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Generated: Jan 18, 2021 12:35 AM
Post last updated: Jan 13, 2021 12:43 AM
necessities are free
kyeo and carissa
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Kyeo doesn't remember enough of the fight to know what happened, and his head is killing him, but when he checks he still has his sidearm and also now he's apparently crashlanded on a planet with absolutely awful-looking hostile fauna, wow, and that one's coming his way much too fast and he draws and shoots.

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It rears back, stunned, and a bunch of people with swords jump in to start clobbering it, and one of them grabs him by the arm to drag him to his feet.

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OW his head hurts. Are those swords. These people don't look like they're even from the Ibyatok system, was he concussed through an entire jump? Apparently he was concussed through an entire jump. He flicks the safety on, since he's being dragged around, but maintains a tight grip on his raygun.

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They yell at him incomprehensibly and then are distracted by another massive horned acid-spitting thing crashing through the wall - it's some kind of force field, actually - behind them, and turn from him to deal with that.

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Kyeo is so glad Ibyabek doesn't have wildlife like that! He rubs at his temple a little and then aims at the wildlife to zap that one too. It's big enough he has a really clear shot over their heads.

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Their yelling is still incomprehensible but it sounds appreciative, now. 

 

When both beasts are down there's a lull and someone takes off at a run towards him, and starts demonstratively tugging him towards a - stone fortress, it looks like - that's not too far behind them. There are people on its walls with longbows.

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The weapons here don't make any sense. Even if they don't have reliable electricity here or are having problems paying their bills they should fall back on slugthrowers, not arrows. He goes where he is tugged, safety back on, trying not to moan out loud about the headache.

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Incomprehensible conversation! And then, suddenly, comprehensible conversation. 

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"Hey. Where're you from? Also what is that."

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She speaks startlingly good Ibyabekan, wow. "I'm from the Five Virtues of Ibyabek, we must have crashed, and it's my sidearm."

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"Is that a ...ship? We didn't see anything crash - does it have some number of charges per day or what -"

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"Yes, it's a ship. A big cruiser. I recharge the gun off the ship's reactor."

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"I don't know what that is. And this front is several hundred miles from the ocean."

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Oh dear. Did these people just... colonize this planet a hundred years ago and immediately lose all their technology somehow... and forget what a spaceship is... "A space ship."

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" - like in Numeria? You don't look Numerian but I guess someone can run you down there tomorrow, probably, or sometime this week - are you injured, we're allowed to go to Abadar's clerics for healing if we don't talk to them."

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Oh, okay, this is some kind of - intraplanetary fragmentation situation, where Numeria still has technology and everyone else is resisting Numerian authority and has to fight off the acid-spitting megafauna with bows and swords. He doesn't know what an Abadar's cleric is but this doesn't seem like the time, considering he's concussed probably. "I think I hit my head."

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"Well, I can walk you down there. Do you have money on hand for it."

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"...Ibyabek doesn't use money. The ship might have some for - bribing other ships or something, I don't know, but if you didn't even see it crash I'm not sure how to find it."

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"I can spot you if you let me look at the side-arm. Ibyabek doesn't use money? At all? Do you barter everything?"

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"No, it's all distributed to the people by the state - do you just mean look at it or handle it, you haven't been trained to handle it."

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"Nah, I just want to look at it, I'm a weapons enchanter, I like learning how different places put weapons together. Does it take a lot of training?" Out of this building and along a dirt path to a different building, where she switches languages to say something reassuring to the people at the door.

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"It's not hard to use but it's hard to be careful enough with."

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They walk into a big circular room, thirty feet in diameter, with a man in robes at the center and a dozen other people in various reaches of the room. She walks up to the center and puts some coins in a box and walks away without speaking to the man there. 

"Do you know if it can be recharged with spells?" 

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"I am... pretty sure... that it cannot be recharged with spells." Wow, he's glad their revolution covered the whole planet and no Ibyabekans have fallen into superstitious barbarism.

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"Too bad. Healing's in ten minutes, going off the clock, sometimes they're early or late but I'm not allowed to ask."

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"...what do you mean, healing's in ten minutes?"

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"Uh, I paid for healing for you and in ten minutes it will happen and then we can leave and go back to our barracks and workroom."

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This is probably just confusing because Kyeo has a concussion. Or she doesn't know the vocabulary for "doctor" and stuff like that in Ibyabekan. "Okay."

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Four minutes pass and then an armored man staggers into the room with a horrifying, definitely-shouldn't-be-survivable gouge running from his shoulder down across his torso and taking a chunk out of his leg. The instant he's in the room the man in the center of it chants something and then -

The armored man stands up, totally uninjured. His armor is still shredded. He walks without a limp towards the center of the room and leaves some coin. 

Kyeo's concussion is gone. 

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"Right, let's get out of here."

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Kyeo does not get out of there. He stares at the cleric and the guy with the shredded armor, speechless.

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"It's neat but you gotta be Neutral for it and so does your god. Come on, it's not decent to linger here."

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"I'm confused."

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"Mmm?" She starts walking.

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He follows her. "What just happened?"

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"We're at the Worldwound. It's a big tear to the Abyss and demons pour through it trying to devour everything. There are magic protections holding them back, but some of them get through. All the Lawful churches and countries have people here to fight them. Neutral clerics - and Good ones, I guess - can channel positive energy, for healing, fifteen foot radius, so they build rooms like those, and you go pay to hang out in them until the next time the cleric does a channel, which is usually on the half-hour but he did it early because that guy was not going to live five more minutes."

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Kyeo has been captured by hostile parties and they have given him SO MANY DRUGS, that's what's going on. He is high on painkillers and who knows what else and they are talking nonsense to see if he does something stupid.

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She relaxes when they get back to the other building. "Can I see the sidearm now?"

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He should probably... shoot her? Actually, no, he probably shouldn't shoot anyone while he's high, he has no idea what's going on. He makes sure the safety is on and draws it for her to look at because if they've got him captured it is unlikely they couldn't just take it.

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She examines it quietly for a minute, with Detect Magic up even though it seems not to be magic. Identifies the metals. Admires the really clean precise make. "I've never seen one of these before. I guess if they can only recharge on their ship that makes sense."

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There are reactors on the planet too. Perhaps he shouldn't tell her that in case that is somehow sensitive information in a way he can't determine right now because he hit his head. Probably he shouldn't say anything but name-rank-serial.

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"I've got like twenty minutes of Tongues left," she says when she's done studying it. "I can give you Taldane in the morning but not right now, so if you have other questions you should ask them now. If you go shoot some more demons I'm sure people will feed you."

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Welp he's going to starve after he runs out of charge in another thirty-three shots, then, isn't he, if that's how they've decided to kill him. He should get it over with, the first few days of going without food are the worst ones. Or maybe he should go shoot wildlife a bunch first? So they can't use the gun on his crewmates, wherever they are? He doesn't really have a procedure memorized for being captured by people pretending they can do magic.

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She's now looking at him with some concern. "And you could go to the paladins after that, if you wanted, I think they can't let anyone starve who is in their field of vision or something like that."

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Is he supposed to know what a paladin is. What is the point of this entire operation. He's still a cadet, for crying out loud, what do they think he knows?

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"...do they not have divine casters, in Numeria."

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"Ibyabek," he corrects, which is written on his uniform and not really secret information even if it isn't name-rank-serial.

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"Huh. Okay. And you're not allowed outside worship?"

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Why is he on Pretend Superstitious Barbarians Planet. What a stupid planet. Maybe if he just actually volunteers his name-rank-serial she will get the picture. "My name is Kyeo Sebe Luk, star cadet, 01992350."

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"My name is Carissa Sevar, weapons enchanter with Her Majesty's Seventh. Ibyabek has...a million soldiers?"

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More than that, some of the serial numbers have more digits. He doesn't say that.

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She boggles at that for a second but probably Cheliax could field a million soldiers, even more, if it conscripted everyone between sixteen and thirty-five. It'd be short-sighted but they could do it.

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Probably this is the part where they torture him and that's going to suck. It may actually suck more if they use weird barbarian torture methods instead of something modern like electric shocks. Oh, it's that thing where the world feels like it's ending. At least it is not distracting him from anything he was trying to do.

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" - are you not supposed to talk to people with another god at all, is that what this is -"

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He is not on enough drugs to be hallucinating gods.

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"Fine. Whatever. I'm going to stick you in the men's barracks and give you Taldane in the morning and ask around about a ride back to Ibyabek for you." Though she's not actually sure that the place he's from is one she's heard of. It might be somewhere in Tian Xia.

She reaches for the stun gun.

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He holsters it. He's pretty surrounded but that doesn't mean he's going to LET her.

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Well she feels that she deserves compensation for all of this trouble she's going to but she's not going to wrestle a fighter for it. "Okay. We can talk more in the morning." When she can have Charm Person prepared. "Barracks are this way."

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Fine, he will go to their "barracks". What is the POINT of all this though.

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There's someone there. 

"This guy has a very impressive weapon and is from some place I've never heard of, I assume a teleportation accident though he doesn't remember 'cause he hit his head, he's maybe not allowed to talk to followers of foreign gods, keep him out of trouble, okay?"

       "What're you - doing with him -"

"I want to figure out the weapon. And learn about Tian Xia. That's my assignment, here, learn about faraway places. And if they're not allowed to talk to followers of foreign gods we're not going to have many opportunities."

       "Sure."

She waves cheerfully at Kyeo and leaves as Tongues wears off.

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Kyeo doesn't understand this conversation, of course. He looks for an unoccupied bunk.

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There are some of those.

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He sits on one.

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People look at him curiously as they come in but none of them bother him. Eventually the sun goes down. As they do not have electric lighting, it's dark when that happens, aside from a gas lantern someone has and some glowing orbs someone else has.

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He doesn't like these drugs.

He pulls the holster around so it's under him while he lies down, and sleeps.

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She comes to tap him with Share Language in the morning. She hates being in the men's barracks so she tries to tug him out, after that. "Hey, come get breakfast."

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THESE ARE SUCH WEIRD DRUGS.

He will follow her to breakfast, fully expecting it to be some kind of stupid prank where actually breakfast costs money or something.

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Breakfast does not cost money but it is not the highest quality of breakfasts because all the important people have rings of sustenance and many of the rest can Prestidigitate it tastier. There is oatmeal, and jerky.

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Wow, jerky. He will eat it if they give it to him, though he's prepared for there to be some sort of unpleasantness where they kick him in the stomach later, that's the sort of thing that probably comes up sometimes. They already obviously have some way to deliver substances so this doesn't change much.

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She casts Charm Person while his back is turned. "So," she says. "I know we scared you yesterday. The Worldwound's not the safest place but no one has it out for you in particular."

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"The Worldwound?" ...that's a question, not a statement, it's probably fine.

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"The place where you landed. Where the demons attack from."

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"That's what the dangerous animals are called, demons?"

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"Yeah. They're not all animals, some of 'em are intelligent. They're all chaotic and trying to devour everything, though."

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"This planet has intelligent alien life??"

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"...yes. Does Ibyabek not?"

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"Nowhere does! Unless this place has been keeping it secret for however long the place has been inhabited!"

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"The Worldwound is not a secret, people from all over the world come here to fight."

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"Since when?"

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"Uh, since 4607."

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Kyeo mentally converts that into Ibyabekan years. "It isn't 4607 yet."

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"That's, uh, Absalom Reckoning. It's sixty-eight years since the Thrune Ascendency? It's, uh, eight thousand since the Age of Darkness."

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"I don't know how long an Absalom year is. In Earth Standard Years it's 2152."

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"don't know what those are. Also haven't heard of Ibyabek but you look Tian so I figured it was somewhere there."

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"It's the second planet in the Ibyatok system, which used to be called the Sohaitok system."

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"You're from another planet?"

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"I told you! I'm from Ibyabek! It's a planet."

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"I didn't know it was a planet! Okay, that's your problem, now you are on Golarion, which is a different planet."

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"I've never heard of Golarion. Is it a Kularan planet, or - Xeren, or - where is it, who does it belong to?"

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"...lots of people claim different bits of it. It doesn't belong to other planets."

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"Okay. But where is it?"

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"I don't think I know enough to answer that for someone who knows of lots of multiplanet empires. I know our sun has eleven worlds."

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"That doesn't really help, I don't know how many planets the suns I didn't think were colonized have. Sol, Earth's sun, has eight... how long ago was Golarion settled?"

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"A really long time ago? We think human civilizations are at least ten thousand years old and some other species were around before us, I think."

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"- ten thousand years ago humans hadn't invented agriculture! Did - some spacefaring aliens - kidnap your ancestors and put you here -"

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"Maybe? I think we in fact hadn't invented agriculture, back then."

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"Okay. Well, that's - interesting - what are the kinds of aliens? The, uh, various civilizations descended from Earth as a spacefaring planet in its own right, haven't found any intelligent life on other planets yet."

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"Man. Uh, there's elves and orcs and halflings and gnomes and goblins and dwarves and giants and trolls and hags and...titans? and merfolk and bugbears and, uh, tabaxi, there's hybrids of many of those, there's outsiders who are originally from the Outer Planes and elementals that are originally from the Inner Planes and hybrids of most of the kinds of outsider with humans, there's dragons, there's trolls and titans and giants and mind flayers and beholders and algolthulls. And that conceals a lot of - like, dragons are as different from each other as we are from bugbears, there's hundreds of kinds, we just call 'em all dragons and they call us all humanoids."

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"That's a lot of aliens - are most of them genetically engineered or something -"

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"I don't know what you mean by that."

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"Uh, modified from existing animals somehow?"

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"Oh. I think yes in some cases but I don't know how."

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"I guess that explains it." Sort of.

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"Where you're from, lots of people know how to travel between planets? For us that's very hard."

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"Did the species that originally put you here... die? Forget?"

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"The gods might know. They haven't told us, if so. The great empires died in the Age of Darkness, thousands of years ago, but I don't think they travelled the stars, I feel like we'd have heard about that."

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The gods are probably just powerful aliens or something. Who forgot how to build spaceships. That's still weird. "Okay."

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"If you know, we would be very eager to learn."

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"I've worked on building spaceships but I don't know how to do it from scratch." Also maybe he's not supposed to? But since he doesn't know how he doesn't have to explain that to this nice lady.

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"Well, if you know bits and pieces maybe people can work from those. In Hell, if not here."

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"In Hell?"

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"Uh, our gods have realms they control directly, not in this plane but in other ones, and Hell is a very prosperous and powerful one. Do you know of it on your planets?"

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"No, I don't know where any of these planets are."

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"Hell is technically a plane not a planet. The difference is that no amount of travel would get you there. We go there when we die, but I don't think people from where you are go there when they die or I'd have heard about that."

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"That sounds... imaginary," he tells her, though he's not sure it's really kinder to tell her than to let her go on believing that.

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"I am not sure what you mean by that. Planes sound imaginary? Specifically Hell?"

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"Planes sound fairly imaginary but mostly going somewhere when you die."

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"Do you just not go anywhere when you die? You...all turn into ghosts?"

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"Ghosts are also imaginary."

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"Then...what happens to your soul when you die. Does it just - immediately get eaten or something."

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"...Souls are imaginary."

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"...okay, then how does resurrecting people without a body work, and why, if you've cast Trap the Soul on them, is it impossible to resurrect them until you've smashed the gem that you in the conventional parlace 'trapped their soul' in."

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"I do not think I am on enough drugs to be convinced that you can resurrect people."

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"- right, sorry, I forgot you don't have divine casters - you can actually do it with a Wish too but I don't know that people would've been confident they had a safe wording, if there were no divine magic - you are not on any drugs, I don't think, and I don't see how that'd cause me to be claiming to you that we can resurrect people while you disbelieve me, drugs don't do that."

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"Magic is imaginary."

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She does some dancing lights. 

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"I don't know how you did that but I'm still pretty sure it wasn't magic."

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"Wanna go watch people fight demons?"

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"I had a concussion last time but I remember swords."

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"The fighters use swords and the wizards cast fireballs or blind people or whatever but they mostly save them for when they'll do the most, since you can do swords all day and you can't do fireballs all day."

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This is all extremely imaginary and he has no idea what the point is! Are... Numerians with high tech... infiltrating the superstitious barbarians... with technology they're passing off as magic... to keep the demon population down, or spy on people or...

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She Detects Thoughts when he doesn't say anything but it's not very illustrative. "Is there something that would convince you that there was magic."

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"I never really thought about that before."

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"I guess you can be skeptical about magic if you want to. How do people sail their space ships without magic?"

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Uhhh what's common knowledge that it won't be a huge betrayal to say. "They need a lot of electrical generation capacity, same as what charges the gun, and in-system propulsion is different from what jumps between stars -" And he can explain in the loosest possible terms what the deal is there.

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"Electrical generation? Do you know how that works?"

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"There are a lot of ways to do it. I don't know how to build a modern reactor from scratch."

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"Well. Maybe the crown will fund an expedition to Ibyabek to learn."

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"How would you get there without a ship?"

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Sigh. "With magic."

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Well, he got here somehow. He has no idea how though.

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"Are there things your world has invented that mine has not that you do know from scratch? Even if they're things that are trivial to your people they might be very impressive here."

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"I... know how to make bricks?"

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"That one I think we know."

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"Modern technology is more complicated than bricks."

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"Cheliax is the greatest country in the world and we have the most people in - jobs that require you to be very smart - and if anyone can figure it out I bet we can."

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"I'm not an engineer, though." And even if he were he wouldn't go around telling strange planets behold to alien genetic engineers how to build spaceships.

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"What do engineers study?"

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"...engineering. Physics and materials science, I suppose."

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And probably he wasn't tracked for those. "Okay. I guess we can put it together ourselves, or go there and see it and learn from your people."

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"I would appreciate the ride home if the... magic... works that way." Assuming being ?drugged? by aliens isn't the sort of thing you have to go to the hospital about but it's never come up and there's no sense borrowing trouble expecting it.

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"If they can do it with a Gate it'll be open for a couple minutes and if it takes an Interplanetary Teleport they'll probably do enough of them you can arrange to be on one of them. I think. Needs of the Crown first, of course."

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"That makes sense."

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"Do you have questions about this place?"

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Lots. "Some. I remember you mentioned 'paladins'?"

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"Yes. They are - soldier orders. Specifically Lawful Good ones, if you're Lawful but not Good you become a Hellknight instead."

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"...if you're lawful but not good?"

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"The gods see things in terms of Law and Chaos and Good and Evil. They're - the fundamental kinds of choice that there are, I think. Law is about order and keeping your promises and doing your duty. Chaos is about doing whatever you feel like and not having responsibilities. Evil is about having goals and being willing to achieve your goals even if there's a cost. Good is about - doing things narrowly and properly and very carefully and never stepping off that path. You get different afterlives, depending."

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He is about to comment that this sounds very weird in Ibyabekan, which is when he notices that he has not been speaking Ibyabekan all day. Which, now that he thinks of it, she totally told him, but he ignored her because magic is imaginary, except he is pretty sure drugs cannot make you speak entire languages suddenly? That's very strange. He thinks he's... lawful... good...? except these seem to be made-up categories. That were in fact by her own admission literally invented by aliens! So categorizing himself is a silly impulse.

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"When you're powerful enough, people can read it off you, and so it's useful for knowing what people are about. Most people don't know for sure until they die, though."

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That part still sounds very fake, magic is one (very big) thing but souls and an afterlife is obvious nonsense, but he isn't going to harp on it. "All right."

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She waits to see if he comes up with more questions.

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"Is going to the paladins the best way to eat while I'm here? My gun will not last through a lot of fights without recharging."

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"No. I think it serves Cheliax to keep this a secret from the paladins, for now, so we'll feed you. Out of my stipend, until I have enough to convince someone important."

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"Why a secret?"

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"We are allied to fight the Worldwound but we don't agree on much else."

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"And the thing that's wrong with them is that they are 'good'. - how does this, uh, language magic work. On Ibyabek we think being good is good."

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"Yeah, they do well on the propaganda front. Being Good is really really hard and people can only do it if they spend practically everything trying to do that and not doing anything else."

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"We don't have any aliens around trying to convince us that we should do alien things."

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Well. 

"The gods are - they care about better stuff than humans do. They're bigger, deeper, there's more to them, they can see farther, it's kind of like how we'd feel about people who could never want anything that wasn't going to happen in the next five seconds. Or like how we feel about, I don't know, cows. That's not to say none of the gods care about things that I don't think people should bother with. Many of them do. But - it's a mistake to decide you'll just do people stuff and ignore the gods, you'll be ignoring almost everything important."

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That is sure a very emphatic recommendation for completely replacing all his values with those of some aliens he has just now heard of who can't even control their planet's megafauna problem. "Cows. I see," he replies blandly.

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"Some people go for ants." Sigh. "I guess if you just dissolve when you die you should be focused on immortality and not on religion. Or are your people immortal already, does the future learn how to do that?"

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"No, we don't have that. We live longer than we did when we used swords, though."

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"Some people are immortal but it's very hard, is my understanding, and some forms of it might require having a soul, though I don't know how you'd check if you've got one."

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"It's very hard?"

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"To become immortal. - it's what I'd be focusing on, if I were going to just die forever at some point."

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"What do you mean by it being very hard?"

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" - you have to be a very powerful ...inventor and very good at research."

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"Why can't... just one person be very good at research?"

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"I don't think the gods would let someone invent a general version of immortality. They want us to die since this world is kind of mostly a sorting mechanism for them to allocate souls across the afterlives and it wouldn't be a very good sorting mechanism if everyone got to stick around."

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Kyeo isn't sure people are in fact supposed to be immortal, philosophically speaking, but if they aren't he is pretty sure it's not because the entire point of being alive is to let an alien put you in a box, because that's stupid.

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Kyeo sure thinks that most features of reality are fake or stupid. She wonders if people from atheist countries are always like this. "Can you tell me more about planet-empires? How are they administered? How hard is it to travel between planets?"

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"It's not very hard within a system. A ship that can jump is more complicated, and it takes days to get between systems depending on how far apart they are."

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"Only days? To go by ship between entire worlds? That's - faster than we can go from one city to another by sea -"

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Well, yes, they have... swords, which probably means no airplanes or helicopters. "Yes. It takes about eighteen hours to go between Ibyabek and the other inhabited planet in our system, about a week to get to the nearest other inhabited system. Though that's after you've already gotten into orbit above the planet, in the first case, and out of the way of the planets, in the second, both of which steps add travel time."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do you know anything about how your people go so fast?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not much, I'm not an engineer," and Ibyabek does not have an alliance with this planet. "I could do some limited emergency repairs on the Five Virtues if a common engine problem happened but that doesn't tell me how to build it."

Permalink Mark Unread

She is not exactly trained in getting people to desert but it seems probably possible, when they're entirely stranded. "Are the engines made of stone? Metal?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Mostly metal and some weird stuff but I don't think any of it is rock."

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Nod. "Ibyabek must be a really wonderful place."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It is! Best in the galaxy."

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh good, an angle. "What makes it better than other places in the galaxy?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"The others so far as I know all still make people pay for things, even things they need to live. Their people are weaker and softer and decadent, and they have gender roles that won't produce a strong next generation."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What gender roles produce a strong next generation."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, so far we don't know how to make babies grow outside of women, so they mostly need to be focusing on that and not being careerist or frivolous instead. Can magic do that? I think it might be good if magic could do that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Magic cannot do that but it doesn't require, uh, focusing on? It doesn't even benefit from it. The babies will kind of grow no matter what else you are doing with your life."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, if you can think of a way to have a career in nine months that you spend feeling sick I guess that's fine but I'm not a philosopher."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do you have the women immediately get pregnant again once they're done? I guess filling a whole planet with people would take a lot of work."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not married but my understanding is it doesn't always happen right away? They have to be ready for it, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

"So they can't have any careers ever in case at some point they get pregnant and turn out to be one of the people who is too sick to do things while pregnant?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Something like that, I assume the girls' schools have more detail but I obviously didn't go to one."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Mmm. Some countries here do things that way but Cheliax doesn't. Obviously."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I noticed."

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And if they have to in order to make things work with Ibyabek that would be awful and maybe she doesn't care to tell people about Ibyabek after all. "You might like Osirion or Qadira, though. Women don't have any rights at all there. They can't own property and they don't get custody of their children and their husbands are allowed to beat them and I can't imagine they have the slightest problem with anyone being careerist."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I wasn't trying to be rude." She asked! What was he supposed to tell her? He doesn't know what kinds of lies fly well with magic women who worship aliens!

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not upset that you said so I'm upset that apparently even in places that have starships and can go anywhere in days people still think - that it's wasteful if someone could be available to a man to impregnate and isn't, but not wasteful if people spend their whole lives appeasing whoever they happened to get glued to and throwing up a lot."

Permalink Mark Unread

Kyeo doesn't see what having starships has to do with gender??

Permalink Mark Unread

She does not explain herself since this would involve admitting she's reading his mind. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Well. If she's content to leave it at that Kyeo doesn't want to, like, hurt her feelings or anything. He's very good at being quiet.

Permalink Mark Unread

"...say more about the not having to buy things? Presumably everyone doesn't just get whatever they want?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...well, not if they want, uh, statues of themselves or something stupid, but food and medical care and water and electricity and things like that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. That's cool. How do you have enough you can do that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, first electricity had to be invented. Now the people whose jobs it is to produce all those things... do their jobs."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What part does electricity have in things?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Ibyabek's a warm planet so in the summer we need to keep buildings cool, and it also does lighting and charges things like - communication devices, and stuff."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Does it make making things more efficient?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, factories use it too."

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"Factories?"

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"Buildings where things are made, like - shoes."

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"Why would you make all the shoes in one building instead of at home?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Most people aren't any good at making shoes! I haven't specifically spent any time in a shoe factory but most things are easier to make a lot of if you do them in batches."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. I wonder if that's related to why it's a problem for women to do things, I think a lot more women can sit in their own house making shoes while pregnant than go to a entire other building to do it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Who is in charge of Ibyabek?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Glorious Leader Lut Naar Am."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Is Glorious Leader Lut Naar Am - an inherited position? Chosen by, uh, not by gods, by ....fate? Chosen by a council?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"He's the son of the previous Glorious Leader who led Ibyabek to independence."

Permalink Mark Unread

"independence from who?"

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"Sohaibek."

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"What happened?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, Pheon Naar Am was a philosopher and he saw that the way the people of Sohaibek lived and were governed was bad for them, and he convinced the people of what was then Inner Sohaibek to join together and resist the unjust government, and succeeded, but on Outer Sohaibek right philosophy didn't make it to enough people and they started a war, and Old Sohaibek, in between the two, was melted in their crazed attempt to prevent the Glorious Leader's ideas from taking hold there, but we were able to fight them off in the end and keep Ibyabek as it is now."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The whole planet was ...melted? You can do that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. Well, I think probably some islands would still be habitable."

Permalink Mark Unread

 

"Wow."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It was a very bad war, one of the only times a planet has been melted in anger."

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Nod. "I'm - sorry. I can't even imagine. The government that did this, are they still in power?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, Outer Sohaibek's government has continuity with that one. Though they change leaders every few years."

Permalink Mark Unread

Nod. "What other places are there? What's the biggest empire?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"United Kular has the most planets but I think Xeren has a larger population."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How many people is that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Xeren? I've heard twenty billion. It's probably rounded and they have probably grown since then."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...wow. And they all just. When they die, they just don't go anywhere because there aren't local gods to catch them?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"There is as far as I know no afterlife."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe if we find them or vice versa the gods will be able to set up shop."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe." He has no idea what to think of that but fortunately she did not ask.

Permalink Mark Unread

She feels like she is going to need to give a better pitch for Asmodeus but she's not sure what people who have entire planets care about. "What sort of things have been recently invented in Ibyabek?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, why do you ask? I'm not an inventor, I wouldn't be able to explain any of it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, no, I understand that, I'll stop bothering you about how to make things, probably our government will seek guidance from yours - I was just wondering, uh, what some of the most valuable things you do are, and for us inventing new magic is one of the most valuable things."

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"Well, there isn't any magic. There are cars and helicopters and things. And spaceships. And the machinery in factories, and lights, and plumbing. I assume the engineers improve those sometimes."

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Maybe eventually you have invented everything there is to invent and it's just tinkering. "What's a helicopter?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"In-atmosphere flying machine. It has spinning rotors on top of it and they carry it in the air."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. Cool. Do people fly all around, the whole planet..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sure, when they have something to do on the other side of it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's so neat. What places have you been to."

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"The best school was in the same city I grew up in - my father's fairly important, works in the capital - so I was mostly there, planetside, but military training was in another city about a thousand miles away and then I went into space."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What's space like."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There's no gravity except in the parts of the ship where the ship makes it. The view of the stars is very good. The ship has to be very sturdy to keep all the air in, and you need a spacesuit to go out of it, so we usually don't."

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"Do you like it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

What a weird question. "Of course."

Permalink Mark Unread

She is feeling as if she's very incompetent at talking to this person which isn't usually how she feels. "Do you have questions -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I - suppose I need to know how money works? And how to get some." Since this planet is too primitive to have given it up.

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's - coin, or paper, issued by the state, you're not allowed to make your own. You get it by working, you have to spend it for food or housing, though not at the Worldwound, when you're an active duty soldier you get fed and housed on base usually. But if, say, you come back to Corentyn with us when this shift is up," he doesn't have a reason to do that but she doesn't want to let this float into more important hands just yet, "you'd pay for a house, and for servants or slaves if you want those, and for food and drink, and then you want some savings for magic healing if anything happens to you, and some savings for new clothes. You pay by giving the coins or paper in the right quantity to the person who owns the house or the food, and then it's yours. There's ten copper in a silver and ten silver in a gold, which is called a gold but we mostly have bills, now." She shows them from her purse. "If you want things as fancy as you're accustomed to it'll be a lot of money probably since we haven't invented all those things you mentioned."

Permalink Mark Unread

They have slaves? That's fucked up. Maybe the slaves will have a revolution soon or something? That is probably hard when the slaveowners have magic but it is probably also hard when the ruling class has all the guns and the liberators of Ibyabek managed. "Working on what?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, whatever you expect people will pay you for? I'm an arms and armor enchanter, but people do all kinds of things."

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"...I have been trained to serve on a military spaceship," he points out.

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"Yeah, for you you'll just go to the government and I can give you a stipend in the meantime while we figure out, uh, the right part of the government to go to."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You don't need your money?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am a wizard, I have lots of money, I can do a stipend that will only slow down my headband savings by a month and that should be comfy unless you have very expensive tastes. Which I guess you might, we have very expensive tastes by the standards of hunter-gatherers."

Permalink Mark Unread

"They don't let us get too pampered in the military but I don't know what you might be missing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, if you're willing to live like this you'll be able to save lots of money."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If you say so." It's a little like being told that if he never sings - not that he can anymore - he'll be able to save a lot of oxygen. You have to fix the air recycler if you have this problem, not take shallow breaths. But he doesn't know how the revolutionaries pulled it off besides that it required a revolution.

Permalink Mark Unread

Eventually Tongues wears off and she gives him fluency in Taldane and lets him wander off so she can make magic items.

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He doesn't wander very far, but he paces out the area of the Chelish section of the Worldwound defenses, looking at this and that, sidearm ready should wildlife attempt to trouble him.

Permalink Mark Unread

The horrifying creatures seem to burst through the force-field a couple of times an hour; the teams stationed nearby fire on them when they do.

Permalink Mark Unread

...he will wander up to a team and ask if he should be helping. He doesn't really know what to do with himself; he is used to being more scheduled.

Permalink Mark Unread

Yeah, definitely, he...doesn't look like he does melee, is he a spellcaster?

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"No, but I have this." He pats his sidearm.

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh, fancy. He can be with Luis and Consuela and Aspex on the east side, the adventurers they were hanging with left town.

Permalink Mark Unread

He goes with Luis and Consuela and Aspex and stands at the ready.

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Fourteen-legged acid-breathing horned thing bulldozes through the forcefield!

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh yikes that's big. Zap zap.

Permalink Mark Unread

One of his new companions, who is shooting a longbow, whistles. "Where'd you buy that? How much is it?"

 

Another one fireballs the creature, which rears up angrily on the back four legs.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Didn't buy it -" ZAP. "- issued in the Ibyabekan military."

Permalink Mark Unread

" - and they don't sell them? Damn, that's a brilliant way to get your adventurers to stick out a term." He lifts the creature about a foot off the ground; its many feet scrabble for purchase.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Things on Ibyabek aren't sold." Zap zap. "We've advanced beyond the need for money."

Permalink Mark Unread

" - what, do you not have magic item shops?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"No." How many zaps does this thing require?? He's going to run out of charge before bedtime at this rate.

Permalink Mark Unread

It stops moving a couple of zaps later; Luis charges in and decapitates it and then they can move on. "That sucks," says the wizard sympathetically. "I assume you're allowed to keep things you bought elsewhere?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's never come up, this is my first time on another planet."

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" - it's on another planet?" The wizard whistles, and then fireballs a flying worm thing. "Do they do trade with other worlds, could Cheliax buy those?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"There's some trade, yes, but I have no idea where this is relative to Ibyatok." Is the worm thing dead or should he help.

Permalink Mark Unread

Worm thing is shot in the eye, falls out of the sky, and splatters. "What gods do they worship in Ibyatok?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"We don't." Why are these people so obsessed with gods? Were old-timey people normally this obsessed with gods and old-timey movies just don't mention it because it would be distracting?

Permalink Mark Unread

"What, none of them? No money and no gods...what do you do all day."

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"I am in the military and serve on a spaceship. I'm not actually sure how I got here."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sure, but off shift."

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"People - sing and chat and play games and watch movies - you probably don't have movies - how does having money and gods occupy your time off shift?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, you can go out drinking, or hire a girl, or read an adventure novel, and you're supposed to attend religious services and festivals and so on."

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"We have novels and occasionally festivals but not religious festivals. I have seen people drink occasionally but it's not a popular vice. Respectable men get married."

Permalink Mark Unread

"One of those places, huh. I guess if it suits you."

 

They talk only occasionally as they fight demons; they complain about the demons, the weather, their coworkers, the paladin orders, the food. They make plans for how they'll spend their money on leave; nice furniture, slaves, merchant ventures, magic items, in one case a line of racehorses.

Permalink Mark Unread

It continues to be repulsive that people have slaves.

Kyeo uses up the charges in his gun and retreats to the barracks.

Permalink Mark Unread

About an hour after that there's a whisper. "Hey. - don't make a big fuss about hearing this, but you can reply by whispering back, if you want. You're - not Chelish, are you."

Permalink Mark Unread

...right. Magic. Kyeo will never get used to magic. "No," he whispers.

Permalink Mark Unread

"The Chelish are - not good people to listen to. Do you want to get out of here and go somewhere else?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, one of them has been paying to feed me," he says dubiously. "I don't have any money."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We can feed you. And we won't want your soul for it either."

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"I don't think I have a soul. - what are you going to want for feeding me -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"- we feed people if we can because it is wrong for people to go hungry! And we're curious about your world."

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, that seems better than "you can save money by living like a soldier even when you're at home" as an economic philosophy. "Where would I go?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can come over and take your hand and teleport us out of here."

Permalink Mark Unread

 

"I can't shoot the gun any more, it's out of charge. If that matters."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Probably take it with you anyway so the Chelish don't reengineer it. But it's fine. We'll take care of you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Are you paladins? She mentioned paladins."

Permalink Mark Unread

" - yes. I mean, I am personally a wizard. But I'm with the Order of Folded Steel, which is a paladin order of Iomedae. We fight evil. We...noticed you out there fighting the demons, today."

Permalink Mark Unread

"They seem like a problem! Uh, okay, I'll go with you if you can - magic me wherever -"

Permalink Mark Unread

And something takes his hand and then he's somewhere else, in new barracks that look much like the old barracks.

"Got him," someone says triumphantly, and there's a thump and then he's not invisible; he's a man older than Kyeo and of the same ethnicity as the Chelish.

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"Hello," says Kyeo.

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"Hi," says someone else, armored and also of that ethnicity. "Welcome. I'm Eliar. I'm a paladin of Iomedae - I don't know if you've heard of -"

"He asked," says the wizard. "Of course, I'm sure he got the Chelish version."

"Right. Uh, Cheliax is Evil, and they lie to their people about everything."

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"She said something about paladins not letting people starve. If that wasn't meant to be flattering then... it failed."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Probably it wasn't."

"Some of them do make it out, eventually."

"But probably it wasn't meant to be flattering."

"In Cheliax caring about people is considered a weakness. And - vaguely disloyal, I think."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What does that have to do with people starving?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, not letting people starve would be a kind of caring about them, and thus fairly suspicious. - I'm really not an expert on Cheliax, mind. We're not allowed to evangelize to them and they're not allowed to talk to us and we'll be killed if we actually go there, so."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I see." He doesn't.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Why don't you sit down, I'll get us dinner," the wizard says, and leaves.

"How did you get here?" Eliar says. "Were you, uh, aiming to go here?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know. I hit my head and don't remember the circumstances. I didn't know this planet existed and my ship was not exploratory."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm so sorry. Have you done a Sending back to your ship, to let them know you're here?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know what that is. Is it magic?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. It's a spell that sends a message, even over a great distance."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I haven't tried it. Maybe if the ship is still intact somewhere they'd be able to pick me up."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Kalidae!" he shouts into one of the adjoining rooms.

"Yeah?"

"Do you have a Sending?"

"Yeah."

"The traveller from another world needs to contact his army."

"Sure. What do you want to say? And to who?"

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"Uh, I need to tell Captain Hwan Neul Ryung that I, Star Cadet Kyeo Sebe Luk, am alive, and where I am. - in terms that would make sense viewing the planet from space, like, the Nth biggest continent so many miles from which coast. Also this needs to be in Ibyabekan unless the message magic also does translation."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh. It doesn't. Uh, you can say exactly what to say and I can repeat after you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You may want to practice first, to make sure your pronunciation is all right, and you'll... have to tell me where this is, since I don't know."

Permalink Mark Unread

"This is the Worldwound. It should be very visible from space. There's a planar portal to the Abyss. We're on the northern end."

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Kyeo experiments with attempting to speak Ibyabekan around the magic; it turns out he can do that okay. "Captain, Star Cadet Kyeo Sebe Luk reporting by proxy via ostensible magic, alive and whole, at the north end of a visible planar portal, 'the Worldwound'. I await pickup or orders."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's a bit too long, can you trim out four words -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh. Kyeo Sebe Luk reporting by ostensibly magic proxy, alive, whole, north of visible planar portal, 'the Worldwound', awaiting pickup or orders."

Permalink Mark Unread

She repeats it with an air of intense concentration.

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"That's understandable," confirms Kyeo.

The captain replies, but is obviously unfamiliar with Sendings. "Who is this - does this have to do with - who do you report to, what planet - stand by while I go and get, ah, someone -" and then he's cut off.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I didn't understand that, did you?" says the wizard.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. Well - he sounds confused and doesn't want to tell you anything in case you work for Ibyabek's enemies, I suppose, which makes sense. I - guess I should maybe try again later?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You should probably try a scry, so you can sustain a longer conversation. That one takes an hour to do, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know... anything about magic, so you may have to explain a little more what it would do."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right. A scry is a spell that lets you look at a target over a great distance. Sometimes you can do simple magic through the scry, in which case you can talk to them. It lets you talk for significantly longer than Sending, so it's probably the best way to get in touch with your ship. However, it has a long casting time; if I start now I'll be done in an hour. It might make sense to talk for ten minutes first. It's up to you, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The reply didn't sound like he'd be ready in ten minutes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, I mean, it might make sense to talk for ten minutes about magic and what you're doing here and what Ibyabek is like, before I start a spell that takes an hour. In case we think of some other plan that makes more sense. Your world doesn't have magic at all?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right."

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"Do you know how you got here?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"No. I hit my head at some point."

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Sympathetic nod. "What's Ibyabek like?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's the second planet in the Ibyatok system. It's governed by Glorious Leader Lut Naar Am."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Wow. Is it mostly humans?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's all humans. Humans evolved on a planet called Earth and colonized the galaxy from there. I have no idea where you came from."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I guess probably Earth if that's where all the other humans in the galaxy come from? How do you know that? How long ago was it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Humans first left Earth hundreds but not thousands of years ago."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...then that doesn't explain anything, we've been here much longer than that. What is Ibyabek like? What are your gods?"

Permalink Mark Unread

Why does everyone expect Ibyabek to have gods?? "We don't have gods."

Permalink Mark Unread

"....what, none of them? Huh. Okay. What's that like - that's not a very helpful question? Who organizes, uh, courts, and aid to the poor, and banks, and orphanages and so on?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"The state handles that class of thing except we don't need banks and don't have poor people, having progressed beyond the use of money."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- you ...don't have poor people?"

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"...no, because we don't use money." Kyeo is pretty sure that poor people are people who have less money than everyone else, so.

Permalink Mark Unread

"But do you have, uh, people who are hungry sometimes, people who are sick and can't get a healer to come heal them because they don't have anything to trade in exchange, people whose house is too small for all of them to live in..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Nobody has to pay for food or medicine," Kyeo says. "Although we don't have any magic healing. I think people's houses are generally the right size."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess most people could just grow their own food," she says, but she sounds slightly confused. "Are there not cities or armies? Is everyone a farmer?"

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"There are cities and armies and we don't all grow our own food," he says. "I'm in the military."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How do the people in the cities get food? Do they trade city goods for it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"No. People on less civilized planets have to make exchanges to get things they need but on Ibyabek they don't. The farmers grow food, and the truckers bring it to the city, and then everyone gets food, because otherwise people might starve. The farmers do also get things that are made in cities when they need them but it's not a purchase."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh, okay. Will they give our starving people food, once we can contact them?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think maybe you'd have to become part of Ibyabek? Or the starving people could move to Ibyabek."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What would becoming part of Ibyabek work like?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know, we've never had an annexation on another planet before."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Which gods do you permit the worship of? ...I guess if you don't have any maybe you've had no reason to figure that out -"

"Who does your military fight?"

"How would they end hunger, if we joined..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We have to defend our part of the solar system against various bad actors. I don't know the logistics they'd need to do to get another place up to Ibyabekan standards."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right but just - in general, what kinds of things would they be doing, do they have... crops that grow better?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know how much magic is helping yours but there have been improvements over time relative to the last time any Earth-extracted human used a sword."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do we ...have to join Ibyabek for them to teach us those?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know. Probably not, there are planets we trade with that aren't part of the Ibyabekan state."

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Nod. "The Chelish people who captured you. What were they interested in?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"The sidearm and spaceships."

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They exchange grim nods. "What did you tell them about that?"

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"I don't know much, I'm not an engineer. She looked at the sidearm but didn't touch it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Just one person? The one who found you?"

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"I exchanged words with other people but not as many."

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"How long has it been since you arrived -"

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"I landed yesterday."

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More meaningful glances are exchanged. 

"What are the terms," someone mutters. 

     "I'd have to check."

"We should have someone there, though -"

      "Yes. I'll ask Lodie."

"Did you have questions about Golarion?" someone else asks him, loudly, over the other conversation.

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"...I mostly just want to know where it is but I'm not sure anyone knows."

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"I'm sorry. I know some astronomers we can at least ask for star charts."

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"That would help a lot."

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"You should know that there is some chance Cheliax will try to get you back. If you want, we can get you out of here now to prevent that; if you'd rather stay since it's the location we gave your people, we can just have someone on hand ready to teleport you if there's trouble."

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"- whatever you think is best," Kyeo says, not super clear on why he would have strong opinions about this.

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Glances around the room again. "Vigil," someone says decisively. 

The wizard holds out her hand again. "Let's go."

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He accepts her hand.

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And then they're somewhere else: a stone city, still visibly from a time period with less technology but much less impoverished-looking than the barracks at the Worldwound. She smiles at him. "Welcome to Vigil."

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"Thank you. Ah, where is this -"

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"My paladin order is based here. It is the largest city in our country of Lastwall. The main reason I brought you here is because it's safer than most places from Cheliax, which will try to use the contact with your world for evil purposes, if they learn of it. We can get you a comfortable place to stay while you're here."

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"The way she described 'Evil' made me - confused about the translation magic," Kyeo mentions.

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"...Cheliax is ruled by the forces of Evil. It has been for nearly a hundred years. They raise children thinking that Evil is the right way to be and that Good is pathetic, or dangerous. They do it because when they die, Evil people are damned to Hell, and then Asmodeus can use them."

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"But they still call it 'evil'?"

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"I think people'd be less Evil if they were misled into thinking it's Good? I think an important part of the way they're damned is that they know it's Evil and choose it anyway. But I am not an expert on Cheliax." Grimace. "Hopefully they won't even find out that you're here."

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If she says so. Kyeo nods politely.

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"Why don't I get you a room and then, uh, there'll be a lot of meetings, and we'll ...need to pray about some things, I think, and in the morning we can have someone scry your ship for you."

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"Thank you."

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She bundles him off to a room that is a significant step up from the barracks, furnished with a bed and dresser and table and altar and fireplace, and thanks him, and tells him to just stick his head outside and ask if he needs anything, and then hurries off after flagging someone down to stand guard at his door.

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He doesn't really know what the altar is for but he can sit on the bed and... stare at the wall, he supposes.

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The altar has candleholders and fresh candles and a stone figurine of a woman in armor, raising her sword to the sky, and a short handwritten text the translation spell lets him read, that begins 'I am my weapon.'

Bells ring, outside, and someone brings him dinner.

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At least so far they're feeding him, but, well, so was Carissa. He thanks the someone and eats.

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There are more bells. It gets dark. The person standing outside his door gets replaced with three different people.

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He sits there, becoming a connoisseur of slight variations in boredom, until the sun is down and it seems reasonable to go to sleep, which he then does.

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In the morning a whole group of people come to get him. The wizard from before is with them, but in the back.

"Good morning, Kyeo," says a unfamiliar person, earnestly. "I'm Isavel. We're going to start on the scry for you, and we have a couple of other questions in the meantime, if that's all right."

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"Good morning," says Kyeo.

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One of the people fills a basin with water and then starts moving her hands over it.

"That's the scry," says Isavel. "Should I take that as 'no more questions, please'."

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"I'm... not clear on what my obligations to my command are under the circumstances. If I'm taken as a prisoner of war it's name, rank, serial number, but this is a much stranger situation. It will depend on what you ask."

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"You're not a prisoner of war," she says very earnestly. "We're trying to keep you from Cheliax because they are Evil and if Asmodeus knows about your world he might attempt to conquer and damn it, too. But we're going to try to get you back to your people as soon as possible, and it's entirely all right if there are things you can't answer for us. 

Can you explain - how Ibyabek became the kind of place it is today? It sounds like it's unusual among the worlds you know of?"

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"It is, yes. The Ibyatok system was originally colonized under the name Sohaibek and three planets in the system were settled. Pheon Naar Am, the original Glorious Leader, was a philosopher and he saw that the way the people of Sohaibek lived and were governed was bad for them, and he convinced the people of what was then Inner Sohaibek to join together and resist the unjust government, and succeeded, but on Outer Sohaibek right philosophy didn't make it to enough people and they started a war, and Old Sohaibek, in between the two, was melted in their crazed attempt to prevent the Glorious Leader's ideas from taking hold there, but we were able to fight them off in the end and keep Ibyabek as it is now." It is almost exactly what he told Carissa; he has it memorized.

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" - the world was melted? How?"

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"There is an advanced weapon that can do it."

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"Does Ibyabek possess such a weapon. Is it - simple to describe, such that once people know of it they too can build it."

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"Yes, and - not if you're starting with swords and magic."

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They glance at each other. "That might -"

"Asmodeus wasn't with Rovagug."

"I said it might, let me finish, warrant revisiting -"

"I don't think so, the justification there was that this way's less suspicious."

"I just want to pass it along."

"Fine, go do that."

 

 

"Sorry," says Isavel after a minute. "It's a lot to take in. The gods aren't ...limited to swords, in the things they can build, necessarily, so it's scary to imagine they might get their hands on such things."

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"The weapon also does not involve... prayer? in its manufacture. It's a piece of very high technology."

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"...I should hope no god would grant it to us," she says, looking absolutely astounded. "I mean that They could probably build it Themselves. With technology."

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"I apologize, I don't know how magic and gods work."

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"Not your fault, we should have explained. Gods are ...people. They are very powerful people. They can do much much more than us. Some of them have goals that are very hard for us to understand, because we are so small compared to Them, or because They were never human to begin with. But while we do pray to them, answering prayers is only a tiny fraction of what They do, and if these weapons were dangerous it wouldn't be because of anything to do with us. Does that make sense?"

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"Not especially. Uh, Ibyabekan has a word for 'god' but it refers to - ancient superstitions -"

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"...and now I am the one who doesn't really know what you mean. You have the word but not any gods? You...used to think you had gods, but you didn't? Did they leave?"

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"They never existed, people just - attributed natural phenomena to imaginary beings for some reason until humans learned more about science."

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"I....see. And you are - unsure if we're doing that too?"

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"You do have real magic, I think. But it occurred to me to wonder."

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"The gods raise people from the dead. I have seen them do it. In the Inheritor's divine domain in Heaven, the forces of Good are marshalled for war, and there are people I knew who are there now among them. And a god died, a hundred years ago, and it was immediately obvious to everyone because storms tore apart the harvest everywhere and quakes swallowed cities and countries drowned and his followers stopped receiving miracles."

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"People coming back from the dead is very impressive magic - if they didn't die ten minutes ago and gently - but terrible storms can happen on their own."

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"The god, Aroden, had announced his plans to manifest on Golarion. Instead, the whole world, places thousands of miles apart from each other, had two weeks of storms and lightning, even in places where such weather was very rare, and five cities were swallowed by the earth, and a permanent hurricane formed and drowned the country that had previously been there below the sea. Two weeks later the storms cleared, everywhere at once. At the same time the god's clerics stopped getting spells from him."

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"It's less drastic than the entire planet melting," Kyeo points out. "Which isn't magic at all."

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"...I don't really understand the distinction you are making. Things have causes. If the planet had melted with no cause that would be very confusing. Instead, the melting had a cause - a war - so it isn't. Storms all over the world would be very confusing if it happened with no cause, but instead it was caused by a war.

The precise thing we are worried about is that planets melting is the kind of thing the gods might be able to cause."

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"That's understandable. I don't myself know how to build a melter."

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She nods. "Anyway. After the revolution, Ibyabek stopped using money? To marshall its whole world as Heaven, as an army in wartime, as a single pool of resources to be dedicated as needed?"

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"...what I know about Heaven is what you've told me, but the single pool of resources thing sounds right."

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"Towards what do they direct those resources?"

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"Policing the space border with Outer Sohaibek - it's more manpower-intensive than a land border by a long shot. And making sure everyone on the planet is fed and cared for appropriately."

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"What danger does Outer Sohaibek pose? Are they trying to melt another planet? Is there an active state of war?"

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"Not active war. I'm not sure I should describe the state of affairs beyond that."

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"That's fair enough. But - we want to help. We would be interested in adding our resources to your own, and addressing our shared problems as one."

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"I'm not authorized to entertain the offer myself."

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"I understand. I hope you'll convey it for us."

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"I'll give my captain a complete report when I can."

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"Working on it," says the person praying over the pool of water.

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"Ideally he'd be able to take the complete report in private. I will give him as much report as he asks for over the magic thing."

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"Hopefully once we have a scry he'll be able to come here, but we can give you our oath that no one in this room has Tongues up or a way to speak your language - the language-spell we're using only gives you ours," says Isavel.

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"I can tell him that you gave oaths on that, then."

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She looks slightly nonplussed, but shrugs. "I'll have someone bring breakfast. Are there other things you'd want to know for your report?"

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"Are there star charts to be had yet?"

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"We did our best overnight, but can get better ones with more time." She passes them over. They're obviously painstakingly measured and labelled by hand.

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Kyeo frowns at them.

"This is not my galaxy," he concludes in fairly short order. "I don't recognize this one on sight."

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"Huh. In that case it seems likely it's a Plane Shift to get you home."

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"And that is?"

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"A spell we have, but - not an easy challenge, to go a place we've never been. We'll of course do whatever we can."

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"'Planes' is a term for galaxies?"

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"No. But - it seems likelier you got here from another plane than from another galaxy in this plane, since I can't even think how that'd happen, and even if that is what happened the fastest way back will probably be over some other plane."

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"- it may be some sort of magical force has invaded the system. Or the Outer Sohaibekans have it -"

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" - oh. Yes. That - seems possible. Your command will presumably know whether that's what's happening, but not want to tell you; I'd appreciate it if you'd convey that we want to help and can get magic to their side as well."

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"Thank you."

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Breakfast is brought. It is eggs and toast and butter and apples; the locals all start eating, though not hurriedly.

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Kyeo eats pensively. Eggs first.

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"Scry's finished," says the person casting it, when they're finishing breakfast. "...not high enough quality to do magic through, though. Damn it. Can everyone else who's going to want to scry this guy come take a look to help with their familiarity -"

"I'll tell them to do that."

"Thanks." She sighs. "Kyeo, do you want to at least have a look? I'm sorry the scry's low quality, I'll try again as soon as this one's expired."

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Kyeo goes and looks.

"- Outer Sohaibekan prisoner of war," he says. "He won't be able to do anything from there."

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"Oh. I'm sorry. In that case who should we be trying to reach?"

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"I'm - not sure. Anyone else on my ship may also have been taken..."

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"Your Supreme Leader?" someone suggests. "This is - important - if your enemies might have magic and you're on a world your people never knew existed..."

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"Glorious," corrects Kyeo. "I - maybe - it's not done - my father maybe. He works in the government, not directly under the Glorious Leader but not too many steps away."

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"We can try that."

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"Suor Sebe Luk."

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The cleric dismisses the scry, and starts a new one. Frowning. 

 

People are muttering to each other.

"I want to ask the Chelish wizard who saw him arrive -"

"Mmm."

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"Ask her what?"

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" - several things," said the person who said that, a bit stiffly. "Uh. Whether anyone on their side noticed any kind of magical signature associated with your arrival, most directly."

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Kyeo nods.

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"I should....explain Cheliax." She looks sort of unsure of this, though, on the whole.

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"Explain what about it?"

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"Well....most countries vary, but they're more or less the same sort of thing? They've got lots of people who are just trying to get by, and then some good ones and some terrible ones. But Cheliax was conquered in a terrible war by devil-worshippers, and Asmodeus directs it, and His aim is to damn everyone there, so He can have their souls when they die. So they make the children report each other for minor things, they punish them very harshly, they read their minds to make sure they're loyal enough to the state, they execute anyone who isn't, and that way they make everybody Evil. And they convince them that they deserve it. We are allied with them, at the Worldwound, to prevent demons destroying the world, but Hell is a menace to Good everywhere and it'd be very bad for them to learn of Ibyabek. They'd try to make it Evil."

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"I don't think I know enough about devils," Kyeo remarks after a pause.

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"Devils are lawful evil people. If you are lawful evil when you die, or if you're neutral evil and go to Hell, you become a minor devil, and the cruelest and most ruthless among them eventually become more powerful devils."

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"I also don't know enough about - the law and evil and so on."

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"Law is about adherence to a strict code of rules, usually for the sake of making it possible for people to rely on you or negotiate with you. Devils are lawful in the sense that their word is binding and when they make bargains they keep their end of them. Paladins are also lawful. We do not betray our word even when to do so would confer a substantial short-term advantage. Evil is - the ideology opposed to human lives being free and peaceful and happy, and to humans having the chance to trust in and love and honor one another. Most Evil beings are Evil simply out of being self-serving -- they hurt others because they do not care for those others to live - but Asmodeus specifically believes that people should not be free, and Rovagug specifically believes that no worlds with life on them should exist, so some of them are like that..."

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"That's... not the kind of philosophy I'm accustomed to, but I suppose it makes sense for things to be different here."

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"What philosophy are you accustomed to?"

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"Ibyabekan philosophy is about cooperation under the authority of the state to make sure everyone is taken care of, and I've been glossing that as lawful good, but it's not specifically about promises or being lenient with children or about people pursuing individual preferences freely..."

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" - well, Lastwall is Lawful Good, but we're also the only bastion of Good in northern Avistan, we're fighting wars and we need to win them, there are lots of situations where it's necessary to do what is best for the group and not whatever speaks to one's heart individually. A lot of this is about - the ideal state, what we want when the wars are all over; Evil thinks people are nothing in themselves, and Good thinks people are everything, in themselves. Does that - sound closer to right?"

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"I'm not sure."

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"If you'd like someone can read you different churches' accounts of Good and you can figure out which one is closest to the Ibyabek one."

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"Maybe. Is this - a current priority, here -"

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"Well, when we meet up with Ibyabek and ask about allying with them it'd be good to have an understanding of where they're coming from and what they'll care about most as allies."

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"I'm not a diplomat, so you shouldn't put a lot of weight on my guesses."

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"I understand. But you've done a good job of explaining it. And - I don't think it takes diplomats, or great carefulness, for people to learn from each other, and we have a lot we can learn from you."

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Kyeo looks over at where the scry on his father is in progress.

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The person conducting it is still waving their hands in the air, apparently deep in thought.

"We could take a break?" someone says.

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"I'm trying to think what I'll say. It's been some time since we've spoken."

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"Does someone have a spellglass on the scry -"

"Yeah," someone says, and produces a contraption made of two glass bowls with their narrow tips glued together, sand trickling from the top one into the bottom one. "We've still got about half the time."

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Nod nod.

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"Why don't we leave you be so you can think what to say - do you write? We can get you parchment and ink..."

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"...I can write, yes."

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"Good! Hoset -"

    "Mmhmm," says one of the other people, leaving. 

She stands up too. "Should we get you anything else?"

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"I don't believe anything else is urgent."

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They head out. Hoset comes back in a minute or two later with parchment and ink and a feather quill.

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Kyeo is quite baffled by the feather quill. He writes with it badly, going much too fast and changing direction in ways it won't accommodate, and eventually figures it out, only to scratch out all his writing before he's gotten more than a few words into a sentence.

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Eventually the man casting the scry looks up at him. "It worked. I can convey a message for your father, and convey responses, for the next ten minutes."

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Kyeo has a few notes jotted down awkwardly. He switches to Ibyabekan, stammers a little over his notes, and finally manages, fluidly enough to be copied, to speak a few sentences.

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The man whispers them over his pool of still water. A world away they can be heard like someone is whispering in Kyeo's father's ear.

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Suor Sebe Luk startles, checks some nearby devices to see if they made a sound, looks around the room. Kyeo goes on for another sentence, much like the first.

Suor replies. They go back and forth, it's a bit repetitious. Kyeo doesn't seem to want to look at the scry.

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Well, not all father-son relationships are uncomplicatedly happy ones. 

 

The pool goes back to being a normal pool of water when the scry runs out.

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"I think he's - I think he will pass the report up."

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The man smiles at him. "Thank you. I'm sure you did your very best. Should we leave you be, now?"

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"Yes - please." The world is ending and he would prefer it do that in privacy.

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He leaves. The world can end in privacy at least until lunchtime.

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At lunchtime he is mostly all right again and able to eat.

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"Are you going to need a followup scry later?" Isavel asks him. "Do they have any way to get in touch with us? Should we be looking for a ship?"

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"They don't have a way to get in touch with us. This being the wrong galaxy, even if they knew exactly where it was it would take weeks to get here, and they don't know exactly where it is. There aren't radios on this end. I'm not sure if my ship is nearby and the captain's capture was before the magical event, or if I was the only person affected."

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She nods seriously. "Well, we're more than happy to have you here for as long as it takes."

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"Thank you, I appreciate that."

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"Did you want to - tell people about Ibyabek? Hear about different concepts of Good? Take a break until we know more?"

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"What is it you'd like to know about Ibyabek?"

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"I guess I'm mostly curious ...what it's like to live there? At what age do you marry, what are your holidays, what are special occasions like, what do children want to grow up to be..."

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"People marry when they're perhaps twenty to twenty-five, depending, men sometimes a bit older and women sometimes a bit younger. We celebrate the Day of Revolution, the Eve of Revolution - those aren't next to each other, the Eve is when it started and the Day is when it ended, months apart - and the Glorious Leader's birthday and his predecessor's birthday and their wives' birthdays and the anniversary of the first landing on Ibyabek. Those are the major ones. There's a lot of singing and some people get the day off work and there are holiday-specific details for each one. Children often want to be things like pilots or firefighters or architects, though of course a lot of them wind up in less glamorous positions."

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"What's a pilot? There's a job of fire-fighter?"

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"Pilots direct ships - or airplanes or helicopters, it's the same word but different skills. And yes, there is a job of firefighter, to respond quickly to fires. This is important especially in cities where they may spread to other buildings quickly but also in wilderness areas where they may get a lot of fuel and become very big and fast-spreading."

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"Huh."

"Is your world mostly at peace, then?" someone else cuts in. "Here children mostly want to be great warriors."

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"We are not at war right now. We do maintain a large standing military to police the border, which requires more manpower at planetary scale and in three dimensions. I'm in military service myself."

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"But it's not - aspirational?"

"That's probably healthier."

"Yes, I'm not disagreeing, just - hard to imagine."

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"I'm sure some of the children dreaming of being pilots specifically want to be military ones."

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"There are war planes? Like dragons but - mechanical?"

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"I suppose you could think of them that way. Since we control the whole planet, most of the military force is in starships like mine."

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This attracts more people, interested in starships and how wars are fought in space and what traits make someone a good starship soldier and whether there are any places in the worlds he knows of endangered by Evil.

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"I'm still not sure I'd be accurately classifying things by your scheme. There are worlds that are in various levels of conflict," he says of that last.

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Conflict where two countries both have a history of rivalry that escalates whenever they have the resources and an excuse? Conflict where one is trying to conquer others and others are trying to hold it in check? Conflict where one people is trying to wipe out another entirely? Slavers? Independence wars?

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"A mix. I didn't specifically study foreign affairs - a lot of other planets prefer Outer Sohaibek, which has a more similar philosophy to the rest of the galaxy, and that makes it awkward for them to interact with us very much."

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"What's the - similarity in philosophy?"

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"I think it's mostly that they still use money."

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People are confused by this. "That's a philosophy? ...do they also not have gods?"

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"Nobody does except on this planet that I know of."

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"There is a god of commerce but I don't know exactly how there'd be a philosophy of commerce without a god of it. I guess you could - believe all the things but think that there's not yet anyone guiding the world in that direction, that'd be coherent...all the other planets do that?"

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"There aren't any gods there. - I believe on some planets there are superstitions to the effect that there is a omnipotent omnibenevolent deity but I don't know much about that."

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"....is everything a wonderful paradise there?"

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"No. I'm not sure what the rationalization is, Ibyabek doesn't allow them to send missionaries."

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"...huh, why not?"

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"They tend to foment unrest, dissent against the state, that sort of thing. I couldn't tell you what that has to do with the omnipotent god."

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"...is dissent against the state a very big problem in Ibyabek?"

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"Well, no, but apparently the missionaries threatened to make it one."

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"...I guess we don't let Asmodeans in here," someone says, which makes people look slightly less confused. 

"That's because they'd be spies, though, not because we're scared that hearing about Asmodeanism would confuse people - or because Asmodeans have objections we don't want anyone to raise -"

"But," someone else says, "if it did - I know it didn't, I know Asmodeanism is kind of transparently horrible, but if Asmodeus came up with something that was awfully compelling and did confuse lots of people, we'd ban it, right?"

"I guess."

"Seems like a bad habit to get into -"

"You need a counterargument -"

"Sure, some people should study it, but -"

"Nirmathas wouldn't ban it, and - and we could see how that worked out -"

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"Nirmathas?"

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"One of our neighbors. They're chaotic good, so they don't have - the capacity to ban things, really, and they don't want it - it's not very good at winning but it's valuable for many different forces of Good to be trying lots of different things, in case we have blind spots we can't recognize."

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"Hm. And they didn't ban Asmodeanism?"

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"They don't really have any way to ban things. Probably if you start talking about Asmodeanism they'll all look at you very pityingly."

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"I see. It sounded very peculiar from what Carissa told me."

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"It's hard to know which of them even believe it, right, because they'll get in trouble if they say anything wrong."

"The ones at the Worldwound could run, though, if they - knew it was a lie -"

"They'd have to also know there's anything better. And - there might be retaliation against their families, right -"

"I thought Chelish people didn't care about their families."

"Aren't supposed to care about their families. Which is different."

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"They can run if they decide to quickly enough," someone says. "Because they get mindread regularly and it's dangerous to be thinking about it."

"We're upsetting Kyeo."

"- Cheliax is terrible," someone says gently, "but there have been many victories against it. Half its former territory is free, now. And lots of people are working to make it more. With allies from other worlds, perhaps Hell can be defeated for good."

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That isn't really what he was pensive about. "Oh, how wonderful," he murmurs vaguely.

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They totally lack context about what he's pensive about. They go on talking, only half to him, about the Worldwound and Cheliax and Heaven and Hell and Iomedae, the Lawful Good goddess directing the war with Hell, and other worlds without gods and what to make of that.

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Kyeo only half-listens, more to get his bearings on the world and how they talk about it than to really orient himself to the conversation in front of him.

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They seem to believe there to be at least four existential threats to the forces of Good in the world and yet be on the whole pretty cheerful about this; those are the marauding orcs to their north and west, perpetually crossing the border and sacking villages and occasionally amassing far more force than that when a capable ruler comes around, the powerful undead sorcerers of Ustalav, north and east; Cheliax, and Asmodeus who works through it, and the Worldwound in the north. They apparently personally consulted Iomedae about the Kyeo situation and got advice "mostly on timing"; they are debating what they would miss if they had to give up money (the satisfaction of saving up for several years for a nice magic item: "even if you'd get it after the same amount of time, I think it wouldn't feel as earned", the ability to send some of their savings each month to a elderly mother in their home country: "I guess I could send her things but it'd be very logistically difficult and what if I sent something that's not really in demand...""

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Huh. It's actually really interesting to hear people who currently use money consider giving it up while giving voice to why that wouldn't be a completely lossless transition.

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Someone says that unless the whole world stopped using money she'd still need it to send her baby brother to wizard school; someone says that if one wizard school stopped using money then that'd be enough; someone else objects that that wizard school would quickly get overwhelmed, and probably have stringent entry tests, and so you'd be back to the same situation of not being able to send your brother to wizard school unless he was an unprecedented genius or you had money.

Someone says that he paid his friends to spend their days off building a house for him and his fiancee and he's not sure how that'd work if there weren't money, it's too much to ask as a favor and he can't repay it in kind because he's usually deployed on the border.

A wizard offers that if they weren't getting paid they'd go work somewhere where they were getting paid, no offense, or at least do that ten months of the year; you need money to get headbands and advance as a caster. Someone objects that obviously wizards would still get those things, just not in the specific manner they get them now, to which the wizard says that that's just getting paid in magic items, which is fine, but seems more like changing your currency than like not using money. 

 

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Kyeo doesn't know enough about how wizards work to have a specific vision of how they'd fit into the logistics but now he's wondering about it. "Of course people who need something for their jobs can get it, and if for wizards that's headbands then they'd have them, just like a pilot can't do their job without a ship or a helicopter; that's not the same as being paid to be a wizard."

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"It seems kind of like being paid to be a wizard," says the wizard. "Unless you don't get to keep the headband when you retire, in which case it seems worse, because I definitely plan to retire at 30 and wouldn't want to give up the headband and be all stupid for the rest of my life..."

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"Thirty? - how long are your years?"

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"A baby goes from conceived to born in three quarters of a year. I'm twenty-seven now." He looks older than Kyeo but not much older.

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"About an Earth-standard then... That's very young to retire."

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"Adventuring is a young man's game. Retired wizards still often take apprentices and make scrolls and magic items and do scries or teleports when it comes up, just - that doesn't fill the whole day, unless you happen to love doing it."

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"Oh, that wasn't what I envisioned when you said retired, I see."

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"I mean, people vary in how busy they stay once they quit adventuring. But the average is probably - read lots of books, travel the world, make magic items on commission occasionally, take an apprentice if you meet one you like or if your wife has expensive tastes or if your kids show potential..."

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"Well, making things sounds also important - I don't know if the apprenticeship thing would still make sense versus a classroom arrangement."

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"Cheliax does classrooms."

"It's because they hate any individual relationship - people can trust or care about each other, institutions can't -"

"Sure, but it's also just the best way to get a lot of wizards -"

"It's the best way to get a lot of wizards with a Chelish bent!"

"You can't say they don't train competent wizards."

"I can say that. Name a great Chelish researcher. There are none, because research is the enemy of Evil, you have to be allowed to think in order to invent..."

"There are plenty, they're just - narrow. No opinions on anything but magic."

They get into a heated argument about this. 

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On this subject Kyeo is silent.

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Eventually someone rolls her eyes and tells the wizards to go argue this somewhere else, if they must - they've gotten into some very technical point about symmetric spellforms as part of a dispute about whether Cheliax deserves credit for the great Andoran wizard Morgethai - and they fall silent, and then someone points out they've run well over the end of lunch and everyone scatters to go back to work. "Do you want to go back to your rooms, do you know how to find them from here," Isavel asks.

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"I think I can remember." He meanders back roomward.

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This turns out to be characteristic of Vigil, and remains the same for the next few days. There are people clearly assigned to him, but not very concerned if he cares to be alone; there are enthusiastic lunchtime arguments about religion and about money and about the nature of Good. The people chosen by their god and given magic powers are the most important and the most trusted, though they sit at the same tables and participate in the same arguments; the people not chosen by their god generally seem to aspire to it, but not urgently. Their city is poorer than Ibyabek in many ways - it doesn't have indoor plumbing, or appliances of any kind, and magic lights for nighttime are apparently expensive - but there's lots of food, some of it meat or eggs, at every meal.

Kyeo is invited to religious services on holy-day, the seventh day of the week.

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"I'm not sure that would be appropriate."

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Shrug. "Okay. We'll catch you at dinner, then."

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He sits around being bored a lot. Wonders a bit what the services are actually like but can't think of a way to find out without going to one and maybe being surprised by something he oughtn't do.

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There is singing, that can be heard all the way from here, but otherwise it's hard to guess. At dinner, they don't discuss services much, just usual things like deployment schedules and world events and scary fights they were in and philosophy debates. Tonight there is an extended argument about what mistakes the church (and Iomedae Herself, though they know less about which decisions were definitely Hers) made in the early years of the Chelish Civil War; people are divided over whether it was hopeless because Asmodeus is a much older and more powerful deity than Iomedae or whether it would've been winnable if Aroden's death hadn't been such a hit to morale.

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He misses singing. But he couldn't anyway.

It makes sense that they're leaving lots of leeway around Iomedae's decisions so they're never committed to the position that she made a mistake. Interestingly suggestive that they're identifying Asmodeus as more powerful but he supposes if these things are real that might just be a fact.

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"Are we expecting to hear back from Ibyabek," someone asks him later in the evening. "Should we be scrying them again."

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"I'm not sure. They aren't accustomed to contact of this kind and I can't be sure what reaction my father will have gotten if he chose to tell anyone instead of - checking himself into a hospital. It may be prudent to scry again."

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"Lemme flag someone down." And the same person who scried last time is fetched, and starts another one.

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Kyeo attempts to organize his thoughts about what to say, though really it'll depend on what they see.

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As before it takes an hour; the man works mostly in silence, humming to himself, something upbeat. Marching music.

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Kyeo sways slightly to the rhythm. Doesn't try to hum along even once he has the tune.

Kyeo's father is - asleep, in the dark, beside Kyeo's mother.

"- can you get a closer look at that object," Kyeo says, pointing, "so I'll know what time it is there and we won't have this problem again?"

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"Scries can't move much." He tries tilting it a bit, though.

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Kyeo squints. "Can't tell," he finally concludes, shaking his head. "It looks full dark, though, he won't be up in the next ten minutes. I suppose if Mother's there he hasn't checked into a hospital."

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"We can try again in the morning, if you'd like."

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"It's probably necessary."

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"All right." He looks piercingly at Kyeo. "You don't have to return, if you'd prefer not to."

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"It doesn't speak poorly of a place if it's not for everyone. And sometimes it can help to start over somewhere new."

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"My father and I don't tend to cross paths under most circumstances."

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He nods. "It was brave of you, then, to try to get this important information to official attention through him, even though you're estranged."

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"Thank you."

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"He should be proud of you, even if he won't be." And he turns to leave.

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That's not exactly the thing, but Kyeo doesn't want to explain to himself what it is, let alone these people.

He goes back to not doing much.

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They try the scry again in the morning. It takes two tries but eventually works.

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Suor's awake. He's at his desk, in his office, on the phone. "Can you hear him?" Kyeo asks.

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"Yes." And he tries to repeat what he heard without understanding it.

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"I don't have context on - who he's calling, or - but it seems to me like he may not have passed up the report. - it would sound very crazy."

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He nods. "Should we ...keep trying? Is there someone who might be better?"

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"I don't know who else short of the Glorious Leader himself and if he thinks he's going crazy that could be very bad. There isn't any magic, you understand, it'd just be - hearing voices - does that happen here?"

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"Sometimes minor spirits talk to people," he says, uncertain. "Or they're haunted."

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"Any organ can fail, and that includes the brain, and when the brain fails it can do so in peculiar ways, like hearing voices. I - suspect my father has not gone to a hospital because he is hoping it will go away on its own. The equivalent of a cold rather than a flu."

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"Would the hospital be able to tell he isn't actually sick?"

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"I'm not a doctor. Maybe. Failures of the brain are often more complicated than ordinary injuries and infections, and even those are often very complex."

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"Hmmm.

 

 

Do you think that Ibyabek would help us fight Hell. If we manage to get a hold of them."

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"I'm not sure we have forces that can be usefully committed since this is the wrong galaxy and we don't know how I got here. But it seems possible to work something out."

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"Then it is - really important to us, to keep trying. I don't know what the most practicable way to go about that is. Do you think it is talking to your father? To both your parents simultaneously - that would make it seem less likely to be sickness, right - we could perhaps observe the Supreme Leader and learn the name and identity of an advisor, and speak to them..."

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"Spying on the Supreme Leader is dubious even if you don't speak the language! I suppose we could try my mother - I didn't realize you could do two of these at the same time -

- could go to someone from another planet -"

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"- oh?"

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"I've met the ambassador from United Kular to Ibyabek. I don't know what he'd do about this either, mind, but..."

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"Would their - different philosophy - mean they'd work for Hell if they got paid to?"

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"I'm not sure. I mean, the ambassador in particular already has a job - I don't know how much he's paid, the number wouldn't mean anything to me."

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He nods. "...perhaps we could observe the ambassador, and then pray on it?"

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"...I suppose."

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"Iomedae is a very good judge of character," he explains. "All gods are, it's intrinsic to how they see the world, they see who is the kind of person they can make a cleric and who isn't...but since your world is so far they can't see it except through our magic."

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"Wulaar Peng."

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"Thank you. I'll get someone to try later, that's my scries for the day."

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Kyeo nods.

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They have a lower hit rate on Wulaar Peng, for whatever reason, but manage to get a scry through on the following morning. 

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Wulaar is... in the shower! It's a little awkward.

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Oh, that is awkward! They still have everyone who can scry gather around and squint at him to increase familiarity for targeting the next scry.

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Kyeo does NOT watch Ambassador Peng in the shower.

He finishes his ablutions, shrugs on a robe, goes out into a hallway in the little ambassadorial house, kisses his wife good morning, puts a slice of bread in a pan with butter, and the scry is up.

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Well, they'll try again in two days.

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"I thought you got new magic every day."

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"We do, but there's a priority operation tomorrow and we're going to need everyone with fourth-circle and fifth-circle slots to have them for that."

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"Oh." They're probably intentionally not telling him about that, he won't be rude.

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They are indeed intentionally not telling him about that. They're gone, the next day, almost everyone with fancy robes indicating powerful spellcasting, wizards and clerics alike; there mostly isn't gossip about their absence in the dining hall, because gossip about ongoing operations isn't harmless like gossip about world events or religion or who should hook up or whatever else comes up.

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When she hears that Kyeo vanished from the barracks with no explanation the first thing she feels is a jolt of terror. If he was telling the truth - and now someone else got him - they'll kill her, for not escalating it immediately. Of course, if he's lying or delusional and from Tian Xia and she had escalated it -

- but that won't matter -

- she spends about an hour staring at the wall thinking stupid unhelpful things like that she still isn't sure what she should have done and she has no idea who took him and she has no idea why and if she'd happened to get called for mindreading in that hour, or maybe even the next day, she would have died of it, but they don't have that many mindreaders, and she has time to think.

She met an adventurer from Tian Xia who claimed to be from a place called Ibyabek, which she hadn't heard of before but which is apparently on bad terms with most of its neighbors so that's not surprising. He claimed Ibyabek was its own world, which must've been the translator malfunctioning or him delusional or lying to impress her, because he was a perfectly normal human, oddly dressed, his gun of unfamiliar make but she's a magic item enchanter and couldn't evaluate it. She spent a little time with him anyway, even though he claimed his society of origin had no wizards of note at all, because she wanted to get to the bottom of the delusional-or-lying question, but she hadn't quite sussed it out when he suddenly teleported off, which conclusively pointed at lying, the person he was representing himself to be was meek and had no allies or interests there. 

She did nothing wrong, nothing interesting happened, there was nothing worth escalating, and he got bored or heard of a problem elsewhere and left.

(They'll of course still kill her if Kyeo turns out to be from another world and this has conspicuous effects anywhere she hears about them but - it might not. And he's not from another world, she thought it all through and the only world worth thinking about or planning for is the one where he's not, and over time this turns into 'he's not', in her head, and then sits more comfortably.)

They call her in for mindreading four days later and she goes and answers all the questions and is asked if she's contemplated defecting and says that she hasn't, which is true, even in that hour of panic she managed not to think that she could possibly escape Asmodeus.

She goes back to her normal life. Finishes an artifact, collects the bonus for being early, again. She's got enough for a headband. 

 

And then one morning when she's starting the next artifact someone opens the door, loudly and abruptly enough to throw off her concentration. She looks up, irritated, and then - 

- too afraid to be irritated, too afraid in fact to think at all...

There are three of them, in black full plate with visors drawn, faceless, the insignia of a Hellknight order she'd recognize on sight if she were thinking, which she's not. 

           "Carissa Sevar?" he says. The face mask distorts his voice. 

She nods. Which is stupid, maybe, but - 

           They have handcuffs, glinting with the age-resistance of a magic item. Antimagic, probably. She wants to get a proper look at it, which is the most laughably stupid want in the entire universe. They cuff her hands behind her back and blindfold her and Teleport. She does not try to resist the Teleport, and suspects she couldn't anyway; the handcuffs are doing something in addition to antimagic, something that feels like having been hollowed just slightly.

 

They ask about Kyeo. When she met him, what she saw, what he said, who she told, who else knows, were people curious about his disappearance, did she report it, did anyone else. She answers truthfully and they don't bother to hurt her yet, even when at one point she has a stupidly difficult time forming words because she's so upset with herself. She wants to know how they found out but she is sure that she'll die without knowing that.

Worthless people and impressive people go to the same Hell, she reminds herself, but she keeps crying anyway. 

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Kyeo is less bored mostly because he is now instead constantly wrestling with the desire to suggest scrying Sarham, even though Sarham can't help at all with anything these people want and the idea of Sarham checking into a hospital over hearing voices makes him want to vomit.

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The missing spellcasters are back the next day, and can try again for Wulaar Peng.

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If they try a little later in the morning they can catch him in a meeting with some Ibyabekans that Kyeo doesn't know on sight.

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"...probably still a bad time to interrupt him?" says the caster, looking to Kyeo.

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"It's not ideal. He's probably in a lot of meetings, since he's an ambassador."

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Nod. "Maybe early mornings are best, really, as long as we don't catch him right while he's showering."

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"During breakfast," agrees Kyeo.

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"There you go." Pause. "Yesterday we took into custody the Chelish wizard you landed on when you first arrived. We wanted to know whether Cheliax is - aware of your world, or looking for you, or anything like that. It appears that they are not, which is very good news."

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Does that mean they kidnapped her or found some excuse to arrest her...? He decides not to ask. "I'm glad to hear it."

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"It means we have a little more time to get this right, and should be thinking how to get it right instead of how to do it as quickly as possible. I don't know if that changes very much about our plans, but if you had any ideas that would take a long time but might be useful in the long run..."

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"- well, if we keep telling people things, eventually someone will go to the hospital, and I suppose we could... tell someone who works at the hospital... to expect that?"

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"- huh. Maybe. I assume at some point people will consider another planet more likely than everyone having caught the same brain problem at once."

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"At some point, probably."

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SIgh. "I really appreciate all the work you're doing here. I know you didn't sign up for any of this."

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"Thank you."

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The mood in the dining hall is especially cheerful, that afternoon; most people don't know details of the secret operation but they know it succeeded and now that it's over they are licensed to speculate wildly about it.

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Seems indiscreet anyway but it's a different culture. He doesn't participate, just eats.

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"You all right?" Isavel says to him when the meal's mostly done. 

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"I'm fine."

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She looks slightly skeptical but doesn't press him, and turns her attention back to where someone who did not participate in the operation is giving a lengthy joking speech about how he determined it was definitely a secret dragon assassination.

 

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He will pass the time by asking what dragons are like.

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Dragons are enormous flying lizard-like magical beings who can breathe powerful blasts of energy and who are exceptionally deadly when they want to be. There are a few ancient ones and they're not to be trifled with; there are more young ones than that, but not that many, maybe hundreds in the whole world. 

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Interesting. There are legends about dragons where he's from but no real ones.

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...this gets them distracted from speculation about operations. Legends but no dragons? Were there once dragons? Why would there be legends, otherwise?

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"On Earth tens of millions of years ago there used to be giant reptile-bird creatures called dinosaurs, and I imagine adding wings to them once their bones were discovered wasn't a difficult conceptual leap."

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This satisfies them. Bells ring to signal the end of lunch and they bustle off back to work.

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Kyeo presumes that if he's meant to see Carissa they'll tell him.

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They bring it up the next morning while attempting to scry Peng again. "I don't know if you and the Chelish wizard were particularly acquainted but she can have visitors, now, if you did want to see her."

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They didn't form all that close an attachment but he's very bored. "Where can I find her?"

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"I'll have someone escort you." It turns out that Lastwall's prison cells are underground, down several flights of stairs guarded by people Kyeo knows from lunch, who wave at him; the cells themselves are windowless and have a bed and a bench and some books. 

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Carissa is sitting on the bench with her hands cuffed in front of her, picking at her nails; she stiffens very slightly when Kyeo walks in. 

       "You can, uh, knock when you want to leave, or yell if anything goes wrong," says his escort, pausing at the door. "You can yell too, if you want him to leave" he adds to Carissa, who glares at him.

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Kyeo nods at the guard. "- I don't have anything specific to say," he says to Carissa. "I just don't have very much to do and they told me I could come here if I liked. I'll go if you'd rather."

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"Oh. No, I don't mind. Apparently Good holds that you mustn't let prisoners go a whole day without anyone to talk to so they have random elderly men come in with dinner every day and make conversation for fifteen minutes and then leave. How're you."

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"I'm fine. Elderly men in particular, how specific."

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" - I mean I assume it's got to be people who they're confident are cleared to know and won't go accidentally mention it in earshot of a Chelish spy, but most of those people are important, so, the retired ones. I don't know why men in particular. I asked one if it was supposed to be an arrangement by which I could delay my execution by offering sexual favors and he got very offended and spent thirteen minutes explaining how Good holds that it's better to kill people than to let them convince you not to."

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"They keep trying different explanations of Good on me but not that one for some reason."

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"I don't think that's what he thought he was saying." Shrug. "You look better. More...fed."

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"They feed me, yes, and I'm not getting much exercise."

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She appears to think of a question, think better of it, look at the ground.

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"Are they feeding you too?"

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"Yes."

 

"Didn't say for how long. ...might literally be because they weren't sure if you'd gotten attached. Or it might be a Good thing where they have to right up to the end even though there're presumably starving people who aren't going to die? I'm not sure."

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"...should I be pretending to be attached so they don't starve you, or -"

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She looks genuinely confused. "...why would you do that?"

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"...so they don't starve you."

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"Uh," she says carefully after a moment, "if you are inclined to inconvenience yourself just because otherwise they will starve me, then I think that is getting attached and not pretending, not that I'm not grateful but I am somewhat surprised."

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"If I visit you every day they'll probably assume and I really don't have anything else to do."

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" - thank you. And if - I you think of anything I can do for you, I will, obviously."

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"Thank you."

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She takes a little while to think of anything else to say. "What's Vigil like? I haven't been out of Cheliax, except on deployment."

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"I haven't gone far, it's not clear if I'm actually welcome to go take walks or anything. It's a bit chilly, but Ibyabek's a warm planet, a lot of places probably seem chilly to me."

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"It's pretty far north even for Golarion. Cheliax has nice weather, doesn't snow in the winter except in the mountains and it's not often too hot to be outside even in summertime."

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"It doesn't snow anywhere on Ibyabek besides the poles and the very tallest mountains. I've never seen it. Except from space."

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"You really are from another world, huh."

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"...as opposed to?"

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"Crazy. Or confused. Or lying. I wasn't sure. I didn't really think through - all of the things that it'd mean, if you were - which was pretty stupid, obviously -"

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"What would it mean?"

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" - that it's a really big deal. It'll change the wars here, and the wars in the Outer Planes. A lot depends on - who manages to contact your world first, or whether the gods find out about it and negotiate a treaty - and in those negotiations it'll matter who was closest to contacting your world -" Shrug. 

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"Why will it matter who was closest?"

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"Uh, imagine two people hate each other, and they walk into a room with a powerful weapon. And both of them want to use it against the other, but also if they use it they're pretty likely to get killed themselves, which they strongly disprefer, and it'll destroy lots of the cities, which neither of them really want. And they can - make promises that are magically unbreakable. They might - promise to dismantle it together. Does that make sense."

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"I suppose."

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"Gods do a more complicated version of that, all the time, so all the actions against the interests of other gods cancel out and the only ones that proceed are the ones that don't or that they care about much more than anyone cares about stopping them."

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"Huh. But what does that have to do with how close various people were to contacting my galaxy?"

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" - one of the ways the thing they're doing is more complicated is - okay, so if you burst through the door to the room with the weapon at the exact same time, maybe you just agree to dismantle it together. But if one of you is first through the door, and considers it likelier than not that they'll be the one to deploy it first, they don't have a reason to agree to that anymore. So the other one might - pay them, for the agreement to dismantle it - this quickly gets too complicated for mortals to think about, but even if they end up dismantling the bomb the one that was closer to using it will get more concessions."

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"...all right."

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Shrug. "It's not very important most of the time. I mostly hear it brought up to make a theological point about why the actions of the gods aren't comprehensible, not to make - strategic points about when to tell them things... but I should've thought about it." She sounds like someone who is faintly cheered by the idea that she is in her situation for a reason that is at least kind of her own fault.

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"It sounds very hard to do... anything... with gods around."

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"...I guess. But on the bright side you don't just...stop existing forever."

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"We don't really dwell on that much."

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"I guess people can get used to anything."

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"Probably, yeah."

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"I don't know how they kill people, here, I don't know if they'll let me go to Hell or not."

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"They can stop you?"

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"Yes. I don't know if they'd bother. But it's not very hard to  - turn someone into a statue, or something, instead."

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"Wow. Why would they do that?"

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"Good is an insane ideology that has lots of rules none of which make any sense. ...also they don't want Hell to know about your world, that's why I'd do it, but - I don't really trust them to have reasons for things."

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"Do... you want me to ask?"

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"I don't know. Do you...think that'd work?"

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"Probably not, but I could try it anyway."

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"I am not clear on why you consider any of this your problem but I am curious about the answer. And about the answer they'd give you."

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"I'll ask, then."

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She seems faintly puzzled by him, but tries to shake that off and smile.

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Shrug.

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"You must be very bored."

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"They don't give me anything to do. I haven't wanted to turn up for services and even if I did they're only once a week."

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"Huh. I don't know if that's a Good thing or a diplomacy thing or what. I think paladins do lots of work, generally."

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"I suppose maybe they're thinking of answering their questions as my job."

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"Maybe. I guess they'd have lots of questions."

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"Yes. Though they don't take up a lot of time."

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"Are you not allowed to participate in religious services or something?"

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"Well, I'm not sure what they involve."

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"What things would be not allowed?"

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"I don't have a list. No one on Ibyabek anticipated any of this."

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"At Asmodean religious services they mostly read from His holy books and there's a sermon about how it's applicable to your life, and then you pray."

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"...but I have never read a holy book and I do not have any experience with sermons and I do not know what constitutes prayer, so that isn't very informative."

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"I don't know how Good does any of it and I'm not clear on what things wouldn't be allowed but you could probably ask for Iomedae's holy book." She gestures at the stack of books on her desk. "I didn't even ask."

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"I suppose I could read the books while I have the language," he allows. "I do hear them singing sometimes but I can't sing."

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"Religious services don't usually presume everyone to be very gifted at singing, they let kids do it and everything."

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"I can't at all."

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"What do you mean?"

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"It's a side effect of something, if I try no sound comes out." Shrug.

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" - huh. I'm sorry. If it's an injury they can just - heal it, a place like this has lots of healing."

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"I don't know the details. I suppose I haven't tried since the cleric fixed my concussion?"

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Shrug. "Side effect of what, a poison?"

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He shakes his head. Tries to sing a note, gets a sort of backward gasp.

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"Does it persist when you're polymorphed?"

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"I have never been... polymorphed... I think."

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"Well. I can't do magic anymore but it's not a hard spell, you could get them to try, it'd be a useful diagnostic."

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"Seems a bit frivolous, it isn't as though I have to sing."

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"Right, but you're important, I bet they'll do frivolous things if you ask. And - it's not even spending something, not always, sometimes people feel friendlier with people they're doing favors for."

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"They seem perfectly friendly already."

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"So then why not get a favor out of them?"

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"Because the magic is a limited resource and I don't need to sing."