Sunday 30 April 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #119: The Stinking Place

Two hexes southwest, four northwest of Alakran.


In the sunset-shadow of the mountainous landmark known as Sutekh's Knee to all who tread the Wahatti plain, there is "a place which none may see but all may know" to cite a traditional riddle -- variously called the Stench, the Whiff, the Foul, the Bowel, or the Stinking Place.

It is limned on our map as hexes of dead land and grass, and indeed the soil there, though brown and dry like the surrounding lands, is curiously ashen and unhappy-looking. The grasses and few shrubs that eke out their existence there seem shrunken, abashed, as if to say -- "This is not my fault". For an awful smell permeates all those lands. It has the worst of life and death about it, the reek of every orifice's tribute and the plunder of grave worms. It reverses not only the will to eat but the will to exist. In those lands or up to five miles downwind, everyone and everything who breathes must make a CON and WIS save, or take one level of exhaustion per failed save.

This fatigue is one reason, perhaps, why Alakran is not more often visited from Gesshed to the west, and why in times of stronger trade to far Dulsharna, westward caravans made a camp by the river whose traces and fire-circles can still be discerned -- even though, unimpaired, it would be possible to crack on further to Gesshed.

Legends of the Stench often implicate Sutekh because of the proximity of his eponymous Knee. At which the serious priests of Set scoff, and turn animist in the defense of their god's ancestor, saying, "All beings have an anus; why not, then, the Earth itself?"

Saturday 29 April 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #118: Lore Dump 6, The Fixed and Wandering Stars

 Three hexes southwest, three northwest of Alakran.

From sun and moon Urig astronomy turned to the stars, which wheel in time with the Moon and have all fled when the Sun shines. Their varied hues, too, argue against the perforation idea. The persistence of Urig civilization over millennia allowed for the difficult and at times unspeakable observation that the stars were shifting, too, independently of each other, and at different speeds, some growing brighter and some fainter, as if all were in motion at all angles of space. Other civilizations believe themselves to live under a dome or a tent; educated Urig know better, and place the edge of the universe, which makes the night dark, a calculable but vast number of world-lengths away.

Far more visible are the erratic movements of the six wandering stars. While many other lands take them to be the gods or saints themselves, Urig knowledge decisively posits that they are spherical worlds formerly ruled by the major Dead Gods. Predicting their motions is an eternal challenge that has greatly advanced Urig mathematics. But every algorithm proves inadequate to augur any but the grossest planetary trends. The general lament among skygazers is that Chaos has set the world out of balance.

The same inferred cataclysm that set the wanderers agog also reduced the number of them from the divine seven to the infernal six, and threw off the harmony of the calendar, with its 360 days and 360 nights a year (720 = 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6), throwing in the five intercalary days. Each of these days has a traditional deity to guard it against demonic assault: the dual guardians Nabu and Tashmet of the scribes, Taweret who blesses birth, Bastet the catcher of spiders, Bes who laughs at the mighty, Gibil the shaper of the forge.

But once in every epoch there comes the sixth day at the start of the year, whose curse taints the whole generation in which it appears, dreaded for a decade before and lamented for a decade after. This day is dedicated to the ambiguous figure Pazuzu. Demon and scourge of demons, he gives free rein to both good and evil on earth while the sixth day lasts, usually to the detriment of good.

The science of astronomy has also been midwife to astrology. Due to the random motion of the planets this art has more to do with the casting of lots than the forecasting of determined fates. Still, astrologers are esteemed throughout the Urig cultural sphere for the imprint of inevitability they are skilled at marking on people's decisions. Their horoscopes are cast taking into account the position of the planets in relation to the Moon and stars, comparing the hour of birth with a significant hour of night at the present moment, through charts that borrow from geometry, numerology, and the overfitting of models. The stars are divided into thirty-six chambers with evocative names. The six chambers directly before and six behind the path of the Moon have special significance and lend their names to the months of the year.

Friday 28 April 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #117: Lore Dump 5, The Sun and Faceless Moon

 Four hexes southwest, two northwest of Alakran.


A level and clear plain, perfect for gazing at the sky, as we will do in these next two posts.

Whoever created Mittellus gave it two lights, the Sun a light of power that makes the day full of life, the Moon a beacon of hope that shines three weeks out of four through the night. The two proceed through the sky at exact opposition to each other; as one sets, the other rises.

Observing the heavens, and in particular measuring the Sun through smoked glass or by its light-shadow cast through a pinhole, the astronomers of Urighem were able to shake off the belief still lamentably common elsewhere, that the celestial lights are holes in the firmament. All evidence points to the independence of the heavenly bodies. The seasons are caused by the Sun approaching the earth in summer and receding in winter never deviating from its orbit. The Moon visibly follows suit, its unblemished visible surface growing larger and smaller in concert with the Sun. It is another astounding achievement that the ancient Urigs could measure its tidal pull, strongest at sunrise and sunset, in such a relatively small body of water as the Salt Sea of Ghem.

The Moon cycles through dark and light phases of 30 days, the terminus moving from side to side just as on Earth, although this Moon has no dust seas or craters to blemish its silvery sphere. The existence of five additional days at the end of the year means that the phases of the moon proceed year on year, through each thirty-day month. In the current year 7021, for example, the full moon comes on the 20th day of each month and the dark on the 5th. The month is divided into two weeks of seven and two of eight days, the eighth days being potential feast or resting days for the deserving.