Everywhere on the American continent people know the name of the Coalition States. Some know them as conquerors. Some as peace keepers. Some as murderers. Some as protectors.
That last reputation is NOT one that they have in Vesper and for some time their delegation has been negotiating with the Thirty, though negotiating for what is not clear. Today that delegation – which had been staying at Grans – packed up their things and checked out of their rooms. It is not at ALL related that only a few hours later, the Senate announced a military call up of 2000 men. A small force, not even as large as the force summoned to deal with the Harvester Cult, but the fact that there is a call up at all has people talking.
There’s a crowd out in the market today, though the mood is somewhat uneasy. Aiden is looking over a tribesman’s wares, trying to decide if he really trusts a knife that looks for all the world like it’s made out of wood.
“Ironwood. Sturdy stuff. It’ll cut the fiddly bits off a fly if you do it right.” The woodsman is saying.
Aiden looks dubious.
Off to the side a lizard woman and a compatriot are handing out pamphlets extolling what sounds like a new religion. He hasn’t looked at them but if he were he’d notice the sketches of a redheaded woman and a blindfolded man as the principal deities.
Slaine has been noticeably absent lately. The talk is she’s just been busy on jobs, contracts. Right now though, she’s hanging around close to Aiden, green eyes looking at the dagger and nodding slowly. “He’s no’ wrong, ye know, Aiden.” The redhead is saying, completely oblivious to the lizardwoman and the pamphlets being handed out behind her. “Ironwood is good metal and with your skill you could wield as such …”
Why are there people murmuring behind her?
“Ugh, and I thought last minute holiday shopper crowds were bad,” Kaji mutters as he maneuvers between people. He’s got his hood over his head and a scarf nearly wound around the lower part of his face to keep warm. He’s also got a warm sweet roll of sorts tucked in hand, a bite already taken out of it and he’s been eager to stop somewhere to finish off the rest.
Spying a flash of familiar red hair he brightens, deciding to chance it as he weaves his way towards the particular stall. He’s already taking another nibble of his sweet roll as he blinks at the pamphlet he finds in his other hand upon passing. Squint.
“-hey guys..!” he says once he confirms it’s indeed his friends he’d caught sight of.
Wintertime is apparently less popular for investing in crystals, if the lack of customers around Zyx’s booth is any indication. But, she’s making decent use of the uninterrupted time to work on commissioned crystals along with further improving her ability to create images in the crystals with inclusions of color. She’s also been working on rutilated quartz. The structures inside them are fascinating… though not very tasty.
Seeing everyone milling about, she watches curiously, but is ready to scoop up her wares in a hurry if needed. She’s learned the hard way.
Aiden still looks dubious at the thought of using a wooden knife. He’s distracted from replying to the merchant by Kaji’s hailing of them though. The psychic turns and waves. “Hey there Kaji.”
“Oho, another customer. Or potential customer. Tell me, can I interest YOU in any fine Ironwood wares? The lady here can vouch, it’s as good as any metal if not better.”
And he and Slaine are not wrong about that. Aiden knows that. But it’s WOOD.
People are pointing to the handbills and then to Slaine. Yes. The resemblance is rather striking. Though it’s possible that there have been some artistic liberties with her, uh, height. “Come hear about the Earth Mother and the Sky Father and how they saved the people of Atlanta from their enemies!”
A shadow falls over Kythzx’s stall, belonging to a rather feline looking woman. “Hello Kythzyx. Is business a bit slow today?”
Sanka’a is a captain in the Armsmen and she’s definitely been showing an interest in the elemental artisan’s crystals.
“Slaine! Aiden! Kaji!” The cat woman calls out, motioning them over as she picks up a four inch long ruby to examine it.
“Kaji… Zyx…” Slaine greets both her friends, slightly more subdued than she usually is. Missing from her brow is the beaten iron circlet she’d been seen wearing. Aiden knows where it is and, true to her promise, she hasn’t asked for it.
Whether his confiscation has done anything is another question.
Finally seeing the lizard woman and the pamphlets, the red head lets out a long suffering sigh and snatches them from her. “I did no such thin’ an’ ye mus’ stop this nonsense. I ain’ no deity an’ I had help. Vargr here was one of them …” If she’s going to be troubled by this, she’ll drag him into it too.
The arrival of Sanka’a is just another sigh worthy moment for Slaine who spends a moment trying to tame her hair and smooth clothes down. She feels … grubby … beside the elegant and extremely well groomed felinoid.
“What’cha guys up t– Is that wood???”
Kaji looks fascinated by the display of wooden knife things, absently stuffing the flyer he’d gotten into a pocket. How cool is that? “Dude, that’s awesome. Ironwood, you said? But it’s still really wood, right?” This guy may just have a customer after all. “Can I…?” he asks, pointing at one to try holding.
And then his name’s called, along with the others. It takes him a moment to match up who’s voice it is with names but it comes easily enough once he glances in Sanka’a’s direction. He lifts sweet-roll hand to wave back, then looks back at the Ironwood seller. “I will be back,” he promises before turning to go join the others with the captain and Kthzyx.
“Captain Sanka’a,” he greets, grinning then as he also notes the crystalline being. “‘Zyx. How’s it going?”
Zyx looks at the cat woman as she stops by and nods, a gesture she picked up since arriving here. “It is, yes, but then, I think most people are likely saving their hard-earned coins for food this time of year.” She doesn’t seem in any way offended by that. She understand that the need to eat takes precedence over everything.
Then she notices the others and waves hello to them. She hasn’t had the chance to see those ironwood blades herself, but then she doesn’t really see the need for blades at all.
“Some, but not all. I need a hundred and fifty rubies of this size and quality.” The cat woman holds up the gem she presently has. “Do you have that many or will you need time to grow them?” Having someone who can grow gems in the city has certainly upset the gem market but Sanka’a finds Kythzx to be a reliable source for both the quantity and quality she needs and has a tendency to throw large city purchases her way.
“Ironwood.”Aiden explains as he turns to see Sanka’a calling them over. Well. That might be important. He drifts on that way too not interested in getting deified.. Slaine might be held up for a moment by the lizard woman who protests.
“But the miracles. I have seen them with my own eyes! Look well upon the humility of the Mother Goddess.”
Not everyone is buying it but if even a few do… well…
“Of course. Why don’t you take this with you, young man.” The trapper hands Kaji the wooden kife. “You can come back when you’re done talking to the Captain and tell me what you think.”
“What do you need that many rubies for, Captain?”
“Flaming swords. The Coalition left today and… lets just say that negotiations didn’t go especially well from their point of view.”
“They were no’ miracles…” Slaine grouses as she destroys the flyers in her hands. “Don’ listen to her, she’s deranged…. ” she extorts the other. “Jus’ stop. Now…”
She tries to get past the lizard woman and the crowd that’s there, delayed by the creature, arriving just in time to hear the last of Sanka’as statement.
For the moment, perhaps miraculously, she opts to stay quiet.
“Oh cool, really? Will do, sir!” Kaji says, saluting him with bread, which he holds in his mouth so that he can more properly inspect the wooden knife. The idea may be ludicrous but it sure feels sturdy enough.
With Aiden inquiring about Sanka’s need for so many rubies, he tunes into the conversation, sweet roll bobbing slightly as he gnaws at it while still holding it in his mouth. Both brows lift at the felinoid’s response before he frowns, or at least he seems to be. Hard to do with something stuffed in your face. He eventually removes the bread to show a proper scowl.
“Well that doesn’t sound good… That was a long time to negotiate. So…what should we be expecting?”
Zyx is completely still for a moment. Sanka’a wants HOW many rubies? “I … will need time to grow or assemble them. I don’t see that type of stone very often. But, if I have enough smaller ones, I can make them into gems that size for you. That would be quicker than growing them, and they should be comparable in quality.”
Zyx is also wondering why the captain would want that many rubies until Aiden asks and gets the explanation. That makes sense… maybe? She doesn’t question what others use crystals for. She’s the only individual here she knows of that actually eats them.
“How quickly will you need them?”
“Within the month. Sooner is better though. I have to take them to technowizards and get them turned into swords.” The flaming sword is one of the simpler techno-constructs. There are probably dozens of magi who can make them in the city but they do all have to be hand crafted and that takes time.
“Well for the moment Vepser and the Coalition have agreed to a… cooperative operation against the demon threats in the Mountains which sounds good but mostly it’s an agreement not to shoot one another. The CS wanted to station a force here which the Thirty – by which I mean Kailastia – turned down flatly. There was some back and forth and some consideration and some stalling for time but negotiations ended today. So right away that sounds like nothing, but the only reason the CS would want a base here is if they wanted to take the place over. And if they wanted that you can be sure they won’t be deterred by a little thing like us saying no.”
The cat woman’s ears perk slightly and she looks at Slaine. “You’re a goddess? Any chance you’d consider lending your divinity to a good cause?”
“I think it’s a good idea that the Senate didn’ accept them.” Slaine smiles as she realises how much business Zyx is getting.The news about the CS is less than stellar but at least Vesper isn’t have to fight a two or three front war, right?
“No I’m no’ a goddess.” For once the redhead is very flat with Sanka’a. She might, at a stretch, be a demi-goddess though even that is questionable. “But ye know I’ll do wha’ I can for the city …”
Stuffing the rest of the roll into his mouth so he won’t have to deal with holding it, Kaji chews as he considers things as Sanka’a mentions between Vesper and the Coalition. “Gotta agree with Kailastia there,” he murmurs around a mouthful. He’d already gotten a hint of what it’s like to be on the sterner end of the dragonness’s temperament, and he imagines that even the CS would be hard-pressed to outright object. But the reasons Sanka’a gives are sound, at least ot him.
Slipping out a piece of paper from his pocket, Kaji tests the Ironwood blade against it, cutting slivers. He pauses as he has a better look at the sheet, the pamphlet he’d gotten earlier with the suspiciously Slaine-esque figure. Pretty sure the blindfolded person is a familiar one too.
“Should I ask…?” he says, casting a look over at Slaine, even as he gets the feeling he knows the answer.
Aiden smiles. “Slaine impressed someone.” The smile is almost a smirk. She impressed them and they decided to start a religion around her and another man. Because of course they did. That’s her luck.
The Ironwood knife is sharp. Easily sharp enough to cut paper cleanly. It’s really weird… looking at a wood knife doing that. Even Aiden just kind of shakes his head.
“Good.” Sanka’a says. “One of the things we have done over the years is catalogue the various Golden age ruins in the area. Most of the dangerous stuff we’ve already removed – our previous oversight of a bunker full of weapons of mass destruction notwithstanding. However many of them were securely locked up enough that we felt that they would deter would be scavengers and left them. That’s no longer an option now. I have information suggesting that the coalition has been performing extensive scouting operations in the area of old DC. There’s a cache up there, sealed away behind a golden age vault. Whatever it was, it was worth protecting very very expensively and we can’t risk it falling into Coalition hands. I can’t send people up there who will be recognized, but you all have no official connections to the city. So……”
Zyx looks at Slaine when the others mention being a goddess, but she figures she’s parsing the information incorrectly and dismisses it. “I’ll see about getting as many rubies as I can then, Captain and get started assembling them for you.” She missed most of the kerfuffle over the Coalition people, so is mostly staying out of the conversation. She actually spends a few moments digging through her pouch and pulling out every corundrum stone she finds, and then sorting them by their inclusions — clear in one pile, green in another, blue, red…
The mention of needing an expedition to go to some place called ‘DeeCee’ has her looking at the others curiously, as the name holds no significance to her.
“We’ve been to DC…” Slaine watches the knife slice the paper and smirks at Aiden. She’s getting freaked out by being called a Goddess. He’s worried a knife. Priorities? “I impress lots of people, Aiden Frost …” she mutters though.
“There’s lots of stuff up there and we know the area a little. There’s another group in there – do ye remember wha’ they called themselves, Aiden?” beat “We’ll have to sneak in aroun’ them to get what ye want.”
But she’s considering it. Seriously.
“…dude, I am -so- buying one of these,” Kaji says, seeming to have way too much fun watching how easily the knife cuts through the flyer. It’s so neat! And it’s wood! Kind of! Mostly! Technically..!
“Huh? Oh, uh… Yeah, that…would not be good for the CS to get a hold off, definitely.” He’s been listening, really! “DC, huh…” Of course he has to wonder what sort of things are stashed there. If it’s Golden Age equipment, that’d be something more modern-familiar to him, right? And that could be pretty dangerous, even what with all he’s seen in this day and age.
“So we’re taking a trip to DC then,” he says. He looks at the others.
“Specifically an area called ‘Arlington.’ nearby. The whole area is a mess of cracked pavement and tumbled buildings. It got hit hard by an earthquake early in the cataclysm so they say and now it’s just a jungle of plants, concrete and twisted metal. It’s not easy to navigate but it’s still important to get to that vault. I don’t care if you loot it yourselves or just make getting to it impossible. Just make sure no one else can get to it. Melt the door into solid slag. Sink the whole thing into the ocean. Whatever you have to do.”
Sanka’a seems fairly intent on that.
Aiden looks at Slaine for a moment and then back to Zyx and then back to Slaine and then back to Zyx.
“Does your ‘frequency’ singing work on things other than crystals?”
“That should be easy enough.” Slaine mutters. It’s not and she knows it. Well getting in there undetected that is. And getting out. Once they’re in though, sinking a room into the earth? She can do that. She probably won’t have to even be careful about it.
“Aye Kaji, we’re goin’ to D.C. Do ye want to be in charge of gettin’ the provisions? Ye’ve travelled with Aiden and me enough to know what we need.” Aiden owns a ship now, so the transport is sorted, right?
Seeing Aidens look between them, Slaine checks her clothing carefully “Wha’ have I forgotten?” She asks the pair of them. “Yer comin’ too, ain’ ye Zyx?”
Kaji nods slowly. Okay. Theoretically he kinda knows where that…is supposed to be, anyway. Knowing maps is one thing, seeing the terrain in person’s something else, especially after how many years of erosion and rearrangement from rifts?
“Well, guess we’ll figure that part out when we get to it.” He knows that their little group’s pretty formidable, if not crafty when it comes to doing damage.
Blinking, he looks at Slaine, and then at Aiden at the suggestion that he be in charge of provisions. “Er, yeah. I think I can handle that,” he says. At least they’ve got gear for the cold weather already, and Slaine’s right- he’s been on more than enough trips with them that he more or less knows what they’d be needing.
Zyx spikes just a small bit when asked if her frequencies work on things other than crystals, mostly because it’s a surprise to be asked that. “I… haven’t tried, I don’t think. But, if it’s non-organic I can try.” She’s not really willing to try resonating a living thing. It just sounds wrong.
“Yes, I can go.” She starts packing up her booth, as if thinking they meant to leave right this moment. She could help carry the provisions, as she doesn’t mind travelling on all fours, and she doesn’t get tired at the same rate as the others.
“Woah, not yet Zyx. I have to arrange to get us there first…” He does have a skyship still. Kaji hasn’t been on it yet, he doesn’t think. They can use that to get most of the way there but it IS a bit obvious and if the coalition sees them there will be trouble, so they will have to go on foot for a good portion of the way.
“I was just thinking it might be nice to have you to break obstructions. Like twisted metal and fallen concrete.” And big metal doors even? Making metal bend and shatter? Sounds good to him. Even better if he doesn’t have to tire his own mind out, and he is a bit… more tired than usual for some reason, lately.
“So we’ll meet back… here first thing tomorrow morning? Get a good start, just after dawn. If we can fly when the sun is in the east it’ll at least be a bit harder for the CS to see us, potentially.” Stick to the sun. That’s an old trick. Doesn’t help with radar, sadly.
“Sounds like you have it handled. Come see me when you’re done. We have to move quickly to counter things the CS might do to us in the future and I’d like to keep using you lot, if you’re willing.” Sanka’a brushes her hair back and glances around. “And be careful. Even here the CS has it’s sympathizers.”
The City will have to pay well for this. Not that Slaine will ask for recompense. She never does – she loves Vesper, grew up here and it’s what she does. The others though? This isn’t their city, after all.
“Tomorrow mornin’ then. I’ll see ye on Grans porch.” She’s a few things to gather before they go and a discussion to have with Aiden – maybe.
She had said she wouldn’t ask about the Crown but maybe ….
“Be good to have you aboard, Zyx,” Kaji says. He just figures that Aiden’ll handle transportation as he always does. He’ll be super stoked when he sees the psychic has a flying ship.
“Early tomorrow morning, got it. Guess I better get on it then.”
He nods at Slaine, and then lastly looks to Sanka’a. Doing favors for the captain’s become something of the norm by now. “Always glad to help out, Captain Sanka’a.” He seems to always have something on his plate when it comes to dealing with trouble of some sort or another, but at least it’s never boring..?
So, first things first for him… talk with the Ironwood guy and get that bit of shopping out of the way. And then supplies.
Zyx keeps packing up her booth, as she wants to see about having the rubies she needs to improve and/or assemble for the Captain. And if they’re going to be travelling a long way — which it sounds like that will be the case — that’ll give her plenty of time to get at least a handful of them done.
And for those rubies, she’ll need to go talk to every crystal vendor she knows to do some trading. Because a hundred and fifty weapons-grade crystals is a LOT.
Once again Aiden, Slaine, Kaji and Kthzyx find themselves conscripted to assist in heading off some CS problems before they can get worse.
January 12, 2412
Market Town, Vesper