What minor pocket dimension have we stumbled into?

1 – First, you need to find a tree that’s stood for more than a century; then it has to get struck by lightning, and die. Then you have to crawl down inside the rotted-out trunk of it, into the ground, and eventually (pray it’s a short trip) you’ll emerge into the garden. There isn’t a name for it, really; no-one really knows it exists, and for some reason there’s a cult of one-eyed priests who are going around and uprooting every lightning-struck tree they can find. The dimension itself is a small rooftop garden, and storm clouds roll overhead, and the air is heavy with the threat of a storm that never comes. But at least it’s quiet.

2 –It’s where cats go. You know, at night? It’s a mix of rooftops, linen closets, the bins out the back of taverns, and blankets. All the ceilings are too low, the stars are blurry and indistinct, and it smells like cat piss.

3 – It used to be a well-maintained graveyard, but it fell into disrepair a long time ago; you don’t think that dimensions can be “hungry,” as it were, but it’s as though it doesn’t want you to leave. The longer you stay here, the more of your vitality drains away, and your colour, and you begin to feel like laying down in one of the (suspiciously) open graves and going to sleep.

4 – You know when you’re drunk – like, really drunk, can’t-find-your-shoes-drunk – and you wake up at home? This is the dimension you use to get there. It’s a universal shortcut, but you can only use it when you’re blackout drunk, so. If you took notice of your surroundings – which you can’t do, you’re too busy throwing up in an alley – you’d notice a cadre of wine-making monks who have set up their monastery here, and who are all several drinks in all the time.

5 – Look, we’re not here to judge you, but: you went to a peep show. We’re sure you’ve got your reasons. But when the partition rolled back, you saw into a different pocket dimension, instead of the dancing sex worker you paid for. Turns out the place is its own shard of reality – in the back, at least – and you can use it to spy on people (or… cats) in other ones. This could be tremendously valuable in the right hands, but at the moment those hands are busy with other things.

6 – It’s a library; you fell asleep face-down on a pile of books, and woke up here. All the pages and covers are blank and it’s utterly, terrifyingly, silent. Your heartbeat begins to deafen you, and you can hear the high-pitched buzz of your central nervous system.

7 – He paints landscape scenes, and he’s very good at it. So good, in fact, that people wishing for sanctuary – usually when they’re running away from something – stumble into these peaceful, tranquil skylines and city-scapes. At the edge of the space there’s a rough pane of glass, which looks out of the painting and into his studio, so you can talk to him if you want. He doesn’t seem inclined to let you out; it’s as though capturing people was his aim all along.

8 – There’s a Screen Omega at this cinema, and you can get into it, if you know how to ask. You don’t recognise any of the films playing here – they’re all one step away from familiar, featuring people who look a little like the stars of yesteryear, and they’re all in black and white. Some of them are in languages you can nearly recognise. Anyway; the rules of cinema, not the real world, apply here. Walk in with a gunshot wound and you can heal it with a bandage and a montage. (Alternatively: walk in with a nasty cough and it’ll develop into full-blown tuberculosis by the end of the film, so be careful.)

9 – There’s a reason you don’t talk to people on the bus – they aren’t people. Every single bus is part of a mass hallucination, and there’s only one interdimensional space that we use to transport between locations; the bus is just a way to let your mind handle it. Why do you think they don’t let you off if it’s not at a stop? You’d be torn to shreds by transdimensional parasites.

10 – Someone built this place – it was a Sorcerer-King’s mind palace, they say, back when you had Sorcerer-Kings – and since then, every Tom, Dick and Harry with a stepping sideways spell has been through here and lifted everything of value. All the majestic tapestries have long since been ripped off the walls and sold; all the devious traps have been triggered, or rusted into inaction, or been deactivated and stripped for copper; even the walls themselves have been chipped away at, the shards of mind-stone sold for a few quid, leaving the place barren, empty, and draughty.

Glimmers is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create an urban horror world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[GLIMMERS.] The city is alive. The city is connected, with streams of light and noise and people, to every other city; they are all the same being, all branches of the same concrete-and-glass tree. There are streets between them, forgotten streets, with secret names and grim inhabitants. (And: there are wild-lands, dark places, the Spaces Between, where nothing seems right. Airport waiting rooms. Churches, at night. Backwater villages.)

There is vast power in the thrum of machines and the buzz of traffic, and it can be yours, for a price.

Image by Eelke on Flickr

What’s weird about these elves?

1. They’re feral, like all elves are until the age of 100 or so. Up until that point they dwell in the forests in caves, or improvised lean-tos; they hunt with their nails and teeth, leaping out of trees and tearing the throats out of deer. At the end of their first century, they undergo a sort of awakening and become the book-reading, spell-casting, dress-wearing elves you’re used to, staggering away from their latest kill and naked, stinking cave-mate in abject horror.

2. They’re plants. They photosynthesise, which is why you never see them eat, and instead they sleep with their feet buried in soft earth. (They extend little roots down there to suck up moisture and nutrients; it’s gross.)

3. They were created by True Elves many years ago (hundreds? Thousands?) and, even though their towering and alien makers have died, the elves continue to function. They are complex machines of stolen bone and ultrafine metal wires, kept taught and wound up nightly to power their bodies; they cannot breed, but they can make inferior copies of themselves in turn, and those copies can do the same, and so on; like worn-out photocopies, badly-sculpted and malfunctioning elves populate the poorer places of the world.

4. They come from painted worlds; in works of fine art, occasionally an elf will appear in the background, and slowly move forward in the frame, and then one day they’ll emerge. (This destroys the painting, or rather, turns it into an elf, so collectors are generally against it.) They seem to be able to find each other once they emerge, and they’ve formed a culture.

5. There’s only three of them. When one dies, another one is born. Or: arrives. Anyway, there are minimum three and maximum three elves at any one time, and they all work in concert.

6. They only exist in moonlight. Or they’re only visible in moonlight, which makes more sense, but they tell you they don’t exist if the moon isn’t shining on them. There are various folk stories about moon elves stalking unwelcome hunters through the forests, only visible as strobing images.

7. They aren’t born; they happen. All elves start off as beautiful, famous humans – as big as celebrities can get in fantasy worlds – and as more stories are written of their exploits, and portraits commissioned of their visages, the adoration poured upon them physically changes them. They grow taller, thinner, more cruel.

8. They’re all drunk, all the time. You wouldn’t really be able to tell unless you knew; but when an elf sobers up, their refined mannerisms and graceful movements become even more refined and graceful, turning them into alien creatures who are largely impossible to communicate with outside of a sort of high-pitched vibration they use instead of speech. They drink to bring themselves down to our level, which is kind of them, even if it doesn’t really work.

9. They’re hollow vessels for ghosts. Generally, an elf will be filled the spirit of an ancestor when they come of age so their elders can continue to advise on courtly happenings; when the body dies, the ghost takes over and carries on. That’s why elves live so long: most of them are already dead.

10. They eat gold. Or: anything that’s expensive, because they derive nutrition from value. Gold is the easiest way to do it, but it doesn’t taste of much, so when an elf wants to treat themselves they’ll eat gems, crowns, phylacteries, oil paintings, etc. They don’t pass solid waste; they just absorb everything they eat. (Wizards reckon this is out of reasons of politeness, and also because it could be quite painful to shit out a crown).

Remnants is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create a fantasy world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[REMNANTS] Once upon a time, when the dragon-kings ruled the aetherealms and the Witch-Queens fought grand duels over generations with arcana of unimaginable power, the worlds split apart. There was too much magic, and reality couldn’t bear the weight any longer. The otherworlds splintered apart like ships crashing against a shoreline; but the pieces remained, shards of reality, and they pierced the material realm. A thousand dimensions, all attached to various degrees, to the prime material: some forgotten, some overrun with new inhabitants, some spawning monstrous creatures into the world, and some ripe for plundering.

Header image by Angie Trenz on Flickr