Jun 23, 2021 8:29 PM
All around the gloomy shadows of the failures gone before; while the leafless branches whispered, we should do no less, no more.
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"I'd rather let them get started, if you're that close to starving. We'll have time to talk while they work."

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"Yes sir."

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He crouches, leaning on his staff for balance, puts his free hand on her shoulder, and casts.

They land in a well-kept alley-sized nook between two buildings carved from banded grey stone, looking out onto a plaza carved of the same bedrock and lit, in some places more dimly than a human would prefer, by a variety of torches, vines, mosses, and miscellaneous decorative objects, all glowing in different strengths and colors. Where a human aesthetic would suggest trees, the plaza is dotted with sculptures composed of collections of metal, glass, leather, ceramic, and less identifiable things, mostly abstract, but with a few sketching out images of people - all humanoid, but mostly not human - animals, or in one case a giant carnivorous plant. The people walking by are small, mostly waist-height to a human and dressed in brightly-colored clothing, with a minority, all bearded, coming to human chest height and mostly wearing more utilitarian leather outfits. Raafi calls to them, and one of the shorter ones comes over, asking several questions in quick succession before he can answer; when he does, the little woman assents and runs off.

"She's gone to get you a stretcher; we might end up at the healers' for a little while while we figure out where to bring you - we need to clear out of here before anyone else tries to teleport in."

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"I can walk, sir."

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"That's good, but I'd rather you save your electricity, I don't know how long it's going to take them to figure it out."

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"Yes sir."

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"The littler ones are the gnomes, by the way, and the taller ones are dwarves - for most species of people around here you can guess gender by whether they have a beard, but all dwarves do, and the way they braid them will tell you that and their clan and occupation if you learn how to read them. And I'm a human, we're the most common species of people, and known for being versatile."

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"Yes sir. I'm familiar with humans."

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"That's good, if you're not starting completely from scratch - gnomes and dwarves are two of the most common species of people here, you must be very far from home if you've never heard of them. The other common ones are elves and halflings; halflings are mostly like humans, but a bit shorter than gnomes and nomadic, and elves are a bit shorter and thinner than we are and very longlived, and they like living in nature. Does that sound familiar at all?"

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"No sir. I'm familiar with sapient aliens but I don't recognize those."

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"...uh, they're not aliens, they're just humanoids - we don't have that word, either. Aliens are..."

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"Other species of people, sir, either related to humans but with enough evolutionary distance to have significant physical differences and trouble interbreeding, or not related to humans at all because they evolved to sapience separately."

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"...I know some scholars who're going to be fascinated to meet you, I bet. I don't know that we have evolution here; humans are a bit of a mystery but the other species of people were made by the gods."

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"Yes sir."

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"Are you familiar with gods? I'm a cleric myself - my magic comes from one of them, the god of travel - but I'm not really the right sort to explain them. I can find you a priest if you're interested."

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"I'm not, sir. Are they important to know about?"

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"You could get by without, I suppose. It'd still be good to know who to talk to if you need help, though, and usually that's some church or other - churches are the organizations that do the gods' work, priests are the people who run them. I'm a cleric but not a priest, Fharlanghn doesn't have a church, Fharlanghn's clerics just take care of things as we come across them."

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"Oh, thank you sir. Is the place we're going to a church?"

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"Not exactly, but I expect there'll be clerics there - I haven't checked in on this one before, I'm not sure who they'll be clerics of. Usually the god of the species is a good bet, but gnomes aren't very religious as a rule, so I'm not sure. Maybe him; maybe Pelor, the god of healing in general; maybe they have someone unaffiliated; maybe it's staffed by dwarves. But clerics are the ones with healing magic, so you'll almost always find us where there's healing to be done."

"Is there magic where you're from?"

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"Yes, but it's very rare, sir."

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"Oh?"

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"Yes sir. The estimate is that children are born with the ability to use magic at a rate somewhere between one in ten billion and one in a trillion."

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"That is rare, I'm not sure we've had that many people in this world in its whole history. You have a lot more people, then?"

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"Yes sir. The empire and the republic each span thousands to millions of worlds, many of which support billions of people."

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"Thousands to million of... do you expect them to come here?"

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