At the end of the universe- at the end of every universe- there is a bar. Sometimes, the door opens to somewhere besides the grounds or the street. Sometimes, the door opens anywhere, anywhen.
“So, more-or less the opposite of Virtues? Treachery, cruelty, selfishness, and so on? I don’t think we have a way to make sure people don’t do those things, our Princesses were created with harmony magic but one of them still ended up betraying the other.
How does being an advocate-scapegoat work, I don't think we have taking-blame-for-things as a profession or a lifestyle let alone as a whole kind of animal?”
"Suppose someone struggles with the same sin often enough. They can be treachery and cruelty, but they can also be other things. Suppose someone eats meat, because it would too hard to go without. They come to an advocate-scapegoat, who takes responsibility for their failing. Then, they can remain part of the empire."
"I don't think anyone does things that way where we're from but I suppose I can see the logic. Our Princesses ultimately decide what to permit and what to forbid but they're only two horses in the country and they're not really accountable for those decisions. And mayors and lords make decisions more locally but they're basically just ordinary ponies
And your kind of animal is made specifically for that role? Do you know how you're different from other sorts of animal who can think about these sorts of decision?"
"I was wondering why you use the word animal like that. Are only some of the people in your world ponies? Advocate-scapegoats aren't made for our lifepath, we choose it."
"What are people? And didn't you say God created you?"
"In our world, we call all the kinds of things that eat and move animals. Humans are just one kind of animal, but what makes us unique is that we are the only kind that can think. We refer to animals that think as people, but currently there are no others. As far as God- some say they created us, but others say that he created animals and we are simply the only animals that learned to think."
"I mean, you said God created advocate-scapegoats specifically?
We have lots of sorts of animal who can think. Dunno if we have any that can't, 'though some are a lot better at it that others- how do you tell if something can't think or if it's just really bad at it?
But actually I was figuring you were like alicorns, who are ponies but are a special sort of pony that's created by magic instead of being born."
"Oh, well, of course God made the covenant. God gives us covenants to keep. The advocate-scapegoats keep to the newest covenant. I can't be sure which animals are just bad at thinking. Do you think it might be possible to detect this? Our only technique has been watching and listening."
"Hmm. Pretty sure you could make a mind-control spell that only worked on things that could think. There are definitely spells to change what something wants, can you have wanting without thinking?"
"My understanding is that most things which can move and breathe can want, but there could be ways of wanting that are too simple for thinking. What do you mean we you say 'magic' and 'spells'?"
He's not going to pick a fight over it; he isn't an enemy of those who might practice magic.
"Magic's... powers some animals have that don't work like normal physics, I guess? Except there are also inanimate objects that are magical, they're just rarer. And some kinds of animal have magic which can do different things but it takes complicated techniques to do most of them, and those techniques are called 'spells'. Ponies in general have magic where we get a mark on our flanks indicating something we're good at, and unicorns can do telekinesis and also learn spells to do with whatever our special talent is, and I'm also bonded to a magic gem representing loyalty that gives me really powerful magic I don't totally understand yet. I'd have assumed God would have had to use magic to create animals, right?
And you said you're an advocate-scapegoat because of a covenant? how does that work?"
"Not such a convenient translation feature, then. In the empire, we use the word which you're hearing as 'magic' to mean anything that goes against God, so our unnatural abilities aren't considered 'magic'. It that sounds arbitrary and artificial, that's because it it. The world revolves around it. What advocate-scapegoats can do comes from a promise we made to God; he gives us the power to act against nature."
"What did you promise? And what does it let you do?"
"As an advocate-scapegoat, I promised to bear the sins of others. In exchange, God gave me the ability to sin without breaking the other covenants. Sin endangers other covenants because it shows God that we can't be trusted."
"So that's the third covenant? What are the other two? Is people being exiled if they sin part of the covenants or is it separate?"
"There are three covenants that everyone in our empire holds: thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not lie. Because no one in the empire breaks those covenants, we're protected from harsh natural conditions, we can grow healthful food, and we never forget. The rest are optional, but they're very tempting to those of us that like having the power to defy nature."
"And those benefits only apply if no-one in the empire has done those things, unless an advocate-scapegoat has taken responsibility for it? Are the benefits an area effect rather than attached to the particular people who keep the covenants?"
"God forgives sins as long as you repent, but not everyone repents. That's when we come in. Repentance is regretting the sin, and intending not to do it again. The benefits do apply to the area, not just the people, which is one of the benefits of having an empire."
"Yeah, I expect it's pretty hard for predators to intend never to kill again. What covenants are there besides those three and the advocate-scapegoat ones? And you mentioned other magic goes against God; what other sorts of magic does your world have and why doesn't God like it?"
"Ah, this is my sister Shadowstar. Shadow, Satish here was just telling me about his world; apparently only one of their species of animals can think at all and they have covenants with a powerful magical being called God; not killing in exchange from protection from harsh nature, not stealing in exchange for food growing better, not lying in exchange for perfect memory, and other ones that only some people have; Satish takes responsibility for other people doing stuff they're not meant to and in exchange gets leniency."
"The core covenants and the lifepath covenants clearly defy nature, but most people see them as acceptable because all that matters is what God thinks. Killing is magic, stealing is magic, and lying is magic."
"I wonder why the translation magic here's translating things that way. We have killing, lying, and theft but they don't seem to have anything in common with the things we call magic. But Princess Celestia does say friendship's a sort of magic, and that's not obviously any more like the things we normally call magic than stealing and so on are."
"'Anything ordinary people can't do which has outsized physical impacts on reality beyond just ordinary actions'. That's how I would summarize everything we call magic, even if I disagree with most about which things should count."