Pyx sat cross-legged on the floor of the Kellen longhouse he had recently leased, reviewing stacks of inventories and transaction records and sipping a delicious glass of mulled wine. Merek, the trader Pyx had hired to assist with the Vela's venture to Kellen, paced the room irritably, with a veritable black cloud following him as he walked. There were no furnishings yet in the building, and Merek had been of the opinion that they should return to the Vela rather than hold their meeting here. Pyx, however, had preferred the longhouse, mainly for its proximity to the tavern across the way with its most excellent mulled wine. Of course, he had had to borrow the glass.
"I really must insist, Pyxidus," Merek said for what must have been the fifth time. "Retaining half the ship's inventory in the hope that a better opportunity will arise is simply burning a hole in the hull." He held up a finger to emphasize his point. "The venture will obtain the greatest profit if we liquidate our stores and restock the ship with local goods as soon as possible."
Pyx had tired of rolling his eyes at Merek's lectures weeks ago, but he did it anyway. The Cascadian merchant sounded exactly like Pyx's father... which, he supposed, was fitting, as Pyx strongly suspected that his father had in fact sent Merek to keep an eye on him. The two men's advice and opinions were far too aligned to be a coincidence. "The venture is doing well enough," Pyx replied with half his attention.
Merek frowned. "And we simply must write the Cascadian embassy in regard to the ship's affiliation. It is too dangerous to fly from city-state to city-state with none of the rights or protections afforded a proper Cascadian trading vessel. You are putting your goods and people at risk-"
"Merek, for pity's sake, stuff your lectures," snapped Pyx, putting the papers down. "The Vela's crew knew perfectly well what flags I do and do not fly on my ship when they signed on, so please give them proper credit for making their own decisions. And we very well might not have been able to dock here if I had claimed Cascadian affiliation."
"Yes, what a pity that would have been," Merek replied sardonically, with a disapproving glance around the room. "If I may ask, exactly what are you planning to open a shop to trade in a city that is growing more xenophobic by the day? They won't buy anything made in Cascadia."
"I haven't decided yet," said Pyx, with perfect seriousness. He typically spent several weeks getting the feel of a city before he had a good idea for a shop. And if he didn't, it seemed the locals had sufficient need for basic staples that he could use the shop to import and sell those locally.
"Open a brothel," suggested Captain Auriga. She was a middle-aged woman with gray hair and several piercings, and so formidable that Merek gave her a wide berth. Like Pyx, she was enjoying a glass of mulled wine while sitting on the floor, though she had purchased a cushion for comfort. She was playing cards while Pyx and Merek discussed business.
Pyx and Merek both raised eyebrows at her suggestion, Merek's in disdain and Pyx's in mild interest. She looked up at their contrasting expressions and laughed. "What this town needs is entertainment. With so many military personnel contained within a great ruddy wall, a brothel's bound to do well."
"Is that legal here?" Pyx asked with interest.
"Absolutely not!" Merek shouted, his face red.
Pyx laughed, and seriously considered opening a brothel just to irritate Merek.
A knock upon the door interrupted their conversation. Merek, being the lowest-ranking member of the crew present as well as the only one standing, stormed over to the door and flung it open.
Terrin, Merek's timid assistant, stood outside, a sealed letter in his hand. He took a step back from the door upon seeing the fury on Merek's face. Pyx quickly stood in an effort to rescue the poor man. "Terrin, just in time. You've saved us from what I'm certain would have been a heated debate of professional ethics. What have you got there?"
Terrin gulped nervously, but heeded Pyx's invitation and stepped inside the house. "A courier just delivered an official letter for you to the Vela, Master Pyx. I thought you might want to see it right away."
"Very good, thank you Terrin," Pyx said, taking the letter. He examined the seal curiously, and opened the letter to read the contents. It was several pages long, stamped with seals and dates. After a moment's perusal, he leaped into the air and whooped.
"Papers! Official papers to travel from Kellen to Istan! We're going to Istan!!" He leaped about the room like a giddy, caffeinated cricket.
Merek was incredulous. "You applied to trade in Istan?"
"Istan, Nezri, and the Ivory League. We're going to Istan, Merek! There's going to be curry! Red curry, yellow curry, green curry, and ohmygod what if there are other colors of curry? I'm going to eat all the curry!"
Merek's mouth gaped open. He looked around wearily as if searching for a chair to sit down in. Auriga, practically, stood and captured Pyx long enough to take the papers from his hand. She reviewed them while Pyx resumed leaping about the room. "Bad business, this," she mused.
"Well of course it's bad business!" Merek exclaimed. "Relations between Istan and Cascadia are poor. Relations between Istan and Kellen are poor. Why in the name of the gods are they granting you papers to fly right into the middle of the whole mess?"
"That shouldn't be a problem," Auriga said simply. "After all, the Vela is registered as unaffiliated," she winked. "But rumors in the taverns near the docks say that ships traveling between Istan and Kellen have run into trouble over the past few months. Most of the captains are refusing to fly the route."
"That would explain the papers, demand for goods must be high," Pyx replied, having calmed down somewhat. "What do you think, Auriga?" he asked eagerly. "Is it worth the risk?"
"Oh, I've no problem taking risks," Auriga said, a glint in her eye. "But we'd best hire an escort. The Vela's not equipped to handle pirates, or whatever else may be waiting en route."
Pyx nodded, clapping Auriga on the shoulder with a pleased grin on his face. "Right. Merek, see that the hull is filled with goods to trade. Aur-"
"Pyxidus, you must reconsider-"
"Sorry Merek, I've been wanting to visit Istan far too long to reconsider! Auriga, ask around and find us a suitable escort. I-"
There came another knock upon the door.
(OOC: The knock is an opening you can use or not, as you like. Also feel free to use any of my NPC's.)
Demetria pulled aside a ruined access port. "Really. A light accelerator hit that punched through all three decks and all it hit was the forward distributor." Demetria pulled out the cylindrical part and inspected the fist sized hole through it. The rest of the distributor was wrecked by the random metal the accelerator spike had dragged along with it. It had been a quick fight. After Demetria found her quarry, a small but well armed pirate she chased them across the border, trading her zebet fire with their accelerator fire. Neither ship was particularly accurate, moving full speed into a windstorm, but that little shot when she managed to swing just above them, piercing through a thankfully empty cargo hold, then the main hall of the middle deck and the distributor, then punching through the first deck and out the hull leaving a little trail of devastation that almost struck her bathtub.
Maze chuckled in her strange, golem voice. "I've never been to Kellen." Demetria looked up at the frail service golem.
"You aren't coming. Enemy territory, and over the years you've acquired some Istani replacement parts to go with the Balefiran replacement parts. Much safer for all of us here, and if things don't work out, I'm sure you could fabricate a new core and bust me out of jail with the Umbra. I'll just walk. Just...a long hike. Let me have a month to get a new distributor and get back before you panic. I'm an experienced agent, how hard can it be?"
Demetria hadn't moved much in the bottom of the smuggling carriage since she was jammed into the too-small space. Every bump sent her head into the ceiling or shifted the rest of the probably illicit cargo. She attempted to shift and quickly found her legs restrained by shifted alchemicals. Then came the stop and voices. The low growls of a hound and some quick, raised voices. An altercation grew. Demetria held her breath and tried to become even smaller despite the futility. The carriage began to move again before a stumbling stop on some cobbles. She heard some quick murmurs and waited patiently until she heard some tugging and then the workings of the hidden latches. "You were quieter than the bottles. Good going." Demetria yanked herself out, slowly, through the too-tight space and into the carriage proper. She sat on the edge for a moment before hopping out. She gave a curt nod and disappeared into the streets of a hostile city.
The first target was an easy one. She arrived at one of the city's major trade aeries and looked at the arrivals board and quickly picked out the flag-less merchant who had arrived only a few days ago. A bit of sweet talking and she heard they had set up in a longhouse. She cross referenced the name with a little city brat's paid directions. She made her way into a nice, middle class district. The sort that reminded her of her little rented flat in Rozanai. The city streets became nice and cobbled in the shadow of the strange wall. It gnawed at her as she looked, knowing some part of its construction employed the Ethereal plane. She nodded politely to some guards as she passed them as casually as possible. She couldn't pass as a native deboni with her istani and balefiran heritage, but she could act casual enough no one would think to ask her questions. She self-consciously checked her outfit, a low-cut black tunic held onto her shoulders with narrow straps and dusty brown pants, for dust and grime she might have missed in the transit over. She came upon the lightly marked, under-signed longhouse that she knew to be the holding of an unwitting employer. She listened at the door for a while, silent as a ghost before finally knocking. A red light district? A light grin touched her lips as the the old fantasy of a seductive super-spy came back up. It wouldn't work, of course. She rapped on the door a few times.
After a quick test of the lock, she invited herself in. "This is a shipping business, right? I have an airship part I need delivered as soon as possible," Demetria grinned. "I've brought along the money I need for the part, but, uh, the shipping. I've got other goods for trade...but I've also got some good friends in the League and a smattering of contacts elsewhere. I'm sure I could get you a lovely supplier or two."