>The School of Hard Knocks

>Teleleli’s premier school for the teaching of armed and unarmed self-defence. Its fees will be, for the most part, out of the reach of the traveler. Generally its students will be guards or thugs in the service of a wealthy patron who finds it cheaper to hire the unskilled and train them than to pay more for already skilled operators (an option only open to those sufficiently well-supplied with servants that they are able to wait). At times wealthy merchants, eager to imitate the landed aristocracy, have sent their scions to the school to gain skill at arms.

>Dreamtime Octopuses

>These creatures, as their name would imply, look like the octopus familiar to us. However they possess a human-like intelligence, and are not sea creatures. They float a few inches above the ground, and move in a fashion suggestive of swimming. Their only known community is a small suburb in Teleleli.

The language of the creatures is visual: they do not speak, but convey meaning by causing their bodies to display various symbols and colors. While they can understand speech, and have learned to ‘write’ the trade-pidgin of Teleleli on their skins, it is clear that some shades of meaning are lost. Certain artists have learned their language, which they paint on canvases. Likewise some wizards have learned to communicate with them by means of casting illusions. They report that the creatures’ language is like that of art or magic, in that feelings, symbolism and metaphor are easier to get across than are concrete facts. Thus there are many things that are unknown about the creatures.

For example, they are native to a place called the Dreamtime. However it is unclear whether the Dreamtime is literally connected to the world encountered in dreams. Likewise it is unknown whether they have travelled from another time. The place may, indeed, be merely a far land in the same world as Teleleli. In any case, the means by which they come here is also unclear.

In Teleleli many of the creatures have, unfortunately, fallen into burglary as a profession. Their tentacles make them skilled in climbing and in the manipulation of small objects, as is needful in lock-picking. Further, the fact that they float above the ground means that falling does not injure them as much as it would a human or similar creature. Traps such as concealed pits and blades triggered by pressure-plates, likely to be used by the wealthy and security-conscious, are quite useless against them. The creatures place no pressure upon the ground unless they have fallen from a height, and thus they will glide over such traps without setting them off.

It should not be thought that Dreamtime octopuses would make perfect adventurers. While they have the advantages detailed above, they also have handicaps. They are far more delicate than humans, somewhat weaker, and quite slow (though not as slow as the inhabitants of Slowtown). They can only wear armour that has been made to a special design, quite different to that used by humans.

Popular sentiment has connected them to the Seventh-Day Inventists, since they appear to have no religion. The octopuses, however, state that the gods of the Dreamtime are not present in Teleleli. As with many such statements, it is debated whether they are speaking literally.

Dreamtime octopuses are excellent swimmers, but will drown in water just as humans will.

(My thanks to The Society of Torch, Pole and Rope, upon whose research I have drawn in preparing this entry)

>Panelvania

>Also called The Feathered Land, after its people’s distinctive hairstyle. A land of dinosaurs and mighty-thewed barbarians, its primary exports are battleaxes and thrones made of skulls. It is reportedly the homeland of the owner of Sonja’s.

The Telelelene ethnologist Ephra Zetta has made an extensive study of Panelvania. He reports that the inhabitants’ mighty thews are gained by rigorous training. Men traditionally build up their muscles by walking around with a young woman holding on to their leg. Women traditionally increase their toughness by wearing a chainmail bikini in all weathers.

>Atnos

>As I have noted, scientific knowledge in Teleleli and surrounding lands is mostly the property of individuals, and dies with them.

The ancient city of Atnos declared a bold rebellion against this practice. They decreed that all knowledge should be written on the city walls, to be freely used by all. Even magic was to be freely shared, under the doctrine of open sorcery.

Alas, the city fell. It is not known why. Some say they uncovered knowledge that no one could have discovered by themselves, which drove them mad. Others say that, on the contrary, they were destroyed by wizards or priests who feared their monopoly would end. Of course, their fall may have had nothing to do with their policy.

Those who live near the ruined city certainly believe that knowledge was to blame. They now worship ignorance, in the form of a blind idiot god who lives in the ground. Were it not for their fear, they would certainly have obliterated all writing on the walls of Atnos.

They believe that knowledge is spiritually dangerous, so that only priests can safely face it. Some very pious people blind themselves, lest they accidentally learn from observing the world.

They do not welcome travellers, who bring knowledge of the world, and are suspected (usually rightly) of wanting to view the walls of Atnos.

If one avoids the people, most of the city itself is ruled by talking wild dogs. They are divided into two packs, whose alphas are Snoop Manny Man and Will Feral.

There is also rumoured to be a colony of zeru, or albinos, living in the city. They are said to have braved the many dangers of this place to escape persecution. In some places the ignorant will kill or exile them, believing them to be cursed and ‘carriers’ of bad luck. Sorcerers also hunt them, prizing their body parts as ingredients in magic. Their bad reputation may come from a confusion with underground-dwelling humans, or with the various albino animals that live in sewers.

>Talking Animals

>In general, for any species, there might be a talking, intelligent version, as well as the mute, bestial version that we are familiar with.

Some sages believe that apes and humans form such a pair. Yet there are rumours of bestial humans, and what of the Ape-Rajahs of the brass-walled City of Dust? Though some say that they are not true apes.

Teleleli is home to large numbers of talking animals, particularly cats, dogs, and mice.

Talking cats reach about five feet tall in adulthood. Young adults (toms and queens) rather remind one of characters from The Three Musketeers.

Normal cats have the ability to sense entrances to the underworld, and the desire to enter them (this is why they spend so much time under houses, and why they frequently disappear, never to be seen again). Some believe that talking cats have a dim echo of this sense.

Courting among talking cats involves toms displaying agility, for example by balancing on a fence, while playing the bagpipes. Talking cats are unique in their love of this instrument. Its music also affords the toms further ability to display their grace, by dodging the objects thrown at them by the neighbours. Queens are only allowed to court toms on one day of the year, the holiday Lost Saturday. This rule, being the command of the church, is universally obeyed, just as in our own society sex outside of marriage is unknown.

Although I have been unable to determine its truth, there is widespread agreement that a talking cat’s fur colour indicates a particular talent, as follows:

Black Held to have the ability to wish bad luck, especially hunger, on those who oppose them.
White, or van (coloured ears, rest of the body white): Believed to be lucky.
Grey “In the night all cats are grey” the Telelelenes say, since such cats are believed to excel in being stealthy at night.
Orange Believed to excel in predicting the weather.
Tortiseshell (black and orange patches) Said to excel in thwarting snakes, scorpions, spiders and like creatures, both normal and talking. Legend says that a tortiseshell cat defended the Tree of All Beasts from demons in the form of venomous animals, and was given this ability as a reward.
Tabby (light grey and dark grey-black stripes) Credited with an uncanny nack of locating hidden treasure.
Paws, chest, and lower face white – upper face, ears, legs, back and tail black Believed to excel in all matters pertaining to love, the home, marriage, and children.
Paws, chest, and lower face white – upper face, ears, legs, back and tail of any colour other than black Believed to excel in attracting the admiration of others (a most valued attribute for this generally vain and superficial folk).

Talking mice are about four feet tall, and generally have a similar style to talking cats.

Both talking cats and mice are physically ideal for the profession of burglar, but they are usually handicapped by their immense vanity in the first case, and their sense of fair play in the second. There are many famous cat-burglars, but few who are said to have lived for long. Some talking mice have become pirates, but talking cats generally disdain the sea – perhaps they retain some of their ancestral dislike of water.

Talking dogs can be any size from three feet to higher than the tallest human. Strangely, the variety of breeds in mute dogs is reflected in talking dogs. They believe that they were made thus by the Great Race. These theories are at least more credible than talking cats’ belief that they were created from the sneeze of a lion. The largest talking dogs of all are those with wolfish blood. True talking wolves are thankfully not seen in the city, but they are the terror of the forests.

Gangs of talking cats and dogs often fight each other. The main issue is religion, with one species being mostly Catolic, the other Eastern Orthodogs (except for some who follow the teachings of Martin Woofer).

Talking sea creatures can sometimes be seen in Teleleli, particularly around the docks. The mercantile Sell-Fish, ever seeking new markets, uses its fins as feet in order to walk on land. While on land, talking fish carry un-brellas. These devices look like umbrellas, but drop a constant stream of water on the talking fish. Talking dolphins transform into human form. Their human bodies are hairless, slim and muscular. They are said to have a city underwater, location unknown. In some accounts it is destroyed.

Talking sea creatures are largely uninterested in the religious conflict between dogs and cats. However they are sometimes the target of zealots from both communities, because of their liberal attitutes. For example prawnography is openly sold, and they have produced Salmon Rushdie, author of the controversial novel The Sardinic Verses. To protect themselves they have trained a force of Navy Seals.

Talking weasels are likewise uninterested in religious conflicts, due to their belief in the seperation of church and stoat.

Talking cockroaches, or Roaches of Al-Shahab, are about the size of a wolf or foal. They keep the streets reasonably clean by eating garbage. This reduces disease, and can keep away the eggs of many dangerous creatures such as the Invisible Worm Which Flies in the Night. Thus it is dangerous to drive them away, despite their many revolting habits. One such is that they dig up cemeteries. Although even this ensures that a place will not be infested by ghouls, who do not always limit themselves to those already dead. Another is their willingness to work with criminals such as the Bright Company, who use them to dispose of bodies.

Talking snails, turtles and tortises often find the pace of other creatures difficult to adjust to. Thus many of them live in the Slowtown district. Outsiders who enter this walled-off area are required to wear modified diving suits to slow them down. The economy of this district is largely based on the silver found in the trails which talking snails leave behind them.

Talking beavers mostly live in rural areas. However there is a small colony in Teleleli, who were driven here when their dam was destroyed by human farmers. Many of them listen to the bitter talking beaver Clint Eatwood who has sworn that he will take revenge, forcing the farmers to “go ahead punk – make my dam.”

Where most talking creatures are close to human-size, talking birds are the same size as their mute equivalents. Naturally many live atop the Roofs.

Lizard-folk are not talking animals, since their bodies are halfway between a human and lizard form.

>The League of Snide, Aristocratically-Accented Villains

>This criminal organisation specialises in elaborate schemes on a grand scale. Ideally a plan should allow them to take over at least part of the world, or gain a fortune by threatening the destruction of a city or kingdom. They disdain ordinary crime, with the exception of burglary of art and precious jewels.

My investigations suggest that their base is either an abandoned funfair, or what sounds like a gigantic zeppelin, so high in the sky that it cannot be seen. My informant suggested that they travel from zeppelin to city and back at night. She also claimed that the zeppelin has a device which fires sharks at anyone who attacks the base. Presumably the sharks are equipped with hang-gliders, and modified diving-suits allowing them to breathe.

It is whispered that some of their members, convicted of their crimes, have chosen to be executed by catapult and, once launched into the heavens, have been rescued by cleverly-placed hot air balloons.

Their most respected member is the Count Nom DePlume, a figure of great mystery. Some have suggested that this is not even his real name.

They have vast wealth, dedication and genius. However they are let down by their poor social skills, with members trying to become leader rather than co-operating. Indeed it is rumoured that one of their number, Baron von Rickman, has started a rival organisation, after a dispute with the Count over a favourite monocle.

>Nara

>The followers of this lion-headed god recruit the poor and desperate from the streets of Teleleli, inviting them back to their temple, or ‘barracks’, where they are fed.

This noble work has not dismissed their ill reputation. This is partly because of rumours that they pressure people into undergoing rituals of initiation which can involve beatings and even death.

Nara’s followers are also said to steal the idols of other gods (and some say they even kidnap the gods themselves). They bring them to the Grand Barracks, which lies many miles from Teleleli, where Nara stands before an eternal pyre. The offerings are burnt at his feet, so that he is ever wrapped in the rising smoke of idols, stupified in ecstatic dreams of evil.

Every so often, it is said, the High Priest is also thrown into the flames. This is called the doctrine of papal inflammability.

>The Wine-Faced Sea

>Teleleli and the surrounding islands stand in the Wine-Faced Sea. Why the sea is so named is disputed. Some say that it is because it may be calm, even sleeping, and then suddenly violent, without cause, like one far gone in drink. Others claim that the Great Race, perverse in all things, drank light blue wine – or that the fluid originally referred to was something else entirely. Yet others point to the way that those most harmed by the sea can be most devoted to it, even against their will.

>The Courage-Seller

>Phoedocia is a hideous creature of unknown type, somewhat resembling a cross between a skeleton and a grasshopper (although the size of a man).

She is the only example of her kind, other than her cousin, the Memory-Buyer.

The two creatures’ voices are like that of women, but supremely calm in all situations.

She has a shop where she buys and sells courage. It is extracted from sellers in the blood, which Phoedocia sucks out of the arm of the seller and spits into a pot. This pot grows flowers, which when eaten grant courage to buyers.

The courage of women is particularly intoxicating, and the buyer should take care, lest they develop a taste that they cannot control, and become a heroine addict.

>The Inflatable Minion Seller

>This shop sells inflatable guards and monsters. The budget-conscious goblin chieftain, bandit queen or mad sorcerer will have some real minions, but give the appearance of having far more by using these cheap devices.

They are, obviously, more effective at night, and against animals. For animals who rely on their sense of smell, the buyer may ‘dress’ them in their real minions’ dirty clothes.

If attacked the loud pop can act as an alarm, and at a slightly higher cost they may be filled with pestilent gas instead of air.

Although the owner does not say so, inflatable dragons (for example) may be used to terrify the gullible.