- Depression is the inability to construct a future. -- Rollo May
There is a city there, and it will stay there until time stops.
There are houses, high-arched, broken stone washed clean by thin teary rainwater, and people in coarse clothing. The servants of the city wear their jobs constantly: the stern high priestess and her crystal scales serve the Parrot, and the hard-edged man wields a baton and straightens his military shoulders in the name of the Hyena. The poor are unadorned, because one lesson of Alhambra is that beauty must be earned.
Walk down the street and pass through half the people you meet, like smoke. The younger ones speak archaic dialects of the city’s tongue, while the older ones mumble glossolalic half-words; though Alhambra strives to ensure that its language changes as little as possible over time, the weight of years without a beating heart takes its toll.
The streets are silent. Nobody will talk to you as you pass by, but to duck their heads and continue on. They glance up very seldom, except to check that the lamps are all lit; a lamp in Alhambra invites citizens to look up, just once, to make sure that the starved green holy light they produce is still bright. They never linger too long on one lamp, because to keep looking is to see the vacant sky and the faint impression of buildings, far away. The light only shines so far, and maybe this time, when you look up, something made from feather-shadow and the bones of birds will drop on you from above. It could happen, if you keep looking up. So you look down.
Welcome to Alhambra. Try not to think about the sun. It will only make you homesick.
The City Edit
Alhambra exists on the inner surface of a bubble, nearly six miles in diameter. Roughly half the surface is covered by a saltwater lake, out of which rise a number of islands, made of what appears to be black volcanic rock. One seldom sees that rock, however, because nearly every acre above the waterline has been built over, in an intricate maze of streets and courtyards winding between houses faced in brick, granite and marble, and lit by green-burning lamps set on iron poles. Above the buildings and the lake, in the bubble's center, clouds form and dissolve constantly, and let fall a rain of slightly salted, but still potable, water; water that tastes almost exactly like human tears. The rains move around Alhambra on a remarkably regular schedule, on a cycle of 24 hours and 10 minutes; the city keeps time by this cycle, not by the days and years of Earth. The lamps in Alhambra are its only source of light, and they are kept burning constantly ... for darkness, within the bubble, is more than a mere absence of light; it is a destroyer, eating away anything left within it. Moreover, any place left unlit for long tends to spawn darkspawn monsters, which resemble shadows of the things (or people) caught within the darkness. The monsters invariably seek out any and all lights they can, and destroy whatever lights they reach. Every Alhambran is taught from childhood to fear darkness as one fears death; every Alhambran learns, from a very early age, how to light the lamps that burn in every street and room in the city, and as part of his schooling serves a term in the lamplighter squads that patrol the city and keep the lamps burning.
The city streets appear, at first, to be thronged with people. A visitor soon notices, though, that most of the crowd are faded or washed out, and a few are barely present -- they cast no shadow, and pass through other people like ghosts. As it turns out, that's because they are ghosts. Roughly four out of five of the figures one passes in the street on any given day are of the "venerable" or "departed", for nearly all Alhambrans whose bodies die remain as ghosts to oversee and advise their living descendants. Memorial prayers to one's departed ancestors are a point of honor and pride in Alhambra; to have the venerable of your household always substantial and active is a mark of piety.
Those aware of how ghosts behave on Earth will be surprised by Alhambra's departed. For one, while they usually prefer to remain near the places or people they knew in life, they aren't bound to them as Earthly ghosts are to anchors. They do not, in fact, have anchors at all; Alhambra's departed regain Essence only from being remembered by the living. Being remembered, fortunately, is much easier for the venerable, as they need not take time or effort to manifest -- they are always manifested, and even tangible as long as they have even 1 point of Essence. (There is no such thing as Twilight in Alhambra, and thus no way for a ghost not to manifest.) Also, the departed can all speak audibly, though not always lucidly; they must roll Finesse each time they speak to convey their intent, at a penalty of -1 for each 10 years since their deaths. Finally, the departed never have the ghostly Numina that allow a ghost to take over a living person (e.g. Clairvoyance and Possession) and there is good reason to believe that those Numina don't work inside the city.
As far as can be determined, the day-to-day language spoken in the closed sphere which is Alhambra is a hybrid tongue, despite the claims of the inhabitants of that place. Linguistic drift is inevitable, even though imposed stasis, and there are an incredible number of concepts and ideas that exist in the modern day that are widely agreed to have not existed in the cultural purity of latter days of the Kingdom. It has picked up words from modern English, from Revolutionary French, from Han-Dynasty Chinese and from Ngurai-illam-wurrung, and a hundred other dialects which have existed throughout the millennia the last remnants of the Kingdom have stood in their rain-drenched realm. Moreover, it contains sounds, especially in the emotional words, which resemble the shapeless glossolalia of the Royal Tongue, which violate the normal structure and flow of the language.
The base of the language has some noted similarities with the language of the Kofun culture, including a logosyllabic writing system, and similar grammatical and noun-formation structures, yet it also has some differences such as a rare use of colour to make minute clarifications that appears to be adapted from the Royal Tongue. Some think the similarities are just a coincidence, there are a lot of languages after all.
The later words, clearly alien to the root language and most likely absorbed from Alhambran agents returned home, are moulded to fit into the standard structure, including the imposition of the dual grammatical genders, the animate and the inanimate, meaning that, even with the influx of modern words from the developments of the previous century, their structure fits into the rigid grammatical structure which the rest of the language is composed of. The linguistic divergence, too, is notable; many of the living inhabitants of the city would have problems understanding the elder shades which haunt the place, let alone the dictates from the Queen.
Like any language, modern Alhambran may be learned as a one dot Merit. However Old Alhambran is treated as a distinct language which must be learned separately.
Under the law of Her Ever-Flowing Majesty, the people of Alhambra are divided into nine great chivalric Orders, whose knights and officers direct the city's affairs. Each of these carries the name of a bird or beast of Earth -- an ascription dating to the Kingdom's day, and therefore never altered, though not one Alhambran in a thousand knows anything about the animals for which the Orders were named. (There was a tenth Order, in the days just after the Fall, and children told to recite the Orders' names always list it last ... but no one belongs to it now, so no one but children thinks about it. Even the ghosts of its members ceased to appear many centuries ago.) Each also has a representative at the Queen's court, appointed by Her Majesty to carry Her word to the city as needed.
Order of the ParrotEdit
Representative: Mistress (Master) of Ceremonies
A tragedy ancient in Alhambra relates the tale of a boy and girl of the City, who loved without the knowledge of their ancestors. Because they lived on islands separated by a strait, and the boy was a strong swimmer, the girl took up a lamp and shone a beam across the water, making a clear path for her lover, when they wished to enjoy one another. One night, however, the girl's mother found the lamp and turned it away when the boy was in mid-strait; the boy was never seen again alive, and when the girl learned what had passed she plunged herself into the strait to join him. To this day the monsters that breach the water in that strait look almost human, and sometimes even beautiful. The lesson drawn from this tragic tale - in Alhambra, every tale has a lesson, or it isn't told - is stern: never grasp at love untimely. Court within the rules of courtship and the knowledge of your elders; follow the established ceremonial rites of the City in love as in all other things, for else the Darkness rises.
It is truly said that the only god or goddess worshipped in Alhambra, apart from the Ever-Flowing Herself, is Ceremony; the Order of the Parrot, first in precedence of the nine knightly Orders, bears more resemblance to monastic orders on Earth than to the warriors the title of "knight" suggests, and its head the Mistress of Ceremonies, who bears no weapon but an orb of crystal and a measuring rod, is a hierophant not a general. While the substance of most things done in the City is the province of the other Orders, the proper time, place and manner for all actions whatsoever is set down in the records of the Parrots, and the Order is ready at any time to counsel the perplexed citizen on the path of proper conduct. Moreover, as keeper of the calendar the Mistress of Ceremonies tells all Alhambra of the proper times and methods to celebrate the City's past, so that the ongoing work to establish the City's rule in the rebellious provinces is not allowed to obscure the goal of bringing the Kingdom back in truth.
Lest there be any in the City who neglect the proper way of things, the Order of the Parrot has the duty of teaching every child born in Alhambra between the ages of six and thirteen those things which every subject of the Kingdom must know: the city's history and poetry, mathematics, rituals and etiquette, and the threat of the Darkness. It is they who set the rota of the lamplighter squads, sending their charges into otherwise deserted building with fuel cans and cleaning rags to keep them in order; and while a Spotted Hyena is normally in charge of a squad, in case of trouble, a Parrot is expected to accompany his students if he is capable.
Alhambra uses a calendar that, by tradition, was invented in the later days of the Kingdom. It is basically lunisolar, with 12 months of alternating 30 and 29 days in a normal year; 123 years out of 334, a 13th month of 30 days is added, to keep the start of the year on the first new moon after the spring equinox. This calendar would be quite accurate, if Alhambra counted the months in Earth's days; alas, the "day" of the calendar is the cycle of the rains, so the months and years drift out of sync with the real planetary movements by more than 2 days each year. This does not trouble the Order of the Parrot; the cycle of festivals in the Kingdom's capital is far more important than the seasons in rebellious provinces.
Order of the BeaverEdit
Representative: Serene Architect
Even in a city as unusual as Alhambra, the necessities must be taken care of. The Serene Architect is responsible for Alhambra as a physical city. Her order manufactures the raw materials the city is built from in charmed furnaces, and fashions them into the streets and buildings that form Alhambra.
Architecture in Alhambra is defined by two constants; the near omnipresent rains and the need for constant light. Buildings are built with large sloping roofs and large open drains can be found on every street to carry the rains away. Indoors Alhambrans use large open plan spaces to maximise the spread of light, what furniture they use is often set into the walls or at floor level – mats instead of tables, cushions instead of chairs – to avoid casting shadows. Only important buildings can afford to light narrow corridors, and even then only when they are needed for defense.
Refineries and FurnacesEdit
Scattered through the islands and neighborhoods of Alhambra are the refineries. These are, from the outside, square towers of black basalt, five stories high -- the only places in the city where the rock of the islands appears undisguised. It's within these towers that the precious luminous oil collects, from which the refining masters distill the fuel for Alhambra's lamps. All the curious devices in the Redoubts that drain light and virtue from our world are focused on the clouded crystals kept in the upper floors, which sweat honey-gold glowing nectar into porcelain vats. The refiners crack the oil with an alchemical process, developed shortly after the Cataclysm, that separates it into the rarefied spirits of lamp fuel and a gum-like taffy, which they mold into blocks. These blocks, like lamp fuel, will burn, but produce heat instead of light.
Furnaces of various sizes, from half a man's height to a large room, dot the neighborhoods of Alhambra. These are all built to the same plan: a ring chamber filled with taffy blocks from the refineries, around a shaft driven into the ground covered by a hatch, which lets into a room above that can be sealed off. The hatch can be opened and closed by a lever outside the upper room.
The purpose of these furnaces is a strange magic that creates the stone and metal from which the city is built. Samples of the stuff desired are placed within the upper chamber, which is sealed, leaving it in darkness; then the hatch above the shaft is opened. This lets the Darkness, lying thick under the hatch, spring out to attack whatever is in the upper chamber. But, when the first sound of the shadow-beasts attacking can be heard, the taffy blocks are ignited, bringing the upper chamber to a red or yellow heat. When enough time has passed to melt everything within, the hatch is closed, the upper chamber's seals are broken, and the substance left inside (now multiplied several times) cools off. The corpses of shadow-beasts that come from other darknesses are usually melted in this way as well.
Construction and maintenance of the furnaces and refineries is the Serene Architect's most important duty, and the Beavers also control the furnaces' use - logically enough, as they have the most need by far for the stone and metal made in them. Use of the refineries, however, is the province of the Order of the Vulture, thanks to the same Writ that gave the accountants the duty of harvesting hope from the Rebellious Provinces; the animus between the two Orders provoked by that Writ is perennial and shows no sign of fading.
Order of the PelicanEdit
Representative: Premier in Craft
In every society there are jobs that can only be done by people with years of skill and experience. In Alhambra these jobs, the doctors, the master craftsmen, the bankers, they all belong to the Order of the Pelican. The Pelican is in many ways something of a historical anomaly, it is the miscellany of the Orders. In many ways the Pelican is more of a special interest group protecting its members interests from being drowned out by the more focused Orders. The Premier in Craft, officially chosen for being the best craftsman in Alhambra, is something of a career politician.
For all that it is an oddity, the unusual design of the Order is perhaps the only way it could function. There are some tasks that require a certain flexibility of mind, even in the rigid environment of Alhambra. The Pelican never formed the rigid hierarchies found in the other orders, partly because skill as a doctor does not qualify you to manage craftsmen, but mostly because the Pelicans felt that they didn’t spend years studying medicine to go into management. Instead they form their own smaller hierarchies under the umbrella of their Order, hierarchies small enough to still have the flexibility craftsmen require.
Order of the TortoiseEdit
Representative: Vicegerent of Ages
The Order of the Tortoise blend the role of librarian, archivist and castellan. Like their namesake, the Order makes its home in a fortress on the same square as an imperial palace. Behind its enormous Charmed walls they archive millennia of records from all walks of Alhambran life and they drill themselves hard to defend those documents. They are scholars and librarians who are mostly interested in their work. You could call them reserved, even shy, but if they must they’d lay down their very lives to protect their archive.
Of all the orders, few can claim the prestige that is given to the Order of the Tortoise. In Alhambra, history is everything. The present is bleak, the future is more of the same, but the past, the past is glorious. As the keepers and trustees of Alhambra’s history the Order of the Tortoise is considered the closest thing to that glorious history, save for the Lady of Alhambra who was alive even in those glorious times.
It would therefore break an Alhambran’s heart to know that if any order were to doubt the righteousness of their civilization it is the Tortoises; deep within the very heart of their fortress they keep their greatest treasure, documents and artifacts that predate the Fall: treatises on philosophy, codes of law and the diaries of people who would deplore Alhambra’s sad and parasitic existence. Those few who have read these prized texts, like their namesakes, withdraw into their shells and hide their doubts deep in the heart of Alhambra.
The Alhambrans boast in a thousand ways of the Kingdom's rise and glory, but none will speak of its fall; so it's very difficult to learn how Alhambra came to be. Throughout the city, in fact, only one memorial of that event is known to exist: a bronze plaque, mounted in the Observation Room at the top of the highest tower in the Queen's palace in Alhambra. The tale inscribed on that plaque runs:
- In the final days of the Kingdom, the minor courts turned from the Light to contend with one another, and to resist the efforts of Her Majesty the Ever-Flowing to impose order and peace upon them. None now can say who was the first to use monsters of the Darkness as weapons in these battles; but those who did were inevitably betrayed, as are all who think to master Darkness. Their lands became the monsters' bastions, their peoples (if they were fortunate) were killed or (if less blessed) changed into abominations and sent to conquer other courts in turn.
- Some few Queens, realizing the world's peril at last, came at the invitation of Her Majesty the Ever-Flowing, with their subjects and armies to this, the eternal city Alhambra. Here they prepared to carry war into the lands taken by Darkness, under the command of the Seraphic General, the first of all Queens after Her Majesty the Ever-Flowing. From the gates of the eternal city the armies set forth, and within a day's march the swollen horde of abominations fell upon them and broke them.
- Her Majesty the Ever-Flowing, with her loyal knight commanders, looked out from this place and saw the Seraphic General rise from the field of battle, transmuted into a living storm; they knew in that moment that all the world save Alhambra was lost forever. In this place Her Majesty the Ever-Flowing and her knight commanders performed the Grand Sacrifice of Inversion, enveloping the eternal city within a perpetual ward and shield, so that the last refuge of the Light would be preserved undimmed.
- The wisdom of Her Majesty the Ever-Flowing shall illuminate the cosmos forever.
- -- translated from Old Alhambran by Opal Star Cuyler, Knight Lieutenant of the Order of the Ghost Owl
The Tortoise stores more than just documents, their treasuries serve as Alhambra’s central repository for Bequests; this makes the Tortoises perhaps the best armed group in Alhambra, and the order is drilled daily in use of the various magical items they stockpile. All in case they are ever called to fight in defense of their archives.
The most valuable Bequests in Alhambra are those that date back to the Kingdom themselves, some of which still contain a spark of Invocations that have long ceased to exist. Most of these Bequests are far too valuable to actually use, for they contain unique and irreplaceable magics that cannot be duplicated in today’s day and age. Three of these lost Invocations are detailed below.
- The principles of Coppe were one of contrasts. They were sensual, yet serene. They were giving, yet also took. Coppe gave the power to enhance the senses and experience from another perspective. The most powerful Coppe Bequests can temporarily transform a Princess into other types of supernatural beings, and even transfer all a Princess’ powers to a mortal for a short time.
- The Invocation of Bastoni emphasized humility, hard work, a practical approach to magic, and sacrificing one’s own goals and desires for the good of others. Bastoni Bequests often specialize in domestic tasks, with powers that aid in farming, cooking, homemaking and other aspects of everyday life. It is the only lost Invocation that is regularly used within Alhambra; these powers are just too useful to forsake.
- Pentacolo was an Invocation of forethought and judgement. Its Charms could guide you down the right path, and even predict the outcome of an action. Masters of Pentacolo could see across time and space, and rarely made a decision in ignorance.
Order of the Spotted HyenaEdit
Representative: Marshal of the Virtues
The Hyenas are one of the most prestigious Orders; their members are both Alhambra’s army, and its police. It is the Hyenas whose strong sword arms guard every Enclave within the rebellious provinces, and who patrol every district of Alhambra in search of Darkspawn. The Marshal of the Virtues boasts that his men are the best of Alhambra, and this claim has some merit for in a city under siege the Queen of Tears has granted her Marshal a royal writ of conscription: the Hyenas have the first pick of each new generation as they leave the Parrots' school. The right of conscription causes the inevitable conflicts, other orders fear being starved of talent and even attempt to hide the abilities of promising individuals until they are past the age of recruitment. Like so much else in Alhambra there is no chance that this shall change, even if it is divisive the defense of Alhambra must come first.
Because of Alhambra’s perpetual manpower shortages the soldiers of the Spotted Hyena are trained as light skirmishers; their drills cover both the ars militaris and ars magica and specialise Alhambra’s military for urban conflicts both in Alhambra itself and in the cities of the rebellious provinces, where most taxes can be collected. The Hyenas favour working in small squads and using their magic to control the terrain or establish defensive positions, they also train hard on how to evacuate back to Alhambra with a minimum threat to resources or the all important Wisps Alhambra’s operatives harvest.
Order of the OtterEdit
Representative: Steward of the Household
There once was a man, of noble birth but undistinguished occupation who nonetheless reveled in his work. He often encountered six people, his equals in birthright but revered for their different occupations. The six alike oft mocked the man from the height of their seats. Why would one choose such a menial job as gathering food? And so they offered to take him under their wing and work with one of them, but met with his refusal they shrugged and went on, for food was aplenty and the sun always shone.
And yet, one day, the Night fell. The six panicked, for they knew not where or how to find nourishment! So they turned to the little man for assistance, and so he answered their pleas: "You mocked me and called me a knave from the height of your seats, yet you come running my way when it now suits your fancy. My only request therefore is this: I want to stand among you, equal in birth and importance, and you shall never forget who has helped you during this time of duress."
The six were appalled, such boldness! But their strength would soon wane, and who knew what lurked in the night, and so they accepted him among their group.
Thus, the six became seven.
This old Alhambran tale, of whom many different tellings exist, has a twofold purpose. Firstly, it is a cautionary tale, telling one of the basic morals of the city: in the Darkness, nothing is free. Only the mercy of Her Everflowing Majesty has no price, for she herself already paid it herself.
Secondly, it has been unofficially adopted as an allegorical retelling of the Order of the Otter's creation. The Order's history is an interesting one, for it can be said to be both the oldest and youngest of the city. Some of the oldest Ghosts still inhabiting the City claim to have heard of stories of groups with similiar goals to the Otters being active before the Fall but, as any Tortoise will be quick to point out, no official recording of such activities taking place during the Kingdom can be found in their archives.
The Order's job is to procure the means for the city's continued sustainment, and their main means to do so is by harvesting the Lake of Tears, for which they thank their Queen daily. The Steward of the Household oversees both the gathering process and the distribution, and in this respect some find a third meaning to the old tale: never run afoul of an Otter. For they are the ones that best know the depths of Alhambra's wilds, and their skill in herblore is unmatched by all but the most experienced Pelican. For this reason, the lesser Stewards seem to hold a strange amount of hold in the city, for nobody wants to displease one of the people who may very well decide of their family's foreseeable future.
The Alhambrans draw their daily meals from the lake. A few feet below the surface begins a layer of weeds strongly resembling kelp, among which swim a host of fish, pale white or ink black. Fleets of small boats row out constantly with nets to trawl the lake, bringing up weeds and fish, both of which the Alhambrans eat. The weeds are tough and stringy, the fish turn rubbery when cooked, and both taste strongly of salt, but they're edible and plentiful enough. Oddly, in any place where the weeds can be found, no one has ever found a bottom to the lake. The plant stalks continue downward into unlit depths, as far as any diver has dared to go, without ever reaching soil. Few divers have dared go far, of course, since the darkness is just as hostile under the water as it is on land, and Alhambra's usual lamps are extinguished by water. Those reckless (or desperate) enough to plunge beneath the weeds come back corroded and battered, or not at all.
Order of the Ghost OwlEdit
Representative: Fool of the Summit
- Once, long ago, before the Darkness consumed the world outside, a foolish man decided to climb a vast pile of stone; so vast, that its peak was concealed by rainclouds. Still, step after step, he climbed, until he reached the top. But he had climbed long enough that, head in the clouds, he was sure that there must be another step. So he fell down, and broke every bone in his body, and died. Do not try to exceed your station in life, children, or you too shall die.
From this story, told to Alhambran children, comes the traditional role of the Fool of the Summit. Face painted like a skull (to remember that first, dead Fool), dressed in black, white and red, the Fool holds a position much akin to that of a court jester and devil's advocate combined. Their job is to observe proceedings and they are tasked to provide distractions, through silent mummery and witty commentary alike. Their life depends on their ability to keep others entertained, for if they are boring (or, worse, unfunny), the best that can happen to them is a honour duel. The worst does not bear thinking of. They are tragic figures, forced to break the minor social conventions of Alhambra in pursuit of a tradition which mostly dooms them.
However, notably, the Fool does not have any immunity to ramifications from his comments. He is not granted freedom to mock anyone, and must always consider the complex ramifications of any of his remarks on any member of the court. As a result, a Fool who manages to survive any time is almost inevitably a laconic figure, a master of the double-entrendre and the loaded statement. In a sense, it is their weakness that gives them strength, because they are a pathetic figure, below the attention of any true aristocrat to eliminate for anything but an overt insult, and too many will take killing a Fool to be an admission that their insinuations are grounded in fact. The greatest art a Fool can manage is to make ones target humiliate themselves, slowly goading a chosen target through passive-aggressive remarks and subtle insinuation until an improper outburst results, and the consequences fall upon their target's head.
And in that, the Fool's true purpose is revealed; for one who cannot withstand the jibes and insinuations of a Fool, will not be able to resist the temptations of the world outside nor the whispers of the Darkness, and are thus unworthy of their status. Fools of the Summit are chosen from the Order of the Ghost Owl, whose remit is the discovery of hidden weakness, both within the city and in the rebellious provinces outside it. Lesser Fools walk in every neighborhood, observing and satirising as they go, and many Alhambrans believe these are the whole of the Order; in fact, though, many citizens belong to both that order and another, and report suspicious behaviors to the Ghost Owls' officers in secret. Those who wear the skull mask are honing the arts of social assassination in preparation for the most delicate mission: being sent to a land under the Darkness to root out secrets of Alhambra's enemies.
Order of the VultureEdit
Representative: Bearer of Eternal Flames
Once it grows past a certain size every civilization seen so far has required some form of central organization and governance. This in turn requires resources, the administrators must be fed, paid, and supplied with ink and parchment. Alhambra uses one of the more common methods: taxation, and it is the Order of the Vulture who tax Alhambra’s citizens and advise its Queen on economics and matters of the royal treasury.
But Alhambra needs something far more than it needs mere currency, to survive Alhambra needs hope. Under Alhambran law all of Earth is governed by Her Majesty, the Queen of Tears. It was therefore a simple decision to say that instead of being taxed in money, the provinces will be taxed in hope. The Vultures, delighted by the expansion of their duties and prestige, eagerly accepted their Queen’s decree. When the forces of Alhambra steal into the Rebellious Provinces to collect their taxes they do so under the banner of the Vulture. They may travel with a guard of soldiers from the Hyena and travel to a target suggested by the ghost Owl, but it is the Vultures who started it all with their dispassionate tables of numbers saying how much they must tax for Alhambra to survive another year, and it is also the Vultures who sit at the top of every Enclave, and at the bottom doing the physical work of collecting Wisps.
Order of the RaccoonEdit
Representative: Inspector General
For many years it was questioned why Alhambra needed an Inspector General at all; only Alhambra’s dislike of change kept the Order alive. The reason is simple enough, the Order of the Raccoon deals with the strange and the unusual, they investigate anomalies and create plans for contingencies that fall far outside Alhambra’s standard operating procedures. Consequently Alhambrans often fear and distrust the Raccoons as a representation of everything they fear.
For all of the Long Night the Order of the Raccoon were underfunded, understaffed, and a (sometimes self selected) dumping ground for those whose out of the box thinking was unwelcome in the other Orders. They spent their time wargaming unlikely situations, sometimes just plain wargaming, writing plans for bizarre and often completely fictional threats, and wondering if anybody was going to file an anomalous phenomena report this month. But since the Release, the Raccoon’s star is rising. Alhambra’s immediate post-Release strategy was based on one of the many plans generations of Raccoons had been dreaming up for exactly this situation. As the world begins to notice the Nobility even the quiet Alhambrans are finding it harder to hide, and it is the Raccoons who are called to investigate reports of all the strange weirdness that is beginning to cross paths with Alhambra’s operatives on Earth. If anything, now that the Raccoons are symbolic of actual changes rather than potential they are liked even less than before.
Order of the Peacock (extinct)Edit
Former representative: Blessed Merrymaker
Story Seed: Novus Ordo PavonisEdit
A movement begins in Alhambra to reconstitute the Order of the Peacock, and name a Blessed Merrymaker to head it. Alhambran agents on Earth are taking interest in the arts here, with a view toward importing examples, or even imitating them. Might this be a lever to start the city's redemption, by teaching them the meaning of joy and fun?
Entertainers, revellers, perhaps even pop-stars. Once the Order of the Peacock provided leisure and relaxation to all of Alhambra. Now they are no more. Alhambra is a city in mourning, revelry it was considered distasteful under such circumstances and so the Order was suspended on a temporary basis. The last entertainers died millennia ago still on paid leave; now all that remains of the Order are some old ghosts still entertaining empty auditoriums.
Careful readers will note that none of the above is dedicated to resolving disputes between citizens, nor what is and what isn't legal.
There exists a code of laws, with the usual items (no stealing, no murder, etc.), but the most important item is that any of the Orders (but usually either the Spotted Hyenas, Raccoons, or Vultures) may, with a proper Writ signed by The Queen, do whatever is ordered on the Writ.
How a member of an Order goes about getting a Writ is ambiguous; you talk to the next person up in the chain of command if you think you or one of your underlings needs one (going above your CO's head, unless you can't find them or the matter involves them personally, is heavily frowned upon), and sometimes the Writ comes down. Sometimes the Writ comes down at the request of another Order; sometimes, the Writ comes down without anybody asking for it.
If you need binding arbitration of any other kind of dispute, you just go to the Order who covers your dispute. Food? Go to the Otters. Who owns a particular bit of land? Beavers. Who owes what to whom when? Vultures. Criminal matters? Spotted Hyenas. And so on. Each Order has Arbiters who hears cases; but note that the Queen can, at whim, override any Arbiter. (When a corrupt Arbiter is discovered, expect the Ghost Owls to get her to do so; otherwise, the Arbiter's word is usually final; wasting the Queen's time is, after all, against the law, such as it is.)
Just don't expect an Arbiter to resolve a matter hinging upon an ambiguity in the law anywhere near fast, as millennia upon millennia of records and precedents take time to work through, and most such judgements are pronounced years after they have been taken for consideration. Tortoise and Parrot still have a committee going over where the school records of Tortoise-members should be stored, and this argument has been going on for longer than Alhambra's own written records can reliably tell.
Darkness Visible Edit
When a part of Alhambra is not lit, by the lamps or any other source of light, anything in that area is gradually destroyed. At the start of each turn a dark area exists, the Storyteller rolls 1 die for each 10 square feet left unlit; each success on this roll inflicts 1 bashing damage to something within the dark area. People will suffer first, then other living things; once nothing alive remains, the attacks begin destroying objects, up to and including the walls. On an exceptional success, a shadow-beast emerges from the dark area into the light, and immediately attacks the nearest light source. (If there are two separated dark areas in a scene, the Storyteller should roll separate pools for each area.)
Each time a character activates a supernatural ability in Alhambra, the Storyteller rolls a dice pool equal to the number of times such abilities have been activated in the scene so far, including the current time (so on the first activation, roll 1 die, on the second activation roll 2 dice, and so forth.) For each success on this roll, a lamp is extinguished -- start with the nearest lamp still burning, then the next closest, and so on. Moreover, anyone who activates a supernatural ability within a dark area suffers an immediate attack: each success on the roll for snuffing lamps also inflicts 1 bashing damage on that character, and an exceptional success summons a shadow-beast.
Any Alhambran, and anyone who has entered the Queen's service, can relight an extinguished lamp automatically as an instant action, as long as it has fuel and is undamaged.
These creatures resemble shadows of the things, animals or people caught in the darkness from which they emerge, dull black, lacking in detail, and sometimes weirdly distorted. They are Darkspawn, with all the powers of Dark beings, and invariably have the Umbra Light is Dark. Although that Umbra leaves them blind in most ways under lamplight, shadow-beasts have the Darkspawn's innate sense for Wisp Seeds, and with that sense they can also find any store of lamp fuel (which the Alhambrans refine from Seeds.) Worse, drinking lamp fuel allows a shadow-beast to regain Willpower, as if the stuff were still a Seed - a full lamp holds enough to give a shadow-beast 1 Willpower - so the beasts routinely smash lamps to guzzle the precious fuel...
Junkpile shadow-beast Edit
Description: A jumble of wooden boards, painted black, that suddenly throws itself at anyone who comes too close, wrapping them up in rubble. It's fairly weak, preferring to avoid or frighten off people capable of harming it, but will lash out if cornered or if a lamp is brought within its reach.
- Attributes: Intelligence 1, Wits 3, Resolve 2, Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 2, Presence 1, Manipulation 1, Composure 2
- Skills: Brawl 3, Stealth 2 (ambushes), Intimidation 4
- Derived Traits: Health 6, Willpower 4, Size 4, Defense 3, Initiative 5, Speed 10 (species factor 5)
- Umbrae: Light is Dark
- Caligines: Avoid All Eyes 1, Bogeyman 2
- Attack: Grapple, 0 Damage, 5 dice
Child shadow-beast Edit
Description: A child-sized figure dressed in a black version of the Lamplighter uniform, with nothing but a suggestion of human features for a face. Usually, when first found, it's collapsed itself into a flat shadow, and returns to solidity only when everyone has dropped their guard. Even when solid, it's hard to hurt; its flesh yields to any blow, then puffs out again like a pillow. Sometimes it asks, in a high piping voice, "Why did you leave me here in the dark?" - a question that fills one of its hearers with dread.
- Attributes: Intelligence 1, Wits 5, Resolve 3, Strength 3, Dexterity 3, Stamina 4, Presence 3, Manipulation 2, Composure 4
- Skills: Athletics 1, Brawl 2, Stealth 3, Intimidation 4, Persuasion 3
- Derived Traits: Health 7, Willpower 7, Size 3, Defense 6, Initiative 9, Speed 11
- Umbrae: Hollow as a Shadow, Light is Dark
- Caligines: Avoid All Eyes 1, Bogeyman 2, Handful of Dust 3, Zombie’s Flesh 2
- Attack: Fists, 0 Damage, 5 dice
Warrior shadow-beast Edit
Description: A hulking beast on two legs, with a long knife-claw for one hand and a net of kelp strands in the other. It's a deadly fighter, killing without compuction; and it dominates lesser shadow-beasts, ordering them into battle with a tactical cunning beyond most Darkspawn.
- Attributes: Intelligence 2, Wits 4, Resolve 5, Strength 6, Dexterity 5, Stamina 5, Presence 4, Manipulation 2, Composure 5
- Skills: Athletics 3, Firearms 3, Weaponry 4 (knife-claw), Intimidation 5
- Derived Traits: Health 10, Willpower 10, Size 5, Defense 8, Initiative 9, Speed 16
- Umbrae: Light is Dark, Subsumed by Another Shadow
- Caligines: Avoid All Eyes 1, Bogeyman 2, Zombie’s Flesh 1, Loathsome Weapon 2, I Have You Now, My Pretty 3, Voidblast 3
- Attack: Knife-claw, 1 Damage, 11 dice
Supernatural Beings Edit
Alhambra never has sunlight, only clouds, rain and lamps, so vampires in the city can walk the streets without fear. Due to the lack of a normal day-night cycle, they instead spend the point of Vitae to wake 24 hours (from their point of view) after they enter the city.
The blood of those who have spent excess time in Alhambra (more than [Willpower + Inner Light] days) is peculiarly unnourishing. They only gain 2 Vitae for every 3 points of lethal damage inflicted, rounding down. In addition, they are at -2 to all Fear Frenzy checks, for as long as it remains in their system.
It is rumoured that, sometimes, Mekhet draugr, especially Careful Predators (see Night Horrors: The Wicked Dead, for more details), hide themselves so deep in the shadows that they enter the body of the Darkness, and are, maybe, swept (in torpor) along its currents, before being washed up in Alhambra.
The most notable thing about Alhambra, from the point of view of the Uratha, is that it lacks a Shadow. As a result, they cannot step sideways (as there are no loci, and, anyway, there's nothing to step sideways to). Any Rites which specifically require a spirit to empower them do not work; all other Gifts and Rites function as normal.
The flesh of those who have spent excess time in Alhambra (more than [Willpower + Inner Light] days) is peculiarly unnourishing. They only gain 1 Essence for every 3 points of lethal damage inflicted, rounding down. In addition, they are at -2 to all Death Rage checks, for a scene.
Mages can make their own way to Alhambra. Using a spell similar to Outer Channel [Summoners 144] requiring Space 4 and Death 4, the Awakened can obtain a sympathetic link to the place. Once they have a personal sympathetic link, a Mind 4, Death 4, Space 4 spell can be used to project their mind there (the projection appears in Twilight), or Death 4, Space 5 to open a portal there. Either way, the extended ritual must be conducted in a place of darkness, and snuffs lamps that light the arrival point. The same portal spell can also be used to leave, and snuffs lamps that light the departure point.
No natural source of Mana exists in Alhambra ... but the raw liquid from which the natives distill fuel for their lamps will act as Tass. Roughly 1 gallon of the substance yields 1 point of Mana, if set alight. The distilled lamp-fuel cannot be used this way. The raw liquid is the most valued thing in Alhambra, and stores of it are kept under close guard.
To Mage Sight, the substance of Alhambra is permeated with Darkness and the Abyss. When a mage has Mage Sight up on entering Alhambra, or casts a Mage Sight spell in Alhambra, he rolls Resolve + Composure.
- Dramatic failure: The resonance underlying the city so shakes the mage's mind that he takes a -1 penalty to all actions until he leaves Alhambra.
- Failure: The mage takes a -1 penalty to all actions until the spell ends.
- Success: The mage is disturbed, but can function unimpaired.
- Exceptional success: The mage is impervious -- not only does he not take penalties to his actions, he can renew the Mage Sight spell without rolling Resolve + Composure for the rest of his stay in Alhambra.
No Promethean has ever entered Alhambra ... which is a very good thing. A Promethean's Wasteland extends through Alhambra once every minute, and its effect for every type of Promethean is the same: every lamp in the area affected goes out, leaving the Promethean in a spreading zone of darkness that batters at his body, and pours out a pack of shadow-beasts to smother more lights.
Since there is no sun, Prometheans don't gain Pyros at sunrise in Alhambra (not that they would live so long.)
The Hedge does not exist in Alhambra, any more than the Shadow does, so changelings cannot enter the Hedge from the city. All the other abilities of changelings work as normal.
Sin-Eaters will certainly notice a strong similarity between conditions in Alhambra and those of the Underworld, and may conclude that the city is a Dead Dominion with the Queen of Tears as its Kerberos. Even if this is true, however, there's no passage between Alhambra and any part of the Underworld, and there are no Avernian Gates or Graveyard Gates in Alhambra. Moreover, no supernatural power that opens a gate to the Underworld will work within Alhambra.
A Genius needs Skafoi 4 to reach Alhambra and Apokalypsi 4 to even find it. A Genius can't power the lamps with Mania, but she can make them burn brighter by adding her Mania. A Genius or Mane trying to Calculus Vamp an Alhambran gets only 2 Mania per 3 dots of Skill.