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Jul 06, 2022 9:03 PM
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"Yes, and we generally return the favour - if you don't want to, let whoever is providing you food know, it's not uncommon so they'll understand."

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" - Not today."

A moment later, he adds uncomfortably, "Oh, I wonder, is that what the pumas and wolves are getting at with their toothy grins and such?  Pretending about wanting to eat the deer, like they would've before the enchantment on Oz?"

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"Yes, that sounds likely. Pumas and wolves are generally predators and eat other animals - or particularly small and unwary humans - and deer are generally eaten.

It does also sound like your animals might be more intelligent - animals here mostly just act on instinct, they don't think about things like people do. Or can, anyway."

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"Yeah, animals in Oz can talk just like we can!  And think!  They're people too!"

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"Ah, right - our animals can't do those things. Speaking creatures here are humans, orcs, heralds, and daeva, although you're unlikely to encounter the latter.

Every other animal doesn't talk, doesn't appear to have complex thought - except maybe dolphins - and doesn't appear to have a soul or spirit - except possibly horses, but you definitely won't meet one of them, they're extinct.

Some heralds can look a bit like animals, but they'll usually speak up if they don't want to be treated like one."

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"That's sad.  What're dolphins like?

And what's 'extinct'?"

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"Dolphins are mammals that live in the sea, they look kind of like very large fish but they actually breathe air and have live young and lactate. They chase ships and the Freeborn think that sometimes drowned sailors reincarnate as dolphins - if you end up in the ocean they sometimes help people swim to shore, but I wouldn't advise relying on that."

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"Huh - I don't think we have them in Oz; maybe our seas aren't big enough?  Fish in Oz can't talk; animals eat them sometimes - and sometimes humans too.  Pippi ate one once when she was traveling; she said it tasted strange."

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"Regio pockets don't tend to be that big, and we only get dolphins in the Bay of Catazar which connects out to the ocean, which is so huge it takes weeks to get anywhere across even with a fast ship. I used to take a small fleet on trade routes across it, and it would take most of the three months between festivals to get there and back.

Talking of time passing - would you be okay to try and retrace your steps now? We can keep talking as we go, I'm just keen to get it done before the light fades and you forget bits."

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"Sure!"  He drains his second cup of juice and slips off the chair.

"Uh, Oz is pretty big even though the seas in Oz aren't.  We've got the Munchkins, Gillikins, Winkies, and Quaddlings, and the Emerald City and its lands as well.  I don't think anyone's put fleets of boats on the seas?  We usually just walk around them."

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"If you can walk around the sea, it's not very big - the ocean entirely surrounds our continent apart from the north where it gets too cold and it's all ice. You can't walk from here to the Commonwealth or Asavea, there isn't a route on land."

Allegra opens the door and leads him outside, calling to a couple of other people who are hanging around doing domestic tasks to come follow them for a bit. Two of them grab spears that are just leaning up against buildings before following.

All the people have tattoos, usually at least one of thorny vines and sometimes others, and other than Allegra they all seem to have bark or raised green veins on their skin somewhere.

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"The sea's around the land?  I guess someone said that used to be the case outside Oz - but we can't go there now.  The Fay sealed it off."

Brant waves at the other people.  "Hi!  I'm Brant from Oz!  If we do find a way back to Oz today, are you planning on coming too?"

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"Is there Vallorn there?" 

"What's an Oz?"

"I think it's a summer regio pocket," explains Allegra.

"Can we extend the Trods out there?" 

"What do they think of Briars?"

"No one is going through today - except Brant if he wants to - I want to at least get the Winter coven together for an expedition, there's at least one curse."

"Ooh, is it an interesting curse?" 

"Isn't he a bit young to run off on his own?" 

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"What's Vallorn, and what're Trods?  Briars -"

He whirls to the person saying he's too young.  "Hey!  I'm quite mature enough!  I've been doing just about as much as Mom and Pop in the bakery for - for ever since Ezania started, almost!"

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"My kid's been helping at the stream for six years, but he's still twelve and he still shouldn't wander off unescorted. It's fine to have come here if your parents didn't want you, but you're safe with us now."

"Vallorn is - bad plants and stuff that kill you? We're all sworn to help defeat it but as Briars part of that is staying well away from it."

"Trods are what we use to defeat the Vallorn - you walk from one Vallorn to as far away as you can and it drags some of the energy out with it."

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"You're saying your kids are never gonna be able to go off by themselves?"

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"Oh, uh, sorry, are you one of the kids who, like, goes to Anvil and passes citizenship really young? I know those exist, I just didn't think I'd ever meet one! Of course my kid will get to do whatever he wants after his citizenship test, he's just not even interested in taking it yet."

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"Wow, he still isn't interested in getting to go places?  And you haven't pushed him to?  I know Heida had her parents trying to keep her in bounds for a while, but even they finally let up.  And she's littler than me."

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"He's still got some growing up to do. He'll probably be ready in another couple of years? It's a big thing, especially round here - if he wants to stay Navarr he'll swear his life to pushing back the Vallorn, even if he does it like we do here by supplying those who fight."

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"Growing up?"

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The Briars look very confused and unsure how to answer this question.

"...that might be a problem," says Allegra. "In... this world, each year that passes, humans grow one year older, and change from babies to children to adults, and eventually die of old age. Does that not happen in Oz?"

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"No - babies stay babies - kids stay kids, like me - adults stay adults - nobody dies.  It must be weird... How long does it take to become a grown-up?"

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The briar who has a kid replies: "Usually about sixteen years, maybe a little longer - it's not an obvious thing, people change every day, so we have the citizenship test to work out when someone should be treated as an adult."

"You might start aging now you're out of Oz," Allegra warns him. "And... some people will find the idea of never aging very attractive - if they hear about Oz they might try to get in. In large numbers. And take over.

About how many people would you guess there are in the whole of Oz? I understand that's a difficult question, but, like, hundreds? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands?"

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...

...

"Just... sixteen..."  He shakes his head quickly.  "I don't wanna be a grown-up so quickly!

"Er, more than a few thousand humans, at least.  And then there're all the animals - I've no idea how many squirrels and mice there are."

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"How would they cope with, say, ten thousand people experienced at fighting and organised and equipped to do so, turning up at the place you left?

That is the kind of thing that might well happen if we tell the wrong people about this."

Allegra's latter comment seems to be partially directed at her briar companions, not just to Brant.

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