Dec 02, 2022 2:13 AM
Felicia and Elias visit the Casinean Empire
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Verys secures the door and waits patiently, smiling and remarkably calm about everything. He's not much of a magician, but Allegra was right, it was absolutely worth learning the basics to be able to activate a circlet of falling snow in particularly tense moments.

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Sounds like fairly standard ritual practice. She'd prefer to be at least thirty feet back from it, and that's a long cast time, but as it is she can just... stand there and try not to get too claustrophobic. She really does not like enclosed spaces at the best of times, this is absolutely not the best of times, she isn't convinced she won't suddenly need her personal mana at some point today and she really should be able to deal with this...

"What kind of thing do you think she'll get?" she ask Elias, in a fairly quiet voice but enough to carry across the small chamber, as he doesn't seem to be directly involved (and she needs to do something). "Just so we're not startled."

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He replies in the same voice, although the effect of the helm on his voice is compounding with the mithril room echoes, producing an eerie effect.

"There are many things she can ask for, but ultimately, it's up to Damian to decide what to give her. It's not like Planar Binding where you can definitively pick what you'll get Lesser Planar Ally cannot call anything powerful. She'll probably ask for an incubus, since that is the most humanoid of the things Damian can give. The other outsiders are more...exotic...in form. Incubi look like muscular men with red or purple skin and horns. Usually. Alternatively, she can ask for a half-fiend, which looks similar, although half-fiends can be of any gender."

She seems a little afraid. It's not really His Thing to be comforting, but he says this anyway.

"Planar Binding requires careful preparation and a binding circle of powdered silver be drawn on the floor to trap the creature, since it forcefully yanks it into your plane. There is no need for that with Planar Ally, since the creature your god sends is guaranteed to be friendly. The spell is named Planar Ally for a reason."

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"Sure." Friendly to you, she definitely doesn't say. Hmm. Muscular men with red or purple skin and horns - that definitely sounds Autumn, a herald of Callidus could look like that. They have kind of acted in line with being his, obsessed with how much they can get for their money and expecting everyone to need payment to do anything. They have definitely demonstrated things which aren't at all normal magic, though. If Callidus had access to mental enhancement spells, he wouldn't have hesitated to try to sell them to the Empire, there would be no shortage of rich takers...

Maybe if she keeps thinking about what kind of Herald it might be, she can avoid freaking out about being stuck in a metal box, though, even if it's likely to actually be something weirder than that.

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She finishes the spell. There's a palpable sense of the room being filled with energy, a sense of a weakening in the world's skin, the sense of a closed door about to open. 

Lesser Planar Ally.

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Finally! I was waiting for you to do that. Alright, sure. I'll send an incubus for you – fully clothed – holding a Material Plane fork so that you can – 

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No, you're not.

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!?

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We warded the Bronze Orchard against spying long ago, and even now we spend budget on preventing god-fragments from wandering in. But if you let them go back, then it's only a matter of time until some god, probably Desna or something, somewhere catches wind of their discovery. This place is outside of Pharasma's Creation. We have to take advantage of this opportunity to operate unhindered. Can you imagine if Iomedae or Asmodeus got wind of this place? Absolute disaster.

I want them to explore more of the place before letting them back.

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Ugh. Why do you have to make sense? Stop making good arguments. I hate you.

Alright, but, why can't I send an incubus without a tuned fork?

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I don't trust them. I would be more fine sending a half-fiend – those were actually part of our church at one time – but not a demon, as aligned as they might be with us. Chaotic beings aren't nicely shaped for information security. That's also why I blocked Felicia's sending. I don't want the church to try to figure out ways to get to them. It will attract attention if they start experimenting with conjuration spells, or worse, petition Nefreti to cast Gate for them. I could see Rendon doing that, and we cannot permit that to happen. Nethys getting access to a whole new world of magic would be the second worse thing for the world's survival after Rovagug.

And besides, it's not good to coddle them. They're level nine now. They can handle themselves. You have to give them a chance to use their new blessings. 

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Ugh, fine. I did like Felicia going to the fancy hotel. I wonder what Anvil has in store. Seems delightfully fancy.

Oh yeah, what about your antipaladin? Doesn't he have a fiendish servant? Will you let him summon that?

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Oh yeah. Um...I'll just swap it out for an unholy weapon bond so he isn't left with nothing.

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There's a big swell of energy, but...nothing happens. It's clear the spell went through, but nothing came out. Felicia looks at first incredulous, and then crestfallen. She goes over to the middle of the room and waves her hands, as if willing something to appear, but nothing does.

"So. The spell worked...but nothing came. I'm not sure why. Our god could have seen fit not to give us any outsiders. Alternatively, we might be too far away. There's too little information to tell, and I haven't received any visions. 

Elias, can you try summoning your servant?"

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He raises his hand and calls for it. Nothing happens, although his sheathed dagger starts to glow a sickly blue-black glow. He draws it, and it bursts into raging fire. The heat is palpable in the small room. Instinctually, he tightens his grip on it. It doesn't hurt.

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It's so much easier to think now that she has both Fox's Cunning and Owl's Wisdom on. It's great. She really really needs a headband. She starts pacing.

Right. So. It's not just them far away. Otherwise, Elias's summoning would simply have failed. He wouldn't have received an unholy weapon bond. Clearly, Damian and Conrad are trying to signal...something. No summoning outsiders at all. And the Sending failed. They might have something to do with that too. Do they want to exile them? No, otherwise they wouldn't have given them more power. They would have stripped them of it.

They're probably meant to do something here. That's the message. Probably figure out how they can use this world to their advantage before going back.

Right. She has to explain the flaming weapon.

"Ah, that's his unholy weapon bond. Please dismiss it, Elias, it's getting hot."

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...he does that. The dagger reverts to being an ordinary but slightly-oddly shaped dagger.

Cool. Now he has a flaming sword.

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Verys swift-casts Detect Magic at the end of the ritual, he figures he might as well. He has to say a few words, but he only has to use a normal speaking voice, and hopefully they won't read much into him exclaiming "Aesh and Ophis!" at that magic build-up.

Autumn 16, but, not quite right somehow. Which makes sense, a single caster without a regio is not hitting Autumn 16 without some serious items and consumables, and even then they'd better be one of the best ritualists in the Empire.

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Allegra automatically swings her staff around into a defensive posture as the dagger erupts into flames, then feels stupid as it clearly isn't actually a threat, and anyway if Elias had started swinging a flaming greatsword around in here it would not take long for them all to be very dead.

...'unholy weapon bond'. That certainly didn't sound exactly, uh, salubrious. None of this is making her feel better about things. It is, however, distinctly increasing her desire to get them to Anvil and make it all somebody else's problem.

"It might be worth trying in a regio. Especially the Imperial Regio, if we can get to it in the dead of night when nobody's paying attention. Failing that - we might want to attempt to petition Conclave for Amity." At least that would give a lot of other people the chance to start paying attention. Although she's not exactly sure that the Empire would jump the right way, presented with such a tempting source of power... they did see off the Asavean architect, and risk annoying Jarm, but that was a fairly minor amount of power on the table, in comparison.

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"If you're done in here, I'll get the door open," offers Verys, slightly concerned about the flaming dagger incident and what that meant for the amount of air that was remaining in here with them.

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"Yes, I'm done. I apologize for alarming everyone." She really has nothing to apologize for, but if she makes it seem as though it was a byproduct of her failed casting, then maybe the others won't make the same connection she did. Now that she has Owl's Wisdom on, it's probably the case that Allegra isn't totally trusting of them, which explains her weird behavior yesterday. Not that she blames her, but...she has been a little bit too trusting herself. She can't always rely on Elias to be the voice of suspicion. Elias, well meaning though he is, has middling mental stats at the end of the day. 

"Being that you are a trader, I wanted to talk to you about other spells I could cast which would have economic value. We have reconsidered and would like to purchase a variety of magic items to try on. We could sell our coins, yes, but it seems good for us to know what spells would be profitable and at what prices we would be able to sell them so that we could make money on our own. Tonight will be our last night here, but we might be able to extend it by a day or a couple of days. I have carefully selected my spells today so that I can demonstrate some of the ones that are profitable in my world."

Ugh. She really wishes Fox's Cunning and Owl's Wisdom lasted longer.

 

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Verys re-opens the door, which is a remarkably quiet operation - it seems like this mechanism is well cared for, although also it's not like mithril rusts or can have bits scraped off or anything.

"I would love to talk about all those things, but perhaps somewhere more comfortable?" he asks. "I can find us an office, or perhaps a sitting room if you'd like to relax a bit more."

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Allegra looks remarkably less tense as soon as the door is opened, but does also leave into the corridor before waiting for their reply; clearly she is just looking out to check there's nobody in the way, and not absolutely desperate to get out of the small room with only one entrance, that would be undignified.

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Alright, 'carefully' might be an overstatement. She's definitely more reluctant to share spells with combat applications. 

"Sitting room seems best. One of the spells that might be of interest to you is Scrying, which has a one hour casting time." She sighs. It's so long and tiring to cast. "You do not need to be present the whole time, however. Only at the end.

Scrying permits you to observe someone at any distance, and permit sustained communication with someone far away for minutes at a time, in conjunction with the spell Message." You can also use it to spy on people, which is the main use of the spell, but she is not going to state that explicitly. "The spell requires a bowl or pool of water – the larger, the more you'll be able to see – and the water must be clear and still. Aside from that, I will need a description of the person to be scried. However, the spell has a chance of failure. The closer the caster – in this case myself – is to the person, the better the chance of success. 

Preferably, something that has a connection to the person is provided to be used as a casting focus. It can be a picture of the person, or better, a possession of theirs. The best item to use is a body part, although this can be as insignificant as a hair or a fingernail clipping. I have prepared both Scrying and Message today, if you know of someone who would be an appropriate target of Scrying.

Aside from that, I have Cure spells prepared, although I believe that your world already has healing, so I don't think it would sell for much. Besides, there is no one around who is injured. 

I also have Plant Growth prepared. It's a spell used to boost the productivity of crops and gardens. We've found through testing that it boosts the yield of farms and the like by one third for the whole year. I can affect a circle of half-mile radius with one casting.

I have other spells which are of economic value, but they are difficult to demonstrate and I have not prepared them today, such as Remove Disease, Remove Curse, Break Enchantment, Restoration, and the like. The other spell that you might very much want is Sending, which permits a single message no more than twenty five words long to be transmitted to another person. The other person can send a single reply with the same constraint. That spell has no chance of failure, although of course the person can choose not to reply.

Raise Dead is the other spell we wish to test, but we have no diamond to use it with.

Perhaps it might also be useful for you to describe what sorts of problems people here commonly face that they don't have good solutions for, and see if we have a spell for it? Clerics such as myself can request a wide variety of spells from our gods."

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Verys leads them up some stairs and into a very nice sitting-room - it's still a little cramped, but there's a window that looks out onto the street, and a big comfy sofa and three well-upholstered armchairs, all covered in green velvet, around a low table. There's also a shelf of various bottles of alcohol and a couple of pitchers of water and juice next to the shelf of various glasses.

"Scrying sounds incredibly useful to generals and those who prepare military matters, who unfortunately you won't find any of in Seren at present - the armies are fighting down in Kahraman, and everyone else who has a taste for adventure has gone to the Broc or overseas to - some kind of anti-slavery operation.

The militia and magistrates might also buy that - if you can use, say, a loose hair some suspect has left at the scene, and find them?

There's an impressive budget from the Senate for military magic, it's harder to get money out of the magistrates but a high profile case might do it - in both cases you'd be looking at Anvil for the best prices, though, and some people might try to pressure you into doing it for 'the good of the Empire' - which even the Loyalty Assembly has told them to stop, but it hasn't really done much to prevent it.

You might also get some interest from private investigators - probably not in Seren, although - hmm, I suppose it might find the fate of someone lost to the Vallorn, especially if someone's treasured a lock of their hair? But I imagine the League would pay much better - I'd probably recommend Sarvos, you'd get more people there looking to see if their spouse is cheating on them, or finding where an errant family member has got to, and fewer people who are trying to make you an accessory to murder.

I'm not sure you could put an adequate price to the service for anything other than military scrying, though - you'd get some takers in the League at a Throne a pop, and I imagine cleverer souls than I would come up with more interesting uses they might pay you up to five for - that's as much as it takes to commission historical research from the Civil Service, so it's a good benchmark of what people will throw at a novel investigative tool, although those are also limited by politics.

Healing is usually pretty cheap, yes, it can be hard to get anyone to pay for it - there's always someone eager to use their skills for free and feel good about themselves, you know.

Plant growth... now we have some spells for that, so I can give you some better estimates. Ruthless Vigilance is four mana and you have to find a caster, so call that about six crowns if you're good at negotiation; that almost doubles the output of a single herb garden. Farms, there's a whole ritual cycle, that's ten mana over the year; that more than doubles the harvest if you get them all done. So I suspect you'd be looking at niche projects for that, someone growing Realmsroot or similar that our standard rituals don't affect, or a lot of herb gardens close together - especially if it turns out to stack with Ruthless Vigilance, I can probably find you some herbalists who tend closely packed gardens here that might go in together on a casting.

Sending sounds, again, most valuable for military coordination - but I expect you could find a large number of people who would like to spend a few crowns on it, to exchange words with a relative or friend who's far away, if that's the kind of price range you'd accept.

I'm not sure what 'Restoration' does, that sounds interesting? Generally our magic and herb lore is quite sufficient for most poisons and diseases; some curses are stubborn, but again, you'd find your best market in Anvil, being cursed is a fairly rare occurrence outside that kind of circle.

I've added diamond prices in Temeschwar and Sarvos to our standard market runner's list, if they make good time then we should have them back at some time tomorrow.

Problems we don't have solutions to; well, death, of course. The Vallorn - it's essentially living terrain that hates you, it produces clouds of poison and is full of creatures animated by plant tendrils, gigantic insectoid horrors, and so on - we have a very slow solution that we're working on to gradually drain the power out of it, but that will take many years to finish and also we'll probably have to do a lot of fighting to cut it back even once it's weakened. Druj miasma - it's a region-wide aura of despair, we now have ways of taking it down once we've found the pillars they use to anchor it, but they're difficult to find and the Druj always leave the landscape full of traps which makes it even harder.

Smaller scale, we don't really have any good ways to relieve physical pain, other than getting people extremely drunk? Or a way to safely and reliably hold people unconscious. Healers generally just try to work quickly, but it feels like there should be something there. Cloth is always in short supply, the Marches and the Brass Coast produce it, but an awful lot of time gets spent carding and spinning and weaving and all that. Some way to find more deposits of the bourse resources - white granite, mithril, ilium, weirwood - without just having to stumble across them; they're resistant to our kind of magic, but yours might be different.

Moving supplies, I suppose - ox wagons and barges are all very well, but are really quite slow, and it's easy for outlying settlements to get cut off - if you could move fresh fruit fast enough, you'd have a really considerable market in places that just can't get it at the moment, especially the exotic fruit they grow down in the Brass Coast, into Temeschwar and the Varushkan vales - or into Dawn, they're not as wealthy but that is exactly the kind of thing they pay lavishly for.

It's kind of difficult to understand what we don't have and might be available, am I entirely on the wrong track?"

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