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May 21, 2022 2:55 PM
Vanda Nosseo meets Ars Doloris
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"We don't have taboos about that, although if it introduces us to any particular god-related risk I'd like to know," says Nelen.

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"Nope - the Church is my bio-dad's, the Art of Battle. He's at his worst just kinda interpersonally obnoxious - his main interest in interdimensional stuff will probably be seeing if foreign fighters can best him, but he's not going to randomly attack people."

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"...all right. And if he - challenges us to a duel or something that won't be rude to refuse?"

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"Nope - though if you go around blustering about how powerful you are and turn down a duel, you'll lose credibility. And if you accept a duel and give a good showing, he'll offer you his Favor, which grants various kinds of magic."

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"Good to know. We can have our meeting in the church if that seems best to you."

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"Most convenient at least, which is close enough." Onward, then. 

The main local Church of the Art of Battle is apparently one of the larger buildings facing the square, a five-or-so story building constructed in a U shape, set back from the road enough for an outdoor exhibition arena. The people hanging around (those not currently in a spar) wave or bow to the woman leading them, and she waves back with a laugh. The inside also seems to be pretty much a fighting-oriented gym, with multiple large rooms and extremely fine weapons that are apparently publicly available on racks along the sides, alongside obstacle courses and the like. It's just as beautifully designed as everywhere else, though the decorations and function of the place are definitely themed around martial traditions. 

Lace leads them up to a third floor office/ conference room decorated with a chaotic assortment of artwork on the walls - paintings and tapestries of combat scenes, a rack with daggers in ornate hilts, painted shields, masks - as well as several tall and very full bookshelves.

"Welcome to my office," she says, cheerfully. "Sit wherever you like, and help yourself to food and drink." She gestures to a small bar in one corner with a mini-fridge, a little cabinet, and a tea kettle, an eclectic mix of cups in cubbies above it. (There's a large comfy-looking couch, a daybed, two enormous beanbag chairs, an office chair, an oversized armchair, and exactly one chair that isn't horrendously over-plush. There's also colorful rugs on the floor.)

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Nelen sits on the couch, Natsuko takes a beanbag, Zanro does too, Cassiel flops on the daybed because wings, and Tarwë takes the armchair.

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She sits cross-legged in the office chair, twitsting it back and forth a little. "So - introductions. Who are you guys, where are you from, what's your favorite art..."

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"I'm Nelen Utopia, from Amenta in the world of Warp, and I mostly like theater - if that's what you mean?"

"Cassiel Jones, Revelation by way of Heaven, sculpture?" says Cassiel.

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"Exactly what I mean! But if you have a favorite piece or a favorite thing to do, that counts too."

"I'm Lace, I'm from Little Lightning Bug, and my favorite art is painting, right now." She nods to some of the paintings hung up around the office. 

Then: "What about you guys?" to the other three.

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"Little Lightning Bug is an adorable name for a place," says Natsuko. "Tanaka Natsuko, Cube, architecture."

"Tarwë, Space Arda - there are several Ardas, but ours was nicknamed for a unique-so-far trait instead of just called something pretty, and the alternatives haven't caught on - choral music."

"Zanro, Mîr, uh, hm, fusion thrash metal?"

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Tiny bounce! "What's fusion thrash metal? And why are there multiple Ardas?"

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"It's a kind of music," Zanro says, "thrash metal's a human genre but the kind I mostly listen to is orc-made stuff."

"There are some patterns, and also some people within or without those patterns, that repeat," Tarwë says. "Earth is a planet that repeats a lot - Natsuko and Cassiel are from different ones - and Arda's a pattern that repeats a lot, with most of them being single flat planets but mine having the same approximate story play out across two planets very far apart from one another. Thus 'Space'. Ardas are found at different times, and mostly have the same set of people you'd expect at that time - that is, an earlier one will have the same people a later one had at that time - but Space Arda has a larger population and I'm one of the extra people."

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"Huh. Wonder if there's other versions of me out there..."

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"There might be," says Nelen. "The way we have to check in cases where it's not really obvious - like them living in the same house and having the same name on a copy of the planet you live on - involves some modestly bottlenecked magic, such that it would be cheap to do it for a handful of people now and then, but we definitely couldn't handle everyone wanting to find all their alts, so it's not a typically offered service."

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"Eh, I bet I can talk some god or another into giving me an alt-finding power as a Favor."

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"If that's a thing they can do, sure," says Nelen. "But it's possible you don't have any; there's a few people who are important enough that the higher-ups wanted to go looking for more and failed to find any of."

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"Bet I have some, though I might have to go looking farther off."

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"I have alts and it's not that interesting," says Natsuko.

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"Oh, I'd have fun with it."

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"Enjoy," Natsuko laughs.

"Anyway," says Nelen. "Etiquette and surprises?"

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Giggle. 

"So - probably the gods are the biggest difference here? Or at least the obvious one."

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"It's also very unusual to be the only solar system in the world and to mostly live in pocket dimensions. but yes."

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"Those are both downstream of the gods, actually. Like, blatantly so."

"Solar system - the gods made everything in this universe to spec and they didn't feel like making multiple systems."

"Pocket dimensions - the vast majority of gods think sapient mortals were a mistake and so range from grudgingly tolerating us to actively wanting us gone. The bubbles make it easier to keep them at 'tolerating,' since we can have settlements without messing up their landscapes or being very in their face, and bubbles reduce the number of people a regional god can trivially get to if they're mad - they can disconnect the portal which will suck, but the regional gods can't act outside their territory and the inside of the bubbles doesn't relevantly count, so they can't just wipe out the city."

" - The gods with churches within settlements are all more-or-less mortal-friendly though, and gods overall are a lot less hostile than they used to be."

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"What happens to a bubble with a disconnected portal?" Nelen asks.

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