Excerpt


The sign on the door says “detective,” but I’m really more of a folklorist. I investigate the whispers and legends of old, letting people know once and for all if what they once believed was ever true–for a price.

I confirmed an old woman’s childhood fear that there had been monsters on the mountain…by finding their long-dead bones, and letting her know that her grandchildren had nothing to fear. I proved to a young child that the Autumn Lords had never existed, and that what he had thought to be their malign influence was nothing but smoke and mirrors.

But those were nothing compared to the time I was confronted with evidence of a living mountainside, one which had devoured half of a climbing party. If I’d known then what I know now I’d have told the mountaineers to bury their dead and forget about them forever.

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The Sisters of the Lone Daisy are dedicated to living simplistically and are known for producing some of the best wine in the region. Founded on a vision of a llama that occurred in a Mollyborough-on-Trout field of flowers in 1513, the Sisters were able to survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries by going into hiding and posing as simple vintners. Reemerging in the 1680s, they were able to remain a small but devoted convent accepting the occasional new member.

Upon joining the Sisters, a novitiate takes vows of chastity, poverty, and abnormality, pledging themselves to never be complacent and always odd in the face of the Lone Daisy. In the past, the vow of abnormality has led to short-lived nun rock bands and the ill-fated 1966 “Nun Run” marathon.

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The woodland elves of the Wilds and the highland orcs had an interesting and bizarre system of governance. According to their oral histories, a great war between the two was settled through the marriage of an orcish chieftan’s daughter to the son of an elven elder. Their son was born the heir of both peoples and led them to a great victory over an unnamed enemy. After that time, it was decided that the leaders of both societies would intermarry and that their offspring would rule all of the combined territory.

These rulers were known as the edor, a combination of the elves’ word for themselves and the orcs’ own endonym. They were never numerous, as the marriages were uncommon and their offspring tended to be sterile with many miscarriages. But the edor were widely respected for their intelligence, wisdom, and ferocity–combining the best traits from both their parent races.

When settlers from the West began to arrive in the Wilds, the civilized elves and orcs were revolted by the edor and succeeded in having several territorial laws passed against them. Edor encountered by Western orcs or elves tended to be killed on sight, and any elves or orcs suspected of having ‘misagenated’ ancestry were shunned. Although through natural variance some edor looked enough like their elven or orcish parent to pass as full-blooded, even they suffered in the general decline of the local inhabitants.

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The locals in the Wilds have dozens of theories about its origin, but so far the Labyrinth of Lessos has defied classification. All attempts at mapping it have failed, leading many to surmise that its interior is continually reshaped by some magical means. The stone it is hewn from is unremarkable save for its size–nearly a square mile from the outside, seemingly infinite on the inside.

Wilds natives used it as a sort of crucible, with many being charged to spend a day and night therein before attempting to find their way out as punishment for a crime or to prove some sort of (wo)manliness. Legends persist of a treasure in the middle of the labyrinth, but the only things of value ever to come out of it have been things brought in by those who failed to come out.

The walls are ten feet high, and even those resourceful enough to bring ladders and rope have reported that climbing seems to bring them no closer to the edge. Cords are snapped as if by scissors, marks disappear, and any other means of defeating the labyrinth other than sheer dumb luck always seems to fail.

Indeed, the best and only thing it seems to offer is a respite for fugitives. Even the most hardened lawman is loathe to follow a suspect in, and with good reason–9 out of every 10 that enter never return. With even the entrance shifting on a regular basis, for that 10th person, it can make the difference between a life cut short on the gallows and one spent on the lam.

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Everyone was in awe of Thomas when he emerged from the forest with one of the Woodfolk. They had been spoken of in songs and myths for centuries but rarely seen and even more rarely interacted with. And yet Thomas had walked out of the woods with a proud green woman beside him with golden flowerpetal hair and a bouncing greenish baby at her side. Together they had declared their intention to build a life together.

Immediately, gossip in town turned to a single point: if the Woodfolk woman’s hair was a flower, how exactly had Thomas sired their child?

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Mueller himself, who had some training as a smith, had forged the blade from the scythe with which he once worked the land. Set in a crude handle and crossguard, it nevertheless was an effective weapon and served him well in the earliest battles of the uprising. Legend has it that when the rebel peasants crushed the detachment from the Landgraviate of Kessler-Freiburg, Mueller used the scythe-sword to behead the commander rather than ransoming him.

Like the peasant-turned-military leader himself, the sword came to a bad end. Ambushed by troops under a flag of truce, Mueller was slain by Landsknecht sent by the Emperor along with nearly 10,000 of his followers and the sword taken as a trophy.

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The next scavenger to arrive is the mullywuggins shark, which is definitely not made up. Once the tuna and the dolphins have had their go at the spinning baitball, the mullywuggins sharks, which are definitely not made up, close in for the kill. Demonstrating the traits which gave them their name, the brutally efficient mullywuggins sharks, who are definitely not made up, will decimate the remaining sardines in the baitball before it sinks to safety.

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