Derak in the Scarlet City

Let’s try something different

You can almost see how the word about your return has started rippling out through the day. For instance, the cycling night shift at Ruby Dancer just happens to be filled with familiar faces. Overly-familiar, often enough, in the way they trip on each other to remind you of prior acquaintance in ways that skirt on rudeness. Two fellows, one working the kitchen and the other an entertainer, and both would like to think of themselves as your personal procurer. A hostess with seeming infinite patience for pretending to be your “girl” to others. A bunch of interchangeable “free scholars”, spare noble sons with nothing better to do than hang around dangerous people in taverns. If all these people have heard of your return, then surely has anybody else with their ear to the ground.

You do take advantage of the event and hold court a bit before going to bed. Your straightforward and emotionless habit has never seemed to force people away, which in its way says much about the ways of Serene Scarlet: it is never about the person so much as it is about perceived success and position. You need say nothing tonight about your doubts or plans to these fair-weather friends; your returning at all is proof enough that you have come back triumphant, for why come back otherwise?

While Derak would ordinarily merely stomach this superficial bustle as part and parcel of holding his name in view, tonight the pretense can be of some little use: even as they pretend at being your friends, let you pretend to be alike to Daag Sit-Fence. Let them feel important, ask your questions. Get some answers. Ask about the Unbroken Circle, for one.

Yes, of course we know of the Circle, those of us given to peculiar experiences. One of the layabouts has visited the cult’s communion, even. Their hall is right next to the Hill wall, sort of like if they wanted to be inside but can’t quite swing the expense. The Circle is mainly known for catering to men of substance wanting to rub shoulders with the poor; the rich patrons pay for these community dinners, and the cult handlers apparently corral poors from the Crook to fill the tables so they can get a little taste of how the other side lives. The appeal of the affair is lost on your tablemates, but they seem to have been paddling water well enough for long enough to be considered a fixture. Not much of a vehicle for wealth or political mobilization, which is what the actually significant cults generally amount to. Nobody seems to remember them participating in the festivals, which all but the most barebones cults tend to gear up for.

Aside from that, your idle information-gathering amounts to the sort of gossip you barely paid attention to before. Which Virtuous families are going up, who are down on their luck, that sort of thing. As a colleague once said, a referee needs to know the rules, not the players. The professional assassin tends to hold to that bit of pride, a certain sense of alienation from the game of wealth: you are there at the end for those who fall from virtue, no matter who they are.

You finally leave the bores to jap at each other and retire to your room for the night. There are your usual safeguards while sleeping in-doors, silent alarms for your benefit, but tonight proves calm: you sleep undisturbed, only awakening to the floor servant’s knocking in the morning.

Releasing your trap-lines, you let them in with your morning shave and breakfast.

— Good morning, honorable Derak, the servant bows, uncaring of your nudity. You eye him idly as he bustles about airing up the room and emptying the bedpan; it’s a vaguely familiar face, he’s probably been with the house for a while. There is a certain combination of deference and confidence in him that only happens when people know who you are, but also know you well enough to trust that you won’t kill them for a fart.

— There is fresh mail addressed to your honor, the servant says, drawing a letter from his tray. This would be on top of the ones the inn had kept for you from before your departure; it would have been written late last night, or early in the morning.

The paper is thick and there is a stamped seal, indicating a semi-formal letter more than a simple note. Unfolding it, you recognize it at a glance as an invitation – a summons really – from a man of means, possibly of the highest rank. The letter is stamped for, but undersigned by a secretary, emphasizing the sender’s status in not having to address you directly. “My master sends his regards”, “pleased to hear of your safe return to the Serenissima” and so on, spiraling down to “request for urgent professional consultation at noon today.”

The man’s name – Vansittart Gabaldon – doesn’t mean anything to you aside from its distinctly barbarian sound. He seems to hold a residence in the Estuary, which seems vaguely strange until you realize that those large island houses rarely change hands, which should mean that it’s an old family house. However, this Vansittart displays a poor sense of the Trade for a citizen; while there are endsmen who would make open house calls, enjoying the gentleman’s role, this never was the Puppet’s style: the client would contact you through established middle-men and meet only at your convenience, if at all. Most of your work was ever on open call, really, as much as you valued your independence. Everybody in the demimonde knows that you don’t hold open business hours, so who’s advice is this Vansittart fellow taking?

Whoever it might be, this is to your inconvenience: ignoring the invitation would be an insult to an apparent man of measure, with all that implies, while actually going would be… very much not at all in the Puppet’s character. Do they just expect you to directly walk into a trap as long as the doorstep’s papered with a nice invitation? Is it really that simple?

rolled a ‘4’

Hero dice 4, 4

Monster dice 4

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One thought on “Let’s try something different

  1. Yes, the Monster does indeed approach you with a letter. I blame society – specifically, the civilizing influence of Scarlet City.

    The “something different” here is, of course, the fact that this Go was just barely over a thousand words. I very specifically scrapped an outline for a longer chapter to force myself towards brevity.

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