Who on Stellaris is Scarlett Carolina? Character in Stell | World Anvil
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Who on Stellaris is Scarlett Carolina?

Despite the recent theft of the Cogspire, the inter-city master criminal is still celebrated as an anti-establishment hero. But the effects of Scarlett Carolina’s crimes reverberate through both ends of society.

By Caitlyn Whitetower

  The following article was originally published in The Sagittarii Bullseye on Molsday, 14th Starpoint, 552 PCE.   Lana Woodgrove is a florist in the south Merchant’s Quarter in Cogspire. She usually does a brisk trade in dragon’s tongue, corleonas, white bearded lilies, and confusing bougainvilleas. Since Candelsday, however, she has received close to a hundred orders from regular citizens for the rare red carolina flower, which she normally does not keep in stock as they tend to wilt in our temperate climate. “I had to have them delivered by airship,” she said, “and I’m still making gold faster than dwarves can mint. I don’t know who she thinks she is, but she can steal clock towers any day if it means this kind of business.”   Orson Tinklefoot sells handmade dolls out of his shop, Tinklefoot Toys, in the Theatre District. His patrons are mainly aristocrats from the Skyfield Terrace, who purchase souvenirs for their children after a night out at the theatre. In anticipation of the original glam The Thief of Time by renowned illusioneers the Full Quiver Players, rumoured to be released in Brightwane later this year, Tinklefoot has been pulling all-nighters stitching together dozens of figurines with small red felt caps and crimson leather coats. And he can barely keep his shelves stocked. “I particularly like how she’s sticking it to the bloody aristocracy,” said Tinkerfoot. “I mean, look, she vanishes their city’s landmark and they’re buying toys of her by the box-load. She’s a regular revolutionary, she is. Old Vainglove? Serves him right.”   Censeress Jex’ildra Eras’myr Melli’syn is an immigrant from Shallowmine, a predominantly dwarven viturbation on the Taygetan continent. As a censeress in the Hearthmother sect of the Church of Celvynas, she is frequently approached by citizens with moral quandaries that they, for whatever reason, do not wish to bring to the city watch. Lately, she has noticed an increase in the number of petty theft cases she has had to resolve, mostly committed by children of Church members. Censeress Jex’ildra has been reassuring worried parents with the Parable of Pyrax, who in Hearthmother lore stole the sacred flame from the goddess Celvynas’s hearthfire. “Pyrax’s was the first ‘impossible’ heist’, and the Hearthmother forgave his childish prank and invited him back to the fireside,” Jex’ildra explained. “So I believe she’s like Pyrax: a bit of a scallywag, a bit of a harmless prankster. Celvynas will burn away the past; all will be forgiven in the end.”   From peasants to community religious figures, public sentiment casts the notorious master criminal Scarlett Carolina in a fairly positive light. She is envied by the agriculturalists, lauded as a hero by the mercantile class, and given a free pass by the clergy. And this characterisation of her has not changed, even in the wake of her latest impossible heist.  
  On any other day, Kyron Dawnshadow, the 43-year-old human Keeper of the Tower, would wake up to the morning chime of the Cogspire, the looming clockwork time-tower that gave the mekapolis its name. After breakfast, he would head up the Cogspire’s central staircase, inspecting the swaying pendulum and performing maintenance on the mechanisms, fending off the wear and tear of the delicate machinery.   However, on 11th Starpoint, 552 PCE, Dawnshadow overslept.   He was shaken awake half an hour late by his next-door neighbour, who told a bewildered Dawnshadow that the time-tower was missing. “It took me a while to get my head round what she was saying,” said Dawnshadow. “I remember thinking, “How could a whole tower disappear just like that? I still couldn’t believe it, even when I was looking at the hole.”   When Dawnshadow arrived at his workplace, a twelve-metre hollow was all that remained of the tower which was once held in place by expensive trusses of steel, an alloy of iron and carbon. At the bottom of the pit, authorities found a framed clipping from the Cogspire Chronicle from 22 Bloomtide, 548 PCE, bearing an iconograph of Cogspire Mayor Augustus Vainglove under the headline “Cogspire Mayor Taunts Master Criminal: ‘Take Your Time!’” On the glass was a message scribbled in red rouge: “Don’t mind if I do.”   In the investigation that followed, forensic diviners found a vast transmutation grid installed into the Cogspire’s foundations, wired up with dozens of mana circuits. Further analysis revealed that the inscribed mana circuity was made up of shrinking spells, which when arranged in such a pattern, amplified each spell’s normally small area of effect.   In her address to the citizens at a town hall meeting three weeks after the theft occurred, Sheriff Sandra Brightstar reported that the culprit had used transmuting magi-tech to shrink the Cogspire “down to the size and weight of a kid’s toy”, allowing her to carry it out of the city. “That’s all we can make out right now,” she said. “How she managed to set up the whole operation right under our noses: we ain’t got a clue.”  
  Battered placards litter the street outside Mayor Augustus Vainglove’s residence. Some enterprising young vandal has scrawled the message “Ding Dong, The Watch is Dead” on the walls in luminescent paint, so that it glows at night. The guard house stands empty; the mayor has reassigned the royal guard, the Timekeepers, to provide assistance to the Pit investigations.   “I’m sorry, but I can only offer you water,” said Vainglove as he ushered me to a seat with his prosthetic mage hand. “A guest from the press usually warrants at least a brandy, but because of the cutbacks…” he trailed off.   Rushton Manor is the largest of the twelve mansions on the Dial, the district in Cogspire’s upper-class Skyfield Terrace traditionally set aside for civil servants since the era of Ezekiel Rushton, the city’s first mayor-captain, 125 years ago. Located at the head of Bezel Crescent, the Manor’s elevated position affords a panoramic view of the rest of Cogspire and the city’s environs. A raised balcony on the Manor’s bow-wards side once served as the mekapolis’s Bridge, where the mayor-captains of history would once steer their mobile cities towards new horizons. Now the ancient rudder mechanisms are disconnected, and the wooden steering wheel replaced a ceremonial one in the likeness of Cogspire’s emblem: a square-toothed brass gear with clock hands resting at ten past ten.   Mayor Augustus Vainglove stood behind the wheel on that fateful day in Bloomtide four years ago, addressing the thronging masses in the square below. Scarlett Carolina had just succeeded in stealing a priceless artwork in the middle of a gala dinner with hundreds of people in attendance in Krakenport, a viturbation and capital of the South Aquarian Territories. Most cities on the Meropean continent feared that their cultural artefacts would be Scarlett Carolina’s next target, and their leaders spent an exorbitant amount of resources beefing up their security. Vainglove, then only two years into his six-year term of office, was, in his own words, “young and naive”.   “I was an overconfident, blustery fool,” he said wearily. “Now I know better than to poke a sleeping thylacine in its den.”   Vainglove was convinced that Cogspire would be immune to the Scarlett fever. “I thought we had nothing that she could steal. Our economy is based on horology and clockmaking. Most of our income is from tourism: by the Seven, it’s a hundred-metre-tall clocktower! The bell itself weighs over thirteen tonnes! That was all the security it needed!”   Vainglove said as much in the speech he gave to his citizens. “Sure, she can steal a book and a painting, but she can’t carry away our Cogspire!” he roared to a frenzied crowd on that warm summer day. “It took three hundred people almost fifteen years to build the tower; how long will it take one conniving little sneak-thief to tear it down? Take your time, Scarlett Carolina, do you hear me! Cogspire is not afraid of you!”   Vainglove rubbed his forehead as he recounted the story. “I made a mistake. I was wrong. Maybe I deserve all this.”   The translucent, disembodied mage hand, floating near the brass-capped stump at the end of his left arm, begs the unasked question; he replies before I manage to ask it. “I’m a conjuror by training,” he explained wearily. “I’m not well-versed in transmutation magic. And even if I was, how could I have predicted this? Nobody could have predicted this.”   With the loss of their landmark and the primary source of their revenue, Cogspire’s economic situation is now in jeopardy. Mayor Vainglove has been advised to promote the Pit as a new tourist attraction, but that strategy is complicated by the fact that InterWatch is still conducting its crime scene investigation, and is keeping civilians off the premises.   The uncertain economic future has spooked members of the public, mainly restaurateurs, souvenir shop owners, and similar merchants whose business have been affected by the drop in tourism. A mob nearly a hundred strong protests every afternoon on Bezel Crescent, not always peacefully.   Mayor Vainglove had to evacuate his wife and two young children on the mayor’s airship The Escapement, likely to one of the other Sagittarii mekapoli. That is the extent of their assistance to Cogspire however; Mayor Vainglove’s pleas for aid were denied by the other Sagittari mayors for fear of becoming Scarlett Carolina’s next target.   “They’re afraid too,” said Vainglove. “It’s scares them. They have no idea who she is.”  
  “Well, we’re pretty sure she’s not a sorcerer.”   Chief Inspector Vyklun Anvilwright is a forensic diviner at The Focused Lens, the crime analyst guild of the Sagittarii Cluster’s inter-city watch. After five years studying criminal mentology at the Anti-Crime Academy Guildhouse in the Rigellian Kingdoms, the Cogspire-born dwarf secured a position almost immediately at the Lens’s headquarters in Eightwheels. In one of his first major assignments, Inspector Anvilwright, then merely a Special Constable, was placed on the task force that investigated, and ultimately dismantled, the Red Wyvern Cult and its notorious leader Walter Scrimshaw in the 520s. After a relatively mundane decade of clamping down on mind-enchantment advertising and illegal mage-weapon trading, Anvilwright headed the investigation of the Terracotta Murders and captured the manaforged 0412HD647H – better known in his human guise as Harold Dellworth.   Inspector Anvilwright and his team are convinced that Scarlett Carolina has little to no natural magical talent. “There’s just no evidence that she has any innate magical aptitude,” he said at an interview last month. “She might have an eye for certain magicks, and she’s clearly trained in operating a wide variety of magi-tech. But as far as we can tell, she doesn’t cast magic herself, so she’s not a wizard, and she’s not a sorcerer.”   Anvilwright’s main piece of evidence is the recording of the first and only time Scarlett Carolina has been captured on scrystal. As he fiddled with the scrystal ball apparatus, he explained the backstory:   In 549 PCE, renowned elven spiro-artist Marathel Lysan’dris Oth’myrsel hosted an extravagant gala dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Manta Hotel in Krakenport, capital viturbation of the South Aquarian Territories. The climax of the evening was the unveiling of her latest work, a glow-in-the-dark “painting” she had created by coaxing colonies of bioluminescent micro-creatures on a piece of nutrient-rich canvas titled The Unexamined Life. The ballroom lights were turned down for the big reveal, but when Marathel pulled the cloth away, the frame bore a different painting: a red carolina, bearing the caption Plae’hyr nyll Orellei – elven for “This Is Not a Flower”.   As the hall erupted into chaos, a security scrystal was triggered at the south exit. The Krakenport aristocracy, complacent about art thieves, only requested and paid for the bare minimum in arcane abjurations. However, Agatha Gravewarden, the hotel’s head of security, managed to persuade the Manta’s owners to install the latest in scrystal magi-tech across all entryways to supplement the existing anti-magic gateways.   “And because of dear Ms Gravewarden,” said Anvilwright smugly, “we now know what Scarlett Carolina looks like without her glamours.”   The image on the scrystal ball is faintly distorted, like looking through a fish’s eye. Nevertheless, it is not hard to make out a tall, elegant woman in an opulent flowing dress and elbow-length gloves, striding confidently away from the scrystal’s eye. As she crosses the threshold of the anti-magic field in the doorway, her glamour winks out. The dress disappears, a deep crimson longcoat in its place; and a matching wide-brimmed fedora materialises on her head. As her illusions drop, she startles and casts a glance over her shoulder, but the wide-brimmed hat casts a shadow over her eyes, and a lace veil obscures her features either way. And then, right before she disappears into the night, a small tugging at the edge of her mouth, an almost indiscernible movement of the lips.   “She’s smirking,” mutters Anvilwright. “That smug son-of-a-witch.”  
  The Krakenport Caper was Carolina’s third successful heist; the theft of Cogspire was her fourth and latest.   Pleione’s Tear is a 26-carat briolette-cut sapphire discovered deep in a sunken temple off the southern coast of the Celaeno continent in the early 400s by the gnome adventurer Jash Stumblecluck. The Tear changed hands for a century before ending up as the centrepiece of the heavily warded window display of the mekapolis Nereid’s Crossing’s Gemcutter’s Guild. In 544 PCE, what was originally thought to be malfunctioning brassing mana circuits flooded the ground floor display area, leaving a mess of waterlogged furniture and other debris.   The brassers who were brought in to check on the faulty mana circuits discovered that additional water-element mana crystals had been hotwired into every spigot on the ground floor, and that the drainage pipes were each clogged with the same red flower petals. Now that they had determined foul play, the guildmasters took a hasty inventory and discovered that the Tear was missing; in its place in the window display was a carefully crafted replica made of blue glass. Nothing else was taken.   The theft caused a news-storm in the Atreidean Conglomerate. Authorities had no leads, and investigations led nowhere. The theft was only attributed to Scarlett Carolina after her second heist, once the flower petals were identified to be carolinas, and after her signature calling card was established.   Carolina’s second successful heist was the theft of an ancient magical artefact known as the Evertome from the a high security exhibition in New Twelveshollow’s Museum of Magical History in 546 PCE. Very little is known about the circumstances of the theft itself; the book seemingly vanished from its display case overnight. Carolina once again left her red carolina, along with the message that catapulted her to infamy: “I don’t have my library card, but do you mind if I check you out?”   To date, authorities have not discovered evidence of Carolina’s unsuccessful heists.  
  The Krakenport recording is the definitive source on Scarlett Carolina’s physical appearance. Every law-enforcement branch affiliated with InterWatch across the Seven Sisters has the profile on record: young human female, long brown hair, red hat, crimson longcoat. The sketch is at once striking, yet completely useless for identification: there must be a hundred thousand human women who fit that description.   While Scarlett Carolina has managed to keep investigators mostly in the dark, there are a few facts that most watches agree on. Anvilwright methodically lists out Carolina’s modus operandi:   She is smart and resourceful, and seems to operate alone. “A six-man team couldn’t have pulled off the Evertome job,” Anvilwright tells me. “If she managed to do it by herself – that is both very impressive and very terrifying.”   She has left a calling card at the scene of every heist: a red carolina flower, more commonly found in tropical climates. Often, the flower is accompanied by a written message, a play on words about the stolen object. “She wants to be known,” explains Anvilwright. “She has a streak of megalomania, just enough to be theatrical, but not enough to get her to slip up.”   She appears to be well-versed with magi-tech; recovered magi-tech devices from her crime scenes seem either custom-made, or jury-rigged from widely-available artefacts. The fact that she left these devices behind seem to reveal a sloppy nature, but Anvilwright is certain that they serve as a message. “She’s proud; she’s showing off,” says Anvilwright, grimacing. “She’s taunting us, telling us, ‘You can figure out how I did it, and you still won’t be closer to catching me.’”   And finally, she knows how to lie low: there is an average of fourteen months between her heists. Anvilwright believes she spends her downtime planning and gathering resources for her next larceny.   Other than that, the authorities are baffled.   Inspector Anvilwright has spent six years of his career investigating the Carolina problem, after being assigned the first heist in 544 PCE. He says he is dedicated to cracking the case. His coworkers report that it is a bit more of an obsession. “He spends the nights down in the shelves, going through the dossiers of old cases over and over,” said a Lens staff who wished to remain anonymous. “I hear he’s stopped going home; it’s no wonder that his wife left him.”   “He has these bouts of anger,” said Myka Shivertail, a Lens forensic diviner and ex-colleague of Anvilwright now living in Sprocketville. “He’d throw these tantrums when a clue lead to a dead end. He would get violent; we had to keep him away from the evidence lockers.”   Anvilwright brushes this behaviour aside as mere eccentricities. “I am committed to the case and will stop at nothing until Carolina is brought to justice,” he declared. “I’ve never failed before, and I can’t fail now. I’m going to find out who she is, even if it takes me the rest of my life.”  
  This is Scarlett Carolina’s legacy. She’s celebrated by an indiscriminate public as a classy cat-burglar, a swaggering but ultimately harmless rogue whose thefts are big thumbed noses to hubristic authority figures. In reality, her crimes have repercussions which ripple through society, impacting people she has probably never met face to face.   Kyron Dawnshadow, once Keeper of the Tower, now lives with his erstwhile neighbour overlooking the Pit. He has been unable to afford his old living quarters for the last two months, because he has been unemployed for the last three. “The Mayor had to let me go, said he couldn’t justify keeping me on the staff,” he said.   Dawnshadow has had trouble finding new employment. Cogspire was the timekeeping institution in the city; no other establishment has clocks quite as large for Dawnshadow’s specialised skill set. “I don’t have the fiddly fingers that the watchmakers want, and nobody’s used a bloody sundial for centuries,” he said. The city’s engineers, historically a superstitious lot, have refused to let him join their ranks, “in case that scarlet witch magicks away the city’s engines.”   “Vainglove guaranteed me my job back when the Spire came back,” said Dawnshadow. “If it ever comes back. Time will tell, I hope.”

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