Leo's View: Politics and Cinnamon Cakes

Mmm… that was a delicious lunch. A few notes before I’m off to bed.

The day after saving our esteemed noble cousin Vasily from psychotic animate toys and having our family downgraded in status due to cowardice within the course of a few hours, I went to visit Alexei to see how he was doing. He’s showing notable improvement in terms of energy, appetite, and all-around spunkiness, but the burn mark on his face is spreading, and his eye is discoloring strangely: the iris more intense in color than it should be. The Vikon priests say it was a magical poison; I’m glad he’s feeling better but concerned about the spread of the face burn.

He made the point that Ivan and Fyodor must be “sitting pretty in power” in order to orchestrate our original assignment to Averton and our consequent plummet in reputation for the sin of politely asking to not be sent to certain death. Which makes me wonder… why is Lord Markov so easily swayed? When we got to the palace he was apparently ready to foster Vasily with my parents, and if he esteemed them that much, it’s odd that he’d want to send all three of their children into mortal peril. Mother believes that the Averton assignment was entirely due to I & F’s involvement, as backlash against a lifetime of counseling them towards restraint and wisdom. If I were Markov and in my right mind, I think I’d have told my sons “you know, I think that’s a rash idea, and I’m the Duke, and I get to make the decisions.” Of course, the fact that he (evidently) even thought to send any of his scions into Averton as a “hand of peace” seems short-sighted at best, and I find myself wondering what’s really going on with Lord Markov. Is he being controlled, or getting diddly in his old age? At any rate. Arcady, Dariel, and Faina were off to Averton yesterday afternoon, and I pray to any gods who will hear for their safe return.

Alexi babbled a bit about an asylum/monastary in the Capiz district – I’m not sure what he was on with about that, but whatever. If I encounter anything about it I guess I can ask him for more information. Likewise I told him a bit about Seal, but he didn’t seem to have any context for him. I also told him the story about dancing with the little old accountant lady at the Vikon clinic we took Katja to – he seemed to get a kick out of it, and it was good to see him laugh.

I told him about moving my bedroll to the lowest bunk in the mid-level section of the Clubhouse, and he said Pierre Mann was likely to make trouble. (This was not news.) He gave me a bit of a rundown on Pierre’s fighting style, and honest, he’s right, I’d probably only win against Pierre if I cheated and sabotaged him somehow. Talented, hotheaded, axe and reversed short sword – just lovely. We did note, though, that Pierre might be convinced that he’s too good to fight me, and assign someone less personally hating on me to challenge me instead. Alexei had his guard send word to Anton that he’d like Anton to come visit when he had a chance. Anton’s been my friend for years, and his older brother Will is one of Pierre’s friends. This seemed like a decent direction for things to go, although Will is also heavier and stronger than I am, and no easy challenge to fight. I took my leave of Alexei before Anton got there, and promised to bring him some (discreetly disguised) honey butter the next day.

That night, as expected, Marcel (one of Pierre’s lackeys) and some of his friends started whispering and giggling in the corner of the bunk room in the middle of the night. I’d purposefully been sleeping very lightly, because I’d been expecting something like this, so when they came over to try to dump a bucket of sticky goo on me I was already awake. They snuck like elephants across the room and when I said “don’t even try it” in a firm but conversational tone they squealed like little girls and ran away. It was actually pretty great.

In the morning I had breakfast, where I noted who was willing to sit at my table – That Kalb, the one everyone thinks is brain damaged, but I think he’s a bit smarter than people give him credit for. Granted, he sounds like an idiot, but seems fairly observant and decently canny. And two Xarx kids, which given the martial tradition of that liege household are probably considered pretty big fuckups if they’re in the musters instead of doing actual military service. So to the public eye a retard and two fuckups were willing to be seen with me but not to actually talk with me. Not the best I could have hoped for, but I survived the night in the middle level bunks without anyone successfully indicating I should move to the lowest-rank lodging room, so that was something at least.

I went to my folks’ house after breakfast, napped a bit, had lunch with them, and talked a bit about what they want me to do for them. Basically it boils down to “maintain and reaffirm family connections suavely and genteelly; crack heads as needed.” Seems they want me to represent our business at salons, tearooms, soirees, and such for the younger set while mother works the older set and father works the business contacts. Keep an eye out for fops & sycophants who can be of use or can be detrimental, talk up the stability of our business. Keep an eye out for Manns – they’ve been trying to edge in on our shipping since forever and are leaping on this opportunity to cut us out. The Foamer’s guild is trying to take a cut, apparently also trying to get into farming, which doesn’t immediately make sense to me – I’ll have to get Father to clarify that. And keep an eye out for Aglion – they’ve technically never sworn alliegance to us even though they’re treated as a Kalb liegehouse.

I snagged a few cinnamon cakes for the road on the way out, and thoughtfully wrapped up a number for Alexei along with his requested disguise-able pot of honey butter. Got to his room at the Vikon clinic and he’d had it all done up with furniture and knicknacks and new draperies. Yes, draperies, I kid you not. It did make the urn of honey butter much easier to blend in, but might perhaps have been a bit of overkill. Anton stopped by and offered to be my Second for a duel at dawn against his brother Will at Tilter’s Field. I appreciate that he and Alexei are still talking to me this week – it’s good to have some friends who don’t immediately shun me the way the rest of the high-rank folks in the Musters do.

I went back to my folks’ house for food and more sleep – they seemed a bit confused on the concept, but I needed to be decently alert through the night at the Clubhouse and in top form at dawn, so I needed the rest.

And yeah, it was the right call. Marcel and his goons upgraded to an attempt at a soap-in-a-sock attack, which derailed in a nice one-two with an unknown ally who firmly said “no” just as I was sitting up to tell them off. So I just followed up with “yeah, I really wouldn’t recommend it guys.” Again with the squealing.

I grabbed a light breakfast before dawn, amid whispers of “I tell you, he doesn’t sleep!” Good. I need to establish a reputation for any badassery I can these days. Whenever I’m in the Clubhouse I’m trying to maintain a facade of ‘this demotion is a mildly humorous temporary inconvenience’. So far it seems to be coming across successfully that way to folks. Fake it ’til you make it.

I started towards Tilter’s Field before dawn, and Anton caught up with me on the way. Briefed me on Will’s fighting style – warhammer & shield, slight favoring of left side, a solid fighter. Not as hot-headed as Pierre, which can be either a benefit or a detriment, depending on how you’re trying to play the game.

Glossing the gritty details of the duel, I’ll honestly sum it up – it’s not a duel I ordinarily would have won. He’s a very good fighter, solid guy, good armor. I don’t remember exactly what happened when with the fight, but Anton assures me that it looked really good, which in the end is really what matters. I went into the duel with the basic plan to look as awesome as I could until he beat me unconscious, to make as good a stand as possible for my honor and my family’s honor. I caught him by surprise right off the bat, though, and we both got some decent hits in before the end. After I had two good hits in my basic objective of ’don’t look like a complete weenie’ had been fulfilled, but if I could, I wanted to win. Winning would be really, really good. I was hurting pretty badly by the end, but I got him with a good feint and hit him hard. A little harder than I’d meant to, honestly; I ran him straight through. Fortunately his Second seemed to have some healing ability, so I stood at my initial mark until Will was on his feet again and able to shake hands and leave the field.

I’d joked with Alexei that if I needed hospitalization after the duel that I’d go to the clinic he was at and get a room nearby so we could at least have hijinks while we recovered. Anton was kind of flipping out that I was walking all the way there (well, we did pass a few other Vikon clinics on the way, he was right, but it was the point of the thing you understand). Granted, I was trailing a bit of blood behind me, but I could walk fine. We made it to Alexei’s clinic, and they patched me right up – no need to convalesce, so I suppose maybe it was all kind of pointless, but hey, I kept my word. And I visited with Alexei after the priestess was done with me, and Anton gave him a blow-by-blow of the duel.

Anton was pining for some more of the cinnamon cakes he’d been ruthlessly stealing from Alexei’s stash, so I invited him over to my folks’ house for lunch. We stopped by the Clubhouse on the way there to move my bedroll up a few rungs in the middle-tier room. A bed had already been cleared out four beds up, and since I don’t feel up to another duel in the next few days I decided not to push the issue just at the moment. My family’s overall reputation is a bigger behemoth than anything I can shift with a few duels, and I can’t move too far out of our overall range and hope to keep a toehold. Still, I mean to climb it one rung at a time, whatever it takes.

We had lunch with Mother, Anton got his order in of cinnamon cakes, and Mother promised to send more to Alexei and Anton each (the apricot ones, too.) Our new butler is an odd little duckling – he can’t be more than seventeen, and he’s trying to put on all of these Ancient Old Butler airs. It totally doesn’t work, and I told him so, but now he seems to be trying on different ways to look stuffy each time I see him. Weird kid, but hey, he opens doors with the best of them. Maybe he’ll grow into it with a few decades.

Another afternoon nap was in order, especially given the duel – which Mother apparently knew about, since lady Carborn had stopped by in the morning to pay respects. Well, at least she didn’t grill me about it. She indicated that she’d had several unexpected morning visitors, a positive thing. And I’ve been receiving a number of ‘well done’ letters – also a positive thing. Last night I stopped another prank attempt by dear Marcel, whose followers appear to be losing enthusiasm. I suspect he’ll wait a bit, maybe a week or two, and then try something again on his own, so I’m going to keep up this daytime napping thing until I can thwart whatever those petering attempts are. I still don’t know who it was who nixed his soap-in-a-sock attempt – if I had to guess I’d guess it was That Kalb, given the monosyllabic nature of the injunction, but I’m keeping my eyes open on all sides for any potential allies and am not rushing to make too many assumptions for or against anyone. I had breakfast this morning with a girl from the lower nobles’ room – not someone I can afford to be seen out drinking with just now, but she seems like a nice kid.

And then back here for a morning talking with Mother and Father, and then lunch. One more cinnamon cake and I’m off to bed…

Leo's View: Divine Inspiration Comes in Pints

So like I said, there we were, in a field with magical shrubs, one of which seemed to be the guy who last knew where our medallion was. We were contemplating the shrubs when we noticed a bunch of Sickers gathering in an alleyway across the street. After a time they gained critical mass or something, because finally they came across the street at us. They didn’t aggressively breathe on us, and seemed like they had something to say. One of them – this dude with particularly yellow eyes – seemed to be a bit braver than the rest, or their spokesperson, or something. Byron said something snarky at him, and Yellow Eyes shrugged and said “never mind, then” and they all started to turn away. It sounded like they had something important to say, so I apologized for my brother’s boorish behavior and asked him to stay and say what he’d come to say. He said they’d just wanted to say Thanks, indicating that we’d helped his crew out by taking care of the stick-critters that had been killing people and turning them into shrubs. He also said he thought it was related to what was in the ( Mann) warehouse next door to the lot – said someone had harvested Live wood, and that the warehouse is now – and I quote – “full of some pretty pissed-off lumber”.

They started to melt away, and as they were leaving we realized that they might have seen something useful about Bob’s demise. We caught one who’d lingered to pick up some trash – called himself Four Coughs. We asked if he knew anything about NSSB’s demise, or if he could find out for us. We also asked him to let us know if he could find anything out about Calleich’s medallion, and gave him a little cash incentive with a promise of more later if he could help us out. We agreed on the back of the Shrine of Maelsh as a drop-spot for information. He seemed really fascinated by Raisa’s drawing of the symbol we’re looking for.

As Four Coughs left, we saw a dark-cloaked man in shadow in the alley across from us who seemed to have been watching us. We began to approach, but he slipped further into the shadows, seeming to want to avoid us. Cinnamon took off in one direction – climbing? – as the rest of us gave chase, but we came abruptly up on a busy street, with the cloaked man nowhere to be seen. Folks on the street didn’t seem stirred up like you might be if someone had just come tearing through, was the funny thing about it. Cinnamon caught up with us and we talked (okay, argued) about what to do next, and next thing you know some little Orc kid is coming up to us with a note saying that the Sickers had some information and were waiting at the Shrine of Maelsh for us. Around this time Muriel, NSSB’s wife, walked by and looked straight at us, but keept on walking like she didn’t recognize us. Cinnamon peeled off again to follow her and the rest of us went to meet with the Sickers.

Yellow Eyes was there with a bunch of the rest of them, although Four Coughs wasn’t there. Yellow Eyes asked if he could speak for the rest of them, since the rest of them seemed skittish and afraid of talking with us. He said that one of them had seen NSSB two days back, walking home late. A bush grew to twice its size as he passed by, and pulled him in. We asked if they had any information about the medallion, and showed Raisa’s drawing again. Four of them reacted the same way Four Coughs did, like they really wanted the picture. Really wanted it. They said they’d keep a lookout for more information about it, and we tipped them again to keep them interested in it.

We’d planned with Cinnamon to meet back at the Gin Joint, but as we were walking in that direction I had this Very Strong Feeling that Cinnamon was in danger and needed our help. Like a vision without the vision part. And I felt… drunk. Marius hasn’t ever come down and talked with me face to face, but if ever there was a time when I felt his presence, this was it. I told the others about my feeling and persuaded them to come with me to Muriel’s house instead of the Gin Joint. Which is a good thing, because it turns out Muriel had been eaten by some hideous monster that was impersonating her. Who knew, right?

When we got there, Cinnamon was down, and Not-Muriel ran up the stairs. Torey stopped to heal Cinnamon, and the rest of us went after NM. Byron stuck her in place, and Torvyk and I flanked her while Raisa took pot shots at her with her crossbow. She started monologuing about how much she hated ‘fleshbags’, and then she ripped off her face. The next minute or two as we were fighting her, her Muriel-skin sort of slid off from around her, and she … it… ended up with much longer arms, bigger than what had been inside the Muriel-skin, weirdly. We got in some good shots, but so did she – hit me pretty bad twice. Cinnamon was up by then, and Torey was singing to encourage us all. The thing got its tongue lodged in Cinnamon; Raisa managed to cut through it right around the time the rest of us took the thing down. We regrouped, poked around a little bit, found the husk of what used to be Muriel upstairs, but nothing else useful. We needed a lot more medical help than we had with us, so decided to go to Vikon’s clinic.

When we stepped out of what used to be Muriel’s and Not-So-Shady-Bob’s house, Anton was there across the street. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was there with backup for me. There were a couple of other guys with him. He seemed to think I was in some kind of danger, but didn’t say what kind. He saw we were hurt and the guys helped all of us get to the clinic where we got patched up. Turns out Cinnamon had some kind of creepy larval egg in her where that monster’s tongue had been, but the physician working on her said she’d be fine.

When we came out, Harrik, that huge guy Grllith from the Gin Joint, and several Ssama guards were there waiting for us. Well, for Cinnamon and Torey. They started posturing at Anton & co, saying they were dangerous to Cinnamon and Torey, and Anton & co started flipping out that we (Kalbs and Torvyk) were in danger from Ssama. It came out that 1) Anton, Alexei, and friends are all with the Thieves’ Guild, and 2) the Thieves’ Guild and Ssama had signed articles of war earlier in the day in no small part due to the shenanigans that went down at the Big House two nights back with the assassinations and all. They had a 16-hour truce, so could stand around in the alley with us arguing over it without coming to blows, fortunately. In the middle of all this, Byron did that vague far-away voice blinky-thing he does and said “you do know travel magic was used in there…?” This was a conversation-stopper, so we all went to the Big House for Byron to show them what he meant.

When we got back to that room, Byron did some wacky magic and suddenly there was a glowing outline of a sigil in the air, which he said was the remnants of the travel magic. Harrik went and got this eccentric looking elf-dude who verified that it was what Byron said it was. Given the way the Big House controls its space and the limits of travel magic, it seemed like the only place the travelers could have come from was underneath the building, in the Underbelly, so I said as much. Harrik seemed to agree.

Anton and Harrik agreed that this revelation changed everything, and that it looks like a third party is intentionally trying to play the Theives’ Guild and Ssama off of one another. Harrik mentioned that things are hectic enough with Mayhew retiring soon, and that the last thing he needed was a war. He gave Anton some papers to take to the Theives’ Guild so that they could review the information and hopefully call their war off. Anton and company took off to deliver those.

Which left our party, who all in all were ready for bed. Fortunately the Big House has lots of beds, big and small, square and round, solo and accompanied. Harrik offered Raisa a bed made entirely out of dragon skulls, with a bed nearby for Torvyk to keep an eye on her. He gave me a room across the hall with a hot tub – and three blondes, two redheads, and a brunette. I’m sure it will all be very therapeutic, what with my war wounds from earlier today…

Leo's view: Magical Shrubs, Unidentified Meat on a Stick, and Other Diversions

WTF, Shrub-people? In the park on the way to not-so-shady Bob’s. Where it turns out we found what probably used to be Bob, now a shrub. A magical shrub, Byron says. I repeat: W.T.F.

Anyhow, it’s been an interesting few days. Went to a shindig with my boys down at the Big House a few nights back, where a wave of subhumans provided a diversion as Ssama and the Thieves’ Guild proceeded to co-assassinate each others’ bigwigs. Got Alexei’s back while he fenced with something invisible, then followed his lead out of there – where did he find out about that trick candlestick, anyway? – and into the alley. Alexei ran off, Anton followed him, I followed Anton, and for some reason my sibs and Torvik – goodness knows why they were even there – decided to tag along after me. Anton ended up giving me the runaround, gave me some line about me being too hotheaded to trust, so I pummeled him… sigh … yah, I know, but it felt good. He ran off, presumably to go help Alexei, who presumably didn’t want or need my help. Anyway.

So then there’s this totally hot-bod half-elf Cinnamon who’d been serving at the Big House, and she’s there in the alley, and also Torey, a lovely lady singer from Ssama with a fantastic voice, and… well. And, wouldn’t you know it, Byron, Raisa, and Torvik. I have to say, they cramp my style.

So we all went for drinks, like you do. Enter an amazingly gorgeous woman who only gave us the name ‘C’, all coyness and word-games. She wants us to find a small metal symbol that was stolen from a shrine of Calleich under the city and return it to its right place. Sounds like a fun little quest, so I was in. There was the Calleich angle, so naturally Raisa was in – little sis is adorable when she’s trying to be evil. The rest hopped on board too. We negotiated for money and stuffs, but that’s really kind of secondary to the fact that hell, it sounds like fun, right?

So we went down to Shady Joe’s pawnshop, where the medallion had last been seen. Locked, so I picked it, but someone had been there before us and tossed the place before locking it back up. We didn’t find the medallion, but the girls picked up pages of Joe’s ledger, all torn up. Byron realized that we’d tripped a magical alarm, so we picked up what we could and hoofed it back to a family office and spent the night there. By morning we’d put the ledger back together, and found that Shady Joe’d taken the medallion to Not-so-shady Bob for appraisal.

Next morning we went over to NSSB’s pawnshop, and Torey and I pretended to be interested in buying her a piece of “sacred art” while Cinnamon scoped the back alley and my sibs and Torvik sat out front eating Unidentified Meat on a Stick. The lady there seemed all put out that NSSB had run off on her, so I tried to play that angle. She said she had the medallion in lockup but couldn’t close the shop until lunchtime, but she’d go get it then.

Lunchtime rolled around and after, and she said someone had broken into her secure lockup since the last time she’d been down, which was after NSSB had run off. We (me, Torey, and Raisa) went down there with her to look around, and from what she said, it seemed like someone had either had a key and known how to circumvent and re-set the security traps, or had been AMAZINGLY good at locks/traps and picked/re-set them somehow, or waltzed right in and out with magic, because she said everything had been in-order security-wise. The only thing that was missing was the medallion, and the place was all still in order, not tossed like at Shady Joe’s. Counter lady was getting tetchy at us by this point, so we left. (Note to self: talk with the others about how to keep a charade going over the long term. Not so good to have your ruse rained on by people on your own side). Cinnamon picked up from there and went and charmed the pants off of tetchy counter lady, and got herself a commission to find NSSB, dress him up in some man-whore costume, and let him make his way home (or not) with just that.

We went to a seedy dive called the Gin Joint as our first recon, and Cinnamon got information from a big drunken bear of a fellow and the world’s creepiest whore that NSSB had been there a few nights back pulling his cheapskate routine, but hadn’t been back since. They pointed us in the direction of where he lived.

Cue magical shrubs. First it seemed like it’d be a nice little swordplay fun with three fellows hiding terribly ineffectively upwind of us behind some bushes. We took two down and one ran away, and one of the bushes just… destroyed him. Whip-vines-thorns, a spray of blood, and a godawful mess, but nothing really left of him, you know? Torey sang quite an inspiring song, and Cinnamon and I fought one bush while Torvik, Byron, and Raisa killed a bush and a massive creepy tree-thing. Seriously, I harsh on them sometimes, but really… I was proud of them. A little stick-man thing came haring out of the bush I’d been hacking at and ran away, so I guess it’s still out there.

Byron looked around the lot at all of the shrubs, and said they were magical, the smaller ones the most so. We noticed that there were piles of personal effects around the shrubs that really made it look like the shrubs had risen up where people had fallen. One of the shrubs had a cheapass ring that matched the description of the one NSSB had had a few days ago, and there was a key with that pile that looks like it could be for a high-security lock like the one at NSSB’s pawnshop. There were two other piles with high-quality keys, so I pocketed those two as well.

So here we are, in a field, with magical shrubs, one of which seems to be the guy who last knew where our medallion was. What’s next, I wonder?

Session 1 (Feb. 16, 2011)
Beginnings (by Byron)

It all began so innocently, with Torvik bringing the underage Kalb, Raisa to an underground club in the sketchy part of town to meet with Leo and Alexei. Byron was drawn there by the forces of chaos. While at the club the group met up with a couple of the employees – the lovely Cinnamon the charming Torey.

There was a group of assassinations as you might expect, and the Kalbs, along with Cinnamon and Torey Westerlyn chose to flee the scene rather than get caught up in some messy investigation.

The Kalb family contingent followed Anton Carborn for a time until there was a fight between Anton and Leo, and the resulting argument betweebn the Kalbs over this fight allowed Anton to slip the tail, as it were.

It was at this point that we once again met up with the lovely Cinnamon and her charming compatriot Miss Westerlyn. We found a likely place to continue our carousing and once there we were approached by a fascinating character who wanted to hire us to find some artifact important to Calliech in order to prevent some doom from befalling our fair city. after some negotiation we managed to come to an agreement and we were off.

We made our way to the docks and to the pawn shop where the artifact originally emerged, and broke in, much to the chagrin of Torvik. While there we found that the place had clearly been tossed, and found that the artifact had been taken by the owner to another, less disreputable pawn shop for appraisal. We then made plans to meet the next day to go to the more reputable shop in question and investigate.


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