Friday, June 16, 2017

Gathox Neighborhoods: Berchan Favela

This week I wanted to share the oldest neighborhood in Gathox: the Berchan Favela.

Berchan Favela

Although The Kettle houses the largest population out of any of Gathox’s neighborhoods, it wasn’t the first. The oldest neighborhood, Berchan Favela, bears the marks of untold millennia of construction and dissolution. Ascending the 750 Steps of Reason from the east end of The Kettle, one finds that the steps change from finely hewn granite blocks to cobblestone to mud and rock. From The Craw in the west, one must cross the Great Arboretum at Saplander’s Crossing, an impossibly old and decrepit network of wooden bridges made of oiled branches which have partly petrified. The longest standing tradition in Gathox is the Assertion of Persistence, an annual ritual dedicated to maintaining Saplander’s Crossing and the trees of the Great Arboretum.

Upon entering Berchan, affectionately referred to by locals as ‘Jimtown,’ visitors are first struck by the colorful geometric patterns painted on the crooked buildings climbing the hillside. Next, they note the pervasive scent of pork and frying dough, followed by shock at the abundance of street performers ranging from cornerside puppetry to ad-hoc marching bands. Visitors also register the pervasive presence of men dressed as elves who call themselves ‘Elven Kings,’ augmented with ceramic or rubber pointed ears and half-starved to maintain appearances. As one travels across the modest breadth of the neighborhood from east to west, one will begin to enter and exit numerous tiny gardens, crossing bridges over diminutive streams whose contents range from seemingly fresh water to raw sewage and colorful, dubious chemical flows.

In the mornings, the Hermitsa Avenue Market erupts into bright flame with the striking of the Corner Fires, and callers begin to shout advertisements from their man baskets atop four story poles. Many citizens of Berchan will practice their yoga and other morning exercises in the tiny gardens scattering the neighborhood. In ritual fashion, butchers slaughter their pigs at the front doors of their shops for good luck, the blood running in streams down the hilly streets.

In the afternoons, hungover brigades of Elven Kings march the streets, gruffly making certain that residents and merchants alike erect their great street fans to block out most of the sunlight. A stink likened to fermented cabbage rises from the chimneys of shacks where indentured servants process the raw ingredients for the Sho-Maht drug available so cheaply in Berchan. The distant roar of crocodactyls taking flight occasionally pierces the air, the beasts bearing speculative merchants into the dangerous and seldom explored lands of strange worlds beyond the walls of the city.

Come nightfall, the street fans are lowered and mobile stages erected. Impoverished alley theater performances begin amidst roving drum competitions. The eldest race of Gathox, called The Bloody People by humans and mutants but Sluurgal by their own tongue, emerge from their ground holes to begin the endless process of repainting dilapidated buildings throughout the neighborhood. The flapping of boil bunny ears can be heard beating around the upper branches of the Jimmelune trees, where they feast on the ever-growing Jimmelune fruit which is used to create the cheap drink Jimmy wine. By midnight, the Corner Fires are extinguished and private parties begin behind closed shack doors.

Who Rules

As a smaller community than The Kettle, there are only three gangs in control of the Favela. Although they make gestures toward peace, their interactions are less stable than those of Kettle gangs. The Elven Kings arguably hold the most land and wealth, and certainly maintain the most visible presence in Berchan. In contrast to the Elven Kings, the Headlong Hurlers maintain a minimal profile, alternately policing and plundering the streets from their stories-high perch poles. The Bloody People maintain a quiet underground presence, emerging to maintain bits of the neighborhood in a centuries-old habit of fighting entropy.

The Elven Kings - The Elven Kings come from all walks of humanity, united in their obsessive worship of what they call “Fey Literature.” They grow their hair long and starve themselves in an attempt to appear more elf-like, often going so far as to adorn themselves with striated goldleaf jewelry and custom body modifications, like prosthetic ears. The most fanatic of The Elven Kings will seek out extensive cosmetic surgery, a life-threatening process under the best of circumstances in Gathox.

Elven Kings control most of the southern and central portions of Berchan, patrolling the streets armed with shotguns and lungblades. They control the production and sale of Sho-Maht, a deeply euphoric and hallucinogenic sedative popular amongst both the poor and the leisure class, and derive much of their power from this industry.

The HeadlongHurlers - Originally a skydiving cult dedicated to the worship of the Goddess Who Balances on Narrow Precipices, the Hurlers became an aggressive militant street gang after the arrival of their current leader, Sonandra Massone. Massone armed and organized the cult, emphasizing the shock potential of wingsuiting into the streets to seize whatever they want. Their subsequent successes have led to rapid growth in the Favela.

The Hurlers have taken control of the multi-story perch poles scattered across Berchan, using them as recon posts and launchpads to dive into the streets. They wear colorful, high-tech wingsuits and brandish two-handed swords, and their bravado matches their skill. They only allow women into their ranks and hope to become the dominant force in Berchan, harboring a deep hatred for the Elven Kings. Protection rackets and targeted raids feed their enterprise.

The Bloody People- The least gang-like of the Favela’s ruling social groups, the Bloody People are entirely organized around the fact that they’re a separate and ancient species, apart from the rest of the city. They call themselves Sluurgal and dwell below ground in colony apartments called Mujim. Other denizens of Gathox call them The Bloody People for their habit of bleeding on objects to claim them. A Sluurgal will go to great lengths to retrieve an item upon which they’ve bled.

The staying power and economic success of the Bloody People relies on a complex mixture of ritual marriage and reproduction, ritual thievery, and ritual infrastructure repair. Most citizens of Gathox consider them a tolerable necessity, and so the Bloody People maintain steady and quiet lives below ground. Their greatest desire, and the one least likely to be expressed in mixed company, is to rid the city of all other sentient species. Some say their colonies extend well beyond the confines of the Favela, although no one claims to have thoroughly explored them.

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