Federation-Apocalypse Session 170b – The Core Resistance

L5R

Men who drew the sword...

As they approached the central nexus, it became more and more obvious that this bunch had real discipline – and either training or someone in charge good enough to simulate it. There were organized wings of archers, mutually-supporting defensive positions, some powerful defensive spells being set up, and a lot of stuff that didn’t go with the whole “bandit rabble” image.

A tall but slender rabbit was running around behind the line shouting orders. Perhaps the organizer?

Oh well! They could always use some area-effect stuff since there was a crowd!

Was it just a tactical genius running around somewhere, or was it outside support and training? Kevin had the Thralls start probing the ones they’d already taken to Kadia…

Hm. It looked like the Panthers had been slowly taking control of the bandit groups running around for their own purposes. They’d been supplying the bandits with equipment in exchange for a portion of the proceeds and orders to attack specific caravans or ignore others. The rabbits started showing up in large groups some time ago and had begun working with the bandits on training exercises and supplies. It was known that a big plan was going to be unveiled sometime soon in the hopes of getting a number of the noble houses to have a “change of heart” and giving the bandits compensation for their efforts. The three monkeys only showed up three days ago though and hadn’t been interacting with the rank-and-file bunch much.

That could be a giant blackmail scheme – or just asking to be converted from “bandits” to “outriders”, with the threat of “otherwise staying bandits” to back a request for amnesty and better conditions. But what were the rabbits getting out of it? If they were providing the supplies, this would be enormously expensive. Was getting back at the cat clan worth that much to them? If not, where were the supplies coming from?

Well, if they HAD any archmagi, they wouldn’t need the blackmail – and they hadn’t seen any opposing magic on the level they were using yet. They might be preparing to try and negotiate. Ergo, in they went!

Kevin waved cheerily!

A single arrow rose from behind the enemy line and planted itself firmly into the ground ahead of them. The shadow it casts grew long and thick in the bright light – and out of the shadow rose the shadowdancer they’d met earlier.

(Pantheress) “What brings you here and why are you attacking this camp?”

(Kevin) “Well, your bunch was interfering with our vacation, so we thought we’d come over and make most of you go to school, and everyone who isn’t in school work four hours a day manning carnival booths instead of going to school. Besides, Martin hasn’t had a chance to hit anything much in days, except when dancing!

(Marty) “HEY!”

(Pantheress) “An internal house dispute is interfering with your ‘vacation’? And what would it take to secure the freedom of our comrades that you have taken prisoner? I see no profit in us continuing this conflict further.”

(Kevin) “So what are you disputing about anyway?”

(Pantheress) “It is a dispute between the Panther family and the rest of the Cat Clan that forced us into exile. We take issue with the conduct of the heads of the Clan with regards to our family and the so-called circumstances they used to force our exile.”

(Marty, crossing his arms) “They told us one story. Let’s hear your side.”

He was willing to listen.

(Pantheress) “I am not going to go into the full details of the conflict. But we felt the Lion Clan did not come to power within the Cat Clan through honorable means. The dispute eventually became violent as clan disputes frequently did at the time. In one of the battles though the Lion enlisted the aid of the Canines in the defense of one of their strongholds. They then twisted that into a story saying we had slaughtered innocent people in our “paranoia” and lust for power. With that excuse and the dead bodies of the canines in hand, they united the rest of the clans in banishing us from the city.”

Kevin was more or less of the opinion that past allegations of dishonorable behavior were no excuse for attempting to rape women to start wars, disrupting the fun at carnivals full of uninvolved people, and otherwise behaving dishonorably NOW – and he rather suspected that most of the bandit attacks had NOT been limited to harassing the Lion family. Had the bit about school and carnivals been shrugged off as insanity or as an attempt to confuse? Too bad if so; he’d been hoping they’d send someone with truthsense…

Marty had to agree there. This was clearly an ancient clan war situation. That just confirmed it.

(Marty) “Did you know your Rabbit buddies thought it was okay to attempt to rape a Lion maiden there? Or mess with the carnival?”

Raphael suspected that they’d sent someone who was good at getting away instead. Something was… off though. It would make more sense for them to make an offer on their comrades, or try to recruit them, or some such; how would THEY know what the camp had to offer?

He kept on pretending to be a bodyguard golem.

(Pantheress) “The enthusiasm of the Rabbits in their… indiscretions has reached our attention. Sadly I think that one is shaping up to become an internal Rabbit Clan dispute regardless of whether we do anything or not. The Rabbits sent to train with us though either show great discipline or they….. don’t. (She grinned and showed a lot of teeth).”

(Kevin) “So what is it you actually want to get? Revenge for an injury to a prior generation is never really worth much.”

(Pantheress) “Well, I think a good starting point would be to break the leadership of the Cat Clan, force them to acknowledge our grievances, and release the banishment of our family. Leadership of the Clan can then be disputed properly in a civilized manner.”

(Kevin) “And the bandits?”

(Pantheress) “A measure to show that the Cat Clan management of the passages through the mountains is not nearly as effective as they like to proclaim. Earning enough money outside the city to run an operation like this does not come easily by the way. The caravans all had the option to pay the toll or to smuggle our own goods if they so chose.”

(Keven, privately) “Hey, Raphael? Think you can tell what kind of goods were being smuggled?”

(Raphael privately) “By pure logic or by searching the camp or some other trick?”

(Kevin, privately) “Well, you’re the diviner.”

Well, that was something of a point.

(Raphael, still privately) “Well I guess I could”

Raphael took a little extra time to keep it quiet – but spun a high-powered divinatory spell to see what they HAD been smuggling. He should be able to piece most simple shields…

Huh… So far; three tons of gold powder, fourteen tons of silver bars, geodes, a hundred and twenty tons of quartz, and fourteen tons of obsidian, with traces of other materials – but not in that kind of quantity.

Well that was boring. He passed the information on privately.

Kevin and Marty were mildly disappointed. Nothing objectionable, revealing, or even very interesting. Stuff that could be used for enchanting, but all quite generic. It could have been poisons and monsters, or slaves, or protective charms, or odd woods, or lots of other things – but all that just meant a small mining camp or two somewhere about.

(Pantheress) “And I will ask again, how much shall it take to get you to release our comrades and leave us be? Continued conflict isn’t profitable for either of our groups I suspect.”

(Kevin, with some surprise) “Er… Why not? It is fun, and the carnival can always use more staff, and the schools can always use more students… Besides, you haven’t said what you WANT. Just what you feel you can justify.”

(Pantheress) “As I said, we want the Lion to acknowledge our grievances, and undo the banishment of our family. I would think these are more than simple justifications. And what is this nonsense of schools and carnivals?”

Marty had heard that kind of thing before – but mostly from political fanatics. Slogans in place of thought and anything which didn’t fit in with the “us against them” worldview automatically rejected as nonsense. This probably wasn’t going anywhere. Kevin should just open a gate and start chucking people through. It wasn’t like they could do much harm in Kadia.

(Kevin) “Uhm, no… Those are slogans that you’ve passed around. Are you really trying to claim that you couldn’t just change your name, walk into town, set up as a new group, and start arguing and competing with the lions? Or even walk down the coast to a different town? At the least, you want to humiliate your rivals, and you’re willing to stoop to helping some extremely unethical people to do so. As for sending people to carnivals and school… that’s what I like to do. Most people need school! They’re very irrational, their thoughts are poorly organized, and they irritate me! And at least half of them shouldn’t be out in the multiverse without a leash!… Drat it! I’ve been forgetting the “Make People Well Informed Ray” project!

(Marty) “I don’t remember that one. Did you send me a copy?”

(Kevin) “We discussed it in that silly ‘Five Worlds’ place. Come to think of it, the servants were being Panthers there…”

(Marty) “Oh yeah, that’s right! I’ve slept since then.”

(Pantheress) “It seems you are unclear on how banishments work then. We can no more enter the city unnoticed than we can pretend to be fish. Those of our bloodline that enter the city would instantly be marked as trespassers and thrown out by the guards. As for moving to another city down the coast, that would mean giving up the rights to the mountain passes and mines our family discovered. And I get the feeling you aren’t above humiliating your own rivals and working with unethical people yourselves.”

Right… That would never work! Bloodlines tended to spread – and would be shared within the original clan. Maybe for a generation or two, but MUCH more likely only for the originals and for a limited time… Besides, if they had no legal rights in the city, their claims to passes and mines had no legal effect anyway; they were holding them by force – which meant that they could easily move down the coast and simply garrison them.

Raphael quietly contemplated firing of a ray of education simply because it would be funny – but decided that educating the people they were talking to was a bad way to negotiate in front of an army.

(Pantheress) “And I question the wisdom of sending random people to run a carnival and an education system. Seems likely to backfire in a spectacular fashion at some point.”

Ouch! Marty had to admit that she DID have a point there!

(Kevin) “No, no! It’s to be students in the education system!”

(Pantheress) “Ah, so you grab a random cross section of society, stuff them into a class room setting against their will and then try to teach them the philosophy that it’s ok to call others on their unethical behavior so long as you do it too?”

(Golem, at Raphael’s telepathic command) “He foolishly has automatons teaching students so that they all get the same quality of education while ignoring the damn machines taking over his culture and making them all boring and standardized.”

Hm. She was trying some sort of mental probe… Fortunately, they could all block that fairly readily.

Kevin, at least, had no real objections to his surface thoughts being read. Active probes would run into barriers though.

(Pantheress, with some surprise) “Automatons teaching students? What is he trying to do? Turn people into golems or something?”

(Kevin) “Hey, I never claimed not to be evil! You’re trying to justify yourself because you want us to go away; I’m just doing what I want to…”

(Raphael, still speaking through a golem) “It might not be his intention but it seems to be working”

(Pantheress) “You asked what we were doing and if we were aware of certain activities. I have asked for terms to release my comrades and you reply with nonsense of carnivals and golem educations.”

(Kevin) “Oh! That’s because it will be less of a fuss if you come along quietly! I want to know what you actually want because the easiest way to get people to come along quietly is usually to give people what they want – but you’re caught up in self-justification and don’t even seem to know… Oh well! Is there anything else to go over? Raphael? Martin? Whatver-your-name-is there?”

(Marty) “Nothing that I can think of!”

(Pantheress, with considerable frustration) “Then I think we are done here. I shall take my leave now.”

With that she sank back into the shadow of the arrow, and was gone.

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