(1367 DR, 587 CY, 364 AC)by Paul Westermeyer
This month is called Flamerule in Realmspace, Hsiang by the Shou, Reaping in Greyspace, and Afterlithe in the ancient Halfling calender.
Horoscope: Those born under the sign of the Sarphardin reach new heights of whimsy this month, pulling off elaborate practical jokes and daring schemes to tweak the funny bone of those about them.
Bral was rocked this month by many disturbing events. While gang wars bloodied the streets and mystical creatures stalked their prey in the alleys, the Second Unhuman War began to have a more direct effect on the city then just the slowing of trade routes.
'The Rat War'
The folk of Bral are already calling a recent gang battle 'The Rat War'. It began in the even on the fourth day of the month. Thousands of rats swarmed up from the sewers and through Shoutown attacking businesses and anyone walking the streets. The Yakuza were almost powerless to stop them, and the next morning Shoutown was like a ghost town, with only the occasional sound of hammering echoing through it's streets while someone boarded up as many entrances into their home as possible. No one was certain of the rats origins, but many widely believed they were being directed by wererats.
That same night the Halflings' Guild and Red Masks fought a more traditional gang war. Street youths working for the Masks attempted to ransack all the Halfling protected shops in the Great Market but were mostly slain by Halfling hired guards who seemed to be expecting them. The Red Masks also hired the Blackfoot clan of Anadian halflings and turned them loose against Bral's native halflings. This proved to be more of a surprise. These dark-skinned halflings took to the rooftops around the Burrows, sniping with their arquebuses at any halflings or halfling ally they could see.
The next night the Prince ordered the Royal Army and the magistrates watch to restore order, and especially to keep the more prosperous areas of the Middle City, and the High City free of disturbences. But the Guilds were very active as well.
The Yakuza summoned sorcerous aid in the form of dozens of short, little creatures, about three feet tall, squat, with pale, pocked flesh and tuffs of bristle-like green hair. Their hands and feet were grotesquely large for their bodies and they scampered after the rats with an inhuman joy in their eyes. They hacked at the rats with small axes, and by the time the night was over thousands of rats lay dead throughout the city. The but the little demon creatures also attacked houses, only ignoring buildings marked with a Shou symbol indicating they were under the yakuza's protection.
The Halflings struck back at the Red Masks with hired Giff mercenaries. Street brawls raged around the Greater Market, and a pitched battle occurred near the Burrows where the Blackfoot clan had holed up in several roof-top strongholds (without informing the inhabitents of the lower floors). By night's end the Blackfoot clan had fled towards the docks and the Red Masks were in any bolt-hole they could find.
The decimated Blackfoot clan is said to have fled Bral the next day on a Trading Company hammership. The Yakuza and Halflings have now squeezed the Red Masks' territory down to the pickpockets of the Greater Market and a few nearby blocks. And they've been forbidden from dipping into any of the gambling business. Stinging from several defeats now, it's suspected the Red Masks are regrouping and licking their wounds. More then one or two rats at a time have not been seen since the second night of the Rat War.
The seeming coordination between the rats and the Red Masks has caused endless speculation. Some claim the Red Masks have hired the rats much like they hired the Blackfoot clan, others claim that the Red Masks are wererats and that the groups worked as one because they are one. Still others hint that a wererat is the mysterious Underbaron of the Underdark, and that this powerful figure has decided to sweep the other Underbarons away, and establish an iron hold over all the criminal activity in the city.
The Second Unhuman War
Two warships reminded the population of the larger universe on the fifth day of the month even as the Rat War was in full swing. A Scro Mantis ship, the DEZTAGRAT ('Wrackblood') arrived to conduct negotiations with Prince Andru, and to 'make use of the port's facilities' in accordance with an earlier agreement concerning Bral's neutrality. An elven man-o-war, the MYARIDRIM ('Emerald Hornet') proved to all of Bral that the IEN posesses cloaking helm by appearing as if from thin air directly in front of the scro vessel. There was no battle, but a Royal Bralian hammership, the PRINCE COZAR, interposed itself between the two antagonists.
The SUNFARER, the Prince of Bral's launch, made several trips to the mantis but no one knows if the scro got the deal from Prince Andru that they wanted. They stayed in orbit for six days, and even sent a couple of groups of troops ashore for 'leave', which resulted in several large brawls at the Rockrat tavern. The MYARIDRIM kept directly in front of the scro vessel throughout it's stay, and disappeared soon after the mantis left Bral.
Prince Andru announced that the Talangran Empire and the Rock of Bral had opened diplomatic and trade relations. The Talangran Empire established an embassy and trade station on Bral. The new Talangran ambassador, Don Mediggo, has rented a large townhouse on Park street to house the new embassy. The DAMA ROSA, the frigate from the Talangran Empire which brought the ambassador, departed Bral at the end of this month. The Elven Imperial Navy sees this as a second slap in the face from Andru (after the scro incident earlier in the month), as the Talangrans have consistently sought elven slaves since their nation first entered the stars a decade ago.
Many have noticed that four Dragonships had arrived over the past two months from Shou Lung, and that Lord Chan Fu Wi, the Shou ambassador, met with Prince Andru nearly every day after the second pair arrived. The purpose of their visit is now clear. Prince Andru has announced that a small asteroid in Bral's group, trailing Bral by about fifty miles, is being handed over to the Shou. The Shou intend to build a naval base and fortification there, to act as a hub for their explorations. This new base will be small, not even self-sufficient in terms of food, so Andru is not worried it will draw business from Bral.
The KIRIN, a squidship out of Grompsace, is ten days past due to dock at Bral. The local Grom leadership expected her, but no other vessels from Grompsace have arrived so it's not certain if she left on time.
On a brighter note, a new merchant, Vigilius of Greatspace, has closed a deal with Prince Andru to run weekly chariot races in the Arena of Frun. Vigilius says such entertainments are very popular in his homesphere. On Bral, where horses are extremely rare, he thinks it will be even more popular. The races will begin next month, Vigilius will field two teams himself. He has spent a lot of time at nobles parties recently, trying to convince some of them to sponsor teams as well. It's said he has had some success.
The GOLDEN ORB, a tradesman out of Bral, has crashed in the storms of Shipwrecker, or been taken by pirates. At any rate, it was last seen by a Royal Bralian squidship entering Shipwrecker's atmosphere, yet it never made dock at Wrighters, and it hasn't returned yet.
New Feature: Whose Who?
Our new feature will focus on interesting characters as they arrive and depart from the Rock!
A new group, the Company of the Silent Star returned to Bral this month after facing the Shipwrecker's Fellows for the third time in as many months. The Silent Stars are one of the groups which purchased a Letter of Marque against pirates from the Council of Captains in the wake of the many recent ship disappearances. The Silent Stars were originally sponsored by Lady Moune, and are said to still have ties to that House. They have captured three of the Shipwrecker's vessels as prizes, and claim to have destroyed a fourth. In addition, they are said to work as mercenaries for the halflings Guild on occasion against the Red Masks. Clearly an up and coming band.
Lady Sharl Harlena of the Company of the Chalice has been seen at the shipyards looking over a nearly completed hammership. It's believed she has commissioned the vessel to add to the Company's small fleet in Bralspace. The Company of the Chalice was once one of the primary forces for order in Bralspace, but their headquarters and most of their fleet were destroyed when the scro conquered Spiral.
The Night Badgers, another adventuring company with a Letter of Marque, returned to Bral towing the captured ship of Duskhird Long-Eye, a half-ogre pirate. The Night Badgers are barely known on Bral, it's said they come from a far Crystal Sphere.