the half-world.” This is a town so full of prostitutes they actually publish guidebooks so the inquiring libetine can stay up on the shifting codes of clothing and color accessories that signal what sort of perversions a hire is game for! Below the elevated roads and railways, lurid neon decorates cabarets and clubs that offer all that's on the streets and more. These streets are all-night candy store for drug fiends--their narco-alchemists must work in shifts. Maybe they’ve got automata doing that, too. In the shadows on the periphery of this underworld are the poor, discarded veterans of the Great War. Those pressed into service by crime or poverty as Eisenmenschen--men thaumatosurgically reconstructed in the Imperial bodyworks with machine parts to be implements of war. The rising National Purity Party has been scapegoating these unfortunates in their rhetoric--blaming them for Staark’s humiliation and defeat.


The air’s starting to get to me. They say things about Metropolis’ air, like its some sort of intoxicant all its own. To me, it’s just the constant stench of stale cigarettes, diesel fumes, and sweat, poorly covered with cloying perfume.

I think I'll give the country a try.

There are areas of the Staarkish countryside posted with warnings. These are the desolation zones, places still tainted by the strange weapons used in the War. Mostly people heed the warnings--the signs aren’t even needed really, when you can see the sickly vegetation, or the pale glow on moonless nights, or hear the weird cries of things unseen. Locals sit in taverns and swap tales about things like gibbering mouths, dire worms, flabby men, or susurrous shamblers. They talk about the zones, but they stay out.

The fellows I’ve thrown in with have other ideas.


The government’s put a bounty on the malfunctioning constructs and golems from the war still stalking the countryside, still carrying out their orders. Menschenjäger--manhunters--they’re called. From the description of the frightened farmers, the leader of our band calls the one we're after a Betrachter, but when we finally see the thing, it looks like a cyclops to me.  Then it fires that disintegrating ray out of its eye and one of our group is seared to ash in its too-bright glow.

That night, after we’ve wrapped the head for transport, we’re sitting in the cold, and the tomb-stillness with the smell of burnt flesh still lingering unpleasantly, and eating iron rations, and I think--Maybe Metropolis isn’t so bad after all?

15 comments:

Banacek said...

A guide for prostitution? Seems a bit complicated. They could just use the handkerchief system from "Cruising"."

Brandon said...

Wow man. Very inspired! I wanted so badly to hear this post as "voice over" in film as we see all of the things that are described!!! Would be so so cool!

Trey said...

@Banacek - Ha! Nope, since solicitation is technically illegal, they have to change their coding often, and of course, in a crowded marketplace it helps as advertising. ;)

But this part is based on true events.

@Brandon - Thanks. Glad you liked it.

Risus Monkey said...

Ah, one of the first tastes if the Old World and I love it. And I'm sure there are all sorts of interesting encounters to be had in the Staarkish countryside... Degenerate vampires now doubt had it easy during the recent troubles and many are probably sitting pretty (er... for the hideous creatures that they are) in decaying borderland castles.

(just thinking of Baltimore and Shadow of the Vampire...)

The Angry Lurker said...

Excellent, could be voiced by James Earl Jones.....5880!

Needles said...

This is really nice Tray. Quit making the posts this evocative man. Very nice & dark. Awesomely cool. I can't wait to have this setting in my hands. So cool!

Trey said...

@Risus - Ah, good idea! I'm sure there about somewhere. And vampire circuses, too. There must be vampire circuses.

@Angry Lurker - hmmmm...a bit more sonorous than I'd imagine, but ok, I can go with it. ;)

Trey said...

Thanks, Needles. I'm glad you enjoy them.

seaofstarsrpg said...

The Metropolis is also a den of spies. With agents from across the world seeking lost knowledge from the Great War, secrets of the current political scene and even the occasional bits of industrial espionage and gathering of blackmail.

Not all of the manhunters work for the government, at least not the government of Staark. Stories abound of monsters capture and transported out of the country or to hidden labs. Other rumors say that a ghost general with the right orders has been secretly gathering an army of abandoned war golems, but the authorities dismiss such as superstition.

Trey said...

I like that, though I would say none of the menschjaeger (manhunters) work for Staark anymore. They've gone rogue that's why the bounty-killers are after them/ Good stuff abotu the spies and the rumored general, though.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

So the Menschjaeger are the weird mechanical things, not the bounty hunters?

NetherWerks said...

This was a great deal of fun to read. 'Maybe Metropolis isn't so bad after all?' Indeed. Wonderful stuff. Love the Almanac of the Night or Red Light Tourbok. The Betrachter wasa nice touch as well.

Trey said...

@C'norr- That's right.

@NetherWerks - Thanks. Glad you liked it. I think Weimar Berlin provides fodder for a lot of inspiration for decadent cities in gaming.

timid traveller said...

Not directly related, and you might have seen it already, but I saw this and thought of The City:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/50-unexplainable-black-white-photos

Trey said...

Thanks for the link! I can definitely see some of those being useful.