Thursday 11 February 2016

Menocea, City of the Mirrored Spires

Trump X. The Wheel.
Chariot's crowdfunder at the end of its third day stands at 96% of its admittedly modest goal. Let's see if we can fund today.

In the meantime, another creation of my boyhood imagination that I inserted into Atlantis because, well, I don't know. I just did.

Menocea, City of the Mirrored Spires
Ruler: His Highness, the Prince Porphyrion
Government: Aristocratic Principality
Population: 350,000+ native, 500,000 slaves, 10,000+ foreigners
The City of the Mirrored Spires shines in the Northern sun on a verdant hill, overlooks Ruta's temperate grassy plains, its lush singing forests, roaring white falls. Menocea's outer walls are clad in polished steel so bright it carries the reflection of the idyllic blue skies and fertile green fields that surround it, its spires so clean they blind you if you carelessly look at them directly in the late afternoon sun.

Menocea this is, the light of the North, home of the Mirrorskin People, whose tough, smooth grey skin, when anointed with the oil of the native pines and polished to a sheen is every bit as reflective as the towers and the walls of the city, whose eyes are gleaming orbs of liquid metal.

Even the poor Menoceans, the ones who craft the arms and the armour, who direct the legion of those slaves who endlessly polish the fabric of the city, even they have the same metallic skin, if dull, if unpolished, if tarnished, if greenish and corroded around the edges.

The slaves, well, the work is no better here, but a slave in Menocea receives the best treatment it's possible for a slave to have in Atlantis and still be a slave. The Menoceans are the brightest – in ever sense – of the Atlantean people, and in many ways the best. In Helio Arcanaphus's army, batallions of Menoceans ride on lobotomised sabre-toothed cats, pilot sky-chariots polished as brightly as their skins, fight as the first and most deadly of the infantry.

And of all the soldiers of Helio Arcanaphus, the Menoceans are the most loyal. Or were.

A century ago, Oduarpa, once the Brigadier-General of the God-Emperor's Own Menocean Artillery and brother of the Prince of Menocea, awoke to his Fate and usurped the Throne of Gold and Turquoise. And while many of his men, helpless in the face of his power to command their obedience, most obeyed the first God-Emperor and fought against him. It was a loyal batallion of Menoceans who enabled Helio Arcanaphus's escape to the North and the new seat of Keriophis, and as Oduarpa instituted the era of the Black Sun, Menocea declared for Helio Arcanaphus, Keriophis and White Sun.

But Oduarpa was always popular among his own. Since that time, quietly, secretly, cells of Menoceans who follow the usurper have worked to groom young warriors, tempting them away from their old loyalty with the promises of freedom the Black Sun gives, radicalising them, encouraging them to work towards bringing down the edifices of Menocea first and Keriophis next, and maybe even to give their lives in the process.

Loyalty is a large component of the Menocean psyche, loyalty freely given – and free loyalty is at the centre of this. Freedom is the heart of the Menocean ethos, is the word that the Menocean Princes repeat from their pedestals, their call to arms. We defend freedom. We fight for freedom. We stand for freedom. We are free, the freest in Atlantis, and we will fight to share that freedom, to bring it to you with all the force we can muster, and no force matches ours.

But the freedom that no Menocean has is the freedom to stand with Oduarpa. The Princes since his rise have forbidden that, erased him from the roll of the Royal Family. They have made a public declaration of faith in the Black Sun punishable by annihilation before the firing squad and erasure from every census and history.

Oduarpa commands no small loyalty, however. The suppression of his followers has driven them underground. And when the zealots of the Black Sun talk of the hypocrisy of the Princes, it makes a kind of sense. The Black Sun's freedom is of an entirely different order to the rarefied discipline of the Rai's religion.

And isn't freedom worth fighting for? Isn't it worth dying for?

An example: the Temple of White Gold, the place of worship of White Incal, has not been rebuilt. On the Fifth Festal Day in the Week of the Incal last year, three young officers of the Menocean Second Artillery – their names have been struck from the rolls, so do not ask for them – stood up in the midst of the greatest communal act of worship in the Incalix Calendar and denounced the White Sun and all its works. And then all three of them detonated the fusion bombs they had sewn into their stomachs. Over seven hundred men, women and children of every class died with them in that instant; and then as the structure of the temple crashed down around them, another three thousand members of the panicked, fleeing crowd died, trampled under the feet of their fellows or crushed beneath crumbling masonry and tangled metal.

Among those vaporised in that first blast was Estrys-Estrys, High Priestess of White Incal and Princess Regnant of the city. Her fifteen year-old brother Porphyrion, although burned so badly he needs to wear a mask, and requiring mechanical eyes to replace his own ruined vision, was thrust into the role of ruler. He played to the city's outrage. A series of reprisals began, reprisals that, as the news spread, were repeated in Caiphul, Hollowbridge and Keriophis.

This has done more for the popularity of the Black Sun in the North than any campaign of proselytisation. And for the first time Menocea stands in an uncertain place. When the war comes, for the first time the Menoceans cannot guarantee which side they will be on.