The Serial Quiller
Updated: Jul 31, 2022
The works of Artifice made the world seem a little smaller every day. Travel was faster and safer. Communication between cities didn’t rely on bird-brains. You could scry information without even having to consult an oracle. Among that boom, there was a spike in demand for news. Information that used to be gossiped unreliably from one serf to another could now be accessed directly by a farmer across the sea with only an affordable, mass-manufactured crystal ball. A Reports Guild was not long in forming, and they provided news to pamphlet printers, town criers, and kings hundreds of miles away every single day. One writer rose to prominence for her fiery investigative skills and pointed accusations. Everyone from Farmhands to Lords knew the name Ursula Snow.
She wrote earth-shattering exposé after earth-shattering exposé all speaking truth to power. Her reporting revealed corrupt judges, a counterfeiting ring in a national treasury, and a King who had committed unspeakable crimes against his own citizens. Her words were a weapon which many feared, lest she uncover their shortcomings and darkest secrets. Or at least, at first.
As time went on, the news she wrote became less shocking and less impactful. The readers who eagerly sent imps for copies of her articles were getting similar news from across the fiefdoms every day. Tragedy and outrage became so commonplace that it seemed like Ursula would accuse a Lord of pillaging a town for sport, and no matter how angry people got, not a fortnight later, everyone had forgotten the incident and the Lord was still in power. As smart as she was at connecting the dots, Ursula quickly pieced together that the accessibility to bad news had completely robbed her of her ability to inspire change. The next article she published claimed the captain of a City Guard had covered up a series of kidnappings after he was paid off by a wealthy merchant. Not a week later, both the captain and the merchant were found stabbed to death in their homes. Her next work after that revealed the magically-gigantifed (MGO) crops a wizard tycoon peddled had severe long-term health risks. Wouldn’t ya know, the wizard tycoon didn’t make it through the month alive either. Ursula was arrested by City Guardsmen and scheduled for a very public trial for the three murders.
The trial went on for weeks, with shocking twists and many dark secrets coming to light. There was heated debate the world over as to Ursula’s guilt, but before the trial concluded, society did. The Devourers consumed enough of society to bring the gears of the criminal justice system to a halt, and the gossiping serfs certainly had bigger concerns now than whether some writer they had never met had murdered some official of something-or-other. No one knows for sure what happened to Ursula after The Night of Endless Hunger, but every now and then in some parts of the world handbills will be passed around, posters will be hung on trees, and bards will sing new songs, all disavowing the evils of a local warlord. Not long after, that warlord will be dead and the posters, the handbills, and the body will all bear the same signature: “The Serial Quiller.”