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BABYLON

"Woe, woe, the great city, the strong city, Babylon! In but one hour your judgement has come." And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, because no one buys their wares anymore: their store of gold, silver, gems, pearls, fine linen, purple and scarlet cloth, silk, every kind of fragrant wood and every artifact of ivory and expensive wood and bronze and iron and marble, cinnamon, spices, incense, perfume, frankincense, wine, olive oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle, sheep, horses, chariots, and slaves and human souls.
--Revelation 18: 10-13, Living Oracles '99

The City of Babylon is a vast Umbral Realm sprawling along the border that separates the High and Low Umbrae. From within, it seems to cover infinite space, though this is merely an illusion: a traveller who proceed far enough will return to her starting point. The buildings are of all types and ages, from seemingly ancient and rickety (though no building is ever in real danger of collapsing) to steel-and-glass towers; a duplicate of the World Trade Center is known to exist near the central point, as is a duplicate of the United Nations Building across from it. Many other well-known commercial centers dot the city, as do embassies from every nation in the world. Along the twisting streets, traders of every imaginable sort hawk their wares, somehow not going bankrupt despite the banner-carrying planes and blimps that soar in the cloud-darkened sky, the brilliant neon and digital billboards, and every other imaginable form of advertisement that sparkles across the metropolis. Anything can be bought here, or sold, not just physical things but ideas and spirits--including human souls.

For Babylon is not merely commerce, but commerce corrupted, and religion perversely wedded to commerce. At the exact center of the city stands a tower dwarfing anything on Earth, like a great mountain. From it, day and night, shout preachers of every faith in existence, from fundie televangelists to Newage psychic readers. Their promises are lies, but followers crowd always in the plaza that surrounds the tower, hanging on every syllable. Higher up, within the tower, seemingly more spiritual worshippers meditate, pray, and sing praise--but one who listens carefully will hear the desperation in their voices and see it in their eyes. They are not truly any better than the performers on the balconies; their worship is merely a way of distracting themselves from the plight of those below.

Down below in the streets, slavers prowl, searching for victims, both weak emanations and visitors to the realm. Anyone who cannot defend themselves may be taken; those in their bodies go to the Scar or Malfeas, while those without are spirited off to the High Umbral Hells. A more insidious trap lurks for those who would buy here; any deal one makes with the Realm's denizens may include the buyer's soul unless he knows to specifically exclude it--and all sales are final. Caveat emptor!

Besides the emanations, many of the businesses here are spiritually linked to the spiritual essences of real companies on Earth. More powerful businesses, especially corporations, have their own realms elsewhere, while less powerful spirits of this sort roam Web domains or Urban Blights; nonetheless, any business with the slightest hint of corruption has its counterpart here, and in the World of Darkness that includes virtually all. Not far from the center of the realm, even the Pentex logo itself is displayed openly across a massive storefront, a mall that holds a site for each and every subsidiary--but the mall snakes its way across much of the realm, with other entrances that do not display the logo, and only the most obviously corrupt are near the primary entrance. The realm is honeycombed with portals to business realms, as well as gateways to the Scar, Malfeas, Hell, and the CyberRealm, and possibly even openings onto the Digital Web.

Most magicks are coincidental in Babylon; technomancy and effects relying on the power of evil spirits gain a -1 on difficulty. Holy magicks work very much as they do in Hell; they are vulgar, and those who use them shine with a light that dispels the darkness of the realm, making its inhabitants uncomfortable. Paradox manifests as bands of slavers that will attempt to capture and sell the offender into hellish realms (these are not truly the usual destinations of slaves, but other slavers may well be hunting the characters as well, and there are no perceptible differences between them).