The City of Missing Shadows
By all outward appearances, Guran is as normal a town as you’re likely to find anywhere in the Steadfast or the Beyond. In fact, Guran was considered so devoid of personality and unique characteristics that the first Steadfaster who graced its borders dubbed it the City of the Missing. Of course, every small town has its secrets and hidden back alleys, if you take the time to look. Still, the moniker has stuck.
Located at the southernmost point of the Black Riage, Guran has the best natural resources at its fingertips: its location in the Tolay Valley protects it from the elements, the Ech River brings a flow of fresh water down from the mountains, and the marshland around Yesterday’s Lake is perfect for orchards and dossi grazing.
Guran owes its inception to the great Bauble Rush, which brought baublers from all over hoping to make a quick buck by excavating the luminous blue baubles from the nearby mines. Unfortunately, the baubles were so numerous that they were of little value. Today, all of Guran is lit with mounds of abandoned baubles.
Guran has a single leader, Mylian Acan, a councilman and Aeon Priest who works hard to balance the use of the numenera with the needs of the townspeople. Mylian has the support of most of the residents, although he is often at odds with the more fervent Aeon Priests.
The Council of Guran, a group of three tradesmen and three seculars, assists Mylian with decisions and governing. They are authorized to rule together as a single entity if something happens to Mylian, in which case they have one week to choose a new head of town.
Additionally, the council employs a dozen guardsmen to keep the peace.
SECTIONS OF TOWN
The Clave: Once the entire town was located within this district’s rudimentary wall of thorned rose shrubs, which was carefully cultivated to deter intruders. Now, the town has grown beyond this small area, and the rosewall is maintained by two elderly Sarracenians.
The stone buildings of the original district cannot hide their true age, but their wear and tear has been carefully minimized by attentive hands. Many of these former houses and shops have become headquarters for the town’s organizations, places of official city business, and areas of worship. A small cemetery rests at the Clave’s southernmost edge, the stones etched with surnames that live on in today’s residential areas, street names, and businesses. Here you’ll find Beckers, Moreks, Statins, Errols, and, in the oldest section, three small stones bearing the name Guran. The oldest section of the cemetery is the most populated, with rows and rows of stones bearing the same year. In addition to names and dates, most of these stones are carved with a rose.
The cemetery also has an empty morgue. Clearly part of the town’s original infrastructure, the morgue is made of crumbling brick and rusting metal. Its large wooden double door is closed but never locked. If you visit midweek, you’ll notice that the front steps are littered with skrips, all of which have been marked with various sizes of red circles and held down with blue-grey stones the size of fists. These are left by devotees of She as peace offerings against the return of the Rose Plague, a spotted fever that wiped out much of Guran in its early years. The rumor is that during the plague, the city council ordered a morgue to be built quickly to handle the large numbers of the dying. Unfortunately, despite the feverish pace of construction, the morgue was completed too late; the Rose Plague worked faster than the men. By the time the morgue’s final brick was laid, the last of the dying had long since succumbed to their illness. Now empty and unwanted, the morgue is considered a necessary but grotesque reminder of that awful time.
Midmarket: As the town’s business hub, Midmarket is mostly a commercial area with a smattering of residences. Here, you’ll find Main Way, along which permanent and traveling merchants offer their wares.
The general store, which is named Wesk’s Market but which most people just call “the general,” offers food, spices, equipment, and a free bauble with every purchase. The huge pile of discarded baubles outside the store’s front door attests to their level of business. Here, you can haggle or trade with the stout, grey-haired owner Joeffry Wesk for anything in the store — including the store itself, since he’s been trying to sell it for years so he can spend his days fishing on Yesterday’s Lake.
At the back of the store, behind the counter, is a hanging shelf filled with items that Wesk has traded for over the years in lieu of shins. The inventory changes constantly and consists of mostly useless trinkets, but from time to time, unusual bits of the numenera show up here.
For local armor and other metal and synthworkings, visit Flyte’s Armor & More. The owner, Flyte Deboit, is a flame-haired man of a quiet nature, rarely saying more than is necessary. By incorporating the blue baubles of the area into his wares, he makes quality objects that are both beautiful and unique to Guran. However, he works slowly and charges quite a bit more (typically three times as much) than a typical craftsman of the area. Those who are willing to pay and to wait are likely to come away with pieces that will serve them for a lifetime.
Next door, the Downy Dossi offers a wide variety of skrips, writing utensils, and inkpots, as well as printing services. Here, Hepter creates and distributes the town’s monthly newsletter, The Guran Gazette. If you talk too much around Hepter, you might find yourself quoted in the next issue. While he usually gets your words right, you should expect that they’ll be entirely out of context.
Two main tailors compete for the business of locals and visitors; they reside at opposite ends of Main Way. The Fine Thread, run by Maggie Yets, sits at the south end and specializes in beautiful stitches and unusual fabrics. The Threadfast, run by her sister Marchie Yets, holds fort at the north end of the way and does a booming business in adornments with a scientific angle, such as clothing made of fabrics that sense and react to specific types of prey or that display your muscles, bones, and internal organs.
The Fishing House offers a wide selection of hunting and fishing accessories, including ammunition, nets, water weapons, and rowboat rentals for Yesterday’s Lake.
The Rusted Relic is more of a junkyard than an actual store. It covers a wide swath of land just off Main Way and is surrounded by a wooden fence that seems constantly in need of attention. Here, among heaps of the numenera, junk parts, and scraps of materials, you’ll find the cantankerous creature known as Mecky — a tall, lithe woman with a curved scar along the side of her mouth that is only visible in certain light. Although she won’t tell you the story of her past, everyone in town knows that she was once a well-known nano in the Steadfast, the right-hand woman of one of its leaders. How she fell (or leaped) from favor is anyone’s guess, and Mecky isn’t particularly inclined to reveal the truth. Some say she is looking for a specific bit of the numenera, the one thing she needs to kill the person who shamed her. Others whisper that she remains in the loyal service of her leader and that she works undercover in Guran, her junkyard a ruse for something far more sinister. However, most people think that she is little more than a broken old woman, as useless and confusing as the junk she hawks.
Midmarket is also the site of one of Guran’s two inns, a bunk-and-breakfast establishment known as Gee’s. The owner is a grizzled man named Lestel, but his three pale blonde daughters run the place. It’s known for being clean, expensive, and almost always empty. Travelers can stay the night in one of the inn’s twelve upstairs rooms for 5 shins and can purchase dinner and breakfast for an additional 2 shins. The only time the inn gets busy is during its weekly dance, when Lestel’s daughters provide free dance lessons to any who wander in. The Ghost Group, a local quartet, provides the haunting musical accompaniment to the lessons.
Lestel’s estranged wife, Kir, runs a successful bakery next door, offering sweet and savory pies as well as a variety of morning-after drinks. Rumor is that she has a way with herbs and spices designed to alter a man’s virility, increase passion’s flame, and bring about — or prevent — pregnancy. But you won’t find those offerings among her regular wares.
The Hatchet: This triangular-shaped section of town covers a large, flat area with the river on one side and the start of the hills on the other. This prime location would make it the second-most coveted residential spot, just after the Eaves, if not for the area’s populace. Every city and town has its slum, and Guran is no exception.
Originally the location of the bauble shanty town, the Hatchet is rife with mish-mashed buildings, makeshift shelters, odd tangles of tunnels, and unexpected open holes. At the Hatchet’s center resides a pit built of brick and blood, about 50 feet (15 m) across and 100 feet (30 m) deep. Imprisoned at its bottom is an ancient ravage bear, driven mad by its captivity and the taunting of those above.
Supposedly, a mutant named Jirlin and his wild gang rule the Hatchet with a fiery fist, and those who disregard or challenge his rule become the next hot meal for the ravage bear. Jirlin and his band make their camp around the pit, building crude shelters out of whatever materials they can scavenge and steal. Jirlin is never seen outside the Hatchet, but his gang members travel to other parts of Guran, usually on missions for their leader. When they steal food and equipment, which they do as often as they can get away with it, they leave a calling card in the form of the letter J spelled out in glowing baubles.
The Eaves: This gently sloping area is filled with newer, larger homes built of ebony stones carved from the tunnels of the Black Riage. The walkways, too, are made from the same stone, giving the impression that they’re always wet. Nobles would live here — if the town had nobles. Instead, the Eaves are home to the rich and the pious and, of course, to those who are both. The only notable Guran dignitary who doesn’t live in the Eaves is Mylian Acan, who lives in his family home in the Clave.
The Upper West and the Lower West: These two districts have no marked boundaries, and the line between them moves almost daily, depending on who is having a disagreement with whom. Always, the Upper West and the Lower West engage in good-natured (and sometimes not-so-good-natured) ribbing about which of them is better.
At the annual fair, the two districts send their strongest, but not necessarily their smartest, residents to compete in tournaments of arm wrestling, drinking games, and fingerfishing — a sport in which participants stick their pinky fingers just below the surface of the water as bait to attract biters, a species of fish with extraordinarily large teeth. In the morning, after the headaches have passed and the fingers have been stitched, no one can remember who won the contests, so the battle rages on for another year.
That Place: Everyone refers to this bit of forested corner land simply as “that place,” as in “I’m going over to that place to do some hunting.” It’s thick with trees and wildlife, with only a few dirt paths weaving through the dense underbrush. Used primarily for hunting, it’s also a favorite spot for young couples (or anyone looking for a clandestine rendezvous). Unfortunately, this causes a number of individuals to be accidentally injured, especially those who are moving erratically, as a wild animal might. It happens so often, in fact, that there’s a local term for it — getting bucked.
Sweet End: A tangled sprawl of circular walkways, dead-end streets, and hilly paths, Sweet End is where you’ll find entertainment of the sort that isn’t family friendly. Forever Street is the main thoroughfare in this area. Lit constantly by huge amounts of baubles, which are stacked and cemented into shapes, letters, and place names, Forever Street never closes. Four bars, two eating establishments, and a tiny theater all line the street.
Milly’s Fishing Hole offers lovely women and a few equally lovely men who are happy to entertain residents and visitors, provided they have a couple of shins to spare. Milly’s also has a barroom and eatery where local bands perform. Perhaps the most popular musician is Will D’aevo, who plays a variety of stringed instruments and sings bawdy songs of Guran’s history in a silver-tongued voice. A tall, lanky man with olive skin, disheveled dark hair, and watchful, near-black eyes, D’aevo’s music seems to enhance the senses, leading listeners into a trancelike state. Because his music allows him to meld into the background, nearly unnoticed, he sees much of the town’s hidden underside. Those who talk with him find that he is a font of useful information and oddly well connected to those with darker dealings about town.
The Marchet is the largest and most popular bar along the strip. Best known for its specialty drink, the Kiss (made of crushed berries, four kinds of alcohol, two kinds of juice, a secret ingredient, and the kiss of the one who serves it), the bar is also infamous for its regular fights over who’s kissing whom. The owners, who also work as the barmaids and thus as the kissers in question, are two pairs of sisters: Simple and Serene, the daughters of Maggie Yets, and Temperance and Tranquility, the daughters of Marchie Yets. All four women are close in age, smart as whips, beautiful, and nearly identical. To say they occasionally create havoc by intentionally confusing guests as to their real identities would be a wild understatement. The girls, who were raised together, are as mischievous as their names are not.
Unwitting and unruly guests may find themselves kissed, trussed up, taunted, dropped into Yesterday’s Lake, or subjected to any number of other pranks. Often, guests wake up with their pockets empty but for a note that says their goods have been donated to Charcee, the woman who oversees Guran’s organization for the unfortunate. Yet no one seems to mind, and some people consider it a badge of honor to be Kissed. By evening, the Marchet is booming again, and if you listen closely, you can hear more than one group of guests bragging about their exploits at the hands of the Yets girls.
Sweet End Orchards: Along the southeastern edge of Sweet End lie the Sweet End Orchards. The orchards surround Yesterday’s Lake, a large body of fresh water that’s a source of fish year-round and a spot for migrating birds in the warmer months.
Once a year, under the fullest moon, Guran hosts a large picnic and fair at the lake, complete with a fishing contest, homemade fireworks, and a fiery alcoholic concoction called Cross-eyed Jack, which is made from crossels and a flammable liquid.
The Wash: A swamp at the south end of town, the Wash is the perfect growing region for crossels. The Red Man of the Marsh is rumored to live there, and children hear bedtime stories of his crossel-stained skin and his appetite for disobedient youngsters. (“Good children,” mothers say, “taste bitter to him, but bad children, oh, they taste like pies and cakes, and he eats them all up.”) The Red Man and his pack of water hounds wander the marshes when the fog is thick, looking for children to snatch. There is another tale, less told and whispered only among adults, that if you go to the Wash during the first water storm of the season, find the Red Man among the fog, and offer him something he’s never seen before, he will bequeath you one of his water hounds, which will work to protect you for the rest of its life.
Bauble Mines: The Black Riage mountains end at the northernmost tip of Guran, and the twists and turns of the old bauble mines are located along this part of the range. No longer used, they are firmly boarded up at each of their two main entrances. The mines have numerous levels and dead ends, so it’s hard to know how extensive they really are.
The Downy Dossi keeps a single copy of the mine maps for reference, but it never leaves the store. Even during emergencies, the map stays mounted behind unbreakable transparent synth. Guardsmen are required to memorize it as part of their training.