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May 21, 2022 3:55 PM
The Graveyard Rose meets a town that's off to a good start.
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“Yes. Your forces expressed desire that none be allowed to escape, so I attempted to ensure that none did. I would have offered to accept prisoners, but I was led to believe that was not feasible.” 

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"We've taken goblins as prisoners before, but it isn't very useful. They don't say anything that can help us, and even under constant supervision they still cause plenty of damage. If another titan attacks us we'll want to capture them."

He accepts the jar of blood back, when she's done.

"Is there anything else that would be helpful to you? The archivists are waiting to ask you questions until you've recovered further, but if you have questions for us, I can let them in."

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“I have recovered. Though I would appreciate being less naked before I meet anyone else.” She looks around. Pearl hair net, ring, hourglass, scythe… “Where is my armor? Nevermind. I assume you have it somewhere and another battle is not impending? Um. Probably I should speak to whoever is responsible for overarching strategy decisions? I know nothing of your lands, your country, or your situation, but if another attack is possible, we should figure out what of my knowledge is most important to get people working on quickest… Morr but what I wouldn’t give for a battery of good Nuln great cannon next time we had to face a Titan…”

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"We have your robes and armor. The robes are in poor condition and we do not know if they can be repaired. The armor is here."

He gestures at a basket in the corner.

"Do you want it now? I have new clothes for you as well. Strategic decisions are the domain of the Lord Archivist, but he may send a military advisor instead. I'm sure one of them will be available to speak with you."

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“Probably the robes can be repaired but they are merely mundane so there is little point. I would take a fresh set of clothes, and then speak with whomever you deem most urgent.” 

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He brings in some local clothing. They don't appear to have invented tailoring to the degree that it's possible for clothing not to fit.

"Do you want me to call an archivist here? If you're feeling well, you could also meet them at the administrative center."

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“I am feeling as well as can be expected.” Elspeth dresses quickly and tries not to add FASHION to the growing list of things she needs to share with these people. She will wear her armor more to keep it from being misplaced than anything, though giving a martial impression also wouldn’t be amiss. She will monitor the men’s minds though, and if they seem to be getting the wrong message, she will leave it. “I know more things than magic alone, though I was considered an expert at that where I come from. I am happy to share what knowledge I can, and will gladly do so in whatever order you think most prudent. The administrative center may be more comfortable for your archivist than… a surgical ward I assume?” 

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They have fashion! It just consists entirely in dyeing, draping, and cinching. Not in cuts or sewing.

They don't dwell on her wearing the armor, though the soldier has a small concern that metal armor is uncomfortable.

"Well, surgery room, yes. I think there's worse places in the city to talk, myself. I put in the tile so the floor wouldn't always be so stained, but now I think it looks striking! The muralist did a lovely job. Oh, but yes. If you're from far enough away, the archivists will likely want to buy everything you know. I'd buy plenty of it myself, but they'd know better what's most valuable, and as I said, they could outbid me anyway. The administrative center is just south of here, the one with the wall, behind the trade center. I can show you there, but the wall is distinctive."

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“I would appreciate a guide in this unfamiliar place.” 

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"Of course! I'll send you with a soldier, if you'd find that acceptable. My assistant and I need to cleanse ourselves."

He calls in another soldier, while the three oiled men go to wash up.

The day is getting towards evening, and the city is starting to grow dark. It is dense, but not tall, and mostly built of mud bricks or quarried stone. The surgeon's door faces directly over a large river, muddy and very still. Dozens of boats are traversing the river, heading up or downstream, or along canals dividing streets. But the surgeon is on the same block as the administrative and trade centers, and can be reached on foot. The road is stone on this block, but across the river are dirt paths. The winds of magic are nearly silent, here, coiled tightly around Elspeth. The searingly precise lines of local magic, however, are denser than on the battlefield, and are particularly active further down the river.

The administrative building is the only one with a wall, though not the only one with guards. It is built something like a fortress, with layers of stone sloping inwards into a building that is large, but has little usable interior area. The soldier presents a bronze tablet stamped with writing to the guards at the door. They place it onto a pedestal, activating some of the local magic. One of the guards has the same distant magical connection of the mage from the battle, and, apparently satisfyed, returns the tablet to the soldier.

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Fascinating! Elspeth will be able to teach them much more than she had expected- fresh water, and water born diseases especially- but she will also unexpectedly be able to learn here. Never before has she seen the winds of magic behaving so, and the security speaks well of its innovators. Speaks well of their receptivity to inconvenience in the name of prudence as well! Indeed, comparing it to the steam-powered industrial sprawl of Nuln, Elspeth is painfully reminded of the magistrates’ reluctance to impose her suggested screening at the city gates when farms had first been found burned and daubed with the trifurcate sign of the god of decay… so much whining about lost profits when their very existence was on the line… 

Elspeth draws herself back to the present with some effort: these people may be more receptive to her advice than were the people of Nuln. Elspeth may be able to find a home here! 

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Inside the wall is a courtyard, with a path circling the building. In a corner is a fountain apparently fed from an overhead aqueduct. A young woman is pacing along the path, manipulating a magical construct that's significantly more detailed than the spells used by the military mage. She interrupts herself and comes towards Elspeth.

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Well aqueducts and fountains speak promisingly of their fresh water hygiene! Elspeth will wait to be introduced because she does not know anything about etiquette here. 

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"Are you the visitor? I'm Dainan, I'm here to interview you! Thank you, Pomyrion, I have a room here for her."

The girl doesn't look quite like the other Oikonians, with long ears and different bone structure. She is suffused with magic, both that of local mages and some more reminiscent of the proper winds. Also apparent to Elspeth's magical senses is a sort of magical battery, a rectangular prism constructed of precise magework, containing a dense cloud of energy.

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The soldier bows and gestures at Dainan.

"Lady Wizard, this is Dainan Kelandanos, apprentice archivist and soldier, daughter of the Lord Archivist." He turns and gestures at Elspeth, as well. "Elspeth Von Drakken, Archmage of the Amethyst Order of Nuln, wizard of the fourth tier, and loremaster."

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"I've heard, yes! I think the top priority is to find the location of Nuln, but after that I just want as broad of a first-pass overview as possible. Would you like to come see some maps?"

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That these people can make something like her Black Periapt is encouraging. 

“Yes,” Elspeth replies. “Please. And perhaps a brief overview of your culture, government, and situation?” 

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"Oh, of course! Would you prefer the formal design document, or the informal summary?"

She ushers Elspeth inside the building, down a stone hallway towards a central room with several branching doors.

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“Whatever is easiest.” She’s so cute and energetic! “Um, perhaps also a general overview of your technological level? I haven’t seen any cannons, and those would have been extremely useful against the Titan…” 

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"I don't know what a cannon is? For river-boar hunts we sometimes use a pulley bow, like we'd use if we knew a ship was going to attack us. Normally we just use a mage, but the titan was also a mage, so I don't think that would work. Um, let me see... Our neighbors think we're pretty rich, and I think that's mostly accurate. We have more reserve grain than Delos, and they're the only ones who tell us those kinds of numbers. Delos has a few printing presses now, too, but we send people to maintain them. I don't think anyone else around here has figured those out yet. I think our best recent invention is that we recently started tracking how long children live in days? So we could run a bunch of studies on what kinds of things doctors should do and get really quick results, since babies die faster than adults get infections and stuff. And that said we needed a lot more boiled and filtered water, so we got a bunch of mages to make a really big filter at the aqueduct reservoir, and that seems to be working well. We have less dysentery than three years ago. Only by about a third, from the archive reports, but I think it might be a bit more than that cause people are less likely to report a case when they get sick more."

She pauses for a moment.

"Um, for the laws and government it's probably quickest to read them? We don't have that many, less than Delos... Though some things they do with laws in other cities, we do in other ways? But those are about fishing and stuff, they probably won't come up right away."

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“I am very impressed by your aqueduct and printing press. It took the empire- uh, a different empire than the one you’re fighting- it took the empire thousands of years to figure out that water is better clean, and that people who drink contaminated water can become sick. I think many of the farming hamlets still didn’t have modern water supplies. 

Uh… a cannon is a… hmm. You know, I’ve never met someone who didn’t know about black powder firearms? Do you have a handful of flour for demonstration purposes? I digress. I apologize. It comes from living so long I think. I forget how long I’ve spent on a thought… yes, hearing about your laws and government sounds excellent. Also, aside from martial prowess, what do your people value? Art? Music? Is this a treasuring and caring for the elderly sort of place, or is this a you get ahead in ritual challenges and as soon as you can’t win challenges you die sort of place?” 

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"Thousands of years? Aqueducts aren't much harder than buildings with two floors, Oikon was founded less than a hundred and seventy years ago... Oh, sorry! I can do the laws, just a moment..."

She triggers a spell that magnifies a section of the magework surrounding her, and then shifts it around until she finds what she's looking for and triggers another spell. An illusion appears, producing visible light, showing an image of writing. She grabs it out of the air, it apparently has some solidity, and hands it to Elspeth.

"The writing is a little small, sorry. I can make the page bigger, if you want. That's the basic structure. Laws, enforcement methods, insurance mandates, territory boundaries, definition of citizens, land and resource use fees, arbitration fees, stuff like that. I'll think about the other parts while you read?"

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"Hm, okay. So it's kind of hard to talk about what's different about us, when probably everyone you know is way more different from us than we are from everyone we know, right? But in comparison with our neighbors, we spend more on infrastructure and hygiene, and more on musical instruments. Less on dye, and we use a lot of papyrus but we grow that locally, and we make some ink locally but we import a lot of that. We write a lot of things down that other people don't write down? We don't just track imports, we track all sales at all shops. A lot of cities keep some records, but we consult them all the time, for everything, and the archivists make a lot of important decisions. In a lot of places, soldiers make most of the decisions? And we don't really do that, it's the archivists instead. But I'm also learning to be a soldier, and part of the reason why is to check if it helps more than we thought."

"We think of ourselves as caring a lot about making good decisions? And we try to handle a lot of things peacefully which other cities handle by just telling the guards to force people. Like, in some places they make everyone make their bricks the same way, and they arrest you if you make the bricks wrong. But we have a thing where you can tell us what you think your bricks are good for, and how strong they are, and the archivists will secretly buy some and test them, and if you were right about them we give you a sign with a little magic so you can say how good the bricks are and people will trust you. And then people know to be cautious of bricks that haven't been tested. I guess maybe we can only do that because everyone knows how to read? And that's kind of unusual, most places there are a lot of people who can't. But I don't know if that's really the kind of thing you mean by culture? We do a lot of that stuff cause we tried it and it worked, and we'd do it differently if we thought that would work better."

"I'm not sure what you mean about treasuring the elderly or them dying, though? Elderly people live the same way anyone else does? They work, or if they were successful they live on their savings? And they pay for insurance or have a lot of kids, and if they can't work, the kids or insurance company supports them? But that's the same as anyone. I guess a lot of older people have more important jobs, in management roles? So maybe the first one, of your options?"

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While Elspeth has been reading and Dainan has been talking, they've reached a meeting room. It's a fortified, stone space, with wooden chairs and a wooden table. There are no windows, but behind wooden grates on the walls are bright magical lights.

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“Well, I have to say that I’m encouraged by what I hear. A lot of my difficulty in Nuln was in convincing people to try something new, and it sounds like your city has done a good job of solving that problem. This answers my questions I think. How do I fit into this?” 

In reading the laws, does anything seem particularly relevant to vampires who have no particular desire to hunt unwilling humans? 

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