Jul 06, 2022 9:31 PM
An unsuspecting box finds itself in the Serpent Isles
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"I think the most magical things you are liable to run into by accident if you go exploring are the art installations," he says, on his way to the door, "so it should be fine." Then he turns around and says, "By the way, I never told you my name. I am Viego, at your service." He bows to her, and his crown reappears on his forehead as he does.

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"Pleasure to properly make your acquaintance," she replies, with a matching curtsy. She's tempted to call him 'your majesty,' but actually, she suspects he finds the title complicatedly painful, considering the circumstances. "I'll try not to break any art installations while you're resting, but I suppose if that's all there is to accidentally break, no promises."

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"I'm sure it won't be an issue."

And off he goes.

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...

She should probably try not to flirt with the pretty, but definitely married king. Uh, actually, does mutual accidental murder count as a breakup? It might be. Still, it still seems a little tacky, so she'll try to resist. A little. ... But she's pretty sure he started it.

Nope, not thinking about this anymore. Avedra's just going to go set herself down on a table, dismiss her body, and get to playing with magic to see about coming up with better mana absorption, for the good of the citizenry of the Shadow Isles. Having this much spare mana around to play with, along the knowledge that she can easily go get more, is as novel as the room. The most expensive project she's worked on since waking was her body projection, and even that was made with hyper-efficiency of mana consumption in mind. It'll be a little strange to not... have to think about that as much. That'll take some getting used to.

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At least for the next short while, no one comes bother her. Probably no one's used to having guests to bother anyway, and Viego himself may not have told many people about her yet.

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Avedra has actually been saving up some ideas of things she could try to enhance efficiency of holding mana, or catching more of it all at once, or larger but sturdier shields more along the lines of the prison cell she was briefly kept in than the usual tight, hyper-compressed mana containers she tends to specialize in. She couldn't really try them all, because her mind turns off if she doesn't keep it constantly fed with mana, and actually she would really like to keep having thoughts. So instead she'd stay in the land of theory as much as possible, carefully weighing which things are more likely to bear fruit before committing precious resources to them. But since that's not an issue anymore, she can actually just try things. Tentatively at first, but then rather gleefully as her new circumstances begins to sink in. Magic has always been fun, but oh she had forgotten how wonderful it was to just play with it, instead of careful obsessive budgeting. She hasn't done this since she was human, and she missed it so.

If she'd stuck to careful and responsible budgeting, the stores of mana Viego gave her could have easily lasted her days. Instead, she burns through almost two thirds of them in a couple of delightful hours of experimentation. It feels a little bit like some kind of sacrilege, but definitely the fun kind. Still, as the stores begin to get run down, her ingrained habits kick back in, and she puts down her work to remanifest a head (with attached body) and poke it out of her room.

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The hallway is not particularly long, with occasional doors and paintings on either wall and a long rug spanning its length. To the right, the hallway ends on a window overlooking a courtyard, and an aperture next to it leads to the stairs that brought her there; to the left, the hallway continues on for a bit longer before taking a right turn.

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Well, clearly the thing to do is go exploring! Though she’ll grab the map first, so she has some kind of guide. But it sounds fun to just wander around a pretty palace, looking at all of the sights.

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The map suggests that if she goes back downstairs she can get to a physical training courtyard which is next to a magical training courtyard. The other rooms on this hallway aren't especially marked but it she checks them out in person she'll find an old armoury, a room with paintings that look old and decayed but sort of on purpose in a way that makes them look exotic and mysterious rather than badly kept, and a couple more guest rooms, all empty.

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Hmmm. Okay, maybe just blithely wandering around poking her head into rooms is an inefficient use of her time. She's admittedly not used to this sort of thing just yet, it's odd to be directly given information and resources to do what she wants instead of stubbornly clawing it together by herself.

... Actually. Does the palace have a library?

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Well according to her map there are three libraries, the closest one being the military and history-focused one.

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Three?

Well screw this wandering around nonsense, she's going to the library! One of them! The military and history focused one sounds good for now, she's mostly just excited that there are books she can read without sneaking around like the ghost in an amulet that she is!

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Here is the military and history library! It has a library ghost! He looks like a plump man with a thick mustache and he's reading a book when she arrives. He looks up and blinks owlishly at her. "Hello."

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Oh no a person, she was not expecting a person. Uh, uh, she can do this, it'll be fine.

"Hello! I wanted to read up on the local history." Well, she mostly just wanted to read literally anything, but reading up on the history she missed sounds like a responsible use of her time and attention, so she'll go with it. "Are there any books you could recommend?"

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"Ooh! I absolutely can," he says, and his image flickers into something like an octopus but with more than eight tentacles and each of them seems to be like twenty-feet-long (though they're coiled). "What period are you interested in?"

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... Aw!! She beams at the display of abnormality. It's oddly comforting, to see that she's definitely not the only weird ghost thing here.

"For right now, the time period after, uh..." She pauses and tries to remember the exact date that she died. The way years have been accounted since then has changed, which complicates things. "120ish BN, if you use that date system here? It'd be about a hundred years before the Ruination, I think."

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"Most certainly!" And his tentacles extend to various seemingly-arbitrary shelves and he starts piling books on a table between himself and her. "Let's see, we have Lanessen and Ribben and Holter and Vert on general history," he says as he grabs the books, "and for more specifics bits there's Forres & Gardien on spirit-human relations, it spans a while longer than your period of interest but includes it, and one by Ribben again and one by Traer on the evolution of the artistic movements of the time, another Ribben on the relations between the isles and their influence on the Ruination. Then there's Holter & Forres, posthumous, on an analysis of the supposed historical and sociological roots of the Ruination, and this memoir by Compet telling the story of King Viego and his consort, the King hates it and has a beef with a few details but grudgingly admits it is mostly historically accurate if from a fairly distant perspective, don't read it in front of him unless you enjoy the faces he makes in which case absolutely do that..."

And so on.

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She is a very happy amulet, and honestly doesn't even know where to start. Okay, that's a lie, she totally knows where she wants to start, and it's the one that causes Viego to make faces. But actually she wants to hear Viego's problems with it personally, and furthermore see the faces he makes, so she probably shouldn't actually start with that. Since he's not here.

General history it is, then! She'll grab a couple of the books, thank the library ghost enthusiastically, and park herself in a nice out of the way table. After a few minutes, she then dismisses her body, because she doesn't really need it to read or turn pages. Instead she floats lazily above the books and turns pages with telekinesis. Honestly, she forgot she had a physical form when she was human and reading, this just feels more honest.

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The spirit eventually returns to a more human-looking form because all of the tentacles are extraneous when one is not actually reaching for books, and besides fingers and in particular thumbs are great when one does not have telekinesis.

No one shows up to interrupt them.

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Yeah, she's going to be there for hours. Historically speaking, nothing of much importance happened between her death and the Ruination, but it's absolutely fascinating to read about the differing opinions of things she was there to see. Besides, it makes her rather nostalgic.

Then she'll move on to reading about what happened with the Shadow Isles after the Ruination, but before she can get much of anywhere, one of the dates from a more recent book gives her pause.

"... It's been almost a thousand years since the Ruination?" she asks, surprised.

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"...hm? Oh, no, I think according to the current calendar it's been slightly over a thousand," he says, gesturing with a tentacle that emerges from his back in the direction of said calendar on the wall next to the door.

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“Oh,” she says, in a small voice.

She hadn’t thought it’d been that long. It took her over a thousand years to figure out how to reliably stay awake? That’s such an impossibly large number, and it feels so incredibly unfair. Why couldn’t she manage it sooner, why couldn’t the idiots that passed her around like a cheap whore (okay, admittedly an expensive whore) have realized the obvious thing to do with an amulet that eats magic? Why was she so starved, for so long, that her consciousness only awakened for brief glimpses of time, before she ran out of mana and inevitably fell back to nothingness again? Why did no one that realized she was a person care enough to fight for her to stay conscious? Why did she have to do all of the fighting, all on her own, all this impossibly long time?

One of the benefits of being an amulet without a body currently conjured is that if she wants to cry, no one has to know.

"That... sounds like long enough that I'm going to need to break it up into chunks and work through it another day, really. Thank you so much for your help, you've been wonderful."

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"Sensible! Well, I'm almost always here so if you ever need anything you know where to find me!"

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"Thanks so much, I'll be back when I have more time!"

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This complete, she can then float off to find a nice place to cry. She doesn't precisely feel things in her conjured body, just can tell when she's touching things or not, but crying is still confusingly comforting anyway. It's at least more comforting than brooding as an amulet in a drawer somewhere, which was her second idea. So she'd like to. Her room is the obvious venue, but it still doesn't really feel like hers, yet, and. Well. She really likes the gardens. They're very pretty. Less private than her room or a quiet out of the way drawer, admittedly, but honestly if anyone will understand needing to cry about time lost it's probably these exact people, so. Not being entirely private doesn't seem like the worst thing ever. Still, she'd rather not draw a crowd or anything. The little courtyard Viego teleported her to seemed very out of the way, she can just. Go there, remake her body, and quietly cry for herself and the unfairness of it all.

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