Nov 28, 2020 1:00 AM
yeerk ma'ar in golarion
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<I have been getting that sense> he says, very quietly. <Thank you. That...was helpful.> 

Mhalir isn't sure if that's true. The odd metaphorical dizziness is back, he's if anything more confused, but - all of that made sense, none of it was horrifying in the topsy-turvy mind-warping way of Carissa's Asmodean philosophy. 

Outside perspective, he reminds himself. 

<I would understand if you have no desire to offer it> he says finally, <but - could I ask your advice? On what you - or your god - would advocate doing, in the situation I am in?> 




<My species is called Yeerks. You have one in your head right now. We are fighting a war with the Andalites, but at the beginning, it was one of their scientists who gave us the technology to reach the stars...> 

He recounts the story again, basically the same way he explained it to Carissa. Maybe with a bit more nuance filled in - that he isn't sure what the Andalites as a polity believe, they won't talk to him and his people couldn't get spies there and they only ever took the one prisoner. He explains how he kept trying to open talks, long after most of the Yeerk Council thought it was insane of him to do so, and only stopped after Alloran used the bioweapon on the Hork-Bajir homeworld, slaughtering millions of innocents without, as far as Mhalir can tell, ever questioning whether they would agree with him that living with Yeerks was worse than death. 

He says that he wants to figure out a way for Yeerks to live peacefully with other species, but the Andalites are clearly never going to believe this, or stop fighting, until the Yeerks have the upper hand enough to force negotiations. Or at least that's what he's believed for the last fifteen years. 

He hesitates for a long time. 

<...You can talk to him, if you want> he says finally. <My host. If you want to hear his side of things too, before you offer your advice.> Mhalir isn't even sure why he's saying this. Something something outside perspective, something something worth knowing either way, and it's not like it really closes any options. It means that if the cleric ever escapes, he'll have a lot more intelligence to bring his god, but Mhalir doesn't see how he could escape, he's not very powerful for a cleric, and freeing him was already a risk he couldn't afford. 


"I would like to talk to him."


<All right.> 

And he lets Alloran, who's presumably been paying attention, use thoughtspeech again. The cleric won't be able to verify it with mindreading, of course. Mhalir can't remember if he has truth magic. He can ask afterward. 


"What is your name?"


"You are an Andalite?"


"What are Andalites like?"

        Again Alloran finds himself struggling, a little bit, for words. <...we are a peaceful people. We had not warred in a very long time when the Yeerks started enslaving everyone in the galaxy. We live with our herds on grasslands. We built cities, but we mostly do not like them.> Long pause. <There are - mistakes, that many advanced civilizations make, conquering others or - building dangerous weapons, or drugs that are more fun than continuing to live, and we are careful and reflective, and made none of those mistakes. We - made a different one, I suppose. We unleashed Yeerks on the galaxy.>

"Do you have families?"








       <Is it - do we need to talk about that ->



I have a wife. Her name is Nika. We grew up as neighbors. I decided that I wanted to marry her when I was sixteen but she did not want to marry me until I became a priest. We have five children. The oldest one is nearly grown and the youngest one is six. And also named Nika. I proposed we name every girl that because I think it is the most beautiful name in the world but my wife already had three girls' names picked out."


       <I have two children.>

       <Andalites always had not more than two, before the war, so our population would eventually stabilize.>

       <My wife is named Jahar.>

       <We met in college, in a graph theory class I had no business being in but the class that was more at my level met too early in the morning.>

       <She offered to tutor me but I was very embarrassed to be so bad at the class so I arranged another tutor to meet with me right before so that by the time she tutored me I'd already have some idea what was going on.>

        <When she found out, she was jealous, because she'd offered so we could spend time together.>

        <It's been fifteen years. The children are - nearly adults, now.>

"I will pray for you, and for them."

         <What does that - do.>

"Sometimes, Sarenrae can do something. More often, she cannot, but in - remembering why we do things - we find the strength to do it ourselves."

         <We cannot do anything. We will never be able to do anything again. They will use us to enslave everyone they can.>

"Lots of important things are done in the heart, not in the world."

          <That doesn't make any sense.>

"I think it does. A person is - a very big thing. A person contains so many wants and dreams and stories and goals and loves and mistakes - there is a saying, that if you have saved one person it is like you have saved the whole world, and I think that it is an important saying because it is easy to forget how much a person is."

           <The Yeerks will enslave one individual person and then they will do that again and again and again and again across the whole galaxy a trillion times, which is a thousand billion which is a thousand million which is a thousand thousand, you cannot count high enough.>

"And certainly if you have a chance to save a trillion people you should take that! But what I see is that you have the chance to save one, and you say it is like nothing, and it isn't like nothing."

         <I may never die, and if I do I won't get your afterlives. I can't - Carissa thought I counted as Evil, probably, which is right and just, but it doesn't even matter because we don't go anywhere when we die.>

"What do you mean, when you say that it is right and just, that you be counted as Evil."

        < - the Yeerk mentioned it. The Hork-Bajir planet. It's his favorite thing to talk about lately. Because he's pretending we're as bad as they are.>

"You killed many innocent people."


"That is a terrible thing. We have a story - your Visser asked about it, but I do not know if he is the person who needed to hear it. It happened long ago in a place called Gormuz, where Rovagug was sealed beneath the ground by the combined effort of all the gods. He managed, somehow, to exert some influence from within his prison, and he began to corrupt the people above the ground, and turn them towards evil, though they believed they were at a holy site of Sarenrae and believed they served her. And when she discovered this she was very frightened, and tried to learn what was wrong, and eventually she sent her herald Kohal, to the city, to warn them, but they had been turned against her, and murdered the herald. And she was filled with grief and terror and confusion, because much had been sacrificed to pin Rovagug away and she feared it all lost, and she turned on the city and destroyed it.

It was the wrong thing to do, I think. It was a difficult situation, but situations are always difficult. She was doing her best, but people usually are. She couldn't think of a better option, but people usually can't. People are more forgiving, in some ways, of the gods. They trust the gods to have been doing their best, in situations where they would not trust a mortal. But that is a mistake; surely, if anything, the standards for the gods should be higher. I think that she was wrong. She thinks that she was wrong. She regrets it. She tries to fix it, where this can be done. And she is still a Good god, because if Good were only for people who haven't made any mistakes then there would not be a single person or god in it, not in this world."


       <I don't think I made a mistake.>

"I do not know enough to even guess at whether you made a mistake. But - Sarenrae sent a vision, when these people took us prisoner. She said that Nirvana - the neutral good afterlife - that it is for everybody. And that to truly understand that is to be halfway, already, to building it. That was the thing she thought it was most important for us to understand, that Nirvana is for us. What do you think it would mean, for her to consider it important to tell you that Nirvana was for you."

      <I don't know anything about Nirvana.>

"It is the neutral good afterlife. It is a place where people heal from the harms of this world, and then make things better."

      <We don't know that Sarenrae was talking to me. It seems unlikely.>

"I think that Sarenrae is talking to everybody, all the time, and it does not seem unlikely at all that that would include a warrior for good who did a terrible thing and has spent a long time paying for it."

      <Then I guess maybe she means someday I'll get to die.>

"Maybe. And when people die here, they get a trial, where any afterlives can argue that they deserve a particular afterlife. The neutral good afterlife - the churches of Sarenrae and Shelyn, mostly - send a representative to every trial. To your friend who is a devoted Asmodean, if she died. They argue that every person deserves Nirvana."

       <- I am not sure what it means to deserve things, in that case.>

"I am curious what your first guess would be."

       <...that it does not mean anything.>

"Some people believe that. The teachings of the gods are not always very obvious."

       <What do you think.>

"I think it means that if people had enough time, all of them would regret the evil that they had done, and do good instead. And in Nirvana they have time. And it is very terrible, that they only get that in Nirvana. But if you have time, you have a rare and precious gift."

        <I can't - think - with him in my head. Everything might be - something he uses to feel more justified in enslaving and torturing and slaughtering people.>

"Being afraid and in pain makes people worse. It's one of the things that's not fair."

         Alloran is in fact having a hard time forming words, through the writhing enormous unfairness of it. 

"Do you think, if you had gone home, after the thing that you did in the war, you would have regretted it, eventually."

        Well, obviously. He doesn't successfully translate that into words either, and by the time he has recovered words is less sure it's true. <Why - if your god understands - why doesn't she stop them ->

"I don't know. But when you can smite cities - have smited cities - maybe it is very important to you, to try other things first."


Mhalir is thinking that he doesn't understand ninety-five percent of that conversation and also it's one of the most agonizing things he's ever sat through, and again, it took a massive effort of will not to override Alloran. Although not for the same reasons; not exactly because he's afraid this was a strategic mistake. 

(Maybe it was. He still doesn't really understand why he proposed at all that the cleric could talk to Alloran.) 

He's tired of being confused, and he's trying to notice that feeling and then set it aside, because it's not helping him, because the confusing facts on the ground aren't going to stop being there just because he doesn't want to look at them. Even if he doesn't know how to make sense of anything, anymore, it's like staring into a kaleidoscope. 

<This is Mhalir again> he says, eventually, when it seems like neither Alloran nor the cleric have anything else to say. <I - still wish to ask. What would your god's philosophy advise me to do, in this situation.> 


"Ask for help. If your people are in danger the Good gods will help you willingly."


Despite himself, he flinches, curling into himself. 

<Why do you believe that is true. Why do you believe that your goddess would care about alien - slugs - from another world...? If there is help to be had then I want it but I do not understand why your goddess would offer it to us.> 


"Well, we have one word on the subject so far, and it is 'Nirvana is for everyone', which seems promising."


<That is not - I do not understand how that is a goal or motivation. Perhaps gods are too big and different, and I cannot understand their motives at all, but that does not make it any more reassuring to rely on them in my plans.> 


"...I don't think it's hard to understand at all!" He gestures at the two of them. "She saw this unholy wasteful tragic mess and she said 'hey, all of you ought to be safe forever and rest and have time to stop hurting each other!"


He stares at the man, off-balance, it feels weirdly like he's falling and he thinks Alloran is just as discomfited. It - still doesn't click, he's still baffled, it's all sliding away from him in every direction. 

<Thank you for your advice> he says, distantly. <I will consider it.> Maybe he even will. In a while. Right now he needs to do something normal and sanity-reinforcing, like going and asking the engineer if there are any updates yet on mining asteroids. 

He's paying more attention than usual to Alloran's train of thought, though. 


Alloran has curled up in sulky confusion and pain. He thinks that any actually Good god would probably stop a bunch of her people from getting enslaved and kidnapped to another part of the galaxy, even if this required smiting the whole ship. 

And he misses his family, which he doesn't usually think about, because Mhalir is doing his best to kill them and it hurts too much to contemplate.


Mhalir does think about the conversation, in the following hours and days, in bits and pieces, in between feeling uneasy and tired and sad. None of which are new emotions for him, exactly, he's felt that way for most of the damned war.

He wants it to be over. 

It would be - too neat, too easy, if he could have that just by asking a benevolent superintelligent being for help. He's not ready to believe that would work. 

In between checking in on his engineer's progress with mining, studying the map, and asking Carissa questions about Golarion so he can plan their next approach, he does nudge the Yeerk who has the cleric of Sarenrae to let his host talk to Carissa. Probably she should hear things about the religious philosophy as taught in other countries. He doesn't expect her to believe it - he doesn't have any idea what effect it'll have - but right now he's in a sea of fragments and finds himself just wanting to do things, in general, and see if some of them nudge other things into motion.

Eventually they locate some gold, it's not exactly dense in asteroid belts but they don't need industrial quantities of it right now, just enough for an initial trip to Osirion. He asks the engineer if they've made any progress on finding the metals Carissa thought might be the magic one. 


They can mine asteroids for those too, if they do turn out to be the right ones. 


Can they get some samples and show Carissa so she can test them using whatever method she was proposing before? They can probably provide her with whatever other equipment she needs, the ship's fabricator is pretty flexible. 


She tests them. They're right. She's delighted about this and does a little dance when no one is around even though she's sure they can scry her quarters at any time. 

She asks Mhalir what she's allowed to make. "I could probably make something dangerous to you with this. I won't, but it wouldn't be hard. So if you want me to retrain out of weapons or something, or only make ones that aren't sharp, I could do that."


<- I am not worried about you making sharp things. Not for my own safety, anyway.> He sweeps his tail around, letting the tail-blade stop in midair just in front of him, neat and precise. <Though if the weapons do not actually need to be sharp, in order to hold magic spells, then you might as well make them not sharp, so that my other personnel are less alarmed.> 


"They gotta be masterwork but I don't know what kinds of eccentric shapes that allows, if I have as much spellsilver as I want I can experiment."


<All right. You can experiment, then. And I think we are ready to move in closer to the planet and plan a trip to Osirion. We need a closer look at the local money in order to forge it, so I will go there first in morph. What city are you thinking you will want to visit, to buy spells?>


"Sothis, nowhere else is going to have much in the way of spells I haven't got."


<All right, we can go there.> 

Mhalir won't start with that, though. Leaving Carissa to her magic work on the ship in orbit, he takes the cloaked shuttle down to scope out Osirion at closer range and find a smaller town, with fewer signs of magic around, and then he flies in in morph to explore more closely. His plan is for them to stun a local, maybe a merchant or farmer on their way back from selling goods in the marketplace, and steal a sample of their money so they can copy it, they just need one of each coin type. It's actually a lot more irritating, forging money in a lower-tech culture; on Earth they could just do it by outwitting the human banking computers.

He watches for a suitable target. Someone moderately prosperous, so they're more likely to actually have gold on them, but not prosperous enough to have a guard, or protective magic items... 


Osirion is hot and sandy everywhere aside from the riverbank, where its population clusters at an impressive density. There's a church of Sarenrae in this city, and six of Abadar. There are merchants who leave with some money at the end of the day, but not with a guard; they generally tie the money carefully under their clothes and carry a knife, and are rarely bothered. 


Mhalir is worried that this indicates a very competent police and legal system, but it's not clear what they're supposed to do about an invisible attacker that takes a few coins and vanishes. He authorizes the shuttle to descend, cloaked, and for one of his crew to stun a traveling merchant; he can instruct them on exactly where to search for the money, so that the mugging takes only a few seconds. 

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