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Generated: Feb 23, 2022 9:42 PM
Post last updated: Feb 23, 2022 9:42 PM
sing the house down
rebecca, shannon, and raleigh, plus bonus orion, graduate into velgarth
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They're not one of the faster teams.

There are a lot of reasons for this. They're not casting a timespear, so that leaves them out of the top tier of speed all by itself. Running increases Rebecca's error rate, and while she has a spell to steady her voice and was able to teach it to the other two so they can do it without her interrupting herself, she hasn't been able to get it to last very long - translating it into Spanish didn't even help - so breaking into a run is a last resort. And, given that, they have decided they will stick by Orion, insofar as is possible. Orion isn't in an alliance. He's just planning to go in there and cut through mals and rescue people for the full half hour and then an earsplitting timer will go off in his ear and he'll make for the gates. But he's agreed that he will mostly focus on cutting a path toward the gates rather than going after anything that's huddling off to the side, and a team that is walking, not running, will be able to remain in his general orbit for much of their journey.

They wind up going even slower than anticipated, spending a while literally standing in the middle of the hall trying to figure out, without any of them wanting to pause to talk while they're trying to cast, how to get the corpse of a bus-sized argonet that Orion just killed out of their way. They wind up climbing it, after there's enough of a lull in the onslaught for Shannon to cool its glowing-hot scales, and then the gates are right there, and it's time to run, a song won't stop Patience or Fortitude anyway and running is the way to go -

Orion swoops in behind them to pick off something that was coming at them from behind, Rebecca's supposed to be on head-checks but she didn't think anything was coming over the argonet after them, and it's such a stupid thing to happen but the whirl of their hurricane shield catches a torn bit of the hem of his pants and flings him forward, right while they're taking a step, and they wind up all touching the gates at the same time.

It feels just like induction.

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That was easily the most terrifying few minutes of Raleigh's life, boosting Rebecca's song from the Sacramento mana, but now it's OVER and in the final moment, as the spell seizes them, the terror transmutes to exhilaration, the blood is singing in his ears and he feels more alive than he ever has before. Shannon's hand is in his and they're going to make it and everything is going to be okay - 

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They MADE IT. She's going to see her parents again. Maybe they would even have flown down to Sacramento, to be there waiting... She's drained and giddy with relief and on the edge of laughing for no reason. 

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And then there's an immense swirl of magic, more mana than any of them have ever felt even through a power-sharer, and something twists, as though the spell is turning itself inside-out, and - 

 

 

- then they're tumbling onto snow, and there's a shimmering barrier nearby, and on the other side of it, a white-hot explosion of fire is starting to curl into a mushroom cloud shape, and the ground is shaking and there's a roar too loud to hear anything else. 

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He had been going to kick off the wall, launch himself at the blue thing - there's no wall, there's no blue thing, there's snow, what the - Orion whirls around, sword-whip crackling.

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The entire world is still INCREDIBLY LOUD SOUND and the ground is shaking and all of them are going to be half-blinded, but there are definitely people running toward them! Or maybe just toward the shimmery barrier. Half of them are wearing military-looking uniforms - archaic-looking military uniforms - and all of them are carrying weapons, mostly swords, except for one man who's wearing scarlet-and-gold robes and a cloak and isn't carrying anything, and then there's someone else catching up to them, because he's riding an enormous white horse which is galloping toward them. 

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Raleigh flops to the ground the instant they're through, and it actually takes him a few moments to...notice...that this isn't Sacramento at all

What. 

....He kind of wants to burst into tears, now, for some stupid reason. He was supposed to see his mother. 

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Shannon is on the other side of having any feelings, apparently. She shields her eyes against the huge explosion and wonders blankly if that's the enclave being nuked or something - no, wait, this can't be Sacramento, there's snow on the ground... 

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Is this Rebecca's fault, because she didn't come in from a normal induction point, did she somehow pull all of them to the middle of nowhere - the nuclear war is not her fault - she has no idea what the shimmery barrier is, did someone invent force fields in the last four years -

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Orion tries a spell that is supposed to work on psychic mals that are making you hallucinate. It's in Ancient Greek and as far as he knows none of the other three have it but that doesn't matter any more at all and never will again! When the spell doesn't find a target he squares up against the approaching swordsmen.

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The uniformed soldiers slow down as the man riding the white horse - who's dressed in matching all-white - overtakes them and leaps down from the saddle, a dagger in his hand. 

He says something in a completely unrecognizable language, his tone more confused than hostile. 

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What is that supposed to mean. That doesn't even sound like a white people language.

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"I have - English Deutsch Español Lingua-Latina Russkiy Italiano Français Hindi -"

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Baffled headshake. Then the man actually gets a good look at their clothing - and their age - and does a double take. He frowns, then, oddly, turns and...makes eye contact with his horse? 

The horse's eyes are very large and blue and radiate an almost creepy level of intelligence. 

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Maybe he has a horse familiar. Oh damn now she wants a horse familiar, she'd been thinking about getting a pretty bird but maybe a horse would be better...

She is wearing an all-denim outfit handed down and patched in twenty places, too small in the bust and too wide in the legs, and amethysts around her neck and wrists, and a hiker's backpack weighed down with her books, and a tiara she made herself as a final shop project out of silver wire and more amethysts, and battered ancient sneakers that at one point she attempted to jazz up with some of Chloe's spare paint in pink and green. Her hair has been hacked off unevenly and she hasn't taken a shower in two weeks but her teeth are in fantastic shape.

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Orion is tall and has much nicer clothes - a shirt with a print of rectangles occluding a sunset on the front, for some reason, and dark gray pants that are slightly too long for him and have been hemmed up at the cuffs but otherwise look about right, and practical black boots, and he has a sword-whip thing which is currently more of a sword than a whip but does have visible joints. He has a wristwatch-thing. "Hellēnikḗ?" he offers.

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Raleigh is also dressed more nicely than Rebecca; his senior year jeans were modified to fit him pretty well, and he's wearing a button-down flannel shirt with a plaid pattern over a soft grey sleeveless-tank undershirt, and his sneakers are in excellent condition. He's wearing a beautiful bracelet that looks woven out of silver and copper and gold or at least gold-colored wire, and a necklace with a ruby pendant, and a chain-mail-like sort of half-vest half-cape garment that covers his back and hangs down to around his knees. His hair was also recently cut short, but much more neatly. He doesn't have any languages that the others don't so he just looks warily at the stranger. 

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Shannon's track pants are hand-me-downs; she grew out of her original spell-embroidered pants, and they've been handed down in Sacramento ever since, most recently to Jessie, who's a– no, not a freshman anymore by now, the new freshman will be arriving. Shannon and Raleigh both ended up taking Jessie under their wing. Shannon is going to miss her a lot. (Probably she'll be all right? Tough, brave, great affinity. But it's never guaranteed.) 

She can offer Mandarin and Korean and Japanese? 

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Nope! None of that is any more recognizable! 

Herald Marius sighs and tries Rethwellani and Hardornen and Karsite. At this point he's not very surprised when these get only blank looks. 

Sigh. He takes a deep breath. :Can you understand this: There's a reason it's not generally done, to talk to non-Mindspeakers directly; it's probably going to startle them a lot. But this is incredibly confusing and the timing is alarming and they need COMMUNICATION. 

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Orion's response to this is SWORD UP AND AT THE READY.

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"Um - yes?" says Rebecca. "I... understood that?"

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:What are you doing here: 

The man's body language is carefully controlled but there's definitely some hostility leaking through in his telepathy. ....And fear, too. 

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"We don't know! They were supposed to wind up in Sacramento and he was supposed to wind up in New York and I was supposed to wind up in Chicago!"

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:What...country, are those places in?: 

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"America."

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The man gives her the blank, harried look of someone who is very busy and very stressed and does not have time for incredibly confusing answers to questions. :Is that north, south, east, west?: 

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"Um, it's - northern hemisphere, with the Atlantic Ocean on the... which way is east... on the east of it, and the Pacific Ocean on the west of it, and Canada on top, and Mexico on the bottom." There was a map of the world in the classroom she had for Global Immigration Patterns and again for Music History.

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Marius frowns at them, and then shakes his head, more to himself than to them. :Right. How did you transport yourselves here, and why?: 

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"The Scholomance graduation gates?? They weren't SUPPOSED to take us here."

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The what. 

 

...Marius is way too exhausted to think about that right now. :What was your mission, where you thought you were going: 

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"...tell our families and friends we survived."

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This is incredibly baffling. 

:Survived what: 

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"Graduating!"

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She's not lying; Truth Spell is redundant when the only way he can understand her at all is by mindreading her. Though he suspects he's mis-parsing something, maybe some kind of culture gap that isn't just about the language barrier, because what he's reading makes no sense. 

:Is the graduation mission frequently fatal: 

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"Like, half the time! We did really good! Mostly Orion honestly."

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Wow there is like nothing to kill here. Being in the Scholomance spoiled him.

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What in all hells. That's incredibly concerning! Marius can't remember a lot of details about Jisa's mage-school experience, right now, but he's pretty sure that the graduation rite to make Adept, while genuinely dangerous, definitely wasn't fatal 50% of the time! 

The kids have definitely just been in a fight, and are clearly prepared to keep fighting - especially the light-haired boy with the bizarre not-sword, who the Guards now clustered behind him are eyeing with suspicion. The other girl mostly looks scared and tired. 

 

 

- in the distance, behind him, there are suddenly more shouts. 

What now. Marius spins around, glares, and then snarls a number of colorful Valdemaran and Rethwellani swearwords. (Which of course aren't recognizable to the kids, but the tone is.) 

:I'm not sure if you noticed: he snaps out, :but your Gate home from your dangerous graduation mission seems to have gotten mistargeted, and this is an active war zone right now, and we need to MOVE. Follow me. Leave your weapons behind, please: 

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"...I am not going to leave my weapon behind in an active war zone! What are you trying to pull?"

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:Look, from our perspective you appeared here out of nowhere, supposedly by Gate, at the exact same moment as a very serious surprise attack, and you're claiming it's not connected but we're not exactly feeling inclined to take things on faith right now! And the last thing I'm in the mood to do is have to watch my back against mysterious mages from a foreign country I've never heard of on top of everything else!: 

 

....This is considerably snappier than Marius actually endorses, but he approximately didn't sleep last night and the stimulants he took work amazingly well but also leave him irritable. 

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"Uh, look, mister - soldier guy, uh, we aren't here to hurt you, we really just want to go home or at least find a phone, but we are also not here to be, uh, POWs or anything? I think possibly you are not even allowed to POW us since we aren't combatants. I mean, war combatants, we were graduation combatants but we are done with that now. And I don't think you can get Orion to give you his sword thing even if me and Shannon and Raleigh all decided we didn't want our knives any more, and, like, it kind of looks like this might be a camping situation, so I would kind of rather have mine honestly but like, for... skinning a rabbit or whatever, I think people do that when they're camping..." She's kind of rambling, and she keeps looking away from Marius to admire the trees, they're so beautiful, and - oh, it's COLD, that's what that feeling is, she's been basically one temperature for so long, never colder than "air-drying after a shower"... "Uh, speaking of camping I kind of want to sing us warm? Because it's... freezing. Can you like, not freak out about that."

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.....Fine. While this is inconvenient for the purposes of Marius' day continuing with its current level of complications rather than all of those plus twice as many new ones, even in the mood he's in he isn't heartless enough to be unmoved by a shivering, underdressed adolescent girl who's worried about having to camp in the wilderness and skin rabbits. 

:We're going to feed you, obviously: he says gruffly. :And it looks like we'd better get you some warmer clothing, er, once we get past whatever's going on over there THIS time: Sigh. :Keep your weapons, just - don't run in and start stabbing people, the last thing we need right now is for this to end up even messier: 

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"We don't stab people! Just mals!" she promises, and she waves Orion over and huddles everybody together in the area of her warm-up spell, the one that she got in Intro Incantations. "Be warm, be well, in storm, by spell, be well, be mild, by spell, beguiled," she croons, and they are all nice and toasty but it's going to be a mana drain if they don't get somewhere warmer soon.

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Marius blinks. He's - never actually seen a mage do magic by singing. Maybe Van talked about it, once. 

....He's not going to do any more thinking about Vanyel. Not right now. He just cannot. 

:Stay together, follow me, we're going to get some distance from the barrier and try to reach those tents, do you see them?: 

The tents are about five hundred meters away, across trampled-down snow with occasionally melted-and-scorched places. Most of the current action seems to be between a cluster in blue uniforms, like the soldiers with the man in white, and another cluster of rust-red, though both sides have occasional mismatched colors included. Marius is going to navigate in a wide circle around that. 

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"I see them - Shannon, Raleigh, are you guys, like, with me right now -"

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Shannon has mostly been standing there shivering and staring around in horror. She blinks. "What? Yeah? What are we going to do, like, run off into the forest?" 

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"We're still a team," Raleigh says, squaring his shoulders. "Until we get everyone home. And this - doesn't seem as bad as the graduation hall but it doesn't look super safe either. Orion, hey - we should stick together, okay with you?" 

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"I'm not going to run off into the forest either. I mean, unless there's a mal, it'd probably be better to kill it before it comes at us, but I would come back after."

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Shannon shivers and nods. She's toasty-warm, but the shiver isn't precisely about temperature. 

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Raleigh squeezes her hand in an attempt at reassurance. 

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:Right. Follow me: 

Marius barks some incomprehensible orders to the gathered soldiers, who form a perimeter around the group. 

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That's kind of rude but Orion can probably take them if they do anything less plausibly deniable as protecting them.

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Rebecca is -

Rebecca is tired. She was supposed to appear in Chicago somewhere, nobody was actually sure if she'd wind up home or near where the Chicago enclave used to be or what, and call her dad, and get picked up, and by now she'd be home and hugging her brother and borrowing her sister's clothes and crying over how big Judy must be by now and letting her parents fuss over her -

But she lived this long by landing on her feet. So she walks with everybody else.

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By the time they're actually navigating around the altercation going on nearby, the red-uniformed troops....seem to have surrendered? They're kneeling and surrounded, at least. Someone else in the extravagant red-and-gold robes appears to be unconscious on the snow. Some people wearing green robes are turning up, now, with escorts guarding them, and they seem to be maybe treating the other injured but entirely ignoring red-robed unconscious person. 

One of the blue-uniforms jogs over and exchanges some incomprehensible conversation with Marius. There are a lot of glances at the kids. Their own armed escort is...definitely watching them with suspicion, as well as watching for external threats, but they're not hostile, exactly, just wary. 

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Words cannot convey how little Raleigh wants this to be the thing that's happening right now! On another day he might have known what to say - or, well, to think at the telepathic people who don't speak any of the languages he knows - to de-escalate this, but right now he's crashing hard after the adrenaline high of graduation, and he hasn't showered in a week and he thought by now he'd be in his mother's arms and it's surprisingly hard to, instead, stay alert and keep pushing through. 

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She should probably be trying to have thoughts about what's happening? That sounds very hard, though. 

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Orion is having some kind of post-hunt drop, the kind where the mal gets away into the ductwork before he can kill it, and he feels pretty blank, and he's looking around but not really seeing much and just vaguely sticking with Rebecca and... Rebecca's friends, who probably have names that he learned at one point.

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Marius is vaguely thinking, in some quiet distant place in the back of his mind, that these kids seem...really not okay? 

 

 

- he's not sure what he's supposed to do about this. 

 

Their party, and the blue-uniformed Guards still holding a perimeter around the kids and watching them suspiciously, eventually make it around the confusing altercation still going on between the kneeling rust-red-uniformed soldiers and the others around them, and reach a cluster of tents. 

:Dara?: Marius sends. 

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She blocks his Mindtouch entirely, doesn't even pick up the link. 

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....Okay, sure, whatever. Fair enough, she's got to be just as busy as he is. 

:Over here: Marius snaps to the group of teenagers, and gestures toward the nearest tent. 

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Tent. Okay. She went camping once... when she was eight, in a campground with running water and a convenience store a mile off and her entire family less Judy since Judy hadn't been born. They still had the au pair who introduced her to Shakira, then. She needs to not think about missing people or she'll start crying. Into the tent.

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This place is so incredibly confusing! 

...Raleigh is still in the mode of using his hard-trained reflexes to fight off mals in the graduation hall. He is not in the right mental state to ask questions about mysterious tents that don't appear to contain mals. He follows the white-clad stranger. 

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:Tran -: 

....But, of course, Tran isn't there. He's so very far out of her reach. 

:Marius: 

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Marius freezes on the spot, a couple of yards away from the tent-opening. :What: 

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:Vanyel: 

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:I - wait. What: 

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Several tents away, a voice cries out, screaming, in apparent agony -

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Rebecca's response to that is to bolt out of the tent and run AWAY from the screaming, singing a ward onto her shield-holder.

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Orion's response to that is to bolt out of the tent and run TOWARD the screaming, sword crackling with mana.

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Shannon's response is to freeze and - after a half-second moment - cast a Healing-divination spell she knows, in Mandarin - she's distracted enough to not even worry about the rest of the team overhearing her but it's not like this even matters, anymore, or ever will again - 

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Raleigh's response is to grab Shannon and haul her into the nearest gap between two tents and throw her to the snowy ground where he can cover her. 

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When Orion reaches the tent, the flap is flopped shut but not fastened. 

 

The scream of agony is falling off, now, and a kid who looks about Orion's age is flopped on a mat on the floor, with a rough blanket half-draped over him, curled into a ball and sobbing. 

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Dara leaps to her feet, drawing her dagger, and snarls something in yet another incomprehensible language. 

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Well, Orion doesn't SEE a mal, but there could be an invisible psychic one? He doesn't need his sword for that; the sword calms down and he tries a psychic-mal spell.

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Nothing in particular happens. 

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This doesn't make any sense! Then again, nothing tonight has made any sense anyway! 

 

 

....Dara isn't that strong of a Thoughtsenser, but the random blond kid is like five feet away from her, and also not even shielding at ALL. She tries to read his mind.

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The yelling kid does not look super okay! Which might mean that a mal already did enough damage that he's just stuck like that and going to die? But also, the spell did not work, so maybe there wasn't a mal and he's screaming about something else? Orion does not really feel equipped to handle this situation. He can maybe just go back to the tent with Rebecca and her friends, who almost definitely have names.

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Huh. What. That was really weird! 

 

:Marius?: 

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Marius is confused and exhausted and hates his life right now. 

:A group of four young adults suddenly appeared right outside the White Winds barrier! At - just about the same moment that the attack over there happened. .....What's going on?: 

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:......I don't know. Yet: 

Pause. 

:- Word on the relay was that - that -: 

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:That what: 

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:That - Vanyel was alive: 

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:......:

 

 

From the team's perspective: there appear to be two adults, one of them being the man in white who walked them over here, and one of them standing just outside the tent that Orion just looked into and then stepped away from, and they're both frozen on the spot and staring at each other. 

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Rebecca in her fleeing from the camp got carried away and climbed a tree.

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Probably they are doing telepathy. Does Rebecca need help? He will go see if she needs help.

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Marius is half-watching - all right, sure, whatever, that seems fine and probably not his problem - 

 

:Dara. WHAT: 

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What is she even supposed to say. 

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....Wait. Something HAPPENED just then. 

 

Stef scrambles up and runs for the tent-flap. 

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At which point he's going to nearly knock Raleigh over. 

 

"What -?" 

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Unexpected things are happening and also Orion just sprinted that way! Shannon is going to run after him on instinct! 

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Dara would really prefer that no more things happened today! 

But. 

:Treven, we've got a situation here:

And she sprints out of the tent to follow the man - no, he couldn't've been more than eighteen, the teenager - who stuck his head in and ran away and is now running toward a tree with another kid halfway up it -

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Fine. Whatever. Treven is obviously having the worst day of his entire life and Dara isn't going to push him any harder, especially given that this obviously isn't going to work at all. 

 

She....will follow Stef who - seems to be sprinting toward a tree, following the blond kid, and there's another kid halfway up said tree -?

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....Stef is really not sure what he was hoping to accomplish here. 

 

He reaches the tree in question, and collapses in the snow, and stares vaguely up at the terrified girl and the boy following her, and doesn't feel anything much, despite the tears pointlessly trickling down his face for no reason at all. 

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"Orion? Did you get it?"

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"I don't know! I'm not sure there was an it! - you, you're the one who was yelling, what was after you?" he asks the redhead.

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Stef, who isn’t a Thoughtsenser, just stares blankly at Orion for half a second. 

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"Stef!"

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Stef hears her voice - sort of - as though from a very, very long way away - 

 

 

- but nothing matters anymore. Nothing will ever matter again. 

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Stef is going to run a TEST. 

 

(If he were bothering to ask himself the question at all, he wouldn't be able to give an answer for what test he was running. But he's not asking, because it doesn't matter, and nothing matters, because Vanyel is DEAD and so the world might well no longer exist - 

- and so it seems deeply funny, somehow, that there are apparently some sudden random teenagers here and one of them is in a tree and another of them is carrying a sword-whip-thing, which is honestly incredibly cool, and looking up into said tree - 

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It was just a week till Sovven, and the nights were turning chill
And the battle turned to stalemate, double-bluff, and feint and drill
When a shadow drifted northward, just a shadow, nothing more.
No one noticed that the shadows grew all darker than before.

If Stef is worth anything as a Bard, they should all be pretty drawn in, by now - 

No one noticed that the shadows seemed to creep into the heart,
But from then the fight for freedom seemed a fool's quest from the start.
All the hopes that they had cherished seemed unreasoned and naive
Nothing worth the strength to pray for, or to strive for, or believe.

And the shadows stole the sunlight from the brightest autumn day,
As they sang a song of bleakness that touched every heart that heard
As they whispered words of hopelessness, all courage fled away,
And they wove a smothering blanket over all, that lived and stirred.

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And.....this is the part that's going to hurt. 

Herald Vanyel came upon them, and he sensed a subtle wrong,
And there was some magic working; deeply hidden, yes, but strong.
And it moves and worked in secret, like poison in the vein
Like a poison meant to weaken, this was magic meant to drain.

Herald Vanyel saw the Shadows, and they turned their wiles on him
For one moment even he began to fell his spirit dim--
But he saw their secret evil, and he swore ere he was done
He would stalk and slay these Shadows, and destroy them one by one.

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Rebecca experiences four seconds of BLIND PANIC because if this language pops out of her from the Void then even if by luck it is perfectly phonetic she will never be able to learn it in time for grad...

...uation was like half an hour ago.

Okay! He's a good singer. She has no idea why he is singing at them, is it a spell? She climbs down to hear better.

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Maybe Orion should try the psychic mal spell and aim it at himself because usually life makes somewhat more sense than this thing that is happening right now.

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....Stef is realizing that he's no longer sure what he was hoping for, here, and also everything hurts and probably the world should stop existing literally any minute, now - 

 

 

- but he's been throwing his Bardic Gift into the song really hard and he has all of his Bardic senses wide open and maybe it's going to tell him something useful, at least? 

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- Shannon is suddenly in tears and she has no idea why! Someone is singing a song at her, apparently, but she doesn't have any idea what the words mean, she's just suddenly feeling a lot of incredibly confusing emotions! 

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Raleigh is used to ignoring confusing emotions. He puts his arm around Shannon's shoulder. 

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What in all hells is happening right now. 

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.......Probably if Jisa were here then she would be able to make sense of this? 

 

 

Jisa isn't here, however, and so Treven is going to stay where he is and wait until there's something obvious he should do. 

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Herald Vanyel saw the Shadows, and they turned their wiles on him
For one moment even he began to fell his spirit dim--
But he saw their secret evil, and he swore ere he was done
He would stalk and slay these Shadows, and destroy them one by one.

Herald Vanyel, Shadow Stalker, hunted Shadows to their doom
They turned all their powers upon him, turned away from other men
And although they strove to take him, he unwove their web of gloom.
So the Shadows fled his anger, their creator sought again.

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Rebecca's increasingly sure this is a spell! She's... not sure she could cast it even once she's learned the language, though, there's something weird about it. Maybe just because it's so long and foreign, but she learned that sixty-verse Hindi monstrosity to sing to her tiara when she was making it.

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What's happening. Why is is Shannon suddenly collapsing in tears next to him. Why....is he mysteriously feeling emotions about this song that he doesn't even understand...?

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Ow ow ow ow ow ow–

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.....All right, fine, apparently none of these people were responsible for killing Vanyel???

 

(Was that what he had been testing for from the start? Stef...is honestly not sure. And he can't bring himself to care, anymore.)

He stops singing. 

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Dara catches up to them. And, for lack of anything else obvious to do, puts her arm around Stef. 

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Rebecca... claps??? She considers going over to Shannon but it looks like Raleigh's got it...

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What the fuck is going on today. Why is he here instead of trying to carve chunks off Fortitude killing that argonet's babies.

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Dara cannot answer his question because, despite the fact that she's trying to read all of the mysterious kids' minds, she has no idea what Orion is thinking about. 

 

 

....She kind of wants to give Orion a hug, just because what's in his mind is kind of awful, despite being incomprehensible. 

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Vanyel is DEAD.

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.....Marius catches his breath from the incredibly horrible Bardic projection, and manages to catch up to them. 

 

:You should come back to one of the tents: he tells all four of them. :Follow me: 

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Raleigh isn't going to argue with this? He's also not delighted about it, though, so he glances at Orion and tries to convey 'this seems like a bad situation and maybe we should figure something else out?' via eyebrows. 

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Orion cannot read (Bradley? Riley? No, Riley was some other kid... maybe he is mixing up this kid with Riley and actually his name is something totally different like Jason or Darius or something. He should ask Rebecca discreetly. Do her allies have French. He could ask her in French.) those eyebrow communications. They were going to a tent before, then they got derailed from that, now they are going to the tent again, seems okay.

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In hindsight, Raleigh is very aware that he picked the wrong person to try to communicate with via eyebrows! It's just that he's really used to having a leader, and Orion gives off that vibe very loudly. 

 

....He - will try again by attempting to catch Rebecca's eye and making a face at her. 

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Raleigh is making faces at people? Shannon is so confused about everything right now?? And also she's very cold again. 

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"Do you have a better idea," Rebecca mutters at Raleigh.

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What kind of better idea is he supposed to have. Raleigh has zero ideas. Because he has zero idea what's happening right now. 

"....I just think something seems really wrong here? I -" glance over at the redheaded kid, "- that......something is really wrong here." 

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Stef is sobbing into the snow. 

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:Treven, can you reach Haven - what's going on -: 

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:I - nobody's sure of anything - Brightstar -:

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:What about Brightstar:

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:I....: 

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Nevermind. 

 

 

(Dara has been kind of ignoring Rolan for the last quarter-candlemark, because nothing he was saying to her was even slightly helpful.) 

She.....will address all four of the random teenagers in Mindspeech? Which she's not very good at, due to not actually being an incredibly strong Mindspeaker, but she does not exactly want to ask Rolan for any things right now. 

:....Sorry, can we - get back to a tent?: 

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Shannon is not really processing anything, anymore. 

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Raleigh jumps. 

"I - all right -?" He tries to tug Shannon toward the girl who is apparently doing a telepathy at him. 

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Rebecca would like to SIT DOWN. And eat something, she ate very lightly right before graduation, just a soda and a couple packets of candy for enough quick energy to get through the hall, she wants food, she's suddenly really hungry.

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Stef is not going to move right now, because nothing matters anymore. 

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Dara.....is going to try to make that someone else's problem? And instead attempt to point the random teenagers toward a tent that she thinks shouldn't have anyone in it since she's about 70% sure she saw all of the soldiers who were sleeping there get set on fire by the stupid goddamned Ifteli priest-mage. 

 

...The tent is, in fact, empty. And significantly warmer than the air outside. She gestures for them to go in, rather than wasting energy on Mindspeech. 

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Cozy. Rebecca sits. Any joy on food?

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Dara is interrupted with a Mindspeech communication five seconds later, and makes an apologetic gesture before running off. 

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Raleigh pulls Shannon into the tent and flops down next to Rebecca. Oooh, warm. 

".....I still have no idea what's happening here," he admits. 

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Shannon is still crying. She's trying to do it quietly, at least, but she can't seem to stop. 

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Well, that's kind of embarrassing. Raleigh is just...not going to comment? And pretend this isn't happening?

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Rebecca will hug her. The nice thing about hugs is that they are reciprocal.

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Hug! Rebecca gives very good hugs. 

She really needs to pull herself together, but it's very hard. For some reason she can't stop thinking about all the people she knew, who died. Their faces. Their names. Everyone who she couldn't save but it's not like she was ever trying for that? That would have been a stupid thing to try for? 

....Shannon sniffles and takes a deep breath and steps on her stupid feelings as hard as she can. 

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Hug hug hug. Rebecca wants her mom and her dad and her brothers and sisters, she wants to spend Christmas with Grandma, she wants to fly out to see Zeke and go to a dozen shows on Broadway with him and see if they work on the outside...

But for now she will hug Shannon and wait.

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Shannon leans on Rebecca's shoulder and takes deep breaths until she manages to get the inexplicable crying under control. She still feels like it's very unfair that - whatever the heck just happened - made her burst into tears and didn't do that to the others? 

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Raleigh takes her hand and squeezes it. Feelings are allowed here; they made it out alive, they're adults now... 

He is still not sure that he himself is actually managing to have any feelings? It's weirdly hard to tell if he is or not, though. 

"Rebecca, Orion - are you all right?" 

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"...what do you, like, mean."

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"I think I'm fine?" Orion checks himself for injuries like something could have bitten him while he wasn't looking.

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Well, Shannon clearly isn't and Raleigh has no idea what the weird singing teenager did to her! He would be kind of pissed about it, except for how it's hard to be angry with someone who immediately afterward collapsed in tears. 

"...How much mana do either of you have," he says, for lack of anything else to say. "I - it might be worth doing some mana building, since..." He trails off. Shrugs. "War zone and all."

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Sniffle. "Not much. I can do some plank, I guess." At least it'll distract her. 

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"I was drawing from the sharer, not my reserves, in the hall, but - yeah." She takes her backpack off and hunts through it for her shell. It was basically unsellable, since it's customized. Plank with shell in hand. Lunchtime, conch.

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Raleigh was drawing from the sharer as well; he's not full up on mana, but he's got some. Shannon didn't have a sharer, though; Sacramento only had one spare for the graduation alliance, and Shannon's contribution was mostly in the form of Healing potions, both the preventative ones they all took beforehand and the stock she brought through with her in case any of them needed urgent healing in order to keep going and there was time for that. And she doesn't have mana storage on her, either; hers was too heavy to be worth carrying, given that she was already carrying their emergency healing supplies. 

He planks and wishes he could feel anything at all on the other end of his power-sharer. 

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Ten or fifteen minutes pass with nobody coming back to the tent. There are shouts audible outside of it. Running footsteps. Once, a sound that might be a minor explosion. 

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Orion has never had to build mana normally in his entire life and sort of sits there watching them plank until he hears the explosion, whereupon he pokes out of the tent to see what that was.

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Some sort of hastily erected wooden lean-to type storage building a hundred yards away is on fire! 

There are some definitely-injured people on the ground, and one person running or at least staggering away with his - no, her - clothes partly on fire, and there are more incomprehensible yells. 

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"Orion? What's happening out there?" Raleigh is not about to go anywhere closer to that tent-flap. Not that he's sure a tent would offer them any protection, but at least he's out of sight and maybe nobody will notice that there are people in here? 

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"- Is anyone hurt? I, I still have most of my healing supplies..." 

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"Somebody's on fire and so's a building!"

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Rebecca deplanks to get up and - help, since they're adults and can afford that now, probably - they have Orion if anything attacks and what else do you need spare mana for, really...

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Okay, if Rebecca is helping now too then he can't be a coward and keep hiding. Raleigh hops to his feet as well. Offers Shannon a hand. 

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She takes it and pulls herself to her feet and blows her nose on her sleeve. 

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Running slightly-on-fire person slips on some half-melted snow and falls and does not move. 

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Aaaaaaaaah! That looks pretty bad! Shannon is not stupid enough to run out there first, though, with only her lightweight not-very-magical knife and barely enough mana to cast, like, two combat spells. She'll wait for Orion and follow him. 

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Rebecca four years ago would have said "ew" about the sleeve handkerchief, possibly even out loud, but nobody makes a trip to the bathroom every time they need to blow their nose in the Scholomance and you can't take the toilet paper out. A boy down the hall from her would just openly lick snot off his hand, and it took her a while to get used to it but it's been a while, now.

She has a spell to put out fire but it won't work on a big fire, it was for alchemy accidents. It might work on the person, if not the building, but the person can roll in the snow, or is possibly already dead. She picks a different more alive injured person and sings to them.

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Orion goes to the person who is on fire and rolls them over so they will stop.

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Rebecca's injured person got thrown pretty hard by the explosion and has a very badly broken arm, there's bone sticking out, and judging by the way he's breathing there are probably broken ribs as well. He's conscious, though, and holds still but seems very confused at being sung to by a random teenager not wearing any recognizable uniform. 

Burned person is alive enough to moan when rolled over, but doesn't open her eyes. 

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Aaaaah she doesn't look awake enough to swallow, which means Shannon can't use a potion, though she swings down her pack and gets out one of the carefully sealed and padded vials anyway, and then she casts one of her in-affinity healing spells. It's in Mandarin - she traded for it with the Shanghai student who graduated last year - and usually this would be really rude to do right there in front of Orion without warning him, but they've graduated now and they're adults and it's fine. 

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Raleigh doesn't have any especially effective healing spells. He looks around, spots someone bleeding an alarming amount on the snow, runs to Shannon and holds out a hand for a healing potion and then runs over to him and - apparently this person can't do the telepathy? Because he shows no sign of understanding Raleigh and just looks blankly at him, clutching the gushing wound in his thigh. 

He....can try to mime 'drink this'? 

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There are some shouts in the foreign language, again - confused, not hostile. A cluster of the blue-uniformed soldiers are escorting one of the green-robed people. Someone points at the children, then back at the tent, then calls out something to Orion that is just as incomprehensible as ever. They seem to just be ignoring the burning storage hut, which isn't close enough to anything flammable for the fire to be at particular risk of spreading. 

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Orion has learned some healing spells but he... was dumping his mana into the power sharer. And doesn't have much right now. And he doesn't have any cheap ones. He stands around awkwardly and looks with confusion at the person shouting at him.

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Shouting person eventually lets his hands fall, and then turns and jogs off away from the scene, shouting in that direction instead. 

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Shit and hellfire. What now. 

:Rolan?: Dara sends. :Can you go see what the fuss is? I'm kind of busy: 

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And then a white horse trots out toward the kids. A different white horse, this time; this is apparent once the stallion is closer, he's a couple of handspans taller at the withers, and...oddly majestic, in a way that doesn't seem just about his size or shining white coat. 

:What are you doing?: he demands, including all of them but directing the Mindspeech mainly to Orion. 

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"...standing here?" he says. That sounds stupid. "Keeping a lookout for Rebecca's team."

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:And her team is - volunteering themselves to treat casualties? Why? ...Also, are you not a part of the team - why are you here, then -?: 

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"...well, we don't know why ANY of us are here, but we hit the gate at the same time. I think they are... helping because they can? I think one of them is a healer."

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Badly burned woman is clearly not in good shape - Shannon doesn't like the sound of her breathing, either, and her blood-oxygenating spell is expensive but she can squeeze out just barely enough mana to manage it, and maybe Orion has some extra for her? 

It's also a bizarre twenty-stanza construction that takes an entire minute to chant and is, for some reason, half in Greek and half in Old French, Shannon doesn't have the faintest idea which medieval-era wizard thought that was a good idea but here she is. She casts it. 

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:You do not know for sure what Gifts the others have?: Rolan asks, clearly confused by this. 

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"...I know Rebecca's affinity is singing but I don't really know her allies that well?"

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Blinkblink. 

:Are you much good in a fight?: the horse asks him eventually. 

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Raleigh has managed to convince the bleeding man to drink the mysterious potion! It's immediately helping with his clammy greyish look of shock, but he's definitely still losing blood. Raleigh will scramble up and run over to Shannon and ask for one of her enchanted bandages. 

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She doesn't have a lot but she can spare one if the guy's going to die otherwise, sure. Burned woman is opening her eyes now, she's clearly very out of it but Shannon can maybe get her propped up and pour some Healing potion down her. 

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Broken-arm man is looking a bit more alert, now. He coughs, winces, spits blood onto the ground, and then hoarsely asks Rebecca a question in Foreign Language. 

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Orion nods. Hefts the sword-whip-thing illustratively.

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Rebecca doesn't speak that and also this spell doesn't like it if you stop in the middle! She pats him on the forehead a little and sings on.

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Rolan hesitates for a long time, blue eyes boring into Orion. 

Then he tosses his head toward the shimmering barrier. Which is looking pretty chaotic on the other side, though it's hard to tell because the air is full of smoke. :If you are willing to help, then - we could definitely use some additionally fighting resources: 

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"Are you fighting mals or, like, people."

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:We are not entirely sure what is going on in there. I - am not sure I understand what you mean by 'mals', though - I do not think they brought in any Pelagirs creatures: Though apparently they brought in something from URTHO'S TOWER and Rolan is no longer sure what he can or cannot rule out. :Why?:

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"Well, mostly I'm good at mals. I'm not saying I couldn't stab a person but... yeah, mostly good at mals."

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:Unfortunately that is not what we need. Would you be willing to go in to guard one of our Heralds who is hoping to negotiate the Ifteli troops to a surrender?: 

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"...still mostly good at mals. Which don't do the surrendering thing."

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Rolan tosses his head again. :...In that case, I suppose you are better off guarding your friends and we will figure something out. I have other things to address now: And he canters away into the snow. 

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Raleigh has no idea what that was about but he's not exactly inclined to ask questions! 

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Orion continues standing around. Totally unfair how he is not being given a non-school power sharer that hooks into the New York supply and a timeline of future honeypot operations. He was looking forward to running honeypot operations.

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Raleigh is oblivious to Orion's frustration! Personally he's incredibly relieved at the apparent lack of mals, though of course he's still keeping a lookout even though Orion is watching their backs, he's not an idiot. 

Bleeding guy is no longer bleeding. Shannon doesn't have many more bandages left, though, and there are a lot of casualties here, and it seems like a bad idea to run entirely out of healing supplies while there is, one will note, still apparently a war

He really wishes someone would tell them what's going on here. 

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Shannon isn't even thinking about that. She's thinking about the injured woman in front of her, and nothing else. It's a very good distraction. 

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And, eventually, the man dressed in white emerges from one of the particularly official-looking tents, alongside the young woman who talked to them earlier. They both look incredibly shaken. 

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That's kind of alarming? 

At least maybe Raleigh can ask them about going inside somewhere, though. He's donated his button-up shirt to the injured guy and, in just his undershirt, he's getting very cold again. 

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Rebecca finishes singing to her guy and does some pushups and then huddles all four of them together again to sing them warm.

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The reports they're getting from Haven are fragmented and make very little sense. Not much about the rest of the situation makes any sense either. Marius is still trying to piece together exactly what must have happened with the apparent 'secret orders' that had General Lissa Ashkevron sending in a bunch of her people to escort some secret Ifteli mission that....was apparently to explode the entire pass? And they can't ask Lissa because for some baffling reason she went charging in through the barrier. 

 

- and then there are the mysterious teenagers who apparently got waylaid Gating home after 'graduating' from their mysterious incredibly dangerous mage-school somewhere? But, honestly, that's kind of an afterthought for Dara right now. They're not hostile, just exhausted and confused and far from home - Rolan seconds her impression, on that - and they're apparently being helpful and helping with treating injured casualties, and Dara has zero resources to spare for trying to find out where they came from or how to get them home. This can be her problem later

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A minute or two after Rebecca re-huddles everyone, some exhausted-looking soldiers show up escorting more of the green-robed people, who are apparently medics judging by how they immediately head for the injured casualties. None of them seem to have the telepathy required to communicate, but they try to convey via mime and gesture that they're grateful for the team's help. At a word from the soldier in charge, several of them offer their warmer outer layers to the kids, before hurriedly working to transport the casualties off toward another tent. 

Shortly after that, the shimmering barrier disappears in a flash of light that leaves the air smelling of ozone and iron. The smoke trapped inside starts drifting out, slowly, but nothing appears to be actively on fire at this point, and all the actual fighting seems over. 

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What are they supposed to do now. Shannon feels utterly unable to make decisions about anything other than what healing spells to use. She starts doing jumping jacks, for mana, since that will help stay warm as well. 

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Oh, a nice warm coat. That's good. Shannon has the right idea about jumping jacks too. Jumping jacks to warm up this nice coat.

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Raleigh is so unsure what they're supposed to be doing right now or what to expect to happen next, but - warm coat! Sure! He'll make sure Shannon gets a warm coat first, though. 

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Some more minutes pass. The soldiers escort the green-robed medics away, along with the injured people. Nobody seems to have any attention to spare for the team of teenagers. 

 

- and then, shortly after that group disappears into a distant tent, someone else runs toward them. This new someone is - probably wearing a uniform? It's kind of impossible to tell what color their uniform used to be, due to the quantity of mud and soot all over them. 

:- You have healing?: he sends to all of them. :I - we need help -: 

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"Um, we have some but we're kind of low on mana!"

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:- We have mages who could share energy - just not enough Healers -: 

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"If you provide the mana I'll sing all day if you want!"

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Shannon is feeling incredibly lost, right now. The only thing left in the world that makes any sense is healing magic. She will happily follow anyone who needs that. 

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Raleigh....isn't sure how he feels about this? It seems kind of suspicious? But he can't tell if it's actually suspect, because everything about this situation is confusing. 

He glances over at Orion and tries to convey Concern Via Eyebrows, although this probably isn't going to work at all since it's Orion??? 

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Why does Bradley or possibly Jason keep making faces at him.

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The person in the soot-and-mud-covered uniform starts walking briskly back the way he came, gesturing hopefully for the group to follow him. 

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Sure, seems good. Shannon will follow. 

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Raleigh is still pretty worried about this but at this point it would be awkward not to walk with Shannon. He follows with her. 

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Walking walking walking. In a tight knot so she can sing them warm now and again.

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They cross more trampled-down snow and some melted-and-scorched patches and then there's another tent. 

Inside are several very worried-looking people in rust-colored uniforms. And a woman wearing the tattered remains of red-and-gold robes, now half burned off and half scorched and stuck to her flesh. 

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Aaaaaaaaaah. 

"Does anyone have any mana?" Shannon asks, half-frantically. "I have a spell but - not enough left for it -" 

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"I have some..." Orion can give her a little (to him) bit of mana.

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"- Thank you!" That's more than enough. Significantly more, in fact. 

Shannon dashes off her fast healing spell, just since it's mana-cheap and helps generally with shock, and then pauses briefly, considers, and starts reciting Mandarin. This one takes almost an entire minute, and a big chunk of mana, but she has enough - apparently - and it's one particularly targeted to heal burns. 

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The soldier who brought them there hangs back and waits. He exchanges a long, meaningful look with one of the others, but doesn't interrupt. 

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"Were you going to give me some? I cant finish a song on what I've got, and if I build my own I want to keep it for my own emergencies."

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The soldier blinks at her for a moment, and then actually uses Thoughtsensing. :...Oh, right - I thought there was another mage in here but I think he got pulled away for something - just a minute, I'll try to reach him -: 

A pause. 

:He'll be right here: 

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Shannon finishes her spell.

 

 

 

And then, for deeply mysterious reasons, bursts into tears again???? 

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Raleigh has no idea what's up with Shannon right now! This is very confusing! He....will hug her anyway, though? 

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Hugging Shannon: it's easy and it's free!

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The burned woman moans and stirs. Her burns aren't gone, but she looks noticeably better. 

 

- Another man in red-and-gold robes, muddy but not scorched, nudges through the tent-flap and looks around expectantly. 

The filthy-uniformed soldier beckons to him, then waves to try to get Rebecca's attention. :She needs mage-energy from you to do any more healing magic, can you share some?: 

The mage looks very confused, but extends a hand to Rebecca. 

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Hand!

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He tries to send mage-energy to her. 

(The first time, it doesn't feel like anything in particular, to Rebecca.) 

....He makes a face. Tries again. 

(This time, it's noticeable that there's something like mana there? But it's as though it's over there, not here, or - like trying to pull from a power-sharer she's not wearing - but not exactly like either of those...) 

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He's not very good at this. "Uh, I can try to do more of the work if that's not gonna - spook you?"

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He's done concert work before! It's really confusing that this isn't working! Maybe this random teenager trained with really really different concert work protocols, or something? ...Also he has no idea what she's saying! What language is that, anyway? 

The soldier who happens to also be Gifted with Mindspeech and Foresight understands, because he's reading Rebecca's surface thoughts. He translates. 

"Uh, sure?" 

:He says that's fine: the soldier relays. 

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She pulls - suuuuper gently, it's not like he isn't trying to give her the mana but she doesn't wanna hurt anybody. Like she's trying to get the stitches out of a wound.

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(This works.) 

 

The mage is really glad she warned him first! Because that's super weird! It kind of feels like an attack, of some kind, though unclear what! 

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"Dude if you're giving somebody mana you don't have to make them feel like they're a maleficer for accepting it!" she mutters, but she fills up and then turns to their patient and sings.

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The mage has no idea what he's saying! His colleague doesn't deign to translate it, so he can go on peacefully not knowing why she looks so annoyed about this. 

The mage does watch in rapt amazement while she sings. To mage-sight, it doesn't look anything like a Healer working, or very much like any mage-work he's ever seen. He waits for her to finish before interrupting, though, and whispering to the Mindspeaker. 

:He wants to know where you learned that magic: his colleague relays. :It looks very unusual: 

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"The Scholomance!" she says. "I don't think it's that weird, lots of spells are sung."

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More mutters. 

:Are you Bardic Gifted?: the soldier asks. 

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"...what's that?"

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:It's the Gift that works via music! Do you not have Bards, where you're from?: 

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"I dunno what you're talking about. I'm a wizard."

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Blinkblink. :A mage?: 

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"Sure? Is there anybody else here who needs singing to -"

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:Some less critical injuries, but -: his eyes dart toward the tent flap, :- but we're not very safe here. I just got word, there may be enough uninjured mages to manage a Gate out. We would of course be willing to evacuate you with us: 

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"To, like, somewhere warm, maybe?"

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He shares a sympathetic smile with her. :I should hope so! We'll be headed for the closest Gate-location anyone has that's confirmed safe and has a House of Healing or at least basic infirmary facilities: 

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Shannon, included in this as well, nods. "And you'll have someone who can share mana with us there as well? I'm really low." 

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:Yes, of course: Another reassuring smile. 

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- wait, who are they evacuating with and where? Raleigh hates not knowing the plan. Getting out of the active war zone and moving to somewhere with indoors and heating seems like a pretty big improvement, though. 

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Rebecca agrees! "Do you need us to do anything in particular for your gate spell -"

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:No, just - wait here, it's safest, and on my go, follow me out and line up to get through: He glances over at the mage with the burns, whose color looks substantially better now but who is still visibly very groggy. :If any of you think you're up for helping carry a litter, we could use that: 

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"Of course!" What's he going to do, say no to helping the horribly injured war casualty??? 

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"I can too." She's in such great shape, as she predicted in week one.

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Within the next few minutes, the uninjured soldiers very efficiently organize themselves, two of them unrolling a simple stretcher - canvas between two poles - and moving the injured woman onto it. She's waking up a little, now; she moans and mumbles something in the local language. Maybe a different local language than the one being spoken before; the pattern of phonemes isn't the same. 

And then she whimpers, with no apparent provocation, and a second later the filthy-uniformed soldier with telepathy is straightening up. :Now! Come on, let's move - go go go -: 

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Go go go?! Okay!!

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Coordinating with people you don't share a language with on carrying a stretcher with a badly injured person on it is stressful! Raleigh isn't sure this literally ever came up during his time in the Scholomance! 

Also running with a stretcher is a bad plan, but they can do a very brisk walk? Maybe? 

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Shannon isn't as strong as Raleigh or Rebecca, but she can hold the man's hand and murmur comforting things when they jostle her and she moans in pain? 

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Outside, about fifty yards away, is a glowing portal-y looking thing! It appears to be set on a square doorway-threshold to a tent. The other side of it is...somewhere else. Indoors. Definitely not the snowy battlefield. 

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Looks good to Rebecca. Cool spell, too.

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There are a lot of people lined up to cross, and Rebecca and Raleigh end up having to hold the stretcher for almost five minutes while people ahead of them cross. 

 

 

But nobody attacks them, and they make it to the shimmery portal. Stepping across feels a bit like falling, but only very briefly, nowhere near as disorienting as induction. And then they're across. 

Someone in robes - brown, not the very colorful ones - is shouting and waving and then directing people with visible injuries but still on their feet one way, and the more seriously-wounded being carried the other way. 

:Over here, I think: the soldier acting as their guide relays. :And we've got a lot more people here in bad shape - can you keep healing as long as we can keep sharing energy with you? Hopefully at least one Adept made it back and can tap a node for us...: 

(Conveyed as a concept rather than exactly in words, 'node' seems to refer to....an enormous lake of mana claimed by no one in particular, but free for the taking?) 

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"I will eventually need to, like, eat and sleep and pee? Also drink water, that's important when I'm singing a lot. Otherwise yes but you gotta actually give the mana not just put a 'take me' sign on a heap of it that's all locked up or I'm going to get a headache. Maybe the... lake? Will be easier? I have never met a mana lake so I don't know, that's an interesting way to do a power sink, do you have sharers -"

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:You don't have nodes where you're from? Do you have ley-lines? ...One sec, I'll ask Gastar where the node actually is - I'm not mage-gifted, I can't sense them:

Pause. Some rapid foreign words are exchanged. 

:He says it's a quarter-mile in...about that direction?: Point. :Can you feel it from here? He says it should be very bright, but that if you're not trained in using nodes and aren't sure if you're Adept strength, then it'd be safer to pull from the ley-line, which goes thataways...: He makes another sweeping gesture. 

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"I'm confused," she says.

He's TELEPATHIC but he's not mage-gifted? There are LAKES and RIVERS of MANA just LYING AROUND and they think she might be able to grab some without even an artifice helping? What is an Adept? What does he mean "bright". Where the heck even are they, actually!

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:.....I think we're mis-communicating something but I'm not sure - what. Maybe our languages just have different words for things about magic training?: 

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"Maybe? Uh anyway I can't... feel... a mana lake. Or a mana river."

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:But you could use an artifact to exchange it? Is that -: 

He breaks off and exchanges more hurried communication with the other mage. 

:- We don't have anything like that. You can store mage-energies in artifacts, but not - use them to channel from nodes - that would be groundbreaking -: 

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"Well apply to, uh, literally any enclave! Me and Raleigh have Sacramento ones and Orion's got a New York!"

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"What?"

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"Your power sharer, some artificer in New York made it, right?"

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"Oh. Yeah, I think my dad was involved?"

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His expression is half-baffled, half-awed. :Where...is New York. Or Sacramento: 

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"America! Opposite ends of it though. Sacramento's west coast and New York is east."

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"I haven't managed to figure out where we are relative to America," Raleigh confesses. "I think we must've ended up really far away by mistake?" 

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:...Er, just a minute? I can go ask around and see if anyone's heard of America and might know how your magical training works, so we can figure out a way to share energy with you? Maybe you can use your artifacts to pull from the node?: 

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"I don't think so, they're for the power sinks in the Scholomance and not really useful outside of it?"

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The soldiers nods, and then there's a quick muttered conference with the mage and a few others. 

:- Where is the Scholomance? I - no one here has heard of America. Or of this - man-made mage-energy storage?: 

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"...you haven't... heard of America? - the Scholomance isn't there, it's in the void, but like... America."

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Helpless shrug. :What countries are America's neighbors?: 

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"Canada and Mexico!"

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More exchanged murmurs. 

:It...might be on another continent?: the man says uncertainly. :Scholars think there are others, even if no ships can sail far enough to reach them: 

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...Rebecca looks at her teammates for confirmation that this is hella sus.

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....Okay what. What the heck kind of place has giant pools of mana and apparently no mals and also no...tallships? Raleigh isn't that solid on history later than the Romans or earlier than 1700, but he's pretty sure ships capable of sailing from Europe to the Americas were earlier than that. 1600s even? He's SO CONFUSED. 

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Shannon is too tired and numb to be confused. Can she just do more healing, nothing makes sense and she wants to at least do the one thing she's useful at. 

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:- I don't know how to make sense of this: the soldier admits. 

The mage interjects something, whispered but urgent. 

 

:Sorry, jumping back to something else - you said the Scholomance is in the Void? I - how - who built it?: 

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"Some wizards from Manchester? And then London and New York made improvements but honestly it is still very bad."

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:It sounds like an incredibly difficult working to do at all! How is it bad, exactly?: 

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"...well, it's got way more mals in it than it's supposed to. But apart from that the food sucks and the rooms are tiny and the homework eats you if you don't do it and you can't bring much luggage or send anybody letters and there's no Internet or cell service or computers or movies or - I want pie, I want to go home and have my mom make me a pie, I told her in my last letter she should bake a pie today -"

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There is a long pause. 

:I...think...: the soldier says, slowly, :that maybe we need to - back up and start over. Because I barely followed any of that. What is...: And he tries to push back the same concepts as what he picked up from her, for 'Internet' and 'cell service' and 'computers', except that given that his language lacks words or existing concepts for any of them, and interpreting surface thoughts without a shared language is nonzero trivial, the thing he tries to echo back at her is noticeably garbled and confused. 

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This is starting to get alarmingly weird! 

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WHY is there a secret wizard war on fucking Antarctica or whatever, that seems SO unnecessary. "Didn't you want us to heal people. Also have you invented pie, I want pie."

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What's 'Antarctica'. Based on her thoughts, it's...cold? Sounds more like Leareth's stronghold on the other side of the mountains.

:Yes, we really do need that! But I'm not sure how to share power with you in a way that's better than what we did before. I - can you do melds to share with un-Gifted people? I know Healers can, sometimes, but mages generally can't. And all our Healers are kind of occupied: 

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"I passed Introduction to Circle Casting but if that is not what you're talking about then no."

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:- It might be the same thing? I'm not a Healer so I don't have that training. Er, it would be simplest if you can try to do it the way you did before?: More murmurs to the mage. :He thinks he might be able to offer it to you better, now that he's seen how you do it: 

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"Okay... and otherwise maybe one of the others'd be better at it, and they can pass to me." Hand.

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The mage can try to shove it at her? It's very hard because the thing she's doing isn't at all like a concert-link, she clearly has totally different training on how to do rapport - and honestly he's starting to wonder if she's even mage-gifted in the usual sense? She can't see nodes or ley-lines apparently? Maybe she is actually just a Bard, and the other girl is actually just a Healer, but their school does something incredibly bizarre with training mind-Gifts? 

The shoving is still a lot harder to work with than normal mana sharing, but Rebecca doesn't have to yank it out of him like she's maleficing him, this time. 

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"There, that's better! Thank you." She fills up. "Who'm I singing to next."

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They gesture her toward an area behind a makeshift curtain, currently incredibly crammed full of badly injured people! There are three cots, all occupied, and then there are mats on the floor, and then there are some people just on the floor itself. There's barely room to walk. 

Another brown-robed person who looks even younger than their team is apparently doing triage, and points Rebecca at an unconscious woman with a tourniquet tied above the bloody mess of her lower leg. 

:Can you share energy as well?: the soldier with Mindspeech asks Shannon. :You've got healing magic too, right: 

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"I can try? Rebecca, uh, do you have tips for it." 

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"It wasn't that hard this time, he just had I guess never done it, which makes sense if you live near a fucking mana lake!"

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That probably does make sense! Shannon's brain is not online enough right now to assess whether things make sense or not, though, so she'll take Rebecca's word for it. 

She tries to pull mana from the mage. He makes a face about it, and it feels pretty weird, but it works and now she's full up and she can set everything else aside. 

Moaning person with burns over half his body who looks like he's definitely going to die without treatment. Shannon knows how to deal with this, even when the entire world has stopped making sense. One spell, then another spell, then one of her precious potions once he's conscious enough to drink - 

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Raleigh glances over at Orion. "I - don't have any especially good healing spells. Uh, my affinity is boosting other people's spells, so if I can get mana too, I could help out either of them. Orion, do you have healing spells?" 

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"A... couple? Nothing great for this. - I can hold lots of mana though, if it's easier to not have to give it to us lots of times I could take a bunch and then hand it out."

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The soldier nods, then exchanges some more whispers with the mage. 

:- So you're Adept-potential? Or, er, stronger than the others, can channel more energy? It might be worth seeing if you can pull from the node directly, even if the others can't: 

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Is a node a kind of mal. "I don't know how."

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:Have you ever done concert rapport before? He thinks he might be able to show you: 

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"I didn't even take introduction to circle casting."

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...That earns him a brief confused look, and then some more mutters with the mage. 

 

:- He thinks it sounds like your entire education was very different, but - I can try to pull both of you into rapport so you can see what he's doing?: 

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"...okay?" Orion would really like to drink a lake of mana about now. He was pulling in plenty in the graduation hall but he was dumping it into the sharer on the expectation that he would continue to get more at a steady clip.

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:I'm going to try to pull you in first, since you're not a Mindspeaker: He's never actually...done...this before, with someone who wasn't Gifted, but in some sense it should actually be easier than holding a Mindspeech link. Or, well, simpler at least. 

:This is going to feel odd, probably, but - try not to fight it or flinch, you want to just sort of relax into it: 

 

- and then it feels like he's falling, except not literally, more like some small part of him - maybe the sense of where-thinking-is located roughly behind his eyes - is sliding outward, and it feels disorienting and uncontrolled but something is trying to stay in control, and then there's a very uncanny sense of...doubled vision, of having a second set of senses half overlaid on his own... 

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This is FREAKY?! Where in this process does he get a lake of mana.

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:All right - I'm going to pull in Ebrich, and then you should be able to piggyback on his mage-sight and see the node and ley line: 

...And then there's another mind there, and the soldier with telepathy is pulling it closer, so that the third set of senses is brighter and louder, and...in fact, it's not just ordinary senses, there's another kind of 'seeing' happening and the mage is mostly focused on that - it's pretty complicated and hard to interpret but he can tell that all the people in the room are glowing, and his own power-sharer is - not bright exactly, but salient, somehow, as though it's a vibrant color, but 'color' isn't exactly the thing... 

...and then the mage refocuses his attention and it feels a little bit like falling toward something far away and then there's a very very bright nexus of - something - streams of brightness flow into it from several directions and combine in a nub of turbulence and then, yep, seem to sort of pool there... 

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...okay, let's pretend like this is a mal he just killed and - yoink?

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He can do that! 

It doesn't feel exactly like mana from a mal he just killed. It's a little more like the first time he pulled from a New York power-sharer, except that it's - less cooperative than that? It feels 'hot', in some metaphorical sense, and also sort of pressurized, and there's a sense of it being something that could hurt. But doesn't. Not for him. 

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"- cool! Weird, but cool. Okay, I'm full up, who needs a handout?" he says, when it's all slurped up.

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The mage and the Mindspeaker are both staring at him in awe and something akin to horror. 

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"I'd take some, then I can boost Shannon or Rebecca." 

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Shannon is busy reciting a spell and doesn't even notice the offer. 

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Orion handclasps Raleigh and hands over as much mana as Raleigh wants!

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Sort of concerning that those people are looking like that at Orion! Was this or was this not exactly what they were trying to get him to do??

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The mage recovers first. That was, in fact, what he was suggesting Orion do! It's just not supposed to be possible to hold all the power of a node in your reserves, even leaving aside channeling it that fast! 

:....Maybe try to only take part of it next time: he manages, faintly. :If you drain the whole thing at once, it destabilizes all the local ley-line flows and we get a thunderstorm: 

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That's more than enough mana to boost Rebecca and Shannon! 

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"Oh. I don't think any of us know any weather spells. ...I'm... not sure I can take only part of it."

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What IS this kid. :O....kay. I suppose we can take care of the weather magic. Will that amount of mage-energy be enough to last all of you a while?: 

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"Probably, yeah!"

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:Good. ...Anyway, we'll have some food and water brought over for all of you, and - hmm, are you the leader here?: 

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"...I don't think so? They're an alliance group, I'm just also here. I know Rebecca because she's dating my clavemate and not so much her allies."

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Nod. :Which of them can speak for their alliance, then? It's starting to seem like we have a lot to talk about, and - I think we owe you an explanation of what you've walked into: 

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"...why are you asking me."

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:I'm not sure if it's all right to interrupt the others while they're doing magic?: 

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"Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean I know the answer."

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This kid is such a bizarre mixture of terrifyingly brilliant or powerful or something, and also weirdly - not helpless exactly, but...something. Maybe just 'weird.' Sure, he'll go with that. 

He conveys instructions for food and drink to be brought over, and then gets Raleigh's attention as soon as he's done casting the power-boosting spell, and repeats his question. 

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"Uh, I - should talk to the others, when they're done." 

Raleigh fidgets and waits until Shannon is finished incanting her spell on the current patient, and then makes sure she gets a glass of - not water, actually, for some reason it seems to be diluted wine? Weird. 

And then Rebecca's song is done, and Raleigh gets her attention as well. "Uh, they were asking if one of us is the leader of our team? They're offering to explain what's going on, which seems good, but I think maybe we should all be there for it." 

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Shrug. Shannon isn't going to contradict Raleigh but she would kind of prefer to just keep doing healing spells. 

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"We don't really have a leader - Raleigh's the enclaver but I don't think this is the kind of situation where that matters? -"

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"Yeah, I don't - feel super comfortable representing all of us for this?" Actually, Raleigh is desperately uncomfortable about almost everything to do with this situation, but he especially doesn't want to be made a group leader. "I would rather all of us heard the explanation. Maybe after we've gotten through healing everyone whose injuries are critical?" 

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:...Sure, all right. If you need to take a break and eat and drink something before you keep doing magic, that's fine: 

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"I need water. And wouldn't turn down food. Especially pie."

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Rebecca can have some heavily diluted wine too! 

There's no pie, but there are mini loaves of dense chewy bread, and hard cheese, and some withered apples. 

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Shannon wrinkles her nose at the wine, but it doesn't taste that bad and at least it's wet? 

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"Alcohol is bad for singing! I want water!"

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Some more murmured conversation. :Er, we have water, but it's not necessarily safe to drink - should we boil it for you, or do you have a spell to purify water for drinking?: 

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"I have one of those, yeah."

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A jug of water arrives within a couple of minutes. It's slightly turbid with silt. 

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Great. Raleigh will definitely take that over the alcohol. 

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Shannon already finished her entire cup of watered wine so whatever. The bread is almost more work to eat than feels worth it. 

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Rebecca sings the water clean and drinks it and then says, "You know what, we have lots of mana now," and sings the sad apples into a goddamn piping hot apple pie, already sliced.

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......What. What

This earns Rebecca a similar expression of shocked and slightly uneasy awe to the one Orion got for slurping an entire node in one go. 

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"- well, it's too expensive to do all the time but I really want pie and Orion topped me off!" she says defensively, and then she scoops up a slice of pie and bites into it.

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This can be added to the growing stack of baffling and moderately alarming observations about these lost teenagers! Nobody will make any further comment about it right now. 

The soldier with Mindspeech consults with the Healer. :All right, there are four more patients whose condition is bad enough to warrant immediate healing, and - hopefully by the time that's done, someone will be available to meet with you: 

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Rebecca is going to eat three slices of pie and drink more water and then she'll go sing to people.

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Pie!

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Shannon gnaws on the hard bread, her head feeling slightly giddy. She's never had alcohol before; getting drunk in the Scholomance would be a suicidal idea. 

It doesn't get much in the way of casting her healing spell, though. She can do that some more. 

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What Raleigh really wants is some time alone, in private, with just the four of them, so they can TALK ABOUT THIS. But if he can't have that, he can at least eat some pie and then alternate his power-boosting spells for Shannon and Rebecca's healing. 

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...before Rebecca gets deep into singing she pulls the terrible bread out of Shannon's hand and replaces it with a slice of pie. THEN singing to people.

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Shannon blinks stupidly at the pie for thirty seconds before she manages to process what just happened and that it's for eating. 

It's great not having to worry about 'wasting' mana that she might need for graduation. Shannon doesn't hesitate to cast the most expensive and powerful healing spells she can. She goes back to Orion for a mana top-up when she's out. 

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Orion is happy to do this.

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And in fact, by the time Shannon and Rebecca have gotten to all of the most seriously wounded casualties, someone has arrived to talk to them!

(It wasn't easy, on short notice, to find a priest of Vkandis who was also a Mindspeaker, given the current personnel issues, but they managed it even if it took a frantic and moderately ill-advised Gate. The soldier with Foresight isn't sure why these teenaged mage-students are so important - the vision was vague and nonspecific, as long-range Foresight tends to be - but he's very sure that they ARE important.) 

The woman takes a step forward to greet them. :Thank you so much for your help. I am Priestess Alrida. Do you need anything else before we talk - food, water, rest...? I have a feeling it's going to be a long conversation: 

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The food here kind of sucks, and not even in the same way as Scholomance food so they aren't used to it! "I could use a refill on the water! Uh, priestess of what religion?"

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The priestess murmurs and gestures for someone to bring more water, and then ushers the four of them out of the infirmary area, to a hallway, and then to a much quieter, tidier meeting-room with upholstered chairs and way too many cabinets and nooks and crannies where things could hide. 

:The temple of Vkandis. You are in Karse, now. ...I hear your homeland is very, very far from here?: 

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"Uh, I guess so! Do you have Christianity at all." That is a lot of nooks and crannies. Rebecca nudges Orion in first.

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Orion checks nooks and crannies.

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All clear! To Raleigh's relief, though probably to Orion's disappointment. (Shannon is still too lost in haze to care, especially.) 

:It does not sound familiar: the priestess admits. :Though - possibly that god is known here under a different name?: 

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"Jesus Christ?" tries Rebecca. "- this probably isn't really important to what you were going to tell us though."

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...Ugh. Raleigh always feels so incredibly awkward when religion comes up! Mostly it's a habit from three years of being stuck in the middle between Rebecca's earnest heartfelt religion and Vanya's moderately bitter atheism. Rebecca always seemed to handle that surprisingly gracefully, but it was still really painful to sit through. 

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The priestess points out seats for them, and then accepts a jug of water and tray of cups from the person bringing them. 

:I do think it's a fairly high priority to learn about where you're from! So that we can figure out where that is. But, probably we should explain what's going on around these parts first?: 

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Raleigh starts to glance over at Orion, and stops himself. He's not sure why he keeps being so tempted to look to Orion for leadership??? Orion is clearly terrible at this???? 

 

...He hates the fact that there aren't any seniors or adults to consult. Although supposedly he's an adult now? Apparently? 

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"Yeah, probably," Rebecca agrees.

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:Right. So - what do you know so far? We aren't sure if you spoke to the Valdemaran side first, when you arrived: 

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"We, uh, talked to some people who were wearing white?" Raleigh glances uncertainly at Rebecca and Orion. He wasn't exactly thinking at his most clearly, at the time, and honestly he was paying more attention to mal-lookout than to the people. "It - was incredibly confusing - they seemed to think we were attacking them, I think? And then this kid was screaming like he was being murdered, but nothing was obviously wrong, and then he sang at us - like he was attacking us with a spell, almost, it didn't make much sense....." 

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"He was a really good singer but I couldn't tell what it was supposed to do, since I don't have the language at all. - you guys are the other side?"

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:I - think it's a lot more complicated than 'the other side'. But...unfortunately, right now, that's not wrong. I might need to explain a lot more background for any of it to make sense, just - the current King of Valdemar is very young, just seventeen. And we suspect he's been compromised by our enemy, and all of Valdemar's leadership along with him: 

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"Okay...?" Wow, seventeen is younger than her. Correct age for being a Disney prince, not a king.

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:Right. So - some historical context here, is that Valdemar and Karse were at war about a decade ago. ...This was under a different king, for Karse, and - the political situation was bad - the leaders were no longer speaking for Vkandis Sunlord. And then Herald Vanyel - one of Valdemar's war heroes, a very powerful mage - was instrumental to helping Queen Karis take back her rightful throne: 

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....Is he supposed to make appropriate facial expressions about this story? Raleigh honestly can't tell if she thinks the 'Herald Vanyel' stuff is supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing? He - can try to make a listening sort of face that's ambiguous between whether he thinks the story is happy or sad?? 

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"Does, uh, this have anything to do with us."

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:...Not yet, probably? I just wasn't sure if the Valdemarans you spoke with would have mentioned Vanyel. He's - pretty important to their country. And - to all of the recent trouble: 

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"...I don't think so?" 

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- huh, wow, Shannon just participated in the conversation? Raleigh hadn't realized she was tracking this at all. 

He squeezes her hand, and then glances back at the priestess. "Uh, no, not that I recall? I might've forgotten, though. There...was a lot going on." 

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The priestess nods. 

:So. We only learned of this recently, but our Queen knew of it years ago. Herald Vanyel...had a destined enemy. - Does your country know about the Gift of Foresight?: 

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"There's people with divination affinities. I think the word 'Vanyel' was in the song the weird singing guy sang?"

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She has no idea who the singing person could have been. 

:There are a lot of popular songs about Vanyel. He was a war hero, and....a hero to the kingdom in many other ways. But - the important part is that a man named Leareth was his destined enemy. Leareth was gathering an army north of the mountains, intending to conquer Valdemar. He - I only learned this recently, but he's immortal. He...has a spell that lets him steal the bodies of his blood descendants, so that he can live on, lifetime after lifetime. He uses blood-magic for power: 

(The connotations around the concept conveyed by 'blood-magic' aren't entirely dissimilar to 'maleficer'. But it doesn't feel exactly the same, either.) 

:- But, unfortunately, he is immortal and very experienced and charismatic. He - may have corrupted Vanyel to his side. And, of course, the young King respected Vanyel a great deal....: 

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"Okay, is there some other place we can go, then? While we try to contact home?"

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:Other than Valdemar or Karse? I - probably someone has a Gate-location on our southern border and could drop you off there. But not right away - all our mages are exhausted -:

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"Why don't they just get more mana from the lake?"

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:From the node? ...Er, for one, your friend drained all of it, and the nearest other nodes are a lot harder to reach. But also we only have a handful of Adepts in the first place - I'm a mage but only Master-potential, I can't draw from nodes - and then backlash makes it pretty unpleasant to do more magic. I did hear that your magical training is very different, so I'm not sure if any of that would be what you're used to:

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"Yeah, I don't think we get backlash from getting mana, getting mana is just good? If they're like, tired enough that they'll fuck up a spell and blow themselves up then for sure they should sleep before evacuating us. Uh, again."

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Nod. 

:I think you should be safe enough, here. Valdemar has...higher priorities, than invading us, right now. And, I mean, they do also have a very firm policy against invading other kingdoms period, it's just - not clear how far we can trust that. If Leareth has infiltrated their leadership: 

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"...okay."

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The priestess ducked her head. :I'm sorry for explaining it all out of order. It's just that a lot of things happened today, and...the entire month before that, honestly. But I'll do my best to cover how this war ended up happening: 

She takes a deep breath, and looks slightly upset, but in a mostly-controlled way. :One month ago, during the annual Mindwinter meetings in Valdemar's capital, there was an assassination attempt on our Queen and her five-year-old daughter, who is the heir. It was done by - some kind of constructed monster, most likely, though the mages who examined its body afterward weren't able to determine for sure that it wasn't just native to the Pelagirs. It had slipped past all of the kingdom's wards and protections, though, which would have required help from a clever and ruthless mage. And it went straight for the Queen, as though it recognized her. ...She survived. But Valdemar's most senior Herald-Mage died in the rescue attempt: 

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Rebecca's plan had been to go to Julliard where she was reasonably confident she would never have to take another damn history class. Zeke said that they could get her recommendation letters from "Manhattan Prep" whenever she was ready. She was going to study voice and re-learn piano and then she was going to be a goddamn Disney princess. WHY IS SHE IN HISTORY CLASS AGAIN. "Uh-huh."

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Political assassinations via mals!!! What the heck!!!!! Is that just a THING here??? 

Raleigh squeezes Shannon's hand, because this is the closest he can get to 'a hug from his mom'. 

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:The Valdemaran leadership obviously suspected Leareth, right away - it's his style, to operate indirectly like that, and it's unclear what other faction could possibly have a motive. Though we're not sure if he was aiming to disrupt our alliance - which obviously didn't work - or just cause panic and confusion before he invaded. Valdemar immediately started gathering allies, in expectation that he would be moving on them soon. And...when they tried to contact their Tayledras allies in the Pelagirs, who worship the Star-Eyed Goddess, they found their Vale was....gone. Entirely destroyed, nothing left but a crater: 

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Like Chicago enclave. That sucks. What has this pagan politics to do with them.

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The priestess is only understanding them at all by mindreading and so is noticing that they're not particularly engaged in actually learning the details. Fair enough. They've clearly had a pretty awful day, too, and were expecting to go home and then instead got lost and ended up in someone else's war zone. 

She can elide over some of the rest. :Valdemar started moving to a war footing, but Herald Vanyel insisted on going north alone, against the King's orders, to - try to assassinate Leareth, or try to negotiate him, it's a little unclear what his plan was. In any case, the Heralds have a ward system that detects when a Herald dies, and it seemed he got himself killed up there. A very brilliant mage from the Tayledras - he survived the destruction of his Vale because he was visiting Haven at the time - figured out how to track Leareth's location from a distance. We learned he was moving on the pass; we already had our forces staged in the north, and we moved to hold him off. A few minutes into the battle, the King of Valdemar - who is, as I mentioned, seventeen - ordered us to stand down, claiming he's received intel that Vanyel was alive. This......was obviously a very suspicious claim, and even if it were true, it seemed most likely Vanyel had been fully turned to Leareth's side. So our forces and Iftel's kept defending the pass. That's - why Valdemar's army was attacking ours, up there: 

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Orion is basically not listening at all, he saw a mouse and it was probably in fact a mouse but what if in fact it was a MAL mouse and he can kill it, what then. It's disappeared now but it could reemerge at any moment.

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- okay, clearly these kids are not in a great place to usefully process any of what she's saying. That's...fine, probably. 

:I think that pretty much covers it? We wanted to evacuate you as well because we don't know if you would have been safe from Valdemar, up there, if we're - right about what happened...: Her jaw tightens. :But - I think we should be safe enough, here. For long enough to figure out where you're from and how to get you home - and, of course, we would be interested in diplomatic communications with your local leadership, if they were willing: 

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"Um, yeah, sure - there's not like a wizard king or anything but my boyfriend's New York and they're running the Scholomance which is maybe as close as you can get?"

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Nod. :Can you say more about 'New York'? What are they like? What is their current power base?: 

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"It's a huge city, I think the biggest one in America, and it's got an enclave, and they're, you know, enclave wizards - I guess you don't know - Raleigh's an enclave wizard? They're basically just people except it's safer to have kids in an enclave..."

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:...Why? - Sorry, er, can you - explain what exactly an 'enclave' is, I'm not totally getting it. And why it's safer to have kids there?: 

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"An enclave is a little pocket of structure in the Void and mals can't go through it so there's not as many ways for them to get in and try to eat kids."

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:....Your people know how to - build structures - in the Void?: 

This is said with a deeply awed and slightly terrified expression and overtones. 

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"I mean I don't personally but it is, like, known. I think it's... expensive? You might need the right affinity. And like tons of mana, probably more than a lake of it even."

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:- I would imagine so! Your, er, friend here -: vague gesture at Orion, :was apparently able to pull an entire node in one go: 

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"Well, Orion's very special, I think most people would be drawing from a sharer that hooked up to a big sink instead."

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A pause. 

 

 

:Can you - explain what you....mean by 'sharer' and by 'sink'?: 

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Raleigh could explain but plausibly Rebecca is actually better placed for it, given that he's been familiar with wizard magic since early childhood and she had to pick it all up at age 14. He glances over at her and waits to see if she's going to explain or indicate that he should. 

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She does look at him but shrugs and says, "A sink is like your lake, I guess, but it's usually an artifice? And they can hold a whole lot, and a sharer lets you grab it from the sink really easily, and put mana into it when you build it."

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:- Oh, interesting. And the sharer is usually also an artifice? Does it let anyone pull from your sink, even if they're less powerful?: 

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"The sharer's an artifice too, yeah, and it works for whoever wears it I think? I guess maybe you could make them differently if you were going to risk them getting stolen."

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:Is that not usually a risk? It sounds like something that would definitely end up tempting mage-bandits: 

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"I think you can cut them off if they do get stolen and also if anyone did that they would get so murdered. ...in school, I don't actually know what would happen if somebody did it with a sharer out in the regular world - Raleigh do you know -"

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Raleigh? Is that a name? Orion thought that was a city.

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"I....don't specifically know of it having come up? I mean, like, maybe it has ever, but - anyone from an enclave who's got a power-sharer is probably going to beat anyone not from an enclave in a fight, unless they're a maleficer - and anyone openly maleficing humans is going to end up with the best wizards from multiple enclaves trying to hunt them down? Which does happen, once in a while, but I think stealing a power-sharer that's likely to be cut off soon anyway isn't usually what they'd go for?" 

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The connotations coming across with that foreign word are...strange. And concerning. Very concerning. 

:Is that like blood-magic?: 

(The connotations that come across to the kids along with this word are - a lot like 'maleficer', but, oddly, actually less bad-feeling? The priestess seems to be mostly thinking of it as something distasteful, in addition to morally wrong, but not exactly with horror.) 

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"...may...be? Maleficing is if you kill something - like a rat or something, or a person, not like a bug - for mana. And it's really bad because if you get in a fight with a maleficer they're going to be getting mana while you're spending it, so they get out of control super fast like - like setting fire to a fireworks factory - and you have to gang up on them right away before they do that, you can't even really talk them down because maleficers go nuts."

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That gets a considerably more discomfited look! 

:All of them go crazy? How - sure are you, of that?: 

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"I, uh - I think sometimes people are able to pull off using mice or something while they're in school, and manage to be okay after, but it's - they have to be really really careful, and ration it, and - even then, it messes with using normal mana, so if they want to be normal again after they have to stop using magic for a while and that's - you almost can't do it unless you've got an enclave and people to look out for you? And, uh, people in enclaves don't do maleficing even in school, it'd..." 

He trails off. There are certain bits of his school experience that he doesn't especially want to get into right now. 

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"There's that one enclave that has some secret for not going crazy and everybody puts up with them and they don't kill people. The - what's the leaning tower city, it's them. Pizza. - Pisa. Otherwise yeah, what Raleigh said."

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The leaning tower– all right never mind this is so not the priority here. 

:This...doesn't make 'maleficing' sound very appealing or smart: she notes. :Why do people do it?: 

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Shrug. "'Cause it's pretty powerful? Uh, I guess especially for freshmen, when you've got a tiny mana limit but you can collect a ton of malia anyway."

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"Lots of people cheat if they're in a tight spot, just a little - if you don't have enough mana for your ward overnight and you're really tired and you need to be rested in the morning it's not weird or even dangerous to pull some of the extra out of the air or your bedpost. I don't really get why people plan on it and bring animals to school but outside if something's after you and you're running away and you find a raccoon or whatever..."

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Shrug. "Landon used to say it was an...enclave privilege thing? That, like, it's easy for us to say we don't get why anyone brings in mice, we've all got power-sharers, but if you don't then..."

He wriggles his shoulders uncomfortably. He always hated that particular conversation. "It evens the playing field? Except, you know, it's still dangerous and a bad idea and sometimes people get out of control anyway and end up murdered for it and - they'd never even have been tempted if they were enclavers..."

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There are so many baffling concepts here! 'Mana limit' and 'freshman' both almost make sense? But the connotations are...slightly off from 'size of reserves' and 'a kid at the age when they're admitted to a mage-school'. And 'enclaver' came up before, sort of, but there's whole messy complicated pile of context, including some very mixed feelings, coming across in the second kid's thoughts. 

Focus. She's never going to get on top of this if she doesn't prioritize. 

Glance around. :Do, er, 'mana limits' vary a lot between people? It seemed like you were saying that Orion can hold a lot more in reserves: an ENTIRE NODE in fact, which is INSANE, :but that that's unusual?: 

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"Well I didn't have a power sharer - yeah, mana limits vary, but like there's a normal amount and then Orion's really really really unusual. I think mine and Raleigh's and Shannon's aren't that different from each other but I can cast most spells cheaper than most people because my affinity's song spells and lots and lots of spells are songs."

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:I, er - right. I think I maybe need more explanation of how 'affinities' work, sorry. It's - not the same thing as having an entirely different Gift? Not like, um, if one person has Mindspeech but not Healing, and someone else has the opposite?: 

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Shavri speaks for the first time in a while. "No, not like that. You can cast out-of-affinity – uh, at least once you're a senior, freshmen are limited enough on mana that you often can't cast very many spells at all. But, yeah, it's more expensive, and if it's a really mana-hungry spell then sometimes you can't unless it's in-affinity." 

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"Or you can but it'd be dangerous - I had a guy in one of my math classes whose affinity was those absolutely gnarly alchemy things where you have stuff spread out all over the counter or on the floor even, and he sold help with them because he can do it and it's not more dangerous than normal and anybody else is probably going to kick something over."

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That doesn't make sense! 

:Huh. I - hmm, I could use some more examples of - what sorts of affinities people tend to have? If it's not different Gifts, then I'm - confused about what it is

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Raleigh feels like they've really fully explained it at this point! "Uh, in my enclave, there were people with affinities for fortifications, and for artifacts personalized to specific people - Rebecca's got one of them, actually - uh, and mine is for boosting other people's spells." 

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"It's the thing you're best at with magic? Like, you seem to be telepathic, that's not normal, if a wizard was telepathic I'd assume that was their affinity. There's... let's see... my boyfriend does layered spells, the kind you reinforce a bajillion times before they're much good. Julia does illusions, Chloe's is paint, Julia has a buddy whose affinity is cosmetics, his alliance had a sleep affinity and a water affinity in it which I remember 'cause I was curious how you get out the gates with that no matter how stunning your makeup looks... Vanya's is music, a little more generic than mine, like he could sing but he also did like, instruments in shop... I hope he made it out..." They were supposed to know, by now, who from the year ahead of them got home.

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:I - what - cosmetics? As in, when women paint their faces to look more beautiful?: 

This makes NO SENSE. On reflection, the things she's hearing haven't been making sense for a while. 

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"Well, he branched out into weird stuff, since looking beautiful isn't very important in the Scholomance, but yeah, that, he was an alchemist."

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Nod. 

:Right. I - think I need some more background on your school of magic. It sounds like children from a pretty big area go to study there? How old is it - do you know if there was a specific founder -?: 

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"It's like not super old? I think like a hundred or two hundred years. Founder was some guy who I never actually learned his name."

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:Interesting: That's - pretty recent, for a mage-school. And might explain why she's never heard of it – though not why she's never heard of any of the places being mentioned. :Are there competing schools in the same region?: 

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"N...o?" Raleigh says, uncertainly. "The Scholomance was insanely expensive to build. Shanghai's been sort of threatening to go build their own if the Anglosphere doesn't open up more slots for them, but who knows if they ever actually will." 

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"Yeah, I think anybody who doesn't go to the Scholomance is homeschooled."

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What. Somehow each additional answer is making LESS sense of things rather than more.

:Homeschooled? Does that mean apprenticed to an adult mage, or something different?: 

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"Well, like, their parents, presumably?"

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The priestess makes a very confused face. :But - presumably sometimes their parents aren't themselves Gifted, or have different Gifts?: 

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"Yeah? Usually people like me with mundie parents just, uh, get eaten, since my parents aren't wizards. And somebody with a really specific affinity whose parents' affinities are totally different is going to have a hard time. Everybody with options sends their kid to the Scholomance! It's not surprising that the other possibilities aren't good, that's why nobody takes them if they have a slot."