Depression Averted

A Letter to Michael
From a not so secret Admirer

Dearest Michael West of House Nystrom,

Thank you for a most memorable night. I was very reluctant to even go to the ball but I am glad that I did. Had I not, I would have missed the best part of the ball…you. You are not like any of the men here. You seem genuinely kind, which is quite refreshing. Your broad shoulders and hard chest are also quite refreshing.

I understand that you may be worried about my husband but I can assure you…worry not. My husband is in love with another women. Always has. A women I despise greatly but have enough respect not to name. I allow my husband to do as he pleases and in return, he allows me to do the same. It’s a mutual agreement. Therefore, you have nothing to worry about and nothing to stop you from coming to see me tonight.

My courtier can give you the details about where to go and what time to arrive. Do not be late.

Follow my rules and I shall make it worth your while. So, let’s have some fun! You won’t regret it. I shall eagerly await for your response but do make it quick, I do not like to be kept waiting.

With Love,

V   

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A Letter to Jack/Atlas
Forever and Always yours

Dear Atlas,

My dear Atlas, why must we fight like this? I hate it when we fight. Now you are suffering alone in that filthy hospital. You do not belong there! YOU belong to me! To watch you suffer, makes me suffer and I am done suffering.

But YOU left me no choice! I will no longer allow your contemptuous manner towards my feelings continue. For too long, you have mistreated me and taken my love for granted. That time is over! You must be taught a lesson.

I promise you this, my love, I will make you feel all the pain and agony I have felt all these years loving you. After everything we have endured together and all the rules I have broken for you… you’re willing to throw it all away for some WHORE! A WHORE you are not even sure you have feelings for! I will make this women pay for taking you from me and everyone else you love. But…I am not evil. I do still love you very dearly. I love you so dearly in fact, that I am willing to give you one more chance, to do the right thing and marry me. If you agree to our marriage again, I promise not to hurt your family. I would even go so far as to leave the WHORE alone as well. Though, you would never be allowed to see them but they would be safe. Besides…my love is all that you will ever need. It is all you will ever have…

Forever and always yours,

Celeste Vinter

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Victoria's Letter to her Father
Dad, Nightsdeep sucks!

Dear Dad,

Hey Dad, it’s me again, Victoria. I’m not sure if you will ever get these but honestly, I just need someone to vent too. I can’t vent to my friends because I don’t want to alarm them. Besides, I have caused them enough problems for one lifetime. I’m not sure where to start. See, many things have happened to me within the time I’ve been away. I guess I should just start with the current issues plaguing my friends and I. Like, hollow ones after me and a giant void monster after my friend Jack as well as me. Then again, what isn’t after me? I’m sure this is all confusing so let me give you a bit of some background information first.

We were forced into a dreadfully depressing world called Nightsdeep. Upon our arrival, we were arrested and then saved by Jack’s long lost father. Jack is a co-worker of mine and a bit more but we can get into that much later, maybe in person would be best. Anyways, moving forward… Here in Nightsdeep the Nobles and the Vampires are in charge of everything. So, when I found out that Jack’s family were pretty important Nobles, I was a bit nervous. I thought to myself, I’d never imagined I would meet Jack’s family, let alone find out they are practically royalty. It was a bit intimidating.

Much time has passed now and we all are nobles now. As you know, I am no stranger to fame but this takes the cake! Nobles can literally get away with murder, it’s a bit insane and very wrong. My friends and I are using our status for good. Surprisingly, so are other noble houses including Jack’s family. We are trying to make a difference in this crazy, awfully sad and ugly little world. I absolutely hate it here!

I Just have no idea how to tell Jack just how much I loathe this world. I'd be happy to never return to this ugly world. Everyday it is either raining, overcast or as of late, snowing. The sun never shines down on this world and this causes the landscape to look rather… brown. Flowers are practically non-existent! The whole world looks dead and if it weren't for the people, I would have assumed it was indeed dead. Heck! Even the people walk around as if there is no beauty in life and I don’t blame them. Luckily, two of my friends revived an entire dead area and made it into a rain forest. I can’t wait to finally see some vibrant colors again.

Dad, I’m scared.

I don’t know how long I can keep this up. This false happiness. I’m so afraid of the things after me and the orb inside of me. I feel it growing stronger by the day. It calls to the deep. I can hear it speak sometimes. The deep, it tells me of the horrible things happening in Nightsdeep and how humanity will continue to behave this way without it’s help. I continue to ignore it, hoping it will lose interest in me but I highly doubt it will work. To make matters worst, I kind of agree with it; to an extent. Nightsdeep is a terrible place and I continue to lose any hope that it will get better. I think with all our efforts, the world just refuses to bend to our will. Solutions are meet with more problems and the fires continue to grow. Yet, I cannot agree with the deep’s solution. It wants to strip humanity of its freedom. Freedom helps create art and art, as you know dad, will always be my passion.

The deep has it’s minions after me and they are everyday looking people like you and me. Today a man threw himself in front of our carriage in order to stop me from getting to the Lovesel Manor. The Lovesel are my adoptive family here. Anyways, the man was possessed by the deep and it nearly killed him in order to save me. Apparently, there was an assassin awaiting ever so patiently, in my room. The man who threw himself in front of our carriage, caused us to crash into another carriage. Two young women died in the other carriage. These women died, so that I may live. I fear the deep will stop at nothing to protect me. Maybe I should be the one to drink the sleeping potion.

Oh, I am also being chased by a void monster who wishes to consume me for my abilities, I assume. This oddly enough, does not scare me. I believe it has to do with the simplicity of the monster’s goal. It seems pretty straightforward to me and isn’t causing people to kill themselves for my protection. Though, to Jack,  the void monster isn't a simple problem.

I’m really scared for Jack.

Jack has a man trapped in his mind. This man’s name is Atlas and he is quite the son of a bitch. Excuse me for my foul mouth dad but it is absolutely true. This bastard is on a crash-course to hurting Jack, while trying to drive him insane. At times, Atlas seems to be able to take control over Jack and when he takes over, he wastes no time to destroy our goals. I absolutely hate that monster disguised as a man. He wishes to destroy Jack and allow himself to be consumed by the void monster. He thinks he can control the monster. Hopefully, Zenisha can find a way to get rid of him quickly. Only then will Jack be safe.

Well dad, hopefully I’ll be back soon. Please do not forget to eat your lunch. I miss you lots.

- Marie

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Victoria's Letter to Jack
While Jack was in a Mental Institution

Dear Jack,

Hopefully, they allow you to receive and read my letters. Damon says they do but I doubt he has ever had to stay more than ten minutes inside of that place. Though to be fair, there is still so much I don’t know about Damon so… I shouldn't make such assumptions. Either way, I hope this letter finds you well.

This letter should be attached to a book called “101 ways to properly insult a noblewomen.” It’s just to help pass the time and maybe teach you a thing or two about proper etiquette. I bought this book at Colborn’s Bookstore. You would love this bookstore, it is so neat and organized. The man has a systematic way for everything in his life, I swear! It’s kind of impressive and makes me think of the old you. Not the Atlas you, but the other…you? Any who. We should go there together one day. You should have seen the face he made when I picked out the book. He was so nervous, it made me feel uncomfortable. I had to reassure him that I was not offended in the slightest bit. He tried to suggest some romantic type books to me but I really did not find any of them nearly as funny as this book. Besides, you need this book! So, be sure to enjoy it, okay. That way, at the next ball, you will be prepared and ready to insult your way into that crazy woman's heart. Joking!

I had forgotten to tell you. At the ball, I meet a very nice women. She is a playwright of tragedies. She wants me to help her produce one of her plays but also wants me to star in it. I agreed to help her of course. I just can’t get over the fact that she will likely be the Shakespeare of Nightsdeep. Though, I’m sure that all Lady Lovesel can see are dollar signs. To each there own, I guess.

Viktor says “hello.” I told him to write you but he refused. He seems to have such a knack for this speakeasy business. I only just told him about it yesterday and already he has some possible properties lined up. He also has made a sort of business plan, with possible local investors and local protectors. Not sure why we need protectors but he insists on it. He also wants to keep Lady Lovesel out of the business but I do not think it is a good idea. While, I understand this is all underground and for the people, it doesn't change the fact that, Lady Lovesel would be very upset if I did not include her. Besides, her influence and connections could be of great use to us.

OH! I almost forgot to tell you. I’m throwing Damon a dinner party in celebration of the day he was reborn. I’m not sure the proper way to throw this dinner party but Lady Lovesel has insisted that I do. I’m just wondering when would I have the time to do…everything. I’m always so busy! Everyday I spend here, I feel more and more like my father; putting profits above the arts. Woe is me! Anyways, the dinner party has been scheduled two weeks from today. So you must absolutely attend and yes I was forced to invite Celeste and friends. All vampires must be invited. All of them! What could go wrong?

P.S. Don't take any wooden nickels. Just…think of it as a vacation.

Sincerely,

Your favorite person in all the worlds,

Victoria Marie Young

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Victoria's Farewell Letter
Trapped in the Future

So far, any records of agent Victoria Marie Young, added member to the Chicago cell, has been useless. Though Victoria has written a large amount of letters over the years with the agency, she would often not discuss the agency or any of her missions. After a large amount of useless letters, I came upon this one and it intrigued me. It seems to be a farewell letter to her loved ones but the date is confusing. Victoria wrote and sent this letter sometime in the early 1960s. She personally received this letter in the mail but fully expected it. After further questioning, she revealed that at some point in their journey through worlds, a young Victoria managed to return back to earth but during the wrong time period. In the dossier, a fifty-something Victoria further claimed to have spent almost one whole week back and with Elvis Presley. Yes, the Elvis Presley. She went on to say, she even helped him come up with one of his famous songs. She also stated, she had spent six months in another world alone. And something about an orb. Though without any evidence, the agency dropped the whole investigation and stored this letter away.

April 22, 1961

Dear Friends and Family,

           I’m terribly sorry. Sorry for many silly little things but for mostly leaving you all without answers. I know some of you will blame yourselves but the blame can only be placed on me. Because of my incompetence, I am stuck here in 1961 and I am unsure for how long this time. I arrived here about five days ago but after having spent six long months in that god awful world, there is no telling when I will be able to leave this one. I try every minute of the day I possibly can, to open a doorway back to my friends but nothing is happening. Worst of all, without any help, I fear I may have this ridiculous orb take over me. I don’t know what to do!

          Though, unlike my bad experience in the other world, this one is home. It’s home in the future but home none-the-less. Our world has changed so much. Things we thought impossible are fully possible or nearly possible now. Yet, it doesn’t feel completely alien to me. The cars are the same, a bit different but not by much. The people have changed a little but again not by much. What is different, is the growing amount of police presence and their heavily militarized style. It is not strange to see a police officer look like they are ready for a world war and most of them are bullies. Actually, I’m not sure if it is fair to call them that but from the little I have seen so far, they can get a bit overzealous. Even so, they seem to like Elvis very much. Everyone does.

           Elvis Presley. He is some sort of famous artist or will be soon. He has been nothing but a gentleman towards me. He has a lovely singing voice but he needs a bit more practice in acting. I happened to suddenly appear in his studio room as he called it. Embarrassingly enough, I was in my nightgown completely confused as to how I had managed to get there. Of course I realized very quickly my body had clearly betrayed me by falling asleep. See it happens when I sleep. I think whenever I sleep, the uncontrolled power takes over me and I begin to move through different worlds. I regret trying to keep this a secret but I did not want any of you to think of me as useless. An now I really am useless for not being there. I wonder how long I’ve been away.

             Elvis has been taking care of me these past five days. He mistook me for a poor women. He thought I had snuck, into his home in order to beg him for money. Since I couldn’t think of a better story, I let him think I was a beggar. Eventually after we talked some more, I felt like I could trust him and so I told him everything. Surprisingly, he believed me! I nearly cried. He told me I could stay for as long as I needed. His fiance Priscilla is such a nice women too. Once she learned I knew my way around the kitchen, she has me teaching her to cook nearly everyday. It’s such a sweet notion because I know she only wants to learn for him. Today I am helping Elvis with a song. He says he wants to create an old ballad and has invited his friend who is a songwriter, George Weiss. I’m not sure what kind of help I can provide but it’s the least I can do.  

            Oh! I nearly forgot. The Secret Service, I’m not sure they are so secret anymore. Maybe it’s because I knew what to look for, or maybe they have more power than I expected. Either way, I think it’s better if I stay away from them. What if I run into myself? Shouldn't I know, I’m here? I think I would know. So, why hasn't my future self, come to save me…herself? Also, if I am here in the future that means I go back. Maybe I should seek myself out. What if I’m dead? This is why time traveling is a bad idea. I probably should continue trying to get back but what’s the point? I’m sort of home anyway, might as well stay. This letter is starting to become a journal entry instead of a goodbye. I’m sorry again but before I continue my goodbyes, I really just want to say thank you.

            Thank you to my father for raising me, protecting me, and for showing me the beautiful side of life. Even if that meant you had to break a couple of rules to do so. Thank you to my mother for having me even though she knew it would take her life away. Thank you to my friends at the academy for never letting me give up and for singing along with a very drunk me. And last but certainly not least, Thank you to Jack and Micheal, for saving me as well as being wonderful friends. I will miss you both terribly. I hope you find your way back home somehow. Most of all, I hope you can forgive me for giving up and leaving you stranded.

I love you all. Goodbye.

Sincerely,

Victoria Marie Young

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Atlas steals our victory
an encounter at the council

Once again, Atlas has made a mockery of what we have accomplished.

Today, we had to attend a council meeting. I was healed by Michael last night and over night, the rest of my wounds took care of themselves. Dagur seemed to still be sufferring from the chest wound that I'd left him with. I will not lie and say that I gained no satisfaction from knowing that he was so severely injured. In fact, I derive great satisfaction from that knowledge. I spoke to Kurr's House, offerred to loan them the funds with which to purchase land from the new lands beyond the inner wall.

I should note here that these lands are due to Zenisha and Michael siphoning energies from Victoria. The orb is killing her. I don't know what to do about it. I've put on a brave face and made my jokes but, the horror of my inability to do anything is terrible.

After making my offer to another house, The protectors of the roadways beyond the city, I also explained the concept of tolls to them. It was as if they had never imagined such a thing. Whereas in Chicago, to cross many of the major roadways, one must pay a toll of somesort. The head of that House was quite keen on the concept of Tolls. It was quite satisfying to explicate such a thing.

We were called in and dealt with quite a few matters. Michael respectfully and quite admirably defended the Vardr against the representative of the Unhoused. I feel rather distressed about referring to other people as "commoners" so, I refuse to. The Bondi and Thrall are real people with real concerns and I will do what I can to defend their interests as well.

We discussed the matter of the investigation into the undetectable hollow ones. It was concluded that the Vardr would need more funding. A tax would be enacted to increase the funding to their efforts. I leapt at the chance to defend Hafstein's House. I proposed that the Nobles be the only ones to pay the tax and attempting to explain fairly basic economic theory but, found that the issue was too complicated or they were feigning  ignorance.

Essentially, it boiled down to the fact that I was proposing that the nobles pay their share. I proposed the tax as "rebellion insurance" in a bid to use self-preservation to shock them into compliance. This worked to an extent but, Lady Celeste moved to postpone the tax until the matter could be "understood better." This was an obvious ploy to delay the matter into oblivion. I countered that we deny the motion under the fact that the need was now, not in some speculated future time.

The council recessed and immediately, I went to lobby for the tax.

I was again impressed that Michael chose to lobby as well. He was effective in isolating the Head of the House that created the ticktocks. They were in dire straits and had much of their work confiscated after the debacle of the ticktocks going rogue and taking control of the Ash Quarter. He wound up with a fairly poor deal where he, through his adopted House, would fund all research and pay for all materials but would only receive 50% of the profits. It wasn't a great deal but, Michael negotiated it all on his own so, I didn't intervene.

I spoke to the lawyer House that my House has on retainer. They had some great advice. They suggested creating a trust of sorts where only the head of the Vardr can remove the funds from. The trust's ledger would be meticulously maintained. Together, we fell upon Elias, the representative of the unhoused as the man for the job of treasurer. He would be unable to take any of the funds but would be responsible for making sure that the ledger properly matches up with what it should. Elias struck me as a man of considerable faith and bravery. I have no doubts that he would perform his job with zealous perfectionism. When he accepted the position, I was amazed and concerned for him. Such a position is fraught with danger for one who refused temptation.

When we reconvened, I presented my proposal as an amendment to my previous proposal regarding the tax. This served to relieve some fears as the nobles knew Elias to be a man with slavish devotion to his ideals. Celeste again attempted to prevent the tax by floating the idea that Elias could easily be killed and the entire tax and trust would become useless. This wasn't true on multiple levels but, it didn't prevent the nobles from feeling that it was a reason to abandon the entire endeavor.

The fact is that should Elias die, any one of us and in fact all of us could ask to look at the ledger. This means that since no House wants any other house to profit too much, we would all act as a check to each other. Also, should Elias die, the vampire council could act as treasurer. This would create a massive disincentive to manipulate the ledger. The vampire council however did one better, they granted Elias a title of Treasurer and granted him the full protection of the vampire council.

Elias is basically untouchable.

The rest of the time was occupied by smaller issues until we were done. When the council ended, Celeste confronted me while I was walking out with Victoria and Michael. She provoked me and I hit back a bit. Things got pretty heated but, Victoria eventually stepped in and defused the situation.

If it had ended there, this entry would leave me jubulant and proud. It didn't end there. Atlas had to have his say. I watched and could do nothing as he called to Celeste. "Celly," he called her. Only when he said it, I knew that it wasn't a romantic nickname. There was not affection here. Instead it was a diminutive meant to make her feel small. Another way to flex his power over her.

"come here," he told her. I couldn't fathom why she did. She was a proud noble woman and I was her enemy even if she also wanted me to be her lover. With two quiet sentences, he tore her apart in ways that I could do nothing but pity her. His words were like brutal knives stabbing over and over into her. He did this with glee. She lashed out verbally, wildly accusing Victoria of being a woman of improper character. Her face was contorted into a mixture of impotent rage and fear as she saw her beloved Atlas again.

I actually wished that I could comfort her. She deserved to pay for what she has done. She deserved to be punished for setting Dagur on my friends. She deserved to suffer for mutilating a stranger to make a point. She didn't really deserve this. This was brutal in ways that I could never bring myself to act. Where I have limits, Atlas has none.

She threatened to cut Victoria to pieces and his response was that she "use small boxes." His callousness knows no bounds. Doesn't he need Victoria alive for now, at least? I suspect that the euphoria of hurting Celeste went to his head. He believes himself to be so intelligent, yet when he is at his most arrogant is when he is most vulnerable. He has taken a fire and willfully spread it into a wildfire that will consume everything that I hold dear, if we allow it.

Atlas turned our victory into a hollow mockery of itself.

I fear that I may have to be put to sleep like, the werewolf. I may be more dangerous that he could ever be. If I were to sleep however, would I be able to trust that Victoria would be safe? She can handle herself is a direct assault but, here in Nightsdeep, nothing is ever direct. They come at you from odd angles with weapons made of words draped in silks. I told Victoria that I may not be able to leave Nightsdeep. There is too much that must be fixed. Too much that cannot be allowed to stand unopposed forever. She handled it better than I expected. Now, I just hope that the next few days are better.

We need a few untainted victories.

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A carriage accident and a long awaited encounter
an attempt on Victoria's life

I should remember to write what had occurred the night previous. A man stepped out in front of Lady Lovesel's carriage. The one carrying Victoria, Lady Lovesel and little Octavia. In order to avoid hitting the man, the driver pulled the carriage hard to the left. This caused their carriage to crash into another carriage and almost kill a pair of children on the sidewalk. I, as the Raven, managed to get to the children just in time to get them out of harms way.

I wish that I could say the same for the passengers of the other carriage. Lady Lovesel's carriage fell atop this other carriage and the accident wound up killing two of the occupants. One, older woman, survived and I was able to pull her out.

The man was actually being controlled by the Deep. He was one of the barely detectable Hollow Ones that now must be crawling about the city unopposed. He was ranting that we should "beware." I would later discover what we should beware, indeed. I shadowed the Vardr to the watchtower where the man was being interrogated. Upon arriving though, Damon opened my eyes to another possibility.

This was a warning.

I raced to the Lovesel manor as quickly as I could, somehow arriving before they did. Once there, I found the manor to be eerily quiet. I went to Victoria's room as I heard the Lady Lovesel and Victoria enter the manor. Victoria's room was upstairs. I opened to door to Victoria's room to an ambush. Barely, I avoided a fatal wound.

I sprung into action and retaliated, I knew who my attacker was without needing to see him. Lord Dagur, or shall I call him The Reaper, had come for Victoria. We fought intensely, both of us granting no quarter. It was a bitter and brutal fight. Possibly more intense that any that I have had before. His blades cut my skin and my batons bruised his. The tide turned in my favor when I was able to manuver him into the position for me to shock him with my batons.

Would that I could do that again so easily but, alas the surprise would only work once.

We continued to fight, the battle firmly in my favor. I thought to myself that I might spare him. That maybe, I should tie him up and leave him unconscious for the Vardr to find. The people would push the Vardr to investigate and the evidence against Dagur is pretty insurmountable. His status as a noble may protect him a bit but, he has killed too many nobles to go unpunished. It was not to be, however.

He did something. Something bizarre. He told me the myriad ways that he was going to hurt Victoria and it hurt me physically. His words were literally weapons. I was without defense. I literally tripped backwards over my own feet in clumsy surprise.

Dagur got away.

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A nightmare of doubt
revisiting No Man's Land

I had a nightmare.

It’s the first that I’ve had… maybe ever. In it, Michael and I stood over the broken neighborhood of No Man’s Land. A place boarded up and discarded. It’s people were lost souls given up and swallowed by a darkness that I don’t even dare to name. In this nightmare, I didn’t leave No Man’s Land with the families that we were able to find and save. In the nightmare, we didn’t save anyone.

It was me, standing on the roof of a beaten down sky scraper watching the neighborhood and it’s inhabitants burn. I was able to see their flesh char, bubble and flake off. I heard their screams echoing endlessly in the night. Their bodies writhing in a macabre dance of pure agony. I saw all this and I smiled.

When I awoke, I was cold. Dreadfully cold. My skin felt like a corpse. I stared into the darkness of my room and searched deep within myself, was it me that burned No Man’s Land or was it Atlas manipulating me from the recesses of my own mind? I realized then that this was his truest and ultimate power.

Doubt.

I’d never really felt it before. I read about leaders expressing doubt in their own faculties. Fearful that they may not make the right choices. I’ve seen Michael paralyzed by doubt, wondering if he was making the right decision. I’ve never doubted myself. Never. Now, I’m questioning my actions. Now I’m staring into the darkness wondering if I was a puppet and he was pulling my strings.

I got out of bed and went to the window. The night was cold and I didn’t bother to cover myself up. I looked out at Vantoft estate, my estate and wondered when the next time that Atlas would take over. Would I be able to return? Was I strong enough?

There is too much work to do for me to give in to doubt. I must harden myself. I must accept that I may not always have the answer, this is why I have friends. I must accept that I may not be perfect but, I will do everything I can to make things right. This world is beset on all sides by monsters, I will do everything I can, even die for them.

More nightmares may come. Maybe, I made the wrong decision and missed an innocent in No Man’s Land. I will live with that. I must live with that. What I won’t do, is show weakness and doubt. My friends need me to believe in them and they need to believe in me. I will be strong for them.

Even if I lose more sleep.
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A midnight encounter
A raven in the dark

The darkness consumed every corner, reaching out with tendrils to fill every crack. The always-overcast sky made it look like there simply were no stars. Not that anyone had really seen a star before. The city was quiet, dead and still as a grave. In this lonely darkness, hurried a tall and far too thin man. He glanced about nervously and startled at every noise. He was a man comfortable in the day. He was the kind of person who kept a lit candle by his bed to keep the darkness at bay.

Uther Lorensen wanted nothing more than to be in bed with his wife.

He wanted a hot meal, maybe a cold mug of some kind of alcohol and most of all, he wanted to be home. As luck would have it though, that wasn’t the case today. No, today he found himself in the Hanged District. A den of vile people and disgusting habits. Criminals, the lot of them. He’d heard stories about how looking someone in the eye was enough to get you stabbed. He heard that the vardr don’t actually come here because it’s too dangerous and we bondi don’t pay for protection. Mostly, he heard that it wasn’t safe.

So it was with great fear and concern that Uther found himself in the Hanged District. How he had arrived here was simple enough, his wife sent him to a new shop across town, he stayed longer than he had intended and then he got lost on the way back. Uther cursed himself quietly as he imagined the scolding that he would get when he finally made it home. If he made it home at all.

As Uther crossed the cobble streets of Billows street and headed toward Tomlin, he started to feel strange. The hairs were standing on the back of his neck and his throat became incredibly dry. He quickly glanced around but, saw no one. Still, he felt it in the pit of his stomach and his mind screamed inside. He was being watched.

He went down Tomlin and quickly ducked into an alleyway and clasped his own hand over his mouth. The street seemed empty and colder. The silence was deafening. That was when he heard the footsteps.

“Did he go this way?” someone whispered.
“I’m not sure… lets double back around. We’ll find him.” someone responded.
“I’m gonna gut that scrawny piece of-”

There was a strange noise, a mixture of surprise and pain. Then, there were the unmistakable noises of violence. A man stumbled into the alleyway, his arm obviously broken, the other brandishing a knife.

“You!” yells the man with the knife as he lunges forward.
Uther yelps as his foot flies out in front of him.
The man with the knife makes a high pitched noise and grabs his crotch, scowling in pain.
Uther lets out a wild swing while screaming like a wounded animal.
The man dodges the swing effortlessly and swings the knife toward Uther.
Uther closes his eyes.

The knife never comes to end him. Instead, the sound of crunching bone and screams. When Uther finally gains the courage to open his eyes, the man with the knife is tied to an overhang, dangling painfully. In the shadows, another thing… probably a man, clad in black and dark grey rags. On his face, a leather beaked mask.

“You’re the raven,” Uther says.
The man in rags nods.
“Thank you,” Uther begins to bow low when a gravelly voice interrupts him.
“Don’t bow. I’m not your master. You defended yourself. Keep doing that.”

With that, the man turned and ran into the darkness.

“I did defend myself,” Uther whispered.
Then, more proud than he had been in a long time, Uther thought about the story that he was able to tell his wife. He smiled as he sped his way home.

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The Symptom and the Disease
an opinion article by Valentine

Darkholme is under attack of sorts.

We live in a world where decadent Noblemen and women hold lavish balls and live opulent lives while most of the population is struggling just to survive. Our Vampiric overlords literally hold the power of life and death at a whim over us. Monsters within and beyond the wall assail us on a daily basis. We all act as if there is absolutely nothing wrong with the nightmarish creatures that constantly batter at our underfunded and crumbling walls and nets.

Then we have “The Raven.”

This… vigilante decides that he, and the Raven is almost certainly a he, has the power to choose who is guilty and who is innocent? The Raven thinks that he can do better than the Vardr that struggle daily to balance all the competing needs of our world? What kind of arrogance gives someone the idea to put on a ridiculous costume and beat on people who are simply trying to live within their means?

Maybe, you think that The Raven is a good thing. Maybe you think that since the Raven operates outside of the traditional systems in place that, this means that the Raven is able to do more than the vardr ever could. If we accept that conceit, then we must ask ourselves: how can we be certain that the Raven is benevolent? How can we be certain that he will remain benevolent? We must never forget the lessons taught to us by our ancestors.

When High King Elric was murdered brutally, we all were complicit in his death. This is fact. This is history. Our Vampiric benefactors aren’t really the only monsters that stalk the city. Maybe, we need to remember to look in the mirror and recognize the monster that lurks there as well? The vampires may have provoked our ancestors into action but, they did what they did willingly. Would we do the same?

I think we would.

So, we look back at The Raven. This person, be he bondi, noble, vampire or even thrall, may even believe that he is doing the right thing. Even if this is so, ultimately, he is one man. One man who is acting as judge and jury over the rest of us. How long before he thinks that he can become our executioner as well? Are we safe from that? Can we be certain? The Raven operates in the dark but, he is a symptom of a greater disease.

Darkholme, you are sick.

You are ill and maybe some of you believe that The Raven or the Blade of Saluwan are the cure. They aren’t the cure, they are more symptoms. Only you can cure yourself from the disease that your caste system imposes on you. Only you can voice your needs, your fears. Only you can come together. I speak not only to the Bondi. I speak to the Vampires. I speak to the Thrall. I even speak to The Raven.

We are sick and we are dying. This nation cannot hold itself together while we are so busy tearing ourselves apart. I don’t ask the Raven to stop doing what he is doing. Such a person wouldn’t listen anyway. I ask that all of us make real efforts to real change. I ask that we be smart and work within the system where we can. I ask that we keep to the shadows when we must. I say that more than anything else, we must work together. Even the Raven can have a place if we work together. Maybe, we could bring about a new and brighter tomorrow.

And just maybe, we could finally hold back the dark.

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