Today I want to focus upon one of my favorite places in the Blight, the decayed, brine-soaked aristocratic enclave of the Sinks, somewhere we've barely had time to mention so far. Massive SPOILERS ahead chums…
“Decay. The whole pace reeks of it, from the stinking stagnant canals crossed by the broken skeletons of rusting bridges to the sagging moss-suffocated walls of buildings falling one into the other. One day soon the whole place is going to topple one to another to another and the marsh will reclaim her; reassert her right to be seen and to rule this sodden corner of the city once more.
Nature is slowly winning this war; the gardens are choked with weed and briars, the streets are awash with the stench of urine and effluent and poison. To walk the streets of the Sinks is to enter a world of stinking twilight, where daylight is rarely but a distant glimpse; a glint upon a chimney, a flare from a passing gutter gargoyle high above on the rooftops.
This corner of Castorhage has become home to those who fester in decay; the true rulers of this place thrive on such endless death. The unseen leaders of the district come abroad at night and dwell in a sick image of the Capitol, a decadent despairing dance of excess. The aristocrats who come here are exiles; the misfits, the demented, the disgusting, cast out of the Capitol but above the call of the executioner; royals do not kill royals, at least publicly. So they cast them here to rot. Some live out lives of facile normalcy; a veneer of life beyond the damp decay; others embrace the macabre joy that comes from living in such a place and with such company.
A few others attain a new type of unlife and join the few who really rule here, herding their under-caste of ghouls in a mockery of life.
Is madness infectious?
They cram into its decaying façade living a collective lie; all is normal here, all are normal here. The truth is darker; madness begets madness, excess drives excess, and when the hunger is driven by those who are unused to hearing the word no the glut never stops, feeding upon itself and growing out of control.
No aristocrat should kill another—at least not openly—so those who are deemed unfit to mingle with the inbred, selfish, vile polluted horrors that rule the city from the Capitol are exiled.
They come to the Sinks to die.
They crawl the streets here, taking on an exterior calm, an image of serenity, of utmost importance, for no matter how depraved, no matter how diseased, no matter how wrong they are, they find a respectable home here.
Yet even the royal family admit that some of their high caste are too dangerous. These are confined in the Asylum, the asylum run by inmates many call it. The guards, physicians and cultists who make home of caring for the Asylum do so for perverted reasons, but each is bound by a fear of retribution, they dare not openly defy a noble by killing one. Many inmates walk free only to be caught again, yet some remain at liberty to carry on their wicked lives.
This is a place where royals take care of their sick, and make sure they rarely leave. City constables walk the streets in droves; there are few paths in the Sinks, but plenty of boatmen, with their colourful attire and their songbirds. Ah yes, the songbirds. The Sinks has an even darker secret than its populace; its poison soul. The Sinks sag into the marshes of the city and occasionally gases slip from the waters below to kill. Everyone who can afford one has a songbird to warn them of impending gas. This gas has taken on a life of its own, with its own legends and names; the Canker sleeps here, and Jack’s Candle has made a home below the canals.
Others too have made homes; the Sinks is a great place to hide, for in truth, there are few worse places in the city, certainly few less wholesome. Life is cheap here, disease is rife, and plagues strike with alarming regularity. The rot throws new sicknesses into the air, and some of these illness take on flesh given them by Between. These killers rise for a night, a month, a hundred years and plague the locals living here.
Ostensibly at least, the Sinks is an enclave of art and nobility; separated by a vast gulf from the ruffian Artist’s Quarter where anarchy seethes. Art here is different; edgier, horrific—better, most nobility would say.
Others too lurk here; vampires abound in the dark streets, some walk openly in the twilight and have normal lives. They are a plague like any other, but have taken hold of the ruins and the rotting spires and the vast cathedrals with their incredible frescoes and dancing colours. Sahaugin slink in the canals, looking for intelligent flesh to eat so they can feel its pounding heart and hear its screams as they tear, skum look for brides to take, and things without eyes swim through the dirt or stare blindly up through thin ice.
PART ONE – PLACES
“True happiness lies in the senses, and virtue gratifies none of them.”
What the Sinks looks like…
Like a child’s drawing of a city; there are no straight lines in the Sinks, everything seems to rely on everything else to remain standing, like some vast house of cards. Everything is green, and this damp verdigris hides the magnificence of the buildings it chokes. This is a place that was once incredible; art glances from every hallway, columns sag or twist, courtyards try to be reborn from the sinking decay and browns and rot.
This is a district riddled with canals, but these are not sweet-smelling avenues that lead to the open sea, they are sewers. This place is suffocating even the piles upon which the city has been born, and which it clings desperately to, like a drowning man holding onto flotsam.
Blurring this vision are the birds; they swoop in vast flocks between the streets, over the rooftops and on top of the stagnant skin of water. Peacocks call from gables, ravens from spires and pelicans from piers. Swans glide across oily dark waters, herons nest on tower tops and mangy bald gulls on sills. Why so much birdlife comes here is a matter of speculation; most suggest it is the waste, the greedy nobility tossing what they cannot force themselves to swallow to the carrion. Others say the birds have a different purpose; some say the ravens are waiting to collect and devour the souls of the dying, that the birds have come through a rip in Between and are here to maim and cleanse the place of animal life. Others attribute it to the more mundane reason that everyone who is anyone in the Sinks has a menagerie, and that birds are cheaper, but more likely to escape than many of the other animals.
What the Sinks smells like…
Of the sea, and of decay. The Sinks is stagnant, always stagnant; smells and sickness have a tendency to stay, fetid, clinging to corners and to gables and to walls. Lichen and fungus abound, and green moss forms even on the newest buildings within days of construction. Faeces swims with slops, rotting meat dances with dead bodies, rubbish with decay.
What the Sinks feels like…
As though it is perpetually moving, for no good reason. Some say the birds lend it this air of motion, others that it is actually moving, and is even now floating upon the skin of Sister Lyme waiting to sink at any second. The Sinks is riddled with odd angles and shapes, many visitors complain of queasiness, some cannot abide to stay for more than a few hours. There is also a palpable feeling of oppression; of imminent collapse, as though the city is at the very edge of an earthquake or a tidal wave is about to rip through a side-street ahead.
What the Sinks sounds like…
Filled with the songs of the boatmen, the calling birds and the cry of gulls feasting upon the flotsam and waste of the city. And there is something more; a sound that is hard to discern, yet always there. Some say it is the song of madness, the whispers of the screams of the Asylum inmates drifting into every pore of the city, into every window and through every door and echoed from Between.
Seven words to describe the Sinks…