Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Strange Places: The Cold Roads (Vignette)

The scholars and students who huddle together in the fetid taverns and smoky tap-rooms and rathskellars of Wermspittle have a saying: 'What's fiction here, isn't necessarily fiction there.' Of course they tend to look at one all knowingly, as though this were one of the profoundest statements anyone could make, especially after imbibing lots of lager, black-stout and bitter with a shot of Dim Ichor. And they rarely bother to clarify what they mean by 'there,' but one is tempted to assume that is would be some place other than what qualifies as being 'here.' One might hope.

Down the mountain and across the main bridge over the Ertish River, past the terraced orchards full of twisted and gnarled apple trees and the burned-out ruins of what once was the village of Nebitesh you can pick up the main route North. Follow the North Road for about twelve miles or so and you'll eventually spot the remains of older, unkept and non-maintained side tracks. These old roads lay upon the stony soil like fossilized remnants of dead empires or forgotten conquerors. The land is thick with the things as you head farther North. But if you make your trip during the coldest part of winter, and you find yourself moving along as the sun is at the funny angle...well...then you'll be able to see the Cold Roads from where you're walking or riding along.

There has been plenty of fancy talk of 'temporal ambiguity,' and 'transplanar transitions' whatever that all actually means. The midwives just shrug and mumble vaguely obscene trivia concerning Weak Points and the dowsers are nearly all convinced that the Cold Roads don't 'really' exist. Unnatural Philosophers have written numerous manuscripts regarding their various theories, but most languish unpublished because none of them are truly quite sure if any of them are even close to being right...and it is a rare author who allows such niggling concerns as accuracy or factual-ness to get in the way of a way to cover their bar tab, at least for a while. There are as many theories as there are cellars and tunnels and crawlspaces in Wermspittle. Or worms. The place is crawling with more questions and mysteries than a gibbet-man has worms under their oily hides.

No one is really sure just what the Cold Roads actually are. But then no one really needs to know, not if they're still sitting warm and snug behind the walls of Wermspittle swilling brews and swapping words with the likes as get caught up in heated discussions or pointless debates. Philosophy is good for business, if you're a bartender, but it never solves anything more than killing time and filling uncomfortable silences with what passes for learned discourse. The Cold Roads are out there, past the perimeter where the patrols used to try to protect travelers. Anyone honestly curious about the things ought to just go and find out for themselves.

And a few do just that; go and take a look for themselves. Some get caught by the roving plague-gangs, or fall afoul of worse sorts. If you're foolish enough, or hell-bent, or whatever, you can make the trip and leave the North Road so you can strike out along one of the Cold Roads. Every year, each winter, some choose that over quietly starving to death. Others seek out the Cold Roads thinking to escape the Plagues, the festering madness that seems to be blowing in from the east like so much bad weather, or the wandering bands of mercenaries and bandits. Others are looking for a better world, for strange adventures, or just some place other than here.

They're all looking for something, though.

Huh.

Like most of us. Maybe.

Perhaps they find what they're looking for. It is possible. When the dead walk up to the walls of Wermspittle looking for tribute and some desperate cook in a shanty-camp figures out how to make sausages from gore worms...well...maybe anything can happen. What's fiction here isn't necessarily fiction there. Or so the drunken students and grumbling professors hiding behind their tankards have been known to say.
Welcome to Wermspittle

3 comments:

  1. There's mood in that, and the image adds more. It's almost pure fiction, and maybe the kind mentioned, but (so?) it oozes gaming potential. It also gives a good feel for the lie of the land, and one or two aspects of everyday life. Wermspittle is getting viscous, wondrously warmly, coldly viscous...

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  2. Thanks guys! We're working on more vignettes to intersperse between the monsters, NPCs, spells, etc. We're hoping to have a few Wermspittle (and other setting-derived) short stories out the door shortly.

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