Jan 27, 2023 1:45 PM
Felicia and Elias visit the Casinean Empire
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"I keep confusing your rituals with spells, because we don't really have magic rituals. I'm familiar with rituals in the sense of...'habit' or 'tradition', but not...as a casting modality.

Restoring limbs, Regeneration, is very difficult for us. It's a seventh-circle spell. For us, it's easier to raise the dead than it is to restore the limbs of someone alive.

I think part of the reason you have fewer spells is because your gods, sorry, Eternals, don't grant divine magic packaged into spells. There are many theories on our world as to how magic originated – it is known to be a very ancient art – but the most popular explanation is that it came about from people trying to mimic divine magic."

She takes in the plants around her. Most of them look normal, some even look familiar, although there's several she hasn't seen before.

"I'd be keenly interested in learning herbal preparation especially. I'm not trained in making potions, but I was in charge of growing magical herbs and the like back at home for use by alchemists.

How do you think we should disguise my spells? I'll probably run the spells I plan on casting by you first, unless it's a situation where we're being attacked or something."

 

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"Some rituals are 'sponsored' by Eternals - there are effects you can't get unless you have an Eternal to back them, generally because they summon something complicated from the Realm and you need someone providing it.

Rituals are realm aligned and spells aren't, though - so Eternals tend not to do specifically spell like things.

Eternal boon is a good catch all excuse for anything, as long as you don't overuse it - it's unusual to have more than one or two effects granted like that, especially if they're not obviously linked to items, but they can do just about anything that doesn't break the limits of magic.

Bringing back the dead is technically breaking a limit of magic, but one that I think people will buy that an Eternal unknown to the Empire can do with diamonds, having to use something valuable but unusual makes it more likely to be an approach we've just never tried.

The mind affecting enchantments - especially 'command' and 'demand offering' which aren't very subtle - are well out of paradigm too. Being able to do that kind of thing with herbal approaches is going to come across as much more likely, maybe clouds of spores or something..."

This forest is a bit... Orderly, for a totally wild forest. There's nothing very obvious about it, but it just seems slightly off, slightly too human friendly and hospitable.

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"Oh yes, I should probably try that, actually, now that I'm more powerful. I can cast Planar Ally to see if one of Damian's outsiders would be able to help me. Whether or not he's able to send me one would be an indicator of how far away this plane is from Pharasma's Creation." Something is telling her that while Damian's interventions and spells can reach, His outsiders probably can't. But it can't hurt to try.

"Those are compulsion effects, but I prefer to use charm effects like Charm Person, which are much more subtle. Provided that the person fails to resist against it, they won't know it's been cast on them. At least, unless you really take advantage of them in that scenario. If that's the case, they'll probably realize something's been done to them after the spell ends. It lasts hours at a time, though, so you can use that time to make your getaway.

What are the limits of magic here? I think it's best for me to memorize those so I can selectively prepare spells that wouldn't fall afoul of those limits, or ones that do, but can hide it."

She does feel something weird about the forest, but she likes it. Damian loves plants, and she does too, but she much prefers gardens or parks rather than wild forest. This is a forest, yes, but it does evoke that garden-like quality of being 'safe'. She also feels weirdly...not 'happy', but buoyant, like she wants to run around in the grass like a small child.

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"Raising the dead. Creating something from nothing - you can get things out of the Realms, but generally only with a cooperative Eternal. Connection - we can't do things really at range like you seem to be able to, you either need to be near enough to touch it, have it in the regio, or you need dominion over it or a bond to it.

Hm... if I'm going to do this without notes, that sounds like those cognitive enhancement spells might be helpful, I'm sure I'm going to miss something without writing it down at least.

Might help me remember where's best to turn off before the road gets busy, too."

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"I suppose that rules out many of my spells, then. Many spells in the evocation and conjuration schools create something out of nothing. Granted, most of them decay, expire, or vanish after a short while, but there are many which are permanent. Create Food and Water for example creates regular food and water that doesn't vanish, although it will spoil unless you cast Purify Food and Drink on it every once in a while to prevent that.

Spells are divided into five range classes in our world: touch, short, medium, long, and unlimited. Short range spells reach at least twenty-five feet away, medium range one-hundred feet, and long range spells four-hundred feet. More powerful casters naturally have an extended range to their spells, and if a caster knows Enlarge Spell, they can double the range of the spell they cast, although that increases the circle of the required slot by one.

Of course. Both spells will last nine minutes at a time. When do you want me to cast them? I can cast them on you successively, or I can cast only one of them on you at a time."

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"Let's go with the one that helps with factual recall now, and the other one in a bit when I need good judgement about when to head off the road?"

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She casts Fox's Cunning on her. It only takes three seconds of chanting, and at the end, she taps Allegra's shoulder to place the spell.

"It's important not to resist the spell. Most of the spells of our world can be resisted in some way, and that applies for both helpful and harmful spells."

The spell evokes sensations most similar to that of casting a Day ritual, although strangely there is Summer there too. 

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"Spell resistance is also one of the limits of magic - there are spells that need consent, but other than not giving consent or physically getting out of range, or sometimes just being an inapplicable target if you're something like a huge magical rhinoceros, there's no 'resistance'."

She adopts the applicable mental attitude to consent to the spell as if it's some kind of Night effect, and doesn't even flinch when touched, although someone good at reading people would have been able to tell that took some effort.

Now her scattered, long dormant recollection of the limits of magic is coming into much sharper focus. This is very pleasant, she could really get used to this.

"It doesn't make much sense to start with the limits, actually - let me list out the laws of magic first, then the extra limits are really just edge cases.

The law of intent - only the original intent in designing the spell or ritual matters, you can't apply a ritual or spell for one thing to something else. Sometimes you will manage a ritual with a potential range of targets, or some small flexibility of effect, especially if you codify it, but there's nothing to be found by experimentally applying things to other things, it's all laid out in the ritual text.

Oh - codify means, we can do experiments that create an 'arcane projection' which is a kind of preliminary, limited ritual which may only work once, and then with an awful lot more research that can become a 'ritual text', which is generally cheaper and can be used repeatedly by other people.

The law of presence - it's much easier to affect something that's directly present, there are ways to follow magical connections to reach further away but the effects you can have there are much more diffuse.

The law of dominion - if you have authority over something, that's a magical connection and you can be used to affect that thing - so a ritual on me could affect Foundhome, especially the mana site there as that's magically salient, or a ritual on a general could affect their army. The Imperial Regio in Anvil can affect any region of the Empire, an egergore can be used to affect their whole nation although that is generally prohibitively expensive.

The law of bonds - that basic spell I mentioned, create bond, can link people to items, or people who are already linked through an egergore to each other, and those bonds are also a valid conduit for magical effects.

The law of scale - every magical effect has a natural scale, it's not much cheaper and sometimes impossible to make a smaller version of an effect that's already near its optimal scale, and becomes rapidly more expensive or impossible to exceed it. 

The law of transience - magical effects also have a natural duration, a season for enchantments, a year for curses, much shorter for spells. Ilium can overcome this but it's very rare and you need a lot of it. This also applies to our enchanted items, they naturally fade in a year, although potions last indefinitely.

The law of synergy - it's easier to add more targets to a ritual than to make it longer or more powerful.

The law of boundaries - there are natural geographical boundaries to the world that magic obeys, they can't easily be redefined, anything that affects a wide area does so based on them. 

The law of essence - you can't affect the fundamental nature of something. This is a bit difficult to explain, but the most common related result is that once an injury has settled into someone's self-image, you can no longer heal it with magic, even if it would usually work. Especially weird things have to be called up from the Realms, generally with a specific Eternal providing them, rather than just conjured. 

There are the limits I've already mentioned - death, resistance to magic - we can't be entirely immune to swords either, although the effects can be mitigated - compulsions, emotional effects are common but they make you feel a certain way rather than do a certain thing, that includes no absolute truth magic.

Other limits, true invisibility - magic can distract people and improve stealth and call up concealing mists but not actually make someone vanish entirely. Silence - even our paralysis magic leaves the person capable of speaking or screaming. Complex territory effects - anything that affects a whole territory is broad and indiscriminate, it can't intrinsically give your side an advantage. Maps, if you want to affect somewhere far away you don't have dominion over you can get some passive effects through a map, like divinations, but nothing else and nothing if you don't have a map.

There are some weirder cases like what you can do with lineage or an egergore bond but I don't see how those would come up."

Oh. Possibly that was quite a lot of very dense talking. It seemed a lot less difficult to think of what to say, under the effects of the spell.

"Did you need me to repeat any of that?" she asks.

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"No need, I think I can memorize it," she says. She mouths off the laws several times to ensure it sticks. She only says her comments afterward.

"I think your magic is stronger on the global scale, but ours is stronger on the local scale. I know of no spell of our world that would be able to encompass an entire country or region unless it's cast from Wish or Miracle. It's interesting that you've been able to categorize the limits of your magic like that, and that they've been able to form such...neat borders. We have no such privilege.

For us, magic must be packaged into stable configurations of energy known as spells, which have a shape. The shape of a spell has to obey certain parameters: it has to do with the mathematics of curved objects with holes – I'm sorry, I'm not a wizard, and while I am trained in spellcraft, my training focused on identifying spells rather than the fundamental mechanics of magic you need to know for magic research. In any case, our spells are categorized by 'circles' because they denote how many 'holes' the shape of the spell has. More holes means more power, but also more complexity and energy required to prepare.

Only certain configurations of energy are stable enough to be 'tied off' and become spells. Wizards trying to do spell research work in shielded workrooms, because an unstable spell will fizzle out harmlessly in the best case, and explode uncontrollably in the worst. Most spell research involves deriving similar but distinct shapes from already existing spells rather than creating new spells de novo. The fundamental limitation of our magic has to do with stabilizing energy, rather than magic simply being unable to do certain things. Presumably, the god of magic, Nethys, would know of stable spells even greater than Wish, or those with more than nine circles, but such things would be way too much for mortals to comprehend, let alone cast."

She turns her eyes toward Allegra rather than the road, now.

"Just tell me when you want me to cast Owl's Wisdom on you."

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"I have actually never done magical research myself, although I've helped with a bit of it - but there is a kind of element of that, although I think with less consistent formalism than you are using there. When a new ritual is developed, it starts out as an 'arcane projection', which is really just like putting the concepts together in concept space for the ritual you want; but in order for that to be repeatable and teachable, and generally also more efficient and scalable, it has to be researched, which is a complicated process that takes more mathematics than I've ever bothered learning and is normally done in colleges of magic that involve at least dozens of researchers.

That sounds a lot like your stabilisation of spells to me.

Spells themselves are even more difficult, you might have noticed we've found very few stable configurations that are neat enough to be powered entirely with personal mana rather than crystal mana, although part of that is that they're not Realm-tied at all - they just use the basic underlying structure of reality, not mixed in with the connections to the Realms, although people tend to think the healing spells are Spring anyway because people are, mostly, stupid."

Having said that makes Allegra pause for a moment, as if she's noticed her mouth running without her conscious intention catching up.

"There's a bit more road before we probably want to turn off somewhere, I'll let you know when we're close enough to Seren I want to start looking in earnest."

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"So our world really only has spells, in that case. Our world's spells also tap into the underlying structure of reality – we don't have Realms as you understand it at all. Actually, thinking about it a bit more, we do happen to have ritual magic, but they're different from what you describe. They don't require crystal mana, and indeed, they don't require that the caster be a spellcaster at all. Damian and Conrad used ritual magic in the process of transforming into demons. None of us attempt the ritual now, though – it is very dangerous." And also because it requires procuring powerful Good creatures to sacrifice.

She laughs heartily at Allegra's comment.

"I suppose that's one thing that's common across all the worlds. We test the mental abilities of people before deciding whether to induct them or not – well, we test all their abilities. I can test someone's Wisdom and Charisma, but not their Intelligence. Detect Thoughts is an arcane spell only. I could try praying for it, but it probably wouldn't work. Before our gods' ascension, we used Detect Thoughts a lot more, since we didn't have the soul contracts around to ensure good will among everyone in the church. I didn't live through that time, though."

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"That sounds a lot more like hearth magic, or petitioning an Eternal, or generally the kind of thing that, well, created owlbears and caused us a tremendous amount of trouble chasing walking trees out of the observatory. There is magic within the world that you can just, interact with, but it's rarely a good idea to do so without an extremely good reason and some idea what you are doing.

I suspect detecting thoughts would come under the same limit as compulsions - the nature of our magic seems to be very keen on preserving mysteries. I blame the Realm of Night, and the Eternal Sung in particular, although I suppose the Whisper Gallery are often also At It.

Soul contracts?"

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Eeeee. Well, it was bound to come up eventually. Let's hope she takes it well. She is Good, so...

"People ordained by our gods are guaranteed to end up in the afterlife realm of the god who chose them. However, Damian and Conrad wanted there to be a mechanism for people who are not ordained to still be able to go to Their afterlife – unless you're formally chosen, simply working for a god's church doesn't guarantee that you'll get to join them when you die. Provided that you are found suitable, you can sign a soul contract to Them so that you'll go to the Silver Garden – Their afterlife realm – when you die, in exchange for your service in the mortal life. It's a beautiful place: it was actually our intended destination." Her face lights up when she says that last sentence. Also, she's skipping over so much context.

"The soul contract, despite the name, is voluntary and can be renounced at any time by either party."

 

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"I still find it kind of unsettling that you don't reincarnate," replies Allegra. "It's almost like your gods have just made a giant soul jar to keep you in. You never get to - shed all your baggage and try again.

Forever is an awfully long time.

Oh, and if I'm unsettled by it, you should assume most other people you meet will be totally horrified.

I guess it's similar for orcs - the soul contract sounds a lot like what happens when they have Ancestors they get on with, they can kind of pull them across?"

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"That's funny, see, because I'm horrified by your system. I like the afterlife system because it means I get to keep on living after I die. Yes, my body will change, but I'll get to keep my mind and soul..."

She gets a little distracted and trails off, being engrossed by the Nature all around her. She's starting to feel the energy of the place a bit more, and it makes it harder for her to focus on the conversation rather than take in the sights.

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Allegra also starts paying more attention to their surroundings; in a little while, she says, "Okay, let's try Owl's Wisdom here, if we keep on this way we're going to hit the main road and I'd rather find a diversion if I can work out a good route."

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She's jolted out of her reverie by Allegra speaking, but recovers her composure quickly.

"Yes. I should tell you that the feeling of Owl's Wisdom is...different. The spell sharpens your perception, but it also sharpens your capacity for introspection. It...so...many people tend to not know themselves all that well. I'm a cleric, so I'm selected for having highly above average capacity for introspection, but most people are...not that. Owl's Wisdom is like throwing a lantern into your mind – it might reveal things that were dark to you before. Given...your role, I don't expect anything bad to happen, but it is known that people have sometimes had negative reactions to this spell that Fox's Cunning or Eagle's Splendor would not have caused.

Aside from that disclaimer, I'll cast the spell on you now if you have no objections or questions."

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"Sure, I think I've had my share of disturbing revelations about myself, I can see how some people could find it unsettling, though."

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"Indeed."

Owl's Wisdom.

Felicia taps her on the shoulder.

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Oh. Oh no. She's doing the thing again.

The thing where someone shows up and she tries to help them, entirely on their own terms, with no idea who they really are or what they actually want or whether helping them is a good idea at all.

And now she's given them a lot of good advice about how to hide themselves and make contact with awful people they might in fact get on very well with, possibly handed the Thule amazing otherworldly magic, and she's in the middle of nowhere with them and they can absolutely take her in a fight, probably without even really meaning to.

And she's been so self sufficient these past few years that she doesn't even have any pre arranged signals for help.

Well. Fortunately they were expecting it to be moderately disturbing, so it shouldn't be a problem that she might have looked moderately disturbed for a moment. Time to start increasing her option space.

"Okay," she says, "actually I think taking a shortcut through the woods is a stupid idea I was only considering to put off having to interact with people, because I don't like cities much. But then I was intending to plunge into Temeschwar and somehow make contact with the right people even though I have no contacts in Temeschwar and it's a huge city. So instead we should meet up with some people I actually know in Seren and get their introduction to the right people in Temeschwar."

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Felicia is moderately disturbed at Allegra being moderately disturbed, but she manages to keep it mostly off her face. Yeah, Owl's Wisdom is a rather jarring experience if it's your first time, even if you're already very Wise.

Yes! She is loving this guided nature walk, but she wasn't particularly looking forward to actually wading through random wilderness like that. 

"That makes sense. You do lots of trade in Seren, then? What do you usually sell or buy there? Is Seren particularly known for certain products? If they'll accept Golarion money, I wonder if there'll be good restaurants. I love trying new food, but I'm an appalling cook."

She hopes that Allegra doesn't become destabilized from Owl's Wisdom. She could have shortened the duration, but she would need to have specified that before casting the spell, and the spell is undismissable.

 

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Elias became violent the first time Owl's Wisdom was cast on him by a Sarenran priest in his youth, since he's not especially Wise on his own, and having a higher capacity for introspection meant he realized some of the things that would eventually lead to him being ordained by Conrad. It's good that he's standing a little behind the two talking women – if Allegra was to suddenly snap, then he can react quickly. Not that he's expecting that, she doesn't seem like the type. Still, that's his job: keeping Felicia secure while she talks. That's their dynamic.

He's honestly apprehensive about the idea of splitting up. He's always relied on her healing, and while he is trained in mundane healing, you can't exactly heal your own mortal wounds. And he's about to go into this northern country. It sucks that antipaladins aren't immune to fear.

He reminds himself that his job is to cause fear, not suffer from it. Others should fear him, not the other way around. 

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"Yes - our main trade caravan does a short circuit round us and First Voice just up the road, but if I need anything complicated or unexpected it's the best place.

Catrin should be in town today, but for getting some of your money changed I'd probably rather stop by Verys Eternal - the Eternal family are a very widespread Striding of excellent Brokers, they go to Anvil, so they'll be less confused by all this.

Seren has a bit of everything, but herbs and alchemy - and unusual plants in general - is the speciality. There's also plenty of good restaurants. It's basically Navarr's only city, and gets travellers coming back from everywhere with exotic spices and so on."

She's not outright lying about anything - that would seem, well, unwise, not knowing their full capabilities - but she's definitely being a bit evasive about Seren's speciality, which might have been noticeable as a small pause.

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"I see. How much money do you think we'll get? We have 245 of those gold coins I showed you earlier – about how much would that be in the local currency?

Herbs are my specialty. Not using them – I'm not trained in potionmaking or alchemy – but growing them. It'd be great to see how your plants are different from ours." She really brightens up when the exotic spices are mentioned. She notices Allegra's pause, but interprets that as just her thinking rather than intentional evasiveness.

"Navarr...I'm assuming that's a polity...only has a single city?"

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"I'm not a Broker, but I trust the Eternal family to appraise them honestly - they've spent a lot of effort on their reputation, I doubt they'd endanger it over some foreign coins.

I'd expect just a few to cover any expenses you might have unless you're trying to buy, like, artefacts or True Liao, or financing a serious infrastructure project.

Most people who are good at what they do but not, like, the best in the Empire will want a few crowns a season for dangerous work, I'd be expecting to get several crowns per coin.

The most expensive restaurants will be a crown for their full service on short notice, most will be a few rings at most - there's twenty rings to the crown.

Navarr is pretty spread out - there are towns, elsewhere, but most of the population lives on the road, either in Stridings that walk the Trods, or Steadings that guard or harvest important locations and give them somewhere to stay."

She considers qualifying this with 'as long as they don't flood the market', but she's not actually sure she wants to remind them fully how to be cautious.

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