Ruins

First Age Ruins?

1. The Mirror: Deep under the Wyld-twisted waves of the far west, down in the great blackness broken only by the lonely luminescence of huge-eyed creatures seeking mates or prey, where pale spiders the size of lions scuttle up and down jagged columns like termites on their great mounds, there lies the wreck of the Mirror. A great curving wing of silver, buried in polyps and strange veiny structures of deep-red coral, this vast vessel was once one of the greatest marvels of the Genesis Lords. The Mirror was a research vessel, dedicated to reflecting on the sacred glories of Gaia. Silently it wandered its way across the heavens, its enchanted mirrors warping light around it to hide the ship from all eyes as its telescopes observed the variety and splendor of life below…and sent out highly trained teams to bring back samples. Even now, an empty shell of its true self, the Mirror's systems flicker and hum intermittently under geothermic power, pumping water out and shining light on what was once the greatest menagerie in Creation. It has been so long now that the great zoo's inhabitants have escaped, and those that survived have bred and adapted to the gleaming corridors and the dim, spastic lights. Red and purple plants with salty fruit fill this place, and sleek black-skinned amphibian creatures slither forth to feast on crabs and coral outside the ship. Long-tongued creatures wait motionless in the ventilation ducts to ambush anything that passes by, and hopping arthropods spread wing-like vanes to drink up as much nourishing lighting as they can when the lights flicker on. And in the center of the great ship, the crippled Mirror struggles to repair its broken engines, for the ancient mollusk which extruded the ship at the Genesis Lords' behest knows that the coldsleep tubes preserving its crew and its own larval offspring only have two or three years more. This great intellect, driven a little strange by loneliness, will stop at nothing to repair itself…and to that end it's been genetically engineering warrior-beasts and submarine-fish to go out and bring back help. It's willing to barter away the marvelous magic and technology the Genesis Lords hid in its memory…or to enslave craftsmen through psychic manipulation and the threat of violence.

2. The Smoking Citadel was, perhaps, Creation's first Volcano Lair. A great tower standing atop a tripod, standing atop the vast caldera of a particularly active volcano, the Citadel was a testament to its architect's mastery over the forces of nature. Its highest minarets pierced the clouds, and its lower floors were studded with huge observation windows or glass floors, so that guests could stare down at the inferno below. Occasionally, the Night Caste who built the place would arrange spectacular ballets of fire elementals or gem-studded automata for his guests in the lake of lava. The tower's automated forges pumped out Orichalcum, and its vast mirrored lenses could be turned skyward to defend the tower from attack with blasts of superheated sunlight…or, more often, to create great displays of light and perform shadow-plays on the undersides of clouds on major holidays. A great city rose up around the Smoking Citadel, known for its metalworking and its mining and its manufacture of essence cannons. Factory Cathedrals rang with holy song and the chiming of ten thousand sacred silver hammers, and the Citadel's Solar lord guarded his kingdom with bound elementals and glowing lava-filled golems of fire and orichalcum. The Citadel's halls were filled with treasures for display and for export, and on the roof the Cloud People danced and gathered up the volcanic smoke to fertilize distant fields. And then the Usurpation came, and the Sidereals broke the chains of the terrible volcano goddess the Solar had bound in the lake of fire, and the city was buried under ten feet of stone and the Citadel of Smoke fell into the lava, and all the treasure and all the riches were buried, save only the very peak of the tower which now rises from the center of the still-roiling caldera. The tower is filled with forge-demons and terrible automata trapped for eternity, and with a court of very Bronze-devoted fire elementals led by a goddess who now uses her former prison as her seat of power.

3. The Oubliette: In the heart of the Blessed Isle, surrounded by a rolling green countryside dotted with prosperous little villages and livestock, there is an old forest. In the center of the forest, there is an old stone garrison, covered with creeping moss and ivy, and a little old man with an ox-cart delivers food to them once a week. They meet him at the outer gate and silently pay him and inspect the card before bringing it inside. The old man is a retired agent of the the Thousand Eyes, and once murdered the Empress' lover of the time in front of her to foil an assassination attempt. The men who meet him at the gate wear black and have no tongues. In the center of the garrison, well-guarded by stoic and silent warriors, is a stairway leading down into a great subterranean complex. On winter days, steam rises up from the stairway. On moonless nights, whispering voices or distant screams can be heard from below. On Calibration, the guards close great doors of black jade and orichalcum over the stairway, and plug their ears. For below this unassuming hill lies buried one of the blackest pits the Anathema ever dug.

This was a prison, a lightless place where they hid away traitors and monsters and things which for some reason they did not wish to destroy, but neither wished to unleash into the world. Some of the things here were freed and used by the Sidereals in the Usurpation. Some…they left well enough alone. At the bottom of that stair there are dungeons, some of them occupied, some of them empty, some of them only apparently empty. There are heavy blast doors not opened in the turning of an Age, which are icy cold to the touch. There are torture chambers still occupied by the moaning ghosts of dead exalts, for the ancient Anathema could better prize secrets from their dead brethren than they could break the will of a living one. Here there are behemoths the Solars could not kill, and living weapons they confiscated from their brethren and could not control.

The complex is guarded by sadistic demons with no mouths who take savage pleasure in hunting anyone who enters without the appropriate security clearances. These demons war with other demons brought in by the Empress and by the Bureau of Destiny to take control of the place, but more guardians are spawned constantly by the demon prince locked in one of the lower levels for precisely that purpose. Those horrors lucky enough to escape their cells and strong enough or stealthy enough to survive lurk the corridors and live on demon-flesh or on more esoteric things, and at least one mad old Lunar lurks within the city-sized complex, bound by ancient oaths and moonsilver wires in her brain never to leave and never to take on a form he stole which could unravel Creation if she were to don it.

…the Silent Legion use this place as a final training ground. Bands of recruits are locked in the dungeon for five nights in groups of six, each assigned to guard one of the others. Those who survive, and whose charges survive, are examined closely to ensure that they are still sane (and are not possessed by anything from below), before being formally accepted into the Legion and having their tongues ceremonially removed.

In one of the lowest levels of the dungeon, guarded by two bound demons of terrible power and the Queen of Scarabs, the Solar Deliberative stored confiscated artifacts deemed too loathsome or dangerous to be owned by any one exalt, but too potentially useful to destroy. The Sidereals have lost several agents trying to plunder or relocate this hoard, and have now given up on it. The Dragonblooded have no idea of its existence, and it isn't recorded anywhere: only someone who remembered it in a dream might know what was locked away in there…or how to get in.

4. Thunderhome: In the jungles of the Southeast, there is a great river, and astride that river there is a gleaming dam resembling half of a steep stepped pyramid six miles wide and one mile high, carved of white jade, holding back a huge lake and looming over a fertile jungle valley. This monolithic structure regulates the flow of water in and out of the reservoir, and for the past centuries a lone waterfall (which might seem vast elsewhere but against the sheer scale of the dam seems miniscule) has run down the center of the structure and into the valley below. The parrot-people who live here have built a vertical city on the side of the great dam, using the waterfall to turn paddlewheels which power a series of lifts and elevators allowing slow but easy transport up the structure, and on their stunted little wings they hop and glide to lower levels of their city. They call the place Thunderhome, and they worship the white statue-god of the dam and the feathered serpent-god of the lake above and the harvest goddess of the fertile valley below where they farm yam-vines and huge fruits in the treetops. The people of Thunderhome rule over the tribespeople of the valley below and of the surrounding areas, demanding tribute under threat of unleashing great floods or stopping up the water: their priest-class knows from the god of the waterfall how to work the dam's ancient but still serviceable controls.

What nobody knows is the purpose of the dam: submerged in the reservoir behind Thunderhome is an ancient city of the Mosok, covered in lake plants and slime but largely unharmed by the passing of time. The reservoir is filled with huge serpents and the savage predatory descendants of its former inhabitants, and with a number of godblooded predatory aquatic dinosaurs sired by the bored reptilian city-goddess over the centuries. She appears to the parrot-people as a feathered serpent and is fond of demanding human sacrifices to feed to her prehistoric progeny. The people of Thunderhome, of course, take these sacrifices from the tribes in the lands below whenever they can.

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