Thursday, August 29, 2013

T is for the Tether

Deep in the wilderness territory that once made up the Baal Hamazi empire is the Tether.  Located in a thickly wooded hanging valley on the edge of the Kindattu Mountains, overloooking the much drier grasslands of the Hallashu Basin, the Tether is not a destination for many.  Too far away, and bounded by mountains that are difficult to cross, or a vast savanna where the availability of water is uncertain, the large hanging valley is also infamous for its savage tribes of head-hunting and man-eating changelings; the most barbaric and violent enclave of a race that is not known for its peaceful interactions with others in most cases.  In this case, the Hallashu changelings, as they are sometimes called, make even the dangerous woses of the Shifting Forest seem tame.  Legend holds that the curse of lycanthropy itself originated in this very hanging valley (called the Wose Basin) and that even today genuine werewolves sometimes lead hunting bands of woses.

Despite this, sometimes people do want to reach the Wose Basin, to see the Tether.  The Tether is the unofficial name for a large city built on a floating rock.  It is believed that the city itself would float completely away except that it is tethered (hence the name) by four gigantic chains that are rooted in the bedrock of the mountains.  Nobody except legendary, or at least semi-legendary, characters have ever managed to climb the chains to reach the city, so nobody is for sure who lives in it.  It is apparent that someone does, as occasionally litter falls from the waterfalls that course off the floating rock, and lights can be seen in the windows at night.  Occasionally sounds, as of celebrations or clashes of arms can be heard from high above.

The inhabitants of the Tether interact very little with the world below, although clearly they can see it and know of some of the other nearby cities amongst the hamazin and elsewhere.  The city is known to them as Mael Aaru.  About 2,000 individuals live there.  A few of them are regular humans, although it is unknown of what original racial stock they originate, or how they got on the city.  There is also a very small number of embodied spirits of various types, who call themselves either angels or djinn.  The majority of the inhabitants are mostly human, with a touch of angelic or djinnic blood in them (i.e., nephilim.)

In reality, the inhabitants of Mael Aaru interact much more with various inhabitants of beings who live in "Nearby Outside"; i.e., in otherworldly realms that are similar in many ways to the world itself, and populated by creatures that are not terribly alien.  This cosmology is too complicated to be summarized too quickly here (besides, it surely deserves its own post at some future point, assuming I get around to defining it--in reality, DARK•HERITAGE is not meant to be a "planes-hopping" setting anyway.) King Semyaza of Mael Aaru self-identifies as an angel, although he is extremely lustful and cruel in his personal life, if not necessarily to his subjects overall.  He maintains relationships with other polities from the Near Realms, such as the City of Brass.  Because of his, the Tether is a fairly cosmopolitan place, and can be a nexus by which Outsiders from the Near Realms make their way into the world--much as the Plateau of Leng is a nexus by which much more alien Outsiders from the Far Realms make their way into the world.

Despite the fact that Outsiders from the Near Realms are less alien than some Outsiders, they are not often friendly to humanity or their closely related sister-races, such as woses, neanderthals, hellspawn or jann.  In reality, the Tether, if one were to make their way up the chains to the city, is not a hospitable or safe place for any mortal of any kind except perhaps those who are native to it and know how to navigate its intricacies.  On very rare occasions, semi-legendary heroes have climbed the chains, and even more rarely won the favor of a citizen of Mael Aaru and been allowed to stay, or travel from there to the Near Realms.  Powerful sorcerers occasionally frequent its streets, but as they are equally strange, nearly inhuman due to their exposure to eldritch witchery, and able to hold their own against powerful deity-like entities, they don't really count.  It is rumored that the Heresiarchy meet on occasion for conference on Mael Aaru.

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