He sleeps for many, many, many hours.
Breakfast is in the kitchen, still warm from the oven or whatever. It's almost like the house staff is used to James's times from when he returns from adventures.
"Good morning!" says Henry, cheerfully, when they pass him by on the way to said kitchen. "Saved the world many times these past few days?"
"Oh, no, just a couple."
"I'll show you where I hid it. It wasn't even in a particularly inspired hiding spot, I wanted to make it ridiculously easy to find if I turned out to want to hide under the covers while you still had adventuring to do."
To the bedroom! And the pile of clothes that conceals the letter!
To James Orland, Lightbringer of the Order of Whispers, Commander of the Pact, Slayer of Dragons, Peacebroker of the Maguuma, Unifier of Races, Conqueror of Madness, Guardian of the Egg, Lord of Shaemoor,
to Lady Vetareh, Spellbreaker and Professor of the Orrian Crown,
Her Royal Majesty Jennah, first of her name, Queen of Kryta and Regent of Ascalon, does humbly request a visit to the palace. Lady Vetareh's presence in this meeting is required, and until such date as she is available to parley this meeting is not to take place.
Please report to the Royal Guards at your earliest convenience.
The Royal Scribe
"Good, ah, gods I don't worship, the list of titles is longer than the letter." Pause. "Wait, did she actually get all of my titles right. How did she even know that one. Except Lady I suppose, since, technically no, but she'd be allowed to add that one as queen." She squints at the letter. Understanding dawns.
"Ohhhhhhh she wants to check that I'm not using you as a pawn in a mad scheme to topple her kingdom or whatever. That makes sense now."
"It does, random mesmer shows up out of nowhere and starts dating the important powerful heroic guy that's adventured at lots of stuff, it's smart to check to make sure she's not a fraud, power hungry, or crazy." This sentence sinks in and she makes a face. "But I don't want to be involved in politics, nooooo."
"Aughhhhhh but then how would I date you without your queen suspecting I'm out to kill her, I probably just actually have to meet her if I don't want to go to, ah, what would I do, oh, to Rata Sum and bunk with Taimi and write a couple papers on ancient magic until I can live somewhere that isn't going to be filled with rampant murderous magical anomalies every couple of hours."
"Yes, but, but at least let me dramatically complain about the challenges and hardships I'm facing to date you without insulting my honor! Of course I'm going to go talk to your damn queen, just, just—, look, if I just said that, you wouldn't have realized that I really don't want to do any of this at all! This is a sacrifice I am making because I care about you! I will grudgingly tolerate being paraded in front of your country's royalty until all of my aspirations and ambitions are laid bare and everyone is well and truly convinced that I'm not using you so they can go away and we can snuggle in the morning in peace!" She huffs, and crosses her arms. "Even though I definitely have other options."
Back upstairs, and then James has to find his fancy outfit. It contains zero spikes.
"Noooo, you've no idea how you look in your clothes, you just tripped into a tailor and they just had their way with you. You poor, poor man."
Vetareh, for her part, will wear her clothes from Orr. She was summoned with her Orrian titles, it only seems polite. And the hatred of the clothes have abated. ... A little. She might try to find something different in an Orrian style, but she does not actually want to delay meeting the queen of Kryta for a shopping trip.
It helps a bit, but auuuughhhhh.
Can they please get this over with? Please? She would like to go back to flirting with her boyfriend without having a meeting with royalty hanging over her head. Is someone going to try to drag her into politics? She doesn't want to get dragged into politics! Especially not Krytan politics, ew.
Eventually they get there, and the royal guards salute them. "Commander!" they say, in unison.
"Gabriel, Mary, good to see you!"
"Good to see you, too, sir," says presumably-Mary. Both guards relax their pose.
"The Queen asked us to come at our earliest convenience. Doubtless she knows this would be about now."
Vetareh tries on a smile that manages to edge into sincerity, despite her discomfort. It helps that James addressed them by their names, it makes it easier to see them as people instead of instruments of her impending polite interrogation over tea.
"Hello," she says, wondering why she didn't spend that free time James was spending exploring the mursaat fortress trying to invent an invisibility spell. Resurrection is probably more important? Really? Then why doesn't it feel like that right now...
Are the royal guards prone to gossip? Because if so: oh, good, thanks ever so your royal majesty, that's very appreciated, breaking out her official Orrian titles for use in front of royal gossiping guards so that everyone in this damn city can be aware that there is a new shiny thing to look at and augh, she does not want to think the worst of these people, they actually haven't even done anything to her.
It's fine. She's fine. It's fine, see? James is doing the talking. He's good at that. It's fine.
Yeah, she's just going to follow her boyfriend and look pretty.
Gabriel steals looks at her out of the corner of his eye every now and then in a mostly discreet way but otherwise makes no conversation. They walk in silence until they reach the throne room, at which point he announces: "The Lord James Orland of Shaemoor, Lightbringer of the Order of Whispers, Commander of the Pact, Slayer of Dragons, Peacebroker of the Maguuma, Unifier of Races, Conqueror of Madness, and Guardian of the Egg, and the Lady Vetareh, Spellbreaker and Professor of the Orrian Crown." Then he bows and turns away.
The Queen stands up to walk to them, followed by a woman in a dark blue outfit that seems to somehow fit her personality perfectly even though Vetareh knows approximately zero about said woman's personality. "Welcome, my friends. Commander, it has been a while."
"This or that, indeed," says the woman-who-is-not-the-Queen with a smirk.
"Lady Vetareh," says the Queen, "it is a pleasure to meet you in person. And this is Countess Anise," she introduces, gesturing at the other woman, "Master Exemplar of the Shining Blade as well as my personal advisor and close friend."
She studiously does not hide behind her boyfriend, even though it's very tempting and she really, really does not want to be here.
"Pleasure to meet you both," she says, with a polite curtsy, even though it kind of isn't. She meets their gaze evenly, trying to look as innocent and sincere as possible, and... okay, no, this is stupid.
"Okay, look, I realize that it's probably alarming to have a foreign mesmer show up on the arm of he-who-has-a-few-too-many-titles. I want to help clear things up. I am really actually who I say I am, which you've probably figured out, but I feel is worth stating aloud. I am not using James in a bid to seize power or to blow up the capital or assassinate someone or whatever it is I realize lots of naive young mesmers who have mastered their very first illusion think they can pull off. My intentions to you and the people under your charge are to not cause trouble and not get pulled into politics, and do my best to keep them from being eaten by dragons, respectively. My goals are to live a long and interesting life filled with lots of research, the possible restoration of lost ancient magics, and not to be eaten by dragons." She lets out a breath of air through her teeth. "Questions?"
"Oh, you have no idea. I believe you've met our friend, the Minister Caudecus Beetlestone, in Bloodstone Fen? Charming figure," says the Countess. "Speaking of which, Commander, I'd like a word or two with you about it, if you don't mind?"
Not that she's waiting for him to mind before moving somewhere.
She sees Countess Anise runs a tight ship.
"Please don't trip headfirst into anything exciting until after we're done talking, darling," she informs James, amused.
Then, back to Jennah: "Are there any other reassurances you might like to hear? I've only been here about a week and spent most of it on the Fire Islands, so I'm afraid I might be a bit miscalibrated for what sorts of justified worries you might have. I stuck with just the very obvious ones."
"I would be delighted," she says, and... that one's actually true, she's actually having fun with this now that all of the boring standard mesmer crap has been cut through.
"I can imagine. Poor souls must have been so frustrated. Mostly I went, 'ooo' instead of 'Aah!' over the adventure, and it was remarkably straightforward from there."
Vetareh follows, of course.
"A reputation...? Troublemaker, or... oh, I see. Yes, I can imagine how a pretty noble boy would seek to entertain himself before he fell in love with something of substance. I can't say I'm sorry to show up after, I'd have likely found him insufferable."
The Queen chuckles. She has a way of doing it that is way more composed and regal than it should have any right to be. "I didn't get to actually meet him, back then, so I don't know what he was actually like. Before his parents passed away they tried to set him up with a large number of noblewomen, and when he turned out to... ah... have more eclectic tastes than that, there were rumours that they tried to see if male suitors might have a higher success rate." She smiles to herself and pushes open a door to the gardens.
They're gorgeous, of course; a large open terrace with tasteful fountains decorated with flowers and the occasional tree, vines in pretty patterns crawling along the walls and stone arches, and stone walkways leading to shaded tables and wooden benches in locations prime to enjoy the view. It is currently empty, but the bending of the grass and the glittering of the coins inside the fountains for wishes betray somewhat more frequent use of the place than just soirées and the entertainment of othertimely guests.
"Oh, these are lovely," she sighs, smiling. "He hasn't mentioned anything, but I suspect he's a little put out that the first person he's been serious about is a female human with half a drop of noble blood. On principle, you know. The moment I start talking it's back to 'Nevermind I regret nothing.'"
Then the dark subject catches up with her mood, and her smile slowly evaporates.
"No, not very. It breaks my heart that all the world knows of my nation is its ignoble end and its cruel leverage by Zhaitan. I loved my country, served it faithfully, and..." and now it's gone. She wasn't even there to see it go.
Nope, nope, something lighter, she will answer this question even if she has to dance around to the less agonizingly painful parts of her answer to do it.
"I expect most of the broad strokes you know already, and it's hard to compare when I haven't seen what life in Kryta is like today. We were devoted to the gods, and certain of our place and purpose in the world. Things were often very complicated, but at it's core, the world seemed very simple. I'd thought once that Arah was the most cosmopolitan city in the world, but I'm... strangely glad to have been mistaken. I mourn for humanity's losses, your Majesty, but the world is so much wider now."
"Yes," says Vetareh, softly. "I wish it the brightest future possible, may it become something better than it was before."
But she doesn't want anything to do with rebuilding Orr. Nothing at all. It's too much to ask, there's too much pain, she can't stand to face it, not yet, and maybe not ever. It'll be so hard just to go there and make sure her mother is properly dead. She is many things, but strong enough to sift through the corrupted ruins of her home, she is not.
She doesn't say this, but she doesn't think she needs to. Jennah's a smart cookie, she can read between the lines just fine.
She probably can.
"I apologise for bringing up painful memories," she says, sounding like she really means it. "I think you'll find much happiness here, regardless. The Commander is visibly very fond of you, and I believe you will find much to do. That asura - Taimi, I believe she's called? - has much potential, and I believe you two will have a lot to teach each other, and Tyria will only benefit from your friendship."
"Thank you," she says, regaining her composure mostly through willpower. "That's the plan. I worry that a lot of old magic was lost with the savagery of time, and it seems... such a pity. I'd like to restore what I can of that, and help connect the old with the new. And according to Taimi I make a much better research minion than James, so clearly I have found my calling."
"I think he liked the part where he would go out to kill the things that would provide the samples, but... yes. I don't think he'll miss it. Though I might want to give him a crash course in field research methodology for when I'm not trailing along behind him, scraping up bits of things he's killed."
And then a woman in a very pretty flowery set of armour runs into them almost out of nowhere. "Commander! What a coincidence to run into you today. And who's this?"
"Good to see you, too, Kas," says the Commander who will believe this was a coincidence on the same day he starts trusting Lazarus. "This is Vetareh." He turns to said Spellbreaker. "Vetareh, this is Kasmeer Meade. She's Marjory's girlfriend and they work together as private investigators."
Yeah, Vetareh does not think this is a coincidence either. Getting checked for being a manipulative fraud by one of James's friends is less intimidating than the same by the queen of his country, though. The stakes are more personal.
"Pleasure to meet you," she says sincerely, with a polite curtsy.
This... is not how she was expecting this to go. Her pride is bizarrely bruised, actually. Really. This is over a guild invitation, and not her? By all rights she should absolutely be an intimidating enough unknown to warrant—
Oh. Oh, Kasmeer's good. Yes, that's precisely the sort of thing that would absolutely catch an unknown off guard and see what she's really like, isn't it. And all while being perfectly friendly and charming and quite funny. Well played, and also nicely done. She likes this woman already.
Vetareh huffs a barely concealed laugh into her hand.
"James," she says, amused, "did you just so happen to invite Marjory to your new guild, and then not also Kasmeer?"
Vetareh beams, then her smile turns playful.
"Are you just going to leave it at that?" She raises her eyebrows. "You know, I might be just a little out of touch with modern courtesy, but I am definitely under the impression that you're supposed to, oh... apologize... maybe buy her a tasteful present, send a nice card..."
Kasmeer has a waypoint stone of her own so they can just go directly to the Forum.
"You know, I didn't expect it to happen, but if anyone had told me it had, 'running into some famous and narratively interesting person during an adventure' would be, like, one of my top three guesses of how the Commander would find a girlfriend. What I wouldn't have expected is for her to actually have any sense of fashion, that outfit's gorgeous."
"Well, I'm not sure pretty things are quite the way to go - I'm actually quite skilled at illusions, I can keep them up even while I'm asleep, so whatever pretty thing I see I can just have." She gestures in the direction of her ears and gets a new set of pretty earrings matching her outfit. "All of my clothes are illusions," she adds, almost as an afterthought.
"It's actually something halfway between those!" She fiddles with her right earring and removes it, then dispels the illusion over it, revealing it as a small, plain, golden earring with a white crystal embedded. "I do have some real physical jewellery, but it doesn't have the protective enchantments itself. It has a, let's call it anchoring enchantment. It's connected to a set of enchanted gear back somewhere safe, and so long as I keep the appropriate illusion over it my set of illusion clothing behaves just as if it was itself enchanted!" She seems very proud of this for some reason.
"Oh! Oh I see! That's very clever, then you don't need to worry about repairing it or cleaning it or anything. And clearly the anchoring enchantment is covered and protected by the enchantments it duplicates, because I'm not seeing any obviously weak points for dispelling the entire illusion. Though you might have more trouble with some of a necromancer's enchantment removal, they're better at brute forcing than mesmers are and with enough focus could..."
Vetareh realizes Kasmeer's girlfriend is a necromancer. She trails off.
"... That's a feature, not a mistake, isn't it," she realizes out loud.
Vetareh clears her throat and tries fruitlessly to forget this tidbit of information about Kasmeer and Marjory's sex life. It is very much in vain. In fact, it is burned into her mind forever, and she is terribly jealous she wants to do that too! Why are James' friends so hot and surprisingly kinky!! It's not fair, he was the one that wanted to do polyamory, why is she surrounded by hot people with clever magical ideas!!!! She doesn't even want to make passes at any of his hot friends right now, that sounds too complicated and messy and she would really rather wait for her thing with James to be more settled, but, but, the universe needs to stop conspiring to immediately discredit her thoughts about herself, okay!!!!
"That'd be nice and practical," she agrees, nodding.
She smiles back, then hums thoughtfully.
"Though, ah, I will be the one paying for the sigil if James turns out to not find this whole adventure amusing, so..." she tries to figure out a polite way to phrase 'Please don't break the bank' but fails. Kasmeer can figure it out even if she doesn't manage to finish the sentence, right?
"They're time-limited rather than distance-limited," says original. "And also, I can change the ratios of where I put the magic in them to make them last longer." Kas-clone shatters into rapidly-dissipating magic and then a new one appears, but this one looks more like a purple Kas-ghost than a proper clone. "Intangible, unrealistic, but this lets me redirect a lot of its magic to other relevant things I want out of it."
"Oooo. Is there a reason why it's based on you instead of—well not an image of something that isn't really there, that's obviously much harder than a direct copy—but, say, multiple copies of your staff hitting something? I suppose there you'd be need to be simulating a way for a staff to hit something by itself, whereas with a clone of yourself you can copy precisely what you've already done and have less to personally do yourself, but then, wait how does that work with your clone being able to say things that are different than what you say, or take actions that are different from what you do? I suppose you can set all of that up in advance, but then the question comes 'why clones at all in particular'..."
"Uh, wings, illusionary knives that you throw at people, rocket boots, illusionary darkness, flock of birds that mob people—hm, but those are all situationally specific, aren't they, a clone has an easy base that any mesmer could use with a lot of potential applications, which would make sense when you've got to take the time to write all of your spells on weapons that different mesmers would use. But that's so..." She gestures helplessly. "I acknowledge the benefits and tactical intelligence of it but I am so upset about all mesmers apparently doing clones now!!!"
"The technical term for the transparent ones is phantasm, actually," she says, grinning. "And for what it's worth, even when not writing spells on weapons it's pretty time-saving to just have the general-purpose clone spell memorised to deploy at will. I do have a few of those specific ones, though, when the situation calls for it."
"It's a bit hard to say, without more complete knowledge of the modern standard, but... As far as I can tell my hexes are significantly meaner and more varied, and the modern necromancer has figured out how to spread them with epidemic. Which is quite a change and retroactively justifies my chosen secondary profession even more."
Vetareh giggles, amused. "It works like I'm a necromancer with some of the... most important parts missing? I can't pick up life essence from things dying near me, for example, and I doubt even if I devoted all my time and effort to it that I could match a proper necromancer. It's more of a pale imitation necromancer. Hm, describing how magic feels is tricky, I'd say it's like... cold, brittle ice, or maybe bone, to mesmer's... fuzzy and shifting mist and swirling possibility space. Combine them, yes and no, I can have spells from each pool, and cast them both normally, and sometimes the spells dovetail together nicely, but they don't... mesh together into one spell, the differences are too stark. It'd be worse than trying to combine water and oil, and I can't even.... shake the jar. Proverbially."
"When I picked it, yes, I did, and it was at a shrine to Grenth, but now... no. The hard part was getting the necromancer in there, now that it's in it's quite stable and there's no divine anything involved at all. My father was ascended and could switch secondary professions, it's a pity I don't have him available to relate how that feels like."
"It required ascension, and the list of people that successfully pulled that off was rather short. My father never wanted to get into the details of how he'd done it. I'm not surprised you'd think it was all rumor, for most of the rest of us we were stuck with our choice for the remainder of our lives, like our primary profession."
"Yes. It might be that the figures we're seeing are a result of having killed that one, some... leftover residue that it left behind that we unknowingly absorbed and now can't process in any way but seeing and hearing things. As a very estimated guess that I don't trust to be accurate, mind."
.... Vetareh is woefully out of touch with modern magic and what sigils would be good sigils! But she's very curious, happy to hold things, and understands a lot of the underlying theory, so she makes a pretty good soundboard for whatever Kasmeer might be thinking. Actually, on the whole, this probably makes her a much better shopping companion than any who would have any annoying opinions that might get in Kasmeer's way.
A sigil is eventually found. This complete, they can wrap up the shopping trip and go find James to pay for it, and also to get into solving that whole... alarming unprecedented magical thing that might kill them or drive them mad that they’ve got going on.
Her mouth twitches at the re-emergence of ‘kidnapped.’
“Not as such, no. We’d finished the only strong plan for the day, I was impatient about getting ‘Hello your majesty I am what I say I am, and my boyfriend is not my pawn in a mad bid for your kingdom’ out of the way. If I had to guess where he went, it’d be the Order of Whispers, though to be honest my plan was to have Taimi call him.”
“Don’t bother, I imagine James took great glee in getting to moonlight as your minion and take me by surprise,” she rolls her eyes, fondly. “He’s incorrigible and would only be sorry he didn’t get to see my reaction. Well. Thank you very much, Taimi. Could you direct us to James, please, he and I have a bit of an... unprecedented magical affliction going on. Making us see and hear things, might drive us slowly mad, you know, the usual. We might need to borrow a bit of your lab to figure it out, depending on what his secretive organization knows.”
“Hi, James! Thank you for the communicator, It was very thoughtful. Along with your gift to Kasmeer, very practical, it was three gold, fifty-four silver, you’re welcome. We’re friends now, she’s very charming and clever. Where are you, or, no actually where should we meet up, we should get to figuring out our magical seeing things affliction sooner rather than later. I’m thinking it was likely the thing we killed when I first fell out of the Mists.”
“If you say so. I wouldn’t mind if it made your spy friends less jumpy and stabby. Anyway, going now.”
She has by now located the communicator hidden on her person. Very subtle, good job, James, she’s not even sure when or how he planted it. Is there an off switch of some kind? Or a hang up button?
Of course not. So Taimi's going to be listening in to every conversation she makes, which is not terrible, but still needs fixing. She reattaches the communicator to a different place, this time on the inside of her collar instead of the sneaky location James hid it at before.
"Well thank you for stealing me, Kasmeer. I can try to sneak you in with some kind of excuse for the Order of Whispers, or I can try to ask any questions you particularly want to know the answer to for you?"
Her boyfriend disappearing out of her actual hands is still going to take some getting used to. She's immediately curious about how waypoint system differentiates between people with such precision; she can think of a few different ways that it could pull it off, but having it integrated so neatly with an automated system that works for random people implies—no, no, focus.
To the mysterious unknown place that she has a waypoint thingy for!
Well, she sees why the Order of Whispers would want to set up a meeting location here; it's rather nice, if a bit chilly. Fortunately for her, her rather skimpy attire is enchanted to warm her, so the cold isn't too bothersome. She makes a mental note to come back here if she decides she needs a good soak in something other than James's bath. As it is now, however, she's on business, not pleasure.
Accordingly, her first order of business is finding and following James to the library. Of nonspecific noun and complete lack of adjectives.
Nonspecific noun and complete lack of adjectives are probably by design. James hugs her then leads her to a nondescript tent where a norn is selling warm pelts with small sigils carved into a corner. "Hail, friend."
"Hail. A pelt for fashion or for the cold?"
"A pelt for warmth and an insignia for knowledge. One for me and one for two," he replies, gesturing towards Vetareh with his head.
She nods. "Then come, and learn."
Oh goodness, they have code phrases! She is so charmed. This is atrociously adorable. It is bad form to giggle at the spies doing the most ridiculously overblown spy speak she has ever heard, so she doesn't, but she cannot actually repress her smile. The Order of Whispers is, apparently, an order of dorks. That's it, that's what's going on here, that's why they're so secretive. They are a bunch of incorrigible dorks reciting spy phrases to each other and visiting each other at libraries nestled near hot springs and describing the whole thing with a lot of vagueness and nonspecific nouns. She should probably take this more seriously, and reminds herself that the Order of Whispers is a major force for good in the world, and they're probably all very competent and resourceful people and help, they're dorks, they're all dorks, and she loves them and wants to keep them and their adorable spy clubhouse and ridiculously overdramatic code phrases safe.
This reveals a small cave with a wooden door behind it. It is unguarded, but Vetareh will notice it is enchanted and from the way of it it's something really nasty. When the norn touches the handle, her ring reacts to it and temporarily disables the ward, then she opens it for them.
James steps through and, once Vetareh's followed, the norn closes the door behind them. The narrow stone passage is unlit, but enchanted to be navigable anyway. After a little bit more walking and a few choice bifurcations, the passage opens up to a large cave that itself serves as the library. The magical visibility effect in the passage fades once they're out, and the library proper is illuminated by regular torches and lamps rather than anything more obviously magical. There are only a handful of people there, and some of them look up from whatever they're doing to see the newcomers but only one of them starts walking towards them.
"This isn't our main library or headquarters," James explains while he walks. "We just pretend it is so that people stop looking."
Vetareh weathers all of this with perfect grace and dignity, and even thinks some of these precautions aren't laying it on a bit thick. A lot of them, though.... yeah, a bit thick. It's adorable.
"Oh, I see. Are the code phrases not typical, then?" Actually, upon further consideration, she doesn't actually want anything but one specific answer to that question, so she adds, "If they are not, kindly lie to me, I want to pretend that they are regardless because they're terribly charming."
He laughs. "They are absolutely typical, princess. But they tend to be more complicated and less obvious than that."
The enrobed person arrives. "Commander! And you must be the Lady Vetareh," he says, lowering the hood to show a young-looking sylvari of purple-blue hues. "It is a pleasure to meet you."
Being called 'Lady' is weird, but she reminds herself that the actual queen of Kryta did give her the title before she does something embarrassing like 'protest about it.' Instead, Vetareh gives him a proper Orrian curtsy, and replies, "The pleasure's all mine, thank you for having me here on such short notice." Then, more casually: "James, stop straightforwardly telling me the actual answers, you're spoiling all the fun of the secret society."
It's very flattering how many people want to give her a job. She's very flattered.
"Recruiting should probably wait until after we're sure I and the Commander aren't going to be slowly driven mad by visions, you know. Otherwise you might let me in on the various secrets, and then both I and he go, 'Yes! Bwuahaha! With your resources at last we can turn all of Tyria's inhabitants purple!' or something ridiculous like that."
"It is not."
"We'd need to interview you first anyway."
"Don't you collaborate with the Priory anyway?"
"Come on, Commander, do you actually think they share all their resources with us? We don't share it all with them."
"We are the secret society."
"Maybe we should go to them instead to deal with this problem."
"You are coming with me right now." And the sylvari starts striding away from them towards some specific unspecified place.
A few other people greet the Commander on their way to a corner table with lots of reports and sheets of paper strewn about haphazardly, piles of books, ink pens, and the occasional bizarre asuran stone construct.
One of which Elodir reaches for - a flat slab of stone with the shape of a humanlike hand outlined in glowing blue veins. "Place your hand here, please."
He waits a second, then: "Commander, your turn."
James does it too.
Another second. "Okay, this will get an overall reading of your magical signatures. ...I should find another human. Two. A necromancer and a mesmer would be best. Er, be right back." He starts striding towards one of the other members of the Order and muttering under his breath about how he bets those Priory nerds have access to all test subjects whenever they want.
Elodir is adorable, and she smiles accordingly. “Yes. I don’t think it’s easily replicable for anyone else anymore, unless another pantheon of gods shows up to replace the missing human one and helps with the,” she vaguely motions with her hands, “the fiddly soul bits. Though I don’t see why it wouldn’t be possible for mortals to figure it out without them, when I’m less primed to go mad or explode or something I’d be happy to be studied so that bit of lost history could be a bit less lost.”
“Oh, yes, definitely. But they have left, so their neat presents like resurrection and choosing secondary professions are gone with them. But I once had an hour long debate with Lyssa’s avatar about the philosophy and uses of mesmer magic and the nature of illusions. My father spoke to Grenth’s avatar and was actually brought to the Underworld to help out with demon slaying or something.”
"Of course, dear."
Elodir returns, dragging an annoyed-looking asura and a charr.
"Commander," the charr says.
"Commander," agrees the asura. "I trust this is very important? This one," she continues, giving Elodir a look, "seems to think so, but I have learnt to not trust him."
"A wrong lesson to learn if there ever was one," says the sylvari, unashamed.
"Now that is a surprise," says the asura.
"Vetareh and I seem to have been infected with some sort of magical affliction and the Lightbringer," (Elodir huffs when James uses this title), "wanted to use a necromancer and a mesmer as basis to analyse our magical signatures."
"But she's special," the Lightbringer can't help but bring up, "because she has a secondary profession. Given to her by the human gods."
"Is that so?" wonders the charr, turning to examine Vetareh with more attention than before. "I thought they had left."
"It's complicated. In any case, let's stop skipping the introductions here, why don't we?" says James, amused.
The charr snorts. "Agent Nelia Poisonbreaker, at your service," she says, saluting.
"Agent Smipa. A pleasure," the asura adds dryly. "And you're Vetareh, yes? Shall we get the pleasantries out of the way and finish this so I can get back to my work?"
"Please forgive Smipa, I think she has been trying to stop drinking coffee and that has had an effect," says the Lightbringer.
"Yes, yes, good, what do we need to do?" wonders Smipa.
"Just put your hand here, I'll compare your signature to the Commander's and Nelia... well, I'll need to figure out how to tell things apart with Vetareh but I'm sure it won't be a problem."
James grins fondly at Vetareh while the Agents get their signatures collected.
After Elodir is done collecting their data the Agents salute again and return to their work. "Right, then! Let's see what I'll find." He places the device on a little rectangular indent of the wall where it somehow sticks in spite of gravity and then a section of the wall lights up to show a lot of writing going by really fast. "Just a minute, need to boot this up."
It seems to be giving information about the initialisation of various... things? The names seem to be the kinds of things the asura would invent, like "Aetheric Alterator" or "Enormously Massive Data Storage Unit Lite", but if they're referring to any actual physical... things... those things are nowhere visible, or not reacting in any way if so.
After another few seconds, something like a graphical interface not too different from the ones Taimi uses pops up, and Elodir starts quickly tapping various things on the screen. He reaches a point where a diagram of a human shows up, with highlighted glowy points around its body and thin vein-like connections between them. He rotates the diagram and taps various parts with purpose even if the order seems to be random, but the colour of the lights changes as he does that and various diagnostics data appears as he does.
He starts humming tunelessly to himself while that happens, almost but not quite as if he was talking aloud about his thoughts.
Vetareh would actually prefer if he were talking aloud about his thoughts instead of just humming to himself. ... She's getting bored already, trying to figure out what Elodir's doing with little to no context and no outside help is very like how she kept herself amused in the Mists, and she has not had enough time or distance to get completely over it.
This is the point where she'd go snuggle James and have him distract her, but also they're kind of on duty, and she would kind of like to not end up making out (or... other things) in a closet in his adorable secret society's library. Not... that this is what would end up happening, no, no, that would be silly, she and he are far too professional for th—hahaha okay she'll stop lying, it's totally what would happen with the both of them bored and with nothing better to do. Even if they could probably totally get away with it, because he likely knows this place well enough to know all of the out of the way nooks, and she's a mesmer. Great, now she's reminded of Kas's illusionary clothes, that is not helping.
She looks at James. C'mon, one of them has to be reasonable, can't she pass the reasonable stick to him this time...? It's his fault for showing off his pretty face, this was much easier when he was covered in spikes and fire.
By the expression of his girlfriend, with crossed arms and raised eyebrows: yeah, right. That can be their story if anyone else asks, but she knows better. She flicks an illusionary butterfly to land on his nose, just because, then it disappears before anyone else has any chance to spot it.
He’s so cute. He’s so absurdly cute. How can he be this cute, it’s impossible that this much cute can fit in such an intimidating adventuresome person. And yet! It’s there! He’s so cute!!
She makes him one of her illusionary puzzles from the Mists. Here you go, you cutie, figure out how to solve this instead of being bored!
So! The purpose is to move these illusionary rings to get the colors to line up, except the rings are interconnected, and moving one messes up its fellows. It is unfortunately not autonomous, though, she’s the puzzle master and has to move it for him with her mind. But he can poke rings and move his finger and she’ll obligingly move the puzzle bits for him!
She’s long grown bored of this puzzle herself, but operating it for her boyfriend and watching his reactions is very novel, and she doesn’t have much else to do right now.
"Great!" says Vetareh, who shrinks down the puzzle illusion to the size of a copper coin, then tucks it against the inside of James's sleeve. If they get into a fight it'll probably be dissipated from all of the magic flying around, but if they're not going to get into a fight, he has his progress saved until next time they are bored.
"So now what?"
"So you did manage to isolate the problem?"
"In a manner of speaking," Elodir replies cautiously. "It's definitely alien, as in not part of your native magical makeup, but it seems like it's trying to make itself cosier. Here, look." He takes a step to the side to show the screen, which now has a 2D line drawing of a human male with roughly the Commander's build, although any defining characteristics are too fine to be captured by the diagram. There are swirling patterns of light flowing around his body, almost like bloodflow if blood didn't need veins to have its direction set, and there are multiple colours distinguishable there.
The most frequent colour is a dark green, which seems to permeate approximately all of James's body; secondary to that is a dark blue, which - when Elodir slides his finger across the screen and makes the body slowly rotate tridimensionally - seems to be more concentrated on his skin. There is a light green and a soft yellow amongst the other colours, but there is one colour that stands out the most, both because it's brighter than the others - despite being relatively localised to close to his brain - and because it seems to not quite mingle as much as the others. While the other colours flow into and out of each other and sometimes mix and fade, this red seems to be almost set apart from everything else by some invisible membrane. It also behaves weirdly, being more self-contained but at times seeming to try to lash out aggressively down James's throat, at which point the rest of the colours gently push it back up. Some specks and flecks of the red seem to get separated in this process, though, and dissolve into the other colours.
"The colours are artificial, of course," explains the sylvari once he has given them enough time to digest the diagram. "This red one is the foreign one, and it's - actually if the colours were at all accurate it'd be green-white, it's very heavily balanced but a bit skewed towards Destruction and Preservation. I managed to isolate it from the other strands of your personal magic due to how self-contained it seemed to be, compared to everything else."
"Oh, look at that, that'll be tricky," hums Vetareh thoughtfully. "Can't disrupt it without damaging everything else, and even if we did, even just the residue doesn't look like it'd be easily processed by our systems. That'd need to be extracted, probably after finding someone that can shield it so as to cut down on the fallout. Do monks that specialize in protection and enchantment magic still exist?"
"Okay! James, do you have any guardian friends who are one or both of; a longtime friend that would know your magical signature extremely well, or an expert in very very tricky and incredibly niche theories about personal magical auras? Possibly this can more easily solved with modern equipment, so please feel free to tell me if I'm wasting everyone's time, Elodir, but I'm thinking of how I would solve this problem if it were two hundred and something years ago."
"Commander, please," pleads the sylvari, causing James to laugh.
"I told you, she will have to be the one to decide whether to join up." To Vetareh: "I unfortunately do not have any such friends."
"Oh! Right, no, you need, er, okay, so, here." Elodir turns back to the screen. "I think it should be possible to do something simpler than that if you find samples of the original magic - Bloodstone magic, probably, of the right kind. I'm not entirely sure yet how but I think we should be able to... use it... to separate your magic from its magic more cleanly."
"Ooooo, trying to draw it out by tempting it with more of itself to consolidate with! I like it. And if we do it right, it'd work with both of us at the same time, which would be very tidy. But the new ball of magic will probably come alive and try to kill us, since that would be the most likely reaction even if it didn't start out trying to kill us. Which it did. So we'd need something to shield the people present once we killed it again. Otherwise we might get caught in a loop of killing it, redistributing the maddening magic around upon its death, and reforming it to get it off of its latest victims. Just to kill it and start the whole thing over again, hopping that after enough rounds it'll be dispersed enough that we can all finally move on with our lives. But this is an excellent idea, I like it very much."
"Joining the Order of Whispers does mean I get to tease all of the nerds in the big fancy nerd organization about my ancient magical knowledge. Which sounds very fun. And it'd mean more control over what ancient magical knowledge gets released versus what gets leveraged to my benefit. Resurrection signets and the like I'd want to freely release to the world, but I'm pretty sure that a lot of what I know could potentially be very dangerous when combined with modern advances, and I don't even know where they might be. If I joined the Order of Whispers would every secret I know then belong to the Order and need to be guarded with quite as much zeal as other Order secrets? Or would it be up to my own whims?"
Vetareh laughs. “Sure, okay. But I think I will still compare to the Priory now that I’m actually being responsible and negotiating properly, so we should probably solve this problem first. Since negotiations take a while and are unscientific and barely about magic at all.”
"Of course it was," says Vetareh, deadpan. "Welcome back, Elodir, what toys did you bring?"
(Oh no, why did she have to use that phrasing, after her previous conversation with James her mind is immediately going to - well, things that would not be unwelcome in a sexual encounter, nooooo whyyyyyy!)
Okay, so they should have something very sturdy and hopefully not difficult to replace should it get dropped in a volcano or something. Not because they plan to do this, but because this device will be handled by herself and James. And, well. She motions to James to demonstrate, in lieu of trying in words. ("And while I think I'm better about wanton destruction, I don't actually think that's saying all that much.") Difficulty of operation isn't a problem. Axes of sensitivity is the tricky prospect here, but they should focus the most attention towards the principle school of aggression, and flavors of magic that trend towards madness when unstable.
So he proudly presents them with a cube. It has a circular depression on the top which "lights up different colours depending on background magic". It doesn't do much else - it was built exactly for the Commander's type of situation, so it's designed to withstand a lot but doesn't have much of an interface, which would be more fragile than the device itself. Any data it collects can be read by another device, locally in the OoW headquarters, and it's actually quite detailed. It just, well, does need to be read by the specialised bit of equipment here.