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Thread: Intrigues of Venedig IC

  1. #1

    Intrigues of Venedig IC

    City Event

    Hidden for Written Nudity

    It was a warm, but breezy day in Venedig, and the rich, in their carriages and lavish gondolas, were making a rare trip to the open-air slave market, a circular space whose northern half was ringed with wooden exhibition platforms, beyond which were the stone buildings where the chattel was 'processed'. As the sun shone brightly in the clear sky, the merchant-aristocrats of Venedig would walk to the open space facing the exhibition stands, where chairs and miniature pavilions were already set up. Then, once all seats were full, the auction masters, smiling men and women clothed in bright silk, would then emerge from the buildings and onto the stands, before announcing, in clear tones enhanced by World Magic:

    "Ladies and Gentlefolk of Venedig, we would like to announce that Karl Maximillian V of the Reich des Goldenen Grahles has given the city this opportunity, an opportunity to be the instrument of punishment to traitors, and profit from such use. Thus, beyond these stands, the former nobles whose treason had reduced them to the status of chattel are being sorted and processed, with those who are above eighteen years of age being stripped and bathed for exhibition. The first of the batch, the men and women of the Edelweiss family, known for their renowned beauty and skill in both Change Magic and Medicine, will be sold...now!" And with that, the doors to the 'centremost' (from the seated people's perspective) stand would open.

    Walking out, escorted by guards, would be a set of five extremely handsome men and women, their entire bodies shaved and waxed except for their eyebrows, eyelashes, and head hair. They were fully naked and exposed, but they did not bow their heads, nor did they avert their eyes from the crowd, nor try and cover themselves. The rich merchants of the land whooped and jeered at the ex-nobles, though a few felt pity, even shedding tears at the Edelweiss' family's plight.

    The oldest man in the group, a tall, muscular man whose hairs were only showing streaks of grey, was bid and sold first, then the women, leaving two males, brothers whose dark hair and eyes, as well as tall, slim, and lean bodies caused the crowds to whoop, leer, and jeer harder.

    "Fredrich and Heinrich Edelweiss, nineteen and eighteen! The first is a fighter-paladin, the second is a doctor, but already a savant in his field!" said the auction officials. "Will they be bought as a joint item, or will they be separated?! What is your choice, crowd?!"

    One of the frontmost merchants, a surprisingly young man with short-cropped hair, whose thin build was bedecked in gold and crimson silk, got up from his chair and miniature pavilion, which was made from the same stuff. He would then say:

    "I wish to bid twenty million thalers for the both of them!" in a voice that was authoritative, another surprise, at least for the Edelweiss brothers. The younger, Heinrich, would then recognize the merchant as Kaspar Ridolfi, one of the richest men in the city, newly come to his inheritance.

    "Going once...going twice...sold!" shouted the nearest auction master, a slightly fat, jolly-looking man who seemed to enjoy this job a lot. "Now that we've gotten our audience's appetites whetted, time for the auction proper to begin!" And with that, dozens of naked people, escorted by guards, would be led out of the processing buildings, few of them having the dignity or beauty of the sold Edelweiss family.

    And among them was one Rote Kaufmann, stripped of all rags to expose his body to full view. As bidders swarmed to pay for the privilege of owning 'the fairest youth in all the land', his only thoughts were this - That he had to warn the Church of Existence that all was in danger!

    Lin Hyou Sei and Katrin Baumann

    There were rumors that one or more of Venedig’s powerful groups/factions was preparing to arrange a ‘sham enslavement’ of various noble families, and those rumors were relayed to Lin and Katrin of the Razors via word of mouth. Rumors were relayed too that the Marine Knights were to be tasked with security for the auction, something which might be useful to Lin, who would be further forwarded a cheque of thirty million silver thalers in order to buy Rote Kaufmann, the last scion of the family who took him in, from enslavement.

    This cheque, which would prove to be perfectly good if ever brought to the Bank of Venedig to be ‘tested’, was accompanied by a letter saying, This sum is yours provided that you bring Rote to the Black Cathedral in the Religious District.

    Wait, wasn’t the Black Cathedral the headquarters for the Church of Existence’s Inquisition?

    As for Katrin, she’d receive a most unusual customer; an Inquisitor-General of the Church. Inquisitor Malamocco was a middle-aged man who had high standards of hair care, almost to the point of vanity, but who was satisfied with whatever Katrin decided was best for his hair and beard, paying amply even as he hinted at needing her services for more than just a haircut.



    Should she be willing to give him her metaphorical ear, Inquisitor Malamocco would be short and to the point, “Kill whoever buys the slave named Rote Kaufmann except for the person whose name is written on this specific list.”

    Said list had one name only: Lin Hyou Sei. Wait, wasn’t he a fellow member of the Razor’s Guild?

    Yan and Leon

    Yan Zhu Zen was tasked with commanding the detachment of Venedig Marine Knights tasked with ensuring the security of the auction and ensuring that no last-minute attempts at rescue happened. She was to be given eight teams of five Marine Knights each for a total of forty, as well as command over a detachment of mercenaries - Disreputable people who were in it for a discount on slaves. She had also been informed of the rumors that there would be an attempt to do a ‘sham enslavement’ by an unknown party and that because of that, she should keep watch on the buyers as well.

    There were fifty mercenaries in all, including one Leon/Jack, a… unique personality who was more dependable than most despite his lowborn, magic-less state.

    As for Leon/Jack himself, he had been tasked to patrol the outer perimeter of the slave market, but as the auction was open air, he could see the slaves, naked and humiliated, be sold one by one; perhaps one of them would catch his eye?


  2. #2
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    The Pavilion of Winds

    Atop a wooden pavilion in the slave market sits a young man garbed in expensive furs and silks. A turban twists about his head, the loose end blowing in the light breeze that seems to linger about his person. He clothes himself in loose, waving robes, sits on embroidered pillows, and breathes smoke from a long, delicate pipe held in his right hand. In his left is a fan with the image of a gust of wind flowing across it. A single flap sends smoke into the sky, where it mingles with the the clouds. In contrast to the warm amber and white hues of Venedig, all about the man is cool aqua: his hair, his necklace, his earrings, and his eyes most of all. The man's piercing green eyes are hidden among the countless jewels and baubles that hang from the side of his pavilion, forming a glittering curtain that hides his features and allows him an unrestricted view of the exhibition platforms. Those baubles are his business, for he is a merchant that trades in accessories, and all that glitters is gold.

    At least, that's his cover story. Though he visits this event as Hwan, well-established eccentric merchant of Venedig, in truth he is Lin Hyou Sei, an undercover agent with his own goals.

    Goals that are soon to step up onto the stage.

    'Hwan' peers through the curtains as a certain redhead is brought out. He has bid in the past, making sure to offer sums in the high thousands or low millions on other slaves, all of them young and male, in order to establish himself, but each time he has made sure to be outbid so that he does not have to actually purchase anyone. Yes, the merchant Hwan has a particular taste. He is known as an eccentric in Venedig, a reputation he has carefully cultivated and warped for just this occasion. He sells exotic gems and baubles from the East, and with that money buys all that is beautiful. Flowers, fabrics, and even his fellow man, all are fair game so long as his eye considers them aesthetically pleasing. Rumours have even spread that, as of late, his tastes have narrowed in towards young men, and that he has sold much of his stock in preparation for the purchase of a crown jewel for his collection.

    That is why, even as Lin Hyou Sei beholds the naked form of someone he considers a friend - no, family - and feels a deep pang of pain in his heart for the suffering the boy has surely endured, he allows not one iota of real emotion to slip out. He instead carefully contorts his expression into one of captivation, of a man who has seen exactly what he is looking for: beauty.

    The bidding starts. Rote Kaufman is brought onto stage. Hands rise. Nobles and merchants alike name prices, raise their hands. The fake merchant has a sizeable sum in his wallet, but he only withdraws a third of it, for an initial bid. Too much too soon will be his downfall. If someone counter bids, then he can raise to match them.

    He waits a few moments, until the bids have reached a suitable point, and then...

    A pipe parts the curtain. From within a smooth, sultry voice speaks clearly over the din.

    "Ten million," says Lin, licking his lips. "For the beautiful one."

    Wise Up!
    Social Chameleon: Through analysis, prior study, quick thinking, and finely-honed acting skills, Lin can fit in anywhere, adopting new identities and mannerisms. He has been a merchant, a soldier, a slave, a cleaner, and a holy man, whatever is necessary. His abilities are top-notch and it's near impossible to catch him in a lie - unless your name is ???, in which case there's no way to avert suspicion. That girl must have a sixth sense or something...
    Puppeteer: Years in Venedig have given Lin many ins with people from all walks of life. He has contacts all over the city, many of whom owe him favors and are willing to provide services, information, or even a place to stay. By leveraging those connections he is able to give credibility to his false identities - the most well-established of which is an Eastern merchant dealing in accessories.
    Last edited by Bloble; June 6th, 2022 at 10:41 PM.

  3. #3
    The Shoppe

    Hair was its own language to Katrin Baumann. You could train your lips not to quiver, your eyes not to wonder about, your nose not to snuffle inappropriately, but what lay at the top did not lie so easily. And the powerful were always narcissistic about it, even if they mimicked indifference, for authority was its own license.

    A tuft of Inquisitor Malamocco’s sacerdotal hair--freed from the prison of his tall-crowned, narrow-brimmed hat--outweighed Katrin’s outlet in importance by a nigh infinite factor. Daylight strode into that crater of a barbershop on the left side of an alleyway, one of Venedig’s many arteries. The soundscape was one of hawkers and the trill of a hired minstrel. She paid him weekly for that distracting noise.

    It was important to cover her intimate discussions with a client. In truth, Katrin was honored by Malamocco’s declaration, his insistence even, to leave the important decisions to her. Art was rarely free of their commissioners: they had a voice in addition to the artist given the thalers exchanged for it. Left to her unbridled imagination, a different inquisitor came out in her mind after walking around him twice.

    “Father, you made the right choice,” she said, opening her instrument case. Out came a cavalcade of ivory and metal, clean and sharp, from the top shelf. They were the best she had. She did not need to whet them. “No one will ever mess with you after this.”

    Malamocco would have short hair on account of his functional lifestyle. Indeed, his brown hat buried it under a hideous shade most of the time. Still, once it came out, the impression was of an erudite man. A priest needed to know the scriptures just well enough to answer his congregation; an inquisitor, however, was required to absolutely command it. The story told by the black mane, snipped like how a mason would immortalize an emperor, would clench the sinner’s heart for they knew he knew where they erred. In the name of Existence, when the light illuminated him and his well-cut beard as he looked down, you would see the fury within.

    Katrin talked continuously as her hand drifted up and down Malamocco’s face. She dug into his day, his practice, his life. This was their time together and she dared to know who this avenging angel was. Even a short answer or two let her reel in an insight. Of course, by the end, she reached the second reason for him entering The Shoppe, a contract to assassinate someone.

    Her right middle finger wore a ring with two blades in opposite directions--one for the hair and one for the body in equal length. Such was her sigil of the Guild.

    The name Rote Kaufmann stretched out in the catalog of her memory and found three adjectives: rich, pretty, stupid. A perfect rebel for the Empire–and they were selling him off. Mass punishment for the murder of the crown prince. Whatever the reason, flesh like that watered many a perverse tongue and loosed purse. Pulling off her tools and reading the list with a bit of trouble, she asked, “Who would outbid the Church?”

  4. #4
    City Plaza

    "The men are useless for nothing other than plain labor." He comments to Zhu Zen, uncaring for her supposed superior officer status. He cared enough about her coin to follow orders in combat; he wasn't paid enough to hold his tongue. "Look at those noble fops." he sneers. "Twenty million? I'd give those two scarcely more than a thousand coin. I doubt they even know how to properly hold a sword." His gaze leers for a bit too long upon the women marched across the stage, but he moves on: happy to continue his berating of the nobility (hopefully) away from their prying ears. "I expect those decadent fools think to sodomize those wretched fellows." He makes a face at that. "Our ancestors would be disgusted by the wastrels th' call themselves aristocrats."

    It seems he has more than a few strong opinions about the nobility and this slave auction, more than likely fueled by his his impotent irritation at not being able to afford that lovely red-haired woman off to the side. Really though, 10 million? Even a swanky courtesan charged less for a week of nights! "What say you, Zhu? Had you the coin would ye waste it all upon one of those dandies?"

  5. #5
    No glasses, huh? Mooncake's Avatar
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    Yan Shu Zen
    City Plaza



    Crunch.

    She kicked the ground in pure boredom. Every day was a fucking nightmare, which had nothing to do with the city's rot; that was all how she liked it. It was the doing things, being forced to be in charge, putting up with the mercenaries who all wanted to fuck her so bad it made them look stupid - stupid stupid stupid and she had to stand here to boot.

    If Lin was here... her fingers twitched once, twice, picturing straddling him and strangling the life out of his skinny little neck until his eyes started to bulge and foam bubbled out of his mouth, and her anger melted away.

    Quote Originally Posted by Leon/Jack
    ?????
    She was so distracted by the inner workings of her happy place (the Knights under her command had given her a wide berth the moment she began to smile) that she almost missed the mercenary - what was his name, they all had names - talking to her.

    Quote Originally Posted by Leon/Jack
    "I expect those decadent fools think to sodomize those wretched fellows. Our ancestors would be disgusted by the wastrels th' call themselves aristocrats. What say you, Zhu? Had you the coin would ye waste it all upon one of those dandies?"
    Don't talk to me don't look at me you filthy fucking pig I'll rip out your eyes and ears and spine-

    "No."

    Quote Originally Posted by ???
    "Ten million... for the beautiful one."
    Her good eye twitched.

    "You know what? Let's get a little closer."

    Without waiting for a response, she barked an order to the Knights to tighten the circle a little, pulling themselves just a little closer to the auction. Her eye skimmed over Rote, up on the block, but no love lingered there for him. The girl that might have once brought him flower crowns and frogs on the estate gardens was no more; she had been slowly and surely ground away until all that remained was a woman more beast than maiden.

    As far as she knew, she had no parents, no love, no cousins, no aunts, no uncles... only one brother, now, one that she had barely even seen.

    Lin...

    He'd been staying at her apartment. She knew it because it had smelled like him everywhere (she'd tracked down the scent, on all fours through the apartment), which made the tips of her fingers flutter in some unnamed emotion. She hadn't caught him yet, but she would, she would, and then...

    She wasn't quite sure. Maybe she'd just shout at him for being a pretentious asshole, and force him to do the dishes, but that didn't have the kick that she wanted. She'd have the day to think on it, and mediate on it, and contemplate over it.

    Her eye flicked to the mercenary by her side, switching back.

    "If anyone's aiming to free or steal them, they'll strike soon."
    [12:37] <I3uster> if playing overwatch would save my mother from the deathbed
    [12:37] <I3uster> id probably flip a coin
    [12:38] <I3uster> to see if i play or not

    [18:23] <frantic> spinach is like a caffeine zombie

    [18:23] <frantic> in AX he would like
    [18:23] <frantic> drink 8 shots of espresso
    [18:23] <frantic> then he'd turn to me an hour later
    [18:23] <frantic> 'frantic', he'd say, his eyes wild and his lips smug
    [18:23] <frantic> 'i need coffee'

  6. #6
    Katrin Baumann

    “The Church isn’t openly bidding lest suspicion is drawn to it,” Inquisitor Malamocco said to the Razor’s Guild member. “Lin Hyou Sei, or rather, ‘Hwan the Jewel Merchant’, thus serves as our proxy in this matter… Provided he brings Rote to the Black Cathedral for his own safety.”

    He paused and continued, “But due to the fact that he is a proxy, others will dare buy Rote, possibly for carnal purposes. This must be prevented and he is to be brought to Inquisitorial custody. So make sure that no one buys ‘The Fairest Youth in all the land’ but Lin, aka ‘Hwan’. As for if Lin breaks the informal bargain we made, well, we’ve made arrangements for the Razors to remove their ‘protection’ from him; thus allowing a hit on him to be called without angering the Razor’s Guild.”

    The implications were clear; the Inquisition wanted Rote in their custody and would hire her to murder anyone who got in the way of that.

    Lin, Yan, and Leon/Jack

    “Fifteen million Thalers for the fairest youth in all the land!” said a morbidly obese male whose perfumed silk clothes and gaudy jewelry gave off an air of debauchery and decadence - Clearly someone not to allow Rote to be sold to. Thankfully, there were rumors of a plan to make sure the young man only suffered a ‘sham enslavement’, just as there were other, less forgivable plans, to make sure the other nobles did not truly get their ‘just punishment’.

    There were many buyers, and it wasn’t certain which ones were part of the ‘less forgivable plans’. But it was clear that a few of the purchasers were staging ‘coordinated’ bids in order to buy several of the higher-placed noble slaves. Nevertheless, the various mercenaries who were tasked with supplementing the Marine Knights had a ten percent discount on any Slaves they might want to buy, and that might mean a lot.

    The Marine Knights themselves had twenty percent off.

    Nevertheless, it seemed as though there was going to be no attempt to free the slaves by force, whether out of diehard loyalism or not; the potential enemy seemed to be attempting ‘sham enslavement’ instead. Would Yan arrest them, particularly as one of the people trying to buy Rote, the ‘Tian Noble’ in silks and satins, would give off a very familiar smell?

    Fair warning, though; that just because it seemed that force was not the first resort didn’t mean that it wasn’t going to be used, especially if there was a crackdown on sham enslavements…

  7. #7
    The Shoppe
    Then

    “Can’t be open about the purchase? I see. Quite the jam.”

    The larger machinations of the Church and nobility didn’t concern Katrin. They were inescapable facts of life, because in a city as large as Venedig, there was always a plot brewing. Worrying whether one was a pawn or not was as useless as thinking how to breathe. There was a saying her brother abused often: if you needed to cut your own hair, you knew what you were. Down in the thick of things, too lowly for the cabals of more high-flying daredevils.

    “As for Herr Sei, I know of him, but I haven’t worked with the lad. Despite the queer beliefs of his people, snake god and all, chances are he won’t betray your cause,” Katrin said, dipping her razors in a pail of water next to the instrument case. “The Guild took him in. Should he betray that trust, however, he won’t live to repeat it.”

    Venedig was cosmopolitan with a capital c. Nearly any race worth giving a damn had a community or two there. Every shade from moonlight white to umber black walked the streets. Of course, prejudice clung deep in the City’s sediment, too. Living with a Tian was one thing, fully accepting them as kin and kith was another.

    The blades were being cleaned as Malamocco continued to apprise Katrin. Nothing he divulged could be thought of as a revelation. Even so, the murkier details of the undertaking became a bit clearer. Her features, reflecting off the water’s surface, formed the impression of a young, sturdy woman just about to accept the assignment.

    Letting her tools dry off, she fished out a ledger and cracked it open. From what the Inquisitor saw, the binding on it was fresh and Katrin’s chicken-scratch scrawls filled a few pages. She verbally recited a string of numbers, counting them on her hands, before reaching out to grab a quill and writing them in.

    The ledger’s outlook should have turned her salmon-colored hair white with shock. There were plenty of zeroes behind a minus sign. The telltale mark of the Bank of Venedig took up half a page. A standard response would have been to squeeze Malamocco for as much as possible to correct the imbalance.

    Katrin let off a soft smile. “Father, the Church has without fail been kind to my family. I won’t charge you a coin more than the standard rate. Rest easy knowing that I’ll get the Hochwohlgeboren across safely.”

    City Plaza
    Now

    A forgettable face in the crowd, where eyes slacken for want of entertainment. It was the situation Katrin endeavored to create. She mixed well with the assembly of common folk. Her clothing, a worsted gown of amber hue, put her into the respectable class of workers. The best piece of her limited wardrobe was given to her by the loving will of an aunt; parts of the dress were skillfully sliced off to fit her. It was a step above the russet wool that yokels and those of less esteemed professions–tanners, rope makers, fishermen, and the like–wore.

    The musician she hired accompanied her as an escort. As an unmarried girl, she couldn’t go to the event alone and retain a sense of dignity. Slave markets were hedonistic dens. Outside of flesh, liberal amounts of ale set up a festive atmosphere for pickpockets. There had to be someone there to keep her honest–at least, that’s how her cover went. And that someone was a fair-faced man of middling height, a decade older than Katrin.

    “Dieter, I want a dried fig,” she said, pointing at the corresponding vendor. The City was filled with them on a normal day, selling everything from wine to chickpeas. Competition was so fierce during fêtes that a paltry income brought home a feast.

    Her escort took out a rusty coin. “Got it, ma’am,” Dieter said. Katrin loved the fruit ever since her father came home with them. There was a sweet tooth somewhere in her mouth. But, outside of the taste she savored, there was another reason she sent him away.

    Katrin’s rosy eyes did a careful sweep of each point of interest. First was the wooden pavilion that housed the slick Hwan. He remained a faraway figure, the details blurred by distance. She didn’t dare to use magic for fear of alerting a vigilant guard.

    Did he know she was there? Surely, someone who specialized in disguises had an inkling of the Inquisition’s insurance. Beyond her boast to Malamocco, it was common sense to follow through as the anointed proxy of a powerful faction. Unless he conspired with a power equal to the Church.

    Then she locked upon the prize, Rote Kaufmann. Androgyny found a champion with his body. Only by being naked could she decide which side of nature he fell on. How did he capture the attention of the Church? The Inquisitor was tight-lipped there.

    Next was the sudden movement of the Marine Knights. They were closing the circle on the audition. It was not very subtle. What are they worried about? The most likely attempt to free the slaves would come after the auction. When they are led away, the lucky buyers are alone with their bodyguards.

    “Your food’s here.”

    Dieter’s words and the dried fig he waved in front of Katrin broke her contemplation. The information she gathered was a puzzle of many different variables. She figured putting it together later. Leaning forward, she bit off the top of the fruit.

    “Hey, hey!” Dieter complained.

    Katrin responded by chewing harder.

  8. #8
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    "Hwan"
    The Pavilion of Winds

    "Oho. Fifteen million, is it?"

    The circle of Marines draws tighter like a noose around the neck of everyone at the plaza, just as another merchant offers a higher bid.

    The man sitting in the pavilion is not unaware of the security measures at this event. The soldiers and men at arms are on guard for any sham purchases, even more than they are wary of acts of violence or attempted rescues. The latter will merely draw out the last, desperate allies of the old nobility from hiding. The former will mean captives have slipped out right under the Emperor's nose. This plaza is a battleground of intrigue that will act as either the denouement to a failed rebellion, or the prologue to a new resistance.

    The knights must have found something to be suspicious of in this particular sale. What to do, then, with the suspicion pointed at him like a blade? Lin knows he cannot approach the situation with violence in front of so many eyes for risk of Hwan's legitimacy crumbling, but neither is his thirty million deep enough to reliably outbid everyone else who may be interested. If it is left as a numbers game alone, the possibility of losing is too high to stomach. Thus, a bit of social engineering will be required to secure Rote, his friend, from danger.

    "Fifteen. From a man like you."

    Lin's voice, lilting and mocking, slithers from within the pavilion towards the merchant who had outbid him.

    "Strange."

    The word hangs in the air, a synonym for 'suspicious'. It lays heavily upon the plaza, and upon Lin's opponent in this auction. They are all aware of the crackdown on sham enslavement today. Anything suspicious will be investigated. So why would a mere merchant seek this particular young man? Just for carnal pleasure? Will the buyer attest to that, put his life on that? Is the one who bids for Rote prepared to explain himself before the approaching Marine Knights, who are on the look out for odd activity? The image generated by the word 'strange' is like a bucket of cold water; even if one has the fortitude to endure it, their loins will undoubtedly be chilled.

    No one sane should be willing to risk arrest just for a nice bed warmer, after all. No one except an ally... or a madman like Hwan, whose reputation as a fanatic collector of attractive items precedes him. A reputation he has carefully seeded over the years, which is now bearing fruit. Yes, there is nothing suspicious at all about this eccentric merchant paying an extravagant price for beauty alone.

    At least, unless there is a dog out there whose suspicions even his perfect acting could never evade.

    "Thirty million. He will be the crown jewel to the Heavenly Breeze Collection."

  9. #9
    At Shu's blatant and curt refusal to his question, Jack barks out a laugh. "Dunno Zhu, some of the broads are cute enough! Bah, 20% off they say? When the wagers are in the millions, how do they expect you lot to afford that?" From his knowing smirk and tone of voice, it's clear to Shu that he already has the answer to the question. It was a political display and nothing more: no marine was intended to win a single slave.

    Being ordered to close ranks on the plaza, Jack merely shrugs; he's more than used to crowd control from his time sellswording across the good Karl's realm. "Whattaya think, Zhu? Your countryman up in th' rafters seems to think old fatty there is suspicious. Think we could fleece him for a few hundred coin, or too dangerous?" A blatant disregard for decorum from one expected to act as such. Jack is looking for an excuse to heckle these depraved fops and is willing to jump at anything to make a little coin in the process.

    Still... "Thirty million? Isn't that a bit steep for one catamite? Why're th' nobility so keen on wasting their coin on this shit? Is it the centuries of inbreeding or the complete lack of good sense?" Jack complains to his alleged superior, Shu. "I could buy myself a house with that sort of coin. And load it with a harem of common servant girls too!" He spits onto the cobblestone of the plaza. "What a waste."

  10. #10
    No glasses, huh? Mooncake's Avatar
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    Yan Shu Zen
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack
    "Whattaya think, Zhu? Your countryman up in th' rafters seems to think old fatty there is suspicious. Think we could fleece him for a few hundred coin, or too dangerous?"
    "I'd rather rip off his dick and throw it the dogs."

    She does look, all the same, and sees what he means. There's something infinitesimally strange happening - she can feel it in the air, the slightest drop in temperature that heralds a coming storm. The Marine Knights are loyal to her, and stand to attention at a twitch of her fingers.

    The mercenaries can go fuck themselves. Even if a dragon burst into the courtyard and burned the lot to a crisp, the most she'd be able to muster would be the raise of an eyebrow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack
    "Thirty million? Isn't that a bit steep for one catamite? Why're th' nobility so keen on wasting their coin on this shit? Is it the centuries of inbreeding or the complete lack of good sense?"
    "Yes."

    The response is instantaneous.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack
    "I could buy myself a house with that sort of coin. And load it with a harem of common servant girls too! What a waste."
    "If you want that much coin, meet him in a dark alley and take it from his corpse."

    She looks around, single eye squinting in the sun.

    She sees the man bidding thirty million on a boy who might once have been her brother before she met a whale in the depths of the sea and ripped her own heart out.

    She freezes.

    Yan's hand goes to her sword, single eye burning a hole into the man, that smarmy, thing, arrogant, son of a bitch across the plaza. Dress it in silks, coat it in scents - a worm is still a worm. The change that comes over her is unmistakable. Even the men in the knights - and there are always some - who want to fuck her so bad it makes them look stupid step away. Standing there, Yan looks, for a moment, like a burning beast.

    Lin.

    Through pure force of will Yan wraps herself under control. She imagines strings coming from the ground and wrapping around her limbs, holding herself in place. If Lin wants it, he'll get it, from sham enslavement to the head of the Emperor, but if anyone else threatens the sanctity of what Lin wants Yan will come down on them like the wrath of God.

    That's just how it is.
    [12:37] <I3uster> if playing overwatch would save my mother from the deathbed
    [12:37] <I3uster> id probably flip a coin
    [12:38] <I3uster> to see if i play or not

    [18:23] <frantic> spinach is like a caffeine zombie

    [18:23] <frantic> in AX he would like
    [18:23] <frantic> drink 8 shots of espresso
    [18:23] <frantic> then he'd turn to me an hour later
    [18:23] <frantic> 'frantic', he'd say, his eyes wild and his lips smug
    [18:23] <frantic> 'i need coffee'

  11. #11
    The Recent Past

    Inquisitor Malamocco didn’t look surprised at the amount of debt Katrin was in, and merely said, “Thank you for your thoughtfulness; the Church appreciates it.”

    The Present

    The obese man gives way, shouting, “I withdraw the bid! I withdraw the bid!”

    Lin… Got what he wanted, and Rote, relief evident on his face, is led to where the ‘merchant’ posed as ‘Hwan’; he had evidently been informed of the sham enslavement beforehand, although no one knew how or why. Noticing the others’ eyes on his nude body, Rote hides his relief and replaces it with a faux-submissive expression, saying as he was led to ‘Hwan’, “I suppose I will take pride of place in your estate, right?”

    It was time to take him to the Black Cathedral as per the agreement; refusal on Lin’s part would lead to the Church of Existence turning from friend to enemy.

    As for Yan… She and Leon would notice the arrival of a messenger from the City Government of Venedig, a fresh-faced young man of about eighteen years of age who said, “Someone has used the auction as a distraction to steal a Relic from the Bank of Venedig; it’s the Pharos, an orb which prophecy has said can be used to signal the return of the Old Gods!”

    Rote perked up his ears at hearing the impertinent messenger speak, then whispers to ‘Hwan’, “You’d better move quickly…”

  12. #12
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    "Hwan"
    The Pavilion of Winds

    "Of course. You shall be displayed for all to see." Sticking up his nose at the newly-purchased slave, Lin's performance as Hwan continues. He sweeps open the pavilion's curtains and out an arm emerges, pale fingers closing around Rote's more tanned wrist. "Now drink before we leave. I'll not have the sun wrinkle your fair skin, slave; my possessions shall not lose a single cent of value!"

    Rote is pulled sharply into the pavilion...

    And into a tight hug.

    "I am so sorry."

    Hidden from all by the thick curtains, momentarily out of sight and sound, Lin's performance crumbles as he embraces the other man, his brother if not by blood then by spirit. Their roles are reversed now: the crimson-haired slave stands tall while his wealthy owner clings to him like a drowning sailor to a life boat, squeezing what might as well be a ghost.

    "You've endured so much, Rote. I curse myself every day for not being able to help you sooner. For not being there to offer my life to your cause on that wretched day."

    It is a complete reversal of his previous act. Here, at least for a moment, they are backstage and beyond sight. They will have to move on soon, but for now...

    Lin draws back, tears welling up in his eyes.

    "If you curse me as well, I understand. Even so, whatever I can do for you, I shall. I could not save Mother and Father but I will see you safe, Rote, even if it kills me. If you tell me in this moment to bear you not to the Black Cathedral, but to the other side of the world, I will get you there. If you want the Emperor himself dead for his crimes against us, I'll kill him or die trying. Just say the word. To the world you may be a slave but with me you are forever free."

    He wipes his damp eyes, reapplying makeup to appear composed once more. Even though his heart is anything but.

    "So move quickly we shall. I've prepared outfits for you; pick one out. There is food and water and weapons as well. Where do you wish to go? Will it be the Church? I had no time to investigate them before they made contact. Are they your allies, or merely using you for their own gain?"
    Last edited by Bloble; July 11th, 2022 at 01:50 AM.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Bloble View Post
    "Hwan"
    The Pavilion of Winds
    The Present

    Rote pats Lin on the head, saying, “There, there…”, before saying, “The Church and Inquisition are allies, believe it or not, and I have a meeting scheduled in the Black Cathedral with their representatives. As for the Emperor… He’s a victim of mind control or something close to it - He’s normally strong-willed but the death of his eldest son has broken him enough for someone to whisper the Iron Decree into his ears.”

    He sighed and said, “That’s all I know.” As he moved to dress in the outfit Lin had for him, Rote continued, “What that messenger said about the Pharos is concerning. I hope Yan follows up on that, along with that mercenary with her. Because that myth is true - The Pharos can be used to make contact with the Old Gods and bring them down on civilization…”

  14. #14
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    Lin
    The Pavilion of Winds

    "A victim of mind control..."

    The gears start turning in Lin's mind as he composes himself. This would change everything, then. The Iron Decree, was it? Then, there must have indeed been foul play, as suspected. He'll have to investigate further-.

    "Wait. Yan? She's here? Oh fuck we need to go."

    Everything else goes unheard as Lin's face pales even through the makeup. If there is one thing he knows, it's that his little sister will never forgive him. For precisely what, he isn't sure. Perhaps for crashing at her place without permission? Not saying hello after years of separation? Teasing her one too many times during their childhood? Either way, putting them together will bring only chaos.

    "We'll take my carriage to the Black Cathedral; it's more private and easier to defend. I have to keep up appearances in public, but don't worry; Hwan is eccentric, not cruel. Stay close to me and stay alert, Rote. I couldn't bear to lose you again."

    Lin sweeps open the curtain once more, carrying himself like a proud merchant once more, striding out of the pavilion with fan in hand and wafting away the day's heat. He scans the crowds, on the lookout now for assassins and Marine Knights both. And, especially, for a certain fiery woman whose attitude could emasculate the devil himself.

  15. #15
    City Plaza

    Katrin’s aesthetic sensibilities did not extend outside her parochial occupation. If you were to tell her to paint a landscape with prose, a plethora of it would have been clichés and an unhealthy attention to baleful, damp scenes. Case in point: the sun was hot, but the machinations at play were hotter.

    Dieter picked up on the escalation quickly. He said, “Shall I get more?”

    Their partnership was made from moments like this. More than patron and servant, they were aware of one another’s foibles. In nature, as the adroit men of science had called it, this was mutualism manifest: see the slight flush on her cheeks and realize it was time to slip away.

    “Yoss,” she said, the fig distorting her words. When Dieter turned around, he could only catch her whisper for the rest of the day: “Thank you.”

    Hwan had secured the merchandise, but he pulled the boy-slave into the pavilion's serried curtains. There was also the stomping anger of the she-wolf, directed, worryingly, toward Katrin’s wards. The Marine Knight had a bone to pick, scattering even allies with the malice inside. The nervy messenger’s poison likely darkened Yan's mood.

    “Please tell me I don’t have to fight that barbarian.”

    She moved into the embrace of an alleyway as Hwan emerged with Rote in tow. The two of them would leave by carriage. And she would follow them until the ends of the earth should that be required. Her method was suitably baleful and damp for the hackneyed barber.

    The rooftops of Venedig.

  16. #16
    The Present

    Rote, now dressed, walked to Hwan’s carriage, and a fairly uneventful ride ensued, a ride which led to the Inquisitorial Headquarters known as the Black Cathedral, where the Church of Existence worked to prevent the return of the Old Gods and their ilk.

    The Black Cathedral



    A tall building made of black stone, with many spires capped with white rock, the Black Cathedral was one of Venedig’s many architectural wonders despite its fearsome reputation, with a few tourists from the larger Empire even requesting permission to draw pictures and sketches of it.

    Sometimes they were even permitted to.

    Either way, the two would be let inside the Black Cathedral by Inquisitor Malamocco himself, who seemed to have gotten a nice haircut while waiting for them. The gruff Inquisitor schooled himself to smoothness before saying, “Kaufmann, Lin; I’m glad you kept your promise.”

    He then led them further inside the church, where several underground chambers containing training rooms, an arsenal, and a library waited, along with a small, austere, dining room where rabbit stew and Tian tea were served, along with a glass of coffee for the Inquisitor himself. It was in this dining room that Inquisitor Malamocco would ask, “So, I trust you all wish to know about the Conspiracy?”

  17. #17
    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    Lin Hyou Sei
    The Carriage


    The green-haired man's guise slowly peels away as they approach their destination. Mannerisms fall apart and decay, his body language shifts, and even the perverse glint in his eyes fades away. Hwan is carefully folded up and set aside like a set of clothes.

    He and his long-lost friend ride in silence. Lin does not attempt to make conversation, as much as he might want to. Instead he peers through the curtains, eyes jumping between rooftops, doorways, windows, and grates. They are not out of the woods yet. All precautions must be taken, all loose ends carefully tucked into place. He dismisses his carriage driver early into the trip, and then dons a dark cloak and grabs the reins himself. Lin immediately turns the carriage around, taking a winding path through the city that will shake off any would-be pursuers, and perhaps unsettle whoever expected them to arrive at the Black Cathedral promptly.

    Yan, he thinks. Are you well? Are you angry? If you are angry, you must be well.


    Lin Hyou Sei
    The Black Cathedral


    When the carriage is finally parked nearby the Black Cathedral, Lin stops a moment to stare at the imposing spires.

    "I'll be on your side no matter what, Rote," he finally says, before pushing open the doors and leading them into the Church's maw.

    The man that steps into the cathedral is completely different from the one that stepped out of the pavilion earlier that day. His eyes are sharp and noble, his mouth is a wavy line, and his body language is loose and relaxed. The pair silently march past the inner architecture, ignoring the bold construction of the chambers and the art lining every surface. Their journey takes them underground, to a small dining room where a gruff man entirely unsuited to the gaudy cathedral awaits them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malamocco
    “Kaufmann, Lin; I’m glad you kept your promise.”
    "I am similarly glad that the church's generosity enabled it to be kept."

    Lin sits at the table between the other two men and silently pours tea for both Rote and himself, effortlessly following Tian tradition. If he is at all nervous he does not show it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malamocco
    “So, I trust you all wish to know about the Conspiracy?”
    No wonder the man prefers coffee; he's clearly not the type to beat around the bush. Lin reaches for his own cup and allows himself to smell the wafting steam without yet taking a drink. He breathes out and sets it down, softly replying:

    "I would never wish to not know something, Inquisitor, unless given good reason."

  18. #18
    The Black Cathedral

    Her amber gown lay carefully folded alongside the chimney of a lavish house. It took a fair amount of skill to strip down atop its slanted roof. Luckily, Katrin had practiced gripping the slate with her toes and the fickle public had looked everywhere but up. She would come back later for it.

    In the inner pocket of her gown was a black garb. It was the unofficial symbol of Baumanns. As a family, they had the right to a sigil. The Guild trusted them enough for the privilege. Baldric said he picked the uniform because that was what their customers imagined when they thought of an assassin.

    The loose garment was easier to wear than the gown with its many laces: she slid into the inky fabric like a hand in glove. By the time she was done, the carriage clattered into the street. Hwan had taken the seat of the driver.

    “Ich wickle den Schatten als meinen Schal,” Katrin chanted, thrusting her hand into the shade cast by the chimney. “Er soll mir folgen wie ein Sklave!” She ripped out a blob and wore it as if it were a cape. Under the cover of shadows, she was indistinguishable to the natural eye.

    She jumped from rooftop to rooftop following the carriage. Hwan, of course, refused to make it easy. He had started to play cute tricks to ward her off. The winding path he took was an annoyance. Once or twice, she thought the Tian wouldn’t reach the Black Cathedral. She touched the cold iron daggers strapped to her belt.

    “Come on, do the right thing,” Katrin said, keeping a firm pace with her target. Horses might move faster than a human, but Venedig’s roads were filled with obstacles. The loss of maneuverability let her see it stop at the Inquisitorial Headquarters. Wordlessly, having completed her mission, the barber fell to the walkway in front of the Black Cathedral and followed the group inside. There was no point talking unless addressed first.

    Wise Up!
    Ausblenden (Underworld): Weaves together a cloak of shadow for Katrin to wear. It is an effective tool to conceal herself in darkness.

  19. #19
    The Present

    The Inquisitor nodded, gave the supposedly invisible Katrin a light acknowledgment, then said, “All right, here are the details of the Conspiracy. There is an organization known as the Cult of the Keeper, led by two Mages of immense power; a Lich named Heinrich Weissman and a Necromancer and Mind Mage - Although her public face is that of a High Mage and Elementalist who uses World and Change Magic to control the Elements - named Katherine Sophia Gotha. The goal of these two very strong Magi is to return the Old Gods to the world and destroy civilization so that people will worship said Old Gods once more; they may even be given the Ghral once it is summoned out of the Earth - Which will cause another disaster - to drink from.”

    He sighed, “Their plan was simple: Distract the Inquisition by drawing on the latent tensions between the Nobles and the Crown to start a civil war, which if won by the Nobles, would lead to the slow splintering of civilization in the entire Western Continent into anarchy. If the Emperor won, however, Katherine, posing as a ‘Loyalist’, would use mind control to engineer the death of the Emperor’s only child and heir, Prince Otto, thus putting the Emperor in a state of mind to seek comfort in her arms - He is a widower - and be mind-controlled by her. She can then get him to pass the Iron Decree, which would discredit the Imperial Regime and allow the Cult to move to Venedig to ‘play’ with the various noble bloodlines now available to them for experimentation.”

    Inquisitor Malamocco paused for effect, then continued, “It gets even worse. Rote was born because his father made an agreement with Growthseed, an Old Goddess, that if he lost the Nobles’ Rebellion - Which was just a hypothetical at this time - that Rote would be bought by the Cult and forcibly possessed by Growthseed, who, by the way, can change genders at will so having a male body is no problem for her, well, them. There is also a female noble of a suitable bloodline who can be used to give birth to Mansbane, the Dead God whom the Xul killed when they were created. She is probably in the hands of the Cult now.”

    He then faced the three and spoke, “So, do you know who needs to be fought now?”

  20. #20
    "Jack"
    City Plaza

    "Not a bad idea at all." A grin spreads on Jack's face. "I'll catch ya later, Maddog." he addresses Shu. "I've got a date with a bag o' coin; come with if you wanna get rich too." Breaking formation, Jack sets to work stalking the obese, rich sodomite. He doesn't particularly hate the aristocracy, much to the contrary: Jack would like nothing more than to BE the aristocracy. This is about money: Jack's own greed. Nothing more and nothing less.

    Whether or not Shu comes with is up to her: it's the easterner's own loss if she don't want hard coin.

    'Now, with the chaos in the plaza, what're you gonna do, fatass?' Jack muses to himself, making no effort to disguise or hide himself: the crowd is doing that work for him. Unlike the knights, he's just a normal man. Plain-looking features in plain-looking armor: all the better for blending in.

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