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Jul 06, 2022 9:25 PM
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"Well, did you think of anything?"

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"Not really," admits the first one sheepishly.

"Maybe if we could find some substitute for crystal mana," the other muses, "but even then I don't think we even have enough power for casting Clear Glass, we're pretty specialised in curse investigation."

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The fox (named Frinnac) perks up his ears and sniffs a little ways ahead and to the left.  "I smell something!  Something magic - not you, but different - don't know what.  Thataway!"

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"That... might be where Pippi plucked the magic flower?  Maybe?"

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"We'll be sure not to pick any flowers without asking your advice," one of the ritualists reassures him.

"If you still have the flower and Pippi, those would be the best things to do our ritual on, though - we don't have either of the major location targetting ones mastered," apologises another.

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"Then... she dropped it pretty close by where she picked it, once she started turning to jewel.  If you can sniff out the magic" (he turns to Frinnac) "we might be able to find it."

He leads them off ahead and a little to one side, in the direction Frinnac was smelling the magic.  The ground starts getting a bit soggier, and there're more smaller plants between the trees.

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"We can detect magic on it, at least," one of the ritualists offers. "That should tell us if anything else would be useful."

"Don't quite have to touch but d have to get close," adds another, "is that going to be a problem?" 

"Do you actually know where Pippi is right now?"

Allegra is being strangely quiet - she looks increasingly irritated at the landscape, whilst her briar ritualists are perfectly happy picking their way through the increased undergrowth, like they do it all the time.

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"Getting close to magic things is usually fine if you make sure you don't touch it - even if there's a sudden breeze or something.  Pippi's with her parents back in Ezania...  What's wrong, Allegra?"

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The brush bends in a sudden wind coming from ahead and a bit to the left.

Frinnac's ears suddenly stand up, and he sniffs into the wind.

"Human.  And magic.  Thataway."

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"I'm not fond of any of being stuck places, unfamiliar swamps, and unfamiliar magic," she explains. "It brings up unpleasant memories."

At the fox's note, she shakes off the melancholy a bit and adjusts her grip on the staff, going from 'using it as a leaning post' to 'ready to fight'.

"Do we have any idea who? Could it be the witch?" 

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"Yyyyyyep.  Why'd she be here!?"

(The fox nods too.)

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"This being a summer realm pocket, I expect that coincidence is setting us up for a dramatic confrontation. Or she's just back to check on her magic flowers."

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"So... we should go find her?  Or just stay here and wait for her to find us?"

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"Now, that depends on how much we want to play along. And if we can think of an suitable plan.

Generally I'm disinclined to play along with Realm nonsense and would say we should skirt round the area, get to Ezania, find out how to fix Pippi from the most likely target to work with our ritual - Pippi herself - and then give in and meet the witch when we have more knowledge of what we might want to bargain for.

But this is your homeland - do you think that sounds like the kind of plan that would work out, or the kind of plan that will go dramatically wrong?"

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"Yeah!  That's what I wanna do too.  If the witch's interested in us, it probably won't end nicely - at least not for a while - so let's help Pippi first.  And if it doesn't work - well, we tried."

(Frinnac nods along.)

Brant glances around for a moment and then sets off in another direction, where the ground quickly gets firmer.  After a bit, he turns again along a more-defined path.  They can hear birds chirping, though not from the direction of the swamp.

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Yes, good, let's not meet a witch in a swamp. Birds chirping is also a good sign. Hopefully there will be a village soon, they can at least discharge their obligations, and then they can see how good Brant's plan to get them home is and decide whether they're going with that or... the other plan.

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After a few minutes Frinnac says, "The magic's gone.  She must've left... leastwise for now.  I have known her to give up sometimes, but I wouldn't think she'd give up so quickly."

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"Maybe she went back to try to reopen the gate?  But let's go cure Pippi first!"

After a minute, he adds, "Everyone will be so surprised you're from outside Oz!  If you stay for a bit, there'll be so many questions!  And then some people will want to leave with you!"

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"Oh good, it sounds like more help on the quest might be very welcome.

I wouldn't worry too much about the witch getting through to our world, we're quite used to containing unusual magical threats. Foiling her plans will probably entertain some Vates and maybe Threshers for a bit, depending on how far she gets."

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"Oh good!

"Uh, can we get some of those to fight witches here too?  If the portal stays open?"

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"Yes, I would expect a number of enthusiastic quest parties to come through if it was open and widely known.

Although I can't guarantee they would all have your best interests at heart, if it was entirely public knowledge.

Some people would want to make deals with the witches and work for them in return for their magic, some people would want to exploit the natural resources, some people would want to bring through everyone who didn't fancy a go in the Labyrinth..."

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Pretty soon, the forest changes to fruit trees, and then opens up to a meadow thick with mostly-blue flowers and wheat and other plants obviously growing by themselves.  And behind it is a village - a few dozen whimsically decorated homes, most colored one shade or another of blue, all very neatly built in orderly rows and curves and looking like they've had decades and decades to patch up any problems.

A woman gathering some wheat in the field looks up in surprise.  "Brant!  You're back so soon!  And -"

"Hey, Clatsa!" Brant waves.  "We're here to disenchant Pippi!"

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The briars are obviously hanging back a bit awkwardly, so Allegra steps forwards to introduce them.

"Hello, Clatsa," she says. "We're a small delegation from another part of reality - outside 'Oz' entirely - and we have a little magic that might be able to help Pippi. It's something we can only do co-operating with each other - we're not witches as you understand it, we have much less individual power - but it can tell us what the full effects of a curse are and how to remove it."

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Clatsa stares in amazement, letting half the wheat fall from her arms.  "Outside - outside Oz!?  Can people come back with you!?  Everyone needs to hear this!"

Without waiting for an answer, she turns and runs to the town, calling out, "Outsiders!  Friendly!  Outside Oz!"

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Allegra begins to answer, then stops as the woman runs off.

At least if there's a crowd she might get away with not repeating herself so much.

"Is there any kind of - stage, raised place, gathering place - that might be better than here for addressing the whole village?" she asks Brant. 

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