The City of Lives

Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent: Stupid Idea No. 152: Go on a Body-Swap Safari with Toulouse Part 1

For six generations, many of the inhabitants of Munti Manchay were part of a multi-tribe alliance, controlled by the hereditary kamachiq. The kamachiqs had been tyrannical before, but it came to a new level with Chuscu, a young prince who came to power fifteen years ago. There was much discontent in the populace, especially as deaths rose when scouts were retasked as guards for his “palace.” Then, five years ago, a long-prophesied event occurred. A young girl (Mili) found a strange man wandering in the jungle, unarmed and uncamouflaged, and yet unharmed. This man called himself “Sayani,” and said he had a message of tolerance and equality. He was hailed as the legendary Messiah of Infinite Eyes, the man who could see past, present, and future. He began a populist movement that deposed Chuscu.

The revolution was all but over when Theonides brought his son Eustice to Munti Manchay to discuss mining rights with Chuscu’s government, not realizing the revolution had changed the balance of power. Once he understood the change, he thought long and hard on which government to support. Meanwhile, Eustice went off on a poorly-thought-out hunting trip, where he was attacked by a rampaging Chayara Cat. Luckily, Mili was hunting nearby, and she saved his life—but they both ended up taken by a Qiri ape to be eaten. She kept him alive for days, both wounded, before Theonides, Jonakin, and Gruda[?] rescued them.

Taken back to the City to recover, Mili has only heard bits and pieces of the tale from then on. As Mili is inextricably linked to Sayani’s movement, Theonides took her saving his son as the deciding factor, and made his mining agreement with Sayani. This provided legitimacy to his government, and Sayani pushed Chuscu out of power once and for all. Sayani’s government seems to be going well, and Mili occasionally wonders how the strange man she found in the jungle is managing.

Now that Eustice has decided to take a body-swap safari back to Munti Manchay, Mili has the chance to see how her home has fared. It has changed… but for the better or the worse?

Mili prepared the Men of Real Talent for the dangers of Munti Manchay before her boss’s sexual safari was to begin. She ensured everyone had a weapon and camouflage body paint. Unfortunately, Eustice was much more interested in looking “good,” and gave himself and his tarts extremely attractive but ultimately useless, brightly-colored camouflage patterns (the tarts even decked out in giant, poofy, floral-print dresses). The others went for a more practical pattern, but Mili painted “Dangerous. Don’t trust him” on Toulouse in the visual language of the Chinkasqa. Theonides was unsure about allowing Eustice to return to the dangers of Munti Manchay, but allowed that the repeated interest in Munti Manchay’s mining rights from Freyj and Arrulio meant that he needed to know what was so valuable about a small copper mine. Armed with this mission, the Men of Real Talent headed to the Crux to find a Realmshifter.

The Men of Real Talent traveled through a shiftgate to Munti Manchay, more specifically Mili’s home village of Naukar. Naukar is a nomadic village, but has certain locations it stays in certain seasons, allowing the City Realmshifters to target it properly. The village is covered by a camouflaged canopy and surrounded by a barricade of pointed fenceposts, to keep the Chinkasqa safe. When they arrived, the Messiah, Sayani, approached and greeted them, extremely happy to see Eustice and Mili again. Mili told Sayani about Toulouse’s “body-hopping” plans, and Sayani was extremely uncomfortable with it, but obviously wanted to make Eustice and his father happy, so promised to sleep on it.

Meanwhile, Eustice ordered Mili to find Toulouse a body (which she promptly ignored), while Toulouse began asking various Chinkasqa who might be willing to host his soul (while he normally doesn’t ask, he realized that the situation was delicate enough that he needed to—and Eustice saw the idea of “asking” as strange and kinky, wondering “isn’t everyone lined up to sleep with you?” as they are with him). [Toulouse “like the Old Spice guy” (look up, look down, you’re on a horse)—what?]. Mili was somewhat mollified by the fact that Toulouse needed to speak to a target in order to transfer his mind, but was unnerved by the fact that he seemed to be picking up the language.

Sayani threw Eustice and Mili a festival, a strangely silent affair filled with beautiful dancing and casual sex. Mili spent all night avoiding an old flame, and ended up off with someone else. Before she went off, Mili spent the evening talking Gruda up, emphasizing her muscles and child-bearing hips (which Gruda was intensely uncomfortable with). Gruda finally loosed up a little, drinking fermented yam and dancing, but still didn’t find a bed partner. Eustice found himself several Chinkasqa girls to seduce, and did quite well despite not speaking the language.

In the middle of the night, the Men were awakened by a commotion, which proved to be a group of Chayara cats attacking the barricades—or possibly fleeing from an even bigger threat! Either way, the Men of Real Talent sprang into action. Mili hid herself, but was spotted by several of the keen-eyed cats, and kept her attention on the one who hadn’t seen her. Eustice strode out of his tent, buck-naked and waving his sword threateningly. Gruda found herself overly distracted by Eustice’s form, and he easily talked her into saving his tarts du jour. Mili meanwhile knocked a cat from its perch on top of the barricade, spraining its ankle. Toulouse was nowhere to be seen, apparently much faster at removing his pants than putting them on, but Eustice attacked a cat with a duelist’s stance, shouting “have at thee!” It responded to his inappropriate attack style by knocking his sword from his hand. The cat rushed him, but Gruda ran to his side and interposed herself in between her love and the attacking feline, knocking it to the ground.

Another cat cleared the barricade in one leap and mauled a Chinkasqa hunter to death. Meanwhile, Jonakin went to Sayani’s hut, aiming to get the shiftgate projector and get her charge out of Munti Manchay ASAP. Unfortunately, Sayani was nowhere to be seen, nor was the projector. There was a terrible mess and the tell-tale tracks of Sayani having been dragged off by some malign force. Back in the battle, Mili sniped another cat while Eustice tried to ride his. Gruda Forceshifted the cats to the ground, holding them down so they could be defeated. The final cat was turned to the side of the Men of Real Talent by Jonakin, who scented herself like catnip.

The cats defeated, the Men of Real Talent next had to figure out where Sayani had gone, and if they could survive the dangerous jungles of Munti Manchay…

A few notes on Chinkasqa society: Their population is weighted towards men, due to their women having a tendency to die in childbirth, but there are no strict gender roles: everyone is expected to be a hunter. They value silence above all, and only some of them even speak their own verbal language, most of their communication performed via color-shifting patterns on their skin. There is very little in the way of family roles: casual sex is common, and a child is something the entire village is expected to take care of. The CHinkasqa are attracted to muscular women able to take care of themselves, not the “traditionally” feminine women of the City. The elderly are very highly valued, as few people can make it to middle age without being killed by predators or environmental hazards—but it’s considered that if you can make it to 40, you can make it to 60. Crafting skill is highly prized and very rare.

A few notes on House Varos: Perhaps Theonides has been trying to have another son to replace Eustice for twenty years, as soon as he realized the boy would be a disappointment. However, since Ryline loves her boy so much, she has spent a lot of time with Iversdotter Bloodshifters to abort any further pregnancies. This, of course, begs the question: what would Theonides do if he had another son? Would he kill Eustice, would he stop protecting him and allow him to kill himself, would he banish him?


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