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Generated: Apr 26, 2018 11:36 PM
Post last updated: Jun 22, 2018 10:57 AM
One Curious Kobold
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It's winter, and all is well with the tribe. Their new magic, an ability to make portals from one place to another, which was found by one of their members during the early-summer trip to meet with the other tribes in the area, let them both build up a decadent food stockpile and move to a much deeper part of the cave system without the worry of being unable to find their way back out. No-one has had to go hungry, and even the fiercest ice storm doesn't reach them; they are as content as kobolds can be.

Well, aside from their new mage, that is. She's bored, and curious. Making portals to known places is straightforward enough, with the magic she found, but that's far from the limit of what it can do... so one day, she slips away, portals off to a different cave system - one can't be too careful, after all - and experiments.

Temperature roughly the same... gravity roughly the same... air the same, not into stone or underwater or in a volcano or on top of a mountain... but, instead of patterning it after a place she knows, what happens if she only specifies those things, and lets the innate patterns of the spot she's casting on do the rest? Particularly this one part, which seems to specify the world...

She finishes the spell, and hesitates for just a moment before activating it.
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And here is an aisle of high wooden structures, each laden with rows of tall rectangular objects in ever color, in leather and paper.

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She peers through, and, when the place on the other side seems to be deserted, touches a different part of the portal's frame - setting it to close after a minute - before stepping through and examining the leather things more closely.

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There are lots of them. If she tips one off the shelf, it opens up on three sides to show marked paper.

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The kobold isn't familiar with paper, and spends some time examining it - she's careful not to damage it or make too much noise. After a few minutes, though, she puts the strange object back, and starts looking around the rest of the area.

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It's mostly more of the paper things. Rows and rows of shelves and shelves of paper things. And a nook with some chairs and couches around a low table, and over there some desks with oil lanterns on them.

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Whoever lives here sure does love their paper things. They might not be too happy about the kobold lurking around among them - it might be a good idea to find out about that, before she runs into any unpleasant surprises.

She explores the nook, finds that she can comfortably hide behind one of the chairs and still see out, and settles in to wait and see who might show up.
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Eventually, there are footsteps, which come with increased light.
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The kobold is very still and very quiet.

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The footsteps are a tall creature with two legs, two arms, and a head, wrapped in elaborate fabric mostly in red and orange. There are a dozen tiny candle-sized flames in a halo around her head, lighting her way.

When she gets about five feet away from the kobold's hiding place, she stops.
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[curiosity [person [spellbearer?]] [lights [spelled?] [impressive]] [something else?]], the kobold is thinking, and then [alarm [freezing in place]], as she notices that the person is acting oddly.

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With no language to borrow, Kiri can't exactly say anything reassuring. And if she backs up to seem less threatening she won't have anything.

...Well, the lights are impressive, and impressiveness isn't alarm?

The candleflames start orbiting her head.
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...spotted, spotted, the kobold is definitely spotted. How, she has no idea, but it's definitely happened.

Why is the light moving. Is she about to be attacked. She scoots back fully behind the chair - it's not much cover but it's better than nothing. Can she get home - no, she's too alarmed to aim properly, who knows where she might end up, it might be better than sticking around but she's going to wait until she knows she's in danger before risking teleporting herself into a mountainside someplace.
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The lights stop moving. That was not the intended effect. Sigh.

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Well, that's better, at least.

The kobold gives it another moment, and when both the lights and the person show no further sign of moving, she peeks out again, staying behind the chair as much as possible but not worrying about whether she's seen.
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The person with the firelights looks at her.

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She looks back, assessing the situation, tentatively concluding that this person is not an immediate threat, even if they are almost certainly a spellbearer and probably a mage on top of that. But they aren't being threatening; they don't even seem upset, just cautious and a little curious - reasonable, considering.

Well, the kobold can be sociable. How will a greeting go over, in Animalperson? Hopefully the tone will help, even if the language isn't one they speak.
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Fire-person repeats the greeting, smiling slightly.

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Well, that seems like a good sign. The kobold spends another moment gathering her courage, and then steps into view.

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Slightly more smile.

Fire person points at herself and says, "Kiri."
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"Kiri," she repeats, with a small nod, and then she gestures similarly, "kobold."

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Kiri repeats the animalperson greeting and follows it with "kobold".

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This gets a grin and a little bow - she's not moving any closer yet, but she's not braced to dive back behind the chair any more at least. And then... she does have to ask... she points to the candleflames, "fire", and then looks back to Kiri, "Kiri do of fire?"

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"Kiri do of fire," repeats Kiri, and she reaches into her halo with her bare hand and takes a flame like she's picking a fruit. It dances on her fingertips.

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The kobold blinks. [fire [illusion?]] - she steps forward, watching Kiri carefully for objections, and reaches up to see if it's hot as well as bright.

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Since she's not planning to actually touch it, just get close, Kiri holds it out.

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She pauses for just a moment when Kiri begins moving, but recovers almost immediately, and with a sense of familiarity with that reaction.

[hot] - she makes an appropriately impressed face. [Kiri [maybe fire spellbearer [protection separate?] [very, very good control?]] [maybe illusionist spellbearer] [impressive in either case] [dangerous in either case [especially if they're a mage, be careful of hexes [fire is an awful way to die]]]]
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...None of this comes with words. In particular, Kiri can't claim not to be dangerous. The kobold's monitoring her body language; she is already trying to look nonthreatening, but she tries harder. When the heat of the fire has been observed, she lets it wink out.

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The kobold flinches only slightly when the fire disappears, and then considers. Kiri does seem friendly, and more interestingly, they do seem to think that the kobold is a person. (Probably; as near as the kobold can tell with so little to go on, anyway.) There are worse things she could spend her time on than making friends; if they are a mage, maybe they'd be willing to swap spells, and if not, well, knowing a friendly fire-or-illusionist spellbearer still can't hurt, if there are troubles again.

The first thing to do, then, is clarify that she is a mage; surprising Kiri with that wouldn't be very polite. First, vocabulary - "Kiri do of fire; Kiri is of spellbearer. Kiri is of mage? Mage do of spellbearer."
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...Kiri doesn't have a word for no. She shakes her head, hoping that will work or at least informatively not-work. "Kobold is of mage. Kiri is of... Ardelay," she says.

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The kobold peers at Kiri - if that's a bad translation-guess it's a strange one, but what else could it be? Even if Kiri has some sort of mind-reading magic that works at a distance, her anti-magic should be blocking it.

...unless something stranger than that is going on. What does Ardelay mean, anyway?

Let's try to find out. "Ardelay?"
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"Ardelay is of fire..." No word for 'and'. A pause will have to do. "Ardelay is of -" Also no word for mind. She taps her head. The head-shake produced an accurate but low-confidence guess; who knows if this will even be that good.

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....... Kiri is probably not actually a god. Gods would be better at language than this, the kobold is pretty sure, if they used it at all. But that certainly sounds like a god's domains, and she wouldn't be surprised if a god's spellbearer could ignore her antimagic.

Well. Test the theory, then. Would Kiri like some more vocabulary? Let's see... "God, demon, magic, spell, spell-effect... mind, thought, knowledge, know, learn, speak, listen... yes, no, maybe, tiny, big, small. Kiri do of speak of language, kobold do of learn of language - kobold no do of see of mind of Kiri, do of learn of listen."
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A few words in Kiri pulls a piece of paper out of her pocket and starts scribbling notes as fast as she can. When the kobold is done speaking: "Kiri know mind -" She steps back, out of range. "Kiri no know mind. ...Kiri no god," she adds, stepping back but just to the very edge so if the kobold flinches it'll take her out of range again.

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Huh. Okay. That's certainly something.

She dips her head apologetically and gives a 'hold on' gesture, then steps out of mind-reading range to consider what to do next.
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Kiri waits.

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This seems to involve considerable debate, but eventually she comes to a conclusion. Instead of stepping back into range, though, she reaches into her belt pouch (moving slowly and watching Kiri for signs of alarm) and pulls out a small piece of flint. "Mage," she says, by way of explanation, as she sets it on the arm of the chair and shuts her eyes to concentrate, still touching it as she does so. After a minute, she picks the rock up again and taps it with a claw, causing it to teleport back to the arm of the chair, then looks to Kiri to see what they think of this.

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Kiri is very interested.

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The kobold grins slightly and returns the flint to her pouch, then repeats the concentration process on a short loop of string from the same pouch, producing a tiny portal that she then reaches into and retrieves a handful of dried berries from. She pulls a piece of thread off of the string to break the spell before returning this to her pouch, too, then steps back into mind-reading range.

[[this kobold]: [generally willing to help [respectful/friendly/potentially allied] people [speculation that Kiri falls into this category]]] [consideration]

More vocabulary: "Move," - she doesn't know words for teleportation or portals - "go, take, put... thing, this, that, here, there... cast, break." That's enough to be getting on with, hopefully? (She steps back out of range when she's done speaking.)
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Scribble scribble. Kiri's memory is far from perfect. And she doesn't actually have anything she needs moved handy right now. It's still easier to pick up the kobold's vocabulary than to try to teach her Welchin, though. Her head is spinning with possibilities, though. "Move Kiri?" she asks, not having a generic term for "person" and suspecting very much that she already knows "move kobold" is a definite yes.

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She nods, "yes, do of move of Kiri - do of spell of thing, Kiri do of go of thing, thing do of move of Kiri of place."

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That's kind of hard to disentangle even with the glossary, even if she mentally subtracts all the weird-in-translation "of"s, and she doesn't have enough adjectives or prepositions... "Spell thing here, take thing there, go thing, move here?"

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Hm. The kobold moves back into range; that does seem to work better, even if moving in and out of it all the time is a bit of a pain. Well, she'll cope.

She doesn't need to be in the place the spell aims at when she casts, but she does need to be familiar with it, or the enspelled object has to be brought to the place and activated there. Otherwise, that's right - the enspelled object can be taken anyplace and will always teleport things to the same location.
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"Thing move thing?" wonders Kiri. Or does it get left behind, dramatically reducing its value as an emergency bailout...?

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The kobold doesn't seem to know offhand whether this is possible - the more straightforward way of moving people is to make them spellbearers, which she's rejecting as an option in this case. She steps back out of range to consider the problem, which involves the same look of distant concentration as when she was casting before, and after a minute of that, she steps back into range with her conclusion: yes, she can cast in a way that allows the object to come along, though it won't be possible to include as many destination triggers on something as small as it will need to be.

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And Kiri doesn't have "why" to ask why she can't just have a spell on herself personally... or "how many" to ask for exact figures on destination triggers...

But she could get a magic object that could teleport her and itself to several locations! That's pretty cool!

...And she doesn't have the words to ask "what kind of thing". Or "can I activate the thing myself in the various locations or do I need to talk you into coming to Chialto with me". Or "how many people can it bring" or "could someone who didn't know what it was activate it by accident". She can't even ask "is there anything you want done in exchange". Why does she have a word for demon and not want? Hmmmmm.

"Small thing, tiny thing...?"
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Yeah, this is frustrating, they should probably back up and do some more vocabulary-building now that they've established that they have reason to talk - though this would be going a little better if Kiri was also sharing vocabulary, too; the kobold might not have mind magic, but she is pretty good at picking up words anyway. As evidenced by the fact that she can speak at all, which kobolds usually can't.

Anyway, things... clothing is going to be the most reliable, and it needs to be something sturdy so it doesn't break too easily - a belt, perhaps? A leather belt with rivets for the trigger points would be an obvious choice, but anything solid enough to hold a spell and with obvious places to touch will work.
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...If the kobold wants to learn Welchin Kiri is only too happy to do that. She tugs on her sleeve - "clothes" - she's not wearing a belt, but the kobold's thinking about them so she gestures around her waist and says "belt".

And then she draws dots for the numbers one through ten and names the numbers.
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The kobold follows along, mimicking the words easily. The numbers are a little surprising - she's used to a base five system - but she gets the idea anyway, and shares her own words for the first five.

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Which Kiri writes down.

Since they're doing double vocabulary, she goes down the list of words the kobold gave her and translates them all, pairwise. "Spellbearer" and "mage" she leaves untranslated because they mean specific things with no real Welchin equivalent, but "spell" she considers sufficiently generic to render in her own tongue.
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The kobold continues following, and then... huh. They don't have mages here? Kiri seems to pretty obviously be a spellbearer, but maybe without mages the word doesn't quite make sense. How would that even work, ending up as a spellbearer without a mage to give you the spell? How would it end up being set up sensibly, rather than being a hex? Is it a hex? The fire seems well enough under control, but... yikes, yeah, Kiri was pretty quick to warn her about the mind-reading, and has been pretty self-conscious about that range limit; that might not just be politeness. Ouch.

Well, mage-cast spells aren't hexes... except when they are; she hasn't thought about how she might cast a hex, and she's not going to now for the sake of making an example, but there's nothing actually stopping her from doing that, which is why unfamiliar mages are so dangerous. But in general, without a malicious or exceptionally thoughtless mage involved, hexes just don't happen; the casting mage gets to specify almost every aspect of how the spell works, and while it may take some thought and creativity to come up with the best approach to solving a problem, or even a decent one, it's not hard to avoid setups that aren't under a spellbearer's control in whatever ways they should be, whether that's by giving the spellbearer that control, or casting on an object instead so that the spell can at least be broken.

...vocabulary, right. The kobold has covered a lot of the relevant words, but 'hex' is missing from Kiri's list, so she supplies it, along with 'control', 'choose', 'want', 'trigger', 'activate', and 'deactivate'.
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Ooh, good, "want". Very important word, that. Kiri translates all the words except "hex", then says, "No hex. ...Maybe mind hex." It's a little less specific than "mage" and, well, she can't control that part and it is annoying. "Control fire, choose fire - no choose mind -" well, not directly, she gestures at the space between them, steps away, steps back. "No control Ardelay," she clarifies, "no choose Ardelay, Ardelay activate Ardelay no choose."

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So, if she's getting this right, sometimes spells just kind of happen to people? That sounds really obnoxious, actually.

...is this something she needs to be worried about happening to her? That could be a problem, especially if her tribe... nope, nope, abort that train of thought - she steps back out of range and takes a moment to collect herself.
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"No no no - kobold no Ardelay hex," says Kiri, headshake headshake. She's not sure what the bit about the tribe was about and she's not going to speculate, but the kobold doesn't worry about coming down with a primacy. "Ummmm..." She has no family words at all and no great way to ask for them. Will the kobold even be able to notice family resemblance if she calls down Aleko and Jayce? Would she recognize a family tree if Kiri drew one out? "Kobold kobold, Kiri human. Ardelays humans."

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She nods, "human maybe hex, kobold no hex", got it. That's not actually the problem, though. She gestures for Kiri to wait, again, and considers whether and how to explain.

Sigh. Okay. Back into range.

So, kobolds are, well, small Kiri can see; not imposing; not usually mages, either. Not warlike. Tend to get the bad end of it when they get into conflicts with other sorts of people, which does happen; their saving grace is mostly that they're very sneaky, so it's hard for other people to find them to give them trouble in the first place. Sneakiness which she is very carefully not going to go into detail about, obviously.

But, the kobold giving Kiri enough information to find her tribe? Taboo. Very taboo. She's more likely to get away with murder than not end up exiled - more or less a death sentence - if she does that and her tribe finds out, and with very good reason.

So, yes, she's going to be a little twitchy about that topic. And she's going to step back out of range now.
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Nod, nod. Fair enough. The fact that Kiri's never seen a kobold in her life before today and suspects that this one came from inaccessibly far away doesn't enter into it, apparently.

...And the kobold didn't give her a word for "tribe" or "death" so she can't say that Ardelays are a tribe or that there's one at a time passed from person to person on death. Oh well, maybe that's not really the priority. What is?

"There," she says, pointing up at the floors above the library, "four humans." Her brothers, two servants. It is okay if the kobold knows where they are.
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The kobold finds this somewhat confusing, apparently. "Human Ardelay hex?"

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"Kiri hex. One Ardelay hex."

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She nods, somewhat reassured.

Let's see - vocabulary, right. She's sufficiently focused on the current situation to get back to that, she thinks, so she steps back into range... Kiri seems to be trying to get at something with this Ardelay thing, but she doesn't have enough of an idea yet to try guessing at words, perhaps they can work on that some. Or, she is curious about what Kiri would want to do with teleportation magic if they had it.
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Kiri was hoping to communicate the difference in the relevant magic systems, but the question about the teleportation magic is more interesting right now.

"Kiri move - Kiri go fire, not want fire, no fire." For emphasis, she snuffs out all her candleflames. (Then puts them back, because it's pretty dark in here and getting darker as the sun descends.) Do kobolds have emergency services? Do they have wooden buildings? Enh.
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Wooden buildings, maybe not, but campfires, and fire safety, and that's not remarkable enough information for her to be alarmed at having shared it. She approves, and considers. How many places might Kiri want to go, for that, and how long would it take to visit all of them? She'd rather set the locations herself than give a relative stranger something with quite as much potential for misuse as a belt full of settable teleportation spells would be, no matter how nice that stranger seems to be.

Hmm, travel-related words - "day, night, sleep, camp, path, wilderness, river, hill, danger, food, water, carry" - not that they'd need to carry supplies, or even set up camp; she can just make portal back here every evening and then put them back where they were in the morning. Hm... oh. "Now, soon, season, summer, fall, winter, spring; rain, snow, hot, cold, sun, wind, storm, flood, mud," all of which might affect where it's sensible to go and when, after all.
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Kiri translates all those words as they come up. "Ah -" For this she wants a map. She holds up a hand wait and sweeps off and falls on her face and gets up and continues sweeping off. She comes back with an atlas and opens up to a map of Welce. "Here," she says, pointing at the approximate location of her house. Then she points at Chialto. "Go there, one day, carry food, water. Sleep there, no danger. Put... four Chialto. One here, one here, one here -" She points at several smaller towns. "Humans there go here, speak, 'Kiri, fire, danger', Kiri go there, no fire. Spell do that?"

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The kobold peers at the map: here to Chialto looks implausibly far for one day's walk, if she's reading it right, but the notation is strange enough that she could easily not be. Anyway, one day from here to there and then another day to each of the towns is just fine, and enspelling something to go to all four locations won't be a problem at all. Just... how sure is Kiri that the kobold is really going to be safe walking into a strange tribe's camp? Presumably Kiri will be vouching for her, and expects that to be sufficient, but how sure are they that it will be, and how dangerous might it be if they're wrong?

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And Kiri doesn't have "hide" or "see" or "I have another house in Chialto" or "the only other people as dangerous as I am are my friends"...

Fuck it, she's resorting to drawing.

She gets some paper and draws a simple carriage and a horse - "One day," she reiterates, drawing the house -> Chialto line again, "carriage, horse," point point. "Go Chialto carriage, humans no know kobold. Human know kobold, choose be of danger, fire."
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"Horse," she doesn't like horses much, but she recognizes them, at least. The carriage, she has no idea what it is, but the rest of the message comes through clearly enough, and seems reasonable. Not that she likes the idea of threatening people with fire, though. Hm... actually, now that she's got the idea of teleporting clothing-type things, she could just make something to bring her back here, if there's trouble. A ring, for example... hmm.

She steps out of range to cast on her loop of twine again, this time retrieving a simple silver ring, which she proceeds to cast on. Partway through the casting process, she speaks a new word; when she's done, she puts the ring on, and steps back into range.

That word - 'escape', in animalperson; she repeats the sounds carefully in her thoughts - will activate the spell on the ring, no matter who says it; if she's wearing it at the time, it will teleport her back here.
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Kiri nods and writes down the word and translates it into Welchin. "No fire," she agrees. "Human choose be of danger, no kobold there."

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Grin, nod.

Hmm. More safety words, while she's thinking about that - "Wait, walk, run, sneak, hide, stay, quiet, listen, watch, come, path, trap, safe, trust, believe, tribemate, friend, enemy."
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All of which Kiri translates.

Aleko or Jayce is going to come get her for dinner eventually and she shouldn't surprise them.

"...Kiri go," she points up, "Kiri come here, friend come here? Kobold wait, trust friend? No danger."
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She's a little wary of this idea, but after a bit of consideration, she nods.

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So Kiri goes up.

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And she comes down with company. He doesn't seem to mind being in her range at all. "Whoa," he says when he sees the kobold.

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Yup, that's another human all right. She nods a greeting.

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"Aleko," Kiri says, pointing at her brother. "...No, I don't think she has a name, or it hasn't occurred to her, but there's only one kobold around so 'the kobold' works at least for now. ...I'm not positive she's a girl but that's my impression, she hasn't been dwelling extensively on her gender."

Apparently Aleko doesn't talk too much when he can just let Kiri read his mind.
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"Aleko," another nod.

She seems otherwise content to wait for the humans to finish their conversation.
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"Yes, she does magic. We're working on it. Plan to haul us to Chialto and other cities with network libraries in them soon-ish with a very secret passenger. ...Gooood question. Uh, kobold: kobold food?"

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The kobold steps into mind-reading range again.

Kobolds are pretty omnivorous; there's not a lot they don't eat. Her usual diet includes all the same general categories as a human's, plus bugs - her world has giant ones - and bones, and seems to be very light on processed food; it's not clear whether she's familiar with bread or not, for example.

Also, she can retrieve food via portal - she wouldn't want to go too long without at least being able to cook what she can get that way, but she wouldn't consider it any particular inconvenience to go a few days without even that.
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"Okay, she'll eat baaasically whatever, maybe go light on anything that has gotten as processed as 'flour' in its history. And she can go home for groceries if she wants. I think the portal magic is basically free, she acts like it is. Exactly when we go will depend on the rest of this conversation, the vocabulary we've established can do a lot and she steps in range sometimes but it's still pretty hard to get anything complicated expressed precisely. But soon, possibly first thing tomorrow. Yes, thanks."

Sibling hug! And then Aleko leaves Kiri and the kobold alone.
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That went well! The kobold is a bit less nervous with Aleko gone, but seems to be generally okay with him.

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"Sleep, sun, go Chialto? Want?"

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Sure, that sounds reasonable. She can stay for a few days.

...hm. Where does Kiri want her to go while they sleep? She can go - well, not home, she's clear on that, but back to her world anyway - but from her perspective that seems like a bit of an unnecessary risk, plus making it harder to coordinate leaving in the morning. On the other hand, she is a strange mage, and it would be entirely reasonable of them to not want to risk getting hexed, so she'll leave if they want her to.
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"Stay," advises Kiri. "Come - quiet." And then she motions for the kobold to follow her up and out of the library.

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The kobold follows, quiet and alert.

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They manage not to run into anyone.

This is a pretty large building. They go up stairs and down a hall and up some more stairs and Kiri shows the kobold a room. "Stay? Kiri go carry food here?"
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Nod.

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Kiri closes the door and goes.

She's back with a plate of miscellaneous food options for the kobold and one for herself.
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The kobold samples everything, and likes most of it, especially the things with more of a mix of flavors. She ends up eating about half of the offered food, and is both satisfied and appreciative.

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Kiri eats in this room too and then takes the plates away and comes back. "Sleep now, no now?" she inquires.

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She considers: It doesn't feel like night-time yet, to her, but she can probably at least nap; she does want to be fresh for the trip in the morning. She can certainly stay up a while longer if there's more planning to do, though.

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Well, there's more things they could talk about, even if the plan for tomorrow's pretty straightforward. "Mage do move. Mage do...?" Anything else? Turning Kiri into a nationwide fire-suppression system isn't nothing but she'd be a little surprised if that were the only trick.

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Teleportation is the only thing she can do right now; she's new to being a mage, and teleportation is a new kind of magic, so she's been too busy figuring out interesting things to do with it to learn other sorts of effects yet. There are plenty of things it's useful for, though - gathering without having to worry about carrying things home, especially heavy things like water, exploring without worrying about getting lost or trapped or running out of supplies, pit traps for hunting with that deposit their catch all in one convenient place, of course all sorts of safety spells, and so on. Her favorite one is the mini-portals, like the one she used earlier to get the dried berries; being able to access her tribe's stores from wherever she is is pretty excellent.

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Kiri giggles. These are pretty clever applications given the starting context the kobold has to work with. Hmmm...

"Move big things?"
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Sure, there's no size limit. For a really big thing - like, an entire tree or part of a mountain or something - she might need to put some quartz crystals around it to help her figure out just where the edges were so she could cast on it properly without leaving any bits out or getting any extra stuff, and getting the crystals where she would need them might be a bit of a pain, but if she really needed to she certainly could.

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"Hmm - big thing on spell thing, big thing move?" She gestures a platform with one hand, unspecified quantities of trade goods with the other, teleports the second hand to her knee from her palm. Repeats the gesture a few times - this would be most useful if it could get things from Chialto's harbor to the rest of Welce without needing the kobold to help with every load.

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She considers. There's a couple ways she can do that, but neither of them is great - she could enspell a platform to drop whatever's loaded onto it through a horizontal portal when the spell is activated, or enspell some sort of large container to generate a portal in the middle that would move anything the portal touches - but only what it does directly touch, so while this would work okay for, say, a stack of logs, it wouldn't work so well for anything not roughly that shape.

Or she can just make a standing portal that people can carry things through; that's what she's been doing, mostly. The pit traps use the 'falling' technique, and the automation is nice, but if you're carrying things to the portal anyway it's about as convenient to carry them through it as to drop them through it, and much less rough on the things.
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"Good," says Kiri, a portal is much more general purpose than a cargo platform anyway. "Go, put belt, put -" Gesture in lieu of word for portal. She supplies 'portal' in Welchin as an afterthought.

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Hm.

Do they already have something suitable to cast that kind of portal spell on, here? She'd be kind of surprised. Not that she can't cast it on a wooden doorway or whatever, but if people are going to be carrying lots of heavy loads through it, someone's going to hit the frame hard enough to break it sooner or later, and you definitely don't want that happening when someone's walking through it. Ideally she should be casting on something both sturdy enough to take whatever damage might accidentally happen to it, and wide and tall enough that people walking through it aren't at any real risk of hitting it to begin with.

(Her solution to this back home is to run some rope between two trees, and cast on the ground-trees-rope loop as her portal frame. This is only suitable for temporary portals, but she doesn't want permanent ones there anyway.)
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"No thing. Put thing." She can have people build stone arches on Ardelay properties throughout the kingdom. She'll make a killing and an economic boon. "...No soon." Stone archways take a non-trivial amount of time to set up.

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Ah, okay. How long might that take? She's ... not going to think about her long-term plans, nope, but before she flinches away from that line of thought there is the impression that the season matters and that she might not be able to come back until next year, if it takes long enough for that to be relevant.

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"Mmmm..." Time-limited resource, legitimate economic investment. She can make it a rush job and/or call in Alser. She gets the list of numbers and draws/words up to twenty and then goes "ten, twenty, thirty" on up to a hundred. "Maybe twenty, thirty days."

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The kobold backs out of range to consider this, and returns after a minute's consideration with a conclusion that that should work all right - she can't stay the whole time, but she should be able to come back after twenty days and stay for ten or fifteen.

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Okay, Kiri's gotta go write some letters. She opens the door to this room - "Kiri sleep there," she says, pointing at her door across the hall, "Aleko there," in case the kobold needs this information for some reason, "Jayce there, Jayce know kobold here, safe."

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Nod, nod, nod, good to know. "Kobold stay, kobold quiet."

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"Good."

And Kiri goes to write up orders for stone arches in convenient locations in the towns they intend to visit and write Alser a letter inquiring if she can call on him should any of her contractors fall through and write to employees of Ardelay businesses in all the towns asking them to look for good trustworthy candidates to be on call sitting on tall things and noticing if anything is on fire that shouldn't be "as part of a pilot fire-suppression system". She has the maid-of-all-work run it all into town for the night mail. Then: sleep.
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The kobold isn't able to go right to sleep, but does manage it eventually, after a while spent drawing. She'll wake up with the sun, if nobody disturbs her before that, but she's not going to leave the room without an invitation; she can portal herself a snack if she gets hungry while she waits.

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After the sun has been up for about half an hour there's a knock on the door. "Kiri," says Kiri, lacking pronouns.

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After a moment, the door opens, and there is the kobold, looking reasonably well-rested.

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"Good morning," says Kiri, hoping it'll be clear enough from context that this is just a greeting. She offers the kobold a plate of breakfast. There is scrambled egg and fried potatoes and bacon and pancakes with berry compote and a little dish of maple syrup.

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Tone and context are things, yes. The kobold examines takes the plate and looks it over - food, food, weird food, food... um.

The maple syrup is inexplicably alarming; the kobold sets the plate on the bed and gingerly removes it to the other side of the room where she can pretend it doesn't exist.
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"Maple syrup bad?" says Kiri, puzzled.

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Yeah, um. The kobold's world has elves, they are awful, some idiot stole some maple syrup from them once and they killed a whole bunch of kobolds over it. She doesn't want to think about it.

Look at this nice tasty distracting breakfast. So tasty. So distracting.
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Kiri removes the maple syrup from the room and eats her pancakes without too.

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The kobold appreciates the maple syrup being removed, in a careful not-thinking-about-that sort of way.

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Breakfast breakfast.

Kiri doesn't have a word for 'elves', but...

"Kiri go... stop kobold danger? Fire?"
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Hm.

Sigh.

Maybe?

On the one hand, the elves are definitely awful - kobolds' antimagic protects them from the elves' magic traps, but they trap and sell tigerpeople, and it's even less ambiguous that tigerpeople are people than it is that kobolds are. Plus the cannibalism, plus the fact that they'll go after anybody they think is harming trees. On the other - well, they do have fairly valid reasons not to like kobolds: she's still trying to convince her own tribe that the concept of ownership isn't completely perverse and that they should respect other cultures' views on that, with no success to speak of; getting all the local tribes to agree to stop treating 'go take something from the elves' as a grand test of skill is about as likely as plucking the moon out of the sky. Not that the elves wiping out several tribes and terrorizing the rest for years over one bottle of syrup was reasonable, but... there really isn't a simple solution, there. Not one that's fair to everyone involved, at least.
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Eugh. That does seem complicated. She'd like to go free some tigerpeople, but has no word for either.

No concept of ownership? Can she cobble together - "Kobolds no... control.. things? No want things no take?"
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She's really not in the right headspace for a vocabulary dump, but she can do some words.

"Elf, tigerperson: take thing, put thing place, say 'mine'. Other person touch thing, person do of yell, maybe do of attack. Kobold take thing, put thing place, no say - kobold no say any - no think 'mine'. Other person touch, kobold quiet. Kobold want thing, no want other person touch, kobold hide thing; other person find thing, other person take thing, kobold quiet; kobold know other person maybe find, maybe take. Kobold hide thing, game, other kobold find thing, other kobold proud. Elf, tigerperson, hide thing, kobold think game - danger, proud; big danger, big proud." Sigh. "Other person want thing, kobold take thing, other person hurt."
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Kiri writes down the new words and nods solemnly. "Humans do 'mine'," she mentions, although this was probably obvious.

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Yeah, she'd guessed that.

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When breakfast is gone Kiri takes it and the little dishes of maple syrup from outside the door away.
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The kobold flops back on the bed and stares at the ceiling after Kiri leaves.

The next thing is to go deal with some horses, huh. Why did she agree to that, again?

Because she was bored and wanted an adventure, and fire is an awful way to die. Well, she's not bored now, but fire is still awful; she'll stay, and deal with it, and tonight she'll go home for a bit and hug some friends and feel better. That sounds like a good plan; she can handle that.

By the time Kiri comes back, she's sitting up again and looking a little less morose.
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Kiri comes back a bit later. "Go now?" she asks.

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She nods, and hops off the bed to follow.

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The kobold need not directly interact with any horses. Aleko is attaching the horses to the carriage and it looks like he's going to drive too. Kiri shows the kobold into the carriage. There are curtains, so no one will be able to see that there's a kobold in here.

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Oh, good. She was definitely not looking forward to that. (Y'know who uses horses, in the kobold's world? Elves. Ugh.)

The carriage is pretty neat, though. She's never seen one before - or anything with wheels, apparently - but she comes up with an accurate guess about what it's for and how it works from context.
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"Wheel," Kiri says, pointing at a wheel, when she notices this gap in the kobold's knowledge. And when they are shut up in the carriage with Kiri's luggage and Aleko's and a sack of food for them all, the carriage starts moving.

If the kobold sits diagonally across from Kiri she will be just out of range; the carriage is not otherwise that large in any dimension. Kiri's sitting backward-facing, with one of the curtained windows between her and Aleko, presumably so she can read his mind if necessary.
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The kobold sits just within range, but doesn't seem to have much to say, at least to begin with; she's too busy paying attention to the carriage ride itself.

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That's all right. Kiri talks to Aleko occasionally, in apparent response to his thoughts; sometimes he laughs, sometimes she does.

The ride is pretty smooth, and if the kobold peeks out past the curtains it's pretty brisk too.
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She does peek out, once; the speed is impressive, but a little disorienting, so she doesn't do it again.

If Kiri doesn't have anything to say, the kobold will eventually scoot out of range and pass the time contemplating a bit of string in that casting-ish way she does.
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Kiri has lots of things to say, but it's really hard to work with a limited shared vocabulary. Soechin she studied for years before she ever met someone whose Welchin was worse than her Soechin. She pulls out her vocabulary notes, sorts the words into categories, and then adds (marked differently) words she might want to try to add - hm, maybe she could overregularize and communicate the most common Welchin intensifier and softener and then use that for things like "sooner" and "less dangerous"...? (All this notetaking takes a while.)

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The kobold will be over here contemplating her string, then, unless and until Kiri tries to get her attention.

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...The kobold would probably have thought it at some point if it were dangerous to interrupt string contemplation. "Learn?" Kiri asks.

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The kobold refocuses and scoots back into range: Sure, what's up?

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Well, the easiest demonstration tool to hand is globs of fire. So, Kiri makes a glob of fire. "Fire." Now it is twice as big. "More fire." Now it is very small. "Less fire." She repeats the demo with discrete quantities, although she doesn't insist on the countable/uncountable distinction - Soechin doesn't even have it.

Next: prepositions. Fire in hand, on hand, under hand, next to hand, around hand, etc.
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The kobold readily picks up both the words and the concepts, and shares the equivalent Animalperson words when she knows them, which is most of the time but not always.

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Scribble scribble.

Okay, question words. ...Maybe "question". "Speak want know: question."
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She doesn't know the directly equivalent word, but does share "ask".

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Which is also useful: "Ask thing: what. Ask person: who. Ask..." She consults her notes, doesn't actually have 'place' - "here, there: where. Ask what person think, want: why. Ask now, soon, day, night - when. Ask one, two, more, less: how much. Ask..." This one's hard. "...go magic, go horse? How go? Ask, how Kiri find kobold? Kiri find kobold mind." Does that make sense?

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This sequence is a bit trickier, but she gets it after some thought. In the course of puzzling it out, she shares "place" and "reason".

(This is still much easier, she thinks at one point, than trying to do the mental gymnastics to teach a language she's not herself fluent in to someone she barely knows, with relatively little experience teaching anyone anything. She should probably work out a better way of handling the issue than leaving it to the other person, for future adventures, if she's going to possibly end up interacting with outsiders (which she wasn't expecting to) - but she'll think about that later. For now, focus on the task at hand.)
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Kiri snorts and translates 'place' and 'reason'. More Welchin it is. She probably has a fair fraction of the animalperson words the kobold knows in the first place; it's either not a very complete language or the kobold hasn't heard that much of it, because her memory is really impressive. She reads off a random smattering of words in both animalperson and Welchin, identifies them all as "words", and then distinguishes between the "Welchin words" and "animalperson words" and declares both Welchin and animalperson "languages". Hmmm. Colors. She can do a surprising number of colors with fire, but most of them are uncomfortably warm for most people to be in close quarters with. Her outfit supplies examples of red and orange and white, her shoes are black, her hair is brown... "spring is green"... water is blue, she has a little gold on her person and it is yellow, and... purple will just have to wait, she supposes.

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She shares the animalperson terms for 'word' and 'language' and the various colors, including purple, and also 'bright' and 'dark'.

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Good, purple didn't have to wait very long.

Hmm.

"People want colors and games but need food and water."

...She doesn't have "if". "If here learn kobold mind, if there, no learn kobold mind." Did that get across the concept...?
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Yup! And here are the animalperson equivalents of those.

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Cool! Scribble.

And with "if" she can do all kinds of things like:

"If person speak 'mine', person own thing. ...Unless they're lying, um, 'lie' is, speak 'sun dark! Winter hot!'. Person speak 'mine' no lying, person own thing."
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This elicits some mental grumbling about how ownership itself is a lie - she accepts this weird cultural thing, but only as a cultural thing, and she doesn't really approve of it - but also the animalperson word for 'lie'; apparently she doesn't know the word for 'own'.

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Kiri has a whole notebook set aside for animalperson transliterations. In it goes. She does not have the fluency established to want to get into whether ownership is Really Real right now; she's satisfied the kobold is not going to shoplift, anyway.

"If person want thing other person own, person trade - one person own one thing, other person own other thing, trade, one person own other thing other person own one thing."
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Trade, she's familiar with - apparently she trades with the tigerpeople, sometimes, though her thoughts about the memory she shares about that suggest that the trade itself isn't really the point there, and that there's something more complicated going on. Once she's established that she's got the right idea, though, she shares the word for that, too.

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Huh. The thoughts about the un-trade-thing are indistinct but if the kobold doesn't want to get into it that's fine.

"If one person have... horse, other person have food, horse person no want food - food person trade money. Money does numbers - one two three four five - trade money any thing." She hasn't established "any"... "Fire be any color -" She cycles through some of the cooler options with a palmful of flames. Does that suffice?
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'Any', she picks up with no problem - and here is the animalperson word for that, and 'some' and 'all' - but the concept of money seems to be completely new, and the kobold spends a little while thinking about possible implications of that (the one she's surest of: trade must be really important to humans) before she's ready to continue.

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Kiri waits while she thinks it through - it's really interesting watching the entire concept of currency be novel to somebody.

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What the kobold doesn't think of might be as interesting as what she does. People employing one another, for example, doesn't occur to her at all. Land ownership. Farming, even though she does think of people gathering things specifically to sell. Poverty.

Kiri can get a decent picture of the kobold's native lifestyle this way, too - she comes from a culture of stone age hunter-gatherers, surrounded by people who have enough technology to work metal but who still live quite close to the land. Individual kobolds often have specialties - this one was roughly the equivalent of a physician's assistant or nurse, with a focus on gathering medicinal plants, before she became a mage - but they all know the basics of how to support the tribe, gathering food and cooking and making basic supplies like leather and rope and tools, and they're all expected to contribute to the tribe in that way, with the results of those contributions being held in common by the tribe as a whole.
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...The kobold might find Chialto interesting. They didn't really pass through the town nearest Kiri's country house on their way, the kobold never quite got the point of books as far as Kiri noticed and didn't have much of an opinion about the food or the contents of her room, but Chialto is huge and bustling and full of stuff.

"Kiri trade -" This is getting irritating. "Kiri speak 'I': Kiri. Kobold speak 'I': kobold." Yes? Personal pronouns?
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...right. The kobold is intentionally not in the habit of using personal pronouns - apparently they're dangerous for her to use in the context she most often speaks in - but she knows them; here they are. Also 'you', and two variants of 'them', one for 'person of unspecified or irrelevant reproductive status' that can be used to refer to anyone and one for 'person who cannot reproduce' that mostly is used for children and elders; she declines to share the variants that specify reproductive status other than that.

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Kiri translates 'you', translates the first 'them' as 'them', and, having no Welchin equivalent for compressing inability to reproduce into a pronoun, asserts that there is no Welchin word for it. ...And now she's curious. "Danger words?"

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Very few kobolds speak; most of the people she talks to are tigerfolk, who are less dangerous than elves, but are still big and strong and relatively aggressive and don't as a general rule believe that kobolds are people. Which is why she goes and talks to them; to try to convince them that they're wrong about that. It's risky work, so she's gotten into the habit of being very, very careful about anything that might possibly offend them, and the implicit claim of personhood involved in using first-person pronouns is one such thing.

She has made a decent amount of progress in improving relations between the species, though, certainly enough for her to consider it worthwhile; even a fair portion of the tigerfolk tribes that she hasn't directly interacted with have switched over to using snare traps that a caught kobold can free themselves from, for example, and while she's not sure this change would hold in the case of another actual famine, an increasing number of tigerfolk appear to have stopped thinking of kobolds as even an emergency backup food source.
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"...Good," says Kiri tentatively. "Well. More good."

It's obvious to Kiri the kobold is a person: there is her mind, right there, whirring away, quite brightly. Whether it would have been obvious without that if the kobold didn't talk is not clear, admittedly, although she hopes if she saw some critters manufacturing rope and having roles specialized to the level of "physician's assistant" she would at least be thoroughly nervous about the possibility that anybody might eat one.
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Nod.

The kobold does think it's important and useful, even though it's not properly work (since it doesn't directly contribute to the tribe) and her tribemates consider her willingness to interact with or even be seen by outsiders unsettling.
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"Why?"

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Outsiders are dangerous. She personally knows enough about tigerfolk to be around them safely, but most kobolds don't, and she was badly hurt - in a mental/emotional sense that she considers just as much a form of harm as physical injury would be; Kiri gets a brief view of what it's like to believe oneself not to be a person, before the kobold manages to tuck that memory away again - in the process of learning.

Given that understanding, and enough self-awareness and self-care skills to safely put it to use, yes, she can do this thing, but she's very much an exception; for most kobolds, the taboo on being seen makes perfect sense, and seeing her flout that and survive is baffling.
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Okay then.

"Tribemates think me danger?"
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Absolutely. Most of them wouldn't even be open to the idea of letting them prove otherwise. Not that the kobold plans to try - her tribe puts up with her weirdness now, but only because she's proven that she's not going to put anyone but herself in danger, and that's a fairly fragile understanding; trying to get any of her tribemates involved could easily get her exiled, if her tribe decided they couldn't trust her any more.

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Well, there goes any hope of establishing some kind of society-level relationship with kobolds.

"Why kobolds no speak?"
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The kobold scoots out of mind-reading range.

"Kobold want learn speak, kobold go tigerfolk, hide, listen, maybe learn. Go danger, small maybe learn - three, four kobold go, one kobold learn. Most kobold no go, danger scare."
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"Why no kobold language?"

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The kobold's immediate reaction to this is a mixture of offendedness and fear.

"Kobold person," she asserts, braced for action in case this gets a poor response.
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"...I know."

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That's a good enough answer that the kobold doesn't immediately teleport away. She watches Kiri, warily but thoughtfully, for a few long moments instead.

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"I know," Kiri repeats. "I know thoughts, you think, you're a person."

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Sigh.

Back into range.

That's... not usually the standard she's held to. Usually it's speaking, and usually even with her being able to it's an uphill slog to convince whatever tigerfolk she's dealing with that it's not a trick; 'if kobolds are so smart, why didn't any of the other ones talk' has been the end of that discussion more than once, and she really, really doesn't want to think about how that came to be a thing. (None of those other kobolds are alive now. She's sure of that. She's not going to think about why.)

So - kobolds don't talk; they just don't; that's okay, and if Kiri has a problem with it, this one can go home now.
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Kiri shrugs. She doesn't have a problem with it; this one talks, and even if she stopped talking she thinks, which serves the immediate purposes of communication; and there are no other kobolds around to be inconveniently nonlinguistic, and even if there were they would still be people under the unlanguage barrier - but Kiri can't say most of that. So: shrug.

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This is not the most satisfying answer. But... sigh. Get your trauma stuff under control first, kobold, you know better than to try to do the emotional equivalent of trying to run with a badly-healed broken leg. Here is here, now is now; your tribe is safe, and you know where they are, and you can go home whenever you want, there's no reason to panic about that. Kiri is not a tigerperson, and while that fire magic is legitimately pretty terrifying... well, yes, they have been a little faster to suggest using it than you'd like, but it was pretty trivial to talk them out of it, and - if they were going to attack you with it just because they can, there's been plenty of opportunities; you're probably safe.

Okay?

No, not really, but good enough. She's handled trickier situations in worse mental shape and come out okay.

Damn but she could use a hug right now, though.

Anyway.

Given that; given her options; where does she want to be right now?

Home is surprisingly not tempting. She wants a hug, but not nearly as much as she doesn't want to admit defeat, to deal with the smug looks from one faction and concern from the other that always happens when she comes back rattled from one of her trips, to deal with it being that much harder to go out again next time. Going someplace else - one of the private little crannies she's found in her travels - and hanging out for a few days while she gets her head together feels much more appealing. She could even come back here afterward, though that would probably cramp her schedule to the point where she might not be able to come back again like she agreed to. Or... she could stay. It's tempting. That impulse to fling herself directly at whatever she's afraid of will probably kill her eventually, she knows, but it's still there, and so far it hasn't actually steered her wrong, and anyway it's probably not actually going to kill her today.

So... she'll stay. And maybe portal back to one of the prettier winter caves for a while before bed tonight.
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"Person think danger: 'afraid'."
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Sure. More words is fine. Here's the animalperson word for that. And 'hungry', and 'angry', and 'safe', and 'happy'.

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Somehow Kiri gets the impression that asserting that the kobold is safe will not have the desired effect. She translates these conditions into Welchin.

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Yeah, if the kobold trusted her enough for that to be useful right now there wouldn't be a problem in the first place.

The kobold is somewhat distracted thinking about various places - she offers some nouns from that. Tree. Rock. Dirt. Grass. Lake. Waterfall. Path. Bush. Leaf. Berry. Fruit. Nut. Cliff. Sky. Sun. Cloud. Rain. Snow. Wind. Hill. Cave.
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Some of these are repeats, but Kiri writes down the new ones, and translates them, and repeats the translations of the old ones in case they've been forgotten.

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That was bound to happen sooner or later; the kobold doesn't have a list to refer to, after all.

She does seem calmer, now. What's next?
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Kiri identifies what she's been doing as writing. One writes so that one can read. Would the kobold like to learn to read?

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...um?

The kobold was assuming that Kiri's writing was similar to the kind of mnemonic device she sometimes constructs out of twine or rocks, where each knot or stone is a reminder of a particular idea, and the arrangement of them suggests connections between the ideas, but it's up to the user to know which things represent what; it's not really teachable like Kiri is suggesting.
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"Welchin words are written," Kiri assures her. "Watch -" She writes down this is writing, shows it to the kobold, points at each word, says what they represent, then hands the paper through the little window to Aleko. "Hey, Aleko, read that aloud?"

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"This is writing?" says Aleko. "No kidding, what else would it be, origami?"

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The kobold is very impressed.

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Yay!

"So, kobold want learn read?"
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Yes.

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Awesome.

So, Welchin has an alphabet, which are these symbols, and each one makes a sound - Kiri writes out all the symbols in order for the kobold and she can have her own copy, and then she says the sounds that each one might be found making in a typical word.

And "fire" is actually a nice simple word in Welchin. Here it is in letters, all of which make quite predictable sounds: would the kobold like to sound it out?
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She would! And successfully, at that.

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And here's a few more to try - Kiri skips around the vocab list, making sure she doesn't throw in any silent letters or digraphs just yet. "Water" is simple, "what", "sky", "walk".

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The kobold is a fairly quick study, at least at this level of complexity.

After a few words, she gets a little ambitious, and tries to construct 'kobold' out of the letters.
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Since Kiri had to make up a spelling in the first place, it's pretty intuitively put together in her notes - just like that, in fact. She points it out.

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What a pleased kobold this is.

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So cute!

All right, here's some more complicated stuff - these two letters together make this other sound. Sometimes. Kiri gives the kobold an apologetic look about the sometimesness.
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Well, so long as the times are only when there is a word with this other sound and isn't a word with the two obvious sounds, that shouldn't be too bad. Probably. Hopefully?

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At least within the scope of this vocabulary they're working with, that is the case! My, what a good memory the kobold has.

Here are three more digraphs, and words which contain them.
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That's probably going to take some practice to keep straight, but she's got the basic idea, and draws some little pictograms on the notes to help her work it out again later if she needs to.

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And here are some sentences, all written out - Kiri's already been forgetting not to conjugate things kind of a lot, but all written out it's obvious that the various forms of verbs are the same. Except for 'to be', that one's all over the place - Kiri makes a chart of it for the kobold.

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The kobold had noticed the verb forms, actually, but seeing them written out does help. (The sentences are regular enough that she can also think of the collection as something like one of her mnemonic lists, which makes it quite a bit easier.)

'To be' is weird, but it's the words that are irregular, not the spellings, so she shouldn't have too much trouble picking it up if she's dealing with the language enough for it to matter. (Which... she could, huh. She could bring some books home, and be able to read them whenever she wants, rather than having to come back and listen to Kiri to keep her hand in. Amazing.)
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Kiri has a book in her bag; she gets it out. "Book," she supplies. "I found you in my library; a library is where people put books."

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The kobold nods and mimics these words; she obviously doesn't know their equivalents, if there even are words for those things in animalperson.

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Kiri adds the words to her list, and shows the kobold how they're spelled. "You learn fast," she remarks. ...She doesn't have "fast". Well, it's easily gestured. "Fast," she says, moving a hand left to right rapidly, "slow," it slows to a crawl.

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Aww. She does, she knows, but it's nice to have that recognized.

Here's those words. (Her translation of 'fast' is closer in meaning to 'quick', but, good enough.)
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And Kiri shows her how they're spelled in Welchin.

Reading lessons and vocabulary additions occupy the rest of the trip to Welce, by which time the sun has set and Kiri is lighting the way for the horses with an overhead fireball and keeping everybody warm against night chill.

"Chialto," Kiri says when they approach the city.

Even at night, it's busy.
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The kobold peeks out of the carriage.

The kobold regrets this decision.

Good grief that's a lot of humans.
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"You can hide in the carriage," Kiri assures her. "And then in my house."

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That is a much more viable plan than anything else Kiri might ask of her, yes.

Good grief.
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It's a lot of humans, talking, shopping, laughing, singing. There are a million smells, varyingly pleasant - spices and food, horse dung and garbage.

"Can you look at some places in Chialto other than my house to put them on the belt?" Kiri asks. "From inside the carriage?"

(She's no longer checking to make sure that every single word she uses is on the list. If she uses one the kobold can't figure out from context, she can go back and explain it with the foundation they have.)
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(The kobold is quite good at figuring out words from context, yes, and only getting better as she figures out the details of Kiri's personal body language.)

She doesn't have to be right on top of the location she's trying to observe, but she has to be pretty close, and more importantly she needs to be out of Kiri's mindreading range while she does it - she's not sure that'd give Kiri her kind of magic, but she's nervous about what would happen if it did.
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Kiri is not totally thrilled about not being invited to receive contagious magic, but she's not going to do nonconsensual mindreading to get it. "We can take the carriage there, you can stay inside, I can get out?"

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The kobold notices this displeasure, and takes a moment to explain - her kind of magic is dangerous to learn; a new mage's first several spells will be miscasts, and even once they start getting the hang of casting properly, they'll get occasional miscasts for a while. A miscast spell is sometimes dangerous in and of itself, and the mage who cast it will die if it's not broken within a day of starting to act strange. This isn't very dangerous, if the new mage is thoughtful about what they do while they're learning - don't cast on people, don't cast on anything that's difficult to break, keep close track of anything you've cast on and not broken yet - but she still doesn't want to take the risk; if it does go bad, it's very bad indeed.

Anyway, her staying in the carriage while Kiri gets out should work fine.
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All right.

They reach the Ardelay Chialto house and put the carriage and horses away. Aleko shoos a staffperson and the way is cleared for the kobold to be unobserved entering the house proper.
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And in she goes.

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"Tomorrow Aleko will go buy me a belt so this house can be put on it. I need a way for someone in this house to ask me to come here if there's a fire, too."

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Sure, that makes sense. Where exactly in this house does Kiri want the belt to bring her? Also, she can make a portal from here to the other house - just a little one might be fine for communication purposes; it's not possible to speak through a portal, but someone could pass notes through or pass a bell through and ring it or something - or a bigger one would let someone just walk through.

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A bell would be perfect. One bellpull per emergency landing location. Kiri picks a spot in the kierten where she would like to appear, and she obtains a servant-calling bell from a disused room to thread back into the country house.

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The kobold examines the specified landing spot, and then asks for more information about the mini-portal when Kiri returns with the bell: she didn't have a chance to examine very many places in the country house, so their options for the other side of the portal right now are the library nook or the room she slept in last night, or she can teleport back to one of those spots and go have a look at a different location if that's safe to do. (Kiri can come, too.)

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Kiri would like to teleport back and show her a spot in the house kierten there too, where a bell will be more clearly audible.

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Easily enough done. Let's see. Tie a string to the banister here, make sure Kiri is out of range, put a portal to the library in the wall under the stairs, step back into range to explain: untying the string will break this portal; the kobold will do that after Kiri goes through, then teleport herself directly there.

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Okay. Through Kiri steps.

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And a few seconds later, the kobold joins her.

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And Kiri giggles and then shows her the kierten, after making sure no warm person-shaped spots are in the path.

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Teleportation magic is super convenient like that, isn't it?

The kobold follows along, makes sure she understands exactly where Kiri wants the portals to let out, and carefully examines that area. Then they can go back to Chialto - or not, if Kiri would rather spend the night here and teleport back in the morning.
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They should at least get Aleko. He will be confused if he is left there all alone.

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True. What would Kiri prefer to do? The kobold doesn't care very much one way or the other.

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Kiri would prefer to go back to Chialto.

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Back to Chialto it is, then. This time the portal lets out in the kierten - the spot the kobold is planning on having the belt put her, if she'd like to tweak that at all.

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Seems to work pretty well.

Hmm. She is sometimes in this house for extended periods of time. Can there be a double-belled portal in each target location, which rings one bell here and one in the country house? Or maybe two ropes braided together which split at the portal location?
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Hm. The kobold is not actually familiar with the kind of bells-on-ropes setup Kiri is using, but, on examination, it seems straightforward enough; sure.

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Kiri makes a shopping list - more bells, more ropes, materials to make little signs that say ring bell for Ardelay prime in case of fire - and then yawns enormously. Bedtime.

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Huh, okay. The kobold isn't quite sleepy yet, but, sure, it's getting late.

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Kiri shows her a little room. And gives her a few simple books.

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This is an entirely acceptable way to handle this discrepancy.

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Of course.

Kiri goes to bed.
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Eventually, the kobold does too. She's awake and ready to go when Kiri comes to check on her in the morning.

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"Do kobolds sleep less than humans?" wonders Kiri.

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Maybe. The kobold doesn't know enough about humans to know, nor have a very good way to describe how long she was awake after Kiri left last night or how long she's been awake so far this morning, but it's certainly possible.

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"Humans sleep about one part of three every day."

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The kobold considers this. Kobolds don't do timekeeping, and she's rarely awake for a whole day and night at once, and the lengths of days and nights vary enough over the course of the year to confound her attempts at estimating. One part in three doesn't seem obviously wrong, but it might be closer to one part in four, she's not sure.

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Kiri shrugs. Breakfast - Aleko cooks - and then they pile into the carriage to go find good places to put things around the city. Kiri has selected some distantly-spaced places she owns: a library, a post station, a corner of a park with a statue of her great-great-great-grandfather, a theater. In each location Aleko hops off the carriage, and Kiri gets out, and they draw chalk on a part of a surface that would be suitable for a bellpull to appear from via portal for the kobold to see, and Kiri stands in a place it would be appropriate for her to spontaneously materialize in response to a fire-related emergency.

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This is sufficient for the kobold's purposes. After the third or fourth one, she starts keeping a knotted-twine 'list' of the places, so she can review them in between stops and make sure she doesn't forget any of them.

There continue to be a ridiculous number of humans, which the kobold finds a little stressful, but between the curtains and her ring and her own ability to teleport, she feels secure enough to manage. (So many humans, though. How do they do it?)
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When she wonders that within Kiri's range - well, Kiri has practice not reacting to amusing thoughts too much, but there is the inkling of a sporfle on her face.

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The kobold doesn't miss much, when it comes to body language - comes of being a member of a culture where so few people can talk. She's not going to ask as such, but she definitely noticed that reaction, and is a little confused at it.

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"Humans happen the same way any person happens," Kiri says.

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...That is not what she was curious about. Humans' eggmaking habits are of no interest to her. Ew.

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That just makes Kiri laugh aloud. "You wanted to know how we all live so close together?"

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Yes.

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"Some humans put plant seeds in the ground, many of them, or keep animals, to grow food, and then the food gets moved to the city where most of the humans are. And most cities are near rivers or oceans. We put food and things on boats to move them easily."

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That's not... quite the question?

Kobold tribes don't get much bigger than 140 or 150 members; past that it's too hard to keep everyone happy, and people will start switching to other tribes or the tribe will split. 75 to 100 is a much more comfortable number, and clearly many times that number of humans live here; how aren't they all miserable or fighting all the time? How do they even keep track of each other in the first place? The kobold's memory is excellent, and even she has trouble keeping track of more than about 200 people at once.
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"Not everyone in a city knows everyone. A lot of people know me, because I'm the Ardelay prime - the person in my family with magic - and there are only five primes, but most people don't know more than one or two hundred other people. ...It's easier to deal with strangers if you share a language."

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Huh.

Kobolds do something a little like that - she's not going to go into detail - but once she's drawn the analogy, it seems like a reasonable enough lifestyle choice.

That's still a kind of ridiculous number of humans, though.
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"It means the humans can specialize - each gets good at one thing and doesn't have to know how to hunt or forage or trap food - and there are people specializing in almost anything you can think of, all in one place."

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That does have the obvious downside of people not knowing how to look after themselves - not that kobolds can go very long without their tribes, but knowing that she can manage on her own for a while when she wants to gives her a kind of freedom that she thinks is quite important.

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"Humans can't... go live in the woods or something," agrees Kiri. "But there are places to get privacy."

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Well, if it works for them, the kobold isn't going to judge.

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"The belt is to move me around when there are fires, but the portals are to move stuff around, so it's easier to get food and other things across Welce."

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...That seems risky. The kobold did explain that the spell will break if the portal frame is damaged, right? A bunch of people being dependent on a spell for food in a place that can't support them without it isn't a very good idea without a mage around to re-cast the spell if there's an earthquake or landslide or something.

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"It will just make it faster. People in all these places can already get food. And the portals will be made of stone."

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Okay, good.

She should probably try to come up with a way for Kiri to get in touch with her again, though, just in case. She moves around enough that that might be a bit tricky, but she can probably work something out.

(...and she should take on an apprentice, too. That's going to be weird. And finding someone who wants to learn magery and speaking and who'll be willing to go to other worlds will definitely be tricky. She's got a while to work on it, though; she's still fairly young for a kobold.)
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"...Does it have to be a kobold apprentice?"

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...not strictly speaking, no. Splitting her time between her tribe and her apprentice might cause some problems, though, given that she still intends to be away from the tribe to do diplomacy, too.

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Kiri nods. "Well, there are a lot of humans to choose from if you wanted a human apprentice. Although you probably don't want to interview dozens of them. If not me I'd probably suggest Jayce." That would be the other person who lives in Kiri's house who has been named but that the kobold hasn't met in person yet.

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Maybe. She hasn't had a chance to see how diplomacy will go with portals in the mix, or how the portals will affect her tribe's yearly habits; she might have more spare time than she's expecting.

It probably makes the most sense to look for an apprentice among the kobolds first, though, and if no likely prospects turn up in the next few years, then start considering off-worlders.
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"Okay."

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Cool.

More places?
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More places, and then they have gone all the places (stopping for lunch, which Kiri brings some of into the carriage for the kobold) and returned to the house.

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Excellent.

The kobold can probably get all the Chialto portals done before dinnertime, if everything is ready for her at the house - where does Kiri want the portals to the day's places to be put?
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Kiri designates and - with little bottles of colored lacquer Aleko finds somewhere - color-codes the rivets on her belt and indicates how each should correspond to a destination. And here go the bells.

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Straightforward enough. And then it is dinnertime.

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Kiri cooks this one.

Kiri does not cook in a conventional way.
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Of course she doesn't.

The kobold hangs out and watches, and offers some unusual ingredients from her tribe's stores. (Kiri probably doesn't want the crickets, no matter how interesting the added crunch would be in that one dish, but the nuts and dried fruit might go over a bit better.)
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Kiri indeed does not want crickets, but nuts and dried fruit (after she samples one of each offered kind) are incorporated.

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And then there is dinner.

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Delicious dinner.

And more language lessons - grammar! Irregular verbs! Punctuation!

And then humans go to bed.
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The kobold thinks there should be, like, three or four times that many things, for punctuation; tone matters, and the current setup leaves it woefully under-specified. But she's already sort of planning to make some adjustments, for her own note-taking purposes and also if she teaches anyone else to read, so she'll just fix that too while she's at it.

She's once again not sleepy when Kiri turns in for the night; she reads for a while and then pops back home to check on her tribe - they're fine, though they want her to make a few more portal-buckets so everyone who wants to can help with the water-gathering expedition in the morning - before she's ready to go to bed herself.
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And in the morning they can all get in the carriage again and go to a different town.

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The kobold spends most of the ride reading - she can still only read very simple things, but she expects that practicing what she's already been taught will help her more than learning anything new, right now.

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Makes sense. Kiri doesn't keep a lot of really simple books around on purpose, but she had some, previous generations of Ardelay children having accumulated them in the house and then not seen a reason to bring them along when they grew up and moved out.

The next town has some farms and some wilderness and some more farms between it and Chialto. The road is decent-quality the whole way except for a recently washed-out bit that gives them a jostling as they go over the best-hastily-repaired part. The trip takes eight hours; they pass road-branches to other, nearer towns, but it's the bigger, closely built settlements that really need the fire protection lest an entire market district go up in flames.

And here's the edge of town! Kiri tells Aleko to take them to the library; they wind through the streets. Humans buying things. Humans arguing. Human playing a musical instrument. Humans eating fried dough. Human getting fed up with their screaming children and smacking the eldest of the lot. Humans drawing well-water. Human chalking the day's prices on a slate sign. Human sitting on a roof painting the scene.
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The screaming children get the kobold's attention immediately. She peeks out of the carriage, and then in quick succession she yelps, disappears, and is replaced by a very startled human child.

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Kiri shrieks - too much too much so much everything, and it's inside her own head, not down to her own attentional pursuit of warmth, loud bright dizzy hot, she hasn't felt hot in nearly a decade -

It clears, there is a strange child in her range, Kiri stumbles out of the carriage while it's still moving - "'KO, STOP -"

Aleko halts the horses, bewildered.

The lady who hit her kid has picked up her littlest one and is now screaming louder than they ever did at the suddenly appearing kobold.
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The kobold only distantly notices this. She's trying to put herself between the lady and the remaining kids - maybe not trying very hard, if the kids in question aren't cooperating - and looking like she'd very much like to get the little one away from her.

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The other kids are hiding behind their mom, varying between "crying in fear" and "shoving the kobold away from them".

Kiri picks herself up off the ground. "Ko, can you get the kid ou-" The kid is already getting himself out. "There you go - stand back stand back -" Aleko runs interference. The kid rejoins his family.

"I am," Kiri tells this family, dusting herself off, "so sorry about that. Everybody, the show's over, I'll leave a statement with the Ardelay library later if you want an explanation, go back to whatever you were doing -" This is only moderately effective at clearing bystanders. She turns to the kobold. "That was such a bad idea." Then, more for the family and bystanders' benefit than the kobold's, "They were so surprised and afraid! You can't just move people unexpectedly like that, especially since they can't read your facial expressions and probably think you want to hurt them or something. There are other ways to practice."
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The kobold glances toward Kiri when she begins speaking, and takes the one step necessary to bring her into mind-reading range, but doesn't otherwise take her eyes off the woman with the kids.

It is completely unsurprising to the kobold that people think there might be violence here: she is entirely willing to do violence, if that's what it will take stop that from happening again.

No, what she's surprised at is that Kiri seems to be okay with someone hitting a kid.
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"You moved the kid into my range," Kiri says. "And you scared him. He is scared of you. We can talk about the rest of it later. Right now those kids are scared of you. They don't know who or what you are, they don't know what you're trying to do, and explaining now, after what you did, would make it worse. We can talk somewhere else later."

Actually, the second-littlest has stopped sniffling and looks kind of intrigued now, but not intrigued enough to stop hiding behind her mom. The others are still scared of the kobold.
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The kobold relaxes, just slightly - mostly meaning that she stops looking like she's going to lunge forward at the first opportunity to grab the little one away from the woman - and thinks.

She doesn't have a lot of experience with abuse and its effects, and what she does have is almost all from her own perspective - she has to keep flinching away from thinking about details, or dragging herself back to thinking about the current situation when she doesn't manage to flinch away quite quick enough to avoid getting distracted by her own history.

Some tigerfolk are really awful.

The kids hiding behind their mom isn't actually proof that nothing's wrong there. Neither is them being afraid of the kobold. The kobold is exquisitely clear on both of those points, having done the equivalent of both of those things herself. The second-littlest one's response suggests that she's right about the older ones being traumatized rather than actually comfortable there. And all these other humans around and none of them reacted? The kids haven't quietly gone and found other parents, or other tribes? This lady has had how many eggs past the first one, and been allowed to hatch them herself? Kiri, you have bigger problems here than things catching on fire sometimes, or not being able to move food around as quickly as you'd like.

...these aren't kobold kids, though. She can't bring them home. Finding one of the more progressive tigerfolk tribes to take them might be a step up, or it might not, and anyway she doesn't actually know where any of those are right now. (She could put the kids in a cave somewhere and bring them food while she looked. She could do that. But it's not a very good idea; going from bad to worse like that would hurt them even if better came afterward, and she doesn't know enough about how even really good tigerfolk would handle the situation to be sure that it would be better.) She is probably limited to local resources in solving this problem, whatever those are. Or whatever they aren't, most likely, but she should at least find out first.

If they leave, will Kiri be able to find these humans again later?
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Kiri sighs. "I'm so sorry about all this," she repeats to the lady. "If you'll give me your name I can send you some books for the kids as an apology."

The lady gives her name. Kiri writes it down. Will that satisfy the kobold?
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It will do. The kobold stands, stiffly, steps back out of Kiri's range, and disappears back to the carriage.

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Kiri gets back in the carriage too. There's a few too many people on the road for them to drive on. Now it is very cold there; not enough to hurt anybody, but enough to make them not want to stand there in their current outfits. They get out of the way. Aleko drives.

"Where to start," sighs Kiri. "First of all, now everybody who was there has seen you, so that's a little more complicated than I was expecting, and also I think I'm a mage now."
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The kobold was already glowering; this doesn't improve her mood.

Being seen was entirely acceptable, in her opinion, to stop an assault.

Kiri being a mage is unfortunate, but so long as they don't try to cast anything it won't hurt them.

That was clearly not just a fluke, so she doesn't expect a good answer to this question, but how is child abuse dealt with here?
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"This is - very complicated. Will you let me explain even if I say things that sound like it is time for explanations to stop and running around taking people's children to start?"

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It would take something very alarming indeed for that to be the best option, given the kobold doesn't have anyplace to put abused human children.

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"Okay, that'll have to do. So. First of all, humans don't lay eggs." ("Egg" has been covered as part of a breakfast vocabulary lesson, but still.) "There is no way to just take someone's egg; it's a baby or it's literally inside someone, nothing in between. Secondly, humans live in large groups, but these groups are not like tribes. Most people in a town don't know each other. The group that is most like a tribe is a family. Usually that's two people who want to have children together, and those children." How's this settling so far?

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It is more questionable to take an imprinted hatchling from their parent than to take an egg - particularly in the sense that the hatchling is a person and really ought to have some input into that decision, but won't be meaningfully able to for a few years - but still better than leaving them with someone who will hit them.

The other people in the town not being the kids' tribemates is no excuse whatsoever; the kobold isn't their tribemate, either.
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"I'm getting to that. It's also relevant that humans are mammals - like, um, rabbits, probably tigerpeople - so it's hard to feed a baby unless you are personally that exact baby's mother. Because you'd have to find someone else who was giving milk right then." Sigh. "So, humans don't live in tribes. We live next to people we don't know. Total strangers. I know you are also a total stranger, but the thing about living like that is we need a lot of rules to make sure we can all live together. Rules against child abuse are some of those - but there are rules about how to enforce the rules."

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Kobolds also give milk, and they live in much smaller groups and still do okay when someone turns out not to have any for their hatchling. Everyone knowing everyone else might help - maybe wet nursing isn't nearly so obvious of a concept if you don't have tribemates to think about - but this still seems to her like a problem that wouldn't be very hard to solve if it was something the humans considered important.

'Rule' is a new word - also 'enforce', and also 'abuse' but she's got that one figured out - but if her guess is even remotely in the right area (which it is)... what, is there a rule against standing up for someone? How does that even work, are all of these humans too traumatized to stand for what they want?

...she should see if she's in the right area, before she goes to far along that particular line of thought. But - shudder - something is definitely wrong, even if it's not exactly that. All those people, and none of them did anything. Kiri didn't even look. She pulls her knees up to her chest and rests her chin on them, wrapping her arms around her legs and burying her nose in her hands.
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"There are people who give milk for other people's children, but it's considered kind of personal and most people don't want to do it, and there might be something else going on because it's not as easy as you're thinking of it as being. But anyway. You have 'rule' about right, and 'enforce', and - it wouldn't be against any rules for you to tell someone that you don't think they should hit their children. To say it in words. But it is very, very against the rules for you to jump to taking the children away in that situation. There are people whose specialized job it is to know the rules and find out what's happening and put dangerous people somewhere they can't hurt anyone and you are not one of those people. I'm not one of those people. I could do some of it, but only because a lot of people know who I am and like me - if they don't like how I do it, I can't do it any more, I would be breaking rules and no one would let me."

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...okay, yes those particular kids clearly need someone to work with them on 'that is awful and you don't actually have to put up with it', and that's going to require getting them into a situation where that's, y'know, true, for long enough for them to work out that they can believe it. But in a sensible society? That doesn't even happen, because as soon as a parent starts being a pain to live with a kid can just leave, no specialized jobs necessary.

(Also, the bit where the kid she moved was able to go right back to their family? Not an accident. Removing someone from imminent danger of assault is a different thing from abducting them.)
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"I agree with you that the kids need to be able to leave whenever they want. But there are many, many people. Some people run places for kids who leave their families to go, but they're usually full and don't have enough people working there and sometimes the kids don't get along with each other. I give money to a shelter in Chialto every year, but there are so many. And there are worse parents than that one - and that is who the shelters have to be for because there is not enough room."

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Well.

(Breathe, kobold.)

Well.

What do they need, exactly? Just space? That's an easy fix. People to work there might be a harder one. Food, other supplies, she can probably help with. Moving kids from one place to another so they can find situations they'll do okay in, definitely. She might not be able to fix everything, even with magic, even with more magic than she has now - there are so many humans - but she will do what she can.
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"If you want to help expand that shelter so it can have five cave sections to separate fighting kids or something I will be all for it. There is a lot to do. There is no end to things to do. That is why it is so important to concentrate on the things that are most important and the things that will leave you able to do even more things. That's why I want to move stuff around. I have a lot of money, but the more I have the more I can spend on things like shelters and feeding hungry people and moving people to places where they will get along better with the other people and making sure everyone can learn to read and have somewhere to go in the rain. It's a little important if people in this town can get stuff from Chialto more easily, but mostly it will mean I can do more other stuff."

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This is a deeply weird bit of cause and effect, but Kiri seems very sure it will work, and the kobold is willing to take their word for it.

She uncurls slightly, tense and hesitant, then thinks better of it and just teleports across the carriage to snuggle up beside the human.
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Pet pet.

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Snuggle. Sigh. Ponder.
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"We'll go to the library, I'll write an explanation of who you are and the misunderstanding so people can go there to find out what happened, I'll send those kids some books, and then we'll go straight to the next town even if I have to drive partway to give Aleko a break, I think." Pet pet. "Okay?"

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Yeah.

She's probably going to fall asleep soon - she always does after a bad scare like that - but she can take a look at the library, and she should be fine when she wakes up.
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"Okay."

Snuggle.

Here's the library. Kiri extricates herself gently from the kobold to talk to the librarian. They don't have to pick out exact bellpull locations right this second; scoping out the place sufficiently that they can teleport back for a closer look will do.
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The kobold can do that from the carriage, and then they can be on their way.

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And away from this town to the next they go.

(Scritch scritch.)
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Snuggle snuggle zzzz.

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"Hey, kobold," murmurs Kiri, hours later, "wake up, we've gotten where we're sleeping for the night."

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Mrf. Who, what, where? Right, okay.

The kobold follows Kiri, navigating more by sound than by sight out of habit in her sleepiness.
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They manage to get to their hotel room from where the carriage is parked without having to explain the kobold to anyone. And then they put the kobold in a bed in Kiri's room; the room has another adjoining and Aleko sleeps there.

Zzz.
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The kobold wakes quite early, and decides to go off and think a bit. When Kiri wakes up, there's a note on the bedside table reading "portal: if you talk, kobold hears".

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Kiri is really charmed by how quickly the kobold has taken to literacy. She changes clothes and sends a room service order down the dumbwaiter; after the food has arrived (enough for all three of them), she says, "Kobold, breakfast."

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The kobold appears a few seconds after she's called, still not cheerful, but in a much better mood regardless, and also somewhat snowed-on.

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"...Are you cold?"

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Hm? Oh, a little; she was in the sun and out of the wind once she found a nice spot, but it is still winter back home.

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Now the room is toasty warm. (Until Aleko complains, and then the half of the room the kobold in but only that half is toasty warm.) Breakfast!

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Aww.

Breakfast indeed.
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And then into the carriage, and to an Ardelay holding in this town.

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On the way, the kobold goes through the basic safety information about being her kind of mage - here's how casting works, here's how to tell when a spell is a miscast, here's how to break a spell, here's the timeframe for needing to break a miscast so it doesn't kill you; once you've cast 25 good spells in a row, no cheating it's safe to assume you won't have miscasts any more, which means you can stop obsessively keeping track of what you've cast on and also that you can cast on people if you want to, you can expect that to take at least a season and probably closer to two, but casting more will make it go faster; here's how to work out what things in the casting-sense correspond to what things in the real world, yes, it's a pain and yes it will take a few hours to figure out the first few times, but you'll get faster with practice. (The kobold got to skip many of the more time-consuming parts of this due to the unusual way she learned her magic; that doesn't seem to be reproducible, sorry.)

When they get there, if Kiri would like, they can stay in the carriage and the kobold will show them what she's doing when she examines the places.
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Kiri takes a lot of notes on all these thoughts about magery. And yes, she would like.

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One of the quirks of this sort of magic, as it turns out, is that it isn't limited to being cast on whole objects, or single objects - she could teleport just a branch off of a tree, for example, or a bowl and the water in it as one unit, just as easily as she could teleport an already-separated branch or an empty bowl. (People and animals are an exception to this; she could teleport someone's limb off, but she'd have to make a special effort to do it.) The first step to that is to extend the casting-sense through the things she might cast on, which gives her lots of information about them, including their locations, which is the thing she needs here.

So, here she goes -- here's the bit of the carriage bench she's sitting on, and here's the floor, and the mechanisms underneath, along the axle to the wheel, down into the ground, spread out a little so as not to lose her bearings, and this way and here and up and up and there's the chalk, it feels like this, and there's the bits of casting-sense that are the location of it. She examines that for a few moments to commit it to memory, then lets the entire sense fade from perception.
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Kiri nods along. It's really sensorily interesting, and less overwhelming when she gets it from the kobold's perspective.

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The kobold's intuition about what various aspects of the sense mean certainly makes it less overwhelming, yes.

Now that she's not avoiding casting within Kiri's range, she can just cast the teleportation spells directly on them if they'd like. She can show them how to do a spell with thought-based triggers that way, too.
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"That would be nice."

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She needs to touch Kiri for this - a hand will do - and there goes the sense. Here is Kiri - see how obvious their boundaries are, compared to the carriage? that's true of anything with a mind, even an animal's mind - and here are the bits that are Kiri's conscious thoughts. They're as abstract as anything else the casting sense shows; the kobold has no way of knowing which is what. But if she asks Kiri to think of the trigger they'd prefer to use to teleport here - do that please, you most likely want 'wanting to be at this specific location' - and here's a new, particularly strong thought, which is obviously the one she ought to use for the trigger.

The type of teleportation she wants is from this part of the magic-construct; the thought-trigger slots in here, and here's how you expand it so that thoughts that are similar to the original one also work, so that the spellbearer doesn't need to be in the exact same frame of mind in order to use the spell (but don't expand it too far, or you'll end up hexing them - this much is prudent in this situation, and this much is wise if you're using the general form of what a certain sort of thought looks like and they're going to need to learn to think the right thing, but any more than this and you really should look for a better option instead); this part gets adjusted this way to specify 'Kiri as a whole' - Kiri seems to be quite consistently in the habit of wearing clothes, so those will naturally come too; some of the kobolds in her tribe had trouble with that, but it was only ever the ones who weren't in the habit - and then the location-pattern goes here, and then the whole thing 'folds up' like this - it just won't 'fold' at all, if something is egregiously wrong - and then there is a spell.
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Kiri takes notes with her free hand. "I'm very excited to be able to do these myself, even if it takes a lot of practice," she remarks. And then - well, cat's pretty much going to be out of the bag. She teleports to the designated spot.

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And then she gets back in the carriage, beaming.

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Teleportation magic is pretty awesome, isn't it.

The kobold can give Kiri spells to the other locations, now, too, if they'd like.
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"Yes please."

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They're fairly straightforward repetitions of the last spell, with only the triggers and locations varying.

(Kiri may notice that wants in general follow a broader theme and wanting to be in particular places follow a narrower one - it would, theoretically, be possible to learn to read someone's mind via the magic-sense, but it would take a lot of effort and the help of a cooperative subject to get any real detail, and wouldn't necessarily generalize beyond them at all.)

It takes a little while to get them all done, but not too long.
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...Kiri is a little concerned by the potential of the magic-sense's applicability to mindreading, but it seems obscure enough that she needn't prioritize it.

Okay, to the next town by carriage, then.
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There may be cuddles: the kobold's mood is improved enough that she doesn't quite feel a need for them, but she also doesn't see any reason not to; they're quite compatible with reading.

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Cuddles are indeed compatible with reading! That is a nice thing about them. Pet pet. Kiri supplies definitions as the kobold encounters words she doesn't already know.

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Snuggle snuggle. Read read. Twineportal some herbs from her tribe's supplies to spruce up lunch a bit. More reading, more snuggling.

Eventually they get to the next town.
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And Kiri shows the kobold the correct place for Kiri to teleport here.

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And Kiri can have another spell.

Once they've been to all the towns, the kobold can teleport the carriage back, if Kiri and Aleko would like to save the travel time. She'll need to go have a look at where it goes, but that's no problem.
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"...The horses won't like it," muses Kiri. "But it's a lot faster and I don't know how much the horses won't like it."

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The kobold knows very little about horses, certainly not enough to guess whether it would be worth it.

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"These are the mellow ones. I bet they'd get over it. I can give them apples when we get home. And it'd save my ass the extra day of driving." (As the kobold has gotten more conversational Aleko has started talking aloud more.)

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Okay then.

The kobold heads back; Kiri can come along under her own power now.
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She can! She doesn't even need the belt, with redundant spellbearer-nesses of all its locations, but she makes sure it comes with her anyway.

...Which fails, because she was paying it too much attention. She goes back whence she came, picks the belt up, puts it on, observes how well it goes with her outfit (Aleko knows his business), and teleports home again. Much better.
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Huh. What an interesting datapoint.

Anyway, onward to the stables.
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The kobold is no longer exactly secret, and neither is the teleportation, but Kiri shoos the stablehand anyway just to avoid having the conversation about teleporting horses right away.

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The kobold examines the location, lets Kiri know where exactly she intends to put the carriage, and goes back to get it.

A few moments later, there is the carriage, with Aleko and a couple of alarmed horses, and then another moment after that, the kobold.
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Aleko calms the horses down, gives them apples, and then sets about putting them away.

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"Want to go install the last few bellpulls and then help me practice magic?" Kiri asks the kobold.

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Sure.

...they're going to need to go back to that one town to figure out where to put its bellpull, huh. The kobold is nervous about it.
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"I can go first to see if anyone from that family is around right now."

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That will help; the kobold appreciates it. Hug.

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Hug.

Kiri goes and comes back. "They aren't around."
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Okay.

Teleport!
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Kiri indicates a good place for bellpulls.

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The kobold examines the spot, and then teleports back and gets to work finishing up the bellpull collection.

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Kiri follows her. Scritches?

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...yes please.

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Scritches. "I'm trying to think if there's anything else about humans I should warn you about," she murmurs.

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There's... a couple other things, that would be really bad if they were true, yeah. She doesn't want to think about the details, but it'd probably be pretty obvious that those were things the kobold would find upsetting? So if Kiri needs to actually think of it, those are probably not issues here.

(Most kobolds would find the ownership thing just as unsettling, too, but she's used to that one at least. Ugh, dealing with cultural differences is hard.)
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"...I can't tell what you're not thinking about, but - I don't know, I don't want you to be surprised again, but it doesn't seem like you actually want to have a conversation about all the ways humans are sometimes terrible."

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Yeah.

Not that she can't put up with it, probably? She puts up with the tigerfolk, and they certainly have their issues. But it took her a while to be able to live with that (cringe, sigh - yeah, 'that' is 'they captured and ate a bunch of kobolds'; thought about from this particular angle it just makes her very sad, though, there were mitigating circumstances)... she expects to be able to live with this, too, so long as it's being worked on, just, it's going to take a while.
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"As far as I know no humans have ever eaten any kobolds."

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The kobold is darkly amused: Probably not, given this world doesn't seem to have kobolds. But if they're not in the habit of eating other kinds of people at all - or each other, but she expects that they wouldn't be willing to live so close to strangers if that was the case - that does help, yes.

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"I think humans are the only kind of person in this world. I couldn't swear that no one makes a habit of eating other humans but I've never actually heard of it happening anywhere."

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Good.

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...Kiri decides this is not the moment to mention that she doesn't see a particular point to caring about whether already-dead people happen to get eaten. It is a minor philosophical quibble at best, and it's not like she wants to eat anyone.

Scritches.
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Scritches are such a good.

The kobold mulls some more, then eventually remembers that she ought to be getting back to her tribe soon. She would kind of like to go see if that shelter Kiri mentioned wants any spells first, though.
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"I can write them a letter so they can have some time to think about it," Kiri suggests.

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Sure, that works.

The kobold would like to know about it even if some of the things they want seems like things she can't do; she hasn't really explored the limits of her teleportation magic very much yet, and she can learn other kinds of magic from her tribe's other mage.
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"I'll encourage them to be creative - what else can your world's magic do?"

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She's not really sure of all the details - none of the other kobold mages she knows talk, and she hasn't talked to the tigerfolk much about magic (not that she'd likely have the opportunity to learn from them anyway) - but she can learn scrying and magic-detection and poison-detection, and whatever the antimagic spell does (though that obviously doesn't work on Kiri's mindreading and might not work on other local magic either), and maybe a few other things, and the tigerfolk know some of those and a spell for either massively improved strength or touch-range telekenesis, she's not sure which, and the elves also know fire magic and electricity magic and pushing magic and... maybe some kind of animal magic, that was the going theory, but they can't actually do much more with their animals than she's seen Kiri and Aleko do with theirs and that doesn't seem to be magic, so maybe not... and some kind of tree-sense and tree-shaping.

Also, the kobold can make portals to random worlds, and apparently at least some of those have other kinds of magic; she might be able to find other worlds with different magic that they can learn.
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"The other local magic is like mine... I wonder if your antimagic spell stops blessings from working. We could try it. What's the - 'pushing' magic - like? ...And if you want to learn to train animals nonmagically you could learn here."

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The use of pushing-magic that the kobold is familiar with is a kind of trap; a large circle of leather or heavy cloth that pushes whoever steps on it toward the center of the circle. The kobolds' antimagic takes the danger out of them (and they're actually kind of fun to play on if you know you can just walk away any time you like), but they're very effective against wildlife and tigerfolk.

...blessings?
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"Blessings are - I can show you." She starts heading for the chapel. "There are forty-three kinds. They mean different things, like 'creativity' or 'wealth' or 'time'. If you have them in a bowl together, and pick without looking, you'll get the right ones. It's not a very powerful magic, but it's interesting."

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The kobold follows, curious.

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"Some of the things they mean are hard to define. Whenever a human in this country is born their parents go to a temple and pick out three blessings for the baby; mine are power, intelligence, and clarity. The power one is how we knew before it happened that I would be the Ardelay prime, but it can mean things besides magic power too. Intelligence is - learning fast, thinking of things. Clarity is sort of - not being confused or distracted."

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Huh. That's... kind of creepy, actually, to do to someone without their consent, but okay.

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"The blessings don't do things. They describe things. If I go draw blessings, they will tell me things, but they won't make things happen."

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The kobold considers this for a bit.

That doesn't seem to be much more than you'd learn from watching someone grow up, so, okay. It might cause problems in combination with kids not being able to switch tribes, but kids not being able to switch tribes is the real problem there.
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"Yeah."

Here is the chapel.

"Anyway, you can draw for yourself or other people. Want to try?"
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Sure.

Hmm... the kobold drawing for Kiri is probably the best test, assuming Kiri has a good idea of what kinds of results they're likely to get.
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"I never get 'grace', that's one clue. If I sit here drawing until there are only three left they will all be 'grace'."

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That does seem like a pretty useful test.

Hmmmm...

She rifles around in the bowl and picks a coin: Luck.
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"...Doesn't tell us for sure either way. Draw some more."

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Nod. Rifle, pick.

Loyalty. Imagination. Joy. Innovation. Intelligence.
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Kiri names them as they go by, explains the ones that aren't clear.

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The kobold arranges them into rows of five as she takes them from the bowl, and pauses when she's drawn 25.

Luck - Loyalty - Imagination - Joy - Innovation
Intelligence - Resolve - Beauty - Travel - Talent
Swiftness - Kindness - Resolve - Flexibility - Resilience
Flexibility - Serenity - Patience - Loyalty - Strength
Honor - Swiftness - Innovation - Health - Love

They are starting to seem less obviously relevant, but that might be normal when someone draws a bunch like this?
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"This doesn't seem to be pointing at anything really clear, anyway. They're not obviously wrong, but most blessings would not be obviously wrong for someone who was in a good mood because they'd recently acquired new magical powers, you know? Honor I don't usually get... patience I don't usually get but it might be more apt than most days today? I don't know what resolve and resilience are doing in there, Aleko has not been clothes shopping so 'beauty' is puzzling..."

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Nod. Hm.

Maybe it'd help to see what she gets when she draws with her antimagic off: hope, vision, innovation, power, and travel.

That does seem to describe the situation better than what she'd been drawing, yes.
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"Okay, so your antimagic probably frustrates the blessing magic, at least partly."

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Mmhmm. (Good.)

She is a little curious what blessings she'd get, too, hmm... Time, synthesis, triumph, synthesis, time.

...okay...
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"...That's weird. I mean, it could be a valid draw but five extraordinary blessings in a row... not likely."

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Yeah.

Rummage, pick: triumph.

Definitely weird.
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"Maybe the elements don't like you for some reason."

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Maybe.

Oh well. Neat when it does work, anyway. She returns the coins to the bowl.

Anything else before she goes home, hmmmmm. It would probably be a good idea to give Kiri a way to get in touch with her, in case something comes up before it's time for her to return - a little password-activated portal that they can put notes through, maybe.
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"That sounds like a good idea. What would make a good surface to put a little portable portal on?"

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Hm.

Mirrors are traditional for scrying, and one would work just as well for this, but she'd rather start a new tradition - hmmmmm. Something it wouldn't be too unusual to have or be carrying, a good size but not too big, sturdy enough to not break... well, for this world, how about a book? She can cast on just the cover, so if one of the pages rips that won't break it.
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"All right. I'll go get a blank hardbound. Maybe I'll copy my notes on animalperson language into it."

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Sure.

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Kiri goes and gets a blank hardbound book.

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And the kobold casts a portal spell on it: hold it just so and say 'kobold' to activate the portal, which goes to the cave she was experimenting in; hold it this other way and say 'kobold' a second time and it will close, or it will close on its own after ten minutes - watch your hands, but it'll close by shrinking rather than all at once, so there's some warning.

She should be able to check that spot a few times a day, though she can't guarantee it if she's busy or can't get away to read. (She's not sure yet how her tribe will react to that, but 'suspicious' is a reasonable assumption.)
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"They sound like very suspicious people."

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Of new things? Yeah. With pretty good reason, most of the time.

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"I mean I suppose they literally can't take your word for it that things are all right, but it actually does seem strange to me that they don't think things you indicate are okay are okay."

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They would probably be okay with it if it was just a note. The problem is more - the kobold does so many weird things, takes so many risks that her tribe doesn't approve of - even if those risks don't actually endanger anyone but herself, which she's very careful about - that it's important for her to be careful about what she asks of them in relation to that; it would be easy to cross a line into asking too much, and have the tribe exile her rather than keep putting up with the overall amount of risk they see her as. Reading a note where they can see it probably wouldn't take her over that line, but it would mean that she'd have that much less leeway for next time.

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"This... doesn't seem very nice of them. I mean, I understand they can't just talk to you about it, but... I wouldn't want to be in a group that thought of me that way."

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...Ideally, yeah? That's her tribe, though. It's important that they're okay, and more than reasonable for them to worry about being okay, and not want to take risks, and worry about her taking risks with their safety, and push her to be careful. The work that she's doing is worth it anyway, but they don't know that. They might not even agree - the tribe's priority is the tribe, and it's weird that she cares about, what, fire suppression or whatever, for people who aren't even kobolds.

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"Kobolds don't usually care about people who aren't kobolds?"

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People who aren't kobolds don't generally recognize kobolds as people, on her world. And caring about people who don't think you're a person? Not safe. Very not safe.

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"I'd suggest moving some kobolds to this world, except there's at least ten things wrong with that plan."

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Yeah.

Maybe the kobold will be able to find a world that's empty, and they can all move there.

In the meantime, though - the system works about as well as could be hoped, all things considered; it's really not surprising that she gets some flack for going against it. It's not great, but it's not unreasonable, either.
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"Sometimes that's how I feel about human society."

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Heh, yeah.

Hug.
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Hug.

After a silence:

"...So, want to help me start practicing my own mage-ing?"
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Sure, she can stay for a while for that.

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"What's a good place to start?"

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Portals, definitely: making things that teleport themselves is slightly easier, but having one go missing when a miscast destabilizes would be really bad. Where the portal is to doesn't matter much, though doing a variety of places would be good practice; the triggers are more interesting and more important, though.

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"What's the worst thing that will happen when I miscast; should I be doing this outside?"

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The kobold hasn't actually seen a miscast with the teleportation magic, yet - once you have the hang of this kind of magic, you can learn new sorts of spells without having to start over from novice level, and she hasn't taught any other novices teleportation yet. (If Kiri would rather not be the first, she can teach them one of the more traditional learning spells - she thinks magic-detection is the usual one - once she knows it.) But having the portal's target be outside and away from anything important is probably wise, since that's likely to drift.

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Out they go.

Kiri takes a piece of paper out of her notebook. "I think first I'll just try making a portal from the top of the paper to the bottom of the paper," she says. "So things can be dropped through it."
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Sounds good.

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Right then. She's going to get it wrong the first few times so she doesn't stress about getting it exactly right, just noticing the process as she walks through it - this might get boring, spending hours on spells that will not work, but the first time she doesn't even feel like interrupting the process to go do something else -

Portal?
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Portal!

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And Kiri drops a rock through it.

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Thunk!

The kobold, who has been cloud-watching nearby, looks up. Oh! Congratulations!
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Kiri moves the paper so the "in" end of the portal (the one which is attached to the actual paper and not the location) is below the "out" end, which is just sort of floating in space. She drops the rock through and soon has a little perpetual motion machine.

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Giggle.

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She pulls the paper aside and the rock thunks really hard into the grass. "That could have some interesting applications for, say, fountains, if I ever run out of more practical things to do," she says.

...She does not really like having this piece of paper threatening her life if anything happens to it which doesn't happen to destroy it, though. "Do I have to break it any particular way or can I just burn it?"
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Burning it is fine. Ripping it into two pieces would also work.

(That would be neat to do to some water. Maybe she'll try it when she gets back home.)
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The paper is near-instantly incinerated in Kiri's hand.

"Dinner, then one more, then bedtime?"
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Hmmm.

Yeah, she can spend the night, and then presumably stick around for a while tomorrow - her tribe was doing fine when she checked in a couple days ago, they should be all right for another day.
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"Thanks. I'm glad I can do magic but it's a little scary knowing that if I do it wrong enough I will die, so. Do you want to eat in the dining room? This would involve telling the people who work for me that you're here, but they will behave."

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Yeah. She'll see if she can get her tribe's other mage to teach her the usual training spell - its miscasts are usually 'obnoxious glowing', much less risky than teleportation might be - before she comes back to do the big portals.

Eating in the dining room sounds nice, but she won't mind it if Kiri wants to keep her as much of a secret as possible still.
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"No, it's okay, you're not much of a secret anymore and it's already been a little difficult trying to keep you away from the staff. I'll go explain you to them."

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Okay.

The kobold follows Kiri inside, and goes to lurk someplace comfortable while she waits.
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And Kiri tells the cook and the maid that she has a guest who is from very far away and not a human but has been teaching Kiri foreign magic. And no, she does not have a name but may be called "the kobold" because she is a kobold. And here she is and isn't she cute? And she will be joining us for dinner.

The cook and the maid are very professional about all this, if not entirely at ease.
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The kobold does her best to be cute and un-intimidating.

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She is very cute.

And she receives dinner with everyone else.
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This is also the first time the kobold has met Kiri's little brother. "Hi! I'm Jayce. Kiri mentioned you but she didn't say you were so fuzzy."

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She nods a greeting. "Winter, at home. Spring soon, less fur."

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"Awwww."

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She grins and nods. "Spring: new fur, new plants, new small kobolds," she indicates the size of a hatchling kobold - much smaller than a cat, closer to a guinea pig - "very awww."

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"Awwwwwwwww!"

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She grins a little wider, and then has an idea.

One twine-portal later, she has a little stone statue of a hatching kobold, about half life-size, to pass around.
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Ardelay siblings admire the sculpture - Kiri clarifies the scale - and then pass it back.

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And back it goes through the portal. A startled 'eep' comes through from the other side, and the kobold looks briefly guilty and closes it.

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"Somebody was there?"

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Nod.

She recognized that voice, though, and they'll be fine.
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"She knows who it was, they'll be fine," Kiri relays to her brothers.

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"Yeah, who was it?"

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Kobolds' awareness of each other doesn't really condense down to a single easily-defined thing, and certainly not a name. That particular one, the kobold knows as one of the more easygoing and jovial in the tribe; often hunts, often looks after others' children, sometimes acts as a wet nurse, is one of the better hunting teachers. Likes music and sweet food; tends to sleep late; always makes a point of looking for something pretty to bring back to the tribe when they go on a hunting expedition. Prefers high-up hiding places for the hiding-and-finding game. Has an egg, this year, which is probably why they were near the egg supplies. Not a friend, exactly, but certainly an ally, someone the kobold trusts.

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"They don't exactly have names to identify each other with and they're not a close friend or relative, just a tribemate, but they have an egg this year and were near the egg-related objects," Kiri reports. "...No, Aleko, they do not polish their eggs, they carry them around and use slings and insulation to keep them warm and safe."

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Nod.

(She doesn't have quite enough context to get 'polish', but the rest is right.)
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"Polishing is rubbing things to make them shiny." Kiri demonstrates with her spoon and napkin.

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That is definitely not a thing one does to eggs. Not eggs one wants to hatch, anyway.

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"Like I said."

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Indeed.

So.

"Jayce tell about self?"
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"I'm Kiri and Aleko's little brother, I do a lot of the business management stuff for her, I like dancing and shiny objects, and I don't actually know how much Welchin you've picked up since you've been here so I can go explain any of that if you want."

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"I got it, Jayce. We all three have the same parents, and Aleko and I are the same age, and Jayce is younger," Kiri translates. "Sister and brother are words for having the same parents depending on, uh - sort of like -" She dips into the, not so much gendered, sexed, pronouns in animalperson.

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The kobold gets about as far as 'why would you have a word for that, ew' before shutting down that train of thought. Okay, siblings, right.

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"...It's, uh, I could try to explain but you might want to just file it as 'weird human thing'. Although if you use the wrong word for someone they might not like it."

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"Wait, what? Explain what?"

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"Genders. Kobolds don't seem to - use the concept?"

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She is very willing to file that under 'weird human thing'. (Ew.)

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"...The form of 'brother' or 'sister' that doesn't use gender is 'sibling'," says Kiri.

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"I... don't understand. Why is - uh, should we not say 'she' for the kobold, you've been saying 'she' -? Why are you making that face, kobold?"

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...right. Stop making the face.

This is really not a dinner topic. Or an interspecies one. Can we stop talking about it now?
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"The kobold is too freaked out by weird human concepts to talk," says Kiri. "Or register opinions on whether we're continuing to call her 'she' - and, Aleko, I think 'it' would have unrelated problems of its own, don't, please - sorry, kobold." Scritches.
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Scritches make many things better, including this.

(Ugh. Weird humans and their weirdness. Why would you even... ugh. Not going to think about that any more. What was the other thing?)
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"Business management is - I have things set up that do stuff for people and bring in money, like the libraries, and this gets very complicated if the things are big or there are lots of them, and Jayce helps with that. And dancing is moving around for fun. I cannot demonstrate because I'd fall over; Jayce, do you want to illustrate the concept of dance?"

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Jayce gets up and does a little dance step and takes a bow.

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So business management is sort of like being a chief? Or like that part of being a chief, anyway, which makes sense to do as its own job if there's a lot of it; its definitely complicated.

Dancing! Kobolds totally dance, it's a major inter-tribe activity. She doesn't personally do much of it but she does enjoy watching. She grins and nods, "nice."
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"Thanks!" says Jayce.

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"Kobolds dance, especially in large groups that don't hang out together most of the time," Kiri reports. "And yes, Jayce sort of is like a chief, given what kobold chiefs do. Except for deciding where we live, he doesn't do that."

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Nod.

...hm. It occurs to the kobold that if she does need to introduce the Ardelays to her people for some reason, bringing them to the meetup and trying to arrange for Jayce to dance with them would be at least less blatantly suicidal than most options. Still not a good idea, though.
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"Yes, let's not put anyone in mortal danger just to see if Jayce dancing with kobolds would make them happy to interact with humans."

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"You could take them."

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"I do not want to take them. I would much rather just have productive and educational interactions with this adventurous one."

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...'take'?

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"Jayce means that if we went and visited other kobolds and they decided to try to hurt us I could stop them. But I could also just not go near kobolds who might want to try to hurt us in the first place, which is much smarter."

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The kobold nods to Kiri, then looks to Jayce: "kobolds run." If anyone would be hurt by the Ardelays being brought to the meetup group, it would be the kobolds - not by Kiri, but by the broader situation of trying to keep themselves safe from the outsiders.

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"Jayce, the problem is not that kobolds would attack us, it's that the kobolds would stampede all over each other fleeing and then instead of reconvening later they'd still be hiding, possibly in places that are more defensible than fertile."

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"Oh. Poor kobolds."

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"We don't look scary, do we? I mean, you can't tell by looking that Kiri's prime."

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"Most kobold mages see magic," including spellbearers, and probably primes as well, "and humans are big." And the safe guess with any non-kobold is that they're dangerous, both in the sense that even if the guess is wrong it's still the safe way to guess, and in the sense that most non-kobolds are dangerous to kobolds, back home.

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"Nah, kobolds are little. Well, you're little, maybe you're a midget kobold."

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"She's not a midget kobold. I'm actually quite curious if a magic-seeing person could tell by looking when someone was prime."

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Shrug. She's going to try to get the usual complement of tribe-mage spells out of her tribe's mage while she's home; it's pretty likely she'll be able to get that one, if Kiri wants to arrange to try it when she gets back.

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"Yes please."

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Nod.

She considers the tribe's interpersonal politics some, and concludes that there's a pretty good chance she'll be able to teach Kiri that spell, if they want it - getting her tribe's mage to teach her the spell rather than cast it on her is a little more of a stretch, since she's not technically supposed to be allowed to learn magic, but she expects that to go her way if she brings it to the group.

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"Well, I hope it works out. ...There's kobold tribe politics about sharing magic around but she can probably bring me a spell I want," Kiri explains to her brothers.

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"How do you even have politics when only one of you knows how to talk?"

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"...dancing...? Dancing politics."

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...sigh. Little close to home, there: of course kobolds have politics, they're people. Hopefully this is just a 'people who talk' thing. Or a 'people who hang around with strangers all the time' thing, maybe, that can't help. Anyway: Kiri, what's the word for 'body language'?

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"Body language," says Kiri, "is the phrase you're looking for - I understand that kobolds manage to have politics without talking, but yeah, we don't have any examples of that and it seems like it would be frustrating to manage even simple things that way. Even our examples of non-strangers who interact a lot, like the three of us, involve talking except when it involves mind-reading. ...Occasionally a human is born who can't hear, and then they can't learn Welchin. If they live in a big enough city or their parents know enough, they might be able to learn a sign language, with gestures for words -" Kiri knows a couple gestures, which she illustrates. "But if their parents don't know why their child hasn't learned Welchin, and there are other reasons a kid might not talk for a few years, then they won't be able to learn sign language to talk to their kid, and this is actually really bad for a human mind, not to have any language at all. Sometimes people come to me with complicated mind problems, in case I can fix them - so I've seen that - but I couldn't fix it, although I could tell them why there was a problem and that they had to learn a sign langauge."

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Huh. Humans are really un-observant, then. Not noticing that someone can't hear, wow.

Anyway: "Kobolds do body language-ing. We watch, we see people think, feel, want. People watch us, see we see, see we know, see we choose doing things. Do wanted thing, people happy. Do other thing," shrug, "people other thing. Politics."

(Of course it's more complicated than that - in a good-sized group like a kobold tribe there's rarely going to be that kind of consensus about anything beyond the basics. But that's a matter of tradeoffs and making sure that nobody gets the short end of the stick too often; the general principle still holds.)
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"Human babies don't do almost anything for almost a year after they're born, and might have all different kinds of reactions to sounds. Also, if they can't hear well, they might not be able to learn Welchin but still jump if there's a loud storm or something."

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"That seems really... I dunno, collectivist? Constantly paying attention to what everybody else looks like they want, and making sure like you look like you want the right things, and, like, you can't even whisper, if you just want one other person to know, you'd have to drag them off somewhere I guess and body language at them? Or ask questions, if you're confused? Are kobolds all just really really good at body language? Sometimes humans suck at it."

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"I mean, if we couldn't talk for a week - or read, I guess they probably don't read either, I was thinking if we all had sore throats but it'd have to be more than that - and Kiri couldn't read minds for that week we'd probably manage to eat and wander around the house and... get really bored, but probably not want to kill each other or accidentally do things we don't like? We could probably even go shopping if we could still count out money and point at things and trust the shopkeepers to make change right when we couldn't read the prices? But we couldn't get any real work done. And we'd only do that well because we have a lot of good habits that we could talk about before."

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"Human siblings who run a prime family benefit from language differently than kobolds, what a concept."

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"For just a week it wouldn't be that boring. I mean, Kiri might go insane, but not of boredom. She can play with fire and I can draw and you can dance."

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"Maybe if it wasn't clear we could draw blessing coins to communicate. That's not really language, right?"

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"Kobolds don't do blessing coins - probably only this world. Use things, sometimes, for communicating. And kobolds don't do trade."

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"Uh..."
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"Less specialization. Much less. And they have to self-motivate a lot - this also because they don't have a concept of property and can't rely on keeping anything they aren't actually holding right then, and the whole tribe would fall apart if they only ever swiped stuff from each other and never gathered or made anything. But, yes, also less material variety and abundance. Less inequality too though - everybody sort of hovers around something you'd probably categorize as 'at least they're not starving' most of the time."

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The kobold takes a minute to work these words out; she gets most of them, eventually, and nods. "Tribe is happy, usually - if trouble, no, other time yes."

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"Material variety and abundance is - having lots of choices of different stuff, and lots of stuff. Inequality is some people having more stuff than other people. Specialization is getting good at one thing and not knowing as much about how to do any other things."

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She considers this (kobolds have plenty of variety and abundance, she thinks, but compared to humans, yeah, less; inequality: ...um? the only thing in kobold culture that's even close to that is when someone pisses off their tribe enough that people start hassling them when they go to take things from the tribe's supplies, which is a mid-level to fairly severe punishment... presumably there's some kind of system to keep that from getting out of hand, here; she wants to check on that later) and nods. "Kobolds do many different of humans," she tells Aleko and Jayce.

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"Yeah, I'm getting that."

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"...Inequality is very complicated," Kiri says. She doesn't have to explain it right now but she doesn't want the kobold to start making faces before she's finished explaining it later.

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Well, the kobold can make a face now if Kiri prefers, given what 'complicated' meant last time. But she lets it go for the moment.

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"I don't think it's that complic-" Jayce pauses. "Okay, it would be really complicated if you didn't even have 'property' as a concept."

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"Speaking of not having property as a concept..."

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"The kobold is not going to steal your stuff."

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Nod.

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"Okay, good, my twin in my head is one thing but some of my stuff is private. Or hard to replace. ...Do kobolds do 'privacy'."

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"Privacy is when you don't want anyone, or only want some people, to know or see a thing. Most people consider their thoughts very private, which is why I'm careful about standing near people."

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Ah.

Yeah, kobolds do privacy, nod.

(Less than humans, though, probably, if personal bedrooms are a normal human thing.)
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"Personal bedrooms are a normal human thing. Sometimes people who are very close share rooms. Mostly - couples." Is that clear enough? Does she have to explain pairbonding?

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She's missing the 'two' part, but yeah, kobolds do that.

"Kobolds do less privacy," she updates the other siblings, "sleep all together, safer."
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"From what?"

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"Danger," she shrugs. "Animals, tigerfolk, fire," monsters, apparently her world has monsters, "...big things like animals. Few kobolds watch, other kobolds sleep; if trouble, watching kobold do noise, other kobolds do awake."

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"The big animal-like things I'd probably just call 'monsters' or something... Yes, Aleko, some of these things eat kobolds - the tigerfolk are -"

A bell rings. "Ko -"
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Aleko gets up and bolts for the bells, then hollers, "Third from the left!"

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Kiri disappears.

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The kobold takes a piece of twine and starts working on a viewing-portal. After several minutes, she manages it, passes the result to Jayce, and starts working on a second one for Aleko.

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"What is this f- oh," says Jayce, peering through the portal. "Yeah, there's smoke - doesn't look like it's spread all that far. I don't see Ki- no, there she is, she must've commandeered somebody's horse. I can't see the actual flames..."

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"She might've put it out already, she could sense a fire that size from a few blocks at least and the smoke wouldn't stop right away. Where do you see h- oh, going up Wicker Street, okay, I bet she's going to go in and make sure she didn't miss any little smoldering bits and see if anyone's inside. She'd better not try to climb half-burned-out stairs...!"

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The kobold, meanwhile, keeps an eye on the scene with a third viewing-portal in between casting mini-portals successively closer to house in question - if something does happen, she wants to be able to get herself and Kiri's siblings as close as possible. (If she finds a better viewpoint, she'll give them updated viewing-portals, too.)

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When the kobold gets the view close to the house, Kiri has put out the fire, which affected two adjoining houses and produced quite a lot of smoke, now slowly tapering off. She is sitting on her borrowed horse outside the house rather than entering; a wind is whipping up, and she's addressing someone who has a ladder, pointing. The someone with the ladder puts it up against the window and some people come out, coughing.

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She wordlessly passes this portal over to Jayce, and makes two duplicates for Aleko and herself. "Can go, if need," she points out after that's done, "but think okay."

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"Yeah. I would've gone along and physically carried her to the house if she'd wanted but the horse idea works too and at least she's not trying to go in."

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The kobold nods and goes back to watching the scene.

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After the house is empty, Kiri looks over the extracted persons from a distance. They converse. Kiri stays on the horse and out of their range, and of Helpful Ladder Person's range. Somebody rushes onto the scene with various medicinal supplies. When that's underway Kiri rides back to where she got the horse, returns it, and then reappears in her designated house location and walks back into the dining room.

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The kobold nods a greeting and gets to work breaking all these twineportals. Also, she should probably give Kiri a second set of spells to let her take a passenger, or give Aleko or Jayce or both the same spell set Kiri's got, or both, but not right this minute.

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"Oh, you gave them a view, that's sweet. Yes, it would be really great if I could bring passengers."

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"Everybody okay?"

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"Some burns, which I can only make more comfortable, and some smoke inhalation, which I can't do anything about. Nobody's dead."

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Sounds pretty good, all told. (And she's almost done breaking twineportals. Hopefully real scrying is more user-friendly.)

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"Thank you so much for helping me with the magic," Kiri says to the kobold. "That fire could have spread really far before anyone could put it out with water."

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Here is a very pleased kobold. ^.^

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Scritches!

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Ooo. ^.^

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"Cuuuuuute."

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Isn't she just?

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Sooooo cute.

The last bits of dinner are eaten or rejected as the case may be, the dishes are cleared away, the brothers disperse.

"Do you want me to explain any complicated things right now or do you have other plans for the evening?"
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Explaining the inequality thing can probably wait 'till she comes back unless there's some obvious thing she might want to do about it in the meantime. Other than that... she can give Kiri the 'teleport with passengers' spell set tonight, there's no reason to wait. (Enspelling Aleko and Jayce could happen, too, but the kobold doesn't know them well enough to feel comfortable making the judgement call on whether that's a good idea.)

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"I would love to be able to bring passengers. Aleko and Jayce don't need it as much; I'd trust them with it but I don't feel the need to explain it at length."

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They should probably go get comfy, then, since this is going to take a little while - the kobold will need to re-cast all the location spells. Would Kiri like to do it as 'only the person holding a particular one of their hands', 'only people touching them', or 'people touching Kiri, and people touching them, and so on', or something else? They'll still be able to use the existing spell set to teleport just themselves, and the kobold can add more sets to give them the other options later, but there's probably not time for all three of those tonight.

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"If it worked on people who were touching people who were touching me I could move people who don't want me to read their minds, which would be good."

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Good point.

She'll get started, then. Hmm - this might be tricky, is Kiri going to be able to think about wanting to teleport-with-passengers to places without triggering her existing spells? (It depends on how Kiri was thinking about wanting to teleport to the places the first time.)
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"I think I can keep that separated."

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Oh, good. It'd be possible to work around that, but kind of tricky.

The whole set takes a little over half an hour, once the kobold settles in to do it; she can do another one this evening, if Kiri would like one.
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"Hmm. Is there any way to make it so I can add locations to the spell I'm spellbearing? Probably not, but if there were..."

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Nope. Once Kiri is ready to cast on people, they can cast on themselves, though.

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"Oh well. Can you make a portal on an object which I can hear through so I can tell whenever bells are ringing?"

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Yeah, good idea.

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Kiri goes and gets a bracelet with a flat disk part that seems suitable for casting the portal on.

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The kobold spends a little while experimenting to see where the best place is for the portal's outlet side before casting the final spell, and ends up casting two tiny portals on the flat part rather than one larger one, to best hear all the bells.

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"And now no matter where I am," says Kiri, putting the bracelet on, "I can always nip into the kierten and see where I need to go put out a fire."

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Yup!

(The kobold could really use something like this herself, for back home. Probably not with bells - getting those ethically sourced would be hard - but she can probably figure something similar out, anyway.)
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"I can give you some bells, if that would help."

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Yes, yes it would, thanks.

Hmmm. She should probably set the bells up in her experimenting cave, so they don't get repurposed by someone who doesn't realize what they're for. Given that, it should be okay for her to set one up for Kiri to be able to call for her - her tribemates might wonder what's going on with that, but mages are allowed to be a little mysterious, and she can set some of the bells up to other things like traps to make it less obvious that there's a person involved.
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"I'll just teleport to Chialto and buy some bells, shall I?"

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Sounds like a plan.

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So Kiri grabs Aleko for keeping crowds away, and teleports to Chialto, and back to the house with a whole box of little bells, which she presents to the kobold.

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When Kiri gets back, the kobold is just finishing up putting a little portal to her cave on a leather bracer. She grins appreciatively at the bells - where would Kiri like her to put a bellpull?

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Kiri would like her bellpull on some moderately portable object that she doesn't need in its portalless state. She finds something, eventually - there are a lot of arguably useless things in this house, accumulated over many primacies.

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And lo, there was a bellpull. The kobold pops over to her cave for a minute to finish setting it up, then returns to test it - excellent, that will work nicely.

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Scritches. "See you later."

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And the kobold goes back to her tribe for the evening. In fact, she'll spend the night - by the time she's done setting up a second bell and showing the bellpull system to everyone who's curious, it's fairly late. She's back at Kiri's house in the morning, though, for one more day of spellcasting help.

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Kiri offers her breakfast, and then: "Did you get the learning spell while you were gone?"

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She didn't, but she's pretty sure she'll have it by the time she comes back to cast the big portals - her tribe's mage is a nervous sort and wants to see how the rest of the tribe reacts to this new bell thing first.

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"Okay. No hurry on the big portals, though. The stone arches aren't done yet anyway." She could get Alser to help but she's not in that much of a hurry. And doesn't want to split the money if she doesn't have to; she likes Alser, and Patience, but she has plans, damn it.

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Okay. She's not certain what her schedule is going to look like around that time, but with her new bracer there's at least a little more leeway with things - even in the worst case scenario she probably won't have to leave Kiri waiting more than a couple days, now, and it's not very likely that her chief will make the tribe walk (which would make it tough for her to get back in touch with them, if they moved on while she was gone, so she might need to stay with them in that case) when teleporting is an option.

Breakfast! Spellcasting?
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Spellcasting! Kiri turning pieces of paper into portals and then setting the pieces of paper on fire.

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The kobold hangs out nearby, reading and intermittently thinking about bellpull-friendly trap designs.

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Kiri has nothing to add, having never really thought about trap design before, but she scritches the kobold and makes portals until lunch, and then they have lunch, and then she scritches the kobold and makes more portals.

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More scritching, more portals, more reading. The kobold is actually getting pretty decent at the reading, all things considered. And then after a while it is dinnertime.

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At which time they have dinner! They are not interrupted this time with a fire bell. Aleko shows off some drawings. Jayce eats fast and leaves early to meet a friend in town.

Portals! Offering the kobold more difficult books and defining words in them as she stumbles thereupon!
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Reading! More reading! Hesitant bell sound from the kobold's bracer! She should probably go see what that's about.

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Okay. Kiri isn't going to interfere.

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Off she goes, then.

She's gone for a while, and comes back grinning. The magic-seeing spell, which is also the training spell: she has it.
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"Ooh. Show me?"

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Sure, here. It works like this: here's the bit where it detects magic, and here's the bit where that's used as a trigger for making light - very dim and in front of your eyes, for magic vision, or brighter and emitting from a rock or whatever if you're training with it. (And the magic detection can be used to trigger other things and other things can trigger the lights, too.)

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Nice. Once she's seen all its moving parts, she casts it on a piece of paper.

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Yup, that is definitely a glowing piece of paper.

Hmmm... it would be hard to make secret messages that way - hard to get enough detail on where the light is and isn't - but not impossible.
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Well... it does seem to be able to tell that Kiri herself is magic.

She can burn words into paper. Can she chill words into magic paper?
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Maybe! The local magic is different enough from the kobold's native sort that she wouldn't be very surprised either way.

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Kiri tries it: invisibly drops the temperature of thin lines on the paper to spell her name.

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Ooooo. Very cool.

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Kiri grins. When she stops affecting the temperature the lines disappear.

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Awesome. That should be much safer to practice with than the teleportation spell.

It's traditional, it turns out, to cast one's own magic vision spell when one is done training and ready to be considered a mage, and there are fairly good reasons for that - if you're not willing to cast on yourself you shouldn't be casting on anyone else, and casting on other people is a significant part of a kobold mage's job - but Kiri being Kiri, the kobold is willing to let them skip that if they want the spell now.
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"That would be great," says Kiri, igniting her paper. "Especially since it detects primes' magic."

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Sure thing. There's some options for brightness and types of display that they need to do a little bit of trial and error with - 'turn off after two minutes and don't turn back on again' is a useful trigger - and there's a question of whether Kiri wants the obvious 'want to see magic to start seeing magic, want to stop to stop' trigger or something else for the final version, but in fairly short order the spell is done.

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Kiri does indeed consider wanting to start and stop to be the most reasonable possible triggers for starting and stopping. And now she can see magic! She plays with some fire and watches the magic light follow it.

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Heee.

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And then she plays with pure heat and cold and watches that. Fun. (It gets a little windy, as temperature affects air pressure; her hair fluffles in the breeze.)

Let's make more magic-seeing paper with different variants and compare them all against each other! ...In the morning! When she is not yawning so much.
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Humans and their sleep needs, yes.

The kobold should head home - the new bellpull helps for emergencies, but she still needs to be part of her tribe if she wants to keep being part of her tribe - but Kiri can call her if they need her, and she'll be back in... eight, now?... days to check on the portal frames.
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"I probably won't need you, but you are welcome to hang around, I like you."

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Aww. The feeling is pretty mutual, actually. The kobold is kind of flinchy, underneath everything else, about the idea of being separated from her tribe for too long or endangering her ability to go back to them, but she might come hang out sometimes, when it won't interfere with that.

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Scritch scritch. "Besides, I have all the books."

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She snickers. What a cunningly baited trap, she would be in some trouble if she couldn't teleport.

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Giggle.

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Giggle indeed.

The kobold can hang out for a little while, but Kiri should probably be getting to bed before too long.
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Yawn. Yes. This is true.

...Maybe one more magic paper.
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Sure, she can stay that long.

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One more magic paper. Scritch scritch and now bedtime.

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Scritch scritch, and home she goes.

Eight days later she turns up in Kiri's living room, carrying an egg.
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The living room is empty.

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The kobold settles into a chair to wait for someone to come by; if that takes more than twenty minutes or so, she'll go to the kierten and talk to Kiri through their bracelet.

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Aleko wanders in about fifteen minutes later. "Oh! You are here. Here you are. Kiri! The kobold is back!"

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"Coming!"

Kiri walks in.
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Hi!

Scritches?
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Scritches! "I see you have an egg. ...I can read this egg. This egg is developed enough to read."

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...oh, huh. That probably shouldn't've been a surprise. She can keep it out of Kiri's range if they'd like?

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"Yes please. Is it going to hatch very soon?"

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The egg can go back on the chair, then, there we go.

It will be hatching fairly soon, yes - she doesn't know exactly when, but probably after at least two or three days and no more than ten.

She hopes that a kobold who's been around both kobolds and people who do ownership from a very young age will be able to bridge that cultural gap more easily than she can; given how big of a deal that will be if it works, she'd like to try it sooner rather than later. But if Kiri would rather not be involved with that, she can put the egg back where it came from, that's fine.
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"I mean, I don't strictly mind having a baby kobold around - although it would make it more inconvenient that you don't have names - but don't they imprint? If it hatches and sees me, or Aleko, or Jayce, or the cook, or - anyone - that's a pretty serious commitment."

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They do, but it's fairly obvious when an egg is about to hatch if you're paying attention - the soon-to-be-hatchling starts making noise a few hours ahead of time; here's what that sounds like - so taking it off somewhere private shouldn't be a problem.

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"So you're going to imprint it on you? ...Is this your egg?"

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...yeees?

Nobody is going to be upset about her having this egg, kobolds don't work that way.
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"...Okay. I wonder if baby kobolds learn language by exposure or if they have to be trying like you were trying."

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It's not unheard of for a Speaker's hatchling to pick up a few words from them - not common, but not unheard of.

(Figuring out how to give the little one an opportunity to learn Animalperson is definitely a 'cross that bridge if we come to it' sort of problem; they might not even want to, and she's not going to push the issue at all. She's definitely not going to take a hatchling to visit a tigerfolk tribe, no matter how much it would help them learn.)
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"You know how to speak but you don't actually speak very much. The other kobolds mostly wouldn't understand you and around me you don't need to and you skip it. I wouldn't be astonished if baby kobolds could learn a language by being around it all the time - Animalperson is obviously unsafe but Welchin isn't."

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Yeah, hm.

This might not have been a good idea after all - it's obvious to her that Welchin isn't any of the languages from her world, but it wouldn't necessarily be obvious to anyone else in her tribe, and it's hard to guess how they'd take it if the little one started speaking like that.
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"It's up to you, you know more about what will and won't freak out your tribe. And what will and won't upset the little one - if they had to move here or something."

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The risk isn't the little one getting kicked out; it's the tribe deciding she's been endangering them. Which... hm. Basically the problem in that case is that they'd try to keep them apart, but with teleportation in the mix... the problem with that is that if it goes sufficiently badly someone might try to accuse her of hexing the little one, but... yeah, don't give them a spell to bring them here, not personally, until that's resolved, but do give them a magic item that only they can activate; pretty much the only way that fails is if they get a new mage between now and then; the current one might not be happy about the situation but would still report the truth there. So then it basically just comes down to the little one having to choose between spending time with their tribe or their parent, in the worst case, and with much more opportunity to choose both than the more common scenario of a parent moving to a different tribe.

Hm. How long does it take for little humans to start talking, usually? ...for that matter, how do humans age in general? It might not actually be the same as for kobolds.
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"Humans usually say a few words in their first year - um, a year is three hundred sixty five days - and talk with good grammar but not very wide vocabularies by the time they're five years old, and from there it mostly depends on how much they read, how many words the people they talk to know, and how smart they are. We stop getting taller after fourteen to sixteen years, sometimes a little later, we're socially considered adults shortly after that, and we sometimes live to be eighty or older if we're lucky."

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The kobold doesn't have enough math to convert that number to the base-five system she's used to on the fly, but assuming the years are even close to the same (and if Kiri takes the time to work out the math of what she does know, they are, more or less) - within the first year, really? The kobold learned when she was eight or nine, and that was very unusual, most prospective Speakers don't try it until they're at least fifteen and more often twenty or more years old.

Also, fifteen sounds about right for stopping growing, but kobolds live longer than that - a hundred and twenty-five to a hundred and fifty years.
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"Well, lucky kobolds. Sometimes a human will get past a hundred, but not a hundred and twenty-five that I've ever heard of. But we do talk quite early - sometimes a child will talk later than that, and everything's fine, but if someone didn't say anything until they were eight or nine this would mean something unusual was going on."

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Huh.

Well, that changes things some. Mostly for the better, though, if the little one picks things up as gradually as Kiri is suggesting - if there is a confrontation it'll come sooner, which isn't so good, but it's also much less likely that there will be one at all.
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"Yeah, if the kid picks up language on exposure like a human it'd probably be a few words and then a few more words and then sentences, and they won't necessarily be pronounced very well either. Plus kids who are brought up with multiple languages pick them all up just fine - they might just notice that kobolds who aren't you don't talk, or at least don't talk Welchin, and tone it down."

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Yeah, that should be fine.

The other thing that might happen is that the other Speakers notice the new language and want to know where it came from - that's Speakers from other tribes; all the tribes in the area meet up every summer, and the Speakers tend to take the opportunity to hang out together and share news and stories and things. She should be able to get away with not telling them anything, but it wouldn't necessarily go badly if she did, either; Speakers are more adventuresome than your average kobold, as a rule, and they know better than her tribe does that she wouldn't take risks with someone else's safety.
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"I don't mind other speaking kobolds knowing that Welce exists. But again, if there's going to be more of you around, it gets inconvenient that you don't have names."

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...the other Speakers should definitely not come here, that would be a disaster waiting to happen. She can arrange for Kiri to meet them in a neutral place in her world, if that turns out to be a thing everyone wants, but otherwise no.

She will think about the name thing, though, anyway.
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"As you like. Even just you and the kid, if somebody says 'kobold' and you both think it means you... I mean, some humans just have the same name, that happens, so with only two it's not competely impossible, but it'd come up."

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It's generally pretty obvious from body language who someone's trying to interact with even without words at all, in he kobold's experience. But yeah, there's definitely things they'd be handy for. Writing, for an obvious example.

Hmmmmm.
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"Human names are usually just pretty sounds that used to mean something in old languages, but sometimes they directly mean things. Like, I know someone named Patience, after a blessing. Which didn't turn out to be one of her birth blessings."

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Mmhmm.

Hmm.


For herself - Koso, from the animalperson word kosoen, which means something like 'non-central example' or 'a thing that is unusually like a different sort of thing'. Describes her well enough, and she does like the sound.
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"Koso's a cute name."

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"Is this what it's like for random people who hear you talking to me all the time?"

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"Sorry, Aleko. The kobold has named herself Koso, which is basically short for 'weird example', like an extraordinary blessing or that fellow at the fish place who swears he's coru and looks more torz than you and Patience put together? And she has agreed to have a name because otherwise it'll be confusing when there's a little tiny kobold around her a lot. We think the little tiny kobold might pick up Welchin just from being around it a lot."

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"Okay. What about the baby?"

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Shrug. "Will choose for self. Or, if problem, choose then."

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"How old do you think they'll have to be to pick something?"

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Well, she hasn't seen a little kobold speak before, but in general they definitely have opinions on things by two or three years old, so around then? They might change their mind a couple times but that seems better than somebody picking for them.

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"Humans are usually named as soon as we're born," Kiri says. "But if they're two or three when they pick something we can probably get by calling them 'the baby' for that long."

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She makes a face at the bit about naming newborns, but offers "If problem - other language word for baby is 'imen'."

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"That sounds kind of namelike."

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"Hey, Imen," says Aleko to the egg. "Can I pat the egg, is that okay?"

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She nods. "Gentle - if noise, stop."

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Pat, pat.

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...peep!

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That was a noise. No more pat.

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The kobold giggles. "Hatch soon, some days."

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"What is kobold imprinting like? Humans basically don't do that."

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It's not really like anything, by itself. It's just that whoever is right there when a baby kobold hatches is their parent, according to them, and they'll be very upset if they can't be with that person regularly - usually they don't want to be away from them at all for the first season or so. And every once in a while an egg will hatch without someone right there, and that causes some problems if the hatchling imprints on something that's not a person.

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"I wonder if it's gonna be a girl or a boy. Imen sounds like could be either, that's convenient."

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...that is relevant to exactly nothing.

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"Human names, like so many human things, often divide like that, and speculating about an unborn baby's gender and picking names to go with whatever result is a frequent pastime. Your name and 'Imen' both fall somewhere in the middle."

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...sigh.

In animalperson, one only ever acknowledges the relevant anatomy when it's, y'know, relevant. Which is never in the first fifteen or so years of someone's life, and not very often at all after that.
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"If it helps we're almost never thinking about how people are shaped. There's social stuff on top of that. Which is admittedly still irrelevant for small children, but we're accustomed to knowing which social category people are in."

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That is less disturbing, yes. Still weird, though. 'Social category'?

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"It affects things like deciding who to couple with before physical shape is important, and other, small things - you might have noticed Jayce and Aleko wear clothes more like each other than like me - and which jobs, especially in families, people are most likely to want to do. There's exceptions to all of it, but they're useful guesses, sort of like the five elemental personalities - I guess I haven't explained those either, have I - well, that's a separate matter. ...And people feel like the categories mean things. I knew a person once who didn't feel like one or the other, and he let me read him, so I could tell. He felt importantly differently about it than Aleko or Jayce."

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...yup, definitely weird. Kobolds don't do that.

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"I noticed. But humans do, and human kids usually have a working understanding of 'gender' sooner than they figure out 'property', so Imen might pick it up."

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...is there some sort of advantage to this that's not immediately obvious?

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"I'm not sure why we do it, but it's very hard to stop when everyone's doing the same thing. A lot of human stuff is like that, really. I can't, say, wear anything that doesn't say something about my gender, even if it's 'look how hard I'm trying not to have a gender' - and if I do that I'm sacrificing important opportunities to use my clothes to say 'I am rich and important and paying attention to all the things that matter to people around me'. Which is important to say for other reasons, but is only ever said in gender-based ways."

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Meh. Well, if they pick it up they pick it up, but their anatomy is still not anyone's business but their own, so the humans are just going to have to wait and see what happens with that.

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"It's a little more obvious on human babies, but yeah, sure."

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She didn't actually need to know that, but okay.

How are the portal frames coming along?
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"They're done!"

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Excellent.

She can get started whenever, then.
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"I can take us to them. I've been popping in and out to make it less interesting to watch. If the egg definitely won't hatch today you can bring it."

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Pretty definitely, and there'll be plenty of warning for her to take it someplace private if it does start to hatch early. Good enough?

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"That'll do. Just hold it on the other side of you from me." Kiri extends her hand.

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That's slightly awkward, but she manages it.

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And Kiri puts them near one of the stone arches; it was built not too far away from her Chialto house and it's a short walk. It is set up so that carriages can drive off the main street and through it. There are blank wooden boards up into which Kiri intends to singe explanations. "Here's the first one - I have a map of how I want them hooked up -" Look, a map of how she wants them hooked up, how convenient.

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She examines the arch, and then they can go see the one that's going to lead to it. (She puts the egg down to examine the arch, and it peeps when she picks it back up. Aww.)

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Awww!

Kiri puts them at the next arch. She wants them set up to loop, so that someone who wants to go from any arch to any other arch will just have to circle around to the front of an arch they just emerged out the back of until they get where they're going.
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Sensible and straightforward. They can proceed around the loop at a pretty good pace, though they're a little slowed down by the kobold stopping to coo at the egg when it starts getting too excited. "Hatch soon," she reports, after one of these sessions, "maybe tomorrow, maybe next day."

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Kiri smiles. A little sadly.

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...that would be a thing, wouldn't it. Well, the egg can stay here for a minute while Kiri gets a hug.

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Hug.

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Hug indeed. Better?

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Better.

Anyway, so that's the portal loop set up. Kiri strolls through the entire loop, burning letters into the signs with destination and price information.
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The kobold hangs out in an out-of-the-way spot near the Chialto portal while Kiri does that.

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And then she is back. One of her employees is talking to a person passing by in a carriage, explaining the contents of the sign. Kiri tells the employee that she'll be back for another circuit after dinnertime to clarify any particularly frequently asked questions on the signage and adjust the price if the volume is higher or lower than she'd like. Then she extends her hand to the kobold.

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And then they are back home.

So, what else has Kiri been up to?
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Magic practice! There's a paper that apparently hasn't started acting up yet sitting on the kitchen table, glowing when Kiri gets near it.

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Good!

The kobold suspects it's still early to be expecting any, but has Kiri had any good spells yet?
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"Not yet, unless this is one."

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Nod.

It could be a while, still - there's a fair amount of variance in how long it takes people to start casting good spells, and she's never paid enough attention to notice what might affect that. As far as she knows, everyone who keeps at it gets it eventually, though - the longest she's seen it take for someone to get their twenty-five was that one person who didn't have a mage in their tribe and was too nervous about it to be willing to cast unsupervised, who took two summers to learn from another tribe's mage rather than practicing on their own; usually it takes just the one summer, and the others all practiced on their own after the tribes split back up and were proper mages by the next time she saw them.
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"Well, I'm practicing a lot. I'm not experimenting very much yet, but I'm practicing. Experimenting is trying new things to see what happens."

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Ah.

Experimenting is probably not important - it could help Kiri learn faster, maybe, but plenty of the mages back home don't do anything besides the usual set of spells. (Usually it's the cautious, nervous types who go in for magic among kobolds - the kind of defense-at-a-distance that kobolds use magic for suits that personality type better than most; Koso is definitely a kosoen of a mage. Some of the usual sort do get a little creative, trying to eke a little more defense out of the knowledge available, but most of them are as cautious about trying new magic as they are about everything else.)
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"I definitely plan to experiment later, when I am sure that a runaway spell won't kill me."

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The kobold is not surprised, and looks forward to seeing what Kiri comes up with.

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"It'll be fun!"

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Yup!

Hmmm.

There were other things she wanted to do on this trip, but she'd like to settle in a little first if she's going to be here for a while. Is there anything else interesting going on today?
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"Nothing planned."

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Hmm.

Well, okay. One of the things the kobold had to decide, before she got the egg, was whether to trust Kiri with knowing about their tribe, since the little one will almost certainly slip up on that eventually. Her conclusion was yes, obviously - she's still a little flinchy about the idea, and won't be sharing anything too sensitive herself, but she believes that Kiri wouldn't misuse that information even if there wasn't the 'it will result in a friend getting exiled' reason not to. Point being, if Kiri has any questions, she's willing to answer them.
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"I'm curious," she says, "but I'm not sure where to start asking things. Hmm - how long do eggs stay eggs before they hatch?"

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Around... sixty-five or seventy-five days, maybe? They're laid a little while into winter, usually right around the time it starts really getting cold, and hatch just before spring.

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"With all the eggs being picked up by whoever wants them I wonder - do you keep track of who's related beyond that or are families entirely about who takes whose egg?"

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Individuals who've laid eggs often keep track of the eggs and resulting kids even if they aren't raising them themselves, and that extra attention means it's a little more likely for the kid to pick that adult to adopt if they don't get along with their first parent, but there's nothing formal in most cases. The exception is chiefs' eggs - chiefs very rarely raise children at all, but it's traditional for them to leave the tribe to one of their descendants when they retire, so there's some extra attention and rules about that.

(Her egg is not a chief's egg - her tribe's chief didn't have an egg, this year, but even if they had she wouldn't've taken it, even if it was the only option. She herself being chief's-kin and a speaker was enough of a fiasco; intentionally interfering with the succession like that is a political morass she has no interest whatsoever in wading into.)
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"We have rules a little like that. The country is ruled by a king and his family can't intermarry with primes too closely. ...Marrying is forming a couple that you plan to stick with forever and telling everybody you know."

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Huh.

Kobolds don't have any rules about who can partner with who, but it is a different situation here.
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"Married people usually share all their stuff. The rule is to keep the king from getting too much stuff."

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...very different, yes. That wouldn't come up at all among kobolds except in the case of someone changing tribes for a partnership, and even then someone taking a bunch of stuff to their new tribe would hardly make a difference in the face of the usual sorts of stuff-reallocation that happen at meetups.

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"And it keeps things equal between the primes, at least mostly, because usually none of us are close family with the king and that means he doesn't listen to us different amounts for that reason. It's more complicated than that, but that's the idea."

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Mmhmm.

Kobolds are pretty good about that sort of thing - part of it is that chief's kin are specifically raised to be fair and not play favorites, and part of it is that a chief being blatantly unfair to someone is liable to get the whole tribe upset with them (and kobold chiefs are definitely not exempt from being punished, in that sort of case or in general), and part of it is that if there's a more subtle problem, the affected person can almost always find a different tribe to move to at the next meetup.
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"How often do kobolds change tribes?"

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Not very; most kobolds prefer to stick with one tribe, so generally they either stay with the tribe they grew up in or switch once or a few times in their teens and early twenties and then settle down - the latter is a little more common for people with special skills; for example, her group has fewer Speakers than tribes right now, so someone from a tribe with one who learned to Speak would find the tribes without one very interested in having them move there.

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"Does it ever happen that no tribe wants a particular kobold?"

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Rarely, yeah. Most tribes are pretty relaxed about who can join, and if someone tries to switch tribes and can't find one that will take them they can almost always go back to their original tribe, but rarely someone will do something to upset their tribe enough that the tribe wants them gone but not enough that they're quite willing to kick them out to die, and if someone in that situation can't find a new tribe at the next meetup...

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Kiri sighs.

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Yeah.

That really is rare, though. It's happened ... twice, she thinks, in her lifetime? And sometimes there's nothing else to do, if someone is causing bad enough problems and nothing else has worked.
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"I'm not judging you guys. Humans are probably worse at that."

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....yeah, that wouldn't surprise her, given what she knows so far.

Tragic regardless, though.

(Hugs time? Hugs time.)
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Hugs.

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Hug.

They do try, anyway. And most of the time they can make it work. Given the rough times they went through a few decades back, they seem to be doing pretty well, really - balancing the needs of a bunch of people with trauma issues isn't trivial.

...she'd rather not get into that, though. Does Kiri have any other questions?
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...Well, if she'd rather not get into that -

"Do kobolds tend to invent new things, or copy them from other kinds of people?"
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Not either of those, often. They do all right with what they have, though. (She would rather they weren't reliant on theft to get anything made of metal, but that's enough of a cultural thing that she doesn't expect knowing how to make metal things to help much in practice.)

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"How about art? Besides dancing, I know you dance."

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They do art, yup! She paints, actually.... one sec, where's the last place she saw that one...

One large twineportal later, she presents Kiri with a deer antler painted with an abstract design in shades of red and grey.
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"Ooh, that's pretty!"