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Generated: Jan 08, 2021 11:24 AM
Post last updated: Jan 08, 2021 11:24 AM
Shadows bend and shape to something new
Xena lands on shaper alistair
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As the first month of summer comes to a close, Alistair puts all of his belongings into his mage dimension, except a single knife he wears on his belt.  He takes the key to his room where he has stayed these last several years down to the buildings owner, and heads out through the city.  He leaves the harbor district, and follows the outer ring of the city until he gets to the main road out of the city, and walks until he finds another road out, not wanting to take the obvious path.  As he leaves the city, walking past farmhouses and barns instead of through the tight packed streets he had become accustomed to, he slowly relaxes, and begins to look around at his surroundings with interest instead of caution.

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And then a woman appears in a swirl of smoke in front of him, stumbling. She's in foreign armor, a sword strapped to one hip and an odd circular weapon to the other.

She gets her feet under her, glancing around sharply.

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Alistair takes a step back, startled.

"Er, hello?" 

He rather suspects that her arrival is much like his own, though she does not seem to come from at all the same native land as he does.

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"Where is this?"

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"Well, we're just outside the city of Rochdale.  If I'm correct, you have no idea where that is.  Were you trying to go somewhere?" He wasn't when he landed here, but she doesn't appear to have just woken up, so her circumstances are probably different than his.

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"No. I was in a fight."

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"Huh.  Where were you, before you ended up here? Did anything weird happen in the fight before you came here?" It would be really weird if this universe was just stealing people at random, but would it be weirder than people sending their opponents to other universes? Unless he's wrong and she's just from another part of this world and got unexpectedly teleported.   What questions will answer that....

"What, if anything, do you know about magic?" he asks, a moment later

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"Well, I was fighting a god. Unexpected things happen sometimes. And magic is used by witches and shamans. I don't use it."

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"Fighting a god.  Huh.  Well, that pretty much confirms that I am right.  You are in another universe." He seems incredibly smug about being right.  After a moment, he realizes that he hasn't introduced himself and the smug look is replaced by mild embarrassment.

"Uh, I'm Alistair.  What's your name?"

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"I'm Xena. Another universe?"

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"Another universe! Different people, different places, different magic, different gods, pretty much everything will probably be different! I have no idea how to get you back."

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"...Huh. That is - stranger than I'd been expecting."

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"It's pretty strange at first.  I like it here, but maybe you won't.  What other questions do you have? I might be able to answer them."  He looks around to see if anyone is coming, but since they seem to be alone he doesn't bother to move them out of the road just yet.

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"Well, I suppose 'what does one do for money' around here wouldn't go amiss. I'm going to need to eat eventually."

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"Well, working the docks gets you some money.  Generally, if you go into the poorer parts of the city and ask for work, someone will have something that needs doing.  Or you could look for jobs escorting merchants, since it sounds like you're good at fighting.  If you prefer to stay away from large settlements, I hear that you'll get a bounty if you kill the creatures that wander the wilderness and tell the nearest town about it, though this is my first time heading out of the city.  That's what I'm planning on doing while I travel, to keep from running out of money." He doesn't mention that the money he has so far was gotten by stealing, it's frowned upon by most people most places and not the best to admit to.

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"Bounties sounds like it'd be the most my speed."

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"Well then, it sounds like walking away from the city and into the wilderness until you find something that needs killing is your best bet! You're welcome to come with me if you like." The city is still easily visible behind him.

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"I might for a time. I'll need more information about this world, if nothing else."

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He begins to walk away from the city again.  "What sort of information?  I've been here a while, and am from a different world myself, so I imagine I'll be able to help you out decently"

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"Who I should expect violence from if I piss them off. What the laws are. Who rules where. How much warning I can expect about laws changing. That sort of thing."

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"Violence from...mostly just criminals, really.  Probably also mages, they aren't likely to be violent for no reason but they vastly outpower anyone without magic if they do decide to get violent. Laws- don't steal, don't attack people, don't kill livestock that doesn't belong to you, don't bother guards with anything that isn't a crime, don't start a riot or do anything that looks like starting a riot.  You're in the Kingdom of Tendren, The border has guards on every road who'll tell you you're leaving, but I don't know much about neighboring country.  The Kingdom of Tendren is ruled by King Delmon, and then different duchies are ruled over by different dukes.  The laws stay mostly the same as long as there's one duke or king in charge, and and they don't change out very often." She may at this point get the impression that he doesn't pay particularly careful attention to the laws or rulers of the place where he lives.

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"Any way criminals and mages tend to distinguish themselves?"

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"Mages tend to wear blue robes, with various patterns depending on their jobs- if it's mostly white with some blue embroidery, that's an apprentice, they won't be very powerful, If it's blue with white trim and embroidery that's someone seeking out mage kids, and they won't start a fight unless you interfere with that, anyone else is both way more powerful and more likely to start a fight.  Criminals mostly distinguish themselves by doing crime, but if there's someone carrying a weapon and being obviously avoided, they're probably a threat.  Anyone ambushes you on the road or something, they're a criminal.  Do criminals where you're from tend to visibly distinguish themselves?"  

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"Warlords and their top lieutenants tend to mark themselves, yes, though how much they could be said to be 'criminals' versus 'a very violent government' is debatable."

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"That definitely isn't the sort of problem there is around here.  I could give you more specifics if you were headed into Rochdale, but criminal groups that do mark themselves try to do it discretely enough the city guard can't use it to round them up, so it varies by city, and most criminals acting on their own don't mark themselves."

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"That's fine, then."

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Alistair allows the conversation to fall into silence as they walk away from the city.  After about an hour of walking, the road they are on branches in two, one about the size of the road as it has been so far, and one more of a path, but clearly still a public road, with a faded sign marking them both.  
"So, do you have any preference which way we go? I'm inclined to take the narrower road, but it's less likely to have inns along it and we're more likely to need to stay in someone's barn."

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"Narrower works for me. Fewer people to deal with while I'm getting used to this world."

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So they take the narrower road.  There are more forests and less farms then there were before.  After about an hour of walking, Alistair mindlessly gets an apple from, apparently, thin air, and begins to munch on it.

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"How did you make that appear?"

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Fuck, he didn't even think about it, he could have hidden that if he'd thought about it at all.
"Uh.  I. Pulled it out of my." It's probably a bad idea to mislead her further, she's gonna figure it out eventually now.  "Mage dimension."

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"Mage dimension?"

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"Mage's get mage energy from a separate dimension and use it to do magic.  Stuff can also be put in it and pulled out." She's got to have figured it out by now, but he really doesn't want to actually say the words 'I'm a mage' until he has to.

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"Can anyone use mage energy, or only mages?"

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"Only mages.  That's what makes you a mage." Yeah she's totally figured it out. Fuck.  Now he's got to figure out how to explain that he's an illegal mage.

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"So chances of me figuring it out are pretty low?"

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She's not going to make a fuss about it! He should probably mention the illegal mage thing anyway so she doesn't accidentally turn him in, though.

"I mean, I didn't have it until I got dropped on this world, I could help you feel out if you have one now? Also, the mage council swoops up all the mage kids and it's super illegal to do types of magic other than what they teach, and impossible to learn the magic they teach from anyone not with the mage council." 

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"Of course they're trying to keep power centered in their own hands."

"How do I tell if I have mage energy?"

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"Try putting something into a mage dimension? That's the first thing I did with magic, and I didn't mean to and it isn't technically magic anyway, but just hold something in your hand and want to put it away, or hide it."

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She flips a small knife into her hand, focusing on wanting to hide it away.

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She feels the knife move in a direction she was not previously aware of existing.  It vanishes, but now that she is aware of the direction it went in, she can feel the connection, and could probably pull it back out.

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Huh.

She tries that.

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She gets the knife! She gets something else too.  Something that feels almost like a gust of wind and static electricity mixed together.  It swirls around her hand and her knife and then away, in Alistairs direction.

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Alistair feels the mage energy hit him and grabs onto it, attaches it to a nearby plant.

"Awesome! Be more careful when pulling things out of your mage dimension in the future, you got some mage energy with it, and ambient mage energy can fuck things up."

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"How do I control it, then?"

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"For just pulling things out, make sure you concentrate more on the item and not on the connection to the mage dimension.  When actually pulling out mage energy, have an idea of what you want to do ahead of time, and as you pull it out try and tell it to do that thing, so that you direct it before you lose control of it- grabbing control of it once you've already lost it is harder than controlling it in the first place."

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She nods, and tries to repeat the trick, this time only wanting the knife itself...

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The knife appears in her hand! There is no sensation like wind and static this time.

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Good.

Can she put the knife away even when she's not touching it?

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Where does she put it to try this?

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On the ground.

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It does not go.

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"Hm. Do I usually need to be holding it?"

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"Yeah, usually.  It's possible to learn to do it from a distance but you have to practice.  Start by trying to put it away while touching it through something, like by putting it in a bag and touching it through the bag."

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She tries putting it in her pocket, and touching it through that."

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It won't go at first, but if she keeps trying for about 5 minutes eventually it will go.

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She's pretty stubborn, fortunately.

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Then she will be able to move things she is indirectly touching into her mage dimension!

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"Cool! It seems like you got it! It should get easier the more you do it, but don't bet on being able to manage more distance while you're still working on this stage." Just to show off, he tosses a rock in the air and moves it to his mage dimension mid-air.

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"I won't get too far ahead of myself."

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"Well, we should probably keep moving.  You can practice as we walk.  If you don't care about sleeping in a house, I do have camping supplies with me." He hadn't mentioned it before, since he is visibly carrying very little, but since she knows he's a mage, there's no point in trying to arrange to sleep in someone's barn to hide that he brought stuff.

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"I don't care, no."

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Alistair will keep walking until close to sunset, at which point he will head away from the road and begin pulling out camping supplies and getting set up.

"We're enough in the middle of no where that it's probably not that safe to both sleep at the same time, do you want first watch or should I take it?" 

Alistair is so glad that he spent so much time reading fantasy adventure novels before he got dropped on this world.  It seemed like a waste of time at the time but now he gets to seem like he has any idea what he's doing.

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"I sleep lightly - both of us sleeping at the same time is less dangerous than both of us being exhausted tomorrow, unless this world is plagued by night monsters."

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"I guess if you're sure you're a really light sleeper."

She probably knows more than him.  And he probably failed at looking like he knew what he was doing at all.  Maybe he can set up some kind of magic alarm? If he just....there.  If anything crosses that line 20 feet out from the camp, it should alert him, and wake him up if he's asleep.  He should have thought of that in the first place

"I set up an alarm, no one can come within 20 feet of the camp without me knowing."

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"Useful. Will it let you know quietly?"

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"Yeah, it's just in my head, but it'll wake me up if I'm asleep."

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"Convenient. How easy is that to learn?"

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"You don't so much learn it as make it up! It'll take me longer to do stuff less like stuff I've done before, because I won't be able to tell when it's been done right, but I've done both alarms and stuff involving setting up a perimeter before, so I know what those things feel like.  When you do magic the way I do, which is not the way the mages who work for the mage council do it, it's about learning how to shape the magic, not about learning specific spells.  I don't know much about the way the mage council does it, but I think it at least sometimes involves spells."

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"Learning the feel of things sounds more my style, anyways."

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"You should go ahead and try something! Something simple, and small."

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Hmmm, what would be useful... Creating hot embers? Finding flint and tinder can sometimes be a pain...

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The first attempt will get her a very hot rock, and a bunch of ambient mage energy, which flows away from her and causes a frog to appear suddenly.

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"Huh..." She squints at the frog. Does it seem normal?

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It ribbits once and hops off.  Nothing about it seems particularly odd.

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"Magic often make animals?"

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"Mage energy that gets loose and no one is controlling just does random stuff.  Sometimes it hits something and changes something about it, or does some sort of weather effect, and yeah, sometimes animals.  I've been practicing sorta anchoring it on my surroundings so I know that whatever it does it will do to whatever I anchored it to."

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"That seems like an odd subset of 'random.'"

"How do you anchor it?"

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"I was just listing off a handful of things I've seen happen.  Uh, I anchor it by feeling the magic and pushing it to be attached to something."

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"Something solid?"

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"I mean, I guess you could anchor it to something that isn't solid, but it probably wouldn't help- if you tried to anchor it to empty space it would attach to the air and float away just like if you hadn't tried to anchor it"

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"...Does anchoring still work in less real realms?"

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"Less...real?"

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"Like - you wouldn't know who Morpheus was... Like the realm of dreams?"

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"The realm of dreams? Is that a thing where you're from, you go to another realm when you dream? I think I've heard the name Morpheus before, in the world I was in before..."

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"He's the god of dreams. Mortals go to his realm when they sleep, but there's other ways to enter it. Reality is - odd - there."

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"Yeah, neither this world or the world I came from have other realms, I have no idea how tying down mage energy would work there, or even how magic would work there."

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"Magic where I'm from works normally, for the most part, though sometimes the... Rules of engagement, of sorts, are different."

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"Yeah, but the magic is different! Maybe it would work just like normal, but maybe it would just totally break!"

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"It'd be an experiment, at least."

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"And a pretty fun one! We should get to sleep soon so we can get moving early tomorrow"

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"Alright."

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The night passes uneventfully.  Alistair rises at first light the next morning and begins shoving his camping gear into his mage dimension.

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She spends more time practicing with magic. She appears to not need as much sleep as him.

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He spends a moment taking down the perimeter alarm he set up. 

"Good morning!  Ready to head out? Uh, do you have any food with you?"

He pulls a loaf of bread out of thin air and, a moment later, a ludicrously fancy bread knife.  He slices off a slice of the bread and begins eating it.

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"Some travel rations."

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"Want some bread? Or cheese? I think I might have a few sausages"

He does not bother to finish chewing before speaking.  He does pull out a block of cheese and a different, though equally fancy, knife that he uses to cut it.

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She takes a few foods from him, mostly bread and cheese.

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He hands them over happily, and then the remainder vanish from his hands, along with the knife.  He takes off walking again.

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She follows. "Where are we headed?"

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"We've gotta get at least another days walk away from the city before we're enough in the wilderness for monster-hunting to be profitable.  I was gonna walk today, and if we hit a town near the end of the day stop there, and if not, walk the next day until we hit a town, and then collect the bounties on monsters within a days walk of the town for a bit"

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"That seems workable, at least while I get accustomed to this world."

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He leads onward for the rest of the day, which is uneventful again.  The day comes to a close without finding a town, and the night passes uneventfully, but it is barely past noon of the third day when they come upon a small town.

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"Looks promising."

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"You wanna ask around about monsters they need killed, or just find an inn, reserve a room, and head out hunting?"

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"Let's ask around. It'll be valuable information, if nothing else."

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"Alright!"

He leads her into a building with a faded sign out front that seems to have once read "Frog Tavern".  Inside is a bar, open but mostly empty this time of day.  He walks up to the man standing at the bar.

"How much for a cider and a bowl of stew?"

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"Five pence" the man grunts.

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Alistair pulls 7 small coins from his pocket and drops them on the bar, then sits down to wait for his food.

"Had any trouble with monsters around here lately?" he asks as the man works.

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"Hm.  Been somethin' nosin' around an' makin' a racket in my neighbors chickens these past few nights, I s'pose.  Old Man Jones, down by the river, says somethin's been in his garden, but he's hardly ever in there himself so I hardly see how he'd know" the man replies as he works

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"Any damage to anything?"

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"Dunno 'bout Old Man Jones, but my neighbor hasn't lost anythin' but chickens.  Though, come to think of it, there is that one sign down on the Old Road, the one goin' east, falls over again just about every night."

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"How long's it been falling over for?"

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"Just about a month now."

 

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"Does anyone ever go down that road at night?"

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"No reason to, really, there's nothin' that way til you get to Cayron City, and that's three days out by horse."

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Sounds like foxes and bored teenagers to her.

"Has anyone ever noticed tracks?"

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"Not that I've heard of.  Probably you should ask some of the hunters around here, there's a market tomorrow, and plenty of people come in here in the evenings."

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"Alright. Thanks."

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"You're welcome."

He sets the food and cider on the table in front of Alistair.

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Alistair begins to eat.

"When did your neighbors chickens start being bothered?"

 

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"A week ago, just about."

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"Where do the children like to play around here?"

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"Oh, down by the river, mostly"

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He turns to Xena.

"Want some lunch? I'll pay.  We should head towards the river after we finish lunch."

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"That works for me."

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He finishes his food and cider, and hops up from his seat.

"Thanks for the food!"

He walks out and heads down to the river.

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At the river there are a group of kids playing, laughing as the run through the water.  There is an overgrown garden at the next turn in the river, barely visible.

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She watches the kids, looking for a good spot to interrupt their game.

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The kids don't seem to be playing anything terribly organized at the moment, seeming instead to be running around freely, perhaps trying to shove each other under.  There's a few of them sitting off to one side, seeming less interested in playing in the water than in trying to construct figures from the mud, with limited success. 

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She approaches one of the children sitting off to the side, who seems more inclined to observing the world around them.

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The kid looks up at her, a little wary.

"Hullo, Ma'am"

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"Hello," she says, sitting down a small distance away, posture relaxed and friendly. "I'm Xena, a warrior princess from very far away. I'd like to talk a little bit, if you have some free time."

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The kid looks interested.  "A warrior princess? What's that like? Where're you princess of?"

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"I'm princess of a land called Amphipolis. And being a warrior princess means I travel a lot, helping people."

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"Not fighting monsters to defend your land?" The kid sounds a little disappointed. 

"I've never heard of Amphibolis."

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"I spent a very long time fighting monsters to defend my land, but then they all became very scared of me and ran away, so now I'm looking for other places with monsters so I can help."

"And I hadn't heard of here, before I came here."

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"You must be the bestest warrior princess if all the monsters got so scared of you they ran away!  You're here to fight our monsters? There's a monster in the stream, it attacked Haraald this morning but he got out just in time, it was really scary and made of leaves and mud and it grabbed his foot and we all had to work together to pull him away from it!!"

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"It sounds like you were all very brave, protecting your friend."

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"Yeah! It had teeth that looked like sticks but it bit with them! He's over there, he can show you where it bit him!" She points at a boy further down the river.

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"Thank you. I'll make sure to get rid of that monster, okay?"

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"Thank you!" She goes back to building a house out of mud, to limited success.

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And she heads to the other boy.

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He looks up as she approaches.

"Whaddaya want."

He seems much grumpier.

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"I'd heard there was a monster."

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"Yeah.  It bit me!" He still seems grumpy, but he pulls his pant leg up to show her something that definitely looks like a bite mark.

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"Wow - you must have been quite brave," she says, taking a more thorough glance at the bite and trying to evaluate if it needs medical attention.

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"Yeah! I even tried to kick it!" Telling him he was brave seems to have improved his mood somewhat.  The bite is not actively bleeding at this point, but there is mud and bits of wood inside the bite, and it's likely to get infected if not cleaned soon.

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"Very impressive. Does the bite still hurt?"

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He nods. "'s why I'm not playing."  He grabs a nearby stick and drags it through the mud halfheartedly. 

"There's nothing fun to do when you've got a bite."

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"Do you want help treating it?"

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"Can you fix it? I don't want to tell my mum, cause she'd be mad at me playing in the river when just yesterday somethin got her friend Maemee's chickens and stuck her turnips full o feathers."

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"I can help, though you'll need to keep an eye on it for a few days."

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"I can do that! What're you doin down at the river anyhow, grown-ups hardly ever come down here."

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"I was looking for strange things - I'd heard about something going after people's chickens and the like..."

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"That was probly the same monster that got me."

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Alistair stops looking around and walks down to join Xena.

"A monster got you? What are the other kids still doing in the river then?"

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 "Some of em don't believe me and think I'm just being a wimp." he throws a rock at the water. "The rest think they can fight a monster, and it's not like I couldn't get away so probably it's not that scary anyway and they'll get away too if it comes after them."

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Right after he says this, there is a loud splash and a scream from the river.

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She breaks into a full on sprint towards the sound, moving her chakram to her hand.

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There is something in the water.  It looks like a mass of tangled plants and driftwood, but it definitely seems to have grabbed one of the kids who was playing in the water and is trying to pull them under.  They're flailing wildly and trying to get away, but seem to be having little luck.  All of the other children have gotten out of the water, and are yelling and throwing wood and rocks at the creature, which seems to be drawing the wood into itself, though occasionally the rocks will manage to break off pieces of the creature and cause them to float away.  This doesn't seem to bother it.

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She throws her chakram, first, even as she sprints towards the kid. Her chakram's perfectly angled to cut through a thin, load bearing point on the parts entangling the kid - and then her sword's in her hand, and she's moving to hack at the plants and pull the kid to safety.

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The monster goes down easily enough, but as soon as she's got the kid out of the water, it begins to re-form, and rise up out of the water, something it hadn't done before.  One section of the creature, a long tangle of plants with a piece of wood on the end, rises up into the air and falls quickly towards Xena.

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"Watch out! It reformed!" Alistair thinks desperately for something he could do to help in this fight, and settles on setting the main body of the monster on fire.

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She retreats, a bit, yelling for the kids to keep getting away, and fends it off with her sword, analyzing its movements and darting or jumping around when needed.

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The monster sinks into the water to put out the fire.  The attacking limb(?) continues to fall, but it is as easy to chop off the body as it was to free the boy, and now that she's watching, Xena can easily prevent the monster from taking back the pieces she chopped off.  When the monster rises back up from the water to strike out with another limb, it looks somewhat charred. 

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Alistair lights the main body on fire again, and then closes his eyes and begins to concentrate, sometimes moving his hands around in ways that make little sense to someone watching.

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She keeps fighting, fending it off from the shore - never going too far into the water - her sword's keen and she's good at this, she's already adapted to its movements -

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It doesn't take her too much longer to chop it fully to bits.  It's dead before Alistair finishes whatever he's doing.

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He opens his eyes, intending to check the location of the monster, before he puts the magic in place.  He notices that it's already been defeated, and sighs and closes his eyes again.  A few moments later, the river abruptly becomes still and calm again, any last blades of grass from the beast that were still twitching falling still with it.

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"Think that's the end of it?" she calls to him.

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"It should be! You got it before I could do what I meant to so I had to improvise a bit."

He walks towards her and lowers his voice.

"If I'd just released all the magic I was in the middle of using it would have released a ton of ambient magic at once and almost certainly gone off at once, I used it to still the water instead, but that didn't actually burn up all of it."

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"Need something else to do with your magic then?" she asks, voice equally low.

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"I was just gonna tie it off to the top of one of these trees, but if you have something else you need done that would be better."

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"There was an injured kid, earlier, if your magic can do healing?"

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"...Yeah, I can do healing, but it's complicated and tricky and is gonna take me a bit, unless it's something really minor, I've patched up enough of my own little scrapes and bruises to do that much quickly."

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"The wound was deep enough I'm concerned about infection, but not bad enough I'm concerned about bleeding out."

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"It'll take me a bit."

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"I don't mind waiting."

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He walks over to the kid and looks at the injury.  He gets a very concentrated look on his face, and occasionally gestures, and eventually, he touches his hand to the injury briefly, and it quickly heals, leaving no mark.