May 26, 2019 9:04 PM
Jaime discovers a masquerade.
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It's really weird how she keeps apparently taking all this at face value and not even acting like it's anything to blink at but okay.  "I'm one; Ari isn't.  The drinking of blood gives a certain amount of ability to use magic to both parties, although in different ways.  I'm not actually that different from a standard human other than that ability; everything different about me had to be done manually with that magic."

"That's the really basic stuff; it might help if you ask questions from here on out, just cause there's kind of a lot and it's hard to structure what order to tell it in," adds Ari.

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Jaime sighs.

”For future reference, if someone else acts like I just did, they’re trying to make you unclear on their level of background knowledge so you’ll hesitate to deceive them. I’m too tired to execute that strategy well, so I’ll drop it. What can magic do in theory, what is it mostly used for in practice, why didn’t I know about it before, can I learn it, should I learn it.”

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"Good to know, I guess?" Ari says, clearly having not noticed her girlfriend's confusion at Jaime's reactions or her shift to understanding on hearing the explanation.  "Anyway, magic can do all sorts of things.  As far as we know - and by we I mean anyone, not just specifically the two of us - it only affects living things, but other than that it's a pretty wide field of possibilities.  You can do shapeshifting, flight, illusions; there's healing..."

"Most of the things that are traditionally associated with vampires don't come automatically with turning, but you can do a lot of them yourself: not needing to breathe or eat, enhanced senses and physical abilities, that sort of thing."

"Yeah.  And so there are really only two major differences between vampires and regular people: humans - okay you could make a case that vampires are just a subcategory of humans but for convenience's sake I'm going to use the term to refer exclusively to people without the ability to get magic powers if they bite other people real hard - humans get magic by having their blood drank by a vampire, and we can burn through that magic to create direct effects on the world.  Vampires get magic by drinking blood from a human - they can drink blood from another vampire, but it saps magic from the drinkee instead of giving it - and while they can use it to get direct effects, it's generally way less efficient than it is for humans.  What they can do, though, is develop skills, so that if they try to do a certain thing, it takes less magic actively poured into it.  If you do that enough, it gets to a point where no additional magic input is required; you can just do the thing at no cost."

"But if you push a skill too far or try to develop it too fast, there can be drawbacks.  They have some variance from person to person and with the details of the situation, but generally it's something...fitting?  Like, um, I know of somebody who increased their physical strength too fast and ended up unable to tell how much force she's applying, and now she just constantly breaks stuff.  And there was a guy who went in for reflexes and agility; he's got kind of a hair-trigger; he'll hear a mildly startling noise behind him and be across the room before he even notices."

"We haven't actually met anybody like that," Ari clarifies.  "You just hear stories, mostly.  It isn't that easy to mess up that badly by mistake and no one's exactly willing to experiment with it, so there's not a lot of data about what drawbacks things have."  She contemplates for a second. "Oh, right, why haven't you heard of it - it's not exactly a secret, we're not going to have to kill you because we told you about this, and we won't get in trouble ourselves.  I think it's just sort of running on momentum at this point?  Nobody feels like taking a few hours with every stranger they meet to tell them about it, and nobody's made a grand reveal to a large audience yet.  But some places lots of people know - Switzerland has a weirdly high proportion, and a few other places do too."

"And there aren't really that many vampires, either.  The population is growing, sure, but I'm not sure there's more than a few thousand globally right now.  And a lot of them are I think using magic as a way to get a lot of money and are pretty content being one of a small number of people with their skillset."

"Also true."

"And yeah, as Ari said, anyone can do magic, you just need to convince a vampire to drink your blood on either a long-term basis if you don't want to turn right away or just a few times if you do.  I don't really have an opinion about whether you should that isn't on the basis of 'I would probably have to be the one supplying you with it.'"

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Jaime’s first thought is ‘so how about I exponentially spread vampirism and induce post scarcity’. Her second thought is ‘that sure sounds like exactly the sort of thing a vampire would say if there were an internally secretive group of vampiric masquerade enforcers trying to maintain their monopoly’.

“Any other supernatural systems going around?”

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"Not that I'm aware of."

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“I’m going to go to bed and we can retrace this in the morning, when I’m capable of retaining information and making decisions.  Can I have a ground floor bedroom.”

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"Of course."

"It's worth mentioning that we're kind of half nocturnal right now? Like, bed at four, up at noonish. But I could probably go to bed early if you think you're going to be up sooner than that; I'm pretty whipped anyway."

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“We don’t need to go to bed or wake up at the same time.”

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"As you like."

It doesn't show on her face, but she's not thrilled with either giving a basically-random person unsupervised free rein of the place or instructing her to stay in her room until one of them is up, and if they take the time to list the places it's okay to go and the things it's okay to touch they'll be here the rest of the night.  She'll just try to be awake at nine and hope that's good enough.

Hana directs her to a hallway lined with guest rooms; they have the same mix of decors as the rest of the house.  "Pick whichever one you like; I'll see you tomorrow!"

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Jaime kind of got a ‘we don’t want to leave you unsupervised’ vibe, there, but she’s uninterested in indulging it when she can instead sleep.

She picks a reasonably modern room at random, strips, places the knife that was previously in her left boot underneath her pillow, deposits the knife that was in her right boot conspicuously on the nightstand, and puts the knife that was previously in her pocket - which looks like an ordinary pen, naturally - in the little cup beside the bed.

She falls asleep a few minutes after her head hits a pillow. She doesn’t dream.

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Nothing disturbs her sleep.

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Nothing is going to get stabbed in the face, then. 

She dresses in dry clothes, and spends some time scribbling down notes on what she remembers, the pen-knife also being a functional pen. Harder to catch someone in an inconsistent lie, otherwise.

Subsequent to that, she nibbles on the little granola bars she packed, neatly brushes and wrangles her hair into something approaching its normal state, writes down speculation and questions and priorities and resources in carefully illegible shorthand, attends to miscellaneous matters of personal hygiene and presentation that needn’t be swelled upon, goes through those dance forms and minor exercises that aren’t disallowed by confined space, re-conceals her knives, and eventually exits the room, at around eleven in the morning.

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Ari is in one of the living rooms she passes, sitting mostly upright but with her head flopped on the back of the sofa.  It may be unclear whether or not she's awake at the moment, depending on how quiet Jaime is being, but she seems dressed for a new day rather than in pajamas.

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Jaime looks out a window.

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The curtains are all still closed; when she passes by to open them it becomes apparent that Ari is at least awake enough to mumble, "Morning."

It's still raining, if a bit less than it was last night.

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She doesn’t really appreciate her lack of viable escape routes, in case of contingency, but she can cope.

“Good morning.”

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"How's it outside?" she asks, summoning the strength to lift her head from the back of the couch.

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Jaime valiantly refrains from saying ‘it isn’t, it’s indoors’.

“Raining.”

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"Cool."  She pauses a moment.  "Say, you don't have anywhere to be, do you?  Like, I'm definitely not kicking you out, and I'm not even gonna ask why you were trekking through the middle of nowhere in a storm at night with nothing but a rolly suitcase - although if you do happen to feel like explaining that, great, go ahead - but cars: exist.  That we own, even.  If you need a ride somewhere."

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“I broke up with my girlfriend. I ran out of cash for the taxi, five miles short of my family house. I decided to walk. They aren’t expecting me.”

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"Oh, gosh.  I'm sorry; do you need anything?  I mean I know we offered standard "you are a person staying in a house that's not yours and we are the people whose house it is" stuff, but like, are you good?  Do you want - I feel like it's maybe weird to offer a hug in this situation but if you want a hug you can have one. ...Also I'm not actually sure from that answer whether you want a ride or not."

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“I don’t want a hug, or a ride. I’d like a continuation of yesterday's explanation, now with a notepad, and, if being a vampire is as you represent it, I’d like to stay here for the necessary three months or receive a referral to some other vampire that might be willing to enable a transition.”

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Ari hasn't picked up on Jaime's strategy for checking their story for inconsistencies. "I don't know where you got three months from; turning time varies. But yeah, continuing the explanation is definitely something we can do. And, okay, we didn't intentionally misrepresent the experience of being a vampire or anything, but I feel like you should have a more complete understanding of it before you decide you want to be one. I mean, when I learned about them, I was like, yes, sign me up immediately let's go, but it's been almost a year and as you can see I'm still human. By my own choice.

"Also personal compatibility is definitely a thing in any situation built around putting your mouth on someone's body, so it makes sense that that was the main thing Hana was thinking of, but I'd also want to be pretty sure you're not going to like, use magic to hurt large groups of people or anything before we make any arrangements."

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Jaime is increasingly impressed with Ariel’s skill at ducking: it takes a great deal of effort to have absolutely everything sail right on over your head. Perhaps she has anatid ancestry. 

“I’ll be glad to increase in understanding, receive explanations, determine personal compatibility, and avoid massacring the innocent. We can start with the first, if you have any arguments I’ll find persuasive.”

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"I don't think there's anything that'll necessarily put you off it entirely, but there are probably some decent reasons to at least wait a bit, depending on your situation.  The most obvious one is appearance; you have to look like, y'know, a vampire.  The magic is really insistent about it once you finish turning.  If you try too hard to look like not-a-vampire, we're pretty sure you stop being, uh, sapient?  I mean as with most things we aren't actually sure, but there's definitely at least two cases where people who were vampires stopped looking like it and in short order went on to attack a bunch of people and failed at any point after that to show signs of higher-than-animal intelligence?  No one's really willing to investigate it further.  It's possible this isn't a forever problem; I heard of some older vamps who can pass for human fine, but no one knows what the deal is - whether it's a magic skill they built up or just because they're old or a threshold of their overall magic ability."

She thinks for a moment.  "Also there's some kind of fucked up stuff in the powerset?  None of it has really been a problem yet in terms of far-reaching atrocities, but if someone does decide to go big with them they're totally going to target other vamps first.  There're defenses against them but it takes a long time to cover everything and the safest thing is probably just to be beneath notice.

"There's anecdotal evidence that spending longer as a magic-doing human before turning makes you a magic-ier vampire faster, which is my main reason, personally.  Partially for the potential personal benefit, but also just to try to figure it out.  And that's the kicker, the fact that there's so much we don't know about all of this.  Which most of the time is a fun, yay-we-get-to-figure-stuff-out party, but apparently sometimes something you're trying to finesse ends up super overpowered and you accidentally almost knock your houseguest unconscious instead of just making her kind of tired!  And there's lots of things that could've caused it but very few clues about which one of them it is!  And you feel both emotionally shitty about that and for some reason mentally and physically shitty, too.  Could be the blood loss and tiredness but it feels like a magic thing."  She is mildly abashed of her detour.  "So yeah, there's.  You might have to deal with that."

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