The History of the Area
For generations after the Fall, the remote forested areas between Shanghai and Undersea served those who needed seclusion or secrecy. While the near impassable woodlands and treacherous water bodies of the northwest were far from welcoming, some found that the harsh environment suited them. Natural One tribes, pockets of survivalists whose ancestors weathered the Fall in prepper bunkers, used the thick woodlands to sequester themselves from outsiders. Slavers trading human wares built isolated enclaves to prevent others from stopping – or horning in on – their profitable trade. Small hollows of farmers, miners, and homesteaders hoped the woodlands would thin out predators – both undead and living – and allow them to survive out amongst the thickets and overgrowth.
Between the veritable metropolises of Shanghai to the south and Undersea to the north, a patchwork valley of survivalists struggled to make it through one more day, one more night, one more season, one more year. Plagued by predators, shaken by frequent seismic disasters, and tormented by inhospitable climate conditions, they failed as often as not.
But some survived.
Through strength, cunning, perseverance, and a healthy dose of dumb luck, a number of these early isolationists beat the odds, establishing small communes, fortressed homesteads, and clandestine trade ports throughout the area. Caravan routes connected the isolated region with larger settlements to the south and east, providing valuable resources that could not be obtained locally, and carting away the rich natural products that the Rust Coast survivors had hewn from their environ, or the engineered goods they’d crafted out of them. Cunning caravan drivers and merchants took advantage of any potential defensible spot along their route to establish trade meet sites, giving them the best opportunity of doing business with the often-xenophobic locals. The potential profits of establishing such trade were a siren’s call to the bold-hearted, although even the most well-guarded had no guarantee of safe passage through the savage wilderness of the northwest.
Spawned by a chain of once-active volcano-mountains to the east, earthquakes rattled the region on a regular basis. While these tremors often spelled disaster for locals, destroying buildings and fortifications, releasing subterranean threats, and causing mudslides, sinkholes and other natural disasters, one spawned a new beginning for the people of the northwest.
The Birth of the Township
The Cascade Rendezvous began as nothing more than a flat wide spot in the road where caravan routes converged to thread their way through the radiation-tainted lakes and swamps that contaminated the area. Literally a rendezvous spot, for years, it serviced only a handful of locals, and was widely thought to be barely profitable enough to unpack one’s wares for most caravans. Instead, it served mostly as an overnight pause for those headed towards to the vastly-more populous Gatesville a couple of days away.
A massive earthquake changed all that, however. It uplifted the once flat expanse into a labyrinth of gullys and hills, and tore a great chasm in the earth. The sundered area drained an expanse of nearby waterways, revealing not only pockets and patches of fertile potential farm-land, but a treasure beyond the local’s wildest hopes… As the waters receded, a collection of more than a dozen pre-Fall buildings were revealed, each perfectly preserved in the thick muddy slime that had once been a lake-bottom. These shelters, as well as the new territories that had been previously un-plundered by scroungers and scavengers, were quickly seized by whoever was nearby enough to stake their claim. Slaves released when the same earthquake destroyed a holding-station and killed or scattered their oppressors. Mercenaries ready to set aside their fight-for-pay lives and try to form something more long-lasting. Former pirates turned merchants who found themselves land-bound when their ship was damaged to the point of unseaworthiness. Opportunists from up near Undersea or down around Shanghai who sought to find their fortune in the newly revealed pickings of the Rend. Shysters and conmen seeking new prey; thieves and assassins with the same hopes. Farmers and foragers and those so desperate that even the not-far-off threat of rad-swamps and river hunters could keep them away. Missionaries and martyrs seeking to save lives and souls amongst the others gathered there.
The potential for wealth and community was a beacon, and those who converged on the boomtown of Cascadia Rendezvous settled there in and amongst the newly-revealed buildings, turning a once periodic gathering spot into a full-time settlement. The relative safety of numbers, and the draw of a greater population brought economic prosperity to the fledgling township, but held significant dangers as well.
The undead plagued the newly-revealed lands of the Cascadia Rendezvous, as strong or stronger as anywhere else on the Rust Coast. Some claimed that the zed were called there by the Gravemind, or attracted by the rumored throngs of psions who sought refuge in the new township. Regardless of the reason, tanks and shamblers were as thick as the forests themselves, as were other threats. River hunters walked freely in the frequent downpours that blanketed the region. Raiders preyed upon the good people of town, capturing and torturing Rendfolk for their own perverse pleasure. Brainticks – giant parasites with psychic powers – turned friend against friend, and resulted in numerous losses to the Rend. Mysterious clicks from the darkness heralded threats so dangerous that no one survived getting close enough to actually see them and live to tell the tale.
Not all of the newly encountered denizens of the region were overt threats, however.
The people of the Cascadia Rendezvous were not alone in their new environ. The rad-waters may have drained away, but their inhabitants didn’t flee far. The radiation-demented humanoids who made their homes in the swamps and stillwaters were called Swamp Crazies by those who fell afoul of them, and for a time it seemed that they would drive the settlers away from their newly-claimed territories. Eventually, however, those who were willing to look beyond the glowing-green folk’s insanity and overcome their communication challenges discovered the Dar (as the Swamp Crazies referred to themselves) to be unreliable, but valuable allies. This kinship was cemented after the townsfolk returned a vital piece of sacred technology to the radioactive swamp-dwellers, and earned their long-standing trust.
Likewise, unlikely allies were found among one of the local Diesel Jock Tribes, the 82s who, for a time, braved the thickly wooded areas around the Cascadia Rendezvous. Despite the eminent danger such environs provided to their mechanized motorcade, the wheeled warriors claimed territory near the town and, once the town proved itself worthy, were strong economic allies to the people therein. One of the 82s had a psychic connection to the rad-tides of the local swamp, and once this information was shared with the Rend, her arrival in town always heralded a flock of eager Rendfolk, anxious to follow her lead and brave the ebbing tide for the chance of newly-revealed plunder along its glowing shores.
The folks of Gatesville, the nearest city to the Rend, made occasional appearances in town as well. Advanced in technology beyond the Rend’s wildest dreams, scientists came to town for myriad purposes. Some sought fuel for their attempts to send vehicles into the sky; others came seeking samples of local crypto-wildlife upon which to experiment. Electical lighting, robotic servants, far-fetched vehicles and weaponry were all the territory of the Gatesville scientists and the numerous laboratories and organizations thereof. Visits from Gatesville were a source of excitement for some Rendfolk, of terror for others, but always informative, to those who were willing to seek them out.
Together But Apart
The relative safety of the Rendezvous provided significant boons to its inhabitants. However, it presented many challenges as well. The near-unanimous aversion to slavery leant the town a bad reputation with local slave traders, especially after several caravans carrying human trade were waylaid, their “marketable goods” set free and the owners and traffickers sent to the Gravemind. This reputation led many outside caravans to shun the town, or to significantly increase their prices to deal with the added risk they might encounter when dealing with the town.
Few issues were as unanimous amongst Rendfolk as slavery issue, however. The town was, at that point, little more than a group of barely restrained armies who chose to set up their war camps in (perhaps too near) proximity to one another. There was a common currency – the Starbuck – but little else to show that the town was anything united. No consensus could be found between the various factions on the topic of a group-identity in anything beyond the most cursory of senses. They cooperated to build a forge, but could not trust each other enough to gather funds for its replacement. They called themselves a town, but possessed no mayor, no council of elders, no joint holdings beyond the forge. Some tried to provide charity to the town, others to build its commerce, while many simply did the best they could to take care of their own people and let the common good, for the most part, take care of itself.
It is easy to maintain polite dealings amongst those with drastically opposing views when your only interaction is over a quick trade or exchange of services. With dozens – hundreds even – of new settlers gathering in one area, tensions quickly grew, and the powerful (and would-be-powerful) scrambled for any weapon to use to defend their holdings – or acquire new ones from those too weak, trusting, or disorganized to protect their own.
Chief amongst the predators circling the new township was a psionic madman known as Boss Carver. Drawn by what must have appeared to be easy pickings for a cut-throat and well-equipped tyrant, Carver descended upon the people of the Rend, attempting to strong-arm their subservience to his rule. When it proved impossible to bring the general population under his thumb with threats, Carver began an onslaught of macabre weaponry, crazed psionic powers, and a seemingly un-ending cadre of maniacs who were willing to kill or die for his cause.
For over a year, Boss Carver and his lead henchmen (who he creatively referred to as The Knife and The Hammer) led well-armed but bad-intentioned armies against the good people of the Rend, and even convinced outsiders, such as the Vegasian Trade Caravans, to get involved in his attempts to control the township.
The Hammer, a warlord leading an army of well-trained soldiers, struck the Rend first. His units sought to destroy the town’s infrastructure, taking out vital resources and equipment with strategic strikes, and leaving townsfolk wounded in both body and spirit. The Knife quickly followed after. His surgical attacks were pointedly targeted at high-profile townsfolk – leaders and those with vital skills such as healers. Months passed, and the towns folks were bombarded over and over by Carver’s men, the onslaught taking momentous tolls on the town’s resources on every level.
From the Flames
It would be easy to speak of the time that the Rendezvous was beleaguered by Boss Carver and his men in only negative terms. Many townspeople died, many others were driven away, or experienced trauma and setbacks that would take years to recover from. But not all of the effects of Carver’s campaign were negative.
United against a common enemy, the people of the Cascadia Rendezvous found the beginnings of a sense of unity with one another. A “Treaty Council” was formed, consisting of representatives from each of the major groups then present in the Rend. Populations waxed and waned as groups shuffled amongst themselves politically, but between the Council members certain laws were passed for the Rend. They were simple rules. No killing or stealing from citizens or peaceful visitors to the Rend. No destroying or invading the property of another faction. There is no slavery in the Rend. But symbolically, they represented the first true sense of a united community since the rad-waters had receded from the Rendezvous.
While the Treaty Council was not directly responsible for Carver’s defeat, the unity it represented was. Rather than being broken by months of Carver’s attacks, the town steeled itself to his blows and rallied its forces. Scouts began seeking out Carver’s often-moved war camps, cutting supply lines where possible and bringing the battle to him. Diplomats were sent out to do whatever had to be done to lure Carver’s allies from his cause – the Vegas Trade Caravans were convinced that Carver was a bad investment and pulled their funding of his mission, just in time for the Rendfolk to deal a debilitating blow to Carver’s armies. Information was gathered, plans were made, and in the late spring the war came to a head. Locals called for aid, and their request was answered not only by the Dar and Diesel Jocks, but by a vast influx of allies and associates from across the land. Together, the Rend and its supporters captured and killed The Hammer, and struck a bargain with the Knife for vital information about Carver’s own whereabouts. A strike force assaulted Carver’s secret base camp, and quickly overcame what meager assets still remained to him.
Rumors abound about Carver’s fate. Some claim to have struck his death blow, and watched his body be taken by the Gravemind. Others claim he was sold to those he’d tricked so much fiscal support out of, and ended up on one of the Vegas Trade Caravan slave ships bound across the ocean to the East. Pessimists claim he simply escaped, back to the bosom of whatever Overlord he served (and the even more cynical believe his Master likely ended his days for his failure.) Whatever the truth is, after his sound defeat, Carver never again was seen in the Cascade Rendezvous, and those foolish enough to follow him quickly scattered with the wind rather than share his fate.
A Blow from Beyond
As often happens, however, Carver’s men struck one final blow, even after he had been dealt with successfully. A group of soldiers, calling themselves the New Carver Boys, claimed to have converted to the Fallow Hope after his defeat, and came to town purporting to make amends for the wrongs they’d done under Carver’s leadership. They claimed to know the whereabouts of the Knife and the last of his cronies, and offered to lead warriors from the Rend to them, so as to allow the townsfolk to deal with the last of Carver’s threats for once and for all.
No one will know for certain if their offer was well intended, or part of a diabolical trap that closed with them in it. They did, indeed, lead a group of brave Rendfolk to the Knife and the last of his psionic cohort. Unfortunately for them, as well as the people of the Rend, the Knife and his men were far from impotent. Maneuvering the well-intentioned warriors into a vulnerable position with promises of parlay, the black-hearted psions unleased hellfire down upon the New Carver Boys and their Rend companions, killing more than a dozen, and sending the rest to the brink of death’s door as well. A few lucky souls escaped to tell of their companions fate, but it would not be long before everyone in the Rend was aware of the hell that the Knife and his minions had truly wrought upon the town.
The Black Legionnaires
Rumors of strange zed – stronger than tanks, more vehement than hates, and blazing with an unholy fire – began spreading throughout the town. The Gravemind, super-charged after being fed so many souls at one time, locked onto those who fell to the Knife’s fire-slingers, marking them with a black tattoo sigil on one wrist that burned like damnation. Their dreams were plagued by blood and fire and steel – and in time, those dreams became reality. Over the coming months these good townsfolk, damned by the Knife’s hellfires, lost control of themselves upon sleeping and spent their slumbering hours as Black Legionnaires. The Legionnaires answered only to the Gravemind’s control, seeking out their slumbering-selves’ allies and destroying person and property alike with their flaming wrath.
Many died before the truth was uncovered. Through in-depth research, a ritual was uncovered that could put the Black Legion to rest forever. Unfortunately, as is often the case in such dire situations, chances were good that in doing so, the Gravemind would claim those cursed with being Legionnaires for good, taking them forever into her demesne.
Proving the goodness of their spirits, each Legionnaire-cursed Rendfolk agreed to the ritual, which was performed by a Priest of Light, one of Darkness, and one of the space between. The rite summoned forth the Legionnaires, which had to be defeated en masse by the town, not once but twice. To the town’s great joy, upon the final falling, their comrades were freed from the Gravemind’s control and their own free will returned to them.
Carver’s defeat, and the destruction of the Black Legion, left the townspeople of The Cascadia Rendezvous struck with another challenge. While tormented by an overwhelming outside force, the various factions within the town were forced to work together, cooperating despite myriad faiths, philosophies and political agendas. With Carver and the Legion dealt with, that pressure eased, and while there was always danger of one sort or another to plague the town, nothing so overwhelming rose to take its place as a uniting enemy.
Trouble plagued the town, but compared to what they’d previously endured, it seemed almost easy to deal with. Irradiated animals – raccoons, bears, beavers, giant spiders, and snakes, along with psionic birds called snipes – were challenging, but nothing compared to the threats the town had faced before.
Even a potential war with the nearby Gatesville did little to draw the town together. Instead, blame was thrown one way or another, threats were bandied about, and until proof of the technological Mecca’s /vast/ military superiority inspired a diplomatic solution, it appeared that much of the town was willing to feed part or all of the rest of it to Gatesville’s robotic warriors to save their own skin.
In the absence of a common enemy, factionalism rose to an all-time high. Not only was no further progress made on turning the Treaty Council into an actual town government, but in-fighting between the various treaty groups lead to theft, death, destruction, and eventually the rout of one of the original factions, with several of their key members being outlawed and a bounty placed on their heads by the town as a whole.
Even the appearance of an enclave of Final Knights nearby was not sufficient to unite the town, as the Damned appeared to be cooperative – even helpful – to the townsfolk, offering them protection, trade, and even knowledge about the previously underdeveloped but eminently lucrative industry of mining.
Some townsfolk argued against allowing the Knights in town; others pointed out their apparent lack of wrong-doing and cited the benefits they seemed to be offering the people of the Rendezvous. Months passed, and the town dealt with the Knight threat as disparate individuals rather than as a whole, some treating them as economic allies, others as a threat to body and soul. But in the chaos, disaster awaited.
The Final Days
Some say it was a nuclear bomb that the Final Knights had sequestered under the city in the “mine” they’d convinced the townsfolk to help clear. Some say it was a “Toybox”, a psionic entity too powerful to resist, that once released would keep growing and enslaving sentient beings into its subjective reality until it had consumed an entire region. Some say it was a necropolis, a profane temple to the Infernals they worship, or simply a tunnel that sunk too deep and corrupted the integrity of the land around it.
The truth may never be found, as it now lies buried deep beneath radiation-tainted waters, as does the town of Cascadia Rendezvous itself.
What is known is this. The weekend that the Rendezvous died started with disaster and just kept getting worse. A trio of Fallen Angels – unholy terrors left behind when Saints are corrupted by the Gravemind for the final time – set upon the Muddyfoot Tavern just as the traditional caravan of newcomers rolled up to town. Accompanied by an army of other undead, the profane Angels left a swath of death and destruction that touched every part of the town. Friends, families, and factions were scattered to the winds in their wake, driven out of every safe haven and forced to work together in clandestine clumps to try to keep non-combatants alive, fighters outfitted, and healers safe enough to do their duty. By morning, the threats had been overcome, but at great cost. More than a dozen members of the Rend had fed the Gravemind before dawn, and more would follow in their wake before nightfall.
Morning brought some measure of relief as the town bandaged its wounded, repaired its weaponry… and mourned its losses. The light of day afforded the town what the panicked night could not – the opportunity to research what had happened to them… and why.
No one had heard of two – let alone three – of these profane entities plaguing a population at one time. Investigation into the cause of the Fallen Angels’ arrival pointed fingers directly at the Final Knights, and specifically to the “mine” they’d sought the Rend’s aid in clearing of rockfalls earlier in the year. Rumors ran amok, but one thread rang true throughout – whatever was down there was too much for the town to tackle. As night threatened to fall once more, plans were laid in place and discarded as they proved fruitless. Much of the town gathered near its borders, intent on fleeing if the threat became too great. Chaos ensued. Townspeople fled, only to be called back by their allies. Earthquakes shook the town with a vigor that broke buildings, split floors, and threatened to flatten the town. Rumors of subterranean zombies flittered through town like ghosts.
Then, as crazy as the bedlam was, something stranger happened.
As the midnight hour came and went, the Rendfolk went about their business in hushed tones and scurried footsteps, waiting for the next disaster to strike. Hours passed. The sun rose. All seemed well, and the people of the town breathed a collective sigh of relief.
That’s when the screaming began.
A cluster of Dar ran up from the waterfront, obviously panicked. Through intense effort, their message was discerned… the rad-swamp waters had rushed away from the shorelines, and were now rising with a velocity and hunger that terrified even those who were accustomed to the tidal floes. No one knew what caused it, although many suspected the Final Knights’ “mine” was to blame. In the end, it didn’t much matter the cause. The water was coming, the Dar’s panicked messengers communicated in garbled bits. The town would be home only to the fish. The people of the Rend must flee – or perish.
Those who were knowledgeable in such things began hurried research, but their findings gave no hope. The rate of the water’s rise was predictable—and unstoppable. The townsfolk would have time to gather their things, to say their goodbyes to the homes they’d established in the Rend… but they would have to leave or drown with the town they had come to love.
In the end, the Cascade Rendezvous pulled together, as it always had when disaster struck. Folk gathered what was important to them, abandoning what could not be carried, and then turned to their neighbors to ensure they were prepared to flee as well. As one, the people of the Rend turned their back on the rising radiation tide, and set out for safer territories.
It’s been months since the water engulfed the Rend, and we’ve had a lot of time to think on the two years spent at the Cascade Rendezvous. We’ve learned a lot from past mistakes, and left a lot of old grudges behind us. This time on the road has been hard. We’ve lost some of those who left with us, along the way, but those of us who remain share a bond that will hopefully remain once we’ve settled in again.
We’ve been looking for a new place to hang our hats, to set up camp and start up anew. Word is that there’s a place, not far from here, that just might do. Only one way to find out.
Onward and upward ever.
The Rend is Dead. Long Live the Rend.