Oct 10, 2017

IO: Mantle infections are Hell's immune responses to trauma upon the mantle. Infections that take place near metropolises will affect sewage and foundations depending on how deep or wide-spreading the infection is. Pipes can become bent, broken, and clogged with congealed blood, buildings squeezed out of their foundations by swelling, and streets flooded by free-flowing pus.

Oct 16, 2017

IO: The Mind Beast, Ranth, is a demon considered to be more dead or undead than alive. Having perished and its body reduced to dust eons ago, Ranth does not exist in the physical sense, appearing only in the mindscape during dreams, or superimposed upon the real world by the mind. Ranth devours individuals from within, consuming their physical bodies as a wasting sickness with no recognised trigger or origin.

Affliction by Ranth has no known set cause. Any being can be set upon by it at any time. Theories and rumours proclaim that becoming burdened with the long-dead demon is caused by the inhalation of the demon's ashes, or "inviting" an afflicted individual into their own mind, permitting Ranth to take root there and grow. Those struck by Ranth will experience ever-growing exhaustion, caused by nightmare-plagued sleep. Sufferers will steadily decline in health, and any trauma experienced while dreaming will manifest as sores upon the waking body. Memories of the nightmares experienced will quickly fade, replaced by vague recollection of fleeing from an unknown force and being lost, searching in darkness.

In dreams, Ranth cannot be seen, as their form envelopes that of the host. The nightmares dreamt by the afflicted are those of Ranth itself wandering the decaying tunnels of the individual's mind. The demon can only be "seen" when decay of the afflicted's mind has reached such a point that they begin to hallucinate. At this stage, Ranth can appear anywhere, wandering in the background. Those with healthier minds may instead see the demon reflected in mirrors.

As a demon, Ranth is a hulking creature apeish in stature. Its arms are composed of multiple limbs seemingly melted or fused together, its hands a mess of pale fingers. Its lower back and legs appear atrophied and crooked and bent as if broken multiple times and never properly reset. Its face is hidden under thick ropes of red-pink meat that sprout from the scalp like errant brain matter. Its eyes are small and often misaligned. It's mouth is thin-lipped and hides spring loaded jaws. Ranth is not known to speak, making only unearthly calls and laboured breathing.

The circumstances of Ranth's death and unique life-after-death existence are unknown but are assumed to be related to the feelings of being pursued in nightmares experienced by the afflicted. Some propose that Ranth had been searching for something or someone before being chased down and presumably murdered by an unrelated entity or force that, quite possibly, still pursues it in the mindscape either in reality or in memory.

It is believed that Ranth can be afflicted upon a person as a summon or curse, but the means to do so are unclear at best, or lost at worst. Overall, as an entity the overall existence of Ranth is highly questionable, as there is no way to confirm the demon's alleged existence without performing what is generally considered to be impossible, which is the treading within another individual's dreams while one or the other is infected. The acknowledgement of the demon as an entity or as a mere concept is afforded only by corroborating accounts that describe the physical and psychological degeneration of individuals suffering from wasting sickness, alleged to have seen a figure in mirrors, shadows, and dreams with features consistent amongst multiple instances from multiple sources. The veracity of such claims has been difficult to prove, muddied with theories claiming falsified accounts to copycatism to purposeful conspiracy, citing script similarities to localisation of choice events to questionable consistencies between accounts as evidence of hoaxery.

Oct 24, 2017

IO: Xeres women look for three non-genetic traits in men when participating in courtship - rearing experience and attitude, ability to nurse and experience therein, and strength in the lower back. Child rearing is communal in Xeres populations, all Xeres adults participate in raising offspring.

Xeres men can be highly competitive amongst each other when vying for female attention, attempting to put each other out of commission or otherwise seem undesirable to interested women. Being able to provide for offspring alongside their mate is their most important duty when paired, and being robbed of this or otherwise made to appear incapable of performing this integral duty will drastically reduce a male's chances of being considered for pairing for both long and short-term relationships. The man's ability to provide supercedes his ability to reproduce in social importance, making competition less sexually oriented, but still highly physical and at times incredibly violent. Bachelors will go to considerable lengths to lock out competition if able, and will gang up on individuals if the benefits outweigh personal risk.

Sabotage of another male's chances of being paired with an able-bodied female is common amongst Xeres bachelors, whos strategies include targetting other men's ability to nurse. Ability to breastfeed and quality of lactation (which females will test themselves) is a judging factor used by Xeres women to find a partner, and the inhibiting of either of these will result in great risk of the male being rejected. Bachelors enact nursing sabotage in passive and active ways, ranging from stealing food to affect the composition of their competition's breast milk, or outright physical assault to affect another male's ability to nurse overall. Chest trauma to spur tenderness or bloody lactation is a common tactic. Extreme tactics include forcing competition dry and outright masectomy. Both tactics are rare, but not unheardof. The former is also used as a means of humiliation to chase out competition or otherwise prevent competition from returning.

In regards to musculature in the lower back, Xeres men advertise their ability by standing and remaining bipedal for as long as possible. Remaining and walking bipedally takes considerable strength in the glutes and lower back, and to remain upright is generally seen as quiet but pointed commentary on one's sexual ability. While not especially important as an overall trait, advertising men who can flaunt their strength will be targetted by other bachelors who will attempt to inflict back injury on their competition to reduce their attractiveness.

Most Xeres relationships, long or short term, are monogamous, though it isn't uncommon for a high-ranking female to have multiple partners. A clear exception to this standard are the Xeres within the Ranks, the Xeres equivalent of a barracks, where groups of males and females will "share" each other. Ranks are jokingly referred to as hot spots for one-night stands - ideal for Xeres men "looking for too much attention". Xeres populating Ranks are non-producing and non-nursing, whether by season or circumstance. In being both out of season and non-nursing, sexual activity in Ranks is low and noncommittal. Frustrated in-season or nursing males looking for definite attention may attempt to get a rise out of either Xeres men or women attending Ranks by inviting themselves in while receptive to nursing. Nursing produces chemicals / pheromones of which non-seasonal and non-nursing Xeres can be highly receptive, inspiring desire and in turn inspiring competition. If not immediately seized by interested Rank members, physical competition for the visitor will arise, which can result in them being roughhoused or injured. Reckless men looking for such action are recommended, with no small amount of sniggering, to have "a very strong back" and be fond of kneading.

While not considered sexual organs, kneading of the breasts between adults is considered highly erotic, verging on if not becoming pornographic if one or both adults are lactating. Kneading with intent to expel breast milk is considered on par with masturbation if not simply regarded as an equivalent. Releasing milk in this way is seen as irresponsible, especially should it hit the ground. Breast milk being purposefully expelled to the ground is intensely disrespectful amongst Xeres, serving as a cause for chastising and as a point for facilitating humiliation in individuals, utilised by combative populations, spiteful bachelors, and other malicious individuals to show they have no regard or respect for their enemy / victim - they and whatever they produce is worthless. For this reason, sexual kneading is done over cloth or water. Expulsion for medical purposes is readily recognised as beneficial, but still demanded to be done respectfully to retain the individual's dignity.

Induced lactation is common amongst traditionally-raised Xeres relocated out or otherwise away from the Shard of Babylon, generally performed out of a culmination of homesickness and feeling as though their individual worth needs to be reaffirmed. The latter is especially prevalent in Xeres men, who put greater weight upon the ability to nurse than Xeres women.

The breast milk of healthy Xeres adults with an average metal diet boasts a partial sheen of white metal.

In general, in both long and short-term relationships, Xeres women take care of and protect the men with whom they're paired, for so long as they provide support and care for her and her offspring in turn. She will extend the same treatment and expectations to any additional men under her partnership should she decide to pair with more than one male at a time for long or short-term relationships. Some Xeres women will maintain multiple relationships of varying length at once, usually with each male fulfilling a specific personal role to her or even to her other partners in exchange for care and protection.

Single and multi-sex communes are not uncommon amongst Xeres, the Ranks acting as one such common-living arrangement, albeit temporary (for some) and only for specific individuals. A particular commune prevalent throughout the districts of the Shard of Babylon is the Commune of the Dismal Chant - a collection of churches, where members practice Celestial hymns, warped by Hell's touch upon the species, to Aurum Saccularius and Hell itself. Each district will possess at least one Commune of the Dismal Chant, and more often than not, the average Xeres will have spent at least some time there as a member of the commune. Each church commune will possess a belfry of 17 iron bells. Only 16 of any commune's bells will ring at one time, with the 17th, largest bell left silent. Should the largest bell sound in a full peal of all 17 bells, it is considered a call to arms, and all Xeres within earshot will descend upon the church's location. The use of these bells is assumed to be a call-back to when the Xeres were the Heavenly Golden Legion, whos arrival was heralded by the sound of tolling bells.

The Xeres army, referred to only by external entities as the Golden Legion [a singular reference to the Golden Legion can be found in the Shard of Babylon's only Chapel, under the face of the Wheel of Fortune, serving as its only "scribed" connection with the Xeres. The Xeres, fully aware of their heritage, otherwise refer to themselves as a whole as the Golden Legion, but this is not shared amongst outsiders], is stationed throughout the Shard of Babylon, but its greatest members are stationed only around the base of the Wheel. Highest members of the Xeres military are referred to as being "a part of the Chalice" or "a part of the Wheel", acting as a dedicated attack force under the orders of Aurum Saccularius and his envoys only. Keeping to their Celestial roots, members of this faction of the Xeres army are referred to as a Choir. The Chalice Choir / Choir of the Chalice (less often referred to as the Wheel Choir / Choir of the Wheel) is composed of Xeres who can be described as undead or golems. Members of the Chalice Choir have trained so rigorously under the light of the Wheel and their dedication to it and Aurum is so immense that their bodies have undergone partial or whole alchemic alteration. Lifeless and broken figures are kept moving through the sheer force of desire of restless Xeres souls who refuse to relent in their dedication. Xeres of the Choir can appear to be wholly or partially crafted from gold or built from a trove of treasure. Many will bear the resemblance of exhumed corpses resurrected to be decked in splendor. However many members of the Chalice Choir are truly living versus dead is unknown.

Hell's Heat Death begins as the universe contracts and sentient life begins to die off. With no one left to believe in it, Hell dies. As it dies, the plane and all of its Levels begin to slow their spin, cool, and eventually freeze over, steadily killing all demons left within. By this time, there are few to no damned available. Demons begin to turn on each other in search for warmth and resources, their cities collapsing and entire species dying off. Hell's final metropolis (Henxad [?]) is built around the cooling body of the Demon Star, Algol, who ceases to rise and settles upon the mantle of Pandemonium. As the star cools and its light slowly dies, the city inches closer to it to feed off of its declining warmth, the outer districts steadily abandoned as Hell's chill creeps in.

Before Hell's final death, all life within it becomes extinguished until only Hell itself is left. The plane collapses like a dying star, reduced to ether.

Nov 09, 2017

IO: Cracaus and Volons absorb the anger of the demons and damned sent to the Coliseum to fight for the Conflictor's amusement, thought to have been present since the edifice was built. It's believed that between the two is the soul of the Coliseum, and if the two should ever be vanquished, the Coliseum would collapse and Rrg'mndrr itself would split from canopy to roots.

Oct 10, 2017

HELL 2525: Dis' immense size affords the mentality that another district of the city may as well be a literal other world. While the near-instant travel afforded by its rail system permits connection between the distant pieces of the sprawl, their use is not so ubiquitous as to unify the lightyears-wide city. The sole recurring cultural standpoint throughout Dis is the Word of the House of the Fly and the presence of the Grand Chapel of Hell in the city's center, but as an entity is it considered distant and unreliable the further out from the center districts one goes. The lack of blanket trust in the House inspires local law and enforcement that grows in conflict with the laws of the House.

In earlier years these conflicts and lack of faith were dealt with via sectioning portions of the city to vassals who were beholden to the House of the Fly and the Ambassadors of Darkness. However, as the city expanded with Hell's shifting discs, this became too great a burden for the vassals, and the districts given to them were then sectioned further and given their own figures of order who would answer to the vassals, who would in turn continue to answer to the House of the Fly and its Ambassadors. As time passed and the city further grew, the division and trickling of power and answering to greater entities was expanded and divided several times, creating a multi-tiered system of management under the direct word of the House of the Fly. The watchfulness of the House was diluted and the cries of Dis' many peoples were subdued under layers of tiered paperwork and political disconnect. Corruption could be hidden under fine print shuffled into reports of thousands of pages; needs of entire communities could be lost in reels of numbers and averages. Outside of personal audience with the Fly in its own House, concerns were unlikely to be heard. It did not help that each rise and fall of the Demon Star, Algol, would see the demise of trillions of demon folk as millions of miles would be evaporated into non-existence, to be rebuilt, re-sectioned, and re-drawn under new rulership. As Dis continued to grow, such tragedies would become mere blips and notations in headlines for those on the other side.

The year of 2525 sees the beginning of rumours that Hell itself is dying, that its edges grow cold with an advancing sheet of ice. These rumours and calamity-speak spread eagerly in Dis' outer districts, where the assurances of the Fly cannot reach with ease. Whether these rumours hold any kernel of truth or are the product of an unhappy, squalid people that have no use for the House and its promises, nobody knows and nobody much cares. They feed the social machine that keeps trust in and recognition of the House of the Fly and its Ambassadors low and distant.

The district inhabited by Matilda and Stirba possesses an active rumour mill purporting claims of a new war on the horizon, built off the back of attacks carried out by Rogues. Alongside this claim is the rumour that Algol will be rising under the city again, and the district will be flooded with evacuees if not served its own evacuation orders soon. Variations of the rumour claim that Algol's rising location is unknown or the estimates of its emmergence are incorrect.

Evacuation orders are given to the district neighbouring Matilda and Stirba's, forcing it to take in millions more demons than it can accommodate. Raphi is one such evacuee, who rooms with Matilda for a short time before revealing they are not of demon stock. The proximity of the rising permits the viewing of a sunrise, a rare and reviled occurance in Hell. Heatwaves strike the district and light blares down on the streets for several days before Algol rises high enough to be swallowed by Dis' ceiling, reducing the district's activities to a crawl. The rising is followed by multiple days of heavy blood rains and temporary mantle infections as Hell reacts to its mantle being burned and torn apart. A far-reaching infection affects the plumbing of their flat building, making clean blood and water a rare commodity for a short time. Petty crime centered around the attainment of either spikes considerably, which the two eventually partake in out of desperation.

As the rising takes place, a curfew is enacted to encourage inhabitants to remain indoors to combat cases of blindness. Windows become quickly boarded to shield those within from the star's light.

Oct 17, 2017

HELL 2525: Evacuations to escape Algol are planned and begin months in advance, as any rising or setting will lead to the destruction of millions of miles of developed land. Predictions must be accurate, as the resources involved in moving and rehoming so many demon folk is astronomical and any errors will lead to colossal waste of investment. Advices to move to a neighbouring district within a minimum safe distance are sent in advance of municipally directed evacuation procedures, with the calculated center of the rising or setting being advised or evacuated first. Raphi is one of those given advanced advice to move, originally coming from the center of the district that would be affected by Algol's most recent rising under Dis. By arriving in advance of the evacuee flood, he is able to take up Matilda's offer to room with her and Stirba before their neighbourhood over-saturates and demons begin to close their doors on those still in need of housing.

The aftermath of Algol's rising sees a wide-spread mantle infection followed by the descent of a dust / flake banket over the surrounding districts. The blanket is the dried and burned remains of Hell's skin and meat thrown up by the destruction caused by the star. Streets closest to the rising are choked with the material, affecting visibility and air quality to such a degree that some areas beyond the rising's blast zone are abandoned, worsening the housing crisis.

Oct 23, 2017

HELL 2525: Tsur is a Rogue (Fallen?) Angel with a fascination with the sensation of touch. They are serpentine in appearance, covered in white, pearled scales, possessing five tails and a red feathery mane. Via their obsession with touch they have become enamoured with the concept of physical intimacy.

Nov 01, 2017

HELL 2525: Matilda and Stirba have their prejudices that spark minor conflicts between them and / or other residents. Matilda possesses racist / speciesist tendancies, while Stirba is noticeably sexist. Conversely, one is egalitarian on topics of racial / species divide, while the other is egalitarian on sex / gender politics. Matilda's discrimination stems in part by her upbringing by Motherkin living in Dis, exacerbated by personal experience of being targetted for her heritage (mystique surrounding the Golden Legion is still strong amongst greater Hell after the War's conclusion). Her non-judgemental stance on the sexes is derived from her experience as a sex worker, where she's had many clients speak candidly about personal desire (as a part of business). Stirba's prejudices stem from insular Lovacoan tradition regarding gender roles, perceiving men in general to be untrustworthy for their "lack of perception and self-control of their emotional instincts". Racially, she is accommodating and does not pass judgement, built from personal experience in having to rely on others of another traditional background / language / etc in order to survive as a mercenary / Rogue hunter.

A common slur against Xeres is "gold-eater" / "gold-shitter" in reference to the species diet of precious metals and materials. Matilda has the latter thrown at her in passing a jewelry store that had been recently broken into and robbed. Matilda retorts in kind and the encounter devolves into a racial epithet exchange, which shocks Stirba.

A common stereotype against men is that in being physiologically smaller and generally weaker than their counterparts, men overall are only good for copulation, cannot be trusted outside of menial tasks, and are incapable of child rearing on their own. Stirba openly refers to Raphi as an "untrustworthy parasite good only for book-reading" upon their first meeting in response to Matilda offering him temporary lodging in her flat, which shocks Matilda.