The morning shift at the Golden Goose arrive to work early one morning to discover the night man shivering and wringing his hands with dismay. One of the maids, more inclined to speach than work, brought the man a cup of tea. He accepted, gratefully and the two began to talk of what troubled him. Their speach was long and filled with soft exclaimations and when they finished, the man went home. The maid? Well, over the course of the next day or so the tale spread but did it grow?
Maid to porter, "But, Kent... You know Kent? The night man? He was there! He said that the Lady on the second floor... you know? The one with the red hair? Yes... Her... That she was entertaining a pirate! Here! I /know/, right?"
The porter looks duely shocked, but turns away. Gossip, it seems, is not his thing.
Then, the maid, afraid of losing her audience and thus having to return to work, hisses, "Kent says he forced a kiss on her." The maid pauses, one finger lifted to tap her chin, "Though from what Kent said, it didn't look like she resisted all that much. And what a kiss!" She whistles softly and shakes her head, clearly envious. "Right there in the Dining Room!"
The porter glances back, "Just a kiss?"
The maid demures, but her smile grows wicked as the two bow their heads together to discuss the seductive prowess of the Pirate and the Lady's reaction to it.
Lady Rosalind came tripping home in the early morning, divesting her cloak once safely into her chambers, and let her maid remove jeweled arm bands, anklets, hair combs, and ropes of pearls from her person... sighing rapturously the whole time. "Oh Henna, it was magical.. poetically splendiferous! I must tell you everything lest I burst from keeping it all to myself!"
"Yes, Milady," agreed Henna so disinterestedly no one would suspect she'd be running out as soon as possible to tell her friends she'd been there herself.
"Ohh, it was gorgeous, the Palace of Rebma.. how do I describe it?" gushed Rosalind. "A crystal cluster of colour and light and dreams.. and the Throne room! Like.. like warm coloured taffy pulled up and up into a twist and then frozen in place!"
"It sounds wonderful, Milady," frowned Henna, trying to memorize it word for word so she could wow her cronies.
"I am so happy my father is a bonafide Friend of Rebma! Now that I am sixteen I will be sure to attend all the dances and parties of which the Prince Regent is so fond. I heard the waters all around the Faiella-Bionin were a-froth with bubbles the day we Amberites dunked down to attend the coronation," Rosalind giggled. "I saw oh so many nobles. Liam was resplendent! Oh he danced so well with the beauteous Duchess of Sorgo, I was so envious. Princes and Princesses were there too, Julian and Florimel and Random and his beautiful family and oh later *=-=Gerard=-=*, I could barely look at them without shaking in my jewels, Henna."
"How exciting for you, but what of Lord Quinlan?" blurted Henna, forgetting herself. Quinlan, you dawg, you.
"Ummm pardon? I don't recall.. oh! Oh my, yes. It was so amusing, oh poor Quinlan. Ha ha!" Rosalind flapped around in her nightgown demonstratively.
"I hate you," Henna whispered.
"Ohh but the Prince Regent..!" The young Lady was busy holding the blush rising to her cheeks with both hands. "As the Unicorn is my witness, I will be his Queen one day."
"Is.. that even.. possib-"
"He was sooo cool and calm as he made his vow before that gloomy-doomy old Priestess.. I swear she tried to strangle him with that lovely crown, push it right down his tuff hair and around his neck. For all that juicy praise about Martin pulling Rebma out of the Depths of Despair, I could tell she really thought it was an ill omen for him to take the Throne with the Queen so ill and all, and she basically said he's just keeping it warm for the little Princess Faiella, anyway. Can you imagine the cheek? But Martin didn't take it kneeling down, he floated.. so cool! He's going to be a wonderful Ruler. Oh, the fun parties there will be! I hope he wears his mirror-shades for them and plays all my favourite numbers.."
Leaving her Ladyship to her Ladyship's mad babble, Henna slipped out with her Ladyship's cloak to regale the masses with this borrowed experience.
Lady Rosalind had tried out several grown-uppish hair styles and now sat gazing at herself through the vanity mirror, smiling a winsome secret smile. Her focus pulls back to include her maid, stood behind her, in its scope. "Of course I have kept some things about Rebma to myself.. I have decided they are much deliciouser to savour within, Henna."
"As you wish, Milady," agreed Henna mildly, holding her patience. Of course there was more. Unable to answer her associates' questions about the after-ceremony party, she had attempted to grill her young mistress to no avail so far.
"I am forever spoiled for balls in Amber," Rosalind sighed, pulling a corkscrew curl free from her coif. "Even having never been to one as yet. It can never match the grandiose splendour of the Rebman dance, I just know it. It went all day and night and straight into the next evening! Did you know they don't just dance across the room, but up and down as well? Well, they do. It was like nothing was impossible for some of them.. like the Rebman Lady Surafyc, oh she utterly reigned, her legs were like arms.."
"Lady Surafyc is an octopus?" Henna frowned.
"No, they were just so eloquent.. and what she did with them when Captain Merrisol took her spinning up above all. He was an utter gentleman about it. I don't know why it's said he's a pirate.."
"Because of the booty?"
"Henna!" the young lady shrieked through scandalized fingers. "It isn't a big deal in Rebma! Everyone was at their skimpiest.. except for Quinlan, and that odd little Shao man - although his hair was dreamy with shimmery scales, we must try and replicate it - but even Dame Cyndre and the Prince Regent's half-sisters bared themselves on top. What I wouldn't give for the confidence of Ladies Sunny and Amethyst! Amy danced with ever so many fine lords, I do think she became the favourite over Lady Surafyc. Even the Captain requested her, and they joined a Quickstep that just about became a -whirlpool- they were all going so fast. So much fun!"
"So you danced, Milady," prompted Henna, pretending to get busy on another up-do.
"Oh yes.. well the synchro-swims only, those were great fun, and nobody cared if you made mistakes and got mixed up, the same moves came over and over until I was quite expert!" Rosalind beamed, then blushed pink. "However the couple dances, I did not even -dare-... there were other topsiders putting in such a lovely showing.. even that one-eyed Shao man, with Raphaela. Her dress! Did I mention she danced with Liam? And Maggie danced with the Regent. I just may have turned as green as her gossamer skirt. I wonder what kept whose scallop shells in place.. a modesty spell, perhaps! Otherwise Martin had to dance with his stuffy older subjects, as I suppose a Prince Regent must. It was my first dance, or I would have been more forward.. like Raphaela, claiming men left and right! Though I rather think she found herself claimed right back in a stunning Paso Double.. and when he took her skating around inside that floating confetti globe I was just about Done-In!"
"Who.. Lord Liam?"
"No... Captain Merrisol. He danced so intensely with every lady who made his acquaintance, but there were too many. So they grabbed Prince Gerard instead! He somehow danced with them all in one song," Rosalind giggled, "which is allowed since he's worth ten men.."
"Milady seems taken by so many," observed Henna, dryly.
"And why not, I'm of age now," the young lady flared. "Besides, Martin is my special favourite. He ended the dance officially by flinging his -crown- at the confetti bubble, POP! -And- it came back to him. Was that the coolest, most defiantly -fabu- thing a Prince Regent has ever done? Yes, it -was-."
Rosalind's eager nod loosened pins and her hair came down in a tumult, but she was too caught up in her recollection to notice Henna wasn't there to fix up a new style. The lady's maid was already on her way out, armed with enough details to get her plenty of new admirers and free drinks at the pub.
The Regent has sent out a notice to all Rebmans: Hear ye! Hear ye! The Warden of the Deep, Lieutenant-Colonel Merrisol, captain of the Solar Flare and a Lord of House Morfilod has been wed to Lady Margaret Elizabeth Lasair; Captain Flame of the Wave Dancer, the Regent's beloved Cousin. "It is with great pleasure that his lordship, Martin, Regent of Rebma and the Deep Peoples and the hand of Moire, Monarch Beneath the Waves announces the marriage of his cousin into the esteemed House Morfilod. Though the marriage itself was no lavish affair and held at Sea under witness of Salt and Wind it was attended by such notables as Lady Raphaela, Lord Kincaid, Princess Miriam, Princess Amethyst, Lady Marlene and many others. Let it be known that the House is poised to welcome Lady Maggie in dereference to the Regent with high expectation of her worth. The marriage contract will last for one year from this day as spoken, signed and sealed by himself on this day. The marriage was officially witnessed in the name of Rebma by Dame Ryika Ygrayne and the Regent. It was performed by Admiral Prince Gerard of Amber. Given this great union, The Regent has let it be known that there is a celebration in Rebma beginning Late Tuesday night and lasting a fortnight hence, ample time for all who wish to honor their union."
In Rebma, it is well known of the Regent's affection for his red-headed cousin and not much of a surprise that she has married into Rebma. It is also rumored that the Lady Dryssana Morfilod, High Priestess of Lir is expecting a visit from the newlyweds to the temple of Lir and that the Countess of Morfilod is rather smug at having landed not one but two powerful connections in a short period of time. There is heavy speculation that it is only a matter of time before that house gains status because of these two marriages. There is also talk Marchioness Gallmau Ygrayne nearly threw a fit when she heard and expects that Dame Ryika will of course one-up Morfilod. Right? Of Course right!
Sample of discussion regarding the recent momentous, though perhaps understated, gesture at Court:
"Y'know.. looking back on the King's weekend court.. that blond guy in the sunglasses who showed up in the middle. I just realized where I saw that coat before. That was Baron Icedeep."
"Yeah. Otherwise known as Lord of Rebma. The Regent, even. He can't fool me with that disguise."
"Just a coat gave it away? What about the golden scales and waves? The pearls? The *silver crown* on his head?"
"He had a crown? Huh. Anyway, that was odd, wasn't it.. the leader of Rebma attending Amber court. It was... surprising."
"Yep, it means he finally chose a side in the Royal Conflict. When he gave his father the big thumbs-up, he acknowledged Random as King of Amber!"
"He did? Wait... King Random is his dad?"
"Horny Ponies, how can you not know this?"
"Well I mean.. they look nothing alike! Random's just a little guy.. and his son is HUGE."
".......Ober-GAWD! That wasn't Martin, that was just some drinking buddy who came in with him. Martin was there, you idiot! History was being made right in front of you, and you were looking at the wrong dude!"
The character is highly skilled at keeping complex tasks moving in an orderly fashion. From running a dinner party to keeping a battalion supplied, the character is capable of keeping a seemingly impossible number of balls in the air, and grants a bonus in any situation where organizing things will help.
In the main promenade of Rebma's capital, it still appears to be business as usual for the merchants and working, buying public.. unless one tries to make a purchase larger than the daily needs of a single household. To those individuals it becomes evident that rationing measures are in place. Why?
Why, because the breathable territories outside the city, as well as some points beyond, are seething with the camp activity of gathered armies from shadow. Every day, the landscape changes as another battalion and their camp followers gain clearance to station at Icedeep, or are deemed fit to occupy a strategic zone farther out from the enchanted limits, and another unit arrives to take their place. The citizens are warned away from the camps, yet on the promenade the odd venturesome soul still has tales to tell of strange regiments mounted on all manner of fierce marine critters, of bulging-eyed fishman armies, of serpentine behemoths, of vicious guppies with bladed fins... and even an army or two of air-breathing flatlanders, how silly.
The allied troops cannot in turn peep in on the Rebmans, and are in fact strictly forbidden to enter the city or disrupt the populace. Nor have they been permitted to range over the land to forage off the local fauna. Shadow armies gotta eat too, though. And drink, and sleep in shelters, and patch their training-related ouchies, and and. So - after rank inspection by the Lord Marshal and brass, the newly-appointed logistics specialist had descended upon the camps, to gather data on numbers and need.. both of which were, of course, super high.
The supply division was on the ball, though, having sent units out for a massive stockpiling drive throughout the realm's holdings, which has begun to yield results. Trawling nets of resin-wrapped casks begin to arrive a few times a day from elsewhere in the territory. For variety, huge sealed cylinders come drifting down from some vessel passing through the 'triangle' overhead, fluttering with colour-coded towlines to signify purchases made by the Palace treasury. It may look like Rebma is gearing up for one of its truly fabulous week-long parties, but the well-indulged citizenry are in for a hard truth. The shipments are met by various Triton units and spirited off into the Rebman military garrison on the outskirts, or through the city gates and down little-used side lanes... and at some point, the trail just goes cold. Great batches of supplies, disappearing without explanation - but word is that the encampments *are* being stocked daily to meet their daily requirements, recorded daily.. and that's all.
Hmph. Well that's what one gets when Martin puts a former pirate in charge of army logistics, right? A compulsive hoarder and hard-ass who takes from the rich without so much as an I.O.U. note!
This token is representative of how the movement and support of Rebma's military forces has started out on the right fin, with its supplies management and record-keeping firmly in hand, and operating in a lean and highly effective state.
Pre-war weariness has been setting in despite efforts in management to keep society running smoothly in Rebma's capital, army movements on the outskirts, and routine stockpiling in the background. However...
Anxious spirits were buoyed the other day when a convoy of giant critters arrived pulling sleighs laden with an impressive haul of useful supplies. The best part was that it was courtesy of the Mandrakes, who already enjoy public admiration in Rebma for their life-saving hospital works. Enthusiastic pomp and fanfare started up accordingly, but Martin was said to have cut it short in consideration for the dragonlady's 'delicate' state. Wait.. what??
And then the very next day, possibly seized by the spirit of other people's generosity, the Dread Pirate Logistics went and ransacked the Regent's own palace supplies. Princess Miriam apparently had to wade in to break up the ensuing Major vs. Majordomo fight. While the head servant still had to wave goodbye to a portion of the shipment, at least it clearly demonstrated that /every/ household was subject to fair rationing.
As if those matters were not positive spin enough, the high, haunting notes of conch horns brought curious citizenry and palace guests out in numbers in time for another dose of pep that day: Rebman knights on narwhal-back streamed into the city for a ceremonious parade in precise formation through the upper lanes of the main promenade. The Holy Order of Eilrahc: Agleam in their bi-coloured shell ceramic armour, bearing trailing standards on their corseques, and their mounts dressed in short scalloped cloaks, they displayed their fine riding skills in a spectacular synchronization of diving and looping, crossing deadly horns and polearms with practised ease. When they ended in a line to salute the Palace, that is when the people knew for certain: Martin had the support of the Cult of Lir. The majority assume it is due to the Regent's honourable actions to save Princess Faiella, and thereby the great Prophecy, from certain ruin. Others speculate it was a rather timely visit to the High Priestess Dryssana Morfilod by her favoured great-nephew that prompted the Temple to contribute its elite crusaders to the cause. Whichever it was, pretty much everyone agrees: It has been a wonderfully uplifting couple of days.
Something like that. In any case, as stories of valor and strangeness from the Kitezh campaign have been brought back by returning marines and other survivors of the frozen battlegrounds, quite a few fascinating tidbits of monster lore have tended to capture the public interest - if only as villain fodder for governing children's morality, or assigning supernatural blame for missing persons and even inadequate hauls from the fishing nets. Tidbits such like...
"Skin-stealers infiltrated the camp and might even now lurk amongst us? Ugh, thought there was something fishy about Jones since he got back!"
"Giant spiders made of millions of tiny spiders..? Welp, time to zealously fumigate the house."
"Zomb-.. again with the zombies? They're everywhere!"
"A sea monster in the bay shooting deathrays from its eyes? Oh hey, that could explain all the dead sharks /and/ zombie chunks washed up on our beach a couple weeks back.."
"Wait wait, no, that wasn't a sea monster, guys.. it was a boat with a horse head, you know, like a nifty Kitezh longship, that kind of thing. But it /did/ shoot deathrays from its eyes, bright as sunlight itself. Blasted the fire giant right in the head, it did. Killed 'im."
"That must have been the boat I heard about that came up from the sea with the creepy drowned Kites hung off the sides. Spooky cultist deathrays, woo .."
"Okay, now that we've established that was a ship, can we get back to monster talk? How 'bout them Giants..?"
At an off-campus pub frequented by Begman U Alumni...
"Did you hear from Ernst, of late? He's back in enlightened society, him and two others who answered that grubby little ad last summer."
"Ooh? So soon? That was a year contract, I believe. Wasn't it him and *three* others? I admit I haven't been following any reports to the Field Data Repository."
"Do you know, I don't think I've come across anything about Ernst's assignment in the FDR, either. I do know it was naval in nature.. he was carrying on about the project overseer, a Merry Captain So-and-so. Apparently they were made to conduct all manner of stress tests on this vessel out in some rather terrible locales.. shadows and such."
"Well, that sounds a reasonable expectation for work abroad, dear fellow. That ought to be well covered under the Foreign Experimentation Act. Ernst just couldn't hack it, I wager."
"I suppose so. However.. seas of blood.. ghouls and monsters.. black magic.. pillow forts.. and that's just the stuff I recall him saying off the top of my head. I think I'd want out of that contract too."
"Hmm. Maybe we should get the poor bloke to join us for a pint sometime.."
"That advert is back, did you see? Tucked in the corner of the Maritime Tinker's Gazette's second last page."
"That's conspicuously obscure. Don't you have anything better to do with your spare time?"
"Well you know, they say one of the hallmarks of genius is persistent boredom."
"When *they* refer to A Mind Forever Voyaging, *they* didn't mean wandering through the Wanteds in some fishy circular. I mean, look where it got poor Ernst. Nightmares of fast-moving zombies and babysitting orphaned moppets. Oh, fine, fine.. what does it say this time?"
"'Sprung from Begma U without a cushy technical position all lined up? Stressing about that conscription lottery to Amber's rank and file in a time of war? Longing for Far Flung Adventure, Exciting New Discoveries, and Really Wild Things? Then take the plunge from theoretical solution into practical application today, and direct your inquiry and CV to Pneumatic Tube Station B, Sub-Complex G (Foreign Missives Dispatch), Code 7432, keyword 'aquanautics'. Must be able to live a year minimum outside Begma, honour confidentiality agreements, and of course, swim.'"
"Heh. Left out 'Must love kids, cuttlefish, and dead people.', I see. Whatever you do, don't show this to Ernst."
With all the quiet murmurs rippling out concerning troop movements and a threat of invasion, it would perhaps be thought to be a related matter when a story trickles in from the Morfilod territorial holdings, about the epic arrival of a weird, goose-necked monster with three sets of flippers, and a frothy butt...
"So.. there they were, workin' the krill flats to bring the whales in before quittin' time.. when it came hurtlin' over the rise, big as a whale itself! Somethin' like what came out of the Nazaroth Gap an' got poor old Count Rees on his last wild hunt! What could the seeders do but scramble for cover while some Militia rushed up to try an' fight the beast off?
"Well.. turned out when it got close enough, it was no great sea dragon at all, but a kind of boat. A ship without sails that was swimmin' around undersea, nice's you please, with people lookin' out of it. That was no dragon head either, but a giant seahorse stuck out in front. Driedest thing. Almost poetic...
"...Until it started fartin' outta its face, that is. Huge blubbery bleatin' of the biggest, rudest noise you ever heard undersea. An' wouldn't you know it, that brought the whales down damn quick, an' they started rustlin' that odd boat along until a big chunk broke right off an' fell in yon krill patch.
"After that it was a super whale frenzy, all that food flyin' up for 'em. An' that crazy boat stopped blattin' an' went ass-end up an' full-on plowed up a field of wild oats before gettin' stuck in a kelp hedge. I don't know but I don't think it /meant/ to do that.
"The folk who came out didn't look Rebman, but they did just fine in the Sea's domain. It was a merry Lord and a pretty lady Mage, but it was not many of us happy to see 'em. Heard a real quiet-like whisper they were big fish in the city, favoured by the Regent, /but also/ pirates from Minos, an' done a bad thing to a Morfilod once.. to Lady Petra. We helped 'em get back the chunk that fell off, all the same. He called 'em ballasts, no clue, but they were somethin' /heavy/.
"This Lord Merry and Magi Lady didn't strike me as bad fish, but our overseer Lord Cyanore sent most of us away so I never saw what happened next. But mornin' after as we were settin' out for the capital, there was no more swimmin' beast ship in the field. Too bad, would've liked to get another look by day. Driedest thing, it was."
The storms raging throughout Minos ought to make it particularly tough for all forms of news to travel, however when a tale is just this juicy and outrageous, gossip shall find a way! This comes from out of one of those elusive outlaw hideaways and concerns the surprising return of a red-coated pirate who, up until about a couple of years back, had been doing pretty well in terms of behaving badly on the high seas. Then, he got himself cornered in Amber by a bounty hunter and hasn't been back to visit since... Until.
Just the other day, he sailed the Wave Dancer into said hideaway.. that's the bounty hunter's fabulous ship, you see. Even better, he had Captain Flame blinded and trussed on display upon her forecastle, to the raucous approval of those who had suffered and survived zealous justice by her imperious hand over the years. And here it had been widely assumed Captain Merrisol had been seduced, or worse, reformed! by beauty and power and royal privilege.
Apparently not, as he paraded Flame through the street to face the scorn of her enemies, his scurvy dogs holding the mob at a distance to prevent outright murder at its hands. He boldly dismissed concerns that her presence was a danger to the sanctity of the secret retreat, and if there was something fishy about his appearance after two years away, it must be said his manner was as brazen and vicious as it ever was.
Whatever other dark doomy details are added or left out of the traveling rumour, it never fails to culminate with the pirate dragging his captor-turned-captive into the local brothel, and walking out about an hour later with only his scalawags in tow. A harsh fate for the once proud, fiery Sea Queen? Some would say, not harsh enough!
It is with great disappointment that buccaneers sailing out of a certain exclusive harbor report ex-Captain Flame no longer sells favour at the local house of ill-repute.. if she ever did. Those who have boasted the opposite over the past week are not exactly known for their honesty, come to think of it. The only thing one can say for certain is she was there while her captor discussed his percentage with one of the hostesses, and before he left he'd discarded her rum-soaked blindfold within.
Considering her known bloodties and mystical prowess, it really comes as no surprise to learn the redheaded witch has escaped. Odds are she's tracking her hijacked ship across the storm-ridden seas right now, and it is hoped that dispatches sent out on fast ships will find the Wave Dancer in time to warn the daring pirate Captain Merrisol of the incoming wrath of a woman both scorned and sold.
The clever pirate-minstrel Captain Scallion was amongst those who set out to seek the Wave Dancer and approach whilst flying a black flag. He returned to roost some days later, telling of his new adventures through the Minos storms, and delivered the kicker with his usual poetical stylings:
"Gather 'round Mateys and / Pass over the dram as / My whistle be parched but / I'm still gonna yammer / On a quest through lightning / And Crack-a-Boom skies / Tracking ship fair elusive / 'Pon which certain doom lies!
"How you might wonder / If rumours speak truly / She dances waves heaving / Black skies as though blue she's / Not yawing nor weaving / Leaving all in her wake / Would bonny ship and captain / Still meet with this fate?
"On those gleaming white sails / My dark Nave did give chase / When he took to the rails / Bid myself draw apace / With the prodigal pirate / And deep was his laugh / At due warning delivered / Of Flame's deadly wrath!
"'I'd known all along / No cage could hold the beauty / She'd sizzle the.. hand.. / That would dare smack her - but I / Mean to face her anon / When she comes for me only / This time with sword drawn / and one will claim vict'ry.'
"Said he, what a rogue / Yet so gentlemanly too / Though the odds might be low / As the mood of the crew / Still that wasn't the worst blow / No man would argue / The Wave Dancer was cursed so / And here came the clue..
"My eyes spied an odd rat / going over the side / So clearly an omen that / Deserting its ride / Could mean he'd lose the battle / Or she'd see her pride / destroyed by tit-for-tat / assurance of woe b'tide!"
These catchy rhythmic verses have been making the rounds and vividly outline the stakes of the upcoming, inevitable conflict. Further, those sympathetic to Captain Merrisol's side are starting to rally with intentions of tipping the balance to his favour, if they aren't crushed by Gerard's fleet efforts first. The rat (and rap) omen-loving doomsayers insist there is no point in railing against fate. Besides which, who really wants to go up against the forces Captain Flame must herself be amassing?
Not to be outdone by a scurvy dog of a pirate bard, the Gallant Knight of Minos; one Lieutenant Jacob Friendly, took leave of his post near Cameron and with his Captain's permission and encouragement went out and about to drum up support for the redoubtable Captain Flame. For, if such as Scallion is seeking to raise the rabble in favor of Captain Merrisol, then he would champion Captain Flame and find supporters for her cause. To this end, he took up his quill and composed a reply to Scallion's verses.
"Where ere she goes / Our bold Flame knows / That those both stout and true
Will catch her spark / To light the dark / And seek that pirate crew
Yon pirate bold / Her honor sold / And in a brothel bound
Flame can't be held! / Nor thus compelled / She flew the Cuckoo's Nest!
And now she sends / To allies and friends / To stand with her estate
When Flame and 'Sol / In heated brawl / Decide the Dancer's fate
To our Flame's side / Commend your pride / Against that pirate's crew
As Flame does say / We'll win the day! / For we're all stout and true!"
Certainly not as danceable as Scallion's verses, but they are sing-able, so make the rounds within Minos. But what about the rats jumping ship from the Dancer, some ask? Friendly simply shrugs, insisting that Flame would not allow rats on her ship. What does that say about Merrisol? Those sympathetic to Captain Flame's cause begin to gather hither and thither, unless squished by their superiors. Then again, a not insignificant few whisper of the dangers in going up against the forces of such a dashing and daring pirate as Captain Merrisol.
Alas for poor Lieutenant Friendly! He has been so dejected lately. It all started with a conversation with Captain Flame about finding the Wave Dancer in the storm tossed seas. She smiled a grim sort of smile and assured the man that finding the Dancer would be simple. When pressed, however, she glowered so sternly that he snapped a salute and was heard to reply, "Yes, ma'am." After that, he was gleeful, charged with purpose at the thought of thet coming tussle with Pirates-A-Plenty! Now? His glee has drained away. Why?
Only this morning, a lookout reported the arrival of a soaked, bedraggled parrot bearing a note. Judging by the parrot's vibrantly green and crimson plumage, the note was from Captain Flame. Oddly, a patch of blue feathers on the bird's breast was mentioned, though that might have been just rum-inspired talk. After reading the note, the good Lieutenant sent off what could only be strongly worded protests. Word arrived that every Captain who supports Flame got the same note with similar results. Friendly? The good naval officer was next seen in the ship's galley with a full mug of rum in front of him and an empty or three to the side. "Single combat? Is she insane?" The mutters were low, but those were clearly heard at any rate. "Well. We'll go, jusht to make sure that dashtardly Merrisol's pirate friends don't try anything... dashtardly." After another mug or so, the poor man was rolled off to his bunk. But the mutterings continue. Captain Flame and Captain Merrisol? Single Combat? Wagers taken here!
Welp. It's been a month since some kind of ludicrous went down in a certain outlaw hideaway: An ill-fated romance finally going 'splodey, with the pirate snaring the hunter and selling her to the brothel! Oh, she did break out in short order, being who she is, but by then he'd already made off with her fine ship into the wilds of Minos' storm-tossed sea.
And then, oh the singing! The hideous brazen word-smithery! But, it had all led to a growing group rivalry, how could that possibly be a bad thing? The more, the Merri-er!
Five fleet ships have joined his strength, with more on the way promising to double that by week's end. Knowing Captain Flame had acquired a vessel to command and was said to have rallied to her cause known privateers and bounty hunters, one needs must anticipate matters coming to a head on the tempestuous open waters. If, that is, the cunning pirates could be tracked and intercepted. With markedly decreased traffic on the trade routes, it seemed they had the run of the seas.
It wasn't long however, before Flame did find them... at least by way of messenger bird, the peculiar green parrot flying unerringly through the storm to the hunted man. Pressed by the Captains of his growing flotilla to reveal the contents of the note, Merrisol had read aloud: an honourable challenge to single combat at such'n'such provided coordinates and oh, bring your friends! Crap, no, came the cry from his allies. Don't do it. It's a trap! She can't catch fabulous us so wants to lure us all to a nice neat /sinkable/ location.. and then you'll be at her mercy! Again!
It must be said he was duly moved by these concerns, and in the spirit of democratic peer pressure, AKA the Pirate Code, vowed he would make it that much harder for Captain Flame, and counter-propose. Come and find him, how's that for coordinates? And producing a fancy compass, he claimed the ability to know exactly the direction to go to steer clear of her. What an intriguing new method by which to navigate... why, a fleet could get itself utterly lost that way, aha.
From the safe harbours of piratical society comes a tale so remarkable that it guarantees the teller a free round of drinks, perhaps two if he manages to tell it well from start to finish, for it is a doozy for details. The most solid versions originate from the crews of the Hydra and the Mad Rhyme, two well-seasoned ships taken to sailing with the Wave Dancer to guard her from falling back under the dread lawful Captain Flame's rule. She on her new ship, the Arundel, had her own intrepid supporters in the Hornet and the Enterprise, and mercilessly tracked the elusive pirates through Minos' open sea, to make good on her challenge to Captain Merrisol; that through single combat all outstanding matters be resolved.
And so the day finally came when the Hunter ships forced the Pirates to run dangerously close to the phenomenal terror known as The Maw, cornering them. Merrisol commandeered the wheel, however, and took the Dancer ever closer to the vortex, giving Flame the wicked ultimatum: Withdraw, or lose her ship and crew forever. Undaunted, she called his bluff, and in a high-flying feat that thrilled the blood to see, swung over from the Arundel to engage the outlaw.
Inspired and incensed in turn, the attending sides began to menace one another, but were brought to heel when the Storm Witch, magnificent flagship of the Amber Navy Northern Fleet, came sailing in amongst them! There was nothing for it but to spectate the flashy, pitched duel between matched combatants, made all the more challenging upon the heaving deck. Skimming just ahead of funneling doom as the Maw sucked the surrounding sea into its spiraling downdraft, the Wave Dancer had her wheel tied and her Storm Sails full, plowing through the relentless waves. The distinctive Captains Flame and Merrisol warred from helm to amidships, sailing down rails and splintering crates all the way. With a fiery cutlass and a light-trailing saber as their chosen weapons, each slash and thrust could be seen from a distance, and the explosive flashes from every parry. The ships' crews, both lawful and piratical, were utterly drawn into the spectacle, shouting encouragement to their respective favourites. That both duelists appeared to have Seconds on the otherwise deserted deck, one uniformed swordswoman and one pirate lass, did not escape notice, nor had the bizarre arrival of a strange Minosianado atop a dolphin-windsurfer.
Then all eyes watched as Flame sprang back from the edge of defeat to renew her attack, and skillfully bring Merrisol down against some lashed casks, blazing sword pointed at his throat. He would have defied her still and fought on, had not the ship's crew rushed the deck and the Seconds shed their false identities and intervened as Princesses of Amber! and Tir! The dramatic surfer completed the royal triumvirate when he was revealed as the Lord Regent of Rebma!! After both combatants were made to stand down, Martin delivered a stern condemnation of their outrageous, escalating conflict in Minos, then declared for all to hear: There would be no further battle between the Captains and their respective allies, for a peace accord must be reached. Not only that, it would be couched within the ceremonious, cemented bonds of... MATRIMONY!
By all accounts, Flame and Merrisol looked about as knocked for a loop as their supporters. However, with the weight of authority from all three Great Realms bearing down on them, they both displayed grace under pressure and agreed to cease aggressions for a certain term, and promised to be married on that very day. As it so happened, everything needed to formally wed was readily, conveniently.. almost suspiciously! available. While the crew brought the ship away from poor, ravenous The Maw to nestle into the bewildered, bewitched collective of ships, the duel's referee and peace-keeper, Admiral Gerard, was entreated by his nephew Martin to officiate the ceremony. In the time it took for Merrisol's flag atop the main mast to be replaced by Flame's - for the treaty gave back captaincy of her beloved ship in perpetuity - ladies, more appearing by the minute, took the bedraggled bride-to-be belowdecks to replace her slashed and torn clothes with something even more jaw-dropping. Merrisol was corraled by Martin himself and fed rum to keep him from diving for the refuge of the Sea.
And if the short ceremony that soon followed had contained notes of true levity and heartfelt smiles, and a rather long kiss besides, perhaps those odd details could be forgiven by the enemies-turned-guests. After all, everyone loves a wedding, especially one that included a mid-air exploding bouquet that caught several ladies, and shares of rum and cake promised to all ships for honouring the treaty and thereafter going their separate ways.
As some seasonal buildings in the lower city harbour area are reopened to cater to wintertime layover stores and crew, talk circulates about a cafe tucked deep in the district apparently having been home to squatters over the spring and summer season. Not that it's unusual for transients to take up residence in empty structures, but it's unusual when they clean up so nicely before moving on. Used stocks were replaced, and a quantity of money left to account for what could not be replenished or repaired. The management even discovered a few 'home improvements' having been done. Sometimes you just get lucky with hobos, one supposes.
An exciting demonstration earlier in the week has evidently sparked thought and discussion amongst the working poor, a handful of students, and some other visitors to the Lower City neighborhoods being systematically mowed down and replaced by the King's Architect/Artificer's cookie-cutter housing...
"Never seen anythin' like that big lass takin' her hammer to the walls an' showin' that big contraption how might an' grit can get the job done. Blood an' Bone! That's what she said, an' what everyone got to cheerin' who was there."
"It weren't everyone, wassit? There was them who love the machine an' the quick work made of them derelicts that ain't fit to live in since the flood. Nice, neat, quality homes goin' up fast, with clean water runnin' inside even! An' it's all bein' done for us in the name of our benevolent Ruler and his overflowin' coffers!"
"I for one can't wait to get my lot inside a few of 'em brick builds. Free shelter, free water, even free coffee, I heard. An' with all the donations from Amber's allies, free grub as well."
"I don't think that's what the Begman meant when he said you were 'entitled' to all these things. Not free, he said they'd be affordable. Mass production drives down cost. As does a surplus in goods."
"You mean we gotta buy back our own homes? With what money? My shop's gone, an' even if it weren't who'd buy my food when it's bein' handed out free by the Uppers?"
"What makes you think your lot's getting in any of them, anyway? Have they each been assigned to a family? It'll be first come, first served, obviously. And decent homes attract decent working folk."
"Wha... ain't we decent? My family's all labourers. Who'll live in 'em then, the Begmans who can build an' run those infernal machines that took over the labourers' jobs? So that's what he meant when he said, 'Can't find a decent bricklayer in the L.C.'.."
"It's called 'gentrification', or would be if it were a gradual process of restructuring, but it's being sprung upon you now that the Tsunami has driven the Lower City people from their homes en masse and created the opportunity for the Uppers to retake the land, re-plan it, 'improve' it. You'll find the new building uniformity will be very good for some neighborhoods here, but devastating for the lower or 'no-income' areas relied upon by your social class system."
"...Not sure I understood half of what you just said, Mister, but it sounds like me an' mine gotta protect what's ours before it gets turned into places we ain't meant for!"
"..I cannot advise civil protest, personally. That's something you must think on and decide for yourselves. But I know Begma, and it's not the workers' paradise the King's Architect claims, if that's what he intends to recreate here."
"But Sir, aren't those outside realms, those Shadows, supposed to be a /reflection/ of Amber, not the other way around?"
"Good question, lad. These are good questions you've all raised.. and I wish you luck finding some answers."
Swiftly was the rising tide of concern from the desperate and unemployed poor of the Lower City quelled by the blanket reassurances of trusted authorities. Yet other more scholarly ideas could not be stifled by those efforts, curious questions which once asked, inspired a quiet yearning for knowledge. It is being said that some shadow-faring individuals have agreed to undertake a mission to discover and provide some answers.
The intrepid Captain and crew of the Wave Dancer have proven to be solid allies of the new Kitezh as well as the old. After working with Wulfgar Gereson to guide his stranded clan home, they had delivered supplies from Rebma and stayed on for a couple of weeks of the harsh winter season besides, befriending the people and exploring the surrounding wilderness.
Then, two nights before their scheduled departure, the vulnerable habitation had been menaced by a sleuth of enormous bears out of the frozen woods. Members of the outskirts patrol can recount how they came upon the strange Kite berzerker from the visiting ship, heading off the beasts in the stump-studded snow meadow. The desperate engagement had dropped several warriors before the group found a working team strategy to bring down just one giant, yet they would have been overwhelmed had Flame and her formidable associates not shown up to stem the tide. Savage feats were performed that night, and the field was awash with steaming viscera and massive carcasses when it was all over. At fourteen feet upright, the bears yielded dozens of good steaks, roasts, and so forth, and though most pelts would need mending they would make fine warm blankets after being tanned and cured.
And when the Wave Dancer set sail for Shadow on the next leg of their adventures, it was proudly agreed the stay in Kitezh had whetted their appetites well for the perils which still lay ahead.
As the efforts to clear out the land-dwelling population of Minos came down to the last days, an alert began to circulate through the rescue network of small fleets and individual vessels, of ships within the Storm-held seas with motives less than humanitarian. Callous opportunists exist and thrive in every major crisis, and undoubtedly this was moreso true in a place such as Minos. Ships gone missing in the Storm, while others slipped away with nice full holds of tradable stores to keep their crews fed and clothed at the foreign port that would become their new homebase.
Then the pirate sloop Spindrift limped into the southern safe zone of the Minos seas, and from her crew spread word of two rogue ships who never left the Storm but zealously embraced its madness and fury, turning on other vessels that did not join their revelry. The Spindrift had been lucky, claimed cranky ol' Captain Southpaw, but others had not. Hell, he'd even appealed to lawful Captain Flame of the Wave Dancer to go to the rescue of the Mad Rhyme, knowing her piratical mate Merrisol to be a close comrade of the silver-tongued Captain Scallion. Could Southpaw have shared more of his suspicions regarding the depths of the Xanthippe's depravity, or the Wildfire's psychopathic wrath? Well... sure, but would the Wave Dancer still have taken the mission, if he had?
Yes, obviously, yes. No one should be surprised after what these folks have already gotten up to in Minos, when survivors from the raid on the blood-mad brothel ship and the ensuing sea battle with the feral pirates of the Wildfire begin to turn up in safe ports throughout the Golden Circle and Amber. Their tales of the harrowing experience are similar enough in the specifics to support the mythos as a whole, even if some claims sound rather far-fetched, if not downright delusional. Especially from that bedraggled ketch whose crew spoke of their escape from the ferocious Wildfire being facilitated by a talking purple dragon, who flew down from the sky and spirited the ketch away to the open seas! It could not be dismissed out of hand, for other witnesses spoke of a purple-winged shark-lizard roaring through the Storm and divebombing the Wildfire while she traded ballista volleys with the swift-sailed Wave Dancer. There had even been musical accompaniment - a powerfully-moving operatic number from a golden figure upon a lightning-struck spire!
Altogether different stories came out of the dark and gritty depths of the Xanthippe, wherein up-close and personal encounters with debauched sadists and drug-fueled zombie abominations stood between the rescuers and their tortured allies. How a towering woman with iron black skin freed the Mad Rhymers from death by monstrous bloodsport, by becoming a monster herself and taking on five armed pirates at once! How Flame herself cut through the Wildfire cordon to give safe passage to the rescued, then reappeared on her own ship to lead the Wave Dancer into deadly battle! How Merrisol's rakish reputation for Getting The Girl got him a dozen naked courtesans to deliver from abject iniquity! And how Captain Rap Scallion himself, pirate balladeer extraordinaire, was also spared from a miserable death, though he will not, or cannot, speak of his savior. His subsequent lyrical compositions on the event, however, rather curiously include mention of an umbrella, a pocketwatch, and a necktie garrote...
After a spectacular storm cannon showdown and a karmic explosion rocked the hulls of respective ships, the Wildfire and the Xanthippe sank, they say, and stalk the stormy Minosian seas no more. Unless: They have joined the macabre collection of ghost ship tales, these ones destined to be particularly chilling and lurking with grotesque horrors. A necessary contribution to the seafaring legends of Minos, and a counterbalance, one might say, to the lasting songs and stories of daring heroism praising the intrepid captain, crew, and associates of that mighty ship of Minos, the Wave Dancer!
Tales of derring-do in Minos continue to radiate through the GC as refugees from the Storms make their way to distant ports. Direct witnesses to the rescue of the Mad Rhymers can be relied upon to know the names of those to whom they owe their lives: Captain Flame/Maggie, Captain Merrisol, Ruby, Princess Amethyst, Lord Regent Martin of Rebma, Lord Michio of House Feldane, and one Mr. Templeton. Amongst the brave WD crew, the names Anderson and Haggerty also stand out.
<OOC> A five-chapter RP Log is available for reading entertainment, starting at < http://lanterns.homestead.com/bloodcrazy1.html >. Want to have heard about a specific IC detail? Check with the PC to work it out.
The response to the prominent rumours swirling through the capital about the potential flood of Minosians is understandably, and already, contentious. Plenty of bad blood, from nautical dominance claims, to whaling disputes, to the wartime acts of both realms, and not to mention the Minosian connection to the Cataclysm, may not really come out in the wash, despite the Lord Regent's magnanimous decree. Rebma keeps the Past, after all, and though the Word of the Day is 'Forgive', the noble Houses and other families who suffered bitter loss will never 'Forget'.
Nevertheless, those brave, adventurous, and perhaps desperate families have begun trickling down the daunting Great Stairs off Faiella-Bionin, to experience the plunge into breathable water with both awe and shock. A lifetime of mariner beliefs gone topsy-turvy when the Sea, their harsh mistress, proves hospitable. They are received by a detachment of the friendliest volunteers Rebma could muster to instruct them in the boundaries of the magical environment, and assist them to the hurriedly-reconstructed compounds of disaster-ravaged embassies. Reception functions held in the Palace courtyard by Princess Miriam have gone some way to helping the refugees acclimatize and feel welcome. Looks of suspicion and general indignance traded between sides, however, keep a chill in the normally temperate waters.
Now would perhaps be the time to remind those who don't believe peace can be achieved, that there have already been significant gains in the years since the Cataclysm. Who can forget the popular acclaim for the Minosian Captain Flame, the Regent's own dear cousin Lady Maggie? And Ruby, Rebma's appointed Forge artist behind all the fancy new weapons, tools, and ship fittings, is rumoured to be a Stormblooded Minosian as well. And Minister Meijanri's sisterhood from Minos, they've really.. er.. well that's been sort of a mixed bag. How about the Warden of the Deep, Lord Merrisol himself, long-suspected an actual Pirate of Minos? His celebrated union with Maggie, sanctified by the High Priestess of Lir, is practically a prophetic event. These are not the only ones who have figured prominently in heroic service to both realms. There's Dame (ahem, Queen!) Ryika, Lords Quinlan and Templeton, the Regent's dear sister Princess Amethyst, and Miriam and Martin themselves! Surely such glowing influences to public sentiment must lend the recommendation of tolerance some serious weight.
As with all controversial gambles by Martin for the advancement of Rebma, only time will reveal the pay-off.
Speculation has been leaking from the city about the military action that has converted a swath of the outskirts to the south into a restricted travel zone. About two, three weeks previous, there had been a traveling circus in that very spot, a carnival and menagerie with some rather impressive creatures on display, even a beastly deep horse that was billed as The Last Kelpie in Rebma. This Deep Menagerie had been all set to pull up stakes and be on its merry way, when some sort of local Maelstrom hit and tore everything apart.
Some think the nerdy-but-fiesty Dilwens were involved as they have been nursing a grudge against the circus for fifty years over a runaway.. or kidnapped!.. youth, during its last visit to the capital. Others insist it was an enthusiastic group of activists and/or anarchists who were bent on setting the legendary beasts loose to rampage. Then there's that crazy outskirts-dwelling coot who swears up and down that it was The Last Kelpie who did it all, saying he saw that gargantuan eel-bodied monster circlin' the fair 'round and 'round, ettin' them workers up, startin' with the one-eyed Ringmaster!
Whatever happened, an explosion had rocked the seabed shortly thereafter and the nearby military garrison had descended upon the area, locking it down as a hazard zone. The populace has kept itself amused with stories, but very few civilians if any have ventured far from the city as the sightings of giant beasties lurking about the mountain slopes have been very real: Goldfish the size of killer whales; and six-flippered sea monsters with seahorse heads; and of course, the Last Kelpie, oh my!
And where is the Lord Regent throughout all of this? He was last seen riding an enormous Koi at the fair, shouting wahoooo! , and now it's that tricksy Ygrayne diplomat handling affairs with the Amber royal elders. Did Martin really leave his Palace and Princess in the care of his derring-do flatlander drinking buddies? They really need to stop bringing her home all banged up or he's not gonna share his good weed with them anymore..