Dynasty of Dovak

BY : JohnDoe
Category: +A through F > Exalted RPG
Dragon prints: 2279
Disclaimer: White Wolf, Exalted and Exalted 3rd Edition are all trademarks of White Wolf Publishing AB, and official characters, names, places and text are copyrighted by White Wolf. I do not own Exalted and I'm not making money from this fiction.

Session 40 – Reya (110XP 88DX, 75/59 spent; 18SP) – City of Glass

 

The next few days in Paragon are predictably dull. V’neef returned to the Blessed Isle the morning after their welcome meal, and the Hot Shots spend their days sipping coffee and supping on dates watching the drab gray Paragonese going about their business.

 

Danireya finds some work in the forges of Paragon, making picks and axes for mining use. The Dynast’s are far from short on money, but Danireya gets to see Paragon’s smithing techniques, and contribute to the gemstone industry, gaining the gratitude of the Paragonese smiths.

 

The Hot Shots discuss their next move. Donta is clearly restless.

 

“Now understand, I don’t want to die frozen in the desert,” Donta says, eyeing Reya warily, “But just how quickly could you get us to Chiaroscuro, if you used your...” She waves her hands in the air, “Booga-booga.”

 

“Four hours.” Danireya says confidently.

 

“Bullshit.” Aronia challenges, shaking her head, “Iceheart said a caravan takes two weeks. Which puts us bang into Calibration. I am not traveling the Threshold during Calibration.”

 

“Four.” Danireya says, “Hours.” She gives Aronia a hard stare.

 

Aronia shifts uncomfortably then looks away. “How many of us can you carry?” She asks awkwardly.

 

“Just us.” Danireya shakes her head “The three of us. Liling and the others would have to follow behind, and I can’t take luggage – just a small bag each.”

 

Donta pouts, “If it just takes four hours, why can’t you come back for Liling?”

 

“Because,” Danireya points out, “We’ll be racing across the sea and I will be defenseless whilst I steer. I’ll need the two of you to make sure we don’t get knocked out of the sky by pirates. And I trust the two of you not to fall off, and if you do fall off, you’ll probably live. The mortals won’t be able to stand it.”

 

“I’m not saying ‘yes’,” Aronia says, “But I also don’t want to be stuck here over Calibration anymore than I want to be stuck in the desert.”

 

“Ten days until Calibration. Five days of Calibration. It makes more sense for the others to wait for a ship in the new year than set out over land. And if we’re doing this, I need some accurate maps to plan the route now: we’ll be going in a straight line, but if we don’t set off in exactly the right direction, we’re going to overshoot.” Danireya spreads her palms as if weighing up the options.

 

“Four hours? I say we go for it!” Donta says.

 

Aronia looks unconvinced.

 

“Or we could wait and travel with the next opium convoy heading out of here...” Danireya says teasingly.

 

Aronia’s eyes narrow, “Don’t joke.” She glares for a moment, “Okay fine. Easier to bring money than luggage, I guess.”

 

The Hot Shots break: Donta to brief their servants, Aronia to book passage for the servants come the new year and Danireya to announce their departure to Mnemon Zaval and consult the Satrap for the exact bearing of Chiaroscuro.

 

An hour later, they assemble outside of the city, each carrying a small over-the-shoulder satchel. They’re dressed for the Southern Winter. Danireya confirms her bearings and starts to cast Stormwind Rider.

 

The wind picks up around the trio of Dragon-Blooded. Southern sand whips around them. Danireya focuses her sorcerous energy through the mudras learned from the Heptagram, employing the same mystic gestures employed by her ancestors for thousands of years. The dust devil encompasses the three Dragon-Blooded and lifts them off the ground.

 

“Whoa!” Donta exclaims.

 

Danireya smiles, and softly repeats “whoa,” under her breath, before gunning the whirlwind in the direction of Chiaroscuro at top speed.

 

Aronia curses under her breath as Danireya’s sorcery accelerates them at break-neck speed. They outpace a horse. They’d outpace a cheater. They rise into the air: five, ten, twenty feet above the ground.

 

Danireya makes a bee-line directly towards Chiaroscuro. Land and sand fall away to sea and spray. The Dragons see no sign of pirates on the horizon, and blessedly no sharks leap from the waves to bite at them. After the first hour of travel Danireya shunts her own Essence into the spell to keep it going.

 

“How much longer?” Aronia asks.

 

“Three hours, don’t distract me.” Danireya replies.

 

After the second hour, Donta complains about being bored.

 

“Unless you find swimming interesting, I suggest you entertain yourself.” Danireya spits through gritted teeth.

 

The third hour passes without incident, then the bright glass towers of Chiaroscuro appear on the horizon. The bay and the city’s vast port come into view. An army starts to assemble on the docks. Ships start to move to defensive positions. The Hot Shots see firedust weapons being loaded.

 

“Uh Reya...” Aronia gestures.

 

Danireya’s jaw clenches, “This is literally why you’re here.”

 

Donta uses the Wind to Carry her words, “Peleps Lundaer, congratulations on your appointment as Fleet Admiral. Great Grandmother sends her regards.”

 

As the Hot Shots approach the city, there’s no sign of the defenders standing down, but they’re also not shot from the sky. At last Reya deposits them safely on the docks.

 

“See, four hours. Piece of cake.” Reya says, straightening her hair.

 

A short, slender woman, heading for middle-age approaches them. She wears a sash of blue and black over a crisp Imperial Navy uniform. Her dark green hair (tied back into a severe ponytail) and haughty bearing mark her as one of the Dragon-Blooded.

 

Donta pushes her way forward, “Admiral, so nice to see you again. My father sends his warmest regards,” She curtsies, “And we apologize for any inconvenience, don’t we Danireya?”

 

“Fleet Admiral Peleps Lundaer,” Danireya bows, “If my brother’s stories are to be believed, this appointment is well deserved. I am Mnemon Alinos Danireya, my cousin Mnemon Alinos Aronia and I believe you are acquainted with my niece Mnemon Alinos Donta. Our overland travel was… delayed, and House Mnemon lacks the affinity for the sea that the fine House Peleps is renown for. I had to fall back on the talents at hand.”

 

Lundaer’s voice is gruff, her face set in a snarl, she walks towards the Hot Shots with a precise and clipped discipline, “Indeed. I was expecting to have to accommodate your entourages. You’ll have to pick up after yourselves. In the interest of Realm security, I have to insist that you stay with the Fire Fleet until after Calibration. You are welcome, of course, to join us on shore leave within the city.”

 

“Thank you for your gracious hospitality.” Danireya says, keeping a straight face. She formally bows again.

 

Lundaer smartly turns on her heel and walks away. A black and blue liveried attendant offers to show the Hearth to their accommodations.

 

The Hot Shots are shown to a mostly intact tower of Chiaroscuro glass overlooking the bay. It’s a fair distance from the Foreigners Quarter and the corralled Realm garrison. The Tri-Khan is infamous for treating visiting (and resident) Dynasts with the bare minimum level of respect: Chiaroscuro being a Realm Satrapy in little more than name alone. To be housed in an Old Realm tower, within easy reach of the Realm Fleet is surprisingly good. They’ve been given enough rooms to comfortably house their entourage. The Peleps steward bows and takes his leave.

 

“So how does Tinis know Lundaer?” Reya asks Donta when they’re alone.

 

“You’re joking, right?” Donta asks, scrutinizing Reya.

 

“You implied that my brother knew her. With the warmest regards bit. I just improvised. I haven’t said more than a dozen words to Tinis in my life. Five of them were ‘I’m sorry for your loss’.”

 

Donta looks hurt as Danireya casually references the death of her mother. Aronia puts an arm around her and gives Reya a withering look as she shakes her head.

 

“Father served under Trierarch Lundaer as the Winglord in charge of her marines: and as her Prôreus and Arms Master. They’re still Sworn.”

 

Reya nods thoughtfully, “That explains the accommodations. Good friend to have. How was she as a Trierarch?”

 

“Father always said good things. His time with the marines was more fulfilling than his time with the Legions. More political though.” Donta stops and considers for a moment, “So… shopping?”

 

Aronia turns to Danireya, “Can you cook?” She asks with just the barest hint of worry in her voice.

 

Danireya shrugs, “How hard can it be?”

 

****

 

The afternoon Chiaroscuro market places are a bustling affair. Guild merchants and locals sell their goods from a range of bazaars and stalls. Delzahn men wear brightly colored, or gray, veils. Delzahn girls wear gauzy silks. All manor of other residents in the city wear a cosmopolitan mix of dress suited to the climate.

 

They navigate their way to stalls hawking produce and fresh beef. The market is rich with the smell of spices and exotic vegetables. Danireya takes them to one of the larger, semi-permanent stalls, clearly run by a prosperous family.

 

“The smaller stalls are more likely to have better goods.” Donta cautions.

 

“I don’t doubt it.” Danireya answers, “I have a purse of hundred-twenty-eight yen notes and silver dinars. I don’t imagine the smaller stalls are going to be giving out change. We should be able to get everything we need here, and open a line of credit which will allow us to transact more easily with the other merchants.”

 

Donta shrugs, and hefts a weighty dirham from her pack, “I’m not overly concerned with ‘change’.”

 

“Then we’re going to run out of cash before Calibration. Then we’re trading on our good name as Dragon-Blooded in a Satrapy full of warriors not exactly famed for their love of the Realm.”

 

As if to underscore Danireya’s point, Aronia walks face first into a gray veiled man wearing a gray sash across his brightly colored garments. He spits on the floor and curses in High Realm, “Honorless swine!”

 

Aronia’s blood boils as she settles into Fire Dragon Form, “Who are you calling honorless!”

 

The Delzahn man shakes his head as a small crowd gathers to watch the spectacle.

 

“Aronia...” Danireya cautions.

 

A couple of the man’s compatriots appear from the crowd: one seems to start to talk their friend down, as the other shoots rapid-fire phrases at the Dragon-Blooded in Flametongue.

 

“What’s he saying?” Danireya asks Donta.

 

“A thousand somethings, something something, a bad something, something?” Donta shrugs.

 

“I thought you spoke Flametongue!” Danireya hisses.

 

“I do. But, you know, the veils make it hard if you can’t see their lips. There’s a reason we keep Lilian around you know!”

 

Before Danireya can say that she knows exactly why her niece keeps Lilian around, the offended Delzahn speaks again in High Realm, “I’m not going to fight a woman, anyway!” He turns and starts to walk away.

 

The onlookers start to disperse. Donta visibly relaxes. The sound of tearing cloth punctuates the suddenly silent market place. The offended Delzahn turns and sees that Aronia has ripped the sleeve off her top and pinned it into a crude gray veil across her face.

 

You dare!” He begins in Flametongue, clearly incensed beyond reason, before switching back to High Realm “You dare mock me! I am Lefej Kah bey! And I challenge you to a duel!” He draws a slashing sword of Chiaroscuro glass.

 

“We just agreed duels are dumb.” Danireya says under her breath.

 

“You’re really going to let her kill this guy?” Donta says disbelievingly.

 

Danireya shrugs in response, as Lefej’s companions quickly sketch out a dueling circle.

 

Aronia makes no move to draw a weapon, instead flicking her fingers forward in a mocking “come here” gesture. Lefej Kah twirls his blade in a beautiful and deadly arc and rushes at Aronia. With impossible grace, Aronia steps inside the arc of his swing, catches the blade by Kah’s wrist, and twists, disarming him, then drives the palm of her other hand into his nose, breaking it. As Lefej Kah’s blood spills into the ring, Aronia walks out of the dueling circle without looking back, casually tossing the Delzahn’s sword into the dust.

 

“Boys will be boys.” Danireya shrugs, and motions for Donta to follow after Aronia.

 

“Apologies!” Donta says, snapping her fingers as the translation comes to her, “‘A thousand apologies’, ‘something apologies’, ‘a bad day’, ‘deepest apologies’. That’s what they were saying.”

 

Danireya pinches the bridge of her nose in exasperation, and they rush to catch up with Aronia inside the market stall.

 

****

 

The stall sells a wide variety of foods and clothing. Aronia selects new garments (women’s fashions, without a hint of gray), as she discards her make-shift veil. Donta selects foods she vaguely recognizes (and doesn’t think could possibly be too difficult to prepare).

 

Danireya tries to engage one of the merchant-brothers in conversation.

 

“Mnemon Danireya. We’re new in town.” She opens with her most winning smile.

 

“Yes. We saw.” The merchant responds in accented High Realm, “The Lefej are powerful nobles.” He points out into the square where Aronia’s, brief, duel took place.

 

Danireya spreads her hands, “And we mean no disrespect. But Lefej Kah challenged my companion’s honor. ‘Honorless’. His exact words, in our own mother-tongue. If a Lefej nobleman called you honorless, would you not duel him?”

 

The merchant considers, “Krefta Rulag pasha,” He introduces himself, “The Lefej are… distant cousins. I could ensure they see this as a matter of honor, settled.” He pointedly looks at Donta and Aronia as they select goods.

 

Danireya retrieves her silver, equally pointedly, “Good. My sisters and I believe in settling all our debts. We transact business and we conclude it. It doesn’t do to travel and leave things half-settled.”

 

Rulag bows, graciously, “My brothers and I are at your service.”

 

Danireya asks for news of the city: the water supply is running thin as the winter rains were unseasonably sparse, grain shipments are running late, whispers spread of the Tri-Khan wishing to import foreign meat. It seems the average citizen of Chiaroscuro thinks little of the Fire Fleet, or the Realm presence within their city. Rulag does not speak of the pending Calibration, and Danireya doesn’t press him on it.

 

Once her Hearth has selected their goods, Danireya pays in hard silver, feeling a rebellious frisson: she’s never purchased goods by actually handing over silver herself before. It doesn’t occur to her to haggle, seemingly quite serendipitous that her Hearth has managed to spend a peasant’s monthly wages in a single shopping spree.

 

The Hot Shots return to their accommodations. Aronia easily lights a fire and Donta insists on helping Danireya prepare the food. It is… an experience (one which leaves their kitchen rather messy), but between them Danireya and Donta manage to prepare a lavish meal, which all three Dragon’s enjoy.

 

Their apartments have running water, and Aronia and Donta retire to bath before they go out to a drinking establishment Donta knows of. Danireya clears away the plates, and hears a pounding at her door. She goes to answer it.

 

Lefej Kah bey and his companions from the market are at the door. Danireya smiles unflappably at him, and gives a slight incline of the head. The swelling of his nose is notable, even beneath his veil.

 

“Lefej Kah bey, this is an unexpected pleasure.”

 

An emotion flashes over Kah’s eyes, but Danireya isn’t sure whether it is embarrassment, annoyance or something else – being new to the city, and the veil covering most of Kah’s face, blunting her usually keen acumen. Inwardly, she curses not having her axe to hand.

 

“I have come to apologize.” Kah says, in a clipped military voice. The impression of control and discipline is somewhat ruined by the nasal whine of his broken nose.

 

Danireya nods again, almost deep enough to be considered a bow, “Mnemon Alinos Aronia considers the matter settled on the field. You fought bravely and with skill. By blood, honor is settled. But I accept your apology on Aronia’s behalf.” Danireya is careful not to use female pronouns, just in case.

 

Kah pauses, uncertain, then continues, “I would prefer to give my apology to Aronia in person.”

 

Danireya smiles, kindly, “I am a stranger in your wondrous city and I know little of your customs. But in the Realm each household is presided over by a Matriarch. It is she who runs the household. This is my household and I am the senior woman here: in matters of Hearth, I am supreme. Now, in matters of combat, I defer to Aronia. If you have come to duel, I will fetch her.”

 

Kah shakes his head quickly, “Forgive me. It is also the Delzahn way that women see to the… hearth. I have not come to fight. I… spoke rashly.”

 

“As I said, Mnemon Alinos Aronia considers the matter settled. We thank you for your apology, truly you are a man of great honor. House Mnemon Alinos, holds no ill will towards the noble house of Lefej – and I apologize for our part in the misunderstanding.”

 

Kah bows, “The Lefej keep a modest tower to the east of the Field of Gold. Most of my kin roam the southern steppes, but we draw inwards for Calibration. Your household is welcome to our hospitality. You may call on us at your convenience.”

 

“Thank you.” Danireya acknowledges, and the Delzahn trio turn and leave. She closes the door, relieved that her diplomatic overtures seem to have paid off, but wondering what etiquette now demands of her and the Hearth.

 

****

 

“It should be right around… here!” Donta exclaims with glee.

 

The smell of the salt spray assaults Danireya’s senses. Dusk has fallen: refreshed and redressed, the Hot Shots have gone down to the docks to find a bar Donta insists they visit whilst they stay in the city. Tucked into a basement beneath a warehouse, the building isn’t even made of the city’s famous glass – it’s a squat, stone building. A warm gust, smelling of alcohol, batters away the smell of the sea as Donta opens the small door leading into the bar.

 

A few simple tables are scattered around the room. A roaring fire warms water pipes, which carry the heat around the room, and belches smoke into a complex chimney array – possibly carrying the heat to the warehouse above. The bar is tiny, barely large enough to fit the barkeep behind, but stacked with dirty brown bottles and great barrels of ale.

 

“Watch and learn.” Donta says approaching the bar. She lays a silver coin on the bar and slides it over to the barkeep, “My sisters and I wish to be kept in drinks.” She slides over another coin, “A round for all my friends.” She holds up a third coin to eye level, when the barkeep reaches for it, she grabs him by the wrist and pushes the coin into his hand, “And don’t bother us about the damages.”

 

The barkeep hands over a small cask of ale, one of the brown bottles, three wooden pint mugs and three smaller glasses. Aronia takes the booze as Donta grabs the glasses and they make for an empty table. The barkeep calls out something in Flametongue, and the patrons of the bar approach to get their round on the Dragon’s.

 

“Should I have brought my axe?” Danireya asks as Donta pours her a beer and a glass of what looks (and smells) like cough syrup.

 

Donta grins mischievously, “Maybe. Try not to burn the place down. You too Arrow.”

 

“Fuck it,” Aronia says as she pounds back the syrup in a single gulp. Danireya watches as Aronia’s eyes unfocus, and she starts to wobble. She stays upright for a heart beat, then two… the collapses face first unconscious onto the table.

 

Danireya looks around the bar. The mortals seem to have a finger’s worth of the syrup in shot glasses barely bigger than thimbles.

 

“Seriously?” Danireya says, lifting her glass to the light to get a better look.

 

“Well don’t chug it, obviously. Little sips between beers.” She pokes Aronia, who stirs and starts to snore, “She’ll be fine.”

 

“She’s also our best fighter.” Danireya points out, sizing up how many patrons are between her and the only exit.

 

“Well… now it’s a fair fight.” Donta grins, taking a small sip of the syrup, pulling a face, then washing it down with a large mouthful of beer. “Besides, I’m not going to do anything to insult these fine sailors. Like challenge them to a duel over a matter of honor.”

 

Reya takes a cautious sip of her drink. It tastes of rich spices and fragrant herbs, but carries the reassuring, poisonous taste of hard liquor. In the Heptagram, they had distilled almost pure alcohol as an alchemical reagent, and Udi had used the leftovers to make (what she called) absinthe, this was probably about as strong. Danireya reminds herself that Aronia has spent the last seven years abstaining from alcohol, and despite her prime physical condition, probably has a lower than average tolerance.

 

“So here me out,” Donta says, drinking deep of her own drink, speech just starting to slur a little, “There’s not been enough rain, right?”

 

Danireya blinks, and remembers her conversation with the merchants, “Sure. They’re worried about feeding the people.”

 

Donta waves a hand, almost dismissively, “And House Peleps controls the navy, right?” She takes another drink.

 

“Right,” Danireya says cautiously, not quite sure where this is going, “Your father’s Hearthmate, Peleps Lundaer is Fire Fleet Admiral now.” She sips her beer, slowly, wanting to keep her wits about her.

 

“Your brother!” Donta shoots back, almost accusatory but with a drunken grin on her face, “House Mnemon. Not exactly on good terms with House Peleps, right?”

 

Danireya puts down her beer and sighs, “Mnemon Satraps earn tribute for the Realm. Peleps Merchant Captains skim off the top, and if anyone complains, well Peleps controls the Navy – they just withdraw protection and let pirates do the rest.”

 

“So...” Donta says carefully, “If we were to suggest shipping food and water from House Mnemon to Harborhead, House Peleps would doubt our good intentions, right? The Tri-Khan, not exactly on famous terms with the Realm either. Might refuse our help.”

 

“We’d need to convince House Peleps that we’re not trying to muscle in on their territory...” Danireya says, and Donta nods enthusiastically, gesturing for her to continue, “By involving a third party?”

 

Donta taps her nose and shouts “Drink!” She raises her glass in toast. Reluctantly, Danireya toasts and drinks, “But who?”

 

“We could talk to Paragon?” Danireya sees Donta pull a face, “But the overland route takes weeks, and the Perfect and the Tri-Khan aren’t renowned allies. Has to come by sea. From the Blessed Isle, not a rival Satrapy. Can’t come from Mnemon holdings… can’t come from a Great House at all. Would have to be… someone with extensive holdings: farms, vineyards. Someone with no interest in the Merchant Fleet so House Peleps wouldn’t see them as a threat. A Wood Aspected someone. You think we should ask Scarlet V'neef to rescue Chiaroscuro.”

 

“So close. I think YOU should ask Scarlet V’neef to rescue Chiaroscuro. For the sake of your brother’s Hearthmate. And the security of the Realm: if the Fire Fleet’s home port falls to famine, that compromises the entire direction. V’neef is Wood Aspected. She’s an explorer but has shown no interest in the open sea what-so-ever, doesn’t have a Great House. She’s no threat to Peleps. But she does this, and she earns recognition, wins allies, makes contacts in the Merchant Navy which’ll stand her in good stead when it’s her Satrapies shipping tribute home. You get to trade off of the family name and get in good with an Admiral, a barbarian king, and a daughter of the Empress in one blow. We strengthen the tenuous alliance between the Realm and the Delzhan. There’s no bad here.”



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