May 26, 2022 9:45 AM
vanda nosseo in velgarth shortly after the Cataclysm
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Lionstar isn't actually thinking about Final Strike ranges at all. The 'angel' claimed to be indestructible, so it's not like it would even help. He wants to hear what they have to say. If he doesn't like it, he'll have to do his best to persuade them otherwise with words, not force. 

 

 

 

 

Which is really what he should have done in the first place, before any of this happened. He very very badly doesn't want to solve any more problems via enormous explosions. 

He waits. 

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Once Cassiel lands and shows Nelen her photograph, they all appear, right there where she took the picture.

"Hello!" says Nelen. "I'm Nelen Utopia and these are Cassiel Jones, Tanaka Natsuko, Tarwë, and Zanro. We're a diplomatic envoy team from Vanda Nossëo, based around a star very far from yours."

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He stands up and bows to them, not sure if this is the appropriate deference. "Lionstar, formerly of Clan k'Leshya, now leader of - I suppose we do not really have a name, yet. The city in the east. As far as I know the only city. You - came here to open diplomatic relations with the countries here?" 

And he almost laughs, and in a deeper part of himself wants to cry, because of the awful bitter irony of them arriving thirty years too late. 

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"Yes," says Nelen, voice trembling a little. "I'm sorry, I wish we'd been sooner."

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"So do I. Can you–" And he has to stop and remember to breathe and center and ground. "If you have the power to travel between the stars, then - do you also see what is happening elsewhere on this continent? How many other places survived?" 

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"Yes, teams like ours are landing everywhere else we can find a population center."

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Nod. "And you wish to - trade with us? Request to settle here? I am not– I have never really considered what goals a civilization from another star would have if they were traveling to new worlds. ...Also it is very confusing how some of you look human. Does that happen often?" 

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"I'm a human," says Natsuko.

"I used to be," says Cassiel.

"Both humans and human-resembling species are surprisingly common," says Nelen. "Anyway, we hope to establish free movement and trade and flow of information between you and the rest of the multiverse."

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A pang of grief, and something like loneliness. Lionstar isn't even sure why he feels that way. 

"I suspect nearly all the remaining nations or settlements on this continent would be incredibly grateful. I...am not sure that we have all that much to offer in return." 

And it hurts, to know that if he hadn't made one terrible mistake, the delegation would be landing on a flourishing magical civilization. Urtho would have been so delighted to meet aliens - 

"...I know some of the magic that was lost in the Cataclysm. It - does not work well here, the ambient magic is still too disrupted, but I am sure it would work on the other continent. I - could teach it to your people, if you would be willing to trade that for food." 

It would probably be a disadvantageous trade from his perspective - they could use that knowledge over and over, whereas food can only be eaten once - and also he should probably be a lot more suspicious, but he's too tired to manage it.

And even a terrible bargain would be worth it, right now - they just need to get through another decade, until weather-magic works reliably again - at which point they still won't have the power for it, usable nodes and ley-lines are likely to take centuries to stabilize and accumulate useful quantities of mage-energy, but they do have alternatives, awful alternatives but better than children starving - and maybe in ten years they'll have more of value to trade, so they don't have to -

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"Vanda Nossëo is incredibly rich and mostly geared towards humanitarianism. But even if we were being selfish, your world has unique types of magic and your independent cultural output is of interest," says Nelen.

Cassiel picks up a rock off the ground and turns it into a huge sphere of some glowing fluffy stuff and pulls off a chunk and turns it into a sandwich full of roast beef. "Do you eat wheat around here? I can change it if you might be allergic to wheat," she says. "Or you can just have Nelen tap you if you react to it, he's got the good healing spell." She offers the sandwich to Lionstar.

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Well. Lionstar is definitely suspicious of that claim. Tantara was rich, and would have claimed to care about humanitarian aims...

It doesn't matter. As long as they're in fact here for trade and not conquest, it would be hard to imagine a bargain he wouldn't accept. 

"Our people would be delighted to open relationships with your people," he says, tiredly, and really he should have a thousand questions about the entire rest of the multiverse which apparently exists, about humans who can become indestructible 'angels', who can turn things into other things using magic that apparently isn't disturbed at all by the local conditions - 

He's even more doubtful at the wisdom of eating food that they just made with magic and handed to him, apparently not even asking for anything in exchange? Maybe it's drugged, or magical mind-controlling food.

(Also they power the morning's working with blood-magic, courtesy of a man who'd made a habit of breaking into remote farmhouses at night to steal all their food and scant valuables (Lionstar doesn't understand why anyone would even want gold and jewelry, right now, you can't eat or burn it) and rape the women, at least a dozen of them before they tracked him down and caught him. He agreed to let his death be used this way, and granted a funeral and a place in the city graveyard and on the List Of Names in the city hall, rather than an ignominious unmarked grave. The city voted on this law, and there's no realistic alternative where the man would have lived except the alternative where the alien visitors arrived four candlemarks earlier and it was the practice in Predain as well. Lionstar doesn't have any particular emotions about it anymore, but he never feels much like eating afterward.) 

He should eat anyway, on the premise that he can't see why it would be especially in the visitors' favor to poison or drug or mind-control him, and he needs to be able to think

"We have wheat. Thank you," he says after a noticeably long hesitation, and starts eating without enthusiasm. 

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"I can make things on request, but sometimes hungry people are overwhelmed by infinite options," says Cassiel. She heads over to the horse and gives it a carrot by the same procedure.

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The mare is so happy! Cassiel is instantly her best friend and will receive delighted whuffling and some horse-slobber. 

Once he's had a couple of bites, Lionstar is suddenly ravenous, and has to exert considerable willpower not to stuff the entire sandwich into his face at once and then probably make himself ill. Nobody is exactly starving, anymore, and families don't worry about getting their little ones through the winter alive, but they aren't eating a lot of meat. 

"We should," he swallows his bite of sandwich, "we should go back to the city. If - does it cost you more energy to make more things - we do have some books to trade." 

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"We'd love to see your books," says Nelen.

"It doesn't cost me any energy at all," says Cassiel. "I'm not terribly fast at it, if you had a million people you'd want a demon not an angel -"

"Sometimes," Nelen cuts in, "the translation magic renders 'demon' as something that sounds hostile, which the ones we mean aren't -"

"- but you're a pretty small village so I'll be fine for food purposes," Cassiel finishes.

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It's a good thing this. clarification was added because Lionstar is giving them a very alarmed look! 

"...Oh. So not an Abyssal demon. I - suppose I would have been very surprised if another world had those, and definitely if you worked with them willingly." 

And he's torn for a few seconds on whether to ask if they can use the teleport magic on him as well, because on the one hand he's suspicious, but on the other hand nobody is going to eat the food they offer unless Lionstar is there to reassure them. He's not the only one who's learned to be deeply wary of strangers. Especially powerful strangers.

But it's rapidly becoming obvious that the alien visitors are powerful enough to do whatever they want, and the fact that they're choosing to magically create food out of rocks is - evidence of something - it's hard to think about but it seems like an overdetermined correct decision to accept that offer. 

"- Does the teleport work for other people? I - would rather not wait a candlemark while I ride back and I am sure Shashi would rather avoid the exertion." He pats the mare's neck. 

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"Yes, I can teleport all of us including the horse if you'd like," Nelen nods.

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"Thank you." 

And they can teleport back to the 'city' center - it's really not much of a city yet - where Lionstar attempts to reassure a crowd of tense, worried townspeople that the alien visitors claim to be from an absurdly rich civilization that wants to help other worlds, and it's really a moot point whether they're telling the truth about that overall, because here they are offering food. 

He's going to wait until it definitely looks like the aliens are friendly and doing exactly what they said they would do, and also nobody has keeled over after eating their food, before having Corben bring the children back. In the meantime he can send someone to retrieve their precious chest of books, many of them "saved from before the Mage Wars." 

(They weren't saved from before the mage wars. But Lionstar is operating incognito with no good explanation for how or why he knows as much as he does - even if what he remembers is so vastly less than what the world lost - so he wrote up as much as he could, with the half-remembered names of scholars he's pretty sure really existed, and it's not hard to make books look older than they are.) 

There are books about magic - Gates, permanent Gates, construction spells, wards and shielding and communication, weather-magic, combat magic, nearly none of it usable right now. There isn't anything on the history of Tantara, because for whatever reason, magic he had learned himself is mostly in procedural memory which seems to have transferred surprisingly well from Lionstar's first life, and the actual geopolitical events...aren't. 

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Tarwë pages patiently through the books, taking pictures of each page, while Cassiel turns a series of rocks into giant cloudfluff feedstock she turns into loaves and tiny parcels of ham and chicken breasts and chocolate puddings and onigiri.

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Most of the generation born after the Cataclysm have never tasted refined sugar, let alone chocolate! They're so impressed about it. 

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Lionstar sits down with his people - they are his people, now, many of them were Urtho's people once but he almost feels more responsible for them rather than less as a result. He eats and drinks, and thinks about a plaque of names on the wall of the city hall, and how he really doesn't want to explain that to the powerful aliens just yet. Not until he knows that they're going to help the rest of the city no matter what. 

He tells Corben to go fetch the children. 

Eventually he asks, diffidently, if they have a way to get more information on how the rest of the continent is doing. 

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"Do you want to see pictures?" Nelen asks.

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"Oh, can you do that?" ...Stupid question. Of course they can do that. Lionstar is...kind of scared, actually, which might be a sensible response but it's not clear there's any sensible way to act on it. "Yes. Please." 

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Nelen produces his own computer - it looks like a different kind than the others, and he has to actually interact with it physically to make it do things - and shows him a satellite photo of the continent.

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He looks at it. 

He doesn't cry, because this wouldn't help with anything, but he wants to. 

 

 

"Do you....actually know what happened here?" he says dully. "We - have no way of knowing all the details - but we can give you an approximate accounting." 

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"We don't know. I'm sorry. We didn't know this planet existed until the circles had already been there for a while."

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