The Misericord

Population: ~1 million, not counting passengers
Tithe Grade: Exactus Minimus
Dimensions: 10 km long, 1.6 km abeam at fins
Mass: 700 megatonnes, aprox.
Government Type: Caste Society ruled by officer class
Governor: Anapollo and Luneros (Twin Captains)
Adept Presence: no permanent Adept presence
Military: The Merciful (hereditary caste of security personnel)
Trade: various

The Misericord is a chartist spacecraft, plying a route between Scintilla, Iocanthos, and Sepheris Secundus with occasional detours to Cyrus Vulpae, Port Wrath, Quaddis, Luggnum, and/or Sophano Prime. By the terms of the ship's charter, it may visit no other worlds.

Misericord is an enormous ship, dwarfing even most vessels of the Imperial navy, and in appearance it resembles a tremendous, barnacle-encrusted, spacefaring whale. Haphazard clusters of engines and towers jut from its body, and it trails a long tail of debris like a comet. The Misericord carries huge quantities of trade goods between client worlds, along with many passengers. Buying passage on a ship like the Misericord is the most common method of travelling between worlds. Its round trip takes well over a year.

The Misericord is considered an ill omen at any port that it visits. It is considered bad luck to marry, give birth, or embark on a major venture when the Misericord is in orbit, and during the ship's many centuries of operation tales have grown up about the dark things that occur while it is in port. The crew is mostly void born, and as everyone knows the void born aren't entirely right in the head.

Inside, the Misericord resembles a huge, complex, and grotesquely ornate castle. Many different ships make up the Misericord, and they each have their own style, which in turn has been embellished and replaced over the centuries. In places where the component ships connect, corridors can become precipitous shafts, rooms can be upside down, and moving from place to place can be very complex (although the void-born crew are adept at clambering up makeshift ladders or even leaping pits in the floor.) The Misericord's interior is archaic, with feasting halls, dungeons, cobwebbed processional galleries, and many other places that seem to have little connection to the business of the ship or the needs of the crew.

Life on the Misericord is defined by the castes into which the crew are divided. There are dozens of castes, each one responsible for a particular function aboard ship. Crewmen are either born into these castes or assigned to them on the few occasions they join from outside. These castes range from the Scourhand Brotherhood (who scrub the filth from the floors of the engine room) to the Company of Imbeciles (the ship's entertainers, consisting of various clowns, actors, and storytellers). The officers of the Misericord belong to their own caste and wear distinctive and rather sinister masks to mark them out from the rest of the crew. Each caste has their own leadership, which reports to the officer caste, and the officers in turn receive their orders from the twin captains, Anapollo and Luneros. The captains believe that the caste system is the reason that the Misericord has survived for so long, and are quick to bring anyone opposing it to trial. Castes are insular and proud and sometimes they can come into bitter conflict, such as the regular skirmishes between the Lamplighters Guild and the Followers of the Wire over who gets to change the glowbulbs. All have their own baffling traditions, from the large wood and paper animal masks of the Obeyers Guild (the ship's lawyers and executioners) to the ritual removal of an ear from every member of the Enginists (who maintain the ship's temperamental engines).

Most crew are true void born and live their whole lives on the ship. However, since the castes are not permitted to interbreed, the ship needs new crew members from outside to replenish its gene pool. Older legends speak of the terrible "age of six toes" when a previous captain refused to allow new blood onto the Misericord. Crew who join from outside — referred to as "clayfeet" are both blessed and cursed. They are valuable to the crew and are given the least dangerous duties, but on the other hand they can never be regarded as true members of the Misericord crew, and are treated as outsiders no matter how long they serve on the ship.

The bridge of the Misericord is located close to the centre of the ship, in one of its very oldest parts, were the walls are covered in layers of faded frescoes depicting scenes from semi-forgotten myths and tragedies from the ship's history. The captains and the bridge officers command the Misericord from a raised area, known as the Captain's Floor, which is flanked by a series of ornate and ancient flags which are changed to match the work shifts. Gilded war banners attend the day shift while silvered mercantile pennants are displayed during ship's night. No one can remember the origin of this curiously theatrical practice, though it may be down to the whim of the twin captains. Bridge uniforms and staff are changed from gold (day) to silver (night) as the bridge hands over from one "ban" (ship jargon for a work shift) to another. Subsidiary helms, manned by officers who monitor the ship's systems, plot coursed, man the ship's vox-casters, and so on, stand to the side of the captain's floor. By ancient tradition, these lesser officers may not take the floor unless specifically invited. To do so is to rise above ones station, an unforgivable and treasonous act against the strict hierarchy of command. Traitorous helmsmen have been thrown into space for such an act.

The twins require an audience on the bridge at all times and lots are drawn to determine which crew members must spend a day in the area known as the watch court. From here the watchmen are supposed to observe procedures on the bridge to ensure protocol. In reality crew members view their days on the court benches as if they were a theatrical performance. Most spend their time eating, commenting raffishly on various officers or staring in wonder at the captains. It is a point of strict protocol that officers on the bridge studiously ignore any comments, noisy chewing, thrown food, or jeering from the court. In reality crew who behave badly often find that they suffer the consequences when they return to their normal work.

Key ceremonial decisions, like course changes, are considered especially interesting by members of the crew, and those lucky enough to have their number drawn on a day when such an event is to occur will often sell their tickets to the highest bidder. Attending court on a false ticket is technically considered an offence against regulations, but in practice most officers turn a blind eye to the custom. Visitors to, and passengers aboard, the Misericord are often delighted by the arcane pageantry of bridge activity, which they are free to observe from the outer circle of seating beyond the watch court. This captive, intrigued audience may, of course, be why the captains have allowed this curious behaviour aboard ship.

Passengers on the Misericord stay in the Beyonders' Hostelry, a sprawl of small but well-appointed rooms kept by the Minions of Stewardship. the Minions have a number of quirks, including being forbidden to speak, so they communicate through written notes (illiterate passengers tend to have difficulty with this) and with rapid sign language among themselves. The Minions decorate the hostelry with the hundreds of shiny or brightly coloured things hey find, many of which were left behind by previous passengers. The Hostelry is cramped and rather dusty, and the Minions, while obliging, have a habit of getting things slightly wrong — most notably the food they bring to the passengers always tastes bizarre. It is possible that the Minions deliberately misinterpret requests to make sure that their passengers understand that they are not a proper part of the Misericord's world.

The Gallery of Sin is one of the few places where the crewmen of the various castes mix. The Gallery is a wide, high-ceilinged deck with a small, bustling town built inside it. Several of the castes, such as the Guardians Mercantile and the Coinwrackers sell goods and services to crew and passengers. The Gallery of Sin (the name is of uncertain origin) is the closest thing to a "normal" community on the Misericord, but strange rituals and traditions still abound — shopkeepers regularly hold mock battles in the streets, engage in elaborate and foul-mouthed haggling rituals with customers, and make sham sacrifices to vegetables. It is in the Gallery of Sin that the Company of Imbeciles performs in small street corner theatres. Some of these entertainers roam around singling out passers-by (preferably bemused passengers) to follow them performing mimes or poetry. The ethos of the Gallery seems to be that because it fulfills a fairly mundane purpose, its normalcy must be balanced by oddness and symbolism as much as possible

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License