The Waterways

The dark is deep and hungry.
The cold will make you slow.
The rocks are sharp and deadly.
So beware the depths below…

– An excerpt from “The Depths Below” by Sirius Starfish

The Waterways is a realm of many layers. Nominally presided over in its entirety by the Empress Penguin, in reality she and her followers can only project power and authority over a small portion of it. Below the innocuous sandy shore, the handful of caves clinging to the side and the gentle shallows rife with animals, is a vast and deep lake, caves stretching in all directions. Only a tiny fraction of them are mapped, and only the bravest of aquatic animals dare to stray off the beaten paths. The spirits of land and plant are said to be often beneficent, kind, and willing to speak to the living.

The spirits of deep and icy water on the other hand… too few return from having met them to tell the tale.

Above water, we have the Shore. The Shore is a name applied to a large stretch of sand alongside the edge of the Great Lake – this is the seat of power of the Empress Penguin and her life-partner. Her penguins congregate along the sand, ensuring that Her Majesty is paid tribute (standard tribute is one nice rock, though she also accepts shiny things) before they are permitted to access the water. The beachside is a hubbub of animal activity, filled with the cries of birds, the splash of animals jumping into, or out of, the water, and the occasional snap of a crustacean's claws if an unfortunate penguin happens to step on them.

Whilst the penguins who follow the Empress are belligerent and arrogant, the Shore is still one of the best places to hear gossip of what is happening in the Shallows, and even, very occasionally, what word comes from the Depths.

For braver animals, it is possible to bypass the Shore entirely to reach the water, but it often involves jumping from a height into the water, swimming down a pipe that connects to the Lake, or finding one of the smaller beaches that border the Lake.

A massive stretch of water that hugs both the Forest and the City, the Great Lake is home to all manner of aquatic and semi-aquatic animals. The Lake runs incredibly deep and occasionally very wide, and is therefore sub-divided into the Shallows, the Lakebed, and the Depths.

Perhaps slightly misleadingly named, the Shallows is not shallow water but rather the surface of the water and the space immediately underneath it. The width and depth of the lake renders the Shallows a tranquil and calm place, with the cries of other animals receding into the distance as you gently float atop the still waters.

Though the Lake can be dangerous, the Shallows are the exception to this rule. Animals like ducks and otters often bring their young to the Shallows to practice swimming, and other animals are quick to respond to any emergencies that occur. They're also an excellent hub for waterborne animals to reach elsewhere safely, as it connects to the City via old human pipes, and to the Forest via streams and rivers running into, and out of, the Lake.

The other “half” of the Great Lake, the Lakebed is the name given to the deeper waters that reach down to the silty bed of the lake. The water is cold and the light is dim, the quiet calm of the shallows giving way to an eerie silence. Despite this, many animals reside here, eels and various kinds of fish, and there are pockets of life amongst the general cold silence.

One of the few notable landmarks of the Lakebed is a sunken tower, with smashed windows and its furnishings long rotten and dissolved, or looted by various animals. Now it serves as the home of Sirius, a starfish who uses the peace and isolation to compose water-based poetry. They're happy to share with any strangers who come by, but once they are done strangers are expected to leave them in peace. Failure to do so will result in a very scandalous poem about you becoming all the rage amongst the denizens of the lake.

A particularly adventurous animal might notice that the Great Lake does not end with the Lakebed. The sandy bed does, at a certain point, give way to sharp rocks. The dim sunlight filtering in from the surface is now swallowed entirely by the dark. There is no end to the water, though you swim for hours, no end to the cold that seeps into your bones. Every so often, an unnatural luminescence will shine through the dark, but do you want to approach?

There are innumerable caves down here, that filter ever deeper. Animals tell strange stories of what they find down there. An angry, immobile spirit who inflicts a sickness on any who dare approach. Vast, hungry spirits of water, waiting to snare you and pull you down into the dark forever. And, despite all odds, the small handful of animals that have managed to make a home down there. Many speculate who they are, but few are brave enough to venture deep enough to find out.

The Empress Penguin (she/her): Her Majesty Empress Penguin (or Glacia, to her partner) rules over a number of penguins who make their home along the Shore next to the Great Lake. Belligerent and arrogant, she and her followers do not take kindly to any who question her authority, or attempt to pass through “her land” without offering tribute. Though she claims rulership over all the penguins who live on the Shore, in reality only about half are truly loyal to her. The others either humour her, or try their best to ignore her and her pretensions.

Seashell (she/her): The Empress Penguin's life-partner, Seashell is famously far more easy-going than her partner, and tempers her worst impulses. Animals often seek favours from Seashell, as she has access to much of the Empress' resources and influence, though none of her pride and temper.

Casssiopoeia (Casss) (zie/zir): An anaconda native to the Shore, Casss spends most of zir time sunning zirself on the Shore and enjoying the sand beneath zir scales. However, when zie stirs zirself into action, zie has one of the most exceptional collection of old human items to trade in the City. Zie isn't telling anyone where zie gets them, however.

Sirius Starfish (they/them): A Starfish resident in the tower at the bottom of the Lakebed, Sirius is friendly enough to visitors but much prefers the silence. Their poems are famous amongst the Lake's residents, both for their rhymes and also for how vindictive they can be if an animal has offended them. Sirius and the Empress Penguin have a longstanding feud, and their poems about her are often passed around in hushed and giggled tones by penguins who don't follow her.

  • waterways.txt
  • Last modified: 2023/07/17 14:39
  • by gm_geraint