The Thralls passed word to Kevin and Marty that Conley had turned up again, and retired with his books – and said that he’d found that the panthers were behind the rabbits, and wanted to take over the cat clan.
Well, the panthers had already been on the hit list anyway. That said that the lions and tigers might be taking advantage of them to some extent with that “outlaws and bandits” line, but they way they had their minions behaving pretty much DEFINED unethical – and the other cats had been pretty nice at the festival.
No reason to change most of their plans then – except, perhaps, to note that the panthers might be a lot stronger and better-prepared than they’d anticipated…
Besides, it was late! Maybe they’d get attacked in their sleep!
They WERE being bait after all.
Kevin would have gone back to their ships without really thinking about it; it wasn’t like their quarters there weren’t as comfortable as possible, and being surrounded by Thralls wasn’t bad as far as security went – but Marty wanted to experience a little local luxury.
The wound up at the very fanciest inn in town. They had enough Thralls along to take watches, and it would make it easier for the locals to keep track of them.
They didn’t want to split up when they were trolling for assassins. There was being bait, and then there was being downright imbecilic.
They paid a bit extra for adjacent (and utterly top-class) rooms, had the litter-bearers put up downstairs, and settled in…
The expense was pretty outrageous, but the “Foreign Head of State” rooms were pretty over-the-top too. They normally WERE reserved for heads of state – and were equipped with servants and magics to ensure the most pampered lifestyle money can buy. Security was top notch, with some of the best security forces in the city providing THEIR best so that the guests could sleep soundly. Almost anything could be had, with the on-staff mages on call to conjure up anything that might not be in stock.
Even Marty was impressed – but Kevin thought it was a small mistake. It was a bit late to be backing out, but that was a bit TOO good. No one would be able to get to them! It was like living in Kadia!
(Marty, privately) “Hey, we’re gods! We represent foreign dimensions, so why not?”
Well, it WOULD be a reasonably secure night… Kevin left some Thralls on guard anyway.
They didn’t actually take much advantage of the facilities… They were, after all, trolling for assassins, not searching for new heights of depravity. A few good drinks (for Marty) and a lavish selection of snacks (for Kevin’s teenage-wolf appetite), a bit of magical entertainment, and their usual companions were quite sufficient…
Unfortunately, nothing made it past security, and they had a restful night of sleep and pampering.
Marty was too relaxed to be unhappy about that.
Breakfast – and pampering – started off with a new (and very stylish) sets of clothing made for them during the night.
That did seem a bit excessive… There was pampering, and then there was just silly.
Of course, they were kind of used to smartclothes, When your clothing adjusted to your whims and was stuffed full of your personal programming, your favorite novels, your personal records, diaries, and databanks (and backed itself up automatically), bound up your wounds, kept track of your friends, and more, it wasn’t just CLOTHING any more – it was a second skin.
Wait. Wouldn’t that be a point of vulnerability? All it would take would be a few reminders and such inserted in the Smartclothes, and you might easily find yourself being neatly manipulated by some clever programmer or magician. The wouldn’t be able to get away with anything too blatant of course – but everyone forgot little details, and depended on their notes to remind them!
(Marty) “Hey, it goes nicely with my ribbons!”
(Kevin) “Well, since they seem to be just nice clothing, the Smartclothes can weave their own fibers into it!”
Breakfast, than something to do for a few hours, and then the early parties! Wolves (and presumably wild dogs and possibly coyotes and some foxes if there was really a distinction locally) for Kevin, and Parrots for Marty!
(Marty) “How can you eat like that? I saw how much you ate last night! You should hear what Abigail has to say about eating all that greasy stuff!”
(Kevin) “Hey, I like it! And not having to diet IS one of the privileges you know!”
As it turned out, a representative from the Cat Family had dropped something off and left and there were a pair of Foxes – almost certainly their new young friend’s parents – waiting to see them.
Well, they’d gotten in late and were rising early anyway. It wasn’t like either of them really needed a lot of sleep, so it hadn’t been too long a wait.
Marty did some magical analysis on the package first. Disappointingly, it looked pretty ordinary; a completely ordinary envelope with a number of papers in it. There were a couple of charms on it to ensure that it was opened by the proper recipient – but there didn’t seem to be any subtle toxins, odd spells, or strange energies about it.
(Kevin, to Foxes) “Good morning! Might I offer you a breakfast?”
(Fox Father) “No thanks, but you could tell us what you know about what happened to our son last night. We have a number of witnesses that state you introduced him to the young lady that he was last seen with.”
(Kevin) “Ah! He came in second-place in the sociability contest thanks to my friends participation – but I thought that such a good showing in one so young deserved a consolation prize. I assigned him an aide, with sufficient skills to be helpful in a number of ways. Since a prize should not burden the recipient, I also provided room and board for her; I believe they were intending to become acquainted.”
(Fox Mother, incredulously) You gave our son a young female “aide” as a consolation prize? And then found them a place to get acquainted? Was the cat clan in on this?”
(Kevin) “No… Why? He seemed like a bright and charming child, and every kid could use an aide, bodyguard, and servant. I think that he earned one, and putting him up against Martin here wasn’t exactly fair! Now, he should at least have told you where he was going, but kids do get over-excited about things like that.”
A look of shock crossed their faces over that one.
(Father) “Don’t you think that it’s a bit out of proportion to be giving a kid his age such a…. “prize”. I mean even the nobility usually wait until their own children are older before handing out such… servants to their own children.”
(Marty, trying to stifle laughter as he spoke) “I don’t know what Angkor was thinking there, sir… I mean, sure, the kid did well enough for a consolation prize, but his own girl?”
(Kevin/Angkor looked puzzled) “He was hoping to acquire sponsorship for magical training – and the young lady I assigned to his service is quite competent at teaching basic magical shaping, in magical theory, and in the other basics. It should give him a splendid head start. Why not? I have plenty of servants.”
(Mother) “At least the boy has his mind in the right place. Sigh, now he is going to be even harder to keep an eye on if he has an accomplice.”
(Kevin) “The young lady should be reasonably competent at keeping him out of trouble I think. You are quite welcome to test her qualifications as a basic magical tutor of course.”
(Mother) “Do you really believe her to be capable of keeping up with an illusionist of his power? Or are you expecting her to be keeping him distracted via other means?”
(Kevin) “Well, lets find out!”
Hmm… There was time before the parties started, and it looked like… the girl was still with the boy at the moment; they were on a rooftop not too far from the Amarant Solutions building she was boarding at, and they were… practicing illusions right now.
(Marty, privately) “Well, at least your extravagance has given him a good tutor.”
(Kevin, cocking his head) “Ah, they seem to be practicing illusions at the moment.”
Hm… It looked like the kid was able to… pull off level three illusions consistently, with the occasional level four illusion with effort. At or above the usual adult level, at least in that particular field. That was actually pretty impressive!
Fortunately young Velina had focused her local identity – which was developing rapidly – on boosting her own magical powers of abjuration, illusion, and divination. She was capable of fifth-order effects within her fields – enough to make her a creditable trainer, and, later on, an excellent practice-partner.
She wouldn’t be able to entirely match his flexibility later, but he wouldn’t be able to match her raw endurance either. That was pretty important early on.
Marty had to admit, that that was a useful set of specialities, especially in an aide.
(Kevin) “Shall we go and see?”
(Father) “Indeed, let us go and have a look.”
Since they had guests, Kevin had the bearers bring up the rear while he strolled along with them to chat. It wasn’t too far anyway, and it gave Marty another chance to stretch his wings.
It was only a few city blocks. All evidence of last night’s festival had been silently removed in the night, thanks to hiring the nocturnals to handle it… They found themselves at the foot of a large set of apartment buildings, with the kids at the top of the building to the right – still practicing illusions. There were no overt signs of it, but it was easy enough to tell that magical energy was being used in the area… A few concealment things to keep things private most likely.
It was easy enough to peak ahead, and to see that Velina and young… Serilin were indeed practicing magic. Serilin was also sporting four tails, as opposed to the one he had been sporting the night before.
Marty had heard of confidence boosts after a first encounter, but that was a bit much!
Kevin was impressed too – that was FAST improvement… Had Velina talked the kid into visiting Kadia and signing up? There really wasn’t any reason for him to have done that, and – if he already had enough power to boost himself to that level – he should have noticed the extra effort it would take. The kid might be faking it – but that usually didn’t work well around Ciarkian. He was something of a prodigy though; most likely he’d just been hiding a few tails.
Velina said that he’d been hiding his rapid development to keep from scaring his family and friends.
That was fair enough – and his decision to make. He had her warn him that his parents were coming, and were worried, and to hide the extra tails if he wanted to.
Hm… He hadn’t bothered counting… Hm. He hadn’t bothered counting on the girl… How did the thralls rate locally anyway?
Ah. The powers he granted them were pretty formidable as far as personal power went, but they took a big hit because they were property, and another because a lot of their powers were granted rather than personal. Velina had two tails at the moment, and would probably have three once her local identity was fully empowered. That was fair enough – and made her a good match for her new master, at least for the next few years!
By the time they got there, the kid had hidden three tails behind illusions. He looked at the morning sun and appears to be highly embarrassed.
(Serilin) “I can explain! I was just getting training from this young lady!”
His Father smirked at that.
(Kevin) “And how’s that been going Velina?”
(Mother) “Training?! Up at all hours of the night with a young lady and you expect me to believe you’ve been training this entire time?! I know exactly what dominates the mind of a boy your age!”
(Kevin, glancing at Serilin’s Mother) “Well, if they spent some time on that, isn’t that their business? It’s not exactly dangerous”.
Sadly, Marty utterly failed to chime in with a ringing endorsement of Thrall-training. He was too busy snickering…
(Kevin) “And you did find them practicing magic. Isn’t that a good thing? It certainly shows that your son CAN concentrate on other things, even in the face of such temptation. Isn’t that a matter for pride?”
(Marty) “Yeah, that’s a very important skill for a man to learn!”
Velina did report that Serilin was already more talented that most local adults. He was mostly self-taught from a magical textbooks that he’d been procure and was – at the moment – mostly limited to illusions, although he might be able to handle some of the basic psionic techniques too if he was given training.
She also noted that he looked to the Eight-and-a-Half-Tails with high esteem.
Kevin found that quite laudable. Self-teaching at that level showed remarkable ability and excellent focus for one so young. He made a note to make sure that the boy got all the books and things he needed!
(Father) “Give the kid a pretty girl and he spends his time practicing his illusions in front of her. That kid has a one tracked mind.”
(Marty, giving Kevin a look so pointed that it felt physically dangerous) “I’ll say! But if you really want him to pay attention to his studies, I’m sure Angkor can teach him. He’s got lots of resources for that. Right Angkor?”
Kevin glared back a bit. HE didn’t use the local magical style! Oh well, at least magical energy shaping had a lot of basic similarities regardless of style.
(Kevin) “Oh, I think something can be arranged! Velina does have access to the necessary resources after all!”
(Father) “Now are you done practicing enough to come home, get something to eat and let your Mother worry over you for a bit? I am certain you can continue to practice later today.”
(Mother) “I do not think you are taking this seriously enough. I don’t need to just “worry” over him! His talent is the one thing he has that might propel him into the upper classes if he can continue to focus on that! Distracting himself with young vixens at his age could derail that whole idea! He has a chance neither of us had and you are being way too relaxed about it!”
Serilin was busily staring at the roof while this discussion took place around him. Marty took a look up there… Ah. The kid was doodling with light on the rooftop of the nearby building. It was mostly just doodles, although he was occasionally taking a bunch of abstract doodles and meshing them together into something coherent with a few well chosen lines. That looked like fun! He’d have to try it sometime!
(Kevin) “I suspect that he will do just fine – and I think you wanted to check to see if she did have the ability to help him practice?”
(Father) “Yes, let us see what she is capable of.”
(Marty) “Angkor’s servants are capable of a lot more than distracting your kid. Would you like to see a list?”
(Kevin) “Very well then… Valena? Your magical specialities are, as I recall, shields and banishments, illusions, and divinations, with basic healing and psychic abilities, as well as power words. Would you care to demonstrate?”
Valena did so at length, at least as far as the magic and a touch of the psychic abilities went. No point in revealing ALL her abilities so early…
The father was quite impressed, while the mother was trying very hard to not look impressed.
(Father) “And you say this girl is a servant of yours?”
(Kevin) “Naturally. Otherwise I could hardly assign her services to someone could I?”
With “outraged parent mode” momentarily in abeyance, the foxes took a reconsidering look at Kevin and Marty… They BOTH showed a full set of power seals, and multiple traits that might well indicate unique seals of their own… Who WERE these people? Just how powerful were they? And why were they taking an interest in their son? Did they really have the resources to do so much on a casual whim?
(Father) “er… How many servants of such power do you have at your disposal that you are willing to assign one as a consolation prize?”
(Kevin, actually realizing that “millions” might be upsetting) “Er… Oh quite a few… Who counts?”
Well, the computers did, but he didn’t feel like checking with those anyway.
(Kevin) “I would expect your son to develop his own power relatively quickly with tutelage. I specialize in rapid training – and Valena does, of course, remember her own training clearly.”
Marty was busy trying not to choke. How DID the kid manage to make such absolutely-precise and yet totally misleading statements? Still, that WOULD provide the kid with something to explain a bit of rapid development, so he wouldn’t need to hide so much!
(Father) “Impressive, I’ve never heard of anyone having such power and wealth at their disposal. It seems our son has earned himself a consolation prize greater than the grand prize.”
(Kevin) “Well, he came close to beating out Martin here, and that’s impressive! I thought it deserved a good prize…”
(Marty) “He was real good for a kid! Made me work hard for that first place!”
The mother seemed a bit happier too. That was good; a prize shouldn’t bring problems with it either. Still, she was pretty obviously a bit over-protective – and pushing her son towards success as hard as she could.
(Mother) “Very well young man, it is time for you to go home and get some breakfast and some rest. Your Father and I will discuss this in the meantime.”
Kevin “Now, Valina is lodging over there (pointing at the small Amarant Solutions complex), and her room and board has been arranged for as long as your son wishes to retain her services.”
(Father) “Very good then.”
(Mother) “As long as she isn’t staying in his room.”
Kevin didn’t tell her that that WAS one of Serelin’s privileges if he wanted her there. The father pretty obviously realized it – but felt that it wouldn’t hurt his son a bit to have a girlfriend, and that the benefits of a strong teacher/practice partner and a potential patron were definitely benefit the boy a lot.
The letter from the cats turned out to be simply the promised map, rather than some sort of offer from the panthers or anything else complicated.
Marty headed for the Parrot Party…
The Parrot residence was a large, open, building with a number of large, sculpted, trees providing support for various portions of the residence. All sorts of colorful birds were flying around the place. The trees had been magically induced to produce a number of fruits and flowers for the party and enchanted windchimes were playing a soft quiet music in the background.
Obviously enough, flying in through the trees so as to appreciate their sculpting, was the way to arrive.
He was greeted by a number of the other guests. Some of them even congratulated him on the winning of the Festival contest last night.
(Marty) “Hey, thanks. That Fox kid was pretty strong competition. Wish I’d done better in dancing, though. Is my poor partner okay?”
(A Female Parrot) “I heard she is doing fine other than the embarrassment of the incident. She’ll recover in time I think.”
(Marty) “Good. I’m really sorry about that, but at least she wasn’t hurt!”
(Female Parrot) “So what do you think of those Rabbits? They seem to be stirring up an awful lot of trouble lately and I expect that you were merely caught in the middle last night.”
(Marty) “I’m afraid so. I tried to defuse things as best I could, but that one guy seemed determined to make trouble. Who was he, anyway?”
(Male Parrot) “One of the many sons of the head of the family. He’s had a chip on his shoulder since his fiancee was killed during a friendly fire incident when her caravan was attacked by bandits.”
(Marty) “That’s a shame. Still, no need to ruin a perfectly good festival over it.”
(Male Parrot) “Well except that it was the Cat Clan that was providing the guards for the caravan. He still blames them for it to this day I think.”
(Marty) “I can see why he’d feel that way, then.”
That was probably accurate enough. The Parrot family were big patrons of the arts, but they were trying to stay out of the squabbling that went on with the other families so that they could play the role of a neutral party – and could try to keep the infighting from tearing the city’s factions apart.
It was kind of nice to know that SOMEONE was trying to keep the peace around the city.
(Marty) “So have you had any trouble out of the Rabbits, other than getting caught in things?”
(Male Parrot) “Not really, except in the crossfire with the Cat Clan. He seems to have a lot of followers in his family eager to start a fight. What they hope to accomplish is beyond my ability to fathom though.”
(Marty) “Who knows? It seems pointless to me, but then I’m no Rabbit.”
Hm… It looked like the most important person around was probably… the one in the highest reaches of the tree above him – an individual with feathers that seemed to shimmer as if they were made of stained glass.
Whoa! That was quite a coat of plumage! Probably high enough on the power scale to be near-unique! Definitely not someone you approached lightly!
It wasn’t a particularly private areas, although it was obvious enough that the lower ranked parrots only went there when on business and such.
Probably the clan head. Oh well, maybe he’d get to meet him or her later! He’d respect the clan head’s personal space!
Other activities included synchronized flying, eating, drinking, gossiping, impersonations, and a friendly set of speed flying competitons.
Ooh! More impersonations! Marty tried his hand at that again, although the competition was doubtless going to be a lot stiffer.
It was indeed… There seemed to be a lot of parrots who specialized in just this kind of thing! They readily showed him up in the competition… One even went so far as to do a fairly decent impression of Marty himself.
(Marty) “Hey, that’s pretty good! Mind giving me some pointers? I’m more of a sailor than a mimic.”
(Mimicking Parrot) “Very well then, I shall give you a number of pointers on how to effectively mimic your mark. There is more to impersonations than just speech alone. It is about the whole body language and mannerisms too.”
Marty listened well. It might help out against the otters, bunnies, and panthers!
He also listened to the parrot gossip. Since they were trying to remain neutral, they might have picked up on some stuff from the other clans from overlooking them…
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 157 – A Fly on the Rabbit (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 155 – The Code Duello (ruscumag.wordpress.com)