Our Mother of Mercy
These poor souls, where else would they go? What we're doing here is a mercy. To them, and to the rest of us. We don't want them in the streets and around decent folk, now do we?Founded as an hospice and sanctuary to the unfortunate souls who suffered from Desolation, Mother of Mercy have with time become twisted into a place of neglect and casual cruelty. Simply called "Mother" by those who work there, the hospice started as a series of tunnels and caverns closed off with sturdy doors in a misguided attempt to shield the afflicted inside from the outside world. Since then, the tunnels have been expanded and small cells dug into the sides of narrow corridors to house more and more patients. Now, it is a prison. A quarantine, where the sick are shackled to their cells and left to wail in darkness, alone and forgotten until they are consumed by despair.
LayoutMother has transformed from the orderly hospice it once was into a confusing web of tunnels, stairs, drops and elevators. Entire cellblocks have been forgotten or closed off, sometimes with their inhabitants still inside. Other sections have simply been abandoned, left to rot. These now house hordes of insects or run-away patient who have escaped their shackles and now haunt the dark. There are other things, too. Spirits lurk in the darkness, where the veil between worlds grow thin and their whispers loud.
No, we don't go down that tunnel anymore.Only the guard quarters and staff facilities ever have light. These are located at the very front of the hospice, located between two very heavy gates: one that leads out to the city beyond and the other that leads to the city proper. The patients are left in darkness and only when the guards pass with irregular deliveries of food, beatings or a fresh inmate does light travel into the hospice's winding corridors and narrow cells. Beyond these few glimpses of illumination, there is no lights in the prison. Nothing to break the impenetrable dark. Each cell is about a 1½ meter wide and roughly twice that in length, locked by a sturdy door. Many of the prisoners are shackled inside their cells and furnishing is sparse: something to lay down on and a bucket or trough for bathroom needs. Cleaning is infrequent not just in the tunnels but in the cells as well, and much of the grey granite that form the stone of the tunnels have been pitted an unpleasant shade of indeterminable color. No one really knows just how extensive the prison-hospital is, now. The corridors and stairs seem to stretch beyond what was ever made by human hands. As the Desolate gather in droves and left to fester with their disease, the prison grow of its own accord, fueled by the darkness of those damned to stay there. The whispers grow louder.
I'll take the coin. Not like anyone's gonna miss the bastard. The screaming's been getting pretty loud lately and I'll be glad for some quiet.What was once a mission of mercy has become a business venture. The guards and the administrators of the Mother charge the city for the care they provide, as well as anyone else who seeks to have someone interred. Desolation is no longer the only disease that sees people sent to the Mother, but everything from mental illness to alcoholism can condemn a man or woman to the cells.
The administration is doing their best to convince the city of the danger the sick pose to the city, urging them to make madness essentially illegal. What they have described as "madness" has remained vague and far-reaching.Corruption is rife within the prison and guards are happy to take a bribe to see to it that even a perfectly healthy person be shackled and forgotten in the deepest corners of the prison. Guards and paying visitors alike abuse the prisoners at their leisure and beatings are common. The slightest infraction is harshly punished. Just annoying the guards result in some prisoners having their tongues cut out or otherwise mutilated under the guise of "making them easier to handle". Cruelty is casual. Even at their most charitable, most guards simply neglect the prisoners. Starvation, hypothermia or disease are common killers. Corpses are left to rot, incinerated or ground down to a slurry for fertilizing crop- or, rumors persist, feed the other prisoners. Once someone enters the Mother, they very rarely leave. It is a place of the forgotten and the abandoned. Men, women and children are all imprisoned within the Mother and buried in the darkness.
Working in the Mother While the specifics aren't well known outside the Hospice walls, wagging tongues and concerned souls alike murmur about the conditions and abuse that takes place in the Mother. They both wonder the same: what could drive the wardens to act so? Have they become possessed by the infected darkness or are they all hired from the deepest, most wretched pit of criminals its administration could find. Unfortunately, the answer is nothing more complicated than human nature. The guards and the administration reinforce each others belief that those condemned to the dungeons are little more than beasts, dangerously mad or even deserving of the abuse for some slight real or imagined. Every time there is an act of violence or riot, the response is always the same: "See, we told you so. They're animals. We're doing it for their own best. This is the only way. We can't let them be outside. What if they come close to your family?" Some of them believe it. Others allow the group to think for them, finding assurance in orders and authority. A few are not so sure though, and time will tell if the Mother will remain shrouded in darkness or finally be set free.
DesolationA disease that poisons the mind and corrodes the soul, Desolation is one of the most feared and most insidious of ailments in the caverns. Desolation dissolves a persons very sense of self and allows dark things from beyond to fill the void it leaves. There is no cure, no treatment. Nothing but an inevitable path into the dark. Read about Desolation
No one enters the Mother of their own will. At the beginning, those who were too far gone were housed here for their own sake. Now, even the early signs of Desolation see people condemned to a filth-caked cell. The administration of the Mother have quite effectively propagated the belief that Desolation is infectious, knowing full well that it is not. The fearful and superstitious send their sick to the Mother, and line the administrations pockets with coin. Others too are happy to exploit the ignorant. Many prisoners are sent to their cell having never been afflicted at all, with some bribing guards to inter annoying elderly relatives, political opponents or such. They scream the loudest.
Not all who perish in the Mother remain dead. The deepest pits of the Mother have become so suffused with the warping will of late stages of Desolation that spirits flock to it, with some afflicted becoming utterly consumed until they are but a hollowed shell. Some spirits chose to wear their flesh and walk the prison for reasons unknown. Howling prayers and chanting sometimes echo from parts of the prison where no guard ever goes.
The first thing any visitor will notice is the smell; all the guards wear masks stuffed with strong-smelling fungi when they venture into the prison. The second thing is the screaming.