October 2016

The Cranturwiss is only seen in winter after the last leaves fall. It is larger than a man, with shaggy white fur and black eyes and teeth. It seeks forest berries. Only the very freshest and rarest berries will satisfy the wrath of the Cranturwiss, but if you can locate them, it will accept the gift.

If you bring it a gift, it will give you a riddle.

If you answer the riddle, it will give you a wish.

Unlike Djinni and Stiltzkins, these wishes are exactly what they seem to be and do not pervert the wisher’s words nor demand a further price. Legend has it that the first Count of Württemburg relied on a Cranturwiss-wish to establish the first castle at Stuttgart.

But beware. If you answer incorrectly, you must leave a sacrifice. The Cranturwiss prefers chickens but small children will do. None know what it does with them, but some woodsmen whisper they are raised as Cranturwissen themselves to succeed their elder.

If you have neither chicken nor child, the Cranturwiss takes what you have; if you have nothing to offer it, the Cranturwiss will take your eyes as payment. They are like enough to berries to satisfy it.

Other than to encounter it by chance, the only known way to locate Cranturwissen is with a wild Kroger, themselves very difficult to capture. Krogers fear the Cranturwiss and will not go near its cave, and you may know you are near by the recoiling of the lesser beast.

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Like all who fancy themselves writers, I suffer from the doctrine of original syntax.

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Maria de la Mercedes Rana y Villanueva

Mercedes is the longtime ward of the Villanueva mission on the Gulf coast, raised along with many other foundlings by Father Vega and the nuns and priests. Unlike many of them, her mother is actually known; Julia Rana was a longtime friend of Father Vega and resident of Villanueva herself, having grown up there a foundling herself.

Julia died in childbirth, and Mercedes believes her father to be one of the many drifters and adventurers who routinely pass by the Villanueva mission on their way up or down the coast. Though not a nun, she was raised among them and developed quite the rebellious and curious streak in turn. Villanueva has an extennsive library, having long traded books for provisions. She is thus very widely read, if somewhat naive.

For all intents and purposes, Mercedes appears to be a normal young woman, but the truth of her identity is tied up with that of Villanueva. It is, in fact, one of the last remaining refuges for a group of ancient beings that loom large in the mythology of the Mayans, as the alux, the Aztecs, as the chanekeh, and even the Incas, as the apu. To the Spanish, they are duende, named after a sprite or imp from Iberian mythology..

Whatever the name, the beings are of mutable for and considerable power, though they almost always assume the aspect of humans or animals and attempt to live in peace. Feared and respected as tricksters in many of the earlier civilizations, the Spanish have begun hunting them down to drain their powers. Mercedes is one such; even though her mother was a human, the products of all such unions are wholly spirits themselves, and it is in fact the only way their number can increase, though such a birth is almost invariable fatal to the mother.

Taken whilst sailing to a pilgimage to Mexico City, Mercedes was a prisoner aboard the Spanish ship that attempted to sail into Jolly Harbor. The sole survivor of that wreck, she offered the meager posessions on her person and the promise of a greater reward to entice a small pirate crew to return her to Villanueva.

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It is a simple, almost comical, terracotta mask depicting a smiling face that wouldn’t be out of place in contemporary yellow.

It is also almost 7000 years old, quite possibly the oldest mask of any kind in the world.

So why haven’t you heard of it? Why is it on display in a hold-in-the-wall museum? It’s not even the good museum in itss city, but rather a hole-in-the-wall museum dedicated to its founder’s crackpot theories on biblical originalism.

Perhaps it has something to do with the first person that wore the mask, and how the same grim fate they wove for themselves befalls all who have ever worn it.

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If I’m being honest with myself, there’s no way I could have seen what I saw, or felt what I felt.

At least, that’s what I said after sitting myself down on the couch, pouring myself a drink, and talking to myself for a solid hour.

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“We’ll just upgrade.”

“You don’t understand. After each time hop we’ve been able to upgrade to a better chronoskimmer, but here it’s clear that civilization and industry have universally collapsed. How are we going to upgrade or refuel when the type of energy required no longer exists?”

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It was cold and windy out, so I put Chinch and Chonch into an inner pocket. They looked out nervously, two heads on one frail chinchilla body, but stopped shivering.

Calloway the guinea pig, for his part, was happy in the coat’s outer pocket, seemingly oblivious to the snow falling on his fur.

The car’s battery had died just before going over the bridge, and the Chasm of Süd was a ten-day trek to bypass. I’d given my last speck of gold to the tollbooth man, who promised to get a new battery for the car and let us cross…in return for both the gold AND the car.

It wasn’t a good deal, but the shimmering sands of Nør weren’t going to come to me.

Up ahead, I saw the corrupt tollman struggling to drag a car battery over the bridge. It was an early-model one, the kind that had magic and nuclear fusion in an uneasy dance within it. I was about to shout something to that horrible man, hoping that the wind would carry it, but before I could, the battery detonated in a spectacular blast. It left a smoking gap in the middle of the bridge.

“Well, Chinch, Chonch, Calloway,” I said. “Looks like we’re walking after all. Why do I always have such rotten luck?”

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