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Dec 04, 2022 6:49 AM
the worshippers of newly ascended evil gods meet each other
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"Oh, you can use wands? So are you a wizard as well? What circle do you need to be to summon a Cantor?

As for myself, I can summon both half-fiends and demons, but it's difficult to get a demon that is aligned with my god. Half-fiends are easier to get, and they're also easier to summon since, on average, they are weaker. So they require a lower circle of spell to conjure."

She wraps her fingers around her chin.

"Is it possible for me to reserve a summoning by paying half price now, and then potentially redeem it at some point in the near future...perhaps a week from now? I will pay the rest of the money upon the casting of the spell in that time." She'd prefer to have Elias be present so he can ask questions too.

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"I'm just barely a wizard. The math is so cool though!

You want the Planar Inquiry? Paying half in advance is fine, that's our usual policy anyway.

Hmm, if we plan ahead, and the cantor wants an offering of more than 50gp to talk to you, we could use the Planar Inquiry for counseling a Marran and then sell you Summon Cantor later. So you can be guaranteed not to pay more than 200gp.

Summon Cantor is a third-circle cleric spell. Marra mostly has second-circle clerics, like our cleric."

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She smiles, and puts even more gold coins on the table. That's a large portion of her spending money gone, but she thinks it will be worth it. She can get more money by selling healing in the Pit later, although she's not really looking forward to that possibility.

"How did you join the church of Marra?" She asks the question to both Ellin and Alieta.

"I'm a cleric, so I joined when I was ordained, but for laypeople, you have to decide whether or not to work for a church. Were you already Lawful Evil before you joined? Was the prospect of a better afterlife appealing? I relate to that – Hell sounds awful, and it seems that you get to keep so little of yourself as a devil. I'm looking forward to seeing a Cantor. I've heard that Marra lets each of her outsiders be unique, rather than impressing a standardized form upon them like the other Lawful afterlives."

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"At a slave market in Diobel. I was probably headed to Axis, but" shrug "they offered me safety and education and - dignity.

Later I was transferred here because this group needed an accountant."

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"You were freed, then? Does the Marran church disapprove of slavery?" If that's true, that's...very surprising! She did not expect a Lawful Evil church to buy slaves to free them. No wonder Marra lives outside of Asmodeus's realm.

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"Yes, since I'm now in Andoran, but not really. It doesn't matter. All Marrans have the status of feudal vassals in their hierarchy. No matter who you are, joining is a permanent commitment that we enforce with violence if necessary.

It's theoretically possible for a slave acquired unexpectedly, who is usefully skilled but has a soul unsuited to Marra, to negotiate for their freedom. In practice, we screen out such people beforehand.

Marra is the god of Feudalism and Rules, not Slavery. She dislikes all social relations that deviate from her ideal.

The Marran church finds slavery convenient for obtaining skilled people who would not otherwise be recruited, and dislikes the trauma it causes. We stay out of politics."

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"I grew up in the church!

How did you decide to become a cleric of Damian?" Maybe she's willing to answer that now?

"Yeah, marrenai look different and keep the vanities they had in life, although all the ones of each type have the same abilitystats. Sietaziz look really different from each other, like red with butterfly wings and long spines, or translucent and spirally, or with extra legs and big eyes and horns... Those are the ones I've seen illusions of people scrying. Cantors vary in the color of their fur and the shape of their ears and tails and not a lot else, but their personalities are really different, probably so petitioners can get matched with a good fit.

Some people say that Marra wants to collect one of every shape of soul, well, limited to shapes that She likes, but that can't be right, too many of Her Regulators used to be Axiomites, there's got to be some duplicates there."

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...isn't that the same as being a slave, still? Presumably a serf gets better treatment than a slave, but still, you can't leave either way. Perhaps that her Chaos talking.

There have only been a few dozen children born in the churches of Conrad and Damian, and the manner that they ought to be raised and treated caused a lot of controversy in the church. It would be interesting to find out how Alieta was raised.

"I have never seen outsiders like that before! Most devils and kytons look ugly to me, but it seems like Marran outsiders are beautiful. I think merely being able to see one would have been worth my money." That part wasn't a lie.

"Alright, I'll tell you. The Worldwound was closed when I was young. Mendev was poor already, both because of its cold climate being unsuitable for agriculture and because of demonic devastation. It became even poorer after the Worldwound closed, ironically enough, because the southern countries stopped sending aid to it. There was no reason to.

I was an orphan. I think it's because I'm a half-elf, and that usually means you're an illegitimate child. Elves and humans rarely marry each other. I lived on the streets and learned how to survive by stealing and tricking others. I was poor, but even then, I remember...wanting pleasurable things. I remember the taste of the food we would swipe from the shops, or the feel of the cloaks and jackets we would steal from people. I was clericed after a string of failed heists. I remember being angry over not being fulfilled, over not being able to satisfy my desires. I was discerning in my tastes even though I had nothing to choose from. I think that was what caused Damian to see me and cleric me, in the end. He cares deeply about people...paying attention to what makes them feel good and what doesn't. What appears beautiful to them and what doesn't. I live a very comfortable life now, working for the church."

She pauses for a moment before continuing. "I think that many people stop thinking when they get something that gives them pleasure, whereas I thought about how that pleasure might be heightened or extended or flavored. Damian pays attention to that, and it's something that we give a lot of thought as clerics. The exact way something feels. How the experience of me seeing the color red might be totally different to your experience seeing that color. I'm not sure whether it's a Chaotic thing or a Conradian and Damianite thing, but our churches pay much more attention to specific sensations to pursue or frames of mind to adopt rather than sets of tenets to follow or guidelines to obey."

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"Woah, so you didn't even know about Damian's church when you were chosen? I didn't know that was possible!

Was being frustrated necessary? I imagine that if you had been indulged in everything as a child, you wouldn't have grown to appreciate pleasures as much. People are so bad at appreciating things. But if you had been calmly given things to enjoy as rewards for being correctly appreciative... I guess that takes mind-reading magic that most people don't have access to.

Your focus on mindset makes sense. We care about mindset too, like being vain about things, selecting which emotions you want to follow and which you want to reject, having habits of thought to remind us of our duties... I guess vanity is the best example of an emotion we're supposed to have.

It doesn't seem like a Chaotic thing to me? Like, we optimize our feelings and follow rules, Neutral optimizes feelings, and Chaos optimizes feelings and rejects rules? That's how I usually think about it."

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"It's possible, provided that you are sufficiently aligned with the god's principles. Many gods do choose to pay attention to when mortals invoke Their name, though.

Perhaps, but perhaps not. Damian was a rich noble in before His ascension, and he was still able to cultivate that same attention to sensation that we train ourselves to do. I'm not sure that approach would work, though." She can't tell exactly what's wrong with it, but it just...is way too Lawful. It emanates Law. That's totally how she expected a Lawful person would react. Hm. She should probably think on why that is. She should have prepared Fox's Cunning too.

"Hm. Something about that does not quite sound right to me, although I cannot exactly pinpoint where the issue is. I think it has to do with the sense of obligation. The way you phrase things implies that you are...reshaped and reformed to fit a mold. Whereas for us, the desire is already there, and it's that we lack the training to get what we want. Or perhaps it is that our desire has been suppressed or was laying dormant somehow, and must be awoken. It's why we are very selective in choosing which people get to enter our church, whereas Marra accepts everyone who accepts Her and Her tenets. We do not reshape, but merely preselect which souls are already correctly shaped.

Both Conrad and Damian are fine with not everyone following Their tenets and worshipping Them, but only that those souls who are worthy of them and would be unfulfilled without Their presence in their lives be...'rescued' from their plight and shown to Them. Does that make sense to you? I get that the way I phrased it is rather confusing, but I'm not sure how to phrase it better. It's a sensation similar to pity, I think. When...the potential of someone is wasted. Yes, I believe that's a better way to put it. They do not want the potential of worthy people to be wasted, and wish for them to be able to enter the church."

Yes, she really needs Fox's Cunning. Damianite theological instruction does not really go in depth with regard to theory, in all honesty.

"It's not that we reject rules, but we have more faith in the judgment of our fellow worshippers than we do in systems. Systems and rules have a limited ability to adapt to context. If I feel that doing X would be better than doing Y, then I will do X, even if precedent calls for doing Y. We are able to adopt this because we are selective in who gets to enter. We can assume competence and good faith from them."

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"I suppose Marra also finds some souls more naturally suitable than others. I think we should scry Her realm more to figure out whether souls that come to Her more vain and obedient and dutiful produce stronger marranai, and by how much, and how many lesser souls they're worth, but that would take centuries at least... All of Her currently finished marrenai came to her from other afterlives, finished or almost finished.

Suppose we were to make a deal that I'll teach you to stand on your hands and you make me a perfume, but then, say, I lose my sense of smell. So we need to renegotiate, right? If there's no rule saying how we work it out, why should I expect you to behave reasonably? Maybe you decide that since I won't appreciate the perfume, you don't have to do anything anymore. That doesn't seem fair to me; I think one better option might be for you to pay me what would have been the cost of the perfume, in money, plus a bit extra for not needing as much materials. Maybe. I don't know how making perfume works, maybe that's not reasonable. But anyway, why would you pick a reasonable resolution? I feel like you're saying you would do it because you like me or something. And you want me to rely on your emotional state! What if you stop liking me once I can't appreciate your perfume art anymore? What if your emotional intuitions of what is reasonable differ from my emotional intuitions? I don't think this system works!

And I think you're imagining that if we were both Marrans, the rules would get in the way, that you would have to make the perfume exactly as requested, even if it were customized to me, and then I would have to find a buyer for it. But that's not how it would work. Because we follow the rules of negotiating in what I would call "good faith", we would try to figure out a clause to put in our contract that we would have agreed to earlier. If for some reason we couldn't communicate, we would at least do something like what we would expect the other would agree to, avoiding irreversible actions if possible, and work it out later. And if we couldn't even do that, we would at least know that we would both obey the ruling of our closest common superior in our hierarchy."

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"Hm. Your system works, but we do not work like that in the church. If you lost your sense of smell, we would try to use Remove Anosmia/Ageusia on you to try to recover it. But ignoring that, I would have offered to do something else for you, like make you a medicated ointment or lotion or perhaps make cosmetics for you, if you use makeup.

With us, it is something similar to liking each other, but not quite. We are taught to care about ourselves and our pleasure. But when we get inducted into the church, we say that part of our souls are given to others, and a part of others invested in us. That is figurative and symbolic, of course, you can't do that to a soul without destroying it. What it means is that a portion of what I value is now what is valued by others in the church, by virtue of them being in the church also, and likewise them in myself.

It is similar to how, in a good family, members of the family look out for one another and take into account their interests and desires, without having to make explicit arrangements for it. It is the same with us. Were you to join our church, I would treat you as though you were an old friend or a cousin despite us never having interacted before. You would not need to renegotiate with me because it's likely that I would feel pity for you in that situation and offer to do something else at no additional cost.

That may seem extremely Neutral Good to you, but it's not quite. We do not extend this treatment to people outside the church, and we are encouraged but not obliged to help others in ways not directly related to missions the church gives us. The bare minimum is for us not to harm others in the church in our time off. I am treating you nicely regardless of what I might feel about you only because of what upsetting you might do, and the benefits that may be incurred to me if I am in good standing with you. Good people treat all others as being moral patients, whereas we only treat people inside the church as moral patients. We value outsiders only insofar as they might benefit us. That doesn't mean being impolite though – it's unwise to antagonize people for no reason.

How do I explain more clearly...what I'm referring to is the sort of bond that you get when you undertake many trials with someone for a long time. You get a sense that they will have your interests at heart, or at the very least will not take advantage of your vulnerability around them. Have you felt that way before? In our case, it is enforced through our soul contracts. Conrad and Damian will strip them of their contracts and related powers if they attempt to harm others in the church or betray our trust. And, of course, we will send hunters to ensure they die a painful death."

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"Yeah, that sounds like Good.

Marrans have tried to make contracts to take each other's interests as their own. Not a whole church, just two people! And even that hasn't worked. Mortals just aren't capable of fully understanding other people. For sure, intelligent marrenai are able to rule over lesser beings... But two mortals of roughly equal abilitystats can't optimize each other, and certainly can't fulfill their duties at the same time.

Marra is the god of Paternalism, so we try really hard, at one-directional optimization where the optimizer puts a lot of time and effort into it, and the domain is limited. That works pretty well. I'm very glad that my father is optimizing my wizarding progression, for example.

I don't think the kind of 'good family' you're talking about actually exists. I mean, I'm sure they try, I'm sure there are people who think they're succeeding. But 'friendship' is a bad idea." It's also heretical for Marrans, but that's obviously not going to convince a non-Marran.

It seems like Felicia really has a Good outlook on life. It's not surprising that she's Evil (if it's true that she's Evil), since being properly Good requires exhausting vigilance and lots of people try and fail, but it is kind of surprising that she's an Evil cleric, and that Damian is Evil.

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Wait, take a step back.

Obviously the ways other gods do things are weird and messed up. So what if Damian wants His followers to have a sort-of-Good mindset and stick to that mindset at the expense of a sensible system, no matter how much pointless suffering it causes them. Okay. He can do whatever he likes with His followers. And His actions are certainly both chaotic and Evil!

Huh, why isn't Sarenrae Evil then? She makes Her followers drown themselves in their altruistic feelings and let their bodies be dragged around by every passing current. But She and Her followers obey the strictures of Good, and so She's Good just because of that? Wow.

Up to now, Alieta hadn't realized that the difference between Good and Evil was so arbitrary. She had thought it mostly about altruism, which just showed why Evil was better than Good, because Evil people are allowed to be altruistic when they feel like it. Evil isn't limiting like Good is.

She had had wary respect for Iomedae, who has very different values than Marra but still makes sense, and had considered the other Good gods as boringly pathetic. But it's worse: the Good gods are just cheating! Well. Making use of one's superiors for one's own purposes is a virtue according to Marra. Pharasma is the other gods' superior and if they can exploit Her, okay, fine, it's not Alieta's problem.

But she feels a flash of hatred (which she immediately focuses on and erases, since it's not an emotion she wants) for every Good person who has ever acted like they had a profound insight into life that meant that they should have the right to steal her away and reshape her.

It's really so unfair that Evil clerics get useless negative-energy channeling.

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She perks up when Felicia mentions the soul contacts and the hunters. It's terrifying to think of being punished so severely without rules stated in advance, but at least the Damianites are trying to have some accountability.

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"Fascinating.

Thank you for explaining your church to me. I have never had friends, no - Marra forbids it - but I think I understand much better now.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?"

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"Yes, I would think that we are both good and Good to each other in the church. Our Evil is always directed outwards. And the 'good family' you're talking about does exist – I'm living it right now, but I understand if the thought seems implausible to you." Her Eagle's Splendor is working overtime to make her not sound extremely shady when she says that.

Really? Marra forbids friends? Hm, well, that isn't surprising, actually. Asmodeus also forbids friends.

"Our church has had debates over how children born into the church ought to be treated and raised, and what their status is is the church before becoming an adult and upon becoming an adult. What was your childhood like? You were born to Marran parents and raised by the church, yes? That's how you got your wizard education, which is expensive.

Our church tests both children and new converts to see what sort of role might be suitable for them. For example, people who have an Intelligence of at least 14 are considered for wizard education. Those with Intelligence 12 are eligible for training to be magi, if they happen to be Strong or Dexterous also. We have been struggling to find a good compromise between our ideals of permitting free exit and freedom of association, but also not hampering the development and training of children which, while not soulsold, are still a part of the church."

It's been an issue for a while now. One of the reasons they want to have a church in a civilized area is so that people who have babies can leave the church to raise their children without involving the church in their raising. Their current policy is that children are given free training similar to a non-soulsold initiate, but that means that, if they choose to leave without selling their soul, they'll have to erase all their memories. Since they were raised in the church, that would mean giving them total amnesia. Damian, in His mortal life, developed a spell that could erase large swathes of episodic memory, which he derived from the spells Amnesia and Modify Memory.

If they had a church in a civilized area, the children could grow apart from the church, and the church would not need to give them education for free (although they would provide it at discounted prices for a soulsold member). The children would then have the option of joining, if they are found worthy, once they reach adulthood. No memory erasure required.

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"Mm.

How do your debates work? We argue lots, but there's always a final authority. Do you have that?

My childhood was great! ...as far as I can tell. It will be decades before we can be sure.

There are lots of opinions on how to raise Marran children. Our leader randomly chose for me to have a caretaker when I was little, who I was allowed to get attached to, while I trained in emotional regulation. Uh, leader, not cleric; this was before Marra ascended. I was encouraged to explore everything I was interested in, as are Marran adults in most groups. Everyone was directed to teach me anything I wanted, for free, and that's less common. When I was 10, right after Her ascension, I cast my first cantrip, Prestidigitation, and the newly-chosen Almas cleric decided that I would study to be a proper first circle wizard. We already had a scroll of Infernal Healing, for emergencies, and she bought me Crafter's Fortune. I was assigned to our current cleric, Meicona, who split off to travel the Sellen. One reason was that, once I had mastered my new spells, I could help fund the new group.

The other reason was the theory that travel and change would be good for a child. All my superiors at the time were concerned about my loyalty. I formed attachments easily. Oh, to be precise, caring about people is not forbidden, only becoming emotionally dependant on them. I mean the bad kind of "attachment". Anyway, right then, I was loyal, very loyal. But my mindset was wrong and they were worried I would rebel when I was older.

My caretaker informed me that when we left, in a month, she would go someplace else and I would never see her again in our mortal lives. She would help train me to me release my emotions towards her. After we parted, if I was emotionally distressed by her absence, I would be punished.

I did perfectly.

They took a few months to make sure the lesson had stuck and hadn't damaged me, then started seriously investing in my training. My father researched magic and guided me to reaching second circle when I was 21. I continued studying the artforms that I had liked as a child - dancing, acting, illusions (when I had an extra Silent Image), and acrobatics - but no longer got special treatment.

The next five years were unexciting. The group almost doubled in size, now that I could sell my spells in the same volume as our cleric.

So, third circle has some useful spells to sell and some extremely useful ones for our own purposes, including recruitment. And getting me to third circle would allow us to afford to recruit a lot more. You see, Marra never abandons anyone. Accepting a new follower is a permanent commitment. So we needed to budget carefully, and take our time deciding whether to risk pushing me to third circle.

At 26, I met my assigned cantor, Kireh. Before, I had only briefly spoken with another cantor as part of a group receiving guidance and getting cantors assigned for future use. This was my first time with a summon all for myself. We can get a wizard to third circle without combat, but it's psychologically hard and they really didn't want to damage me, so they needed to check that I could handle it.

It took two years of intermittent training to reach third circle. That was six years ago. Since then we've tripled in size. I'm now considered critical enough that, even though my loyalty is no longer in question, I talk to Kireh annually. I'm not perfect, but I'm living excellently.

Going beyond third circle requires combat, as far as we know; the failure rate from torture is too high. We don't quite have enough savings for me to leave for years on end to seek adventure, yet, but it would be really awesome if I could get to fifth circle. I could bring in a lot of money with a group that visits bigger cities."

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"You have magi? Do you have to fight a lot?"

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"Oh, my parents. I was not actually born Marran. My father escaped slavery in Isger and crossed the mountains to Andoran with me when I was tiny. By himself! It turns out there are people who help slaves over the mountains but he didn't find that out until he was halfway down the Foam river and someone recognized his accent and gave him passage to Almas, where he joined the church. He was worried he was damned, in particular for leaving my mother behind."

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"Yes, we have a final authority. The High Priest of each church has final authority on what happens to those under them. However, we are reluctant to use that power of final decision unless absolutely necessary."

Ten...hm, halfling age slower than humans. That's quite early.

"Hm, we also discourage emotional attachments, but we don't forbid it." Her god is emotionally attached to another god, after all. It would be rather heretical to forbid it. Not that the Damianites would forbid such a thing, but she could see the Conradians doing that. They're much more zealous about the self-sufficiency thing.

Her jaw drops when she mentions how her caretaker was told to abandon her. Wow. One of the advantages to being an orphan (to the extent being an orphan affords you advantages) is that you don't form a connection with your parents. There is no feeling of loss. She's not sure she would have taken that as well as her, as Wise as she might be in her adulthood now. Her enhanced Splendor lets her catch herself early and recover.

"I'm not sure about Marran privacy norms, but I might request Kireh when I request my Planar Inquiry, so that I can ask them about you and what life in the Marran afterlife is like."

Another jaw-dropping moment, although her mouth doesn't open this time. Being able to get wizards to third-circle without combat!? She can't imagine what that might have took. Infernal Cheliax – this is one of the subjects she had to study in seminary, because of its importance to her god – was only able to get up to second-circle in its wizard students. Both Conrad and Damian graduated as first-circle-but-close-to-second in their mortal lives. She can't imagine how much experimentation and study it must have taken for Marra and her followers to have developed such a training regimen.

She really wants to ask about how they do that, but she's pretty sure that would be a closely guarded secret. And the process involved would likely be something only a select few people would want.

"Yes, fifth-circle is a great milestone, since Teleports will net you a lot of money. Not to mention its value in logistics for your church. We have about two dozen fifth-circle wizards between our two churches." Oop. Should she have mentioned that? Oh well, it's not a big reveal. Teleportation is of particular importance to them because there's no way into the church via mundane methods. The headquarters is more than a hundred feet into mountain stone, and it is hermetically sealed from the outside. The only way to get in or out is to Dimension Door. It used to be open to the outside in the very early days, but they have since closed and filled all the passages.

"Yes, we do. Demons no longer pour out of the Worldwound, since it doesn't exist anymore, but Sarkoris Scar still has many demons prowling in it. Demons don't die of old age. We fight them to clean up the Worldwound of Abyssal corruption, and also for developing channeling capacity." Very similar to Infernal Cheliax, now that she's thinking about it.

"Magi are of particular importance to Conradians, since Conrad was an eldritch knight in his mortal life, and He advocates for people to have both martial and magical skill. People who are Smart as well as Strong are encouraged to become magi, or perhaps eldritch knights. Being able to train as the latter is particularly prestigious for the Conradians. 

As for us, we are only able to train people up to the first-circle without combat. More accurately, without risk. In the lower circles, we've found that it's possible to develop channeling capacity from enduring harsh conditions without being in combat proper. Sarkoris Scar is an inhospitable place, and we have to train ourselves to brave storms, blizzards, slippery ice, and the effects of lingering Abyssal corruption. Low-circle wizards are placed far away from combat until second-circle, using only medium or long ranged spells, as well as casting helpful magic before battle. We've found that to be a good balance between speed of development and lethal risk.

We do the same for clerics, even though it's not strictly necessary. Developing channeling capacity as a cleric yourself makes it easier and less costly for a god to invest in you."

She smiles. "I'm happy you and your father were able to escape from Isger safely."

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Oh they at least have a final authority, that's good. Well, no, it's not good, it's none of her business. She clearly has a problem with having inappropriate feelings about how non-Marrans do things. When she finishes her work for the day, she'll need to do some exercises to fix that. And she should probably talk to Meicona about interacting with non-Marrans more, so she's not caught off guard if she goes adventuring in a non-Marran party.

"We don't care about privacy. If I'm uncomfortable with Kireh telling you about me, that's my weakness."

It's cool that they have fifth-circle wizards! "How many of your wizards die getting to fifth circle?"

Why is Felicia saying that she's happy that Alieta is safe? For Marrans, she could be exercising kindness towards a subordinate, or revealing emotion to a superior focusing on her emotional development. Neither makes sense...

She's probably lying? Customers sometimes say nice things to her that they don't mean; it's probably like that. Alieta usually says something nice back, with the understanding that this is just a polite custom in Andoran business transactions, and does not violate the Marran prohibition on lying, but she doesn't want any risk of lying here.

Customers of healing are sometimes genuinely emotional and need to be led out by the guards. That's not the right approach here either.

With a blank face - by universal Marran standards, a lack of expression is never considered a lie, but faking an emotion is - she nods solemnly.

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She thinks about that for a moment. She doesn't know the exact numbers, but she can estimate.

"We have a large number of wizards proportionally. In absolute numbers, we don't have enough such that I could answer your question reliably." And because...it's not a guarded secret per se, but it does touch on unit strengths so maybe she shouldn't talk about it? "Many of our wizards, especially the high-circle ones, joined from before They ascended, and I think your question is meant to ask about the death rates starting from a student trained by us. Sadly, I don't remember that information off the top of my head.

Wizards can fight at long range and have little need for weapon training, so they're actually safer than magi, even though they are less Enduring. That's true of all short range fighters in general.

Have you been in combat before? Does the Marran church teach you weapon skills or combat spells? I dislike fighting, but I was required to fight demons in a scouting party as part of my seminary training. Both far away using spells and a crossbow, and also with my spiked chain." It was an unpleasant experience she doesn't feel like repeating – she's not really the violent sort of person or the sort that enjoys that type of thing – but in general she'd say that that was an edifying experience for her.

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"Well, I think our cleric would be interested in knowing whether sending me to fight for you would be better than sending me adventuring. Loosely, out of curiosity, do you know whether you are short on power, and so would pay for my help, or are you short on enemies, and so would charge for my use of them?

Do your wizards grow at the same rate as they would if they were in more danger?

I've never been in a real fight, although we run drills for it. I practice with my dagger and light crossbow, but I don't have any remarkable skill with either. I have about a dozen combat spells, some subset of which are listed for sale. The others, if any, are intended as a surprise for attackers."

The list on the desk includes Mage Armor, (Communal) Protection From Good, Expeditious Retreat, Hydraulic Push, Magic Missile, Pilfering Hand, (Communal) Resist Energy, Mirror Image, Invisibility, Protection From Energy, and Fireball, and mentions that Alieta can cast Merciful spells that are unlikely to kill the target.

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"So, I'm not sure whether that would work, since that would either involve us letting you into our headquarters which would cause lots of problems, or set up a camp nearby which would have its own set of problems. We only permit worthy initiates into our headquarters, not people we want to hire. At least, that's how it would work if we were operating under the auspices of the church. There would be no restriction on you joining an adventuring party of soulsold laypeople or ordained people who struck out on their own, although the church would not be responsible for anything that happened to you. In any case, we definitely wouldn't charge you. There are many, many demons in Sarkoris Scar, still, and it will likely take decades or centuries to clear them out.

I'm not sure. Testing that would involve putting them in more danger. Some of them do decide to get closer to the action – we don't stop them. They do tend to reach higher circles earlier, from our limited statistics, although we're not sure whether that's because of them being exposed to more danger or because they tend to study harder. It seems that merely being exposed to danger is not enough to develop channeling capacity, or at least is only one component of it: being pushed to the edge of your abilities seems to be closer to what triggers it."

She takes a look at the spells for sale, and is confused.

"Is it that you're selling wands or scrolls of these? Or offering them to be copied?" Surely she can't be selling these for a person to hire her, bring her to a fight, and ask her to cast Magic Missile once and leave.

"Interesting. Do you have a reason to cast Merciful spells? Very few of us bother to learn it. In the case of dueling or training, we have Merciful weapons for fighters and Merciful rods for casters.

I've heard that Marra was a wizard in Her mortal life. Did She leave behind or create any spells? We have a few spells that Damian and Conrad taught our wizards, although They focused on item creation. It's Their research and work that let us live at Sarkoris Scar comfortably."

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