The corpse of the mysterious stranger has disappeared from the crematorium, to which the body has been sent after extensive study. There it should actually find an inglorious but inexpensive end. In the empty, tied up linen bag in which the body was kept, only a handful of additional documents were found instead. Seemingly further fragments of their strange record of Orf. The remaining notes, all of which showed slight burn marks and smelled wonderfully of coal and ashes, contained the following lines:
This is part of a two-part series. Click here for the first part.
From the burnt notes of a stranger
I stranded one spring day on an island on the edge of a kingdom unfamiliar to me. I don’t remember where I come from and how I got here, but I hope that these questions will solve themselves someday. Until then I will do my best to write down my experiences.
Andora – The Dying Kingdom
I do not relish the thought of death. I myself already had my fair share of it, whether self-inflicted or casually observed. I have to admit that dying has a certain appeal, but those who care about themselves should avoid dying in Andora.
There, they have a very uncommon conception of the right to exist. Even after one’s own death, one is not yet redeemed here, but has to slave away until your bones themselves turn to dust. Horrible apparatuses of death, wood and iron dig up the fields and dig with their pickaxes in the country’s empty mine shafts. No one finds this alarming. Not even when such an apparatus suddenly runs amok and kills half a village in the middle of the night.
In my opinion, the population of Andora won’t make it much longer anyway. The soil is used up and the earth is salinized. Natural raw materials are almost no longer available. The only reason why the whole country hasn’t fallen into anarchy yet is because of the zealous actions of the Shadow Council, which secretly seems to control everything. Very suspicious.
The Endless Trainworks
A truly wonderfully impressive country, if I may call it that. You’re almost constantly enveloped in thick smoke and people rush around you in a fast trot. I had the feeling that everyone here has to catch a train somewhere that is about to leave. The Trainwork is characterized by its almost impenetrable bureaucracy. You experience this already at the border, which with a bit of luck the entry process takes a few days, but with a lot of bad luck it can take several weeks. The landscape is characterized by brutalistic uniform buildings. Monumental buildings made of cubes and edges, as big as mountains, perforated by tracks and train lines like an anthill. One can easily get lost in the Trainworks, or get sidetracked, as I often demonstrated myself. The officials and administrators of the country live in these enigmatic administrative works, sometimes several kilometers in length and width. Personally, I can hardly imagine what one could need so many pen pushers and file carriers for, but they seem, according to their own statements, to be very important for the general economy. Each of them seemed extremely busy and extremely important, and few of them could tell me exactly what their job was. But most of them had to move on quickly. Many of them also work in slave-like conditions. At least some work in a union, though those are almost treated like rebels or enemies of the government here.
The Trainwork is also a hoard of wondrous technology. Of course, it is only technology that has been invented before and is now being rediscovered, but still. Newer research is mostly prevented by various applications and forms, which can fill entire warehouses. Officially, only what is officially approved may be used. Unofficially, there is a lot of strange and frowned upon technology being traded underground. The underground network, which has spread all over the country via the abandoned train tunnels, is a bustling marketplace of everything that is illegal or prohibited in the traditional sense. Whether you are looking for a prototype of a lightning rod or get involved in the emotion trade, whoever bribes the right officials gets everything served up here with a kiss on the hand.
A wide, open moor, dominated by mold and rot. Treacherous brackish marshland, where one wrong step means death. Flora and fauna at the same time want your death and are just waiting for a wrong step. One breath later you dive under brackish water and duckweed, surrounded by water lilies and scavenging reptiles.
Nature seems wrong. As if it had been turned inside out. The inside to the outside. A brutal beauty still lives within it, but you don’t want to meet it.
Ordinary colonies do not withstand the natural force beating around itself long. The only permanent settlements thrive only in the gigantic machines of glass and silver, which stand out here and there like colossal monuments from the thick mud and mold. They are maintained and repaired by Krotthings, though their original function was something else. Nowadays they mainly serve as a shelter and source of clean water, because the moor is full of diseases. The ponds and lakes are so polluted that even the plants are teeming with vermin and parasites. The same applies to the entire animal world. Only little is edible without any problems and only experienced foresters can get their food from the environment.
The Krotthings probably descend the earliest settlers. It is assumed that they were once quite normal people, who have adapted to their environment more and more through the decades of poisons and toxins. Now more frog or toad than human, they steadily adapt to the mutated landscape.
Lustria & Tenebrem
The land split in two when the armies of good and evil met. Practically in the middle, it broke apart in a loud outcry. Even the sky fell in two; night separated from day forever. At least that is what it says in the writings of the heavenly library of Lustria. A completely different story is told in Tenebrem. There it tells of an act of despair and hope when the burning troops with their blazing spears invaded and slaughtered the population. The earth took pity on the poor people and cut the world in two with a bolt of lightning.
Both versions sound similarly absurd to me. Once a single country, Lustria and Tenebrem have been separated since ancient times by a wide and deep ditch that once ran across the country. The north lies in eternal darkness. The night and the moon keep you company all the time. In the southern part the day extends over the whole empire. Perpetual sun burns down mercilessly. The people in these countries are also suitably looking. Everyone can make their origin clear at first sight. Some wear the shine of the sun in their pupils, others the color of the shadows. It is said that the blood of the gods flows in their veins. Miracles happen again and again and are widely praised and glorified, as a sign of the only truth inherent in everything.
Two priestesses each rule their country in absolute monarchy. Both as different as day and night. Hehe.
One dressed in gold and silver, with a crown of fire, she is enthroned in her capital of lime. Through order and system she controls the empire with a hard hand. It flourishes and prospers in flourishing landscapes and rich yields.
The other, wrapped in black silk and shadows, she lets her people wander happily and freely through the icy lands. Life creates the laws here and those who do not obey them will find themselves facing a closed community of dreamers and free outlaws.
The Drowned Nation Ohm
First of all I would like to say that I cannot stand fish people. At first I hoped that water would at least cover up their smell, but I was certainly wrong. They are the ones who were cursed by the gods. They gradually grow gills, their eyes bulge out and the scales begin to sprout from their skin. Once the transformation is complete, they will be bound under water forever.
Ohm was thrown into the sea ages ago. Or rather, a prophet named the Drowned One has let the sea fall on Ohm. And the inhabitants apparently were even grateful to him at that time.
The whole region has been suffering from an abundance of gods ever since. Superhuman beings who call themselves at least that, but whose origin cannot be determined beyond doubt. The mindless sparks of the gods drift through the water as pure shreds of power and are washed by the underwater currents in all directions. They have no direct consciousness, but more rudimentary instincts. This only changes when they find someone who believes in them. In Ohm, faith is a very powerful weapon. Sometimes it can even influence the world around you. Gods are the best example of this. The most powerful among them share the waters of the nation, devouring their subjects and fighting for the sole rule of the empire.
To get under the surface in the first place, a submarine is recommended. If this is not available, enough gods offer a blessing that lets you breathe and wander even in the dark deep sea. Of course always for a price, although most of them are already grateful for your attention alone.
There are no roads under water. There are no trains or any form of the powerful gas that is used in most other countries. Places are not connected by roads, but by portals. Some as big as a house, others as small as the head of a pin. Whether they are made of bone, wood, stone, algae or even stranger material, they all have a twin pair that is built in a different place. Whoever passes one, emerges from the other and vice versa.