Metaworld Chronicles

by

Wutosama

Chapter 426 - The Profitess Returns

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A note from Wutosama

Reminder Vol.3 Is out ! 
Audiobook SOON for Vol 1 2 3 


Another smaller Chappie while I struggle through marking Exams 


 

As with Morrigan's woe, Gwen Song's absence from London was suffered by many who perceived that three months was too short of an exile for a young woman so capable of stumbling from one calamity to another.

A key reason for the ambivalent sentiment was because the green-eyed sorceress' influence reigned over the METRO like an oppressive fever, forever pervading the thoughts of those whose interests ran parallel and yet could not benefit from her angel-invested profit ventures.

When the Metro first put out the "Steppe" editions, the Sun and the Telegraph went so far as to lodge an official complaint to the Home Office that finally, the succubus' phantasmagorical populism had strayed into the realm of unhinged fiction.

Who the hell were these smiling Rat-kin? Where on the Prime Material did they even materialise? Why should Londoners be duly informed and made to care about these furry Demi-humans full of disease and filth? Khitani Centaurs? Cock! Creatures of myth and history! There were skeletons of dead Khans and other notable horses in the Museum of London should the average citizen feel so inclined; why should they read about the Horse Lords' losses in the Southern Campaign? And Mongolian Death Worms? Mere legend! These monsters would never visit England's tranquil shores, so why should the public be exposed to such sensationalist trash?

Silence the witch!
Outlaw the METRO!
Down with the Westferry Press!

The protests were many but under the penmanship of one Wyatt Bennett, a correspondent infamously sacked by the Sun and hounded into poverty by the Telegraph, riveting narratives of romantic dunes, handsome Horse Lords, furry Şöpter slaves, and Wyrms the size of skyscrapers ploughing through a sea of sand flowered like pigfaces in the desert's upcoming spring.

In the aftermath of a week-long assignment all-expenses-paid by the METRO, every man, woman and child in London now knew that was a place called Shalkar in the distant, exotic Sawahi and that it would soon ship its rare produce to London, all of which Morrigan was keen to sample.

Yet, without a second thought, the Metro's rival papers had roused the local traders of Wildland produce to resist the newcomer.

At first, the talk in town had been one of toxic scepticism, for who would desire to eat cucumbers or bake a squash that's farmed by foreigners' hands? Buy local! The Sun said, as did the Telegraph, albeit with tamer language. Support the Mageocracies' neighbourhood farmers! Never mind that small family farms accounted for a negligible volume of the Noble-owned properties or conglomerate-acquired arable land— how could one call themselves a loyal citizen of the Mageocracy if they put foreign-grown cabbages in their gullets or used turnips from some God-forsaken Black Zone? What was even in those legumes? Rat-phage! Pollutants! Mana miasma! Droppings? Everything and anything could be in those damned vegetables. FACT! The good people of London, said the Sun, should organise a protest at the docks to barricade the delivery ports so that no such filth could touch the Core tenet of "eat local" at the Mageocracy's heart!

Two weeks later, the METRO withdrew its statement that the vegetables coming in the next few months would be available to all. In the strongest terms, Dominic Lorenzo, Chief Editor at the METRO, strongly criticised his employer, the greedy Magus Gwen Song.

Gwen's great sin, the man stated with passion in a full-page editorial with the sorceress standing beside a literal circus of rats, Dwarfs, Dragons and more, was that she dared to restrain the supply of vegetables so that only the wealthy, the wise, and the well-connected could even think of purchasing her produce. What use— Dominic composed in his fiery rhetoric, where DRACONIC-INFUSED, ELF-TENDERED, TRYFAN-WROUGHT tomatoes if all of London could not toss it in a salad? Just look at this picture of her smug face! What's that? A Sand Wyrm? An ancient Thunder Wyvern? Was his boss, the self-proclaimed sorceress of the People, still a woman of philanthropy? Or had Gwen become another profit-seeking drake common to London's upper circles, like those Militant Factionists?

The following week's METRO ran an image of a Wyvern sleeping among the bean-stakes as the Rat-kin toiled to prove his point. Additionally, the front page included a full spread of loveliness more eye-catching than any number of Magus Song-look-a-likes on Page Three of the Sun.

"Her Grace, the High Hierophant Sanari of Tryfan teaches the Rat-kin how to enrich Sunset Squash."

Westferry's poor NoM paper sellers became mobbed by the Mages.

Elves— the people of London liked to read about Elves.

Immortal beings of loveliness, eternal youth, ageless wisdom and limitless sagacity, the embodiment of grace! Benevolent quintessences of good, who had remained in their tree homes, without conflict with the world, lending an occasional hand to the lesser, younger races of the Prime Material!

Lo! Read the article. Behold the Hvítálfars of Tryfan! Beings from living legends who had gifted man knowledge free of charge so that mortals may find their Path in a harsh and unforgiving world! Since the days of Pendragon, Elven mythoi had featured strongly in most of the Mageocracy's founding fables. To the citizens of what was once the largest continent-spanning empire in the Prime Material, Elves were as staple a concept as the Nazarene.

"The avarice-driven Magus Song", continued the METRO's string of "Steppe Specials", was in cahoots with upper-tier elements of the Shard, as well as the immortals from Tryfan. The Rat-kin, the paper noted from its secure, confidential "sources", had affirmed without prejudice that the Magus had no desire to sell her blessed, jewel-like, sumptuous tomatoes to the common folk of London at all. Instead, sources close to the Void Sorceress had proclaimed that Magus Song was the one behind the negative press because there was no way she could meet demand, fearing that her favouritism would draw the rightful ire of London's connoisseurs of Wildland cuisine!

Week after week, with the paper plastering every surface in London's Metro systems, obnoxiously hollered out by paperboys in every corner housing a crier, the city's attitude toward the Rat-kin's legumes shifted with the inevitable momentum of a glacier.

Where can we buy the Elf-food?
How much for a kilo of Draconic broad beans?
Was it true that eating a whole Sanari Spiced Squash could prolong one's life like a Vitae Fruit?
Will consuming the Gogo Tomatoes cure constipation?

Such were the rumours circulating London's transport systems and its dreary country towns.

And such were the reports clogging Mycroft Ravenport's desk, much to the delight and salivation of a particular soul-bound Goddess, one not usually given to gluttonous desires.

In an epoch before the Word Bearers of the Nazarene came upon the isle, when Morrigan could fully manifest her avatars, she had oft slaked her thirst at the bubbling brooks or dug her beak into the blood troths the Druids had raised in praise to the Mistress of Fatality.

In the past, men had called her the Goddess of War and Fate, the prophetess of doom, death and the demise of monarchs, a verdant force of nature kept hale by wicker caged offerings from humble old Druids. Unlike now, the ways of the painted men were more straightforward, a time when violence served as the catch-all solution to most of Humanities' and Demi-humanities' problems, where ambushes and betrayals were the height of intrigue.

And with the changing times, Morrigan had changed as well.

Now, she was secrets, door tapping ravens, and invasion of privacy.

Deprived of the offerings of ash, fire and flesh, she could only feast on the psychic energies in the building mortal men called Westminster, soaking herself in the icy effluence of conspiracy. Her Master, the Duke of Norfolk, was one such individual who was a reliable source of nourishment.

Then, of course, Morrigan had discovered a new fount of replenishment— one that escaped the restrictions of the Conditions placed upon her immaterial personage. Gwen Song, Apprentice and heir to an Arch Arcanist of old. The girl's Master was a man buried with more mysteries than in Westminster's catacombs, a sorcerer of the old ways who had dabbled in every conceivable form of mortal power. Interestingly, Kilroy's student wasn't an adherent of the arcane but preferred the psychic energy of greed, wants, dreams, and ambitions universally shared among the waking denizens of every Plane. It was a contrast that intrigued Morrigan as she perched over the Duke's desk, delighting in the man's growing exasperations over the sorceress' successes. Each time, the Oliphant in the room grew larger— was this the Sorceress' way of straying from the Path walked by her Master's wife?

Whatever the case, Morrigan was in no rush to allow her newfound source of Essence to wilt. Within the parameters of her contractual obligations to the seat of the Lord Marshall, she would nudge the girl just a few degrees toward what was best for them both. For two beings who were potentially going to be around for a very, very long time— she had no doubt there were more delicious secrets to be gleaned from the sorceress' Crystal-teeming mind.

Already, Gwen was paying dividends, for Morrigan was now privy to the delicious secret of the Dyar Morkk.

A few weeks into the Dwarves' arrival in Shalkar, after the Cores of the deceased were identified and numbered and consigned to the rebuilt Ancestor's Halls, the Dyar Morkk was once more activated. Thanks to the data gathered by Meister Bekker, Chief Overseer of the Sawahi Campaign, the residue mana signatures had provided two critical clues for the Duke's office.

One was something the Mageocracy had suspected for some time but had not the chance to prove— that a section of the Dwarven Low Ways was responsible for the mysterious theft of the Red Dragon Egg from Carrauntoohil as well as its transportation into London.

Until now, the illogical mechanics of that incident had been burning a hole in Ravenport's desk. For years, the Dragon Egg's appearance was a bigger mystery than the culprits responsible.

Firstly, Sythinthimryr was an ancient Red with near-total dominion over anything tainted with her Essence, including the eggs of her sister-scions. That Sythinthimryr herself would lose track of an egg either meant the egg was utterly consumed and its energies absorbed or that it had to be moved through an alternate dimension. Yet, all knew that one could not stow living things in Storage Rings or Handy Haversacks, much less a sacred object the weight, size, and mana-density of a Dragon Egg.

Secondly, while the Duke had suspected that the Elves could arguably use a Druidic Satchel to move the Red's egg, the Essence clash between Elven and Dragon magic made such ventures impossible. And to Tryfan and the Shard's knowledge, Sythinthimryr did not serve a Great Tree— even if she did, a theft from within was doubly as dubious as those blessed with Essence could not lie to their patrons.

Thirdly, an ancient being with the power of Sythinthimryr could slither between the Planes without too much trouble, meaning she could, if she would pay a small cost, access most of the Prime, Quasi and Para Elemental Planes, none of which would block the Essence sympathy of its kin-egg.

Thereby, logical deduction inferred that either Spectre had invented whole new forms of translocation magic— which meant the Mageocracy should now be sweating— or that the secretive organisation of these "Others" had merely exercised an opportunity.

A salvaged section of the Dyar Morkk, one made momentarily operable, was a logical culprit to the mystery of the suddenly appearing egg. With its subtle alteration of space, the Low Ways was naturally shielded from Planar disturbances and possessed a unique mana structure separate from Elven, or Draconic sorcery. That and the Dökkálfar had tunnelled beneath the shores of England since she was but a mote of divine desire in the days before Human Druids received the knowledge of sacrifice.

The findings, though satisfactory, raised new questions as well.

The Engineseer contingent in the Sawahi had reported that the route led north toward the mineral-rich tundras of Black Zones of mid-continental Russia. At its end, they found a second outpost— a processing citadel-hub, with sub-routes leading forward toward the Sundered Cities of the Ural region. Thankfully, these were devoid of kin and abandoned after the Beast Tide.

But where did the Elemental go from here?
Assuming there were no Dwarven traitors among Spectre's membership, how could the Brass Legions of the Fire Sea empower passageways that required Dwarven Runic magic, and indeed, the agile mind and living Cores of Dwarven Engineseers to maintain?

And indeed, if the Elementals had gone somewhere, as the evidence indicates, were they coming back? Could the Dwarves then lay an ambush for the inbound Brass Legion? When would they return? What were the indicators? The Dwarves knew nothing, and if the knife-ears at Tryfan had anything to say; they were undoubtedly silent.

The quiet was itself disquieting, for there were no disturbances anywhere in the Mageocracy's Domain that reported a horizon to horizon Legion of Fire Elementals wearing brass bangles and wielding armaments of barely-contained plasma.

The absence of trouble in Human lands had the Engineseer Assembly of Zugspitze paranoid with the direst possibility— "Boulderdash! Wha der ya ken, Human Thane? What if the blasted fire beards are going after Deepholm? What if they aim to cut off Deepdowners from the Ancestor's Halls as payback for our hard-won victory over the Sundering?"

Morrigan agreed with the hypothesis.
In the Himsegg, all roads led to Rome.
For the Dwarves, all the Low Ways led to Deepholm.

But her Master remained adamant that the Elementals were after something "more strategic". One Legion, Ravenport had argued, even one lead by an Elemental Prince as infamous as Zodiam, would not penetrate the adamantine walls of Deepholm. Unfortunately, as Morrigan's Master had lacked an impressive beard and the clout, the Deepdowner's worries remained unsatiated, catalysing the sleeping Citadels into deep-seated anticipations for a war they wanted to fight but didn't know how nor where or when.

To find a constructive outlet for the pent up tectonic forces fomenting below was now the woe troubling the Duke of Norfolk, who had promised their Dwarven allies full support for their grudge-driven coalition. It was good news for Morrigan, for the Duke's mind had not the energy to spare to rebuke her peevish rebellions, nor for the sorceress soon to return.

Therefore, Morrigan would gather her murder, then round up Cambridge's inglorious Rainbow Drake of the Pond. After that, as a pair, they would waylay the girl at the port and put an end to the Essence drought!



London.
The Isle of Dogs.

By the time she had visited Canary Wharf in her old life, the commercial hub had become one of the most impressive and desirable locales for transnationals. On the pier, everything was gleaming glass and polished concrete, and every conceivable brand and corporation had either set up headquarters or at least a token branch so as not to miss out on the opportunities for market expansion.

Baltimore Tower, the Landmark Pinnacle, the Newfoundland, Canada Square, One Park Drive, what had once been an industrial wasteland had become a real estate Mecca.

Comparatively, her much more modest Isle of Dogs remained a work in progress.

Shamefully, despite her best efforts, there were only three "Towers" tier buildings nearing completion— all between twenty to thirty storeys, albeit with deeper and busier basements than their alter-history counterparts. Ironically, as her transport barge sailed into Millwall's inner dockland, the most prominent structure of the region remained "The Bunker" or the Westferry Print Works headquarters, whose cubic Dwarf-designed facade and teeming patrols of men in industrial Golem suits made for quite the spectacle.

"Mistress," the aptly terrified voice of Strun rang out beside her. In the distance, the Shard floated like a sword staked into London's Core. "Are we at the heart of the Human world? Your tree homes are forged from obsidian and steel, no less wondrous than Mistress Sanari's stories of her home in Tryfan! And there are so many..."

By habit, her hand found its way onto Strun's ears, where her fingers dug through his luxurious, shampooed fur. Smelling no longer of sweat and Garp spice, the Rat-kin now had a softer look, one that spoke less harshly of what the young Demi-human had endured in becoming the "Herald of the Afaa al-Halak".

Initially, Gwen had considered Stian as her envoy to the Shard. Compared to the others, the Rat-kin was incredibly wise, not to mention the old fur-ball had seen enough shit go down in the Steppes to speak authoritatively on every relevant topic.

However, as she could only secure one Core-Shielding Enchantment from The Shard for an "ambassador" to London from the Rat-kin— the Elder had left the opportunity to his grandson.

"Go forth and see the true world, how large it is and what we must endure to eke out a living in its shadows." The Elder had entrusted his grandson with quite the mission. "You will be the Eldest one day, Strun, as you are the Whisperer of the Wyrm. If even YOU lack the eyes to see where our people must go, then the Rat-kin are truly doomed like the Horse Lords."

The sagacity of Stian's natural foresight almost made Gwen wish she could transport the old rat over to London to work under Walken as the Magister's second.

Patting the rat's head some more, she regarded her other returning companions.

Elvia and Mathias were now... tanned.

Their accomplishments in establishing a foothold for the Order of the Bath in Shalkar was commendable, but what truly made Gwen chew her lower lip was the healthy, golden glow her Evee now exuded.

A tanned, olive-complexioned Evee with skin the colour of royal honey that offset her baby-blue eyes? Not only that, the Cleric had spent so much time in the field and then again in the "field" with her Familiars that her flaxen locks were now bordering on platinum. Her allure was now criminal! A combination like that on a face as angelic as Elvia's was the stuff of salvation! In her opinion, all Evee needed to harness Faith from the masses was to trot herself out in a daisy dress and sandals, a big old blooming Ki-ki on her shoulder, and her Tri-Crown icon would become a second sun!

After three months, Gwen felt a little bit like she had fallen in love all over again. The surf, the Sun, the beach— once upon a time, those were the stuff of her soul.
Of course, there were no seas in Shalkar, but the oasis was no less blue, and its sands were just as blonde, and her Evee all tanned and golden like syrup.

As for her vampiric self—
The Devourer of Shenyang sighed at the approaching gallery of reporters with their lumen recorders and hovering casters. Like Jean-Paul, her kind was forever doomed to be pale. Even if she withstood the Sawahi's relentless sun, she could temporarily polymorph into Sebastian, the lobster— but it took less than a day for her complexion to heal and the skin to shed like a snake's, an analogy a terrified Ollie had remarked with great alarm the first time it happened.

"Are those your servants?" Strun indicted the crowd on the pier. "They seem very eager to see you."

"No…" Gwen said absentmindedly. "We don't do servants and Masters here, Strun. In theory, everyone is 'equal'. Only hard cash, merits, and accomplishments can raise one above the masses, though I would take that with a pinch of Garp spice..."

"I see." Strun gulped. "Will they understand me?"

"I trust the Runesmiths knew what they're doing." Gwen's fingers brushed the device on Strun's neck, hand-tuned by the Runesmiths that had later arrived in Shalkar to make good on their promise to reduce the burden of their "debt".

Like her Ratopia, Vjalth Agaeth Kjangtoth was now undergoing a complete restoration and refit, with a coalition of Clans and kin to the original inhabitants gathered to replenish its numbers. The new Dwarves who arrived late were very quickly introduced to her by Hanmoul, who immediately inaugurated the newcomers through Sen-sen's infused Maotai.

For her Dwarven friends, Gwen opened not only her heart but also her Storage Ring.

The results involved the partial destruction of one of Sanari's baobab trees, the birth of a new legend, "the Lassie who inhales booze", and harsh reprimands from the Balefire Elders wondering if some unseen power had abducted their construction team in the Murk.

Gods, has it been three months? Really? Her mind reeled just thinking about what she had built out of pure incidence.

Without the evidence of Elvia's taut, tanned skin taunting her with their sun-kissed warmth, she could hardly believe that she had been outside of London for almost a hundred days and that the snow had come and gone and the banks of The Thames were now in hues of olive and emerald. A part of her implicitly understood that she missed the city and her people within it, but the charm of having "gone wild to the Black Zone" had left its mark.

Already, she longed for the limitless desert vista with its cloudless, ultramarine distance that stretched in every direction, with the sky feeling like a pair of big blue arms that could scoop her up and take her to a place without worries.

Even the labour of instructing the Rat-kin, which was expectedly tedious and frustrating, was a joy that London's bookkeeping could hardly compare. Every day, the concrete results of her work passed her by, hailing her as Mistress or Priestess as they loaded bales of foodstuffs onto the sand sleighs of the Horse Lords' Drover Teams.

Even Sanari had stayed for the better part of two months until one morning— the Druid abruptly declared that she would be returning to Tryfan for reasons beyond their need to know.

The Trellis Portal had shimmered, then the Druid was gone.

Gwen lifted her hand from Strun's ears.
The press was waiting for her on the docks like a pack of Jackal Priests anticipating a human femur.

She wanted to skip them and instead find Petra, Richard, and Walken, but her Ratopia needed obscene profits for its second and third phases to flourish.

Thereby, Gwen straightened her spine and flattened her wind-tossed dress— now was the time to put on a happy face.

 

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Okay, so now NSW's government is readying for us to "Live" with Covid

but not really, lockdown continues

and all the kids are online 
Some of the kids don't know how to use Google... 
Some of the kids are Spectrum and apparently they need to sit in front of a screen and NOT MOVE for 2 hours... 

Anyway, the Covid Exam Saga continues....

Update! 

Bad news guys, our Government is trying to kill me (with work) 
They delayed HSC (university entry) by 1 month as a result of fucking up vaccines. 
As such, I now have the pleasure of not only NOT having a break
But having New students (40+) coming in while old students (30+) can't leave. 
From now to November 9th 
The work... is going to be a new level of insanity (also Baby doesn't sleep, the damn owl)
... Prays and Thoughts. 
So small / delayed chappies will continue until this bullshit is over. 


About the author

Wutosama

Bio: I write on the phone and edit at home. Times are tough!

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