Infernal City Lore Notes: Umbriel

This page contains lore-relevant quotes and summaries from Infernal City, by Greg Keys. Some quotes have been truncated to improve clarity.

“[Annaig’s] first impression was of a vast jellyfish, its massive dark body trailing hundreds of impossibly slender, glowing tentacles. But then she saw the solidity of it the mountain ripped from its base and turned over. [It] had crevasses and crags, crude, sharp, unweathered angles, as if it had just been torn from the ground the day before. The top seemed almost as flat as the summit [Annaig and Glim] stood upon, but there were shapes there, towers and arches – and most strangely, a long, drooping fringe depending from the upper ledge like an immense lace collar, but twisted abut by the wind and then frozen in its disheveled state.” p.54-55

The island trails “glowing strands,” which “might have been spider silk spun from lightning, some flashing briefly brighter than others. She realized they weren’t trailing, but dropping down from the center of the base, vanishing into the treetops, flashing white and then withdrawn into the the island’s belly. As some came up, others descended, creating [Annaig’s] original impression of a constant train of them.” p.55

“Amid the bright strands, something darker moved. Swarms of something – they might have been hornet or bees, but given the distance, that would make them huge – emerged from the stone walls and hurtled towards the jungle below. But at some invisible line a few hundred feet below the island, they suddenly dissolved into streams of black smoke, then vanished into the treetops. Unlike the threads, they did not reappear.” p. 55

The island is made of “thick-grained basalt.” p.58

Umbriel has strange creatures with “long, insectile legs” which “resembled a moth, albeit a moth nearly [Annaig’s] size. Its wings were voluptuous, velvety dark green and black. Its head was merely a black polished globe with long, wickedly sharp needle projecting out like a nose. Its size legs, ticking nervously beneath it, ended in similar points.” p.60

“The holes that the fliers had come through were high, and the climb looked difficult, but the split in the island continued back, gradually sloping down. Daylight was soon behind them, and while the ghost of it followed for a while, eventually they were in near complete darkness.

“…The walls remained about twice her shoulder-width apart, so it was easy enough to keep a hand on each rough surface. The floor was a little uneven…” p. 63

“They had gone a few hundred yards when she saw light again…. the path led them off another cliff.

“This one opened in the belly of the mountain, a vast, dome-shaped cavity open at the bottom so they could once more see the destruction of Lilmoth.” p.63

“[Annaig] saw masses of the threads shooting down so many it looked almost like rain. She followed their course and saw them, thousands of them, in every nook and cranny of the stone. She couldn’t make out much; they, too, seemed vaguely insectile, but she saw the thin, stone-colored tubes the threads issued from, because the rest of whatever-they-were were concealed in circular masses of what appeared to be the same material. They looked a lot like spider egg sacs, but larger, much larger.” p.63-54

“The steps wound up a few feet and vanished back into another tunnel. This one was illuminated with palpable phosphorescence. It twisted to curve steeply skyward, and Annaig realized they were making their way up above the dome space. Almost immediately it began branching, but she kept to her left, and after several breathless moments they came to a silvery-white cable, emerging room the stone below them and vanishing into the ceiling. … The cable was composed of hundreds of threads would together. … She saw that the hole was larger than the cable tat came up through it, and, lying flat she was able to make out the jungle floor again. Below her, the ropelike stricture unwound itself, sending threads off in every direction. She could see some of them vanishing into the web sacs.” p.66

Umbriel has 4 Middens, Bolster Midden has the “richest scent.” p.71

As one approaches the middens, “the floor and walls of the tunnels became first slick and then coated in a dank, putrid sheen.” p.71

The “soul-spinner” tendons pick up souls after the body has been killed, and then the larva (the giant moths) take over the bodies to go kill more people. p.72

Most of the souls Umbriel harvests go to the ingenium, the rest go to the kitchens to be converted into food for the nobles. p.73

Going too far from Umbriel makes its inhabitants loose their bodies. The souls seem to persist however, since the moths are able to take bodies. p.73

The Bolster Midden is said to resemble a giant stomach; it has a vaulted stone sealing with 5 garbage chute openings. p.75

Worms work in the Bolster Midden to purify the trash before it is sent down to the Marrow Sump. p.76

There are 5 kitchens in Umbriel, each named after their head cook: Aughey, Quinje, Lodenpie, and Fexxel. p.76

A narrow ledge circumvents the Midden, though in some places it is non existent. The middle of the Midden is “offal and pools of putrescence.” It is dimly lit, but no source is visible. p.76

Quije’s kitchen consists of”enormous rectangular pits of almost white-hot stone lines up down the center of a vast chamber carved and polished from the living rock. Above the pits innumerable metal grates, boxes, cages, and baskets depended from chains, and vast sooty hoods sucked most of the heat and fumes up higher still into Umbriel. Left and right, red maws gaped from the walls – ovens, obviously, but really more like furnaces. Between them, strange and familiar crowded and hurried about long counters and cabinets, wielding knives, cleavers, pots, pans, saws, awls, and hundreds of unidentifiable implements.

“Though the smells here were generally cleaner than those of the midden, they were just as varied, and decidedly more alien.” p.82

Some of the staff of Quinje’s kitchen remind Anaig of people she knows. “There were in particular many who looked like mer; there were others for while – like the place itself — she had no name. She saw thick figures with brick-red skin, fierce faces, and small horns on their heads, working next to ghostly pale blue-haired beings, spherical mouselike creatures with stripes, and a variable horde of monkey-like creatures with goblinesque faces. These last scrambles along the shelves and cabinets, tossing bottles and tins from shelves in the stone that rose sixty feet along the walls, although in most of the room the ceiling crushed down almost to the level of the tallest head. p.82-83

“Searing chunks of meat, huge snakelike creatures battering against the bard of their cages as the heat killed them, cauldrons that smelled of leek and licorice, boiling blood, molasses.

“After a hundred pace the cooking pits were replaced by tables crowded with more delicate equipment of glass and bright metal. Some were clearly made for distillation, this made obvious by the coils that rose above’ others resembled retorts, parsers, and fermentation vats. Along the walls were what amounted to vaster version of these things, distilling, parsing, and fermenting tons of material.” p.83

“A cable, the thickest she had seen yet, pulsing with the pearly light of soul stuff… it passed through various glass collars filled with liquid and colored gases, and insectile filaments and extremely fine tubing coiled and wound into what might be condensation chambers.” p.83

Some inhabitants of Umbriel eat regular food, others like “distilled essences, pure elements, and tenebrous vapors.” The highest lords eat only food made from soul-stuff. p.84

The kitchens create “poisons, balms, salves” as well as food. p.84

After the larva (giant moths) have taken a body they can be brought back to Umbriel via incantations. This is used to bring raw materials up to the city. p.85

If a servant of Umbriel moves too far from the city they loose contact. p.85

Scamps are described as “yellowish, sharp-toothed biped with long pointy ears.” They are at least partially resistant to fire. p.86

Hobs have green eyes and are monkeylike, but hairless. “It did have long arms and legs, though, and its fingers were extraordinarily long, thin, and delicate.” They are at somewhat intelligent and capable of following orders. p.86

Fennel Fern “soothes the stomach” and is “used in poultices for thick-eye.” p.88

The workers of Prixon Palace don’t like their meat burned, but those of Oroy Mansion do. p.88

The kitchens use hot rock for cooking, but the source of the heat is unknown. p.89

The workers of Quinje’s kitchen sleep in “a dark dormitory with about twenty sleeping mats. A table supported a cauldron, bowls, and spoons.” p.89

Umbriel incorporates outsiders, including Daedra. Those which are of no purpose to the city are discarded. p.92

Oorol used to be undercheff of Ghol Manor, before he was killed by Qinje for boring the lord. p.100

“Slumpslurry” is a curse/exclamation in Umbriel. p.100

Qinje’s kitchen cooks for three lords, their households, and servants: Prixon, Oroy, and Ghol.

A year on Umbriel is just over half a year on Tamriel. p.101

Umbriel seems to be a land in itself, complete with farmers and fishermen. p.103

The workers of the Sump are called Skaws. p.112

Glim and Wert entered the Sump’s antichamber through a stone corridor. “Water poured from an opening in the wall, ran in a stream across the floor, and vanished into a pool in the middle of the chamber. Several globes of light were fixed to the ceiling, nearly obscured by the ferns growing around them. The rest of the cave was felted in moss.” p.112

Most sump workers use something called the “vapors.” They grant temporary water-breathing but make their users sick with prolonged exposure. p.113

Glim entered the sump through the pool in the antechamber, “letting the mild current take him along. The pol bent into a tube, and he could see light ahead. A moment later he emerged in shallow water, just about as deep as he was tall.” p.113

“The sump spread out before him, a nearly perfectly circular lake in the bottom of a cone-shaped cavity. Umbriel City climbed up and away from him in all directions. Some of it hung above him.” It looked “vain, shiny, lopsided, and bragging.” p.113-114

“The shallows teemed with strange life: slender, swaying amber rods covered in cilia, swimmers that seemed like some strange cross of fish and butterfly, living nets composed of globes propelling themselves with water-jets and dragging fine webs between them, centipede-things as long as [Glim’s] arm and little shrimp-like things no bigger than his thumb-claw.” p.114

“[Glim] stopped when he saw the body. At first he saw only a thick school of silver fish, but they parted at his approach. It had been a woman with dark skin and hair; now her bones weer showing in places and worms clustered on exposed organs.” These bodies are common in the sump, they are dropped or sent down from above. p.114

The skaws collect all kinds of ingredients for the kitchens, including “orchid shrimp, Rejjem sap, [and] Inf fonds.” Other ingredients, such as the sear-teeth, are brought from deeper. p.114

Glim and Wert “swam on, with the water getting gradually deeper at first…. the sump became a steeply curbed cone that drove deep into the stone of Umbriel. And at the very bottom, in the narrowest place, an actinic light flashed, like a ball of lightning.” This area is the “conduit to the ingenium.” p.114-115

About two-thirds of the way down the sump “translucent sacks” are affixed to the wall. “There were hundreds of them, maybe thousands, in all shapes and sizes. As [Glim] drew nearer, he could make out vague forms within the sacks.” p.115

“Glim moved closer, and… found himself looking into a face. The eyes were closed, the features not fully formed, but it wasn’t a child’s face ; it was that of an adult – -just softer, flabbier than most. It was also hairless.” p.115

All of Umbriel’s inhabitants come from “a sort of worm, very soft. It pulsed in and out, and with every contraction, a little jet of water squirted from one end of it. Other than that, it was featureless.” They are called “protoform. When someone dies, the ingenium calls one of these down to the conduit and gives it a soul. It comes back up… and attaches to the wall, and someone grows.” p.115-116

When a sack is ready to be born it gets a sheen. The workers of the sump then swim it up to the “birthing pool,” which is a shallow cave. p.116

The Sheartooth is a large fish, at least 15 feet long, which lives in the sump. “Its tail was long, whiplike, and it had tow great swimming fins set under it, like a whale.” It has more teeth than a shark. p.117

Most animals come to Umbiel “not dead, but sort of paralyzed, frozen even though they weren’t cold. Their hearts didn’t beat and they didn’t age. They had to be released from that state by a rod that Qinje carried.” p.131

“A bull-sized lion with a thousand eyes set on squirming stalks” is a beast found in Umbriel and used as an attack animal. p.171

Toel’s kitchen, one of the upper ones serving the higher lords, wears gold and black. p.172

The sump is “a forest of sessile crabs. Their squat, thorny bodies attached to the floor of the sump were barely noticeable, but their tiny, venomous claws were set on the ends of twenty-foot-long yellow and verdian tentacles that groped lazily after him.” p.189

The top rim of Umbriel is a larger forest. Glim climbs up and finds “at his back a massive trunk as big around as a gate tower spurted form the stone, its roots dug into the cliff over hundreds of feet like the tentacles of some huge octopus. It split into four enormous limbs, one of which passed just over his head and out, like a ceiling above him, twisting gradually left as it did so, and dropping down to eventually obscure some o f the landscape below. This was the lowest limb visible; but above him they were so tick he couldn’t see the sky.” p.190

The trees have a similar effect on Argonians as the Hist, but they aren’t Hist, as “the leaves were too oblate, the bark less fretted, the smell a bit off. But it could be a cousin to them [the Hist]…” p.191

“[Glim] climbed up the leaning back of the tree and out onto one of the branches, following along its very gentle upward and outward slope. A troop of monkeylike creatures went by on another branch, each of them bearing a net-sack held on by a trumpline across their foreheads. The sakes were full of fruit, the kind the skraws called bloodball. A little later he saw some bloodball himself, growing on vines that would in and out of the branches. More curiously, as the branches got higher and he could see the sun, he found fruit and peculiar masses of grass heavy with seed growing directly out of the trunk tree itself, as if planted there.” p.191

The sauna and pool chamber in Toel’s kitchen has “low ceilings of cloth woven in complicated, curvilinear patters of gold, hyacinth, lime, and sanguine. It draped down the walls, giving the appearance that they were in a large, very oddly shaped tent. Globes like those in the sweat-room, but lighter, depended here and there, filling the chamber with a pleasant golden light.” p. 198

There is a race of “froglike creature about two feet high, mottled orange, yellow and green.” p.199

“She stood on an outjut in a cliff face that was steep but not vertical, and that looked out on a vast, conical basin. Below her spread an emerald green lake and, above, the city drew from the stone itself, twisting spires and latticed buildings that might have been built with colored wire, whole castles hanging like birdcages from immensely thick cables. Higher still, the rocky rim of the island supported gossamer towers in every hue imaginable, and what appeared to be an enormous spiderweb of spun glass that broke the sunlight into hundreds of tiny rainbows.” p.202

“Umbriel must use living energy to remain aloft and functioning. But some of it is cycled, transformed, reborn – its not all lost.” p.204

Black Marsh succeeded from the Empire before the Empire collapsed. p.206

“Toel’s kitchen was very different from Qinje’s inferno. There was only one pit of hot stone and one oven, and neither was of particular size. In their place were long tables of polished red granite. Some supported brass steaming chambers, centrifuges, and a hundred kinds of alchemical apparatuses. Others were entirely for the preparation of raw ingredients. While the production of distillations, infusions, and precipitations of soul-stuff had been a minor part of Qinje’s kitchen, here more than half of the cooking space was dedicated to the coquinaria spiritualia. The rest of the cavernous kitchen was devoted to one thing – feeding trees.” p.218

The trees above Umbriel “needed a sort of food, and Toels’s kitchen made that food. Huge siphons drew water and detritus from the bottom of the sump and brought it into holding vats, where it was redirected into parsers that separated out the matter most useful to the trees. What wasn’t used was returned to the sump. What remained was fortified by the addition of certain formulae before being pumped to the roots through a vast ring beneath Umbriel’s rim.” p.219

“Lord Irrel’s tastes tended toward the inane. No meal of less than thirty courses ever pleased him, and fifty or more was the safest.” He only eats one meal a day. p.248, 256

The receiving dock of Toel’s kitchen “wasn’t particularly imposing, merely a room with various tunnels leading away.” there are also two shafts leading up and down, used to lower crates. They are big enough to seat two people. p.249

The effects of Ampher Venin are delayed,”but once symptoms develop, it works very quickly.” p.252

“The kitchen wasn’t still at night; the hobs there there, cleaning, jabbering in a language [Annaig] didn’t know.” p.269

“Some forty feet below [Attrebus] was a web that might have been two hundred feet in diameter. It looked very much like a spider’s web, anchored to three metallic spires, an upthrust stone, and a sticker tower of what appeared to be porcelain. Below the web was a long drop into a cone-shaped basin half full of emerald water and covered with strange buildings everywhere else. The web was made of glasslike tubes about the thickness of his arm. Every few feet along any given tube another sprouted and rose vinelike towards the sky. These in turn branched into smaller tendrils so that the whole resembled a gigantic bed of strange, transparent sea creatures – and indeed, most of them undulated as if in a current.

“Attrebus was about ten feet from the to of the bushy structure, where the strands were no thickener than a writing quill, ad those were what held him up. They clustered thickly on the soles of his boots, pressed his back and torso and every past of him except his face with firm, gentle pressure.

“He tried to take a step, and they moved with him, reconfiguring so he didn’t fall. They cut the sunlight into colors like so many prisms, but it was nevertheless not difficult to see in any direction.” p.275

Umbriel’s zombie army can go anywhere Vuhon chooses. p.281

Living in Umbriel long enough attaches one to the city, making it impossible to leave. p.285

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