Dec 02, 2022 2:21 AM
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"Certainly! Fortunately these Freeborn know the value of Fidelity, and are much less likely than other Imperial citizens to mislead you," Keth continues smoothly.

"They're right," offers Thesali. "It wasn't like the Empire had enough armies to take Feroz back without losing somewhere else. And they have been much more reasonable than any of the Empire's other enemies would."

Survey says: that's a fair representation of the treaty, the Grendel and Freeborn agree strongly on keeping their word but the Freeborn will generally go rather less hard on keeping only the letter of it while taking as much as you can get, other than that there's an ocean of bad blood almost because they're so similar... apart from how the Freeborn have a habit of freeing slaves and the Grendel of taking them.

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(She can detect a politician blatantly spinning a message right in front of her face; she's not mad, just disappointed, Keth.)

"...I can't say I disagree that this is the least immediately pressing issue, on the anti-slavery front.  However, because I'm here, and not somewhere else, and I've already done something, I am rather inclined to make an impact on it anyway.

"You have seen the sort of things I can produce, and how they can in fact almost entirely obviate the need for manual labor of the sort most slaves are generally used for.

"I am willing to produce more such things, and even the education necessary to produce similar devices; I am not willing to use them to provide advantages to polities and persons currently engaged in slaving.

"I'm certain you see how we can achieve mutual benefit, and then I can move on to making myself the Druj's problem instead of yours."

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It is very obvious to see the 'opportunity' lights going off in Rahab's head even if one is not a supernaturally good reader of people. His demeanour changes entirely and is now as if he is a highly trustworthy statesman speaking to his dearest ally; his anger is washed away in the tide of delighted greed.

"I have the authority to proclaim every slave within Feroz free, and remove the authority of anyone within Feroz to enslave another, at the speed a messenger can travel with a suitably written proclamation bearing my seal.

I do not have the authority to declare this on behalf of the Grendel as a whole, but I am sure that the good Captain here will be happy to convey you safely to Dubhtraig, or if her vessel cannot be rendered seaworthy we have several lesser ships available - and my lieutenant Keth can there secure you an audience with those who can, assuming you can continue to demonstrate the capabilities you have so far displayed.

Fair warning, there may be considerable difficulty preventing the Broken Shore dissolving into civil war at the prospect; I am assuming your assistance will be sufficient to both provide food and keep order in Feroz, and on those conditions I will write and issue a proclamation as soon as we are agreed."

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"Why yes, it can, to the best of my knowledge!  I'm so glad we're able to work together on this, Lord Rahab!  There are very plausibly other things that I find are simply as unnecessary as slavery with my resources, in your penal code, such as torture, maiming, and execution, that would need similar assurances, lest my keeping of order interfere with yours, but I think we have an agreement in principle.  Shall we talk details?"  At which point, she fires up a legal aide VI, and damn well talks them.  She might hate this part, but it's necessary, and she's good at it, so she'll give her utmost effort to a mutually-satisfactory treaty.  (Her main concerns are thus: Her aid will not be used to prosecute an offensive war.  She is not constrained from offering her assistance to other polities by this agreement.)

(Yes, the captain's ship is able to be rendered seaworthy once again; there's a dissolving agent.  No, she doesn't need loan of it; which way's Dubtraigh from here, and how far?)

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The Grendel legal code is fairly light on torture, maiming and execution - it seems like slavery basically fills in for all these roles in their legal system, the worst otherwise is very generously applied self defence exemptions for law enforcement and immediate execution of military deserters (which already requires there to be some element of immediate threat that they will increase danger for the rest of the deployed force).

Everything else is already handled with fines. Rahab would quite like to hear suggestions for acceptable treatment of chronic non payment of fines or violent offenders who are still dangerous to others; generally maimed or executed is the escalation in non slavery based systems, the Confederacy actually imprison people but everyone regards that as horrible and/or wasteful.

There is no ongoing offensive war - despite provocation, the ceasefire with the Empire holds, and that was the only war the Grendel have been engaged in recently. (By the way, the Empire is very into execution for crimes, including religious crimes; the Grendel have no such thing as a religious crime, everyone - including slaves - has freedom of religion.)

Rahab could only give very approximate directions, the Captain has some charts that she could allow her to see if they were made accessible again.

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"Chronic nonpayment of fines was generally handled by folding it into tax burden or, sometimes, outright seizure of property, in the country I long ago hailed from; I'm not sure I per se recommend that, but if you're somehow desperate to compel it, that's a method of making it happen.  Sometimes debts simply can't be paid, though, and punishing that is worse than pointless.  Economics isn't my forté, there's works by better thinkers than I in the field that you could consult.  For violent offenders that are still a danger - well, here.  I have a booklet."  There's actually a whole segment of her system guide about various potential resolutions to this.  Most are, eventually, therapy.  Some detour through inpatient care or drone-based violence prevention.  Some are "get the person out of the badness-provoking environmental situation".

"...Augh, blasphemy laws, the worst kind of laws.  And you don't even have memetically hazardous gods!  ...You don't have those, right?"  She has to check.  "Well, that goes on the list."

The Captain can indeed access their charts once again.

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"Violence prevention drones sound very promising! If we can extend that to property damage and warning systems for non-payers?

The main problem with a lack of personal consequences for non payment of fines is no further deterrent effect, but being accompanied by a warning drone that would prevent other people from having their Prosperity damaged without being aware of the risks, that would do the job.

As for mentally hazardous gods, the Empire would claim every god is an information hazard; there are potentially Eternals of Sky who might actually qualify, certainly that realm can be induced to create hazardous information.

I would be delighted to roll out this system, let me spend a few minutes conferring with my advisors and we can have a draft declaration, revised legal code and bill of materials for you to consider."

Rahab turns to his anxious courtiers and sends several scurrying off for a large quantity of sealing wax and ribbons, and a couple to secure use of the printing press.

"If you'll come to my cabin, the charts don't leave it if we can at all help it, they are rather difficult to replace?" the captain invites her.

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That should be reasonably easy to make happen, certainly, sure!  And yes, property damage prevention and repair is in Utilities.  There's a whole help menu.  She'll get it set up.

 

"Oh, yes, here, just -" ka-copy-of-charts! "- point out the direction, please?"

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The Captain would be successfully hiding her moment of unbalanced terror if the woman was not so good at reading people; apparently owning charts is a significant thing, and them being easy to copy is intensely threatening to her?

"Ah. Um. Yes." She outwardly calmly points out Dubtraigh on the near coast of the Broken Shore, across the neck of the Bay of Catazar. "I really wouldn't arrive without at least a handful of letters of introduction, though. Kicking over that anthill, like you've done here, is likely to have all kinds of collateral damage.

Much as I hate to recommend someone else as your escort, I do rather rely on there being a port to come back to, so I really would recommend taking Keth - she's ambitious, reasonably connected, adaptable, and unlike me she is very keen to engage in politics rather than staying as clear of them as possible."

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She hands the copy of her charts back to the Captain; they're hers and she clearly cares about that, though it's not like she hasn't scanned them six ways to Sunday just by existing in their general vicinity.  "Thank you for the advice.  And the directions.  And yes, Keth, if you're interested in helping cleanly navigate this massive societal upheaval...?"

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The captain subsides with visible relief as the copy of the charts are returned to her. "Let me know if you need anything, otherwise I'll be rounding up my crew and seeing what we can salvage for the return journey," she says, and heads below to deposit the copy in the locked, rune bound, mithril chained box in her quarters.

"Absolutely," replies Keth, with a quick glance at Rahab; he waves her off dismissively, busy dictating a new legal code to a scribe.

"I'll write out a list of the major players, and we can talk about the game plan once things are handled here.

Before we go, you should get off the Grendel ship and get some nice country air -" she lowers her voice somewhat, so it does not carry far, "and meet the inevitable human faction who thinks Thesali here is a collaborator and will run a guerilla campaign on the Empire's behalf if not dissuaded."

There is indeed a distinct data shadow where a significant subset of humans are avoiding the drones and a general tense waiting feeling, come to think of it. 

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"Hmm, a little bit of sightseeing certainly wouldn't go amiss."  And they're not even wrong about that, really.  It's who they're collaborating with that's changed, slips into Keth's mind gently - a spell that Keth is aware is simply, only, communicative.  "Give me a few minutes to slip into something more comfortable, would you?"

How is the weather around here, anyway?

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Keth seems quite unperturbed by the mental communication although it does seem to have increased her respect for the woman - hearing voices in her head does not seem to be new to her, and is generally positively associated.

The weather is delightfully sunny and is saved from being too warm by a pleasant sea breeze. The (brightly coloured) local attire for humans involves wrapped cloth on the head and generally being careful about the amount of sun-exposed skin; linen robes, generally heavy on the decorative embroidery, are definitely in.

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Well, she can arrange for a moment of privacy, once they're off the ship, and turn to Keth.  Hmm.  I honestly doubt trying to blend in as a local would go over well, but I don't quite know enough to calibrate my approach to the guerillas-in-potentia as a helpful outsider, either.  Any thoughts on that?  (Keth can communicate back, apparently!)

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The humans here have - yes, grandmother, I know you're angry about Dubhtraig still, but this is bigger than that - a very complicated dress code, avoid black and white, if you're not trying to pass for them avoid flame and water colours - green's a good neutral colour without coming across badly, purple is the colour of their Empire. Silk, embroidery and jewellery make you look important, linen is normal, using less fabric or muted colour makes you look poor. No, I shouldn't be deceiving her out of spite. A sunhat is probably a good idea, like the head wrap but less culturally loaded.

It seems like Keth is having multiple conversations in there and hasn't quite got the hang of separately directing intentional communication. 

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Oh, good, I do get to wear the hat.

And after a moment's consideration, and a bit of magic, her armor is packed away, in favor of an outfit in vivid green, with pale blue accents (that are also magical runes), and a bit of silver jewelry (set with opals) - it's more a suit, than a robe.  She tops it off with the platonic ideal of a straw sun hat, then ties a purple bandanna (also rune-embroidered, but simply with more purple) over her face.

This good enough, you think?  I can change the colors.

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The quick change seems to startle Keth a bit more than the mental words did, but she recovers very quickly. Yes - yes great aunt I am letting her go out looking like that - you look just as uncoordinated as the locals but not in a colour scheme they'd use, should work great, do change before Dubhtraig or nobody will respect you in the slightest.

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Of course.  We'll have time to get that right on the way over, I think.  There's a small undercurrent of amusement.  Now let's go talk to the locals, shall we?  The path they take to a spot that's "not patrolled" is quick, but there's time for a bit more planning on the way.  I'm assuming I probably shouldn't bring you in with me, so...hmm, let's see...

And she adds a pair of silver rune-etched glasses frames (with actual glass in them) to her outfit, and passes a corresponding pair to Keth.  So you can look and listen in, too.

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Thank you! - no they're not cursed and even if they are it was worth the risk - I'll put these on and find somewhere out of the way to sit.

Keth gets increasingly nervous the further they both get from the docks, and really does not want to spend more time alone than she can possibly avoid, but is determined not to show weakness to the very useful stranger that seems for some reason to be including her on a huge opportunity.

She was definitely expecting not to be included at all in the meeting and indeed for the visitor to use it to get the other side of the story, so this is going better than she had dared to imagine, she is determined to handle her stupid instincts to see this through. 

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With Keth off playing overwatch, it's a simple matter to find the biggest 'dead zone' and knock on the door, then enter despite the fact that it's still probably closed.

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Behind the door there are a considerable number of people currently engaged in attempting to swiftly get through the door to an adjoining row house and escape whoever knocked on the door in the wrong pattern. There is more determination than panic, but definitely an edge of panic.

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"Ahem.  I come in peace."

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One of the young women in the group turns back from the attempted escape. A friend of hers says, "Maria, no," and tries to grab her, but she determinedly walks out of reach towards the visitor.

"Peace is a false virtue," she tells the visitor, flatly, folding her arms and standing between her and the others. She's not _totally_ unarmed, that's a wand tucked into her sash, but she doesn't look like she's there to fight a desperate rearguard action with violence; more to find out what's going on at what she assumes is great risk to herself, and incidentally buy the others some time.

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"Y'know, I hadn't actually put those words to the thoughts I think, but you're not wrong, notwithstanding the actual metaphysics.  Still, I am here to speak, not to bring harm."

The visitor is...not armed.  At the very least not obviously armed.  Despite, y'know, magic.

"So shall we speak?  Because there's about to be a drastic upheaval in Grendel society, and I wouldn't want you to miss out on it."

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"Fuck the Grendel. Do you know how many of us they've taken to the salt mines? Did you see what they did to Spiral? The only good Grendel is a dead Grendel.

They're good at talking, though, I'll give them that. I bet they've made all kinds of fancy promises. Maybe they've even agreed to some things, but, you know what? People say the Freeborn put a price on everything, but the Grendel would sell their own grandmother for a moment's advantage over someone else.

Play with fire, get burnt."

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