Note: If you haven't read Ultraviolet Grasslands, most of this writeup will seem like psychedelic heavy metal Mad Libs. Even if you have ready UVG it's going to be a mess.The PCs are:
Cogflower necromancer lawyer. A mutant human thief/necromancer and warlock of Kon-Fabulate. Equipped with starscape skin, a vibrating thumb, a telephone that talks to dead people, and basic legal training.
Bluelander engineer. A human hunter on the run. Member of the Bluelander Liberation Front.
Gormog the Builder
Safarian merchant adventurer. A half-orc barbarian/fighter and warlock of Kon-Fabulate. Gormog is neither pretty nor clever, but knows a good deal when he sees it.
Exiled pirate liberal. A half-elf barbarian chased out of the Red Lands for their radical views, Clovis has a chainsword and a tattooed map to an aerolith fortress.
Wine vampire priest. A dwarf forcebender wizard and warlock of Deel, Orbital Wargoddess. Full of a strange blend of bloodlust and diplomacy.
|Sean Andrew Murray|
Karl recovered from his Deel-induced madness. Each morning, as the Orbital Wargoddess rose over the horizon, the warlock reported his progress to his patron via a crystal holy symbol. On the first morning of his expedition, She had replied with a personal psi-radio message. Karl would find a great weapon and use it to raze a city. This was foretold. Stand by for future transmissions.
Unable to contain his excitement, the warlock polished the skull of his first war-conquest of the journey. Then he caught malaria. The party, thinking he was just being a wizard, had let the disease run its course for two weeks as the feverish dwarf gibbered and raved. He'd recovered his lucidity, if not his dignity, by the time they reached the Porcelain Citadel.
The group spent the rest of Firstmonth preparing for an expedition to the Last Serai. The first of the season's odd fruits were fresh off the vine. Karl delivered his pearl-gift to Leopard Lithopane 4-dyad and in return received both polite thanks and a commercial offer. The distracted polybody needed 10 backup bodies transported to the Last Serai and delivered to Angel 22-unity. Lithopane 4-dyad would pay the Company €120 per body, provided the group bypassed any Porcelain Prince checkpoints.
"It's not technically slavery," Granville explained to the rest of the party while checking the contracts. "Their souls and brains were scooped out. They're just cargo now. Our client is paying for discretion. Let's be discreet."
Only mildly disgusted by the plastic-wrapped forms in sterile nutri-pouches, the Cat's Meow Trading Company accepted the offer. They filled the rest of their carts with supplies, odd fruits, and a faintly luminous cask of Vavilov-Cherenkov vodka.
They also acquired another dwarf. Frieda, a demon hunter from the Red Lands, had made her way into the Ultraviolet Grasslands to fight the most perfidious demon of all: capitalism.
Note: the player came up with the idea on the spot after rolling for race and background. UVG's background tables are great for that. Nothing is explained but everything evokes.All lesser demons, ultras, spirits, and ghosts are merely servants or aspects of the system of capital that enslaves millions (or so Frieda believes, and preaches publicly whenever she can). Luckily, demons can be cast out with a Halberd of Polearming (a polymorphic oldtech metal thing on a stick that tries to transform into the optimal weapon type as swung but is often wrong) or some illegal drugs.
Because she'd used some link-disrupting drugs to free Sardio Nesbit 3-body from their polybody bonds (causing a small riot and an Orwellian memory-erasure campaign), Frieda needed to leave the Porcelain Citadel before the law tracked her down. Her experience as a propagandist could be turned to marketing, provided she could swallow her disgust at serving with a trading company. The Cat's Meow Trading Company suited her needs nicely. While planning her escape, she'd also plotted a route to the Last Serai that avoided all known tolls and checkpoints.
The group departed. They spent some of their cash on gear, but didn't have enough to purchase mounts (and Porcelain City Monobody Driving Chits) for everyone. The next leg of their journey would be on foot. Gormog had cause to curse his parsimonious nature when, two days out of the Citadel, he stepped on a jagged porcelain shard. The group still had some of the healing salve doled out to Granville, but Gormog's orcish physiology healed around the splinters. Every step resulted in bone scraping on porcelain. He made the rest of the journey in the back of a wagon.
Apart from mirages and cinnabar dust, the only encounter on the long drudge through the dunes was Romalt and T'salt, incongruous tree-traders. Their lone mule-driven cart carried four perfect evergreens. "Petroleum trees from Lake Wyv," Romlat said, while T'salt clutched his shotgun, "green as life and a thousand times as sturdy. There's a forest of them near the shore."
The bristly plastic tree evoked a memory in Clovis. The half-elf's aerolith map tattoo had appeared during a drunken escapade. Vague memories of the shadowy tattooist fluttered forward. "When you reach the forest of petroleum trees, then..." Then something. Clovis couldn't remember what.
The Ignored Tower marked their path, its electrostatic gleam guiding them to the last outpost of real civilization. The triple domes of the Last Serai, and their fabled harmonium rods, beckoned. After a week on the road, a chance at indoor plumbing, food that didn't taste of cinnabar dust, and distance from their eerie cargo was extremely welcome.
The Harmonium, the second and lesser citadel of the Porcelain Princes, was heavily guarded. Laquer Stone 4-body, a partially disassembled organ-tube prince in a golem shell, inspected all deliveries and visitors with aggressive Vome-scanners and bio-invaders. Gormog swallowed nervously and backed away. The silver Vome-threads running through his arms had faded, but he could hear buzzing in his chest at night and his earwax had gone rusty.
Laquer Stone 4-body inspected the cargo forms, then scanned each spare body with an oversized beeping bioscanner. One of the ten seemed to attract its attention. "Is something wrong?" Granville asked, "because we didn't tamper with these bodies at all. Delivered as received."
"No problems," the polybody buzzed, after a few moments.
"And... our payment?" Granville asked, as the last of the bodies was hauled inside the dome.
"Payment. Correct," the polybody said, inspecting the cargo forms for a second time for some reason. A small wisp of smoke rose from its ceramic fingers as it handed back the sheaf of paper. A different body handed over a case full of porcelain credit discs.
Note: Polybody contracts are written on triangular sheaves of paper so multiple bodies can read and inspect them simultaneously. Unfolded, they're like a wheel of paper. Folded, they're like a small umbrella.Granville made a note to inspect the contract... then stowed it in his case for later.
"Funerals," the four singers mournfully intoned. Beneath the paint on their wagon, the words "Barbershop Quintet" were still faintly visible. In any case, the drunken merchants invited Mila to join their drinking binge. She accepted, temporarily abandoning the rest of the group, who set off to find suitable lodgings and sale quarters in the Last Trading House.
The general rule seemed to be that any room not currently occupied and with more than a finger's thickness of dust was free for the taking. The first room the party searched contained crates of potatoes and light-bulbs. The wizards detected something vaguely magical underneath, so half the group set about digging through the desiccated tubes and crunching bulbs.
The next room searched contained six spare polybodies in plastic cases. They seemed fresh, untouched by dust or age. They looked oddly similar to some of the ten bodies the PCs had delivered, but it was difficult to tell. Why would they be stored in a disused room outside of the Polybody citadel?
The potato-room contained another mystery; a cryo-coffin with a bejewelled and serious-looking barbarian king inside. "What a treasure," Karl said. "We could tip him out and use the coffin to transport fruit! In there, it'd keep for weeks! Months! We'd be rich." Some speculative plans for defrosting or concealing their find were proposed but not enacted.
Meanwhile, in the Buried Delicatessen, Frieda enjoyed an expensive (but complimentary) drink of antigravibrandi (and spilled quite a bit up her nose), then sipped on shots of cheap petroleum distillate while pretending to get progressively more tipsy.
Note: Frieda has a Dex of 3 and a Wis of 6. Str 13 and Con 14 though, so once she's untangled herself she can wade into a brawl with the best of them.The owner of the Buried Delicatessen, Anise of Star, seemed on edge. A nameless tension seemed to pervade the Last Serai. Something was brewing. Everyone was looking for the exits. Some said the Porcelain Princes had stolen a prophecy from the Spectrum Satraps, and the prophecy spoke of the destruction of the Princes. Some said a Vome had infiltrated the highest order of Princes. Others just packed their bags, checked their guns, and waited for the shooting to start.
Frieda checked the prices of local biomancy with Anise (Gormog's foot still hadn't healed), then stumbled back up the stairs to the surface. On the way, she accidentally broke into a room full of chisled poetry. Most of it was rusted, but one deeply engraved verse stood out. "Goodbye my Pyramid Prince," it said, above a <> tetragonal pyramid. Frieda stole the chisel and left.
Meanwhile, the group had finally found an empty room and started selling their wares. Some elected to live like slaves for a week to maximize profit, sleeping on sacks of old potatoes and eating them each morning. Karl and Granville elected to pay a little more to live in a discount hostel room, with "hot or cold running water" and "real horizontal surfaces".
Sales went well. The fruit, still fresh and delicious, sold well. They even found a buyer for their expensive crate of vodka, making a tidy profit in the bargain. Satisfied, happy, and full of potatoes, they settled in for a rest. Gormog healed his foot at the Buried Delicatessen; one foot now looked considerably nicer and softer than the other.
At the end of the week, Granville remembered that strange wisp of smoke from their body-delivery contract. He unfurled and inspected the sheaves of paper. A tiny message had been burned into one. It read, in a mix of porcelain runes and rainbowlander speech:
"Thank you for your commitment to the Unified Future. The Animated Tetrology appreciates your service. Flee immediately."
"Friends! Friends! We have a problem," the lawyer shrieked, leaping off his rented horizontal surface and rummaging for his clothes.
Find out next time.