Sunday, August 7, 2022

MSF: Mysteries and Curiosities of the World

It is tempting for those of us with personal paracosms to fill in every blank space until there is nothing that goes unexplained. The reductive urge of worldbuilding.

Obviously the cure is to add things that are just plain inexplicable, or that just don't get talked about much, but which may be used by the audience to draw connections as they see fit.

The Sun

The sun is in a strange position, as far as cosmic objects go. It is clearly a force of incredible metaphysical power, but one that has heretofore resisted any attempts at figuring out what its nature is. The Solar Church is not the only group to believe that there is a link between it and the Crown of Fire, though this is troubled by how difficult it is do any proper thaumaturgical study of it - solar mages have a tendency to autovaporize and leave an exclusion zone behind.

An order of (famously blind) Second Empire monks, now long extinct, were the first to observe the vast winged serpents (which they called chalkydri) living in the sun's corona. Other heliohabiting beings, too small to be visible (chalkyri are on the order of tens of thousands of miles in length) are hypothesized, but the only ones since confirmed are angels (see below), who were initially mistaken to be close-orbit asteroids by the blind monks.


This is what we know about angels:

  • The average angel is a gold-and-ivory sphere anywhere between 250 and 500 miles in diameter. The smallest ever observed was approx 400 ft in diameter, the largest over 3000 miles.
  • It is estimated that there are no more than 120 angels within the solar system.
  • Most angels are seen in the sun's corona, but it is not widely believed that they are among its native inhabitants. No interaction with the chalkydri has been observed. Most other sightings tend to be in orbit around the planet Mshtarii or transiting interplanetary space. A single angel was witnessed orbiting Angarag during the Year of the Jealous Crane, but none have been seen near that world since.
  • About 140 years ago, astronomers watching angels among the moons of Mshtarii witnessed what was described as "a series of incredibly bright flashes among the moons, irregularly spaced and lasting altogether for an hour or more." This phenomenon has not re-occurred.
  • Only 12 angel sightings have occurred in cislunar space or closer. Only three of these have been confirmed to have entered the atmosphere, and only one has had direct contact with humans (wherein the angel re-orientated itself so that certain markings on its surface were directed at the observers, made a noise that deafened nearly 60% of all present, and shot up into the sky and out of sight)
  • Angels are entirely unrelated to demons.

Some cultures will call minor spirits of air and fire angels, but it is difficult to confuse the two.


The Sea of Tazir

The glass-clear waters of the Sea of Tazir give one an easy view of the sandy bottom. Clear enough that one can easily see the fields of flat, colorful stones that form vast animated mosaics on its bottom (hence why it is also called the Mosaic Sea). These stone-fields will typically display abstract flowing patterns or sea life, but will on occasion take the form of a woman with deep blue skin and navy hair, with eyes of solid white. There's no record of the Lady speaking, but she is known to wave or blow kisses to boats passing above.


The Coast of Birds

Enormous stone statues of birds with wings raised stand along the Amdalese coast for hundreds of miles. Histories both oral and written from the region are in agreement that the statues have stood there for as long as anyone can remember, but are divided as to their origin. The most common explanation is that the gigantic birds flew down from the sky and turned to stone all on their own, or were trapped there by folk-hero Ndalo Ganye. Less popular but favored among wizards is that they were a construction project of the proto-Ngabe-Roh civilization (itself mostly hypothetical). Occultists claim some connection to the Convocation of Birds and the Simiurgh but provide no evidence. The Murder of All Crows remains tight-beaked, so as to cause problems on purpose.


Octopi Conspiracies

Perhaps no creature in the world is subject to more spurious theorycrafting than the octopus. Their total refusal to communicate, despite their obvious intelligence, has spawned countless outlandish claims over the centuries. Apocryphal accounts of shipwrecked sailors aided by octopi, or ships cursed by them, might be heard in any sailor's pub on the Mare Interregnum but none can be proven.

Some common rumors include:

  • The noncommunication is a ruse, and octopi are in league with wizards
  • It is possible (for a very large fee over several installments) to learn the subtle and secret magical practices of the octopi.
  • Octopi have been seen miles inland, stealing wizard's tomes.
  • Octopi will steal unattended infants from coastal villages.
  • Octopi have rescued shipwrecked sailors.
  • Octopi will curse vessels that trespass on their territory.
  • Entire octopi cities are hidden away in the oceanic depths.

The current centerpiece of modern octopus conspiracies is the Stone of the Lyantous Abyss, a chunk of basalt recovered from an undersea volcano by a team of wizards from the University of Vanidiyos as part of a deep-sea exploration survey (they were hoping to find evidence of the lost city of Thempas Ürn, and thus tenure. They did not achieve either). The stone's surface is covered entirely with whirling grooves, which the wizards claim were sculpted by octopi as either some form of religious practice (specifically a marker of a holy site). This theory is typically tied in with that of the Kraken Returned, itself the belief that the Great Black Octopus of Jai'an (the largest individual octopus ever recorded with an estimated armspan of 90 feet) is the herald of the mythic Kraken, or the Kraken itself, to usher in the age of the cephalopod.


Bright Morning Mountain

A mountain whose primary spirit, in a change of state nearly unheard of among genus loci, wished to fly. After several thousand years of effort (as the story goes), they managed to tear the mountain up in its entirety, flinging it into the sky where it has floated gently about ever since. The villages on the mountainside that went up with it were taken by great surprise, and a considerable amount of effort was made to get those who did not care for this new state of affairs back on the ground. The place where Bright Morning Mountain once stood has since filled with water and is now called Lake Gloam (both because the surrounding mountains cast it into shadow for most of the day, and because it is appropriate to dualism naming conventions)


The Land of the Dead

The existence of the soul is not in question, and neither is its impermanence - without a living body to keep it kindled, the soul dissipates. What is left behind is a shade, which possesses neither will nor memory. They can, on occasion, be found lingering in places loved or hated in life, residing there as the Folk might live in trees or rivers. Or they may be called up from the ground or out of the dusk by necromancers. But where the shades go, when they are not summoned or haunting, remains unknown and up for debate. Do they exist invisibly all around us, taking form only when called by the living or by remnants of their life? Or is there a dark place beneath the earth where they linger, and is such a place physical or metaphysical? The dead keep their secrets.



Fuligin standing stones, found alone or in small clusters in remote places all over the world. Cold to the touch, and the air is dry and cool near them. Those with skills in magic will find their sense of it deadened, and any magic worked of the art or the craft will be a shadow of its proper form, if it manifests at all. Both the living and the dead shun these places.


The Oricalchum Gates

Explorers among the lilu have found, in the deepest reaches of the caves, doors. Enormous bronze doors, gleaming in the lamplight and decorated with the faces of stern, bearded men and abstract geometric patterns. The doors are sealed and no tools have been able to damage them nor effectively dig around them. The only clue to what lies beyond comes from a gate-site that had been shorn open by some extreme tectonic movement in the past, revealing branching, lightless passages constructed of the same material.


The Skywhale Peoples

A rarely-seen and culture that seems to live entirely airborne, tethering their balloon-homes to pods of skywhales to follow along the migration routes. Wizards have occasionally attempted to make contact, but none of the attempts have been successful (and the last one who tried took a harpoon directly through his flying carpet for the trouble) 


Sea Shepherds

Discovered by another team of wizards stuffed into a bathysphere (they do enjoy that, don't they), the sea shepherds are beings upward of two hundred feet tall, who stride across the very bottom of the ocean with their herds of enormous scotoplanes. Their bodies are like that of a man, grey-skinned and broad-chested, but where their heck and head might be there is only a roughly pyramidal mound of velvet worms, clustered around a black-smoke vent.


The New Gods

The ulfire cities of the new gods rise mirage-like over the eastern horizon of the Moon, and the wizards of Tranquility University crane their telescopes to catch a glimpse of what lies within.

The New Gods do not have names, nor forms nor shapes, and their cults on earth are few: gods that have no overlap with human domains are difficult to revere. In those few times they are able to manifest their influence beyond the moon itself, it has only resulted in bizarre, abortive miracles without direction or purpose. Miraculous stillbirths. Useless transformations. Signs and omens signifying nothing.

(We the readers, of course, know that the New Gods are a honeypot by the Moon Beasts as part of their greater plans to subvert the ordering of the world, but this does not mean that they are directly puppeted, or that they are entirely creations of the Moon Beasts.)

Prior Hell Emergence Events

Identification of non-metastasized emergence events can be difficult, especially those in the distant past, but certain markers are shared among them: sites of human sacrifice, evidence of extreme militarism and widespread slavery, traces of industrialization (typically leftover environmental pollutants), and normalized daemonomancy.  

Archaeological surveys have identified five pre-Coreolana emergence events, one highly probably site, and a further five to ten events that are suspected but inconclusive. None of these events progressed to the state of metastasis as seen in Coreolana and its transition into Dis.

  • Unnamed First Empire site - This event is referred to only through a few second-hand sources; neither the exact location nor any material evidence has yet been found, but the contemporaneous accounts are specific enough to confirm both the event and its cause for collapse - political infighting among the slaveholding class was so intense that no party was able to assume the control necessary to maintain itself.
  • Taiza Ndowle site, inner Amda - The oldest known emergence site, predating sedentary agricultural cultures in the region. Has persisted in oral histories and mythologies as "the city on the savanna", a sort of inversion of the settlement at Potbelly Hill.
  • Zaghranetra site - A sunken city off the Odzho coast.
  • Mengra Ku site, Pelai - Ruin strata under the modern city of Yon-Hlao. It is uncertain if this was a single emergence events or two successive instances.
  • [XXXXX]  - The most recent emergence event prior to Coreolana. Neighboring lilu settlements blocked off all access tunnels to the city and starved the inhabitants.

A partial emergence is suspected to have occurred in the archaic Twin Lakes Civilization, though no surveys of that region nor local histories have provided any concrete evidence.


  1. In order to prevent wizards from ruling the world, we invented academia to keep them distracted.

  2. The octopus part is great and the tenure joke made me chuckle.

    1. Getting between a wizard and tenure is like getting between a hyena and lunch.