The party enters the arena proper and makes plans with the bookkeeping office to look at the paperwork when things are slightly less busy. Meantime, Caesar buys an awesome purple cloak, and makes a promise of questionable sense. After that they go into the stands, and after briefly observing one of the matches, talk to the creator of the crystals about how they work.
Just inside the arena, there are a few people walking along the hallway, some clearly rushing somewhere, others just strolling along. There is one hot dog or some other sausage-like thing vendor at the corner.
“Faron, do you know if there’s an office or something where they might keep the records about the judges?” Marcella asks.
“Any place worth its salt that holds regular fights should have at least a bookie somewhere,” Fianna says, her voice kind of on edge. “Judging by the size of this place I’m guessing there’s a lot of them.”
“There’s a bookkeeping office that would have that information farther around, yes,”
Faron agrees and walks off. The rest of the party follows him.
As the party walks to the office, they notice that the wall murals, tiles and archways are battle themed. The murals are organized by types of battle, slowly building up towards larger and larger and more and more spectacular fights until we reach the actual formal entrance to the Arena where the reverse happens. The details are simply exquisite, though in some cases a bit worn. Those murals and decorative pieces that look a little more worn are older and done by someone different, although the more recent murals and carvings did try to match the old ones. The older murals are also more disturbing and violent, more likely to gruesomely show someone’s death.
“Very thematic decorations,” Marcella comments. She sounds much more controlled than when they were first entering the Arena.
Iris murmurs, “I wonder who or what built this place”
“Yes, I do wonder that, with those statues outside …” Marcella responds.
“Hmm… I don’t like the look of those people there even if they weren’t fighting” Iris points to the oldest murals.
Zia looks at the mural Iris points to. “Well, happily we aren’t hear to fight or even enjoy the fights. We can go in, get this done and leave.” she says quietly.
“I guess. I just want this part to be over.”
Most of the group nods in agreement with that sentiment.
They arrive in front of what is clearly the booking office. There is a whole row of tellers off to the side taking bets from an assortment of changelings and Hedge denizens—some of whom appear to be paying with the oddest assortment of seemingly random objects—and behind them through a row of bars you can see several people at desks and running back and forth carrying large stacks of paper. There is a door off to the side that appears to lead into the office, with a grumpy looking changeling that resembles a gargoyle off a cathedral standing guard, grumbling to himself and chewing on a rancid looking cigar.
Marcella walks up to the door and knocks smartly.
“Oi,” the gargoyle changeling says, looming over you with his cigar in his mouth. “You can’t just walk in there. Who d’ya think you are?”
Marcella doesn’t mention that she hadn’t actually tried to enter the office. “Sorry for the intrusion, sir. We’d like to see the record of who judged a particular match. Do you hold those records here?”
The man folds his arms and looks down at you. “Maybe we do. But I ain’t gnna send you in there unless you can give me a good reason. Can’t go lettin’ just anyone see the records. On who or what’s authority are you here?”
Marcella gives a slight bow and steps to the side very slightly so he can see Faron better, in case he recognizes him. “My apologies, I should have mentioned that first. We are here to carry out an official investigation on behalf of the Summer Court.”
The changeling grimaces. “Well, I ain’t one of Kenna’s Iron Spears myself, I owe allegiance to Winter. So name recognition isn’t gonna help you here.” He levels his gaze at Faron. “But just on the off chance, it ain’t a good idea to upset a monarch. So give me the details, boyo. Why are you looking for these records?”
“On assignment from Queen Kenna, we’re looking into the recent attacks by the hobs. They’re upset by how one of the matches went. We’re hoping to gain information to put them at ease and end the attacks,” Faron answers.
“Oh, THAT mess.” The changeling rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I can see Kenna wanting to stop all the hullabaloo. Fine, I’ll let you in, let the bookies sort you out. Just do me a favor; keep that talk down around the patrons. Worth more than my job if attendance tapers, you hear?” He steps aside.
Faron nods with a polite smile. “Thank you.” He goes in.
“We understand, thank you kindly for your assistance,” Marcella says as she goes in.
Caesar nods, but remains outside. No point in a billion people in a single office.
The rest of the party follows them in.
Inside the office is chaos. Changelings and the ocassional Hedge creature are running everywhere with records and piles of money and assorted items the party can only assume are bets for the matches. There is a large chalkboard on the wall with some sort of strange shorthand that is the day’s current standings and odds. A woman with flowerlike features is directing the madness from a desk in the center of the room
Marcella takes the lead again and walk up to the flowerlike woman.
“Can I help you? I’m quite busy,” the woman says distantly, paying more attention to an abacus in her hands and a stack of forms than to you"
“I’m sorry for interrupting, then,” Marcella says. “We are investigating a matter for Queen Kenna, and we would like to see the record of who judged a particular match. Where do we find those records?”
At the mention of Kenna, the bookeeper looks up. “Oh! Why didn’t you say so? Anything I can do to help my queen and court is a privilege.” She stands. “I don’t recognize you, are you some of the young ones who’ve come to Aachen recently?” She peers around at the group, before her eyes settle on Faron. “Is that you, Faron? What are you doing out here, honey? Are you eating all right?”
Marcella’s mouth quirks into an involuntary grin for a moment, but she smoothes her features quickly, “Yes, the rest of us just recently arrived in Aachen."
Fianna’s black mood lifts for a moment and she snickers quietly to herself.
Faron smiles somewhat sheepishly. “I’m eating well enough, thank you Trillium. I’m… supervising this new group for awhile.”
Caesar taps his foot impatiently and decides to go walk around to see what these vendors are.
“Isn’t that sweet of you,” Trillium says. “Anyways, you said you came to look at a judging records.is that right?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Marcella says.
Caesar goes over to what looks like a hippy clothing store.
“Well, we are awfully busy right now,” Trillium says thoughtfully. “It might be easier for you to come back in a couple of hours, when we have a bit of a break. Then I can take you to the records room and not have to worry too much about people wondering what we’re doing back there—I assume Kenna wants this done as delicately as possible, if she’s investigating an official ruling. In the meantime, I can give your group a pass that will get you into the stands for free, so you can pass the time—or do a little extra investigating.” She winks at the last comment. “Would that suit you?”
Marcella glances around at the group. “We were also hoping to take a look at the crystals which test for illegal contracts in the ring. Can we get close to those from the stands?” She says this quietly.
Trillium gets serious. “Well now, we ARE getting down and dirty, aren’t we. Unfortunately, I can’t take you down there myself—I can’t leave for that long and bookkeepers don’t really have the authority to be in the maintenance shafts below the crystals…but I know someone who might be willing to bring you down. He’s one of the technicians, a Wizened by the name of Arcturos. Ask one of the techs at the crystals in the stands in between matches—they can tell you where he is today. Then later, come back here and I can show you those records.”
Faron smiles, bright and sincere. “Thank you.”
“Yes, thank you so much for your help. We’ll be back in a few hours,” Marcella adds, a little weirded out by a bright smile from Faron, but managing to look politely at Trillium, give a friendly nod, and start heading out of the office without showing it, followed by the rest of the party.
The vendor Caesar approached is a tiny little wizened woman. Her sign says, “Hedgespun for the Ages: produced entirely in the hedge by virgin hobs in a smoke-free, fae-free, margarine-free, and curse-free environment” Her stall has a wide variety of clothing, primarily in tie-die fabric.
“Hey there. So what’s all of this?” Caesar asks the Wizened, referring to his goods.
“Hello my dear! My wares are Hedgespun for the Ages: produced entirely in the hedge by virgin hobs in a smoke-free, fae-free, margarine-free, and curse-free environment!” She gestures grandly. “I have anything you could need! Do you need a cloak to look even more impressive than you already do? Or perhaps you want to get the ladies! Ooh, I have a hat for that! Maybe you need a little bit direction in the hedge? Well, worry not, I have a lovely pair of pants for that function and they have pockets!”
Cloaks were cool, weren’t they? thinks Caesar. “I see that people don’t exactly pay with currency. What would you want for a cloak?”
The wizened woman smiles, “That depends on what you have to offer good sir! We do take euros in a pinch, but if you have a sufficient number of oddments or hedgefruit or promises, that will do.”
“How does twenty Euros sound for it?” Caesar asks
She thinks for a second. “20 euros for one of these lovely cloaks made in a smoke-free, fae-free, margarine-free, and curse-free environment! 20 euros and 4 hedge fruits or one middling promise.”
“Middling promise?” Caesar asks, unsure. “Of what nature?”
“It is a promise is more than something insignificant or less than something important,” she smiles like that was helpful.
Caesar waggles his eyebrows. “What would the promise entail me to do?”
“Depends on what you are willing!” She looks down at a list in squiggles you cannot read. “Would you be willing to wear only purple for all of next week? This includes your underwear and shoes.”
Caesar almost laughs. “Sure! I think I could pull that off, assuming I could find some purple clothing.”
The rest of the groups emerges to see Caesar bartering with the old Wizened woman for a cloak.
Amy goes over to see the stall he is looking at.
Caesar notices Amy. “Oh, wow, you all finished faster than I expected. Manage to get everything?”
“We’re gonna go back later. They’re busy.” Amy answers succinctly.
“Excellent! Please swear the following, I, insert your name here, do swear that I will wear only purple, head to toe from 12:01 Sunday morning until 11:59 the follow Saturday.” the stallkeep says
“What?” Amy starts giggling.
“In the meantime, we have a lead to investigate the crystals,” Marcella says quietly to Caesar.
“Ah,” Caesar nods and turns back, almost embarrassed that the others have to hear what he has to do. “Uh…I, Caesar Berry, do swear that I will wear only purple, head to toe from 12:01 Sunday morning until 11:59 the following Saturday.” He glances back to the others, “uh…ignore that bit.”
The stallkeep smiles widely and crosses a line off of her list. She then opens a little book and carefully writes: Cloak of Zing- 20euros and promise of purple for one week, Caesar Berry. “Thanks so much! Would you like the purple, green, or blue?”
“I suppose purple, given I have to wear it.” He shrugs.
Marcella blinks a bit at Caesar’s transaction, but doesn’t comment.
Caesar silently thanks her for that. Its embarrassing enough.
“Do you have that much purple?” Amy wonders aloud, “Zia, you could make him some!”
“Hmmm…I do believe I have some purple…not sure I can make him a weeks worth of clothes in 3 days though.” Zia answers.
“I could help.” Amy volunteers.
“Here you go!” The woman pulls down a lovely cloak in purple that looks like someone caught waves into it and dyed it purple.
“Clothes CAN be reworn, Fancypants,” Fianna says, rolling her eyes.
Caesar takes the cloak, says a “thanks,” and puts it on. It looks nice.
“They could, I suppose,” Caesar nods, referring to the practice of rewiring clothes. “Not like I haven’t before.”
“You look very stylish,” Marcella comments.
“Thanks Amy, that would be fun!” Zia replies to Amy. “Clothes can be reworn…but in the same week! Unacceptable.”
“I guess we should head for the stands and look for one of those technicians?” Marcella suggests.
Amy nods in agreement, looking slightly less amused now that they are back to business.
“Sure,” Caesar nods. “Thanks again for the cloak!”
“My pleasure sir! Do keep your promise. I’ll know otherwise. Oh! and make sure to stand in the wind near the ocean sometime, the cloak likes that.” she replies to him and turns back to arranging her wares.
The cloak can like things? Amy wonders what else the cloak likes.
Fianna mutters something about there being something ‘not right’ about sentient clothing. “Where do you suppose the stands are from here. I suppose we better get this over with.”She sounds the opposite of enthused.
With a nod, Caesar turns his attention back to the group. “So these technicians know about the crystals? Where do we find them?"
“We have to find them in the stands in between matches. Someone in the office gave us passes to get in,” Marcella explains. “Faron, do you know where the entrance is?”
“There are several. I’ll take you to the closest one,” Faron answers, and begins walking off again, followed by the rest, Caesar looking awesome in purple.
Everyone hands their tickets to the man standing at the entrance to the stands.
They all walk out into the sunlight of the Arena. The stands are rather full, though not stuffed. Most of the people are standng and cheering. Their attention is caught by the sands of the Arena glowing in the sunlight, dirty in places with blood. A full out fight between two teams is going on, with a person at either end standing in a circle. It is unclear who is winning.
Hulda blinks at the brightness, and then starts looking around to see if she can spot the crystals. She wants to see if/how visible they are from the stands before going to look at them up close.
Amy watches the fighting, looking confused.
Fianna freezes. Anyone paying any attention to her notices that her muscles are all tense, and her fists are balled up. She is staring at the scene below with an expression that is angry….but also something else.
Zia looks around, not uncomfortable, but not pleased with the blood and mess.
Caesar glances over the crowd before watching the group battle.
“Hey,” Says Amy, “are they fighting or are they playing?”
Marcella stops next to Fianna and looks down at the fighting, expression distant and not quite seeing what she’s staring at. One hand is gripping the hilt of her sword tightly. She puts the other on Fianna’s shoulder and squeezes.
Iris isn’t saying anything, she’s creeped out and fidgeting with her rifle if she can.
Zia quickly answers Amy, “They are fighting, but in a playful fashion with rules.”
As Zia says that a treelike changeling crushes someone’s arm with a root-like appendage. There is an audible crunch and the crowd responds wildly.
Fianna’s only response to Marcella grabbing her shoulder is to reach her opposite arm over and grab the top of her hand.
Iris looks over to them, but doesn’t know how to react. She decides just staying petrified is fine.
After another moment, Marcella squeezes Fianna’s shoulder again and lets go. She clears her throat.
“So, where exactly are these crystals?” She’s looking at the stands now, rather than the fighting in the Arena. Her fist is still tight on her sword hilt, knuckles white, but her expression is closed off.
The crystals are easy to spot: four irregular but very large pillars topped with the crystals stand at roughly equal intervals around the arena fighting area. They are all glowing a hot white.
After a moment of actually looking at the stands, Marcella leads the way towards the base of the nearest one. Before she starts moving, she says quietly to Fianna, “I don’t think all of us need to go, if you don’t want.”
“Like hell,” Fianna replies. “A distraction is just what I need.” She heads down towards the nearest crystal.
Marcella walks slowly, since they are supposed to find the technicians in between matches, and this one doesn’t seem like it’s over yet.
Caesar alone stays behind to watch the fight, paying special attention to the battle and the crystals, watching for anything that might happen to either.
Everyone else walks to the nearest crystal and lo and behold there is a wizened changeling wearing a cap that says “I am the Tech, beware.”
Marcella decides it’s worth a try, even if we’re not between matches right now. “We’re looking for Arcturos, could you tell us where he is right now?”
The tech turns around, “I am he. Can I help you?”
“Well. That was easy,” Fianna says flatly.
“We were sent to you by Trillium,” Marcella explains. “We’re carrying out an investigation for Queen Kenna, and we’d like to get down into the maintenance shafts beneath the crystals.” She leans close to minimize the chance of audience members nearby overhearing her.
“For the queen!” he says quietly, but with fervor. “This is about that fight a bit ago, isn’t it? Well, I don’t see why you need to go down there, unless you know something about this kind of system? I’m assuming you don’t, no offense. I can tell you that the system hasn’t been tampered with at all.”
“How sensitive are they?” Faron asks. “Would they flash at the slightest sign of anything outside the bounds of the rules?”
“Sensitive as anything! I helped design it after all! Now, we assume that the competitors fight in a variety of our fights and since each kind of match has different rules, there is a pink setting that the crystals will flash if someone starts doing say a two-step thing that can lead to breaking a rule. For example if you are a poisonous changeling in a match where that isn’t allowed and you start getting your poison all ready, they will flash pink. That reminds most of the fighters, oops, wrong rules and they stop. Now if they carry through on it, the crystals will turn red and stay that way for 60 seconds.” Arcturus explains
Marcella nods thoughtfully. “You’re right, sir, none of us are experts, and I doubt we could tell more than you could about whether these crystals have been tampered with.” She pauses. “Were you at that match? I don’t suppose you could tell us what happened?”
“I didn’t think you looked like experts in this kind of thing. I wasn’t at that match, I was downstairs, making the sealed die for a new kind of match.” he replies.
“The sealed die?” Marcella asks.
“There are so many different kinds of matches we do here. So there is a die we put into the controller for the crystal system for each kind of match. The seal turns black if it has been tampered with.” He replies proudly.
“I see, that does seem like a very secure system,” Marcella says. “Thank you so much for your help, I think you’ve answered our question.”