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Feb 23, 2024

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On Fame and Fortune Part 1

Fama y Fortuna

Anchored out in the open water is a large steamship. Several smaller boats are ferrying travelers back and forth to it almost constantly. On the deck of it you can make out a number of figures carousing about, and a low din drifts across the water with the smoke it’s churning out.

Aboard the Fama y Fortuna

This steamship is massive, being easily over two hundred feet in length, with four decks above the water, and another three below. The construction is mostly wood, painted a bright, garish red, and decorated with golden scrollwork and other embellishments. Decadence is the style of the day here, and even the lower sort of folk that have come seeking their own fortunes are trying to act the part.

There is a large open space towards the bow of the boat, providing a grand view of the Sea of Rocana. Directly behind it is the main gaming room, where the smoke is thick, the drinks are watery, and morals are shed as quickly as a single hand of blackjack. Rabbit Pasu in skimpy black outfits walk around with trays of drinks and tobacco, smiling and winking at the patrons, enticing them to empty all the Vira out of their pockets and leave it at the tables. At the rear of the room, a group of the Bunnies perform a dance routine; the kind that has lots of high kicks and wiggling.

GAMING TABLES

Standing at each table is a human or Pasu wearing a white shirt, red vest, and black bow tie. There are card games, dice games, and even two roulette tables. However you prefer to be fleeced by the House, there is something for you.

BUNNIES

Dressed to arouse, these bright and bubbly Pasu glide along between the patrons offering a drink or a smoke, batting their eyelashes and flashing wide smiles while coyly fending off gropes. Up on stage is another group of them wearing black lace garters and sheer white blouses. They turn and twirl about, kicking high and spinning around to the delight of their onlookers.

PIT BOSS

A gargantuan Wolf Pasu stands off to the side of the main floor, his fierce eyes surveying the whole scene. He?s dressed in an understated grey suit of clothes, with his black fur poking out around the cuffs and collar. The fur atop his head is slicked back with oil, and a large scar runs vertically across his left eye. He makes no effort to hide the revolvers holstered to his belt. Clearly, you were meant to see them.


Kultasilma

Kultasilma stands a little over six feet tall and probably masses 250 pounds of muscle. She’s not that big for an Arctos bear, but compared to most of the civilized denizens of Loka, she’s quite impressive. Her skin is dark where it shows, but her fur is pure white, and her close-cropped head-fur is silver-blonde. Her eyes are a vivid gold.

She wears the symbol-decorated skirt of a tribal shaman, along with a necklace and matching bracelets of bone beads. The necklace pendant is a pair of saber-fangs from some Whitemarch predator. Her left ear is pierced, and an elaborate feathered earring dangles from the piercing. In colder weather, she’ll wear boots, a parka, and sometimes even leggings, but normally her only concession to civilized styles is a halter-top to keep her modesty up to the level preferred by the city-dwellers.

Her left shoulder sports a blue-stained scar in the shape of a vortex, her right shoulder a red-stained scar shaped as a flame, and a downward-pointing triangle is centered on her navel.

Eric

At 6′2″ and of lean build, he isn’t very imposing, but the blade at his hip and the bow on his back, not to mention his almost permanent scowl, show this fox is not to be trifled with. His face bears no scars, and any that might be on his body are hidden underneath a white cotton shirt and a deep brown leather jacket. His worn work pants, held up by a belt emblazoned with the emblem of the Viramarga, speak of his occupation as a handyman, and his leather boots are equally scarred. His eyes are the color of peridot (a light green gemstone), and he appears to talk very little.

Shtora

Shtora is a large brown-tabby domestic cat. Or perhaps judging by his general mien, “alley cat”. He’s perhaps about six-and-half feet tall, though in truth it’s a little hard to judge, as he has a rather crouching digitigrade stance that tends to somewhat reduce that, and emphasizes his general bulk, which is also considerable. He has a decidedly well-muscled form, which is further enhanced by his thick fur, with long guard hairs. His overall look is a familiar one to those acquainted with the Macon clan of the Muon area. He’s dressed in a short, loose-fitting brown leather jacket, invariably open in front, and an equally roomy pair of three-quarter length dark blue trousers. His large hindpaws are bare, and it’s clear from their structure that all four paws have long retractile claws.

Raziel

A male White Tiger of above average height, around 6′8″. He is not particularly muscular, possessing a middling build, though his size alone confers that he is by no means weak. Both his dress and mannerisms suggest a utilitarian attitude, though his pale blue eyes are alert and inquisitive. He wears a black cloth overcoat, hanging from his shoulders to halfway down his digitigrade legs, above his unadorned footpaws. The coat itself is devoid of the common urban filigree, no doubt produced somewhere near the wastes; though slightly beaten, it is still in good repair. The grey shirt below is smudged with grease in places, which seems odd considering the pristine white of his striped fur. His tan pants have a number of external pockets, filled with an array of screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, and other tools, along with a few less discernible devices. A small metal disk gleams on his right wrist, held in place by a black leather belt. Upon closer inspection, it appears to be a silver pocket watch - complete with hinged cover but lacking a chain - which has been adapted to fit on the notched strap.

His stripe pattern is more or less average; unique of course, and perhaps a bit darker than normal for a White Tiger, but otherwise ordinary. His nose and the pads of his hands and feet are all black, an uncommon trait, but nothing monumental. A lithe, flexible tail swishes back and forth from between the flaps of his long coat, idly flicking at the end. His retractable, feline claws are kept extremely sharp, though weather this is from constant use or done simply as a precaution is impossible to tell. His fur is thick and fairly long, suggesting a familiarity with colder climates. The blue of his eyes is so pale that in some lights they seem to shift to grey, though they are always scanning and observing, genuinely interested in the world nearby.

A large caliber rifle is slung over his shoulder, at first glance a kind of repeating rifle, but with obvious modifications. It has a much thicker profile than a standard rifle, with a tubular magazine running parallel to, but slightly offset from the barrel. The stock and grip appear to be a rather high quality of wood, but don’t precisely match, signifying that they are likely scavenged from different places. Along the gun’s receiver rest a number of interwoven brass tanks, pipes, and gears, which connect the rifle’s lever action to a small flywheel, reminiscent of those used in locomotives. A rod links the flywheel and a strange sliding mechanism, which is presumably responsible for chambering the next round.


The air is thick with acrid tobacco smoke in the main gambling room. It hangs in a low pall, stinging everyone’s eyes, although most of the folks here don’t particularly notice. It’s just after sunset, and the party on the Fama y Fortuna is in full swing. Human and Pasu alike are carousing amongst one another, squandering their hard, and possibly ill-gotten, Vira at the tables. The house is raking it in.

Brunoise meanders about the room, a small light flickering on his shoulder intermittently. No one really seems to take notice of it. Except the Pit Boss. He sees everything. The little Frog hops up on a stool at a poker table and sets his chips down. “Deal me in,” he croaks out, and then flags one of the Bunnies down for a drink.

Ari watches the people around the dealers table. The lion picks at his claws with a knife, watching the group, and looking occasionally at the pit boss. He’s working security on the Fama y Fortuna, and he doesn’t want any trouble.

The dealer nods at Brunoise and deals him into a hand of five card draw after he tosses a chip into the center of the table. At his left is wily looking Coyote dressed in leather, and to his right is a squat Duck, who wears a thin canvas vest and trousers. Brunoise picks up his cards and studies them a moment before laying them back on the green felt of the table top. His eyes meet the Coyote to the left, and the two take a moment to size each other up.

In the back of the room, the Pit Boss stares at Brunoise, and the little light on his shoulder that continues to flicker. He doesn’t like it, so he motions to one of the guards, Ari, to keep a close eye on the Frog. The dealers eyes note him briefly before refocusing on the players at the table.

Eric had been doing fairly well at the blackjack table, though less because of his card counting and more because of luck. He finishes off another hand, roughly doubling his original cash, then moves on towards the poker table where Brunoise was.

Ari walks over closer to the frog, eyeing him. He squints a little, thinking he sees something on the frog’s shoulder, but doesn’t say anything just yet. He keeps watch, ears swiveling toward his target of observation.

The dealer nods to Eric, indicating that he may be dealt in on the next hand if he wishes. The Duck checks, and the dealer looks to Brunoise for his play.

Brunoise considers for a moment, eyes flicking back and forth between the two other players, and then tosses a chip into the pile, croaking, “Raise, fifty vira.” Having placed his bet, he looks only at the dealer, not allowing the other two to get a good look at his face. On his shoulder, The Peste begins to blink and goes to take off, but Brunoise covers him with his hand and forces him back down. He then glances to Ari out of the corner of his eye, wondering if the Lion saw that little display.

Ari saw it, and looks to the pit boss, flicking his eyes back and forth between him and the frog as if to ask permission to take the fellow aside. He knows he’s up to something, but he doesn’t want to ruin the boss’s hospitality.

Eric sits down next to Brunoise and signals the dealer to deal him in, then casually taps the frog and pokes a thumb backward.

The dealer nods to Eric, saying’ “Of course sir, I will deal you in after this hand is finished.” The Coyote sees Brunoise’s bid, but does not raise again, as does the Duck. The first round of bidding now finished, the dealer asks each player how many cards they wish. The Duck takes two, the Coyote two, and Brunoise takes three.

In the back of the room, the Pit Boss makes a subtle, but visible, jerking motion with his thumb for Ari to get the Frog out off the boat. He even begins to circle the room himself, clearing wanting to be nearby when the ejection happens. He crosses deftly behind one of the roulette wheels and makes his way down the starboard side.

Brunoise gets his cards and studies them a moment before laying them back down. The Peste has not gone unnoticed, and both the Coyote and the Duck do not seem to keen about the little brass insect. When Eric taps Brunoise and points a thumb back, he sees the Lion eyeing him closely. Fortunately, his poker face is good enough to not appear rattled by this turn of events, and he confidently raises another fifty vira after the Duck checks again.

Ari walks over to behind Brunoise, and taps his shoulder. The one with the blinking light, “I’m going to need you to come with me, sir.” His voice is quite firm.

Eric watches the lion out of the corner of his eye, preparing to intervene if necessary.

The Coyote folds, but the Duck sees the bet and calls. They throw their cards on the table, and Brunoise’s two pair of Kings and Fours is the high hand. He smirks and croaks out a chuckle, reaching into the center of the table when the Lion guard taps him on the shoulder and asks Brunoise to go with him.

The Duck stands up and points to the little light, quacking, “I knew it! Yer using that little thing to cheat! It was spying on my cards and giving ya signals! Cheat! Yer a no good CHEAT!

At the screaming of the word “Cheat” by the Duck, the whole room ignites in a series of shouts. The Pit Boss snarls angrily, not wanting things to escalate, but very worried they will. A Wolf on the far side of the room at a blackjack table punches the Cat sitting next to him in the gut. The Feline doubles over, trying to mew in pain but only wheezing out strained air.

The violence escalates quickly. Punches fly and fur rises in hackles as screams fill the air and accusations are hurled. Brunoise has elected to hop down from his stool and get in close to Ari, figuring the guard will not attack him so long as he himself makes no sign of aggression. The Duck follows him, seeking to get in his face and continue his tirade.

Ari, in fact, does not attack the frog. He does, however, try to lead him out of the main room and onto the deck, and doesn’t allow him to collect those chips. Not that he’d be allowed to cash them anyway. Best to get the frog out of the fray, since everyone seems intent on fighting over him.

Eric stops the duck with a quick leg sweep, then cautiously follows the frog and the lion out.

Kultasilma arrives at the door to the casino just as the trio are leaving, and grumbles at the incipient riot. “Am not even supposed to be on duty yet. What has happened?”

The bear looks at the frog. “Brunoise! What has happened this time? You did not be pushing any Ancient machines, I hope?”

The Peste has taken off from Brunoise’s shoulder at this point, although it still maintains a close proximity to him. Brunoise himself seems fine with going along with Ari, not particularly wanting to get drawn into a brawl. Nevertheless, he keeps his hands by his revolvers, hoping it doesn’t come to bullets, but wanting to be ready if it does.

Virtually the whole room is embroiled in violence now. The guards do their best to subdue the rowdiest of the brawlers, but their efforts are not overly effective. The Pit Boss is now striding through the center, knocking folk over left and right, trying to make it to the entryway.

Ari grunts, looking at Kultasilma, “You know this guy? He just got everyone all up in a brawl! I’m gettin’ him off the boat before everyone kills each other. Though since they seem to be fighting just as fine now that we’re out of there, I’m not sure how much more good it’ll do!”

Kultasilma mutters something that sounds pungent, and heads into the room, aiming to assist the pit boss if he needs it. She sticks to backhanding anyone who throws a punch in her direction, but the air crackles ominously around her as she wades into the fray.

Brunoise’s eyes brighten as he sees Kultasilma. He croaks out a chuckle and says, “It no be m’fault! I be a victim ‘o’ circumstance I do. I was no cheatin’. It no be my fault these folks no be likin’ The Peste. I didn’t hit no one, that fool Duck took a swing at me he did!”

Ari looks at the frog, “Cheatin’ or not, I need you to get off this boat. And I suggest you never return. If you somehow get back on here, you’d better not be taking a mechanical device capable of cheating for you, whether or not it is!” He gestures toward the little boat here used to ferry people back and forth, “Come on, let’s get going.”

Eric follows the frog the rest of the way, knowing he can’t do much for him. He follows to make sure no more problems arise on the way out.

Inside the gambling hall, the fray has calmed a little as a few of the more boisterous combatants have been laid out by the security staff. The Pit Boss nods to himself, reasonably satisfied that at least there were no deaths. Not that he personally minded killing, but it was bad for business. A few groups still went at it with each other, but no weapons had been drawn so far, so it seemed that no one was willing to up the ante to that level.

Brunoise bristles as Ari escorts him towards one of the ferry boats. “I told ya, it no be my fault! O’course, seein’ how things be goin ‘ere, I think I be ready to get offn’ this ‘ere ship.”

From within the gambling den, a new cry breaks out. “Fire!” It seems one of the lanterns hanging on the walls was over turned, spraying burning oil across a card table, and igniting it in seconds.

Ari frowns, turning around, “You have got to be kidding me.” The lion looks around, trying to find something with which to put out the flames. “Wait here…” The lion starts cursing under his breath. He needs to get the frog out of here, but if there’s no boat, he doesn’t get paid!

Raziel strolls down the walkway, searching for someone who can give him a coherent explanation of what all the commotion is about. He had been sleeping in one of the holds until recently, when a pair of panicked workers exclaming things about a ‘cheater’ and a ‘brawl’ had woken him. Up ahead, he sees a lion and a frog, and tries to wave them down, moments before the shouts of ‘Fire! begin to arise. His shoulders sag, and he chuckles mirthlessly. “Why can’t anything ever be simple?”

Brunoise seizes the opportunity for freedom, but not wanting to go away empty handed he scurries over along the port side of the ship and crouches below a window into the main room. He sneaks a peek, and seeing the chaos continue to build, waves The Peste in to scout for some loose money. The little insect makes a quick sweep of the room, unobserved in the melee, and returns to Brunoise, who nods at the firefly and hops through the window. He crouches low and waits for the brass bug to show him where to go.

Kultasilma swears under her breath, then bellows “OUT OF MY WAY!” as she runs toward the begining of the fire. Her eyes glow as she casts a brief spell, and the blazing lantern subsides, burning slowly where the oil spilled and no longer trying to spread. “Get… sand…”

Ari goes and finds a bucket, tying a line to it and tossing it overboard. He lets it fill, and tries to drag it a little before yanking it up, hoping to get some sandy water. He brings the contents of the bucket over toward the table, and starts pouring it over the area. Hopefully, it’s got enough sand to work well, but there is water.

Raziel watches the frog disappear through a window while the lion’s back is turned, only adding to his confusion. As the lion finds and fills a bucket, he continues walking forward, somewhat more hurriedly now, toward the entryway to the gambling room, the apparent epicenter of the chaos. “Can someone please explain what’s going on?!”

Kultasilma snarls as the fire starts to spread. “I said SAND. Water does not put out this kind of fire…” She refocuses, trying to contain the fire as it starts to spread on top of the water.

Ari waves his arms around, “There’s sand in there! Where the hell am I supposed to get sand in the middle of a boat?” The lion starts looking around for something, and then blinks, seeing Raziel, “You sir! help me look for sand!” Ari gives no explanation.

The red tattoo on the bear’s right shoulder is starting to glow. “Smother it with something. Not water.”

Brunoise follows The Peste around, weaving amidst the confusion and picking up as many stray chips as he can. It’s not likely he’ll be able to cash them in any time soon, but he can always come back. He stuffs his pockets with them, and even finds a few stray vira. Across the room, he sees a group of Pasu attempting to put out the fire. The Lion from earlier throws water on it, sending it onto the walls and curtains.

The Pit Boss growls at Ari, then turns to all of them, pointing at Kultasilma, “This one’s in charge of putting the fire out. I’m going to check on the cage and make sure no one is robbing us blind while were distracted.” He storms off, pistols drawn, but not cocked.

Raziel blinks. “Sand? It’s a passenger boat! Why would we be carrying sand?” He pauses for a moment, as if considering something. “I suppose there may be some in the boiler room for fire control, or perhaps some being used as ballast…I can’t be sure.”

Ari points to Raziel, “Yes! That might be!” The lion begins to run toward the boiler room, looking for something like that. Best lead he’s gotten so far, really.

As the fire spreads afresh, licking the ceiling of the room and scorching the walls, Brunoise feels it is high time he made his escape after all. He looks over to The Peste who blinks his agreement, and the pair snake back to the window through the overturned furniture and hop out. Just off the port side is a small escape boat. Brunoise hops in, releases the rigging, and drops into the water, where he grabs the oars and starts rowing towards one of the ferry boats. Once far enough away from the Fama y Fortuna, he sends The Peste out to blink his S.O.S. signal and flagon down the ferry. It wasn’t the night he had hoped for, but it wasn’t a total loss either.

Kultasilma refocuses the spell, drawing the fires back down towards herself, keeping them from spreading. “Now get something to smother them. I can’t hold them forever.”

Raziel stands in the doorway for a moment more, still thinking. If there is, in fact, no sand in the boiler room, and water is not an option, the only other alternative is to smother the fires. The tiger dashes off to the kitchen, searching for a large bowl or pan; anything capable of encapsulating the fire.

Ari arrives in the boiler room. He searches around frantically for sand. What he finds instead is a hose that can run water from the sea in a disaster situation. “Damn it…” The lion starts running back out of there, heading back to the main room. “Smother, smother…” He looks around… Ari goes and grabs a random blanket, and goes over to try to snuff out the fire! The blanket catches fire in Ari’s paws, and he yelps, running away from it, and scooting away from the thing, “It didn’t wooooork!”

Raziel rummages through the kitchen looking for a suitable piece of kitchenware. After a few minutes, he finds what he’s looking for; a large baking tray, about four feet wide and three across, and a good six inches deep. Not perfect, but it should work. Before he leaves, he grabs a handful of kitchen towels and wraps them around each of his paws, providing a moderate amount of protection from what is about to become a very hot piece of metal. Upon arriving in the gambling room, and seeing the newly ignited blanket, he decides to make that his first target. He drops the tray on top of it and presses down, (hopefully) removing the air from the equation. “I take it you didn’t find any sand!”

Ari stands next to Raziel, and looks at the fire. “Nope.” o.o The lion looks over at Raziel, “I even tried smothering it, and it didn’t work! We probably just need to get goin’!” The lion starts running off the ship, heading toward the life boat. It ain’t worth it!

Kultasilma pulls the fire into one small, if hotter, patch as the tiger returns. With the air cut off, the remaining patch of flame dies out quickly and she relaxes. “Whoof. Thank you.”

Ari is already on the boat by this point. The pit boss shouting at him. He just keeeeeeeps paddlin’. That’ll look good onna resume’.

Raziel continues holding the tray down as it grows ever hotter…though eventually, the speed at which the heat increases slows down, then levels out. “I wouldn’t go jumping off the boat yet…nevermind.” The tiger gingerly removes the baking tray, revealing the blackened and smoldering, yet extinguished, remains of the blanket. He removes the towels from his hands, tossing them onto the tray on the floor. He looks at the bear, and nods. “No problem. I’m slightly singed, but I’ll live.”

Kultasilma lets the energy bleed back out slowly, and the scar fades as she does. She nods to the tiger. “Truth. I am glad someone could act with sense. Most of them were too busy trying to grab coins to help - or even to run. Warmlanders…” She shakes her head in disgust. “They would not survive even a season on the Marches.” She gives the tiger an appraising look. “Kultasilma,”

Raziel absentmindedly rubs his hands on his coat, before extending one in greeting. They really /do/ hurt, but they’re not truly burnt, and the pain isn’t substantial enough for him to ignore courtesy. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Raziel.”

Kultasilma takes the offered hand, seeming oddly bemused at having to look -up- to meet the liger’s eyes. “I greet thee in peace.”

Raziel does his best not to wince as the bear takes his hand, and smiles at the rather uncommon greeting. At the conclusion of the introduction, the tiger takes his first real look around the room, noting the overturned tables, scattered cards, and what appear to be a few unconscious individuals with noticeable bruises sprawled here and there. “Now can someone explain to me what /happened/ in here?”

Kultasilma grunts. “Someone apparently started a brawl by accusing another of cheating. And then a lamp fell over in the fight. I ran into that crazy frog on my way here. Would not surprise me if he had something to do with it.”

Raziel scoffs. “I can’t even take a lousy maintenance job on a high-class boat without things erupting into madness. I’m an engineer by trade, you see. Saving the day is only a part time occupation.” He chuckles to himself, apparently at some personal joke. “Speaking of which…I should probably make sure this boat makes it back to shore. I have no idea how many of the engine crew decided to jump ship as well.”

Kultasilma nods. “T’would be a good thing, true. You do your job, I will do mine. When we get back to shore, we should have a meal together, perhaps?” She grins and waves as she heads back to the Cage to see where the pit boss wants her.

Raziel waves as the bear departs. Before he takes his own leave, he digs into his coat pockets, and gingerly removes a small notepad and writing utensil. He flips through a few pages, before reaching the intended list. On it, he writes ‘FIRE RESISTANT GLOVES’ in large letters, before replacing the notepad, and making his way to the engine room.

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