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Jan 30, 2023 1:03 PM
allegra is transported to the bronze orchard
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"Thank you," she says, somewhat automatically, shuffling everything around and tying on the stamper. She doesn't really expect to be allowed to leave with anything interesting, or indeed get paid unless it turns out that Damianites will take her and don't need to pass a fitness test.

That reminds her that she's still only got the robe she's standing up in, which has very much seen better days. If she's going to impress some Damianites she had better scrub up a bit better. 

"I could probably also do with some changes of clothing, I didn't really arrive with anything?" She considers apologising for continually thinking of one thing at a time, but she doesn't want to be continually apologising.

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Selm looks a little annoyed, but also understanding. He wordlessly adds the new items to the ledger. On the desk are two sets of tunic and pants, in the same light gray color as Conradia's robes.

"You can ask the laundry wizard in your dorm section to repair your old clothes with Mending, and clean them up with Prestidigitation," he adds helpfully.

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"Excellent, thank you." She makes sure everything is stamped and tucks the clothes into the satchel bag.

"Okay, I think that's everything for now."

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She claps her hands.

"Great! We can have dinner now, barring anything else that you might want. I think we can discuss plans for magic research and me teaching you magic over dinner. Does that sound good to you?"

If it does, then she'll lead her back to the canteen again. 

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Yes, food sounds extremely good right now. Hopefully there's not too much of a line now. She nods and follows along. 

Everything is too nice - even with the fitness test thing that is honestly straight out of her recurring nightmares about basic training, that doesn't seem to be something that will make them stop feeding her or put her back in the prison cell or anything.

She would kind of like to get paid just so she can maybe amass a small pile of magical items and learn the language spells and then when the other shoe does drop, if it's not immediately too late and they were lying about setting her loose all along, she has a fighting chance in the wider world.

But she's still not sure if actively asking about the other side, the Damianites, will push her luck too far.

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There are a dozen people in line, but the line passes in five minutes. Conradia sits back down at the same place near the fountain.

"So, magic research. It will take a whole season for the mana site thing to work out, right? Probably more, if we don't get it right the first time. But I understand that aside from rituals, you also have spells, which require no mana. What spells are you able to cast?

Me tutoring you in our world's magic is of lesser priority, but we still want to do it in the case that it might help you get insight into how our two worlds' magics could be usefully combined. I think I can tutor you...three times a week, maybe. It depends on what orders we get from our clients. Or if I'm called for a mission to explore more Sarkorian ruins or something. We might deploy you in the field, actually, to see how your combat style is like, although we won't do that until you've had a chance to spar with others.

The summer solstice is in two weeks, which means lots of people are going to spar to train for Dies Irae."

She frowns slightly.

"Oh, right, you wouldn't know what that is. The Dies Irae is a Chelish tradition, but Conrad adapted it for use in the church. People fight each other, sorted in their level of power, to the death. Well, figuratively speaking. We use Merciful weapons and Merciful rods," she says those like they are technical terms, "to ensure no one dies. You do have to fight until one person is downed, however – there is no surrendering or forfeiting. The winner wins money and bragging rights. I should clarify that you don't have to participate: it's strictly voluntary. No one will force you to go. You can watch, though. I'm not exactly one to be entertained by violence, but people do get really creative during the fights."

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"Spells run off personal mana - I have four a day, it's possible to improve with practice. Most cost just one, but can be cast more quickly with two, and paralysis or breaking an object just costs two to start with.

I just have the basics - detect magic, create bond, operate portal - but I'm pretty sure I could pick up repel easily if I tried, I've had that sometimes.

I can probably teach all of our spells, although I'm less confident of the healing spells."

Food is good. Food doesn't suggest awkward questions, like 'in the field against who'.

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She's very confused by her wording. She talks while Allegra eats.

"Er, are you saying that you previously knew the repel spell but...forgot? Could you describe how magic is taught and learned in your world, and how it's prepared and cast?

I'll go ahead and tell you how magic here is prepared and cast, and then you can tell me how your world's magic differs from ours in which respects.

I believe our worlds are similar in that spellcasters can only cast so many spells per day, but that spellcasting is independent of one's physical stamina.

There are four types of magic in Golarion, based on whether they are prepared or spontaneous, or arcane or divine.

Prepared casters must, as the name suggests, prepare what spells they want to be able to cast each day. A wizard who wants to cast the spell Magic Missile twice must prepare that spell twice. If they don't bother to prepare it, then they can't cast it, even if they have the spell in their spellbook. Clerics must request which and how many of each spell they want to receive from their god when they pray.

Spontaneous casters, meanwhile, do not have to do such preparation. Instead, they 'memorize' a set number of spells and are able to cast any one of them at command. They don't need to think about what sort of spells they might need for the day, since they only have that set number – that's it. It's possible for spontaneous to change which spells they have memorized, but it's a difficult process – the process depends on what exact class you are – so most don't go through with it.

Prepared casters are at a disadvantage in raw firepower. All else being equal, spontaneous casters can cast more spells per day than prepared ones. Where prepared casters shine is in their versatility. A spontaneous caster will require days to weeks of retraining to swap out their spells, whereas prepared casters only need to wait a day. Clerics receive access to the entirety of the cleric spell list instantly, and wizards can prepare any spell they have in their textbook – provided both of them are of the requisite circle.

Arcane magic derives from power channeled by yourself, whereas divine magic comes from gods or the powers of nature.

Arcane magic is usually more versatile than divine magic, and also has a wider variety of damaging spells. We've found through experimenting" on captured prisoners and commoners "that damaging arcane spells are more efficient than damaging divine spells, even when cast by casters of the same caster level. Ah, yes, the concept of caster level is something that we've refined through study – it's a measure of how powerful you are as a spellcaster, and it has ramifications for all sorts of things.

Divine magic is more limited than arcane magic, but it can do things that no arcane magic thus far has been able to replicate: healing and resurrection spells. Further, divine magic is not affected by arcane spell failure. In order to cast arcane spells with somatic components, you need to have training in order to be able to cast them while wearing armor. Armor limits the free movement required for arcane spellcasting. Divine spellcasting has no such restriction.

An anomalous exception is alchemy, which is not divine, but is also not quite arcane, but it's also not entirely mundane, either: it is known that alchemists need to develop channeling capacity as other casters do. We've invested resources into interrogating the exact nature of alchemy and how alchemists 'cast', but we haven't gotten very far."

She pauses for a little bit.

"It would be a great boon to us if you could teach your world's healing magic. We're starved for healing – Evil clerics are much less adept at healing than Good clerics, since they only get negative channeled energy and spontaneous casting of Inflict rather than Cure spells. We make do with alchemy and mundane healing, but it's inconvenient."

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"Yes - I think that's analogous to your spontaneous spell casters changing what spells they have memorised? If we don't practice a spell regularly, we can't immediately cast it any more until we've built up the habit again.

We also have other practices that are a bit magic - chirurgy and physick often use hearth magic and magical herbs, artisanry creates magic items, alchemy creates magical potions, and religious practices create emotional auras and disrupt ghosts and the like - I'm trained in aura creation and disruption but I'd need a specific substance that I have no idea how to even start looking for to use it, I have nothing but a general idea of the rest.

All of our 'magic' magic - spells and rituals - depends on tapping into the fundamental forces underlying reality by using a casting metaphor. There are a variety of basic meditation exercises designed to get people started on understanding their chosen casting metaphor deeply enough to use it.

I'm a bit worried some of the metaphors might not work here - constellations may be different, the great rivers are unlikely to be significant, we may even be too distant from the paragons. I expect blood magic to work even if nothing else does, and runes would probably work but I'm afraid I only have fairly incomplete knowledge of them, my native metaphor is constellations but I can also work with blood, it's just easier to do on the spur of the moment without any notes.

Once you're comfortable with the casting metaphor, detect magic is normally the easiest starting point - if your magic shows up to it we should be good, if not - divination mode should still show something on a historically interesting item, I think?

As we don't have a handy regio I'd probably skip operate portal and as we don't have an artisan I'd probably skip create bond - the other uses of create bond require both parties to be under the same egregore bond, so that won't be useful here.

The spells are essentially basic applications of the casting metaphor - I'm pretty sure the healing spells are tied up with local time acceleration and I'd want to try teaching them first to someone who is intrinsically optimistic about the future and doesn't fear death.

Rituals are more complex applications of the casting metaphor tied into one of magical Realms. There's a chance we have a different set of accessible Realms here and are going to have to rederive these entirely - especially the ones that require specific Eternal backing, especially if I break the egregore bond and no longer come under the agreements made with the Empire..."

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"For us, magic item making is totally magic: I'm an artisan in the sense that my main job is crafting magic items, not really spellcasting. I'm mediocre as a combat wizard. Magic item crafting is special in that you don't need to know or have access to the spell that the final item will have. It's a lot harder, but not impossible. So long as you have the requisite channeling capacity, you can try to make it. 

Could you tell me more about those auras, and what the ingredient necessary is? Do you think they'll be useful?"

She makes a displeased face and purses her lips when she hears 'blood magic'.

"Yes, the constellations and rivers of Golarion are likely too different to be useful. I suppose it'd have to be blood magic for the moment. 

We have tons of magic items we can test it on. I can get a bunch of the cheaper magic items to test it out on in case there's some sort of destructive interaction. If they show up as inert but where there's no negative interaction, then we can test stronger items."

She makes the same face when it comes to her describing the healing spells.

"I could probably get some of the more foolhardy antipaladins or inquisitors who would be willing to be test subjects for the healing spells. Hm, does the subject have to be willing? We could try to procure prisoners for testing if it's possible.

We most likely have a different set of Realms here. We have a bunch. Nine afterlife planes, four elemental planes, the Astral Plane, the Ethereal Plane, demiplanes, so on and so forth.

What agreements would you no longer be bound under if you break your egregore bond? How does one break one's egregore bond anyway?"

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Oh no. These people disapprove of blood magic too? She'd have thought that, out of anyone, people who call themselves 'chaotic evil' in all seriousness - and have fitness tests for their mages, for Virtue's sake - would be entirely fine with the prospect of a little blood magic.

"Auras are - I suppose I have to start with Virtues. Virtues are - fundamental human drives. Possibly of other sentient beings too, but humans are what all the research is on. Things like Ambition, Courage, Hatred, Loyalty, Hope. The single word versions of the concepts don't really do them justice - that's another one actually, Justice, or you might call it Vengeance if you don't like it, the Empire isn't very fond of it - they're quite complicated concepts.

Anyway, an aura is the expression of one of these, stuck onto an object, or a place, or a person. You can also do weaker auras with magic that don't have to be linked to a Virtue, although they generally have to be something fairly fundamental about a Realm instead.

They're mostly useful if you're trying to guide someone to have more of that Virtue, or to cover up another effect like it, or generally stop people having emotions you don't want them to have and make them have emotions you do want them to have instead. Most of my usage has been in Despair auras - the people we were fighting liked to create those - sticking Pride anointings on people so that they would actually participate in their rescue rather than making it harder for everyone.

I don't think detect magic really has enough power to do any damage to anything, but I suppose it's right to be careful about totally unknown magic system interactions; it's much more likely to give the caster a headache or a nosebleed, or possibly something weirder like filling their bones with bees in particularly extreme cases.

Healing absolutely does not require consent - just to stay close enough to touch and not be moving around too violently, restraining someone works fine."

She worries a bit about saying this, but doesn't let it show; better someone else is getting hurt than her, but she's not exactly pleased by the idea of deliberately injuring prisoners for research.

"The Empire has a lot of magical agreements with local Eternals; generally things like 'if we cast this ritual, you'll shove a magical castle or march a small army through the resulting hole', but also basic things like 'parley means something terrible happens to either side that does violence during it' and probably a lot that I don't even know about.

The egregore bond is voluntary - it's hard to break by accident, or if you don't really mean it, but easy enough if you do strongly intend to leave the nation - especially if you're doing it while swearing to some conflicting obligation."

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"Yes, your Auras are different from ours. We do have auras of Despair, but they're boons granted by our gods to antipaladins. The antipaladins themselves and their allies are immune from the effect of the aura, however."

She makes an incredulous face at the magical side-effects comment. "I have never heard of any magic accident ending so badly your bones fill with bees. I suppose I'll ask one of the clerics to be on standby when we experiment with magic that can Dispel effects off of us if needed, and also do healing.

As for your healing spells, I'll talk to Rendon about procuring prisoners for you. Another aspect we would be keen to test is whether our healing magic would work on you. I mean, while I'm pretty sure you're a regular human like myself, there might be...differences. We could just cast the spell on you right now, but that wouldn't show whether or not it was effective, only whether or not it's harmless. That would require getting you injured, though, which we obviously don't want."

Her face turns serious.

"Hm. So, are egregores sapient? Can they think? Can you communicate back and forth with your egregore?"

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"Yes, we normally have physicks on hand for magical injuries, they often need - interesting fixes. Like, there's one where you get lightning stuck to your body and need to be grounded..."

If they didn't like blood magic they won't like the full description of that either. Why are these 'chaotic evil' people somehow more squeamish than her. It's very inconvenient.

"You can injure me if you want, as long as it's something that will normally heal okay. I've got to try out this sword at some point, for a start? Or I've still got some bruises and scratches that aren't quite done healing, if it's the kind of thing that clears up those."

Oh no, what is it about egregores that has alarmed them?

"Egregores are sapient, but generally can't be communicated with unless they have a host there - they can tell if you die or break the bond, but they usually have to actually think to check about the first one, I'm not sure about the second, it doesn't come up much.

I guess they must be able to ask someone to become a host too, but I don't know if they can without a host there to do the talking.

I can't deliberately send them anything other breaking the bond. Or dying, I guess." That's okay to say, that's just another reason for them not to kill her, right?

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"We don't injure our own without very good reason – it causes resentment. Resentment is an emotion sacred to Conrad, and so we are careful not to induce it in any people in the church. If you want, you can test the sword on the prisoners we'll be getting soon."

She now speaks as though reciting from a book. "Anger over one's weakness is the first step on the path to power. Conrad and His church are heavily interrelated, of course, but they are not one and the same. If we upset people in the church unnecessarily, some could schism unamicably and fight us, and Conrad will not necessarily side with us. It's the same reason the church refuses to employ slaves. Were one of the slaves to develop the hunger for power that Conrad values, He might choose to imbue them with power and let them do what they wanted with us, seeing them as being closer to Him than we are.

Bruises and scratches are totally something they can help with, though. Wait...ah, Rendon probably cast Lesser Restoration on you, didn't he? If it worked, then I don't think there's anything to worry about."

She breathes a sigh of relief. Okay. Reminder to kill Allegra outside of the Bronze Orchard, then. She hopes it doesn't come to that, but, of course, you want to prepare for such things, as sympathetic as her story might be. Petrifying her wouldn't count as killing her, though, so doing that before transporting her outside might be convenient.

"I see. Are egregares capable of seeing through people they're bonded with? Do they have...awareness of what happens to people bonded to them? It is known that part of the reason gods ordain people is that they are able to gain an awareness of the mortal world through their thoughts and senses. We categorically forbid witches, oracles, and ordained people of other gods from this place for that reason."

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Ugh, no, she doesn't want to injure prisoners, she just feels like things would be less abjectly confusing if someone actually hurt her. It's much clearer what people want when they're willing to hurt you about it.

"Yes, I felt much better after the Lesser Restoration.

Sometimes the egregores know things and it's not entirely clear how they know them - but it's possible that's just that a lot of people trust them and talk to their hosts.

They can definitely see through their hosts, that's how they do most things."

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

"Being bonded to an egregore is distinct from being their host, yes? I will have to check with Rendon about this development. We may sadly have to confine you to one of the workrooms if the risk to your egregore finding things out about the Bronze Garden is too great. I'd prefer not to do that, though."

 

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"Yes - I'd have to consent, to be their host. It's possible they could ask me, but I'm not sure why they would - my disappearance shouldn't be suspicious for quite some time, and - uh, if they come to the obvious conclusion, they wouldn't want to be taking a host in that situation anyway.

You could make it an extra condition, to not accept one and to let you know - to let my handler know if they ask, if you wanted to be extra sure."

She didn't really want to let them know no-one was coming for her, but actually now that seems safer than making them think someone might be.

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In the next moment, the light emanating from the ceiling darkens to about that of a night with a full moon. The big plant pots placed between the tables catch on fire with huge red flames, but they seem to be heatless – the plants are untouched.

"Oh, yes, the lights in the public areas darken during the 'nighttime' hours. It corresponds to the time of night and day outside...roughly. Such concepts don't really work this far up north. We're approaching the summer solstice, so the outside is in perpetual day. The enchantment setting the time is roughly based on Chelish time. The sun sets later in the summer, and the light timings do adjust themselves somewhat. It was a fun challenge getting the seasonal timings accurate and stable." 

She looks back at Allegra.

"Yes, that seems like a good idea. I command you to refuse consenting to your egregore seeking to make you their host, and to inform whoever was minding you of any attempts thereof."

Yes, Allegra's safety would be more compromised if having her here meant that other people knew where this place is and how its internals looked like.

"If you're finished with your food, I can take you back to your room and hand you over to Agnes, unless there's something else you wanted to do first. I suspect the Damianites would want to talk to you tomorrow. If they don't, we can commence with magic tutoring and research. The prisoners will take a day or a couple of days to be procured. We only take prisoners if we have experiments that require them, see, and that's not always the case. Although, if there's a long enough gap, the Damianites sometimes go ahead and nab some anyway." She sighs.

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At the unexpected lighting change Allegra jumps to her feet and is some way towards drawing her sword when she realises nobody else is reacting and Conradia is calmly explaining.

She sits back down again, trying not to look quite as utterly embarrassed as she feels. Apparently these people fight a lot, surely they've heard of someone having combat reflexes before.

"I'd... like to talk to the Damianites," she ventures, "but I should probably sort out my hair and put some less destroyed clothes on first, so tomorrow sounds good."

She picks up her bowl ready to bring it to the cleaning box.

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Sigh. Well, she hopes that Allegra will calm down soon enough. It's understandable why she'd be on edge, but that doesn't stop it from being awkward. The other people look at their direction for half a round and then go back to whatever they were doing. They're sufficiently clued in so as to know not to upset the Person Who Came From A Very Faraway Plane Accidentally.

Conradia's face remains neutral. Not comforting, but also not angry. She does also puts away her cutlery and bowl.

"Sure thing. I'll get you to your room and pass you to Agnes, and then you can go sleep." Unless Allegra wants to talk, Conradia is content to escort her in silence.

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Allegra is quite content to trudge back to her room in embarrassed silence. She knows how to act like someone who isn't a threat, it's just that it seems like she shouldn't be doing that or they'll decide she's not actually that useful.

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Conradia handles the Lesser Geas before Allegra enters her room.

"Is there anything else you need? I'm also about to go to sleep myself. Otherwise, good night to you." She makes a slight smile.

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"I'm assuming the bathroom is stocked with things? Otherwise, nothing else." She's never really tried to make herself more than 'presentable enough that the instructor doesn't tell her she's a disgrace to her nation' before, but hopefully it's not too hard to figure out.

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The bathroom isn't really stocked. It has soap, two towels, a mirror, and that's it. There's also the cleaning supplies, which has lye, strong soap, and rags, but that probably isn't what she meant.

"If the Damianites want to speak with you, then they'll send one of their own. They're probably the people to ask if you want like, cosmetics or perfumes," Conradia says.

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"Sure. Have a good night." Allegra isn't going to push it right now; maybe she'll get some extra sympathy from not having good shampoo, or something.

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