Author Topic: Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince  (Read 1734 times)

loren

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Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince
« Topic Start: August 15, 2011, 02:52:48 AM »
The horizon began to brighten as the sun crept up into the sky.  Standing on the bow of the fast sloop carrying assorted worked metal goods for the mines that the Spoke and Wheel Trading Company had been building in the hills a hard day's journey from Soupat, Raenart was grinning from ear to ear.  Now here was going to be an adventure!  The board of directors had convened a special meeting just days before he had left.  The directive had been given shortly thereafter, he was to immediately set sail for what was being called the Colonies.  At the time he'd been shocked that the Directors were going to send him of all the Merchanters to the new lands.  As he dwelled on the idea he began to tease apart their likely intentions.

Below decks in the Captain's strongbox were the sealed instructions from the Directors.  Whatever they were, they had been delivered by a troop of pikemen surrounding a very scared looking functionary from the Spoke and Wheel central offices.  Nothing had been left to chance, no-one knew the contents of the letter except the Directors.  Entire spy divisions had been devoted to protecting its secret, there could be no doubt of that.

It would be weeks before the rivals of the Spoke and Wheel  would be able to send their own agents, that would be the time he'd have to act before his every action was reported scrupulously.  His wide grin turning grim, he knew it would not be enough time.  It never was.  Years of service had taught him that.  Many had never learned that lesson in the harsh Northern lands.  All their schooling in figures, and blades could not prepare any for the Colonies.  It was a rough and un-tamed land, just the sort of place where golds could be dug up from the depths of the lands and turn you into a fat rich Director; if you managed to live long enough.

They had been anchored off-shore for the night, waiting for a lumbering Galleon to leave laden down with precious zinc that the burgeoning industries required to spin new brass ship fittings for the ever expanding tentacles of trade that reached up from the south to take root in the North.  Now a harbor pilot was rowed out to the ship.  Treacherous rocks remained even though the harbor had been extensively dredged since its founding a decade prior.  When he was safely on board the captain descended from the stern and motioned for Raenart to join him in his cabin.  The moment had arrived, the orders were to be opened as had been agreed.
Snug in the quarters of the Captain both men removed the complex key they had kept on a leather thong beneath their shirts the entire journey.  The Captain slid his into the strong box and quietly departed the cabin.  Alone, for the first time since the journey from the south began, Raenart took a moment for himself before he confidently slid his own key into the lock, turned it, and holding his breath opened the strongbox.  Inside was a sheaf of papers which he set off to the side.  Next to the sheaf was a jar of oil in which floated a vial holding a single sheet of rolled paper.  Fishing out the vial he unstoppered the top and carefully slipped out the rolled sheet into his hand.  Quickly unraveling the sheet not caring that oil was soaking one edge of the sheet he began to read quickly.  The text was simple and short.  Barely five seconds after the sheet had touched the open sea air it ignited, the ashes floating freely into the air.

His instructions clear Raenart ignored the expectant look of the Captain and strode back towards the waiting deck.  Emerging into the light he found that the ship was nearly in its bearth.  Five other ships were moored up, only one  small slips remained empty.  No large vessel would be able to dock until one of the six ships left.  As soon as the gang-plank was set Raenart began to grow impatient.  He knew protocol, but by the great dragons, he had to make it to the Company stockade.  As soon as he was able he slipped away with a curt nod to the Captain.

Few paid him any attention as he strode through the offal filled streets of the wharf, after turning up Broad street he saw the Company Stockade, its walls half of stone and half of wood dominating the small trading post.  Passing several taverns, the Hairy Buffalo, the Winking Lizard, the Blind Pig, Raenart could only laugh.  Every tavern must be named after a ludicrous animal in this town.  His hand resting on the hilt of his blade as he walked up the small hill he looked with furtive eyes spotting the pick-pockets easily enough.  With their eyes meeting they knew he would be no easy mark, and so left him be.  His broad chest made him an imposing figure for any ruffians lurking about as well.  While not tall, he was a bit above average.  Enough that his reach would only be bettered by a true giant of a man.  The alert and attentive guards took  in his sword Spoke and Wheel pommel and allowed him to pass.  His boots made light footfalls as he confidently strode through the Stockade gate.  As he passed he heard the guards comment to his mate, "Did you see that!  I haven't seen anyone with that sigil on his sword except the Company master.  This may not end well."  Stopping, Raenart moved his hand closer to the hilt of the blade.  "Guardsman, you will not discuss my arrival with anyone, not even your mates, nor your whore, nor anything that breathes.  Fail in this and I will rip out your tongue and feed it to you.  I will then poke out your ears with a red-hot needle and send you off to the mines so that you can load the rocks into the carts, for that is surely the only job for which you will be fit as a deaf mute.  Am I clear!?"  With a very large and visible gulp the guard can only nod in affirmation.  With a deadly glare at the gutter-rat who had witnessed the exchange it was clear that worse would come to him should he even think of mentioning it to anyone.  With a gaze that missed no-one he spun on his heel satisfied that no other eavesdroppers were about and proceeded into the Company offices.

Soon after Raenart was standing in-front of Soupat's Company master.  "Greetings Tomaas.  Doubtless you know why I am here."  Handing over the sheaf with the documents, Tomaas gave Raenart a steady look.  "I did not expect you to be the one they sent.  I can only imagine what that means.  Did you get any orders I should know of?" the aging merchant asked politely.  Raenart returned his gaze, and in an even voice replied, "Only one.  I am to use any and all means necessary to secure the mines."  Holding eachothers gaze for a moment Tomaas nods slowly letting his words hang.  "Any and all."  Turning to the small square window, barely large enough for a boy of six to shimmy his way through, "Yes, they would send you with those instructions."  There was little emphasis in his words, but both men knew precisely what had been said.

The meeting concluded Raenart took to the visiting merchant quarters in the Stockade, tomorrow he would ride out to the mines for an inspection.

Siren

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Re: Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince
« Reply #1: August 16, 2011, 03:37:54 AM »
The two brass doors of the Winking Lizard tavern were thrown open in the wind, causing the weathered eyes of the lizard mural t0 appear black and closed. The barmaid ran to the door and slammed it shut as passerby's glared at the disproportionately large lizard eyes that faced Broad Street.

Inside the dark tavern were no more that twenty chairs and five tables, which appeared to be arranged in no particular order. The bar floor was sloped significantly towards the entrance. The tavern was empty except for the pale-skinned red-headed barmaid, two men talking casually at the bar and one man who sat quietly in the back corner reading.

"If I had a stack of gold for every time I heard that someone saw Tomaas, that greedy old bastard, leave Soupat ... I would steal a Company ship, fill it with naive fools like you and sink it to the bottom of the sea." said the one man. "That man is going to die counting coin in the Stockade."

"HA! If you had that much gold YOU would be drunk for a good month and be the one at the bottom of the sea!" laughed the other.

"Can I gets you boys another?" the slender barmaid asked. Her voice was strong and firm, which seemed oddly overbearing for her small figure.

"Ah, we best head out. Another time love." one of the men replied as he picked up his brown bag and walked towards the door.

"Agreed," the other man said, as the lizards eyes closed again letting the afternoon sunlight into the bar.  "Good'day to ya."

The two men left the bar, closing the brass doors behind them.

"What abouts yourself?" the barmaid asked the man in the corner, who seemed to be covered in soot of some kind.

If he heard her, he didn't react.

"Woulds yas like another?" she continued. "I mights need to put in a fresh keg, so this will be the last ones before the drinks get foamy."

He continued reading, not lifting his head to acknowledge the girl.

 He was dressed in a tattered black coat, with a green tunic underneath. The barmaid walked closer to the man, until he noticed she was standing directly above him.

"Oh, is thats a map of the mine tunnels?" she asked. "Where dids you manage to find one of those?"

This time he looked up at her. Calmly stood. And stuck his hand out to give the barmaid his glass.

As she reached for it, he struck on the face with it and she doubled back in pain. He kicked the table aside and lunged at the barmaid. He grabbed her by the arm and raised his fist above his head.

"Where is Sih!" He shouted. "You said he would be here an hour ago! I nearly died getting this map! Where is your owner!"

The barmaid giggled as he squeezed her arm harder.

"Where is he!"

She smiled at the man. He looked as if he had sat in mud carts for over a week. The bagges under his eyes sagged nearly to his nose.

"SHE has been waiting a lot longer than an hour for you, silly." She laughed aloud.

The man was confused. However, his confusion didn't last long.

As he loosened his grip the barmaid's arm, she pulled a shard of glass from behind her back and slit his throat.

The man fell to his knees as the slope of the floor drained the blood towards the door.

loren

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Re: Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince
« Reply #2: August 16, 2011, 05:03:19 AM »
The blood continues to drain out of the man towards the door.  Soon the pool spreads out as a warm viscous layer of crimson.  A mine worker and his mates fresh from their pay day enter the pub.  Taking in the man slumped over on the ground and the blood they stop for a moment before laughing viciously.

"What'd the stranger do this time lass, try to cop a feel without paying?  Tell you what, give me and the boys here something to forget what we've seen and we'll pretend to have never noticed him.  But don't bother with coin, you know what we want."

It would appear that violence is par for the course at the Wink.  The burly miners eye the barmaid expectantly.  Clearly they've been in this situation before, and know exactly what they're going to get.

Morningstar

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Re: Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince
« Reply #3: August 16, 2011, 08:49:24 AM »
"And so I says, 'If I wanted a kiss, I'dve called for your wife!"  Raucous laughter erupts from across the street.  A middle-aged farmer stands packing up the last of his wares from the day.  "Well, that'll do us for today.  Me'n Jervin'll be back in the morning, right son?"

The boy, however, is not paying attention. His eyes are fixed on the commotion happening across the street.  Young brows furrowed, his fists clench at his thrice-patched leggings.  His father eventually follows his gaze.

"Oy! You there! Not in front of the boy!"  He pats his son on top of his cap.  "Now then, son. Let's be off."

The cart lurches forward after a quick nudge of the oxen by the farmer.  But the boy's eyes never leave the woman.  And the entire ride home, three things replay themselves over and over again.  One, the blood spatter on the woman's blouse.  Two, the man's voice shouting about a map.  And three, the look of ecstasy on the woman's face as she addressed her new assailants. Something told Jervin that she'd be getting the better end of whatever deal they struck.

Forbes Family

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Re: Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince
« Reply #4: August 16, 2011, 05:33:21 PM »
The kid was working the street near the wharf as the ship docked. Fresh meat, he thought to himself before finding an inconspicuous place to watch the people offload and mark his targets. The people of Soupat were beginning to recognize the rag tag gang of youths that constantly were lightening their purses so a new ship with new sailors who would likely get drunk and prove easy targets was always welcome.

As he positioned himself he noticed a man slip off the ship rather quickly. It was not uncommon for ships to transport passengers but there was something... odd. The man was alone and had an air of confidence that a regular passenger didn't have. And although he thought he had blended in rather nicely to the surroundings, a shiver ran up his back when their eyes met. He knew this was something to report to the "Master".

He watched as the man walked by the tavern district and followed him at a distance he felt not even this man would notice. Almost loosing him a couple of times he used all of his skills and knowledge of the streets to keep an eye on the man and watched as he walked right into the Company Stockade's gate. The guards didn't even challenge the man! No, wait... it looked like the man challenged the guards! With that he scurried back to the Blind Pig.

When he arrived the Pig was still fairly empty aside from a couple of sailors drinking and gambling with a whore on each of their knees. The boy chuckled to himself they would not leave with anything left in their purse but stayed off the temptation to take his fair share. The whores would surely get upset should he take from a customer. Instead he stayed on task and found the collector. The collectors took in the funds from the pickpockets, whores and thugs and took said funds to a back room where only The Master along with a few close advisers were allowed. Although the collector really didn't understand what all of this meant he agreed to pass on the message.

As the collector pushed open the door and walked in before closing it behind him.  A moment later the collector walked out and told the boy he'd best get in there but prior to doing so he told him not to look The Master in the eye.

The boy walked in and seated before him was a man dressed in black robes. There was a large ruby ring on his left hand which held a tankard of what the boy presumed to be ale. In his right hand a cigar. The boy did not want to disobey so he kept his head down to be safe. He knelt, shaking a bit. Fear had gripped him and his mouth had dried.

A whack upside the head, Tell him what you saw! The boy about soiled himself before recounting the story and when finished it took the prodding of a thug to get him to stand up and walk out.

Meanwhile the robed man sat there stoking his beard in thought.
Forbes Family

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Re: Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince
« Reply #5: August 18, 2011, 12:03:21 AM »
The farmer's cart slows to a stop and he nudges his boy. "We're home, son. Wake up. Make yerself useful and start unpacking, ya hear?"

Jervin, who is not asleep, slowly climbs down off the wagon.  He had sorted it all out in his head on the ride home and had determined that the only thing in this area worth having a map of is the mines, not more than a couple hundred yards east of his family's farm.  Which made sense. Riders had been passing almost daily lately.  Soldiers, mostly.  All headed toward the mines.  He wasn't sure what the big fuss was, but he knew it had to be big.  Word was that the Merchant Prince himself was due to arrive any day to deal specifically with the matter.

And now someone who had a map of those mines was very likely dead. Very likely because of that map.  His fourteen years had taught him enough.  When items exchange hands at the price of blood, blame soldiers of fortune. When that's not as obvious as it seems, blame the government. And sometimes, blame both.

"Coming, father."

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Re: Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince
« Reply #6: August 18, 2011, 09:22:49 PM »
"Well if you must...at least help me take in the body. We don't want to be interrupted." Sih said calmly.

The dust covered miners dragged the body behind the bar where Sih opened a hatch that was hidden behind a oak. They tossed the body down and Sih started to climb down the ladder.

"Well are you coming or not?" Sih looked up and asked.

The burly miners looked down the hatch, then at each other, shrugged and started to climb down.

Underneath the bar, built into the rock, was an intricate tunnel network. It appeared to connect all the shops on Broad Street, and maybe even more of the port city.

The men looked around at the dimly lit passage and started to climb back up the hatch.

"You didn't think we would just leave him here, did you?" Sih said and started to tug the body farther into the cave.

The men shrug and followed her deeper into the cave. About 5 minutes later the men stopped.

"Alright lets get to it already!" one man exclaimed.

"Okay, okay." Sih said as she started to lift her jacket.

Sih looked down at her arm, covered in markings. She began chanting an incantation, reading of her arm script that was in the shape of tidal waves.

"Mother water, bubbling earth. Wash their sins away, cleanse their dirt."

loren

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Re: Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince
« Reply #7: August 19, 2011, 04:10:26 AM »
The men laugh at the woman.  Their laughter echoing down the smuggler tunnels.  In a rush water pushes up through the ground from underneath the woman.  It rises quickly as their eyes grow wide with wonder.  Soon a wall of water presses against the sides of the tunnel and moves at great speed towards the men who get caught up in the water being pushed the 200 feet out to see within moments.  Many never learned to swim and drown, a few live to tell the tale which spreads widely throughout the town in the coming days, though nothing exists to corroborate their story. [3,3,2, water, push]

After the water has fled the walls of the tunnels look as if they are sagging from the immense pressure the tidal wave generated.  Some sections collapse as their support timbers were pushed out to sea.  Entire sections of the system are now completely impassable.

Siren

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Re: Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince
« Reply #8: August 19, 2011, 06:05:02 AM »
Anticipating the wave Sih held her breath and swam out of the cave system, the map clenched in her teeth. She emerged from the darkness into a small inlet, down past the main docks. She knew she could not go back to the Winking Lizard anytime soon, so she traveled back to the city through a quiet back road.

She met up with a short blonde hair man, just around the gate from The Company stockade.

"I heard the tunnels collapsed, did you get it?" he asked.

"Yes, buts it didn't go as... smoothly ... as I's planned." she replied. "Dids yous bring everything?"

The man dragged out two bags of what appeared to be mining gear, ropes, lanterns, a tent and an small brown sack.

He handed the small sack to her and she slowly undid the yellow string keeping the bag closed.

She looked into the bag and smiled, then quickly did it back up.

"We makes for the mines in the morning. I's needs to rest a bits first."

The two walked to the outskirts of the city and set up camp.

loren

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Re: Prelude - Arrival of the Merchant Prince
« Reply #9: August 19, 2011, 06:24:33 AM »
Thread closed, please jump in at Prelude - Making Waves