Teysa's visit with Uncle has concluded productively, and she is returning from the mansion district to the city center. She says farewell to the ancient solifuge golem Pazapatru who guards the bridge, but as she steps off its edge and her messenger thrulls approach, something ripples. She trips on her bad leg and briefly loses sight of her surroundings.
"It'll impress. Go on, shoo, I've got gems to exchange."
Back out to the front of the bar they go.
She nods to Sufi, but makes her way to the Captain. "Are we staying longer, or is it back out to the engine?"
"Just as soon as I see the gems I've just bought." He pats a lockbox, previously carried by the officer.
"Yeah, yeah," Khara drawls. The exchange and counting goes briskly.
"Alright, now I'm heading back."
"Then so'm I, not going to risk getting lost. Though could we stop by the five-branched tree down the road?"
"By old Garden-Pillar? Do try not to get too curious about how Pan works, please. But very well, a brief stop, it's on the way."
"I want to have a quick look at Correspondence first-hand, see if it feels like the old hometown magic. Don't worry, I won't touch."
"...Just keep in mind that poking your nose into things is a good way to have something blow up in your face and those of your neighbors."
The five-branched tree proves to be a big old oak-relative, sturdy and a good four feet around the base, whose five main limbs branch out quite low at perfect pentagonal angles and keep splitting in a mostly orderly fashion, making prime climbing paths. Someone's even installed a short rope bridge from one of the boughs to an upper level. The sigil of correspondence is formed in a natural-looking pattern in the bark near the base. It's clearly a symbol, with parallel twists almost making it look like a stylized butterfly off the main loop and several dots, squiggles, and accouterments. A handy plaque says: "Garden-Pillar: A Nexus of Growth Around Which the Plants are Oriented (Some translate this as The Gate That Demarcates A Grove)"
She hisses to herself when she sees it, a reflex that goes with looking closely at mana flows. (She picked it up when studying, long ago, and doesn't do this often enough to bother untraining it.) And, yes, as she looks closely, mana is swirling around. Green and white, primarily, but wisps of the other three are definitely congregating more than around the rest of the tree, and reacting to the symbol. Also, she gets a slight feeling of what it ought to mean, slightly skew to the translations on the plaque, but not in a way she can put into words.
...Damn, this will be more tempting to mess with on her own than she expected. She has self-control, though, she'll be fine.
...Actually she feels an odd sensation in the back of her mind, like her brain would be sparking if not for the heavy curtain that just dropped on it. And her blood is softly singing. Well, for the credits, Orzhov blood clearly assisting her here. But for the debts, looking closely at Correspondence makes that assistance necessary.
She gives herself a once-over, and she's physically fine. "Right. Not looking at any of that closely again until I've talked with an expert. Or nine. There is quite possibly only one piece of magic more complicated than that in all of Ravnica. And you just have them lying all over the sky; no wonder you're nervous."
"Let's just move on and stop poking the dark underbelly of reality, shall we? You've been a lovely passenger so far, would hate to ruin it."
"Yes, absolutely, good plan, let's go."
She's not quite as unnerved as she's acting, she's playing it up to build rapport. But she is unnerved.
The engine is a slightly cramped haven, guarded by a doorman with an intimidating looking gun and a much less noticeable crewman in the lookout post up top.
"What are your plans for the rest of the day?" Wonders the Bearded Captain. "We'll be moving along at some point after all, you need a new place."
"Well, if there's no other visits you want me along for, then yes, I imagine I should look. However that works, here, which doesn't seem likely to be as simple as presenting someone with money for rent. Hmm, how long will you be staying in port?"
"No, not after that. Until Khara's crew are sober and she decides to show me her rocks." He snorts. "Rent is a valid mechanism. You're mostly safe with the Thrulls and away from the Heart-Catchers. If they can do dumb labor or if you've other magic... But I'm not you. One more day for sure, but I want to be unentangled after that."
"Fair enough. Would any of your crew have some contacts with the Gentlemen, or near their claimed turf? They're a more, hmm, familiar, risk than the other factions you mentioned. And I'd rather not do business with complete strangers, if I can't rely on law to make promises stay kept."
"Pay me. Or buy a gun from my friend," the severe officer suddenly speaks up with a grin. "I used to be Establishment but I was distracted by a dropped coin and looked the other way often enough. Lesser evils and all."
"Will the gun be worth the price?"
"Well, you probably want something intimidating and impossible to miss with, so it'll be a shotgun and those are on the cheap side. I'll throw in a lesson and see if I can't figure out your aim issue."
"Deal, then. The other thing I should look for is somewhere to buy reasonably-intact corpses. Bats, most importantly, and probably other animals. I think I'm going to want to diversify my thrull collection, but it's difficult without raw material. Any ideas where I'd look?"
"Oh, the Resurrection Men would serve you well. Tragically they operate in Albion. If you ask around you'll find pragmatism wins over sentiment often in Pan, though. Shall we be off or would you like a break first?"
"An ironic name they've picked. Mainly, I'm a little worried I'll be competing with the gardeners for the market. Now's fine, if you don't need to stay on watch duty."
"Captain?" The Captain waves negligently. "Very well. Oh, no, it's the doctors you have to worry about, there, but I was thinking human, which now that I actually listen to what you said... I think you'll be able to find what you're looking for."
"I could use human bodies, they make much better messengers and they'd be smarter. But I think I'll want scouts and bodyguards more anyway." She gestures the Gruggs behind her and follows wherever he's headed.
The androgynous officer heads back out onto the streets of Pan.
"We're rather inured to the horrible out here, this discussion would be a fair bit more scandalous out of Pan, fair warning. Cats, bats, wrigglers and crawlies... Come to think, I heard of an academic who's selling off formeldehyded samples to fund a study of Achlys, though I don't recall exactly where he is."
"Oh, I entirely understand, back home it was done behind closed doors. Usually on people who died deeply in debt and had the body seized by bankruptcy after burial. Kinder than passing it on to their family, but still impolite to dwell on. Or when giants or trolls or something attacked our people, they got no quarter in any sense. Formaldehyded would be chemically preserved? I don't think that would work well."
"London puts you in a time-accelerated factory if you've enough debt, and the graveyards are large enough to count as a region... Well, it's not like I understand how your workings work. Live monstrosities are much pricier, as I imagine fresh ones are."