Emiko looked around the new research outpost. It was fairly small by Starlight's standards but it could be expanded later if necessary. The station was a mere 2 kilometers in diameter and only the same amount wide making for an inner surface of about 12 square kilometers. For now it was mostly park land and some small farms. There was constant soft illumination through the transparent siding of the station's outer ring from the silver mist outside and fusion powered lights provided brighter illumination on a daily cycle. The strange mist didn't seem to be affected by gravity and was close to uniform in every direction they'd sent probes out for at least a few million kilometers. A magecrafter had come through and determined that the mist was probably harmless but none of them were currently available for follow-up tests so at least for now the team here would be relying on resonators and good old-fashioned physics.
Over the next few months they make some small discoveries but nothing incredible. Sometimes research is like that.
A strange rift appears several kilometers out, followed by a humanoid figure with a visual-spectrum-only light source. The humanoid figure begins to disintegrate, then gestures, producing a bubble around themself, and ceases to disintegrate. They begin accelerating towards the station, but not rapidly. They aren't on track to arrive for a little while.
(Being so far out in the Astral Sea that the elements are unstable, and calling Axis fails, is weird. Griffie could navigate via subjective gravity, but that seems inadvisable with no real practice and no other objects to course-correct by falling towards. Creating water and throwing it away from the station should propel them towards the weird ringlike place, right? With a lot less acceleration than falling towards it? The one visible location around is worth investigating, if it's Evil then Griffie is already on track to have problems.)
A radio message gets Emiko's attention. "Coordinator a sentient being appeared in the vicinity of the station. Linguistic magic is still in progress."
"That's exciting. Let's leave them be and see what that do for a minute or two. If they just stay in place send a platform. Keep the elements at a friendly distance for the moment."
The being is no longer accelerating, and continues to drift towards the station, on track to arrive in around an hour. The being also appears to be writing, with a primitive pencil, in a primitive journal, but frequently pausing to look at the station.
(Fields of objects like that are among the reasons why Griffie didn’t want to approach the ringlike structure so quickly that collisions would be injurious and redirecting oneself would be difficult. In their notebook, they are working on re-deriving the version of the spell Life Bubble that stabilizes elemental fields before their current emergency usage of the spell runs out.)
Well, a structure full of parks and farms doesn't look too bad, and does seem hospitable to life. Griffie is up to approaching one of its doors.
Griffie puts away their notebook and gets out an empty leather waterskin. They make strange gestures and recite some weird syllables. The waterskin fills. They squeeze the waterskin, ejecting a clear liquid approximately away from their desired direction of acceleration. They don't seem to have much experience with this travel method, and course-correct several times. Each time they do this, the liquid ejected from the waterskin disintegrates after about ten minutes, leaving no trace that it was ever there.
That's fascinating. The doorway opens into a small chamber with another door at the other end. Once Griffie steps through there's a burst of wind from apparently nowhere and then the far door opens. A woman floats on the other side and waves a hand then says. "Hello there, welcome to this station." Emiko is speaking Sylvan. Both in the chamber and the corridor beyond there are big obvious loops to tuck your hands and feet into. Emiko's left foot is tucked into one.
Huh. Griffie would have expected Celestial or maybe Draconic for a place like this. Sylvan works quite well, though.
Griffie smiles and waves. "Greetings to you! I am Griffith of Erlonn, and I am glad to be welcome at this station, because it is the only landmark I can see in this area of the Astral. What is the purpose of this station?"
"Oh is that what this place is called? This station is here to study this place, the astral, and understand its physics and magic."
"You're out here, far away from everything else, to study the Astral? What property of the Astral is easier to study here than an area of it closer to whatever plane you're from?"
Also, why don't you appear have a soul? That's could be a rude question to ask, though, so Griffie ought to wait. Maybe the person is heavily warded, or maybe she's a very humanoid remote-operated construct that's operated in a different means than the last such construct Griffie saw. It'd also potentially be rude and threatening-looking to cast Detect Magic mid-conversation.
"This is the place closest to our plane if I'm understanding your question correctly."
During this conversation, Emiko has had time to notice Griffie's appearance.
Griffie is a small pale-greyish-blue humanoid. Their eyes lack visible pupils, and their hands lack visible fingernails. They look succulent-like: Their head has a rosette of succulent leaflike structures with reddish borders. Their skin looks powdery. The backs of their hands mostly aren't visible, but do seem to have a few neatly trimmed thorns.
They appear to be wearing armor, made of a lot of pieces of what look like leather stitched together. Each piece has a leaf pattern on it. They are also carrying a shield, with a pseudosymmetric depiction of the L10a140 link painted on, and what looks like some type of bladed weapon on their belt, sheathed but in easy grabbing range.
They also have a backpack of some kind, a primitive-looking journal and pencil strapped to their belt, a metallic headband with holly and mistletoe somehow growing from it, a necklace with bits of iridescent beetle shell and an object emitting visual-spectrum light, jeweled handflowers on their hands, a green tunic with leafy patterns, pants, and boots which don't match the rest of what they're wearing.
"This station looks pretty far away from everything to me. What do you call your plane?" Griffie asks.
"We call the closest realm we have facilities in Horizon. I think what we call realms are the same as what you call planes but I can't be sure." The word realm is not in Sylvan nor any other language Griffie knows.
"I've never heard of Horizon, sorry. We could look at what you mean by 'realm' sometime, and I can explain what I mean by 'plane' to be sure we're on the same page. I actually have a Sylvan dictionary on me, if that would help, you're free to have a look. And … you're not very familiar with the Astral, are you?"
"I would be surprised if you had heard of Horizon, we're the only ones who call it that and as far as I know we've never encountered members of your species before. A dictionary could definitely help. If I want to define it mostly accurately though a realm is the set of all points which you can reach by travelling in a straight line and not going through any Gates. The reason it's inaccurate is because in some realms space itself is moving apart faster than we can travel."
"My world has plenty of humans, a species which you're shaped exactly like. My sort of person is pretty rare, it'd be easy to interact with my world without seeing one. And species is the wrong word for my sort of person, we're intelligent plant-constructs. Also, 'realm' and 'plane' seem to be similar enough words that I think you can say 'plane' without serious miscommunication?"
Griffie rummages through their backpack and gets out a book. As they begin to hand it to Emiko, it pokes out of Griffie's bubble. The corner outside the bubble begins to disintegrate. Griffie frantically grabs it back. "What the Maelstrom?" they exclaim.
"What does it mean for you..." Emiko starts to ask before being distracted by the disintegration. "That was unexpected. Do you have any idea what was happening there?"
"Well. Outside of this station, the same thing would have happened, because we're deep enough in the Astral that the elemental fields are apparently absent, which is why I'm using a modified version of 'Life Bubble' to create local elemental fields for me in addition to providing me with breathable atmosphere at a safe temperature. But you seemed to have plants growing here, and to have filled this room with air, so I thought that the elemental fields were present."
"Er. To be clearer. The book is a solid object. It needs the Earth field to support solidity, and such."
"I don't think I've ever heard of elemental fields and I'm a physics researcher. Would it be alright if I ask someone to do a scan of you to see if you're made of the same kinds of material substances that I am? If you have a way to check that would also be ok, but I'd like one of my people to check too for our records."
"Sure, go ahead and scan. I got here via a suddenly appearing hole in space which I didn't mean to go through, I don't have that much research equipment on me."
Emiko makes a small gesture with her right hand. Shortly afterwards a magical scan initiates and tries to determine the composition of Griffith's body in terms of periodic table elements. The magic will also detect 'exotic matter' which is to say matter not made up of atoms.
Griffith is not made of atoms. They appear to be made of four distinct types of exotic matter. Their bubble is full of type 1, with trace amounts of type 2 and 3. Their book and other possessions are mainly composed of type 4, with significant traces of type 2 and 3. All of their metallic-looking stuff is type 4 with traces of type 3. They have clear liquid droplets of type 2 with traces of type 3 on themself, and the contents of their waterskin contain the same mix. They themself contain a mix of all four types.
"Well it looks like you're made of four substances none of which we've encountered before. For reference in my world biological humans are made almost entirely of eleven substances with very small amounts of a lot of others. My body is made up of probably a hundred different substances in varying amounts."