he city beneath the surface, no daylight has been seen by the inhabitants in living memory. The Sun: a whisper, a legend.
For two hundred years tales have been handed down from father to son. Tales of mankind's folly and technological abominations. Tales of the day clouds engulfed the sun. Tales of the twenty year winter and the slow, agonising death of "The Surface"
. But the greatest tale of all was of mankind's ultimate salvation within the warm, safe, belly of the earth.
The city itself lies in three huge interconnecting caverns - Ardel, Cartoe and Porfan. Connected by a singular, claustrophobic tunnel, post-curfew travel between the caverns is forbidden. Moreover, the ninth daily rotation - known as "The Final Cycle" - of The Great Cog, itself the only mark of time in these sulky depths, spins and repels huge shutters of forged iron over the passage openings. Thus marking the end of the "day". The previous eight cycles mark, what was previously, the distinction between day and night.
During the first four cycles of the 'day' the perpetual motion of the great cog spins through and winds a myriad of smaller gears, charging and powering the allotted daily motion for devices and machines within the city walls. The latter cycles of the cog are linked to its support differential; monolithic chains are hauled and towed from industrious workers on the street, reversing the charge of the mechanism, activating the long recoiling process to reset the cog for the subsequent day.
As such, the first half of a Cogtopic day has become known as "The Winding", whereas the latter cycles are collectively coined "The Coiling", creating the etymology of the greetings "Goodwind" and "Good Coiling" during the appropriate cycles of the day.
Ardel, the greatest of the caverns, provides refuge for thousands of inhabitants known as the "Brass-Bound", their quarters piled and stacked high on ramshackle "Landscrapers" of rusted iron and derelict machinery; an ancient remnant from the time of the inaugural excavations.
The southernmost side of The Great Cavern of Ardel houses the impoverished and weak. Deemed incapable, or unworthy of the constant, inexhaustible maintenance of a 'Scraper, they huddle together in crude shantytowns, stuffed into cracks of huge deposits of quartz and diamond. Once precious minerals; now worthless, callous and unminable. Immovable by man or machine. Lamplights gleam and dance between the crystalline rock forms. Beautiful and hypnotic… Yet scant consolation for the cold and the hungry.
Cartoe houses the main business district of the city. Inventions and contraptions judder, clunk and clang along crowded streets of wrought metal. Overhead, jets of vapour erupt and linger; the noise, unbearable. Vendors and traders strain their voices, bellowing above the noise whilst selling their wares in exchange for jars of plasma and purified vapour. Hanging from a vast lattice of markets hewn into the side of the cavern, people haggle and jostle along rusted burrows scattered high into Cartoe's walls. A deafening honeycomb of steel.
The Great Cog thuds on and on, clanking and shuddering the very foundations of the city with every beat of the oscillator… Thus powering "The Mechanism", whose pistons pump life and air to the Cogtopian's vast network of streets. Housed in the Lesser Cave, and separated from the city, The Great Cog is accessible only through a tiny maintenance tunnel, an opening in Ardel's diamond wall.
Once a year, on the eve of the Shadowmas, the Cog is examined, its clockwork scrutinised. Delving deep into the earth through miles of tunnel, it is a solitary job, but of vital importance, for the Mechanism pumps and filters atmosphere into the City's smallest cavern,
Porfan. Awash with gusts of atmosphere, vast lakes of steam and unbearable heat, Porfan is the reservoir for life in Cogtopolis. Paradoxically, due to the heat and humidity, very few dwell within Porfan's walls… Only the unfortunates that have been banished for crime or subterfuge. Their life expectancy is low.
The black market of Porfan is not openly spoke of. Thieves and roughians, their hideous skin peeled and blistered from exile, huddle around goods smuggled from the markets of Cartoe, their reassembled parts wrought into crude mechanical weapons. A place for the desperate and the weak.
Steam powered devices provide what the Mechanism cannot; communication, transport and entertainment all come from the power of steam, gears and pendulums.
There's no natural light in Cogtopolis, the Lamplighters travel around the whole city refilling the plasma lights. Lit from the central reservoir that provides all the steam for the city, each 'Lighter is given an Eternal Flame when he takes on the 'Lamplighter' mantle.
The light is only extinguished when the 'Lighter dies; you can tell the age of a 'Lighter by the brightness of his flame.
Steam powered jet packs transport people across the city, Steam Rangers soar high over the peaks of the tallest towers to deliver messages across Cogtopolis… all under the keen watch of
the Primarch who, as tradition dictates, forbids any trespass over his Domicile or Courtyards. Meanwhile, steam powered conveyer-belts push and corral the poor along the claustrophobic avenues of the cavern floor.
The Primarch sits as absolute ruler, the position is passed down, not father to son, but from privilege to privilege. Passed down from Primarch to Primarch, the symbol of his power, a large brass key, the key to the Domicile Tower, is worn around his neck at all times.
There is but one way in, and out, of Cogtopolis: The Aperture. At the summit of The Great Cavern of Ardel,
Three Hundred Meters deep below the scorched surface, the Aperture has remained sealed since vanishing of the Light and The Great Exodus.
A solitary ladder descends from the Aperture, a great ladder of a thousand steps. Forging its rusted, twisted path downwards,
corkscrewing through clouds of steam and shafts of vapour, vanishing ominously into the parapet of the Domicile Tower.
The Ladder leads to the surface;
were men dare not tread.
The Tower leads to the surface;
to the lands of the dead!
ithin weeks, paper and ink became relics of the past. With no plants with which to make pulp, and livestock hide far too precious a commodity in which to weave parchments,
the preservation of the history of mankind was truly at stake.
With Braille and Morse Code among the many strands of knowledge and learning lost amidst the obliterated libraries of the surface, the industrious scholars of Cogtopolis devised Cypheridia
The alphabet of the underworld. A new, basic way of writing that could be scratched into metal surfaces with ease, or - for the brass-bound worker - etched into the mud of the cavern floor at the very least.
Inspired by the
industrious surroundings of Cogtopolis
, the simplistic genius of the Cypheridian
alphabet allowed lines to be traced and read with ease in the dark bowels of the city.
It became the words of both the envisioned, and the sightless. A true language of the night.
Basic vowel sounds, anchor the text through symmetrically etched diamonds, a constant reminder of the immovable nature of the past whilst capital letters are signified by a circle above each symbol…
a hopeful memory of a sun long since lost.
"Spaces", a ridiculous non-specific element of the written word, were replaced by "full" vowel iconography, meaning misread and partial messages were now a thing of the past.
Numbers in Cypheridia are represented by two counting rods: 0-5 and 6-9 respectively, allowing numbers to be deciphered with ease in the pitch-black depths of the earth through each "spoke" etched across the rod.
The 6-9 counter, once traditionally marked by star, has since been replaced by a simple triangle by decree of the Nightkeeper Reformation Act some hundred years prior.
here were few that believed that the troubles that plagued the surface would return to the underbelly of the earth with such reckless frequency. Namely: religion, famine and war.
Cooped up amidst the darkness, desperate and defeated, two distinct belief systems developed within Cogtopolis
neither of which were willing to conceit over their visions for the future of mankind.
In the beginning, formed amidst the dingy, crowded burrows of the first excavators, came The Wardens of the Light
Their symbol, an all-seeing eye emanating a radiant sun, was a symbol of hope.
The Wardens clung to the faith that one day life would return to the surface. That a life, still lingering in the memory of the old, would once again be theirs.
Years passed. Fuelled by hope, the city grew. Banners carrying "the eye" spread far and wide, from the highest 'Scrapers, to the lowest dungeons. Thus, on the final day of construction,
the Wardens unveiled their last gift to the City: The Aperture
Second only to The Great Cog
, the Aperture
was a marvel of engineering. Both the door and the window to the surface.
At its centre, a tremendous lens, focused by two intricate gears was positioned, waiting for the day the sun returned to flood light down onto the city below. A shining beacon of mankind's hope.
But it was a hope short-lived.
With each year of darkness the shadow of doubt grew and grew.
There were some that believed that the sun had vanished and would never return.
The true saviour of mankind was the dark that housed and protected them from the surface. They called themselves Nightkeepers
Seizing the Domicile Tower by force, the battle between the two factions was short, yet the war lingered on. Decreeing themselves guardians of Law and Justice in Cogtopolis
it became Heresy to speak of the Sun's return.
Punishable by exile.
One by one the Wardens
fell and the Nightkeepers
tightened their dark grip on the city. Blinded by the Shadowmas
, a Nightkeeper
Festival celebrating the death of the Sun,
there were few that opposed their doctrine. Their minds clouded by festivities and Turnip Mead. Their spirit all but crushed.
Fearing that the Nightkeepers
would achieve their goal, and imprison mankind in the bowels of the earth for all eternity, the last remaining Wardens
clambered to the Aperture
prising away the two controlling gears: The Alpha and Omega Wheels. For what can open can also seal the door to the surface.
In a matter of moments, the metal rings of the lens shuddered to a close.
Should the Sun ever return, the Brass-Bound citizens of Cogtopolis
would never know.
And yet, all was not lost.
The Alpha and Omega had vanished. Despite a century of searches and crusades by the Nightkeeper Pastors, their location remained a secret. The door to the surface remained safe.
And thus it remained until this day.
His flame is dull, his time is short, the narrator of our tale.
His age, and the physical demand of his job have all but broken his body, yet his mind is sharp and full of vigour.
Traversing the city on the eve of the Shadowmas, his is an anonymous, omnipotent figure, observing the comings and goings of the city and its inhabitants.
He knows the city and its people better than anyone, yet he himself is invisible, nameless.
Living a lifetime among the bowels of Cogtopolis, scurrying tirelessly amidst the endless streets of derelict machinery, he has, man and boy, lit every lamp in the city beneath the surface.
The Lamplighter’s sole amusement, sole vice, amidst his endless charge, is riding the pedestrian steam conveyors haggling with the brass-bound man on the street for gossip and hearsay in exchange for plasma for their personal reservoirs.
More oft than not, the Lamplighter will get much of his gossip from Farmer Todd, an agriculturalist from the Badger colonies and finest purveyor of Turnip mead. However, when Todd is too inebriated from rootvegetable liqueurs, the 'Lighter turns to chief among his favoured street informers, Old Man Pinto. A corrupt Nightkeeper General who feeds the Lamplighter harmless information in exchange for plasma embers – a commodity easily exchanged against groats to fund his spiralling gambling addiction at ‘The Regency Rascal’ – A tavern for cutthroat Vapour-Buccaneers and scallywags. Despite his infamous reputation as one of the most senior Nightkeeper brethren, people tend to pity poor Pinto due to his unfortunate resemblance to a 21st Century crooner known as Luke Severn.
As such, the Lamplighter has become one of the most informed and knowledgeable citizens of the city, from the long-forgotten history of mankind’s destruction to the whereabouts of the Primarch’s Zeppelin hanger, the Lamplighter knows it all. And yet, it is all for his distraction. He knows everything yet does nothing. He has, when it takes his fancy, been known to offer tours on his rounds to passing beggars, travellers and even the occasional steam-mutant in the slightest hope that his new companions will offer up an unknown tale to add to his musings.
An inventor, madman, genius. He uses plasma and steam to create new technologies. His job of maintaining the mechanism has led to the startling discovery that the sun has returned to the surface.
Chastised as a rambling lunatic by the Primarch and Pastor,
he sets about trying to prove his theory and convince the inhabitants of Cogtopolis to join him on his quest for the Surface.
An inventor, madman, genius. He uses plasma and steam to create new technologies. His job of maintaining the mechanism has led to the startling discovery that the sun has returned to the surface.
Chastised as a rambling lunatic by the Primarch and Pastor, he sets about trying to prove his theory and convince the inhabitants of Cogtopolis to join him on his quest for the Surface.
Known simply as the Tinker, or ‘Tinkerman’, his real name, Eldred Coggletop, is known to only one man in the city – the Primarch. Once friends, they obsessed as young men over the inner workings of The Great Cog, the Aperture and the mechanism guarding the gateway to the surface. Over time, their opposing motivations behind that obsession became clear.
While the Tinker pursued science, his oldest friend pursued power. As they drifted apart, Eldred was entrusted by the new Primarch with maintaining The Great Cog, one of the greatest honours in Cogtopolis, under the express condition that he report any anomalies to the Primarch, and the Primarch alone and speak of its secrets to no one.
Now living an isolated life, in his youth he followed in the footsteps of his forefathers, becoming a member, along with Eve's father, of a secret organisation known as the "Wardens of Light". Originally a benign group, their purpose was to herald the day mankind returned to the surface.
Through their efforts they removed two small, yet essential, gears from the Aperture's mechanism; a measure to prevent any one man having control over mankind's destiny.
He has never spoken of this, and sought to disband the organisation after the untimely death of Eve's father at the hands of those that opposed their views. It is rumoured that remnants of the order have remained and lingered in wide parts of the city. Those even suspected to be in collusion are arrested by the Primarch.
Through his isolation the Tinker has created THE BOY. His clockwork child.
The Tinker's assistant. Cleverest of all Cogtopians and the best hope for the city.
Despite her intelligence and compassion, she is young, hot-blooded and often distracted from her duties by frivolous expeditions and daydreams. Like a clock that can't keep proper time, she is frequently late to her job as the Tinker's assistant.
Now orphaned and impoverished, around her neck she wears a necklace, a gift from her late father, which unbeknownst to her, was fashioned from part of one of Cogtopolis' oldest machines.
Secretly entrusted to her as an infant, the pendant of the necklace is an ornate gear and one of two components required to open the Aperture – the door to the surface.
The Tinker's clockwork invention. Feels nothing but the tick-tick-thud of his mechanical heart.
As part of his internal workings, the Tinker has hidden the second missing component of the Aperture; the gear which gives the Boy's heart purpose and life. Without which, the door to the surface cannot be opened, nor can the boy live.
The Boy, although loved as a son by the Tinker, is often on the periphery, hustling to and fro under steady puffs of his own steam, carrying out menial maintenance tasks for his master.
It is rumoured that the boy has been seen frequenting the black markets of Porfan. Nobody has ever caught him, however it is said that the glow of his steam-driven eyes and the whirring of his rusting legs can be glimpsed, on occasion, hauling parts for what is, presumably, some kind of woodwind-cake-launcher, back and forth along the secret tunnels to Porfan…
…to what purpose, and under what direction, is anyone’s guess.
His voicebox, a broken Calliope, his sole method of articulation.
Old and his power slipping. He fears only loss of power. Death is no concern, only his insignificance.
His quarters hold sole access to the Aperture from the city and, as such, has secretly known of the light's return to the surface for years and has used fear and secrecy to maintain his grip on the city.
His real name, Albert Bezeldon, long since forgotten, the Primarch now uses tradition, superstition and fear to keep the city in order. Preying on the people's insecurities he uses Preachers and their Nightkeeper followers to ensnare heretics – Wardens of the light, who believe that the sun will eventually return.
Although nobody knows, truly, who belongs to the Wardens, many are falsely accused.
The Primarch, as his power wanes and fear grows, incarcerates ever increasing numbers of innocents, forcing them to spend the rest of their lives locked in the endless catacombs beneath the domicile tower or amidst the boiling steam oceans of Porfan.
His spies are far and wide, his eyes on the street report all the coming and goings of life in Cogtopolis, not least the activities and whereabouts of his old friend, the Tinker, who he has long suspected to have known far too much about the inner workings of the Great Cog.
Regarding himself as far too important, the Primarch refuses to jostle along the pedestrian conveyor with the common people of the city. Instead he uses wealth, siphoned and beaten from the weak and the easily bewildered, to commission pedal-powered Airships, which he rides high above the city, much to the amusement of bystanders, surveying all that he controls.
In the depths of night, when the Lamplighter's glow has all but faded, he can be glimpsed ascending the twisting network of ladders towards the aperture, searching endlessly in vain for his obsession: the "Alpha" and "Omega" wheels. Forming the main mechanism for opening the Aperture, the two components have been missing for generations. To hold both, or even one, would ensure nobody could ever leave Cogtopolis.
A Preacher of the Night. In a world where the dark caverns have staved off radiation and extinction for hundreds of years, religion stems from the worship of darkness itself… The true saviour of life.
On the eve of every Shadowmas he preaches his sermon on the steps of the Primarch's Domicile.
Dismissive of the Tinker's discovery as heresy, he tries to convince the world to abandon their desires to clamber for the surface and continue to seek salvation in the dark underbelly.
He is uncompromising and utterly devoted to his faith, stopping at nothing to exact justice on the heretics that would oppose him.
Unknowingly blinded by his beliefs, he has become a puppet for the Primarch and his control over the city.
Chief among his followers is the Namless Spy. A Nightkeeper general without remorse and without pity. Dispatched by the Pastor, oft at the instruction of the Primarch himself, the spy lurks within the shadows, waiting patiently to ensnare his prey. Throughout the years his methods have gained him infamy. It is thought that nobody has survived the blackening, a dark ritual, at the hands of the spy.
The Steam Ranger
Once a proud guard of the domicile tower, now imprisoned. Awaiting torture. Anticipating Blackening at the hands of The Spy. Weary with the corrupt regime, his back broken by a lifetime of steam-flight, he has, during his lofty flights high above the city, seen the aperture at close hand – a rusted, broken piece of machinery that he believes would never function in a hundred cycles.
A man of honour and principle, he is devastated upon learning the truth that he has helped and supported the Pastor’s dark deeds and the Primarch's unjust rule.
There was once a time when the rangers where a symbol of hope. Their shimmering body armour glistening high among the lofty caverns of Ardel, delivering messages far and wide. But not anymore. Their actions and purpose now indefinitely corrupted and manipulated at the hands of the Pastor.
Branded a deserter, a traitor, stripped of his rank and of his jetpack, he is all but a broken man awaiting his fate. Caught between the demons of his past life and his inability to believe there is hope for the future.
Once his sworn enemy, he once guarded the tower from the Wardens of the light. Now, on the eve of the Shadowmas, there exists the possibility to seek refuge within their ranks in his hope for redemption and retribution.
High at the summit of the ladder there lives Armistead. His cabin, a crude construction of wood; an ancient precious material, swings on high.
Suspended, shackled, cradled by a web of rope and iron spindle, it hangs, seemingly precariously, beneath the platform of the Aperture.
Once the first Lamplighter of Ardel, guiding the earliest burrowers as they excavated the city, he is now but a hermit, a watcher, the keeper of the gate to the surface.
Nobody is quite sure exactly how old Armistead is. Ninety? One hundred? Two hundred? Perhaps more…
Swaying to and fro, wallowing in a breeze of thermal pockets, his house exists far out of the reach of lamplighters in a world of perpetual darkness.
Every now and again, if you strain through the gloom, through the vaporous smog and through the twisted maze of metal 'scrapers, you can, if you're lucky, glimpse the faintest of lights.
There, glimmering high in the cavern ceiling; Armistead's porch light, Cogtopolis' oldest eternal flame… Each night growing slightly dimmer…