Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dark Redemption chapter 11: What a Swell Party This Is

Beneath the gleaming skyscrapers and picturesque facade of the City of Redemption lies another city; a community of dark and ancient magic populated by creatures of the night. Dark Redemption is a shared-world novel based on an online role-playing game by James Crowther. Strephon MacKenzie, a semi-immortal half-fae, has been invited to a party being held by Melchior Aesermann, a fae noble posing as a human and owner of a technology firm. Strephon has asked reporter Cassandra True to be his date for the evening.

"You're sure I look all right?" Cassandra asked for the third time since she got into the cab. "You didn't say that this was going to be formal or anything."

Strephon sighed. He had dressed in formal dinner clothing because that was What One Wore to Dinner. He was too unfamiliar with 21st Century fashions to wear anything else. The dress she was wearing looked adequate, as far as he could tell, and she had applied the artifices that mortal women use to approximate faerie glamours well enough. "You look very beautiful," he lied. She was by no means plain, but compared to the women of the Unseen Realms, no mortal woman could rank higher than "nice". Having lived among mortals and indeed having loved one, Strephon knew that there were things more important than a staggeringly beautiful appearance; but he rightly judged that this was not a good time to explain this.

"I just don't want to look like a fool in front of Melchior Aeserman and his rich friends. This could be a big story for me!"

Strephon mumbled something vague in reply. He was still in a testy mood. Devon had appeared whilst he was dressing for dinner and requested a report on what he had learned. Strephon told him to soak his head. He also was having second thoughts about attending this party. Perhaps there was no connection between the werewolf attack last night and his visit with Melchior, but the appearance of a wolfen detective afterwards was too coincidental for Strephon's liking.

He regretted bringing Cassandra into this. Already she had nearly been killed and now he was bringing her into the intrigues of the Fae. She had no idea what kind of danger she faced. And for what? To serve as a shield from another fae's romantic overtures? Several times that day he considered calling her and cancelling their date, but he couldn't quite work up the nerve. He couldn't think of an adequate lie to protect her. And he did promise to give her the chance to interview Aesermann. Now he would have to try to learn more of Melchiors plans without revealing his own intentions and protect Cassandra all at the same time.

Tobais pulled up in front of Aesermann Technologies. "Here you are. Have fun, you two!" He unfolded the wheelchair and held it as Strephon hoisted himself out of the cab on his canes and slid into it. Strephon paid his fare and bade Tobias good night.

The night security guard glanced at the guest list as they entered the lobby and directed them to the lift. Strephon pressed the Up button. Before Cassandra could open her mouth, he said "You look fine. I'm sure you will be the most beautiful reporter there."

The affair, Strephon saw, was not a dinner so much as a cocktail party with a large buffet table. This was probably just as well, for there were many guests and a banquet would have been much less informal. Many of the guests were already here, and Strephon noted with some vexation how many of them seemed other than human.

"Look, that's Aoi Kurayami!" Cassandra said in hushed tones. She gestured towards a small, dark-haired woman wearing a leather coat and dark glasses with a distinct aura of the undead. She had the arm of a pretty young man in a white jacket. A gigolo, no doubt; and probably also a midnight snack. "She runs a big computer firm and owns a chain of cyber-cafes in town." No wonder Melchior invited her. Was she already an ally, or was Melchior trying to cultivate her?

"I think that's Malcolm Raven over by the buffet table. He's one of the most eligible bachelors in town. The woman with him is Anna Chelsea; she's a big marketing consultant." Strephon looked where Cassandra pointed. Perhaps bringing Cassandra wasn't such a mistake after all. She knew these people, by reputation at least. She did not know, however, that the handsome man piling slices of rare roast beef onto his plate and the woman accompanying him were werewolves. So was the man walking up to them.
"Planning on hogging the whole table?" the newcomer said with a deceptively light tone.

Raven flashed a toothy smile. "You're always free to scavenge my leavings, Blanka. It is your style after all."

"Omigosh," Cassandra whispered. "That's Lukas Bianka, head of the Redemption Decency League."

"Really," Strephon said. He wondered if Mister Bianka had ever played Virtual Hot Tub.

A large woman of a certain age and many chins towing a thin gentleman who would barely make a mouthful for either of the werewolves interposed herself between the two males. "Mister Bianka, it is soooo good to finally meet you. I'm Mrs. Trotter, of the Redemption Culture Claque. You might know my husband, Lemuel."

"L.G. Trotter," Cassandra explained, "he's president of the Fiduciary Trust Bank.

"Your organization has done such splendid work. We need more voices like yours speaking out against corruption and immorality in this city," Mrs. Trotter gushed.

"You are too kind," Bianka said with a brief bow.

Strephon turned his attention away from the buffet table. "Who is that?" he asked, indicating a thin, bald man with a prominent, beak-like nose.

"I don't know," Cassandra said.

Strephon narrowed his eyes. That man bore an aura of power and wisdom. He was neither wolf nor vampire; nor was he a fae. A human sorcerer? No, his aura was deeper than that. Strephon decided he would have to get to know that one.

He decided the same about another guest who seemed to have come stag to the party; a thin man in an ill-fitting tuxedo with glasses and a sadly blemished face. He was definitely a mortal. Magic of the fae tinged his aura, but Strephon guessed that he was merely one of Melchior's mortal employees.

Cassandra gasped. "Holy shit! Do you see him?" Strephon turned to this latest guest and almost gasped himself. "That's Simon Knox, publisher of the Morning Star!"

"Indeed," Strephon said. Knox was a broad-shouldered man with dark hair and a fine, pointed beard. A gorgeous blonde hung on his shoulder. Strephon frowned; he could not read the man's aura. He sensed that it was a powerful one, but he could divine nothing of its nature. Perhaps this one was a mortal sorcerer. That would be peculiar, since the Star regularly dismissed accounts of the supernatural. Then again, perhaps it was not peculiar at all.

The doors opened again and another pair of guests entered. One was another werewolf: a knockout blonde with long hair tied back in a braid and possessing a savage animal charisma. Strephon barely noticed her, focusing instead on her companion.

It was that damn detective!

What did this mean? Was the detective a minion of Melchior's? Did that mean that Melchior had sent the wolves to kill him?

Before Strephon had time to ponder these questions, Melchior himself entered the room, accompanied by his lovely and lethal administrative assistant. "Welcome, good friends," he said. "How good of you all to come!"

NEXT: Networking

1 comment:

kurt wilcken said...

Jex intended "Dark Redemption" to be a role-playing game, but for the most part the participants stayed each in his own corner of the world writing his own story. But occasionally the individual storylines would intersect and the characters would interact. Melchior's party was one of these instances.

I've mentioned Detective Masey before. He was a supporting character in my wife's storyline about the political struggles between three main werewolf packs in the city. Raven, Bianka and Lucinda are the respective leaders of these packs

The vampire, Miss Kuriyami, is one of Jex's characters. He introduced her, but did little with her himself; so I wound up using her in Strephon's storyline.

The bald guy with the big nose is the Egyptian god Thoth, another of Jex's characters. Jex wanted there to be a few odd gods in the city as well, but I could never figure out what I wanted to do with them. Neither did Jex. Thoth was just sort of there as atmosphere. So I ignored him in Strephon's story.

Mrs. L.G. Trotter is a character of my own, whose name I borrowed from a P.G. Wodehouse novel. Mister Knox... ah, Mister Knox is a mystery...