When sufficient guards had arrived (it looked like the Vampire Lords wanted quite a few of their best men, and undead, on hand to handle a Night Lord if he went berserk) they headed for the central keep to try and negotiate a truce between Night Lord Kylar and the Vampire Count.
Once they were inside the keep the massive doors swung closed – shutting out the light from the outside. After their eyes adjusted, they cold see that the interior was lit with candles, lamps, and torches – and a guard asked that the Kevin’s dogs remain in the antechamber during the negotiations.
(Kevin) “Ah, very well. Sit! Stay! Good Dogs!”
Of course, on the private links, he directed them to keep an eye and ear out – and to be ready if he called.
The conference chamber was deep in the interior of the keep, far from any windows to the outside. Quietly along the way, the mortal guards walking with them were replaced by vampires… Night Lord Kylar paid no attention to that; evidently the guards did not concern him.
Well, after Kylar’s little stunt with the river gate, it seemed likely that he could simply kick his way out through the castle walls if he got upset.
Eventually they were brought to a room with a long table set with a great deal of food, drink, and generous decorations. A vampire sat at the head of the table, sipping something from a cup. Probably the count – and they’d either rushed the setup quite a bit, had taken them the long way around to let the servants get it ready, or had cheated with a bit of magic. Oh well, it wasn’t like that wasn’t reasonable enough in this world, even if major magic did seem to usually be a ritual thing – at least for humans who weren’t willing to make pacts with dark patrons.
(Count) “Please be seated. I am afraid, Night Lord, that I am uncertain what sort of nourishment you require – so I made certain there was a variety. The rest of you may eat what you will from the table as my guests. (Gestures towards Kevin) Now, since I am told you managed to begin negotiations, might I ask that you provide us with an update on the current terms?”
(Kevin) “In a nutshell – and anyone please feel free to correct me if I am wrong – Night Lord Kylar here is compelled to create Krul, but doesn’t care what happens to them otherwise. His nutritional requirements closely resemble a humans. Unfortunately, like the more conventional undead, the Krul seem to be unable to produce food – ergo, in exchange for free access to the bodies of the humans who die on their own, since they all do and the condition of the bodies does not really matter much, Kylar will dispatch the new Krul to face the menaces that are unwilling to cooperate in civilization. This would seem profitable for everyone; Night Lord Kylar can fulfill his instincts endlessly, you will have fewer menaces – and less competition arising since there will be fewer stray bodies – and the humans can live and breed more safely and happily.”
(Count) “Well I must admit that is a very intriguing proposal. The fact that Krul are unable to farm is hardly surprising given what facts we know. (Gestures to Kylar) No offense, but you are the first Krul to recognize the consequences of this fact. What say you to this proposal Kylar?”
(Kylar) “Well at the very least, it buys me time to work out my own issues, but you probably already understand this don’t you? As I recall though, vampires do not need the bodies of the dead, merely the blood of the living. So other than keeping another threat to yourselves under your thumb, this does not seem to cost you anything. I agree to the terms stated.”
(Kevin) “If you wish at some point I can attempt to modify your instincts Night Lord Kylar – but I cannot guarantee success, and I recognize that you have no reason to trust me to such an extent.”
(Count) “Ah yes, that is the crux of the issue here, do we destroy you while we have the chance, or do we try to harness that unbridled fury at the world and use you to better our own position? I already know my answer, your answer and the young man’s opinion. But before I give my own, let me hear from you (gestures at Marty). What say you as a human to the idea of an army of monsters, eating your food, using your dead family and friend’s bones as a frame, and running off to stir up supernatural monstrosities across the land, all the while saying they are doing it for you?”
(Marty) “I’m not happy about it, but I know how the world is. If they’re not the ones killing my friends and family, I’ll bite my tongue and accept it. I’ll take living any day.”
Bleah; what an iffy situation they had here. It wasn’t like feeding a few Krul wouldl be any worse than being attacked by armies of them – but it still wasn’t particularly palatable for Marty’s nascent moral sensibilities. Oh well, it wasn’t like the dead rested quietly around Necropolis anyway.
Sadly, Necropolis seemed to be a poor environment to develop ones sense of morality in.
Kevin found it interesting that the Count seemed to be assuming that he was something other than human. If the Vampire Lords had ALREADY interviewed the kids who’d chosen not to be Thralls they’d done it with incredible speed; it hadn’t taken them long to cross the bridge and the Vampire Lords probably wouldn’t have taken any time out from the battle even if they had gotten a few reports of the kids having magic now. He suspected special senses – not that special senses would be a big surprise from the Vampire Lords. Vampires were known for that anyway.
Gamespeak Interlude: Of course, Kevin had forgotten something; he’d cloaked most of the THRALLS power – but all he used himself was a minor concealment charm. That had been enough a very long time ago – but it could not do more than dim the energies of a Demonic Infusion and his Dark Channeling, a Master of the Path of the Dragon, an Opener, or a God – even without midlevel Witchcraft – much less all of those powers at once.
(Count) “A reasonably nuanced answer. I suspect that most of the people of the city would share such an outlook to some degree, although not everyone may encapsulate the full nuance of it. Very well then, I, Count Bravil of Gethrid, accept your offer. I shall have scribes produce a written treaty on the matter that we shall review and sign shortly. In the meantime, let us continue our meal and discuss what we will. Does anyone have a topic they wish to broach?”
Kevin and Marty consulted privately… Did they want to discuss Necrosis? Other than that, their business in Gethrid had simply been that they were visiting when the siege came along. Marty had asked the business manager fellow – but the Vampire Lords might know a good deal more. Besides, they weren’t asking any awkward questions yet, so Kevin suspected that they hadn’t interviewed any kids or reviewed any battle reports as of yet. He had promised to talk to the nobles about horses before leaving – hm, he’d have to find out what the local horses were like. He ought to be able to boost them substantially.
Marty kind of suspected skeletons or zombies from that the Krul they’d met on the road had said – or sickly and dying at best if they were alive.
Kevin thought that might be overly pessimistic. After all, there was no reason they should be much worse off than the humans – and maybe better; they could eat grass. Still, they’d just have to wait and see. He hoped that Marty was wrong though; he couldn’t do much with skeletons or zombies.
(Marty) “My associate and I are going to the lands of the dream lich Necrosis. There’s something there we need. (Marty smiled slightly) What do we need to know about them?”
(Count) “Pray that what you seek may be worth the price you have to pay. It is a blighted land, little grows there save the fungus and diseases. He main abode is a massive city-like structure deep in a pit or sinkhole. The living avoid it if they can and the sentient undead usually stay away unless something is really pressing. You will find green glowing pods scattered across the area, I do not recommend interfering with them, regardless of who you see within them. Those inside are already dead in the mind and their bodies have yet to catch up, and interfering with them will only bring ruin upon you.”
(Marty) “Any special nonsentient undead in the area we need to know about?”
(Count) “Nothing too unusual that I am aware of. Although there are always rumors that those that die in their dreams come across different, like they aren’t fully real or part of this reality. I do not know of any confirmed reports, and I highly doubt a nonsentient creature could even use such a talent effectively. Best to think of them as animals and plan against them as such.”
(Marty) “Thanks. I’ll try to survive.”
(Count) “Now I will admit curiosity has gotten the better of me, what business might you have that would warrant such a dangerous journey if you don’t mind me asking?”
That called for another moment of discussion on the private links – tell them they were looking for a gate, or bluff? – but they didn’t have any other explanation that would pass.
(Marty) “We heard there was a gate to another world there.”
(Count) “I can’t really say that I am surprised at such a rumor. Reality does seem to be thinner there than usual. Although your wanderlust must be insatiable if you wish to find out for yourselves. I shall pray that you find your gate before something finds you first.”
(Kevin, noting that the locals were at least somewhat aware of other worlds) “Well, places where reality are thin are one of our special fields of study”
(Count) “Interesting indeed. I always hear tales of such things but those most likely to be knowledgeable of such things are always not very forthcoming. So most of what I hear is second or third hand at best. So do you all come from another world or are you locals merely studying this?”
Drat. They were all willing to bet that mortals had a really hard time lying to the vampire lords, so they might as well admit it.
(Kevin) “We are simply passing through – and I must admit, we had hoped to be less conspicious. So often, however, circumstances conspire against such hopes”.
(Count) “Well then young man, welcome to our world and a bit of advice, next time try not to enhance everything in your possession. It helps you remain less conspicuous when you don’t radiate like the sun. And in exchange for your honesty, I will not try to be too prying into the details of your background as you have also been a help in your stay. Now that the meal is almost done, it is time to review the treaty my people have prepared and discuss the gift-giving. Since you and the Krul are new here, I shall explain.”
(Count) “Now it is typical that when affairs of state negotiations are concluded that those participating exchange gifts of some sort. This along with the blood seal on the treaty helps ensure that the agreement is kept and upheld. Now before some of you begin to worry, it is not the price of the gift or how lavish it is that matters, so much as it is given freely. I will allow some period of time between this meal and when the treaty concludes to allow you to procure something. My magistrates will be more than willing to give advice or directions to those that might need it. (He gestured at Kevin and Marty) Since I would like for you as outsiders to bear witness to this, you may participate as well.”
(Kylar) “Gift giving? I have only given the gift of death thus far, I may need some time to work this out. I shall definitely need this time you are giving to prepare. Being part of society will be harder than I thought.”
(Kevin) “Oh well, we can come up with something I’m sure! Perhaps I could just assign a few aides… I’ll have to check local customs and see if that would count. Anyway, Marty is great at shopping!”
(Marty) “Don’t worry, Kylar, I’ll help you out.”
Actually Marty was a bit concerned about that! Necropolis didn’t look like the kind of world with martini maker sets! Oh well, alcohol was appreciated nearly everywhere…
(Count, quietly clapping his hands) “Excellent! As I said, my magistrates are available to assist in selecting something. You are free to go when you wish and we shall all return after nightfall, after I have rested.”
Hm. Wine? They were aristocrats.
(Kylar) “So what is this gift giving? I suspect letting this city stand will not go over well.” (Marty) “You buy something and give it to someone, and they do the same for you.
(Kevin) “It means exchanging tokens – usually it’s purely symbolic.”
(Kylar) “Strange, I never would have believed something like this. Is it similar to the practice of giving sacrifices?”
(Marty) “You don’t kill people to do it.”
(Kevin) “Perhaps in some ways – but simple physical tokens are more common; good foods, wines, jewelry, all that sort of thing.”
(Marty) “I guess you are sacrificing something to do it, but it’s money.”
(Kevin) “Not to worry! We have plenty of money!”
(Kylar) “Then let us be off to find simple physical tokens to exchange.”
(Marty) “To the market!”
Not too surprisingly, the Count sent a magistrate and a substantial bodyguard along on the shopping expedition… After all, they didn’t want to leave Kylar unwatched, they didn’t want to risk their new treaty, they were sending the guy who’d just been leading the attacking army to the market (even if relatively few of the people of the city were likely to recognize that fact) – and Kevin and Marty had just admitted to being from outside their world.
There were some parents regretting the sale of their children – but nobody wanted to approach Kevin or Marty while they had THAT kind of escort, no matter their regrets or the strange rumors running about…
Hm… It looked like most of the major unusual items (from Kevin’s point of view) were made with Corrinum. He picked up several items, as well as a few trinkets for later experimentation, and determined that – while “gift certificates” were frowned upon, “promissary notes” of services were received better – and magical services were rare enough to be considered quite valuable. Well, they were opening an Amarant Solutions office with a few Thralls in the city – so those would make good backup gifts. Upgrading some animals would work as well… The Count hadn’t said if a single gift would do or if this was going to be a round-robin thing, so they might as well have extras.
Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, Marty was looking into what Gethrid offered in the way of alcohol for Vampires – and for Humans, since Kylar apparently ate and drank like a human. Hmm… Not too surprisingly, it looked like alcohol for vampires usually involved mixing blood with the other ingredients. The better stuff used human (or exotic) blood, although animal blood was far more common… Every once in a while, the blood would be fermented along with the grain, but the results tended to be mixed unless a vampire helped do the brewing. The stuff was expensive, but hardly beyond their means – even in quantity, and it was very rarely available that way.
Kevin was willing to bet that there were families – and possibly even especially-bred bloodlines – who made a living by selling blood anyway or by brewing the stuff with their own blood. (In fact, there were).
Marty briefly considered how much money he could make bleeding himself – after all, he could regenerate it! – and then remembered how limited his regenerative powers were in Necropolis.
Oh well, it would have been a pittance compared to their usual daily take anyway.
Meanwhile, Kylar was picking up a set of blank Corrinum marbles.
So; they had… assorted magical Corrinum gifts (and some trinkets to take home), blood wine, promissary notes for basic magical services and emergency backup from the local thralls, and some of the tastier desserts and such from the stuff they’d brought along – enough so that they should be able to manage even if quite a lot of exchanges were expected.
They headed on back for the treaty signing and gift exchange.
Kevin got a pair of earrings and a book from the Count and a white marble from Kylar (apparently infused with strange energies). Marty got an ornate short sword from the Count and a black marble (also infused with strange energies) from Kylar.
It was hard to say what kind of energies the marbles held without a detailed examination – but they were obviously relics of some sort.
Kevin guessed that Kylar and at least some of the lower Krul echelons had mystical senses. It looked like the lesser vampires didn’t always – since they apparently hadn’t noted just how odd they were at the river gate – but that would explain why Kylar (and that first Krul on the road) had elected to talk to them instead of fighting.
They presented their own assorted gifts, and threw in the promissary notes as bonuses. After all, why not? It would mean that the locals would have something to lose if they interfered with their offices.
It all went smoothly. The Magistrates had ensured no faux pas had occurred.
The treaty was signed, bloodprinted – and bloodprinted and witnessed by Kevin and Marty. They had no objection to that. Primitive Notary functionality using neutral third parties.
(Count) “Thank you everyone. Those of you with business elsewhere are now free to go.”
They bowed politely, and did. That almost concluded their business in Gethrid.