Sep 29, 2020 9:22 AM
Raafi falls into the Sunless Skies
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"That's excellent news! Come in, I can at least offer you some tea. I heard a rumor that you're responsible for smothering the fire more quickly, by creating some kind of construct-"

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"Water elementals, actually, they're living creatures."

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"Your abilities seem stronger all the time! Creating allies is news to me. Only very powerful beings can do that sort of thing here. Unless I'm misunderstanding?" She heads into the photography studio.

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"A bit, yes. I didn't create them, I summoned them, and my magic is only strong enough to keep them here for a few minutes. They'll be back in the elemental plane of water going about their business by now."

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The reporter chatters a bit more (she'd like a couple more anecdotes about other places he's been) through the photography session - just a few simple and quick portrait shots - and then says he can expect her article in the New Winchester Gazette in the next few weeks and thanks him so much for his time.

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She can have anecdotes, about the lakedwelling gnomes of Tukuramba (lakedwelling here meaning in the lake, not just on its banks) who taught him to speak the language of water elementals, and about the last time he was called on to help with a fire, when a wildfire on the plains of Kuivis drove a catfolk tribe into the territory of a hostile raptoran flock and he had to negotiate safe passage and keep the catfolk from further upsetting the flock during their stay in addition to tending the wounded and helping manage the fire. (Luckily the raptorans were willing to handle the bulk of the firefighting.)

That done, he wants to go flying; maybe he'll head back to the port and see if his conductor friend wants to come too.

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His captainly friend is very skeptical. "No offense, sir, I'm sure it's quite safe, but I'd rather have steel beneath my feet and glass between me and the sky. I'd advise you to do the same if you wish to travel. Starlight can affect your mind and body."

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"Huh, really? What does it do?"

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"You might find yourself staring in awe and wanting to become fire, or convinced you're a king, or hallucinating things, or feeling like you're an imposter in your own mind, or forgetting things, or raving about something that only makes sense when you're insane. With enough exposure it can change your body - skin like ash, or flesh like glass."

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"Huh. Sounds like I should see if that's something my magic can do anything about. I'd hate to be groundbound forever."

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"The stars are Judgements, you know. Gods, basically. So their light can be unpleasant, even at great distance."

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"That's not how I'm used to gods working at all. Well, I'll look into it, I suppose."

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"I wish you luck in that. If you want to learn more, perhaps look for some academics."

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He nods. "I suppose I'll see you tomorrow, then."

It's probably too late to actually find a scholar to talk to, but he can look around, at least.

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Port Prosper has some schools, but they seem like low-level general education. There's a library, which is closed by now. There's a small subculture in several studios and cafes on the south-west tip of the city called "Bohemians" for some reason, all poets and artists and singers - but that's not quite scholarly either.

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It's not quite scholarly, but bards do often know things, and even common knowledge is new to him. He picks a likely-looking cafe, buys them a round of drinks, and asks them to sing about the stars.

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Here's a festival song about Her Eternal Majesty's triumphing over the King of Hours, the former Judgement of Albion who turned them away in their hour of need and pretty much just held everything in stasis anyway, not allowing his subjects to grow or thrive properly. Here's a ditty naming constellations and warning to stay inside when a particular nebula is bright. Here's a song about how the words of a star are made of fire and light and law, and about how their souls are vaster, vaster.

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He really is going to have to look into this star language thing, isn't he. Later, though, once he knows more about the place.

For now - it doesn't even quite feel like lunchtime, but he'll fix the time offset faster if he tries to get back on schedule; he orders a light dinner and hangs around to see what else they feel like singing about.

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Several songs about the beauty of the Reach, a bawdy ballad about a 'Scandalous Adventuress' who became a pirate queen by implied seduction and discovered a cabal of devil bees (possibly fictional??), several long story-format poems ranging from deliberately-shocking horror at evil deeds to pastel fairy tales of knights and valor, a furious and angry discussion about the differences between neoclassical and neoevangelical art that just barely doesn't come to blows, a mournful song about missing the Neath and the Zee, several very enthusiastic and loud patriotic songs praising London that went on exactly as long as a certain grey-suited man was in the cafe, a Robin Hood story in song form.

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Yep, these sure are some bards.

He stays up only a little later than he usually would, and then goes back to his hotel room to try to nap. In the morning, he does his devotions again - doesn't get any spells, but that's not really unexpected, and he's still got yesterday's. He checks in with the hospital, as he's been doing in the morning, and gets through as much of yesterday's healing list as he can before he gets too groggy to continue; sleeps, prays, grabs something to eat, and decides to take a quick trip to the library before heading over to the port.

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The library would like him to buy a membership, even to browse, and very sternly warns him about taking good care of the books. (It's not that expensive, 5 Sovereigns.)

It's a relatively modest library, one story. Every book has a bright red Ministry of Public Decency stamp on its cover. A mix of fiction, magazines and newspapers and manuals, and nonfiction hardbacks leaning towards the practical sciences. Books regarding the stars, the stars' language, and the nature of the heavens are conspicuously absent or not very helpful. (Though one does call the stars' language the Correspondence, even if it doesn't say much else.) There is a conspicuous lack of anything interesting at all the histories from 1867 to 1871. Books in other languages are also not a thing in this library.

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Of course they want him to pay to see the books, how else would a library support itself? He's used to having the option to buy a day pass, but at that price he's certainly not going to complain, it's a steal compared to what he's used to.

He doesn't want to take too long, so he mostly skims the section on stars, thumbing through the few books on offer to see if any of them are worth reading later, and doesn't look closely enough at the other sections to notice anything missing. He does have a quick look at the religion section, though.

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There are bibles (revised 1904 - newest and most improved edition!), and a few books on other, foreign religions mostly from kind of disdainful anthropological perspectives, and moralizing treatises on ethics and philosophy, and books on how one ought to behave, and a lot of academic handwaving trying to explain away the strange things found in the High Wilderness as All Part Of God's Plan After All. The stars are not gods, but another one of His creations, as evidenced by the fact that they can die at all. Traitor's Wood is obviously home to the grave of a saint.

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Do they rent out books, here? He'd like to rent a couple of them - one of the advice ones, and also one of the ones on a foreign religion.

And then, either way, he'll head out to learn to shoot.

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They'll rent out books, sure. If you're new in town you need to leave a deposit, though.

The loud-voiced hunting captain, Mr. Abernathy, is waiting by the engine-yards - completely sober, today. His vessel is a house-sized thing of steel and wood and glass, with over a dozen cheerful-enough crew working on the interior. There's individual cabins (if small ones for people other than the captain), an engine room, a hold, crawl spaces with more equipment, a galley, and the bridge.

He invites Raafi onto the bridge to observe departure procedures - accounting for fuel and food stores, warming up the boiler and watching the pressure and temperature gauges climb, checking over the outside and inside for anything amiss, testing all the lights and vents and controls, getting clearance from the station's signaller, and then the command to come up to steam and a low vibration and an increasing whine as the locomotive-ship begins pushing forward under its own power.

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