Chronicles of Ascension
The Slant Milieu
There is a place where the rocks whistle lullabies to their pebbled children, where even the stoutest trees and the angriest mountains bow before the press of invisible hands, where a man would take his life before he fought to stand straight against the wail of the welkerwind. There is a place where the sound of terror is silent and where the deadliest foe is an invisible twist of air.
That place is the Slant Milieu.
The welkerwind— the fierce angry blow that storms down off the Black Riage almost constantly— is both the Slant’s savior and its jailer. The wide strip of land in the Beyond is pummeled day in and day out, its trees bending sideways, its mountains turning their pointed tops toward the ground. The few creatures and fewer people who brave the elements to live here have become stooped and hunched. Low and slow is the common refrain among the people of the Slant.
The trees in the area bend at sharp angles, typically a foot or two above the ground. This creates unusual shapes that are coveted by ship-builders, carpenters, and others who work with wood. Those who can get in and out of the area with a tree and with their life intact, easily fine a buyer for the first (and are glad to have the second). Enterprising business owners have tried planting certain types of trees here, attempting to create nurseries, but the welkerwind scatters a huge percentage of those saplings long before they can take root.
There are few towns in the Slant, if they can even be called towns. Those who live in them call them burrows, and truly that is a better term. Each collection of humans lives in a handful of underground rooms and interconnected tunnels. The tunnels were built not by their current inhabitants but by someone or something long ago. They wind on in a seemingly endless tangle, far more extensive than needed to house the small number of people living there today.
The residents carefully seal off the tunnels past the point where they need the passages to survive, using a mix of mud and wind-rounded pebbles that are common to the area. The seals not only protect them from additional windways but also decrease the chance of attack. Well-protected, windless burrows are much in demand by other humans and by creatures who seek shelter.
There is much to fear in the Slant besides the welkerwind. Creatures of the area have adapted a variety of mechanisms, many of them dangerous, to defend themselves and their young against the high winds. For example, the sessils are low-crawling marsupials whose young spend their early lives in pouches being dragged along the ground, and the lofty boab gliders are ﬂying carnivores that use the wind to their advantage when diving down toward prey. The large carnivorous insects known as caffa have perhaps become the most dangerous of all. After the caffa, other humans are perhaps the most dangerous creatures to life and limb here.
Abhumans sometimes seek shelter in the burrows, alone or in groups. The Slant has a criminal contingency as well. Long ago, Challadien II, the former empress of the Pytharon Empire and a woman with a special affinity for goldgleam and silster, sent a large group of criminals and guards to the area in the hopes of bringing back quantities large enough to satisfy her needs. Her plan was for the criminals to stay as harvesters while her guards traveled back and forth with the goods. But her guards never returned, and the criminals discovered that they’d been sent to the perfect place to hide from the world. They and their families stay on, thieving, killing, and selling their spoils to those who walk the goldgleam route.
There are two standing structures in the Slant: the windmoldens and the Susurrus. The windmoldens are as black as night and hundreds of feet tall, with multiple long arms that catch the wind. Built from an unknown material that not only withstands the gale but captures and contains it,the windmoldens seem capable of producing enormous amounts of energy if only someone could discern how.
The Susurrus rises nearly 100 feet (30 m) and is built of a variety of metal and synth tubes in a wide range of sizes, all placed at seemingly haphazard angles. Broken whirligigs swirl wildly at the end of some of the tubes, while torn ﬂags whip at others. Bits of glass and stone hang from silster threads, banging into each other. It seems impossible that such a slipshod structure could stand the test of time and wind.
Those with an ear for music, however, quickly find that the Susurrus is the opposite of slapdash. In fact, at any given angle and strength of wind, the structure provides not wind resistance but wind passage, creating haunting, ethereal music that can be heard throughout the Slant and beyond.