Lord Useless and the Men of Real Talent
The year is 542 Breaking (or 554, or 566, depending on which calendar you use). Forty years have passed since the valiant and unsung men and women working for House Trevelanius turned back the Niontian invasion and removed the corrupt Tessiria Aderino from power. In the intervening years, House Trevelanius rose to extraordinary influence in the City, and brought several allied Houses to power with it. House Varos, a strongly Triochean Promethean family, has become a great power, its head Theonides in his fifth year as head of the High Council. An unprecedented economic boom has made the City richer than ever before, as the burgeoning industrial revolution ticks along.
However, all is not well in the City. A sudden explosion of religious revivalism fills the populace with guilt and dissatisfaction over their Triochean money-loving ways, and House Varos finds more and more of its eminently logical laws voted against on ethical grounds as the Canonists and Publicans rise in power. As industry has increased over the last half-century, the rich have grown richer, and the middle class as well… but the lower classes, exploited more than ever, are growing restless, and a revolution is well under way, violent terrorism sweeping through the streets on a daily basis. The ringleader of this revolution, the single-minded Mo Proudhoe of the Commune, has only grown tougher and angrier in his age, and nobody has been able to stop his advances (and fear to turn him into a martyr).
With the increased industrial growth of the last half-century, the Factorium has grown larger and larger, spilling into the Plains and displacing many Rurals. As the factories need more and more workers, these displaced Rurals have moved into the City en masse, and the third generation of City-dwelling Rurals are now reaching maturity, distinctly different from their forebears. Though their soil-enriched blood still runs thick, the citified Rurals’ gardens are patchier and more likely to be cultivated for fashion than practical use, and some, known as the “Industrials,” have abandoned their plants entirely in exchange for Bloodshifting and surgically-implanted relics to improve their work efficiency. No matter who they are, these third-generation Rurals are no longer so naive or confused by the City, and for many, the romantic notions their grandparents had about the City’s promise have been transformed into disillusionment and bitterness… and hence the revolution…
Out in the Realms, the war continues to rage between the Shertasi and the Ma’ar, well into its seventh decade. The City of Lives has been acting as arms merchant to both sides for decades, and their increasingly impressive and efficient weaponry has turned the war deadlier, both to their own forces and the poor Outlanders who have the misfortune to live in between the two empires. Refugees of all kinds flood the City, while charitable groups send their own to help in the other Realms, and diplomats struggle to keep the City out of the war without turning one or both of the empires against them. As more and more troubles boil in the City itself, public opinion turns away from helping the victims of a foreign war, and fuels the fires of revolution all the hotter.
Into this miasma of conflicting powers and loyalties steps Lord Eustice House Varos, ready to save the Realm. Unfortunately, Eustice (or “Useless” behind his back) is anything but qualified for this job. Though he is the only viable candidate for control of House Varos, everyone in his family is desperately searching for a way to remove him from succession: encouraging him to marry and have children of his own, supporting one or another of his lower-ranking (but more competent) cousins in a potential coup, or simple but inelegant assassination. Lord Theonides is well-aware of his son’s deficiencies as well as his importance, and has surrounded him with a cadre of talented women with the goal of keeping Eustice alive (and perhaps even improving his leadership abilities) while pretending to humor his wild fantasies and stupid ideas.
- Lord Eustice “Useless” House Varos (Mindy) is a foppish idiot with delusions of grandeur, a penchant for cheap women and expensive trouble. He brings nothing to the team but his family name—which, thankfully, is worth a lot.
- Iolanthe House [?] (Sara) is Theonides’ secret weapon, a “proper woman” mean to lead Eustice into the arms of respectability. She knows everyone and can twist them all around her little exquisite little finger.
- Jonakin (Jeremy) is Eustice’s “minder,” the officially unofficial leader of this team and the only one who truly understands how difficult it is keeping her charge alive.
- Gruda of Penelope’s Wharf (Molly), a cook turned bodyguard, is unhealthily obsessed with Eustice, ignoring his faults even as she protects him from every physical and romantic threat.
- Mili (Anna) is Eustice’s “pet Outlander”—or his he hers?—a [?] Farsharer always on the lookout for the latest disaster to come Eustice’s way.
How will Useless and his “Men” of Real Talent keep the balance of power in the City and prevent the collapse and ruin of House Varos? They’re going to need a lot of luck…
Stupid Idea No. 83: Shut Down the Factory Uprising
At home with his father, mother, and coterie of doting admirers, Lord Eustice House Varos overheard his father discussing the union organizers causing trouble at one of his textile mills. He was quite irritated at the unionists, stating that he gave his workers everything they needed, and if they had more wages or fewer hours, they would only waste it on frivolities. Theonides specifically ordered Eustice not to get involved, but once he’d gone to bed, Ryline encouraged Eustice to “work his magic” and settle the dispute.
The following morning, Eustice and the Men of Real Talent headed down to the Factorium and the Varos textile mill. There they found the building surrounded by strikers—chanting, marching, and holding signs. They spoke to the foreman, a Pariah named Midanty, who said that the strikers were led by a Kipman named Bock. Eustice and the Men spoke to Bock, who said he would only negotiate with Theonides or a duly-appointed representative. He also mentioned a “person he couldn’t talk about” (assumed to be revolutionary Mo Proudhoe by the Men) had been lurking around, encouraging the strikers to take control of the factory or burn it to the ground. Eustice insisted he was a Varos representative, and was extremely insulted that Bock insisted on written proof. He responded by “solving” the situation very simply: he declared that all of the striking workers were fired, and told Midanty to go and get some new workers: “Outlanders, Rurals, Kipmen with cognitive defects.” Eustice wrote via Farscribe to his mother: “The strike is over, new workers will be arriving soon. Please send someone to remove the old workers. What’s for dinner?”
This declaration quickly caused a riot, violence spilling into the streets. However, Jonakin managed to quiet the crowd before too much damage was caused (though one Kipman was hamstrung with a pin-point dagger throw from Mili, and Bock took Gruda’s fist to his face). Forcefully grabbing Gruda’s braid, Jonakin pronounced “pay no attention to my sister. She is acting on her own with no authority from Theonides. I am arresting her for assault on your fine leader.” As the riot calmed, Jonakin proceeded to convince Eustice that he should consult with Theonides about this latest turn of events (though, of course, Eustice came to the conclusion that it had been his own idea the whole time). Eustice and Gruda headed back to Varos Manor while the other Men stayed to examine the mill.
Mili headed into the mill through a convenient window (now that all the strikers were out front) and began to search for anything of interest. While she pored over the mill inch-by-inch, Jonakin employed her Bloodshifting to heal Bock and the injured Kipman.
Back at the Manor, Eustice bragged about how he had solved the problem. Even his doting mother realized that things were not going as well as he’d like to think, and summoned Theonides. Theonides chastised Eustice for getting involved, then pulled Gruda aside. He told her that with the Publicans breathing down his neck, he could not afford the scandal of hiring strike-breakers, taking jobs away from rightful City workers and encouraging illegal immigrants. Gruda insisted she had been trying to protect Eustice by keeping him away from the riot, and Theonides agreed that her job was to protect Eustice, but that “The most dangerous person to Eustice is Eustice.” Reluctantly, Theonides wrote up a document authorizing Eustice to negotiate with Bock, and told Gruda to get him back to the mill ASAP to send the strike-breakers home and get things sorted.
By the time Gruda and Eustice returned to the mill, Mili had discovered a group of thorn-covered Kipmen and Rurals examining some kind of clockwork device. Coming from a jungle Realm of negligible technology, Mili had no idea what it was, but figured that these men shouldn’t be in a boarded-up factory, and headed back out to speak to the rest of the Men of Real Talent.
When the scabs arrived, Jonakin headed off Eustice’s no-doubt-insulting gesture and paid the strike-breakers two hours’ wages for their trouble in coming to the mill (hoping to be reimbursed by Theonides at a later date). Mili then utilized her color-changing skin and Farsharing abilities to show the thorned men’s activities. Iolanthe was able to identify them as part of Mo’s group the Burnt Thorns, and the clockwork device as a bomb. Unfortunately, the Men were unfamiliar with explosives and clockwork, and unable to determine if the bomb would be triggered as a suicide attack or if they could safely wait until the thorned men left before trying to disarm the bomb (though none of them had any idea how to go about doing that).
Jonakin pierced Iolanthe’s skin with painful thorns so that she could go in undercover, and she and Mili followed just behind the deceitful Promethean. Iolanthe quickly ingratiated herself into the saboteurs, and used her Soulsharing to convince one of them that he should not set off the bomb. This saboteur began an argument with one of his more aggressive colleagues, and another headed out into the next room, passing by Mili. Unfortunately, Mili’s camouflaged skin failed to hide her well enough, and he shouted in alarm, then ran over to another explosive device hidden in a corner.
Chaos erupted, as Gruda rushed in and Mili attempted and failed to place a Forceshaping shield over the nearest explosive… while Eustice calmly negotiated a new contract with Bock outside…
Many people in the City get their news from Dreamsharers, who act as “ambulance chasers,” rushing to the sites of tragedy and watching it, then going door-to-door or to special parlors to mentally share their experiences with the rich (especially Epicureans) who want to feel what’s going on.
Eustice has a habit of pretending (even to himself) that any time someone else changes his mind, it was his idea in the first place.
Mili’s home Realm has carnivorous hedgehogs. In fact, everything there is either carnivorous or has absurdly strong defense mechanisms. It’ll all chew your face off, the question is if they’ll swallow after.
Jonakin is totally going to get fired (given her harsh treatment of Eustice today).