May 21, 2022 2:43 PM
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So, they are not driven by knowledge alone...or else this envoy does not want those listening in to know that she is intrigued by such secrets. Shame; the Dust one could be quite divisive if it were to leak to the aliens at the right time. She'll find another way to mention it, perhaps. In the meantime, a different angle. "I see. Fortunately for you, not all of my insights are so dangerous. But considering what they cost me, I do not think I shall reveal them for free. What do you have that you think I might find use for?" 

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"That's a hard question to answer, you live apart from most other humans so it seems unlikely you desire companionship. You also haven't moved much over the past few weeks so it seems you're comfortable with your location. We can certainly offer luxuries if that's what you desire but I don't get the impression that you're a person to be diverted by such things. If there's knowledge you desire we might be able to help. And if you're willing to share your goals I can say more about how we would be willing to assist."

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"Perhaps you could start by telling me how Starlight came to visit Remnant, and who you've chosen to contact thus far." The foolish naïveté of this "Starlight" reminds her of Ozma's incessant meddling, but she is unsure if his hand is guiding them. Maybe they'll be kind enough to tell her. 

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"Your world was chosen as a priority target for exploration due to relatively low population and relatively high death rate. We can derive details like that from outside of a world. Our initial explorer landed in Atlas selected at random from among the large settlements. Since then we've contacted each of the other kingdoms and Menagerie."

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"And how receptive have they been to your...improvements?" 

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"Atlas has embraced us the most though they understand the power differential and that concerns them a lot. Mistral is still not sure we're not a trick by Atlas though I think we've just about convinced them. Vacuo has accepted some food aid due to a bad harvest this year. Vale is still somewhat reluctant to accept most of what we're offering and Menagerie is currently undecided."

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Reluctant to accept...what are you playing at, you old fool? Surely you've heard. Are they perhaps not so benign, or are your old suspicions surfacing, hmmm? 

The game - the true game, the one she's played for countless millenia - has only one white king, and only one real player. The addition of more pieces merely makes it more interesting - and perhaps gives the players new advantages. For the moment, it seems the advantage is with White - but that is only for the moment. It is a very, very long game. 

"The Headmasters of the various Huntsmen Academies command significant authority and respect among the Kingdoms. What has their stance been?" 

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"They were our first point of contact in Atlas and Vale, Mistral and Vacuo we approached the governments more directly. And Menagerie doesn't have an academy. If you're curious Vale's main reluctance is due to our offer of widespread immortality."

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"It would be, wouldn't it. Always the fool, playing out his assigned part, a better pawn than a king. This, then, is my price, Envoy. Tell me truly what Ozpin told you, in its entirety, and I shall tell you the source of Dust and Grimm." 

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Siobhán sends a message to Ozpin asking if anything he shared is a secret that must not be shared with Salem but begins by telling Ozpin's version of Salem's history.

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It takes a few bare moments, then: I would strongly advise against revealing to her my suspicions about the dangers posed by immortality. She thinks I oppose it in blind obedience to the gods. Your tests may yet prove her right in this, and myself wrong, but until that moment I would not wish her made aware of another way to bring ruin unto this world. All else I have told you, she already knows. 

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That seems like a reasonable omission, she had already planned to omit their discussion of Grimm sentience. She relates everything else. Given that she's intentionally paraphrasing and relaying things in a different order these omissions aren't likely to be obvious.

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When she reaches the part about wanting to die, Salem starts laughing. It's a cold, humorless sound. 

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She pauses, "Is that inaccurate?"

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"Yes." 

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"Would you like to set the record straight, take a break, or have me continue?"

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"Don't patronize me, girl. What I would like is to tell you what I promised: the origins of the 'exotic matter' that interests you and yours so. Would you care to hear it?" 

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"I apologize that my attempt at kindness seemed patronizing, my initial training was as a therapist and some of that informs how I communicate. I would be happy to hear about the origins of Dust and the Grimm."

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"In time older than memory, the gods claimed to have given humanity magic. There were billions of people on this world, and magic was commonplace among them. They used it for more than just protection - cooking, cleaning, sport, merriment - they raised their children with the aid of magic. It was one of the few unambiguous goods that humanity could call its own, and so I highly doubt the gods intended it so. 

"If the gods did bestow this gift, they never bothered taking it back. They stopped it easily enough, when that magic was raised in rebellion against them. They obliterated all those people, but not their magic. Now all that remains of them...is Dust." 

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"Ozpin did tell us of the God's genocide, though he didn't call it that. I'm not sure what implications you hope for me to take away from that account of the origins of Dust."

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"You'll start to see a pattern, in time. Have patience. 

"In the early days of humanity, a young man came to the God of Light. 'Please,' he begged. 'My sister is suffering a terrible sickness. She is in agony, night and day, and no herb nor magic can cure her.' 

"'Alas, I cannot aid you,' replied the God of Light. 'To act upon your sister's torment would upset the great balance.'

"Devastated, the young man left the Land of Light. But he was not yet ready to give up on his sister, who suffered beyond endurance. So he journeyed to the Land of Darkness - to this very place, in fact - and begged the same of its ruler. The God of Darkness heard the young man's plea, and was moved. He promised that the woman's suffering would be ended that very night. Overjoyed, the young man returned home, ready to greet his recovered sister and family. 

"But when he reached his ancestral home, no joyful family greeted him. The door was smashed to splinters, the interior wrecked and stained with blood. The man fled in horror. He sought answers among the townsfolk, and pieced together this: that on the very night he petitioned the God of Darkness, a terrible monster broke into the home of his family, and murdered all those within. Unable to bear the loss of his family, the man retreated into the dark woods, and was never seen again.

"And so it was that humanity asked the gods for mercy, and the gods gave humanity death. Made of the gods' own substance, the creatures of Grimm grew fat on the blood of humanity, and wore our bones upon their faces to bring us fear. They are drawn to suffering because they are the gods' answer to it - namely, 'go away and stop bothering us; if living hurts too much, you can die.' 

"Pleased with his little joke, the God of Darkness kept these creations as pets. When the gods left - deeming Remnant a failed experiment, unworthy of further investment - the creatures of Grimm roamed free, to prey on all those who would come after." 

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"I have lived in those days, and I have walked among the gods. I know their minds better than any who yet live, even the one who thinks himself their servant. I was there when they cursed me with immortality for the sin of loving my husband; I was there when they murdered him anew. I was there when they scoured my home of life for the sin of seeking freedom from their tyranny. I was there when they departed this shattered world; I thought, once, that they were gone forever. 

"I learned later that they planned to return, and judge us. And if they found us wanting, the true death would come to all. 

"So tell me, O wise and kindly therapist, if you have half a wit to consider. What do I desire, and why?" 

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"What almost every person wants, freedom and safety. And perhaps revenge."

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"Not entirely wrong, but insufficiently specific. What I want, Envoy of Starlight, is to destroy the gods before they can obliterate humanity a second time. Until I develop a means to accomplish that, it falls to me to ensure that the gods, in all their alien wrath, do not return prematurely." 

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"I certainly support the goal of preventing genocide. I'm curious if you have any insight you'd be willing to share into what might cause the gods to return and repeat their atrocities. Ozpin mentioned uniting their relics as a condition. Is there another cause he didn't share that you're aware of?"

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