Friday, February 3, 2012

One Night in Thrangbek


(Transcript of the Exotic Ports O’Call travelogue newsreel on the city of Thrangbek):

Bustling and cosmopolitan Thrangbek is the exotic jewel of the Gulf of Khayam. This city of approximately one million is a city of canals: It’s so crisscrossed by waterways that many of it’s citizens choose to live on houseboats. As the capital of the Kingdom of Khayam, home to majestic temples, and a center of trade, Thrangbek gets its share of visitors. Once a year, though, it plays host to an unusual convention. Players, gamblers, and spectators descend on the city in the hopes of winning the prize of enlightenment.

Despite all the magnificent temples dedicated to long-lobed, smiling Bo, the real religion of Thrangbek seems to be shatrang. To call shatrang “chess-like” is to only scratch the surface of this game whose rules are modified by a dizzying array of conditions including the position of the planets and stars, and whose pieces are infused with thaumaturgy. Shatrang players beginning training in childhood and those that can’t memorize its rules nor master the psychic control of it’s willful pieces often wind up beggars along the canals, their minds broken.

It has been theorized by Western thaumatologists that shatrang's complicated rules are actually the formulae of series of spells, disguised.  Shatrang player-adepts are said to absorb psychic energy from their opponents when they defeat them--games are popularly thought to take place not just on the Material Plane, but the Astral, as well.  This accumulation of energy allows players to advance to the next level. Their ultimate goal is the achieve the highest rank possible--a title translated as “Grand Master of Flowers.”

The final match for the ultimate title occurs away from the public. At the endgame, a portal is said to open to a higher plane, and the winner steps through to greet the other Immortals of shatrang and gain the prize of heavenly knowledge and vistas beyond the mortal realm.

As far as Exotic Ports O'Call can determine, no Grand Master has ever returned to let anyone else in on any of those secrets of the universe.

9 comments:

Dariel Quiogue said...

One in night in Thrangbek makes a hard man humble ... :)

That tournament for enlightenment is interesting. Makes me wonder what kind of Lovecraftian twist you can put on the prize ...

The Angry Lurker said...

I'd go for a holiday.....

Joshua said...

Exotic. Except that one town is very like another when your head's down over your pieces, brother.

Needles said...

It's Iceland -- or the Philippines -- or Hastings -- or --
or this place!
Very cool Trey!

Alexander Osias said...

Excellent work -- and nice references to the musical. :)

satyre said...

Nice spin on monkish combat there - the idea of partly Astral chess battle sounds familiar, early Marvel?

Thank God I'm only watching the game, controlling it...

Trey said...

@Saytre - Besides the obvious, the inspiration was a dimly remembered short-story from the mid-80s in the Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, about a lost Mesoamerican civilization (I think, maybe South American) that had "ascended" through playing some game. However, Marvel does have the Grandmaster and their was a Steranko issue of Nick Fury that had a sort of trippy chess game going on. I tried to mine those sorts for a cool image, but none real worked.

garrisonjames said...

None have returned, but do any of these Grandmasters communicate with those left behind via telepathy or the questionable agency of channelers/mediums perhaps? It is intriguing as to whom or what might be recruiting these individuals...and for what...

Trey said...

Definitely. Maybe the game that's seen is only the beginning?