Fading Suns MUSH
Old Rumors

These rumors date from January to September of 2000

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Storm Warning [Sun Jan 30]
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My cousin's been seeing this little chambermaid out at the al-Malik place and she saw the whole thing. Seems the Lictor and the Justice--Okay, well maybe not the whole thing, I don't know what he was doing there, seeing as the whole town knows they're not speaking, but he was there meeting privately with the justice. Except the end of the meeting wasn't so private.

Seems the Lictor bursts out to where Indira (yes, the chambermaid, do you want to hear this or not?) is working, looking like he's going to explode into a thousand pieces right then and there. He's fussing and storming, then the Justice comes out, and she's as cold as he is hot. I don't know what they were arguing about, but my cousin says Indira said that the baron was threatening to tear down the mansion. And that almost started something between him and the freak--oh, you know, the big al-Malik, always wears sunglasses, the one that's supposed to be some kinda half-demon psychic warrior.

Yes he was there too.How should I know what he was doing there--he lives there don't he? Anyway, that almost starts some macho thing between the two of them, but apparently the justice didn't want the attention taken off her because she interrupted, telling the Lictor to 'go home and play with his toy soldiers, since he obviously couldn't handle a real woman'.

Yep, I swear that's the exact words my cousin says Indira said she told him--and who's gonna make up something like that about one of the Hazat, I hear they'll chop off your head soon as look at you. Except the Lictor didn't, so maybe that reputations a little overblown. He just stormed off. But I'll tell you, Indira's a little worried about the whole thing.

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The Dead Are Rising! [Mon Jan 31]
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Dead Man Walking

Just listen! The dead've risen and are walking the streets! No, no, I'm not drunk no, not more than ususual...

...it was just east of the Agora, I tell ya. A shambling corpse of a man, near the theatre, in nothing but rotten rags.. 'I hungry' and 'Must feed now' it sais, and I say it wants to eat human flesh! Yes, really! And stink it does, I tell ya, like it's been dead for pretty a while, and one of its eyes falls out while it stumbles forward! It sends the people running like hell, no joke!

Then, that Masquer boy, Sarno he's called, arrives with that freak Baron, panting like they've run quite a distance. Alisdair, that's him. He's dressed in black robes, wet and smelling of salt water, really strange... No, I am NOT drunk, I told ya! He, the baron I mean, shouts at the monster to stand back. As if a deadman would listen! But it really mumbles 'Reporting for duty, Sir!' or something, before it walks at him with its claws! There's yellow dust coming from its mouth when it speaks, no joke.

The Baron draws his swords now, he tenses and growls like a wolf. He's fangs like one, I tell ya! Really couldn't say which is more of a monster, the baron or the dead man... The Decados attacks, and that's when that VSP man, Morgan, ya know him, strolls in from the Agora, and starts attacking that corpse too. They hit it with their blades, again and again, but nothing but dust comes out of the wounds! Sarno and that Decados chick, Cecilia, watch 'em fight, pale they are, I can tell ya! Then Sarno jumps forward to help, and eventually, they kill the corpse. Yeah, I know "kill's" not the right word...

Then, Alisdair carries the corpse to the Cathedral, and the others bear torches to burn it, in case it starts walking again. What, I shouldn't have followed them.. wan't to hear the story or what? Okay. They go into the Cathedral, and after a while, the baron comes out again, and heads right to the Amalthean hospice. His hand is bandaged, seems he's been hit by the claws. And the priests carry the corpse to the Temple Avesti, of course, bearing torches too. Dunno what happened in there. Well that's it. I tell ya that's some of their witchcraft again, folks! The dead stayed pretty dead before them off-worlders came. Yes, I know I'm right, and now bring more beer!

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Strange happenings at the Tower [Thu Feb 03]
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Did you see that??

Are the Li Halan's moving into the Decados Tower? A whole bunch of crates arrived there. Some Li Halan servants and Decados Householders working together, carrying them in. Strangest thing I have ever seen I tell you..

This all shortly after Count Hector went there. He left looking happy. They say that Old Stoneface, yes.. Count Andrei was happy about something as well.. quite a buzz at the Tower at the moment..

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Mysterious Lights [Fri Feb 11]
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"Say, mate, have ya been watching the light show up in the sky?" a buxom, leather-clad yeoman asks the freeman on the barstool beside hers.

"Light show? What the blazes are you yappin' about?" counters the man in grungy workclothes, clearly preferring to savor his drink in peace.

"The last few nights there've been strange lights in the sky, sort of circling around each other..." She illustrates by moving her hands sinuously through the air. "And every so often there'll be a brighter flash. Last night I heard a guilder say they must be spacecraft performing 'orbital maneuvers'--but she didn't seem to like what she saw for some reason, let me tell ya."

"Lights in the sky..." muses the freeman. "I wonder if that has somethin' to do with that big hunk of metal that fell in the Agora. One of the merchants said it dropped right out of the sky a couple nights back, just as he was closing up; nearly took out his stand, he told me..."

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Falling From The Sky [Sun Feb 13]
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A pair of off-duty roustabouts are overheard conversing at the bar in the Sovereign State late one evening:

"...so, a couple nights back I finally talked that Hazat householder into meeting me in the empty field," the raven-haired woman with bulging biceps confides to her burly companion. "You know, the one at the end of South Hapsburg Road? There's a collapsed wall there, a little pile of broken masonry really; it's a perfect place to . . . steal a kiss out of sight of the road. Anyway, things between the householder and me were just starting to get interesting, when I look up and see this streak of light in the sky, dissolving into a shower of sparks. The householder, he got kinda scared; me, I figured it was just a meteor or somethin'. Then, this huge shadow blocks out the stars overhead, and /I/ get kinda scared . . ." The woman raises her mug and takes a long pull as her companion waits for her to continue, his interest clearly piqued. "Mmph. Until I realize it was just a parachute. Yeah, you heard me; a parachute. Some joker parajumpin' in the middle of the night. He drops out of the sky and lands in the field about ten yards away--bad landing, too. I figure the idiot sprained his ankle, at least. Anyway, me and the householder, we watched from behind the wall as this fool rolled up the chute and shoved it under some rocks, then limped away toward the road..."

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More Lights [Sun Feb 13]
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" Hey, Greene," one merchant hails another in the Agora. "You missed the excitement again; there was more of them lights in the sky last night. I saw the whole thing. That flame-haired Charioteer was in the Agora when the show started, but she took off running like demons were on her heels. After that a bunch of nobles stood around, gaping at the sky like frightened children; one of them even had a fancy looking-glass he used to take a closer gander at them lights."

"Were they really scared?" asks the one named Greene, wearing a troubled expression.

"Well, they was excited, anyway--oh, and the Lictor was there; he looked pretty agitated. A little while later, he and a couple of them overeager Hawkwood knights took off, too; said they were headed for the starport, I think..."

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Hasty Departure [Wed Feb 16]
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A freeman in the Grinning Gannock takes a long pull at his beer, then turns to the chap on the next stool. "Like I said, I was talking to this Charioteer I know, and she said Consul Olivares got some sort of urgent message from the space station. Next thing you know, he's climbing into a shuttle on the landing field and blasting out of here like he'd just heard the plague had struck Vargo. My friend said she'd never seen a Bronko move so fast...eh? Nah, nobody knows where he went; he didn't take the time to file a flight plan."

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Drug Shortage [Thu Feb 17]
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In a dark corner of an alley leading off the Agora:

"WHAT?"

"Shut the fuck up! They'll hear you.. I tell ya, prices have doubled. No bartering!"

"But..."

"Pay it or leave it, friend."

"But I need my stuff!"

"Your problem. It's four 'birds per dose now."

"I.. I'll..."

"Get it from someone else? Forget it, man, I'm the last one who's still got some stuff in store."

"Okay, okay, I.."

"Oh, by the way, prices have just risen again. Five birds per dose now, friend."

"But..."

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Yet more Weirdness [Sat Feb 19]
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"Where you bound for, mate?"

"I'm leaving this place before it all goes to hell in a handbasket. Y'know, if you're wise, you'll pack your bags and leave with me."

"Why is that?"

"I've been on the Agora last night, man. The sun was just setting, and the merchants were closing shop, and suddenly I saw this guy standing on the Agora looking up at the sky, frightened like you wouldn't believe. There were some stragglers lurking around one girl of those al-Maliks and that bard guy and the Scraver boss-woman and our Lictor. You know, Lord "I am the Law." Anyway, there's this guy average height, with the sides of his skull shaved and green snakes tattoed on it and only a strip of hair left in the middle, and everything about him says "Tough Guy", but he looks up and whimpers like a child. Then there's a freaking bright flash in the sky, bright enough to make everyone throw a shadow, that makes most of those offworlders look for shelter, the Tough Guy runs off down Prophet's Way, and then..."

"Then what?" "Then I saw the ghost. A misty cloud in the shape of a child, floating above the ground, came in from the Promenade, looked at everybody we were as rooted to the ground, mate and then floated away again. This place is cursed, man. The Dead return to claim the Living, and I won't be here when that happens!"

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Rude Awakening [Sat Feb 19]
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"Say, Carlo; did you hear them explosions this mornin', just before sunrise? Damn near shook me out of bed, they did..."

"Who *didn't hear 'em? But they weren't explosions. I heard a Charioteer at the Gannock correct somebody on that point; they were 'sonic booms', whatever the blazes that means. The wheeler said they were caused by those ships that buzzed the city right afterward."

"Do tell? And whose ships were they?"

"Somebody said the big 'un was a Charioteer ship; I dunno what the smaller ones were."

"Huh. Well, there should be a law against that. Making sonic blooms when decent folks are trying to catch a last few minutes a sleep before rising to an honest day's work..."

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Bones? [Sun Feb 20]
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"So Joe, 'd catch anything that now that you got the beach back?"

"Nope. And I'm going to the wharves to fish from now on."

"The wharves? You been fishing off that beach for the last fifty years."

"Yeah. But thing's've just gotten too weird since them offworlders came. First, there was that metal crab, then VSP take it over, and then this morning while I'm fishing, Fido digs up some bones."

"Bones!"

"Yeah, chicken bones."

"Chicken bones? You're giving up the beach to the offworlders cause somebody had a picnic down there."

"Wasn't no picnic. Not unless those offworlders are even stranger than we been thinking. Somebody carved all over these bones. Weird, scary pictures. Then wrapped'em up in some yellow cloth--expensive stuff like silk."

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Flying Car! [Sun Feb 20]
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"Hey, did you see that flying car too?"

"Damn you, you've drunken that imported beer again! Flying cars.. bah!"

"No, no, half the city's seen it. Hovering just three feet over the rooftops."

"Yeah, seen it too.. a large, blue car. Great thing!"

"Really? No bullshit?"

"No, it's there. More of that damned off-world witchcraft, if ya ask me."

"No, I say it's a wonder! You should've seen it!"

"So, where's it gone?"

"I dunno. Last seen it at Agora Road."

"I'm off to have a look.. see you around!"

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A Brother Laid Low [Mon Feb 21]
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"Simms, did you hear what happened to that big Brother Battle, the one that stands watch outside the Cathedral?"

"You mean Brother Tobias?"

"That's the one; somebody knocked him out cold!"

"Nah! You're kiddin', ain't ya? Who could take down a Brother Battle?"

"Somebody who snuck up behind him and clocked him with a hunk of wood while he was giving directions to a pilgrim, that's who."

"What a cowardly thing to do...did they catch the blighter what done it?"

"Nope; he run off straight away. Some rough-looking guy with the sides of his head shaved, tattoos like serpents or something over his ears..."

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Tensions at the Gannock [Wed Feb 23]
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"Been at the Gannock last night?"

"Nope, why?"

"Should've been there. Ya missed that sneering guy with the gold tooth. Talks to that al Malik bard and that short Muster chick. And there's that other fellow who wants to beat him up."

"Ah, so what? There's a brawl twice a week."

"Nah, tell ya, they wanted to kill each other. Mr. Gold Tooth, Sonny they call him, had some guns under his jacket, and I bet that other fellow, the one with the black coat, had one too."

"Leave me alone, y'old gossip! Would've heard 'bout a shooting."

"Hey, didn't say there's a gunfight. That giant cook, the one that works at the Chainers cantina, told 'em to stop."

"And?"

"Nothing 'and'.. they just did. Ya know how big that guy is. He told Mr. Black Coat to leave his gun alone, and left together with that Sonny guy."

"Didn't miss that much then, seems to me..."

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Power of Prayer [Fri Feb 25]
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"Good day, Mama Shaum," an Agora merchant hails an elderly customer. "I must say, you're looking spry today. And you seem to be breathing a lot easier; the apothecary give you something for that cough of yours?"

"No, Fredo," the old woman replies with a wry expression. "I couldn't afford his prices. Stood there hacking my lungs up, and the greedy bloodsucker wouldn't even come down a talon."

The merchant looks confused. "So, the cough went away by itself?" he asks dubiously. "To be honest, Mama, I thought for sure you wouldn't be with us come fall."

The woman smiles, exposing the few teeth she has left. "Well, lad, I put my faith in the Pancreator." She turns her rheumy eyes toward the crude pile of rocks that stands forlornly at the northern end of the Agora. "It's amazing what a little prayer can accomplish..."

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Major Sawisha talking to ghosts [Sun Feb 27]
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"I swear, I have it on my honor. I heard from an al-Malik householder that this ex-Muster talked to someone in the garden of the Lady Sarasvati. Only, that noone was there except for him. He was talking to this dead lover of his, the turncoat Kossack, the child-saver. And I heard strange sounds coming from there... like... kissing... and such. It was very weird. I mean, the circumstances of his death... He might have risen from the dead as well. Returned as a husk or dybbuk. He certainly has business yet unattended to."

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Strange figures at the offworlder [Mon Feb 28]
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Do you know what happened at the Cathedral of Saint Vargo? No? Bad Luck I hoped you could explain to me what happened there. But wait lets see if you can make more sense of that crap than I. I was on my way to the Agora when an beautiful girl almost ran me over while I was passing the church. She had long blonde Hair and beautiful blue eyes, ones a man can drown in. I wanted to offer her aid but she already had run into that church. I was trying to decide if I should follow her when two armed mean looking figures passed by. Seconds later three men's were shouting in the cathedral. Than a woman entered the shouting. I couldn't understand much, but she was clearly the loudest and she had a tongue to her that nearly made my ears drop of. I guess the voice belongs to that female warrior type priest terrorizing the people here. This terribly male Warriormonk, that's the one living with the female warrior preast heard that and entered the church. How I hate that warrior-type ones, all day running around telling us there here to help us , that they are necessary to keep down the violence's , I say we will only be at peace again if al aliens leave Vargo. The voices were lowered than. A third men entered the cathedral, slowly. The first two came out of the church like beaten hounds shortly after that. Then came a forth men, running. The fourth man came out again short after he had entered, he had the girl gripped. He looked dangerous so I didn't dare to free her. Than the third came out again smiling. Now do you think? What do you mean it wasn't her eyes that fascinated me. Get lost.

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No Funerals and a Wedding [Tue Feb 29]
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Anyways, there I was, just bought some o' dat nice bread from Carmen's bread stall when I almost get trampled. Well.. trampled would be extreme. Hmm. Would not mind one of those two.. anyway. Those.. All Malik? The funny dressed ones, all elaborate and stuff. I think it was all of them. The nobs, servants. That Charioteer girl. Tempting? Strange name.

Well they go marching down the street chatting and all happy. Between you and me... it look like there was some wedding going on. A wedding processing. I don't know her name.. dressed the fanciest of the lot. She looked happy.. and that other one. Yes. With the cute behind.. Tempting? Temptress? Whatever.

Eh? No. Not in the direction of the Cathedral. Well maybe.. but a very roundabout route let me tell you, would take them past Cerny Point. Hmm. Yes. just Al Malik. Not one of those other nobs. Oh well. Perhaps I will have some more bread today. Yes..

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Decados Soldiers Outdoors [Wed Mar 01]
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"That was weird... went for a walk at Karbydos Boulevard this morning.. yeah, I come to the point. There comes a group of those Decados soldiers, escorting a figure in a dark, hooded cloak. Pale it was, I can tell ya. Wore shades. And either drunk or injured... stumbled along with stiff knees, they had to support.. him, t'was a man, I think. Not exactly sure where they went, to the Tower, I guess. And shortly behind, there came two of those Mantis Lords... no, t'was not a nightmare, I was there...

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Some action at the Gannock [Sat Mar 04]
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I'll tell you, mate, it's too bad you weren't at the Gannock last day, 'cause you sure missed some fine action. You see, I was at my usual table, sipping my usual beer and chewing the fat with Small Tom. Then came this guy, walking like he was owning the place. You know, one of those new boys that look like bad news? ... Yeah, the bunch that sleep that the hotel down the road. Anyway. He was sitting at the bar, smiling quite smugly, when that other guy came in. You know, the one with the tatoos on his face. No, not the crazy one, the other one. You know, the scraver...? ... Yeah. Him. Anyway, so he enters the Gannock, and suddenly mister cool at the bar goes white and isn't so cool looking anymore. The scraver sits further down the bar, and the two guys just stare at each other. As you may guess, it didn't took long before electricity was in the air. After a while, the thug gets up and goes for the exit. We all breath. But just as he was to get out he spins around and pulls out a gun! Yes sir, a gun! So everyone screams, ducks for cover. There is this Charioteer fella that throw the lady he was speaking with on the ground (by the way, don't the fellow awfully often at the Gannock? And it is me or is he always with a different lady?). But this scraver, quick fella this one is, jumps on the thug and kicks the gun outta his hands. Just like that! The thug squeaked like a pig and immediatly ran for the door. Not the coolest-looking action I ever witnessed, I tell you. So that's how it happened. And I will tell you what: I have the feeling this is not over. No sir, no way. Believe my old experience, there will be some more action at the Gannock soon. Anyway , all this chatterboxing made me thirsty. You in for a quick brew?

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Crazy Charioteers [Sat Mar 04]
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"Fredo, did you hear what happened? One of them crazy pilots went and landed a freakin' spaceship in the Agora! Don't give me that look; it happened! Blasted thing came straight out of the sky at the crack o' dawn this morning, and set down as if the damned marketplace was a landing field. Lucky he didn't smash up some honest merchant's stall. Saw the damnfool pilot afterward, standing outside his ship staring at it as he were as surprised everyone else to see it there . . . eh? You still don't believe me? Well go down there yourself; the blasted thing was still there the last time I looked!"

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Security forces for hire [Sat Mar 04]
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"Poor Anand, I guess they will tear the Tailors shop into pieces next time. I guess this Hawkwood is having a good time now. He played the big hero, driving the Security forces away. That his actions will only make the rate rise isn't interesting this offworlder, he had his triumph over the tugs. "

"Yes, I heard Anand had trouble to pay his tax anyway."

"No wonder, the time between the payments decreases fast. I wonder what they need the money for."

"Looks like another turf-war too me."

"Yeah, guess you are right. Seems to me things are getting worse."

"Everything got worse, since the offworlders arrived, only Karl at the Gannock seems to profit from it."

"Yeah the offworlders really saved his lousy bar."

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No kidding, there I was... [Tue Mar 07]
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"...So there I was, in the Gannock, when that little brother battle came in. He sees the Reeve there, and starts talking to her, right? Well, I couldn't hear what they were saying, but from the way that little pip-squeak ran out, you'd think his bald little head was on fire. Hahahaha....."

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Space Junk? [Tue Mar 07]
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"Say, I just came down from Highport Station; there are a couple of Imperial marines guarding something in the shuttle bay. Looks like a big, dented can, and I overheard somebody say that brought it in from the void. I tried to get a closer gander, but they aren't letting anybody near the damn thing, whatever it is."

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Dead Merchant [Sun Mar 12]
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Overheard in the Agora:

"Oi, didja 'ear abou' Nikus?"

"No, wha' 'appen t' Nikus?"

"Wash'd u' dead as Mercedes nobby on t' beach las' eve."

"I tol' 'im i' wa' ill luck t' try t' sell fruit to a Decados..."

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Muster Cook turned religious [Sun Mar 12]
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"Did you see him? The Muster cook at the cathedral?"

"He's no muster. He's from a strange guild on Severus. Poisoner's guild or something, professing to be the chef's guild, but I have heard about Decados *cuisine*."

"Well, if he's a poisoner, then he's suffering pangs of conscience now."

"He what?"

"I saw him at the cathedral, praying on his knees. Strangely enough I saw him in St. Vargo's memorial chapel, and in the Chapel of Mantius, and that of the Scorned Woman. Strange, I say."

"What about mass?"

"Aye, not a single service he has missed for the last days. I think he might have to atone for something *big*."

"A poisoning?"

"One never knows."

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Demon and the Decados [Wed Mar 15]
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"...I swear, there was a demon in the Square, cloaked like midnight, and a Decados confronted it! Then they departed from the square, together! Those Decados, the demon must have been the consort of those Decados!"

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Listen to This [Sat Mar 18]
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"Say, Gavin, did you hear about old man Dreyfus?" one vendor says to another during a lull in the Agora. "His hearing came back, all of a sudden like."

The second man looks dubious. "You're ribbin' me, ain't ya? Why, that codger's been stone deaf for nigh on twenty years now."

"By Saint Paulus, I swear it's the truth. Damndest thing I ever saw. I was watching Dreyfus hobble across the Agora, when he paused to rest, leaning against that there pile o' rocks some folks call a shrine..."

The other merchant's eyes drift over to the crude cairn with its heap of withered flowers and burnt candles.

"...then, the old man gets this thunderstruck look on his face, and he starts shouting, 'Did you hear her? Did you hear what she said?' I started laughing, and yelled to Fredo..." He turns toward another merchant. "What was it I said Fredo?"

The vendor in question looks over from his stall and mutters tiredly, "You said, 'Look now, the old fool's daft as well as deaf.' That's what you said."

The first merchant nods. "That's right, and when I said that old man Dreyfus, he turned to look straight at me with a scowl, and he said, 'I ain't daft you blasted upstart! And I ain't deaf no more neither!'..."

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Just to annoy righteous Merchants [Sat Mar 18]
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"Is that everything Sir? "

"Yes that's all"

"Okay that's a wind and two crests"

"Are you kidding? What happened to your Prices?"

"I'm sorry, but I'm forced to charge higher Prices for a while the Fire fight has ruined half of my goods."

"The Fire fight?"

"You don't know of the Fire fight? The Scravers have taken her turf war to an new dimension. Two of Sonny's thug's tried to burry an Scraver with an strange name under an stable. Do you see the debris over there? That's what is left of it. He wasn't hurt by that. The Agora was crowded with offworlders when that happened, and they started to pull out arms and shouted over the angora. Sonny's tugs were aiming with submachine guns at the Scraver with the strange name. When one of Sonny's guy was distracted by an crazy greyface, I think it was the one named Rico. The strange Scraver attacked the other, Milan I guess. Sonny's Scravers started to shoot, as did a Hawkwood. There had been an Decados too, with wolffangs he and an half-naked Hazatlady were running towards the Scravers with drawn blades. I got some better cover then and couldn't see what happened. When the shooting was over, I stood up again. The sword of wolffang stuck in Rico's chest, Milan's head was blown away and the other Scraver bleeding, an Amalthean and the Greyface were tending them. They brought the Scraver and Rico to the Hospice although I'm sure Rico didn't reach there alive. "

"And the Police?"

"The Police! The didn't even show up, they are quick making trouble if you miss one silly Paper, but if it get's dangerous the keep hiding."

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Blue is the colour of Bizarre [Sun Mar 19]
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One of the servants of the al-Malik household speaks to another:

"... Yes, and he climbed right up ontop of the dome, the highest part of the mansion. All he was wearing was a pair of shorts, and he just stood there facing east.

The other servant nods silently.

"It was strange, quite strange. I didn't realise how late I was becoming until the sun rose above the horizon. I should have left to get on with my work, but for some reason I stuck around." He shakes his head. "Because the guy was so high up on the mansion, he was one of the first things in the city struck by the sunlight." He pauses for a second to take a sip of his water.

The other servant rolls his eyes, and takes a glance down the hallway impatiently.

"Well, as the sunlight hit him, his hair practically glowed and his eyes caught like those glowbulbs some of those offworlders have. But that wasn't the worst of it! As the sunlight crept down him, a pattern of blue rivulets and ribbons formed upon his skin. It was far too symetrical and complex a pattern to be made by nature. It seethed, with the light, pulses of brighter light passing along its patterning in rythms of their own."

The other servant has by this time stopped looking down the hall and is watching the first servant with shock and curiosity.

"Then the whole spectacle began to fade. The pattern vanished from his skin, and his eyes darkened back to their crystal depths. Very bizarre, don't you agree? Oh, yes. Then he fell off the dome. Yes, right off, onto a lower section of the roof. I had to run and do one of my chores, but when I passed by again a half hour later he was only just getting up. He moved very stiffly, but didn't look injured."

The two servants scatter as they hear the chamberlain coming down the hallway.

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New Tavern [Mon Mar 20]
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I tell you, I'm switching to the Vortex. I know it's halfway across town but its getting to the point a man can't enjoy his pint in peace at the Gannock.

What was it this time? You have to ask? Offworld nobles a'course. There was a group of'em you see, this real pale lady, a dark man, and a giant. No, I don't mean a real giant you fool, just a real big guy.

Anyways, they sit down at a table and they've barely started drinkin, so ya can't blame it on the liquor, when the 'lady', heh, yells across the place at another one that was lurking in the corner. What? No, a'course I don't know their flaming names. This was some red-headed guy, dark, but not near as dark as the other. Anyway, the 'lady' hollers at him across the tavern, and he walks over to their table. I'm not sure what happened next, hard to hear with all the noise in there you know, but apparently some words were exchanged. The big guy, he gets up and walks out like a smart man. The lady and the redhead though look like they're spitting venom at each other. And the dark one, he just sits there, smiling like the cat what ate the canary. Next thing I know, the lady's up with the redhead, the two of'em right in each other's face and the redhead's got his hands on the woman like he can't decide whether to kiss her or choke her. And the dark one just keeps sitting there like nothing unusual's happening, even taking time to chat with that alien.

What alien? The one-legged one, a'course. What other aliens you know? I don't know when she got there! I was busy watching the looker and her friends. Dang it, just let me tell it.

The point, yeah, well the point is the next thing that happens is the redheads' got his big sword out, waving it around like he's insane, and yelling for blood. He almost cut poor Julia. Yeah, I swear. Well, the lady's got enough sense that she don't like that, and she's hissing at him like a cat. And the dark one's still just sitting there! I mean yeah, the first one's nuts to be swinging a sword around in a crowded place like that, but what kind of idiot just sits there while he's doing it, without touching his own blade?

Then? Well, then the readhead puts up his sword and stalks out. Yeah that's it. The lady and the alien sat back down with the guy that stayed and they finished their drinks like nothing happened, and then the lady leaves on the dark one's arm like they had just been to a ball or something.

I'm telling you any Vargen, or sane off-worlder if there is such a thing, otta stay out of the Gannock.

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Howling from the al-Malik [Wed Mar 22]
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Early in the morning of October 8th and horrid howling came from the roof of the al-Malik mansion. So far, no one knows who was howling but it was certainly a human's voice.

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Strange cook [Wed Mar 22]
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"You know what? The new cook of the al-Malik is behaving strange. There seems to have been an argument between him and the security advisor of Lady Sarasvati. Then, he went off, without packing his things, strangely enough. Well, and he hasn't returned yet. He didn't even show up to do his part in the kitchen okay, not a great loss, since he was only dessert cook, but the boss of the kitchen was fairly upset. He has never come late or even taken a day off. He seemed to love his work. Last time I saw him, he was wandering the streets aimlessly, looking sad and lonely. Don't ask me why, I only tell you what I've heard and seen."

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A fire by the road [Wed Mar 22]
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Early today, Ethan stepped out onto Hapsburg road from the al-Malik mansion. In one hand he held a letter, and the other a candle. With a very showy flourish, as if to announce to those that might be watching, he lit the paper on fire. Holding for long moments as it burnt, he let it fall to the ground in ashes. Only one part remained unburnt: "...no life for me out there, Ethan. Yours, A..."

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More activity at the mansion! [Wed Mar 22]
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Not a few hours later a messenger carried a letter to the al-Malik mansion. Ethan received it and read it. If his features could grow more pale, they did, as he slumped to the ground and hasn't moved since.

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Strange cook [Thu Mar 23]
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"This guy becomes stranger and stranger every day... He is pale and seems not to get much sleep. He looks haunted to me, haunted, I tell you. And he has a fresh bandage around his arm, like he has cut himself. And I heard him murmur: `I am myself. Am I? Who could I be? Why does he come back? But I am myself, right?´ I tell you, he's
going crazy...."

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More odd disturbances [Thu Mar 23]
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A short time back, the Major, as some call him, was rushed to the Hospice by one of the engineers at the al-Malik cook. Apparently he was unconcious, or paralyzed, or dead... or worse. But then, only a few short hours later, after the Engineer had left the Major came strolling out. All smiles, and grins, he was followed by the cook who looked just a tad bewildered and worse for wear. All attempts, by the cook, were hushed by the Major, at least until they were within the al-Malik compound.

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Parking Violation [Thu Mar 23]
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A merchant shows up in the Agora one morning wearing a curious frown. "Say, Fredo," he hails. "Just saw the darndest thing on my way up Agora Road. You know that green lorry parked outside the Pandora?"

Fredo nods absently, preoccupied with getting his stall set up for the day's trade. "Yeah, yeah; what of it?"

"It ain't there no more. The coppers just impounded it. That there Lictor showed up with a trio of VSPers, he did. Only he weren't playin' the dandy today; he was all decked out in black plastic armor, like he was expectin' a battle or summat."

Fredo looks up with interest now. "Do tell...and what happened? Weren't there a couple of toughs keeping a hawk's eye on that truck?"

The other man nods. "Well, the Hazat, he handed a piece of paper to that head-crackin' VSP, the one who travels in a cloud of cigarette smoke. He showed the paper to one of the toughs, and them two they just backed off and let the truck be driven off. The one who looked at the paper said they was 'happy to cooperate with the law', he did."

The one called Fredo snorts. "Sounds kinda boring to me; you wasted your time standing around to watch all this?"

"Well, that weren't quite the end of it. The Lictor, he muttered something into his cloak pin, and then half a squad of Hazat soldiers come marching down from Watergate Road. Most of 'em kept right on a going, but one got in the truck and drove it off north, toward the Muster HQ..."

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Lady luck [Sat Mar 25]
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Did you see that Alien woman in the Sovern State last night? Who does she think she is?

Lucky as sin is what she think's she is. I seen her takin it in hand over fist. I don't know how the Casino Boss can afford to let her win like that

That don't make sense at all. Don't she have some kind of reputation for bein the poor knight or somethin? How did a Poor knight get to be a card shark.

Cheated is what she did with her alien powers!

Oh go on *laugh Alien powers again!

It's true I tell ya! And they's out to take us pancreator-fearin lot down a peg.

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If it looks too good [Sat Mar 25]
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So my brother Marcus was in the hospice after a barfight last night. He says they brought in two Skraver punks who were beaten to knees-and-forehead, the looked like a rotted chicken, all blue and brown with bruises and bleedin all over the place. They was in to be tended before they went into the tank. So marcus wanted to know what barfight they were in and they says they were beat up by a one-legger alien. Yeah right, not too many a' those indeed. So anyway seems these poor blokes were in the alley behind the Sovern State nevermindin their own business when this Alien woman got the drops on em and beat em both silly.. That's right with her alien powers.. DON'T Laugh at me! I'm tellin you straight from the Skravers an my brother's mouth I'd swear on the Gospels!

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Lost in Transit [Sat Mar 25]
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As a Muster roustabout settles down at the bar in the Gannock he is hailed by an Agora merchant. "Oran, how've you been? Say, do you know what's up with my latest shipment from Tethys? All them damn Charioteers will tell me is that it's been unavoidably delayed." He waves Karl over and buys his friend a beer.

Oran eyes the frothy mug approvingly, and looks askance at the merchant. "Well, if I were you, friend, I'd write off that there shipment. I hope 'twas insured..." He gathers up the mug and raises it to his lips.

"Them damn wheelers stole it, didn't they? Why, I'll..."

The Musterman shakes his head. "There's a freighter overdue, long overdue. In fact, I'd not be surprised if she were declared lost by the end of the week. She jumped through the gate at Tethys, oh, four weeks back. Never showed up here, though..."


The merchant wrings his hands. "Damn, this could ruin me, if the insurance doesn't come through..."

The cargo handler takes a long pull of his free beer and shrugs. "Once the wheelers finally admit she won't be reaching port, now or ever, the insurance folks'll have to pay up, friend..."

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A new arrival? [Sun Mar 26]
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Apparently a new noble is in town, sent here to take the Hawkwood in hand. Word is he arrived quietly only a few days ago, headed to the Hawkwood Mansion and hasn't been seen since. Not like these nobles to go any where without pomp and bluster.

Anyway anyone passing the Hawkwood manse may will notice that there have been a few changes...

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A public challenge... [Tue Mar 28]
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"And then comes..."

"Heh! What are you talking?"

"Ah, shut up and listen!"

"Well..."

"And then comes that cute al Malik girl, walks in from Promenade, and throws her glove at the Decados!"

"Which Decados?"

"Hrm. The pretty one with the purple spots on her skin."

"Okay. So what does she do?"

"Ah, just listen! She.. no.. the little al Malik lady, she walks at her yes, at the Decados and throws her glove..."

"Whoah! A duel!"

"No, no duel. The al Malik shouts at the Decados, right, somethin' about a challenge."

"But?"

"But the Decados simply giggles and calls her challenge a jest. Really!"

"She backed down?"

"The al Malik calls her a coward, but she won't stop to giggle and calls her honor yes, the al Malik's honor, of course, idiot! her honor not worth duelling for. Weird, huh?"

"And then?"

"And then, the al Malik calls her a coward again, and that she's no real lady, but the Decados goes on as if she were just jesting."

"Strange..."

"She the Decados says the other one's behaviour is 'unbecoming of a lady' or so. Then, the al Malik turns and stalks off."

"That's it?"

"Yeah, that's all."

"So do you think she's a coward?"

"All Decados are cowards!"

"Uh well... better be quiet, man."

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Those crazy Al-Malik [Wed Mar 29]
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That Fire-headed Charioteer was all around Vargo last night, So much for cleaning up her act. I saw her in the Double-S last night picking a fight with an Engineer and I hear she was doin the same in the Vortex. Walkin all over Vargp dragging a bottle in her fist, drunk and shamefully mean-spirited. You' gotta wonder what goes on in that House on the Hill that all the Countessa's subjects become crazed..

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Li Halan Troops [Wed Mar 29]
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A man in the uniform of a Li Halan soldier is sitting at the bar talking to an Imperial soldier, at first it is just about battles they have taken part in, but then it moves on to discussions of commanding officers, the Li Halan soldier listens intently to the usual gripes about CO's from the Imperial soldier and then begins to tell his own story.

"Well, that new Weapons Master that arrived a few months ago has been training us pretty hard."

"I hate that," the Imperial soldier says, "I know it is good for us, but damn it gets tiring."

"I thought that it would suck too, new CO's are always a scary prospect. Yeah, it's tiring, but it is almost fun too," the Li Halan, "He has drilled us a lot in hand to hand and guerrilla tactics, he said it is like how he was trained on Stigmata, only easier."

"He was on Stigmata?" The Imperial.

"Yeah, got in some nasty duel or something though and came here. But anyway, he has been really nice too because he is pretty kind on his discipline practices, discipline has improved, no one likes to be humiliated by him in a training duel, and boy can he humiliate us! But at least it is quick and not tedious. That guy knows how to use a sword. I think he is the best CO I have ever had, and I served in the Emperor wars under quite a few CO's. I know I speak for all of us when I state that we feel we are ready to take on pretty much anything. And Count Visserion, I know we are pretty confused by his quarrels with his brother, but we are one hundred percent behind him."

With this they go back to talking about more mundane things and the night wanes on.

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A Sniper! [Thu Mar 30]
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Two mechanics working for the Scravers Guild, overheard while drinking in the Sovereign State bar:

"You heard? They've tried to kill the consul!"

"Yeah, one of them guards told me. Know any details?"

"Yes, was having dinner at Carik's Place when it happened. Had a fine view on the Agora through a window."

"So what happened?"

"There's the consul out there. She's near that crude shrine, talking with some of them dark skinned nobles. Al Maliks, I think. Two men, one lady."

"Okay, and then?"

"Then one of them lords, that one with the really dark skin and the golden eyes,
hurls himself at the consul?"

"What! I know she's a chick, but..."

"Wait! The other lord, the one with the dreadlocks who calls himself a bastard, pins the lady, yeah, the one who's challenged the Decados this week, to the ground as well."

"But why?"

"Suddenly, there's a red laser beam! Misses the consul but nearly hits that lordling who's saved her."

"How could they know?"

"One of the bodyguards tells me there's been a read spot of light on her head, like from a laser sight. You know what a laser sight is?"

"Yeah, yeah, go on!"

"Well. The consul and most nobles take cover behind the shrine, only the bastard lord shouts into his radio. There's another shot from the laser gun, but it misses too."

"Heard some Engineers guards talk 'bout that laser. They've seen the beam from their courtyard! Must have come from far down The Parade"

"Yes, from down there the shot comes. And then, one of the consul's bodyguards is hit!"

"Shit!"

"Don't worry, just hit in the leg. There's a cloaked guy there, the one with the scarred face, who runs over and carries him to the shrine. Then he collapses himself. Seems he's injured himself or so."

"Okay. Go on."

"Then these al Malik soldiers arrive and are everywhere. And the consuls stands and walks away with three soldiers who carry her bodyguard. And that Engineers doctor, the cyborg guy, you know him."

"Yeah. And the sniper?"

"Never found him. But they've nearly arrested a Decados lady. The one who refused to duel. Yes, quite a coincidence, I know..."

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Irate Wheeler [Thu Mar 30]
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Get this; I was standing in line at the Charioteers Guild, waiting to find out about a delayed shipment of Delphian tobacco--you know, all the freight's backed up since they stepped up the customs inspections. Anyway, the Port Patrol hauls in this star pilot, a fellow wheeler, and they drag him down the hallway in back. A while later he comes stormin' out, lookin' mad enough to chew ceramsteel, and that there scar-faced Charioteer consul walks out behind him, his face grim. The mad pilot, he turns around and yells, "I'll go broke you old bastard! And how the blazes am I supposed to get back to Tethys without my key?!" The consul, he just grunts and looks at his watch, then says, "Well, if you run you can just make the regular courier." The pilot stares, mouth open, as the consul turns to walk away, but then the old man turns back again and says, real cold, "When you get home you tell 'em; no more of their garbage comes through here on my watch."

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Underworld Crusade? [Sat Apr 01]
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"Boy, if I were you, I wouldn't go that way."

"Yeah? Why?"

"I'd stay where the VSP's patrolling, lad. Them alleys aren't safe."

"I always go that way, Mister."

"Remember these guys in colored leathers? The ones that've made trouble for weeks now?"

"O'course, but they leave me alone."

"Someone's now playing hard on them. Wanna get in the line of fire? Fine, just go on that way."

"More shootings?"

"Not yet. But I've seen some dark figures going at each other in that alley. And ol' Joe who lives over there saw 'em drag off a body."

"Err, I think I'll take the other way then..."

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Some party [Sat Apr 01]
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A crewman of the riverboat "Selene" is talking to his wife:

"Darling! Ohhh, I've had a most dreadful day!"

" Why? What happened?"

"You know how I serve on the 'Selene', and one of those offworld noble families...the 'al-Malik', was staging a party on it?"

"Well, yes..."

"Well, everything went into the latrine today. First, the ship got beached on a sandbar. Idiot captain..."

"And then?"

"The blasted engine gave out!"

"That happens all the time!"

"You haven't heard all of it. Then...people started shooting at us from on the shore! And there was someone on the ship with a gun...he shot one of the crew, poor Jimmy."

" ..."

"Oh, yes. They started putting bullets through the portholes!"

"...How about all the offworlders on board?"

"Oh, they were running around like headless chooks. There was a scantily clad young lady, some weird man/machine cross, a weirdo with golden eyes, a young girl with antennae sticking up, a man in white...the 'Lictor', I think his title was. Anyway...who else? Oh yeah...some man all in black with two swords, the party's host, some Chainer, a girl with a too-tight dress, three Wheelers their Captain-Consul was one of them-, a tall guy with flame-red hair, and this really tall man dressed all in blue. They all went nuts, pulling swords and guns and what have you...eventually, the flame-haired guy, the Lictor, Two-Swords, Goldeneye and the Chainer went down the stairs to try and take down the gunman on board ship and hold off the guys on shore. The tall guy in blue stayed back. He didn't look happy about it."

"Wow! Just like something on the Magic Lantern!"

"Yep, it sure was. Eventually, the guy in blue went down to join the fight. He brought poor dead Jimmy's body with him."

"What'd they do to Jimmy's body?"

"Think they used it as bait for somethin'...the head was missin' from the body afterwards. So, anyway, a while later, the guys downstairs have killed the gunman on the 'Selene' and are duking it out with the guys on shore, who are chucking firebombs and shooting at the ship, and then Antennae, the girl with the tight dress, and some others went into the boiler room to fix the engine."

"They must have fixed the engine, or else you wouldn't be here."

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Kossacks! [Tue Apr 04]
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Last night, three Kossacks, clad in their full, demon-like combat armor, were seen walking all the way from the starport to the Decados Tower. They were reportedly led by a tall, bald
man in a black uniform.

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Nobles at it again [Wed Apr 05]
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"You'll never guess what I saw in the Agora last night. No, it wasn't the VSP arresting the right person. It was those bloody off-worlder nobles again. About 5 of em squaring up for a fight I tell yer. Which ones, hmmm let me think. That really big one who wears the dress, y'know with the dreads. And that Hazat that runs the VSP, don't laugh. There were a couple of others arguing over this girl, she was playing up to em both I tell yer.&RRai, that's it. One of em said his name was Rai. Anyways, this Rai fella was squaring up to all the others and this girl was trying to calm him down and that. Did they what? No.. she said something to that big dress wearing one then he kissed her hand and they all went their separate ways all trying to look scary. Reckon we haven't heard the last of that, mind."

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A Public Spectacle [Thu Apr 06]
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The staff and patrons of the Sultan were suprised last night by a touching display of affection between a comely young al-Malik knight and a hot-blooded Hazat of a certain reputation in matters romantic. Although speculation might be premature, the passionate embrace the two shared seemed a clear indication to those present that the pair had more that mere casual friendship on their minds...

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Sudden quietness... [Sat Apr 08]
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"Say, did you see them leather-clad thugs the last days?"

>"No... not a single one of 'em."

"Hope they'll stay off for good."

>"Me too. My wife's getting afraid to go out at night, y'know. I hear they're warring with the Scravers. The ones with the black coats, I mean."

"They did... saw them kick ass myself once or twice. Right in the alley behind my house, the damned bastards. But not this week."

>"Perhaps the black coats have won?"

"Mayhap. They are still lurking around. Patrolling their turf, if y'ask me."

>"The Agora isn't their turf!"

"Yeah, but they're lurking around anyway."

>"Yes, have seen them too. This afternoon, there comes half an army of them, led by that tatooed guy who was shot in the shoulder a few weeks ago."

"And they rooted out the guys in leather?"

>"No, no. They've rebuilt ol' Tompson's stall. Yes, the one that collapsed in the attack on the tattooed fellow a few weeks ago."

"Now that was about time!"

>"Yes, but it was the other guys who've made it collapse."

"Strange... but then, someone had to do it."

>"Yeah, right..."

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Playing With Fire [Tue Apr 11]
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" Say, Fredo," an Agora merchant hails to the vendor at a nearby stall. "You hear about the fuss on Promenade?"

Fredo grunts in annoyance, and shakes his head.

"Started here in the Agora," continues the first merchant. "That quick-tempered Decados Lady went chasing poor Dardo down the road, yelling, and beating at him. This redrobe caught sight of that--or rather, caught sight her, and *he went chasing after the pair of 'em..."

Fredo looks up with interest. "Now, that's something I approve of; pit the redrobes against the Mantis. Maybe they'll kill each other off and spare us all a bit of anxiety."

The first merchant snorts. "Well, seems that this particular redrobe and Mantis had themselves a little shouting match, but then came away from it all smiles."

Fredo grimaces. "Avestites and Decados smiling at each other? Isn't that a sign that final judgement is at hand?"

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Murder! [Thu Apr 13]
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An upset Vargen talking to a VSP patrolman:

"A murder?"

"Yes, a murder! Ya know, my house's right behind Pandora's Box hotel, and..."

"Pandora's Box? At Agora Road?"

"Yeah... it was last night. Was at my first floor window to show my little nephew that flying car. Yeah, the blue one. Never seen another flying car on Vargo, y'know. As usual, it hovers at the back side of the Box, in front of that balcony."

"All right, what happened?"

"Then, the balcony door opens, and out steps that strange fellow with his bodyguards."

"Strange fellow? Do you give some more details?"

"Tall, grey hair, beard. Always wears these expensive off-worlder suits. Never seen him in the streets, just on that balcony, when he enters that car."

"All right. Go on, please."

"Okay. That other fellow, on of them thugs in leathers, opens the door of the flying car, and Mr. Smart Suit steps out on the balcony. Then, he goes down on his knees!"

"So does he. And why?"

"He's hit by an arrow! And another one! Black arrows, I tell ya!"

"Arrows? All right, did you see who fired them?"

"There's a dark figure on the roof next door... but they ain't seein' it. I want to shout a 'over there', but.. uh.. there's my little nephew. You understand, I.. uh.. don't want to put him in danger... so I keep my mouth shut."

"I see... did you recognize the assassin?"

"Nope... just a black figure in the dark. Broad shoulders, couldn't see the face."

"All right, go on then."

"'kay. A third arrow hits, and Smart Suit falls over and down from the balcony. The guards fire a few shots, but the black one just jumps from the roof and runs like hell. Moves like a cat."

"Right. And why didn't we find a body, Mister?"

"Well, there's some shouting on that balcony, didn't understand the language. More of them thugs are on the balcony now."

"I see. And the body?"

"Some of 'em get into the car, an' it lands down in the alley. They drag the body into the car, and fly away. Dunno where."

"So there's no body to be found there?"

"Yeah, that's what I said, officer."

"All right..."

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Doins' at House Li Halan [Fri Apr 14]
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" Didja see that?"

"I'm standing right next to you ain't I? A handful of knights, a dozen personal guards and a thirty person entourage with wagons loaded high is pretty dang hard to miss!"

Yeah, well, it looks like the two Li Halan counts are finally going to settle up."

"Doubt it, Count Visserion hasn't been seen for over two months, and COunt Hector there apparently got a message from his homeworld a while back, had his prince's seal on it and he looked pleased as punch to get it."

"I remember that, one of the servants onboard the Selene said it happened just before all the shooting at that party."

"Yep, I figure he got word to assume command of his house's affairs if Count Visserion didn't appear today. Makes sense, I can't see anyone expecting trouble with such an attractive lady on his arm."

"That was Lady Iliyana wasn't it? The two of them looked downright chummy didn't they? Guess House Li Halan and House Decados can be expected to be rather friendly towards one
another in the coming months..."

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Strange Ship [Fri Apr 14]
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A pair of Muster roustabouts are overheard chatting one evening in the Grinning Gannock...

"Say, brother, didja happen to see that big damn ship that landed last night?" queries a brawny woman with close-cropped brown hair.

Her companion grunts, taking a long pull of his beer. "Nope," he replies, pausing to belch. "Ain't been on duty yet today."

"Well, it's a big 'un alright," the woman asserts. "No markings, either..." She scratches her head. "Though, I'd swear I've seen it before..."

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Another fight in the Agora! [Sat Apr 22]
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Two commoners talking to one another:

"Did you hear what happened in the Agora?"

"No, what?"

"Another hit attempt. A Charioteer and a Scraver were talking. Some guy firing black arrows tried to kill both of 'em."

" Really?"

" Yeah. First shot missed. Second and third hit the Scraver. Fourth was aimed at the Wheeler and missed."

" What was going on while the man was firing arrows?"

" There were some others present. A drunken guy, a Hawkwood with four guards, two Hazat, two al-Malik. another Scraver. Plus the first Scraver's goons. When the first arrow fired, the others all went for weapons, except the drunk, who kept watching. The Hawkwood and his men aimed their weapons after the second shot, while the others were assembling to try and take down the archer. After the third arrow, the Hawkwood plus his guards began to fire while everyone else went over to the alley mouth, preparing to go in."

" What alley mouth?"

" Oh, sorry. The archer was shooting from an alley. So anyway, the Hawkwood didn't hit anything, and the others all went in...and then they came out again! Empty-handed! I heard them talking...apparently, the archer climbed up the wall at the end of the dead-end alley!"

"Weird..."

"Then the Lictor showed up. The Hawkwood went off; everyone else was talking to the Lictor."

"That's it?"

"Yeah, that's it."

"The Agora is a nasty place to be..."

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Demon Children? [Tue Apr 25]
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"...so, this little kid walks into the Sovereign, dressed up in a Reeves suit, and the bouncers laugh at 'im. But then 'e shows 'em somethin' and they go all serious like and let 'im in. The, kid, 'e walks straight up to the Lictor and introduces hisself, all courtly like and talkin' like he was going on thirty instead o' ten. An' he knew the Count's name and everythin'! But you could tell the Lictor didn't know this kid from my uncle Ned. In walks that Hawkwood
knight, the one who looks like he could freeze water just by lookin' at it, and this kid acts like he knows 'im too! Then the kid claims 'e's a Reeves Chief from Leagueheim, says he's a 'prophecy' or summat, but the Lictor don't buy that crap for a second. He says the boy's possessed by a demon, like that one what attacked them nobles on Cliff Road, and to prove it, he pulls out a slugthrower and points it at the kid's head. Oh, that smart-mouth kid was a tremblin' in his shoes then, let me tell ya...well, no, the Count didn't blow his head off. First of all, that Hawkwood knight pushed the kid out of the way, and second, the Count had left the safety on, apurpose it seems, so nothin' happened when he pulled the trigger. Yah, 'twere a test anyways, that's what the Lictor told this Scraver who was there. 'E's a canny one, that Lictor; demons are tricksters, you know, and you can't be none too careful..."

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Bounty [Wed Apr 26]
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"I have overheard that this weird Decados chick... yeah, the boyish one, blonde, green eyes, the one with that tattooed bodyguard in tow. She has set a price on somebody's head... in the midle of the Agora, discussing it with some guilders. I heard she pays a handsome sum to someone who is willing to kill someone who has impaired her honor or some such noble stuff. Well. I heard she is awaiting people applying for the job... but be very, very discreet about it... and noone knows who the target is... Weird politics..."

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Thicker than Water [Wed Apr 26]
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A small knot of guilders and freemen gather around an Agora merchant as she
relates a fascinating tale...

" ...an' I'm tellin' ya, the Agora was a crawlin' with Hazat. That pale one with the black hair, the one all you louts drool over whenever she passes through don't deny it; I've seen you! She was chatting up that new Captain of the Guard o' theirs, but she kept throwing these *looks* at Count Alvaro, who was standing across the square with Morgan Snow and that new Hazat knight, the one with a pony-tail who's almost as pretty as the Lictor himself. Hey; if you louts can drool, so can I! Anyway, that *other one, he wanders in. The one with the hair like a pyre atop his head. Then, like a pair of runaway river barges that are gonna crash no matter what ya do to stop 'em, the night-haired beauty, she spots her cousin with the fire on his head..."

" Night-hair, she marches up to him and sticks herself right in his face, muttering something or other about his father and brothers. Flame-top didn't seem to appreciate it one bit! He sneers something back at 'er, and then, night-hair grabs him by the vest. Looked like she was wild enough to kill him right then and there but instead, she kisses him! Yes! So hard she splits his lip! That's when the blows started; flame-top cuts loose a punch to night-hair's gut, then she tries to throw him. He got the upper hand on her though, and started to choke the life out of 'er. Migh 'ave, too, if the Count and that other Hazat hadn't interfered. The Count went in and tossed his cloak over the pair of 'em, I guess to distract 'em, and then he and pony-tail dragged the pair apart. Almost too late; night-hair, she passed out in the Count's arms, and he rushed her off to that Compound of theirs..."

" You know, it a mystery why the Hazat haven't killed each other off by now, as much as they take to fightin' among themselves."

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Monsters of the Sea [Fri Apr 28]
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"I hear ol' Higgins has disappeared?"

*Aye, went out fishing in his boat and never returned, the poor fellow.*

"Did you search for him?"

*Aye, aye, found nothin'. Not even a single plank of his boat.*

"Mayhaps it sank in a storm?"

*Mayhaps, just the day he goes fishing, there isn't a single cloud in the sky. Ol'Higgins ain't a fool.*

"Strange..."

*I tell ya, it must've been a monster of the sea... a kraken, or a giant shark!*

"Or some more off-worlder witchcraft?"

*You name it!*

"Holy pancreator..."

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The Grinning Gannock, again [Sat Apr 29]
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"Hey, cousin, I'm returning to the farm tonight. Yes, I know, I've been in the city only since yesterday, but what I saw sufficed me. I went to that bar, the Grinning Gannock, just to see the talking monkey. ... yes, I know, you told me not to go there but I mean, come on, a talking monkey! How cool is that?

"Anyway, I was sipping my beer and gawking at the monkey when it started. You see, there was these two guilders - don't ask me that, you know they look all the same to me - speaking in a corner. They were speaking real low. Until one of them made that grunt - rather like my bull does when he's pissed off - and slammed his fist through the table. Yes, /through/! The other guy just sit there. The table puncher cursed aloud, long and well - I will never ever see a dead goat in the same manner again, take my word for it. After all those curses, he hisses something to the other guy, and they both get out the Gannock.

"No, wait, it isn't over. After, oh, five beers, they come back. The one that was pissed was laughing and looking quite jolly. And the other one what quite a sight. A nice bruise on the side of his face, blood on his lips, limping his way through the bar. But he looked, well, happy too. So they are there, and do you know what they order? Water and coffee. Ayup, you heard me well. /Water/ and /coffee/.Mother was right. There is something foul in the city's air that rot everyone's brain. The quicker I'm off this place, the better I will be."

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The high price of signatures? [Thu May 04]
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That red-headed charioteer has been all over the market talking with the wheeler merchants. Seems like there's some sort of special deal going on with them. She's payin em sacks of money for signatures on something. She's pretty private about what's on that paper but a friend of mine who works for Otto the Piroshky Man next to that Wheeler flower merchant said the Flower Merchant got near 75 Firebirds! I don't think her whole stand is worth that mich.. Could that little firebrand by trying to buy out the Agora??

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More disappearances... [Sat May 06]
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"Hey, do you remember those gangers in colored leather?"

*That were kicked out of the Scravers guild recently?*

"Yeah, that's them."

*What's up with'em?*

"Well, they've disappeared."

*So they've left the city? That's good news, I must say.*

"No, no... they didn't leave, they disappeared."

*Okay, tell me more if you must.*

"Well, my cousin works as a receptionist at the Pandora's Box hotel."

*That's where they've got their headquarters, no?*

"Yes. But they haven't shown up for weeks now."

*And?*

"Well, seems they hadn't paid their rent for January."

*So they were kicked out of the hotel?*

"No, I told ya, they've disappeared. Can't kick out someone who isn't there."

*Right. And what happened?*

"They'd left all their luggage and clothing and stuff. Like they hadn't plan to leave. That's why I say they disappeared!"

*I see. And?*

"Well, the owner of the hotel ordered all their stuff be put into a boxroom, and so it was done."

*How exciting...*

"Well, howver, I'm wondering if they're gonna come back. I tell ya, I don't wanna be at the Box when they return, and you shouldn't either!"

*I hope they'll never return! They've already caused enough trouble.*

"Yeah, right. But I don't believe they're gone for good..."

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...and even more disappearances... [Sat May 06]
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A few merchants talking during a short break at the Gannock:

"Have you seen Graham the last days?"

*Graham Redwood, you mean?*

>Bald big man, the one they call 'Crusher'?<

"Yes, Graham 'Crusher' Redwood. So, have you seen him?"

>Not this week.<

*Me neither...*

>Perhaps he's visiting some aunt out on the countryside?<

"No, he's got no aunt, and his wife's missing him too."

>Well, that's strange, then.<

"Yes, he isn't one to disappear without a word."

*Perhaps he's been robbed and killed? The streets aren't safe any more, you know...*

>Forget it... they don't call him 'Crusher' for no reason. Ever seen him fight at the Sovereign?<

*Ah well, you're right... noone with a brain between his ears would try robbing the Crusher.*

"So if he shows up again, please come and tell me. His wife is worrying..."

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The Masquerade [Tue May 09]
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So how did the al-Malik's big ball go? No terrorist attacks I hope?

Well, um, not exactly.

Not exactly, what does that mean?

Means, no terrorists, but plenty of fireworks.

Uh huh? . . . well, come on, what happened?

I'm trying, give me a second, it's kind of complicated. Okay, well, you know the Hazat, and that gold-eyed al-Malik that's all tied up with them? They were all there. First the al-Malik and the Hazat woman--and this time she really was half-dressed, nothing above the waist but paint. So the two of them are there, hanging all over each other, smelling of April and May if you know what I mean. 'cept then that pretty Hazat Count showed up. Then Madame Butterfly (yeah, that's what the paint was of, though I'm not sure anyone but me noticed), she drops the al-Malik like a burned out fusion cell and heads off to plaster herself on the count--who's limping, don't ask me why. Al-Malik wasn't happy of course, he glowered at the pair, then took off, left the ballroom altogether. Well, he came back after not too long, took up a place along the wall where he could glower some more while them Hazat 'danced'.

So they ended up in a fight? That's your fireworks, nobles trying to kill each other off again?

No, that was just the prelude. Cause next the Contessa finally showed up, after missing most of her own party. And when she showed up she pretty much ended, cause you'll never guess what she had to say.

Okay? Well, go on then, tell me.

She quit. Said she'd made her peace with the Church--whatever that means--and she wasn't going to be Contessa or Judge anymore.

She just quit? So who's in charge of the al-Malik now? Who's going to be the judge?

I don't know. But what she said, get this, what she said was that she was giving her authority to that gold-eyed al-Malik. Yep, the one the Hazat were just walking all over. And that's when the fireworks started. Most of the crowd seemed to go into shock, you know, but not the Hazat. The lady, she ran out in tears. The count, he was looking like he wanted to kill somebody, and another, well, I don't know if he was a Hazat or not, him all masked in black and such, but he sure acted like one, starts yelling at the countessa in her house and front of the Pancreator and everybody about her choice. But she just ignored him and slipped off with some priest-fella. Like I said, she got religion.

Then? Well then the party broke up, everyone rushing off to start plotting and scheming what came next.

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In the blink of an eye... [Thu May 11]
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One of the space traffic controllers from the Charioteer base is overheard one night in the Sovereign State, apparently agitated and obviously quite drunk.

"...it'sh not right, dammit! Ships don't just dishappear," she mutters to the provocatively clad young man at the bar beside her.

"What's the matter?" the man soothes, offering a reassuring squeeze to her arm. "What do you mean disappear?"

"That's jush what it did!" she insists. "It was on the scopes one second, on approach to Vargo, and I blink my eyes and it'sh gone! No distressh call, nothin'!"

The young man beside her offers a sympathetic pout. "That sounds terrible," he affirms solemnly. "What kind of ship was it?"

The Charioteer blinks at the man stupidly a moment before answering. "A bulk hauler," she says at last in a hollow voice. "A ship that big, and it jush goes 'poof!' like it was never there. Sucked into the void..."

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Terror visits Sanctuary Aeon [Tue May 16]
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"Didja hear what happened to the Sanctuary Aeon Hospice th' other night?" A spice merchant in the Agora says to one of his customers. "One of those flying machines them outworlders brought flew right on over the Agora.. I was here late closin' down when it happened.. it was huge! It went down that way too." The man gives a frantic wave towards the Hospice. "Then a lil while later there were lots of explosions and men jumpin' out of the flying thing all in masks.. no VSP in sight either. Some of them nobles though, they started shooting their guns at the thing, you could see the lights and the explosions from here, saw 'em with my own eyes. A friend of mine said it spat out some green smoke or somethin', devil's work if you ask me, covered the Hospice's gate in green stuff it did. And if that wasn't enough a bunch of Imperial troops came storming through and kept people away from the mess. Had to have been a dozen of dead guys from the flitter strewn about. Once them Imperials were there something else strange came 'round, was another flying thing, but small and round. It went towards the place too."

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A Monk in Trouble [Wed May 24]
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"Say, friends have I told you whom I saw scurrying around in the sad remains of our beloved Mercedes lords' palace like just another pair of carrion bugs?"

"Shhh... keep it quiet, man! Them cursed light-forsaken outworlders have their spies everywhere! Who was?"

"That weird monk from the Iskawhatzits and that clueless singer. The monk had his face all covered with blood, and they both smelled as if they'd rolled themselves over in brute droppings. Sheee... I had to get upwind real fast I tell ya. No doubt they had been conducting some demon conjuring or were just happy to harass the spirits of the dead."

"Don't be so harsh on them outworlders, friend. There's room enough for each of 'em here on our world, I say all they need is a hole in the ground six feet long, three feet wide and some three deep..."

"(laughing) Yeah! They might even end up doing some good for us plain simple folks and the next harvest!"

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More gunfire in the Agora [Fri May 26]
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"Ya missed the excitment yesterday, I tell ya," one Agora merchant tells another. "More folks shootin' at each other, right here in the Agora..."

"Them gangsters in the colored leather again? I had hoped they was gone for good."

"Nope, weren't them. That dandy, the Lictor, was chattin' up that pretty Mantis Lady with the spots--you know, the one with the temper?"

"And them two started shooting at each other? I guess the Lictor don't like to hear the word 'no'..."

"Nah; shaddup and listen. This other fellow came up, surly chap in commoner's garb. He said something rude to the two nobles, then blew smoke in the Lictor's face and walked away."

"Insulted a Hazat Count, did he? That takes stones--or a feeble mind. So, I guess the Lictor plugged the poor sod, eh?"

"No, it were the Decados that opened fire; tried to shoot him in the back, but missed. The other fellow, a Muster, I think, he drew a big 'thrower and returned fire."

"Where in Gehenne were you during all this?"

"Watchin' from behind my stall. Anyway, the Decados, she wounds the Muster, then he gets her with a good shot, but she's got an energy shield, see. The Musterman sees he's got no chance against her shield, so he backs down..."

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Packing up the town [Sat May 27]
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So stranger than daydreams that Redhead Charioteer has been all up and down the Agora spending money like it's gone right out of fashion. No wait.. you don't know the half of it.. I know a Wheeler will spend like water when it's out of a noble's purse but that's only half the news. This Commander bird is buyin up dry goods and big plastic bottles, She had Holm the Engineer build her a pile of huge fusion cells special order and she's having him put togather a bunch of air-tanks. She knows somethin's up and she's not waiting for it to fall out of the sky..

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Falling star [Sun Jun 04]
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Overheard in the Agora

Donne! Did you hear about the ship last night? I saw it from the cliffs. Ayt first I thought it were a fallin star, all orange and glitterin but then it just stopped above the water and got bigger and bigger until it was flyin right at me. It was a big black ship all on fire like I never seen! I think it went down in the starport. I bet it was a Pirate.. I saw the big imperial fighters chasin it in. Did you hear anythin about pirates??

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Just another dead drunk [Wed Jun 21]
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" Say, mate, did ya hear about that freeman's corpse they found in the alley behind the Gannock?" a buxom, coverall-clad Muster roustabout asks the Scraver on the barstool beside hers.

"Another stiff?" moans the man in studded leather. "Please, don't tell me the DeCaprios are at it again..."

"I dunno," the woman replies with a smirk. "All I heard was, the guy reeked of stale wine, and his hands were tied behind his back. Somebody had shot him in the back of the head, execution-style."

"Damn," mutters the Scraver. "Might be the DeCaprios at that..."

"Maybe, maybe not," counters the roustabout. "There was a weird symbol carved in the guy's chest, like a warning; a lantern with two swords crossed behind it. Is that some kind of Scraver gang mark?"

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A bad review? [Wed Jun 21]
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A gunshot rang out during an early morning showing at the Magic Lantern Theater, causing the few patrons present to flee in panic. It seems someone shot one of the ushers in the back, causing a grievous spinal injury to which the man later succumbed. It is true that the showings at the theater have grown stale of late, but less violent forms of criticism would convey the dissatisfaction as effectively...

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The one that got away... [Sun Jun 25]
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Two Vargens in the Agora, staring down at a ruddy brown stain on the cobblestones...

"...just horrible, I tell you, horrible," declares the stooped, middle-aged woman with gray hair and a lined face. "Those devils in the red robes, chasing that girl...claiming she was a witch." She hastily crosses herself and looks around cautiously.

"But it was one of those offworlder nobles that killed her, wasn't it?" insists the younger man at her side. "I heard that a knight from that house that is so tight with their Church did it. Slit her throat from ear to ear..."

"Well, yes and no," mutters the old woman. "The knight had his sword at the poor girl's throat when her young man came running up to try to save her. One of the redrobes threatened to burn 'im, he did, and that's when she did it. Shoved her slender throat against the nobles' blade, and took her own life to spare her man."

The younger Vargen sighs. "I heard he carried her all the way back to Edengel, on foot..." He shakes his head sadly. "He must have loved her more than life itself. Damned redrobes...damned offworlders..."

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"...life was brutal and short." [Sun Jun 25]
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" Vargen peasants are just as bloodthirsty and superstitious as any in the Known Worlds," asserts a fat Charioteer merchant at the bar in the Sovereign State.

"No, really?" counters a smirking Reeve, pausing to toss back her whiskey. "What makes you say that--they ran you out of town for selling snake oil?"

The Wheeler snorts. "Nah. In Shomes, an Orthodox canon fell and broke his hip. This lass in the village, she claimed a girl from Edengel put a hex on him--told this to a pair of Avestites, she did. The redrobes, they rallied the villagers, and the lot of 'em marched up to Edengel to drag her out of her house..."

"Ahh...so, they had a nice bonfire, did they?" queries the Reeve as she signals the bartender for a refill.

"Not a bit o' it," the merchant replies. "The two Avestites, they wanted to burn the witch here in the city, to make a proper example of her, and hauled her off with 'em--much to the disappointment of the villagers, and of one in particular..."

"Oh, and which one would that be?" smirks the Gray Face. "The guy who sells firewood?"

The Charioteer shakes his head. "Nah, the lass who first accused the hexer. I asked around, and found out the 'witch' stole her man a while back, and she was hoping to witness a bit of vengeance against her rival. Bloodthirsty damn peasants..."

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On Shaky Ground [Mon Jun 26]
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"Did you feel the ground shakin' yesterday?" a rotund Agora merchant asks a customer at her stall.

"How could I miss it?" counters the man, as he looks over a packet of spices. "It slopped the soup out of my bowl at supper."

"Damn lucky the ceiling didn't come crashing into your soup," the large woman replies. "There were more than a few walls that came down. Most of the mess has been cleaned up..."

"Well, I saw the big wave that struck the seaward cliff soon after," the customer continues. "Biggest splash I'd ever seen--I heard some fishermen say that it come right up the estuary, washed up over the docks as it made its way upriver, swept away some crates...

The spice merchant crosses herself. "Them benighted offworlders must be to blame..." she murmurs.

"Second tremor in the last year, what?" muses the man. "Maybe the planet itself is getting ready to shrug them off, like a dog shaking off a tick..."

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Fire, fire! [Mon Jun 26]
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"Heh, did you hear of the fire at Promenade last night?" a vendor asks a customer at the Agora.

"Yeah, even saw it burn." replies the woman.

"Oh? I heard it was a shop that burnt down," the merchant says. A number of people gather around the stall, listening to the story.

"Yes, a shop. 'Aboxio's Spices' or something like that," the woman begins. "It had just opened the day before the fire broke out."

"A goddamn shame," mutters an old man, "did you know the owner?"

"No," the woman answers, smiling a self-pleasant smile, "but I saw a man leave the shop through the back door. Just a moment before I saw the flames. A strange man..."

"A man?" Several nosy pairs of eyes are resting on the woman now.

"A tall man," the woman says in a dramatic voice, "tall and muscular. And completely nude!"

"Nude?" several voices in the crowd call out.

"Yes, naked except for his skin." she tells, "and bald. But with rose, flawless skin, almost like a baby's. Weird, huh?"

"What did he do?" the vendor demands to know.

"He just walked away. I don't know where," she admits, "cause I got distracted when the fire broke out."

"A goddamn off-worlder again, I tell ya!"

"Yeah, damn off-worlders!"

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Of Toasts and Earthquakes [Mon Jun 26]
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Overheard in the Grinning Gannock:

-So what do you make of all of this Earth shakin' and that wave come up the
river there?

-Me I don't know what to think 'cept it's a good reason to keep a good bead on
your pint.

-I'll drink to that, But don't ya think somthin's up?

-Nah, Ste. Vargo will keep us safe, No worries mate. Just drink yer beer.

-I guess but I dunno.

-Don't worry about it. If anything comes of it I'm sure those kooks'd know and it ain't like there been more of em out screamin' and hollerin' than normal. If there were, then you'd have a reason to worry. And if that Lady Sarasvati can live there, everything must be okay.

-I guess. Well cheers.

-CHEERS

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Blizzard in April? [Tue Jun 27]
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"Damned peculiar, I tell you," mutters a cloth merchant in the Agora, to a slender young woman surveying his stock. "Snow in April--heck, almost May??! At least it all melted within a couple hours, or the business today would be miserable..."

The customer nods, leaning over the stall to murmur, "It's certainly strange, I'll grant that," she replies. "But my grandmother says it's snowed in April once before... oh, forty years ago, she told me."

The vendor snorts. "Before my time... still, this time it only snowed here in the city! How can you explain that??! Bah! I tell ya, it's them benighted offworlders again, messing up the world..."

"Or something far worse than them," counters the woman, as she crosses herself.

"There's evil afoot, grandmother says. Dark things in the sky, and under the ground. Perhaps the End is finally at hand..."

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A New Star Is Born [Fri Jun 30]
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"Wow, guys, I've seen the most incredible fight in the fight club, you know, that arena in the Sovereign State, where offworlders and Vargens fight without weapons, but to the blood. Last night wasn't a good night, however, they all lacked true inspiration. But then a new guy stepped into the arena. I have seen him nefore down in the fight club, but mostly as watcher or when he talks to that real looker, that Sharahzade or whatever she is called. So, the guy enters the arena, and it turned to Carnage! My god, what a fight. He had three opponents in a row and beat them all, one by one. He destroyed them, I know I have heard bones and rips break, but not his. The guy fought like War Imncarnate, swift, and strange, and clever and... my god, that was the most inspired fighting I have ever seen. Well, he is a veritable giant, dark-haired, no scars but a tattoo on his chest, right above his heart. Someone said he was a mere cook, another said he was the pleasureboy of Major Sawisha, the blue-haired freak, but i'm sure tht can't be. Someone fighting like this can't surely be a prostitute or a cook. I mean, he has the looks of a prostitute, but cooks are supposed to be fat, at least the good ones, right? I have to go, now, perhaps he's fighting again, and I won't miss it.... Farewell... Oh, sure you can come along..."

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Grumblings [Sat Jul 01]
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"As I was saying," the grizzled old man says after completing his cursory scan of the darkened tavern room, "They've crossed the line too much. They may wield the power, but there's only so much I can sit back and take."

Sitting on either side of him, a younger man and a rugged, tanned woman stirred. The young woman spoke first.

"There isn't much you can do, now is there," she asked, tapping the table with the butt of a long, thin bladed knife.

"Not alone, no. But I think everyone's a little on edge about it. Everyone's seen at least one of them them flaunt it. And besides, they've gotten careless. They wander about everywhere, sometimes by themselves."

The younger man's eyes flashed and a smile crossed his lips. "You're right. A body found in the Agora might send a signal."

"No," the woman said, shaking her head slowly. "They kill each other already. Another body would go unnoticed."

"It would be noticed if it was done the right way," said the old man carefully. He paused to glance around the room again before turning back and saying: "Consider this idea. A bonfire, out in the woods or on the beach. A big sign in front of it, condemning them."

"Sure," replied the younger man. "A fine finish for demon worshippers."

"And the defilers of our world," agreed the woman, flipping the knife in the air and catching it. "I think a fire is something to consider. We should talk to the others."

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Horror in the street. [Mon Jul 03]
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Two women overheard in the Agora drinking iced liquored-joloba:

"You'll never guess what happened to Margurite the other day"

"No, what happened!?"

"Well there she was walking down towards the Cathedral in that fabulous little yellow sundress of hers when she was accosted by one of those kooks on the street corner…"

"GASP"

"Uh huh. And then to make matters worse one of those crazy leather freaks came bounding along and accosted the both of them."

"Well What did she do?"

"Well there wasn't much she could do. Before she knew whether to spit or scream the two of them started arguing leaving her to stand there."

"And neither of them apologized."

"un uhn. They just started yelling and fighting about the end of the world, like that's going to happen soon."

"Well what happened then?"

"She just folded her skirts and away she went. She says it looked like they were going to get physical."

"Well I guess it's a good thing she left, what would she have done if she had ruined that lovely dressed?"

"I don't know. But I know If I see one of them Kooks, I don't care what I'm wearing, they ain't worth the price to clean it."

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Fire and Death at the Gannock [Tue Jul 04]
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Hey, mate, did ya heard about last night at the Gannock? No? Good. Pay me a beer, and I'll delighted to tell ya the tale.

So, it was a quiet night. The Gannock was almost empty. You now, /real/ quiet... At one table, there was the Charioteer Consul - yes you know who he is... The pilot? ... Crash-landing in the Agora last fall? ... There! I told ya you knew him. - Anyway, there was him, that cook that make so much noise at the Fight Club lately and the muster that got both his legs busted. And they were talking. ... About what? I dunno, stuff that guilders speak about when sucking on a beer, I reckon. But that's not important.

You see, at some time, the door open and someone steps in. He has that big hood, smell bad even from ten paces away and generally looks like a friend of Jimmy. Well, big deal, you say. But wait. That guy stands beside the door and raises a bottle to his lips. Only the bottle has a rag stuffed down its gullet, and the guy lights it. Yes sir! He screams something along the line of "DIE, YOU FREAKS!", you know, the kind of stuff that an Avestite on too much coffee could say, and throw the bottle at the three guilders. BOOM! **WHOOOSH* Great ball of fire. The cook jumps on his feet. The pilot does likewise. Next thing I know, the pilot has a blade in his hand and throws it at the guy, pinnin' him good in the shoulder. So the guy takes the door. But the big cook runs after him with a look on his face that reminds me of my wife's when I come home drunk late at night. Scary, man, /scary/... So there's that big fire, and Karl trying to control it, and the muster, with both legs busted, that tries to walk but falls on his face after three paces. The pilot takes him by the collar and haaaaaauls him outside. ... And what happened then? Well. I stayed inside to help Karl.

You know, if the Gannock was to burn down, I would have nowhere to go after work but at my house, at that's a fate far worse than being burned alive, let me tell you... When I finally went outside, the guy that started it all was lying on the ground, looking very, very much dead, and the muster was being attended to by a priest.Quite weird, uh?

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You missed the rest [Tue Jul 04]
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After the fire was out and the crowd moved out and Brother Robert hauled the body of that poor bastard Avestite away, the Consul got into it with that Red-headed Charioteer woman. It was over takin someone off a list or given em a blackball of somethin. They both got into it chest-to-chest. I thought they'd box. The Consul said he's transfer her ro Severus and the Firehead said she'd replace the Consul with someone who'd blackball whoever they were talkin about, then they just laughed and backed down. They talked shop for a few hours like nothin happened and then that Muster with the shot-out-knees comes flying in on a Guild Truck like he's gonna start a fight but they just argue some more and this time the Redhead Charioteer is screamin mad, talking about hitting the Muster with a truck and callin him a peasant but they just argue it out and they all go their seperate ways. But I followed that Redhead.. She went back to Karl's place and told him that the reason that Avestite attacked was on account of some Muster she knew. She says the priest tried to burn the guy alive because of somethin called Amore Materia. I don't have a clue what that's about but it sounds like nothin I want a part of. So I took off..

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Thundering Hooves [Tue Jul 04]
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That Hazat Count was seen riding through the city this morning, his horse thundering down the streets at a hellbent-for-leather gallop. Nearly trampled a score of folks on his way to the bridge, then he pounded up Starport Road. I heard the horse was frothing at the mouth by the time he reached the Merchant's Exchange. What do you suppose bit him on the arse, eh?

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Bar Talk [Thu Jul 06]
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"You hear 'bout that little boy in the Agora, come running in looking all scared like?" asks a husky man sitting down at the bar in the Gannock.

" No, can't say I have," replies the half drunken man.

" Yeah, his eyes was all wide, scared to death like. Heard he was saying something about an 'evil man' and havin' ta watch him do something," says the husky man. "Fore you knows it, bunch of folks went in the direction the boy came from."

The half drunken man asks, "Yeah, who went lookin for trouble? Some of them off worlders I bet."

The husky man nods. "First one out was that Musta' cook man, he flew right on out of the Agora. Then that one Scrava' girl with the nice legs followed, would I like to... Oh, then that Mutsa' with the limp who had his knees shot out. Yeah, then that 'Lady Isis'."

The half drunken man adds, "I heard something about thems Musters taking a bloody body to the Hospice. Thems things connected?"

The husky man nods, "I imagine so, my friend. Heard that little boy lead em to that alley that last body was found in. Theys all go in and fore you know it, that Musta' cook comes out with a bloody body over his shoulders. Looked like it been skinned or something."

" And the rest of em?" the half drunken man asks as he orders another beer.

" The limping Musta' came out all bloody. Then that Lady and the Scrava' comes out with the little boy, holding his hand. Guess they went and gives the boy a place to stay," says the husky man.

The half drunken man guzzles his beer and then shakes his head. "It's something to do with them damn off-worlders I tells you."

" Yes, now save some beer for the rest of us."

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Fight Club [Thu Jul 06]
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Hmph. I wish I was at the Fight Club yesterday.

Really? How so?

There was that huge fight. Big event, blood...

*amused smile uh, uh...

*pause Don't tell me you were there...?

You betcha I was. And I will tell you, it was everything you said, and more!

You lucky bastard! Don't make me beg you, tell, tell!

If you insist. You see, the last match of the evening had ended a few minutes before. Nothing too hot. It was Tommy, Henry's son, versus some off-world drifter. The off-worlder punched Tommy in the face, Tommy felt on the ground, end of match.

Well, Tommy never was exactly a bull...

More of a hen, if you ask me.

But why did he walked in the ring, I mean....?

Who know the silliness that lurk in the mind of young huns? Anyhow, this is not the juicy part. The juicy part is that we were discussing if we should organize some pig fight--

You have one weird definition of juicy...

*icy stare*

Sorry. Please continue.

Ahem. So we were discussing that when the cook, well, more of a butcher, as far as the Fight Club is concerned, walk in along with a noble and some little crowd. A young boy arrives with blades, and put them between the two of them.

Holy smoke. /Real/ blades?

Real blades. Real noble. Real fight. They peel their shirt off and begin to warm up. Boy was I glad me wife wasn't there.

Because of the gore to come?

Nay. Because of the two gladiators. The rock-hard muscles, the sweat, the skin. She would have drowned in a pool of drool for sure. Back to the story. So they warm up, and they take the swords. They salute each other, very gentlemanly, and get at it. And how they get at it! Trust, parry, dodge, feint, attack! Suddenly, the noble slip and fall. The cook is on him like a buzzard on a dead cow! But he just give him a nip. He said something too, which I don't recall. Anyway, it was a very manly thing. The crowd cheers, goes ape, and so do I. The noble goes back to his feet and the fight continue. Fight, fight, fight. Then both man launch at each other. The cook cut the other guy, but slip. So the noble foes that very cool move and...

and...?

Open the cook like a goddamn fish. Throat to navel. Like that.

Holy son of...

Aye. There's blood everywhere. The fight is over and, quite frankly, so seems the cook. But there's that engineer that comes and does the engineer thing. It was quite disturbing, seeing him work on the downed cook like he was just some part of mechanic.

Did he survived?

Well, he was still alive when they moved him out of the Fight Club. So was the noble.

*whistle Now that's what i call a fight. Is there any chance of seeign something like that again tonight?

Tonight? Not really. There's only Tommy that want his revenge match.

Crud.

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Catch of the day... [Sat Jul 08]
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" Say, did you hear about that body that turned up in a fisherman's net the other day?" a fat Agora merchant asks a cart driver delivering produce.

"Nah, I been upriver, gathering up your damn vegetables," grumbles the teamster. "Who was it? An offworlder, I hope..."

"Sadly, no," answers the merchant. "It was one of the weaponsmiths from the Tokai Metalworks..."

The teamster raises an eyebrow. "Do say? Drowned, did he?"

The merchant shakes his head. "Garroted, hands tied behind his back, and dumped in the river. Odd thing is, when they drug him up, there was a little pouch full of firebirds stuffed in his mouth..."

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Fighting in the streets, again.. [Thu Jul 13]
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You'll never guess what I saw in the Agora last night... *chuckle EH, come back I aint started yet.

Right, here we go.

I was minding my own business, as I do, when I heard raised voices, like. I turn round and who do I see? Well, I don't know their names, like. But there was this dainty little al.. thingy.. almaleek girl, all in her flowing robes. And this other woman, all in grey. Yeah and her face.. with some bruisers in suits hanging around.There was this other girl too, mad as a sackful of badgers, she was. Shaved head, burning eyes.. crazy I tell yer. Anyway her and the almaleek were screaming blue murder at each other. "You'll never take my son" shouts one "Darkness on your House" shouts the other.I swear they were going to kick off until those suits got involved and dragged 'em apart. Then that clueless bard turns up and things start to calm down.Shame really, I thought there was going to be blood.Offworlders, eh?

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Bad Shot [Fri Jul 14]
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Two Vendors are over heard speaking in the Agora

"Hey did ya see what happened earlier?"

"No, you mean that noise? I was in that back alley...um...go ahead"

"Yeah right..anyways that Mustaman who is always shuffling cards and that hot Scrava woman he talks too was speaking with a noble and then a shot was fired at them from those apartments over there"

"Really? What happened? Did they get hit?"

"No, the person missed and the three of them ran off in that direction, the Scrava and the Mustaman came back..dont know where the noble is most likely doin noble stuff like.."

"Shhhh...don't wanna get inta trouble now do ya?"

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Frenzied Brawl [Tue Jul 18]
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"Over there it was," a woman at the Agora tells her friends, "His stall is still there."

"That's Mat Rickard's stall. I can't believe he started a brawl," one of the other women argues, "He's always been so calm and peaceful."

"But he did! Even pulled a knife at that other man. I tell you, they were fightin' like berserkers!"

"Who was that other man?" another woman asks.

"No idea," comes the reply, "Some customer. I've seen the face before, but don't know his name."

"What happened to them?"

"The VSP dragged them away. Had to knock them out to stop them from killing each other."

"I still can't believe it was Rickard."

"Well, if that's his stall over there, it was..."

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Birth [Tue Jul 18]
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I, Priest-Captain Dawn of the Swords of Lextius hereby announce the birth of my son, Sergei Nikolai Stormhammer. Amalthea, 5:28 "For he shall dry all tears and bring light into the hearts of all people, and he shall bring joy and compassion as well as justice, and warmth and comfort as well as light." Amen.

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Whatever happened to Jared? [Thu Jul 20]
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Two Charioteers occupying the bar at the Gannock talking to each other.

"Say, Rowell... I haven't seen Jared come here for more than a week. Has he changed ports?"

"No... he just doesn't come here anymore. In fact, he's told me won't go anywhere near the sea, including crossing the bridge to Vargo City."

"That's strange. Any particular reason?"

"Yeah. Y'know, mate, two weeks ago he was hired to fly a shuttle for a survey trip. Trouble was, as soon as his employers came aboard a Hazat knight accompanied by two soldiers, an Engineer and that minstrel. The Engineer took the helm and sent him to the engine room. Jared didn't like that. The Tinkerboy brings her up and about, flying here and there, and finally sets her down on an island. Must have been taking some loops... because he returned the shuttle home a lot faster than on the way out. Anyway, there they were in the middle of nothing... Jared returned to the cockpit, the knight and the tinkerboy and the minstrel leave ship. With breather gear, so the air must have been bad. Next thing they order the landing light on after nightfall, and Jared sees the biggest crab-things this side of Stigmata gathered around his shuttle, scuttling back to avoid the light."

"Saint Paul! Where is that place?"

"Oh I'll tell you, finally... the explorers grab some lights and some guns and move out, with the soldiers staying to guard the ship. After a short while, the team returns and takes a big coil of power cable with them, ordering Jared to power it up as soon as they give the sign. They radio him, he throws the switch, and it all looks good. Then a faint wailing sound comes to Jared's ears... right through the hull, because they left the airlock closed. Bad air, you remember? Next, they start yelling over the comlink, one screams "Cut the power!", the other "Power output to max!", and the needle jumps way up almost to the red... something must have taken an enormous power surge on their end of the line."

"So what? And what's this got to do with Jared avoiding the sea?"

"In a moment." The storyteller takes a shot of his drink. "The three guys came hurrying back and started arguing over what to do next. Suddenly the minstrel bursts into the cockpit yelling:"Take her up, or we're all going to die!" The Tinkerboy fires the engines and launches, the knight gets all mad because he had no say in it, and Jared looked at the cargo hold. And then he saw it..." The storyteller shakes and downs another drink.

"Saw what? Come on, man! Don't leave me like that!"

"He saw... just the front end of a big tentacle like you find them on squids. It was several feet long and had been severed when the airlock closed for launch. The shuttle returned to the landing field in no time flat. The knight put the tinkerboy under arrest for disobeying his orders and had the tentacle piece removed, sort of a trophy, I suppose. Jared returned to the cockpit and discovered the blasted tinkerboy had swept clean his flight recorder..."

"And that made him fear the sea?"

"Remember: the shuttle was sitting high up on that island. Imagine a squid with arms long enough to reach out that far... why, if it felt in the mood, it could close up to the shore and wipe out a whole village. Or swallow a fisherman's boat whole."

(long period of silence)

"Or snatch you right away from the bridge or the docks... I see Jared's point. That's some squid. Maybe I'll keep to the Starport, too..."

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Five Dead [Thu Jul 20]
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It happened early this morning, while I was getting the master's breakfast fruit. I try to get to the vendors when they first open, before the crowds. So there I was this morning, and there was all of this hubbub. Some old, wrinkled looking Vargen being pawed on by his cousins. I didn't pay much attention, but they started making all sorts of noise. Rabble rousers, malcontents, whatever. Then the VSP shows up and the next thing I know everyone's screaming and shouting. Someone knocked by basket out of my hands and melons went flying everywhere. Then I got knocked down and I think I passed out for a minute.

The next thing I remember was this odd, shuffling sound, as people hustled out of the Agora. As I got to my feet and retrieved the master's melons, I could see bodies lying on the ground. Engineers, Pancreator help us all, moved in to treat the wounded. But I counted five that didn't look like they were going to move again. Two of them were Vargo Police. The rest were vendors, including Olerud, the herb vendor. I wonder where I'm going to get fresh basil now?

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Bodies At The Burned Shop [Sat Jul 22]
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A Muster edificer walks into the Grinning Gannock, looking pale and weary. "God, sometimes I hate my job," he mutters taking place next to his comrades at the bar.

"What's it?" one of the others asks.

"Well, ya know they want us to remove that ruin at east Promenade," the edificer explains, "That shop there that burned down last month."

"Yeah, I seen it," the other one says.

"Well, they want us remove the mess, and we do. We've our excavator with us, so it ain't really a hard job."

"So where's your problem?" wonders another Muster.

"I'll tell ya now," the edificer goes on, "it's what we find in there!"

"A fried shop keeper, I s'pose," another of his comrades chuckles.

"One?" The edificer mutters, "Five of 'em. Five goddamn corpses in there."

"So what?" a Muster mercenary says, "Never seen a body or what?"

"Wait, there's more," the narrator replies, "Well, there's that burnt skeleton, crushed by the collapsed roof. We're expecting that... but down at the cellar... there're four more stinking bodies. Didn't get burned down there, but the building collapsed on them."

"Shit," someone says.

"Giants, I tell ya!," the Muster goes on, "the smallest one well over six feet. And listen, three of 'em are wearing that black plastic armor."

"Decados Kossacks?" the mercenary gasps.

"Yeah, them. And another one, the smallest, wears a black uniform with those Mantis signs on it."

"Damn, a Mantis Lord? What are you gonna do now?," the edificer is asked.

"Keep a low profile... don't want these black lords to come and question me. And keep my mouth shut..." the Muster looks around, "Uh..."

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A Cold Heart [Sat Jul 22]
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"D'you know what happened over at the Hospice?"

"I'm sure you'll tell me."

"Well, I was trying to talk to that big gladiator/cook/loverboy or whatever-the-
guy-is-doing-these days. I heard he has no contract anymore ..."

"Ah. Shocking news. So, is he cooking for the Amaltheans now?"

"Naw. So, I was trying to talk to him, about, well, you know, I'm betting occassionally at the Fight Club ..."

"And you wanted to ask him to lose a fight so you can win all your money back?"

"Errrmmm, I'd never do that..."

"Sure. Go ahead." "Well, were was I ... Oh, yes, so I tried to talk to the guy and you know what?"

"No."

"He had a nasty case of pneumonia, or whatever they call it. He caught a real cold. He sounds as if he is coughing up his lungs, I tell you."

"Spectacular."

"Wait ... So I asked the Amaltheans what happened to the Champion, and they told me that they found him asleep in the Coldroom, among the dead bodies, peacefully sleeping on one slap like he was already dead. I wonder what he did there with the bodies... I mean, frigging void, he was laying with the dead ... I mean, sleeping at their side ... God, the guy is sick."

*gulps* "Must be something in the water ..."

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Fights in Agora [Sun Jul 23]
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There were two fights in the Agora recently

One between a merchant and a customer was of little interest and was broken up by the VSP...

The other, however, was between an Noble Gentleman dressed in Black and (by appearance) a commoner. This fight got interesting when the 'commoner's' eyes appeared to glow. The Noble, who was about to draw his sword, suddenly backed off as if in fear at which point the other man disappeared into an alley.

A young Scraver later approached the Noble and talked briefly after which each departed.

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Strange Processions [Sun Jul 23]
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"Well now.. What do you think that was about?"

People in the Agora hurriedly make space and turn to watch as the Decados procession make their measured way past. Count Andrei, leading several Decados householders, leading a covered wagon, and armed Decados soldiers, his glittering gaze sliding contemptuously over locals and off-worlder alike. They pass, heading to the Amalthean Hospice as things return to a faint semblance of normalcy.

" Them a strange bunch. Should hear the stories from that place. Strange sex stuff and other.. well hmm. Things ya know?" A nudge and a grin.. but only after making sure no Mantis bearing persons are in the area.

Time passes..

" And here they come back.. bin waitin' for that.." Curious stares directed at the returning Decados procession, quickly averted when meeting the Count's glittering gaze or the stern, dark look of a soldier.

" Wonder what they bin up to?" Someone leaning closer whispering "You know.. I heard them bodies of those Decados giants.. yeah. They were left at the Hospice.. You think..?"

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Shellfishers Story [Sat Jul 29]
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"I told you you should've stayed out of those waters."

"Eh, brutewash. All the shoremen know the offworlders are doing something out there. And I can pay them taxes, but I'll be damned if I let them tell me where they can catch snappers."

"But I can't believe you don't know any better! Ever since Tebin's boat got all chopped up by the Giant Snappers and those Hammer-wearers told us to stay out of the Deepreef, only an idiot would go back."

"But it was the best catch I ever got!"

"Sure. Even before the offworlders came here, that place was no good for anything but coral."

"I tell ya, it was the best catch! I was bringing up baskets overfilled with Snapper. In two hours of setting the traps, I probably had half a ton."

"…You lie."

"Paulus's truth! Strangest thing you ever saw. But then, as I'l emptying the traps, I see that some of them have these weird yellow bumps on their back."

"Yellow bumps?"

"Yeah. Looked like someone had glued something on to their backs. I thought that the crabhouse wouldn't buy them like that, so I went belowdeck to grab a scaling knife to cut them all off."

"…Kinda dishonest, Marl."

"Hey, I was gonna use those for soup anyways."

"That's not what I meant, and you know it."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. But then, when I come back up, all the traps were gone!"

"Gone?"

"Yeah! And the ropes were slashed too. Like someone had thrown the traps overboard. And then, when I go out on the deck to look over the rail, I see it."

"See what?"

"A Silverback Crab!"

Sounds of laughter echo along the small wharf.

"Now I know you were drinkin'. Silverbacks are just a myth."

"That's what I though. But plain as day, there is this big, silvery thing moving through the water, the same size as a Giant Snapper. It had crablegs and pincers and everything."

"And I suppose it said it was gonna give you all the fish you could catch in ten lifetimes."

"Nah. But I think it stole my catch."

More laughter.

"That's a change in the legend, then."

"And it was quick too, moving at least 15 knots. By the time I went and grabbed a harpoon, it was long gone."

"It really does serve you right, though. The Hammers go and help you buy that new boat with the electric oars and those big harpoons you can use against the Giant Snappers, and you go into their waters."

"But the catch was so…"

"Hey now, listen up. I'll be the first to tell you the offworlders should go back where they came from. But the Hammers have been straight with us, and give us a good deal with the new electric oars and the harpoons and the good traps, all for a few straits of water that no one ever pulled good critters out of. If you wanna go do something dumb, fine, just keep the fisher-men's guild out of it. If the Hammers find out we're not living up to our side of the deal, they won't live up to theirs."

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Blood and Roses [Sun Jul 30]
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Overheard in Elin Square.

"There's something very creepy going on at the bridge."

"What do you mean, what's going on?"

"I was headed to the Merchant's Exchange this morning, and the bridge was empty, but there were these red stains on the stone in the middle."

"Stains? Do you mean blood?"

"It could have been... I think it was... but, it was really strange... I mean, the air smelled funny and it was like my ears were all stopped up... I turned around and came back."

"What about the guards, did they say anything?"

"What guards?"

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Rukov [Tue Aug 01]
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"That muster cook returned to the Fight Club last evening."

"Really? Damn, I had to work. Was it bloody...?"

"Well, dunno. He didn't come to *fight*, that's for sure."

"Drin, then? And started a barroom brawl?"

"Nope, he seems to be friends with the bouncers at the fight Club, oddly enough. I mean, he could most probably kill them quite easily."

"So, he returned, and nothing happened? Nothing at all."

"Depends."

"What was it? C'mon I pay that beer..."

"Well, he has started to date again."

"Date? Well, he is just a man, right?"

"Yeah, but the rumors are true. He was all over that guy withing thirty minutes."

"Guy... oh man... for one of *them*, he really has a mean fighting style..."

"Yeah. So I won't have my son go to the Fight Club ever again. Not when Rukov's loose like that..."

"Yeah."

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Dancing in the Flames [Sat Aug 05]
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A vendor in the Agora turns to another during a slow point in the afternoon. "Say, Arnald, did you hear about the riot in front of the Brother Battle Hostel?" The second vendor shakes his head. "Well, it didn't amount to much," continues the first. "Although we got a good laugh watching the offworlders try to save a burlap dummy from the pyre some patriots set up in the street..."

That catches Arnald's attention. "A pyre, eh? So, the patriots are escalatin' the situation, are they? 'Bout time, I say. Damn daemon-worshippin' offworlder freaks deserve to dance in the fire..."

The first vendor snorts, and glances around surreptitously. "Well, maybe next time one of them *will be dancing in the flames, instead of an effigy." He nods, and taps the side of his nose sagely. "Methinks the tables are turning, old friend. Why, a wee Vargen lass cast a stone at that prettyboy Lictor's head, and hit him--drew blood. What do you think they did to her? "

"Killed her, I imagine," Arnald replies, then leans over to spit on the cobblestones.

"Oh, they tried," the first man asserts. "Profaned the Light by using it as a weapon against her. But Saint Vargo spared the lass, healed her wounds on the spot, even as one of them hulking Brothers Battle tried to smother the life out of her..." He crosses himself, and closes his eyes briefly. As they open again he smiles. "Then, after all was said and done, they let the girl go scott free. Probably felt guilty about what they did to her..."

Arnald smirks. "That weakness will be their undoing. They oppress us, and wield dark powers among us, but even daemon-worshippers suffer the sting of conscience, my friend, as much as they try to deny the Light. The patriots will take advantage of the offworlders' weakness, you can bank on that..."

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Cooks and Mistresses [Sun Aug 06]
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Well.. I was sweeping the streets.. you know by the Sultan.. Yup.. my turn to look into those windows watching those rich bas.. yes.

So there comes that weird Decados Count or whatever he fancies himself to be with that woman. Heh

His Mistress or sumting? Yah. Tall.. in black.. those legs.. Anyhow. They stopped speak to that girl from the Malik when the Malik cook comes around.. Right, Al-Malik. Will never get used to their stupid names. Bring back a good Merc.. yes.. shhh..

I'll tell you.. glad I ain't got nothing to do with that Mistress woman.. she and the cook.. right at each other.. Got so cold I just left..

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One very dead Eskatonic [Mon Aug 07]
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Rumors fly in the Agora regarding the dead Eskatonic found lying in the middle of River Road across from the Temple Avesti, shot once in the head. The Lictor and the new Li Halan Count spent quite some time poking around the scene, as a group of Avestites looked on. Eventually, two of the pilgrims carried the body to the Hospice under instructions from the nobles. Oh, and get this; they found a slugthrower there, laying on the ground beside the body. Probably the murder weapon, don't you think?

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The trouble with redheads [Mon Aug 07]
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Hey Kelso! You know that Redheaded wheeler girl who's allways starting trouble?

Yeah I know her, intimatelike if you know what I mean..

I thought she were a priest now?

P'sha! I saw her this mornin handin out Sluggers to the Coachmen like they were candy. Looks like she's gettin ready for a fight or somethin.

But I saw her last night preachin to the big Muster cook in the fight club..

I wouldn't put much stock in the preachins of a gunslinger harlot myself..

Shut your mouth Kelso! The nobles like that Charioteer

The nobles like anyone who doesn't get in their way. It looks like they won't be
liking that Fireheaded wheeler much longer.

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Some Demon hunting at the Agora [Mon Aug 07]
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Hey! You know the latest events at the agora?

You bet. Sam raised the price of his apples to one talon a dozen. If this isn't a shame, I wond--

No, no. I talk about /real/ events!

Ah. One of those. *sigh Which one of the crazy offworlders tried to kill which other one, this time?

It's a little bit complicated. There was Alexander...

Alexander? As in, Fight Club?

As in Fight Club. So, Alexander jumped on someone, a noble, by the look. Never seen him before.

Ouch. Poor noble.

Let me finish before you say anything. There was also that big Battle Brother. He tried to intervene when he realized that Alexander and the other guy were actively trying to tear each other's head out. But he didn't exactly had the best of success.

Anyone else was around?

There was that guy seen quite often with Alexander lately. He was wearing a sword and other things usually used to hurt people, but he curiously kept away from the fight. I guess what they say is true: the greater the sword, the weaker the hand...

/Who/ says that?

Dunno, but they sure say it. So, anyway, there was also the waitress from the Gannock. I think she was out for her break. Got more than she was expecting, I fear. There was also a muster or two, and they proudly did what the VSP does best.

Namely?

Nothing. Meanwhile, Alexander and the stranger where rolling on the ground. They were at each other like weasels on crack. Alexander tried to jab the stranger with a knife, the stranger shot Alexander through the shoulder. The big Brother shout to stop. Alexander shout back that the man is a demon.

Was he?

Well, I dunno, but his eyes were sure flashing the prettiest arcs of blue lighting I ever seen. You know how Brothers are. Nothing really make then froth at the mouth like a good ol' demon. So hop!, the Brother joins the fray.

And make puree out of the demon?

Not exactly. The problem with demons is not that they are evil. It is that they are awfully hard to kill. He managed to slip out of Alexander and the Brother's grasp. He even puts a spell on some VSPs to cover his trail.

Oh my. The guy charged of the VSP public relations must have a hard time.

Not really. He snapped last week. He shaved his head, ripped his clothes out of his body and said that the Pancreator was calling to him. The last time anyone saw him, he was walking toward the mountains, naked and singing some dirty limerick.

Then, you tell me no-one was killed?

That's about it. The demon, whoever he was, got away. Alexander got shot in the shoulder. But, hey, he got punched in the face, got stabbed, got opened up like a fish before. I'm sure he doesn't mind another hole. Anyway, I've been told the Gannock's waitress patched him up.

She can do that?

Seems so. She sure re-aligned Henry's arm last year when he broke into a fight with Max. She had to tries three time before getting it right, but she did it.

So, what's the moral of that story of yours?

I dunno. Offworlders are a mad, rabid lot?

*nod Sounds okay with me.

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The Ignoble [Tue Aug 08]
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An old crone stands outside the gates to the Battle Brother compound. She throws rotten vegetables at the closed gates, a handful of children joining her. She screeches in a voice that grates like gravel, "Off o' dis worl' ya demon worsh'pp'rs! Ge' ou' ya lo' o' sinn'rs! Take ya 'hores an' ya faith'ess! Ya murder'rs! Ya cowa'ds! Ya sinne's!"

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Quiet as a tomb... [Wed Aug 09]
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A Muster roustabout sits at the bar in the Grinning Gannock, a pint of ale in one hand as she relates a tale to the off-duty VSP patrolman beside her.

"...and so these Imperial Navy pilots were drinkin' like there's no tomorrow, and one of them I guess got his tongue a little too lubricated. He started talkin' about something that happened out in the contested territory beyond the perimeter..."

"And what was that?" questions the VSP with a smirk. "Did the Imperial Army actually get to shoot back at some rebels, instead of chasin' shadows?"

The roustabout takes a long pull of her ale, then wipes the froth from her lips with the back of her muscular forearm. "Get this: a platoon of ground troops on recon entered a village at the edge of rebel-controlled territory. Marched right into the commons, they did, alert for trouble--but there weren't a soul in sight. Place was quiet as a tomb, aside from some stray dogs barkin'. There was chickens running around, even some cows that got loose...but no people..."

The patrolman frowns. "What do you mean no people? They run off to avoid the Imperials or somethin'?"

"Nah, the village had been empty for days, it seemed. The Imperials poked around in some of the cottages, and found food left on the tables and sittin' in cookin' pots, uneaten--as if the folks had been snatched away in the middle of dinner or somethin'. And here's the kicker; the village commons had big scorch marks on the grass, as if a drop ship had landed there and took off again..."

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Arrogant Offworlders [Wed Aug 09]
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A Vargen teamster glances around the Agora cautiously, then mutters to a merchant accepting delivery of fresh produce. "Well, I was watchin' the whole thing. Damn offworlder...what do they call that bunch? Oh yeah; Chainers. That Chainer ran up behind a Vargen and shoved him, for no reason. Then he threatened to break the man's arms if he didn't leave the Agora..."

"Arrogant bastards...they think they own everything! And that's how they all treat us--like we exist to be pushed around by them...always threatening with their fancy slugthrowers, and those other weapons..." The merchant crosses himself and glances at the sky.

The teamster smiles coldly. "Yeah, well this Chainer didn't seem quite so cocky after he realized he was outnumbered--as if the rest of us would stand by and watch while one of our own is bullied!"

"We've stood by and watched too long already," the merchant agrees, speaking perhaps a little too loudly. "Enough of that, I say. They steal our world, they oppress our people, they unleash dark powers in our midst..."

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Another Death [Wed Aug 09]
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An old fisherman walks alongside a merchant, "...I swear to ya, I saw a giant carry a dead Brother to da Cathedral...He was a giant, I swear, and he was carrying the body like a sack of potatoes..."

The merchant scoffs, "Too much rot-gut again, Rusty!"

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Walking Dead [Wed Aug 09]
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" I tell ya, Dardo, it was a night-cracker! A walking corpse!" insists a Vargen merchant to one of his customers. "It came shambling up Prophet's Way into the Agora last night..."

The other man, Dardo, crosses himself. "It's the work of them daemon-worshipping offworlders, I say. Probably one of our own dearly departed, raised from the dead to serve *their dark rituals." He spits in the direction of the Sovereign State.

"I don't doubt it," agrees the merchant. "Maybe they were keeping her at the Hostel on River Road--she come up from that way. The dead woman, she must have gotten away from 'em somehow--cause the offworlders sent some of their gunmen to finish her off..."

Dardo raises an eyebrow. "Ah...so that's what all that shootin' was about last night..."

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Bad Fishing... [Thu Aug 10]
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Along the docks, a grizzled fisherman returns, complaining loudly.

"That is me fif' net me lost today! So many dam' bodies in the sea that an 'onest fishe'man can't make a l'ving anymo'!"

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Dead or Alive? [Fri Aug 11]
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A Vargen sits down with his friends at his usual table in Carik's Place, one of the few eateries in Vargo City that remains relatively free of infestation by offworlders. His expression is grim.

"Did ya see the new bulletin board in Vargo Square?" he mutters angrily. "They're puttin' up posters of Vargens, with bounties on their heads!"

One of his comrades grunts in agreement. "I've seen 'em. They aren't all Vargens--there's offworlders among 'em. Not all of 'em have a bounty, either..."

The first man scowls darkly. "Oh, are you on *their side now? Just see how you feel when they slap a poster for you up there wit' the rest..."

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A Quiet Night at the Gannock [Sat Aug 12]
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A Vargen sits down at a table in the Grinning Gannock for his midday pint. He looks over at the carpenter mending some chairs and a table and turns to his friends, "What happened there? Don't tell me I missed another brawl?.."

"Nay..", responds his friend, "some of them offworlders were 'ere havin a chat. That kookie Engineer, the one always runnin around an helpin people, a girl that used to work for them Scravers and is always hanging around that Hazat Count, and one of them creepy Decados nobles, one I ain't seen before. Anyway, I was havin an ale when the girl came in and started talking to the other offworlders. They was all chummy at first, then the girl and the Decados noble start starin at each other and talking back and forth, ignorin the Engineer. Next thing I know, the Decados picks the girl up and throws her across the room and into them chairs and table, calling out somethin in some alien tongue."

The Vargen picks up his ale and takes a big swig, "Bloody typical. The missus wants me to spend a night at home and I miss out on the entertainment."

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Announcement in the Agora [Mon Aug 14]
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Where have you been? Have you heard the news? It's that Charioteer woman who shaved her head.. She got up on the monument and yelled it all over the market. She said she'd ransom the Charioteer Merchant who was ambushed, dead or alive, for a new Assault rifle. I don't know which merchant.. I think it was Cormic's boy Andre.. But an Assault rifle, It's almost as if she's encouraging them. I don't know if she can do that legally but I'm glad she's on our side.. surely they'll trade him over they're still fighting with bows and arrows. I say Hurray for the lass.. it's about time someone looked out for us little merchants. I don't know I guess they can send word to her ship.. she didn't say, why? do you know someone?

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The streets aren't safe... [Mon Aug 14]
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"It was over there," a Li Halan householder informs a VSP officer, as she points toward the fruit stands in the Agora. "I saw it all. A Vargen teamster was there, with a horse-drawn cart full of peaches. Suddenly, a Charioteer truck came careening through the crowd, bearing down on the teamster's cart..."

The VSP grunts, jotting the information down on a notepad. "Did the vehicle seem to be out of control?"

The householder shakes her head. "The driver seemed to be in control, until he had to swerve to avoid striking a child." The woman crosses herself. "It was clear he could not avoid the cart, and it seemed certain the teamster and his horse would perish. At the last moment, a young woman leapt over the side of the cart and tackled the teamster, knocking him to safety, but the poor horse..."

"The young woman--do you know who she was?" asks the VSP.

"Hmm...I believe she is a Scraver...or perhaps she is Hazat--you know, the one who jumped into that pyre at the Brother Battle Hostel..." As the VSP nods, jotting that down, the woman continues. "After the collision, a Hawkwood dragged the Charioteer out of his truck, and beat him to a pulp...shocking violence..." The householder crosses herself again.

"Did you recognize the Hawkwood, ma'am?"

"I had not seen that noble before," the woman replies. "Yet my Lord might know him; the Count Zhao berated the Hawkwood for his actions, after the incident. He was not alone, either. Several nobles and guilders chided the Hawkwood, and the loudest critic of all was an Eskatonic priest, decrying the violence."

"I see," the VSP murmurs with professional detachment. "And what became of the Charioteer who was driving the truck?"

"An ambulance came," the Li Halan householder answers slowly. "The one the Engineers donated. They took the Wheeler to the Hospice to be treated. Some Vargens took the horse there, as well, at the urging of the Eskatonic." The woman smiles. "I understand the Amaltheans are making the Charioteer do double penance, both for his own healing, and the horse's..."

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..for Vargens anymore. [Mon Aug 14]
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"I tell ya, they tried to murder 'im!" asserts a Vargen at a table in the Agora street cafe.

"Murder who?" asks the woman beside him, whose eyes watch the man expectantly over the rim of her coffee cup as she sips.

"Ned Aymes," the man replies brusquely. "Freeman farmer from outside Shomes--has a small peach orchard. He came into town to sell a cartful of peaches yesterday, and argued with Sorrell, the fruit vendor, over the monopoly those offworlders are settin' up on all the commerce here..."

"Aye, those Wheelers," the female Vargen asserts, setting her cup on the table with a loud thump. "If you want to ship goods you have to go through them. If you want to do it legally, that is..."

The man nods emphatically. "That's right! And if you don't go through 'em, you pay a dear price, I tell ya! That's what poor Ned found out yesterday..."

The woman's gaze sharpens with interest as she leans across the table. "What *did they do to Ned?"

"Tried to run him over with one of their blasted trucks!" asserts her table companion vehemently. "And his cart and horse, too! Poor horse...they almost killed her, but I hear she'll pull through. Anyway, it's clear what those Wheelers were up to..."

"They wanted to shut Ned up," the woman finishes for him.

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Handsome and Deadly [Mon Aug 14]
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A rebellious local youth dressed in some of the fashions brought in by the off-worlders exclaims loudly to her friends in the Agora about a fight she witnessed.

"Coming out of the Sov I was, after a good night out, but don't ya dare let me folks find out I was there, they will tan me hide if they hears I was in that place, and cut off me allowance, but the music wasn't that great anyway, same kinda stuff they bin playin' fa months now. Anyway, it was just before dawn light, and I was about to head home when I sees these two people not far from the monument. With the light shining from it they was easy to see. One was a mantis lord. That handsome young one, you all know the one I mean right, and a tall fellow, with the Hammer insignia. Whatever.

Well I can't hear what they are saying, but the engineer is soundin' real surly, and the Mantis lord is not soundin' too happy with his tone, and then that barmaid who used to work in the Sov but now rides around with the Hazat Count arrived. I know, yeah, I'm going to marry a nobleman too, maybe that handsome Decados. Well if she can, and she was a barmaid, why can't I? I'm a merchant's daughter, which is better. Oh, and Griffin that your brother hangs out with came out of the Sov too. Well just let me tell it will you?

So then I sees the Marquis or what-ever he is hits the engineer, fair hard too, I heard it across the square, but then, get this, the engineer hits him back. Fancy that. Thinking he can get away with it, hitting such a handsome noble. What do you mean? No way, he's not handsome, far too Common. You have to have standards. Then, fast as a viper, the Decados pulls his sword and runs the engineer kid through, and laughs at Anya, yeah that's her name, for stickin' up for the Guilder. The last I sees of them guilders they put the engineer into that motor cart thing and drives him away along Prophet's Way for Last Rites I expect.

But ya should of seen him move, the nobleman I mean. So quick with that sword he was I bet the Guilder didn't even see it coming.

The blood was still there when I came past this morning to look.

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Missing Neighbors... [Mon Aug 14]
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A fat matron gossips at the well:

"Did'ja hear, the Woodman's disappeared last night, all of 'dem. Their supper was still on da table, the doors were all unlocked, nothin' missing, it's just as though they just got up and left. 'Tis strange, 'cus I heard the Cannos and da Enstad's went up and disappeared too two weeks ago..."

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Change at the Gannock [Wed Aug 16]
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Overheard at the Grinning Gannock:

"Hey, say, it is me, or has it been a few days since the last time we have seen Julia here?"

"What? Don't you know she's not working here anymore? Yup, that's right, she left one day, and no-one know why. I've heard she got a new job at the Hospice, though. Cleaning the sick and doing the graveyard shift at the morgue. Yup, she left beer mugs for bed pans. It makes one wonder..."

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Running Scared? [Thu Aug 17]
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'Umm.. boss. I dunno if I want to drive the wagons out North anymore."

Sudden silence, a shuffle of paper. "Oh really? Why's that??"

Awkward shuffle of feet, clearing of a throat 'Well.. I figure people are watching us.. u know that itch I get? Yeah.. someone was watching me this morning. I did not feel safe... like someone was pointing a gun at me..'

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Taxes [Thu Aug 17]
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A merchant grumbles in the Agora, "The Imperials tax us, the nobles tax us, the Guilds tax us, and the Church tax us. I swear, I shall be taxed to my grave..."

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Familiar Face [Fri Aug 18]
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" Say, did ya see that big lander that came down yesterday?" a roustabout asks a merchant at the bar in the Grinning Gannock. "Takes up a goodly portion of the landing field, I'll tell ya.."

"Military vessel?" queries the merchant.

The roustabout shakes his head. "Free Trader--Charioteer. Though she's well armed, from what I could see. And her skipper--I've seen 'im before. He used to head up the Wheelers on Vargo."

"That old pirate is back? Probably here to steal us blind--or unload a bunch of worthless trinkets."

"Yah, maybe. He did have cargo for us to unload--but he also disembarked ten soldiers, armed for battle..."

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Of Priests and Jesters... [Sat Aug 19]
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"Last night, I go to the Cathedral to attend evening mass," a Vargen tells a VSP official, "and I'm about sitting down on the bench where I usually sit. But there's that hooded fellow on my place, so I have to sit next to him." The policeman nods impatiently, and the Vargen goes on, "Strange thing that he's wearing a hood, I think, 'cause it's not a monk's habit that he wears, but a wide black cloak. Don't say nothing, I do, and Father Danala begins with mass. That's when it starts..." The narrator lowers his voice, "The hooded one starts giggling like mad, giggles until he's coughing for air. As if the good father is a jester telling jokes! And here's the weird thing about it: Noone turns, I'm the only one who hears the hooded one giggle..." The patrolman grimaces, obviously not prepared to believe the story, but the Vargen goes on, "By the time mass is over, his laughter's echoing from the walls, I tell ya, but noone takes note, not even father Danala! And when mass is over, and we stand to leave, I catch a glimpse under that hood... and I see that glowing blue eyes. It's the one they're all looking for, the blue-eyed killer! So I run to alarm the Battle Brothers outside, but when I turn, the killer is gone. But I tell ya, officer, when I close me eyes, I can still hear him laughing at me..."

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Riotous riots.. [Mon Aug 21]
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Somewhere a door opens with a bang, hurried footsteps, muted laughter "Hey Aaron! You should have gone to the Market today!"

Water pouring, a bang as something gets put down in a hurry. "Eh? The Market? I only go twice a week.. tomorr.."

A chuckle "And *thats why you always miss out on the fun.. Today they treated us to a duel"

A snort "Bunch of fancy boys with their silly little rules, strutting around... They must try that with me.. While he is still trying to get out of his jacket I will have run 'im through already! Imagine that!"

More laughter which dies quickly "But then they go of attacking bystanders. Old Ephraim? You know.. that girl you are so sweet on? Lisabet.. Whoa!"

Sounds of a chair falling back "What happened to Lisabet?!"

"Umm.. Aaron.. wait.. she is fine.. she.. Aww heck.." Hurried footsteps, a door bangs closed.

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Money to be made [Mon Aug 21]
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"I tell you.. next time I am selling tickets.. getting 'em drawn up right now. Come join in the riots! 2 Talons a ticket.. Eh. I'll make a fortune.. One 'bird if you want to help bash and ambulance and get this.. I'll pay YOU if you help beatup a offworlder!" Followed by backslapping and raucous laughter, spilling of hastily quafed beer.

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Extracts from VSP Report #13-08-10 [Mon Aug 21]
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...
furthermore extensive damage was caused to most of the establishments surrounding the Agora. Fire damage to some stalls several having been gutted in their entirety causing loss to all stock and the structure.

Minor injuries, most self inflicted were reported in addition to more severe injuries, most notable to a Tariq from the Order of Engineers, suffered at the hand of rioters.... no arrests imminent.

A further injury report to a Lisabet Carzoni, suffered after one of the duelists, a knight Valentin of House Decados, stabbed her in the shoulder. This is also believed to be the incident that caused the riot.

... insufficient troops and training on VSP.. Ambulance supplied by Order of Engineers severely damaged... As to date investigations continue into the roles played by the duelists and several known local trouble stirrers.. fortunately no loss of life but due to volatile nature of public, inadequate funding and training on part of Security Police and slow response of emergency services..

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Merchants back on their feet [Mon Aug 21]
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Hey is that Bower openning his shop? I thought he was burned out. How did he get the funds to start up again so fast?

I seen the same with Shoemacher, only look at his stall now..

That's the Charioteer's symbol! How did he? He just lost everything in the riots how could he afford his guild fees?

I seen him talkin with the Charioteer woman with the shaved head I think she's
behind this.

What now? There's Cooper wearing the wheel on his shoulder! I need to talk with that Charioteer woman! Come on!

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The Mask of Domino [Fri Aug 25]
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A farmer leads an empty brute-drawn cart along a dirt road in the fief of Telekur. He sees his friend working in a field by the road and waves to him, "Yo, Otis.. Ya look like ye had a rough night. I thought ye swore off grog after the Epithany celebrations?"

Otis laughs and walks over to the roadside, "Nay, Johnson.. Twasn't grog this time. While ye were off sellin' yer pumpkins ye missed out on the ruckuss in the middle of the night."

Johnson brings the brute to a halt and queries his friend, "Oh? What happened?"

Planting his hoe in the ground, Otis continues, "Last night I was fast asleep when I here's a scream out in the village square. I opened the shutters and looked out to see what the fuss was when a man goes runnin' past me window, that odd fella, the one them Eskatonic priest were lookin' after, Kostas his name was.. Anyway, I'm about to call out to him to ask what's the matter when this huge black horse goes thunderin' past me house. Kostas falls over not 30 feet from me house and the horse rears to a stop, goin' up on its hind legs. Then it's rider leaps off the horses back, I couldn't see who it was, he was dressed in a black cloak from head to toe with a black mask over his face. Quick as a flash he draws his sword.. one of them rapiers I think Noel called it. The madman, Kostas, starts rambling and cryin' out, beggin' the demon to spare him then the cloaked man says in a boomin' voice 'THE DOMINO IS SWIFT IN JUSTICE AND REVENGE' and runs 'im through with his sword. In two blinks of his eyes, Kostas is dead then all hell breaks loose as the militia bell sounds. The Domino leaps up onto his horse then charges right back out of the village before the militia even get their pants on."

Johnson makes the sign of the jumpcross on his chest, "Ye think it was a demon?"

Otis shrugs, "Dunno.. whatever it was maybe Kostas got what was owed to 'im. I heard he was a pirate of the void.."

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Fight Club [Fri Aug 25]
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Hey, listen here.. there's a new champion I tell yer.

Get away wid yer, oive seen that Rukov foight, loike a demon he is.

Tell that to that there Mantis Lord that sliced him up..

Mantis Lord? Get away wid yer..

No, I tell you it was. Sliced him up good and proper, they had to whell that Rukov out on a stretcher. I don't know if he was dead or alive..

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A Grand Old Time [Mon Aug 28]
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A servant in crimson and white Hazat livery empties a bucket of slop water into a storm drain, glancing about cautiously as she chats with a maid from another House. "Aye, well, His Lordship's ball got off to a dandy start, it did. Plenty of music, plenty of food, and plenty of drink. The Count, he and his lady set things off on the right foot, so to speak, with a few twirls on the dance floor..."

"My Lord said they made quite an impression," returns the maid, with a sly wink.

"That they did," confirms the Hazat servant. "Of course, so did Lady Lisabeta and her man, when they took to the floor. And later, those two Decados, the tall one in black silks and the...other one..." She shakes herself slightly. "But I digress, as the bluebloods like to say. The festivities, they was rolling along fine, until poor Vacho came down the stairs from the roof, his eyes rolled back in his head so only his whites was showing." She shudders and crosses herself.

The maid crosses herself as well. "What was the matter with him?" she asks weakly.

"Possessed by a demon, I heard some say," the Hazat householder mutters confidentially. "He was ranting about how he would kill everyone, fill the streets with blood. But it weren't Vacho talking, I swear; I knew the lad, and it just didn't seem like him. Poor lad..."

"What happened to him?"

"Well, Lord Trowa, the Captain of the Guard, brought in soldiers to deal with him--but before they could move into position to grab him, two of the guests drew slugthrowers and gunned him down, right on the grand staircase. Took hours to get the blood out of the marble...." She sighs, then continues. "Oh, was Count Alvaro angry...well, the tensions were high all around, I guess. Funny...the only one who never seemed to lose his cool was that Mantis Lord, Count Andrei..."

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Guns from the heaven [Mon Aug 28]
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Overheard in the port.

"Hey Seamus.. is that what I think it is??"

"It most certainly is.. a Series IV Bannockburn Rocketer.. I've got the Frag missles for it as well."

"But how?? I can't even buy a hunting rifle!"

"Shhh Taomas, we wouldn't want to ruin a good thing.. say suffice that Imperial law doesn't extend to the Charioteer's orbital base. You can buy anything there! Don't you wonder why the nobles are allways taking that old guild shuttle up there?"

"Ahhh Seamas, thanks for the tip.. I'll be fetching my coins right now then."

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Rukov alive! [Tue Aug 29]
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"That's quite a hard-to-kill sonovabitch, that Rukov. I saw him on the Agora today, in the morning. He seems to have become a fisherman now, carrying that net whereever he goes. Anyway... he's back."

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Demon! [Tue Aug 29]
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"I...I..saw the daemon! It...It..was at the or-orphanage...It had...glowing...bl-blue eyes...a-and it...it...made...the...the...childrens' eyes...glow...blue...too!"

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Excorcism, League style [Wed Aug 30]
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So you've heard about the haunting of Vesiron eh? then you'd be come to ask about the casting out of the demon.. We all knew it were comming the Wheelers told everyone to stay in by night for fear of our lives, even the freemen. Three nights so without a sight of the monster then it came. On the fourth night when we had thought our guilded landlords had left us to our own defence. It road across the fields and up to the buildings black hoofs beating the crops down and it were comming damned close to Ander's farm when all of a sudden lights shot down on it from the sky and there were a boom like a tree breakin in two. The Demon turned and stumbled away back to the shadows. The next day we all came out to see it's blood on the ground and the wheelers held a feast. The priest from downroad came and blessed the fields and we're back to His dutiful labor. You can say what ya like about the Guilders but I'm behind em now..

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Church Offering [Wed Aug 30]
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A pair of drunk men are laughing hard in the Grinning Gannock...

"..and when the father came in to offer morning prayer, guess what he found in the donation coffer?"

"What?"

"A sack of pig dung!"

Both men laugh even harder.

"That's all the offworlders' Church deserves..."

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Death Magick? [Fri Sep 01]
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A wide-eyed man enters the Vortex. He nods at Becka's greeting and looks for a place at the bar, his back to the wall and the door in his field of vision. "Give me a brandy, my dearest... and leave the bottle where I can reach it. I've seen Dark Magick make a man kill himself this morning, and I badly need to drown that image."

Silence falls over the Vortex. Everyone turns their head to look at the speaker. Finally a young man voices the question foremost in all minds: "The Blue-eyed Demon struck again?"

"No... at least that's not what I saw. This morning, just after my neighbour's cock greeted the sun, I opened the window of my chamber just beneath the roof to take in some fresh air and look out over the sea. That's the benefit from looking out over the cliffs, I tell you. I don't have to see the Black Tower threatening the sky. And then I saw them standing there... three men, Offworlders all of 'em. That new Decados with the white furs who likes to stick his sword up other men's navel... the musician working for them Almaleeks... and a third guy I had not seen before, a hulking bruiser looking strong enough to throw a brute at you if the mood struck him right. The Big Guy holds one of these ... help me, lads. What do they call these short rifles that fire their shots like water pouring from a fireman's hose?"

"Summer-sheen-gun?"

"Yep, that's it! Thank you, Biggs. So the Big One has his summer-sheen-gun trained on the musician who stands a couple yards away from him and holds a little pistol pointed at the Big One. And the Lordling stands a bit closer, angled so the Big One won't get them both when firing, his hand on his sword, and the Big One and the Lordling growl and hiss at each other in that uncouth heathen tongue the Decados revert to when they're talking amongst themselves... sweat pours from the musician's forehead like he's going to melt any minute while the other two just hiss and growl."

"So what? What's so special about it?"

"Just wait... then this little kitten of the Almaleeks, all clad in the colour of Blood although she wasn't wearing that much really... she walks up to them and gets another little gun out from somewhere beneath her scant clothes don't ask me where that one was hidden, folks! -and they stood around that poor guy like a triangle, and the musician and the Kitten of Blood started talking in their own tongue, and then... then the Big One settles the mouth of his summer-sheen-gun right below his jaw and lets loose."

A groan resonates all through the room; faces turn pale or green trying to imagine the scene. The storyteller continues: "And his head burst open like a melon falling from a cart, and pieces of red and white splattered everywhere before his headless body collapsed right in the center of their Death Spell triangle... and I ... well... I haven't eaten since this very morning. Can't stand the sight of food with this picture engraved in my memory..."

"Someone's got to do something about it. Black Magick in the light of day... the Inquisition will hear about this, I assure you."

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Books 'an stuff [Mon Sep 04]
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'I am so proud of me son.' A mother's glowing smile "Thats little Andrew? The
one that joined that temple? Priest now is he?" 'Aye.. me little Andrew. He
comes to's us the last day awarning us of bad books. Luckily we only have da
Good Book in our house. He went nextdoor and found some books, he called it
'qestinable litterture' and helped them folks burn it before it touched them
with infectikns.' "He did? That id good.. I have seen some of them books people
brings down these days." 'Yes! Well he says they found some book with all evil
rituals and things. Makes people go crazy, you have not seen another riot
recently have ya?' leans closer 'Apparent it was on of them Ukarai devil ritual
books. He says them thinks it was used to spell the people into riotin'. So.. ah
if ya hear anything about bad books. You let them temple men know. Yes.. they
will come burn the place clean.'
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Unhappy Customers? [Tue Sep 05]
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A merchant in the Agora glances around with a smirk, then speaks to a vendor selling coffee. "Say, Vikko, have you been by Russel's Curio shop recently?"

The vendor, evidently Vikko, raises an eyebrow. "Smiling Mo's place? I didn't know that snake was still in business..."

The other merchant snorts. "Well, if he was, he surely ain't no more. Them Mantis soldiers busted up the shop right good, and chased that bastard Mo down the River Road. He ain't been seen since..."

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From the mouthes of babes. [Tue Sep 05]
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Two young local boys overheard talking in the Agora. One older, the younger one sucking on a lolly pop."

"Hey Timothy... did you hear tha' shootin' last night?"

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One way to unstop the drain... [Wed Sep 06]
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A group of Vargens stand huddled near the monument, talking amongst themselves and glaring at the backs of every offworlder that passes...

"...I tell you, 'twas foolishness," asserts a lean man with an acne-scarred face. "Showin' themselves in the city in the first place. Practically askin' to get caught--but that woman, she has guts. Pullin' the...key?...on one of them offworlder grain-aid bombs..."

A rotund woman with graying blonde hair snorts. "She's got more balls than you'll ever have, Sigerd, the Commandant does..."

A tall, broad-shouldered man with a smashed-looking nose shushes the woman, and looks around sharply. "Keep it down. Won't do none o' us any good to be thrown in the gaol with them two blessed patriots. When time comes to spring 'em, there'll be a need for people to fill the streets."

The woman shrugs. "Better be soon; the offworlders'll have stretched their necks or shot 'em before long." She turns back the skinny Vargen. "What became of that...what was it called? Gray-nade?"

The other man scratches at his scarred face. "Strange thing...the Commandant, she put it on top of the shrine to that dead offworlder priestess...but before it blew, the damned thing rolled off and went down that storm drain over there. Sprayed sewer water into the air like a fountain, it did..."

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Anyone Got a Spare? [Wed Sep 06]
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Two lowly porters march out of the Charioteer compound, laughing...

"Didja seek the look on deir faces...all of dem fancy trucks and vehikles and all of deir tires flat!"

"Da Guild must have lost a fortune 'cus dey couldn't ship anyding today!"

"But a pretty firebird we make today, eh mate?"

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Urban Renovation [Thu Sep 07]
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"I still can't believe it," mutters an Agora merchant, staring at the cordoned-off rubble that was once a shrine. "I knew the offworlders have it in for *our martyrs...but to destroy a shrine to one of their own?"

"They're a faithless lot," mutters a hatchet-faced woman customer. "Like Father Deso says; they all worship the Shadows, and consort with daemons."

"They aren't *all faithless," counters the merchant. "Why, some of the offworlders were ready to kill when they saw that al-Malik and her Decados boyfriend desecrating the shrine...dragging that poor martyr's bones out like that."

The woman snorts, a sneer curling her upper lip. "I can't say as I care for *any of their martyrs. They sure don't give a damn about any of ours."

The merchant shakes his head sadly. "Ah...but this one...I was here in the Agora the day the Slavers attacked. That Sister Leonie, she gave her life for *us*. "

A dark chuckle rises from the woman's throat. "That's probably why they tore up her shrine."

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Whispers In The Corner [Fri Sep 08]
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A cluster of day workers sit in one corner, drinking away their pay.

One of them, a dirty man with a lice infested beard whispers to his companions, "Di'ja hear wot happ'n'd to Rizzy?"

One of his drinking pals asks, "Wot?"

The man doesn't even say a word, but raises his finger up to his throat and pretends to slice across it. "Da punishment fo' wo'k'ng wi' demon wo'shipp'ng offwo'ders."

The table falls silent.

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Unladylike behavior [Sat Sep 09]
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Hey, didja heard? Julia got into a fight!

Julia that was working at the Gannock?

Ayup.

Well, what's the excitment about? That lass has been into fights for the best part of the last two years.

Maybe, but this time it was against a noble. A noble /lady/.

Eh? I never heard of Julia fighting girls. Well, there was that 300lbs imperial soldier that was refusing to pay her bill at the Gannock...

*smile True. I bet that Imperial still wonder from whence this chair came from.

So, what happened?

Well, I wasn't there, it's Tom that saw it all. He says she was at the cafe, at the Agora with that lady. They had an argument, and the noble slapped Julia...

*wince Ouch. NOT a wise move.

...and Julia answers by punching her in the face...

That's Julia all right. I asked her once why she wasn't slapping like all the other girls do. "'cause a good slap can't knock out teeth," was her answer.

...then the noble try to kick her, doign some fancy outworld move. Julia pulls out a kind of big stick our of nowhere, the noble pulls out a gun. Someone, another noble, grabs the lady and, well, Tom was fuzzy about this part, but it seems Julia /didn't/ bashed in the noble's head, and got kicked in the face for her trouble.

Oookay. And do you know what all this fuss was about?

That's the strangest part. I saw Julia on the street no less than a hour ago. She has a big bruise on her cheek and swollen lips. I told her I knew about the fight, and asked who was the noble, and why she picked up a fight with her. She was opening her mouth when an odd look crossed her face. She just shrugged and said she didn't know the noble's name, and that they had been fighting over girl stuff.

Girl stuff, eh?

Yeah, I know. But one thing I learned from all my years of drinkign, is to never insist if the barmaid don't want to speak.

She's no longuer barmaid, Bob.

Maybe, but she now has a big, big stick, which is equivalent.

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Ball Games [Sun Sep 10]
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A group of people are gossiping in a seedy offworlder-free pub; one of them looks as if he's had quite a scare recently.

"Hey there, Brad! You're looking very pale..."

Brad, the scared-looking fellow, gasps, "You bet your life I am!"

"Lemme guess MORE offworlder trouble?" asks a third person.

The first man snorts. "What else?", then shuts up as Brad begins to speak.

"Yes! Oh...where do I start?" Brad puts his hands to his head for a moment.

"FROM THE TOP!!!" his mates chorus.

More composed now, Brad says, "Right. Well, there's two offworlders standing in the Agora talking you know, the really tall but thin noble guy, yellow hair, in dark blue from head to toe, and this other Scraver with tatts all over his face. Then suddenly, this shiny metal ball drifts down from the sky, slow like a feather, and then just floats there in mid-air with nothing holding it up!"

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Lost Sleep [Mon Sep 11]
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" Say, did you hear that big explosion last night?" A Vargen queries one of his countrymen in Carik's Place.

"Oi," mutters the other man. "Who could have missed it?"

"Well, it was right outside my apartment, on Agora Road. Cracked my windows, and nearly shook me out of my bed--I could see the flash with my eyes closed. When I went to look, there was a big cloud of smoke over the street, and little bits of metal and... stuff... all over the ground."

"Damn!" exclaims the second Vargen. "What was it--more daemon-spawned magic of the offworlders?"

"Of course," snorts the first man. "When I was watchin' I heard one of their 'nobles' tried to blame the Mercedes for it..." He pauses to cross himself. "May their souls find peace in the Light."

His companion scowls. "Dark-lovin' fiends, the offworlders are. As if it wasn't enough for 'em to *kill the blessed Mercedes; now the offworlders're trying to blame them for their own wickedness."

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Mad as hell and not above crushing [Mon Sep 11]
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Old Gretta enters the Market with a chip on her shoulder and while she does the Hawkwood shopping she reads her fellow Vargans the riot act.

"You're a fine lot. You Azul and little Tom.. Whom my sister raised when your mother died.. come to watch another spectical.. go work your fields as the good Lord proscripes and the lot of you! Shame wear on your brow for the manure that pours from your mouth. I hear blood had killed blood and for nothing less than workin for the offworlders. What was young Rizzy's wife's crime that you all should make her a widow. Don't shake yer head Fat Sally Caster! For I've heard ye talking about the Demon Worshippin Offworlders. Our precious noble Mercedes kicked me out when I lost my looks but the Lionhouse keeps me to work and care for my grandboys. I've swept under their feet and I see no tails behind them. Yet you gossip and slander and drag your tonges for you've not enough light in ya ta drag a hoe. It's not as though strangeness never befell Vargo before the Offworlders but I guess you're all to young to remeber five short years ago when there were no offworlders. We still starved and our crops still failed and our young women still came home in tears. There were demons and night-crackers and all manner of strangeness.. So when you think to pass blame for what's not level here first axe why you're working your mouth instead of your land!"

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Accident [Mon Sep 11]
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A couple of servants gossip with a merchant in the Agora:

"Ya hear about old Gretta? A cart broke loose and ran her over..."

"Pity, she was a kind woman except for her nagging..."

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Anyone Got a Spare? [Tue Sep 12]
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Hey Carlos I seen that Red-Headed Charioteer everyone's askin about pullin a cart..

There's news.. the Charioteers got no trucks how else but with wagons..

No Carlos not just drivin a cart but pullin it.. to load the ships, shirt tied up and diggin her heels into the dirt pullin it.. That's heart.

Heh.. Aye Tohmas. I think I do like that Charioteer, She's got fire allright...

Haha Go home to your woman Carlos, chainers and wheelers never mix..

Heh.. I hear it's a different story for Scravers and Wheelers..

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Of blue eyes and green eyes... [Tue Sep 12]
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A dark figure emerges from a side alley and mingles with a crowd of merchants at the Agora.

"Just imagine who I just saw," the dark one begins, thus drawing the attention of the merchants.

"That blue-eyed killer?" one of the merchants asks laughing.

The dark one hrms, muttering something, then says, "Yeah." The laughter breaks off, and the others fall silent and listen.

"I'm 'bout leaving home, then I hear that voices. Speak in a demonic tongue, they do, that Decados language..."

The merchants nod, and one throws in: "Russian," thus earning some more nods.

"It's that bald one, eyes glowing blue. Don't notice me, but still makes me blood chill, I tell yer. An there's another..." The dark one smiles, enjoying the attention for a moment before he goes on, "A Decados lord, that young dandy who's so quick with the blade."

The listeners hold their breath, and some start muttering among themselves, "...Decados scheme..." "...demon worshippers..." "...killer and Valentin..."

The narrator smiles again, and says, "The lord turns and looks right at me, and I tell yer, and his eyes are glowing green like the devil's! Me off, of course, don't want them to think I'm spying on 'em. And here I am. Weird, huh?"

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Demon Sightings [Tue Sep 12]
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"...I swear...I saw the demon...It was in the belfry of the Cathedral...howling like an animal!"

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Chatting Sentries... [Tue Sep 12]
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As you walk down the street, you overhear two clean cut Hazat sentries chatting while on post.

One of them, a 'Private Gonzalo' snickers, "Did'ja you hear 'bout that Dec-a-dos Knight who challenged the Captain?"

The other guard dry spits a pomegranate seed to the ground, looking half interested, "Yessir. Didn't our Cap'n ignore him?"

Gonzalo shrugs, "Not sure. All *I know is... and your gonna love this... our Cap'n wasn't scared of a thing, marched right on over to meet that Knight's invitation... and guess what... he wasn't even there!"

On that note, both sentries begin to snicker, then look back to the road.

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Patriotic Ecnomics... [Wed Sep 13]
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A Vargen jeweler in the Agora polishes some of his stock as he chats with a fruit vendor. "...and so, I asked ol' Jarl why he done struck the Wheelers' sign from his cart, and replaced it with that new one..."

The other man grunts in understanding. "I seen it, Nick; a jumpcross with a wagon in the middle."

"Aye, that's the one," the jeweler confirms. "Jarl, he said he and a lot o' other honest Vargens don't work for those Chari'teers anymore. Sick to death of being terrified o' rebels killin' 'em on some lonely stretch of road. And..." He peers around slyly. "Worried for their souls, on account of the Wheelers bein' in league with the daemon-worshippers."

The fruit vendor crosses himself. "Aren't we all? Still...we need to feed our families. If I don't get fruit and vegetables trucked in from the countryside, I'm out of business--and those Wheelers have locked up most of the overland trade."

"Not no more," counters Nick the jeweler. "Jarl and his pals, they've formed their own 'guild'--that's what that symbol is for. They call themselves the Brothers of Paulus, and they're all honest, Pancreator-fearing Vargens..."

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For Honor and...Glory? [Wed Sep 13]
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A servant in Hazat livery chats with a Li Halan householder on South Hapsburg...

"...and so, the two duelists exchanged several strokes, at first cutting nothing but the air. Then came the funny part..."

"What was that?" queries the Li Halan with interest, hanging on every word."

"The Mantis, Lord Valentin, he overextended himself and split his britches! It was all I could do to keep from rolling on the floor..." The Hazat servant starts to laugh, and almost immediately falls silent and glances cautiously at the Tower.

The Li Halan householder seems to ponder a moment, then blushes furiously.

"Anyway...Don Trowa, he finally got in a good stroke--a masterful thrust it was--but the Decados beat his blade aside, and came back with a riposte, and missed. We were looking for the Captain to strike again, but the..."

"What?" the Li Halan asks urgently, as the Hazat lowers his head and falls silent again.

"To our surprise, and no less to the Captain's, the Mantis...he disarmed Don Trowa," the Hazat servant replies reluctantly. "The Captain's sword flew across the room--within inches of My Lord Count!--and imbedded in the wall!" He sighs. "A shame...but Don Trowa accepted his defeat with honor, that he did..."

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Pauly Merchants [Wed Sep 13]
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Iris and Loki take breakfast next to their carts, having a good laugh at Jarl and his gang.

"Look at them over their with their dry flowers and moulding pears, did you ever see such a thing?"

"Never Loki, I'm a prideful girl but those fools haven't a hope in Stigmata with those wares"

"It's not their doing lass, they just don't have a guild under them. No house will deal with them, they've no money and no better reputation than thieves. God knows how they can afford taxes and tolls.. Jarl was a fool to turn his back on the guild."

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Desertions [Thu Sep 14]
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A pair of carters trudge through the Agora, carrying the foodstuffs for another day at the market.

"Oi, Wallis, ja hear about Kenric's son?"

"You mean the one that joined the VSP?"

"Ja, he and his old man got into a scuffle the other night, he wants to quit the VSP?"

"Quit, why?"

"Bad pay, long hours, no respect, and those religious soldiers, the Brothers, bossing him around when they have no authority. He said half the VSP is thinking of quitting."

"Ain't that desertion."

"Only in the army."

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Complaint [Thu Sep 14]
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An irate merchant rants in the Agora...

"..and so this pick pocket ran off, and I run to this Holy Soldier, asking him to help me, and he chases the thief barely 10 feet and loses him in the crowd..."

A bystander chimes in, "Well, the constables would have only been able to chase him 20 feet!"

There is a round of laughter.

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Overlords [Thu Sep 14]
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A brute driver rides back into town, grumbling. "...'twas a horrible sight I tell ya, they had a corpse strung up outside of the village, and I asked what he did, and no one would say a word. Cursed Mantis, demon worshipping sinners they be, without an ounce of humanity in them, I tell ya..."

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Bones and Mantisses [Fri Sep 15]
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"Those Mantis people... they're weird..." a young woman tells her companions while drinking at the Sovereign Club. "Always been thinkin them nobles wear too much jewels, I have... but that blond Decados! Can't deny he looks good... no I canna... but las week, las week I see him... and under the cloak, there's that silver bones... bones! Life size! That's macabre, ain't it? Dragons'n Lions and Mantisses are one thing... but bones?"

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Trouble up north [Sat Sep 16]
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I was just up at th' Hazat lands up north, Filsan.. Y'know it? Well I was talkin' with some a them serfs and they were tellin' me that there was an awfull racket in th' middle of the night, gunshots.. lot's of 'em, prolly went on for nearly 10 minutes they say, those summer-sheen guns or somethin'.. wonder if th' rebels are breakin' through t' come back for th' city?

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Damned Dangerous [Sat Sep 16]
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'Yeah.. so when I saw the overturned wagon I did not think much of it.. all _I_ wanted to do was go past.. yes. It was a Wheeler wagon.. Thats when I saw the bodies. Looks like someone had ambushed them. So of course I stopped. Just 'cause I don't work with 'em does not mean I can let them lie there you know.

Anyhow.. me and Pete, we get of to take a look the next minute they jump up! Guns from now where.. you know those shummersheen guns. Hell I don't know. They looked like Wheelers. They sounded like 'em too. Me? I just dropped, face in the ground, hands out. Pete tried to run so they shot him.. Damned Wheelers.'

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Several Engineers killed in daring [Sat Sep 16]
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Factory workers all over the city have their tongues wagging about a recent robbery attempt made against the Supreme Order of Engineers. A section of the road outside the guildhall is being repaved by Muster Edificers.

Most of the stories start the same way. An unidentified man crashed a truck into the armored front gate of the guildhall. It then blew up in an enormous fire-ball, destroying the gate and part of the surrounding wall, and injuring a few people in the street some distance away. When the bomb went off, a lot of people up and down the Parade were hurt, but outside the guild's grounds, no one was hurt too badly. Inside, however, is another story. Two large trucks crashed through the remains of the gate and into the Engineer's grounds. Men then got out of the two trucks and started shooting Engineers and stealing everything they could carry.

From that point on, all the stories start to vary. Some people say they saw Brother Battle stormtroopers respond to the explosion, and got into a firefight with the thieves, complete with lasers and grenades and machine-guns and even a flitter. Other people say the VSP stormed the complex, arresting all the robbers immediately before anyone got hurt, but the VSP was seen walking out of the compound without anyone in hand-cuffs. A few people say something about Hazat stroops showing up. The stories get even wilder and more absurd, the more they are told: a few people were gossiping at the Grinning Gannock that the Engineer Consul killed all the robbers himself bare-handed and ate the remains after everyone left. A few people say that the robbers turned on each other and started shooting one-another as if they went mad. And it comes on good authority that one of the Brother Battle auxiliaries swears that he saw some sort of unholy creatures crawl out of the ground and slaughter the theives with bullets set afire that tore people to pieces.

Everyone has different opinions on the thieves. Some people thought they were terrorists who just wanted to kill people. A few VSP think that its some sort of guild warfare, since the trucks had Charioteer markings and the burglars were so many and so well armed. The Brother Battle and the nobles think they were rebels, trying to make off with Engineer weapons. Some of the factory workers think they were just poor citydwellers who thought that the Engineers had a lot of valuable things they could steal. A few stories are as wild as Decados or Shelit assassins sent to kill all the Engineers and steal their works, a crack team of Avestite Inquisitors from Pyre sent to eradicate the Engineers, and Reeve theives who think the Engineers owe them money.

The Engineers have said little. The only thing people can tell is that the next day, the gate and wall to the complex was rebuilt stronger, and there was no sign of the carnage that took place. And, supposedly, Engineer Consul Howe has offered a large reward for any information on where the robbers came from.

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Has Anyone seen the Magister? [Sun Sep 17]
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Whispers flood the very walls of the Deimos Mission and have trickled into the streets of the Agora. Where has the Eskatonic Magister gone? Some rumor that perhaps his pilgrimage has stolen him away to the shores of the Vargo Penisula, a favoured passtime of his but all attempts to search him out there have failed. Worse yet, it is thought that he has taken ill with his eyes showing signs of stress along with a nagging whisping cough.

What is stranger that as his council date approaches, he is no where to be found. The Prophets have guided him away, and the Brothers of his order are hoping that the winds may bring him safely home.

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Backpacking the Vargo Horror Show [Sun Sep 17]
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One middlingly-wealthy Vargen man in the Grinning Gannock takes a small sip of his grog, looking somewhat ashen. It's well known that he trades a lot with the offworlders, and that he enjoys the shows at the Magic Lantern. Today, however, he is anything but his usual bouncy self. One of his friends slides into the booth next to him. "Hey, Will! What's up? The Pandemonium Horror Show is anything but scary, let me tell y...."

"It's not the Pandemonium Horror Picture Show. A void kraken take the Pandemonium Horror Picture Show."

His friend looks concerned. "Oh, sorry. What happened, then?"

"All right. I was just sitting down to enjoy the magic lantern show when this huge guy in grey walks in. And I mean, **huge**. He's trying to conceal it a bit by hunching over, and walks down to the centre row and sits down. Some of the morons grumble and cuss; I didn't. He has a backpack with him."

"Go on..."

"Then, another big fellow, that tall Hawkwood knight who acts like their spokesman and none other than Priest-Captain Dawn walk in."

"Doesn't seem like your average offworld noble or churcher, going into the Magic Lantern..."

"Well, they had their reasons. The Hawkwood and Priest-Captain head to the corner, then change their minds and start to move to the aisle behind the huge guy. Around this time, the huge guy gets up, leaving the backpack, and walks out. The Priest-Cap searches the backpack while the Hawkwood looks on, and then she suddenly gets up with the bag and *runs out just as the new show starts! The Hawkwood follows her at the same pace. Sicne I'm not interested in Raiders of the Vuldrok Frontier, I follow them out and decide to head after them. They pound to the docks and the Priest-Cap throws the backpack in the river!"

Will's friend shoots him an amused look, but refrains from comment.

"The two of them throw themselves flat and crawl towards cover, and the fish near the bag start fighting each other crazily. Some guy on a boat tries to come in for a closer look, and the Priest-Cap yells for everyone to get clear and that it's a bomb. There's no explosion, but the fish have been ripped up, it looks like, by the other fish. I'm not nuts enough to try and eavesdrop on the two offworlders, but I also ran for cover. One idiot yells foul magic and he and his friends look at the Hawkwood and the Priest-Cap, then the Hawkwood begins addressing everybody. He said that the bomb made creatures around it go crazy and attack each other. Emphasised the PC's role in preventing a tragedy. And told them that it had originally been placed in the theatre."

'I'm listening..."

"Those morons didn't look like they were convinced." Will shakes his head. "A pack of fools, the lot of them. I was in the theatre. I saw the whole of it. They did not." He shudders. "If it hadn't been for them...I wouldn't be here talking to you right now."

The other fellow takes a pull of his own drink thoughtfully...

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Fire Sale... [Mon Sep 18]
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A pair of Vargens are loitering on the Promenade, staring across the street at the gutted ruins of Anand's Tailor Shop...

"So, it seems someone decided to burn out Anand, eh?" queries a thin, rat-faced man.

"Aye," agrees his stout companion. "And Anand's lucky he didn't get burned along with his business."

The skinny man smirks. "Well, that's what happens to collaborators, isn't it?"

The other man cuffs him upside the head. "What, are you a rebel now?" He snorts. "Hell, we all have to put food on the table, and the o'worlders are the ones with all the money."

"Yeah, that's right," mutters the thin Vargen. "But will they shake any of it loose to help Anand get back on his feet? In a pig's eye they will..."

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Invisible Demons [Mon Sep 18]
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"So, I made the trek to the Riptide," A freeman in the Agora asserts to one of the merchants.

"Whatever for?" asks the vendor with a sneer. "The swill they serve there in place of beer sure ain't worth the hike."

"Well," answers the other Vargen, with a cautious glance around. "It's hard to find a pub that isn't infested with offworlders these days..."

The merchant grunts in grudging agreement. "Aye, that's the truth. So, you were saying?"

"I was talkin' to some fishermen there, and they were sayin' they've been plagued of late by these invisible air daemons out on the bay..."

The merchant frowns. "If they're invisible, how do they know they're there?"

The storyteller nods shrewdly. "I asked the same question. Well, seems you can see the daemons from the corner of your eye--looks like a fuzzy shadow dancin' around yer head. When you turn to look at it, it disappears..."

The merchant frowns, and looks up at the sky suspiciously as he crosses himself.

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Jails [Mon Sep 18]
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A trio of VSP patrolmen drag a thief through the streets towards the municipal dungeon. One patrolman asks, "W'ere we gonna put this one?"

One of the other two shrugs, "Dunno, they got criminals packed 10 in a cell for 2, and the Magister's gone on a holy mission. So we just keep packin' in like sardines."

The third patrolman quips, "Yeah, but at least sardines smell better than that filthy mess. This poor bloke is gonna be getting a taste of hell..."

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A Lesson in Noble intimidation [Wed Sep 20]
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Two merchants talking in the Agora.

"Did ya see that!" one says.

"Aye. Them Hazats have a temper fer sure."

"That Musterman were askin' fer trouble but." the first continues. "Ya saw the guesture he made to the Noble?" He makes a shape of a gun with his hand.

"Yeah I saw. Was the insult that cocked the Nobleman off, but."The second shakes his head. "Looked to me like the Hazat Captain were ready to rip the Musterlimb-from-limb.

The other man just nods. "Let him of light yellin' at him like that."

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Flotsam and Jetsam [Thu Sep 21]
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A Charioteer pilot is out on the town, decked out in a gaudy uniform that outsparkles the decor in the Sovereign State, where he regales a Scraver woman with tales of his adventures in the Void. "...so I just come through the gate, right? My radar suddenly goes on the fritz. Bam! I'm flying blind. Well, I could still see with my eyes, but... are you with me?"

The Scraver shrugs, then nods indifferently.

"Ho-kay... I tinker with the wiring in the cockpit awhile--nothing. So I suit up and go out into the Void to take a look. I mean, I'm no Engineer, but I figure, maybe it's something obvious, y'know? Anyway, I crawl along the hull to the receiver array... and I find something stuck in the grid! You'll never guess what it was..."

"No, I don't suppose I will," the Scraver woman says with a smile. "Why don't you tell me?"

"Oh, right," says the Wheeler. "Ho-kay... it was this green disk, about so wide..." He holds his hands six inches apart. "With carving on one side. A woman, I think... anyway, radar works fine after I pull it out, and when I get to Vargo I show the disk to this Engineer pal of mine at the starport..."

The Scraver's eyes are now sharp as they watch the pilot, though he seems oblivious to her sudden interest.

"... I thought for sure he would tell me it was UrTech--or something alien, anyway. Turned out it was just made of jade. Probably thrown out of a passing ship as junk

The Scraver seems disappointed. "I see... and what did you do with this jade disk?"

The Charioteer smiles like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. "I sold it to that Deogol chap in the Agora. Easiest 50 'birds I ever made, let me tell ya."

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