Opening of the Criminal Underworld Setting

The City of Trade

Opening of the Criminal Underworld Setting

Postby Webwalker » Fri May 27, 2011 11:58 pm

To the untrained eye, it was a tavern like any other. On the edge of the border between the Nexus District and Sentinels Hill, just close enough to the Nexus Arena to do a good business with the lovers of spectacle. Two stories in height, it had been rebuilt in the past five years after an unfortunate fire had damaged the previous tavern, and killed the unfortunate owner. A good number of men and women made their way in and out at all times of day, in various states of sobriety and dress. Perhaps more than a few came out in the mornings than may be expected, but fewer drunks left in the evening as well.

Walking inside, it was decorated with an aesthetic that tipped toward the Dragonblooded; the walls and floors were made of a southern teak tree, a kind known to be resistant to even the anima banners of the Princes of the Earth. Beneath the wood was thick stone, solid and enduring. No indication was given as to how old the building actually was – it could be one of the many First Age buildings still standing from the former Hollow, it could be a Shogunate era building, or perhaps a fine building of this modern age. Tables and chairs were all made of different kinds of hard, solid wood; some were of a deep red mahogany, some were made of ebony, and even a few tables were made of true ironwood.

Upon entering a pair of slightly oversized ornate wooden doors, there was a small area to sit, where two people greeted patrons; always a man who was slightly more than the average man of Creation – slightly taller, slightly more handsome, slightly stronger looking, slightly more charming. Just slightly more, in every apparent way. His partner was a woman, who was of extraordinary beauty and impeccable courtesy. One would greet the new patron, and direct them to a sitting area. The other would check their name against a list; if the patron was on the list, they were quickly escorted into the establishment. Those whose names were not on the list waited quite a while longer, but most were escorted in eventually.

To the trained eye, this was a dangerous place. Even for Nexus, this was a dangerous place. The repainted front had a spot for a sign, but no sign; to come here intentionally meant that one knew of this establishment. There were eight doors leading out, and each one had unseen guards watching it at all times. The ornate decoration on the front doors cleverly disguised steel poles that could be thrust into the ceiling and the floor, and then another set could come down across the doors, creating a near-impenetrable barrier blocking the way of anyone who wished to enter. The windows were deceptively vulnerable; any number of defences could be set up for them. Until one caused the defences to be used, one couldn’t be sure what they would be.

The greeters, the man and the woman both, moved with a cool confidence that one would expect to find in those trained in supernatural martial arts. Many of the servers and other staff walked with the same grace, but not identical; it seemed that more than one style of supernatural martial arts could be put into play here, if required. Both the man and the woman wore expensive jewellery, not enough to be gaudy but enough to distract from the hearthstone each wore, cunningly concealed to the point where the hearthstone could not be seen or verified.

Near a third of the tables were small symbols – Guild Cant, each the name of a different animal. Tiger, lion, mammoth, siaka, fox, ermine, gorilla, stag, auroch, and others. Few paid the symbols any mind; even if one could read the Guild Cant, it would be easy to miss. There was no Guild Cant anywhere else, and the tables marked by it were spread out across the entire establishment, seemingly at random. Those sitting at the tables were not obvious Guild members either; even to the trained eye, there was no pattern to the patrons who sat at those tables.

To those who were intimately connected to what would be called a criminal underworld in any other city in Creation, they would never set foot in this place unless their name was on the list. They knew of the existence of an odd, ancient civility put into place by the Emissary itself in the year 360, but never removed. “Those who damage the peace of the Quiet Society shall be fined of all they own in Nexus and exiled.” They stood in the heart of the Quiet Society, so named because their business, while not always illegal in Nexus, was always a step away from being ended by Civility, and brought into line with much of the rest of Creation. Those who know of it spoke of it quietly, in private, and behind closed doors, if they spoke of it at all.

At the table under the name “Auroch” there were five chairs set out around it, with four men sitting in the chairs. Each of the men sat in the chair with a practised ease of one who is exactly where they belong, though simultaneously on edge and wary of the other three men. None were dressed extravagantly – in fact, most would not be given a second look on the streets. The first was a tall and lanky man, with skin and hair the shade of the ebony chair he sat in. Known as “The Black Death”, the true name of the assassin had never been discovered, and he answered as readily to the title as to any else. After near three decades in Nexus, few who knew of him thought of him as anything other than The Black Death now. He sat with his back to the wall, sipping from a metal flask and watching the floor of the establishment with a cold, calculating gaze.

The second was an older gentleman – approaching his seventh decade, it seemed, short and pudgy. With pale olive-coloured skin, pockmarked by the spots of aging, and with a sparse amount of greying green hair on a balding head, Timid Tom looked nothing like his name suggested. He had a large plate of finger food in front of him, which he nibbled at without concern, he sat with his back to the rest of the establishment, unconcerned with his own personal safety. And who could blame him? The most infamous “information broker” in Nexus, none dared harm him for fear of all their secrets would be revealed, and decades of investment in “silence” would be wiped out.

The third was a tall and powerful looking man who kept his features obscured by a wide brimmed hat. Somewhere between the Black Death and Timid Tom, he sat with his back partially to the establishment, watching over the patrons as well, though not as menacingly or obviously as the Black Death. Renya Coastrider, Outcaste Water aspect, was rumoured to be the worlds greatest smuggler. Stories abounded around him and his twin brother, Renyo Ivorytooth, and their exploits about Creation. About smuggling of an elephant out of the Royal Palace in Harbourhead, and a particular favoured of smuggling the egg of a Dragon into the Imperial Palace, much to the surprise, and chagrin, of the Scarlet Empress herself. Of these exploits the twins spoke little, either to confirm them, or to deny them. They simply mentioned that there were prices on their heads in both the Realm and Harbourhead, and in a hundred other cities and kingdoms across Creation.

The last was a Guildsman. Rich beyond measure, even for a Guildsman, he had his own modest compound outside of the general Guild holdings in Nexus, and was rarely seen to be involved in Guild affairs. Few in the guild knew much of him beyond his name, and subtle warnings not to involve themselves with Korya Larse. Those who dug deeper found out why – Larse was an infamous slaver, who regularly flouted the Civility in Nexus against slavery. It was said in hushed tones that he could buy or sell any person in Nexus… for the right price.

Of the four, he looked the most impatient.

Where is Raask?” he suddenly exclaimed with a growl. “I tire of this waiting.

Renya looked toward Larse, tipping his hat up slightly so part of his face could be seen. Just enough to see a subtle, sly smile on his face, taking pleasure from the annoyance of the slaver. “Patience, my friend, patience. Raask will be here when Raask will be here.

Timid Tom snickered at that comment. “We will not mistake his arrival, of that we can be abundantly certain. As the night follows the day, Tuuka Raask makes an entrance.” The Black Death grunted quietly in agreement, but made no other reply.

Larse fixed the other two with a sneer. “Who invited that pomp, by the way? I certainly would not.” There was a moment of silence as Larse looked at Timid Tom, and Renya, before both he and Reyna looked at Timid Tom, followed a moment later by the assassin joining the three in looking the information broker.

Timid Tom simply nibbled at his food for a few moments, before looking back to his compatriots. “Were I to be viewing the situation from your positions, I too would suspect that I am the source of our mysterious summons. However, were I viewing the situation from your position, and were to accuse the one in my position of being the source of this abnormal situation, I would be vastly mistaken.

The table lapsed into an uneasy silence as the four looked at one another, looking to see if any were giving any tell that they were the source of the mysterious missive. When none was apparent, Larse grunted in annoyance. “Where is Raask?” Circling right back to where they started, the table fell silent again. The assassin sipped from his bottle while the blackmailers went back to nibbling on his food. The smuggler reached over to take a pitcher of water from a nearby table, pouring himself a glass. And all three went back to ignoring the slaver.

Another ten minutes passed before the hint of progress came. Another tall and handsome man entered, almost identical to the smuggler at the table. He spoke quietly to the woman at the door, who replied to him with a deep blush and a curtsey, then allowed him to walk unescorted through the establishment. He wound his way through the tables, stopping to say a few words here and there to various patrons, some at tables noted with Guild Cant, though most without. He smiled and waved to a few patrons on the other side of the room, but continually worked his way toward the Auroch table.

Approaching, he had a look of surprise as he spotted his twin at the table, though none of the other three shared it. “Brother!” he exclaimed with a false grin. “I had though you to be to the West for a time still.

Renya took a long, slow sip of his water, before motioning to the last empty seat at the table. The twin looked at the his reflection, not taking the seat immediately when offered. The other three men at the table slowly started to turn to look at the smuggler, watching the unexpected interaction between the twin brothers. Finally the twin took out a small coinpurse, putting it onto the table as he sat down in the offered chair, though leaving one finger on the purse. “I seem to be in need of your services, “brother”…

Renya suddenly raised his hand to his hat, and raised his head at the same time. But as his head stopped moving, his hand did not… and he pulled off the hat, an elaborate wig, and an intricate mask that had been covering part of his face. With a wide smile, he looked up at the new man – who was nearly identical to the mask he had been wearing just a moment ago.

Ah! There you are, Renya! You’re late.” The unmasked man laughed joyously. “I’m quite certain that you were supposed to be here a half hour ago; we’ve been beside ourselves with worry.” He grinned to the men at the table, who looked shocked.

Gah! Raask? But that’s his sword!” Larse motioned to the sword at Raask’s side.

Renya – the real Renya - also looked at the sword, grimacing. “How did you… find… my sword and my hat?

Raask smiled widely, unbuckling the sword from his waist and handing it to the smuggler. “Is this yours? It was the oddest thing; I woke up next to the most beautiful maiden I’ve seen this week, who was quite naked in the bed next to me. And there was this hat, and this sword on the nightstand next to us.” He stood up, pouring out a glass of water from a table nearby. “It was the oddest thing. Being a civic minded individual, I asked her if they were hers. She, unfortunately, thought that I was their owner. Obviously I am not, even though they are quite beautiful pieces of work, are they not? I couldn’t just leave them there – why, a thief may have come and stolen it!

Raask shook his head, as if the very thought was vile. “I couldn’t take that chance. So I took them with me, to find their rightful owner and return them.” He smiled radiantly at Renya, who was buckling his sword to his waist, then reached out to pick up the coin purse, putting it into a pocket without counting the coins.

Sitting back down, Raask smiled to all at the table. “Ah, my friends – or as close as those in our choice of career may ever have to friends – I would have been overjoyed to say that I am why we are all here tonight. I think however, we can most safely say that such a statement would be something other than the truth.

Than let us open our missives and be done with this!” cried out the Black Death, finally breaking his silence. He thrust his envelope onto the table, motioning at it emphatically. “No more waiting. We are all here now – the conditions are met.

The table nodded in agreement. Each man, one at a time, took out an identical envelope, and laid it down on the table. First the slaver, impatient to get this opened and this strange meeting completed. Next Tuuka Raask took out his own, humming to himself as he placed his on the table. The smuggler moved next, having hung his sword around his waist again. Last, Timid Tom finished a few more of the nibbles on his plate before wiping his hands off and placing his own envelope on the table.

Once all the envelopes were out in the open, the men began to visually inspect them, looking for anything that might give them a clue as to their origin. All were identical, save for the seals on the front; each was a different Immaculate symbol for an element. Air for Tuuka Raask. Water for the Smuggler. Wood for the assassin. Earth for the slaver. And Fire for Timid Tom.

As the assassin reached to break his seal, Renya raised a hand with a smile. “Indulge me a moment, if you will. Open mine instead of yours?

The Black Death stared at the smuggler, incredulous at the request. Renya replied with a shrug and a sly smile. “Peace, friend. We both know the Civility; I will do nothing to damage the peace here. Were I not entirely certain as to the outcome, I would not risk it.

Another moment of hesitation came from the ebony man, before he reached out to take the twin’s envelope to open. But when he tried to break the seal, nothing happened. The seal held fast, as if held by magic. The smuggler nodded to himself, taking back the envelope. “Sealed by a magic seal. Only the intended recipient can open it.” He grinned to table, then broke the seal on his own envelope. “Clever. Whose did you test to find out, Raask?

Raask broke open his own, with a laugh. “None; no one misplaced theirs.”

The table chuckled, then once all had been opened, they looked at the contents. Inside there was another envelope, one which was far, far older than the first. Each had a First Age symbol for the elements on them, which corresponded to the element on the outer seal. And each had a simple piece of paper with a small note.

“I certify the age of this message. It was first sealed by Kee’ntra, Astrologer of Nexus from 280 until his death in 361. It was to be opened exactly 1758 days after the rise of a Lord of Death.” Kratz of Nexus

“To the bearer of this missive.

This letter finds itself in the hands of one of the five pillars of the Quiet Society of Nexus. Your names, occluded from my sight, ia written by my hand but not by my will on the enclosed parchment, sealed this last day of Calibration, 360.

By the reading of this message, Creation will have been changed. Whether the tarnished bronze will fade to darkness, or will again shine with the lustre of gold is unclear. The stars grow dim and the sky goes back; my sight ends before the dawn comes. If the dawn comes. But there is a curious inconsistency – Nexus, the city of my exile.

I see five pillars of jade that is not jade. Two pillars collapse - never the same two twice in my vision. The building teeters on the edge of collapse; darkness shrouds the fate of the building. In some, the two lost pillars are replaced by pillars gleaming with a shine unseen except in the distant memories of the Gods. As they hold up the building, the other three pillars crumble to dust and are blown away, yet the building does not fall. Indeed, the building rises high into the heavens.

In some, pillars of darkness and vile corruption replace the lost pillars, but it does not last; soon, the other three pillars corrode and collapse, and the building collapses as the darkness and corruption destroy the building for eternity, never to rise again.

In others, the two pillars that fall are replaced by subtle, tarnished pillars. Yet still strong; the building stands as tall and proud as ever, the three jade but not jade pillars standing firm.

Choose wisely.”
Last edited by Webwalker on Sat May 28, 2011 12:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: New, Clearer Title
Webwalker
 
Posts: 168
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Re: Opening of the Criminal Underworld

Postby Webwalker » Sat May 28, 2011 12:12 am

OOC:

So! Do you have a character connected to the Criminal Underworld? Do you have Backgrounds dedicated to them? Do you have a backstory, or Merits (or Flaws...) connected to the Underworld? Let me know! I'm fleshing out the Underworld venue, and I'm looking to include anything you've already written.

Keep an eye out for scenes coming up in the next month!

-Webwalker, Underworld guy.
Webwalker
 
Posts: 168
Joined: Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:21 pm


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