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

The Lelina Horror, Part One

ADELLA  (I)

7th of Eighth Month, 280th Year of the Triumvirate

Halfway through the long western leg of our airship journey to the Imperial Colonies, Doctor Veronica 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 the world renowned archaeologist to regale me with a bit of history, or a creation myth of some sort. What I get instead is more 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 necessity. 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, mosquitos, and a dozen other unholy winged annoyances buzz around putrid green puddles of stagnate water. The imprints of horse shoes litter the edges of the main thoroughfare, indicative of the fact that most people here still ride horse back. Rare is the occasion that one sees the unbroken track of a wheel, and when one does, it’s typically evidence of a carriage rather than an auto.

Rustic inhabitants, with hard eyes peering out of bagged, purple sockets spend their days toiling at work or haunting the local taverns. The men are almost uniformly unshaven, their hands thick fingered and calloused from hard days spent in lumber mills or building yards. Most everyone smokes 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 burdens of child rearing and housekeeping (the first woman I saw stood on a roof, ripping up old thatching with mud stained fingers and replacing it with fresh straw). Not that child rearing lasts very long in a place like this; most of the children I saw worked alongside 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 an ancient 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.

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, but 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 you to 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. Doctor Trenum and I trade stories we heard the night before.

Settlements in the northwest 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 conquest have started flooding east, towards Lelina, our destination.

I doubt they will receive a warm welcome. Many people displaced by Von Grimm’s reign of terror have made their way to New Crowndon. They are relegated to a hastily constructed camp constructed on the city’s outskirts and not permitted to enter without official chaperones.

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. It is from here that we will set off to the southern territories, taking a steam boat along the Miskaton river.

Groups of Colonial Marshals stand guard on street corners and balconies along the way. They’ve been called in to help with the refugees, but word is they are also on the lookout 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. 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. No scents hang 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.

***

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Hello! Today marks the first installment in an ongoing story that will detail the mystery of what happened to the Gazette reporter, Adella Chatelaine. It’s my attempt at a horror story, just in time for Halloween. I wanted to do this last year, but time got away from me.

Some readers might have a feeling of deja vu…this first week of installments first appeared as Gazette entries last year. I felt they were pertinent to the story, and its been awhile so I figured it wouldn’t hurt for a recap. Also, it will buy me some time to work on the remainder of the story.

The entries aren’t unchanged, however. They’ve been revised and updated where necessary. This is still very much a work in progress (they always are!) so feel free to let me know where I can improve.

Enjoy!

The Lelina Horror, Part One

Blackwood Gazette #200- Adella Chatelaine, 13 Others Found Alive In Wilderness Around Point Hammond

By Maurice Merchant, Editor in Chief

8/10- It is with a great sense of both personal and professional relief that I am able to announce the nearly year-long search for a member of the Gazette family has come to an end. Adella Chatelaine, who traveled to the colony of Lelina along with the famed archaeologist Veronica Trenum and several other acclaimed New Crowndon academics to study a recently discovered ruin in the swamp has been found, alive and relatively well, after mysteriously disappearing last year.

Details of the events leading up to her rescue are scarce at the moment, but we have been told that Miss Chatelaine, along with several others, were found trapped within the decaying remains of a large building in the woods 60 miles south of Point Hammond. Not much is known about the abandoned structure, or how Miss Chatelaine and the others came to be there.

We have no word on what happened to the rest of Miss Chatelaine’s team, though none of them were found. Miss Chatelaine herself is said to be, understandably, shaken by the experience, and local law enforcement has restricted the amount of information released to the public until a proper investigation can be made.

Pixie Sinclaire, however, is less beholden to such things.

“I’m still trying to parse out everything I saw,” Miss Sinclaire wrote in a brief statement to me. “Still trying to process it…much of it defies any attempt at rationalization, as if the thoughts themselves are alive and fighting my efforts to interpret the events in a natural, earthly way. It may just be the exhaustion, the low that comes after a rush of adrenaline and the chilliness of the horrors I saw muddling my mind, interfering with my ability to think. Perhaps, with time, I will be able to explain things better. It could also be that I have no right to attempt to explain what I saw; the best source for answers will be those, Adella among them, who lived in that nightmare for who knows how long.

“I would advise not pressing the matter on them, however, until they are ready to speak. If you truly consider Adella your friend, do not force her to relive any events that may have transpired until she is ready and willing to divulge that information herself. In fact, perhaps in just this one case, some questions are best left unanswered.

“We should simply take solace in the fact that our mutual friend, and those others found with her, have…survived (I balk at using the word ‘alive’ and hate myself for it, but I fear it may be the wrong word to use). Our only desire now should be helping them find peace.”

***

CLIFFHANGER!!!

Today marks my first feeble attempt at introducing some horror elements into the Gazette, and the larger Blackwood Empire story line, just in time for the Halloween season. It’s also going to be the last Gazette this year. With any luck, however, the answers that Pixie suggests are best kept hidden may start coming next week. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at a good old Gothic style or Lovecraftian horror story, an itch that’s only gotten worse since I’m now waist deep watching that show Penny Dreadful, so that’s what I’ll be working on the next few weeks.

The idea I’m going with is that Adella didn’t stop writing after her last fateful missive to the Gazette…she kept on, but that writing never got sent. The narrative will consist of her lost articles, leap-frogging with journals kept by Pixie Sinclaire in her search for the missing expedition. Hopefully I’ll be pleased enough with the early results to post them.

Blackwood Gazette #200- Adella Chatelaine, 13 Others Found Alive In Wilderness Around Point Hammond

Blackwood Gazette # 191- Von Grimm Associate Klaus Klaudhopper Captured; Reveals Von Grimm Never Entered the Territories at All

By Maurice Merchant, Editor in Chief

18/9- A disturbing new report from the Colonial Marshals suggests that everything leading up to current tensions between Triumvirate colonials and the native peoples of the Newlands has been a lie.

Klaus Klaudhopper, a twenty two year old veteran of Crowndon’s Air Corps and ex-patriate from the nation of Rommsbach, was captured almost two weeks ago near a Marshals’ outpost fifty miles east of Fort Faulkner. Klaudhopper has several arrest warrants to his name, most notably for the murder of an Oligarch’s son in Rommsbach.

As reported last year by Adella Chatelaine, Klaudhopper was at some point being pursued by the Bandit leader Doctor Argyle Von Grimm. During his questioning, Marshals asked him about this incident.

Klaudhopper revealed that he’d been pressed into working for Von Grimm for several jobs. One of these jobs was the theft of the dragonfly aircraft used against Marshal forces during the siege of Fort Winstone.

Even more, Klaudhopper revealed that he was forced to pilot one of the planes, and that he in fact was the pilot of the plane that was discovered crashed along the Plasty Meridian in the spring. According to Klaudhopper, he’d been trying to escape, and the other pilot had shot him down.

To add insult to injury, Klaudhopper claims that Von Grimm never crossed the Meridian, and that the Bandit leader’s plan had been instead to skirt along the southern border with the Deadlands, heading east toward the ocean and a waiting ship.

If Klaudhopper’s testimony is true, then it would appear that the Colonial military forces’ attempts to gain entrance into the Territories has been for naught, and that the colonies’ current hostilities with the Territorial peoples’ is the result of a tragic mistake.

As for Klaus Klaudhopper, it would seem that he will elude justice once again. He escaped shortly after his testimony was given, in a manner almost identical to that in which he escaped during a brief detainment last year. In both instances it is believed he was aided by an accomplice, a tall woman with dark hair known believed to be named ‘Arufina’. (Perhaps unrelated, but this description matches that of the mysterious rifle-woman seen during the Point Hammond shoot out. Point Hammond is a mere four day ride from Fort Faulkner). As a result, the already considerable bounty on his head has been increased three fold, for an identifiable dead body.

Klaus_Mugshot2***

Author’s note: A version of today’s image originally appeared in this post. I wanted to update it somewhat, to explore the idea of wanted posters as a form of propaganda, or perhaps convey the idea that some joker had come along and defaced an existing poster.

Blackwood Gazette # 191- Von Grimm Associate Klaus Klaudhopper Captured; Reveals Von Grimm Never Entered the Territories at All

Blackwood Gazette #190- Tense Gunfight Between Pixie Sinclaire and Several Unidentified Parties Leaves Point Hammond in Shambles

By Maurice Merchant, Editor in Chief

16/9-Nor Eastern agent provocateur Pixie Sinclaire continues to make waves in the Colonies, as she found herself involved with a stunning outbreak of violence in the town of Point Hammond earlier this week.

Point Hammond was the last point of contact for the ill-fated Lelina Expedition, and Miss Sinclaire’s search led her to the town (which was ordered evacuated five months ago, though many citizens refused to leave). Miss Sinclaire is said to have been seen walking down the town’s main thoroughfare, asking for any information about the expedition amongst the town’s remaining citizens.

Miss Sinclaire had just exited a local feed store when several shots rang out. Witnesses say that the shots were directed at Sinclaire.

“She’d just walked out of Masterson’s,” said 52 year old James Warner. “I remember taking notice of her, because she was a stranger, and that red hair stands out around here. Anyway, shots rang out and the street muck around her starts spraying up. I didn’t see anything else, because I got the hell out of there.”

Another witness, a bar maid watching from the second story of the local saloon, saw what happened next.

“The ginger wasn’t hit, I don’t think,” the bar maid, named Alice, said. “She didn’t panic either. Just dove right into a nearby alley, like it was the most natural thing in the world. I was terrified, myself, but I didn’t hide. I couldn’t stop watching.

“After she ducked for cover, and the people on the street had scattered, a bunch of people dressed all in black rushed out into the street. They all had these weird guns I’d never seen the likes of before.

“They went right for that alley the ginger ran into. They covered it with their guns. Of a sudden, I heard a BANG! In the alley. Things went deathly silent for a bit, and the guys in black, they all stopped. Then this body comes flying out of the alley, all dressed in black, like them. Then four more shots, BANG BANG BANG BANG! Come out of the alley, and four of the guys in the street fall down, clutching their legs and arms. That’s when the rest of them rushed the alley.

“I thought the ginger might be done for, when more shots rang out. They were really loud, because they were coming from the roof right above my head. That’s when I looked up and saw this second woman with a rifle.

“She was a giant, 7 foot if she was an inch, with long black hair blowing in the wind. The Black Suits turned around, but she took out about four of them before they could figure where she was coming from. They started shooting at the saloon, and that was the limit of my taste for the spectacle, as I ran inside and huddled down in the hallway with my friend Gertie.”

Various reports from other witnesses offer only a sporadic view of events. Many don’t mention the second, unidentified woman with the rifle, though one unsubstantiated report claims that in addition to engaging the men in black uniforms, she also fired rounds at Miss Sinclaire whenever she deigned to emerge from the cover of the buildings.

Eventually, it is said that Miss Sinclaire fled south, into the woods around the town, while the remaining men in black uniforms fled north on horseback, but not before collecting their wounded and dead. At least one report claims that Sinclaire appeared to be clutching her side. A nearby platoon of Colonial Marshals searched for the group, but found no trace of them, nor of the rifle-woman, nor of Pixie Sinclaire.

“Damnedest thing ever,” said the Marshals’ platoon leader. “The only evidence that anything happened are that people said it happened and a few bullet holes in the buildings. It’s like everyone involved just up and disappeared into the ether.”

Blackwood Gazette #190- Tense Gunfight Between Pixie Sinclaire and Several Unidentified Parties Leaves Point Hammond in Shambles

Blackwood Gazette #179-Letters to the Editor vol. II

By Maurice Merchant, Editor in Chief

14/8- Welcome to another installment of Letters to the Editor, an installment that we don’t do very often because the results are often depressing. Speaking of…

Terry in Terrlytown writes:

Dear Mister Merchant:

What the hell is going on at the Gazette, lately? Every story you write now seems to be about war, or people dying in weird ways, or losing their fortune, or some sort of crisis. It’s depressing, and I don’t like it. I demand that the Gazette take on a more cheerful, uplifting tone! Why not write a story about larri-cats?

Dear Entitlement Issues in Entitlement-ville,

The Gazette is a newspaper. We report the news. If the news is depressing, it is because there are depressing events occurring. And the thing about war is, it spreads. People see a person like Dougherty taking on a person like Julianos, and they start to think, “Hey, our own situation seems a lot like hers. Maybe we should do something about it!” And before you know it, there’s a rebellion in Thankaen, and then in Ganborrah, and word of rebellion in the colonies. That in turn leads to other things, like economic upheaval, or food and fuel shortages, which leads to a harsh winter in Northern Crowndon. A war isn’t just a conflict between two people. It’s a downward spiral for anyone associated with those people.

As for larri-cats, here’s one for you: last spring, a merchant sailor saved a man from a burning building. As a gift, the man the sailor saved gave him a larri-cat as a pet. But the larri-cat isn’t domesticated, and wound up chewing off the sailor’s face. Turns out, the man didn’t want to be saved…he set the fire himself. He intentionally gave the sailor a wild larri-cat as punishment for denying him his own death. That merchant sailor can’t get a job with the reputable merchant companies anymore due to his disfigurement, so he had to go to Libertine’s Roost to find work.

Have a nice day!
*
Chris-Anathem writes:

Mister Merchant:

Word on the streets says that Rinkenbach’s new robo-butlers are leaving their owner’s houses at odd hours and meeting in city parks after dark. There’s also rumors that one of them has been running about Oeil de Fleur, raiding liquor stores and stealing all the absinthe, and another that has taken to visiting the Owl Sanctuary in Sau Anoit. I haven’t seen none of this reported on in the Gazette. Why is that?

Dear Chris:

You haven’t seen it reported on because those rumors are just that: rumors. Most of them spread by that charlatan Oculus, over at the Ex-Humanor. We publish the news, sir. Facts. Not science fictions or the flights of fancy of every backwoods yokel. And while the new Clockwork Butler has indeed exhibited strange behavior, Rinkenbach R&D is aware of the problem and working to fix it. And besides, your postage says you are from a small town In the Middle of Nowhere, so I doubt you have to worry about any disturbance from any automaton of any sort.

Good day, sir.
*
Adellafan writes (oh, good lord, this person again):

i knew it…i knew it i knew i knew it…from the moment you sent adella chatelaine off to the colonies i knew somethingbad was gonna happen to her you sent her off knowing she was gonna disappear and you not doing anything about it i warned you that if something bad happened to adella that i would hold you accountable well hold on mister because a reckoning is at hand i told you i knew people and my cousin from rommsbach is going to have a word with you just as soon as he gets out of his cups which could be a while so if you know where adella is you better go find her and bring her back and don’t tell me pixie sinclaire is looking for her because it seems to me like pixie is doing everything but looking for her goodbye for now love the paper

Dear Adellafan:

You never cease to amaze me. At first I found your daily correspondence alarming, and when the news broke of my dear friend’s disappearance I found it angering and abusive. Now I just find it mildly annoying, and often amusing.

As for Pixie Sinclaire and her search, Miss Sinclaire is a woman of many talents, with a penchant for rooting out problems. While it is disheartening that her search is taking so long, I don’t expect her to overlook another situation along the way that she feels she can fix, such as the Ancroft Assassination Conspiracy. I still believe that she is the most capable person for the job, since the colonial government has all but given up their search.

Don’t worry, adellafan. I’m sure that if and when Miss Chatelaine is found, you’ll somehow be the first to know. Perhaps you’ll see it in a dream, or a chill will go down your spine, or maybe your heart will spontaneously explode from the psychic resonance or whatever else you likely believe in.

Also, I noticed you’ve discovered the ellipsis. Now if you could only learn how to use the period. It’s like the ellipsis, except there’s only one dot instead of three and you use them to break up sentences. Nifty, yes?

This is the last time I will respond to you. Good day.

Blackwood Gazette #179-Letters to the Editor vol. II

Blackwood Gazette #157- Pixie Sinclaire Uncovers Conspiracy to Assassinate Governor of New Crowndon

By Maurice Merchant, Editor-in-Chief

14/7- We have some more details today on why exactly Pixie Sinclaire was taken to see Berclay Ancroft, the governor of New Crowndon, upon her arrival in the colonies several weeks ago.

It has been rumored for some time now that a certain element in the world of colonial/imperial politics isn’t happy with Ancroft’s policies, nor the fact that he is the first colonial born man to hold the office. While he has proven popular with the majority of the populace, this fringe element would see him removed.

Colonial authorities uncovered plans for an attempt on Ancroft’s life, and upon hearing of Sinclaire’s arrival, and given the notoriety of her actions in service of the Nor Eastern Subterfuge Society during the war with Crowndon, they enlisted her services to help root out the assassination plot.

While details are scarce, we know that the operation involved sending Miss Sinclaire ahead of Ancroft’s entourage on his campaign trail through the southern towns and villages of his province. The area is known for its traditionalist base and staunch loyalty to the Triumvirate, and the citizens have been most vocal in their protest of a colonial occupying the governor’s office for nearly a decade.

Miss Sinclaire is said to have gone undercover in the role of a distant cousin to one of the region’s most affluent families, and from there, became a part of the protest movement. Within days she was able to work her way into the most extreme circles of this movement, though exactly how she accomplished this is being kept off the official records.

Miss Sinclaire quickly gathered intelligence on the plot and worked, along with an unnamed accomplice, to sabotage and deconstruct the movement from within. By the time the governor passed through the small town where the attempt was to take place, only a few of the conspirators remained in a position to take up arms. These men were dealt with easily enough by Ancroft’s guards.

“I am very grateful to Miss Sinclaire for her efforts to ensure my safety on the campaign trail,” Ancroft wrote in an official statement. “If not for her experience and talents in the arts of espionage, I fear the attempt would have succeeded. We found ourselves completely unprepared for the possibility of such a conspiracy, and we have consulted with Miss Sinclaire on how to prepare for another such event in the future.”

Pixie Sinclaire has since left the Governor’s employ, presumably to continue her search for the missing archaeologist Veronica Trenum and the Gazette’s own Adella Chatelaine. As a personal friend of Miss Chatelaine myself, I bid Miss Sinclaire the best of luck in the endeavour.

***

Real World Influences: This story was inspired in part by that of Kate Warne, credited as the first female detective in the history of the United States, who worked for the Pinkerton Agency during the Civil War and helped to thwart an assassination attempt on President Lincoln.

And don’t forget, you can read more about Pixie Sinclaire in the first full length Blackwood Empire novel, Where, No One Knows, now available in paperback and e-formats.

Blackwood Gazette #157- Pixie Sinclaire Uncovers Conspiracy to Assassinate Governor of New Crowndon

Blackwood Gazette #134: Pixie Sinclaire Runs Rampant on Waystation Echo

By Chester Seaton, News

4/6-Former Nor Eastern saboteur and spy Pixie Sinclaire was spotted on Waystation Echo earlier this week by Crowndon soldiers visiting the station on layover. Given the 100,000 gold imperions bounty on her head in Crowndon, the soldiers attempted to apprehend her. According to eye witnesses, they failed miserably.

“The soldiers were in here, celebrating something,” said a bartender at the station’s tavern, The Rusty Fishhook. “A birthday or promotion, doesn’t really matter. In comes this woman…all 5 foot 6 inches of ‘er, red frizzy hair stiff from the salt air and cursin’ up a storm under her breath. Got the impression she wasn’t happy with her current travel arrangements.

“Anyways, she walks by the soldiers at the bar and they go quiet, like guys are wont to do whenever a pretty lass walks by. Except they wasn’t trying to decide who gets to take a run at her. They knew who she was. I think everyone did. She orders a glass of absinthe and I get it for her, and all the while the soldiers are stepping away from the bar and fanning out. She puts her money on the bar and tells me to keep the change, and all hell breaks loose.

“One of the soldiers, he starts to say, ‘Get her!’ But before he can even manage it, she’s turned around and winging her glass at his head. Nails him right in the nose and he goes back, blood and absinthe and broken glass splashing across the floor. The others, they’re drunk and surprised and not too bright to begin with. By the time they come to their senses, the girl’s run out the door.”

Miss Sinclaire was then reported as running toward the northern docks, with conflicting reports stating that she had anywhere from one soldier to an entire platoon storming after her. The Port Authority reports that over ten thousand gold imperions worth of damage was done to the station, as Miss Sinclaire tipped over merchants’ stands and broke open steam pipes to aid in her escape.

Miss Sinclaire was ultimately able to escape capture, and it is presumed that she hopped aboard a ship and is continuing on her way to the colonies. It was previously reported that she aimed to find the whereabouts of Adella Chatelaine.

Pixie Sinclaire is wanted in the Empire of Crowndon for war crimes against the Empire during the Dividing War, chiefly the sabotage of a wartime supply railroad that resulted in the deaths of over 500 civilian passengers, and the starvation of Crowndon soldiers serving on the front.

***

SURPRISE ULTERIOR MOTIVE!

Today’s post serves two purposes: one is to help further the Adella Chatelaine storyline, however slowly. The other, of course, is to remind you that you can read all about Pixie Sinclaire, former Agent Provocateur, in the full length Blackwood Empire novel, “Where, No One Knows”, available in paperback and as a Kindle e-book, and even better, a free Kindle e-book if you’re an Unlimited subscriber. Check it out and tell me what you think!

Blackwood Gazette #134: Pixie Sinclaire Runs Rampant on Waystation Echo

Blackwood Gazette #113: “She’s Alive, Dammit!”: Pixie Sinclaire Vows to Find Adella Chatelaine

By Basilio Mura, Nor Easter Correspondent

4/5- Family, friends, and co-workers gathered outside of the Gazette’s Nor Eastern offices today to pay their respects to Adella Chatelaine, who has been missing for nearly eight months. Those of us hoping for a quiet, somber gathering with which to say our goodbyes and close this chapter of our lives got something completely different.

Halfway through the eulogy, delivered by Maurice Merchant, owner and editor in chief of the Gazette, none other than proclaimed national heroine and subject of many a penny dreadful, Pixie Sinclaire, pushed her way through the crowd and nudged Mr. Merchant from the podium.

“Look at you all!” she cried at us. “Giving up on your best and brightest. We’ve seen no hide nor hair of Chatelaine, no further evidence of her demise other than that there is no evidence at all. I’ve known Adella for years, I know what she’s capable of. And let us not forget who she’s with—“

It was at this point that guards reached the stage and pulled Miss Sinclaire off the podium.

Her last words, as she was thrown into the back of an authority wagon:

“She’s alive, dammit! And if no one else will find her, I will!”

The local constable has yet to release a statement on any charges Sinclaire might face. Many of the mourners gathered were understandably upset, but a few others seemed oddly hopeful.

“They should let her go,” said a man who claimed to be Miss Chatelaine’s cousin. “If there’s any chance at all that Adella Chatelaine and the others can be found, then Pixie Sinclaire is the one to do it.”

Blackwood Gazette #113: “She’s Alive, Dammit!”: Pixie Sinclaire Vows to Find Adella Chatelaine

Blackwood Gazette #110- No Further Evidence of Missing Expedition Found; Authorities Call Off Search After Several Parties Go Missing

By Hil Spencer, New Crowndon Correspondent

29/4- Sad news today for those of us at the Gazette and those closely following the disappearance of the Lelina expedition: the Colonial Marshals have called off their ongoing search for the missing townspeople and the academic team sent to investigate ruins in the area.

The news comes as an exceptionally hard blow after the recent ray of hope in finding Martine Babin, a member of the expedition. After the professor was recovered, search efforts in the area between Lelina and Point Hammond were doubled. However, a rash of disappearances amongst the search parties has caused the efforts to be ceased immediately.

“This decision is deeply regrettable,” said Chief Arnold Murray. “But the price of a continued search outweighs the benefit of finding the missing persons. Since we renewed the search, the number of missing has tripled.”

On top of the news that the search has ended in the wake of these new disappearances, Chief Murray has ordered a mandatory evacuation for the township of Point Hammond, as well as all townships south of the McHammet-Docker line.

“There’s something strange going on in the region,” Murray went on to say. “We have no idea what it is, and I’m not sure we can figure it out without losing a large number of people. Quite frankly, whatever is going on has me scared, and I don’t admit that lightly.”

The evacuation is already underway. Memorial services for the missing will be held early next week. A public ceremony for Gazette reporter Adella Chatelaine will be held at the paper’s Oeil de Fleur office in Nor Easter next Mursday morning.

Blackwood Gazette #110- No Further Evidence of Missing Expedition Found; Authorities Call Off Search After Several Parties Go Missing