Jan 30, 2023 12:10 PM
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"Oh, interesting. We have a set of runes, the Empire uses them more than we do, but they're pretty universally magical so they do get around. Generally they have much more subtle effects, like strengthening a lockbox or keeping water fresh. There's a rumour they come from some kind of extinct former civilisation.

And actual gods? Some Grendel believe in various gods, but personally I've never seen any evidence of anything beyond a strong case of wishful thinking or a meddling Eternal," replies Mhendi. Whilst she started the conversation to attempt to be impressive and check the thing about asking questions, actually she's becoming just very happy to get to talk shop with someone who doesn't seem to be trying to get something out of her for it.

Meanwhile in Anvil, the official is doing a very good unflappable act over his 'oh no not another powerful magical entity that needs to be appeased' actual train of thought.

"Siward Rurikson, of the Imperial Civil Service, male pronouns, please just call me Siward. Usually we'd schedule you for a time at the next gathering at Anvil, next one is the Autumn Equinox in a few weeks. If it's more urgent than that we can send a Winged Messenger on your behalf, but generally I wouldn't expect the Consul to do much about it until the gathering in any case.

Are we about to have a problem in Feroz, or Spiral, or with the Grendel? It would be nice to know if we should be redirecting the Imperial prognosticators."

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"Yeah, those ones were more the meddling Eternal type, and they were, from personal observation, all assholes, but I've seen plenty of things-that-meet-most-definitions-of-god out there."  She gestures...around, really, rather than in any particular direction.  "Huh.  Wonder if my runes match your runes?"

 

"I'm hoping you'll have solutions with them, rather, but I sure wouldn't mind actual precognitives double-checking, if there's nothing in particular demanding their time right now.  ...If you're doing statistics, I probably have better data.  Regardless, contributing what I can to their work is, I imagine, a boon to the world entire, especially on the subject of natural disasters, which I have mostly robust models for, modulo specific magic effects.  ...Autumn equinox.  Huh, that'd work.  I'll try to have the Druj out of Spiral by then.  Anyway honestly I just want to make sure I'm not going to be pissing anybody off overmuch if I set up a way for interested parties to contact me reasonably privately somewhere around here.  Presumably not inside the conspicuously empty circle?  ...You can relax, I'm not gonna bite anybody just because.  Honestly, even if they start it I doubt I'll do anything absurd.  Just put them in time-out until they're willing to stop being an asshole.  ...Speaking of which, d'you have any way of knowing if these ones are yours?  They tried to sabotage me, and I'd rather be working with them."  Image of the saboteurs!  (In their reasonably-comfortable confinement area!)

 

Meanwhile, Myra has led the party out to...what's probably a floating carriage even though it's more triangle-shaped than otherwise; its undercarriage is sky-blue, its top is ocean-colored, and it has some sort of (metal) wings.  "Any of you scared of heights, by the way?"

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Mhendi pulls a small notebook and pencil from a pocket and starts going through the Runes and how they are used for minor everyday magic in the Empire and beyond; the Grendel have adopted using Verys and Diras on important locked boxes to strengthen them against theft, and she has a waterskin marked with Cavul.

(She is a little embarrassed about the waterskin in retrospect as she has clearly stolen - well, 'confiscated' - it from a Freeborn and she's worried Myra will magically notice this somehow.)

"We're all good," Kesh asserts, regarding heights. Calak is maybe not entirely sure this is the case, but maybe if this contraption doesn't sway as much as a tall boat mast it will be fine?

"The Imperial Prognosticators do Day magic mostly, a little Night but it's usually less useful, and check the Gate for relevant conjunctions, which is much easier with notice of areas that are likely to be of interest.

I think most of the 'natural' disasters we encounter are at least slightly magical in nature - the last major one was the drought, and the floods that resulted from the... Enthusiastic efforts of Imperial magicians to counter it.

If you'd just like a point of contact rather than a formal Embassy, I'm happy to take Winged Messengers for you and keep the letters at the offices here, or if you want somewhere people can walk in, you're probably best off asking around the local inns for a long term room lease?

Land is a bit at a premium right here, the surroundings of Anvil are all held by Chapters who either have already sold rights to wayhouses or are very Proud of their ancient sheep farming traditions and so on, but someone might be willing to negotiate for the right price."

Rurikson peers at the illusion skeptically.

"I'm neither a magistrate or their egregore, but I should warn you that imprisoning Imperial citizens is considered a serious crime and if they have committed crimes against you, you should report them to the local militia or a magistrate directly - it's reasonable to hold them for a short period to prevent further harm before the proper legal authorities can arrive, so nobody will hold it against you for now. Would you like me to fetch a magistrate?"

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"Oh, this is interesting.  Especially the differences in - your runes don't quite seem to care about the style of their inscription, as you've described them, while mine care enough that I can scribe water and get steam with the right stylistic filter applied, but yours have the interesting elemental correspondences going...I wonder what happens if I do the same overcharging that lets me do proper spellwork with these, with those..."

Myra seems to have not noticed the source of the waterskin - she's pretty good with awareness of the present, but not so much awareness of the distant past.

Or the immediate past if she didn't have a recording of it handy, in this case.

 

The contraption basically doesn't sway at all as it ascends to a good short-hop flying height, though it does pitch a bit.  Myra fusses over the controls at the front of the vehicle for a little bit and then turns her seat around to face the others.  "Well, we'll be maybe an hour or two to Spiral, plus finding somewhere to land.  What should I be looking out for?"


"The problem with reporting them to an Imperial magistrate is that I am given to understand that they did not commission their crime in Imperial jurisdiction, unless there's terms in the treaty ceding Feroz that I'm unaware of - I know it exists, but I haven't yet familiarized myself with the text thereof.  I'm fairly certain that I have not accidentally wandered a high-level building project across the border, though, and they summoned some sort of Dhar-Ghyran - excuse me, wrong metaphor.  Presumably Spring-related, judging by the all-consuming plants, or, well, its precise origin doesn't exactly matter - they summoned a portal to wherever, right in the middle of said building project.  They're only being contained until they promise to not do that again, as far as I'm concerned.  Leaving aside that I probably am significantly the local authority, nevermind that there's a Duke.  Still, I imagine that they'll pull their heads out of their asses faster if it's a magistrate yelling at them, instead of me."

...Egregores?  Oh boy.  Well, she's glad she's heard that word before, even if she's a little bit spooked by the concept.

"Well, if there's another drought, I can offer anti-flooding coordination.  And possibly spot it coming, if I get good climate data..."

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"I think style does matter in some applications, but I'm not exactly a rune caster, I just have a general interest in all forms of magic," Mhendi replies. "Orientation definitely does matter, size matters a bit for some applications, repetition can be useful."

Calak is feeling distinctly seasick, although he's trying to put a brave face on it.

"I'm not entirely sure; the coastline is a hopeless swamp, which has rather impeded good communications," replies Keth.

"Absolutely do not go anywhere near the large obsidian plateau," Calak contributes. "We have no idea how far the effect extends upwards; I cannot guarantee we won't all vigorously attempt to kill each other if you get into its direct range."

"There should be a gigantic mithril block - just a big rectangular lump - somewhere reasonably obvious from above," suggests Mhendi. "That's the thing that they're using to counteract the Plateau's effects, so it should be the safest thing to land near, although people might be a little excitable at the approach. I have enough supplies on me to send a Winged Messenger ahead, which might be prudent."


"That does sound quite complicated, I'm not sure anyone has any kind of legal standing; as far as we're concerned I think they are under Grendel jurisdiction. But I can acquire you a magistrate to make sure everything is appropriately complied with.

We did see the drought coming; in the end there was rather the opposite of a drought. Large changes like that are generally visible in the stars to those who read them."

Rurikson excuses himself and heads back into the building; a few minutes later he has brought out an older lady with a distinctly you're-probably-wasting-my-time expression.

"This is Magistrate Varka, she can confirm jurisdictional issues and take your report if it turns out there is a criminal case to be answered."

The magistrate looks at the drone in a severely unimpressed fashion.

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"Large obsidian plateau bad, mithril block good.  Alright, then."  She turns to the controls again, and inputs some things.  "If I blow up the plateau a little bit, is that going to help any (good) and-or be destructive to a cultural heritage site (bad)?  I can probably just slam a fracturing effect into the damn thing, the principles are analogous to some of the battle-magic I've seen...Then - hmm.  Probably needs more direct analysis of what even the fuck it's doing, which I'll take a pass at when we get closer but would appreciate you telling me what you know of now.  Winged Messenger sounds good; how fast does it travel, though?  We're going pretty fast ourselves."  

Cahak feels the attention of a soft presence for a moment before his travel woes ebb.


"Hello, Magistrate Varka; my apologies for impinging upon your time, but" (illusion) "these gentlebeings recently decided to attempt to sabotage an industrial work of mine in Feroz, and I'm not yet aware of the - legal, geopolitical, diplomatic, et cetera, situation vis-a-vis potential Imperial nationals - they haven't actually spoken to that - committing crimes upon foreign soil; separately, even if they are held under the local crimimal code as very recently amended, I'm hoping you'd be willing to tell them that yes, actually, I hold no ill intent towards them, as they aren't listening when I tell them that."

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"Physically destroying large magical terrain features," says Mhendi, wincing at the prospect, "generally just scatters whatever horrible magical effect you were trying to destroy across a wider area that is harder to target. Please do not explode the Black Plateau. That sounds like the exact opposite of what needs to happen to it."

"The known effects of the Plateau are mostly - increased bloodlust, increased aggression, across the entire territory but much worse on the thing itself. Soldiers that have never had a discipline problem start murdering each other over petty concerns or nothing at all; everyone is constantly on edge; the worst affected can start hallucinating. There is some kind of shielding on certain settlements, which is the only way anyone can really continue operating in the territory at all," explains Keth.

Calak looks relieved and also somewhat concerned. "Don't pick up anything made of obsidian," he contributes. "There are obsidian scraps - and weapons, arrowheads, anything you might use to kill someone - all over Spiral, and a significant source of casualties is some idiot picks one up and thinks it would make a nice keepsake. It's bad enough that it made the standing orders for units over the other side of the Bay entirely."


"They look like Freeborn; if they're still in Feroz, they're under Grendel jurisdiction and no longer meaningfully Imperial Citizens. Even if I was inclined to do so, how do you propose I address them from here?" Magistrate Varka is also clearly feeling quite judgemental towards any Freeborn who deliberately stayed in Feroz, which she suspects is the case with these miscreants.

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"Oh, joy.  Spiral as in fucking tantrum spiral, I fucking guess.  -- Sorry, getting lost in my own head; I imagine that every fucking time that happens it ends in a bloodbath of aggrieved parties avenging themselves with bloody obsidian.

"I'll have to see if I can do anything about that short of some sort of mass dispellation, which I'm definitely going to start working on pretty much immediately; I can take a look at the local solutions and see if I see anything that can be generalized and expanded with outside-context tooling.  Bloody hell, I was not expecting SCP-Foundation-ass shit to be lurking 'round this particular corner, but that's adventuring for you.  Always full of surprises.  D'you have any idea why the giant obsidian plateau is also radiating violent intent?

"At least my gear's safe, especially if I operate mostly mechanically.  No minds to affect, yeah?  ...I hate mind-affecting effects.  ...Mostly.  Some don't suck, on occasion.  And like, consensual use is fine.  But most of the sort I run into aren't anywhere within that range.  Well, at least I have any procedures for solving this.  Does antimagic work on this thing?  I can at least make antimagic containers for storage.  ...Maybe if you melt it down and recast it into something else it will stop being violence, but I'm not hoping very far on that...There's gotta be some way, though, to actually clear it up without having a giant do-not-touch box.  Those end poorly."


"Well, I could patch you into the same line I use to talk to them, and pull the same trick I'm pulling here to project the local surroundings over there.  That might actually be convincing."

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"When we first came to Spiral it was just mildly annoying, enough that we got bogged down and weren't making much progress," explains Kesh. "Then the Empire kindly did some kind of enormous ritual that more or less turned it off, which was maybe not the most tactically sound thing they've ever done, but was rather more pleasant for everyone involved.

Then, of course, once we'd consolidated some gains, the Varushkans showed up and massacred everyone they could find and fed them to their dogs and cursed ravens and so on, right on top of the bloody thing, pardon my Asavean. I wish I could swear they even did it on purpose, but the poor Urizeni seemed just as surprised as the rest of us.

And then everyone killed each other for a while until we dragged an enormous block of mithril out of the Ossuary and worked with the locals to at least protect everyone's actual homes from the effect; it's still a nightmare travelling anywhere, which I assume is why the Druj are now invading rather successfully."

"Huge block of mithril - or probably white granite or weirwood, the mithril was just handy - is basically the only way we know how to do antimagic at all, and it's more of a dampener than what you seem to be saying?" replies Mhendi. "We think that's why you can't affect the moon, it's probably made of white granite."

"I suspect you actually want the humans for trying to redirect the emotion," suggests Calak. "They stick emotional auras - Virtue auras, the Way followers call them - all over everything all the time; it isn't even only that liao is cheap, sometimes they just do it anyway even though they have nothing."


"I will just assume you said 'magic'. If you're expecting me to reassure them about their rights, I am not in a position to be particularly reassuring. I would expect that a circle of Freeborn hakima would simply assume anything that was sent to them via magic was entirely fake. On the upside, you have an entirely free hand to deal with them how you see fit, unless you particularly enjoy seeking the Grendel's approval." Magistrate Varka gives the drone an 'are-we-done-now' glare.

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"Oh joy, more mass torture-slaughter people.  Ain't that just the cherry on top of this shit sundae.  On the plus side, it seems that what we're dealing with is just the magical equivalent of magnetizing iron.  Find the right counter-resonance and, poof."

"...Yeah I'm a bit better at actual countermagic than that.  Or rather a lot better.  A lot of the stuff I developed myself is magic that affects, replicates, alters, cancels...et cetera, other stuff, and it works mostly as well on magic as it does on any other force you'd care to name.  Not always perfectly, but I'm rarely unable to find something that'll stop a problem."

"Oh, come on, clerics of mind-affecting?  Why are there clerics of mind-affecting.  ...Because they can give relevant blessings, probably.  Okay.  I can deal with that.  I'll low-key hate dealing with it, because things poking around in my head that I did not expressly invite scares me, and, frankly, for good reason, but I can deal with it, especially since it's - emotions, and not any actual mind reading.  ...I don't really know much about liao, as it happens?"

(She pulls her goddess's mantle tight around her, for what reassurance it gives.  If anyone can actually perceive that, it looks like the same force that healed Calak's seasickness is wrapping her in a hug.)


"I do believe that's all I wish to ask of the Empire's law at this time.  No, I don't desire the Grendel's favor; I'm just invested in bribing them to stop being, societally speaking, assholes.  Especially the slavery.  I agree with the Empire on the 'slavery's bad' thing.  Again, my apologies for the disturbance; thank you for your time."

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"Liao doesn't work on orcs, just makes us throw up," replies Calak, "but in humans it seems to - put them in a weird state of mind, that lets their emotions leave a lasting - thing - on things? Like, a person, or an object, or a place."

"I'm sure there's actual terminology somewhere, but because it doesn't work for us, most of what we know about it is just that if you don't want to wait out the season - or a full year on objects - you need to get a properly trained human and give them liao and they can wipe it off. They call the person one anointing, the place one consecration, and the object one hallow, that's useful for finding the right human," continues Keth.

"I hear it's possible for them to do it permanently, but that's much more like what the Druj can do with their extremely rare herbs, rather than just liao," contributes Mhendi. "That might be what you're going to need for the Black Plateau, though - unless you can line up a lot of humans, quantity seems to help too. Oh, and you're right, a Messenger might arrive before us but it might not; they can be extremely fast if they feel like it, but it can take up to three months in the worst case."


Magistrate Varka nods sharply and heads back into the building. Rurikson looks mildly apologetic. "I believe you wanted to set up a winged messenger address - if I could take a contact name, I can publicise that care of the Civil Service, unless you have an actual location you'd like it directed to? Did you also want to arrange a time to meet the Consul when Anvil is next in session?"

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"...Winged Messenger wait times sound like a massive pain, especially if the factors that cause it are poorly understood.  And yes, I'll ask some humans about liao stuff and hopefully about whatever they did to the Black Plateau the first time.  ...Extremely rare herbs?  Well, I know how to grow plants at scale in all sorts of conditions, regardless of if I can, say, duplicate them..."


"I have many potential locations, but the question is whether - actually, hold that thought a moment, may as well ask a mage.  Though, speaking of mages, do you happen to know to whom I should direct enquiries about the ritual that shut down the Black Plateau, near Spiral?  And the...whatever the fuck it was, pardon my language, that managed to fire it up again."


"So how does addressing a Winged Messenger work, actually?  If I wanted to put up a mailbox, for instance."

"...Also, what happens with non-Plateau obsidian in the Plateau's AoE?  Excuse me.  Area of effect."

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"If anyone can duplicate the Black Lotus," replies Calak, suddenly much more deadly serious than conversational, "they will be extremely popular. I've only heard tales, but it's meant to be able to unlock our potential to channel the ancestors - not just hear them, but - embody them, have direct audiences with them, let them affect the world directly through us."

"Winged Messenger goes to a person at a place. Needs to be smaller than an entire territory, the closer you can get it, the faster and more reliable it will get delivered - usually. Needs to be a fixed place, usually - you can't send one to a ship in transit, it just won't go," replies Mhendi about Winged Messenger technicalities.

"Standing orders are that all obsidian that might have come from the Empire is to be treated as if it might be Plateau tainted; that might just be an abundance of caution," explains Calak.


"That sounds like a question for an Archmage - probably Night, Night's an Urizeni at the moment and Day is an orc. You'll want to direct queries - or yelling, I hear yelling is quite popular, although obviously as a civil servant I am avowedly neutral on the matter - about the resurgence to the General of the Iron Helms. I can invite both of them to your Consul session if you'd like me to set that up, although there's no guarantee they'll attend; I'll try to avoid it clashing with Conclave or Military Council, that will probably make it the Saturday afternoon."

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"We'll see, if I can ever see a sample.  I can't make promises, though.  It tends to not take as well with especially legendary items, or things that're extraordinarily potent in and of themselves, but this is striking me as significantly a production problem rather than necessarily anything about narrative weight, so it could go either way.  I do expect to be able to at least replicate its growing conditions in miniature, whatever they are."

 

"...Does the intensity of the aggravation aura scale with the size of the obsidian, or merely the size of said aura, if you know?  I imagine not, but I had a thought about seeing if it's metaphysical magnetisn or the law of sympathy that causes the thing.  And I don't actually want to do it if it's likely to cause havoc by being in my proximity.  I have a lot of ways to make things go boom.  ...Oh, hells, that's not a good thought at all.  Right.  Okay.  Lock on the fucking evil aggro rock, search similar signatures, mandate second strikes only and nonlethal below the threshold for mass casualty situations while command's even plausibly in range...I mean, I'm getting the impression that it's more a berserker situation, but an even slightly intelligent me that's trying to kill people has.  Lots of very horrible options."


"I'd be just as happy with directions to their offices, really.  I'm sure I'm interesting enough to get a meeting, if I know anything about wizards.  Preferably with the one you recommended, though, if they'd know things.  Are they the Archmagi of a particular organization, or of the Empire?  And on the messenger business, I think a mailing address care of the Civil Service is my best option at the moment; I expect to be substantially living in motion for a while.  I'll send you a scanner so that anything that reaches you can reach me, or at least my inbox, if that's alright."

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"The only people we are fairly confident have successfully cultivated it in living memory - are the Druj. So perhaps we'll find a sample, if we can move quickly enough they don't destroy it all out of spite," contributes Kesh.

"Not an expert on the Plateau," replies Mhendi cautiously, "but generally size goes by size and intensity goes by power - deliberate investment - so extrapolating, chips off the plateau would have more local effects but similar intensity."

There are quite a lot of little shards of malevolence out there, although none very nearby. Highest concentration in Urizen, but some have inevitably made it back to the Broken Shore as well as all around the Empire, throughout Druj lands and up into Thule lands to the north. Most common is crude arrowheads, followed by various weaponry of varying degrees of improvisation, followed by deliberately hewn chunks of obsidian. Some are scattered around unattended, some are in various collections, some are being inadvisably carried by people or worn on necklaces, one rather notable set of arrowheads has been woven into a ceremonial mantle in Druj lands which appears to be for dropping on captives to drive them to violence towards their fellow captives...


"I'm afraid they don't have well-defined offices outside of Anvil sessions," explains Rurikson. "It's quite hard to locate Urizeni between gatherings at the moment, many of them spend their time attempting to rescue things and people from their occupied territories, especially if they have Night magic and can help with stealth operations. The Iron Helms are on campaign in the Barrens, they might be possible to locate although I expect their general might be quite busy. Kimus only knows where the Consul might be hiding. Archmage is an Imperial title, yes. We'll be happy to accommodate a scanner - what are their hospitality requirements?"

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"I'm good at that sort of thing, given any amount of time to prepare the ambush, and especially with my ability to gather intelligence.  That said, I'm not omnipotent, just powerful differently than you.  Most of what I do?  It's all very concrete magic.  Conceptual effects...I've ever worked with or against them, but it's not exactly my field; I'm heavily specialized in the intersection between magic and engineering.  So if there's anything like that going on, I'd have some trouble with it.  Especially if...well, okay, somehow I doubt they're using a conceptual forget-this over...whatever.  But I can't rule out that they'd salt their fields to spite me if they've some way of knowing that I'm coming.  So, d'you think they do?  Then again, they're not already panicking, so they don't yet..."

She can put an upper bound on her enemies' capabilities!  That is a wonderful thing!


"A scanner is a device, not a person.  ...unless you have that as a profession like computers, in which case mine's still a device; when it gets here in a few hours you should just tell the drone where's best to set up for you and it can handle the rest.  It'll be the one with an envelope insignia on it."

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"I don't actually understand the distinction you're making?" asks Mhendi. "Do you mean the same kind of difference as between realm magic and - what the Imperials would call spiritual auras?"

"How is this flying machine against arrows and possibly ballista bolts?" asks Keth. "And lightning strikes for that matter, you may need to stay clear of the coastline as we approach... I'm sure it ought to be against the treaty for the Empire to keep calling up storms, but it's awfully hard to prove who did it."


"About how large is the... 'device'?" asks Rurikson cautiously. Maybe it's like a ushabti or something, that would make sense.

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"The difference between magic that opens a door because it knows how to pick a lock and turn a handle, and magic that opens doors Because It Opens Doors."

"You could strike me with lightning and I'd most likely be fine; so will our ride.  Ballista bolts are only going to be a mild annoyance if they knock a flight control surface while there's no magic running, or if they do the thing where they just try to shear the plane in half.  She can handle some bullets.  ...And isn't actually a person; cultural habits die hard, apparently."


"About this big, placed flat, which is probably most convenient.  There will be different space requirements if it can't be magic-powered, though."  He gets a yay-by-yay-by-yay holographic block, demonstrating the process; the scanner pulls papers through, so really it's only notably big along one dimension.  (It can also handle scrolls.)  "Written material goes through the long end, gets scanned, ends up presumably in my inbox; I should probably also include something that'll open mail, for information security, unless Winged Messenger doesn't take envelopes or something.  ...Wouldn't be the strangest restriction I've seen."

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"I think we just don't have the second kind," replies Mhendi. "Magic is all extremely well specified, I suppose it does have conceptual resonances but what it does with them is very well defined; alchemy feels a bit more opaque but I think I just don't understand it sufficiently, artisanry can be a bit arbitrary but generally has to work with the form of the item; I think the human aura thing taps into something from where their souls go, much like we orcs get much more personally from specific Ancestors.

I suppose the Plateau probably does have elements of hearth magic, which is much harder to pin down and does sometimes seem to actively resist study."


"If it's a ushabti, we don't have the ambient magic down here to animate them reliably," Rurikson informs the drone. "Winged Messenger generally doesn't come in envelopes, you have to prepare the paper with iridescent gloaming and preparing an envelope too would be wasteful; it does often come folded, sometimes elaborately so, and seals and ribbons often travel intact."

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"...Huh.  If anything I'd say all your magic is the second kind, if your spells all do One Specific Unchangeable Thing That You Can't Use Off-Label.  I am the exact opposite of that, paradigmatically speaking, in that I do mostly the same things to everything."

"...oh, bloody hellfire, that's going to be annoying.  I walked into a place that had 'not wanting to be studied' as its - unique identifying trait - the one time and almost got concussed by an anvil.  I'll figure something out, though."


"...Right, lemme just..."  Thaumometer?  Yeah, there's not no magic.

"It should be fine, magicwise, I double-checked.  I'm just vaguely expecting you to not want strange magic near your stuff.  Not sure why ushabti aren't, but I haven't investigated one personally.  And if it's only going to be sealing wax and ribbons...Yeah, I can handle getting something to open those."

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"It's a specific thing because it's based off the extensive specification provided when codifying the ritual, or putting together the arcane projection, or researching the spell - I think the difference might be, our magical effects have a natural scale?

So while you could make small effects, designed to add up to larger ones, they would be too inefficient to practically use - the specificity is because that's how you get the efficiency gains to make it actually usable.

Hearth magic does rather complicate things, yes. A good friend of mine said once that it would be really nice if theoretically random effects were actually random, apparently there's a lot of mathematics that would be much more useful that way, but on closer examination they are not."

Mhendi is so incredibly glad she was picked for this assignment, it might all end in flames but the sheer intellectual excitement might waft her across the Abyss even if she doesn't manage to convert it into riches.


"Does it radiate some kind of effect that we should be worried about? Should we avoid putting it in a room with people who prefer not to become lineaged?"

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"Huh, that's really interesting; I've never noticed particular efficiencies or inefficiencies of scale on my magic, it just...scales.  I put 5 units of magic into a force spell, I get 5 units of force out.  I put ten in, I get ten out.  And so on and so forth.

"...I wonder if it's pseudorandomly generated, because if it's not true randomness, there must be an algorithm or set of factors determining how it falls...  Maybe I should wire - excuse me, mail - your math friend some of my cryptography books.  Not my field, but it's certainly an interesting puzzle."

The plane's been keeping to a reasonably slow pace, but soon they will be doing reconaissance over Spiral, she thinks.


"Not to my knowledge, though I'm not aware of the precise mechanism by which lineages develop in the first place so I can't guarantee that there's definitively no risk.  That said, it doesn't radiate anything that I know how to check."

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"Oh, he was pretty sure it was deliberate agency directing what should be random - not, of course, one that could be pinned down on anything, but his theory is that something acts on the world to make - more interesting coincidences, less amenability to mechanical study?" suggests Mhendi.

Below them, a great river marks the border between orderly farmlands, heavy stone construction and clear roads, and a dense jungle with occasional mountains, pierced here and there by the pale towers of great and ancient buildings, greater mountains rising up beyond - this is Urizen, by the decorative map, with the river port of Cargo and the sea ports of Elos and Visten marked on the navigational map, and then the hazardous approach to Apulus marked with warnings for shifting mud-bars and tangling plants.


"That sounds reasonably safe for a magical contrivance," replies Rurikson. "It won't have a problem being in a room with other magical boons, will it?"

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"Yeah, I figured that the meddling was ultimately agentic.  Wonder whose hands it's by."

And then...Urizen.  "...wow.  That's certainly a sight."


"I can't think of any reason that it would, offhand, save if those other magical contrivances are specifically trying to interfere with it."

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"The Spires are quite impressive inside too, by all reports," replies Keth. "They don't build them themselves, mostly - although they do repair them, or sometimes build in imitation of them if they need to be based somewhere that doesn't have one - they're all left over from something else that used to live here - something larger than humans, we think, from the proportions of the construction."

"And in between it's all tigers and owlbears and other failed magical experiments that want to eat you," adds Calak.


Rurikson nods. "Did you want to book a time to be expected at the next gathering in Anvil, or will that be all for now?"

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