Friday, May 23, 2014

Meet Andrew Leon Hudson, Author of TDC 3: The Glass Sealing!

Available today!
1. What aspects of Southwatch are you exploring in TDC 3: The Glass Sealing? 

One of the things I love most in science fiction is the opportunity it presents to reflect facets of the real world, and at the risk of being too typically British I've zeroed in on issues of class--but I didn't want to present a superficial conflict between selfish rich fat cats and hard-working paupers. Although I was partly inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement (where the participants sometimes feel like they fall into such extreme categories!), in normal life people's ethics and motivations are rarely so clearly defined.

Nobody sets out to be "evil", but when conflicts arise we can all become the villain of someone else's story. In The Glass Sealing I present people from across the social spectrum who each strive for something "good" according to their means--personal improvement, social equality, startling achievement--but who find those aspirations compromised and are changed by the experience, sometimes much for the worse. They may become enemies, but they remain heroes in their own minds. 

But from good intentions can come terrible people...

2. What about the Darkside Codex world made you want to write The Glass Sealing? 

I was already a fan of Steampunk, Weird Westerns and other Alternate History fiction before I encountered the Darkside Codex. I immediately liked the hook of the Dark Cloud, of Southwatch's citizens being starkly divided into the privileged and persecuted by a physical barrier, not just sociological ones. Although this is an original, created world setting rather than the usual pseudo-Victoriana of many Steampunk stories, it seemed to me that it still had a connection to historical England; the industrial revolution created new wealth, new poverty and shook up the established social order, while London's pea-souper fogs could kill anyone caught in them unprepared. Southwatch may be fantastical, but it isn't outright fantasy; there is precedent, echoes of the real world, and I think that gives the series weight.

3. Is it easier or harder to write in a shared world? 

It's tricky to do, certainly, but coming to a world that already existed was a real source of inspiration, and I would say I enjoyed writing The Glass Sealing every bit as much as anything I've written beforehand. Maybe the real question is whether it is easier or harder to edit in a shared world. There may be rules going in, but while you're spinning out the story itself you only have yourself to answer to--it's after you finish that you truly have to toe someone else's line!

4. Who's your favorite character? And why? 

I'm pleased with how both my main protagonists developed, but I have to pick two others as my favourites. I used a number of underworld characters from the Darkside canon and it was great fun making each one distinctive, but the gang leader Black Tom O'Connor stood out. Finding a balance between his being charismatic and amoral, and making him not merely a dangerous criminal but also believably fearful of greater dangers--all that was very satisfying.

My other favourite is one of my characters: Ben Shay, who clawed his way (part way, at least) out of the slums only to find himself in the employ of Black Tom, and is forced to use his knack for going unnoticed by working as an eavesdropper and informant. In The Glass Sealing Ben is given a glimpse of what a better kind of life might be like, and in future stories I'd like to show what happens as he goes looking for one of his own.

5. What is your background as a writer? 

My original dream was to write for the movies. I worked in the prosthetic make-up department of a big budget scifi production straight out of university, got the bug, and spent the next few years writing scripts. Very bad scripts. I then studied a Master's degree in screenwriting and wrote some better ones, until the real world caught up with me and forced me to get a paying job. 

I switched my focus to writing novels in my spare time, then turned to short fiction in order to actually finish something. That made a big difference: I'd had story structure drilled into me, but now my prose improved and I settled on a style that I enjoyed. I got a few stories published and was just starting to tackle longer pieces again when the Darkside Codex came along, so I dropped everything else to give it a go--and I'm glad I did.

6.  How do we find you online? 

I maintain two blogs (that I'm willing to admit to): one with my writing news and links, another where I review books, films and anything else that takes my fancy. I'm not a feverish social networker, but I can also be found on Goodreads and Twitter from time to time.

Twitter: @AndLeoHud

7. Are you a Darksider or a Sunsider? 

Darksider, no question. I burn in the sun but the shadows can't hurt me!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Chronicles of Southwatch: An Article from The Daily Star on Transportation, Architecture, and History


An Invited Editorial by Tarek Al-Baz

Being a Criticism of the Hasty Revision of Our City’s Physical Heritage, a Celebration of its Unique and Invaluable Present Character, and a Statement of Support Regarding the Establishment of its Glorious Future Potential.

You pluck a thorn from the lion’s paw, you watch it grow from strength to strength.

In the year 2776, Baron Raoul Amberville burned the original city of Thorn from the world. In the years to follow, the great marvel we now know as Southwatch flourished in its place, increasing in a splendid style until she rivalled any other city of the empire, and far exceeding those outside it. Yet, for all her grandeur, this was not some divine gift bestowed from above, and Southwatch is no vision of a perfect creation.

The truer comparison is to the power and beauty of untamed nature: the sunken ship that becomes the foundation for a great reef, vibrant colour and darting, flashing life disguising the rotten timber within; or the jungle, conquering the ancient temples of some forgotten tribe with towering trunks and constricting vines, the crumbling remains hidden forever beneath the distant canopy above. And just as the wreck or the temple leave their traces on what comes to take their place, so too does the reef or jungle consume and build upon itself in ways that a foresightful creator might think of as unlovely, detracting from the whole.

In this way, the inhabitants of each—the fish, the jungle beasts, the citizens of Southwatch—live alongside their own history, even if they do not appreciate it as they should. I hear it often said of the old—for example, of Downtown’s Three Ring Circus—that the best course is to erase these now clumsy-seeming remnants and replace them with exemplars of the new, but I disagree. There is value in preserving our awareness of the past, that we do not repeat its mistakes; but what seems a mistake now was perhaps not one then, and this too is a lesson worth learning, and remembering.

In its heyday, the Three Ring Circus was the beating heart of Southwatch. All six arterial roads came together in these linked roundabouts—where, within each of which respectively, canal boats, trains and trams also disgorged their passengers—the traffic of the day swirling and mixing and issuing forth to their destinations, very much the life’s blood of our youthful city. However, as she rose in stature so she rose above the earth to reach for the sky; what lay below was built upon by what followed; the nature of the surface changed, became the foundation, not the core. Yes, the city’s vitality lies elsewhere today, the Three Ring Circus is a tangled snarl at the feet of grand towers, the old arteries clogged and shrunk and, to briefly abandon metaphor for fact, overhung with walkways and bridges and skyways—but that older heart still pumps on, even if our more pampered citizens are to high above to hear it.

Does the rarefied reader never travel down to the surface from his ivory tower? Perhaps not. Perhaps, failing to visit the past we reside upon—or never deigning to set foot beyond home, club, and whatever private vehicle is used to convey him between the two—he also forgoes appreciation of the modern city’s unique means of public transportation. Take the Mandorean Pylon—not as an example; I charge you, travel upon it!—and the traveller sees Southwatch presented before him in all its challenging glory, and as it can not be otherwise be seen.

The Mandorean is the oldest of Southwatch’s vertical railways and, in the opinion of those who trouble themselves to learn about their home, the best. From the roof of the departure hall at Downtown’s eastern border, six pairs of saw-toothed tracks rise clear to the Aerie, connecting with twelve major promenades along the way. Between pairs of pairs of tracks crawl three unique vehicles, with passenger carriages mounted one atop the other and, to each side, modified locomotive engines set on end, dragging them upward on toothed wheels.

At each aerial promenade awaits an elegantly off-set station, reminiscent in design of the head of the traditional instrument that lends the pylon its name. And where the strings, you say? They are arrayed around the pylon itself, twenty-four cables that hum in the breeze—and with the vibrating movement of the gyrocabs, which race up and down them with all the speed the upright locomotives lack. These grant the means to reach the utmost heights of the city—or to descend and rediscover her old secrets, should one be inclined—in less time than it takes to stroll along South Beach, and in all the comfort of one’s own private carriage.

We citizens should take equal pride in all the aspects of our city, her diamonds, her rough, her functionality as well. There is an importance to Southwatch, a significance to her past and a vigour to her present, an unrivalled brightness to her future. And it is for all these reasons that we should embrace the grand project even now being considered at the highest levels of civic governance, and discussed in both cries and whispers seemingly everywhere else.

Miss Jocelyn Duville’s astounding proposal promises to change the face of Southwatch as it has never been before. Should it receive the baron’s blessing, we should not merely welcome it, but rejoice.

Published in the Daily Mail,
12th Day, Tenth Month, 2958

Editor's Note: Andrew Leon Hudson's novel The Glass Sealing will be released as the third Darkside Codex story on May 23, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Chronicle of Southwatch: Aristos, Airships, and the Aerie

Editor's note: We will publish sections of Herink Lesward's The Chronicle of Southwatch upon occasion to provide our readers with an alternate point of view regarding important events in Southwatch. While the majority of historians cast doubt upon Herink's credibility and his obvious anti-sunside bias, we feel that this maligned diarist can give someone unfamiliar with Southwatch a different perspective on what happened. 

The dichotomy between the sunside and darkside of Southwatch is nowhere more emphasized than in the excesses of the Aerie. After all, what other city in the world has literally elevated the upper class to the point that it floats above the rest of the populace? The upper level of the Aerie is comprised of nothing but scores of airships, tethered to the tops of the buildings of Southwatch and each other through walkways and plazas. Their only link to the city below is the network of private lifts that carries the well-to-do from the Aerie into Midtown and the transportation hubs there. 

The best way to view the Aerie is from underneath it.  On a clear day, the sun's rays stream through the field of bessem airships, coloring the light until the heavens look like an expanse of stained glass. If you're a poet, that's a good thing.  But if you live in Midtown or University Heights, chances are you'd rather have a blue sky with a sun in it, particularly if you have the misfortune to live under Lady Romarty's ghastly pink and purple monstrosity or the Earl of Green Mountain's unoriginal homage to himself. Obviously, a green airship wasn't a stretch of the old man's imagination, and it doesn't matter how fair the maiden, she isn't at her best when the only light that hits her skin is a mottled green camouflage. 

The Aerie itself, however, is a cold and uncomfortable place. Even on the hottest days of summer, the walkways and terraformed plazas always have a frosty wind howling through them.  The air temperature is too cool for plants to grow, so the "parks" are littered with clear bessem terrariums, and therefore the flowers are always beautiful but cannot be enjoyed.  The Aerie smells are dictated by what happens in lower levels of the city, although the Dark Cloud filters out most of the emissions of the factories far below. 

So while the Aerie can be beautiful, that loveliness is aloof and cold--two attributes that suit the district very well.  The environment so perfectly matches the attitudes of the aristocracy that they naturally thrive in the Aerie, much like fungus in a scientist's controlled experiments. 

One of the most interesting things about the Aerie, however, is that it's always changing.  The noble and wealthy trade families who can afford a floating palace are constantly moving their airships around, jockeying for position both physical and psychological closer to the center of the district.  In the very center, of course, are the airships of the most powerful entities in Southwatch.  The Baron of Southwatch, young Thomas Amberville, occupies his family home right in the middle of the Aerie. His ship, one of the few vessels that isn't an affront to the goddess with its blue bessem and silver filigreeed beauty, does not move, and is surrounded by a core of airships that rarely move. Every other airship, however, is constantly moving. Unless you live in one of those core airships, you can go to bed one night and wake up the next day to find all the paths you navigated the day before have been changed. It's impossible to even map the Aerie, and only the Sky Rangers and the Angels of Steel have the ability to find all the ships easily.  The only fairly constant landmark in the Aerie is the immense golden dome of the Caelimane Temple, which has maintained its position two rows away from the Amberville airship for decades.

Which, if you think about it, is a fairly stupid way to maintain order. Originally, the airships of the Aerie wanted to be in the center of the field purely for reasons of security. After all, the pirates that constantly harass the Aerie can only get close enough to the ships on the fringes of the district.  Ships in the center of the Aerie were left unmolested.  But over time, that competition became less about safety and more about proximity until now a familiy's investments and social prestige directly impact their living address.

Put simply, the closer your airship is to the Amberville ship, the more powerful you are. It makes one wonder: what would happen if the Amberville family lost all its wealth and power? Would its beautiful ship fall out of the sky? Would the Sky Rangers come and tow it away? Or would the new power over Southwatch just move into the Amberville airship and claim it as its own? 

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Darkside Codex Bible Update Available Now

After a lot of updates and a slew of contracting new Darkside Codex titles, the third updated of the world bible for potential writers is now available.

If you're currently working on a TDC project, you'll want this new bible. Updated information includes the Aerie, Angels of Steel, more on transportation, the academic world, the fae, aristocracy and noble titles/nomenclature, society, the Dark Cloud and much, much more!

If you have recently submitted a TDC manuscript and there are discrepancies with the updated canon, don't worry. Those discrepancies will not be held against the MS and any changes can be addressed in potential edits.

If you need a copy of the TSC Bible Version 3, email your request to Celina Summers at

Monday, March 17, 2014

How Addiction Came to Southwatch

Editor's note: This is a guest blog post by Daniel Ausema, author of The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame.  Enjoy!

Mellia, the central character in “The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame,” is a steam monkey, a person whose body was modified as a child to make her immune to most electricity but addicted to high voltage. Celina has asked me to dig a bit into how I took the original ideas of this shared world and teased them out into the novella, so this is the aspect I'm going to focus on in this blog post: the steam monkeys and their addiction to electricity.

If you read the original Darkside Codex bible, you'd see that there was nothing about such an operation or addiction in the original conception of the setting. So how did that come about? To answer that I need to step outside the Southwatch setting for a moment. Around the time I was reading through the materials on Southwatch, I was also looking around for a copy of Steph Swainston's Above the Snowline. The book hasn't been released in the US, so finding a legal e-copy was proving more difficult than I was expecting...and that difficulty had me thinking more and more about the earlier books in the series.

If you haven't read The Year of Our War, I definitely recommend you do. At one level they're very traditional fantasy books, yet Swainston always manages to take the ideas slantwise, with a high dose of the best kind of imagination. Central to the books is the narrator, Jant Comet. He is immortal, at least until someone can best him and take his place in the circle of immortals. And he is addicted to a drug that would certainly kill him if not for his immortality.

So I had Jant at the back of my mind as I was plunging into the background of the city of Southwatch, and I thought it would be a good challenge to write about a character who is addicted to something self-destructive and yet without losing readers' sympathy. It was the barest of outlines for a character, but it was the central seed that Mellia grew from.

There is a good deal in the Codex bible about the high society up above the Dark Cloud, and that could have been a ripe milieu for an addicted character. Moving in fancy circles, characters hiding expensive drugs from their peers. That's not usually the kind of story I'm drawn toward, though, and as I read more about the Steamworks and the street-level aspects of the city, I found myself imagining those places much more clearly. The gas masks and twilit streets called for a story, the clanking presses of the factories and the crowded tenements. I turned my attention to those parts of the Codex bible.

But what about the whole body modification stuff? How did that work its way into Southwatch and get entwined with the addiction? To answer that, I need to point to the rest of the novels and stories I've written. It's a theme that plays out in vastly different ways across many of them, not something I consciously think, “Oh, I need to shoe-horn some body modification in here,” but a theme that develops on its own in many stories. I'd say that it's very closely tied with the infections of Chels and the other characters in my Spire City episodes. In other, unpublished novels I have characters who have cyberpunk sorts of implants in one and a land that causes the characters' bodies to mutate if they stay in one place too long in another, to just mention two. All those, as I see them, are akin to each other and to Mellia's experimental implants. Someday a grad student in literature will write a thesis exploring how that plays out in my various works...

(It's worth mentioning that similar transformations take place often in the works discussed as New Weird, as well as being not all that far off from a common motif in fairy tales and folk tales, all of which have been influences on me.)

So, that's a long way of coming back to the question of how Mellia's transformations fit into the Darkside Codex. As I read through the information about the rogue scientists and the factories, with the thought of Mellia's addiction at the back of my mind, it all fell together. Of course there are and have been scientists employed by the factories, operating outside of the usual, accepted labs and laws. Of course they've looked into tweaking the workers in the factories. Maybe some they've tried to turn into mindless drones as an alternative to the mechanicals. Maybe some they've tried to keep small, so they never outgrow their usefulness. And who can say what other experiments the factory scientists have performed? Those are great wrinkles for other writers to explore, and I hope some do.

Until then, at least we have the steam monkeys, their bodies lined with electricity-conducting wires, their necks pierced by the coils of metal that are the outward signs of their modification. And when they are too old for the factories, if they live that long, then they wander the streets and underground of Southwatch, immune to shock but craving a greater jolt of electricity. So take a trip with us Darkside Codex writers, and maybe you'll meet up with one of them.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A Letter From the Editor, or What Are We Looking For in TDC Books?

Everyone always wants to know the answer to the question "I wonder what they're looking for?" Although our submission guidelines are specific, they're more about the nuts and bolts of a potential submission.  The part of the acquisition process that is the most obscure for the writer is the subjective part, which is rendered even more difficult to guess because of the unique requirements of a shared world. The Darkside Codex is a huge, complex world and has been from its conception. But what makes a shared world so much fun is that the world is never finished. Never. Writers are bound by the canon, but have extraordinary license to build and expand upon it.

The main thing I'm looking for is a great story.  Yes, I know. Trite. Basically, I want to see stories that can stand on their own merit, as if they don't rely upon the shared world. Sure, you can write something that expounds upon the world beautifully, but I have to care about the characters, I have to have an emotional stake in the resolution of the conflict, and I have to "see" the story in my head, like a movie. In other words, you have to engage my interest. Even if there are a few small flaws in your story content-wise, I'm experienced enough to judge whether a story can fly with regular editing, whether it needs to be revised/resubmitted, and whether it's just not going to work.


One thing you absolutely need to make sure that you do is to send me a clean manuscript with proper grammar and spelling. The downside to being experienced enough to see past structural flaws to the heart of the story is that experience makes me a little intolerant of easily fixed mistakes. A word to the wise--do NOT rely upon spell checker or grammar checker software for your submissions. Go through your submission word for word, line by line, page by page. Spell check, for example, cannot differentiate between homonym errors--and nothing is worse than a manuscript where the author incorrectly uses to/two/too or there/they're or its/it's.

(hint: homonym errors are my current submissions pet warned)

And finally, when I read your story, it needs to have the feel of Southwatch.  That doesn't mean a rubber stamped style from the first couple of books.  CA Chevault's Storm Angel and Daniel Ausema's The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame are very different in style, tone, and feel. For one thing, Storm Angel is set primarily sunside while The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame is set darkside--and both stories reflect their settings in tone, style, character, and conflict. So your submission needs to fit in with the part of the Southwatch world where your POV character(s) primarily reside. A girl who was caught in the burning rains in Bricktown is going to have a completely different voice than a young aristocrat who's the favorite drinking buddy of Thomas Amberville, the Baron of Southwatch. Also, the feel of the setting is going to be different as well.  While there are good times to be had darkside, for the most part the lower you are in Southwatch, the more desperate your situation. There's room for any author to play in Southwatch, no matter what side of the Dark Cloud you play on.

Hopefully, all this will help any potential authors as they prepare their submission for The Darkside Codex. Let me remind you, too, to take advantage of the opportunity to send me the first two-three chapters pre-submission. I am more than willing to look at what you've got and plan to do, determine if it is working within the world, inform you of any changes in the world that will affect your story, and give you my honest opinion of your work. This isn't a submission, and I'm not looking for publication polish. All this is for is to help you to complete your TDC submission by giving you feedback at a relatively early stage. You can learn how to do this by looking at our submission guidelines.

Best of luck to you, writers!  I am looking forward to seeing your Darkside stories soon--

Editor's note: Celina Summers is not only the editor reading submissions for The Darkside Codex, but she's also the co-creator of the world (with Richard C. White) and the Editorial Director of Musa Publishing.  With a writing background in speculative fiction and sixteen novels and novellas to her credit, she's happily combined her love for the great shared worlds of the past like Dragonlance and Thieve's World with steampunk and other spec fic genre mashups in The Darkside Codex. 

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Meet Daniel Ausema, Author of The Electro-Addictive Moth Flame!

The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame is the second book of The Darkside Codex. Author Daniel Ausema takes the world in a whole new direction, penetrating into the desperate lives of Darksiders and opening the door to the academic and scientific realms in Southwatch.  So let's introduce him to Darkside readers. You can purchase a copy of The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame at the Musa Publishing website. 

Addiction and mad science come together beneath the poisonous Dark Cloud of Southwatch!

 An experimental operation by a shady scientist left Mellia immune to most electrical currents, but addicted to high voltage that pushes her to the edge of death. When she isn't chasing a fix in the factories and tunnels of Southwatch, she is an expert at fixing the wiring in broken gas masks.

A job offer from a professor offers what she needs most: money. As she fixes masks, though, she grows curious about his work. Can he really breed plants that will survive beneath the Dark Cloud of the city? The only way to test his theories is to travel into a region of the Cloud so foul that every mask fails. Running an electric current through the filters might be the last chance to keep their masks working, but that means Mellia has to go along with the professor and his students. Playing with electricity inside the abandoned levels of the city may be the last thing her addicted body needs.

  1. What first sparked your interest in the Darkside Codex? 

I like fantasy worlds with a steampunk feel, so that caught my attention. It's such a rich era for telling all sorts of stories. That wasn't necessarily enough to get me writing, but then I read about the Dark Cloud and how it divides the city vertically, and I could see a lot of cool stories happening down beneath that toxic mess. Plus I'd worked with various people from Musa with stories in Penumbra, and such, so I knew that side of things would be a pleasure.

  1. What gave you the idea for Steam Monkeys? 

One of the things I've always remembered from a high school history class about the industrial era was the kids who were forced to work in the factories because their small size was helpful for crawling into the small spaces and freeing a stuck part or fixing whatever needed fixing. So for me, those kids are always a part of any steampunk setting. In fact, I may have used the same phrase in my Spire City stories—the kids working in the factories are dismissively called steam monkeys and boiler rats (or is it the other way around?). So I simply used the same phrase here, but then Mellia's history became entwined in that, and the mechanical modifications became a part of what steam monkeys are in this place.

  1. What happens now for Mellia?

She'll always struggle with her addiction. I think she'll find a way to continue and even succeed, but it'll always be something that looms behind her, that she half wishes could still claim her. But despite that, I see her joining the faculty at Rootledge College and training people to manipulate electrical currents in new and surprising ways. Will she end up with Professor Simuel? I'll leave that question for readers to imagine.

        4.Is it harder to write in a shared world than in a world you create yourself? 

One of the things I most enjoy about writing is creating a strange and memorable place. So in that sense, a shared world is very different. I wouldn't want to only write in shared worlds. At the same time, there's something freeing in it. It takes a certain pressure off as I'm writing so that I'm free to explore things in different ways than I otherwise might. But no matter whether it's a shared world or something original, you can always be sure that I will bring that place to life. Readers will always feel themselves immersed in a place full of real cobbles and steam pipes, or whatever the story might demand, of realized people interacting with their locations and not merely performing in front of a static backdrop. Imaginary gardens with real toads, to steal that metaphor.

        5. Are you planning to write another Darkside book? 

Yes, probably. I'm currently reading through the revised Darkside Codex bible and deciding what might spark my interest next. I'm liking the underground farms this time. Hmm, what crazy things might be happening down there, and what secrets might be hiding?

       6. What part of the world do you want most for someone else to write about?

Someone else? Hmm. Probably the underwater city of Atragon. Sounds like a fascinating place, and the mix of tension and cooperation with Southwatch should provide a lot of fodder for stories, but at this point it's not what I'm thinking I'll explore in my next story there.

       7. What part of the world would be where you'd most want to be? 

Far from the Dark Cloud! Someplace with mountains and forests and, especially, clean air. Within the city, though, probably the White Cliffs, among the artists, or else somewhere in the mix in University Heights. Intellectual stimulation and creativity, but ideally in a section of those neighborhoods that isn't too run-down or rough...

      8 . So are you a sunsider or a darksider?

As a writer, darksider absolutely. I mean, sky pirates are beyond cool, and maybe I could be convinced to write about them, but it's beneath the Cloud where all the stories that really interest me will be taking place.

Daniel Ausema is the creator of the Spire City serial, also published by Musa, and has had short stories and poems appear in many places, including Penumbra, Daily Science Fiction, and Electric Velocipede. He is a stay-at-home dad and lives in Colorado.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Chronicle of Southwatch: The Great Blackout

Editor's note: We will publish sections of Herink Lesward's The Chronicle of Southwatch upon occasion to provide our readers with an alternate point of view regarding important events in Southwatch. While the majority of historians cast doubt upon Herink's credibility and his obvious anti-sunside bias, we feel that this maligned diarist can give someone unfamiliar with Southwatch a different perspective on what happened. 

For years now, the darkside citizens were accustomed to occasional blackouts.  Every factory, no matter how well-run, must stop production in order to perform necessary maintenance.  The Great Steamworks was no exception. Usually, the blackouts were not only of short duration but were announced by the Steamworks well in advance, thereby causing the citizens of Southwatch very little inconvenience.

However, a few weeks after Pertcha in the year 2958, Southwatch was struck by a completely unscheduled blackout in the middle of a cold winter night.  This blackout wasn't the result of industrial maintenance.  No, this blackout was the result of sabotage, with terrible repercussions that stretched all the way from Bricktown to Downtown and beyond. In fact, this blackout affected every single building and residence throughout the city--even all the way to the Aerie.

If the saboteurs were hoping to cause chaos, they succeeded. The series of explosions that rocked Bricktown set whole buildings aflame.  That district was the only one where one could see out on the streets.  The explosions resulted in the deaths of 49 people, most of whom lived in the rickety Visavi complex of low-rent housing.

At the Great Steamworks, the saboteurs not only managed to sever the main electric lines from the steam-powered generators, which led to the city-wide blackout, but they also destroyed the D generator.  This loss will result in erratic power and potential future blackouts as the winter season deepens.

But interestingly enough, the saboteurs also managed to wreak havoc upon the sunside of the city--not only in the hallowed skywalks and dirigibles of the Aerie, but upon Baron Amberville's own airship. I went to the Aerie the morning after the blackout, having heard from an acquaintance on the Sky Rangers about the attack upon the Amberville airship. I was dubious, thinking this was no more than the type of rumor that begins with some old woman seeking attention and then garbled through every ale shop from the Temple down. But when I arrived at the Amberville mooring, I was shocked to find the old dirigible barely afloat.  Even after several hours, men were working hard to put the remains of what must have been a massive fire out. The bessem exoskin had vanished from the port side of the stern, revealing blackened beams and mounds of smoldering rubble where once had been the private rooms of one of Southwatch's most venerable and lovely airships.

But even that could not hold a candle to the stinking mound of rubble that was all that remained of the Visavi building.  Even as people combed through the wreckage, searching for bodies, the engineers were already hard at work, bracing the now empty space and checking contingent buildings for structural damage. If the Visavi had been in Midtown or University Heights, some enterprising entrepreneur would have erected a new, modern building in its place. But this was Bricktown, and the families who'd survived the inferno would not find new housing in this spot. Southwatch would reinforce the neighboring structures with bessem buttresses, and instead of new housing would leave this space empty. They would put in a new lift system, perhaps, or build an elevated thoroughfare that would connect the Steamworks with Midtown, with wide enough lanes for the industrialists to drive their expensive vehicles safely.

While those few bedraggled survivors would have to cast themselves upon the charity of friend and family as they added their names to the lengthy waiting lists for housing in units they could afford.  It might be years before they have a space to call their own. No telling what these helpless men might do in order to shelter their families, or what degradation a young widow might endure to keep her children fed--but the young Baron, Thomas Amberville, will await the repair of his home on a trip to St. Louis. While children, victims of the same saboteurs as the Baron, freeze and starve in the unheated corner of some rat-infested garret, Thomas Amberville will enjoy the splendors of the Imperial Court.

Do not mistake me--I have no complaint against Thomas Amberville.  He is young to rule Southwatch, yes--only twenty-five--but he is not a cruel or thoughtless man.  From what I understand, he is striving to learn how best to rule and has a very real care for the welfare of his people. Perhaps when he is older, he may actually learn that his people don't just live sunside. Perhaps he will extend that care to the darkside districts, to the people who, like the families that survived the Visavi explosion only to be homeless the next day. In fact, I would surmise that he must represent some sort of threat to the status quo if the people behind the sabotage were as high-ranking as I have heard.

If he were like the majority of the government, he would never have been targeted by any conspiracy.

But then again, if he were truly aware of the plight of the Visavi victims, how could he have left for St. Louis without making some provision for them?

I believe I will watch Baron Amberville closer upon his return to Southwatch. I will be interested to see what he does, not only for the city, but at the trial of those who tried to kill him.

Monday, February 17, 2014

From The Bible: The Dark Cloud, Its Creation, and the Fae

Editor's note: Upon occasion, we will publish small sections of the Darkside Codex canon, in order to provide readers with additional information on the world of Southwatch. 

The Dark Cloud is the element that defines Southwatch. Every person, building, visitor, business, religion, plan, and plot are impacted by the Dark Cloud.

As a visitor approaches the city, the incredible towers, spires, and buildings of Southwatch are bisected by this never-dissipating but always-regenerating bank of toxins, poisons, and pollution.   Those who live above the Dark Cloud are called sunsiders.   Those who live beneath it are the darksiders.

On a normal day, the Dark Cloud might only obscure a narrow section of the city.   On a bad day, the Dark Cloud might extend almost to the ground.  

When it rains on a bad day, by the time the raindrops reach the ground they are so contaminated by their passage through the Dark Cloud that they’re called “the burning rains”. Anyone caught outside without their protective gear can be gravely injured and disfigured by the burning rains. The acidic rain destroys a person’s skin just like getting caught in a fire would, leaving the skin puckered and pulled tight. As you go into the poorest districts in Bricktown, you find more people with the rippled, shiny skin that lets you know they’ve been caught in the burning rains.

What keeps the Dark Cloud in place is fae magic—a punishment upon Southwatch imposed by the Seelie Court. But why would the fae, who were protectors of nature, create something as foul as the Dark Cloud?

On the rare occasions that prior Pertcha holidays resulted in a full eclipse, disaster always
befell the city.   But several times in Southwatch’s history, there were double eclipses—total
eclipses in two consecutive years.   During one such double eclipse event, Achlys, the deity of
Chaos, had inflicted a foul curse upon Southwatch. The humans called it plague dust, and it
afflicted Southwatch for two years. The fae in the nearby Seelie Court called it the Death Mist,
and it wasn’t long before the sticky tar-like dust had spread out from the city and affected the
surrounding countryside.

The Death Mist very nearly eradicated the Seelie Court. Hundreds of Fae coughed out
their lives within a couple of weeks after the first of the plague dust had blown down upon them
from the city. Not even Isengar, Duke of the Seelie Court, could protect his family from the
plague dust. While the fae were practically immortal and wouldn’t die of old age, they
discovered that they could be poisoned by noxious air. Duke Isnegar’s wife and daughters all
succumbed to the Death Mist within the first month.

The Death Mist, combined with Southwatch’s abuse of the lands around the city, killed
hundreds of fae, and the Seelie Court knew grief for the first time since the Dawning. Because of
their extensive life spans, the fae were not very fertile. By the end of that first year, almost half
the Seelie Court was dead. Isengar sent the survivors out of reach of the Death Mist, but he, and
some of his council, remained.

Then Isengar, working with some of the most powerful sorcerers in both the Seelie and
Unseelie Courts, created the spell that captured the plague dust before it reached the Fae lands.
For the full two years of the Death Mist, the Seelie collected all that pollution. They created a
spell which channeled the toxins back into itself in an ever-twisting vortex of wind and magic.
In time, the Dark Cloud behaved like a thunderstorm, continuously feeding upon itself.   Fae
magic kept the storm from being torn apart by the winds.  

Then, as the second year of the Death  Mist drew to a close, the Fae sorcerers used their power to move the maelstrom of pollution to  the center of the city, and stretched it so that it covered every street and building horizontally.  Once there, the storm began to suck in all the emissions from the factories below. So the industries that made the city rich fed the storm that Isengar had levied upon the moths in Southwatch, and that became the Dark Cloud. The Dark Cloud now bisects the city, dividing the sunside from the darkside, and until  humans are smart enough to figure out how to solve the arcane puzzle that Isengar  created, the foul cloud will remain.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Chronicle of Southwatch--The Pertcha Eclipse of 2958

Editor's note: 

We will present entries from Herink Lesward, the great Southwatch historian, in this record upon occasion.  In this manner, we hope to provide an inside view of the great city and what effects that well-known events had upon the population. Herink was born to a well-to-do merchant family whose home and business were both sunside.  But when the young Herink witnessed the lower districts of Southwatch for the first time, the darkside had just endured an unexpected shower--the burning rains.  When he saw for himself the people who lay moaning in the street, trying to shield their acid-shredded faces with hands that were little more than bones and sinew, he left the comforts of his family and found a place for himself in the Riverside District.  

Herink spent the remained of his life there, recording the events of Southwatch and working tirelessly to ameliorate the living conditions darkside, especially in the slums of Bricktown. Upon his death at the age of 45, his nine-volume Chronicle of Southwatch was published anonymously. Historians disagree on Herink's motives; some believe that Herink's account of events is not trustworthy, and the Caelimane Temple forbade the inclusion of the Chronicle in their history courses as the "Chronicle is an unreliable and possibly exaggerated account of Southwatch history. 

Despite every attempt by the Baron Amberville and the Caelimane Temple, the Chronicle of Southwatch could not be suppressed. Few inhabitants of the Aerie believed the events Herink wrote about ever occurred. Still fewer denizens of the darkside of the city doubted that the events Herink chronicles were real.  We present this to you as an alternative viewpoint regarding Southwatch and its official history. 

The thirtieth day of the Sixth Month in year 2958

The dawn brought the festival day of Pertcha to the people of Southwatch. As usual, thousands of Southwatch citizens gathered on the beaches at the harbor, ready to witness the annual Pertcha eclipse. Despite the arguments of scientists at multiple scientific colleges including the Royal Polyscience College and the Royal Academy who aver that an annual partial eclipse of the sun is scientifically impossible, every year on the last day of the Sixth Month, the sun is partially blocked by a disc of black.

But not every year is a partial eclipse.

There have been a few full eclipses at Pertcha, and historians agree that each time the sun is reduced to a fiery corona around a darkened sphere, the subsequent year brings disaster upon the city and people of Southwatch. There hasn't been a full eclipse in human memory, and so of late the annual eclipse is nothing more than permission from Dione and her daughters for Southwatch to celebrate the Pertcha festival without care or fear.

Therefore, the beaches were full by the time the eclipse began. Nobles and the wealthy were gathered in their elaborate viewing boxes--beautifully decorated and furnished rooms where neither weather or crowds can interfere in the occupants' viewing pleasure.  The less fortunate Pertcha witnesses were crammed together on the beaches and dunes, sitting on blankets spread across the sand.  As the eclipse began, the street vendors moved freely through the throng, selling food and hot drinks. The Hierarchs of the Caelimane Temple sat enthroned upon the pier, watching and waiting like the rest of the crowd for the eclipse to reach its height. At that moment, a procession of black-cowled priests would rise from the deep water in the middle of the bay and begin their march from the churning waves of the harbor through the streets of Southwatch, eventually reaching the golden doors of the Temple in the Aerie and disappearing, anonymous and mysterious, in the bowels of the Caelimane center of worship.

Usually, the eclipse peaked in mid-morning. But upon this Pertcha of 2958, the eclipse didn't stall and the unknown priests didn't come.  Instead, as the crowd on the beach started to become afraid, the eclipse went on until the entire world was cast in gloom from horizon to horizon. A swift, bitter wind blew in from the sea, lifting sand from the dunes to scour the faces and eyes of the crowd.  Instantly, panic overtook the witnesses. Despite the presence of both the police and the military, the fear of the people turned into a full-fledged riot as Southwatch's citizens tried to flee the packed beach.

And just like that, Southwatch's year of disaster has descended upon her people.  Hundreds of citizens lay injured on the sands and streets of the darkside.  Scores more lay dead or dying. While the aristocrats and trade barons returned in their expensive private transports to the safety of the sunside districts of the city, wails of grief and rage rose through the narrow alleys and precariously rising darkside streets.

At first, I, too felt sorry for these poor people, lined up side by side in the emergency infirmary at the Steamworks, which was the closest facility to take the victims. In this sober mood, I decided to take a public lift sunside, thinking to see my family and reassure myself they were well.  So when the lift stopped and I stepped out into the late afternoon sun, I was horrified to find the Pertcha festival underway. Children were running on the streets, playing on the Pertcha holiday, while in all the plazas and squares musicians were playing and folk were dancing. I passed through the heart of White Cliffs, and found that all the taverns and houses of ill repute were busy and loud with music and laughter.

I could find no indication that the riot in the harbor had affected anyone.

I couldn't bear the thought that my family was celebrating the holiday, either unknowing or uncaring that in the districts below their feet people were dying, struggling to suck in one last breath. So I returned to the Steamworks infirmary to help the physicians treat to wounded in any way I could.

I returned to my home an hour ago, and felt compelled to record this event.

Sometimes it seems to me that the distance between those who dwell in the sun and those of us in the shadows is impossible to span with any known means of transportation. The Dark Cloud must be larger and thicker than our scientists think, because the Aerie must be hundreds of leagues away from Downtown. I cannot believe that news of the riot never reached the decorated sunside districts. Surely all men would find the Pertcha riot a tragedy, wouldn't they?

How could people dance when their less fortunate brothers lay dying beneath them? Is there any way to bridge the gulf between the divided halves of our city?  I do not know. What can I do to help these poor people, who live and die ground beneath the heel of the rich? I ask because someone must, and I fear that aside from myself there is no one, man or woman, human or fae, who cares enough to try.

So I must try. I could not live with myself if I did not.