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carissa, somewhere else

Two Modify Memories. The first one erases the first five minutes, and goes off cleanly; the last thing she can remember is deciding to work on corrigibility, which is what the note claims she started with. So far, so good. 


The second one is the one that is kind of a little bit like dying. Not that she's going to dwell on that; one, she doesn't have time, and two, she's already missing half her memories of how she got here and what the plan was and if she gets distracted she'll fuck up. 



Keltham would say that on any occasion where you're deleting your consciousness you should expect to wake up somewhere else, but Carissa is not persuaded by this theory of Keltham's.


Modify Memory.

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- and she finds herself somewhere completely different.


Gods fucking damn it if Keltham was right she's going to be so mad at him and also never see him again probably if this is another planet. 

...she's just going to Gaseous Form and get the fuck out here before anyone notices that there's a young woman with an expensive headband here.


It's well after midnight, and Archmage-General Altarrin is working late again. His office is spacious, well-lit by permanent mage-lights, and even though it's safely inside the guarded walls and thoroughly secured Gate-termini of the royal city, and tucked away behind all the protections on the Emperor's Palace, he keeps permanent wards on it. Several that are standardly taught in the Empire's mage-curriculum, another half a dozen that can be found buried deep in ancient books if someone looks with enough determination, and a handful that no one else alive knows exist. The last few, he recasts daily; to be impossible to detect, they have to be low-powered, which trades off against duration and staying power. 

Lately, he has just as many enemies inside the Palace as outside. It's very frustrating. 


- the alarms trigger for something, though the information they send to his mind is very confused, and almost immediately afterward they trigger for - something that is at least recognizable as a burst of powerful unknown magic.

He's already surging to his feet, reinforcing his personal shields despite the multiply redundant talismans he wears as a matter of course – it's not that physical attacks are a likely danger, here, but it's still important to be visibly, ostentatiously impossible to harm by force – and he's readying a Gate-destination in the back of his mind, and triggering a trap-spell on the inner door leading from the vestibule, that won't exactly prevent anyone or anything from leaving but will certainly make it hurt (and the outer door is sealed against all but a handful of powerful and little-known magics) - and it's only then that his conscious mind catches up. 

There was a woman there. Very briefly. Then there was magic, and now there - isn't. 


He doesn't have Thoughtsensing in this body. It's been rarer and rarer over time in the Empire; initially he suspected they were mis-calibrating the incentives for the mage-breeding program, and tried to correct that, but now he suspects something much closer to enemy action. He has only his Adept-strength mage-gift, but he instantly turns his Othersenses fully on the place where his wards think the magic happened. What's there? 


Hazy tangle of magic, like nothing he's seen before. It's moving away from where the alarm triggered and towards - the ceiling?


This place is extremely well-secured with some of the most impressive magical protections she's ever seen which is not a great problem to be trying to solve while disoriented and very low on spells and missing five of the last ten minutes of your memory which made your current plans make any sense. She's going to try to ...sneak out a chimney, probably, if there are any -


She is not going to think about whether this place is in Hell though the magic doesn't look like anything on Golarion, and has the flexibility and intricacy of outsider-magic -


....Summoned air-elemental? It doesn't look right to his mage-sight, but it looks even less like anything else. Doesn't explain how he thought he saw a woman's figure for an instant, but his eyes hadn't actually focused on the scene yet and it could have been an illusion. Though if it's an assassination attempt, it's an idiotic one doomed to fail, and if it's a threat - someone proving they can slip a summoning past his wards, with the implication that it could have been a horde of Abyssal demons - then he doesn't understand why

He could try to banish it, but then he would be giving up any chance at learning who sent it, and why. 

Trapping an air-elemental not inhabiting a construct-form is nontrivial, but he flings a tight mesh of mage-energy around it. 

(There is not a chimney. It's cleaner and simpler to heat the inside of the Palace with magic, and it's much safer not to leave that kind of vulnerability.) 


What even is that, who cast it - looks human - 


Well on the fucking bright side if she dies here she'll just show up somewhere ELSE, since Keltham is APPARENTLY RIGHT -

- that is a fairly crazymaking line of thought and she should stop it. 


The hazy tangle of magic that doesn't really look much like a disembodied air-elemental does not appear to be trying to escape his force-net. 

Altarrin takes a deep breath, centers and grounds himself fully, and then pulls the net down toward him, so that he can cast the mage-technique for giving the creature a magical construct-body. Hopefully it will be one of the kind intelligent enough to talk. 


The spell does not give gaseous Carissa a magical construct-body because she already ...has a's just Gaseous. 


....why aren't they casting Dispel Magic. Where is she. 


...Well, that didn't work. And the way it failed should have been informative, except that he has no idea how to make sense of it. The haze almost looks more like a set-spell than like a living elemental, except - there's something else under it, something subtler - and it's not in any style he recognizes - 

Maybe a distance-casting? Which isn't generally known to be possible to do past wards, but he can do it, so. 

He takes a breath, and then focuses his mage-sight in deeper, trying to see past the hazy surface to the structure. 

(Altarrin is still very calm. This is confusing, but being alarmed and panicked isn't going to help - and if he dies again, well, so be it. He feels something closer to tired resignation than he would really prefer, at the prospect.) 


Well, Carissa is panicked!!!! She has NOT gotten used to dying yet and also is badly disoriented by everything that has just happened and this place is fancy which means that if she dies of illegally being here, it'll be slow, and it'll mean next time she starts out even more on the back foot. Also Keltham might be wrong and at some point you just run out of places where your consciousness continues -

- let's set that entire line of thought aside as unproductive. Right now, there's a powerful notwizard here, staring directly at her. She can wait until the spell runs out in about seventeen minutes, but he'll probably call over more people before that, and it might be more possible to talk her way past one than past a larger crowd. He hasn't called in backup yet, so possibly the politics here are complicated and he isn't sure of his security, or the security he's surrounded by aren't his, or he's very sure she can't threaten him despite evidently not recognizing her spell

- she really can't guess with this little context -



...if she dismisses the spell sooner that suggests she's a weaker wizard. She'll cut it at five minutes.


Altarrin pokes and pokes at the structure, and he still doesn't recognize it and can't really piece together what it does just from how it fits together - it feels like not all of it is where he can see it, which would make sense for a distance casting but there's still a note of confusion there...


Despite the surprising amount of power tied up in the haze, it doesn't look like it's rigged to explode. On priors, it's most likely to be a spy-spell of some kind? In which case he is not inclined to give whoever is watching from the other end any more information, and surprising them by breaking the spell is as good a warning to send as any. 


Find a weak spot, ready his mage-gift, and snip 


The spell breaks; the collapsing mage-energies lash against him, not like a spell that was strategically rigged to explode, just like one that wasn't meant to dispel like that. 

And there's a woman, perhaps 25, in a nightgown;. The spell sears her as it goes down, definitely enough mage-energy to kill a person, though she does not, in fact, die of it. 


She takes a deep, shaky breath, and drags herself up from the ground to a kneeling position, and says something incomprehensible.


Altarrin's shields deflect the energies that lash out in his direction, though not without effort; most of the power collapsed inward, onto the woman. Who was apparently not an illusion after all. 

Altarrin is incredibly confused and doesn't like it at all, but he's already reacting on instinct. He flings up a loose force-net around the woman, not actually pinning her but at least preventing her from leaping at him if she tries that, and he sends out a lance of magic and triggers an alarm-artifact by the door, and half a second later he's activating his communication-spell artifact. Unlike Mindspeech, it's not secure, but it doesn't have to be for this. 

<Spy in my office. Injured. Send Healers> Pause. <And a Mindspeaker> 


And then he refocuses all of his attention on the kneeling woman. Holds his face expressionless, giving away nothing. "Can you understand me?" he says, levelly, in the standard language of the Empire, and then again in the region's trade-tongue, and again in the language spoken in Seejay - 


She sure can't, because she isn't even very good at languages and also suspects she's on another planet!!! She could cast Tongues but she is pretty sure if she tries to cast a spell right now he'll kill her if he doesn't have a better way to stop her, he doesn't seem like an idiot and it's the only thing a non-idiot would do. 


He'll almost certainly kill her anyway, of course, but she's not going to force his hand.



She shakes her head and says in Taldane 'I am here by accident, my lord' repeatedly because at some point someone'll get him a Tongues. 


Altarrin waits.

(From Carissa's angle, he's holding himself perfectly still, apparently not even tense, his arms are at his sides and his expression is utterly unreadable.) 

The mage-guards - personally loyal to him, and not compulsioned for it, though of course they're under the various standard compulsions related to the Emperor and the Empire - reach the room first. They've drilled this. Altarrin didn't let up until they had the response time down to ten seconds. They leap into formation around him. Raise shields. 

(From Carissa's perspective, the magic here is brighter, flashier, but not any more recognizable. It might look more like a sorcerer's spell than a wizard's.) 

The Healer arrives next. Altarrin raises a hand, barks an order, and the man freezes, and then approaches Carissa cautiously. Not touching her, just getting close enough to hone in with his Sight; not all Healers train Sight at anything other than touch-range, but Altarrin's Healers aren't just anyone. The woman looks like she should be badly injured and probably unconscious, but what does his Sight show? 


Well, there sure are burns all over her body, but - to Healing Sight she looks basically fine? Her life-force is way stronger than any person's should be, as if something's feeding her a lot of Healing-energy constantly somehow - or, not quite that, but that's closer than anything else really.


The burns are everywhere, but fairly superficial. There are some deeper ones on her chest where the brunt of the spell hit, but they're not life-threatening either. 



Consistent with this, she is kneeling on the floor and very much conscious, watching the guards swarm in with something like exhausted resignation. She's repeating the same thing over and over. 


(Presumably if they want her to shut up they'll light her on fire again.)


Well, in that case they're not going to bother trying to Heal her before establishing communication. A quick conversation confirms that none of the others recognize the language she's speaking either. Not that this is surprising at all. Altarrin speaks way more languages than anyone else in this room, though only five of them are publicly known as languages he speaks. 


It takes more like three minutes for the Thoughtsenser to arrive, at a run; she's a mage as well, and shielded. She nods to Altarrin. Doesn't bow; everyone knows by now that he doesn't stand on formality, and finds it irritating when people waste time on it in an emergency. 

"Can you read her?" Altarrin asks the woman. 


She's a moderately powerful Thoughtsenser, and can boost it a long way with her mage-gift. Can she? 


She's got weird shields, like it's something she's doing instinctively rather than something she's doing on purpose but way stronger than instinctive shields get. When she feels the touch of Thoughtsensing on her shields she lowers them, lets whoever-it-is through.


She's terrified but she figures they can absolutely make her let them enchant her or mindread her or whatever that was an attempt to do, and she's not actually going to improve her already very slim odds of surviving this by being an incredibly annoying prisoner. She has Tongues but assumes they will not be amused by her trying to cast spells right now. The thing she's saying over and over is ''I am here by accident, my lord', and it's true, but she wasn't born yesterday and doesn't expect them to care; she'll live if she's useful and not if she isn't. Though, you know, pretty almost fifth-circle wizard who's very good at enchanting, probably most people would keep that alive if they had a way to hold onto it. 


Ellitrea, the Mindspeaker/Thoughtsenser, has no idea what to make of this - but this means the right move is to bounce it to the Archmage-General. Which would ordinarily be almost impossible to do with someone un-Gifted, but for a man in his position it's worth the effort, and she has to admit that Altarrin is unusually skilled at something that seems to matter, there. 

:I think I am not getting everything: she acknowledges to him. :The - system she is thinking of for assessing mage-potential is not coming through clearly. But I am quite sure she is not hiding anything, and very sure that she truly has no idea who sent her: 


(Well, when it comes to picking up concert-work without oneself having Mindspeech, it helps a lot to have had and trained the Gift in previous lives and previous bodies.) 

He hates it when people - or entities that cannot precisely be called people - try to betray him by sending innocent people who have no idea what they're going to destroy. The fraction of Altarrin's surface thoughts that he's making visible past his shields show no hint of his unhappiness, though. 

Acknowledged, he thinks back at Ellitrea. I am going to check her for compulsions. ...Tell her that we are going to place some compulsions of our own. The standard one for nonviolent political prisoners. 

And now that he can get a proper look at her, does the woman have any kind of compulsion on her mind? Or other magic laid on her, come to think of it, or any artifacts? 


Ellitrea reaches out with Mindspeech. :We are aware that you came here by accident and have no idea who sent you. We are going to place some precautionary compulsions anyway – only the ones for political prisoners, unless you attempt any violence, in which case we will resort to the more restrictive set: 


She is under a totally unprecedented amount of mind-altering magic, apparently originating in the incredibly complicated headband she's wearing. Her ring is also incredibly magic, and her bag, and a pin on her cloak. She's not under any familiar compulsions; the magic looks far more comprehensive than that, like it's altering nearly every thought in her head in some gentle way rather than doing something targeted. 

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