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Apr 04, 2020 11:27 PM
Leareth in Cascadia
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Leareth is baffled as to why God would bother to ban wizardry in a world that lacks magic. Is he not the first mage to be accidentally slipped in from some other world? Since Lev is nearby, Leareth goes ahead and asks him. 

While he's at it, he's also curious what leprosy is and whether it's still a problem. The word is unfamiliar to him and he doesn't recognize the descriptions. He assumes an advanced civilization would have dealt with it by now but he doesn't know much about the state of medicine here.

And what about the holidays and various other highly specific laws, for example regarding diet and clothing? If they're still in practice, he hasn't observed any sign of it, but it could be important cultural context for avoiding standing out. 

Leareth makes several additions to the 'proof that God is evil' tally, not that it needs more items, 'Hell exists' is sufficiently weighty all by itself. 

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:Uh, I think it's like... summoning demons? Not magic like the kind you do. Leprosy in the Bible is a word used to refer to all kinds of rashes and mold-- that's why a house can get leprosy-- and now we know that those are a bunch of different things. The holidays and highly specific laws are practiced by Jewish people-- the descendants of the Israelites-- but not by Christians. When Jesus came, He commanded us to continue to follow the moral law but not to follow the ceremonial laws.:

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:...How much more of this is left before I reach the part about Jesus?: Leareth is a fast reader and he isn't in that much of a hurry, but he's starting to find the Bible a bit tedious. Also, they're down to two hours before sunset, and at some point he needs to switch from background reading to plotting their approach. :Is there an abridged version?: 

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:A lot, the part about Jesus is the New Testament. Uh, I'm not... sure... that there is? I guess missionaries might have something. You could try reading Mark, maybe? Mark is short.:

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:Good, I will do that for the next–: he glances at the clock, :hour, and then we can make plans for talking to Asher. You know him better so perhaps you can think over what approach might be convincing to him: 

Leareth hunts through until he finds 'Mark'. He's remembering Lev's short version, which he jotted down later in his notes: In order to reconcile God to us and let us go to Heaven, God incarnated as a human being called Jesus Christ. He was tortured to death on a cross, and after three days he came back to life. Now, as long as you have faith in Him, you will be saved and go to Heaven.

Maybe Mark will explain better the details of how that worked, but he's not hopeful at this point. Based on His writing to date, God is terrible at writing explanations that make sense from a human perspective.

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Jesus wanders around collecting disciples, performing miracles and giving sermons. He teaches that divorce is wrong, that young children are models for sinless behavior, that rich men shall not enter the kingdom of God, that you should obey the government, that loving your neighbor is the most important commandment, and that the end of days will come bringing God's retribution on the unjust and the return of the Messiah. Jesus institutes a sort of pseudo-cannibalistic ritual, is tried for blasphemy, declares himself to be the son of God, is crucified, dies, and is buried. Three days later he appears resurrected.

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This doesn't provide much clarity.

Leareth thinks it is incredibly self-evident that children are NOT models for sinless behavior, and are instead at a developmental stage where it doesn't make sense to level moral judgment against them for acts of selfishness. (Not that Leareth is pro moral judgment in general, but he groks the societal purpose of deontological and virtue-ethics-based moral systems, as simplified heuristics that people can coordinate around).

The pseudo-cannibalistic ritual, combined with the literal death and resurrection of a god incarnated in mortal form, definitely sounds like blood-magic, at least in a thematic sort of way. Leareth hasn't actually tested whether blood-magic works here, although presumably it does – his Othersenses show Lev as having a glow of life-force, and people here have spirits that can be separated from their bodies. (Leareth's current best understanding of blood-magic in his world is that it involves releasing the energy that holds a body and soul together, although he could be wrong.) 

Note: find a way to test whether the symbolic-Jesus-cannibalism ritual involves some kind of blood-power-fueled magical binding or compulsion. He wouldn't put it past Lev's God to sneak in something like that. 

It's an hour to sunset, though, so first he should go find Lev and finalize their plan to meet Asher. 

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Lev is getting some work done!

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Leareth stands in the doorway and waits. Finally, out of curiosity, he reaches out and brushes Lev's surface thoughts, at the same time as he clears his throat. :Lev, we need to plan and then go: 

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Lev's surface thoughts are entirely consumed with trying to understand the research on whether operantly conditioning a phobia is easier if it is a phobia humans are predisposed to have, which is probably much less horrifying and more interesting if you don't know what he'd be planning on using it for.

Blink blink. 

"Yeah, that's a good idea-- sorry, I lose situational awareness when I'm working, just say something."

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"I understand. The most intelligent people I know are all like that." Leareth leans against the wall. :My thought is that we drive there, and arrange to leave your car some distance away in a place without watchers or cameras, and then I conceal us with an illusion while we approach. I can make contact with Asher using Mindspeech again, and I would suggest we – hmm. Is the area in front of the restaurant under surveillance? If not, I can slip Asher under our illusion as well. If it is, then I can give him directions until we reach a place where it would pass unseen, and then do the same. We can then walk to the nearest restaurant or other place without watchers or listeners, and speak. What do you think?:

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:The area in front of the restaurant has security cameras to detect thieves, but no one is likely to look at it unless they have some specific reason to believe it's important, and even then they'd expect it to be a glitch. This seems like a solid plan.:

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:Let’s go, then:

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Asher is waiting in front of the restaurant. 

Someone invented telepathy. This is very interesting, and does not at all accord with Asher's understanding of physics. 

Perhaps the secret research department was not as much of a boondoggle as Asher had thought 

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Lev parks the car several blocks away. Leareth covers them both with an illusion; moving, it leaves a slight shimmer in the air, but certainly not one that should be noticeable with a camera’s resolution.

Again, Leareth lightly touches Asher’s surface thoughts. :Please remain calm. Start walking, to the left. In a moment you will be invisible: Pause, while he weaves together the illusion; it’s starting to strain his concentration, holding both. :There. Keep walking. You are now invisible, so take caution not to collide with anybody else, since this would be rather suspicious:

Leareth is awfully curious what Asher’s reaction will be to the invisibility, and whether he’ll find it more or less surprising than telepathy.

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:We are significantly more technologically advanced than I thought. Or you're magic.:

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:Well, I am very impressed that you figured out how to answer with no instruction: Leareth is smiling to himself. :We are going to relocate to a better place for conversation, and then I will explain: He pauses to reach for Lev’s mind. :Remind me where we had decided was a good place to stop?:

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There's a park a few blocks away with no people and only a few cameras. 

(Lev is curious whether Leareth is familiar with parks; in their world parks mostly started existing in the nineteenth century as, for complicated reasons, a product of anti-immigrant sentiment.)

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Leareth is happy to assuage Lev’s curiosity. :We have public places in our cities, monuments or fountains and suchlike, but I am not sure this is analogous. What is the connection here with immigrants?:

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:They were invented to try to civilize immigrants with the power of nature. Didn't super work. We kept them around because if you live in a city it's nice to have a place to do sports and go on walks and have picnics.:

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:An intriguing idea: Perhaps worth introducing at home. 

...And now they're at the park, and Leareth mentally instructs Asher toward a particular bench, and then drops the illusions. They don't take a lot of power, magically speaking, but he doesn't have much to spare either, and they do take ongoing mental effort, as does holding a three-way conversation in Mindspeech with two non-Thoughtsensers. 

(He does, however, keep his Thoughtsensing open and a light probe on Asher's surface thoughts.) 

"Thank you for venturing to meet us," he says, while he weaves some light tripwire-wards around the perimeter of the park. They won't stop anyone from entering, that would take far too much energy and be conspicuous, but they'll have warning.

"Your second guess was correct," Leareth says. "I have magical abilities. This is because I am from another world, and through some accident have ended up here." 

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"...you're consorting with demons?"

Asher is not going to fuck with demons. He's not a perfect person but he's assured of his salvation and he is not going to do anything that involves any demons

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Leareth conceals a sigh. 

"No. have not had any engagement with demons of my world aside from banishing them; also, I am fairly sure they are not at all the same beings as demons from your world, given that it would be stupid and unhelpful to 'consort' with one. At this point, I doubt that my world even shares the same God as yours. Where I hail from, magic is simply a natural force and some people are born with the potential to wield it. Lev has also had no involvement with demons, in terms of my arrival here, which I believe to be the result of a magical experiment that went awry." 

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Asher is completely fucking aware that people can lie about consorting with demons! And there are two sources of magical power which are God and Satan and this sure does not sound like someone who is talking to God.

He begins to come up with a lie for Leareth, pauses, thinks about it, and says:

"...I assume you're reading my mind right now."

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"Well, yes. I am not a fool, and it would be stupid not to, given that we are going out on a limb here. I may consider agreeing to stop once I am more confident you will not betray us. Note that this is not the only precaution I am taking." (Mostly true; the wards are the only other precaution that he's currently taking, though he did use Thoughtsensing to check that nobody was following them, but there are a number of other options he can pull out if he's willing to exhaust himself).

Leareth smiles thinly. "So, Asher. Why do you believe what you believe? What is your reason for thinking that all magic must inevitably come from either your God or Satan?" A pause. "Also, since you are so assured of your salvation, do you think you could clarify for me what the 'God is Goodness, Goodness is God' part means? It is metaphysically very confusing and the Bible has not made it any clearer. You can...sort of try to think the concept at me, if conveying it in words is too complex." 

An aside to Lev: :Do let me know if you think a particular argument would hold weight for him, or feel free to jump in: 

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