Talk of the Town
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Here at the Public Vault of the Withstanders of Median City, we tirelessly keep track of the comings and goings of thousands of travellers and what they've each had to say. The Last Place is vast, and there are enough sights and sounds to immerse yourself for a hundred extended lifetimes. Countless travellers and refugees flock in on the daily. Even with the latest generation of high-speed mind–matter processors, this means we've got our hands full. Which is where you come in.

Your task is straightforward: Keep a look-out. If something shiny captures your attention while out questing, make sure you jot it down. If it feels good, slap on a creative title. Then bring back your notes to us. Same goes for notes you find from others. Our station is as enriched by its collections as it is by its acts, so transcribe what's there and show us. While you're at it, don't be afraid to report crimes of indecency to your local Withstanding officer. And remember: It's not just the Foundry that keeps these Lands together. It's our camaraderie. Don't sell it short.

This task is a mere one of many necessary rituals. Prove your might, swear an oath to our stalwart order, and when the hour comes, may you finally be considered worthy of bearing our armour.

— Withstander Latisson Voidtongue Everkeen Sunsway of the Upper Abyss of Kashaisaland


Guidelines for Submission

Title Given: “Rumination on a Forgotten Shoreline”

Location: Marked in white on a pillar of black sunwood, overlooking the Impossible Horizon, on the coast of Crag's Final Rest.

Author: Opus of the Valley of Tulip Floes, Student of the Withstanders

Text: “On the outer shores of some of the furthest Islands, there is a tide that never returns.

You can spot it at the horizon line but never quite make out more than a pleasant shimmering.

You sometimes catch an ethereal ripple where you might find waves.

These are the grazing patterns of a species of gigantic, rarely seen ctenophores, who know only the moves of their dance.

Cast your gaze further, and you'll find the edge of the multiverse.

Pivoting on its axis, motes of light and splotches of dying nebulae winking out as they cross that horizon.

One of the local stars — an iridescent ball hurled by an Elder Holder, many ages ago — wades across.

Peeking through fog and cloud cover.

Beckoning you to start your journey.

Or, to meet its long-awaited end.”

Recited at last night's Guild Gathering for the whole group to hear.

Title Given: “The Deerfolk of the Shores of August”

Location: At the centre of a dreamcloud, leashed atop a thin stone column 60 crescentfish¹ in height, at the intersection of the Four Islands at the Fore Faurean Fjords. Concentrating on the dreamcloud transmits a continuous ideoform into your mind. It sounds like whispering and feels like a jittering. Only brief portions could be transcribed before forgetfulness set in.

Author: Barnaby Black-Speckles

Text: “— And since you're here, I wanted to tell you more about my people, The Deerfolk of the Shores of August (AKA August's Shores) (But we don't typically call 'em that, 'cause three of the letter ‘S’ in quick succession proves impossible to say) (Though, I suppose I just did!) — you know the ones (If not, then I could point 'em out to you) (You could hardly miss the water that tinges golden in the day and Tyrian at night). Because I had a feeling you didn't exactly get it (Or maybe you spaced out). And that's okay (Because we aren't all that interesting)!

In any case, each of us is born with something called “moon shoes” (Though, I guess they're technically moon hooves?) (But the former's just what we like calling 'em) (Nobody else has quite come up with a name that's stuck), which allow us to propel ourselves extraordinary heights with a single bound (Or I guess you might describe it as prancing?). Up, up, and into the clouds (Oh, I wish you'd see how high my friend Russet could prance!) (Maybe I'll call him 'round, next time you're in town) (You know him. He's a busy buck) (Or actually, no, you don't).

And in case you've forgotten how we look (And who could blame you!) (I know you're forgetful) (I know you sometimes forget to eat lunch even though it's already half-past suppertime!) (And y'know what? Don't sweat it) (It happens to the best of us): Our fur is green (All greens) (Including those tangential to the visible spectrum) (The greens grow darker as we age) with white spots (Which (Depending on how we feel) change in shape, shine, and size).

We also recite poetry (At dusk) (And also at dawn — if you were curious) (I like making up my own Kyrielles) (It's my favourite type of poem) (Though I'm not too sure where it originated) (I recite 'em in honour of Imperia of the Noctilucent Bands) (My eternal goddess and favour'd saviour deity) (Oh, She's just the best).

… Have I gone off track again? (Hope not) (That'd be an embarrassment, wouldn't it?). Anyway, where were we? Oh! Yes —”

1: crescentfish: A unit of distance adopted by The Deerfolk of the Shores of August. Derived from the arc length of an adult flying crescentfish — their most common prey — which is shaped like a waning crescent moon. Its length, as expressed in other units: 3,350 centimetres, 1,086 attoparsecs, 110 feet, 74 cubits, 14 horse-lengths, 4.4 tentacled-pygmy-horse-lengths, one half-leap of a trained Snubb, … [See 41 other units].

Title Given: None

Location: Written in fine ink in the interior jacket of an unmarked hardcover book, discovered on a shelf in a derelict residence on the border between Median City and the Wildlands of Orr.

Author: Miriam ad Ovitox

Text: “To my dearest Soka,

I write this, not with a heavy heart, but with eyes filled with dreams of something greater.

If you are reading this, then we have finally reunited, and our voyage to The Last Place is a success. Our nimble solar sail is the last scheduled to depart. The hole consuming our moon is widening. It will soon envelop far more than just that. We sever the Spatial Spyglass now, so that any onlookers cannot see what tragedy befalls our stellar empire. Most of us already passed through, though it is uncertain what fate offers the peoples of the border worlds. I do hope they each find passage.

I entrust with you an unabridged book of our history. It is old-fashioned, but my crewmates found it customary. Though its width may deceive you, the pages continue for a long way past 258 — I expect you are all too curious to flip straight to the end, to see what happened to the rest of our civilization. Please, do not let the final pages sow doubt in your aspirations.

I love you.
—Miriam ad Ovitox”

The back of the book was found covered in a thick coating of Nihl growth. Pages 36 and beyond had already deteriorated and fallen out, preventing the contents of any pages after 258 from manifesting. The first 35 pages detail the earliest recorded history of a group called Laitei, meaning “People from Here”.

Title Given: None

Location: Found crumpled up in the left pocket of a four-armed coat discarded underneath The Neate Bridge, Bar, and Belfry along with a few other articles of clothing. The two pages look to have belonged to a journal based on their torn edges.

Author: Eliot (no last name given)

"Day 63:

Mister Serenity asked told us to do something. He said it was to complete the Detachment. We figured this last trial would be hard, but it's nothing like what we've had to do before. Now that I'm so close to finishing though, I can't help but think about the start; it feels like it's been so long since I became a part of this family. Embarrassingly, I joined as a joke at first, a dare from Yinin, but it turned out these people were serious, not roleplaying or whatever else we thought at first. I almost dropped out immediately, but Yinin encouraged me to keep going (plus he reminded me I would owe him 20 Corporeal Credits).

I think I'll wait to do it tomorrow, no need to ruin a good sleep for anybody.

Day 64:

I'm writing as fast as I can so that I remember everything. I had a dream (vision?) last night. All that surrounded me were the stars and the mists. It was intensely quiet, but my ears felt like they were on fire, as if there was a noise I could only hear halfway. I tried to move, to look around, to look up, to look down, but my movements were glacial, as if the mists pulled me back exactly where I was. It was then that I felt my muscles tense, and I remembered my charge. No one else would, or even could, hold this responsibility. I was responsible for all those people. The time had come and I was finally here to lift them up, to lift up their fears their sorrows their joys their pains. I would carry this, and whatever else was built upon it, until the end of time.

And I was dying. Something, some thing, crushed my chest, pricking and biting and tearing into my flesh. My lungs, if I had lungs, burned with a plague. It drifted into my eyes, stinging and blinding, tears larger than a house slowly falling down my face. The Future slipped, the jagged rocks pressing into my back, and if it drew blood I could not tell, because the growth surged towards the wound. I screamed, for the people living and the people who would die, but I was laying down, in a bed. I was Eliot.

Reading over it now, it's even more disturbing in writing. Despite the vividness, I managed to carry on with the day. I went to pick up food for the kids, but as I sat on the train, something out the window grabbed my attention. One of the behemoths holding up the islands, the real name escapes me, was swarmed by people, Withstanders, even a working space ship. As the train swerved by, I saw it. The fungus. A very familiar fungus. Serenity told me the growth was painless. He told everyone it was painless.
What I felt though was wrong, a pain that transcended minds. Serenity wouldn't lie, would he?

I don't think I can go through with it, the trial that is. At least not now. I'll tell Serenity I need a break. He can be intense, but I'm sure he'll understand. Hopefully."

Many individuals near the Holder affected by the previously undetected Nihl growth reported experiencing a similar dream described on these pages. This allowed a swift response to be launched, and the growth was removed from the Holder's chest and wounds with minimal damages. As for the papers, the full journal was never recovered and is assumed to be in the possession of "Mister Serenity." This individual is to be apprehended for questioning posthaste.

Title Given: “New Pioneer Legion Message”

Location: Thrifty Joe's Pence Font on the Southernmost island, magically concealed.

Author: 'Snip', presumably an NPL organizer

Text: “The Iowa can be found four hundred lengths down Queth Island, lodged into the stone by the Holder's left hand. Contact Winter. She will help gather a crew to rig the vessel. The plan is to fit the ship with Rylian jet boosters, which Winter should be able to source herself. Grabbing Rigby and Giles now and bringing them to whatever workshop Winter sets up is advisable. Rigby may even be able to help set up the wards and charms to protect you all from the void beyond. Once a secure location is set up, hopefully away from Nihl cultists this time, I'll bring the kraken in. Hopefully we won't have trouble transporting it. Stay secret, stay quiet, stay safe. We can't afford to fuck this one up like last time.


P.S. Don't forget to loot a few extra bottles of Sriracha for Rigby. Wouldn't want his charms failing on you."

The note was acquired by tossing a Galerian one-nineteenth pence piece into the fountain, which resulted in the folded note materializing in the pocket of the coin tosser.

Title Given: “Excerpt from the diary of 'H. J. Edwinson'”

Location: Inside a locked metal case buried near the shanty town of New Nynehead.

Author: H. J. Edwinson (believed to be a pseudonym)

Text: “My previous concerns about the conceptual dynamics of these so-called 'Last Islands' seem to have been misplaced. Indeed, new applications for the Wallace-Jacobs Device seem to have arisen since I started my research. The WJD is simply designed to extract a concept from another concept while stabilizing the resulting null concept: if one were to take a tennis ball, for instance, and use the device to remove the concept of the ball's yellow coloration, you would be left with a ball of indeterminable color (due to the absence of a color concept) and a free-floating concept of 'yellow'.

Yet my experiments on the local flora have proven to be most curious indeed. The uniquely iridescent purple of the Hyacinth bushes outside my home had always caught my eye, and I was beginning to expect the color of the flowers may have some sort of paranormal effect on one's mind. Extracting the color proved this theory to be true, but not in the way I expected: the color itself was not supernatural, but my idea that it could have been seemed to affect the concept. What I mean is that if I focus my mind's eye on the idea of this color being uniquely attractive, the concept of said color will become uniquely attractive. I thought that at first this could be some sort of psionic effect, but later experiments seem to indicate that the 'Last Islands' have a fascinating effect on the human mind, giving it the ability to change concepts with simple thought.

This could mean that, in this strange cloud-sea, one's perception guides objective reality, and not the other way around. I believe further research will be necessary.”

Notes: H. J. Edwinson is the pseudonym of John Harolds, a fictional scientist and physicist from the "Tales of Even Stranger Worlds!" serial publication in Median City. The relevance of the author's use of this name is unknown. A "Wallace-Jacobs Device" is a tool used in the series to "extract" a concept from an object, for instance taking the idea of an item's color out of the item itself.

Records of other excerpts can be found in Sections 5, 49, and 823,485 of the Public Vault of the Withstanders of Median City.

Title Given: "The Mottled Altar"

Location: Found inside locked desk of previous Inspector of Edible Goods' office during renovation, was enclosed in an envelope with an unknown wax seal.

Author: Signed by Grenel Wlliard, IEG.

Text: "Near to the Dead-End Market lies a leaning tenement of splintered wood shacks, built close enough to the island's edge that some bent planks hang out over the void. A faded sign stuck into a stone wall over the Outer Pirates' corner points the way to 'Gutter'. Most residents of this run-down village are skytrawlers, spending all day casting their long poles off the edge to snare floaters, or maybe an unlucky cloudsquid. They sell what they catch at the Market, though it's never very profitable. One could find orphans eating better than what Gutter sells.

On the north side of Gutter, underneath a partially collapsed dock, is a ramshackle staircase missing half its stairs. At the bottom of this twisting stair lies a gaping hole in the side of the island. Dark purple shale forms natural platforms among pointed stalagmites of paler color. Drips of dirty water from the town above leak down, dripping into puddles without reflections. More rotted wood planks are scattered around the entrance. There is no light at the entry, but a flickering glow from the back of the cave beckons.

The further back into the cave one goes, the stronger the scent of decay becomes. The path twists slightly, leading around a wide curve to reveal the interior. Candles hang from walls, melted between pillars of rock and some even drip from the arching roof. The yellow glow is bright enough to illuminate a spacious cavern, adorned with cloth of many colors. Most of the rocky surfaces, save those hidden by dark puddles, are covered in intricately patterned carpet and woven thread. Heavy-looking barrels of oak line the walls, sitting under shelves heavy with produce, hanging plants, floaters on hooks, and jars of pickled squids.

The smell of rot is everywhere, and on second look, the food along the cave walls is long rotted, hosting colonies of fungus in many colors. Small spores float, drifting in dead air among wisps of smoke from copious candlesticks. In the center of this noxious cloud is a hunched-over form, covered in yet more cloth. Its' limbs stretch at odd angles beneath it, giving the impression of something huge folded down into a huddled pile.

When approached, one has the inexplicable feeling to kneel before the foul creature. Whispers fill the mind, picking and pulling at memories as one's desires are exposed. Once the voices withdraw, the candles dim. A malignant odor, worse than the rot by far, fills the room and drives out anything still within.

What is taken and what is given is unclear, though all who were willing to speak have become unable to be contacted within a few months of their visit to this hidden shrine. The local Withstander chapter was informed, though jurisdiction of the Dead End Market and its' surrounding area is still controversial."

Notes: Submitted to the records by Monny Allumnoir, Sec. Inspector of Edible Goods. Expected a reward, I'd guess, because he left in a foul mood. Investigations revealed the mentioned staircase had long since collapsed, making verification of the cave too dangerous (and expensive!) to justify.

Title Given: “Regarding Kara Ma'hse”

Location: Slepniris City, near the Sundown Gateway, a very popular Salvaging route. Possible page from a diary.

Author: Unknown

Text: “Kara Ma'hse is a sorceress, or something. Why does she have that pointed star on her head? Why does she always run away, all of a sudden? I saw her. She did it. She broke his knee. She made things fly. Is it even her? Is she evil? Good? Why haven't we ever seen her father? Why does she live near the Sylvei Lake? Am I going insane?
That foul (smudged away here)”

Kara Ma'hse appears to be a real person. She lives near Lake Sylvei, as stated by the author. Has only one living parent, her father, Magen Ma'hse, who has never been seen outside of the house. The Healer's claim that he is suffering from the Yearnling. Kara herself unavailable for questioning.

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