Sunday, February 16, 2020

Six Eccentric Fantasy Millionaires

A short little post for fun in between the larger project of REVANESCENCE_, to return for a bit to a more fantastical setting rather than RVNS's grimy bizarro cyberpunk.

Old Money versus New Money is a very fun political conflict to use in fantasy. It pits entitled, conceited and flabby nobles against unscrupulous, scheming and underhanded merchants. They're both awful, but awful in a different way. And they're both wealthy and dressed up in excessive costumes, which makes their awfulness even more entertaining to watch. It's fun, as players, to pick sides based on whose kind of awful you like better and which of these horrible people has the prettiest dress. Not to mention that there are also The People™, whose vocal members are likely opposed to both.

This post focuses on new money: traders, merchants and other moguls who have "made" their own fortune rather than inherited it. I say "made", because it is simply impossible to achieve a certain degree of wealth with clean hands.

Pay heed: none of the following characters are, or have ever been, adventurers like your typical rpg players. Ratcatchers somehow becoming millionaires by looting a dragon hoard or getting lucky with a Deck of Many Things is like trailer park hillbillies winning the lottery. Nobody respects it and it usually doesn't last long.

Art by cy-lindric
1: Zaffiro Biscia

A goblin from the textile markets, trader first and tailor second, made a big name for himself when bringing to the market a thus far unheard of concept: brassières for harpies. Since the models remedied the common harpy problem of the whole situation knocking about rather uncomfortably when flapping their wings in flight, it got very popular very quickly. Biscia quickly patented the design- that is to say, he used his early revenue to hire swordsmen who would make short work of anyone who tried to sell a similar item. The name Biscia generated buzz. The name Biscia became popular.

Eventually other textile moguls tried to follow his model once they realised how much money he was making off it, but it was far too late: Zaffiro Biscia had become not only a wrinkly bitter green lemon in priceless brocade robes, but also the first true fashion brand, which was the real source of his money: a well-known name with prestige. 

A locustman rival of his claims to this day that Biscia stole the bra design from him, while in fact Biscia bought it off a hermit sphinx for that year's version of the Riddles & Rhymes Almanac, telling her that that was probably the best she was going to get for it.

Market: Textiles and Fabrics

Personal Aesthetic: Snake mosaics with sapphire eyes, brocade and silk fabrics, colourful mediterranean marble.

Notable Enemies: Those ferrety cheapskates from Canvas & Canvas. The Fabric Dyers Union. Silk Worm Rights activists. That sphinx, who realises she's been conned. Lorenzo of  Iremo the locustman. A vocal harpy coven who consider Biscia's bras a patriarchal attempt to control harpy freedom through taboo.

Shady Secrets: Buys from and endorses large scale fiber plantation slave labour on surrounding islands. Has had multiple business rivals killed by poisoning, by the hand of a secret brotherhood of assassins. Disgusted by other goblins and considers himself to be an exception to, and the pinnacle of, the race.

Art by Thomas Lawrence
2: Helena Puderzucker

While she was the toymaker's daughter and a Disney Princess-ish happy go lucky young belle, taking everything in stride and loved by every quirky dweller of her gingerbread fairytale mountain town, Helena Puderzucker took the adive to heart that with her inexhaustable energy and the smile of destiny on her face, she could do anything.

And she became a factory owner.

She bought mine after mine, forge after forge, and with cold, calculated bookkeeping skills, turned them into what Saruman would have wanted Isengard to be if he could afford it. Puderzucker Steel isn't a business that wants to be liked, it's not based on some novelty product or marketing wonder. It's an iron and steel monopoly. It should be clear how terrifying that is. These days Helena Puderzucker lives in a picturesque small castle on top of a mountain which takes an elevator to reach. What she gets up to there, the richest woman of the country and then some at the age of twenty-eight, is anyone's guess. But allegedly, she grows increasingly depressed as her frilly pastel tea parties grow more desperately garish and obscenely decadent. She is always the only person attending.

Market: Steel

Personal Aesthetic: Grand Budapest Hotel, Austrian and Viennoise pastry kitsch.

Notable Enemies: Amicable local blacksmiths who need to provide for ther kidnapping-prone daughters. Druids, fairies and animals living in the forests cut for the steel industry. Her many greedy male suitors after discovering she makes no pretenses about being gay. Her many greedy female suitors after discovering she won't marry any of them. Her regretful but jealous father. The brewing beginnings of a miner revolution. The ghosts of a LOT of miners.

Shady Secrets: Had two mine collapses covered up that killed over a thousand miners. An obsessive collection of rare cigar bands that she has destroyed the lives of innocent collectors over. A gratuitous blackberry pie fetish.

Art by Mortunn
3. Wu Hong (弘)

Wu Hong only ever eats his own shark. That is, shark that was caught for him, specifically. To be served in his own restaurant, which has one table: the table for Wu Hong. Not that there’s anything wrong with the rest of the shark his company sells. In fact it’s the best shark you can buy. Because it’s the only shark you can buy. You better not go fish for shark, you hear?

Hammerhead sharks in truth not that rare in the sea where the Wu Fishing Company sails. They’re caught with nets and harpoons, and end up as filets and soups in porcelain bowls. Everyone with a bit of money wants to eat shark. It’s common enough that it's not too hard to catch, but rare enough that you can dress it up and sell it as a delicacy and make people seriously overpay. And Wu Hong has built a company on this.

Wu Hong doesn't even like shark that much. But Wu Hong has a lot of money. People want to be Wu Hong. So if Wu Hong eats shark, so will they.

Market: Hammerhead Shark Meat

Personal Aesthetic: Large displays of shark scrimshaw and ornamental weaponry, lacquered wood, excessive amounts of ornaments made from jade, pearl, malachite etc.

Notable Enemies: Impoverished fishing villages. The Imperial navy - in a poor state and exceedlingly worried about the Wu Company's fleet of "chaperones" allegedly built to protect its shipping vessels. He () the Mermaid Queen of the White Sea. The infinitely less succesful Wu siblings. Death Emperor (死帝) the great black shark that bit off Wu's hand.

Shady Secrets: Murdered his own senile father while on a fishing trip to inherit his wealth before it was gambled up by the old man. Personally funds pirate bands to prey on independent fishermen. Cursed by the Mermaid Queen so that any woman he has a child with will birth dead fish instead,  because her son (a shark) was fished up and served to Wu by the company.

Art by Francisco de Zurbarán
4. Babi Suri

One of the most widespread drugs is a powder, yellowish and crystalline like sugar, that tastes like lemon-flavoured rock candy and is poured onto the tongue with a spoon or sometimes mingled into coffee or tea. It's called Citrus, and it's refined from the lemon-like fruit of one particular big tree. The name of this tree is Babi Suri. She (as that is what the tree calls herself despite being both male and female, which is how trees work) is sentient, sapient, more than two-thousand years old, and she is very rich.

When in the old times a gentle old woman came to pick lemons, she discovered that a taste of this odd fruit knocked her over the head with spaced out euphoria. Unfortunately for her, Babi Suri had noticed before how valuable that feeling was, since at night she was also a hotspot for mushroom dealers. So, having discovered her own marketable potential, Babi Suri made the decision that seemed most logical and agreeable to her. She ripped the woman's head off with a branch, then she sent locals to fetch her a chymist and developed with him the Citrus as it is known today. Then she ate him. Though "drank him" may be more appropriate.

Now she roots in a garden inside of a fortress manned by two-thousand swordsmen, and she's tended to by two-hundred nurses. Babi Suri wants for nothing. Except, well, more. More in general.

Market: Drugs

Personal Aesthetic: Ottoman and Turkish architecture, the first part of The Thief and the Cobbler, many black-turbaned guards.

Notable Enemies: The Sultan, who is seeing his people suffer in the grip of  Citrus but whose military forces are preoccupied. Almas Al-Amir, a narcotic gum trader from overseas whose drug empire is being decimated by the cheaper Citrus. The faithful who condemn such dehumanising substances. The spirit of the chymist, who escaped from Babi Suri in the form of a water vapour. Other magical plants filled with moral disgust and/or jealousy.

Shady Secrets: An addiction to a drug which is derived from the sap of desert cacti. Has to steal the fertility of other creatures, both male and female, so that she can bear bountiful fruit all year round. Has re-established the worship of a bloodthirsty old god, to keep the Sultan's army scattered dealing with its murderous zealots.

Art by Gustave Dore
5. Eustice Morel

Sometimes, it's not an ironclad monopoly or a hypersuccesful product you need. Morel & Krumpf Printing turns its monster profits because of Eustice Morel, and to Eustice Morel, 0.9999 and 1 are not even close to being the same thing. Every evening, Eustice Morel himself goes through all the paper bins to check whether they've all been filled on both sides. When you're using a charcoal or a pencil at Morel & Krumpf, you only get a new one when you turn in the stub that proves you've used it to its fullest extent. You're fired if break stops at half past and you show up to your desk at half past instead of already sitting behind it.

Though everybody hates Mister Morel, the pay is decent comparatively good (but objectively terrible). Morel pays just enough that compared to the other options, people will rather suffer his harsh regime for the extra dimes. It's all part of Morel's designs for Morel & Krumpf Printing, his life's work. No decimal goes unnoticed. Nothing is ever unaccounted for.

Well, except for Mister Krumpf. That's what everybody wonders. If it's called Morel & Krumpf printing, then who the hell is Mister Krumpf?

Market: Printing

Personal Aesthetic: Late Gothic and early Victorian, metalwork windows and gargoyles, austere and miserly interiors.

Notable Enemies: Notorious thief Ringworm Jack, whose favourite pastime is stealing single pennies from Morel's business and watching him go mad over it. The Inking House ever since Morel & Krumpf started using block printing for their illustrations instead. The budding socialist movement. Morel's disowned absynthe-fuelled daughter. The police, whom Morel dislikes on principle.

Shady Secrets: Has been consistently and calculatedly using loopholes in the law to avoid taxes. Blackmails the local undertaker to obtain a corpse every other week, to feed to Mister Krumpf. Mister Krumpf, a horrible man-sized human-bat creature that Morel keeps in a cupboard.

Art by Elle Michalka

6: Iova Blue

Anyone who has met Iova Blue in person may well be considered an expert in the dangerous symptoms of adderall and cocaine overuse. She's also a brightly luminescent Electric blue, skin hair and all, causes static shock when you touch her most of the time, talks like a sped up film and is always moving somewhere. She gets a nosebleed every once in a while and barely notices.

She's a  math wizard and designer, who develops supermathematical cerebromunculi and Abraxean semiholographigrams at the highest state of the arcane art. According to the young wizards and alchemists who have attended her pitches and TED-talks, Iova Blue is the closest you can come to enlightenment without your brain turning into liquid starfire and bursting out through your ass. A reckless genius with an infinite dream, a maverick and the one-person frontier of magic computing. 

Magic computing is developing quickly. Every wizard needs it these days. Every wizard needs Iova Blue. Iova Blue is hypnotic. Iova Blue is brilliant. Iova Blue stands in the vanta-white grainfields at night, tuning into the aria of the cosmic particles sleeting through the void aflame. Iova is Pinnacle. The New begins in Blue. 

Market: Magical Computing

Personal Aesthetic: Impossible contraptions, complex occult machinery alternated with modern glassy polygonal shapes. This track.

Notable Enemies: Elderly wizards who see nothing wrong with doing their computing according to the time-tested golem-with-abacus method. The Guild of Mathematicians, who have lost both the limelight and many employment options. Philosophers, watching with existential terror. ABRAXAS, THE PRIME FRACTAL, because he has had a well-outlined plan for the computer apocalypse and Iova Blue is starting to cause bits of it a small millenium ahead of schedule, throwing off all of his models and predictions. 

Shady Secrets: The machinal parts of the computers are manufactured under horribly dehumanising conditions by slave homunculi, the organic parts even worse. Sporadically emits bursts of highly carcinogenic radiation, much like burps: seventeen deaths and counting. Every once in a while the organic parts of a computer wake up to their nightmarish existence.