Sida is walking along a mountain road in the dark. Which, sure, maybe isn't the safest thing, but walking in the dark is fun and she doesn't want to stop for the night just yet.
"Yeah, I've got a lot of tracting to do. Do you want to trade questions about this world for questions about my world?"
Sida is weirdly curious whether or not Hadar was independently invented here and can't help but notice this is an excellent test about how enlightened the Order of Edification is.
"That seems like it would be productive" She takes out a notebook, what appears to be a dip pen, and bottle of ink and sets them out so she can take notes. "Would you like to go first? You presumably have a better sense for what the differences are between your world and ours."
"Yes, here's what I've noticed so far. We don’t have magic, or at least any of the things I've seen here which were called magic. Humans are the only definitely-sapient species. The variety of human-like species is weird, but mostly believable, although I think I saw someone who looked like they were made of wood, that's crazy. Technology is a lot better, so things are probably cheaper unless magic changes that. Someone mentioned demons, we don’t have those, or at least not the kind that possesses goats. Also something about people living underground, which seems weird. The government is a lot more organized and centralized. Gold is probably much more valuable. I think that's most of what I've noticed. Oh, you said something about gods cursing people? Are gods real here?"
"I guess what I most want to know about it magic and how hard it would be for me to learn how to do it."
"The variety of humanoid species is at least somewhat artificial; at least a third of the humanoids to this region have specific known creators, but there are plenty of sophont non-humanoids, and not every species is known to be artificial. The wooden person, for example, would have been a warforged, most likely; they're the products of some pre-fall military infrastructure that someone gets working again ever century or two. Someone wanted nice quick army generation.
... "demon" isn't a natural category, just a vague label for malevolent supernatural entities. If it was possessing someone's goat, it was probably a minor fey, many of them exist to make trouble, and most of the other things that get the label usually have more important things to do with their time.
Lots of people live underground; I've heard it argued that there are more underground civilizations than surface ones, just from sheer volume, but it's hard to inventory them, since they can be very isolated.
One of those gold coins I gave you would be fair pay for a day of unskilled labour, and they don't have value beyond their weight of gold.
The gods are very real, yes, though divinely produced disease in particular is rare in this day and age, the current death-by-disease is a doctor and fairly prosocial, as far as disease-gods have gone historically. The normal pantheon has 35 gods, with variety of other gods who are ... not considered normal or safe to worship, and in many cases are actively malevolent.
Learning magic is difficult, and there are many traditions which are not technically mutually exclusive but in practice you should only do one if you're smart . Learning any at all can cut you off from other options as well, so it's not something to do lightly. But the public section of our library does have instructional books thought to be effective for the common traditions, and the city is full of people willing to take apprentices in whatever it is they do."
"Oh, a library, that's good. What are these gods like, in general? How powerful are they? And how intelligent? Do I have to sacrifice animals to them?"
"And, I'm not really expecting this, but there doesn't happen to be any reasonably cheap magical way to prevent or reduce the transmission of disease, does there?"
"You're currently in the best library in the city! It's mostly not public, but unlike our competitors, we do try to make some things accessible to those without the means to pay for access. Spreading knowledge is the Order of Edification's primary purpose!
Gods are quite powerful - they have quite comprehensive control over their domains, but they're still finite. People can and have killed gods with nothing but their personal strength, but those were the strongest people in their generations. You're not *obliged* to sacrifice to them, and they all want different things, but pleasing them is quite useful - for example, rivers with temples to the goddess of rivers on them don't transmit waterborne disease. That's probably the single strongest intervention of the sort you were asking about. What do you do about disease, without magic or gods?"
"Probably the best I can do personally is to wear a cloth mask, avoid touching people and especially their bodily fluids—fuck, kissing people is probably a bad idea, that sucks—and maybe eventually live in a rural area. I'm not sure how paranoid I ought to be, however, and maybe the best option is just to learn enough magic to cure myself, if that's doable."
"Things we do at home more generally include, uh, better masks, disinfectants to clean things, vaccines—which give you immunity to a disease—and medicines to treat disease. Come to think of it, I might be able to help out with that one. There are funguses that grow in soil which are good at killing some kinds of diseases, if you're able to find one you could grow it and make it into medicine. Oh and of course it's very important to control the spread of disease. But it seems like the government might not be able to do that here."
"Also I think it's a bad idea to eat monkeys."
"People being people, they will try and eat any and all meat that isn't actively poison - some people think that eating the flesh of monsters makes you get stronger faster, but I think it's just superstition caused by the fact that hunting monsters *is* a good way to get strong. I would expect alchemists to have found a fungus that could cure diseases if such a thing existed, they're all about that sort of thing. But if there isn't any magic associated with the species, maybe they missed it for the forest of obviously magical fungi to work with. If you have evidence something works, the deep gardeners will probably invest in it, but they have less than a tenth of a government's capacity to control the local population, and strong governments have trouble controlling their populations well enough to maintain a quarantine anyway.
Becoming a healer as strong as I am would be ... well, it took me three years of adventuring past the point where I could be considered a qualified healer at all, and then I retired to work on a research project rather than keep risking my life. I wasn't the most active delver though; I hear there are people who try and make visiting the tower every week work, and maybe they'd get there in a month or two. And it means being a healer rather than anything that can proactively contribute to your defence, so the risk of death is even higher than normal if you don't have a group you trust."
"Well, that doesn't sound promising."
"Er, what's this about monsters? It sounds like you're referring to something more than big game. And how does killing them make you stronger? Is this another magic thing?"
"Monsters are ... all the animals which aren't game? The big ones that can kill you easily, and which usually have magic. And also other forms of dangerous entity, like elementals, dragons, undead and sometimes fey or certain outsiders."
"You said you don't have magic, but you also don't have, like, names or epic heroes? People who have transcended normal limits in some respect through the power of their soul?"
"We don't have any of those monsters. The only thing you'd run into that you couldn't scare away would be a large nonmagical animal like a lion or a bear, and those you can often avoid. And a few smaller animals which are venomous or something."
"I'm not sure what you mean by 'names' or 'epic heroes' but I'm pretty sure we don't have any of those. Unless you mean people who made an impact on history because they were unusually smart, or lucky, or good leaders. Although I wouldn't describe them as transcending normal limits, just achieving more of their potential than most people ever do."
"Ah. Hmm. I hadn't considered that you might not have that. Well, there's - well, a weight, of sorts, that you can accumulate, by taking risks, exploring, fighting, pushing your limits, that sort of thing. An extension to your soul. And by default, what that does is it enhances you beyond what you can do merely by being smart or clever at the "mortal" level. The effects take a while to become particularly blatant, with that sort of unfocused holistic enhancement, but that would let a sufficiently powerful martial artist to fight a dragon to a standstill with nothing but sword-art and grit. Though someone with my level of experience and that sort of path could probably fight a wolf or a smaller bear in hand to hand combat? And this is what I meant about magic being mutually exclusive - there's the set of techniques we call "magic" and also all these other arts for focusing and channelling that weightiness of the soul, and of them, magic is the highest-investment, requiring you to turn nearly all of that weight towards channelling a force or shaping some effect. Even if you accumulate a lot of power, you're better off spending it to achieve greater results in one style of magic than mediocre results in two, since the effects tend to grow exponentially with investment. There are exceptions, but they're hard to get right."
"A name is someone with enough weight that they could, for example, teleport from city to city, or fight a hundred people at once, or raise the dead. Not all of those at once. The kind of person who you *have* to be paying attention to, in the grand scheme of things. There are maybe a hundred of them in the city, and this city is known for how dense with them it is. An epic is someone with enough weight to fight a god, an ancient horror from before the fall, or an elder dragon, that sort of thing. You're lucky, you arrived two months *after* every epic on the continent finished using our dungeon as a battleground."
"Uh, thanks. I think I am going to process this information later."
"I realized that I never introduced myself. My name is Josarin. I don't think I have any more questions for you, if you want to ask me some."
"Ah. Yes. I'm Sendra. It is good to meet you properly."
"I'm torn between trying to figure out if your world has more potentially useful knowledge like the thing about non-magical disease-curing fungi, or just trying to obtain information to satisfy the anthropological interest of whoever ends up reading my notes. Maybe I should take a day or two to get some plans together, and you can go rest from what must have been an extremely trying day?"
"Yeah, that sounds nice. I will warn you though, I don't personally know most of my world's scientific or technological knowledge, and some of it might not work well without, erm, all of the things that make our society what it is."
"And the other half won't work because the things the extraordinary powers enable get in the way, no doubt. But it'll still be worth trying, I suspect. And even if it fails entirely, it'll make for an interesting publication for the great library."
"Alright, I suppose I'll find an inn and come back tomorrow. Does that sound good to you?"
"Yep. I might not be ready to interview you first thing in the morning, but I can get you set up to read in the library or something."
"I'll definitely visit the library. See you later, then."
Sida heads out, asks one of the clerks or guards for an inn recommendation, and heads there to get a room.
The Sign of the bed and book is a nice, fairly large inn with private rooms, less than a block from the Grand Library, with a bookstore on one side and and a ink-maker on the other. Rooms are clean, private, have nice blankets, and cost 7 silver pieces (there are ten silver pieces to each gold piece, and ten copper to each silver) a night, or 11sp with meals (today's dinner: roast pork and steamed fresh vegetables, with a wide selection of sauces and condiments. Absolutely no stew, said the guard recommending it, like that was a vital commendation of the inn's cuisine).
Sida will get a room and meals. The accommodations are fancier than what she normally gets. Having this much pork with dinner is a rare treat.
After eating dinner, she heads up to her room to process.
So, she's trapped here and will probably never be able to go home. She won't see her friends or family ever again, which sucks, but she'll be able to move on. She's lost access to all the information afforded to the people of the Union, but that's probably more than offset by the new things she can learn.
And on the other hand, she did get hit by a truck. So everything after that is a bonus, really. This world does seem pretty dangerous, but it seems reasonably likely that if she dies she'll just end up somewhere else.
Okay, priorities. First thing she should do is get some kind of cloth face covering, and rubbing alcohol if she can manage it. Which is not nearly enough to make her comfortable, but probably the best she can do for now.
She has a lot of reading to do about magic, the gods, and this soul-strengthening thing. And if it's feasible, it would be cool to get started on that path herself.
And she should figure out what is the closest thing this world has to Hadar, and possibly try to reconstruct what she remembers of the canon to share with them. Sida is not at all the right person for this, but no one else is here, so she ought to.
Alright, this is pretty exciting. It's an adventure! Not the nice idyllic kind of adventure where you don't need to worry about dying, but realistically that kind of adventure probably doesn't have as much potential to be rewarding, anyways.
Onwards, then. To the stars!
The next day brings with it new potential!