A powerful stranger visits Southern Fishing Village
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They're over in the shallows near the eastern shore today.

"Take in the sail, I think," Egresta says, eyeing the water.

Satenag grunts.

The sail flaps in the breeze. Egresta makes sure the net is secured, and then heaves it overboard. After six and one years sailing together on the lake, there isn't much to say that they haven't said. They work together with practiced efficiency.

They haul on the net, bringing a small load of squirming fish over the side of the boat. The fish are quickly loaded into the baskets, the smallest ones tossed back.

And sitting at the bottom of the boat is a battered brass lamp.

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She picks it up and turns it over in her hands.

"An oil lamp? It must have been down here a long time," she remarks. She buffs the surface with her skirt.

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For a moment, the lamp does nothing particularly interesting.  For a moment.

The metal of the lamp begins to bend and buckle as if under immense strain followed by glowing and slightly floating away before orange-sparking clouds of purple smoke billow outwards, as if the very air were briefly catching on fire.  All this is accompanied by a great cacophony of noise, as if the wind were whistling through a thousand thousand leaves all at once.

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"Aaaaah!" she screams. It seems like the appropriate reaction. Egresta ducks.

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Screaming, notably, isn't very conducive to catching oil lamps that suddenly return to their regular in-atmosphere buoyancy, but before one might bounce and roll its way into the waters below..

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Not quite a face, or a body, but perhaps the impression of the upper torso and beyond- coalesces from the smoke. It reaches out, catching the lamp and setting it into the boat, before - its not so much turning as being reshaped in its billowing - facing the sailors - more towards Satenag than Egresta.  The chaotic lightshow and sounds fade, leaving only what audio might normally be present, (though is screaming really normal?) before the cloud begins to speak.

"Oh, people, it has been ever so long!  Here, let me-" The cloud solidifies further, going from mere abstraction to the impression of solid form- not exactly a human, but something inspired by one - all its colors just hues of the same omnipresent purple smoke.

"Hello to both of you, I hope the screaming is intentional?  What can I call you two .." - the figure pulls some parchment and a pen from nowhere in particular - ".. and which of you rubbed my lamp?"

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She stops and glances at Egresta.

"Ah, my name is Satenag," she says with a small bow. "And this is Egresta, my captain. I rubbed your lamp ... which I hope is not rude? Are you one of the fair ones?"

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Egresta stands and claps Satenag on the shoulder.

"I see them too," she quietly reassures her.

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"Sa .. ten .. ag and Eg .. re .. sta .." - it says as it writes something down on the parchment.

.

 ..

  ...

"Hm? Rude?"

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The cloud seems to energetically but quietly spark and fizzle though not to the previous extremes. The figure becomes significantly more animate, gesticulating wildly and more obviously moving rather than reforming. "Why, it wasn't rude at all!  You, sir or madam or something else Satenag - now have the very important position of being my Master!  I now owe you three, count them, three full Wishes, to the best of my ability!  Not one" - it extends a finger - "not two," - another - " not four," - two more - " and certainly not fifty " - it extends another forty six, and then folds the fingers back down to a more reasonable three - "reality shaping, cosmically significant, terms and conditions applying wishes!" With this proclamation, smaller figures of similar look to the figure briefly appear and play celebratory music on conjured instruments before vanishing back into the purple smoke.

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The figure solidifies again, having grown less defined during that previous display.  "Oh but where are my manors, I never introduced myself.  You may call me Eeferi, and I am your genie of the lamp."  It bends forward before straightening again.  "Any questions?"

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"Uh. Yes, several."

She glances around for somewhere for Eeferi to sit, but the boat is sufficiently small that there's not really much space to be hospitable.

"As it happens, I am a woman, although I hope that won't be relevant? ... I guess maybe the first question I have for you is — when you say that you owe me wishes, what is that for? Freeing you from the lamp? I'm having trouble thinking of anything I have done that would have three wishes as the fair price."

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Egresta tidies the last of the fish away.

"Also, would you be able to keep pace with the boat if I took us back towards shore?" she asks. "I think that one way or another this conversation is going to involve consulting with the others."

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"Your gender might be relevant, though that's not quite my call to make.  The Wishes are for approximately anything you desire not all desires are grantable through direct Wishing, please consult your nearest genie on specific cases and though you could free me from this lamp, my powers would be greatly diminished - mostly illusions, conjurations, and shapeshifting, at that point. In terms of what you could Wish for .. the kinds of Wishes that usually get granted include wealth, " - a pile of gold bars and a towering feast hovers near the boat - "personal supernatural power, " - beams of red light momentarily lance out from approximately where Eeferi might have eyes, appearing to boil some of the water - " positions of authority over overs," - Satenag is dressed in fine robes and shining jewelry, held high on a platform by indistinct humanoid figures - " or changes to the fabric of reality," - Nothing appears to accompany this and then the various examples fade back to more mundane reality and purple smoke - " though do feel free to ask about what else I might be able to grant."

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"Oh, no, this system is very unfair. The trade isn't really commensurate at all, but it is enforced by powers beyond my own."

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"Ah, yes. Please keep my lamp on the boat if you intend to ensure that you've brought me ashore - I can handle the rest of my personal transport.  Or I could bring us there now?  Ooh, or what about making this boat the fastest craft for a thousand miles," - the boat grows wings - " or granting it the ability to make portals," - a vortex appears to open between the path in-front of the boat and a dense jungle, teeming with foreign life - " or maybe even direct teleportation?" - Again not accompanied by anything other than the wings and portal fading.

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"Others? Oh, I would very much like to meet others! How do I look, do I seem ready for others?" They continue to billow purple smoke, though their visual definition is if anything less strong than it was earlier.

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She is put fairly off-balance by this rapid influx of detail, but two points stand out.

"Is that really what people commonly wish for? That's ... how could they! That's unimaginative, un-community-minded, and unsustainable!" she exclaims. From her tone of voice, each of those is a stronger condemnation than the last.

She waves her hand, as though to wave away her own complaints.

"But that's not the important thing ... you're compelled to give people wishes? You can't choose not to?" she clarifies. "Because that sucks."

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Meanwhile, Egresta expertly piloting the boat back out of the shallows and around one of the small islands that dots the lake. Satenag ducks out of the way of the boom when necessary with the unthinking ease of long practice.

When they round the island a distant village, comprised of straw-thatched cottages nestled between two hills, comes into view.

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"Well, people are often Wishing for leverage over a situation that they cannot directly change with a Wish, and the classics often grant leverage." - Simple shapes and figures play out using a literal lever to push a boulder - "Community .. ah yes, some more community minded folks have Wished for a nigh unstoppable army to conquer the world in their name" - brief, goreless, colorless silent imagery of marching war - " or a nearly endless stream of worker-minions to reshape the world as they see fit." - similar imagery to before, but this time the army reshapes the land rather than fighting, though they still crush those who resist underfoot - "As for unsustainable, I'm not sure I see how one might make Wishes sustainable, as my Master only ever gets three, assuming they don't make some terrible mistake which prevents them from Wishing." As they explain all this, Eeferi slowly gets more melancholy and less energetic.

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With sudden energy, and a temporary conjuration of binoculars - "Houses, land, civilization!  Oh I feel quite invigorated!"

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Satenag slumps in the boat as well.

"I guess if there are serious restrictions on wishes, that could make sense," she observes. "But you mentioned wishes can change the fabric of reality — could I wish* that nobody anywhere would ever go hungry again? That's the sort of thing I mean by sustainable; a change that persists, instead of getting used up."

 

 

* Translators note: While I have done my humble best to render the preceding dialogue in English, it must at this point be mentioned that the language spoken in Southern Fishing Village is a rural dialect of Reformed North-Eastern Marnesi Trade Language. Among the various qualities that distinguish it from English is the fact that it marks case on the verb. Therefore, Satenag saying 'could I wish' cannot be taken to mean that she is wishing for linguistic reasons, quite aside from Eeferi's friendliness and ability to understand context. Likewise, the language marks quotes (with a different mood), which avoids another potential point of confusion.

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Egresta purses her lips at the question.

"Don't forget they're being compelled," she points out.

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Satenag rubs her temples.

"Ugh. Yeah, that's more important."

She's silent for a moment, staring at the water passing on either side of the boat, the reflections of clouds distorted by its passage.

"Eeferi — just because some power is compelling you is no reason for me to be complicit in it. If you weren't being compelled, is there anything that you would be willing to trade with us? Freeing you from the lamp in truth?"

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Eeferi stays silent for a moment.  "You could almost Wish that, though it might not go exactly as you expect.  Do you want to include pets?  Do you want to keep the ability to eat?  What happens to all the farmers of the world who are suddenly jobless, or the feeling of hunger as opposed to the need? ... Wishes, though they are vast, are not exactly absolute.  Any future Wish could overwrite a previous Wish and no previous Wish may directly constrain a future Wish, and so one finds themselves with merely nigh unstoppable armies or almost no chance of needing to eat again."

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"I .. some have made that same offer to me before, and none have ever kept their word.  I would want to be free to explore all the worlds myself, to see every sight, experience every thrill, meet all the peoples ..  But I would need to be free and weaker to do so under my own power, so far as comes to mind.  I've sometimes thought of bargaining for some other Wish for myself, but I don't know what I'd want while free until I'm free, and at that point - genies can't grant the Wishes of genies, and so it would be too late."

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