Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Sewer Militia in Wermspittle (I)

Hardbitten and haggard, the grizzled old veteran wobbles only a little as he makes his way to the back of the tavern. He doesn't spill a drop of his stout. Not even when he drops heavily into the booth across from the three new recruits. Fresh Meat. He examines each one in turn, fixing them with his one good eye, and the other one that no one likes to talk about. Most people find the glistening black compound eye of an Ungezeifer a difficult thing to confront, especially when it juts out from the distorted zygomatic arch of a hoary old sergeant's skull. He had left off his cup-shaped patch, the blotched and splotched fragment of hand-tooled worm-hide that he usually kept over the bug-eye graft when he was up top. He wanted to see how the recruits reacted. It was one of his first tests. Picking up the tab was another. Nothing came for free. These green kids were expecting him to tell them the secrets of how to survive, what to do when they faced the sorts of things that they were going to meet, eventually, down below.


It was a dirty job. A rotten, filthy business. But it was the only thing that kept the city alive, such as it was.


The Sewer Militia was founded during the heart of a particularly hard and cruel winter, during a siege by the imperial forces of Greater Herzovia, more than a thousand years ago. Or so goes the fairy-tale told to small children huddling around sputtering candles on the worst nights of the dark part of the year.

The Herzovians had decided that Wermspittle was of strategic interest in their campaign against the nomadic peoples of the Far Steppes and the scattered abhuman tribes of the Thousand Plateaus. They besieged the city and their Morlock sappers set-about tunneling into the deep places beneath the city. The fools.

Cheap treachery made the Herzovian generals over-confident. They had bribed someone within the Wall Guard who oversaw and manned the Great Gonnes that had been left behind by previous would-be conquerors. Sabotage rendered the ancient cannons and bombards silent, and this lured the Herzovians into a false sense of an easy victory. But few things are ever very easy in Wermspittle, least of all death and what comes after. They would have known this, had they bothered to consult the people of the low villages and hill towns down along the Cold Roads. Instead they pillaged, looted and burned everything between them and their goal. Locusts in shiny cuirasses and long green coats and polished brass buttons.

They use those buttons now as trade tokens in the Summer Markets and some of the less discriminating brothels.

People had been living, after a fashion, atop the mountain squatting between the rivers and plateaus, on the site of Wermspittle for a long, long time. Others had lived there even longer. Like the things that still moved around in the down below.

Rag-Tag and Unproud...But Unbowed
The hastily-formed Sewer Militia was composed primarily of wounded troops, conscripts, a few slaves and as many Unfortunates as were unable to escape from the press gangs. They were given whatever weapons were available, promised boots or jackets later, and herded into every cellar, basement and other opening that let unto the Near Below. Officers who'd served with seven different armies, often against one another, quickly took command of their rag-tag troops and led them down into the deep places below Wermspittle where they fought desperately against the Morlocks and others and sometimes each other.

It had been a very near thing. A last-ditch effort at the eleventh hour. But it had worked. The Herzovians were driven out, their sappers killed or captured, and the Sewer Militia found itself caught-up in a never-ending vigil against the things that crept, crawled or slithered along down below.

Pyrrhic Victories in the Dark
They had won a wondrous victory against impossible odds. But the damage had been done. The Deep Derricks had been toppled and cast down into the Black Harbor, many of the pump stations were damaged beyond anyone's ability to repair them, the old gas-lines had been compromised. An army of rabble and the walking wounded, clad only in rags and mismatching cast-offs needed to train itself to become engineers and mechanics. It was an impossible task. An exercise in futility. None of the established officers would even consider accepting the post of the dubiously titled 'Grand Marshall.' Many of the younger, more ambitious officers cashiered out and left the city as mercenaries instead of hanging around to be offered the onerous task of overseeing the Sewer Militia. Many believed it to be a doomed, even futile effort. A failed attempt to stave off the inevitable.

Sometimes One Gonne-Shot Can Make A Real Difference
The first Grand Marshall of the Sewer Militia wasn't a scion of any nobility, nor any sort of politician or theoretician. Dirty, disheveled, unschooled and barely literate himself, Silas Gromff took over the Sewer Militia without anyone's permission or invitation, mostly because no one else would step-up and claim the position. A hard-driving and harder-drinking man who'd seen far, far too much during the first war below, Silas Gromff knew what needed to happen, what had to be done. So he did it. And he didn't much care who he angered, upset or had to shoot to get things done.

For more than a thousand years the Sewer Militia has patrolled the Near Below and trained-up a corps of military engineers and miner-mechanics that would be the envy of the world...if anyone knew about them.

2 comments:

  1. I love the atmosphere and "texture" for lack of a better word that Wermspittle gets from pieces like this. I'd love to see it illustrated by someone like Guy Davis.

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  2. Thanks Trey. The history behind this place should prove a bit more enlightening in the weeks ahead. Right now we're making do with what I can cobble together in terms of concept art and raw designs. If other artists are interested in lending us a hand, they're definitely welcome. We'd love to feature some guest artists in addition to guest bloggers.

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