Dec 12, 2019 8:21 AM
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"...I'm not actually sure I could survive a trip like that," says Stalas. "I mean, even surface dwarves have good solid Stone nearby in one direction. Who knows what happens when you take us away from it entirely."

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"...Are you in some way physically dependent on being near rocks?"

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"'Rocks'," he snorts. "You're such a human."



From just down the hall, Miles remarks, "You know, that's the first time I've heard anyone called a 'human' in that tone of voice."
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"Miles! In here!" says Ivan.

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Miles proceeds into the mysterious bar.

He looks around.

He looks at Stalas.

"...Hello, short scrunchy human version of me," says Stalas, eyeing him with wary amusement.

Miles gives Ivan a Look. It is a very 'please explain this immediately' sort of Look.
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"He said he was a dwarf!" says Ivan, letting the door close. "I had to clarify! Even if I knew what mutation does dwarfism in humans why would he know it?"

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"A dwarf as in..."

"As in the kind that's not human, yes, we've been over this," says Stalas.

"You're taller than me," Miles says suspiciously.

"Yes, I've noticed that," says Stalas. "Let me guess, being a short human is a lot like being a scrawny dwarf?"

"I don't know, what's being a scrawny dwarf like?" inquires Miles.

"Pretty damn miserable."

"Yeah."

The two of them look at each other with remarkably similar expressions.
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"If we can convince him that space travel won't send him into fatal rock-proximity crisis, he might want to leave with us, instead of back where he came from to kill more smelly things," Ivan volunteers. "I wonder what'd happen if he ran into Mark."

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"I shudder to think," snorts Miles. "Fatal rock-proximity crisis?"

"Dwarves live underground and that's kind of very important to being a dwarf," says Stalas. "We can live on the surface, but it - does things to us. We lose our Stone-sense after a while. I don't honestly know what would happen if you took a dwarf somewhere there was no Stone at all."

"...When you say 'Stone'," says Miles, "are you talking about something other than what a - a human would mean by 'rock'?"

"Well... yes and no," says Stalas. "I mean, rock is what the Stone is, but it's more than that. When a dwarf dies, their soul returns to the Stone. While we live, we can sense it. Dwarves don't get lost, unless you take us up to the surface."

"Fossilized souls," mutters Miles. "Ivan, your magic wormhole is turning out to be very magic."
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"Yeah, that came up before, he thought my pen was magic."

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"Magic is a thing where I'm from," says Stalas. "Dwarves can't use it, but everyone else can."

"Why not dwarves?"

"It's sort of a long story. But it's soul-related. - Hey, if you don't have magic where you're from, do you dream?"

"We dream," says Miles, puzzled.

"Weird," says Stalas.

"Your definition of weird is, itself, very weird," says Miles.

Stalas snorts.
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"What does magic have to do with dreaming? Or souls?"

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"The Fade is the place where non-dwarves' souls go when they sleep or die, and also the place where a lot of magic either comes from or happens," says Stalas. "And then there's lyrium, which exists both underground and in the Fade, and which is very magical. Apparently you don't have it."

"No," Miles agrees, fascinated.

"Huh. Where do your souls go when you dream?"

"They stay put, as far as I'm aware."
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"What's the Fade, exactly? Like... placewise. I had to explain planets so..."

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"It's... just sort of itself," says Stalas. "Not connected to anything else. Not exactly real, but definitely not imaginary."

"Until I hear otherwise, I'm going to think of it as wormhole space," Miles decides. "Magic wormhole space."

"What's a wormhole, anyway?"

"...Uh," says Miles. "A... pair of spots in space that if you go to one and do exactly the right things you disappear and reappear at the other one."
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"And you have to be the right kind of person and have undergone the right kind of brain surgery," puts in Ivan, "and be in the right kind of spaceship, to do the things."

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"Those people are called jump pilots. To them, navigating a wormhole takes hours of very delicate labour that sounds remarkably like a wacky drug trip when they describe it to anyone else. To their passengers, it's instantaneous."

"...Sure, okay, the Fade is analogous to wormhole space," says Stalas. "In a very weird way."

"Is there anything about this situation that's not very weird?" asks Miles rhetorically.

Stalas opens his mouth, and then frowns. "...How are we all speaking the same language?"

"...Damn good question," says Miles. "I have no idea."
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Ivan has no idea either. "What language do you think you're speaking, Stalas?"

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"I am speaking the common tongue of Thedas. Which was sodding well invented by dwarves, so you'd think I'd notice if I stopped."

"I'm pretty sure I'm speaking English," says Miles. "Which was invented by humans, not that there's anyone else around who might have invented it instead... so are we speaking the same language, or is there even more magic going on than I thought?"

"...I think I'm going to go with magic," Stalas says contemplatively.
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"Does magic do that? You are the one who knows what magic does."

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"Magic doesn't do that as far as I know, but neither does magic do - this," he says, gesturing around at the mysterious bar. "And since there aren't any mages around to correct me, and we don't have a better theory, and it's a lot more like magic than it is like anything else I've heard of, 'magic' might as well be our name for 'whatever the fuck is going on here that we don't understand'."

"Well, I'm convinced," remarks Miles. "Also, is it just me, or are you and I kind of unnervingly similar in more than a physical way?"

"I don't think it's just you," says Stalas. "Your cousin's been complaining about it since he first laid eyes on me."
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"That," opines Ivan, "is an uncharitable summary."

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"Is it?" they ask, simultaneously and in perfect unison.

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"...that's creepy. Makes me want to borrow Linyabel's medical scanner, inches or no inches."

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"I mean, if nothing else you can tell us apart very easily by the smell," says Miles.

"The smell is darkspawn blood, it's not inherent," grumbles Stalas. "I would love to get rid of the smell. Anyway, what's a medical scanner?"

"A... device that looks at you and records things about your state of health and general biological makeup," says Miles. "Useful for telling people apart when they look identical but aren't quite."

"Great, sure, I wonder what it'll make of my fucked-up blood," sighs Stalas.
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