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supernal

What tangled webs

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"I shall word immediately, my lord." The woman before Ampelos answered, before she immediately withdrew a small pocket mirror, flicked it open, and then spoke into it. "Amira, your cousin is here!"

With the slightest hint of a smirk, she clapped the mirror shut, and took a glance over her cousin. "So, this is what we're giving away then?"

What she thought of the trade, or the man subject to such, remain undisclosed as she gestured for him to follow her into the estate itself. Her movements would draw much more visible a reaction from the staff, who scurried about as to find one of their masters to who to report the occurrence.

"You'll have to forgive me if our guests are a little... ill at ease." Amira began an explanation as she settled herself into a particularly plush seat in the corner of an otherwise open hall. "They did not take kindly to my inspection of their estate. I think more for the impoliteness of it - and the freedom with which I wandered about the place - than the humiliation of their son. Then again, that would mean having to admit how easily misled he was."

 

Amira eased back a bit further, and steepled her fingers. "They'll be useful enough, I imagine. I take it negotiations in Aspyn went well enough?"

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"Hold on."

He addressed the woman shortly after she signaled Amira, holding his valise out for her to collect.

"At least until you find a footman who can deliver this to my room."

With the unseemly necessity of manual labor put to one side, Ampelos felt immediately more at ease – he followed in Amira's wake with brisk, measured strides which brought him just behind and just to one side of the Spidervalley femme. Ampelos's head swiveled and craned as they made their way through the estate, taking careful note of the topiary, building architecture and estate design; his recent stint as a property developer had given him a new lens through which to see the world, and made sure to keep that lens polished.

It appears that his fiancée would need some time to gather herself before making mutual acquaintance, and Ampelos did not blame her for her anxiety if so; these dreadfully stilted affairs induced unease almost as a matter of course, so each party putting their best foot forward was a common, expected courtesy. His stylish, Dali Designs manner of dress would no doubt match against anything but the most luxuriant attire his bride-to-be could claim, and if it should fail on this occasion then he supposed it was only proper and right that the blushing maiden shine, even if he must dim his own colors somewhat to allow this.

The circumstance afforded him opportunity to become more familiar with his cousin, and he was thankful for that.  

"They'll be useful enough, I imagine."

Thankful in theory, at least.

Ampelos very carefully poised a dissatisfied frown on his face. He removed his gloves and placed them, one atop the other, on the small, round, marble counter next to Amira's seat. He undid the clasp fastening his burgundy cloak across his neck, folded it, and let it rest next to his gloves.

"You are rather vulgar, dearest cousin. I think I would not be the first to term you 'presumptuous' either. How uncouth."

Ampelos took his seat on the other side of the counter, so that his items sat between them, then reached up to tug a cordon and ring a distant bell.

The woman was inarguably clever, but tactless. Speaking of the family's utility so wantonly, and on their grounds. How many staff could be lurking in earshot? How many clever little urchins might not be watching them from the eyes of oil paintings, or making use of arcane artifice to spy on strangers who traipsed about their domain? The Spider made them both magicians, but the Wyrm prompted Ampelos to think like a spy.

Like crude ore or raw coal, Amira would have to be refined.

"The negotiations were absolutely sterling. To be expected, of course. What I presented to them was such that only the deranged and the foolish wouldn't be able to see the benefit of it. Clearly the Marish family has treated you well. Anything of interest your, hmm, shall we call it 'calculated impropriety', has managed to uncover?"

And just then, a footman arrived. "Wine, please. A middling vintage will suffice."

Edited by supernal

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Amira's response to her cousin's response was a quiet one, almost nothing, in fact. But the occasional tilt of her head, and the flick of her eyes, suggested study. Yet study seemed to be all she did, not rising in response, not even upon her own lip. Her lip did not even part in answer to his accusations of vulgarity, presumption, and simply uncouth behaviour. All she did was lift her fingers to the side of her head, and rest her temple upon them, looking slightly upward at the ceiling. A 'really now?' perhaps.

"Not much, really, which has its own tale to tell, I would say." She spoke in answer to the question as to what she found in her time among the Marish, signalling with her free hand to the footman to ask for the same drink. "Chief among their concerns is that they already be seen as restored to stature. That can continue on, business as usual, where so many others are still struggling to recover. In this, they are to be commended..."

She let her words linger in a way that suggested a lack of completion, until the footman had departed to gather their sustenance.

 

"They're almost as good at illusions as I am." Amira concluded with something approximating a smile. "After all, surely a family that could arrange such an elaborate debut for their daughter but days ago must in the best of financial states. And it is most certainly a good estate they have found for themselves, though if there are secrets here, I believe they belong to the prior owners, not its current denizens."

Amira shifted in her seat, one leg over the other. The hand that had held up her head now rested upon the arm of her seat, as she leaned in slightly.

"I would certainly say the women of this family are the greater prize, so, congratulations dear cousin." She told Ampelos, before reclining once again. She relaxed as she quipped, "If there's any shame in that this is not being a matrilineal affair, it will be the library here. There are so many good books from the continent here, fiction or otherwise. I was happily occupied by them, and our hosts were happy to have me occupied. I even have once here..." She said, reaching across onto the table to hold up a work with the title of...

 

A Holiday in Ignatz

 

A sequel to the best seller, clearly.

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Holding the glass by its stem so as not to spoil the wine it held by his body heat, Ampelos stirred the burgundy liquid to unsettle the sediment and open up its bouquet; he held the mouth of the glass to his nose, sniffed, touched the lip of the glass to his own, sipped, then placed the glass down on the table which separated him from his cousin. His face expressed marginal dissatisfaction.

He had asked for something unremarkable, and was served precisely that without qualification. He made a mental note to ship to the Marish family several casks of the Dali syrah, perhaps would have Amira mint her name on the bill of lading so as to soften the sharp edges of the memorable impression she was sure to leave behind.

" . . . in this they are to be commended."

"Well said. Ever a game of smoke and mirrors, this grand life of ours. But so it ever was that perception underpins reality. Now that the House has involved itself so whole-heartedly in Marish affairs, abstract desire has found a means by which to materialize."

" . . . good at illusions as I am."

Here, Ampelos couldn't help the smile curling the ends of his lips, and found himself so thoroughly amused that he wouldn't have wanted to even if the opportunity presented itself. With that final note of hers lofting in the air Ampelos turned his attention in greater part to the scrutiny of Amira, tapping his righthand pointer finger against pursed lips and humming in thought.

"All of this," Ampelos gestured vaguely in Amira's direction. "For my benefit? I wonder. When not making yourself an ample recipient of another's hospitality, what occupies dearest cousin Amira's time and thoughts?"

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This is a checkpoint summary meant to canonize events up to this point without impacting the ability of players to continue the story.

Summary

Ampelos Dali, recent graduate into the Master rank of the Transmutation Guild and increasingly accomplished businessman on behalf of the Dali estate, arranges to meet with two members of the family to continue expanding business operations. He meets them at Dali estate then uses faux-ton receivers to ferry the three of them to Casper to meet with the Casper Shipping Company and establish a corporate partnership.

Consequences and Opportunities

[C] - Dali and the CSC enter into a contract which establishes a luxury travel route for high class personnel traveling to and from Aspyn.

[C] - Ampelos creates a CSC subsidiary which will act as a private transportation company owned and managed by Dali but operating under the CSC corporate umbrella to make use of its resources; the first deal sees both parties splitting profits where the second sees a fee paid from Dali to CSC for autonomy.

[C] - Ampelos goes to Aspyn to meet with the local government and establishes a new deal which sees Dali building the infrastructure and providing the service for growing their tourist economy, funded in part by subsidies and grants to ease the burden of construction and stimulate the local economy. This will expand the Dali Vineyard and make Aspyn a luxury destination.

[O] - You can work for CSC as a transport specialist (captain, navigator, security, etc) or for Dali private luxury travel or for Dali vineyard

[O] - Every business deal (notably with CSC and with Aspyn) provides an opportunity for a supply chain attack to learn confidential information about these business deals. The information isn't enough to fully compromise any specific leg, but can be useful nonetheless

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