13 minutes ago
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Crime & Amusement
A covert war is being fought along the boardwalk, and in the places of amusement, on Lapin Isle on the southeastern coast of the City. The war is between two lords (or one lord and one lady) of petty crime. The stakes are the illicit earnings from all the beach’s pick-pockets, quick-grab artists, petty confidence tricksters, and part-time prostitutes. Neither of these would-be kingpins are human, but are, in fact, coin-operated fortune telling machines.
In the middle of the boardwalk, a penny arcade is the domain of Mister Chax, the All-Knowing Homonculus. Inside his glass case, Mister Chax appears as a ventriloquists dummy in a natty suit with dead (yet still too-knowing) eyes and a leering, plastered grin beneath a pencil-thin moustache. His communications come on cards, neatly printed and filligreed. Chax’s gang is mostly scruffy urchins who seem innocuous when encountered singularly, but sinister in packs. They speak in a ridiculous child-argot never completely intelligible to adults, without magical aide. Some of them are very large for their age.
Chax also has been known to employ inky, spider-things the size of wharf rats with almost human faces and derisive, whispering voices. Their bites cause painful pustules and nightmares.
Mister Chax’s rival can be found in a novelty shop near the entrance to Lunar Rabbit Park. Her glass case gives her name as Grisselda, but her followers--her “ducklings”--call her “auntie” or “great aunt.” Grisselda appears as an old woman, like an Old World grandmother. She tells fortunes by the use of playing cards, and this is also the way she communicates with her followers. These are mostly young girls, either in their teens or early twenties, who dress like prim young ladies, perhaps on a church trip. Their dainty purses hide switchblades, maybe pocket revolvers, and nasty, back-alley magic items. The cryptic meanings of Grisselda’s cards are interpreted by an oracle. She's a girl a little older than Auntie's standard soldier, with eyes older still, and porcelain skin. She typically dresses like an aspiring torch-singer, and smokes a cigarette through a holder. Her name is always Esme.
Chax and Grisselda try to keep their war sotto voce. They have no wish to attract the authorities, but also no wish to draw the interest of the malign godling of Lapin Isle, the dark personification of the rabbit in the moon; the thing like a man in a bunny suit that is not a man.