From Interstellar Dispatches, October 4, 5000 (Holy Terra Calendar)
Secret Hawkwood Jumproute Scandalizes Court
BYZANTIUM SECUNDUS — Imperial City — Princess Victoria Hawkwood has conspired to keep secret a jumproute into barbarian space, one leading from Ravenna to a mysterious world known only as “Twilight.” Captain Galain Darvin of the Charioteers Guild recently announced the existence of this “night road” at the Imperial Court. Sources report that knowledge of the route and its lost world was kept from the star pilots guild, and that Doge Zale Gailbreath’s rage is unparalleled.
Comment on the conspiracy from House Decados was swift and condemnatory. “Who is surprised?” asked Baron Glamis de Vale Decados. “The Hawkwoods have whined for years about the Vuldrok, but now they appear to be in bed with them!”
House Hawkwood has yet to release any official comment on the affair, except a remark from Questing Knight Sir Faust Gondolo Hawkwood: “Twilight is not a Vuldrok world. It is a long-lost protectorate of House Hawkwood, as will soon be proven before the eyes of all.”
Luxury Liner Destroyed by Void Kraken
LEMINKAINEN – Hakkonen — The luxury liner “Lady Lucinda” is missing and reported destroyed in the Leminkainen system while it prepared for a jump to Ravenna. Sole survivor Count Emilio Andros Decados gave this chilling account:
“It was horrible. We felt the ship shake, as if struck by something huge. My body servants removed me from my Reverie Tank and into my personal shuttle before I could tell them otherwise. As my shuttle flew away from the Lucinda, I saw it — dark as night, with a cone-shaped body as big as the Lucinda. It had tentacles as long as a frigate and huge teeth, sharp as a hull rat’s. It chewed its way through to the bridge and from there just ripped the entire ship apart! And there was something about it — it made a sound. Yes, I know this was in space, but I heard it, vibrating through the ship, like the icy howl of Gehennungap! I’ll never forget that sound . . .”
As of this report, the remains of the Lucinda have yet to be recovered. While some experts fear that this may be a new class of Symbiot ship, sources close to the Imperial Throne report that Questing Knights have been dispatched into Vuldrok space to search for the ship, supposedly on the belief that it was captured by raiders.
Local nobles question the Decados count’s purpose for being in Hawkwood space, noting that his long time rival — Countessa Marilinda Habrech Hawkwood — was among those who died on the “Lady Lucinda.”
Progress on New Kordeth Mine Continues Despite Difficulties
KORDETH – Vis — Progress on the new Merchant League-Allied Clan silver mine on Kordeth continues, despite repeated warnings and attacks from Ukar extremists. The extremists, associated with the outlawed rebel group UFM and traditionalist clans dwelling deep below the planet’s surface, caused considerable monetary damage in the attacks, with some loss of life. “Production will begin in the new Praxtra Silver Mine as scheduled, despite minor delays,” said Vrontha Suderik, spokesman for the Allied Clans, and Ukar Duke Borduk. The delays, caused by explosions set in strategic deep mine shafts, caused extensive damage to League equipment, and pushed back production for two months.
“It’s a problem,” said mining foreman Rik Katon, “but the Allied Clans are responding with increased security.” Two divisions of specially trained subterranean “dark infantry” entered the lower mines, where the traditionalists have attacked with small, swift raids.
The problems began shortly after miners installed drilling equipment near the mines last year (named “Deep Mama” by the League), with the theft of valuable equipment and harassment of the miners by local Ukari. Local clans claim the area is holy to the spirits who dwell there, but the Allied Clans announced that the property was sold to them by clan elders, all of whom are currently in custody. Initial Allied Clan talks with local clan representatives kept violence at a minimum, and clan leaders were sent to meet with Duke Badoc. They remain today under the duke’s protection.
“They are not in prison,” said Vrontha Suderik, “but are kept at clan expense in the Clan Guest House in Vis, well provided for.” Repeated calls for their release by the Nadakira, the spiritual leader of the traditional Ukari, have gone unanswered. The duke has issued a statement calling for Ukari unity, stressing that the profits from the mine will benefit both the Merchant League and the Ukari people.
Some disagreed, however. “The only monetary benefit will go to the human boot-licking traitors in the Allied Clans,” said one local Ukar merchant, who requested anonymity. “The previous duke gave support to homeless refugees, but Badoc is too tight-assed to give even to his extended clan. He and his brother Gorik will split most of it. The duke acts like a human. He gives only lip service to his own clan, except when a war brews. Then he cries for clan unity.”
Privately, even members of other Allied Clans agreed. “Every time I purchase something, a small percentage goes to line Badoc’s golden toilet seat,” said a high-ranking member of Clan Nolent.
Duke Badoc’s power, however, is considerable. Despite corruption in his forces, they are thought to be the toughest Ukari soldiers outside of the al-Malik loyalists on Aylon. The mine has become a symbol of the duke’s power on Kordeth, and it is thought that he needs to prove to the Merchant League that he can deliver. There are rumors that the League seeks to replace him with the head of another Allied Clan if the latest operation doesn’t succeed. Since the explosion two years ago that buried League gold mines, the duke has been under considerable pressure. The alleged hiring of human mercenaries to augment his own troops is a sign of how seriously he considers security.
“These are professional miners,” said his exhausted spokesman, closing the talks with a traditional Ukari wave of his left hand. Recent graffiti, found on the mine generators, however, indicates that there may be sympathizers among the Ukari mining teams. Cries of “Death to the human oppressors!” greeted a visiting League delegation.
“Our cause will win,” said a deep core spokesman for the traditionalists. “They are already afraid of deep planet mining. Soon, the interior of Kordeth will be ours.”
An Allied Clan delegation has reportedly been sent off-world to seek the Leaguemeister’s help in the matter.
Dallying with Dahahalima
Well, my dear dumplings, can you believe what we’ve been hearing from Criticorum of late? Sir Iffat al-Malik made a business (bleah) deal with Commander Marin of the Charioteers to help her ship a large collection of Sikkeena knife-weasels to pelt farms on Shaprut. Father Ashua of Acheon condemned the deal, claiming serfs were used as bait in rounding up the weasels. Well, somehow the cute little creatures got loose in the Charioteer guild hall. No one higher ranking than a midshipman was lost, but I’m told knife-weasels plague Marin’s nightmares (and sometimes still appear in showers looking for water). I’m sure that there is no connection to the knife-weasels who infested an Avestite choral society meeting on Pyre two weeks later.
Icky stories seem to be the theme this month, my darling droshkies. The rains in Veridian never seem to let up. Recent showers sent a mudslide hurtling down Hearpor Hill, revealing quite a collection of bones in Sir Anthony Hawkwood’s backyard. At first Sir Anthony claimed they must be animal bones, but after neighbors complained about missing servants, Sir Anthony’s family had him shipped off to Leminkainen to battle the Vuldrok. Of course, they had sent him to Veridian to avoid questions about that nasty Shantor incident. Ooh, shivers down my spine.
How about some good news, my tantalizing treats? Lady Ferena Li Halan has been seeing visions of the Prophet on Rampart. While that’s about the last place I would expect to see the Prophet (ooh, I didn’t write that!), she says he promises miracles for its people. Really, the only miracle I know of is her getting that yummy Brother Nowistika to accompany her on pilgrimage to Grail.
Pilgrimages are all the rage these days, as they should be, my sweet ciastkos (Ah, that’s more like my writing. See Sister Scarleta? I can write about nice, religious things). Baron Pirozhanya Decados made the long trip from Severus to Holy Terra of late, and completely enjoyed the trip. He was, greatly saddened by the sudden demise of his aunt, Baroness Dana Decados shortly after he visited her, but pledges to administer her fiefs on Holy Terra just as she would have.
And, my lovely lollipops, I know my whisper pin has been buzzing with news about a certain Questing Knight of the male persuasion seen dallying (ooh, we like the sound of that) with a Kurgan (!) warrior lady on Hira. And the knight is Hazat, too!! Scurrilous rumors, I’m sure 😉
Oh, speaking of scurrilous rumors, can you believe all the women to whom our dear Emperor has found himself romantically linked? We always hear stories about Theafana al-Malik and Lady Penelope Hawkwood, and of course the truly mad like to whisper about Salandra Decados (snort), but now Millansa vo Harn?? I mean, she’s a sweet girl and all, and her parents are very accomplished, but really, an Ur-Obun? Those of you who have whispered about their private meetings should know that she is very accomplished in martial arts, including ones from Terra. Those who know tell me Millansa and the Emperor are merely working through an ancient art form called Tantra (or something like that). I’m sure the Emperor has far too much to do right now to go about bedding anybody. The poor dear works from dawn until well past dusk, and I’m sure the thought of such liaisons never enters his regal brain.
All right, my special scones, I must prepare for Duke Jose Alfonso Louis Eduardo de Aragon’s party to welcome Duchess Elena Cindias Victoriana Castenda de Sutek. My, writing a Hazat name is almost as tiring as dancing with one of their knights. If I have to dance the Tarantella one more time . . . Look for me — I will be the one dressed like a can of bug spray. Maybe I should dance with the duchess. At least she would never do anything tarantula-like.
By Rakai Li Halan
The poet’s art in my notable family first flowered with Leonardo, but saw fruition during the Time of the Seven Sages (4100-4233). I present below a poem from this era, often overlooked in recent times by family historians, who prefer the “naturalism” of Constantine Li Halan era’s (4700s). Some historians, such as Wu Duc, have tried to deny all influence between the later Orthodox Li Halan court and the earlier, Unreflective Court (pre-Cardano Li Halan). The sampling below stands as a denial to this assertion, for an aesthetic appreciation of nature was found in the poetry of the Unreflective Court, although at times this was a desire to return to the purity of the ancient Urth poets of the Two Kingdom Schools (Chi’an and Nippon).
This poem from Prince Ustirin Li Halan, written in an ancient dialect in the days before the family’s conversion to the Reflective Light, has not been presented for 700 years, save for a mistranslation in “Cruel Tears,” a Decados anthology published in the early 50th century. In prior periods, this poem, and much of the poetry from its period, was censored, although it possesses enough aesthetic merit to stand on its own. True, my family and the Church take a dim view of the nobles of Most Illustrious Merit from this era. However, recent discoveries pertaining to artistic purity and the conflict between members of the (then) ruling branch over the Faith of Zebulon and the Opaque Realms (witness the musings on “reflections” in the poem) have caused a cautious and gradual reconsideration of the creative arts of this period. This is best exemplified by Ustirin Li Halan and Ku, Master of the Six Peaks, whose enigmatic statements about the transitory nature of existence in his famous “Plum Diaries” are perhaps the most beautiful philosophical musings ever recorded.
The following poem, “Smoke on the Blossom,” is thought to center around the prince’s slaying of his favorite mistress, Yong Jiau. Yong Jiau is the “blossom” of the poem. She was reportedly beautiful and skilled in the Seven Arts, as recorded in the transmissions of Count Vergei, a Decados ambassador. The prince slew her for a singular act of unfaithfulness, reportedly with a mute servant. Utilizing the spirits from the Opaque Realms, he burned down her family estate while she was within, tutoring her little sister in the art of music. (Reportedly, they were performing “Ada’s Sorrow” on the Obun flute.) Remarkably, Ustirin writes about the incident with poetic taste, pulling in his emotional distress and alchemically changing it – “I reign them in…”
Mist rises deceptively across the valleySmoke on the Blossom by Ustirin Zu Jin Li Halan
White flecks fall like snow
On the autumn ground
The blood harvest moon in the clear heavens
Sees her image on the still pond
Reflection of a reflection of light
No thought, no ripple, no sound
My heart empties from the ache
The vast emptiness of our minds laid bare
Which god am I tonight?
One who cannot bear the thought
Of the blood harvest moon
In the still pond
Seven echoes of darkness
Want to flee me
I reign them in
A Prince’s duty
A night moth, wings covered in ash,
Struggles on the ground
Food for spiders
What will be our legacy?
I collect your ashes
Mixed with the soot of the home
The spirits obliterated
All is transitory,
Your eyelashes an illusion
We were to be an entwined vine
Other eyes beheld you
In your pure state
Such a gift was mine alone
Only the Prince’s Vision can behold
Passing beauty, an opening blossom
For the melting desires they are
Spoke of our moon
On my pillow
Now they are hot ash
Falling like pollen
From a forgotten Spring
A gentle breeze scatters the ash
Across the uncharted realms of night
The smoke fills the valley
And I move on
A violent wind howls against the pines
Below, in the water
A ripple distorts the moon
The sound of a temple bell
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Reporters roster: Bill Maxwell, Rustin Quaide, Andrew Greenberg, Bill Bridges © 2000 HDI