Oct 01, 2023 1:53 AM
Felicia and Elias visit the Casinean Empire
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"Oh, we do have Discern Enchantment, although we call it Enchantment Sight, and permits examining many creatures at once. Arcane Mark is also a spell our world's magic has, although it does not require a spell to detect, unless it was deliberately made invisible. In that case, See Invisibility would permit you to see it."


It seems that prophecy does not, in fact, work in this world.

"I am ready to have the divination magic cast on me now, if you would be so kind."


"Starting with detect magic divination - oh, by the way, I'm long casting these to save on mana, they can be cast much quicker but I want to pack enough of them in that I'd definitely run out that way, especially if I'm doing both of you. So this wouldn't be as obvious from someone doing it quickly."

She gets up, which appears to be mildly effortful and she's leaning slightly on her staff to do so comfortably, and with a visible effort to remain calm steps inside the aura again, close enough that she could reach out and touch but not actually doing so, although she does hold the staff in one hand and trace some gestures with her free hand. 

"I am the Spider, I watch from afar. I am the Web, I am connected to things - I am connected to the weave of magic that is disrupted by your presence, I watch the vibration of the threads. I am the Spider..."

Again, this takes almost precisely thirty seconds.


He tries to resist it, and fails. He was definitely not expecting that. It was almost like it passed straight through to him. Either he happened to be unlucky that day, or Allegra is a fearsome caster. It is an interminably long spell, though, and it's strange that he understands the verbal component. Usually, verbal components are syllables that have been passed down for millennia and have no meaning to modern ears. Yet, she's speaking in common language. Most spells he or Felicia could cast would lonly require a tenth of the time Allegra took. Perhaps the long casting is how she was able to get through his defenses. Presumably, disrupting the chanting would also disrupt the spell.

He's not going to test that.

The Detect Magic: Divination spell suggests that Bright Lantern of Ophis or Ties that Bind would reveal significant information, as well as Insight.


"Okay, that's about what I expected, congratulations on not being cursed. Unless you resisted that bit? I didn't notice any differences from normal but a fully general defence might not do that, I suppose.

I'm going to try Discern Enchantment next as the response from that makes it clear you've got something there - the response was Bright Lantern of Ophis which is an enchantment analysis ritual and Ties that Bind which is an Autumn ritual I don't actually know, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with magical bonds, and Insight which we expected."


"I did try to resist, although I noticed that my resisting didn't work. You must be a powerful caster, or perhaps it is that your magic works differently. I do not know of any curses on me. Curses in my world are obvious and clearly debilitating. I don't think we would have had any curses from your world, given the short time we've spent here."

Elias sits still as Allegra casts Discern Enchantment. To the spell, he seethes with Winter energy. It reveals five Winter enchantments, one of magnitude 9, two which are 10, and one each of 12 and 14. The spell says that all the enchantments are boons, not of an Eternal exactly, but of something similar an Eternal. The entity that granted the boons seems to not be associated purely with any one realm, but suggests that Winter is the closest realm to whatever It is.


"Right, so that's," she looks like she is trying to sort complex information in her head for a moment, "going to confuse everyone and get you tailed by any Vate worth their tattoo," she concludes. 

Stepping back for a moment to think it through more clearly, she continues. "Something on two things attached to you isn't _unprecedented_ but marks you out as someone important, you have more than that...

Of course with your magic that might actually be a different thing going on - what I actually get is five Winter effects at 9, two at 10, 12 and 14, which are all stuck there by Not Quite A Winter Eternal, which is suspicious enough in itself.

...hang on, actually, if I hadn't just done the divination version, I'd assume you'd been cursed a whole lot, that's the obvious explanation for that result on its own. If I was being fully paranoid I'd suggest you get a minor curse cast on you to mask this signature. People would still be interested in what cursed you - but would be less likely to expect you to actually know.

Okay. Insight's a little different. I'll paint my eyes with liao and let it get me in the right state of mind, then ask you to make eye contact for about ten seconds."


Minor curse!? He really does not want to be cursed. And he doesn't have any idea what curses are like in this world. What she calls "minor" might be debilitating.

"What does receiving a minor curse entail?

Also...does Insight truly require that you look into my eyes? You might have noticed that i have never looked directly at your eyes: I've only been looking at your forehead or your nose. My deity grants me a similar but stronger and more focused version of the menacing aura through my eyes. It will be terribly unpleasant if you make eye contact with me." He should know, his instructor back when he was a squire had the same eyes.

"Ten seconds is enough to make a common man flee for their life." He knows from experience, although Allegra is not a commoner, that's for sure. She has a better chance of resisting it if she's Wise, which seems likely.



"Minor curse, uh, I don't actually have any of these but - actually, there are those mutual curses that leave you specifically vulnerable to another person but don't have a bad effect if they don't invoke it.

Traitor's Fate is probably the best, I think my winter coven here can hit it if I retrain them all, might take an extra day - if you trust each other, you could do it between the two of you, the other person can hit you like an arrow strike with any weapon while it's up, lasts... Not sure but probably a year, it's usually a year.

The other one I think leaves a permenant scar if you invoke it, so probably strictly worse for you, and it's Autumn - I don't have a trusted Autumn coven in my pocket. 

And. Hmm. That's probably going to hit me whether I actually look into your eyes or do one of the more metaphorical ceremonies, they're all basically equivalent to eye contact. I was going to use a second dose if your resistance worked anyway, so I can anoint myself first and that should let me take it.

Going to be a problem with going near Anvil, though. Most places, people will take 'heap of curses' for an answer, at Anvil someone who runs into that fear aura will definitely quick insight you at least, and suddenly you're extremely interesting to a lot of people with the full set of investigative magic.

Let's get me anointed, try quick insight to see if it goes off - I just have to take the liao and do it to you for that, no cooperation required - then do full insight to see how many religious crimes we're up to, and I guess I'll go liao shopping in Seren tomorrow to replace my stocks.

Does that sound like a plan to you?"

The prospect of something terribly unpleasant has definitely increased Allegra's sarcasm levels, but hasn't really dented her curiosity. She gets two vials of purple liquid out of her bag, rummages around for more to no avail, and goes to search a shelf for a third.


"That works. I would be willing to bind myself to that curse, since it may also provide the same misdirection effect for me as it does for Elias. That is to say, our god's boons when Detected would be interpreted as curses.

Could you say a bit more about Anvil? It seems that there is a lot of...security there, but you also said that there are only two permanent structures there? If there's a powerful spellcaster there that might help get us home, I would be willing to brave the risk." She's not going to mention the specific training she had to avoid inquisitors or city guards as a demonic cultist. She draws her lips tight and taps her finger lightly on the table.

"Is liao a common material component for spells in your world? What is it?"


"It works for me too. It's redundant, given that if one of us were to attack the other for no good reason, their god would strip them of their boons and refuse to grant them spells. But if it's just to mislead would-be detectors, then it's fine. Does it have an expensive material component? You said that we might do it ourselves, to each other. How would that work? I am willing to pay in spells or in gold, for either the material component or the spellcasting instruction." Well, provided they can receive spells. If not, then it will have to be gold. He hopes that they still would have some connection to the Abyss here. Is the Howling Abyss a realm in Felicia's and his Abyss? Perhaps. The Abyss, as a Chaotic realm, is infinite. There might be some place where it works like how Allegra described, and there are souls which are eaten and lost forever there, though orders of magnitude less than Abaddon.

He turns his body to face Allegra more directly, although he takes care not to look her in the eye.

"What do you mean by 'metaphorical ceremony'? My gaze only takes effect if both of us, mutually, look into each other's eyes. If you look into my eyes while I'm looking at something else, then you might get a glimpse of the power, but only a tiny portion of the full effect. If you look into my eyes indirectly by using a mirror, it is the same case."



"Anvil is where essentially all of our government meet four times a year. The only permanent buildings are the inn where the First Empress began the Empire, and the Senate building. And there's the Imperial Regio and the Sentinel Gate, I guess, but those are more magical objects than buildings. If there were any more, people would probably fight about who got them and what was put in them; the negotiations over how much space each nation gets assigned, where they get it, who gets to provide central facility tents like the Library and the Imperial Offices is already quite fierce, but because it can change every season it doesn't come to blows so often.

An awful lot of general onlookers, hangers-on and everyone who thinks they might want to be important some day shows up, and a lot of them are inducted into the Anvil Militia so they can do something useful with their time and generally ensure there is cross-national law enforcement presence; so what you have is essentially a bunch of extremely eager vigilantes in sashes who desperately want to impress someone by catching a really impressive criminal, and usually not enough thieves and assassins to keep them busy.

There are in fact some buildings a little way off from the main site - civil service offices, and as you might imagine an entire ring of hostels and wayhouses for people who don't feel like sleeping in tents.

Liao is a plant extract; the base stock is Vinum, which is a vine with sap that produces dreamless sleep. It's the key ingredient in all of our spiritual ceremonies, which are basically a more potent way of dealing with auras. Essentially, humans can in fact natively place auras, remove them, affect the soul, but it requires an extremely specific state of mind and liao is a shortcut to get there.

Traitor's Fate takes four mana crystals if everyone's mastered it, which is a fair amount - about half a season's production of my whole settlement here - and I'd probably want to hustle you to a Broker when we get to Seren and see about trading some of those gold coins to pay me back. Weird foreign gold coins should fetch a decent price if we avoid flooding the market, though, so I wouldn't worry too much.

The coven would have to cast it on you unless you're an astonishingly quick study at Winter magic, it's not impossible to get good enough between the two of you to cast it yourselves but I'd expect it to take months from a standing start, even if you're talented. But only the two of you would have the magic cast on you, you wouldn't be in any ongoing danger from the casters.

Oh, I can definitely do it in a mirror! I still think I should anoint myself first, try quick insight, then try that, so I get a full range of what might happen to someone else and also don't startle embarrassingly."

She finds a third vial and lines it up beside the other two, then picks up a well-thumbed printed booklet and turns to a page on Pride anointings.


Their government only meets four times a year? That is...so strange. He's not stealthy, but he can cast Alter Self on himself once a day, which might be useful in evading guards. His armor and weapon will invite scrutiny, though.

He produces a single gold coin and holds it out. The coin is Mendevian, but he doesn't think that's important. It weighs one third of an ounce.

"How many of these do you think it would take to purchase four magic crystals?" She's Good, so he doesn't think she'll gouge them, but there's no reason to tempt fate and tell them how much they have. It's not like it's a lot, either, they have five hundred gold pieces between them.

Yes, I am ready to begin the Insight ceremony when you are." His face is impassive.



She really wishes she had Detect Magic prepared! The wizards at their headquarters would have loved to discover a whole new way of doing magic. From what she's saying, it sounds a little like occult magic. She learned in ceremony that occult magic was the process by which Conrad and Damian became half-fiends and then full demons, before Their ascent into godhood.

"While I do not think we have the luxury of learning Winter magic, what ability must one possess in order to cast it? In my world's magic, different caster classes rely on different abilities – wizards must be Cunning, clerics must be Wise, and sorcerers must be Splendid. You...seem like a Wise person to me, and you mentioned that you and your group had proficiency in Winter magic. Is it that one has to be Wise?" If it relies on Wisdom, she might reconsider her earlier statement. If it relies on Splendor, then Elias might do well on it, even if they would only be able to cast the most basic spells. She mentioned that they would need expensive mana crystals in order to cast anything, though, so it would not be worth learning it if they didn't have the material components for any of the spells.


"I'd be surprised if we needed to sell more than one per crystal, assuming you don't both have a huge stash of them and tell the Broker that. That will go down once they become more common, but selling in Seren shouldn't affect Sarvos or Anvil if we move reasonably quickly.

Winter magic, I don't have myself, but the basic principles require you to be able to direct your thoughts - we have meditation exercises to help, some people just pick it up quickly once they've seen some magic - and memorise enough basic concepts to pick ones to use - some people memorise their whole casting routine, I tend to just improvise on a theme, it doesn't seem to matter which you pick. There's also just some element of having the knack or not - I've never got the hang of healing spells, even though they're way more basic than some of the things I can do, and not for lack of teaching.

The way you're saying some of those words makes me think they've got different meanings to you - our concept of Wisdom does help, but unless you've also got the intelligence to point it in the right direction, it's not really fundamental to magic; you can get by on just being smart and not particularly creative or experimental at all.

Once we're done with basic safety, I can run you both through the fast track exercises and see if either of you happen to be naturals - I've got a magic bracelet you can stare at for Detect Magic, that'll let us all know if you've got it, and that runs off personal mana so it won't cost more than the time."

On her right wrist is indeed a fairly wide copper-coloured metal bracelet that didn't at first glance look as impressive as the bracers, but does look a bit ornate now she points it out.

She picks up a vial. "Adaptability," she says, more to herself than to the audience, and downs it. She is quiet for a few seconds, concentrating on its effects, then shakes her head a little as if to clear it. "Right, Quick Insight. You don't have to do anything for this, it'll just give me a quick overview of your species, personal auras on you by effect and related virtue, and any damage to your soul - that last one doesn't come up much, mostly people who've done something risky with True Liao."

She reaches for another vial and murmurs, "eyes to see with," as she closes her eyes, tilts back her head and empties it into each eye, then stares at Elias in a rather disconcerting manner; the liquid has given her fetching purple eyeshadow and the whites of her eyes a mild purple tinge, and surprisingly little has spilled down her face.

It feels like something, to be Insighted - a powerful sense of being observed - it would not be at all hard to notice, if someone else did this.


She nods.

"I'm familiar with the idea of directing thoughts. Both clerics and wizards in my world have to do it to cast spells, though for clerics like me, meditation is in the form of prayer. I also haven't specialized in healing, although I am competent at it" mostly because she's Evil and can't channel positive energy.

"I see. For us, an Unintelligent cleric is almost as useful as an Intelligent one. What matters is whether they're Wise. Wisdom has to do with noticing subtle sensations, ensuring that your mind and thoughts are organized, and not letting yourself be deluded. It is hazardous to commune with gods and receive spells from them. The gods are much bigger than us, and their thoughts are too. In order to receive a spell from them, you not only have to receive the energy from them, but also must retain the...shape of the spell in your mind. The former is based on your channeling capacity, but the second is dependent on how Wise you are. An Unwise person is less capable of structuring their mind in a manner similar to their god's, and therefore receives fewer spells when they pray.

It is the same way with wizards, but they must rely on Intelligence. Rather than receive spells, they must construct the spellforms themselves, which requires study in mathematics. The mathematics of...how certain properties of shapes are kept despite being deformed. I confess that I don't know much about the process of arcane magic, only what it can do.

We would love to learn Detect Magic from you. I can request Detect Magic tomorrow when I pray, so I can compare between my world's version and yours."


He admits to himself that he is feeling a little scared. Unlike paladins, antipaladins are not immune to fear. He resists the urge to close his eyes.

Elias has an angel in his recent ancestry, but was born to human parents. The Insight doesn't seem to indicate that he is human, though. Examining the concept of 'angel' more deeply seems to imply some connection to Summer.

He has an aura of Fear, but that was already apparent. It is a true aura.

There is a second aura which is harder to identify. It seems to be a mixture of an aura of Hatred, Anarchy, and Vengeance. Another person might call it an aura of Evil. It is also a true aura.

He has no spiritual wounds.

He remains still until the sensation of powerful observation passes, at which point he sighs.


Allegra seems to be a bit more animated and is speaking a bit quicker and more enthusiastically since she started taking strange purple substances from vials.

"Okay... so that Insight response is absolutely going to get anyone who pokes it Extremely Interested in everything about you. I'm not sure if the deeper one is going to show anything more, but I guess we'd better do it in case it shows up your connection to your deity or something even more incriminating.

We can probably pass you off as a really badly cursed Changeling but people are going to want to sit you down in a Consecration and run around trying to fix it.

Insight does take resources, unlike Detect Magic, and people don't necessarily go around doing it all the time, but you will absolutely have to attract no attention whatsoever that makes anyone feel like it might be worth it.

Alternatively... we could claim you're a Herald. Winter or Summer heralds might go around with something that feels like that aura, and nobody bothers Insighting heralds, it's generally somewhere between 'uninteresting' and 'painful' - which goes well with the extra fear effect for making eye contact, too. Actually that sounds like the best plan I've come up with so far...

As for what's useful for magic, noticing subtle sensations and organising your mind and thoughts are handy for magic, but if you can't combine that with memorising a set of underlying metaphors and deciding which ones are appropriate for what you're trying to cast, you probably won't get very far. It's not maths - well, Music of the Spheres is kind of maths, I was never any good at that - but it is essentially memorising some facts and putting them together in useful ways.

I wonder if the cleric thing is what the Suranni do with Eternals to get their totally-not-a-spells?

Let me get the other Insight over with, then we'll go through the metaphor sets and see which one you might like."

She picks a hand mirror - polished metal, but with a good finish - off a shelf and offers it to Elias. "Look into this at a bit of an angle, I'll look into your eyes from there, it should work out; you need to be cooperating for this one but only in the sense of 'don't break eye contact'."


"The Herald thing might work, but what would being a herald imply about Elias? Heralds are like...outsiders, right? The servants of a deity. I'm not sure how those would operate here. I believe I have a similar aura to him, since we are both ordained by our gods, although I do not have the aura of fear nor the eye contact power."

She feels a little disturbed by the sudden change in demeanor Allegra displays after drinking that purple liquid, but pushes it away.


Elias holds the mirror to his right and looks into the middle of it. He feels the sensation of scrutiny descend upon him, and again he resists closing his eyes.

Elias is dedicated to a deity mostly-but-not-fully-aligned with Winter. This deity wants their followers to grow in strength, and to seek power. Not to do anything in particular, but simply for the sake of power itself. It is very similar to a dedication to Ambition.

His auras are linked to his deity, and there is no way to suppress or remove them unless this link was severed. The Insight seems to imply that either party could choose to sever this link at any time if they so choose.

He breathes deeply after the sensation passes. It took less than two rounds for it to conclude, but it felt like several minutes to him.

"Metaphor sets? From what I've been hearing, each 'element' is associated with certain domains or areas of concern. I believe you mentioned earlier that I was likely to have associations with Winter. What did you mean by that?"


Allegra is carefully not in immediate grabbing range of her staff during this process and between that and the anointing manages to not even have to use up any personal mana on not reacting badly to the brief reflected touch of Elias's gaze, although the tension in not doing so is evident in her posture.

"If you've got the... extra bonus aura, the one that isn't Fear, then you also have a Quick Insight problem, although people are less likely to do it to you without anything obvious to investigate - you pass perfectly well as a Changeling in appearance, and hopefully by the time we move out you'll know how not to attract attention.

'Herald' is basically a catch-all term for vaguely people-like things from the magical Realms; most of them are attached in some way to an Eternal, but not necessarily as direct servants, although those are the most common type that you might meet outside of a Realm. People expect them to act weirdly and have weird magical effects on them. Ones that are aligned with Eternals that the Empire has formally declared Amity with have full protection under the law, others are fair game but mostly people don't try it on unless you're, like, actively rampaging.

I'm a Vate, that's my people's thing for 'responsible magic user', so it wouldn't be out of place for me to be escorting a couple of Heralds or a Herald and the confused changeling that found them to Anvil; unless you actively make trouble, people are unlikely to question me checking the Gate for conjunctions with you, or... whatever you want to do if there isn't one.

Realms and metaphor sets are different. Realms are the fundamental divisions of magic - and are also, like, actually different Realms of reality that it's possible to travel here from, travelling to them is also supposedly possible but the kind of thing you don't tend to actually survive doing. Metaphor sets are how you relate to magic - things like constellations, musical keys, dramaturgical personas and stages. I think it's possible to just make new ones up if you have a firm enough idea of how it corresponds to underlying reality, but it's much easier to use one that people have already developed.

As for Winter - that's the variety of magic that our magic thinks your magical effects come from. Winter's the realm of... hard-won wisdom, hunger, death, things that inspire fear, that sort of thing."

Allegra under the influence of liao is rather more prone to waving her hands around while trying to explain things.


"Yes, I think I do too." Allegra's definitely talking about their auras of Evil. Ugh. Is she going to have to explain Evil and the afterlives? She's going to choose not to until she absolutely can't anymore.

"I hope I'll be able to pick up what it's like to be a Changeling fairly quickly, in that case."

She perks up when she mentions that the Realms are actually planes.

"Oh! We were on our way to our deities' realm. That's how we got here. Our magic can be used to travel between planes. Or...Realms, as you call them. Yes, many of the planes are uninhabitable, although you can cast other spells to keep you alive, like Planar Adaptation.

Hm. Which metaphor set do you use, personally? If we might try picking up some magic from you, we might try what you specialize in. Alternatively, dramaturgy seems like it would work for me and Elias. It sounds...similar to bards and their magic in my world, where you have to sing or dance or perform in order to cast, and where you must be Charismatic."


He tilts his head slightly.

He certainly hopes that Allegra can find conjunctions in the gate! Presumably finding a conjunction would mean they get to go home. Presumably.

"That does sound like Conrad's thing, except for death, although I'm unsure if 'hunger' is meant to be literal. We tend to use that as a metaphor to mean pursuing or desiring power or influence – being 'hungry' for it. He doesn't care about physical bodily hunger. We would appreciate it if you were to escort us, if that would make us draw less unwanted attention. We are able to pay for your time."

He starts tapping his foot on the floor. The metal of his armor clicks against the wooden floor. He stops after noticing it's a little too loud.

"I think it would be good to try to learn the basics of how we could cast this world's magic, or whether we might possess affinity for one sort over another. I'm not sure whether casting your world's spells is physically tiring – you mentioned something about personal mana earlier, which seemed to imply some exhaustible bodily resource. If it is, then I would also be fine with the two of us instead finding a place to sleep now. We'll need to find a place to rest until morning at the very least, so that we can pray."


"Hunger's kind of metaphorical, kind of literal, a bit of both.

I mostly use constellations, although I've picked up a bit of blood magic if you'd prefer something more intuitive and less intellectual - fair warning, that is exactly how it sounds, you need to not be squeamish with a knife. I've never really done dramaturgy myself, so I'm probably not the best teacher there.

Bards sounds a lot like whatever the Freeborn do, but I really have no idea how to make that work; a friend told me once it was kind of like doing the whole thing backwards.

If we can't get a helpful conjunction, I suspect the next step is to pick up a bunch of Urizeni, swear them to secrecy, teach them whatever you know about travel between planes, and have them see if they can get the Imperial Regio or the Hall of Worlds to cough you up a portal.

Using mana isn't intrinsically physically tiring, but it does come back when you sleep, and learning magic in the first place is a lot to fit in your head. I don't think we have a house with two spare beds together; would you rather be split up, or shall I go find a nice big tent?"


He draws his 'dagger' from its sheath and puts it on the table. 

"I'm fine with both, but if blood magic's easier, we can start with that. Mana sounds similar to how wizard spells work in my world – it is not tiring, but spells can be refreshed after a long rest. For us, who receive spells directly from our gods, there is no strict requirement to rest. We still do, of course, you can't live without sleep." Well, you can with magic, but it would be terribly impractical to do so.

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