The Dark Truth

When the Council of Fenblith decided to have recordings made of reports written by Hunters, it was Tara Summer who was assigned with the task of seeing it done. Tara was the one who selected Peter Shillard, Jay Homestead, and Lou Harrison to deliver the stories, music, sound effects, and art that became From the Bay of Fangs. Tara was also the one who found herself in the unpleasant position of seeing her work undermined by the appearance of subversive posters immediately after the first story was presented.

 

Now, it's up to Tara to track down the people behind these posters and stop them from destroying her work, her career, and – possibly – the Council of Fenblith's reputation within the global network.

 

The Dark Truth compiles the posters found all over the City of Fenblith, as well as passages from Tara's notes during her hunt for the people behind them. Read them and wonder: can Tara find the people destroying what she worked so hard to build? Who is behind this blatant disrespect towards the Council and the Hunters? And are the Hunters truly the heroes that From the Bay of Fangs suggests them to be, or is the truth much darker?


First Week of Spring, 126 A.S.

“I was given a poster by Speaker River. They were clearly disturbed by it. The poster, apparently created in response to 'Final Flight', reads: ‘The Dark Truth is following Greywing was foolish. Speaker Margaret died for nothing. The Beast was fleeing, yet the Hunters’ leader sacrificed herself. WHY?! The Council has trained the Hunters to sacrifice themselves. Instead of humanity’s salvation, the Council has turned the Hunters into disposable weapons.’

 

“I suppose I can see why Speaker River is concerned. The intent behind From the Bay of Fangs was not just to celebrate what the Hunters have achieved, but also to promote them as the global network’s indispensable heroes. It makes sense that the Speaker for the Traders would be worried about a poster this irreverent. I mean, it calls into question the very act that saw Speaker Margaret Sainted, that’s bound to raise some protests in Fenblith. I fully expect a couple of off-duty Hunters to start patrolling the streets to see if they can find the culprit and teach them a lesson or two.

 

“Still, the thing is of terrible quality. The paper is stained and has damaged edges, there are ink splatters and smears, several pieces of the typeface are plainly damaged. This seems closer to the work of some rebellious amateur seeking to cause a stir for the fun of it than that of anyone skilled or savvy enough to warrant concern.

 

“I will say though… The poster appeared surprisingly quickly, as if whoever made it was ready to release it. And it was apparently found pasted on the doors of the Seat as well as on the gate of the Hunters’ Headquarters – probably the two most well-guarded places in Fenblith – without a trace of the culprit. That’s troubling, I will admit that.

 

“I suppose there’s little I can do but wait and see if another poster shows up when we publicly share the second story in a few days.”

Second Week of Spring, 126 A.S.

“There’s been another poster. It reads: ‘The Dark Truth is Mellsciff was betrayed. The Council no doubt demanded a high payment. The Hunters killed only Twins, letting the other Beasts live. Then Mellsciff was cut off from trade. To free her village, Chief Peggy had to purge the Darkhearts. If the Council wanted to help, they would have done more.’

 

“I found this poster in one of the eating houses. I asked around among the Cookers and they saw someone placing the posters on the tables, but whoever it was didn’t respond to anything the Cookers said.”

 

“I asked what this person looked like. Sadly, they were wearing a hooded cloak that hung down to the ground. However, they were apparently on the tall side and quite broad-shouldered. Also, they walked without effort, but they seemed quite stiff above the waist. Unfortunately, I don’t think this helps me any further at the moment.

 

“As to the poster itself: it’s less irreverent than the first one – no Saints insulted this time around –, but arguably more concerning. It paints the Council as treacherous, which I’m sure is the opposite of what Speaker River wants From the Bay of Fangs to tell people. I’m not familiar enough with Iseron’s history to judge the poster's claims, so I asked Peter to help. Obviously, he’s from Modland too, but he has a penchant for history and has seen more of Iseron than I have. Apparently, Mellsciff was cut off from trade, but the Council didn’t make that decision alone. Peter claims the Council discussed the matter with the leaderships of both Gettildow and Nescetan and that they were unanimous in their decision.

 

“It might be argued then that whoever made this poster is more interested in undermining the Council than in bringing nuance to our stories. Sadly, I don’t think that brings me any further right now, either. I can only dread what the third poster is going to say.”

Third Week of Spring, 126 A.S.

“There’s been another poster, appearing in all the places in Fenblith where parents regularly spend time with their young children, which is quite the move. I was summoned by Speaker River, who ordered me to find who’s behind this. Officially, the Council can’t move against someone for sharing their opinion, but there’s no way Speaker River is accepting this sabotage without fighting back.

 

“The latest poster reads: ‘The Dark Truth is the Council gets children killed. The Hunt for the Muck Toads was reckless endangerment. The Council prepared the Hunters so poorly, they needed children in the field. And we were not even told the children’s ultimate fate. No ruling body intent on helping people would have been so callous. So why is the Council?!’

 

“It’s unclear if whoever made these posters knows the truth of that Hunt. I cautioned Peter against sharing this story, but he pointed out that Saint Henry is a very popular figure in some circles and we were expected to share the Hunt that set him on his path to Sainthood. I know he’s right, and he did make the edits I asked of him, but still…

 

“Looking over the three posters I have now, I’m beginning to believe whoever’s making them isn’t so much against there being Hunters as they are against how the Council uses them. That might prove useful.

 

“Looking more closely, I’m also seeing a pattern to the damaged letters. The capital D of one particular font size is chipped. There’s also damage to specific sizes of the lowercase a and o, as well as a capital F, and specific sizes of lowercase t and capital E are consistently misplaced; the former too low, the latter too high. There’s other deviations too, but those are less consistent. The question is: why are these letters damaged? I need to ask someone who knows about printing.

 

“Let’s hope I find the culprit before there’s ten posters hanging around…”

Fourth Week of Spring, 126 A.S.

“Another week, another poster. It reads: ‘The Dark Truth is the Hunters in Mine 4 were left to their doom. Not only were Beatrice, Thomas, and Ruth seriously injured, they were trapped underground. Hunters are meant to be humanity’s salvation, but they were abandoned. The Council did nothing to help. Why?! Because that would eat into their profit.’

 

“These claims are disturbing, but even more disturbing is that these posters were posted inside the Hunters’ Headquarters. Apparently, several Hunters chanced upon a tall and broad cloaked figure pasting them to the walls – no doubt the same person the Cookers saw two weeks ago. The Hunters tried to grab them, but whoever it is managed to evade all of them, apparently without even opening their cloak. Peter points out that the Hunters might have been less than sober, but I’m feeling uneasy; who could hope to evade full-fledged Hunters like that? 

 

“The chase must continue, though. I’ve spoken to Master Printer Jian, a discrete woman recommended to me by Speaker River. She agreed that the damages to the letters were consistent, but pointed out that any proper font would have several copies of each letter and symbol. She said this means whoever printed these posters had faulty moulds, made from imprints of damaged fonts that only had one copy of each piece. I asked if she knew of any such fonts from this particular typeface. She explained that such repetition-free fonts are for commemorative sets given to Master Printers when they become Masters, showing me her personal set of fonts, organised by size and alphabet. She didn’t know by heart which Master Printers would have received this specific typeface, as it is apparently quite old, but she said she would try and find out for me.

 

“I can only hope this is about to turn into my first proper lead.”

Fifth Week of Spring, 126 A.S.

“The latest poster contains a bold-faced lie! It reads: ‘The Dark Truth is the King of the Forest should not have been found. Don’t misunderstand. It is good that the Beast is dead. But it should not have been killed like this. Why should we cheer a Novice finding a Beast all alone? Does the Council want even children to die if it gives them more power?’ But Felicia was not a Novice! I have to find who’s doing this.

 

“Master Jian reached out to me. She pointed me towards four people: Master Printers Johannes, Rania, and Josephine and former Master Printer Gregory.

 

“Master Johannes died four years ago, but his son Christoph fell into printing and proudly showed me his father’s commemorative letters, still in perfect condition.

 

“Master Rania apparently went back to Waruk over a decade ago to reunite with family. I can’t know for certain, but considering the religious significance of the written word in Waruk, I’m willing to bet she took her set with her.

 

“Master Josephine is still active, her letters – also in perfect condition – displayed in her workshop to motivate her Novices.

 

“That leaves Gregory, who lost his Master Rank last year because his relentless drinking made him utterly unreliable. When I called, he was so drunk he was unable to speak to me, but his daughter Abigail told me Gregory had smashed his set and tossed it out in a drunken rage some months ago. She added that if he hadn’t, he would have no doubt traded it for drink by now, as he has with nearly all his other belongings.

 

“Sadly, this leaves me at somewhat of a dead end: it sounds like it’s Gregory’s set being used for the posters, but there’s no way of tracing it. I’m going to try a new approach. Both the printing itself and the paper it’s done on are of terrible quality. Perhaps I can find out the causes of specific flaws and use those to piece together an image of the person behind them.

 

“I will crack this.”

Sixth Week of Spring, 126 A.S.

“It’s getting more troubling. The new poster reads: ‘The Dark Truth is only the Hunters could have slain Bitanling. And that is a terrible fact. Because only the Hunters have access to Fenblith’s resources. Were we to share our resources, we could save humanity within a generation. But instead. The Council seeks only to profit off our suffering.’

 

“This undermines Fenblith’s Traders immensely. Worse, the posters were pasted to Ophelia’s Wit. Last night two Hunters on patrol came across a cloaked figure leaving the Museum of the Hunt through a forced open backdoor. They whistled for aid and attacked, but – again without opening their cloak! – the culprit beat them both so quickly that the rest of the Hunters’ squad found nothing but their injured Siblings…

 

“I’m nauseous at the thought. I’ve seen the Hunters fight. The reports we’ve shared so far are impressive, but it’s common knowledge that each generation of Hunters is better than the last. I can’t fathom who could defeat two of them, let alone so quickly or easily. It’s scary.

 

“But I must press on.

 

“I went over the posters in more detail. The texts’ smudges don’t overlap with the papers’ stains, so the paper was already stained at the time of printing, probably by mould. The posters’ edges are also frayed as if chewed on by bugs, probably Starchpeelers. So the paper must have spent time in a very low quality storage space well before From the Bay of Fangs began.

 

“I thought the texts’ smudges might have been caused by poorly dried iron gall ink, but that would be vaguely purple or brown. This is proper printing ink, requiring soot, turpentine, and walnut oil, which means foraging for wood, resin, and walnuts and burning, distilling, and pressing those, respectively. Of note: if the ink is good, the smudges must be caused by amateurism.

 

“Since Fenblith’s storehouses are excellent and there have been no traces of anyone doing any of the things required to make ink illicitly, both the paper and the ink’s ingredients must have been imported.

 

“Time to go through some trade manifests.”

Seventh Week of Spring, 126 A.S.

“It’s been a tough week. Initially, I was excited to turn to the manifests. ‘Familiar terrain at last,’ I told myself. Unfortunately, after going through every single manifest I could find, I’ve got nothing. No weird shipments of old paper or ink; no soot, turpentine, or walnut oil with unclear destination; no thefts; nothing. The only upside was that Peter was with me the entire week, keeping me company and helping me search. In the end, we were forced to conclude that the people making these posters must be smuggling, and smuggling very well at that.

 

“The new poster doesn’t make things any better. It reads: ‘The Dark Truth is Serncar’s Engineers were endangered for Fenblith’s sake. The Council wanted more iron for their city. Trade for it? Never! That would cost something in return. The Council wants to give others nothing. So, they sent Hunters to help Serncar dig a new canal. Now, Serncar can work for Fenblith’s benefit.’

 

“‘Engineers.’ Speaker River was not happy with that one, and summoned me to let me know. The Council wants Serncar – cultural touchstone that it is – to be part of Fenblith’s overall image. However, apparently there’s been increasing discontent among its people, with the rowdiest Serncarians very publicly rejecting Fenblith’s classes and redubbing themselves Engineers. Thanks to Speaker River’s efforts, word of this hasn’t reached much beyond Serncar itself, but now these posters seem to be trying to change that. 

 

“I’m sure it doesn’t help the Speaker’s mood that I appear to be stuck. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have someone else on the case too by now…

 

“Wait! Something just occurred to me! Whoever is making these posters evidently knows a great deal of the Council’s business and history. So far, I’ve assumed they somehow obtained Gregory’s letters and were creating smudged posters because they didn’t know how to print properly. But what if it isn’t amateurism, but drunkenness? What if Gregory didn’t throw out his letters, but is helping create these posters in order to hurt the Council for taking his Master Rank?

 

“Saints, is that it?”

Eighth Week of Spring, 126 A.S.

“Praised be the Saints, Cwencynig, and every bloody Spirit of Modland: I’ve got them!

 

“I spent all of last week haunting Gregory whenever I could. I crept around his house, snuck peaks through his windows, but I never saw him. Without anything further to go on, I couldn’t do much else than prepare for the presentation of ‘Blood and Brine’. On the way into the Hunters’ Archives, I happened to run into Abigail, who was just leaving. I greeted her, of course – feeling a little guilty about where I’d just come from –, and asked her what she was doing in the Archives.

 

“She works there.

 

“It didn’t click at first, but then I saw the new poster: ‘The Dark Truth is another child was put in danger. The Hunter’s training in Silwan is tough but controlled. The world outside town is not. Children should not be encouraged to sneak off. The Council knows this, but shares these reckless reports regardless. This falsely turns Hunters into living myths.’

 

“After finding some petty satisfaction in the grammatical error, I decided that we’d be avoiding stories featuring children from here on out. As I was going over to tell Peter, though, I had that odd sensation that something important was just out of reach.

 

“Then it hit me.

 

“Abigail is Gregory’s child. She is the one who has to deal with the consequences of the Council stripping Gregory of his Rank – with Gregory’s spiralling alcoholism and the looming possibility of losing their house. She has access to the Hunters’ reports and she could easily have known which stories we were working on. And she is the one who told me her father’s letters were gone.

 

“It had to be her.

 

“Instead of going to Peter, I went back to Gregory’s house – to Gregory and Abigail’s house. I sat in a dark corner outside, staring through the window. There was something – something I can’t quite name – niggling in my mind, making me sit there and wait.

 

“Then a hidden trapdoor opened in the floor, and out came Gregory and Abigail.

 

“I’ve got them.”

Ninth Week of Spring, 126 A.S.

“I brought my findings to Speaker River, who immediately sent for Speaker Bertram, who in turn immediately summoned four squads of Hunters and allowed me to follow.

 

“It was quite a thrill, walking through the streets with so many fully armed Hunters. Two squads cordoned off the street. One went through a neighbouring house to block off the rear. Then Speaker Bertram gave the order and the final squad of Hunters went in.

 

“They did not enter subtly. The squad leader forced the locked door with a single kick. Two Hunters rushed upstairs. Two more swept the ground floor. Speaker Bertram and the squad leader went straight for the trapdoor.

 

“There was a scream as the Hunters upstairs found Abigail. I heard glass shatter, followed by a sharp crack and a dull thud. The Hunters came back downstairs, Abigail held between them. Her face was swelling where she had been struck.

 

“Gregory was nowhere to be found, so the Hunters handed Abigail over to one of their Siblings outside and regrouped by the trapdoor. Speaker Bertram called for Gregory to come out and surrender. There was a muffled response, after which I heard the scrape of steel. ‘Suit yourself,’ Speaker Bertram called, and I heard the trapdoor being wrenched open.

 

“The Hunters burst down and there was screaming and howling followed by swings and crashes and eventually an awful drawn-out gurgle. Abigail stared at me with hatred in her eyes.

 

“I wasn’t allowed inside. Speaker Bertram told me that Gregory went out fighting because he knew what awaited him were he caught. He was a Darkheart, the Speaker explained, his hidden lair full of awful sigils and fetishes.

 

“They took Abigail away. I saw her leave the hidden room, so she must be a Darkheart, too. To think she seemed so normal.

 

“The troubling thing is this: there was no printing press down there, and the letters haven’t been found. Moreover, a new poster appeared, reading: ‘The Dark Truth is the Hunters’ trap in Nescetan failed to save countless lives. It was impressive, ingenious, even heroic, but it was not enough. Surely, if we have Hunters, they should stop Beasts. Why else would we surrender so many resources? Why else would we give the Council so much power?’

 

“There are more culprits, and they avoid mentioning Darkhearts. Are they playing dumb? Trying to keep a distance?

 

“There’s something I’m missing.”