[15:48] <Pluck> ---
[15:51] <Pluck> Pluck loiters near a tobacco shop, not too far from the spice association. A letter has already been dispatched to Isami by one of her men, requesting that she meets Pluck there shortly after noon. Reckoning time is not easy in Lathe, but they manage, somehow; the captain has only been waiting half an hour, so far, giving her plenty of time to sample local mixes.
03[15:52] * Crane is now known as Isami
[15:57] <Isami> Striding boldly through the street, confident that the false face she wears will keep attention away from the real her, Isami walks up to Pluck. "Greetings, my lady. Are we ready?"
[16:] <Pluck> Pluck snorts with laughter. "Surely am. But, 'My Lady'?" She reaches out to extinguish her pipe, and shoves it down her belt. "Captain will do. I'm not so high-class to be called a lady, yet."
[16:05] <Isami> "Captain it is, then." Isami walks into the spice traders' headquarters.
[16:07] <Pluck> "My last contract made me twenty-five talents for two days of hard work, with half the men I have now," murmurs Pluck, falling in stride beside Isami. "This job sounds easier, but longer, and I have more men to feed. Let's not sell ourselves cheaply. As promised, you'll get a percentage of the result."
[16:09] <@Carreau> The Spice Traders' Association headquarters are not quite as lavish as expected, several pedestals empty where once pieces of art were displayed, discolored rings on the floor in the corners where porcelain vases once stood. A desk at the front is occupied by a rather weary looking older woman stacking scroll cases, an ash tray still smouldering from where he emptied her pipe. She's dressed in a
[16:10] <@Carreau> simple robe, a green and yellow ribbon tied around her neck. Lifting her gaze, shadows under her eyes, she then lets out a sigh. "Welcome to the Spice Traders' Association. Did you have an appointment?" Her voice creaks like old leather, pulling out a book with wood covers and flipping it over.
[16:12] <Isami> "I'll do what I can," Isami whispers back, clearly put off by the lack of grandeur in the building. Dealing with people who are down on their luck is rarely profitable. "Captain Pluck and I are here to see a Mr Makaki."
[16:20] <@Carreau> The woman runs a finger down the list before finding the name on the list, pushing herself up with some trouble from her chair and curving around the corner to a small hallway, knocking on a door and peeking in. "That captain is here to see you." She listens to a muffled response, before moving back, gesturing for the two to enter. Makaki's office still retains some of its decorations, a rare oil
[16:21] <@Carreau> painting of a large wooden junker flying Goldmoon flags covering the back of the room. The middle-aged man that meets them is tanned, his head shaved except for a long black topknot sprouting from the back of his head. Thin lips are framed by a square of well-groomed moustache and short beard. Dressed in a loose toga of green with a yellow scimitar-bearing sash around his waist, the man bows.
[16:21] <@Carreau> "Welcome, I am Trademaster Makaki, please." He motions for the two to sit by his desk as he circles around it, seating himself. Opening a fat bottle of rye liquor, he picks up three ceramic cups and pours them full, moving two of them over to the women's side of the table with slightly shaking hands. "I got word you might be able to help us. Do you have any, uh, credentials?" He quirks a brow.
[16:25] <Pluck> Pluck grasps his hand firmly with her own calloused palm. "I own all the warships in the harbour, and recently crushed two incursions from Lintha raiding groups, paid for in Guild coin. The men you see keeping the peace in the Haunches are my men," she replies. "If you want testimonials from the families of Jade Soma or the legions, they can be arranged as well, but if that is not enough then I can only wish you luck in finding another group in Lathe capable of assisting you."
[16:26] <Isami> Isami sits and sips politely from the offered cup.
[16:31] <@Carreau> The man writes down a few notes as Pluck speaks, probably to check the details later, before leaning back further in his chair. "Impressive. Are you familiar, by chance, with the Teal Junk Opera Company?" His expression sours a little, looking out of the window.
[16:33] <Pluck> Pluck shakes her head, seating herself and reaching to sip from some tea. The nitty-gritty of negotiation will be Isami's field; her job here is indeed to sound impressive, comment on the military goals and requirements involved, and ultimately give a yay or nay to the deal at the end.
[16:38] <Pluck> *some liquor
[16:38] <@Carreau> "A bunch of thieving vagabonds pretending to be travelling performers. Their acrobats are cat burglars, jongleurs assassins, their singers rabble-rousing demagogues. Our beloved Sultana purged our fair country from corruption a decade ago and in doing so made many enemies among those who had been living large of the bounty of our land. The Teal Junk Opera Company harbors many of these political
[16:39] <@Carreau> enemies of Goldenseal, we're sure of it. Just so happens, they also tend to perform around the very same archipelago where our ships get robbed. I doubt it is a coincidence."
[16:42] <Isami> "Not your ordinary rabble of native islanders looking for sacrifices to their gods, then." Isami's tone makes it clear that this may increase the price of Pluck's services.
[16:45] <@Carreau> "Every time they have come with canoes, sharkfang necklaces and body paint, but we know it must be the Teal Junk Opera Company behind these attacks. What would the natives even do with spices?" He sighs and wipes his brow, looking rather weary all the sudden. "If the next two shipments arriving from the Caul don't make it to Goldenseal, we have to withdraw from Lathe to avoid bankruptcy."
[16:47] <Isami> "Are you looking for a more capable escort for your shipments, or a permanent solution to the problem?"
[16:48] <@Carreau> "Depends on the solution you can provide. My priority is to get those two ships to Goldenmoon, but I am sure the Sultana would pay you handsomely if you were to remove the threat altogether."
[16:48] <Isami> Isami glances at Pluck, awaiting her opinion on the matter.
[16:51] <Pluck> "Cut off the head of the dragon, and the body crumbles. We can accomplish the destruction of your enemies if we can pin down the location of Teal Junk Opera Company. I take it that as their name indicates, they are known for sailing about in a single ship?"
[16:53] <@Carreau> Makaki nods at that, emptying his cup and refilling it with a sigh. "But I must warn you, they are very dangerous and extremely elusive. The Sultana's elite have been trying to pin them down for years."
[16:56] <Pluck> "They must be expert sailors to stay ahead of the game this long. But they must land, sometimes, to perform, to rabble-rouse, as it were," reasons Pluck. "What are their estimated numbers, discounting the islanders?"
[16:58] <@Carreau> "No more than a hundred, based on the intelligence we've managed to gather. There are rumors that they have managed to convince some of the local gods to support them, but naturally the Immaculate Order's inquiries into the region have been fruitless."
[16:59] <Pluck> "Do they possess any supernatural powers in their own right?"
[17:06] <@Carreau> "The rumors aren't all that reliable, but apparently the members of the Opera are capable of flight, running on water, defeating ten men with nothing but a scarf, able to shatter steel with their songs..." Makaki's shoulders slump.
[17:09] <Pluck> "Dreadful. But they remain elusive. No doubt they pick their battles for maximum shock." She shrugs. "A lot of troops go undefeated for sime time. Then they die." That sort of force will require the equivalent in turn, but before that she has to find a way to pin her opponent down. "Show me the region they're terrorizing, and tell me the schedule you're expecting your ships to follow. We can't triumph in an instant, but as long as we can lay the groundwork, we can prevail."
[17:13] <@Carreau> Makaki pulls out naval charts, shipping logs and his book of schedules, starting to draft out the details. The archipelago is a thousand nautical miles East of Lathe and the two ships are supposed to arrive within the week.
[17:19] <Isami> "Mmm. That'll be a number of good ships and men out at sea for, hmm, three weeks. Can we afford to mobilise that sort of force for so long, Captain Pluck?"
[17:26] <Pluck> "It does mean surrendering our local contracts, but if we recover the difference it won't be a problem. Our expenses will get blown out by the costs of gathering intelligence and expended munitions, however, not to mention the tithes. It's a unique mission, if the supernatural elements hold true. Normally the province of the Water Fleet. I envy the Navy's budget."
[17:30] <@Carreau> "The Sultanate is wealthy and getting rid of the dissidents will earn you its gratitude. The safety of the ships is all -my- organization can pay for."
[17:32] <Pluck> "Has the Sultanate posted a bounty?"
[17:34] <@Carreau> "There are individual bounties on the dissidents, but who actually is on board the Opera is not known."
[17:39] <Isami> "Very well. How much are you willing to pay to ensure the safety of your ships?"
[17:40] <@Carreau> Makaki offers a sum that is barely enough to cover the costs and pay the Whistlers. Based on the state of his office, it is probably at the very extent of what he can pay.
[17:44] <Isami> Isami frowns. Either the man is naive and has no idea of how much it costs to Pluck run her company, or he's deliberately holding back his true wealth in an attempt to con her into accepting a low price.
[17:47] <@Carreau> The man is willing to bet his very last funds to try and get these shipments through.
[17:51] <Isami> "Mmm. I'm afraid that isn't enough to justify this venture on its own. Perhaps collecting a few bounties could add to it, but we'll still be earning less than we would by staying here. How about adding in a percentage of the earnings?"
[17:54] <@Carreau> "All the profit from those two shipments will be put toward acquiring new shipments so we can stay in business. If I pay you more, I can't purchase the seeds to be shipped to the Caul." He looks melancholy and a little apologetic.
02[17:56] * Mad (Mad@mnwwul-9-876.resnet.ucsb.edu) Quit (Ping timeout: 252 seconds)
[17:58] <Isami> "Of course. We can defer the payment until after your business is thriving again."
[18:13] <Isami> "Captain Pluck's mercenaries are the best in Lathe, you can't risk something this important by relying the lowest bidder to protect your ships. You won't have to pay anything up front, so you can spend that money you were going to pay on getting more ships in the water faster. All we ask in return is a cut of the profits later, once you're earning more than enough to pay us for our services and still live like a satrap. Does that sound
[18:13] <Isami> fair?"
[18:20] <@Carreau> "It does not. I can pay you a slightly larger sum in a second installment, but it shall not be a percentage."
[18:21] <Pluck> "That sounds reasonable," remarks Pluck, glancing at Isami. "After all, if esteemed merchants cease coming to Lathe at all, how will we stay in business ourselves?" She reaches to refill the cups.
[18:22] <Isami> "Very well. We have a deal."
[18:23] <@Carreau> "Come here tomorrow, I will have to negotiate with my collegues when it comes to the risk assessment."
[18:23] <@Carreau> He seems displeased with Pluck's rate, making a dismissive gesture with his hand.
[18:24] <Isami> Isami nods, stands and bows respectfully.
[18:25] <Pluck> Pluck rises with a slight shrug. Results tell over all, and she turns to depart with a bow.
[18:30] <@Carreau> As they step into the entry room, the two notice that a new person has entered the office. The tall man is dressed in black leather pants laced tight at the thigh and a loose poet shirt with frilled sleeves marbled in fiery colors of orange and red. His yellow-streaked strawberry blonde hair is combed into a messy fauxhawk, creamy beige eyes turning to glance at the women. Capito gives Pluck a
[18:30] <@Carreau> lopsided grin and lifts two fingers up as a greeting. "Captain. Surprised to see you here."
[18:34] <Pluck> "Ngh-" Pluck pauses in her stride. "Master Capito," she replies, straightening. "I am surprised you are seeing me here as well. It has been some months. I had thought that perhaps you had found your fortune out of Lathe entirely," she remarks, wishing it was true. She's changed since they last met. Sharper uniform; new tattoos on her face, burns, harsher eyes; a larger army. Stronger allies. So why does her heart start thumping in this man's presence regardless?
02[18:37] * kevin_ (email@example.com) Quit
[18:42] <@Carreau> "I did." The man smiles, amused. "And now I'm expanding. How's your little outfit doing? The Flutists, was it?" There's a glint in his eye that betrays a sense of superiority, tucking his thumb into his belt and assuming a carefree stance. He's unarmed, as if not particularly feeling threatened walking around in Lathe.
[18:44] <Isami> Isami glances over to Pluck. "I'll see you later." She walks out of the building, not wanting to get mixed up in Pluck's personal life.
[18:45] <@Carreau> Capito watches Isami go, openly checking out her departing silhouette from behind before looking back to Pluck with a mock-approving smile, as if to say 'not bad'.
[18:46] <Pluck> Pluck glances after Isami with a wince. Actually, she really could have used the moral support. "Expanding? I was not aware you had a business to expand," she replies, turning back to Capito. "Could it be that you are now working for a living?"
[18:52] <@Carreau> "I simply realized that there was no point trying to align with your twisted standards and moved on. Who knew that my services would be welcomed with open arms by much more respectable and influential companies?" He lifts his shoulder a little, putting up an a show that mimics apologetic behavior.
[18:56] <Pluck> "Oh-ho-ho? You were offering me your services, all this time? I am sorry; my mastery of High Realm is not so good, so I heard very different things to your true meaning," Pluck replies. "This -twisted-, -pedantic- woman hopes she has not offended you."
[19:00] <Pluck> She squints at Capito, and attempts to hide her grimace. What is this fiend of a man trying to pull? It's surely not accident that he's here. And his mockery always carries double-meaning...
[19:03] <@Carreau> "Now now, don't put yourself down. You're a fine woman, if a little hasty with your judgment." The Outcaste offers a smile and then takes a step closer. "I see you've gotten over the death of your group's founder, finally. That's good, it's the first step toward being proud of your own accomplishments instead of riding on the accomplishments of Old Raven." The man lays down the jabs with
[19:03] <@Carreau> practiced ease, picking up a random scroll from the desk of the older woman and peeking at its contents before setting it back.
[19:08] <Pluck> Why should she put herself down when this man is here to do it for her? Then, Pluck wonders, why is she even entertaining him? Why, why, why. But if she made an excuse and left, she'd just look like a fool- "The world doesn't stop when people die. Not even for Dragon-Blooded."
[19:15] <@Carreau> "Oh, but it does stop for some people. Imagine how surprised I was to hear that Swift Raven stole those artifacts from his wife in the Scavenger Lands and then faked his own death to get away. They interred the body of a badly burnt stableboy as his, of all things. The crime was never resolved, and Raven's poor widow spent a fortune trying to find him. It wasn't until this Calibration that she
[19:15] <@Carreau> discovered this ill-forged legacy of his."
[19:15] <Pluck> Pluck snorts. "What rot."
[19:17] <@Carreau> "You can ask her yourself. She's arriving to Lathe in two weeks time." The man smiles, nonchalant as ever, but with a loosely concealed undertone of vindicated schadenfreude.
[19:22] <Pluck> "Why would I even entertain it? It is a foolish plot to steal what we have rightfully inherited." She leans closer to Capito with a vicious glare. "I feel sorry for your poor stooge, whoever she purports to be. But you are really something else. I can't believe how low you would sink. Do you do nothing honestly, oh Prince of Earth?"
[19:25] <@Carreau> "Ah yes, treacherous Calito is only out to hurt you, everyone is out to get you." He rolls his eyes and clicks his tongue, before his expression finally turns serious and his voice lowers into an even toned whisper. "I can't stop you from jumping into hasty conclusions as you like to do. Go ahead and reject reality, it's your sad prerogative." He leans closer to her. "Or you could, for once, face
[19:25] <@Carreau> the truth instead of closing your eyes and struggling against it. Are you saying you never doubted him? That he never gave you a reason to?"
[19:28] <Pluck> "I-" Pluck looks angry. "He never told me of his past. So what? People who join the Whistlers lose their pasts. He saved me. He saved so many."
[19:40] <@Carreau> "Perhaps to atone for the fact he left the House that took him in defenseless against the attack of the neighbouring warlord, forcing his wife and daughter into exile." The dragon-blooded looks away, still serious. The door behind them opens, and Makaki speaks; "Ah, Master Calito, err--" He stops at the sight of Pluck still in the room. Calito takes a step back and offers a smile past Pluck.
[19:40] <@Carreau> "Mmm, Master Makaki, I apologize for wasting your time. The Widow's Legion respectfully withdraws from the escort contract you proposed and suggests you utilize the services of a local group such as the Whistlers." The outcaste bows his head courtly and takes a few more steps back, withdrawing toward the door.
[19:46] <Pluck> Pluck spares only a glance for her latest employer, and turns back to glance at the door. "They're mine," she mutters, sure he can hear her. Hers, and she can't even use them herself. Damnable pride- Withdrawing her pipe, Pluck stuffs another load of tobacco into it, and takes a minute or two calming herself before stalking out the door.
[19:48] <@Carreau> Calito departs to an opposite direction, giving the woman one last look from the end of the street, expression unreadable, before disappearing into a passing crowd.
[19:55] <@Carreau> "Whatcha broodin' over?" A familiar voice asks, the sound of a mask shifting over shaggy brown hair to rest on the side of the sorcerer's head. Gale leans against the nearby wall, unfurling his yo-yo and letting it roll down, spreading the thread into a triangle and making it jump through it.
[19:59] <Pluck> Pluck starts, almost reaching for the flame piece on her belt. "Kataki-Korin has placed another trial in my life," she replies, relaxing when she identifies the man. "Given that my occupation is finding trouble and shooting it, I did not really expect the gods to send me more."
[20:02] <@Carreau> "So that why ya are so eager to put ya spoon 'nto that ther' poison soup that is Redmoon 'n its nasties?" Gale flicks his wrist and pulls the yo-yo to his palm, before stepping next to her, peering over toward where the dragon-blooded disappeared.
[20:04] <Pluck> "That's different; I'm confronting it on my own terms. Besides, Redmoon is not personal," replies Pluck. She shakes her head. "My troubles are nothing the Aruspicy needs to worry about, however."
[20:07] <@Carreau> "Dun worry, the 'all o' Augurs dun give a damn. Am jus' curious as a simple man, 's all. Redmoon, tho, geez, would advice 'gainst gettin' mix'd up with it. Wacked out kings wakin' 'em sleepy dead 'n forgettin' how to make 'em sleep 'gain. Went full siege on Lathe sum centuries ago, 'swell."
[20:08] <Pluck> "Incredible. You would advise ignoring the problem, then, when time has shown it will come to our shores if left alone?"
[20:13] <@Carreau> "Iffin them 'humers run 'round, Redmoon won't be able to rally forces 'gainst Lathe. Their rulers are all crack'd in the 'ead. Rumor 'as it that them 'humers popp'd right back up when the Empress went missin', as if to keep Realm from gettin' pummel'd by its 'istorical enemies. Similar problems by the Dreaming Sea, say some. Seems awful convenient, yea?"
[20:19] <Pluck> "A rumor that only gains fuel when Lathe refuses to offer even a shred of assistance, despite the obvious resource available to it," replies Pluck. "It seems to me like an opportunity for goodwill, and our future security, is being thrown away." She shrugs. "Not to mention we'll lose our main supplier of beer. How am I suppose to keep my men in line without beer?"
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[20:24] <@Carreau> Gale sighs and ruffles his hair, before explaining very slowly and as clearly as possible, his accent cleared; "Lathe benefits from Redmoon being fucked over. At best, we get a steady supply of beer. At worst, we get yet an another enemy and its deranged army to our shores. Redmoon believes that all of the Bay of Kings belongs to its ruling bloodline due to the past, including Lathe."
[20:25] <Pluck> Pluck sucks in another breath through her pipe. "I knew you were putting it on," she remarks, tiredly. "
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[20:26] <@Carreau> Gale snorts at that. "Am no'. Jus' dun bother talkin' all fancy when it's no' needed, am no' gonna go disrespectin' these 'ere roots."
[20:33] <Pluck> "Ah, is that how it is?" she wonders. "It's such a shame, the way that's lined up," Pluck remarks. "I wish I could say I knew more about the ruling dynasty. A few hundred miles is all it takes to void my knowledge on such affairs." She shrugs. "I'm the kind of woman who only knows what she can see."
[20:33] <Pluck> "I don't forget things like that, though. Like that poor kid's eyes," she says continues. "Farmer kid from Redmoon, lucked out and picked up a Dragon's blessing, by my guess. Real homespun guy, awed by the big city and everything. I saw how he worked, actually, watched him flatten some our best at that tournament. I wanted to hire him..." She shrugs. "But, ah, had to stay close to home to protect his village, so no amount of coin would do. I understood. Shame the ordinary folk have to suffer for our games, though. Politics!"
[20:40] <@Carreau> "'s not games. They dun wan' us over yonder, there's no frien'ship. Ol' Mnemon satrap offer'd to create wards to protect 'em cities, they refused, 's never 'nuff 'less it be a sorcerer who'll turn 'em 'humers into soldiers for Redmoon." Gale sighs and rubs his forehead, walking over to the woman and absently wiping a few loose hairs from her shoulder, as if offering encouragement subtly. "People
[20:40] <@Carreau> suffer an' it ain't great, but we've got them problems 'ere in Lathe too, ya would know best."
[20:44] <Pluck> Pluck nods slowly. "I do indeed," she says, slowly. "That's far too much they're asking, isn't it? It's one thing to come to the aid of a neighbour, another to arm them... ah, it's too much for me." She twists her heel in frustration. "I know I am trying to reach beyond my station. Thank you for indulging me this much, Master Gale."
[20:46] <@Carreau> "Ya ain't gonna go 'round 'elping Redmoon, then? Am gonna havta ask fer ya word on that." His expression is a little apologetic, withdrawing his hands into his sleeves. "Am gonna make sure they stop followin' ya iffin ya do."
[20:50] <Pluck> "I will not be doing any such thing. The Whistlers are already contracted to go the opposite direction; things moved quickly since I left you a message," she replies, shaking her head. "I want to do what's best for Lathe and make a profit. Picking a fight with the Aruspicy pro-bono- I might as well slap Jagamaru with my glove at dawn."
[20:52] <@Carreau> Gale seems content hearing that, until the last word she says, which is when his eyes narrow suddenly. "There sum symbolism wi' the break o' day am not gettin' 'ere?"
[20:52] <Pluck> "You're not from the South, are you?"
[20:56] <@Carreau> "Am from close 'nough to 'ave 'eard of the villagers of Greensand Cove disappearin' after they went 'round puttin' those two things together."
[20:57] <@Carreau> "What do ya know 'bout ... Thousand Song?" He then asks, very quietly.
[20:59] <Pluck> Pluck looks confused, then faintly scandalized, and ultimately puts out her pipe. "I'm from Lathe? I know the bloody poem," she replies.
[21:] <@Carreau> "Then ya might've 'eard that said legend supposedly is runnin' 'round Lathe." Gale's gaze is fixated on the woman, analyzing each of her reactions and smallest expressions.
[21:07] <Pluck> Pluck often looks anxious, and right now is no exception. "I have," she replies. "People have been talking a lot since the Fae attack. There are those who think the dynasty has been getting deserved payback," she admits, swirling around her pipe. "But, Master Gale, if you think I have time for that nonsense then you ought pick a less gullible woman."
[21:11] <@Carreau> Gale's pose straightens up and a flash of reluctant necessity can be seen. "... Lathe is not ready yet. Forgive me, this is to protect you." He tilts his head to the side, and there is a sudden gleam of green in his otherwise dull blue eyes. Sliding his hands into the opposing sleeves, he then bunches up his arms over his stomach and pushes past. "Have a good day, Captain."
[21:16] <Pluck> "Wait, what did you do?" hisses Pluck, fear coiling around her chest. It irritates her. It irritates her- every bloody supernatural monster, thinking they can just toy with her! Platinum insults her intelligence, the Lintha and their pets mock her courage and skill with their unfair gifts- Capito treats her like an idiot child- every time she claws her way a bit higher she suffers another indignity, and she is sick of it! She reaches out to grab Gale by the shoulder.
[21:18] <@Carreau> Gale is pulled back, lanky in his stature. He gives the woman a slightly melancholy look before moving to place his hand over hers. "When they come for you, and they will, you will thank me." He then slowly starts trying to get the woman to unhand him by prying at her fingers.
[21:22] <Pluck> Pluck shoves him away. "You all think I'm nothing," she hisses, furious. She shoves him away, uncaring of this rather public display of accosting a man whose position normally lends itself to intimidation. "Good day. Augur."
[21:24] <@Carreau> Gale adjusts his robe and moves to slide the mask over his face, his mouth still moving. "On the contrary. You're far too important." Sliding his hands back into his sleeves, he then starts walking off.