Friday, 8 February 2013

Drexhavel

Back in 2007, before the Fading Suns Team at RedBrick had even started work on the FS3 concept document, we had been working on a book called "Prisoners and Exiles". A fair amount of work went into the book, but the project never found completion due to some writers dropping out. Most of the work load fell one the shoulders of Alex Wichert and myself, and we were already overdue at that point.

I've recently unearthed a bunch of files that I wrote for that project so I'm just going to post them up here. I should say that much of this material was to be incorporated into FS3 product line and in some cases was rewritten between FS2 and FS3 to reflect changing design priorities.

This material has not been formally edited.



Drexhavel Compound, Kriel

“Kriel? I cannot imagine any sane being wanting to visit such a cursed place. Leminkainen is an abundant world, but somehow Kriel manages to look bleak and out of place, at odds with the rest of the planet. There is an oppressive atmosphere that hangs over the island, like a blanket of sorrow and misery. Things are done there at should never see the light of day, and we turned our backs out of convenience.”
-- Baron Justin Spencer Hawkwood, 5008

Introduction
The House Dextrite fiefdom of Kriel is a large island, surrounded by the Isalight Sea. Located in the temperate southern polar regions of Leminkainen, the climate is both cooler and wetter than the equatorial regions of the globe. Leminkainen’s hot red star casts an eerie sanguine light and dust entering the planet’s magnetosphere creates a glittering curtain of light over the southern reaches of the island during the winter months. With Leminkainen’s temperate climate, mid-winter rarely produces anything more serious than ground frost, and snow is unheard of even on the mountain peaks.
Kriel should be a paradise, a fertile land of temperate weather and plentiful water with which to grow crops. But instead it is viewed with suspicion and fear. It is a place of terrible horrors and monsters that wear the skins of men. If popular myth is to be believed, then the whole island is a dumping ground for murderers, thieves and rapists. Tales abound of the evil Dextrite overlords who rule this land having spawned beasts that plague the night.
Most maps available of Leminkainen mark the whole island of Kriel as a penal colony; though this is not strictly accurate, the Dextrite lords prefer not to correct this misunderstanding, as it deters unwanted visitors to their lands
The Drexhavel Compound is what most people think of when they hear the name Kriel and most are ignorant of its actual name. Drexhavel has the distinction of being the most widely feared purgatorium outside of Decados space. House Hawkwood turns a blind eye to what occurs there simply because it has a vested interest in being able to dispose of violent criminals and political agitators without getting its own hands dirty. For the right price, Drexhavel accepts any prisoner from anywhere and ensures that they never again see the light of day. As a result, inmates of this horrific place come from all corners of the Known Worlds and the profits from this business have turned House Dextrite’s fortunes as well as allowing them to engage in research that the moral majority would consider distasteful at best and heretical at worst.
The Drexhavel Compound is constructed on two levels. Above ground resembles a prisoners-of-war camp, with its long huts fenced in and guarded by high towers. This facility is reserved for low risk, non-violent prisoners who are allotted into work gangs and used for slave labor in the production of food, manufacturing or manual labor for the benefit of their Dextrite masters. In truth there is little difference between the lives of these prisoners and the typical Dextrite serf, except the right to family and offspring. While it is rare, children born in the compound become the property of House Dextrite and are taken from their mothers at birth. Some say these unfortunates are subjected to debased medical practices, others that Dextrite lords adopt these scions of Drexhavel and raise them as their own.
The second part of Drexhavel is located below ground, obscured from prying eyes. According to Dextrite propaganda the below ground level facility is simply solitary confinement cells for the most demented and violent inmates. No one really knows for certain how far these labyrinthine tunnels run or exactly what they connect to. There is a secure solitary confinement prison just as House Dextrite claims, but there are also medical laboratories that conduct horrific invasive practices upon selected inmates.
It is no coincidence that House Dextrite has a reputation for merciful lore and masters of anatomical and surgical knowledge. Many guilders and even a few of the Amalthean Order come to Leminkainen to study the mysteries of human physiology. Though the Church frowns on such practices, House Dextrite has managed to court powerful allies in the form of House Decados, and numerous minor physick guilds; even House Hawkwood sees the value of turning a blind eye, and most importantly the Inquisition has so far been unable to secure evidence of wrongdoing.
Drexhavel is more than just a prison; it is a great experiment in behavioral control. The lessons learned in the deep laboratories are applied on a wider scale to the House’s serf population to ensure a passive obedience and an inability to rise against their masters and betters. Interestingly, Kriel has almost no freemen population at all, a small number still exist clustered around each of the nobles and providing technical services but even the term ‘freeman’ is seen as a threat to Dextrite supremacy. By definition, freemen have free will and the right to control their own destinies; this is the greatest threat to the Dextrite way. In the ideal Dextrite society all would be obedient and subservient to the House, behaviorally programmed for absolute loyalty to their master. 
The first phase of this grand plan of control was the acquisition of knowledge, the science of behavioral modification, genetic engineering and cybernetic implantation. This has inadvertently placed House Dextrite in a position of authority in medical circles and brought the attention of outsiders seeking to learn from the Dextrite masters. The second phase of the great plan was to apply these sciences and to distill them into practical applications. These have led to the creation of the corsairs and an increased importance for Drexhavel as a dumping ground for criminal waste from the other Houses.

Correctional Doctrine
Despite the claims of House Dextrite, the Kriel facility is not about rehabilitation, it is about exploiting a criminal resource in a manner that benefits the House. The facility makes use of violent, often disturbing, and arcane pharmacological and even surgical interventions to rehabilitate low-grade offenders. This often takes the form of electro-convulsive therapy, lobotomies and behavioral modification through aversion therapy. Those that survive their treatment with sufficient faculty remaining to still function within society are returned as ‘cured’ of their sickness. Most become little more than drooling living husks and are subject to further experimentation, humiliation and degradation.
In the deep facilities, violent prisoners receive even more invasive measures, not aimed at breaking their will or their minds to create placid serfs, but instead to harness their violent and often psychotic urges for the benefit of the House. Through cybernetic, genetic and biomechanical modification, drug therapy and invasive cranial surgery it is believed that these criminals can provide a benefit to the House as soldiers, warriors and corsairs.
Increasingly emboldened by their successes and the growing number of their corsair soldiers, House Dextrite has begun to unleash its experimental warriors on merchant ships that ply the oceans of Leminkainen. Survivors have told tales of great metal beasts ramming and ripping lesser built ships in half or surfacing to disgorge a horde of vicious pirates who show no quarter.

Facilities
The Drexhavel Compound has been built upon a wide peninsula with sheer sea cliffs protecting three sides. The only approach over land is rough and rugged, requiring horses or other off-road vehicle to traverse. Although it is possible to approach by air, there is no landing strip. Most prisoners and supplies are brought in by sea, although the rocks and shallow channels below the cliffs require a practiced hand in even fair weather. From the timber-built docks, a narrow winding stair has been cut into the cliff face.

Drexhavel Compound
On the surface, Drexhavel looks like more like a prisoner-of-war camp than an actual prison. Inmates live in communal sheds in fenced-in compounds watched over by high guard towers. Prisoners are formed into work gangs who perform menial and manual labor for their Dextrite masters. 

Isolation Cells
Below the surface is the secure isolation wing of the prison. Long detention halls with hundreds of individual holding cells, each tiny cell barely big enough to allow the inmate any room to move. Cold electrical lighting and surgical cleanliness gives this prison a stark medicinal feel over the grubby squalid conditions above.

Tunnel Warrens
A warren of interconnecting tunnels connects all the different levels and areas of the prison.  Some are wide and well lit, while others are only poorly lit and wide enough for a single person at a time. Most follow shallow gradients but some are steep ramps down into the bowels of the ancient rocks. While many were built when Drexhavel was first constructed, others are older still and folklore and legends attach dark tales and ungodly practices to others. How much of this is Dextrite propaganda is difficult to say.

Physick Laboratories
Somewhere deep below the level of the isolation cells are the physical laboratories. There are at least a dozen of these facilities, each geared towards a different type of ‘treatment’. Some resemble modern surgical theaters; others medieval torture chambers, but most are some hybrid of these two extremes. This is where proscribed physick practices are performed on terrified, screaming inmates. Skin is peeled back to reveal bone and muscle, the brain is laid open and electrodes inserted. Strange chemical drips change the balance of consciousness and sanity. This is where traitors reveal secrets and psychotics surrender their wills under the force of cybernetic, pharmacological or genetic experiments, before being admitted to the ranks of the corsairs.

The Workings
Those lesser prisoners that have technical competences are put to work in the deep underground forge works to produce equipment and weapons for the corsairs and their Dextrite masters. Most of the equipment produced is relatively low-tech weapons and armor. But here too are produced replacement parts for the mechanical leviathans that carry the corsairs on their quests for plunder.

The Moon Pool
A huge chamber, half water-filled with a deep-water channel that leads up through the bedrock to the seafloor. It is from here that the metal submersibles are launched and here they return with their spoils. Great lifting machines allow for these subsea ships to be lifted completely from the water to be serviced and repaired. Dock platforms permit the loading and unloading of these vessels though the crews never debark once they are assigned to a ship. The only way off is in death.

Dramas
Neither Kriel nor Drexhavel are places that anyone with a sane mind would want to visit. Peasant folklore claims that the island is haunted or cursed by the spirits of those who have been incarcerated there and most can tell tales about bizarre hauntings and husk outbreaks.
A lucrative scam in recent years has been the number of fake maps claiming that lost treasures or Ur artifacts could be found in the deep mountainous interior of Kriel. Many fools who paid handsomely for such directions only to see corsairs ambush their expedition on high seas. Even those who have returned have done so at considerable cost, often claiming to have been hunted by strange misshapen beasts, and, to add insult to injury were refused hospitality and turned away from Dextrite estates if they arrived uninvited.
Though the corsairs have raided shipping on the Isalight Sea for over a century their numbers have grown recently as has the risk they pose to merchant shipping all across Leminkainen. The raiders have started to move further afield in search of rich targets to plunder. Depending on the cargo they expect, the corsairs might simply ram or torpedo a merchant ship and recover the surviving cargo from the sea bottom. If they are seeking prisoners they are more likely to surface and board the vessel. Sometimes House Dextrite uses the corsairs to target troublesome nobles or priests that are traveling between ports.

Captain Nemus
A figure of Leminkainen folklore, the legendary dread pirate Nemus has been the scourge of the high seas for over quarter of a century. The man first attained notoriety for a daring raid on the fortified port of Madenport in which his submarine entered the port by stealth to raid a merchant fleet while it was still in dock. 

Since then his great metal submersible has been inspired fear and awe in equal measure. More tales exist than actual sightings, and the raids of other corsairs are often attributed to this daring pirate lord.
In truth Nemus is a Dextrite experiment, an attempt to enhance and induce a tactical instinct into a cowardly criminal. The treatment saw him subjected to torture and drug therapies that ravaged his body while pushing his mind to the limit of sanity. To his credit Nemus embraced the changes that his Dextrite masters instilled into him using his enhanced intellect to plan complex raids with a casual disregard for human life. Over the years he has studied naval tactics and the specific styles of the prominent naval captains who have been ordered to bring him to justice. Often able to second guess what his quarry is going to do his uncanny foresight has given much fuel to the idea that he has made a deal with the dark powers in return for being undefeatable.
For all his callous disregard for human life, Nemus doesn’t squander the lives of his crew and he understands how to motivate and inspire with a mixture of fear and respect.

Count Carsden Hanvel Dextrite
The elite of House Dextrite have a reputation as master physicks and Count Carsden Hanvel Dextrite is no exception. Born the third son of Count Wilhelm Hanvel Dextrite he was apprenticed to his elderly uncle to learn about the medical arts from a young age and expected to fill a lowly position as a physick and interrogator. When his uncle died of an unknown ailment, Carsden returned to his father’s fief but did so with many of his elderly mentor’s journals and notebooks.
Within in the year there had been a change of fortunes, his father’s health began to fail with symptoms similar to his uncle’s and Carsden became his personal physician, ministering to him both day and night. Then both his elder brothers suffered unexplained fates, leaving Carsden the next legitimate heir in line. Since his inheritance, a sequence of unfortunate occurrences has taken the lives of all his younger siblings.
After securing his own ascension, he turned his attention to producing a more perfect and compliant social order. Using Drexhavel as a laboratory, he has concocted and tested a number of biological nerve agents to bring about a compliant and submissive state in his serf population. While other Dextrite lords concern themselves with cybernetics or genetic engineering to build perfect warriors with which to pacify their subjects and enemies, Carsden prefers to bypass the battlefield and the needless squandering of resources and force enemy to become his willing subjects. So far he has managed to build toxins that excite or pacify a subject, but he hopes to take his work further and to establish a delivery mechanism that would allow him to enslave whole worlds.