bluebeard

All-That-Is Worldbuilding: Big City

Originally published at PeterCHayward.com/blog. You can comment here or there.

For various reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot about All-That-Is lately. And I was poking around the wiki, when I noticed that “Big City” (capital of “Land of Ogres”, the Ogre home-land) is listed as being the slave capital of the world.

My brain started ponding this, and so I thought I’d capture my thoughts as I had them.

(If you’re not familiar with All-That-Is lore, I did a world-building series back in 2009. I think it’s a fairly interesting read, and while I’ve certainly added new features since then, it should give you an idea of the fantasy world I work on for fun.)

(And for those who aren’t interested in reading back, in summary: Ogres are big and dumb. They’re the min-maxed “fighters” of the world – extraordinarily stupid, extraordinarily strong. There are four main Ogre tribes, but this post will entirely take place within the tribal region of the “Two-Eyes”, the Ogres with a facial arrangement similar to regular ol’ humans.)

I’ve never really done much to focus on Ogres in All-That-Is. An Ogre bodyguard appears in the tale of Princess Azma, the Fairy Queen who banned magic. Slave Ogres appear in passing in Life on the Wall, operating the elevator that takes people from the top of the wall to the bottom. But other than the four tribes, and a vague war that happens at some point (the Ogres invade the Human homeland, taking over the region “Anob Neeble” and renaming it “Big Fort”) I’ve not got much about them penned.

Oh, except for one idiosyncrasy – Ogres are the greatest road-builders in the world. They excel at it, and in the same way that you might play sport, Ogres will build a road. As a result, their homeland is absolutely covered in roads. In order to leave as much room for roads as possible, Ogres primarily reside underneath bridges, where one road crosses another. They’re equally adept at making bridges.

So. Big City. Largest city in Trolland (the continent that Land of Ogres sits on) and slave capital of the world. What do we know about it?

First of all, I like the idea of the city being home to several Ogre warlords. Like big, stupid gangsters – think Jabba the Hutt, with even less smarts. They will defend their homeland to the death, they’re all corrupt as hell, they lead lavish lifestyles and ruthlessly track down anyone who betrays them, and they don’t have enough brain-cells between them to fill a small puddle.

Since Ogres traditionally live in bridges, the landscape of the city is dominated by four or five massive, awe-inspiring bridges – each of them is home to a different war-lord. It would be easy to have one warlord for each Ogre tribe, but since the city is nowhere near any of the other tribal homelands, I’m going to say that there are four Two-Eye warlords, and one One-Eye warlord (simply because that’s the nearest land to Big City)

Obviously over the years and centuries the number of warlords and their tribal affiliations will change, but let’s set this in the Year of the Bee, current year of the wiki, pre-Ogre/Human war.

Big City is just across the water from the Elven homeland, but I feel like the peace-loving Elves would have serious issue with slave trading. Each country has its own slavery laws – Ogres are legal slaves in every country (including The Land of Ogres) and so they’re the most common type of slave, and no country allows its own people to be slaves (except, of course, the Land of Ogres).

But it’s weak writing to paint an entire race with one brush, so let’s say there’s a substantial Elven community – outcasts, people who disagree with their homeland’s style of government. Violent Elves – Ninjas and warriors and the like. There wouldn’t be much of a permanent Dwarven population, but there would be plenty of Pirate ships constantly coming in and out, collecting and depositing slaves.

But it’s the Demons that I really wanted to talk about.

Demons, in the world of All-That-Is, are tiny, reddish-brownish horned people. Silver-tongued, never to be trusted, good with money. They’re your archetypal merchant/swindlers, and it occurred to me that they’re exactly what the Ogre warlords would need.

So each Ogre warlord has his own personal Demon accountant – or maybe two or three independent ones. These Demons are essentially slaves, though they’re treated extremely well – they aren’t allowed to leave the bridge that they live under, but they have their choice of rooms, slaves, food etc. In exchange, all they have to do is monitor the Ogre’s accounts and ensure that they aren’t being swindled, and perhaps advise on potential business deals – with their lives hanging in the balance, they would want to give the best advice possible.

Having a few Demons makes it harder for an individual to pull the wool over their master and mistress’s eyes – if the numbers come out differently from a few different sources, then the Ogre will know that something is up, and order all of them to be killed, pulling in a fresh batch. A few Demons could work together to hoodwink their owner collectively, but there’s a group of free Demons who offer services to avoid exactly this – once a year, they recommend every Ogre use their services to come in and check the numbers, to make sure that they aren’t being ripped off.

I imagine some Demons would enjoy the life of indentured luxury, behaving much like Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Django Unchained. Others would constantly be striving for freedom, and others would be swindling as much as they could out of their owners, and arranging the numbers in such a way that it’s undetectable by the independent Demon company. Some bridges could even be basically run by the Demons, who have arranged it in such a way that the warlord is basically a figurehead.

Big City is on the water, and so of course it would have an extensive dockland area – that would be the home of The Ogre Market – the world’s largest slave trade, with new bodies constantly being shipped in, bought and sold. The Ogre warlords have a stranglehold over the slave market of Big City, and you can find a slave of any race here with ease.

But with slavery come abolitionists, and Big City is no exception. Made up entirely of non-Ogres, the group is somewhat racist toward the Ogres themselves – their mission is to free all non-Ogre slaves, despite the fact that the majority of slaves bought and sold in Big City are Ogres. (Their stupidity and physical strength make them great workers unlikely to come up with an escape plan – perfect slaves).

They refer to their headquarters as “The Place Where No Roads Lead”, to further emphasize the distance that they keep from the Ogres, and whenever the warlords infiltrate them, track them down and destroy their base, they spring up somewhere else almost instantly. It’s rumoured that they have dozens (if not hundreds) of cells, and are constantly training up leaders, for when the head gets killed.

Actually, I like the idea of the head being a “Gray Fox” (Oblivion) type character – a figurehead who no one knows the face of. Unkillable, because he’s an idea, not an individual. Rather than a mysterious cloak or shadows hiding his identity, I’m going to literally make him a head – “The Ogre’s Head”, he’s ironically named, and whenever seen in public, he wears the face of a slaughtered Ogre over his own. The warlords can kill The Head, but another one instantly appears.

I think that’s enough to make an interesting city – significant landmarks (The Five Bridges, the Slave Market), a few groups (each of the five warlord empires, the Abolitionists, the free Demons, the violent Elves) and a few tensions (the competing gang-like warlords – especially the one from another tribe, the Demon/Ogre relations, the Abolitionists).

Suddenly Big City is a relatively thriving place, and I could quite easily see a story or three being set there.