(13) Welcome Home
The Regency Campaign (257-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
Nightshade arrives at noon in stealth
mode, the land of Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege. It has
been five and a half days since they left Boughene.
Edward "Shark" Teeth has been working on teaching
medical to Kalida, and
practicing his pistol. In return, Kalida has been instructing
Shark in Tactics.
Lucas Fuentes has been catching up on the
logs. Lucas finds a number of works by this person called Helia
Sarina, who describes short jumps. She calls them Quilton Jumps,
because they bypass the Quilton Limitations. Mich
Saginaw has finished off the revisions to Zen
and the Art of Jumpspace, ready for Lucas now that he's gone
beyond Jumpspace for Dummies.
The crew have an energetic discussion about where to
go now that they're here.
In the system right now are one outdated Destroyer
and three Destroyer Escorts. It's decided to avoid them, although
Nightshade could easily eliminate them. Getting all four
before they jumped out would be difficult, however. One of the
smaller ships is in orbit around the mainworld, but the rest are
elsewhere in the system.
Shark asks Kalida what the protocol would be for the
arrival of a
ruler who's never been here. She really doesn't have any ideas
that, especially considering the blockade. If it was a visit to a
vacation home, she'd send word in advance, but she doesn't even know
where her property is, or who is the head of staff. Shark
agrees that just turning up for a surprise visit should be fine.
Sir Misha Ravanos asks what negative consequences
there would be if
they seriously damaged a blockading ship. It's explained to him
they have serious power -- they could step up the blockade here, with
their own private navy Vemene, or they could even act politically since
they have Aramis in their pocket. It is not likely to turn out
well. As Misha point, there are better ways to break the blockade.
Kalida reminds them that ships are allowed to bring
things in, but are searched on the way out and everything not nailed
down is taken. The only practical way to get around this is to go
through Creative Imports on Mongo.
Mich suggests building a black tech ship and filling
the "fuel tanks" with bourbon, but of course that wouldn't get the
bottles out. Shark says what they really need is a white tech
Misha asks if, from a practical perspective, there's
anything Tukera is interested in anything more than the exported
Kalida says that the original reason for the
blockade is that they claim they were supposed to end up with 40%
ownership of Traditional Heritage Craftworks, which is strongly denied
by the company. Then also they're making a paper profit on the
interest, and making around a gigacredit a year that translates into
real profits in Aramis subsector. Tukera doesn't want the
blockade to be settled, because the blockade is what is making their
Shark asks how big the debt is. Kalida tells
him it's around 10 Gcr by now. Tukera owns the Bank of Mongo, and
is extended the debt to the company they're blockading. Shark
shouldn't think of this as a blockade, but as an accounting problem
that can't be solved by shooting down the blockading ships.
Misha asks if having the Marchioness of this system
on board would be enough to keep Tukera off this ship.
Kalida says that it would not. They would
expect to go over the entire ship and remove anything that could
possibly be speculated to come from Nakege.
Mich points out that they have a paper saying "don't
bother these people."
Shark points out that might work on the Imperial
Navy, but probably won't work on Vemene.
As Kalida says, even though they're in stealth, if
they contact a significant number of people on the world, then Tukera
will know they're here if they're doing their job.
Mich suggests hiding the ship in a hangar so they
can ship materials to it rather than a gcarrier at a time. There
are seas on Nakege, but loading the ship underwater isn't as
Misha wonders what Tukera would do if she just
appeared on the planet without any visible means of getting
there. Land in stealth, and arrive under the name of the
And, as Mich laughs, forward all their bills to the
Bank of Mongo.
Kalida says that it's not in the interests of the
company to announce their presence. They don't have to hide from
the locals, just Tukera.
Sharks says any Tukera agents would have to be
either outsiders or turned clan members, and in either case the head of
the family would know who they were. They can come in as the
Marchioness, just to the boss. They won't be a smuggler to him
Misha says the difference is whether they check into
a hotel under the name of the Marchioness, or under his name.
Kalida says she has a place to stay. She
doesn't know where it is, but she does know it exists.
Misha says he'll follow her lead in this matter, but
he suggests that she does not want to be coming to her planet in
secret. They also don't know who to check in with, and it might
be more productive finding out who that is if they check into a hotel
under the name of the Marchioness.
Shark suggests landing out of town in stealth, then
coming into town on the gcarrier. They can land in the woods, and
come in flying the flag of the Marchioness.
Misha says that on this trip they shouldn't do any
smuggling at all.
Kalida says she will be bringing a case of bourbon,
although she's not sure how to pay for it.
Misha laughs that the Bank of Mongo would write her
a loan for it.
Shark says that Chuck will want to hunt, but they'll
have to check about permission for that.
Mich is sure Kalida will have a gamekeeper on her
It takes an hour to reach the mainworld. Lucas
slips them into orbit so they can scan for important places and where
For Robert to hook into the local network, they'll
have to get very close to a ship to piggyback the tightbeam.
Unless they have city-wide wifi, says Shark, but Robert says that even
then they should relay through another ship to avoid being indentified.
Then they realize that Nakege is tech level
2. They won't have local wifi.
Misha is actually sort of a resident expert at this
tech level, and Shark says that Chuck's muzzle-loading rifle is about
the right level too. They'd at least probably recognize a
There seems to be only one major population
center. There is one town, with outlying farms around it, perhaps
small villages of a few buildings in the farming areas.
Shark works the sensors, looking for any scatter off
the tightbeam communications between the local destroyer escort and the
ground. He quickly determines that there are no such
communications going on. The gcarrier could be picked up on
passive scans if there's no other background sources. The lowest
emissions craft they have is the Launch, of course, and the nose of the
Wandering Pearl is still on the cargo lift in the way of getting
the gcarrier out.
The two vehicles are actually a similar size.
The catch is that the gcarrier is technically a gravcraft, while the
Launch is a ship's boat -- they take different skills to fly
them. Lucas can handle the ship's boat flying, and for that
matter so could Chuck if he was actually a full crew member.
The Launch won't look that remarkable. Yes,
it's a very different shape from Imperial vehicles, but it's certainly
plausible that it's just a custom gcarrier.
Shark has reservations about taking the pilot off
the ship, however. He will stay on board with Lucas, and can also
keep an eye on Chuck at the same time. That way they can respond
to the panic button if needed. Robert is showing no interest in
going ashore to communicate with backward monkeys. Misha, Mich,
the Marchioness, and Teri can go ashore. Between Misha and Teri,
no-one will mess with the Marchioness, and Mich will fly the Launch.
Misha is finally getting used to the idea that a
boat flies through the air and a ship flies through space. Where
he comes from, both boats and ships float on the water.
The next step is be to find a place to land Nightshade.
There are plenty of woods, but not much in the way of clearings.
There is a river running along the side of the town into the woods, as
well as a lake. There's also a class E starport, basically an
Nakege has a tainted atmosphere, but
supposedly not tainted enough to cause problems. They shouldn't
need filter masks or respirators. Gravity is a third of a g.
It's early autumn, possibly late summer, in the
sense of the star positions which dominate the climate. It should
be quite pleasant. At the town, noon tomorrow will be pretty much
the same as Imperial noon. It's late afternoon now, perfect to go
into town and find somewhere to stay for the night.
The starport is northeast of the town. Most of
the farming area is to the southwest, with a couple of lakes near the
farms. The town is to the west side of this area, alongside a
lake. The southeast area is woods.
Lucas brings Nightshade down over the woods
150km from the town. They can hover over the woods and can bring
the Launch out while they aren't observed, then move the ship over the
town later. It's raining, however, so they'll eventually have to
bring the ship up over the clouds so they don't make a rain shadow.
Mich flies the Launch over the starport. They
find that the boat does have a special two-way black tech
communications link, to his surprise, but then they haven't really
examined the Launch in detail before. It has no shields, no
stealth, and no weapons.
At the starport, there's a single building with two
people sitting on the porch, and a rail link to the city.
Shark speculates that the train is probably
horse-drawn, or possibly steam. Misha smiles that maybe they
cheated and it's more advanced than that.
The train is at the starport end, and indeed Misha
is right. The engine looks fusion-powered, with the local tech
building cargo containers and a couple of passenger carriages on top of
the high tech car platforms.
Mich flies them over the rail link, out of sight of
the starport, and follows the path of the rail link into town.
Shark has provided a rough map of the town for
them. He's been looking for the castle, or at least the biggest
building. The biggest building clusters are to the southwest,
perhaps storage, other buildings, not residential at least.
There is no castle. There is a market square
inside the town to the south. There looks like there's a large
town hall. He's not used to analyzing towns like this. A
lot of the buildings are wood, but the major ones are stone. He's
expecting people here to be relatively tall with the low gravity, since
they've been isolated here for centuries.
The streets are wide by medieval standards, about 6
Where the rail link reaches the town, there is a
train station. The most promising place to land is the concrete
paved open area that looks like a cargo area. Mich brings them in
The air indeed is a little rough to the throat, but
not too bad.
A single figure watches them from the station
platform. The Marchioness and her entourage walk up to them
through the rain. They are dressed fairly casual, although for
Misha that means his zack, cape, and sword. Teri would have
preferred battledress, but she is wearing her special suit that Shark
helped put together; special shades that she keeps on all the time, and
a restricted and discreet but useful arsenal that are deliberately not
totally concealed. Kalida is in a raw silk outfit, and looks (and
The station official greets them, and says that he
wasn't told there was a ship. He asks in confusion if the train
is broken. If not, how did they come here? It's not allowed!
Misha asks him to direct them to a hotel.
"A what?" the offical says.
"A place to spend the night."
"I'm... not sure, I'd have to check. Are you
"We are allowed," says Misha firmly.
"I don't think you are. I think you might have
to go back to your ship and we'll have to sort it out that way."
"How about we go to a hotel and sort it out
there? An inn?"
"Oh, an inn! I don't think you're allowed
to. You're off a ship. You're not from around here.
OK, but I'll have to check. If you'd like to wait in the waiting
room, I can check. This way, please." He directs them
towards the waiting room, which is down the platform immediate before
the passage leading to the gate to the town. He opens the door
Misha leads the group right past it towards the
gate. The official protests, but he ignores him. They walk
up to the gate, but it's locked. There is a guard asleep on the
other side of it.
The official has followed them and makes protesting
noises, looking very disturbed. They have to wait in the waiting
room, he can't let them out.
Misha simply picks the lock as if it was never
locked in the first place, but the bar on the other side of the gate
keeps it in place. It does not open.
Misha turns to the official, invokes the
Marchioness's name, and demands that he opens the gate.
The man is dumbfounded. He splutters and
stutters, "Who? What? You said what? What?"
Misha says patiently, "The Marchioness of Nakege."
"But we're not ready! When's she coming?"
"She is standing right here."
"Oh my gosh. Um... um... I'm sorry. Yes,
my Lady, I'm sorry, I did not recognize you. Immediately I shall
make preparations!" He bows and drops to one knee.
The Marchioness says, "I'm just looking for an inn."
"That won't do at all! No, that won't do at
all! If you'd like to come this way to the Royal Waiting Room I
shall send for a carriage." He points at an unlabelled door on
the other side from the Waiting Room. "I shall send for a
The Royal Waiting Room is sufficiently royal.
Heavy carpet, gilt everywhere. Misha signs subtly for Kalida to
go through, and quietly says to Teri that she is not to let the door
The official bows and scrapes as the Marchioness
walks by. "If you will excuse me, my Lady, I must send a
message." He runs off to another room, in the passage between the
Waiting Room and the gate.
Nightshade is by now over the city.
Shark does not see any communications from the ground to space.
The Marchioness and her entourage wait about ten
minutes, and then a large bell rings across the town, followed by a
number of other bells from other locations.
The official, after getting permission from Teri at
the door, enters the Royal Waiting Room and bows. He tells the
Marchioness that "The Gravella is on his way, and should be here
soon. Sorry to keep you waiting."
Kalida explains that Gravella is the name of the
family who owns THC.
More time passes, the ringing of the bells
continuing. Misha is getting impatient, and is ready to go back
out to the Launch and fly it into town. Still, given their point
in coming here, he is willing to let it play out.
Eventually there's a clatter from outside. The
station gate bursts open. Teri's eyes widen but she doesn't reach
for a weapon. Inside the room, they wait.
A man stops at the door. He is wearing an
elaborate jerkin embroidered with trees and bottles, a small crown of
wood, a cape, and is carrying a staff. The head of the staff is
carved very delicately into a tree shape with branches and even
leaves. Striped purple and yellow hose bulges out from his legs,
above bright red shoes that come to a point. With a big sweep, he
bows theatrically and says, "Welcome to your world."
"Thank you," nods the Marchioness.
"If you would care to come with me, I would be
grateful if you would be a guest at our Hall."
"That sounds wonderful."
The Gravella bows and backs out from from the room,
avoiding turning his back on her while he exits.
Outside are two very ornate wooden carriages.
They are being drawn by what is best described as horse sculptures,
with wheels at the end of each leg. They must be high tech,
because they are not steam powered or with any other apparent source of
The Gravella gestures the Marchioness to the first
carriage, while he turns to the second.
The carriage is enormous as well as ornate. It
has room for about a dozen people. Elaborate wooden scrollwork
along the side of the carriage proclaims it to be for "Her Ladyship the
Marchioness." The Gravella's carriage is ornate too, but not a
patch on Kalida's.
Misha enters first, with Teri last. In fact,
Teri does not enter the carriage but climbs up beside the driver,
scanning the surroundings for threats. (On Nightshade,
Shark nods with approval in between fits of laughter.)
Once inside, Kalida says, "I didn't really expect
anything, but this is really not what I expected."
Misha agrees. This is more than he expected
Over the commdot, Shark asks Misha if this is a
level of grovelling that doesn't even happen on his homeworld.
Misha says that this does happen on his homeworld
too, but it's not what he expected from the highly civilized Imperium.
Shark turns to Chuck and asks what he thinks of it.
The vargr says he finds this very impressive.
"Much like your home?" asks Shark.
"Not quite," he says, "But I can see their
point. It has definite good points."
The townspeople come out to the street to wave as
the Marchioness goes by. They are mostly dressed in fairly simple
fabrics, shirt and shorts or full trousers, blouses, skirts, full
dresses. Through the video feed from Teri's glasses, Shark notes
the gender roles in dress. Not all the women wear skirts, and for
that matter some men are in skirts too. There are no weapons in
sight. The escort is not armed either, not even ceremonial
Mich is most astonished by the simple fact that
no-one has asked for ID.
They travel through town to the largest building in
the residential areas. It's more a manor house than a
castle. It has a courtyard around it, and the streets are wider
around it too.
The carriages pull up in front. A flunky runs
out and opens the door for the Marchioness, as stairs deploy smoothly
from the carriage for her to descend.
The Gravella walks over from his carriage and
addresses the Marchioness. "Welcome to my Great Hall. My
home is yours."
The large heavy double doors to the Great Hall open
to a tall hallway. The Gravella leads while not appearing
superior. Several closed doors line the hallway, and at the end
another set of heavy wooden doors are swung open to reveal the Hall,
which has obviously been prepared for a feast. A high table
The Gravella leads them to the High Table. A
chair higher than the rest is in the center, clearly for the
Marchioness. A 3D Imperial Starburst crowns her chair, which is
carved in abstract patterns. To her right, the Gravella's chair
is the second highest, and is carved with tree designs. He places
his staff in brackets carved to hold it.
Once seated, the Gravella is careful to ensure that
the Marchioness is ready for dinner and does not wish to do anything
else first. He enquires politely about the status of her
companions, and then calls over a servant to whom he explains that they
are, as Kalida described them, the Marchioness's companions.
The seats at this table all face the lower hall,
except for a seat at each end. Teri is directed to one of the
seats on the end, where she has a fine view of everything.
Everyone else is placed at other seats, alternated with what must be
Misha is much more comfortable with this level
culture than anyone else, although he's seen it rather than
participated on his homeword. He notes the similarities and
differences, and compares them to situations he's seen on his way here
from his homeworld, and fits in well. Before he takes his seat,
he quietly asks the Marchioness if she wants him or Teri nearer
her. Kalida is comfortable with the seating.
Misha is the other side of the Gravella. Mich
is to Kalida's left, with a local noble between them.
Those at the high table are dressed like the
Gravella only without the fancy embroidery. Lots of color,
flounces, cuffs, and ruffs.
On the floor level, the people are wearing normal
cloths. More brightly colored than those on the street, but
similar designs. Colorful headbands and hairbands are common.
There are thirteen at the High Table including Teri,
and about sixty on the lower floor.
On Nightshade Chuck nods with approval at
the scene in the video. Shark asks him if he wants to give Teri
etiquette advice over the commdot, but Chuck says no-one will be
watching her anyway as she's obviously the guard. He points out
that the seat at the other end of the table is being left deliberately
open, showing the Gravella's trust in the Marchioness that he does not
need a corresponding guard of his own. He approves thoroughly.
Shark passes on Chuck's opinion to the rest of the
The meal is primarily meat and bread, a great
variety of each.
Misha finds the Gravella seems a little awkward, and
the person to Misha's right more so, as if intimidated by the situation.
The room is noisy enough to make private
conversation possible. Misha politely asks the Gravella if this
is a special occasion, or a nightly occurence they just happened to
The Gravella tells him that this is a feast in honor
of the Marchioness. It follows the pattern of feasts that are
often held to celebrate various events, but this particular one is for
Misha through the conversation carefully tries to
determine the power structure. The Gravella owns the company,
Traditional Heritage Craftworks. THC owns the world. The
Gravella is essentially CEO of the world, which he runs in what is
essentially a corporate feudal society and in effect his word is
law. The company owns everything. People own their houses,
but the land on which they are built is owned by THC. The
leadership of the company is hereditary and has been in the Gravella
family since it was founded in 735.
Both Misha and Kalida are very interested in how
much the Gravella actually knows about the company, whether he's just a
figurehead or knows how it works. It quickly becomes apparent
that he knows the company in great detail: not just the accounting, but
the production figures, trends, seasonal considerations,
transportation, and so on. He is clearly well informed and
interested, and makes sure everything runs smoothly without
The Gravella makes it clear he's very willing to
engage in conversation with either of his neighbours at the table, but
at the same time does not push.
Over the course of the conversation, the Marchioness
makes it very clear that the man to his right is Sir Misha, Imperial
noble and Captain of her yacht. The Gravella smiles and nods at
this revelation. She mentions that at some point during her visit
she wants a more business oriented conversation, but not over this meal.
At that, the Gravella visibly relaxes. A
slight edge of tension evaporates, and he asks pleasantly after Sir
Misha's trip as if he'd come from just a few clicks away rather than
across star systems.
The Marchioness apologizes for it having taken so
long for her to get here.
The Gravella says they are simply glad that she is
here, so she can see for herself what they do.
Sir Misha says he regrets that the nature of the
situation made this trip a surprise.
Again, the Gravella responds politely, saying it was
a very pleasant surprise, and says that in future perhaps the situation
The Marchioness says she sincerely hopes so.
Meanwhile, via Teri's video feed, Shark is doing a
lot of work back on board Nightshade. He's cataloging,
people (by face) and seating position; cataloging human physio-type for
the planetary populace, and how it might differentiate from the
Imperial norm; cataloging security by the natives;
cataloging any obvious medical issues common or visible. He is
also feeding the language to Robert to analyze speech pattern
uniqueness for the planet.
The most surprising thing is that there appears to
be no security. This makes him very suspicious. As for the
local language, it's solid Galanglic but does have some local accents
and speech patterns. He should have enough to pick out any
Conversation at the table has turned to the
weather. It's just beginning autumn now, so the trees should be
turning soon. The Marchioness has arrived in what is probably the
most comfortable of the seasons.
The hunting is very fine here, apparently.
Today's meat was all hunted in the forest, and of course the
Marchioness is welcome to hunt in their forests as well as her own.
She says that some of her crew are interested in
hunting, so she will want to arrange it at s ome point. (The
Marchioness of course has never seen her forests. She doesn't
even know where it is.)
The Gravella says he would be glad to arrange this
for her, or of course she has her own staff for her own lands. He
apologizes that they do not have a rail link to her property, so she'd
have to use her own transport to get there in any reasonable
time. It would take a couple of weeks otherwise.
The Marchioness says she imagines there is not much
travel between here and there.
The Gravella nods. He says they will be glad
to build a rail link if she wants, but of course it's a little
difficult getting the materials.
She says that is not necessary. Her ship's
boat will be adequate.
The meal winds down through the courses, and as
dessert arrives, so does the Blockade Bourbon -- on every table, being
consumed as a routine matter. Teri is very careful to enjoy only
Soon people are starting to leave. The
Gravella asks the Marchioness if she would like to stay here -- where
she would be a welcome guest! -- or if she wants to move on to her own
The Marchioness says that she would like to stay
here, at least for tonight.
This clearly pleases the Gravella, who says that
their rooms have been prepared. He asks about luggage, although
Sir Misha quickly assures him they can handle that. Teri and Mich
will fetch it, and the Gravella will provide a carriage for them.
Mich won't be going anywhere, however. The
bourbon has struck home hard, and he's face down on the table. So
once Teri has helped Mich to his room, she'll fetch the luggage
herself. Sir Misha has been studying the Gravella's state of
inebriation, and he seems to be only slightly affected.
The Gravella asks after the Marchioness's
plans. She asks what they do with their evenings usually after an
event like this.
The Gravella says that he personally likes to go and
relax by himself and look out over the town.
The banquet has taken about three hours, and the
Marchioness says she would like to retire to her room.
The Gravella offers to escort her, leaving his wood
staff on the chair as he gets up. The others have their own staff
members to escort them.
Sir Misha is fine as long as his servant is going in
the same direction as the Marchioness, which they are. They are
heading up to the third floor of the building. As they go, he
looks around for security -- of which he sees none -- and assesses how
secure the building might be. All the main doors open outwards
and have fixtures for bars. The house itself is built of solid
stone, without any real openings on the lowest floor. There are
plenty of balconies and roof areas that provide positions to look down
on anyone approaching. Inside, it could also be blocked off and
defended in sections.
They end up at a single corridor, with Sir Misha's
rooms adjacent to the Marchioness's and sharing a door in the heavy
wall. The door is locked and barred on both sides.
At the far end of the large lounge room are tall
windows of Imperial tech glass, leading to a balcony which looks over
the town to the lake beyond. A gate separates the balconies for
the Marchioness and Sir Misha, locked on both sides. The two
suites -- mirror images around the shared wall -- also have several
bedrooms and dressing rooms, with a kitchen tucked back out of the way.
The Gravella says the Marchioness can use her own
staff if she wishes, or he can provide staff for her. She accepts
his offer. He says that if she needs anything, she can use the
intercom. The intercom appears to be Imperial tech.
Once the Gravella leaves, Kalida and Misha both
unlock their sides of the connecting door.
Teri eventually arrives with the luggage, fetched by
a cargo wagon driven by a couple of horses.
Mich has the first suite along the corridor, Misha
the next, then Kalida, and then Teri. There are no doors in the
other side of the corridor. This is the guest wing, and their
rooms are on the top floor of the building.
Misha asks the servant if he knows if there's anyone
from the Marchioness's staff here in town. The servant says that
there is not. He asks Misha if he wishes her staff to be informed
of her visit -- they
have not done so in case she wanted a surprise visit. Sir Misha
they do not with them informed at this time, but he would like the
coordinates of her estates.
As evening arrives, Shark scans for signs of life
out to 3-400km. Several hundred kilometers to the west of
the town he sees some light and smoke. He calls down and tells
the team that is probably the Marchioness's estates, as it's about the
right distance for the travel time the Gravella mentioned. He
asks if they want a flyover now or whether to wait until morning --
morning will be fine.
The map that has been provided shows this town,
Crow, fairly near the equator. The areas around to the west,
starting about 200km west of Crow, are shown as the Marchioness's
estates. Those lands spread around about a quarter of the
circumference of the planet, extending north and south for a
Misha takes the map to Teri so they can both study
it, as well as the people on the ship through her sunglasses.
They then both visit the Marchioness so she can see it too.
Several lodges are marked on the Marchioness's lands
-- one of these must be what the Gravella was talking about -- as well
as her main estate which is in the center of her lands, just north of
the equator. The forests occupy the eastern section of her
property, but soon tail off into what no doubt is native
ecosystem. Plains, savannah, hills, lakes. Shark says to
Chuck that he might be able to find somewhere in that part of the world.
The kitchen is stocked with breads, cooked meats,
various dairy products, butters and cheeses. The storage looks
like a low tech pantry but it's clearly kept cool, although not down to
refrigerator levels. There is running water, beer, and half a
dozen bottles of bourbon. Misha is astonished that there are a
couple of dozen megacredits of bourbon in their rooms.
But everything can wait until morning. The
team settle down for their first night on Nakege.