Jun 28, 2022 5:21 PM
Xian in Cosel
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Being able to drink everybody else under the table and plausibly fake being at least a little loosened up after a couple rounds will do, these aren't very discerning assessors of drunkenness. He is rapidly very popular.

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That's his goal.

His other goal is, of course, to start scouting out other employment prospects. Preferably better paying, higher-status ones. What can he learn about the local political scene? Who is the local lord, and what are his goals, and who are the people who he needs to talk to politely? Which people are obviously important, so that the guard refrains from picking quarrels with them? Are there any brilliant inventors with metal-magic who might be interested in learning how to make moderately advanced weaponry, and, if so, what are their political opinions? And are there neighboring regions where it looks like it would be a much better place to start, with lots more money and resources and conquering urges and political instability?

(Also, can he take a look at maps of the area? Maps are very important for world domination, though not as important as seeing the land yourself.)

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The lord is a fellow called Vun who took over from his uncle and is largely inoffensive except for having a kind of unseemly number of wives (six). There's one adult mage in town and everyone respects him and he takes in a lot of work and sometimes shows the kid mages how to do something. His political opinion appears to be that he wants a steady job and to be depended upon; he isn't an obvious yes or no for exotic weapons. All the neighbors are about the same, the empire hasn't been fragmented that long.

There is a map in the lord's manor, and he can swing an invite for dinner after he's been in town for three weeks.

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Hmm. Is Vun popular? Does he have cousins (on his ex-uncle-ruler's side) or children? Where does he get his wives; where are they on the scale from political marriages to love matches to kidnappings? Are there exciting stories about foreign parts? Who was the emperor, and can he find out how large his empire was? How much are the kid mages kids, as opposed to teenagers who are going to start pushing for adulthood Real Soon Now? Are there other people who want to learn martial arts Ajanta wrestling, and are willing to pay for classes in his spare time? (He only sleeps four hours a day, he has more spare time than most.)

He'll want to swing an invite once it's been a few weeks. Short-term, he's going to be working for the guard, building up resources of popular opinion, money, and informal debts, and telling lots of stories. (This is a whole world that has never heard of Achilles, and storytelling has a significant skill-overlap with making inspiring speeches.)

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Vun doesn't inspire much comment any which way except about the wives. He has one living cousin on that side, female, who is married to one of his brothers-in-law. The wives are a mix - the first one was a prisoner of war from the imperial capital in the war for independence, two are twins and the daughters of the owner of the largest farm estate in the environs of the city, the fourth one is reported to be his favorite and not even the prettiest one, the fifth he acquired in exchange for a daughter of his (by wife #3) from among the sisters the lord of the next city over, the sixth (the prettiest one) is much younger than he is, and the only mage of the lot, daughter of a merchant family who were early adopters of prenatal seaweed consumption.

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Huh. Understood.

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Most people around here are monogamous but it's not that irregular for particularly important men to have a few wives, around here.

Vun's heir is his favorite son (via wife #2) and he's been clear about the succession after that - next in line after that son is the mage woman's eldest, who is a girl, and that's kind of irregular and people think it's intended to make assassinating the first choice less appealing, not that there's an obvious faction that would like to.

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He thinks that if Vun's favorite heir is not from his favorite wife, that's positive news?

... Uh, does his fourth wife have any children yet?

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Yup, she's got one living daughter.

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Right. Well, assuming that that's actually Vun's preferred prioritization of heirs, he takes it as a moderately good sign. (Nobody having complaints about him, on the other hand, is a very good sign. Durante is used to a world where there is nothing people will not blame their government over, which admittedly makes changing the government much easier.)

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One of his guard buddies wants to know what he wants to know so much about Vun's family for.

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Durante laughs it off. He's asking about lots of things; the ruler's family is just one, and that's because he wants to avoid offending any important royal relatives.

Still, he'll focus his questions in other areas for a while.

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Oh if he's curious about royal relatives there's a widow over that way who is rumored to be the escaped princess of the Empire but nobody can prove it and she just spins and minds her own business.

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Huh, really? An imperial princess? Cool. Why do people say that?

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She looks sort of like people say the emperor looked and showed up at around the right time and her grown son is a mage (though he has since left the area) which was unusual around the time he would have been born.

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... And the emperor's sons are more likely to be mages than other people's sons?

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People used to think it ran in families, though now they know it's the seaweed thing. Still, the emperor did have a couple of mage kids. Maybe they just liked seafood for unrelated reasons in that household.

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Right.

Durante's fundamental battle plan boils down to "pick up information, pick up rumors, pick up any and all languages, and wait for something to occur which he can exploit somewhere in hearing-range." Being the one who made a mess plays badly, being the one who fixed a mess plays well. But he'll pick up the invite, once it's been a few weeks; he always wants to know more about the situation he's in.

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Dinner is wild boar with onions and greens! And also bread. Vun wants to know where he's from.

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Durante was born in Altaire, spent some years in Ajanta, and has traveled around a lot as a mercenary. This is his first time in the Shattered States.

He will praise dinner!

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Wow, what's beyond the Shattered States besides barbarians?

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Lots and lots of countries! Some of them have jungles! Some of them have mountains! Some of them have really big oceans! Once he was campaigning in Harghana...

(And he launches into an exciting story that carefully downplays all the exciting technological developments, giving the impression that people are accomplishing everything with spears and wagons instead of guns and trucks, but that still suggests that wherever he's from is pretty amazing at organization.)

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Wow, that's very cool. Does he think much of it would work here or does it require a lot more people or something?

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He expects most of it would work here! Some of it requires lots of people, but not all of it!

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Cool! What things would work here without more people?

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