Tuesday, 17 January 2012

[To Coin a World] Languille

The Croissant City

The city oozes around the mouth of the Voire like an architectural soup, rich in flavours and scents. Cramped streets suddenly give way to muddy canals, the buildings straining against the banks like looming beasts, predatory and storied. Decadent palaces and craven abodes alike hide behind crumbling facades and vine-covered walls, havens of privacy in a city where vice and virtue share the same body.

Languille's unique culture is the product of a centuries-long dance between the sun kingdom of Soleille and the great continent of Zwuyala. Decades ago, the city was ruled by the Solaise nobility, who formed an elegant and graceful cream on top of an underclass of oppressed Zwuyalan slaves and poor Reman laborers. But that was before Big Tuesday, and the Mort Reveille; the day the dead walked out of the river.

Dancing to the tune of the masked man called Baron Tuesday, the zombis took the ruling class out of the picture and turned the social pyramid upside down. Ancient Zwuyalan death magick mixed with the rich and fertile river magick of the Voire to throw the Solaise bourgeoise unceremoniously into the Cagé Quartier, and installed Baron Tuesday and his Zwuyalan allies in the House of the Rising Sun.

To escape the rage of the Sun King at the loss of one of his most prized cities, Baron Tuesday sort the protection of the Waldorf Ceasar, Emperor Otto von Karlswick, and in an unusual fit of competence and unity, the Reunited Imperium's armies found it in themselves to stop fighting against one another and smash the Sun King's armies at the Battle of Dunniewadér. And so it was that Languille passed from Soleille to the Remanschreik, and the dead went back to sleep on the river floor... for the most part.

Decades have passed, and the city has settled languidly into its new form. It may be true that Baron Tuesday is technically a lich, or a vampire, or a werewolf, or a black-hearted necromancer, or the Lord of Hell himself; but he is undoubtedly a popular ruler, at least outside of the Caged Ones or "Cajuns".

Perhaps no-one is surprised that, as the tables have turned, the newly-powerful black bourgeoise have begun to emulate their former oppressors, and the lily-white Cajun underclass have adopted several Zwuyalan traditions. The court of the Baron Tuesday seeps with all the elegance and opulence of a stately Lumiéran ball, from the overwrought corsetry to the elaborate masquerie, while the gutters and sewers of the Cagé Quartier, Cajun rootworkers delve into ancient Zwuyalana soul magick.

Theme and Mood

Theme: Life amongst Death

For a city steeped in necromancy and respect for the dead, Languille has a surprising zest and liveliness. Much like the fetid swamps that both nourish and suffocate it, the city thrives and grows with the cycle of life and death. That which is hidden beneath shuttered doors and darkened veils in other lands is celebrated out in the open in Languille. It is common to see a dying man feted by his family, or dead bodies openly lying in the streets waiting for collection, or a terminally diseased trumpeter playing in a jazz band.

Mood: Decaying Grandeur

Despite its commanding position at the mouth of the river Vieux, Languille has the feel of a city living off the wealth of better days. Since losing access to the enviable agricultural prosperity of Soleille, it has declined in economic importance compared to other ports on the Friendly Sea. Its aristocrats live decadent lives in immense decaying mansions, and its grand avenues become canals as they slowly sink into the fetid waters of the Vieux.

The Sights

The House of the Rising Sun

As the seat of an Elector of the Grand Reman League, the palace of the Baron Tuesday does not disappoint. The rambling gothic architecture of the House of the Rising Sun stands commandingly over the heart of the city on its highest hill, catching the morning light as the sun rises over the Rim. Surrounded by thorn-filled hedges maintained by an army of zombigardeners, the mansion plays host to the sometimes rambunctous intrigues of the Languillian aristocracy.

The Cagé Quartier

Once home to oversized slave markets, the Cagé Quartier now hosts the wretched hovels and slum dwellings of the descendants of the Solaise aristocracy; the Cajuns. It is well-known that places of great suffering hold a kind of memory of their own; the Cagé Quartier remembers the suffering of the Zwuyalan slaves who once passed through its gates. Through the whispers of ghosts, the Cajun underclass have learned much of the strange voodoo magicks of the jungle continent. As their overlords forget their roots and learn more of the civilised sorcery of Spindlewick, it becomes more and more likely that the Cajun rootworkers have become the true masters of Voodoun.

The Lurid Quartier

No other city on the Coin can match Languille for debauchery and decadence; its grand carnivals and street parties are notorious for their scale and sinfulness. At the heart of the Croissant City's depravity is the Lurid Quartier, a thriving riverside district filled with taverns, clubs, brothels, dancehouses, and music halls. Every building is painted in garish colours, every balcony holds its painted ladies, every street a riot of noise and sensation. For sailors, mercenaries, adventurers, traders, and merchants, it is a paradise made flesh. For those who are bound to work within it, it is perhaps a less glamorous experience.

The Red Windmill

At the heart of the Lurid Quartier stands an immense crimson windmill, slowly turning in the breeze; home of the Coin's most infamous bordello and music-hall. Run by the mysterious Madame Butterfly, the Red Windmill is the most lurid and decadent house in a lurid and decadent city. Each night, its dancing girls and zombi musicians thrill and entertain dozens of luminaries from across the Coin, none of whom would admit to their presence. Their anonymity is maintained by the enchanted masks that every customer dons upon entry, disguising their faces and voices.

Cemetery Hill

Just outside the city, on a hill that rises above the swamps, is the only remaining cemetery in the city. Most of the city's dead are buried in the river, or reanimated as zombis; few are given to the traditional Solaise funerary ways. However, some in the city still mark death with marble tombs and gravestones, even if the bodies are still mobile, and the city's necromancers need somewhere to store the vital ingredients of their art. Cemetary Hill is a place for quiet reflection in a city that prides itself on fearing silence more than death, and thus it is valued by many for more than just its original purpose as a place for bones to rest. Smugglers and criminals make furtive use of its many empty graves, and meet in quiet places under the grey branches of the shade-trees.

Personnages of Note

Baron Tuesday

The city's enigmatic ruler is a living embodiment of its nature; a master necromancer who revels in all things living, and an astute politician who knows when to demand, when to request, and when to throw a party. No-one knows of his past before the Mort Reveille, when he charmed the dead from their watery graves and lead the city's oppressed to victory over their oppressors. An imposingly tall figure, he is never seen without an ebony and bone mask that hides his face from view, immaculate white gloves, and a beautiful but decaying set of tails and top hat. In personality, he is somewhat fickle and changeable; at one moment, his deep voice is soothing and wise, in the next, graven and wrathful. All that is constant is his love of the Croissant City and his desire to keep its long carnival of life and death in motion, whatever that may take.

Lady Aschelle

Once a favoured consort to the Baron Tuesday, the aged but elegant Lady Aschelle is the most prominent figure in the court of the Rising Sun after Tuesday himself. A powerful necromancer and voodou sorceress in her own right, Lady Aschelle is known both for her compassion for the poor, and her utter ruthlessness in political and business dealings. She owns many of the least malodorous poorhouses in the Cagé Quartier, and maintains a series of trading interests across the League in the potion ingredients market, using cheap zombi labour to outmanuever the competition. Her compassion is attributed to her past as a poor cellar maid, trapped in servitude by the two sisters who now accompany her every crystal-covered step as zombi bodyguards. Lady Aschelle is an ear to the downtrodden in a world that has few such ears in high places, and as such she is sure to be a friend to any who fight oppression and a ruthless opponent when crossed.

Monsieur Brique

Bearing the black runic tatoos of an exiled dwarf upon his face, Languille's most prominent crime lord is a terrifying sight. Although he attempts to conceal his shameful past behind elegantly tailored suits and a tenuous grasp on Languillian high society, he will never escape it. Once the right-hand dwarf to the mysterious Madame Butterfly, he has thrived since leaving her employ in less than happy circumstances. Nothing moves through the river docks without his men knowing, and no-one demand protection money in the Cagé Quartier without paying their tithes to Monsieur Brique. In person, he tries to portray himself almost as a Solaise aristocrat, but his harsh accent, lowbrow sense of humour, and barely-controlled seething rage confirm his true nature as a brute.

Doc Delamour

There are many clever Cajun rootworkers in the Cagé Quartier, creating an elegant syncretic blend of Zwuyalan spirit magick and Spindle hedge wizardry. Most are incredibly secretive and deeply suspicious of outsiders; few will spin so much as a minor hex for those from outside the old Cajun families of the Quartier. They hide their work in the swamps and bayous. Doc Delamour is less discreet. As a Cajun rootworker with a surplus of ambition, greed, and gusto, he is more than happy to sling his services to the highest bidder. All sorts of potions and hexes are available for sale from his makeshift ambulating carriage, a common sight in the Lurid Quartier. When the good Doc is not selling love charms and poison chimes (effectiveness not guaranteed), he can be found enjoying the atmosphere of the Lurid Quartier's less expensive bordellos while trying desperately to climb the social ladder.

Random Encounter Chart

  1. Gang of wandering sailors, fresh off the boat, looking for thrills in the Lurid Quartier
  2. Zombi labourers clumsily unloading a merchant's cart
  3. Huge jazz funeral parade winding its way to Cemetery Hill
  4. Exquisitely beautiful painted ladies from the Red Windmill, dragging what looks to be a corpse
  5. Doc Delamour and his ambulatory carriage, selling his wares
  6. Tattooed Cajun heavies in leather jackets, enforcing a protection racket for Monsieur Brique
  7. Cajun rootworker disguised as a beggar
  8. Fetid swarm of swamp rats spilling out onto the streets
  9. Ancient gothic tenement collapsing into the swamp
  10. Sedan chair bearing the arms of the Baron Tuesday

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