May 2022

Amity City, population 3000, was famous for its well-preserved vintage bandstand and the Great American Bandstand Festival it holds once every two years (annually is too expensive). It was the site of a minor gold rush in the 1870s which petered out after it was realized that the gold was a glacial erratic; many of the city’s main street buildings come from the Amity Nugget era.

The Amity City Cryptozoological Society tries to trade on the city name’s similarity to the Amityville Horror but has not succeeded in attracting much attention. Crypto sightings include multiple Bigfoots, a Hodag based on inconclusive tracks, the Amity City Day Possum, and Marshie the Marsh Monster. Crypto society believes that the Day Possum can blink in and out of existence when in danger; unbeknownst to them, it is also the only real cryptid of the bunch.

Amity City’s population has been stagnant, and the tourism board is desperate to revitalize interest, possibly with a Day Possum mascot campaign.

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The Greensburg Fluker (Verdopolis irrumabo) is a member of the migratory fluker family, so named for the whale-fluke like tail of the type species (the Carolina fluker), which all other fluker species lack. First observed near Greensburg, MS by John Greensburg, descendent of the town’s namesake, but the birds only pass through that area irregularly during migration. Its rarity has brought the town some renown and as such it sponsors an annual Fluker Festival which is known for pranksters altering signs and buying stickers online. The Greensburg Ornithological Society is trying to get protected status for the woods where the fluker was first spotted, much to the ire of the area’s lumber companies.

Flukers are known to be semi-monogamous tree nesters with brood sizes of 2-3. 66% of eggs are fathered by other birds, leading to the nickname ‘adultery bird’ or ‘affair bird.’ The fluker eats primarily insects that it catches on the wing and is specialized as a bee eater. It can be attracted to suet only if honey is carefully mixed in or added to mealworms. Their song has been described as a cheerful ‘hoo-caw’ or ‘fluke-off.’ Fluker plumage is plain and cryptic aside from juvenile birds, which are bright yellow before their first adult molt.

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Carrollton Kosciusko was only very distantly related to the Revolutionary War hero Tadeusz Kościuszko through his sister Tekla. His great-trandfather changed the family name from Wierzbowski in the 1890s to emphasize the connection to the more famous Kosciusko. Carrollton’s first name was his mother’s maiden name; the Carrolltons of Madison were an old patrician family.

Working part-time at the marina as a bartender in the Brass Anchor bar, Carrollton judges dog shows as a hobby, but intense allergies prevent him from owning any. He
has a long trail of exes and a history of serial monogamy, much to the disappointment of his parents who want oodles of grandkids–Carrollton hasn’t produced a single one, at least none that he knows about.

Chet ‘Trip’ Winegarten III is the bane of Carrollton’s existence, as a fishing instructor and yacht owner who is higher in the marina hierarchy despite being two years younger than Carrollton. In addition to judging cat shows, Carrollton wants to circumnavigate the world by boat, but he first needs to learn how to sail. Notoriously, he has a “terrible” tattoo in a secret place as the result of the drunken encouragement of one of his exes during a trip to Tokyo.

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Vaiden Durant was a young black man from New Orleans who worked in a haberdashery as a shipping and receiving clerk but hoped to work his way up to sales associate and eventually designer. Unfortunately, his colorblindness was a major impediment to his designer dreams, but he did not let that dampen his ardor. His arch-nemesis was an apprentice cobbler at a rival store, who stole a position there that Durant believes was rightfully his. Vaiden has a crush on a regular customer who is nonbinary but lacks the courage to ask them out, not least of which because he wants to get their pronouns right. He was a terrible dancer but was good at coming up with excuses when out with his friends so nobody knows. This is especially hard for Vaiden as he is afraid of disappointing his uncle, legendary soft-shoe maestro Jimmy “Jazz Legs” Durant.

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Duck Hill was an unincorporated community that was once planned to be a luxury development, named after a particularly vicious group of local mallards that has since moved on by a developer with a sense of whimsy. One of the inhabitant of Duck Hill was Winona Jackson, a county clerk who runs a business on the side sewing children’s costumes. She was a stray dog rescuer, with three permanent dogs and 4-5 foster dogs at any given time.

Mr. Jackson was a long-haul trucker who is home 2 days a month, while their daughter Wyandotte was 12 and a vegan who dreams of being an environmental protestor. Her dream was is saving up for (or perhaps inventing) an all-electric big rig for her father. Between Winona and Wyandotte, the family was well on its way to animal hoarding, with
two cats, a hamster (Wiggles), and a semi-feral snapping turtle in the back pond (Mr. Fingers) in addition to the dogs.

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Pope Courtland I, elected in 1216, had previously been known as Cardinal Benedetto Terreno di Corte; his preferred rental name stemmed from his high regard for Adrian IV, the only English Pope, who had been reigning when he became a priest. Coming as it did amid the turmoil of the late 12th century, Courtland’s relatively long reign was noted for its many oddities, as the pontiff seemingly preferred to obsess over minor matters whilst ignoring greater ones. As the chronicler Rolando Allucingoli noted, “Pope Courtland was oft referred to as the new Nero, who meddled while Rome burned.”

The pontiff immediately banned the color yellow as “sinful,” based on a then-current agreed point of canon that Judas Iscariot had favored the color. He also prohibited dancing on Tuesdays after misinterpreting the Book of Leviticus, probably due to a shoddy Aramaic edition in circulation at the time.

Courtland was known for sour disposition, but harbored a secret love for card tricks that courtiers could use to improve his mood. Allucingoli writes of a time when a “thunderous tirade” against a Scandinavian envoy was immediately forgotten when the legate in question was able to perform an unspecified slight-of-hand with the Ten of Swords. This may also have been why he appointed the first, and possibly only, Vatican court magician. This, and his love of card tricks, were both couched as “research” into frauds and charlatans claiming false miracles.

His reign of 12 years was among the longer ones of the era, and unlike many of his contemporaries he was not sexually active and had no known children. He did, however, lavish favors on his dissolute grandnephew whom he hoped would succeed him as Courtland II. The young man was, however, defrocked in the aftermath of his great-uncle’s death, and the name Courtland II would not be used until 1502.

Allucingoli writes that the pope was also fascinated by automatons and contraptions, and would be well-pleased by the gift of a suitably made one. One such gift, a “mechanical magpie,” remains in the Vatican collections, though the mechanism no longer works. It is thought that, when it was originally gifted to Courtland by the Byzantine emperor, the magpie would “sing” using a small bellows.

Before he became pope, he was a canon lawyer and often played “devil’s advocate” in trials and investigations. Courtland built on this reputation as pope, and was very proud of his role in blocking canonization of four different “unworthy” saints. The last such proposed saint was so unworthy that it allegedly sent Courtland on an hours-long tirade which led to him suffering a stroke; he remained bedridden for the last three months of his reign before his death. He was succeeded by Gregory IX, whom he had personally promoted to cardinal—allegedly after a particularly impressive sleight-of-hand trick with the Fisherman’s Ring, according to Allucingoli.

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We here at Stubb’s Coffee have long been urging the end of single-use consumables such as straws, lids, and cups. Now, we are pleased to reaffirm our commitment to the reduction of single-use items by pledging a moratorium on single-use politicians!

That’s right – we will no longer be courting politicians for only a single issue. Instead, we will get on board with every issue that a key politician stands for, regardless of its harm to the Constitution, the rights of the people, and the environment!

By currying favor with the powerful and kowtowing to their increasingly extreme demands, Stubb’s Coffee is doing its part to keep wages low and prices high, while passing on the savings to the consumer and the shareholders!

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Aleztrazian the Strict
The most orthodox and organized of the exilarchs, there are few muroid settlements without at least one Aleztrazian Subaltern. The latest in a long line of orthodox exilarchs claiming a direct lineage back to the Garden World, Aleztrazian and his predecessors emphasize that the Garden World is a spiritual as well as a physical place, and that muroids who lead virtuous lives will return there after death. In turn, they tend to be intolerant of other muroid beliefs and often hostile to sapient outsiders of any species.

Scuttlebane Broodfather
If Aleztrazian is the respectable, civilized, and traditional Exilarch, Scuttlebane is the very opposite. He, and his predecessors in the Broodfather priesthood, emphasize absolute freedom, the innate superiority of muroids, and their destiny to claim all creation as their own. This encompasses both militant sects like the Devourers and more peaceful groups like the Broodspreaders.

The Eternal Pup
Regarded as the whimsical protector of all young muoids, the Eternal Pup is often syncretized with other Exilarchs, at least for the purposes of entertaining pups and the widely observed holiday of Pupmas. Uniquely among the Exilarchs, the Eternal Pup is believed to be bodily reincarnated, and a new incarnation is sought out when the old dies. Those who follow the Pup as an Exilarch tend to value nonviolence, large families, and a more rural lifestyle.

Empty Chair
Many muroids do not hold to any Exilarch, and are therefore said to “serve the empty chair.” The name comes from the philosopher Holovius, who when asked why he had no faith, pointed at an empty chair and said “I am merely waiting for a worthy deity to fill it.” While most Empty Chair followers simply are irreligious and uncommitted, some particularly nihilistic and militaristic sects like the Sons of Oblivion have also arisen.

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After the Garden World’s abandonment by the other sapients, an ecological niche was opened at the top of the food chain for an intelligent civilization that was able to adapt to and thrive in the ruined and ecologically devastated envioronment. This niche was taken by the muroids, also known as the ratlings or ratfolk. Evolving from small scavengers that were left behind after the exodus of most other sapients, the muroids were forced to abandon the Garden World in turn after their own numbers grew and worsened the ecological catastrophe that had driven the others away.

As a result of this evolutionary crucible, the muroids have far greater tolerances to heat, cold, and variable oxygen levels than their cousins. They are also able to subsist on a wider variety of foodstuffs, and have powerful gigestive juices capable of neutralizing many pathogens. These adaptations have allowed the muroids to be equally at home in extreme climes, on normally habitable worlds, and in the margins of large settlements.

Often disdained as dirty or diseased by other sapients, the muroids theoretically owe fealty to a number of Exilarchs, who serve as religious leaders and prophets for their people. Muroid spirituality often emphasizes a connection with the natural (or unnatural, as may be the case) world, and the Exilarchs serve as intermediaries and conduits between the lost Garden World and the worlds on which the muroids now find themselves.

Muroid exilarchs include Aleztrazian the Strict, Scuttlebane Broodfather, The Eternal Pup, and the Empty Chair, which serves as a symbolic rejection of the concept by non-believing muroids.

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Heavenly Empire
Also known by its formal name, the Dihuang Imperium, by far the largest and most powerful human nation with a strong cultural, spiritual, and religious hegemony over the others. The Heavenly Emperor is regarded as divinely descended and divinely ordained, although the actual day-to-day power rests with the Imperial Chancellery and its massive bureaucracy. In practice, limited local independence is tolerated as long as Heavenly Empire taxes are paid, Heavenly Empire bureaucrats are not harassed, and major directives are obeyed without question.

Xianhue Alliance
Presenting itself as a democratic counterweight to the Heavenly Empire, the Alliance is often accused of being little more than the same ethnocentrism with an egalitarian coat of paint. Though a fully functional representative democracy, the Alliance political sphere is dominated by money from corporations, special interests, and other concerns. The Heavenly Empire, for its part, portrays the Alliance as a wayward vassal, albeit a powerful one.

Nanhai Commerce Guild
Less of a nation, state, or government than a supranational entity, the Commerce Guild regulates interstellar trade between a number of human polities, as well as non-human polities. With contracts to serve as the Heavenly Empire Postal Service and Alliance Parcel Post, its fleets rival that of other major powers with military assets to match. The Guild maintains that its navy is strictly for escort purposes, but it has been known to take off-the-books mercenary contracts as well. All power is vested in its Board of Directors, which are elected by universal suffrage on behalf of shareholders and employees; one vote per share. In practice, shareholders and stock splits have left the company almost entirely in the hands of a few unnamed shadow investors.

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