The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 3 - Dark Councils

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Description: The Spire has risen. The embassy of Majigen has been established. And the last pieces of the puzzle are nearly in place. But Jedah could not have done this without the help of his allies within Southtown. Of these allies, one has come to meet with the dark lord himself personally: Duke Burkoff. Duke makes the final bargain to secure his power in this war, the last debt with his dealing with the devil.

Two young women are situated just outside a window, on the ground floor of the Majigen Embassy. Horror begins to dawn on their features as the hollow-eyed demon inside methodically reads out the steps involved in transporting an individual to the realm of Majigen. To the Majigen representative, the process is pure tedium. One of the prospective immigrants, though, is starting to turn a fair shade of green from the lurid and detailed description.

One floor above them, the Lord of Majigen waits in front of a clock, narrowing his eyes at the infernal device that deigns to chronicle the unstoppable march of time. Humans, he's reminded himself, value the notion of 'time' much more than one of his elongated lifespan.

Humans. Individually, it's possible for them to hold some value to the demonic noble. Collectively, the repugnant, small-minded creatures are impossible, untenable -- worth little more than raw materiel for the fires of a divine forge. Darkstalkers and humans, living together in perfect harmony -- the very -thought- of such a thing! And yet, the Lord of Majigen reminds himself with a chuckle, the eventual success of his long-term strategy is ambrosia enough to make even the most distasteful thoughts tolerable. The humans -will- be useful to him, in some form.

Finally -- the anointed time approaches. The noble strides out of the second-story office, resting his slender fingertips along the wrought-iron handrail as he glances towards the glass doors separating the Majigen Embassy from the human world -- and its gleaming metropolis of Southtown -- without. No sign of his guest, yet... He takes long, languid strides down the sloped walkway, his gaze drifting across the windows of immigration officials. He even nods, in the presumption of friendliness, towards a number of people so far down in the echelons he'd be unable to identify any of them by name.

But of course they would each know of him. The regal Dark Messiah, Jedah Dohma.

Of the two humans at the window, one of them begins to vomit.
And the other is pulling on her friend's arm, tugging her towards the exit in a sudden panic.

The blue-skinned Dohma is no stranger to awestruck bystanders, after all. His only response, as he walks by the two on his way to the door, is a mild half-smile, as if someone witnessed a butterfly passing by, or a cloud in the shape of a dragon. Could he have hidden his true self behind some lesser visage, to spare the mortals from being forced to confront their inadequacy in his wake? Certainly so -- but why should the noble hide his nature here, of all places?

There are some thirty humans present on the Embassy's ground floor -- some at windows, others seated in the waiting area. And nearly every one of them seems surprised -- in some capacity -- to see the Dark Messiah striding to the door. To see the idealized, flawless form of the Lord of Majigen as he stops, some twenty feet in front of the main entrance. To watch, as his crimson eyes lift up to affirm that, yes, Duke Burkoff should be here in mere seconds.

And as if by predestination, Duke arrives to the front loby of the tower.

The title of 'the Man that Hell Spat out' seemed so quaint in the company of demons. And yet, the notorious, quote unquote, art collector was striding in, gloves and cane and fur cloak. Nose in the air, every step coming with the ponderous weight. He had arrived with his team; a dozen of his most loyal and elite soldiers. Also, Hyena, who looks like he might be around to disguise himself as one of Makai's residents. One of Makai's uglier residents. The posse stops after it spreads within, the human presence nearly doubling in the lobby. Duke stares at Jedah with yellow eyes. And he makes his own announcement.

"Lord Dohma."

Duke states, only just concealing the contempt for titles. The crime boss's presence was supposed to be polite. And yet, it was already struggling to challenge, to assert itself over the noble Jedah. Writhing, gritting against the authority.

"Allow me to welcome you to my city."

Duke responds, less to Jedah and more to the gawking onlookers. Duke doesn't show any fear or uncertainty, as he removes his gloves. He hands them, his cane, and his cloak to his sniveling Hyena, who isn't hesitating in bowing to both Duke AND Lord Dohma. No more words. Duke gives one more look to Lord Dohma, nostrils flaring, the smoldering power burning around him. He was only a man. And he was here as prearranged with Lord Dohma. And yet, this was the first time he had met him face to face.

And already, he was sizing him up, as another piece of territory for his own.

The majority of the Hall of Welcoming is set about a meter below the level of the entrance upon which Duke and his retinue stand. And Jedah stands at the bottom of a set of shallow steps.

Jedah Dohma bows in a respectful greeting, with no small amount of flourish. After all, he -should- be gracious -- he's welcoming a man with a fearsome reputation who can rightly lay claim to the control of the surrounding city. Duke's city, that is, if the tiny possessive pronoun were to have been interpreted literally.

That does not change the fact that when the seven-foot-tall demon returns to his full height, he's seeing eye-to-eye with Duke.

"Duke Burkoff," he answers, his voice as smooth as the finest silk. "An enchanting metropolis, indeed." He smiles, in polite deference, as he gestures toward the facility with an open hand. "In turn, allow me to welcome you to the Embassy of Majigen."

Ever the charmer, Jedah's crimson eyes sweep across the staff. A brief glance of acknowledgment is given to each of Duke's retinue -- though, he does linger a fraction of a second longer upon Hyena's... unique appearance.

The hand is swept towards his side, as he pivots sideways, in a suggestion for Duke and his followers to accompany him. "Would you or your staff care for coffee? Tea? Wine...?"

Surrounding the perimeter of the Embassy stand an array of mantis guards, each carrying a pike. When Duke first arrived, the mantis guards were so still that they could be confused for statues. But now, their antennae twitch, eagerly processing the wealth of information about the Embassy's new visitors. One such guard breaks ranks, making his way over to Duke, despite a lack of obvious signal. The creature's head and shoulders bow in deference -- if it were human, it might offer to take the heavy cloaks and coats of the visitors, as a concession to the warmth of the Embassy.

The Dark Messiah begins to stride towards the carpeted pathway that spirals up to the higher floors. The tall noble carries himself with unparalleled grace. In a situation of combat, his deadly wings would be unfurled and spread outward, but here, the bloodforged metal adopts the mannerisms of a cloak, suspended gracefully behind his back and posing no particular threat to any outlying extremities of those walking alongside him.

"I thank you for taking time out of your day to speak with me. There is a room where we can speak with considerably more... privacy."

The long ramp winds its way around; the first area that could be termed a "meeting room" is clearly the next story up. And yet, the trip up the circular ramp is hardly more taxing than walking on level ground. In this embassy, it's almost as if the laws of physics are as mutable as the laws of mankind.

If Jedah was the paragon of diplomatic charm, Duke was the Hyena of it.

The crime boss had that air of a mafiso, that intimidating presence that paled in the presence of an actual demon lord. And yet, his elite force of gangsters, already somewhat... nervous about the situation, already were sweating. From the heat? After all, there was a fear amongst them for Jedah, even at the kind offerings from Lord Dohma. Duke? Duke shakes his head. "There is none for me. They can choose what they want." Duke gives a fierce nod at them, and the team disperses amongst the lobby, eager to take up the embassy for the offer. Hyena himself dumps the stuff on the guard. As they scurry around, Duke looks back Jedah. "Yes, lets talk in private."

And Duke follows him.

He does not concern himself with the physical realities of the geometry. THis was a matter of business. He had settled his war. He had won it. ANd now, he had to pay his people. That's what he considered Lord Dohma at the moment. Another piper to pay. "Your entrance has gotten all of Southtown apprehensive, Lord Dohma." Duke ideally states, informally since they are not yet in the private cloister for more personal discussion. "Least of all, the NOL. I can't imagine why. You have been nothing short of polite in your arrival."

"I hope you haven't felt the reception has been too... cold."

Jedah is far from ignorant of the terrifying responses his appearance might instill upon the uninitiated. If he desired, he could easily reforge himself into a smaller, less imposing form -- but wouldn't that be dishonest, to present himself as any -less- than who he truly is? As the self-anointed Savior, he sees no reason to hide his true nature -- especially as it becomes an instrument for determing the character of those before him. To the demon lord, horror and anxiety are as seasonings on a fine gourmet dish -- ingredients that comprise the whole, whose absence is not essential but certainly appreciated.

And he can certainly tell that Duke is not about to reveal weakness before the beguiling half-smile of the Savior. Others may cower at Duke's bold, fearsome appearance -- but Jedah sees no need. For now, Jedah will treat Duke not as a lowly human, but as he might an equal.

Gloves, cloak, and cane are deposited on the floor. And as soon as Hyena steps back, the dutiful mantis servant will pick them right back up again, draping the cloak over one forelimb, while carrying the cane and gloves in another. Unless disturbed, he would simply proceed to put those away, where hapless humans would be less likely to step upon them.

Jedah has a long stride, but his pace is not hurried or rushed in the slightest. His demeanor was on the razor edge between amused and fascinated, though it skews hard towards 'amused' as soon as Duke mentions the Novus Orbus Librarium.

"Is that... so?" Mirth tugs at the corners of the blue-skinned noble's lips, as his pace continues unabated up the curved walkway. "The Librarium has yet to approach me on the matter. Should I be concerned?"

Railings would keep one from falling to the Hall of Welcoming floor below unless they'd really wanted to experience the flight for themselves. But after a dozen more steps, the walkway breaches into the hallways of the second story, obviating the need for any such safety devices. Presumably, one of the first few doors would be the meeting room, but at this relative altitude, the chance of eavesdroppers is practically nil.

"The reception has been... quiet. Though understandable for a city of such magnitude. Perhaps after a period of caution, more may feel welcome in this little slice of Majigen."

Jedah gestures towards the nearest door on the right with an open palm. And without further words, the pointed-arch door creaks open, allowing Duke to step inside. The room looks... like a Victorian-era lawyer's office, with a dark mahogany desk in the center and four chairs, with upholstery suitable for royalty. One chair sits behind the desk, for Jedah. A second chair has been pulled out already, awaiting the treasured guest. Flickering torches, lit by golden flame, dance upon candles mounted to a dozen sconces mounted upon the walls. All in all, a comfortable sitting room.

Duke's only just treats him as an equal.

While the pair had their own noble air, Duke was the weaker of the two. And yet, he would have to be forced to a knee to treat Jedah as a greater. But he could not treat him as a lesser. THus, equal will do. Of course, diplomacy could only go so far with the crime boss. But he would make an effort. As the door opens, Jedah's curiosity is quickly fed by Duke's own. Far within the sanctum, he could be more discreet about the nature of their relationship.

And the insidious meaning within.

"You should be... aware of their nature and attitude." Duke rumbles cooly, rubbing his neck. "The NOL has already seized me over suspected supernatural activity. The circumstances of it is... unfortunate." Duke enters the room, his yellow eyes approving of the decor in a rare nod. "It is not a question of if they strike, but win. Not a threat, but a warning. Of course, we can discuss that later. Right now, we have business." Duke does not take his seat yet, letting Jedah take his place first.

"The nature of my war, your contributions... and your payment."

Though the room is a private one, Jedah had chosen one relatively close to the ground floor to connote an air of mutual trust. One which inspires confidence, and open communication.

A sly smile spreads across Jedah, as Duke tables the issue of the NOL for later. There are many questions for the seemingly immortal Syndicate boss on that matter -- hearsay and rumor are so dreadfully unreliable, after all -- but the demon lord seems perfectly willing to acquiesce as he elegantly strides across the room, resting one spindly hand upon the armrest of his tall-backed chair.

"Of course."
The smile fades, out of politeness, as the Dark Messiah's headdress bobs in agreement.

"Southtown is a haven for the world's strongest and most talented fighters. It was difficult to keep our distance for so long, but now... with allies of like mind such as yourself, we felt the time was right to reintroduce ourselves."

Jedah seats himself. Surely, the demon lord is hundreds of years old or more, and yet he moves with the lithe grace of a feline predator, practically sliding into his seat. With his palms rested upon the table, his minor fingers lace together. The points of his index fingers press against one another, their red nails glistening with flickering flame.

"Yes. Let us talk... business. Tell me about the nature of this... conflict." The demon lord smiles absently -- as if he were deliberately avoiding the term Duke had chosen.

"This War, Lord Dohma."

Duke does not shy away from the magnitude. "This is no mere conflict. The Scarlet Dahlia has long been at my side. Southtown has always drawn the strongest, as you are well aware; already, her poisonous tongue drew out allies, not only her Shadaloo puppets in the Shadow Council, but the very same heroes that had long smashed against us. And what has that given her? What prize has been granted to her, to unite these so called heroes against me, her so called allies of Shadaloo as well?" And Duke claps his hands.

"Humilating defeat."

Duke was gloating in this private sanctum, his arrogance boiling out from him like flames. "I might not even need to splinter her leg again; and now, your spire sticks out like a finger to everyone. Like moths to the flames, you will have your strongest, to sift and through like at the grocery store." Duke smirks, his yellow eyes burning, as he rubs his hands.

"I will note, your spire is even higher than Geese's own!"

As Duke clarifies the breadth of his 'conflict' as a 'war', Jedah lowers his eyes in tacit acknowledgement. Why dither over simple shades of meaning with such a trusted ally, after all? He's perfectly content to let Duke dictate the terms... for now.

After all, the unkillable human's arrogance has certainly managed to rustle the sleeping Dahlia into action. The so-called war has allowed the demonic noble his own fair share of dividends. "Indeed -- it is you I have to thank for allowing the Embassy's construction; my architects were most satisfied with the location."

His expression and tone soften, expressing conciliation: "Though, I must express my regret, as overshadowing your organization was far from my intent."

The noble's headdress bobs, appearing to bow outward in concert with his lowering brows. "... Mm," he considers, "I do hope that our presence has not driven a wedge between you and Mr. Howard."

Jedah's expression grows a bit more neutral, as one of his palms drifts to the side. "It would be quite a shame, if he were not able to realize the -genius- in your master strategy. To lull your adversary into a false sense of smug superiority by marching your footsoldiers directly into her hand... While simultaneously striking at the heart of her ill-gained empire." The noble's hands clap together lightly, as he offers a smile. "Seeing to the death of her trusted financial officer was truly a masterstroke."

Jedah leans back against his seatback, firelight flickering in his eyes as he observes Duke's reaction. He has his doubts, after all, as to whether Duke was personally responsible for that particular stratagem.

"For all it's worth, though... I am happy to have assisted. A certain 'shock and awe' was required in order for that plan to work. Discrete, targeted attacks, that allowed the war to be carried out without completely destabilizing the nation yet again. Marvelous."

He stops, expectantly, before continuing.

Leather creaks -- though whether that's the chair or the noble's clothes is another matter. "... Payment, then. What are your thoughts on that?"

A grim silence.

"Oh no, Lord Dohma." Duke says with conviction. "You overshadowing my organization is precisely what I hoped for. My war has become little more than a footnote for the world. For the backdrop is your tower casting it's long shadow across Southtown." Duke sweeps his arms before an invisible city-scape, looming over it as a hungry warlord. "As for my business with Mr. Howard; strictly professional. The last time I went to his tower and met with him..." Duke rubs his neck, grimacing. "We had a... falling out. No, no, my ambitions are greater now." Duke shakes a finger. "Much more than what a mere gang war can satisify." There was a change in tone, in presence. Something was changed, here in the cloister of the dark messiah.

"In fact, Lord Dohma, I remember all too well your arrival in Metro City."

Duke turns his yellow eyes upon Jedah. Rage? Admiration? Duke was in a rare moment of ambiguity. "You destroyed my office. My dogs. You destroyed what was mine. It was returned, because when something is destroyed, you replace it." And Duke beats his chest once, a flash of flames boiling over him. "ANd yet, here I am." There was a strange baritone in Duke's voice, as his presence finally begins to clash against the dark messiah. "The woman, Scarlet Dahlia, as she tried to prove her strength with trophies of conquered worlds, she made me remember what the Shadow Council was built for. And yet, when it served her, she sold me out to the NOL. That's what it all was; trophies and false promise. And when I was at the NOL? They destroyed me. They tortured me first, but ultimately destroyed my body. ANd then, my very soul, Lord Dohma. As I understand it, the DUke who stands before you is another Duke, reforged by a god. Absolute destruction, endured. It has given me new perspective on immortality, Lord Dohma." Duke walks towards the vampire lord, looking him dead in the eye. The mortal presence was gone, and an all too familiar immortal one endured. "As for your payment? We can begin." Duke makes a slicing motion on his arm.

"What piece do you want carved from Southtown first?"

Lord Dohma presses his forefingers together again, leaning back in his chair. He listens with a neutral expression on his face -- an expression that is utterly unfazed as Duke casually mentions the slights that he might have -expected- the tempestuous crime boss to take umbrage to. Being overshadowed. Finding himself on the losing side against Geese Howard. Losing -significant- properties in Metro City. These were all facets of business that Dohma had been apprised of at some point, surely. And if Duke were to express his stong anger over any of these... the tone of the business meeting would be quite different indeed. The fact that he's able to regulate his ire -- or at least, to keep it ambiguous and not directed to Jedah -- is worthy of the Bloodlord's notice.

Jedah simply nods to that story like he had to the business with Geese. After all...
To Duke, the Metro City translocation sounds like it was a big deal.
Whereas Jedah doesn't remember him showing his scarred face -at all-.

It's not until the presence begins to assert itself that Jedah even makes a sign other than simple awareness. And it's... to raise a thumb and forefinger to his chin, stroking it gently. The wave of hot air kicked by by the crimelord's fiery presence stirs his forelocks and eyebrows into motion, but naught else of mention.

The Dahlia does draw out a "Mmm..." from the elder Darkstalker. Trophies of conquered worlds -- a Shadow Council. Interest glistens in his eyes as the resourcefulness of Duke's most hated foe is related to him. Selling him out to the NOL? No wonder he holds them in such regard...

"Two questions. You spoke of the purpose of this Shadow Council. What, pray tell, was that?"

The Demon Lord hums thoughtfully to himself as he considers his answer. "And... this would be a property exchange? An interesting consideration. I pose this question to you then -- where would I find a large parcel of undeveloped land within city limits? An area where construction might proceed without undue alarm?"

For the weight of darkness, DUke was almost self-consumed.

Duke's hellish power may not be uncommon from where Jedah comes from. When the question of the Shadow Council comes, he nods firmly. "I have no reasons to keep secrets on it. The SHadow Council was organized by Vega of SHadaloo amongst the criminal elements in the world. The intention was to act as a bulwark against the invasion of monsters, a bulwark against a repeat of the Metro City incident. It was useful, until they betrayed me." Did they betray him. "It was a loose alliance, though one that Shadaloo, Dahlia, and that pathetic Lee Chaolan still cling on to. Kira is part of it as well, but she is eager to play both sides, something I am eager to let her do." Duke rubs his hands. "And if that is sufficient for the first.... Property?" Duke rumbles. "Property!?"

And Duke lets out a hearty guffaw.

The crime boss was chortling at it; if he was in the company of men or plucky ninja maidens, it would be the moment of either sheer terror. For Jedah. Just more bemusement. "Oh, there are many things that the Syndicate is capable of. Murder. Arson. Theft. Racketeering. But if there is one thing that the Syndicate is capable of, it's arranging real estate legally. Well, mostly legally. This, art trade, and codebreaking is one of the few talents I have that doesn't involve breaking skulls. We recently arranged some choice beachfront for a casino, as you might suspect. My allies can count on securing any territory they wish in Syndicate... as long as they remain allies."

Duke scowls at the implication.

Duke gestures around. "Where do you need to be? Chinatown? The Harbor? There are some recent mansions that were... sold off by our rivals that would be easy enough to begin construction. You will find that the Spire is only the beginning of your real estate endeavors. But I should ask the most pressing question, for any interested buyer." Duke looks at Jedah, stroking his beard.

"What do you need to do with your land, Lord Dohma.

The Dark Messiah is a remarkably good listener. His crimson eyes remain laser-focused upon Duke's. Acknowledgement is clear on the blue-skinned noble's face as Duke explains the Shadow Council's purpose. His expression reflects a slightly pained look as Duke underscores the need to repeat the 'Metro City incident' as if it were some mythical bogeyman that Jedah Dohma had no part in.

Jedah is a good listener, though. Of course Duke's willing to let bygones be bygones, if he has reneged on the earlier Shadow Council deal, and now finds himself standing here inside the Majigen embassy. He's -quite- aware of Kira's presence here -- something he acknowledges with a tacit nod -- but it nonetheless piques his interest (and peaks an eyebrow) to hear Duke's claim that he'd had something to do with that.

When Duke breaks into hearty laughter, Jedah breaks into a measured smile. The crime lord paints himself as an unstoppable juggernaut, able to parade around the metropolis however he chooses... and in the process, reveals his understanding of his own weaknesses.

"Don't.... think of it as what -I- need to do with -my- land, Duke. It's not about -me-, Duke... it's about -us-. As allies." The demon with daggersharp teeth leans back into his chair, raising a talon-tipped hand in demonstration. "You can make your statements plainly, I won't take offense. Allies can change at the drop of a hat. Old wounds linger and burn -- and some day, we might find ourselves once again at odds, hmm?"

The hand flattens, fingertips clasping together into a loose fist. "What -we- need, then -- is to ensure that the motion of interlopers can be stopped at the instant you decide it needs to be done. All of your power in this city is concentrated in three foci -- the business district, the harbor, the waterfront. So far into the very -heart- of the city, meaning that in the event of an invasion -- perhaps from the UN, the NOL, or even the Japanese military -- the rest of the city will effectively become a staging ground for a final assault."

Jedah raises his fist, sleeve falling back to bare the skin of his wrist. He raises his thumbnail, and flicks the sharpened edge against his wrist. Crimson vitae splatters out from the wound, spattering upon the desk.

If Duke were to look down, he'd see that the blood has taken upon the pattern of a map of Southtown. Limited in detail, of course -- with three larger globs representing Syndicate assets, and two 'X' marks near the north and west ends of the peninsular city.

"Travel is less of an issue for Majigen troops -- however, we do need a rallying point to focus efforts. I propose these two locations -- or close to them, near the bridges leading into the city. Tucked out of the way, and seemingly non-intrusive to any other business concerns, but -crucial- in the event in which you seem to be most concerned: betrayal."

The wound in his wrist has already sealed back as if nothing were ever amiss. Jedah laces his fingers together, reclining in his chair. "What do you think?"

Once again find themselves at odds.

Duke demanded loyalty, and yet would leave his own pacts. THen again, he wasn't subtle about it. And yet here he was. Duke was bargaining with Satan, carving up the city. ANd yet, as he put it in terms of 'us' Duke files it away. US was him and Nagase. If it was Him, Nagase, and Jedah... well, having two partners at once was complicated. He didn't even know how comfortable Nagase was with sharing. And yet, Jedah was making it clear, the seductive allure of power drawing heavy in the room. As Jedah slits open his wrist, Duke's eyes narrow. Naturally, he was not one to judge someone for self-destructive displays of power, but seeing the power of the blood in the shape of a map... it was precise, not wild like his own power. In subtle ways, Duke felt he was out of his league in power.

It made him want to fight Jedah even more.

"If we choose these two places," Duke begins, considering carefully as his drive for dominance is suppressed. "Then.. it is less strategic consideration, and more fashion. ANy place in this city, should you wish to exist there, is free for you, with the Syndicate assistance. We must be especially subtle about it, however." If there is anybody who can give advice on subtly, it is Duke. "After the events of Metro City, if you come anywhere near a bridge, you will draw attention. You need a front, a way of disguising your business."

Duke grazes his fingers on the blood, at the 'x's'.

"Here in the north, you have are beginning to touch on the residential villages, connecting with Chinatown just at the edge here. It's further away from the center of the bridge, but that can be an advantage, of course. Chinatown, we have plenty of experience with what you need. We have contracts with triads within our syndicate for operations; nightclubs, massage parlors, brothels, and restaurants are all well and present there. It's not hard to disappear in there, though you will have cultural challenges: we typically set up with Chinese operatives for that reason. Up in the villages, we smooth out the process. Even our men live there, so the expectation is that people just sign some paychecks and put a little extra. We sometimes consider it the 'retirement village' because of that; assassins, capos, and sometimes disabled veterans will get a nice job and pension through a front; all it is to make legal money with some light laundering, and it's fantastically secure and stable. Zero opportunities for growth, but if you wanted to be a florist, a dog-groomer, or even a shrine maiden..." Duke smirks a bit, before it fading into a scowl.

"Inside joke; I am not serious about you having to run a shrine."

Duke then gestures over on the west-side. "Here, we are touching on towards more of the core Syndicate heart. THe western area here is mingling amongst the business district, and has a lot more sitting right on the river rather than merely being near a bridge. Up and down here is solidly our territory, and realistically we run primarily business operations here for more white collar exploits. Banking, stocks, customs, investments; if you want to begin to own more and more of Southtown, rather than keeping low, then we can have you get started here. I myself went with art trade; it's excellent for coming back and forth between the countries. Unfortunately, Downtown is where the seedier stuff is, so you are stuck with running businesses or, uh, harassing homeless people by the river." Duke shakes his head. "Those are the details that are valuable to you. You can choose all of the above, just understand that it's a logistical problem at that point; we will require more from you in order to carry it out. Money, capital, all that stuff. We don't make the risk, you do." Duke nods firmly. "While the Majigen capital is... questionable, well, artifacts can be like exchange."

"I am an art dealer, after all."

If Duke is experiencing some sort of internal conflict regarding partnerships, Jedah Dohma is polite enough to avoid showing any signs that he's picked up on it at all. Business is business; the Syndicate leader earns the right of keeping secrets if he can prevent himself from spilling them.

Duke has Jedah's full attention when he gets down to brass tacks. The remark about subtlety is... off-brand enough to raise one of the demon lord's blond eyebrows, but never once does his sanguine gaze drift away. The crime lord certainly knows his city well. The bloodlord's lips curl into slight distaste with the suggestion of -disguising- his intent, but never enough to cause the Dark Messiah to interrupt.

At least, not until the mention of a shrine maiden comes up.
That earns a stone-faced frown from the demon lord.
But the issue is not pressed, particularly not after Duke's confession of an inside joke.

Jedah remains pensive for quite a few moments after Duke is finished talking, nodding with thought. His crimson eyes finally break aside, after a moment, as he considers his words carefully.

"It does sound like there are a great many choices to be made. But... I will need some more time to consider possibilities. I will need two facilities, each large enough to host... let's say, a three- or four-bay garage. And ready access to a highway."

He gestures with his hand -- and in doing so, the bloody stars on his map squirm to life. The blood that'd made its way onto Duke's fingers responds with almost magnetic pull -- though, for the moment, it seems to content to stay where it is. With a wet, slick sound, the 'stars' pull airborne, drifting in a lazy circle around their initial landing spots.

"I'm happy to leave the external trappings and, of course, the -subtlety- to your best judgment."

The Lord of Majigen smiles, leaning forward in his chair, with his elbows on his knees, and his laced-together fingertrips bridging beneath his chin.

"I am certain you would find a pleasing array of opportunities in my gallery. Though for now -- I must request that you put together a list of possible sites with our needs in mind. And then we can proceed to the next stage of... negotiations. As much as I welcome your input, I fear that my urban planners would be better at working out the specifics with you. If you'd like, I can arrange for them to speak with you in my stead."

Jedah draws back in his seat, as his expression returns to one more representative of a traditional businessman. "You're entering a brave new world, Duke. It takes a true visionary to march proudly into the future. To negotiate the minefield of competing interests -- brokering deals with parties who would just as soon slit each other's throats than work together. A dangerous profession, and yet you handle it with skill and aplomb."

Jedah chuckles softly. "With -that- business deferred for a short time... were there any other matters to be discussed?"

The die was cast.

Dark pacts with darker creatures. Duke could feel it now; the noble restraint of Jedah was the weakness he wanted. The indifference was the power he needed; let him handle it. And with it, Duke clutches the illusion of strength. "With that business handled, for now..." Duke rumbles, staring at the map.

"For now, we let the tides of war sink low."

Duke rubs his hands together, his yellow eyes burning. "People are cattle; you frighten them, and they all murmur and moan in terror. And yet, once the sound dies down, and the shadows pull away... they quickly returns to their lowing and sleep, eager to march forward to their final fate. Leave the affairs of men to me, Lord Dohma." Duke snarls, as he clenches his fist. "And you will have your prize. With that?" Duke shakes his head, turning his back to Jedah.

"I will take my leave."

Jedah smiles faintly, resting back in his seat. Detached, amused -- all the signs of someone with lots of resources who doesn't mind discarding a few to improve his future holdings. Duke is bold, tenacious -- and hungry to make deals. The very best sort of associate, in Jedah's estimation.

"It seems we are on the same page, Duke. How does that saying go...? You scratch my back... and I'll scratch yours." The saying takes on a slightly more menacing overtone when the speaker's fingers terminate in sanguine talons some three centimers in length, of course, but the -sentiment remains the same.

In all actuality, Duke's decision ultimately doesn't matter to Jedah, so long as he meets the basic requirements. Waypoints to summon the legions of the undead aren't really meant to be flipped for profit. So Jedah would be quite content to see what sorts of properties Duke comes up with.

The Dark Messiah rises from his seat, walking out from around the desk to extend a spindly hand out to the burly Syndicate executive. "We have much to look forward to here in Southtown, you and I."

Jedah is cordial -- but not a fool. He is pointedly aware that the Novus Orbus Librarium won't just -let- someone like Duke go without securing some sort of long-term agreement. And yet -- with Jedah Dohma's mastery of alternate planes of existence? He's not worried in the slightest.

It is difficult to pull one over on a demon lord who walked the Earth before the New World had even been discovered. And that... is why he flashes a broad smile.

"So very much, indeed."

Log created on 13:41:59 10/22/2018 by Jedah, and last modified on 15:45:31 12/31/2018.