The Lelina Horror, Part 6

ADELLA (IV)

Our journey into the southern frontier has been rather eventful this past week (and as a result, unduly stressful.) After a series of unfortunate turns of events, we have found ourselves stranded on the shores of the Miskaton river. As I write this, I sit on the river bank, watching the inferno that was our river boat floating down the river while sitting on a waterlogged trunk (not mine, unfortunately).

Not ten feet away, Mister Mackay and Doctor Trenum are interrogating one of the surviving passengers, one Mister Klaus Klaudhopper; yes, the very same Klaus Klaudhopper being hunted for the Waystation Bravo disaster. There is no sign of the other suspect, one Miss Arufina Villanova, with whom Mister Klaudhopper was believed to be traveling.

Whatever his involvement in that, it appears he has a part to play in our current predicament as well. A predicament that begun thusly:

On Sunday before last, we pulled into port of a small city called Docryville, a township that sprung up around river trade and entertainment. Since this was to be an overnight affair, the members of our expedition quickly scattered to the winds to seek amusements elsewhere, with Meriam asking me to join Professor Babin, Nico and herself on an exploration of the town’s rather misplaced yet well regarded library.

I agreed, and am sorry to say I quickly came to regret it. While Meriam and the Professor took to the shelves with great enthusiasm, I found myself sitting at a table with Nico, bored out of my mind. That Nico isn’t that great of a conversationalist didn’t make matters any easier. I whittled away at the time by perusing a book of maps of the area: dry material, to be sure, but it could prove helpful down the line.

Nico had long begun to nap and my eyes started to feel heavy as well when a loud thump echoed through the library. An injured man stumbled into the main floor, clutching his side and grunting angrily in a heavy Rommsbachian accent. I stood up and began to hesitantly approach him, stopping when he lifted a silver revolver.

I could see in his eyes that he would have no problem using the firearm if he deemed me a proper threat, but since I wasn’t, I knew he wouldn’t use it on me.

“Are you alone?” he asked me. I told him I was not, and gestured to Nico, who still slept on the table. It was then that the Professor and Meriam stumbled out from behind the stacks. The man swung the gun around at them, looked them over, deemed them a non-threat as well, and relaxed a bit.

“All of you need to get out of here,” he said. I asked him why.

“Are you in some trouble, my boy?” Professor Babin said. Klaudhopper sneered at him, I imagine at being called ‘my boy’, but he answered.

“Ja,” said the injured man, nodding, so I took it to be an affirmation. “Big trouble. Very close behind and following quickly. Believe me when I say, you do not want to be here when it arrives.”

I looked to my compatriots. Professor Babin frowned skeptically, while Meriam stood silently behind him, wringing her hands. Nico, who just stirred from his nap, sat up and asked what was going on.

“We’re leaving,” I told them, trying to sound resolute despite the blood pumping through my ears. Seeing no reason for the Rommsbachian to lie to us I’d decided to take him at his word. I approached the front desk and told the librarian that we needed to leave, and asked if there was a back door. She told us that there was, and proceeded to detail the long bureaucratic process we would have to follow in order to get the door open. Halfway through her monologue, a drawling voice interrupted from the halls outside.

“BOOOOY!” said the voice. “Why are you running? We just want to discuss the terms of your contract. You were, after all, the one who suggested we open negotiations. So come on out, boy. Let’s negotiate and try to reconcile your failure with my profit, shall we?”

The Rommsbachian cursed under his breath and hefted the revolver, his hand shaking slightly, and reiterated to us the necessity of vacating the premises five minutes prior. I asked him who was coming.

“Von Grimm,” was all he said. Professor Babin and Meriam both gasped. I felt every muscle in my body tighten. Doctor Argyle Von Grimm? What was he doing so far east?

I turned back to the librarian to insist that she open the back door, but she was gone. A door at the back of her office hung open, letting in the last of the day’s light. I told the others to follow me as I went around the desk. The Professor, Meriam, and Nico followed, but the Rommsbachian planted his feet, squaring for a fight.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” I asked.

“Making a stand,” he said, and drew a second revolver. “Von Grimm will not stop until my debt is paid, or he is dead, or I am dead. Better to end it now. If I run, he will burn town looking for me. Don’t want to think what he might do if he finds me with you.”

“So get out of town, if you’re so worried about it,” I said.

“How? He has men everywhere.”

“You seem resourceful,” I told him. “I feel like you could probably figure that out for yourself.”

“Fair enough. How will Von Grimm know I have left?”

I took a deep breath and made a choice, a choice that was probably incredibly foolish, looking back on it now.

I told him that I would give Von Grimm a witness. The Rommsbachian nodded and turned to leave. Before he did, I asked him to fire two shots at a window at the back of the library. Without hesitation, he lifted the revolver. It coughed thunder through the stacks and the bullets hit the window, cracking it but not breaking it. I told him that would suffice and he ran, leaving me alone in the library with a mad man.

In the hall outside, I heard voices and the sound of rapid footsteps. I had to act fast. I ran to one of the tables, picked up a chair without stopping, and slammed it into the cracked window. The glass shattered and fell, most of it outside. A piece hit my right arm and scratched my wrist. All better to sell the illusion, really.

I fell to the floor and held my wrist, trying to staunch the flow. A couple seconds later, several armed brigands ran into the library, flintlocks drawn and charged. They saw the open window and ran over, cursing. Then they saw me.

One of them picked me up by the arm, shoved his weapon in my face and demanded to know where the Rommsbachian had gone. My eyes cut toward the window. It should have been obvious. I told him the man had smashed the window and escaped into the alley beyond. That was not a satisfactory answer apparently, and the man made to strike me with the grip of his gun. Another stopped him, a tall man with a curling mustache and a monocle, leaning on a cane in the center of the room. I recognized him immediately as Doctor Argyle Von Grimm.

“Now, now, Budd. No need for that, just yet,” Von Grimm said. “I must apologize for my man, ma’am. He takes his moniker a little too seriously at times.”

“And what would that be?” I asked.

“Big Bad Bud. I coined it my self. He took to it like a fish to water. Started writing it in blood on the walls of places we robbed. I personally find it all a bit garish but I can’t argue with results.”

I scanned the faces of the others while Von Grimm spoke. They were stern and scarred men, all of them missing arms and legs and hands, all replaced with mechanical facsimiles.

“Speaking of monikers, ma’am, what should I call you?”

“Adella. Chatelaine.”

A look of recognition came over his face.

“You’re that reporter for the Blackwood Gazette,” he said, and I nodded. “Fine publication, that. That article about my exploits a few months back did wonders for my reputation. I never really had problems fighting with townspeople before, but now they just roll over and let us right in. Haha! As good an advertisement as a man could ask for. I feel I should pay the Gazette for their service.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out three gold coins, which he placed in my hand. He then excused himself and told his men to follow ‘Mister Klaudhopper’. The men climbed through the window. Von Grimm left the way he came.

When they were gone, I let go a deep sigh of relief. It’s not every day you find you have a fan in a complete psychopath. I looked at the gold coins in my hand. I did not keep them, but placed them in the empty donations jar the librarian had set up on the front desk. I waited a moment before heading outside. There was a trough for watering horses by the front door, along with a water pump. I felt the need to wash my hands, and the wound. I did so, and headed toward the water front, back to the steam boat.

I’d had my fill of Docryville.

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The Lelina Horror, Part 6

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 #183- World Leaders Call for Summit to Discuss Appearance of Advanced Weapons Being Used by Rebel Movements

By Chester Seaton, News

28/8- The Thankaen Coup. The Ganborran Uprising. The Plasty Meridian Crisis. The attempted assassination of New Crowndon Governor Ancroft. All of these incidents, despite being otherwise unrelated, have one common thread: in each case, the aggressors involved used highly advanced, semi-automatic rifles of unknown make or origin. While not necessarily a new technology, semi-automatic weapons have up to this point been a rarity, due either to pricing or the outright restriction of their manufacturing and sale by the governments involved.

“The sudden appearance of these weapons in the hands of dissidents around the globe is alarming,” said Lord General Johnathan Gorsky, the supreme commander of Crowndon’s military and one of its highest ranking oligarchs. “In many cases, the military units facing these weapons are still using flint- or even matchlock muskets. That such large quantities of these weapons could be manufactured without someone noting the diversion of resources and shipped to all corners of the globe while slipping past inspection pickets could potentially tip the scales of global power if unchecked, and is cause for everyone to worry, be it the colonies or Sarnwain or even the Triumvirate itself.”

In response to this growing crisis, Lord General Gorsky has called for a gathering of world leaders, including himself, the Nor Eastern Empress Marcellette Bastian, the Monteddorian High King Mario Adallantes, and Alejandro Julianos. Representatives from the Triumvirate colonies and the Sarnwainian Kingdoms are expected to attend as well.

“The aim of the summit will be founding a unified focus on the manufacturing and supply of these weapons,” the Lord General said. “We will take stock of current evidence and hopefully be able to follow the chain right to whomever is making these rifles.”

We asked Lord General Gorsky what he thought of the current leading theory, that the infamous bandit leader and Mad Mechanist, Doctor Argyle Von Grimm, was the instigator in this crisis.

“I can only theorize,” said Gorsky. “So don’t quote this as fact, but I believe Von Grimm, if involved, is merely one link in a chain being pulled by something, or someone, much larger and nefarious. However, I do not believe him to be the mastermind.”

The summit is expected to be held sometime next month, at an undisclosed, neutral location.

Blackwood Gazette #183- World Leaders Call for Summit to Discuss Appearance of Advanced Weapons Being Used by Rebel Movements

Blackwood Gazette #176- Frontier Town Comes Under Attack; Doctor Argyle Von Grimm Orchestrating Conflicts, Marshals Say

By Chester Seaton, News

11/8- The colonial frontier runs red with blood as the Colonial Marshals report that a small frontier town was attacked by a Duv-Ayid raiding party late last week. The Marshals report over sixty fatalities on both sides.

“The initial conclusion reached by many is that the Duv-Ayid attacked a town unprovoked,” said Lieutenant Stanley Field, an officer with the Marshals sent to investigate the incident. “The remainder of the town and several of my men have their blood up and are looking for a fight, but I believe this would be folly.”

The reason for Fielder’s conclusion?

“For one, Duv-Ayid scouts have been spotted along the plains of the frontier for more than a month now. Thus far they have made no acts of aggression beyond their mere presence, and we have standing orders not to engage unless they act first.

“Secondly, and this is the most curious aspect, several of those killed during the attack have clockwork prostheses similar to those worn by Doctor Argyle Von Grimm’s gang. This wouldn’t be too surprising, were these dead on one side of the fight or the other. But these prostheses were found amongst the dead of both the Duv-Ayid and the townspeople.”

This strange development has led Fielder to develop a disturbing theory.

“It is my belief that Von Grimm has manipulated both sides into conflict. Not only that, but I believe that Von Grimm is the man responsible for supplying the Duv-Ayid with the advanced rifles they used during the attack.

“Furthermore, it is my belief that Von Grimm has not only supplied the Duv-Ayid with these weapons, but the separatists who tried to assassinate governor Ancroft as well. It’s also entirely possible that he is supplying these weapons to the Dougherty rebellion in Monteddor, as well as the recent military coups in Thankaen and Ganborrah.

These conclusions lead one to wonder how a bandit in the colonies could have such a far reaching influence, however. After all, early conjecture about the possibility of Von Grimm supplying these weapons were shot down as being ludicrous.

“People forget that Von Grimm’s career didn’t begin in the colonies…he was a menace for decades in Nor Easter,” Fielder said. “He also has had dealings with the Royals in Monteddor. The man is connected, and he’s a technical mastermind. Some say he’s on par with Rinkenbach, if Rinkenbach were actively malevolent rather than carelessly aloof.

“If anyone has the the mind, the motivation, and the resources to enact such a far reaching conspiracy of unrest, I’d say it’s Von Grimm. It’s always been Von Grimm, and people seem to have forgotten that fact.”

Blackwood Gazette #176- Frontier Town Comes Under Attack; Doctor Argyle Von Grimm Orchestrating Conflicts, Marshals Say

Blackwood Gazette #169- Incriminating Evidence Found in Home of Former Gazette Writer; Leads to Weapons Cache

By Maurice Merchant, Editor-in-Chief

31/7-The ongoing investigation to determine the depth of former Gazette reporter Hil Spencer’s involvement with Doctor Argyle Von Grimm’s gang has produced some startling evidence.

Law enforcement officers have finished an intensive search of Mister Spencer’s home, and claim to have found several documents that indicate Spencer was not only in contact with Von Grimm, but at least two other unrelated entities expressing anti-triumvirate sentiments.

One of these groups is the same organization that conspired to assassinate the Governor of Crowndon, Barclay Ancroft, earlier this month. Colonial authorities have not revealed any details of the third party.

The Colonial Marshals have reportedly requested the assistance of a cryptanalyst to help ascertain any hidden message that may be contained within the correspondence. While they did not divulge the specifics of what they are looking for, they intimated that Mister Spencer is nothing more than a middle man for a larger, more nefarious group.

Other evidence uncovered from Mister Spencer’s estate included a large stash of weapons crates containing the same unmarked semi-automatic rifles that have been surfacing in rebel uprisings around the Sarnwainian Empire over the last few weeks. The Marshals and Colonial Heads of State refused to comment on the implications of this.

Blackwood Gazette #169- Incriminating Evidence Found in Home of Former Gazette Writer; Leads to Weapons Cache

Blackwood Gazette #150- Gazette Reporter Accused of Aiding Von Grimm Gang in Fort Winstone Massacre

By Maurice Merchant, Editor-in-Chief

3/7- Ever since the Dragonfly aircraft meant to aid Colonial Marshals in retaking Fort Winstone from Doctor Argyle Von Grimm were hijacked and turned against the Marshals themselves, people have wondered how Von Grimm knew the aircraft were coming. An investigation into the matter has revealed startling evidence that our own correspondent, Mister Hil Spencer, was implicit in this atrocity.

The Gazette reported on the Marshals’ intent to use the aircraft against Von Grimm several days before they were shipped. Since telegraph wires coming in and out of the Fort had been cut in the first days of the Marshals’ siege, and since the Gazette’s circulation in the Colonies is limited and late due to printing schedules, it was assumed the Von Grimm gang was cut off and we were given the go ahead to report the story.

The recent capture of a man affiliated with Von Grimm in a small town sixty miles east, however, has shed light on this story. The captured man claims that he was positioned in the town for the sole purpose of receiving wires from New Crowndon, and then relaying that information to a lookout at the fort using a lantern.

Thanks to the telegraph officer’s unusually meticulous record keeping, it was discovered that the messages regarding information on the aircrafts’ delivery schedule came from an office in the business quarter of New Crowndon, an office often frequented by Mister Spencer.

Mister Spencer was arrested late last night, and it is to the Gazette’s shame that the New Crowndon branch of the Gazette has been closed pending further investigation. As owner and proprietor of the Gazette, it is my duty to personally apologize to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives outside of Fort Winstone. I vow that, going forward, we will take careful considerations concerning what information we print, and who is given that information to report.

Blackwood Gazette #150- Gazette Reporter Accused of Aiding Von Grimm Gang in Fort Winstone Massacre

Blackwood Gazette #145- Scouting Parties From Territories Spotted Along Newland Frontier

By Hil Spencer, New Crowndon Correspondent

23/6- The tenuous peace between Imperial colonial interests and the Territories continues to be tested this week, as several scouting parties bearing the markings of the Duv-Ayid and Moc-Torgue tribes were spotted beyond the Plasty Meridian.

Sightings were sporadic for a week before one such party was spotted outside of Fort O’Connor, well into colonial lands.

“We sent out men to parley,” said the Fort’s commanding officer. “The riders did not flee, but they did not respond to questions, either. Eventually they turned around and left, but at their own pace.”

A similar incident happened farther south, outside of a small Ranger camp.

“It was disturbing, but they didn’t attack us,” said one Ranger. “Most disturbing thing though were their weapons. They were carrying repeaters. Gun trade with the territories is supposed to be controlled, yeah? Nothing but single shot muskets and matchlocks, for hunting. These guys, though, looked like they were ready to take on the whole fort. They had better weapons than most of us.”

Imperial authorities are at a loss as to how the Duv-Ayid and Moc-Torgue scouts came by such gear, as no shipments have been raided, and the weapons described do not match any known Triumvirate make or model. Suggestions that the weapons were provided by the Von Grimm gang have been dismissed as ludicrous. Despite the open display of the weapons, the Marshals and Rangers alike are stressing restraint.

“Any unprovoked hostile action against these scouts will be met with the harshest consequences,” said First Marshal General Job Stoll. “So far they have made no aggressive moves against colonial interests, other than to show up. And if you remember, we broke that treaty first. It’s my belief they’re just sending a message, for now. Please remain calm.”

Blackwood Gazette #145- Scouting Parties From Territories Spotted Along Newland Frontier