Federation-Apocalypse Session 149b – The Markets of Cyrweld

Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)

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Marty sighed… It really hadn’t taken long to exhaust the rumor possibilities of the bar for the moment – and it looked like the Otters weren’t silly enough to be recruiting so publicly, even if the place WAS a “notorious gang hideout”. There was other minor gossip, but it was all trivia.

They decided to have a look at the local commodities market. Marty felt that those were always fun! People knifing each other was the very least of it!

Oh yeah, this wasn’t Battling Business World.

Kevin called for his attention-attracting sedan chair and bearers. Fortunately, no one was likely to have tried to take the “wheels” off it! The wheels might not have any weapons or armor, but they did have the usual Thrall-resources!

The Commodities Market reminded Kevin of the trading floors of classical Wall Street – although there wasn’t nearly enough blood to resemble Battling Business Worlds version. There were a lot of magical boards displaying information, including ship manifests, port of origin, port of destination, and share price. Despite the city guards recommendation, none too interesting unless you were a trader or a (genuine) pirate – which he wasn’t really.

Marty somewhat missed the blood, but otherwise liked it a lot. Those were some pretty good boards! He looked to see what was up today!

Hm… Shares in Platypus cargos were not currently being traded, since they were pretty much the sole investors right now. They wouldn’t want to trade any at the moment or for some time to come either; at the moment they were basically penny stocks. Currently the ships working to the south were doing well, but those to the North were having trouble. It seemed that the northern tribes were organizing their resistance better these days – which was definitely a bother.

The big news on the market was the discovery of a new species to the South in the jungles. The ship had only managed to capture one, but the bidding on the cargo was high.

Kevin wondered if they might be the assassin-species! That would explain why they were so quickly available; they’d been in the area to rescue one of their own already! And of COURSE he’d be a prime suspect for being the captor!

For that matter… he might be. The local Thralls would have already spoken for their pick of somewhat more than the expected percentage of ensouled youngsters from each cargo. That was a new record! He’d had people upset with his actions before he’d even arrived in their universe!

Marty saw that thought and had to laugh. A new record! Go us!

Marty had been checking into the situation up North. It looked like the Polar Bears had begun organizing the northern species into an effective resistance against the slavers that had been raiding the area. They’d even begun building ships to patrol the waters – and had been planting icebergs in the shipping lanes that were barely visible above the water… Wait; could they be working with the penguin pirates?

Well, the platypuses were on city-to-city trade this time, so that shouldn’t be too big a problem this time around.

The new species… appeared to be a feline derivative with psionic powers. About the size of a typical house cat, they were incredibly cunning and elusive. Sedating one took had been a difficult project for the entire ship’s the crew. Ok, that was a completely different species.

Kevin concluded that – when you came right down to it – there wasn’t actually much to do here that wouldn’t actually be blind gambling. He’d prefer a market where things were actually being bought and sold… Besides, they still had no party invitations, or challenges to duels, or dimensional visitors wanting to negotiate while they were out of Kadia, and they only had four days to go until the Platypus expedition!

They could always come back after the expedition of course, but he’d rather do something NOW. He wandered off to find something. After all, they showed enough signs of money to draw attention – especially if some of the merchants had weird abilities to detect solvency and possible profits. If they didn’t show enough signs of money, they’d make it even more obvious. Besides… they could see if some assassins attacked their ships – or possibly tried not to hurt all the children while extracting their missing agent – while they weren’t there.

Marty couldn’t find anything else too juicy in the way of rumors, so he wandered off after Kevin. After all, this was a trade-city! The physical markets should be filled with all kinds of stuff!

The markets had… performers, swindlers selling trinkets, arguments between buyers and sellers, people wanting them to fund their latest get-rich-quick scheme, beggers wanting money, abolitionists causing trouble, food and drink vendors hawking their wares, and assorted other stuff.

Kevin tipped the better performers, bought a few trinkets at random where they appealed to him, give small handouts to the beggars, asked the abolitionists whether they want to abolish slavery, duels, predation, or debtor’s prisons, got some food (some of the most interesting – and expensive – stuff available), and looked around to see who else was out shopping – or pickpocketing. He DID still want invitations to the nobilities parties…

As for the items for sale… There were seriously exotic foods, alcohols, fabrics, plants, animals, magical items, spices, psionic items (rarer than magic, and roughly equivalent – albeit with different vulnerabilities. The more paranoid local nobles tended to covet them, even with the stigma of mind-magic attached to them), trade expedition shares, precious metals and gems, rare woods, art, occasional slaves, ancient antiques, and odder things, all being traded and sold. In fact, some of the stuff they’d been auctioning off had already made it here… albeit in far smaller lots and at even higher prices.

Well, that was usual for retail.

They hadn’t brought in much in the way of alcohol, plants, animals though – and ancient antiques were always fun.

Then Kevin had a better idea! He bought a box of small snakes (huh… they even seemed to have snake-souls! Had someone imported a couple of boxes of real snakes at some point?) awakened one, give it wings, and legs, and feathers, and made a small feathered dragon, and then imbued it with enough magic to be a fair match for the locals – using small sequential spells so that each step-by-step small change would be real, and undispellable…

City guard says there are no feathered dragons do they?

Marty saw where that was going early on, said “hi” to the small (and slightly confused) feathered dragon when Kevin was done, and continued with his lunch. Hopefully the kid would realize that – while the local mages could do that sort of thing too – it was a MUCH bigger project for them. That was why race-creation was normally left to the local gods… Oh well. Kevin did tend to lose all sense of proportion as soon as a whim struck him.

Kevin, still finding that no one was paying attention to him – they all just assumed he was playing with illusions or a temporary transformation or something since he wasn’t using too much magic at any one time – was considering just how much more conspicuous he could possibly get. Perhaps set up a balloon animal booth? He seemed to recall something like that in one of the ancient classic films… The Masque of the Red Death? No, that didn’t seem right. Oh well, he had one of the Thralls pick up a selection of local charms and talismans for the new dragon.

Marty liked balloon animals! He voted for the booth plan, and volunteered to help Kevin set it up!

He was kind of sorry when it got pre-empted – at least for the moment – by an offer of a business partnership from one of the members of the Smiths and Artificers Guild.

(Marty, privately) “What bought this on?”

(Kevin, privately) “I’d guess metals are either freely transmutable with spells of that level around here or can be created with them – and SOMEONE has noticed how much power we’re using.”

Hm… According to the local Thralls, common metals could be freely transmuted into each other, magical metals were much harder to transmute into each other, and converting mundane metals to magical ones was incredibly difficult – at least by direct spellcasting.

The Raccoon – one Ramal Hakkan – did indeed have a proposal for magical metal transmutation. The Smiths and Artificers Guild had been working on that for a long time – and they thought that their visitors might have the final resources they needed to make it work at a huge profit. Ergo, a partnership proposal.

Kevin guessed that they needed to charge the mundane metal with a vast infusion of magical energy – and then would need a high-order spell to bind it permanently to the metal.

Their proposed process required a great deal of magical lightning – and given the number of magical assistants that Kevin and Marty appeared to have – they believed that they could easily provide it for them. The Mages Guild wasn’t particularly interested in the proposal. They considered it a waste of time and resources – but if “Angkor” and “Martin” could afford to use slaves who showed the signs of substantial magical power as simple bearers and crewmen, they could surely afford to assign some to such a potentially-profitable project!

Well, that did sound reasonable enough. It meant that some of the more alert locals might soon connect them with the Amarant Solutions office – which had similar youngsters showing similar powers and power-signs – but that had been bound to happen sooner or later anyway.

Marty figured that Limey was probably chomping at the bit to unleash some lightning – while Kevin figured that it was another opening into the local system! An excellent thing to discuss, even if business arrangements were, as usual, more or less up to Marty…

Marty, not too surprisingly, wanted a few more details – and some information on what the guild was willing to provide in return. They were running a mercantile venture, after all!

It seemed like the amount of magical lightning required was considerable, at least by their estimates. They did know that what they’d tried up to this point had been insufficient to produce more than traces of magical materials. The biggest problem was that the input needed to be fairly constant for a lengthy period of time – requiring a lot more mid-level spells than anyone but the most powerful mages (who usually had better things to do) could supply. In return for their participation they were offering a – fairly reasonable – share in the future profits should the venture prove successful.

Well, there were accounting tricks that could rig a hugely successful operation so that it paid one set of investors but “never really earned any profits” – but there wasn’t a lot of point in trying stunts like that when they could just walk out.

Hm. Limey could help with the experimentation, but for long-term spellcasting they needed some of the thralls with specialities in evocation. Limey’s peak powers were a lot greater, but they could keep it up all day…

Ramal did know that a single sixth-order spell, or a series of first order ones was insufficient for the process. Ergo they’d need a team of three or four Thralls capable of casting 2’nd or 3’rd order spells over and over – possibly with Limey to provide boosts to even higher levels if necessary.

Well, they had a few days before they needed to set sail. Marty sent Limey and Elerra off with Ramal and Kevin dispatched three of the more bored Thralls with evocation from the crew – on the condition that the Guild kept the experiments in strict confidence; it would help keep the price up and avoid sabotage.

Marty directed Elerra to make sure that nobody tried anything untoward with Limey as well. He didn’t really expect anything like that, but he WAS trying to supervise the little guy at least a bit better now.

Meanwhile, the dragon wasn’t doing that well. Most of the people at the market were looking at it as yet another weird mage experiment with creating monsters – and even giving it some money and letting it do it’s own shopping (cautiously, since everyone here had magic) wasn’t changing that much.

Marty gave it a cravat, and Kevin got it a vest and hat. There was no need for it to go around naked!

Blast it! They might have to throw their own party at this rate!

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