Shadows in the Mist in Fantastical Role Plays Posted October 24, 2016 · Report post When Jack left The Penny Farthing it was well in to the night. He had put on a long, black, fitted coat with delicate, silver buckles at it’s straps. The coat was tight fitted around the chest, comfortable but form fitting, with the length beyond his waist left loose for ease of movement. As he walked along the cobbles he pulled the hood of his jacket over his head and continued walking, leaning heavily on his cane, maintaining the pronounced limp he always did in public. It was fake, that was obvious to anyone with half a brain, but for the rest it was always good to keep up the appearance. Whenever it was possible, Jack always made a point of giving people reason to underestimate him. Without the aid of the sun the city’s glass dome was overrun with the rising mists of Aether, their presence snuffing out the stars on nights where the mist was heavy. Sometimes, though not always, the mists were strong enough to permeate through the Ark’s filters and cast themselves over the city itself. This mist was harmless, the toxic Aether was gathered up in the filters but they didn’t almost stop the hazy byproduct. Tonight the mists were thick, and so their haze coated the cobbles, whispy tendrils creeping up the walls, hungrily reaching for the skies. The daytime life of a scoundrel like Jack was one of illusion, misdirection and deception. In the light of day Jack was forever conscious of how he presented himself. Depending on the situation he would change his attire, his posture, his mannerisms, even his voice. For there were many who knew of Jack, and many more who knew him as one of his aliases. Yes, the daytime was where most of the deception happened. Yet now, in the dark night, there was no need for the deception. At least for a Aethermancer. There were few who really understood what it was to be an Aethermancer. While the gifts were not especially common, nor where they especially rare. Still, those who had snapped and awakened their latent abilities rarely garnered the opportunity to fully harness them. Most folks knew of Quicksteps, Scouts, Listeners, Ironarms. None of these terms were official, but they described the common Aethermancers. Those who had scraped together enough coin for a tiny vial of squid ink. They had one simple ability, usually the one they gained upon snapping, and they used them in the most boring of ways. Most Aethermancers made their living in conventional ways. A Titan user would normally become a labourer, or perhaps a courier, although Blinks were preferred. Those of Sense would often made their living as scouts or sentries. Those who used Blend were hired to monitor meetings that required privacy, and those of Sway often became salesman. Archivers became scribes and scholars, and those born of Flare, well they were perhaps the least fortunate. For Flare could only amplify the other Aethermantic abilities, and so those who snapped with Flare often never realized they had any power at all. Yet, in Jack’s opinion, none of these people truly understood what it meant to be an Aethermancer. He had snapped later in his life, a natural Blend user. Yet he had quickly found the urge to make up for lost time. He had used his skills in ways that brought him enough coin, and that coin brought him squid ink. In even a few short years he had gathered enough to allow him access to each of the 7 Aethermantic abilities, at least in their most basic form. Specialist savants like Teach might have considered this a poor use of ink, for they saw the rewards of having deeper knowledge and understanding of their talents. They had a point, Jack admitted. He could Sway a man, but not in the same way that Teach could. Yet he had always been a man who had made the most of the little he had. Having each of the Aethermantic abilities provided him with options, and options, even simple ones, were what made him powerful. With only a small effort Jack reached within himself with his mind. It is difficult to describe exactly how one can feel the different reserves of Aethemantic power within themselves, but Jack often envisioned it as seven candles. Currently only one candle was burning. His Blend was something he almost always kept lit, even if only a little. Like it’s cousin, Sway, Blend affected the mind of the user and those around him. While Sway communicated emotion through rhythmic pulses, Blend provided a more straightforward queue. When people noticed Jack, he saw a thin, blue line connecting between himself and that person. The more the person took notice of him, the thicker and brighter the line became. But by focusing on the lines he could erode a person’s ability to notice him. He could target specific people, and he could send out general waves that targeted within a certain radius. He could also do a lot more than that, but for now he was simply sending out general waves to the people around him. He watched the network of blue lines flicker and dance around him, each one slowly fading, until they seemed to flicker and tremble. It was difficult to erase a line completely, as doing so would effectively render the Aethermancer as invisible. Jack had no doubt that, with the right tattoos, and combined with Flare, this was possible. Yet he had found it to be entirely unnecessary. How many people passed each other by without a thought? How many could describe the unassuming man they had just passed by in the street? When he felt comfortable, Jack turned a corner and lit his Sense. Suddenly the dark night became a clear twilight to his eyes, the orbs of the streetlamps like small fires to his Aether enhanced vision. He could hear footsteps from two streets across. The smell of piss and dirt filled his nostrils with an offensive ferocity. He could feel the fibers of his clothing rubbing against his skin, and he could feel all the tiny little grooves and imperfections along the metal of his cane handle. He was suddenly quite drowsy, the effects of the gin and of his daily fatigue now becoming all the more severe to his heightened senses. But even that had it’s counter. He lit Titan. Suddenly he felt energy wash over him. In an instant he felt alert, and agile. His muscles were primed and ready for action. Pain and fatigue were pushed away by speed and strength. In the night his Aether enhanced vision was perfect, and he examined the streets around him with utmost clarity. He assessed the verticality of his environment, gauged the distances of the various landing points within his range. He chose one. He drew in his breath and lit Blink. In an instant, his world collapsed into a haze of white mist. The ground fell away beneath his feet, a sensation he had once found incredibly uncomfortable. Then the mist took shape as quickly as it had appeared, and his feet touched something solid once more. He now stood on a ledge, several stories above the street level where he had once been. A wolfish grin spread across his face as he gazed across the city from his new vantage point. This was what most Aethermancers missed. They didn’t realize that this was their home. In the shadows, on the rooftops, in the dead of night and skulking in the mist. This was what they were born for. He took off at a run. He moved blindingly quick thanks to Titan. Even a basic user like himself could outrun a horse when they burned Titan. Using Sense he had an advantage over a pure Titan user, for his enhanced senses allowed him to see where he was travelling more quickly, he could assess his movement and his environment, and he could react quick enough to fully utilize his physical power. He leapt from rooftop to rooftop, Titan giving him the strength to jump higher and farther than a normal man. He cut a path over the city in no time. He rarely travelled on the flying barges or by carriage. Aethermancy was generally quicker, he found. Eventually he reached the end of the group of tenements and was sprinting steadily towards Central Square, a large, open space built around a brass statue of a man and a woman caught in a struggle. The statue was a depiction of Maeve and Vatha, the Gods that the people of Ark Valiant believed to lord over Elorra. Jack, originally from Ark Imperius, knew them by another name. Order and Chaos. As he reached the lip of the building he knew that he could not possibly leap the large gap that was the Central Square. He tapped into Flare. He felt his strength intensify in a sudden burst, and when he jumped he shot upwards over the square, blending himself so no one would take any notice. His vision became so sharp, and his depth of field grew farther. He saw a ledge on the other side, took in a breath, and blinked the rest of the gap, landing on the rooftop and diving in to a forward roll to account for the built up momentum from the jump. That was the thing about blinking, you maintained the momentum of whatever position you were in previously. Thus blinking in freefall usually required careful calculation. He stood up and turned back to the square, scanning the blue lines connecting him to the people in the square. It was always important to check. Even if his blend could hide him from the average person, it would do less if there was a Sense user among them. Someone with enhanced senses was all the more perceptive, and thus harder to fool. That was, perhaps, the major flaw in Aethermancy. As powerful as you might be, there were always others with abilities that could counter your own. Which is why a smart Aethermancer should always be vigilant. Jack nodded, satisfied his cover was instant, and then he took off once more across the rooftops. --- --- --- --- Jack eventually descended from the rooftops as he reached the edge of the city. He dropped back down to the cobbles and pulled back his hood, resumed his limp, and once again began to act like all the ordinary people. He made his way to Port Hasting, one of the larger airship ports on Valiant. Port Hasting was outside of the glass dome covering the city, and was instead protected by an anti-aether field. He wasn’t exactly sure of the science behind it, but as far as he understood it was a field of disruptive energy that disrupted the Aether within the mist. Somewhat ironically, like a great deal of the more modern technologies, it was powered by the artificially manufactured Aether Shards. Apparently the field required a lot of energy, and covering the entire city with it proved to be an expensive and inefficient endeavor, especially when the glass dome and filters did an acceptable job. The advantage of using it at the port, however, was obvious. It would allow airships to pass in and out of the port, and kept the workers and airship crews from inhaling toxic aether while they were here. There were breathers, of course, but they weren’t exactly the most comfortable devices to wear, and even airship crews deserved a break at some point. Port Hasting, despite being one of the larger ports, was not particularly heavy with military vessels. Most of the airships docked on the edge of the Ark were simple schooners and galleons belonging to traders and mist fishing crews. The area around the dock was surprisingly busy even at that late hour, and the lantern light illuminated several bands of jolly miscreants from all over the place. Sailors were always a strange lot, always wearing mismatched clothing, never in fashion, and they were often crude and lacking in morals. Jack allowed his blend to fade quite significantly, for in this case he wanted to be seen. The one he had come here to see was not likely to just be standing around. Yet he would have Sense Aethermancers on lookout for him, that was no doubt. As Jack moved through the crowds he smiled as men and women danced to violins and clapping. While there was no liquor on show, it was quite clear that many of the folk here were blind drunk. The prohibition of alcohol had always perplexed Jack, but at the same time he did not complain for her reaped the benefits that came from smuggling in booze and running a speakeasy. It wasn’t even all that dangerous, really. Half the greencoats in his district were regulars at his bar. Jack took note of a single, bright, solid line of blue that appeared in his vision. While most folks were only vaguely aware of him, the person on the other side of that line was focused on him intently. An Aethermancer. He made his way towards the man, who eyed him cautiously for a moment, before attempting to seem relaxed. The man was thin, dressed in scruffy sailor attire, with a thin stubble and a great deal of razor burn across his face. “Evening.” Jack said with a nod. “He’s busy.” The man replied. “Oh, I don’t think he’s that busy.” Jack said. He lit his Sway. Immediately he began to feel the pulsing vibrations of the man’s emotions. “Tell him Jack Rhodes is here.” He felt the sudden shift in the vibrations. What was it? Fear? No. Uncertainty, perhaps. He tried to remember what Teach had explained to him, but he wasn’t as adept as the old beanpole. He nudged the emotion gently, hopefuly that it would help his case. “He’s busy.” The man insisted. “Too busy to be dealing with you, anyway.” “Hmph!” Jack said with a smirk, cursing his inability with Sway. “Old fashioned way I suppose.” He said with a sigh, and reached into his jacket. He produced a coin pouch and retrieved three marks from it, and handed it to the man. “How busy is he now?” He asked. The man eyed the coins in his hand, looked back at the airship in the dock behind him, then back to Jack. “Looks like his schedule just cleared up, mate.” The man said with a sly grin. “You’ll be leaving that dueling cane with me though.” Jack smirked and lifted his cane. The man had keen senses indeed to notice that his cane was one that carried a hidden blade. He handed the cane to the man. “I’ll want that back when I return.” He said. “And you’ll ‘ave it, assuming he doesn’t throw you overboard.” The man replied with a smirk. Jack smiled back and stepped past the man and down the wooden board towards the ship. He walked on to the deck and made his way to the Captain’s cabin, and wrapped three time on the door. “Bugger off!” A grouchy, old voice yelled from indoors. Jack grabbed the handle and opened the door, stepping inside. The cabin was small but was full of personal baubles and trinkets that suggested the owner was a man of considerable wealth despite the modest means of his ship. The man in question was sat behind a desk, a flask that, Jack’s enhanced senses detected, was filled with rum. The man looked to be pitching near 60, and his fine, grey hair was slicked back over his head. He had a thin beard, an a sunken, haggard face. Steely grey eyes narrowed towards Jack, flickering with recognition for a moment, before resolving their hardness once more. “Well if it isn’t ‘Gentleman’ Jack.” The man said. “Did you not hear me telling you to bugger off?” “Hello Decker.” Jack said, smiling. “Long time no see.” “Not long enough.” Decker replied. “Don’t play me for a fool, Jack. I’ve got plenty enough eyes and ears to know your game in Valiant. If you think I’m having my crew doing booze runs for your little pub you’ve got another thing coming.” “Now, now, Decker.” Jack said, holding his hands up in surrender. “I’ve got plenty of contacts in the smuggling world. I’m here for something only you can provide me.” Decker eyed Jack and shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Jack noted the clear change in Decker’s emotional pulses. Anxiety, wariness, and a little bit of guilt. Jack gently tried to soothe them. Yet as he did the emotions were completely overwhelmed by sudden anger. “Don’t you dare try to sway me, Jack!” Decker said with a growl. Jack was taken aback slightly, he had thought he was being subtle about it. Clearly Sway was a more delicate art than he realized. Or, perhaps it was just Decker’s nature. “Sorry.” Jack said. “I do need your particular expertise though. You’ve got the best Sense users I know. Hell, you are the best Sense user I know.” “Ah I’m sure there are plenty of good lads elsewhere on Valiant.” Decker said. “Don’t give me that.” Jack said. “You’ve got a guy out there being a spotter. I’ll bet you knew I was here before he did.” “Well…” Decker shrugged. “I heard you walking with that bloody cane and false limp from a mile off. Didn’t know it was you, though.” “Look, Decker, I’ve got some big jobs coming up.” Jack said. “I need a decent crew of spotters and listeners. Otherwise trouble might catch on to me before I’m ready to let them.” “And who’s trouble this time?” Decker asked. “The Red Feathers, potentially.” Jack replied. “There’s a few other players but those guys are a risk. I thought they could maybe be a part of my plan but…that Jackdaw isn’t right for this sort of work.” “Jackdaw isn’t the sort of man you mess with, Jack.” Decker said, “He’s got a reputation.” “A crook with a reputation is a lousy crook.” Jack said with a shrug. “If you thought he was lousy you wouldn’t be coming to me.” Decker said. “It isn’t cheap to have a pro like me watching your back.” “I can afford it.” Jack said. “Plus a little extra. I’ll need surveillance too. I’ve got a couple of boys on them at the moment, one of them missed a check in though. I’m pulling the others off the job, don’t want to risk it.” “Surveillence…who do you want watched? Jackdaw?” Decker asked. “No. He doesn’t really keep a low profile. He doesn’t need to, he’s too well respected to have any need to hide.” “So who then?” He asked. “A few people.” Jack said. He reached in to his pocket and retrieved a small object, and tossed it to Decker. The old man caught it with little effort, displaying his keen reflexes. He examined the object, a small marble of silver. “All the information is in there.” “Pure silver…” Decker said as he eyed the marble. “How much can you archive in that?” “3 hours of memory.” Jack said, “Or thereabouts. It’s protected, only you and I can access it.” “Must have taken a lot of work, Jackie boy.” Decker said with a smirk. “A bit of a waste if I say no though.” “Just read the thing.” Jack said, turning. “I’ve got a feeling you won’t say no.” “We’ll see.” Decker said with a smirk. “I’ll send one of my boys with a decision by tomorrow night. Until then, if Jackdaw is eyeballing you, I suggest you lay low.” “Oh I’m pretty good at staying hidden.” Jack said as he opened the door. “Then how’d Jackdaw get his eye on you in the first place?” Decker asked. “Ah…” Jack said with a smile. “The plot thickens.” He closed the door behind him.