Saturday, February 24, 2007

Reconstructing the Way Down #3

"The Way Down is the lowest point in Necropolis, some say the lowest point in the world. Its the home of cutthroats, thieves, and back alley conjurers without a nickle to their name that hasn't been spent on 'dust or gin. Its the hottest bar in Necropolis, THE place to be seen in the Occult Underground, and THE place to make contacts, sell souls, and, sometimes, even save lives. It is the heart of counterculture, the crucible of revolution, and for some...the very last chance to find a place called 'Home'."
-Adelaide Fetch, Tales from the Way Down

Way Down Rennovations

I'll be honest when I say that I didn't really change the Way Down itself much. The original idea, that there was an underground bar where the Occult Underground met, a bar run by a man damned by the gods, wasn't, and isn't, a new one. The whole thing was inspired by some weird notion that came to me while watching Constantine, and germinated into an entire universe pretty much without me even having to think about it. The name "The Way Down" is a direct reference to how fucking long the staircase down to the front door is (and also the idea that the Way Down is Mimir's own personal hell)...but its also a bit of a nod to "The Waydown", the San Fransisco nightclub run out of an old gutted church in White Wolf's Mage: The Ascension. There are, of course, some obvious similarities (magicians hang out at both), but I try to stay away from any of the old Hollow One cliches and focus more on the pervasive nature of Necropolis' Occult Underground. Or, to put it another way: The Way Down is much more Vertigo than it is Mage.

From the first thought and characterizations, the world of the Way Down pretty much wrote itself. The main cast sprung out almost entirely fully formed, often from only vague images that I thought looked kind of cool (Lady Vapor as a woman in old ball gowns and wedding dresses wearing a WWII era gas mask, for instance). I've edited some of them a little bit for the new stuff, mainly to bring them more in line with each other and create a sense of a shared world as opposed to a whole bunch of interesting and odd characters just seemingly mashed into the same setting.

To do that, I've polarized the Occult Underground of Necropolis into four rough camps: The Way Down, The Magic Mafia, The Aleister Arms and The Free Agents.

The first two are obvious, and I'll note changes on them below.

The third are Nick Scratch's people, the minions of the self proclaimed "Lord of Necropolis". Most of them are modern twists on old magical concepts. My conceptual notes for the Aleister Arms people note that they are "Satanic Rock'n'Roll Freemasons" (a nod to the Arms' namesake, Aleister Crowley [whose head is often described in the text as being that of "a fat man who looks vaugley like Winston Churchill"]). They have most of the connections that Tom'o'Troubles doesn't, and tend to be far more violent and hardcore than most of the other groups.

The last are those members of the occult underground who owe no one allegiance or loyalty. Some of them are anarchists who pursue their own agenda, uninhibited by the orders of Tom'o'Troubles or Nick Scratch, or by the relative (and minor) morality of Mimir and Judas Janet. Others are powers in their own right who refuse to bow and scrape before the masses.

The final and ultimate free agent, at least at the start of the story, is Adelaide Fetch...but the story of how he came to be an ally of the Way Down will be told in the coming weeks.

The Way Down

The Way Down was originally a cave about a hundred feet under the street of Necropolis. It had a door, and rough stone stairs leading to the surface...a perfect means of escape set to taunt Mimir for his impudence of daring to mess with The Golden. No one knows where the power for the place comes from, how the chandeleirs of black twisted metal hanging from the ceiling get their juice or how Morningstar manages to get The Fallen's amps hooked up. But the electricity is there...somewhere, and it doesn't seem to stop. Its the same with the water (though strange things HAVE, occasionally, crawled out of the pipes, which is why there are no urinals in the men's washroom), and the place stays, miraculously, cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The Way Down is shaped in a rough square, with the stairs leading down to a large number of round tables and chairs set around the floor. Booths line each of the bare stone walls, each booth set with leather of varying shades and ages. None of the chairs match, none of the tables are exactly, 100% even...but somehow they work well together. Set in the far back corner is the bar, a long affair with over 30 barstools and a long unbroken timber of warped driftwood smack on top, sanded smooth and lacqured with a deep red glaze that almost looks like blood. All the metal in the place is tarnished, often silver or chrome with bits of brass and copper appearing where it looked too good to remove. The dance floor takes up a large portion of the middle of the room, towards the back, right in front of a small stage...just large enough to hold Morningstar and his four bandmates.

The Way Down does NOT look like a professional bar. It is a bar cobbled together from whatever Mimir could find, where every penny goes towards keeping it stocked and repaired. Don't bother asking for food. They serve liquor. You bring your own food. If you're particularly nasty, Mimir might slip you that muddy brown hootch he distills from the rusty faucet in the back of the bar, the one enshrined with the label "God's Piss".

Mimir and Judas Janet serve bar and hold court in the club 7 nights a week. Mimir lives in the back store room, he can't really go anywhere else, and Judas Janet has devoted her entire life to the Way Down so much so that she hardly ever leaves anyway.

Drinks are served by the four Agony Sisters: Dominica, Bianca, Marissa, and Christina Agony; the Dominatrices of the Dead, the Practical Necromancers, who once convinced a man to come back to dead because they could hurt him more as a ghost than they could as a living creature. All dressed in black, the Agonies occasionally hold a floor show for those into the most creative aspects of S&M, and while they DO do some of the best waitressing in town, they also keep the general riff-raff out; if you're not wanted in the Way Down, one look from one of the Agony Sisters will generally send you running.

Lady Vapor has been a fixture of the Way Down since it unprecedented attack on her Edge, that side of her that makes sure that she is always there first...if not before. And while she may have been the first in the doors, it has often been to her disapointment and consernation that she was first of a CROWD...that she didn't have the chance to sample the bar's delights first before anyone else. But still, she has brought her social circle to the Way Down, making it one of the CENTERS of the Occult Underground. Vapor's Edge has another facet: she never suffers the ill effects of taking her passions to the extreme. She cannot OD, she cannot be poisoned by alcohol, she never gets full, and she never has to fake it during sex. And so she searches for the ultimate rush...which has, over the years, developed into her obsession with the gas mask she ALWAYS wears. The gas mask that generally hooks into a tank of something awful and noxious. Oxygen is too pedestrian for Lady Vapor, and she has long since given up its bland essence for the more dangerous. Vapor is one of the most in-the-know people in the Way Down, specifically becuase her Edge makes sure she hears all the gossip FIRST, and when the people of the Way Down take arms against a common foe, Vapor is often one of the first ones on the unofficial war council.

But what would the Way Down be without music? And who better to provide it than Necropolis' hottest underground band, Morningstar and the Fallen? Some claim that this quintet of rock'n'roll bad boys are fallen angels, but no proof has yet surfaced. Sure, they all wear black, their hair is the perfect blond, their eyes the perfect blue, and when their voices pitched just perfectly so...but they lack a certain savoir-faire associated with demons. But there is also Morningstar's Edge to consider...that incredible sense of psychic and spiritual heat that he radiates in song, that almost forms a halo of shadow around him when his music reaches it's crescendo. He is certainly a power...though how great of one, and how far he'll take it, is something that remains to be seen.

And that's the crew of the Way Down. This post was a bit of a whopper, so I'm gonna just stop here and make a second post on Monday talking about some of the other major players in the game, and a few other locales. And next Friday, the first chapter of the Tales from the Way Down comes out. So stay tuned.



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