Council of Thieves - Collins 2013
Recreation and Entertainment
Recreation and Entertainment
It has been said that, in Cheliax, anything not forbidden is permitted, and the government recognizes that its citizenry requires ample space to shake off the tensions caused by the ever-present regulations and laws. This space, of course, is vice. In most cities outside Cheliax, vice hides in back alleys and away from respectable, gods-fearing citizens. Not so here. In this land, the government owns many brothels, drug dens, gambling houses, and theaters, which stand glittering. These draw in the wealthy and their guests, who mingle in the fleshpots and the cathouses, watching the degradations of their friends and neighbors, few of them ever realizing their own souls are as besmirched. Egorian regulates vice and taxes sin. Brothel owners must pay monthly licensure fees and open their books to government investigators. Drug dens pay a percentage of their intake, and gossip says that half the addicts are government informants listening for loose words and secrets spilled. Some proprietors try to skip out on their actual allotments, attempting to hide their businesses for whatever reason—but when they’re discovered, they pay back taxes or exorbitant bribes, and frequently go before the courts. Easier, then, to go through the hassle of the bureaucratic process, purchase inspection permits and licenses, and conduct all this business openly.
The poor have their entertainments as well, less officially sanctioned but still legal under the Asmodean code. Theirs are more brutal, less refined, and their victims less likely to stagger home after the night’s end. The bloodspattered fighting pits of the tenements and ghettos see any number of prizefights—from cockfights to more exotic creatures, bare-knuckled boxing to all-out death matches—which generate real income for the owner of the beast or the winner of the bout, up to 20 gp nightly.
In Ostenso, would-be gladiators are advised to ask for Warrant Officer Tarantil Veser at the Six-Eyed Mute; she’s got wide knowledge of the best matches for the upcoming week, and can arrange impromptu bouts within a few hours.
The diversions of the wealthy can be both more refined and more horrifying. In addition to many conventional and renowned opera houses and theaters, Cheliax’s nobles also have something they call the Theater of the Real. For the high-minded and the intellectual, this is an exercise in stripping away the true nature of humanity to connect them to their primal selves, a way to open the sheltered to a transgressive revelation of the human condition. To less cultured theater-goers, these are snuff plays featuring violence, blood, and gruesome ends perpetrated on the unwitting or sacrificial victims—a way to indulge bloodlust without having to rub elbows with the lower classes. In Egorian, the most famous of these theaters lies in Devil’s Dance, in a place called the Cowering Slave, its proprietor a former priest named Tusco Felone. The current gossip is that a new anti-government movement has arisen that takes elements of the Theater of the Real and combines them with revolutionary sensibilities: by kidnapping the families of local authorities and forcing them to participate—though masked—on stage in these voyeuristic spectacles, the radical new troupes hope to force an end to the Real.
Art in Cheliax
In addition to theater, other arts also thrive in Cheliax; people need an outlet and inspiration, and life in Cheliax provides plenty of the latter. In sculpture, the latest fashion is the Egorian style, a brutal form of jags and spikes that asserts dominance over its surroundings through sheer power and presence. The dominant painting style now could best be described as realistic, though the themes are decidedly supernatural and infernal: either depicting the leadership of Cheliax in positions of dominance over the Courts of Hell, or denigrating their political enemies. The latest music is both harmonious and disturbing, with sudden, harsh, and rhythmic drives punctuating and puncturing the eerie melody. The chamber orchestra Five-Edged Square has been experimenting with different instrumentation, their latest affectation being woodwinds and strings made from the bones and organs of dead radicals.
Finally, a new movement is emerging, spurred by the monks of the Third Stone Abbey in the eastern Menador Mountains: the New Ascetic, devoted to stripping out the inessential in art to focus on the bare truth. Asmodean Prelate Astrid Consain calls this a deviation from the complex interweavings of Hell, and is pushing to have the practitioners of the art chastised, but the movement continues to grow.