Stacking the Dominos

Ioni pulled out a brush, running it through the giant ice weasels coat.

“I know, I’m sorry. I should not have sent you down there.

She was murmuring to the ice weasel, apologizing for sending Shankill down into the zombie infested area. It had been a stupid whim, one she wasn’t likely to repeat.

Shankill growled a little and his giant jaws cracked open a bone of the carcass that Ioni had brought him in apology. Shankill made a few more growls as he ripped a long chunk of flesh from the animals carcass. He was voicing his displeasure over zombies. They weren’t natural in his ice world. Then again, anything warmer than a snow drift for a relatively long period of time wasn’t normal for him.

Seriously, you’re supposed to be this high and mighty thing… Can’t you tone down the heat a bit? Shankills head lolled back as he slurped up a large bloody chunk. Blood flecked his muzzle, dyeing it bright red in the midst of white. While Shankill couldn’t speak the human languages, he did pretty well understanding her and vice versa. It made for interesting if colorful conversation. Ioni smiled. Since she had formed the bond with Shankill, she’d been working her ass off trying to find a way to minimize the elements effects on her and the weasel. Well, if she admitted it to herself, it was actually the visit to the Islands that caused it. Who in their right mind would live in an environment that was so damn hot. A portion of her still longed for the cold days in her home town. Luckily, the Envy has an ice maker. Oddly enough, it occasionally has been clogged with white fur at the strangest times.

“Have you been lurking in the ice again? I found some white fur in my glass this morning.” Ioni move to the other side of Shankill, brushing a new patch of white fur.

It’s nice there. Besides, I preen myself, doesn’t hurt me. Shankill cracked another bone open and began licking the marrow.

Their minimal conversation fell silent as Ioni continued brushing Shankill. It was mostly a reassurance for herself, though Shankill did not seem to be voicing any objections too loudly. In fact, every once in a while there was a grimace of delight and the bone crunching stopped.
Ioni let her mind wander to deal with the next problem she had. How to build up her own worldly influence. She could pray to the unconquered sun for years, but that would not change people’s beliefs. She needed a way to modify those beliefs, educate, change, or down-right obliterate them.

First things first, a plan. The Valencia family held sway on several fronts of trade through the Haslanti league. The Grandmothers would only get her so far. All interests were for the Haslanti League, not much for outsiders. Which was a problem. They were here for all of creation but factions were still problematic. If only they could all just get along, like good children.

Then again, there was the issue of her prior exalts boy friend. Granted, she had good taste in powerful men, but still, she had to go for someone with so much power it would attract more than one enemy. Rare talent that was. Verumpira. How does one even get into contact with a Warden of Malfeas and then start seducing them? Trust the Lady Clad in Blue to be that kind of slut. Then again, it could be a godsend.

Shankill let out a small purr, and started cleaning his paws and muzzle. Apology accepted, for now.

“Well, that’s good. So, got any ideas on how to change a kingdom?” Ioni smiled and started cleaning out the brush she was using.

Kill the leader. Shankill stretched, then began washing his face.

“If only it were that simple.” Ioni sighed, shoving a handful of the white fur into the rather large pile of undercoat she had cleaned off prior. “What kind of things do people need in life? What about you? What would you, Shankill, need in life?”

A warm fresh kill, nice ice packed den and a mate. Shankill curled up tightly.

“Right. Well, the best way to get to people’s decisions would be to offer one of those on a condition. Right? Oh hell. Have one of those, or even two, and you got people in your pockets. " Ioni sat back, thinking. “I think… Use the Valencia trade, build brothels of decent to high quality, keep it in good control… Then change the game and start zeroing in on the bureaucrats. It worked for my prior exalt, why wouldn’t it work for me?”

Ioni smiled, it would take a while, but her plan would manifest. It would mirror the Lady Clad in Blue, just from how she manipulated governments, but honestly, to Ioni, it was a good idea. Manipulate societies through the weakness in flesh and mind.

With her idea firmly planted, Ioni drafted a letter to her family. They would start using funds to purchase relatively upscale homes in varying cities. It would then follow that each city would start employing men and women who were pleasing to the eye. Ioni drafted a plan that would ensure that employees of her new venture were safe, while also providing comforts of the flesh and mind. The only trick would be to place the first House of Courtesans. Well that and the name, and every other stupid detail.

It took a while, as she tried to cover each aspect of the potential business. She figured that sooner than later, she would need several people to take care of details on the ground. The question was how to find a personal caretaker for her pet projects. Ioni wracked her brain for potential connections. There was a merchant based in Nexus who had done quite a bit of work with her family if she remembered rightly. It was entirely possible that he would know someone in the area who was excellent at organization and did not take too much off the top.

Upon reaching Nexus in their next inevitable visit, Ioni disembarked on her own errands. She gave a brief wave to Zuko as she passed him on her way into the maze of Nexus armed with very little directions and a tendency to get into trouble. It would be a glorious day. Maybe jail would be involved. Perhaps a riot or two. Shankill skulked after Ioni, as much as a giant ice weasel could skulk.

• • •

“The question is, what exactly are you looking for? Nexus offers a lot of people with a variety of capabilities. " Ivan was leaning back in his chair looking at her and Shankill over a sea of parchment. He was a connection in Nexus that her family had dealt with before. Mostly in outsourcing their merchandise to other ports in the world.

“To be blunt, I need an assistant who won’t skim so much off the top that the businesses go into default.” Ioni smiled winningly.

“Not a problem, I know of several people. One of which is my son, Vaz. He has a special knack for people and schmoozing. Relatively organized, though he does have his faults. However, if you don’t want to go that route, I know of a Casanova type who tends to schmooze with the older ladies in the government around here. Rumor has it he has slept with the wrong wife at this point and the husband is out for revenge. Tedel Ceress. Not too bright though, he keeps being caught in bed. There is also a lady, Robyn Belsay who has been making waves as well. She is very high in demand among the more available elite, and has been playing them for several years. I do believe she has acquired a new villa from a lover. She would be one to use if you didn’t want direct control.” Ivan ran his fingers down several flat leaves of parchment, pulling out small folders containing background information on each person he talked about.

“Interesting you have this all on hand, Ivan.” Ioni took the files and flipped them open, reading the synopsis’.

“It’s my job to know people. I even have a file on you, m’dear. It’s a tad thin at the moment, but not to worry, you’re becoming a remarkable interest. Speaking of which, who are these people you have been working with? What can you tell me about them?” Ivan’s eyes glittered.

“You already know all that, and if you don’t, you’re not going to.” Ioni lifted her eyes just enough to smile before going back to the information sheets. Shankill shifted slightly, one foot bumping into a bookcase and causing Ivan’s eyes to widen in minor terror before regaining control. "Do you mind if I keep these notes? "

“Certainly. Anything else that I can do?” Ivan grinned broadly.

“No, just send your bill to the Fair Isle.” Ioni got to her feet and headed to the door, Shankill stirring and following. Shankill twisted his head around to look at the minor broker, mimicking a human smile with his sharp teeth. “And Ivan, don’t pad the bill. You do want to have me on your good side.”

Ioni lead the way down from the third floor in a tight cramped building where Ivan had his offices and into the streets of Nexus. She had a list of people who could be assets and though she was loathe to admit it, Vaz would probably be her best bet. People in the streets quickly moved away from her, as they spotted the giant ice weasel tailing her. Pausing in front of a trinket seller, Ioni got directions to a messenger service and took off in that direction.

She sent an infallible messenger to her brother Dera, asking for his aide. He had a brilliant business mind and too much charm for one person. Dera had the ability to drop into a town and before the night was over have weaseled his way into every nook and cranny of sneaky business. The message was simple, get your ass down here, got a venture you would be interested in.

By the end of the day, Ioni had gotten a hold of Vaz and begun employing him to put together an appraisal on local properties for sale or rent. She had also sent off a letter to her cousin in Fair Isle with directions that the Valencia family needed to branch out into a new field of enterprise. Her hope was to build a series of schools educating diplomats and potential government pawns for her own use later. Minions for lack of a better phrase. Bureaucratic minions with so much time and power she could manage from afar. It would take a few weeks for Dera to crawl out of whatever beer barrel he had stashed himself in and down to Nexus.

Stacking the Dominos

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