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Jul 02, 2022 3:27 AM
Vanda Nosseo deals with Sesat
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"You may do so, provided none of what you sell is meant to kidnap or ensorcel anyone or facilitate any kind of crime. No poisons, no - it should all be very commonsense and as humanitarians I do believe you wouldn't. Oh, and check in with city governance after this meeting about where you can put your booths that isn't spoken for, there'll be convenient places but I don't know where they all are off the top of my head."

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"Usually on planets like this it's things like rocks enchanted to be warm, or heal people near them, or advanced lights that last for decades," says Nelen. "Clothes, food, things that play music, translation enchantments like ours..."

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"Those all sound like fine things to sell, and you may do so. In general merchants pay a fraction of their goods or of their proceeds in tax, but doctors and apothecaries don't. I'm inclined to treat magic healing as the same kind of thing as a doctor or an apothecary, but the rest of it as miscellaneous goods taxed at one part in twenty; I will entertain arguments otherwise."

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"- well, we'd be taking payment in stories, fictional ones or personal anecdotes. As an effort to make sure things are affordable and to get a snapshot of your culture in its current state. How would you normally handle taxing that?"

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"Barter of goods for services is generally taxed as a fraction of the goods in question; services for services is not but providers thereof are sometimes commanded to provide their services for the good of Sesat. - What I'd do with five percent of your magic items is give them to people to test and let the results of the tests be known in all of Sesat, by the way, if it grieves you to think of them unused in a treasury." And if instead that makes them more averse to paying, well, that would be good to know.

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"Oh, so for every twenty healing rocks we gave out you'd want one? That sounds fine," says Nelen.

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"Yes, quite. If we don't come to some broader agreement, do you plan to stay here and sell these items indefinitely?"

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"Us personally, probably not, but the booths can be staffed indefinitely."

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"Hmm. Are you also offering to teach our people to make these kinds of things?"

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"Most of the magic you can enroll in classes for has a screening process, but individuals can enter Vanda Nossëo even if their home states don't sign up and look for classes to join. If you want a more targeted program aimed at specific interests and needs of the Sesati people you'd need to be a member state."

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"And - entering any of these classes requires that the student join Vanda Nossëo and leave their home behind?"

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"Not necessarily on a permanent basis but the class would not be located here."

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"Would there be any problem if someone went abroad to take a class, then came here and taught the rest of the country?"

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"Someone who intended to do that with one of the more sensitive kinds of magic probably wouldn't pass a screen."

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Ah, so the tactic they'll be using is to fatten Sesat up a bit, let the population grow beyond what the land can support, and then threaten to leave and let all their unrepairable magic items wear out and cause the greatest famine in history if Sesat doesn't acquiesce to whatever they feel like demanding next. That's even worse than he was expecting. Option one, he can bow now, hope to pass their screens - unlikely, everyone knows he wasn't an altruist yesterday - or, option two, he can stand up to them while leaving an opening for some actual altruist with a scrap of loyalty to Sesat to appear to side with them - or, option three, he can take the same actions as in option two and not end up with any support and simply die with honor.

"I'm afraid that training myself and my people in your magic is a necessary condition for a long-term peaceful trade agreement between us, let alone - " (becoming a vassal state, but if he doesn't say it he has an out to pretend he didn't notice, later, if he absolutely has to) " - seeking membership in Vanda Nossëo."

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"There are some kinds of magic that aren't transmissible in a way that we'd worry about," says Nelen. "For example, the empress of Mîr can add somewhat customized magical powers to people that they then can't teach to others who haven't had the same process done. I say somewhat customized because it's most efficient to do it in batches of a few hundred, so there are some popular standards and it's a little tricker to find people to go in together on anything more unusual. But many kinds of magic are extremely dangerous. The teleportation magic I have is mostly just used to move us around from place to place, but it does not have any discovered limit on the size of what I can bring along. Our most powerful healing spell is part of the same magic system, unfortunately, so the screen to get that one is the same."

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...There might not be a thing that it would mean, to lose valiantly in a fight with these people. It might be that no one in Sesat is worth anything, with these people around; it might be that all he can do is keep that from becoming common knowledge, maybe long enough to make it false or maybe not. It might be that he should fuck off to Vanda Nossëo by himself and become the world's most pampered slave.

"Magic we cannot pass on to our children will not suffice," since leaves them open to the exact same tactic, "but if you have a list of common batched-magic types oriented toward protection or food security I'd look at it, at least."

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"I can get you one of those, yes. There are lots of things we can share that aren't magic at all. The technology level here isn't high, compared to many Vanda Nossëo planets when we first find them, let alone afterwards. Lights, for example, and heat - the enchanted rocks are easier to use, but they're not what most Vanda Nossëo citizens have in our homes. Better construction and farming techniques. My home planet had a little less land area than this one and we have comparable needs to humans in most ways, and by the time our constituent countries joined Vanda Nossëo there were over thirteen billion of us on it."

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"...Ah. And what would you like for that knowledge?"

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"One thing we're trying some places is dropping off magical automata that can give science and math lectures; if you'd like some of those it's free, we'd just want to be able to take data on how it goes. We'd also be happy to put in a 'bus stop', a site where large batches of people can teleport in and out between Sesat and other places in the multiverse, and then could find classes on those topics on their own. If you want a local popup school staffed with sapient teachers we can do that in exchange for some consideration - probably it would be most straightforward to send Vanda Nossëo some of the slaves, provided we could be sure that the slavetaking and slave-breeding rate wouldn't increase as a result, but we could work something else out, especially if there's a reason it might be particularly appealing for a teacher to live and work in Sesat."

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"I think the automata sound promising; what sort of data would you be interested in?"

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"Oh, we'd just visit the automata occasionally and ask them how many people had been by and what they'd wanted to learn about."

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"I think - not within a city, they're cramped and it'd be disruptive - I think you should find a suitable area an hour or two out from a city, and I think you should buy it yourselves, rather than me, because you're likely to be buying from someone who owns a farm that unfree labor works on, and by decreasing that person's land you'd be decreasing the use that person has for labor, so they likely wouldn't replace the slaves. But it wouldn't be a deal Sesatis in general could make arbitrarily many of, it'd be obviously a one-time thing - or two or three, if you want better coverage, but a small fixed number which you could announce in advance."

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"That sounds like a good plan, thank you, your illustriousness."

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"I know, that's why I suggested it. And about that 'bus stop' - can you tell me more about how that would work?"

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