October 2020


Each of the birds only knows two notes: one in common with the others and a secret note known only to it. Together, they form the song that will bring about the end of all worlds.

One might think that to find them would be an easy task. But ask yourself: how many birds litter each wood, each copse, each canyon? Which of them sings only a single note, and is it even the note that can end the world?

Even if one was able to find a bird and wring the note from its immortal beak, what then? None now living, and few even that are dead, know how many notes are in the song. None knows the order of their singing save the Landfather and the Skymother, whose love once raised the song in a duet over the world-that-was.

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I worry that the sign in my yard
Isn’t blue enough to matter
I worry that every night I sit
Doing work from home, sanitary
The battle, elsewhere, is losing
But then I ask myself
How blue something needs to be
In order to make the lawless
Follow their own rules

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“We’ve got another call that’s come in.”

“Let me guess, it’s Bill? Set his brush a little too on fire for his liking again? Well, the law requires that we take an engine over, but damned if I’m not taking the long way around.”

“No, it’s Sarah Gillian.”

“Her damn cat again?”

“Yeah.”

Dammit, she needs to start feeding the cat in that tree. Build it a cat house up there or something, since it spends so much more time up there than it does on the damn ground!”

“We still have to go.”

“You’re right. The law does require that we respond. However, as when I thought it was Bill again, I say we take the long way around.”

“Okay.”

“And put in a call to Vinny. See if he can set some fires or something. Someplace that won’t burn too fiercely, just enough to get us out of hauling that cat down again.”

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The daughter of a trader in Gravelines, Andromeda Fisher is a skilled wheeler and dealer but her great passion is and continues to be the freeing of the town from Lady Exor’s ‘corrupting’ influence. Believing that the people of the village need more say in their own affairs, and that the militia is little more than Exor’s puppet, she has long sought to rally the people to her cause.

A cause, in this case, which is a radical decentralized commune, with no militia, no money, no organized government, and no limitations on personal freedoms. She bases this project on the old Republic of Iskandria, which existed before the Verdant Empire took over the town.

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“This isn’t the kind of music I thought you’d like,” Jen said.

“You expecting country-western?” Alan said. “I can take it or leave it. Too many songs about guys who love their truck more than their wife.”

“Don’t you like your truck?”

“Not enough to write a song about it.”

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Gravelines was first grew up as a site where pilgrims visiting the nearby Grassblade tombs could stay, purchase votive offerings, and more. As the flow of pilgrims gradually dried up, it became instead an important way station on the road between Iskandria and the Inner Empire.

With the near-cessation of all trade along the Imperial Road, it has fallen on hard times and is now little more than a marketplace for the various smallholders and farmers from the surrounding countryside. The Grassblade garrison has long since been recalled to fight in the civil wars, replaced with a lightly armed militia that can barely afford to keep a handful of men-at-arms in the field.

As a measure of its onetime importance, there was an office of the Sickles in Gravelines, though it has been abandoned and neglected for some time. Lingering fear of the organization means that the building has generally been left alone, even when strange noises began echoing in it late at night…

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The largest landowner in the Gravelines area is known as Lady Exor, even though she does not actually possess any titles of nobility. Instead, she gained the title as a courtesy after creating a large estate from several smaller, failing, farms and it is her operation that largely allows Gravelines to keep itself fed.

Lady Exor prefers to pay lip service to the Verdant Empire and the current Emperor, while acting in what she sees as the best interests of the town. This includes organizing and bankrolling the small militia, attempting to escort people and goods safely along the Imperial Highway, and of course tending to her own profits.

The latter is particularly difficult of late, as she is facing calls from Andromeda Fisher for the confiscation and redistribution of the large Exor estate.

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Whether the hoklonote exists or not, it is beyond any reasonable doubt that the Choctaw and Chickasaw legends of Nalusa Chito, also known as a Impa Shilup or a Nalusa Falaya, is in fact a rendering of what is known in supernatural circles as an eldritch. Obviously this is a vast oversimplification, as various eldritches would not regard a Yogite as being the same as a Shubite or a Dagonite.

But in any case, an eldritch is a person of mixed supernatural and mundane ancestry, specifically in this case one with parentage outside of the realm of normal time, space, and matter. Many beings are incapable of surviving for long in a universe made of normal matter, and so rely on their offspring to act on their behalf. Of course, just as many spurn their parents’ attentions and go their own way.

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In addition to their work in the telecommunications industry, tiny bohpolis are well-known for their herbal expertise. Before the Trail of Tears, the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes would often send promising children to live with the bohpolis in the woods for a year before returning to act as herbalists and healers.

Modern bohpolis are at a disadvantage because invasive fair folk from Europe have largely forced them out of the woods, so they have largely turned to trading for raw herbs as well as growing their own. Simply put, this means that bohpolis grow the most potent and pricey marijuana in areas where they occur, and regularly trade it for goods and services. Even bohpolis that work as cable installer are known to keep some wacky tobaccy on hand for transactions–yet another reason that they are extremely careful drivers. It helps that bohpolis are completely immune to any of the effects of cannabinoids and have a long tradition of making their own clothes from hemp fibers.

The recent loosening of marijuana restrictions and an allowance in the trade of CBD oil has seen bohpolis establish many new dispensaries across the state, often in collaboration with the “big folk.” It has also given them an outlet for their other herbal products, from shampoos to poultices, and a source of income that is badly needed. On the other hand, though, rival producers see them as a major threat and have attempted to retaliate.

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Bohpolis, or kowi anukashas, are small people that have lived in the Mississippi River valley for over 10,000 years. They are the little people of human legend, pixies, fairies, and brownies, who accompanied migrants across the land bridge from Asia and therefore have developed a distinct culture. Left behind by the forced removal of tribes like the Chickasaw and Choctaw, the bohpolis were able to remain in their ancestral homes but still exist only in severely reduced numbers thanks to warring with invasive European fair folk.

Contrary to their name, many are now exclusively city dwellers, having been forced out of their ancestral woods by pixies, fairies, and brownies. Their small size and much better grasp of technology than European fair folk has allowed them to find a niche as cable installers, electricians, and communications techs. Typically, they will operate with a human intermediary, but in the age of webcams and e-commerce, some bohpolis now work in collective units, with one “face” speaking for the group in communications via video and phone. Some are quick to blame bohpolis for poor driving, since they have a penchant for rigging up cars with tinted windows to a sophisticated system to allow a group of 8-10 to control a vehicle. However, in reality, bohpolis are extremely careful drivers, as getting pulled over is, for them, at best a dodgy proposition.

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