So far it had been a busy morning… They’d had to make arrangements for Red Crest, collected rumors in a bar, done Kevin’s usual child-collecting routine, visited the markets, created a small clan of dragons, launched a small partnership with the Smiths and Artificers Guild, dealt with some rampaging rabbits and a ferret pickpocket, escorted Ms Muirhead home, sent out some of his Thralls to get an outpost of feathered dragons set up, and would be getting directions to a few panther bandit camps… It was quite definitely getting to be time for lunch! Even a bit past!
Kevin checked on how Storytime with Red Crest was going – and found that she was no longer there. A trio of supposed thralls had come by and picked her up, claiming that it was on Kevin’s orders
Now THAT was fast work. She’d only been on story duty for… well, OK, most of the morning. Getting up with the sun on a flat world did make for fairly straightforward days. Still, it showed a good deal of adaptability and some skill at quick surveillance. Not a bad approach to take on just three or four hours notice though.
Silly Thralls… couldn’t they recognize their own power signatures? Ah. Their power signatures HAD looked a bit odd, but they’d figured that – in the worst case – it might be an elaborate rescue attempt, and Kevin had seemed to be planning on that happening and hadn’t asked them to stop it. At best, it would be what he wanted anyway.
Oh well, they had probed her mind pretty thoroughly already and hadn’t really had any further use for her. Besides, they had planted a hidden set of smartfiber-tracers on her, and it looked like they were still broadcasting. Evidently they – and whatever group was behind them – really weren’t all that tech-oriented.
Either the fibers had been removed all at once – and they weren’t reporting that – or she was now deep in the mountains outside the city. It was even possible that she was with the Panther bandits, given that the signal was coming from the right general direction, so they had the fibers burst-transmit their recorded data to the Thralls back at the ship for a bit of analysis.
With the crew stocked up with local magic and the ship resupplied, and their personal shopping done, there need be no further delay about lunch!
Marty had one of the Thralls with Divination locate some of the best food around. After all, you couldn’t entirely trust the local restaurant ratings; the best food liked to hide in little hole-in-the-wall specialty places!
Hmm… The divinations indicated that the local restaurants tended to be vegetarian, omnivorous, or carnivorous, but a few of the higher class places – good enough to support multiple menus – served more varied customers. It wasn’t uncommon to bring people along, but – while it was nice to be seen hitting the trendy places with people in tow for all to see – sometimes the heads of the major Families would just go and sit at a fancy restaurant with some attendants while consulting paperwork. Meals were social events otherwise though, so it was normal enough invite people along the way… Trading meals could become a major social obligation in an of itself, although a sizable portion of the upper classes didn’t always engage in it.
As for the best overall restaurant… It looked like that would be the Pasta Palace, at the top of one of the ridges overlooking the bay.
Marty loved Pasta! And it was trendy too!
Kevin sent some Thralls ahead to start setting things up and started looking around for some upper-class, or otherwise interesting, shoppers to take to lunch. That would be a splendid opportunity for anyone who wanted to get them more-or-less alone!
Along the way they ran across a quartet of Rabbits, a pair of Otters, a Beaver with his nose stuck in some sort of blueprints, a trio of Hogs, and a Fox Lady. Kevin tried to collect the Otters, the Beaver and the Fox Lady! Rabbits might have nasty things to say and ruin lunch, while the Trio… Hogs weren’t fuzzy enough – and Pasta should be fine for all of them! At least depending on the sauce…
Marty tried to count her tails, and could only determine that there were a lot…. they waved and flowed most hypnotically, and he found himself just watching them move. Counting them proved to be quite impossible! Marty had had no idea that he was this into foxes!
Well, to be fair, it was more the motion of the tails themselves that seemed to be hypnotic as opposed to any sort of attraction.
The otters and the beaver came along readily at the idea of someone else paying for lunch. The Fox Lady, however, turned to them as they approached.
(Fox Lady) “Yes, what can I do for you?”
(Marty) “Oh. Good afternoon! My friend and I were wondering if you’d like to join us for lunch.”
(Kevin) “I was inviting people for lunch at the Pasta Palace and I thought that you looked like you might like some lunch!”
Her look was a bit disconcerting as she gazed upon each of them in turn.
(Fox Lady) “Lunch you say? Sounds like fun, most are too…. intimidated to ask me to join them for a meal.”
Marty promptly concluded that his count should have been “somewhere between eight and nine tails” – and that meeting this particular lady was not exactly an accident. She might well have wanted to get a look at the new disturbing factor in “her” city.
(Kevin) “Lunch then!”
The Pasta Palace People had put up some resistance to the short notice, but large amounts of money had readily overcome that. They were, however, informed that their order would be slightly delayed because the Chef refuses to compromise his quality to throw something together with quick magic…
Fortunately, the delay in walking there had covered a good deal of the setup time – and Marty was pleased anyway! You knew that it wasn’t a real chef or a top restaurant unless they fussed, complained, and made you wait to eat! He’d learned that from Abigail!
They were seated the moment they arrived, and the scene over the handrail down on the city and bay below was superb. The sailing ships coming and going were readily visible, and quite enchanting.
The rest of the group ordered an appetizer or two and pasta with the appropriate sauce for their palates
Marty winced a bit though as Kevin – as a not-quite-adult wolf – basically set about ordering “lots”, along with wine, and cheese sticks, and the best ale, and meat and sausage sauces, and more cheese, without a care in the world for his digestive tract! A good thing for Kevin that his body always reverted to his original, Core-tailored, form… Well, at least he was ordering plenty of everything that the others might want, and lesser meals for the servants.
He had wine and a nice big bowl of fettuccine with bread sticks. He wanted to maintain SOME dignity, and it wouldn’t do to have sauce all over his feathers!
Kevin, of course, assumed that the sauce wouldn’t DARE get on him! And, if it did, that was what molecular telekinesis was for!
The conversation was light, although the Otters and Beaver were obviously awed by their other guest – which pretty much confirmed her identity.
(Fox Lady) “Now, excuse me if it is impertinent to ask, but what brings you to this city?”
(Kevin) “It seemed like it might be fun, and a bit of a vacation, and it would make it easier for people to come to us for a change!”
(Marty) “Not to mention we heard the trading was good. I haven’t been disappointed so far.”
(Kevin) “And after that last battle, it seemed like it was time for a change!”
(Fox Lady) “Well this place is a trading hub for the region and beyond. As a vacation spot, I can certainly see it. I take it life outside has been stressful?”
(Marty) “I’ll just say we survived that one narrowly and leave it at that.”
(Kevin, looking pensive for a moment) “So far it’s been quite a nice place to visit! At least outside of one or two very silly people…”
(The Fox Lady glanced at Kevin for a brief moment before continuing with Marty) “Well, close calls are always stressful. However, I think I find that I learn something about myself based on how I react when I have few options. I was pleased to find with how I performed. What material losses I might have suffered have been more than compensated with other, less tangible rewards… (To Kevin) Yes, there are always strange and silly people milling about. Most of them are harmless enough and are to be pitied in their own fashion.”
Kevin, at least, knew that he only kept helping people because it improved his reputation and let him attract more Thralls!
(Fox Lady) “Well, for example: tails are a sign of status among my species. A sign of power if you will. After a particularly vexing and difficult battle, I no longer have the right to call myself a Nine-Tails. (A stump waved into view from behind her before quietly slinking away underneath the table again.) However, the social and reputation rewards for surviving the battle and being victorious are not to be discounted. And I also learned that under immense pressure, when everyone was depending on me, I was able to come through and achieve the seeming impossible. Let’s just say that this pleased me a good deal.”
Hm. There was some deeper arcane injury there or some mystical principle at work. The local magics were more than up to fixing such a minor injury if it was purely physical.
(One otter, in a hushed whisper before getting smacked by the other otter.) “Yeah, fought three archmages at once and won.”
(Fox Lady) “Tell me, did you learn something about yourself in your trial?”
(Marty) “Yes I did. I can be a pretty scattered bird sometimes, but when things are at their worst, I can endure them well. I can also count on him (gesturing to Kevin) to surprise me.”
(Kevin) “My congratulations on your victory… and I suppose I learned something as well, both from Morgoth and our own victory. What cannot be fully controlled, can still be channeled – or sealed.”
(Fox Lady) “Then regardless of the outcome of your trial, you can count that as a personal victory.”
(Kevin) “Is there anything you need on your visit here?”
(Fox Lady) “Personally, I have come home to recuperate from another long sabbatical into the world beyond this city. While my search has been fruitless in it’s main objective, I have learned a great deal on my sojourn and I consider that a small victory. The sheer variety of magic, psionics, and culture out there could keep me occupied for a hundred lifetimes easily… I guess you could say coming home is my own vacation in a way.”
Hmm… It looked to Kevin like inquiring about her main objective would be considered rude by local standards – but probably not by her. It looked like she was more open minded regarding curiosity and such than the typical native was. The sabbatical journeys were proof of that much.
(Kevin) “I do have fairly wide-spread resources; if you seek something in particular, I might be able to help at some point.”
Hey, dessert time! Pastries, with lots of cream and butter and mixed-meat fillings for the carnivores! One of the advantages of the unchanging body… No worries about calories!
Marty preferred fruit and nuts, so he could show off how much control he had over his beak!
Kevin – since he was playing host (and hadn’t done much creating recently) – decided to provide party favors! A nice bottle of something absurdly expensive to take home and maybe some other goodies. He hadn’t done much creating of things recently, and had plenty of power in reserve…
(Fox Lady) “Well, to be honest, this injury has proven most vexing to heal. The wound itself has closed and the fur has returned, but the missing flesh and bone will not return. All the magical and psionic healing I can apply to it accomplished nothing. My travels have taught me much about magic, psionics and even the arcane and silly art of science, but nothing returns my tail to it’s original state. It’s rather embarrassing really. Perhaps you know of a healing specialist I have not heard of?”
(Kevin) “Hm. May I use a charm to analyze the damage? I know many healers, but which would be appropriate is in question.”
They delayed until after desert, and Kevin was not the best of healers – but he could tell that the wound was damaging to her life force in some fashion. Any attempts to regrow the missing flesh and bone would either fail outright or quickly turn necrotic. Any attempts to heal the body would be fruitless in the face of that sort of damage. Even a full transformation would simply translate the partial amputation into the new form. Divine intervention would most likely be needed. Without knowing more about the attack itself, it was difficult to say more…
Spiritual wounds. He hadn’t run across many of those. Well, there were at least three ways around that sort of thing; spiritual regeneration, a god of healing, simple raw power.
He might have the raw power, but healing was just not his thing, which would seriously weaken any such attempt. Obviously enough, consulting a specialist was in order. Perhaps the Jewish Heaven again? Raising dead spirits out of Sheol would seem to be a bigger trick! And they could check on Menthas while they were there! She should be well enough to have visitors by now!
(Kevin) “I can see the nature of the injury – but I could only attempt to heal it through raw power, and mine is not well-adapted to healing. Still, if you have an hour or so, we could drop by a more appropriate specialist.”
(Fox Lady) “Very well then. I suspect you have some means of rapid transport then?”
(Kevin) “Indeed. It’s a bit conspicuous on some levels, but that might not be a problem anyway.”
That would be the longest project. The Otters were a pair of ship officers on leave between voyages and had ben presented with some fine wines and tickets to several good shows.
The Beaver was a shipbuilder working on a new ship design.
Marty had been quite interested in that.
The ship design he had in mind was going to be using a particularly dense wood recently found floating in the waters to the far west. Despite being immersed in salt water without any sort of preservation treatment for weeks (or perhaps months or years), the stuff had proven incredibly hard and durable. It was forcing a number of changes in his assumptions in shipbuilding. Getting someone to fund the construction was proving to be an issue, but since the design was still very rudimentary that isn’t as much of a problem. He was hoping the design and construction of such a shop would certainly get him promoted to a Master Ship Builder within the guild.
Marty had arranged to fund him. It sounded like fun (and like the local equivalent of an iron-hulled boat), and he couldn’t let Kevin make all the trouble now could he?
Still… based on what he could recall of the prices back on the market and how much of the wood he was going to be needing, the ship was going to require pretty much buying up the entire supply. That would cost a modest fortune – far too much for building such a ship to be likely to be profitable. Still, the fact that they were finding all of the stuff floating on the open sea was a bit odd. Either gathering it directly, or finding the source, would be far more efficient.
They could keep an eye out for it when they set sail with the Platypi! It might advance the local shipbuilding a lot and looking would cost nothing. Oh well! He had the local Thralls pick up enough for the guy to experiment with anyway…
Kevin noted that dense wood suggested limited flotation, and the great tolerance for seawater suggested either growing near the shore – possibly something like a mangrove – or actually growing on the bottom of the sea. Well, if it did, their smartclothes would let them reach it easily enough – but it would be a lot of work.
They let the Otters and the Beaver out first – no sense in blatantly asking for attention – and set up their gate inside. The magic needed to be augmented with a bit of mana to reach beyond the local realms – well, the anthropomorphic realms WERE pretty isolated – but that was no problem. Kevin made a minor effort to hold down the power-signature, but didn’t strain at it. Part of the point was to be noticed after all.
The lightshow still attracted a good deal of attention as Kevin opened the gateway. The Fox Lady stopped to analyze it for a moment.
(Fox Lady) “Intriguing configuration there.”
(Kevin) “I fear I run more towards “just do it” than deep analysis – but I did have to augment it a bit to reach this far. Nevertheless, I think some of the residents here might be able to help us a bit. Besides, I need to take Menthas a present; she helped out quite a bit during that last battle.”
They passed through the gate to arrive, once more, at the gates of Paradise, standing before the recording angel scribbling in his book at his pedestal – arriving as Belramos (Kevin), “Krishna” (Marty), and as herself for the Fox Lady…
Anahel looked up at them after a moment.
(Anahel) Ah, welcome back to the realm of Shehaqim. What can we do for you today?
(Kevin) “A couple of things really; we wanted to check on how Menthas was doing after the battle with the Hellstorm and to inquire as to whether anyone here had any notion as to where Ryan might have wound up. After all, he is an ally who might need help, and I’m a bit nervous as to what he might get up to out there considering his track record. We would also like – if possible – to consult a specialist on mystical injuries. Our friend here has an unfortunate one. Finally, I must admit that I already owe you a favor; is there anything you need that I could reasonably help out with?”
(Anahel) “Menthas is currently in Raquie receiving healing and rest. You can find her there. Zachariel and Raphael would be the ones to talk to regarding your friend….. (thumbs through his book for a second) Lady Tyra Istral.”
Marty and Kevin made a note of the name.
(Anahel) “As for Mr O’Malley, I am afraid the battle with the Hellstorm ended up channeling a good deal of the dark energies of the Hellstorm back into himself as the main reactor core detonated. It looks like the backlash has sent him into a personal hell of sorts. Even more unfortunately it seems to be modeled on his original life. Those types of hells are not easy to escape even with the power of an Opener of his level.”
(Kevin) “Oh dear. I shall have to try and reach him.”
(Anahel) “Ah yes, here we go: an underground research laboratory in Nazi Occupied Poland. An extraordinarily nasty place known as Wenceslaus Mine.”
Marty had to say, anything to do with the WWII era was usually nasty.
(Kevin) “That will be a mess; I shall have some research started. I do not think it would be wise to go there without finding out as much as possible first.”
(Anahel) “Indeed, and I recommend viewing whatever your research does turn up with a skeptical eye; there is an awful lot of nonsense out there regarding what that facility was up to. Even our records are incomplete, after all only God is omniscient.”
(Kevin) “I don’t think I’d want to be anyway. It cannot be an easy burden. But I thank you for the information… Is there anything we might be able to help you out with?”
(Anahel) “For that, I recommend speaking with Gabriel. He handles handing out tasks for people to complete. You can find him in Shamayim.”
(Kevin) “Well, we shall check with him as well.”
(Anahel) “Would you like an escort, or do you believe yourself able to find your own way?”
(Kevin) “Ah, if there’s someone who isn’t busy, an escort might be best. I’m fairly sure that it would be bad form for me to be wandering around here without an escort.”
(Anahel) “Not a problem (he tapped his pen against the podium lightly) An angel will be here shortly to escort you.”
(Kevin) “Thank you for your assistance Anahel.”
(Anahel) “You’re welcome, that is what I am here for.”
They provided Ms Istral with some explanations. She’d been trying to analyze the local structure and had been finding the place more than a bit hard to fathom.
(Kevin) “Ah. Well, this is a spiritual dimension – primarily an afterlife for members of a particular faith in worlds where reincarnation does not apply directly. Since they have specialists in dealing with spiritual wounds, it seemed an appropriate location to look for assistance. Now, technically, I represent an opposing side. In actual practice, our interests often coincide.”
An angel arrived shortly.
(Benjamin) “Greetings, I am the Angel Benjamin. I am told you wish to visit both Raquie and Shamayim, to which would you like to visit first?”
(Kevin) “Raquie would be best. Ms Istral here is in need of more intensive treatment than I can supply.”
(Benjamin) “Very well then, forgive me if I forego the usual tour, but I believe it best right now to be efficient as opposed to being a tour guide.”
Benjamin brought his hands up, as if in prayer. A bright circle of light surrounded them and flashed. As the light died away, they found yourselves in a large pagoda overlooking a lake. The serene atmosphere of the place lightened their moods – and they found themselves feeling better both physically and mentally. Kevin found the sweetness and light that saturated the place a bit cloying though.
Fortunately he had his inner evilness to console him!
Marty had to wonder… This seemed more like Buddhism than old testament to him. Still, a healer could be expected to cultivate serenity.
(Kevin) “I haven’t visited this particular area of this realm before Ms Istral, but we should at least be able to get some useful advice.”
Up ahead there was an angel lecturing a number of priests, doctors, and healers while gesturing at a transparent display of a human next to him. He seemed to be giving lessons on healing and the different aspects of the body, mind and soul, how they interacted, and why throwing more power at some injuries was not the best way to approach some problems.
Kevin sighed. Sometime it felt like the entire cosmos was out to tell him that he was NOT in charge of things.
(Benjamin) “That would be Archangel Raphael, you should be able to get his attention and he will probably use Ms Istral’s problem as an opportunity to demonstrate some of the principles he is now teaching.”
Marty quietly took Ms Istral over to Raphael, while Kevin hung back behind him – since he didn’t really want to get used as an example. His demonic darkness was personal!
Marty was fairly sure that the Archangel had enough discretion not to do invasive examinations in front of lecture audiences – but Kevin figured that they’d probably consider him an underage child who was trying to avoid treatment for a psychological problem! While that might be at least partially true, it was still undignified!
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 150 – Into the Back Alleys (ruscumag.wordpress.com)