Jan 30, 2023 12:26 PM
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"I wonder."

"Ah.  Of course it's failed magical experiments, this is wizard country."  (Wizards!  No sense of right and wrong! goes the part of her brain that never stopped being a meme-loving gremlin.)  "...Huh, this is the second world ever that even has owlbears, what're they like 'round these parts?"


"I can fit in wherever's convenient, though I disprefer mornings.  Or - how do you mean?"

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"Owlbears are - you know how bears, they're very tough and have enormous claws and could probably kill you very easily, but generally they're entirely chill and just want you to leave them alone? And you know how owls, they always look at you as if they are sizing you up and would absolutely hunt you if you were only a little smaller? Yeah. Normally it's owl head, giant bear claws, bipedal, but they vary," replies Calak.

There is no shortage of jungle along the coast, although it is cleared at a pass to display a lovely gleaming white fortress guarding the pass; beyond that point, the coastline begins to dissolve into swamp and the jungle is giving off a poorly defined sense of Something Is Very Wrong Here.


"Let's say 2pm on the Saturday in the Senate building? Is there anything you'd like us to say with the announcement - what name do you intend to go by, what polity are you claiming to represent if any, anyone you would particularly like to see other than the Consul and the Archmagi?"

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"Yeah, that's an owlbear alright.  I am so glad I have sedatives.  And force spells."

...What the hell is that?

"...What's with the jungle?  It's - wrong."

...One problem at a time; what's their ETA to Spiral and the Black Plateau?  That one's more time-sensitive.  Creepy jungle you just stay out of, unless you need to do something to it.


"Administrator Myra Northwind, speaking for myself and my works as a state-level actor and effective head-of-state; I am available to answer questions about recent events involving anything with this sigil on it -" she projects the sigil "- and, if it has not been resolved by that point, soliciting and offering assistance in the matter of de-violence-magnetting the Black Plateau and, pardon my language, whatever other bullshit you've got, modulo appropriately-diplomatic phrasing.  I am also offering assistance with anti-Druj action, subject to conditions of 'not just slaughtering them all, they're still people even if the way their culture is presently shaped is an absolute travesty'.  I also wish to promulgate certain documents, including an open offer to assist in enhancing general quality-of-living standards - subject to certain commitments to preserving the dignity of all sapient peoples, exempli gratia not doing slavery - that the duchy of Feroz has already accepted."

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Where the jungle starts going Wrong? That's the border of Spiral. The entirety of Spiral is Wrong.

The Black Plateau is - probably - nothing really wants to look at it, the unaided eye doesn't really want to look at it - but it's definitely a vast plateau of obsidian and it's just peeking out between those mountains with the ruined fortress on, pretty much dead centre of the territory.

"I imagine that's the influence of the Black Plateau," replies Mhendi. "I still recommend we stay well above until we've located the Block, although I'm not necessarily convinced the effect has a height limit; you may wish to skirt the border instead, I believe the Block is fairly near the border, about halfway up the territory from the coastline?"


Rurikson diligently takes notes. "Will there be anything else, or is that all?"

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"...dear gods above and hells below, who came up with this shit?"

She shudders, and wraps her aura tight around herself.

"It's horrible.  I won't say I haven't seen worse, but most wasn't in person, and even less of that was crafted by mortal hands."


"I think that's all I have at the moment.  Is there anything you wish to bring up, while I'm paying particular attention to you here?"

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"To be fair, I don't think the Black Plateau is all the Imperials' fault," replies Keth. "It's very likely another one of the things that was already there when they got there. It is their fault that it's no longer quiescent, though; they were the ones who quieted it in the first place, they must have known that staging a deliberately terrible slaughter, practically on top of it, would have had... consequences."


"As a Civil Servant, my oath bids me to be perfectly neutral in all political matters," explains Rurikson, "so no, there is nothing further from me. Good travels, and please do show up on time to Anvil, they do get awfully upset when such an interesting occasion must be cancelled."

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"Mm.  Fair enough, that.  Still.  Why, after so much effort to do the exact opposite, would you ever do - this?  Not to mention the - attempted genocide as far as understand.  That's particularly awful.  Does the Empire truly have that little internal coordination to work at cross purposes with itself?"

"...I hope I can at least make it stop doing this thing, regardless of whether I can figure out the underlying mechanism of action and just break the effect entirely."


"Worst comes to worst, I'll call in; the only thing that'll stop that is getting in a fight, personally, which is...highly unlikely.  Oh, one more thing: Do you have the time?  I need to make sure my clock matches yours."

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"Well, that's what you get when you try to run a democracy," replies Keth. "Their Senate changes every season; they have no internal discipline at all, can't keep a treaty to save their lives. Even when they actually sign something, there'll be hundreds of them queuing up to screw it up - they did it to the Jotun, they did it to us, they had to fight their own people to get them to stop squatting on lands they'd ceded to the Thule - they call us pirates, but they've had to station government observers on every single one of their trading fleets, just to stop them breaking every treaty they make by doing a bit of piracy on the side. It's a mess."

"I suspect," says Mhendi, "that the trick is, to give it something else to amplify? I'm not sure how that's going to work with the Druj in the territory, though. They are not exactly famous for listening to reason, or... embracing the positive emotions."


Rurikson pulls a large pocketwatch out of a pocket. It's a bit battered and oversized, but looks quite sturdy and well made. "Three twenty five pm" he declares. "Wouldn't want to trust it within the minute, but that should be enough to show up reasonably on time."

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"Goooood grief.  I don't exactly think holding the Empire to blame for an action of a random citizen is, diplomatically speaking, particularly reasonable, but if that's how it is, I suppose that's how it is.  Especially if they make the people who run those fleets Imperial functionaries; that's just asking for trouble.  Really, I'm getting the impression that the Empire is several smaller nations in a trenchcoat, pretending to be a united polity.  I wouldn't want to leap to a hasty judgement, though; what I'm gathering of orc psychology suggests that you're hardly a monolith of coordinated collective action to the public benefit either, even if you've got less individuals doing random shit for unknown reasons.  And y'all do pirate, so far as I'm concerned, though I suppose it's more like privateering doing it with governmental sanction as you do."

"...Giving the Plateau something else to amplify, I can do, and if the Druj want to object to what I'll replace it with, well, they can register their objections in person, on-site."

She permits herself a tight grin, her expression fierce, before blinking, shaking her head, and sighing.

"I should not be excited about the prospect of that happening.  Damn aura.  ...Well, it's probably not the aura, but still.  It's not - good, to look forward to violence.  Even when you're pretty sure that everyone will come out fine, or even better off than they started, in the end.  It's just not right.  But I suppose I can hardly stop liking the idea of damn well dragging some very nasty people into the metaphorical Century of the Fruitbat, no matter their kicking and screaming.  ...Don't worry about that, it's a literary reference."


"Thank you!  See you around, Steward Rurikson; it's been a pleasure."

She hangs up.

(She also sets a reminder.)

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"If we don't hold them accountable for individual raiders, they organise huge raids, like the one that burnt down half of Dubhtraig, and claim they were all acting independently," explains Keth. "They did it to Asavea just this season. We might not live up to your standards of 'to the public benefit', but at least we actually believe in keeping our word."

About halfway along the arbitrary geographical boundary (as traversed north from the coastline), which also appears to be a meaningful magical boundary that is keeping the Wrong firmly on the Spiral side, there is a major pass through the mountains - guarded on the Imperial side by a sprawling wooden fortress built around a central rune-carved stone pillar which has its own barely restrained magic.

On the Spiral side of that pass, there are some horrible broken ruins, then an area of jungle that doesn't look so much Wrong as utterly devastated - remaining plants are blackened and twisted, the whole thing just reeks of un-life - and in the middle of that area, there is a giant silvery metallic construction, a twisted blob of metal that strongly repels the Wrong; there are a few half-hearted wooden constructions at its base, but the un-life zone doesn't look like a very pleasant place to be, even though it is rejecting the Black Plateau's influence.

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She lets out a low whistle.  "That's just rude, even though I could legitimately see it happening independent of government action if some sufficiently rich guy was sufficiently pissed off or immoral and profit-motivated.  At least raid the worst people first, come on.  But that's hardly immediately material."

"...Which way around does causation of the borders on the map and in the territory go, incidentally?  Can you change the borders in the world with the map?"

And how's her goddess's aura - the sliver wrapped around her like a mantle, rather than anything she actively invokes - holding up against both effects?

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"Borders are a magical thing that exists; if anyone can change them, I don't know about it," replies Mhendi. "It's convenient to make them your map borders because then magical effects line up with what you're describing, and you can use the map for scrying. They do tend to follow useful natural boundaries, but not always; if you divert a river, the border doesn't go anywhere."

The effects are all pretty diffuse at this range; she's probably not going to have a problem even on the ground, here. Her companions might have more trouble, but unless they spend a lot of time there, it's not going to seriously get to them either.

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"Good to know."

"Okay, so, I can buffer people from the ...everything... going on down there, and do more of that the more I focus on cleric-ing.  ...Excuse me.  Doing an analogue to the weird human emotion-power thing except with more intentionality behind the aura because there's an intent that the source of it has.

"D'you want to go for that, or see if you can stick it out first?"

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"I am quite happy to be protected from the Plateau's influence if you're willing," replies Keth, and the other two nod in agreement. "And from that Winter regio," Mhendi adds. Calak makes an expressive face that indicates that he is also not the world's greatest fan of Winter regios.

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Then they shall feel a comforting presence settle upon them, as (but not actually co-occurrent with) she passes out small silver icons depicting...a stylized hug?

"The symbols help me focus, but they're not exactly necessary per se; wear them or keep them or not, as you wish.  Should probably work to share them with others, as well, to pass on the blessing.  However, there is an entity with opinions about how to properly treat people backing this effect, so if someone's been a really horrible person, they might get a bit...well, I can call on her to attack, as well, though I don't.  But they'll live, unless they've, like...proactively precommitted to refusing all prosociality.  ...so, basically the Druj's boss figures, I suppose."

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Keth looks a little worried about this statement - she has done a lot of things in her life which she suspects that Myra's 'entity' would not especially approve of - but she's committed now and she takes the object.

The other two seem much less worried about it - Mhendi doesn't really believe she's ever done anything wrong and Calak is pretty sure healing people is about as 'prosocial' as it gets, regardless of what those people were doing to get injured.

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Silly Keth.  You recognize the harm you've done, and if properly supported, won't need to do it further; you want a good world.  You'll do just fine.  She believes in you.

The other two are actually a bit more questionable, and unlike Myra, the force behind this can peer into their memories.

Mhendi...Your empathy needs work, if you truly believe that there's nothing you've done wrong.  She'll show you some of the subtle things, some of your actions' consequences, and trust you to use that knowledge for everyone's benefit.

Calak...Sometimes it does matter, if you know what they'll do with their mended wounds.  But you're right that most of the time a life saved is an incalculable good.

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Mhendi makes a bit of a disapproving face, and mostly just tries to brush off the effects; judgemental aura can be judgemental if it likes, as long as it does its job and she doesn't end up in some kind of stupid brawl or with her life drained away by Winter. 

Calak kind of agrees with the aura, but, y'know, what's one healer to do about it - hopefully it'll get better now, right?

Keth is suspicious of this assessment of herself, but is definitely happier moving forwards than looking back.

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They will be safe from Winter's bite and the Black Plateau's painéd rage, and things will get better, now, especially with one of her favoriteed mortals working on fixing everyone's problems.

(Mhendi does get a Disapproving/Disappointed Eyebrow Raise, or equivalent, at trying to brush her lesson in consideration off, but she'll still receive protection.  It will just also include nagging moments of empathy.)

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"We all ready to go down there...?"

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"Yes," confirms Keth, "thank you for the anointing or whatever this is."

Mhendi and Calak also nod, although Mhendi still looks like she's swallowed a lemon or some kind of biting insect.

Someone is attempting to flash a light at them, probably in a communicative fashion, from high up on the non-Spiral-side border fortification. The guard post clinging to the Block doesn't seem to have spotted them yet.

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"Anointing is certainly not a wrong word for it."

She flashes a light back at them, then spins up a comms-spell.  "Hello down there, who are you and who do you serve?"

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"This is Willstone Citadel, warning, you are near the border, Spiral has a pervasive magical aura of Hatred and may cause unwanted hostility. Active conflict between Grendel and Druj, this is a dangerous region. More information is available, we are a defensive structure and welcome peaceful contact."

This appears to be some kind of military light code.

"Urizeni are always curious about everything," Keth offers. "That's their border fortification. I don't expect they'll be pleased to see us, but they'll be polite about it."

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"We copy, Willstone Citadel.  If it wasn't dangerous I would be somewhere else.  Suppose I may as well drop in."

 

She closes the mic off for a second.  "Alright, Keth, you're in charge of making contact with the local Grendel forces, I'll leave you a telepresence projector if you need to get in touch and you do have the comms, the autopilot ought to see you down to the mithril block safely and if it doesn't, there's still manual assist.  And if that fails, somehow, just...think of it like driving a horse and throwing a javelin simultaneously."

 

Then she exits the vehicle.  In midair.

 

She rarely flies under her own power, but it's fun.

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Keth is making such a facial expression about unpredictable superiors and their unrealistic expectations, but has it smoothed away by the time she turns round to the others, and they don't immediately start messing around with the controls.

Willstone Citadel has a number of small patrols of a dozen Sentinels - serious looking fighters in fancy looking metal armour with lots of unnecessary-seeming elegant folds in it - and a couple of them start to converge on locations that look like they might be where their mysterious flying guest will land. They move in well disciplined formation.

There are also a variety of people in robes pointing simple hand held spyglasses at Myra's approximate current location.

There is an obvious fortified gatehouse at ground level, the rest of ground level having high smooth wooden walls.

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