This shop is run by a gnome couple. As well as normal bows and arrows, it has a fine selection of specially-made arrows with different heads. Some examples of their stock are:
- Handcuff arrows, for non-lethally subduing an opponent.
- Boxing glove arrows, which may have the same effect. Some monsters, when hit with a boxing glove arrow, have felt sorry for the wielder of such a ridiculous weapon, and allowed them to depart in peace. At other times it might cause the victim to fatally under-estimate their opponent.
- Jiu-Jitsu arrows: the head is a glass vial containing an imp skilled in martial arts. A disadvantage of these arrows is that they sometimes fail to shatter on impact. If this happens, and close combat ensues, the reader is advised to be careful not to step on the vial.
- Oxygen-mask arrows. These arrows have to be successfully fired at someone's face to be of any use. I suggested to the gnomes that they could just make the masks to be applied by hand, but they became very upset, and refused to serve me. They now have a policy of not selling to anyone who doesn't have a bow, or who they suspect will try and remove the masks from the arrow.
- Arrows which split into nets.
- Water arrows. These are mostly useful for putting out fires at long range, either for fire-fighting purposes, or to douse torches so that one may creep unobserved. They are also effective against certain creatures such as Fire Elementals.
- Bent arrows, for shooting around corners. These can be combined with any head listed here.
- 'Arrows' which are in fact highly disciplined snakes, which wrap around the target on impact.
- Arrows whose head is a vial containing concentrated logic, a substance which acts as an antidote to magic.
- Arrows whose head is a quick-spreading moss. The moss allows one to walk quietly.
The place has an unsavoury reputation, due to rumours that the owners are associated with the Seventh-Day Inventists.
This place, more hill than mountain, stands on the edge of the city. A group of alchemists have their workshops here, where explosions and malevolent vapours will not harm anyone but themselves. They are rumoured to know the secret of Mind-Bleach.
This substance is said, if quickly poured into the ears, to cancel the effect of dangerous sights, such as gazing on a demon so horrid that any who see it are driven mad. Sometimes it bleaches away more memories than desired, so that the unfortunate is cured, but loses some major facilty such as the ability to talk. The Memory-Buyer (see below) is said to be eager to destroy this knowledge, which if it exists would threaten her strange trade.
If one falls into certain company, it is said that they may introduce one to an unmarked shop. This shop sells bottles which contain beautiful youths, either male or female as one chooses. They are less than an inch in height. They sing like birds, and require only a few drops of blood from their owner's fingertip each day.
Another version of this story says that the bottles appear empty, but if one looks at the glass at the right angle, then a beautiful youth may be seen standing in a room or garden of equal beauty. This version agrees that the youths require blood to be dripped into the bottle, and that they sing.
What would happen if the bottle was not fed is unknown. There have been cases of deaths where the deceased was rumoured to own such a bottle, but one was never found.
Phoedocia is a hideous creature of unknown type, somewhat resembling a cross between a skeleton and a grasshopper (although the size of a man).
She is the only example of her kind, other than her cousin (see The Memory-Buyer below).
The two creatures' voices are like that of women, but supremely calm in all situations.
She has a shop where she buys and sells courage. It is extracted from sellers in the blood, which Phoedocia sucks out of the arm of the seller and spits into a pot. This pot grows flowers, which when eaten grant courage to buyers.
The courage of women is particularly intoxicating, and the buyer should take care, lest they develop a taste that they cannot control, and become a heroine addict.
The Dancing Goat Theatre
The most popular theatre in Teleleli.
The Telelelene stage is divided into three rows.
In the back row stand the gods and ancestor-spirits. They are represented by stylised paintings, with the actors are offstage and unseen. The actors speak in verse. Plays always begin with an introduction from the gods.
The middle row is for heroic characters. The actors stand onstage and, like the gods, speak in verse. They stand elevated from the front row.
The front row is for comic characters. These actors speak in everyday speech.
The gods are understood to be able to see the action in the front and middle rows, whereas the front and middle rows can't see them or each other.
The middle and front row, while onstage at the same time, are understood to be unable to see each other, and to represent scenes happening at different times or places. Often the dialogue in the two rows alternates, with the front row characters comically or tragically undermining the middle row.
Plays usually take place 'in the time of the Great Race'. However virtually nothing is known about the Great Race, and plays often comment on current events.
Apprentices begin as comic characters, then become journeymen and portray heroic characters, and finally masters of their craft and play the gods.
Since the place is as much devoted to social gatherings as to the arts the more expensive tickets are boxes, elevated so that the entire audience can see one, and the very prizest seats are on the stage itself.
Stage-hand is a traditional occupation for out of work or retired ninjas. Thus stagehands dress in black ninja garb.
One play, The King In Yellow, was closed down after it drove all who saw it mad. The critics raved.
It is sometimes whispered that the 'goat's dance' refers to the twisting of one who is hanged as a sacrifice; a human sacrifice being called a 'goat without horns'. Whether this is coincidence, or points to a sinister connection, I do not know.
The sage Hekabe, called Hekabe the Unbelievable, claimed that every hundred years or so cats gather in this disused park, and shed their skins to reveal their true forms.
Hekabe was widely considered mad. Her health deteriorated, and at last she was found dead of a heart attack in an alley. Foul play was ruled out, since no one ever went into the alley other than stray cats.
Although no building stands here, this swamp is a temple of the Shallow Ones, who say they can only be born in mud. It is widely believed that they are born from the mud itself.
Despite its holy nature it is frequently used by human and other lovers, since its many tall trees mean that privacy is easily obtained, and the ground is generally dry and soft. The Shallow Ones seem to tolerate this. Indeed some speculate that it is required for the Shallow Ones to be born.
This is (so far as is known) the only abode of the Groaners.
They have the appearance of gigantic human heads - to be precise, the top halves of human heads - buried in the dirt. A Groaner's head generally sticks out of the dirt about six or seven feet.
Whether they have bodies underneath, or indeed entire heads, is unknown. They seem to consider the question offensive.
They are named for their language, which sounds like a constant muttering complaint. Those who claim to have deciphered it say that it is a florid and scholarly version of the trade-pidgin of Karrakara. They actually seem to be content with their lot. They gain nourishment from the rain, sun and soil in the manner of trees.
The only reason anyone pays them any mind, other than idle curiosity, is the marvellous powers of their spectacles, which are of such cunning construction that they can be used in many different ways. A single lens used one way might show things more clearly than any telescope, in another increase a tiny detail until it seemed to bestride the whole world, and in a third way distort the world beyond all recognition. For this reason unscrupulous poachers often try to steal them. A Groaner who loses their spectacles will utter a great sigh, then die. This sigh is so melancholy that many poachers have themseleves died before they could get away with their ill-gotten prize. The sigh is especially dangerous to those whose feet are touching the ground when it is uttered: deaf thieves have been known to die of sadness from the vibrations alone.
They are most sensitive to all artifacts from the Isle of the Tower. Indeed the very mention of one in their presence can set off a round of groaning discussion which lasts for days.
Hartog's Academy of the Unseen
The sorceress Euphemia Hartog realised that the magical discoveries usually died with the discoverer, and thus magic was like a sand-castle, doomed to be destroyed as soon as it was rebuilt. Inspired by the example of Atnos she decided to start an academy, wherein gifted students would be taught magic and discoveries would be shared.
To her surprise, teaching moody teenagers how to blow things up turned out to have some drawbacks, and the school was soon rent by discord. After its first yearly dance it was destroyed in an apocalyptic magical battle over who called who fat.
Her vision has not died (in the metaphorical sense - her actual vision was destroyed in the above-noted battle). She, and few loyal followers, still work towards the glorious day when brilliant, socially awkward obsessives will have more destructive power, which always seems like an excellent idea to brilliant, socially awkward obsessives.
Author's Note: My grandson has drawn my attention to the Harry Potter series of popular novels, with its school Hogwart's, and to the Unseen University which features in the works of Sir Terence Pratchett. It seems obvious that both fictional institutions are allusions to this real one.
It may be, then, that their respective authors have also found their way to Teleleli. Yet I had thought the plans for the Dimensional Engine lost forever, along with their creator, the diabolical Doctor Phobos...but I digress. It may be, as I say, that their respective authors have also found their way to Teleleli, and that the school has been rebuilt; with, one hopes, most puissant magical protection to stop further destruction. Although it may be that these authors have heard of the abortive school, and speculated on its history if it had survived, leaving the site of the real school as it was when I last saw it; a vast ruin, thick with unearthly smoke and prowled by the horrid forms of what were once its pupils, feeding off each other and the odd seeker of magical treasure.
The House of Ill-Ease
The owners of this house spent the last thirty years of their life overseeing constant additions to their house. It is filled with such things as furnished rooms with windows but no doors, staircases that lead nowhere, an apparent cupboard which turns out to be a corridor, and that corridor leading to a dead end, and so on.
Nor did they limit themselves to the house; for a network of tunnels runs under the grounds, without apparent purpose. A person might enter a tunnel behind a false bookcase in the house, and find themselves exiting in an empty field. It is said that the owners never even used the tunnels.
Some say that they sought to give charity to those they employed, without injuring their pride. Others say that they were cursed to die when they stopped building, and that having exhausted the family fortune they did indeed die. Yet that same fortune, according to others, is hidden somewhere in the grounds. Still others say that the house makes sense if viewed from an angle beyond the normal three dimensions.
The Inflatable Minion Seller
This shop sells inflatable guards and monsters. The budget-conscious goblin chieftain, bandit queen or mad sorcerer will have some real minions, but give the appearance of having far more by using these cheap devices.
They are, obviously, more effective at night, and against animals. For animals who rely on their sense of smell, the buyer may 'dress' them in their real minions' dirty clothes.
If attacked the loud pop can act as an alarm, and at a slightly higher cost they may be filled with pestilent gas instead of air.
Although the owner doesn't say so, inflatable dragons (for example) may be used to terrify the gullible.
Compared to other cities in this world Teleleli has unusually many inns, even for its size. This is not only because of its importance as a centre of trade. The city is also known as the "hearth of the hearthless", the place where those cut off from the normal ties of family, land and home will come like bees to honey (or, as some moralists would have it, like dirty water flowing into a sewer).
The traveller is advised to avoid the following inns, despite their seemingly low prices:
The Inn of A Thousand Delights, Assuming You Find Nude Midgets Delightful
The Three Jolly Evil Cultists Farmers
Run by devotees of the god of war, they only admit angry and belligerent travellers.
Neck Bites Nitespot
This place is actually good quality. However, it is a haunt of talking cougars. The females of this species pursue younger males, and fights often break out, for example when two females take a shine to the same male, or the barman tries to tell one they've had enough.
The traveller will save time by remembering the difference between an inn, and a tavern or ale-house. An inn provides short-term accomodation as well as food and drink.
A certain hill in Teleleli has a pit, which leads no one knows where. It is said that if lovers cannot otherwise be together, and jump into the pit at the same time, they will be taken to a place where they can be together. It is also said that if one whose love is truly hopeless jumps into the pit, they will "become like a bird, and their sorrow will be forgotten." In both cases folklore emphasises that the pit will show no mercy to any who jump into it when they have any hope in Teleleli.
The atmosphere of the place is somewhat like that of the Road of the Second Chance (see below), though Lovers' Leap is less frequently used, owing to its assocation with love in particular, and to some vague but sinister tales of the fate of those who use it.
Theophania is the cousin of Phoedocia, the Courage-Seller (see above).
Theophania buys memories. Obviously most people prefer to sell their unpleasant memories, but Theophania has been known to ask for, and be granted, pleasant memories from the desperate.
She generally offers more money to one selling for the second time, more still for the third and so on. There are those who have sold too much, and found themselves bewildered strangers in their own lives.
It is unknown what Theophania does with the memories since, unlike her cousin, she never offers to sell.
The Road of the Second Chance
This place is also known as the River of the Second Chance - but in fact it is neither road nor river.
It is a strip of unknown material, about ten feet wide, which has the strange property that it is usually in motion, carrying any who stand on it at such speed that they seem to disappear. It seems the road is in motion about two-thirds of the time. Very careful examination might reveal whether it is moving or still, but determining its direction has proven to be impossible. Likewise it is unknown whether it moves in both directions or only one. It stops and starts apparently according to nothing more than its own whim. It happened once that the Road stayed still for a whole year - or at least that no one caught it moving.
It runs through an overgrown area of wasteland at the edge of Teleleli, terminating at both ends in caves. Those who have followed the Road into the caves have reported that there came a point where it was impossible to explore further without stepping on the Road.
Riding the Road is by no means easy. Putting one foot on it while it is in motion, and the other on the ground, will merely result in the unwary traveller being hurled away at great force, probably leading to broken bones or even death. The traveller must instead run up and jump, landing on both feet at the same time. Of course there is no way of knowing if this is safe, or merely causes a person to be injured or killed wherever they end up.
The place is full of priests, trying to recruit the desperate souls who come here. Merchants try to get a good deal on their worldly goods, while others sell whatever equipment they believe they'll need. Beggars come to take advantage of those who believe they will need no wealth in their new home. Some come to plead with their loved ones not to go, others come to find thieves and debtors before they disappear. Kind-hearted souls mend the wounds of many who have tried to ride the Road and failed, or bury the dead. The park also attracts those with more sinister motives, who reason that those who come to travel the Road won't be missed.
See also Lovers' Leap above.
Despite the name, "the sewers" refers to the entire complex of tunnels under the city, including those which carry water to wells from underground springs, and the many which are no longer used (and likely not even known).
The reader is advised to avoid those tunnels which actually carry sewerage. Apart from the obvious danger of sickness, such places are rumoured to be visited by demons of taste and smell, who come to do research.
Likewise one should take great care if venturing in those tunnels near Black Mountain (see above) which are especially designed to carry the runoff from alchemical experiments. While they may yield valuable magical ingredients, one who is not expert may expose themselves to poisoning or more magical effects. The assistants who dispose of the waste for the alchemists, though they wear protective clothing, are rumoured to build up an immunity by years of gradual exposure, and even then to suffer many years of sickness. Some even say it changes them, so that they require it to live.
The tunnels which carry water to wells are relatively safe. The flow of water is usually regular, so there is little danger of flooding. The water is even generally safe to drink; unlike the Romans, the Telelelenes built in stone and not lead.
The tunnels which drain away water during storms are built for the Monsoon, and thus usually very large. However one may always find oneself in a smaller tunnel which floods completely during a storm.
The Conspiracy of Equals is rumoured to meet in an unused part of the sewers.
Ordinary criminals are also said to be frequently seen in the sewers. It is a way of getting from one place to another without being seen, and for the worst a convenient place to hide bodies. Gladiatorial games, forbidden in the city, are held here. It is said that some rich folk pay criminals to kidnap victims who they hunt through the sewers.
The sewers also serve as temple for those cultists whose gods may not be worshipped openly. In addition to their need for secrecy, these folk often believe that their sacrifices should be deposited in as low a place as possible, to be closer to their gods.
One may find members of the Copse (the city guard). An assignment to patrol the sewers is usually a punishment. However there are also groups especially trained in underground operations, ready for the frequent violence that results, and quiet and sure in the darkness.
Packs of wild dogs and cats are frequent. They are popularly believed to be pets that were dropped into the privy. A brief fashion for pet baby crocodiles is said to have resulted in a race of veangeful albino crocodiles. There are certainly albino rats, blind and diseased. Whether the feared Lurker Under the Surface be octopus, demon, or legend, is unclear.
The traveller should be aware that the sewer system was not built all at once, but added to over the centuries. No one knows the full extent of it, and it is rumoured to connect to such things as forgotten tombs, parts of the city abandoned and built over, and even the underworld, the domain of monsters and other perils.
This shop caters to barbarian adventurers who may be in the wilderness for long periods, but want to look their best. She specialises in wholesale hairspray and makeup for the ladies, and conditioner and body-hair removal products for men.
The famous bandit Lawless Lucy is rumoured to visit Teleleli in disguise in order to buy from Sonja's.
The Temple Defiled
Only the most desperate approach this place, and the way is not known. Those who do so are given new bodies by its unknown god, with the faces of young men and the bodies of old women. In this form they appear at funerals, weddings and similar occassions. When given 'gifts' of money or food they depart, returning to their homes in the ground. Everyone fears them, believing that they can send silent, cancerous worms out of their mouths, to bring disease and death.
The Temple of Meh
The church of Meh, goddess of procrastination, started to build a temple but haven't gotten around to finishing it. As such it has become a camping-ground for the homeless, and a place to fight duels.
Many young people in Teleleli follow the dictates of the poet Laodameia, that one should strive to be "beautiful, valiant, generous and supremely unchaste." This can lead both to being challenged to a duel, and to accepting.
As well as duels to the death, to the first drawing of blood, or to the surrender of one combatant, Teleleli has a tradition of "duels of mockery".
Each duellist in a duel of mockery has a brush dipped in ink and wears a featureless, flat mask. The other hand must be held behind the back. The duellists try to paint insulting messages on each other's masks. A group of judges, usually four to eight, rate the messages for the beauty of their calligraphy and the wit of the insults. They pass on this information to the victim, who of course can't see the state of their own mask. The duel ends when onlookers agree that one duellist has been sufficiently mocked. Often the loser will be required to wear their mask on their back for a certain period of time.