Tuesday 16 February 2016

Cercenes, City of the Vine

Five of Cups, Five of Wounds: A Cercenian citizen.

We still have over seven weeks left in the Chariot funding campaign and we're still reaching, straining towards our stretch goals, the first of which is a suite of supporting cast as written by the inestimable Malcolm Sheppard.

Tomorrow, I'm going to talk about why the Black Sun is winning, but for now, here is another of the stranger creations of my private Atlantis, the city of Cercenes.

Ruler: None
Government: Functional anarchy
Population: 200,000+ Cercenian Citizens, 300,000 proletarians, 300,000 slaves

City in the Forest, City of the Forest, where every tower and every home is hollowed from a living tree, where the canopy above leaves the inhabitants of the lower reaches, the poor and the slave, to live their lives out in dappled twilight.

Two cycles ago, the ailing Viceroy Cercenes planted the Unity Vine. And then he left his dying body behind and transferred his soul into its roots. Why he did this, exactly, no one recorded. Maybe he was just afraid.

It spread and grew, twining around the living towers, insinuating itself in every root, spreading around every window, eavesdropping on every conversation, whispering in the dreams of the people with their petal-coloured skins. It wanted more.

After so many years of dreaming under the influence of the thing, the people happily allowed their rulers to impose on them the implantation of a cutting of the Vine in every skull, letting it spread its tendrils across and deep into every brain, so that the thoughts of the Unity Vine would be their thoughts, a shared mind. They didn't need a prince any more. A nobility of sorts still survives, and the Cercenians concede to the nobles, but they describe the workings of their people more as a single body, each with its place; head, hands, heart, feet, eves.

Over the millennia the original Unity Vine has died off, its cuttings replacing it; the Vine that curls around the living homes of Cercenes is a distant descendant of that original one that held the soul of the city's namesake. Every citizen, every noble – not the proletariat, not the slaves – receives, in a rite of passage conducted at the age of majority, five tiny buds implanted in the forehead, which sprout into the skull, spread into the brain. It hurts, a lot.

After so many years of this practice, many Cercenians are born with five shallow pits already there in their foreheads, ready for the implantation. They see it as a blessing.

The shared mind of the Cercenians isn't telepathy, exactly. If the Cercenians know what their compatriots are thinking it's because they all the think the same way, all have the same ways of approaching ideas. But it means that a group of Cercenians together rarely feel the need to speak, and cooperate with a silent efficiency that other Atlanteans find unnerving.

Cercenians cling to life, both for themselves and their own. They as a people survive. It makes sense, both in their origin, and in a history of quiet attempts of a series of Atlantean monarchs to eliminate them, influenced by the disapproving priests of the White Sun.

The White Sun's horror at the existence of the Unity Vine has been a constant for as long as the plant has been there; the Black Sun has always defended their right to be there. Cercenes has always favoured the Black Sun, and when Oduarpa declared, Cercenes was the first Atlantean city to accept his legitimacy publicly.

The biomechanical wonders of Cercenes have, ever since, begun to be purposed for war. Cercenians were always the best of the Atlantean physicians, and the only really skilled pharmacists. It could be argued that the city survives at all because Atlantis has always needed the medicines that the Cercenians manufacture. Now Cercenes makes more violent things: living wooden land-leviathans, wheeled, tendriled engines of war; spore-cannons; plague-bulbs that explode with swift, virulent diseases when you stand on them.

And now, the Cercenians have picked sides.