Monthly Archives: March 2017

Scene 309 – Matre Monstro

MATRE MONSTRO

RICHARD

“Mister President,” the aide said. “They’re ready.”

I cursed and jumped up from my seat. They delay the meeting for eight hours, and then call it again with no warning. Maybe it was a Domina thing, a show of strength. I didn’t really care how strong they were, I just wished I had a chance to finish dinner.

I cursed, struggling with my tie. Never had been able to get used to the stupid things. Normally Silk helped me before important events like this, but she was gone. Some sort of family emergency, she had said. I was curious, but hadn’t asked. To put it bluntly, I had more important things on my mind.

If I had thought ahead, I probably would have asked her to tie my tie before she left. Then I could have just never untied it. But then the knot would probably get dirty over time… maybe that was why people didn’t do that.

After a couple eternities, I managed to get the stupid thing tied. I took a deep breath and stepped outside.

There were dozens of people waiting for me outside my office. No press, thankfully, but I would have almost preferred them. Instead I had to deal with generals and senators who all wanted pieces of my time.

“Sir, I understand you have refused to have the so-called ambassadors arrested—”

“Now, I know it’s too late, but I still think we should have had this meeting in Domina City—”

“These stupid children think they can dictate terms to us—”

“Sir, please be careful, they are more dangerous than they appear—”

“Sir, I think—”

Senator Grain stepped up beside me as I followed my guards through the crowd. I smiled and nodded to everyone trying to give me advice, but ignored them. Most of the people I would be listening to weren’t here.

“We should make them wait,” Grain said.

“No,” I said.

He sighed. “Richard—”

“No,” I said again. I pulled open a door and slipped inside. Grain followed me, and the hubbub died as the door closed. This room wasn’t the meeting room, just a waiting room. There were half a dozen of my closest advisers sitting here, but they didn’t make any noise. “Stalling at this point would just make us look petty.”

Grain brushed some dandruff off my shoulder. “Fine. I guess I can’t argue with that logic. You remember the talking points?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, mom. Start with requesting reparations for the damage done to our ships and armies. They’ll refuse, but it will put us in a better bargaining position for the rest. Ultimate goal is to get their toy maker mods, and figure out where the hell that shield came from.”

Grain nodded. “Yes, that’s perfect.”

I smirked. “This isn’t my first rodeo. I know what I’m doing.”

“Yeah, but you’ve never negotiated with someone who can rip you apart with their bare hands.” He brushed at my other shoulder, frowning as some piece of dust proved stubborn. “And now you have to deal with ten of them. And their bodyguards.”

“Thank you so much for that reminder,” I said dryly. A thought occurred to me, and I filed it away for later. “Anything else?”

“Nothing much.” He went to brush my shoulder again, but I batted him away. “The meeting is being recorded, but not broadcast live. It could be decades before anyone sees it.” He paused. “I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse.”

I sighed. “Neither am I.” I nodded to the others, and they all stood. My guards opened the doors, and I strode into the meeting room.

There were a couple of dozen people, all standing around a long table. They stuck to their half of the room, leaving us plenty of space. They were talking among themselves, but they all turned to look when we entered the room.

I had been briefed as best as possible, but it was still hard not to be shocked. So many of them all in one room… half of them barely looked human any more. There was one that looked like a giant lizard, or maybe a dragon. He was the most extreme, but there was also a naked woman with light green skin glowing slightly. She was speaking to an anthropomorphic white cat, who sniffed in my direction and frowned. There was a group of men who were all eight or nine feet tall. They were speaking with a man who appeared perfectly normal, but his bodyguards all had eyes of pure black. A man with horns was standing next to two women in wheelchairs. They had black eyes as well, but they had patches of fish scales and I could see tails peeking out from under the blankets they had in their laps. A woman in a stunning black dress, dusted with glittering stars, stood with her entourage, smiling at me. On the other side of the room, a normal-seeming woman and two normal-seeming bodyguards glared daggers at her.

I adjusted my tie and forced a smile onto my face. “Welcome, ambassadors of Domina City. I hope you weren’t waiting long.”

“We were,” the normal-looking man said. He stepped up behind a seat next to the head of the table. “But that was not your mistake. Please, do not feel obligated to apologize.”

The others seemed to take his lead, standing behind seats on their half of the room. Even thew wheelchairs were around so that the women could get a better view of the room. They were put behind the man with the horns, who had taken the chair next to the head of the table. Right across from the man with the black-eyed bodyguards.

The head chair itself remained empty. I wasn’t sure what to think of that.

My own people spread out to stand behind their chosen seats on our side of the table. I took the head seat, but paused before pulling the chair out. Was there some hidden ritual here I didn’t understand? Some part of Dominite culture I was missing?

“If you would all take your seats, we can get started—”

“Not quite, President Martinez,” the woman in the black dress said. “We’re just waiting on one more.”

“You appear to have me at a disadvantage. What is your name?”

She smiled. “Lady Maeve, Maiden of the Unseelie Court, Princess of Snow and Frost.”

O…kay… “Lady Maeve. “Who are we waiting on?”

The doors opened.

A girl strode through.

She couldn’t be more than five feet tall. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was barely more than four. Though her professional suit covered up most of her tan skin, I could see tribal tattoos peeking out from her hands and neck. She had a pair of small red horns jutting out of her forehead, short black hair, and a lithe tail snaking up from behind her. Her eyes were red, in more ways than one. The iris was red, yes, but they were also bloodshot and puffy. She almost looked like she had been crying. Still, they were stronger than I expected. Whatever she had been forced to deal with, she had pushed through.

She had one bodyguard, a young man with hard eyes. His suit didn’t fit quite right and his gun was worn too openly, but at least he looked human. He didn’t have any modifications that I could see.

I cleared my throat. “Young lady, I don’t know who you are—”

“Mister president, you have a daughter, correct?”

I paused for a moment. “I think it would be more accurate to say I have a daughter-shaped bundle of energy, but yes.”

She smiled. It faded quickly. “Less than eight hours ago, I held one of my daughters in my arms as she burned to death.” Her eyes were as hard as steel. “She was not a loyal daughter. She died trying to take me with her. When she realized there was no way for her to win, she decided she wanted everyone to lose. But she was still my daughter.”

My eye twitched. I was pretty sure I could smell something scorched. I really didn’t want to know what it was.

“So we can discuss my credentials at another time. Right now, I am too tired.” Her bodyguard pulled out the chair at the head of the table for her, and she sat. The Dominite ambassadors all followed suit without a word. She looked at the papers in front of her. “Now, first on the agenda. Domina’s sovereignty.”

The rest of us slowly sat as well. “I—I think it would be best if we dismissed our bodyguards,” I managed. “As a show of good faith.”

The girl looked at me, frowned, then nodded. “Agreed.” She waved her hand. All the Dominite bodyguards immediately marched out of the room, not even bothering to wait for confirmation from the ambassadors. The girl’s own bodyguard paused for a moment, but left along with the others.

Our own bodyguards filed out as well, but again, slower. They exited the room behind me, and I was suddenly very happy that there were two waiting rooms. Leaving our bodyguards with theirs for the duration of the meeting would probably lead to a fight.

“Most of the difficult parts of Domina’s sovereignty are already accounted for,” the girl said. “We do not pay you taxes, and you do not support us in any way. The prisoner ships might require some new paperwork, but we already receive prisoners from other foreign countries. Putting America in that category shouldn’t be overly difficult.”

“Young miss,” I said. I felt like the world was spinning away beneath me, and my tie was too tight. “I’m sorry for underestimating you. But please—who are you?

She looked up and met my eyes with a level gaze.

“I am Lilith,” she said. “The First Monster. The Mother Monster, the Great Matron. Everyone who uses the toy maker is my child, and everyone in Domina City uses the toy maker. Artemis suggested that my presence would be beneficial to these negotiations, and I agreed. So, I have come.”

I chuckled and glanced at some of the other ambassadors. “Look, I’m willing to take a joke pretty far—”

“I’d stop right there if I were you, friend,” the man from before said. The one with the bodyguards with the black eyes. He smirked, and I could see a hint of fangs in his mouth. “Some of these people might be willing to start a war over an insult to dear old Mom.”

“Dracul,” Lilith said. “Nu-l amenința. Mă voi ocupa de asta.”

Dracul rolled his eyes, but fell silent. His smirk didn’t disappear, however.

Lilith turned back to me. “Any other questions, Mister President?”

I sighed. “No. Not for now, anyway.”

“Excellent.” She tapped at her pad. “Let’s discuss trade. Currently, Domina only trades digitally with America. Outsourced server time, call centers, so on. That should be able to continue uninterrupted, but we can also add a few more things. We can give you toys and monsters, while you can give us food and other goods that are difficult to make offworld. This will take some pressure off some of our allies in space, which will be good for the system as a whole.”

Next to me, Grain cleared his throat. “We haven’t—I don’t think the president has agreed to grant you sovereignty yet.”

Lilith nodded, then gathered up her things and stood. The other Dominite ambassadors followed suit.

“Wait wait wait!” I said. “What are you doing?”

“If you are not willing to grant Domina sovereignty, then we have nothing else to talk about,” she said. “The war will resume, and we will be forced to take drastic measures.” She turned to Maeve. “How fast can you get a dozen gargants in Washington DC?”

Maeve grinned. “Tomorrow. Easy.”

I took a deep breath. I didn’t know what gargants were, but the context made them frightening enough. “You’re trying to scare us. It won’t work.”

“No,” Lilith said. “I am trying to do what is best for my children.”

“A good mother wouldn’t get them killed.”

Half the Dominite ambassadors gasped. The giant growled under his breath and grabbed the table. I couldn’t tell what his plan was, but Lilith stopped him with a raised hand. He reluctantly stepped back.

Those red eyes bored into me. “Is this truly how you want to play this?” she said. She just ignored the insult, which I was thankful for. It had slipped out, and I hadn’t meant it. “Do you really want to jump back into a war? I understand bluffs. I understand acting stronger than you are. But if you do not accept Domina’s sovereignty, people will die. People you could have saved. Do you really want that on your conscience?”

Grain scoffed. “Little girl, if you think—”

“Shut up,” I said.

Grain glared at me, but shut his mouth.

I continued holding Lilith’s gaze, looking deeply into those red eyes of hers.

She didn’t blink.

“Everyone out,” I said.

Everyone stared at me. Grain was the one to speak. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me,” I said. “Everyone out. Lilith stays, but that’s it.”

They stood silently for a moment, as if they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. I couldn’t quite believe what I was saying. But when I didn’t retract the order, they grumbled and started packing up their things. Everyone, on both sides of the table. They all filed out, muttering and whispering. Even the wheelchairs got pushed out by Dracul and the giant.

Once they were gone and the doors closed behind them, I leaned back in my chair and sighed. “You would have done it, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes,” Lilith said quietly. “I am sorry. But my children must come first.”

I cocked my head. “So that’s real? You’re not just pandering to the audience?” I jerked my thumb at the camera. “It’s not live, if that’s what you’re worried about. We can delay it for years, if that’s what you want.”

Lilith walked over. She didn’t come all the way to my side of the table, but she did come over to the half way point. She sat on the table and smiled at me.

“None of it is faked,” she said. “I’ve never been a very good liar.”

I stood and walked over opposite her. Now we were only a few feet apart instead of almost twenty. “That’s exactly what good liars say.”

She chuckled. “The truth is… I’m doing my best.” She shrugged. “Parenting is hard enough with a handful of kids, or even just one. I have over four hundred million. I can’t possibly look after them all.”

“What do you do, then?” I asked. I could tell that she was being genuine. A woman like this wouldn’t take the title without trying to live up to it. She had to get to know her children somehow, or she wouldn’t call herself their mother.

“I’m a waitress,” she said with a smile.

I blinked. I wasn’t sure what I had been expecting, but it wasn’t that.

“I know it sounds silly,” she said. “Everyone always says that.” She leaned back on her hands, a wistful look on her face. “But it lets me meet people. Talk to them. Find out what they like, what they do. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

I didn’t say anything. I had spent some time as a waiter when I was a kid, and all it had done was test my faith in humanity. Luckily, we had served alcohol and my boss was very understanding.

“I have to do what is best for my city,” Lilith said. “I am sorry.”

I nodded. “So your sovereignty is non-negotiable. I understand. But I need something in exchange. Favored trade status would go a long way to making this pill easier for congresscritters to swallow.”

She quirked her head. “You’re afraid of them overriding your decision?”

I smirked. “It’s not that bad. They’ll grumble about it, but they don’t want to start a war either. I pretty much just need to give them an excuse to accept it.”

She smiled. “And favored trade status is a very good excuse.”

I smiled as well. Then I stopped. “How does trade with your city work, any way? I know you exchange packages with the space stations, but I don’t know the exact details.”

“Artemis normally sets the specific trade tariffs,” she said. “Smuggling isn’t a major problem, due to the difficulties of trading at all. I suspect we’ll start seeing many more problems once we start trading with the mainland more. And not everyone will like the idea of giving you toys.”

“If it makes them feel any better, we’re not going to be usurping their monopoly any time soon. We still have all those laws against the toy maker in place, and getting rid of them won’t be easy.” I rolled my eyes. “It’s part of the reason we attacked in the first place. Kind of like invading because someone kept parking on the sidewalk.”

“What about the monsters?” she asked. “What do your laws say about that?”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“The fey modify animals. Make them larger, more dangerous. Gives them interesting properties that are useful. Food, some types of medicine, that sort of thing.”

“There’s no way we’ll be able to ship live animals,” I said. “Maybe if you were still a client city, but as your own sovereign state, it’s out of the question. Not sure if there will be enough of a demand for that sort of thing anyway.”

“As long as the option is on the table, it’s a good start.” She headed back to her seat. “I think that is enough for the moment. Should we call the others back in?”

“Maybe.” I paused. “Just one last thing. Your daughter. The one who died.”

She stopped. She didn’t look at me. “Yes?”

“You said she died eight hours ago. That means it happened here, in New York.”

“Yes.”

“What, exactly, happened? Does it have anything to do with the fugitive I heard about?”

Lilith sighed, and turned to face me. She still didn’t look at me, though. She kept her gaze turned down. “Malcanthet… always wanted power. When Domina City wouldn’t give her enough, she fled here. Tried to build what she wanted. When I arrived, she kidnapped me, we fought, and she killed herself. That is all.”

I took a deep breath. Oh boy… “That is the kind of thing we would like to know about.”

She looked up and met my eyes. She didn’t seem defiant, just a little confused. “You want us to send you our criminal profiles?”

“That would be nice,” I admitted. “I think Interpol might be necessary. I don’t know. But what I meant was the part about a foreign ambassador almost getting killed on our soil. That sort of thing can cause… problems.”

Lilith smiled. It seemed genuine. “Don’t worry, Mister President. I was never in any danger.”

I gave her a look. “Yes, because every time someone tries to kill an ambassador, we just ignore it if they survive. Do the others even know what happened? How will they react when they find out?”

She thought for a moment. “I’m not sure. I think that they will decide that Malcanthet was our problem. They will not blame you. Several of them were at the Battle of Shendilavri. They will blame themselves for letting her escape in the first place.”

“Okay. Just as long as they don’t say that.”

She frowned. “Why?”

“Because my people will blame you,” I said. I shrugged. “Not you specifically. Domina. Whoever was in charge of this… Shin…”

“Shendilavri was Malcanthet’s domain,” Lilith said. “An alliance of cultures drove her out and burned the building to the ground.”

She said it so casually. “Right. Sure. But then she came here. How much damage has she done in the past few weeks? Do you even know?”

She frowned. But this time it was in confusion, not annoyance. “What?”

“I doubt she’s just been sitting around doing nothing.”

“Well, you’re right, but… why do you think she’s only started trouble in the past few weeks? Did something happen?”

“I was just guessing,” I said. “I don’t know when all this happened. She got driven out before the war started, right? So at least a few weeks.”

Lilith looked like she was struggling with something.

“What?” I said. “What is it?”

“Mister President,” she said slowly. “Malcanthet was driven out of Domina almost six years ago. I have to assume that she has been here this entire time.”

I sat down.

“Oh,” I said.

“Yes. I’m sorry.”

I rubbed my forehead and sighed. “Well… that might be problematic. From a public relations standpoint, at least. More of that ‘all immigrants are criminals’ crap.” I looked up. “What exactly did she do?”

She winced. “I think my sister can explain a little better than I can.” She pulled out her phone and started tapping buttons. “She wrote an article a while back summarizing everything. It’s required reading in most universities these days.” She slid the phone across the table to me.

I grabbed it, frowned, and started reading the text on the tiny screen. She could have at least put it on a pad.

I blinked. I continued reading.

I blinked again.

“I… I…”

“Yes,” Lilith said.

“But—she could have taken over the city!” I said. “We’re not prepared for this sort of thing!”

“It’s harder than you’d think. Anyone who holds political office is very closely scrutinized. It’s unlikely she could brainwash anyone. Not to mention that routine medical checks would have caught their odd blood chemistry.”

“But—you should have told us!”

“And what would you have done?” she asked. “Or your predecessor, rather. Would he have believed us? And if he did believe us, what would he have done about it? Would he have decided that Domina City was too dangerous to leave free? Would he have sent in the armies, looking to arrest every single one of our warlords?” She shook her head. “Artemis made his choices. I agreed with them at the time, and I still do now.”

I swallowed and slid the phone across the table. “Maybe keep the details to yourself for now. Just until we get something signed, and people calm down a bit.”

Lilith nodded.

“But for the future, we will need some system of sharing criminal profiles.” I shook my head. “Even if I didn’t understand what half of those crimes were. Like, what is retribution evasion?”

She smiled. “Short version? Tax evasion.”

I rolled my eyes. “That’s always what gets them in the end.”

She walked over to the door on her side. “So should we invite them back in?”

I nodded. “Let’s try and finish this up quickly.”

Behind the Scenes (309)

This is another scene that I ran through a dozen variations of, from random monster attack to Malcanthet secretly still being alive and declaring undying revenge. This is one of the lower-key versions of the scene, but I think it works better.

Scene 308 – Reverentia

REVERENTIA

CHRIS

I sat on the back bumper of an ambulance as the police led people away.

There had to be a couple dozen cop cars, surrounding the building completely. There were also SWAT vans, firefighters, news crews, the whole deal. I wasn’t sure exactly what Malcanthet’s people were being arrested for. Conspiracy? Drug abuse? For all I knew there was even some treason mixed in there.

The police had cordoned off the area, keeping the crowd of rubberneckers at bay. I didn’t even look at them. Adam had given me a job: Guard this ambulance. So while I looked like I was just sitting around like another victim, I was actually keeping an eye on anyone who got too close.

Lily was in this ambulance, crying her eyes out.

I still didn’t know what had happened. Not exactly. Either Lily was a lot older than she looked, or Malcanthet was just crazy and thought she was her mother. Since Malcanthet had lit them both on fire, I was leaning more towards the second explanation.

On fire…

I glanced briefly in the back of the ambulance. Lily’s clothes were gone, but the paramedics had given her some new ones. Other than that, she was physically unharmed. There was some ash in her hair, but that was it.

She just sat there, sobbing. Weeping for a woman who would have killed us all or worse.

I sighed and turned my attention to outside again. I saw Adam walking over, leading a small Asian girl by the arm. She was glowering, but made no attempt to run. Her hands were in front of her, covered in a blanket. I recognized that trick. She must be handcuffed underneath.

“Who is this?” I asked.

“Saki,” he said. “The one we were looking for, my friend’s niece.” He frowned at the chaos and destruction surrounding us. “I have half a mind to blame all this on her.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

He sighed. “No. She wanted to make an alliance, but she got captured instead. She’s just another of Malcanthet’s victims.”

She spit in his face.

He wiped it away but didn’t otherwise react. “Anyway, local prisons won’t be able to hold her. The Dominites will handle her, and then transfer her back to the city as soon as possible.”

“Why isn’t she saying anything?” I asked. “Does she not speak English?”

Saki glared at me. Adam smiled. “She does, but she’s mute. It’s a long story. We need to—oh. There you are.”

A Dominite had walked up. He was instantly recognizable by the small red horns growing out of his forehead. As far as I could tell, that was his only modification. Once he was sure we knew who he was, he put on a hat. He probably didn’t want to cause a riot.

“Sir,” he said to Adam. “The Power sent me.”

Adam nodded. “Yes, he called ahead. It’s not just you, right?”

The… demon pointed at a van just outside the police cordon. “Four more hellions ready and waiting, sir.”

“Good. You’ve been briefed on what she can do?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Even better.” Adam pushed Saki lightly by the shoulder. She stumbled into the demon’s arms, then glared at Adam. “Her bracelet is still on and working, but be careful all the same. You got a CS device in your van?”

“No, sir.”

Adam frowned, then reached past me into the ambulance. He pulled out a backpack I hadn’t seen there before. It was the same one he had been wearing when we picked him up from the airport. “Use this one. You know how it works?”

The demon nodded. “Honored Sargeras made us disassemble and reassemble them until we could do it blindfolded.”

Adam smirked. “Of course. I need to remember that. Anyway, if either the bracelet or the pack goes down, you shoot Saki.” His eyes were hard, and his smirk was gone. “No hesitation. Right between the eyes.”

The demon looked disturbed. “I—all right. But will Dame Akiyama accept that?”

“She understands what is necessary.”

The demon paused. Then he bowed. “As you wish, Honored Paragon.” He left, dragging Saki behind him. She continued glaring at Adam until she was out of sight.

I frowned at Adam. “What was that about?”

“Just helping out a friend,” he said. He smirked. “Akane would kill me if I let her niece run around free in New York.”

“I meant that paragon thing. And the bowing.”

“Oh, that.” He shrugged. “It’s a long story. Basically, people like me.”

I gave him a look. “That’s not ‘people like me.’ That’s…” I shook my head. “I don’t even know what that was. Who even bows these days?”

“It’s more common in Domina,” he said. “Laura says it’s due to influence from Asian immigrants.” He rolled his eyes. “Besides, sometimes the whole damn city feels like a feudal war ground. Lots of lords and ladies and masters and whatnot.”

I sighed and looked towards the building again, and all the people swarming around it like ants. “What’s going to happen to this place?”

Adam shrugged. “Dunno. Lily will probably figure something out. Maybe it will get torn down. She doesn’t like being reminded of Malcanthet.”

“Her… daughter.”

Adam was silent.

I scooted closer and lowered my voice. “Adam, what was all that about? Your girlfriend’s daughter was some insane… I don’t even know what to call her—”

“Hedonist probably works.”

“Sure. But you don’t seem surprised.” He seemed relaxed.

Adam sighed. “I knew about Malcanthet. She’s a boogeyman in Domina. Eat your vegetables or the Succubus Queen will come take you away.” He smirked to himself. “Wonder if her death will stop that kind of thing. Probably not.”

“But Lily—”

“Lily has a lot of daughters,” Adam said. “A lot of sons, too. I knew Malcanthet was one or hers.”

I glanced back at Lily. She didn’t seem to notice us. “How old is she, anyway?”

“Older than she looks. But not that old. Twenty-six, I think. Thirty at the outside.”

“And how many kids does she have?”

“Somewhere around four hundred million.”

I stared at him.

He smiled back. “It’s a city of orphans, Chris. Everyone wants a mother figure.”

I rubbed my forehead. “I can’t decide if that’s better or worse than her being an actual mother.”

“She is an actual mother,” he said, a bit of an edge creeping into his voice. “She loves every single person in that city. The fact that some of them are older than her doesn’t change the fact that they are her children.”

I didn’t dispute the point. I just sat there, silently, watching Malcanthet’s slaves get processed. There seemed to be no end to them. The police had to call in more cars and vans in order to have any hope of holding them all.

“I’m surprised the guards didn’t put up more of a fight,” I said. “Even if they weren’t drugged, I would have thought enough of them were loyal to make a ruckus.”

Adam stood, frowning.

“What is it?” I asked.

“You!” Adam said, grabbing a random cop.

“Hey, watch it, buddy! You crazy idiots are in enough trouble—”

“I’m one of the people who called you in.”

The cop’s demeanor changed instantly. “Uh, right. Sorry. Thought you were one of the crazies.” He looked at Adam’s hand, which still had any iron grip on his wrist. Adam didn’t let go. “Uh, what did you need?”

“Where are the Malcatari?”

“The what?”

“The guards,” Adam snapped. “Anyone with a gun. Really, anyone who is sober enough to walk in a straight line. I haven’t seen any of them being brought out. What’s going on with them? Are you holding them somewhere separate?”

“I don’t really know—”

Adam shoved him away. “Find out. Now.”

The cop looked a little shocked that a civilian was giving him orders. “What? Uh, okay. So these Mal—Malis—”

“Just ask your war—your boss if the guards are being kept anywhere.”

The cop gave a shaky salute and ran off.

I didn’t say anything. I just watched Adam. The way he moved, the way he gave orders… he wasn’t an amateur. These were things he had done before. He had experience with ordering cops around.

What the hell was going on in that city?

In a few minutes, the cop returned with a lieutenant. She dismissed him with a wave, then stood in front of Adam. She glared at him for a few moments, but to no effect.

“I am Lieutenant Katherine Vine,” she said. “I understand you have some intelligence to offer.”

“The Malcatari are still out there,” Adam said without preamble.

Lieutenant Vine raised an eyebrow. “The guards?”

“Malcanthet’s military,” Adam corrected. “We fought a few. But there were many still alive last I checked. If you haven’t found any, that means they’ve gone to ground.”

“Their leader is dead,” Vine said. “They will fade sooner rather than later.”

Adam shook his head. “When she was still in Domina, Malcanthet’s armies were the most loyal, most highly trained, most well-equipped in the city. If we’re lucky, her standards went down after she fled. But I doubt it. I think you need to consider the worst-case scenario here.”

“Which is?” Lieutenant Vine had an excellent poker face. I had no idea what she thought about Adam’s assertions.

“An angry terrorist force loose in your city,” Adam said. “They’ll know Malcanthet’s recruiting methods. They can kidnap random people, drug them up to the gills, and brainwash them into fighting for them.”

There was a pause.

“That seems a bit implausible to me,” she finally said. “Especially since two untrained kids managed to take out their entire headquarters in about an hour. Do you have any proof that these… Malcatari are anywhere near as dangerous as you say?”

Adam sighed. “No. None that you would believe.”

“Then I believe we have nothing more to talk about.” She turned to go, but patted him on the shoulder. “We’ll keep an eye out. I just think you’re overestimating them.” She walked away without looking back.

Adam shook his head. “These idiots are going to get killed.”

I was disturbed. They couldn’t really be as dangerous as he was saying, right?

He glanced at his watch. “We should probably get going. The meeting was supposed to start an hour ago. They’ll be willing to wait even longer if necessary, of course, but still. I should at least call ahead.” He flipped out his phone.

I frowned. “What meeting? Who are you calling?”

He smiled. “The Dominite ambassadors, of course.”

Behind the Scenes (scene 308)

One thing that doesn’t get brought up a lot, regarding the toy maker, is diminishing returns. Despite all the incredible things it can do, there is a limit to how much you can manipulate the human body. Ten strength buffs are not ten times as effective as one strength buff.

So, for example, Lily has more buffs than many entire cultures put together. But that doesn’t mean she is stronger than those cultures. In terms of raw power, she’s a very powerful warlord—but that’s all. In a fair fight, most warlords would have a low, but reasonable, chance of overpowering her. And that’s not counting things like training, minions, and so on.

I just wanted to make it clear that Lily isn’t some unstoppable juggernaut who can solve any problem by herself. She’s not, and she can’t. And that’s without even getting into her issues with violence.

Also, yes, Adam is technically a warlord at this point. He has no domain, all his men were given to him directly by Necessarius, and he gets paid out of Butler’s pocket. By most definitions, he’d just be an honored, which for baselines is simply called “paladin.” However, people still treat him like a full Paragon due to his actions during the Rampage.

Domina Cultures – Dragons

Every flame has a dawn.”

Io, the Concordant Dragon

After the Big Three (fels, lupes, and ursas), the laces were one of the first kemo cultures to arise. While they were initially as confused and chaotic as the rest, they were soon brought to heel by their Animal King. This was Io, the Concordant Dragon, who knew that the toy maker was not powerful enough to give him what he really wanted—the body of a dragon. Io did his best regardless, giving himself scales and fangs, and eventually a long snout and curling horns. He even tried some Canian fire-breathing buffs, with little success.

Under Io’s rule, the laces flourished, even with the war between the crocs and the gators. His ten sons and daughters became general-purpose warlords for the culture, keeping them strong despite outside threats.

However, soon after the Rampage, Io died. His massive body finally overpowered his weak, mortal heart, and he passed away in his bed. Only one of his children was present at his last moments—along with a witness from Necessarius and a small horde of nurses—and heard his last request. Io wished for his dream to not die with him.

His son left his side and did as he ordered. The son was baseline at the time, but he had himself heavily modified using a ‘sarian toy box in a way that mirrored his father: Thick scales, strong claws and a long snout, and even a tail and wings. He put his own spin on the package, however, choosing bronze scales and decorative webbing on the ears and running down the back.

He named himself Chronepsis, the Silent, Wyrm of the Dispassionate Watchers, second of the dragons. While his siblings warred, he met with Necessarius and officially founded the culture, with the signing witnessed by the Paladins. Only Lendys, the Balancer, joined the initial signing, but it did not take long for the others to put aside their petty feuds and sign as well. Their pride would allow nothing less.

The ten children of Io always had their share of followers among the laces, but becoming their own culture changed things. Suddenly they were free to recruit from pools of people who did not want to associate with the kemos. Tiamat and Garyx recruited from the Acheroni demons, while Bahamut and Tamara found allies among the younger angels. Baselines who had never been interested in any of the cultures suddenly found one they were willing to join, and the dragons accepted them with open arms.

Io’s children still fight, but nowhere near to the extent as before. Lendys works to keep everything nonlethal, and Chronepsis and his Watchers take note of those who break pacts and alliances. Slowly, grudgingly, the dragons are moving towards peace.

Things are not perfect, however. Many laces see the existence of the dragons as a betrayal, and have launched raids against the new domains. Other kemo cultures think the dragons are trying to dodge old debts by rebranding themselves, and are willing to fight for what they are owed. And the fey, for unknown reasons, are gleefully finding every excuse to attack the dragons at any opportunity. Feyborn Princes lead raids on dragon supply trucks, and supposedly wild monsters continually slip past dragon security to wreak havoc.

Now, the entire city holds its breath, waiting to see what the newborn dragons will do. Will they fight for vengeance against those who have wronged them? Accept fault and pay retribution? Or will they simply splinter into civil war, brothers and sisters unable to accept their father’s plan for them?

Dragon honored are called dragoons, while their deviants are known as linnorms. Their warlords are called Wyrms, and their novices wyrmlings. Their subcultures are called clans, while their microcultures (the sub-subcultures) are called blazes.

Subcultures:

Adroit Appraisers of Astilabor

The followers of the Acquisitor, the Appraisers are working hard to build a real economy for the dragons. They have done their best to open up trade with other cultures, but are still having difficulty due to misunderstandings with the kemos. They have made some progress with several demon clans, however, such as the Mammonites. Their domain is Hoardkeep, in West Middle.

Beatific Dancers of Hlal

The artists and performers of the dragons and followers of the Keeper of Tales. As expected, they are in charge of theaters, libraries, and all other forms of entertainment under dragon control. The fact that they can name a number of famous actors and artists in their clan gives them more popularity than most of the dragon clans. The Appraisers have repeatedly attempted to use them to make deals and establish trade, but the Dancers have little interest in such things. Their domain, such as it is, is the Laughing Lizard in West Inner. It is little more than a bar with some rooms above that the Dancers are free to use.

Compassionate Healers of Tamara

The medics, doctors, and nurses of the dragons. They also have a large number of scientists and researchers among their number, working closely with their counterparts in the Dispassionate Watchers. They follow the Mercy, and she personally trained most of them. They have begun building hospitals in their territory, which has made them the most popular of the newborn dragon clans. Their domain is Quellar di Irisvari (often inaccurately just called Irisvari), in North Outer.

Corrupt Horrors of Falazure

The vampires of the dragons. Not only do they get nighteyes in addition to the standard dragon package, but they emulate the terror tactics of the earliest vampires. While so far they have kept from becoming unreasonably violent, there are still many eyes on them, wary of another Striga and her Bloody Thirteen. They follow Falazure, the Night, a lithe beast with jet-black scales and the ability to teleport through shadows. Their domain is hidden and unknown, if they even have one.

Dispassionate Watchers of Chronepsis

The first dragon clan, they would be the masters of the culture if their wyrm, the Silent, was at all interested in ruling. Instead, he prefers to simply observe and record everything and everyone. While technically the Watchers are the dragon’s spies, they do so little with the information they collect that it is difficult to call them that. They are better known as librarians, as their outposts always have massive book libraries in addition to the data archives that nearly everyone else in the city uses. Their domain is the Observatory, in South Central.

Merciless Justicars of Lendys

The police and judges of the dragons. While the other clans have their own security and enforcement personnel, the Justicars are the ones called in whenever anything gets even the slightest bit complicated. They are of course still too young a clan to have a proper history of trials and precedents, but they are quickly gaining a reputation as being fair, if harsh and humorless. Necessarius has even called them in to help adjudicate a minor dispute. The Justicars follow Lendys, the Balancer. Their domain is the Hall of Justice, an old court house in North Central from the early days of the city.

Sacred Warders of Bahamut

One of the primary branches of the dragon army, the Warders are more interested in defense and fortification than aggressive actions. They consult with every other clan on domain defenses, and are hired far and wide as guards and security personnel. They have even begun to find work outside the dragons, thanks in no small part to their wyrm’s old security connections. The Warders follow Bahamut, the Platinum, a man of shining ideals that might eventually be tarnished by Domina. Their domain is simply called Bahamut’s Palace, and is in East Outer, right up against the wall.

Screaming Destroyers of Garyx

The wild berserkers of the dragons, the Destroyers are known for a complete lack of fear, a bloody and merciless approach to combat, and a shocking loyalty to all dragons. While the Destroyers are far too wild to be a standard part of the dragon army, they make excellent shock troops, and have proven their worth several times against fey attacks. They follow Garyx, the Firelord, but he generally leaves them to their own devices. They have no domain of their own, but they are usually welcomed at any dragon domain.

Unholy Ravagers of Tiamat

Despite their disturbing name, the Ravagers are a calm and controlled clan who serve as the offensive branch of the dragon military. They believe strongly in first strikes and offensive deployment, and specialize in lightning-fast attacks that leave the enemy decimated before they even know what is happening. While they have undeniable friction with the Sacred Warders, in the end both sides grudgingly admit that the other is necessary for the continued safety of the dragon culture. Their wyrm is Tiamat, the Chromatic, one of the most dangerous of all dragons. Their domain is Azharul, in West Outer.

Unstoppable Messengers of Aasterinian

The Messengers are, of course, in charge of all forms of communication among the dragons. In addition to couriers and delivery drivers, they also have telecommunications specialists, social media experts, and programmers dedicated to keeping everything running smoothly. It is widely agreed that they are the most valuable of the dragon subcultures, and the culture would quite likely already have died an ignoble death without their assistance. Their wyrm is Aasterinian, the Messenger, who is rumored to be a changeling bruscar. Their domain is Brassberg, in North-West Outer, but it is often referred to as simply the Post Office.

Blazes:

Bahamut’s blazes:

Falx Templamut’s blaze

Falx Templamut was moderately famous even before he became one of Bahamut’s first dragoons. He is seventy years old, which makes him one of the oldest people in a city where it is very rare for anyone to live past fifty. He was also completely baseline, without any health buffs to help with his failing age. Now that he is a dragon, he has embraced the opportunities of the toy maker, and he is as lithe and fast as any wyrmling. Members of his blaze tend to be on the older side, but he does not discriminate by age. Instead, he looks for wisdom and patience in his recruits—things far more difficult to teach.

Saint Leomar’s blaze

As his name implies, Saint Leomar was once an angelic Saint, a Dawn-caste working closely with Sealtiel. Outsiders often refer to him as “Bahamut’s greatest catch,” but Bahamut himself insists that Leomar is simply a close friend who decided to join him when the dragons were founded. Leomar’s blaze is still small, but counts many former angels among its number. Leomar drives them hard, trying to prove his worth to the clan.

Medrinia’s blaze

Medrinia the Tearful is a former Rahab, recruited after she fled the worst parts of the merfolk culture. Rumors persist that Bahamut plans to send Medrinia and her blaze back under the waves to fight the Rahabs, but nothing solid has manifested yet. While most of Medrinia’s blaze does consist of former merfolk, none of them have returned to White-Cap Bay since their transformations. The blaze rarely leaves the Palace, and are only known by the rest of the city due to Medrinia’s public recruitment.

Vanathor’s blaze

Vanathor was once a generalist demon, with a few tribal tattoos showing allegiance to the Mother Monster, but little else. He is known for his excellent singing voice, and rarely leaves Bahamut’s Palace, as he is too busy organizing entertainment with his blaze. He and his blaze work with Hlal and her men on a regular basis.

Xathanon’s blaze

Xathanon the Energetic was once one of the most skilled Day-caste angels under Saint Nicholas. When he became a dragon, he made sure to include his dayskin in his new form. His golden scales often seem to glow with an inner light, and in an emergency he can unleash a Daybreak that even an angel would find impressive. Xathanon does not have dayeyes, though, instead relying on thick eyelids to protect him from his own light. For some reason, most members of his blaze are former vampires. While most of them have given up the nighteyes, they still prefer to stalk the streets at night, defending dragon domains from all comers.

Tiamat’s blazes:

Amduscias’ blaze

Like Malphas, Amduscias is a former Acheroni, but in his case he served under Hextor the Tyrant. While Amduscias hated Hextor’s wanton cruelty, he understands the important of discipline and punishment. He rarely leads raids, instead preferring to stay at Azharul with his blaze, policing Tiamat’s domain and maintaining the jails. His blaze counts many former slaves of Hextor among their number, but also a surprising number of former followers from Wee Jas, Maglubiyet, and Lei Kung.

Goap’s blaze

Goap was once an angel. What his name was, his caste, or anything else about him—these are all mysteries. Goap cut off ties with the angels, removing his dayskin and dayeyes, and refuses to answer questions. He has a number of former angels in his blaze, but none of them have kept any of their angelic toys. He spends most of his time launching raids on minor angel outposts, but it is a well-known fact that he wants nothing more than to attack one of the Heavens themselves.

Malphas’ blaze

Malphas the Heavy-Handed was once an Acheroni demon, a disgraced orc working under Gruumsh. He was personally recruited by Tiamat, who found his interest in monsters to be useful. Malphas spends most of his time researching fey monsters, sometimes even capturing and taming them. His blaze is one of the few groups of scientists among the dragons right now, though that will likely change as the other wyrms put more money into research.

Wyrms:

The Acquisitor

Astilabor, the Lady of Hoards, the Green-Scaled Heart, is the wyrm of the Adroit Appraisers. She is known for her shrewd economic insight, as well as a shocking lack of greed. Current estimates put her personal net worth in the neighborhood of several hundred dollars; she has sunk the rest of it into building the dragon economy. She is a harsh and no-nonsense woman who always seems to be rushing around Hoardkeep fixing something. Physically, her modifications are minimal. She has green scales and sharp teeth, but little more. Rumors persist that she has the ability to fly under her own power, but this is unconfirmed. While she is technically a chromatic dragon under Tiamat’s command, she prefers to be left alone so that she can do her work for the good of the culture as a whole.

The Balancer

Lendys, the Justice, the Law-Bringer, the Pure White Order, is the wyrm of the Merciless Justicars. She is a loyal chromatic dragon following Tiamat, and often personally presides over Unholy Ravager trials. However, she gives no special treatment to Tiamat’s men; all are equal on the Balancer’s scales, and she will even fight Tiamat if her judgment is controversial. She has worked with Necessarius several times, but normally through proxies. She seems to avoid getting within ten miles of NHQ if at all possible.

The Chromatic

Tiamat, the Queen of Chromatic Dragons, the Wyrm of Many Colors, Most Beautiful and Terrible. In addition to being the wyrm of the Unholy Ravagers, she commands the chromatic dragons, which consist of Astilabor, Lendys, Garyx, and Falazure. However, in practice, she avoids exerting her authority too much, as she is well aware that her siblings are not particularly fond of her. She is the oldest of Io’s children, though she only beats her twin, Bahamut, by fifteen minutes. She is large and imposing, with wickedly curved horns, a maw filled with dozens of razor-sharp teeth, wings, and scales blending beautifully between the five chromatic colors—black, blue, green, red, and white. On a more personal level, Tiamat is swift, merciless, and unimaginably destructive, but slow to anger and quick to smile. While she is slow to trust, her siblings all grudgingly admit that she would do anything for any one of them.

The Firelord

Garyx, the Destroyer, the Renewer, the Phoenix and the Flame. He is one of the most well-known of the dragon wyrms, as before Io’s death he was a famous party animal, inviting people from every culture to take part in his latest rager. His parties could last for days and were always legendary, though they did have an unfortunate tendency to leave the building a smoking ruin. Now that Garyx is officially a dragon warlord, he has tried his best to rein in his excesses. Parties are still common, but they are less likely to leave people in chem-comas or missing for weeks. He works closely with Hlal, who is trying to get him to control his clan, most of whom are violent berserkers. On a more personal note, Garyx is a small man with blue scales, a large maw with sharp teeth, and a huge horn almost like a rhino’s. The horn has become something of an unintentional symbol of Garyx, and many of his dragons have copies of it. It is almost more common than blue scales.

The Keeper of Tales

Hlal, the Jester, the Joker, is above all else a scientist. Her titles are something of a cruel joke from her siblings—Hlal loves all forms of storytelling and jokes, but she herself is absolutely terrible at them. Her clan is one-half scientists and researchers, one-half novelists and jesters. She struggles to keep both sides balanced, and has yet to find the proper equilibrium. Her people have flashes of inspiration, however, and her entertainment companies are bringing in enough money to keep the clan afloat. Hlal herself has copper-colored scales and large, webbed wings. Her hands are smaller and more delicate than most of her siblings, the better to perform her latest experiments.

The Mercy

Tamara the Silver is by far the kindest of the dragon wyrms. She cares for nothing but healing the sick and comforting the dying, and puts nearly all her money into hospitals. What little money she has left over goes to scientists and researchers trying to discover new medical techniques and cures. She works closely with Chronepsis and his researchers, and also Hlal—though Hlal’s researchers are rarely good enough to be called in on major projects. As her name implies, Tamara has silver scales, buffed almost to a mirror sheen. She is one of the few wyrms not to have wings, but she doesn’t mind.

The Messenger

Aasterinian, the Courier, the Messenger, the Runner. She is a talented programmer and a savant with social media, skills she cultivates in her clan. More than her siblings, her clan mirrors her almost perfectly. Every single Unstoppable Messenger is laser-focused on keeping dragon communications moving smoothly, and they often sell their services to outsiders, which makes them perhaps the richest dragon clan. Aasterinian’s skills are so impressive that it has been theorized that she is secretly a changeling bruscar. While that is unlikely, she does have a small number of bruscar among her ranks, perhaps making her clan unique across the city. Aasterinian herself is a lithe, sinuous beast with brass scales who rarely smiles, but if a joke can get past her defenses, it can leave her rolling on the floor.

The Night

Falazure, the Horror, the Terror, is a loyal servant of Tiamat and a powerful tool in her arsenal. As a former vampire, he is well-acquainted with terror tactics, and more than one enemy of the dragons has only known of his presence when all the lights went out and people started dying. Falazure is a strict, no-nonsense wyrm who refuses to compromise on anything for any reason. He is relatively small for a wyrm, but between his black scales and shadow teleportation, his stealth more than makes up for any physical weaknesses.

The Platinum

Bahamut, the King of Metallic Dragons, the Platinum Dragon, the Shining Ideal. In addition to the Sacred Warders, he commands the metallic dragons, which consist of Hlal, Tamara, Aasterinian, and Chronepsis. He has more authority than Tiamat, and is unofficially the lord of the dragon culture. He is well-liked by his siblings and his followers alike, and fights hard to keep the dragons together in order to honor his father’s dying wish. He once fought with Tiamat, his twin, almost constantly, but he has managed to restrain himself ever since Chronepsis convinced him that the dragons needed to stand as their own culture. While Bahamut himself has platinum-colored scales, the Sacred Warders prefer gold scales to show both loyalty and deference.

The Silent

Chronepsis, the Fate, the Reaper, the Judge. He was the only one of Io’s children present at his death, and the first to become a true dragon. Chronepsis is calm and composed at all times, always calculating the next move. While he himself prefers simple observation, he has invested quite a bit into research and science in order to advance the dragons and the city as a whole. Because of this, his clan is known mostly as scientists and librarians. He has a close relationship with his sister Lendys, who helped him found the dragons. Other than that, he is largely a mystery. He is so closed-off, even to his siblings, that it can be difficult to tell what he is thinking.

Domina Cultures – Merfolk

“Land breaks, but water flows.”

– Dagonite saying

Several years after the toy maker was invented, Isaac Clarke managed to perfect the Mermaid Lungs, a large modification to the human respiratory system that allowed them to breathe water as well as air. While it had some efficiency problems, the addition of actual gills changed that, and suddenly it was possible to stay underwater almost indefinitely.

Droves of people fled to the waters of White-Cap Bay. They had many reasons—escaping the Culture Wars, escaping the city itself, or even just a simple childlike wonder for the underwater life. In time, the merfolk culture was as large as any in the city itself. In fact, the merfolk grew so large that they splintered into subcultures that were each nearly as large as a true culture.

At first, everything underwater was chaos and confusion. There were no warlords and few leaders, just a thousand different clans all swimming their own way. The first to unite the clans under his banner was Dagon the Butcher. When an American ship came too close to Domina City, he rallied everyone he could find to sink it and loot the remains. His culture was called the Rahabs, and for over a year, he kept the angry and disenfranchised of the merfolk tribes pointed in the right direction.

When Dagon died due to an unlucky encounter with a torpedo, the Rahabs splintered. Those who wanted to continue Dagon’s legacy of protecting Domina City became the Dagonites, and they lived relatively close to the surface. Those who wanted to continue Dagon’s legacy of killing anyone who got too close kept the name Rahabs, and began attacking everyone, merfolk included.

It was at about this time that the civilian merfolk founded a culture of their own. They called themselves the Atlanteans and began building cities on the floor of the bay, using materials scavenged from Dagon’s sunken ships. This project moved slowly for years as they had to expend most of their resources trading with the surface for food. However, the invention of the Fisheater buff allowed them to eat fish—and nearly anything else in the ocean—raw. This allowed them to stop relying on the surface, and concentrate their resources on building up their cities. Ironically, one of the first things they did once their cities were sufficiently advanced was to start cooking underwater. After all, just because you can eat raw fish doesn’t mean you want to.

The first of these cities was called Plato, followed in a few short years by Critias and Timaeus. They were vast, sprawling metropolises that made use of three-dimensional space to create structures that were completely impossible on land. Visitors from Domina itself, while rare, always spoke glowingly of the glass spires and coral sculptures. A small but thriving tourism industry grew up in all three cities.

Due to their size, the Atlanteans could not be led by single dictators and warlords. Instead of fracturing into clans like the Dagonites or the Rahabs, the Atlanteans chose to mirror Butler’s government on the mainland. Each city elected a mayor, as well as senators for every school and pod that wanted a voice. Despite some early missteps and friction with Necessarius, the system soon proved its worth. The Atlanteans thrived, their farms and fisheries producing more than enough food to keep their people completely independent.

The Dagonites were not sitting idly by all this time, however. While they didn’t have the industrial and manufacturing capabilities of the Atlanteans—nor the unity to build the same—they ranged far and wide, collecting scrap and wrecks. They used these materials to build savage underwater shantytowns, bolstering sea caves and canyons near undersea vents. Their first town, Tolkien, was built directly into the side of Domina City’s island, putting them in a unique position to trade and negotiate with the mainlanders. Other towns, like Hemmingway and Poe, had their own claims to fame; Hemmingway was built around a series of undersea vents and remains the best smithy in White-Cap Bay, while the town of Poe was built in the area called the Coral Graves and became one of the few tourist spots outside the Atlantean cities.

The Rahabs built their own settlements, but they did not have the numbers to make any grand structures. Instead, they simply found wrecked ships, patched them up as best they could, and launched raids from them. The most famous were the ghost ships, wrecks repaired to the point that they could move like primitive submarines. The first of these, the RS Augustus, launched a surprise attack that nearly crippled Plato for good. They were only fought off by Dagonites led by one of their very first Tridents, Ariel of the Cephalopod Sepulcher. Ariel used weapons provided by Necessarius to force the Rahabs to retreat. She pursued, and even managed to destroy the RS Tiberius and the RS Constantine.

This event paved the way for Atlantean politics for years to come. While many were grateful for the aid, others were convinced that ‘sarian involvement would only escalate the conflict. In time, three political parties emerged: The Naiads, who wished to remain connected to the surface through the Dagonites; the Nereids, who wished for the Atlantean cities to be completely separate from both the mainland and each other; and the Oceanids, who wished for the Atlanteans to band together, but remain cut off from the surface world.

Dagonite reactions mirrored those of the surface. Many of them even belonged to the surface parties, with the Iluvatar (isolationist) and the Kongeegen (Darwinist) being most popular. Most of their Tridents worked closely with the small ‘sarian fleet to keep the waters safe from outsiders, while others worked with the Atlanteans to keep it safe from the Rahabs.

The Rahabs for their part, did their best to play the Atlanteans and Dagonites against each other. While they didn’t have the skill or patience to do so politically, they found it quite easy to do so militarily. They would attack an Atlantean and Dagonite target at the same time, forcing defenders to choose. When they encountered a strong force, they would flee, inflicting lasting damage with few losses. With countless places to hide in White-Cap Bay, they proved impossible to root out.

A different weapon was needed to defeat the Rahabs: Education and opportunity. The Rahabs consisted primarily of disgruntled young adults lashing out, guided by an older generation with the intelligence and tactics to redirect that anger in a manner they found useful. As the Atlantean cities and Dagonite towns thrived despite the attacks, fewer and fewer children saw the need to rebel so violently. Open borders between the Atlanteans and Dagonites helped as well; Atlanteans who wanted a more dangerous life went to the Dagonites, while Dagonites who wanted safety and structure went to the Atlanteans. While the Rahabs are still not gone, they have been weakened to the point that they are not expected to last more than a single generation. A far cry from the old days, when everyone thought they would haunt the Bay forever.

Severing ties with the mainland caused the merfolk to develop very differently from the surface cultures. Many Atlanteans and Rahabs never go above water at all, creating a world that is almost completely separate from the one above the waves. Furthermore, their different schools and pods are more physical than political; someone can be a jengu or a kappa and belong to any of the three cultures. Sirens are just as common a sight among the Dagonites as the Atlanteans.

One of the primary advantages the merfolk have is almost unlimited space. No one else in the world lives underwater, so it is like they own three-quarters of the planet. While the Atlanteans remain relatively close to Domina City, the Rahabs and the Dagonites have explored far and wide. The Dagonites have received funding from Necessarius to explore the Marianas Trench, and the Rahabs are rumored to have attacked ships as far as Brazil. However, no matter how far they roamed, every merfolk was affected by the Rampage. The Composer hacked their radios to spread her Song, resulting in people miles from the city going into a frothing rage.

Following the Rampage, the Atlanteans have begun to make more overtures to the surface, both through the Dagonites and even, on occasion, themselves. Voices calling for unity are stronger than ever, and support for crushing the Rahabs before they go out of control has risen. The Rahabs are trying to press the advantage caused by the chaos of the Rampage, but the Dagonites are hitting back hard. It is expected that they will be defeated for good soon, and everyone can focus on more external threats.

However, the Rahabs have never been the only danger swimming the waters of White-Cap Bay. Even before the Fisheater buff was invented, the fey had a presence underwater. They acted exactly as they did on the land, offering deals and the Invitation while releasing monsters on the general populace. Underwater gargants—called leviathans by the merfolk—are on average larger and more dangerous than their land-bound cousins. The fey are especially fond of monsters large enough to destroy Rahab wrecks or Atlantean outposts.

Merfolk honored are called razors, while their deviants are known as butchers. Their warlords are called Tridents, and their novices are tadpoles. The microcultures (the sub-subcultures) are known as clans, schools, pods, or herds, depending on the subculture in question.

Cultures:

Atlanteans (anemophobes, bottom-feeders, photophobes)

An insular subculture that have built cities at the bottom of the bay. They shun contact with outsiders. They only appeared when the Fisheater buff (basically a lesser version of the cannibalism buff) was invented, which removed their dependency on land dwellers cooking for them. They maintain ties with the Dagonites in order to fight the Rahabs and, on occasion, trade with the surface. Their three cities are Plato, Critias, and Timaeus.

Cities

Plato

The City of Salt, Plato is the first Atlantean city, and their capital. It also acts as a de facto capital for the merfolk as a group; Dagonites are quite common here, and even Rahabs are welcome if they come alone instead of in a raiding wreck. The city is on the north side of the Domina island, between Domina and North Fusion Island. The power cables run through the middle of the city, and the Atlanteans are allowed to tap energy from them in exchange for keeping them maintained. All the other cables are maintained by the Dagonites. Tourists are invited to visit the First Forest, a massive kelp farm at the heart of the city, as well as the hammerhead fishery. This openness to outsiders is often credited to the Naiads, who have had a slim majority in the city for a long time, but even when the Naiads lose an election, their bills still pass in Congress. The people of the city have become too used to trade and tourism to dial it back now.

Critias

The City of Fire, Critias was completed only a few short weeks after Plato. Built to the south of Domina, past the Fusion Island, it is over a hundred miles from Domina itself. This makes it the most isolated of the three cities, and one of the most isolated merfolk settlements period. Only a few minor Dagonite research outposts can boast more solitude. While this situation suits the Nereids who control the city, cutting off from the rest of the ocean completely is not an option. Underwater trucks and buses ferry goods and people back and forth between its sister Atlantean cities or the closer Dagonite towns. Critias primarily trades in weapons forged in their deep-sea vents, and AIG has their headquarters here. This is also how the city is able to survive without outside assistance; they have more weapons than the rest of the Atlanteans put together. The one time the Rahabs sent a wreck to raid them, Critias sent them packing before the Rahabs even got within range.

Timaeus

The City of Water, Timaeus is located just a mile west of West Fusion Island, and its sprawl abuts the edge of the island. While it is directly between Domina City and New York City, the Atlanteans are careful not to extend too far westward, in case the Americans take umbrage to their presence. From this position, they can easily spot approaching ships, and warn the other merfolk. Likewise, their industry is based around what would be best for the other Atlanteans; they are the only city focused on making plastics and medicine, and their salmon fisheries provide food even for Domina City itself. All this is in service of the goal of unity, as the Oceanids have a strong majority in the city. Timaeus is lucky to have little trouble with the Rahabs; they have little desire to stray too close to New York.

Parties

Naiads

A political party of Atlanteans who don’t want to cut off completely from the surface. They work closely with the Dagonites to trade with the surface, especially for new toys and information. While the other parties don’t like to admit it, their contributions are invaluable. Without them, toy research would grind to a halt.

Nereids

A political party of Atlanteans who think each city should be separate, even from each other. They fight to improve defenses and infrastructure to reduce the need for trade and travel. The fisheries and farms are almost entirely their doing, as are the laws that prevent Atlanteans from getting too close to the American mainland.

Oceanids

A political party of Atlanteans who think the Atlanteans should band together. They encourage trade routes, defense pacts, and exploration teams. There is a minor rift within the party between those who believe that all merfolk should band together, and those who wish to exclude the Dagonites.

Dagonites (boat-killers, sharks)

A violent subculture that prefers the more monstrous parts of the merfolk package, such as shark teeth and sandpaper skin. They maintain contact with the surface, and are best known for patrolling White-Cap Bay and sinking unauthorized boats.

Towns

Tolkien

The first Dagonite town, built directly into the west side of Domina City’s island. They have many structures built onto the cliff face, and over the years they have found and created tunnels through the heart of the island itself. A few of these even reach up to the sewers, where the Dagonites can trade with the fey and other smugglers. Butler is well aware of these unauthorized trade routes, but pretends to be ignorant in order to allow for backups for the space cannons and the city’s other sources of trade. The town also coordinates trade between other merfolk settlements; much of their trade has nothing to do with Domina City itself. All told, Tolkien boasts over a million residents. This should make it a full-fledged city, but the Atlanteans don’t like the Dagonites getting “arrogant.” Tolkien is controlled by an unofficially elected Council of Tridents, who nominate one of their number for mayor every year. The people then either vote for him or select their own candidate.

Hemmingway

One of the eastern settlements, nearly fifty miles away from Domina City, Hemmingway would be just another unimportant blip on the map if not for their famous undersea vents. The Dagonites built a massive metalworking industry around these, rivaling even Plato and Timaeus—though Critias still has them beat by miles. Despite their distance, travel to and from the town is common, as their goods are in high demand for their efficiency and attention to detail. Oplo Corporation, one of the last merfolk gun companies to still sell on the mainland, was founded here and still has its main office in the largest dome. Hemmingway is controlled by the corporations based here, but they know not to push too hard since their entire workforce is armed to the teeth.

Poe

Poe is not so much a town as it is a dozen hotels and a bus service. As one of the closest Dagonite outposts to Domina City, it is in an excellent position to provide guided tours of the Coral Graves, a series of shipwrecks so old that not even the Rahabs saw the need to salvage them. Rainbow-colored coral has covered the ships in the decades—and centuries, in some cases—since they sank. The Graves are also relatively shallow compared to much of the rest of White-Cap Bay, which reduces maintenance costs on the buses and toy costs for the workers who need to swim in the depths.

Rahabs (aqua-nazis, scavs, water-wraiths)

The Rahabs are Atlanteans or Dagonites who rebelled and created a more violent subculture. Unlike the Dagonites, they do not direct their violence in any way, and enjoy bloodshed for the fun of it. They are one of the last old gangs of Domina, which the Necessarians have not been able to eradicate due to their lack of naval power.

Wrecks

RS Augustus

The first and greatest wreck the Rahabs repaired, built from the USS Baldwin. It is a Gleaves-class destroyer boasting nineteen guns (all repaired and modified to fire underwater, albeit at greatly reduced velocity), five torpedo tubes, and a number of depth charge projectors. While it is not as fast as it once was, it is still surprisingly speedy considering its age and the fact that it was never designed to work underwater. The Rahabs repaired and bolstered its armor for the initial raid on Plato, but when they were forced to retreat they found that it slowed them down far too much. Now, they have left most of the great holes and rents in the ship’s hull, as the lost weight greatly improves their speed—and the intimidation factor doesn’t hurt. The current captain of the Augustus is McKenzie, who won the position by brutally slaughtering the previous captain.

RS Tiberius

Built from the wreck of the Gleaves-class destroyer the USS Turner, the Tiberius was still undergoing its initial repairs when the Dagonites attacked. The Augustus had launched an attack on Plato and been driven off, but the Dagonites pursued and discovered the Tiberius still in dock. The Dagonites did serious damage, but luckily for the Rahabs, the weapons had already been repaired and retrofitted to work underwater. Fifteen guns and five torpedoes are enough to drive almost anything off; the Dagonite war pod was forced to retreat with heavy losses. The Rahabs worked overtime to repair their wreck, transforming the ship into a slow but powerful heavy weapons platform with heavy armor plating. It has been a point of pride for every captain to keep her weapons at the cutting edge of military technology; the Rahabs of this wreck are some of the few who do research and development instead of just raiding. Now, while the Tiberius is too slow to actively go on raids, it is common practice for a faster Rahab wreck to bait enemy ships into range, to devastating effect. The current captain of the Augustus is Angelica Thatch. Unlike most Rahab captains, she was awarded her post for service to the wreck and the cause; the previous captain is still alive, retired under a false name in Critias.

RS Constantine

Ariel, the first Dagonite Trident, often takes credit for sinking the RS Constantine, but the truth is that the wreck of the USS Jacob Jones had barely been lifted off the ocean floor when she stumbled upon it and attacked. The wreck was completely defenseless, and the Rahabs scavenging her were slaughtered. When it was rediscovered, the new salvagers decided that surprise was the greatest asset they could give to her. Jacob Jones was a Wickes-class destroyer, which gave the Rahabs a large foundation to build upon. While her guns were nothing to write home about (four main guns and two machine guns), the twelve torpedo tubes sparked the imagination. Dozens of different types of modified torpedoes were created, from simple high-yield variants all the way down to tubes filled with bloodmad mosscrabs and one containing a small and heavily modified fey shark. Every fight with the Constantine is different, and while it rarely has the raw firepower of any of its sister wrecks, it always has enough tricks to escape and fight another day. The current captain of the Augustus is Saltbreaker, the same one who first recovered the wreck after Ariel’s attack. He has the unflinching loyalty of his crew in all things.

RS Victoria

The Victoria is one of the more recent Rahab wrecks, only five years old. The wreck of the USS Moonstone was only discovered when the Rahabs began spreading farther afield, scouting for more salvage and tricks to use against their enemies. While Moonstone was a shallow wreck, the Rahabs initially passed her over due to her apparent low value; she was a coastal patrol yacht with only three guns and two depth charge tracks. Years with little success against the Dagonites pushed the Rahabs towards hit and run tactics instead of the pure strength and power that the other wrecks boasted. While the Rahabs modified Victoria’s guns to fire underwater, as usual, they made no further upgrades in that area. Instead they focused all their attention on the engines, fighting to create the fastest ship under the waves, Rahab or otherwise. This of course necessitated replacing much of the holed hull, and many note that the Victoria isn’t really a wreck so much as a completely new ship bearing the guns of an old one. In her maiden voyage, the Victoria attempted to attack Critias. While they were fought off before they even got into cannon range, the wreck’s speed and maneuverability proved invaluable, and she managed to escape mostly unscathed. The current captain of the Victoria is Jonas David, who took advantage of the depression following the failed attack on Critias to stage a mutiny.

Merfolk Races

Anguili (eels, slitherers)

Technically a kemo microculture, in practice the anguili are just another merfolk race. They model themselves after eels, with long and sinuous bodies, cartilage replacing bones, and in the rarest of cases electricity glands. The anguili are often engineers, to the surprise of outsiders, due to their ability to squirm into the smallest spaces. This makes them invaluable among all three cultures. Dagonite and Rahab anguili are also terrors in combat due to their ambush abilities, and because of them clearing a Rahab wreck or invading a Dagonite town is always a very dangerous prospect.

Cetac (blubbers, whale-folk)

Technically a kemo microculture, in practice the cetacs are just another merfolk race. They are modeled after whales, including blubber, enhanced vocal cords, and enhanced lungs. They also use a variant of the Bigger buff as a matter of course. While most cetacs are only a few feet taller than normal, some have been known to grow to truly ridiculous proportions that would be impossible on land. Like the giants of the mainland, the cetacs are powerful fighters, and are often used as mobile weapons platforms by the Dagonites or the Rahabs. Among the Atlanteans, they are almost universally singers, playing roles opposite the higher-pitched sirens.

Jengu (glitters, prettyboys/prettygirls, shinies)

The miengu (singular: jengu) are known for prettying themselves up as much as possible. They look mostly human except for their fish tails, but they have an unearthly beauty about them due to careful use of the toy maker. They are best known for their charisma and friendliness, leading many of them to become diplomats or ambassadors, but they can be short-tempered on a number of subjects, most famously their appearance. Everyone remembers the time a jengu screwed up a deal between Tolkien and Hemmingway due to a Hemmingway forgemaster making a comment about the jengu’s freckles.

Kappa (bleeders, kaps, shredders)

The kappa share quite a few similarities with the trolls on the mainland, though they are not a united culture in the same way. Regardless, they are fond of healing buffs, large claws, and odd skin colors. They are most often found among the Dagonites and the Rahabs, but even the Atlanteans have uses for them. They make excellent soldiers or bodyguards, and many famous merfolk monster slayers are kappa.

Kelpie (horses, weeds)

The kelpies are a varied race, with everything from perfectly human except for gills to fully modified kemo anthro seahorses. The primary thing that units them is a nomadic spirit. Many kelpies are traders, and even those that are not often travel between Atlantean cities, Dagonite towns, or both. Some are not even officially Atlanteans or Dagonites, they travel so much. The Rahabs have kelpies as well—perhaps more than the other cultures, at least by percentage—but they do not associate with their Atlantean and Dagonite cousins.

Manta (gliders)

Technically a kemo microculture, in practice the mantas are just another merfolk race. They are of course modeled after manta rays, turning their arms into massive fleshy wings. Manta anthros are often indistinguishable from true manta rays, which is one of the reasons that merfolk consider it bad luck to hunt the animals. They typically act as scouts, which means the Atlanteans have less use for them, but they are found in all three cultures.

Melusine (plumbers, shiners, water angels)

While they are often referred to as “water angels” due to their use of dayskin, the melusine have no direct connection to the angels of the surface, nor do they have anything against vampires, merrow, or morgen. They primarily use their dayskin either as light in the abyss of the sea, or as a weapon against the fey monsters that lurk in the depths. Since nearly everything in the abyss has nighteyes, this makes them valuable monster slayers. Physically, the melusine occasionally get a serpent tail or even two, but it is more common for them to be completely normal except for their tattoos. Like the angels, they shape their dayskin into letters, but the melusine use Ancient Greek instead of Hebrew.

Merrow (drowners, vultures, water-ghouls)

While nearly every merfolk uses the Fisheater buff in order to expand their diet, the merrow take it a step farther, using the full cannibalism buff like the ghouls on the mainland. They have razor-sharp teeth that they use to rip apart sharks and leviathans alive, and rumors persist that they feed on shipwrecked sailors. It is not uncommon for them to have nighteyes, but many of them never swim down to the depths where such things are necessary. Many merrow have taken to making “bonecharms” out of the bones of their meals; simple trinkets and fetishes from fish bones and plastic ties. These are surprisingly popular, and sell well in both Dagonite tourist traps and Atlantean malls.

Morgen (abyssals, deepers, water-vampires)

United by little more than their use of nighteyes and depth buffs, the morgen are the denizens of the deepest parts of the abyss. The Dagonites have entire towns filled with nothing but morgen, while the best Rahab salvage teams are morgen. Even the Atlanteans have a few, of course, swimming both the undersea caverns beneath the cities and the smaller outposts at the bottom of rifts and canyons. It is usually easy to tell the difference between an Atlantean morgen and a Dagonite one; an Atlantean will look normal except for the eyes, while a Dagonite will have inhuman skin, either that of a shark or one of the stranger things that lurks in the depths. Recently, however, it has become common for morgen from both cultures to get vampire teeth as a show of loyalty and solidarity.

Nixie (Frankensteins, Franks, nixes)

Even in groups as disparate as the merfolk races, the nixies stand out for their lack of unity. They have no archetype, no one they are mimicking. The only thing that binds them together is that they all choose strange and monstrous modifications that keep them from fitting in with the other races. Some are small, some are big, some have shark tails and some just a single web between their legs. They have every combination of skin, eye, and hair—some even have dayeyes, which are nearly useless below water. Nixies are more common among the Dagonites and Rahabs, but even the Atlanteans have a few, mostly in odd jobs that need odd toys.

Ondine (sleepers)

The ondines are an oddity among the merfolk races in that the thing that binds them together is not visible. Ondines can have any number of toys, and in fact they often belong to a second race, but they all have one thing in common: They have the insomniac gland, and therefore no longer need to sleep. Ondines can be found in all three cultures, and are highly sought after due to their increased productivity. Their numbers used to be much larger before the effects of dreamsickness were discovered. After the Ondine Rebellion, recruitment cut down as they were forced to screen out potential candidates much more carefully.

Rusalka (farmers, russes, tribals)

The rusalki are known for two things: Still having human legs, and farming. They can have as many other toys as they want, but their legs have to stay human. These might seem like odd requirements—and indeed, the rusalki are one of the smallest merfolk races—but years of accidents have taught the merfolk that it is easiest to farm when you have legs instead of a tail. Rusalki are rarely seen by outsiders, simply because outsiders have little interest in traveling to the kelp forests and fisheries. After years of being mistaken for vodnik and other races, the rusalki began giving themselves tribal tattoos denoting the location of their farm. These small tribes have began organizing in ways that makes many of the other races uncomfortable. While the rusalki are most common among the Atlanteans, the Dagonites have more than a few as well. The Rahabs, of course, have almost none; usually only those who are in the process of transitioning to another race.

Sahuagin (shark-men, water-demons)

One of the first merfolk races, the sahuagin intentionally modeled themselves after the demons of the mainland. They have large horns and abstract tribal tattoos, though their skin is typically rough and green instead of red or just normal. They were the first merfolk to get shark buffs, including sandpaper skin and razor teeth. Their monstrous appearances can make them intimidating to the other races, and their prowess in personal combat makes them popular in any violent role. They are very common among both the Dagonites and the Rahabs, but nearly unheard of among the Atlanteans.

Selan (deadeyes)

Technically a kemo microculture, in practice the selans are just another merfolk race. They have quite a bit of similarity with the sahuagin, but can usually be identified by their dorsal fins, which the sahuagin do not have. At higher levels, the differences are more pronounced. Obviously, selans are highly sought after by both the Dagonites and the Rahabs. Their nominal Alpha, Alexander the Great White, is a Rahab captain of the wreck RS Athelstan.

Selkie (blubbers, seals)

While most merfolk choose to have a fish tail for easier swimming, the selkies model their tails after seals instead. This makes them a bit slower, but they insist that it is far more comfortable. At the very least, it is usually easier to care for, and selkies spend slightly less time at the doctor getting their tails repaired. Selkies are also known for being pudgy, which keeps them warm even in the coldest waters of White-Cap Bay. They tend to be administrators and non-physical roles, though several Dagonite raiding teams have selkies among their number. Regardless, they are equally common among all the races, but Atlantean selkies are encountered much more often, due to the bureaucracy of the cities.

Siren (songs)

Sirens are completely human except for their beautiful fish tails, and have been known to be mistaken for miengu. However, they have beautiful singing voices, beyond human norms. The modifications to their vocal cords are delicate and complex; not many people have the patience to go through the procedure. Those that do end up in all three cultures. In the Atlantean cities they become singers and performers, in the Dagonite towns they either sing at bars or during raids, and on Rahab wrecks they keep the old pirate shanties alive. They also train themselves to be able to sing perfectly on land or underwater, which is actually quite difficult considering the different harmonics.

Sprite (fliers)

The sprites are the only merfolk race focused on getting wings like some of the surface cultures. Instead of tails, they have large, thin fins under their arms that stretch down to their legs, giving them a maneuverability that most other races cannot match. Following advancements on the mainland, the sprites have begun experimenting with true wings again. Several bat-like wing designs have been seen, as have insectoid fairy wings. All of these designs have had mixed results, but trials continue.

Vodnik (passers, pretenders)

The vodnici are the most human of the merfolk races. They look completely human except for their gills, which they can easily hide while on land. They don’t even have tails or webbed fingers. This puts them in a position where they are both disliked by other merfolk for refusing to break away from their origins, and considered invaluable due to their manual dexterity. Many vodnici go on to become other races, but they are still equally common among all the cultures. Among the Atlanteans, they are known for acting as tour guides for the surfacers, while the Dagonites use them directly as ambassadors.

Merfolk Tridents

Atlantean Tridents

Mayor Nikos Adraktas

Mayor of Plato five years running, Adraktas is a Naiad through and through. He believes strongly in keeping ties to the surface, and so works closely with the Dagonites when at all possible. However, he does believe that Atlanteans should not be directly tied to the surface, so he never speaks to anyone on the mainland himself. This makes him almost completely unknown above the waves. Adraktas is a an ondine melusine who plumbed several of the deepest canyons in White-Cap Bay before settling down for a life of politics.

Mayor Panagiotis Kanelli

The newly elected mayor of Critias, Kanelli still has yet to prove himself a true Nereid. He mostly won the election by all the other candidates being worse. He understands that the people want to keep the city cut off from the surface and each other, but he knows that they still need at least some trade to stay afloat. He is a kelpie, and works closely with his old trader contacts to make sure just the right amount of foreign goods are coming in.

Mayor Liana Konstantopoulos

Mayor of Timaeus, Konstantopoulos is an Oceanid who won the most recent election in a massive landslide. She constantly preaches about a new world under the waves, where all are brothers and sisters. She is a rusalka and a former farmer, which helped win her the vote from the depressed underclass of the city.

Senator John Wavebreaker

A senator from Plato, Wavebreaker is one of the few Atlantean politicians to obtain his position through strength of arms. He is a war hero in the battles against the Rahabs, and is thus almost always referred to with a respectful “Honored Trident” instead of using his senator title. He is most famous for the Battle of the Kelp Forest, when a Rahab raiding party infiltrated the city and tried to poison the kelp farms; Wavebreaker killed most of them by himself before Atlantean reinforcements arrived. Despite his fearsome reputation, Wavebreaker is a friendly and jovial man who believes in unity above all else. While he is nominally a Naiad, he has many sympathies with the Oceanids. Wavebreaker is a sprite, with black water wings to match his inky skin.

Dagonite Tridents

Ariel

Ariel is often called the first Dagonite Trident, though there is some argument on whether that honor should go to Dagon himself instead. Regardless, Ariel is respected as a powerful warlord in the community, with the highest number of destroyed wrecks to her name. She lives in the Cephalopod Sepulcher, a series of canyons between the North and West Fusion Islands that were a breeding ground for fey monsters before the Dagonites moved in. Many attempts have been made to entice her to move to one of the nearby towns, but she insists on remaining out in the wilds. Ariel is always strict and no-nonsense, refusing to compromise on even the smallest thing where Rahabs are concerned. She is an ondine merrow with white shark skin and massive shark teeth. Rumor has it that she even has a buff that replicates a shark’s electricity sense, but this has not been confirmed.

Georgia

Georgia is far more an ambassador than a warlord; in fact, there is some degree of confusion on whether she is a Trident or merely a razor. She spends much of her time coordinating Dagonite efforts with those of other cultures, including Necessarius. She is therefore one of the most famous merfolk on the mainland, and according to some polls, a surprising number of people are under the mistaken impression that she is the leader of the Dagonites. While that is untrue, her ability to juggle multiple different cultures and warlords to keep them all pointed in the same direction is invaluable, and it is rare for the Dagonites to send anyone else as ambassador to any event of importance. She is a vodnik, which allows her to return to land far more than most other merfolk.

Hevatica and Dilithase

Twin sister Tridents who control one of the largest Dagonite pods, the First Spears of Dagon. While they do not officially control any Dagonite towns, they have a very strong presence in Tolkien and Christie, where they are unofficially the only defense forces they have. The sisters are known for solving their problems by killing everyone who disagrees with them, which has led Tolkien to begin political maneuverings to push them out. This, in turn, has forced the sisters to adapt a less violent approach, as they are hardly allowed to slaughter the leaders of the largest Dagonite town. They have had a surprising amount of success, especially by playing various factions against each other. The sisters are sirens, and are often mistaken for miengu.

The Whale-Lord

Johnathan Tar is technically a kemo, Animal King of the pisces culture. However, due to the lack of unity between the kemos under the waves, he is effectively just another Dagonite Trident. He is nomadic, slowly swimming the underwater currents and rivers between Dagonite towns, defending against Rahabs and fey monsters. He has been known to fight off leviathans by himself. At eighty feet from nose to tail, he is the largest human being on record, and one of the largest animals. The only reason he doesn’t need to constantly eat is because of a large number of digestive efficiency buffs, which greatly reduce his food intake. He is a full blue whale anthro, lacking even hands, making him difficult to differentiate from a true whale. Or rather, it would make him difficult to differentiate, if not for the fact that he is covered in enough guns and cannons to put a battleship to shame. While he does need his pod’s help for repair and maintenance, he can aim and fire himself. The guns are all controlled by interfaces in his mouth using his tongue, which is far more dexterous than a true whale’s would be. He even has eyepieces to feed him views from various cameras so that he doesn’t have to turn his massive head to see what he is shooting at.

Rahab Butchers

Alexander the Great White

The captain of the RS Athelstan is technically a kemo, an Alpha of the selan microculture. However, the pisces have little to no presence on land, leaving them to be folded into the merfolk. Alexander, as is expected, is a Great White Shark anthro, and is nearly indistinguishable from a true shark except for his human arms and hands. His wreck, built from the German submarine U-869, is immobile, still stranded where it was first discovered. Alexander launches raids from there on Critias and nearby Dagonite towns, knowing that the wreck is too far for a major counterattack.

Angelica Thatch

The captain of the RS Tiberius may have been granted her post rather than murdering her way to the top, but she should not be underestimated. She was only rewarded after leading dozens of successful raids, both against Dagonite pods and even some Atlantean battleships. She has even made some daring raids against Plato, searching for weaknesses. While the city has always driven her off so far, they have never done enough damage to ensure she won’t return. While her exact location is always unknown, Captain Thatch prefers keeping her ship to the depths of the abyss as much as possible. Fittingly, she is an ondine morgen.

Jonas David

The captain of the RS Victoria, Jonas David was just another crewmember when the wreck attacked Critias and was fought off. While damage was minimal, the crew was not happy with their loss, and David was able to whip them up into a mutiny that somehow ended up with him in charge. Common wisdom is to never trust a word David says. He will say anything he needs to, break any deal, in order to get what he wants. He is a kelpie, and while he is not as physically powerful as most captains, he should not be underestimated.

McKenzie

The captain of the RS Augustus is violent, ruthless, and one of the most powerful merfolk warlords alive. He has a near-perfect success record with his raids, but has always known when it is time to cut his losses and run. This has allowed the Augustus to be sunk three different times, only to rise repaired and renewed within a few weeks. He keeps his wreck within the waters of White-Cap Bay; his bloodthirst is too great to allow him to range farther afield, where scavenging might be more profitable. Captain McKenzie himself is a sahuagin, complete with a shark-like nose that can detect blood from miles away. Rumor has it that he is searching for the wreck of the USS California, a full cruiser, to turn it into a ghost ship that will change the Rahabs’ failing fortunes.

Saltbreaker

Captain of the RS Constantine, the man known only as Saltbreaker is a mystery. He appeared without warning to recover the Constantine after Ariel’s initial attack, and has enjoyed the unflinching loyalty of his crew ever since. Under his command, the wreck ranges far and wide, perhaps farther than any other merfolk of any culture. He has traveled as far down as Brazil looking for wrecks and salvage. The Constantine is the only ghost ship that trades with the lesser, immobile Rahab wrecks on a regular basis. Most just leaves the scraps behind for the others to scavenge, but Saltbreaker seeks out trades and deals for better weapons and strange devices. Rumor has it that he trades with the fey—or even is a fey himself, in a new type of homunculus. Saltbreaker is a nixie, a particularly large variant with armor plating. He can’t swim very fast, but he is a terror in personal combat.