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Jail is not a jail. Jail was known as Word until the Exians used it as a place from which to transport convicts across the Pithistle Strait to the Cumber Poidy prison on the Isle of Yunck. After the prison closed down the name somehow travelled back across the Strait, attached itself to the town, and stayed there. Nobody denies that it is an appropriate title. After beginning its existance as a clumsily built settlement for the runaway subjects of aristocrats, the town developed into a brutal, insecure place without the sense of shared history that holds together a city such as Gum Gooloo Gum Jublet. Violence is common.

Despite its reputation as a place of murder and thievery, Jail has attracts more visitors than any other settled area in the country besides Gum Gooloo and Ex. It is the main waystation and nightly resting place for messengers travelling between the two larger cities. Letters and packages pour in and out of the town at bewildering speed. Anyone who wonders why this town in particular should have become the hub of Umbagollian communications needs look no farther than the Dukes and Duchesses Brilliants, a former aristocratic family who established themselves in Jail after being driven off their land, and began an inexorable takeoever of the town's hotels and beastie stables. They had spotted a wonderful opportunity. Now that the aristocratic states were gone (see the historical timeline for details) the emissionaries who had formerly each been employed as a messenger by a single family were on their own. The country had opened up. Places as far apart as the south coast and the North-West flatlands were suddenly able to communicate with one another without being forced to fight restrictions placed on them by the aristocrats. The displaced emissionaries were starting to hire themselves out as freelance letter-carriers, and the idea was catching on.

The Brilliants hired tribes of pirates and thugs to travel the countryside between the coast and the Fly River, harassing messengers whose routes were not taking them through Jail. Once driven into the town, the travellers found themselves bullied into hotels owned by the Brilliants. The family prospered and the messengers have abided by their lesson ever since.

Most of Jail's hotels include a pub, making Jail the largest source of alcohol in all Western Umbagollah. Outside Jail, the town's most famous landmarks are probably The Pub With Pink Walls and The House of the 98th Dream. Outsiders know almost nothing of the town's popular musical theatre scene, but a list of the more popular theatres and plays is freely available. The most well-loved singers in this town are treated with enormous respect and the life of a singer in Jail is something to be envied. They are the unofficial nobility of the town and their advice is sought in all matters of importance. Ballet is also popular, but less so.

Nervous travellers should keep to the more salubrious northern end of Jail. Be warned that there are sharp differences between the north and south areas of town and beware of land pirates. Avoid the dirty beaches.

"He went to town for a drink and that was the last they saw of him. A week later a messenger rode up to the house and gave his mother a parcel. Guess what was in that parcel."


"His ears."

(From Tales of the North-West, collected by Lennox Grime. )

"A violent, noisy, vibrant place. The streets smell like vomit and people kept wanting to pick fights with me over stupid things. In the end I walked everywhere with my head down so as not to make eye contact. Jail is exciting to visit, but I wouldn't move there."

(From My head feels light and my feet hurt: a guide to getting around Umbagollah, by the retired troubadour Adrian Windowbook.)

Some common Jail slang:

Bone-hoffer: as in, "He's got the bone-hoffers of a beastie," or "Watch those bone-hoffers at work." Bone-hoffer is an admiring nickname for the feet of someone who runs very fast, particularly if they make their living snatching objects out of peoples' hands and escaping without being caught.

Clinchit: a con artist, a cunning liar.

Eome (ee-oam): a fanatical devotee of musical theatre.

Jinty: someone who whines persistantly about personal misfortune, particularly if they have just been caught doing something criminal.

Marscalling: searching the streets for food, picking up scraps from the gutter.

Odgett: a person with a congenital limp who specialises in robbing the blind. Considered a low form of life, even by Jailite standards.

Tark-tottie: someone who abducts or robs children.

Togged: struck from behind prior to being robbed. "She togged me with a blackjack."