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Jul 06, 2022 9:16 PM
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"Okay, I should probably give you all the quick Oz briefing. Animals are people here, unlikely to be violent, don't pick a fight. Nobody ages and they only have rumours of death, so, uh, generally don't pick a fight. There's 'witches' who are powerful magic users that can leave stuff lying around that will curse you, and 'Fay' who seem like Heralds or Eternals and are probably generally bad news in the usual way; hopefully we don't run into any until we have some idea how we're approaching them, but I was also hoping that stepping backwards over the threshold would work and it did not."

The briars nod and make various slightly distracted signs of assent; they are still mostly gazing in wonder at everything being the wrong colour, and trying not to get left behind.

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"Yeah.  All the animals are people.  Some of them are friendly to us humans; some of them want to stay away from us - there're some others who really don't like us, but not around here.  Nobody's gotten older or died - well, 'cept in fighting, maybe - since the Greater Fay enchanted Oz."  He looks up to the sky for a moment.  "I saw their cloud-chariots..."  Then he shakes his head.  "Hope we won't see any witches.  But if we do, whatever you do, don't disrespect them.

"Pippi's with her parents in Ezania, a few hours thisaway."

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Everyone in the Imperial party seems to be quite happy walking along a game trail.

Allegra takes out a notebook and makes some notes about number of steps and a rough sketch of where they joined the deer trail as she's walking.

"I don't suppose... you have any idea of how we might get back, once we've sorted out the curse?" asks one of the ritualists, after a while. "Only, I'm not sure there are any Vallorn here, and I wouldn't like to disrespect my oath."

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"Oh, oops.  I guess you could find a Good Witch and ask them.  I'm sure they've been asked it before - well, portals to somewhere."

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"Sounds like a plan."

"What can you tell us about Ezania? Will there be somewhere for us to stay or should we start thinking about bush supplies?" 

"Uh, are any of the plants or trees people? If we're going to be picking stuff and making shelter frames..."

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"The plants aren't people; don't worry.  Well, don't worry about that - but make sure you aren't picking something magic; that's what got Pippi in the first place.  We've got room for you in Ezania; don't worry about that - spare rooms, and Mardle's old house.  He left town to find -"

There's a rustle in the bushes near the trail.

"Hello?" Brant calls.

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A fox pokes its head out from the bush.

"Oh, hi!  Did you see someone heading the other way, just a few hours ago?  This place, well, you might want to take another road today?"

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The briars start to look a bit more nervous / alert - a couple of them reach into hidden robe pockets or boots and check their dagger supplies.

"We weren't on this road an hour ago," Allegra offers. 

"Is there another road to Ezania?" asks a ritualist.

None of them look too surprised at the talking animal, given they've been warned about this and are in a weird magic place; random talking things in weird magic places are just Heralds, and everyone here has taken a Vate's oath at some point. 

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"Ezania?  Isn't that one of the human villages over thataway?"  The fox points with a foreleg.  "There's another road that goes right past the Witch's house, but - well, even if she's out today, I'd rather just go through the woods."

"She's out?" Brand says curiously.

The fox nods.  "Looking for someone, I heard."

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"Is that... Not a good witch, then?"

"We can walk through woods just fine, don't worry if we have to go off road."

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"That'd be Arzela.  No she isn't.  And...  she miiiiiiight... be looking for me.  Let's go through the woods."

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The briars are just as happy off the road, like they spend a lot of time making their way through woods. Allegra is definitely using her leafy staff to balance quite a bit, although partly that's because she is looking round an awful lot, in case anyone witch shaped is trying to get the drop on them. 

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The fox follows along with them, slipping under branches and bushes that the humans need to duck under or go around.

After a bit, he sticks up his nose and asks Brant, "Why's this witch interested in you, young human?  And how'd you meet all these friends so quickly?"

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"I... peeked in her house to try to figure out if she had any antidote to the magic flower.  She didn't."

(The fox perks his ears at this.)

"My best friend Pippi picked a magic flower by accident and got turned into a butterfly.  That's why I went adventuring!  And I didn't think Arzela caught me looking through her stuff!  Well, she didn't actually catch me.  Anyway, I was heading thataway on my Adventure when I found -" He drops his voice to an exaggerated whisper.  "A portal all the way out of Oz!"

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"If you hear of another one of those, by the way, we're, uh, in the market."

Nobody seems to be very surprised that Brant did a bit of sneaking around to look for the cure.

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"Oh my.  Good luck; I haven't heard of any of those in years and years."  The fox peers at them again.  "You're from outside Oz, are you?  Do you have any magic of your own?"

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"Yes, we've been specifically picked for it!"

Allegra picks up at this point:

"We have a Winter coven - that's these six, I don't do Winter myself - which can gather information about curses and destroy magical objects. I can do a variety of Spring rituals by myself, and a little Night and Day; mostly healing, purification, replacing enchantments with something that wears off quicker; and I can also do some spiritual effects, providing specific emotional patterns and attuning people to virtues, although I don't have very much liao on me - that's a substance needed to do that, the other things mostly take mana crystals which we have a few of.

And we all have some basic personal magics that recharge overnight, basic magical detection, operating portals if we could find any, that kind of thing."

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"Are you planning to make a house and set yourself up as witches?  And maybe take these woods for your own and keep out the other witches?"

The fox's tail is wagging a bit, and he looks eager.

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"We're _planning_ to do what we came for and try to go home.

Unfortunately, most of our powers run off a limited material we only have a small amount of here - if we find a source for it, we can consider other options.

I'm hoping to make contact with a 'good witch' and sell them on the prospect of trade - it seems like each side has things the other would benefit from, but reliable transport is the first requirement for that - the portal we entered by doesn't seem inclined to let us leave."

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"If you want trade, you'll need to make sure there isn't a Wicked Witch sitting on top of the portal here.  But why not try some of the magic or rocks here to recharge your magic?  I'm sure the Fay put everything into Oz for every sort of magic!"

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"Cenys, you're often on mana duty, keep an eye out for mana site signs or anything that looks vaguely promising?"

One of the ritualists nods and renews her efforts at gazing around in wonder.

"Is it likely that this particular portal will reopen at all, or would we actually be looking for another one to exit? If we can make two way travel work, I can go and hand pick a quest team to deal with any individual less powerful than the Greater Fay, within a couple of weeks, but what you've got here is a curse analysis group, not a fighting unit."

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"I dunno."

(The fox shakes his head too.)

"But if Arzela's already around here... maybe she closed it?  So we'd need to deal with her again."

Brant kicks a small stone; it crashes into a bush just a little bit away.

"Let's fix Pippi first."

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The party from Foundhome seem to be generally on board with this and conversation subsides a bit for a while as they make progress towards Pippi - but there does seem to be a distinct increase in worried / conspiratorial glances between them and calculating looks at Brant when they think he's not looking.

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Brant notices.  He's learned to be on his guard for that sort of look, when the more patronizing grown-ups feel like there's a plan they shouldn't let kids in on.

It's not like he's impatient.  It's some time before he looks over his shoulder and says "Hey, what're you looking so sly about?"

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"Just trying to figure out any way of getting out of here," one of the briar ritualists answers immediately.

"You did ask us to look out for options," another points out.

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