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Issue #112

Shelby Chartrand, Augstat, Hesse

In the aftermath of Emperor Kordaava’s assassination, alleged sightings of a mythical creature along the border of Hesse and the Garnon Forest have increased to what officials are calling “epic and hysterical” levels.

The Lizard King, often described as a humanoid reptilian creature and sometimes said to be armed with weaponry ranging from the crude to the sophisticated, is just one of many distressing images and stories that have arisen as the empire comes to grips with the emperor’s death. Unlike most rumors, however, the Lizard King tale has gained veracity due to its myriad sightings and the plethora of details surrounding its appearances. In the most recent incident, a Somacian caravan just across the border from the desert kingdom was found with its members slaughtered less than three hours after peasants in the area had reported to local militia a “weird monster” roaming the countryside.

According to descriptions, the Lizard King—so called due to a crude crown it wears that seems to be made of bones that include at last one human skull—is an animal with unusual intelligence. Its ambush tactics, use of complicated tools, and ability to recognize both danger and vulnerability in its victims all indicate a higher intelligence, says Elisandra, an elven druid from the Garnon. Elisandra specializes in undocumented species.

“But it also has clear animal instincts,” she points out. “Its voracious appetite and predatory habits suggest it has a great deal in common with reptiles like crocodiles and lesser dragons.”

Ranging all along the Garnon River and inland to the edge of seasonal flood zones, the Lizard King has been linked to a number of violent encounters and seemingly random acts of destruction. In addition to the disappearance of livestock as well as the vandalism of barns and farmhouses, Hecks have reported the murder of at least twelve farmers, herdsmen, and ranchers along the river basin. Because many communities are comprised of isolated farmers who often aren’t seen for months at a time, that death toll may rise when harvest and market season arrives but not all local residents appear at the markets.   

Lynus, a professor of history and the chair of the Global History Lab at the University of Kordava in Augstat and whose research includes the Garnon Forest and the denizens therein, says the Lizard King may, in fact, be an amalgamation of multiple creatures that defy most biological logic. He claims to have discovered varied signs of strange inhabitants in the forest that support some of the eyewitness accounts of the Lizard King, including scales that he cannot ascribe to any other creature. The Garnon has a reputation for being the birthplace of numerous life forms that Lynus calls “the stuff of living nightmares.”

“There have been unexplained deaths from Tavja to Somacia,” he concedes, “but it’s worth noting that the descriptions of the Lizard King are consistently inconsistent. Sometimes it’s said to have huge teeth. Other times, it’s described as being more snake-like. Some of the supposed victims are confirmed as being killed with weapons while others were apparently partially eaten.”

“It’s easy,” he adds, “to fall back on our base fears and blame the Garnon for monsters when the Lizard King may be a singular animal with bestial intellect that has become a scapegoat for criminal elements in society to rob, destroy, and kill without fear of arrest.”

If the Lizard King is real, Lynus goes on to clarify, “its reputation is more likely the result of brigands and murderers laying the blame for their crimes at its feet. It’s a common enough occurrence when serial killers have a recognizable pattern for others to imitate that pattern in their own crimes to avert responsibility.”

Lynus’ research into the truth or myth of the Lizard King will be available for consideration later this year.

Critics of the Lizard King mythology cite widespread tales of other strange occurrences since the assassination of Emperor Kordaava. The sudden and unexpected departure of the Drasildar—giants who served as the emperor’s personal guard for the duration of his reign—sparked substantial tavern talk, the critics point out, much of it based solely on fear. A cottage industry of “doomsayers” has sprung up since the assassination, most of them predicting Ragnarok or other apocalyptic events now that Lord Kordaava isn’t “holding the cosmos together.” Three different individuals have claimed to be the emperor reincarnated, including a three-year-old blind girl and an eighty-six-year-old homeless beggar in International Faire.

The Lizard King itself has also become a source for fantastical rumors. Allegedly, Konig Rusdorf had asked Governor Gustavus to intervene in the search for the creature, though even if the story were true, it would be unlikely to result in any action. When the konig and his entire family were assassinated, the rumor of his request to the governor expanded to suggest the Lizard King itself may have had a hand in the murders. Granting the Lizard King political motivations, critics say, is “ridiculous and paranoid.”

“They’re out there, the charlatans and the con artists,” one Grand Master Kurig of the Hesse military says in response to public reaction to Lizard King sightings. “They’re selling wards and charms to keep this thing away. Diviners are telling people it’s searching for something, and that’s why it’s attacking farmhouse and killing peasants. It makes no sense—unless it’s looking for bales of hay, it’s looking in all the wrong places.”

Kurig concedes that the fear and confusion amongst the general populace after the shocking assassination of Kordaava demands an organized response to stem the growing tide of such stories. “If it exists, we’ll catch it and deal with it,” he says. “But it’s important to remember that the only people who have seen this lizard thing are peasants, farmers, and nomads. No military patrol, no hunting party, not even a gate guard high on Marn Ganja has seen this thing.

“I’m not saying we won’t handle it if it’s real, but we won’t be marching the Hecks into the Garnon to chase a potential collective delusion.”

Dietta the Mouse, Augstat, Hesse

Has it already been a year? 

With the precision clockwork cadence of the Anumians’ weekly phases, elves appear in heavy numbers once again to protest cruelty to trees and the systematic attack on the Georgian Forest.

Since Emperor Kordaava established the Imperial shipyards off the coast of the Georgian Forest, elves have called for the stop of timber cutting in the region. 

“These majestic trees protect our lands, give home to flora and fauna,” said Ada Loban Nythil, ambassador of the Georgian Forest to the emperor. “The forest is a living entity, a biological community to be cherished and protected, not to be harvested and consumed. The life of a tree is no less precious than that of a mortal. When they cry, we cry.”

With the sudden death of the emperor, the elves have grown increasingly bold, unafraid of repercussions from Saratof. Some are reportedly employing potent spellcraft to hinder timber harvesting.

“No sooner is the underbrush cut and cleared than the next day, it’s grown back,” said Mieczyslaw, a lumberjack working for Humboldt Cut, a timber company contracted to supply lumber to the Imperial shipyards. “We don’t see the elves, but we know they’re there. Very little process is being made. Poor Woyzeck, went out for a midnight pee the other night and got swallowed up in a walking wall of briar thorns. The next morning, it took ten men to cut him free.”

The spells elves are unleashing on the loggers are more mischievous than harmful but nevertheless have the loggers alarmed.

The loss of timber is already slowing ship construction and is affecting other wood-related businesses and products. “If we don’t hit our timber quota,” said Mieczyslaw, “we don’t get paid. I need money for my wife and children. What is more important, a tree or my children eating?”

Note: The K.I. is searching for a new paper supplier as insurance until the Georgian Forest protests are resolved.

Hasala of Stahleck, Augstat, Hesse

A halfling woman, apparently suffering from a decade-long demon possession, claims she painted a portrait of Emperor Kordaava and was magically healed.

“The demon was cast out,” said Sawsee Sylva, the woman at the center of the claim.

People who know her agree: something was definitely not right.

“She would ramble incoherently, yelling and screaming at people who weren’t there,” said Utza, an old school companion. “The affliction drained her soul. A walking misery, she was.  Sawsee couldn’t hold down a job and her family and friendships suffered. The last time I saw her, she was maiming her own body. ‘Trying to cut the demon out,’ she told me.”

For more than last ten years, Sawsee has been a fixture around Boars Kriese, where she can be found in her favorite haunts, sitting and painting whatever catches her fancy. “She paints pictures of buildings and landscapes, but prefers people—‘her friends,’ she calls them,“ said Rombi, a street vendor who supplies her paints. 

Currently, Sawsee works as a fishmonger at the Port Market. Though her story might sound insane, her outward appearance is calm and level-headed. “When I heard the emperor was killed, it hurt like a knife to the chest,” Sawsee said. “The news almost killed Muurmurr—that’s the devil that was inside me.  He made me suffer, like I was the one who did it.

“To draw the picture of the emperor,” she continued, “I just imagined what he looked like, slumped dead on the throne. Muurmurr didn’t like me thinking like that, and he told me to stop, but it was cathartic, so I kept painting. So loud did Muurmurr scream, I thought my head would burst. When I finished the emperor’s dead eyes staring—that’s always the last thing I draw when working on a portrait, the eyes. I don’t like them looking at me when I’m drawing. It’s scary and kinda creepy, you know? Anyway, when I finished the portrait, Muurmurr was so mad, he was flung out of me like a catapult and landed in the painting. At first, he yelled at me, like he always did. wanting me to take him back. But I felt so much relief with him gone, the weight of evil lifted from my crushed soul, that I wasn’t about to listen. When his yelling didn’t work, he started to cry and moan, promising to be my friend. But I knew him better than I know myself and I didn’t believe his lyin’ eyes. When his blistering lies fell on deaf ears, he resorted to tricks and curses. He flung a hairy mojowax booger hex at me. ‘F— you, Muurmurr,’ I said, ‘You ain’t my friend.’ And I stabbed the painting and killed that demon soul molester. See!”

As proof, Sawsee held up a painting of what could be Emperor Kordaava sitting on his throne, but heavy blotches of paint or possibly blood running down the canvas made his likeness unclear. 

“You know what?” Sawsee said, winking. “That weren’t Emperor Kordaava I drew. That was Muurmurr dead on the throne.”

She giggled an unnerving cackle.

Since then, Sawsee and Utza have reunited, their friendship on the mend. As for magical healing, no one can say for certain, but if you ask Utza, she’ll tell you: the portrait somehow, inexplicably, saved her friend. And that’s what matters most.

Hasala of Stahleck, Augstat, Hesse

Nothing entices gravers to action more than the dream of treasure and the dire warning “off-limits.” 

Forbidden to enter comes in a variety of colors and flavors. There is the mundane variety: a wealthy landowner surrounding his land with signs that read “Private Property: Keep Out!” Then there’s the supernatural variety: Ma’at tombs that protect their dead with living curses. And then there are the evil forests protected by rumors and spine-chilling tales of repercussions for ignoring the warnings (“No one who has entered has ever returned”). Sometimes, simple is the best way to convey the message: post a burly guard who will kill anyone who comes close. (We call this the Drasildar Off-Limits Paradigm.)  There are also international “off-limits” barriers, like the kingdom of Niesse. In truth, nothing screams “off-limits” more than the majestic Divinity Mountains and the fear of the orc menace breeding non-stop underneath. 

Recently, a group of a gravers calling themselves the Lords and Ladies of Fortuna were witnessed carousing at Heroes Den, a vice-laden graver bar in the city of Sheol in the kingdom of Arusha on the continent of Samarria.

Every city has their flavor of a graver bar—Augstat has the Bitter End Pub, and Sheol… Based on graver reverence for the hallowed ground, Heroes Den must be the end-all-be-all of graver bars. Note that it’s not in upscale downtown Saratof; rather, it’s on the edge of Somarria like the last spike in a dragon’s tail, a land of chaos where barbarians roam and anything goes.

As such, these narcissist Lords and Ladies of Fortuna tossed around elven platinum as if they were high elves and ordered the most expensive liquor mortals can buy. Reports suggested they spent much of their time living high-on-the-Marn, a non-stop three-day bender of alcohol and Marn intoxicants. And everywhere they went, they carried a broken black-and-gold “Off-Limits” sign as if it were a trophy or badge of honor.

“We raided Chernoff Limitless and this is our souvenir,” said the warrior of the group with drunken mirth when asked about the sign. Chernoff Limitless is a government treasury bank in Saratof, recently part of the chain of mass robberies that took place after the drasildar abandoned their posts. The gravers toasted one another with loud and rambunctious enthusiasm for their alleged crime.

Note: The K.I. has passed this information on to the proper authorities.

Imperial Legion Contracts Tannaluvian Shipping Guild

For the first time in decades, Tannaluvian ships brazenly fly over Saratof. An anonymous source within the Bastion reported that upper brass are openly preparing for war and are readying fast troop transports, if necessary: two bulk cogs, The Paramour and The Nomad, are anchored at the Bastion inside the Imperial complex protected by the 1st Legion. Tannaluvian agents, flanked by Psionic Syndicate members and legionnaires from The Chosen, have been seen freely traversing the complex, frequenting the Hall of Ambassadors, the Senate Discourse and Bastion, and engaged in open talks with high-ranking senators and other government officials, adding to speculation that war is inevitable.

K.I. Issue #113 contains potential spoiler material.
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Issue #113

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