-----------====================THE KAEZARIAN EYE====================-----------
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- MYLYWYTH MAKES TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO KESSIA! 2
- ODDLY ENCHANTED OBJECTS HOLD KEY TO DEMONS' DISAPPEARANCE13
- MACABRE INCIDENTS PUT GUARDS ON ALERT16
- A PAIR OF FAIRES19
- MECHANICAL SPIDER CATASTROPHE NARROWLY AVERTED23
- MIRACLE DOCTOR RETURNS TO KAEZAR25
- NEWS IN BRIEFE27
- THE FOOD CRITIC REVIEWS: The Silver Tankard31
- INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN LAURDIA AND THE TALLONEAN EMPIRE, Part 437
- IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Letters and Opinion45
- EYE ON KESSIA48
- NEWS OF THE WORLDE49
- AS EYE SEE IT50
- NOTE FROM THE EDITORS52
-----------====================THE KAEZARIAN EYE====================-----------
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
MYLYWYTH MAKES TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO KESSIA!
~*~ Providing a Fully ILLUSTRATED Accounting
~*~ Of the Diverse HORRORS, BIZARRITIES,
~*~ And FREAKISH Events of Trost's Season
Another Mylywyth has come and gone, bringing the usual Spooks, Haunts, and eldritch Abominations that Kessians have come to expect as a matter of Course, from this as indeed from all other Seasons. As the macabre Month of Kolbre arrived once more, the taint of Trost began to spread its tendrils across Kessia even in advance of Mylywyth, with Zombies and ghostly Beasts haunting every by-way in the Province, while any Person so unfortunate as to Perish during the entire Month found themselves leaving behind a spectral Double as they parted this Realm for the Ul'Mydar. As for Mylywyth itself, it seemed bent on making up for any loss of Reputation it might have suffered in the general uneventfulness of the preceding Yeare.
Trost's dark Fort-night began in deceptive Docility, the first few Dayes passing by with no more Disturbance than the occasional ghostly Wolf or Badger lunging for the throats of Passers-by upon the Roads with the same degree of frequency and general Ire that their living Counterparts exhibit during the rest of the Yeare. This illusory Calm was suddenly dispelled on the 24th Daye of Kolbre, when word came from Mister Gladston Forsthye that he was being pursued by the Voice and Touch of a ghostly Child near the Crossroads in Kaezar. Eerie as this may have been, it was but the Prelude to scenes of even greater Oddity and Horror, as a number of Persons assembled there at the Crossroads were treated to such strange Sights as a blood-stained Rag-doll being tossed up from the Depths of a Puddle, and a mysterious Trail of Blood leading from the back-hallway of Breen's down into the Basement. Miss Ilyanova and Mister Forsythe were among those who found themselves shut behind a heavy Door in the Store-room there, and were treated to a quite impressive Cacophony of ghostly Laughter and Screams, and upon escaping there this Reporter felt even the Touch of spectral Hands upon her own Skirts, which were afterwards quite Indelibly marked in Blood with the tiny Hand-print of the mysterious Ghost-child of the Crossroads.
[ Sitting in the shadow of the clock tower to the east, a large building occupies the entire side of the block in this woodcut print of a nighttime scene at the Crossroads. A wooden placard, illegible in the poor light, stands in a prominent position near the building's door. Extremely rutted from the carts and wagons that traffic to the northern, eastern, western and southern sections of Kaezar City, the road is a quagmire of mud and deep puddles, one of which has a thoroughly blood-soaked rag doll lying face-up in the muck beside it, its one remaining button eye gazing placidly through the gore. A heap of cobblestones can be seen sitting alongside the road, as well as one particularly heavy-looking cobblestone located suspiciously far away from the rest of its brethren. A number of people are also standing about looking anywhere from bemused to horrified, among them Rogue Lady Gulnara (standing near a blood-soaked rag doll and staring down at it), Warafel (looking on with detached interest), an iridescent black raven that might or might not be some kind of Mylywythian demonic attack bird, Nemos (not looking overly concerned about the possibility), Society Engineer Iiro (not looking concerned about much of anything at all), Fawkes, the boringly non-supernatural small brown-and-gray fox, and Lout Gladston (observing everything with extreme misgiving).
The illustration has been labeled "A Mylywyth Gift." ]
Later that same evening Mister Jurion Tamerlaine took advantage of the morbid Season to lead a number of Kaezar's denizens about town on an eerie Tour of Murder and Mayhem from Yeares previous, our fair City having never been lacking in either of these, nor in Corpses ripe for the Discovery by hapless Citizens attempting to go about their Lives. Throughout the course of the night Mister Tamerlaine conducted his Audience to the sites of such infamous Killings as the dockside Demise of the Guardsman's Wife and the chilling Knife-Murders from the dark Dayes of the Zu-Wrathe, while thrilling his Listeners with grim Tales of the events surrounding each grisly Death. Fortunately, however, all the untimely Demises of the night kept themselves firmly in the past, with the Tour containing none of the usual Harrowing experiences that might have made for additional stops on future Ghost-walks.
[ This print shows an eerie scene along a dim and muddy roadway, illuminated only by the flickering flames of fire baskets set to either side of the arched entry to an ancient fieldstone building. Running north and south through the city, the cracked and worn cobbles of well-traveled Avanil Road meet with those of Tael Road at this broad junction. Both streets are slick with mud thrown up by the heavily laden carts rolling to and from the huge gates just visible to the south. To the northeast, a much narrower road leads to the Walk of the Damned. Squire Rhiovasta stands a short distance from Jurion, who leans against the building, idly swinging a lit lantern. A strong dark-colored alaunt keeps company with a Murkhish Barb mare, in addition to a very interesting cast of characters that includes a hulking toelwulf, a hairy waffee, a spiky jhakor, a wispy remnant, a hollow-eyed skeleton, and an animated silver-edged teacup looking exactly like a teacup and nothing like a mug.
The caption to this illustration reads "Gathering for the Ghost Tour." ]
On the 26th Daye of Kolbre an entirely new Menace reared its indeed extraordinarily ugly Head, though this broke with established Precedent in menacing Never-Upon-Vinre rather than Kaezar. No place in Kessia being entirely Safe, the Incident began while a number of Persons were engaged in the nightly Ritual of making offerings to the ineffable Raffle-table of the Faire-grounds and awaiting the coming of the mystical Enchantress who would divine their material Fortunes for the night. All was proceeding as usual when a great Roar was heard to resound throughout the area, breaking off numerous mercantile Transactions and dispelling the halcyon Ambiance of the Vacant Lot, and into the Faire-grounds blundered a Wubwuv, monumentally Grotesque in both appearance and Proportions.
Indeed, it was not at all the common Run of Wubwuv, though it was perhaps no more Blood-thirsty than certain of its Kin to be found along the Trade Route between Kaezar and Kemstead. But this was instead nothing less than an immense Zombie Wubwuv, and even within this fairly Exclusive category the Abomination stood entirely alone, being not a true Zombie raised from the Corpse of a recently expired Creature, but rather being ingeniously if sloppily sewn together from a multitude of Hides, clearly coming from dozens upon dozens of now-unidentifiable Beasts. And indeed the monstrous Zombie Wubwuv bore within it all the burning Hatred of each one of those smaller animals whose lives had been Snuffed to create it, as it proceeded to rampage savagely through the Faire and all about Cannikin Heights, to the mild Inconvenience of Shoppers.
[ Not much smaller than a house, the ruined body of the foul creature pictured here is covered in mottled scraps of fur and fetid flesh sewn together in a grisly patchwork with sinew cording. Its blunt maw is filled with rotting teeth that appear to be yanked from larger creatures, and its coal black eyes appear to gleam malevolently. While it resembles a giant wubwuv, it most certainly is not composed of them. Looking to have been caught in the middle of an awkward stumbling motion, it nevertheless seems to be in quite a frenzy, drool flying exuberantly from its disgusting mouth. Barely visible behind the looming mass of the wubwuv are two elderly ladies with parcels tucked beneath their arms, the pair of them appearing to be strolling placidly along with no interest or concern for the supernatural menace attempting to bring the city crashing down around them.
The caption to this print states informatively, "The Implacable Zombie Wubwuv Tramples Wantonly Upon Local Shoppers' Routine."]
Fortunately for the Mercantile District of Never, those who had formerly been wrapped in Contemplation of the Raffle-list immediately sprang into action in an attempt to fend off the dire Offensive of the terrible Zombie. Their task was complicated by the fact of the Abomination's boasting something of an Entourage of genuine undead Wubwuvs, spectral and regularly-sized Zombie Wubwuvs alike hurling themselves Tooth and Claw upon the district's defenders. At last, however, the massive Zombie construct and its Army of the walking Undead were beaten back with only minor Casualties on the part of the city's defense, and the Citizens of Never allowed to resume their quest for the perfect Skein of Lace in peace.
[ The scraggly elm tree in this print seems to gravitate towards a small brick shop as it leans its leafy branches on the window of the building, or perhaps it is actually attempting to place as much distance as possible between itself and what appears to be a colossal patchwork zombie wubwuv. Across the way and mostly hidden by the towering creature, an arched door leads into an ivy-covered building. Arrayed against the zombie in heroic defiance are various persons recognizable as Captain Merow of the Imperial Guard, Lout Gladston, Faitaa Bresh, Qalamat the Kivian phoenix, and Sir Martaigne, who is showing his own particular brand of defiance while lying on his back in the dirt. Off to one side stand Mechanist Briodne and an ovoid brass servitor, while a glossy sheet of paper lies in the road, looking to be in almost as much danger of being trampled as Martaigne.
This illustration is briefly labeled "The Defense of Cannikin Heights." ]
The Climax to the Season came in typically Bizarre fashion on Vos'Siddix, when word was relayed to the Crowd gathered once again about the Raffle-table in Never that some new Threat was advancing upon the ever-beleagured City of Kaezar. Upon hearing this interesting News, the Crowd began precipitately to flee the area, in the usual manner of Kessians, towards the source of the great Danger rather than in the opposite Direction, and with the aid of Mister Mandel's summoning Skills all were soon arrayed in the Fields south of Kaezar with a magnificent View of the gargantuan demonic Jack'o'lantern Monster stomping and writhing its way up the road towards the City.
[ Appearing to stand imposingly even within the confines of a woodblock print, this castle-sized jack-o-lantern consumes the heavens with its girth. From comparison with the bucolic moonlit landscape over which the monster casts its immense shadow, the defining creases in the pumpkin look wide enough to comfortably drive a carriage down, the actual bands wider than the lines of tenements within Kaezar. The classic carved grin and eyes illuminate the countryside, spewing gouts of flame. Eight massive vines hold the monstrosity aloft, sprouting from its stalk.
A brief caption beneath the illustration reads "In the Shadow of the Jack'o'Lantern." ]
Not unlike the similarly massive Land-kraken into which Seton Keep metamorphosed in its final Daye on Thrael, the Pumpkin-monster manifested a gleeful Inclination to sweep up with its viny Appendages those arrayed in Battle against it, and toss them headlong through the gape of its leering Mouth and into its hollowed-out Core. Within this Core, for reasons which no one has yet determined, there existed a strange Font from which the Monster's liquefied Innards bubbled forth in a Freshet of pumpkin-juice. From motives perhaps equally Unfathomable, yet evidently shared by most Persons in Kessia, it chanced that a number of those Adventurers drawn helplessly inside the Monster drank of this Juice, and were rewarded for their daring Folly by a rush of healing Powers which cured them of all their Ills and helped to preserve them from the eldritch Flames that raged all about them within the Beast's hollowed-out Innards.
[ This print somehow manages to achieve the impressive feat of being even more bizarre than all those that have come before. A sea of flames dance along the walls and canyons within what looks to be the hollow core of an immense jack-o-lantern, lapping and flowing over the edges of a small island of pumpkin gut in its center. Oblong seeds the size of a man dangle from the webbing of sinew within the jack-o-lantern, while a small fountain of viscous-looking liquid sits in the dead center of the island. Also here is Master Doctor Nina, Captain Merow of the Imperial Guard, the corpse of Rascal Vladimir (lying down), the corpse of Nemos (lying down), Head Chirurgeon Marian of the Kessian Medical Society, High Sorcerer Astolpho of Duvan, Firebrand Aurorah of House Pendeleu, Asuka, Rogue Lady Gulnara, Grand Surgeon Anolisse of House Pendeleu, and Society Engineer Iiro.
The picture bears no label, as if whoever came up with these had decided that no words were sufficient to describe the weirdness of the scene. ]
Despite the size and Savagery of the supernatural Jack'o'lantern and the eerie sort of Honor-guard provided it by a Host of far smaller Pumpkin-jack Minions, those who had assembled in Kaezar's defense were at last able to bring the demonic Beast crashing down. This great Feat was accomplished by means of agilely scaling the giant Pumpkin-monster's viny Limbs to stand atop the broad expanse of its Head, and from there smiting its central Stalk with frenzied and quite impressive Fervor until the thing was but a mangled heap and the Jack'o'lantern itself motionless and Still.
While one might deem a gargantuan rampaging Pumpkin-monster unusual enough on its own peculiar Merits, the Creature was in fact highly Anomalous for more than the obvious reasons, as it was evidently by the strange Power of a sliver of Naje fixed in its stem that the massive Gourd was granted such uncharacteristic Mobility and Initiative. Equally interesting was the belated discovery that the pumpkin-juice, which so many Adventurers had been cheerfully Imbibing since the attack, was likewise adulterated with tiny Flecks of that rarest and most extraordinary of all Metals. These Flecks looking to be but little bits of Black floating within the Juice, most Persons had allowed them to pass unremarked as in all likelihood being nothing more than tiny charred Flesh-bits of deceased demonic Jack'o'lantern, and thus were content to drink them down without a Qualm.
However, when Vashan metal-worker Miss Asuka Kaneko chanced to remark upon the Flecks and point them out for what they truly were, Astonishment and a certain sense of Unease spread, none knowing what effects the ingestion of the peculiar Metal might have. Most bizarrely and unexpectedly of all, when certain Persons attempted a closer inspection of the Juice, the Flecks of Naje simply shimmered out and vanished without a Trace.
Whether the monstrous Demon-pumpkin or indeed even the savage Zombie Wubwuv represent the usual meaningless Mylywyth Monstrosities or are indicative of some more intelligent and sinister Scheme cannot now be told with any kind of Certainty, and in all regrettable Likelihood never will be. One can but wait and wonder what new Abominations, Aberrations, and Anomalies the next year's Mylywyth, and indeed the entire Yeare to come, shall bring.
[ The article ends with the reproduction of a gestural sketch in charcoal depicting a bizarre moment in time -- a giant pumpkin with a broadly grinning face uses a prehensile vine to catch a man around the ankle and fling him into its maw, which looks more than large enough to gobble up the assembled crowd that faces it with weapons drawn. A brilliant light shines from the gourd's mouth and eyes, casting dramatic shadows over the scene.
A small line of print beneath the illustration reads "Sketch Provided Courtesy of Miss Leniri Nandrae." ]
-----------====================THE KAEZARIAN EYE====================-----------
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
ODDLY ENCHANTED OBJECTS HOLD KEY TO DEMONS' DISAPPEARANCE
Since the eccentric Enchantress known only as Myl came to Kaezar some Months back, those who took advantage of the young lady's Services have had ample time in which to enjoy the Fruits of her Labor or else to deeply regret them, according to their individual Inclinations and the nature of the Enchantment in question. Miss Gulnara Ilyanova had perhaps counted herself among the latter of these, having found herself in the possession of a Kindjal which now exhibits such Peculiarities as sighing, flaking bits of green Ice from its Blade, and even expressing in just so many Words a weary desire to return Home. While others who had put forth their own prized Possessions for Myl's services might have been somewhat more satisfied with the results, yet each item clearly contained something quite outside the usual way of Enchantments, and the Technique whereby they were instilled remained a Bafflement to everyone.
In an effort to better understand what has been done to her prized Blade, and perhaps return it to its original Quiescent and unobjectionably wordless State, Miss Ilyanova had first sought the advice of Mister Astolpho Mandel, eminent Spiritualist and Duvanal. According to a number of Persons who witnessed Miss Ilyanova's preliminary Session with Mister Mandel, the Kindjal readily displayed all of the disconcerting Oddities that it had become known for, but neither Mandel nor his Associate could discern anything noteworthy from it.
It was severall Dayes later that Miss Ilyanova met quite unexpectedly with a Gentleman new to her Acquaintance, this being a Wanderer Priest called Plidic who had arrived in Kaezar only some Dayes before. Having stumbled across one another in the Ayr'Dane Mountains seemingly by Chance, Plidic expressed an interest in Miss Ilyanova's Blade, which he treated to a cursory Examination on the Spot. From but a few moments of holding the Weapon, the Priest was able to tell that it had been masterfully imbued with a Core of Power that was in some manner corrupted, and at last offered the interesting Revelation that the Kindjal was no longer simply an inanimate Weapon, but now possessed some semblance or degree of Life. What exactly this meant, however, remained entirely Opaque until Mister Plidic returned late in the evening of the 2nd Daye of Plade to conduct a more diligent Investigation.
Gathering up in addition to Miss Ilyanova two other Persons who had availed themselves of Myl's enchantments, Misses Aurorah Moonsong and Leniri Nandrae, the Priest Plidic conducted an analysis on their respective Sword, Armor, and Corset, and came to a most staggering Discovery. Each one of these enchanted Items bore within it some Residuum of life Energies, but this was a mere Startlement compared to the Shock that was received upon learning that the Source of these Energies was none other than those very peculiar Demons that had had Kaezar in such an Uproar this past Spring. According to the Priest, the Demons must have been thoroughly and quite skillfully Butchered, the Essence of each one of them being cut entirely to Pieces which were then by some manner used to fuel the unusual Enchantments, and to impart to each Object, by intention or otherwise, some strange Kernel of Life.
How exactly such a Feat may have been achieved remains a Mystery, though Plidic maintained that the thing was very Ingeniously done, the true Nature of the Enchantments being so well-concealed within each Object that even careful Inspection by experienced spiritual Practitioners such as Mister Mandel could reveal little out of the ordinary Way. Nor is it remotely clear what the unusual Myl's motives for the Procedure might have been, nor what she intended to accomplish by any of this. At this point all that one may safely take away from this strange Affair is the Conviction that when odd Mages offer Enchantments to all and Sundry at extremely reduced Prices, one would do well to be Wary, perhaps in particular if one happens to be a Demon.
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
MACABRE INCIDENTS PUT GUARDS ON ALERT
While still Abuzz from the audacious Eel Incident from this past Dien, the Imperial Guards as well as certain of the Royals became the Targets of a new series of malicious Pranks, if indeed they may be termed so lightly.
On the 27th Daye of Ghust Captain Ashinara De'Alera received through Bhond's Shipping a mysterious Box, its sender undeclared, and holding within it a Flagon decorated with Royal Crests, a threatening Note, and, strangest and most disturbing of all, a severed Hand. The Note contained nothing to indicate who might have shipped the Package, consisting only of vague Threats and the sort of eccentric Punctuation traditionally employed in such Missives, while the Hand appeared merely Daun-like and its former Owner unidentifiable. As for the Flagon, like the Eel-pack'd Flagon from the previous Month this one appeared to be of the type now sold at the Silver Tankard and more typically containing a large quantity of Cobra Spit, which leads one to believe that, whatever the latest Circumstances otherwise, the Vessel is not being put to any use worse or more detrimental to Public safety than that which it was originally intended for.
This grisly Delivery was followed up by further odd Incidents on the 2nd and 10th Dayes of Thistle, these making use of Royal and Imperial Equipment to send some kind of strange but clearly Menacing message to those respective Organizations. The latter Incident consisted merely of a Sabre of the type used by the Royal Guard, found lying abandoned in the mud but a short distance from the Crossroads. The earlier Incident, however, was significantly more Ominous, as a ragged and blood-soaked Banner bearing the Crest of the Imperial Guard was discovered on the Town Green by Guardsman Chimera Deranai. This discovery came as quite a surprise, being made as it was but a few Yards from this Reporter's presence, with no disturbance or suspicious Activity of any kind having been noted during the time in which it must have been placed. Miss Gulnara Ilyanova, also present, had observed as little to remark upon and was equally shocked by the Discovery.
The only other Persons sighted in the general Vicinity at the time of the Incident were Miss Suede Lidrona and her companion of the Hour Mister Gladston Forsythe, and no definite Association could be made between these two and the Banner, as they were merely observed Strolling along the oft-traveled Way through the Town Green. Nevertheless, the Guardsman departed to see whether he might track the Pair down and question them regarding any Knowledge they might have of the Incident, though this as all other lines of Investigation seem at last to have come to Nought.
Very shortly after the Guardsman had gone on his way, Miss Ilyanova and this Reporter went to investigate the Scene of the not-quite-a-crime, where they discovered instead a large wooden Barrel filled with some mysterious Elixir, tepid and greenish and smelling quite Repugnant. Like any good Kessian resident, Miss Ilyanova proceeded to sample the strange and disgusting Liquid straightaway, and concluded that imbibing it had no pernicious Effects, at least in the short-term, though it had an oddly Fermented taste. While the enigmatic Barrel's connection to any of the prior Incidents is tenuous and indeed owed only to its Proximity both in Time and Space to the bloodied Banner, nevertheless it was a peculiar sort of Prank, and the Eye hopes its Originator is well-pleased at its achieved Notoriety. As for the other strange and grotesque Incidents, it seems sadly Probable that the Identity and Motives of the Perpetrators shall continue equally unfathomable for the foreseeable Future.
[ Weeded and raked, a long swath of exposed soil breaks the evenness of the lawn portrayed in this woodblock print. A short wooden stake has been driven into the ground at either end of the patch of dirt, and beside it sits a crudely fabricated old stool and a weathered wooden bench. Conspicuous in the middle of the open expanse of dirt is a stout applewood barrel, which is being surveyed with some perplexity by a number of people who might be recognized as Rogue Lady Gulnara, Mistress of the Stage Leniri, and Alexei. A Tanshui mare, a Murkhish Barb mare, and a strong dark-coloured alaunt look on with significantly less interest than their elven companions.
A caption below the illustration reads, "The Mysterious Barrel Hoards its Elixir and its Secrets." ]
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
A PAIR OF FAIRES
By Leniri Nandrae
Kessia has played Host to two Faires in the months since our last Edition, which was quite the welcome pair of Surprises. The first, arriving in Ghust, was the Horse Faire, so named for the great quantity of those Beasts that were exhibited for sale there. The second arrived in the middle of Kolbre amid the macabre weeks of Mylywyth to celebrate the coming Holy-day of Vos'Siddix.
Taking place just outside of Kaezar, the Horse Faire quite delighted visitors with its sheer Variety of horses and smaller Domesticated animals on display. One could purchase horses from just about every place that could be named, with Murkhish animals shown beside those from Kuthgard or distant Tanshu. This Reporter shall note that there was no shortage of local Horse-flesh to be found, as well-known Breeders from across Peregorne made certain that their Breeds were also represented among those of more Exotic extraction.
Quite unexpectedly, a great deal of Clothing was also sold. Lovely flowing Gowns and Riding-habits of all descriptions were joined by Shoes and a stunning array of Hats which the Author shall here attempt to recall. There were Tricornes, Tall-hats, Indrejani hoods, Coifs, Flat-caps, Cocked-hats, Riding-hats, and if the Reader would kindly believe -- even more!
Not to be outdone, organizers of the Vos'Siddix Faire invited merchants both local and exotic to come and display their Wares. Weapons, jewelry, formal-wear and Highland clothes were sold alongside various magical goods, Sweets, and a lovely assortment of drinks. Perhaps the greatest cause for excitement, however, was the series of raffles tempting Faire-goers with Prizes that surpassed all Expectation. Particularly of note was a Whip made of burning Essence, which the Writer is assured is quite capable of passing through Armor to strike at its bearer's Enemies.
[ Newly mown, an expanse of scraggly grass dotted with cropped clusters of weeds surrounds a well-worn footpath through the vacant lot shown in this full-page woodblock print. Three large tents have been pitched upon the grass, one an enormous round affair surrounded by crates, another a fantastic canvas representation of a crenelated tower, and the last crafted from tapestry and capped with flying pennons. An awning protects the goods set out for display beside an ornately carved wagon, matching the curtain fluttering softly above the steps that lead inside. To the south, stately buildings rise up at the mercantile Cannikin Heights area, and northwards, the tents, carts and tables of the local flea market vendors can be seen.
Near an embossed pulpboard sign is a teeming mob of people that includes Society Engineer Iiro, High Sorcerer Astolpho of Duvan, Master Yun, Olbrecht, Squire Rhiovasta, Jurion, Lout Gladston, Chirurgeon Consiller Aldan of the Kessian Medical Society, Head Chirurgeon Marian of the Kessian Medical Society (standing near Aldan), Malo (slumped against the side of an ornately carved wagon, arms crossed), Rogue Lady Gulnara (sitting crosslegged on a brightly colored blue-green and carmine floral blanket with a rat curled up on one knee), a pale blue-gray rat (sitting on Gulnara), and Captain Merow of the Imperial Guard (just kind of standing there, doing nothing out of the ordinary). In the very middle of the crowd stands Lady Cantatrix Denevra, cool and poised and somehow utterly striking despite the fact that like Merow she also appears to be just standing there. The shot is oddly angled from having evidently been taken near ground level, with an animated silver-edged teacup and a number of people's feet and shins looming large in the foreground, and their heads outlined starkly against the dark night sky.
The print bears the dramatic label "Behold! The Enchantress." ]
Lady Cantatrix Denevra made an appearance to offer Enchantments to the Weapons and Armor of anybody fortunate enough to win one of a series of games of Chance. During this time she displayed uncommon Feats of magical Aptitude and quite amused the crowd with her Skill, pulling at one point an entire Orc from thin air.
Both Faires were a Delight, and though many are sorry for their departure, we can only wait until they come round again next Yeare. Who can say what Treasures and Surprises lie in wait for us next Summer?
[ The end of the article is marked by a page-width divider that looks to be an artist's representation of a rather fantastical whip, its fully extended length marked by little starbursts and scintilla that seem to represent some kind of striking magical effect. The strange lash terminates in a length of coarsely-braided metal with stylized Kivian dragyn's head finials on either end and a cabochon solitaire in its center. ]
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
MECHANICAL SPIDER CATASTROPHE NARROWLY AVERTED
One generally associates the month of Winte with Yuletide, the first Snows, and the coming of the winter Solstice, and not with new onslaughts of unnatural Creatures seeking to rend Towns-folk Limb from Limb or to blow their Brains out. But this being Kessia, and thus the Nexus for Bizarrities of all interesting Types, one should not be overly surprised to learn that the first Daye of Winte brought a massive Influx of mechanical Spider-contraptions swarming up from the Sluices underlying the City.
The imminent Spider Catastrophe was discovered in its initial Stages by Mister Jurion Tamerlaine, who had been in Bingle's Book-shop when he heard some strange Commotion coming from the trap-door leading down to those dark passages beneath Kaezar. Descending to investigate what he described as a great "Rattle and Clatter, like somebody shooting at Golems," he discovered instead what seemed to be a veritable Horde of mechanical Spiders of all sizes but of uniformly hostile Inclinations, the teeming mass of them stretching from the very space in which he stood to as far back as the Eye could see in the dimness. The odd Contraptions ranged greatly in size, from small specimens that bore Pistolets on their Backs to those that reached even the size of a Horse, and not the Floor alone but the Walls and Ceiling also swarmed with them as they bit and slashed and peppered the tunnel with Bullets.
After some Time in which Mister Tamerlaine attempted to beat back the swarming Horde, and found himself well Bitten and shot for his Trouble, he was joined by a number of other bold Adventurers eager as ever to place themselves in mortal Peril in order to do their part to save the World from imminent Calamity. The Spider-contraptions, for their part, fought back using all the Advantage that numbers and an absolute Immunity to Pain and Danger will give, but after sending Wave upon Wave against the city defenders, scattering about the Sluices, and even advancing so far as the city Baths, the Creatures succumbed to the Fate of other malign Monstrosities beyond counting, and fell defeated.
Rumors of a magical Sigil upon the slimy walls of the Sluices, leading to a Portal beyond which an inexhaustible Universe of mechanical Golems lay awaiting Discovery, proved disappointingly false, and so the Origin of the Creatures remains inexplicable as ever.
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
MIRACLE DOCTOR RETURNS TO KAEZAR
The ever-mysterious Master Healer Alquillio, he of the miraculous ability to cure even those most dire Afflictions over which lesser Practitioners have given up in Despair, has but very lately returned to Kaezar on business with certain of its Residents, these proving themselves consistently incapable of going through their natural Lives without accumulating an assortment of Scars, Deformations, and grievous persistent Wounds of sufficient variety and quantity such as would put an entire border Regiment to shame. With such propensity for Self-destruction evidently in mind, the organizers of the Mylywyth Faire offered Master Alquillio's services as the Prize for one of their Gold Series raffle-contests, the Winner receving a private Consultation with Alquillio, wherein he might attempt to cure one of any of number of this terrible mass of bodily Infirmities from which our unfortunate Populace so suffers.
Our Readers will recall from the previous Edition the case of Miss Gulnara Ilyanova, who has suffered some Yeares from an old injury to her Hip, and who had hoped to become the subject of an innovative new surgical Procedure to remedy her Pains. However, due to certain Complications in arranging the Surgery this had not yet come to pass when the good doctor Alquillio returned to town to fulfull the Obligations of the Mylywyth raffle. While Miss Ilyanova had not herself been the Winner of this Contest, yet Master Healer Alquillio consented to treat her Wounds, with the happy result being that the woman is now entirely free of the Agonies that had long troubled her, with only the most minor of Side-effects attendant upon the Procedure. Miss Ilyanova did caution, however, that the Master Healer expressed certain Reservations as to working with Persons deemed "mentally and spiritually Compromised," as the side-effects from working the Procedure upon such individuals had the potentially to be gravely Unpredictable.
It is assumed that the Doctor will next proceed to treat the actual Winner of the raffle, that being Mister Jurion Tamerlaine, in order to remedy those Outrages visited upon his Person some years ago by certain injudicious members of the Imperial Guard. There yet exists some small Doubt as to when this may occur, as Alquillio's associate Mendel indicated that, due to some peculiar Confusion, the raffle had offered Alquillio's services entirely without that Gentleman's prior Knowledge. All the same, one assumes that the Doctor will attempt to honor his Debts to the best of his Ability, regardless of those strange and inexplicable Miscarriages of Communication to which Kessia so often falls prey.
For those who even now are perhaps skeptical of such Claims as are boasted of Master Alquillio's astonishing Abilities, we recall to our Readers the great Success that Alquillio had in treating the serious Cases of such eminent Citizens as the supernaturally scarred Captain Ashinara De'Alera of the Royal Guard, and the poor plague-struck Miss Aurorah Moonsong. Of course, one also recalls certain other Consultations that, through no personal Fault or Failing of Master Alquillio, ended not only with less resounding Success but also with the Physician's precipitous Departure from Kaezar in fear for his Life, and one hopes that the good Doctor shall be able to depart under far more Leisurely circumstances on this present Occasion.
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
NEWS IN BRIEFE
The lighthearted Excitement of the Horse Faire was sadly marred by the death of a nameless Rehari, its pitiable Corpse discovered by Miss Leniri Nandrae beneath the Tempest Road Bridge on the 28th Daye of Ghust, shortly past the hour of Ten Bells in the evening. The unfortunate Rehari being recognized as the one-time Associate of a certain Captain Snapfang, a Yathlu trader operating a tent at the Faire, Corporal Vithjal and a number of other concerned Citizens proceeded to the Faire-grounds to question the man. However, upon arriving there they were dismayed to discover the Tent vanished, and its owner fled to parts Unknown.
This Captain Snapfang had been under Investigation by the Imperials even before this latest Incident, under Concerns pertaining to the Source of the trader's Goods and the Status of the Rehari himself, it being feared that he might be illegally kept in Slavery by the Yathlu. However, little Headway seemed to have been made in this Investigation before the Rehari was found dead, and indeed the entire Nature of Captain Snapfang's trading Operation and his sudden Departure remain extremely Hazy, with no one able to offer any information as to exactly how or why the merchant departed the Faire-grounds in such Haste. Circumstances being what they are, however, one must be extremely Suspicious as to the Yathlu Captain's actions, and any further information on the man or his whereabouts, should it surface, will surely be welcomed by the Imperial Guard.
~ * ~
The ambitious Paving project continues in Kaezar, with Cobbles having now been laid along the entire length of Avanil Way and Tempest Road, and even up through the Crossroads to Breen's very Door-steps. Fortunately for those who might have been concerned over the Endangerment of the City's scenic brown Lakes and the rustic Character lent the Town by the muck-slathered Thoroughfares, putting one charmingly in mind of some back-water frontier Swamp-hamlet, these Traits have proven peculiarly Enduring, and indeed may be expected to outlast Paving-stones, Pedestrians, and quite possibly the next severall Ages.
~ * ~
Local fisher-folk have reported a sudden abundance of that peculiar Creature known as the Water-Wisp, which, they say, has begun finding its way in unprecedented numbers into the nets and Crab-traps by which Kaezar's honest watermen make their Living, and even onto the fish-hooks of the casual Angler such that an astonishing Six out of Ten fish taken on any occasion may consist of the spiky little Animals. Some traps have reportedly been entirely Incapacitated in regards to their true Purpose due to being crammed practically to Bursting with these "mischievious little Sea-beasties," as described by one grizzled veteran Lobsterman. A few of Kaezar's more enterprising Denizens have evidently hit upon a Scheme for taking back some of their lost Profits by taking clever advantage of the Wisps' increased numbers, as seemingly evidenced by the Creatures' presence at this past Ghust's Horse Faire, where merchants could be found offering them as quite unusual Pets to the novelty-loving Citizenry of Kessia.
One Naiad familiar with the underwater Landscape of Imperial Bay stated that these odd Beasts were known to feast upon the diverse and, to the Angler, provokingly excessive Jungle of Sea-weeds that flourishes beneath the chill Waters of the Bay, and conveyed the Opinion that the Wisps had simply increased their Numbers in the past Yeare to take full Advantage of this amazingly overabundant food Source. The extreme prevalence of zombified Mire-cats in every Pond, Lake, and Water-way in Kessia, on the other hand, remained to her and everyone else an impenetrable Mystery.
~ * ~
Mister Baigan Vikias, Grand Mage of Infamy, has made a quite Unexpected return to Kessia after an Absence of nearly four Yeares. Due to a peculiar Sequence of Events that nobody has quite been able to figure out yet and in all probability never will, the Glas wizard had gotten himself entirely immured within a block of magickal Ice, which subsequently found its way into a large Packing-crate and thence made its way from the frosty Interior of Icyndor into the possession of Mister Malo Haithcock, local Illusionist of Note. The Ice proving Impervious to various attempts of Arcane or Illusionist Magicks to dispell it, the Block was finally broken apart on the evening of the 7th Daye of Winte by use of a sonic Technique whereby waves of Sound were used to crack the ice into Fragments, thus freeing the man inside to immediately begin wreaking Havoc upon his Suroundings. Perhaps best known for leading the Project culminating in the creation of Heigan, the intelligent t'elt Golem responsible for destroying the Ae'racha Hive below Kaezar, Mister Vikias has long been a fast Friend of Science and it will be interesting to see what new Researches he may choose to Pursue on having returned.
[ This print reveals the common room of an inn, its interior bathed in light from a large firepit. Shadowy images are starkly outlined along the stuccoed walls and along the edges of a short hallway in the northern wall that leads deeper into the inn. Separated by a low square table, a pair of plaid couches provide a cozy resting place, and a larger table surrounded by four chairs is a perfect place to play games or dine. An archway in the eastern wall reveals a modest, yet busy kitchen. Along with an animated silver-edged teacup just visible at the bottom edge of the picture, the room is populated by a small group of people that includes Rogue Lady Gulnara (sitting on a sturdy oak chair), Eleanor (standing near Baigan with a startled look on her face), Dechen (looking on), Malo (scowling more than usual), and Grand Mage Baigan, whose wide-eyed expression of startled pain might be related to a sturdy tea mug that the picture has captured suspended in mid-air a short distance from his head. ]
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
THE FOOD CRITIC REVIEWS:
~ * ~ The Silver Tankard ~ * ~
In this issue I will be criticizing The Silver Tankard, also called Mariposa's for the haefdin woman who runs it. It is a decent but dimly lit place which smells of cooking rabu and is full of off-duty Imperial Guards. This is a benefit to the tavern because the bar is made of solid vyrewood and is worth more than the entire rest of the building, so having guards leaning on it all the time is a disincentive to thieves chipping pieces off it. I could not find a plaque about where the vyrewood came from and Mariposa was not interested in talking about it, which is a shame because it might be a thing which could attract more patrons if word got out. Mostly this is a drinking sort of tavern, and the food is meant for eating with the drinks, so I will start with the drinks.
1. The Captain (100 sovereigns)
2. Flaming Cobra Spit (35 sovereigns)
These are exactly the same drink, except one is in a gigantic flagon and one is poured into a small cup. While I would not normally ever say bad things about a flagon, it is important for public safety to point out this flagon is dangerous. It is filled with flaming cobra spit and you will die if you drink all of it at once. Flaming cobra spit is to normal liquor what zombies are to daun: it is green and nasty and wants to kill you. Also the Captain is an honor-craft [Ed. - homage or tribute] for the Imperial and Royal Guard Captains, and you can get either the crest of the Royals or the Imperials on the flagon (you don't get to pick which one).
Taste: No. Just endure it.
Cost: High no matter which one you're buying, but it is a much better deal to buy twelve ounces for 100 sovereigns than to buy four ounces for 35 sovereigns, so if you have a stout constitution and are careful with your money you could do worse.
Alternatives: None. Flaming cobra spit is one of the signature drinks at the Tankard and you can't get it anywhere else. It is illegal in most other countries.
3. Gharkin Whiskey (20 sovereigns)
Gharkins are very useful and strong and are often found in law enforcement, which is important to a well-ordered community. They are very good at many things, like weaponsmithing and armorcraft, but as far as brewing goes, they have weird tastes which are not shared by anybody else (except possibly veckles). I do not think it is wise to buy this whiskey if you are not a gharkin.
Taste: Horrible. If you hold your nose you can upgrade it to "bad."
Cost: High. If this is cheap gharkin whiskey I am curious to drink good gharkin whiskey.
Alternatives: Belchy, which you can get from the veckles in the junkyard if you are prepared to fight for it.
4. Druim'dwer Ale (20 sovereigns)
A dark ale served in a silver tankard, this is the namesake drink of the tavern and is worthy of the respect of your ancestors. Calling it "Druim'dwer Ale" is like calling wine "Indrejani grape juice" but the real name for it is not something most of the patrons here could pronounce.
Taste: Smoky and deep, with a hint of sweetness.
Cost: 20 sovereigns is very fair.
Alternatives: The Crossroads Special Ale at Breen's is the only real competition, but at only 5 sovereigns cheaper the savings are questionable given the venue.
5. Mariposa's Herbal Tea (15 sovereigns)
It's a mug of tea and the same as all the other tea everywhere else. Why anybody would buy it instead of good strong ale is a mystery for the ages.
Taste: It's tea.
Cost: 15 sovereigns seems a little high for mashed leaves and water.
Alternatives: You can buy tea everywhere in Kaezar and Kemstead and Briarbrook and Never-Upon-Vinre and probably even in Fishbourne, so if you have to be a tea-drinker I am sure you can find it.
6. Spring Water (5 sovereigns)
I bought this in the belief there would be lemon slices in it or maybe some mint. It is just water. I was disappointed.
Cost: High. You can buy a tin bucket at the Cockentrice over on Harrow Road in the merchant District for 5 sovereigns and fill it at a city cistern for free and put your own lemon in it and you would still have more water for less money than this.
Alternatives: See above.
7. Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade (10 sovereigns)
I was told Mariposa used to sell luminade instead of lemonade, and it came in a green glass instead of a blue one, but then she stopped selling it and now you can only get luminade at the Wict in little paper cups. Nobody wanted to talk about this at the Tankard or the Wict or even at Pava's, but an old gnomish gentleman finally told me that the Queen of Nellwyn outlawed the export of lumins because she was angry about King Vek not marrying her "and that's why we can't get em any more, Jakob bless His Majesty, but I do miss my luminade because it was good for the gout." I do not know if this is true. You can buy your own lumins at Tugnar's Green Grocery for 4 sovereigns each, but they might not be as good as the ones from Nellwyn, and you would still have to buy your own sugar.
The lemonade at Mariposa's is fresh and good, but not a proper tavern drink.
Cost: Fair. Lemons are only 1 sov each but of course the sugar is what you are paying for here.
Taste: Good. A good balance between sweet and sour, without pulp.
Alternatives: The Imperial Guards say you can purchase both lemonade and luminade at the mess hall in the Imperial Keep, but that's not really useful if you're a civilian. You can also buy it for 15 sovereigns a glass on most vessels of the Imperial Shipping Lines. It is good against gap-gum disease [Ed. - scurvy].
8. Fresh Herb Roll (10 sovereigns)
A roll of bread with butter brushed on top.
Cost: High. 10 sovereigns for a roll of bread should be illegal.
Taste: Fluffy and warm and tastes of whatever herbs they put in it.
Alternatives: You can buy the exact same roll for 4 sovereigns from Shemp at the Halfbaked Bakery in Kemstead, or if you want fancier you can walk up to Never and buy one from Nibbles Bake Shop for the exact same cost.
9. Spicy Cheese (15 sovereigns)
Not many places sell cheese by the piece, so this would normally be a good menu item. Unfortunately it's made from rabu milk and therefore is not only inedible but probably hazardous and disease-carrying as well.
Cost: It would cost less and be safer to feed yourself on junkyard scraps.
Alternatives: CHEESE MADE FROM REAL MILK. Cows! Goats! Even horses.
10. Fried Moldra (25 sovereigns)
Many people do not know what a moldra is until they buy this. This is not the whole moldra, just the tentacle parts, and it is from the small ones that live on the coast rather than the great cave-clutchers that live in wet places underground. The tentacles are pan-fried and Mariposa says they are perfectly safe to eat.
Taste: Pretty much like the big dush'gu'mulk [Ed. - ??? dark-cave-hand] except not as tough.
Cost: Fair. They are hard to prepare.
Alternatives: You can buy moldra in Vash, but it will be raw and you will have to cook it yourself. Biljum says the Vashans like to eat them raw and then when the chef has had a bad night and forgot to cut out the acid-making parts, all their teeth fall out afterwards. I do not know if this is true.
11. Barbequed Rabu (25 sovereigns)
Reviewing this would be a disservice to my readers. It is rabu. At this point I should warn sensible people that the whole tavern smells like cooking rabu and the terrace out back has a spit for roasting them on, which is a terrible thing to do in the sight of people who just want to sit quietly in the air and drink some ale.
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN LAURDIA AND THE TALLONEAN EMPIRE
~*~ Being an Account of the Journey to the Hostile Frontier of Civilized Lands,
~*~ And Beyond it into the Very Heart of Orcish Savagery;
~*~ Describing Also the Extraordinary Sights, Remarkable Creatures,
~*~ And Unusual Encounters Had Therein.
Part the Fourth: A Land of Deepest Deception -- The Most Dangerous Creature in Laurdia -- Column and Bowl -- Mysterious Lights -- Across The Broad Arc of the Heavens
The morning on which we took our leave of the Tak Mneir troglodytes and made our way from the dim fastnesses of their caves and back into the warm sunlit overworld, the air was clear and bright, the breeze fresh and balmy, and the entire landscape seemed full of promise for a remarkable day. Even Mister Haithcock's temper appeared to be somewhat assuaged by the morning's loveliness, though perhaps this transformation was also partially abetted by the timely-discovered bit of cake found wrapped in a napkin at the bottom of one of my bags and only slightly squashed.
North and west we trekked as the knobbly plain stretched on and on, seemingly without end or any alteration in its character, though in pausing every now and then to look back on our progress it was possible to discern that we were moving gradually upward in elevation even as each step appeared to be made on nearly level ground. Before our eyes now was always the ominously dark mass of a sharp ridgeline that marked the start of the mountains proper, the stark peaks of which loomed like impending madness on the horizon. Anyone who has spent much time in lands like these, where the air is so dry and clear and the larger view so entirely unobstructed, knows full well that distance is a deceptive thing indeed in such places, and mountains that one feels sure must be reached within the next two or three hours may in fact still be another full day's journeying away. Even so, it was astonishing to me how very near and imminent the peaks, and in particular the initial ridge-line, appeared to be, and yet over an hour's walking seemed to do nothing whatever to lessen the distance separating us from them.
Nevertheless, we were by this point of our journey far within the bounds of the Talone Empire, though it was difficult to fully appreciate this fact when the gloomy and mine-ravaged mountains one associates most strongly with that degenerate imperium seemed determined to keep themselves forever aloof from us. The peace and beauty of the day seemed nearly as determined to put on a show for our deception as did the mountain range, for these could not help but lull one ever so slightly into a sort of meditative half-day-dreaming state in which one forgets that pleasant dreams can turn with unprecedented swiftness into nightmares. As it happened, however, Laurdia had still more deceptions held in store, and the most immediate hazard came not from orcs but rather from an entirely unexpected front.
I feel it necessary to mention here, albeit briefly, that Laurdia boasts not only unusual ruins, astonishing vistas, and unfortunate quantities of orcs, but also a marvelous variety of insect life, including many types of which I had never seen the likes before and have not since. In a single afternoon's walking across the tomb-riddled plain of the previous day, I had managed to pick up in excess of a dozen different kinds of beetles entirely unfamiliar to me, and this without even subjecting my surroundings to any kind of great scrutiny, being as there were so many other interesting things to also give consideration to. Leaving beetles entirely aside, there was among the oak groves in particular an abundance of interesting little creatures, some of the most fascinating among them being a butterfly with streamered hind wings, looking as if someone had taken a pair of scissors to them and then gilded the edges of each strip; a certain type of spider that had encased itself within a hollow globule of dirt; and some entirely bizarre creature that I had been convinced was nothing more than a bit of lichen before it raised itself from the surface of the rock on which we were both resting and trundled unsteadily away from my hand.
Thus it came as no great surprise but certainly a delight when I discovered perched upon a long blade of dried grass an insect so novel that I could not even place it definitely into any particular category, though it bore a certain faint resemblance to the robber-flies that plague Kessian bee-keepers. Large, grainy eyes gave its head something of the appearance of a fly viewed close up through a loupe, but the long crinkled antennae that swept back over its wings like the horns of a gazelle indicated no relation to these humble insects, and a collar of stiff hairs about the neck set it quite apart from anything I could put a memory to. Keeping in mind that the robber-flies of which it was vaguely reminiscent are capable of dealing a painful bite with improper handling, I was conscientious to keep my hand well away from its mouthparts as I attempted to collect it in one of a number of jars that I kept for such a purpose. I was therefore extremely surprised to feel a sudden sharp burning sensation in the palm of my hand as I swept it into the jar with the lightest of touches.
Closer scrutiny of the captive creature revealed nothing very ominous -- no spines, no stinger, nothing more than that simple dense ring of bristly hairs arrayed about the base of its head, like a fashion-conscious nobleman's ruff. I had some idea of taking the insect back out of its jar and plucking a few of these bristles to subject them to a more meticulous inspection, but I had no sooner contemplated this course of action than I found myself suddenly jolted by a far more forceful sensation in my hand, which was as if the force of an immense spiked club had been applied to my palm and concentrated entirely within a single coin-sized spot -- this being where the bristles had made their contact. The pain was truly exquisite and (much like the insect itself) unlike anything I had ever experienced before, seeming to combine the repeating impact of the spiked club with the stabbing of a jagged-edged knife, with a bit of burning acid thrown into the wound for good measure. However, it was more the abruptness of the thing that sent me staggering to the ground and, much worse, made me drop the jar, thereby securing the escape of the treacherous little monster inside.
It was as I was recovering my presence of mind, if not quite yet my feet, that I found myself the object of some truly thunderous scowling by Mister Haithcock, who seemed quite disproportionately put out by the affair, being evidently vexed that he should not be allowed to spend his days in dark madness-inducing caves if he so desired, yet I could go about grabbing highly venemous insects with carefree abandonment. I believe I attempted to point out (once I had re-attained the enhanced dignity and persuasiveness of an upright posture) that, first off, I had done no such clumsy thing as _grab_ the insect in question, but had rather been involved in a painstaking attempt to carefully brush the insect off of the leaf blade it was sitting on; and secondly, that I had certainly had no notion of its presenting any danger to my health or sanity when I had begun the attempt, and that if I had, surely I would never have attempted any such thing.
Unfortunately, I may not have gotten my point across as cogently as I had hoped, as within a quarter hour of my coming in contact with the thing I felt as if I could hardly stammer through the pounding of my heart, and I was having some difficulty in focusing on anything other than the superlative pain in my hand and the giddy sensation in my head as all my blood seemed to be coursing through my veins in an erratic game of catch-as-catch-can. However, at the same time I felt myself filled with a surge of boundless energy such that I could have walked, or indeed run, all day, and I flatter myself that I managed to put a good face on it all before some time perhaps three hours later when the ground, clearly resentful of my lightened step across it, suddenly leapt up and hit me in the face. It was not actually at this precise point, but following the ground's next assault upon my person some ten minutes later, that Mister Haithcock called for an early halt. This still seemed to me rather unreasonable given it could hardly have been past noon and our progress for the day leaving much to be desired, but I was compelled to give up my objections as I could not decide which of the three Mister Haithcocks looming in my vision was the proper one to address.
Entirely fortuitously we discovered ourselves to be not far from what seemed the perfect place to make a stop for the day, this being a strange depression in the earth where the ground descended quite unexpectedly into a bowl of perhaps a mere ten feet at most in depth, its gently curving sides covered in a smoother carpet of the same grass that patched the rest of the plain. This almost perfectly circular concavity spanned about twenty paces from edge to edge, and, most unusually of all, contained within the very center of it, at the lowest point, a large column of stone. Very dark and fine-grained with larger chunks of a deep greenish crystal insterspersed throughout, the column was about three feet to each of its four sides and protruded at an angle from the ground, achieving the same height as the bowl itself before breaking off in a smooth plane exactly on the level of the rim.
The termination of the stone at this precise point did not appear to be part of the original design of the thing; rather, the evidence pointed to its being something that had been done to the column sometime well after its creation. The stone had almost certainly begun its existence here perfectly upright, as suggested by the lines of some runic script now passing at a slant across three of its sides, with the ends of the uppermost lines having been abruptly terminated by the removal of the column's top end. The stone had evidently had sufficient time to sink into the earth and tilt itself some fifteen or twenty degrees from the vertical before some unimaginable force sliced through its upper portions, and still more time had passed since then, as a climb to the top of it on the following morning revealed a weathered and lichen-streaked surface. It was as if, at some point far in the past, a great blade had swept across the surface of the plain and lopped the stone's top straight off where it had had the temerity to stand up past the rim of the bowl. Of the missing portion itself, we discovered no sign.
Present digression aside, I confess that I did not much notice these details, however intriguing they were, until some hours had passed and the horizon had finally given up its reckless spinning and the ground had left off its aggressive attempts on my face. By this time the pain in my hand had receded somewhat, which was to say that the club had been reduced to a mallet and the knife to a well-sharpened cloak pin, unaccompanied by the giddy effect that had made the sensation strangely fascinating before. It was now merely an aggravation of impossible magnitude of which even the peculiar column could only lessen awareness for so long, and I spent the remainder of the afteroon in an admittedly less than cordial mood towards the world.
It was, however, due to the delay produced by this experience that I had the chance to witness a very interesting phenomenon, one that was not entirely unfamiliar to me but which I had not observed in any place since leaving Ziguran. The sun had but recently set, and the long summer twilight had finally deepened enough to truly be called night, though the stars above still looked wan and watery, as if attempting to immerse themselves in the cool dark blue of the heavens to find relief from the heat that still rose from the pebbled ground even as the air itself began to lose its warmth. I had left the bowl and ascended to the top of one of the characteristic knobbly knolls of the place that broke the general flatness of the rest of the plain, and was looking off towards the still-distant mountains, when I began to notice little pinpricks of glowing light floating far off in the darkness, red and yellow and very palest blue.
At first I felt a thrill of danger, thinking they must be the torches or even mage-lights of some band of orcs some ways across the plain, but as I observed them further I saw that they behaved in a manner utterly unlike any lit object carried aloft. They neither bobbed along nor flickered, nor ever seemed to come any closer or to move farther off; in fact, as I watched I saw that they could hardly be moving horizontally along the plane of the ground at all. Instead, they glowed a pure and perfectly steady light, save for when one of them would wink out in one place and a new one appear elsewhere, and the whole time they climbed steadily through the air -- up past the level of the horizon, across the blackened face of the peaks, and then upward still -- until they reached the very lowest portions of the visible sky and vanished. It was almost as if a few of the stars themselves had fallen down to Thrael, gotten themselves lost in their unfamiliar terrestial surroundings, and were just now attempting to find their way back to their former home in the sky.
These sorts of far-off drifting lights appear occasionally in the deserts of Ziguran as well, but there everyone knows that these are only jinn moving between the terrestrial realm and the celestial one, as jinn are fortunate to do. However, it beggars the imagination to think that jinn might reside so far from (what I had always considered to be) their native haunts of Ziguran, yet I was hard pressed to come up with any better explanation. Even Mister Haithcock, once I called him up to the knoll to view it, could compare the phenomenon to nothing less mysterious than the wisp-lights one sometimes finds in bogs and other swampy places, though our surroundings were certainly nothing like that, and in any case neither of us were able to explain the wisp-lights with any greater certainty than we could these.
I cannot say for sure how long we watched the little dots of light in their seemingly endless procession from the darkness of the earth to the slightly lesser darkness of the sky. It was so mesmerizing a sight that the observation of it seemed nearly timeless, but in reality it was likely no more than an hour before I found myself feeling absolutely ground down by exhaustion, and even a touch drowsy in spite of the pain that by this point seemed equally eternal as the progress of the lights. Mister Haithcock and I stumbled our way back down to the bowl in the uncertain light of a single sliver of moon, and I gave myself over to trying to sleep. But despite my weariness and the prolonged trials of the day, sleep eluded me for some time, and I simply lay and watched the broad rounded expanse of the heavens above us, a celestial bowl of stars that seemed the counterpart of the grassy thrael-bound one in which I rested.
The stars hung there above, poised but wavering, moving across the sky together but seemingly by themselves immovable, until suddenly one of them bolted out from the rest and streaked downward, leaving a flare of green-gold light burnt briefly into the blackness of the sky, and then as suddenly gone. All was again still and perfect in the heavens for a moment, and then it was like the opening of a sluice gate, as more began falling, and more still, until the arc of the sky seemed to be streaked all the way around from apex to margins, stars and stars and stars running down the sides of the heavens like water down the sides of a bowl. For a time it seemed as if it would never stop, as if the heavens must be entirely stripped of stars, as the stars themselves were stripped of all their safe and comfortable and supposedly eternal moorings.
I thought then of these stars, plummeting reckless and inevitable to the earth, and of the others making their slow and uncertain way upwards, upwards, and gone. And despite knowing the irrationality, the superstition, the sheer folly of the thought, I sent with these new-fallen stars a silent wish that they, too, might ascend steadily from a strange and foreign land and find their way back to the heavens one day.
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Letters, Essayes, and Opynion
An Essay on the Ryt'Tzar of Kuthgard
By Gulnara Ilyanova Zhakarov
Kuthgard is a land of extremes, and the il'lthye of House Ryt'Tzar are naturally a reflection of the harshness of the land and the demands it places upon any people that would call themselves its master. Historically the Ryt'Tzar were nomadic warriors before their uniting and total conquest of Kuthgard, and though many have settled into cities those traditions still survive virtually unchanged on the majority of Kuthgard's steppelands. There, the ancient laws of honor, hospitality, and pulling ones' own weight rule; everyone in a household works and works hard, including the women and children, and even a Ryt'Tzar's worst enemy is obligated to receive safety, shelter, and food under their roof.
The nomads of the steppes largely rely on animals for their livelihood and survival, so it follows that they place a great deal of importance on maintaining healthy herd animals. In particular, horses are viewed as nigh-sacred creatures, and a man's worth might be judged on both the number of horses he has and how well he keeps them. This is true among wealthy urban Ryt'Tzar as well, who use and display such animals as more obvious status symbols. It is for these reasons that livestock -- anything from goats to actual horses -- tend to be common bride prices; there is nothing more appropriate to symbolize the strength of a new union and the creation of a new household than a specimen of one of the animals by which so many Ryt'Tzar eke out their very survival.
Nonetheless, there is a stark contrast and cultural divide between so-called urban and rural Ryt'Tzar. All but two Kivian cities were razed during the Tzalin's great conquest, and following the purging and subjugation of the Kivian people many Ryt'Tzar found themselves enamored for one reason or another of what little of those cities had survived and what they represented -- in particular, Vzeik was repurposed as the new capital as a final symbolic gesture on the part of the Tzalin toward his newly conquered foes. Over the centuries, ruins were either restored or broken down and replaced, giving most of the old cities a curious mixture of Kivian and Ryt'Tzar aesthetic that lingers to this day.
Those Ryt'Tzar themselves adapted as well, mingling with other races such as the Longshadow haefdin and becoming (among other things) more socially and sartorially segregated by sex, abandoning many (but not all) of the habits and practices that previously defined their nomadic lifestyle, and asserting themselves as the cultural heart and soul of the country. Still, it must be emphasized that these are the minority among Ryt'Tzar; Vzeik, the capital and largest city in the country, has a population of just around 200,000; compare to Penthras, which has a population roughly triple this.
Urban or rural, it is no secret the Ryt'Tzar are a people accustomed to war, with a well-earned reputation for bloodlust and prowess in battle. Kuthgard is after all a country beseiged on many sides: Kalvic raiders from the northwest, Tempest warriors from the northeast, the Talone from the south, and occasional unrest from within the country itself present perpetual threats that the Mordesani hold the line against. This has created a demand for one of the largest standing armies on the continent relative to its population and the perpetuation of a culture that values martial power and exalts the symbol of the triumphant soldier.
Men or women who become a Mordesan can expect to not only obtain glory and honor for themselves in battle and more than enough wealth with which to establish a comfortable household upon the end of their commission, but will find themselves belonging to a kind of extended surrogate family that is, in many ways, bound to them by ties even stronger than blood. Even the bulk of the country's nobility is composed of individuals who have either themselves obtained a high military rank (called Noyan) or descend from individuals that distinguished themselves in this manner.
Military or not, though, a Ryt'Tzar still finds himself bound in one way or another by honor, tradition, and obligation to blood. House Ryt'Tzar and the Empire of the Mordesan Horde are living examples of the power of a people willing to cooperate for a common goal, whether that goal is nothing more complicated than survival or as complex as the maintenance of one of the largest structured militaries in the world. In a place where the land itself can easily kill the careless or foolish, only the prudent and clever survive to triumph. And so we endure.
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
EYE ON KESSIA
Views of Our Fair Province
Through the Lens of a Camera-Obscura
[ This print from a camera obscura shows a surreal scene within a dimly-lit room that one might recognize as the reception area of Reklar Insane Asylum. Glinting off the pale stone that forms the walls of the reception area, the light from the window over the double doors illuminates a single wide door that is just past the dark wood desk. Behind the desk, an archway that is flanked by two small cressets leads into an office, and on the opposite wall is a large tapestry. Eerie as the venue already appears in the wan light, it is made far moreso by the presence of a mob of extremely strange creatures, including a hulking toelwulf, a hairy waffee, a spiky jhakor, a wispy remnant, and a hollow-eyed skeleton with an animated silver-edged teacup dogging its bony heels. In the midst of this assemblage and appearing entirely unperturbed by the bizarre company they are keeping are Jurion, Squire Rhiovasta, and Asuka.
The print bears the brief caption, "Mylywyth at the Asylum, 24th Kolbre 649 AoD".
Do you have a Photograph that you wish to share with your fellow Readers? Submit one to the offices of the Kaezarian Eye, along with a brief Explanation of the Shot, and our talented woodcut Artists will turn it into a Print for the next Edition of the News! All Photographs shall be returned as promptly as the Creative Process permits.
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
NEWS OF THE WORLDE
By Minerva Sartchilde, Owner and Chief Editor
Special Reporte From thee Isle of Chak'a'aa
Thee winds are faire and thee sun is warm on thee beaches of thys tropical islande in Southron Vash, where thys intrepid reporter haf spent most thee winter seasone. Tho the conditiones are dystracting, they do not dissuade thys reporter from seekyng out the latest newys, howevere.
Thee coffee crop here in Chak'a'aa is abundant and exportes are high, tho' there haf been a shortage of laborers of late owyng to the celebration of thee turning of thee new yeare, whych take place over a fortnyght and end with a raucous display of dancyng, drynking, and merrie making, whych thys reporter haf been taking part in for purposys of research and the edificatyion of all her readeres who haf remained in Kaezar and endured thee winter weathyr. An unusualle profusion of small blue crabs haf been spotted upon thee westeryn atolls, say locale fishermen, and buckets of thee same have been collectyd for a lavish feaste to celebrate thee aforementioned festivall. It is thee custom here to go about shirtlyss in all manner of weather. Tho' this reportyr must admit she haf never participated in thee disconcertyng habites hersylf, she haf noted a correspondyng increase in thee temperature and wondyrs if it might not bee a sympathetic vedic effecte, which myght account for the correspondyng tendencie to imbibe copius amountes of fruite-flavored drynks and lounge in thee cooling surfe. None of thee elders can say for certaine, but it is assuredlie a mysterie worth investigayting further.
Until next yeare, thys reporter bids her readeres a fond fare-the-well and will returne to provie more News of Thee Worlde in 650 AoD.
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
AS EYE SEE IT
By Aunty Anony
Hello Hello Hello - Hafe you hearde!
So much to Tell!
Aunty's eyes are red from crying her poor eyes out over the broken engagements and weddings-that-never-happened this year. Gale di'Costa-Arendsen and Demens Urtellik have called off their wedding, via letter no less! It is a cruel world and a crueler Thief-Taker who breaks a beauty's heart by post. No wedding plans are in the air for Chirurgeon Consiller Aldan Talvir and Miss Amsha Aranthi either. Give us a sign, dearies, any sign? Are you wearing rings yet? Please don't leave your loving Aunty the way Mr. Shadowlight left Miss Moonsong hanging. Though Aunty sees that Miss Moonsong's flames warmed the coals of a certain Dalanoth several times on these colde Winte nights. He must find Miss -- sorry, MRS. Ryt'Tzar's bed to be a chill one as well since he warmed it with her on at least two separate occasions since the lovely Xiao Mao dropped out of sight, most recently hanging on her arm for a whirlwind tour of shopping, drinking, and games while Mr. Ryt'Tzar was away -- Aunty's waiting for the duel and wonderes if Captain Ghurak will step aside for this one.
Aunty's last hope is Commander Ashinara de'Alera and Miss Anolisse Thr'eyan, whose nuptials have been rescheduled (Aunty is writing a nasty letter to Oceanya on behalf of the happy couple) but will reappear on the calendar very soon (by the way, dearies, Aunty can't find her invitation... she knows you didn't forget about her... she'll wait at Bhond's every day until it comes through). The clothes, the food, the decorations -- all the local merchants are pitching in to make sure their union will be a truly wonderful affair.
Aunty is lost in the woodes trying to follow the tangling trails left by her sneaky darlings, but here are the few crumbs she's found. A certain Tesugan gentleman with long black hair has been seen squiring about Miss Dechen. Like calls to like, or so they say. A so-called "Paladin of Vaen" has come to town but seems to spend more of his time in Miss De'farlargos's room than anywhere else - maybe his name should be "Libertine" and not "Requiem." And her "mother" Miss Nina has overnighted more than once in Mr. Dalanoth's lodgings as well. What a busy boy he is! Finally, Aunty wonders why nobody has warned the ladies about the habits of a certain former outlaw who loves to leave his latest out in the cold while he's off to his next affair... and the next... and the next... Someday all his previous conquests will get together with a rope and accomplish what the Imperials never could!
Until next issue, Aunty sees all and tells moste!
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
@@@@@ WANTED @@@@@ - Men and Women of the Empire in good standing with the law who are interested in serving their fellow Citizenry by joining the ranks of the Imperial Guard. All applicants must be at least 16 years of age, not have any major crimes on the record within the last two years, and be willing to swear their allegiance to His Imperial Majesty.
- policing the cities and kingdoms of the Empire and upholding its Laws and Ordinances
- defending its Officials, and
- defending its Lands and Holdings against all enemies, both Foreign and Domestic.
A 5000 Sovereign signing bonus is authorized, and a generous monthly stipend included. All applicants should either leave notice at the Imperial Keep, or contact one of the 8th Regiment's officers directly.
WANTED: Able bodied, discreet individuals willing to travel. Expenses paid. Fee negotiable. Interested parties should contact Niall Blackthorne.
Locks opened fer cheep! Approved by the Society fer prevention of Cruelty ta Veckles! Ratsi's Lock Shop, Greys Ramble, City of Kaezar
** REWARD FOR TIPS ** The Kessian Merchants Association is paying FIVE IMPERIALS for tips about stray Pets or Mounts left upon the streets of our fair City. Pets found wandering through the Streetes and Mounts left by their owners in the public thoroughfare whilst their Owners Carouse elsewhere will be reported to the Pinder for confiscation and will not be released until a Substantial Fine has been Levied. ** Help Keep Our Streets Clean **
EYES PRESERVED * VISION GUARDED * BLINDNESS PREVENTED * In Cooperation with Local Empaths and Glassworks * The Royal Scrivener Fills All Your Spectacle Needs * APERTURE SPECTACLES * BOW SPECTACLES * TINTED SPECTACLES * MONOCLES
Lost! One Dhansang cat - White with brown markings and blue eyes. A little bit plump. Answers to the name Pookums. Please contact Lord Grilla at Grilla's Haberdashery. Substantial reward given.
Against all Odds and in the face of utter implacable Indifference on all sides, the Kaezarian Eye is still seeking talented, inquisitive, and DEDICATED writers! The Eye currently has Openings for General Reporters, as well as positions of a more Specialized nature, including Food Critic, Astrologer, and Out-of-Town Correspondent. Any Person hired by the Eye must be willing and able to produce at least one Article per Edition, and will receive a generous Salary from the timely completion of their Duties. All Persons interested in Applying for these positions, or having ideas for other Topics on which they might wish to write, are encouraged to speak with Siovanhe Starsong, acting manager.
Winte Edition, Age Of Dreams, 649
NOTE FROM THE EDITORS:
Thanke you for purchasing, or Otherwyse obtaining, our newspaper.
Until the Streets of Kaezar are paved in Seige Gold, May the Publick Be Wary.
Minerva Sartchilde, Owner and Chief Editor.
Siovanhe Starsong, Head Reporter and Acting Manager.