CHAPTER FOUR: THE WIDENING GYRE
The Eight Nations are ancient beyond reckoning; their history reaches back in an uninterrupted chain to the earliest days of the First Age. They’ve outlasted the Old Realm, the Dragon-Blooded Shogunate, and the reign of the Scarlet Empress—combined. In their hearts, most Autochthonians believe the Octet will stand forever.
In truth, Autochthonia teeters on the brink of disaster. Three of its nations still present the appearance of invulnerability, proud and permanent pillars which could never topple, but this is an illusion. The pillars are rocking as the Great Maker’s sickness worsens, and without heroic action, the long histories of wealthy Kamak, holy Jarish, and cosmopolitan Gulak may soon come to an end.
A funicular as large as an apartment block hums softly as it descends a precipitous eighty-degree slope of ice-crusted brass and steel. Its cloaked Populat passengers sit in warm, comfortable booths, lowering their muffling scarves to sip from mugs of hot kaff as they peer out through the funicular’s broad, tinted windows. Outside, beams of light leap from the funicular’s lamps to illuminate the veils of snow falling from above. Blue flashes flicker distantly, their source hid- den in the icy mists—lightning, perhaps, or a firefight with Estasian raiders.
Of all the Eight Nations, Kamak may fall farthest from the norm. Its orbit through the Reaches is the most eccentric, taking it into the coldest zones of the Pole of Metal; this also gives it access to the largest deposits of the magical materials outside of Xexas and Loran, making it the richest nation in the Octet. The Kamaki are a people of extremes, ruled by their code of privacy in public, while privately obsessed with family and romantic love. They are an uncouth enigma to the other nations, isolated by wealth and pride. But they cannot survive alone. Kamak must come to terms with the changing world or fall with it.
Layout and Landscape
Where other nations are comprised of rounded or tubular chambers that run parallel or perpendicular to gravity, Kamak’s chambers are both unusually shaped and laid at odd angles, like a fistful of three-dimensional puzzle pieces tossed into a jumbled heap. Shapes range from regular polyhedra to kinked and twisted tubes to amorphous, irregular spaces. Sizes likewise vary, with shafts fifty miles long situated alongside cysts less than a mile in diameter. Their conjunctions often lead to mild temblors.
Flat horizontal surfaces rarely occur naturally in Kamak. Most of those which exist have been engineered into that shape over the millennia. Some of the nation’s settlements stand atop slick metal summits or saddle-back ridges; others cling to narrow ledges or jut out from escarpments. Still others are spread across multiple ledges or outcroppings, connected by swaying metal bridges. But most lie embedded within the nation’s walls: networks of corridors and chambers built of concrete and steel, tucked away from the cold and the winds and the stark cliffs and chasms.
Sophisticated trams and funicular lines run across the icy slopes and through miles of illuminated tunnels, steam rising from their heated tracks. Obelisks of red jade three meters tall, their surfaces inlaid with convoluted thaumaturgical sigils of orichalcum, hover above settlements and stopping points, emitting zones of warmth to stave off the encircling cold.
Kamak is the coldest of the Eight Nations. Its course through the Reaches takes it through areas whose temperature often drops well below freezing. When combined with water vapor ejected from steam conduits, this makes it the only nation whose larger chambers are subject to snowfall.
Unlike Creation, Kamak has no regular seasonal cycle. Temperatures change erratically as the nation moves through the body of the Machine God. Nonetheless, its people divide its climactic variations into three seasons. “Warm season” encompasses those times when the temperature is above freezing. Sometimes these periods are actually warm, or even hot, but they never last for more than a few months. “Snow season” encompasses times when the air is cold and dry; breath steams in the air, while frost crackles on metal and glass. Worst is “ice season,” when rime and freezing rain encrust every exposed surface with ice.
In settled areas and along thoroughfares, red jade obelisks and steam conduits are employed to alleviate the worst of the cold. Surfaces that need to be kept free of ice—such as tram tracks, walkways, stairs, ladder rungs, door frames, and the like—are typically warmed with an Essence-charged mesh of red jade alloy embedded in a layer of corrugated artificial rubber.
Published September 2011 by White Wolf Publishing