There are many ways to describe this city, many epithets to label it and countless adjectives to apply to it and its people. A common one that is heard from any soul who has walked the streets for any length of time, whether they love or hate it, is that it is a contradiction; endless conflicting worlds and antithetical ideologies all striving for dominance, quieted by the armistice that is the One Law: “Love is the Law; Love under Will.” Even with this contradiction, this background war always raging in the back of one’s mind out of view, one can rarely claim the city to ever be tense. These events, however, brought this tension to the forefront. The signs that something was amiss were there in the reticence of our citizens, the uptick in crime and sudden disappearances, and the whispers of ghosts. It started from the outskirts, the far reaches of the city walls, and worked its way inward like a gangrenous wound, and only when blood was spilt on the Road of Fiery Salvation did we begin to realise the damage.
The words of an insane man harassing bystanders reached the city by way of Beloch. Normally one to handle his own problems, this piqued the interest of many, myself included, to witness what creature could concern the proprietor of the Wasted Wakabi so, and it took not long to find the hulking giant of a man, robes concealing all but a beard of fleshy, writhing tentacles. He appeared to be searching for something, though when questioned, none could make sense of his words. His questions spoken only in Dracnari concerned a ‘Paragon’, a term none were familiar with save the old ritual covenant between the Illuminati and Templars during their time. While trying to make sense of the matter, he was hounded by those concerned seeking more information, and seemingly as a first step rather than a last, he offered a display of impressive strength by snapping his own neck.
Further attempts to pry information from him failed suddenly as the idea of immolation was suggested. In almost an instant, instead of returning the man to life, he was incinerated much like any random piece of unwanted refuse would be. Further questioning led to the Laboratory of Mu, where a document was found explaining that the term ‘Paragon’ was used by an old, exiled sect of Illuminati extremists who believed one could be moulded through transmology into an avatar of the Fleshpots. The document, though faded, was able to be deciphered to some extent by the city, leading them to realise that the ‘Paragon of Yig’ the man was seeking was likely to be the ‘Enlightenment of Dacari Xlai’. Unfamiliar with this term, myself and many others were educated of a hidden chamber beneath the old Illuminati pyramid, a place known only to high ranking members of the guild when such was a thing. I was not able to witness this being myself, but eavesdropping revealed them to be a corpulent blob of boneless flesh that spoke only in tortured screams.
The next piece of the puzzle came from a chance encounter with a number of members from the Shibchoyi Syndicate. Their bumbling through the north of the city and the Grand Bazaar attracted much attention from many witnesses, a number of which mentioned that the three were not-so-quietly impugning their perfectly legitimate employer by mentioning they had been behind the recent disappearance of some upstanding individual. Validity of these boasts aside, following them to the backroom of the Dapper Dashro, their conversation could be heard by all in the establishment clearly. The Shibchoyi’s actions in providing work and income for the poor of Gaudiguch notwithstanding, one interesting mention was an ongoing war between the Shibchoyi and two other groups: a mysterious cadre of transmologists fitting the description of the man earlier, and a group of violent revolutionaries following a mysterious figure known as the Flamewright. Unfortunately, before more information could be recovered, the three were quickly retrieved by their boss and marched out of the establishment. No further questioning could uncover further details about any of this, as anybody seemingly knowledgable was reticent to speak for reasons which would soon become clear.
A sandstorm would herald the next clue to the ongoing matters of the city, bringing the words of this aforementioned Flamewright to the centre in the form of pages strewn across cobblestone pavement. The words seemed to indict the government of the city and the guilds which formed it for abandoning their citizens and failing their purpose, of squandering the city’s heritage and history while sitting on golden thrones in blissful ignorance. Asking around about any details of the author, it became apparent why none would speak on the matter as one man who chose to speak found himself with a severe and acute case of being dead. After the man was revived, he immediately fled into hiding. Unfortunately, he could not be reached for comment for a later edition of the Gossip. The information he was able to reveal and the earlier meeting, however, led to the next clue for the city’s intrepid investigators.
Catanete Shibchoyi, the strikingly beautiful and unfortunately elusive accountant of the Freedom Council, was able to offer some insight into the ongoing war, noting her family had done much to keep it in the shadows and alleyways where it belonged. She deferred to her brothers to offer more information as she was not directly involved, and left to arrange a meeting, but not before directing those who found her to speak to Taschelin, the mysterious owner of the Golden Pavilion located deep beneath the city. While I could not be present for the meeting with Catanete, she did helpfully fill me in on what happened for the Gossip and, quite unhelpfully, turned down my offer for a date. Such as it goes in life and love.
Taschelin apparently proved helpful, as I was informed by my good friend Hareatho who serves as the Pavilion’s bouncer. While she seemed to have little insight into the ongoing war in the streets, she could provide insight into these transmologists. Named by the Illuminati as the ‘Cult of Transcendent Flesh’, the sect left the city a short number of years before the Taint Wars due to internal conflict and, since the loss of the city, considered themselves the true heirs of the Illuminati name. Their reverence of the Fleshpots bordered on fanatical, and members would risk incurable insanity and psychosis by transforming and augmenting their bodies with transmology permanently, a practice considered overly dangerous and self-destructive by most practitioners of the transmological arts and primarily used historically in experimentation on traitors and prisoners. At the end of the meeting, Taschelin implored Hareatho to gather information on the Flamewright, and set up a meeting between the flesh cultists and the city’s government using, to quote, “what little sway she had left from her role in the Illuminati.”
As the preparations were made, cruel plots were weaved by the Sisters of Fate, and responses were awaited, other answers would soon come in the lull. A child wandered onto the Flame’s platform on the Great Pyramid seeking to play, and after a welcoming response by many of the city, the child was reunited with a hysterical mother who seemed frightened of the citizens who met her. Seeking more information on this mistrust, directions were given to an alleyway that would lead to tunnels at the city’s south edge, a village that seemed to wish to distance themselves from the city at large. The only friend found there, as few would give these visitors more than a passing glance, was an elderly woman by the name of Mama Moschomi, the matron of the locals and an old retired Templar who considered all who lived there to be her adopted children.
Unfortunately, I was unable to witness the majority of the initial happenings there, but seeing this village for myself, there did seem to be some truth to the Flamewright’s words. Conditions were poor, and people were made to sleep in tiny houses in closely packed conditions. Many of the citizens there were missing limbs from work in the quarries, were disfigured by accidents, or ill from the close confines and poor hygiene. By Moschomi’s own words the only way out for them was often to be taken in by the Shibchoyi or the ‘Illuminati’, or to join the Flamewright’s war; the words of the latter seemed to have taken particular sway with the young and disillusioned in this place. It is rare I find something so egregious, so heartbreaking, that I struggle to write of it for the Gossip, but this hit particularly close to home. While many of the city who realised the depths of this lined up to assist in any way they can, I could not write an article of their actions being a beacon of hope without being disingenuous. I could not write of the struggle of our citizens here as placing their reality in the Gossip would do naught but make a spectacle of their suffering. I could only involve myself, as many others have, and try to help mend the wrongs we had been too blind to see.
So many questions had been answered by this point, yet so many remained. It was obvious we would soon find more insights, and I think there was little doubt many would be just as horrific. Would that we could, however, smell the blood in the air before it stained our hands.
~ Excerpt from “The Memoirs of the Editor-In-Grief” by Chixieya Ninchi, Chapter 68 “A Brilliant Revolution”