Nova Liberdade

Faerie tales from beyond the veil to the streets of RhyDin

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The Regent In Red
Junior Adventurer
Junior Adventurer
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 11:10 pm
Location: The Stolen Ones Court of RhyDin City

Nova Liberdade

Post by The Regent In Red »

July 8, 2020
Windmire Manor


“Excuse me...can you repeat that again?” The twin-toned, reverberating voice of the Regent in Red seemed to bounce around the old main bedroom of Windmire Manor, now stripped of most of its furniture save for the mahogany writing desk and ergonomic chair they now sat in. Just above them, the *thud-thud-thud* of contractors' hammers could be heard, fixing the hole blown into the mansion’s roof by the delinquents’ mortar two and a half weeks ago.

“Somewhere between 30 and 35 million...er, chefe.” Before the Regent stood a short woman with long brown hair past her shoulders, black eyes with no irises almost hidden behind Coke-bottle glasses, and two sets of arms. She clutched a massive sheaf of papers with her four hands, trying her best not to shiver in the presence of the new Stolen Ones Court leader.

“And that’s Rhydin silver nobles, right?”

“Correct, chefe.” She thrust the papers toward the Regent and tried to rush out the bedroom door, but he did not take the bait.

“Wait.” Though they put no additional emphasis or glamour on the word, it still stopped the woman in her tracks with an unexpected squeak. “Please, explain this to me again, because...honestly? I’m very confused right now. Here, take my seat.”

“If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather stand?” The Regent regarded her for a second, their masked head tilted to the side, before they nodded.

“Fair enough, Lasiodora. But, still, please, walk me through this again.”

She sucked in a deep breath, shook the papers in her hands a couple of times, and then her explanation came in a torrent of words. “So, you told me that you found out that Sandman had been embezzling money from the Stolen One Court here pretty much since he took power, and that he’s been in power since 1989 or so? Well obviously he got rich because he owned a place like this, but he was also smart enough to figure out a way to hide everything he had stolen and the fact that he had stolen it for most of that time. It’s probably how he kept power so long. He just paid all the people he needed to pay to keep him safe and to keep his money safe. Now the thing is, most of the Stolen Ones weren’t anywhere near rich, nor were the businesses they ran or the businesses the Court ran. So there were limits in how much was actually available to embezzle, how much they could take before people would notice, and the costs of laundering that money. It wasn’t like he was clearing a million silvers a year for 30 years. Now, you’re probably wondering, ‘How did he get so much money if he wasn’t?’”

“Yes, I am.” The Regent tried not to let their irritation show in their voice too much, but a startled “Eep!” still escaped from Lasiodora.

“Sorry, chefe! I’ll get to the point. Compound interest.”

“Compound...interest?”

“Correct, compound interest. Instead of just spending the money he stole haphazardly as it came in, he invested it. In a lot of different businesses in a lot of different countries, using a fair number of proxies to hide his actual involvement in it all.” She slapped at the back of her documentation, then set it down on the desk. “All right here if you want to take a look at it.”

“Perhaps later, but for now, I trust your judgement.” A smile could almost be heard in the Regent’s voice there. “Please, continue?”

“Right, so, compound interest, like I was saying...some of these businesses were publicly traded on various stock markets, gave out dividends to investors, the stocks split, and so on. Sandman kept putting his money back into the companies. Markets go up and go down in the short term, but in the long term, RhyDin’s a growing, profitable planet. Things just keep getting more and more valuable. And as they do, his investment grew and grew and grew at an almost exponential rate. Throw in some usurious loans, some timely blackmail and --”

“All right, all right, I think I get the point. He didn’t just blow the money on hookers and blow.” The Regent chuckled as Lasiodora’s face turned bright red. “So, if I heard you right, there’s not an exact figure?”

“Well, no. We know what this mansion was last assessed for but that was nearly a year ago -- New Haven property generally appreciates in value well, but who knows, some crazy Warlord could challenge for and win the Barony and decide that they want to burn the whole district down. Not to mention your friends--

“Friends and allies,” the Regent said in a tone that brooked no dispute.

“Right, right, friends and allies,” she repeated, mimicking their emphasis. “Well, they took more than a few spoils of war.”

“I can’t imagine there’s anything that would be a significant addition to the figure you already cited.”

“Well, no, but --”

“-- So, we have to have the mansion assessed, before we sell it. And then there’s his investments, his stocks, his shares of various business interests, his bank accounts, his retirement funds, things of that nature?”

“Correct. Because markets fluctuate day to day, week to week, and because he owned so much, we likely won’t know the final amount until we pull the trigger and cash everything out.”

“So...30 million silvers is a conservative estimate, yes?” Lasiodora nodded so enthusiastically that the Regent thought her head might snap off. They held a calming hand up, before drumming their knuckles on the documents. “All right. I’ll take a look at these and let you know if I see anything that piques my interest, but I think you’ve done a very good job on this, Lasiodora. Thank you.”

“Th-thank you, chefe!” Her face turned crimson at the praise, and she began hustling towards the door. Before she could exit the Regent called to her once more.

“Lasiodora?” It halted her progress at the worst possible time, as she stumbled and smashed her face against the door, knocking her glasses from her face. She knelt down and, after she accidentally pushed them a few times away from her, eventually grasped hold of them and donned them once more. “Desculpa. I just wanted to ask you to lock the door when you left.”

“Oh, right!” After nudging her glasses back up on the bridge of her nose, Lasiodora opened the door, pushed the button lock in, and shut it behind her. Only when they were confident they were alone did they shift their voice from that dual contralto/countertenor to one nasal and raspy tenor.

Jesus Christo, what are we supposed to do with 30 million silvers?”
“If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity.

Robert Ingersoll
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Bailey Raptis
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Posts: 426
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:25 pm
Location: Can be found many places, but resides in a row house in the Kabuki Street neighborhood

Return of the Snake

Post by Bailey Raptis »

August 5, 2020
North Cadentia Safari Park


The name “North Cadentia Safari Park” was a slight misnomer. The compound was a little more east of the city of RhyDin than it was south, located well off the usual roads that travelers took to get to Cadentia proper. Visitors wouldn’t pass the Last Chance Saloon or the Cadentia Sunny Mart on their way to the park, but instead travel down a narrow two-lane highway where tumbleweeds outnumbered people by a substantial margin. Still, the safari’s owners were stubborn Cadentians, and clung to that name even if calling it the South RhyDin Safari Park made more sense from a geographic and marketing standpoint.

The Safari Park actually looked more like a zoo, just stretched out over a far larger expanse of land than a typical city-bound menagerie. It had many of the same sorts of enclosures and exhibits one would see in similar zoos in RhyDin’s bigger cities: a high-netted structure for sphinxes, an artificial mountain with a pair of bonded yetis, burrows filled with carbuncles and Mongolian death worms. But there were also large swathes of magically terraformed land, rain forests and rolling plains and frozen tundra to go along with the native desert. The owners offered several tiers of tickets to interested customers -- the cheapest option was enough to see just the enclosures within walking range of the parking lot, while upgrades allowed visitors to jump aboard open-air jeeps and tour the various biomes while getting up close and personal with their denizens. Business was hit or miss, but enough people were interested in seeing cryptids in the closest thing to their natural habitats on RhyDin that they managed to scrape by.

Ninguém pulled his rented Land Rover into a spot far from other vehicles and made the long walk across the parking lot to the ticket gate. Little about his appearance stood out, and that was by design. He wore a black RVCA t-shirt, khaki shorts, and white shoes, with a pair of Ray-Bans tucked neatly into the collar of his shirt. He stood just a hair under six feet tall, solidly muscled, with brown hair and eyes and a five o’clock shadow. He paid for his ticket with RhyDinian silver nobles, prompting the usual grumble from the cashier as he pushed through the safari park’s turnstiles and out onto the main concourse. He glanced at the paper map he’d been handed briefly, before tossing it onto the ground and turning left, heading past the skunk ape enclosure to the reptilian cryptid building. He passed a swampy pool filled with bunyips, a special shaded cage with basilisks inside, and an artificial river teeming with green-scaled, flame-covered boitatás. Ninguém walked past all these, towards a small fenced in area just outside of the building. Sand and a pair of stripped eucalyptus trees stood there, along with a plaque warning of drop bears. Ninguém took note of the sleeping creatures, shook his head, and looked for what had actually brought him here. Soon, he found it. A candy apple green snake slithered across branches, down the trunk of a tree, through the sand, and up onto that plaque near Ninguém.

Senhor Serpente,” he said, one arm folded across his chest in a quick bow.

“No need for formalities, Ninguém. The Snake or just Snake will be fine.” If there had been any eavesdroppers, they might have been surprised that the Snake’s speech was less sibilant than one might expect, closer to a cat’s purr in that moment. But Ninguém and the Snake had found a quiet corner of the park to speak in, with no other creatures or visitors or staff around to hear them.

“Snake, then. Thanks for meeting me on short notice.”

“But of course. What news do you bring me?”

Ninguém pulled a smartphone out of his pocket and, after a few quick taps on the screen, pulled up The RhyDin Times’ web site.

“Ninguém, you’re going to need to make the letters bigger. I can barely read it with these eyes.”

“Well, maybe --”

“-- No.” A single, sharp syllable cut off whatever question Ninguém had planned to ask. “Make it bigger.” Ninguém grumbled a little, but obliged the Snake and expanded the display, though it meant he had to run his finger over the glassy surface repeatedly to scroll through the article.

“Bailey challenged for a Barony and failed, but --”

“But this does not really interest me.” A red forked tongue darted out of his mouth.

“ -- but look at this.” Ninguém pulled the screen away from the Snake, briefly, and, after a few taps, pulled up the image attached to the sports section's news story. Bailey stood in a dueling ring in the Arena, shirtless, with a message painted across his bare chest in black paint:

RIP
FLETCHER RAPTIS
LYEORN REMAKKA
KASS VULPIN
BORIS DE ZACHTE


“Hmm…” The Snake’s head moved closer to the phone. “Interesting. Why do you think he’s bringing this up again, Ninguém?” There was genuine curiosity in the question.

“Glad you asked.” Once more, Ninguém pulled the phone away, working his magic with the tech to navigate away from The RhyDin Times to a different sort of newspaper -- The RhyDin Tattler. He enlarged a front page that had run recently in the paper: People Behaving Strangely Around RhyDin? Who’s Our Mystery Sculptor?

“...Tattler? Is this a tabloid?”

“Possibly, but who cares? Gossip always has a bit of truth in it. People believe what they want to believe. It’s already forced the new Stolen Ones Court leader to take a more aggressive stance than Sandman had on Bailey. If there’s pressure on him, perhaps…?” He trailed off, hopeful the Snake would fill the blank he left with the answer he wanted to hear.

“If you’re asking to go after Bailey again, on our own, answer’s no. We have seen the end result of that folly with Glesni and Sandman: one in exile, one dethroned. But…” The Snake wriggled away, back onto the tree where Ninguém first found him. “We can use this to our advantage. This Regent in Red is new. He’s likely consolidating his power, rooting out the old loyalists, assuaging the fears of those who have never known a day without Sandman in charge.” Now the Snake began punctuating each ‘s’ with a sharp hiss. “With his attention split, we can slip through the cracks, steal away some of his subjects, and sell them back to Faerie. Then, when his reign seems to be on shaky ground, we offer him a deal.”

“What sort of deal?” Ninguém turned off the screen and placed the phone back in his pocket.

“He gives us Bailey Raptis, and we leave the rest of his people alone, or he finds out what it’s like to rule a kingdom with no subjects.”
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

The Regent In Red
Junior Adventurer
Junior Adventurer
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 11:10 pm
Location: The Stolen Ones Court of RhyDin City

A Chase in Cadentia

Post by The Regent In Red »

August 22, 2020
Back Roads of Cadentia


The trio of dirt bikes whined angrily as they careened down a bumpy, dusty Cadentian back road that led through a particularly sparse section of the desert. A couple of car-lengths ahead of them, a double-cab jeep with a truck bed tried to keep ahead of the pesky two-wheeled vehicles chasing it. It was helped in this task by a .50 cal machine gun resting on a tripod in said truck bed. The high speed and the jostling kept them from landing a shot on the motorcycles, but it also kept their foes from gaining ground.

“Can’t these things go any faster?” The Regent in Red shouted above the scream of their motorcycle’s engine.

“You want to get shot?” The driver of the Regent’s motorcycle didn’t look behind, but a note of irritation did creep into his voice as he shouted back. He matched the Regent’s preferred colors with his motocross jersey, pants, gloves, boots, helmet, and chest protector, the bright crimson accented by hints of dark blue.

“I want to get my people back.” A barrage of gunfire from the machine gun deafened them, before a couple of rounds -- either by ricochet or sheer dumb luck -- struck the tires of one of the other bikes. The motorcycle flipped end over end, while the riders just launched straight into a sand dune. “Keep going!” the Regent yelled, even as they looked back to check on the crash victims. Both of them were standing over the smoking remains of their bike, heads down in what seemed like a forlorn gesture even though their helmets hid their faces.

“That’s why I’m not pushing it, chefe. We wreck our bikes, we lose ‘em.” Just then, their remaining partner struck an unseen stone in the road. The bike swung 90 degrees to the right, its momentum stopped on a dime, slingshotting the riders into a nearby cactus. The Regent was glad the engines drowned out all other nearby noise.

“No pressure,” the Regent said, briefly resting their hand on the driver’s shoulder. The lone remaining motorcycle weaved a zig-zag pattern across the dirt road, trying to keep that .50 cal from lining up a clean shot on them. “Hold on. Keep it straight and steady.”

“Oh my Gods, you do want to get shot.”

“That’s an order.” The driver grumbled, but did as he was told, moving the bike into a straight path lined up directly with the back of the jeep. The Regent could see the gunner’s eyes light up, as his target fell into line. Perhaps that’s how he missed the Regent’s hands, both spinning clock-wise circles at their side. When the rotations were complete, they pulled back with their left hand and punched forward with the right. The gun boomed, right as a crimson portal opened in front of the bike…

...and transported them in front of the wrecked jeep. A massive chunk of marble sat in the road, where the vehicle had crashed into it, crumpling the hood and spider-webbing the windshield. The gunner was a full car-length away, flung out the back from the impact and lying motionless in the sand. The motorcycle skidded to a stop.

“Go check on the back seat, I’ll--” *CRACK* The whistle of a whip interrupted the Regent’s words. The two remaining pursuers looked toward the cab of the jeep, where a humanoid figure with red and yellow scales for skin had somehow shifted their right arm into a long, leathery whip.

“Fuck you, changelings,” the driver’s sibilant voice snarled. “These two -- “ he pointed at the back of the double-cab, “ -- are mine, and there ain’t a damn thing you can do to stop me.”

The Regent strode forward while their companion ran towards the back seat. The wind sliced through their ever-present red silk jacket, though they wore khaki colored trousers out in the desert in place of their usual white. “I’m the Regent in Red, ruler of the Court of Stolen Ones. The two people you’ve got in the back of your vehicle are my citizens and under my protection. Release them, or face the consequences.”

“Well, I’m the fucking King of France, and I say they stay. Now, go run off to your motocross boy-toy and keep your nose out of the Snake’s business, or we’ll find you next.”

The Regent glanced over at their driver, who was currently dragging a pair of unconscious women out of the jeep. “I did warn him, right?”

“Little busy here…” he grunted.

“Oh, fine.” The Regent shrugged their shoulders, then charged at the so-called “King.”

“Oh, you’re a stupid son of a--” *CRACK* The whip-arm lashed out towards the Regent, who just narrowly dodged it as he stepped into fighting range with the King.

“Son? Daughter? If it’s all the same to you…” The Regent watched the King’s eyes carefully, trying to guess what angle that whip might come from next. They watched as he reared back, coiled, and swung…

The crack this time was duller, as the whip struck the side of the Regent’s masked face, both cracking the disguise and knocking it off simultaneously. A trickle of blood leaked out from a thin cut on their cheek. Instinctively, they lifted a white gloved hand up to touch the wound, staining the fabric. They watched as the King dragged his weapon back towards his body, wide-eyed.

“You’re-you’re B-” Before he could finish the sentence, the Regent kicked a large amount of sand into his face, sending him stumbling backwards sputtering and coughing. The advantage only lasted a split-second, but that was all they needed. They rushed forward and threw a hard right-handed jab, missing but putting the King off-balance, and then hopped backwards, seemingly letting him regain his stance and composure. He readied the whip once again, but the Regent was ready this time. When the leathery cord arced through the air, the Regent threw up an arm in a classic Duel of Fists-style arm block. The business end wrapped around their wrist several times, snugly, and the Regent smiled. Then, they yanked *hard* on the weapon, pulling the King face-first into the sand. He got as far as raising to his hands and knees before one of the Regent’s boots came crashing down on his skull in a curb stomp. They left nothing to chance, stomping three more times until the cuff of his trousers was stained red. With the King dispatched, the Regent waved a hand in front of their face, throwing an unnatural, obscuring gray shade over their features. Then, they looked over and fired off a thumbs-up to their driver.
“If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity.

Robert Ingersoll
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Bailey Raptis
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Seasoned Adventurer
Posts: 426
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:25 pm
Location: Can be found many places, but resides in a row house in the Kabuki Street neighborhood

The Taken, Part 1

Post by Bailey Raptis »

September 8, 2020
The former Our Lady of Aparecida Church
Old Temple


One of the first things the Regent in Red did after overthrowing Sandman as the ruler of the Stolen Ones court was rebuild the former Our Lady of Aparecida Church that the São Amadorians had used as their base of operations. When they first squatted in the building, it had been long abandoned and half-collapsed -- a perfect meeting place for a group of rebels looking to overthrow a corrupt court, but less appropriate now that they had taken the reins of things. They hauled the ruined stones and furniture out of the nave, rebuilt the walls, cleaned up the dust and mold and other debris, and removed out what remained from its days as a minor basilica -- the moth-eaten vestments, moldy sacramental bread and vinegary wine, sacred artwork and stained glass windows and several crosses of varying shapes and sizes and materials. Once they cleaned up the old church, they brought a local priest in to deconsecrate the building. When it came to God or gods, it was always better safe than sorry.

Even with all the iconography stripped, the structure still made for a fine meeting place for the Stolen Ones. The large, open central room that used to hold pews could fit many more folding chairs, enough that the bulk of the court could sit and attend any meetings that the Regent might wish to hold. The smaller rooms attached to the main section provided plenty of meeting space and offices for the various committees the Regent had set up to assist his transition into leadership -- the cry rooms, the ushers’ room, the vesting room, the wake room, the confessionals were all converted to serve a new purpose for the court. And the former sacristy, towards the back of the building, near where the altar used to be, made a perfect office for the Regent themselves.

Of course, they painted the walls red. They did resist the urge to replace the worn brown carpeting with red as well, instead going for dark maple laminate wood flooring. A reclaimed peroba wood desk (finished with a walnut stain and lacquer) with black welded steel legs and four pull-out drawers dominated most of the room, along with a burgundy leather desk chair. The usual office trappings sat on the desk’s surface: desktop computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, in and out mail boxes, a thin red-and-orange glass desk lamp with a marbled shade, and a lot of loose notebooks, calendars, and paper. A small three shelf bookcase held a range of books on Fae lore, running a small business and balancing one’s accounts, and inspirational self-help.The closet door, currently shut, had full-length mirrors, and a high window let sunshine in even though the Regent had to stand on tip-toes or break out a stool to see outside.

Perhaps the Regent’s favorite feature of their office, though, were the locks on the door. The door knob, yes, but there was a deadbolt a little bit above that, and a sliding bolt towards the top of the door. There were additional runes etched into the wood of the door on both sides, but fortunately, they had yet to be triggered by snoops, spies, or the overly curious. Though that might have been because there was a sign asking folks to knock first before trying to enter.

The extra security allowed the Regent to shed their skin, metaphorically speaking, and to remove the mask they wore in public around the Stolen Ones and just be Bailey Raptis. He probably spent as much time in the office napping as he did taking care of the Court’s business, but that was the nice thing about being the ruler. The position of regent functioned like the CEO of a business. He could delegate the day-to-day operation of the Court to those in a better position to, say, plan excursions into the Hedge to rescue newly escaped Taken, or forge cold iron swords, or handle the accounting. He was the visionary, the plotter, the schemer, the one who laid the path that would take the Stolen Ones forward into a new era of prosperity.

First though, he had to protect his own people. He desperately wanted to sleep, but there were a series of reports filed by the Reclaimers he needed to go through, detailing the number of missing Stolen Ones in the Court and those they had managed to find or rescue. They also included missing persons reports from the Guard, photocopied pictures and posters hung on neighborhood message boards, even the backs of milk cartoons. In a city as capricious as RhyDin, where people appeared and disappeared with little rhyme or reason, it was easy for Os Abduzidos to slip through the cracks.

Two hundred twenty-nine. There were 229 Stolen Ones in the Court currently. Two hundred twenty-nine souls not just under his rule, but under his protection. If he thought being the governor would have required tough choices, being the regent was on a whole other level. No wonder he’d started smoking again.

Bailey made it about halfway through the reports before he heard a muted argument through the walls of his office. He recognized one of the voices as his accountant’s, Lasiodora, meek and mousy as a louder male voice seemed to berate her. Then, there was a knocking on his door.
It's the disease of the age
It's the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Protect me from what I want

The Regent In Red
Junior Adventurer
Junior Adventurer
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 11:10 pm
Location: The Stolen Ones Court of RhyDin City

The Taken, Part 2

Post by The Regent In Red »

Chefe?” Lasiodora’s muffled voice just barely passed through the wooden door, giving the Regent in Red enough time to don their mask and work their glamour to alter their voice. “Sorry about the disturbance. Should I call for Starkud?”

“No need, Lasiodora.” The Regent’s doubled, reverberating voice replied quickly to the question. “If he wanted to hurt me, he would’ve tried to knock down the door, and that would’ve ended poorly for him. I’ll go ahead and let him in, okay?”

“Okay…” she trailed off, unsure if the Regent’s decision was wise, but not in a position to argue with them. He could hear her light footsteps receding, and once he couldn’t hear them anymore, he flipped the locks and opened the door, taking a step back to let the man who had disrupted his work step inside.

At first glance, he looked like one of the lumberjack hipsters who drank seven silver pour-over coffee in Old Market and careened between cars and carriages on their fixed-gear bike in Dockside. He wore a red and green checked flannel shirt, faded blue jeans with rolled cuffs, muddy brown hiking boots, and a beige beanie despite the warm weather. The man’s unkempt beard and the locks of hair that spilled out from underneath that cap were both copper colored. The man’s Stolen One nature became clearer, however, once the Regent took a closer look at them. Around the cuffs of his jeans and shirt and peeking out from the space where his flannel’s hem met the waistband of his denim were several pieces of straw, sticking out like a scarecrow. That, combined with his dark, almost glassy eyes, marked him as not quite human anymore.

“Mister Regent, sir, ye gotta help me, please!” The words tumbled from the man’s mouth, and the Regent tried not to appear too annoyed at the gendering -- a task helped by the mask they always wore.

“Just Regent is fine. No sir or ma’am or mister or miss needed. What’s your name?”

“Andre.” Something rustled underneath his shirt as he tugged at the collar.

“Andre. Now, tell me, what was so important that you had to risk life and limb knocking on my door? Without making an appointment with my secretary?”

“I tried, Regent, really I did. Ye see, they took my wife. My kids, they -- “

The Regent held up a hand, both to interrupt Andre and to slow him down. “Back up. Who’s they?”

“The McCawley Boys, over in Old Market. They grabbed my wife, Madeline, and our kids, Yacob and Elissa.”

“You’ve got kids?”

“Adopted, ah--”

“Say no more,” the Regent jumped in again, their voice softening with the discussion of family, then sharpening once more when discussing the kidnappers. “Are they privateering?”

“No, they’re just -- look, I run produce stands at farmer’s markets across the city. With all the chaos in Old Market this year, these guys stepped in and started running protection. But why should I need protection? I grow corn and soybeans, fer God’s sakes! So I told them no, and they must’ve grabbed them while I was at the Seaside Farmers’ Market this morning. One of their messengers came by with a ransom note on my lunch, and then I came here.”

“What do they want?”

“Fifty thousand silver nobles by midnight tonight. I gotta come alone with it. They-they hafta know I don’t have that kinda money. What- I-I didn’t know what to do, so I came here. I’m sorry.”

The Regent sat quietly at their desk, thinking. Any clues about their reaction to Andre’s predicament were hidden behind their mask. After what felt like an eternity to the scarecrow man, the Regent’s head dipped just slightly. A nod? It was hard to say. Another agonizing beat passed, and then…

“I’ll get them back for you. Midnight, right? Where are you supposed to make the drop?

“The Old Empire Hotel, in Old Market. Room 220.”
“If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity.

Robert Ingersoll
The Regent In Red
Junior Adventurer
Junior Adventurer
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 11:10 pm
Location: The Stolen Ones Court of RhyDin City

The Taken, Part 3

Post by The Regent In Red »

Midnight, September 9, 2020
The Old Empire Hotel, Old Market
Rhy’Din City


It was hard to tell if The Old Empire Hotel was built to imitate old New York City architecture, or if it had just been transported over from the city into RhyDin brick by brick. The metal and plywood scaffolding currently covering up the sidewalk in front of it suggested that, whatever the answer to that question might be, the current owners and managers were intent on making improvements to the building. A small synagogue flanked it on one side, and a taller brownstone apartment building sat on the other. Across the street, another u-shaped apartment complex seemed to have had a series of typical urban businesses pasted onto its bottom section: an urgent care clinic, a cell phone accessories store, a barber shop, and a deli boasting of “RhyDin’s best reubens.” It seemed much newer than the apartments above and behind it, and perhaps that’s what Old Empire’s scaffolding promised: more modern and gentrified businesses for the 19th-century style hotel.

It had seen better days, but one could argue that was true of much of Old Market in recent memory. Two of the four e’s were burnt out in the neon sign out front, rendering it as “Th Old Empir Hotel” in bright orange. But at least the wrought iron flower balconies were all intact, and none of the brick seemed to be crumbling, even if the street was eerily quiet and empty.

The Regent in Red came alone, unarmed, dressed as always in that red silk jacket and mask, paired with white trousers, gloves, and dress shoes. A few Rhydinians might have found their attire slightly strange, but most were unlikely to pay it more than passing attention. A city like Rhy’Din attracted its fair share of eccentrics, and the odd ones often proved to be its most dangerous citizens.

Tonight, though, in that section of Old Market, no one walked the streets. The Regent stepped around puddles of water in the street as they crossed, walked under the scaffolding, and approached the revolving door that led to the hotel’s lobby. It wasn’t moving, and even after they pushed on the bar in the middle of the glass, it stayed stationary. They stepped back outside, saw the comm box with a big red button beside it, and pushed it. Static crackled over the speaker momentarily, and then a snooty voice answered.

“Mmmm-yes?”

“Would you mind letting me in? There’s folks in 220 expecting me.”

“Are you staying here this evening?”

“No, but --”

“Sorry, after midnight, only confirmed guests of the Old Empire Hotel are allowed in. You understand how it is.”

The Regent took a step back, glancing over their shoulder, and then pressed the button again.

“Begone!” Now the voice was snotty, but it didn’t bother the Regent. They cleared their throat, focused on the speaker, and hoped their glamour-soaked words would travel through the wires.

“I think you misunderstood me earlier. Let me in.” The comm hummed and almost whined for a second, before the Regent looked over to see and hear the revolving doors *thoom* *thoom* *thoom* as they slowly gathered speed to full rotation. The Regent waited for an opening and slipped inside.

Time or neglect had diminished the lobby as well. The walls were painted white, but a careful eye could see rectangular discolorations where something -- most likely picture frames, by the size and shape -- had once hung. Only one well-worn sofa and a pair of armchairs in similar shape provided any seating for waiting hotel guests, and a strangely off-putting sculpture dominated the remainder of the interior: a throne, made of what looked like swords, lances and axes welded together, with a giant toilet seat where the cushion should have been. The wooden panels on the hotel’s front desk were heavily scuffed, as were the mail cubbies behind it. Behind the desk, a man in an ill-fitting uniform and a Van Dyke beard sent the Regent a puzzled look as they approached the desk.

“Where is Room 220?”

“Uh…” The clerk narrowed their eyes, like there was something about the Regent -- the whole situation in fact -- that wasn’t quite right, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Instead, he leaned out and pointed to his right. “Grand staircase is over there. Up a flight, at the end of the hall. A suite.”

“Thank you.” Without any further words, the Regent spun away and left the man with a furrowed brow, muttering to himself.

Much like the balconies outside the Old Empire Hotel, the railings on the grand staircase were also made of wrought iron. The Regent looked up from the bottom floor briefly, as each flight zigged and zagged further and further upward, then set foot on the metal steps grimacing. Luckily, they only had one flight to climb.

The sterile smell of cleaning solvents in the lobby gave way to mustiness as they went up and crossed the hallway, painted a rather sickly green with similar discolorations like in the lobby. The Regent silently counted off the room numbers as they passed by each one. 202, 204, 206… They eventually reached the end of the hallway, Room 220, and when they got there, they wasted no time in knocking.

No one answered. They knocked again, a little louder. Still nothing. Only after pounding both fists on the door until it shook on its hinges did someone gruffly retort from the other side.

“Fuck off, we didn’t order room service.”

“I’m not room service.”

“I don’t give a fuck who you are, go away, or we’ll make you go away.”

“I don’t think you want to do that. I think you want to let me in.” The Regent paused, listened as the deadbolt and the chain were undone, and the suite door swung open. A squat man in a sleeveless white undershirt, jeans, and no socks swung the door open even as his confused expression fixated on the masked figure he saw. The Regent took one step forward, towards the room, and the man found himself stepping aside, almost automatically, before shutting the door behind him.

The men inside had already wrecked the room, even beyond the usual wear and tear of the Old Empire Hotel. Emptied beer and whiskey bottles littered the floor, along with pizza boxes, Chinese takeout containers, and a silver tray from room service. The duvet, some of the pillows, and the top and bottom sheets had been ripped off of both the King beds in the room -- based on the smell, the Regent guessed somebody had gotten drunk and pissed the beds at some point. There were two men sleeping on the beds in their street clothes, while a third one sat in a black leather desk chair with a pistol across his lap. This man whipped around and glared angrily when he spotted the Regent and the guard at the door.

“I told you not to let anyone in, Alec!” Alec scratched his head, the fingernails on balding black hair making a *skritch skritch* sound. He wandered toward the windows where the black-out blinds had been drawn shut.

“I dunno why I let him in, Georgie.”

Alec responded to that with a quiet sigh, then a sharp shout towards the bed. “Victor, Steve, get up! We’ve got company.” The two sleeping men snapped awake, reached over to their nightstands where their guns were resting, and leveled them at the red-jacketed person.

“Easy, easy, boys, we’re all friends here, right?” The Regent held up their white-gloved hands, their twinned voice mild in the face of two pistols and a submachine gun (courtesy of Victor) pointed right at them. The Regent focused not on those three men, and the still addled Alec, but instead glanced off to the side. Sitting side-by-side on a sofa, their feet and wrists bound and mouths taped with duct tape, were Madeline, Yacob, and Elissa. Andre’s wife had dark hair and dark eyes, and wore what was clearly meant to be sleepwear: thin pink shorts and a cami top. Yacob, who looked to be a toddler, and Elissa, who might have been five or six years old, wore kids pajamas with characters from their favorite television shows on them: Aerie the airship, a bright blue dirigible with a slightly unsettling face on his front, and Fluffy Wuffington, the teddy bear with a (literal!) heart of gold.The Regent turned back toward the kidnappers.

“No, you’re not.” Georgie tipped his gun sideways in response, brushing surfer blond hair out of his eyes. Victor with the submachine and Steve with the pistol followed suit, though their much shorter brown locks made the effortless toss that Georgie did hard to imitate.

“Andre sent me.”

“Then he fucked up.” Georgie aimed at the family on the couch, and muffled screams and crying could be heard. Victor and Steve copied him again. “Idiots, one of you keep a gun on him!” Victor and Steve both returned to aiming at the Regent.

“I...don’t think so. First, let’s let cooler heads prevail and put our guns down. There are four of you, and one of me. I could not possibly hope to beat all of you in a fight, could I?” The Regent watched as, reluctantly, the men lowered their weapons. “Good, good. Now, I know Andre broke the rules, but can you blame him? You took his wife, his kids, and insinuating you were going to kill them if he didn’t obey? Can you blame him for retaining the services of someone like me?”

“Who are you?”

My name is not fit for your mouths.” The Regent poured acid into the glamour, watching the four of them wince as if struck with migraines. “Apologies. Andre is...a friend of mine. And I protect my friends. Você me entende?

“Wh-what?” Steve stuttered, earning himself a dirty look from Georgie.

Do you understand me?” The Regent’s doubled voice whined and screamed like feedback through an amplifier, and this time, the men clapped their hands over the ears at the sound of it, even the dazed Alec, who had been staring out the window. The Regent glanced over at the three on the sofa, who were grimacing too, and muttered an apology for them.

“Yes!” Georgie and Victor said in unison.

“Good. Give me a moment to talk to my friends.” They nodded, then stood dumbly in place while the Regent hustled over and took a knee beside them. When the Regent spoke again, it was quiet, and in a singular, nasal tenor -- Bailey’s own natural voice. “I am going to get you out of here, I swear it. But I need you to do something for me. This is very taxing on my abilities, and if you scream or cry or do anything to pull their focus away from me, we might not make it out of here. Can you do that for me?” Madeline nodded. “And I apologize for how much this is going to hurt.” He reached up for the duct tape on her mouth and ripped. True to her promise, she did not scream. “Tell your children what I just told you, quietly.” She leaned over and whispered to the two of them, and though Yacob seemed too young to understand, Elissa nodded. “Thank you. I am sorry I hurt your ears earlier.” He patted her shoulder, friendly, then stood up and straightened his back as he regarded the four men. “You!” He switched back to they, as the echoing countenor and contralto returned to his tone. Once more playing the Regent, they pointed at Alec, who spun around and pointed at himself.

“Me?”

“Yes, you. Come over here.” Seemingly more susceptible to the glamour than the other three, he shuffled over and stood by the couch, while Georgie, Steve, and Victor watched dumbfounded.

“What the hell are you doing,” Georgie sputtered, “taking orders from-”

Shut up.” The Regent heard his teeth snapping in his mouth, and swore he must have cracked them. “Here’s how this is going to go.” As they spoke, their right hand spun a clockwise circle by their side, opening up a blood-red portal through which they reached. “I’m paying the ransom with this. One thousand silvers. That’s all you’re getting. These three are walking out with me unharmed. You--” They thumbed at Alec, who practically stood at attention. “--Undo their bonds. Gently, or I’ll feed you your liver.” Alec sweated as he tried to pull the tape off slowly and carefully. The Regent pulled his hand out of the gateway, and tossed a jingling Crown Royal bag towards Georgie. “Don’t spend it all in one place. Like I said, that’s all you’re getting, we’re leaving unarmed, and for the next 72 hours, anytime you hear the words ‘kidnap’, ‘abduct’, ‘ransom’, or their various permutations, you will grow incredibly nauseous. Got it?

“Got it!” All four men said in unison. After another agonizing minute or so, Alec finished. Madeline wobbled as she stood, but eventually found her footing and picked up Yacob. The Regent gestured toward Elissa, an unspoken question there, and Madeline nodded back to them. The Regent crouched. “Get on my shoulders, Elissa.” For a brief moment, The Regent went away again, replaced again with Bailey’s low, concerned tone.

“Why?”

“I am bringing you home to your father.”

Elissa studied Bailey, masked and jacketed, with an impassive expression. “Okay.” Once she was secured, Bailey went back into Regent mode, though they moved like the weight on their shoulders was twice what it was. Reverb drenched their words as they spoke their final farewell to the kidnappers. “A pleasure doing business with you.”

Out the door, across the hallway, down the grand staircase, and through the revolving doors they went, Madeline glancing over her shoulders every few seconds as if expecting them to change their minds on letting them go so easily. The Regent lumbered, barely able to keep pace ahead of Andre’s wife, and as soon as they were outside, they set Elissa down on her own two feet.

“I need…” They sounded tired, the voices even more out of sync than usual.

“You need what?” Madeline asked, clutching Yacob tightly.

“I need you to trust me one more time.”

“Of course.”

“We’re taking the long way home.” With that, The Regent punched at the air in front of them, ripping open a portal that, without their usual preparations, was purplish-black in color. They stepped through it first, then stuck their hand through the Veil’s energy, beckoning the family to come. They did so without any hesitation.
“If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity.

Robert Ingersoll
The Regent In Red
Junior Adventurer
Junior Adventurer
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 11:10 pm
Location: The Stolen Ones Court of RhyDin City

Redevelopment

Post by The Regent In Red »

October 23, 2020
The former Our Lady of Aparecida Church
Old Temple


With the rows of folding chairs set up facing the deconsecrated church’s old pulpit, and with a folding table towards the back of the old nave laden with pizza boxes and two-liter bottles of Broot, it almost felt like a return to the days of old for the former place of worship. For many years, recovering addicts of all stripes would meet here, slurp burnt coffee and eat nearly stale donuts, and share their struggles. Now, though, as the new headquarters for the Stolen Ones Court in RhyDin City, it served a different purpose. The court’s leader, the enigmatic Regent in Red, had an office in the back of the building, where the sacristy was previously located, and many of the smaller rooms in the church now functioned as office and meeting space for those working directly under the Regent, or those in committees and working groups pursuing issues of interest to the court. But these were mostly small gatherings, maybe a dozen people at most in one place. The community, as a whole, had never gathered as one, in this space.

In fact, if they had ever gathered in a large group before, it was well beyond the memories of anyone currently involved with the court. This fact charged the air with a strange energy -- there were nerves and fear, given what had happened to Sandman and many of his supporters just a few months before -- but also curiosity. Maybe even hope. True, this Regent came from well outside of RhyDin, and had brought many of their own followers into the court to secure their place, but things seemed to have finally calmed down, after years of civil war and picking the wrong fights with outside threats. There had been an uptick in Stolen Ones being taken back to Arcadia since the change in leadership, but it was outweighed by the number of Taken rescued by the newly resurgent Reclaimers, those brave (or foolish) enough to risk life, limb, and sanity to venture back to Arcadia to rescue others from the Fae. After all that turmoil, things were relatively peaceful and quiet, even if the Regent had yet to truly address their coup beyond bland press releases and official dictates. Of course, it did raise the question of why they had all been called here now.

The Stolen Ones filtered in slowly, nibbling nervously on greasy slices of pepperoni, cheese, and veggie pizza, filling red cups with root beer -- or styrofoam ones with coffee and hot water for tea. Most arrived in groups of four to six -- the typical motleys and families that formed many of the base level social structures for Stolen One society. The native RhyDinian groups warily eyed the São Amadorian ones, who found limited success in their attempts to engage in a friendly manner with their new irmãs e irmãos in this court. The conversation never rose above a murmur as the little clusters found their own spaces within the center of the building.

Roughly five minutes or so before the meeting was set to formally start, an average-sized man with a long, thin nose and gap-toothed grin stepped out from what used to be the chancel, followed by a stone-like giant with a craggy face. The latter man began fidgeting with something a little bit away from the pulpit, eventually succeeding in pulling down a white projection screen. The shorter man pretended like he was going up into the raised wooden stand, but instead spun back around with a smile and headed for the less ostentatious (and more earthbound) lectern on the opposite side of the floor. After a quick soundcheck of the microphone, he addressed the gathering still filtering in.

“Good evening, everyone. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Jolberto, Vice-Regent of the RhyDin City Court of the Stolen Ones. I’m happy to see many of you have gotten something to eat or drink before our meeting, but I wanted to let you know this is the five-minute warning before we start. So please, get one last slice, one last soda, use the restroom, do whatever it is you need to do, but we’d greatly appreciate it if you were seated promptly on the hour. Thank you.” With that, Jolberto left with his giant companion to take a seat at one of several chairs set up off to the side of the lectern.

After a bit of annoyed grumbling, the crowd did sit and wait, whispering among themselves as they examined the Regent’s apparent lieutenants. The whispering grew a little louder when another person walked on stage, a woman with four arms, dark brown hair, and thick-lensed glasses. She seemed to turn red when she realized she had caused the slight commotion, and when her nerves caused her to drop the stack of papers on the floor instead of placing them on the lectern, a few laughs cut through the tension even as she frantically tried to sweep them up, before Jolberto stepped up behind her and laid a calming hand on her shoulder. Meanwhile, the third man crouched and assisted her with clean-up, and she finally managed to get the documents in their proper place. After that, the low buzz returned.

The lights dimmed. The conversation died down, then disappeared entirely when they were turned entirely off, save for a small light framing the lectern. A figure in a red silk jacket and white swishing trousers strolled out from the back, and when they stepped fully into view, the red mask they wore, inspired by Chinese opera, could be seen. Their attire seemed to be the extent of the pomp and circumstance they brought to their entrance. They simply walked up to the microphone, shuffled the papers at the podium a few times, cleared their throat, and then began to speak, in a twinned tone that seemed to combine a male countertenor and a female contralto.

“Hi. I’m the Regent in Red, and my pronouns are they/them/theirs. I’m the Regent, or King, or Queen, or Chefe, or whatever word you want to use for leader. Put simply, I’m in charge of the RhyDin City Court of the Stolen Ones. Some of you lent me your support back in June, and I thank you for it. For those of you who didn’t, or for those of you who stayed on the sidelines, tonight is for you.” The Regent cleared their throat, utilizing it as a natural pause in their speech, and then pressed on. When they spoke again, a projector turned on, displaying an image of an architectural rendering of an Old Temple neighborhood, with the words “Nova Liberdade” imposed over it.

“I know there is a lot of apprehension about this transfer of power, particularly because it didn’t come by peaceful means. I would like to think the past four months or so speak for themselves -- no more warring amongst ourselves, no more fighting battles against RhyDin powers whose capabilities greatly outstrip ours, an increase in recovery of Taken from Arcadia -- but I know there are doubts. We still face unprecedented challenges, both as privateers and collaborators increase their activities in the court, believing us to be weaker than we are, and in charting a path forward towards the future. I know that’s hard. Most of you don’t know a life without Sandman in charge. You’ve gotten used to the status quo, the way things are, were, and thought they would always be, because that’s what you were told to expect. Don’t congregate closely. Hide like rats in the cracks of this city, lest the Fae track you down and drag you back to the Lands. That fear is what kept him in power for so long. Fear, and one other thing.”

The regent nodded over towards the projector, and the screen clicked to the next slide. It appeared to be a basic bookkeeping sheet for the Stolen Ones Court’s finances. “Put simply, he was stealing from you. The slide behind me shows, more or less, what you should have made year by year, according to the forensic accounting done by my colleague Lasiodora.” The Regent swept a hand in her direction, prompting her to blush furiously. “I’ve also taken the liberty of emailing these sheets to you and -- oh, Starkud!” The giant had begun making his way through the crowd, along with Jolberto, handing out additional printouts of the slides. “Thank you, Starkud, Jolberto. These fine gentlemen have printed out the figures as well for you to follow along, if you should so choose. Next slide?” When the presentation transitioned, there was a dramatically different set of graphs on screen. “As you can see, this is what you were actually disbursed. This is why he lived in a mansion, smoked fine cigars, drank expensive port, et cetera et cetera. He stole from you, for over thirty years. Next slide?”

Now, a line graph appeared, charting out what it called “compound interest.” “So, here’s the thing. He stole money from you for thirty-some years, but he didn’t just spend it all on those expensive things. He laundered it, yes, but he also invested it. In a lot of different businesses and enterprises, through a number of proxies and shell companies, all in a way to hide the fact that he had stolen from the Court to line his pockets. Many of these interests were publicly traded stocks, with dividends, stock splits, and so on. He kept putting his money back into companies, rode out the markets, watched as RhyDin became bigger and bigger business. The interest on his investments compounded, which meant he eventually started to see exponential growth in his assets.” The Regent nodded for them to move the presentation along. Here, just two numbers were on the screen. 229 Stolen Ones. 33,000,000 silver nobles.

“It took us months to unravel Sandman’s books, to get back every copper that was due to you, to sell that mansion and put all the money in a bank account big enough and secure enough for us all. We have 33,000,000 silver nobles of the Sandman’s ill-gotten gains, waiting to be disbursed in equal shares to each and every one of you. By my math, that’s roughly...144,104 silver nobles a person. Now, it’s all yours, but...I have a proposal for you.” Back came the computer image of an Old Temple neighborhood from the first slide. “For too long, we have let ourselves live scattered across this city, trusting in our stealth and our friends and our motleys to keep us safe. It is my belief that both recent events, and the history of this Court over the years, has proven that isolation and crawling underground are not the best ways to exert our power, let alone protect ourselves. What I am proposing is that we create a redevelopment project, funded with your share of the Sandman’s ill-gotten gains, headed by myself, Jolberto, and Starkud, with additional board members selected by the Court at large. We already own this building -- “ The Regent waved their hand around the podium. “ -- but we would buy the rest of this neighborhood. We would salvage and fix up what we can, knock down what is too dilapidated to repair, introduce new businesses and lower-income housing, mixed-development projects, things of that sort. We would present it to the public at large as a redevelopment aimed at São Amadorians, Brazilian-Rhydinians, and Japanese-RhyDinians, primarily. With this, we could hide here in plain sight. We can set up our own autonomous zone, like Kabuki Street, like...yes...like Little Elfhame.” The Regent ignored the quiet gasps at the mention of the Fae neighborhood. “Look, I believe that together, we’re strong enough to stand up to the privateers, the collaborators, the Kindly Ones that would steal our freedom from us. I believe in you. This will keep us safe. And…” One could almost hear the wink, even though their face was hidden. “I believe it will make us a shitload of money.” Finally, the Regent clicked to the final slide, with the date “November 6, 2020” and “Any Questions?” written on it.

“In two weeks, there will be a vote, where you can decide whether or not you want to take your 144,104 silvers and go it alone, or to put that money towards creating a new home for the Stolen Ones. I hope you’ll join me in building Nova Liberdade. Any questions?”
“If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity.

Robert Ingersoll
The Regent In Red
Junior Adventurer
Junior Adventurer
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 11:10 pm
Location: The Stolen Ones Court of RhyDin City

Retribution

Post by The Regent In Red »

((Trigger warning: torture))

November 26, 2020
Old Temple Bratva Headquarters


“I’m disappointed, Leo.” The two-toned voice of the Regent in Red, masculine and feminine, echoed discordantly from behind their red Chinese opera mask. They gazed upon the shambles that the Bratva Pakhan’s office had become, after the Regent, Jolberto, Starkud, and three other ogre-like Stolen Ones had run roughshod over the entirety of the building. Even outnumbered 15 to 6, the Stolen Ones had easily won the battle, killing or incapacitating the entire security force protecting the Russian mob boss in their assault. Starkud, the craggy faced giant, stood watch at the door to the office, while Jolberto nudged the body of one of Leo’s guards out of his way with a disgusted expression.

Leo tried to speak up, but the strip of duct tape over his mouth muffled his words. The Regent noticed this, though, and walked up to the desk. Designed to look like it was made of several steamer trunks joined together, the wooden frame was wrapped in beige waxed canvas, with additional strips of wood and antiqued brass for the handles. They rested both gloved hands on it briefly, leaning against it, before suddenly lifting their right for a slap against Leo’s face. Bound as he was in his office chair by tape and rope, he could not dodge the blow, though the Regent put no real force behind it. They did not mean to bruise the Pakhan. They meant to humiliate him. “Hey. I don’t remember saying you could talk, Leo. Now --” *SLAP* This time, the Regent reared back with the left hand and fully slapped the Vor, knocking loose the eyepatch over his left eye. It revealed an empty socket. “ -- where were we? Oh, yes, I’m disappointed in you. You’ve clearly lived here long enough to become an important person, a crime boss, and yet, you didn’t do your research. Jolberto?” The Regent pointed at the eyepatch, and their lieutenant quickly shifted it back into place on Leo’s face. “Thank you. I keep getting distracted because of you, and it doesn’t make me happy. I feel like you don’t respect me. You understand that, right, respect?” When Leo didn’t move, the Regent lifted their palm again, causing him to cringe. “Nod your head yes or shake your head no. Do you understand that, respect?” Leo nodded. “Good. Now, when you heard we had bought property abutting your territory, instead of doing your research, figuring out who we were, what our capabilities might be, you threatened us. When we didn’t respond to threats, you attacked us. And when we rebuffed your attacks, you didn’t think, ‘Hey, maybe we should cut it out, or parley.’ You kept it up. This -- “ The Regent paused, to sweep a hand around the damaged office, with dead bodies, bloodstained carpets, an upended bookshelf, and the bound Leo himself. “ -- is you reaping what you’ve sown. Do you understand?” Leo nodded again. The Regent finally stepped away from the desk, over towards Starkud, and leaned on the giant’s shoulder briefly as he whispered something, then turned back to the mob boss.

“We’ve wasted too much time on you,” The Regent said. “Call off the rest of the Vory, tell them Nova Liberdade is off-limits to the Bratva.” They waved in Leo’s direction, and Jolberto stepped up to take the duct tape off of his mouth. A torrent of Russian profanity immediately followed. The Regent sighed, and Jolberto dutifully stuck it back on.

“One more chance. Call off your lieutenants.” Again, Jolberto removed the gag.

“Burn in hell,” Leo said, before spitting at the Regent. He missed, but the masked figure still put a hand to their mask while Jolberto retaped the Pakhan.

“Is his phone there?” The Regent asked, pointing at the desk with their other hand. Jolberto nodded. “Get it. Oh, and stab him in the leg while you’re at it.” A beat later, after catching the cell phone tossed their way, a meaty thunk resounded through the office, immediately followed by a muzzled scream. “Merda. I can’t read Russian. Oh well, I guess I’ll just call someone at random.” Somehow, they managed to navigate through the phone’s menu to the contacts, pressed the first name they found, and stuck the phone on speaker. The voice answered, in confused Russian, and Jolberto picked that moment to remove the gag for good, leaving Leo’s screams unfiltered. “Knock him out.” Jolberto grabbed Leo by the hair and bashed his head against the desk, twice, rendering him unconscious. The Regent then stepped closer to the phone, followed closely by Starkud.

“Who am I speaking with?” The Regent asked.

“Who the fuck is this?” A gruff, heavily accented voice answered on the line.

“I asked first. Are you with the Bratva?”

“...Da.”

“Good. I don’t really care where you are on the food chain. Tell whoever needs to know that Leo isn’t in charge anymore. Tell them that the Regent in Red wishes to meet with them to discuss terms of peace.”

“Why would we do that?” At the question, the Regent held a hand out for Starkud, who placed a pistol in it. Jolberto took a few steps back from Leo’s coldcocked form, as they leveled the gun at him. The Regent then gestured at Jolberto again, who sighed as he propped Leo up so that his head wasn’t on the desk. Satisfied with their deputy’s work, they aimed and fired three shots into Leo’s chest. Despite the ringing in their ears, they continued to speak with the Vor on the phone.

“Because I just broke into your headquarters with five other men, took out 15 of your men with no casualties of my own, and killed your boss without breaking a sweat. Saturday. Two p.m. Temple of the Gods. Your top three men, me, Jolberto, and Starkud. Do we have an accord?”

“...Da. I will pass this on.”

“Thank you.” The Regent hung up the phone, then took a seat on the floor, leaning against the desk leg, and sticking their fingers in their ears, as if that might dash away the buzzing in their ears. “Could that gun be any fucking louder?”
“If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity.

Robert Ingersoll
The Regent In Red
Junior Adventurer
Junior Adventurer
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 11:10 pm
Location: The Stolen Ones Court of RhyDin City

Nova Liberdade Autonomous District

Post by The Regent In Red »

January 12, 2021
Nova Liberdade Autonomous District


A small smattering of people gathered under and around the newly built torii gate that marked the official entrance into Nova Liberdade. One of them had a notepad and a pen, and another had a camera that they were shooting photos with, but the rest appeared to be restaurant owners, bankers, convenience store clerks, grocers. It was a cosmopolitan mix of folks. Rich, middle-class, poor. Women in fine suits and men wearing baker’s aprons rubbed shoulders. Much like the São Paulo neighborhood that inspired its name, Nova Liberdade had a mix of São Amadorians, other Brazillian-Rhydinians, Japanese-RhyDinians, as well as a handful of elves, dwarves, and other more common RhyDin humanoids. The sign next to the gate served as further proof of the neighborhood’s diversity. It read, in Common, Japanese, and Portuguese, “Welcome to the Nova Liberdade Autonomous District.”

Directly underneath the arches, a small wooden stage with a podium and a microphone had been set up. It currently stood empty, while the dignitaries and working class folks chattered amongst themselves, their conversation punctuated by the occasional *snap* of a camera shutter and the scribbles of the journalist’s pen. In front of that structure, a red ribbon had been stretched across the street, with “Nova Liberdade” written across it in white bubble letters.

The murmuring died down when a man in a sleek and skinny blue suit suddenly stepped onto the platform. He had a long, thin nose, black hair that had been slicked back and pulled into a ponytail, and dark green eyes that sparkled with the promise of mischief. A few moments after they arrived, a four-armed woman in a grey skirt and white blouse, after nearly losing her footing stepping up, settled in to his left, handing him a stack of papers, which he promptly placed in front of him. The microphone whined feedback for a second or two, before the soundman corrected for it. After a few taps against the screen, the man in suit began to speak.

“Good afternoon, everybody,” he said in lightly accented Common. “For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Jolberto Da Rainha, but please, just call me Jolberto. I’m the chief executive officer and chairman of the board for the Nova Liberdade Redevelopment Project. Put simply, I’m the one in charge. The silver stops at my desk. Today we’re here to dedicate this torii gate, and to formally announce that the Nova Liberdade Redevelopment Project has successfully created the Nova Liberdade Autonomous District. NLAD, if you prefer acronyms, but, really, Nova Liberdade will work.”

“In Portuguese, the primary language spoken where I grew up, in São Amador, liberdade means freedom. It’s a word that has a lot of meaning to RhyDinians, and particular meaning to those of Brazilian descent. Many of them are familiar with the Liberdade neighborhood in São Paulo, which contains a large number of Japanese and Japanese-Brazilian residents, as well as significant numbers of Chinese and Korean citizens. To borrow from something I’ve heard people from the United States say, it’s a melting pot.” Jolberto paused to adjust his tie, then continued.

“In recent years, a significant number of São Amadorians have immigrated to RhyDin, seeking more freedom, more money, a better and more exciting life for themselves, their partners, their children. When we saw this neighborhood -- run-down and neglected merely because of its proximity to Dockside -- we saw an opportunity. We brought together investors, business owners, residents, citizens, customers of the many shops here -- we found as many stakeholders as we could and launched the Nova Liberdade Redevelopment Project. Now our work is still in progress, and it might always be, but with this gate, we’re happy to say that we’re closer to the end than we are to the beginning of our work, and we’re ready to formally open to the public. So, to borrow another Americanism, ‘Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ We’re ready to welcome you.” Jolberto glanced to the side. “Lasiodora?”

“Waaa!” Laughter burbled up from the crowd when Lasiodora cried out, not expecting to be addressed at that moment.

“...the scissors, por favor?” Jolberto watched as she scrambled around the stage, before finally holding up a comically oversized pair of silver scissors. She carefully handed them off to Jolberto, who hopped off the platform with a flourished bow and chuckle at the end, then pulled the blades loose so that the sharp mouth was ready to devour the ribbon. He waited until the photographer was in place, then snapped it shut as the camera’s flash went off.

***

A short androgynous figure with spiky orange dyed hair and mismatched blue and green eyes, wearing a white dress shirt with a black waistcoat and trousers, watched from the back of the throng. They stood quietly and listened to Jolberto’s speech, all the way until he cut the ribbon. As soon as the red halves began fluttering into the road, they turned around, muttering to themselves. “It’s ‘give’, you vaca. ‘Give.’ Not breath.” Still, a flicker of a smile crossed their face. As Jolberto fielded questions from the reporter, the figure in the back turned around and headed east. There was no rest for the Regent, even in disguise.
“If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity.

Robert Ingersoll
The Regent In Red
Junior Adventurer
Junior Adventurer
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2020 11:10 pm
Location: The Stolen Ones Court of RhyDin City

Two Hundred Thirty-Six

Post by The Regent In Red »

((Trigger Warning: Discussion of suicide))

January 17, 2021
Early Morning
Nova Liberdade


Flickering street lamps threw puddles of yellow light across the mounds of snow that had been pushed up against the curbs. This late at night and this deep into winter, most of the people stirring at this witching hour were sleeping or drinking indoors, but of those few hearty souls daring winter’s bite, nearly all of them were forming a half-circle around a line of tape, blocking off the area in front of a four-story concrete parking garage. They were prevented from crossing the line by a half-dozen burly security guards, and inside the cordon, a tall man in a brown trench coat and floppy canine ears talked to a São Amadorian couple, writing in a notepad as they spoke.

As if by magic, a pathway parted in the crowd, allowing a figure in a red silk jacket, Chinese-style Opera mask, navy blue sweatpants, and white cross-trainers to approach the tape. When they reached the tape, the guards stepped aside with nods, letting them duck under and approach the man in the coat.

“What happened, McGraff?” they asked, the question punctuated by a yawn that reverberated oddly between the figure’s two voices.

“Good to see you, Regent,” he replied, rolling his r’s. He pointed out what appeared to be a body draped in a white cloth in the center of the makeshift semi-circle they had set up on the street. “Sorry to wake you up. Believe me, I wouldn’t have if this was what it looked like at first glance.”

“Which is?”

“Suicide. Poor fellow seems to have jumped off the top of the parking garage.”

“What was their name?” Something in the Regent’s discordant voices softened, the female counterpart to the male almost fading entirely away.

“Hothouse Harry, according to their ID. Do you know him?”

The Regent shook their head. “Not really. Just the basic facts. He ran a greenhouse in...Seaside?” McGraff shrugged, not knowing the answer either. “Have you notified his next of kin?”

“We’re still looking into that. Once we get done talking to the folks who called it in.” He jerked a thumb towards the couple, a tan male of average height with brown eyes and hair and a short dark-skinned woman with black hair and hazel eyes. “They’re why we called you in. My Portuguese is, eh, not the best, but what I got out of them leads me to believe this’s more complicated than it looks.”

“Do you mind if I…?” The Regent trailed off, glancing over at the pair. The woman stared with grim eyes at one of the concrete posts of the parking, while the man covered his face with his hands. McGraff shrugged again, the Regent nodded, then approached the two.

“<I am sorry you had to see that,>” they said, switching into Portuguese seamlessly. “My friend McGraff here says that you saw something...out of the ordinary?>”

“<Yeah,>” the woman said with a quiet gulp. “<Pedro and I just had ducked out of Barzinho da Vida>” -- The woman stopped to point over her shoulder at a small, one-story wooden building with a red lantern hanging in front -- “<When we saw these three men walking on the other side of the street. One of them was wearing overalls, a real salt of the earth guy.>” She paused, ducked her head, then continued. “<These other guys, though, they reminded me of the malandros back in the favelas. They didn’t dress like them -- they wore puffy coats with the, , checked pattern?>”

“Burberry,” The Regent said.

“<Yes, Burberry! They hid their faces with scarves, though, so I couldn’t really see much of them. Just they were taller than this guy, and more muscular. They sort of walked with this…>” She stopped, bowed her knees, and swung her arms in an exaggerated manner. “<Machismo, that the other guy didn’t really have.>”

“<What did they do?>”

“<Well, they walked over to this garage, went up...we’d just finished smoking our cigarettes when we heard this cry from the top, and…>”

“<I’m sorry you had to see that.>” The Regent rubbed their chin, switching back to English as they addressed McGraff. “I mean, that sounds suspicious, but somewhat vague.”

“There’s more.” McGraff canted his head towards the woman. “Go on, continue.”

“<Sorry,>” the Regent added, their shoulders slumping a fraction.

“<Not a problem. After he...jumped, Pedro looked up and he saw-- >"

“<Three -- >” the man interjected.

“<Three men at the top of the parking garage, looking down here,>” she said. “<Then, bum!>” She clapped her hands loudly. “<They disappeared from sight. It all happened so fast, before we could even call in the tira.>”

“<I see. Well, thank you for sharing this with me.>” The Regent looked over at McGraff. The lawman waved away from his body with both hands.

“Thank you for your assistance,” he said. “We’ll contact you if we have any further questions.”

Obrigado,” she responded, and the Regent echoed the word back to the couple before they departed. When they were out of view, they sighed, pressing a gloved hand against their mask.

“Tired?” McGraff asked, slipping his pen and notepad into one of his coat pockets.

“Two hundred thirty-six.”

“What?”

“Two hundred thirty-six,” the Regent repeated, with a quaver in their voices. “When I went to sleep, there were two hundred thirty-seven Stolen Ones in the Court. We were growing, slowly. And now we’ve shrunk. Now, there are only two hundred thirty-six, and I don’t know why.” Another sigh escaped them, like air from a leaking balloon. “Keep me posted. Let me know if you find a next of kin, their motley, whatever, and I will visit them. Thank you.” The Regent briefly patted McGraff’s shoulder, then spun around and headed north toward the torii. After a couple of blocks, they lifted up the mask and lit a cigarette, the gray smoke pooling around their face to obscure their features.
“If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power. Any man can stand adversity — only a great man can stand prosperity.

Robert Ingersoll
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