Derby Evening Press/Issue 14
Welcome to this special edition of the Derby Evening Press, covering (as much as possible) the series of events collectively known as the Durham Crisis. In this issue, you will find a series of interviews, a guest column, a few news articles, and one extensive summary of the conflict, written by the Derby Hospitallers' Ambassador to York, Broderick.
The Durham Crisis: 'History Made Simplish'
Since people have been all confused over what’s happening, let’s make it easier to understand. This writer has tried to record the events with as little bias as possible.
Once upon a time, there was a little Independent Republic called Fort Creedy. People lived happily together, apart from one or two criminal exceptions (who were ruthlessly put down). However, one day a queen came along. She said she was a nice queen and wanted to be Creedy’s friend. Eptavian, the leader of Creedy, said “Yes!”. So Fort Creedy was merged into the queen’s Court of Greater Raktam, and together they became the Commonwealth of Greater Raktam and Fort Creedy. Everyone lived happily together, until one day the queen said she was scared of an attack from their next-door neighbour, Durham! “I’ll send Grand Vizier Tathers, some of my soldiers, and my tax-collector, to scare away any evil clans,” she said. “Yes!” said Eptavian. And so Grand Vizier Tathers, the queen’s soldiers, and her tax-collector, arrived to keep the peace in Fort Creedy. Everyone lived happily together, but not for long.
It all began when the Grand Vizier Tathers was in Durham trying to make them happy after Durham started to get scared about having a lot of soldiers from Raktam so nearby. The news came in that the leader of Durham, Ron Burgundy, was becoming so scared that he wanted some people to come to Fort Creedy and kill everyone! Lord Lordington did come and kill one, Ben Harker, but nobody took much notice of this because Lordington is a bad man and kills people from York all the time. Then, a new baddie turned up, Warlan Raniski, who came in and killed Dappled Shadow, one of the Queen’s soldiers. The problem was that Raniski was a member of the Durham Pistoleers!
Then there was a funny moment, when Grand Vizier Tathers came in and said “It looks like it's going to be peace between the city and Fort.” We all now know that he was wrong! Then the queen’s tax-collector, Loughbridge, told him what had happened and said he wanted revenge. The two men began to argue, while everyone else was confused. Were the Pistoleers really attacking? Soon the murmurings began. Dappled Shadow and Elias Pryde began to question the settlement reached by Tathers. Shortly afterwards, another baddie came in, Ethir Wraithwain, also a Durham Pistoleer! He claimed to be following the wishes of ‘the Master’ and the ‘White Raven’, and then killed Baron Robert Surcouf, the commander of the queen’s soldiers. People were becoming very suspicious when the madwoman Elizabeth Bathory came in and killed Dappled Shadow in a berserk rage. She too was of the Durham Pistoleers.
However, because there was a peace treaty between Creedy and Durham, newly signed, everyone was still confused, especially when the man who had signed the treaty, Tathers, left to report to the queen. What should they do? In the end, Ben Harker tracked down and killed Wraithwain, but it was small consolation, for here entered another aggressor, Semper, who murdered the president of Creedy himself, Eptavian. With four different Pistoleers attacking and killing them, the members of the Commonwealth of Greater Raktam and Fort Creedy decided enough was enough. With an order from the queen to crush the Pistoleers, war between the Durham Pistoleers and the Commonwealth of Greater Raktam and Fort Creedy was declared. Raniski reentered and killed Surcouf, and Bathory killed Marvin twice, claiming Fort Creedy as Durham’s. However, more intrigue was to follow, when Elias Pryde, of the queen’s mercenaries, turned on his fellows and killed Starvin Marvin! As he delivered the killing blow he cried, “Creedy is dead. Long live Fort Fellgrim.”
Since then, the queen’s mercenaries have been killing Pistoleers and members of the Durham Citizens, and vice versa. The leader of the Pistoleers, Dennis Kuijt is not renowned for his vocal activity, and so The Malice, ex-leader of the infamous Mercenary’s Guild, is the clan’s spokesman. He claimed that the Pistoleers were not responsible for these members’ actions, and he sent Kuijt the message to kick one of the rogue members. The Commonwealth’s response was to demand the expulsion of the rest of the rogue members, the payment of 500gc in reparations, a formal apology and a garrison in Durham made up of members of the Commonwealth. The rest of the rogue Pistoleers were eventually banned from the clan, but the other demands have yet to be met.
There are without doubt three different sides operating here: the Commonwealth, Durham and this mysterious group. What is not known is whether any of these groups are working together. Is this mystery group in league with the Commonwealth, giving it an excuse to attack? Is it under the orders of the Durhamites, who’ve shown they were willing to adopt underhanded tactics? Or is it working entirely on its own agenda? If so, how many more are there, hidden amongst other clans, biding their time before they plunge those clans into a crisis like that which now exists on the Durham Peninsular?
Durham Crisis: Updates
Since the above article was written (less than a week ago), history has continued marching with breathtaking (and, to reporters, maddening) speed.
With the news that Raktam and Creedy were marching on Durham, Durham's allies have followed their stereotypical paths to respond. The Eastern Federation, represented by Hospitaller Tribune James Barnes, has initiated a prolonged diplomatic offensive, coordinating with Raktam, Creedy, Durham, and York in an attempt to defuse the situation. Negotiations with Raktam reportedly were polite, but went nowhere, while EF negotiations with Creedy were hindered by friction between Creedist President Eptavian and Barnes. The EF's dealings with Durham and York have largely taken place behind closed doors, and the DEP is unable to provide much information on these talks.
In York, Serious Sam, leader of the 1st Colonial Militia, announced that the Militia would march to Durham and kill any Creedists and Raktamis in the area. Meanwhile, the York Coalition, which had been bordering on dormancy given the relative peace in York, was roused by the events to their west. Their exact intentions are unknown at this time.
An Unexpected Peace
The involvement of Serious Sam, ironically, ended the war, albeit in a manner few foresaw. The Malice, a bitter enemy of Sam's since the Third Battle of York, refused to accept Sam's help, promoting a fiery war of words between the two men. Finally, Sam declared all Pistoleers to be Kill on Sight for Colonial Militia members, a stance that reportedly appalled both the Eastern Federation and York Coalition.
The Malice, judging Sam a greater threat than the Queen, left the Pistoleers, joining the Royal Court of Greater Raktam instead. With his departure, Dennis Kjuit, disgusted with the flak the Pistoleers were receiving, disbanded the clan, ending any cause for a war. With the Malice now acting as intermediary between Durham and Raktam, the situation rests on a knife's edge.
The Current Situation
As the situation stands, Ron Burgundy, of the Durham Citizens, has declared that Durham will never be part of Raktam, with both Malice and the Queen denying the Court held any designs on the town. Meanwhile, a spirited debate has broken out over Durham politics. On one side, a coalition of peace advocates, Raktam supporters, and anti-Militia activists (led by The Malice and anti-York fighter Lord Lordington) is arguing in favor of peace with the Queen. On the other side, nationalists (led by the Militia) are voicing opposition to any merger with Raktam. These parties, given the Queen's attempts to merge with a number of towns, fear that any concession to the Queen will be a first step to absorption.
Complicating the situation even further is civil unrest in Durham. Durhamites are increasingly expressing dissatisfaction with the leadership of the Durham Citizens, complaining of disenfranchisement, secrecy, and simple ineptitude. The Durham Utility's founder, Edward "DarkFerret" Grey, has demanded a new election. Burgundy attempted to impose the Durham Citizens' electoral rules, provoking a firestorm of criticism. The most controversial rule was that only Durham Citizens could vote. Since the clan Durham Citizens requires invitations for membership, opponents accused Burgundy of stacking the deck in his favor. Additionally, the Durham government's attempts to tax its citizens went over poorly, particularly as the government had not provided any tangible benefits before discussing this.
The Malice proposed an alternate set of rules, greatly simplified, eliminating both controversial policies. Though Burgundy continues to defend the government's policies, his support seems to be eroding daily.
The Eastern Federation went silent during this time, but our sources tell us that the Derby Rangers began preparing for a major undertaking known only as Operation Moonwalk. Our sources refuse to tell us what this operation entailed, or even what its target was. However, with the conflict defused, we are told that Moonwalk has been put on hold. Meanwhile, Derbian leaders have renewed communications with York and Raktam in an attempt to further smooth over tensions, with James Barners and Ranger Commander Mark D. Stroyer visiting the Raktam Court in person to negotiate with the Queen.
The DEP has interviewed several prominent figures in the conflict to get their views. These interviews were conducted prior to the Pistoleers' decision to disband, but provide a useful look at the participants' thoughts.
Q: You claim that the Pistoleers attacking Creedy are rogues. Does this mean that Durham supports Creedian independence?
A: ... It's very hard to make a definitive statement in this nature. The forces governing Durham believe in Creedy's independence; various independents do not and are actively obstructing progress. Because of the large amount of natives moving into the area, many don't see attacking them as a crime. It's a prejudicial thing. They assume all natives are hostile. ...
Q: There are rumors that the Queen's forces will be attacking Durham over this. Some have gone so far as to accuse the Queen of using this as a pretext for invading Durham. What do you have to say about this?
A: I think the Queen's motives are shady. She does appear to be attempting a political takeover, but in case of an actual battle, I can't imagine her forces winning. It's hard to kick us out of our hometown, you see. ... My guess is if the Queen *is* mounting an invasion, if her peaceful methods don't work she'll resort to violence. ... All in all, though, I'm not reloading my rifles yet. I've lost one clan to blindly attacking already. This time I'm going to be a bit more careful in my approach to politics.
Q: Serious Sam has announced that the 1st Colonial Militia will be coming to Durham's aid and attacking the Royal Raktam forces. Do you intend to ask any other foreign powers, such as the York Coalition, the Brotherhood of the Coast (which has always been relatively pro-Durham), or the Eastern Federation to assist you?
A: No. We are not Durham's Private Guard, we are Durham's Police force. If Sam wants to get involved, that's his problem. I have strong feelings against that fool. When he joins a battle it tends to shred any possibility for a diplomatic discussion.
Q: Finally, what is your stance on the rumored involvement of the so-called "Felgrim" warriors? Conspiracy theorists blame the entire conflict on these people, supposedly numbering less than half a dozen. Do you really believe that four clans in three towns, consisting of roughly 70 people in total, could be brought to the brink of war by a handful of agitators? And how great a threat do you think these supposed agitators are?
A: As I've said before in public, I do believe some party is attempting to incite a war, but I don't know who. 3 of them were marauding as Pistoleers. ... They've either been kicked and banned from the clan or are about to be kicked and banned. [Editor's note: As for this printing, all of the above members, plus one additional member, have been removed from the Pistoleers]
... They aren't a threat. Thanks to Jacobi's paranoia everyone is informed of the situation and anything that happens between the Queens' and Durham's forces in a negative light will be met with suspicion until an explanation is given.
... Another thing that worries me about the entire situation is how quickly the Queen was agitated. My personal belief is that she wants war. ... there's a good possibility I'm absolutely wrong, but the Queen's actions and statements and general expansionist rule is bothering me quite a bit.
Interview with Eptavian
Q: You accuse the Durham Pistoleers of having attacked the Republic of Fort Creedy. Some, including Malice and Commodor Jacobi, allege that a third party is at work, attempting to provoke a war. What is your stance on this?
A: That is what they would have us believe. In fact, they had us fooled in the beginning and that is why we did not immediately act. We wanted to be absolutely certain who was responsible. Now however it is evident that all this was a plot by the Pistoleers to start a war by making us look the instigators. The proof is that after several days and even though they had every opportunity, the Pistoleers still have the supposedly 'rogue' members in their ranks.
Q: Does the sudden betrayal of one of the Royal Raktam mercenaries lend any credence to this? Given his talk of 'Fort Felgrim'?
A. It is not clear at that moment what this specific individual is trying to achieve. He was the only one of the attackers who was not a Pistoleers member, so it is not clear if he was taking part in the secret plot or not. Personally, I believe he was a spy listening on our discussions. When he realized he was close to be revealed [sic] he decided to act and disappear. 'Fort Felgrim' I believe was just a ruse to lead our investigations on the attackers astray.
Q: Ron Burgundy's attempts to undermine Creedy are becoming increasingly well known. Do you think he was involved in this?
A: That is a tough question, and I am afraid I don't have enough evidence to prove he was or was not involved. On one hand Grand Vizier Tathers was convinced that Ron Burgundy was honest in wanting peace and I trust Neil Tathers' experience and diplomatic abilities. On the other hand, Ron Burgundy did admit proposing secret targeted assassinations of Creedy and garrison members. Also the Pistoleers are in fact a the [sic] law enforcement branch of the government and thus under Burgundy's indirect command. Therefore, even if he was unaware of the plan, he still carries full responsibility for what happened.
Q: Some allege that Blue Hummingbird is using this as a pretext for expanding her empire, given her unsuccessful attempt to incorporate Derby and her support for Wiksikian insurgents. What stance do you take on this?
A: That is what people don't know her well think. For those have met and talked with her, it is obvious that she only wants to bring peace and prosperity to her people. And what better proof of that, than the formation of the Commonwealth with Fort Credy. The Creedy Republic is a small establishment, and yet in the interest of peace, the Queen accepted us as equals, even though her initial terms were for Creedy to become a sort of vassal state. In every diplomatic incident so far, Blue Hummingbird has tried to talk, understand the situation and mediate. See for example the case of the Necromancers in Wiksik. Never did she try to impose her will with violence.
Q: The 1st Colonial Militia has decided to intervene against Raktam. Are you concerned that other, more powerful groups, such as the York Coalition or the Eastern Federation, might intervene against you?
A: First of all, tactically we are not concerned too much with other groups offering their help to any side. The great distance of Durham and Creedy from other settlements means that any help will take too long to arrive and anyone killed will be out of the battle for a long time. Diplomatically, it seems that most groups are not concerned with what is happening in Durham, as was the case historically. Therefore, I don't expect any other major groups intervening.
I would like to say at this point, and I am sure you will this part out before going to press, that I was diappointed with the EF's stance in the crisis. At the early moments of the attack, when the Pistoleers were killing our members repeatedly, and before we had the opportunity to defend ourselves, the EF made a statement of keeping a neutral stance towards both sides. It is as clear as day to me, that this was a veiled statment of support for the aggressors. You cannot have a slaughter gonig on, with ruthless killers and innocent victims and say that you are neutral. This would be an encouragement for more attacks. I saddens [sic] my heart to see the EF, once known as a beacon of justice, to forget its principles for the sake of old friends who lost theirs, such as the Durham Pistoleers.
Ron Burgundy Interview
The DEP wishes to convey its thanks to Ron Burgundy for his extraordinary succinctness.
Q: The Durham Pistoleers claim that the attacks against Creedy were committed by rogue elements. Do you support this stance?
A: I support the Pistoleers' stance that these attacks are being perpetrated by a third party. I've listened to a representative of the third party that has been attacking, and they through a misguided preemptive measure have needlessly tarnished the pistoleers' name.
Q: There have been persistent suggestions that you may be behind these attacks, given your previous proposals to absorb Creedy. Do you wish to offer a public defense?
A: I am not behind these third party attacks. Though I have proposed actions against Creedy in the past, my intent with those ideas were to keep our forces close in size so no side would make a move against the other.
Q: If there is a third party involved in this war, what do you think their goals are?
A: Given what I've heard so far I would say that their goals are the removal of the Queen's influence and forces from the Durham Peninsula.
Q: Some allege that the Queen is merely using this as an excuse to further expand her empire's borders. What is your stance on this?
A: I don't know we are going to have to wait and see what she does. If she attacks the Pistoleers I would have to say yes.
Blue Hummingbird Interview: Excerpts
The interview with Queen Blue Hummingbird on the Left ran too long for us to print it in its entirety. Please look here for the full interview. Below are excerpts from this interview.
Q: Some, such as the Malice and Commodore Jacobi, allege that this (Editor's note: the Durham Crisis) is the work of a third party. This stance would seem to be supported by the turncoat mercenary Elias Pryde referring to "Fort Felgrim" or "Fellgrim" (spellings vary). What is your stance on this?
A: Malice is a Pistoleer. Obscurification of the truth is a tool of propaganda frequently used by the Pistoleers. A clearer and more truthful explanation is that the Pistoleers attacked Creedy at Burgundy's direction, and were surprised at the strength and forthrighness of the Commonwealth's entirely justified military response. We would not be surprised if in the fullness of time these ostensibly "expelled" members were quietly reintroduced into the ranks of the Pistoleers, once the Burgundy War is over.
Q: Your Grand Vizier, Neil Tathers, has expressed vigorous opposition to a war between Raktam and Durham, going so far as to imply that he will resign as Grand Vizier, should this happen. Has this affected your considerations?
A: This has been misreported. The Grand Vizier worked very hard to prevent the Government of Durham from acting in the way it has. The very existence of the Burgundy War fills the Grand Vizier with great sadness, as it does in the hearts of all of the peaceloving people of Greater Raktam. The Grand Vizier has given Us no indication that he will resign, and We support his diplomatic efforts entirely. The Grand Vizier is currently endeavouring to make peace in Wiksik between the warring parties. His efforts at bringing peace to Our small island are warmly appreciated by Us, and he is ever in Our good favour.
Q: Some allege that, given your attempt to absorb Derby and your support for the Wiksik insurgency, you are in fact attempting to expand your empire. They claim that you are using this incident to take over Durham. Do you wish to defend yourself.
A: We have no claims to expand Our domain into Durham - which, frankly, isn't that nice a piece of real estate - and, unequivocally, would never expand into Wiksik. Our cousin Black Fang and Our colleague Rancor Pigskin has Our support as a friend to Wiksik, not as its despot. Presently a large number of Raktam warriors are in Wiksik endeavouring to diffuse the situation.
A Soldier's Story
Marvin is a native warrior under the Queen's command. At our request, he sent us the following description of his time at Creedy. Our request was made to all concerned, but only Marvin responded with a complete story. We have printed it unedited.
I was deployed to Creedy by the Queen to oppose an unknown enemy that threatened Creedy by being part of an increasing garrison to deter the enemy or repel them in an attack. It was quite a walk form Raktam to Creedy but when I got there I was stunned, I never saw such large buildings of iron and stone bigger than the and elephant possible rivalling the mystical giant squids themselves. The place was old and rusted, inside was no less aged, a few attempts of brightening up the place was made but with ill affect. I entered Hall with little notice from the others already settled in; discussion was flying around the hall about a possible imminent attack from Durham such speculations gave me my answer on who our enemy was, it wasn’t the wreck as I thought, I was stunned. It seemed my late entry caught me by surprise.
At this time the subject wasn’t really making headlines in international affairs, but it was concern of this matter would soon be making headlines. Talk was Ron was making moves against Creedy but he didn’t have the support still conspiracies were floating around keeping us on our toes. Many plans for pre-emptive strikes, political victories neutralizing a possibility for an attack and benefiting Creedy and peace talks. I myself was egging for military action on the matter but I wasn’t the only one wanting this, in fact the majority of us demanded it, a few of us wanted it but didn’t want to be the aggressor and the minority only wanted a peaceful resolve.
The talk of war attracted some attention, not just media attention but a group of people wearing the badge of the Durham Pistoleers. Things were cooling down now and I was about to set off and prepare for the swamp when suddenly a strange deluded man came in and killed Baron Robert Surcouf, my garrison commander, the killer was a Durham Pistoleer. Now we were attacked before by DP, Dapped Shadow fell to a blade wielded by someone who held a vendetta against her so we disregarded it as an official attack but the attacker who killed the Baron had no connection, calls for blood increased in ever so more shouts. This wasn’t the last of it, an insane screeching woman by the name of Elizabeth Bathory killed poor Shadow again horridly licking the blood of her victim, and they called us natives savage? Even Eptavian fell, I later avenged him. Loughbridge was outraged by these events and was the loudest in the screams for revenge harshly calling Neil Tathers our diplomat trying to resolve some peace an appeaser. The Baron finally gave into the attacks and started to organize an attack on the DP for what they had done, shortly after this he was killed again by a German man called Warlan soon I was to be killed too by that strange savage who screeches at you whilst attacking but she wouldn’t stop, she continued to scream abusively at my lifeless corpse.
The cries for war and the attacks soon drew more attention of other people; I suppose this is why I’m telling you these series of events. I retuned to Creedy only to bare witness to a load killing where I myself was killed again and someone who I suspicions against but them kept to myself finally showed their true colours and joined in on the killing. The killing has already begun in Durham but I blame that small ring of attackers but there is bound to be more.
While the Durham Peninsula edges toward cataclysmic war, conflict has broken out among the island's natives. This in itself is unusual, as native clans tend to unite to counter the more numerous and organized outsiders. Insurgencies have broken out in two native towns.
Wiksik, if it has a dominant clan, is controlled by the Necromancers' Guild, a controversial alliance of mystics dedicated to studying Shartak's spirit world. However, the Guild's practices have earned it many enemies, most notably its execution of exorcists and its seizure of the Wiksik medical supply hut.
In response to these disagreements, an ad hoc alliance of opponents, led by Black Fang, Wicksick Headhunter Baron Samedi, and island oddity Rancor Pigskin, has begun a merciless uprising.
Another major objection is the Guild's tolerance of peaceful outsiders. While tolerance of peaceful foreigners is the rule for every southern outsider town and the Royal Court of Raktam, the Guild's opponents seem to favor a more reactionary stance. Black Fang, one of the de facto spokesmen for the rebels, had this to say:
"This is Wiksik. Outsiders die here. There is no such thing as a friendly outsider. There is no safety in Wiksik for outsiders. There never will be. THIS! IS! WIKSIK!"
The insurgents have demanded an end to all of above policies, threatening destruction of the Guild if their demands are not met. Attempts to negotiate were curtly rebuffed. The "discussion" then degenerated into self-righteous speeches and the occassional machete fight (making Wiksik look a lot like the rest of Shartak).
The Queen of Raktam (possibly for no other reason than to get some peace and quiet) stepped in to end the conflict, providing the Necromancers with a new home north of Raktam. Disconcertingly, the Necromancers and their allies are now discussing the use of spirit attacks to raid outsider homes.
The Royal Court of Greater Raktam is by far the largest clan on Shartak, with many natives deferring to the leadership of its queen. However, when Eastern Federation leaders arrived in Raktam to discuss the Durham Crisis, they found the area filled with bodies and anti-monarchist literature scrawled on hut walls. Reportedly, a handful of dissenters have begun an insurgency. With the Queen's forces scattered across the island, the insurgents were able to inflict a sizeable amount of damage before the royalist counter-attack. More news will be provided as the situation develops.
James Barnes has announced that he is departing Shartak to look for a way back to the outside world. Barnes tells us that he made arrangements for others to carry on his work with the DEP and the Eastern Federation. "I am confident that my friends and allies have the competence to carry on what we started together," he told the DEP. "Therefore, I have no problem leaving Derby in their hands."
With the end of this issue, we have one question remaining. Who are the mysterious agitators that nearly created a massive war? What are their intentions? Do they secretly serve some faction, or are they new to Shartak? And if so, what do they want?