The Umbra of Stockholm

The Umbra of Stockholm is a sterile place. The city lacks the umbral presence of other cities like Paris, New York or Uppsala, which are dreamed about, loved and hated. In the High Umbra Stockholm lacks a strong concept, and is a grey abstraction. Large parts of the city have no real feeling, and exists only as pale shadows except for some landmarks or important places.

The most obvious property of the near umbra of Stockholm is the dirt. The umbral streets are littered and dirty. In the winter piles of ice mixed with salt and gravel slouch around like dejected amoebas, aimlessly following travelling mages or the shadows of sleepers. The Umbra is usually hazy, filled with a grey spiritual mist which seems to drain the colour of everything.

One of the most enigmatic and unsettling presences in the umbra are the alienators, which stalk in the suburbs. They are not seen, only felt as an intense feeling of loneliness and isolation. They apparently seek out anybody who does not belong to a group or walks alone, and envelop him. Their victim effectively gains several extra dots in arcane which won't go away; nobody will notice him, friends forget about his existence and he cannot make contact with people. Slowly everyone will forget about the victim, until he just disappears or dies. The alienators are more dangerous in the umbra, but they sometimes venture out of it searching for prey.

Large areas of the city are only present in the umbra as abstractions, visualisations of concepts. Östermalm is represented by a large area of almost identical buildings, imposing, staid and with an air of conservatism and old money. Many of the suburbs are just abstractions of concrete and asphalt. The two major exceptions are the Old Town and Hötorgs City. The Old Town is quite present in the Umbra, and looks even more medieval than in the real world. Old buildings lean over the narrow streets, and behind closed doors and shuttled windows secrets can be imagined. In dark alleys and hidden courtyards German voices can be heard, and the royal palace is still crowned with the high tower with the three crowns which burned in the seventeenth century.

Hötorgs City on the other hand is the essence of the Technocracy. Sergel's Plaza looks exactly as in the real world, but is much bigger and more desolate. A cold wind blows across the black and white surface. The glass monolith shines with a cold green light which reflects in the black glass facades of the surrounding buildings. Nothing moves, nothing can be heard except a low electrical humming.

There are some landmarks in the Umbra. The waters of Stockholm are still there in the umbra, dark and turbulent but at the same time cold and fresh. Several high buildings can always be seen, like Wenner-Gren centre, the tax skyscraper, the tower of the city hall, several churches, the Globe arena and the buildings at Sergel's plaza.

The Gauntlet is very strong in Stockholm. There is no place for wonders between concrete and reasonable minds. A garou would probably remark that there is remarkably little life within the Umbra. However, there is a strong seasonal variation. In the winter, Stockholm is ruled totally by the Technocracy. There is no life, everything is cold and prosaic and the Umbra is cloaked in grey, featureless clouds. The sleepers hurry along without acknowledging each others existence, wrapped in their own worries and winter clothing. But during late spring and in the summer, life manages to break through, people discover each other and the Umbra begins to bloom. Some mages have proposed that the Technocracy is on holiday like everyone else. During the summer months sunlight even lights up the Umbra.

There are several ways of moving towards the deep umbra from the near umbra, and not all are equal. By walking down into the subways or tunnels in downtown, a mage can enter the subterranean world beneath the city. Concrete tunnels and passageways stretch on forever, linked by metal doors covered in flaking paint. Graffiti and dirt cover everything, and the fluorescent lights doesn't work properly. Down here lives the rejects, the borderline cases which do not fit in the reality above. The underground seems to stretch on forever, ever deeper and further away from the surface.

Another road is towards abstraction. As one walks further out towards the higher umbra, things change. The city gets more and more empty and abstract, almost like it was just an picture with nothing under. The different parts of the city become simple concepts, which gradually become pointless. Finally there are nothing less but an empty void and the concept "Stockholm".

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