Jun 02, 2023 6:50 PM
Kireh in Frostpunk
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The torch will be useful! The drill part, the thing with the lenses and arms, and the armature might be worth making something out of, although she doesn't know if they're fixable for their original purposes. She takes them to be weighed, and they total 16 kilos, which is pushing her budget. She puts the armature back, freeing up 4 kilos. With three kilos more of the regular junk and three kilos of the good stuff, her total would be exactly 2s 10d... but actually she wants more of the loose parts than that. She puts the drill part back and get three more kilos of regular junk.

(It would be nice to be able to weigh things by feel, so she doesn't have to keep carrying them to the scale. That's going to be her next self-improvement project!)

Here's 5 shillings and 4 pence! Straight back to the inn, and then to return the wheelbarrow. Are the hardware stores still open? Does she have time for more errands before her curfew?


It's about eight o'clock, so four hours left before her midnight curfew, and most stores are closing up by now. It's dusk, but the nicer streets and many of the places of business have lights of their own coming on.

The drunkenness is getting louder and bolder. One of the proprietors comes up to her and mentions seeing her ad, and politely asks if she's any good at singing and dancing - or maybe reciting poetry or debate, but that's a bit intellectual for this crowd. Just being exotic isn't as good as some sort of act, is all. Good reflexes or balance? Good at cards? Riddles? Palm reading?


Okay, she'll get tools tomorrow morning, then.

Her main skill is training petitioners, which involves being an awesome cantor who makes people awesome while playing them like a harp, but she regrettably doesn't know how to play an actual harp. Her other skills are either too slow to be entertaining, like sewing, or too energetic - but she's planning to fight at the rings in a few days!

For now, she could tell some stories of her home, fictional or real, or of course talk about her religion if they want that. What's palm reading? How much will they pay her?


Temporary entertainment usually works for tips from the patrons, and his bar is one of the most popular on this street, and slightly less lower class to boot. But he'll guarantee her at least a shilling if she doesn't get that much in tips, if he likes whatever act she comes up with. Palm reading is a bit of an act - looking at peoples' palms and claiming insight into their lives and dispensing common sense dressed up as supernatural insight - like, 'ohhh I sense you are worried about your wife, but know that communication is the key to improving your relationships, talk to her more often and understand her worries so that you might reassure each other'. He just thought the mind-reading thing would synergize with it... Or something like that, anyway.


People like that? Okay, yeah, she can see Good people being into it. 

Hm, she wasn't thinking of her mind-reading as being for entertainment, but now that he mentions it she has some ideas! She has to leave in three hours, how much money will he guarantee for that? She'll tell a few stories and do two mind-reading demonstrations.


...He's sort of worried she'll cause some sort of scene... But then, any gossip is good gossip from certain perspectives. Yeah, sure, he'll guarantee a shilling but she'll probably get much more in tips. And he might decide to give her a bonus if it goes well. Nothing too lewd. Does she need a bouncer or props or assistance?


Sure, nothing too lewd or openly heretical. She can protect herself and isn't going to deliberately start fights, and can probably break up any fights that she accidentally starts unless the whole room riots or something. She's thinking of demonstrating her deep mind-reading of fears and desires, which gets everyone in range. She thinks it's illegal to do that without consent. She can't control the range herself but she can weaken the effect by putting some pots on her head - she needs several pots that fit inside each other and have a total thickness of 2 centimeters or a little more. If he doesn't like that, she can substitute something else.


They have old pots and things, sure. That'd reduce the range down to a few feet, so only those who feel brave approach it? Seems workable. He'll shake on it and then escort her to the Flying Fish tavern.


Her natural range is fairly long, so the shielding has to reduce it almost to nothing, relatively speaking, which means it's sensitive to the exact thickness. But she's willing to waste a charge to calibrate before the show.


"Hello! I'm Kireh, the mind-reading outsider. I'll demonstrate that later this evening, but first, here's a story from my home.

There once was a family of farmers in a poor remote village. Times were hard and children often died from accidents and illness, and especially from the swarm of frogs with their backs covered in knives which engulfed the fields every few years, eating the crops and causing many injuries to the farmers. In hopes that at least one child would survive to work the farm as an adult, the family had many children. This was a frog-summer, and they were taking heavy injuries as they tried to protect the fields.

This particular summer, however, a wandering doctor-adventurer was passing through the village, admiring the exotic musical traditions that had developed in isolation. The doctor healed the injured villagers, including all the children in this family, and killed many of the frogs. At first, the parents rejoiced, but as winter approached, their joy turned to anguish. For they realized that with the crops half eaten by the frogs, and all their children alive, thanks to the generosity of the doctor, they could not all survive the winter. And the doctor was no help, for he had already left for the next village.

The family had three more sons than they needed, and three extra daughters. The parents went to the sons first, and explained that they would have to leave the village, perhaps to seek their fortune as adventurers. Like the wandering doctor, right? Wasn't he so brave and noble?

The three brothers were inspired by their parents' words, and set off to learn to fight. The first brother joined a monastery, where the monks were said to be able to slice off a wolf's head with a bare-handed chop. The second brother joined the city guard, where he would fight real criminals every day. The third brother watched at a fighting ring until he saw a man with a build like his own and approached him for an apprenticeship.

The first brother labored day and night, chopping wood, raking the garden, serving the monks at their supper, painting walls... and when the monks had no more work for him, they set him running laps until he collapsed from exhaustion, sleeping the night on the bare ground where he fell. They told him that the work he was doing was training him to fight. Whenever his stance with the rake was wrong, or he let the soup ripple as he set it down, they beat him, punching him on the forehead and kicking him in the belly. When he asked what he was doing wrong with the rake, or how to carry soup more steadily, they laughed and beat him more. After a year, he stopped speaking, stopped trying to think about learning to fight, and stopped planning for the future beyond how to avoid getting beaten in the next hour.

The second brother patrolled with the city guard, wearing his new uniform and shiny sword. After walking about the streets for a few hours each day, the guards would retire to a pub, where they told of great criminals they had captured, duels they had fought, ladies they had wooed. They would go out onto the street" - Kireh staggers into a wobbly fighting stance, miming drinking from a glass in her off-hand - "and talk about tempo and measure, the cavazione, the molinello." She illustrates the moves with sloppy melodramatic flourishes.

"The third brother watched his master's fights for a month, sparring with him in the afternoons before the fighting rings opened. At first, his master moved slowly, as if in armor, gradually speeding up as the third brother learned to see the movements of a fight instead of a bewildering flurry. He focused on one flaw at a time, striking the third brother hard so he would remember the lesson, and letting himself be struck when the third brother corrected the error, sealing the new knowledge with the signet of satisfaction and confidence. He himself feigned various styles, challenging the third brother to deduce the weaknesses of each. After a month, the master arranged fights for him in the rings, and began to teach him to use, not his fists, but a brace of daggers.

Now, in the city, with the monastery, the guards, and the fighting ring, there was a clever, beautiful thief. She heard that the monastery stored the notebook of the great engineer Archimedes, so she snuck in to steal it. The first brother was raking the garden as she sauntered past. The monks were supposed to be celibate, but if one of them was having a dalliance, the first brother had no desire to report him and get beaten. Because anything he did out of the ordinary would surely get him beaten, even enforcing the rules of the monks. So he pretended not to notice the thief, and she stole the legendary notebook.

Next, the thief went to the city guards. They had no great artifacts, but she thought it would be funny to have a uniform and sword. She followed the guards to their pub of the day, where she seduced the second brother, took him to an inn, and walked out with his uniform and sword while he was asleep.

She then went to the fighting ring to flaunt her new possessions, and fought the third brother. He recognized that her stance didn't match the creases in her clothes, and she was swinging her straight rapier as if she was used to fighting with a heavier, curved sword. He named her a thief then and there, grappling her before she could run away, and called for the actual guards.

The first brother despaired of learning at the monastery, despaired of having any future at all there, and left in shame, penniless. The second brother was expelled by the city guard, the very same people who had congratulated him for catching such a beautiful woman on the previous evening, slapping his back and calling themselves friends. The third brother, at his master's orders, left the city to face greater dangers and become a real adventurer. And so, the three brothers traveled together back towards their village.

On the road, the three brothers were accosted by bandits. The first brother fought viciously, wielding a stick like the rake he so hated. He killed one bandit and threw the bandit's sword to the second brother, but the next bandit he engaged punched his forehead, and he froze, reminded of the beatings he had gotten from the monks. This hesitation  was enough for the bandit to kill him. The second brother swung his sword with glee, at first, but was flabbergasted when several of the bandits attacked him at once. That's not an honorable duel! That's not how the city guard fights - they're supposed to be the ones in a group, surrounding a lone criminal! And so the second brother also died. The third brother had fought against multiple opponents before. His daggers flickered and flew, he retreated and circled the bandits, and eventually he killed them all. Covered in sweat and blood, he continued down the road, now a real adventurer. He had some frogs to kill.

But what of the three daughters who were sent away? What did they do? I'll get to that in a minute, when I've rested my voice.

In the meantime, we're not yet at the part of the evening where I demonstrate my mind-reading, so if you want another drink, you'll have to ask!"


She has everyone's attention, for sure.

Ah, the risk of famine. Ain't it ever so. Why, not a hundred years ago many in the countryside were in the same position - And still are!

What kind of doctor kills frogs? What, did he poison them? And of course he didn't stick around, and they had to go back to dealing with things their own way. Cityfolk! (We're cityfolk, another responds, to which the first man argues that they're the good kind)

Aren't monks supposed to be peaceful holier-than-thou scholars? Well, it's not like the church is always lily-white and pure, is it. Sounds more like an old hunting club, but who are they to judge foreign monks.

Everyone has a good time jeering at the image of overly-proud guards, so quick to glorify themselves and so confused when it comes to a real fight.

They yell and interrupt, demanding to know how the thief is beautiful. Tall? Brilliant smile? Sunny hair or silvery eyes? Impressive bosom and shapely thighs?

Oh, what a fool everyone except the last brother is. The thief should just have left the city- What, did she think the second brother wouldn't come after her after such a humiliation?

After the story ends there's a few murmurs about how some people are bastards, seemingly no matter what. A few drinkers drop half-pence or pennies in the bowl the barkeep provided for Kireh. Others seem to be considering it, but waiting. The waitresses start distributing another round and a few meals.

And then there's a drinking song about Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. It's sarcastic and bombastic, and pokes fun at the Hood himself for living well-off in a forest with his entourage and robbing the very man he'd given money to earlier, when he comes back a rich merchant. After that, another pair of drinking songs- About a man working on a train, lonely as the world passes by, and a sappy love story between a sailor and a seamstress.


An adventurer-doctor kills frogs, and he did it by using his knowledge of chemistry to make a whole bunch of arrows to shoot them with.

The thief was tall and lithe, with eyes like emeralds - "and lustrous fur, and pearly claws the length of this gentleman's dagger, uh, I mean lustrous hair and a bosom out to here" -

Like many thieves, she was more Intelligent than Wise.

Kireh doesn't really like the lyrics - too Chaotic and too Good - but bounces along with the music. (Okay, the train song is alright.)

Hey, she used to be a seamstress, a very long time ago! - "I was a blind orphan living at a church, frustrated with how the people around me kept screwing up their lives and there was nothing I could do about it." - Sometimes the church officials themselves broke the law, denying themselves future opportunities that they seemed incapable of even imaging. Eventually she turned them in - "and it gets complicated but I ended up in the military, sewing uniforms" - speaking of the military, here's a story about two countries, Iomedia and Loamcreek, and a brave soldier who defected from one to the other.


They have a good laugh at the corrected description! And joke about how if you're going to have claws it's better they be bigger than smaller. Her fur is pretty, as well.

...They don't like the defection story much. Soldiers ought to be loyal! If a bloody French trooper defected to England they'd be kind of despicable! Different story if he runs out his enlistment first, of course.


"I skipped this part earlier, but the soldier told her commanding officer that she was defecting, and they arranged for her to wrap up her duties and peacefully leave. Because that's way better than having her stay as a spy or saboteur, or slip out abruptly when they need her most. That's the kind of mutually-beneficial arrangement you can have when you're very serious about following the law and keeping your word!"


This seems to be a bit too intellectual of an argument given the general level of inebriation. Defection is bad and they're here to get drunk and laugh, not be confusingly moralized at. What happened to the sisters?

(The place is getting more crowded as those who left return with friends to see the supposedly-otherworlder in person.)


(Drunkards are disgusting, sigh.)

"So what happened to the family's three extra daughters? The adventurer-doctor left the family with three more sons and three more daughters than would be able to survive the winter. After the parents sent away the three sons, they gathered the three extra daughters. 'How about you go into the city and show off our music? The adventurer-doctor, who was so handsome and daring, came all the way to our village to hear our musical traditions! In the city, there are surely many more like him who would make you good husbands for you.'

And so the three sisters traveled to the city. The first sister followed her orders precisely, like an automaton. 'Show off our music', she thought to herself, and the only music she could hear in the city was in the taverns, so she got a job as a barmaid at the Swimming Bird. She didn't think her village's music was nearly sophisticated to impress this city folk, and didn't think she was a very good singer, but she followed her directions and sang while she worked.

The second sister understood that their parents had sent her away to die, telling themselves a story about her gaining fame and riches in the city as a way to lie to themselves. She had no intention of obeying her parents, but, as it happened, she was going to display her music anyway. Her parents were fools, thinking that she would just sing and prosperity would rain upon her, but the village's music was way better than the watered-down chirping of the city, where they sang the same three songs over and over for people who couldn't even tell those three songs apart. Stalking past the worthless taverns, she found a beggar singing on a street corner. 'What is this, yesterday's pig-slop? Do you have any creativity? You're singing every note the same. Can you waver? Can you creak? Can you rasp or growl or purr? Listen to me. I've never heard this song before today and I can already sing it a hundred times better than you can.' The beggar stopped. 'Growl? What a primitive idea. I'll have you know that I was educated in the vocal arts by an adventurer-singer. I can spit fire with my voice, light and darkness, inspire fear and affection. Who are you, with your subhuman yowling and screeching, to criticize me?' And so the second sister and the beggar had a wild argument, with passersby gathering to support one or the other, and even getting into some fights themselves.

Late that evening, the second sister was startled when the beggar wandered away in the middle of a demonstration of vowel tuning, waving a hand dismissively... 'You'll be back tomorrow morning? Your cut for today was probably almost a pound, but don't expect that much tomorrow.' What? But she had seen only a few pence go into the beggar's handkerchief? Well, the beggar worked with a pickpocket, who had had rich pickings from the engrossed music aficionados. And so began the second sister's life of crime.

The third sister obeyed her parents, but she thought about her mission rather than simply following each word one after the other. They wanted her to find a husband? She went to a matchmaker and explained her position. She had no opinion on the merits of the village's music, but she loved her voice and sang whenever she could, and the matchmaker was charmed by her rustic beauty. And after a few days, the matchmaker found a suitor for her. 'Will marriage distract from my singing?' she asked nervously, thinking of formal dinners and babies needing to sleep. 'Not at all, my dear. Just bare me children with voices as beautiful as yours!'

Now, do you remember the second brother, who joined the city guard? One day, the guards rested in the Swimming Bird tavern, where the first sister worked. 'Dear sister! My friend over there, with the ruffled sleeves, thinks you are quite the nightingale! Do me a favor and show him a good time, okay?' She was not at all pleased about this, but didn't dare cross her brother and a roomful of guards.

One day, the second brother saw the second sister's pickpocket at work. 'Dear brother! Little brother who should mind his own business! Take this shilling and buy a round of drinks for your company.' And that worked, for a time, until a different guard caught the pickpocket and hauled the three criminals to jail. 'Brother! You know I'm innocent!' Well he remembered all the times she had blamed him, for the broken spindle, the dead piglet, the knife-backed frog that had gotten into the house. 'I'm not your brother, ma'am. Have you eaten anything funny recently?'

And one day, the city guards tried to hassle the third sister, but she simply showed them her ring. 'I'm a married woman, you ruffians!'

After about a year, the city was shocked to learn that a notebook belonging to the great engineer Archimedes had been stolen from the local monastery. The first sister felt sick at the thought that someone might do something so visibly illegal. The monks must be so angry! The second sister thought this was hilarious and wished she could meet the daring thief, and was astonished when her new cellmate confided that she was the one who had stolen the notebook! The third sister thought it was a shame that such a useful notebook had been kept locked away. Of course, it was wrong to steal it, but surely there was something better that could have been done?

The monastery offered a reward of 5 pounds for the notebook, imploring everyone in the city to search for it. The first sister dutifully checked every table she served for the notebook, but apparently whoever had it was not reading it openly at the pub. The second sister beat her cellmate to get her to say what she had done with the notebook, but the jailers separated them. The third sister thought carefully. She didn't want to break the law, but... suppose that the thief had actually been a broker helping the monastery sell the notebook. Could such a deal have existed, if anyone had tried for it? Was there a sum of money that the monastery would accept for the book? Could she arrange for everyone to agree to a new deal that left them all better-off, as if the thief had behaved lawfully all along? She knew that the second sister had criminal connections, so she visited her in jail to ask. 'Yeah, that bitch who used to be my cellmate did it. Squeeze her for everything she's got!'

And so the third sister asked the thief what she had done with the notebook - sold it for 30 pounds - and proposed to split that three ways, among the thief, the third sister, and the monastery. They shook on the deal, and the third sister went to negotiate with the monastery. The monks were unhappy about losing their famous relic, but they had also just lost the junior monk who they had been making do all their work, and they eventually agreed that the money would be nice. And the third sister went home, soon to be 10 pounds richer, and perfectly law-abiding - not just law abiding, in fact, but the opposite of criminal: she had made a crime disappear by her clever thinking and solid reputation as an honest, respectable member of society. And she sang, and loved her voice and cleverness and honesty, and she was happy."


There almost seem to be two separate crowds forming- The drinkers (those who were already here) and the thinkers (most of the newcomers).

What kind of horrible brother points his sister at his friends like that! If anything he ought to be messing with the sleeves guy! But then they already knew he was an idiot. There's a round of distracted speculation about what Africans and Russians do with women, after the bit with the pickpocket and thief. He's heard that Russian women can wrestle bears one-armed. One of the waitresses shows off her muscles in response. This seems to be an inside joke. There seems to be some confusion why a simple notebook is worth so much, until someone explains that the printing press is a newish invention. Then there's confusion about why it's worth so little. Why not just copy it out by hand, if some dead Greek guy's writing is so important?

It's obviously a parable and you can't get hung up on the details too much, go the mutters of the more thoughtful part of the crowd. The notebook isn't the point. Of how there are many ways to go wrong and only a few to go right, perhaps? The structure of failure-failure-success is a familiar one- Too meek a lamb, too bold by half, and somewhere in the middle and terribly clever, to boot. The nature of the deal at the end seems to confuse everyone until they mull it over a bit- What if the monastery didn't want to sell it at all? Perhaps 10 pounds is better than nothing, but it's hardly what they would have been willing to part with it for. Perhaps they could have tried to recover it, but thought such a thing would be expensive and unlikely to work, or perhaps the value was in the secrecy of the knowledge and it was worthless once revealed so they might as well get something, but what a bitter consolation, really. 

The thief profiting at all from her crime sparks a loud debate. Crime oughtn't pay, if it ever does, with someone forgiving them after the fact, then the deterrent of punishments goes away, criminals will just think a sob story will save them and that's hardly rule of law! Versus the other side who advocate mercy and how interviewed criminals usually say five years hard labor or ten didn't make a difference to them when they were considering a crime, and many don't consider the consequences at all. It's much scarier to know they'd definitely be caught, and corruption is the problem!

(Everyone agrees that corruption is really bad, and they bid three cheers to Chief McAllen for having a ring of corrupt tax collectors publicly flogged last year.)

They do think it seems reasonable for the last sister to walk away with some of the money for making a problem vanish into thin air, but a whole third of it? And a good portion of people continue to argue that the thief ought to feel lucky just to be out of jail. And what of the person she sold it to, are they just out 30 pounds and don't even get the notebook? Well, that might be fair enough if they knew it was stolen, which they couldn't not.


Great, the story got them thinking! That's its purpose, so she only makes a few comments, to clarify that the buyer of the notebook got to keep it, and yeah in real life there would be a lot more detailed negotiation on exactly how to divide the money, if the monastery was willing to do it at all.

After a few minutes, she returns to the center of the room. "And now, it's time for some mind-reading! I'll start with the kind where I read thoughts, which requires touch. Anyone want to help me demonstrate?" She lingers by the one who said her fur was pretty earlier.


Lots of people are curious what it's like! They form a surprisingly orderly queue around the tables, despite all being a bit tipsy. First up is a woman wearing a fur-lined coat, goggles, and a leather hat, one of relatively few female customers. She holds out her hand with a confident smile.


Marra's Inquisition. Wait for it to settle...

"Wow, there's a lot of you! I'll go ahead to the next part, then. If there's anything you wish you could say to someone else in this room, but you're afraid of the consequences if they rebuff you, you can secretly think it at me, along with a secret sign I can give you if they have a sincere compatible interest. Anything: personal attraction, a business deal, engineering collaboration but you don't want to reveal your own secrets first, coordination to strike or something and you want to be sure that the others will stick to their commitments. I'll verify it if it can be verified by passively reading your current thoughts. If you want a more thorough interrogation, or you want this arrangement with someone who isn't here, my services are available for hire. Of course, I will never disclose your secrets in any way.

- and you're thinking about operating a flying machine. That's so cool!"


"Her Majesty's Airship Service, at yours!"

A lot of this is kind of vaguely confidential and but honestly she doesn't give THAT much of a fuck, she is under the impression that it's mostly to prevent stampedes. This strange fox lady is probably not, actually, trustworthy, but again she doesn't really care, she's interesting, and Debra is here to unwind a bit. She's essentially a test pilot, running every new Model H through its paces out over the bay, burning through light gas to do so and occasionally running important passengers or cargo. She's actually ENCOURAGED to do stupid shit like sudden, sharp maneuvers to see if anything breaks. They can't really simulate the arctic, but there's still a whole checklist, which would usually be labelled 'never under any circumstances do any of this'. Like venting gas and staying aloft just using the wing effects on the balloon envelope. It's a huge thrill, knowing that you ought to be falling like a rock, but not doing that

"I dunno how long each of us should get? This is neat, though. Like standing before a judge almost."

Like that moment of stark clarity when you're in the sky and things are going wrong and you have to be SHARP, really. This feeling would be handy for newbie pilots panicking on their first run. What was that about connections? What, like a guy to take to bed? Nah, she likes girls. Regular girls, not fox people. That's secret. It's scandalous or something. She maybe likes guys too and mostly just doesn't want to risk motherhood because she would DEFINITELY accidentally kill a baby, she injures herself at least twice a month, nobody wants that. She's still pissed off she had to pretend to be a guy to get into flight school. Probably don't bother matchmaking her or anything, that would just be a mess. If Kireh knows engineers, Debra is up for flying whatever weird contraptions they come up with if it seems interesting and at least low-ish-risk.


She does not acknowledge any of the interesting points that Debra just thought about, of course. She wants to remind Debra that she needs a way to contact her (if she later finds a suitable engineering contraption), but that was after the part deliberately presented as a thought to announce aloud as part of the demonstration... and this isn't just a private agreement that can be retroactively refined; Kireh promised publicly and unambiguously not to change her behavior in any way except for indicating people to each other.

"Hm, five rounds each, including the initial delay. That's two per minute. Next!"


The next one in line nods at her and goes to the end of the queue with a thoughtful expression.

This guy wants her to guess out loud the numbers he's thinking of! The next guy has a brilliant business idea he's trying not to think about too specifically and wants investors, but seriously, it's definitely brilliant (and involves old farm equipment). The next guy gets stuck in a self-conscious loop and yanks his hand away as if burnt when he starts thinking about sex. One of the waitresses wants her to know she likes the baker - that one with the blonde hair - she can order 'cheese roast' from her if somehow he also likes her but he probably doesn't and she's too scared to do anything about it but somehow this doesn't count as doing- The next one is wondering if he can possibly discomfit her and focuses on thoughts of violence and sex. He doesn't really compare to a devil in creativity, though not for lack of trying. The next wants to somehow guarantee his family (a wife and one child) a Shelter spot and is willing to do bribes over it. Many of the rest are simply curious what the 'like standing before a judge' feeling is. Aside from the pilot there's only one engineer, who wants to sabotage the I.E.C. because his son died on an expedition, and gives her an address to inquire at.

Other interesting private-intents given to her include: A few who all have the idea to introduce her to 'the union boss' about strikes but is unclear how to arrange this discreetly (and are thinking about long hours in the shipyards), two different men who want to have sex with her and manage to form the intent to think about paying for it instead of mentally ducking away from the 'inappropriate' thought but have no idea what sort of rates she might charge, one person who confesses to a murder to her and says he couldn't go to a priest, he can't say it and is terrified of doing it again and is terrified of going to jail and might kill himself, a man looking for a loveless marriage where he lives with a woman for appearance's sake but does not have sex with her, and a middle-aged man who claims to be secretly wealthy and wants to talk to Kireh privately some other day about how to use money to get what he wants without inviting a bunch of fucking vulture distant-relations to flit about over it. He also gives an address.


"17, 3, one million two hundred, ..."

She's not bothered by thoughts of violence and sex - anything he's thinking is Not Her Problem.

There are so many interesting things that she needs to forget about! Like why doesn't flight school admit women? But the more she thinks about the people's private thoughts, the more she'll have to mark her own thoughts as contaminated by the secrets and painstakingly simulate her own uncontaminated thinking. So she queues each of the parts she needs to remember and distracts herself from the rest by focusing on the texture of each person's hand.

When the line is done, she announces to the group: "Remember, if you didn't tell me a secret sign or another way to contact you, you'll have to check with me yourself. I'm currently staying at the Roadster's Rest inn and I'll put any other addresses or ways to contact me on my advertisements." And her advertisements - she should put up one at the inn if they let her, set a reminder for that - say that she's a 'teacher' and 'therapist', but the murderer might not think to check or might not think that applies to him! But, she reminds herself, although normally she only reads people who are hers, the tavern patrons are Not Hers and Not Her Problem.

"Let's pause for a minute. I may or may not know for a fact that some of you want another drink, but I can't say, so if that's true you'll have to ask the barmaid yourself!"


The people think this whole exercise is interesting and novel - even if not everyone agrees it was fun. Tips into the small basket provided for her speed up as people mutter and discuss this. Definitely at least a shilling now. It might be gauche to pause and count it. They wonder is it truly magic? Or just science man has failed to understand quite yet? Is Kireh an omen of things to come?

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