Sep 27, 2022 7:51 PM
Lenora the mouse gets a job
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The witch recommended by their power tester for a talented young Earthmover to work with has a cute little office with little digicasted tchotchkies wandering around her desk doing cute things.

"No need to be nervous. This isn't like an interview in the mundane world - witches do things differently. Honestly you're probably stronger than me and that counts for a lot. I'm a manager, but you can walk right out."

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"...Wow, cutting right to the heart of it. Can you smell the service worker on me or something?"

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"Call it intuition. Posture, gestures... And he said you were new. Lucky guess."

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"Well, if you're wondering if I'll do the work, I'll do the work if it's work I can do. And since I apparently have options I'll quit if the job is bad. Uh. Were you living a normal- Er, mundane life at first too?"

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"You'll find that witches don't have to tolerate bad work conditions very often. Magic is very convenient like that. No, magic family here. I knew my mother was magic my whole life, and my daughter knows I'm magic. We're on the low end of the magic power curve though. Arcadia's a wonderfully low pressure place as long as you contribute."

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"I'm having trouble wrapping my head around there being a whole separate world, honestly... But about the job. I've been told I have Earthmoving at rank three. I'm new, though, like you said. What is the work? If it's something high skill I'd better learn the ropes first."

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"So the way things work is- I'm essentially a project manager hiring subcontractors to do the individual parts of the work. It's not just me, you can meet the other girls some other time, there's a party today. But we negotiate with clients who want something built, make architectural plans, source the materials, and hire people like you or witches capable of commanding minions, as it were, to do the actual construction work. Arcadia's bubblebuilders can do environments really well but have some trouble with, you know, actual buildings. So, witches like you come in to dig out basements and ditches and crush boulders into gravel and spread it to help make roads and shore up terraces or bocage and so on. Earthmoving, Naturalism, and Metallurgy are the most useful elemental aspects, but there are some uses for Firestarting, Windkeeping, and Waterworking. From your perspective, I'd shoot you a Sending with one task or another and a proposed payment, you show up and do it, you get paid. Simple as that."

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"...So it's essentially gig Earthmoving work, it sounds like? I've never liked having inconsistent work, personally."

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"I could pay you a retainer fee if you were going to stay available, it'd be more like traditional employment, but I wasn't going to suggest it first. We hardly know each other."

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"You're right, I don't know if I'll like the work yet. I don't suppose you have a quick job I could do right now? Get a feel for it?"

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She checks a set of papers, humming.

"There's a delivery of mixed gravel out back that needs to get compressed into solid, smooth slabs. Customer wants a speckled effect. It's a bit more detail oriented than the usual first exercises, though."

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"I'd be willing to give it a try. I'd ask if there was some sort of manual but Sorceress type and I think I can already feel the gravel you're talking about - Oread - so..."

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She laughs. "Yeah. I'll come out and show you the size we need. I'll pay you let's say fifty just for trying, and a per-piece rate after that if it's good. Twenty per sound fair? Want a snack or a drink before we head out? The office bar's just outside."

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"Twenty Kisses each? Just how big are these slabs?" She sounds a little surprised. That feels like... A lot actually? "And sure, chips or something."

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"Maybe a few feet across each? Countertop thickness. I'll show you. It's rank three Earthmoving to meld stone and there aren't that many rank threes around. I'm stuck at rank two myself."

She stands and walks around the desk, gesturing for Lenora to follow her out. The office bar is smooth and fancy, with a variety of snacks and candy in shelves and mini-fridges, plus a coffee machine and cups.

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Lenora grabs a bag of Doritos, feeling uncomfortable and out of place. She's supposed to be the one filling this, not nonchalantly taking from it.

"I may have underestimated how rare we are, then... Witches like me. Maybe I'm lucky despite, uh."

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"Rough awakening? I personally believe there's no such thing as bad or good luck. It's just life."

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"Maybe." She opens the bag, and eats a chip. "...So, rocks?"

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"Right this way."

The backyard of the little office, hidden by pleasant fences, has a number of sheds and storage areas. They walk to one, where big hoppers full of gravel sit. There are small nodules of galena and pyrite mixed in with white and light-grey granite. Shiny gold and silver mixed in with smooth whites and offwhites. She picks up a handful to show it.

"We had a sample of this mix made and approved already. The idea is that it makes a streaked and spotted gold and silver look. For a bright and gaudy sort of theme. Though I'd say 'luxurious' or 'majestic' to customers. Here's a frame, it's vertical..." She indicates it. "Fill it up to the top and then mold and squish the stone downwards. When you're done, it should be small enough to remove still. You'll have to let all the air out as you go too. I'm not expecting miracles for your first attempt, of course - like I said, just try your best and see if you like the idea of more stonework!"

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She stands there and considers the rocks for a bit. Takes a deep breath and stretches slightly, thinking about it.

She should just feel it out, right? 

Stretch her arms, stretch her legs, get into a basic karate stance. She doesn't remember actual Earthbending forms but just imitating them should help.

Focus on the gravel. It feels distinct to her weird earthsense. Feet wide and firmly planted. Stand straight, deep breath, tail touching the ground. She holds one arm out and slowly lifts and pushes her will into the gravel.

It's a bit more dramatic than she expected, a major chunk of gravel rises up, individual rocks falling off the mass in a steady stream. She feels the sudden strain drawing on her, not physical, but on her mana.

She blinks and loses more gravel from the chunk and quickly maneuvers it over to the frame.

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The gravel falls into the wooden frame with a clatter. "...I have the power but I really need practice, geez."

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"No need to rush. Arcadia will give you time to figure it all out."

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"Really hope it will. I'm not ready for dangerous adventures..."

She lifts another load of gravel into the frame, then smooths it out, still using Earthbending stances as a focus. After that, a half 'handful', judging by how full it is.

"Like that? Full up to the top, then squish it down, and then whatever's there lift out?"

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Okay, it seems like squishing ought to go slowly. Letting the air out and all. She can feel the stone, three different kinds of mixed pebbles... A dramatic gesture, hands at her sides, elbows bent, and bringing them together feels nice but she holds tight on the magic. She wants to push together the center only. Center, radiating out. She takes deep breaths and does it again and again, a bit at a time, and slowly a plate of rock forms in the six-inch-high gravel. She keeps squishing down in small circles, slowly spiraling out and melding the stone as smoothly as she can. It's a really weird feeling, and she feels like she should be sweating from the effort, though she's not. If magic is a muscle, it's not one that exists in any particular body part. She does start to feel a sort of bodiless strain after a while.

And then it's done. She peers at the completed rock and lifts it up with a sharp stomp, moving it out of the frame and onto the ground nearby.

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...The sides and bottom are kind of rough and pockmarked. She presses invisible force against them too, flattening the pits and peaks of individual bits of gravel into a smooth surface like the top.

And then she rubs her neck and sighs. "Whoo. That's I think the most magic I've done yet."

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