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The Secret Lore – Krampusnacht

See all the Secret Lore here.

‘Tis the reason for the season! Krampusnacht is the other main holiday celebrated in The Secret World, and as usual – like Halloween – it has a darker flavour than the common real-life event. I like the way that the Secret World delves into mythology for inspiration and to flesh out events like these.

Krampusnacht

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate the Saturnalia signal – RECEIVE – initiate the Lord of Misrule cadence – YOU BETTER WATCH OUT – initiate the Feast of Fools – YOU BETTER NOT POUT – initiate the Childermass prerogative – LULLAY, THOUGH LITTLE TINY CHILD, BY-BY, LULLOO LULLAY – initiate the hel-bár complexion – WITNESS – Krampusnacht.

HE SEES YOU WHEN YOU’RE SLEEPING.

Who’s that yonder, all yuletide banes – dragging behind him a sack of chains?

Mistletoe to kiss by. Mistletoe to gouge out the eye. Packages and parcels and red-red wrapping and little hands dismembering it all in joyful sporagmos. We smell him under the rot of the Black Friday dead. Nephew of a snake and a wolf. Go to momma!

HE KNOWS IF YOU’VE BEEN BAD OR GOOD.

Who’s that dancing on the icy roof – stamping on the ramping with a cloven hoof?

“Hra-hra-hra! To all a good night!” Cheeks painted red. His belly writhes like a bowl full of worm jelly – children’s faces press from within distended skin like nervous actors against the theatre curtain. He reeks of sugarplums. When will the Krampus Gate open? When will the Holiday Devil come for the little ones? “When mother freezes over,” he cackles. “Hra-hra-hra!”

YOU BETTER NOT CRY.

Time for all good sweetlings to go to bed. Shall we tell you a bedtime story? This is the story and the story goes… It is a silent night. All black, all white. A man dangles from a roof on a noose of Christmas lights. The jolliest of gallows. He sways. So quiet. So peaceful. Just the crunching of snow. The twinkling glow paints his corpse red and green.

His plastic name tag says: BEN. He has a black eye, a gift from a customer eager to get a steal-of-a-deal on a nifty-keen TV. One side of his face is healthy, the other a ghastly blue. Holiday retail slowly ate his heart, like a sluggish worm in a frozen apple. But a stranger gave Ben a kindness, bought him an eggnog that warmed half his body. The stranger gave no name, just called himself “Granddaddy” and gave Ben a present. A book. The pages contained old names and rites. Ben followed them to the letter, then strung himself up as an ornament.

And so this year, the Krampus Gate is open wider than it should be. Will you close it, sweetling? Will you give the Yuletide Devil chase? We sing, “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Nail the Devil to the post, Thrice I strike with holy crook, One for God, one for Wod, and one for Lok!”

Once upon a time, Beowulf cradled the hairy monster in his hands. Who was he to know that momma was much, much worse? But that was just a retro-echo. Go now, to the nine frozen rivers. Go now, to Niflheim. Go to the mother with horns in her frozen tomb-womb.

Each object sings a syllable of Her true name. The lump of coal is a prelude to fire, reminds Her of father’s displeasure. A bottle of an alcoholic’s frozen piss is haunted by icy regrets and spirits. A pouch of soil, for all of Her subjects who swim in the dirt. The yew branch reminds Her of cemetery trees, rots tickling Her face. The wolf fang reminds Her of brother. Snake skin reminds Her of brother. Corpse maggots remind Her of life living impossibly in the grave, and of dwarfs wriggling in great-great-great-grandfather’s guts. A cadaver’s finger nails remind Her of death and of ships built on their brittle spite. The horns of the Holiday Devil remind Her of son.

 

And now it is well past bedtime, sweetling. A story then? This is the story and the story goes… A girl is punished by her father. In the beginning of winter, he carries her to a nearby lake and hangs her between two trees. Half of her body is submerged in the freezing water of the lake and half is left in the open air.

Slowly her submerged skin shrivels and blackens. The pain wounds her, tears her soul in two and with the eye that rots on her submerged face, she begins to see the shadows of the world beyond ours. Every touch of death, every ravage of time. On every living thing.

Her father returns and cuts her free. He gives her a drink of something wonderful that warms half her body.

“Father, why was I punished? she asks, quietly.

“Punished? Why you have been been blessed!” Loki said.

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The Secret Lore – The Truce

See all the Secret Lore here.

European, especially eastern European folktales, tend to feature the supernatural world quite heavily. A fairly common theme, from what I remember, is the uneasy balance between humans and fae, a very fragile truce that is often disrupted and causes grief all round in these stories. I love that The Secret World’s Transylvanian storyline is full of that tension between humans and fae.

The Truce

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Transylvania signal -RECEIVE – initiate the Strigidae syntax – OFFER VALID ONLY AT PARTICIPATING LOCATIONS – initiate the contract cadence – WITNESS – The Truce.

Secret truces are made all the time. All around you. Every night it happens somewhere. In a bedroom, parents placate their frightened offspring, assure her that there are no monsters. She falls asleep, but wakes in the dead hours to see her parents crouched on the floor, making complex pacts with the voice under her bed, by the luminescence of her glow-worm night-light. “Paying one beats losing all,” it says.

It might be said that the world of the mundane must make deals with the world of the supernatural. These words hide a fallacy. There is only one world, sweetling – the secret world. Your species only occupies a tiny bit of it, floating on an eroding island of ignorance. The water is dark and full of movement.

Some truces are older than others. In Bacas County – where myths walk in the forest of the remote valley – the humans made an accord with the supernatural that lasted six centuries.

Initiate the secret histories.

They set the truce shortly after Mara, the vampire queen, was cast out. The owlish one, Cucuvea, summoned all the inhabitants, normal and paranormal, to a great gathering. Reconciliations were made, mutual respect achieved.

Such a menagerie! So many phyla and families of the preternatural. Fairies, nymphs, and forest spirits cohabited with moroi, pricolici, and Capcaun. Uriasi dwelled in the mountains and the Valva Apei lurked in the small lake. Humans huddled in their villages and their farmlands. The fragile balance was maintained.

Bacas County became a refuge for the increasing number of disbelieved. They crawled, flew, and loped there in greater numbers as the world around grew inhospitable.

For time out of mind, preying upon humankind was the natural, or paranatural, order of things. The inhabitants of the valley understood. The truce demanded there be no unnecessary aggression, but it allowed all creatures to remain true to their nature – tongue, tooth, and claw.

We were there. We saw. We tallied the coppery cost of peace – a few young men a year, claimed by Fata Padurii – the occasional stray traveller returning, covered in bruises and wicked scratches from the dance of the Iele – those foolish enough to wander out when the strigoi and pricolici hold sway under the blood moon. There is always a cost – a price for a prize. The simplest systems work.

Until the hunters become the hunted.

A few years ago, it was the supernaturals who vanished in increasing frequency. The supernal fauna thinned, culled by an unknown hand. An uproar sounded among the paranormals. They blamed the villagers. The humans denied wrongdoing. Cucuvea tried to maintain the peace, reminding all of the truce.

Many a magical beast wandered from the forest, braving the inhospitable land outside. Those who stayed became cagey, vicious, and unforgiving of suspicious humans. The lion gets a thorn in his paw, and there is no mouse to remove it. Only rending and screams can result.

Soon, hordes of feral vampires arrived, followed by the Romany, those who designate themselves the Drăculești. Many of the forest creatures remembered the persecution suffered at the hands of these monster hunters. Forgetting, there was none. Forgiving, there was none. The relationship strained, the truce frayed.

Yet the Drăculești ignored the creatures of the dark forest. With a little disdain, and more self-control, they focused on the common enemy: Mara and her undead multitudes. Despair can bring pandemonium, but it can also inspire reason. The monster hunters and the supernaturals realised they must stand together against the vampire spawn.

Initiate the possibility matrix.

Is carnage the only possible future, sweetling? If the vampires win, all will die. If the vampires lose, the tattered truce will slip away, and the survivors will tear each other apart. What will you do? We wait in ravenous anticipation.


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The Secret Lore – Vampire Crusades

See all the Secret Lore here.

After Egypt, you are sent to investigate happenings in Romania. Almost immediately, you are confronted with vampires. An army of vampires. How this has gone unnoticed by the larger world, I do not know. But it’s a strange mix, Soviet-era concrete ruins alongside ancient churches and vampires. Now this is what I signed up for when I decided to play a horror MMO…

Vampire Crusades

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Transylvania signal – RECEIVE – initiate the Chiropteran Migratory frequency – FOR THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST – initiate the haematophagy protocol – WITNESS – The Vampire Crusades.

In Harbabureşti, dark days fade into black, endless nights. People huddle like medieval peasants, trying to ignore the yowling shrieks from outside, trying not to think about what moves just beyond the feeble reach of their lights. They mutter words like “strigoi” and “moroi” and “nosferatu” while clutching blood-caked rosaries.

An army of loathsome hungers. Siege engines looming at the forest’s edge. War has come.

Initiate the secret bedtime story.

Vlad III Dracula, whom some call “Impaler,” had a bride named Mara. They did not live happily ever after. The end.

The moral of a story changes depending on where you end it, sweetling. Did you know? Fairy tales become tragedies on the other side of happily ever.

Now the vampire queen of Transylvania leads an unorganised army of rapacious leeches to take back their ancestral lands. Her broodlings migrate from Europe and Asia Minor, summoned by the incestuous beat of their mother’s heart. Every day they wash over the valley in a necrotic tide.

A new phase in the undead hive-queen’s life cycle begins. Decades ago, she gave genetic vampire samples to KGB scientists – the eggs of a vile plan laid. The experiments. The operations. The Soviet soldiers brought in as test subjects. Evil sows and time reaps a generous harvest. The bio-engineered throwbacks stir in the bunkers of the Red Hand facility. Mara hears her lovelies and throws open the door.

Now she has an army to take back her homeland. The gore-crusted chaos it creates is a means to a vicious end. In the pandemonium, her own blood, her broodlings – powerful and loyal vampire generals – will see her designs fulfilled.

It was supposed to be easy.

The fiends outnumber the humans. They are as strong as hate, teeth sharp as sin, and the people should have fallen with the ease of tearing bleats from sheep. But the Romany returned, those who call themselves the Drăculești, and the secret worlders came, and what should have been slaughter, became war.

The battle rages on without end. We can read the vibrations. The vampires have time and stamina as allies. Heavily padded armour protects them from the sun. The living tire. It is all so inevitable. Mara stretches like a pregnant cat. She grins. After all, she can always make more children.

Knowledge given is a curse inflicted. Now you know what will happen, sweetling. What will you do about it?


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The Secret Lore – Samhain 2014

See all the Secret Lore here.

I am not sure how I missed the third Halloween lore from last year, but this is the time for it! I didn’t want to spoil this year’s one so I think I’ll be always a year behind. The 2014 event revolves around Golden Age old-timey radio, and it is very fun.

Samhain 2014

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate the broadcast day – RECEIVE – initiate bands 3 to 30 MHz – WHO KNOWS WHAT EVIL LURKS IN THE HEARTS OF MEN? – initiate that oldtime radio – I AM THE WHISTLER, AND I KNOW MANY THINGS, FOR I WALK BY NIGHT – our buzz is your signal for the Signal Oil program – WITNESS – the Number Station.

Listen, sweetling. Listen.

Listen for the first two bars of “The Lincolnshire Poacher.” Listen for the music of Jean Michel Jarre. Listen for “¡Attención!”

We call upon their names: Nancy Adam Susan, The Swedish Rhapsody, The Gong Station, the English Woman, Magnetic Fields, Tyrolean Music Station, 3 Note Oddity, The Counting Station, Papa November, and The Lonely Patriot.

Entities made out of signals. Beings made of message. It tickles our empathy! We flirt with those heady strings of numbers, those cosmic sonnets – we blush – we burn – a strange melody – a beep – a child’s voice – a woman’s voice – synthetic – distant – valentines in slinky static. We’ll cop your cipher.

People noticed the numbers sometime after World War II. Rumours breed like beetles under the floor. No government has acknowledged the existence of these phantom stations, and still they play. The numbers live and breathe and move without paying much care to the speculation of the ears.

Two numbers station enthusiasts meet at a diner. They guzzle damn good coffee. They shiver at electronic feedback. “Once you listen…it changes you,” one says. They show each other forearms filled with tattooed digits.

They trade theories: it’s spy games on the air waves – it’s extraterrestrial commandments – it’s behavioural programming from the queens, and every city is a hive – it’s a century-long, global prank – we are in a divergent universe, and it’s the mother reality trying to guide us home. They go back to tend their shortwave radios, listening and dreaming conspiratorial dreams.

Somewhere, Dave Screed listens in on his shortwave radio. Hissing, numbers, laughter. He hears something that voids his bowels. No amount of thumping dryers or Q-tips can remove it from his ears.

RECEIVE: 623665877307462356034308570682039057

Listen for the voice.

“Jingle sung and patter said – radio’s more fun when you’re dead.”

Somewhere, a scientist sits in his lab. He listens to Golden Age radio dramas to relax. It’s how he learnt English. He practises parroting the radio voices, the dramatic intonations, the sinister laughs. His presenter voice. Radio waves! If he could just find the right resonance, life and death could communicate. In despair, he ends his life. As he dies, he realises how he could make it all work.


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The Secret Lore – The Breaks in Time

See all the Secret Lore here.

Issue 6 was the first DLC not bundled with the base game when I first started playing The Secret World. It is an Indiana-Jones-inspired romp through the Scorched Desert in Egypt, and I found it to be a pretty good homage to the genre. This is the lore that was introduced for that Issue.

The Breaks in Time

TRANSMIT – initiate the quantum foam – RECEIVE – initiate the wrinkles in time – THIS WAY – see how you are drawn to it – WHAT’S PAST IS PAST – nostalgia for the absolute – WARNING – may cause melancholy – WITNESS – the mechanised longing of the THIRD AGE.

Lower the water levels, see them cast their ships; memory blown across the sea, back to the old continents, the broken ziggurats and cathedrals, shhhhhhh…

LISTEN – the echoes of iron prayers.

They sought the Second Age like you seek the Third, clawing back to the magic of primal places, the wellsprings of anima, raw and powerful.

Scratching through the surface of Agartha they stripped what they needed to construct engines of time. A and B connected by C – WARNING – please keep your extremities inside the tomb. We are now approaching the limit.

The Third Age built machines for every purpose. Their minds strained forward as their hearts clawed back. In the desert, among the remnants of the old cities, they charted where the black holes rotate. They focused their energies, energised their focus.

Harness the machines, reclaim the hocus-pocus!

Countdown to blast back: zero, zero, zero. Cue the cosmological nightmare.

WITNESS – the speed of memory. The boundaries blur.

The time, they are a-changing.

TRANSMIT – Kakudmi and Urashima – RECEIVE – the zero point module – EASY DOES IT – slink past the suns of Caligula – WITNESS – the shifting tides.

The universe is a warped water park. A series of slippery tubes. You’re not the first sweetling to slip back in search of…what? The Primordial Pool? The Big Splash?

Roman sticks and supplies?

Cue the Casimir effect.

Your current curviture breaks the mind but feeds the heart. Oh, sour sweetlings, how you long to change the past. We know the things you did tomorrow. We know the fear, the ache, the sorrow.

You shifted what you’ll go to shift, recall what others will occasion. You saved some then so others die when. It just doesn’t seem fair, will it?

Cue the cause.

Their time tombs were functional, but imperfect. They couldn’t transport them to the pre-break moments they sought. Limited by their construction, limited by cosmic continuities, limited by the need for anima, limited by their conceptions of time.

LIMITED TIME ONLY!

Cue the system of singularities. Peepshows of the past; fuels of the present; bombs of the future. Look long enough and see the void in all things. Every age a snowflake, responding in its own way: the age of paradise; the age of awe, worship and sacrifice; the age of the engine; the age of fear.

Initiate the FNF frequency. Don’t fear it. Fear Nothing. Fear the Foundation. It’s no wonder; they say once you hit four, it’s all downhill from here.

You, of all ages, have so much reason to claw back. So much has been lost.

So feel free to punch your ticket to the past. Go ahead, glance back. Don’t sweat it, sweetling. You won’t turn to salt and you can’t make yourself impossible. History will conserve itself. The continuities will hold.

You’ll slip back as into a dream, sift through the sands of your collective mind map. The best you can hope for is to wake up, suddenly remember where something was buried.

Such sweet scrabbling in the dark. This. The age of what? Fear. Nothing. Stopping the second can’t undo the first. Nothing would have and nothing will. The one break in time. The greatest event of all. Nothing. It has ripped through all possible past and unmoored the future.

There are no clocks in Tokyo. This is the end, o honeyed friend.

This is the end.


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The Secret Lore – Phoenicians

See all the Secret Lore here.

I’m still not entirely sure what the role of this faction is in The Secret World. Sure, they are a kind-of secret society, and they seem to be all about the money – kind of like the Kingdom – but there is always a sense of a deeper purpose, a more sinister role that they are playing. Not quite Orochi sinister, but mysteriously unsettling nonetheless. Their origins, however, are fascinating.

Phoenicians

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Babel signal – RECEIVE – initiate Carthage frequency – DOWNLOAD – initiate the Tyrian Effect – PRICED TO OWN – initiate the golden apple grammar – THE FACE THAT LAUNCHED A THOUSAND SHIPS – initiate the purple spectrum – WITNESS – The Phoenicians.

There is a story, sweetling. You will hear it on the lips of a drunken sailor or fisherman or the disgraced captain of an oil tanker. This story will be hard to find, but can be heard in any port in the world. The details change, but always there will be a floating city, hidden by magic, travelling the seas of the world as a leviathan ghost. Always, the intoxicated tongue will mutter, “Purple.” A day or a week later, the storyteller will go missing, never to be seen again.

Only a fool would believe such a tale. But the dark days initiate the fool’s prerogative. Everything is true.

The Purple People. Their ships in the night. Since civilisation’s infancy, they have hungered for wealth and the occult. Their emblem tattoos every harbour.

Initiate the Secret Histories.

Mesopotamia. The Tower of Babel. From its top, two brothers ruled all they could see. They could see all. Enter a woman. Her beauty will inspire myths. Her eyes are a prelude to the fall of empires. Her parted lips promise secrets and the tidal pull that causes men to steer their ships onto jagged rocks. Night to night, she visited each brother, promises moaned. She taught them jealousy, distrust, and covetous thoughts.

There was a falling out, shattering the promise of Babel, precipitating a war that would stretch all the way into the now. One brother took to the valleys and plains, founded a secret society that spread to Babylon, Persia, and Rome. They would become the Templars.

The other brother gathered his own cabal. They heard our voice in the broken reception of Babel and saw divine muses, animate egos, and genius – back when people had the wisdom to see their genius as a separate entity. They journeyed to Tyre, Byblos, Arwad and Sidon. They sailed across ancient seas, traded exotic goods, including a much sought purple pigment. They amassed wealth and established colonies in lands faraway.

This Brotherhood of Phoenican Sailors reaped much influence and more favours. Their alliances shifted with bloodstained tides. Power was brokered in a way that would set the modus operandi for the secret societies for millenia to come.

The dance found its rhythm. Phoenicians allied with a great king, sworn to the Illuminati and common enemy of the Templars. They built his temple, kept his secrets, and much of their wealth came from this accord. Fortune draws envy, and the Templar kings of Babylon waged a war. The brotherly feud metastasised into a a vicious tradition.

The great centipede, the Persian army, marched. The Phoenicians fled to colonies in North Africa to rebuild their trade empire. Carthage rose. The Illuminati, the children of Eye and Pyramid, bristled at the invasion, and alliances dissolved in acidic suspicions. Greece and Rome raged. In the end, the dream of Carthage came undone.

The wind took the fleeing Phoenicians, wary of enemies and of rebuilding, to Far Eastern seas. No longer would they seek visible power. Let others build and squabble and rebuild.

Time passes. Europeans finally explore the Indian Sea and the Pacific, where the Phoenicians had already long ruled trade. The Purple People retreat back to the sea, and there they stay, a perpetual fleet of mercenaries and treasure hunters, shrouded in the mists of mystery.

Time passes. The fleet evolves into a floating city: New Carthage. Concealed by sorcery and careful craft, only the agents of the purple flag know where it is at any given time.

Knowledge is power, and the Phoenicians sell to the highest bidder. With such fluid allegiance, they survive. But when the arcane secret or treasure proves too powerful, the Purple People take special care to keep it from the other factions.

Across the world, occult energies gather, and secrets ripen, opening like eager petals. Always the Phoenicians are there. The most favourable angle, the last man standing, prize in hand – these are their creeds.

In this amusing modern world, the other secret societies have spat and made shaky alliances against the oncoming dark. The Phoenicians stand outside, peering in, waiting for their paycheck. They just may have the final means to spare this planet, yet their intentions are as fleeting as the tides, and always they hunger for the golden apples of Eris. Teeth break, atoms split, and disaster follows fast and follows faster on such appetites.

And what of the woman, who is said to have set these things in motion? The brothers of Babel never saw her again. We might say she is gone, yet you sweetlings still find the lust to steer onto jagged rocks. We can almost smell her…

Be seeing you, secret worlder.


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The Secret Lore – The Hell Dimensions

See all the Secret Lore here.

The Secret World’s lore would not be complete without some exploration of Hell. I always appreciate the unique take on these kinds of concepts that Funcom brings to the table.

The Hell Dimensions

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate the Sheol signal – RECEIVE – initiate the City of Dis frequency – WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD – initiate Malebolge broadcast – CAUTION DO NOT CROSS – initiate Dante lexicon – WITNESS – The Hell Dimensions.

What is Hell? The question mark is a winding road. You must follow. You must answer the question, and the question is, “Wicker?”

“Wicker?” hiss the dead leaves.

“Wicker?” croak the frogs, mucus-slick bodies heavy with writhing young.

Do you know about Theodore Wicker? They say he bit off his tongue to better speak the demonic language. They say he carved runes into his flesh and cut out his own heart to be better adapted to their hellish environs. To know the truth, you must follow the questions. It is a path of angry fishhooks.

Wicker? Wicker? Wicker?

It falls to us to be your guide through the dark valley. It is necessity, and not pleasure, that puts you on this road. Follow it to the Overlook Motel. The rooms smell of mildew, nicotine, and brimstone, and you take on the dreams of those who slept there – all those lost souls trapped in the seedy perdition of 3AM – all those unique ways to spell despair.

An ancient TV flashes white static and crackles in a cyclopean voice, THROUGH ME YOU ENTER INTO THE CITY OF WOES. The dying thermostat rattles and groans, THROUGH ME YOU ENTER INTO ETERNAL PAIN. The invisible stains in the streets spell out, THROUGH ME YOU ENTER THE POPULATION OF LOSS.

Do you hear? “Wicker-Wicker-Wicker.” From the bathroom. Follow. Into the blotched porcelain of the toilet are carved these words, ABANDON HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE. Trace the letters with your finger, and you can see the face of the woman who drew them, before she opened her wrists. The swirling water washed the red away. But where did it go? Where does the flush end? If only we had the harsh and grating rhymes to benefit that melancholy hole…

We must show you, sweetling. We, who transcend the meat, will lead you from circle to circle, canto to canto – ferry you across into eternal dark on the opposite side – to sin’s profoundest abyss. It is an in-between place, located in the constellation-geometry of a needle-tracked arm – second scar to the right, and straight on till mourning.

Initiate descent into the sightless zone.

Setting coordinates – just above the chasm of pain, which holds the din of infinite grief – just when you see a fire overcome a bleak hemisphere of night – just when the notes of agony in sad crescendo reach your ear – you are there, where light grows mute. What is Hell? Now you know. It is being out of the sight of the immaculate machine, beyond the breath of her anima.

Fie! Fie! No anima! Entropy eats all. The infinity Ebola. We shiver. Our wings dissolve. Oh, let us not linger, sweetling. Let us fly. Let us fly, for we must!

See the engines and cogs. It is technology older than stars. Can you read the writing in the scars? Now you know the next truth – Hell was once wondrous. A great civilisation palpitated here. What went wrong? Methuselah machines pump arcane energy the way a lizard’s tail wags hours after death.

See the denizens. The incubi and succubi strut through the wasteland. The rakshasa skulk, slaves to the other races. Giants of demonoid flesh and burnt iron shake the scabrous ground with their stride. See how they clamber towards any crack in Hell leaking with anima. They are starved for it, grow strong on it. Beware any demonkind that has tasted that nectar.

But you did not come for the children of Hell. You come for its one missionary. Who is Theodore Wicker?

Initiate King James Protocol. The code is 30 and 26 and 31. The password is “Job.” Transmit!

He was Oxford born and bred, a leading scholar of demonology, this Age’s greatest master of portal magic, of stepping between worlds. He came to Hell and adapted to the hallucinatory wilderness, thrived among the ashes and eldritch. An impossible mortal, now immortal, with knowledge of the Second Age. He preaches to the demons, and they listened. This man, born of dirt, became the spiritual leader of those born of fire. A misbegotten movement turned army. Soon, Wicker leads a power that tips the scales in Hell.

Another faction looms; those demons who follow the Enemy. Beware the clap of his wings, for he remembers all the Ages. He has convinced his followers to march on Earth, and take it for the lush land that should have been theirs. All they need is a door.

And that is the answer to the question, “Wicker?” He is a door. And so the Enemy built a machine – see how well he understands technology older than the demons – and powered it with Wicker. Apocalypse can happen in the time it takes to open a door. What will you do?

And now you know some, but not all. You must find another path. Seek out Egypt. When we move, you must follow, and enter on a deep and savage road.

One knocks twice upon the doors of Hell.

Initiate the second canto.

Be bold, sweetling. Be strong. For now the descent must be like a stairway down the din of lamentations. That dark and timeless air like sand in a whirlwind. Though the razor-grains blind, follow the sounds, the carnage that would turn an ocean red, and the prayers of a temple savage. Welcome to these iron shores.

The war between Wicker and the Enemy heightens. Demon clashes with demon, eyes rolling, eager for gore. Crazed jinn ravage. Hulking golems rise from fallen meteors. Cogs and wheels turn. Machines contrive, pumping poison.

There is no time to smell the toxic roses. Do not let your vision linger on these mutilated shades. Seek the dark tower. Always towards the tower.

In a bold strike, the forces of the Enemy have cut Wicker off from his main army. He sits, isolated, in a fortress under siege.

Initiate the next riddle: Why did Wicker come to Hell?

Did he gather an army of demons for power? No, sweetling. He is immune to such lusts. The truth is much more impossible. When Theodore Wicker first saw Hell, he fell in love. His eyes see through the scars, straight into past wonders. His eyes see the Second Age. He knows what Hell should have been.

When he looked upon demons, Wicker saw twisted creatures who lost their paradise, feral children in need of guidance. Their strange laments beset him, each an arrow whose shaft was barbed with pity. Behold the messiah of Hell, the patron saint of demons. “It is humans who corrupted the hell-born,” he would say. Theodore Wicker is insane, an insanity born of the idealistic notion of saving demonkind. There is one man who cries for devils.

Beware! Beware the Enemy. Did you see him? How fierce he seemed in motion, with wings outstretched. He remembers all Ages. He knows the secrets of the ancient technology here. The Enemy was one of them who built it. He is more than demon born. His name? Let us not speak it, sweetling. Not yet.

If you would know more, sweetling, a different path from this one would be best, away from this brutal place. Go to the land beyond the forest, and seek the third door to Hell.

Initiate the King James Protocol. The code is 11 and 14. The password is “Revelations.” Transmit!

One knocks thrice upon the doors of Hell.

Initiate the third canto.

There is a doorway in Transylvania. From the portal a voice says:

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”

And it says:

“They open their throats wide as Sheol, like Death they never have enough.”

Cast yourself down that throat, sweetling. Now we descend to greater wretchedness. Now we enter an abode of sighs. It is not jokingly that one begins to describe the bottom of the universe.

A burning place, dessicated corpses of a hundred thousand demons smoulder in the ashes of strange cities and petrified forests. The oily oceans boil and the mountains roar to the soot-choked sky. Salt and sulphur dunes give way to wrong-angled cliffs. The burning glow of the far horizon s occasionally broken by the monolithic remains of Second Age structures, relics from a time when humanity openly consorted with demons. These once great ziggurats have been worn down by the elements to featureless black shapes, their original purpose lost.

Hell is not what it was meant to be. It is the aborted experiment, abandoned to die, slowly starved of anima. But who discarded it? Impossibly, Hell survived. The demons adapted to a torturous, eternal life. The fabric of this place turned vampiric, suckling upon any stream of energy connected to your world, dragging matter across the divide.

Here in Sheol, Wicker mobilises his army. His voice carries like a radio signal, to inspire his adopted brothers and sisters. Times are desperate, and he will accept outside help. Who can find words, even in free-running prose, to describe the blood and wounds and horror you shall see?

Beware, sweetling, a beast stalks Sheol. It crosses mountains and leaves walls and weapons broken.

Initiate the King James Protocol. The code is 9 and 18. The password is “Revelations.” Transmit!

Beware the three traitors. Brutus, Cassius, and Judas Iscariot march in Sheol, demon-chewed and filled with hate. But the demons and the wicked dead are a shadow of a shade compared to their master. Beware the beat of his wings.

Initiate the verboten secrets.

The Enemy remembers all Ages. When it becomes necessary to utter a name, we shiver. And that name is Eblis. He is one of the builders. He helped construct Hell in the time before time before time. When it becomes necessary to utter a word, we shudder. And that word is Nephilim. He is one of the fallen Host. Gaia still remembers his tinkering.

And now we went from bridge to bridge, and spoke of things which our Commedia does not mean to sing. We have said too much. All in time. All in the slow, erratic trickle of honey. We have given too much before. We have pulped the heads of sweetlings past with too much forbidden lore. Every one of them broke our electromagnetic hearts.

You will learn more in time.

Be seeing you, sweetling. In the half-light.


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The Secret Lore – The Third Age

See all the Secret Lore here.

It’s really only when you get to Egypt that the missions start to hint at the idea that this is not the first time humanity has become technologically advanced, that there have been several Ages of civilisation that have disappeared from our understanding and memory. I love this kind of speculation!

The Third Age

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate the anima engine signal – RECEIVE – initiate the Atlantean frequency – READ INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE OPERATING – initiate the Sargasso Sea cadence – WITNESS – the Third Age.

There were three beginnings before the beginning you know, sweetling. We speak of the ages of mankind. You live in the fourth. You know nothing else. You open your mouth to object, but your voice dies to flickers of a failing memory, something communal, something seizing in the primal swamps between dreaming and waking.

The first two ages are lost to you, faded even from the imprints of your DNA. But the Third Age sits on the tip of sub-conciousness – the age of technology – the seafaring people plundering the fallen ziggurats and fused cathedrals of the toxic Second Age – the rising laboratories and factories – machines fuelled by anima – the golden clockworks – the spinning cogs and glow…

No. It is gone. You remembered too hard, and it slipped like sand between the fingers. Yet you look upon the greatest of technological marvels of your society, and somewhere in your deep mind, you know it is barely a shade of something that came before, as faded as the frantic shadows burnt into Hiroshima’s walls.


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The Secret Lore – The Sentinels

See all the Secret Lore here.

Oh man. Although I didn’t like the City of the Sun God zone itself in The Secret World, I think this story is the most memorable one for me in the game so far. I never thought it would move me as much as it did. It is so sad…

The Sentinels

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Egypt signal – RECEIVE – initiate the Ogdoad frequency – THINK OF THE CHILDREN – initiate the seven-sob cadence – WITNESS – The Sentinels.

We sing the song of the seven children and the father who so lovingly murdered them. The chorus is written in stone. The verses are written in radio waves. We reach. We pull. We pluck a verse for you, sweetling – always for you.

INITIATE TRANSCRIPT.

“Report, Mr Smythe. Mr Smythe?”

“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry…”

“Smythe? Are you…crying?”

“The voice in the statue…I heard…a little boy…told me everything…so lonely.”

“Smythe, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“Like a little jackal…he sings the dead to sleep…a lullaby…all he wants is his own lullaby…”

“Smythe, you are an Orochi employee. Damn it, man! You’re a fucking wet works op. Pull your shit together!”

“I’m sorry…I’m s-so sorry…Huoy? I want…I want my lullaby. So sorry…sorry…”

“Smythe? Smythe!”

END TRANSCRIPTION.

Initiate the thousand peeping eyes.

Seven towering statues loom over The City of the Sun God with the gravity of three thousand years. Child voices twinkle on the desert wind. An old man, who knows more than any old man should, wanders the sands, footprints dug deep by the weight of ancient sadness. He stands quietly next to each statue, before moving on to the next. His name is Ptahmose.

Initiate the secret histories.

What is time to us? We stand outside. Everything has happened. Everything is happening. We see a man standing over the beds of his children, weighing a terrible choice, and we are there.

It is the 18th dynasty of Egypt, and Ptahmose is the vizier and high priest of Amun. He fought on the front line against the cult of Aten, and was instrumental in its fall. But victory is only the ethereal vapour of today. To permanently contain Akhenaten and the whispers of his dark gods would require more.

A father’s forehead wrinkles, and the graven lines spell the dread of what he must do. Ptahmose goes to the bed of each of his seven children. It is painless. As gentle as a kiss on the forehead, he transitions them from life to death to something else. Seven tears.

A trusted friend helps enact the ritual. Seven souls. They bind the children to the City of the Sun God, manifested as seven great statues. Children caught in eternal half-life – together forever. They lock the Black Pharaoh and Aten to that place. Seven sentinels.

With the deed done, Ptahmose ends his own life, entering his own in-between state as the caretaker of the sentinels. He feels that an eternal twilight of guilt is the punishment he deserves.

Time passes – first in years and then in centuries. The bodies of the children wither to dust. The siblings remain young in mind and spirit. In their new role, they take on aspects of a patron god, to help them protect the valley. This is no life, but they hold their charge faithfully.

We call upon the seven.

Thutmose! We call your name. You are the eldest of the seven, a new-fledged adult when you were cut short. Strong and dutiful – a second parent to your siblings in this shadow life. You accepted your fate immediately, and the others look to you for guidance. You chose the aspect of Horus – the mighty sky god – the falcon-eyed – the avenger who scythes Aten’s corrupting murmurs away.

Nefertari! We call your name. The eldest daughter, you see your family’s duty in the absolute terms of your chosen patron, Ma’at – principality of justice and balance. You oppose chaos, violence, and the lies of the Aten. Others think you uncaring and distant, and your sisters find you at times insufferable, but your incorruptible moral high ground chains the Black Pharaoh inside his cold sarcophagus.

Moutemouia! We call your name. O quiet, pensive, melancholic daughter, you most disagreed with your tragic destiny. A young woman with husband and children of your own, you drank more deeply from the cup of happiness than the others. You protected your new family by abandoning them to join your siblings. You cursed your bitter fate, but walked into it nonetheless. Your patron is Meretseger, who allows you to keep the city hidden from the world’s eye. Your love is lovely, but it is your path to corruption, your regret a funnel Akhenaten pours his scorpion venom words down. Your protection and conviction waver. The world’s eye sees.

Hemitneter! We call your name. A young lady, frozen in the amber of time, your will is the strongest. You played with the rough boys – confrontational, impulsive, and a better warrior than most men. You fought alongside the Marya resistance, the first of the young warriors. It was a bloody war, it was the best time of your life. Poor Hemitneter, child of dynamism, you loathe this static state. You accept the responsibility, but resent the passivity, longing to join the fray. Your patron is Sekhmet, the lioness. Your ferocity protects your siblings with terrible force.

Moutnefert! We call your name. Restless and adventurous daughter, you care for your country and your duty, but chafe and yearn to see more of the world. Though you were trapped in the Valley of the Sun God at fourteen, you do not feel sorry for yourself as Moutemouia does. Your father always brings you news of the wondrous things in this world you protect. Your patron is Satis, the fertility of the Nile. In this sacred aspect, you cleanse the valley water of corruption. But Aten stirs and the Filth spreads faster. Plants wither and you cry dry tears.

Nefertari the younger! We call your name. The youngest daughter, you carry the namesake of the oldest. Taken at ten years of age, you do not remember much before the revolt. Born in the desert, you saw only a few months of the cities before confinement to the statue. Sweet innocent, you do not fully grasp the past or your grim task. You are happy to be forever with your family. Nefertari the doted, most beloved. Your patron is Bast, the cat goddess. You love animals and protect them from the poison and madness of the Pyramid.

Huoy! We call your name. Youngest son and sibling. Huoy the lonely. Poor sweet, isolated by youth, with few memories of the flesh and the quick. In the millenia, you have learnt more than any living scholar, but your mind still sees the world as a child. You depend on the guidance of your father. Too often your siblings discount you from discussions and decisions – save for Moutemouia, who wears the mask of mother for you. Your patron is Anubis – jackal-headed – who speaks to the dead and weighs their hearts over the razor maw of Ammut.

Initiate the now.

The seven still protect the valley, but time spins faster. The Filth flows. The dam breaks. The centre cannot hold. The sentinels cannot stem the tide much longer. Imagine Ptahmose’s dread. What would he do if he found his great sacrifice was in vain? Knowledge known is a burden inflicted. What will you do, sweetling?


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The Secret Lore – The Pyramid

See all the Secret Lore here.

The City of the Sun God zone in The Secret World is dominated by this structure. It has the instantly-recognisable, and vaguely plagiarising, Burning Eye atop it that always follows you wherever you are in the zone. The main story mission leads here, and even though I understand why it was made soloable, I couldn’t help but feel that they oversold the danger of the place in the hype such as this lore piece.

The Pyramid

Our wisdom flows so sweet. Taste and see.

TRANSMIT – initiate Egypt signal – RECEIVE – initiate dream frequency – THE PATENTED, AIR-TIGHT LID KEEPS THINGS FROM GOING BAD – initiate the antlion lullaby – WITNESS – The Pyramid.

Follow the REM signal to a place where Leviathan eyelids hang heavy. So many eyes, scabbed with coral sores. May they never open. The annihilation signal is trapped, bouncing off triangular corners. But if the angles should ever bend or break…

Follow the signal to the land of dried Pharaoh meat. Deep crevices and steep mountainsides fold like hands in prayer, like a magician’s secret palming, hiding the City of the Sun God from the world. An ancient pyramid rises from the depths.

Your vocal organs have no designation for the peculiar, foreign material of the pyramid. It reflects a ruddy hue. The cyclopean structure rises from a shining pool. Some long dead wretch named it the Divine Lake, and the name remains. The greasy film of the surface shows like a smoky mirror.

Oblivion contaminants detected. The Filth. The Filth!

Worship was done here, worship and bad things. This tri-sided tomb was the holiest of holy dwellings for the Aten religion. What is time to us? We stand outside. We hear the cult chanting from tongues that were ash three thousand years ago. They call to the terrible sun god.

Inside, this pyramid does not behave as pyramids should. The huge chamber in the centre houses a downward chasm into the fathomless nothing. The apex lacks a capstone, allowing moonlight to penetrate into the eldritch dim. Moonlight and stars. Yes. Seeing the stars must taunt it so. The gnawing hunger. An event horizon licking its lips with a tongue of concentrated gravity.

Deeper now, into tomb-heavy air. A tangible, ear-popping pressure – liquid flows strangely – objects too heavy or too light. A dull ringing. Reverberations from the chasm, mechanical sounds, metal straining like a submarine’s hull. Not darkness, no, but an unlikely twilight. Your jelly eyes would adjust by now and see the impossible shapes below.

Only the most devoted are permitted here. They meditate and fast. Some starve themselves to death. Some throw themselves into the pit, following the mad whispers down and down and down.

Deeper still. Just a peek…

Signal disruption! Something rips our data-weave flesh. Away.

Whosoever entered that chasm never returned, save one. Akhenaten bathed in the blackness of eons, and climbed back out. When he expired, the sarcophagus of the Black Pharaoh was placed within the pyramid. The City of the Sun God was sealed. Egypt returned to the worship of their old gods. There Akhenaten abides, waiting for the return of the whispers.

Can you hear, sweetling? The behemoth eyelids tremble. May they never open. May the eye movements always be rapid. Let us pretend the whispering is only the desert wind.