The depiction of the Patino Nightstalker on the brick facade of the UTC manufactory line was little better than a child's drawing. A vaguely humanoid figure in a monolithic brown, with sloppy circular splashes of red for eyes and odd, spike-claw hands, holding up what was supposed to be a guardsman with a deeply sad face as he was being eaten. Thanie sat on the side of a planter and contemplated the art piece. The rest of the work was no better. What looked like a small army of Nightstalkers coming out of a large brownish block (the manufactory?) and running at a line of poorly drawn guardsmen and mercenaries. Even the graffiti back in the Capital City was better than this. Magistrate Haideri showed up a few minutes later and shook his head. "My apologies, Thanie, the deposition I was leading took longer than I expected." He turned to look at the art on the wall. "Don't tell me this is our culprit for that sighting?" "Magistrate, I think the people in Patino might just be kind of stupid." Thanie was reviewing some of the papers she got from the District Commander, regarding Nightstalkers. "The last Magistrate to investigate the Nightstalkers literally says in her report that the people here are morons for either believing in them or thinking other people do." "Mmmm." Haideri folded his arms. "Does that change the nature of our duties, apprentice?" "No, but it should change the level of seriousness we approach the investigation, if the investigation is transparently silly." Thanie made a face. "We know for a fact that it's just workers at the reagant manufactory." "You mistake reasoned supposition for fact. No matter our personal opinions, we have a duty to investigate and determine the truth, which lights the way and burns away lies and legends." The Magistrate gave the artwork another look. "I can't blame you for your reaction, given ths fine piece of artistic talent in front of us, but imagine if there was a real sighting and as a full Magistrate yourself, you disregarded it? Etoile cannot afford that risk."
It is only in the depths of Patino, the Machine City that the Nightstalkers roam. Fearsome monsters born of progress and artifice, the result of hidden and banned experimentation to create soldiers and weapons for the Principality, these misbegotten test subjects roam the empty streets of the Lower Wards at night. Lumbering figures, wrapped in heavy brown leather as a replacement for their flayed skin, arms and hands oversized into hulking claws, beady eyes red with enceasing hatred for themselves and the world around them, looking only to spread their suffering. It is said that the first one to escape slew the hunters sent after it, with those hunters soon rising as Nightstalkers themselves, a plague that will eventually consume all of Patino. Be ware! The streets are unsafe at night. Go home, lock your doors, and do not answer the late night knock in the Lower Ward, lest you fall victim to the Nightstalkers.
The mythos of the Patino Nightstalkers is a uniquely pathetic outgrowth of the untrammeled expressions of the lowbrow journals in the Machine City. There are, in fact, figures in bulky leather suits that walk the streets of the Lower Ward at night. These are the workers of the Strahl Reagant Consortium ending their nightly shift, travelling out of the manufactory to another building for cleaning and suit sanitization. The reagants that Strahl produces are in major demand for other manufactory purposes, but produce lethal and toxic fumes that can only be safely vented at night, when no neighboring manufactories are operational and nobody is likely to travel the streets and alleys. Signage posted warns of the dangers of the area in the evenings. The hazardous material suits that the Strahl manufactory workers use is a heavy multilayer ensemble of treated leather and rawhide, infused in counter-agents that neutralize the poisons present in reagant manufacture. The full face-mask worn by each worker has a red double-lens in the event of puncture or cracking of the outer lens, to prevent exposure. In the day, such a getup is incredibly hot to wear and is deeply unflattering, with workers in the getup forced into a waddling gait. At night, in dim vision, the suit can look strange and fearful to those unaware of their purpose.
The Magistrate assigned to investigate the veracity of this rumor attributed its spread to intentional mischief-making. As quoted in her report,
This whole 'Nightstalker' business is so incredibly stupid, I have reason to believe not a single person actually believes Nightstalkers exist. In my analysis, everyone is attempting to identify other people as the rubes that believe it, while simultaneously believing that they're smarter than the rest and see the monsters as obvious nonsense. While this is of sociological interest, there is absolutely no further interest warranted by the Magistrates or the Principality.This has been borne out by several public-interest surveys on the topic - while less than twopercent of Patino residents polled believe in the Nightstalkers, upwards of forty percent believe that *other* people believed in the Nightstalkers, and it seems straightforward that the myth will continue to spread as long as the workers of Strahl continue their late night shifts.
The Patino Nightstalker is locally extremely well-known, with casual references to them peppered into speech, ex. "Don't let the Nightstalkers get you on the way home." As mentioned in the magistrate's report, it is nearly impossible to determine with any degree of success how many people take the myth seriously, or how many people are intentionally trying to spread it. What is known for a fact is that the workers of Strahl are aware of the myth and find it ridiculous, though a danger does exist - one particularly gullible individual was arrested in 722 for attempting to 'hunt' a Nightstalker with a crossbow, and Strahl manufactory workers were advised to travel in pairs or groups when on their way to sanitization after their shift.
In a rather interesting case of artistic cycling, several public murals (though some would call it vandalism) depicting Patino Nightstalkers have been painted on spare walls in the Lower Wards. These artworks *themselves* have been implicated in supposed Nightstalker sightings, creating not only a self-referential but self-exacerbating myth, to the consternation of those attempting to point out the absurdities of the enterprise. Bizarre statues of Nightstalkers have been built and placed in strategic points around the Machine City, presumably as a joke; these have been removed as litter and their sculptors fined.
Date of First Recording
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I love this as an urban legend! The story as a headliner on a National Enquirer-like newspaper would seem pretty real to a steady reader but under scrutiny, it reads like a bad case of miscommunication. I wonder if the reason someone might spread a story like this to bring harm to the Strahl workers purposely or if it would just be out of sheer ignorance.
One thing I believe about human societies, at least, is that the urge to mess with people is universal in all cultures. Thanks for reading!