Apr 04, 2020 11:00 PM
leareth meets serg in post mage wars valdemar
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"Care about someone, hurt that person, this hurt you," he says sympathetically. "Is hard. I am sorry." More hugs.

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Lionstar very much doesn't want the hugs to stop, but he has to say it. 

"You are not angry?" he whispers into Sakshemar's shoulder. "My actions, nearly destroyed the world. And...I do not regret what I tried to do. I wish I had been smarter, more skilled, I wish it had gone differently, I wish I could go back and do it over and not let Urtho die, but I do not feel guilt for it." Sakshemar needs to know that. Needs to know him. "If the gods think I am a monster, that is their problem, not mine." 

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"You do bad things," he agrees. "Bad mistakes. Good reason. Why I angry? Gods have problem, not I. You friend. You—care for things. Is good. If you monster, I worse. I not make promise to fix all bad things. I not try. I not have good reason for do bad things. I do bad things for stupid reasons."

He's oddly cheerful about this comparison. Also very much still hugging him.

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"I do not think I have ever met anyone else who made such a promise," Lionstar says. He feels weirdly light, and shaky with relief. "I am glad to have you as a friend. And...I have not seen you do any bad things for stupid reasons while I have known you." He raises his eyebrows. "Maybe you have learned things?" 

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"Maybe." He grins. "But also, alone in wet forest with friend for weeks. Where I find bad things to do? Set fire on breakfast? Insult squirrel?"

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Lionstar laughs. 

”I attacked you,” he says, more seriously. “You could have retaliated. You did not.”

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"When we meet? Yes," he says. "But I know you upset! I hear you long way away, very loud upset! Why be angry you attack me, if you so upset and I come near? Is like be angry at water for flow. If not want water on floor, not kick bucket."

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Lionstar laughs again. “Very reasonable. More reasonable than many people would be. You cared and you tried to help.” He stifles a yawn; it’s dusk now. “And maybe we ought to sleep.”

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He nods. "I do first watch," he volunteers.

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Lionstar finds that he’s quite exhausted, and he’s happy to share a final hug with Sakshemar and then curl up next to the fire in their little camp. Which is starting to feel weirdly like a home.

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He keeps watch until some moderately reasonable hour of the night and then makes food and eats some and wakes his friend.

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Lionstar thanks his friend, and eats, and then stands just under the overhanging ledge and watches Sakshemar sleep. And thinks.

He has an ally. What he doesn’t have is a plan.

Take over the continent? Empire-building didn’t go so well last time, and besides, they’re currently two teenagers camping in the woods (even if one of them does have a frightening level of authority. Sakshemar doesn’t want to use that and Lionstar is reluctant to push.) They’ll need to build up to that with smaller-scale schemes.

Maybe he can talk to Sakshemar in the morning and brainstorm some ideas.

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In the morning Sakshemar is cheerful and well-rested and happy to talk about whatever Lionstar would like.

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Lionstar is less well-rested; his head hurts a little. 

"Sakshemar," he says. "I have been trying to think about what to do next. I assume we do not intend to live here in the forest forever." He leans on a tree, looks out at a horizon. "I...wish to continue my mission. Wherever we are, this side of the world is no less flawed than the other." He takes a deep breath. "I am not sure, yet, what are the best specific next steps, but. Will you help?" 

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He nods. "Yes, help," he says. "Very yes help."

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“I am glad.” Lionstar leans against his friend’s shoulder for a moment. “I have ideas,” he says finally. “I was thinking. First, though. Is there any problem here, or among your people - or anywhere on this continent - that you feel a burning need to fix?”

He smiles, brightly. “Because we can start there.”

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...he smiles back.

"What if very hard problem?" he says. "Or—not hard. Is... lift heavy rock is hard, but simple. Rock go up, you done. People problem not like this. People problem have question like 'what is problem' and 'what is fix'. I want..."

He sighs.

"You hear, when I talk important person face, words very..." He raps his knuckles on the stone. "Stiff, like rock? Same words, same way say words, same words together, all same. Important person face talk like this. Is... for Haighlei, change how do thing, only ever at eclipse, only by word of gods or word of king. Other time not change. No change. Never change. Same way say words, same way make clothes, same way build house, same way hunt lion. Same law, same all things. I think very stupid this. I think—if change only by word of king, only in big eclipse important face words all important people listen, change wrong things. Not change things sound stupid, even if important. Change things sound important even if stupid!" He shrugs. "I not have burning need to fix, maybe, but is problem."

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"You describe it very well," Lionstar says thoughtfully. He's impressed. (The fact that he keeps being impressed by Sakshemar indicates that his understanding of the young man is wrong, probably.) "Issues of social policy are more difficult to solve, and the solutions especially challenging to implement. I...need a moment to think." 

Lionstar thinks for a while. Not change things sound stupid, even if important. Change things sound important even if stupid! It's an insightful analysis. 

"Rigid," he offers finally. "That is the word for what you describe. And...yes, it is especially difficult to solve a problem where the root is aversion to change. I am not sure how to approach this."

He turns back to Sakshemar and smiles. "However, I am certain it is possible. We need merely take our time, gathering information and considering options. The first action, I think, is to learn as much as I can from you about the Haighlei culture. I will need to learn Haighlei language as well. What do you think?"

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He nods. "I think good. I teach you things."

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"I would like to hear more about this 'eclipse' where change can be wrought," Lionstar starts. "And you say 'by word of gods' – how do the gods communicate Their will to yo– to the Haighlei people?" He isn't sure whether Sakshemar really considers them his people, at this point. "Also, some background on the political structure and leadership would be quite relevant here." 

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"King say what to change. People say he hear from gods. Maybe this, maybe he make it all up, maybe some both. I think some both. Eclipse is," he gestures at the sky, "one year in twenty, gods cover some of sun. Twenty years, then again. Sometimes other kind but this kind is when king say changes. Gryphon people come here before eclipse before now. Political structure... mm. King is king of all Haighlei, but other kings too, king of only some. All kings do eclipse but Shalaman of Khimbata is most king, other kings have to listen, not say things different than him. My father is... what is word, more far than brother... cousin? My father is cousin of Shalaman. Far, many others closer, but cousin." He does some arithmetic, counting on his fingers and murmuring names and Haighlei genealogical terms under his breath. "Ugh, numbers... forty-six people die, I king of Khimbata and all Haighlei. Also big war if that happen." A reflective pause, then he corrects, "Forty-seven. Uncle have baby this year."

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"I...see." Lionstar longs for pen and paper. For now, he retrieves a bit of charcoal from the firepit, finds a smooth place on the rock wall of their half-cave, and begins sketching out a diagram. He probably ought to learn all of the genealogical terms, they're likely to be relevant to politics, but it sounds tedious and he can put it off to later. 

"It is an empire made up of multiple nation-states," he summarizes, "each with some independent power but ultimately under the control of a capital that is run by this King Shamalan? Is that correct?" He pauses, forming his thoughts. "Could you describe the legal system in some more detail? All I know currently is that Gifts are strongly regulated – by a priesthood, no? And there are truth priests, who I assume have a role in the criminal justice system. What is the relation between the priesthood's power and the King's power?" 

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"Yes, by priest," he agrees. "Truth-priest is," he gives the Haighlei word, "Truthsayer. Very very not many. I think ten in Khimbata. Find truth other ways most time. Law is... so much." He gestures a vague shape in the air which, if it were a stack of books or scrolls, would weigh more than he does. "I see all Haighlei law one time. Not fit on one table. So much. I try read it, almost set fire on instead. Words so much!"

He smiles, then gets serious again.

"Law is for all thing but most thing not touch law, you follow? Is... not-law thing. People know, do this thing this way; see person not do, say wrong, make shame. Then all people do same way, no wrong, no shame, all good. Is sometimes law, sometimes not, but not touch law. No law for how important person face say words, but is right way and wrong way, do right way. Law for clothing, so look at clothing and know what kind of person, know if important—but clothing not touch law, most time. Person wear wrong clothing, other people see, say wrong, make shame, say is wrong by law, but not touch law for this, only make shame until person do right. Many many law like this. Touch law only when—big wrong by law, or when small wrong but person not stop."

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"I think I follow. The Haighlei do have an extremely detailed written law, but in terms of enforcement, most minor transgressions are not brought to courts or judges," do they have courts or judges, he can't remember if he explained the vocabulary and he would have to do some thinking on how to do so, "but are maintained by strong social custom and shaming?" 

Lionstar frowns. "Harder to fix than broken laws. It sounds as though, even if we were somehow to change the laws, the customs would not necessarily follow." Wait. Go back to... "What about the eclipse? Does that ever lead to large changes in what is considered right?" 

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He nods. "Yes. Eclipse come, king change law, new law is right, old law wrong. Some people complain, but all people know." A thoughtful pause. "But king understand, I think, what change people want and not want. Not do too big change. If next eclipse king say he marry servant's child and lion hunt now wrong by law, I think people say he wrong, too stupid to hear gods, need better king."

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