Adella Chatelaine Reports #001-In the Shadow of Klankenvroot: A Tale from the Gutters of Crowndon

They’d all pull us up, then spend the rest of their days knockin’ us back down, reminding us every step of the way that we got by on their pity and conveniently forgetting the fact we were down here because of them in the first place. I figure you might understand a little of that, Miss Chatelaine.

Earlier this month, the city counsel of Crowndon’s capital, Old Crowndon, held a low key memorial for the victims of the Heisenberg catastrophe. One might be surprised to hear that this memorial ever occurred, seeing as how it had not been reported on until now. But I, for one, am not surprised that the Oligarchs kept the event under wraps.

As a matter of fact, it surprises me that such a memorial even took place at all; the disaster, after all, is still a sore wound for Crowndon’s national pride that rivals, or perhaps even exceeds, the military loss against Nor Easter five years ago. Indeed, the effects of the disaster can still be seen throughout the city.

None of these effects is more visible, yet overlooked, than the shanty town that has sprung up around the base of the old Klankenvroot factory (rebranded as the now defunct Crowndonian Ministry for Planar Wing Research and Development after it was taken over by the government). Thousands of former Klankenvroot factory workers found themselves without a place to turn after the disaster, and so huddled beneath the shadow of their former place of employment, constructing shacks of old wood and sheet metal.

While the entirety of the town is one of sorrow and misfortune, the harshest depths of this place lay within the area known as the Gutter, an area that extends down into the dry docks on the western end of the factory grounds. It is here where those unwanted even by the denizens of the shanty town eventually end up: the elderly, the sick, those crippled by the factory’s machines, and perhaps most tragically of all, the abandoned child laborers and orphans of workers who died on the factory floor.

I had a run in with one of these wayward children not long after entering the Gutter, despite protestations from my escort. She was an adolescent girl by the name of Vertiline Torp who tried to steal my photographer’s camera. The attempt was shamefully humorous, as the camera is a bulky thing and when the girl tried to snatch it, the camera stayed in place and her feet flew out from under her.

Realizing her mistake, Vertiline ran. I managed to track her to where she lived with her brother, a younger child with a lame leg. It took some convincing but I managed to get her to talk to me.

“I’ll talk to you,” she said. “But only you. Your copper friend and the man with picto-box have to stay outside.”

The officer escorting us grumbled at the conditions, but agreed to stay outside as I followed Vertiline into her home. It was a crudely thrown together structure constructed of discarded wooden pallets against the side of the dry dock’s wall. Space is limited in the Gutter, but Vertiline and her brother had made due by digging into the wall.

“Tisn’t much, but it’s dry and it stays warm at night,” Vertiline told me. “And there was a pipe in the wall, runs clear up to the top, so we’ve some sort of ventilation. I’d like to say I knew it was there, but it wasn’t. Just a small bit of fortune I guess.”

“Crowndon is kind,” her brother interjected, to which Vertiline scoffed.

“Crowndon ain’t never been kind, not to the likes of us. I look at that damned pipe every night and wait for that small bit of fortune to bite us in the arse.”

She told me that her mother died giving birth to her brother, Pigott. An all too common story, she said.

“He wasn’t turned round the right way, and they couldn’t get mum help in time. Pigott never could wait. Always been impatient. That’s why his leg got mangled.”

Their father worked for Klankenvroot, and they rarely ever saw him.

“Guess you could say we was orphans long before he ever died. One day he went to work, never came back. But I know he’s dead. Saw Old Turner wearing his ring one night.”

She held up her hand to show me a ring, a simple gray band made of chipped tin. I asked her how she got the ring back.

“None of your business,” was Vertiline’s answer. So I asked how it is that she gets by.

“Thems up top all call us the Gutter Rats,” she told me, as if that was answer enough. I suppose I had enough confusion on my face that she expounded on her own. “You know anything about rats, Miss?”

I’ve had my share of experiences. I try to remain objective about their nature.

“Rats are survivors, yeah? When a ship goes down, they tells you to follow the rats. Men in mines? Follow the rats. Fire in the factory? Follow the rats. Rats always know where to run, how to escape. And it’s got nothing to do with planning or being cunning. It’s instinct. I get by because that’s what I do.”

I shifted my eyes to her brother. Her explanation was cold, almost pragmatic. It seemed to me almost opposite of what someone caring for a crippled younger sibling would say. I didn’t challenge her on it, though.

I asked her if she’s ever thought about leaving the Gutter instead.

“Nope,” she said, without hesitation. “This is my world. I know it, and it knows me. Everyone here, we’re all in the same situation, we’re all on the same page. Wouldn’t be the same up there, with that lot. They’d all pull us up, then spend the rest of their days knockin’ us back down, reminding us every step of the way that we got by on their pity and conveniently forgetting the fact we were down here because of them in the first place. I figure you might understand a little of that, Miss Chatelaine.”

She lifted up a copy of my book, detailing my captivity in the colonies. It’s only been out for a month but it’s already beaten and dog eared. It looked like she’s read it more than once.

“That’s right…I know you,” she said. “Only reason I agreed to talk to you. You never asked for help or pity. Why should I?”

I left Vertiline with her brother, taking with me something to think about. I continued my tour around the Gutter with her story in the back of my mind. I conducted a few more interviews, but none of them struck me in the same way as my conversation with the girl. During one such interview, I asked a man if he knew who Old Turner was.

“A bad apple, that one. We don’t like talking about him more than that. Bad as this place is, it was worse when he was around.”

When? I wondered. Meaning he wasn’t around anymore?

“The villain turned up dead, near a month before,” the man said. “Stuck in a drainage pipe and drowned, one half of him dry, the other half bloated up like a soggy loaf of bread, and about as soft, too. No one knows how he got stuck…maybe he was chasing a meal.”

The man laughed, and I excused myself. As I followed my escort out of the Gutter I thought back to Vertiline and her ring, and that pipe in the ceiling of her home, and how she said she stared at it every night, waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I smiled, content with the knowledge that when that shoe did drop, Vertiline would probably be ready to deal with it.

Adella Chatelaine Reports #001-In the Shadow of Klankenvroot: A Tale from the Gutters of Crowndon

Blackwood Gazette #235-Empress of Nor Easter Issues Bounty On Rinkenbach and Sinclaire, Expresses Hope They Will Turn Selves In

By Basilio Mura, Nor Easter Correspondent

22/4/282– In an effort to stem the rising tensions resulting from the recent sabotage of Sarnwainian interests by two Nor Eastern affiliates, Rigel Rinkenbach and Pixie Sinclaire, the Nor Eastern Empress has issued a warrant for their arrest.

“It is with great reluctance that I serve up my dear Rigel to such dirty business,” The Empress said in a statement. “But in order to assuage the Primarch [of Pharassus] that Nor Easter had no hand in this tragedy, I most put forth a show of faith. As such, I am issuing a two million imperon bounty on both Rigel and agent Sinclaire for their safe delivery into Triumvirate custody.”

The two million imperon bounty might seem small compared to the three million inter imperial scrip bounty placed by the Primarch, however it is important to note that the imperon is the stronger currency.

Despite the issuance of the bounty, the Empress expressed hope that Rinkenbach and Sinclaire would come in on their own.

“I am sure that Rigel has a good explanation for all of this,” the Empress said. “He’s never done anything without good reason…mostly. Regardless, I’d rather have him home, safe, where we can deal with him in a civilized manner. Oh, and agent Sinclaire, as well. Being as I’m told she’s a war hero. They tell me I awarded her a medal, though I have no recollection of the event.

“At any rate, please, Rigel. Come home, so that we may clear all of this up and I can get back to hearing your wonderful tales as we share tea!”

Others in the Triumvirate Authority aren’t so hopeful.

“The Empress, I hate to say it, is delusional,” said High Admiral Jasper Stapleton. “The Authority has no interest in granting amnesty to Rinkenbach and Sinclaire. Their alleged actions have brought us to the brink of a catastrophic and unnecessary war with Sarnwain, when we should be focused on other things. Rinkenbach might be fooled by the Empress’ claims of mercy, but Sinclaire sure as hell won’t be. She’s the brains behind this operation, I’m sure. And I’ve worked with her before. I feel sorry for anyone who manages to back her into a corner.”

Blackwood Gazette #235-Empress of Nor Easter Issues Bounty On Rinkenbach and Sinclaire, Expresses Hope They Will Turn Selves In

Blackwood Gazette #234- Rinkenbach and Sinclaire Become Sarnwain’s Most Wanted After Alleged Sabotage of Djidanni Drilling Operation

by Basilio Mura, Nor Easter Correspondent

19/4-The Triumvirate is left with numerous unanswered questions this week, after the Empress of Nor Easter received reports that Nor Easter’s favorite ex-power couple, the alchemist and industrialist Rigel Rinkenbach and on again/off again N.E.S.S. Agent Pixie Sinclaire were reportedly seen escaping from a Djidanni oil interest minutes before it exploded.

The explosion occurred in the early morning hours last Friday. Witnesses to the incident report seeing two individuals matching the descriptions of Rinkenbach and Sinclaire fleeing the area before the well erupted into a gout of flame. Given Sinclaire’s record of service as a saboteur during the war with Crowndon, and Rinkenbach’s inextricable connection to Blackwood, it isn’t difficult to establish a motive for the incident and the expertise needed to carry it out.

What is difficult to understand, however, is how these events came to be. When last we heard of Rinkenbach, he’d been absconded with by kidnappers wearing the same blue uniforms as those worn by the Arms Summit attackers. As for Pixie Sinclaire, she was last seen in the colonies, and according to several sources was part of ongoing operations there. Further, none of this takes into account how the two came to be working together, considering their messy personal history, as documented by Nor Easter’s most salacious tabloids.

The incident has sparked a massive manhunt across Sarnwain, regardless of how the pieces do or don’t fit together, and separate three million Inter-Imperial scrip bounties have been placed on Sinclaire and Rinkenbach’s heads. The Primarch of Pharassus is said to be enraged, calling for Nor Easter to explain the actions of its citizens under threat of war.

The Empress, as is to be expected, denied any knowledge on the Empire’s part of this alleged sabotage, citing Rinkenbach’s official status as missing and reminding us all, once again, that the Nor Eastern Subterfuge Society is dormant during peace time.

One can only hope that such ‘official’ responses will be enough to stem the Primarch’s wrath. Regardless, the Triumvirate Authority is said to be preparing its fleets to take action should the need arise.

Blackwood Gazette #234- Rinkenbach and Sinclaire Become Sarnwain’s Most Wanted After Alleged Sabotage of Djidanni Drilling Operation

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

I just realized that today marks the second year anniversary of the Blackwood Gazette here on wordpress. This was the first post, a goofy story about a politician assassinated via his pet cat.

Blackwood Empire

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…

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

Blackwood Gazette #233- Quack Inventor Argathal Gladstone Raises Eyebrows with New Invention

By Ada Herschel, Science and Technology

15/4/282- When Argathal Gladstone first began showing up in the news nearly two years ago, you couldn’t be blamed for not taking him seriously. His claims to take down what he called the ‘Blackwood Tyranny’ and subsequent failed attempt to cross into Nor Easter for the Industry and Innovation Conference, only to miss it by several months, are the things humorous scientific foot notes are made of.

Gladstone’s newest invention, however, is no laughing matter. Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s still kind of a laughing matter, but has the potential to be something serious.

“We received word that the wayward inventor had returned to Crowndon at the beginning of spring,” said Captain Marshal Warden, an officer with the Crowndon infantry division responsible for policing the region known as the Middle of Nowhere. “I figured we should head on out there, to check and make sure he wasn’t building an anti-matter engine or some such thing.”

What Captain Warden found wasn’t anything of the like, but Gladstone was working on a new contraption.

“It was a little ball, with a propeller. Doesn’t sound very fancy, I know, and when he demonstrated it to us it lifted up into the air and crashed, setting a nearby bale of hay on fire. A tiny robot with a water hose tried to put the fire out, but that malfunctioned as well and we ultimately had to intervene to extinguish the flames. Still, despite this catastrophic malfunction, the tiny flying ball intrigued me.

“There are all sorts of applications that such a device, provided it was functional, could fulfill. Gladstone told us it was his intention to attach a spade to the device, so he could pilot it up and clean out the gutters of his home. I, however, am thinking much more militarily in nature.”

Captain Warden returned to his garrison, where they informed the commanding officer of their discovery.

“Colonel Donovan laughed at the story,” Captain Warden said. “But once I told him a few of my ideas, he started listening. We are currently in the process of trying to secure Mister Gladstone’s original plans for the device, as well as a military patent. Mister Gladstone, however, is proving to be more litigious than we would have thought at first glance. He wants to be brought onto the development as chief engineer. We’ve agreed…to an extent.”

The Captain added that they plan on showing a prototype at this year’s IIC.

Blackwood Gazette #233- Quack Inventor Argathal Gladstone Raises Eyebrows with New Invention

Blackwood Gazette #232-Plamondon and Desantana Fleets Converge in the Skies over The Sea of Wrecked Beginnings and Bitter Ends

By Chester Seaton, News

13/4- After months of hostilities brewing between the security forces of the Desantana Territory and the pirate fleets of Seylene Plamondon, the situation reached a head this weekend. One might of have expected an epic battle of apocalyptic proportions, sending flaming wreckage plummeting into the sea below, but the situation ended with an unexpected outcome that many fear could lead to a dire outcome.

Reports say that the convergence of the fleets came about as the result of a challenge from Yolanda Desantana made directly to Seylene Plamondon. A shipping vessel taking a nearby route seems to verify this, saying they saw Desantana’s fleet arrive in the early afternoon.

Plamondon accepted the challenge, and according to the same shipping vessel, which for reasons unknown decided to stick around and monitor the situation, arrived later that day. It was at that point the vessel decided to bug out.

We have no way of knowing what transpired next, as neither Desantana nor Plamondon have issued statements. What we do know is that the flagships of both fleets were both present, and it is highly likely both women were on board. According to analysts in Nor Eastern intelligence, it is believed that Desantana and Plamondon met in parlay, and an agreement was reached.

The result of this agreement was witnessed two days later, as both fleets arrived in the skies above Monteddor City, and we have reports that Plamondon ships have been integrated into Desantana patrols, suggesting some sort of partnership has been established.

Such a partnership has Crowndon military officials up in arms, ever as always these days, it would seem.

The ever vocal Crowndonian Fleet Admiral Henry McTolliver minced no words in reacting to the situation.

“This is pure insanity! First, we give control of a fleet made up of the most advanced ships produced by the Triumvirate to a Monteddorian crime lord, and now we have an alliance between a Monteddorian crime lord’s daughter (who killed her crime lord father and now has an iron grip on almost 90 percent of the Blackwood supply, I might add) and the largest pirate fleet in the known world. I’m starting to think we should just rip up the Triumvirate treaties and call ourselves New Monteddor.”

Blackwood Gazette #232-Plamondon and Desantana Fleets Converge in the Skies over The Sea of Wrecked Beginnings and Bitter Ends

Blackwood Gazette #231- More Prisoners Go Missing From Nor Eastern Prisons; Empress Bastian Orders Investigation

By Basilio Mura, Nor Eastern Correspondent

7/4/282- Echoing a similar situation reported on in Crowndon, several prisoners have been reported having gone missing for Nor Eastern prisons. The situation was brought up when the families of the incarcerated began raising questions.

“This has started to become a disturbing trend,” said Doctor Saul Panteri, a professor of criminology and law with the University of Oeil de Fleur who has taken it upon himself to serve as spokesperson to the aggrieved parties. “Most people will overlook the disappearance of these individuals; point of fact, no headway has been made in the case of the missing in Crowndon. Here in Nor Easter, however, such barbaric attitudes will not go unquestioned.”

Professor Panteri took an interest in the case when the cousin of a man he prosecuted a decade ago showed up at his office to accuse him of being involved. Disturbed by the accusation, Panteri began searching for others who found themselves in similar situations.

“I was looking for a trend,” Panteri said. “Not only among the missing in Nor Easter, but in Crowndon, as well. I couldn’t find one. There didn’t seem to be a common pattern: violent criminals, nonviolent criminals, men, women…it didn’t seem to matter.

“And then I looked deeper. Most of those prisoners that have disappeared were convicted of crimes in which individuals in positions of power, who I won’t name, had been somehow affected. Powerful individuals who would be in a position to pull certain strings.”

Panteri met with several of the complainants, and began to organize them. Eventually, he was granted an audience with the Empress of Nor Easter herself.

“I am of the same mind as Professor Panteri,” the Empress told us. “This is indeed a disturbing occurrence, and possibly a poor reflection of our justice system. As such, I have ordered our judiciary to look into the matter.”

The Empress’s words did little to assuage the families of the missing families, however. Dougal Couresan, the husband of one of the prisoners, suspects she may actually be one of the perpetrators.

“The professor tells us those have gone missing did something to piss off the bigs,” Couresan said. “Well, my wife worked in the palace, as a scullery maid. One day a few silver forks and a crystal glass somehow got dropped in my wife’s things. They threw her in the can for thievery! Now she’s gone. All this talk of investigation is just a smokescreen, methinks.”

Blackwood Gazette #231- More Prisoners Go Missing From Nor Eastern Prisons; Empress Bastian Orders Investigation

Blackwood Gazette #230-Officials Believe ‘Pillar’ Assassinations Related to Summit Attacks

by Chester Seaton, News

4/4/282- While the stocks of private security firms across the Triumvirate may be up, it would seem the recent murders of several high profile business executives have had the opposite effect in other sectors. New reports say that consumer faith in several of Crowndon’s key exports has plummeted in recent weeks.

“How would you feel as a stockholder in an environment where the leadership could change, violently, at any given moment,” said Abraham Comstock, a business analyst in Walsh. “After the CEO of Fornherst Engineering was murdered, his replacement wasted no time in driving the business into the ground.”

While other affected businesses have replaced their departed with much more competent leadership, the example set by Fornherst Engineering set a poor precedent. It doesn’t help that other recent incidents, such as the winter of 280, the Desantana Uprising and ensuing Blackwood shortage, the Heisenberg Disaster, and the Great Tuna Heist perpetuated by Roderick La Pierre have left the citizenry feeling like Crowndon’s economy has been under attack for the last three years.

“It all feels a bit coordinated, no?” Comstock said. “Almost like someone somewhere is pulling strings. I’m not one to jump at shadows, to point fingers and posit insane theories, but this destabilization of Crowndon’s economy coupled with the attack on the Arms Summit last year almost feels like it’s all been a part of some systematic deconstruction of the Empire to me.”

Statements made by the lead inspector on the murders in Toring, Donovan Wick, would seem to lend credence to this idea.

“It might sound crazy,” Wick said, “But given the coordination and efficiency of these murders, and taking into account the domino effect they have caused throughout the business community, I must admit the possibility of something more going on. I’m reluctant to pin these crimes on some shadowy, global conspiracy that has it in for the Triumvirate…but I’m not ruling it out completely, either.”

Blackwood Gazette #230-Officials Believe ‘Pillar’ Assassinations Related to Summit Attacks