Orbiting a planet, there is a moon. On that moon, there is a castle. In that castle, there is - well, a lot of things, many of which will become relevant shortly. But for the moment, let's focus on a particular cell: it's stone, with one wall in metal bars and a door hanging slightly open, and it has a wood bench big enough to lie down on in one corner. In that cell, there is - no one, for the moment.
... Jamie tentatively stops growing the bloodburro’s-tail in favor of the aforementioned gibberish gorse. And waits.
After a minute or two, during which the beast disappears around a distant corner without incident, the pain stops. A moment later, the tingling does too and Lane draws back the goop; there's no blood left behind on his skin where it touched.
They take another look at their cards and put down a four of bats.
Yep, those sure were some interesting mushrooms.
The bloodburro’s tail unceremoniously withers away, and he puts down an equine five.
And they can continue passing the time this way until Jamie gets bored or something interrupts them.
The gibberish gorse continues to grow, and grow, and not be particularly audible, and then -
A small salamander - half-succulent and half-animal, on closer inspection - flees the bubble around the gorse, squealing in some surreal and hideous mockery of an agonized human infant - or, possibly, just an authentic imitation of a mildly annoyed cat. It leaps towards Jamie’s face; his carrot-knife is out in a second, and the salamander impales itself on it, squirting some thick green syrup absolutely everywhere and spending a few seconds caterwauling in misery before finally giving in to the bittersweet caress of death.
... Jamie looks at Lane.
Lane looks at Jamie! (From the other side of the bubble, where they are working on stopping hyperventilating.)
Jamie can’t really ask whether salamander goblins are common in the area without -
He can feel the gibberish gorse finish growing; he shakes the salamander off of his carrot knife, and leans into the bubble containing it; it’s grown into a vividly green bush with sharpened spines for leaves, and dozens of toxic yellow flowers, each with a wiggling herbaceous tongue waggling around.
They all talk over each other.
”Your father never -“ “the world will end in -“ “we love you, Jamie, please don’t -“ “which way is it to -“ “do you know the seven names of the dragons, love? -“ “I’ll kill you! I’ll fucking kill you you fucking! -“ “blah, blah, blah blah -“ “for my dinner I’d like the salad, yes I know I -“
He identifies the leading flower of the pack, wipes away salamander too from his hands, and plucks out its tongue, carefully avoiding the bristling spikes; the other flowers fall silent. He eats the tongue; the bush peels itself apart from the inside out, layer by layer, until nothing remains but a faint yellow dust.
He leans back into the main bubble.
They give a mirthless laugh through a few deep breaths. "On what scale? Probably 'no' on most of them, but not in a particularly actionable way - hi! You speak Lyssdianth now; how delightful. What was that. - I have so many questions and I'm sure you do too, but why not start there."
“I take it that the salamander isn’t just a common goblin here, then. It was a goblin. It seemed succulent based. It was plausibly attracted by the gibberish gorse, or might’ve been created by the gibberish gorse interacting with some of your magic - what even is going on with your magic, do you just pick fights with trees off the side of the road and get improbably lucky or are you a witch.”
"I - yes, I'm a witch. Or was. Or something. Why are those the two options you're thinking of - and what do you mean by goblin."
“Miscellaneous critters on a scale from ‘talking pitcher plant’ to ‘flytrap dragon’. Are your magical powers not in fact derived from goblin fruit or heartfruit trees in any way.”
"Yes; I don't know what those are. Different worlds, as I said."
“I didn’t immediately abandon all of my assumptions upon hearing that. You do still have air. And language. And hands. How does your magic work?”
"I mean, you've seen the gist of it; I have a soul, sometimes I put some of it outside of my body for a bit and have it do things. - Rather, I have, hm, about two-thirds of a soul, now, I suppose. How's yours work; what're those terms you mentioned."
Jamie is simultaneously glad that they didn’t make a sarcastic comment about the ‘hands’ bit, and vaguely disappointed.
“From an inside perspective that probably seems sane.
Witches are born from the deaths of heartfruit trees; heartfruit trees are where babies come from, witches are people who can grow goblin fruit, goblin fruit does magic and can grant lasting magical properties, goblins are magic, goblin fruit and goblins also grow in the wild, witches are arguably themselves goblins. There are also vampires. They have traits. They probably won’t come up, except insofar as there’s one back home, my asshole mate, who might prevent me from growing goblin fruit at any time.”
"Right back at you with the 'that probably seems sane' - sorry about your mate, that sounds rough - baby whats."
" - People? Weird. Not the weirdest thing about this, I'll grant you, but....baby people. How does that even work."
“They’re small, fragile, fully dependent humanoids with differing body ratios, comparable to the difference between puppies and adult dogs, and they gradually gain sapience and experience over time. Do you spontaneously appear as adults.”
"You are once again using a term that applies exclusively to animals.
"Sometimes, somebody new walks into town. She doesn't have memories going much earlier than that; she might have some luggage. She might gradually grow taller and more generally capable and somewhat differently proportioned, over a few months or years or octades, or she might start that way, or she might stay smallish. I'm about at the upper end of that," they say, gesturing to themself; they look to be around sixteen or seventeen, "and you're even closer."
(Jamie's comprehension effect will note that the pronoun Lane's using is both feminine and the only one available to refer to humanlike people.)
" - Although I guess there's Lady Arteinal, the previously-mentioned queen; she's taller than any of us and I guess you could probably extrapolate that she's the thing you're referring to."
Linguistic genders are weird and referring to all people in the feminine isn’t especially stranger than having a specific gender for bark; he doesn’t register it as all that notable.
He continues brushing salamander gunk off of his clothing.
“I find that very deeply strange. That isn’t surprising. Does this only happen in one specific town, or do arbitrary urban areas count?“
"Oh, do you have more than one?"
He’s just. He’s just done. His internal monologue can’t even come up with a snappy response to that.
“The empire has over a hundred million people in it.”
"Wow-ee. Is that - have you figured out how to communicate between separate areas, or can you just go a really long way?"
“Could you disentangle what you mean specifically by ‘areas’, and what your impediments to communication and travel typically are. We generally use goblin fruit for both but there are also other methods.”