The sun rose as the light gently filtered through the silk stocking curtains of the Lord Merchant's bed chambers, flooding the floor with a haze of rose pink and snow white light. A sole butler walked in and lifted the veils to let the pure sun into the room and thus the Lord Merchant's eyes. As the Lord Merchant and his wife rose from their sheets, a pair of maids wheeled in a cart with covered plates and bowls.
"Today's breakfast will be-be of splint-roasted baby fish and a sweet-sweet herb salad. Served with-with is grain toast or biscuit." as the butlerat announced the morning's meal, the maids lifted the silver covers off the plates on the cart, revealing beautifully cook minnows with glimmering herbs, freshly picked from the estate's own gardens, "Your tea for today is a Lipton Black scented with orange, imported from far-far Rathay."
With delicate hands, the maids brought out small tables and placed it in the laps of Lord Merchant Lokier Swiftsilver and his wife and placed their dishes on the finely carved wooden tables. A goblet of fine spirits had been placed on each of the night tables besides the lord and lady, Lokier preferred a hearty, stout ale with his meals while his wife enjoyed a sweet red wine, most often made of fruit imported from Spartsia. Both the Lord and the Lady offer their first bites to the maids to make sure they were not poisoned before lifting their own forks and knives and eating with small, dignified bites.
"In the morning, there will be a council meeting for Lord Swiftsilver regarding expiditions to Rathay. Lady Skyjewel and Lady Redsoul will also be arriving with their children for the scheduled tea party with Lady Swiftsilver." The butlerat listed off the day's activities as the maids cleaned up the remains of the Swiftsilver's breakfast and brought out various fancy garmets for the two to wear. "Midday, Lord Swiftsilver has been requested to meet with Commander Grismaine Tailbiter of the House Ritter Guard. That is all that is planned for today milords."
The beat of crudely fashioned drums filled the air, in a marching beat. A song emerged from the mouth of every soldier in the caravan, as they used toy cars lashed together to wheel around goods. Each rat was dressed in the standard uniform, a Rattio Segmenta, a form of armor made out of sporting goods equipment, and carried a heavy-looking shield painted with the logo of the empire.
Further, a small shortsword sat in a sheath, one of the fancier weapons available to them. Crudely fashioned Raliums, throwing spears, dangled at their hips. Atop a ferret, in the middle of the caravan, sat the caravan master, clearly an Raptio, an officer within the Legions of Spartsion. They were on their way to the docks of a nearby settlement, to charter a vessel to take them to Origilio.
Surrounded by sea, the only way in to Origlio proper was through its docks, ferried upon by ships to the main island. It was no surprise of course that dozens of coastal villages and docks ahd sprung up and that the most important of these had become major trade hubs in their own rights.
As the Spartsion caravan reached such a hub, a group of pikerats in finely wrought armor carrying long, decoarted lances walked up to them and asked for their names and purpose, standard formality for traders. Their considerably more ornate and standardized equipment compared to some of their comrades marked them out as a Household Retinue of one of the Merchant Clans of Origlio who were as used to fighting each other as they were with bandits or dealing with paper work, "Welcome to the Most Serene Ratpublic of Origlio, please state your name, purpose and origins by decree of the Merchant Lord Lokier Swiftsilver."
The drums stopped as the caravan halted, the caravan master slowly riding up. He spoke out, clearly, "We are a caravan from the Spartsion Empire, bringing wines and grapes by the request of the Merchant Clans. I am Raptio Decisis, of Legion Gardania. Our passage is already paid for. I understand that we may charter any of the ships in dock to take us to the capital?"
"Should figured it was Spartisians by the drums and flags," the pikerat muttered under his breath with a hint of awe, "Alright! Let them through! Bookie, did you get all of that?" A Small confidently slammed his log shut and gave a thumbs up who in turn nodded to a guard manning a bolt-thrower tower.
"If you would, there is a Ironback waiting for your caravan at Dock 4 to take you to the mainland. Have a good day sir and fair fortunes." the pikerat gave a casual salute before marching off with the rest of his patrol.
The rat on the ferret nodded, and once the salute was given, yelled out to his caravan, "Classus, bear rites!" and with that, each rat stood up onto their backlegs, placing their free, non-shielded hand over their heart with their fists closed. Then, they brought it out, holding it at an angle in front of them. After that was done, they dropped back to all-fours and moved on.
They marched without drums as they entered the settlement, to avoid scaring the locals, but they displayed Legio III banners proudly as they began singing their marching song again. They made their way to Dock 4, bypassing throngs of locals. Once in sight, the marching song was ordered ceased while the Raptio searched for the Ironback.
Once found, he asked, "Are you our chartered vessel for the ride to the mainland?"
"Aye sir, me and old Balgrund were commissioned to ferry ye by Prince Groval." the rat gazed at the banners of the foreigners, "And speak of the Creators, there he is now."
"Mister Decisis! Mister Decisis!" a rather jolly if not portly rat dashed his way downs the docks, covered in expensive fabrics and jewelry in an effort to flaunt as much wealth as he could to anyone who happened to look his way, "Ahh I have been waiting for you-you for long time! I worry you would be lost-lost on trail!."
Clambering on to the the Ironback, Prince Groval whistled to a gaggle of dock workers who were behind him to help load the caravan's goods on to the Ironback's howda and the raft if towed behind, all while invite Raptio Decisis to sit next to him, "My friend! your journey must be long-long! Here, some brew for your throat!." Unveiling an ornate flask from somewhere beneth his flowing robes, Groval offered it to the caravan master, "Its a rich, fruity ale, quite the local favorite and one of my kinsmen owns a brewery so I get some of the good stuff hehe."
The caravan master gratefully accepted the drink, taking a swig with thanks as he recounted his story, telling of a tale of a road particularly infested with skulkers. He made sure to bolster his ego by reminding the prince that the skulkers were no match for a man of the Gardanian Legion. Then, he embellished his story with a second reminder that no matter the dangers, the men of the Legions could be trusted to complete their task.
"... Perhaps some day, once I have completed my tour of duty in Legion Gardania, I could come as an advisor for your military affairs. Make your household guard feared throughout the land, just like a legionary of Spartsion," he finished as he handed back the flask.
"Oh that would be wonderful! Such a brave-brave rat like you could do well in Origlio! Exprienced soldiers and commanders are always in high-high demands by the Merchant Clans for their own retinues. But if you would, come to me first-first." Groval gave a heartly chuckle as he called down at the Ironback and its rider, "How much longer until we arrive?"
"Thou needs not worry thineself milord." the Ironback spoke slowly but eloquantly as if to make every syllable count, "Shan't be long fore we reach the shores of home."
Chuckling once more, the Prince went back to reclining on the chair, discretly measuring Raptio to see if he would really be worthy of the praise he just gave, "Good friend, how is your cargo? I hope that it made it through in one piece with all the skulkers and stinkers and what have you."
Decisis was by all means a worthy rat for his position -- the legions were an entirely different culture from the statehouses. Only the upper echelons of the ranks were promoted based on social standing. In the lower ranks, like a Raptio, skill was everything. Decisis responded leisurely, saying, "It all made it through. Not a single stinking mouth or grubby paw touched the goods. We pride ourselves on our ability to defend our cargo," he paused, before saying, "after all, my men are legionaries of Gardania. The best defenders this mall has to offer."
"Ahh good-good!" Groval was noticbly more chipper as the Ironback arrived in Origlio. The city unveiled itself as a towering complex of platorms, elevators and levels looking less like a kingdom and more like a massive tower that reached into the ceiling as huge gears crancked and ticked, filling the air with a constant undertone of machinery and cog work. Gold was abundent as was fine artwork, clear signs of patronage by the Merchant Clans. No where else in the mall could a rat ever find something like this, something like Origlio, the City of Clockwork.
"Ohh! Careful now, don't-don't drop that m'boy!" Groval scolded a laborer as he off loaded the goods, "Now, my Decisis! Your meats should be waiting for you, just let me call them over. Fish, Small, I even pulled a string to get you some Worm meat! Very expensive but highly prized here! Take it as a token of friendship yes-yes!"
Of course, the worm meat wasn't as much as just a token, but a seed of a favor that Groval hoped to cultivate to exploit at a later date. External connection in Origlio were sometimes just as important as internal ones.
Decisus nodded once again, allowing his men to get onto the dock. He then said, "We appreciate the gesture greatly, Prince. I'm sure it will be looked upon favorably by the Caesar. Now, my men are weary from the march and the combat to defend the caravan, mayhaps there is lodging we may quarter for the night before we depart?"
"Oh of course, of course! I have some spare quarters in my villa for your personal use, your men can stay at an inn I recently acquired. Very-very good inn, clean and warm and plenty of open rooms! Food and wine is on me friend-friend! Just don't eat too much heh."