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May 29, 2022 3:38 AM
kaz ellie and fate inej cause problems on purpose (and on accident)
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Kaz really hates this place. Not just because it's competition, which it is, but because the Menagerie is one of the biggest representations of Old Ketterdam, the Ketterdam she's fighting to destroy. It's a brothel run on slave labor, indentures that are impossible to pay off, debts that last forever taking advantage of the young, the naive, the displaced.

It reminds her of where she could have ended up herself.

She'll never let that happen.


For now, though, she has business here. Though in practice she runs the Dregs, de facto is not de jure, and the old man who still claims leadership has relationships he wants to keep up even if he's too creaky to go trotting all over the Barrel himself.

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The menagerie is better appointed than most of the establishments along West Stave, heaping on plenty of Kerch-style gaudiness. It's designed like an enormous gilded cage, with columns wrapped in what the proprietess certainly wants tourists to think is gold foil. The front gate opens into a gaudy parlor, where Kaz is made to cool her heels while a slip of a girl dressed as a songbird goes to inform Madame Tante Heleen she has a guest. 

There's a few other girls out and about, all of them dressed in animal themes. Various songbirds are the maids and messengers and secretaries, scurrying here and there, and then there's an assortment of exotic animals - the Menagerie's central attractions, foreign girls taken from far away lands, their identities reduced to an animal and an exotic stereotype. There's only two of the primary girls out - a Shu girl with bones like knives in a dress of shiny red sequin-scales and a Ravkan girl with a half cape with black fur along the ruff and a skimpy outfit that would probably kill her in an actual Ravkan winter. The Ravkan girl is glancing at Kaz, obviously curious, but most of their attention is focused on attracting actual customers. 

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She tugs her gloves on more snugly and crosses her hands over the head of her cane, leaning against the wall.

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There's a whisper by her side, a soft, "I can help you."

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She doesn't flinch. She's been on the street too long to flinch.

She still didn't notice anyone approaching.


"Who says I'm looking for help?" She counts to three before turning to look at her mysterious interlocutor.

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A tiny, skinny girl, all angles - she's probably not the youngest here (that'd be one of the songbirds), but she's almost certainly younger than Kaz. Though her thinness, the clear signs of too little to eat look recent, not like she grew up hungry and stunted, and there's a tight cord of muscle underneath it all.

(She's wearing the outfit of the Suli Lynx, though she looks uncomfortable in it.)

"Your gaze," she says, softly, "And the way you move. You're looking for something." There's nothing flirtatious about her tone, none of the coy attempts to lure clients in that echo up and down this part of the West Stave. She sounds almost threatening.

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"And how could you help someone who's looking for something?"

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"I'm good at secrets."

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"That comes with the trade." But this girl has uncommon talent at sneaking, at least. Kaz's eyes flick up and down her body. Are those... bells on her ankle? Impressive.

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She looks mullish and uncomfortable about Kaz examining her, but doesn't twitch or say anything about it. (She's still not making noise except for when she's speaking - more whispering - and no one seems to have really registered that she's talking to Kaz, despite all the eyes Kaz draws wherever she goes. That might have something to do with how she's positioned tucked into the lee of a column, back to a bit of mural that echoes her purple silks - she'd be difficult to see from most angles, and she wouldn't stand out from most others.)

"I'm better at secrets - than anyone."

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"Everyone's got something to sell. But I'm not buying, today."

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She tilts her head -

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And the door to Tante Heleen's private offices opens, and the songbird Kaz had been talking to flits out and towards her.

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She straightens up off the wall, cane clacking on the floor as she turns to the approaching messenger.

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"Madame Tante Heleen is ready to see you now, ma'am," she says, curtsying.

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"Show me in, then."

Kaz glances over her shoulder once the girl's turned around again.

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The girl from earlier is gone. (Kaz didn't hear her leave.)

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And, oblivious, the songbird leads her on.

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After the business is done, Kaz goes back to the Crow Club to review the books. See how much spare cash she has rolling around.

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Two days later, Inej may notice Kaz is once again waiting outside of Heleen's offices, a sheaf of paper under one arm and her cane tapping idly as she waits.

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She's in pain and worn thin and doesn't want to talk to anyone because if she does she'll use that little jagged ceramic piece she pocketed earlier and it'll just all be worse, so she doesn't approach, just wedges herself in the rafters where she can watch what's going on, can move quickly to spy on the meeting again. (Kaz can, if she looks very closely, see the shadow of her; she's keeping an eye on the other girl. No one else reacts to her.)

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The meeting seems to in regards to Kaz buying out the indenture of one of the Menagerie's girls. Haggling over the price, Heleen trying to see if she can or needs to add a non-compete clause to the contract and Kaz parrying her efforts to do, inquiries about the use Kaz intends to put her to which are likewise parried (though the implication is for personal use)...

And when the contract is finally signed and the money exchanged, Heleen rings for one of the songbirds to fetch the Lynx.

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She slips back to her rooms when Heleen calls for her, heart pounding in her chest.

(She doesn't know what the other girl's buying her for. If she wants the help Inej offered - if she wants to use Inej - well, a single person can't be harder to kill and vanish from than fighting her way out of the Menagerie, worst comes to worst, and Inej has never actually learned to fight but she's sneaky and she knows it - )

She comes as she's bid, head down so Heleen can't see the hatred in her eyes.

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"You're leaving with me," Kaz says. "Is there anything in your room you want to bring with you?"

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"No."

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"Good."

She scrapes together her half of the papers and levers herself out of her chair. "Follow me."

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