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Jul 03, 2020 12:08 PM
an Eelesia is the summoned hero
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It starts out like any other wake-cycle in the Silver Shrine, the Last Bastion of the Silvites.

Eefina wakes up in her private apartment, in her soft and comfy sleeping capsule, and stretches as she heads to cleanse herself for the day.

The first strange thing she notices is that the light screen on the way to the dining court is malfunctioning. Instead of decorative scrolling glyphs, it's flickering between flashes of a... drawing of some kind of weird wheeled land-truck?

The second strange thing that happens is the SUDDEN EXPLOSION that destroys the light screen entirely, ripping open the hull of the Silver Shrine and exposing the corridor to the vacuum of space.

Eefina is not prepared for a spacewalk at all.

Decompression sucks her out into the void, and she gets to enjoy an unimpeded and deceptively peaceful view of the planet below for the several long seconds it takes for the nitrogen in her blood to sublimate and wash away her consciousness. Her last thought is that the Silver Shrine, her entire life and world up to this point, looks so very small and fragile in comparison.

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The stars fade out, leaving only empty black. Pain and panic turn to sleepy peace. Who can say how long she was drifting?

Regardless, in the space between breaths, she is drifting no longer. Instead, she's sitting comfortably in one gee, in a soft chair on an elaborate rug on some kind of tower. The landscape all around is terrestrial and bucolic - rolling green hills, pastoral rivers, and friendly-looking forests.

An old woman in a bright floral dress smiles warmly and gestures to a fancy porcelain tea set on a round table between them.

"Would you like some tea before I explain things, dearie?"

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It doesn't actually hurt that much, surprisingly. Her lungs don't even burn.

She doesn't expect to wake up.

She definitely doesn't expect to wake up anywhere besides the Shrine's infirmary.

She's in her usual silver-white dress with the decorative golden circuitry, unhurt. She jumps, her hand flying to her wrist, but Cupil is right where he should be, the polymemetic alloy of his body coiled up around her arm.

She can't think of any plausible chain of events that start with getting blown out into space and end with her... wherever this is. She's never been down to Arcadia but something about this environment doesn't fit with even that.

"Um, tea... sure... tea is... good?"

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She pours two cups of something soothing and slightly minty.

"The unfortunate news is, you have died. I do not know what was next for you, if anything, before fate brought you to me, but now your next destination is something else. I am here to answer your questions and explain."

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This news... has implications, which Eefina will think about later.

"How did this happen? Where are we? Who're you?"

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"Oh, we're in my domain, such as it is. I'm afraid you can't stay very long. The nature of this world is such that there is an imbalance. The powers of two extremes of magic have grown and grown, and a Demon Lord will inevitably arise to threaten another world in another universe, a force of immense darkness and destruction. They could destroy it, left unchecked. Fortunately, the same process that means the rise of a Demon Lord is near also allows the summoning of a Hero - one who is fated to oppose the Demon Lord and receives great power with which to save the world. Why exactly you are fit to be this Hero, I do not know. But I know it means you have something special, be it a clever mind or sheer determination, or something else."

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Something special? Eefina's hand unconsciously goes to her chest, hovering nervously over her Shard of Nothing.

"And I'm... this fated hero?" This is like something right out of one of her Dynamic Novels! "Is this real? This seems like it could only happen in a dream." She pinches herself and yeeps when it hurts. "...what kind of great power? I like to think I'm a pretty talented mooncaster and I've been training in case the Elders needed to send me down to Arcadia after all, but... I'm just some girl."

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"It's as real as I am. I know it might be overwhelming... Well, the nature of the world you're meant to save is very different, but you will have advantages within it - you will learn and grow in the ways that people do very quickly, you will find magic easier to learn, you will have the potential to become truly mighty given time and trials. And you will receive a unique power unlike any other in that world - a power that no other can truly match. I can make it one suited to you in particular. For example, I understand you have magic of your own already? In the normal course of things you would be cut off from it by this transfer, but keeping it in some form is well within the remit of a Unique Skill."

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"Cut off from the moons? Um, yes, that, would... make sense. Yes, please, I'd like to keep what I can."

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"I will make it so. I do regret that you're losing what you've known before - all I can do beyond molding your Unique Skill is try to give you context for what comes next."

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"Please do. What is my mission, specifically?"

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"Grow as powerful as you can. Gather Skills, materials, and allies. Prepare for the rise of the Demon Lord, find them, and defeat them so that they cannot bring ruin and death and an age of darkness to the world."

Tea Lady explains the basic idea of Skills, Dungeons, and the Winds of Magic (especially their sometimes-metaphorical nature) while she's at it.

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This is both fascinating and fascinatingly familiar.

"Are the fundamental principles of this world narratively derivable or are they instead derived from narrative? Are writers of stories tapping into something deeper or is there a sort of convergent memetic evolution applicable to the psychology of a creator, do you know?"

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This pause to take some sips of tea is possibly a taken-aback sort of pause.

 

"...You will not be steered too far wrong if you act as though the world follows a certain sort of narrative," she carefully says. "The fundamental nature of this world is something I think best discovered for yourself. And I can offer very little insight on worlds other than my own, I'm afraid."

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"That's interesting too! But okay. I guess that's not something I need to know. What about allies and factions? Do you have leads for me? What things are going to be near my insertion point?"

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"The world is vast, and the number of nations and kingdoms too many to summarize given that your arrival will be somewhat random. You'll appear relatively near civilization, and not in any immediate danger. I loosely suggest you become an adventurer and raid dungeons to grow your skills and power rapidly, but you could take another path and find opportunities there too. If you seek strong allies, look among adventurers - if you seek wise allies, visit universities and colleges. If you wish for true comrades-in-arms, those you meet along your journey are narratively likely candidates."

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"That makes a weird kind of sense. Okay. Is there anything I need to know to get adventurers to take me seriously or to find a dungeon?"

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"I hesitate to give you too much advice - your outside context is part of your suitability as a Hero, and telling you exactly what steps to take robs the world of that chance... Be observant. Your Unique Skill will be powerful, but not necessarily an immediate sign that you are something beyond. Learn to use a weapon before adventuring - I'll nudge things so you find one. Take reasonable risks. Demon Lords can hide quite effectively, some of them. You won't have trouble with languages - being a Hero takes care of that. Claiming the status of Hero would gain you status and power and support, but risks making it obvious to the Demon Lord where you are and what you can do."

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Eefina nods solemnly.

"Okay. I already have a weapon I know how to use, though, so you could maybe nudge something else."

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"He is rather distinctive, but as you wish. Not a weapon."

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"Thanks," she says, petting her wrist. "I think I'm ready, then? Or at least, I'm not going to get readier."

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"In that case, I'll let you finish your tea, and then- Good luck."

 

 

When she seems to be done with the tea, she finds herself on a long wooden bridge, over something that straddles the border between lake and swamp. The edges of the bridge aren't visible. There's a faint and hard-to-identify sort of background noise one way down the bridge.

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Is this nudge-related? Eefina is going to find out!

She smooths down her dress in a habitual motion and goes to investigate the noise.

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It becomes clear that a woman wearing heavy, dark clothing is running down the bridge in her direction! And visible in the distance are what might be more figures, though a slight mist hanging over the bridge somewhat obscures them. The figures in the distance are what's making that noise, which is almost like a lot of really heavy footsteps.

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Hm, what's going on here?

Eefina doesn't jump to conclusions. She peers at the woman, and at the figures behind her. What are they feeling? Does the woman look angry, anticipatory, scared, bored? What about the figure behind her, are they following, chasing, or something else?

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The figures in the distance are too far to make out any detail on- They don't even quite look human.

The woman is scared and tired. She's a few hundred feet away - sees Eefina, glances backward, curses, and turns to head for the side of the bridge and look down, as if wondering whether to leap over.

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