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.

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Blackwood Gazette #63-Meeting the Team

Blackwood Gazette #62-Are You Ready for Some Fool’s Ball?

By Huxley Pruitt, Sports

5/9-The Imperial Fool’s Ball League, the sport that has swept Crowndon gaming to the detriment of all other athletic endeavors, opened its third season last night. Thousands of fans, all of them under the delusion that their team is the best and that they somehow personally contribute to said team’s victory, came out in droves last night to eat smoked meat products and be rude to each other.

The sudden popularity of the sport has sparked the interest of sociologists in Nor Easter last year, who this year have decided to study the game, the behaviors of its fans, and its impacts, psychologically, physically, and economically.

“It’s all so very fascinating,” said one such scientist, who asked to remain anonymous. “The behaviors on display. Adult men–Crowndon men, so known for their normally stalwart demeanors—painting themselves in the bright colors of their teams and wearing the uniforms of their favorite players; it is akin, I suppose, to the fans of things like ‘The Gutted Earth’ you see dressing up as their favorite characters. Although, you’re less likely to wind up in the hospital if you get caught dressed as the villain in that novel than if you get caught wearing an opposing team’s jersey. There also tends to be a lot less rioting afterwards.”

The rioting, this sociologist says, lays at the crux of his study. It is a strange phenomenon, he says, that does not appear to be contingent upon victory or defeat, nor does it appear to happen with any regularity.

“The conditions have to be just right,” he says. “It typically happens toward the end of the season, it is typically the home team that goes on the warpath, and it can be either a way to celebrate a win or decry a loss. That’s the most baffling thing about it all: adults, smashing through their own streets, because they’re happy. It makes no sense! But it happens.”

The proliferation of the sport has left many scholars baffled, particularly at the traction it has gotten in Crowndon, of all places. Crowndon is, after all, often characterized by their collective humorlessness. I asked a few fans what they saw in the game.

“Not sure if you have noticed this, good sir,” one fan answered. “But Crowndon has received quite the thorough beating this year. I think we deserve a little bit of an outlet.”

That’s not to say the game does not have its fans outside of Crowndon. At least one high profile Nor Easterner, Sir Rigel Rinkenbach, has taken an interest.

“Of course I’m a fan!” Rinkenbach said. “I invented the game, after all. Then I introduced the game to Crowndon, sat back, and laughed.”

Blackwood Gazette #62-Are You Ready for Some Fool’s Ball?

Blackwood Gazette#61- Northern Crowndon Towns Going Dark as Blackwood Runs Low

by Chester Seaton, News

3/9-Several small townships in Crowndon’s northern regions are feeling the pinch of Yolanda DeSantana’s occupation this week. Nostholm, Britley, and Shattlesborough-by-Vasterton were forced to cut all power in order to cope with the lack of Blackwood supply. Other towns are expected to follow suit.

“We ain’t seen a shipment in a month,” said Nostholm’s mayor. “Not since this whole thing with the DeSantanas started. And we’re a small town, and don’t burn much, but we only rate a month’s ration at a time. We’re down to our last embers, here, and we’ve been forced to cut back on anything that don’t contribute to the industry.”

Crowndon’s leaders are currently working on a plan to get more Blackwood to these northern territories, but are reluctant to delve into the reserves.

An official release from the Imperial Capitol stated, “We are brokering an exchange with surrounding cities, and drawing up plans with the nations of the Empire to implement Blackwood rationing. That will only go so far, however.”

Crowndon General Bartolomeu Fross, who had strong words last month when Yolanda DeSantana took over the supply routes, issued his own, unofficial statement.

“Any Crowndon town going dark is unacceptable,” General Fross said. “I don’t care if it’s the Capital or the lowliest northern hovel. Something needs to be done. Not only is it a matter of Crowndonian pride, but the well-being of our citizens. The first snows will fall next month, cutting off all passage north of Caldebeck Bay and the Anadem Mountains. We need to make sure Northern Crowndon is supplied before then, or we’re going to have a lot of dead citizens come next spring.”

Blackwood Gazette#61- Northern Crowndon Towns Going Dark as Blackwood Runs Low

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