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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Cavia malauspicium

The cavyclysm, also known as the doompig, Guineadoom, and a variety of other appellations, is a South American rodent that is closely related to the common guinea pif (Cavia porcellus) but considerably more magical.

Magic springs feeding Lake Titicaca are believed to be responsible for the cavyclysm’s divergence, but due to predation by larger animals and especially by Inca sorcerors they evolved the ability to project a “bad luck field” around themselves. As a result, things tend to fail or go horribly wrong around a cavyclysm, helping to protect them.

Though distinct from the fields of other similar creatures like the doomchilla, cavyclysms are favored as pets by wizards for the same reason: being in close enough proximity to one grants a certain immunity to its effects. They tend to be more docile than doomchillas, but the fields they project are far more unpredictable and particularly affect mechanical objects.

NOTE: It is extremely unwise to carry both doomchillas and cavyclysms! While one might think that they would complement each other, in fact the interaction of their doom and bad luck fields causes extremely unpredictable effects!

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Chinchilla malum

The doomchilla is a powerful magical species of chinchilla, immediately recognizable by its nightmare-black fur and occasional (≈33%) appearance with two heads. Native to the Andes like its non-magical relatives Chinchilla brevicaudata and Chinchilla lanigera, the doomchilla has traveled throughout the world due to its usefulness to magicians.

Doomchillas attract doom to all around them; that is their only natural defense in the wild. They are ill omens of misfortune and quite often death, and some translations of the Book of Revelation describe a “stampeding of doomchillas” at the opening of the seventh seal. However, by keeling a doomchilla on or about their person, a magician can benefit from teh doomchilla’s immunity to its own ill omens.

In other words, bad things are more like to happen near a wizard with a doomchilla pet, but less likely to happen to them.

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Augustín Expósito

The name “Exposito” means “the exposed one,” and it’s a name given to children that were “exposed” or abandoned by their parents. Exposito’s parents are unknown; he was left with the sisters of the Hospital de Nuestra Señora de Loreto shortly after he was born.

The Sisters of Nuestra Señora de Loreto taught trades to their young charges as well as instilling in them a fierce sense of Catholic discipline. Exposito was trained as a carpenter and joiner, and used the opportunity and access to tools to secretly train himself to fight, as well. He was admonished several times for incorporating animal bones, skins, and other unorthodox decorations, and especially admonished for collecting them.

When he was still a very young man, Exposito was able to use his carpentry skills to mend a river skiff belonging to a local official that had foundered on the river Antigua. This attracted the official’s notice, and Exposito was subsequently apprenticed to a builder in town. He distinguished himself in supplying ships in port, and was able to secure himself an appointment aboard one of the cargo ships plying the harbor as a carpenter.

When war broke out, the ship and everyone aboard were impressed into the Spanish Navy at Cadiz. In the battles that followed, Exposito distinguished himself but also used his position to undermine officers immediately senior to him. The various mates found that their handiwork was often subtly undone, and Exposito’s repairs earned him their rank and pay. Eventually, he sawed through a lieutenant’s lifeline during a gale and took his position as an officer. The captain of the ship was soon promoted, leaving Exposito in command.

He contrived to be the ship that transported Viceroy Balthazar from Spain to Veracruz, using the long voyage to gain the older man’s confidence. Thanks to his new and powerful patron, Exposito son found himself the Corrigador of Veracruz, effectively governor of the town. It was in this positon that he first came to know of the experimentation with crystal skulls and the draining of powers from alux or duende.

Despite his high rank, Exposito takes a personal hand in his administration and commands in person. He is an experienced soldier and hand-to-hand combatant, and though he values and cultivates loyal subordinates, his true loyalty is always to himself.

Expositio suspects that he was the child of someone of high station, but has deliberately never pursued the issue, believing that knowing the truth would deprive him of the drive that has defined his life. Several people have claimed to be a birth parent since he ascended to power; Expositio has had all of them executed as frauds. He believes that his true parents would not try to profit from his station.

He is also, secretly, a student of history and a closet millenarian. Exposito has read the Aztec story of the Five Suns and the Mayan Popol Vuh, and has been quietly comparing them to the Book of Revelation that he was brought up with. With his exposure to Balthazar’s experiments, Exposito is increasingly convinced that Revelation lines up with the Sixth Sun, and that he is fated to bring about the great earthquakes that will destroy our world and our people to make way for a more perfect creation.

Physical Description
Exposito is quite tall, with very thin angular features. He prefers to keep his hair slicked back, and is clean-shaven.

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