Xenophobia, Xiānxián and Xiǎnbǐ
Castorhage squats on an aloof isle of which the grotesque noble enclave of Crow’s Fallow is the other most (some would say only) civilized part—if civilized is the correct word.
The rulers of Castorhage are an insular lot; insular in fact to the point where they don’t want their blood sullied by anyone that isn’t of their own uniquely high blood. Marriage within families (providing it is done with a respectable family tree and isn’t perceived to be too close) is commonplace, as is marriage across and within the small group of more powerful families that vie for attention from, or seek to overthrow, the royal family.
To the outside world they are cold, aloof and vile, an iron city-state with its own shadowy agenda. To their eyes, they are born to rule the known world, and with a reassuringly powerful web of authority within their city—control of the most powerful arcane items and spells, access to a growing Between Empire, armies and allies that stretches down below the very gutters themselves—they are conceited and grotesquely egotistical enough to believe it.
In truth their arrogance and pride might be their undoing.
The aristocracy of the Blight looks down upon the rest of the Lost Lands with disdain, what alliances there are, are few and temporary.
Nobles of the Blight are haughty, aloof and cruel, they see access to Between as their god’s given right, a gift that marks them out as something special, and they look on outsiders as potential spies, anarchists and looters. Paranoid to an almost ridiculous degree already, the nobles thus plot a slow and steady poisoning of their neighbors; they cast out barbed words and promises while ever seeking to undermine and ultimately poison those neighbors.
Castorhage has no interest in conquering—at least for now—such wars are time-consuming, dangerous and, far more importantly, expensive. They seek only for all their neighbors and other civilized lands to wither, and are happy to sow venom into the roots of anywhere they might perceive as a threat.
The travesties committed against her own citizens have been well catalogued, even in these brief updates, but foreigners are viewed with infinite suspicion. To a Blight local anyone who looks or sounds slightly different may be a foreigner.
One corner of the Blight focuses that paranoia - Little Chi’en - an exotic corner of the Artists' Quarter, teeming with immigrants of many generations of Chi’en and G’tsang families.
Here’s a tiny sample of that enclave, the home of Xiānxián and Xiǎnbǐ…
AQ27 The Theatre of Performing Beasts
Oldest theater in the city, the flaking timbers and stone of the place shout its name in both Common and Chi’en characters. A crude structure that is lashed by the weather and time, a great gong stands atop a set of worn steps entering the theater, which in truth resembles an open amphitheater.
It’s said a theater has existed here since Castorhage was little more than a muddy street on a wide river, and that many of the city’s most famous plays were acted here first. The theater has a darker reputation, however, than its artistic charade alludes to. Its stones—they say—are soaked in blood from the early days, when art and pain were bedfellows, and where spectacles and mass executions were regarded as entertainment. Days that many say are rapidly returning to the Blight.
The owner, the ever-smiling Xiānxián (N dominated female illusionist 7) is in thrall to something that lurks below the theater and the canals below, the ancient Xiǎnbǐ, Grace of the Smiling Slumbering Dragon (LE female Chi’en human vampire aristocrat 2/illusionist 11). Xiǎnbǐ has lurked below Little Chi’en since the theater opened and has in many ways been responsible for the rise of the district and its neighbors. One of the chosen of Beltane, the vampire keeps an obsessively low profile. She has no spawn, and only ever keeps a single human follower. Deep below the theater, lurking within a maze of dead canals, she dwells in her home, from where she guides Fetch plots against the Triad and instigates vengeance against their many enemies.
Above, the theater has become more of a circus of late, with performing animals and the most bizarre freaks from across the known world. The show, laced with fireworks, illusions and death-defying tricks, is considered a little lame of late; this low-profile suits Xiǎnbǐ, however, but the Between-obsessed mind of Xiānxián subliminally searches for new and exotic acts. Unbeknownst to her mistress, the illusionist has been making forays over to Captain Hubbward in the Festival (Area#F21 - Market of the Outlandish) to seek diverse new acts for her show.
That the dominated Xiānxián seems capable of independent thought is something that is likely to alarm and intrigue the vampire when the secret is finally discovered…
Lying a day’s very hard carriage drive, or two more leisurely days, north of Castorhage is the aristocrat’s outpost of Crow’s Fallow, a rolling land of beautiful green countryside, rural peasants, magnificent stately homes and grounds and palaces.
Crow’s Fallow is on the tongue of every noble who can afford to live or visit the place, but its infamy amongst others is terrible. Far from being a green idyll, Crow’s Fallow hides dark secrets; the servants are brutalized slaves, and the aristocracy is riddled with vampires, sickness and cruelty. The infamous hunt which most estates in the shire run for six months of the year are often hunting people, not game, Orgies of wanton excess are commonplace, and the regal right of “the first night” and the “right to thigh” which allow local lords the first night with any new bride and the rights to have sexual relations with a subordinate woman are enthusiastically practiced…