A Plague of Onces
In northern Pointe-a-la-Hache there is a mine that is now known as Standoff Mills. Originally, around 15 years ago, it was known as Brennan’s Mill and was nothing more than the stake of a prospector named Daniel Logan. Daniel was looking to strike it rich by locating a copper vein. While little copper was found, eventually Logan discovered a strange and unfamiliar metal ore. Blood red in appearance and glowing with a faint unearthly light, he soon brought it to an alchemist named Jonah Massey, an expert at the local academy in metallurgy and alchemy in the nearby town of Orlienville Parish, to have it identified.
What was discovered was astonishing to the alchemist. He had also never seen such an ore before, but through experimentation he found that it emitted the same energy as certain curious weapons discovered in various ruins that dot the countryside. Of an uncanny quality of craftsmanship and with a metal tinted a pale indigo or violet color, the rare weapons salvaged by archaeologists quickly became the distinctive weapons of skilled soldiers and leaders and were coveted by many. The ruins in which they were usually found were created by an unknown civilization which demonstrated not only superior weapon smithing skills, but stonework rivaled only by the most proficient of dwarves. Due to their stonecutting prowess, archaeologists named them the “Beau-Pierre people” which translated to English Common means the “beautiful stone people.”
The alchemist had already worked long and hard doing research on the metallurgy of these weapons, hoping to unlock their secrets. What Jonah Massey had discovered is that the faint glow the red ore emitted had properties identical to the energy emitted by the Beau-Pierre weapons. Until that moment no one was sure what gave these weapons that property, but it seems that Daniel and Jonah has discovered at long last that this strange red ore was, somehow, incorporated. The next question was how, and that as yet unanswered question has been the nexus for much bloodshed in the years since the discovery of the red ore. Daniel Logan immediately returned to his stake to find more. Jonah Massey, however, notified his uncle, Howard Massey, who ran a modest mining company known as Massey Minerals & Mining, Co. Whatever Jonah’s intentions were, Howard saw an opportunity and as a man of great ambition and few morals he was not a man to pass this opportunity.
He immediately hired some private security from a firm in Lareux Foret known as The Jackrabbits. In name they were guards and mercenaries for hire, but in reality they were little more than a gang of raiders, and the brutality of the thugs was common knowledge. Armed by Howard and led by the psychopath Bocephus Jackson they set out to take Brennan’s Mill from Logan by force. Hearing the Jackrabbits were coming for him, Daniel recruited a number of his fellow prospectors to make a stand to defend his claim. The result was a series of brief but bloody skirmishes consolidating into a four day long siege at Brennan’s Mill. Surrounded and with limited supplies, Daniel was pinned down and unable to retreat. While Daniel was tied up at the siege with the Jackrabbits, Massey used his considerable influence to bribe or blackmail government officials and law enforcement. By the end of the four days, Massey held the deed to Brennan’s Mill. When Daniel found out, he knew he had been beaten but vowed to make this right no matter how long it took. Logan would never get the chance for as soon as the prospectors laid down their arms Massey ordered Bocephus and his killers to slaughter the lot of them.
Today, the official name of what was Brennan’s Mill is MM&M, Co. Site 001, but to all the locals it’s known as Standoff Mills in honor of the prospectors’ stand against Massey. However, their sacrifice wouldn’t be the last over the 15 years since Massey took control of the stake. Since that day Massey has been consumed with his quest to accumulate as much of the red ore (since named Realgar) to experiment and unlock the secret of Beau-Pierre technique. Anyone that has stood in his way has been dealt with harshly and swiftly by the Jackrabbits, and since Massey enjoys many connections with government (particularly Marquis Rousseau of Pointe-a-la-Hache) there is little resistance to his plans. The raw ore seems to entice the greed in Massey, but that is not the only danger it presents.
As if all this wasn’t bad enough, not long after the standoff Jonah Massey, who Daniel Logan initially contacted to identify the ore quickly fell ill and died. After several more of Massey’s researchers perished, it soon became obvious that the ore has some sort of toxic quality. Alchemists and herbalists have not been able to identify the toxin specifically, but it’s widely believed that the ore itself may give off some sort of necrotic aura, and anyone that handles it too much eventually falls ill and dies. It’s a condition clerics have dubbed “Realgar Sickness”.
Having cornered the market on Realgar, Massey’s humble mining company has exploded in scale and influence. It’s now the most profitable business in Pointe-a-la-Hache, becoming such a ubiquitous sight that most locals simply call it “The Company.” Massey hires droves of miners, researchers, and salvage experts as he buys up as much land as he can, collecting the ore and funding expeditions to Beau-Pierre ruins in search of the mysterious weapons. Meanwhile, the discovery of the red ore has also triggered a sort of gold rush as prospectors come from all over the known world to stake a claim and strike it rich. The secret of the Beau-Pierre technique remains unknown.