Jun 28, 2022 6:03 PM
vanda nosseo in velgarth shortly after the Cataclysm
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"Well, if you just want to go in the back room and whisper, we can also do that," says Zanro. "But those doodads get shipped in sound-baffle boxes in case a bag breaks in transit, so if you want serious privacy without teleporting to our spaceship, this is what I have handy."

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"This is fine. I -" 

 

And he should really have planned something to say - something that's neither an impassioned defense of all his choices, which is stupid, or else a tragically sympathetic story of his most recent choices which is even more stupid

"I do not entirely trust your delegation yet, but I have already gathered that either you are telling the truth about your motives, or it does not matter, since you are clearly powerful enough to impose whatever you want on our people anyway. - I do think you are probably telling the truth, just, my reasoning is not dependent on it. Anyway. I think the city would wish to ally with Vanda Nossëo, if you will have them. I think at this point you ought not consider me as part of the city. I...want to tell you some things about my past, since you are powerful enough that I am sure you will discover it sooner or later anyway, but I do not wish for my own mistakes to be held against anyone else here. They were not involved." 

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"We don't do collective punishment," says Zanro. "Not even to the extent we do punishment, which isn't much. Why wouldn't you be construed as part of the city?"

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"Everyone else was either born here, or was part of the segment of Urtho's army that evacuated to the east and settled here decades ago. I–" 

This conversation feels like one of the hardest things he's ever done, which is ridiculous, it doesn't physically hurt and it doesn't involve killing anyone at all

"- I have claimed to them that I was among the group that evacuated to the west, whose Gate was flung off-course such that they ended up on the other side of the mountains. This...is true of the body I am currently in. But I am not the original inhabitant of this body." 

- and he's trying to say the rest, but apparently it takes more than a few seconds to find the right words. 

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"- oh.

What... are you?" asks Zanro, blinking.

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"- Human, as far as I know."

That was not actually the question.

"I - I lived before the Cataclysm. My name was Ma'ar. I - was one of the mages who -

 

 

- who fought in the war." 

 

 

 

 

"I don't think I meant it to end this way."

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"Is - possession? - a common thing here -"

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"I have never heard of anyone doing it except for me. I....did not really expect it to work. - I had several other methods that I thought were more likely to work and which would not have involved killing someone to steal their body but apparently none of those survived the Cataclysm." 

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"- okay. Uh. Do you want... to talk to our boss, or to talk to - Tarwë has what might either be a horrendously depressing or empathetic story and I don't know which - or - I guess another important question is if this is going to happen again, are you going to possess another person if you die? We could try to get you screened for indestructibility but a fast-track plain immortality would be quicker -"

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He had not really thought that he had any expectations for how this conversation would go, but somehow this is still not what he expected! At all! 

 

"Probably it would work a second time if it worked the first time? I have been trying to– ...I have not been able to confirm that yet. But - yes, I think I would land in another of my descendants' bodies if I died." He was honestly very halfhearted about his attempts to have more descendants while traveling here, he really wasn't in the mood for it, but apparently some of his original body's descendants made it as far as the Haighlei Empire so he's not exactly worried about that. 

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"- specifically descendants, huh. Okay. Can you in point of fact un-do it if we get you an immortality ring?"

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"I could take apart the spell for it– I would say easily, it would have been easy before, I have - not actually attempted any extraplanar mage-work since the Cataclysm and I am not sure it would be safer on the other continent. But - probably I could undo it." 

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"Okay. So that seems like a - pretty straightforward case of, you killed a guy, under scarcity conditions we can fix, and you don't plan to do it again?"

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"....I have killed a very large number of people. I suspect I caused or contributed to causing the Cataclysm that almost destroyed the entire world, and - killed tens of millions of people. Probably. ...I have killed more people since then but - less than that." It would be pretty hard. There might not even be ten million survivors left on this entire goddamned continent. 

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"- okay. Well. Normally we consider, uh, our presence here to be a good occasion for blanket amnesty unless there is a clear sign of ongoing danger."

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"I have no intention of killing anyone else! Since you are giving us food now and I - am operating on the assumption that you will continue to do that and so it does not matter if the harvest makes it this year." 

This continues to really not go the way he was expecting. 

"....To be clear I really do not think you should just believe me about that." 

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"I mean, yes, the version of this conversation where we don't have a box on our heads involves lawyers and truth magic probably, but taking it as a stipulation."

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Oh, so they do have some kind of truth magic. Good. Lionstar has no idea what 'lawyers' are but that's - probably also good? 

 

 

He wants to ask them to bring Urtho back. But he already knows that they're not sure they can, not unless they manage to talk to the gods - which he's not optimistic about - and also he is not especially in a position to make any requests right now. 

"Anyway that is why I do not want my actions to reflect on the others in this city. They have no idea about my past and - they did vote on the law for executing criminals and using it for blood-power but I did all of the executions myself and I think it should be considered my responsibility." 

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"It's... not even slightly unusual for preindustrial societies to have the death penalty," says Zanro. "You're going to stop, now, right?"

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"- I was sort of assuming you would not allow me to keep doing it now that I have told you!" Which was...maybe half of the reason he wanted to. "If you feed everyone - and have a non-death-penalty solution to the criminals problem - then I have no incentive to, and I very much hope I will not be in that position ever again." 

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"I mean, occasionally we do actually have to keep letting a preindustrial society keep having the death penalty for a while for one reason or another, but like, you were doing it to feed people? That's not even a complicated amnesty that I'll be seeing op-eds about for a month."

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"- We were not only doing it for mage-energy, I - thought that would be bad incentives. We just - we really do not have the resources to imprison anyone here. We - I realize this is not much of a choice but they had a choice, if they - wanted their death to be used for that. I think about eight in ten people have? ....There is a list of names. On the wall in the town hall. Although about a quarter of the names were volunteers from the city and not criminals."

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"I think that possibly you want to be talking to a grief counselor and not a junior envoy who signed up to travel the worlds. I mean, you can keep explaining to me if you want but I do not know how to help you if saying that you will be pretty definitely amnestied isn't it."

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He has even less idea how to respond to that. He's....very tired. 

"If you are going to help everyone on this entire planet then I am not sure there is anything else I could possibly want. So - I suppose that is everything I wanted to say. You should talk to Tsashi about the city deciding whether or not to join your polity." 

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"It's - irregular for the effective second-in-command of a city to be a preadolescent. Is that actually what's going on or did you have another reason to suggest her?"

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