Federation-Apocalypse Session 156 – The Carnival of Cats

Sausages from Réunion

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Hm. The three-year mark for this particular game.

With the books being carried back to their ships by some of Kevin’s entourage, Kevin abruptly realized what he’d forgotten at the bookstore – haggling. Considering that it was rather unlikely that a randomly-selected bookseller had books worth more than a trading fleet, they’d probably overpaid by a factor of ten or so. Oh well! One VERY happy bookseller there!

Meanwhile, he’d found a sausage vendor selling what – as a human – would have been perfectly horrendous sausages… As a Wolf, they were just right!

Conley checked out the sausages Kevin was wolfing down, and decided to wait a bit to sample the local cusine. A street festival probably wasn’t the place to go looking for the better dishes anyway… Besides, he had a lot of reading to do!

Marty was looking over the event list again. There were races, brawling, feats of strength, music, drinking, sociability, debate, trivia, lying, and dancing, along with some less-formalized events… He opted to sign up for racing and sociability – even if he still hadn’t found out exactly what that event entailed. Not drinking though. There’d be plenty of time for that anyway. Feats of strength? Nah, he wasn’t a specialist in that and didn’t want to embarrass himself. Debate? Maybe when it came up. It might be incompatible with drinking.

Kevin signed up for dancing – although he also checked on what “sociability” contests were about. He’d take whatever partner he could find. After all, he didn’t know any local dances, and wasn’t intending to use a lot of magic; this is simply for fun and to show off his natural talents a bit. He so rarely got to and this WAS just for fun!

He elected to keep an eye out for someone suitable.

They apparently entailed a competition… Numerous ladies and gentlemen throughout the festival had been given red ribbons. The objective was to convince as many of them as possible to give the contestant the ribbons. Mind magic was, of course, strictly forbidden. Whoever returned with the most ribbons was considered the winner – and it was generally considered more sporting to use social skills to get the ribbons, as opposed to mundane or magical theft. Fabricating ribbons was also against the rules of course – but personal buffs (within reason) were considered fair enough. It ran through the length of the festival, and was the last event to be judged.

Marty thought that sounded like fun! He’d see how far his best excellent plumage spell would get him then!

Kevin thought it sounded rather like a courting-game to him, and he was having pangs of conscience at the moment; he opted not to get involved. Besides! He had to save room for the parties tomorrow! And possibly save time for going panther-chasing if the map arrived in time!

Marty promptly went ribbon-chasing… It would be more fun to prowl around and try to wheedle some out of people than to just go around demanding the things!

Hm… Yes indeed, there were quite a few people who were wandering around the festival wearing a red ribbon on their arms, neck, or head. Mostly in small groups, although a few were running around solo. Was that because the individuals were especially confident, or were they especially nervous? In any case, groups would obviously be harder to charm or impress, but the rewards were correspondingly greater…

Time to test the waters! Marty tried approaching one of the loners…

(Marty) “Good evening!”

(Loner) “Evening! And how are you doing?”

(Marty) “I’m feeling great! Say, that’s a nice ribbon you have there! Looks good on you!”

(Loner) “Why thank you, now you wouldn’t happen to be one of those people trying to get their hands on my ribbon now would you?”

(Marty) “Good, clever fellow! Yes I am. Really does look good on you, though. Really brings out the color in your fur”

(Kevin, on the private links) “Hey, why not try ‘No! Never! But they are! Look out! You’d better give that to me for safekeeping!”?

Conley had to admit that it would impressive if you could win using THAT tactic.

(Loner) “Awwww, now you are going to have to give me a compelling reason for giving this to you. Perhaps doing something impressive? Or maybe giving me something in exchange?”

(Marty) “I can do that, I think!”

He drew on his mystical public speaking – since that was apparently considered fair – to evoke delight and made a most stirring speech  about the wonderful festival, and how he hoped that it would be full of joy, mirth, and pleasure.

(Kevin, privately) “You could just invite them to your own party later!”

(Marty) “If we have enough time to fit one in, why not? It’s not like we can’t afford it.”

(Loner) “A resounding speech there, full of optimism and life! Plus an offer of a party to boot. I think that might be worth one little ribbon. Here you go!”

(Marty) “Thanks a lot!”

Marty hung the ribbon around his neck, since it would be too cumbersome on a wing.

Hey? Why not impressions? They’d always gone over well at the office parties… Marty headed for a group… hm… didn’t want to offend people… Kevin (who was watching the jugglers and the acrobats) threw in a few suggestions, and he wound up doing a generic busybody port official, that otter fellow they’d bet with (since there weren’t any other otters in the immediate vicinity at the moment), and Kevin.

Sadly, Kevin was not yet well enough known to be a good target and just confused people a bit (which, come to think of it, might change but was often a PERFECT impersonation of Kevin), but the others went over very well – and got him some more ribbons!

He’d thought of doing Eight-and-a-Half-Tails too – after all, she hadn’t seemed to care too much about what people thought of her, and might even have found word of a good impersonation charming – but Kevin had thought that the crowd might not like it…

Kevin, meanwhile, had moved on to the illusion-casting talespinners – but found that they didn’t fare all that well in comparison to personal adventures in the Manifold or even the full-sensory immersive virtual realities of the Core, even if the traditional tales had a certain charm of their own. Still, they were an EXCELLENT distraction for the young pickpockets, and he made sure that his pockets were well-stocked with his food-producing pouches and their recruitment messages.

Still no rabbits or wolverines waiting to ambush him in back alleys though… He had the Thralls check to see if any traces of those rabbits had turned up; depending on how the rest of the rabbits reacted, they could have been sent off to an expert for treatment, be leading a revenge party of robot rabbit ninja, be hiding in shame to wait out their curses, or be up for sale on the slave market… The Thralls didn’t turn up anything though. Ergo, most likely being hidden by their clan, which meant that the attempt to open a clan war was a more-or-less official policy, and the three would be getting sympathy rather than scorn (save, perhaps, for losing). The Thralls did report that a number of Rabbits were prowling about the festival making general nuisances of themselves though… None near their ships or the Platypus facilities though!

Marty tried business negotiations on the next group! He had plenty of trinkets available to trade for ribbons! He deliberately avoided offering anything BUT trinkets. Offering disproportionate trades was no challenge at all and would be quite unfair to the other competitors – but he still went looking for the wealthiest and most influential group he could find… Might as well make a few business contacts along the way! It would suggests that he was wealthy enough to offer them much more than mere trinkets!

Ah! There was a group that was composed almost entirely of felines – and seemed to include several higher-ups in their house even! Marty moved in… Cats would be a hard group to impress, especially for a Parrot! They would be a challenge!

(Head Cat to Marty) “Ah, has this brave young bird come to offer something to us? And what pray tell could such a delectable morsel wish to offer us?”

Marty puffed out his chest to display what he had to offer for ribbons! An assortment of nice, but not tasteless, necklaces, bracelets, headbands, and other jewelry, even fancier than ribbons!

His sales pitch went fairly well…

(Tiger) “A tempting offer to be sure, but not offering a meal as part of the deal? Where’s the treating your business partners? The wining and dining?”

All right… there were plenty of food stands around; there had to be at least one that was selling something tasty made with good red meat (other than not military macaw!) for all the Cats!

Hm… There was a Canine wandering around with a portable grill on his chest and back who was selling a number of meaty foods. Still, his goods didn’t look quite suitable… Not to mention the fact that – judging by Kevin and his ongoing consumption of sausages – the local canines liked some very odd spice combinations!

Ah, there were a few more elaborate stands! He treated the cats to some excellent little stuffed and roasted birds on sticks with some decent wines and side-dishes!

Meanwhile, Kevin was growing annoyed… The rabbits appeared to be determined to spoil his fun! They were making trouble, harassing the performers, annoying the other party goers, and trying to spoil the food and drink… Evidently the cats were sponsoring the festival, which neatly explained Marty’s little cluster of high-ranking ones. They’d also be the prime targets for being pestered, so he dispatched a few Thralls to watch over Marty and the Cats – as well as more of them to scatter throughout the fair and suppress trouble while harassing troublemakers with their own psychic powers. Witchcraft was SO good for that – and starting a fight with them would play into their hands.

Marty didn’t see the rabbit using a little magic to fill his purchases with laxatives – but one of the Thralls did, and promptly used a bit of molecular telekinesis to transfer the laxatives back into the rabbit’s digestive tract.

Meanwhile, Kevin was having a few Thralls go and plant a vaguely-menacing horde of very crude and tacky ceramic garden gnomes on the rabbit clan properties – complete with a charm that made them seem to sneak up on people whenever they weren’t looking. The Thralls so rarely got to play this way! He gave them Carte Blanche for small practical jokes and harassment of the Rabbits!… Well, so long as they didn’t go completely overboard.

Marty did note the Thrall altering the food he’d just ordered, including the food of the other patrons. And the Tigers look to be pleased with the offer of food.

(Marty, privately) “Hey Kevin! What’s up with the food tinkering?”

Kevin explained on the private link.

(Marty) “Ah! Damn. They really are making pests of themselves, aren’t they?”

(Kevin) “Yep! I wonder why? Trying to take over on sheer numbers perhaps? Wanting more room?”

(Marty) “I don’t suppose this has anything to do with those muggers you caught, does it? I mean, I don’t think the Rabbits are in to crime that much.”

(Kevin) “Oh, them? They seemed to be out to start a clan war for some reason.”

(Marty) “Well, the Cats are running this, so that’s the most likely target.”

Marty continued his meal with the Tigers, being brave amidst some of the Parrots’ natural predators. After the meal, they did indeed give him a number of ribbons in exchange for the food and items. The Tigers looked forward to seeing him in the future, few were brave enough to just come forth and speak with them. He thanked the Tigers for doing business with him and wished them a good evening – before putting his ribbon collection around his neck, head, and legs.

It looked like he was… currently in second place (although not by too much), behind a young Fox kid.

He headed over to one of the other groups and do a little singing. He didn’t have any mystic artist powers that went with singing, but he was pretty decent!

Kevin was doing more checking… He didn’t get many rabbit-kid recruits around here – and they only seemed to be the weaker and less talented ones. He got more recruits from the other clans, even though they were less populous…

The rabbits were seriously up to something.

Marty put on a spectacular performance, drew a bit of a crowd in the process, and pulled cleanly into the lead as he began to build a reputation for his versatility in the performing arts.

This was fun! He tried acrobatics next, to show that he was more than a pretty voice!

Meanwhile, Kevin was muttering darkly about Rabbits spoiling his fun with noxious pranks – and allowing his own mystical oratory skills to broadcast sheer nightmarish unholy terror into the minds of anyone nearby who fell into the “rabbit troublemaker” group.

That cleared out a number of them.

Kevin kept complaining under his voice for a bit – but then forgot about it.

Marty’s acrobatic performance went well enough, wasn’t quite wowing the crowd… Ribbons were still coming in, but a particularly specular spectacle right now could cinch matters. Hm… probably not martial arts, so he resorted to psychic witchcraft for  illusions and light tricks. It wasn’t enough to really wow the crowd – but it did bring in a few more ribbons, putting him in first place by a good margin.

Kevin felt it wasn’t quite fair there! Marty had quite an edge on any normal person and so the charming and talented fox kid would need a consolation prize! He’d just have to arrange one!

The usual prize looked to be is a meal with the head of the Cat Clan and (typically) an offer of employment. That was a bit tricky… The kid was about ten years old, and had been using a combination of social skills and illusory art to wow the crowd, but was now being overwhelmed by Marty.

(Marty, privately) “Are you going to make him an offer, Kevin? He is pretty good!”

(Kevin) “Hrm. Probably a bit young for employment and has excellent prospects on his own, so he has no real need to sign up as a thrall – although he certainly can if he’s interested. A meal is easy.. perhaps assign him an aide?”

Yes, that would do! He decided to assign the kid a vixen thrall-girl with enough age-shifting to match his age and then “age normally” thereafter. He’d tell the kid that – as a consolation prize – she’d been assigned to his service for as long as he wished. Slavery was accepted locally, so there’d be no problem there – and that covered the “job” too, since the Thralls all had incomes!

Marty got word of that a few moments later. Oh dear… Even Kevin usually had more of a sense of proportion than THAT. The kid would surely appreciate it when he hit puberty, and Thralls WERE incredibly helpful – but that WAS a bit much!

(Marty) “You… feeling okay, Kevin? I know slavery’s legal around here, but what are his parents going to think about you giving their son a concubine?”

(Kevin) “Er… I’m fine! Yes. Fine. And why not? I’m not sure exactly when fox-kids hit puberty but they’ll probably be too young for that sort of thing for a bit, but Thralls make great playmates and guards for kids!

Oh dear. There WAS something seriously wrong there. Kevin wasn’t normally anywhere near that protective or worried about kids getting what they “deserved”… He’d been acting as if he was suppressing a lot of anger too. He asked his own Thralls and agents to look into what was up with the kid. They didn’t need him going on a wolf-rampage at the moment!

Meanwhile, Kevin was checking on when fox-kids DID hit puberty… Huh. It looked like the kid would be adolescent now. Foxes matured faster, but typically had longer lifespans in proportion to their power level. The most powerful – like Eight-and-a-Half-Tails – had very long lifespans, but the ones that never progressed beyond one or two tails got shorter than typical lifespans.

Well, that was an incentive system. He’d throw in a contraceptive amulet with the selection of minor prizes that would go with the Thrall-services – and rooms someplace and a meal or two if the boy wanted to indulge himself with the girl right away.

Marty sighed a bit. He could just see the kid’s parents reaction to “I won her at the festival! For being second-place in sociability!”. That was Kevin: giving some kid a gift – a girl of his own species – that HE would have killed for as a kid, but now had the knowledge to consider unwise.

(Kid, eyes going wide) Coooool!!!

The boy then got a bit embarrassed… Well, THAT was easy enough to read; a burst of standard adolescent fantasies, then the realization sinking in that this was real and that having a slave girl at his beck and call meant that none of those notions needed to STAY fantasies  past the next few hours – and then the thought of having to explain this to his parents. He really wasn’t supposed to be here, but the idea of getting patronage and someone to help his education was tempting enough to sneak out (mage schooling was expensive). He wasn’t really thinking about getting a concubine as part of the plan. The idea of having a concubine is his room at his parents was enough to really embarrass him.

That was cute!

Kevin gave the kid a pat on the head and cheerily pointed out that there were some mage-tutors available; he always needed business representatives – and that the grant included a room for her to stay in (or for him to take her to “to get acquainted”) and support; it would be a poor prize that burdened the recipient!

That would keep the kid – and, for that matter, the Thrall-girl – safely out of the way of anything drastic the rabbits might try for the moment…

Meanwhile, Marty was finishing up with his second event – the footrace!

Well, to be more accurate, track and field. Running, jumping, acrobatics, and more… Run from checkpoint to checkpoint, use whatever magic you can to speed yourself along, no interfering with opponents during their runs, and you had to actually traverse the distance. The best time won.

So flying was out. No matter, he was fast even with these silly bird feet!

Hrm… Mostly he didn’t have much suitable magic. Just some basic witchcraft and that bit of time-bending he’d picked up – and Elerra was off with the artificers, so she couldn’t use boosting transmutation effects on him. He still had all his basic enhancements though!

Sadly, despite a good showing, that was only enough to get him second place. Ah well! At least he’d placed! Clearly he needed to broaden his magical abilities! And perhaps acquire some more performance skills!