This house has many walls, but only one entrance. Its foyer is cavernous. Carpets stretch to stained-wood horizons, their fibers waving in the breeze like a textile prairie. Its stairs are mountainous. The only reliable light is the distant glittering of crystal chandeliers. In this house made for giants, human societies scrabble for existence.
Nobody starves here. To eat is trivial: find one of the many sinks
and tubs, or dig out a pipe, flood the floor, and wait for the mold and
man-high mushrooms to sprout from the waterlogged wood. To eat like this
is distasteful, fills the mouth with foul flavours, slows growth and
brings malaise. It is a shameful thing, for those who cannot barter
their way to a better meal. Better than that are the foodstuffs grown
and found in the house’s pantries: dried herbs in towering bundles,
stunted fruit grown in their huge, composted ancestors, links of
sausages long enough to feed a village (too fresh, too familiar, don’t
wonder where the meat came from), and more. Food beyond foulsome fungus
is one of the rarer treasures of this house. Entire petty chiefdoms are
based around its harvest and export.
Everyday materials too are in common supply. Wood can be splintered
off the legs of chairs, metal smelted from nails in the heat of
monstrous ovens opened and closed by chain gangs, cloth cut from drapes
that hang like cliff faces. Brisk trade carries these materials between
rooms, down corridors, across rattling rafters. Humanity might flourish
in this house, if it were here alone.
This house has many walls, but they offer little protection. Many
dangers are already within them. Other humans, who might raid for
materials or continue old feuds, are the least of these.
There are dolls that walk this house’s halls, big as ogres in their
ruffled dresses, with faces like all those who’ve died inside. Whatever
they want, it’s not good for us. If they find people they’ll sometimes
smash them and smash them until they’re scabby paste, or they might take
them and play with them until their limbs come off then toss them
aside, or they might carry those people into the attic. Nobody returns
from the attic but the dolls. Settlements have ways of dealing with
dolls: tripwires and swinging rams and the like, but travellers had best
be wary of distant toddling footsteps.
There are rats that chitter in this house’s dark places. They’re not
like our rats. There’s a thousand varieties, adapted to every
conceivable niche and then some: rats that spring on their hind legs and
snatch up prey with terrible claws, rats that lurk in murky pools that
can take off your head with their horrible jaws, rats that can disguise
the ends of their tails as something precious then drag you up for
dinner when you’re caught on their tail’s sticky coating, to list a few.
None have been domesticated yet, though some have been tamed (catching a
ratptor for a mount is a mark of excellence among the nomadic warriors
of this house). They’re too clever and too hungry for that.
There’s a rot in this house, seeping up from its foundations. The
place has gone too long without care, too long without those who would
even know how to care for it. The spawning fungus is the vanguard of
this rot, some say, and the poor sorts who consume it its unwitting
agents. Waves of pale insectoid soldiers march out from where the rot
grows thickest, gnashing everything in their path. The subtler threats
are the deadlier ones: where the inverting black smog seeps out, the
creeping berserker madness, wildlife united in one murderous will, and
other things which leave no one alive to record.
This house has many walls, far more than it should. Corners will turn
round at strange angles, rooms open up where they couldn’t. This is
disconcerting enough on its own, but these spatial anomalies are not
even constant. A doorway that leads to a pantry one month might lead to
the basement the next. Wanderers might find they’ve plundered into a
hallway that suddenly curves in on itself, inescapable. An honoured
class of architect-oracles who cast brickdust like chicken bones are
ascribed the power to predict these anomalies, and their services are
always in high demand. So too are the nomadic wayfarers who keep the
settlements connected through their wandering networks.
The most feared of these anomalies are the basements. There are so
very many basements, dug out beneath each other in an endless descent.
Each basement is more hostile than the last, and stranger things are
stored in lower levels.
This house has many walls, and there’s something living inside them. A
family, the family for whom this house was built. A mother and a
father, a daughter and a son. All massive, shattered bones and tearing
flesh now, slithering around pipes and insulation. You might hear their
whispers while you sleep (or their screams while they sleep).
Their perspective is skewed, but they’re hungry for conversation. Why
are they in the walls? How did they come to be this way? These are the
only questions they’ll never answer.
This house has many walls, but few windows. There’s not much to see
outside. Rather, there’s not much you’d want to see outside, and not
much you’d want to see you.
There’s the garden, or at least something like a garden. It’s got
plants, wicked, thorny vines that pry at the edges of the glass. Halls
and rooms where the vines have succeeded at getting in are stricken from
There is a beast with shining eyes and reeking, matted fur, sharper
than the vines, larger half-again than the largest rat. It is a hunter,
as hunting is the only amusement left to it. The beast will stalk those
it spies, climbing down a chimney or unlatching a window to slip inside,
groaning almost-words as it goes. It has been wounded, driven off, but
never killed. The beast is patient. It’s never missed a mark. Many have
disappeared on their deathbeds, leaving nothing but drops of blood and
sooty pawprints. Sometimes the beast stares at the walls and weeps.
This house has many walls, and perhaps you’ll find yourself within
them. Its lone, cyclopean entrance can open elsewhere, through doorways
far too small to sensibly contain it. It is far more generous with
entries than exits.
The settlement in the foyer is one of the larger ones known, entirely
dependent on imports to survive. It’s perhaps the least immediately
hostile locations in this house, but is rife with the cannier sort of
debt-slaver looking to make a quick trade of an unwary new entrant.