Blackwood Gazette #211- New Report Illuminates Coming Blackwood Crisis

by Ada Herschel, Science and Technology

29/1/282- There have been rumblings in the scientific community for years concerning the viability of Blackwood as a sustainable fuel source. But never have those rumblings been so loud as they are now in the wake of a new survey that projects a massive shortage in the coming decades.

“When the Blackwood Grove was first discovered nearly three hundred years ago, it seemed too good to be true,” Caridan Wellerby, the philanthropist who first made headlines when he railed against the Leviathan prison project, said while presenting the report to Triumvirate Authority Officials. “And guess what…it is! Despite its slow burning properties, our consumption of Blackwood has quadrupled in the last fifty years. Nearly a fourth of that increase has come in the last ten, starting with the Dividing War and continuing on through the Monteddorian Civil War. Now we’re building iron clad air ships and preparing to fight an enemy we can’t even identify yet.”

Even Wellerby’s biggest naysayer, Frederick Jurgenstahl, agrees that the situation is dire.

“We always knew that Blackwood was a finite resource,” Jurgenstahl said during the same presentation. “But it was so plentiful! And when we saw one tree keep half a fleet in the air for nearly a half year we thought, there’s enough to last. And we put it in everything, and used it for everything. A hundred years passed and only a hundred acres had been felled and we thought there’s enough here for a millennia. And so we kept on, our cities and our fleets growing exponentially larger while the Grove shrunk by mere meters every year. We stopped watching. And guess what? We look at it now and we can actually see the edge of the grove as it creeps ever inward toward the center.”

The group that formed the report say that nearly two thirds of the Blackwood Grove have been consumed. Unless the alchemical secret to producing the strange wood is reproduced, or a sustainable alternative found, the Age of Steam in the Triumvirate could be coming to an end, possibly within our lifetimes.

The report is not without its naysayers, of course. These naysayers are quick to point out that Jurgenstahl and Wellerby both have significant financial interests in Sarnwain, which claims to have developed a method for refining oil into a fuel suitable for machines.

Blackwood Gazette #211- New Report Illuminates Coming Blackwood Crisis

Blackwood Gazette #210- Empress Marcellette Bastian Pledges Support for Julianos’ First Armored Fleet

By Chester Seaton, News

25/1/282- Reports out of Nor Easter this week indicate that Empress Marcellette Bastian of Nor Easter has pledged full financial support for Admiral Alejandro Julianos’ proposed first Armored fleet.

“I, and several other members of the Triumvirate power structure, owe our lives to the decisive actions of Admiral Julianos during the Summit attack,” Her Imperial Grace said in a statement. “It is but a small price to pay to ensure that his new airships can take to the skies and provide the security we so desperately need after having our Triumvirate shaken so.”

In addition to providing Julianos funds, the Empress plans to offer five of Nor Easter’s top Generals and Admirals, along with their army groups and fleets, to the Triumvirate Authority for training. She also plans to help strengthen Nor Easter’s own (decidedly small, compared to Crowndon and Monteddor) military with increased recruitment drives.

Empress Bastian’s newfound interest in military matters has sent shock waves through the governments of both Crowndon and Nor Easter.

“This is a sad day for Nor Easter,” said renowned Nor Eastern academic and philosopher Armaud Celar. “With a single statement, Empress Bastian has completely altered the course of Nor Easter’s focus away from the pursuit of knowledge and understanding to the waging of war, which we haven’t proven to be very good at in the past, mind you. I can only imagine what Crowndon will think of this.”

Celar won’t have to wait long to find out, as Crowndon General Henry McTolliver issued a statement shortly after.

“While I’m sure the Empress’ is being honest when she says she’s worried about the continued security of the Triumvirate, I feel I must remind every citizen of Crowndon that we were recently at war with Nor Easter,” General McTolliver said. “I’m also concerned about the increasing influence of the Triumvirate Authority and the waning dependence on Crowndon to provide security for the skyways. I don’t trust Admiral Stapleton. And I sure as hell don’t trust Alejandro Julianos. Have we so easily forgotten that he was considered a criminal a mere two years ago? Giving him this fleet of advanced armored airships is insanity of the highest degree.”

With the Empress’ pledge, the Authority has increased the number of ships being constructed for the fleet from eight to twelve.

Blackwood Gazette #210- Empress Marcellette Bastian Pledges Support for Julianos’ First Armored Fleet

Blackwood Gazette #209- Yolanda Desantana Named Monteddor’s Most Desirable Woman

By Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment

23/1/282- Look out, Triumvirites…Yolanda Desantana is officially the Most Desirable Woman in Monteddor, according to a random group of people working for what I’m told is a prestigious fashion publication in Monteddor.

The woman most well-known for pretending to be a vapid socialite for most of her adult life before engaging in patricide and leading a ruthless takeover of the Blackwood refining industry that resulted in a brutal civil war that cost countless Monteddorian lives will be featured on the cover of “Moxxxi” this month.

Included in the feature are photos of Desantana wearing the latest fashions designed by Gustavo Frederick-Alanstead Gallardo , as well as an interview:

“People have underestimated me my entire life. Part of that was by design, but it wasn’t that difficult. There are certain expectations of a magnate’s daughter from birth; I simply played those expectations like a mandolin. Most of those who looked down on me from a pedestal are now doing so upside down from a chain in a slaughterhouse, with their necks sliced open and bleeding into a bucket.

“Tee. Hee. Hee.”

Charming.

The article explains the editors’ reasoning as such:

“She’s bold, she’s beautiful, and she’ll blow up your house if you rub her the wrong way. Yolanda Desantana is the owner and CEO of Desantana Blackwood, which pretty much makes her the most powerful woman in the Triumvirate, if not the world (sorry, Empress Marcellette). Not only that, but she governs Monteddor’s Desantana Province with a firm hand and commands the second largest military force in Monteddor, after Alejandro Julianos (with whom she has formed a nearly unbreakable alliance, so his troops are pretty much her troops at this point). Don’t ask her if they’re dating though…the first person we sent to interview her hasn’t woken up yet after doing just that!”

I can’t help but imagine these people in a room, surrounded by Desantana military personal, scribbling out platitudes that don’t come off as pandering. I know I wouldn’t be able to resist a little bit of snark, and I’m amazed that last line was even included. Here’s hoping whoever wrote it still has their fingers.

Blackwood Gazette #209- Yolanda Desantana Named Monteddor’s Most Desirable Woman

Blackwood Gazette #208- Outbreak of Chicken Pox On Board Waystation Bravo Reignites Superstitious Fears

By Chester Seaton, News

20/1/282- It would seem that Waystation Bravo’s renaissance has come to an end, as an outbreak of chicken pox has torn its way through the population this month.

Nearly ten percent of the station’s new population succumbed to the disease before Triumvirate medical teams were able to respond. While the team has managed to stem the spread of the virus for now, team leader Doctor Cornelius Despardu warns that the outbreak is far from over.

“Chicken pox is a common disease, and new treatments have helped greatly to dull the devastation it can cause in populations with established medical support,” Despardu said. “But on an isolated outpost such as this, once the disease takes root as it has done hear, the battle against it can be a long, drawn out thing, with many casualties.”

Haversham LLC, the company that initialized the Waystation system and controls much of its promotion, is scrambling to salvage the image of Waystation Bravo.

“People are still wary of the station after it went down two years ago and all those people vanished,” said a spokesperson for the company. “We’d finally gotten to a point where people were willing to set aside their superstitions and travel to the station. This latest incident is going to be disastrous. We’ve already got people outside of our offices in Monteddor City, chanting and praying and trying to ‘exorcise’ us. It’s embarrassing.”

Meanwhile, on the mainland and in the colonies, Triumvirate Authority officials are strictly monitoring airships traveling from and among the Waystations.

“Obviously, an outbreak on the mainland would be a horrible thing,” Doctor Despardu said. “But my main concern is the other stations and colonial settlements. We’ve already sent teams to Alpha, Charlie and Echo. With those teams ever vigilant in there screenings, we should be able to prevent any further outbreaks.”

Blackwood Gazette #208- Outbreak of Chicken Pox On Board Waystation Bravo Reignites Superstitious Fears

Blackwood Gazette #207- Wreckage of Pernicious Platitude Allegedly Found Floating in Barrier Ocean

By Chester Seaton, News

18/1/282- The wreckage of an airship matching the description of the notorious pirate frigate Pernicious Platitude was discovered more than a week ago, Triumvirate Authority Officials tell us. The ship was discovered by a Monteddorian fishing crew.

The discovery of the ship has led to wide spread speculation in many corners of Crowndon’s military. In others, it has led to widespread celebration.

“We still don’t know for certain if it is indeed the Platitude,” said Admiral Winston Johannes, who it seems has dedicated his life to bringing Captain Roderick La Pierre down. “The wreckage was quite broken up, and we’ve found no identifying marks, and no sign of what caused the ship to go down. Something seems fishy to me.”

High Admiral of the Triumvirate Authority Jasper Stapleton brushed off Johannes’ statement when we approached him at an officer’s party celebrating the announcement.

“Admiral Johannes is just frustrated that he wasn’t the one to take La Pierre down,” Stapleton said. “He’s been hunting for La Pierre for years, and to have your prey taken down by some random act of…whatever, that’s going to do things to a man’s ego. There are several pieces of evidence that the ship is indeed the Platitude, namely ledgers in the captain’s cabin bearing La Pierre’s signature. It’s over. It’s done. The scourge of the Imperial Skyways and the Crowndon military’s biggest embarrassment is gone. Now, I say, open another bottle of champagne to mark the occasion!”

Johannes is not convinced.

“Wanting a problem to go away really really badly does not equal a problem solved,” he said. “This so called evidence with the ledgers…do you really think a pirate as prone to wanton acts of anarchy like La Pierre keeps ledgers? Tallies and totals? The man crashed a ship full of tuna into a bank, for the Man’s sake! Then he buried it in cave for us to recover, without taking a single bar of gold for himself. Something else is going on here. I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to find out.”

**Two days after his interview, Admiral Winston Johannes was relieved of his command and discharged from the Crowndon Air Fleet. Crowndon cited medical reasons as their reasoning, but would not elaborate further.

Blackwood Gazette #207- Wreckage of Pernicious Platitude Allegedly Found Floating in Barrier Ocean

Blackwood Gazette #206- Julianos Calls for Construction of New Fleet in Wake of Summit Attack

By Chester Seaton, News

14/1/282- Rumors have been swirling for several weeks now that Alejandro Julianos, High Admiral of Monteddor’s Air Defense Fleets and recent recipient of the Guardian of the Triumvirate Medal, would be meeting with Triumvirate Authority military command to propose a new defense initiative for the Empire. We can now confirm that meeting did indeed take place, and what was discussed.

“The Summit Attack late last year hit the Triumvirate Authority two fold,” said Jasper Stapleton, High Admiral of the Triumvirate Authority. “The physical cost of the attack was nearly a quarter of the fleet’s ships. We’ve had trouble patrolling the borders ever since, and Seylene Plamondon has been getting frisky as a result.

“Even more than the physical cost was learning that our remaining ships are simply not up to the task of going toe to toe with the ships used by our attackers. They were simply more advanced: faster, with longer range weapons and better armor. They were kept aloft by rotors, not by balloons. Such ships shouldn’t even be possible, but they are, and we need to figure out how to match them.”

Such was the brunt of Julianos’ proposal, according to Admiral Stapleton. The Monteddorian High Admiral proposed a new fleet of fifteen ships, built in the same design as those used by the Summit attackers.

“We balked at the idea, at first,” Stapleton said. “Not because we thought it was a bad idea…it isn’t. More important, it’s necessary. It was an issue of cost, in both money and time: research and development, manpower, construction. One ship would take years, we thought. But fifteen, in the time frame Julianos proposed? The Empire would be bankrupt.”

That’s when Julianos did the unthinkable, and ordered a ship to maneuver down from the clouds where it had been hidden.

“That son of a [expletive removed] had already built one,” Stapleton said. “I was floored. I have no idea how Julianos managed it, but he’d built a working prototype. Not only that, but from the plans he provided us, there are several improvements to the design.”

In the end, Admiral Stapleton says that the Triumvirate Authority approved an eight ship fleet to start, to be commanded by Admiral Julianos, making him the first Monteddorian Admiral in Authority history. They plan to increase that fleet by the end of next year, with rotary ships being added to regular fleets over the next decade.

Blackwood Gazette #206- Julianos Calls for Construction of New Fleet in Wake of Summit Attack

Ex-Humanor #001- Men In Blue: The Cartographer Agenda

You know, whenever I’m talking to someone about the Summit Attacks late last year, the subject of the matter always turns to just who was it that attacked, and what to call them, and the person I’m talking to just sort of spaces out and I can almost hear the gears in their head grinding to a halt. I half expect to see smoke begin pouring out of their ears.

It’s obvious to me, but then I’m awake. I’m able to see the connections. Where there’s smoke, there is fire, as they say. And this big, blue clad smoke casting a haze over our oh so wonderful Imperial alliance has not blinded me to its source.

I’ve been talking about them for years. Other, more cowardly types in positions of power have whispered about them in hushed tones in the back rooms of tobacco dens and I’m sure more than a few of them have shaken hands with the culprits at fundraisers. They’ve shown up in Penny Dreadfuls as villains for decades. And, for good or ill, they’ve charted our course as a society for much longer than any of us can imagine.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Ephemeral Cartographers. ‘Oh, pish posh!’ someone might say when I float the possibility in conversation. Not the reaction I want, but it’s the one I often expect, and at least it jars them out of that dumbfounded blank stare before the drool starts pouring from their mouths.

But I ask you, who else could it be? Who else could amass such a massive fleet and attack the world’s foremost military tactician, Allie Handro Julie Anus, other than a society that has been acting in secret for centuries and very likely coined the term ‘compartmentalization’? Who else would have the funding, and the personnel, and the knowledge to do such a thing, than an entity so shadowy that it only exists in the majority of our minds in whispers and campfire stories?

I really wish our illustrious leaders would stop beating around the bush and start calling the perpetrators of this attack the Cartographers, if for no other reason than to give them a name so we can move on to more important matters, like where the hell they came from and what the hell do they want?

For the first question, I posit an answer: they come from everywhere. The Cartographers have no nation…no, that’s not right. Their nation is our nation; the Cartographers are us. They’re our best friends, our business owners, our politicians, perhaps even our families. They are citizens of the Triumvirate, or Sarnwain, or wherever else they operate. You could even be reading one right now! But you wouldn’t believe it if I told you, right?

As for the second question? I’ve no clue, sadly, and that’s embarrassing. I, who often deign to know all the answers to life’s little riddles, have absolutely no idea what it is exactly the Cartographers want…why, after hundreds of years of lying in the shadows they’ve suddenly chosen now to reveal themselves (and the Summit was just the loudest, most brazen example; there have been reports of personnel matching the description of those who attacked the Summit operating in the colonies for months). And not only have they chosen to reveal themselves, they did so with a massive fleet, which then proceeded to try and bomb our leadership to hell and back.

Many use this as a way to deflect my insistence that these are indeed the Cartographers; if the Cartographers were real, they’ve always been so subtle. Why so brazen, all of a sudden? And I admit, that is a missing piece of this puzzle. I look at the Summit and see what a Cartographer might call a desired outcome of their supplying new weaponry to rebel movements around the world. Typically, that would be the end of it: the Cartographers nudge, and the world bends accordingly. Never before have they been so direct about it.
Perhaps this missing piece of the puzzle will eventually fall into place. I only pray that it does so before it’s too late. Until then, dear readers, Stay Awake.

OCULUS.
***
Welcome to the first installment of The Ex-Humanor. Oculus is a character I introduced way, way back when, who’s cropped up a couple of times in the Gazette as a charlatan and rumor monger, but this is the first time I’ve given him a full article.

One of the things I wanted to do this year was explore what the alternative media in the Blackwood Empire might look like, and Oculus is the result. He’s a riff on certain radio and podcast personalities, a way to explore the weirder side of the world as well as poke a little good natured fun at internet conspiracy theorists and some of their quirks (like accusing anyone who doesn’t agree with them of ‘being asleep’, or taking the name of someone they have an issue with and turning it into an immature, school yard insult, like ‘Allie Handro Julie Anus’…as though that solves anything). If the Gazette is somewhat a way to examine the media as a mouthpiece for the powerful, than the Ex-Humanor is a way to examine what happens when things like fact checking, editorial oversight and objectivity are chucked out the window.

And if the Gazette is one extreme, and the Ex-Humanor is the other, then I’m hoping the third feature I’m planning, Adella Chatelaine Reports… finds a happy place somewhere in the middle.

Ex-Humanor #001- Men In Blue: The Cartographer Agenda