Oct 24, 2021 8:33 PM
Bell and Theo in Shadows of the Limelight
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"I certainly appreciate it."

He looks through a few titles. There's something claiming to be a travelogue of the northern countries, that might even be true. He'll probably be here a while.

 

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Iskander leaves a bit later, having finished the portion of his woodcut best done in a window seat in a library.

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Tanner manages to notice, and doesn't even seem distracted when he responds. "Nice meeting you, Iskander!"

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"You too!"

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The travelogue is relatively recent and seems not totally embellished, and mentions a coastal part of the north, Norshden, in much more detail than it gives to the distant island. He looks for that in the proper history section, and finds a recent book about their trade and ships - embellished to make the author's merchant patron sound much more impressive, no doubt, but it talks about Kenning's fishing boats and their dislike of anyone coasting off their family's names, and how they have no government save for an annual meeting where all men were considered equal members. This doesn't confirm anything he'd seen about the use of masks, but it's definitely gesturing toward confirmation.

After looking for other things for an hour or two, he takes the book with him toward the entrance.

"I'd like to make a copy of this book, or at least a portion of it, to take with me, out of the city. Do you have a usual way to arrange that?"

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"You may scribe your own copies of anything in the collection on the library stationery," it has Gazette's letterhead on it discreetly in each corner, "for one smallbronze a page. If you want many copies you may commission a printing from Gazette's office for much less per page."

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"What's the minimum print run, fifty? If you have anyone who can do simple book-binding, I expect I'm willing to pay for that, this will be thirty-odd sheets."

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"Minimum print run for text only is twenty, but you can get better rates for larger orders. It comes with a simple sewn binding for small booklets such as your thirty page one."

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"Hmm." He thinks for a minute, but no. It will be boring and eat time...

But ah well. He shakes his head. "I'll just copy myself, thank you."

Afterwards, he plans his next few days. He should visit the local nobility for informal diplomacy. See if any of the more combative local illustrati will spar with him. If he's lucky, combine the two and show up an annoying noble.

By the time that's done, the next week's newspaper is likely to be out.

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It has an article about him in it! It's not a large feature, the big news is about a fire in the downtown, but he's there, between the "memoir" pieces where she runs a column featuring pre-banked entertaining anecdotes from people who might later need the extra strength to breathe or chew when struck down by an illness, and the almanac page with its farmer-relevant items. The paper also carries classifieds, recipes, sports, and contests (this week's is a pun contest; it also announces the winners of last week's, which was one about how many distinct types of flower you could name in theme with the issue having a feature about a florist).

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Good enough! The captain of the city guard sparred with him in the park, with an audience, so some of this may even stick around after he leaves the city. (The man was a weaker illustrati, of iron, but quite good, particularly at how to fight without doing lasting harm. Theo deliberately sandbagged for their third bout so that the local man won and would have a better story to tell, about how he proved himself over the foreigner. A private fight with a noble with Blood demonstrated that they shouldn't take him or Chellas lightly, so he can spare the apparent weakness.) He doesn't have much to stick around further for, though, and a few places more to visit. But before he goes, thanks are in order.

He stops by Gazette's print shop again and knocks at the threshold.

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"Quest guy! What's up?"

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"Oh, come on, I put a pun in the title and everything."

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"It wasn't very good."

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"All right, it wasn't up to my usual standard. Hello, Captain."

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"I'm headed away later today, but I wanted to stop by and thank you before I did. Both for the article and the library, I found some helpful books."

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"That's what it's for. You're very welcome. Do you want a few copies of this week's to share around back home?"

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"I have a couple more stops before I go back, but I would love a few copies - or a dozen, that would be ideal. Anything else you'd like me to pass on?"

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She packs up a dozen of this weeks' and a few back issues she has handy for him. "I'd want a very detailed proposal, if they want to poach me. Particularly if they want to limit what I print any more than not spreading stories of villainy."

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"I'll make sure they know. Would letting you publish whatever you want for profit, and having joint-funded things with restrictions, be acceptable? I think I'd know who to try to sell on that."

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"Sure, if someone wants to subsidize only a fraction of projects I'm up for that."

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"Good! Well, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance, and I hope we'll meet again. But I -" he strikes a needlessly elaborate pose "- have a quest to continue. So, farewell!"

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"Farewell! Good luck on your quest!"

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He travels for several more months before he returns to Myzathas and sits in Council again. Other libraries, other courts. One visit is poorly timed and the Zenith is in dock. Little fame to be gathered, and Vidre to avoid - she only fought in the tail end of the second war, but she may be holding a grudge despite her 'reform'. But he does find independent confirmation of Kenning, so that's helpful.

And then he's back to the capital, where a trio of Councillors meet him at the dock, masked. A showy ceremony of him demonstrating he is subject to their authority, which is one of his least favorite parts of the job. Not because he resents it - he doesn't, and wouldn't even if he wasn't displaying being subject to the authority of himself - but it's grating and posed and everything he dislikes about fame.

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Slightly later:

"I have the report from our Captain Tanner, Councilors."

They all know he's a member, and probably everyone in this session here knows that he's delivering the report firsthand. But it's better to keep up appearances, especially when he-the-illustrati is making suggestions to the Council.

"There is a summary of courts met with and sparring sessions to make clear our capabilities and his own, which I will elide unless there is an objection. One incident is noted in which the captain notes that he favored his standing over our national reputation; he left a Scythian city with the sole public sparring session leaving a weaker illustrati come off the better. He presents in his defense a successful private bout against the local nobility, and adds secondary reasoning which will be mentioned in the remainder of the report. Do I hear a request for censure?"

"I move to vote on censure after the full report." "Seconded." "Third; so noted. Please proceed with the report."

"On the subject of antecedents, he has brought reports of a distant country, Kenning, which holds annual meetings of all free men, a weak government of their island, in which possibly-exaggerated reports say all members meet masked. They do not maintain strict confidence and smaller meetings are not secret, but it is encouraging. Two small volumes are available for our perusal..."

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