Since they were going to the Theater, Marty did a little checking… It looked like the Fox and Wolf families had a rivalry going over who were the greatest patrons of the theater (much to the delight of the theater groups), although the Chameleons and the Parrots were also involved (which was certainly understandable). The families each tended to favor a particular style of theater and drama. The current hot theater group in town – the foreigners (who had to be pretty good to be able to afford to travel with any assurance of a venue and making a profit) was being hosted by the Chameleons.
Marty spun an evening-length enhancement spell on himself just in case! Shiny, colorful plumage, sharp, sturdy beak and talons, and other appealing characteristics. Something that would make the lady parrots go wild! And flowers, just in case the performances were really good, and lots of fruit in case it was not! Also extra fruit for Marty, who was craving it for some reason…
Kevin, meanwhile, was simply vastly overpaying for a booth – although, to be fair, that was more in hopes of drawing attention than out of his usual disregard for the value of money. Still, it was a bit hard for a child of the Core to really appreciate just how vital money could be. He picked one of the largest; he wanted to leave space open for private meetings or for attacks on them, or to offer space to any possible pretty young women who wanted to see the show but who had arrived too late to get a booth of their own…
At Marty’s request he took one near where the Chameleons sat; it would make a point – and who knew what might happen in a private place, with dark passages, actors and weapons, and all sorts of ropes to swing on WITH background music! It could really be delicious! To go with it, they ordered a buffet of the finest wines and refreshments, with a spread sufficient for several extra people. If no one turned up, the Thralls could go to town on it…
A couple of the Platapi came too. They got them an adjoining booth though; there was no need for them to get in the way of anything that might happen…
They did, in fact, manage to make quite an impression. A good number of the middle and lower classes outright gawked as they passed by, while the upper class families in attendance noticed their presence more discreetly. They left the litter-bearers to wait outside and make even more of an impression; there was only room for a few servants inside anyway if they wanted to have room for visitors…
They got a richly-dressed Otter making his way towards them soon enough – in fact, before they’d made it to the booth. He was dressed in the Blue and Gold colors of the Merchant fleet family of Otters, the Klops.
(Otter) “Ah, you must be the new investors in town I have been hearing so much about, looking to get into the shipping business I hear?”
(Marty) “Yes, we are! So how is it around here?”
(Otter) “Oh the seas are really dangerous these days from what I am told. Only the most determined of mariners have been able to survive in this latest wave of piracy. Oh, where are my manners, I am Gunther Albrecht, of the Albrecht family.”
(Marty) “I am Martin of House MacAw. Nice to meet you! Now what was this you were saying about piracy?”
(Kevin) “Angkor Shadowfang”.
(Gunther) “Oh yes, reports have been coming in recently of a good number of pirates out on the high seas lately. They’ve been attacking ships most determinedly. In fact, some of the lesser trading companies have gone under due to the losses they’ve been sustaining.”
(Kevin) “Ah, pirates! Good sport, entertaining battles, and often lots of amusing treasures to be reclaimed!”
(Marty) “Don’t forget the bounties, either!”
(Gunther) “It would be nice if things were so romantic, but sadly a good number of people have been killed with similar attitudes. Battling piracy is not for the feint of heart.”
Marty had to smile to himself. He had no idea who – or WHAT he was dealing with, did he? Ah well, he’d play along!
(Kevin) “How sad! I always find such sports most entertaining!”
(Gunther) “Indeed? Well then, may I wish you the best of luck in your new venture. I just pray you haven’t gotten in over your head on this one.”
It looked like he was trying to “subtly” imply that the pirates might be paying particular attention to their fleets out there on the high seas now. That wasn’t entirely unexpected. Ah well.
Of course, it was also saying that they had pirate connections, and had been using them to drive the competition out of business. They weren’t angling for money, they were just attempting to attain – or maintain – their monopoly. There was a strong possibility that there were some otter family liaison’s on the pirate ships – which fit fairly well, otters were major water predators. Perhaps they could capture those family liaisons and ransom them back with optional blackmail? The family might deny any connection however; piracy might carry the death penalty – or it might be regarded as a standard risk of the sea.
They had the Thralls check on that – but they’d have to see how well it went! Still, a loss would be small change at the worst!
(Kevin, to Gunther) “Would you care to make a few bets?”
(Gunther) “Oh? That the latest venture of the Talathan will be successful?”
(Kevin) “Why not? Although, I think perhaps we should define “successful” first?”
(Gunther) “Alright, I am listening.”
(Kevin) “Shall we say; returning, and making at least a small profit for the Talathan overall after deducting any losses and the initial cost of the expedition, which I am informed will be approximately 5000 Zenni?”
Marty considered betting an additional sum per pirate they captured or killed… No, wait, he’d have to bet they got so many or more or something, and it was hard to say if they’d encounter enough of them! He had his Thralls check on the penalties for piracy…
It looked like it was a two-step thing; the first offense got you branding and jail time, the second offense drew the death penalty. Rewards for pirates ranged from 100 Zenni to 15,000 Zenni depending on the pirate caught. The more notorious and dangerous the pirate, the more money.
Oh well, it looked like catching pirates was it’s own reward.
Although, knowing Kevin, he’d probably just do his usual thing – collect them, label them “slaves”, and then take care of them – although whether that was psychological rationalization on his part or Kevin’s was open to question.
(Gunther) “Seems like a fair wager, how much do we care to bet on that outcome?”
(Kevin) “What would you like? A few thousand is hardly worth bothering with of course, but if that is all you’re comfortable with? A hundred thousand or two would be more interesting however!”
(Marty) “Yeah! That’s my kind of bet!”
Kevin was, of course, trying to back Gunther into either betting hugely or looking bad… Of course, from the Otter point of view, such a bet meant that they could spend hugely making sure that the Platypus fleet didn’t come back and have someone else pay for it!
They could pretty much see Gunther mentally tallying up the list of things that he could throw at the little platypus fleet to make sure that it never came back – and what forces he thought they might have to throw back. The locals relied too much on their protection from mental probes; they weren’t as good at hiding things as they thought they were – and their protections didn’t apply to passive reception anyway.
(Gunther) “Tell me, will you be attending the expedition as well? Seems rather unsporting to bet that you will be not returning, you see.”
(Kevin) “I hadn’t decided – but we can simply leave the funds here so that you can collect if the expedition is lost! It wouldn’t be sporting otherwise!”
That threw in the lure of insurance against reneging on said bet… According to the Thralls Gunther was fairly high up the chain of command within the Albrecht family. Just how much money was at his disposal was open to question though… They insisted that – if they were putting their funds in escrow – he put his there as well.
(Gunther) “Fair enough, let’s go for the big pool then. Always more exciting that way isn’t it?”
(Kevin) “200,000 Zenni then?”
(Gunther) “Very well then, a bit steep for my tastes, but I cannot be seen to back down either. I am in.”
Ah good! That was quite a lot… enough for them to hire a sizeable fleet to get them! And Marty could still try to get some side-bet action… Kevin had the Thralls post immediate guards on the platypus fleet and go on high alert. The otters were likely to try to get in a shot before the play was over on the theory that no one would be put on watch until they got back to give the orders. The Platypuses would be sending out their expedition in five days… A bit of a time limit on their local fun unless they used magic to commute.
(Gunther) “Well then, I hope you enjoy the show and that your venture is successful, although please forgive me if I do root for a minor financial loss.”
(Marty) “Oh, I think I feel the same way.”
(Kevin) “It should be amusing either way! And to the play!”
There were no more immediate approaches. There were plenty of people looking for funding for their latest get-rich-quick scheme or scam, but the thralls could readily sort through those. Most of the other patrons seemed to be content to simply watch for the moment.
The play was, indeed, about the rise and fall of a merchant prince. How greed and a psychotic willingness to use others led to his meteoric rise and then his eventual downfall at the hands of heir.
Marty had a feeling he shouldn’t have taken Limey to see this one.
Kevin kept a sharp eye out for approaches, assassinations, craziness, cute young women needing protectors, phantoms of the opera, or requests by the management to allow someone else who wanted to overpay to share the private booth…
What they actually got was assassins… They heard the sound of shuffling feet behind their chairs as the play got to a particularly loud segment.
Marty opted to try thought-sensing to see if it was hostile, while Kevin did a bit of light-bending to look behind him – and prepared to withstand major attacks. It probably wasn’t the otters; they’d want to wait until they’d deposited the money…
Marty caught a bit of backlash as he tapped into something seriously strange – and all Kevin saw was a slight visual distortion in the air behind him. Either very talented chameleons or using full invisibility! Cool!
Kevin spun out a few smartthreads and gently felt out what was in the distorted area.
It turned out to be an organic creature, slightly above room temperature, scaly, and trying to shove it’s claws into his back through his chair. That was easy enough to evade by leaning forward – but Marty was not so lucky – and the whatever-they-were’s hit hard.
Kevin wrapped their booth in a force-barrier and dimensional-anchoring effect, both to make sure that the attackers did not escape, whether via magic or psionics, and to avoid disturbing the people watching the play.Besides… This was a bit prompt for the locals, so it was probably an outside enemy. He could just see that one… “Who hired you? The PTA? We’re keeping kids out of after-school activities in favor of silly rescue missions and such?”
Ow! Bloody throwing knives! Well within his wolf-forms healing abilities however…
Marty had shapeshifted (into a mouse) to rip free of the claws holding him – at the price of having to regenerate some more – and was hammering one of the invisible things. It turned out to be tough customer, so Kevin banished whatever-it-was they were using to remain unseen, making up for not knowing exactly what it was with raw magical power…
That revealed three lizard-like people in the room, all of them very startled to suddenly be visible.
They responded with a barrage of knives, which was unpleasant despite their various defenses.
For good or ill, they included the three “servants” (two of Kevin’s usual trio and Limey), but weren’t aware of the girls who were in ferret-form in pockets as usual. Kevin and Marty, however, wanted to find out what was going on – and so had the Thralls stick to defending themselves for the moment while they waited for a good chance to act.
Marty was doing fairly well at hammering his opponents – sticking with mouse form for comical effect, since it didn’t hinder his supernatural enhancements anyway – and unleashed an attack that would have crushed a tank. Unfortunately, his opponent had sufficient psychic resources to blunt the blow to something survivable – even if it left the creature with few reserves left.
Kevin fell back on mystic oratory in an attempt to draw the three into a tale-spun trance… He wanted to talk to at least one of these, and if Marty was pulling out attacks like that, he might not get to!
(Kevin) “Knives in the darkness have been the bane of many a lordling, but such is the price of power, treachery is ever with us. Here, now, is the start of yet another tale, one of…”
Marty hammered away, rapidly draining his opponents reserves.
(Kevin) “in the court of the mouse king, where mighty heroism lurks in the most unlikely of forms, there too treachery is afoot; a younger son, attempting to usurp his noble fathers place, by first disposing of his brothers and then…”
Resisting? Blast it, they had probability warping too! These were some pretty high-quality assassins here!
Good enough to realize that it was time to run. One of them triggered some sort of gizmo that absorbed magical energy in the area – something like the negative matter the alchemists back on Baelaria had produced – and they shadowstepped away using psychic powers.
Well, at least they would have. Kevin REALLY wanted to talk to someone, and had all of his Thralls augment his own stunning psychic attacks.
Marty had his friends jump in as well. Something in the assorted blasts finally overloaded the assassin – leaving them with one captive, however deeply unconscious.
They had some very VERY professional assassins here… Probably unconsciously shielded too! This was going to be a challenge!
(Marty) “Let’s get this one bound. Though I think we’ll need more than that.”
They stripped it, made sure he/she/it STAYED unconscious, screened the area against detection and against that specific species, got the thralls to work on mind-probing in case he/she/it had a resistance or block that would run down – or they were very lucky and he/she/it didn’t have anything – started funneling mystic artist indoctrination into his/her/its head, stacked on the binding spells and psionics, and checked his/her/its gear for any clues – since the local thralls had nothing on the species…
Ah, social perception could show them what groups he/she/it was a part of. It was almost impossible to shield against that – since their assassin was, indeed, shielded against most other things.
(Kevin) “Mysteries are almost as fun as cute young women!”
(Marty) “I’m beginning to agree!”
The search, and their wide array of skills and talents, did get them some information.
The bead seemed to have been composed of a magic absorbing powder that – upon breaking the seal – began to vacuum up the surrounding magic. A rare thing, but not entirely unheard of. The trouble was finding a ready supply of the stuff that translated well from realm to realm – as they’d already suspected, a lot like the Bealarian Nullstone. Their existing security precautions should suffice; the stuff would limit their opponents abilities as well.
The species was… unknown and saurian. Color-changing skin, acidic venom that it could spit, limited thermal regulation (still not on a par with a bird or mammal, but capable of adapting to a fairly wide temperature range – and to near room-temperature in this nice warm city), three toed feet, upright, active posture, eye sight considerably beyond what most reptiles have. Genetics look normal for something Earth derived, and the classification spell listed it as Avian. It also showing signs of prolonged high altitude sickness and a high calorie intake consistent with a carnivore type metabolism. It was ensouled though.
Well, if it was genuinely alien, it was a coincidence worthy of divine intervention. Almost certainly either an obscure (and likely non-local) fantasy or something created. Either way they’d have some interesting questions for it when the creature came to!
Wait, could it be something descended from a line that would have split off around the period of Archaeopteryx? It was vaguely possible that this was a descendent of a pre-human sapient species that had died off in Core! That was unlikely to the point of insanity, but it would be SO cool!
For gear… lots of knives, the clothing looked to be a silk derived fabric with numerous enchantments upon it. More antimagic pellets along with several other pouches containing other pellets of different colors and several vials of liquids and gels. No actual smartclothes though… Visitors who were good at blending in? The creation of a crazed local mage? Probably not the ones who were putting the platypuses out of business though. There wouldn’t be many survivors if that was it.
Well, they’d heard about the imported silk with chameleon properties…Why no apparent poisons or drugs? Neither their own metabolisms, nor those of the Thralls, showed any serious abnormalities.
(Marty) “Well, what the hell is it doing here? Somebody from another place probably sent it!”
(Kevin) “Most likely! Still, if it was a popular fiction sometime – or someone is funneling souls into a realm – it’s not too hard to get an ensouled colony. Certainly well within – say – Merlin’s resources!”
(Marty) “Just what I was thinking… and I was really enjoying this vacation, too!”
(Kevin, disappointedly) “If it’s prehuman civlization from two hundred million hears ago… I’d expect a lot more sophistication somehow. This isn’t impossible – the stuff he’s carrying COULD be incredibly sophisticated – but I’d have expected something nasty with the knives!”
Kevin had the thralls add “check their supplies against their own metabolisms” to the list of tests he was having them run. The could be trained for use against each other, while they were more or less unexpected targets.
The Thralls could confirm that the species wasn’t known locally – and could analyze the blades and chemicals and such swiftly enough.
They did find a bioagent on the knives designed to cause those infected to secrete a pheromone that they believed the species would find very easy to detect. The toxins found in the vials and in the powder pellets would be nasty against their own species, and of limited effect against more or less human metabolisms.
Kevin cleared out the pheromonal stuff. He had enough pheromones of his own, thank you!
Meanwhile, a pair of ushers – wanting to know if everything was all right – had been trying to get in .
(Kevin) “It’s fine! It was just a bunch of assassins who left a few knife holes in things! More drinks please!”
(Marty) “Yeah, and another delicious mango for me, please!”
That got a pair City Guards and an Officer at their booth quite shortly, along with the drinks.
(Kevin) “What’s the fuss?”
(Officer) “We had reports from the ushers that there was an assassination attempt. Is this true?”
(Marty) “We took care of it, but yeah.”
(Kevin) “Oh yes. Would you like some spare knives? They used quite a lot of them.”
(Officer) “What sort of creature is this? I’ve never seen the like before.”
(Marty) “We’re not sure. Magic said it was some kind of bird.”
(Kevin) “Oh, it’s not from around here! Anyway, we’re keeping it for the moment! People who try to attack us by stealth often have the most revealing things to talk about!”
(Guard) “Bird my ass!” (The Officer growled down at the guard for the outburst.)
(Kevin) “Oh, it’s more closely related to a bird than to anything else that lives around here except for feathered dragons if you’ve got any!”
Marty was already decided! He was going to name it “Scales”! At least if Kevin could manage to tame the thing!
Kevin was agreeable. Nothing discouraged assassins (or sometimes encouraged vicious reprisals and rescues) like keeping the last one to try it as a pet!
Still, sometimes assassin groups got pissed at their bosses, simply for sending them in with no real idea of what they were up against. Losses in an assassination mission were not too unusual.
Hm. He did know dimensional tracking as Angkor! Should he try to follow them?
Nah! They’d come all this way to let people come to them for once! He wasn’t going to blow that by leaping up to chase after people again! Besides… that would leave the platypuses in a bind, and they only have five days to get those ships ready to repel a massed attack that – if they lost – would have been funded with THEIR OWN MONEY!
On the other hand, if they won, the Otters would take a rather large financial hit – just what Marty had been angling for!
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 145 – Of Sailing Ships, and Sealing Wax, and Platapi, and Kings from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 144 – Back to Port (ruscumag.wordpress.com)