|Gate To:||the Gray Waste|
The best thing about Hopeless is that it's easy for a body to find her way around. It's a walled city with just one entrance, and from that entrance a single long road spirals down into a deep pit, ending in a courtyard at the bottom. Having only one street in town does make it a bit easier to find places, but it's a real pox if a body needs to hide or flee. A traveller can always tell when she's reached Hopeless, too - the entrance is a screaming human face carved in red stone, its eyes blank and blind, red tears cut by erosion running down its cheeks.
That red stone of the Screaming Gate (as it's called) is the only bright color in the whole town. The rest of Hopeless is built of gray stone and gray, weathered wood that becomes gloomier the farther a body goes beneath ground level.
The High Cardinal of Hopeless is a masked human female who calls herself Thingol the Mocking. She claims to have been a wizard who escaped the destruction of her prime-material world. As the ruler, she garbs herself in heavy chains and a full-sized metallic mask in the shape of a black wolf.
Thingol holds her position thanks to her strongest supporters, a pack of seven identical beholders. They float throughout the pit in a constant patrol, keeping an eye (or ten) out for bashers who might harm their mistress. Their loyalty is absolute, and some think than Thingol traded her spellcasting ability (and her humanity) with dark powers for their service
At the base of the pit, where the road finally runs out, there's a flat courtyard of gray stone, with a low, gray well in the center. The well's filled to the brim with a thick, black ooze, similar to molten tar. Want to go to the Gray Waste? Just sump in the well. Cutters can also summon the gunk out, and a few folks in Hopeless know the dark of spells to do that. This method makes sure that a whole group ends up in the same spot on the other side. (The blackness spurts up out of the well and covers the courtyard in a heaving bubble of tar. Those who've tried this compare it to bathing with a black pudding.)
The people of Hopeless are like depression on legs. Most drifted into town over the decades, having nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. The poor sods barely have the energy to be nasty. There's no chance of things being better - not here, anyway - so why bother?
The nearness of the Gray Waste also takes its toll on the locals. After a few weeks of bunking here, a body takes on a grayish pallor (known in the Outlands as a "wasting tan"), and her eyes, comfortable with gloom, are hurt by bright colors. Fact is, a town law forbids bright or contrasting colors in the heart of the pit, and the natives have the right to tear colored things apart. Travellers who aren't sure exactly where the law takes effect usually find out the hard way when the natives attack, tearing at their garments and hurling thick, wet balls of mud.
Travellers should know that Thingol's currently experimenting with performance art, such as painting a body bright blue and letting the crowd rip the poor berk's flesh off. Her most recent work, "Sonata for Songbird and Hammer," pulled in some wonderfully depressing reviews.