Sep 29, 2022 4:09 AM
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"I...see. Why is it that there are no other permanent structures there? And what are the permanent structures?" That sounds super weird, but presumably she'll explain it.

"Thank you. Please lead the way." She and Elias follow her. It's not like they have anywhere else to be. 

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Elias wordlessly follows. He carefully positions himself beside but a little behind Felicia, so that Allegra wouldn't be in range of his aura. No need to antagonize her any further. He lets Felicia talk and turns his head from side to side occasionally, since the helm restricts his vision a little.

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Allegra starts by leading then down the path, but makes eye contact with one of the potential spear welders who picks up his spear and takes up rearguard - carefully out of the aura once he's brushed against it once.

He looks like he knows what to do with the spear but more for hunting than for fighting and not to any great extent; mostly he is not watching the visitors, he's looking out and making it clear noone else should get too close.

Instead of plunging into the narrow and irregular paths between buildings, Allegra skirts round the outside of the settlement, picking up a couple more guards - "Reba, Teri, perimeter please, Lars is at the right distance," - as they enter a slightly wider pathway - enough for people to pass, although the guards are ensuring nobody does - between the ramshackle houses and very slightly better built communal storage and work spaces.

There are a few more people going about their days here, who stop and look, but are warded off getting too close by the escort.

They do have to head down a more narrow pathway to approach the very slightly larger house - maybe twice the size of the standard - where Allegra opens the door and bids them sit on the wooden chairs around a table in the middle of the room. "Just dump whatever is on them on the table."

It is a complete mess in here. Papers and booklets are strewn everywhere, both handwritten and printed. There are shelves which are crammed full of miscellaneous objects, from normal household goods through small knitted and felted models of mammoths to bottles of unknown substances. There's a bed in the far corner, which actually looks quite nice, with green silk sheets.

The window is shuttered but the whole place is variably lit by glowing crystals scattered around haphazardly, in a wide variety of colours and forms, one particularly large one hanging from the ceiling over the table in a loosely woven basket. 

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Why are there so many guards? Are they planning to capture them? Given that Allegra's Good, that seems unlikely, but you never know. He's confident of his ability to take out the guards, they do not seem very experienced, but not with Allegra in the picture. He has no idea what sorts of abilities or spells she has. 

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The place is so messy! She has to suppress the urge to tidy it up. Allegra's definitely a wizard, the wizards back at their Sarkoris Scar headquarters were the same. She couldn't help but stare at the glowing stones for some time. It's not Continual Flame, that's for sure. Despite Allegra saying to 'dump' the stuff, she carefully picks up and places each item from the chair to the table individually. Elias follows suit. 

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Elias is not going to take off his helm, but he is going to pop up the visor so he can see clearer. His skin has the opacity and color of glazed marble, and his hair and lips have the color and sheen of burnished bronze. His eyes glimmer like clear jasper – all clear signs of his celestial heritage. 

He takes a seat nearest a the corner of the room. 

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The guards all head back off to what they were doing once everyone's inside the house, rather than follow them inside. Allegra glances at the gap between Elias and the wall, checking he's sitting far enough inside that the aura won't be felt outside.

She does look a bit curious about Elias's appearance momentarily, as if she's trying to categorise him in a system that doesn't quite fit, but quickly smooths that away back under the general resignation to the situation. 

She takes a seat far enough away from Elias to avoid the aura, leaning her staff against the wall; it's just as well this house is all one big room. 

"So. I'm not sure quite where to begin, even Heralds normally come through with more context.

First up, I suppose - don't let anyone hear you talking about following a god. My people are all quite happy to accept whoever wanders in as long as they don't cause trouble, but between that and the fear aura you're just asking to be arrested by most of the Empire."

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Um. He's definitely heard of being arrested for following a demon lord, but following a god, without qualifiers? Perhaps the Empire is like Rahadoum, then.

"Herald? I'm not sure what you mean by that. We have Heralds in my world too: they function as special messengers for their gods, but my deity does not have any. I thank you for the warning, but why would the Empire arrest me just for worshipping a god?"

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"Most people in my home plane worship one god or another, but there are some which choose not to. There is also a region where they forbid the worship of any god at all – is the Casinean Empire the same? I would like to thank you as well. Presumably, you are taking a risk by harboring us and giving us advice, and not just turning us away immediately." I mean, that's definitely what she would have done in her position.

Ugh. Undetectable Alignment would do nothing for his aura. Nondetection probably would, so long as he didn't deliberately try to evoke the aura, but she can't cast it. Elias would be, if he was third-circle. Which he's not. In that case, she was smart not to have revealed that she's an ordained caster too.

 

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"That makes sense - heralds here are like that, but for Eternals. Which are a variety of vast alien intelligences which some people do worship as gods, so it may be exactly the same thing. Imperial religion has a whole Doctrine about not subjugating the human spirit - yes, it's kind of speciesist, there's work in progress to change that - to other powers, so for a citizen that would be super illegal.

As foreigners you get a bit of leeway as long as you're not preaching, but Fear is a False Virtue - not on the approved list - so going around with a fear aura up is rather a 'stab first, ask questions later' kind of thing.

I'll probably want to take a closer look at it later - if it is a True Aura we can pass you off as trying to get rid of it and that's expensive enough you might not have done it yet, although Anvil is exactly the place that could happen at if you're not careful.

If it's removable with anointing, once we get into civilisation proper someone will offer to do that for you and not take no for an answer, or offer me the liao to do it if they know me - if that's going to be a problem then, that's going to be difficult."

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"My god is not a vast alien intelligence. Conrad, the god I worship, is an ascended mortal. He ascended only a few decades ago, and His church is new and small currently. Also, Conrad values freedom and agency. It is why I became His warrior. Do you happen to have non-humans which are people? I am an aasimar, which is a person with mixed human and celestial blood. I saw that many people outside had...non-human features. I should say that Conrad places little importance on the race or ancestry of His worshippers."

Is anointing heresy? It sounds like heresy, given what he knows of what it means to anoint something. Sounds like the process of being formally inducted into a church. But, like, he hasn't actually received religious instruction as to whether it would be to Conradians. Presumably, if it leads to him growing stronger, it is alright with Conrad. He's going to go with that.

"I don't think it's removable, unless I deliberately sever my connection with my god. Which I can do easily, since, as I said, my god values freedom. Not that I would want to do that. Is there a way to conceal it? My god's blessing does not just give me the fear aura, but also gives me protection from many magical and mundane hazards, and also renders me immune to disease. I am resistant to fire, acid, cold, and lightning." More specifically, he's immune to the effects of diseases – he can still spread them around. Not that he's interested in that. He's not an Urgathoan antipaladin. Still, he'd rather not mention that specific point.

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Elias is...not handling the situation how she would have, but neither has he made any obvious blunders. Who knew that his aura of cowardice would be so problematic? Still, she doesn't want to speak for him. 

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"Oh, uh, that happens sometimes too - most recently with Basilius Flint - but generally by the, uh, mortal taking over an existing Eternal purview. So they kind of become a fusion of what they were and what there's a space for?

And the Imperial religion doesn't recognise them as human any more, after that has happened.

We do have non human sentients, orcs, but integration is historically fairly recent - within living memory - and it takes rather a while for the traditionalists to allow anything to be updated.

My people are humans, though - mostly briars, the lineage of the Spring realm - I don't know if you have that, I'd assumed Felicia here was Summer touched and you maybe Autumn, but possibly you know entirely different realms? Lineage isn't necessarily literally a blood relationship, it can manifest through ambient magic affecting someone too, although once there it does tend to pass down in families to various extents.

There are ways to conceal a dedication, I don't know if they'd work on an... area effect aura, those are not very commonplace at all on people - also they are all extremely illegal and I don't have any on hand. That all sounds more like what I'd call an enchantment though, there is a ritual to disguise one and another to suppress some personal effects but not one I can think of which would turn off the thing that feels like a fear aura eminating from you.

I should try insight on it, if ranged insight doesn't give a clear unwelcome answer I suppose we could... Rig something up that keeps people away from you, explain that the effect is an enchantment on it if anyone gets nosy? If it's not a surprise and it looks more like an enchantment than a spiritual effect, we can probably pass it off as a weird foreigner thing that nobody will jump straight to condemning. I should do a full set of detections too, so we don't get any surprises and have to explain on the hop."

 

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"We do not have that. We are familiar with the seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter – but I don't think you say those words with the mundane meaning. Do seasons have...significance in this world? I'm a half-elf: my grandmother was an elf. I am familiar with the general concept you're describing, we call those sorcerous bloodlines. For example, a person with many strong spellcasters in their lineage might be born being able to cast spells at an early age without the need for study."

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"I would be fine with having divination magic cast on me, if it will help avoid problems in the future. Are you able to cast it now, or would you need to sleep first and prepare the spells in the next morning? I'm not sure if the enchantment to keep people away would be helpful."

It dawns on him that it would be absolutely terrible if he accidentally made eye contact with someone and inadvertently used his other fear inducing divine ability.

"Why are you helping us?" he asks. Well, he knows she's helping them because she's Good, but why specifically. "Er, I do not mean to offend. It's just that it seems that you are taking a lot of risks in helping us, when it seems that what I am might be illegal. This is not to say that I do not appreciate it, though. If you expect payment from us, we are able to pay in gold pieces. Do you those accept those? Aside from that, we would also be willing to pay for a place to stay, and perhaps food."

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"You were saying something earlier about schools of magic? The seasons, Day and Night are our schools of magic. They also correspond to Realms, which are nearby planes of existence that Eternals live in. What the word 'elf' means to me is, a particular kind of Summer herald, or possibly someone with very strong Summer lineage. 

'aasimir' is not a word I've heard before and 'celestial' generally relates to the constellations here, so the first association I get from that is a Tulpa in your ancestry, which I hadn't previously heard of but have no reason to expect wouldn't happen.

People have a wide range of ages and amounts of study they need to master some magic, but we've never successfully correlated it with lineage, most lineaged will never be magicians, the same as most baselines won't.

I'm only planning to do basic magic detection, I can afford the liao for an Insight but we're rather using all our crystal mana as our main export and I don't have any useful ones mastered anyway, so I don't need to swap masteries or anything, we can do it whenever you're ready.

Helping people is what I do by default, I guess. If you start costing much then I'd like some kind of payment if you've got it, gold pieces aren't a local currency but I expect a Broker would happily help exchange them. So far I'm being well paid in satisfying my curiosity, though.

We normally do food fairly communally here, someone will likely come and remind me to eat at dinner time and you can share whatever they're cooking, or I can get someone to fetch something now if you're hungry?

If you're staying I can probably find you spare beds or at least a tent; if you stay for a while I'll expect you to pick up a work assignment but it won't be much, and if you're staying indefinitely your first one will be 'build a house'."

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"By celestial, I'm referring to the Good planes: Heaven, Nirvana, and Elysium. Specifically, I am descended from an angel. My great-grandfather was one, although I was born to two human parents. It sometimes skips generations like that. Is there anything I need to do for the detection, or do I just stand here and do not use my Will to resist?" The thought of failing his Will save sounds awful, but he can take it.

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"Thank you for your hospitality. Barring some unforeseen event, we will likely leave tomorrow morning, after prayer, provided we have a destination.

Ordained casters usually pray at dawn or in the early morning to receive their spells. It works differently for you, yes? From what you have described and talked about, it sounds as though magical energy, er, 'mana', is an easily divisible quantity for you, like water. Our world's magic is discrete. It is packaged up into individual spells, and casters can only cast a certain number of spells of a certain strength per day, with the exception of the weakest spells, which can be cast as much as one wants."

Hm. Should she tell the person she's a cleric? She's been helpful so far, and she thinks that she wouldn't have anything to prevent them from just running away into the woods if things go sour. She hadn't been hostile to Elias talking about how he's a 'divine warrior', after all.

"I confess that I am capable of more than I initially described. I am a cleric, which is similar to my companion, except I specialize in casting spells provided to me by my god. I am able to receive a number of spells per day, which I can use to various effects, such as strengthening others in battle, healing wounds, removing diseases, and raising the dead. Sadly, I am too weak to be able to do the last one."

After a moment, she adds, "Oh, I'm sorry. You have introduced yourselves, whereas we have not. You may call me Felicia. He is Elias."

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"Okay, those are either realms we don't have contact with or different names for them. 'Angel' to me is the Suranni term for Herald and just used to mean a herald of one of the 'gods' they approve of.

If your 'Will' is a general defence to divination, it might be worth trying one with that running to start with, see how it interacts? I can always do some of the more obscure ones tomorrow if I have to repeat any.

I'm not sure you can wander around without causing panic yet, I was planning to escort you unless you really want to strike out on your own. It's been a few years since I went to Anvil, but strange foreigners escorted by someone who appears to know what they're doing will raise fewer immediate questions.

Some spells take more mana than others, but we only know of two levels of that - it's the kind of thing that could easily work differently in a different tradition, though, this is just the standard way the Empire teaches it.

Raising the... How long does that work for? Our healing magic can bring people back from the brink, but once someone's terminal there's nothing we can do but let them head on to their next life. Or do you just mean calling them back to talk to?"

Allegra is sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for that which will be forthcoming shortly and there's nothing to panic about. Yet. 

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"Yes, 'Will' is what we call the capacity of a person to resist divinations. It is also used in reference to resisting mind-affecting effects such as illusions or enchantments. For spells that manipulate the physical world, then the two defenses are either trying to face it head on and resist with bodily strength – this is called 'Fortitude' – or try and move out of the way, or shift your body into a less vulnerable position – this is called 'Reflex'.

Raising the dead requires a fifth-circle spell, called Raise Dead. It requires a large and flawless diamond as a material component, which is consumed upon the casting. Raise Dead is the weakest of the raising spells and has a number of limitations: the person must not have been dead more more than about a week or two, the person have an intact body (otherwise, the lost portions are not regenerated), and the body must not have decomposed in the meantime. Further, the person comes back in a reduced and weakened state, but that can be remedied by casting Restoration. The stronger raising spells, Resurrection and True Resurrection, have fewer limitations and drawbacks, but require a very strong cleric and bigger and more expensive diamonds as components. 

The raising spells pluck the person's soul from the River of Souls, in the case of Raise Dead (which is why it has such a short time limit), or potentially in their respective afterlife after they have been judged by the goddess of the dead, Pharasma." She and Elias are ordained casters and also have soul contracts, so they get to skip the judgment part. She's not going to mention that, though.

"There is a time limit on Resurrection and True Resurrection because people are altered over time as they dwell in their afterlives, and after a certain threshold is reached, they cease to become human and can no longer be brought back into our world.

'Circles' are our term for the complexity and strength of a spell. Spells range from zeroth-circle, we call those 'orisons' or 'cantrips', ranging all the way up to ninth-circle spells. It is immensely rare for anyone to acquire such power that they are able to cast a ninth-circle spell. I myself can only cast up to third-circle.

We also have spells for healing and for preventing a person on the brink from dying – that spell is called Stabilize, and I am able to cast it. Bringing back someone merely to ask them questions is called Speak With Dead. Oh, is it that you have someone you wish to ask questions of? It is a third-circle spell, and tomorrow I may be able to request it from my god."

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"Yes, I can resist your first casting of the divination spell, and then refrain from resisting in the second. Because of my god's protection, I'd likely be able to throw off the effect of the divination if I choose to resist. What is the spell called?" 

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"We can do speaking with them, that's called Whispers Through The Black Gate here, or just Speak With Dead if you've got the body and they've not been gone long," she says, as a kind of holding pattern while she tries to think through the rest.

Maybe they're like orcs? That could be a description of the Howling Abyss...

"When humans die here - and I'm beginning to think you all are a different species despite the similarities - we go into the Labyrinth, which sounds a lot like your River of Souls," she begins to try to explain.

"But then instead of going on from there, most human souls return to the world - reborn in another human body.

Although - I guess you get the same results if the 'afterlife' is just a stage of the Labyrinth and you can't retrieve people after a while because they reincarnated?

We do believe some souls escape this cycle, but only a very few of the most Virtuous.

And orcs work differently again - this is why I'm wondering if you have a different variety of soul. They have something that's much more like a round of judgement, attempting to cross the Howling Abyss - if they've been sufficiently Virtuous - or impressive, or their ancestors decide to help them - they get across and join the set of Ancestors that the orcs can hear guiding them, if they're not, as far as we can tell they disappear forever."

Allegra's not the easiest person to read, especially when, like now, she is putting a tight lid on her emotional reaction, but it's pretty obvious that she is having some kind of emotional reaction and it is not universally positive.

"Oh, uh, I'm planning on Detect Magic in two or three different modes and Insight, nothing fancy," she adds, realising she hadn't answered the more relevant questions. 

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"We are indeed a different species. We both have nonhuman blood. However, even full-blooded humans go through the same process we described in our world. We are not reborn into another human body after being judged, but instead transform into various creatures depending on what afterlife we went to. People in Elysium become azatas and people in Hell become devils, for two examples. 

Orcs go to the same afterlives humans and other races do. All mortals in our world go through the same process, to clarify. That does not describe our afterlife at all. The only way a soul would be lost if it was deliberately destroyed or eaten, such as what happens to souls condemned to Abaddon."

Felicia is Splendid and Wise enough to notice the change in Allegra's reaction, but she can't figure out what part she's struggling to process. Is it...the afterlife system? Well, it is kinda sucky, to be honest. Pharasma isn't the most pleasant god to deal with. Huh, reincarnation.

"Some druids and shamans are known to be able to cast Reincarnate, which revives a recently deceased person by creating a new body for them and then having the soul inhabit it, although neither the caster nor the target can choose what sort of body they will occupy. It's a very jarring and disconcerting process, since there's a half chance that the person might be put in a body of the wrong sex, or that they'll end up being a different race. I am unable to cast such a spell, although my church has associations with druids who are able to."

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"We have access to Detect Magic too, although it does not have any 'modes', if you don't count Greater Detect Magic. What is Insight? Is that like Guidance? Guidance channels a tiny fragment of our god's wisdom to help us in a task. Or is it like prophecy?

Does prophecy work in this world?"

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"Insight's not technically magic, it's a spiritual rite that gives me information about the state of your soul.

Our Detect Magic comes in a variety of different modes, the ones I'm thinking of are Discern Enchantment which will tell me about magical effects on you, Divination which tells me what other investigative magic might have an interesting answer, and maybe Detect Arcane Mark although that's a bit specific, there's a specific ritual that interacts with it to place one.

That's everything I'd expect someone to casually fire off at you, anything else would be accompanied by at least two minutes of casting and I'd expect to notice, plus divination should tell me which ones of those to watch out for."

She considers trying to address the afterlife points, but that sounds like getting into a religious argument and she does not even slightly want to get into a religious argument right now.

"We have occasional fragments of what people claim to be prophecy, and some useful Night magic and potions which might give glimpses of future events, but generally it's all sufficiently cryptic that it might just be making reasonable inferences from hidden current events, or be total coincidence. Autumn magic can improve luck and fortunate coincidences."

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