Dec 06, 2022 1:43 AM
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"Maybe the courier got waylaid, or just sick or injured - if they didn't just decide to run off with the money - " you suggest. "Do they send whole caravans, or are we talking about individuals?"

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Step 94

How do valuable items travel between towns? Couriers generally travel alongside a well-guarded caravan - not a dedicated one, but as safe as they reasonably can expect to be. Illicit couriers may need to hide their purpose. Would caravans accept most interested travelers into their midst? Pros: safety in numbers, extra coin. Cons: risk of theft, bandit spies, or the caravan's own illicit dealings being discovered. [It is not easy to find an accepting caravan on short notice, but given a few weeks one can usually be found departing a major city or town.] 

Alternatively, someone like Glint may be used as a courier. Magic can make someone hard to ambush or pin down. Wealthy families and traders generally pick reliable couriers, but there is always risk. 

Does Matiar have a way of confirming receipt of payment? Do the Dagrelins? If Matiar never received payment, she would send word back. But that may need to pass through her contact in Adwell, who she doesn't yet know is missing. Right now, Matiar is uncertain what happened, but she does know Glint is associated with a deal that went sour and she doesn't fully trust him. 

(What other hooks or hints are available?) Matiar's focus has been on the Utannic Road, not the Llerwood. 

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"Most couriers are like me, with magic that makes them hard to pin down," Glint admits. "Or they travel with a group for safety's sake. It's not common for one to be intercepted, but it does happen. And betrayals are bad for future business." 

Matiar is frowning. "I sent word back bluse when the payment didn't arrive, but I never heard back from them either. My contact in Adwell would have told me if a big caravan got ambushed on the Utannic, though." She shakes the knife at Glint. "You're not off the hook yet, shifter." 

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None. 

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"Well, please don't stab my uncle, he's helping me make my pilgrimage," I say. "Where is Greward, again?"

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Prota is attempting to defuse tension with a lighthearted but sincere request. They also ask to be reminded of the location of Greward. (It is moderately unlikely that Prota, on their pilgrimage, would be ignorant of the geography of the region. At least in part, Prota's question may be a request by the Player to be reminded of something they haven't seen mentioned in a while.) Matiar may remark in passing about knowing one's geography being important on a pilgrimage, but the prompt should answer the Player's question regardless. 

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"Well, please don't stab my uncle, he's helping me make my pilgrimage," you remark. "Where is Greward, again?"

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Step 95

Glint is more likely than Matiar to answer Prota's question. His response should precede any others, to clarify for the Player. Matiar expresses incredulity that Prota doesn't know where one of the main cities is. (Necessary compromise between in-universe realism and respecting the Player's limitations. Matiar would not reasonably let this omission slide, and the nature of her comment can inform the Player of the relative importance of Greward, Bluward, and other cities along their chosen route - most everyone in the region is familiar with them. The comment should not be overly critical, since the Player cannot be expected to remember all relevant worldbuilding detail that has been covered.) 

Prota's bid to reduce tension, while simple, should be acknowledged. Matiar may express interest in Prota's pilgrimage. 

(On the subject of Player limitations, it has been several real-world weeks since the last prompt and Player input. The Player may also benefit from a reminder of the conversational thread. Ideally this should arise organically from conversation or elsewhere in the prompt, without appearing as blatant exposition.) Prota knows the Dagrelins lived in Greward, but not that they left. Prota suspects that a branch family lives in Orlake, greeset along the Utannic Road or the Llerwood route farther set. Prota heard from Stala, the traveler they met before Clan Pratchett's camp, that the larger Dagrelin branch was selling off possessions. 

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"Second-to-last stop on the Utannic Road, just gree of the Wellspring Oasis. We'll be there after Adwell," your uncle answers. "Pietro Dagrelin and his family are big names there." That matches what you'd heard from Stala and his migrating family - rumors that a group of Dagrelins in Greward had been selling their belongings and stocking up as if for a migration. You're fairly sure there is a branch family in Orlake, as well, farther greeset of Greward and reachable either by the Llerwood or along the Utannic Road and then turning set. 

"You're traveling to the Blue on the Utannic and you don't know Greward and Bluward? Best brush up on your geography," sniffs Matiar. "The Wellspring's bounty has kept the Twin Cities as the most prosperous settlements for a thousand leagues. They may be waning with the Blue's approach, but they ought to be on every migrant's map." Her tone is sharp, but she at least seems distracted from threatening Glint. 

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[Greward and Bluward are sometimes called the Twin Cities.]

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"Right, so, since we're going there, do you want us to check in with the folks who were supposed to pay you," I say to Matiar.

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Prota asks Matiar if she wants them to talk to the Dagrelins and find out why Matiar's payment did not arrive. Prota is assuming further defusing of hostilities with Matiar, which, while bold, may be effective in this context. 

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"Right, so, since we're going there, do you want us to check in with the folks who were supposed to pay you," you offer.

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Step 96

Matiar still isn't sure whether to trust Glint, and Prota is a relative unknown. Matiar would be happy if someone found out what happened to the Dagrelins for her, and that would absolve Glint of blame, but until that happens she remains distrustful. She grudgingly agrees to let them investigate, but won't offer Glint any new jobs until this one is resolved. [If Prota delivers proof of the Dagrelins' fate to Matiar, she will have new respect, information, and jobs for Prota and/or Glint.] It should be made clear to the Player that proof is needed, not mere rumor. [Matiar will investigate the Dagrelins separately from Prota, but will take longer to obtain clear information since she doesn't plan to visit Greward herself anytime soon. Prota will have a chance to get the info first.] 

(The conversation risks stalling from here.) What is Matiar's interest in Prota's pilgrimage, and is it enough to overcome her current negative impressions of Glint? Matiar is used to working with unsavory characters and gleaning what information she can from them. Although she does not plan to offer any sort of long-term deal, she will continue the conversation a bit longer, and may agree to a trade of goods or verifiable information. 

After the conversation, Glint hopes to visit Brenelo and/or Jerome for news and rumors of trouble, then meet Nell for dinner. 

Asking what Prota plans to sacrifice to the Blue serves Matiar because it can be a lead-in to selling supplies. (It also serves as an anchor for the Player and a reminder of their overall quest.) 

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"I suppose it can't hurt," Matiar grumbles. "But I want proof, you hear? Your uncle gets no more work from me until I know the truth of things." 

Glint nods, sighing. "Fair enough." 

"That said, business is business," the trader adds. "I've supplied many a pilgrim with many a need in my time. What are you planning to sacrifice, young'n?" 

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None. 

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"Hair and pinky fingers," I reply. "But I'm leaving open the possibility that I'll be inspired to go farther when I see what I get."

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Prota answers Matiar's question. They suggest they may sacrifice additional body parts, depending on what magic they get. This is new information about Prota's intent. [Prota might sacrifice additional body parts after learning what magic or magics they get.]

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"Hair and pinky fingers," you reply. "But I'm leaving open the possibility that I'll be inspired to go farther when I see what I get."

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Step 97

(Prota's comment about sacrificing more parts creates an opportunity for worldbuilding). Stories may exist about people who have sacrificed body parts more than once. It is widely known that sacrificing several parts in quick succession tends to give a single magic or a related set. Sacrificing several parts at different times comes with an increased chance of utterly different magics, but this is not common knowledge. 

[Possible secret world mechanism: the Blue preserves rather than destroys. Magics are an echo of the Blue's own substantial magical power, manifesting because the preserved parts are still connected to their original owner. Concurrent sacrifices are more likely to be stored together by the Blue, creating a linked magic. Sacrifices distant in time will be stored separately as the Blue advances.] Counterpoint to this possibility: humans are the only ones who have magic. A reason is needed that animals, plants, or objects do not so benefit, even if they lose parts to the Blue. Possibly, a conscious brain is needed to access a magic. Possible implication: [the Blue is one manifestation of a larger system programmed to some extent to listen for instructions from humanlike brains.] 

Matiar has not studied magics, but she has heard many stories in her lifetime. She has moderate knowledge of Blue-related and magic phenomena. (To add worldbuilding depth and a sense of discovery, mix some false information in with true. In most cases, the potential unreliability of information should be telegraphed to the Player so they do not feel blindsided.) Matiar mentions stories she's heard about people who waited a while before making a second sacrifice. 

(No explicit mention of religion has yet occurred in worldbuilding.) {Failing to mention religion may have been an oversight.} It is likely that a human society with strong ties to magical phenomena would have religious beliefs involving them. The Blue itself might be personified in some belief systems, while others treat it as a mere fact of existence, much like a forest or ocean may be treated as embodying a god, having a spirit, or simply being a feature of the environment by different cultures. Consistent with the cultural behaviors portrayed thus far: [some clans consider the pilgrimage to the Blue a holy ritual, while others treat it as a merely practical journey. Prota's clan falls on the more practical side, with a hint of suspicion and taboo from some members. The Pratch differ wildly in their opinions. Adwell, Greward, and/or Bluward may contain more established, ritualistic, and/or formalized faiths for Prota to encounter.] 

How should Matiar's reaction reflect in-universe religious beliefs? As designed, Matiar herself is a mostly practical-minded character, and chooses to engage at that level unless she needs to pander to a particularly devout customer. (Later encounters may better reflect diverse beliefs. Brenelo and/or Jerome might be religious in different ways.) [Brenelo is the sort of person who will believe in just about anything, but not really change his behavior accordingly. Jerome is quietly faithful to an established religion, perhaps one not native to the Pratch.] 

Matiar's stories should be dubiously reliable. One should involve someone who tried a second sacrifice after liking their first magic but wanting more of the same. Another should be a stretch that isn't particularly believable and is in fact quite misleading. Precognitive abilities are rare and more commonly faked than real, even in this world, so they might be mentioned. 

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"Careful with that," Matiar warns. "If you're looking for related magics, I've heard it can matter how far apart the sacrifices are in time. I once knew a fellow who sacrificed a hand and got the ability to lighten his body a hundredfold. Thought he could fly if he got a little bit more magic, so he sacrificed a foot five minutes later. Instead he got the ability to move other stuff around at range." The trader snorts. "'course, I also heard about a lady who got memory from an arm and future visions from a toenail, so who even knows how the Blue decides.

"At any rate, any supplies you be needin' for the trip? I take hard coin, unlike some parochial clods you'll meet 'round here. And I sell most anything." 

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None. 

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"I'll try to decide quick," I agree. "I think we have most of what we need, but if you have a great deal on something we could take a look."

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Prota asks if Matiar is offering a particular deal, a low price on something in particular.

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"I'll try to decide quick," you agree. "I think we have most of what we need, but if you have a great deal on something we could take a look."

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