To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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Arcadia is a realm of natural perfection, where most things are done for “the greater good”… although what constitutes the “greater good” is not necessarily agreed upon on this plane. The plane itself is a marvel; trees grow in straight rows, grain grows in overabundance in its fields, the weather is perfectly regulated by the four Storm Kings, and night and day come in regular intervals that you could set an hourglass to.
There is, however, something a bit off beneath the surface of the plane — and not the Formians that have expansive tunnels underneath the first layer of Arcadia, Abellio.
The second layer, Buxenus, is similar to the first in look and composition, but it was used by the Harmonium as one of their “reeducation” camps before their new Factol took over. Arcadia is, at least supposedly, supposed to be a “Lawful Good” plane. Some say the focus of “law” at the expense of the “good” (and through the endorsement of the plane’s inhabitants and petitioners) caused the now-absent third layer, Menausus, to slide into Mechanus. While the abhorrent practice has stopped, a new goal of “marching into Mechanus and taking back their layer” has spurred armies and training to start gathering on Buxenus. Some worry it’s only a matter of time before Arcadia becomes a plane with only one layer.
By PpexxyrwnMy name is Ppexxyrwn, though I realize that‘s difficult for most non-bladelings to pronounce. You‘re welcome to just call me Pex. Yes, I am a bladeling; I keep my blades filed down, except the ones on my head, as a symbol of my commitment to pacifism and acceptance. And yes, you‘re quite right, bladelings are native to Acheron and typically don‘t care for Arcadia. But I was driven out of my homeland at a very young age due to, uh, philosophical differences, and have spent most of my time in Arcadia where both the realm of the god I worship and the headquarters of the faction I belong to are found. So, while I may not technically be a native of Arcadia, I am more than qualified to speak of the Land of Perfect Good. In fact, since many natives of Arcadia have a rather, uh, provincial outlook, they wouldn‘t be the best ones to get an objective description from anyways.
If I had to sum up the basis of Arcadia in a single word, that word would be perfection. Not that the plane is completely perfect, and still less that all its inhabitants are, but everything here is in just the right proportions and just where it needs to be. The entire plane is devoted to a flawless, harmonious existence. Not only are many features of the terrain perfectly arranged, with evenly spaced rows of crops, straight running rivers, and controlled forests, but there are also idealized versions of many creatures and objects from the Prime and other planes. That‘s the most common reason planewalkers come to Arcadia, I think; they‘re in search of the perfect hound, or the perfect rose, or the perfect bottle of wine. And I suppose all those things probably do exist in Arcadia somewhere, but they won‘t be easy to find. Especially since the plane isn‘t exactly a safe place for outsiders. The natives… aren‘t always friendly.
When you consider that Arcadia sits between Mount Celestia, with its focus on personal enlightenment, and Mechanus, the epitome of universal order, you get a good sense of what Arcadia is about. The truth is, more than any of the Upper Planes, Arcadia exists to provide the most good for the most people. It is the realization of so many utopian societies wherein citizens forsake certain freedoms and individual benefits for the betterment of the community as a whole. One way or another everything here is devoted to some set idea of the common good, and if something (or someone) doesn‘t conform to that end the inhabitants don‘t really want it here. While the notion that everyone in Arcadia is an intolerant fanatic isn‘t true, unfortunately it‘s more a slight exaggeration than an outright lie. Not everyone is that way, but tolerance and the benefit of the doubt are in short supply among the plane‘s inhabitants.
Including, I regret to say, many members of my own faction, the Harmonium. They used to be a lot worse than they are now—in fact, there was a time I got so disenchanted with the Harmonium‘s methods that I left them and joined the Believers of the Source. But it‘s not just the Harmonium, by any means. The formians are another issue. These hive creatures are native to Arcadia and used to live peacefully in their own communities. In the last couple of years, though, they‘ve taken to spreading to other planes and colonizing anywhere they can. There‘s also the buseni, black oily-looking shapeshifting creatures that patrol the tunnels beneath the surface and guard many of the passages between layers. And, of course, the einheriar, a special subclass of petitioners who act as a sort of planar militia, going above and beyond the normal petitioners‘ vigilance against outsiders who don‘t fit in.
So it‘s often said that every petitioner and planar in Arcadia is unremittingly hostile to anyone not devoted to law and goodness. That isn‘t quite true. The presence of my god testifies to that; I worship Meriadar, a god of patience and tolerance whose hidden realm lies in Arcadia‘s first layer. Certainly Meriadar‘s followers aren‘t hostile toward anyone different—that would go against everything their god stands for! Arcadia may be a plane of law first and good second, but it is still a plane of good, and not all its inhabitants are the types to attack anyone who disagrees with them.
Well, I‘ve talked quite a bit about what lives on the plane, I suppose I should describe the layout of the plane itself. Like I‘ve said, Arcadia is all about perfection; its layers are filled with regularly spaced hills and mountains, rivers running in straight lines and turning at right angles, everything laid out in perfect order and beauty. The seasons and weather on Arcadia are as regulated as everything else. The cycle of light and darkness depends on the Orb of Day and Night, a great rotating sphere that sits on Arcadia‘s highest mountain. Half the Orb radiates light, and as it rotates day and night sweep over the plane in even intervals. The weather is also carefully controlled by four beings that call themselves the Storm Kings and who live in floating citadels surrounding the Orb of Day and Night. Between them they make sure that every spot on the plane receives just the perfect balance of rain and sun.
There are two layers to the plane of Arcadia, but few planewalkers have passed the first layer, Abellio. It consists largely of fields, forests, rivers, and lakes spread out to meet the needs of the people, with a few patterns of hills and mountains dotting the landscape. There are far too many different cultures for me to describe them all, but I can tell you about some of the more famous sites. The perfectly conical Mount Clangeddin rises 30,000 feet and is home to the dwarven god of battle, Clangeddin Silverbeard. His petitioners train constantly for the day they will be called upon to sacrifice themselves in battles across the multiverse and are renowned for their willingness to face oblivion in service to their deity. It‘s not always the safest place to visit, as even when not conducting drills the dwarves are still as rowdy as any basher of Ysgard, but there are a great many services offered in the deep cities. Otherwise, the realm of Marduk, Binder of Dragons, is a testament to the grace of order. In his marble city virtue is nurtured by beauty and wickedness is unyieldingly cut down by the executioner‘s blade. As for the numerous formian cities, Mandible is both the greatest and most welcoming. On the surface, human-style buildings make up the city Mercantus where merchants and other visitors gather. The true sights are found in the immense caverns and twisting tunnels of Mandible below, home to many of the remaining peaceful formians.
The second layer, Buxenus, is most often reached by passing through the 50-foot high rune-covered plinths that mark the passageways between the layers. Though the Harmonium has begun escorting some visitors to Buxenus, the petitioners of Arcadia are the only ones allowed through without intense scrutiny. The two layers are also separated by a great mountain range that can be crossed, though the journey is quite dangerous. All in all, with security so tight there‘s not much known about Buxenus. Having left the Harmonium once, I‘m rarely welcome there now. The terrain is similar to Abellio save it‘s dominated by hills. Everything has its match, though; for each hill there is a plain, for each river there is a dry patch of land, and so forth. Granted, they‘re usually not of equal size. It‘s not the Outlands after all.
Chant is this fact symbolizes a deeper truth of Arcadia‘s second layer; punishments disproportionate to the crime set a clear example for the conduct of others, a little evil‘s tolerable so long as it brings about a lot of good. In other words, the ends justify the means. I‘d like to think my faction has learned the error of its ways, but I‘m not so naive as to think all my peers believe as I do. At least the Harmonium has finally owned up to why it was keeping people out of Buxenus for so long—they had been practically using the entire layer as a big center of reeducation, trying to force captives into their point of view. Under Factol Faith the faction has phased out the training camps, and I think that‘s one of the biggest signs that she really believes in reform. I saw the training camps myself before the Faction War, and they were one of the biggest reasons I left the Harmonium.
By now you‘ve probably got a grasp for some of the paradoxes that grip Arcadia. Overall its inhabitants are insular folk, but more and more they‘re looking to expand across the planes. Everyone has to follow strict standards of moral and ethical conduct, but some will turn a blind eye to convenient injustices. Supposedly Arcadia once had a third layer called Nemausus or Menausus, depending on which account you believe, that slid to Mechanus due to the loss of good on the plane, be it thanks to the formians‘ ruthless campaign of conquest, or even, according to other stories, because of the deeds of the Harmonium. I don‘t know if any of that‘s true, but honestly it wouldn‘t surprise me. Arcadia is a beautiful plane, with much to recommend it, but I fear the way things are going here. Even if the Harmonium‘s attitude is getting better, the petitioners and the formians seem to be getting worse, increasingly putting order farther and farther above good, such that in time perhaps there won‘t be any room left for good at all. I sometimes wonder if part of the reason Meriadar chose Arcadia for his realm is because no other plane more sorely needed his message of tolerance and acceptance.
Courage (Outland Gate-Town)
By Hajzeek Gnarl-Hoof
One day, Courage was just there. The entire town was just there. It even had name-signs an‘ everything, just so that nobody could be in any doubt as to its name. Pretty much the only thing it didn‘t have was people; there was no evidence that anyone had ever been in Courage. But then, there had never been any buildings in that spot ‘fore either. It didn‘t take long for people to start arrivin‘, though, not once they‘d worked out the one really important thing that Courage had. It had the gate to Arcadia. The gate Fortitude once held.
The gate-town is dead; long live the gate-town.
Courage could almost have been designed by a modron, given its layout. The town is built in a grid fashion around the main central square, called the Heart. Its outer walls are rounded an‘ egg-shaped, much like its predecessor, leavin‘ many to believe it‘s just the next in the series. But in general, Courage‘s residents don‘t have the same fanatical attitude as Fortitude‘s folk. In part, that‘s ‘cause some believe that it was Fortitude‘s arrogant conviction o‘ its own perfection was what caused the old gate-town to lose the Arcadia gate in the first place. An‘ undoubtedly the fact that a larger proportion o‘ Courage‘s population are neither Hardheads nor Arcadian petitioners affects the overall psyche o‘ the town.
Still, those who enter the town in the belief that it is a softer touch than Fortitude was are soon disabused o‘ that notion. It is not a softer touch, merely a different touch. The vast majority o‘ the residents are still lawful, mostly either good or neutral, an‘ devoted to the common welfare an‘ the perfection o‘ society for all that is the hallmark o‘ Arcadia. Many sages believe that Courage‘s greater humility an‘ generosity already make it further on the road to slippin‘ to Arcadia than Fortitude ever reached.