Blackwood Gazette #69- Mercenary Group Joins Hunt for Nefarious Pirate

By Chester Seaton, News

29/9- After a failed attempt to reign in the notorious air pirate Roderick Beauchamp La Pierre, and several weeks without any further leads to his whereabouts, the Crowndon military has enlisted outside aid. Said aid comes in the form of the famed pirate hunter, Captain Johanna McKilroy.

“We are typically hesitant about employing mercenaries,” said Crowndonian High Command. “But Captain McKilroy has a personal stake in this search. She served in La Pierre’s command as his first mate during the war with Nor Easter, and when he was exiled, she foolishly followed him into the privateering sector. They had a falling out, when La Pierre went over a line that McKilroy would not cross.

“We realize this decision may be controversial, but whatever sins Captain McKilroy has committed in the past should not bar her wealth of knowledge on La Pierre. She knows the man well, his tactics, and how he thinks. She is also very accomplished in her new role as pirate hunter, having personally slain five high profile pirates in the last year, including Captain Ferdinand Gnash, the Terror of Toring.”

The decision to recruit Captain McKilroy has indeed been controversial, particularly amongst the civilian law enforcement of Toring.

“Yeah, she nailed the Terror of Toring, alright,” said Chief Warren Gainsborough, of the Toring Police department. “And she took out half of the city’s old quarter to do it. Whatever line it was she wouldn’t cross with La Pierre, that line is beyond wiping out almost one thousand innocent people to get what she wants.”

We reached out to Captain McKilroy for comment on the matter, and were refused.

Blackwood Gazette #69- Mercenary Group Joins Hunt for Nefarious Pirate

Blackwood Gazette #68-Alejandro Julianos Claims Responsibility for Convoy Attack

By Chester Seaton, News

19/9- The Crowndon Air Corps. Is livid today after the release of a statement by Alejandro Julianos, the head of one of Monteddor’s five royal families. The statement, released last night, took an adamant tone that no interference in the affairs of the Desantana dispute will be tolerated.

“As has been stated by our government,” the statement read, “We will not tolerate interlopers in our affairs. Crowndon and Nor Easter were both warned, and Crowndon did not listen. They have paid the price. If they truly wish for the swift conclusion of this dispute, they will refrain from further interference. This is not a warning.”

The statement goes on to describe the force that Julianos has amassed. While no specific numbers are given, the reaction from Crowndon military intelligence indicates that the threat is very real.

“We’ve observed squadrons of fixed wing fighters flying training sorties in the skies above Julianos’ region of control, and we’ve had reports of skirmishes between these fighters and the fighters of other royal families,” said a high level intelligence official. “We are not sure what Julianos intends to do with such a large force, but it apparently has the Monteddorian capital concerned, as well.”

The ever colorful General Bartolomeu Fross had this to say: “The nerve of this little rat bastard is stunning to say the least. A couple of months ago he was a joke amongst the Royal Families, and every source indicates that there is plenty of bad blood. You ask me, this is all smoke and mirrors. We need to go in there, take out the Desantana heir, and then turn our eye on Julianos. The other families will thank us, just you wait and see.”

Crowndon High Command followed these statements swiftly with an assurance that there are currently no plans to start a war with Monteddor, or any faction therein. They were also quick to reiterate that the original incursion was off the books, known only to a select few Generals, of whom Fross is believed to be a member. If such is shown to be true, then General Fross will be reprimanded appropriately.

Blackwood Gazette #68-Alejandro Julianos Claims Responsibility for Convoy Attack

Blackwood Gazette #67-Journey to Lelina: Tall Tales and Folklore II: The Mist Walker

By Adella Chatelaine, Investigative Reports

17/9- Doctor Rothery pauses, offering no further insight into the tale. I can tell he’s waiting for some prodding from me, so I indulge him. He goes into the typical hemming and hawing until finally deciding to spill the proverbial beans.

The story goes that in swamps around Lelina, there lives a powerful elemental force the indigenous peoples know as the Mist Walker. It patrols the swamps on nights when the moon is full, a hulking figure with the head of a deer that is concealed by a rolling cloak of fog. Some people who have seen it claim it walks on two legs, though others claim otherwise (typical for this sort of regional legend). Some say that, in the rare moments when the fog rolls away, you can see the glint of moonlight off of heavy, silver armor.

Many of the tribes of the Southern Nation revere it in equal parts as both god and devil, a being that both protects and destroys. It cannot be appeased: if you wander into its territory you are, without question, a threat.

There is one tribe to the east, along the shore, however, that paints the creature in an entirely malevolent light. They say, that in times long forgotten, on a night when the fog from the ocean and the mists from the swamps met, and a mighty storm came over the land, the Deer-Men (as it is called in this regional variant, and note the plurality, also a fact exclusive to this version of the tale) came from far inland and killed all of the men in the village, and all but one of the women. The children were left unharmed, according to the tale, which plays a large role in that particular tribe’s matriarchal culture.

I ask Doctor Rothery why the Mist Walker would nearly wipe out an entire village. He waggles his fingers, leans over the table candle to under-light his face and says, “Nooobody knoooows. Woooooh…”

Does Doctor Rothery have any theories on the origin of the tale?

“Several. One is that there is actually something out there, some species we haven’t observed yet, or at the very least there was, at one time, and it is now extinct. Another possibility is that someone, long ago, got drunk, saw a deer on a misty morning, freaked out, and started telling tales that became more exaggerated over the centuries. Speaking of drunk, I’m just a little over that line myself. Excuse me.”

I stop him as he starts to stand, and ask him if any of the settlers in the region have stories to tell. His eyes visibly darken, but he says, “Nothing that can be substantiated with any observable proof. Good night.”

Blackwood Gazette #67-Journey to Lelina: Tall Tales and Folklore II: The Mist Walker

Blackwood Gazette #66-The Journey to Lelina: Tall Tales and Folklore I

By Adella Chatelaine, Investigative Reports

15/9-It’s been two days since we left New Crowndon on a riverboat, south on the Miskaton river toward the southern townships. I am told we will be making a couple of stops along the way, to take on supply and drop off and pick up new passengers. We will be disembarking in New Dennan, a port town about a day’s north from Lelina. All told, we should be arriving on sight on the 13th of Ten Month, if all goes well. From what I’ve heard, ‘all goes well’ is a tall order.

Passengers on the boat at present are rather scant…not many people are leaving New Crowndon for the southern frontier. A couple of years ago, this boat would have been full of prospectors, sales men, bar men, trappers, and purveyors of various amusements. However, word has gotten out that pickings are slim. Trappers and lumber men are still hitting it big, but gold seekers and those who follow have all but stopped, choosing to head northwest.

The boat itself is not without its amusements, of course. It is well stocked with cheap booze, a fact that Mister Mackay and Doctor Trenum are both exceedingly happy about. It is the only interest they seem to share, but it is more than enough. According to Doctor Trenum, she’d only corresponded with Mister Mackay once before, and through a proxy. Watching them now, once was enough. They sit at a roulette table, sharing a drink, either congratulating or ribbing each other over victories and losses, in equal amounts.

I spend the first evening of our journey in the presence of Doctor Rothery. He is pleasant enough, I have found, since expressing clearly my intention to have nothing more than a professional relationship with him. Well, at least to me. He often burbles things about Doctor Trenum into his cups at the end of the night. I get the feeling he is mostly harmless, and should he prove otherwise, I am sure Doctor Trenum is more than capable of dealing with him herself.

When he is not burbling, he is actually a rather rich source of information about the indigenous cultures. He is well regarded in his field for the time he spent with several southern tribes years before, an honor, I am told, that has never been granted to an outsider before or since.

He regales me with tales of his time living amongst them and participating in their traditions of oral storytelling. He tells me several. They are pleasant enough, until the sun goes down and he has a drink or two in him. Then he leans forward and tells me that there was one tale, from the very region into which we are heading, that made his blood run cold.

And what tale was that? I ask. Why, Miss Chatelaine, he says, that would be the tale of the Mist Walker.

*Real world note: Sorry that today’s entry is such a tease. Like I mentioned last week, I’m trying to keep these short, which can be difficult when you have a certain point in mind to make. And since the tale of intrepid reporter Adella Chatelaine and world renowned archaeologist Veronica Trenum is shaping up to be the longest, most plot and character heavy aspect of this whole Blackwood Gazette…thing…keeping them short is becoming increasingly difficult. I’m actually having doubts as to whether it fits within the whole ‘fictional newspaper set in a steampunk world’ framework I’ve built and whether or not I should spin it off in to its own thing. That’s a decision for another day, however. Errands to run, things to do. Enjoy!

Blackwood Gazette #66-The Journey to Lelina: Tall Tales and Folklore I

Blackwood Gazette #65- Business Owners: “Gutted Earth Readers Becoming Nuisance” in Oeil de Fleur Commercial Districts

12/9- Economic analysts in Nor Easter noticed something strange early this month: a sharp dip in sales in marketplaces throughout the capital city, Oeil de Fleur. The sharp decline in business came along with the release of the newest installment of Clement Aldridge Kene’s “The Gutted Earth”, a new novel being published serially in a popular penny dreadful, “Strange Stories Monthly”.

“I can most certainly verify that it is that [expletive removed] book,” said one shop owner, a purveyor of accessories and personal embellishments for steam-autos. “They loiter around outside, these strange young men and women in costume, handing out flyers and talking about how we’re all going to be living in caves before long. They’re annoying my customers and scaring them away! I tried telling them I don’t have anything to do with the Blackwood industry. They just shot me this dumb smirk and went back to handing out their tacky little flyers.”

Those ‘tacky little flyers’ have been a headache to residents around the city, as they typically get tossed away by the people they’re handed to.

“Main street looks like a giant clown vomited on it,” said one woman. “You can see soggy green, yellow, blue and red pieces of paper all over the place; up in trees, clogging up gutters, stuck to the side walk. It’s disgusting. And kind of funny, considering all the flyers are talking about saving the environment, or some such nonsense.”

One of our correspondents in the city confronted one of the young fans, and questioned her about her intentions.

“It’s our duty to tell people the truth,” she said. “Perhaps they don’t want to hear it. And perhaps we are annoying. But sometimes the only way to get people to notice something is to take a big stick and knock them over the head with it (speaking strictly metaphorically, of course. Don’t actually do that). I mean, look. You’re here, asking me about this. That never would have happened if we simply gathered in a park or posted on bulletin boards like we are expected to. You say people aren’t reading our flyers, but they sure notice them laying in the street. We didn’t throw them there…they did. It’s time for them—no, us, all of us—to take notice. Just NOTICE, at the very least, what we’re doing. And ideally, take responsibility.”

Authorities are at a loss at what to do. The protestors are hurting business, but their hands are tied.

“We would like nothing more than to go in and break things up, or get them to move to zones designated for such things,” said Juste Chesneau, Chief of the Department of Public Safety and Protection of Imperial Interests. “But it would seem that Empress Marcellette Bastian herself has taken a liking to the stories, and an interest in these kids. We cannot make a move on them without her approval, unless an immediate threat to public safety occurs.”

Blackwood Gazette #65- Business Owners: “Gutted Earth Readers Becoming Nuisance” in Oeil de Fleur Commercial Districts

Blackwood Gazette #64- Crowndon Military Transports En Route to Monteddor Attacked

By Chester Seaton, News

10/9-The DeSantana Dispute in the southern Empire of Monteddor is heating up this week as the Crowndon military has confirmed that a military transport making its way to aid in rousting Yolanda DeSantana’s forces along Blackwood trade routes was attacked this weekend.

We first received reports about the attack a few days ago, but the Crowndon Navy refused to comment until today, as officially, the maneuver was supposed to be a secret. The revelation has caused an uproar among the Monteddorian government, who warned that any outside interference with the DeSantana Dispute would be met with serious economic and military sanctions. So far, however, no decision on the nature of these sanctions, or when they will be executed, has been made public. For now, Monteddor is refusing to relinquish custody of the dead or any survivors.

The attackers were said to be flying unmarked, planar-wing aircraft. The crack of rapid fire weaponry could be heard for miles around. The Crowndonian transport went down in an unpopulated area, but the wreckage has blocked a minor commercial road.

The identities of the attackers remains unknown. The Monteddorian military claims it was not them, and statements by witnesses in a nearby town have drawn similarities to an attack that occurred several weeks ago during a confrontation between the Crowndon military and the pirate Roderick Beauchamp La Pierre.

Blackwood Gazette #64- Crowndon Military Transports En Route to Monteddor Attacked

Blackwood Gazette #63-Meeting the Team

By Adella Chatelaine, Investigative Reports

8/9- Before I begin, I would like to note that this is the second time I have written this article. It was meant to be published about one week before it will eventually reach your eyes, but apparently the original version of my correspondence was lost in transit to the Gazette’s offices. Please excuse any errors on my part due to certain details being forgotten in the interim.

After leaving the University, Doctor Trenum and I go out for drinks. I remember feeling a little hesitant after the cruel joke the doctors had pulled, but I convinced myself I was being maybe just a little uptight about the whole thing. Still, I would be wary in the future, now that Doctor Trenum had revealed a penchant for mischief.

Her idea was to have some fun before meeting the rest of her team, a notion that was quickly forgotten when we found that said team had already occupied the restaurant we chose. Only one of their number was absent, apparently preferring the company of the citizens in the lower quarter. I can’t say I blamed him.

Coming along for the ride with us are Doctor Archibald Rothery, an expert in New Crowndon anthropology, as far as one can be an expert in such; Professor Martine Babin, curator of the museum in Val Coursais and leader in the field of archeological conservation; and Professor Babin’s two interns, Nico Pate and Meriam Caillot. Watching the two interns, I have the distinct feeling that Meriam is truly there for the science, while Nico is there mainly for Meriam.

The final, and absent member of our team is Matthias Bricklebrand Mackay, who the others refer to as “Brick”. Whether the nickname in out of love or derision, I am not completely sure. It appears to be interchangeable, and in the time since meeting him, Mr. Mackay does not seem to care. He is our guide, tracker, and general provider of security on this journey. He has a team of four other men with him, all of them of the utmost integrity, I am told. None of them have proven to be very talkative, however.

After entering the restaurant and seeing them there, Doctor Trenum is quick to suggest that we slowly back away and leave, but it is too late. Doctor Rothery sees us and invites us over. By the way he greets Doctor Trenum, it is apparent that their fondness for each other is heavily weighted on Rothery’s part; Doctor Trenum is visibly uncomfortable when he hugs her. He seems completely oblivious to this fact, which only makes it more painful to watch.

The others seem entirely pleasant; Professor Babin is preoccupied with a book, but warm enough to my inquiries. Nico and Meriam are likewise preoccupied with each other, piping in at times when discussing certain matters of interest. Nico is charming, but I sense a bit of envy on his part towards Meriam’s interest in archaeology, but he never goes so far as to put her down for it—at least not that I’ve seen thus far.

Our conversation never much sways toward the subject of our assignment, I’m afraid. I figure that has to do with the fact that we will all be neck deep in ruins and artifacts before long. For the most part, I am enjoying the company of my new companions. Doctor Rothery comes on a bit strong at times, both professionally and personally. He is a hugger, that one, something I have never been nor do I think I will ever be, particularly with strangers. I have expressed my boundaries with him and so far he has respected them without withdrawing completely.

It is not until the next morning that I meet Mister Mackay, and our conversation is brief once he learns that I am a member of the press. Hopefully his demeanor is short lived. Based on some of the tales I’ve heard from the others, I’m sure he would be a fascinating interview. He has chartered the steam boat we are to use to travel to Lelina, and we are currently making final preparations to leave.

*Sorry for the long post today. I try to keep these short and sweet, a nice little bite sized portion for your (near) daily entertainment, but once I got started on introducing the characters I had a hard time find a jumping off point without seeming too abrupt (which is often a problem I’m not always successful at solving.) Anyways, enjoy! I have a rough night ahead of me. I recently took a job at a local game store for some extra income, and I’m on tap for the midnight release of a major game. It’s going to be insane.

Blackwood Gazette #63-Meeting the Team

Blackwood Gazette #62-Are You Ready for Some Fool’s Ball?

By Huxley Pruitt, Sports

5/9-The Imperial Fool’s Ball League, the sport that has swept Crowndon gaming to the detriment of all other athletic endeavors, opened its third season last night. Thousands of fans, all of them under the delusion that their team is the best and that they somehow personally contribute to said team’s victory, came out in droves last night to eat smoked meat products and be rude to each other.

The sudden popularity of the sport has sparked the interest of sociologists in Nor Easter last year, who this year have decided to study the game, the behaviors of its fans, and its impacts, psychologically, physically, and economically.

“It’s all so very fascinating,” said one such scientist, who asked to remain anonymous. “The behaviors on display. Adult men–Crowndon men, so known for their normally stalwart demeanors—painting themselves in the bright colors of their teams and wearing the uniforms of their favorite players; it is akin, I suppose, to the fans of things like ‘The Gutted Earth’ you see dressing up as their favorite characters. Although, you’re less likely to wind up in the hospital if you get caught dressed as the villain in that novel than if you get caught wearing an opposing team’s jersey. There also tends to be a lot less rioting afterwards.”

The rioting, this sociologist says, lays at the crux of his study. It is a strange phenomenon, he says, that does not appear to be contingent upon victory or defeat, nor does it appear to happen with any regularity.

“The conditions have to be just right,” he says. “It typically happens toward the end of the season, it is typically the home team that goes on the warpath, and it can be either a way to celebrate a win or decry a loss. That’s the most baffling thing about it all: adults, smashing through their own streets, because they’re happy. It makes no sense! But it happens.”

The proliferation of the sport has left many scholars baffled, particularly at the traction it has gotten in Crowndon, of all places. Crowndon is, after all, often characterized by their collective humorlessness. I asked a few fans what they saw in the game.

“Not sure if you have noticed this, good sir,” one fan answered. “But Crowndon has received quite the thorough beating this year. I think we deserve a little bit of an outlet.”

That’s not to say the game does not have its fans outside of Crowndon. At least one high profile Nor Easterner, Sir Rigel Rinkenbach, has taken an interest.

“Of course I’m a fan!” Rinkenbach said. “I invented the game, after all. Then I introduced the game to Crowndon, sat back, and laughed.”

Blackwood Gazette #62-Are You Ready for Some Fool’s Ball?

Blackwood Gazette#61- Northern Crowndon Towns Going Dark as Blackwood Runs Low

by Chester Seaton, News

3/9-Several small townships in Crowndon’s northern regions are feeling the pinch of Yolanda DeSantana’s occupation this week. Nostholm, Britley, and Shattlesborough-by-Vasterton were forced to cut all power in order to cope with the lack of Blackwood supply. Other towns are expected to follow suit.

“We ain’t seen a shipment in a month,” said Nostholm’s mayor. “Not since this whole thing with the DeSantanas started. And we’re a small town, and don’t burn much, but we only rate a month’s ration at a time. We’re down to our last embers, here, and we’ve been forced to cut back on anything that don’t contribute to the industry.”

Crowndon’s leaders are currently working on a plan to get more Blackwood to these northern territories, but are reluctant to delve into the reserves.

An official release from the Imperial Capitol stated, “We are brokering an exchange with surrounding cities, and drawing up plans with the nations of the Empire to implement Blackwood rationing. That will only go so far, however.”

Crowndon General Bartolomeu Fross, who had strong words last month when Yolanda DeSantana took over the supply routes, issued his own, unofficial statement.

“Any Crowndon town going dark is unacceptable,” General Fross said. “I don’t care if it’s the Capital or the lowliest northern hovel. Something needs to be done. Not only is it a matter of Crowndonian pride, but the well-being of our citizens. The first snows will fall next month, cutting off all passage north of Caldebeck Bay and the Anadem Mountains. We need to make sure Northern Crowndon is supplied before then, or we’re going to have a lot of dead citizens come next spring.”

Blackwood Gazette#61- Northern Crowndon Towns Going Dark as Blackwood Runs Low

Blackwood Gazette #60-First Installments of The Gutted Earth Meet with Mixed Reactions

by Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment

1/9- The first installment of Clement Aldridge Kene’s speculative fiction novel, The Gutted Earth, made its debut last month, and so far reactions from both critics and fans have been mixed. The novel imagines a world where steam technology is not feasible, due to Blackwood’s non-existence.

The divide comes along lines that should not come as surprising to anyone paying attention. Gregory Wallace, a critic for the Toring Tribune (funded in large part by a company with Blackwood mining interests) lambasted the novel, calling it, “The latest in a series of Nor Eastern propaganda meant sow fear in the hearts of a populace that’s been told, ‘Blackwood is running out! Don’t rely on it to much, for tomorrow you may find yourself huddled around the dying embers of a bygone age, unable to find your way in the newly fallen dark!’ This author has no respect for his reader; there is nothing wholesome or inspiring in this story, just utter human savagery. Alas, another modern writer who has confused cynicism for insight.”

Echoing Wallace’s criticism about cynicism is author Marta Starling, who writes, “[Kene], while a vibrant writer who in the past has displayed great wit, seems to have sacrificed having a point in the service of a broad edge; his characters swear with the gleeful abandon of adolescent boys and characters are killed for no apparent reason in the most mean spirited ways possible. His depiction of women is rather confused, as well: they are at once some of the most complex and well written characters in the novel, and yet, Kene still manages to get them out of their clothes  and put them on display at every turn without putting any thought into how it serves the story. It’s very strange.”

Not surprising, The Gutted Earth has met with praise in Nor Easter. Critic Jaques Marques calls it “Necessary reading for the populace of a society on the edge of a great cultural shift. The relevance of Blackwood’s growing scarcity cannot be ignored. This book shows that speculative fiction is more than strange stories of time travel and lurid, backwards-thinking tales of indigenous peoples who terrorize invading explorers.  It is a window into a world that might have been, and could possibly be in the future.”

The stories have already spurred an active following, as well. The majority of this following seems content with the usual behaviors: drawing and dressing up as the characters, writing their own pastiches (usually of a sexual nature), speculating where the story might go, etc. Others, however, have been inspired to activism, discussing what could and should be done in the absence of Blackwood.

The next installment of The Gutted Earth is expected to see print on the fifteenth in Strange Stories Monthly.

Blackwood Gazette #60-First Installments of The Gutted Earth Meet with Mixed Reactions