"Why do they call it the Elder Continent? That vast continent to the South with a glowing mountain at its heart - where the Presbyter has ruled for a thousand years - is older by far than any of London's civilisations. Which is embarrassing."The Elder Continent is a vast landmass to the south of Fallen London; it is the location of the Garden and the Mountain of Light, and it may be older than the Bazaar. Varchas is its most well-known and accessible city.
"All ships that approach Adam's Way are intercepted by the Gracious - the Presbyterate's splendidly head-dressed coastguards. A quaint but inviolable tradition governs entry: you must tell them one of three stories. In return you will be permitted to spend a single day in the port." Adam’s Way, the estuary of the blood-tinged Nameless River, is the gateway to the Elder Continent; only living ships may pass through it. It leads to the port of Apis Meet.
The Garden: Eden?Edit
The Garden’s presence in the Neath may predate the Bazaar's. Only flying things may enter it, and to harm one of these is considered a crime. Snuffers once walked freely in the Garden, but were cast out. Sounds familiar. Perhaps this place is Eden, but far more mysterious...
The Garden provides a strange source of vitality to the entire continent, as well as nearby realms like Polythreme; fruit can grow from rocks, bones can sprout from the soil, and in some cases, inanimate objects have minds of their own. The source of this unnatural exuberance is the Mountain of Light, the daughter of the Bazaar and the Sun, which may be located inside or nearby. While her radiance does not provide eternal life everywhere, it does bathe the whole continent in soft light. She is also the source of the Wax Wind, which is literally wax.
Dark-dewed cherries and St. John’s lilies both come from the Elder Continent, and Hesperidean Cider - the drink of immortality - is made from apples which grow in the Garden.
The College of Mortality governs the seventy-seven kingdoms of the Presbyterate; it elects a leader, called a Presbyter, through a ceremony that seems permanently fatal to anyone who isn’t from the Continent. After the Presbyter’s time in office is up, he lives nameless among the College of Mortality.
The College is a necessity due to the increased vitality of basically everything on the Elder Continent. Even for denizens of the Neath, the Presbyterate's citizens are difficult to kill permanently, so to prevent overpopulation, the College of Mortality makes sure no person lives longer than they should. (Feducci is an example of how hard they are to kill, though since he's the only person from the Elder Continent who is known to be repeatedly harmed fatally and come out unscathed, it is unknown whether or not his amount of vitality is considered normal there.)
The Mithridate Office is another arm of the Presbyterate; its aim is to confuse foreigners by spreading false stories of the Elder Continent.
There is a disease endemic to the Continent that sets souls on fire. Even for people raised there, this is invariably fatal. Unusual fungal infestations are also commonplace; anyone who harvests fungi will almost definitely harbor a very severe infestation that may make them more mushroom than human.
Tigers are a powerful and influential faction here; it is advised that one does not press their luck with them.
|Snuffers and the Presbyterate (Flint) [FATE SPOILERS]|
|[Being a Snuffer is] not a pleasant existence. Take it from me. Oh, it might seem very carefree, prowling London, pulling the faces off anyone you fancy. But changing one's habits from week to week? Endlessly leaping out of windows to avoid the Constables? And the only place to find wax, here, is in candles. Candles are tasty enough, but it is terribly easy to nibble one's way through one's last candle, and find oneself devoid of lighting material. The nights grow long.
Their relevance is distant - but it exists. They hold a treasure of flint, brought from the South. But more than that – they draw their traditions from the traditions of the Presbyterate. The blood, the bats, the temptation of darkness. Knife-and-Candle is more than a game, my friend: it is a rite. Their rites are those of the College of Mortality. They're a twisted shadow of the Presbyter's laws.
The Presbyterate is not the Continent, but it dominates it. The Presbyterate's genius is its extraordinary heterogeneity. Seventy-seven kingdoms – men, Beasts, stones, flowers – a hundred schools of war and a thousand schools of thought – but all united under the Presbyter's word. And behind the Presbyter, the College of Mortality.
Death is the fist of the Presbyterate, my friend. One may not oppose death. I now believe in something beyond life – but that is a rare strange belief in the Bright Continent.
You and your assistants spend days hacking at the encroaching forest to the south. The trees seep and whisper. When you've piled up enough wood for a ceremony at the Temple of Meetings, they send you to the rhyming wells. It takes a long while to find water with the appropriate assonance. "We drink it while we're making poetry," the Stallion tells you. "For when we build the next Tongue, and its spire."
The Wakers speak of the Bleeding Forest's temptations and dangers. They name the chert, the flinty principle which stifles the heart; the Huz whose stings bring weeping death; the Accidental Men; the Road-of-Seven. They name other things besides, but their words sink beneath your memory like stones into water. They cackle as they name them. "You may end in the Forest," one advises you, "but now it will not be our fault."
|Assorted Text from Flint [FATE SPOILERS]|
|Your road runs beside the nameless river that flows from the Mountain to the zee. The waters are thick with blood – thicker still as you travel South. Scabs float on the water like foam. The coppery scent of it rises about you. Professor Stark sniffs the air like a shepherd scenting weather. "A good day!" she pronounces. "But not for swimming."
Caution, the City of Beasts, the City of a Hundred Tongues. Its spires rise through the forest canopy; a hundred, one for every tongue – scarlet, dusky green, royal blue. This close, the spires are less like coloured glass, more like glossy crabshell. The Menagerie sets up in a gently sobbing meadow just north of the Pilgrim Gate.
This triple-lobed portal of shell is the Pilgrim Gate. Here the coastal peoples of the Presbyterate enter when they make their journey to the Mountain. The Pilgrim-Wakers rear to greet you. "Have you lived enough?" they cry.
What passes between you and the Pilgrim-Wakers will remain between them and you: but it is not something you would have chosen to remember. They lower their beaks, raise their wings, step aside. You pass through the triple-lobed gates. Boars, Wolves, Tortoises, Lions gather as the Pilgrim-Wakers cry your entry. Beasts line the grassy streets, press their painted snouts against the windows of their mansions as you pass. Springs of purest water pulse in rhythm with your heart. Twining roses of quartz and sardonyx shine like ice. At Caution's core, the Temple of Meetings rises.
"The blood of the nameless river flows from the Mountain's wound. I have heard the Thief-of-Faces did her the harm. I have heard it was a dragon out of the deep sky. I have heard the wound remains from when she birthed Mt Nomad. I have heard she wounded herself, to protest the orders of Heaven. I have heard she did it so we all would share in her immortality. I have heard the Bazaar smote her flank, when it entered the Neath."
"Two things which are not Mysteries, precisely. I have heard the Wound in the Prison of Flint is a reflection of her greater wound. I have heard that the Wax-Wind is her weeping."
The Bleeding ForestEdit
The coloured shadows of the Forest rise to meet you. There is a path of sorts, but fleshy tendrils creep across it. Eyes swivel to watch you. Hand-fronds reach languorously to caress you.
The tree-trunks here bear complex patterns, like daubed paint. You puzzle over them as you walk, until you reach the right vantage point; and then all the patterns line up neatly, resolving into a clear scene. Men and women of luminous beauty beckon you down a dimly lit space of columns and divans. The closest figure holds out a chalice. "Weep," you distinctly hear her whisper.
Servants bring forward a krater-vase half-filled with wine. You and the youth and the maiden mix your tears within, and take turns in drinking from it. The taste thrills your nerves, cleanses the stone from your flesh. When you move on, there are two fewer figures on the painted trees: the youth and the maiden have come with you. You don't ask your other companions if they can see your new friends.
Gnarled plants swim in a crimson haze. Their fanged tendrils writhe and snap. Drool-strung mouths gape greedily at their roots. Bees hum drunkenly through the haze, gathering pollen from the voracious flowers.
"Drink." As soon as you say the word, they crowd forward greedily over your face. Your assistants watch in alarm as your eyes are obscured by bees. You feel their busy little mouth-parts work greedily at the corners of your cornea.
As soon as they have tasted your tears, they begin to speak. "Now you'll take us with you," their tiny voices sing. "Let us nestle in the crevices of your clothing, and we guide you past the Heart-Takers. We can even be of service to you. Do not crush us. You will regret it."
The glyphs are a bastardised form of at least three different scripts – but your researches have given you what you need to decipher them. This is the story of Nicator the King, and your path takes you to where he found his fatal mirror. This is the story of the Queen of Skite, and each stone is one of the wounds she gave the King of Statues, for love. This is the story of the escape of the Shames from the Mountain's garden. Your companions murmur when they see the shapes of the Shames depicted... you look up. The road ends here. You have made excellent progress.
Here, the trees bend to offer faceted apples of yellow chert. But behind every tree, you hear indignant squeaking and rustling. Now and then, you glimpse a fanged eye or mouth, until it whips furiously away. Whatever lurks behind these trees does not want to be disturbed.
This was a grove of counsel-trees, and now it's a grove of bones – animal, human, neither. One lone counsel-tree stands dead and crooked. Something stirs behind it, growling resentfully.
Here is a rocky vale where the trees are hardier – and harder. There are fewer hybrids of plant and flesh, and more that seem hybrids of stone, pulsing with fire. In a cliff to your left, faces writhe into view. One calls your name. "You are almost there," it intones in the Bishop's voice. "Now be careful. You may lose a friend. You may lose an enemy. You may find yourself in the slow embrace of years. These are my warnings. Here are my signs—" It tells you what you need to know, to navigate the Horned Maze and the Miseries, to turn aside the spears of the Fruit-Dwellers. It blesses you in the name of the Garden, and it lets you leave.
A shack stands by a stream. A lamp glows in the window. The door stands ajar. Within, the walls are crowded with paintings – views of the forest, of the Mountain. The shelves are filled with flaming, brilliant pigments. The air is choked with colour.
Here the trees are colossi, big as the stalagmites of Wolfstack Docks. A gall-ridden fruit hangs from the biggest bough of the biggest tree. Villagers in woven gall-fibre watch you warily from the fruit's hollows.
The Horned Maze is a single plant of vast extent. Its leafy convolutions form an elaborate labyrinth, adorned with sights and scents to draw foolish travellers into a core like the heart of a thorned cabbage. You await the Vespertine scouts just inside its boundaries. When they stumble in after you, disoriented by the Maze's blue-green radiances and narcotic vapours, you fall on them like wolves. The victory is easier than you expected. You take their notes and maps, and bundle their bodies into the Horned Maze's quivering stomach.
You build the bees their palace of wisdom; a grand hive of nine levels, with a fine southern prospect, with gates of silver, with a flower-garden to come. The bees are satisfied. They taste your tears once more to give themselves speech. "This is the route you must take," they whisper, "to bypass the Hungry Pools and the Catastrophe. Perhaps you will see us again."
The Huz whisper to you of the Bleeding Forest and its dangers. The counsel-trees, the traitor paths, the Road-of-Seven. The sorrow that remains in this land from the Mountain's wound. Their own sorrow at their exile from the Mountain's Garden. "This place changed us," they lament. "We became less; but had we been more, we would not have endured."
They outline a path for you, sign by sign. Follow the stream which speaks in the seventy-seventh tongue of Caution. Pluck the eye-fruits and allow them to direct your gaze. Pass through the hollow lit by candle-ghosts. Raise your eyes to the cliff-top. Follow the path marked with chalk and time.
You wake early and alone. The roof of the Neath is very close. Stalactites reach yearningly for the tops of trees. A vast globe of cracked glass, embedded in the roof, leaks cosmogone vapour. The roof is sinking closer.
You speak sweetly to the Skin of the Sun – that great cracked glass globe – and the roof descends more quickly, until it locks into place a mere yard away with a grinding crunch. You step from stalactite to stalactite, bobbing expertly in the ungravitied sky. Warmth from beneath the cracked glass fills you with lazy joy. You and your companions dash from rock to rock like schoolchildren, ignoring the python-sized red-black-yellow serpents who raise their head to hiss. When you wake, your shoes are scored with scars and filthy with roof-dust, but you are that much closer to your destination.
You steer carefully as the current takes you downstream, past hills wreathed in bloody fog and glittering with quartzy trees, past eyeless shore-dwelling kine-things that raise their heads to snuff at you, past miniature towns populated by warring spiders and ants, both the size of cruets. A drowsy numbness steals over you, but you resist it. You slap it out of your companions whenever you see their eyes glaze. At last the boat comes to rest on a rust-coloured sand-bank that chokes the river. Its carved eyes watch reproachfully as you disembark.
The Prison of FlintEdit
Here the colours are grey and green. A narrow portal pierces a high and flint-thorned hedge. A crowd of lumpen figures muffled in grey wool guard the portal with weapons of fanged wood. One offers you a thumb-sized vial. The others close ranks. It seems that to enter, one must drink.
The flavours unfold on your tongue. The taste of cherries, like a welcome. A zestiness that tells you you may leave when you like. A sharp tang, like a warning – a warning, the undertone of salt tells you, that you should be careful whom you wake. A forbidding slatiness that informs you of your obligation not to touch the fruits of the Prison.
The grape-masked figure bobs a friendly bow. The dissipating berry aftertaste tells you helpfully that this is a vigneron – a wine-maker.
Beyond the portal in the hedge, a peaceful space opens, of grey-green lawns and grey gravel paths, of trellises of flint-grey vines; and statues. Everywhere, statues. Many have been sculpted in the act of raising a cup to their lips.
Interestingly, the Vigneron has offered you two cups. He indicates clearly that you should drink from the smaller cup first.
These facts unfold on your tongue, one by one:
The Vigneron looks from the cup to the statues, and the statues to the cup. The implication is clear: taste, and you'll become a statue.
Other Vignerons pass out similar cups to your companions.
The vines are a cool and shining grey; each grape is a faceted fragment of flint. The gravel of the paths crunches beneath your feet. The breeze smells of stone and quiet must. The Mountain seems much closer here.
The first Vigneron walks companionably beside you, wool-wrapped hand on your shoulder; his grape-mask tilted towards you. Each time you stray towards the edge of the path, or towards the vines, he squeezes your shoulder in warning. Other Vignerons attach themselves to your companions. Their gait and manner is human, but their wrappings conceal everything. Not an inch of skin is visible.
The Vignerons will not permit you to leave the way you entered. This is technically a prison, one reminds you with a message-draught. But they are courteous hosts, and direct you to an oddly lit gate by the potting-shrines.
The Vignerons will not approach the central knoll. A spring flows from its side into a deep pool – red like the waters of the Nameless River, but a deeper red. This is unmistakably the heart of the Vineyard. Here must flow the Essences the Bishop seeks.
There is movement around the pool. Gristle-webbed jumbles of stone watch you with botched eyes. The Vignerons stand well back.
If the Surface sunset was the blood of the Sun; if it pumped out its heart's last dregs into the mild sea; if the waters stank of copper and the sky was a shroud; then this water would be the colour of a sunset. It is red, red, red. You capture traces in several tiny vials for safety, and seal them tightly. You are careful not to touch it. The vials are warm.
How long do you walk? Difficult to say. Violant light swallows the before and the behind. The stones beneath your feet are heptagonal tiles, impossibly tesselated. The walls bear mottoes: HEAL HER and BIND THE CONTINENT. The air drips radiance. Each step you take leaves a bruise. Ahead of you, the spires of Caution begin. How long do you walk? Difficult to say.
A Leopard quaffs blood from an ivory cup, snarling insults at her cage-mate. A Lion roars and paces, declaiming his deeds. Two morose youths watch you as you pass: their bleeding scars mark them as children of Skite. A Pilgrim-Waker sulks in a cage, its wings rattling against the bars.
One chicken-wire-wrapped cage seems entirely empty. "Bloatfingers," Wombwell explains. "They can't stand to be seen." He bangs the bars with a stick, until something like a gall-laden serpent twitches into view from behind a bar. As soon as it realises itself observed, it hurls itself at the chicken-wire, hissing venomously. "Loathsome, isn't it?" beams Wombwell, with a father's pride.
(The Story of the Queen of Skite and King of Statues) "...Love me," he said. So she took up the hammer. From the shards of the first blow, she made an axe. From the second, a sword. From the third, a knife-of-power. The fourth, a stylus that could score sandstone. The fifth, a seal not susceptible to imitation. From the sixth, a needle. On the seventh, there was nothing left at all. "I love you," she said to the wind.
"Now in those days, when there were Kings in Caution, a new King would sit vigil in the Temple of Meetings, with his appointed regalia: a mirror, a crown, and a dagger of flint. So Nicator waited in the dark under the fallen stone: in his left hand, the dagger, in his right, the mirror. In the dark under the stone echoed the laments of Huz and the pleas of Skite. Nicator's hands tightened, until the blood ran from his fingers."
"When the fire was lit in the morning, he was already dead. 'It was the edge of the dagger that slew him,' the Young One said. 'No,' said the Old One, 'it was the weight of the Crown.' The Oldest One said nothing. She knew it was the face that Nicator did not see in the mirror.
"And to this day, when you wish to pass the Presbyter's wards, we repeat the words of the Young and the Old. But for the Oldest, we say nothing."
"It is well-named, that jungle south of Caution. Feldspar flowers flourish there; trees of tourmaline. Soft flesh yearns for shining rock. Those who succumb become statues chipped from flint – each flake a wound. Now they wound others and take their faces. Look carefully, O my sisters, O my brothers: look for the statue-si—"
He grinds to a halt in mid-sentence as his eyes meet yours. "Flint!" he cries fearfully. "Flint!" He stumbles backwards, making the Mountain-sign against evil as he goes.
|Sentient Animals? (Text from Flint) [FATE SPOILERS]|
|You purchase edible seeds; scented coals to keep you warm at night; a precious imported packet of Murgatroyd's Fungal Crackers. The Hound watches you. "I liked," she sighs. "When I was ugly. But regrets, gone. No regrets, in Caution."
"You'll enjoy this one, my dear," a golden-eyed Parakeet crows, as she teaches you a passphrase. "Tart in the mouth. Tasty in the heart. Use it to pass guard-posts and purchase provisions." She leans close. "A shame you can't purchase wine with it. I think you might yet need wine. What? What? Hush! Never mind! Take this little token." She hands you a feather.
Original by NiteBrite/Mrs. Brite