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Nov 28, 2020 12:57 AM
Thorn in the Silent World
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"Hell, I'll do blessings and seals for people if it pays. I hate retirement. Got a cure for the infection? How about Old World stuff, like flying-planes - they can make 'em but it's too expensive even for the military. Or teevees, whatever those are Grandpa complained about missing 'em."

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"Old World stuff we can do. A cure for the infection might require samples of it but it should be possible. We also have magic of our own, as you've seen, which you might be willing to buy. Better weapons - my pistol's enchanted, I don't know if you can do that here. A vaccine if we can't find a cure for the infected. Things like that."

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"Not really, as far as weapons go. It's a pain in the ass to paint a seal on a bullet and it doesn't actually do much, since bullets kill trolls already. Military mages, Icelandic mages anyway, make seals and put them up around fortifications and campsites, mostly. It's very much not just a flu. It infects the spirit and traps the soul. They've been trying to make a vaccine for decades, no progress. If you had silent guns, or really nice survival gear, or sealed armor suits like one I saw in one of Valdur's old comics, they'd love that shit."

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"Sounds like a vaccine could take some serious work then, but it ought to still be poasible. I don't know about really good survival gear - mine's decent but not exceptional. Sealed armor suits are a standard catalog item." 

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They come to a steep, switchbacky path down. A rowboat is waiting at a little pier on a small beach at the bottom of the cliffs.

"Got a copy of this catalog for the bigshots to poke through?"

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"I'd have to pull it from the world I came from. Possible, but not while I'm in quarantine."

She makes towards the boat.

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"Ah. Well, that's quarantine for you. They're going to make me sit in there for two weeks too, you know."

The old mage quiets down and helps row, pointing towards the quarantine boat. They're shown into two glass-walled rooms sharing a wall by people in more hazmat suits - the restrooms are private, at least. A calendar on each room's door marks the quarantine time.

 

 

"Don't suppose you play chess?"

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"Never been very good at it, but I can learn. Not much else to do in here."

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"There's cards. And Battleship."

They play chess on a board stuck to the wall, with magnetic pieces adhering through the glass. The nurses would like a bit of Thorn's blood for immunity testing.

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She tries them all pretty aggressively. Thorns don't take well to boredom.

Thorn is perfectly happy to offer some of her blood. 

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They're pretty thorough about quarantine measures when they take the blood. They say it'll take two weeks to confirm immunity.

 

 

On the fourth day of quarantine, Marit Idasdattir has a dream. In her dream-domain, the same rocky clearing as always, a place of warm sunlight and gentle breezes.

A regal-looking reindeer, with fine clean fur of excellent gloss and color and horns as solid as oak, walks near her and bows.

"I haven't seen you in a while. Have you fared well?"

The reindeer opens its mouth as if speaking, but no sound can be heard.

"<.....>"

"I'm glad."

"<.....>"

"Oh, is that so?"

The reindeer nods.

"I suppose it was going to happen eventually... I'm not ready, you know. I'll never be."

"<.....>"

"I know. I'm sorry."

The reindeer nuzzles her for a moment.

"<.....>"

"How disappointingly mundane. A stroke. And just when something interesting was going to happen."

The antlers exaggerate the reindeer's gentle head-tilt.

"<.....>"

Marit startles. "-What?!"

"<.....>"

"Freyja guide me. Magecraft to restore youth."

"<.....>"

"So I must ask her for a small token, shaped as a heart?"

Another slow nod. 

"Why ask me to linger here? Not that I'm objecting. I always thought that if my time was up, I would be taken whether or not I am ready."

"<.....>"

"...So you think she speaks truth. That there are yet more worlds beyond this one and the afterlife."

"<.....>"

"Ah, thank you for the compliment. I shall do my best. Shall Odin send me guidance?"

A headshake from the reindeer this time.

"<.....>"

"On my own judgement then. As you say, kjære. Goodbye, and thank you for visiting."

The reindeer runs away through the clearing, turning pale and translucent and then into a shapeless blue mist, and vanishes. Marit spends the rest of her dream in quiet contemplation.

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Thorn sleeps, and does not dream. 

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"I," Marit announces the next day over breakfast, "Have just received a vision. Hm. I suppose you wouldn't know how visions work, exactly. But- I must ask something of you, though I do not expect anything for free."

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"Oh?" She asks. "Go on. I'm willing to do things for you so long as you give me good reasons to."

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"...I will die before the quarantine ends unless I receive from you a small token, shaped as a heart, which is the manifestation of - magic to restore youth. Something I would have trouble believing is real had my fylgja not spoken to me of it. He bid me ask you for this miracle and stay here, for the fate of many turns upon you."

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Oh

Well, she can't possibly have known about Ka before this. So that suggests her vision is true...

She stands up, and makes a plucking motion above her heart. The pink, heart-shaped Ka crystal jumps from her chest and into her hand. 

"You're going to need to physically break this, which means we're going to need to get it through the glass. I can put a neat hole through and close it once I've transferred the Ka; the issue is, will the guards let me?"

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She laughs. "They don't necessarily have to notice. Do it behind the Battleship set from their perspective. Quarantine guards get bored and complacent. I could do something similar by painting on the walls, but yours sounds stealthier. Mm, honestly, they wouldn't let you, but if we managed it anyway and they noticed too late to object, they'd extend my quarantine to match yours at four weeks and I'd get a lecture I'm too old for. I'm willing to take that risk."

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"Alright. I'll wait for my moment, you be ready."

When next the guards aren't looking, Thorn pulls her athame and quickly inscribes a palm's width circle behind the battleship set.

Levitate. With all her magical strength, Thorn pulls on the inscribed circle, and the glass cracks as she forces it out into her hand. 

She quickly passes the Ka crystal through, letting it fall on the floor if need be; then she passes her hand over the two pieces of glass, and Make Whole seals it back to good as new.

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Marit catches it. Then breaks it, then flexes her hand several times. The skin grew less pale, less boney, at the moment of breakage. Her head is clearer. The ache in her back has gotten a bit less distracting.

"...B3 is a hit. My, my. What do you want in return, I wonder?"

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"Nothing. I've got a store of a thousand years in this body; five isn't much to me. Twenty isn't much to me - we'll see about getting you a few more of those crystals once we're out of here." 

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"I'm not the only one who wants or needs this. Can we get enough for everyone, you think?"

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"Yes, but that won't be free. No doubt I'll end up negotiating it with someone."

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"We'd pay a lot for it. Same with sealed armor, for safer troll-killing. Population's still declining, anything that saves people is big. At least in Norway there's generous child support tax cuts, maternity leave, free healthcare, they'll outright give you money if you use the gamete donation program to have an immune kid..."

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"Yeah, places with a mostly-human population are big importers of Ka, especially early on. Introducing advanced medical technologies can give similar results over the long run for cheaper, though, especially when you're talking about whole populations." 

She runs a hand through her hair. "Silent weapons we'd also have. I don't want to assure you that we can cure or vaccinate for it, but... the chances are very good, with the technology we have."

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"With all the miracles you're touting, I almost wonder if there's a way to reverse it... But it's a mercy, really, to send trolls to wherever they go next. Even the ones that retain something like a mind are... Twisted and hurting."

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