October 2017

The Ancients of the Wharton Wilds are, according to those few who have seen them, a head taller than all but the most mountainous of men. They look like they have been badly burned, with skin that has the smooth but spiderwebbed sense of scar tissue.

Witnesses say the most striking thing about them is their lack of eyes.

If you should encounter one, the Ancient will ignore you until you are within a stone’s throw. Then it will approach you and hold out its hand. If you place a gift upon its upturned palm, and the gift is accepted, the Ancient will leave you be. Each Ancient is festooned with the gifts of its previous encounters, from bearskins to polyester. They seem to prefer gifts of clothing or small pieces of jewelry with sentimental value.

A gift that the Ancient does not like, such as food or technology, will cause it to lash out and strike the offending party with a powerful backhand motion. The force is enough to snap the neck instantly, though some have reportedly survived with critical injuries. The offended Ancient will then leave, depositing the unwanted gift elsewhere. Food will usually be left in clearings, while technology is often hurled into rivers.

As many as a dozen Ancients are speculated to exist, judging by the different items they wear. Smaller ones occasionally appear, as do those with the suggestion of childbearing hips and mammaries, giving rise to speculation that they form a small breeding population.

Nevertheless, no photographic evidence of their existence has ever been recovered. Shy creatures, easily angered by technology, they are elusive subjects. Still more curiously, those few who say they have seen an Ancient in the digital age report that their photographs–film or digital–show only black.

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“It is not safe outside. You should reconsider.”

Lagar only spoke when it thought Millicent was about to do something foolish. Normally, the stuffed alligator was just like the other animals in the playroom, like Ursa the bear or Eke the zebra. But–and this might have been because he was Millicent’s favorite–he would sometimes speak warnings.

“I want to see the sunshine,” Millicent said, pushing on the door. She’d learned through careful testing, how to rock it open enough to stick a toy block in and lever it open.

Lagar whirred as he looked up at Millicent. “You could be injured,” he said. “You should stay here.”

The noises that Lagar made, those clicks and squeaks, made Millicent think that he wasn’t completely fluff all the way through. Similar sounds came from the lunch table when it dispensed food, and when the classroom screens came down to show videos or dispense homework.

“Why should I stay here?” Millicent said. “I want to see the sky.” It was in so many of the videos, and in her science lessons, but she’d never seen it.

“Things are dangerous outside the playroom, and there is likely no sky to see,” said Lagar. “Do you remember when you tried to climb through the lunch table?”

Millicent touched her arm, rubbing the small ridge of scarring left once the cast had fallen off. “That’s different,” she said. “The door’s not going to break my arm.”

“It might,” said Lagar. “There might be something worse out there. Have you thought about that?”

“I like you better when you’re quiet,” Millicent said. She pressed the wooden block harder, only to be sent roughly to her rear when it splintered.

“See?” said Lagar.

“Yeah,” Millicent muttered. “I see.”

Behind the one-way glass, the project manager spoke into a microphone. “The butterfly has not yet left the chrysalis,” she said. “But it was close. We need to plan for when it happens.”

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The Noble is called such because the apparition seems to have a drown or diadem on its brow, but no one knows who–or what–the strange shadow could have been in a previous life. It wanders the streets of Nordsk on the most dreary of days, at dusk, and those who meet it are sure to experience a change in their luck–for good or ill.

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When next he rode into town, Armand Gerber was astride a creature like none anyone had ever seen.

They say that it was covered with hollows that wept red fluid, like a bloody tooth fungus. But in shambling about on three large legs, it was like no fungus any had encountered. And its great size, nearly ten feet all and a man’s height across, belied any notion of a great mushroom.

The town guard were flattened by the great legs or by the arrows Gerber loosed from its back. He burst open the side of the stockade, and was pulling his love aboard his strange companion when they were both felled, struck by crossbow bolts from the battlements. Despite an intense effort, the creature escaped, pincushioned with arrows and spears.

In the years since, people claim to have seen Armand Gerber’s steed wandering in the wilds, rusting and rotting weapons still embedded in its flanks. Perhaps more disturbingly, some of the accounts fail to mention the weapons–raising the possibility that there may be more than one of these creatures in existence.

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Springtime is singtime
Seedtime is weedtime

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The door never appears in the same place twice. You’ll know it’s near by the alluring odor. Look about, and there, in the shadows of a nook or an eve, you’ll find it. Black ebony, worn smooth through the years, with a doorknob of a human skull in tarnished brass. Knock three times, and if you mean well, they’ll let you in.

And there, inside, you can enjoy the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the multiverse.

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Dorko Bachtel
Insists that, among his people, “Dorko” is an ancient and proud name, regardless of how it feels on our tongues.

Beat Rockhold
Her name is supposed to be a derivation of “Bette” but she does not go out of her way to correct it.

Thacker Blood
His father was actually a surgeon, and Thacker was the name of a wealthy and influential patron.

Dark Coolbeth
Elizabeth fashioned herself a new name to reflect her profound love of necromancy.

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