“Follow me,” shouted Grumpy! And he ran into an alleyway. We’re on a minor street with crafter shops after a few twists and a squeeze between some crates. Many of the doorways have people standing nearby, smiling and catching skittles as they fall out of the air.

Gilden says, “Put your cloaks on while we are under the awning – hoods up!”

“Open Backpack!” I grab the cloak out of the inventory slot. “Close Backpack.” I pulled it on and lifted the hood over my head.

Mason comes up to me, “It’s not a cape – pull it so more of the material is in the front, and you’ll find ‘pockets’ your shoulders fall into to help support the weight and distribute the cloth better. There are three sets of braids high up on the front, called ‘frogs’; fasten them together to keep the cloak closed and less like to come off while running or in the wind. This medium cloak works as a light blanket and a decent coat. You’ll want something heavier if you are going into colder climates or where there are significant seasonal shifts. You’ll find several pockets of different sizes and shapes sewn into the inside – explore them later. Don’t forget you can use the wardrobe function to put it on too.”

“Enough chatter, let’s go!” And Grumpy led us along the road towards the graveyard.

  — * ~ * —

“It was bad luck drawing that much of Nirvana’s attention. She doesn’t care if we’re in danger; after all, we’ll just come back,” complained Grumpy.

“It’s fine. Actually, I’m very excited about it. Did you hear what she said? It’s been a ‘very, very long time.’ That means they aren’t new; she isn’t adding content because of us; we’re just rediscovering it. It also means that some of the other things I am thinking of are likely to be true. If I wanted to read an old book, what would I have to do? Are there libraries or an interface?

Grumpy replied, “If you have completed your initial term, you interface with the Net via your HUD and do your reading and research there. Most services have some cost so that you will need resources in the physical.”

“Where did the Basic and Advanced books come from?”

“The association pays crafters to print and make them,” Gilden responded. “That’s why we charge for them; we need to recover the costs.”

“And all anybody does with the graveyard is farm undead for weapon training?”

“No. The graveyards shift constantly, so adventurers explore them all the time, looking for the tombs of monsters; Dracula, Frankenstein, Chucky, and others. These tombs are mini-dungeons that most explore and loot. If you have the manpower, you can hold sections of the graveyard to search for these treasure spots, and some teams do just that.

“Crap. I know that Horn Point is a port town. How significant is it?”

“Um, well, I am sure we qualify as a city, and we are in the top ten on the west coast,” answered Gilden. “We are, however, only an interesting footnote in Nirvana’s overall size and scope.

“So this would make a decent base of operations, large enough to get a wide variety of resources and materials and easy travel to explore from by land and sea.”

Grumpy said, “It’s why I’m here. Didn’t need to go anywhere else once I found it. Smaller places don’t have enough and struggle more. The government here is fairly hands-off unless you interfere with trade – where they make their money, and people generally just do their own thing.”

“What kind of government?”

“Horn Point is the capital of the Iron Cross Kingdom, his majesty, King Henry VIII reigns, and has since its creation about three hundred years ago,” said Mason.

“How funny. If you live forever, assassination won’t change who’s in charge. No challenges to his authority?”

“Nothing in the last hundred years or so. His policies are simple and fair, very beneficial to trade. He has tariffs to fund the crown and his modest army. Property taxes pay for the city guard and fire brigades. License and permit fees, along with fines, pay for the small amount of bureaucracy needed to run the city and surrounding areas,” injected Gilden

“Since sex, drugs, and gambling are legal trades, the usual inroads for organized crime don’t exist here. There’s almost nothing that is restricted in trade, so there’s no black market. Theft is only really recognized if you get caught red-handed, then the goods are confiscated and sold. You only get your property back if you can steal it back. Everybody hates thieves, so most people will help the guard catch them – with information if nothing else,” added Grumpy. “What’s going on?”

“What’s going on is that I’m an idiot. Consider this Asian saying, ‘Flaunting wealth brings misfortune.’

“You’re worried that somebody is going to want to make you their pet,” said Mason.

“That would be one of the better outcomes. I am certain that after Nirvana’s stunt that there will be at least one representative at the Vane waiting to talk to me.”

Grumpy asked, “Do you still trust us?”

“As much as I did this morning, I think this has been a fortuitous meeting. That being said, I don’t really know you, and I don’t have the impression that you are powerful enough in the city to provide any protection. I also think that you are probably well known enough that interested parties are going to discount you and focus on me as the new element.”

“You’re right about that; the Explorer’s Association is more like a club. We’re not a Power in the city,” Gilden added along with some air quotes. “You make a good point. I don’t think any of us were thinking that far ahead.”

“Well, It would be better if I could pick who I want to get protection from instead of being snatched off the street. I’m probably making it worse than it is, but I also know that if I came back to the inn with a treasure or two, it would only get worse.”

Grumpy asked, “Is what you think is in the graveyard something that can be taken from you, or is it something that you will keep after your death?”

“Well, confirmation of what I think is there is knowledge that can’t be taken from me; by itself, it has a huge potential for wealth. There are likely to be items, why we need the shovels, and those can be taken. Likely, most people won’t recognize their value – but it doesn’t mean you might not be assaulted if they think I gave them to you to prevent their theft.”

“Fair enough,” said Grumpy. “There’s one more major power in the city that we didn’t touch on; the Sects. I think that they are your best option. They encourage growth and protect their members while they grow, at least to some degree. Most of the nobles and merchant princes won’t mess with them, and you aren’t interesting enough for the King to care. Let’s go prove your theory and see if there’s something more than how to find cantrips to worry about.”

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