Jun 03, 2020 11:26 PM
Joss and Raven walk into a bar.
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"Depends on the vampire," she says carefully. "The blood thing is the same, but dhamphier and dhamphieras don't burn up in the sunlight. Uh. Mixed vampire and human. Vampires can reproduce. They tend not to with humans because of the inherent heartbreak if the human doesn't want turning or the kid manages to somehow miss out on longevity."

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"There's a difference," Raven comments. "My world's vampires are incapable of reproduction. No-one quite knows why." She frowns, dissatisfied with the thought of yet more missing knowledge.

"The 'blood thing', as you put it, I would expect to be the defining characteristic of anything described as a vampire; it is near to the only common feature of the old legends from before vampires were known." She rattles off another round of questions at Joss. "Are there any other differences between vampires and their part-human offspring? What about variance in the dhamphier themselves? You implied that they can sometimes miss out on some of the standard abilities; are there ones they never have, and do they have any of their own?"

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"Good question. I live with two dhamphier. Nic and Des. They don't know yet whether they're inheriting their mother's longevity. They'very only just turned eighteen. Should start to figure it out shortly. Aging works really weird for them. Their father on the other hand, had innate healing. And Nic did inherit that. Des has the mesmer thing - it was how vampires used to lure in their victims. They could just brute-force it, but most of them preferred more elegant methods. These days they put it to better use typically. Des tends to use it to get me to go to sleep. Otherwise vamps pick up jobs as night-time therapists, either over hotlines or otherwise. I'm afraid I'm not so sure on whether there's any abilities they never get. They both have slightly enhanced senses, speed and strength. My knowledge is pretty piecemeal I'm afraid."

The impression might be given that Joss has a very broad, but very shallow knowledge of quite a few supernatural creatures, and for some reason, she's slightly ashamed of this fact.

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"Any knowledge at all is worth sharing if there is any conceivable way it could be put to use. If your lack of information on your own world bothers you, perhaps we should investigate Bar's library again." Raven can understand being uncomfortable with one's own ignorance, and sees this as a problem easily solved by acquiring more knowledge. 

"On this particular subject, you have given me enough information to be confident that our vampires are substantially different. Those in my world do not have any particular aptitude for mind-affecting magic, and I understand are likely to be worse at magic in general than a comparable human. They do have slightly enhanced senses, especially night-vision, but I do not know enough to evaluate their strength and speed relative to humans." She considers this, and concludes that while attempting to uncover further subtle differences between their respective types of vampire might be interesting, it would not be a sufficiently productive use of Joss' time, which may be limited even though her own is not.

The best course of action is probably to establish what information she will not be able to obtain from Bar. "I apologise if this is a question you do not wish to answer, but would you mind telling me how you come by your knowledge of supernaturals? From what you have told me, it seems that the majority of your world's human population lives in ignorance of other sapient life." 

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Joss scrubs both hands over her face. She almost doesn't want to answer, but...

But it's also information. Knowledge, and she kind of likes Isabella, and this is potentially knowledge that'll help keep Isabella alive. If her world has Hunters.

"My Da-" her voice breaks, and she takes a deep breath and tries again. "My Dad's a Hunter. Of the supernatural. I was too." She's staring at the top of the bar, her shoulders a tense line, one hand a tight fist. "Never questioned it. Probably should've, but... Ma was a mess, and Dad said it was because she'd been attacked by something. So we Hunted. And we were good at it. And then I went to uni, and a lot of things changed. I learned the supernatural isn't the evil my Dad had always made them out to be." She laughs, and it's altogether too bitter to be genuine. "A devil makes more time for his daughter than my old man ever did for me. Beel never forgets plans either." It's not entirely clear if she meant to say that last bit out loud.

She looks at Isabella out of the corner of her eyes. "I'll understand if you'd rather I went and found another seat now."

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Well. That explains a lot. Raven's first visible reaction is to say, perfectly calm and with apparent sincerity, "Thank you for telling me."

She made herself a promise, once, that she would never let anyone regret telling her something. Being the sort of person it is safe to tell secrets is a good strategy for learning more of them. She knows, therefore, that her response can not be to drive Joss away. That would, in any case, be unproductive: Joss clearly regrets her past and is not currently a danger to any supernaturals, including Raven herself, but is as much a source of useful information as she was a minute ago. 

Raven is not an expert at navigating complex social situations, but she has found that honesty is often best responded to with honesty. She attempts to assemble her thoughts into sentences that will make sense to someone not herself. "Please do not feel obliged to leave on my behalf. I can understand that some supernaturals might be afraid of a former hunter, but I have no reason to think that you are a danger to me." She smiles. "You have, in fact, been far more civil than most humans from my world would be to a shifter."

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Joss noticeably relaxes, a slight smile on her lips. She stares down at her drink.

"I...am relearning a lot. And being polite doesn't cost anything." She'd known that, even before her new reality had slapped her round the head and tipped her world upside down.

She frowns. "I'm guessing magic and shifters are more known in your world? And I'll take a wild guess that non-powered humans are taking it badly?" She frowns slightly. "If you want to talk about it that is. You don't have to. Humans are dicks."

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"They are that." Raven laughs. 

"Magic has been widely known since sometime in the sixteenth century, shifters since the early seventeenth," she explains. "In the two or three centuries since then, mages have gained first acceptance and then prestige. Shifters..."

She hesitates a little before continuing. "Shifters can still be legally owned. It only recently - in my lifetime, in fact - became illegal to enslave a freeborn shifter. I'm lucky to have been raised by someone with enough social clout to protect me. Others my age were not."

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Joss has always thought that someone's vision going red was just a saying, but apparently not. Because slavery is never right.

A sharp pain has her looking down. Apparently she's managed to shatter the glass in her hand, and shards have dug into her skin. She apologises to Bar - both for the breakage, and the bleeding - and requests a first aid kit. She pulls out the tweezers, and sets about extracting the glass from her hand with a practiced ease.

"Sorry," she says. "Just- The idea of owning another human, regardless of their 'magical' status is..." She shakes her head. "Our world had problems with wide-spread slavery until the eighteen hundreds, and there's still slavery ongoing today, just highly illegally. I- I'm glad you were lucky. But- Were you not raised by your paren- Shit, sorry. That's not a question I should be asking someone I've just met."

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Raven's face is carefully expressionless as she explains, "Most humans would agree with you about the morality of owning 'another human'. The problem is the definition of the term." She is reciting facts which have absolutely no bearing on her personal life, look how detached she is. "The prevailing opinion, with the exception of protest groups, most shifters, and a few splinter denominations of Christianity, is that shapeshifters do not qualify."

The facade remains in place, barely, while she answers the other question. "This attitude leads many human mothers to abandon their shapeshifter children. I was given to an orphanage as a baby, and to this day I do not know who my biological parents were. I was adopted by a human couple whom I think of as my mother and father, and only rarely have cause to remember otherwise." There's a hint of emotion when she mentions her mother, but not strong enough to be identifiable. 

"It may be a rather personal question, but we seem to have been trading those for a while. At home, that I was adopted is less of a secret than my 'supernatural' status. And you told me about your family."

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Joss finishes plucking the glass from her palm, and prods the wounds, thankful to find a suture kit for the deep one between her thumb and her palm. At least she doesn't have to restock her own first aid kit this time. She sets about neatly stitching the cut closed.

"Perhaps 'human' was the wrong word," she muses. "But then again, I'm not entirely sure it matters." The framing is all wrong, and for all Joss Hunted, she never saw the supernatural as less than human - just a threat that needed eliminated, like any other soldier in a war, soldiers didn't question who they were told to fight, even when they should. "Your parents sound like good people." There's a wistful tone to her voice as she breaks off her thread and checks her stitches.

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"My father is, yes. He was the one who decided to adopt me." Pause. "My mother I don't remember so well. She - died. I was three years old."

And that's as much detail as Raven is willing to give someone who, as Joss herself pointed out, she only just met. There's no point going into all the complexities of her relationship with her father, even though she has a feeling Joss might sympathise with some of them. 

"Like I said, I am luckier than some." She shifts in her chair, seeming to shrink a little.

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Joss gets the impression that Isabella doesn't want to talk about these things. She's silent as she wraps a bandage around her hand.

"Sorry for bringing up an obviously painful subject," she says, inclining her head. "I'll let you get back to your studying." She doesn't really like talking about her parents either.

Joss in turn, picks up her own book, ordering a replacement drink (provided, this time, in a plastic tumbler, much to Joss' amusement).

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Raven goes back to reading through her stack of books in silence, which gradually shifts from tense to companionable.

After about an hour of uninterrupted study, she sets down the latest book, shifts to a more stable position on her chair, shuts her eyes, and goes still. Nothing happens for the first minute, but then a slight breeze starts up around her, lifting the ends of her hair.

A stray gust flaps noisily at the pages of Joss' book. Raven jumps, eyes flying open. The breeze drops abruptly.

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Joss has been happily reading her book for the past hour, enjoying the tranquility that she could get.

She looks at the flapping pages and half-smiles, looking over at Isabella. "Progress?"

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"Did you see that?" Raven is all but bouncing in her seat. "Did you see - that was magic I did magic - " She laughs with delight, springing to her feet just so she can spin around, flinging her hands out carelessly and almost knocking over Joss' drink. 

"I'm a mage!" She can't seem to stop grinning.

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Joss grins as she pulls her drink out of harm's way. "Yes I did see that." The enthusiasm is infectious. She considers for a moment.

"I'm not sure how you'll feel about this but nothing of what I'm getting has changed. Well. I mean. The focus is a bit sharper, because you've just used an ability, but nothing integral to what was registering as you has changed. This is something you've always been capable of."

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"Yes I know that's how it works but I didn't know that!" Raven might be slightly too excited for coherent communication.

"Everyone says shifters can't be mages but we can and we are and I just proved it!"

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"Welp, proves that bigoted assholes truly are universal. Across all dimensions as well. Not that I doubted that, just...nice to have confirmation."

She taps her fingers against her tumbler. "So what are you going to do with that knowledge?"

Because while this is a wonderful discovery, that is also something that needs consideration.

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"Tell the world, of course!" Raven barely needs to think about it. Something is fundamentally wrong in what she has been taught, and this needs to be fixed. 

After a second, she remembers that she needs an actual plan. "I'll show Papa, and he'll teach me magic and help me figure out how to tell the Academy so they'll believe us, and then they'll tell everyone else and people will believe them because they are the ones meant to know about magic!" 

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"And what if they refuse to listen?" Joss feels like a bitch for pushing this, but this world does need this change, and Isabella has the evidence to change it. She needs an ironclad plan that covers at least a few eventualities. "I mean, I'm sure your Papa will listen, especially if you're able to repeat that little demonstration just there. But I find that people who are set in their ways dislike being told they're wrong. Especially if they're prejudiced against the person trying to do the telling." She knows she didn't want to listen to what her flatmates told her. "Especially if they suddenly can't take refuge in whatever shoddy logic they'd built to justify their treatment of shifters."

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"...you have a point," Raven admits. "We were discussing, earlier, the fact that humans are terrible." She reaches for her notebook. 

"Do you have any suggestions? I realise you do not know a great deal about my world, but an outside perspective can be helpful."

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"Well, the more evidence you have the harder it becomes to ignore," she says thoughtfully. "If you happen to know other shifters who you could teach magic to, that would help."

She taps her fingers together. "And you definitely need a plan for the Academy refusing to listen regardless of what you say and what evidence you bring to them. Someone else you can tell, or some other way to get the news out." She's still working on how to get the Hunters to stop.

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"I definitely know other shifters," Raven says with a grin. She thinks for a moment. "In fact - "

She goes and opens the door, leaning through.

Connecting to the pack's mental bond - and is that her father's magic or her brother's, she now wonders - she calls to Cat, and only Cat: 'I've found something you'll want to see. Come to the library.'

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Joss turns on her stool, and leans her elbows back on the surface behind her, watching Isabella curiously. There's a slight peak there, something soft and (weird as it sounds) gold. Similar to the feeling she gets around the hellhound packs, interconnected, family, but not quite the same.

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