"It was a crisp fall night when Lunati and I initially embarked on our journey. We packed two light satchels with rope, a couple flasks of water, biscuits and dried fruit which we slung across our hips. We took a quick stroll through the recently abandoned ruins of Zefiroth. Crumbled stone and wood chips littered the walkways while ripped up papers and textiles blew across the now vacant town square. We said goodbye to our old home and departed into the night.
For hours we flew aimless and erratic like moths spinning around a flame. We weren't quite sure where we were going, but could never return to the ground lands of Kasuria. It didn't feel right as I had lived all of my life in the skies. Lunati seemed more flexible as she was a contented city mouse in her youth, but she was adamant on never leaving my side. I knew there had to be another place like Zefiroth, there just had to. I knew it in my own heart and I was determined to get us there.
With supplies as limited as we had, time was our greatest enemy. Six hours is a long time to fly without rest, but as the sun began to rise we did manage to find a rock just big enough for us to lean against each other and get a bit of shut eye. We anchored ourselves to the rock and lightly to each other. The winds died down steadily as we drifted ever further from Zefiroth.
We were averaging about one hour of rest for each six hours in the air and it began to take its toll after the second day. Lunati had lost a couple wing scales and her ears were dry and cracked from the persistent cold breeze. My own shoulders were throbbing and ankles were bruised from landing poorly on such small rock formations. Our downtime remained short and sleep was light. Neither of us felt very rested upon waking, but we knew we had to keep moving.
By the fifth day I started having hallucinations. I can only recall the first one with such vivid clarity because of Lunati's reaction. She had plenty of her own worries at this time so her concern was enough to give me some pause.
I remember how she looked before my mind painted its own deceiving pictures, her normally pristine white fur now matted and grey as she braced herself against the wind, arms crossed tight around her chest. As a cloud drifted away I noticed another island appear behind her. It was small, but it had a berry tree. I flew to it and began to pick the berries that had fallen neatly around its thin trunk.
Suddenly Lunati asked why I was eating stones. There was no tree or island for that matter. I had eaten the gravel from our temporary rest rock. Our food stores were depleted, and we had less than one small waterskin between us.
We awoke on a larger rest isle to a swelling storm. The clouds opened up and we dove for cover beneath a dead tree. The sudden appearance of large rocks and even trees was encouraging, but our bodies were worse for wear with each passing day. I began tearing apart scraps of my own clothing to use as bandages for Luna and myself, but they did not last long in all the wind and rain. The lightning was violent and terrifyingly close as we huddled under the fallen tree. This is exactly what we were trying to escape when we left Zefiroth.
As the storm began to die down, we managed to fill our empty flasks. Our stomachs groaned each time we laid down to rest. Lunati attempted to eat some wet, dead tree bark. I sat down with her, soggy and matted after the first storm had passed and tried to eat some of the rotted plant matter with her. This made us both incredibly ill and hours afterwards were wasted drifting in and out of consciousness, hurling up what little we had eaten.
There were no birds around and certainly no fish or insects. Grass and rotted fruits were the most palatable things we were able to scavenge during our entire journey. What little we had been able to consume kept us going for days more. Each time we passed by fallen trees I wondered if we were getting closer to any truly great isles and each time we abandoned them I had regrets, seeing nothing greater in the distance for hours, sometimes days.
By the ninth day my ankles were swollen to the size of cantaloupes. The pain was causing me to hallucinate more, which did not help Luna out one bit. We needed each other to stay alert and vocal at all times as the smallest mid-flight miscalculation could spell tragedy. Some of my hallucinations were ghost scents. Occasionally I would smell fine smoked pork and chicken, sweet grilled vegetables and other good, real foods. An upcoming rainstorm even smelled like strawberries and cream. I was truly losing my mind from hunger and exhaustion.
Lunati wasn't faring much better. Her wing scales were ever increasingly flaking off and drifting away causing her to lose balance and coordination. Our periods of rest grew longer and longer and as we approached the third week we found no more dead forests in the skies. Our rainwater filled flasks were down to droplets. In our desperate hunger, we consumed an entire leather flask. It was one of my least proud moments, but it gave us that last final push.
It was the twenty-ninth night that Lunati and I flew together. The clouds were heavy and I felt that they would pull my skin away with them each time we fought our way through. We passed by a small rock with green, living grass and instantly fell to our knees upon it, shoveling as much of it into our mouths that we could fit. While I would have personally preferred a bed of meat, this fresh green grass was crisp and refreshing.
Being an unfortunate feline, I immediately threw up all of the grass I had swallowed. Still, I felt better, as though I could continue on with this crazy search. I briefly dismissed this newfound hope as another trick of the mind until I felt the grass beneath my toes. They instinctively curled around the soft dew-covered blades. It was such an unusual sensation after all we'd been through that I knew this time was different. It was the first true living vegetation we had encountered in a month and it was a very promising sign.
Lunati was now content, full and in high spirits. I rolled over onto my side and curled up in the soft green grass to rest. It felt divine in every way. Lunati kissed me on the top of my head and told me that she was going to do a bit of searching in the area. There was a thick blanket of fog over the skies that night, but Lunati felt confident to go out searching on her own. This made me feel just good enough to shut my eyes and finally get some well deserved sleep.
I awoke to Lunat's excited voice. She was carrying a whole bundle of fresh shoots when she returned to my side. She found a massive island with cascades and rivers and more greenerey than she could have ever imagined. There were even animals; fat flightless birds, striped dog-like creatures and gigantic nests.
She insisted the island was overflowing with more life than Zefiroth ever had and I wanted so much to believe her. I prayed Lunati wasn't just having hallucinations of her own. Rested and needing to see the island with my own eyes, we abandoned the grassy rock and headed in the direction she had travelled alone.
We flew onward for a little over an hour until it appeared. Slowly materializing through the fog was a great island with waterfalls cascading off its mighty ledges, miles upon miles of land and a cluster of smaller nearby isles. It was just as she described, and even more grand and beautiful the closer in we flew. I could hardly believe the amount of plant and animal life before us and for a moment I wondered if we had died.
We threw ourselves into the water as soon as we touched ground and drank with water cupped in our paws. Later than evening, we caught a couple small fish and made a nice little fire by the river. Luna roasted up some vegetables and we shared an incredible feast. Full, satisfied and excited for the future of this establishment, we tended to our wounds and spent a couple weeks in recovery.
It would likely take months for any arrivals but we would do our best to chart out the territories and document native plant and animal life. We sent out letters to friends back down in greater Kasuria and hoped for the best. After all, who would be crazy enough to follow us into the heavens?"
In the first year following the building and establishment of the Club, Tacoma employed various gryffes and other aven to begin work at this new location. At first, there was only a small bar serving the basic fare and a couple of rooms. These rooms, however, were what initially set the Club apart from other resorts.
Decorated in elegance with the finest silks, furs and embellishments, these rooms appealed to those with more refined tastes. This was no overnight stay at a simple tavern, these exotic suites attracted the wealthiest nobles with many patrons having to book their stay months in advance.
A proud and robust creature by the name of Gryofalco was known throughout the lower lands as the swiftest Grand Ferian Gryphon. He vowed to lend the Club his swift transport services in exchange for a new home. He was one of the recent evacuees from Zefiroth and, much like Tacoma, not well suited to ground life.
With Nimbaterra being in such a remote location, it was important to find furres who could make it to and from their job with relative ease. Over time, the native poppies were harvested and sold at the bar. This created a demand for the exotic opium produced. Along with this, the usual refreshments continued to be served at the bar and massages were given in the newly built Bath House.
Just one month into construction, someone had managed to critically injure themselves in the fields. A physician was called in and a clinic built for their practice, as flight time to the nearest medical center was dangerously long. The wounded Gardener recovered quickly and dealt with very little pain thanks to the analgesic effects of the Opium Poppy.
Papaver Somniferum, one of the most abundant plants on the isle, was now known to have incredible pain relieving effects. It was later found to help insomnia, alcohol withdrawal and digestive ailments. It became the single most profitable plant on the isle, with wealthy furres willing to pay top dollar for its export.
However, it didn't take long for residents to complain of withdrawal symptoms during a long period of drought. The production of all the Isle's flora began suffering horribly and not everyone was able to get what they needed. The export of Poppy products slowed to a crawl as the plant became demonized outside of Nimbaterra. Eventually new laws were put in place and export stopped completely. There was a silver lining to this, as the Club managed to make an even larger profit from tourism.
The poppies had become such a huge source of income as patrons came back again and again. Many guests returned on a regular basis to get their fix and feel right again. Even the gryphons working to maintain the gardens had their own habits to feed and were paid partially in opium and opium products (Laudanum, Morphine, Pod Tea).
Of course, opium wasn't the only addictive substance on Nimbaterra. Some furres became addicted to money, power or sex and others to The Divine Harvest. The most desperate furres would strip or prostitute to afford their habits. Guests who were foolish with their money and habit became workers, and workers that took a fall became slaves. Once this happened, they provided essentially nothing to the Club but further expense. Most slaves are rented out with hopes to be sold.
Every now and again you will see a dungeon filled with heavily drug addicted slaves. You might witness some of them withdrawing in the pens in agony, screaming and begging. The lucky ones are taken into the Clinic, those that perform well. The only way out of slavery for them is through auction or through rehabilitation.
A slave who genuinely wants to fight their way out of chemical dependence can. Most of them will eventually be sold off if they remain in the dungeon. If they somehow wind up an addict again, they have no choice but to be sold. Slaves who are able to fight addiction can sometimes earn their way back into more dignified work such as a bar or garden setting.
The Club has many bouncers and mechanical defense structures. An armory is in production that will be stocked with ballistas, cannons, explosives and firearms. Blacksmiths and engineers are working hard to supply this armory in the event of a military raid.
In ancient times, Morpheus was a deep obsidian drake who guarded the ancient isles and protected his family. He has willingly turned himself to stone to sleep for most of the year. Morpheus is the sole guardian of the dreaming realm and often visits Nimbians in their own dreams to help guide them in difficult times or simply just to say hello.
Morpheus wakes briefly on December 13th to oversee the Sky Gardens and consecrate the soil. This day is known as the Day of the Divine Harvest, and any blessed poppies bled of their opium on this day will cause no ill toward those who partake of its medicine. For this reason, there are no harvests between the months of August and December. Gardeners are kept busy with the other plants at this time, while Opium products are sold at a higher price to prevent exhausting the fall supply.
When Morpheus awakens at 9am on December 13th, a deep blue light blankets the isles and remains until sunrise the following day. This light turns the isles and its plants into various shades of dark blue except for the poppies, which glitter icy and bright. The week following the Divine Harvest heralds the beginning of winter.
As founders of Nimbaterra, Tacoma and Lunati wrote the majority of the land's laws. Club laws were also influenced by bouncers and workers over time. In the sixth year, exportation of Opium products ceased and threat of military raids were issued if any plants were discovered outside of the isles. To the displeasure of many patrons, it became mandatory for guards to search the belongings of furres leaving Nimbaterra.
Even the guards grew irate with having to invade the privacy of well paying patrons. A small organization formed with Club Workers and Guards as leaders. This group discovered an alternate exit from the Club and let furres leave with whatever they had purchased legally. In turn, these furres would sign a form saying they were responsible for whatever was on their person. Being caught outside of the isles spelled disaster for the Club and while privacy was seen as a fundamental right of patrons, the image the outside world had of Club Nimbus was already tarnished enough.
From the roots of that mild organization grew something much larger than anyone could have forseen. As time went on, the group became a cartel known as the Cirrus Cartel. Instead of merely letting folks leave with their own personal stash, the Cartel actually started paying patrons to deliver Opium and products derived from it to reputable clients in the lower lands.
The Cirrus Cartel has members outside of Nimbaterra as well, and a few are even well-trained assassins. If a rat is ever found in their ranks, it's a sure bet their body will be discovered horrifically mangled on the side of a cliff.
As the years passed, Lunati and Tacoma gradually faded into the background on Nimbaterra. Their original laws are still in effect, but there is little they can do to combat the Cartel. By now it has evolved into its own entity with its own rules. Even the most fearsome bouncers hesitate to give Cartel members a hard time. It is much preferred to let their illegal activities slide to avoid confrontation.
The Cartel reports recruitment in the hundreds with a recent census pointing towards 540+ members. They are greatly dispersed throughout Lower Kasuria and the Nimbaterra isles. The current Cartel leader is a tall, coal colored Gryffe by the name of Biagio Blacktalon. He is often seen wearing a white suit with black dress pants and decorated in gold jewelry.
Assassins are often dressed in red masks with black gloves, cloaks and boots. Dealers are seen wearing trenchcoats and suits not unlike Biagio's. Dealers are sometimes called "whitecoats" due to this choice of attire. Most Cartel members are avians but it's not unheard of for Werewolves and other furres to join their ranks. Initiation rites include grand theft, destruction of enemy property and the slaughter of slaves.