Monday, 30 July 2012

Interstellar Dispatches 19

Originally posted by Town Crier's Guild on November 30, 2008
Featured articles in this issue:

  • Mammonist Heist Foiled
  • Millirice Harvest Failure
  • Town Criers Win Legal Ruling
  • Three Men on a Hill
  • Agora Notices

NEWS
Mammonist Heist Foiled
BYZANTIUM SECUNDUS--Imperial City--The Imperial Eye has revealed that its agents have foiled the second attempt by Mammonists in a month to attack the Imperial Mint. This attempt ended in a siege that lasted almost a day, until members of the elite Phoenix Guard were ordered to assault the building and capture the heretics.

Raiders entered the Imperial Mint in the heart of the Imperial City’s financial district disguised as cleaning staff. As the gang brandished weapons and secured the perimeter of the building, one member of staff was able to raise the alarm. The heretics took hostages and tried to force them to open the lower level vaults, where large caches of minted coins are stored.

The Imperial City Constabulary sealed off the building within minutes of the alarm and was quickly reinforced by a detachment of troops from the Byzantium Secundus Planetary Guard Regiment. Unable to escape the Mint, the Mammonists fired warning shots from the upper windows of the building to keep security forces at bay.

Negotiation began after twelve hours of tense siege when the Mammonists made demands for food and water. Agent Terpin Sylvar of the Imperial Eye entered the building to negotiate directly, taking with him the demanded supplies. In return, the Mammonists released seven of their twenty hostages.

Information obtained from the released hostages revealed that the heretics had wired the lower vaults with explosives to destroy the minted reserve of firebirds rather than steal them as had first been presumed. When Agent Sylvar failed to return after three hours of negotiation, two squads of the Phoenix Guard were placed on standby to deploy at a moment’s notice.

Finally, the Mammonists demanded a flitter for themselves and their hostages. Captain Arden Cameton of the Constabulary agreed to their demands and requested Phoenix Guard intervention.

The siege ended as the two squads of the Phoenix Guard arrived aboard the flitter that was supposed to ferry the Mammonists to safety. The first team secured the roof, while the second team abseiled down the exterior of the building to enter via the windows. The firefight was over in moments with only one casualty among the hostages.

Agent Sylvar was recovered unharmed and was believed to have assisted the Phoenix Guard raid by wrestling with the Mammonist leader to secure a dead-man detonator that could have destroyed the entire building.

Millirice Harvest Failure
GWYNNETH--Llanfyrth--For the second year running, the millirice harvest on Gwyneth has failed, leading to wide-scale shortages of basic food staples. Since the harvest last month the costs of living have almost doubled, which is also affecting fiefs on the planet who do not primarily rely on agriculture. As always, it will be the serfs who suffer most from these shortages, though the coming winter season will be hard on everyone.

We spoke with Sir Orin Hekarn Torenson, Seneschal to Count Thomas Hawkwood, who told us, “This is a disaster; two years running will cause hardship for everyone. We all depend on the millirice harvest and much of our produce is shipped offworld. Production is down, exports will be down and the costs will be soaring. We need to examine the reasons for this failure and ensure that we don’t make it three failed harvests in a row.”

“The weather has been particularly dry this year causing the millirice to wither on the stalk before the harvest. This may be related to the recent increase in the Red Sun’s solar activity, which has seen an upsurge in solar flares, by around 23.5%”, said Engineer Herton Lowmax, an expert advisor from the Engineers Guild in the field of agricultural technology.

Bishop Drew Coultrain had a different point of view. “Prayer! The Pancreator looks with ill favor upon those who practice paganism and show only lip service to the true Faith.”

At the behest of Count Thomas, the Engineers Guild was contracted to examine and resolve the water shortages by digging three bedrock wells and a series of channels to feed the water to the fields.

Sir Orin said, “The count is a forward-looking man, and the expense of this building project is justifiable to ensure that next year’s crop is not a repeat of the recent disaster.  The project has received criticism from some quarters, but desperate times necessitate desperate measures.”

Town Criers win Legal Ruling
LEAGUEHEIM--Kesparate--Only a few short months ago, the Town Criers Guild in general and the Interstellar Dispatches specifically were accused by Bishop Julius Haverland of promoting the sin of mass media. The offending articles were of course our very popular, if short lived, Magic Lantern Reviews.

The matter has now been resolved with a legal ruling from the Free Court. With representation from the Guild of Reeves, the Town Criers Guild successfully argued that a review column in our publication concerning magic lantern recordings intended for private viewing did not constitute an incitement to encourage the spread of mass media communications.

The ruling comes into force with immediate effect, though the Universal Church is considering an appeal against the judgment. It is also possible that the matter could be called to a hearing before the Ecclesiastical Court, which would have precedence over the Free Court in matters concerning spirituality.

The Town Criers Guild will keep you, our esteemed readership, up-to-date on this issue. In the meantime, we can reveal that until there is a formal ruling against the publication of further magic lantern review, this popular feature will be making a return in the near future.

SOCIETY
Welcome once again, conspiracy fans, for our regular Three Men on a Hill conspiracy round-up of the strange, foreboding and downright weird tales from across the length and breadth of the Phoenix Empire.

Three Men on a Hill
Hot on the heels of yet another conspiracy scoop we can reveal that despite the embargo on travel into Symbiot space, at least three vessels have jumped deep into the quarantined space of the shapeshifters. These freelancer crews are little more than unregulated thugs without the patronage of a guild to temper their illicit activities.

It has, however, come to our attention that one such ship has departed the Phoenix Empire carrying the Lord of House Masseri. Our sources have indicated that after the Town Criers Guild reported the discovery of the lost treasure of Daishan, Count Claudio Masseri has made every effort to raise funds and support for a recovery mission to the lost homeworld of his House. Few had anticipated that he would actually lead the expedition in person.

We are aware that Count Claudio is not alone in this venture and is accompanied by a number of old guard Masseri supporters and sycophants from his court on Cadavus. Among them is Baron Agusto Masseri, the commander of the count’s personal guard and Sir Bauldwin Masseri, who serves as chief diplomat and liaison with House Decados.

We understand that the freelancers hired to carry the expedition into forbidden space were recruited on Aylon and that by all accounts the count was already in possession of a jumpkey for the nightroad from Stigmata to Daishan.

Three Men on a Hill approached the office of the Stigmata Garrison Commander for comment and were issued with this statement, “The Garrison is not aware of any legal authorizations to travel to the Daishan system and will respond with appropriate and measured force to arrest and detain all vessels entering Stigmata space from known Symbiot jumpgates. Any ship that resists boarding and inspection will be treated as hostile and duly destroyed.”

Should Count Claudio not return from Daishan, then the already-weakened House Masseri will find itself burdened with greater problems. Without the house leadership or an acknowledged heir, succession could be contented by any one of three of the count’s nephews. The ramification of a conflict over succession could be profound.

AGORA NOTICES
The Town Crier's Guild takes no responsibility for Notices solicited in its reports. Dissatisfaction with product or services should be addressed to the merchant or manufacturer. If you can read these, then caveat emptor.

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Friday, 27 July 2012

Interstellar Dispatches 18

Originally posted by Town Crier's Guild on October 30, 2008
Featured articles in this issue:

  • Disturbance in Ashburn Heights
  • Golden Antiquity
  • Attaché to Ramakrishna ambassador killed
  • Memories of Baron Sun Cho Li Halan
  • Agora Notices

NEWS
Disturbance in Ashburn Heights
BYZANTIUM SECUNDUS – Galatea – House Hawkwood has confirmed that yesterday's disturbance was the work of terrorists. Baron Daniel Hawkwood's manor house was shelled by mortar fire while a second attack was staged against the Baron's recently acquired flitter factory. 

"The fools who attacked the flitter factory were caught in the open by a patrol and wiped out.  We're still investigating the mortar attacks,” said Sandra O'Connor, Baron Daniel's Reeve advisor. She added "We're offering a substantial reward of five hundred firebirds for information leading to an arrest of the culprits."

This marks the third noble estate struck by terrorists in two weeks in southern Galatea, and the second attack on a Hawkwood fief.  A source within the House who wished to remain unnamed indicated that the Hawkwoods would lodge a formal complaint with House Cameton and the Imperial authorities.  "If House Cameton thinks they can hire mercenaries to destroy our property and drive us from the Throne World they should think again."

Planetary Governor Marquessa Lekoya of House Cameton dismissed the anonymous Hawkwood's allegations.  "Anyone unsure enough to have to hide their identity is a coward as well as a fool. My seconds stand ready to discuss this matter with the anonymous Hawkwood's seconds at any time and in any place.  The truth of the matter is, House Cameton's investigation of these attacks is being hindered by off world interests and other meddlers" said the Governor. When pressed to elaborate on the involvement of off world meddlers the governor declined to comment.

Golden Antiquity
CRITICORUM – Archon – After more than a decade in dry-dock, Count Alderi Caspari al-Malik plans to re-launch his family's famous traveling Galleon, Golden Antiquity.  Previously owned and operated by the Eliji branch of the family for over 300 years, it carried luxury cargos across the Known Worlds and set the season’s fashions on every world it visited, eventually becoming a high priced auction house for items of technological, artistic, and historic importance. The Golden Antiquity became an icon for Guilders and Nobles alike during the Regency.  Attacked by raiders near Leminkianen 's Jumpgate in 4922 she has languished in space dock ever since.  Count Alderi's announcement came as a surprise to many in Duke Hakim’s court who believed the Count could never finance the restoration of this once magnificent ship.

Almost 2,000 feet long from bow to stern the Golden Antiquity is a monumental starship, beautifully restored to her former glory and outfitted with a few surprises to counter the next pirate that attempts to plunder her. With numerous reception rooms and lavish quarters she is truly a space going embassy, equipped to showcase everything the Phoenix Empire has to offer those worlds still lost to us.
Count Alderi gave us this statement, "The Antiquity's return will again provide the Known Worlds a chance to view and purchase the finest curiosities that humanity has to offer. With the Emperor’s blessing we will search out Lost Worlds and open new markets for our finest exports and return with wonders and curiosities traded from our lost brothers amongst the stars." 

A member of the Count’s staff was also quoted as saying, "New worlds are opening up, and with them new commodities of all kinds, now is just right time for this kind of venture to flourish." 
Scheduled to make her shake down cruise later this month, an undisclosed source has claimed that Count Enis Sharn Decados has already invited Count Alderi al-Malik and his vessel to visit Pandemonium. It is not yet known if Count Alderi will accept this invitation as an opportunity to put aside the differences between the two men.

Attaché to Ramakrishna Ambassador killed
SHAPRUT – Girivaja – Less than four months after establishing his embassy on Byzantium Secundus, Prince Sapan Ramakrishna has his first crisis at hand. Baronet Kutri Ramakrishna, attaché and great-nephew of the Vuldrok-born Prince, has been found trampled to death before the famed statue of Sakuntala and Tahir, apparently the victim of a Shantor-committed murder.

House Ramakrishna is based on the barbarian world Hargard (formally Vuldrok), but is closer in organization and culture to the noble Houses of the Phoenix Empire than to its warlike neighbors. Some minor Ramakrishna nobles—long thought to be the last of this line—have survived on Shaprut, keeping several small fiefs or acting as stewards for House al-Malik. After daring Questing Knights re-established contact with the lost House, the Phoenix Throne invited Queen Sura Ramakrishna to send an ambassador to the Imperial Court.

Now it seems that the death of Baronet Kutri has ignited the first diplomatic incident for the rediscovered House. While al-Malik authorities are treating the death as an unfortunate incident where a (yet to be caught) Shantor took his frustrations out on a random, if influential, human, Prince Sapan darkly hinted at Mutasih involvement and demanded an investigation by Imperial Authorities.
No further comment could be had from either side, as even seasoned Imperial courtiers are not willing to predict how the Emperor will act in this matter.

SOCIETY
This issue’s featured memories come from the Baron Sun Cho Li Halan:

"Life is a permanent challenge. If you forget this simple fact, you will never live to see your goals fulfilled.
In my opinion our noble society rests on three essential pillars: loyalty, truthfulness and above all faith in the Pancreator and His Prophet’s teachings. If there is no belief, there is neither any purpose nor strength to face life itself.
I learned during the war that faith is truly the core of our human nature and the source of all other virtues. Without faith, what reason could a man have to continue fighting after losing his eldest son and his first and second wives? I thank the Pancreator every day that he gave me the strength to always be loyal and confident, despite all the cruel bloodshed during the Emperor Wars.
My liege lord once told me to be proud of all my deeds for House Li Halan, which some might even call heroic. I do admit that I won some victories in battle, but all tactical maneuvers are in vain if one does not carry the strength of faith and confidence in one’s heart. I mourn the victims of this terrible conflict, but it would be wrong to regret all sacrifices that were made. My eldest son and many of my noble friends were killed in the fray, but we should never forget that they fulfilled their duty. We all served in some way and duty always comes at a price. If I hear young men lamenting about the hardships of life, I remember that I once thought the same way – but this was a very long time ago.
Some people think of war as a terrible sin and I agree. But mankind has always been imperfect and fighting has always been a part of human history. I truly believe that this will never change. This is why we should keep in mind to repent our sins, and never abandon the hope for salvation. I learned that the Pancreator gave us all that is necessary to overcome any obstacle we might encounter in the universe.
Now the war is long over and I am glad that I was able to return to my home on Kish, where I will continue to serve my House and my prince as truly as I always have. Coming home reminded me of why we had to fight so fiercely and why so many good men and women had to die protecting our House and values. When I returned, nobles and soldiers hailed me as a war hero and a paragon of Li Halan values, but I was never interested in glory. Sometimes people ask me how I became a hero during the Emperor Wars. The answer is simple: I just had faith in the Pancreator."
-Baron Sun Cho Li Halan lives on Kish, outside the planet’s capital of Escoral. During the war he lead an infantry battalion and was awarded a medal for bravery in action and several decorations for his iron resolve to continue fighting even if outnumbered or severely wounded.

AGORA NOTICES
The Town Crier's Guild takes no responsibility for Notices solicited in its reports. Dissatisfaction with product or services should be addressed to the merchant or manufacturer. If you can read these, then caveat emptor.

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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Interstellar Dispatches 17

Originally posted by Town Crier's Guild on September 30, 2008
Featured articles in this issue:

  • Town Crier’s Guild Recognized!
  • ‘Last Rites Killer’ Strikes Again
  • Object Discovered in Urth’s Oort Cloud
  • Courtly Gossip
  • Agora Notices

NEWS
Town Crier’s Guild Recognized!
LEAGUEHEIM – Kesparate – The Town Criers Guild is proud to announce that it has formally been awarded an interstellar patent of exclusivity on our recently established communications network. The system is based upon redeemed technology that uses think machines to send, receive and store communications between a guild house and Charioteer starships equipped with the new ‘Criers Box’. Messages are also transmitted between starships, permitting faster transfer of messages to different star systems.

While the Town Criers have long been a part of the Reeves Guild, it is not possible for a guild to hold multiple patents and it was for this reason that Dean Yoster formally declared the separation of the two Guilds. Both Dean Yoster and the newly appointed Dean Gus McLean met for the formal signing of the declaration that would legally separate their respective Guilds.

The new patent was issued with the blessing of his Imperial Majesty, Emperor Alexius and formally bestowed upon the newly appointed Dean of the Town Criers Guild by his emissary Marquis Godfrey Winsor Hawkwood.
Some commentators were not so impressed with the new Guild and its Interstellar status. Justin Crude of the Muster said, “This is a cheap shot by the Reeves to control a second patent, does anyone seriously believe that they would agree to hand over their communications interests to another guild? They might be separate in name but they are still the same guild, it’s just one of those sneaky legal things that Reeves do so well.”
Captain Haldan Blayfort was more positive: “I’ve recently had my ship, Clippers Grace, upgraded to carry one of those boxes. I get paid a small commission each time I jump into a system, something I was going to be doing anyway, money for nothing if you ask me. I think we Charioteers made a good deal and sound investment by signing up for this.”

Rumor has it that this deal has taken years to broker with contracts exchanged between the Charioteers, Engineers, Reeves and Town Criers Guilds and additional backing coming from the Imperial Eye. The Church has been conspicuous in their exclusion. No statement has yet been issued from the Patriarch or the College of Ethicals concerning the use of technology for faster communications.

‘Last Rites Killer’ Strikes Again
GRAIL – New Lahore – The Imperial Eye has dispatched an agent to Grail to investigate the ritualistic murder of a young noblewoman. The body of the victim was discovered in the basement of a rented tenement in Keela District of New Lahore last month and has been connected to two other murders.
The victim has been identified as Lady Alicia Silvers Hawkwood, the daughter of the late Baroness Suzanne Silvers, one of the heroes of Jericho. As with the previous two murders, her body was arranged in a serene pose beneath a shroud awaiting last rites. A hallmark of these killings is the removal of the victim’s eyes and a single precise stab wound that cuts downward from behind the collarbone to the heart. Local Physicks claim it was most likely delivered with a long thin-bladed stiletto.

This is the first time that the so-called ‘Last Rites Killer’ has struck beyond Byzantium Secundus. So far there is no discernable pattern in the attacks; the victims are apparently selected at random. Authorities are at a loss to explain the sudden shift the killer has made from the throne world. Some have speculated that this might be the work of a copycat killer.
House Hawkwood is believed to have dispatched Baron Carsdale Montgomery Hawkwood, a prominent member of Princess Victoria’s court on Delphi to conduct an investigation on behalf of the house. Agent Grenfield, of the Imperial Eye is expected to arrive imminently on Grail to take over the investigation from the local constabulary.

Object Discovered in Urth’s Oort Cloud
HOLY TERRA – Rio Brasilia – Astronomy has been a long overlooked science, a curiosity of academics based at the Academy Interatta. Three years ago the Faculty of Physical Sciences launched an ambitious project to catalogue and re-examine the distant stars visible in the skies across the Known Worlds. With four active observatory field teams, the Engineers were examining visible stellar clusters in the skies over Leagueheim, Byzantium Secundus, Tethys and Urth.

The Urth team led by Engineer August Rumpling as made a startling observation. While examining the motion of stellar bodies using the ancient lore of time-lapse imagery, the team discovered a bright reflective object much closer than the background stars they were attempting to observe.

“It piqued our interest”, said Engineer Rumpling, “simply because it was so much closer than anything we expected.”

A few calculations and the team had estimated that the bright star visible in their imagery could not be much bigger than a kilometer across and no more that 1,000 AU from Sol.

“The distance computations placed the object within the Urth’s Oort Cloud and, judging from subsequent observations and spectrographic analysis, we believe that it is artificial, possibly man made, perhaps a space station of some type. But its distance past the jumpgate would make reaching it a highly risky proposition. Whatever it is, it will likely remain a mystery for a considerable time to come.”

Speculation amongst Rumpling’s peers has generated a host of conjecture about stellar object BS43-Urth-684724539-23085008, some proposing that it is a metal comet, while others claim that this could be an ancient spacecraft from the pre-jumpgate era. Without sending a mission to investigate it will be impossible to determine the exact nature of this object.

SOCIETY
It has been sometime since the Lady Dahahalima left for her spa treatment never to return and we have been without the latest courtly gossip ever since. All is not lost however; we have a new courtly correspondent in the shapely form of Sir Doyle Lexford Camton.

"The politics, intrigues and fashions of the imperial court are no place for the faint hearted. A seemly veneer of orderly conduct and etiquette conceal the baser instincts that are often at work. For those who take pleasure in such things, a little gossip, enjoy.
“There is simply so much to tell. Only last week, the Emperor drove the biggest wedge yet between himself and his former house. A recent arrival from Delphi brought trouble in the form of this mother, brother and supposed betrothed down upon our noble ruler. As if family visits are not stressful enough, and without the added pressures of running an empire and keeping the peace between the two ladies that—shall we say it?—have their own eyes upon the dynastic throne. Without giving away too much, an associate of mine assures me that she overheard raised voices when the four met for a private dinner.
While I cannot give a precise rendition of the conversation, to say that it concerned our noble Emperor’s currently heirless status and need for an imperial marriage to assure the line of succession, would be close on the mark. The dowager lady had long promised the hand of Lady Penelope to her son, but our Emperor was not to be persuaded. In the words of my confidant “politeness became strained”, as others will attest, voices were raised in emphasis and finally the Emperor stormed out of the meal before the third course had been served.
Now this is where our little tale becomes more interesting, for my ears in proxy overheard, and can clearly recall the words to which the Emperor gave voice as he exited the chamber, “You marry her, then!”
Of course this week has seen some other rather ugly rumors surfacing. After an absence from the court of only a few short months, a certain notable Decados Duchess has made her return. This Duchess was resplendent as always in the most tantalizing of outfits. To my surprise I noted that the garment seemed ill fitting around the middle. Now I would never accuse a lady of putting on a little weight, but if I am not mistaken I would say that the Duchess Salandra has gained a potbelly.
Known for her physical fitness and worth in the dueling ring, this small bulge immediately fired up speculation that the lady was in fact with child rather than attending too many banquet dinners. I will leave you to imagine for yourselves who the father of such a child might possibly be…”
--Sir Doyle Lexford Camton

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Monday, 23 July 2012

Interstellar Dispatches 16

Originally posted by Town Crier's Guild on August 30, 2008
Featured articles in this issue:

  • Comet Pulverizes Dora
  • al-Malik Fleet Recalled from Stigmata
  • Patriarch Makes First Public Appearance in Months
  • Three Men on a Hill
  • Agora Notices

NEWS
Comet Pulverizes Dora
ISTAKHR – Samarkand – Astronomers have been watching the approach of the Najahan Comet as it entered the inner solar system on its 143-year orbit around Shams. Orbital calculations provided by the Charioteers Guild indicated that it would pass within one hundred thousand kilometers of Dahab—in astronomical terms a close call.

“Truly accurate predictions are difficult to give.” said Commander Papad al-Rashan, “We are just not sure exactly how close it will pass, but it will miss us by a small margin.”

Two days before Najahan would make its close fly-by of Dahab, Commander al-Rashan issued an alert that updated predictions based on newly observed data. This data indicated a high probability of the comet impacting, not on Dahab, but with one of its moons, Dora.

The Najahan Comet stuck Dora with the force of several hundred million megatons splitting the tiny moon apart and raining debris on both Dahab and Dora’s sister moon Darma. Dora is now little more than an orbiting cloud of rock and particulates. The sudden destruction of its twin moon, and the gravitational shock waves, have shifted Darma’s orbital path. Debris impacts on Dahab have caused seismic shocks that have split the world’s crust in several places, filling its already toxic atmosphere with dust.

Dahab and its moons are fortunate to have a low level of population, the largest concentration of people being in the Hagz prison complex. Apart from that facility, there were military personnel stationed at listening posts and some small-scale mining operations. Most of the population was able to go to ground, and the Administrator of Hagz, Baron Haqkim Ib-Naz al-Malik, opened his doors to admit those in need of shelter in preparation for fallout from the cataclysm. The al-Malik fleet dispatched a hospital ship and escorts from their base on Medina to assist in the aftermath.

Casualties were expected to be high, but the Hagz Dome has survived intact. The Charioteers have issued a warning to all ships in the vicinity that uncharted debris may be a hazard to shipping and that any vessel not directly involved with rescue operations should make course corrections to avoid the area.

al-Malik Fleet Recalled from Stigmata
STIGMATA – Damark Station – The Town Criers Guild has learned that the al-Malik fleet, deployed to prevent treasure hunters from disturbing the Symbiot world of Daishan four months ago, has been recalled from the Stigmata Jumpgate. Imperial garrison forces were given only scant hours notice of the withdrawal before the fleet jumped out to Shaprut.

A spokeswoman for House al-Malik, Lady Shanti Antrune al-Malik, assured our reporter that over the past months the threat posed by treasure hunters had been greatly reduced. She elaborated that intelligence operations conducted in tandem with the Charioteers Guild operatives had taken control of a significant number of illegal jumpkeys believed to give access to the Daishan system and that a physical blockade was no longer required.

Sir Kalen Decados of the Order of the Mantis was heard to remark, “Surprised they lasted this long. It was a high tariff that was paid, but at least it didn’t come from our treasury.”

With the news that the al-Malik had withdrawn, several noble ventures were gearing up and preparing to launch expeditions to explore the former Masseri homeworld. A sizable component of these treasure hunters are knights and scions of House Decados and its affiliates of the Houses Dextrite, Masseri and Keddah. No one seemed inclined to speak openly about what was occurring, but one young knight who wished to remain anonymous told us, “We will make for the jumpgate in a few days time. Once there [at Daishan], we will establish a search grid over the coordinates of the old capital of Dunearn; the bunker is somewhere close to the old palace. But the place is swarming with Symbiots, so we’ll have to fight our way in and blast our way out.”

A request for further information from House Decados met with a stiff denial that they were funding any expedition to Daishan. When presented with this new information, the Stigmata Garrison command issued a statement that, “Any ship coming from Daishan will be met with deadly force. The risk of Symbiot infection is too high to let even nobles back into the Known Worlds after they have breached quarantined space.”

Patriarch Makes First Public Appearance in Months
HOLY TERRA – Rio Brasilia – The Patriarch appeared in public for the first time in six months. His Holiness was able to stand with the assistance of an acolyte to steady this arm. Though this appearance was intended to dismiss rumors of the patriarch’s failing heath, his obvious frailty indicated that he had been unwell for some time.

A Church spokesperson later confirmed that his Holiness had indeed been bed-ridden for some months, but was now making an excellent progress towards recovery.

The benediction was delivered in a strong steady voice and with only a momentary lapse in concentration that left the Orthodox leader struggling to find his place in the pre-prepared speech. Once the reading had been completed he was escorted away from the address balcony to rest.

Church commentators have long speculated about the Patriarch’s health and it seems that while he has been ill for some time, his body is on the road to recovery and his spirit endures. Many of the spectators in the Address Square seemed reassured by the Patriarch’s appearance and offered up prayers for his continuing recovery.

SOCIETY
Our now regular column on conspiracy and paranoia in the Phoenix Empire continues with another installment of the popular ‘Three Men on a Hill’.

Three Men on a Hill
Welcome to yet another installment of ‘Three Men on a Hill.’ Much to our surprise, no one has yet attempted to shut down our operations. It can only be a conspiracy to undermine our credibility! But fear not good reader. Once you have cast your eyes across this months offerings, you will understand why our offices will be raided in the very near future.

Remember there is no such thing as coincidence. Coincidence is the weak mind seeing the link between seemingly unrelated events but not perceiving the true power play behind the scenes. Last month a Scraver survey team in the Istakhr system unearthed an ancient weapons cache containing doomsday weapons. Naturally this event did not make the headlines for secrecy was important to ensure that the Church Inquisition did not descend upon the dig site until after the excavations had been completed.

This month we read that the moon Dora, in that very same system, has been destroyed by a collision with a massive comet. With the destruction of the moon it is not possible to do much more than speculate given the lack of physical evidence. It is evident that the Scravers certainly unearthed something destructive, no doubt a planet killer weapon that they inadvertently triggered to destructive effect.

Information provided through some very reputable contacts suggests that the Scravers actually unearthed one of a number of doomsday weapons caches hidden by Ukari warriors during the last days of the Ukari War. There are a great many rumors circulating about the exact nature of the weapon they discovered on Dora, but Three Men on a Hill predicts you will not have heard the last of these ancient caches and more will surface in the months ahead.

The withdrawal of the al-Malik fleet from Stigmata is, we believe, a calculated move on the part of House al-Malik. The pieces of information we have pieced together firmly indicate that the fleet was not set to guard the Stigmata Jumpgate to protect the Known Worlds from a Symbiot invasion, but to prevent any of the treasure hunters from uncovering that the al-Malik have been holding secret negotiations with the Symbiots.

Our greatest minds here at ‘Three Men on a Hill’ have theorized that the Masseri treasure story is a facade perpetrated by Symbiot sympathizers in an attempt to lure more innocent humans in to the clutches of those demonic shape shifters. Once fed upon, these mercenaries will be returned to human space as Symbiots to infiltrate and destroy the Garrison that holds back the tide of monsters on Stigmata.

Be vigilant, the truth is out there, and so are the Symbiots!

AGORA NOTICES
The Town Crier's Guild takes no responsibility for Notices solicited in its reports. Dissatisfaction with product or services should be addressed to the merchant or manufacturer. If you can read these, then caveat emptor.

  • Exotic Pets from all across the Known Worlds and beyond
    Abdula Shakhan’s traveling Bizarre brings you the strange, the weird and the wonderful. No two animals the same, guaranteed that you will have that unique gift for that someone special. Be the talk of the party when you attend with your miniature guernicabeast or tamed skell. Do not delay; come and see what Shakhan can do for you.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Interstellar Dispatches 15

Originally posted by Town Criers Guild on July 30, 2008
Featured articles in this issue:

  • Slaves Declare Independence
  • Devout Searches for Chosen One
  • Oceanographic Survey makes Waves
  • Memories of Sir Percival Blake Hawkwood
  • Agora Notices

NEWS
Slaves Declare Independence
PANDEMONIUM – The Hub – The Muster has been embarrassed and many wealthy patrons inconvenienced by the cancellation of this weeks ‘Fleshdevil’ slave auction in the Hub. A revolt in the Drim River Internment Camp has left Muster bosses unable to sell their normal quotas or fulfill the labor requirement for numerous constructions works.

The Fleshdevil has taken on a celebratory atmosphere in recent years and for the Muster not to deliver was tantamount to incitement of the riot that followed. Aggrieved businesspeople have lodged formal complaints with the Guild, and the Reeves have served a writ for damages as a result of the civil disorder.

Furthermore, the Town Criers’ Guild has learned that the Drim River Camp is currently under siege from Muster troops and firmly under the control of its inmates. The Muster has made no attempt to re-enter the camp; instead they have secured a perimeter and subdued any slaves that attempted to escape.

Sergeant Tyler Barksdale described for us the events leading up to the revolt, “The camps are overcrowded and there have been delays in the processing of many new arrivals. But this camp is unusual in that we have a great many families housed here. In line with the policy of our camps, there is a strict segregation of gender. This has lead to families being split apart. Though, some of these families will be reunited and auctioned as serfs destined for repatriation into the Gilgar-sponsored plantations in Forsook.”

Using a squawker, our reporter established contact with the rebellious slaves for a short time before the Muster discovered the transmission and jammed it. The besieged slaves have established their own democratic state and morale is running high. The segregating fences that ran between the male and female sections of the camp have been torn down and families reunited.

The voice on the squawker was a former serf, Tuk Vurman from Delphi, “My family was sold into slavery to pay ma’ lord’s debts. All we had was each other an’ here we not even hav’ that. What more is there to lose?”

We approached Bishop Sergei Graf for a comment concerning the Muster’s treatment of prisoners, which he immediately condemned. However, when we pressed him for information concerning the use of those same slaves in the construction work of the Badlands Cathedral, he terminated the interview.

Devout Searches for Chosen One
MIDIAN – Saiwuhun – The arrival of Deacon Arran de Vor of the Eskatonic Order went unremarked three months ago, but news of his mission have begun to circulate. The holy man has been traveling with a small retinue visiting the smallest villages in rural Midian, preaching to those who would listen to his words. His presence has caused some consternation among the predominantly Orthodox ministries of the garden world.

The Deacon is a deeply spiritual man, not the aloof sorcerer one expects based on the sermons of his Orthodox hosts. In a soft voice he claims to have received a vision form the Empyrean guiding him to Midian to search out a child that he believes will be a future Patriarch.

As the author of the manuscript called the ‘De Vor Predictions’, Deacon de Vor is no stranger to controversy, as he has spent two decades in cloister recording his own premonitions and prognostications. He claims to have predicted the ascendancy of the Hawk over the Mantis, and the rise of Emperor Alexius. With over five thousand predictive verses recorded in the most cryptic symbolism, it is difficult to find clarity and coherent interpretation of his writing.

Nevertheless, Deacon de Vor is quietly insistent that his vision will prove true and that his mission is not only to find the child that will one day lead the Universal Church, but also to provide the proper spiritual education and encouragement for the chosen one.

Oceanographic Survey makes Waves
MADOC – Cape City – Engineers in the employ of the Academy Interatta have become the centre of a controversy on Madoc. The scientists and engineers were testing their latest invention for conducting deep oceanographic surveys. The think machine-guided bathysphere is capable of descending in to the deepest areas of the oceans to chart the ocean floor.

Initial tests of the device in the shallower coastal waters brought protests from the indigenous Oro’ym claiming that the Guild was attempting to spy on them and their cultural sites. Despite protests, the initial tests were successfully completed and the team has moved into deeper water, both literally and politically.

Deploying the oceanography device in the deepest part of Madoc’s ocean at the great trench called the ‘Dagan Scar’, the machine returned with a wealth of data―detailed high resolution sonar maps of the seabed within the formation. The Merchant League was again the address of bitter complaints from the Oro’ym elders.

Entered Sulovan Dross from the Madoc Oceanographic Project Team gave us this statement, “We really don’t understand the problem. The Oro’ym objected to our tests close to their cities and cultural sites. So we moved our test site and used the deepest area of Madoc’s oceans, the Dagan Scar. The trench is far deeper that the Oro’ym body can sustain. They cannot possibly have any cultural sanctuaries in the area of our tests.”

When queried about the survey results, Entered Dross said, “That’s the interesting thing, we are still analyzing the results and drawing up the maps based on the data, but we think that there is something down there. A regular repeating pattern of geometric sonar returns, it is highly unlikely that these are being reflected by naturally occurring rock formations. I believe we are looking at some kind of construction.”

SOCIETY
This issue we return to our Memories feature wherein various personalities from across the Phoenix Empire share their thoughts with our dedicated readership. This month we interviewed Sir Percival Blake Hawkwood, recently returned from his mission to the lost world of Twilight.

“It is jolly nice to be back in the Known Worlds again. Each adventure is an exhilaration, but it is the homecoming that makes traveling worth the hardship. In my recent endeavor my cadre and I traveled to the barbarian world of Twilight to see first hand the godless regime that seeks to supplant that world’s rightful nobility and bring chaos and disorder to all the peoples of that benighted world.”

“Twilight is only a single jump beyond Ravenna but it is a place in turmoil and strife following a great war in which the most destructive weapons have been used against the rightful heirs of that world, House Heidgard. Splinted long ago when Twilight closed its jumpgate, the Lords of Heidgard still bear a Hawkwood crest upon their livery, a sign of our ancient union.”

“Our cohort spent several weeks living among the Heidgard in their underground tunnels. The environment is so ruined by the terrible weapons used that no cities above ground yet remain. During that time we had several engagements with the Reval anarchists, who would come in a wave assault running screaming while firing wildly. My friend and guildsman cohort Chorry was hit in the throat and later died from his wounds; his sacrifice saved the rest of us.”

“We received warning that the Reval had discovered our landing site only minutes before the strike arrived. As we lifted away from the icy world and made for space, Reval ships fired upon us from orbit. We had not intended to cut our visit so short but were in real danger of being unable to return and report back our findings.”

“Of all the Barbarians I have encountered I find these Reval the most disturbing. At least the Vuldrok and Kurga understand their need to put faith in their gods, even if that belief is false. But these Reval believe in nothing except their own dictator. They do not keep a good social order, with no nobility to lead, or serfs to tend the fields, they known nothing but the chaos of war. I pray that our brothers on Twilight receive the aid they need to ensure victory.”

--Sir Percival Blake Hawkwood, Order of the Phoenix

AGORA NOTICES
The Town Crier's Guild takes no responsibility for Notices solicited in its reports. Dissatisfaction with product or services should be addressed to the merchant or manufacturer. If you can read these, then caveat emptor.

  • Pyrean Cactus Beer!
    The sensational new export from the burning world of Pyre. The otherwise poisonous spinehorn cactus is moderately toxic, but a special brewing technique can be used to neutralize the dangerous alkaloids turning them instead into a heady brew. Once a secret known only to the desert nomads, this lore is now under patent to the Brewers Guild. The first shipments of the full-bodied intoxicant are just now becoming available. Ask about Pyrean Cactus Beer at your nearest Brewers’ Guild Emporium.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Interstellar Dispatches 14

Originally posted by Town Criers Guild on June 30, 2008
Featured articles in this issue:

  • Mendicant Heresy Revealed
  • Militant Vorox Ravage Castle Sybaris
  • Supply Convoy Lost on Route to Kurga
  • A Letter from the Editor
  • Agora Notices

NEWS
Mendicant Heresy Revealed
DELPHI – Veet City Region – The reclusive 'Order Of Luminous Purity', which makes its home at a monastery beyond the eastern outskirts of the Veet City Region, has recently come under close scrutiny after one of its monks was discovered in the local agora wearing a pair of so-called 'rose-tinted glasses'. These high-tech glasses conjure a fictional environment for their wearer and are proscribed by the Church.

According to Father Edwards, a spokesman for Veet's bishop Megnasi, the mendicant order – which has about 30 members and controls a small and serene fief surrounding its monastery – avoids almost all contact with outsiders to protect their own purity.

When questioned why he would wear this proscribed item the unnamed monk said that, when his order needs to buy supplies in Veet, its emissary dons the ancient pair of glasses to 'protect' himself from the sin and corruption of the city. The glasses are programmed to show everyone as pure and virtuous and thus keep the emissary’s soul-mirror clean.

Father Edwards further added that archbishop Lyander of Doloria has already stepped in and demanded a thorough investigation of this case. In an open letter to bishop Megnasi he wrote, "If these charges of technosophy are true, I trust that you will disband this deluded cult and take charge of their once holy monastery. [...] Their self-touted purity is no more real than the images of this lying pair of glasses. A deception of the most dangerous sort."

Why the archbishop himself has chosen to intervene in this local affair is a matter for speculation. It may well be that he is attempting to show strength as a possible successor to the ageing Patriarch.

Militant Vorox Ravage Castle Sybaris
MALIGNATIUS – New Jakovgrad – The so-called 'Siege of Castle Sybaris' was ended yesterday, after Kossack-led troops from Nunaat and Alakshak arrived in force to drive the Vorox invaders off and retake the castle.

Many of the Vorox are former commandos in the Li Halan military. Refusing to accept the loss of their Li Halan masters, they have been waging a guerilla war on the southern polar continent of New Tibet since House Decados conquered Malignatius during the Emperor Wars. While there are peaceful communities of civilized Vorox on the rest of Malignatius, the New Tibetan Vorox are much more militant and it is rumored that their cubs remain feral, not undertaking the declawing rite of passage that separates them from their bestial cousins on Ungavorox.

Garahagaya, a former captain in the Li Halan military, leads the largest of these militant packs and has been a threat to the human settlers in this area for several years. Now it seems Garahagaya has upped the ante by uniting many of New Tibet's packs for a coordinated strike on the continent's administrative center and capital Castle Sybaris.

The ancient castle, which is also the residence of the continent's ruler Marquis Gennady Decados, was overrun within an hour; its human defenders slain while the supposedly loyal Vorox guards treacherously switched sides.
Marquis Gennady and his small court fled into the deep air-bombardment shelters of the castle before the attacking Vorox broke through. There they were forced to spend an entire week whilst overhead the feral beasts pillaged the castle.

Much of the castle’s interior was plundered or destroyed while the personal chambers of the residing nobles were subjected to what Baronet Tamara Decados described as "acts of the basest and filthiest sort".

The nightmarish week came to a sudden end when a small flotilla appeared at the horizon. Fifty Kossacks and more than 1,000 regular soldiers arrived on the shores of New Tibet. The feral Vorox quickly fled, taking supplies and, to Marquis Gennady's chagrin, most of the castle's weaponry with them.

After surveying his ruined throne room, the Marquis swore, "These beasts have not heard the last of me! Before the year is over, their hides will hang upon my walls and their heads will be my hunting trophies!"

Supply Convoy Lost on Route to Kurga
VERA CRUZ – Los Aztecha – A supply convoy of more than a dozen freighters loaded with supplies for troops fighting on the Kurgan front has been destroyed in the Vera Cruz system. Believing the Vera Cruz system to be safe, the convoy was unprotected as it made its way to the Jumpgate, where it was to rendezvous with an escort flotilla coming from Sutek.

The supply fleet sent a distress call only hours before it was supposed to make its rendezvous and reported that it had come under attack from a Kurgan raider fleet. The privateer vessel San Paulo, captained by Anton Gonzalez de San Paulo, responded immediately. Despite burning its fuel reserves, it could not arrive in time to fight off the attackers. The San Paulo was the first vessel to arrive and rescued a number of crewmen from the stricken freighters.

This is the first time in decades that Kurgan raiders have struck beyond Kurga. Hazat military intelligence had until now assured guild and civic leaders on Vera Cruz that the Kurgans no longer possessed jumpkeys to access the route from Kurga into the heart of the Empire.

Baron Juan del Vasquez de Vera Cruz made this statement, “All military forces in the Vera Cruz system have been placed on high alert to counter the Kurgan threat. It is likely, however, that the raiders have already taken their spoils and made good their escape.”

Captain Anton Gonzales de San Paulo was not so easily convinced, “The supply ships were victims of a surgical strike, not a random act of piracy. The raiders disabled the freighters’ engines, then purposefully targeted the cargo pods and bays to destroy the contents. The raiders did not board the disabled vessels, nor steal any cargo; this was an act of war, not piracy.”

SOCIETY
Our popular feature, the Magic Lantern Review, has been suspended by order of Archbishop Palamon, following an open letter from Bishop Haverland accusing the Town Criers Guild of promoting the soul-dimming taint of mass media:
A Letter from the Editor
Despite the popularity of our Magic Lantern Review over the past couple of months, the editor has been forced to consider his position and the suitability of this material for publication in light of an open letter from Bishop Julius Haverland, addressing his concerns that we are promoting mass media in violation of Church edicts to the contrary.

I would answer that charge by stating that the Magic Lantern Review provided reviews of holofile recordings that are produced and distributed legally for the private entertainment of those individuals with the personal wealth and lifestyle to permit them to enjoy such things. We are not promoting or even advocating the mass viewing of these shows to the greater population. Our readership is a small percentage of literates throughout the Known Worlds -principally those with noble, church or guild education, and not lowly serfs.

In answer to the good Bishop’s demand for a full investigation by the Inquisition into these charges, I would say that such a thing is wholly unnecessary and a gross overreaction. We have taken advice from our parent guild—the Guild of Reeves—and, while our position is defensible under both Church and Imperial Law, we shall respect the reservations of the Orthodox Church and suspend this popular feature forthwith for an indefinite period of time.

It is my hope that cooler heads may prevail in the future. Until such time the Guild of Town Criers will not seek to review any further Magic Lantern Productions.

With deepest regret,

The Editor

AGORA NOTICES
The Town Crier's Guild takes no responsibility for Notices solicited in its reports. Dissatisfaction with product or services should be addressed to the merchant or manufacturer. If you can read these, then caveat emptor.

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Monday, 16 July 2012

Interstellar Dispatches 13

Originally posted by Town Criers Guild on May 30, 2008
Featured articles in this issue:

  • Hazat Claim Decisive Space Battle
  • Independence March Ends in Violence
  • Stigmata Biodiversity Audit Leaked
  • Magic Lantern Review: Horror Between the Stars
  • Agora Notices

NEWS
Hazat Claim Decisive Space Battle
ARAGON – Castle Furias – The Hazat Military Command has claimed a decisive victory over the Kurgan Fleet, our reporter can reveal. Intelligence, obtained from recently captured Kurgan officers on Hira, indicated that the Kurgans were preparing for a major space born offensive with the impending arrival of the so-called Kurgan Armada.

The Hazat Red Talon Fleet, lead by Admiral Paulus del Torro Sanchez de Aragon, bolstered by additional ships brought in from Vera Cruz lay in ambush for the Kurgan invaders and struck as the enemy fleet exited the jumpgate. Of the so-called Armada, six invading ships were destroyed and two escaped in-system and are now being hunted.

Admiral del Torro Sanchez returned to fleet headquarters on Aragon to present the hulks of six enemy ships, all raider class, to the Prize Court in person. Hailed as a hero of Hira, the Admiral was awarded the Talon of Honor medal, the Hazat’s highest military honor by Prince Juan himself.

The glory may well turn out to be premature as Hazat ground forces have been unable to secure significant territorial gains, facing heavy resistance from both Kurgan regiments and from the Hira peoples themselves. Despite heavy reporting restrictions placed upon our Guild by the Hazat Command we can reveal that communications with Hira have now been cut off for several weeks following the Admiral’s triumphant return.

A free trader captain, recently returned from Hira, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke to us of his harrowing flight to reach the safety of the jumpgate. He and his ship came under attack from Kurgan picket ships as a massive fleet numbering, quote ‘hundreds of ships’ arrived in the Hira system only a few days after the Red Talon Fleet departed the system.

Independence March Ends in Violence
RAMPART – Avaneir – A march organized through the streets of Avaneir to protest Li Halan rule and demand the reinstatement of Academician rule came to an end in bloodshed. Organizers rallied as many as ten thousand people to take up placards with anti-Li Halan slogans to demand fair voice for their objections to rule under the royal house.

Li Halan forces responded initially with restraint but when the mob toppled a statue of the planetary governor, Countess Magu Li Halan, and burned Li Halan flags in the former Academician Square, the order was given to disperse the mob. The house military responded by shooting into the crowd, killing a number of protesters. Panic spread through the crowd and a stampede left many more people dead.

The Li Halan forces were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of rioters. The mob broke up into smaller groups that looted and burned a number of buildings in central Avaneir before reinforcements arrived to contain the dissenting masses. Deploying a sonic weapon to subdue the dissidents, Baron Zhu Tang Li Halan imposed a curfew. A makeshift camp has been constructed to house the many subdued and arrested. The Muster is believed to be involved with assisting the Li Halan authorities in processing the rioters prior to repatriation.

Interstellar Dispatches has learned that the Juan Men made several arrests in the days following the riots.

Stigmata Biodiversity Audit Leaked
BYZANTIUM SECUNDUS – Port Authority – Imperial authorities are investigating how a private report intended for the eyes of His Imperial Majesty and selected members of the Imperial Court came into open circulation. The private report penned by the noble scholar Sir Willan Navus Dextrite contains his diary and journals covering ten years of research into biodiversity on Stigmata. His journals make a number of startling claims.

The report indicates that animal and plant life on Stigmata has undergone surprising changes in the period of only a single year. Both flora and fauna are growing to sizes previously unknown, usually increasing to 150% of the previous normal mass but as much as 300% in specific observed cases. Also the actual diversity of life on the world seems to have exploded; Sir Willan notes that in the last year he has personally catalogued over five hundred new species, and it seems that he is making discoveries daily.

The document goes on to speculate about the origin of these new species, considering such theorems as simple migration to genetic manipulation or even positing adjustment of the planetary orbit to bring about these observed changes. Sir Willan has requested aid from both Imperial Authorities and Guilds to identify the root cause of this diversification. The finger of suspicion would normally point towards the Symbiots, however Sir Willan specifically notes the dramatic reduction in Symbiot hostility. Citing records held by the Stigmata Garrison, the increasing jungle density is hampering its patrols and reducing the number of hostile contacts.

SOCIETY
The Town Criers Guild is proud to present a new feature. Magic Lantern Review aims to give you all the information to make an informed choice about which of the most recent productions you need to see. 

Horror Between the Stars
A Bone-Chilling Thriller of Technological Terror!
As the Engineer ship ‘The Stalwart’ is christened, the Order is proud. It is the most advanced starship to see the light of day since the time of the Second Republic. Its first mission is a routine one: travel to the jumpgate and back, a shake down cruise, to make sure all systems are functional. However, some time into the mission, Captain Derek Valiant finds inexplicable, seemingly accidental deaths everywhere he turns. Then the ship stops responding. Electrical malfunction or demonic influence? Will he find the answer before the ship leaves the system and heads into the interstellar darkness? Starring William MacSteel as Derek Valiant and Lucy Languedoc as the sultry and mysterious Miss Glimmer.

Gorambor the Vorox: “Film start out long-winded and boring with all kinds of technical stuff but gets exciting in the middle. The humans cannot see what chasing them and cannot hunt it down. Very scary for anyone who's been chased by a Ungavoroxian chameleon spider before - but on starship there is no spider-root to make predator go away! Film does end very unsatisfactory; humans do funny things with the think machine and then film ends. Gorambor wants to know what the predator looked like, because if it was chameleon spider then there’s already spider eggs on board!”

Provost Emilio Desotro of the Eskatonic Order: “Astrological warnings go unheeded by all in the latest thriller from the makers of "Dark Omen" and "Assassin in the Shadows." Pulling on overly histrionic performances by Lucy Languedoc and William MacSteel, the duet returning from last cycle's popular romantic comedy, ‘Cadavan Rendezvous’, this picture is equally as banal. The mysterious adversary is never elucidated in detail and reduced to a mere puppet of evil; nevertheless, a few chase scenes do stir the blood. The moral lesson of the picture is evident from the opening scene, in which the starship Captain rejects the sage advice of his Orthodox confessor and launches the craft on an auspicious date by the local calendar. While the theme of such hubris has been overplayed in recent months, the film does achieve one striking minutiae of originality--the stars visible from the ship's viewports resemble none in the Known Worlds, suggesting an even greater depth of isolation than that projected by The Stalwart's airlock failure. The producers should be applauded for such assiduous attention to detail, even though the film is overall a failure as a compelling drama.”

Master Engineer Edric Shurak: “Here we have a good piece of how artistic desires - whatever they may be - can be coordinated with a very correct technological background. Not only is the hypernavigation math quoted at the beginning when the course is set absolutely right (If used exactly like quoted, a ship would miss the jumpgate by 13909.8767 km, but that is minimal), but also nearly every piece of equipment used, shown or just mentioned in the HoloFile is labeled correctly and operates just as in reality. So the first part gives the viewer a stunning exact picture of the operation of a starship.

“Only the dire warnings uttered by technologically unknowing clerical persons at the beginning are not within the limits of technological possibilities, but that corresponds with the behavior of real priests, so in a socio-psychological way, that is also valuable information transmitted to the HoloFile (HF) consumer.

“But the crude perceptive and emotional behavior patterns of most HF consumers seem to enforce always the insertion of illogical escalating situations, mostly coupled with violent behavior, first exhibited by hostile life forms, then processed and multiplied by human antagonists of these life forms. That seems to be a dramatic necessity enjoyed by the average HF consumer, so it has to be accepted. And when this violent interaction is actually performed in a logical and plausible technical matter--as here--you can garner valuable and usable data from watching the file, besides the positive emotional influx you can have.

“The presentation itself follows the standard HFPS 44/6 format for visual recording and processing, so the level of optical detail is quite impressive, only the sound recording is fuzzy at some parts, where it is difficult to differentiate human panic sounds from non-defined sounds produced by hostile creatures. My person was informed that this should be an ‘artistic’ element of the File, but imprecision is never acceptable.”

Sir Hercules Erastes Xanthippe: “This 'epic' is yet another attempt at indoctrinating everybody with the unsavory gender relations that have been spreading under the current Emperor's rule. What else to expect from a man who plays several women against each other, like, indeed, he should be calling the shots in the courting game. Just why his mother allows him to treat women like that is certainly beyond me. To talk about this sorry excuse for 'entertainment', there are several problems with it. That the plotline makes no sense in military terms is one thing, but it's even worse how the 'hero' Derek Valiant treats the actual heroine. Valiant is ruled by an entirely unsavory taste for personal aggrandizement, later by his foolhardy urge to impress Miss Glimmer, who, while being wiser and certainly delectable, is reduced from heroic status to that of a swooning prop that serves only to draw attention to just how juvenile and irredeemably sexist Valiant is.

“The 'love scenes' are the most disgusting thing in this epic, with Miss Glimmer whispering nonsensical promises while Valiant treats her with a superiority complex that I found especially grating, and the consummation of their relationship that was all about 'taming' Miss Glimmer and bringing her fully onto Valiant's side, was the moment when I left the lantern show.

As requested, Horror Between the Stars was banned from public viewing in all our Moonhavens, while the House's complaints still need to be properly addressed by the epic's makers.”

AGORA NOTICES
The Town Crier's Guild takes no responsibility for Notices solicited in its reports. Dissatisfaction with product or services should be addressed to the merchant or manufacturer. If you can read these, then caveat emptor.

Xavier & Zimm’s Interstellar Gypsee Carnival!
By order and special arrangement of the Guild of Carnivaleers.

Curious to taste the exotics of far distant Kurga?
Curious to see the herd of performing dwarf Shantor?
Curious to see feats of unbelievable dexterity high in the air above the deadly pit?

You have only two weeks to see these and more at the Planetary Agoras on Criticorum, Severus, Leagueheim, and Byzantium Secundus. Two talons get you inside the Royal Tents, and who knows what awaits you there?

Test your luck against the Wheels of Fate!
Try your might on the Hammerfall Buzzer!
See the Witchie Lumpkin, demon-beast of Delphi!
Tremble before the Great White Sharkman, pulled from the waters of Madoc!
Hold on for dear life on the White-Knuckle Whirling Dervish!
Experience zero-gravity on Flight Ninety-Nine from Urth!

Main Ring Events: Humans have built flying machines, but the Pancreator has built flyers―see the colorful and vibrant Etyri aerial ballet in flight! Beautiful and deadly, they soar through the air while launching arrows fletched with their own feathers! See each one skirt death time and again!

Watch desperate criminals and proud warriors battle each other and the fiercest creatures the Known Worlds can offer! See Sir Victor Masseri engage in unshielded combat with Vuldrok barbarians and Ungavoroxian terrors! Who will be victorious?

Watch in amazement as the Gipsee Tumblers defy gravity and fear above the Pit of the Forsaken! You’ll see them spin, tumble, climb, and fly. Then the real amazement begins!

Xavier & Zimm’s Insterstellar Gipsee Carnival, running TWO WEEKS ONLY at an Agora near you. Visit your local Agora today!


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Fading Suns 3 Game Master's Guide Opening Fiction



To: Lady Yasmina Keddah, New Lahore, Grail

My Dearest Sister,

It has been so long since last I wrote to you. Many times over the past few months have I taken up my pen to write and found that I could not put my thoughts into a coherent order, but now the months threaten to become years and I must record this transcript while I have a moment of clarity and rest from the turmoil of my life. I find myself now preparing for the next leg of our travels, within a few days I expect to leave Stigmata bound for Nowhere, I hope that I will be able to make the pilgrimage to the Great Howler of Nowhere and there perhaps find some answers.

So much has changed since I left home, my eyes have been opened, and sometimes I think not always for the better. The Empire is a darker place than I had ever suspected. I have borne witness to things that I know I should not relate to you. Out of fear I have not even revealed my knowledge in confession and it burdens me, but trust is not something that I easily give any longer. I am jumping ahead again, forgive me; I should take up my tale where last I left off.

I took ship from Byzantium Secundus, in the company of Kalera ra Korr, some six months ago. Our intended destination was Leminkainen, a Hawkwood world on the rim of barbarian space. We booked passage aboard the Kalim’s Eye, a vessel little more than a tramp freighter, but with delusions of grandeur. The ship’s Captain was an obsequious weasel of a man who seemed to think that he could impress his betters with fading finery and ask an exorbitant fee for the privilege. Though my experience of space travel was still limited I found the two weeks that we were forced to endure the fool’s excuse for etiquette to be amongst the most uncomfortable I have ever spent. I did not leave our cramped cabin, except when I could no longer find excuses not to dine with the captain. I found my mood had soured and I slipped into black thoughts. Only Kalera was able to raise my spirits and without her company I might have lost the will to live altogether.

During our passage Kalera confided to me that she had obtained the treasure map from one of the men who had accosted her aboard the Leveran on our route to Byzantium Secundus. At the time I did not think to challenge her earlier denials of those men’s motives for her assault. The ancient document was stored on a tiny think machine no bigger than her hand. The casing bore an emblem that I recognized, a mark that one of her assailants had borne as a tattoo upon his forearm, three triangles set together to form a fourth with a curved tail extending from each of  its three corners. Then I did not know what that emblem stood for nor the trouble that it would bring upon us.

The Kalim’s Eye touched down in Hakkonen in the pre-dawn, a red fire touched the horizon and set the golden spires of the city to reflect a bloody hue. We debarked into the arid air that was blowing in from the Blood Desert tempered only slightly by the nearness of the Tesla Straights. The city might have been a grand sight from the air, had it not been that I had so recently left the grandness of the Imperial City. The spaceport district was on the outer edge of the city, an old quarter that had been rebuilt during the Second Republic but had since fallen back into squalor, or so the guide that we hired informed us. To my eyes the avenues were wide but poorly tended, sometimes when the great storms blow in from the desert the streets could become clogged with sand and had to be dug out. I was fortunate enough not to see such an event.

Within days of our arrival I had come to the attention of one of the local Hawkwood lords and received an invitation of hospitality that I was relieved to accept. Baron Edgur Hilary Hawkwood’s fief is actually in the far north of the Jyvaskyla continent beyond the reaches of the Blood Desert, but he maintains a residence in Hakkonen where he was presently residing. The Baron was a man of average height and build but with a face I can only characterize as hawkish. Upon our first meeting he was dressed in finery, but on subsequent occasions seemed to be more comfortable in less formal dress. We struck up a strong acquaintance for I found the man to be likeable, intelligent, and articulate.

While we prepared for our expedition, we spent two weeks in the Baron’s hospitality and were invited to attend a number of functions, where I feel certain that the Baron was showing us off like some prize. Many of the Hawkwood nobles I met had a genuine interest in my homeworld, made curious by our Emperor’s recent esteem. At one such engagement I was introduced to Sir Cedric Hawkwood, a man with whom I have little common ground. He had recently served in the army of his lord fighting the treacherous House Vasalayana, until their capitulation and recent vassalage to House Hawkwood. Though the man’s manner and superiority was sufficient to make my blood boil, I maintained a polite level of decorum, until finally he turned away to engage another in conversation. It was then that I spied a mark I recognized on the back of the man’s exposed neck, three triangles in one with the trailing curves from the corners.

I made enquires about the man and discovered that he was no common soldier as I had assumed but one of the Hawkwood’s elite warriors, as he had served in a group called the Taliesin’s Spear. Sir Cedric had a fearsome, even black, reputation and was rumored to have reversed his own family’s ailing fortunes with the spoils of war. Some even whispered that he had links with House Dextrite, a house with whom my own was allied during the dark days of our Decados patronage. I had thought that my enquiries had been sufficiently subtle but on more than one occasion I felt uneasy and spied Sir Cedric watching me through the crowd.

Slightly unnerved by the man’s attention I took the opportunity to lightly touch the minds of those close to him, and what I discovered surprised me. Most feared him, not because of his reputation alone, but because he held some secret of theirs that none would want revealed. The man whom he had turned away to converse with was Baronet Montgomery Hawkwood, a man who apparently was in Sir Cedric’s debt for quietly arranging the removal of his troublesome first wife. Another, who smiled and nodded as he passed me, had concealed his financial debts by taking loans organized by Sir Cedric. A third was not a man at all; my skin shivered as my mind touched his and his eyes immediately bore in my direction, so I feigned preoccupation with the guest to whom I was only half talking.
I was only too relieved when I was able to make excuses and withdraw to the privacy of the rooms the Baron had graciously set aside for Kalera and I.

Over the next few days we continued our preparations. Kalera had located our intended destination on a map I had borrowed from the Baron’s library.  The maps showed Leminkainen during the height of the Second Republic, when the Blood Desert had been a fertile grain basket dotted with many cities and settlements before it had been bombed into oblivion in successive wars. Kalera had contracted a guide who claimed to know the Blood Desert, “like it was the back of his hand”. We struck out in our guide’s own beaten-up land crawler, after I had taken leave of the Baron and thanked him for his good will. We did not travel alone, in addition to our guide we brought along two burly handlers who would double as laborers and guards.

It took us three days travelling steadily north before we reached the area that we needed to search for remains of the world before. We were not entirely sure what it was we were looking for in truth, some kind of bunker or underground site that might be accessible from the surface. At this point I became concerned that we had not brought sufficiently heavy digging equipment and that two handlers armed only with spades seemed to me like an impossible task.

After three days of hunting through the sand-filled ruins we discovered that we were not alone. One of our handlers returned to camp with two men, prospectors who had been conducting a mineral survey in the region and were apparently in the employ of the Duchess Catherine Hawkwood who rules all of the Jyvaskyla continent through her vassals. I was informed that the mineral–oxides in the sand represent a valuable resource to local industry if they are present in sufficient concentration and can be separated from the sand by various processes. That we had come across these men was providence for they had equipment and expertise to sound out the ground and locate the hiding place of our long lost vault. Of course their assistance did not come cheaply, the merchantmen of the league desiring a large stake in any claim we would make. We agreed to terms before sharing our data with them, and almost immediately had a breakthrough. The treasure map we had was little more than a set of coordinates relative to the magnetic pole of the planet. What we did not know is that the magnetic pole of Leminkainen is prone to wandering. Using the prospector’s corrections it was determined that we were off course by some twelve miles. We would never have found what we were seeking without them.

The weather turned the following day and a storm blew up. Though distant from the heart of the weather system, the sand was whipped up and visibility dropped to a few yards so it took two more days to crawl through the treacherous terrain without endangering the crawler or ourselves, but even this was to be fortuitous for us. Had visibility been better we might have blundered straight into the middle of an excavation site, or worse have been spotted long before we arrived. As it was the weather was our ally, permitting us to back away from the site without being seen and letting us know that we were not the only people interested in whatever was buried under the red sands of the Blood Desert.

Securely wrapped in desert cloaks that protected our faces and lungs from the coarse grains carried by the wind, Kalera and I scouted out the lay of the land to determine who had beaten us to the prize and what kind of force they might present. Three crawlers were arranged about a large pavilion that was intended to hide whatever work was being undertaken. There were no guards or obvious signs of life, as everything was secured against the storm. Then the hatch on one of the crawlers opened and a man swaddled in a cloak hurried from the pale yellow illumination of the vehicle’s interior as a second closed the aperture behind his exit. Both men then hurried across the short distance to the pavilion and ducked inside securely refastening the straps. I turned to confer with Kalera, but she had vanished from my side. I waited for her until the sand started to cover me, then I returned alone to our crawler.

I could see expectant looks on the faces of the others at my return, and surprise that I did so alone. I ignored the first comment from one of the handlers about, “no loss to lose the alien bitch.” But in a rage I turned upon the man at his second insolent comment and beat him until he lost consciousness. I shamed myself with my lack of restraint and shocked the others with my outpouring of violence. The handler was a lowborn peasant so I should not have expected high standards of tolerance from such a man. Our guide bandaged him and laid him in one of the crawler’s beds. Everyone sat in tense silence after that, no one said anything for fear of my reaction; the atmosphere was oppressive and I wished for a priest to which I could give my confession.

After what seemed like days, the crawler hatch was yanked open and Kalera shrugged the sand from her cloak. My relief at seeing her was like a great weight being lifted from my shoulders so that I could breathe again. She took in the tense air in the cabin, the bandaged handler and dried blood on my hands, but said nothing. She simply drank deeply from the canteen that had hung on a hook by the door.

She had scouted out the circle of crawlers and now knew the disposition of the enemy camp. Though there were three crawlers one was a transport for freight, empty but for a few boxes of supplies. The other two were like ours which mean that there may be as many as sixteen people in their camp. Kalera assured us that there were only three guards and the expedition leader living out of one crawler while the other was home to six laborers brought in to do the excavation and heavy lifting. The mutterings of the prospectors seemed to indicate that they believed that the prize was now beyond us. Kalera indicated that she wished to speak with me privately and we stepped back outside of the crawler into the whipping winds.

She had other plans and was not about to lose our prize, not without a fight anyway, though we still had no idea what the prize might actually be. As it transpired Kalera was quite an expert saboteur, at the appointed time when she said that there would be a diversion the excavation site was lit up by an explosion that tore apart one of the crawlers, ripped a hole in the side of the pavilion, and scattered burning hot metal shards across red dunes. We were ready, and scrambled across the loose sand during the confusion. I was first through the hole in the side of the tent and therefore the first to engage one of the guards; he was already wounded from shrapnel and I cut him down with a swift slash of my blade. The second saw us coming and tried to descend back over the lip of the pit they had excavated.

Kalera’s swift foot caught him in the temple and sent him to fall the ten yards or so to the bottom.
The inside of the pavilion was well lit by fusion lights rigging the edge of the pit and a tall spire could be seen rising from the center of the excavation. A ladder allowed for descent, but from the lip of the pit it became obvious why these men had not simply made off with the prize as we had intended to do. A great needle of rock jutted from the base of the pit, how much more of this structure existed below the ground level could only be guessed at. Had it not been for the timely warning shout from Kalera, I might have been incinerated as I stood agape at the intricate glyphs that were carved into that rising needle of stone. The blaster shot would have passed squarely through my chest from back to front. I twisted round as I dropped to one knee to reply with the automatic pistol I had taken to carrying, though my shots should have been precise my assailant was preternaturally swift, he rolled forward as his rapier came free of its scabbard and our blades locked. I was eye to eye with Sir Cedric Hawkwood, his face twisted up in a sneer as we each forced our weight forward into our blades. He was stronger, and I was forced back to edge of the pit. Then Kalera joined the fight. She struck from his flank, but he pulled his weight back and changed his footing, parrying her long knife, and then with his other hand he made a sharp movement in my direction. It was nowhere close to touching me and yet I felt the weight of his touch on my chest, just enough to send my balance off, so I stepped back so as not to stumble but there was no footing for me and I plummeted in to the pit. The edge of the excavation was steep but not sheer, though I think I hit every rock and boulder on the way down.

My momentum carried me forward as I tried to stagger to my feet, and as I did so my head struck the monolith. I do not know if the experience I had came as the result of blow to the skull or from some mystical property of the stone column itself. I felt every emotion simultaneously and a blinding white experience sent my mind into darkness where voices whispered to me and then called my name. I remembered faraway places that I have never before visited. Much of what I saw, or felt, I can now only recall as a distant memory, half remembered. I know that there was more, if only I could rekindle that moment. Except that it was not a moment; I am unclear exactly how much time I did lose, certainly several days but I cannot be exact.

I recall being awakened. I was cold and wet. My head swam and faces came and went. Sound was distorted like I was underwater. But the worst part of my awakening was that it was not the face of Kalera standing over me, trying to rouse me, but that of Sir Cedric Hawkwood. Everything lurched and the room swam past me. The only clear memories I have of those moments are those of standing outside of myself watching the scene unfold like some strange magic lantern projection. There were others present, but I could not say how many. I was bound to a chair, or perhaps it was a frame of some kind. There was a searing pain in my head and I became aware of a second man who stood with Sir Cedric; his hand was tightly clamped to my temples and pain of his grip mixed freely with the pain inside my head. I tried to focus my will, to drive it back and bring on full consciousness, but something deep inside me said not to, that I was safer where I was, in this dream-like form.

The second man was talking, “He’s in a terrible state, what did you do to him Cedric?”
“Nothing, he touched the pillar unprotected. Had he not been out cold I might have enjoyed finishing him off.”

The other man was shaking his head, “He is a pawn in this. He knows nothing of any use. It’s that Ukari witch that we want.”

Sir Cedric pulled open one of my fluttering eyelids, “He is gifted though? It would be a shame to waste his talent.”

“I doubt he would be a willing convert. His will is weak, but I’m sure our friends could use him, and we can profit from their needs,” said the second man. “He’s waking.”

I felt the blow keenly this time, not some distant sensation, and darkness fringed my vision again, the second blow landing just before I succumbed.

I recall coming and going from consciousness several times. I hurt all over and my body was as weak as a newborn. One of the few certainties that I have from that time was that I was being transported from one place to another. I cannot accurately describe the pain I felt for I am certain that I cannot recall it now with anything like the sickening intensity it was then. Perhaps I should be grateful of that.

I did not have to endure my captivity for too long, for my rescue was at hand. I remember the lurching feeling of the crate I was being transported in as it was pulled up and swung sideways. Then there was the momentary feeling of free fall before the crate struck the hard ground, smashing open one end and buckling the metal. I recall only snatches of what followed, just images really: it was dark outside, night time, but the place was lit casting long shadows upon the lines of crates on the dock side. I lay on the cold stone of the quay unable to stand despite my efforts; a great metal leviathan was tethered to the near side of the dock, its armored hull open along the dorsal line of the beast to receive many other stowage crates like the one I had just crawled from.

There were shouts and confusion, dock workers scattered as several impossibly large men crossed the gang way from the submersible craft, and several shots rang out. Someone knelt next to me and spoke, and he had to repeat himself several times before I was able to give him my name. Then I was pulled away as another explosion sounded.

Dear sister, my most sincere apologies for relating these terrible events to you in such detail. In part the reason for penning such things is so that I can place them in some context and make sense of what has happened to me. Be assured that my letter to our mother will mention none of this, but will instead talk of my boredom and a fruitless trek about the Blood Desert in search of something that never was.
Should we ever meet again in person you would be excused for not recognizing me, as the monolith left its mark upon me, both in mind and upon my body. Even after the months that have elapsed between this time and then my scars have not healed. The physick who attended me was baffled, thinking that at first I had been branded. The scars crisscross my whole body, the worst, deepest, and angry reddish welts where I touched the pillar of rock, with my hands and face. But even on the furthest extremities of my body, on my legs, chest, and feet I am marked, though they are like the spidery silver thread of old scars long healed. I am not ashamed of these marks as they have a purpose. I know that the monolith did something to me; it marked me for a purpose and wrote my destiny upon my flesh for all to see.

I owe a debt of gratitude to those who rescued me that night for had they not I would surely have suffered at the hands of House Dextrite, whose prison submarine had awaited me. My rescuers were agents of the Baron Edgur Hawkwood and had come at Kalera’s request. She had escaped Sir Cedric in the desert and organized my aid. I was, of course, now in the debt to the Baron; I had assumed that he might be content with the embarrassment caused to his political rivals but that was not to be the case. My debt would have to be repaid once I was fit enough to do so. The Baron desired that I cause problems for Sir Cedric and his cult of psychics who had taken up residence in Hakkonen, and in our brief conversation he seemed to think that I would harbor a need to restore my honor and standing by bring the man down in the eyes of the Hawkwood family.

I admit to you that I have little stomach for revenge, but Kalera was keen to settle the score and during my convalescence spent a great deal of her time and energy following Sir Cedric and his associates and tracing his business dealings. As she described, his psychic cult, the Invisible Path, were not nearly as invisible as they believed themselves to be. Several were former members of the Taliesin’s Spear, and were well known in military circles. Various authorities, out of a mixture of fear, blackmail, and bribery, simply over looked much of their operation, and much of their logistical support seemed to be coming from House Dextrite.

If we could break a number of these holds that Cedric and his group held then likely those who had served him reluctantly would be only too happy to take advantage of his weakness. My prior social engagements had brought many of Sir Cedric’s allies into one place and I already knew many of their secrets. The Dextrite were an unknown quantity and so we contrived an opportunity to meet with one of them, Sir Vuld Dextrite, a man Kalera had identified as Cedric’s principle point of contact with that House. He was known to indulge his darker side in the water front inns of the Hakkonen port district. I was able to convince his chaperone that we needed some private time to discus business, and the Dextrite nearly jumped out of his skin when I revealed my face to him. Kalera made him aware of a blade she claimed was poisoned to encourage him to hear us out.

I was able to discover more than a few secrets, as Vuld used to make people disappear and in fact knew what had become of many of them. Baron Montgomery’s first wife, for example, was yet living in Dextrite captivity, in case she should ever be needed. Knowing that the poor woman had spent a year inside a Dextrite prison cell distressed me, but I could not simply use a threat of her return against the Baron, so I would have to actually see her rescued. This would be a very public embarrassment for Montgomery and he would know that Sir Cedric had betrayed him. I plied Sir Vuld with enough drinks to knock out a Vorox and then gently helped his memories of the evening disappear into the alcoholic haze.

We departed that same evening, using a small sailing boat that was rigged so that it could be sailed by a single man. As I’m sure you remember I am an able sailor, for we having spent weeks travelling up and down the coast and throughout the small islands close to New Lahore, and I was enjoying the opportunity and the memories that our crossing to island of Kriel afforded us. Our small sailing vessel was too small to be of any notice to the other seagoing vessels in the Tesla Straights and I had no problem navigating our route to come ashore only a few miles from manse where Lady Estella Windsor Hawkwood was being held. I have been informed that Kriel is a penal colony and it may as well be for those peasants we saw during out travels were the most wretched I have ever laid eyes upon. They move about their tasks like shambling husks, no longer quite human, but not having yet passed over to the other side.

We did not approach the manse directly but came to it by way of a secret entrance Sir Vuld had revealed to us, and so we bypassed the guards and the house proper to emerge in the catacombs below. There were not many prisoners, but I was forced to kill the jailor before he could raise the alarm. I think in retrospect I did the man a service. We located the Lady Estella swiftly, but she was in poor physical condition and had suffered what looked like chemical burns; I am no physick and so I can only make inaccurate conjecture about such things. She wore a dress that was a mismatch to her predicament: finery, unfaded and relatively clean, though she was bare footed. She barely acknowledged us until we had carried her back out through the secret way and stood her up again in the open air.

Fate had smiled on us thus far, but upon our return to the small cove where I had anchored our boat I was dismayed to notice that the rocky beach was no longer deserted. Three men stood on the beach while a fourth waded out of the water, presumably having just swum back from the boat. The small inflatable raft that we had used to come ashore was still hidden where it had been left but it could only carry two people and one of those would have to be the Lady Estella. Despite what I had taught Kalera during our travels here I was not certain that she would be able to manage the return journey without me, neither could she swim. If we had used logic I should have taken the lady to the boat while Kalera distracted the men on the beach. But I was not about to shirk my responsibilities and I needed to prove myself so I sent the women to gather the raft while I went to draw off the onlookers.

I challenged them there on the beach, and I moved to keep them between myself and the boat and their attention firmly on me. I could see the little raft fighting the waves as Kalera rowed with all her strength. I killed the first man with my rapier through his chest and maimed the legs of the second one, but the third pulled an antique-looking pistol from his belt, while the fourth lumbered towards me. This last one was bigger than the others and my rapier inflicted several wounds that would have slowed a normal man. In the end I lodged the blade in his arm, I felt it strike bone, and without flinching he used his other hand to break the blade off half way to the hilt.

I resorted to burning his mind with the power of my gift and turned to face the man with the antique pistol leveled at my chest.  We were not twenty paces distant, yet his shot from the ancient black powder weapon went wide. I drew my trusty autopistol as he fumbled to reload. I closed the distance between us until the muzzle of my weapon pressed into his forehead and he dropped the pistol at my feet.

“Be sure to tell your lord what happened here today. Tell him that the scarred man is putting things to rights.”

In the days that followed we returned the Lady Estella to Hakkonen and to the care of the Baron Edgur Hawkwood. We did not tarry any longer than necessary for we had made more enemies than friends and I had a sudden desire to see the Howler of Nowhere, the feeling pulling at me like a magnet pointing towards the pole. I was able to secure us transport on the most unorthodox of vessels. The Saint John is a Brother Battle medical frigate bound for Stigmata following its resupply. Usually, I am told, such vessels do not take passengers, save perhaps those who have served the order in some way or are Imperial dignitaries. However, the master of the vessel, Adept Captain Ello Kitell, took one look at the scars on my face and said it would be his honor to bear us to Stigmata. I do not know what the man saw, but I was grateful for his assistance.

The Saint John is a modern vessel, recently commissioned from the shipyards above Holy Terra, its halls Spartan and scoured clean. Their Chief Physick offered to attend to my injuries, but I rejected his offer. The scars I bear on body are my new birthmarks and I bear mine with the same pride that Kalera bears hers.

I will write to you again my sister, my twin. I have a long road yet to travel but my feet have finally found their path.

With eternal love and devotion,

Your brother,

Sir Mathias Keddah