Geometric Archipelago:Dragons on Semicircle Island/Chapter 02
Chapter #2: Curiosity Thrilled the Cat
<mainstreet> ---BEGIN GAME---
<mainstreet> The man is gesturing through a doorway, into what appears to be a very similar room, although it has a coffee table rather than a desk. He's twitching nervously.
- Vivi follows him into the room.
- Hildyr cautiously tags along
<mainstreet> You all make your way into the room.
<mainstreet> He looks at you, frowning slightly. Takes a deep breath. "You were just in there talking to the President, right? About the missing people? Look... I'm betting he blamed Miss Lamaranth for everything, right? It's no secret who he thinks is responsible. Just because Miss Lamaranth is a dragon does not mean she's a kidnapper. The Yellow Party in general, always blames her for everything. She's like a boogeyman to them. Yes, she agrees with us, and... technically she does fund our elections a fair bit -- oh, don't go spreading that around, please. But she's a sweetheart! I've only met her a couple of times, but I just can't believe she has it in her to be like that."
<Vivi> "Who do you think is responsible for the kidnappings?"
<mainstreet> "Now that, is a good question. I actually don't know. I guess it's slightly understandable to blame Miss Lamaranth, there's no one else obvious to blame. Although... Lamaranth's funding has been a reason we have won fairly consistently. But we were outspent this time. That is unusual. I might also be interested to know where Yellow's sudden funding increase came from. And perhaps they are connected? ...although they won, so why
<mainstreet> would they have people missing?" He sighs. "As you can probably tell, I'm still new at this. This is my first term holding any elected office."
<Vivi> "Do you have anything, other than your personal character witness, to offer as evidence of Miss Lamaranth's innocence?"
<Vivi> "An alibi, or some such, perhaps?"
<mainstreet> "Personally, no, but if you go to Moosehead and talk to people that were there... well, she has a castle. It's in a very specific spot. An obvious spot. If that's where they were, I find it unlikely that this would not be known. Was there traffic to her castle that night at all? I don't know."
<mainstreet> "Look... you can and should investigate, but try not to go accusing Miss Lamaranth just on the President's word. If you want to talk to her, you could make the trip up to her castle, but she probably won't appreciate hostility. And she's essentially autonomous within her castle."
- Vivi merely nods at this advice. "Is 'Miss' the normal term of address that all of Semicircle Island uses for her? 'Miss' seems so ... understated ... for a dragon, you know."
<mainstreet> The assemblyman shrugs. "As to that, I don't know. It's what her personal operatives call her, the humans -- or gnomes -- that are paid directly by her to be her voice in the cities. They obviously have a lot of information about her, access to her, and would know what she wants."
<Vivi> "Very well, 'Miss' it is. Now, tell me something of yourself. What is your name? Do you come from Moosehead yourself? Have you ever met Miss Lamaranth in person or talked with her indirectly? If not, is the only reason you care about her innocence, that she donates generously to your causes?"
<mainstreet> "I'm Matt Johnson. I'm an Assemblyman from Swordsgate, elected for the first time. Yes, I've met her. I've been to the Castle once. I personally never felt anything but warmth and happiness from her... but then, I wasn't going there accusing her of things either. I did sense her power and knew very much I wanted to be on her side... but I'm content with that anyway."
<mainstreet> "I'm here because... well, someone from the Party was always going to come. We're not going to let the President's message be declared unchallenged. Let me turn this around: is there any *actual* evidence linking Miss Lamaranth to these disappearances either, other than having lost an election?"
- Vivi arches an eyebrow. "We will have to see, of course. We only just got the job; it's a bit early to say. Now, since you've seen her in person, you can tell me this: what color is she?"
<mainstreet> "Hmm? Oh. Copper. And quite shiny too."
<Vivi> "Is it normal for all elected Purples to meet her in person? Is there a protocol for approaching her castle, or do we just knock?"
<mainstreet> "Most candidates will get to see her at least once during the campaign. The Presidential candidate will get several. I would request a meeting at one of the Party offices. One person there will be paid by her, not the Party. They can set you up with an appointment. Since you're probably headed to Mooshead to investigate anyway, might as well do it at that office."
<Vivi> "Did you ever meet Mayor Jones, then? Do you know anything useful to tell us about his background?"
<Vivi> "Also, do you know the name of the person in the Moosehead office who is paid by Miss Lamaranth?"
<mainstreet> "I've never met Mayor Jones personally. I've never been to Mooshead on an official basis, and have no idea who's who over there. I could tell you who it is in Swordsgate, but Swordsgate is definitely in the wrong direction for you."
<Vivi> "So perhaps you could list out and give us details on the rest of the Assembly..." Vivi says, writing utensil poised over her papers.
<mainstreet> Matt blinks. "Uh, I suppose..." he starts to speak...
<Ascii> Ascii, who has been loitering behind the others all this time, suddenly gets a horrified look on his face. He begins making head-shaking and throat-slitting gestures at the other party members behind Vivi's back.
<Ascii> He then flashes an angry 'don't you fucking DARE' look at Matt and brandishes his mace.
<mainstreet> Matt gulps. "Uhhh... maybe not, miss. I don't think I want my head bashed in. That is, of course, highly illegal, but still."
<mainstreet> "I think I'm going to... go back to my actual job now," Matt gets up and walks off.
- Vivi looks confused for a minute and is about to question this aberrant behavior, when she catches sight of Ascii. She frowns at him. "You can never have too much information," she tells him, with only just a little bit of pretentiousness.
- Vivi sighs and heads out the building, looking for the ox and cart to take them to Moosehead.
<Ascii> "Uh huh. Remind me to tell you some personal anecdotes later. You'll change that tune right quick."
<mainstreet> You leave the Rainbow House, and the connected Grand Forum, and lay eyes on the city before you. Behind you, you know, is mostly residential, but also contains the warehouses and docks. Off to your left is a building known as the Lobbyists' Guild. Nearby you see the YGP Inn, Winstara Bank, the Forester's Guild, and the Semicircle Superstore.
<Nenni> Nenni has been curled up in the library window, enjoying the scent of old books and manuscripts. Perhaps absorbing smarts via osmosis. Some interesting people seem to have left the building. They look like adventure. He hops down from the window sill and ambles across the turf, driven by curiosity.
<Nenni> If they don't notice, he'll nestle in the Ox-cart out of sight. Perhaps underneath in its bogey.
<mainstreet> Aeth: Why is there a cat nestled in Hildyr's cart?
- Vivi turns to look at the cat, after her familiar pseudodragon alerts her to its presence. "Did someone pick up a familiar while I wasn't looking?"
- Nenni yawns contentedly, eyes closed (or are they really? mostly closed anyway) and enjoys the sun and attention.
<Ascii> "A familiar what?"
<Ascii> "...oh. It's just some cat. Move it, you!" Ascii kicks at the wagon wheel, trying to startle it.
- Nenni opens one eye at the disturbance, and watches Ascii.
<Ascii> Ascii stares at the cat.
<Nenni> "Can I help you?" the cat asks into Ascii's head?
<Ascii> "GAH!" Ascii falls over backwards, then sits bolt upright. "It's talking to me! IT'S IN MY HEEEAAAD!"
<Vivi> "Nons.." Vivi starts to say, but then stops and looks at the telepathic minidragon riding on her shoulder.
<Nenni> "Ahh, humans" Nenni comments to Aeth.
<Vivi> "Did you take a level in wizard without telling anyone?" Vivi asks speculatively.
<Hildyr> "A 'level' in wizard? What does that even mean?"
<Vivi> "Although you would still presumably KNOW if you had a familiar." Vivi pulls out her papers on arcana and starts trying to devise a way to acquire a familiar without being aware of it.
<Nenni> Nenni sees the paper. He likes books, knowledge and information - especially information on arcana. Uninvited he hops up to a vantage point where he can peer at it curiously.
- Vivi is too lost in thought to answer Hildyr's question or notice the cat peering over her shoulder.
<Vivi> "The mystic energy would resonate, waking the sleeper," Vivi mutters under her breath.
<Ascii> Ascii pokes Vivi. "Can we focus on the situation at hand? Like the mind-speaking cat?"
- Vivi blinks. "I thought I WAS focused on the mind-speaking cat."
- Nenni loves everyone focussing on him.
<Vivi> "I was trying to deduce how you might have summoned a familiar without being aware of it," Vivi explains.
<Hildyr> "The cat might just have mind powers by itself."
<Ascii> "Me? It's not *my* cat, it was just here on the wagon. And it's talking." Ascii crouches down to address the cat directly. "Ahem. Mr...um, cat? Who are you, and what do you want from us?"
<Vivi> "But only Ascii has heard him speak in his head," Vivi explains to Hildyr. "Well, Aeth did, but Aeth is telepathic to everyone, of course."
<Nenni> Nenni responds to Ascii: "I am Nenni. Attention, occasional pats, and some choice morsels would do nicely at some point, but really I'm just here to satisfy my curiosity. You look adventurous. I'm up for some adventure."
<Ascii> Ascii blinks. "...I think it wants to join our party."
- Hildyr turns to the cat. "Can you use your weird mind powers to talk to people other than Ascii?"
<Nenni> "Only people I like," Nenni replies to Hildyr; "everyone else has to guess what I'm up to."
- Hildyr nods. "Yup, that's definitely a cat."
- Vivi looks at Hildyr in confusion. "What does that mean?"
<Hildyr> "I've had cats before, and if they could mind-talk, they'd mind-talk like this one just mind-talked to me."
- Nenni looks directly at Vivi and comments, "I like your book. I like your guardian. I like your attention." :-)
<Nenni> This voice comes through on the mental wavelengths but sounds distinctly different to Aeth.
<Vivi> "Oh," Vivi says, her tone clearly disappointed. "A telepathic cat, then, not an unsummoned familiar. That's much less impossibly mysterious." She reluctantly crosses out her written speculations, then reaches up to scratch Nenni's head. "Welcome to the party."
- Nenni croons and decides who his favourite is.
<Ascii> "Hey, who said you get to just hire random cats? I mean, what can he even do?"
<Vivi> "Although," she says, perking up, "if you have a good story and some technical details on how you came by your telepathy, that would be good too."
- Nenni is distracted right now. Life is good. A future of adventure and discovery, and adventurers who tolerate and might feed him. What more could a cat want?
- Vivi shrugs at Ascii. "I mean, I didn't actually offer to pay him gold? He's a cat, who cares what he can do? He's soft and pettable. That's enough reason to bring him along, unless he's a spy, and we don't have any reason to think he is, that I know of."
<Vivi> "Aeth, if he starts sharing info with someone suspicious, let me know."
<Ascii> "He's a talking cat. That's like, the best spy *ever*. He could get into places and nobody would pay him any mind. That alone makes him suspicious."
<Vivi> "See, there's a reason to let him into our party. He'd make a great spy for us."
- Nenni hasn't had this much talk about him since that vase crashed over while he was innocently walking along the mantelpiece three weeks ago. Silly place to put a vase right in the middle of the track like that.
<Ascii> Ascii is about to complain some more (he's always good for that), but then he stops to think. ".....damn, you're right. Okay, fine, but if I so much as catch a whiff of double-cross I'm going to make a violin out of him. Deal?"
- Vivi frowns at the thought of violence against a furry cat, but shrugs. "If you must."
<Ascii> He turns to the kitty. "What's your fee?"
<Nenni> "Attention, occasional pats, and some choice morsels would do nicely at some point, but really I'm just here to satisfy my curiosity." he responds.
<Nenni> "I support some charities that educate the disadvantaged, libraries and the like, so if we stumble into wealth, a fair donation to such institutions is all I hope for. As you see for yourself, I travel light."
<Ascii> "Fine. We'll see how wel you do and work things out from there. Want to get up on the wagon with the rest of us?"
- Nenni nestles in.
- Vivi stares across the road at the Lobbists' Guild. "Do you all remember how squirrelly the president got when we asked him about other dragons in Semicircle?"
- Nenni 's ears perk up at the mention of squirrels.
<Vivi> "What if the Yellows acquired their own dragon patron and don't want anyone to know?"
- Vivi walks absentmindedly towards the Guild building.
<mainstreet> The Lobbyists' Guild is a fairly large structure. It seems rather spartan in design. You see the entry door. The place seems deserted. You take a closer look, and realize that people seem to be giving the place a wide berth.
<Ascii> "Huh? ...oh, brother..." Realizing that Vivi has gotten distracted again, Ascii hops down from the wagon and follows.
- Nenni watches what the others are going to do before deciding whether the cart or the building is the future.
- Vivi looks around, trying to see if there are any obvious reasons to avoid the building.
<mainstreet> Vivi: Well, being the Lobbyists' Guild, you'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Beyond that, nothing in particular.
- Vivi looks back at Ascii, then proceeds into the building, looking for someone to talk to.
<mainstreet> You find yourself in an antechamber with several halls leading into the heart of the building. Your eye is quickly caught by a large sign saying DIRECTORY.
<Ascii> Ascii follows her, ready for trouble, but trying not to *look* like he's ready for trouble.
<mainstreet> You look at the directory and find the following labels, as well as how to get there for each office: Administration and Records, Oversight Committee, Campaign to Save the Whales, IBAA, FWU, Demand Liberty, Tough on Crime, IAAGP, Stop Dragons Now!, Clean Mining Association, Office Workers Union
- Vivi reluctantly decides not to copy the entire directory into her notes, and instead proceeds to the office of Stop Dragons Now!
<mainstreet> You walk up to the office of Stop Dragons Now! A poster of a copper dragon with a large red circle and a slash through it is taped to the door. A small placard says "Director: Derrick Stewart. The Director is: IN"
- Vivi opens the door and enters.
<mainstreet> Inside you see a fairly typical individual office: file cabinets all over the place, a large desk in the middle, a dusty window that looks like it hasn't been opened in years, three chairs situated on one side of the desk, a large chair -- its back turned towards you (and to the desk itself) on the other side. On the wall opposite you, you can see a few more posters: they're all of dragons terrorizing humanoids.
- Vivi leaves Aeth just *outside* the door.
- Nenni decides the action is going on in the building, and scoots across into the building, easily hearing footsteps where Vivi is investigating and follows them.
<mainstreet> As you step in, the large chair slowly turns around. You see an old man who appears to have "grouchy" as his normal state. He's quite well dressed and has a faint sense of power about him, but it's definitely not in the physical arts.
- Nenni smells all sorts of interesting things on his way.
- Vivi , seeing the grouchy face and fancy suit, suddenly wishes someone with more people skills would conduct this conversation.
<Vivi> "Hello, sir," she begins.
<mainstreet> "Well hello there. And what's a fine young lady like you doing here? Care to make a donation to the cause?" he apparently warms up a bit.
<Ascii> "Yeah, what exactly is your cause? I assume something to do with stopping dragons."
<mainstreet> "Indeed. They're the enemy, you know. Why, there's at least one here on this very island, causing all sorts of trouble. She constantly interferes in our elections, and the people here just act like sheep and accept that. If I had my way we'd kill or drive her off the Island, and any of her friends too! But nooo, we have to play nice with her, because she's RICH. Bah, in my day we killed the dragon and looted the hoard!"
<mainstreet> "So all we can do here is just try to stop their policies whenever we can. Because harming a dragon is now 'illegal'. The only higher crime is egg theft. Similar notion. It's ridiculous, RIDICULOUS I tell you!"
<Ascii> "Egg theft?"
- Vivi uses Aethnet*TM to let Ascii know that what she really wants to know is whether they have any evidence that there's a second dragon on the island. Also whether they donated money to the president's campaign. (or did they contribute to both candidates?).
<mainstreet> Ascii: The lobbyist stands up, opens one of the file cabinets, pulls out a sheet of paper, and hands it to you. It looks like an official notice of the type often found on bulletin boards. It reads: "WARNING: Egg theft is a crime punishable by death! If you spot any terrorists engaging in the theft of eggs, please contact the authorities!"
<Vivi> "Does that apply only to dragon eggs?" Vivi asks curiously.
<mainstreet> "I think that may have been the intention, but that's not always what it's come to mean. So don't get caught with eggs if you value your life! Haha!"
<Vivi> "Has that destroyed the small bird egg industry?"
<mainstreet> "Not exactly. Just that people are careful to keep records of purchases and sales of such. ...Say, you're not from around here, are you?"
<Ascii> "No, sir. Your egg-based crimes are a mystery to us."
<Vivi> "Perceptive, sir," Vivi says, hoping he's feeling flattered. "DO you have much of a dragon problem here, or is it only the one who is causing all the trouble?"
<mainstreet> "Well, the Great Lady Lamaranth," here he snorts "is the only dragon that people *know* about. But... despite our organization's general funding to stop her, realistically she outclasses us. Which is one reason I want to remove her! ...but I digress. I have gotten suspicious of late that there is at least one, possibly two, more dragons out in the mountainous regions somewhere. I know nothing about them, but I have had disturbing rumours of signs of dragons in the western part of the Island... and Lamaranth lives on the eastern. Of course, it could be that she's building a second home. But combined with the new funding source, I do wonder... though I suppose it could also be the Winstara family finally deciding to stick up to her. They own the only bank on the Island, you know, so have access to quite a lot of funds."
<Vivi> "Is the Winstara family known to support the Yellow agenda?"
<mainstreet> "Not necessarily, but it would make sense that the banks would support a law and order, harsh on crime approach, which is generally a Yellow-associated concept."
<Vivi> "Well, thank you for your time. I just wanted to get a feel for the extent of the dragon problem while we are here. Perhaps you have some literature with the details that you'd like to give us?"
<mainstreet> He hands you a small pamphlet, of which he has a stack on his desk. "With my compliments," he says, although he makes a meaningful glance at the "DONATIONS" jar on the corner of the desk.
<Nenni> "When he says he has heard reports of sightings in the West, I wonder who actually saw first-hand? They might be better to talk with than someone who only has second-hand info." Nenni suggests to Vivi and Ascii.
<Ascii> (He says he's only heard rumors. We'd have to track down any sightings ourselves later.)
- Vivi pretends to be too absorbed in reading the pamphlet to have noticed his glance at the Donations jar. "Fascinating," she says into the pamphlet as she walks out the door. "Thanks again," she says as she closes the door behind the party.
<Ascii> "Tsk." Ascii flips a gold piece into the jar. "I apologize, she's easily distracted." Then he follows her out.
- Vivi frowns at Ascii, gives Aeth a pet as he returns to her shoulders, and whispers, "He didn't mean it, Aeth."
<mainstreet> Vivi: As you read the pamphlet, you quickly realize that it's not providing you with anything you didn't learn in the previous conversation. Most of it is rather preachy and making vague statements about the evils and dangers of dragonkind.
- Vivi tosses the pamphlet in the first garbage bin she sees.
<mainstreet> You toss the pamphlet into the TRASH bin in the antechamber of the lobbyists' guild.
- Vivi follows the Directory's instructions to get to the IBAA, FWU, and IAAGP offices so that she can ask them what their acronyms stand for. Or at least read it off their office doors, if applicable.
- Nenni looks to see what else is in the antechamber's garbage can.
<mainstreet> Nenni: Garbage.
<mainstreet> Vivi: Island Bear Appendage Association, Farm Workers Union, Island Association for the Advancement of the Gnomish People
- Vivi donates 2 gp to the IAAGP and then heads for the Clean Mining Association, on another hunch.
<Ascii> "Island Bear Appendange Association?"
<Ascii> "Must defend the right to bear arms." He grins.
<mainstreet> Vivi: You end up at the Clean Mining Association door. There's no picture. The placard lists the director as Fror Stonebarrel, but he is OUT, and the door is locked.
- Vivi looks disappointed. "Well, unless any of you have a good reason to visit one of the other lobbyist groups, we should probably get going."
<Vivi> On the way out, Vivi asks Ascii, "Do you think the Winstara Bank will tell us whether they bankrolled the Yellow campaign, if we ask them?"
<Nenni> "I really don't know what any of these people are about, so I'm happy to go somewhere more interesting."
<Ascii> "Unlikely. The bank itself wouldn't have done it they might have handled a political fund, but individuals contritube to it."
<Nenni> "They would probably have to declare that on their tax return, so if we wait seven years and then check out their bins and incinerators, we might find some of those figures."
<Ascii> "And they're probably not going to tell some random strangers who donated and how much."
<Nenni> "If Lamaranth has the resources at her disposal it sounds like she does, she is likely already investigating who financed Yellow and is streets ahead of us in that line of thinking. She may even have accomplices affiliating themselves with whoever is in the need-to-know already."
<Vivi> "Mr. I Hate Dragons back there suggested that the Winstara family that *owns* the bank might have been behind the latest Yellow campaign. That's not illegal and they could own up to it, if we tell them it's part of our investigation into the missing people, two of whom are Yellows, after all."
<Vivi> "But it might be a longshot."
<Ascii> "They could, but they'd have no reason to."
<Ascii> "Unless they like to brag."
<Nenni> "If we have nothing to lose by asking, there's no harm trying."
<Ascii> "Ugh, fine. But good luck getting to talk to the actual family."
- Vivi heads to the Winstara Bank.
<Nenni> "I don't know if there is anything to lose by letting them know we want to know. Is there?"
<Vivi> "If this doesn't work, we'll just keep doing what we would have done anyway. Asking Lamaranth who bankrolled the Yellows is a good idea. But if we can confirm or rule out this option now, it'd be helpful."
<mainstreet> The bank is... a bank. Massively impressive marble columns, huge gilded double doors, an orc standing guard at each side of the door... you head in and find a... bank scene. Tellers sit behind counters, a fairly long line has formed from various humans and gnomes wanting to do business, and a couple of bankers are sitting in cubicles off to the side, counting coins.
- Vivi heads over to the cubicles on the side. She pokes her head in one at random and asks, "Excuse me, do you know how I might find or contact a representative of the Winstara family?"
<mainstreet> The banker drops a coin in surprise and curses. "Dammit, you made me lose my count! Now I gotta start over! And for an inane question too!" He snorts. "Unless you have a Platinum level account here, or represent someone that does... you don't. They have far too much to do to bother with random people on the street. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have real work to do."
<Vivi> "I apologize," Vivi says, somewhat stiffly. She turns around and heads back to the cart.
<Nenni> "No luck? We could try writing them a formal letter?"
<Ascii> "Told ya. Rich snobs are no more likely to meet with us than reclusive dragons."
- Vivi shrugs. "We should probably pursue more promising lines of inquiry," she tells the cat.
<Vivi> "It was worth the try, though," she tells Ascii. "Had to ask, before we left the city. Speaking of which...do we have any other business before we leave? Do we want to try getting info from the inn, or stay there for the night, before we go?"
<Nenni> "Some inns have openings for adventurers to rid their cellars of rat infestations. I like those. Let's check it out."
<Ascii> "Right. I could use a pint."
<mainstreet> You head into the YGP Inn. Half of the room is taken up by the bar area. You notice three distinct groups of tables in front of the bar. Some tables are colored yellow, some gray, and some purple. People seem to be very carefully staying in the same color group. You also see the main counter and key wall.
- Vivi wonders if it makes more sense to have the whole party sit at the gray table, for neutrality, or to send members to each of the tables.
<mainstreet> ---END SESSION---