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Varchas

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Varchas
Varchas (Map)
SS Locations Varchas Map.png
Varchas (Gazetteer)
SS varchas portgaz.png
Located in The Southern Wall
Ports Port Erdonmez
Shops No
Shipyard No

Varchas is a walled city of the Elder Continent, filled with light and mirrors. Darkness is unwelcome in Varchas, and visitors from the darker reaches of the Neath are granted but a single day's stay. The port is called Port Erdonmez.

Port description[edit | edit source]

"The Mirrored City, where Light was always the Law..."

The city has Five Towers and is covered in a great wealth of vines, flowers, and fungus. Vast arrays of mirrors are carefully maintained and arrayed so that no point of the city is ever touched by shadow.

Port Interactions[edit | edit source]

There are 4 possible port interactions available at SS varchas portgaz.png Varchas. The one you see is controlled by the value of SS varchas portsmall.png Varchas: The Mirrored City. This is in turn increased by exploring Varchas, gaining the trust and favour of various inhabitants, and then attending the pilgrimage. Returning after this will let you decide the final outcome of the Story at SS sidebarbizarresmall.png A Plague of Broken Mirrors.

The Burning White Light of Varchas[edit | edit source]

The walled city of Varchas is a tangle of green vines and luminescent fungal flowers slow-blooming around mouldering stone. A quincunx of carved stepped-towers rise over the walls and pour burning white light into the bleak sky.

A rough, shadowed path leads from the docks to the Mirrored Gates of Varchas. Two towering carved-stone lamps throw their light on the angled mirrors, and a blue-cloaked Guard stands in the reflected pool of light.

The city is a beacon against the tree-hushed, sprawling darkness of the Elder Continent. In the far distance a vast mountain glimmers.

Actions Requirements Effects Notes
Choke on the smell

It is overpowering, sweet. It comes from the fungus growing wild all over the city's stones.

The flowers have white-waxy leaves which leave powdery traces on your fingers. The light coming from the city has the same camphorous quality. And the smell: perfume worn too many days on the body; unread books left to turn to ink-stained pulp, a garden drowned and rotting in still water.
The zailors wave you over

They are sitting on some upturned crates on the docks, playing a game with mirrored chips and stylised snakes made of bone.

"You're not thinking of going in there?" The zailors gawk at you in in unconcealed horror.

They take turns telling you gruesome stories of Varchas which they no doubt invented whole-cloth. Some are convinced that the Varchaasi render zailors into tallow to light their city; others say they steal shadows and sell them to their masters. All of them are convinced that they blind any strangers who dare to gaze too long upon their city's secrets.

"We're just waiting to be paid, and then we're off," one of the zailors says, nervously fingering a mirror-chip. "I've only got one eye left, and I'd like to keep it."

Ask the Guard a few questions

Never a bad idea to gather a little intelligence, before heading into unknown waters. Or cities, as the case may be.

The blue-cloaked Guard only acknowledges your existence when you step out of the darkness of the path and into the light from the lamps.
Tell the Guard you wish to enter

Well, what else are gates for, if not to go through?

She makes a mark in her ledger before ringing a brass bell. The mirrors of the gates rearrange to give you space to pass, but never once allow shadow to touch the Guard.

"Our ways are not yours, Taamas. Remember that, and walk in the light of Mihir."

Put a blemmigan ashore

Will the Guard permit it?

A careless shrug

The guard watches as the blemmigan whirls into the darkness. She shakes her head. "More of your outland pollution, Taamas? Mihir will see to it, I imagine."

Compile a Port Report

The Admiralty will want to know.

The Mirrored City and its glories

Tone down the details of the light and its brilliance. You don't want to inspire envy in the Admiralty staff.

Returning to Varchas[edit | edit source]

Subsequent visits to Varchas (when SS varchas portsmall.png Varchas: The Mirrored City = 1 or 2) will be met with this opening event, rather than The Burning White Light of Varchas.

The walled city of Varchas is a tangle of green vines and luminescent fungal flowers slow-blooming around mouldering stone. A quincunx of carved stepped-towers rise over the walls and pour burning white light into the bleak sky.

A rough, shadowed path leads from the docks to the Mirrored Gates of Varchas. Two towering carved-stone lamps throw their light on the angled mirrors, and a blue-cloaked Guard stands in the reflected pool of light.

The city is a beacon against the tree-hushed, sprawling darkness of the Elder Continent. In the far distance a vast Mountain glimmers.

Actions Requirements Effects Notes
"Welcome."

The Guard at the Mirrored Gates smiles. Clearly, she remembers you.

The blue-cloaked Guard waves you through. "Walk in the light of Mihir."
"Not yet, Taamas."

The blue-cloaked Guard watches you narrowly.

"Turbulent times."

"We dare not admit too many outsiders at once. Wait your turn. Return soon..."

"Oh, it's you."

The Guard at the Mirrored Gates gives you a startled look. Clearly, she remembers you.

Up close, the blue-cloaked Guard looks grimly fearful and wide-eyed. "There are...strange things going on in Varchas these days." She turns away. "Sometimes I think Mihir has turned his gaze away from us forever."

She seems to recollect herself all of a sudden, and stands a bit straighter. "You will see for yourself, Taamas. Step lightly, and walk in the light of Mihir."

Put a blemmigan ashore

Will the Guard permit it?

A careless shrug

The guard watches as the blemmigan whirls into the darkness. She shakes her head. "More of your outland pollution, Taamas? Mihir will see to it, I imagine."

Compile a Port Report

The Admiralty will want to know.

Changes in Varchas?

Not all is well. Observe and record.

The Fallen City of Varchas[edit | edit source]

The Fallen City of Varchas
SS sidebarbizarregaz.png
Category Story Event
Type Story
Data ID 152353

When SS varchas portsmall.png Varchas: The Mirrored City = 3, this is the port interaction you can expect.

The walled city of Varchas is dark. The glowing fungus has been stripped from the Five Towers, and the Principal Mirrors are all smashed to pieces.

The Mirrored Gates are broken into tiny facets and each one glints malevolently. You can see... shapes... moving in them. Glimmers of cosmogone - that burnt orange darkness. Glimpses of smoking sea. Sweet laughter that hitches and skitters like the death of clocks.

Actions Requirements Effects Notes
What's that?

Can you hear something...whispering?

You try to close your ears as you stumble back to your ship. You shiver, and it feels like a thousand snakes wriggling their mirror-bodies just under your skin. What have the Neathers done? What have you done?
Put a blemmigan ashore

Leave it to its fate.

Into the night

With a soft rustle, the blemmigan passes into the shadows around Varchas.

The shadows stiffen; there's a sigh like a dying fire crumbling.

Compile a Port Report

It's difficult to convey just how unpleasant the place is without quite an aggressive use of... ellipses.

The darkness of broken mirrors

Whatever power reigns here, the Admiralty will want to know as much as you can stand to record. Note it carefully. Guard your dreams.

The Purified City[edit | edit source]

Visiting Varchas with exactly 4 x Varchas: The Mirrored City will present this opening interaction instead of The burning white light of Varchas or Returning to Varchas.

The walled city of Varchas is a tangle of green vines and luminescent fungal flowers slow-blooming around mouldering stone. A quincunx of carved stepped-towers rise over the walls and pour burning white light into the bleak sky.

A rough, shadowed path leads from the docks to the Mirrored Gates of Varchas. But there is no fire burning in the towering stone-lamps beside the gates, and no blue-cloaked Guard.

Varchas is barred to visitors.

Actions Requirements Effects Notes
A new settlement

There is a collection of tents and huts clustered in the thin ring of light around the city's walls. Perhaps you could speak to them?

The Jewel-Turbaned Youth greets you with his hands pressed together. Only he is not Jewel-Turbaned any more, nor does he look particularly youthful. You can see other ill-fated Neathers through open-tent flaps. They sit on mouldering cushions and sip mushroom-tea.

"We decided to leave Varchas, now that we are no longer Varchaasi," he explains. Though they haven't gone particularly far. He gives you an ironic look. "We have not given up our cause, but we are not quite ready for the wide open sea yet."

He looks out over the glistening black expanse of the Unterzee, and a smile spreads slowly over his wan features. "Soon," he whispers. "Soon."

There is little more you have to say to each other; he watches you closely, almost yearningly, as you walk back to your ship.

Put a blemmigan ashore

Will anyone object?

Bitter laughter

The Neathers in the tents cackle with malicious delight as the blemmigan vanishes into the shadows. "Let's see Mihir take care of that!" one cries. Who knows? Perhaps blemmigans will creep into the city where they cannot. Perhaps blemmigans will be the ones to extinguish the light of Mihir. Perhaps you will return, one day, to find the city a single, vast, pulsating mass of purple sentience. Perhaps that will herald a new era of cooperation between Fungus and Humanity. Perhaps it will only herald the fungal violation of the whole Neath. Or perhaps the blemmigan will find itself crushed beneath a cart-wheel. The future is a trackless ocean that dwarfs even the Unterzee.

Compile a Port Report

The gates are closed. The Admiralty will want to know.

Possibilities

Perhaps the Neathers will prove useful to London...

The Falling City[edit | edit source]

Visiting Varchas with exactly 6 x Varchas: The Mirrored City will present this opening interaction.

The walled city of Varchas is a tangle of green vines and luminescent fungal flowers slow-blooming around mouldering stone. A quincunx of carved stepped-towers rise over the walls and pour burning white light into the bleak sky.

A rough, shadowed path leads from the docks to the Mirrored Gates of Varchas. But there is no fire burning in the towering stone-lamps beside the gates, and no blue-cloaked Guard.

Varchas is barred to visitors.

Actions Requirements Effects Notes
A distant roar

Is that rioting you hear, from inside the city?

Whatever it is, it does not bode well. Varchas is in uproar, and you can hear the clash of steel and the animal sounds of men and women heaving against each other and shouting. As you watch, the light from one of the Five Towers of the city flickers out. There is a tremendous crash, like a mirror breaking into a thousand, thousand pieces, and then a horrible hush.

You turn back towards your ship. No wonder they are not open to visitors.

Put a blemmigan ashore

There is no guard to prevent it.

Into the darkness

The blemmigan whirls into silent safety. As if Varchas didn't have enough troubles. Never mind. It'll probably cancel out.

Compile a Port Report

The gates are closed.

Only a few details

You can't tell the Admiralty much. But they will want to know, at least, that Varchas remains closed.

Story Interactions[edit | edit source]

At the Mirrored Gates[edit | edit source]

The Guard stands in the middle of the pool of light, looking warily at the darkness beyond you.

Up close the Guard's blue cloak is threadbare and mossy along the hem. A pattern of embroidered suns runs along the collar, but the gold thread is dull. The kohl around her eyes is smudged.

"Well, Taamas," she asks. "Are you going to ask your questions? Or are you just going to stare?"

Her tone is brusque but her expression is curiously eager; you do not think Varchas receives many visitors.

Actions Requirements Effects Notes
Your name is not Taamas

You correct her politely.

The Guard looks scandalised and tries to stopper her ears. "All those who are not Varchaasi are Taamas. You have been touched by darkness, and it has taken your name!" She fixes you with an admonishing look, and adds: "It is very ill-mannered to pretend you still have one."

You begin to see, a little, why Varchas is not often visited. It looks like you will have to get used to being called Taamas, if you wish to enter.

Ask about the light

It all seems a bit wasteful. Possibly even... ostentatious.

"We must always walk in Mihir's light so we burn our lamps night and day to banish darkness from the Mirrored City," she tells you proudly. "If we let darkness corrupt us we would not be Varchaasi any longer, but Taamas. Like you."

You wonder, is that so terrible a fate? Her mocking laugh answers you even before her words do: "Yes, it would be terrible indeed, Taamas. And before you ask," she adds. "No, I do not have any desire to leave Varchas. The rest of Neath has fallen from Mihir's grace, and I have no wish to join them!"

Ask about her

Does she like her job? Does anyone?

"It is a great honour to guard the Mirrored Gates!" she snaps defensively. She gestures to the edge of the pool of light illuminating her post. "It is very dangerous. Even a small stumble and I could fall into the dark!" Her voice goes thready. "I would be banished from Mihir's grace. I would lose my name. That is why they only send the bravest outside the walls."
Ask about the city's customs

Best to know before you flout them; easier to plan an escape route, that way.

"Don't touch the mirrors. Don't even look into the mirrors," she says, her voice hard. "And try very hard not to dream."

Were you expecting something along the lines of don't murder anyone, or only wear red on special occasions? Still, you nod and smile.

You have no more questions

You are satisfied; or perhaps the Guard's voice is beginning to grate a little.

She looks a little disappointed, but does not try to engage you further.

Inside the City-Walls[edit | edit source]

Inside the City-Walls
SS varchas portgaz.png
Category Story Event
Type Story
Linked to Varchas

Your eyes are blinded by the brilliance of the light; the verdant-rot smell is even thicker. The heat of so much flame and reflected light presses oppressively against your skin. Your head pounds.

It is a few minutes before your eyes adjust, and you can look around: brass lamps and gilded sconces hang from every wall, and phosphorescent fungus grows moss-like upon doorways and ceilings.

Cunningly arranged mirrors catch every droplet of light and diffuse it till each cobblestone and rampart of the city is drenched and blazing and utterly without shadow.

Who do you speak to?

Actions Requirements Effects Notes
The Fire-Keeper

Dressed all in saffron; a pair of thick fire-proof gloves dangle from a silver chain at her waist.

"I'm too important to play guide to you, Taamas," she tells you before you even open your mouth. "I'm the Keeper of the Western Principal Mirror," she points up at the enormous multi-faced mirrors set atop each of the city's five Towers. "I'm only here because I'm looking for my idiot brother. He is probably busy pouring wine down some pretty, dark-eyed boy's throat in a tavern."

Is it a matter of great urgency, you wonder? "He's late for his lamp-checks in the Sacred District," is her terse reply, as she hurries away. "If the Agnihotri found out, he'd be lucky to end up a lake-dredger."

The White-Cloaked Guard

The suns embroidered on his cloak are picked out with gold-thread, and the edge is jewelled with carnelian.

"Tamaas," he presses his hands together in greeting, then gives you an anguished look. "You look terrible! Are you sick with a terrible outsider's disease? Or is that what your nose is naturally like?"

Over your protestations, he gives you directions to the Hospital. "Oh the medics are all butchers, to be sure, but they walk in the light of Mihir," he adds breezily, and then points out the Guard House and the vague direction of the Temple of Mihir, and a street of bars and gaming-houses. "We don't want to get a reputation for being inhospitable!"

He laughs, as if he has made a grand joke, and you laugh along weakly.

The Fungus-Carter

Her cart is piled high with fungal-blooms and jars of algae painstakingly scraped from the surfaces of walls.

She stops every few minutes to cough surreptitiously into her dyed-cotton scarf, and eyes you warily when you approach. "I have to take this load all the way to the Sacred District, and the priests don't like if if I'm late."

You inquire politely about her cough, and she looks suddenly terrified. "Mihir look down on me," she mumbles. "Please don't say anything! I have a family to feed!"

With that, she grabs the handles of the cart and pulls away at a run. Within a few moments you have lose sight of her in the crowded pathways. What an odd woman.

The Jewel-Turbaned Youth

He is winking at you. That it a furtive wink, or a flirtatious one? Only one way to find out.

He looks utterly overjoyed to make your acquaintance, the bangles on his wrist flashing as he presses his hands together in greeting. "My friends and I would be honoured if you would attend a small gathering with us, Taamas. We are so eager to hear about the world outside Varchas's city-walls."

Is seems an innocuous enough invitation. But then why does his gaze dart around so anxiously as he tells you how to find his mansion in the Eastern District?

Continue Your Explorations

Time to venture further than the Outer District...

The Mirrored City gleams invitingly; you'll get used to the smell in time.

The Centre of Varchas[edit | edit source]

The Center of Varchas
SS varchas portgaz.png
Category Story Event
Type Story
Data ID 152443

You walk galleried courtyards wreathed with vines and fungal blooms. Long straight roadways criss-cross the length and breadth of Varchas, the stone worn by the wheels of carts and the tread of thousands of slippered feet.

Lamp-Lighters constantly check the fuel-levels of the sconces, and replace wicks; Fire-Keepers check the coiled-spring mechanisms that control the angle of the mirrors.

There is much to explore; where will you go next?

Actions Requirements Effects Notes
The Hospital

The Hospital lies in the shadow of the Southern Tower.

Are you feeling a little fevered? Do you hope to learn medical secrets? Or perhaps you just enjoy the moans and flushed faces of the sick and suffering?
The Guard House

Down a side-street; you can see the sun-blazoned flag from here.

Just follow the stream of white-cloaks.
Temple of Mihir

It lies in the Sacred District, at the centre of Varchas.

The sound of the bells grows louder and more reverberant as you approach.
Mansion of the Jewel-Turbaned Youth

It is in the Eastern District.

Well, he did invite you, after all.
Entertainments in Varchas

There are bars and gaming-houses to the west.

Follow the clink of wine-glasses and the companionable shouts.
The Pilgrimage to Amaradri

The Agnihotri seeks wisdom. The sick are ready to begin a long journey. The young and the restless have made their plans. The swords of the Guard have been renewed. The Pilgrimage is ready to begin.

It is hard not to be carried along by the excitement and anticipation of the Varchaasi.
The Inn

At evening, after the fifth bell, each Taamas is assigned a room.

The light is endless and merciless. Will you sleep?

Evening in Varchas[edit | edit source]

All visitors to Varchas are given one night's accommodation in the city's only inn. It is a handsome stone mansion arranged around a pleasantly cool courtyard: frescoes of city-life are painted on the walls. Given how few visitors Varchas hosts, you suspect the Inn is more usually used by philandering locals.

Evening falls - or does it? The town's Five Principal Mirrors are mounted on coiled-spring mechanisms, and alter their angles subtly to create the impression of evening. Across the city, the Fire-Keepers throw pinches of coloured powder into the lamps and the quality of light yellows to a softer brightness.

Actions Requirements Effects Notes
Sleep

The bed is low and wide, and draped with cotton sheets stamped with vegetable-dye patterns in muted greens and blues.

You fall into sleep easily despite the bright light, but your dreams are full of whispering, glittering smokes - mirror-vapours that coil into reflection-warping shapes. You see your limbs bend, your skin slough, your eyes twist.. You wake with your heart pounding. Your nostrils are full of the fungal-rot smell of Varchas.

Your body is as it always was, but somehow that is not as comforting as it should be.

Use the Mirror-Charm

You hang it upon the mirror by your bed-side, and hope for quieter dreams.

It seems to work; at least, you do not remember any particularly vivid dreams when you wake. You retrieve the Mirror-Charm before you wake. Is it your imagination, or does some of the script scribbled on the paper-scraps seem slightly blurred?
The Wine-Mazed Lamp-Lighter

He is dressed in saffron robes and is indeed pouring wine down the throat of a very attractive dark-eyed boy. You could tell him his sister is looking for him.

He starts up in horror, spilling burgundy-red wine everywhere. His young companion looks irritated. "I'm late!" he shouts. "Mihir forgive me, the Agnihotri is going to skin me alive!"

He pumps your hand in gratitude. "Thank you, Taamas! I won't forget this. Here! Take my arc-jewels - "

Smoke-dreams await

The bed is comfortable... but the mirrors are watchful.

Once again, your dreams are full of whispering, glittering smokes - mirror-vapours that coil into reflection-warping shapes. You see your limbs bend, your skin slough, your eyes twist.. You writhe awake with a cry. It's worse. Each time, it's worse. The amount of Terror gained increases if you have slept.
Dawn in Varchas

Outsider time in Varchas is strictly rationed. Each morning at dawn, the Guard visits the inn to eject any Taamas they find. They are polite, but very definite.

Into the dark

"Return," the Guard tells you, "but not yet." With that, they usher you into the darkness beyond the walls. You blink mirror-dazzles from your eyes. It's cold out here.

The Kitchens

The smells of cooking mingle with the fungus-rot; but you aren't going to let that put you off your food.

Failed event
The Inn's Cook is a large, scowling man with arms like a stevedore, who turns you out without a word. Are all cooks fearsome? What you wouldn't give for a crease-faced kindly old lady with sweet-tarts in her pockets.
Successful event
The Inn's Cook makes thick spiced stews of fungus-flowers and lotus-root, eaten with chunks of boiled cassava and rice imported from inland. But it is the light-hungry fruit grown in the city which makes your mouth water.

Tart-scented oranges and bruise-yellow bananas, pineapples bursting with juice, tender coconuts with the silky white flesh scooped out and sap-sweet on the tongue.

Do you not eat meat, you ask in wonderment, and the Inn's Cook calls to Mihir for strength. "It is forbidden to eat the flesh of living creatures," he says. Lucky the Varchaasi don't fancy the zee-faring life.

The Courtyard

Cushions are arrayed around the marble fountain in the middle; musicians pluck their instruments under the shade of the twisted, yellow-leafed trees.

Failed event
You hear the word Taamas! being whispered, and the musicians grow so nervous that their fingers slip on the strings and their tongues forget their lyrics. You leave them to their music, before you ruin their evening entirely.
Successful event
Their songs are curiously prosaic, the lyrics more like a biographical report than a poetic invention.

You listen to a Lake-Dredgers' water-logged, lotus-rooted dirge; you sway to the slow, steady ballad of the Fungus-Collectors, and join in the Lamp-Lighters' quick-footed dance which mimics their evening rounds.

The evening finishes with the Song of Mihir, which is sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments and drums and polished glass prisms which split the white light into rainbows in counterpoint to the notes.

Don't sleep

It won't be difficult to stay awake in this constant light. But the lack of rest will take its toll.

Failed event
You watch the light scintillate across the inn's wall. You pinch the delicate skin of the insides of your elbows and pace the length of the room.

Did the mirror by your bedside just give you a roguish sort of glint? Are you going out of your zee-faring mind? You decide, very deliberately, not to look

Successful event
A meditative evening

Up late, reading, thinking, watching. The shouts from the streets die as Varchas sleeps. But you're tired, the next morning.

Locations
Ports Abbey RockAdam's WayAestivalAigulAntheAvid HorizonChapel of LightsChelonateCodexCumaean Canal Staging AreaDahutDemeaux IslandEmpire of HandsFallen LondonThe Fathomking's HoldFrostfoundGaider's MournGant PoleGodfallGrand GeodeHideawayHunter's KeepIremIron RepublicIsle of CatsKhan's GloryKhan's HeartKhan's ShadowKingeater's CastleLow BarnetMangrove CollegeMount PalmerstonMutton IslandNookNuncioPigmote IslePolythremePort CarnelianPort CecilRosegateSalt LionsScrimshanderShepherd IslesStation IIIThe UndercrowThe UttershroomVarchasVenderbightVisageWhitherWisdomWrack
Places of Interest An Abyss...The Admiralty Survey OfficeAvernusThe Brass EmbassyDawn MachineDrydockThe EyeThe Forgotten QuarterThe House of the QuestionLight-ShipNaplesQuaker's HavenRoser's WharfSurfaceThe UniversityViennaWolfstack DocksThe Wreck of the NocturneYour Lodgings
Characters Blind BruiserMerchant VenturerThe Dark-Spectacled AdmiralThe FathomkingThe First Curator