Unsounded is a webcomic by Ashley Cope. The thirty-page-long first chapter was first posted on July 14, 2010. The following month, regular updates of three pages a week began. Month long breaks between chapters are standard, allowing the artist to rebuild a healthy buffer of pages, and generally recover her wits.
The comic follows the adventures of Sette Frummagem, a foul-mouthed and amoral girl with a tail, and her adult bodyguard, an undead wright named Duane Adelier. Alternating between light-hearted humour and moments of macabre horror, Unsounded is recommended for mature readers.
01: An Unwilling Escort
After three weeks on the road, obnoxious and cocksure Sette Frummagem leads her zombie bodyguard far off the beaten path. Sette is on a mission for her father, the leader of a criminal family in the country of Sharteshane, and the zombie has been blackmailed into aiding her. While the pair is bickering over this fact, a monstrous tree beast swoops upon the zombie and tidily devours him. Happy to abandon her comrade in favour of this new arrival, Sette attempts to negotiate a partnership, but the tree-beast wants nothing to do with her. Negotiations quickly turn violent, and Sette is rescued from obliteration when the zombie explodes from the tree-beast's innards. Refusing to see reason, Sette insists the monster has some value and attempts to attack it. Its wrath piqued, the tree-beast moves to strike, and the zombie must incinerate it to ensure his charge's safety. Later, Sette and her bodyguard awkwardly apologise to each other and continue their journey.
02: The Red Berry Boys
Sette's mission is apparently to bully money from her cousin, a family member who moved west years ago to expand the business but who stopped sending tribute home. The task is explained in grandiose terms by Sette, who claims that she's the only one her father trusts with such an important affair. Her bodyguard (who introduces himself as Duane Adelier) is dubious. Eager to impress him Sette waxes rhapsodic over her supposedly supernatural sense of smell, explaining she has the ability to smell sorcery itself. But it's blood she suddenly scents on the air, causing Duane to rush to the rescue of a pair of children being assaulted by would-be kidnappers. Duane soundly trounces the fiends, displaying great proficiency with stick-fighting and the art of Pymary, a sort of sorcery that involves switching about the Aspects of different matter. One of the children explains that the kidnappers were part of a gang of slavers called the Red Berry Boys, and that Crescian Peaceguard have been hot on their trail for some time. Duane swears to find the rest of the gang, and sets off into the forest - much to Sette's displeasure.
The slavers' hideout is revealed to be deep inside a crumbling Gefendur crypt. Once inside, Duane and Sette find they are too late, and the building has been very recently abandoned. Further in, Duane discovers a partially eviscerated, dying child and is unsuccessful in his attempt to save her. Returning to the central chamber of the crypt, he stumbles upon a band of Peaceguard who mistake him for one of the slavers, and blows are exchanged. Duane and Sette escape, leaving one of the Peaceguard gravely injured.
03: A Miserable Drizzle
Hours later, the Red Berry Boys' leader, a crabby man named Starfish, is begging white-haired Aldish wright Mathis Quigley to rejoin their gang. Quigley is reluctant to deal with children, but finally relents when Starfish offers both more money and the children's eventual release. The news dispirits Quigley's son Matty, who was hoping they would leave the foul work behind at last and travel to Sharteshane.
Waiting out the rain at a waystation, Sette stocks up on supplies as Duane recovers from their ordeal in the crypt. Returning with new clothes, Sette finds the zombie agitated and suspicious. He demands to know how they have come to be so far west and near the country of Cresce. He's adamant against entering Cresce, damning the country's people, its Queen, and even the Gefendur gods at large. Sette insists that she has no choice but to keep pushing them west and that if she fails in her mission for her father, she'll never be allowed to run the family herself - and in fact, her father may let the rest of the family dispose of her. Distraught, Duane reveals that the recently spilled blood awakened an unnatural hunger in him, one endemic to creatures of his composition, and that nearing Cresce will do no good things for his self-control. Still, he relents, and Sette promises they are almost at their destination. With the Peaceguard on their tail, they flee into the rain.
A week later, Sette and Duane find themselves on the outskirts of the Ulestrian city of Mulimar. Elsewhere, Quigley and the slavers are also approaching Mulimar, and break for lunch just out of sight to wait to enter under cover of night. Quigley's son Matty tags along with Ephsephin to enter the town on foot for food and medicine. Sette also decides to go into town, assuring Duane she will be fine on her own while he remains behind to tend to an injured leg. Disguised and merry, Sette infiltrates Mulimar in search of a guardsman named Elan Aled, having been told by an acquaintance of her father's that he would aid her if she needed help crossing the river into Cresce. Sette doesn't find Elan, but she does run into Matty and Ephsephin, who is still injured from the foiled kidnapping in Ulestry. A merry chase through the city ensues as citizens recognise her from Wanted posters and join in the pursuit. Matters are complicated when the Peaceguard officer Lieutenant Elka catches sight of her. Desperate, Sette pulls out a broken explosive pymaric she found abandoned earlier and hamfistedly rigs a trap. A mighty explosion shakes the city, providing her opportunity to escape.
Duane is rejoined at the edge of town but Sette has hardly a moment to catch her breath before Ephsephin appears, attacking the pair with an explosive of his own. Duane is blown off the cliffside, leaving Sette alone with the brutish slaver.
05: Darkening Sky
In spite of her defiance, Sette is knocked about and thrown around by vengeful Ephsephin of the Red Berry Boys. Quigley shows up to put an end to it, and Ephsephin, afraid the authorities will come, moves to throw Sette off the nearest cliff. Instead Duane reappears with a vengeance and a fistfight ensues that too soon proves the zombie far more resilient than the slaver. Ephsephin's hide is saved by Quigley's sudden interference. Surprised to see a fellow Aldishman, Duane tries to reason with the newcomer. Disdainful, Quigley initiates a duel. As the sky darkens, the sorcerers do battle at the cliffside, with Sette and Matty watching in wide-eyed interest. In spite of Quigley's bald-faced disregard for the rules of honourable Aldish combat and Duane's injured leg, the zombie eventually overcomes a summoned bugbeast by sparking a powerful explosion with Pressure Aspect too quickly removed from a nearby mountain. The duel is concluded.
As Duane tries to question defeated Quigley about the Red Berry Boys' intentions, Quigley's ten-story-tall construct arrives - piloted by his son - to pluck him to safety. Captain Toma of the Peaceguard also arrives, but with night swiftly fallen, Duane seems no longer in a mental condition to deal with another threat. Sette flees with him as Toma pursues Quigley into his construct's interior. In this unfamiliar environment, Toma is overcome. Starfish tells the officer that the slavers are working for someone named Delicieu, then orders his murder. Fortunately Quigley's son Matty interferes, rescuing the officer and spitting him back out into the woods.
06: A Good Night For Crazy
Hours later, Toma and Elka have reconvened back in town. Elka explains that Quigley is an Aldish traitor who fled his homeland in a unique and powerful construct illegally built by his murdered wife. Toma ruminates on the intentions of the Red Berry Boys and the likely destination of their dangerous cargo.
Elsewhere, Sette has located the guard meant to help her into Cresce. With a mute, unconscious Duane at her side, she's escorted under the river and into the strange Crescian city of Ethelmik. Leaving Duane in a bed at a love hotel, she takes to the streets in search of her cousin's hideout.
After crossing the river and scaling the cliffs beneath one of Ethelmik's massive waterfalls, the Red Berry Boys arrive at a riverside warehouse. Starfish leaves to inform their client of their arrival, leaving Ephsephin alone with their cart full of cargo. This cargo consists of a dozen kidnapped adults and children, each of them comatose after having had many of their organs removed and replaced with a substance called First Silver. The only slave to be left unharmed is a young Crescian boy named Jivi, who has been acting as the slavers' unwilling servant. Having awaited his chance, Jivi slips mechanized rat traps into Ephsephin's booze. They detonate, and Jivi escapes from the cart. Before he can make it out of the warehouse, however, he's set upon by another of the slavers, a diminutive lizardman with cutting claws. Jivi overcomes him just in time to hide as Starfish returns.
Starfish reacts with horror to the sight of his battered lackies. Finding Ephsephin still feebly alive, Starfish angrily finishes him off, then lambastes Quigley as the Plat returns from outside. New arrivals follow him, a pair of ladies calling themselves Frummagems. Starfish reveals they are replacements for the unreliable Quigley, and they set upon the Plat with deadly intent. With Starfish's assistance, they defeat him, but Quigley's life is saved in the nick of time by Jivi's dramatic arrival, as he thunders into the warehouse atop Uaid, who and carries the Quigleys to the river. Having been observing the fracas from the ceiling beams, Sette interferes when one of the Frummagem ladies makes a target of Jivi, and receives a tranquilizing saw blade through her arm for her troubles. Sette disappears into the street, with one of the Red Berry Boys in hot pursuit.
Sette leads him back to the love hotel, beating him to her room in time to unlock Duane. The zombie is alert and eager when the slaver arrives.
07: Phantom Pain
The next morning Jivi and the Quigleys awaken in the comfortable home of the Rapas, an older Crescian couple with overt ties to a shady organisation of illicit wrights called the Black Tongues. Having been granted the pair's temporary protection, they learn that the Red Berry Boys are still at large, and the Peaceguard have been called off the hunt in order to return to the capital to support an escalating conflict with Alderode.
Elsewhere, Sette awakens from the tranquilizer blade to find Duane has killed and eaten the slaver she left him alone with. Expecting him to return to his senses now that the sun is up, Sette finds him unable or unwilling. He attacks her, and in avoiding his lunge Sette appears to fall into his shadow and clean out of reality, awakening in the mysterious realm of the khert.
Flabbergasted and disoriented, Sette wanders through this misty, golden realm of strange creatures and curious flying fish. She finds herself able to dig into the otherwise hard walls of the khert with her bare hands and cause memories to spill forth. Eventually she comes upon a boggy forest of floating fetuses who ask for her help. She frees a few only to be accosted by an enormous black bird. The bird chases her into a cave where she meets an affable stranger named Murkoph who is stuck in the wall. He promises to help her if she frees him and, spurred on by the noises of the huge bird monster outside, she does so. Unfortunately he wastes no time in attacking her, and is stopped from hungrily biting off her fingers only by the arrival of a washed out, green, transparent, and very strange version of Duane. Murkoph easily overcomes this phantom and hurls him into Sette, where the pair fall backwards into a wall that rips apart. They tumble through a void, Duane's memories washing over Sette and becoming her world.
Now we are transported with Sette six years into the past, into Duane's hometown of Durlyne in frozen northern Alderode. We meet Duane's young son and wife, and learn that Duane is in line for a promotion that he does not want. After his wife Leysa soothes his nerves over the looming ordeal they are summoned to the other room where their daughter Mikaila must be rescued from the consequences of one of her miscast spells.
The next day, Duane takes Mikaila with him to the Temple of Song, where he works as a Ssaelit priest, pymary instructor, and official. During a morning meeting with the Temple's administration Duane learns that the religious and political group (the Gefendur) with which his own faith (the Ssaelit) cooperatively runs the country is planning to wrest power away from them, taking advantage of a plague that has diminished Ssaelit numbers. A Ssaelit politician who is present suggests they in turn spread the plague to Gefendur citizens to combat this. Aghast, Duane speaks against the idea, and when he is put in his place, he punches the politician in the face.
Ejected from the meeting, Duane looks for sympathy from his brother Lemuel, but finds only more bloodthirst and warnings of looming catastrophe. That evening Duane and Mikaila are returning home from the Temple through the snow when they are set upon by a gang of men with clubs and crossbows. Duane fights valiantly to protect his daughter but succumbs to poisoned darts. They are both cut down.
Sette awakens from the flashback still in the khert, with Murkoph ready to resume their dance. Duane sweeps them from his path and Sette uses her uncanny sense of smell to trace their way back to where she first entered the strange realm. Finding Duane is attached to this exit by a spectral line, she frees it from where it's been snagged around the dead slaver's incoming soul. She and Duane are transported back to reality.
The chapter opens as the Ethelmik constables watch the city's conscripts march off to the conflict with Alderode. They laugh over the recruit's chances for survival and voice some disparaging words towards the Peaceguard, who are planning on leaving that morning. Elka arrives and spoils their fun, further increasing tensions between the two groups, but hers is spoiled in turn by Captain Hetr. Rumor has it that Elka was appointed to her position with Toma because Lady Emne personally asked for Elka, seeing her as too masculine to turn Toma's head.
Frustrated, she goes into the stables to find Toma and finds a letter in Pantoffel's saddlebag from Lady Emne. She assumes it to be palace gossip, but finds out that Emne is pregnant and planning to divorce Toma, a fact he has known about yet kept secret from his command. Additionally, Emne plans on having sole custody of their child, Chea. Elka finds Elan and coerces him into giving her his Peaceguard badge for Toma to send to Chea, a tradition he's kept at every deployment.
Meanwhile, Toma investigates Duane's killing of Turas inside the love hotel. He discover's one of Knock-Me-Down's saw-shooter discs inside the hamper where Sette slept. Elka shows up and helps Toma discover the pymaric traces of Duane and Sette's exit, as Toma offhandedly mentions that he's decided to stay and continue the investigation against orders. Elka argues, but ultimately decides to stay as well before noticing that something is off with the local khert, a thin spot that Murkoph is trying to break through.
Back at the Ripa's, Jivi and Matti convince Rahm that they are there in the spirit of scholarship, invoking an Ilganyag rule of hospitality. Quigley tries to fix Uaid, but is missing the necessary materials.
Sette wakes up in a toy shop to dreams of the khert, as Duane begins to interrogate her on what happened. Duane, having realized they've entered Cresce despite his explicit desire not to do so, becomes angry with Sette when she tells him of her vision of his life and death. Insisting that this must be another of Nary Frummagem's schemes, he throws Sette around before she's able to convince him that what she is telling the truth. Duane, having accepted Sette's version of events, explains to her that he was killed by Cresce to show Crescian support for the Aldish Gefendur in order to split the country. He woke up after his funeral and was given pymaric eyes by Lemuel. For some time, he remained in Alderode, but eventually fled the country by ship.
09: The Deadly Nevergreen
10: The Deadly Nevergreen, Part 2
11: Only A Cause
14: The Brothers Adelier Duane tells the story of the time he met The Salt Lizard underneath Alderode. It takes place 15 years ago, and follows Duane and Lemeul as their company fights against the Foi-Hellick rebels.
Unsounded is accompanied by several side stories.