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Aug 10, 2022 11:17 PM
An Acolyte of Fire lands in Kislev
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"I've always got logs outside which need chopping."

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In that case, the Acolyte will finish his tea before heading out, following the witch to her logs if their location isn't obvious. Once the logs are found, he'll grasp his staff again, call up the rending thoughts, focus, and neatly divide all the logs into easily carry-able quarters or sixths, without disturbing the pile and causing it to tumble apart.

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Pogodarastet will follow him out, leaning heavily on her own walking stick for far more mundane reasons.

"Well, that's not something you see every day. Hardly a disturbance in the winds at all. Less than there'd be if I chopped those logs the hard way, I think. Let's get back inside before our noses freeze off, and then I think I have a lot of questions for you." 

"Firstly, how sure are you this Fire of yours isn't a god? That didn't look like any miracle I've ever seen, but gods can be mighty strange when they care to be."  

"Secondly, you suggested purifying tea as a test of your power? What sorts of things can you purify?" 

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Back inside, and possibly another cup of tea if there's more in the fancy kettle. "I am not perfectly certain, I have at times felt as if I have been guided by some force or intelligence, never more so than in the rushing transposition which brought me to this land. It is exceedingly mysterious though, even more so than the knowledge which it has lead to me to and which is the source of my magic. This guide may be Fire itself, but and I believe it may be a manifestation of it some way, but I have no hard evidence for this. As for the purification, it is an application of the same ability that I used to the cut logs, and which I used to shield myself from the cold. It is a separation of substances, such as the remains of the tea leaves from the water in which they steeped, or the grains of wood from their neighbors. I can also separate smoke into ashes and clean air, or air into its gaseous fractions."

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"Hmm. That's concerning. Gods that won't show their faces are not usually good friendly gods that want to give you presents."  

"Can you separate mystical or metaphysical substances?" 

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"I've certainly seen some instances of that. I understand if Fire or my guiding torch seem suspicious at first blush, I have no way to communicate the full extent of the trust which they have earned over many years of knowledge-seeking. And, I have some experience with separating a couple of common alchemical concoctions, or at least common where I came from, and I believe I could learn to do more with time to research local substances of a similar nature, but at the moment I doubt I could do much."

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"Hmm. Well, then. I have an exercise for you, and a warning." She will go rummage through cupboards until she finds a large horn, not entirely unlike to one of a goat or sheep, but much larger. It radiates ... menace, or corruption, or some other force like that. 
"Here. This is Dhar-tainted." The teenager flinches away from it, at that. 
"If your purification magic can remove the Dhar from that, you will be of tremendous, irreplaceable value to the people of Kislev. The taint of Dhar is the curse of the chaos gods and even the waystone network of the ancients can do nothing more than send it back to where it came from."
"Secondly, your warning. You, boy, should leave for this. Go fetch me a hundred pinecones." He will jump to do so, thankful for a reason to get out of the room, even if it does mean rooting through the snow for old pinecones. 
Pogodarastet will turn her focus back to the Acolyte, staring at him with great intentness. 
"You have to understand - Chaos is not just a hostile power, it's a moral hazard. One that I know better than almost anyone in the world. The dark powers aren't just the malevolent forces that we declare them to be. They are ruinous, and they destroy everything they touch and will bring you nothing but pain in the long run, but they do offer great rewards to their followers. There's a reason they still have them, after all. They will, if you let them, try to bargain with you. No good, and a great deal of evil, will come of these bargains, and any step towards chaos will leave you less sane and less able to resist the temptation of the step afterwards, no matter how harmless the deal they offer might seem, or how great the rewards might seem. And those rewards are always tainted. The plague-ridden one will offer immortality, but it is the immortality of eternal rot and sores, for his compassion is for the blight that kills you as much as it is for you; the lustful one will offer you pleasures beyond your wildest dreams, but they will leave you jaded and then fade to pain; the bloody one will offer martial power or a chance for vengeance, at the cost of your sanity and the lives of the ones you love. The tricky one ... you will be most tempted, and it is most vital you resist. He will offer knowledge, insight beyond mortal understanding. It will break you, mislead you, turn you against yourself. You will destroy everything you ever cared for and it will seem like it was the right decision."  
"I tell you this because I know someone like you will be tempted, and so do the dark powers. You will need to be strong of will and pure of heart to resist the temptation to write your own doom in pacts of blood and dhar. And if your powers are as great as you think they are, the doom of the world with you." 
She sighs. It makes her look old, older even than she normally does. As old as the hills, or the forest. 
"I pray I have not made a mistake by not killing you where you stand." 

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The Acolyte holds the tained horn and considers it and Pogodarastet's warning for a long moment. His guide has only ever shown him the way to where knowledge could be found, never simply given it to him, and never bargained. He can only hope that is a good sign. "I will do my best to ensure you don't regret it." He looks at the horn again, attempting to focus the thoughts of protection and purification on the horn's strange and malevolent metaphysical texture and failing to find purchase, as he expected. Looking back to the witch he asks, "Shall I be taking this then?"

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"Yes, yes. I should have no need of any of the things I could use it for, its owner is quite thoroughly dead, thank Morr, so it's mostly just a bit of clutter filling up my house."  

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Morr, another name to hold on to. The Acolyte nods, ties the horn to his back with his sash, and bows deeply. "Thank you for the knowledge you've given me. I can't help but imagine that you have spared me a terrible fate. Hopefully, I will one day spare you of one as well. They unfortunately do not seem rare in these parts. I am to be off then, I assume, but if I can ask for one more thing, do you know where it would be best for me to go next? I know the gospodara headman who sent me here also mentioned a boyar whose army might have use of me, but I don't actually know the way."

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"Oh the local boyar is ... well, he's not bad, as these things go, but he's much more interested in the glory and the joy of the hunt and all that than he is in rebuilding Kislev. His grandfather got the job under old Tsar Pavel, replacing one of the vampires he ousted. I guess if you wish to join Tsar Vladimir on his campaigns, there would be worse people to sign up with. But for my money, your best bet would be to head south to Praag. The Cursed City. If there's anything productive for you to do, it would be there. Especially if you *can* manage purification of dhar. Perhaps you will be the first to survive whatever is inside the Fire Spire and retrieve whatever lost knowledge is inside." 

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Oh man, there's something called 'the Fire Spire' and it's got lost knowledge inside? He nods again. "I believe I will set my sets upon Praag, yes. Thank you again." He turns to leave, though before he does he turns back. "Should I wait for the boy who lead me here? I'm not sure whether I'm responsible for him, and I don't want to leave the burden of handling a young man on your shoulders without at least asking first."

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"A much more mundane word of warning: They don't much like magic in Praag. For very good reasons, but nonetheless inconvenient. They like hags a little better than others. If I give you a token of ... purity, I guess, then they'll be a little less likely to try and have you killed as a witch and a sorcerer. Probably. I try not to go near the place myself, the land is ... bad. And you know how people are."  

She returns to rummaging through her cupboards, eventually pulling out an amulet of bone and feathers. 

"Yes, yes. this will do, I think." She concentrates, and says some words over it. The light in the room flickers unnaturally, then returns to normal. 

"And it'll even make you a bit luckier, too." She hands it over. 

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He can feel the texture of the amulet sharpen a little, and can only assume it's in response to Pogodarastet's investment, especially as he hangs it on his neck. "I thank you a third time, and feel I am rapidly becoming indebted to you. I am to Praag now." And indeed he actually leaves this time. If he spots the boy he'll tell him where he's going, but otherwise he'll just orient himself with the sky and just go ahead and start walking south.

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The boy is digging through a snow-bank within line of sight of the house with little success, and will continue to do so until he has completed his hag-appointed task. The Acolyte can easily confirm with him that he will return the horses to their owner and so forth. 

The wilds of Kislev are not friendly to human life. Over a week or more of walking, the Acolyte is frequently slowed by the difficulties of obtaining food and fresh drinking water, but it is nothing his magic and skills cannot ultimately handle. Slightly more troublesome is the constant slew of threats to his life that the forest produces - a giant spider, lurking beneath the snow, a gang of short green-skinned humanoids of with spears, and trio of beastmen. Still, nothing which his skills cannot handle. The most interesting encounter happens later, when he's finally progressed from goat-tracks to real trails, he hears a deep voice shout: 

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"Yer money or yer life!"  

The voice belongs to a 12ft tall, approximately humanoid figure, it's green-grey skin covered with improvised armour rigged together from a mix of furniture and armour intended for human-scale figures, wielding an crude iron mace of tremendous size, who has stepped out in front of the Acolyte. 

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The journey has definitely been slower and bloodier than an equivalent trek back home would have been, and the violence definitely cuts into time he otherwise would have liked to spend studying the tainted skull and how to cleanse it. Someone who talks rather than just screams and attacks is nice change of pace, even if he's technically still being threatened.

The Acolyte quickly pats the various pockets of his clothes, just in case someone reverse-pickpocketed some money onto him when he wasn't looking, and as expected finds no currency. "Sorry my good fellow, I don't actually have any money to give. I don't suppose you'll accept a favor or service instead?"

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The troll tilts his head for a moment as he parses that.

"Ah! Serve! Yes, you serve!" 

His Gospodarinyi is not very good. He doesn't switch the case endings properly.

 

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The Acolyte bows in mock-deference. "I am at your service, then. What would you like me to do, to pay for my passage?"

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He thinks for a moment.

"Come with me. Fix. Make food?" 

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He nods, "I can hunt and cook, and I can certainly try and fix something broken, though I can't promise I'll succeed." With that, if the troll leads, the Acolyte will follow.

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The troll will lead him via a goat-track to a hollow in the woods, relatively sheltered from the elements, where the troll has made a camp! It's a very simple camp - a lean-to scaled to troll size, made from tree-branches, with a pile of dried greenery for a bed. There isn't a camp-fire, or a sign of one ever having been used. There are several chests, all with broken lids or locks. One contains coinage (not very much, and in low denominations, for the most part), the others contain a variety of objects - various possessions, many broken. There is a setup for butchering wild animals, with half a goat currently suspended from it. 

"Home! Make food now?" 

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"Right, goat it is! And, if you're uncomfortable with fire, you might want to keep clear. It's a bit more effort, but cooking is worth it."

Then, the Acolyte will begin building a basic fire-pit, well away from the evidently skittish troll but not out of eyeshot. It's quicker with Flames and Power than without, but it still takes a bit of time. Being able to expel the moisture out of fallen wood and leaves definitely helps, though. When he finally sparks the fire, he makes sure to watch his host and is ready to put the flame out of it causes him too much distress, but assuming the troll can remain calm, the Acolyte will then strip, clean, cut, and roast the remains of the goat carcass over the fire. If all goes well, he'll snuff out the fire once the roasts are done (but not too done!) and offer them to the troll.

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The troll will require a little convincing that starting a fire is a good idea, and will stay well away from it, obviously highly concerned by it. 

The supply of roast meat the fire produces is, however, highly appreciated. The troll will wax eloquent on the virtues of the food (in a language the Acolyte doesn't understand). 

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He will have to try and learn it some time! Even if he doesn't know exactly he's saying it's good to know his work is appreciated. "Alright! Now, what did you want me to try and fix?"

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