Back with Aikiko, the topic was still books – and how they were almost certainly nonfiction SOMEWHERE in the universe.
Even Samelin, as a young half-Satyr thought that that would be a bit silly! (Even if he did look a little bit wistful). Even the FULL SATYRS didn’t go from fighting to the death to wild sex the instant a bit of clothing got cut away – and cutting away just clothing without injuring someone was really really hard! Clothing was mostly pretty thin! You had to use magic – and if you were using THAT kind of weaponry, you weren’t really fighting in the first place…
Hm. That was definitely good to know about the full ones, although that would be irrational behavior for any sapient being.
The kid had to admit that it would probably be fun though.
(Aikiko) “We should get going before we have to read any more of those. Smart thinking, though!”
(Samelin) “Tank ye Lady!”
Aikiko opted for the fair… there’d be quite a few performers there, and plenty of other contacts. It’d be a good start; even if Helical Storm didn’t play there, they might drum up audiences there.
There were a fair number of other people headed that way – and even a few Raksha mixed in with quite a few with Raksha ancestry. The conversations were pretty confusing at times. There were even flights of tiny little creatures riding hummingbirds… It looked like they served as scouts and messengers for the most part, but they took themselves VERY seriously, right down to the tiny little pistol crossbows. It was probably best not to make fun of them, then, even if they did look cute. Considering charms and such… size might not matter much at all!
A slender, gray-cloaked man carrying a harp – with “trustworthiness” written all over him and incredible good looks – drifted over to her in the crowds.
(Harpist) “Ah, Madam… Might I ask what you wish to be called? You are obviously a most rare wanderer to meet upon the way!”
Hoo boy. This one was a full Raksha for sure. Best to keep her guard up!
(Aikiko) “I’m Aikiko… and who might you be?”
(Harpist) “Ah, I am Graymist Talissien Nightengale, a wandering musician!”
With a name like that, DEFINITELY a full raksha.
(Graymist) “And I am most pleased to meet you Aikiko!”
He bowed with a most elaborate flourish, and kissed her hand. He had the “charming” part down, to be sure…
(Aikiko) “So, what brings you here today?”
(Graymist) “Ah, what else? An audience for music and tales! Time-tested tales of elder splender, songs of distant realms, old traditionals. and the freshest of songs, all drawn from the melodious strings of the harp!”
And no doubt at least some feeding on the listeners’ virtues- although, if he did repeat performances, he probably used the less-efficient but impermanent effects. Efficiency didn’t mean a lot when you had a lot of targets – and the Fair did have an reputation for loosening restraints. That could get interesting!
(Graymist) “And what brings you here, your own star wrapped in a power out of legends?”
Ah, he knew… not that she made an effort to hide from THOSE senses most of the time. Still, he might just be talking about the Cloak like Wenjioth had been. It was pretty obvious to anyone with essence senses; it had a LOT more active powers than normal armor did.
Come to think of it, it wasn’t a bad disguise that way. The mutation-effect, the force field, the protective armor, the environmental protections… it was a LOT of magic to peer through.
(Aikiko) “I’m looking for this one band – Helical Storm. I need to talk to their leader.”
(Graymist) “Ah, I have heard of them! New, but promising… and with a surprising amount of transformitive skill…”
(Aikiko) “I’ve heard good things too. So… any idea where they’re performing next?”
(Graymist) “Ah, they have been haunting the fringes! Drawing many of those who listen from the worlds beyond…”
Oh, bother. No doubt playing in those haunted fields, to dissuade the mundane living from prying into their business.
(Graymist) “It has drawn many newcomers to the hedgerows!”
Would that be all of “Faerie England” or just the borders between realms? Or at least the representation of such in this particular pocket?
(Aikiko) “Really popular then! If I wanted to watch them, what would I need to do?”
(Graymist) “Ah, finding them might be the difficulty – but there will, perhaps, be more information to be found at the fair! I am told that they use something called “social media” to contact a portion of their audience though.”
(Aikiko) “It’s pretty good for that kind of thing, yeah… anyway, thanks for your time!”
(Graymist) “Ah, you are welcome fair one! Perhaps we shall meet again at the fair!”
He plucked a flower from the air and tucked it behind her ear.
Aikiko acted suitably charmed – he was thoroughly charming and attractive – but stayed on her guard. She’d gotten enough warnings to be careful – and Samelin tugged her off to the side as Graymist wandered off.
(Samelin) “Er… Mistress? E cn prolly follee hat blossm… E shaped et wit `is power, an et’ill be right esy for im to link to!”
(Aikiko) “Oh, right! Heh… thanks, he had me there.”
Was there a way to make it fly around on its own? Some kind of timed Telekinesis effect? Ah, it would just need a duration; a few hours should do.
(Samelin) “Ell… `e prolly wouldnah do ye any `arm… but e might swipe somewat er try to seduce ye later.”
(Aikiko) “Yeah… not sure I’d want even that to happen. I have too much to do.”
He had been pretty attractive – on a level with the better-looking gods. She could see the lure – but not at the moment! Her parents would freak out, not to mention her film career! And she had several upcoming millennia for that sort of thing… Maybe after she’d improved her own social skills a bit.
And somebody was… picking her pocket (but finding it awkward since the Behemoth cloak kept moving them around). Currently she’d found a trap, which was what had alerted her…
(Aikiko) “Hi there! Did I drop something?”
(Girl) “Ah! Ah! Yes! Yes! I was just picking it up to try to return it to you! And it closed on my hand! Could you PLEASE take it off?”
(Aikiko) “Ooops… what a shame! OK!”
Just a kid. Of course she’d remove it! It would be mean to do otherwise, even if it was deserved.
(Samelin) “Er… she be stealin frm ye! Do ye wisht ter chop er hand offin or ter keep er?”
That was harsh! Not entirely unexpected, though… And it meant that a kid out on her own was in deep trouble. Oh heck. She’d be WAY better off in Aden. No need to pickpocket there!
(Samelin) “Shil prolly try ter run off lessen ye bind er Lady!”
(Aikiko) “How do you do that?”
An oath was pretty classical – and the area was more than wyld enough, and under enough fey effects, for that to work just fine.
(Aikiko) “Okay! Swear to me that you’ll be my servant and obey my orders until I personally release you from that duty.”
(Girl, a frantic look around and a sniffle later) “I… so swear Mistress”.
Now she felt bad! Well… still, she’d be releasing her to Aden – or giving her to Charles. Same difference really.
(Samelin) “We be goin to t’ Fair! N nay stealin’ hare! T’ Fairwards ill do somewat WEIRD to ye if’n ye do!”
(Girl) “I’m not CRAZY!!!”
That bad huh? A good thing that she wasn’t THAT kind of Night Caste… At least not any more-maybe in her earlier days… Still, even then it wasn’t like it had been MANDATORY.
(Samelin) “Ye belongs t th Lady Aikiko now! What be yourin name?”
(Girl) “Er… Amelia”
Probably not the first time the boy had done this… Was he really two centuries old? And still a child? And still a slave… how long had the kid been property?
(Aikiko) “OK, shall we head off then?”
(Samelin) “Yes Mi’Lady!”
Amelia trailed along with Aikiko keeping an eye on her. Samelin… didn’t bother. Evidently he had a lot of confidence in such a simple oath!
(Aikiko) “Samelin? What’s best to avoid at the fair proper?”
(Samelin) “`el… T’ Fair’s achtuly retty safe! Glamers an tings ave t’ end at t’ end of t’ Fair, an t’ fairwards tak car of tose oo be actin’ ep! If’n ye gets relly drunken ye cans pretty easy bet yesel intr treble – an ye be a bairn ur a slavey ye can gettin seld o’ curse. Bet mygic pacts an sech ave ter be et forth air an cler ter wrk!”
(Aikiko) “Okay, that’s good to know… why don’t you two show me around, then?”
The fair was quite busy, and had a wild and wonderful array of goods, events, and visitors – as well as being much more… vivid… than ch more vivid than the equivalent event in Creation – including some entirely new colors on some of the Raksha offerings.
That was pretty disconcerting – but it was certainly an effective advertisement!
Hm… Samelin was really being very helpful – and was pretty obviously REALLY tired of being a stable boy. After she finished her current business… she’d have to see how much he was. From what she’d seen of the economic system… it wouldn’t be all that much. She might have to get something to barter with from Charles, but he’d barely notice a few seconds of his time…
That was a rather nasty thought actually; it REALLY ought to cost more than that to buy someone’s entire life!
Elsewhere an audience applauded, celebrities paraded, and drinks were served by obsequious waiters – for the Academy Awards were under way and the stars (and various seat-filling extras) were assembled!
And a rainbow vortex of wyld energies swirled into existence just backstage, coalesced into a blinding sphere of radiance – and collapsed into a shining leonine figure. A surging pulse of raw glamour poured forth, knitting his presence into the fabric of human existence across the world – and faded into a subtle, cloaking, aura. He could not deceive those of high essence – but mortal memories were his playthings…
Suddenly known to all, and well equipped with wealth, influence, and power, Leon Belpheros the Wonder-Bringer, Social Lion and Patron of the Arts, came forth.
And with a brief flourish of his power, he strolled onto the stage – with an envelope. The narrative of this gathering was all too obvious!
Everyone applauded thunderously! Of COURSE they knew who Leon was! Seeing him at the ceremony was an unexpected treat!
Meanwhile, scattered across the continent, the high-Essence folks watching were sputtering… Raksha! At the Academy Awards – and not feeding among the audience!
(Leon) “And thank you everyone! As a special prize this evening, for all our nominees today, we have these award medals! (they were absolutely wonderful bits of jewelry). And congratulations to each and every nominee; while the panels must select a single winner – it has been a very difficult choice!”
There was some startlement – but everyone, including the Members of the Academy, knew that Leon was full of surprises!
Leon cheerily glittered, and was marvelously impressive, as he plucked the first real envelope from the hands of the would-be reader to announce the first winner! Everyone knew that being on stage with Leon only increased your own fame by association, and there were no real complaints there, even as he calmly took over as master of ceremonies. When drinks or refreshments ran short, he casually deployed minions with more! What a guy, that Leon… a good time was had by all.
Well, except for those few who knew that there was something seriously wrong and had either dispatched people to check it out, discreetly – or gone themselves. There was at least one terrestrial clan with a serious interest in the film business…
Leon, meanwhile, had made his selections from the audience, and had a beautiful young woman on each arm! There’d been some serious competition for those slots, with much jostling and pushing, but Leon had no objections to being competed for!
He did stick with the extras though – but he gave them charming smiles and a good smiting with his outrageous social skills, leaving them wanting to see his penthouse in person; it was rare for them to get to interact with the big stars!
Leon was pleased enough with their capitulation; he had no objection to nibbling on their willpower – or to turning them into cat-girls (even if it would look like a costume to most), and giving them Resplendent Butler’s Accouterments… He had no retinue yet, and one was certainly his due! And even unaugmented they were pretty good looking, and it was easy enough to enhance them even further! Very decorative!
There were some provisions to cover disruptions in the ceremonies – but the fellow in charge of using those didn’t see anything wrong; he knew Leon – and high-essence types had better things to do than to attend reward ceremonies.
Besides… he wasn’t really doing anything that needed censoring except just being there – currently considering who might make a suitable attendant. He’d just have to see what came up! There’d be something; people were clamoring to talk to one of the most influential figures in the industry! (Who for some reason doesn’t have the entourage to match, but then had just arrived on Earth!)
Leon had minions fill in for the moment. They had plenty of general bonuses as long as they were supporting his show – and no one would be paying attention to them anyway. Now… basic entourage types would be easy enough to hire – but he made sure to offer a few internships; it would be mildly amusing to use a son or two of some of the mover over-important actors – and Internships were always good for behind the scenes types in the film industry!
He offered several – but he didn’t actually explain much about what kind of internship… he didn’t choose the fine details of his glamour-acquired contacts and such. Nonetheless, there were some bold takers, trying to get terms.
Unlike most internships… Leon actually paid fairly well – which erased some reservations but caused some prying into what the internship actually was.
Leon let the aides explain that he had many business interests, wealth, contacts, etc… It was more or less as personal aide though – more a chance to make contacts of their own rather than any specific job. That got some attention; with allof Leon’s interests, the need for personal assistants was understandable. And with that came takers!
Leon preferred decorative types of course, but that was pretty much expected in Hollywood.
He’d make sure that they were thoroughly enchanted before going any further – as was to be expected of a Raksha. Once they were it would be Resplendent Butler’s Accouterments (to cover up that there was anything odd about them) and it would be cat-girls and cat-boy – well, eunuch – attendants! It was kind of traditional, and he wouldn’t want to be sharing the girls in his personal show with them!
After that… he’d need a city-state or a country to rule – even if that would have to wait a bit…
Up in Yu-Shan, Oscar had nearly choked on his wine when Leon strolled onto the stage! A Raksha! At HIS awards ceremony? He took off for Earth at the highest possible speed – only to find that the Raksha – and a Raksha with an incredibly high essence level at that – was mostly just adding to the party…
With Leon around, Oscar’s arrival went almost unnoticed (at least to those lacking the essence senses to pick up his powerful essence pattern). Everyone just assumed that it was body paint…
Leon waved cheerily – and the bald, golden-skinned figure nodded to Leon and headed his way. Leon… cheerily reached out, pulled a fancy hourglass out of nowhere and (apparently) stopped the entire universe to get time to talk!
Actually it was just a bit of narrative time that only existed for them, but it did look pretty impressive.
(Leon, genially) “Ah, greetings! You do have an excellent party here!”
(Oscar) “I’ve only been in charge of it for a short time..`. but I think I’ve done well for myself.” (To a god, even eighty-six years is short!) “And who might you be? The other rasksha guests are much more discreet. Helps keep the Sidereals off my back.”
(Leon) “Ah, I am Belpheros, Bringer of Wonder! I have arrived here, at a place of dreams, to help in bringing in a new age! You need not worry though! This place was simply the gate – and no one will ever miss my two playthings here leaving with me… They have no aura of importance or narrative about them!
(Oscar, winking at the girls) “That could be a good tagline… heh. Why here of all places, though? I’m going to be pulling overtime cleaning up and explaining this!”
(Leon) “Because here many minds focus on dreams of other worlds! With so many minds focused here… the boundaries are thin indeed!”
(Oscar) “Well, it’s still a hassle! I ought to smack you right into the Pacific… (shrugging) but my domain doesn’t include superstrength, you just boosted the ratings through the roof, and you have too much panache anyway. Not like the Sidereals will get to THIS any time soon, anyhow.”
(Leon) “Why would they? I’m not messing about with fate much at the moment – or at least not beyond theirs… (indicating the girls) and that is quite trivial.”
(Oscar) “Eh, you’ve still got some paranoids around, perpetually frustrated and exhausted. But hey, let’s not get like them. You want to go to the Governors’ Ball? After what you did, you’ll get a lot of invitations anyway – but I like a good, lively ceremony!”
(Leon) “Certainly! It sounds like fun!”
There were indeed, lots of invitations – but Leon accepted Oscars, although he did circulate, rather like Oscar himself. After all, the afterparty was just as important as the ceremony to many people. Things were winding down a bit when he had a private meeting with Leon after having a human devotee (he wasn’t big on the term “worshiper”) ward off a private room.
(Leon, cheerily augmenting the wards a bit) “Ah, you want something in particular?”
(Oscar) “That’s right! I’m after a chancel-at least I think that’s what it’s called. You see, being a god of an awards ceremony is pretty cutthroat! I think some of my rivals have been influencing the awards committee in a way that makes me look silly. If you could, say, make a chancel that looks like the room where they meet, and secure it against other gods, I’d be willing to pay generously.”
(Leon) “Ah, that would be simple enough… Did you want it for the long-term, or would you prefer to eliminate any evidence afterwards?”
(Oscar) “Long-term. I’m not going anywhere, kid.”
(Leon) “Easy enough! What were you offering?”
(Oscar) “Well, I’ve got several things… necklaces prior raskha attendees have given me that will keep you from calcifying, this camera a Chosen of Journeys gave me that films what will happen a week from now, people I’ve caught trying to bribe the awards committee, and, of course, invitations to next year’s ceremony. I don’t give that last one out trivially. Got to preserve the exclusiveness.”
(Leon) “Ah well… Calcifying is not a worry! The camera is much more interesting – although who have you caught?
(Oscar) “What, looking for specific people, are you? It’s okay, I’m not unfamiliar with it. Mostly personal assistants and aides. Sometimes there are dumb producers and directors who don’t know how to delegate that kind of thing. One of your kind gave me another chancel a while back to keep them secure – and part of my duties IS to ensure the ceremony is taken at least somewhat seriously. Hard to do that when things are corrupt.”
Of course, he was nowhere near perfect on that – and, if your movie or performance was appealing enough to him, he was willing to turn a blind eye to a bit of manipulation.
(Leon) “Ah! Trash disposal! Well, the Camera sounds more interesting – after all, random mortals are easy enough to acquire!”
(Oscar) “Yeah, it was nice of the guy, and I’ve gotten some use out of it… but really, I can have my people run divinations for that. If you really want it, I’ll give it to you after you get me the chancel.”
(Leon) “Well, that’s easy! I’ll assign you a minion to shape it; that way you can change it later if you want to! That will let you override really silly votes and ballot-box stuffing tracelessly too. Now… is there anyone you are REALLY wishing to see… otherwise occupied? I might be able to oblige!”
(Oscar) “Heh. No catches. Well… I can think of a few people. What’s your least favorite kind of movie?”
(Leon) “I’ve never been fond of the slice-of-life depressing tearjerkers! Why would anyone want to watch one of those instead of just looking around themselves?”
(Oscar) “Eh, done well, they’re not so bad. I hate the films that are nothing but explosions and big special effects, but that’ll have to wait for another night. Anyway… there’s this rising young director who’s made his name in those. Someday he’ll get nominated, but the kid doesn’t get that you’re supposed to… branch out, you know? So I want somebody to turn his world on its ear. Are you up for that?”
(Leon) “Well, I don’t see why not! It will be no trouble to introduce a bit of wonder to his life!”
(Oscar) “Great! I’ll toss in a few of the people who tried to skew things, just as a bonus for doing this.”
(Leon) “Well, I’ll find something to do with them!”
They shook on it. Oscar had a pretty firm grip; probably from holding on to the sword.
(Leon) “Now what to do to bring a little of the wonder of the Wyld into his life… A trip into madness? Turn him into a werewolf? That really gives you a new prospective – and enlarges your view of the possible!”
(Oscar) “Whatever it takes… I just want him to stop making this depressing stuff. His recent films are starting to look the same! If anyone knows how boring that is, it’s your kind.”
(Leon) “That will NEVER do!”
Dropping by to turn the man into a werewolf and give him a brief trip into fantasy on the way to the party was easy; no matter how much Variety and the arthouse scene had talked him up, he was just a mortal. He was married and had three kids too… Werewolf powers all around!… not the ruthless eat-people kind though. Fuzzy family outings every full moon!
Once the man got over the shock it did relax him quite a bit! It was mildly stressful hiding the change – but the abilities without the worst drawbacks were fun and the kids loved them!
Such fun! Oscar hoped for a new take on the classical werewolf story, eventually.
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