Jun 02, 2023 5:44 PM
Kireh in Frostpunk
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She really wants to hear more about the other gods, but not from him in particular, and it wouldn't be enough reason to run after him if the Jack Boots weren't coming (if that's who those people are) which means that choosing to follow him now would be hiding.

She nods at him and turns to face the approaching pair.

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They seem nervous. They look at each other and one makes a 'go on' gesture at the other.

"Ma'am? I'm officer Smithers, with Bristol police, and your... Appearance is alarming people. I'd like you to come down to the station with us for a discussion, to - prevent anything unfortunate from happening."

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"Hello, officer Smithers. I'm Kireh, an outsider of the god Marra. I'm new here and need an explanation of your laws. If you have a copy of the code at your station, that would be excellent.

I'm already aware that you forbid killing, stealing, malingering, torture, harassment, and quote 'basic stuff' unquote which I will require to be explained in further detail, and I have questions about the rest of the list.

What unpleasant events are you worried about?"

She'll follow them with her usual relaxed demeanor, but she readies herself to cast Haste if they attack or try to restrain her.

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One of them will walk ahead of her and the other behind her, actually, but they don't move to touch her.

"Right this way. We can get you the common law and local declarations. The full law of the land is extensive, and not necessarily relevant. The Queen declared a state of emergency a few days ago, granting broad discretionary power to Captains appointed in various regions. Captain Andrew Blemwick is the emergency authority for Bristol, superseding the governor by royal order."

"And none too soon. Blemwick is actually doing things. Thank you for coming with us. We'll get you something to wear, and all shall be well. There's a lot of tension and superstition- Superstition is dangerous if you let it get out of hand, and unusual people are the sort of thing that invites it. Someone might decide to attack you or take your presence as a sign and cause trouble."

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She keeps an ear on the one behind her while pretending to ignore them, and refreshes her readied action each round.

"A sign of a god's interference? I was in fact sent here by my god. What other superstitions do people have?

Anyway, what are you supposed to do if someone attacks you? You can't kill them, right? Non-lethal injury and restraint could count as torture by my understanding, though? How do the laws you refer to overlap with your god's commandments and with 'Thief's Honor'?"

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"...Thief's honor! Whoever told you that was jesting or dangerous, miss. No such bloody thing as an honorable thief. And I'll thank you not to inflame the superstitious with such claims."

"Self defense is permitted, of course," Smithers says more calmly. "And the defense of others. So long as you don't unreasonably escalate- Don't maim a pickpocket, but if someone threatens you with a blade you'd be within your rights to defend with lethal force. And to restrain them, but not chase and kill, if they flee, mind, reasonable response is the rule. It would likely go before a judge if such a thing happened, but best to avoid it in the first place."

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Well, she's not going to lie about what she is.

Their legal system sounds okay, for mortals. She'll ask for statistics on the reliability of their judges, but later, at the station maybe. (Set a reminder for that.) She would like more clarity on what's 'reasonable' but it's probably easiest to ask someone else, to get a different angle on it with different examples, so set a reminder for that too, also for when she's at the station.

"What has Captain Blemwick been doing? Is all of Bristol evacuating together as a unit?"

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"Oh, we're-"

"Best not to talk about that in public! There's a plan, it relies on order and nobody panicking, Blemwick has been reorganizing the factories and ships and working closely with the IEC."

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Fascinating. "What's the IEC?"

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"That's the Imperial Exploration Corps, ma'am, responsible for siting and building the shelters."

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If the thief was correct that not everyone will get to go to a shelter, the IEC has come up with a brilliant plan for leaving the dregs behind and building a new society with only the best and brightest. However, if they're taking nobles and leaving behind smart ambitious people like Mr. Green, she's disappointed with their filtering.

She doesn't need to eat and is immune to cold, so if they're being pragmatic they might let her follow the evacuation to a shelter, where she could draw from the supposedly-best-and-brightest while competing with everyone else who wants power.

Alternatively, she could stay and pick out the overlooked gems here, with less competition. Assuming that it's possible to survive here at all without a Generator. She doesn't have any healing or protection spells herself, but if Marra can reach here, or there are acceptable local gods, they might be able to get a cleric, with Kireh's help shaping their minds.

She doesn't know how to do arcane magic and can't teach it... Maybe she can buy knowledge from the secretive 'engineers'.

"Have any of the shelters been completed yet? What are they like? What exactly do the Generators do? Is there an engineers' guild that controls them?"

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"The Generators will circulate superheated steam in a wide area, warming homes and powering industries- A lot like the steam cores they use in the factories, but bigger and better. I definitely remember hearing that some are ready. We can get you a newspaper when we get to the station, it's just up there, that three-story building with the arched windows. Though guilds are a thing of the past- 'Engineer' is more a title of education, these days, and includes doctors and scientists and other academics too."

"Where are you from, how did you get to Bristol?" The god-suspicious one asks again. "And what is your business here if anything?"

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So only the stream cores are the secret part?

"I'm from Stonepeak, and before that, Heaven, and a planet called Golarion. I don't know exactly how I got to this city or planet or plane or universe - I'm not sure how far I've come - but it was some sort of divine magic.

Marra might have intended me to do something specific, but She didn't tell me what. My goals here are to improve people's self-esteem and true level of accomplishment, their effective use of hierarchies with clearly-defined duties in every direction, their ability to guide others better than they could guide themselves, and their use of rules to streamline social interactions and impede corruption and emotional manipulation.

I am open to working with you, which I will do diligently and honestly, as long as you reciprocate. For example, you could employ me as a teacher, sergeant, spy, therapist, scout, organizational consultant, or guard."

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"...Well, that's a bit above our pay grade. But people willing to work, and work hard and smart, are always welcome."

"So you come from something like a holy order of duty and discipline, and think you're sent here on a holy mission? I don't know much about those Hindo or whatever gods - the colonial ones-"

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"Basically yes, but to be completely clear: I'm not in a holy order, such as living beings might form under the guidance of a 'prophet' or 'disciple'. I'm a different kind of immortal being of the same general sort as angels and, say, devils, axiomites, demons, azatas?

Marra cares about more than just diligence and duty. Specifically: taking joy in one's own existence and capabilities, duty between superiors and subordinates, and in particular around optimizing and being optimized, and duty in other, non-hierarchical relationships.

She, and I, are categorized as reliable and honest, as opposed to impulsive and slippery; and as disapproving of self-sacrifice, as opposed to militantly self-sacrificing by means of emotional manipulation. Where I'm from, all gods and beings like me have clear measurements on those two scales, as do many living beings.

To use standard terminology from my home, Marra cares about vanity, feudalism, paternalism, and rules, and we're considered Lawful Evil. Yes, the side that tries to make people more vulnerable to social pressure to destroy themselves is called 'Good' and the side that opposes them is 'Evil'. Probably because Evil also includes beings that torture and destroy as much as they can, which gives our side a bad reputation, while Good visibly fights those creatures, and only later subtly oozes their poison. We visibly fight too, but Evil fighting Evil is harder than Good fighting Evil. Remember, Good and Evil, and Law and Chaos, are fundamental traits for us, just as fundamental as the pressure of steam. Another effect of this is that there are measurement spells sometimes used to filter out Evil people from civic life, which is understandable, but unfortunate.

I don't know much about your gods here and would be interested in learning more!"

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They seem vaguely uncomfortable about the theological information, and promptly decide to pretty much ignore it.

Anyway. Here's the station. They explain to the front desk that Kireh is the 'demon or lunatic' they've been getting reports of, a strange person saying strange things, but is acting cooperative and seems religiously inclined to law and order, so they want to put her in an interview room and let the patrol chief decide what to do about her.

...Front desk person blinks at her and says, "Alright then, go ahead."

"Oh, and some clothes and a newspaper. And-"

"Just write down what you take from the storeroom."

"Right this way, miss Kireh."

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She follows, keeping track of the exits and continuing to refresh her readied Haste.

(Weird how they clammed up about religion. Maybe there was a war recently and they're trying not to inflame tension? With the 'heathens and anarchists'? Or maybe the old god here had an inquisition that outlived Him and she was speaking heresy?)

"I would also like to see statistics on the accuracy of your system's arrests and judgements. Do you have any external auditors?"

Real Lawful people with access to sufficient mind-reading, or Lawful outsiders, would be immune to conflict of interest and wouldn't need auditors, of course, but she's familiar with mortal failings from her experience ironing them out. (Well technically, clawing them out, usually.)

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Honestly, the pair seem to find her unnerving and want to be gone. They show her to a fairly bare room with a table and chairs and a window to let light in, tell her that she'd need to go visit city hall for those kinds of records, and aren't sure what she means by external auditors- Do imperial police who handle national crimes count? -And say someone will be by shortly to get her something to wear- Public indecency is a crime, after all - And bring a newspaper:

Coast Runner News, August 25, 1892
CROWN JEWELS SOLD?!?
It was reported to this news-house by a member of the court who asked to remain anonymous that Her Majesty has completed the sale of further items of the royal family, including items from the monarch's personal regalia, with the raised funds immediately transferred to the I.E.C. and 'related efforts'. While this action is surely indicative of Her Benevolence and Kindness in leading our great empire, this reporter fears that some actions cause irreparable harm to the dignity of the great English people and our proud history...
GRAIN DOLE DOUBLED FOR WORKERS' FAMILIES
NANSEN: VAST MINERAL WEALTH BELOW ICE
TROUBLES IN THE RAJ - FAMINE LEADS TO CHAOS

And a small bound copy of The Handbook of English Common Law, for Police, Jurors, Sherrifs, and Laymen 1886 ed.

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The Common Law is, apparently, the result of a massive bureaucratic effort to unify and simplify over a thousand years of laws from around the Empire. Removing contradictions, clarifying ambiguities, updating for the changing times. It's still... Mediocrely aimed at vaguely-good confounded by entrenched interests of the nobility and wealthy, by her standards. Slavery is illegal. Tax law is a mess. Corporations are legal entities that can be held liable separately from their members. Prison and 'transportation to the Colonies' are common punishments. There are certain freedoms everyone is supposed to receive. They have jury trials with the right to hire a representative to defend you in criminal cases, and trials by judge in civil cases, the boundaries of which are occasionally vague.

After a few minutes, an old woman comes in with several bundles of cloth and busies herself tailoring Kireh a nice dress from what's available- Loose, for the fur, of course, and does this pattern look better to her or that one, and don't mind her fool grandson making faces at her a few minutes ago, he's just very anxious really, he should come to Church more often- Her fur is really quite wonderful and she thinks Kireh could sell it for a coat lining, though of course that's probably like selling hair which means almost no woman will do it- And proceed to ramble and gossip as she works. She can be steered towards repeating some Church sermons with moderate effort and doesn't seem to care that Kireh is part fox.

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Juries would be a neat idea if they didn't allow the jurors to talk to each other, and required them to come to a unanimous decision anyway, but as is they just seem like a way to sneak in more Good. With no auditing or staged cases for calibration, she thinks that the system is Lawful enough to cooperate with somewhat, but if she ever goes before a corrupt or biased judge, or if they want to put her in a more vulnerable position, she'll object and possibly flee.

From Marra's perspective, corporations are a waste of opportunities for personal power and vanity, but they speak favorably of this country's Law, as does the overall project of assembling the 'common law'. She has mixed feelings about slavery being illegal. On one hand, slavery is a terrible waste and source of pointless suffering, and of course a bastion for Asmodeus. On the other hand, it would have been an easy way to acquire people who were firmly hers (in the Marran feudal sense).

If the queen is selling the crown jewels, they must not be powerful artifacts. Maybe her artifacts are separate and for some reason not associated with her office, or maybe arcane magic just works completely different here, as already suggested by the 'steam cores'.

Patterns with lots of triangles and rectangles remind her of the current trends at Marra's library camp at Stonepeak, and of course Marra's blue and red are always appropriate. Personally she also likes designs with letter-like shapes. Practically, mixed shades of grey would be better for camouflage, but she's already good at stealth and thinks it's more important to feed her personal vanity.

The old god seems to have been Lawful Good, as she was suspecting. She's not sure how much of His supposed commands are His true desires, important to Law somehow, distortions introduced over the last centuries, or important to how gods work here. Reminder: when she prays, actually do Marra's obedience and any other gods' obediences that she can remember, in case that makes the prayers work better here.

Yeah, she'd rather not sell her fur; she likes it.

"How do nobles relate to other people? Is it possible to become a noble?"

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"Oh, not so much these days, it's the modern era! The Queen knights people for service sometimes, but it just comes with money these days, not land. Factories and education are the future, you hear? Not old counts in musty estates. The lords and ladies were the same for a thousand years, until the steam engine came along. It used to be education was too expensive for most people and they really were the only ones who knew how to run things... Bit of a shame, all the fuss in Parliament and the papers these days is unseemly, but there's no putting the genie back in the bottle."

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She'll just have to get people consensually, sigh.

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Meanwhile...


"Bird claims she can read minds by touch, and around her but not all the time. I think we can put it to use. You know the cops are going to."

"That's not a bloody bird, it's a fox. And how do you know she's not having you on, anyway?"

"Call it a hunch. I've got a good feeling. She's alien - fey, or rather, an outsider. It's obvious if you talk to her for ten seconds, there's nothing really human going on in that skull."

"If there's nothing human in her, you can't make any prediction at all what she'll do."

"Nah, she was going on about law and gods, asked what was illegal here first off, of course she's going to help the cops."

"...Point. Fine, if you make sense about it, I'll bring in Westy."

"Nah, he's a squirrely fucker, he'd rat us out in a heartbeat."

"Point. Again. How about Leo?"

"Leo works."

"So what's your plan?"

"To score some supplies, what else? So, we're going to need some witnesses and accomplices who see the right thing, and sincerely believe it..."


 

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The finished dress is a slightly faded burgundy with patches of denim and a few bits of a blue silk handkerchief sewn in, mostly in places they can fit as triangular, square, or letter-shaped trim. The old woman tuts, unsatisfied with it, but it's the best she can do given how few spare clothes are around this time of year. They converted all the mills for tent, airship, and sail cloth, you know. There's a hole for her tail. She'd probably better put it on before the Police Chief, McAllen, comes to see about hiring her.

Chief McAllen is an eternally frowning man in his fifties, wearing a neatly trimmed uniform and beard, with dark bags under his eyes. He introduces himself politely, and indicates a seat at the interview table. Another officer follows him in with a plain tea set and a platter of slightly stale biscuits, then stands in a corner. He pours hot tea for two. There's a small container of sugar, which he ignores.

"Miss Kireh, correct? You are really quite novel. My apologies if the hospitality has been lacking, but 'outsiders' that don't turn out to be hoaxes are, well, unprecedented. And to cut straight to the heart of things, I imagine you are in need of funds?"

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She wasn't expecting the dress to be adjusted to fit and decorated! She's not grateful, but she is pleased and makes a show of admiring herself in it. (Just in case the dress concealed a cursed item, she switched to readying Charm Person while putting it on, triggered if she had a sudden change in emotions, thoughts, or values.)

She nods and sits. Keeps readying Charm Person and smells the tea.

"Police Chief McAllen? I would be happy to demonstrate my abilities if needed to resolve doubts." She gives a brief description of them, describing Haste only as 'a minor defensive spell' and emphasizing that Charm Person is only for combat or people who are Lawfully hers. She can see well in the dark and cannot be damaged by cold or electricity.

"Money would be useful for many things, to be sure. I am also interested in a few things that are harder to buy: certainty in my own position, endorsement of my Lawfulness (to the degree you can provide that), and power."

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