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.
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.
When she gets about five feet away from the kobold's hiding place, she stops.
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.
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.
[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]]]]
...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.
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."
...unless something stranger than that is going on. What does Ardelay mean, anyway?
Let's try to find out. "Ardelay?"
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."
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.
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.
[[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.)
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.
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.
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.
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...?"
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.
And then she draws dots for the numbers one through ten and names the numbers.
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.
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'.
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."
...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.
"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."
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.
...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.
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.
"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.
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.
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?"
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?
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."
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.
Apparently Aleko doesn't talk too much when he can just let Kiri read his mind.
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.
Sibling hug! And then Aleko leaves Kiri and the kobold alone.
...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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.)
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.
"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."
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."
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Next: prepositions. Fire in hand, on hand, under hand, next to hand, around hand, etc.
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?
(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.)
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.
"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."
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.
"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?
'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.
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.
"Kiri trade -" This is getting irritating. "Kiri speak 'I': Kiri. Kobold speak 'I': kobold." Yes? Personal pronouns?
...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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
'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.)
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.
"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.)
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.
Anyway, her staying in the carriage while Kiri gets out should work fine.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?)
"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."
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.
"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."
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.
...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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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?
"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."
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?
"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?
The other people in the town not being the kids' tribemates is no excuse whatsoever; the kobold isn't their tribemate, either.
"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."
'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.
"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."
(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.)
"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."
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.
"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."
"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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
...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.
(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.)
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.
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.
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.
"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."
"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."
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?
"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..."
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.
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.
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.)
...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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
...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?"
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.
The cook and the maid are very professional about all this, if not entirely at ease.
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.
"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."
"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.
"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.
"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?"
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."
...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.
"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.
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.
"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."
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.)
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"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."
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.
"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...!"
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
"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.
Portals! Offering the kobold more difficult books and defining words in them as she stumbles thereupon!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
(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.)
"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."
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.
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.
"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."
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.
"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."
"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."
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.
She will think about the name thing, though, anyway.
"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."
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.
"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."
"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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.)
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.
(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.)
...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.
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.
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.
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...
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?