Welcome to the city of Eagle's Launch! Long a small, sleepy port town — a stopover for ships from such Blessed Isle ports as Bittern or Eye of Creation — Eagle’s Launch was transformed by the rise of the Western trade and by V’neef’s acquisition of the Merchant Fleet. In recent years, it’s multiplied in size through a massive influx of foreign and domestic immigrants. Old Eagle families blame economic troubles on immigrants. Ruthless policing and curfews largely confines their enmity to snubs and insults. But there was blood in the streets only a decade ago, and economic
reverses or demagoguery could bring those days back.
Importing Western spices, hardwoods, and slaves has enriched House V’neef and the patrician families of Eagle’s Launch. Dynastic and foreign travelers are greeted by gorgeous new civic architecture, tree-lined boulevards, and grids of wealthy storefronts dealing in exotic Western merchandise — pineapples, cinnamon, jewelry, talismans — funded by V’neef’s foreign adventures. Some wealth trickles down to the peasantry, but not enough. Visitors rarely stumble into the city’s labyrinthine slums, packed with families of dock laborers and service workers.
Due to the conflict between Houses V’neef and Peleps over control of the West, strife among wealthy merchants over shares in that trade, and recent V’neef efforts to conceal wealth from Imperial taxation, Eagle’s Launch crawls with adventurers, smugglers, courtiers, and spies from various houses, consortiums, and ministries.
Right now, however, the fight between House V'neef and House Peleps is at a tipping point. A treaty that has been in the works for decades is about to become ratified between the Blessed Isle and Wavecrest by putting a scion of V'neef's family as the bride to be to the crown prince of the island nation, granting the small House much greater control over imports from Wavecrest and of the western oceans, pouring much needed income into the V'neef coffers as the House struggles to grow in power and influence.
As the negotiations draw closer to completion, V'neef has called for a grand party that is set for tomorrow evening to celebrate the good fortunes of the House. Dozens of visiting dignitaries are making their way to the city to attend the gala, and most of the Exalts of House V'neef are to be in attendance. It is expected to be a wonderful event.
Before that, though, there are several guests that are due to arrive in the city, all set to attend the festivities the next day, set to be put up in the V'neef manor house for their stay. Cathak Enathia, Kasumi and Guro are all arriving on a ship after sailing around the coast, while the rest of our merry band are already at the manor house, with some of you resting after a very long road trip.
It is currently mid-afternoon. What od you wish to do wih your time?
Moretta takes another sip of her tea with a smile. She has always enjoyed relaxing in the afternoon with a cup of tea and a good book, but today, there is too much to be done to spend the time lounging about. With a quick glance outside at the sun, Moretta sees that it is nearly time for her friend Kasumi to arrive at the port. Since it would not do for a member of the House to not be met, she rises and smooths out her dress with a quick motion, then she reaches out to scoop up Riku from her pillow that she was napping on. "Come on, lazy little one. Time for us to go."
Riku gives off a huge yawn, then says, "But I was comfy. Couldn't you go get Kasumi yourself?"
With a chuckle, Moretta says, "Yes, but then you would miss out on a chance to get yourself some fresh fish to snack on! Just think how upset you would be if you didn't get yourself some delicious tuna, and then you'd blame me for that horrible event. Besides, you can always nap on my shoulder. You do it often enough."
The cat stretches, her wings sticking out wide before she relaxes. "True. Some fresh fish would be welcome, and I do nap well enough on your shoulders. Ok, I'll go. Just make sure you wake me before we leave so I can get my fishies! Mmmm, yum."
Moretta signals for a servant to have a carriage readied for her to go to the port to meet the various dignitaries that are due to arrive on Kasumi's ship, knowing that by the time she gets downstairs and to the front doors, it will be waiting for her. She looks to the two Red Monks standing at her side and signals for one to stay here and keep guard over her room, and takes the second with her to help ensure her own safety. Just as expected, as she walks out, the ornate carriage is there with the driver waiting patiently for her. With a nod to the man, she says, "To the docks, if you please. It is time to greet our guests."
"Of course, M'Lady. As you will it."
She relaxes as the driver cracks the reins of the team of horses and starts the carriage moving along, idly glancing out the window at the scenery as they travel. She is quite looking forward to seeing Kasumi again.
Guro steps down the gangplank with focus, landing on the docks with mild disorientation. Travel by ship was still a novel experience, though recent times already informed him of what to expect traveling the open sea. Were it not for the matriarchs persistence with such negotiations, a grafted outsider like Guro would've elected to steer clear of the whole affair. "Finally, I'll be able to rest at ease again... for now." His voice reverberated through the cast helm. "Anyone else craving real food again?" He cast a longing glance at the streets ahead, feeling a low rumble in his gut. Dynastic appetites for exorbitant luxuries were one thing, but a ship's kitchen just never seemed to have enough.
"Careful, cousin. You're making me think that my cutting down of that siaka we encountered at the Sideshores wasn't worth the effort, if you don't consider that to be real food." Kasumi replied teasingly in response to Guro's remark, the Water Aspect following her cousin down the gangplank with more ease and grace than he had shown. "But yes. There's only so much that can compare to what we have on the Isle."
At present, Kasumi wore her typical short-sleeved blue robe and boots; the set of lamellar armour she had on at sea had been removed as soon as she caught sight of Eagle's Launch. No pirate would be foolish enough to attack a Realm vessel this close to the city. The one concession she'd made for her defence was the currently sheathed Kirameku Namida, presently worn on her hip.
The Water Aspect turned to check on the rest of the passengers disembarking from the ship, before the sounds of approaching horses and wheels made her turn her head back towards the city. Her mouth became a warm smile once she recognized the carriage and figured out who was inside it; Moretta had long been one of her favourite people on the Blessed Isle, besides Melati and Tepet Kotari.
"Seems we've got a welcoming party." she said to Guro before approaching Moretta's carriage, no less eager to see her friend than the sorceress was to see her.
Enathia slaps Guro on the back as she walks by him on the gang plank.
"Yes indeed," she says in rhetorical answer to Kasumi's comment. "Looks like you'll have 'real food' before you know it, Guro." Enathia, dressed in plain tunic belted at the waist, puts a hand on her hip and tosses her flame-red hair over her shoulder. Lifting her head, she closes her eyes and breaths deep the Isle-air. It feels good to be home. And even better to see they wouldn't have to wait long to be picked up.
Moretta sits patiently as the carriage comes to a stop, then she sits patiently as the driver jumps down and runs around to open the door for her. With a dainty step, she climbs down and looks about, trying to catch sight of Kasumi and the other Exalts that are due to arrive by ship. When she sees her standing with Guro and Enathia, Moretta smiles and offers up a wave. Heading over, she motions to the demon escort to fall into step behind her as she makes her way through the bustling crowds.
"Dear Kasumi! How lovely it is to see you!" She holds out her hands and takes the younger woman into a hug. "And look who you've found. Our Guro and Enathia!" She turns to each of them and gives them hugs in turn. "Welcome home. Come! I am sure you have had a long trip, and could use some expert tender loving care at the manor. I have a carriage waiting that is large enough for all of us, and the servants will take care of your things and have them taken to your rooms."
Kasumi happily returned Moretta's wave and hug, only letting go of the other woman's waist so that she could give Guro and Enathia the same greeting.
"I won't deny that the prospect of such care sounds highly appealing to me. As well as the chance to see the rest of our relatives." she replied, her thoughts going to Melati as she got into the sorceress's carriage.
"My only regret there is not having the supplies to treat that siaka the way it deserved." Guro nodded slowly. "At least now, I have a better idea of what to store for such trips."
The man gave an unseen smile behind his mask to Moretta on her approach. He felt his face flush with heat at the suggestion. 'I ah... Yes, that does sound nice. Thank you!" He stammered, turning to see various workers fetch supplies to and fro. "...and not for nothing but, I'll handle my own belongings. I don't think I'll ever get used to being waited on like this. It's just... unsettling." He added, loading a pair of luggage trunks in a brief moment before approaching the carriage. He waved a hand to Enathia, beckoning her to take a seat. "After you, honored guest." Guro chuckled with a smirk.
Melati savours the fading of the last note plucked from her sanxian before slowly opening her eyes and letting the tinkling of bells wash over her. Many in this hospice run by an order of the Breath of Sextes Jylis were unable to clap, but most could pull the string to ring the small brass bell hung by their bedside, and did so enthusiastically. She basks in, and mirrors, their beaming smiles, nourished by tears of joy and hope, before bowing low, pale green hair full with white blossoms and yellow centres tumbling over her shoulders. She usually keeps it long and unbraided. Though small and difficult to spot, the flowers in her hair bear deadly venomous thorns and have a nasty habit of attacking innocent handmaidens when she stops paying attention. She rises, lovingly depositing her instrument in the hands of a waiting servant before departing, bowing to the assembled monks and their grateful smiles on her way out.
Tales of the miraculous healing power of her music has spread far and wide, prompting whispers of a second coming of Sextes Jylis that the Order is swift to silence. The monks had subtly offered her a place in the Order, but she had politely demurred - cut off her hair and abstain from sweets, intoxicants, and parties? Hah! Not if great grandmother herself returned to demand it.
Most of the denizens of the hospice are indigent, but the Order always finds room for a few attendees at her daily concerts should they find it in their hearts to make sizable donations. She has single handedly increased the donatives to the hospice more than tenfold while reducing its costs per patient by just as much, significantly boosting the local economy due to recouped work days and epidemics averted in the process. She should know, since she crunched the numbers in justifying the value of her daily performances to her superior amongst the Wise and Knowledgeable Advisors of Foreign Tributaries, Bal Intaki. The stubborn old man has made it abundantly clear how much he enjoys having V'Neef's granddaughter at his beck and call, and only by pulling strings with a grateful Order and her family was she able to eke out victory.
Once more she arms herself for battle, shoulders hunched and expression determined as she steps out from under the shade of the wooden trellis archway, hanging heavy with fragrant flowering vines, and into the bright afternoon sunlight. The flowers in her hair blossom eagerly and tumble over themselves to reach towards the sun, but she is too distracted by the many scrolls her servants arm her with to notice what a tangled mess her hair is quickly becoming. It always straightens itself out when she absolutely needs it to. She begins scanning the scrolls as she passes the three dozen guards flanking the short walk between the hospice and her waiting carriage. It could be rather tiresome to be treated like such a delicate flower all the time, but she couldn't gainsay grandmother's assessment of her strategic importance to House and Realm. In the event of a conflict her music could put sick and wounded soldiers back in the field in a fraction of the usual time and keep entire legions at close to full strength during heavy campaigning. She knew how much her family's many enemies would like to plant a knife in her back, but dearly wished to forget it.
During the carriage ride she mentally rehearses her rhetorical thrusts and parries and in preparation studies relevant case law, the philosophical arguments of the great minds upon whose shoulders she stands, and the teachings of the Immaculate Texts. She steps out of the carriage onto a waiting carpet, walking through another corridor of soldiers and into the labyrinthine halls of the Advisors' bureaucratic enclave in the centre of Eagle's Launch, navigating with grim determination until she finds herself before the door of her supervisor's office. She ignores the curious and awestruck stares of the junior clerks at their desks, takes a deep steadying breath, draws herself up to her full and not particularly imposing height, and grips her scrolls tightly. As she pulls the silk cord the attached bell rings out with a terrible finality. The hushed silence that settles over the hall, quills stilled and breath bated, seems to stretch for an eternity before the terse acknowledgement comes from within, granting her permission to slide the paper door aside and step inside.
She meets the baleful gaze of Bal Intaki over his desk with determined defiance, head held high, armoured in the certainty of the righteousness of her cause, summoning all the regal authority only a lifetime of Dynastic education can instill, then throws down the gauntlet, delivering her declaration of war: "Most honourable and wise Bal Intaki, whose knowledge and guidance has proven invaluable in the furtherance of my education. Your humble servant, V'Neef Melati, respectfully petitions you for leave to take the rest of the afternoon off to attend to her filial duties." Alea iacta est.
"Yessssssssssssssss!" The exultant cry escapes her lips the moment she leaves earshot and she immediately bolts through the halls at an entirely undignified pace, forcing her bodyguards to jog to keep up and drawing incredulous looks as she periodically sweeps up bewildered passersby into rapturous dance. All those years studying at the Spiral Academy were finally paying off. She would still be late, but perhaps if she told the drivers to push the team hard she would just make it.
The door has only been half opened and the carpet partially unfurled before Melati has bolted out, and despite her impractical shoes she covers the distance to the carriage Moretta has chartered with alarming speed,"Wait! Wait! I'm-" She comes up short as she nearly careens into Cathak Enathia. She was meeting with an exalted member of another great house whose support might be crucial in the event of war, and she should probably at least try to conduct herself with a level of decorum appr- and then Enathia turns and she sees her face for the first time in years and tears well up in her eyes and aw, fuck it. She lunges forward and wraps her arms, and inadvertently her hair, tightly around Enathia, the cloying, slightly intoxicating scent of her flowers heavy in the air, "I missed you so much! I'm so happy to see you!" She reaches out one hand over Enathia's shoulder to grasp one of Kasumi's hands tightly, "And you, too, Kasumi. The city has been so boring without you!"
She sniffles and looks up sheepishly at Moretta, blushing at the inappropriate display of public affection, "Oh, um, hi Auntie Moretta. Sorry I'm late."
Moretta smiles at Melati and places a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Decorum, my dear. You should always comport yourself as one of House V'neef's rising stars. That being said, come here and give me a hug. It has been too long since I have seen you." She pulls Melati into her arms with another smile, relishing in the comfort that the embrace gives her. After a moment, she releases her niece and says, "Much better. Now, look who I found at the docks? Our dear Guro, Kasumi and Enathia."
With a motion of her hand, she indicates that everyone should walk with her towards the manor. "How was your trip? Was the comforts of the ship to your liking?"
As everyone is walking towards the manor house, one of the upstairs windows explodes out from the building with a loud shattering of glass and the distinctive crack of a bolt of lightning! Once the boom fades away, a loud screech of a very angry woman fills the air, followed by a second lightning strike against something inside the room. There is obviously someone very upset in there, and they are making no attempt to hide that fact.
Everyone, go ahead and give me a hearing Perception + Awareness roll.
At the sound of the explosion, Kasumi suddenly found herself very glad that she still had her daiklave with her, and she took off running after Moretta, wondering just what it was that had caused the lightning and explosions.
Melati sighs, takes a deep breath, and with the practiced vocal projection of a well trained singer and orator yells at the top of her lungs, "Aunt Arissa! Grandmother is going to exile you to a monastery if you destroy your apartments again!" Arissa hated being reminded she was Melati's aunt - it made her feel like an old matriarch - and Melati was happy to serve as lightning rod if it meant sparing Arissa's handmaidens the wrath of the storm.
When Melati shouts, there is a pause in the blasts of lightning from inside the damaged room. Then, a couch cushion comes flying out of the broken window, just to get struck by another bolt of lightning, blowing up the piece of furniture and sending a rain of scorched feathers and fluff to gently descend down on the ground.
The educated guess of the identity of the screaming voice made by Melati and Moretta's familiarity with the speaker is correct: it is Arissa, throwing one hell of a temper tantrum.
Running into the manor, you can see a pair of the servants running down the stairs in a panic. They see you, and one calls out, "Lady Arissa has gone mad! She's trying to destroy the manor! Run!"
Kasumi turned to look at Melati upon hearing those words from the servant. "I'm guessing that dear Arissa is a little unhappy about her upcoming marriage." she said dryly, remembering the last letter she'd gotten from Eagle Prefecture regarding Arissa's Exaltation and subsequent betrothal.
She'd gotten to know Arissa a little in the past, and part of her couldn't help but sympathize with the young girl. Becoming a Dragon-blooded certainly came with a lot of perks, but there were also a lot of responsibilities as well, including giving up the right to choose who you married.
Enathia, caught off guard by Melati, is stunned. When the Wood Aspect wraps herself around her, Enathia can't help but feel as though she were home. She returns the embrace, perhaps a little too hard. She hadn't realized how much she was bottling up until Melati was holding her. It HAD been too long. Enathia fights the lump in her throat and the tears in her eyes.
She looks down at the Melati and smiles. "It's good to see you too, Melati." Maybe better than she had considered on the trip in...
* * *
Enathia folds her arms over her chest after and sighs as the servants run past. "And here I thought this was going to start out so calmly," she says almost in answer to Kasumi's woods. Enathia stalks forward toward the room with the tantruming Arissa determined to either calm or subdue the girl. "Let's get this over with."
Moretta frowns as she makes her way up the stairs. "This girl is going to be put over my knee and spanked soundly if she doesn't stop this nonsense! Arissa! What is the meaning of this outburst?!? Stop this immediately!"
When you finally make your way into Arissa's suite, you can see that the teenager has been at her rampage for some time. Her room looks like it is the scene of a major brawl by a bunch of drunken hooligans, not the immaculate and well organized suite that is set aside for her. Several scorch marks on the walls show that the young Air Aspect has been throwing bolts of lightning for some time.
At the sound of Moretta's voice, Arissa lets out another angry screech and lobs another lightning bolt that hits the soft couch in the sitting room, sending up a shower of scorched fluff and down. She storms into sight, her normally pleasant expression twisted into pure rage as her glowing anima whips winds around her. "You want to know what is going on? Just ask my mother who has just informed me that I am to be married to some mortal like a prize cow being auctioned off at a country fair! But that's not all! I'm then told that I am expected to bear this runt's babies! Just like some brood mare!"
She launches a fierce series of kicks against the now scorched couch, letting out a long line of profanities as she does so.
The Water Aspect gave a little 'tsk' at Arissa's explanation, trying to keep from looking too offended at the implications in the Air Aspect's tirade. After all, she herself was both a wife and a mother, and she would hardly consider herself to be any form of livestock.
"I would hardly think it's that bad, Arissa." she said, managing to sound only a little terse. "As the bride, you'll be the one with the superior position in the marriage. And since your betrothed is a mortal, odds are that you'll outlive him after only a few decades."
Personal Essence: 13/13
Peripheral Essence: 23/33
Committed Essence: 5
Join Battle: 5 dice (5 successes for 5m through Breath and Essence Control)
-1: [_], [_], [_], [_], [_], [_], [_], [_]
Resolve 3, Guile 2
Kirameku Namida (Withering Attack 13, Decisive Attack 10, Base Raw Damage 15, Overwhelming 5)
Moretta stands a few paces away from the enraged teen and plants her hands on her hips and levels a stern gaze at Arissa. "Decorum, young lady. This behavior is not becoming a member of the noble House or an Exalt, even a young one. So you have been told that you are to be betrothed to the Wavecrest prince. You can do much worse than royalty, so what is the problem? It can't be a surprise that you were going to be married off to someone to benefit House V'neef, so why are you going crazy in a rage? You need to calm down!"
"Plus!" Enathia adds with wry smile and shoving a thumb at herself, "we're here now. I can show you how to beat the hell out of him within an inch of his life so he'll do whatever you say. Though," Enathia pretends to look at the damage and mess. "I guess you don't need that...many lessons..."
Arissa looks over at Enathia with a powerful glare, then suddenly bursts into a combination of laughter and tears. Wiping at her face, she slumps down and flops onto her bed. "I know, I know. I should have been expecting something like this, but I was hoping to not have to leave the Blessed Isle! And now, I am being shipped off to Wavecrest. Yes, its to marry a prince, but . . . I don't even know him. Not to mention the fact that I'm still just sixteen, and," her voice drops down to a near whisper, "I haven't even kissed a boy, let alone thought about getting married off to someone."
Moretta's stern expression softens as she pulls the young woman into her arms. "Oh, my dear! You're just scared, and that is understandable. But you do need to put a harness on that anger of yours. Are you sure you're not a redhead?" She gives Arissa a firm squeeze before releasing her and holding her out at arms length. "It will be fine. I suspect that mother will be making the formal announcement about your betrothal at the gala tomorrow, so you have until then to prepare yourself for the rest of the family and our other guests to know the news."
She then looks around the mess of the suite, and lets out a sigh. "Now, about your room . . . . We should do something about this. Probably move you to another room for the time being, while we get some repair men in to fix the damage done. Come, lets pack up your things and shift you over to the next suite and we can talk more about this."