Oct 27, 2020 4:59 PM
Raafi falls into the Sunless Skies
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"Higher beings?"

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"You know, humans, devils, pretty low. Rats are the lowest, not havin' souls at all. Scorn-flukes and scrive-spinsters are higher and their souls are shinier and specialer, and right at the top you've got things like Messengers and Judgements, the biggest and most important. To Messengers and Judgements, that is." She peeks her head out of the vent to look at him - she's wearing tiny welding goggles. "Now, it kind of is a chain of gen'ral power level, if not moral importitude."

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He makes an impressively baffled face at 'not having souls at all'. "Well, if there was any remaining doubt that this is a different world, that's killed it. And now I wonder if I have - whatever it is you're calling a soul; it's obviously not the same thing I use the word for."

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"Find a Devil and ask. They're, like, soul-doctors at best. Spirifers at worst."

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"Maybe I will. Soul doctors, how does that work, do you know?"

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"They can see sins and personality traits on souls. Sloth, dullness, greed, viciousness, that sorta thing. Dunno how they fix 'em, exactly."

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"Huh. I'll have to look into that. My magic can do a few things a bit like that, I wonder what they'll make of it."

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"Souls aren't my thing. Gears and grease are. I should get back to work. By the way, if you hear thumping behind the wall in the kitchen latrine, I know about it and it's probably fine. But if you hear grinding tell me. There's a vent just forward of the engine room you can leave notes in and I check."

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"Yes ma'am. Goodnight."

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"Goodnight! I'll keep in mind the paying it forward to travelers thing!"

There are receding scurrying sounds in the ventwork.

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And Raafi goes back to bed, and in the morning he does his devotions and receives his spells.

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The next day is largely uneventful. Bored stokers invite him to see the machinery, after getting Captain Abernathy's approval. He can watch them fuss over steam valves and shovel coal and explain how it all works, and close to lunchtime the rat-engineer (whose name is Tisha but who goes by Tine) peeks in and they entertain themselves with the lurid stories of explosions and mechanical carnage produced by asking her about various failure modes. Tine seems to be having fun with this. She's about a foot tall, wearing a doll's dress with a bunch of toolbelts and leather straps over top and welding goggles. She has an opposable thumb, and the prosthetic paw is a three-fingered skeletal claw.

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It's an interesting way to spend the day.

(He has Regenerate ready whenever she wants it, though he's not going to interrupt their fun to mention it.)

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"How's it work exactly?" She wants to know during a break in the stories.

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"I'll need to chant and gesture for a few seconds - this is a longer one to cast, most of my spells are very fast - and then touch you, or you can touch me, either way, and the stump where the paw's coming in will glow for a second, and then it'll be back, good as new. You'll want to have the prosthetic off, this kind of spell can wreck things that are in its way; other than that it's pretty simple - if you've got any other injuries it'll heal them while it's at it, too."

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She plucks at the straps gently, anxiously. "You don't know how it works, though? I could draw you a picture of reciprocating steam mechanisms and explain how the regenerative condenser saves heat and stuff like that."

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"Not in that kind of detail, no. The spell channels positive energy - all healing spells do - and the structure of it directs that energy toward regrowing anything that's missing, rather than to healing wounds or curing a disease or anything like that, but it takes years of study to understand how the structure actually works, and I'm the wrong kind of spellcaster to have reason to know it. I do know that it works, without any side effects besides the extra healing from the leftover energy, I've been doing this at least a couple times a year for most of a decade now."

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"Well alright then," and she takes off the prosthetic paw.

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He chants, and after several seconds his hand glows blue and he offers it to her.

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She takes it with the other hand. The paw grows back. She fumbles at her goggles, taking them off to reveal glossy black eyes, blocking the sudden light with the original paw for a moment to adjust.

"Wasn't sure if it'd fix the eyes. Oh, this is excellent." She flexes her restored paw and her ears perk up. "If you don't mind, I'm going to go disassemble something. Something nonessential. It'll be fun!"

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"Of course not. Enjoy."

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She scurries off.

 

They pass the Memorial to the Unknown Rat an hour after lunch. The Captain breaks out a telescope and opens it to viewing through the left entryway's porthole. It's an enormous statue depicting a Rattus Faber wearing goggles and holding a simple wrench (of titanic size), carved from a mountain peak, hundreds of feet tall, in fine detail. The surrounding stone has mechanical shapes and reliefs - gears, more wrenches, pistons and the like. The rat somehow manages to look legibly tired-yet-hopeful-and-proud to human sensibilities.

In the scattered greenery clinging to the slope a ways down from the Memorial itself, something looks... Slightly off. A smudge of deeper brown and grey against the mottled green-brown-grey background.

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Raafi spots it, after having a long look at the memorial. "What's that?" He passes the telescope off to Captain Abernathy. "Downslope from that gear cluster, maybe a hundred fifty yards. The sort of darker blotch, almost looks like a smoke cloud."

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Abernathy peers at it. "Strange, at least. Williams, come take a look at this!" He shouts out of the room.

Williams shows up and takes the telescope. "...Looks like steam mixed with smoke, sir."

"Well, that's no good. Any guesses what from?"

"Forest fire near a pond? Fungus smoke? Downed engine?"

"Seems like an unlikely accident. Worth a closer look, anyway. I'm going to the bridge, and I'll be taking that," he snatches up the telescope.

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Raafi follows, casting as he goes. "Spell for better vision," he explains when he's done. "I have another one, if you want it."

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