Comic 923 - Petition the tradesmen

Posted on 11th Apr 2018, 6:39 PM in Shipping Off to Southden
Petition the tradesmen

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Author Notes:

Morgenstern 11th Apr 2018, 6:39 PM edit delete
Caius goes to get the materials.

"I will... accompany you," suggests Dr. Finch. "Having looked over a few of the other rituals, and discussed matters with Pierce, I believe we can perhaps stock up for future rituals as well. ...Save us a few trips, and all that."

While they're out buying supplies, you carry on casual conversation with the others. It steers surprisingly far from discussing the ritual--mostly small talk, actually. By the time Dr. Finch and Caius return, you start to wonder if everyone's intentionally avoiding thinking about the ritual.

Caius and Dr. Finch give you the candles, paint, and yarn. They also grabbed what they could of additional materials for some of the other rituals from Geoangular Control. You use the yarn to measure out your lines and circles more carefully, steadily painting out on the floor the symbol never-you wrote in the back of the book.

"Should we be doin' this in here?," Michelle asks. "I ain't got a better idea, but... this is kinda our main space."

"Nah, s'good," Caius replies. "It's a confined space, and we know where everything is... so if this goes south and we summon tha wrong thing, we can whip its ass."

At last, you... finish the ritual. Everything is in place, all the symbols look like they do in the book, everything's sorted.

"Guess this is it," Fuse says.

You nod.

No time like the present.

You take a deep breath.

You step into the circle.

Everyone is silent as you start to repeat the words inscribed in the back of the book. You're not... exactly sure you're pronouncing them correctly. ...Then again, the spelling of the words looks a little unusual. You think never-you might have written the words out how they're to be said, rather than how they're originally spelled, knowing full well you'd mess up pronouncing them if they were spelled correctly.

As you speak the words, the smoke from the candles begins to thicken and spread. It fills the room, changing colors, slowly obscuring everything around you. You feel a little light headed, but you keep going. Everything starts to smell a bit like the ocean. ...You're not sure if that's the spell, or if Caius and Dr. Finch grabbed scented candles.


"Hello. We had hoped that you would find a way to contact us eventually."

Each of them speaks a different word of every sentence, alternating fluidly. Their voices are all the same, but they come from completely different directions. You can't tell, exactly, how many there are--when you stop looking at any group of them, their positions and numbers change. They come and go with the motions of the smoke.

"We are the tradesmen. We are familiar with your culture, and wish to accommodate you as much as we can. There is no special etiquette to dealing with us, no code that you must follow in communicating. We value your business, and we are eager to meet you halfway. Do not attempt to cheat us and honor all deals, that is all we ask. We will ensure that you understand a cost before you agree to pay it, and we will do our best to honor our end of any contract. We cannot enter the circle, as per its terms. We do not recommend that you step outside it, either. We will not harm you, but the atmosphere will."

You... start to ask about their pricing, but they begin to answer before you can.

"There are, at all times, wars ensuing. You are a piece in play across many games, whether you realize it or not. Life and death. Equilibrium and change. Skin and metal. We strive to be a neutral party. To grant you favors without cost would be to choose a side, which we cannot do. It would be bad for business. Thus, any question we answer that would tip the balance, we must price accordingly. If you receive, we must take. The more powerful the question, the higher the cost. Some of our prices may be physical. Tangible things. Others may simply be a change of the situation. Intangible things, but very real nonetheless. Our prices are agreed upon collectively in the moment, and thus, we regretfully cannot give you an easy listing. We do not know ahead of time what information you will seek. That is one of our limitations. It should be noted that simplistic answers tip the balance less, though they may be less useful to you. We strive to give full, complete answers to full, complete questions whenever possible. It's better for business."

You start to ask if you have enough, currently, to condense Faraday back to her normal form. You start to ask, but they cut you off.

"You have what you need to return Faraday to a shape that she is satisfied and familiar with. We offer this statement not as a deal, but as a free sample to assure the quality of our product. It would not tip the balance in any presently foreseeable way, knowing what we currently do."

...You start to ask if they're always going to answer a question before you ask--

"If you do ask a question, we are obligated to put a price upon its answer. If we simply... make a statement, unprompted, we cannot charge you for it. That would be bad for business."

You ask about Thale's tunnels. What is the purpose of the tunnels, and is there anything you can do about it?

"Your eye," reply the tradesmen. "One eye from your head. It cannot be replaced or regrown. You will be short one eye for the rest of your existence. That is our price to answer that question."

You ask about the creatures behind the door to Bunker C.

"Your rat, Willard. He must be given to us to answer your question about the identity of the hostile, aggressive, and very dangerous entities that lie beyond that door."


Nayru9572 11th Apr 2018, 7:40 PM edit delete reply
The eye we can live without: an eyepatch was cool anyways, and it's not like Jane can really have any blindspots what with her being the blood.
Willard however, I'm not willing to give up. At least now we know that whatever behind that door's not something we want to meet.
Also, ask if a glass eye would count as replacing our eyeball, and if we can still make other eyes without putting them in our empty eyesocket. If the latter's not allowed, the answer might not be worth it.
Cruentum 11th Apr 2018, 7:49 PM edit delete reply
Agreed. No to Willard, yes to eyeball. Cuz eye patches are cool. It can serve as a reminder of the danger we have overcome and that yet to come.
Avery-Cross 11th Apr 2018, 7:42 PM edit delete reply
ummm...i think we'd rather not choose anything that would cause us to lose any member of our party, including Willard
Crestlinger 11th Apr 2018, 7:44 PM edit delete reply
K no going beyond that door then. EVER. Also, plant a tracking bug on one Brother Hope to relatively track Thale.
Time to make some statements.
undeadDreamer 11th Apr 2018, 7:46 PM edit delete reply
Are your prices based on what the value of what you ask is to us?
Xylas_Incarnum 11th Apr 2018, 7:49 PM edit delete reply
Their price is based on how much it fucks up the plans everyone else is making... is how I'm paraphrasing their answer to Jane's attempted ask on pricing. the greater the disruption the greater the cost. Not entirely certain if an eye we can't replace or grow back is more or less as important and Willard though.
Xylas_Incarnum 11th Apr 2018, 7:46 PM edit delete reply
. . . Yeah, see I know (about) a guy who got a whole lot more than that for his eye, partially because he's got supernatural luck on steroids and being partially blind kicked that up to 11, and partially because he saved the woman who would be integral to saving the world by giving up that eye.

Not exactly seeing how those tunnels match the whole "integral person to save the world from things better not to know" thing. Fairly certain Thale hasn't. . . Oh.... wait..... Mom's adversary might have a mantle that's comparable to an entity from outside time/space and is the inherent source of evil/a good half or so the options in free will. . . . Maybe. Fairly certain that's more towards wayyyy down the line though.

Willard's life for the information behind bunker C's door........... might be a good trade. gotta be honest I think we need to go and communicate with the rest of the party a bit, maybe get Faraday back together.

Other than that..... well, we really need to figure out what we need, and is less important on a large scale as the tunnels or the entirety of one of the cast members, even a total support role/mascot like Willard.
Nayru9572 11th Apr 2018, 7:49 PM edit delete reply
I don't think anyone wants to lose Willard over knowledge of something behind a door that's definitely dangerous and we don't need to open anyways.
Xylas_Incarnum 11th Apr 2018, 10:02 PM edit delete reply
Yeah, I was trying to get across that the knowledge wasn't worth loosing the rat mascot, or anyone else.
Leafia_Barrett 11th Apr 2018, 7:49 PM edit delete reply
Decline the second deal - we're definitely not sacrificing Willard.
Regarding the first deal: Can you better define "cannot be replaced or regrown"? I don't want to accidentally step on your toes. By replacing it, do you mean "a vision source" or any sort of depth perception, whether it's by vision or other senses? Can we put a fake glass eye in the socket for appearance purposes?
Whatever the case, I... think the price is worth it. We only need one functional eye - we can find ways around lacking depth perception. We dealt with it before, we can deal with it again. I just don't want to break the contract accidentally by assuming something.
Let's also inquire about the price of the question "Is it possible for people whose minds have been consumed by oversyncing to be restored to their old selves?"

EDIT: Okay, so apparently if there's an action that would break the terms, we're just not able to do it.
Cuttlefish 11th Apr 2018, 8:12 PM edit delete reply
We can gain information from the Tradesmen simply by seeing what cost is attached to the information - like knowing how important a question in an exam is by knowing how many marks it is worth. If dealing for info needs a huge sacrifice, we at least know the topic is important.

Another question to seek the value of: How many Z50 bunkers remain to be found? What is the specific connection code to the most useful Z50 bunker?
pkrankow 11th Apr 2018, 8:31 PM edit delete reply
We were given a wealth of information about the entity on the other side of bunker c

"Your rat, Willard. He must be given to us to answer your question about the identity of the hostile, aggressive, and very dangerous entities that lie beyond that door."

The entities are plural
Very dangerous

Try asking if access to the other side of bunker c is required in the next few months.

We should have bought groceries for potential trade items. These questions are very expensive so far.

A yes/no question should have less value.
Twyll 11th Apr 2018, 9:11 PM edit delete reply
Yeah, I think the Tradesmen were actually giving us a bit of a lagnappe on that one-- giving us some bonus information without looking like they were intentionally revealing anything. Interesting, perhaps they have some vested interest in us knowing how dangerous the entities behind that door are... Let's be grateful for what they've given us; no need to give up Willard when what we *really* wanted to know (the practicality of trying to deal with the entities behind that door, which is obviously very low) has been told to us for free.
AE-86 11th Apr 2018, 8:33 PM edit delete reply
We could just flood the tunnels that way no matter their purpose they can't be used
a_name 11th Apr 2018, 8:34 PM edit delete reply
I subscribe this message. I don't like any of these "trades". Too much of a gamble here... I would like to stall a decision and petition the tradesmen for more ans- I mean, questions.

Knowing a new bunker would be awesome but I think that's pricey information. Maybe asking for the tribesman for 2 or 4 digits instead of the whole 6? This way, the price should get lower, while giving Fuse a chance to crack more specific door codes.
a_name 11th Apr 2018, 8:36 PM edit delete reply
And by "this message" I mean Cuttlefish's...
pkrankow 11th Apr 2018, 8:40 PM edit delete reply
It is a good line of questions
Are there more bunkers to be located?
How many more?
Are any of these bunkers significantly more useful?
Means to make our software more efficient at finding codes?
Wote 11th Apr 2018, 8:36 PM edit delete reply
I vote that we don't take either deal for now, regardless of how they answer our questions. They've pretty much told us enough about Bunker C anyway, and wanting one of our eyes is at least enough of a cue to tell us that Thale's tunnels aren't just a way to save some money on paying tolls.

We can contact them again later when we've had time to consider. If we do want to ask for clarification, I think we should confirm that we are permitted to consider the cost they ask and return at a later time. Not with the expectation that they won't change the cost—since the situation may have changed by then and require a different payment—but with the chance to look at the degree of payment they're looking for and have time to consider it.
pkrankow 11th Apr 2018, 8:45 PM edit delete reply
How long are these offers good for? I expect this answer to be free.

Yes, considering the cost together is important.

I think the addictive or non addicting nature if magic can be determined through conversation with Pierce.
Yuki 11th Apr 2018, 8:51 PM edit delete reply
Let's hold off on doing any trades at the moment, especially ones where the price is so high. We need to see what our options are in terms of answers to cost ratio, talk with the others, then change the questions for the problematic costs into something simpler and less likely to cause trauma. We have no end to the questions we can ask now, but we've got to be smart about which ones we REALLY need answers to and how to ask them.

BTW long time reader, first time poster. I am absolutely loving this story and its format. It's so engaging and makes me very excited to know what happens next.
pkrankow 11th Apr 2018, 8:59 PM edit delete reply
I agree. No trades right now especially given the high costs involved.
pkrankow 11th Apr 2018, 9:11 PM edit delete reply
Ask for a useful question that can be asked instead of the question we asked. If the cost is in consumables that can be replaced freely then knowing the question will be worth a trade. If the question is useful then either investigating it or asking it to determine the cost would be the next steps.

While I imply the question is on topic, i dont want to require the question to be on topic as a topic change may be valued too.
Cuttlefish 11th Apr 2018, 9:18 PM edit delete reply
I love the idea of asking what question we should be asking!
Twyll 11th Apr 2018, 9:19 PM edit delete reply
I'd like to ask what the price would be for "how do we *stop* what Thale is doing in the tunnels." If it would tip the balance less for us to know how to stop it but not know *what* he's doing, that might have a different price. Perhaps knowing what he's doing would give us ideas that the other side doesn't want us having.
Weezl 11th Apr 2018, 9:21 PM edit delete reply
I vote no for trade 1 and no for trade 2. Unless...we grow another eye in Jane's head (like the muscle regrowth thing from much earlier) and trade that eye that is located somewhere else in Jane's head instead of the normal two. Though that may be disobeying the spirit of the trade.
undeadDreamer 11th Apr 2018, 9:21 PM edit delete reply
Why did you hope we'd find a way to contact you?
skybirds15 11th Apr 2018, 9:25 PM edit delete reply
By replaced or regrown, do they mean by a functional eye? As in, fake eyes made of glass or the like. Also, we could grow an eye anywhere, theoretically, so when they mean regrow, do they just mean in that one spot or that we are only allowed to have one sight-capable eye at any time?

Also... heh, know we know there is more than one thing behind that door without paying any price.
Tych 11th Apr 2018, 10:28 PM edit delete reply
okay so we ain't going thru Bunker C's Default door anytime soon good to know
Frission 12th Apr 2018, 5:35 AM edit delete reply
Um. Let's go with no to both of those for now. O_o