Chapter 1: The Fall
They say there are many ways to find your way here. Climb a ladder and don’t stop at the top rung, walk behind the bookshelves you don’t remember, turn a wheel with no axle.
But by far the most common way to get here is to fall. Stairs, potholes, ledges, it doesn’t matter what – something about that sudden lapse of gravity seems to be enough to loosen the ties of your home and you fall right through the floor and up onto the other side. No one is quite sure whether this is the only destination – after all, who would we ask? – but such questions tend to be at the forefront of a select few minds.
They get taken by Orial, those ones.
The knives, bombs and motorways which make up the politics of Orial are, however, a world ( in fact, several worlds) away from this distinctly average suburban road in a Secular, PLC world with little time for fancies. Instead, it has a succession of cream-and-brown-and shingle bungalows wrapped in sparse hedges, a three-lane road leading nowhere in particular and an exit to the local grammar school where the Sixth Form is taking the opportunity to flit before everyone else. One shabby looking boy with fly-away hair stumbles on his weak ankle and is pulled under by the weight of his rucksack – ah well, it can’t be helped. The luckier teenagers own cars.
Max Lowe is one such teenager, and sure it’s a pile of rust and missing screws but it doesn’t rain inside the car and it keeps the wind out if you’re willing to hold the windows closed. Better than walking along the roadside, certainly, and sometimes friends will actually pay you back for the lifts.
“Huh? - there! It’s him!”
In one of the many corridors of power – this one all smooth white tiles and brushed chrome detailing – a smooth and streamlined PA glides along carrying a copy of the latest External Affairs report, detailing the bribes to be made, laws to flout, money to be channelled and land to acquire.
In the wind, with the hair forming a halo around the head, it looks like him, just for a moment. But it isn’t.
“Hell, Charley, I almost hit a bus. Be more careful when you shriek.”
“I know, I know. It’s just – two weeks! No sign, no clue, no messages, no – no – nothing!” She looked out of the window at the passing trees. “How can someone just disappear like that?”
“Come on, Charley. I know for a fact that the only reason you’re so upset is because he borrowed your biology textbook before he went missing.” As an attempt to lighten the mood, it was a valiant attempt, but ultimately in vain. “I guess...” Max went quiet as he thought, but his reverie was broken by another squawk from Charley.
“Hey! Eyes forward, mister!” Max had drifted the clunker into the path of a traffic island at some speed. Wrenching at the wheel, he swerved with great screeching out the way at almost the last moment, knuckles white, before bringing the car back into line.
“Jesus, Max. I thought you’d killed us both.”
The car lept over a speedbump in the road, sending the pair of them up right into the roof of the car damnit and then down and for some reason Max didn't seem to land back onto the seat. He felt a odd sinking sensation and then
woke up under a bench in a park, somewhere entirely different.
Introducing New Carnelian
New Carnelian! City of Kings and also of people who are quite lost indeed. They say there's always been a city here, which is odd, considering how much of it hasn't been built yet. I blame the monarchy.
The centre of the city is famed for its (comparitively) wide, clean streets and the chaotically planned yet wide ranging public transportation system. A previous reforming monarch in the mid 70's decided to completely modernise their capital, terracing the ancient island and building the very best examples of Royal Civic optimism on the highest tier. The tower at the centre houses the Central Post and Telegraph Office, and is responsible for communication with the furthest reaches of the realm.
That same reformer was responsible for giving up the ancient Tauride Palace to the demands of the citizenry, creating the first elected Parliament East Carmine has ever enjoyed. The lower house, the Commons, meets in the left hand side of the building and the Fellowship of Governors meets on the right. In the centre of the building, directly under the dome, sits the Royal Privy Council, symbolising the unity of people and Government under the benevolent rule of the Rose. The checkpoints, I assure you, are there entirely for your security in these troubled times.
The old Royal Chapel of St Dunstan, although smaller and less grand than more modern houses of worship, is still surrounded by the old houses for Officers of the Crown and Clergy, and make a very popular and expensive place to live, especially considering the excellent views over the sea on those rare golden afternoons.
And of course, Orial needs an embassy in the city! Surrounded by protective concrete walls, the embassy exists to coordinate local Orial projects, represent their interests to the Government and act as a first stop for new subscribers from the metropolis. Some have claimed that the building faces away from the city as a symbolic rejection of the authority of the Rose, but I'm sure it's just those lovely sea views.
A parting night shot of the city. New Carnelian isn't dangerous at night; at least, as long as you stay on the top tier. And why wouldn't you?