Dec 02, 2022 12:41 AM
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An idyllic scene:

The beautiful woodlands stretch off into the distance in all directions, a small muddy cart-track meandering off towards the rest of civilisation.

A selection of... mostly-human individuals, sitting or crouching by a sparkling stream flanked with a profusion of bluebells, panning the water for something - not gold, something more precious than gold, something more magic...

All of them have some slightly non-human features - prominent green veins, or patches of bark, or vines and flowers growing amongst the hair, or thorns jutting awkwardly through the skin. All of them have at least one prominent tattoo, a variation on the theme of a twining thorned branch; some have many more.

A few children running here and there, not tattooed, fetching and carrying and dancing and playing. Some are a little green-veined, some with scabs of bark from inevitable childhood accidents.

In general, a peaceful and Prosperous place, if a little light on infrastructure and facilities; some wooden structures cling to the forest's edge above the brook, haphazard shelters built with love and energy and not very much in the way of skill and patience.

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And suddenly, there's a pair of figures who weren't there a moment ago. The taller one, a woman dressed in a black outfit with gold embroidery at the wrists and ankles and collar and wearing a black holster, stumbles slightly, catching herself on the air to keep her balance in a way that doesn't quite seem natural. The figure behind her is humanoid, but clearly not human, all silver metal with textured black glass where her eyes should be, with a slight and vaguely feminine build.

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There are various different sets of reactions:

A few of the people (all of the people here have traces of magic running through them, in the blood; they seem more energetic and vigorous than baseline humans) start herding the children away, back up towards the buildings. The children distinctly do not want to be herded and think this is a fun game, where they can get to see more of the interesting thing if they can keep away from the adults.

One of the teenagers starts sprinting full pelt back towards the buildings, yelling "Visitors through the Gate! Weird ones!"

There is a general mix of interest, mild consternation, and concern swirling around; it doesn't seem like the people are very surprised that someone would drop out of thin air, but the exact details seem to be surprising and the whole thing is a cause for mild concern.

Some of the people have picked up spears that were hidden in the undergrowth, but don't seem to be making any immediate threatening moves - in fact they seem as ready to defend from something coming from elsewhere than from those who have just appeared.

"Uh, welcome to Foundhome," one man greets them, "are you okay? Is something happening imminently that we should know about?"

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The woman glares at a few of the nearer spear-holders, but turns her attention to her companion when she steps into view, signing a few terse words to her.

    "Yes, sir, Xaari Deskyl is fine. Can you direct us to the nearest spaceport, please?"

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"I... don't think we have one of those. Did you mean, a large port where you can fit a lot into a ship? The nearest port is Seren, but that's only on a river; you can take ship for Sarvos from there, though."

"You might want to wait for Allegra, though," a woman speaks up, "she'll have a better idea of what's going on."

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    "...thank you, sir," she says, perfunctorily, and signs to her companion, who makes a rather expressively disconcerted face but doesn't otherwise comment.

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In a few moments, the teenager is walking back down from the buildings with a middle aged lady in tow.

She notably does not have the same magical blood as the others and certainly not any inhuman vigour - there are slight traces of magic about the tattoos on her face, and under the large shapeless patched robe she is a tapestry of old wounds made with primitive weapons, and fire - there is what looks like a deliberate brand on her left cheek.

Her equipment is distinctly magical, though - circlet, bracers and a wide belt of some kind of defence, and the wide staff with silvery veins which has autumn leaves sprouting from it definitely a weapon, as much as she is currently using it as a walking stick. 

She radiates a wary tension, a readiness for action held carefully in check, a weariness she does not display openly.

"Welcome to Foundhome!" she repeats as soon as her voice will carry, in a deliberately cheerful and friendly tone. "Here deliberately, or lost and confused?" 

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This is translated for the woman, who signs back, this time.

    "Neither, ma'am, Xaari Deskyl was escaping an attack but didn't intend to bring us here in particular. She doesn't think she'll be followed."

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"That's good news, at least. Anything we can do to help? Davyd here can look you over and start fixing any injuries, if you are okay with that."

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    "That won't be necessary, ma'am, she's not physically injured. Did we understand correctly that there isn't a spaceport on this planet?"

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"I'm not entirely sure what you think that word means, but if it's approximately 'a place where ships go into the sky and reach entire other worlds', then not that we know of.

There are centuries old legends of people who came from the sky, but none of them made it back up there."

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    "Yes ma'am. In that case Master Deskyl will need someplace to rest and a power cord for me, or supplies to make one."

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"We can definitely do somewhere to rest - Brynna has a spare room, or we can set up a tent if you'd prefer. I'm not sure what you mean by a power cord - so we'll probably need to look at supplies there."

Less observant people probably wouldn't have noticed, but one of the people who has been watching is heading towards the muddy cart track, with increasing speed as she thinks she's getting out of easy sight. Mostly all she's putting out emotionally is determination.

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Deskyl gestures for Allegra's attention and points the woman out with a questioning look.

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"Alyssa, she'll probably be heading out to First Voice because something interesting happened, sometimes that means nobody survives in the vicinity, and someone should be elsewhere with at least some idea of what happened?

I can send Hyly to chase her down and bring her back if that reduces the chances we end up as a cautionary tale? I'm sorry for the suspicion, but, well..."

Allegra says all this in the same cheerful, friendly tone as before, and the tension beneath doesn't exactly get much more tense but it was already pretty high to start with.

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    "No, that's fine, ma'am."

 

    "Master Deskyl would prefer a tent someplace she won't be disturbed. If you don't have electricity here she'll also need to make a water wheel and a battery - she'll need wood or a similar sturdy lightweight building material, a few flat pieces of metal in at least two kinds, a few pieces of leather the same size as the metal, some acid - sour fruit juice will do - a waterproof container big enough to stack the metal pieces in, a magnet or a piece of iron to make one with, and some wire."

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"How urgent? We can maybe get most of that together out of things we have here, but we'd be sacrificing things we're currently using, or I can send a runner down to meet the next wagon and get them to pick up on the way.

Will bronze and iron do for the two kinds of metal or do you need, say, weltsilver and oricalchum, which we probably don't have enough of here? We can't get them very flat without ordering in from Seren, but we could, say, enthusiastically flatten a tankard?

Does the wire need to be anything specific, I think copper - or if it needs artisan metals, weltsilver - would be easiest to get hold of. That's probably the hardest to find here - might have copper, would need to disassemble someone's jewelry."

Allegra is clearly thinking out loud here rather than having a good inventory of what's available.

"Cory, can you go and start setting up your tent, a little way off from the Steading?"

One of the people who has been watching things unfold nods and starts heading back up towards the buildings. 

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    "Bronze and iron plates and copper wire will be fine, ma'am, and Master Deskyl can flatten things if need be. Ideally we'd have the materials within three days, but I can stretch my charge to five days if I'm careful; longer than that and you risk not having me available to translate, which might be dangerous."

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"Can Master Deskyl draw wire as well as flatten things? How much do we need? 

I suspect that's going to be our main bottleneck. We can sort out a whole house worth of wood, a normal and a fancy metal tankard, some leather scraps, someone's bound to have lemon or lime juice for cooking, an iron knife and a big ceramic mixing bowl, or we can make a wooden bucket as big as it needs to be. 

But I'm not actually sure how much copper we have at all, mostly some decorative brooches, and the only copper wire is in Lyna's wire wrapping earrings and pendant, which isn't much.

We're not too far out of Seren if someone runs the Trod, but it could take some time to find a trader with much copper wire in, it's only used for decoration. If they find some straight away, they might make it back inside three days; if they have to go on to Sarvos it'll be more like six at least."

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    "She'll need enough wire to wrap the magnet, plus a yard or so; she might be able to draw it but she's not sure she'll be able to make it consistent enough without tools. I don't think a day of not being able to communicate will be terribly dangerous if she's left strictly alone for it, if that's the best available option."

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"...how consistent does the wire need to be? You might want to write down some specifications; I can't imagine it will be impossible to get it custom made in Sarvos, they are especially good with small fiddly bits of metalwork, but mostly for decorative purposes."

Allegra fishes a small fabric-and-card-bound notebook and a somewhat rough-hewn wooden pencil out of her satchel bag and offers them to the metallic woman.

"You can try to dictate the details if you'd rather, but I'm no kind of artisan and certainly not an engineer, so it seems more likely you'll be able to write - and possibly draw - them more precisely.

Oh - and did you want someone to fetch some chairs while we're waiting for the tent to be ready, so you both at least have something to sit on? Anything to eat or drink?"

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    "We'll take the chairs, please, ma'am," sign, sign, "and Master Deskyl would like something to drink." She takes the notebook and pencil and passes them to her companion with another couple of signs, and the woman begins writing.

    "Did you have any questions for me while Master Deskyl is busy, ma'am?"

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A couple of teenagers dash off back towards the buildings

"I suspect she'll get apple juice for a drink, is that okay?

Are you going to be okay if you don't get the components you need in time? I'm kind of assuming you are like an Autumn herald, they are the ones who show up being metallic and requiring complex machinery to function. I'm also kind of assuming you don't have long term plans yet, but if you do, I'd be happy to advise on how plausible they are."

The teenagers come back with three folding chairs, a little folding table, a ceramic jug of apple juice and three wooden cups.

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"Apple juice will be fine, thank you, ma'am. And running out of power won't harm me, I'll just be powered down and dormant until I can be recharged. I expect that Master Deskyl doesn't have any plans yet and won't want to make any until she's more recovered from her recent injuries, but it would be useful to know more about the planet for when she's ready to start with that."

Deskyl sits without looking up from her work when the table and chairs are ready; DZ waits for Allegra to sit before taking her own seat.

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"Okay. So, you have arrived in a territory called Miaren, which is a territory of the Navarr, which is a nation of the Casinean Empire - we generally just call it the Empire round here, but I suspect that's not exactly a unique identifier further afield.

The Empire is a few hundred miles across, depending how you measure it, and there are ten nations involved. There are another, hmm," she counts on her fingers, "Jotun, Grendel, Druj, Thule, Iron Confederacy, Faraden, Axos, Skoura, the Mountains of the Moon... at least nine other polities on the continent. Then further afield you've got the Commonwealth, the Asaveans, the Sarcophan Delves, the Sumaah, Jarm - and those are just the ones we trade with, we know there are a number of smaller countries and territories out there which we don't have any meaningful contact with.

Mostly things are a bit of a terrible mess; the Empire is probably the least bad on the continent at just letting people get on with their lives, but of course I would say that. I kind of lose track of the endless round of ceasefires - I think we're currently at war with the Druj because they can't sign a treaty worth the ink, the Jotun because we don't exactly have an unblemished track record of trustworthiness either, and just signed a ceasefire with the Grendel because fighting a war on three fronts is suicide. And somehow we're still at peace with the Thule, despite their charming habit of using copious quantities of magically enthralled slaves. Oh, and there's the Vallorn, which is our primary adversary as Navarr - many centuries ago, we accidentally wiped out all our cities with a voracious miasma of Spring magic that likes to poison people and then keep them trapped as animated husks within itself, there's a bunch of that all over the place.

...I'm not sure if I'm helping. Is there anything more specific you might want to know, to narrow it down a bit?"

Allegra also sits down when the chairs are brought round, not waiting for DZ who she isn't even sure is the kind of entity that likes sitting down.

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"Can you tell me more about the Spring magic, ma'am? Or Thule, please."

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