“Idiots, all of them… You pay for the labour and the equipment but there is no judging the skill. You take what you get around here. My Goddess, it is pathetic. Running a protection racket, arson, theft, even a simple intimidation job requires a bit of brain. Unfortunately, you cannot just stuff more in there. Brains are cheaper than grunts these days.
I should properly introduce myself since you have so kindly stepped into my territories unarmed with either knowledge or weapons. You are now at the mercy of the Undercroft Syndicate and the discretion of its leader, myself, Dehart. From my understanding you are some kind of Chronologist; a scribe of all things past, present and future. It is rare to see someone try to pull off such an audacious claim. Free movement within the city, specific codes to the Royal Guard, even those eyes… I can only trust what I have been told about you.
As an impartial observer, with access to truth beyond our current understanding and with no ability to act, it must be frustrating to see the city this way. I am sure there are tales of when this place was beautiful and holy, where doors were left open and favours were given, not bought. It would be nice to see that one day, perhaps tour your archives before I die. But it is not the world we live in and after I die, I certainly shall not reside in the Hallowed Halls of Magai.
So where do I begin? Ah. What lubricates the cogs of this city are few but distinct. Money is generally seen as the easiest to attain and abuse. The Upper folk do not see what they do to us. They have all the views to look down upon us. Those stuck between the deadlands, the Ghila, the sea and the walls of Middle and Upper society made of security checks and reflective glass. Money out here is trapped in these outer rings. It either gets recycled between individuals, business or back alley pockets and then back to another. It is filtered out by taxes, fines, or taken by force as justified contribution to public works by ourselves due to their displeasing or disrespectful behaviour.
The folks of the Upper and Middle societies only care about what they can get out of us. Labour, productivity, wealth but they do not see what they take. We strike a delicate balance between an excess of force and abuse of position and the implied use of it to yield the best results. Cogs out here are well oiled by myself with mercenaries, death threats, a burning of an establishment or a kidnapping or two. We try not to feed the demon as much. Death is never the first answer. But the newspapers and local gossips always blow every death out of proportion. Which is unfortunate, but the negative press only makes us appear more threatening.
If you look out of that window behind you, you can see my pride and joy. And yes your first thought of it not possibly being the entirety of those set structures and machines out there is wrong, it is every single one. I am sure you have heard of the Screamlight Fair? For the morale of the local populace and certainly not for any sort of personal gain, we manage to routinely syphon off enough energy from the city grid to power everything out there. That big spinning wheel, the mechanical band, even that old rusted augmented fortune teller. You do not know how many times we have managed to use that thing as leverage, convince someone it was recently deceased by our hand.
I personally think it is the lights that make it for me. You do not see those types of colours in any other district. The yellow, the reds, sometimes even the green and blues. If you squint your eyes it is almost like a field of flowers… And then there is the music. My beloved Behtzi, she has the most beautiful voice. She is high maintenance but she is exquisite. The way she moves, her graceful spin, the delicate interplay of her dancers; all to a melody of a long forgotten time.
The children always want to dance with her but she is too delicate for that. One child’s rampage could destroy the delicate mechanisms, break one of the wooden struts or Goddess forbid to take her voice and damage the machinery that sings so beautifully. Her song has soothed my nerves, my sorrow and my anger. We dance a bloodied dance with those that are disrespectful or deserve punishment. She sings while I conduct her, my knife carving masterpieces into flesh before they fall at our feet.
Whatever is coming, whatever your appearance means, I will be ready. I have seen what this city has become; I have bared its sins and committed many of my own to keep my people safe. I am prepared for whatever storm approaches. Whether it be a torrent from on high or from the sea below, if the Goddess has come to judge us all or if the Demon has risen once more, I will do what is necessary to save my kin. That is the most important part, Chronologist; make sure you have that written down. I realise now that I am more than likely to forget this, not only can you not interact with us, we cannot and should not fully remember you. You are part of the fabric of us as the creatures that lurk beneath our feet and the demons in the deadlands. A myth tied to us all so remember that. If we start to drown, there is no you without us. I…
There is nobody in this room! Who in the Goddess’ name sent me into here, I will have their head. I do not care if you are confused, get me their name now or better yet, bring me their body!”
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