A Trader in Birthrights

Fallen London is © 2015 and ™ Failbetter Games Limited: www.fallenlondon.com. This is an unofficial fan work. All rights in this work are ceded to Failbetter Games.

Hi everyone, please don’t interfere until the end, this is collaborative, so that might take a bit. It’ll be clear when it resolves.

In the depths of Bugsby’s Marshes a desperate group gathers. Three Londoners, a squad of warriors from the Isle of Cats, and one Huntsman – yes, Her. Of the Londoners there is one woman, one man, and one person of an indistinct gender; Phryne, Mathieu, and Absimiliard.

The Curious Captain stands straight, if not tall. They have dressed in their uniform, in a nearly-black shade of irrigo. In one hand a small mirror, backed in snake-skin, and a sword in the other hand. They have a kit-bag slung cross-wise on their back. At their neck a Golden Apple pin, and on their spider-chitin gauntlets a golden wedding band gleams. Their demeanor is grim, determined, and unyielding.

&quotI fear it is a truism that no plan will survive contact with the enemy, so here is what we have Mathieu. Phryne and I stand ready to journey to Parabola. We know the Chromium Throne would be at … . . no, it is at the ancient Temple at the border of the Smoking Coast, the Hanging Mountains, and the Waswood. The Huntsman,&quot Absimiliard nods towards a leopard-masked figure, &quotwill bring us near the Throne. She will try to keep a way open for us to return. You and the Serpent Cutters must protect her.&quot the Captain nods to the warriors from the Isle of Cats. &quotShe can not directly oppose the Fingerkings, if she does they can replace her immediately, and that is what we must prevent.&quot

Absimiliard sighs deeply, their face upset, &quotPhryne and I must stop Vavakx from joining with the Trader in Birthrights . . . . or else the new Huntsman will be a Snake, and will always have been, and always shall be. It would be disastrous.&quot

Turning to Phryne, &quotOne more thing, the dreams I have been having of the Throne – time does not work there as it does here. Be wary. It is very close to the Waswood and to Irem. There, near the Throne especially, all things shall be would. I would attack, not I did – nor I shall, nor even I will – all is would. It would be confusing.&quot Absimiliard’s grim features suddenly break with a quicksilver-fast grin – toothy, predatory.

&quotWell then. Now you know as much as we Mathieu.&quot

The Captain tucks the mirror into their belt, and rests their hand on a tiger sitting at their side. The tiger rises to stand. &quotDawon knows me well – I despise delay once a plan is underway.&quot

Absimiliard turns to the Leopard-masked woman, &quotLady Huntsman – Take us out.&quot

{edit: because words, we hates them}
edited by absimiliard on 6/20/2016

[OOC for readers: I play both Phryne and the Huntsman. Short explanation for that in the box below]

The Huntsman is my Affable Spy, named Apsalar. She is a daughter of the Leopard Clan from the Khanate. She took on the position as Fingerkings’ Huntsman in a real pickle and is looking to be freed from it one day. Only, the &quotnormal&quot way of freeing a Huntsman is replacement: meaning, the former one ceases to exist. Which she doesn’t want. Phryne, always curious about anything Parabolan, has promised to help her find a way…

The Huntsman looks to Phryne for confirmation. &quotGo ahead,&quot Phryne says. &quotFrom here on, it’s your territory. I won’t hold you to anything. You have the most to lose among all of us.&quot

The Huntsman nods. &quotUsually, the Serpent-Cutters are oath-bound not to travel into Parabola, but Isery has given this squad special permission. Two will come with us, while the rest will guard our back here.&quot She beckons them all closer: the squad leader, wearing a tiger’s mask, and one wearing a lion’s mask; Phryne and the Captain, each carrying a mirrorcatch-box; and Mr Psmith. &quotCome closer, and make sure to keep in touch with each other. I’ll take us a shortcut.&quot

A shortcut it might be, but not a pleasant way to travel: the Huntsman moves in an impossible direction, taking the five people with her. It feels like their spines are wrenched out of their bodies! But before they can even scream, the sensation is gone, and they’re standing in the dripping wet jungles below the Hanging Mountains.

Phryne looks sick. &quotBy Storm, that was terrible! Does it feel like that for you, too?&quot

The Huntsman only shrugs and points ahead: &quotThe Temple would be that way. I would stay here and keep the way open. If you would run into trouble you can’t handle, you’d have to try and draw any pursuit here.&quot She shakes her head. &quotI hate this place. I hate having to speak like this.&quot

[OOC: And I get to control pretty much everything the others face here.]

The location the Huntsman would speak of is the Chromium Throne - A place of unhappened things, the throne itself among them. Seals from various lands, from various hands and various times would crowd the sides. Forgotten names would locate at the arch, and layers of soot would cover it all. Some of the grime would be swiped away by a hand, to reveal sign and sigil in the language of stars.

It would be the only constant landmark in this place, as others would come, as they are lost, and leave as they are found and used to their purpose. Only the slight outcroppings of rock would serve as chairs. Such would be the state of anything lead here by Parabola’s Rules.

Never would a Fingerking reside here, in this arcane junkyard, except the Atramentous Serpent - ‘The Trader of Birthrights’ - Marked by the Correspondence as one who would give their past for power and knowledge, as a human no more. It would, of course, be guarded. A lesser snake patrols the edge, gazing in seven directions in search of possible assailants of the under-built temple, as seven voices echo each other’s threats to the, never before seem, trespassers.

One of the Snake-Cutters, a man in an Ocelot mask, warns those around him of a strong rosy smell coming from the South. A strange glimmer, too bright for any of London’s gas-lamps - a solar shine - exudes itself from that very same direction. Another Snake-Cutter, bearing a jaguar’s visage, shouts. “It be the Rosers!”

Absimiliard turns green at the gills from the transport the Huntsman just used to bring them to Parabola – it is a phenomenon they have not felt since they first went to Zee. They contain themselves.

Raising a finger to their lips Absimiliard nods to Phryne and the Temple. They would set out for it, each slinking quietly through the jungle. The two would have run straight into the lesser Snake, the guardian, save that it’s seven heads with seven voices give it away and they stop short, to observe.

“I would be able to get by it, but doing so will use up some of my power.” In Absimliard’s hands, once again, the serpent-skin backed mirror. “It would be better if you could distract or slay it, freeing me to advance.”

Absimiliard looks to Phryne, a raised eyebrow asking if she believes she can take the Snake down alone so they can proceed.

Phryne raises both eye-brows at Absimiliard’s casual suggestion.

&quotA seven-headed snake? Who would you take me for - Heracles? Oh, well… if I must.&quot

After short deliberation, Phryne asks the taciturn Mr Psmith to backtrack and fetch her one of Apsalar’s wicked curved swords. &quotShould’ve thought about that earlier,&quot she mutters while using a dagger to cut down some lianas from which she then begins to fashion, quite craftily, a lasso with a wide noose.

When the efficient Mr Psmith returns with the requested blade, she thanks them and sets out toward her quarry.

It’s a good thing Lady Amarantyne dressed appropriately for this outing. No bustled dress, none of her flowing Midnighter robes - no, she sports a practical explorer’s outfit, the design fashionably hinting at the famous uniform of the now-defunct 23rd Neathy rifles. It does get a bit dirty though as she wends her way through the thick foliage.

Stealth would have been unnecessary, though, as the seven heads of the snake are still engaged in loud conversation. Some are venting their frustration about how very boring this part of Parabola is, with others nostalgically speaking of how long it’s been since they’ve eaten a tasty intruder. When Phryne steps from the jungle, all seven heads turn toward her, utterly startled.

&quotI would hope you’re as stupid as you look,&quot she says to them, already swinging the lasso.

Not bothering to wait for a reply, she elegantly entangles all seven heads in the noose, then quickly draws it tight with impressive strength. With all heads bound closely together, she draws Apsalar’s sword and calmly beheads the ghastly creature with one powerful stroke. Sadly, her dashing outfit is utterly ruined by splashing snake-blood.

&quotUgh,&quot she comments pointedly.

&quotNow, gentleman and individual of mysterious gender - would you care to follow?&quot

slight pruning of words

edited by phryne on 6/22/2016

Phryne would have seen Absimiliard when she turned to comment, but they had already silently slipped away towards the Temple during her &quotdistraction&quot.

Absimiliard would surely have been spotted approaching more closely to the Temple if not for Phryne dealing with the serpent. They would not wish to be ambushed, and so look closely at the area around the Throne before revealing themselves to Vavakx and the Atramentous Serpent.

&quotHello V. Are you still here, or would you now be only the Trader?&quot

In one hand the Captain would hold their sword at ready. In the other hand they would hold a mirror backed with serpent-skin – a trap for Serpents, though far too weak to effect the Trader in Birthrights.

{edit: c/he/they}
edited by absimiliard on 6/21/2016

Mathieu was worried.
Not about the danger of the mission; the’d known this sort of thing came with the territory of his profession, and had himself faced monsters of the Is-Not. Danger to himself was more of a stimulant than a repellant, for like all Englishmen, he prided himself on not losing the adventurousness of a schoolboy. Said pride had gotten him into trouble before, of course, and such might be the case this time.

But that wasn’t what his worries centered on. No, his worries centered on the fact that he had not heard from his adopted Daughter for some time, and that the last he had heard from her was regarding the shop of a certain Euphemian. Needless to say, he was on edge, and more inclined for action than for talk.

The sudden shift in tense and tension would unseat him, if he wouldn’t be so focused. Having fetched Phryne’s swords and rejoined the Huntsman in the rearguard, he would be thankful for preparations and participles. &quotI would watch your backs, if you’d only be quick and quiet about it.&quot The Glassman re-adjusted his spectacles, gripping his own sword cane as he kept an observant eye, stalking behind the advancing pair.

[OOC: May I make a suggestion that, even though these particular sneks are basically public domain, you be less, forgive my French, godmoddy about their untimely death, as any NPC may end up being a valuable tool of the Plot/Comedic Relief. Thanks in advance.]

The Seven-Headed Snake would fall to the ground, and try to hiss out a witticism with one of it’s heads. An uncertain hiss would be the only thing achieved in terms of clever commentary by it, as the hepta-headed creature would be beheaded, and each of the cut-off heads would release an ear-splitting screech and, possibly, a warning.

The Curious Captain would see several figures near the throne: The Game-Carver, calmly sitting on a boulder, sipping wine from a cracked glass and chatting to some sort of ocelot. They would turn to face the Captain, surprised to see them here, and to see the seven heads all cut off.

&quotAbsimiliard? Here to save me from myself? To take me away from this delightful place?&quot The Euphemian Game-Carver wouldn’t exude the serpentine allure.

“I would save you Vavakx, yes, but not from yourself. You are not the Trader in Birthrights, you are merely it’s food. If you would live you must cast it aside.”

Absimiliard would plead with their friend. They would explain. They would beg.

&quotIt is me. Have you forgotten the deal, Absimiliard? Have you forgotten Paris? They - the Trader in Birthrights - are, rather so, myself. You talk of food, but why would it consume me? What is it’s interest in my death? Know, you do not have long before they return, so do not delay your explanations with cat-wrought lies and half-truths.&quot
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 6/22/2016

Absimiliard would fence verbally with the person who was once their friend. They would employ every logical stratagem in the contest of voices.

For a time they would even wipe away the soot, to examine the names written in Correspondence on the Arch.

But all the while they waited, delayed, and talked; for the Captain would not leave until the Trader had arrived and the game was truly afoot.

The rushing waves of assertion would smash into the high cliffs of disbelief, and counter-examples would echo through the debating zee. Many topics would be discussed in the debate: the Origin of Reputation, Betrayal, the Correspondence of Worlds, and several others, ending with a friendly &quotThanks for the argument. Most don’t even bother to talk beyond ‘You shouldn’t deal with the serpents’.&quot They would say, annoyed by the usual lack of elaboration and putting on a cynical parody of the Mysterious Mentor. The Captain would even be allowed to investigate the Arch, which would reveal many names, chaotically spread throughout it’s surface, mostly of dead kings and antique legends. Ozymandias would lie at the center, surrounded by other names from the loins of the Second City.&quot

And no, the Name was not among them. Abandon the Search while you can, Seeker.

&quotNo time to dwell on the mysterious names, on their meaning and implication, would be given, as the Atramentous Serpent would suddenly appear, leaving ash and ember in it’s wake. The night-dark creature would quickly stretch and flex it’s rightmost wing, once again familiarizing itself with the chiropterous limb, before turning and hissing in anger &quotWho dares stop the hunt and the huntsman?&quot as another, feminine figure drops to the cold ground. Irene Psmith. The serpent twists and twirls it’s neck as to see the invaders to it’s Throne.

The shimmer in the Marches approaches the remaining group of Snake-Cutters, now without a defined leader. The source of the glow could now be seen from the distance, or at least the silhouette of the Radiant Warmonger, wearing what might be Khanagian armor, but with mirrors replacing the usual material, a scimitar in their hand. They are followed by a group, less exuberantly clothed and all carrying mirrors, pointing them as to redirect the shine from the cuirass in the direction the group is marching.

[OOC: Yes, the &quotquote marks&quot are intentional.
Also, I hope someone takes control of the Snake-Cutters. I wasn’t intending to write a novel by my own here, far from it.]

Sword in hand Absimiliard would advance towards the Great Snake to strike, but before he can speak it strikes out with a wing flinging the Captain back against a rocky pillar. The Captain would try to keep silent, but the crack of a rib breaking causes them to cry out.

Grimly determined Absimiliard would pick up their sword, rise, and advance. They would cough, raggedly, blood coming to the corner of their mouth.


[ooc: pretty sure Phryne’s doing the cutters]

Are you guys referring to a bunch of names from Sunless Sea? Because I’m feeling a bit lost.

There, of course, would be complications. Sometimes it would be multi-headed snakes, or else ambulatory buckets of custard. One would never know, in a place like this.

Today, however, would see no such prosaic dangers or delightful absurdities. Instead, Mathieu would face against that which he most dreaded… a slim, young, brown haired woman cloaked in dark greys and greens, with a grin and eyes would flash in the false light.

&quotHello, Da.&quot She would say, in something other than her normally affectionate manner. Her adopted father would stand stunned, before taking a breath and facing her. &quotIrene… I would ask what you are doing here, but my fears would doubtless prove prophetic.&quot

&quotOh, nothing much. Just… research.&quot

It’s mostly head-cannon. The Isle of Cats is indeed a SS place, but the Snake-Cutters are, unless I’m misremembering, Phryne’s invention. All the setting is V’s invention. So it’s pretty fast and wild.

After realizing that the Captain used her snake-slaying decoy effectively, Phryne sees no reason why she or Mr Psmith should reveal themselves yet. So they stay behind, listening to the (mostly irrelevant and, due to the inflation of ‘woulds’, mostly intelligible) discussions between Absimiliard and Vavakx. She is very concerned that, even before the Atramentous Serpent’s return, Vavakx shows no signs of distress - they seem content to be here, meaning they’re either under a powerful spell or have actually thrown in their lot with the Fingerkings.

And no, Phryne thinks while caressing her sword, she certainly did not come here to &quotdiscuss&quot anything with any snake she’s going to meet!

When the Serpent drops Mr Psmith’s daughter, the gentleman rushes forth from his cover, leaving Phryne alone behind the wall of some old temple-ruin they were hiding behind. But she’s not alone for long as her trusty Ocelot - whom she had sent ahead to evaluate the situation - soon finds her, having been utterly disregarded by Absimiliard and Vavakx.

&quot’Tis would be a real pickle, my lady,&quot he confides.

&quotIndeed it would be. And I would seem to be the only one who hasn’t forgotten about these mirrorcatch boxes with heavily moonlit-cut sunlight we’ve brought along. Now would be a good time to test their effectiveness, but I can’t open mine with the Captain standing in my way. Well, I could, but it wouldn’t end well for them. If they would move just a little…&quot

[OOC: Let’s leave the Serpent-Cutters to themselves for now, it adds suspense if we don’t know whether they still have our backs. But they are not ‘leaderless’ at all, Vavakx…] ;)

[OOC: No further transmissions from the Marches will be forthcoming, then.]

The Atramentous Serpent, after a sharp gaze among the Throne’s plains, would, first and foremost, notice the older Psmith, and would quickly twist itself near the newly-arrived Irene to put a wing-talon to her throat &quotI’ve heard of you, Bard of Lost Children, but would never expect to meet in person, especially under such circumstances. Un petit service en vaut un autre, Mathieu. Help me defeat the intruders, and you can have your daughter back. We honor our deals, Bard, in a way the cats do not.&quot

Next, they would face the Curious Captain, Absimiliard. &quotChacun voit midi á sa porte, Rose. What makes you so sure you are in the right? Our rewards are given unto us in fair trade, and yet you seek to stop us. These are politics, Rose. We do not need yet another judge for our actions!&quot

“There may be more than one way to skin a cat Trader, but if you think I am still Rose then you know me not.”

The Captain has not forgotten why they are here. They have been waiting for this moment, the moment Vavakx and the Trader in Birthrights are together. They would open their own box of moonlight, but it would not be unseen and the Trader would flee and all would be lost.

“Our war should not involve innocents Trader.” The Captain would seem to be bartering, but their lowered sword and words are naught but deceit – a means to buy time, to clear themselves from between Phryne and the Great Snake. “Give Mathieu his daughter back, that would make this between us again. You claim to trade fairly Snake, but ever would your kind devour what Is in your hunger for Judgement, judgement I do not offer.”

Then would be the time, when Absimiliard, the Curious Captain, sets down his sword and steps back and away from Vavakx, Irene, and the ancient Fingerking the Trader in Birthrights.

The Captain does not look anywhere near where they believe Phryne might be, but they do look to Mathieu, “I am so sorry my friend.”

&quotWell, here goes,&quot Phryne says when she sees the Captain move. Immediately, her trusty Ocelot jumps clear of their hiding-place, drawing the Fingerking’s attention further away from her friends. It hisses angrily when it sees the hated feline creature!

But Phryne steps curageously forward and opens the mirrorcatch box. Out streams a kind of light that probably has not been seen in Parabola ever before - and it hits the Trader in Birthrights full-on!

[OOC: Your turn, Vavakx - I have no idea what will happen next! ;)]

The Atramentous Serpent would hiss back at the Captain &quotIf you wish for this to be only between us, recall your companions, and we will fight, alone. Why did you bring Mathieu into this, and the guardian. You did not slay them yourself, Rose. Il ný a pas plus sourd que celui qui ne veut pas entende.&quot before hearing footsteps. The Ocelot’s footsteps. &quotAnother intruder!&quot They would reach for it with, at first, their largest vane, and then their entire body, intent on murder and desecration, partially dodging the light blast. What would be hit with Judgemental light melts away, but would then be reformed, as the Fingerking whispers phrases in the Language of Xanadu, calling upon the properties of numbers and lighting the titular sigil on their forehead as they would speak. Irene Psmith would be momentarily left unattended, as the Trader in Birthrights would dash for the feline.

[OOC: Sorry if I don’t answer quickly. I often end up sitting on an answer for several hours, feeling that it just isn’t good enough to post as it is, before posting with minimal edits.]
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 6/23/2016
edited by Vavakx Nonexus on 6/25/2016