From Interstellar Dispatches, May 11, 5001 (Holy Terra Calendar)
Unknown Plague Threatens Istakhr
ISTAKHR – Najran — Lady Shiao Li Halan, companion to Amir al-Malik, ruler of Najran, recently issued an urgent call for interstellar medical aid. Amir himself was unavailable for comment, stirring concern that he has been stricken with the plague that currently inflicts his province.
Sources report that a virulent plague called the “Fools Cap” has broken out all over the province. Symptoms include a yellowish cast to the skin and a ring of pustulent lesions that crown the brow. Other symptoms include high fever, malaise and occasional seizures. Although the survival rate is high, victims suffer severe brain and liver damage, in addition to excesses of bile and other humours. Standard cures for fever and seizures are ineffective and may even prolong the illness.
The disease was originally feared to be of Symbiot origin, sparking the panicked evacuations of many fiefs. To quell fears, the Apothecaries Guild hurriedly issued a joint statement with the Supreme Order of Engineers stating that the strain was “artificially manufactured, within an 93% degree of certainty.” It is unknown as to who created the disease or why, although evidence points toward an unearthed Second Republic biotoxin or a deliberately engineered weapon intended for use against Symbiots. Supporters of the latter theory suggest that the plague’s virulence and formidable resistance to known medications is a key to overcoming Symbiot biology.
The political ramifications of this plague have been dramatic. A quarantine has been enforced by the Charioteers and military intervention is being considered to protect the profitable Samarkand market from infection. There also seems to be a loss of faith in the province, despite the frequent sermons of the local Orthodox clergy, as practitioners witness their afflicted loved ones being reduced to mere shells of their former selves.
At this time, any and all potential cures for this plague are being sought. Amaltheans from Artemis and Engineers from Leagueheim are expected to arrive any day now, with the hope that there will soon be an end to this crisis.
Strange Flashes Reported in Ghost City
ICON – Nueventina — Monks of the Chou-Lu sect of hesychasts at the Stability Mountain monastery on the western shores of the Icon Sea recently reported increased supernatural activity in the region of the Twerrid Mountains. Immense spectral lights have lit up the sky for miles and unearthly screams have occasionally been heard as well. These phenomena are believed to be associated with a local myth: Ustirin the Unspeakable’s Ghost City, a forbidden region formed centuries ago by antinomist deeds. According to legend, the city contains “dark doors” that lead to places linked to the Dark.
After the disappearance of several monks who attempted to investigate these phenomena, the abbot of Chou-Lu officially petitioned for aid from the court of Countess Melissa Shu Miao. Sources within the court say that the countess disbelieves the legends, attributing them to peasant nightmares, and assumes the trouble to be technological in nature. She has thus refused to officially involve the Church, and plans to send her own investigators. Anonymous sources claim, however, that she is seeking exorcists and other occult experts to join the investigation.
Human Vorox Cult Uncovered on Manitou
MANITOU – Shazan — A band of Questing Knights recently discovered a bizarre cult of humans worshipping pagan Vorox spirits in the jungle regions of Manitou. According to the testimony of Sir Reginald Vladimus Hawkwood, this odd mix of freemen and excommunicated priests believe that the Vorox’s homeworld of Ungavorax was created by dark entities known as the “Unbound Exiles.” They hatched a plot to summon these entities with human sacrifices, using Vorox as the means by which to enact their dark rites.
Towards this end, the cult illegally smuggled feral Vorox from Malignatius and intentionally starved them in deep pits. They would then throw their captured sacrifices – usually serfs from nearby fiefs – into the pits, chanting as the hunger-mad Vorox tore the hapless victims to pieces and devoured their flesh. The priests claimed to be able to augur prophecy from the manner in which the Vorox wounded its prey.
Bazadadan, a Vorox cohort to the Questing Knight band that made the discovery, announced his disgust at the practice: “Vorox have never worshipped evil, and we have no legends about these so-called Unbound Exiles. It is a human fiction. What’s more, even feral Vorox have more honor than to kill innocent life. Most of the cult’s captives chose to starve to death rather than kill for these twisted humans.”
A local Eskatonic priest, Philosophus Dwelman, claims that if one examines Manitou’s strange bevy of cults deeply enough, one finds elements of Vau beliefs. “This cult’s concept of the Unbound Exiles has no precedent in known Vorox culture. However, there is something similar spoken of in the ‘Annals of Yestermorrows,’ a local work compiled by renegade Vau – considered to be thought criminals in Vau culture. In it, they claim much of Vau history was influenced by a desperate need to withstand the manipulations of beings called the Ungoverned, who seem to be different from the Anunnaki yet somehow related.”
The Church, which has little sway on Manitou, nonetheless has announced that it will send Inquisitors to wipe out all remnants of the cult.
Dallying with Dahahalima
Well, my dear dumplings, the great Santradro Elohem did indeed perform with Prince Hyram Decados’ wonderful choir for Lux Splendor, and the event was everything for which we could possibly have hoped. Music lovers from across the Known Worlds arrived on Severus for the concert, and I don’t believe that I have ever seen Hy’s court so resplendent. Walking into the concert hall before Santradro performed El Shaddai Shekinah, the highlight of the holidays, was like walking into a beautiful jeweled cavern. Brilliance flashed everywhere, and the dignitaries in attendance included everyone from Lady Penelope Hawkwood to Duchess Elena Cinidias Victoriana Castenda de Sutek to Crafter Philius Mordela to Theafana al-Malik. Really, the only person missing from this wonderful event was Salandra Decados, but I understand she was busy on Pandemonium over the holidays.
Oh, did I say, “music lovers from across the Known Worlds,” my tasty tostadas. Kurgan ambassador Ali ben Havizz attended the concert as a guest of Duchess Elena, only to have Elohem’s singing entrance him even more than does the duchess. He immediately offered the great singer a chance to sing before the Caliph, an offer Elohem immediately accepted. While Prince Hyram offered him immense sums to stay, our favorite choralist ordered his entourage to begin packing his bags at once. Cardinal Gwen Dei, that most beloved of Amaltheans, called this an excellent chance to bring light and peace to the Caliphate — but she was more than a bit in her cups at the time.
Oh, my beautiful baklavas, I know that Countess Tianta Oosla Li Halan wishes that she had more cups at her last party. The gala affair on Icon, held to commemorate her house’s conversion to the Universal Church, featured some of the best entertainers in Li Halan space. They gave dramatic readings from the Omega Gospels, sang wonderful hymns and chants, and engaged in fantastic acts of derring-do. Fiery Phlogiston was one of the highlights of the night, spitting out balls of fire as large as the countess’ own air yachts. His performance became even more interesting when Mother Aryana of the Avestites realized that the entertainer used no fuel for his act. Mother Aryana is a formidable woman even without her flamer, and her battle with Phlogiston (later determined to be one of the Changed — brrrr!) left Countess Tianta’s ballroom in ashes, and most of the guests with minor (and major) burns. Baroness Ginger Xanthippe lost her clothes in the blaze, as did the servant who said he rushed into the guest bedroom to save her.
Everyone has heard about the collapse of St. Defranco Cathedral on Gwynneth last month, haven’t they, my simmering soufflés? Who could have missed the holovid that has been passed around of Cardinal Altus Reahkus looking up in disbelief as the roof and rain fell all about him? Well, at first people blamed the cardinal, since he designed the cathedral himself as the crowning achievement of his life as priest and architect. However, the good cardinal left the actual construction up to his underlings, including Canon Barcaphlax. A Church investigation (carried out by the cardinal’s good friend, Father Devon of the Synecullum) found that assistants decided the job could be done for less than the cardinal had allotted. They brought in workers from nearby Bannockburn. You know the type of worker — the ones who have no choice in where they go, and get resold when the job is done. Well, the cardinal has long led opposition to certain Muster activities, so this caused even greater consternation than it normally would have. Barcaphlax has disappeared, and the Muster denies ever having dealt with him, so the situation grows more and more interesting.
Speaking of interesting events, my charming croissants, did you see who attended the funeral for Chief Marharkura, a former member of the Li Halan Vorox Commandos, and the only Vorox initiated into the Reeves during the Emperor Wars? Humans from across the Known Worlds attended his last rites, including Li Halan nobles, several Brother Battle monks who he fought beside, leading Reeves (including Darrell Barrows), and even some of the nobles and guildmembers against whom Marharkura had handled debt collections. Most praised the giant Vorox, but at least one Charioteer at the funeral said he came to make sure Marharkura was really dead, and that his constant nightmares of a furred whirlwind might finally stop.
Well, my patient pitas, I have to begin a whirlwind of my own. Criticorum is just entering its most intense party period, and I have at least eleven events to attend tonight — and at least one affair. But, that is my own affair. So maybe I’ll tell you about it next time.
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Reporters roster: Bill Maxwell, Andrew Greenberg, Bill Bridges