Author Topic: Crowley's Column  (Read 462 times)

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Blue41

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on: February 08, 2020, 11:39:34 AM
Needle Raised from Rifts!
By Ormund Crowley


Pictured: Wary Prospectors oversee the Needle's recovery from the Drips. One of them tried to shoot yours truly-they missed. Obviously.



Tickerfolk, travelers and ringrunners likely noticed the recent cordon of Prospectors established in the rifts within ring 99, and perhaps wondered what all the fuss was about before continuing on their way. Perhaps the sharpest among that select group noticed that the perimeter was established soon after a flaming comet crashed into our ring, heralded by stormclouds and wild explosions that no one seemed able to pinpoint. The hole this comet created was quickly forgotten in favor of the fire giant that emerged from the rubble, terrorizing the gawking onlookers at the scene before seemingly burning itself out. But it didn’t escape notice forever, for that crater went down, deep into the Drips, to a place known to a scant few. This was the resting place of the Needle.

What is the Needle? Well, no one’s saying THAT yet. Instead, they talk about what it’s capable of. Speak with the Prospectors and they’ll tell you that it’s essentially made to make groat; for in the company of their men, the device is capable of opening the way to specific seams without the messy side-effects that come from dealing with wizards, and their insatiable need to experiment.  They’ve got every reason to believe this, too, because by the time you read this, the Needle will be fully operational; protected by the finest wards and abjurations, blades and shields the Guild has to offer.

Speak with the Arbiters (though many of you won’t, and that’s why they pay guys like me) and they’ll tell you all kinds of wild stories. That the Needle is a sentient weapon designed to tear apart worlds, and responded to attempts to dismantle it in kind. That it predates the city and has only been activated twice before. The first time resulted in the obliteration of rings 110 and beyond. The second time led to the state of the rifts we see today.

The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle, despite the grave warnings of Arbiters and breezy assertions of Prospectors. What we know is that the lost Guildmaster Belacq clashed with Zelia N’dare on the use of the Needle, as he believed it was too dangerous for use. We know that Guildmaster Tchammorar has expressed similar concerns, though in the opinion of this humble reporter, it is likely driven by interest in his bottom line rather than a sense of concern for the public. These concerns will likely go unheeded, though, and it falls to smug assholes like yours truly to get these objections out now, so they can say ‘I told you so’ the next time a planar worm or fire giant pounds someone into warm jelly.



Blue41

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on: February 08, 2020, 11:46:09 AM
Dogs at the Door! Groatcloaks give their lives to fend off House Orza

By Ormund Crowley


Pictured: Butchers and Groatcloak captain Kreceilt stare down their hated foes across barricades hastily erected in the Open Door.



Stonebuilder and Guildmember Beodda Aethwin was a controversial figure in Ticker Square, and that’s to say that you’d get a different opinion on him depending on who you asked. Whether you loved or hated him, however, it can surely be said that he deserved a better end than the one he found at the hand of House Orza and Solveiga Nygaard. Or rope- because that’s how he died, hanging from a noose atop their stolen castle. The response from the Guild was swift and immediate; a bounty of ten thousand groat and induction into the Guild of Merchants for whoever brought ‘Mother Solveiga’ down. For her part, Nygaard swore to deliver similar punishment to every Guildmember until the Butchers were cast out into the streets of 99.

None of the Guildmembers seemed very concerned, but then, most of them make a point to stay far away from the streets of 99! One Guildmember, however, made it such a point to insist that the dispute was strictly between Orza and Krown that he bankrolled a mercenary company entirely to protect himself. That man was Guildmember Sloan ‘Uld’ Ulfkhur, a similarly controversial figure famous for whispers condemning the poor as shiftless, drug-addled layabouts that would be better served laboring in his ‘ash cannery’ and promoting the old slogan of ‘Ticker, not Tyranny’. His mercenary company, the Groatcloaks, were filled no less infamous. Isiden Kreceilt, who lost a hand to the Arbiters for Seamstry. Kallus Vor, not a Knave. Others!

The Groatcloaks and House Orza had their share of clashes in the Commons, when House Orza’s lackwits weren’t making whispers for meetings with them, offering groat to ‘Ticker spies’ or trying to take advantage of Sloan’s deals-deals-deals. Guildmaster Tchammorar, in a anticipatory fit of pique perhaps, saw fit to take the Groatcloaks under his wing--buying them before anyone else could be tempted to do the same. And one doesn’t outbid the master of the Adamantine Vault! Not long after, the defense contract was given to the mercenary company to be shared with the Butchers...despite Krown’s protests. Things were looking up for the Groatcloaks!

Things came to a head around the time the Temple of the Nine-Faced God fell to pieces.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2020, 11:46:05 PM by Blue41 »



Blue41

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on: February 08, 2020, 11:50:07 AM
Temple Toppled by Daft Diviner
By Ormund Crowley
Contributed by Thesputin Bobbynock


Pictured: The public gathers to witness a miscarriage of justice.



‘Apprehender’ Drusilla Peake of House Sunpurse is stark raving mad, a killer with a heart as black as pitch. It is no surprise that the people of the Peerage ward shelter her, guard her, give her the time of day-- because every single one of them rely on the same sort of fiction she tells herself every day at first light and every night before bed: that their silly titles and bloodlines and shared history makes them more valuable than you or I. Because she believed herself superior, the priests and layfolk of the Temple of the Nine Faced God had to die.

The tragedy began shortly after the usual kind of whisper from the diviner Peake. You know the ones, declaration of titles, invitations to speak, the usual blabber. Only when she was ignored, she decided to head to the temple of the Nine and paint the floor with the entrails of the priests within--apparently with the intent to reconsecrate the temple to some foul Tenth God. Then she returned to the Peerage in her bloodstained dress and declared the temple traitors, conspirators, kidnappers of the House’s long-dead heir, Phelan. Bishop Maxwell Artfall, in an uncharacteristic and impressive display, stormed the Peerage bridge to capture the mad mage while she screamed for aid for all the Houses, any House, to defend her. Having returned to the Temple, he then apparently (characteristically) deliberated what was to be done with her in the midst of the carnage.

Perhaps it was the shock that stayed Artfall’s arm. Perhaps it was the responsibility, lacking a more senior official to turn his captive over to. Whatever the case, Peake’s defenders came to her rescue and stormed the temple. The chaos was frantic, furious and ultimately calamitous to the Temple’s foundations, as it soon crumbled to little more than dust and dirt in the fray. When the smoke cleared, Peake had escaped to safety, and House Orza marched back to Castle Moonspear with a few captives of their own: Artfall and the Groatcloaks. Artfall was soon released, humbled and short a hand. Shortly after declaring himself a ‘scion of House Moonspear’, he disappeared into the deeper rings.

As for the Groatcloaks--well, now that I told you this story, we can return to that story.

This humble reporter can only piece the story together based on what was said and what we know of those involved. What we know is that the Groatcloaks eventually returned to the Peerage, their fine Guild cloaks and uniforms discarded for the hateful orange-and-black. They were flanked by House Orza’s retainers, who observed in watchful silence as Guildmember Sloan declared the Square under Orzan protection with the aid of the Groatcloaks, with a tithe to be paid for the ‘privilege.’ But as the streets quickly cleared of merchants and customers, beggars and ringrunners, Kallus Vor took a stand. The former mercenary rallied his beaten and bedraggled men to the last fight of their lives, and the ensuing battle would see nearly every Groatcloak and Orzan dead, the streets splattered in their blood. As quickly as the Square was occupied, it was freed at the cost of the Groatcloak company.

We honor their memory. Thank you for your sacrifice, Groatcloaks.



Blue41

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on: February 13, 2020, 11:40:57 PM
The Mirror Throne of Ulm
By Ormund Crowley


Once upon a time- or alternatively, this morning, because time has no meaning- there was this gigantic magical throne worshipped by tens of thousands of demons in some far-off plane known as the Shattered Hells. The archdemon in charge, known as Harxxathan of Fiery Death, wasn’t in charge because of his aptitude for titles, but because of his willingness to spread the word, so to speak. It oversaw the bloody and doubtlessly gory sacrifice of its fiendish kin upon four altars, and used the resulting overflow of magical power to send shards of the infernal throne into the seamscape. The details are a bit fuzzy, folks, my editor is not a wizard but he is positively magical when it comes to finding me around deadline-time.

One of those shards streaked through seamspace for some time before eventually finding its way into our plane, coming to a terrific crash landing in ring 97, off the beaten path of Bleeder’s Way. The meteorite was quickly discovered by a mob of Pondsfolk, Prospectors and other adventurers, who quickly discovered their passage to the object barred by strange ‘reflections’, dim echoes of the fiendish warriors, imps and infernal demons that doubtless worshipped the mirror throne in life. In death, they proved to be ferocious combatants, as this reporter can personally attest to. A strangely magnetic chunk of rock awaited the explorers once the defenders had been dealt with; one that spoke with an unearthly voice. It urged its audience to come closer, that it could make all their desires come true if only they were to bask in its light, or to shatter it into pieces, grind it into dust.

Though its unwholesome nature was refreshingly apparent, the adventuring community of the rings could not resist the siren call for very long. Those who carved off chunks of the glowing rock soon showed increasingly strange behaviors. Paranoia. Possiveness. An odd sensitivity to other shard-bearers. And the shards themselves, though seemingly harmless enough to the eye once separated from the whole, held a peculiar power of their own right.

Rumor has it these shards have been sent to our city as a ploy by the archdemon; a way to manifest in our reality through some leaching of will from those who carry them. Already whispers have gone out from those who seek them, either to bring their power to bear or lock them away. What comes of these scattered shards remains to be seen, but a word of advice from your favorite investigative reporter: stay clear of magick that speaks for itself and those who would exploit them.



Blue41

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on: February 20, 2020, 03:43:11 AM
Ringrunner Reclaims Stolen Identity! Witch Hunters Crack Curse!
By Ormund Crowley




When you live long enough in this city, you get used to seeing some pretty weird shit--and as the Rumor Mill’s #1 investigative reporter, part of the job is actively seeking it out. But this particular patch of strangeness snuck up on me, dear readers. Some of you may remember Doctor Saibhon Dumein, who was unfortunate enough to get stuck with the role of ‘tenant of Sunpurse Manor’, even if he tried to make the best of his lot by turning it into a hospital. It was during one uneventful romp through ring 97 in his company that we were faced with the good doctor’s perfect double. This doppelganger, who we believed at the time to be the work of Changeling mischief, spouted all kinds of threatening double-talk and vowed to reveal the true nature of the original Saibhon, changing forms first to an elven man, then an enormous spider before returning to fake-Saibhon. Paps Stone, less inclined to allow such magicks pass without at least taking a hearty swing at it, did exactly that- and was struck with a curse most fell. Then it fled into the Ponds, where all monstrosities go to sleep.

Pictured: Changeling mischief or doppelganger devilry? I can't stop the alliteration-send help.


Stone soon reported feeling like ‘a door left ajar...hollow...half a person.’ Food seemed to taste as ash upon her tongue, she shivered under the sunlight and suffered terrible nightmares whenever she had to rest. While doctor Saibhon could assuage the symptoms of Stone, he was unable to find a cure. Stone approached all kinds of folks at that point: the Arbiters, the detective agency here in town, crazy cooks at the Ponds...even yours truly! But it was not until she sought the aid of Imzel Dyernina and Agiano de Rossa, self-declared Witch Hunters, that she allowed herself to hope.

While Stone could not know what the doppelganger was, she knew all that it was not, and this was enough of a lead for the hunters to enact a strange and ancient ritual in one of the many hovels scattered throughout the city. Stone recalls falling unconscious, surrounded by ancient bone and burning brazier, and found that she could see ‘herself’ as if through a looking glass. The doppelganger was enjoying the sensations stolen from its unfortunate victim, eating good food, surrounded by bad people. Essentially, what any of us would consider a good time.

Pictured: The site of ritual magick, which is distinctly different from both wizard and witch magick.

But this view was a double-edged sword, for the hunted became aware of the hunters almost at once. The double beat them to the punch, declaring a bounty upon its victim. 10,000 groat for Stone delivered dead or alive to the Mud Baths of Ring 98. Stone, de Rossa, Dyernina and an unidentified one-armed man departed at once for the meeting spot, and were forced to cut a swath through the doppelganger’s hired sellswords. They delved through marshy tunnel and narrow corridor, braving trap and spell before arriving at last in a subterranean level beneath the accursed Sunpurse Manor--a natural ‘thinning’ point of reality, and perhaps, where the shadow felt most at home.

Stone recalls: “It accused me of selfishness, to cast it to oblivion so that I could feel again...it had my choice of words, the way I guard myself against rash action. It was like talking to myself--maddening.” The battle was joined, and very nearly in the doppelganger’s favor, possessing all of the tactics and talents of Stone herself, with the addition of the supplies and resources it had gained in the rings. In the end, it was the original who struck down her false shadow, who- for some reason- refused to lay a hand on her in turn. It withered to ash and faded away into dust, from whence it came.

Immediately, Stone felt her senses returning--the chill had faded, her taste had returned, and she felt enormously weary- and for all that, she has the Witch Hunters to thank for understanding the nature of her curse and tracking down the culprit. Truly a harrowing tale from one of our own.



Blue41

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on: March 04, 2020, 05:00:48 AM
How to Recognize a Wizard: A Beginner's Guide
By Ormund Crowley
Contributed by ‘Schwanzy’



“How do you know a wizard when you see them?” I asked a rather prickly friend. I use the term loosely, you should understand, because of all the things he’d call me, friend is way down the list. It’s in the dirt, in fact, six feet under. On this particular topic, however, he’s more than willing to speak at length. It was all I could do to keep up, and compile it into a list so orderly, the Arbiters couldn’t find it in violation. For your reading pleasure, I present to you:

Five Ways to Identify a Wizard


-- “Wizards always dress real prissy-like. It comes with being sheltered little shut-ins. That’s why they always got them long dresses on, wearing the shit kids might wear going to bed. They roll off their cots, which are usually lumpy and filled with books, and putter around their fucking labs doing one experiment after the other so that when they go outside, they’ve completely forgotten to put on something decent.”

-- “Did I mention the books? They’re stuck-up prigs with no time for the common man, so the book’s really a shield, a way of saying to the world ‘I’ve got no time for you.’ Their hands are constantly all scratched up from all the  So they stick their fat faces in a book all day long, falling into seams or pits or traps, hands covered in paper-cuts...Never mind the fact that none of them can keep up a conversation anymore than their tiny pricks.”

-- “Wizards are shit in the sack, by the way. Read all you want, there’s no replacement for experience, and they’ve got none of it. Some of them will carry around a big fancy rod with spinning lights and a glowy head on top to make up for not pleasing whores in the sack. Shame they can’t cast a strength smell on their prick.” (Hate to make some of the readership blush but reporters are bound to record)

-- “They fucking STINK! Every wizard smells different, because of alla them schools or whatever the fuck, but there’s a few common features. Devil-callers smell like a bad fart, like a little shit came out. Alchemists smell like anything, usually something foreign that you can’t quite place. Abjurers don’t smell like nothing, conjurers smell like wet dog and dried pigshit.

-- “All of them, to the last, are selfish assholes. Addicts are selfish, but at least the only fucker they’re hurting is themselves. Imagine if every time you lit a smoke or snorted some snuff, you wiped someone outta existence? Any decent person would cave your head in if you were too cowardly to do the job yourself, but we still give wizards the time of day for shitting on reality! They’re SODOMIZING us with their magic and--

My friend carried on in this vein for quite a bit longer, steadily growing louder and more animated. I took the opportunity to slip away for a drink back at the Mill and make sense of my notes, but I’m quite sure he’s there still. Keeping that in mind, I’d humbly ask you to please send your letters of support (or dissent) to the man in question. I’m sure you know how to reach him.



Blue41

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on: March 20, 2020, 12:10:03 PM
In Memoriam:Thesputin Bobbynock 
By Ormund Crowley




Friends, foes and readers, I write this because there is no one else who will. The Rumor Mill grinds up more than truth- it also devours the efforts of its employees without care or principle, and given enough time (which ever seeks to avoid recording), Thesputin would be less than a memory. So, though this be a small thing, a feeble effort by an outcast and a fool who lacked the guile to keep their mouth shut- it shall be done.

Thesputin Bobbynock hailed from a faraway place called Lantan ‘where Wonder rules’, as he put it. A tinkerer, it was ever Thesputin’s goal to ask ‘why’, and also how, what, what-if, and a great deal of follow-up questions. A former clockmaker, you can bet your ass that Thesputin had plenty of questions about the fall of the Clockmaker’s Guild, and I’m glad to say that I stood with him while we investigated clues and followed up leads, delving into forgotten histories too taboo for print.



He was also a man of faith, a priest formerly of Baravar before learning of the divinity of a forgotten deity here in the city, one he called the Cloakshadow. He wrote on this deity in length, hoping to illuminate the path for those who came after him. He sought to gather the minds of many in the ring of 99--not the most intelligent, prestigious or learned, but the most curious; those willing to ask the questions that matter. Though he was not known for delivering pulp and fluff for the masses to devour in an issue of the Mill, he was quick to write of this God, and sought out any who would listen.

He was not perfect by any means. He had his flaws, and he acknowledged them. Always, he placed himself on the line for others--his reputation, well-being, spirit, shield. Whatever was needed, he gave without complaint. Though I will never know the true details of his passing, I have no doubt that he gave his life in the pursuit of truth.

Farewell, old friend. I hope you find some semblance of peace in whatever waits beyond this prison.




Blue41

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on: April 17, 2020, 06:38:24 PM
Ringrunner Rumors: The jawagin they don't want you to know!
By Ormund Crowley




Having been confined to rings 99-95 for a good deal of my early days in the City of Rings, I know all too well the existential agony of missing out on a good story just...beyond...the furthest ring you can unlock. It drives most folks mad--I’m sure you’ve heard them calling someone to ‘come home’, come back to 99 and take your medicine (which is usually a whipping, from the authority of your choice--Biter, Ticker or Peer). Those calls are often ignored, but quite frequently, the offending party has the gall to throw some pithy one-liner out via tin. Galling, isn’t it?

Luckily, as the number one source of rumors (that ain’t Rumor Mill) for news beyond the outrings, I’m here to help by spilling all the shit you would never know about the ringrunning crews of the current age. The Wakers, the Breakers, and the Striders, as they are informally known. I’m sure you’ve wondered what those canny folk get up to when they’re away from the prying eyes of 99. I’m here to tell you!

The Wakers

Never trust an Elf

Kethryl Arishaul and Maerdelain Felgotrim are common enough sights in Ticker Square, offering wares both rare and exotic, from the planes and deeper rings. It is also known that the two were present to recover the bodies of the now-deceased ringrunner crew Tears of Blood, delivering them to the Keep of the Grey Marches, then held by Velastra Quarterdragon. What is less known is that those storied folk of lore and rumor were unceremoniously dumped and stripped in a tiny room within the Keep, left to be buried by their heartbroken supporters--and that the ghosts of those fallen haunt the Keep to this day. How many of their wares ended up on a Ticker Square market block? We may never know.

Driven by a need to compete at odds with their longevity, there is a great deal of uncertainty around the newly minted trade agreement struck with the city of Baz’eel--the city of Gold that by all accounts, the Wakers were second to arrive at. Why the delay, when they had the means to reach the city for countless days? And what is their issue with Eupraxia the Heron of the Breakers crew?

Bunk buddies, or more?

Our favorite wizardly duo, Aethelwine Silver and Marcille Riley, seem as stuck to each other as wasp flies on oxshit. But is their relationship strictly one of master and apprentice, magus to magus, or something more? While this humble reporter knows well the old adage regarding kissing and telling, what he can tell you is that Silver has been known to purchase Dunereed from the travelling merchants of Baz’eel, a local stimulant known to ‘rouse one’s snake from the sands’, even on the coldest of nights. Reports say that he has taken to calling Riley ‘wife’ away from prying eyes and ears, and some may remember Silver’s strenuous objections when Riley was nearly claimed as bonds-mage to the terror of Tehoto, mighty Ikodo. Could wedding bells be on the horizon?

The Breakers

Not the Broken

The Breakers entered the crew with eight, and now number five (a good number, regardless of your beliefs in gods tiny or large). Who are they now? Who were they before? It’s hard to tell, certainly because the Breakers seem to hold no interest in honoring their dead. It is a common enough crew custom after enduring some heinous trial or difficult battle, to etch your name in stone, to tell the City, the World- we’re still here! You didn’t break us! Yet when the opportunity arose for the Breakers to honor their fallen--Edwyn Nixon, Cornelia ‘Nel’ Minivah and ‘Rusty’-- their names were left unwritten. It falls to this humble reporter to chronicle their struggle and loss, that it might enter some semblance of history in these rings...but it should not have had to.

Angvald Khauzat-where?

 Angvald the exiled Stonebuilder had long been searching for a party to pass the 64th ring, a ring of trials (which is all I will daresay, lest I tempt the Hound.) He found this party in the Breakers, and for a time, it seemed that he might achieve his oldest and greatest dream...but when the rest of the Breakers entered the 63rd, Angvald was nowhere to be seen. Has he fallen to death and despair? Is he merely honoring his fallen in some inexplicably Dwarven tradition? Or could the Breakers have done away with him in some stormin spat? What has become of 99’s most vocal dwarf?

The Striders

Where’s the hair?

 It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I must admit a truth to the Fynn-fans of 99 who wonder--what kind of face is behind that mask of rose-gold? I’ve seen it, and I can tell you that Horatio Fynn is balding.

Helluva beard, though.

That’s all for now, folks! See you in the papers, and don’t let the shadows get ya.