-----------====================THE KAEZARIAN EYE====================-----------
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- SUPERNATURAL PLAGUE STRIKES KESSIA2
- CARROMARIO CULMINATES IN CHAOS14
- MOUNTAIN TOWER SUFFERS SUDDEN MYSTERIOUS DECAY20
- PROTECTIONS ERECTED FOR TRAVELERS, MORE YET TO DO22
- NEWS IN BRIEFE24
- AN INTERVIEW WITH GULNARA SADKO28
- INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN LAURDIA AND THE TALLONEAN EMPIRE35
- IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Letters and Opinion42
- FOR THE PUBLIC NOTICE45
- HOROSCOPES: Whispers of the Night Sky46
- EYE ON KESSIA51
- NEWS OF THE WORLDE53
- AS EYE SEE IT55
- NOTE FROM THE EDITORS57
-----------====================THE KAEZARIAN EYE====================-----------
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
SUPERNATURAL PLAGUE STRIKES KESSIA
The citizens of Kaezar and the surrounding Countryside had surely felt themselves under something of a looming Cloud of Foreboding in the aftermath of the night of the terrible Blood-Rain this past 9th of Storme, for even though all seemed peaceful in the dayes following, none could quite shake the Sensation that the dark Tempest was not over, nor Trost quite yet done with his scheming and Plots, and that the present Calm might be only the proverbial Eye of the Storm. And indeed, even if one had managed to convince oneself that Trost and his newest Avatar Plidic had had enough of their brutal Sport with the mortal Realm and decided to occupy themselves otherwise for the time being, still one surely wondered what Trial was next to befall the City and when it would come, for, this being Kaezar, as everyone knows it is only a matter of time until the newest fantastical Menace sweeps down upon the city in the usual Flood of strange Terrors and carrying in its Wake the usual Chaos and Calamity. And surely enough, it was not long before the Apprehensions of all were justified, and there began the troubling Sequence of events about to be related.
~ The First Signs of Trouble ~
The first Hint of anything being much Amiss was, by Kessian standards, tame enough, and came in the form of an unusual Manifestation in Kemstead late in the evening on the 27th Daye of Storme. It happened that a small number of Persons present in the usually peaceful little Village that night were gathered about the Pond hard by Jendra's Cottage, when there began to coalesce over the formerly Placid surface of the water a strange Maelstrom formed all of Air, natural Debris, and Spume from the pond, which proceeded to Seethe and whirl about all together with a markedly Agitated air.
One witness there, a woman by the name of Silomae Wildcat whose connection to Beade allowed her some additional Insight into the Phenomenon, stated that the strange Entity was a spirit of Nature, which had become upset by something unknown and was now forcibly expressing its Anger, which it did by pummelling at the Ground with great Vigor. After exerting no small effort in this at first fruitless-seeming Endeavor, the Spirit unearthed from beneath the soil and Leaves a small object which despite its dirt-encrusted state was instantly recognizable as a Blood-Shard of the very sort that had rained so prolifically down from the Sky a few weeks previously, and which the Spirit seemed to find an offense to Beade herself. Having pulled the malign Fragment out of the earth, however, the Manifestation seemed appeased and dissipated back into the Air, neatly filling in the hole it had created with the Debris that had whirled about itself.
~ A Dark and Grisly Ritual ~
It was not long after the Manifestation at the pond that word swiftly swept across the city of a most shocking Ritual that had been performed deep below the ground in the very heart of Trost's own Temple. As it happened, a number of Individuals had been involved in hunting down and gathering for their own purposes the very same Blood-Shards that had given the Nature-Spirit such Distress, but none had been able to divine anything of their true nature or what powers might be contained within their darkly sanguine Depths.
It was with the purpose of gleaning such Knowledge that Missus Gulnara Sadko has justified the horrifying events of the aforementioned Ritual, and we leave it to the Reader to judge whether the Consequences following were the result of active and malicious Foresight, or indeed only a terrible Miscalculation on the part of Missus Sadko and her helpers, the unexpected outcome of benign if Misguided intention. (The Reader shall also doubtless be desirous of perusing the Interview with Missus Sadko appearing in subsequent Pages of this Publication, telling the Tale from her own interesting Perspective.)
It was on the 3rd Daye of Raine that Missus Sadko, having hit upon her own Plan for the Blood-Shards, ventured down into Trost's Temple in company with her Husband Mister Alexei Sadko, three members of her Mercenary Band, these being Misters Taiithan Kalich and Gladston Forsythe and Miss Jalith Creslin, and also with Miss Eleanor Plaskitt, whom our Readers shall remember for her late Experimentations concerning Pocket-dimensions and who had most recently been engaged in collecting the Blood-Shards for what sounded to be the usual terribly ill-advised sort of project involving those Shards, Mister Baigan Vikias, and the creation of a new Golem. Being widely known now as a Devotee of the Wyrm and believing her link to the God might prove conducive to obtaining some Information from the Shards, Missus Sadko assembled these Persons together for a Ritual that might evoke Trost's power and thereby lead to a greater understanding of these sinister Fragments of his.
Upon arriving in the depths of the Temple, it appears the Ritual was begun without undue Controversy, with Missus Sadko offering some kind of Invocation to Trost and requesting his Aid with the Blood-Shards. However, in a Turn which it seemed was unexpected to Miss Plaskitt at the least, a mere Invocation was judged not to Suffice, and this woman's own Blood was taken from her by Force for the purpose of fuelling the Ritual, with the end result being that Miss Plaskitt lay Lifeless upon the Floor, her Throat brutally slit by Missus Sadko, who for her part was by all Accounts filled with a sort of maddened Blood-Lust, not only drinking the Blood as it left Miss Plaskitt's Body, but also consuming by some malign and mysterious Means a portion of the woman's very Soul.
What the others present may have felt on witnessing this Turn of events is not entirely certain, but by Missus Sadko's own words all there were bound to Trost by their participation in the Ritual, with quite interesting Consequences. Perhaps on account of being close to Missus Sadko herself, her Husband was left entirely immune to the Plague which was to make its terrible power felt throughout Kessia in the dayes following. Mister Forsythe, on the other hand, suffered a most awful Curse on account of renouncing the Wyrm immediately following the Ritual, which provoked that dark God to afflict him with an extraordinary Fragility of Constitution which seemed to multiply all Hurts done to him a hundredfold.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, it was the unfortunate Miss Plaskitt who seemed Doomed to suffer the worst effects, for though by some strange means she was restored to the Living immediately after the cutting of her Throat, yet this was to be only the briefest of Respites from Disaster. Though the Life seemed to flow once more through her Veins, an Empath confirmed soon after the events in Trost's Temple that there was something very definitely wrong with the woman, though what exactly this was the Empath in question either could not or would not say. And indeed it was very little time at all before Miss Plaskitt, already Pale and Coughing in the wake of the Ritual, descended into a state little different from that of a mere shambling Corpse -- and this Plague of Undeath which she now carried within her, swiftly spreading across Town and Countryside alike, seemed likely to soon be the Fate of all Kessia.
~ A Dark and Grisly Ritual ~
Within mere Dayes this dire and unnatural Affliction had swept through nearly the entire Populace of Kaezar, leaving a very fortunate Few untouched, but by and large striking down with an impersonal Hand all those who had the Misfortune to come into Communion with an infected Person, for howsoever brief a time, and without any need for even the least physical Contact between the infected and whole Individuals. Indeed, there seemed no Rhyme or Reason as to who should be struck down and who spared, with the only Certainties being that Safety was to be found nowhere, that one was more likely to be sickened than spared, and that once it had taken hold the Disease would persist in its terrible course through stages ever more horrific and Grotesque.
The first of the Stages, while certainly discomforting, was little different from what might be experienced with the onslaught of a particular unpleasant bout of the Ague, as the skin of the infected began to take on an unhealthy Tinge soon accompanied by Fever and a certain heavy Malaise, but which taken by itself with no knowledge of what was to come seemed Bearable enough. A certain Discomfort of the Stomach was also reported by some as the Illness progressed, along with a Cough, a sore Throat, or an affliction of the Head-ache.
Following these Commonplace sorts of Complaints, however, the infected Victims would soon take a turn very much for the Worse, as their Skin began seemingly to Rot upon their own Bodies, and soon to Slough off most horribly. Just as disturbingly and perhaps most Peculiarly of all, at some stage of the Plague there would for many come a time at which their sense of Smell became enhanced and disturbingly Altered, as afflicted Persons would start to smell the Sickness on others while also beginning to perceive the Flesh of any Person, and indeed their own, as giving forth the most delectable and mouth-watering aroma of Meat. And yet as terrible as each worsening stage of the unnatural Plague was, the final and most appalling stage of all was reached when the afflicted person at last Expired from the Sickness, which resulted not in a surcease of illness and Suffering, but rather in the individual being Cursed with a state of Undeath, becoming a sort of shambling Corpse much like the Zombies and Ghouls which overrun Kessia every Mylywyth.
Though dedicated Healers such as Missus Anolisse De'Alera worked tirelessly to discover any means whereby the Disease might be vanquished or its dread Advance halted or only hindered, yet all experimentations with the Blood-Shards, or with samples of Blood taken from the few persons Immune, along with divers other frantic Endeavours, proved Futile. As the Sickness swept through the City it brought a Tide of Panic along with it, as residents turned on the more obviously sick among them and threatened to put them to Death, even as those standing on the Sidelines of this Violence had themselves likewise been stricken with the Plague, but had yet to show the tell-tale Signs of it.
~ The Blossoming of Hope ~
However, unbeknownst to most of those suffering in Kaezar, whether roaming the streets under the stifling burden of a Plague-Mask or keeping strict Company with those in the hospital Plague-Ward, another desperate yet Hopeful undertaking was being carried out under the watchful Eye of Beade Herself, for it seemed that Miss Arelear Ruinloth, Ranger, Dancer, and Protector of Nature's balance, had received a message from that Goddess, setting this one Humble woman upon a task of the utmost importance in the search for a Cure for the Plague of Undeath.
At the same time another small group of Citizens, knowing nothing of this but themselves infected with the Plague and thus being as concerned as any Party with helping to Vanquish it, made their own attempt at discovering a Cure using a strange substance that had been connected previously with a minion of the Veil Lord, and which possessed the Capacity to create a state of suspended Undeath in any Person that consumed it. Mister Astolpho Mandel, the eminent local Spiritualist who had had his own personal Experience with the effects of this Lich-Ichor, believed that he might be able to perform a Ritual of his own with the noxious Fluid, whereby the substance's connection to Undeath might be channeled through a Sequence of Astral Symbols of Mandel's own devising, thus flipping the Ichor's effect to the precise Opposite of what it had been, and becoming capable of reversing the unnatural Condition that it had once caused.
Lacking any remotely better Option, Mister Mandel, Mister Malo Haithock, and this Reporter met at the Lyceum on the 17th Daye of Raine to subject the Ichor to Experimentation in hopes of finding any Promise in the stuff to defeat or delay the Plague. However, rather than having any specific Effect upon the character of the Ichor itself, the Ritual instead succeeded in summoning up a most peculiar Being of a kind familiar to those who had experienced the long Siege of the Veil Lord upon our own World. This Being, who as it happened was a Lich possessed of a remarkable degree of Courtesy for a mouldering undead Creature and who quite Commiserated with their terrible Predicament, informed the three that while it could provide no Aid itself in combating the Plague, on the other hand this might well prove unnecessary, as it stated that it could sense, some ways off in a place which it described merely as "Perfect Green," an object containing the power to vanquish the wretched Disease.
Its occuring to Misters Mandel and Haithcock that this place, though so vaguely described, might be Beade's Grove or somewhere in this holy spot's Vicinity, the three erstwhile Experimenters allowed the Lich to depart from the Circle in which it had been bound, and hastened off to the Seton Road and the peaceful Woode just north of the Sunderland Docks. Upon searching the entire Forest for any Sign of such an Object as the Lich had described, they at last came out into the very Heart of the Grove, and were astonished to discover another Person there before them, kneeling before a lush Patch of some unfamiliar plant, which before their very Eyes bloomed into a stand of pure Verdant-hued Lilies the likes of which none of them had ever before seen.
[ In this simple woodblock print several flowers bloom proudly from long, lithe stalks that arc out of the ground like bullets from a sling. These flowers exhibit very few leaves and extremely sturdy creeping rootstalks that clench the soil tightly.
Another picture set beside the first shows a close-up of one of the flowers, revealing a straight stem dappled with brown dots against a paler background, terminating in a lush, slightly fuzzy cup-like flower with a swirling, drooping array of tightly-bunched petals.
The illustration is neatly labelled "Beade's Gift, the Greenbreath Lily". ]
The person standing Guard over these unusual Lilies was of course the same Miss Ruinloth mentioned above, who had kept her faithful Watch over the plants the last many Dayes and Nights, at the command of the goddess Beade. Though it seemed, with the blooming of her herbal Charges, that the Brunt of her work was done and the Vigil nearly complete, still there was work for others to do, as Miss Ruinloth expressed the Certainty that vital as these Lilies were, they were but one Crucial missing component for a Cure that had yet to be discovered. With this in mind, Miss Ruinloth proceeded immediately to inform Captain and Missus Ashinara De'Alera by thought-message of the good News, as it seemed these two had been among the few in whom Miss Ruinloth's Confidences had been placed, and hardly any sooner was this done than the Captain himself appeared, and made Haste back to Kaezar with a Sampling of the freshly-gathered Blooms.
And in fact Miss Ruinloth's convictions were soon proved to be correct, as it was not two Hours that went by before word came back from the city once more that a Cure had been created by Missus De'Alera and the stalwart Healers of Kaezar, this making use not only of the Lilies, but also Empath's Blood and a powder made from the Blood-Fragments themselves, whose powers it seemed could be used to Cure rather than Curse when combined with Beade's blessing in the form of the Lilies. Upon drinking an Elixir of this Substance, one could not only feel but actually See its healing Powers travel through one's Veins, its cleansing Force scouring the unnatural Sickness from throughout the Bodies of the Afflicted and leaving them as Whole and well as if this terrible Trostian Plague had never been.
~ Recrimination and Punishment ~
Having been so expeditiously discovered, the miraculous Cure was just as swiftly distributed throughout Kaezar and the surrounding areas, such that all who had been stricken with the illness were shortly put to Rights, even to the Veckles of the city who had proven to be as vulnerable to the Plague's deathly Touch as any of the more advanced Races of Thrael. This being done, and the citizens of Kaezar feeling perfectly Hale once more, attention began to turn away from the Plague itself and to focus on those Persons whom it was popularly felt bore Responsibility for its Origins and its astonishingly Virulent spread; to wit, Missus Gulnara Sadko.
Missus Sadko had already been the subject of much Ill-feeling on the part of the Populace once word of her dark and bloody Ritual spread about town, and her Popularity with the Infected was little helped by an Incident on the 11th Daye of Raine in which she pursued the grievously afflicted Miss Plaskitt and Mister Tamerlaine across Kaezar with threats to their already sufficiently threatened Lives. This incident ultimately terminating in a sort of Stand-off between Missus Sadko and those who rallied to the Defense of the woman and her Intentions, and those who were rather more inclined to put Paid to her by at the very least running her out of Town and perhaps resorting to Sterner measures, resulted in Missus Sadko's leaving the city in some Haste, without relieving the bad Feeling directed towards her by many of those back in Kaezar.
However, some measure of Moderation was evidently urged by the Royal Guard in the persons of Dame Elli Sojourner and Captain Ashinara De'Alera, and regardless of whatever Weight or lack thereof this may have carried with the general Populace, it seemed that even the Magistrates of the land could prove no definitely ill Intention on Missus Sadko's part nor any direct Linkage of Cause and Effect between her actions in Trost's Temple and the start of the Plague. While some form of Punishment was in fact meted out for the events of that night, this did not take the form of any Mortal Harm nor even a sentence of Exile, and indeed the Charges had nothing to do with the Plague itself, for on the 22nd Daye of Raine it was ordered by His Majesty King Vek that Missus Sadko and the four other Persons involved in the Trostian Ritual were to surrender themselves to Imperial Custody and submit to punishment for the Crimes of Abduction, Assault, and Conspiracy.
As a consequence of this Missus Sadko was dealt out three dayes of public Penance in the Stocks along with a Fine of twenty-five thousand Crowns, while her Associates Alexei Sadko, Taiithan Kalich, Jalith Creslin, and Gladston Forsythe were each given one daye in the Stocks along with a Fine of ten thousand Crowns apiece. While Missus Sadko turned herself willingly in before the King's Imperative and she and most of the others took their Punishment stoically, Mister Forsythe, perhaps Shaken by the experience of Trost's Curse, evidently deemed even this Sentence too much to bear, and fled from Custody off into the Countryside where he remains a Wanted man even now.
[ A large stone platform rises out of the cobblestone street pictured in this woodblock print, the structure looking to stand about five feet high. Wooden stocks are spaced evenly around the perimeter of the square, and a looming wooden gallows holds a prominent position beside the platform opposite a charred iron stake. Rows of benches provide seating for spectators, while poles driven into the ground at intervals across the entrances to the square permit foot traffic to pass but prevent access by wagons. A forbidding stone building with a heavy iron door looms to the north. A rickety old cart parked in one corner of the square and heaped high with rotting produce seems the most likely origin of the lumpy, oozy-looking patches that liberally splotch ground and stocks alike. Confined in what looks to be great discomfort in the stocks about the square are three individuals, all of them helpfully labelled with little floating banners over their heads proclaiming them to be "J. Creslin," "T. Kalich," and, centered in the shot, "G. Sadko." Garwyn (sitting on a worn wooden bench), Arelear (sitting), Ventus, the sleek dark copper wolf, and Lochlan observe the scene with interest, while Lucia stands ready near a rickety old cart to provide her goods to anyone not satisfied merely with looking on.
Below the print is a short caption that reads "Kessian Justice." ]
In the quiet Dayes following Raine's terrific Turmoil, all afflicted Persons being healed and all guilty Parties having served their Sentence, the most prevalent feeling has been one of Relief, though Grudges against Missus Sadko and her Associates continue perhaps to Simmer along with the heat of the Summer season that has arrived and proceeded in Peace since this time. Though the horrors of the earlier part of the Yeare have faded somewhat as Kessians have carried on with the usual Business of their Lives, still one must wonder with the least hint of Unease whether we have heard the last of Trost and his Minions, and when the always Tenuous peace of Kaezar shall be broken yet again.
-----------====================THE KAEZARIAN EYE====================-----------
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
CARROMARIO CULMINATES IN CHAOS
Of all the Holy-Dayes of all the many Deities of Peregorne, surely the least predictable and most Riotous of them all is Carromario, which, falling as it does on the 1st Daye of Raine every Yeare, starts off the first full month of Spring in a tumultuous Jumble of mad-cap Mayhem that seems appropriately of a Piece with the Riot of Nature that bursts forth with this same Season. And on this particular Carromario it looked set to proceed in the manner of many such Dayes of yore, with a Reverse Ball scheduled for the evening and the merchant Heddi appearing on the Green with her usual flamboyant and Prankish wares of jester's Bells, Fire-works of all kinds, and bladders full of Paint to be tossed with gleeful abandon at any and all Persons one might stumble across through the course of the daye.
Although the Guests were initially slow to Trickle into the grand Ballroom at the Silver Plum, by half past Ten Bells a number of Dress-Bedecked men and Doublet-Clad women were enjoying the offerings of the evening's Reverse Ball, whether marveling at the often Outlandish garb of the other Attendees, sweeping haphazardly across the Dance-floor, or partaking of the Buffet that included most prominently of all the amazing Chocolate-Strawberry Fountain that had made its Debut at another Carromario two Yeares previously.
However, it turned out the usual Chaos and Upset of the daye was to be expanded upon by an unexpected yet oddly Familiar addition to the Party which was engaged in watching the ball from the upper Floor, as there came suddenly bumping up the stairs onto the Balcony a Very Large Box. This Very Large Box was, of course, immediately recognized by certain individuals present who had either been personally engaged in the past month's Parlay with the Veckle Tribes of Kaezar or else had heard the whole peculiar Tale after the fact, so that its appearance there was only Moderately rather than Entirely incomprehensible. Even so, as is so often the case with Veckle-kind, it was uncertain what exactly the Box-Costumed creature wanted or intended to achieve by its unheralded presence. While requests that it dance were humored and it capered about with quite impressive Verve for a Box of Unusual Size, still it did not seem to possess any idea of having come to the Ballroom for this exact purpose, or indeed for any particular purpose at all aside from that of slipping slices of Cake under the Box's rim and presumably gobbling them down.
[ A somewhat surreal scene unfolds here below a magnificent chandelier that twinkles brightly, looking almost within reaching distance of the viewer. Hundreds of candles are reflected in the mirrored wall and set the entire balcony ablaze with light. Thin vase-shaped, silver-painted newels, positioned between decorative columns, make up a balustrade that both surrounds the balcony and screens it from casual view from below. Cozy arrangements of chaise lounges surround small side tables, creating a pleasant atmosphere to rest and view the proceedings in the ballroom from this lofty perch while taking refreshments from the buffet and sweet tables placed nearby. A gracefully curving staircase with a runner protecting the dark, highly polished dyrewood floor leads down to the ballroom. Also here is Gulnara (standing near Alexei), Jurion (standing indecorously on a burnished silver oak side table and playing a fiddle), Malo, an animated silver-edged teacup, Alexei, Valentine, and Eyssan Anselm, all of whom (except perhaps the teacup, though it's hard to say for sure) are gazing at an incongruously placed and highly suspicious looking dyrewood box.
A label beneath the print reads "Very Large Box Performs Very Strange Dance". ]
The individuals in attendance, unfazed by anything so mundane as a Ball-crashing Cake-devouring Box of Unsual Size, proceeded with the usual Insouciance to toss at it bladders of Paint, slices of Cheese, and whatever else was ready to Hand, which treatment the Box proceeded to be similarly unfazed by. However, it was when the offer was made to give the Chocolate-Fountain over to the Box in return for its performance of the aforementioned Dance that the eccentric Being appeared to Perk up, to the degree that a Very Large Box may, and with this Motivation to impell it onwards, proceeded to stomp its very Vecklish-looking Feet and Whirl about in such a wild but Exuberant manner that one could not help but picture it the perfect Dance-partner for a certain Gharkin at next Yeare's Masque.
Indeed the Box became so Frenzied in its Revolutions that it proceeded to imperil all its Audience with its mad Gyrations, until the point at which it Revolved itself straight down the stairway, and was lost from sight. Swiftly recovering, however, the Box scrambled its way back to the balcony to claim its rightful Prize, which it proceeded to bear off in Triumph and Haste, presumably to bring the infinite Delights of Chocolate-Covered Strawberries back to a people languishing in confectionary-deprived Darkness.
In the faintly bemused Lull left by the Very Large Box's departure, the guests made desultory Conversation and were prepared to let Leta's merry night slide gently into Oblivion, when suddenly a great Hubbub arose from the entry-way of the Plum, and into the Ballroom burst a great clamorsome Mob of Veckles. In the usual way of such Mobs they straightaway proceeded to smash into Pieces everything inanimate that they could lay Hands on, and to grab and haul bodily away every Person, these latter usually being swept off but a short Distance before being unceremoniously deposited back on the floor like so much cast-off Debris. Their appetite for the Finer things in life having evidently been newly awakened by the obtaining of the miraculous Chocolate-Fountain, the Veckles launched an all-out Assault on the helpless Buffet, laying about with their Cudgels and dragging aside all those who might have sought to defend the tender Hams and succulent Chicken against their ravening Depredations.
[ Large soft leather chairs placed randomly around small tables invite visitors to the room in this illustration to kick off their shoes and relax awhile. Against the far wall, a large portrait has been placed over the mantel of a stone fireplace. Soft light from a silver chandelier filters through the smoke to make the room seem ethereal and highlights the kirchewood bar. Through the glass doors is a view of the dining room. However, no one present in the scene would be likely to be either relaxing or looking casually about them in light of the fact that the centre of the room is swarming with a mob of veckles, their teeming numbers surrounding the chairs and tables like an ocean seething about a set of islands. Like a piece of flotsam in the grip of a surging wave, a man identifiable as Horace is being swept along in the upraised grip of multiple grabbing veckle hands, while Yrael the Bartender looks on with a world-weary air suggesting he's seen all this before.
The slightly melodramatic caption to the illustration explains the scene as "The Appalling Abduction of Horace the Butler". ]
Understandable as such delicacy-driven Impulses might be, less comprehensible was the Veckles' sudden hauling off from the Lobby of the Plum the Butler Horace, whom they swept madly about through the lower Floor of the Establishment, before finally bolting off through the front Doors with the poor man and vanishing into the Night. Goaded onwards by some strange chivalrous Impulse, mere Boredom, or perhaps simply caught up in the Madness of the evening, all of those present immediately dashed off in pursuit of the Mob and their hapless victim, making their way hastily to the Veckles' own Stronghold, the Kaezar Middens.
Though the would-be Heroes trooped about through the heaps of Rubbish and Rubble with admirable Perseverence, the men in particular lending a note of Cheer to the otherwise Dreary space in their lacy Skirts and bright floral Bodices, no Sign could be discovered of the Mob or its Captive, only the usual directionless and disorganized Rabble of sickly and aged-looking Veckles proclaiming their Hatred and hostile Impulses towards all of Thrael. As the night wore on it even became less and less certain whether among the Rescuers the object of deepest concern was Horace himself or in fact the lost Chocolate-Fountain, but in either case their best Efforts went for Naught, no trace ever appearing of the unfortunate Butler, and the Fountain itself, when they finally stumbled across it, having been reduced to but a shattered Husk of its former self, its clever machinery Frozen for all time, destined never again to produce another chocolate-covered Fruit of any variety whatsoever.
Although the mission of Mercy ended in Failure, some time later Horace was found to have resumed his accustomed station at the Plum with no Alteration whatsoever to his usual air of Truculent obsequiousness, and indeed the whole Night's course of events was surely a Source of such great Delight to Leta that one wonders what, having achieved such a triumph of a Holy-daye this time around, the Goddess will be encouraged to try when Carromario comes around again next yeare.
[ The article ends with the reproduction of a pen and ink sketch of some sadly derelict contraption, the subtle shading of moonlight and shadow lending the picture a melancholy air of shattered glory. At some point in the lifetime of the illustrated machine, it appears that the marvels of gnomish invention allowed decadent imported chocolate to be continuously melted and funneled through a vertical channel. After what must have been a severe case of rough handling, its tiny intricate gears are twisted and jammed, and the mechanical arm which once carried strawberries into the chocolate bath is bent out of all recognition.
The caption to the print mournfully announces "The Death of a Chocolate-Fountain." ]
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
MOUNTAIN TOWER SUFFERS SUDDEN MYSTERIOUS DECAY
Not far from the Serpent's Eye Caverns in the chilly heights of the Ayr'Dane Mountains, a lofty and previously well-appointed Tower once in use by a certain band of Onu faithful has fallen with unusual abruptness into a quite thorough state of Disrepair. Once fitted out with a luxurious array of upholstered Chairs, unusual Incense, a Fire-pit, and even a Reflecting-pool, these luxurious surroundings have been discovered within just the last few Weeks to have been all but Obliterated, despite the Tower's having been fortified against unwanted Intrusion by a sturdy set of Locks upon the equally sturdy Door. In fact, aside from the disappearance of all the Furnishings and Accessories, the extremely Dilapidated state of the Tower, marked by the decay and Collapse of railings, sizeable Cracks in the floor, and other similar signs of Decay, lend the place the immediate Aspect of having been abandoned and left to the Ravages of the Elements for not only months, but in fact for Yeares, despite having been in good Condition but a few Months gone.
Missus Gulnara Sadko, who first brought News of the Tower's condition back to Kaezar, described it as the malicious workings of unknown Vandals and Thieves, yet surely such common Brigands as these never caused the floors and Walls to crack nor the woodwork to go suddenly to Rot, though such disreptuable persons may well account for the Vanishment of the Decor. Miss Constance De'farlargos, one of the former Renters who described the Tower in its previous state as "a lovely Place to sit and Relax," nevertheless professed herself to be at as great a Loss as anyone regarding what could have happened to the Tower, saying that prior to this past Winter Solstice she had been in the Habit of stopping by at regular intervals to tidy up and enjoy the Peace of the place.
The only information that Miss De'farlargos could supply regarding the recent History of the Tower was that it had been in the usual Pristine condition at least as recently as the Winter Solstice, which she gave as the last daye on which she had paid a visit to the place. However, she said that prior to the night of the 16th of Dien, on which she had returned to investigate the Rumors of Vandalism herself, she had kept away from the Tower on account of a vigorous Dispute between Missus Sadko and Miss Nina Highstone over access to the Tower in which the latter was reportedly set on denying it to the former, after which time Miss De'farlargos said that she had stopped coming around on account of always finding there what she described as Rude Drawings. Though Miss Highstone had apparently requested a change of Locks on the door and inquired into the future Cost of continuing to rent the Tower, Miss De'farlargos did not know what had come of such Inquiries and thought perhaps Miss Highstone had judged it not worth the Bother to pursue them further.
Regardless, whether it resulted from some unprecedentedly Harsh mountain weather or a tumultuous Quaking of the Ground, or was the result of some illusionist Glamour suddenly dispelled, or came of some other unknowable supernatural Means, the loss of such an agreeable and pleasantly-appointed Refuge was a thing that Miss De'farlargos expressed deep Regret over, and she declared herself as mystified as anyone over the Tower's sudden sharp Decline.
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
PROTECTIONS ERECTED FOR TRAVELERS, MORE YET TO DO
In what has been a long and time-honored Initiation-Ritual to the common-place Perils of Kessia, newcomers to our fair Kingdom have long engaged in the practice of innocently wandering Astray from the straight and narrow Trade Route between Kemstead and Kaezar, and finding themselves run excitingly about through Barkbane Woods at the point of Orcish spears and Warg's Teeth, and often in this way introduced with all good Speed not only to the general Tenor of life in Kessia, but also to that other Realm with which all here soon become so comfortingly Familiar, the Ul'Mydar.
However, it seems that those only just arriving in Kessia will now have to delay their introduction to the myriad perilous Charms of the land until they should arrive in Kaezar proper and be unexpectedly and bizarrely struck down there, as fresh Signs and Barricades giving fair Warning to Travelers have been erected at the various Foot-paths into the Forest that once appeared so wonderfully alluring to those unfamiliar with Kessia's proclivity for wreaking sudden Bloodshed and Doom upon unwary Persons going about the round of their hapless lives. Not only making it more difficult to enter into the Wood and risk one's Person but also warning Passers-by in bright red Lettering of the presence of Orcs that one must Beware Of, these measures will surely prevent entry by all but those Individuals sufficiently possessed of that most enduring and characteristic Kessian spirit, a Determination to throw oneself headlong into the path of Danger despite all warnings of good Sense that might advise one otherwise.
[ Large pines grow in dense clusters that nearly block the skyline with their long needle feathered branches in this woodblock print. Marching across a huge blackened conifer, carpenter ants have been captured as a wavering black line that appears frozen in the act of scurrying to and fro as they mindlessly go about their daily tasks. Marked with a crude orc-crafted bone talisman, a rough path forges northward through the compacted brush and trees, but the viewer's eye is led helplessly from these features of the landscape to focus instead on an oddity in the lower foreground of the picture. Here, marooned far from its maritime home, a dirt-besmirched lobster lies amidst the forest duff, its carapace speckled with pine needles that appear to be loosely adhered to it by a small quantity of blood. Also recognizable in the scene, after peeling one's gaze from this pitiable misplaced creature, is Malo, an animated silver-edged teacup, the corpse of a bristling koarbaz (lying down), the corpse of an orc beastrider (lying down), an orc hunter, and an orc champion, the latter two of which look to be gazing at the lobster with exactly as much bemusement as that likely felt by the viewer of the illustration.
No mention is made of any lobsters living or dead in the caption that proclaims this shot merely to be "The Way Out of the Woods". ]
Nor must this valiant number feel themselves Abandoned whenever they shall attempt to make a judicious Exit from the Forest once more, upon having been suddenly brought by those vigorously wielded Spears of Orcs and pointedly slavering Jaws of Wargs to a realization of some possible Error in their Judgment. The more seasoned Traveler through Barkbane will have made the interesting Observation that the various paths to and from the Forest, so enticingly clear from the Road, somehow divest themselves of all their Magnetism to the Eye directly one is on their Wood-ward side, with the Pathways slipping into undetectable Obscurity to an ever greater degree directly proportional to the number of Orcs and Wargs howling after the Traveler in Pursuit. To the great aid of these Persons, the Observant among them may note that peculiar Orcish Talismans now mark these Pathways, whereas those less discerning either by nature or on account of the distraction created by Orc-spears and Warg-jaws, will find themselves conveniently tripped up by them on their headlong sprint through the Woods, thus more Forcibly directing their attention to the means of their Salvation.
Our Travelers now having been provided with such thorough-going Safeguards to their Health and Well-Being as they make their way between Town and Village, one has only to await the daye on which we may finally be able to consider that the Kingdom has done everything in its power to prevent Destruction, Injury, and Madness from being visited upon unwary Passers-by though the land, when suitable Warnings are posted and Barriers erected to prevent that greatest Folly and Danger of all, entering into Kaezar itself.
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
NEWS IN BRIEFE
The 9th Daye of Raine marked the long-awaited Dedication of the brand-new Hospital of Kaezar, designed and sponsored by the Kessian Medical Society and located in the otherwise Drab environs of Bleak Row. Christened the Lord Benton Memorial Hospital in honor of that lately deceased Dignitary, the grand Establishment contains both Charity and Noble Wards, an additional Ward for Quarantine cases, a Chapel, Surgical Theatre, and a well-stocked Herb-garden, as well as being Lavishly appointed with a quite Extraordinary array of Paintings, fine Wood-work, stained-glass Windows, and other Luxuries such that the Establishment gives the impression of being something like a grand Cathedral to the Medical Arts.
Welcoming a crowd of eager Spectators and Guests, the Dedication was marred only by the fact of the Plague that by then had just begun to Scour the city while leaping with great Alacrity from one Person to the next wherever they might assemble in Numbers. The Hospital's new and modern Facilities were certainly put immediately to the Test, as its special Quarantine Wards served the purpose of taking off the Streets those infected with the Illness and placing them in a sort of voluntary protective Custody in which they could be cared for as best as possible in the absence of a Cure, and at the same time kept from spreading the Disease throughout the area. Certainly one hopes that following this first Trial the Hospital will have no further Crises of such Magnitude to deal with for the foreseeable future, and will be able to prove its worth in the treatment of much more Mundane maladies in the months to come.
~ * ~
Word from the more Pastoral portions of the Countryside suggests that not only Nature-spirits and Plague victims have suffered the effects of the great Blood-Rain, as certain of the Husbandmen south of Kaezar have reported a startling incidence of monstrous and misshapen Births during this Spring's lambing and calving season, following as this did hard on the Heels of that terrible night in Storme. Tales run Rampant of two-headed Calves, conjoined lamb Twins, and even a rabu Kit with one horribly clawed and twisted Paw sprouting from the side of its Head, though in the warmth and Damp of this past Raine only the latter extraordinary Specimen remained sufficiently intact for this Reporter to inspect.
While these grotesque and unfortunate Creatures were swiftly put to Death in those few occasions where Beade herself had not seen fit to mercifully deprive them of their first Breaths, talk of them has survived well after their own Demise, with the Farmers vouching quite sturdily that this series of Incidents constituted the worst Plague of this sort since the time of their Grandfathers and the Lizard-headed Goat Epidemic. However, these virtuous Husbandmen were quick to reassure this Reporter that all such Monstrosities being done quickly away with, all the Beasts remaining in the fields were free from any Flaw or Deformity, while all of the poor Deceased animals being disposed of on the Farms their remains were not at any point to be found making their way into local Butcher-shops or Eateries.
~ * ~
The months of Sune and Deatre being those under the Purview of Serene and Jakob respectively, formal observances were held of the Holy Dayes of both these Deities, one event coordinated by Missus Anolisse De'Alera and the other presided over by Dame Elli Sojourner. The first of these events began at Nine Bells in the evening on the 1st Daye of Sune, with all those who desired to participate in the observance of Galy'aer assembling at the Tower of Silver Light. Here Missus De'Alera treated her Guests to a lavishly stocked Buffet of such Dishes as silver Apples, gilded Pears, and crescent-shaped Rolls, and read to them a Tale provided to her by Watcher Aelonzo himself, which the Watcher upon his own arrival used to provoke Thought and Discussion on the story's meaning and of the Peril of accepting anything without Question.
The 21st Daye of Deatre, Cha'Solas, while a more Sedate affair than that of Galy'aer, was nevertheless well attended and suited the Austere character of this, Jakob's most Holy Daye. Dame Sojourner led those attending in Prayers to Jakob for his Blessing and asked Forgiveness of all Wrongs and Failings, while Captain Ashinara De'Alera of the Royal Guard sang a Song in honor of the Occasion, after which the remaining Guests settled down to an evening of Tales and Reminiscences. In this way did the people of Kaezar come together in at least temporary Solidarity, giving Honor to the Gods and marking the change of the Seasons in their Eternal round, until the next Yeare when these Holy-Dayes shall come and be celebrated again.
~ * ~
After quite an unprecedented Drought of Duelling in the past Yeare, Missus Gulnara Sadko issued a Challenge to Sir Martaigne Shardleigh, Knight of the Realm, for Offenses she claimed had been dealt to her during the time of the Plague. These Offenses centered around an evening mentioned in previous Pages of this Publication where the Blood of everyone involved was perhaps understandably running quite High, and during which Missus Sadko had been involved in an Altercation with certain residents of Kaezar, eventually resulting in what one side described as a Standoff in mere Defense of the threatened Individuals, and the other called a Lynch-mob directed at Missus Sadko herself.
However, Sir Martaigne choosing not to acknowledge Missus Sadko's charges, he answered her Challenge with a response more Colorful than Courteous, which we shall not set in Print here for reasons of Decorum but rather leave in the Realm of the Reader's Imagination, as indeed it seems the Duel itself shall remain.
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
AN INTERVIEW WITH GULNARA SADKO
In this Edition the Eye speaks with Missus Gulnara Sadko, the now well-known Founder and Captain of the Emerald Company of Mercenaries, and now most infamous not only as a follower of the god Trost but also as the Party chiefly involved in the strange events leading up to the recent Plague. These events surrounding the Plague's beginning being quite Murky and the Motive for Missus Sadko's actions similarly Uncertain, the Eye wished to provide the Opportunity for Missus Sadko to tell her own version of the story behind the recent Events, and the Readers the chance to hear for themselves whatever Rationale she might be able to provide for her Role in them.
The interview took place on the 28th Daye of Deatre at Myldred's Shop and Grill, Kaezar.
~ * ~
[ This woodblock print reveals a portrait view of Gulnara, a Ryt'Tzar woman in her middle eighties. Worn in a very short, unevenly cropped style, her dark hair is thick and curly. Her face is square and lean with high cheekbones, a crooked aquiline nose and delicately pointed ears. Faint creases frame her pale almond-shaped eyes and the corners of her full mouth. ]
~ * ~
The Kaezarian Eye: Well, I'm sure you know the stories as well as anyone. Perhaps better.
Gulnara Sadko: Beast. Monster. Plaguebringer. I know some of the epithets. But I am not in a great position to sift through tavern gossip.
Eye: It's said that you started this off with some dark blood ritual in Trost's temple, though I've also heard it said that the ritual that took place was only meant to discern the true nature of the blood shards. Do you have anything to say about what you were really trying to do, and what happened?
Sadko: I felt the bloodshards represented or embodied some kind of dangerous power from when they first fell. I expect you remember the night as well as I do. After the incident with the elemental I... call it a feeling, I guess. I tried to warn a few people, but no one really seemed interested in what I had to say.
Eye: Oh? What sort of warning did you give? Just that they felt odd? And to whom? I mean, anyone ought to have been able to tell that weren't exactly filled with Serene's motherly love.
Sadko: Arelear among others. I may have mentioned it to Ashinara, I do not recall. Arelear I remember for certain because she knew about the ritual ahead of time and what I meant to do. She nearly attended. Lucky for her she did not.
Eye: So what exactly -did- you intend to do with this ritual, and how was it meant to happen?
Sadko: Two things. Divine their purpose, first, and once that was done, devise a way to create a ward against what I feared they would do. I called them seeds, back then. I am not sure I was wrong.
Eye: And the how of this?
Sadko: Blood. Blood and prayer. I meant to attempt to scry in water using the blood as a medium. But that obviously did not happen.
Eye: Evidently not.
Sadko: In a fashion, I accomplished what I set out to do, but it was one of those 'be careful what you wish for' situations.
Eye: Why did you want to carry out such a ritual at the seat of Trost's own power, rather than in a more neutral space?
Sadko: That would be one of my miscalculations. But the thought behind it and the components I ended up using would be that it would lend additional strength to the ritual by virtue of possessing greater sympathy to the ultimate source of the bloodshard's power. My error boils down to not realizing that the connection works both ways. And once it was opened I had no power over what happened.
Eye: Some might say that's a terribly convenient excuse to absolve yourself of all responsibility for what really did occur.
Sadko: Yes. I have repeatedly said that my intent does not magically absolve me of the situation. The harm done was far vaster than just the plague. It is possible no one is more aware of just how far-reaching the consequences have been than I am.
Eye: What would those consequences be?
Sadko: It was my ignorance, my incompetence, and my pride. I attempted to right it, but it became obvious that was not a part of His design. I reversed the effects in some people, but only a couple, and only at great cost. The ritual forcefully bound everyone in the temple to the Worm. It has not been easy for those people.
Eye: Ah yes. I heard that Mister Forsythe suffered some special consequences. Do you know why that happened?
Sadko: He immediately renounced. They all knew there would be consequences if they renounced, and he simply did not care. He refused to be part of the Worm's design. I do not blame him. But the curse crippled him and the plague worked quickly in him.
Eye: How did he eventually rid himself of that curse?
Sadko: I paid for it with blood -- blood and a little bit of my soul. There was nothing else to do for it.
Eye: How did that work, exactly? Another ritual?
Sadko: Ashinara, actually. Thinking about that night still annoys me.
Eye: I heard something about that night, but not the details. I had heard that Ashinara was made immune to the plague as well. What exactly happened?
Sadko: Ash got sick pretty quickly and once he found out what happened to the sick, he lost it. Hard to blame him, right? Even a normal person would lose it, in the face of that. Except he decided he would march into the Worm's temple and start smashing up the place. Because, you know, that solves the problem, as opposed to just pissing off the god that has you by the proverbial short and curlies.
Eye: Pissing off deities is Ashinara's specialty.
Sadko: So I see.
Eye: But apparently it didn't go so badly for him this time.
Sadko: I came on him in there about to take an axe to the throne. I told him to stop it immediately. Even putting aside that defiling a temple, any temple, is a horrific thing to do... destruction, violence, those things are sacraments, and I tried to tell him not to. The why should be obvious, right? Well, we get into it as expected, when we both suddenly realize there is a herald sitting on the throne watching us, gods only know how long it had been there.
Eye: One of those undead creatures that attacked us before?
Sadko: [ nods ] It was not the first time a herald had appeared, during the plague business. Heralds hunted down and killed Gladston. A herald visited Jalith and Taiithan in her grove -- nonviolently. We had just been talking up to that point, but he starts demanding answers, or a cure, from the thing. And when it says nothing he lunges at it. I got in the way. I told him it was not hurting him this second, and spilling blood in this place would not be smart of him to do.
Eye: Yes, well, that consideration never does stop anybody.
Sadko: I had no idea what might happen if he did it, I just knew it would not be good for him or me or, well, anyone. Except he would not stop, of course.
Eye: No, of course.
Sadko: Well, I would not let this pass either, but if there would be blood, it might as well serve a purpose. So I got my little ritual blade out and said, to pay for his insult and free Gladston from his curse, I dedicate this death to the Worm. And I let Ashinara stave my head in.
Eye: I see.
Sadko: I said [Trost] could take the Jakobite as well. It was a little mean. My blood was up. That might have been why the herald beckoned my blood to kill him right after.
Eye: Beckoned your blood?
Sadko: Bid it to rise from my body, transform into bloodshards, and skewer him.
Eye: Unexpectedly creative, for a minion of Trost.
Sadko: It ripped me open and bathed in my entrails after that. And it was off to Ul'Mydar. A bit less creative. The herald might have meant to do more to him, but I think his god intervened. Next I heard he was immune. Before it was just me and Alexei.
Eye: I'm not surprised that you were immune, but why your husband as well?
Sadko: You would have to ask [Trost]. But as I said, in a fashion, I got everything I wanted. It is like that old saying, you know it? When the gods wish to punish us they will answer our prayers.
Eye: So speaking of getting what you wanted, what exactly did you divine the purpose of the bloodshards to be?
Sadko: I believe they are concentrated samples of the Worm's power. It is why it rots the ground, it is why they can be used to such devastating effect in divine ritual. It is also why they were used to cure the plague, I expect.
Eye: Interesting. And did you discover any way to ward against such effects?
Sadko: No. I was able to cure the disease, once, but I did not use a bloodshard for that. It is possible if I had tried I might have come up with something, but it was equally possible I would have made it worse. So I did not.
Eye: And that cure was what was accomplished by the sacrifice of a part of your own soul, on Mister Forsythe's account?
Sadko: No, that was merely the curse. That was something above and beyond what anyone else experienced, and related directly to the renunciation. No, the cure merely required the construction and sacrifice of an effigy.
Eye: An effigy of whom?
Sadko: Taiithan. I attempted to make the offer to the patients at the hospital but Nina attempted to stab me for my trouble.
Eye: Generally making effigies of people for rituals involving dark gods is not looked on with any great reassurance or confidence.
Sadko: No. Nor did I actually expect anyone to accept. But I had put the idea to Ashinara, and he grudgingly agreed that I ought to at least make the offer, so I did. I did not actually get the chance to lay out any information about what I wished to do, though, before I was run out.
Eye: What did the effigy consist of?
Sadko: An item of great sentimental value to him, which was annointed with his blood and breath. Essentially bidding the destructive power of the disease enter and destroy the effigy instead of its original vessel. It became redundant in any case. A cure was discovered a few days later.
Eye: Did you know anything of the curative plant in question before the cure was produced? Or were you entirely in the dark as to what Arelear was working to accomplish?
Sadko: Arelear tried very hard to look like a neutral party throughout the thing even if she was not. I was aware she was working on something, but I was not allowed in the grove. By that time Jalith had thankfully managed to restore her connection to Beade, and as I understand it they worked on it together.
Eye: So how exactly did the plague get started in the first place? It seemed to come about as a consequence of your ritual.
Sadko: When things went awry, it was not a display of virulence, you understand, it was bloodlust. It was a completely different aspect of the Worm's power, or so it seemed to me. I had no idea there was a sickness until a few days later. As soon as I found out, before anyone else even knew, I tipped off the Imperial Guard and asked them to notify who they could. I think the plague would have happened either way, but it is entirely probable that it sped things along, granted the power needed to ah... get things going, so to speak.
Eye: Ah. I do hope Trost appreciated that.
Sadko: [mumbling] You have no idea. But two points. One, Rory did not seem to actually think that I caused it. And the punishment I received when I turned myself in is not what one would expect for that crime. Secondly, the people who got sick initially would have had to have progressed at twice the speed the disease progressed in anyone else for the timeline to fit. Finally, I was outright told by one of the first people sick that they knew it was not my doing. For whatever that is worth. But it may have just been to torment me while I was in the stocks. Still, it is probable the ritual, at the very least, empowered it a great deal. And though that was not my intent, it is what it is.
Eye: What made you decide to turn yourself in, if you weren't in fact guilty of anything?
Sadko: Because I was guilty. Of a great many things. Even if those were not the specific crimes I was punished for.
Eye: Do you feel that your punishment was enough to atone for everything you did feel yourself guilty of?
Sadko: I caused incalculable harm to the people I swore I would protect. Even disregarding the plague entirely, even if my ritual had nothing to do with the plague, that would still be true. And no, I will be atoning for years to come, if indeed I can ever make it up to them.
Eye: What were you actually charged with by the Imperials when you turned yourself in?
Sadko: Conspiracy to abduct and assault, I think.
Eye: I'm surprised even that that only gets a few days in the stocks.
Sadko: And a few days in gaol. They conveniently lost my paperwork for a bit after I was transferred. They made me think I was being hanged.
Eye: Oh really? And you believed that the whole time you were in gaol?
Sadko: Until someone stopped at my window and told me what the charges and punishment actually were. No one ever read my charges to me officially, but it was posted up about town after my transfer. So no, just a few agonizing hours.
Eye: Did you feel that hanging was an excessive punishment, if you weren't actually responsible for the plague after all?
Sadko: I would have accepted my death. I went in knowing it was a possibility, and that it would not be undeserved, given the scope of things. Though in truth I expected Despair. It was what Elli said was most likely. When I think about the cramping after three days of the stocks I wonder if Despair would not have been better after all. Elli was good to me. Only one who was.
Eye: So what would you say to those people who think you are a conscienceless monster, and that you should in fact have been hanged for your involvement in these events?
Sadko: Kessian justice, even if it is arbitrary, was done, by the will of a King and a Lightbringer both. Because that is not good enough for a lot of people, and why should it be, where I could I have offered personal apologies to those who fell ill and suffered and offered anything I could to make amends. And that still stands. If people have personal grievances with me they ought to come to me with them.
Eye: What do you intend to do if anyone takes you up on that offer?
Sadko: Apologize, and mean it. And because words are cheap, I offer whatever they wish from me, within reason, as penance. Not because it changes the past, but because maybe it can change how things are in the future. Enmity is tiring. I am tired. I want peace.
Eye: Well then. I will be sure to publish that bit along with the rest, and you can see if anyone accepts the offer.
Sadko: Ashinara already had to prevent one lynching.
Sadko: Jurion and Martaigne wanted me tortured and strung up. That is what forced me to do a runner.
Eye: Was that before your sentencing?
Sadko: Well before. Everyone was still sick, even. I was on the run for, what, a week or so? I only turned myself in after Elli promised me I would not be tortured if she could help it.
Eye: Well, it seems you avoided all that, anyway.
Sadko: Ash was decent enough to me all considered and I will not forget that he stood up to a mob for me.
Eye: And now it's all at an end, or as much of an end as anything ever is until people forget everything.
Sadko: Not over, not really. Just it is not affecting anyone people care about anymore.
Eye: Oh? What do you see the future bringing, then?
Sadko: Danger. There is a danger coming. Something that is going to affect the King. But I do not know specifics. Not yet.
Eye: And how do you know this?
Sadko: Does it matter? I learned my lesson about poking into these things. But it is true enough.
Eye: You do seem to have gained certain spiritual powers over the course of this whole affair.
Sadko: Something happened that night. Something was given to me. And not all of it left. I have no teacher and no one willing to try and teach, so these days I keep myself mostly in seclusion and try not to cause any damage.
Eye: Oh, that does sound interestingly ominous. Like one of those little bomb-things that people used to launch into the Crossroads, and you didn't know whether they were about to go off or not. Except generally they were.
( The subject here looked uneasy, for which reason we leave the Reader to speculate. )
Eye: And then everybody died horribly, or was maimed and left in terrible inexplicable suffering.
Sadko: I stopped trying to ask for help. I see what happens to people who do.
Eye: Oh? What people? And what does happen?
Sadko: Things always seem to get much worse.
Eye: That's simply life.
Sadko: Only because we design it to be such.
Eye: In any case, is there anything final you'd like to add?
Sadko: Only that I am sorry, I suppose, for... For not, well, being better I guess. I do not revel in what happened, I do not like it and I did not want it, and I accept responsibility for my role in it, whatever it truly was.
Eye: Ah. Vague, but repentant.
Sadko: They will probably continue to say I do not take any responsibility for anything and have no conscience and what-have-you. I was not well liked, and I am still not well liked.
Eye: It's certainly possible. Well, I appreciate your having taken the time to be interviewed.
Sadko: And what a terrible burden on you it has been, my condolences.
Eye: Journalism requires amazingly great sacrifices sometimes.
-----------====================THE KAEZARIAN EYE====================-----------
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN LAURDIA AND THE TALLONEAN EMPIRE
~*~ Being an Account of the Journey to the Hostile Frontier of Civilized Lands,
~*~ And Beyond it into the Very Heart of Orcish Savagery;
~*~ Describing Also the Extraordinary Sights, Remarkable Creatures,
~*~ And Unusual Encounters Had Therein.
Part the Fifth: The Last Outpost of Valek -- The Perils of Portraits and Painters -- On the Farthest Edge of Paradise -- A Skinned Corpse -- A Wind that Brooks no Intruders -- The Hill of Infinite Limits -- What Lies Beneath One's Sandals
As a consequence of the unexpected insect-induced delay described in the previous installment, Mister Haithock and I were put a good half-day behind in our travels, which already had meandered somewhat from their originally projected course due to the chance discovery of such interesting scenes already described as burnt villages and intriguing caves, as well as others which I have omitted in the interests of space and the reader's attention. With this loss of time in mind, we had planned to set off as early as possible the following morning, but additional delays due to a rather eventful night conspired to keep us from breaking our camp, such as it was, until the sun was already some ways above the horizon.
Our morning's target -- meant to be the target of the previous day -- was the outermost encampment of Valek gharkins that occupied the area, their clustered huts and tents making up a sort of oasis of what constitutes civilization well within the border of orcish lands, where one's standards of such things are markedly if understandably lowered. And in fact it was very strange to encounter something so quotidian as a camp of rather sedentary gharkins after the isolation and near-perfect solitude of the previous days, broken only by our time with the skittish troglodytes of the Tak Mneir.
Besides being the last remotely civilized enclave one might hope to encounter before passing under the full dominion of the Talone, this particular encampment was notable primarily for keeping among its employ a pair of wizards skilled in the art of teleportation, themselves making up the endmost segment of a long chain of such practitioners stretching from here to the Laurdian border with Peregorne, such that it was claimed that messages sent from this spot could be received back in Peregorne in a matter of but a few hours, or perhaps even minutes. To this day I do not know whether this claim is true, as the two wizards present were, like so many of their kind, quite full of their own importance and given to emphasizing it to anyone at any time possible, so that it was difficult to judge whether their own accounting of their abilities was a simple statement of fact or the most outrageous bragging.
Seeing that they did nevertheless have the virtue of being fairly scholarly types, however, Mister Haithcock and I questioned one of the pair on whether she was familiar with the mysterious paintings that we had seen and been so powerfully affected by in the caves of Tak Mneir. This wizard, a petite brunette with large blue eyes who looked too fragile to be left alone on the streets of Kaezar, let alone on the orcish frontier, nevertheless soon revealed herself to be not only proud and well-read but also made of significantly sterner stuff than her appearance suggested, as she described various forays she had made beyond the encampment in search of interesting magical phenomena, though she confessed having no knowledge of the paintings we mentioned.
She was, however, quite intrigued by them, and briefly cited a case she knew of from an ancient island kingdom somewhere in the Sodalian Sea, where some unknown blending of magics had led to a highly unusual political system in which the official portraits of the rulers in this place had been imbued with some portion of the souls of these rulers upon their deaths, and then used for many generations thereafter to provide advice to the present occupier of the throne. As the wizard told the tale, this state continued satisfactorily until a mob of citizens rose up in revolt against an unpopular living ruler, massacred the entire court, and installed one of the portraits on the throne instead. This in turn eventually resulted in a backlash from a rival faction that deposed the portrait and gave the crown to one of the portrait painters instead, who ordered all the old paintings destroyed but was said to use his skills to create new ones by which he could either control the thoughts and actions of their subjects, or actually imprisoned their souls in the paintings even before their deaths, though the fragmentary histories were unclear as to which of these was actually the case. Interesting as the story was it was difficult to say how much relevance it might have to the paintings back in the caves we had visited, though after describing our experiences to the wizard and hearing her own tale in return, one perceived the distinct possibility of the poor cave-dwellers receiving a great many more visitors in the future, for which I am not sure whether to feel pleased or pitying towards them.
The Valek camp itself was in a very charming spot, though I suppose the choice of location owed more to the place's ability to be defended than to be charming; however, it happily managed to be both. The center of it occupied the very sizeable crevices within an immense cluster of boulders situated on the very crown of a hilltop, with its fringes spreading out across natural terraces along the stepped hillside. The view was very striking, as the sharp teeth of the Fenwyllen Mountains jutted up in deep purple masses all along the horizon as if attempting to take a bite out of the sky itself, while between here and there lay what seemed to be another endless expanse of grassy plateau, this one punctuated by pale-crested buttes and evergreen-filled ravines in a picturesquely varied manner. All manner of birds could be heard jeering and twittering in the rocks and from clumps of shrubbery, while in the camp itself the boulders were alive with little scrabbling lizards that were perpetually darting up and down the rock faces and racing across the ceiling and falling with a resounding unexpected *PLOP* onto people's dinner-plates, which perhaps explains why fried lizard tail was considered a choice dish among the gharkins there.
Delightful and defensible as the camp was, Mister Haithcock and I did not stop there any longer than was necessary to exchange information on the current dispositions of the local orcs and obtain some small quantity of supplies. Our way stretched out across the grassy plateau and towards the peaks themselves, a destination whose perilous nature the Valek were much more appreciative of than were our cave-dwelling hosts of the night before last. After promising to sing great songs of our valorous demise should such come to pass -- an eventuality the gharkins seemed to view with appreciative relish -- the inhabitants of the camp sent us on our way with no further fanfare, and we turned our face towards the peaks which now inescapably dominated every vista but the one at our backs.
The trail forward through the grass -- such as it may be termed -- was but poorly marked, as the only readily detectable thing to show the way was an intermittent series of wooden posts that steadily faltered before petering out utterly after about an hour of walking. Whether all the posts after this point had burned down, been carried off by orcs, or been maliciously misplaced elsewhere, or even whether they had existed to begin with, was impossible to say, but whatever the case may have been the way thereafter could be discerned only by observing the knee-high grass for signs of slightly heavier passage in any given spot. However, this could not come as any great surprise given the fact that journeying directly into the heart of bloodthirsty orc country is not something that seems to appeal to any sizeable number of travelers.
Mister Haithcock seemed half-lost in meditations of his own and only superficially occupied with the question of where we might be headed, perhaps contemplating the contents of some obscure magickal treatise that he had picked up from one of the wizards stationed at the outpost, perhaps engaged in some other deep thoughts to which I was not privy. In any case, he seemed content to leave the matter of our navigation to myself, though for my part I also was absorbed in musings of my own that had come to me since the previous night. Still, for a time I could keep half my mind on the mere ghost of a track before me and leave the other half free to roam across the landscape without producing any undue effect on my ability to trace a path through the boundless meadows.
As I so often found to be the case in Laurdia, no words are truly sufficient to describe the place -- the great loveliness of these expansive rolling plateaux, the length and breadth of them rolling in endless stationary billows like a verdant wind-rippled pond, and the soft intermittent hush of the vast meadow itself playing the breathy tune of the air that stroked light fingers across its millions of grass-strings. This soft sussuration of song was overlaid with the whistling trills of larks spilling down from the bright blue heavens and the sweet tones of some nameless songbird that would fly high up into the air and then waft downward once more on a flutter of white-flashing wings, its throat bubbling forth a melody whose cascading notes mirrored its own descent. The golden light on the green grass, the purpling masses of mountain peaks, the mare's-tails of wispy white clouds swept lavishly across the bright blue sky, and this whole palette of magnificent colour accompanied by the sub-musical vibration of exuberant life that seemed to thrum through every living thing and into the very core of one's being -- all of these came together in a rich harmonious symphony of life and light. It was thus that much more of a shock when we ascended another golden rise and saw what lay on the other side.
Where behind us was an endless pageant of colour and motion, a brilliant panoply of all the extraordinary variety of Nature in all its multifarious forms, before us was -- nothing. Of all the leagues of verdant meadows and wind-sculpted shrubs and uncountable tribes of mice, lizards, and songbirds that ought to have lain spread out before us as they did behind, not so much as a single straw of grass remained. Instead, as far as the eye could see there was no more than a vast salted wasteland of parched and barren earth, even this consisting not of the rich loamy soil of the land we still stood on the edge of, but rather of a dryly clotted grey-black mass that gave the impression of having been burnt over countless times, scorching the ground beneath to ashy infertility. It was as if the entire plain before us has simply been scalped and skinned alive, and its wasted corpse left to lie there obscenely beneath the suddenly harsh eye of the sun.
There was no question of going around it, as there was no end to the destruction in sight, no border to skirt around with the guarded respect that one shows towards the restless dead. There was no other way but simply forward through the middle of the waste, towards whatever might lie on the other side, if indeed there was another side at all, as one could easily imagine the crumbling sterile dirt stretching right up to the very edge of the world, and from there pitching straight off into the Obsidian Plains. Nevertheless, onward we plunged into the unbeating heart of utter desolation.
With no inconvenient obstacles of living matter to block its course, the wind picked up as we went, and seemed in fact bitterly resentful of the intrusion of two vertical pillars of life upon its otherwise featureless expanse of oblivion. Indeed, the wind seemed the closest thing to a living and sentient entity that remained in that awful place, but this was no kin to the musically-inclined and playful zephyr that had billowed gently across the meadows we had just crossed. This wind had no use for leisurely meanderings or the playing of grass-harps, nor, it seemed, for any living thing at all, as even those few birds that attempted to brave the air above the dead plain found themselves snatched up in the wind's inexorable grip and hurtled headlong through the air with vicious speed, appearing more likely to find themselves dashed upon the bare earth than lofted towards whatever aerial destination they might have sought. It likewise pressed against us, moaning hollowly at the affront dealt to it by our stubborn insistence on remaining upright, and seemed unable to make up its mind whether to retard our forward progress by shoving us back and hurling grit in our faces, or to push against our backs and propell us that much more quickly from its realm, or simply to tumble us onto the ground with a swift sideways feint and a following violent gust.
The further we defied the wind and penetrated deep into that lifeless void, the more eternal the place began to seem, until it felt as if we could have been trudging through this bleak land for a day, or an hour, or half a lifetime. As one's sense of being tethered securely to time was frayed and snapped, so was one's ability to maintain any geographic reference, so that ultimately one was left with no capacity to sense how far one had come, nor with any guess as to how much further there could possibly be to go. There was in particular one steep slope that we had to ascend -- there looking to be no way around this any more than there had been a way around the entire dead zone itself -- which we would plod up, and up, and up, until our lungs felt fit to burst with a combination of the exertion and the fine choking dust and it was necessary to pause and try to turn our backs to the wind for long enough to regain our breath. And upon doing this multiple times in the course of our ascent, each time we would turn and look back the way we had come, and there was no suggestion, not even the smallest clue in our surroundings, or in the aspect of the slope, or the angle of the expanse looked upon, that we had moved more than a dozen paces upward, or in fact had not simply been walking in place the entire time.
Just as unusual was the fact that when we finally achieved what seemed to be the summit of the limitless slope, another glance back in the direction we had come seemed to show only the most modest of inclinations, such as one might walk up in half an hour, belting out the Kessian National Anthem the whole way, and still have breath enough to dance the Noogee Nonesuch at the end of it. From the looks of it, one could hardly have rolled a marble down that slope -- and yet our own labored breathing and weak-kneed wobbling gave our vision the lie. Mister Haithcock offered the explanation that this must be due to the thinner air that came from being at a higher elevation than we were accustomed to, and I myself thought perhaps the quantity of dust inhaled with each breath might also have contributed, but still this seemed to both of us a strangely pronounced difference from the relative ease with which we had traversed the meadows only a short height below us. As for the near-invisibility of the slope itself, it could only be surmised that the haze of ashy black dust conspired with the complete uniformity of the plain to produce an effect in which any one hide of ground appeared to run seamlessly into any other, such that one could hardly tell if a particular spot were a few paces or a few miles distant.
Perhaps this difficulty in judging distances and features in the landscape may strike the reader as a trivial thing, a mere fluke of perception unnecessary to spare more than a handful of moments remarking upon, thereupon to be dimissed from the mind as a single unimportant feature of a largely uninteresting landscape. Perhaps even the traveler herself might have found it little more than one more strange and slightly unsettling phenomenon of no greater moment or interest than any other on the entire trip thus far. However, this hypothetical traveler would perhaps be persuaded to alter her way of looking at things and to judge it of some importance after all were she, like Mister Haithcock and myself, to be plodding along in some unknown and unknowable hour of this physically and mentally fatiguing landscape, when the ground that had appeared so featureless for miles in advance fell suddenly away with an unexpected shifting of grey dirt and tumbling of gravelly pebbles into a precipitous ravine beneath her feet. She would perhaps be even more convinced of the special personal impact of this deceptive landscape if she found those feet no longer on solid ground at all, but rather hanging unsupported in mid-air, and herself saved from a plummeting free-fall only by the quick reflexes and strong grip of Mister Haithcock's hand around her own. And if this were not quite enough to persuade her of the critical importance of it all, she has only to see, beyond the ashy grey tedium, the infinite slopes, the abrupt falling-away of the ground, not only the uncomfortably great drop below her sandaled feet, but down below those self-same sandals and staring up at their soles, the very hostile gaze of an entire army of orcs.
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Letters, Essayes, and Opynion
An Open Letter from the Farmers of Kessia
My friends, we wish to address you today on a very serious matter.
We, the farmers and husbandmen of the Kessian countryside, know that most of you who will read this letter are honest hardworking tradesmen and -women, doing their part to keep our kingdom fruitful and prosperous, and not given to falling into the kinds of error we are going to speak of here. But in light of some things we see happening over and again, acts committed only by certain parties but parties with much power in their hands to do either good or ill, we feel we should speak out to all of you, on the great disrespect done to farmers and their holdings in this country.
Time and time again we see it -- the endless tramping back and forth of certain individuals through people's fields and pastures, with no regard at all for the crops being grown there or the livestock being grazed. They climb the fences, pick the flowers from our gardens, leave all the gates open for the animals to roam free, ravage cornfields with their flailing about of weapons and shooting off of magicks, sometimes even walk straight into our own houses as if they were guests invited in specifically to sit on the good furniture and poke about in every room as they please. They are, they say, warriors and wizards and jacks-of-all-trades, honing their skills for the defense of all Kessia. We hear the excuse that they are making the countryside safer by killing pumpkin-jacks and slaughtering dangerous animals by the score. But who, we ask, is going to make us safe from their own selves and their endless trespassing and bloodshed?
Not even our own stock are safe from this mass slaughter, as it happens all too often that we come in from tending the fields and trying to get the trampled cornstalks to stand up straight again to find these so-called adventurers whaling away with swords and axes at our own rabu or lighting them on fire with the power of their minds or whatever other loony bit of destruction they can think up to do. Do they think it fills our hearts with gratitude to look out our cottage windows after a hard day's work and see a flock of flaming rabu running through the pasture trailing smoke and setting our wheat fields alight? If I had just a sovereign for the number of times I have heard these people wondering to each other "why don't they ever do anything about this burned field" I would have enough coin to fence my pastures in seige gold. Of course, then they would probably make off with the fences too.
As if this weren't enough, what happens every single time some new monster decides to rampage through the kingdom, threatening destruction and madness? Do our "adventurers" rally around the farms and fields that support the people of Kessia in times of peace and terror alike? No, they immediately race off from the crops they have been stomping on all afternoon in pursuit of scarecrows and retreat behind the walls of the city, leaving the farmer to his fate. Or even worse -- and I direct the reader to proof of this in a picture in the last edition of this very newspaper -- they stand by like stumps while grotesque hell-monsters stomp all over the fields in their stead.
Do all these gallivanting adventurers even realize where the meat to make their steaks and the flour to bake their cakes comes from? We would like to most definitely assure them that these come from those very same fields that they are letting be stomped and pummeled and trampled all over by an endless parade of supernatural haunts and beasties. But do any of those adventurers care about that? No, they all congratulate themselves and pat one other on the backs and call it a great success when a giant pumpkin-monster lies toppled over dead onto somebody's one-time perfectly good cornfield, with it not likely anyone is going to get any kind of harvest whatsoever from it even for another year to come.
And does anyone ever take the time to clear off the sad toppled remains of these giant pumpkin monstrosities, or come out to help replant fields that have run to rot on account of a great lot of adventurers couldn't be bothered to even do that which adventurers are supposed to do, which is to say kill supernatural haunts and beasties rather than watch them trundle about with boards and effigies and what-not while an entire field of grain runs to waste? I know this may shock the ordinary folk of the city, those who keep regular jobs and regular hours and make themselves regular productive members of society, but no, these adventurers do not. It is all left up to the farmer himself to rid his fields of blood-soaked lumber, chop up and cart off giant vines and exploded chunks of pumpkin, and otherwise attempt to put his fields back to rights again after they have been subjected to such catastrophic indignities as they are continually left to.
Now having here voiced our grievances, we wish to state clearly that we are not opposed to the demon-slaying and world-saving and other heroics that these adventurers do on a regular basis, which of course help preserve our great kingdom from the ever-present threat of destruction under which we Kessians, like no other people in the gods' great world, live every day of our lives. To the last man, we stand on the same side against all those who would see harm done to our king and our country, and we have always worked hard in our humble trade to support these folks in their endeavors.
No, we have no axe to grind with these people -- with YOU people that we know are reading this letter right now. All we ask from you is that you show the same respect for us and our livelihoods that we do for yours. You take great pride in what you do for the kingdom, and believe me we take just as much in providing every Kessian and their family, from the loftiest noble to the lowest serving man, from the most ancient crone to the smallest toddling tyke -- even to each and every adventurer -- with the basic necessities of life. The heroism of my friends and neighbors may not be so great, but what flows through the stems of our cornstalks and the veins of our livestock is the lifeblood of our great kingdom.
Wellcome Arnold Haggeman and Neighbors
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
FOR THE PUBLIC NOTICE:
Be it known to all within the Kingdom of Kessia and the Great Kivian Imperium:
GLADSTON FORSYTHE is hereby declared OUTLAW and removed from the protection and consideration of the laws of the Kingdom of Kessia and the Great Kivian Imperium. He is banished from the civilized areas of the Empire and the Kingdom of Kessia and is forbidden to enter any of its cities, towns, villages, or settlements, on pain of death.
This writ shall be revoked when Forsythe submits himself to the judgment of the Imperium for his previous crimes.
[ A seal bearing a death's head is reproduced here in a very ominous and official-looking manner. ]
Declared on this day,
Kingsday the 25th of Storme, 650 Age of Dreams
By Lord High Magistrate Ezram Darkshades
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
Whispers of the Night Sky
by Sivalle Vasanne, A Humble Diviner
~ * ~
FOR THE MONTHE OF GHUST
Gracious readers, that special time has come once again! With a careful eye for detail, but with boundless enthusiasm, we shall glean precious insight into what Mnel'tiorn has in store for all of us this coming month. The Noble's haughty gaze meets mine as I cast a glance to the heavens, and I do not mind confessing that I was more than a little surprised by the warmth of his spirit! For those of you wishing to be looked upon favorably by the wonder of Mnel'tiorn, heed these words -- the Noble favors the colors of rich purples and reds, trinkets and jewelry cast from lanakin, and anything inlaid with ruby.
THOSE BORNE IN MORDE
The Dragyn-borne children should take care to be mindful of their actions under the watchful gaze of the discerning Mnel'tiorn. Your cunning and guile will be for naught, as those you hope to mislead will see through any ruse you attempt. It is a time for honesty -- to yourself most of all. Reconsider your actions, lest you stumble into an unpleasant situation! Numbers of fortune for you: Two, Thirteen, Twenty-Nine.
THOSE BORNE IN FRAOSTMONTH
Subjects of the Magician, listen well! It might seem you have had to work harder than most to get where you are now, and it may yet bear fruit. The Magician is looked upon with some suspicion by the Noble, as the cautious courtier may sometimes suspect the motives of a mystical magician, but he cannot deny your innate talents. Numbers of fortune for you: Nine, Seventeen, Twenty-Three.
THOSE BORNE IN STORME
Those of the Waterfall should be careful with who they confide in this month. Everywhere you turn, the price of friendship seems to be increasing. Those you call friends expect more and more from you, and you should consider whether it is worth your effort to maintain such things when you get so little in return. Numbers of fortune for you: Three, Nineteen, Twenty-Seven.
THOSE BORNE IN RAINE
The Winged Unicorn is recovering from a dour mood, it would seem, and the same might be said of you. Now is a good time to apologize to those you might have unintentionally slighted while in the depths of your sorrows. Do not forget that there are people around you who wish nothing but the best for you, and you ought not to take such efforts for granted. Numbers of fortune for you: Ten, Fifteen.
THOSE BORNE IN SUNE
Ever the charmer, aren't we, Sprite-child? Put your skills to work in a new field, something that may be refreshing after so long of the same routine. To put it bluntly, dear reader, perhaps you should consider a hobby that isn't chasing skirts. Perhaps a real job, if you are feeling adventurous. Numbers of fortune for you: Eight, Twenty-One.
THOSE BORNE IN DEATRE
Ahh, Myrmidon's children, your time has come and gone, but you still have the chance to show everyone exactly how much you are worth to them. During this month, your efforts in both work and love will pay off more than you expected. Il'Vlarchi's eyes still rest upon you, readers, even as the Noble turns his arrogant gaze away from the progeny of the warrior, and he and I are both hoping you will not disappoint him this time. Numbers of fortune for you: One, Twenty-Four, Thirty.
THOSE BORNE IN DIEN
The persistent Shieldbearer, always the voice of reason for your peers. Expect to be called upon to settle a dispute that threatens a friendship between people you consider dear to you. Your temperance will come in handy, as it has time and time before. Avoid strong drink, for you will need an unclouded mind this month if you mean to face the challenges ahead of you. Numbers of fortune for you: Seven, Twenty-Six.
THOSE BORNE IN GHUST
Despite entering into their own time of the year, those of the Noble stars will find themselves faced with uncharacteristically -- or characteristically, depending on who you are -- ignoble situations to endure. You must be delicate, dear reader, for the manner in which you approach this situation may spell certain doom for your social life. Especially, for example, if it lands you in another section of this lively publication. Follow the guiding light of Mnel'tiorn, be noble and upstanding, and you will weather this storm without much trouble. Numbers of fortune for you: Twelve, Fourteen.
THOSE BORNE IN THISTLE
Like the Apprentice whose light surrounds you, seek out ways to improve your skills in the trade you have taken up. Embrace an upcoming opportunity to stand out from the mediocrity that clings to you like wet cloth, and see how it pays off when you are noticed for your efforts. Your recognition will open up doors that might have been previously closed to you, so look for opportunities in places where none existed before. Numbers of fortune for you: Six, Twenty-Two.
THOSE BORNE IN KOLBRE
An unfortunate shadow looms over you this month, Orchid's child. Be guarded when discussing your finances with those whom you do not trust, as they may look for an opportunity to exploit your fleeting moments of generosity. Neither should you take any sort of financial risk this month, as things that seem too good to be true will undoubtedly prove to be just that. Numbers of fortune for you this month: Four, Eighteen, Twenty-Five.
THOSE BORNE IN PLADE
Coming as no surprise to anyone but yourself, the Sharl does not care much about you this month. Coincidentally, this has been proven to be the case every month, but that is a topic of discussion for another time. Expect to have to fend off trouble from all sides, even if it seems like things are finally starting to look up for you. Seek counsel from people wiser than you -- something which should not be hard to find. Numbers of fortune for you this month: Eleven, Twenty.
THOSE BORNE IN WINTE
Those under the sign of Balance should do just that and watch their footing this month. Though you consider yourself above others, you should be very careful not to callously cast judgment upon the people around you. Take a moment to understand that you are nowhere near as brilliant as you make yourself out to be, and it is not your place to condemn others for things they do. Numbers of fortune for you this month: Five, Sixteen, Twenty-Eight.
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
EYE ON KESSIA
~ Scenes from the Winter Masque,
~ Held this Past 21st Daye of Storme, 650 AoD
~ And Representing the Theme of Death and Rebirth
[ A triptych of woodblock prints spreads out across the following pages, revealing a series of scenes of such opulence and splendor that they dazzle even in monochrome.
The first print shows an expansive ballroom resplendent in glittering lights and the sheen of satin. Massive bronze firedogs cast in the likenesses of preening phoenixes nod approvingly over the glowing logs in each of the two fireplaces facing one another across the polished parquet dance floor. Hundreds of icicles dangle overhead, raining crystalline droplets and reflecting the glittering warmth of the many beeswax candles suspended between them in faceted glass orbs. Shimmering white satin canopies a pair of supple twig arches, matching the sumptuous velvet draped in elegant swathes over the gilded oak mantles, and verdant-threaded tapestries elegantly frame the frosted glass windows and intimate groups of fanciful rout chairs lining the walls.
Also here is a daun man in a ridged obsidian mask (standing near a woman in a clear glass half-mask), a daun man in an austere black silk eye-mask (standing near a stately daun man in a studded gold diadem and a golden sunburst mask), a half-elf woman in a brilliant butterfly mask (standing near a nymph man in a leafy forest green mask), an il'lthye woman in a striking oryx skull half-mask crowned with tall spiraling horns, a sylvan woman in a fiery bird's mask, a toga-clad daun woman in a gilded porcelain sun-shaped mask, a half-elf woman in an aged guardian mask, a daun man in an ivory skull half-mask, a daun woman in a a gilded leather sun mask, Silomae, a re'hari woman in a bright butterfly mask, a sylvan man in a glazed porcelain moon mask, a sylvan woman in a mist dragyn ouroboros mask, Caeloran, a daun man in a pitted high steel skull mask covered in flames, a daun man in a heavy red velvet cowl framing a yellowing ivory skull, Ariano, a sylvan woman in a satin-lined porcelain mask with a silk umi-chocho blossom, a sylvan man in a deranged flame-colored leather mask, a daun woman in a high steel raven eye-mask, a nymph man in a leafy forest green mask, a gharkin man in a gharkin skull mask sculpted from obsidian, a daun man in a feathered metal-plated porcelain half-mask, a stately daun man in a studded gold diadem and a golden sunburst mask, a sylvan woman in a crumbling gray unicorn half-mask, a daun woman in a clear glass half-mask, a lumpy-looking feathered gharkin in a poorly constructed bird mask. Ashinara, making no concessions to any such frovolity as costumes or mask-wearing, stands bare-headed near the doors with arms folded lightly behind his back. ]
[ This print shows a spectacular ice sculpture that graces an elaborately decorated table as its magnificent centerpiece. Roughly hewn into a trapezoidal block, a solid slab of white-streaked ice has been elegantly carved on two opposing sides into the grinning visage of a skull and the youthful, serene face of the goddess Eyssa. On one side, the clear crystalline planes of a fleshless skull curve away from the frosted ice as if emerging from a thick fog. On the other, the smooth features of the goddess are shot through with hoarfrost, skillfully cut to allow the white inclusions within the slab to define her closed eyes and gentle smile against the clear glacial ice behind her. White mist spills out through the teeth of the skull and between the goddess' lips in an endless exhalation of chill vapor which pours down the front of the sculpture and wreaths the dishes about its base. ]
[ The final picture in the triad reveals the grand hall over which the ice sculpture presides, a reduced but still bedazzling crowd spread out all around it. Shimmering in the wan glow cast by three glass orbs, hundreds of tiny crystalline shards dot the delicate panels of lush dark sendaline which drape the ceiling high overhead. Set below a plaque at the head of the chamber, an elaborately decorated table rests atop a dais constructed of weathered stone plinths, commanding a view of the four low tables arranged on the rush-strewn floor below. An intricately carved tolz and ebonwood buffet has been laid out beside the dais, and fringed tapestries hang above the casks ranked along the walls between two arched fireplaces, each framed by a pair of gnarled white trunks whose twisting branches are dotted with small ivory bulbs.
Arrayed among the tables are a sylvan woman in a satin-lined porcelain mask with a silk umi-chocho blossom (standing in the foreground), Ariano (standing near a sylvan woman in a satin-lined porcelain mask with a silk umi-chocho blossom), a sylvan woman in a fiery bird's mask (standing near a daun man in a feathered metal-plated porcelain half-mask), a sylvan man in a glazed porcelain moon mask, Amsha with a mist dragyn ouroboros mask propped up on her forehead, Marian, a daun woman in a gilded leather sun mask, a daun woman in a high steel raven eye-mask, an il'lthye woman in a simple garnet silk eye-mask and a pearl-embroidered silk kokoshnik, a daun man in a pitted high steel skull mask covered in flames, a daun man in a heavy red velvet cowl framing a yellowing ivory skull, a daun man in a feathered metal-plated porcelain half-mask, a daun man in an ivory skull half-mask, a lumpy-looking feathered gharkin in a poorly constructed bird mask, a half-elf woman in an aged guardian mask, Caeloran, and a re'hari woman in a bright butterfly mask. ]
Do you have a Photograph that you wish to share with your fellow Readers? Submit one to the offices of the Kaezarian Eye, along with a brief Explanation of the Shot, and our talented woodcut Artists will turn it into a Print for the next Edition of the News! All Photographs shall be returned as promptly as the Creative Process permits.
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
NEWS OF THE WORLDE
By Minerva Sartchilde, Owner and Chief Editor
It is with a hopefulle heart that thys Reportyr herein relaytes the subsidyng of thee extraordinarye unrestes whych took place worldwyde only three short monthes ago. Tho' it is certaine that thee consquynces of thee happenings will take yeares to fully play out, it is certayn that at least for the nonce, some Calme hath resumed: the swyft armed response of thee Caradeste Alliance to thee Kydellian cultes in Stella-Sera and Iiera't'elt haf routed oute the Heretics, with harsh punishments for those who weree not executed on thee spot. Tho' thee loss of life and destructione of artworkes cannot be replaced, the Doges, Duxes, and other regional leaders hath commissioned no small number of their city's Artistes to assist in thee reproductyon of what was lost, and those city-states whych were least affected haf promysed fynancial patronage to neighbors in rebuilding Ghentish places of worshyp. In d'Anjour hardshyp is still expected as thee springtyme plantings were adversely affectyd by the eventes related in thee last issue of thys Publication; however, thee undead plague haf retreated and ultymately proved perhaps no Worse in longterm Effectes than the events of Mylywyths past.
Hostilities are ongoing on thee Laurdian Front and it is now cornfirmed thee Emperor Anthemian haf declared Crusade upon thee Tallonean Empire, and hath called a Council in Penthras, bidding thee Rulers of Peregorne whose Countries are not already affected by thee Conflicts to attende him in Person: Kessia's own King Vek Macvahl, Queen Brianag Hargisdaur of thee Bristeach Isles, King Tyl'angan MacForend of Malakvia and King Tegro Farquartz of Mennailecht. It is rumored that King Byren Sorrenson of Kitzkannaugh hath deferred his Attendance owing to fears of a Resurgance of thee supporters of thee Pretender King Edmund Lockharte II (currently resydent in Sous-Fontenge, Indrejan), tho' Official Reportes from that Kingdom cite Queen Hilma's confynement with the byrth of their fourth childe as the True reason for his delaye.
In other newes, the Leviathan reported to be plagueing thee coastal traffick in the Straits of Adamantus hath been Defeated (or perhaps only Driven Forth) by a Consortium of naval vessyls from thee Nassendanian States working in co-operation with Indrejani shyps from as far afield as d'Anjour, along with a small but not insygnificant contingent of ships sent by the Dey of Xullab. Armed wyth a remarkable Array of Nocker-built Devyces constructed by thee Artfycier's Guilde in Sault-Vencion, thee motley Fleet was able to "boyl the very sea" about the Monster with a veritable Rain of Fyre, Shot, and Magick, declarying success when only Scraps of the Beast could be founde bobbing upon thee Waves, which were themselves discolored Black with its Bloode. Travellers are Hereby advised that safe passage between Indrejan and Ziguran is now Secure, altho' the pryce of Travel and Goodes haf increased to some Degree owing to thee recent Difficulties.
In the Empire of Vash, thys Reporter haf had confirmation that thee Divine Emperor Tenma Genki hath indeed relocated the majority of thee bureaucratic and governmental functions of thee Imperial Court from Taekota to Xianghou, tho the Emperor and his Shogun remain in Taekota and shall remain so until thee continuing Conflict hath been dealt wyth.
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
AS EYE SEE IT
By Aunty Anony
Hello Hello Hello - Hafe you hearde!
So much to Tell!
One thing Aunty loves most in all the world is the dance of courtship in Thrael, as her favorite people waltz together, part and reunite in new figures. And what a busy summer it's been! Miss Kasandri Sharas has been stepping out with a handsome new Carabello healer in town. Did you ever notice Celthric almost rhymes with all the picnics they've been having? Aunty wonders if she's sent back the Xe'Shexas family heirloom ring yet, or if Kedeamos' poor old mother is still waiting for the wedding bells. They could send the Thief-Taker after it, if he'd stop turning up drunk and disorderly all the time. Poor Jalith! Poor everybody who had to listen to him slur his way through his latest round of excuses.
Speaking of excuses, there won't be any more from renowned artist Vladimir Shadowlight, as he and the Firebrand of Thine have split for once and for all. Aunty wept with joy at the news of their engagement in Winte, but her tears are now from sorrow as she crosses Morde off her calendar. Another love token for Bhond to wrap up and ship back to the giver. Never fear, Aunty just knows that rascal Dalanoth will propose before the coals die down.
Almost a year exactly after Aunty thrilled at the lavish wedding of Anolisse Thr'eyan and Ashinara De'Alera, the noble Commander of the Royal Guard has been dubbed Sir Ashinara by His Majesty in a ceremony at Malcomb Castle. The long-deserved honor came as a surprise to many, but even more of a shock to Aunty was the bold presence of Miss Leniri Nandrae at the audience, although from what Aunty hears, the poor girl has lost her horns and most of her friends as well.
A certain Guillaumo LaFever is spending many an hour casting heartfelt glances at Hesperis Chai in her shop on the High Terrace. Said to be newly apprenticed to the illusionist Malo Haithcock, Master Guillaumo will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to carry on a Heartsome romance while laboring away at his studies in the Lyceum.
Just as Aunty was ready to deliver her page to the printer, her little birdies chirped in her ear, and what news they brought: a debauched party at Mariposa's wherein a newly divorced Knight of the Realm stripped down to reveal a drunken tattoo! Aunty is dying to know the details, and will happily listen to any confirmation of a tantalizing rumor of a secret wedding between two notables. Share with your dear old Aunty, darlings!
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
@@@@@ WANTED @@@@@ - Men and Women of the Empire in good standing with the law who are interested in serving their fellow Citizenry by joining the ranks of the Imperial Guard. All applicants must be at least 16 years of age, not have any major crimes on the record within the last two years, and be willing to swear their allegiance to His Imperial Majesty.
- policing the cities and kingdoms of the Empire and upholding its Laws and Ordinances
- defending its Officials, and
- defending its Lands and Holdings against all enemies, both Foreign and Domestic.
A 5000 Sovereign signing bonus is authorized, and a generous monthly stipend included. All applicants should either leave notice at the Imperial Keep, or contact one of the 8th Regiment's officers directly.
SEEKING -- A master Luthier, preferably with some experience or knowledge of the Zigurandi Oud, to be employed for a special project requiring no small measure of Expertise and Finesse. Must be willing to work closely with the patron concerning details of the instrument's Design and Materials. All special Materials to be provided at no cost to the Luthier. Final fee negotiable but generous, to be paid upon Satisfactory completion of the instrument, with a small advance to be paid out for the obtaining of additional supplies or other Expenses. Contact Siovanhe Starsong at the Crossroads Inn of Kaezar, or via Bhond's Delivery Service.
Locks opened fer cheep! Approved by the Society fer prevention of Cruelty ta Veckles! Ratsi's Lock Shop, Greys Ramble, City of Kaezar
Magrel the Tailor is offering great deals on sturdy clothing for the gentlemen. Located in Paran Alley 2 blocks west of Harrow Road.
Against all Odds and in the face of utter implacable Indifference on all sides, the Kaezarian Eye is still seeking talented, inquisitive, and DEDICATED writers! The Eye currently has Openings for General Reporters, as well as positions of a more Specialized nature, most particularly Interviewer and Special Events Reporter. Any Person hired by the Eye must be willing and able to produce at least one Article per Edition, and will receive a generous Salary from the timely completion of their Duties. All Persons interested in Applying for these positions, or having ideas for other Topics on which they might wish to write, are encouraged to speak with Siovanhe Starsong, acting manager.
Ghust Edition, Age Of Dreams, 650
NOTE FROM THE EDITORS:
Thanke you for purchasing, or Otherwyse obtaining, our newspaper.
Until the Streets of Kaezar are paved in Seige Gold, May the Publick Be Wary.
Minerva Sartchilde, Owner and Chief Editor.
Siovanhe Starsong, Head Reporter and Acting Manager.