Aikiko had returned to the fair, well before it’s conclusion… dealing with Ruki, Leon, and a battle with an Elder Abyssal had taken up surprisingly little time – especially in relationship to the hedgerows, which apparently were running a bit slow this week. During the drive back she’d realized that – if she used travel thaumaturgy, and some luck manipulation, and a few other things – she could drive as fast as she wanted to. Drive like a madwoman? No! She’d drive like an Exalt!
The Fair, in fact, was somewhat livened up by a number of people with new forms – but Aikiko had pretty much fulfilled her responsibilities already. She had no idea how she wound up holding a deep-fried twinkie with sugar and chocolate syrup though… Blasted subconscious. Still, aside from it being REALLY unhealthy, it didn’t seem to have any serious magic on it… nothing but a minor charm to make it taste like an ideal desert and encourage the thought of having another. It wasn’t much more than a whispered suggestion though. “That was GREAT! I want another!”
Oh well… It wouldn’t be a Fair without eating a few suspicious fried things. It was APPALLINGLY sweet for an adult – but the kids loved theirs. After she recovered from sugar overload she headed back to the inn to buy Samelin. There were numerous blandishments on the way out of the Fair – but no compulsions or anything like that. There was an unfortunate fellow being hanged for major violations of the fair rules (and stabbing another man) – which gave her a bit of a jolt – but that wass his bad luck – and stupidity. The official pronouncing sentence was a bit odd though; it looked like an earth spirit made from coal and ruby. Apparently one of the Fairwards, and evidently quite a powerful creature! Best not to get on his (?) bad side then!
The kids were pretty quiet for some time. That sort of thing was always sobering – especially for the girl. Samelin… had seen it before, and behaved himself. Slave he might be, but he wanted to live. The girl was a LOT less experienced of course.
Aikiko… was more than happy to leave. Hanging was harsh, but this wasn’t exactly modern society, and that was a powerful spirit. The roads were far less occupied at the moment, although there were a variety of fantastic creatures about. She was, however, shortly confronted by a pack of trolls, demanding that she pay tribute if she wished to pass! They were armed with… swords, axes, one submachine gun, some pistols, and a crossbow. Not bad for around here – but no real menace to her even WITHOUT summoning Skoll.
Still, there was some chance that they’d endanger the kids – and while it was obvious that they’d LIKE gossamer, artifacts, talismans, or magical materials… they were well aware that most travelers had nothing but small quantities of money – which was what they were demanding.
And it wasn’t like she had any shortage of money.
The Trolls kept their word – as might be expected from fey creatures. She paid, she was free to go and had safe-conduct through their territory.
The kids livened up quickly enough once they were away from the Fair and the bandits… the Hanging Gardens had been VERY impressive – a real marvel of fey ingenuity. And such wealth! (Although it was fairly obvious to Aikiko that that had scared them a bit too. It was dangerous for slave-children to be around someone who could buy them out of petty cash on a whim… Well, soon they wouldn’t have to worry about that!)
There were a few other travelers about, although apparently the Blatant Beast didn’t want to risk another encounter with Spartacus’s Mighty Blade… The small band of gypsies, however, were equipped with some surprisingly modern stuff. No doubt they crossed the dimensional borders as easily as the geographic ones. It looked like… an essence-powered generator (nice and quiet), electric lamps for their caravans, a couple of the kids had electronic games, there were probably guns on some of the men to go with the classical belt knives – definite boundary-crossers there – and they had a prison-wagon along. Evidently slaves…
The gypsies cheerily offered to read her fortune and sell her good-luck charms! Hah, she’d been just about to ask for her fortune!
The routine was quite classic – but they wanted to know if she would prefer palmistry, cards, crystal gazing, or the deluxe package of all three?
She went for the full package… and there were mysterious smoke and strange lights, with no trace of magic in use! Strange powers were in play! (Or at least so many natives of the Hedgerows would have thought… technological tricks to impress the natural magic-users… Aikiko thought that that was pretty clever and appreciated the effort!)
And the dice favored the old gypsy seer, with eleven successes on ten dice.
(Seer) “Ah, young woman! There is great power wrapped around you and within you, a darkness deeper than the night and a light brighter than the dawn. Before you… lies a dark passage, a place I cannot see at all… once malign, now empty… but within it something terrible rises. There shall be unexpected allies though, powers that are and are not of Dream. You shall confront them not upon the Earth or in the Hedgerows, but in the living land, where the fisher king brings healing. Whether you shall triumph or fall stands upon the edge of a knife, and what will come to pass I cannot tell.”
There was a pause.
(Seer, returning to normal) “Phew! what is UP with ye girl? Mostly I just git which farmboy tis opin to lift yer skirts!”
Aikiko considered… the power wrapped around and in her was probably Skoll. The dark passage was likely the Memory of the Void, where the Neverborn Kaiju were nearing completion. The powers of and not of Dream were likely Leon, Charles, and any other allies who showed up… The living land and the fisher king? Most likely Yu-Shan and Charles. Of course… there was the cloak, the exaltation, neverbody souls, links to mechagodzilla and the kaiju manses, a cargo of ghosts, and several other realms to make things hazy! It had been a remarkable feat for her to see anything at all in that mess!
(Seer) “But ye… ye are like a lens, a thousand lines of destiny shine thru!”
(Samelin, sounding a bit shocked) “uch a seein… yt be roight fearsem M’lady!”
(Aikiko) “I’ll tell you later, Samelin.” (Smiling) “We should get back to the inn soon. I need to talk to your master – and I’ve got a of baggage – a nd some good things to go with it.”
(Seer) “Hrm! Whatever it tis, I be thinkin that ye be on the right side of it – and those coins of yours say as much… There mayn’t be much that we kin do ter elp out, but we do have some trinkets and slavies and such if’n ye stand in need of such things!”
(Aikiko) “Well, you never know what will be handy! Trinkets are good!”
It was thaumaturgic stuff of course – but more sources never hurt and they did have a fairly wide variety of Talismans. She picked up a could of walkaways and a luck talisman; her Heavenly Salary gave her some pretty impressive resources on Earth. .. They let her have talismans and such at cost – which was a major concession for Gypsies. The slaves were available cheap as well; they had nine at the moment; mostly runaways scooped up from the edges of the hedgerows, street kids, and similar. They disappeared all the time anyway – which helped explain why they were so cheap – along with two who’d been sold by their parents in exchange for magical favors. One of those was REALLY upset; his parents had lots of money!
Well, she could readily afford it… She took them all- and ask that one kid about his parents. According to him… they were a corporate manager type and his socializing wife. He couldn’t imagine why they had turned him over to these scruffy gypsies!
Oh that was just charming… She might have to make some arrangements to annoy them. It didn’t sound like they’d needed to sell him to survive – which meant greed, and probably for more than mere money. Sure, the kid was a bit arrogant and entitled – junior preppie style – but there wasn’t really anything wrong with him outside of whatever weird compulsion was making him be obedient at the moment, and if being a bit arrogant and entitled was a crime… well, most of Heaven should go in the slave pens! As it was, he was lucky to be in HER hands! She wasn’t going to chain him to a task or let him be munched on by Raksha!
(Samelin) “E wouldnay b so uppite fer lang n a mastrs and! Hey ave ways o breakin slavies… Prolly ome balance ting! Ter Fadr rises, ter son falls.”
Hm… Aikiko hadn’t thought about that before – but working certain types of spells thaumaturgically – such as eliminating the current CEO and taking his place – would require special prices.
And the gypsies had been paid quite a lot of money AND the boy, which pretty much confirmed that.
Aikiko headed for the inn – while the Gypsies headed off to dip back into the outside world for more cargo. Slaves were selling very well these days! (Most of them, of course, to be marked up and resold to Charles. Business was good with him around… Perhaps she shouldn’t tell Charles that increasing the demand was just going to get more snatched. Oh well, at least the ones that got snatched were off the streets and fed).
The kids were no trouble. It looked like they’d be obedient for at least a couple of weeks, until the compulsions had worn off.
(Innkeeper, with modest surprise) “Wer ye shopin or ung slavies mum? Cud be fund closr tan te Fair! Ye bst be watchin hat un! (Indicating the well-dressed kid). Es ikley ter b a rebillous scamp!”
(Aikiko) “You’ll have to tell me where. I know someone who’d be interested. Speaking of which, I’d like to take Samelin off your hands… And this kid will be fine. My associate has ways of handling him.”
(Innkeeper) “Walsht, er boy be ell-traind fer his jobs an I be use to avin im abut ter plce. Ud ave to be a fair offr!”
Oh drat! The man could see that she’d put artifacts on two of the slave-children! Now he knew that she was rich!
Oh well. She couldn’t leave poor Samelin to spend centuries more as a stable boy. Perhaps some minor artifacts that he could use in running his inn? Perhaps some kind of cooking talisman would do. An enchanted frying pan?
It popped up on request; the Mardi Gras Raksha could pull that sort of thing out of the Wyld lapping about them… pretty much at will.
(Aikiko) “It’s nonstick, heats itself, doesn’t require a mitt, and never burns the food! Will this work?”
(Innkeeper) “Twd be `andy M’lady, bt Iad be ndin ter bye un trin anudder boy! T’wd be nay koin fer me n sucht a bargin…
Bother it. That was actually fair enough. Samelin… probably knew every task there was around the inn by heart and could be rented out as a guide, just as she’d rented him! He’d… be worth a LOT more than some street child somebody had snatched out of london’s back alleys and put up for sale.
Aikiko wound up paying a good deal more than she’d thought she would (including a trivial artifact that would keep the stables clean and the animals fed) – but it really didn’t matter; it had taken mere moments for Charles or his servants to produce the stuff… That was really rather… unpleasant. It ought to take more than a few moments of casual effort to purchase someone’s entire LIFE.
To his credit, the innkeeper was actually be a bit sad to see Samelin go; he was very used to having the kid about the place. Still… he’d been paid more than well enough to buy and train another and the boys work was covered anyway. Aikiko… had to admit that the innkeeper was pleasant enough for the culture, and was reasonably considerate in his own way… The place had been quite interesting to visit, but there was so much to be done outside the hedges!
Samelin was quite grateful; the innkeeper hadn’t been a bad master – but two centuries in the stables was quite enough!
Aikiko made a note; that was indeed enough for anybody – and she’d make sure that he didn’t do that in Aden unless he wants to – not that that should be any problem; his effective age was quite low enough for Aden to default to sending him to school. That was only fair anyway! The poor kid had obviously never had a chance to see what he could be before – and Aden was a fascinating place to study in!
Meanwhile, Leon had a quick visit of his own to make. He HAD said that he’d stop by – so a strange mist rose throughout the high school, leading to a certain amount of non-supernatural people nodding off and bringing strange, wyld, dreams! It was fairly close to graduation anyway, and “Senioritis” was not unexpected in late spring!
He headed for the Computer Science Labs, where young Dawai was supposed to be studying at the moment – where almost all of the computer lab, including the teacher, had nodded off. Leon heard the quiet sounds of a computer game in the back. There was a cloaking effect running – but it was easy enough to pierce! The player… was an intent, wiry Asian teenager – it looked like Chinese ancestry.
He strolled on back!
(Leon) “And hello there young man!”
(Dawai, looking up) “Whoa!” (Looking at the lab) “Whoa. Nice trick.”
He was surprisingly impressed. No doubt his powers didn’t include much along such lines at the moment and he had little experience with others.
(Leon) “No reason to let them remember much except a few wild daydreams.”
(Dawai) “Anyway… Thank you for coming to meet me!”
(Leon) “A small enough favor! After all, you DID give me an amusing offering!”
(Dawai) “Heh heh… So where is he now?”
(Leon, with mild surprise) “What you wish to see him?” (He cheerily opened up one of the linked chancels) “Right this way!”
(Dawai) “This is going to be GOOD.”
Leon showed him the kitty-slaveboy-pet, dressed in his collar.
(Dawai) “Bwahaha! Here, have a yarn ball!” (As he tossed on to Felix)
Felix chased it – and Dawai exerted some minor telekinetic effect to keep it away from him. And there was begging!
Leon…. was keeping an eye on Dawai; how he reacted to his “enemy” once he was up close to him – and could see that the boy was blatantly cat-trained, feline-mutated, and fixed, would be somewhat revealing…
(Dawai) “C’mon, chase after it!”
And in the chase, Felix did indeed get closer and rub against him like any other cat would.
(Dawai) “Wha… wow. Okay, you get the yarn. I’m going to talk to Leon, okay?”
Hm… Dawai showed no apparent regrets – or thoughts that this might be a bit disproportionate. Fortunately… that did not seem to be the arrogance and superiority of a classical supernatural lordling… Further observation was in order!
(Leon) “Young Felix makes quite a good kitty, amusing to have around!”
(Dawai) “Whoa. That’s more than I was expecting. I thought you’d just turn him into something silly. Not (and pointing to the “fixed” portion) THAT. I was going to ask you how you did it… but I know I’d get out of hand with that.”
(Leon) “Only to be expected for a pet! Surely you were not expecting him to produce superior offspring? But you seem… much concerned with getting out of hand. Has that been a problem for you?”
(Dawai, thinking) “Well… Yeah, I guess you would think that way about a pet. And I’ve got a lot of grudges.”
(Leon) “Ah? well, if you wish… How many others do you wish removed?”
Dawai, looked quite conflicted! Leon was clearly a powerful supernatural being who could help him out, but he was squeamish about the potential costs – although it was obvious enough to Leon that his cup grave would be average at best; he clearly was not oriented to Compassion!
(Leon) “There is little harm in it! After all, my pet here is quite happy!”
(Dawai) “Yeah, he nuzzled me… Does he use a litter box?”
(Leon) “He can, but it would be inconvenient! Bathrooms are much less trouble… Who else has offended?”
(Dawai) “Okay… Faculty would make too much trouble, but there’s some more students I’d like to see humbled. I can get you some really good computers I made for the favor.”
(Leon) “It sounds fair enough!”
Dawai… came up with a list. It looked like… a couple of girls who had spurned him, a member of the track team, and a fellow nerdy type.
(Leon) “Are you wanting a few young female playthings?”
(Dawai) “Don’t transform Ravi (the fellow nerd), okay? I just want his to be temporary.”
(Leon) “Well, I shall think of something!”
(Dawai) “What are we talking about with playthings? Can I get hot alien girls? I’m pretty sure I chatted some girl who wasn’t from Earth last week.”
(Leon) “Oh, I was thinking of a few youthful princesses… I am overstocked! Aliens would take a few days more!”
(Dawai) “That’s what I mean when I say these computers are great! The weird IPs are the best. And I can wait for aliens.”
(Leon) “Ah, you would like a few then? Step this way…”
There were plenty of extras from among the royal family hangers-on… Dawai did prioritize beauty, but he also looked for the ones who seemed to be reasonably intelligent – or at least willing to learn. He seemed to be using analytic charms to determine learning ability…
(Dawai, somewhat wowed) “So Saudi Arabia WAS you!”
(Leon) “Why not? It seemed like a suitable realm in need of a new government!”
(Dawai) “Man, I wish I could do something like that, but something in me just yells ‘no!’ Maybe if I got more people to help out. I’ve just got to settle these scores first.”
Hrm… the boy was exceptionally petty at the moment! Evidently a combination of being the very middle son in a large family – and thus, often overlooked – and being clumsy and physically weak before his Exaltation. There was quite a bit of bullying in that past. The only reasons that he wasn’t a potential school shooter were his strong will to overcome, his fascination with computers, and his desire to stay out of jail. At the moment he was driven by revenge against those whom had wronged him. After that… He’d like to ensure his own success and make sure that others didn’t get overlooked Under it all, he’d like everyone decent to feel wanted. Unfortunately, against those he DIDN’T currently consider decent… He thought that “Felix’s” fate was quire appropriate. There was a world-body. Not very developed, deva-free, and a bit dark – but present.
That wasn’t necessarily too bad. The boy was just unable to see past his own pain to make allowances for human follies. He was likely to be hard on an ever-increasing number of people as his influence spread too; virtually everyone was a jerk soemtimes, and he seemed to have no understanding of that fact. Not a “bad kid” – but, like a lot of kids, self-absorbed.
(Leon) “What did the other “nerd” do?”
(Dawai, while admiring one of the princesses) “What, Ravi? He said there was no way I was chatting with aliens. I want you to help me prove they exist. Maybe make him one too, for a few hours.”
(Leon) “Well, that should become much more plausible in a couple of months… And you like her?”
(Dawai) “She’s got about as much education as I expected, but her mind’s okay. I can fix the education really fast.”
(Leon) “Any of the others catch your eye?”
(Dawai) “Several. I need some people to manage certain things that need it. I think.”
He pointed them out. Not the most beautiful girls – although they were all good-looking – but all fairly bright.
(Leon) “Very well then! You girls are now the property and concubines of your master here! You are now bound to him, to serve and please him as he wills…” (to Dawai) “Will you be needing an eunuch attendant or two?”
(Dawai) “Wha… I just want girls!” (Rubbing his chin) “Though, if you have robots, that’d be great.”
(Leon) “Not my speciality I fear!”
(Dawai, shrugging) “Eh. I guess I’ll have to program a security AI… And put in a harem.”
Leon made a note to subtly push Dawai towards a more generous view of things. The girls would probably have some influence. Hmph! He hadn’t been expecting to have to deal with child-raising for some time to come! Much less a Night Caste Guardian, though skewed toward computer security and espionage instead of the more traditional variety. Still, as a teenage boy… a harem would distract him for quite some time and give him a more generous outlook on things! He did seem awfully ready to go have fun… And if he was even slightly thoughtless, there was nothing like a few offspring to broaden someone’s experiences. All the concubines were enhanced to be excellent concubines, and quite fertile!