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

Blackwood Gazette #57- New Crondon University, Part 1

by Adella Chatelaine, Investigative Reports

18/8-Upon entering the University, we are greeted by the acting Head of Newland Archaeology, Doctor Barnaby Joplin Oates. I get the feeling that Doctor Oates and Doctor Trenum know each other, based on their warm greeting, a feeling which is confirmed when Doctor Trenum introduces him as an old mentor.

Introductions out of the way, Doctor Oates takes us 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.”

Doctor Trenum asks him why it’s being kept under a metal case. He tells her to hold her hand over the observation window. She does, but not for very long before she 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. It was less something physical, but something emotional, 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, 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. I tell her I do not. 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 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.

Blackwood Gazette #57- New Crondon University, Part 1

Blackwood Gazette #56- Delando’s Next Play to be Filmed

by Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment

15/8- The theatrical world is abuzz today with the news that Delando’s next play, the follow up to the controversial and critically acclaimed “Fires of D’Kalm D’korr”, will be committed to film and shown on kinetic viewers every where.

“Delando is excited about the possibilities new technologies unlock in his ability to tell stories,” said the reclusive playwright’s representatives. “The flare guns used in ‘Fires’ demonstrated that, and the use of film to give audiences a more focused view framed by Delando himself reenforces it. Everyone who watches the show on kinetics will have the same viewing experience…no need to fight for good seats.”

The play, which is as yet untitled, will be filmed over the course of its first year on stage. The performances will then be constructed into a single, cohesive whole.

Not everyone is excited about it, however.

“This is an aberration!” said one theater goer. “It is a contamination of the purity of the art form. Theater is meant to be enjoyed live, as though the audience is a part of the experience. This travesty, this…’film’ as they call it…it’s a separation of viewer and performance. It should not be allowed, and Delando should be expelled from the Academy of Theatrical Arts and blacklisted in the community for such insolence! How dare he think he can change hundreds of years of story telling tradition!”

Theater owners, as well, have their reservations. Namely Patrice Chadeau, the owner of the theater the filming is meant to take place in.

“I agreed to it, but make no mistake, it is a huge risk,” Chadeau said. “It means I will have to rent the main stage to one show for the entirety of the year. Not even Delando can sustain that kind of audience, though I’m hoping the novelty of it all may bring in an audience. And what happens if a performer gets ill, or dies, or some other tragic thing? In any case, Delando’s people brought me a wagon load of gold. It’s locked up in the warehouse, if you want to see it.”

Blackwood Gazette #56- Delando’s Next Play to be Filmed

Blackwood Gazette #55- Marco De Santana on Lockdown after Several Assassination Attempts

by Chester Seaton, News

13/8-Violence erupted on the streets of the Monteddorian capital today when Blackwood magnate Marco De Santana took to the stage to give a press conference concerning the situation with his daughter, Yolanda. One of our own correspondents found himself in the middle of the action, as after the opening statement was delivered, a gunman charged the stage with a blunderbuss and opened fire.

According to our reporter, most of the shot was blocked by the podium and the rest struck an armed guard. Before the assassin had time to reload, he was incapacitated by police and taken into custody. This was not the end of the attempt, however. While De Santana was being escorted off the stage to a secure location, several explosive devices where triggered.

Thankfully, these devices where not intended to kill or maim, but simply produce a cloud of smoke that dispersed the crowd and caused confusion. Members of De Santana’s guard that were involved in the incident say that several figures armed with revolvers appeared within the smoke and tried to kill him. Two of the guards were killed and another injured before they managed to regroup and fight back. Once they did, the unidentified assailants retreated.

Monteddorian authorities refuse to speculate on the identities of the assassins, but they believe the man with the blunderbuss and the individuals with the revolvers were part of separate plots, brought together by a general contract on De Santana’s life. Authorities believe the contract was placed by Yolanda De Santana.

Several other potential assailants were discovered in the immediate area. Two were killed, the rest were apprehended. None are believed to be affiliated with each other.

The De Santana estate released a statement about the incident: “I am deeply regretful that the situation has come to this, and that my own flesh and blood would resort to such tactics. That is not how I raised her. I mean, I may have firebombed a few fully staffed distribution centers when I took over from my uncle, but I always told her how much I regretted it. If she is going to kill me, she should do it herself, without putting the citizen in harm’s way!”

Blackwood Gazette #55- Marco De Santana on Lockdown after Several Assassination Attempts

Blackwood Gazette #54-The Colonies, Part 2: Morning and Rumors

by Adella Chatelaine, Investigative Reports

7/8- Sleep doesn’t come easy to me that first night. My brain is still buzzing from the excitement of coming to this new place, meeting these new people. I just lay in bed with my eyes closed, writing internally.

I get up early and go downstairs. It’s deserted, coffee has already been made. I pour a cup and throw a couple of coins into a jar set next to the pot. It’s a bit strong, the kind of strong meant more to sober people up and set them off to work than for enjoyment.

I spend an hour composing my thoughts while the sun comes up and the streets outside come to life. Just after dawn, Dr. Trenum comes down, along with two men and two other women. They joke and laugh, and Dr. Trenum sees them out.

“Are you going to write about that?” she asks me. I tell her only if she wants me to. She shakes her head.

“That disappoints me. I would expect you to tell the truth. I want to you tell the truth. Anyone who cannot deal with it…they are not worth our time.”

So, I write about it, only describing what I see. I’ll let the readers make their assumptions.

We eat a breakfast of eggs and sausage, very bare bones. Utilitarian, like the coffee. We trade stories we heard the night before.

Settlements in the north west are dealing with an outbreak of plague. In the south west, Doctor Argyle Von Grimm and his gang have taken over a new town. Refugees from their last town have started flooding east, toward Lelina, our destination.

After breakfast, we leave the inn and hire a carriage to take us to the main city. A pack of laughing, red faced children trail our wagon, waving as we leave toward the University of New Crowndon to meet with Doctor Trenum’s peers about the Lelina ruins. It is from here that we will set off to the southern territories, taking a steam boat along the Miskaton river.

Along the way, we see groups of Colonial Marshalls here and there, standing on street corners and balconies. They are looking for the Waystation Bravo fugitives, Klaudhopper and Villanova. Last night we heard rumors that they have slipped the net, however, and already made it farther inland.

We reach the outskirts of the old quarter, and the lumber mills, wood buildings and mud streets give way to brick and cobbles. The people change, as well. They are prettier, softer, but colder. I see no children playing. There are no scents on the air. This is a place for business and learning, but not living. Returning to a more developed part of the city should be a return to the familiar, but the whole thing is off putting. Something feels off here. I suppose I’ve just become accustomed to traveling.

We pull onto the main thoroughfare, and directly ahead of us I can see the University. It is here that we will begin to tease out the answers to one of the greatest archaeological mysteries of our time.

Blackwood Gazette #54-The Colonies, Part 2: Morning and Rumors

Blackwood Gazette #53: My First Week in the Colonies, Part I: New Crowndon Harbor

by Adella Chatelaine, Investigative Reports

7/8- Halfway through the long western leg of our airship journey to the Imperial Colonies, Doctor Trenum asks me if I have ever heard the theory of how the Newlands came into being. I tell her that I haven’t, and she smiles a little half smile. I expect her to regale me with a bit of history, or a creation myth of some sort. What I get instead is a taste of folk whimsy.

“They say it’s a shit the Man took when he laid down in the ocean to die.”

The answer takes me aback for a few seconds; most every story Doctor Trenum tells me does at first. She’s a fount of obscure references, tales, and cultural anecdotes. As usual, after the initial shock wears off, I laugh. Usually, this is where Doctor Trenum herself would join me, but she does not. She instead gives me an impatient, sideways glare. I stop laughing. She’s deadly serious.

As it turns out, that really is the grand mythic explanation that the colonists have for the place. That when the Man laid down, died, and formed the Old Continent, he defecated, forming the Newlands. I find it a bit crass, personally, but after having spent a week here, I can see the disillusion that might bear such cynicism.

We land in New Crowndon, and it is very much like what I’d imagine the ports of Old Crowndon must have looked like two hundred years ago, at the beginning of our own industrialization. Ramshackle buildings dot the harbor, thrown up in haste to serve a purpose. A few sit in a perpetual state of half renovation, the abandoned properties of shipping companies that tried to expand too quickly and ran out of money in the process.

Beyond the harbor are the city’s old quarters, the town that sprung up around the first settlers’ landing. The buildings were sturdy once, but fifty years of life along the coast without proper maintenance have taken their toll.

Most of the streets here are still mud. Gnats and mosquitoes buzz around putrid green puddles of stagnate water. You can see the shape of horse shoes along the edges of the main thoroughfare, indicative of the fact that most people here still ride horse back. Rare is the occasion that you see the unbroken track of a wheel, and when you do, that wheel was likely attached to a wagon, not an auto.

The people here are rustic, with hard eyes peering out of bagged, purple sockets. The men are almost uniformly unshaven, their hands thick fingered and calloused from working either in lumber mills or building yards. They smoke incessantly, a sweet smelling herb that grows in the forests nearby, I’m told.

The women are hardly different from the men. Many perform the same tasks of lumbering and building, but with the added burden of child rearing. Not that child rearing lasts very long in a place like this; most of the children I saw worked along side their parents.

My first impression, walking through the streets to our hotel, was that these men and women were without humor, but such isn’t the case. At night, when the sounds of falling hammers and saws cutting through timber die down, laughter and song fills the air, along with the smell of deer meat and pork smoked to perfection and spiced with local flavor. The disillusionment lifts, and I once again struggle with the idea of this place being a mythical deity’s dying feculence. Most laugh when I ask about it. A few just stare blankly at the dregs in their cups.

The revelry is short, and the people begin to retire at midnight. There is hard work in the morning, and the days are hot this time of year.

Blackwood Gazette #53: My First Week in the Colonies, Part I: New Crowndon Harbor

Blackwood Gazette #52: Yolanda De Santana Takes Important Refinery; Cuts Blackwood Supply Lines

by Chester Seaton, News

5/8-Less than two weeks after Yolanda De Santana was seen attending a public family event, the heiress has renewed her hostilities against her father’s business interests.

Reports from Monteddor and a statement from Miss De Santana indicate that she has raided and occupied the Salassan refinery, a key element in Marco De Santana’s business ventures, as well as a major supplier of Blackwood throughout the Imperial Triumvirate. Furthermore, Miss De Santana’s forces have begun haranguing Blackwood transports along the South-North Route into Crowndon.

“This is a dire circumstance, to be sure,” said Bartolomeo Fross, General of Crowndon’s infantry. “It goes beyond Monteddorian familial politics and business. Cutting off the supply of Blackwood to Crowndon, Nor Easter, and the northern regions of Monteddor is tantamount to declaring war on the Triumvirate. If the situation is not resolved quickly, our existing reserves will run out within the year. We will have to intervene before that happens.”

The Empress of Nor Easter herself, Marcellette Bastian, issued a statement concerning the situation.

“I’m less eager to mention the possibility of another war, and even less eager to agree with a Crowndonian General, but unfortunately we see eye to eye on this. Blackwood is the lifeblood of our Triumvirate; it is the major component holding us all together. Without it, I fear the delicate facade of our alliance will quickly crumble. Something must be done, though I must stress the importance of diplomacy before force.”

And where do the rulers of Monteddor fall on this issue?

“Crowndon and Nor Easter need not worry about what happens in Monteddor,” said Raphael Valiente, Monteddor’s High King. “We will deal with this situation as events warrant. For now, this remains a matter within the De Santana family. It will play itself out, as all such things play out. Outside interference will only cause lingering tensions and future conflict sooner, rather than later.”

Blackwood Gazette #52: Yolanda De Santana Takes Important Refinery; Cuts Blackwood Supply Lines