Those adventurers who seek the mysteries of the Pharos strike out from the Red Manse of Oumkha,
a paltry oasis of humanity within the eerie vastation of Yond. Its crumbling reddish-ochre walls date from the rule of the devil-kings of the Pharos, when it served as the dwelling-place of some unknown viceroy, warlord, or hierophant. It is only one of the ruins ringing the outer approaches of the Pharos, but gained notoriety amongst the Yondorkandi as the dwelling place of the madman Oumkha, once apprentice of the doomed Arbaz who disappeared in the shadow of the Pharos.
A few years ago, the heterodox, vermillion-robed Daughters of the Maugourah
came to reside there, beginning to clear the rubble and replace ruined stone with wood and brick. The sisterhood persevered in the midst of the prowling horrors of the wastes, and since then, the Red Manse became a stopping-place for the exiles and wanderers who people the region, eventually taking on the quality of a small market village.
More recently, a soubashi
of the far city of Aburuz has arrived with a troop of guards, dispatched to assert the authority of that city over the settlement of the Manse. He wisely does not press the issue with the locals, and spends most of his time in some (relatively) palatial tents outside the Manse.
The Manse itself is built around two courtyards. The southern, fountain courtyard
is where newcomers water their animals, and is overlooked by the apartments converted into the House of the Magourah
. This section, except the old shacks
clustering around the south side of the House, is closed to outsiders. The northern market atrium
, once a tiled garden, is now filled with the tents and shacks of scavengers and craftsmen.
The manse is bisected by a large passageway, connecting the fountain courtyard to the market atrium and the road north, and a smaller passageway east to west, dividing the market atrium from the house of the Magourah and fountain courtyard.
A berm of rammed earth stretches to the west, remnant of some fortification from past ages of Yond. The Soubashi’s tents
are northeast of the market atrium, along with the ruder dwellings
of the cactus-gatherers, hunters, and smiths.
Most of the population of the Manse is temporary — beggars, exiles, heretics, escaped slaves, refugees of war, criminals fleeing the law, muck-farmers, mushroom-gatherers, hunters, scavengers, dust-sifters, dew-collectors — but a few personages stand out as more constant dwellers in the Manse’s walls.
- Sister Ouahaub is the public face of the Daughters of the Magourah, and assumed by most outsiders to be their leader. She is the one who handles the money, goods, or services the sisters charge for stays in their simple shacks.
- Sister Amuathah is a cheery, punctilious old woman who dispenses poultices and other medicinal remedies to locals and visitors. She is frequently seen in Vosseion’s company, presumably because of the overlap in their professional interests.
- The Soubashi is a flighty, paunchy man who was dispatched from the far city of Aburuz to ensure the dwellers of the Manse pays the Vizier their due, he has so far failed to make strong headway in the taxation department. He seems more interested in purchasing artefacts dug up by from the surrounding area.
- Youb the wine-seller is a sun-shrivelled old man clad in faded and threadbare finery, who imports wine and other liquors from New Yondorkand, Aburuz, the nearer coasts of Cisyondic Gnydron and beyond. His product being universally popular, he often accepts payment in goods and services from the nomadic wastelanders.
- Vosseion the apothecary, shisha-monger and tea-seller is Youb’s counterpart as another purchaser of exotic flora gathered by the wanderers of the wastes. He wears only plain black silks, and entirely depilates his pallid skin.
- Nabrarzha the smith is a grizzled, scarred, one-eyed, seven-fingered woman who works with metals and gems. It is an open secret that she fled from the torture chambers of New Yondorkand, where she was imprisoned at the Hierarch’s pleasure over an aesthetic disagreement regarding her sculptures.
- Among the muttering priests, fakirs and holy women who sell charms and prophecy in the market are the handful of shrine-keepers of Yugla, the ugly, laughing beetle-god. Colourful sacred beetles are fed with choice cuts of meat to gain Yugla’s favour, and their divinatory movements amongst the scattered offerings of petitioners are interpreted by the shrine-keepers in response to petitioners’ questions.
- The Red Manse is not the only ruined villa nearby. Some are nearly intact.
- The Pharos mutates those who linger under its mauve glow; everyone in the the Red Manse will be beast-men ere long.
- All the expeditions to the Pharos are cursed; those who ‘return’ from the Pharos are demons in stolen faces.
- The thearchs of Ong plan to conquer Yond; their spies infiltrate the Manse and New Yondorkand.
- Soon, the Hierarch of New Yondorkand will march on the Manse and kill them all.
- The food harvested from the mushroom forest to the northwest turns men to beasts.
- No natural beasts reside in the wastes; all are accursed former humans.
- The Hierarch of New Yondorkand is a demon in human guise.
- There is a great city of beast-men to the north. They are preparing to march on the Manse.
- The ancient Crown of Yond resides in some hidden tomb, still worn by the true ruler of this land.
- To the west is a crack in the earth which falls away into the starry sky.
- The Daughters of the Magourah abduct people in the night to be their lovers and slaves within hidden chambers of the Manse.
- The Daughters of the Magourah are the disguised handmaidens of a princess of Bel-Nahath, fled from the thearchs of Ong.
- Great bats fly out of the Pharos to feast on the psychical essence of humans.
- The Magourah is in fact a lamia, driven out of the Pharos by the inquisitors of Ong. The daughters are her mesmerized cohorts.
- The Pharos marks the place where the gods had wrought the world, the axis mundi, and birthing-place of Veragammata Phanes, mother of the cosmic egg.
- The Pharos is the tomb of Thasaii, dark god of Old Yondorkand. His devotees still hide among the peoples of Yond.
- The Pharos is the tomb of Thasaii, euhemerized king of primordial Yond, slayer of the dragon Thaumogorgon.
- The Pharos is the wick of a strange living flame that resides deep within the earth.
- The light of the Pharos is the lantern-light which projects the shadow-puppets of mundane reality.