"This is the port of Visage, where faces may not be naked. Except one: a stone monument the size of a village church, serenely gazing upwards. Flourishing-of-Years."Visage is an island in the southern Unterzee whose main feature is a large face that watches the sky. Everyone on the island wears masks, according to their role. For example, those that wish to trade wear locust masks, those who wish to learn of Visage wear frog masks, and spies wear bat masks. Once a mask is chosen, its wearer must play their assigned part.
It is implied that there are little or no permanent citizens of Visage, only an endless stream of visitors who stay for a while, possibly for years at a time, before giving their positions to others.
One notable landmark is the Flood Court, which is always flooded to a certain degree. Said degree varies; the water could be ten feet deep, but it could also be up to one's ankles. There is also the Library of Parts, where citizens go to learn how to perform what their mask asks of them. Apis Temple is inhabited by a wounded bull and by priests who are constantly collecting its blood.
Visage's face is hollow, and it is possible to enter its interior through its ear. This is done on festival days. During the festival, in complete darkness, people remove their masks and trade secrets, though nobody knows whose secrets are whose. Trading masks, however, is completely unheard of.
The Masks of Visage Edit
For every part played in the ritual life of Visage there is a mask to represent specific personalities and castes within the society. Each person is expected to follow the nature of their mask, to play their part in the grand play that goes on here. Visage has many masks, here are just a few and the parts they play.
Moon Moths are at once customs agents and tour guides. Most new members of Visage are often shadowed by a Moon Moth in order to make sure the newcomer knows how to play their role - and that they don't cause trouble. The Moon Moth is often a senior member who has spent years on the island.
The closest thing Visage has to priests, Cobras are respected members of society whose main job is to maintain Apis Temple and the Flood Court. To be invited into the home of a Cobra is considered a great honor.
The equivalents of enforcers or warriors, Crocodiles hunt threats to Visage and sail overzee to enforce the will of the island.
Another type of enforcer; these protect the ritual of entering the Flourishing-of-Years. They ensure that every member plays their part, and reward those who follow the rules with treasure.
Frogs, normally newcomers to Visage, are expected to be goofy, playful, and generally ditzy. This doesn't make them very popular, however.
This is the mask of traders and various other greedy folk. Locusts are expected to put money above all other thoughts, and it is not uncommon to see them swarming over the money pools of the Flood Court.
Very few people play the part of the Bat, as these are always spies - and they always die. Crocodiles and Jackals are expected to kill them on sight. Bats often stay hidden in the shadows or within the Flourishing-of-Years.
There are, of course, many other parts in the great play that is Visage. These are just the major cast members one may see, but be warned, to not play one's part or to remove one's mask is almost surely a death sentence.
The island was originally an outpost of the Second City, which was most likely the Egyptian city of Amarna. It was abandoned for unknown reasons, but repopulated by a different group. It seems the colony's re-founding has to do with an encounter between a man and a strange Unterzee creature called a jillyfish.
The Flood Court is surely an interpretation of the way ancient Egyptians recorded the annual flooding of the Nile River. While the Unterzee itself does not flood, the detailed records of the Egyptians allow the people of Visage to simulate the natural calendar flood cycles from when their ancestors lived on the Surface.
The masks also had a significant role in Egyptian culture. Priests and higher members of society often wore such masks to represent the animals of the Nile. It is often thought that the mask would gift the wearer with the virtues and powers of the animal shown. Many festivals and religious celebrations often had such masks to hold reverence to the creatures who were thought to be messengers and eyes of the Gods. Even more convincingly, all the masks feature animals that were worshipped by Egyptians, save for the bat and the moon moth. The Moon Moths are clearly inspired by Jack Vance's "The Moon Moth," a short story about a diplomat trying to catch a criminal in a society where everyone wears masks.
The most important feature pointing to an Egyptian origin is Apis Temple, which is named after an actual late Egyptian bull god. A long series of ritually perfect bulls, who all bore specific markings that made them so, were identified by the god's priests and housed in temples for their entire lives. (If they lived too long, by the way, they were sacrificed.)