Blackwood Gazette #75: Journey to Lelina, Riverboat Raid, Part 6

By Adella Chatelaine

17/10-That tiny stick of dynamite changed everyone’s mood, real quick. I’ve never seen so many loud, A-Type personalities struck so completely dumb that fast before, and I’d be lying if I said I did not enjoy it just a little bit.

Klaudhopper informed us all that he’d lined the interior of the ship’s cargo hold with dynamite he’d found in a shipment heading out from the port of Docryville. It was a claim we were all willing to believe, since the town and many of its sisters in the area had heavy mining interests.

He warned our attackers, whom he called “Cartographer Scumsuckles” (whatever that means), to vacate the vessel or else be blown to hell and gone. And since he wasn’t too keen on Mister Mackay and his men pointing their rifles at him, Klaudhopper ordered them off as well. Which of course would have been very bad for our expedition.

The saving grace of all of this (partially, in any case), was Doctor Trenum. With everyone preoccupied with Klaudhopper, and Klaudhopper preoccupied with the small army below him, no one noticed her make her way up to the roof of the bridge and behind the mad Rommsbachian.

She bonked him over the head with a coal shovel, knocking him down but not unconscious. The situation would have been ended there, except that something completely out of any of our hands occurred, as the dynamite he’d held rolled off of the roof and lodged itself in a wall sconce holding a gas light.

The last thing I remember before Mister Mackay grabbing me by the shoulders and throwing me over board was seeing Doctor Trenum pulling Klaudhopper up by his left arm and jumping.

Mister Mackay and I plunged into the water, along with several others. Even beneath the surface, I heard the deep THUMP of the explosion as the bridge disintegrated into flaming splinters. I broke the surface and found Mackay swimming for the shore, and followed him.

After making land, I turned to see Doctor Trenum hauling Klaudhopper out of the water, alternately laughing and cursing in Rommsbachian. That laughter ended quickly when Mister Mackay set upon the man, demanding to know who he was and who the attackers were. Klaudhopper clammed up, and has not spoken since. I saw no further sign of our attackers.

And that is where I find myself now, dear readers, sitting on the river bank, soaking wet and writing these events down while they are fresh on a sheaf of paper that somehow survived my fate deep within a sealed trunk. I can hear the rapid clop of horses galloping in the distance. Hopefully, they can get us squared away and back on the road to Lelina.

Blackwood Gazette #75: Journey to Lelina, Riverboat Raid, Part 6

Blackwood Gazette #74: Journey to Lelina, Riverboat Raid, Part 5

By Adella Chatelaine

15/10- I came to find out that it was Meriam who suggest that Mr. Klaudhopper come with us after they escaped the library, and that Mr. Klaudhopper had given them an alias (understandable, given the circumstances). Still, I suggested that he stay away from Mr. Mackay, who no doubt would have recognized him on the spot.

Word around the boat that night was that the Von Grimm gang had left the town around sun down, without causing too much damage. They had apparently shot a man’s horse and burned down a hotel…unsubstantiated claims, but I’m loath to believe it. At any rate, the night passed without incident.

We left port at noon the next day, with Doctor Trenum and Mister Mackay finding their way back just minutes before departure and sporting several bags of winning from some casino or another, not to mention severe hangovers. Klaudhopper vanished shortly before, probably hiding away in his cabin.

Our troubles did not start until well after dark. Most of us were on the boat’s amusement deck when we received word of a fire below decks. Shortly after that, the boat’s paddle wheel stopped turning, and gun fire from the riverbanks began. The gun fire from the banks was a distraction, as several armed assailants, both men and women, scaled the side of the boat from canoes. My first thought was that Von Grimm had caught on to Klaus’ ruse and pursued the boat, but I could tell immediately upon seeing our attackers that this was not the case.

They were a well-trained offensive force, not interested in wanton destruction. Though they were well armed (most of them sported revolvers, which would indicate that they were also well funded), they mainly used their arms for intimidation and crowd control. It was only until Mister Mackay and his security force broke out their own weapons that things threatened to turn truly violent.

But even then, our mysterious attackers practiced restraint. They had Mackay and his team surrounded on the main deck, locked in a standoff. It was then that they informed us of what exactly they were looking for, and of course, that something was Mister Klaudhopper.

Mackay told them that Klaudhopper was not on board to the best of his knowledge. That was when the boat’s upper most portside cabin at the aft of the boat erupted into a cloud of flame and splinters. Both sides of the skirmish looked up at the wreckage in disbelief before hurling accusations at one another.

A voice interrupted the proceedings, from the roof of the bridge. It was Klaudhopper. All guns pointed toward him, but he did not duck or scurry away. Instead he issued an ultimatum…everyone drop their weapons, or he would blow the entire ship.

That’s when he held up a stick of dynamite.

Blackwood Gazette #74: Journey to Lelina, Riverboat Raid, Part 5

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 #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

Blackwood Gazette #59: Klankenvroot Resurfaces

by Chester Seaton, News

27/8: When unpaid workers raided the office of Ivan Klankenvroot last month, they discovered that the renowned industrialist had packed up and run, leaving behind an office with nothing more an empty desk and burn bin full of smoldering ashes.

Authorities have been investigating the disappearance in the meantime, feverishly searching for clues as to where Klankenvroot may have gone. Well, Klankenvroot resurfaced this week, and in a surprising place.

A press release made by Klankenvroot’s long time rival, Rigel Rinkenbach, claims that Klankenvroot has fled to Nor Easter and claimed asylum under  Rinkenbach’s sponsorship.

“It is with great pride, and more than a little bit of triumph, that I declare sponsorship over Mister Ivan Klankenvroot,” Rinkenbach said in the release. “He is a brilliant mind in his own way, and it would be a shame to see him thrown into some Crowndonian cell to waste away and be forgotten. Klankenvroot may be many things…but to be unappreciated by Crowndon? I shudder at the thought.”

What this means for the ongoing race between Klankenvroot and Rinkenbach is unclear. Klankenvroot’s Heisenberg aircraft project has been taken over by the military, and the primary reason for Rinkenbach’s involvement, according to the man himself, was for the challenge. Rest assured, the Gazette will remain vigilant for the next twist in this story.

Blackwood Gazette #59: Klankenvroot Resurfaces

Blackwood Gazette #58- New Crowndon University, Part 2

by Adella Chatelaine, Investigative Reports

25/8- 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 pull 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.”

“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 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. 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 show she is not thrilled, but she does not protest. She thanks Professor Oates and we leave.

“Come on, Adella,” she says, putting a friendly arm around my neck. “Let us go have some fun, before we meet up with the dead weight.”

Blackwood Gazette #58- New Crowndon University, Part 2