Looking up the lady who’d wanted to talk to him was pretty easy – and she did seem vaguely familiar. Maybe he’d met her on one of the earlier visits to the Underdark? She could be someone he know in a local ID, but that seemed unlikely – although he had the Thralls check to make sure.
Definitely a local, and about three months pregnant; they could pick that up easily. She was pretty impatient too.
Yep… a mother of one of his kids to be.
(Chessagh, crossly, and impatient at having to bother with this at all) “I don’t really see the point of this! And I’m not sure why a male would be interested! But it seems to be some sort of surface tradition, and I suspect you’re personally powerful enough to make trouble if I don’t follow your traditions… I’m going to have a child by you – a halfbreed – and normally such a child would be raised to serve me and my house; since it would have no other future but slavery, such a child makes a fairly reliable ally in the Underdark – but apparently, in the surface tradition, males who have done nothing but join in a bit of pleasure have a say as well as the woman who does all the work! So; what opinions do you have about the fate of this child?”
Ah, a noblewoman. Well, that was reasonable for her culture. It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen more bizarre ones – although there was a definite hint of his ex-wife about it somehow.
(Marty) “First things first. How are your house’s fortunes?”
(Chessagh) “So-So! We had to leave a lot behind in the Old City, and most of the slaves – but a good deal of treasure was portable, and it’s worth more up here. The pesky mages are strutting a bit now that most of the gods are gone, but I’ve been looking into a few of the female surface deities to get things back on track!”
(Marty) “Got anybody in mind?”
(Chessagh) Hm. Shar seemed sensible, but she’s quite unpopular. Lovitar has many of the right ideas, but goes entirely overboard! Bubastis seems like fun, but might not be too practical… I’m sure that someone will turn up! (Pause) What has all that got to do with the child? Will you be wanting some sort of authority over it or a share of it’s time? If that’s what you want, you’ll have to pay for it! I’m not wasting a pregnancy on producing a child for someone else for free!
(Marty) “Possibly. And I like Bubastis myself.” (Marty elected to go with the only non-evil goddess of the bunch. No way was growing up to worship evil!) “I’d prefer that my kid not be a slave, too.”
(Chessagh) ‘I have heard that you and your companion give out powers with no training, no risks of dying learning, and no years of delay… How do you do that? Is that how you can afford to not send the failures into slavery, because you have no failures?’
(Marty) “Yeah, we do that. I’d prefer to keep my own kids out of that, though.”
(Chessagh) ‘Foolish male! If what I have heard is true, they are guaranteed to live, and even to have power! It is rare for one in three to achieve so much!’
(Marty) “Yeah, well, the kid has to be obedient to my friend.”
(Chessagh) ‘And what of that? Should children not be obedient? Or are you simply wise enough not to trust your “friend”?’
(Marty) “Heh. More and more, the latter. Now, what’s it going to take for my son or daughter NOT to be a slave?”
(Chessagh) ‘The child would not become a slave unless it was a total failure in any case – but if you would like to buy it a place, or buy it outright once it is born and weaned, I suppose we can come to an agreement… You command many loyal servants.’
Negotiations made the basics pretty obvious – and that last line showed what the mother’s would likely be angling for. The locals had seen enough of the Thrall’s abilities to have a fair idea of just how valuable they were, and most of the houses would like to be assigned a few. He could buy the kid almost any kind of position; If it’s presence provided an income or other useful advantage, that would guarantee it being reasonably well treated. If he was paying for an education, that would cost more. If he wanted it to be important, pampered, indulged, and treasured, that would cost a LOT more – or the assignment of a thrall or two to the house. Buying it outright would be cheaper in the long run, but would leave him to find a place for the kid.
Marty strongly considered going with the assign-a-Thrall option for the moment; that would guarantee the kid a pretty good place… It looked like – out of the nine women he’d apparently bedded on the last visit – five had conceived. The Thralls had knocked up a few as well, but Kevin had already purchased the enslaved mothers-to-be – it seemed that no one had declined to sell after his power-demonstrations during the last visit – and has ordered the local office to make arrangements to either get the ones born to free mothers out of Dark Elven custody or to at least offer to train and care for them.
Well, he made sure about his own. The Thralls should be able to handle any of theirs that were left.
Oh yeah! He’d almost forgotten about Dumbledore offering to reserve places for them at Hogwarts.
Oddly, that was a bit shaming – a very unfamiliar feeling. Kevin had taken responsibility for making sure that HIS kids – and the offspring of his Thralls – would be cared for while he was being completely irresponsible.
He really needed to change that.
Was he being hypocritical? Or more so than usual? After all, he was mistrusting Kevin while surrounding himself with Thralls and using them as bargaining chips. Was it just that it had been a bit of a shock to discover that even Thrall-loyalty and a mental link wasn’t enough to ensure reliable performance? He was going to have to get more hands on and rely less on the Thralls…
Still, what was he going to do with the Thralls? They were SO convenient!
Besides… He’d been through so much with Kevin. He was a resourceful, clever kid! It was just that he USED people. Was trying to make it with their agreement and paying well really enough? He had signed up his own son as soon as possible rather than risking losing the boy – and that showed commendable concern for a boy of Kevin’s apparent age, but his methods…
Well, definitely pay for education and decent treatment at a bare minimum. He was no great shakes as a father and he knew it. After that, it was try to get them moved to a dimension where they couldn’t get killed…
Maybe he should just buy the kids outright once they were born and take them to Kadia? The core educational programs might be pretty boring as far as he was concerned, but they were very effective – and at least they’d be guaranteed of living to grow up. Better there than here!
Wait; it wasn’t like he was transferring outright ownership the way Kevin did to him. He was just providing their services for a limited period.
Was that fair to the Thralls? Would it be fair to his kids not to make every effort to get them to a sensible universe and guarantee their survival?
He came down on the side of his kids. The mother-to-be had seen the indecision and was holding out for Thrall-services at the moment anyway; the houses wanted the healing abilities very badly indeed – at least until they got Elistraee back or found an acceptable new set of gods.
Oh dear. Now he – with the best of motives – was buying his OWN kids and taking them to Kadia. At least, under Kevin’s rules, they’d be way underage for recruiting anyway – unless they were dragons.
The woman offered him a 20% price break if he paid non-refundably in advance, both because they could use the services of the Thralls now and because there was always the chance of a stillbirth (although having the Thralls around would help be sure of avoiding that).
His businessmen instincts told him to take it, but his “dad instincts” (where had they come from?) Labeled that really creepy… Still, this was a low-tech realm, and healing magic really would help with the births and help avoid miscarriages and prenatal problems.
He paid in advance.
They mothers accepted gladly. Yes, Marty was a hero of the city (and was kind of pleased that they remembered him that way) – but this was both family and business! The Dark Elves weren’t too sentimental about kids of course – they had quite a few over their lifetimes and lost a lot of them anyway. There was still some maternal feeling of course – it was both built into humans and near-humans and mandated by their breeding pattern – but if a father was willing to pay that much for them, obviously said father would value and care for them.
On the social front, it would take some time for the information he’d been handing out to take full effect – but just the “these are the creatures that live around here” presentations were taking a lot of the nerves away. Most of the local creatures were actually far less dangerous than the Underdark denizens, but they’d been unknown – and rendering them known helped a lot.
Lacking any further pressing business, Marty finally got on with what he’d come for – attending a few parties and some recreation!
He avoided knocking up any more women, but a bit of drinking with Limey and a performance or two should soothe his nerves a bit… These Dark Elves got up to some quirky stuff! Particularly since Chessagh was taking his advice and going with Bast.
(Marty) “See? Practicality isn’t everything! You’ve got to loosen up once in a while!”
(Chessagh) “Practicality first! Once you’re sure of survival, THEN it’s time to enjoy it!”
(Marty) “I think I’m learning that…”
The Thralls all agreed you had to survive to have fun, and being a Thrall took a LOT of pressure off!