Blackwood Gazette #127: Johanna McKilroy Causes Millions (More) in Damages During Daring Escape from Custody; Declared “Public Enemy Number One”

By Chester Seaton, News

25/5- The city of Toring has once again felt the ill effects of having Captain Johanna McKilroy in their midst. While Imperial Authorities were transferring the infamous pirate hunter for trial in the city she most wronged, two ships under her command swooped in to liberate her.

“I saw the whole thing,” said Albert Hensworth, a citizen of Toring. “Right from my back window, through this here telescope. I like to watch the trains come in. They were about fifty miles out when two airships came in low, and I saw flashes from the deck of one while the other floated over the top of the train with men dangling from ropes.”

Survivors from the train corroborate this tale, saying several armed men landed upon the roof of the train. Guards stationed on the train fought valiantly, managing to repel the attackers until the train reached Garrand’s Tunnel.

The ships broke off their attack, but unfortunately the pirate hunters were prepared. A third ship reportedly waited at the other end of the tunnel. As the train exited, crew from the ship opened fire with rifles, killing the conductor. His body fell over the controls and the train was unable to decelerate before entering the city. It hit a bend in the track and derailed, slamming through two blocks of buildings before coming to a halt. Anna Whitley was in one of these buildings, sipping tea.

“One minute, I’m sitting across from my suitor, talking about what, I don’t remember,” Miss Whitley said. “It was perfectly quiet. The next thing I know, there is this slight rumbling, and the cups and saucers in the tea shop all start to jingle just slightly. But the rumbling grew, the jingling turns into a full on dance. Then the whole shop explodes in brick and dust, and next thing I know, my suitor is no longer sitting in front of me. I think the train hit him.”

McKilroy and several guards survived the crash and exited the train. They sent up a flare and within five minutes, officers from Toring Yard arrived on the scene. Unfortunately, crew members from McKilroy’s fleet had taken up position in the buildings surrounding the site. Fearing they would be overrun, the guard commander reportedly ordered the execution of Captain McKilroy.

“She must have gotten loose at some point during the chaos,” said Corporal James Robargh, who was sent on this duty along with his sergeant and a private. “We entered the car were she was chained up, but she ambushed us. I swear she jumped from the overhead, hit the private in the back of the head with the chain of her shackle; she had it wrapped around her remaining hand. I tried to bring up my musket but she kicked me in the gut, and the shot went off into the deck. Then she turned on the sergeant, beat his face in with the chain wrapped around her fist. I just sat and watched, too afraid to do anything. She was like some sort of animal, she was. Vicious. Rabid, like.”

McKilroy was next seen exiting the train car and making a mad dash through the street with gun-shot raining down around her from all sides. She managed to escape into a building controlled by her crew, and they escorted her to the roof. Imperial Authorities followed, engaging in a close-quarters exchange of fire within the tight corridors of an apartment building.

“I’ve never seen nothing like it,” said Private Joseph Carnell. “Gunfighting in a building where people live…it was hell, I tell you. Pure hell. Smoke filling the halls, choking us, making it impossible to aim. And you can hear the people screaming in their rooms, not knowing what’s going on and you just hope you don’t fire and wind up shooting through someone’s wall or floor. And worse, the people you’re fighting don’t have the same care, the same hesitation. Never seen anything like. Hope to never again.”

Once on the roof, McKilroy and her remaining men clambered onto a rope ladder which was pulled up to one of her ships. Survivors of the incident say that she made a lewd hand gesture as she ascended. Authorities attempted to pursue, but their efforts were hampered as a fourth and fifth ship had staked out the nearest Authority sky dock and begun hammering it with mortar fire. Ships from the next station were unable to reach the scene before McKilroy disappeared.

It is believed that Captain McKilroy will go to ground somewhere in the Divide, where the deep ravines and canyons will make it next to impossible to locate her. Imperial Authorities along the route have been alerted, and Fleet Admiral Percival Dunbarrow Pillsbury III made it adamantly clear:

“This transgression will not go unanswered. The damage to Toring at the hands of McKilroy and her crew not once but twice is a travesty of the highest order. As of today, Captain Johanna McKilroy is declared public enemy number one, and to be viewed as less than the pirates she claims to hunt.”

Blackwood Gazette #127: Johanna McKilroy Causes Millions (More) in Damages During Daring Escape from Custody; Declared “Public Enemy Number One”

The Shroom Job Part IX

Eli had no way of knowing how long they’d been in the air. The sun had gone down long ago and showed no signs of rising anytime soon, as far as he could tell.

The two pirates had brought a lantern and set it up on the crate between them. It cast just enough light to see the cards by. Moths swarmed around the weather beaten thing, trying without success to get to the tiny gas flame inside.

The pirate with the pipe reached out and plucked one of the moths out of the air. He crushed it in his palm and looked at the powdery white carcass.

“Ay, Gola,” the pirate said in an accent that indicated he was from somewhere in the southern provinces of Crowndon. “Ya think I’kin smoke this buggy?”

Gola gave the pipe smoker an exasperated look and said, “Don’t know. Don’t care. If you’re so curious, why don’t you put it in your pipe and try it.”

The pipe smoker regarded the carcass a bit longer, removed his pipe from his mouth, and tilted the moth’s remains into the bowl. He took a pinch of leaf from a pocket on his shirt and packed it in good and tight. Gola watched all of this with a vague amusement as he shuffled and dealt the cards.

The pipe smoker struck a match and lit the pipe. One, two, three puffs of smoke. He sat there, as though deciding what he thought. After a few seconds, he began hacking violently.

Gola laughed at his comrade. When the pipe smoker vomited, Gola laughed even harder. The pipe smoker regained himself and tapped his pipe out on the floor. He kicked the remains toward the open cargo door.

“Nawp. T’aint smokable.”

Gola shook his head and continued dealing. A gust of wind blew in through the door. This had happened several times through out the night, and every time the cards scattered about the car. This was the first time, however, that the wind blew one of the cards up to the top of the crate wall, a few feet down from where Eli lay.

Shit, he thought to himself. The two pirates went about picking up the cards. They checked the cards as they did. Gola paused.

“There’s one missing,” he said. “The Whore of Rains.”

“Ah, that’s no good,” the pipe smoker said. “I quite favor the picture on that one.” The pipe smoker did another quick scan along the floor, while Gola started back to the crate.

“Come on back, Pabyo,” Gola said. “The cards gone.”

Pabyo, who had moved to the side of the car opposite of where Eli lay watching, turned and started back toward the crate. He was about to sit down when another moth flew past his face.

“Ay!” he said, swatting at the insect. His eyes followed the moth, darting up and down. And then, they stopped, fixed on a point at the top of the crate wall. Eli felt like Pabyo was looking straight at him.

“There she is!” Pabyo said, pointing.

“Huh?” Gola said, and looked up. “I don’t see nothing.”

“Right there!” Pabyo said, hurrying toward the wall with his bony elbows bowed outward, working tirelessly as he moved. He stopped at the base of the crate wall, where one of the boxes had fallen earlier. He stepped up on it, and Eli saw his head pop up over the edge.

Long, gnarled fingers reached up and grabbed the card. Eli tried to fold in on himself, as if such a thing was possible. Pabyo was so fixated on the card, however, that he didn’t notice Eli. He just stood, grinning at the card, teeth gleaming with a yellow-brown sheen in the faint gas light.

“Yup!” he said, “That’s her–”

He stopped. Now he really was looking at Eli. The dumb look on his face twisted into a horrifying mask of fierce wrinkles, his dull eyes flashed with violent intent. Pabyo the stupid pirate had become Pabyo the blood thirsty monster.

“Who’s you?” he demanded. Eli didn’t reply, struck dumb by the shock of being spotted and the sudden change in Pabyo’s demeanor. Pabyo’s thin arm shot over the edge of the crate wall and grabbed Eli’s collar. His grip was like a rusty bear trap. He pulled Eli out and Eli fell, hard, to the ground. His broken ankle banged against the floor and the pain brought bright spots in his vision.

“Pick him up and toss him!” Gola snarled. Pabyo picked Eli up and dragged him over to the door, but he did not toss him.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Throw him and be done with it!”

“Nah, not yet,” Pabyo said, and brandished a knife. “I wanna smoke his right eye.”

Eli saw the point of the blade move toward his eye and turned his head. He waited for what felt like an eternity for the knife to bite into the soft flesh of his eye, but it never did. Instead, he heard Gola shouting.

“Stop, Pabyo!” he said, rushing forward. “Look at his hip.”

Eli opened his eye and saw Pabyo’s gaze move down. The dumb look returned. What were they looking at?

“He must be the guy,” Gola said. “Pull him in, set him down.”

Pabyo pulled Eli in and pushed him toward the crate. Eli stumbled toward it and sat down. When he did, the revolver in his right holster scratched against the wooden surface of the crate.

“You a cartographer?” Pabyo asked.

“Y-yes,” Eli said, straightening himself up and trying to sound assertive.

“Kind of young for a Cartographer, ain’t you?” Gola said. “Or at least, young for a traitor. Usually only ones go bad are the ones been around long enough to know every thing they been told is a crock.”

Eli didn’t know how to respond, so he didn’t. He could only hope that his surprise about being right didn’t show.

Well, perhaps being “right” wasn’t the best descriptor. He’d just been speculating about rogue Cartographers based on rumors he’d heard.

However, if Hester was a rogue agent, wouldn’t they have been expecting a woman?

“How much do you know about me, and how I operate?”

Pabyo and Gola shared a look. Pabyo raised his shoulders.

“Captain Delamore didn’t say nothing to us, ‘cept that he has a Feral Cartographer in his pocket,” Gola said. Eli nodded, satisfied with this answer, but Gola went on.

“Come to think of it, he didn’t say nothing about you being here.” Gola’s eyes became suspicious. Pabyo’s hand worked around the grip of his knife.

“Wasn’t supposed to be,” Eli said. “I came back here to check the cargo when you all attacked, so I decided to wait. It took you idiots so long that I got bored and fell asleep.”

Pabyo and Gola’s heads snapped back as though they’d been slapped.

“B-but, we didn’t know you’d be here!” Pabyo said. “Knowing might’ve given us the proper motivation!”

Eli fixed him with his eyes and smirked. The speed with which he was constructing and falling into the character of a rogue agent didn’t surprise him. He’d always been a good liar.

“Motivation? Do you really need motivation to do the best work you possibly can? Don’t you take pride in your work, man?”

Gola snickered and said, “I’ve been telling him for years, ever since we was kids in Dux-”

Eli snapped to Gola, shutting him up.

“Since you were kids? And he still doesn’t listen?”

“I, uh…”

“And you still put up with it? What the hell does that say about you?”

Gola’ s mouth worked up and down, but no protest came out. He put his head down and walked away, muttering to himself.

“It ain’t his fault,” Pabyo said. “He’s like a big brother to me. I’m a bit slow in the head.”

Eli responded only by pulling the revolver and giving it a quick inspection. Pabyo got the hint and moved over to where Gola sat, his feelings hurt.

The surface of the revolver was flawless, with nothing to distort his reflection except for the shape of the gun. It had been Violet’s. He wondered if she’d somehow survived, and if she did, would he? This was a game he didn’t know how to play.

Pabyo cried out from where the two pirates had been sitting. Gola stood over him, yelling in Monteddorian, and reached down. He grabbed Pabyo by his hair and dragged him to his feet. Pabyo’s pipe fumbled out of his hand. Gola caught it and jammed it bowl first into Pabyo’s mouth. As Pabyo choked on it, Gola hauled him over to the open cargo door, grabbed him by the front of the shirt, and threw him out of the car. Eli watched in stunned silence as Pabyo disappeared into the night, trying to scream and unable to.

Gola turned and said, “Been waiting to do that for years. I guess I just needed the ‘proper motivation.'”

To Be Continued…

This is part nine of the The Shroom Job. The rest of the story can be read here. The Shroom Job updates on Saturdays.

The Shroom Job Part IX

The Shroom Job, Part VII


Violet opened her eyes to a blurry swirl of orange and green. She rolled over onto her back and pain shot through her body from her right side. Her teeth grit against the pain and tears welled up in her eyes, further blurring her vision.

Trails of smoke led by bits of flaming wood still arced through the sky above her. The sky itself had deepened to shades of red and purple. The shape of a person limped into view above her.

“You alive, kid?”

Continue reading “The Shroom Job, Part VII”

The Shroom Job, Part VII

The ‘Shroom Job, Part VI


Eli watched the pirates leave, his mind still trying to process what he had just heard. The idea of using hallucinogenic mushrooms to start a war was something akin to what the Cartographers were in the business of doing, not a band of freewheeling pirates whose plan to raid a train included utterly destroying the track said train was on while over a 400 foot drop.

Continue reading “The ‘Shroom Job, Part VI”

The ‘Shroom Job, Part VI

Serial- The ‘Shroom Job, Part 4


Violet had already started moving before Hester hit the platform. The sudden movement of the train caught her off guard, however, and she stumbled. Hester, being much more graceful, hopped over her and kept going.

Violet scrambled to her feet and found it hard to keep them under her. The train was definitely moving forward, and gaining speed quickly. The collapsing steel and wood structure of the train track roared throughout the valley. She dared not look back as she found her balance and pushed forward.

Continue reading “Serial- The ‘Shroom Job, Part 4”

Serial- The ‘Shroom Job, Part 4

Video-Blackwood Empire Prototype (Keylight Exercise)

Hello, all! This was a project I made for school about a year and a half ago, and it was my first real experience using Keylight in After Effects. We had to come up with a theme, build a matte painting around that theme, and composite ourselves into the scene. I had been kicking around the idea of doing something in the steampunk sub-genre for a while, and came up with this.

This video was also the genesis for ‘Blackwood Empire’, and the character that would eventually become the disgraced Admiral Roderick Beauchamp La Pierre. My initial idea was to do something like a kid’s show, complete with catchy songs to earn the eternal ire of parents everywhere, but I have absolutely no idea how to write for children, especially when the protagonist is a drunken pirate, and I don’t have a musical bone in my body, so that was out. So now I’m aiming squarely for that golden PG-13 spot occupied by such pulpy adventure movies like Indiana Jones, The Mummy, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Video-Blackwood Empire Prototype (Keylight Exercise)

Book Excerpt-Where, No One Knows


Today’s post is an excerpt from the novella “Where, No One Knows”, which I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year. In it, Pixie Sinclaire is tasked with infiltrating Where, No One Knows, a floating prison made out of three enormous interconnected ironclad warships. Her task: find and extract her former lover, Rigel Rinkenbach, before he unlocks the secret to creating Blackwood and gives it to the NorEastern Empire’s enemies.

Things don’t go as planned, however. For no sooner than Pixie arrives on the ship does a woman named Dougherty lead a mutiny, throwing the ship into chaos. She also wants Rinkenbach, for very different reasons. Pixie and Dougherty forge a fragile alliance, and come up with a plan to get Pixie onto the command ship where Rinkenbach is being held.

Continue reading “Book Excerpt-Where, No One Knows”

Book Excerpt-Where, No One Knows

Character Profile- Arufina Villanova


Arufina Villanova is a member of a society of assassins known as the Scarlett Circle, an organization trumped in mystery and cloak-and-dagger-ness by only the Ephemeral Cartographers. Her older sister was a Cartographer before the war, and Aru might have been as well. Something else happened, however, and Arufina’s sister disappeared, putting Arufina on the run.

Continue reading “Character Profile- Arufina Villanova”

Character Profile- Arufina Villanova

Character Profile: Pixie Sinclaire

It’s supposed to be a compass…

Pixie Sinclaire…where to begin? Most of her childhood was spent traveling the NorEastern countryside with her father, digging around in old caves and tombs. At the age of fourteen, her father was arrested and deported for grave robbing–ahem, sorry. “Unlicensed Archaeology”–leaving Pixie to fend for herself.

She was recruited into the North Eastern Subterfuge Society, where she served the Empire during the war with Crowndon as an agent provocateur, smuggling plans in and out of enemy territory and sabotaging Crowndon equipment.

It was during this time that she ran afoul of Sir Rigel Rinkenbach and, despite her better judgment, began a long and sordid relationship with him that ended due to a disagreement on whether or not Rigel should build weapons of mass destruction to end the war.

Hey, people have broken up over smaller things, right?

After the war, Pixie went to work for herself, setting up shop on Libertine’s Roost in Demon’s Eye bay, home of pirates, mercenaries, and alchemists without conscience.

Character Profile: Pixie Sinclaire

Video-Blackwood Empire Mock Trailer Animatic

This is an animatic for a project I hope to produce over the next six months for my senior project. It will incorporate digitally created visual effects with live action footage. Hopefully it turns out like I see it in my head (always the tricky part, that), and I can use it for a Kickstarter or a pitch video to get the web-series I want to produce a chance in hell of existing.

This is very much a work in progress, so suggestions are welcome.

Video-Blackwood Empire Mock Trailer Animatic