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?  
— Administrator Marcus
  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.  

Layout

  Mother 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.
— Administrator Marcus
  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.    
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by M0AI
    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.    

Purpose

 
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.  
— Administrator Marcus
  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.    

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    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.

Desolation

  A 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    
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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.    
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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.

Comments

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26 Oct, 2018 21:59

Wow, that's really dark and creepy. Good job! Have there ever been a person, a guard for example, who'd try to go against all that or tell the truth to the people in the city? I mean, there should be a number of guards there, and they are probably not all assholes with no care for other human beings, are they?

27 Oct, 2018 08:15

Same reason why people might not report police brutality or prison abuses in our own world, or whatever is going on in those ICE facilities. They aren't all assholes and some might even try to do good: but a lot of them are lead to believe lies, half-truths or "for our group!"   But that is probably a plot idea for players to meet a guard trying to improve things! Dun dun dunnnnn!


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
16 Nov, 2018 15:35

I added a section to adress your question


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
17 Nov, 2018 00:56

Nice. Adds a bit more of a conflict, and got me quite interested in what it ends up like!

17 Nov, 2018 03:34

Overall, this article is really well written. The vagueness of the disease that the hospice was made for coupled with the descriptive detail of the patient's mistreatment and neglect at the hands of the wardens peaked my interest enough to read more about your world and click onto your description of the Desolation. I felt that this was all further enhanced with your quotes from Administrator Marcus. Marcus raises an important question to me, however: whoever is he talking to? Is he leading a guided tour of interested "medical professionals" for a nominal fee, teaching a new intern the ropes, or perhaps simply talking to himself as the conditions of the prison slowly break him as well? Whatever the reason for his ramblings, I'm sure elaborating on them will give the article a more personal feel and attachment.

12 Feb, 2020 15:08

Thank you so much for reading and commenting :D   I hadn't thought of it being specific to anyone but more like mood setting quotes. I'll definitely keep that in mind and polish them to more specific audiences when I get back to the article, thank you :D


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Elijah T
Elijah Talbot
18 Nov, 2018 13:57

This is a beautiful article, using the atmosphere to create as sense of dread and disappear. This one kept me on my seat enjoying the horrors that is mother, there is no hope in the depths of mother, only the voices of the dammed.   But I got a question, why make a prison? While I don’t know the true context of spirits and how they work, would it be cheaper just to kill people with Desolation? Just make a giant hole, burn the bodies place them in the hole. A prison which sounds massive by the descriptions given would be expensive to build and maintain (Because you have to prevent them from escaping and clean the areas.) and damaging to your workers. Because of the madness they have to deal with on a day to day bases.

18 Nov, 2018 14:35

The short, depressing answer is: You can't generate income from a corpse.   Much like the for-profit mental asylums back in the day, you can charge for treatment and care - no matter how lacking both of those are. A prison is a potential source of income; a corpse is just a corpse. And while there are exceptions, humans generally speaking don't adopt a "kill 'em all" approach all that often. It's easier on the conscience for the people to think they're imprisoning someone sick then just stick a knife in 'em.   But the short version remains "because there is more profit to keeping them alive".


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Elijah T
Elijah Talbot
18 Nov, 2018 14:41

That so makes the place more depressing then I thought.

R3negade X
R3negade X
21 Nov, 2018 00:10

Oy, this reads like an SCP article if they were allowed to use prose...and I like it! It's all dark and foreboding, and it sounds like the kind of place even adventurers avoid at all cost! Speaking of, do you plan to have an adventure take place in it?

22 Nov, 2018 08:50

This is an excellent article. You've got a good idea, I see where you're going, you can write well, and the execution is excellent.

Three Questions

1) Who funds "Mother"? I know that the guards and warden make money on the side, but what's the main revenue stream?

2) What is the interface between "Mother" and the outside world? I imagine that there is some facade of normalcy. How do people drop off new "patients"?

3) How does one become a guard at "Mother"? That seems to be a rather curious occupation. I'd like to know how one signs on.

 

Sideways Observation

You've created an oubliette — a place where people are put to be forgotten. The horrors of the corridors and the cells are vividly described. In history though, most such places weren't hellholes for the guards and administration. In fact, many were quite palatial. I think that it would be even more chilling with an introduction taking the reader through the clean, orderly halls where the guards and administrators lived and worked, with perhaps a few rooms for certain high-profile (and high-paying) "customers", such as the poor demented son of some local noble.

Then you could say, "But there is more to Our Mother of Mercy than most would care to know." and go down into the tunnels.

Sideways thinker and hospitaller of the Inner Sanctum
12 Feb, 2020 15:09

Definitely going to add something about how nicely some people there live when I finally get back to this article. Thank you for the feedback and comment, it is very useful


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.