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 Iori and Rahm, 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 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 discovers 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
Duane and Sette arrive at the Deadly Nevergreen, ready to treat with Stockyard. Unexpectedly, after a cheeky song and dance routine and a finger-biting incident, Stockyard agrees to treat with Sette in his office. Duane waits outside and argues politics with the locals. As Sette and Stockyard talk, Stockyard reveals that Sette's whole journey was a con against Duane to get him into Cresce-- something that Sette herself was unaware of. Confused and upset, Sette refuses to help Stockyard capture Duane, instead smashing a glass into his face and jumping out the window. Anadyne further converses with Stockyard, trying to convince him to abandon the job. Stockyard brushes her off, though, ordering her to find Sette and bring her amulet.
Meanwhile, Captain Toma, with the help of Elan, uses a Pymaric Construct to fill in the canals beneath Ethelmik to prevent the Red Berry Boys' escape. Elan finds himself questioning his motives for betraying the captain.
Back at the Nevergreen, the brothel's staff attempts to keep Duane occupied to prevent him from leaving, but are literally bored to sleep by his preaching. After escaping through a window, Duane finds Sette in a state of distress. Questioning her father's motives, Sette asks Duane to tell her about his own experiences as a father. Duane complies, doing his best to comfort her. Duane then goes to sleep, and Sette resolves to fight Stockyard. She runs off to gather reinforcements. Unfortunately, the Nevergreen Staff discover her hideout.
Stockyard and company continue loading the boat in preparation for their journey. The snake eels surrounding the slave cart become more and more aggressive. Stockyard complains to cutter, who explains that the silver--fed by pain and suffering-- has reached outside of the cart, causing it to mature more quickly than expected and hunger for fresh meat. Resolving to move quickly to get rid of the sliver, Stockyard, Toby and Anadyne walk back to the office to finalize preparations. Stockyard encounters Starfish in the lobby, who, after expressing a keen interest in accompanying Sette back to Sharteshane, states that he will leave in the morning. In the office, they find Elan, who tells them that Toma is still in the city and that peaceguard reinforcements are on the way. Stockyard reveals that the incoming Peaceguard are actually on their side. He throws Elan out of the office, then orders Ana kill Toma and clear the canals. After he walks away to check on the status of Sette, Toby closes the door and talks to Ana about abandoning the Nevergreen. Ana says in return that she won't simply drop everything and leave. Their conversation is overheard by a pair of two toes. After sharing a romantic kiss, Ana goes off to find Toma, leaving Toby to contemplate his next move.
Sette returns to the love hotel to grab her bug cloak and finds Murkoph peaking up through a thin spot in the Khert. After he tells Sette that the guards took the cloak, she rebukes his attempts to get her to let him out and leaves.
In the station, Elka finally captures all of the city guards. Sette breaks in, steals explosives and instructs Jivi and Matty to bring Quigley to the Nevergreen. To free them, she tasks Boo to unlock the door, creating a distraction by detonating one of the explosives. Jivi and Matty escape, but, unfortunately, the guards do as well. Elka is caught up in a desperate fight against the guards. Though wounded and outnumbered, she manages to save the boys by casting them into the sewers.
Sette goes back to Duane, but discovers too late that the Nevergreen staff has laid a trap for her. Both she and Duane are captured and taken back to the Nevergreen.
10: The Deadly Nevergreen, Part 2
Elan Aled prays at a shrine, thinking on his decision to betray Toma. His musings are interrupted by the sounds of Elka's battle with the constables. After witnessing Elka's distress, he finds the courage to intervene, saving Elka and himself. They escape by jumping into the river.
Toma, having blocked the river, is attacked by Anadyne, Knock-me-down and several townsfolk. Toma survives the attack, but is cornered in a room behind a pymary proof door.
Quigley continues his attempts to repair Uaid, but fails. Jivi and Matty finally make it back to the workshop, letting them know about all that had happened. Quigley sets out to find Sette. Outside of the Nevergreen, he hears a guard shout that they've cornered "her." Thinking that the "her" must be Sette, he goes to investigate. After fighting some guards and townsfolk at a shrine, he's surprised to find Elka within. They briefly discuss the situation, interrupted when Elan comes with the news that Toma is trapped underground. They leave to help the others.
Unaware he's been captured, Duane dreams of various places and people in his past. Sette, Lemuel and Leysa make appearances. After following a vision of Mikaila through a wall, he emerges into the Khert. He encounters Murkoph, who attacks him and tries to break his connection with a glowing thread sticking out of his back. Lady Ilganyang swoops in and saves him momentarily, but he falls into a vision of a burning Alderode. Ilganyang reveals that they are viewing a vision of the future, and that she has a plan to make things "right" again. She tells him that he and Sette have been captured, and that he must make it back out of the Khert to save them both.
Toma wrestles with an unruly construct. Elan and Quigley show back up and kill the townsfolk outside of the door, knocking Knock-me-down out in the process. With their help, Toma manages to get the construct under control. They set off to the Nevergreen together.
Back at the Nevergreen, Sette is tied up in Stockyard's office. Starfish makes a skeevy attempt to accost her further, but Stockyard interrupts and throws him out. The dockworkers continue to load the ship while discussing Duane, who is restrained and asleep inside of the hold. The smoke eels around the First Silver have gotten more and more vicious. They begin to form into vines that expand throughout the cavern and the Nevergreen itself, threatening Sette and the dockworkers. Toby and Stockyard talk about the future and the past as Toby prepares to stab Stockyard. But Stockyard is prepared and ambushes Toby, garroting his unsuspecting subordinate while reaching through the wall. In the brothel's bar, the prostitutes and one of the guards are attacked by the smoke eels and pymarics, who have suddenly become violent. Tendrils of first silver thorns rip up through the floor and the building begins to collapse. Stockyard is grabbed by Toby's body, which has been reanimated by the silver. Down in the docks, Ana argues with Cutter, who claims that the pain from Duane and the rest of the brothel are causing the silver to react. Ana attempts to burn Duane, but is surprised to find Murkoph attempting to leave the Khert by using Duane's thread. She knocks Murkoph back into the Khert, where he gets into a fight with Duane and has his upper half degloved. Duane heads toward the exit the help of Ilganyang.
The brothel has begun to fall apart, with the silver weapon's vines spreading throughout. Sette frees herself, grabs some supplies and letters from her father and attempts to free Stockyard, who is entangled in vines. The reanimated corpse of Toby makes it to Stockyard first, though, and, speaking with the voice of Stockyard's long dead father, taunts him while pulling a noose around his neck. Toby's corpse tosses Stockard off of the ledge with the noose still around his neck, decapitating Stockyard. Ana watches, shell-shocked, as the lifeless bodies of Toby and Stockyard fall at her feet.
Duane frees himself from the Khert just as the silver reveals itself to be a humongous monster. He fights it as Sette goes to find the controls to flood the tunnel. After getting impaled on thorns, Duane helplessly listens to Cutter's mad ramblings. Cutter claims that he is actually Delicieu, the wright who made the First Silver Weapon. Quigley and Toma arrive to help the fight. Boo tries to free Duane, but is pierced by a thorn. The thorn seems to free more positive spirits, allowing Duane himself to break free. Toma, Quigley and Duane work together to fight the weapon.
Sette goes with Dawn to flood the locks in the tunnels beneath the brothel to wash the monster away. Starfish shows up, stabs Dawn and sexually assaults Sette. Sette manages to break free, stabbing him in his crotch. She then opens the locks and detonates her explosive pymarics, killing Starfish and throwing her into the roaring river.
The silver weapon is washed away with Ana, Knock-me-down and Delicieu/ Cutter within. A distraught Sette finds Duane and tells him her father's true plans. Duane understands and comforts her in a tender moment. Quigley searches for Toma, but only finds his sash. They all escape the collapsing Nevergreen and return to Iori. Bastion Winalils overlooks the ruins of the Nevergreen, observing the outcomes of his various plots.
11: Only A Cause
12: The Collar of Kasslyne
13: Litriya Shrine
14: The Brothers Adelier
Duane tells the story of the time he met Lowing Shaensigin underneath Alderode. It takes place 15 years ago, and follows Duane and Lemuel as their company fights against the Foi-Hellick rebels.
15: Litriya Shrine, Part 2
16: Passionate Intensity
Unsounded is accompanied by several side stories.