Blackwood Gazette #260- Arrest of Duchess’ Son Sparks Royal Scandal in Nor Eastern Court

By Jeanne Dupris, Nor Eastern EIC

20/9/282- The Imperial court of Nor Eastern is in an uproar today and a prominent Duchess finds herself under heavy scrutiny after her son was arrested this weekend.

The teenaged Lord Rodahn Despartes, son of  Duchess Amelie Despartes of Amaranth in Sau Anoit, was discovered on palace grounds Saturday night, dancing on the grave of Sir Rigel Rinkenbach. Witnesses to the offense paint a damning picture.

“I came across the boy, under the influence of spirits and perched upon Sir Rinkenbach’s headstone, which he had defaced with slander most foul concerning the deceased and Her Imperial Majesty,” said the palace guardsman who found Despartes. “He was surrounded by empty bottles, and when I approached he stood up and began dancing, or something like it, and yelling obscenities at the deceased. He very nearly fell off. I was more concerned with the boy’s safety at that point than with the crime, as Sir Rinkenbach’s headstone is over three meters high.”

This wouldn’t be the first time the young lord has run afoul of the law. He was arrested two years ago when he stole a motor carriage from a salesman. He made it half a kilometer before the carriage broke down and listed into a tea shop, sending patrons running for cover and cracking the storefront fenestration.

Empress Bastian is said to be livid at the incident, ordering Lord Despartes to be held in the palace cells until a trial can be held, which she will oversee personally. Duchess Amelie is said to have sent several entreaties to the Empress for mercy, but we are told the Empress has not responded.

The incident has already caused great scandal within the Imperial court, with several other Dukes and Lords demanding Despartes be stripped of all titles and lands. The monarch of Sau Anoit has yet to make a public statement on the matter, though it is said there is no love lost between the Queen and the Duchess.

Blackwood Gazette #260- Arrest of Duchess’ Son Sparks Royal Scandal in Nor Eastern Court

Blackwood Gazette #238-Former Julianos Captain Assassinated While Giving Retirement Speech

By Isairo Palantes, Monteddorian Correspondent

11/5/282- The Monteddorian Empire is in shock today, after one of its most valiant heroes was brutally assassinated during a speech Monday night. The cowardly murder was witnessed by hundreds who’d gathered to celebrate the retirement of Captain Julian Rojas.

“He was standing upon the stage one minute, recollecting more than a lifetime’s worth of stories and achievements,” the captain’s wife, Estera Rojas said. “His voice filled the room as we all listened. He had that sort of presence. And then, nothing. His head…it…he was gone. His voice was gone. His presence. The room was dead quiet, and empty.”

Witnesses say that no one heard the shot that took the captain’s life, but evidence suggests that the killer fired a shot from outside the hall where Rojas was speaking. Investigators say they have yet to find any evidence of the shooter on nearby rooftops or within buildings.

“It is our theory that the shot came from the south, through an open window,” said Pietro Regas, Chief Inspector on the case. “We’ve determined the caliber of the round used in the assassination…someone should have heard the shot, even if the shooter was using a suppressor. We’re canvasing the area, but so far no civilians claim to have heard anything.”

Something like a gunshot was reported around the time of the murder, however that report was from several blocks away.

“For someone to have made the shot from the area where the gunshot was reported…I can’t even fathom it,” Regas said. “It would mean we’re looking for a shooter more skilled than anyone in even Julianos’ elite guard. They wouldn’t just have to adjust for the distance, which is plausible…but there are buildings in the way. The shooter would have had to find a spot with line of sight through the windows of several buildings. The thought of finding and detaining someone with that sort of talent and determination makes my blood run cold.”

Regas refused to comment on any possibility of connection with the Pillar Assassinations in Crowndon.

Captain Rojas served in the Ballantine air fleet for nearly thirty years, fighting in three wars and several small engagements over the course of his career. His final military command was aboard the Julianos flag ship Panther’s Reign, where he ordered the bombardment of Sanado Flores in an effort to stamp out the Dougherty rebellion.

Blackwood Gazette #238-Former Julianos Captain Assassinated While Giving Retirement Speech

The Lelina Horror, Part Two

ADELLA (II)

The Ninth of Eighth Month, 280th Year of the Triumvirate

“Veronica!” Doctor Barnaby Joplin Oates says, greeting us at the door of the university. A wide smile comes over Doctor Trenum’s face. I’ve seen her smile on several occasions (she’s a very smiley person), but this one stands out to me.

“Doctor Oates, it’s been too long,” she says, and the two of them hug. I get the feeling that Doctor Oates and Doctor Trenum know each other. The hug goes on for a few beats longer than a hug between two old acquaintances normally would. When it ends, Veronica turns to me.

“Adella, this is Doctor Barnaby Oates. He’s an old teacher, friend, and mentor…really, more like a father. If it wasn’t for him, I doubt I ever would have finished my doctorate.”

“Oh, hush now, Veronica. I have every faith that you could have overcome any obstacle in your path. I just helped you do it faster.”

Doctor Trenum smiles again and Doctor Oates turns to me.

“You must be Adella Chatelaine.”

“Yes, Doctor. Pleased to meet you.”

We shake and he says, “I must say I am very pleased to have the interest of such a fine publication as the Gazette. Interest in historical pursuits has sadly fallen out of favor among the public in recent times, I’m afraid.”

“I assure you Doctor, that it hasn’t fallen out of favor with me.”

“Very good! Right. This way, please.” Doctor Oates gestures to the door. “I have some very exciting things to show the both of you.”

We follow Doctor Oates to the Archaeology Department, where several artifacts from Lelina are being kept. He goes over them one by one. Most are unremarkable; stone and clay works that are common to the area. There is one piece, however, that catches both Doctor Trenum’s and my attention.

A damaged device composed of a series of gears encased in a metal shell sits on a nearby table, contained in a metal case with a thick observation window on top. Doctor Oates informs us that it was taken from the actual Lelina site.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” Oates says. “A piece of machinery not so very different from our own, only much older. About 5,000 years, based on our observations, which makes it contemporary with the site.”

“What’s with the case?” Doctor Trenum says, studying it. “Two inches of solid lead? Some sort of containment?”

“That’s something better experienced than explained,” Doctor Oates says. “Here, put your hand over the observation window.”

Doctor Trenum does so, but not for very long before she grimaces and pulls her hand away. I ask her what she felt.

“I can’t say,” she said. “It was fleeting…I’m already forgetting what it felt like, exactly. It was most unpleasant. Something less physical, more like an emotion, in the pit of my stomach and the back of my mind; a deep sorrow. Melancholy. Were I not a scientist, I would recommend staying away from it. But we have never found any answers by avoiding discomfort. Go ahead, Adella, if you wish.”

I stick my hand over the window. I don’t feel anything. I look at the Doctors, who observe me keenly, like some sort of experiment. I close my eyes, focusing on the cool metal box against my hand.

“Feel anything yet?” Doctor Trenum asks.

“No,” I say.

“You don’t feel something like the distant brush of cold fingers from across ageless aeons against the back of your neck?”

“What? No…”

That’s when I hear a snort. I open my eyes to see Doctor Trenum’s face glowing a bright red. My confusion sets her off into reels of laughter. Doctor Oates only smiles. I fear I have just been the victim of a prank.

“Ah, the old ‘Mysterious Doodad’ trick,” Doctor Trenum says in between fits of laughter. “Gets them every time, right Barnaby?”

I pull my hand away from the metal case, not sure how to react. The joke isn’t very funny, and quite frankly I am disappointed that Doctor Trenum would do something so adolescent in nature. I ask if there truly is a reason for the case, or if that is just part of the prank, as well.

“Oh, no,” says Doctor Oates. “The case is necessary. That thing in there was throwing off some sort of magnetic wave that completely screwed with our instrumentation. After it arrived, we had to re-wind all of the clocks in the university. A real chore, that was, and no mistake.”

I ask if there is anything else we should know about the artifact. He tells me that it is part of a larger item, still located at the Lelina site. A large device full of gears and pipes, that gives off the same magnetic waves, strong enough to throw off a compass from miles away. He theorizes this has something to do with tales of travelers getting lost in the area.

But that, he tells me, is not the biggest discovery at the site.

Doctor Oates walks over to a projector and asks Doctor Trenum to dim the lights. On the wall appears a photograph overlooking what I assume are the Lelina ruins. Doctor Oates pulls out a telescoping baton and points to a shadowy region on the map.

“This,” he says, “Is an entry way, sealed by an iron door. Five feet thick, and rusted shut.”

The only thing I see in the area he is pointing to are sepia toned shadows amongst more sepia toned shadows that vaguely form the shape of a structure. I just nod, expecting him to make his point in time.

“This door is water and air tight,” Oates continues. “So while the outside surface of the door is heavily rusted, it is likely anything located within the underground structure is largely intact.”

Doctor Trenum steps forward, and says, “Making this potentially the most complete example of Pre-Rift culture we have on record.”

“Precisely,” Doctor Oates says, collapsing his baton and sticking it in his pocket. “If we ever expect to have a complete understanding of civilization in the Newlands prior to the Alchemical Rift, or find the answers to the apparent connection to sites around the world, this is our best opportunity to date.”

“Too bad we cannot open it,” Doctor Trenum says. I ask for clarification on that point. While the door is quite thick, I do not see why it cannot be cut through with a torch.

“As Doctor Oates says, it is air tight,” Doctor Trenum says. “The second we open it up, we risk damaging any artifacts inside. If we keep it closed, we are in the dark. We open it up, we are still in the dark.”

“We are working on ways around that, of course,” Oates says, “But all of those ways are theoretical at the moment; we having nothing working. In the meantime, there are still plenty items of note at the site. Most important of which is the device this thing came off of.”

Oates indicates the box.

“I have prepared a kit for you and your team, Doctor Trenum,” he says. “Said team will meet you tomorrow, on the boat. They are a bright bunch, starving for the opportunity.”

One look at Doctor Trenum’s face is enough to show she is not thrilled, but she does not protest. She’s turned back to the picture, and is running her finger over the faint, grainy outline of some sort of symbol.

“What does the inscription say?” She asks.

Doctor Oates shakes his head. “I’ve no idea. The picture isn’t very good, and the locals who took the photograph made no note of it. They probably thought it was a graffiti.”

“I can just make out one symbol,” Doctor Trenum says. “It’s similar to symbols I’ve seen at sites in Pharassus.”

“Any idea what it means?” I ask.

“Not a clue,” Adella said. “It’s a dead language, with no sort of codex available to help us translate. It just looks familiar, is all.”

I crane my head and squint my eyes. “Sort of looks like a couple of snakes, one white, one black, and the white one is eating the black one’s tail.”

The two doctors look at each other, then up at the picture. They shoulder me out of the way.

“Hmmm,” Doctor Oates says. “Yes, two snakes, one eating the other?”

“Possibly,” Doctor Trenum replies. “Or maybe, one snake shedding its skin? A symbol for change?”

“Rebirth?”

“Yes…rebirth after a sort of death, the sloughing of dead skin.”

They continue on in this manner for quite some time, mumbling back and forth and exchanging theories. I’m starting to feel abandoned when Doctor Trenum backs away from the picture.

“I suppose we’ll find out more once I’m on site,” she says, and turns to me.

“Come on, Adella.” She puts a friendly arm around my neck. “Let us go have some fun, before we meet up with the dead weight. Farewell, Barnaby!”

“You too, dear girl. Be safe. I look forward to hearing about what you find.”

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 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 archaeological 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 often refer to as “Brick”. Whether the nickname is out of love or derision, I am not completely sure. It appears to be interchangeable, and Mr. Mackay shows no sign of preference in any case. He is our guide, tracker, and general provider of security on this journey. He has a team of four other men with him; I am told that all of them are men of the utmost integrity. They are also men of utmost discretion, as I have not been able to get a single one to speak with me.

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. At least 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. Otherwise, I find him entirely pleasant to be around.

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.

The Lelina Horror, Part Two

Blackwood Gazette #97-Imperial Super Prison Nearing Completion

by Chester Seaton, News

9/4-The controversy surrounding the Triumvirate’s joint project, an ocean-borne maximum security prison, continues this week as details leaked concerning the prison’s progress.

According to the leak, the project had been in development for years before its official announcement last year, with construction having begun nearly two years ago. As a result, the prison is nearly complete, and is scheduled to set sail within the next few months.

Other details in the leak point to prisoners already being held in completed portions of the ship, which is currently in dry dock in an undisclosed location. This has led to citizens across the triumvirate to make inquiries about family members currently incarcerated in maximum security prisons.

A spokesman for the project, currently codenamed ‘Delphinidae’, spoke with press this morning about the allegations.

“The information concerning the construction of the prison is largely accurate,” the spokesman said. “The ship is nearly completed, and will set sail shortly. As for allegations that prisoners have already been transferred aboard, without notifying their families, they are completely false.”

Blackwood Gazette #97-Imperial Super Prison Nearing Completion

Blackwood Gazette #78: Monteddor City Under Siege!

By Chester Seaton

27/10- The ‘family dispute’ between Blackwood magnate Marco Desantana and his heir, Yolanda, is threatening to escalate into a full scale war. Imperial officials report this morning that Yolanda Desantana, in a joint maneuver with Alejandro Julianos, have surrounded the Monteddorian capital and are blocking all traffic in and out of the city.

So far, the siege has not led to any large scale skirmishes with the Monteddorian military, who have been stationed throughout the city. High King Raphael Valiente claims that the situation is completely under control, although Crowndon intelligence points to another situation entirely.

“The force controlled by Alejandro Julianos and Yolanda Desantana isn’t some crowd of riotous thugs,” said one intelligence officer. “They are armies in and of themselves, and combined they outnumber the military presence in Monteddor City four to one. High King Valiente’s only hope is to capitulate to the demands set forth by Julianos and Desantana and give her father up, or hope for the other royal families to intervene, which isn’t likely. They’re waiting for their own opportunities.”

Besides numbers, Julianos has another advantage: air superiority in the form of several squadrons of fighter planes. How he got a hold of these aircraft is still a mystery, and is being called one of the biggest intelligence failures in the history of the Triumvirate.

Blackwood Gazette #78: Monteddor City Under Siege!

Blackwood Gazette #77: Prime Suspect in Waystation Bravo Incident Captured; Immediately Escapes

By Chester Seaton

22/10-As reported by our own Adella Chatelaine last week, Klaus Klaudhopper, one of the only known survivors of the Waystation Bravo incident, was taken into custody by Colonial Marshals. After he was captured, he was taken to a Marshall garrison, where he was held for one day.

The marshals claim to have questioned the man extensively, but say that he remained tight lipped except to spew insults and curses in Rommsbachian. At a loss, the garrison’s Chief began prepping Klaudhopper for transfer to a high security prison in New Crowndon.

The transport was still a day out when what appeared to be two separate forces attacked the garrison. Members of both attacking forces match details in Miss Chatelaine’s account, with one group identified as the bandit gang led by Doctor Argyle Von Grimm. The other group, well armed and well trained, is unidentified, though rumors have begun swirling that they might have been members of the secret society known as the Ephemeral Cartographers. If so, it would be the first confirmed sighting of Cartographers by reputable sources in over one hundred years.

Surviving Marshals also claimed that the battle ended in stalemate, with both sides retreating. When the Chief ordered Klaudhopper checked on, they found no more than an empty cell with a large hole blown in the back wall, likely with dynamite. It is unclear at this time which group ultimately ended up capturing Mr. Klaudhopper, or if the man effected his own escape with the help of an accomplice.

****

BONUS:

Hey look, everyone…it’s a real life Sir Rigel Rinkenbach! (photo courtesy of Kasey Walton @ kwaltonVFX.com

Kasey Walton as Sir Rigel Rinkenbach
Kasey Walton as Sir Rigel Rinkenbach

Rigel_Rinkenbach

Blackwood Gazette #77: Prime Suspect in Waystation Bravo Incident Captured; Immediately Escapes

Blackwood Gazette #76: Journey to Lelina: A Brief Respite

By Adella Chatelaine

20/10- The men who found us were a posse of Colonial Marshals who’d been travelling south and heard the explosions. Mister Mackay threw Klaudhopper at their feet and informed them who he was. They arrested him and sent him, along with three of their number, to the nearest outpost, ten miles to the west. I cursed myself for not getting him to spill the beans about Waystation Bravo, but he wasn’t talking and the Marshal’s took him away too quickly for me to negotiate.

As for the rest of us, the Marshals agreed to escort us to the next town. The trip was without incident, although in my exhaustion I could have sworn I saw movement in the brush, trailing us. I suppose it may have been our attackers, but surely they would have trailed Mister Klaudhopper. In any case, we arrived without incident in the afternoon and were treated to lunch by the Marshals’ Chief after he found out who Doctor Trenum and I were. Apparently he’d been told to expect us.

After eating and getting patched up, the Chief informed us that he would be sending several Marshals with us (a revelation that caused a deep muttering grumble to emanate from Mister Mackay’s throat). He could not cite a specific reason for this, except that the situation in Lelina had changed. Townsfolk have started going missing.

Just one or two at first, the Chief told us. But this past weekend, ten people vanished in one night. I remembered Doctor Rothery’s tale of the Mist Walker. It is foolish, but it caused me to shiver.

We are set to leave in the morning. I am unsure what resources will be available to me in terms of sending out missives, as the area is said to be remote, so I will be sending copies of most of my gathered notes to my editor at the Blackwood Gazette. I know not what we will find in the swamps surrounding the town of Lelina; only know that the horizon ahead is gray, and the air increasingly stifling and humid.

Wish us luck.

Blackwood Gazette #76: Journey to Lelina: A Brief Respite