TOWN CRIERS REPORT
From Interstellar Dispatches, December 20, 5000 (Holy Terra Calendar)
Pagans Targeted For Mortos Diablos Roundup
GWYNNETH — Londynium — Authorities have declared a massive roundup of pagans — those self-named “Gee-ar Tins” — in and around the city of Londynium in the province of Tolth, set to commence on the Mortos Diablos holidays. “Loyal citizens have been plagued by these pagans’ witchy ways for years,” expounded Earl Robert Rochfort of House Hawkwood, cousin to the ruling Duke William Rochfort. “It’s time to root out and abolish their subversive practices.”
The earl fervently denied claims from the Church that the witch hunt was targeted not at pagans but at political insurgents resisting oppressive taxes. “The Earl fears what the Day of the Dead will bring,” said Bishop Roswell of the Moshala bishopric, “Families will remember the frequent purges and oppressive taxes brought upon them by the duke!”
Certain League commentators claim that the pagans, most of whom purportedly live deep in the Tolthan forests, will remain untouched by the sweeps, since no patrols plan to enter the woods. There was no response from the Earl or his staff.
Church Denies ‘Jack Headless’ Sightings
BYZANTIUM SECUNDUS — Port Authority — The legendary ‘Jack Headless’ has been roaming the lowlands of Aldaia, according to witnesses and rumormongers. Worthy Philpot Slaum, a local member of the Rumormongers Guild, says that many of his contacts and sources confirm the reports. “He’s out there, all right. Hunting for the soul who done somebody wrong.” Panicked locals fear to leave their hovels, and commerce in the region has suffered — except for the increased traffic in luck charms and ward hexes, peddled by a traveling group of Zuranists.
The sightings have been firmly denied by Chartophylax Pulsford of the nearby Great Library of Horace. At a local town meeting, the aging librarian spoke eloquently and soothingly to the concerned public: “Such stories as these that terrified us as children tend to rise within our minds at this time of year, further goaded by merchants seeking to profit from fear and spookery. Instead of giving credence to such myths, lend your prayers to the strength of the Church and let us all work towards cleansing fear from our hearts.”
For those few readers who were not put to bed when young with frightening tales of this legend, ‘Jack Headless’ is an unholy demon summoned with the help of a witch to wreak vengeance on an enemy. Once the claimant is avenged, his soul, as well the victim’s, is forfeit to the fiend. Stories of the demon, also known as Guteater, Hickory-Neck, and a dozen other names, have existed for centuries, though there has never been verified evidence of its existence or an official statement from the Church concerning its reality.
(Read more on Jack Headless in The Dark Between the Stars.)
Ill-Omened Comet Seen in Southern Skies
BYZANTIUM SECUNDUS — Holy City — Hesychasts of the St. Hombor Monastery in Tarsus have traveled to the Imperial City to report a new stellar object sighted in the southern skies. According to Brother Theodosius, a new comet, seen in conjunction with the Vor-hound constellation and the Sibilant Three star cluster, indicates coming turbulent times for the empire.
So far, the Charioteer’s guild has not confirmed this sighting or the existence of any new stellar phenomena in the Byzantium Secundus system.
Dallying with Dahahalima
Well, my dear dumplings, it’s that time of year again. Mortos Diablos. The Day of the Dead. La Veille de la Toussaint. Halloween. Anybody who reads my letters on a regular basis (and that would include anybody who is anybody) knows how much fun I have on this most holy of days. Like all good believers, I start the day with morning mass — but who could have imagined a mass like the one at Saint Cleese Cathedral on Delphi? Not usually the most noteworthy of churches, this past worship day Bishop Megnasi arrived to conduct mass. A number of prominent Charioteers, Muster and Reeves attend the cathedral, and Megnasi led them all to the cathedral’s ancient cemetery for his service. He stressed the deaths brought on by the strife of the Second Republic, and gave communion to the elegantly dressed merchants as they knelt in the grave dirt. It’s a good thing they didn’t know who had been kneeling in that dirt the night before, or a certain baronet and priestess would have had a great deal of explaining to do.
What Baroness Alala Serena al-Malik would have given for the presence of a stalwart cleric like Bishop Megnasi last month. Her daughter, Dame Terzena Talasid al-Malik, came home from her travels around the Known Worlds determined to uncover the mysteries of the family’s palace on Aylon. Accompanied by Sir Emanuel Decados, Lady Hannah Justinian, and their entourage, she set to work tracking down all the ancient legends of the hauntings that had long afflicted the manor. According to my sources, after a month of fruitless searching, the investigation had turned into an extended vacation, with other nobles coming to visit. Then, almost exactly one month ago, horror filled the house. First, personal keepsakes went missing. Next, their servants began reporting odd sightings around the estates — sightings of people who were not there. Finally, the nobles themselves came under attack in a whirlwind of energy that left Dame Terzena dangling upside down in a willow tree. The attack left the house in a dreadful state, though of course now all of the Baroness’ friends want to visit! I just think they want to see poor Terzena upside down in her nightgown again.
This all helps us realize that the life of a noble is not an easy one, my precocious pirogies. Why, just last week poor Marquise Kiwhan Li Halan had to give up her plans for a new swimming pool when workers discovered a lost Xanthippe burial crypt on her property. Despite the fact that the Marquise accidentally ordered the workers to destroy the bones, several Xanthippe nobles showed up that night, insisting that the discovery proved the land was theirs. They’re still arguing over who owns what, but at least this way humanity is spared the sight of Marquis Kiwhan in his too-tight swimsuit.
Speaking of sights one should be spared, my somnolent somosas, who made it to David Redstone’s performance on Severus? The Masque impresario made another fabulous performance at Prince Hyram’s court, astounding us all with his feats of prestidigitation and illusion. Baron Duronamous Sebastian, however, challenged the magician to duplicate any of his tricks off the stage and away from his props. After much arguing, Redstone finally agreed when the Prince himself promised him a ruby ring once worn by the fabled sorcerer Nicolai Houdini. Redstone lead the nobles deep into the palace and had one of his assistants (those famous and gorgeous identical triplets) stand in front of a door. With a whirl of his cape and a tap of his wand, Redstone’s assistant disappeared, leaving behind only an open door — and the shocked (and naked) forms of Baroness Sebastian and the assistant (or one of his two brothers). Once Prince Hyram recovered from his laughing fit, he gladly gave Redstone the ring, as well as run of the castle for the night. You never saw so many nobles disappear as then.
Well, Baroness Sebastian and a magician’s assistant aren’t the only couples causing raised eyebrows this month (or acting like a magician’s rabbits), my ravishing raviolis. Could it be that Elondra Solace, one of Dean Solace’s own nieces, has been seen constantly with Sheb Mokria, that yummy Amalthean miracle worker on Byzantium Secundus. I hear that Dean Solace has sent one of her most trusted lieutenants, Black Gut Karlson, to reign in her errant relative. Let’s hope Deacon Mokria doesn’t end up on Stigmata as a result of this.
All right, my quaint quail eggs, it’s time I began preparing my own Mortos Diablos costume. Oh, the parties, the dances, the toasts … and the scandals that always come out of this day. Why, I could write for a year all that happens on this day. Well, I’ll start with mass at Saint Maya’s cathedral. I do hope that I think of a good costume this year. I really don’t want to go as a bloody mess again.
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