127 A Challenge*
Rassa woke the next morning with a smile on his face. The hunt the night before had been much easier than on the ship, and it had been satisfactory in ridding his mouth of the taste of skewers. No matter how good they tasted to Jorl, Aegin and Ebony, to him they were no better than dirt, something that irked him tremendously. Seeing the enjoyment on their faces really made him miss human food, if only to be able to taste it the same as them. Alas, it seemed that his taste buds were now only attuned to blood, blood and more blood.
It was perhaps an hour after dawn when Rassa awoke. Now that the ship was docked, he wasn't technically obligated to perform any duties beyond keeping the ship clean and performing his watch according to the schedule. Today however, Rassa was free to explore Rouke, something he was looking forward to. He had yet to really explore any land, and the prospect of such a venture made him surprisingly happy.
After dressing, Rassa ventured above decks in preparation to explore the Port in the daylight.
"Rassa," the call came from the Quarter Deck, and Rassa looked over in surprise. Jeremiah awaited him at the top of the stairs, and looked as if he had been waiting there for some time.
Rassa only hesitated a moment however before approaching his Captain.
"Yes, Captain?" asked Rassa, thinking that the Captain had a task for him to perform before he went off an explored.
If Rassa had known what the Captain was going to say that morning, perhaps he would have made an effort to awaken earlier in order to avoid him. But one cannot avoid the inevitable forever.
"Come in to my office, I have something to discuss with you," Jeremiah stated, and Rassa followed without complaint.
Jeremiah's office was at the rear of the quarter deck. At first glance it did not appear very large from the outside. Upon entrance however, Rassa found that the far wall had a row of windows that sat behind a wooden writing desk. Either side wall was lined with book shelves covered in diamond shaped slots that held scrolls of various kinds. Rassa would bet on most of them being maps though. The centre of the room was dominated by a table about 4 times larger than the little writing desk, with maps and official looking documents spread across it as if left over from a discussion Rassa had not been privy to. On top of the table also sat a wooden chest which looked somewhat out of place compared to all the charts and maps.
This chest was clearly the object of Rassa's visit to the Captain's office as Jeremiah walked straight for it.
"I have a task for you, Rassa," Jeremiah began, "And I'll be first to admit it is a test of sorts".
"A test, Captain?" asked Rassa.
Jeremiah looked over his shoulder at Rassa, his eyes stating clearly that he wouldn't put up with any sort of act.
"What is it you need?" Rassa rephrased.
Jeremiah turned back to the chest and opened it, stepping aside to show the contents to Rassa, "Have you ever heard of Vanguard?"
Rassa took a step forward, though he did not need to. With a quick glance at the daggers he immediately recognised the crystals locked into the end of their hilts. Just like the one that the Ridge Man had had with his whip. An Elemental Crystal.
"Once," Rassa said. Looking at the serious expression of the Captain, there was not talking his way out or around whatever the situation was, "It was not pleasant".
Jeremiah's eyebrow rose, "So you know its capabilities?"
"The Crystal's stored energy is expelled through the weapon upon being triggered," Rassa replied.
"Stored energy?" asked Jeremiah, "Admittedly you seem to know more than what I do".
Rassa sighed, "I'm going to assume that these daggers expel lightning?"
Jeremiah nodded, "Quite devestatingly. Evanine Crystals have shown a property we haven't before known".
"Where I come from," Rassa said, "We call them Elemental Crystals".
Jeremiah's eyes narrowed, "Where you come from?"
Rassa said nothing as he met Jeremiah's gaze. After a moment, Jeremiah relented.
"Fine, keep your secrets, but you could at least let me know what I'm up against," Jeremiah stated.
"The Elemental Crystals are essentially nothing but plain rock unless they're exposed to an element. In this case Lightning. Considering that they are the only weapons I've seen so far, I'm going to assume that a vein of them was exposed to a large storm. When the vein was later discovered and mining began, they likely discovered the crystal's new properties. Afterall, to activate it you merely need to hit it hard enough. Makes mining it a delicate operation. It'd only take someone clever enough to apply it to weaponry," Rassa stated. And that was all he was willing to offer. If he talked about anything else he'd been taught by the old Vampires he'd draw far too much attention to himself. Though seeing how Jeremiah had asked for him directly he'd clearly partially failed at keeping a low profie anyway.
"I see," Jeremiah stated, "So they only replicate what they've taken in?"
"No, not exactly. After a strong enough first exposure they only take on that element, but recharging them is as simply as leaving them be," Rassa said, "They are naturally connected to the mist, and they collect it in order to replicate their element when used. The longer it is left, the more energy it collects, though the size of the crystal does have limitations. Crystals that size-" Rassa pointed to the daggers "-I'd estimate them having the capacity to store enough energy to fire five or six lightning bolts each. Though you'd have to test it to be sure".
"Testing it would draw too much attention," Jeremiah replied.
There was silence as Jeremiah looked thoughtful for a moment, then his gaze turned back to Rassa, "My task for you was to purchase as many of these crystals as possible. We have no idea who is producing the Vanguard, but if we can control their supply of crystals-"
"It will do no good anyway unless the crystals are charged," Rassa said, "As I've said, they likely have access to one vein in particular that they're mining from".
"So they can only produce a limited number of weapons?" asked Jeremiah.
"Unless they find a way to replicate such a severe lightning storm at another vein's location, or replicate an elemental event in general," Rassa replied.
"Can they be charged if they've already been mined?" asked Jeremiah.
Rassa nodded, "But as I've said, it takes a natural event. They cannot charge each other".
"If it takes a natural event then...they can be charged by a different element, yes? That is why your people call them elemental crystals?" Jeremiah stated.
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Rassa paused for a moment, then nodded.
"In that case, I still want you to purchase as many crystals as possible. Doesn't matter if they're charged or not. I'll give you a thousand gold to start, but after that you're on your own in finding a way to buy as many as possible," Jeremiah said.
"If its a task you set, why should I find my own way to pay for it?" asked Rassa.
Jeremiah gave a small smile, "I'll tell you what, Rassa. You do this task for me, and I won't kick Eb off the ship".
Rassa frowned, "Why would you-"
"I'm not against women being on my ship, but it is certainly frowned upon that they mingle with the crew in such a way as she has been doing. Do this task for me, and I won't say a word about it," Jeremiah said.
Rassa's gaze narrowed as he looked at Jeremiah for a long while. When he was finally satisfied that Jeremiah was telling the truth, Rassa sighed, "Do I have a time limit or a quota to fill?"
Jeremiah shook his head, "Just for as long as we're on Rouke. I'll give you access to one of the old warehouses to store what you buy. Show me what you can do, kid. It's a waste for someone of your talent to hide in the shadows".
Rassa wanted to growl at Jeremiah. How dare he threaten him? How dare he force his hand? But a small part of him, the part that had hidden itself away since he was a child. That part of him was intrigued by this challenge. He took a signed notice from Jeremiah indicating his permission to withdraw a thousand gold from the Token accounts, then departed the ship.