Chapter 3: The Secret Mission

The Council gives Xeno a call to action. He sets forth into the dark unknown.
“You’ll find the chaise at the wagon port near the North wall,” Izmi had said after collecting her winnings. But to Xeno, it already seemed like more of a responsibility than a gift. At the wagon port he had found Demeter’s old trading chaise in good condition, but the porter demanded that Xeno pay the lodging fee for chaise and Ken before releasing them. In addition, the Ken needed shoeing and a halter re-fitting. However, it was a smart animal, and had eyed Xeno with friendly caution. Xeno’s last wages from the Emporium would not cover the sum. One thing was certain: Xeno would not work for Delen. He would have to find another way. Between the wagon port and the North Gate, a small pavilion offered herbal, black, and mild psychotropic teas for those wishing to relax, perk up, or take a very short, mild trip. Near the watchful eyes of the gate guard, it was a safe place to rest in the busy city. Xeno leaned against the bar, sipped his steamed salep milk, and contemplated his next move. He watched the traffic come and go through the gate. Farmers travelled into the city, ready to sell the vegetables piled high on their carts at the next High Node Day. Gentlemen and ladies in pleasure-carriages headed out in the nearby country to enjoy the sunny late afternoon. Groups of soldiers passed underneath the gates, heading out into the country for exercises, or into the city’s barracks to come off duty. Xeno never remembered there being this many soldiers from Ra, but High Node Days did require extra security. Xeno sipped his salep and turned his view back to the wagon port. A teenaged kobold ran up to the front, clad in a messenger’s girded loins and loose tunic. She spoke with the porter, who gestured over to the tea pavilion. The messenger ran over to Xeno. “You are Xeno Aremet, nephew of Demeter, yes? The Council wishes to speak with you, official business for the Localists. I am to take you to their meeting chambers. Mmmm, is that salep? Well, I suppose we don’t need to go back right away.”
The waiting room in the Council Building echoed with hushed voices. Merchants struck deals with minor politicians, voices warped to mumbled sibilants by the high ceiling. Aides to the Council representatives created laws with other aides, so the actual representatives were free to shout at each other in the main rooms. Conversations about luxury taxes, campaign endorsements, or the overreach of Ra began in the coffee shops and taverns of Chalcis and ended here. This was the political heart of Southern Ra. Xeno was led from the vaulted waiting area, past the main Council Halls and into a smaller meeting chamber furnished with a large circular table. Sitting around the table were a group of gnomes and kobolds, who waited for Xeno to take his seat at the table before beginning. “The Chair recognizes Xeno Aremet, trader novitiate in the Kome Independent Cooperative, and Localist Party Member. Thank you for coming.” The kobold in the chair furthest from the door nodded at Xeno. Her scales were mostly grey, with light green scales near her temples and on the top of her head. She stroked her whiskers grandly, as the other kobolds and gnomes around the table nodded and whispered amongst themselves. “Hello,” Xeno said. “Greenshirt through and through. Although today, I, um.” “Of course, of course, no matter.” The Chair dismissed Xeno’s grey shirt with a wave of the hand. “I am Karona Tarmuth, Chair of the Lower Trading Committee. You may know my distant cousin Kiren. I am sorry to hear about Demeter, she was a wonderful woman and a true kobold.” “Oh, yes, thank you,” Xeno said. “We summoned you today for a special task. We are looking to expand our pool of representatives. You would be acting in a diplomatic capacity, although, unofficially. The matter is this: a scholar at Innsmouth University is conducting some very interesting experiments on the High Node there. He has agreed to relocate to our smaller university here in exchange for certain items needed for his experiments. If you accept this task, you will go to Innsmouth, meet the scholar, determine the items needed and obtain them if possible.” “Innsmouth? For the Localists?” Xeno asked. “Yes, we are particularly interested in the political effects of his Node experiments. I myself, and a few of my colleagues, have a hypothesis that this knowledge could redraw political boundaries that have existed for centuries. Therefore, we would like him nearer to us. Further from Ra. And before you ask, we don’t know what he needs. He refuses to tell us what these items are, even through encrypted Dancer message. He’s very eccentric, even for an Innsmouth scholar. However, we believe you are well-suited for this: recommendations by both Demeter and Kiren, successful completion of trade runs in the Kome co-op. Yes, you are the kobold for the job, if you will have it.” Xeno considered the prospect of staying in Chalcis: restarting a venture in the co-op, or even worse, working for Delen in the old Emporium. No, Aoeth was wide and vast. Xeno wanted to run its routes; he wanted shift around a small part of the world for himself. And the Party cause was right. “Yes. I accept.”
Next -- Chapter 4: The Raian Plan