Imagine a place surrounded by intolerance and rigidity, a refuge founded in the place that the overculture has written off as 'too unwholesome' or just 'not worth it'. A place where connection to each other, and to the land itself, builds a strength that makes it possible to resist those forces, and thrive vibrantly in spite of them. One hopes there are many such places across the metacosm, but Waters Gather is one of them.
To those who live there, Waters Gather is a vibrant and lively city, built in harmony with the high desert that surrounds it and the rivers that flow through it, where everyone works together to keep each other happy and well, in collaboration with the spirits of land, city, and myth. Without these connections, without the help of the massive water-plumed-serpents who run through the arroyos, the thunder-hawks who watch over the skies, life would be impossible there.
To most of those looking in from the outside, it's a bizarre place founded on superstition and folly, in the middle of an arid wasteland. The Regime would say that the only reason it hasn't taken it over is because the land just isn't worth it. Beneath that justification, however, there are some deeper truths. Those who are aware of the city's relationship with the land see it as relatively scary, both on a moral level ("pacts with demons!") and a strategic one ("How do you fight people who have pacts with demons?"). There's also a practical consideration: it can be useful to have a despised place to use as a scapegoat, and to ship folks off to if they don't tow the traditional lines.
Waters Gather is a modern city built at the confluence of several rivers on a plateau scrubland, at the base of pine-forested mountains. This gives a strong swing to the seasons. Spring and autumn are pleasantly temperate, though strong winds and swirling dust storms sometimes play through the trees. Winters are cold and often graced by snow flurries, thanks to the high elevations. Summers are full of dry heat, but monsoon thunderstorms are a frequent visitor, sometimes refreshing and sometimes disruptive. Strong rains can send the deadly serpents of flash floods rushing down the arroyos.
The city itself has done quite a job of living in harmony with this environment; buildings are often built into the landscape and made of local adobe, or at least colored and shaped to mimic the forms around them, and wide spaces of greenbelt are left to allow the rains to flow freely when they come. Other cities might try to tame them with concrete drainage ditches, but in the experience of people in Waters Gather, that only makes the flood-snakes angrier and more dangerous.
The folk of Waters Gather are diverse in many ways; they've come there from countless other cultures, sometimes even other worlds, and many of them came because they felt they didn't fit in somewhere else. Not all of them are traditionally organic; construct-craft has been a tradition in the city for generation, and of course there are also the spiritfolk.
Animism is a fact of life in the city (as it would be in the rest of the world it's in, for those who would be wiling to look and listen). Encouraged by the willingness of other inhabitants to interact with them, the spirits of houses, trees, computers, songs, and more often manifest, sometimes taking up physical residence with those they are close to. Others live more in the wild, like the water-spirits that flow through the arroyos and the wind-spirits that dance through the city in the spring and fall.
The city is organized by bottom-up consensus government, with communities managing their own affairs and sometimes appointing individuals to larger-scale groups to handle larger-scale issues. These too are helped along by the city's metaphysical structure; members of any organization are always aware that its formation has formed a 'spirit' along with it, one that can directly communicate its own health to concerned parties both inside and outside the group. How this manifests varies for different communities and individuals, but it often feels like a sort of group conscience, a low level empathic connection that gives everyone in a community a 'gut-feeling' about whether what they're doing is healthy or not (In this regard, it's somewhat similar to the Neptunian Mindlink). Since metaphysical connections here are social as well, it's often hard to tell the difference between a social community and a spiritual one, and indeed the same neighborhood 'circles' are sometimes used for both logistic meetings and seasonal rites.
- The Collegium
- A sprawling place of learning, taking in all ages of folks who are interested in learning more about animism, spiritwork, and other topics particularly vital to the city's unique way of life. The school also offers outreach courses to other worlds via a variety of methods, including journeywork exchange and dream correspondence.
- The Sculptor's Foundry
- One of the task-oriented 'temples' for members of the local pantheon, the Foundry focusses on the work of the Sculptor-of-Pieces, a deity of self-refinement and close relationships of all sorts. As such, the temple offers services that might otherwise fall under mental and physical help, from personal therapy to gender/species transition treatments.
- The Junction
- Originally an open ceremonial space dedicated to the exploration of liminality in all its forms, the Junction has become steadily weirder and more complex; at this point it manifests as a dreamlike semi-open-air dance club, where one can explore all sorts of ecstatic states, and quite often find entry to and exits from other worlds.
- On the south side of town is another task-temple, this one to the Player-with-Light. It's an expansive structure, which combines features of a performance space, market, arcade, and laboratory. Here, technical-minded Expression Technicians help supplicants explore their identities and presentations, working out the best way to portray themselves in the world.