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Generated: Dec 17, 2020 11:23 PM
Post last updated: Dec 17, 2020 11:22 PM
water and fire
teenage mage-gifted jisa ends up in cosel
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Jisa, thirteen years old and newly mage-gifted which is the best thing in the entire world, is experimenting with Gates! 

She's doing it secretly, of course, because no one is supposed to know she's a mage. Also because Vanyel would probably yell at her for what she wants to try.

If she asks her Companion about it then Enara is going to yell at her, so she doesn't. 

She's trying to route a Gate through several of the other planes she's been studying lately, mostly because the idea occurred to her and then she had to see if it would work, and also because theoretically it should let her Gate a lot further from reserves, because she can cut the 'distance' she's searching over. Maybe.

She doesn't really know what's going to happen, but that's the best part, really. She does it the way she's been practicing, a 'blind' Gate, just aiming in a direction and then building a threshold on nothing at all, which she was pretty sure ought to be possible because why on earth would magic care about doorframes, that has to be a limitation in the mage's mind and not the magic itself, and it took a lot of practice to get it down but she turned out to be right. 

It takes her half a dozen tries, losing her sense of 'direction' as she pokes the spell through the Elemental Planes of Water and of Earth and Air (the plane of Fire is very overwhelming and she's avoiding it for now.) 

Eventually, though, she gets through, and a Gate comes up. Weirdly, she can't see across it, it's milky-opaque instead of clear. 

...Crossing a Gate to an unknown place is a pretty risky plan. But she can't not do it now. She's way too curious. 

:Enara I'm trying this experiment–: she sends, pushing across all the information very fast so that her Companion won't have time to stop her, and then she steps across. 

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She has landed in a perfectly innocuous looking bit of wilderness on the shore of a lake. There are lilypads.

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The Gate comes down with a snap before she can think about whether she wants to immediately go back. Ouch. 

She extends her Othersenses, wincing a bit at the headache. Any nodes or ley-lines around? Any minds? 

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There is a mind over there! In the lake, under the water.

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Huh. She doesn't know of any aquatic species that are people. 

Also it's unethical to read people's minds without asking. 

Jisa almost does it anyway, but catches herself. She's had the ethics conversation enough times by now. 

:Hello?: she tries instead. 

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Water suddenly sprays out of the lake, slapping a lilypad smack dab over her nose and mouth and holding it there.

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What?

Jisa tries shoving it away with a burst of force and forming a mage-barrier over her face. 

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It shoves away, and then the water sprays HARDER.

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Well, she has a mage-barrier over her face now and it's a sturdy one - it'd really help in maintaining this state of affairs if there were nodes around here, can she find any - 

:Please stop!: she sends. :I'm sorry if I offended you!: 

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:DIE DIE DIE: is the opinion of the underwater mind. The water loops around behind her and tries to break her neck.

There are ley-lines, but not nodes.

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Aaaaaaaaah this is not what she wanted to happen at all! She was trying to be friendly! It seems very unfair that she's getting attacked for that! 

Jisa drops to the ground in a ball, chin tucked in, so she can more easily shield her entire body, it's not like she needs her eyes to see what's going on. Ley-line energy is better than nothing, it's less efficient for tapping but she can get enough for a fireball. What happens if she throws said fireball at the water trying to break her neck. 

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Steam hisses. The mind moves farther away, still underwater, and stops attacking her once it's got up a good head of steam swimming to the nearest river.

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Maybe it's noticed she's capable of defending herself and is going to leave her alone now?

Jisa is ready to try Mindhealing it to stop if it attempts anything else, but for now she leaves it alone and instead cautiously backs further away from the lake. 

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It flees and flees and flees. It swims real fast and is presently out of range.

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Jisa gets some distance from the lake and eventually sits down and casts some wards and another sturdy shield, and then lets herself shake for a bit. That was really scary. 

Eventually she's calmed down enough to be actually curious about her surroundings, as opposed to just tracking them out of fear that another weird lake creature will show up. Water elemental? She's never seen them manifest physically like that without being summoned, and the water elementals she knows aren't hostile like that either. 

Anyway, she should figure out where she is. 

Jisa isn't very good at scrying yet, and wishes she had Farsight too like Van, but she manages the spell after a couple of tries, drawing power from another ley-line. She sticks the scrying-point very high in the air above her head, to get a better view, and scans the land for any other sign of people. 

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There is this lake, and a river leading away from it, and a few miles downstream perched alongside the river there's a farm village.

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She could theoretically do a blind Gate thataways, except she's way too tired. Instead she weaves the most thorough physical shields she can over herself, in case another piece of river tries to strangle her, and then gets up and starts trudging toward the village. She keeps all of her Othersenses extended, still. 

Once she has time to think, she's both aware that probably she should try to go home, and also very reluctant to do so, because by now Enara will probably have told Treven what she did and Treven will probably have told Uncle Van and all of them will be furious to her and she's not looking forward to the lecture at all. Also she's too tired for a complicated long-range Gate anyway. 

She keeps walking. 

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The water doesn't try to attack her again.

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Walking a few miles seems to take an endlessly long time when one is tired, but eventually Jisa reaches the village and looks around. Is there anyone about? 

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Yup. Some women sitting on their front porch carding and spinning wool. Some kids chasing a cat down the street. A man supervising a person with transparent feathered wings while the latter magically puts windowpanes in windows, turning a bucket of sand into perfect clear glass already in place.

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Oooh, neat! She watches that for a moment with mage-sight before heading up to one of the front-porch women. 

"Hello, do you speak Valdemaran?" she tries. 

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They evidently do not. They blink at her, and shake their heads, and call to the person supervising the glass-winged person. The man and the glass-winged person walk over. He says something.

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Jisa doesn't understand it at all! She could probably read his thoughts but she holds off for now, and instead tries the same greeting in Rethwellani and Hardornen and Tayledras and all the languages she speaks even a few words of. 

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The man looks at the glass-winged woman. She looks very scared of him and shakes her head when he asks her a question, and keeps shaking it when he asks her an angrier question.

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Oh no! 

Jisa holds up a hand, trying to get the man's attention, and makes a 'stop' gesture, waving her hands in front of her. And then tries to smile reassuringly at the winged woman. 

:Can you understand me?: she asks the winged woman, mostly on the idea that she looks kind of magic and that might mean she's Gifted or at least easier to Mindspeak with. She could apparently Mindspeak a bit with the lake-creature but it was kind of hard to understand. 

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The winged woman's eyes go slightly wider. :What are you?:

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:A mage. And I have Mindspeech too. Have you not met mages or Mindspeakers? What are you?: 

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The woman turns around and follows the man back to the window they were working on. :He's a mage but I don't know what a Mindspeaker is. I'm a Glass:

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:Oh. I don't know what that is either, maybe we don't have Glass where I live. Do you know the name of the country we're in right now?: 

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:Rixo:

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:Oh, I haven't heard of it: She must have been right about the range increase, and ended up further from home than she's ever been before. Which is neat and she feels smug about it, and also pretty nerve-wracking. :Um, are you all right? You seemed scared that he might hurt you, or something: 

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:He can make me do this: (she's working on the windows again) :but he can't make me talk so he has to threaten about that if he wants something translated:

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:Oh: A sinking feeling. :How does he make you do things - is he using compulsions?: She's suddenly pretty angry! :If it's that then I could free you, if you wanted: 

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:I don't know what that is. It's the amulet he's wearing:

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:Oh. Um, I'll look at it with my Othersenses: She turns back to the woman for a moment, shaking her head and making an apologetic face, and then tries to go on Mindspeaking with the Glass without making it obvious she's carrying on a silent conversation. :What kinds of things can he do? I know there are different schools of magic in other parts of the world: 

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:Do you mean what elements he has?:

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:Um, sure? We don't usually talk about mages that way in Valdemar, so I might not know what that means: 

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:He has Fire and Wood and Stone:

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:Mmm. Does that mean he can cast fireballs or, I don't know, make wood and stone statues with magic? Or something else?: 

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:It means he can do some magic of those elements - I don't know that much about it, I'm a Glass, not a Fire or a Wood or a Stone:

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:Are there other mages who have Glass? What sorts of things can they do?: 

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:Most of the things I can do, just - smaller because they're humans and not elementals:

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:What kinds of things can you do? Make glass out of sand, I can see, what other things?: 

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:I can see better than you too:

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:Huh: Jisa isn't sure how that's related to glass but maybe that's not the most important question right now. :Um, anyway, do you - want me to get you out of here? I would rather know more about what he can do as a mage, and I should pretend to leave first and come back under an illusion or something, but I'm pretty powerful and I can probably rescue you if you need rescuing: 

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:It's the amulet, I can't do anything he doesn't want me to while he has the amulet:

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:So if I can steal the amulet then you could just get away?: 

Are the man or woman paying attention to her or looking suspicious right now? Jisa has been wandering around a bit, pretending to look absently into the distance and occasionally stopping to glance at features of the town. 

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:You could steal me: Glass confirms bleakly.

The kids have lost track of their cat and are stalking her through the streets.

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Jisa makes an apologetic face at the woman she tried to approach, and waves, and then trudges back the way she came looking disappointed. 

She keeps her Othersenses fully open, using Thoughtsensing and Empathy enough to notice any suspicion or intent to follow her, though she avoids doing more thorough mindreading than that.

Once she's sure that she's out of sight, she covers herself with an illusion - it's hard to do well while moving but she's had a lot of practice by now - and starts creeping back into the village. Again, she holds her mind-Gifts open, listening passively to pick up any sign that they've noticed her return. 

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There is some sort of festival being set up as more people troop in from the farms. People are changing into fancier clothes and assembling a potluck in the village square. The Glass is still with her owner, standing silently by while he bounces a little boy on his knee.

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Jisa gets in as close as she dares, and stares at him, trying to pick out the amulet either with her eyes or mage-sight. 

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He's wearing it too snug to pull over his head and the chain looks pretty sturdy. It is definitely magic. It's actually surprisingly simple, magically, it's pretty obvious how you'd do this if you wanted to make a new amulet to catch an elemental with.

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Huh. Jisa doesn't currently want to enslave any elementals, actually, the entire philosophy at the White Winds mage-school is that they only work with the spirits voluntarily. She studies it anyway, though, until she's pretty sure she could copy it if she wanted. 

Maybe this will also show her how it could be broken with magic? 

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Looks like she'd have to be touching it.

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Hmm. 

Weeeeell, okay, she doesn't want to leave the poor elemental trapped. Can she very slowly and carefully sneak closer without him noticing her? She's ready to run away the instant she sees a reaction in his mind. 

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He's not looking for invisible mages. (Glass looks right at her, but doesn't tell him.)

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Then eventually she's pretty close. 

:I am going to try to break it and I need you to run away very fast: she tells Glass, in careful directional Mindspeech even though the villagers seemed oblivious to her Gifts before. She, too, is ready to run away very fast. 

She stares at the amulet a bit more, and then her illusion-concealed hand darts out and touches it and she tries to snap the spell in a single motion before sprinting away. 

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:I can be fast. Watch out: warns Glass.

This turns out to be because there is an explosion of shards in all directions, when the amulet breaks, and the owner is speared through the neck and all down his back and the kid on his lap has one in the eye and passersby are grazed or impaled and the potluck is full of glass and everyone's screaming -

- the Glass is flying away, some people are pointing and yelling -

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Aaaaaaaaah that is not what she wanted to happen at all! Unfortunately Jisa isn't a Healer and she has no idea what to do! She could pull the glass out of the kid's eye with magic but that might make it even worse!!!

She still has her physical shields up and the glass doesn't hurt her and she manages not to scream and to complete her planned sprint back. 

:I wish you'd told me that would happen!: she sends to Glass, wherever Glass is. :I'd have shielded the tiny kid!: Probably she should have shielded the man too but she feels a lot less sympathetic toward him, given that he was keeping the elemental captive. 

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:You made it sound like you were going to steal it, not break it, I didn't have time!:

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:But I told you–: Jisa stops, thinks. :I wasn't sure until I was closer if I could get it without breaking it. It's not like I even wanted it, though. I'm sorry I didn't give you more warning: 

Does it look like the man and the kid are getting medical attention from the other humans, or is everyone too panicked? Jisa isn't sure what to do in the latter case but she can't just run away, this is her fault for being careless and stupid. 

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The man's dead. They seem to be trying to coach an eight year old through healing the eye injury but the eight year old is pretty freaked out.

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Aaaaaaaaaah she feels really terrible about this actually! The man was keeping a sentient creature enslaved, which is horrible, but she didn't mean to kill him! 

...Maybe if she very very gently starts pushing with her Empathy, to calm down the eight-year-old who's trying to do healing, that will help and also no one will notice? 

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No one notices. The eight year old takes some deep breaths and stops the bleeding.

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Jisa calms down some of the others too, and then tiptoes back out of the village and finds a spot nearby to cry. 

:I'm not going to take you prisoner: she tells Glass. :In case you thought I was going to. You can just go if you want. Although if you're willing to stay and help me, I want to find a bigger city so I can get maps and figure out where I am: 

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:I'm not going anywhere near a city! You want north for the one they hit on market day:

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:All right. Thank you. Er, why don't you want to go near a city?: 

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:- you saw! They're slavers! I wouldn't last a minute!:

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:- Wait, does literally everyone in this country enslave elementals? Gah. That's horrible. I thought it was just him but I guess that was stupid of me: 

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:Not everyone's a mage but more and more are and a city will have loads: She's getting farther and farther away, it's more of a strain to reach her.

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:All right - er, good luck, I guess, I hope no one else catches you...: 

And she's going to sit here and cry about how she's an idiot and feel very sorry for herself for a while, although she has enough sense to shield herself and put up wards first. 

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Nobody bothers her. The festival is canceled, the glassy food thrown away, unsafe even for pigs. Crying people go back to their homes.

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Jisa spends the night curled up burrowed under a hedge, feeling incredibly miserable and also ravenously hungry but utterly unwilling to steal any food from the village where she just accidentally murdered someone, slaver or not. She does not sleep very well, only partly because of misery; she's also very jumpy at the prospect of wild elementals who want to murder her showing up, and every small sound wakes her. 

 

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No elementals approach the village to bother her.

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In the morning she's not very well rested, but her reserves are somewhat replenished despite not having enough food or sleep, being near ley-lines helps. 

...Maybe she should just go home? 

She tries to do the same Gate but in reverse. 

It doesn't work. 

She sits down and sobs against the hedge for another five minutes, and then shakes herself. Come on. Stop being a baby about it. 

Another few minutes later, Jisa is on her feet, walking north and scrying ahead of her. She also keeps an eye out for any kind of plant she recognizes as edible. 

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Well, there's a lot of farmland she could steal carrots or barley or sesame seeds from.

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Jisa feels bad about it but eventually digs up some stolen carrots and munches on them as she walks, Othersenses still extended to warn her of approaching minds. She finds herself trying to avoid thinking about the fact that she's trapped, which is stupid, not thinking about it won't make it stop being true, and the way to fix is it to research Gates some more. But she's tired and upset and doesn't think she can focus on Gates anyway. 

She scries a mile ahead again, from high up in the air, checking for any sign of a city. 

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There's a city she will reach when she's gone another four miles, through some more villages.

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She walks and walks and walks and walks and walks. She waves to people when her route takes her through villages but doesn't try to talk to them, and makes apologetic faces and tells them she doesn't understand if they try talking to her. She wants to save her Mindspeech for people in the city, who are more likely to know things. 

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Elementals are not very common in the villages, but she sees two accompanying a woman with a cartful of magic objects coming the opposite way along the road, one with sparking, lightning-crackly wings and the other with no visible wings at all except that her shadow has them, big feathered ones. The Shadow seems not to be experiencing the same lighting conditions as everything else and it's impossible to make out her features.

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Jisa doesn't know what to do! She isn't sure if she can free them without causing giant explosions of lightning or whatever shadows are made of! She kind of freezes up, and doesn't do anything, just keeps walking. 

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The woman with the elementals doesn't seem to want to talk to her either.

Here is the city. There are lots of elementals here. Ones with crystalline wings. Ones with carved wood feathers. Ones with leaf-feathers. Ones with wings of water or fire. One with wings made of shifting sand, one with wings of molten lava, and all the kinds she's seen before too. Some have invisible wings, but they can be distinguished with mage-sight, or by their silent obedient following of someone with one or more necklaces.

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It's very overwhelming and Jisa isn't sure what to do. Also she's ravenously hungry. Raw carrots are not a balanced breakfast.

She wants to figure out what to do about the slaves, but also she can't think very well through the hunger, so instead she looks for a marketplace, and peers at what kind of coin the locals are using. 

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Looks like copper coins, rough around the edges but stamped with a face.

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Jisa has some Valdemaran coins in her pocket. They're also copper, albeit not with the same markings. 

She goes up to a stall selling bread and tries her greeting phrases in various languages again. 

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The guy doesn't understand her but at least doesn't call over a slave to try to threaten into translating.

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She shows him one of her copper coins and gives him a hopeful look? 

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He weighs it in his hand. Yeah, she can have two loaves of bread for that.

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Jisa beams at him and bobs her head and accepts her two loaves of bread. She looks around for a place to sit and eat them. 

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There aren't public benches, but there are low walls around some buildings and she wouldn't be the only person sitting on one.

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Jisa sits down and looks around curiously while she devours her first loaf of bread, after which she's less hungry but can now notice that she's very very thirsty. Is there a public water pump or fountain in sight? 

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There's a well over there.

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Jisa heads over to the well and hauls up some water for herself and drinks it, and is finally less distracted by bodily signals of distress. She sits down on the wall again and looks around, this time more attentively, and with her Othersenses as well - what kinds of magic are being done around here, if any? 

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The magic she can see is being done exclusively by people who are plausibly under twenty. People are using it to do things she can't see the results of at all, maybe their own scrying; and starting fires; and mending metal objects; and, now that it's getting dim, some are lighting their ways home, usually by making their hands glow but there are variations.

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Huh. A lot of it is sort of like what mage-gift can do, but Jisa is increasingly suspecting that something here is a lot more different than she's been guessing. 

And that, maybe, she's somehow much further from home than she realized. 

...All right, she should actually try to talk to some people. Glass had never heard of Mindspeakers; she doesn't know if it'll alarm the human locals. 

It seems worth trying once, though. Maybe with one of the children, who are less likely to know what's normal or not? 

She approaches a little boy playing, smiles brightly at him, and attempts Mindspeech at him. :Hello! Can you understand me?: 

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He says something back at her, furrowing his brow.

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She tries again and this time reads his surface thoughts. 

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He doesn't know what she's doing and can't even guess what element it is! He should probably go home because he doesn't know the rules for this situation.

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All right she's definitely not trying that on any adults! Jisa makes an apologetic face at the boy, ducks her head, and heads off in the opposite direction until she's out of sight. 

She starts looking for enslaved elementals again. It seems like at least she can talk to them without getting mostly confusion and suspicion. 

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There's a Stone over there. The human is providing light while the Stone works on paving a street.

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Jisa stays sitting where she is, to minimize the human looking at her suspiciously. 

:Hello: she says to the Stone. :I'm not from here and I'm trying to figure out where I am. Also I would like to free you if I can, but the last time I tried to break an amulet it exploded, I don't know if the Stone ones do that: 

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:- the amulet exploded? Well, you could probably break it in some way that didn't make it explode - I've never seen one broken though - you're in Rixo, in the city of Casox: the Stone replies.

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:I don't know why it exploded. I'm a mage and I broke it with magic, but I think I must have a different kind of magic from the kind mages here have. Do you know what countries are next to Rixo?:  

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:Lots of them - there was a war, the country that used to cover the whole region fragmented - there's Usath and Oranx and Itasu and Parco and Isamdo and Yeon and I might be forgetting some:

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That's a lot of countries and Jisa hasn't heard of any of them. She thanks the Stone anyway, automatically. 

- on the one hand, trying to break another amulet in the middle of a busy marketplace after what happened the last time is a terrible idea. On the other hand, SLAVES. Maybe she can put a shield around it and to protect the man himself, and additional shielding to cover passerby, and that'll hopefully be enough to catch it? The locals don't seem to be able to detect magic being done, which is interesting. 

(Also why are all their mages so young, she's still confused about that...) 

:I am going to try to free you: she tells the Stone, and she starts weaving the shields for it. 

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:You should stand back: he advises.

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:- Are the people close up going to be hurt?: She zooms in with a scry and checks the man's amulet up closer, just to check if his necklace is looser or more fragile-looking or something, maybe she can steal it first and then destroy it somewhere far away. 

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:I don't know, I've never been freed from an amulet before:

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Well, this time Jisa is going to try ripping the necklace off its wearer first with a blade of concentrated mage-energies, aimed away from the back of the man's neck, so the necklace might pull and choke him briefly but she shouldn't cut him with the spell itself. 

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He's very alarmed about this and grabs for the necklace while it's pulled. The Stone's wings go around the man so she can't see what she's doing anymore.

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Aaaah that's very frustrating! She can still sense the necklace and the mage's life-aura with her Sight, as well as find his mind with Thoughtsensing, but it's less precise.

Jisa is going to try to yank and tear really hard and if that doesn't work to grab the necklace and fling it high into the air, she'll just do the breaking motion anyway and hope the shields are enough. 

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The mage is making choking noises, and the Stone is helping hold the necklace in place, now.

When it breaks, the man falls over bleeding - she can't see exactly how, the wings are in the way still - and the Stone launches himself into the air, wings working surprisingly well for being made of crystal - the stone street beneath their feet is covered in glittering stalagmites, erupting upward, and one is poking through the human's leg -

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:Can you stop that: she asks him, alarmed, :I don't want him dead - I want to rescue all of you but not if it means killing all the humans -;

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:I'm not trying to kill anybody - I'm flying away as fast as I can - AUGH -:

She can just barely see him collapse out of the sky, hear him hitting the ground.

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She almost sprints in that direction, but stops herself, she doesn't want to give away that she was the necklace-breaker. Instead she stretches out her Thoughtsensing to figure out what just happened, she can easily reach miles with it. 

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Apparently someone else saw him flying loose and - caught him again before he could get away.

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Gah. She's so mad. Obviously this is going to be more complicated in a big city. 

:I'm sorry!: she tells the Stone. :I think I need to come up with a better plan. Can you help me with that?: 

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:Not right while I'm being beaten for escaping I don't think: he replies absently.

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:I'm sorry!: Jisa feels terrible about this! 

She keeps her Thoughtsensing anchored on his mind, and gets up and starts walking in his direction, at a normal hopefully-non-suspicious pace. She dares a glance at the man she tried to free him from; is he dead too? 

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Super dead.

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Aaaaaaaaaaaah. 

She marches purposefully for the streets and looks for the mind of the man currently beating his new slave, and this time she ruthlessly tries to read all of his thoughts too. 

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He's over there! He doesn't understand why somebody let their elemental go in the middle of the city but if this one is really good at seducing humans into bad decisions or something it had better be too scared to try again! When he feels like it's had enough he can sell it to the university, they make sure their students know you can't manumit these things.

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Jisa's Mindhealing range is a lot shorter than her Thoughtsensing range, but she can illusion herself before she comes around the corner, and get close enough, and - angrily, but she notices the anger and accepts it and tries to let it dissolve because angry Mindhealing is a bad idea - and she pushes and tells the man that no he does not want to beat his elemental anymore he definitely feels like it's had enough just look at it. 

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Okay, it's done. He makes it stand up and follow him in the direction of the campus.

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:I'm so sorry!: Jisa tells the elemental. :I made him stop as soon as I could. Are you all right...?: That feels like a really stupid question. 

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:Still immortal: he replies wearily.

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:- Oh, are elementals here immortal?: She...isn't actually sure that the elemental spirits she knows about are? She's very confused. 

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:Yes:

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Jisa follows the man at a distance, so he won't notice her. 

:Oh. Um, anyway, I still want to try to free you? And all the others if I can? But I need to take a step back and be smart about it. Can I ask you more questions later if I think of them?: 

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:Guess so: He sounds pretty depressed.

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All right. Think. She needs to be smart about it and do some actual planning. 

What would Van do. 

...Vanyel would be absurdly powerful at it and use half a dozen Gifts she doesn't have, which isn't really fair. 

Van is also good at strategy, though, he's an advisor to her father. Jisa has had lots of conversations with the King about policy, actually. She has no excuse to be this terrible at having plans, she just hasn't been trying to think. 

She looks around for a more comfortable place to sit than a stone wall, where she can think for a while undisturbed. 

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She could sit under that tree, there's some grass there. She could sit on somebody's porch steps.

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Jisa takes the spot under the tree, it seems like someone might try to talk to her if she just waltzes up to their porch. 

She stares into space for a long time. It keeps feeling like her brain is bouncing off rocks. 

- Eventually she sighs. She needs to know things, and the elementals are slaves and have no reason to trust her so it's not that surprising they aren't entirely helpful. And she can't ask the locals because she doesn't speak the language and they don't know what Mindspeech is, and/or it doesn't even work on them. 

Reading their thoughts is very unethical but slavery is ALSO very unethical so probably that cancels out, right? 

What would Van... Well, if he was going to do an unethical thing to win, he would at least be efficient about it. Reading random people's thoughts isn't efficient. 

She searches again for the mind of the Stone she failed to rescue, over at the university. 

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He is being haggled over. The university wants the discount on account of his having just killed somebody.

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaah Jisa feels so bad about that. And so stupid. She was such an idiot, trying basically the same plan a second time and hoping it would work. Why can't she have Fetching. Van would use that to steal the amulet. 

:Hello?: she says. :I want to know who's in charge of this city and where they live: 

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:I've never been to the mayor's house: says Stone, as his new amulet is handed over to the university elemental rental person.

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:- I'll try to find it anyway, thank you:

And Jisa starts scrying high above the city again, looking for the most upscale part of the city, and for particularly fancy houses there, probably the mayor would live in a nice house right? 

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Most of the architecture is unfamiliar and unimpressive compared to what there is in Valdemar, but there is a nice section with houses that look new and probably magically constructed, made of wood and stone and glass and metal.

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Well, if she goes there at least she can select for rich people, who might know more things even if they're not the mayor. Jisa gets up and trudges in that direction, and once she's reached the newer probably-magically-constructed houses, she starts hunting for minds to read. 

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People are mostly going to bed, except the ones who have magic lights, which isn't all of them even here. It's getting dark. She can find the mayor, because apparently his wife thinks it's hot to talk a whole lot about how he's the mayor in bed.

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At least now she knows. Probably the mayor is not thinking any interesting thoughts about running the city while in bed with his wife, though, and Jisa doesn't actually want to read the thoughts he is thinking. 

She looks around for a place near his house where she can hide and sleep. 

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He has a garden. There's an elemental and a mage supervising the elemental in there, working on the plants with the last light of the day.

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:Hello: Jisa says to the elemental, hiding out of the mage's view. :My name is Jisa and I'm from far away and I want to figure out how to rescue you and the others who're slaves. If I hide and sleep here tonight, can you not tell anyone? Also I wondered if you know things about how the city is run and all, since you work at the mayor's house: 

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:I don't have to tell anyone, if she doesn't see you herself. But I don't just work here, my owner visits a lot of gardens and farms:

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:Oh, all right. Er, could you warn me if she sees me?: Jisa, hidden under an illusion, looks for a place where she can curl up in the cover of some tall plants or something and put up wards. 

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:Okay:

The mage finishes using the elemental on the garden, and then they leave.

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Hopefully no one else will come do more garden work in the middle of the night. Jisa puts up her wards and curls into a ball in part of the garden where she isn't very visible even minus the illusion, and tries to sleep. 

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Nobody interrupts her. There are some deliveries to the house before dawn but they're not that loud. At sunrise everyone gets up.

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Jisa creeps out of the garden too, and moves a house down and sits under a tree, and then she looks for the mayor's mind again and reads his thoughts. 

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The Appointee will be visiting today, they have to make sure the darkroom is ready for him. He has a stack of paper - paper is such a useful invention! - delivered to update him on everything going on in Casox from yesterday. People are still using copper in the market, good, they're supposed to. Rixo isn't near enough the sea to benefit from a seashells and salt based money system but if you just regulate the Adamants copper's still fine. Somebody... freed their elemental in the middle of the street?? Doesn't everyone with an elemental know that kills you by now? Street's damaged, impassable to carts. Needs someone with a Stone to fix it. Elemental was recaptured and sold to the school, that's good.

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Jisa wants to know more about these regulations on Adamants, presumably a kind of elemental that can - forge coins, maybe? 

Does the man notice if she very very cautiously probes his mind a bit, poking at that train of thought?

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If the Adamants are causing problems by making metal and that's making it take four pounds of copper to buy a sheep you just have to make that illegal, he doesn't know why other cities aren't trying it. If anybody starts up he'll make them sell their Adamant to the university, that's all. - this is probably less important right now than the thing about the dead guy. Who does that? If you want to commit suicide by elemental you go somewhere nobody's around...

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That's also an interesting thread, Jisa decides. She pokes his mind again, slightly less carefully this time, in the direction of thinking more about people who decide to free their elementals, and how they do it, since she thinks they're mostly not the kind of mage she is and therefore probably don't use mage-sight to see how to snap their own amulets... 

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The mayor is not a mage himself but he is pretty sure that after a few people tried manumitting their elementals because of customs about not keeping slaves longer than twenty years, or because their elementals convinced them to somehow, and all those people were instantly murdered by their elementals, people have stopped doing it except when they're actually trying to die of it. It looks very quick, he supposes. Though surely you could also agree to sell your elemental and give the money to your family and have the elemental kill you equally quickly in the way one normally controls them. Whatever. Some people he'll never understand.

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- wait, what, she thought it was the amulets that were killing the people. But, hmm, maybe she wasn't watching closely enough? Or was just making assumptions? 

Jisa tries to recall the scene both times, as clearly as possible in every detail. She has a very good memory, Mindhealing helps with that and so does the fact that she was incredibly alarmed both times. 

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The amulets did break, because she broke them, but the elementals were definitely letting off a lot of magic and both the people died of that part.

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Oh no she feels even worse and stupider that she didn't notice that part until now! 

Maybe she can set-command them not to? Jisa is very aware that non-consensually putting set-commands on people is extremely unethical and is the sort of thing that might get her expelled from the Mindhealers' Collegium, but it's better than either letting all the slaves stay enslaved or murdering their owners in the process of freeing them. Right? 

Jisa can imagine Van's disapproving expression perfectly. But Stef would think it was reasonable. 

She looks for the nearest elemental. 

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The nearest is an Adamant being tapped while a mage puts enchantments a house down the street.

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:Hello. I want to free you and I can do it with magic but apparently you would kill your owner if I did? Can you decide not to do that?: 

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:I've... never been freed before, I don't know. She deserves it though:

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:Um, I mean, that's fair for you to think. Just, I'm not really willing to free all the elementals in the city if it means hundreds of people are going to die. Um, also I noticed a problem where you might just get captured again so I'll need to do something about that, maybe I can make you invisible, but I don't really know how the capturing works either: 

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:I think if they can't see me they won't know to do it. Some elements let you people see invisible things though:

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:Um, do you want me to try anyway? I'll make you invisible and maybe if you fly really fast, no one with those elements will have a chance to get you - and I can make a distraction - but I can't promise it'll work:  

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:Yes I want to get out!:

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:All right. I need to take my time setting this up. And, um, I'm going to use something called a set-command for you not to hurt your owner, because that's really important to me, that's a condition of rescuing you: 

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:She's evil. She'll catch someone else and hurt them too:

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:I know - but...: Jisa trails off. And then just does it anyway. :Do not harm her: Just in case that somehow doesn't work on elementals, even though she can read them fine with Mindhealing, she is going to shield the hell out of the woman before trying to break the amulet. 

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The amulet breaks. The woman shrieks, absolutely convinced she's about to die. The Adamant tries to swat her in the head with a metal wing while taking off but doesn't connect and then he's gone.

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Illusion of invisibility! She's not good enough at illusions to make it perfect so there's still a faint shimmer moving through the air. She adds some magical shielding for good measure, before the elemental is out of range for delicate mage-work. 

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The woman grabs a chunk of the broken amulet and mashes it into shape, squinting at the shimmer, and is about to recapture the fleeing Adamant.

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:STOP: Jisa orders her, and then she sprints away as fast as she can, because she's still herself under illusion but she's doing a lot of magic at once and it's hard to maintain and all of it must be very suspicious. 

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The woman stops, standing stock still in the street, helpless, while her initial scream attracts people from the surrounding houses.

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Jisa hides behind a house, pressed to the back wall, and is just barely still enough in range that once the elemental is far far away she'll try to dig out the set-command and free the woman. 

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When she's free she can explain to all these concerned people what happened and which way the Adamant went! They'll get a hunting party together with a Glass to see through whatever it was doing - did you know that was an Adamant power, no, did you? - they'll go catch it before it hurts anyone -

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Everything about all of this is so concerning! And confusing! 

Jisa creeps behind them at a distance once the hunting party is assembled, reading all of their thoughts including the Glass, trying to figure out what's going on

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The Glass is VERY DEPRESSED but will do what they tell him as the path of least resistance.

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Sigh. 

:Hello: Jisa says to the Glass. :I'm the one who freed the Adamant, please don't say anything to them about that. I'm really confused about this place. Can you tell me why they think the Adamant is going to hurt a bunch of people now?: 

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Glass kind of.... blinks, but doesn't say anything to her or the humans.

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What is the Glass thinking about. 

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Everything is meaningless and horrible and always has been and always will be.

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Oh no. She wants to help it very very badly! 

:I want to free you too but I need to use mind-control to stop you from killing your owner so I get in less trouble if I get caught: She's going to get in SO much trouble anyway if she gets caught, but Jisa hopes that'll be more convincing than 'she doesn't deserve to die even if she enslaved you' which is her actual reason. :I'll make you invisible too and stop your owner from catching you again but you'll need to be very fast. Um, and if everything still feels meaningless and terrible afterward, I can try to help with that, I'm a Mindhealer: 

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That sounds fake.

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Jisa is aware on some level that she is doing a whole lot of things in a row without thinking them through at all and some of the things were a terrible idea and Uncle Van would be giving her SUCH a lecture about all of this, but also that elemental is so sad and it makes her so sad and she doesn't know what else to do, she can't just leave it there. 

This time she does less shielding on the slaver, because the set-command worked last time - although she didn't have time to get it off, but at least it was fairly specific and shouldn't prevent the elemental from defending themselves against anyone else. 

:Do not hurt your owner: she commands, and then she uses magic to snap the amulet and immediately throws an illusion and some magic shields at the Glass. :Fly away fly away do it now–: 

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Glass supposes it is at least abstractly interesting if he can fly away now. He spreads his wings.

His owner seizes him by the wrist and Glass's wings are full of hairline cracks, suddenly, and the glass is raining to the ground in a fine rain, and the Adamant's owner is scooping some up in her hands and forming it into a ball for the Glass's owner to replace his amulet. "What is going on?" demands the Glass's owner. "That wasn't me!"

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:Stop let them go don't move: Jisa ordes all of the humans around the Glass. :Sorry sorry sorry can you try again: 

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The humans stop.

The Glass's wings are still in a million pieces. He can't fly away.

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Jisa freezes on the spot for a moment, and then she snatches up the Glass in the gentlest force-net of magic she can manage while she's kind of completely panicking, and invisibles them again, and pulls them to where she is so she can hold them in her arms and run away. This time she leaves the set-commands because otherwise they're going to come after her. They might come after her anyway... 

...can she manage a Gate, she's eaten proper food and had a better night's sleep, maybe she can manage a blind unscaffolded Gate back to an isolated spot on the road a couple of miles back...

...and she does this and staggers through and the Gate comes down. She stands rooted to the spot, chest heaving for air, apologizing to the Glass over and over in Mindspeech while barely aware that she's doing so. 

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Glass sits on the ground.

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:Are you in pain?: Jisa asks Glass. :Will your wings heal by themselves if I take care of you for a while?: 

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:Yes: he replies to both.

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Damn it she so badly wishes that Stef were here. Or Mother, even, despite the inevitable lecture it would earn her. She helped Shavri figure out how to imitate Stef's Gift with Healing, but she can't imitate it with Empathy or Mindhealing, which is dumb and unfair. 

:Is there anything I could do to help with the pain?: she asks. 

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:Don't think so:

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:Do you need, er, food, or a fire to stay warm or anything?: Jisa starts reading the Glass's surface thoughts again, they're being so uncommunicative. 

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The wings hurt a LOT and are taking up most of his attention. He doesn't need to eat or keep warm. It has been a long time since he ate anything, his owner stopped bothering rewarding him for stuff after he was good and broken.

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Jisa can't actually painblock but she can use Empathy to help the Glass stay calmer, make him kind of woozy the way pain-drugs make people. :I'm going to try some magic and see if it helps you feel better: she says, and pushes calmcalmcalm and reassurance and safesafesafe. 

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Glass's response to this is to lie down on his side.

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:Is that all right or should I stop: Jisa asks, though she keeps doing it for the moment. Also keeps reading his thoughts because she's not really expecting him to answer. He's SO traumatized and it's very upsetting. 

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Glass does not have a strong opinion on this topic. He is sort of dissociating.

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Jisa's going to keep doing it, then, he does seem less distressed by the pain in that state and she supposes that's preferable. 

:Do you know how long your wings will need to heal on their own?: she asks. :What kind of taking care of do you need in the meantime? I can keep you safe so no one enslaves you, but I don't know what else you need: 

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He doesn't know how long it will take. Before when his owner did that he'd put new glass on the stumps for Glass to reshape into wings. Elementals don't need much, it's part of why they're such good slaves.

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:If I get you new glass can you fix them the same way?:

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He supposes he can do that.

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Oh, right, she's back in the wilderness and stealing glass will be annoying. :Can you make the glass from a bucket of sand? I saw a Glass doing that before, I can get you sand more easily: 

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Yeah, he can do that.

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Jisa has to lighten up on the Projective Empathy a bit in order to focus on finding sand. She puts up a shield-barrier and wards around the elemental and keeps glancing back at it worriedly while she hunts around. 

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Everything is horrible and awful but that is normal, thinks Glass.

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Jisa eventually finds some sand, or at least very sandy soil, which she can try to sift to get just the sand and then carry back in her tunic folded up to make a pouch over her belly, since she doesn't actually have a bucket. 

She sits down beside the Glass. :Here. Can you make this into glass for me, please: 

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He glances over at it. Now it's a lump of glass.

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She picks it up, staring at it in awe for a moment, and then holds it against the stump of one wing. :Can you fix your wings now: 

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He can see around corners, apparently, so he gets a good look at it and it fuses onto the stump and turns into a wing, gradually filling in details. The other is still a stump, he didn't have enough sand for both.

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:I'll get you more sand, just hang in there: Jisa goes sand-hunting again and comes back a few minutes later with her tunic-pouch full of sand. :Here you go: 

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He fixes his other wing. It doesn't hurt any more. Physically.

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:You should get some rest now: Jisa tells Glass. :I promise I'll keep you safe and I won't hurt you or let anyone else hurt you, and I want to help you - get better. I know you might not believe me yet because you've been mistreated a lot and you're traumatized: She gets the second loaf of bread from the city market out of her tunic pocket. :I know you don't need to eat, but if you enjoy eating, you're welcome to have some of this: 

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He thinks he used to enjoy eating but it's been a long time. Chewing sounds like a lot of work right now.

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Jisa sits and eats her bread and tries to actually make herself think about her situation, and why she keeps impulsively doing things half at random. She's - just killed two people? Well, technically the elementals killed them, and at least the first time she didn't have the information to know that would happen, but - that's not really an excuse. Van would have done his homework first. Maybe even Stef would have.

- it's painful to think about and it's only half because she's a killer. She's so lonely. And scared. She misses Treven and Enara desperately and everyone is going to be so angry with her for doing an untested Gate experiment without asking for help and she's been trying to avoid thinking about any of that. Which is stupid. 

Okay. Think. She needs to deal with her feelings, first, and then be less of an idiot. 

Eventually she pulls off a very small piece of bread, from the nice soft part in the middle of the loaf, and offers it to the Glass. 

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Sure, whatever, he'll open his mouth. The bread tastes like bread. One time he claimed to like bread but he was probably lying because everything is horrible.

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Maybe Melody would know what to do to help? Jisa does not. Actually, probably this is a case where Melody would say the patient needed some time to even be ready to do any processing their trauma, and Jisa ought to leave them alone. 

What does she need? 

- well, a way back to Valdemar would be great. She'll get shouted at so much, but also this place is incredibly horrible, and Uncle Van and everyone else will agree on that and maybe they can help. She'll work on the Gate research. 

Also she needs help. Allies. The problem is that elementals are, well, weird aliens, and the entire reason she rescued this one is because they clearly can't look after themselves at all. And she doesn't know if there are literally any humans here who are against slavery. She could wander around reading minds until she finds one? Not very efficient though. 

:If I find another Glass who's free, or I free them: she asks the Glass with her, :will they help look after you until you're doing a bit better?: She has no idea whether to expect a helpful answer, but it seems worth asking anyway. 

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He doesn't have friends any more. Friends are for people who can move around and talk whenever they want.

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:Hey, hey, it's all right, I'll take care of you until things feel less horrible and you can move around and talk again, and then you can make new friends: 

Sigh. That doesn't get her anywhere in terms of finding helpful allies, though. She's still scared to talk to the human locals, but - maybe it's worth trying it again anyway? If she tries with an adult at a more remote farm then she won't be in the middle of a city where they can immediately send a lot of people to chase her. 

:I'm going to pick you up and carry you: she tells Glass, and she does this, and does another scrying-spell high above her head to spot the nearest farm. 

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He's pretty heavy, though the wings don't add much weight, it turns out, he's just an adult man.

There is a farm that way. Looks like mostly lentils and wheat.

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Jisa is a Herald-trainee. She works out a lot. Still, she's pretty tired after carrying the elemental a half-mile. 

:I'm going to leave you here with wards and a shield: she tells Glass. :If I sense anyone coming, I'll come back for you, but no one should be able to find you: And she conceals the elemental in the tall wheat, with the promised wards plus a somewhat sloppy illusion, and keeps walking by herself, feeling ahead for minds. 

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There is a farm family there, mom and dad and grandma and six kids.

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She tries grandma, on the basis that someone elderly is more likely to have heard of weird things. And she illusions her hair to look blonde, as a kind of halfhearted disguise. 

:Hello, can you understand me?: 

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:Go away! I don't want to hear any voices, thank you: replies the grandma.

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:It's just me talking!: Jisa waves. :I have a different kind of magic from your mages here, but I'm a real human. I don't know the language: 

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Grandma narrows her eyes. Calls over her family to have a look at Jisa and confirm that she's there.

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Jisa bobs her head and smiles at them and then, tentatively, also tries greeting the couple in Mindspeech. 

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They think that's VERY WEIRD. One of them grabs the nearest kid and starts interrogating her about whether that's a thing mages can do.

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Jisa waits to see how this question will be resolved. She reads their thoughts a bit, in case they suddenly decide she's a ghost or spirit that needs attacking or something.

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They come to the conclusion that this is NOT a thing mages can do and she must be some weird hybrid elemental maybe???

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Jisa is worried that they're going to try to enslave her?? But it seems to her like it's some sort of magic thing, and since she's in fact not an elemental, probably it wouldn't work on her. Hopefully. She's putting a lot of weight on that 'probably' and is aware that's not a good way of reasoning but she feels stuck. 

:I think I might be from another world: she says. :I traveled here doing a magic experiment, and at first I thought your mages were like the kind of mage I am, but - it seems very different: 

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They are confused about what she could possibly want from them. The mother rounds up all the kids and hightails it to the neighbors'.

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Ughhh this is so unreasonable, nothing she tries is working. 

:Um, sorry: she tells the grandmother. :If you're willing to answer some questions, I have a lot, but I can also - go away...?: 

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:I already told you to go away!:

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Jisa sighs and goes away. She ducks into the wheat and illusions herself while out of sight, so she can walk without anyone following her back to the poor elemental, who she checks on with Thoughtsensing. 

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If he lies here long enough, he will eventually be noticed, and that's... probably bad... probably another mage will make an amulet for him... yeah, that would be bad, he thinks.

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He's having preferences! The Mindhealing-student part of Jisa thinks that's very good. 

:I didn't manage to talk to the people at the farm: she tells him. :I think we're going to have to sleep rough tonight - well, I guess I don't need to sleep. And tomorrow I'll try something else: She can go back to the university again, or at least get in Thoughtsensing range of it, and try to talk to the Stone she failed to rescue. :Um, can you fly next to me, or should I pick you up again: 

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He supposes he could fly. He's not sure if following her is a good idea, though. Maybe he should fly very high and go to the ocean and sink to the bottom where humans can't go.

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:Um, you can do that if you want? I'm not keeping you prisoner. Just, you seem in - not great shape, and I have Mindhealing training so maybe I can help, and also once you're doing better I really need help from a local to rescue more elementals: 

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He doesn't know what Mindhealing is. Helping her with rescuing elementals sounds hard, like someone who can do things should probably have that job instead.

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:I don't need you to do anything hard: she promises him. :I just don't know any of the obvious common-sense things that everyone knows here, so I have a lot of questions: She starts walking, very slowly, hoping the elemental will follow. 

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He watches her, contemplating whether he should go with her, or go dive into the sea, or just lie here forever.

Eventually he gets up and follows her.

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Jisa watches her surroundings with all her Othersenses wide open, still very twitchy, and looks for a spot where they can camp and have some concealment and shelter from the elements. She knows how to do a weather-barrier, fortunately, but she's out of food again, and the wheat and lentils in the fields aren't very edible without cooking. 

She tries to put her questions in order. :Um. Do you know much about how humans here do politics - is there a king of Rixo?: 

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:No, they call him the Appointee:

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:Did he get appointed? How?: 

Any sign of a good campsite yet? 

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:I don't know. I can't vote:

There's an okay-looking spot sheltered from wind by some trees over there.

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Jisa spends a while making a nice cozy camp for them, with a weather-barrier and lots of wards, and then beds down on some soft-ish dead leaves. She's thirsty but she can cope until morning, and her feet are very tired and sore. Normally she has a Companion to ride and doesn't have to do so much walking. 

:What - did your owner do to you?: she asks the Glass. :I, er, you don't have to talk about it, if you don't want to, just, it sounds really horrible and I'm angry about it: 

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:Lots of things: he says. :Less if I behaved:

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:I'm sorry. That's really unfair: She hates this world a LOT. 

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Yeah. That doesn't seem to require a reply.

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Jisa can't think of anything else to say, so she works on testing Gate variants for a bit, and maybe makes a bit of progress but it's hard to tell. Also it's getting dark and she's very tired.

:I'm going to sleep: Jisa says eventually. :Wake me if you need anything, though. Are you comfortable?: 

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Not especially but like, it doesn't matter. :Sleep well:

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Jisa lies down, but she's not instantly sleepy. :Is there anything I can get you to be more comfortable, tomorrow? It seems important: 

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She sure asks a lot of questions.

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Shrug. Jisa goes to sleep, and manages to sleep pretty solidly this time unless the wards trigger an alarm and wake her. 

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Nobody bothers her.

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Jisa wakes up incredibly thirsty and ravenous and with a wad of dead leaves stuck to her face. She lies there miserably for a bit. :I don't suppose you can help me find a stream or something: she says sleepily to the Glass. 

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Yes all right whatever. Over there. She's reading his mind, right? It's that way.

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:I'll stop reading your mind if you tell me to but you seem to have a hard time with talking sometimes so it seems easier. Thank you. Do you need water: 

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Not especially no.

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Jisa tromps over to the stream, uses magic to sterilize a handful of water at a time before slurping it. She ends up wet all down her front, but no longer thirsty. The hunger is if anything worse. 

:I need to go back to the city to talk to an elemental at the university: she tells the Glass. :Would you rather come with me and I can hide both of us with illusions, or stay here with the wards? Or, I mean, you can go anywhere else you like too: 

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He has decided he likes the going to the sea and diving to the bottom and looking at fish or something idea.

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:All right, um, good luck: And she heads off, not appearing to look back, though she's totally still reading his mind. 

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He flies up up up up up as fast as he can, till he's a speck in the sky, halo down to nothing because it's just a froth of rainbows and wouldn't help people mistake him for a bird. He looks far far away - sights the sea - flies to it. He'll be safe under the sea and everything will be horrible but the horrible will stop happening quite so much to him.

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Probably that's what he needs? And it seems good that he's having goals about it. 

She walks back to the city, keeping an eye out for edible plants. 

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She's been this way before, it has the same stuff.

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Jisa is obscurely disappointed about that even though it's very stupid to be. She nibbles halfheartedly at more carrots; she doesn't even like vegetables, she's just hungry enough not to care. 

She eventually reaches the city, and digs out more coppers in order to mime her way through buying more bread at the marketplace. 

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She can get bread for her coppers.

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She smiles at the bread-seller, and then heads off in the direction of the university, munching her bread with great satisfaction. 

If she reaches ahead with Thoughtsensing, can she find the Stone she rescued earlier? 

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Yep. There he is, in a barracks with other elementals, talking about what it'll be like there for him.

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:Hello: Jisa sends. :It's me again. I need to learn more about how things work here and make a proper plan, if I want to rescue all of you. Can you help me learn things?: 

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:Maybe? What do you need?:

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:Um, I think the thing I really need is allies. Are you friends with other elementals, who I could try to rescue all together? Do you know if there are any humans who are against enslaving you and just don't have enough political power to stop it, or something: 

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:I'm just getting to know these ones. I had friends, in the wild... I don't know if they got away though:

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:How did you get captured?: 

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:I was sleeping, up on the mountain where I used to live and when I woke up the hunter had me, and sold me to the man you first saw me with:

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:I'm sorry: Jisa thinks for a moment, munching bread. :Um, do all countries enslave elementals or only some of them?: 

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:Rixo used to be part of a big empire that fragmented. The empire enslaved elementals. I don't know about places that were never part of it:

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:How long ago did the empire fragment? Do you know what made it fall?: 

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:Not that long ago but I don't know how long exactly... I think the emperor freed his elementals and died:

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:How much does that happen? People deciding to free their elementals, I mean: 

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:Almost never any more:

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:Is that because the elementals always kill the person freeing them: 

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:I guess that would be a reason:

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:Do the humans have laws or institutions or military organizations built around capturing elementals? What's the organization setup there, or is it just random people with magic doing it?: 

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:It's just random people taking up hunting:

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:If I decided to start freeing a lot of elementals, would the humans mount some kind of organized response?: 

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:I'd think so:

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:What would that look like? Do they have an army?:

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:I don't think they leave one lying around all the time but they'd raise one, I think:

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Jisa's head is starting to ache. Trying to plan an entire war by herself, it turns out, is really hard! 

:How long would that take?: she asks. 

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:I have no idea:

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:What about combat magic? I guess mages can make the elementals who're still enslaved fight - do they have their own magic they can use for that too?: 

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:Yes. Not as strong as ours but they can do combinations, and make artifacts:

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:And - how about free elementals? How powerful is one of you in a fight, compared to a mage?: 

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:They can amulet us pretty fast if they have one ready. We're stronger if it gets toe to toe but they don't have to let it, and usually bring slaves along to hunt anyway:

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Jisa thinks hard. 

:- I think I need to steal one of the amulets. So I can figure out how it works, and - maybe I can make a new kind of magic shield for you that stops it from working. Do you know where they're made, or stored, I don't know, just somewhere I could maybe steal one that's not around a person's neck?: 

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:They aren't wearing the ones here all the time. I should ask the other elementals, here, if there's anything else you should know - or you can, so no one hears:

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:I should do that: Jisa agrees, and starts reaching around with Thoughtsensing for other nearby minds. 

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There are five more elementals currently not checked out and hanging around in the barracks. Water, Shine/Shadow hybrid, Fire, Earth, Wood. There is also a student mage keeping watch over the amulets but only wearing two of them at the moment (the hybrid and the Fire).

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Jisa might as well just try to Mindspeak all of them at once, it's not that much harder than doing one at a time. She gives her by now very practiced speech about being from another world and wanting to rescue the enslaved elementals but needing more information to plan, and then she repeats her question about stealing an amulet to study. 

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They all try to respond to her at once, except the Fire, who is not quite as depressed as the Glass who flew away to the ocean but is still pretty nonagentic.

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Wow, she should really have thought of that, Mindspeakers have conventions for group links but these people have never heard of Mindspeech.

:One at a time, sorry!: And she narrows the link to just one of them. :What was that?:

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The Earth repeats, :You should wait until night when fewer of us are checked out:

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:Oh. Right. Er, what does ‘checked out’ mean?:

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:The students borrow us for practice:

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:Practicing what?:

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:Magic. But they can use us for anything while they have us:

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:How many of you are there when you’re all here and not, um, checked out?:

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:We're never all here at once, but twenty:

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:And where are the amulets when you're not checked out?: 

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:Under guard round the clock in the room between us and the building's exit:

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:Thank you: 

Jisa tries to scry in said room. 

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No dice.

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Oh. Huh. Jisa supposes it's not the first time the local magic has interacted with hers; she can break the amulets but they do show up as magic to her mage-sight. 

Just to make sure she's done all her homework, she continues through the other elementals, except for the non-agentic one, and repeats approximately the same questions, seeing if she gets anything new. 

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The Water thinks she should talk to a student named Maurabel. The Wood thinks it makes perfect sense to kill humans for owning elementals and she should just do that till they cut it out. Penumbra is shy and says Water can speak for her.

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She asks the Water where to find Maurabel.

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She has checked out an Adamant and is probably in a workroom, over thataway.

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Jisa thanks them, promises to come back that night, and heads thataway. 

...She's going to talk to Maurabel but first she's going to read her mind to see what the deal is, can she do that from outside the workroom. 

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Maurabel is doing - nothing at all with the Adamant, actually, she is reading a book and the Adamant is also reading a book. This book was not scribed very well, she wonders if there's a way to do magical printing - you'd want Water and Wood for sure...

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Huh. 

What's the Adamant thinking? 

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She LOVES this part. She has read this poem five times and this is the BEST part.

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Awww. 

Jisa spends a moment smiling to herself, and then shakes herself and refocuses. She takes a deep breath, and knocks politely on the workroom door. 

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Maurabel gets up and opens the door. "...who are you?"

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"Jisa," she says out loud, pointing at herself. "Maurabel?" 

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"Yes, what is it?"

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Jisa isn't reading her thoughts anymore, since she feels like she saw enough for the ethical violation not to make sense anymore, and she has no idea what the young woman is saying. 

:I don't speak your language: she tries sending. :I think I ended up here by accident from another world. The Water in the elementals for rent room said to talk to you: 

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Maurabel looks at her. And at Adamant. And back. :Are you reading my mind:

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:Not anymore! I, um, might've read it a little bit, because everyone here is horrible and I kept making awful mistakes when I didn't know what was going on! You seem not horrible though, which is probably why the Water told me to talk to you. I need help freeing all the elementals without murdering more people: 

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:You can hear what I think at you but you are not otherwise reading my mind at all and aren't going to?:

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:Yes. I promise I won't read your mind again: It's a little bit hard since she doesn't shield, but Jisa has lots of practice with un-Gifted patients, she can thickness her own shields enough to 'hear' the loudest surface thoughts being shoved at her but not the rest. :It's considered really unethical where I'm from, I just - I was getting so overwhelmed and didn't know what to do: 

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:You can come in: She waves Jisa into the room. Adamant looks up. :How young does an elemental have to be to talk to you?:

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:- Er, sorry, what? I don't know what age has to do with it, and I didn't ask how old they were but I've been able to talk to everyone I tried it with so far: 

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:Out loud, I mean, how young do they have to be to speak your language:

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:What?: Now she's even MORE confused. :I, um, didn't know them speaking my language was a thing, I haven't tried that at all, how does that even work?: 

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:Elementals coalescce in the wild knowing all the languages in use in the world at the time:

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:- See, one of the reasons I've been looking for friendly people is that I don't know any of the obvious things like that! None of the elementals thought to mention it. Anyway I think I might actually be from a different world because all the magic here works differently. I guess I could try talking to a really young elemental out loud, do you know which of them here is youngest?: 

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:This one, actually, but she's six, have you been in this world for six years?:

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:No, I've been here for...three days...?: She has to count the different places she's slept to guess, wow, she hasn't been doing a good job keeping track of time at all. 

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:So to talk out loud you'd need a brand new elemental, oh well. I guess this works as long as you DEFINITELY don't read my mind because that's very fucked up:

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:I have practice not reading people's minds even when they don't shield, I was training as a Mindhealer. Sorry, you probably don't know what that is here. It's a different Gift from Mindspeech that - helps people recover from problems in their mind rather than their body: 

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:You are correct that I have never heard of it before.

Okay. How did you get here, is your world accessible -:

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:I was experimenting with a kind of magic we have, called Gates, you can use it to make a doorway between one place and another. I haven't figured out how to get back yet but I'm pretty sure I can with more research, since I got here in the first place: Ow ow ow now she's thinking about missing Enara and Treven again. Maybe not that. Maybe think about something else. 

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:Are you the one who killed that guy yesterday, the one the Stone was with -:

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Aaaaaaaaaaah. 

 

 

 

:........Yes: She takes a deep breath. :It was really stupid. I hadn't figured out yet that the elemental was doing it, I thought it was the amulet exploding - it'd happened before with a Glass - I know it was very dumb to try again but I - I don't know what I was thinking. I guess it was too upsetting not being able to do anything: 

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:My understanding from talking to ones who've been freed before is that they're not sure they can help it, like it feels like they might be able to in theory but when it actually happens it's overwhelming and the most obvious thing to do is to let out all the pent-up everything they've been prevented from doing for however long. Nobody has ever survived letting one go. My plan was to accumulate as many as possible and then see if I could free them all at once when I got old if I never had a better idea:

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:Oh, um, I found a way to do that. It's just. Incredibly unethical and I would get expelled from my Collegium back home if they knew I'd done it: Wow and she really needs to find those people she set-commanded and then ran away from, and undo it, probably the set-command would stop affecting them once the context was different enough but it's not like she's extensively tested set-command interactions. 

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:...what did you do?:

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:I, um. Used Mindhealing to - make them not hurt the human. Then took it off right away once they were free and flying away and I hid them with an illusion. But it's not a great solution, the Stone got re-captured right away by someone else, I - really shouldn't mind-control the entire city and also I don't think I even can

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:Can I have more detail on 'used Mindhealing to make them not hurt the human':

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:There's something I can do called a set-command, it's fast and it's basically an order - it works best to get people not to do things, like a block: She fumbles through an explanation of how set-commands work, suddenly very worried that she's about to get shouted at by this person who seems to hate the entire concept of mindreading let alone mind control. 

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She doesn't look exactly comfortable, but she does not take this opportunity to figure out how to yell with her brain. :Well, it sounds like it works, and it's reversible, but you do need to be more careful to have it actually work, as you've noticed:

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:I decided I needed to stop doing things and spend awhile learning things instead and then come up with a proper plan. I was looking for people who would help me. It seems like you are?: Her face looks so hopeful about it. 

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:I mean, I'll do my best! Asking the university elementals was a good idea, they have more downtime and opportunity to trade information than most:

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:I'm glad I figured that out! I kind of only came here because the Stone who I, um, unsuccessfully tried to rescue got sold here. Anyway, I...think the plan occurring to me right now is to keep working on getting a Gate home, so I can bring more help, and also maybe try to steal all the amulets from the guarded room once it's night? And then I can destroy them somewhere far away from people and I think the elementals won't kill me if I just took the amulets to free them and I'm not actually wearing them?: 

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:I don't know if that would work, if you're not a mage and the amulet isn't yours... it might:

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:It might be safer to do it with the set-command anyway but at least I'd have time to talk to the elementals about what I was planning and get their consent, Mindhealing is fine with consent, that's literally my job: 

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:Is it. Having the latitude to warn them first sounds ideal:

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Nod. :And - I should probably wait to do that. Because the mistake I kept making was being really impatient and doing things too fast without waiting, and - I don't know, maybe I'm slowing down too much but I think I should try to err toward the opposite mistake for a bit: 

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:In your world are there lots of people with abilities like yours?:

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:Um, it depends which abilities and what you mean by 'lots'. Several hundred Mindspeakers in my kingdom, but less than a dozen Mindhealers or mages. Some places in the world have more though. And there are other Gifts I don't have: 

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:Hm. Have you been, like, telepathically buying food -:

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:No, I was managing to mime things to the baker at the market and show them my money. And I, um, stole some carrots from farms. If you have ideas about how I can get food, that would be really good. I'm nearly out of the coin I had on me: 

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:Kind of depends on how much attention you want to attract, which, if you have gotten a couple people killed, might be 'none':

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:I don't think anyone knew it was me, but it might be easy to put together if this happens really rarely and I'm the newcomer in town: 

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:Very rare, and the sort of thing you'd see coming - melancholy temperament or something. But maybe you can duplicate something we can do and pass as one of us, what can you do?:

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:Um, with mage-gift I can - make light and heat, or start fires, and shield things - make wards...: Jisa goes down the list of her mage-curriculum. It's quite varied. 

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:Okay, we have some of that. If you're sure you won't be recognized on sight you could claim you've got Fire and Shine and Adamant and that you don't want to go to school and are trying to earn pocket money doing little magic chores but don't know how to do everything people will have heard of. Most people older than about my age aren't mages, there's stuff you have to eat while you're pregnant to make your kid likely to be a mage and that was only discovered recently, so it's not that weird for someone your age to want to do magic for cash. The problem is that you don't speak the language and it's downright bizarre for elementals not to be able to either. Is one of the ones you got away maybe willing to help you out?:

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:I guess I can ask. Um, and I wanted to ask you, could you help me learn some of the language? It might be less suspicious if I speak enough to communicate a bit: 

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:Yeah, sure: She can give her "hello" and "goodbye" and "thank you" and "yes" and "no" and "I don't speak this language, my elemental will translate" :though of course actually you'd be doing the translation with Mindspeech and the elemental will speak some completely unrelated language:

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:All right. Um, if I have an elemental, will it be suspicious if I don't have the amulet for them? I can see them with mage-sight, but I don't know if mages here can do that: 

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:Nobody will be able to tell by looking if it's fake. I can mock one up for you: "Adamant, may I have a little of your halo?"

"Mm? Yeah, sure -" Adamant peels off a bit of metal from her arm and hands it over. Maurabel starts shaping it into something convincing.

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Jisa watches, quietly impressed. 

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"Here. It's not weird to wear it while the elemental isn't with you, it just looks like you left them home," says Maurabel, handing it over when she's done.

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:Thank you!: Jisa puts it on. :I'm really glad I met you, this was so helpful. Er, can I ask one more favour?: 

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:You're not about to leave right now, are you? I don't even know how I'd find you again!:

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:Oh! No, I don't want to leave, I just - don't want to take up more of your time than you're happy with. I have a lot more questions, actually. The thing I wanted to ask for was paper, or something else to write on, so I can take notes: 

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:Yeah, I can do that: She has a lot of paper, bunched together in a notebook with magic connecting all the paper directly, but she peels off the back half of it.

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Jisa takes the paper with a grateful smile. :All right, can you help me go through what all the types of elemental are and what powers they have? I've been picking it up in bits and pieces but haven't been through it systematically: 

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:Your basic elemental types are Adamant, Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Glass, Ice, Lightning, Shadow, Wood, Stone, and Shine, in no particular order. All of them do what they sound like - direct manipulation of metal, fire, water, light, darkness, etcetera. There are also occasionally hybrids, which have all the powers of both types they're hybrids of - I've never heard of a triple, I don't know if that's impossible or not - and have appropriate idiosyncratic halos and wings. They mostly have healing applications of one sort or another though some of those are very limited; some people think they all do and we just haven't discovered some obscure Shadow and Wood and Glass healing abilities. Those are the generalities, I can get specific if you like:

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:I think I want to know specifically how mages use their powers in combat? Since I might end up fighting mages who're ordering their elementals to fight too: 

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:Depends what elements the mage has. Every mage has got at least three, some have more. I have ten:

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:Whoa: It doesn't make sense to be jealous, Jisa is telling herself. (Jisa is absolutely jealous.) :I think I'm still confused how mages having elements versus elementals - being them? How that all works. Is it the same list of elements and does it gives the mages similar powers?: 

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:Same list of elements, and the same powers but we don't have them as strongly as an elemental, which locks us out of some things - for instance, Shines can heal, but only at such a high power level that an elemental will be wiped out for the day if they do it, whereas I can't Shine-heal at all even though I have Shine:

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Nod. Jisa still feels confused, but she thinks it's mostly from sheer information overload. She has most of it down in her notes, anyway. :Thank you. I'm trying to think what else I should do right now... How do I get a place to sleep, are there rooms for rent around here?: 

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:Travelers usually find a house to stay in, but you wouldn't get your own room, they'd probably put you on the floor, and it also kind of requires the ability to make dinner conversation. I can put you under my bed if you want but my room is very small:

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:I've been sleeping in the woods or in bushes, so under your bed is still an improvement!: 

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:Under my bed it is. I'll tell people you're my mom's friend's kid or something, she's the sort of person who'd have weird foreign friends:

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:Oh? What is she like?: It takes Jisa a moment to recognize that the feeling she's having is one of having been very lonely for days and immensely relieved at an opportunity for chitchat that isn't about freeing slaves. 

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:Eccentric children's schoolteacher with odd hobbies and odd friends. She's nice, you'd probably like her, but she isn't great at secrets:

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:Mmm: Jisa fidgets and resists the temptation to read Maurabel's mind again out of some mixture of curiosity and boredom, which would in fact be a very fucked up thing to do. 

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:She is credited with discovering it's possible to teach children to read, has her own little school. Uh, do you need food?:

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:Wait, what, did people only learn to read as adults before that? Huh. And, yes please: Her loaf of bread was a while ago and she could really use something to eat other than bread, at this point. :Er, I don't eat meat, I hope that's not inconvenient: 

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:Writing was invented about forty years ago. I don't think I even have any meat. Why don't you eat it? - I'll have to go back to my room for food, you can wait here with Adamant - I don't know your telepathy range:

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:More than a mile, I think it should be all right. I don't eat meat because animals have feelings, our world has people with Animal Mindspeech so we know that for sure: 

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:...huh. Well, I'll be right back

She's back in ten minutes with a loaf of bread and some eggs. She has a knife on her, it seems common around here to carry one for various utility purposes, and cuts the bread in half and scoops out the middle and offers it to Adamant who takes it and gobbles it up, and breaks an egg into each half and stirs them up with her knife. The egg flash-cooks and she hands over one of the steaming egg-in-breads to Jisa.

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"Thank you!" Jisa says out loud, practicing the language. She devours her egg-in-bread ravenously. 

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"You're welcome." Chew chew.

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:So how did you end up deciding you wanted to free a lot of elementals?: Jisa asks Maurabel eventually, mostly to make conversation. :It didn't seem like very many people decide to do that, anymore: 

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:I mean, it does generally kill you. I'm not doing it right now myself. But most people just - figure they're useful slaves, I guess:

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Jisa makes a face and says nothing. 

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:I think a lot of humans don't really think elementals are people:

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:They have thoughts and feelings! ...I guess I know that because I read some of their minds. Not right away, though, I just tried Mindspeaking the way I am with you first. I didn't read thoughts until after I murdered someone by accident, maybe I should've: 

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:I think you should've talked to someone for somewhat longer, maybe several people, not read minds about it, but freeing the first elemental you saw was a noble impulse:

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:Er, thank you: She feels very sheepish all of a sudden. And very young. She doesn't know how old Maurabel is but definitely older than her. :...Um, what's going to school here like?: 

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:What do you want to know about it?:

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Jisa has to think about that for a moment. :I guess what classes you take, and how long you go to school for, and - is there an entrance exam to get in...?: 

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:We take classes for our elements, so I'm in ten of them, two a day, and I help teach the lower levels in a few elements. There's not a set amount of time - I could leave whenever if I felt like I'd learned enough, lots of people leave after just a year or two to go make a living doing something somewhere - there's not a fixed curriculum, magic hasn't been common long enough for us to have learned all the things you can do with it, so there keeps being more to learn, some of it even student-developed. To get in you have to get along okay with the teachers who'd be having you in class, some people aren't taking all the classes they could because they didn't impress those teachers, and also you have to be a mage and pay the school in chores:

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:Huh, interesting. How did people end up figuring out the trick for making more people be born as mages, anyway?: She wishes it were that easy for Valdemar. 

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:Someone in a coastal village thought seaweed was really good for pregnant women and kept convincing them to eat it and eventually it was pretty obvious they were having a lot of mage babies in that village. They started selling seaweed and it's not hard for mages to farm and harvest it if they've got Water and Earth or Wood:

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:Ooh. That was clever of them. Must've changed a lot of things, that's–: She's about to say 'really good' and stops. :Er, is that when all the elemental slavery started, though?: 

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:Not when it started to begin with, no. That was a couple decades earlier, when we invented writing. The new ones coalesced able to read - the old ones noticed that was new - some of them came to check it out - and someone who was already a mage, there were always some, figured out how to capture them:

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:Do you know why elementals work like that? Popping up knowing all the languages that way?: 

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:Not a clue:

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:Ooh, hmm: She looks thoughtful. :Wonder how you could study that. Maybe if I watched an elemental coalesce with mage-sight, I could see something... Where do they tend to show up?: 

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:Depends on the kind, but I don't think you're likely to catch one even if you just go stare at a pond all your waking hours the entire rest of your life:

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:That's inconvenient: Jisa is pouting just a tiny bit. 

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:Sorry. They're not all that common, there's just a lot of people who have them around here because of the school:

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:Do none of them know how they're made either? I don't know if you've asked or anything: 

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:They don't know. They just exist all of a sudden:

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:- Wait, and they're immortal, right? Do there just keep being more and more and more of them?: 

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:Yes. They don't appear all that frequently though, there are far fewer of them than humans. Hunters usually scry first to get an idea of where one they want to catch hangs out:

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:Right. I think I have just been getting thrown off on their population size by how many are in this city. Also I stumbled on a Water right when I arrived, so that might've made them seem more common than they are. I tried to talk to it and it attacked me, which...I guess makes sense knowing what I do now: 

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:Used to be wild ones might be shy but wouldn't be hostile. These days they tell each other humans are dangerous and they mustn't be caught:

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:Good for them!: 

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:People die that way. Often hunters, but sometimes people who are just traveling or looking for food:

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:I guess that part's not great: Jisa sighs. :I had to ask a lot of elementals before they even admitted that they kill their owner if they're freed and that maybe this is related to why fewer owners free them. It...makes sense, I guess, that they think that way. If most humans just enslave them and don't even think they're people. But it's really tragic: 

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:I don't think all elementals know that. Most of them haven't been freed before and they aren't always allowed to talk to each other. The ones here have more downtime because they keep enough around for the barracks to always have a handful for the students, and they let them talk while they're there, but you probably weren't talking to university ones:

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:I guess that's true. And maybe if someone from another world ended up in Valdemar, they'd have a hard time learning important things because most random peasants don't know them. I hadn't really been thinking of it that way: 

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:Yeah. Elementals don't start knowing much and they don't even have parents:

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:Do they coalesce already knowing how to use their magic or do they need to train that?: 

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:They know how in about the same way they know how to walk and fly - they can do it but they don't start out with fancy tricks or dance routines:

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:Do mages who own elementals teach them fancy tricks sometimes?: 

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:Sometimes. But usually they just control them directly, and the elemental might pick it up that way but it's not essential:

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:Mmm: Jisa swings her legs for a bit, not succeeding at thinking of more questions. Mostly she's just very very relieved to feel like she has a friend here now. 

:- All right: she says eventually, :I should probably experiment with Gates some more until it's nighttime, and then I can go talk to the elementals here, even if I'm not ready to do the freeing-them mission yet. I guess maybe I should free the Stone properly, so he can be my helper, if he wants to: 

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:If you steal Stone from the university that will attract attention, and he'll be recognized:

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:Oh. That makes sense. I did free another one in the city - an Adamant, I think? And one outside the city. But they both ran away really fast and I don't think they're still in my Mindspeech range to ask:

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:The one from outside the city would be ideal, since people in the city won't know their face, but if you can find one with a face-obscuring halo who never takes it down - we can't control their halos - and free that one, that would only be moderately suspicious. It couldn't be a hybrid, though, if you freed a hybrid and one just like it appeared that'd be a giveaway even if no one recognized it:

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:All right. I can try to find that one, they were a Glass, and if I can't then I can travel out of the city and try to find and rescue another one from outside the city that won't look suspicious: 

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:Carefully. Maybe the owner wouldn't notice anything if they were asleep at the time?:

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:I think breaking the amulet is kind of conspicuous and the time I tried to steal it, that didn't really work. I can think about it: 

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:Why didn't stealing it work?:

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"I'm trying to remember that one... The necklace wasn't long enough to pull over the owner's head and I don't have Fetching, that can instantly move objects somewhere else but mage-gift can't. So I tried to break the necklace instead, but it was really strong? And I guess it didn't help that the man was fighting me and so was the elemental." 

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:The elemental probably wasn't fighting you. Their owners can control them, remember. So, if someone was asleep, you could maybe break the necklace without them fighting about it:

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:And if they do wake up then I can still rescue the elemental, maybe? I wonder if set-commanding them not to obey their owner would override their owner's control. If the owner is asleep then I can ask the elemental if they'd want me to do that: 

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:If you want to test that we could ask Adamant if she'll try?:

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:Good idea: And she turns to Adamant and explains the idea.

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Adamant looks up from her epic poem. :You want to see if - you can stop me from obeying the amulet if Maurabel tries to make me do something?:

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:Yes. It’d make it easier to rescue elementals if they couldn’t be forced to fight. It’s totally reversible, I can undo it right away after:

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:Couldn't you just do that to everyone? Let us all ignore the amulets, and we could fly away?:

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:I don’t know. Maybe. Set-commands tend to work better as ‘don’ts’ than ‘dos’, it might be that I can let you resist orders to do a specific thing but still be bound by it otherwise. We should test that, though:

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"It's obviously you guys's business if I'm party to the conversation or not, but I'd rather know one way or the other."

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:- Oh, right, sorry: Jisa had half-forgotten both that she's Mindspeaking and that Maurabel isn't herself a Mindspeaker and can't hop into an unshielded group link of her own volition. :Adamant, you don't mind if I loop her in, right?: 

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:That's fine. She'd be doing the experiment too, right?:

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:Yes, I'd need her to test giving you orders:

She gets Maurabel up to speed on their conversation and then includes both of them. :I'm going to test the broadest set-command I can figure out for 'don't obey orders' and maybe it'll result in the amulet just not working anymore?: 

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:...the control isn't verbal. I don't have to say things to get an elemental I have the amulet for to do things, I just directly cause them to do things. It would literally be easier for me to make Adamant scratch my head for me than to do it myself right now. Does that matter?:

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:I'm...not sure. We don't have anything that works like that in our world: Well, there are compulsions, but for OBVIOUS REASONS she hasn't gotten around to testing how they interact with Mindhealing and hasn't technically been taught how to cast them at all. :Adamant, are you ready for me to try?: 

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Adamant nods. (Maurabel scratches her head.)

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Jisa concentrates, and veryveryvery carefully places a set-command. It doesn't need to be yelled at someone in verbal Mindspeech, that's just the fast way, but she's doing a moderately complicated thing here - she doesn't want to set-command Adamant not to be able to move at all, just not to be able to move in response to Maurabel trying to move her... 

:I'm done: she says eventually, not sounding very sure about it. :Maurabel, try testing it now?: 

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Maurabel takes a deep breath, and attempts to raise Adamant's wing.

Adamant doesn't move.

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:Adamant?: Jisa says uncertainly. :Could you feel her trying and failing, or did it just feel like nothing?: 

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:I didn't notice anything:

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:Hmm. Can you do things if you want, though?: 

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Adamant waves her arms around.

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:- Can you run away? I guess if you're going to try it for real I should make you invisible: She glances at Maurabel. 

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:I tried to move her wing, it didn't budge: Maurabel reports. :Uh, if she goes missing that will attract attention, and I have her checked out at the moment:

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:All right, I guess we shouldn't. I'm trying to think, is there a way we can test if we could without actually having her run away?: 

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:Uh, we could see if she can hurt me a little - pinch my arm or something? That's built into the amulets, not something I have to stop her from doing:

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:Huh. Is that a thing about all amulets or just the school ones?: 

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:It'd be a standard thing to build in but it's not strictly necessary:

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:Right. Adamant, can you try that?: 

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After some reassurance that it's okay, Adamant tries to pinch her leg. She can't.

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:Well, I guess that answers that question: Jisa says disappointedly. :Sorry, Adamant: 

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Adamant shrugs.

"I should check her back in pretty soon, I didn't sign her out for overnight and shouldn't if you're going to be under my bed."

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:All right. Um, if anyone else is likely to check her out I should probably take off the set-command? Because she can't even notice commands so she couldn't follow them and people would be suspicious, right?: 

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:Yeah, that has to go as long as we're laying low:

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:Maybe tomorrow I can figure out a way of doing it where Adamant can feel what the mage wants to do but get to decide whether or not to obey it: Sigh. She starts unpicking the set-command. It's actually easier to undo because she did it so carefully. 

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:I don't think there's - time to intercept the control, like you're thinking, but if we have elementals willing to experiment we can try stuff:

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:All right. - Adamant, I've undone it now: She sort of wants to apologize about having to but that also seems awkward so she just fidgets. 

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:I'll go return her, if we don't need her for anything else, and I can show you where I live and figure out our plans for the next couple days: "Adamant, you ready to go back?"

Adamant sighs, and hands Maurabel her book of poetry, and follows her out.

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Jisa waits, feeling obscurely guilty. 

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Maurabel doesn't look happy about it either when she comes back. :C'mon:

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Jisa nods and follows her, silently. 

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Maurabel lives in a little pocket of a room, with wood arranged into convenient shapes by magic to hold lots of books on the walls and loft her bed high enough that Jisa can sleep under it. There's a cylindrical rock stuck in the ceiling that Maurabel reaches up to touch when they walk in, and it starts circulating warm air against the evening chill and glows a little. There's a glass window. "I'm going to try talking out loud and trying to make it clear what I mean mentally, might help you pick up the language. They're thinking of building a whole new dormitory with bigger rooms," she remarks, "but for now there's enough demand for student remodeling services in town that nobody's put together plans for it, so we trick out our little nooks nicely. I don't know what you're used to, since your magic is different."

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:This is nice!: She peers around. :Our rooms are bigger but less - magical, once they exist, we use magic to build sometimes in Haven but it doesn't stick around this way. We don't have very many mages: 

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:Haven't figured out what to eat during pregnancy, or is it some other less cooperative thing?:

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:Pretty sure it's not that, it's been studied a bunch. I think mostly it runs in families, like eye colour or whatever? They're trying to get Gifted people to have more children now. And then there's a different problem where babies are just born with potential and it stopped awakening for mages, but - I figured out how to awaken my mage-potential recently. So hopefully we can do that more: 

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:Congratulations!:

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:Thank you! Everyone was mad at me because it was sort of dangerous but I'm pleased with myself about it: 

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:I like being a mage. I mean, apart from the whole enslaved elementals thing, which isn't something that me in particular being a mage caused:

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:Also you being a mage might help free a lot of elementals someday, since you want to and this way you have more power: 

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:That's the idea, though your thing will work way faster than waiting to get so old that I can't hang on with Stone magic and whatever techniques have been invented in that time:

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:Mmm: Jisa yawns. :Er, is there a privy around?: 

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:Outhouse, back out the way we came and hang a left and it's the clay building with the triangles daubed on:

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:Thank you: Jisa ducks out and tries to follow these instructions while looking unobtrusive. 

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The outhouse turns out to have a bunch of seats all in the same place, as though relieving oneself is meant to be a social activity, but the other person in there has brought a book and doesn't bother her.

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She...supposes it's not really that different from the Heralds' communal bathhouse or something, it's still kind of weird but eh. 

She hauls herself back to Maurabel's room after, yawning even more, and it's not until she's slipping under the bed that she remembers there are totally still some people somewhere in the city with set-commands on them not to chase the escaping elemental. Bother. She'll remember to go find them and fix it tomorrow. 

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In the morning Maurabel produces dates and lentils out of a cupboard and cooks them together with magic. "I need to go shopping," she muses. "You sleep okay?"

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"Better," Jisa says cheerfully; she's trying to speak out loud whenever she remembers the words. :I need to go - handle some other things: she adds in Mindspeech. :And then look for the Adamant or the Glass I rescued before, and if I can't find them I guess I should find one and try to rescue them while the owner is asleep: 

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:Make sure they're not just in custody of a student and actually belong to the school, we're out and about taking odd jobs a lot of the time for practice and to pay the teachers and for pocket money:

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:How do I tell? ...I guess the elemental would know, right, I can ask them: 

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:Right:

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:Will you be coming back here for lunch?: Jisa doesn't have a very good alternative for getting food, at least not until she finds an elemental willing to pretend to be hers and do odd jobs with her to earn money. 

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:Yeah, I'll do my chores in town and buy food when I'm done and eat here and then have class:

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:All right, I'll come back and meet you here then: 

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Maurabel brings her shopping bag and goes and checks out Penumbra and a Lightning and goes into town. She comes back still accompanied by both elementals and with a couple net bag full of groceries - nuts and more lentils and bread and green onions and dried fish and lemons and oranges and raisins and a cucumber and some greens and a glass jar full of yogurt.

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Jisa spends the morning finding a spot in town to sit and then stretching her Thoughtsensing outoutout and trying to find, one, any sign of the Adamant she rescued, and two, any minds with the familiar signature of the ones she Mindhealed at. 

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The Adamant is out of range. All the humans are still in the city, though.

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Her Mindhealing is much shorter range than Thoughtsensing, so she spends the entire morning traipsing around the city to get close enough to undo set-commands. She also does a teensy bit of reading their surface thoughts, mostly to check if they're suspicious or still thinking about the events of two days ago. 

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They are super alarmed and concerned and wonder if it was maybe an advance action from an enemy across the sea, with strange advanced magic unheard of within the formerly-Imperial continent.

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Well, at least it's better than them connecting it with her. 

Jisa does, once she gets back to meet Maurabel for lunch, ask about the 'enemies across the sea'. 

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"As far as I know we don't have any actual enmity with anyone across the sea. But we can see them, with magic, we know there's people beyond this continent, so if somebody shows up with magic nobody understands, 'across the sea' would be more obvious than 'from another universe'."

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:I guess 'from another universe' does sound pretty implausible:

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:As far as I know it's never happened before!: Bread. Cucumbers in the yogurt with lemon and green onions for lunch.

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Jisa isn't normally a huge fan of vegetables, but she's delighted enough to eat something that isn't bread to go at the cucumber yogurt with enthusiasm. 

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Maurabel gives a little of the food to each of the elementals she has along. The Lightning also eats the lemon rinds and onion roots. Penumbra's shy; Lightning, chewing pith, attempts to braid Jisa's hair without asking.

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Awwww. Jisa does not object to this at all! 

:Do you have names other than the kind of elemental you are?: she asks Lightning.

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:Nah. It seems like it'd be weird. When there's duplicates the university uses numbers:

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:Huh. What do you do if you and another Lightning are friends with each other?: 

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:What do you do if you and another Jisa are friends with each other? I think this would only be a big deal if there were three. Or I guess two Lightnings and two other people talking about us:

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:I think humans have more different names than there are kinds of elemental! I've never met another Jisa. And one year there were two Healers called Leta, and one of them had a nickname instead: 

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:Huh. Well, in the wild we usually don't gather in big groups:

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:That makes sense, I guess. You don't have your own cities or anything: 

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:I don't know if we'd ever have invented them or not:

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:I'm not sure, I'm trying to think if you'd have the same reasons for it. You don't seem to need houses, or to eat, although I guess you can for fun, so you might still want trade for especially good foods...: 

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Lightning shrugs. She can't tie off the braid because she has nothing to tie it with so when she gets to the end she lets it start to come unraveled.

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Jisa digs in her pocket for a hair ribbon and - yes, she has one! She ties off the braid above the unraveled bit. :Thank you! Um, when did you learn to braid hair, or is that another thing elementals are born knowing?: 

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:I was wild a long time. I'm pretty old. I had friends:

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:Right: Jisa winces a little. :I'm - sorry. That you got captured. It must've been horrible: 

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:It hasn't been my favorite decade:

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Jisa blinks away sudden tears, her hands clenching around fistfuls of her tunic. :I'm going to find a way to fix it. I promise: 

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:That's very sweet of you: says Lightning.

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Jisa can't tell if this response is because Lightning doesn't believe her, which...would be understandable, from the outside it must sound pretty crazy of her to promise something like that. 

Sigh. She addresses both Maurabel and Lightning this time. :All right, I couldn't find the Glass or the Adamant I freed before, I think they did the sensible thing and flew very far away. I think I'd better walk to the edge of the city and try to find an elemental I can free who's willing to pretend to be mine, and then I'll wait until their owner is asleep and see if I can steal the amulet. I want to get one of them intact so I can study it with my mage-sight and figure out how the magic even works: 

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:I wonder if you can find one who knows me: Maurabel says. :Who used to belong to the university or has talked to one who has. It might help:

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:Oh, that makes sense. I can definitely ask! I don't know how many I'll be able to find who are somewhere I can sneak up on their owner when they're asleep, so I might not be able to be picky otherwise, but we'll see. Um, would it be all right if I pack some food? I might be back really late. ...And I don't know if I can get in here easily once you're asleep, I don't want to wake you, maybe if it takes a long time I'll just sleep in a bush again and come back in the morning: 

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:I'm not an especially light sleeper. I'm keeping Lightning overnight for reasons but you can probably snuggle up with her under there: Maurabel bags some nuts and raisins and bread for Jisa.

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:Thank you!: Jisa is curious about 'reasons' but decides not to be nosy. She stuffs the bagged food into her tunic pocket, and forges forth into the city. 

Her practical Thoughtsensing range is a mile or two if she's looking for un-Gifted strangers' minds, but she thinks elementals might be easier to find, their minds 'feel' different. So as she troops back toward the road she followed into the city before, she stretches out and out and out, looking for elemental minds outside the city proper. 

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There's a Wood out in an orchard thataway.

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Reachreachreach. :Hi!: Jisa says. :I'm from another world. Any chance you know Maurabel from the university?: 

...On reflection that's probably a confusing introduction but oh well. 

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:??what are you?: replies Wood.

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:I'm a mage and a Mindspeaker, but mages from my world aren't like mages here, we have different magic. I can break amulets and I want to free all the elementals, but right now I'm trying to free someone who's willing to pretend to be mine so I can stand out less. Are you interested?: 

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:It'd be obvious you stole me, wouldn't it?:

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:I was thinking I'd do it while your owner's asleep tonight. And I don't need to be visible, I've freed some other elementals and no one knows it was me, but I should still be more careful than that. Um, I guess the problem is that your owner might come to the city and recognize you. I can do magic illusions? I could make you look like someone different: 

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:- yes, if I looked different I could pretend to be yours:

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:All right. Um, and do you know of Maurabel? She's a student at the university, I'm staying with her right now: 

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:I don't think we've met:

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:Hmm. Well, she also wanted to free elementals and she's helping me now. We can trust her. If I get you out and you come back with me, you can ask the elementals at the university about her: 

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:Okay. My owner lives in the city - I don't know how to tell you where -:

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:I'm going to come closer so it's easier to talk to you. Um, I've walked around the city a bunch and I can go explore it more, if you tell me what landmarks your owner lives near?: 

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:It's by the well and has a lemon tree out front:

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:All right, I'll do some exploring and let you know if I need more direction:

She can do that with scrying, to save her feet. Look for a well - or wells - first. How many wells do there seem to be in the city? 

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Ten!

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Great. How many of them have lemon trees nearby? 

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Quite a few, actually.

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Hmm. Can she find any other memorable landmarks - colourful or otherwise distinctive houses, street signage, flower gardens, anything like that. 

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They don't seem to have a lot of paint, possibly because paint is not an element. No signs either, perhaps because writing was invented in living memory. There is a windowsill herb garden on one house's kitchen window; a bench on a porch; patterns in the stones of the street; magic lights in a few colors shining out of the houses.

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:Wood, your instructions weren't specific enough, but do you recognize any of...: and Jisa starts describing the various features. 

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Wood recognizes the herb garden. His owner lives two houses to the left of it.

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:All right. Is anyone going to be home now? I want to have a peek at the house and see if I can feasibly get you out of it without waking anyone: 

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:I don't know specifically but the house is almost never empty:

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:Who else lives there?: 

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His wife, their younger kids, his brother, his wife, their kids:

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:Hmm. Where does your owner usually leave you to sleep at night, and where do they put the amulet?: 

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:He leaves me at the front door and I get a reward if I catch anyone trying to rob the place, but me being there scares off everybody who's ever looked like they were thinking about it:

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:All right, so it won't be hard for you to sneak off without them noticing, if I free you. Can you describe the room in the house where your owner sleeps - where, and what it looks like -?: 

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:It's the biggest one. The front door leads to the kitchen and past that is where he and his wife sleep, with the kids next to that, and the brother and his family sleep in the room to the right of the kitchen:

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:Does your owner wear the amulet around their neck even at night or do they take it off?: 

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:He wears it all the time, I think:

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:All right. I'm going to go try to scope out the house and see if it's shielded against my magic or anything, and then I'll let you know what my plan is: 

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:Your magic isn't one of the kinds every mage sets up wards against?:

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:I'm not sure? But I'm pretty sure I have a different kind of magic from what mages here do: 

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:Okay:

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Jisa knows where the house is and starts trudging in that direction, illusioning herself invisible once she gets within a block or two. 

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The Wood is still out working with his owner, but the owner's family is in and out of the house, bustling around doing various chores.

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She hides out of sight of them. 

Can she scry inside the house? 

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She cannot. (She can, however, look in the windows. They don't have curtains.)

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She can hopefully get pretty close, since she's invisible right now, and locate the bedroom that Wood described as belonging to his owner. 

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Yup, there it is. A two year old is taking a nap in the big bed right now.

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Hmm. Can she do other kinds of magic - oh, first, does her mage-sight work through the window and the presumed shields that block scrying...? 

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Mage-sight works!

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Jisa tries a teeeeeny mage-light in a corner where it won't be visible to the toddler. 

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The toddler is fast asleep. The light works!

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All right, she can probably do this? She knows the layout of the room now, it'll be dark when she's actually trying it but she just needs mage-sight to locate the amulet. She'll try breaking the necklace first and - hmm, she can't Fetch it out but she can do a tiny Gate and drop it through, rather than trying to float it all the way to the door or something. If she still can't steal it intact even when the owner is asleep, she'll break it and hope it's more unobtrusive when the elemental is far away and also has a temporary set-command not to harm their owner. 

She should explain the plan to Wood. Is Wood still within her Mindspeech range? 

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Yes he is.

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:Wood, I found it!: 

Jisa starts explaining the plan. She tells Wood that the previous strategy she figured out for this was to do a preventative set-command so Wood won't instinctively harm his owner, which she promises she'll undo as soon as the rescue is finished. It's especially important because Jisa wants to get Wood out without the owner even waking up. She's going to try to steal the amulet rather than break it immediately as her first plan, because breaking it while it's around the owner's neck might wake him and because she wants to study it, but if she can get away with that she promises she'll destroy it as soon as she's had a look. If she can't, she'll destroy it and hope that even if it wakes him, he doesn't have time to do anything; if that happens she'll make Wood invisible and tell him to fly away as fast as possible and meet her back at the orchard. 

Is Wood on board with all of that? 

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:If he were dead he also wouldn't wake up: Wood points out.

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:Yes, and I know he's horrible and I don't blame you for wanting him dead, but he's got a family too, I don't want them to be collateral damage, and also if people keep dying around here then it's a lot more likely someone will investigate and catch me and I won't be able to keep doing this, right?: 

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:I guess:

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:All right, I'll plan on doing it as soon as your owner's been asleep for a bit tonight: 

She squints at the angle of the sun; how long does it look like they have left until dark? 

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A couple more hours.

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All right, she'll slip back and un-invisible herself and wander around the city a bit more, Thoughtsensing extended, mostly so she can spy on any other elementals going home with their owners and then write down where they live for later reference. 

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There's somebody auctioning some off over there - he's caught an Earth and an Air and a hybrid he's calling Storm. People are haggling over them.

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Jisa is very tempted to try to buy them - except there's no way she has enough money - or to nab the amulets when they're being handed off and thus easier to steal, but she also can't afford to draw too much attention right now, so instead she watches sadly from a distance and then notes whoever ends up buying them and where they take them afterward. 

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A magic school representative snaps up the Storm. The Earth and Air are sold for lower prices to separate people, looking desperately at each other while they follow their new owners away.

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Jisa watches them go, and then finds a place to hide so she can sniffle and feel miserable and angry and very, very not-good-enough for a little while. And then it's time to stop pitying herself, and check the position of the sun again and where Wood is right now. 

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Wood is on his way home with his owner.

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Jisa illusions herself again and then lurks and waits. 

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Wood goes into the house, at first, and comes out a bit later, to stand by the door.

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Sneak sneak sneak, Jisa creeps invisibly up to the window and peeks through, and extends her Thoughtsensing and mage-sight to peek as well. 

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Man and wife and four kids piled into the bed. The two year old is sucking his sister's thumb in lieu of his own.

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Oh wow that's a crowded bed. Also, awww.

Jisa creeps back around the house, warns Wood, and does the set-commands, both not to harm his owner and also not to obey his owner's orders, just in case she wakes the mage and he tries to make his elemental slave defend him.  

Then she tiptoes back to the window, to stand there fidgeting and wait until her Thoughtsensing tells her they're all deeply asleep. She's going to need to be very careful not to hurt any of the adorable little kids.  

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They're aslee-

- the two year old has a nightmare, everybody wakes up, the mom sticks her breast in his mouth, they go back to sleep.

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Jisa pushes a bit with Projective Empathy, calmcalmcalm at the children in particular, no more nightmares. 

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They are now all fast asleep.

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Jisa looks for the familiar pattern of an amulet with mage-sight. 

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It's right there like all the others.

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She shields it, and shields the sleeping man, and pushes a bit harder with her Empathy to make sure he stays asleep, and then - hmm - if she makes a teensy-tiny mage light right beside it, can she see the necklace it's strung on, and what happens if she tries to slice through it with a force-blade. 

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She can see, and it doesn't actually react in any particular way if she slices through the chain; the pendant is the magic part.

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With the chain snipped, can she gently scoop under the pendant with a force-net and sloooowly tug it away from the sleeping man? 

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It drags on his neck, catches a bit of his hair.

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Jisa freezes, pushes even harder with her Empathy, calmcalmcalmstayasleep, waits. 

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"Mmg," he says, shifting. He scratches the nape of his neck where the chain is caught. He smooshes his face against his wife's hair and doesn't quite wake up.

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With the pendant still cupped in a net of mage-energies and slightly lifted off his chest, Jisa tries cutting the chain again, snip-snip, right on either side of the pendant so she can just leave most of the chain behind on him and not have to tug it past his neck. 

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The chain falls into the gap between his head and his ten year old son's nose. The pendant comes away and is held in the air where she pulls.

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She forms a mage-barrier, bowl-shaped, under it. Now can she move the bowl over the sleeping bodies to the edge of the bed? 

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Nothing impedes this.

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Then she'll lower it tentatively to the floor once it's past the side of the bed, let it rest there, push a bit more with her Empathy - and shape one end of a little round Gate-opening under it, the other end formed between the circle of her thumb and middle finger. 

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Through it drops. It falls from the circle of her fingers to the ground.

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She scoops it up - using a little mage-barrier-bowl again, rather than touching it directly with her fingers, just in case it has a magical alarm against theft or something.

Does anything happen? 

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Nope.

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:Wood: she says. :I got it out without waking him. Are you able to come around to the back where I am? I can Gate us both to the university where we're sleeping tonight: 

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:I can't leave the area right around the house, you haven't cleared the amulet:

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:- Is clearing it something different from breaking it?: 

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:You didn't break it either. It still has all my standing orders on it:

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:Um, I don't know how to clear it, but if you tell me how I can do that and then study it and figure out how to break them more safely once we're hiding: 

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:I don't know how, I'm not a mage:

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:All right, I'll give it a try at figuring it out on my own and if I can't I'll break it and get us out of here, I don't want to hang around: 

She stares at the amulet with mage-sight. Can she sort of 'wash' it with magic, render it a blank slate? Think at it very hard that Wood should not have any standing orders? 

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It does not seem that she can do this, actually.

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She would see if putting it on let her do it but she doesn't actually have something to wear it on, since she left the chain behind in pieces. 

Sigh. She checks with Thoughtsensing whether the people are all still fast asleep and she can afford a couple more minutes of looking at it up close before breaking it and running. 

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They're still asleep, yes.

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She takes the opportunity to stare more closely at the amulet in her hands, mapping out its magical structure, looking for a weak point to snip that seems like it might make it implode quietly rather than burst and send bits of magic everywhere. 

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It's simply-made enough that there aren't really a lot of options.

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Okay what if she snips it just here. (She can't tell if this is exactly what she's done before, since on previous occasions she was doing it with less precision from further away.) If anything does explode, her personal shields should catch it just fine. 

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It bursts, and she has a palmful of bronze that looks like a mangled popcorn kernel. Wood flinches. :Now what - where do I meet you -:

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:The university, but if you can fly around to the back now I can Gate both of us there:

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He flies around to the other side of the house.

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She reaches out and takes Wood's hand, and then raises a Gate on thin air directly to Maurabel's room, and tugs him through, and drops the Gate instantly. 

:We're safe here: she says to him.

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:She has a Lightning under her bed:

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:She's a student here, she rents the elementals like the others - she doesn't have my magic so she can't free them yet, she was planning to buy tons and tons of elementals and free them all when she was old but I think with us working together we can do better than that. I trust her: 

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He folds up his wings and sits in a corner.

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:Do you, er, need anything?:

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:You were going to make me look different. Are Lightning's wings are enough to see by?:

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:Oh, right, I can do that now. The illusion will last a few days and I can keep redoing it. Also it'll leak a bit of magic, I'm not good enough yet to make it undetectable, but as far as I can tell no one here has mage-sight anyway: 

She casts a little mage-light to give her more light and gets to work. :Er, any preferences on what you want to look like?: 

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:I don't really even know what I look like now. I guess not pretty enough that people will want me:

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:Guess that's fair: Jisa makes a face about it, though. :All right, we'll get you a chance to look at a mirror tomorrow and if you hate it I can redo the illusion once it's going to wear off anyway: 

She models his appearance a bit on a younger version of Withen, Van's father, who isn't ugly but certainly wouldn't be called handsome by anyone. 

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:Thanks:

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:You're welcome!: Jisa is yawning in earnest now. :Er, goodnight? Wake me if there's any trouble, I guess: 

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:Yeah:

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Jisa smooshes herself half under the bed in the space not taken up by Lightning, and goes to sleep. 

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When she wakes up Lightning's leg is slung over her waist and her wing is flopped over her face, sparking harmlessly and silently.

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Awwww. 

Jisa holds perfectly still, and opens her Thoughtsensing just enough to check if anyone in the room is awake, without actually mindreading them. 

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Maurabel's up. She has grabbed some bread from her cupboard for breakfast without waking anybody else.

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Jisa is suddenly very hungry. She carefully wriggles free of Lightning. :Morning!: 

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:Morning: Maurabel passes her a roll. :I see you stole somebody, were there any complications?:

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:I don't think so! The owner didn't wake up. I wasn't able to take the amulet away intact, because I didn't know how to clear Wood's standing orders so he could leave, but I did get a bit of a closer look at it before I destroyed it: 

And she shows Maurabel the burnt-popcorn looking remains of it. 

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:You have to be a mage to use an amulet, and you're not our kind of mage. I can put it back together: "Wood?"

"Mm?"

"I'm going to physically re-assemble your amulet, but I'm not going to enchant it, Jisa here is just going to wear it so it looks like you belong to her. Did she explain to you about that?"

"Some."

"You'll be able to translate for her - maybe tutor her in the language - and vouch for her to other elementals she runs into, and stuff."

Wood nods.

Maurabel reconstructs the amulet in a different style, makes a new chain for it, clips it onto Jisa's neck.

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Jisa thanks her, then glances at Wood. :I was going to go walk around the city some more. You feeling up for coming with me and you can talk to the other elementals about my plan, and teach me some of the language in between?: 

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:If you're sure I'm not recognizable:

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:Pretty sure you're not, I made your face look really different: 

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:Yeah, I can come with you: He gets up.

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Then they can walk around the city! 

:Maurabel suggested I take odd jobs with you to earn some money: Jisa says to Wood. :Er, I mean, if you're willing to help me do that, I wouldn't make you: 

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:I think that's okay but - maybe tomorrow -?:

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:Yes, of course, we can just walk around today: 

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"Hey Lightning," says Maurabel.

"Mm?" yawns Lightning.

"Last night Jisa got Wood over there out of where he was. Amulet's a fake."

"Oh, hi Wood," says Lightning, "nice to meetcha. My amulet's not fake but Maurabel's decent."

Wood nods, still looking a little tense.

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"You no know Lightning before?" Jisa fumbles out in the local language before giving in and switching back to Mindspeech. :I wasn't sure how many of the elementals in the city would know each other just from going out and about with their owners: 

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"We've never met," says Lightning.

"This isn't my real face, but I don't recognize her either," confirms Wood.

"Their owners don't always let them chat," says Maurabel.

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:Owners can give them orders to prevent them from even talking to each other?: Jisa says, mildly horrified. :I didn't realize that! I could probably give all the elementals in the city the ability to ignore it.: Pause. :...Except I guess you guys don't Mindspeak so the owners would notice and it'd be suspicious. Gah: 

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:It'd be conspicuous, yeah. We can make them shut up, but we can't make them talk, so anything they say is authentic or at least coerced more labor-intensively; we can't control their halos; that's about it:

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Jisa glowers at the wall. :I really wish someone in your world had thought, oh, maybe we can pay elementals money to do work for us. Instead of goddamned enslaving them and getting it for free. They'd probably get better work done that way, too: 

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:I don't even know if that would have worked, to be fair:

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:I guess: Sigh. :All right, Wood, let's go walk around and pretend we're definitely normal for around here: 

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Wood nods and follows her.

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Jisa spreads out her Othersenses, planning a route that will hopefully look like they’re just on their way somewhere but will involve passing by lots of other elementals.

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She can go by the part of the market where their services can be hired, and the dark underground room where people shadow-walk between here and far-off places, and a glass shop and a smithy and a little hospital.

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Ooh little hospital! Jisa peers at it, and asks Wood a lot of questions in Mindspeech about how medicine and hospitals work in this world. 

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Wood has no known healing application so he doesn't know much, but he knows Water cures poison and Earth can do injuries and Ice can freeze people till they get medical attention though sometimes folks die that way and Airs are good if you're coughing or gasping and Shine can get someone to perfect health about once a day no matter what and Fire's good if you have the plague or something.

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:Oooh, huh, how does Shine work? I don't think I got that good an explanation of that one, yet: 

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:Mostly they do light but if they do enough of it at somebody it heals them, I don't know why:

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:Ooh, really? That's so weird!:

They keep wandering, until Jisa gets hungry and suggests they turn the wandering back toward the university. 

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Wood doesn't have any errands to run; he follows.

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Jisa remembers halfway there that they didn't actually coordinate on lunch today. Is Maurabel in fact in her room? 

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Maurabel's not there, but there's her food in her cupboards.

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Perfect! Jisa digs around a bit. :Wood, do you want some?: 

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:It isn't too expensive? Sure:

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:I don't think so, she was offering it to Lightning last night. If she wants us to start chipping in for food later we can figure out a way to do that, I think: 

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So he eats a roll.

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:Are you feeling up for more walking around or would you prefer to just stay here for the afternoon?: Jisa asks him once they're both done eating. 

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:We can walk more:

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They walk. 

Jisa is in a more contemplative mood than before, and doesn't talk much for a while. 

:This is sort of as far as I'd planned?: she admits to Wood, eventually. :I've got you and Maurabel as allies now, I need to figure out what to do next to free more elementals, without getting caught or spooking all the mages into taking even more precautions... Any ideas?: 

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:Are the mages not already going to be pretty spooked -?:

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:I should probably figure out what they're thinking! So far I don't think any have connected it to me, and the first few times the mage died so they couldn't talk about what they saw. I don't know if people are taking more precautions though, I haven't noticed anything specifically different. Maybe we should ask some of the elementals we see - do you know languages that none of the humans here would speak?: 

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:I can't promise none of them have learned any given one from an elemental but I could stick to ones I've never heard used here:

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:I mean, I can also Mindspeak, it just gets tiring if I'm doing it with dozens of people all day: 

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:Lots of elementals won't be able to reply out loud:

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:All right, I guess I can do the asking: 

She looks around for the nearest elemental to where they're walking right now. 

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A hospital Water, hydrating somebody feverish.

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...That's neat enough that Jisa is going to watch in amazement for a minute or two to try to figure out what they're doing

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Sneaking a thin stream of water through the patient's throat so they don't have to actually swallow it, looks like.

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Ooooooooh that's so cool. 

Jisa waits for a good moment to interrupt. 

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The Water's owner eventually decides there's enough water in this patient and moves Water along.

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:Hi! I'm Jisa! Er, can I talk to you for a moment?: 

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Water doesn't turn to look at her; presumably their owner is controlling them too tightly. :Talk to me?:

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:I'll just be a moment! I, um, I've been trying to rescue elementals and I want to figure out if people are suspicious, have you heard anything from your owner or from other elementals about that?: 

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:Yes, someone reinforced all the amulets yesterday evening:

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:Huh, is that an existing technique they would do sometimes or a new thing?: Jisa peers in closer with mage-sight, trying to get a peek at the amulet that this Water's mage-owner is wearing and see if it's different. 

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:I think they make things harder to break all the time: It looks a little more elaborate to mage-sight now.

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Jisa can't tell if that'll make it harder to break and she obviously shouldn't test it right now. :All right, um, thank you for telling me. I'll let you know right away if I have a new plan for rescuing more elementals, all right? ...Er, are you - all right - does your owner mistreat you a lot or anything, I mean...?: 

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:I don't think more than usual?:

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:I guess I don't know what's usual. Can you manage for a few more days?: 

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:I was assuming I'd just be a slave forever. He's going to leave me to his daughter:

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:All right. Well, I'm not going to let that happen, I promise. I don't know how long this is going to take me, but...I'm going to do it: 

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:Or die trying? They're very upset about the thefts:

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:Well, I'm going to have to be smarter now. And hopefully I can figure out how to get to the world I came from so I can bring more people over to help, some of them are a lot more powerful than me and everyone I know will think the slavery here is awful and needs to be fixed right away: 

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:You have free elementals there?:

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:Er, our magic seems to work pretty differently. We have elementals but they live in the Elemental Planes, not the material plane where humans are, and they don't look like you do. But Valdemar, the kingdom I'm from, is against all forms of slavery: 

She feels a little bit smug about that. Hardorn has slaves, but Valdemar never has in its entire history. 

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:There are human slaves too but they don't keep them all their lives:

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:Huh - how does that work, then, what makes them free those slaves: 

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:They have a custom that they don't keep them longer than twenty years:

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:Weird. Do you know why they have that custom for humans but not elementals?: 

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:Because when they tried freeing elementals it turned out to kill them, I think. Also we're more valuable in the first place and can't have slave rebellions:

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:Oh, right, because mages can put magical bindings on elementals but not on other humans?: 

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:Yes:

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:Mmm. Anyway I'll stop bothering you now, er, take care: 

And she and Wood can keep walking. 

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The city is a weird mix of poorer than she's used to papered over with a layer of extremely abundant magic. The distinctions between houses that have seen the benefit of magic and houses that have not are really obvious - the former are made of mud and thatch, don't have even candles inside, contain poor families in shabby clothes. The latter are made of wood or stone, have glass windows and metal roofs, have healthier gardens and healthier occupants and magic lights. The streets are nicely paved with stone, new in the last couple decades, or they're dirt, nothing in between.

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Huh. 

:I'm worried it'll be bad for the humans' quality of life if I free all the elementals and don't do anything to replace your magic: Jisa muses to Wood. :It seems like they use it a lot, and not all of them are responsible for slavery, I mean, the children are innocent and I'd feel bad if they stop getting healing and things: 

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:They can do some magic without us:

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:Mmm: 

They walk around until sundown. Jisa asks a few more elementals about rumours they've heard from their owners and extra precautions against elemental-freeing. 

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A lot of people have had their amulets shored up against breakage. She catches wind of a rumor that some people are working on making a single elemental have two amulets, leaving a backup in safety if the main one is destroyed.

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If they do that before she can make a move it'll be very inconvenient! This is her own fault for being dumb and not planning ahead, Jisa admits to herself. 

:I really need to study my Gate-spell more: she muses to Wood as they trudge back toward the university. :- Er, that's how I ended up here from my world, I was experimenting -: 

(Thinking about it is distracting because she MISSES TREVEN and she MISSES ENARA, she's mostly been able to not-think about that - there are maaaaybe some self-Mindhealing redirects involved - but thinking about getting back in contact fills her with an unbelievable wash of longing.) 

:- um, anyway, Gates are sort of portals from one place to another, except I did something fancy and ended up in another world somehow, but doing the exact same thing again doesn't work to get back. So I need to figure out the...same thing backward, or something, I was making some progress on it the other day but I've been really distracted...: 

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:Is there some way to help you with that?:

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:I'm not sure. At least I can think out loud to you, maybe?: 

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:Okay, sure:

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They reach the university. Is Maurabel home yet? 

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Yup, she's making supper, lentils and yogurt and lemon. And bread. She offers Jisa some, asks Wood if he'd like a bite.

"If it's not too expensive."

"Honestly feeding Jisa's kind of expensive but giving you a taste isn't. I'll just have to pick up more chores."

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"I should - pay you back." Jisa manages the entire sentence in the local language, though with some hesitations. "Once Wood is," :ready?: "to work - with me. I am," :grateful: "for food." 

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"You've made more progress on my main ambition than I ever did," says Maurabel, "of course I'm feeding you, just, the school takes a big cut of what I earn working. When Wood is ready he'll be able to earn enough to feed the both of you."

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"Thank you. Oh, news. We asked around..."

Jisa explains, dropping into Mindspeech whenever she doesn't know a word, what they learned from the elementals she talked to about the new amulet precautions. She's a bit sheepish about it, since this is her own fault for not anticipating the consequences of her actions. 

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"I don't immediately know how one would double up an elemental's amulet," muses Maurabel. "Which means it might take awhile - by comparison, attaching an elemental to one amulet is easy for us basically as soon as we've got the idea, I know how and wasn't trying to learn. But it is worrying, and it might not be the only idea anyone's had."

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:...Honestly I'm wondering if it's worth reading some of the mages' minds to figure out if they've had other ideas, since they're not necessarily going to tell their elementals. And, I mean, it is unethical but so is keeping slaves:

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"...yes, but - you can't tell in advance which people's minds are going to be helpful, can you? Or even which of them are doing - worse than normal - normal amounts of elemental use aren't okay but I don't actually like the implications of deciding there are about twelve people in my entire civilization who might turn out to be bad to mindread after you check by doing it anyway."

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- Nod. "I thought you - would say that." She lapses back into Mindspeech, remembering words is still effortful. :Do you have - other ideas for, er, spying?: 

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:I can ask around. My weirdness is not fully understood by the school population:

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"Mmm. Anyway, I need to keep," :researching?: "how to do a," :Gate: "to get home. For help." 

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"What do you need for that?"

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:If I knew exactly what I needed, I'd have solved it by now! Um, I was routing my Gate in between some different planes I was studying recently, to see if that'd let me Gate further, and it worked but it didn't go where I expected. Now when I try to go back it just doesn't work, it feels like the destination not existing, so I think I'm - not managing to find my way back to where I started? And have to somehow do the same path backward...: 

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:These are the other planes your kind of elementals live in? Would they have seen anything?:

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:Oh! Maybe. It wouldn't've been for long, and it might not be any elementals I know, but - actually, I should try summoning them here anyway, to see if it works and to ask if they can help me figure out the way back: 

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:I'd be curious to meet them but presumably they don't speak my language any more than you do:

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:They can Mindspeak! Although the usual convention is to give them a construct body and use the pidgin that some mage invented and taught them once centuries ago: 

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:Why's that the convention if they can mindspeak?:

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:...I'm not really sure? I guess not all mages have Mindspeech and also it's more invasive, my teacher said it might startle them: 

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"Fair enough," says Maurabel, reverting to talking out loud. "Well, I hope that helps, I'll see if I can think of anything else but I don't know anything about your magic - hm - I'm going to go check out Penumbra."

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"Mmm." 

Jisa sits on the floor and sketches out some more notes on what she thinks she did the first time. 

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Maurabel comes back with Penumbra. Neither of them says anything. Maurabel gives Penumbra some bread.

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"All right," Jisa says eventually, out loud again. "Should I try to," :summon: "an elemental from my world? See if it works? I can translate." 

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"Is this dangerous or anything?"

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"No, it–" Jisa stops. Makes herself actually think. "Almost never? I can try to call one by name. They might not come but it means only a friendly one I know would hear me." 

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"When it's dangerous, what's the danger?"

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"...They can do magic of their plane. A fire elemental could start a fire." :By accident or on purpose: she adds, since she doesn't remember the words for either 'accident' or 'on purpose'. "Earth elementals are the most safe and I know lots. You could get a very strong one who had bad," :experiences: "with other mage schools, I guess. If I call one I know likes me then I don't see any danger." She frowns. "Unless this world is different somehow." 

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