Blackwood Gazette #7: Wealthy Socialites Marry, Immediately Divorce; Set New World Record

29/4-Thousands of friends, family, and well wishers gathered in Monteddor City today for the wedding of Yolanda de Santana and Armin Chevelle. De Santana is the daughter of Montedorrian Blackwood magnate Marco de Santana, and Chevelle is a popular purveyor of adult publications in Nor Easter.

The ceremony was appropriately lavish, with a red silk carpet serving as the bride’s walkway and a flock of rare Sarnwainian Bluebirds being released upon the completion of the vows.

“Oh, it was so beautiful!” said  famous fashion designer Gustavo Frederick-Alanstead Gallardo. “I had literal tears in my eyes. It was literally amazing! Weddings always make me cry rivers. Literally!”

No sooner than the Bluebirds were released, recaptured, and served in a stew, did the newlywed couple turn from the priest (Chevelle’s uncle, ordained purely for the purpose of this ceremony) to their lawyers. A family lawyer represented Chevelle, the infamous Guiseppe Le’Saul. De Santana was represented by her mother.

With the terms of the divorce already agreed upon beforehand, and thanks to a series of complicated loopholes in the Monteddorian legal system, the newlyweds finalized the dissolution of their marriage with a single signature. Their marriage lasted a grand total of one minute, 15 seconds, setting a new world record. Chevelle himself set the previous record of one minute, 18 seconds last year.

With the divorce finalized, the guests attended an opulent reception where they feasted upon the finest dishes in Monteddor, prepared by the greatest culinary artists from around the Triumvirate. Dishes served included barbequed whale and roasted chicken-hogs from the Divide, an exceedingly expensive dish as there are only twelve known to exist (there were one hundred before the wedding took place).

“It all looks and smells delicious,” said popular pin-up Pippi Tralala. “I do not partake, however. I subsist solely on sunlight and air.”

After the meal, the guests celebrated by dancing. The night’s festivities ended with a completely debauched orgy, documented by Chevelle’s own film crews using the newest moving picture cameras. The documentary, simply titled ‘The Aristrocrats’, will be available on all Chevelle Corporation Kinetic Viewers by next month.

Blackwood Gazette #7: Wealthy Socialites Marry, Immediately Divorce; Set New World Record

Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones: “Oathkeeper” Review

gwendoline christie, brienne of tarth, oathkeeper

Game of Thrones gets crazy this week, as Dany takes a new city, the Tyrells make their move, Brienne sets out on a new adventure with an unexpected partner, and Jon Snow’s story continues to make some interesting deviations from the source material.

Continue reading “Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones: “Oathkeeper” Review”

Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones: “Oathkeeper” Review

Blackwood Gazette #6: Bank Full of Fish Gets Cleaned Out…In More Ways than One

24/4-After nearly a week long closure, the First Imperial Bank of Crowndon reopened this morning. Unfortunately, when the Bank manager opened the doors and took stock of the bank’s holdings, he discovered something disturbing.

“They took everything!” The manager said, through tears. “Almost a fifth of the city’s gold and silver, gone. You would think you can trust a crew of menial laborers with a vault full of gold.”
Authorities aren’t so sure that employees with sticky fingers are to blame, however.

“We are working under the theory at this moment that the entire thing was orchestrated,” said Deputy Chief Arthur Colingsworth. “The ship crashing into the bank, the dumping of the fish, the cleaning crew, everything.”

If this theory proves to be true, it would certainly make for one of the most bizarre heists in Crowndon history. Who could be the mastermind behind such a cunning task?

“We have a small list of candidates,” Colingsworth said. “The most popular candidate among the men right now is Pixie Sinclaire, but that’s only because she has a following in the department. The most reasonable explanation is a crew of pirates or mercenaries set the whole thing up. Probably a crack team led by Captain Ferdinand Gnash, or Seylene Plamondon.”

When asked if there was any truth to the rumor that the caper had been pulled off by former Crowndon Admiral Roderick Beauchamp La Pierre, who is rumored to have gone pirate, Colingsworth laughed.

“Absolutely not,” he said.

One is left wondering how such a thing could happen. Shouldn’t there be protocols in place to ensure that so much money can’t be stolen?

“You mean, protocols for when a ship full of tuna crashes into your bank and renders an entire city block uninhabitable for nearly a week?” The manager said. “No. We don’t have protocols in place for that.”

Blackwood Gazette #6: Bank Full of Fish Gets Cleaned Out…In More Ways than One

Work in Progress: Klaus Klaudhopper and Arufina Villanova in…

Arufina, Klaus, Blackwood Empire, short story, illustration, novella, preview, campnanowrimo

The following is a little excerpt from my Camp NaNoWrimo project. I don’t usually write in first person, so it’s been a bit of a departure for me. I’m also writing a character who is not telling his story in his native language, just to make things more challenging.

I. The Traveler

My name is Klaus. I get air sick really easily. It is not something I am proud of, but it is what it is, so there. Take it or leave.

So it was I came to be on a ship bound for the colonies, puking my guts out. We had just hit rough turbulence. I single handedly covered the deck. Crew even gave me crude nickname. I won’t relate. Better left forgotten.

Over course of journey, we docked at Waystation. A Waystation is much more stable than airship. More important, calls for better maintenance. People care when a Waystation is messed up. Waystations serve everyone, in one way or another.

Four Waystations travel in big square, over area in middle of the Barricade Ocean. Basically, giant floating townships. Ships dock with them for resupply and rest. The ship stops, but the Waystation keeps moving. Travellers make progress while resting. Very convenient.

Also convenient is self governance. No one cares who you are and what you come for, as long as you don’t put Waystation in danger or disrupt business, you do what you want. Criminals from all over come to Waystations to meet. Some set up shop permanently. Each Waystation has its own culture, different from rest. Like floating city. Fun to visit, if not shot.

Waystation we came to, controlled by Julianos. Julianos worst criminal of all, big shot. Shadow King. Also most stable. You want to be on a Waystation controlled by Julianos. Not least of all evils, just least likely to chop off balls for fun. Still, keep eyes on balls, just for safety, ja?

We come to Echo station, at south eastern angle of square, just before it leaves port. Fortunate. Only four waystations. If not at port, want to get on just before or just after port. No good coming across Waystation three thirds of the way through route. Might as well keep going, if you can. Save 500 scrip docking fee.

My ship split fee evenly between us. Don’t have fee, get tossed before docking. I didn’t have fee when I left, but I work on ship. Swab decks, stoke boilers, paint railings. Earn fee, and more. Left ship when we docked. Waystation where I want to be for the moment.

All kinds of work on Waystation. Freelance. Bounty hunting. Body guarding. Privateering. Land of opportunity. Fill pockets until I get bored, then go to colonies, do same thing there.

First things first, though. When setting up business, you need a location. Highly visible, easy to get to. Good atmosphere, conducive to getting people to say agree to your terms. No place better for such things on a Waystation than a saloon. When traveling, everyone winds up in saloon. That’s where you hear stories about places you can’t get to, where you go to pass time, and where you go to tie one off at end of day. Also where you go to find someone of ill repute.

One can’t just sit around, waiting to be hired. Have to make name, prove worth, eat in meantime. Waystation had one bar. Bar had one bouncer. I ask for job. They tell me, beat bouncer, take his job. So I shot him in the foot and pulled him by the ear from bar. I go back in, they say get to work.

Work was easy. Word travels fast about new bouncer, likes to shoot people. No one acts up very much, those that do lose toes. I make good bouncer by not acting like bouncer. Act like patron. Just one of boys. People like me. People respect me. People send me jobs. Run escort for travelling dignitary. Settle dispute between rival factions in gang. Help raid incoming supply ship, get paid, make more money by retrieving said supplies and returning them. No one knows any better.

Lived for six months on Waystation. Lots of interesting jobs. Lots of good stories. None so good as the last chapter of that life. Also first chapter in next.

Was sitting at bar, drinking stout and enjoying the smell of barbeque whale. Crazy, the way they catch food. They dump bloody leftovers, wait for fish to swarm, drop net, and haul whole load up at once. Feeds entire Waystation for a month. Have fish jerky for a year.

Anyway, I was sitting at bar when this strange traveler comes in. Tall, about six foot. Well, taller than me, anyway. Lean build, wearing a duster coat, a trail hat, and a scarf wrapped around face. Everyone turns to look. Traveler steps up to the bar. I see a gun, under the coat. Six gun. Very rare, very difficult to find. I should know…my own six guns cost me a great deal. Traveler orders stout. Voice muffled by red scarf. Could be woman with low voice. Could be young man with high voice. Not sure until hooligans step up behind Traveler.

“Looks like we got ourselves a trail blazer, boys,” one says. “Judging by the look of your coat, though, you ain’t actually done no trail blazing. Not yet. You think you hard, but you ain’t. Not yet. Takes time. Lessons learned. Here’s first less…”

As moron number one makes his speech, Traveler reaches into coat and pulls the gun. Blows a hole right through moron’s left ear.

“First lesson is brevity,” Traveler says. “Best to say what you mean and say it quick, or people get bored.”

“How’s this for quick!” Another moron says. He lifts bottle, but it’s too late. Traveler already turned towards him and fired. The bottle shatters in moron’s hand. Blood paints the wall next to him.

“Second lesson is act, don’t talk,” Traveler says. “Related to the first lesson. Often confused by those who can’t appreciate the subtle differences.”

Third moron takes lessons. Doesn’t talk. Just acts. Pulls gun, pulls trigger. Hole appears in Traveler’s back. Traveler stumbles, but doesn’t fall. Turns on third moron, who’s staring at gun in disbelief. He used a flintlock. No shots left. Traveler still has four.

“Third rule is make every shot count. Especially when you go up against someone with a revolver and an inch thick steel bullet stopper, and all you got is muzzle loader.”

Traveler fires, takes the flintlock out of moron’s hand. Fires again, taking off his belt. Fires a third time, taking off his hat.

“All that, and I still have one round left. Are you a lefty or a righty?”


Traveler puts last round through right hand. Moron falls to knees, screaming.

“That should teach you a lesson, but keep you working. Next time I won’t be so kind.”

Other morons look at each other. “She ain’t got no more rounds.”

“What if she’s got two guns?”

“No way she’s got two guns. Too expensive.”

“You really want to find out? Besides, Klaus there got two guns, and he’s not exactly rich.”

The Traveler turns towards me. Schveisse I think. I keep hands on bar, act like nothing is happening. I’m not part of this. Just window dressing.

“You got a point,” says moron. “Pick these idiots up and lets go.”

Morons clear out. Traveler walks over, sits down.

“You must be Klaus. Nice guns. Cartographer guns?”

I shrug. “May be. Not mine originally. Came by them along the way.”

“Perhaps.” Traveler takes off the hat. A ball of raven black hair spills out over shoulders and back. Highlights actually shine blue. I thought that only happened in funny pages.

Bartender puts stout in front of Traveler. She thanks him, pulls down scarf, and takes a sip.

“Another for this guy,” she says, shooting her thumb at me. Bartender knows me, knows I don’t drink often. Have to keep clear head in case of job. I nod that it’s okay. For now.

“You know my name,” I say. “How about yours?”

She half smiles. “Knowing your name puts me at an advantage, however small it may be. Why would I give that up?”

Traveler is shrewd. I like that.

“I tell you what,” she says. “You listen to my proposition. You like it, and you agree to it, then I’ll tell you my name.”

I’m a curious guy. I don’t need to hear proposition. “I’m in.”

“Cute, but no. I’ll tell you my proposal first, so you don’t run away. I’m putting together a little expedition, and I’d like a few extra guns backing me up. Normally I’d settle for any capable body with a decent flint, but you’ve got a couple of six guns on your hip. And I’ve heard your name five times since I arrived on this station, not half an hour ago, so I know you got a reputation.”

I frown at that. Reputation good, up to certain point. It’s like economy…you eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. Except in my business, diminishing returns usually means lots of pissed off people trying to kill you.

“What is Proposal, then?”

“You know Bravo station?”

I nod. “Ja.”

“It’s gone missing. Vanished into the heart of a hurricane that isn’t moving. And I want you to help me find it.”

Certainly sounded intriguing. Heard rumor station had gone dark. Troubling if true. Lots of lives on Waystation. Lots of business, too. Probably a sizable bounty for anyone who figured out what happened.

“Still in?”

“Ja. Still in, Miss…”

“Arufina. Most people just call me Aru.”

We shake hands, and deal is done. As was my understanding of the way the world worked up to that point.

Work in Progress: Klaus Klaudhopper and Arufina Villanova in…

Blackwood Gazette #5: Airship Carrying Fish Crashes into Bank; Special Cleaning Crews Required

It looks like the citizens of lower Crowndon are going to have to cut open their mattresses. A commercial fishing ship crashed into the First Imperial Bank of Crowndon’s lower branch this weekend.

“It’s one of the dangers of airship society,” the bank manager said. “I always knew something like this would happen. I just didn’t know it would happen to me!”

The crash occurred in the middle of the afternoon, during peak hours. Several injuries were reported, but no one was killed. The biggest injury was likely to the egos of those present.

“The ship hit the roof, broke through, and split open,” one fish covered customer told me from behind a special cordon, twenty feet away. “Never seen nothing like it. The fish just spilled out. I was right under it. They’ve done scrubbed me down twenty times in five different solvents and I still stink. I tell you, my wife is going to be [angry].”

The ship carried a full load of Barrier Sea tuna, famous for its taste, and infamous for its odor. This reporter isn’t sure how that works, but apparently it does.

“The entire bank reeks,” a teller said. “The main lobby, the furniture, the bank notes themselves. We’ve several million dollars worth of gold and silver. We couldn’t give it away, the smell is so bad.”

The First Imperial Bank has called in a special crew of cleaners that deal with Barrier Tuna spills. The clean up is expected to take several days. In the meantime, it is recommended that no one travel within two blocks of the bank.

“This is really inconvenient,” said a nearby business owner. “It doesn’t just hurt the bank’s business…it hurts the entire area’s. Namely, mine.”

Blackwood Gazette #5: Airship Carrying Fish Crashes into Bank; Special Cleaning Crews Required

Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “Breaker of Chains” Review

Game of Thrones suffers what could be its first missteps in an episode that, while still excellent, made a few weird choices concerning at least one character’s development.

Continue reading “Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “Breaker of Chains” Review”

Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “Breaker of Chains” Review

Friday Free For All- Person of Interest and GODZILLA!

Okay, so I don’t want Friday to be another review day, but this week I’m going to make an exception. I also apologize to anyone who followed this blog because of my PoI reviews, because I haven’t kept up. The schedule with which CBS decides to release new episodes is hardly stable; an episode here, two or three episodes there, with a week or sometimes three weeks in between. I also don’t want this to be solely a review blog, which I feel it was close to becoming.

Continue reading “Friday Free For All- Person of Interest and GODZILLA!”

Friday Free For All- Person of Interest and GODZILLA!

Blackwood Gazette #4: Tragedy Strikes the Empress Theater in Oeil de Fleur

17/4-Today is a sad day in the history of the arts, as the Empress Theater, the oldest stage in the civilized world, was reduced to ash last night during a performance of Delando’s newest magnum opus. Officials say the fire started during the show’s final act.

“It was that scene with the wizard,” one survivor claimed. “He raised his hand to shoot the fire ball, and he just burst into flame.”

Writer and Director Delando’s representative (Delando himself was unavailable for comment, as usual) denied allegations that the play’s signature special effect, achieved with a new invention called the ‘flare gun’, was the cause of the inferno.

“Delando’s official stance on the matter is that the actor playing the wizard spontaneously combusted,” the representative said. “The actor is a known lush and had spent several hours under the hot lanterns. The heat set the alcohol in his blood alight. The fact that he was wielding an unknown, untested gun that shoots fire balls is pure coincidence.”

Regardless, “Fires…” has been suspended pending further investigation into the matter.

Related: Fires of D’Kalm D’Korr Opens…

Blackwood Gazette #4: Tragedy Strikes the Empress Theater in Oeil de Fleur

Blackwood Gazette #3: Politician Killed in Purrrfect Assassination (sorry)

The Governor of Walsh, Thedore Francis Williamsburg of Thorndyke the Third, was found dead this morning. Cause of death: he was suffocated…with his pet cat, Peaches.

“It was the strangest thing I ever saw,” said Governor Williamsburg’s maid, who discovered the body. “I came into the room, to wake [the governor], and found him dead, covered in cat hair.”

Inspectors say that the death was likely foul play. When asked about the motive and possible suspects, they refused to comment. That hasn’t stopped members of the Governor’s social circle from speculating.

“If you ask me,” said one prominent friend of the deceased who asked to remain anonymous, “It was the Scarlet Circle. This has their stench about it, believe me. They specialize in this kind of [madness]. Who knows who’s going to be next? Worse, who knows how they’re going to go?”

No one seemed all that shaken up about the Governor’s death. The question on most peoples’ tongues is the welfare of the cat. House staff report that Peaches is unharmed, if a bit traumatized.

“Let’s see how you feel after being used as a murder weapon,” said the maid. “She was huddled up in the corner, hissing at anyone that came near. Poor thing.”

More on this story as it develops.

Related: Character Profile-Arufina Villanova

More Blackwood Gazette!

Blackwood Gazette #3: Politician Killed in Purrrfect Assassination (sorry)

Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “The Lion and the Rose” Review

Game of Thrones continues a strong fourth season with an eventful second episode. I’m a bit surprised that this played out so early in the season, but the big development isn’t necessarily who died, but what that death means for certain characters.

The crowd pleasing moment of the death of the show’s most despicable character (a title that must now be passed on to Ramsey Snow, if it hadn’t already) should have been immediately undercut by the fact that Tyrion was immediately blamed, and Sansa had to be whisked away by Ser Dontos (the drunk dude she saved way back in season two who suddenly reappeared last week). I would think fans would be FREAKING OUT now that Tyrion is on his way to the dungeons, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people’s hatred of Joffrey blinded them to that little fact. Perhaps next week it will sink in.

I’m also a bit surprised that people are just happy that he’s dead, and not calling bullshit on how he died. I know a few people who are upset that it wasn’t Arya who done the deed. Perhaps they need time for that fact to sink in, as well.

With the death of Joffrey also comes another problem…a lack of a central character for everyone to hate. I’ve been wondering how many people have stuck around just to see how he gets it, and now that it’s happened, I wonder if the show’s ratings will fall off (not that it will matter, the show’s already been renewed through season 6).

With those nuggets out of the way, on to the rest of the episode.

We open on Ramsay Snow as he and a young woman hunt down another young woman, a broken Theon Greyjoy in tow. Perhaps opening with this scene wasn’t coincidence…with Joffrey out of the way, this guy is now the resident Nasty in Westeros. Even his father, Roose Bolton (the guy that sold out Robb) can’t stand him.

With everyone talking about the final scene, its easy to overlook the brilliant scene between Ramsay and Roose, the first solid indicator on the show that these two are related. Roose berates his bastard for flaying and castrating Theon, claiming that he wanted to trade Theon for a place called Moat Cailan that has been occupied by the Ironborn (I’m assuming this is where we’ll catch up with Yara, Theon’s sister). Ramsay demonstrates the psychological damage done to Theon by having the broken man (now calling himself Reek) into shaving him with a straight razor and confessing to Roose that he did not kill Bran and Rickon Stark. Theon is so terrified of Ramsay that he dare not attempt to murder his tormentor, for fear of what may happen. Roose sends men to look for the wayward Starks.

Alfie Allen, the actor that plays Theon, is great in this scene, and it’s the strongest performance in an episode filled with killer performances.

In King’s Landing, everyone is preparing for Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding. We get a nice scene between Tyrion and Jaime, who haven’t appeared on screen together since the first few episodes. It was good to see them interact, with Tyrion calling himself and his siblings “The Dwarf, the Cripple, and the Mother of Madness”.

Soon after, Tyrion learns from Varys that Cersei knows about Shae, and Varys is no longer able to protect them unless Shae leaves. This leads into what is probably one of the weaker scenes in the episode, where Tyrion berates Shae into leaving by reminding her that she is a whore. Its all bit overwrought, and since we know that Tyrion is just doing it to protect her, we’d think Shae of all people would realize it as well. Nevertheless, Bronn takes Shae to a ship, where she’ll be taken to Pentos. Or so we think. Bronn is a sell-sword, after all, and Tyrion’s money is Tywin’s money…and Tywin seemed keen on having her brought to his tower.

Elsewhere, on Dragonstone, Lady Melissandre is torching infidels and is sent to discuss religion with Lady Selyse, Stannis Baratheon’s daughter. I’m not entirely sure what these scenes were meant to do except reintroduce these characters. Since Stannis now knows about the threat at the Wall, it would seem he should be preparing to head that way about now, but he isn’t.

We also catch up with Bran, north of the wall. He’s spending more and more time warging out, and the others fear that he may end up forgetting himself and becoming part of Summer, his dire wolf, permanently. The group later comes across a heart tree, and Bran wargs into that, apparently. He has another vision of the three eyed crow, a decimated throne room similar to the one Dany saw in the House of the Undying, and the shadow of a dragon flying over King’s Landing. He also hears a voice telling Bran to keep going North. I have no idea what any of this means, but the implications are interesting. Is Bran going to be set in direct opposition to Dany eventually? If so, what does that mean? Is Bran being duped into unleashing Winter? Or is Dany’s coin going to land on the side of madness? Again, this is another scene that begs a lot of speculation, but will probably be forgotten in the wake of the Wedding.

Speaking of the wedding. The events leading up to the episode’s climax where rife with awkward tension. It was good to see Diana Rigg still killing it as Lady Olenna. Another high point was Oberyn and Ellaria’s conversation with Tywin and Cersei as they smiled through their teeth at each other while trading barbs. The look on Tywin’s face when Oberyn suggest that princess Myrcella is safer in Dorne where “the rape and murder of young girls is considered distasteful”, as opposed to Westeros, is priceless. There was also the great exchange between Jaime and Loras, and Cersei and Pycelle. Then Cersei and Brienne. Cersei was pretty much ruining everyone’s day.

Finally, there were the events leading up to THE event, in which Joffrey has a troupe of actors re-enact a farcical version of the War of Five kings, in which Joffrey is depicted as single-handedly taking down Stannis, Renly, Rob, and Balon Greyjoy (despite the fact that Balon is still alive and the Ironborn are still raiding the North). Joffrey is pretty much the only one laughing as Loras storms off and Sansa goes catatonic watching her brother’s death turned into a joke. The looks on the faces of those in attendance, from Varys to Olenna to Margaery, all show that every one thinks the show is in bad taste, and that there is little love for Joffrey. And yet, when he begins to choke, it is Lady Olenna, ever the shrewd power player, who screams for some one to help him. No one wants to be seen as happy over the King’s death, although most are probably feeling it.

Finally, there was the perfectly paced sequence in which Joffrey systematically humiliates Tyrion in front of everyone, to the point where even Sansa takes pity on him. All of which leads to Joffrey’s final dastardly act, pointing to his uncle as he dies and laying the blame squarely at Tyrion’s feet, tying off what was very nearly a perfect episode.

He just has one of those faces…you know, the kind you want to punch.

In terms of VFX, this episode was pretty light. There was a beautiful matte painting of the Red Keep during the approach to the wedding reception, and the effect of Joffrey’s dying face, likely a combination of make up and digtal enhancement, was also well done. The imagery during Bran’s vision was appropriately stylized and dreamlike, as well.

Season four continues to truck along. Previews for next week promise Dany’s arrival in Mereen and the Night’s Watch preparing for Mance Rayder’s attack. Only two episodes deep, and things are popping off left and right. Let’s just hope they leave some big moments for the second half of the season.

Vicarious Viewing: Game of Thrones- “The Lion and the Rose” Review