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supernal

What tangled webs

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The Dali estate

Ampelos liked to do his business out of the primary estate. Lady Halisera's home was a private residence but shared many of the characteristics of a public hub; around her revolved the world, so far as Dali were concerned, and so there was a constant input and outpouring of valuable assets, ranging the gamut from disembodied information to flesh-and-blood people. Ampelos liked to be around those of his family who warranted the Lady's presence, both in activity already executed as well as potential. He saw their faces, he let them see his face, he wove a complex network of associations and skill, as one might expect from a Spider(valley) and (Wyrm)Walker.

It was just such associations that put into his view the names of Icarus and Victra. Having just completed the transition from journeyman to master in the transmutation guild, and this on the back of his mentorship of Merida Spidervalley, Ampelos knew full well that the peculiarities of their familial network was prone to, and conducive of, reciprocal altruism. Doing for individual Dali meant doing for Dali as a whole, the node was the network, which meant that he could expect Dali, either the individual or the network, to provide for him in turn.

And so it was – he sent word to Icarus and Victra of engaging with him in a potentially expansive business negotiation which would serve to bring further glory to Dali. In the last year Ampelos has brought plenty of glory to his individual name, most notably with the construction of the faux-ton receivers connecting the Dali estate to specific points in the mainland, to Biazo Isle where he renovated the family vineyard, and now to Misral, where he has in turn constructed a museum and art gallery bearing the Dali stamp in Qrill.

He sits now just outside the small (compared to the manor) beachfront property they own and manage near the shoreline. He leans back against the recliner, in airy but stylish shirt and shorts, a hat brim casting a comfortable shadow over his face while, to his right, are a table with sweating drinks and two more chairs.

He hopes they arrive before the ice dilutes their drinks overly much.

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Victra Titancourt didn't quite know what to make of the letter she had received from Ampelos requesting her aid; honestly, she was surprised the man even knew who she was. Sure, they were cousins (distant ones, but it was a true statement none the less), but it wasn't like she had many accomplishments under her belt unlike the former. Hell, she wasn't even sure she was considered and actual adult by many members of her family; her parents certainly still treated her like a child so why would any other person over the age of 20 do differently? Her level of maturity was one of many sources that caused tension between the young social butterfly and much more conservative parents - if she were to list all the other faults she supposedly had in their eyes, she'd have to spend a day dedicated to that task alone. Even then she probably would miss some.

Annoyed by her train of thought, the lithe female wrinkled her small nose and glanced down at the creamy paper she held in her hands to read the words once again. Yeah, that was definitely her name and those words definitely meant to meet at the little estate on the shoreline so she wasn't going crazy. But... why? Certainly there were people with better contacts then herself and a bigger list of assets. Or maybe that wasn't what Ampelos needed? Did he want someone whose allies and previous connections weren't well known enough to taint a possible alliance with others? That could make sense, but she felt like she was grasping at straws. 

Deciding she wasn't going to find any more answers in the letter that she had already thoroughly dissected for hidden meanings, she stuffed it into her pocket and took a deep breath. Alright, so, she was just going to meet her cousin and see what he wanted and so long as she was pretty sure he wasn't using this to make a mockery of her, then it was honestly a great opportunity. And she really needed to get out of the Estate more - see the world, or a bit of it, and actually see the few penpals she had maintained over the years. A small smile curled across her pixie like face as her steady stroll brought her to the marked meeting place. It took all of a second for her large doe eyes to fall on the blonde hair of the man she had only really seen from distance at family events. 

"Ampelos!" She called out cheerfully, coming around the little table set with drinks. She looked down at her hand then stuck it out towards the man. "I'm Victra, though you probably knew that already." She glanced at the drinks again. "One of those for me?" 

 

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Ampelos. He knew the name well. His fellow Dali's name came highly respected. And, with the glory he brought to his own name he in turn brought to House Dali. As such, when Icarus had received a summon from Ampelos that seemed to be of the utmost importance, he made certain he would arrive to their meeting in a timely manner.

Unfortunately, he had neglected to dress for the environment of the beachfront. Icarus had never been one to frequent the property as he wasn't one to dabble in typical downtime. No, Icarus preferred to spend his free time preparing for future endeavors. He didn't even own the type of attire needed to be comfortable at the beachfront. In place of such casual clothing Icarus had simply donned his normal uniform.

Brushing the feeling of being uncomfortable aside, his eyes caught sight of his summoner, along with another figure. He kept a brisk pace until he reached his destination where he then took to the position of parade rest. "Icarus reporting Ampelos." He spoke with confidence, his eyes shifting to the other figure, a female, whom he nodded at in recognition of her presence.

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"One of those for me?"

Although the youngling had announced herself well in advance, Ampelos made no motion of recognition until she was very nearly upon him – just then he removed his hat, raised his sunglasses up to perch on his brow, and turned his gaze towards Victra with what appeared to be a tremendous physical effort. Ampelos's study of the young woman was rather candid, and criminally utilitarian; he spent more time inspecting her hands and her shoes than her face.  

"For none other dearest cousin."

Ampelos placed his half-empty/half-full drink on the table and sprang to his feet with the blood-born agility that even bookish Dali were gifted with. He was tentative in his approach of her, but the edges of his lips faltered into a coy smile moments before he closed the distance between them, hugged her for two seconds, and then released her to hold her at arm's length.

"I've heard, and read, a lot of you dear cousin, but as to what you looked like I had only my wildest imaginings and you've exceeded them in every way. To see you and think, 'here lies the future of the House and ' –"

"Icarus reporting Ampelos."

Ampelos released Victra and spun about-face, clapping his hands onto Icarus's shoulders instead.

"Dearest cousin!"

Drawing him in for a signature two-second hug, and then releasing him. In the seconds that followed Ampelos passed Victra her drink, Icarus his, and gathered his own. He held it up for a friendly clink, drank modestly seeing as he'd begun before they arrived.

"Thank you both for entertaining me so suddenly. We know to strike when the iron is hot but they don't tell us that in the world of business there are a very great many irons, all constantly flying about and crashing into one another, and all getting hotter or cooling down with nearly no sense to it all."

He sat, removing his sunglasses so he could slide one leg down the front of his shirt, and placing his hat over his face. To the young Victra he likely seemed a little silly and to the military Icarus, perhaps a bit too casual, but whatever their impressions or misgivings Ampelos was, for the moment, setting the pace of their conversation.

Only when they were both seated did he continue.

"I have a business meeting in Casper. My intention is to broaden Dali's transportation network. I'd like someone with expertise in professional courtship." One of them had Court right in their name. "And someone with a strong sense of organization and process." Who better than a military-minded Moontraveler?

"Would you two care to accompany me?"

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Victra felt like she had waited way to long for Ampelos to even look at her - he almost lazily turned to look at her, moving his sunglasses away from his light color to scan her over. The lithe red head desperately fought against the need to fidget as he seemed to stare at her shoes. She hadn't exactly chosen the best footwear for the beach, but the simple brown leather was sturdy and well fitted and as un-embellished as the rest of her outfit; Victra had always been a fan of simple, functional, and durable (much to her father's dismay). Generally the most colorful thing about her was the coppery hair atop her head. That day in particular she had even pulled out her best vest for the occasion and the dark green fabric was just barely accented with a bit of gold embroidery along the neckline. 

She was still standing perfectly still, trying to gauge her cousins mindset when he suddenly rose from the chair. He didn't move towards her at any great speed, but it was still instinctual that she slip out of his grasp. At the last second Victra realized he was going for a hug and nothing sinister and stopped her retreat to let Ampelos pull her close. She awkwardly patted his back in return. 

To say Victra was caught off guard by the man would have been an understatement - she almost missed most of the words he spoke to her next and was rather grateful when a third member joined them at the table. She took Ameplos' brief distraction to hone her expectations a bit, self-consciously mused her hair, and then accepted the offered drink with a dip of her head. The other man, Icarus, was another name familiar to Victra though she arguably knew less about his exploits then Ampelos'. She had never really had much reason to follow what the Moontraveler branch got up too... It was best to put as little interest into it as possible lest she accidentally let her parents think some unrelated part of the family might have a suitable spouse for her. Military life was far to rigid for someone of her disposition. 

The young lady didn't need to be told to seat as she settled into one of the chairs almost at the same time as Ampelos - it was clear there was a sort of casual air to this meeting and that let her breath a bit easier. She took a sip of her drink while Ampelos went over his proposal, pretending to think his offer over while knowing she would probably have jumped at any chance she could get to do some traveling. 

"Casper? Busy place, but definitely suited for it. Who is the meeting set with?" She asked, though her mind was already cycling through what she knew of the place. She did have an acquaintance, just a merchants daughter, but they had spoken plenty about the Aviary there. She'd have to see it - it would be impossible for her to leave the city without doing so. "Oh, I suppose that means I'd be interested in joining you." It would be terribly inappropriate of her to bounce around in her seat in happiness, so Victra settled for taking another sip from her drink to hide the massive grin that had spread across her face. 

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The speed at which Ampelos turned from one Dali to the next was somewhat surprising to Icarus. He had not been expecting such sudden movement, but he didn't resist being pulled into his relative's embrace. His posture relaxed slightly as the welcome feeling of being amongst family washed over him. The drink passed to him was taken with gratitude, returning Ampelos' gesture with the glass.

His eyes fell down to his beverage, his hand moving in small circles causing the ice inside to swirl around. Icarus took a slow drink as not to be disrespectful before placing the drink back in its resting spot. As Ampelos began to disclose his reason for the summons, Icarus' gaze shifted to Victra. He knew of her name, as he did with many within House Dali, but admittedly that was all he knew. Given the chance he would make an attempt to learn more of her. She was his family and all of his family housed a special place in his heart.

Finally, Icarus took a seat along with the others though his posture was still straight and unrelaxed. He took his beverage back into his possession, swirling the ice within once again as he mulled Ampelos' words over on his mind. Icarus listened to Victra give her thoughts before adding his own. "My cousin, it well known that you have long since brought glory to, not only your name, but to House Dali in large. You have a sense for knowing what will benefit our family. To turn down your offer would be in distaste. It would be my honor to accompany Victra and yourself to Casper on behalf of the Moontraveler sub-branch for the betterment of our house. I need know only what time you plan to dispatch and if you should need me to gather any supplies. Should you need anything else you need only ask."

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Ampelos was done with his drink quickly enough to leave a wealth of ice at the bottom of his cup. He pressed the base against his forehead to cool, his personal ward against the domineering reach of the sun. This provided a minor opportunity for Victra and Icarus to engage on their own, to make introductions as and if needed, and to fall into familiar habits of conversation if they knew each other before serendipity brought them together again.

There was a curious absence of both. Questions were instead directed solely at him, and solely about the matter at hand.

"A representative of the Casper Shipping Company. I have some reading materials on the company that both of you can familiarize yourselves with on the way, but the crux of it is simple enough. Every business is interested in expansion, is it not so? CSC is no different. Having grown to considerable influence in the local market they are now looking to expand into international import/export. Here our various connections both domestic and abroad are of interest to them. And their ability to cheaply transport large number of goods, and people, are of interest to us.

"My intention is to see us use their existing fleet at considerable discount, and to form a small, Dali-branded branch of goods transportation which leverages the CSC's legal and business infrastructure but which remains a distinct entity."

Throughout the course of his speech Ampelos came to an upright sitting position, removed his hat from his face, and let no obstruction come between his eyes and their faces. He wanted to see their reactions, understanding or epiphany or confusion or contempt, the moment it flashed.

"The meeting is tomorrow afternoon. We can leave anytime between now and tomorrow morning. We'll be making use of the faux-ton post I had installed on the estate, and its private connection to our partner Floracle, in the same city. It shouldn't take us more than a few minutes to get there."

Ampelos emphasized his words with the clear cadence of excitement; if they hadn't heard of it he would be happy to explain, and if they had then he was happy to preen his ego before family

"As to supplies I think that might fall more in your domain than mine dearest cousin. We will be in Casper and also Aspyn. You may not have heard but the situation in the mainland is rather in flux, and we may encounter all manner of unsavory element while conducting perfectly legitimate business. What say you?"

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Ampelos certainly knew his business, she almost wasn't sure he even needed her presence... not that she was about to offer up that little bit of insight though - it would be like shooting herself in her foot. She wanted away from home and this opportunity had presented itself in her perfect manner to give her some freedoms and slap her name on achievement while she was at it. She didn't have many of those, but she was eager to start proving herself and earning a proper place at the adult table. Even if she wasn't entirely sure what was so special about this particular arrangement; from what she could tell, it was a good but the standard type of deal you could hope to make. So either she understood what was taking place far to well and this whole endeavor was really just that jarringly simple, or she had failed to grasp the larger plan... Given what she knew about the blonde haired man holding this little gathering, she had a hard time believing it was the former. Victra had never been the type who learned by having others speak at her - she was much more hands on and 'in the moment' type of learner so it was pretty easy to assume she simply had missed the genius of the plan. 

But that was fine, she was here to deal with people, not the logistics of trade agreements. If Ampelos needed her to brush shoulders and make friends somewhere along the line, she knew she could do that. 

The young woman swirled her glass, watching the ice chase each other in circles while pretending to think about the information she had just been given. There actually was something, a barely recollected mention of the company tickling at the back of her mind; a change in ownership, was it? That seemed right and yet not entirely at the same time. Hopefully the information Ampelos had for them would clear that up. 

"I'm good to leave within the hour in all honestly, I won't have much to bring," she slanted her gaze towards Icarus next; "And If you need help getting things together, just ask."

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Icarus ran his thumb along the scar that marred his cheek. He wasn't particularly well versed in the finer points that pertained to business tactics. He had only really understood certain factors which Ampelos had put forth. Nevertheless, if the man had been seeking on someone of likemindedness he likely would have chosen a Dali other than Icarus.

For a moment he contemplated the information he understood and the potential time frame they could have. "Like Victra I am prepared to depart as soon as possible." He turned to stare at Victra. "I don't particularly have anything I absolutely have to gather. Just wished to ensure you both are prepared for the change of environment." With a friendly smile he leaned back slightly in his chair. "Either way, I'm ready whenever you two say you are."

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"Very well. Let's head back to the estate proper so I can get changed and finish packing. Then we'll be off."

The hour estimate he provided them was inclusive of a leisurely walk back from the summer home, time that they were able to spend in one another's company, using conversation to bridge the minute gap their blood heritage alone could not close.

Ampelos changed into the formal attire of a proper businessman, decided against the suit jacket and remained in a vest. When he descended Lady Halisera's staircase from the guest quarters down to the main floor, he had an attendant in tow who handled his valise. On Ampelos's hip hung an arming sword, and hidden away both on his person and his luggage were a colorful array of chemicals and reagents which he could put to task on Transmutation spells of all sorts.

"Shall we?"

Ampelos led them to the back side of manor Dali, where, in terms of dimension, what looked like a quaint guest house was in fact a Faux-Ton node. They enter a tower, are directed to a recessed and grey-enameled pit, and are flung out through the air as directed energy at blistering speed, some thousands and thousands of miles per hour. The experience isn't instant, but comparing travel of a few minutes to that of nearly a full day, had they elected for more conventional methods of locomotion, made it clear that Ampelos had considerably enhanced Dali's logistical advantage.

New location – A semi-private area of Floracle (not the interior of the shop itself but not out in the open); Casper

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Icarus found himself grateful for the time it took to travel to the Dali Estate. The information he had learned from them, and in return they had learned from himself, was invaluable. It truly felt as though they were simply close cousins catching up with one another after years apart.

As he and Victra waited for their cousin to change into his desired clothing, Icarus found himself making small conversation with the woman still. He asked her of trivial things, such as hobbies and things she liked, things he likely wouldn't ask someone not of House Dali before a mission. As it were, with the opportunity presented to him he wished to learn more of his extended family.

On 4/8/2019 at 12:36 PM, supernal said:

"Shall we?"

Eventually their conversation ended with the reappearance of Ampelos. Icarus followed behind him as the man lead. He found himself tingling some in excitement. With the stories of Ampelos' past adventures he truly looked forward to standing next to him during this one. Upon reaching their destination, Icarus found himself thoroughly impressed and stupified. He had heard of such things, but had never been witness to one in his life. "Amazing. How does it work?"

Then, Icarus found himself launched to their next destination just as the others were. In the time between point A and B he fought to keep his bearings but found it difficult with this new experience. Upon landing he was slightly nauseous, his skin a little paler than normal, though he quickly attempted to shake the feeling away. "That was... amazing." He spoke, his voice coming out in something of a whisper as his breathing returned to normal. His eyes moved around, attempting to take in the sights around him with appreciation. It was his first time physically traveling to Casper.

Suddenly he felt a chill creep up his spine, breaking his peaceful thoughts. Icarus viewed the few individuals who walked past their location that afforded them with limited seclusion. None glanced in their direction. None seemed to care about them at all. Still, there was something, maybe just in the air, that made Icarus feel... not entirely welcome.

"Say, Ampelos... in my excitement there may have been some things I neglected to ask. I know we're meeting a representative of the Casper Shipping Company. Besides those in the company, would there be anyone else who knows of our arrival. Anyone expecting us." There was no one in their immediate vicinity, this he knew. He was constantly checking their surroundings. Still, he couldn't shake the unnerved feeling so easily as he found his fingers twitching.

Within moments of arrival he was completely on guard yet knew not why.

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"How does it work?"

Icarus had asked that question before being blasted from one end of the faux-ton pipeline to the other. What illumination direct experience granted was unfathomable in nature; he had insight but would be damned if he could translate that insight into standard Terric.

"That was . . . amazing."

Ampelos waited until they surfaced in Floracle's courtyard to elaborate precisely for this reaction.

"I'm glad you asked dearest cousin. More often than not I find myself stressing the logistical advantage this offers to our most noble House but the technology itself is exciting as well. I'll have a whitepaper sent to your quarters but in short – the system performs high-level transmutation of matter into coherent electromagnetic waves, compressed and encoded, to be deciphered and reconstructed on the other end.

"It avoids the existentialist crisis of 'the teleporter' and sticky questions as to the ephemeral nature of the soul. It does not break down matter at one end to a formula so as to be reconstructed at the other end by base materials; it is a continuous and uninterrupted flow of the parent material at both ends."

The courtyard was constructed and positioned in such a way as to place them firmly within the screening shade of several trees and thick, fragrant flower bushes. The greenhouse was nearby, so a short walk in that direction bathed one in the sun's full splendor. But where they were, it was easy enough for them to see without being seen save for those with the wariest senses.

"No one should. As to people who might, there are the Uldwars to consider. This is less likely with the forthcoming marriage but, alas, I'm certain that not all among that house share one mind and one heart. The Karradeen's as well, though more over mercenary concern for their profit margins. They might spy from a distance and try to undercut us but I doubt it would come to blows."

Ampelos led them out of the Floracle's grounds and to the streets of the city proper. If Icarus and Victra were at all familiar with the city, or with maritime business even in broad strokes, they would be able to accurately guess that their charted course took them east, towards the city's massive dock.

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On 4/16/2019 at 11:03 AM, supernal said:

"I'm glad you asked dearest cousin. More often than not I find myself stressing the logistical advantage this offers to our most noble House but the technology itself is exciting as well. I'll have a whitepaper sent to your quarters but in short – the system performs high-level transmutation of matter into coherent electromagnetic waves, compressed and encoded, to be deciphered and reconstructed on the other end.

"It avoids the existentialist crisis of 'the teleporter' and sticky questions as to the ephemeral nature of the soul. It does not break down matter at one end to a formula so as to be reconstructed at the other end by base materials; it is a continuous and uninterrupted flow of the parent material at both ends."

 

Icarus pondered his cousin's words with a furrowed brow. "I think... I understand the majority of this. Unfortunately, I'm not well versed in things as you've just explained, so after I receive the whitepaper I may have to reach out to you for clarification." He took a moment to enjoy the shade, yet his eyes moved around slowly, keen not to be caught off guard on the off chance any surprises were to arise.

 

On 4/16/2019 at 11:03 AM, supernal said:

"No one should. As to people who might, there are the Uldwars to consider. This is less likely with the forthcoming marriage but, alas, I'm certain that not all among that house share one mind and one heart. The Karradeen's as well, though more over mercenary concern for their profit margins. They might spy from a distance and try to undercut us but I doubt it would come to blows."

"I see. What about enemies of this company we're to meet with? Is there any chance they may have any that know they're expecting arrivals?" Icarus followed closely beside Ampelos, ensuring he was never much further than out of arms reach. Though this was his first visit to Casper he was familiar with the area due to the studying of maps. "Just... a feeling I have. I don't know why. I just don't feel entirely... welcome." As they continued to walk their path, Icarus ran a finger over his scar. "I don't feel threatened, or even just watched. Just a feeling of being unwelcome."

They had entered a more dense crowd of people he realized as he looked around. He found it difficult to really pick anyone out as distinct, though as he looked around he believed he saw a rather decent number of individuals wearing suits. It was somewhat hard to tell as the new number of people seemed to create a blur of colors and he dedicated himself to not staring at any one of them, lest he actually draw unwanted attention towards them. "This area, is it a hot spot for business goers?" He questioned Ampelos as the docks began to loom off in the distance.

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"I see. What about enemies of this company we're to meet with? Is there any chance they may have any that know they're expecting arrivals?"

"An excellent question, to be sure, cousin."

Ampelos sniffed. He had no edge to his words, but they were distinctly lacking the overly familiar tone which had saturated his phrasing until that moment; his next statement shed some light on why that might be.

"Had you, perhaps, thought to ask these prior to our arrival in Casper, we could have sent out an inquiry to the company or put the Wyrmwalkers to task on the same. We would have arrived fully armed with knowledge rather than with questions."

Ampelos cleared his throat and cast a wide gaze over each of his shoulders, taking a quick survey of the people, the alleyways, the shopfronts, then turning his gaze back to the fore to plot their course down the cobbled path to the front door of the Casper Shipping Company.

"Better late than never at all however. When we arrive, we'll make that inquiry in person and see what comes of it. We'll be mindful of any conflicts of interest when reviewing the terms. Your question has given me direction, and for this I thank you dearest cousin."

The familial warmth eked back into Ampelos's voice, and what had been an almost imperceptible stiffness in his stance relaxed and allowed for a smoother, nonchalant gait.

" . . . hot for business owners?"
"Oh yes, I should think so. With its status as the largest port of entry into Terrenus, Casper enjoys and outsized share of maritime trade. There are dozens of entrepreneurs carving out slices of profit for themselves and their shareholders, and as you no doubt know a cornerstone to success is an industrious nature and a cornerstone to an industrious nature is an obsessive compulsion to your work. Any demographic which spends two-thirds of its day in a given location makes itself ripe for commercial interest."

They were not yet at the Casper Shipping Company, but through the muddling sight of the constant flow of people and the dozens of shopfronts and signs, their stylized fish logo could be spied from a distance. Ampelos turned about-face to Icarus.

"Why do you ask, an interest in the trade?"

And in that moment a small crowd of people jostled past them. Leveraging this ancient pickpocket's trick, someone tried to take something from Icarus and Ampelos (and Victra), like a billfold; more importantly someone tried to leave something behind, like a listening device.

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