Jogging in the Shade
A Visitor’s Guide To Lagos (annotated ShadowSea
Today is Sunday, February 7th
Today’s Weather in Lagos: 34 deg C (daytime high) with heavy sustained winds
Lagos is a feral city on the coast of West Africa. The city itself is home to 10–20 million people, most of whom live in conditions that make the Redmond Barrens look luxurious. Immensely powerful and rich warlords rule the city from the secure enclave of Lagos Island. Corporate investment in the city is high, since it is the primary outlet for the oil pumped in the Niger delta and serves as a no-holds-barred playground for everything from cheap consumer goods to black-market bioweapons. Almost any goods with value can be bought or sold in Lagos, be
it weapons, metahumans, or technology. With no police force (or city-wide infrastructure), the rich and powerful write their own rules—and the corporations enjoy having no rules at all. The city is built around large, shallow lagoons of brackish, polluted water. About a quarter of the sprawl area is actually water, and much of the rest of the city is built on a swamp. During the rainy season, streets become waterways and entire neighborhoods are flooded. Homes built over the swamps and lagoons balance precariously on stilts, while wooden or plastic slats connect homes. In the drier areas of the city, homes are often built of cinderblocks, and multi-story apartment complexes are common in the dense slums. Everywhere, people collect the acidic rainwater on rooftops and in barrels, and many families have rooftop “gardens” of edible fungi and hardy plants. The water from the lagoon, rivers, and streams is too polluted with toxic chemicals and metahuman waste to be drinkable (in fact, just falling into the water can cause a metahuman to become seriously ill). Less than one percent of the population has access to clean water (or plumbing), and so sterilized bags of water are common at markets and roadside vendors. Shamans with the sterilize spell are such valuable commodities that gangs and neighborhoods have been known to go to war to acquire one. Food is another danger; fish from the lagoons can be toxic, and vegetables and fruit are often washed in
polluted water. Food-borne illness is rampant, especially amongst visitors. There are few soy or soy-based products, however, and the spicy cooking features fresh fish, Cassava, rice, and yams. Devil rats (or their less dangerous cousins) are also a staple.
In December and February, the strong Harmattan wind blows from the Sahara, bringing a warm, dry period and coating everything in the city with a fine, red dust. There is little to no rain during this time, and drinkable water becomes scarce.
Magic runs through the city, with tribal dibias and olorishas (shamans) holding their societies together or profiting by their powers. Much of the city has a background count, from centuries of metahuman suffering, misery, and overwhelming pollution. Some areas are domains that favor toxic magic, like the dense, polluted slums of Shomolu, while others favor nature magic, such as the wild, untamed grasslands of Ifako-Ijaye. Dangerous Awakened creatures are drawn to the tainted astral space. Local dibias learn to compensate for the difficulty in drawing mana, but visitors can be caught unaware.
Wireless coverage in the city is provided primarily through a Mesh Network. There are a few areas with reliable wireless coverage (such as Festac Town or Lagos Island). However, since the majority of the population has commlinks (although many are scavenged from corporate recycling programs), a viable mesh network exists. The network is subject to the flows of metahuman traffic, however, and at anytime, coverage could go from strong to non-existent within a few minutes. While many people have commlinks, almost no one has a bank account (or ID). Instead, most of the daily financial transactions are done through barter or physical currency. The naira is the common currency for Lagos, and 20 naira are worth approximately 1 nuyen. Rampant forgery makes the paper naira almost worthless, while coins (in amounts up to 500 naira) are slightly better as long as a person verifies the coin is made from real metal. Better yet are hawala tokens, which are accepted everywhere in the sprawl and are often given a higher value in daily transactions. Hawala tokens generally come in amounts up to 1,000 naira. Most sprawl residents will also accept bartered items in exchange for goods or services.
There are estimates that there are over one hundred different languages spoken in Lagos. Many residents speak a Lagos-specific type of city speak, which combines several tribal languages with English and French. Other major languages are Yoruba and Igbo. While Horizon’s Life-line linguasoft service has Yoruba linguasofts available, there are no linguasofts on the market for the unique Lagosian city speak, Igbo, or any of the other tribal languages. However, between Yoruba, English, and French, most oyibos (foreigners) can make themselves understood, as long as they remember not to speak Yoruba to an Igbo unless they’re spoiling for a fight.
The Hawala Network
A hawala network is an informal system of monetary transfers that relies upon a strict honor system and is common throughout most of Africa and parts of Asia. A person can make a deposit (certified electronic funds, hard currency, precious metals or gems, or occasionally other highly valuable commodities) with a hawala in their area. For a percentage, generally 10-20 percent, the hawala gives the client a voucher. Then, generally, the hawala contacts another hawala in another city, transferring the funds to that hawala. Anyone with the correct voucher (a physical token, occasionally a written, electronic, even a verbal phrase or key) can then access the funds, which will be provided in the requested form (generally certified cred or hard currency). The system depends completely on the honor and honesty of the hawalas and the trust that their clients place upon them. As such, the men are often held in high esteem within their societies and often act as trustworthy and reputable fixers.
Hawala tokens in Lagos are often small items, such as tiny shells, fragments of bone, or small rocks with intricate carvings indicating the originating Hawala and value. Forging a Hawala token is a serious cultural taboo, and most Lagosians believe doing so will call down a curse on the thief. Eerie stories of carved leopards springing to life to slaughter a thief, or a plague killing his entire family, or spirits driving him mad are whispered throughout the sprawl. Hawala tokens always have two sides, with symbols on both. The top shows the value, the bottom the hawala’s personal symbol. In Lagos, the network of Lagosian hawalas has agreed upon the common symbols and values.
Monkey 5 Naira
Fish 10 Naira
Hippo 50 Naira
Parrot 100 Naira
Lion 1,000 Naira
Comm on Prices for Gear and Services in Lagos
> Heard you were heading to Lagos. Because I care, I’ve attached a price sheet, courtesy of that dog Duante. He says to tell you that these prices are what a native might get, or someone really hot at negotiating.
> Kat o’Nine Tales
AK-97 (only “slightly” used): 1,000 Naira
Ares Predator IV: 3,500 Naira
Regular Ammo (10): 200 Naira
Hotel (Porto Novo): 1,000 Naira
Hotel (Lagos Island): 1,000+ Nuyen
(Naira not accepted)
Cab Ride (1 hr): 100 Naira
Okada Ride (1 hr): 20 Naira
Breakfast/Lunch (Roadside Vendor): 5–10 Naira
Dinner (Buka): 20 Naira
Dinner (Nice Restaurant): 200+ Naira
Typical Area Boy Bribe (foreigner rates): 100 Naira
The Yoruba are the most populous tribe within Lagos. Their kingdom actually surrounds the city, and a significant portion of the Lagos oil pipeline runs through the Yoruba Kingdom. Their faith is the cornerstone of their tribe, and their olorishas, or shaman, lead them in that faith. Principal among the olorishas is the Oni, the spiritual leader and King of the Yoruba. Despite the kingdom’s immense natural resources and profitable exploitation of the oil pipeline, the average Yoruba exists at a subsistence level. Many rely on agriculture to survive in the rural areas of the kingdom. In Lagos, the Yorubas are found in every area of the sprawl and every tier of society. The Yoruba gangs are more insular than the widespread Area Boys. Yoruba is one of the dominant languages of Lagos and, due to the Yoruba Kingdom’s strategic position in the area, has been translated onto Linguasoft by Horizon, Wuxing, and other corporations. In general, the Yorubas are tolerant (if not welcoming) of various metahumans and changelings, and women have mostly equal rights in the society, except when it comes to magic (only the Yoruba men can receive formal training in their religion outside of a single secret society of priestesses).
The Igbo tribe was almost destroyed by VITAS and the Awakening. Some might argue it was destroyed completely; certainly the tribe in the Sixth World bears little resemblance to the historical Igbo, who valued learning, democracy, and artistic expression. When the majority of their tribe died in the VITAS plague, a few remaining dibias (tribal sorcerers) opened the tribe up to any man who could pass their rituals. Survivors banded together during the years of chaos, merging into the Igbo of today, valuing strength of arms and physical prowess. The tribe is the second-most populous in Lagos and many residents of the feral city speak a little Igbo simply as self defense. The ever-present Area Boys are made up of Igbo youth, and the gangs are a socially accepted way for young Igbo men to get some experience and some kills to their name before becoming a man in the eyes of the tribe. Throughout the Kingdoms of Nigeria, the Igbo are known as fierce and ruthless pirates and raiders, and their perpetual aggression keeps the Igbo at war with an ever-changing list of other kingdoms. The Igbo welcome metahumans and changelings within their tribe, especially those who can prove their prowess; orks make up a disproportionate percentage of their tribe. Any man can join the Igbo if he can endure, unflinching, the dibias’ excruciating rituals. Women are considered property of their male relatives, with no rights in the tribe. Magic is reserved for men; Igbo girls who Awaken are often killed by their fathers (or sold to a corporate buyer). The Igbo are considered a minor tribe for most corporations and their language has not been translated into Linguasoft form.