Jul 02, 2022 4:24 AM
Sida in Fallen Tower
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There's at least one book on every major faction in the public section of the Grand Library, though not all of them are particularly complimentary. The city doesn't appear to have any wide-spread periodicals. The Blessed of Light see themselves as basically heroic wielders of light-magic (specifically, the channelling of positive energy, the same force for healing, growth, and defence that healers use to heal, and one of the six fundamental substances of reality). Their rise to power was precipitated by the central leadership going around killing a number of people who were abusing their power, acting tyrannously, or otherwise being "villainous", and the current state of affairs is a mix of attempting to solve the problems some of that "villainy" was existing to solve (i.e. keeping crime rates down and financing operations of a large group), and constructing a framework intended to enable other people to follow in their footsteps. They have some technique which enables people to be "Dawnblades" - an aggressive melee fighting style combined with the light-channelling power of a healer, that works especially well when fighting things which are vulnerable to positive energy (but which is more limited than many other melee techniques, and much slower to develop spellcasting than a regular healer), and tend to train everyone who joins in this technique rather than optimising for diverse combined tactics like most other guilds. 

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This reminds her of how the kings of Mizraim claimed to be living gods. Maybe the Blessed of Light think that if they portray themselves as heroic vanquishers of villainy, it will give them some measure of legitimacy and cause the populace to object less? But is anyone really fooled?

Reading more books isn't going to help here. She'll have to talk to people who have more insight into how the city works than she does.

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Time passes.

Sida settles into a routine. She translates various obscure languages for a completely reasonable large amount of money, works on her upcoming book / disorganized notes about her home world's knowledge, and studies arcane theory. Parts of it resemble mathematics, but not enough to have definitive answers about anything. There are always exceptions and complications. It feels very much like the sort of trial-and-error confused maps of things people develop when they don't understand the territory at all. She finds it to be incredibly frustrating, and difficult, and it isn't the kind of thing she would ever feel the slightest interest in if not for the fact that it will let her do magic. But that makes it all worth it.

Nevertheless, sitting at a desk all day, working on various projects, gets dull. The work she's doing is, logically speaking, necessary for what she wants to achieve, but nothing will change the fact that Sida is decidedly unsuited for it. So, when she takes breaks, she walks around exploring the city. The novelty, so far, has not worn off. On one such walk, she visits the coffeeshop district, which she has discovered is one of the best places to find interesting people to talk to. Which is probably why people go there.

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There is a woman whose staff appears to be sprouting fig-leaves, engaged in an argument about the proper way to nourish grave-plants when cultivating them in captivity. The person she's arguing with thinks the use of a real grave is vital, but apparently she thinks there's a workaround involving concerning amounts of blood-and-bone fertiliser and buried mourner's clothes, if one can channel negative energy to make up the difference, that will get many varieties to live and grow, if not thrive. 

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A guard in face-concealing full-plate stands silently just behind her chair, where they won't get in anyone's way. 

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This sounds interesting. Some combination of botany and necromancy?

Sida gets a spot nearby to unobtrusively listen to their conversation.

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The conversation meanders through a series of other points about trying to artificially cultivate various exotic plants - these ones need concentrated sunlight from many mirrors to thrive, there're entire ecosystems which work best if you can shape the entire local landscape to concentrate background energies to where they are planted. Eventually, her conversant has had enough of her cheery demeanour and willingness to go into excruciating detail, and he goes to the bar to get a drink. 

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"I'm curious, how does one create magical plants?"

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"Ah, mostly you find them! The world is full of wonder and the art of horticulture is mostly about trying to get wild stuff that already exists to grow in captivity. Once you've got that far you can do a little breeding for functionality in captivity but you tend to trade strength for convenience pretty badly and selective cultivation of something which has a single bloom every century takes a while! Though I did hear about one time someone made cuttings spliced onto a non-magical analogue work pretty well for a situation like that."  

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"Do plants that depend on mirrors grow in the wild?"

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"Well, no, but in the wild they grow on the peak of a particular volcano and it's easier to use the mirrors than it is to use multiple kilometres of simulated volcano, as a rule. If simulating the volcano is even viable, I've never tried or read about someone trying."  

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"Ah, that makes more sense. I'm ah, new here, so I'm still learning what to expect. Do you guys have natural selection theory on this plane?"

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"That's a theory that sometimes comes up. It's not always that applicable, nature isn't really an equilibrium. You can also just really weird drivers - like elementals, those spontaneously generate, which can cause all sorts of havoc for the local environment, and magic can be horrifically mutagenetic at times. So you can have this broad intuition that things won't be alive if they don't have a way to survive but sometimes the way to survive is hyperspecialisation into a unique microclimate in a single tunnel somewhere or they just started existing yesterday and *won't* survive, or it was put there by the ancients being half-assed about biocontamination and is actually adapted for an environment a continent away. Or a god likes it, that happens with bees a lot."  

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"I like bees too. They seem like a sensible thing to like."

"So, you're a botanist, then?"

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"Bees are excellent but you should be careful - the god isn't good at humans. There are some people to the west who have interacting with it figured out, but it's not a trivial action. Apiarists tend to go mad." She laughs, like that was a joke. "I'd sort of like to visit some day."  

"Yeah! And a druid as well. The world has so many interesting plants and it's so rewarding trying to get them to grow. I can't wait until I'm stronger and can take a stab at some of the *really* impressive stuff. I fear even an assassin vine would get the better of me as I am today."  

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"When you say 'apiarists go mad', do you mean that apiarists find the god very frustrating, or that contact with bees drives them to insanity like some kind of contagion? Because that would be kinda concerning."

"I'm training to be a ritualist, myself. I've been itching to travel, but so far I haven't left the city. It probably wouldn't be very safe for me. Frankly, it's not as safe inside the city as I'd like."

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"A little of both! Most apiarists are fine, give or take, but occasionally you find one making graves for every bee, or trying to build their home into hexagons or live only on honey and pollen, or something like that. Once there was an entire cult of them infiltrating a city planning bureau somewhere to the south-east. I don't think anyone ever cleared up what they were trying to *do* but they were assassinating people, so..." 

"Well, the world isn't meant to be safe! That's not how you grow. I guess you should finish training first, though."  

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"Er, I'll be careful then. I didn't think bees were a threat to my sanity, but there's always something..."

"It makes sense that there should be dangerous places, for people to grow, but I think it would also be good to have safe places, for people who don't want to do that. And if the gods don't mean for that to happen, there's no reason people can't disagree with them. At least, I don't think people get smited for that kind of thing."

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"Well, fair! I don't think many of the gods are asserting that the world as it exists is correct and how they've designed it, if nothing else, how would they all agree on something? I mean, can you imagine? Getting half of a hundred powerful people in a room together and expecting them to agree on anything! I wouldn't think they could serve themselves tea. I guess it's safer in the southeast, where all the big countries are. they can afford to spend more time keeping everything under control. But travel is hard, and that's very expensive to do." 

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"To travel, or to keep everything under control?"

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"Well I suppose massed travel *would* be incredibly expensive to do, but I meant keeping all of the monsters and such under control." 

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"The-City-by-the-Fallen-Tower seems to be doing alright so far, in terms of not being invaded by monsters. It's mostly the lack of government and consequent state of danger that bothers me. Which doesn't seem like a problem of not having enough money so much as a problem of not having the right culture. Or maybe it's just an inevitable consequence of the power equilibrium here, I don't know."

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"I think describing the political situation of this city as statically anything is fundamentally misunderstanding things? My great-grandfather is always on about this - you can spend all your life trying to fix the world and you can be making progress, but it's hard to see when the world is big and complicated and never actually in equilibrium? And the world is even less in equilibrium than it normally is, what with that mess about the Kingskin Bodhrán. So I think eventually he'll get there and we'll have a proper functioning government. After all, we've managed the dole for a good bit, and that's a tremendous force for good. There are a lot of cities where people just starve, if they can't work and don't have family who can." 

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"I don't mean the kind of equilibrium where everything is static. There are dynamic equilibria, too. Where things are always in motion, changing and shifting, but shaped by underlying forces that are constant, and constrain the way things can be. The sun is always moving across the sky, but it rises and falls every day the same. That's an oversimple example, but, same idea."

"What exactly happened with the Kingskin Bodhrán? I think I've heard something about that, but I don't know the details—it was before I got here."

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"Ah. It's this big-deal artefact - gives a constant trickle of healing to everyone who declares fealty to you. Someone figured out it was under the tower somewhere, sold the information to every major power on the continent, and we had to put up with two months of them turning up and fighting over it. Lord of Light got it in the end, headed back home to use it to expand his empire, bring back the "good old days". Not really the best news, but what can you do?" 

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