Blackwood Gazette #251-Ancient Fortress Destroyed By Pharessian Bombardment; Fates of Rinkenbach and Sinclaire Unknown

By Chester Seaton, News

28/7/282-Details are sketchy at the moment, but reports coming in from the Triumvirate Authority indicate that the fortress of Ma-Droit has been destroyed in a bombardment by the Pharessian military.

The fortress was being used by the rogue alchemist Rigel Rinkenbach and known Nor Eastern agent provocateur Pixie Sinclaire. Earlier reports stated that a joint operation between Nor Eastern and Pharessian intelligence services was planning a raid on the site to bring the rogue elements to justice.

A trusted but unverified source tells us that the Pharessian element of the group entered the fortress without the Nor Eastern element’s knowledge. There is no way of knowing what transpired next, except that a flotilla of newly built Pharessian airships arrived on site and began firing on the fortress. The ancient stone crumbled underneath the attack, sending it down to the valley below.

Neither Nor Easter nor Sarnwain has issued an official statement concerning what transpired at the fortress, though the Nor Eastern figurehead Marcellette Bastian did express her grief.

“I cannot see how anyone within the fortress might have survived. It is a sad day for Nor Easter, and the world, to have lost such a vibrant mind as dear Rigel’s. As such I have mandated a six month period of mourning for Nor Easter. Every citizen must wear black for the duration, and no tea is to be served on Saturdays.”

The Empress’ declaration resulted in an uproar amongst Nor Eastern citizens, and the six month mourning period was later reduced to a week.

The Crowndon military also released a statement concerning the events.

“If Rinkenbach and Sinclaire are dead, then good riddance,” said Lord General Johnathan Gorsky. “Those two are responsible for the deaths of more Crowndonian soldiers and citizens than any ten Nor Eastern soldiers combined. They were a blight on this world, and their reckless behavior in Sarnwain, which could have easily pulled the Triumvirate into a war (and still might) is proof of that.”

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Blackwood Gazette #251-Ancient Fortress Destroyed By Pharessian Bombardment; Fates of Rinkenbach and Sinclaire Unknown

Blackwood Gazette #250-Class Attendance Drops as Scavenger Hunt Craze Hits Nor Eastern University Campuses

By Emile Michaud, Entertainment

27/7/282-Recent mid semester reviews at prominent Universities across the Nor Eastern Empire have shown a disturbing trend of late, as intricate scavenger hunts designed by students have become a favored form of recreation. The trend has led to a drop in class attendance, and faculty fear a drop in grades will follow.

“They spend almost every waking moment pouring over maps and solving these inane riddles,” said one professor. “I saw a group of them in the library yesterday. I thought they were studying Sarnwainian literature, because they were pouring over the works of Dibi Un Krup, but no, it was all for one of those scavenger hunts. Some riddle about the sound a donkey makes when it eats too many legumes that led them to a statue of Elden Parissini, a famous composer who supposedly died on the toilet. Tickets to a performance at a nearby concert hall were taped to the statue’s posterior. Ridiculous.”

Sociologists suggest that this wave of Hunts has its roots planted in a tradition of good natured head scratchers developed by students of the Academy of Alchemists and Alliterators, some twenty years ago. Alumni of the Academy scoff at the idea.

“That is nonsense,” said Professor Avery Landers, one such alumnus who now teaches chemistry 101 in Oeil de Fleur. “I took part in the very first AAA scavenger hunts, and even back then, in the beginning when we had no precedent for such things and were figuring out the basics, our riddles and clues would have turned these students’ heads into mush. It is a pale copy, nothing more.”

Despite what Professor Landers says, many who participate in the hunts tell me that they enjoy the elaborate strings of clues that can lead to anything from an enjoyable panoramic view to a buried stash of money. Some hunts, however, have left participants cold.

“I gave up half way through my first one,” one student, who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of being ostracized by his peers, said. “The clues were complete [expletive removed], with each one more ridiculous than the last. It became apparent that the designer of the hunt was more interested in stroking their own ego than leading his Hunters on an interesting journey. Last I heard, the group I’d been with were still working on the trail. Come to think of it, no one has seen them in a week.”

In addition to a drop in attendance and grades, University faculty fear that the Hunts could get out of hand as designers struggle to top one another, or begin to grow bolder with their schemes.

“There was a report out of Sau Anoit last week, that one of these kids set himself on fire trying to set up a pyrotechnics display,” a Val Coursai University faculty member said. “And that was just one of the clues. I shudder to think what he had planned for the end of the hunt.”

Blackwood Gazette #250-Class Attendance Drops as Scavenger Hunt Craze Hits Nor Eastern University Campuses

Blackwood Gazette #249-Veronica Trenum Embarks on Deadlands Expedition, Promises “Revolutionary Discoveries”

By Timothy Petit, Science and Technology

21/7/282- After months of preparation and navigating the increasingly murky waters of Triumvirate bureaucracy, Veronica Trenum’s expedition into the Deadlands is officially underway. The goal of the expedition is to follow along the trail of Professor Uriah Farringdon Oke, who went missing in the region years ago and was recently discovered wandering around the colonies.

“I have no doubts that this will prove to be the most important, and most exciting, scientific expedition of the last hundred years,” Doctor Trenum told me before her departure. “The mysteries of the Deadlands have long baffled the Triumvirate, and should the tales Professor Oke told of an ancient, mechanical city deep within its forests prove true, its discovery would revolutionary discoveries about Pre-Rift culture.”

Doctor Trenum has already overcome many obstacles to even getting the expedition running, and she is sure to face many more to come. Among them is a rival expedition, led by Doctor Alex Congate, which will be leaving shortly after the Trenum Party.

“You media types keep calling this a race,” Doctor Congate said. “That’s nonsense. I prefer to think of my party less as an expedition, and more as a system of checks and balances. It is not our intention to find this mythic city, or any such evidence of so called ‘Pre Rift’ culture. It is my objective to keep Miss Trenum in check, to make sure that her investments in this venture do not overshadow the sanctity of the scientific process.”

Besides having a skeptic hot on her heels, Doctor Trenum faces another party interested in the region, Alejandro Julianos, who has been sending expeditions into the region for over a year.

“I’m not worried about Julianos,” Doctor Trenum said. “Whatever it is he’s doing in the Deadlands, I doubt it has anything to do with Oke’s lost city. There was some worry early on that he was barring our efforts to get funded, crewed, and supplied, but those setback proved to be more about TA incompetence than anything. In any case, anything the Julianos expeditions have discovered have been kept secret. Anything I find, I intend to share with world. And I am convinced that anything I find will prove to have monumental effects.

“Remember the discovery of the Blackwood Grove? In the nearly three hundred years since we’ve gone from disparate feudalist territories tearing at each other’s throats and groveling in the mud to a worldwide Imperial power unified by steam engines. I believe the Deadlands conceal a similar world changing discovery. We’ll never know until we get over our fears of the region and press inward. With the Grove beginning to dwindle, and no solution to its eventual depletion in sight, we can’t afford not taking risks.”

***

Timothy Petit is the new science and technology writer for the Nor Eastern branch of the Blackwood Gazette. He has taken the position with the utmost reluctance, and fears greatly for the well being of his Crowndonian counterpart, Ada Herschel, who remains in government custody. He graduated from Sau Anoit University, with honors, holds three patents, has fathered 2 children, twin daughters, and has a dog named Chip (formerly Block-Head…he was named by the aforementioned daughters when they were three; they have since grown older and changed their minds).

Blackwood Gazette #249-Veronica Trenum Embarks on Deadlands Expedition, Promises “Revolutionary Discoveries”

Blackwood Gazette #248- Klaus Klaudhopper Leads Daring Assault on Walsh Penitentiary, Absconds with Assassination Suspect Arufina Villanova

By Jeanne Dupris, Nor Eastern EIC

20/7/282-Crowndon has suffered another embarrassing blow this weekend after the prime suspect in the Pillar Assassinations, Arufina Villanova, escaped from Walsh penitentiary. The escape occurred during a full scale assault on the complex by associates of the assassin, Crowndon officials say.

“It all started around midnight,” the warden of the facility told us. “There was a disturbance in the east wing, a fire. When officers responded to the fire, all hell broke loose. Inmates all over the prison were released from their cells.”

In the ensuing chaos, the prisons spotlights were focused on the prison grounds. As a result, no one noticed the air ship entering the prison’s air space.

“Just when we started getting the inmates under control, these people come rappelling down into the yard, firing six guns,” the warden said. “They took out an entire platoon of my guards before even touching the ground. Around eight of them were women, wearing leather jackets like the one Villanova wore when taken into custody. Too bad no one noticed that fact until after it was all over.

“There was one man with them, a short guy with a red scarf. He had two of those infernal six shooters. TWO! He might as well have been made of bullets!”

After setting down in the yard, the group cut their way into the facility. The warden says that attempts to seal off sections of the prison were ineffective.

“I think they may have had someone on the inside, who started the fire and sabotaged locking mechanisms on the gates between wings. They marched right through the prison, practically unopposed except for a few poor souls who fell under the fire of their six guns. All we had were flints! Bloody flints! Why flints are still the standard amongst law enforcement and military in this day and age is beyond me.”

All told, the warden says the assault lasted ten minutes.

“It was so strange. They entered the solitary wing, where we had Villanova locked up, and never came back out. We followed them, found Villanova missing. A few minutes later everything was under control. The air ship disappeared after dropping the attackers; far as we know, it never picked them back up. Just damn strange.”

Given the suspect involved, it is believed that the people who attacked the prison were members of the Scarlet Circle (which the Triumvirate Authority denies even exists). The description of the man matches that of known Villanova associate Klaus Klaudhopper. Both are suspected of involvement in the Waystation Bravo disaster, and Klaudhopper is wanted in the colonies for suspected involvement with the Von Grimm gang. He was last seen fleeing the colonies aboard what is believed to be the Pernicious Platitude, a pirate air ship belonging to former Crowndonian Admiral Roderick Beauchamp La Pierre.

Blackwood Gazette #248- Klaus Klaudhopper Leads Daring Assault on Walsh Penitentiary, Absconds with Assassination Suspect Arufina Villanova

Blackwood Gazette #247- Rinkenbach and Sinclaire Tracked to Abandoned Fortress; Situation Developing

By Chester Seaton, News

15/7/282– Breaking news in the ongoing saga of the rogue alchemist Rigel Rinkenbach and the Nor Eastern war criminal Pixie Sinclaire, as sources say a joint force of Nor Eastern spies and Pharassian Seekers have tracked the pair to the abandoned fortress of Ma-Droit. Unfortunately, the situation seems to be far from resolved.

The fortress, a holdover from before the founding of the Triumvirate, stands at the North Western Border between Sarnwain and Nor Easter. It once stood as a bastion against the invading hordes from Tarsia, and has a complicated and bloody history. It is also, despite its age, very well positioned and fortified, making the proposition of storming the fortress a tricky one.

“The builder of the fortress, Vasily Tremenkoff, was notorious not only for the horrific ways in which he dispatched his enemies, but for his love of traps,” said historian Alaine Fordeau. “The fortress is riddled with them, all the way from the highest parapets to the valley floor, deep below. No doubt many of these traps should be in a state of disrepair, if not for Nor Easter’s almost obsessive efforts to preserve its history…even the deadly, functional parts of it. Add to that the fact that the current tenants are the world’s premier industrialist and a highly trained Nor Eastern saboteur, and getting into the place is a dicey prospect, to say the least.”

How do we know the pair survived the fortress themselves?

“In the early morning hours of the first day, we observed an owl flying from the upper tower,” wrote Gerard P. Shanahan, the point man for the Nor Eastern interests. “I ordered it shot down. The species was not indigenous to the area, and it had a note tied to its leg. Nothing of great importance, just a verse of bad poetry meant for someone named Herbert. Doubtless the owl and the verse belong to Rinkenbach. We’re looking into it now.”

Further stalling the resolution of this situation is the joint force’s inability to decide what happens to Rinkenbach and Sinclaire once they are caught.

“Nor Easter no doubt wants them alive and in one piece so the two can provide answers for their actions,” an analyst said. “Sarnwain, on the other hand, probably only wants their heads.”

Blackwood Gazette #247- Rinkenbach and Sinclaire Tracked to Abandoned Fortress; Situation Developing

Blackwood Gazette #246- Gazette Divided: Nor Eastern and Monteddorian Branches Still Independent

By Jeanne Petit, Nor Eastern Editor in Chief

5/7/282- As most of our readership are aware, the integrity of our publication came under a grievous attack this past month when the Crowndon government took control of our mother branch in the Crowndon capital. The Gazette’s owner, Maurice Merchant, and several of its prominent staff, including Hunter O’Leary and Ada Herschel, were taken into government custody and the Minister of Information Distribution was placed in charge of the offices.

The Crown claims they are being ‘questioned’ concerning supposed seditious remarks made by Miss Herschel in her articles that may be construed as being critical of the Crowndon military’s plan to deploy automatons equipped with cameras to monitor the citizenry of Crowndon. What this likely means is that Miss Herschel is likely already in a dark cell, having already been convicted, and waiting for her sentence.

It has become increasingly clear in recent months that Crowndon sees itself in a perpetual state of war after the Summit Attacks last year. The appointment of Alejandro Julianos as the Fleet Admiral of the Triumvirate Authority likely didn’t help matters, and in a desperate bid to maintain its waning military dominance, has begun tightening its grip. Reports state that production of military interest has increased two hundred percent in the last six months, while other economic sectors have begun to fail. Tax increases in several regions of the Crowndonian Empire have left citizens and businesses alike reeling, and now there are rumors of a surge of military influence amongst the Crowndon oligarchy, as figures like Lord Palatine McCredmond Hauks have had their loyalty and credibility diminished. The deaths of several prominent business men at the hands of a supposed Scarlet Circle assassin have also left a considerable vacuum for the military to increase its influence.

Now the main branch of the Blackwood Gazette has come under government control, effectively turning it into a mouth piece for the Ministry of Information Distribution. So, what does that mean for us, and our sister office in Monteddor?

It means nothing. Well, not entirely. Maurice Merchant prepared for this eventuality, and gave both myself and Bene Torillio, the EIC of the Monteddorian branch, very specific instructions concerning how to continue day to day operations in the event that Crowndon should fall under total martial control. Our staffs will continue to work tirelessly to bring the citizens of Nor Easter and Monteddor the facts of events facing our Triumvirate, unfiltered by governments or persons of power. And we’re going to try as hard as we can to bring the real Blackwood Gazette to the people of Crowndon (despite already facing stiff opposition; our deliveries have been barred for the past month, even before the takeover). We are also working tirelessly to persuade the Empress to petition for the release of Mister Merchant and his staff.

So, rest easy. The New Dystopian Ideal of Crowndon has yet to put its foot in our door. The Blackwood Gazette is a name you can still trust in Nor Easter.

Blackwood Gazette #246- Gazette Divided: Nor Eastern and Monteddorian Branches Still Independent