Federation-Apocalypse Session 195b – The Dragon Sculptor

In the Dragon Empire, young Felan was – rather busily! – looking for a way he could be allowed to keep more slaves…

(Felan, to Markov) “Uhm… Father? If I can find something useful to contribute to the coalition could I count as a junior member?”

Huh! That was fairly large indulgence! The kid must think that he had something pretty good! It probably wasn’t really good enough to justify membership – after all, if it had been he could have simply moved out and applied as an independent dragon. He was trying to keep staying in the creche as a backup position, which was sensible. After all, outside it he’d be just another random hatchling – which was a lot better than being a random human or something, but still had very little status, no support, and (almost certainly) very little to pay for protection with. Stray hatchlings had VERY high casualty and enslavement rates. If he was stupid enough to try to set up in the area independently at his age he’d be just another hatchling-slave soon enough.

Still, if he could actually do something useful to the coalition, granting him some extra privileges and rewards for it would certainly be in order.

Of course, his business skills were far beyond the boys – and he WAS a telepath! An advantage that he exploited unmercifully…

Ah. Felan was, of course, starting with an opening price that was far more than he expected to get. He’d LIKE to get membership, and thus protection, and a share in the profits the coalition was making – but what he was really hoping that he could actually get was… permission to keep lots – forty or fifty – more slaves, ownership of a couple of sibling-rivals, and having the silver slave girl assigned to him – just to complete the set with her two siblings.

Those two were happily wrestling in the corner, done up in a very striking black-and-silver motif (which set off Felan’s ruby-colored self very well indeed) – which was also cute! That entire clutch had fully earned their enslavements and the pain that had accompanied them – but now that it was over and done with it was just as much fun to see them happily enjoying themselves as it had been to see them being processed. They WERE still his kids after all…

As for Felan… he knew that he didn’t have too much of a bargaining position – after all, Markov was free to kill him or have him slave-processed on a whim (unless he managed to escape, which was a hatchlings privilege) – but he also knew that what he was really bargaining for wouldn’t cost his father much of anything – and he believed that what he had to offer was well worth it. Besides, he believed that Markov was actually somewhat protective and that he liked bargaining.

Well the boy was right there! And he had been doing well on duels! If he brought in three more slaves to replace the slaves he wanted, the last two would be reasonable enough! Of course, if he lost… well, those were the breaks!

Oh wait! The boy was actually offering something!

Felan explained… He claimed to have found a way to make sculptures and carved panels that – non-magically yet – granted permanently enhanced abilities to anyone who spent an hour or so handling and contemplating them.

Oh now THAT was unlikely! He’d never heard of such a power! For a moment he considered just having the boy slave-processed for wasting his time on silliness – but somehow… It did seem possible.

This application of Mystic Artist is, indeed, possible – at least if the GM decides to put up with it. If you use Mystic Artist to grant one or more Positive Levels, include Mystic Link and Power Link (or perhaps a slight variant) with those positive levels to keep the recipient in touch with the artwork indefinitely, and choose something like “Tactile Sculpture” as your medium, you can make immobile – and thus permanently active – works of art that will indeed continue to affect people indefinitely after their initial exposure.

In this case, young Felan is using a Specialized (for Double Effect, limiting the number of targets, requiring a fair length of time to start working, requiring expensive sculpting materials, and a few other restrictions) version of mystic artist and is using Harmonize to combine Greatness (granting two Positive Levels and two ten-sided hit dice) and Competence (to grant a pair of +2 Morale Bonuses). He’s also throwing in Subliminal and Whispers – used in the sculptures intended for slaves to keep them nicely docile and in the versions intended for friends to help them break mental influences.

That’s actually quite powerful, and can be upgraded later in a variety of ways.

Markov considered… That wasn’t a HUGE edge – and it probably wasn’t quite worth the boys asking price – but it certainly wasn’t far from it, and could easily be refined until it was by things like adding helpful enchantments to the statue to exploit the link. The fact that it could help many dragons at the same time was also quite notable – but it would be a bad idea to let the boy get too much out of a weak bargaining position just because he was his son! After all, he could always enslave the boy and have him just keep on sculpting for free!

Of course, free he might well come up with even better stuff later on – and it was nice to have your kids do well. Not too well though… There were enough outside challengers without them coming out of your own Creche!

Markov indulged himself a bit, using his superior business skill and ability to read the boy’s thoughts to beat down his price…

(Markov) “It is a nice trick, but not QUITE enough. Maybe worth the silver slave girl. Now, if you were to develop a breath weapon trick, that might get you permission to keep another couple of your rivals too!”

(Felan) “But… It really is pretty good! After all, it boosts everybody you want!… And in a way that’s compatible with most of the usual enhancements… (Felan switched tactics as Markov began to look impatient) I do have a breath weapon trick though! It turns the flame-energy into a great big speed boost for a few seconds!”

Hrm… reading his mind, the boy had a very special private trick too; one of his statue variants for slaves gave the slaves affected a mystic link to him (as well as a limited version of the blessing ability) as well; they still got a modest bonus – but he got to use some of their breath weapon abilities… Now that WAS pretty good! It was also more than a bit threatening – at least for any normal dragon. No wonder Felan had wanted to hide it! More than a few draconic parents would have eliminated the boy for learning a trick like that!

(Markov) “Ok then! You can have the silver girl and a rival! If you can work up another trick you can have another rival!

Felan valiantly tried to hide his dismay. He really badly wanted permission to keep a lot of slaves! And it wasn’t just so he could use their breath weapons… But he NEEDED to stay in the creche! On the outside he wouldn’t have enough protection to get along!

Markov carefully hid his grin! Crushing an opponent in a bargaining session was always fun! And Felan shouldn’t have hidden that other trick from him! If he’d told him, he might have let him have a little more there! Now he’d just have to reverse-engineer it!

(Felan) “If I keep them outside the creche can I have some extras? There’s a really good chance to pick some up right now!”

What, the boy was willing to try again at the risk of upsetting him? And was proposing a cheap workaround? He seemed to be… really afraid of missing out on something. Was that just the impatience of childhood? Markov probed more deeply.

Ah! It seemed that he’d discovered that a lot of hatchling girls had been looking at the odds… For a female, running away at random was really bad (a fairly minuscule chance of survival), going in to be tested was 85% spayed-and-enslaved, 14% enslaved later (and about 50% likely to be spayed), and 1% win – which usually meant “free concubine” anyway if you wanted one of the BEST males. Submitting to a dominant-seeming male hatchling who had already passed testing was still slavery – but it could be lightly-bound slavery, it let you skip testing and spaying, and it let you go straight to concubine when you and your master hit adolescence. That was much better odds – particularly when you weren’t in the top 30% or so who had a decent shot at passing.

The boy suspected that some of his sisters – the ones who had vanished shortly before they were due to be sent in for testing – had taken that option… Anyway, with a couple of decades worth of hatchling girls due to be sent in for testing in the next couple of years, he saw it as the chance of dozen lifetimes to really clean up! With a few more enslaved rivals to demonstrate his dominance he could easily catch thirty or forty! That would be really handy now what with the ability to draw on their powers – and it would mean loads of fun with pretty female slave girls waiting for him down the line when he hit adolescence!

And he desperately didn’t want to miss out on that chance.

Huh. He hadn’t really considered that. The kid was right; that WAS a really big chance for the boys in his generation and it really would be a shame for any of them – or at least any who weren’t slaves – to miss out on it. He’d have to think of something; he couldn’t be letting another dragon’s kids be more successful along those lines than his were!

Felan was busily trying to think of something else to offer of course.

Markov actually began feeling slightly guilty. The child was his son after all, and by far the most promising one in the creche at the moment – and he’d used telepathy that the child had no defense against and superior skill to beat him down on the deal until he really was being blatantly cheated. Was that really any different from challenging down a few age brackets?

Besides… It wouldn’t be long before the boy figured out how to use a few humans for a front and start marketing his services. At that point he might find a valuable advantage disappearing with the child – and he certainly didn’t want to make a habit of enslaving kids who did well, came up with useful things, tried to work with him instead of betraying him, and had some sense. He didn’t want to discourage or weed out those qualities!

Wait, what was that about the rivals? He was asking for permission to just pick a couple of his siblings – doubtless males – and have them enslaved and transferred to his ownership of course… but he wasn’t actually planning to actually do it?

What? That was WEIRD! Especially for a highly-dominant red! What was going on with him?

Ah… He was intending to solidify his dominance in the Creche by using the threat alone. He suspected that he might have to make an example of one, which was why he wanted permission to have two done. He expected the others to fall into line once after that – if just having one put into a processing machine and readied for it wasn’t convincing enough. Once they all accepted him as the dominant hatchling, then he could show them the positive side – his boosting statue effects. And then they could ALL score lots of slaves form among the stray hatchlings and the offspring of the other young dragons in the coalition – who mostly would not care in the slightest.

Hm… That was… almost like some of the metallic creche’s he’d heard of. Not very traditional for chromatic creche’s! Of course, most favored hatchlings (huh; evidently he’d about picked one) didn’t have a carrot to go with the stick… Favorites were usually granted better gear, some authority, ownership of a few siblings, and the threat of parental anger if the favorite was openly just attacked by a gang – which tended to lead to most efforts to dethrone a favorite being subtle efforts to usurp the position; with better gear and training favorites tended to win simple combat challenges.

Why did the kid want to keep as many of his siblings as possible free but cooperative?

Oh! Weird powers. For some reason… many of his hatchlings seemed to have access to weird special powers – and Felan recognized that (well, he would given his own) and wanted as many of them as possible on his side.

Well, that was a definite point! Who knew what useful stuff they might come up with if they worked together a bit? And it was a relatively small batch of kids anyway – so it was well worth the experiment.

Felan was trying to judge whether or not trying again would get him what he wanted – he NEEDED that second rival – or whether it would get him slave-processed.

Markov carefully gave him the impression of increasing frustration. Actually he was quite pleased with the boy! Nicely savvy for a child, some caution… he had a potential equivalent to Eogam (wait; who? where had that thought come from?) here!

Felan was playing the last card he had at the moment – diffidently pointing out the increased toughness his statue-tricks provided, but without saying a WORD about “more”. He was leaving that decision entirely up to Markov.

Not bad at all!

Markov grinned – and allowed Felan two rivals and the silver ex-girl – the silvers WOULD make a nice trio when he got done patterning it – and give him the authority that went with being a favorite. If he could handle it well the Creche might actually become useful!

No more slaves right now though – well, beyond those three if he took the rivals. Still, if he kept up the hard work, and gave the excess ones to him, he’d be in for a BIG present when he hit adolescence – and he let the boy know that. It would be a coming-of-age present for learning the ropes effectively For now… All sorts of small rewards to encourage that hard work and duels!

(Markov) “Well, okay… you can have two rivals, and some authority, and the silver girl, and I’ll hold any further slaves you capture for you – but don’t bother me about more until you’re an adolescent!”

(Felan) “Thank you father! I’ve got everything set up to start boosting any slaves and allies you select!”

(Markov) “Good boy!”

He’d definitely keep even more of an eye on threats and potential attacks on the boy then! This one was shaping up to be a real keeper!

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