Jun 23, 2021 7:26 PM
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"The biggest question will be whether you want to take payment in cash or in kind - but what I'd do if you wanted my help is talk to people who have farm animals about whether they'd like them to behave differently, and I'd look for architects or maybe carpenters who want to do something unusual with wood in the very near future, and you'd tell me what exactly you can do for them, and I'd arrange transportation for you or them and negotiate a fair price. And then either they'd pay you in cash and you'd give me part of that, or they'd pay me and I'd arrange for you to have a comfortable place to sleep and food to eat while you were here."

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"We do not usually use money."

"I have once," says a different stranger. "Trading with lonesomes."

The spokesstranger nods at them. "What kind of exactitude do you mean?"

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"Having not yet asked around I'm not completely sure but, say, what counts as an animal, which behaviors can you affect, how precise are you when you do that, how long does it last, what else might happen..."

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"Most of our experience is with chickens and donkeys. Other animals will probably work. We usually cause them to make signaling sounds when they detect danger, to stay in certain areas or come when called, and to not fight. It lasts as long as the animal lives and it can be very precise but if you are too strict with an animal it may stop eating or have some other problem like that and die."

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"Does the animal need to already know how to do what you make it do?"

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"We cannot make them write. We could make them dance."

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"I think I have a job for you. So, compensation. What will you need during your stay?"

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"We will need shelter and food. We can eat some of the things humans eat."

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"The price of shelter around here varies by location, amenities, and size. And humans eat nearly every food anyone eats, I couldn't guess from that how hard it'd be to feed you."

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"We need enough space for the five of us. We mostly eat eggs, fish, and rice."

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"That should all be doable. So if we measure in fish, about so big, say," she says, gesturing, "since you won't know our currency, what are your usual rates for making animals dance?"

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"We cannot eat that much fish before it attracts pests."

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"...We can preserve things but it's not that I'm going to pay you entirely in fish, it's that you don't have any chance of answering if I ask how much you usually charge in Hari imperial rings."

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"If we imagine we are going to bring most of the fish home with us to distribute to others, we could make an animal adopt a habit of dancing for forty-five fish that size."

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"Do you do bulk discounts?"

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"We are not familiar with the idea. It would be cheaper to purchase our services many times in the same location, because we would not need to travel separately."

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She'll try to pin some more details down and maybe haggle them down a bit, if that's possible, but then they should figure out what to do for tonight. She can let them stay in this room and borrow the downstairs bathroom for the night, or she can cover renting rooms for them elsewhere if they don't mind owing her.

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They do not mind owing her, or at least they acknowledge that this will result from accepting her offer and then accept it.

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"That'll do, then. And just - you won't run into many chances to break laws while you're here, but the laws say you mustn't touch people without permission, or take things that aren't yours, or lie about things you're selling, or try to hold anyone prisoner who doesn't belong to you. Or turn objects into empty space by magic. All of that make sense?"

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"We must be able to touch each other."

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"Yes, quite. Families often touch each other. But strangers might get angry if you touch them."

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"We will not touch other people."

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"That'll do, then." She gestures to one of the men with her. "Seli will show you where to go and carry the rings for you."

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The strangers follow Seli.

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They pass through a big house that clearly houses a lot of people although very few of those people want to be between them and the front door right now. Seli grabs a necklace of magical color-changing coins on the way out.

A couple minutes away on foot, past a fenced-in area of tall straight trees and an oddly-shaped blue building that looks like its third floor floats about half a foot above the top of its second floor, there's a building advertising rooms for rent, short- and medium-term, the ground floor of which has two walls made entirely of archways. The lobby is manned by a small bird on a perch on a desk, beside a pad of paper and a jar of honey, who greets them when they come in.

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