Moker Matheed counts among their territories the Dolan Battery, Hearsh, Featherbridge and Folly. The latter is contested with Harry Diamonds in the Bloodgames. They’re not fussy with tithes. Sugar wine or velvet or a swift knife and a bleed out, all have saleable value, and really, it’s the thought that counts.
Matheed has scales on both arms running inside their shirt, over one glassy pectoral and down to the 6th chakra. A remnant of an earlier time when they were a Knight, dipping their hands ill-advised into the Leviathan’s wake to catch a thimbleful of ambergris. They lost the hunger after that catch. Of course, it never really goes, just gets pushed back, a frangible echo.
Theirs hangs in one of the hoary closets of the North Tower, clanking, coiling, waiting to be unleashed again.
Description: a forest with concentric and spiralling paths which concentrate on key points of entry and exit. Crossing paths attracts predators and other hazards. Travellers, especially those with Voyance, can intuit the endpoints of each spiral and whether the reward of crossing is justified.
Hazards: Leaf-Leopards stalk from above, and are permitted to eat anything crossing a path.
Denizens: four hateful monks perpetually walk the Glade in separate trajectories. They spread gossip about the others, and will confound the party if they suspect an alliance with one of their brethren.
Treasures: glass hellebores may be crushed and mixed with wine to induce trivial and brief wishes.
The first Pivot encountered is often the Jetty, which is flanked by flat water on one side and roiling tides on the other. Travellers alight from a thousand planes, some by choice, others because the current drifts bear them here. Hire an orienteer with samphire or coal dust, but be wary of their stupors.
The Jetty is taken as proof of an existence beyond the City and the Husk, that touches on other Cities, other Shadows. Among the rituals of significance practiced by adherents there is the ashing of rose petals in sharp glass crucibles, and the rubbing of the ash into excoriated wounds. The faithful cultivate patterns of scabs which form a new bloom on their flesh with each season, made permanent by the ritual. Imitation crop circles are common, though few adherents have seen a cornfield much less milked the umbilical of a passing UFO.
Shenk loved Stertrie, so he bought her flowered candywine from the Amphetic market; tame dew-backed ducks; her portrait in feathered malachite. She drank the wine, gave away the ducks, tucked away the portrait behind the dresser where it may be admired by no-one save herself, when she allowed herself the memory. She paid him no heed.
Shenk, believing his gifts in vain, sacrificed his anchors in the Dolan’s Battery, and sought the veins of Moker Matheed, who crowned him a Knight of the Husk and charged him with a Dive for the rare chemin pearls that would surely win Stertrie’s attention. He found the portal under a rotted bridge not 100 yards from his shack, and cast himself into the Husk without a backward glance.
Shenk’s adventures were remarkable but beside the point; he flopped out from a cleft in the keystone near Rebellion Rock with a fistful of pearls in one hand and a Demonic petition in the other. He staggered for days back to Dolan’s Battery but when he got there, familiar faces scowled and shuddered at the nightmare traipsing in his shadow.
He’d rehearsed his triumphant return; he would put on a good shirt and slick his hair back, Dolan style, and knock on Stertrie’s door. But instead he stumbled stinking into a gin palace and drank some of his new companion away while counting the humming pearls on the table. The other patrons looked askance at him, so he made venomous threats and left the bar, left the Battery walking straight past Stertrie whose curiosity exceeded her indifference, and back to Matheed. The Demon had chewed away his last threads of friendship, and now it clawed his empty gut.
The Queen of the City eats nectarine slices as her Rooks flock to court, to assure her that her rule remains absolute in the provinces.
The Queen of the Husk stands in the uppermost chamber of her burrowing castle. The loyalists have fled. Minarets and jagged chimneys penetrate the fog, and engines of war and mercy shriek in the distance.
Sometimes, the Queen of the City stands on her balcony and shudders as the other Queen walks in her shadow. Her City shifts, towers warp, buildings curl like browning leaves, the grand gardens erupt with wild flowers and hogweeds, choking fog bubbles through the streets, rotting dirigibles swim overhead. Then the attendant behind her clears his throat.
The Queen of the Husk unclenches her fist.