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Jun 21, 2021 1:28 PM
Siva has a less questionable bad time in Nuime
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"Tanaikon, the woman who isn't a servant kind of reminds me of Iri," she murmurs.

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Kelora looks curiously at her when she talks to herself.

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Siva tries to think of ways to communicate that she wasn't talking to herself. She closes her eyes and holds up a finger to indicate that she's thinking.

Finally she repeats as much of their earlier conversation as she can remember verbatim, then says, firmly, "Kelora, Siva." She mutters something, trying to be relatively theatrical about it, and says, "Siva, Tanaikon." She gestures to Kelora, says, "Kelora," gestures to herself, says, "Siva," and sort of waves a hand vaguely, trying to indicate some interminable distance, and says "Tanaikon."

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Kelora absorbs this explanation thoughtfully, then nods.

The resemblance to Irikaino is really pretty striking.

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That...does appear to be a thing.

"Tanaikon, she's reminding me more and more of Iri all the time. It's sort of weird."

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If Kelora can tell she's being talked about, she doesn't give any sign of it.

Whatever she's waiting for, it's taking a while to show up.

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Well. Siva will just sit here, then, and look at things, and occasionally say something to Tanaikon. It is reasonably obvious that she doesn't start actually talking to herself because she says his name before every utterance that's more than a few seconds after the last one.

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The thing Kelora was waiting for arrives.

It's a person, and he's wearing a pendant around his neck, a pale green - glass? crystal? - a pale green something-or-other with flat sides and hard edges and a soft shifting gradient of colour in its translucent depths. Looking at it gives a vague sense that its bearer is someone mild-mannered and scholarly.

When Kelora tells him, "Thank you for coming," the sentence is perfectly understandable even though the words are just as foreign as they would have been a minute ago.

When he responds, "Of course, Princess," his meaning is equally clear.

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"Well that's even more confusing but at least now I have an avenue to getting my confusion resolved. Hello, I'm sorry for showing up in your castle uninvited but I promise not only did I not do it on purpose I haven't the foggiest clue how it happened."

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"What is more confusing?" the princess inquires.

At her gesture, the man with the mysterious magical object proceeds through the room and disappears behind a side door. He has a book tucked under his arm.

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"How we can suddenly talk to each other? I don't think I've ever heard of a translation artifact before, let alone an artifact of personality-display, although now that I think about it it's a lovely idea."

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"...Ishmiote Odeno is a soulbearer. That is his soul," says Kelora. "Are there no soulbearers wherever you come from?"

(Whatever this magic is, it even translates double meanings. 'Ishmiote' means 'library', but it's a contraction of an older word which literally translates as 'book-hoard', and can also be read as 'Book-hoarding', making his title Book-hoarding Odeno.)

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"...No. That's not how magic works, where I'm from."

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"Surprises on surprises," says Kelora. "Well. If you don't know how you came here, it's unlikely that you are able to return easily, and that is a problem. I was supposed to be married today, and the boy who was supposed to marry me has vanished overnight. Since you appeared the very same night, my father is going to have some uncomfortable questions for you. I'd rather spare you that if possible, but I do not have very much power to affect the actions of my father or his favoured associates."

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"...You remind me very much of someone I know from back home. Tanaikon, if you're not listening, start. What's your father like?"

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"His soulname is Tekhesin." ('Mighty'.) "I suppose that in a society without soulbearers you wouldn't have the context to appreciate what that says about him. I think, in order to properly explain my father's personality and the current political situation, I am going to have to describe some ancient history first."

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"...Go on."

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"A few thousand years ago, the world was divided into many separate countries, and the knowledge of how to manifest one's soul was secret, so soulbearers were very rare. Two of those countries were at war. In one of them, a soulbearer made that knowledge public, hoping to make the world a better place by making magic available to anyone capable of completing the process. That country immediately raised an army of soulbearers and tried to prevent their enemy from finding out how to do the same. They failed. Armies of soulbearers fought one another for the first time in history. It was enormously destructive. Both sides were much more able to attack than defend, and each was determined to be the first to wipe the other out. By the end of the first Soul War, both of those countries had been effectively destroyed. Everyone else agreed that that should never be allowed to happen again, and signed treaties promising never to field an army of soulbearers."

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"...Yikes."

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"That state of affairs held for a while. But of course someone eventually decided that the power of such an army was worth the risk. They embarked on a war of conquest, and at first their neighbours were afraid to meet them in kind, because everyone remembered how the first Soul War had ended and no one wanted that to happen to them. Eventually, though, it did come to open war between armies of soulbearers again, except this time there was no part of the world left untouched by the conflict. That time is what most people mean when they say 'the Soul Wars'. It lasted for most of a century, or for a few centuries, depending how you look at it; it's hard to pinpoint the moment it ended because recordkeeping was very bad in those times and it did not so much stop as gradually fragment into smaller and smaller conflicts until no one was left with the resources to muster any kind of army, soulbearing or otherwise. Anarchy reigned for several more centuries after that."

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"Well. That's, uh. That's...considerably worse than the time civilization collapsed where I'm from."

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"More recently, one of my ancestors managed to unite the world into a sane and stable empire with a functioning legal system. His name was Tezru Zierni Diakor." (Tezru: 'true, strong, right, just'.) "He reigned peacefully for a while; but when he died, the throne passed to his son, Far-seeing Arime, who immediately tried to have all his living relatives assassinated. This started a war, which my grandfather won: All-enduring Zierni Esarkan, so named because one of his soul's powers is self-resurrection, meaning he cannot be permanently killed. His own son, my father, Tekhesin Zierni Seofar, objected to spending his entire life an imperial prince with no hope of ever becoming emperor. Since he couldn't possibly have succeeded in an outright coup, he gathered up a lot of like-minded friends - including more than one powerful soulbearer - and took over one of the southern island provinces. That is where we currently are: Tairasante, capital of Atialemain, in what is now effectively my father's palace."

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"Well. Um. So...more than three thousand years ago, the Ansati empire spanned most of my planet. Magic, where I'm from, comes in two forms. The more common one everyone has; it's tiny, enough for this much fire," she makes a tiny flame over one finger, "or a trivial amount of healing, or equivalent. Or you can get a lot of people to spend a lot of time making an artifact together. The Ansati Empire had fantastic magic infrastructure including fountains of healing and de-aging.

And then the Last Emperor's son Prince Serik decided he didn't want to spend his entire life an imperial prince with no hope of becoming Emperor."

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"That is a very strange coincidence," says Kelora.

"By taking Atialemain when he did, in the way that he did, my father is essentially daring Grandfather Esarkan to either assassinate him and risk starting Far-seeing Arime's troubles over again, or go to war and risk my father making a Soul War of it. No one doubts that my father would do that. My father is exactly that sort of person. He craves power and abhors weakness and his favourite hobby is torture. Even besides his unpleasant personal habits, he is making a disaster of this province because he doesn't care about anything beyond maximizing his own enjoyment. Does that sound familiar as well?"

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"It sounds...second-hand familiar. When Prince Serik's attempt to usurp his father instead resulted in the complete destruction of the empire, he fucked off to a pretty castle fueled by the other way of doing large-scale magic, which is pain. He then spent the next several millennia growing up enough to realize what a disaster his younger self was and gain the capacity to form meaningful relationships with people, and occasionally abducting people to fuel the castle with. 

He showed up at a party I was attending and noticed me. I wasn't cowering as much as everyone else. He asked me to dance. I figured if I was going to spend the rest of my life in horrific torment I might as well have a moment of fun first, and said yes. It was glorious, and he decided he didn't want to hurt me.

 I was the first person Serik Tanaikon decided he'd rather have as a friend than a victim, but not the last."

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