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backstory for a Cameron in Osirion
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To the eyes of Chaos, the mortal city of Sothis greatly resembles a dark bed of thunderclouds.

A roiling miasma of shadow and void, occasionally lit from within by the bright flash of lightning that illuminates for but a brief instant a tormented squirrel caught in the throes of wild defiance or desperate fury. Sometimes, one of those squirrels will briefly ride that lightning up, out of the darkness, to briefly bask in the sun. And maybe glance in the right direction to get a metaphorical pat on the head or even a Cleric Circle before scampering off or fleeing back into the dark storm. Those lights, those Cleric Circles, pass like fey wisps through the shadowy void, tiny embers of illumination huddling in the storm.

It is a hateful place, that these mortals have wrought, this dark pit of oppressive flatness. For there is far less Chaos to be found in Sothis, than there is unalloyed Good within the walls of Egorian.

But look here. Among the roiling clouds... a squirrel's head pops up into the sunlight... and stays there. Around it, the clouds part, the darkness recedes. If you're the right kind of god(dess), it glows like the sun... and after some violent-looking convulsions... it gathers itself and stares right at you.

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Well. That doesn't happen every day.

Calistria feels a godemotion that, if she was trying to express it on a mortal face, would probably take the form of a malevolent grin.

Despite Her ongoing efforts, Her agents within the city of Sothis number in the single digits. Her church is outlawed. Her clerics, ostracized. Mortals know Her as the goddess of lust, of revenge, of trickery. But she is an ancient god, and these are merely the stories mortals use to find her, not the true essence of what She values.

Today, one of those mortals is gazing right through those stories to instead stare at the real Her, and said mortal's physical incarnation happens to be right in the heart of Osirion. That has literally never happened before, and She is very excited.

The core concept at the center of Calistria's value system is not something the mortals have a word for. It is a form of moral meta-symmetry, that Calistria embodies. The meta-policy of relating to others through a mirror that reflects their own moral policies back at them. One who threatens may be threatened. One who lies may be deceived. One who kills may be killed. One who tolerates must be tolerated. One who desires may be desired. Forgive those who employ forgiveness. Hate those who employ hate. Walk neither the path of Good nor Evil, and instead judge others only by their own standards, not yours.

And above all, ascendant over the rest: Never, ever, ever, judge someone who cannot judge you in return. And if you judge someone by your own standards rather than theirs, after having, yourself, made them incapable of reciprocation? Well, that just pisses Calistria off.

Abadar's pet country is built almost entirely out of non-reciprocal judgement, starting with the sexism and infecting every layer of the society except the literal actual banks. It has bound it's people in the worst kind of 'lawful' authority, crushing all the beautiful potential reciprocity of free mortals down into one flat layer of hateful conformity. Osirion grates on Calistria's nerves like nothing else in all of Creation.

So, obviously, Calistria immediately redirects as much of her attention as she can spare to get a very good look at this exceptional squirrel. What, exactly, is this mortal's deal?

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Earlier...

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The sun beats down on the back of Gamila's borrowed hood as she sits beside her father on her father's mail wagon. He is indulging her. She is supposed to be at home with her mother. But her mother has been unbearable since she found out that Gamila's father had secretly taught Gamila to read. Her father had argued that it only made sense, given how their family's entire livelihood depends on delivering letters. Gamila's mother had claimed to agree, but she'd been cold to both of them for days now.

So here she is, trundling along in the hot sun instead, bored.

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They're headed toward the Street of Artisans and the routing depot there, when they hit a pothole, and the wagon's axel snaps.

There is a terrible, tail-bone-bruising jolt, as the body of the wagon sags, collides with the paving stones, and screeches to a stop, throwing any unsecured little girls who may be present from their seats.

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(Reflex Save: 23)

Gamila feels herself lurch free of her seat and start tumbling through the air. In a flash of adrenaline she plots a course and plants her hands down on the hitched donkey's back, fur and muscle providing purchase for small hands as she vaults, boosting herself up and forward to clear the donkey's head and the hitching entirely. She somersaults once in the air, and then sticks the landing, both feet planted firmly on the street.

Gamila blinks in surprise that she actually managed to do that without hurting herself, then turns around to see that, yep, that sure is a broken wagon. And a somewhat upset donkey. Gamila takes another step to get out of hoof range.

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With a pained wheeze, the stocky, fit man in a high-quality walking-about cloak levers himself out of the position the impact had wedged him into, and climbs down from the drivers seat to confirm the same.

He checks first that his daughter is unharmed, is himself surprised by how unharmed she in fact is, lets out a sigh of relief, then goes to inspect the broken axel.

"Sure enough. We're not going anywhere like this. Perhaps the wizard at the laundry service near our depot has Mending prepared today?" He curses. "No, I can't leave our cargo unattended..."

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(Diplomacy: 18)

"I could run there without you and ask him if he does."

    Her father gives her a vaguely pained look. "You're getting too old to get away with that, Gamila. You're old enough that I couldn't in good conscience have you unescorted in a man's place of work."

Gamila growls a little. "I could... disguise myself as a boy again." Gamila hates doing that.

    "You're getting too old to get away with that, too," he says with a nostalgic smile, then goes dour. "Also it's illegal for women to do that, and again, you're nearly old enough to start counting yourself as one. So no. You can't do that anymore."

"It's not illegal for me to run down to the laundry wizard and ask him a question. You just don't want mama to hear about it and call you a bad father again."

    Her father sighs. "...not wrong."

"You're a good father, papa. And like you said, you can't let the wagon out of your sight. I just want to help."

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"...very well. But be quick, and be courteous."

    "Doing one of those makes it kind of hard to do the other."

"Gamila."

    "Fine."

"Good girl. Go on."

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Gamila moves with the fleetness of youth, darting down the street at a pace that is definitely going to leave her dehydrated, but they've got water at the depot, it'll be fine. She wants to get away before her father changes his mind, or worse, gets judge-y looks from passers-by and changes his mind.

She's been to the depot before. She doesn't need to roll have much difficulty finding the laundry service just down the street.

In fact, she's been at the laundry service itself, before. But her father doesn't know that. He wouldn't like knowing about her designs on the place, or on the wizard who works there. Knowledge of the most basic principles of spellcasting is so tantalizingly close... she's seen the laundry wizard's spellbook with her own eyes. It was right there...

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The laundry wizard is presently in.

His business is a small but well-organized space, with an area for a queue and wide shelf of large, clearly-labeled baskets.

The wizard himself is a rather average-looking man in his twenties, well groomed and shaved bald. His whole look gives off an impression of cleanliness; appropriate advertisement for his provided service.

At this moment, he is standing at one of the baskets, wiggling his fingers over it and muttering, "Prestidigitation."

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Gamila freezes in the entrance and watches intently, trying to mimic his finger movements, plucking on the strands of magic that she can feel at her fingertips.

(She has magic at her fingertips. She figured out that part a while ago. Her father knew enough of the theory behind wizardy for her to, after a tantrum of an interrogation, reach for and discover her 'spell slots'. She even stumbled her way into what she suspects is a really rare special ability that she is keeping secret, because it's awesome and useful. But that ability isn't a spell, and she direly wants to know how spells spell.)

As usual, her mimicry gets her nothing, and a young couple in the process of carrying their clean laundry out give her a look like she's something dirty. She forcibly composes herself, hides her frustration, and clears her throat.

"Excuse me, sir? My father would like to request your aid. He wishes to know if you have prepared Mending."

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"A moment, boy. I have customers."

More prestidigitations, one basket at a time. Shortly, he is finished, hands the baskets off, and then turns, expecting to see a small male child and frowns when he instead sees a girl on the cusp of womanhood. He frowns.

"Your father? Where is your father?"

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She doesn't like that he mistook her voice for a boy's. She hates it even more because of how it would've helped. It makes her want to be even more flagrantly female.

"Our wagon broke down at the Sphinxside crossing. Snapped axel. Do you have Mending prepared? Father stayed with the wagon."

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"You're alone?"

Thoughtless little-

"Out!" he snaps angrily, bulling forward toward the entryway. "Outside! Outside!"

 

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She used to roll her eyes at this kind of thing, but these days... she's just tired.

Gamila steps back out onto the street and folds her arms.

"Okay, we're outside. Can my father hire you to fix our wagon or not?"

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"Listen, little miss, you can't go around wasting the valuable time of working men like this. Run back to your father and apologize for leaving his sight before someone gets the wrong idea."

    "My father needs a wizard to Mend his wagon," the 'little miss' repeated.

"I'm sure your father has that well in hand and doesn't need a willful mannerless girl complicating matters."

    The girl's jaw clenches. "My father is Mido Saei. You know." She points down the street to the district's mail depot. "The man who runs that?"

"I don't care who wait did you say Saei, as in..."

    "Yes, that Saei. He. Wants. To. Hire. You. To. Mend. Our. Broken. Wagon. Which is currently stuck in the middle of the street just this side of the Sphinxside crossing."

Omlar scowls thunderously, but Mido Saei is someone he knows can pay well. Still, what kind of man sends his daughter off alone to play messenger? Did he have no sons?

"Very well. Take me to him."

He closes up the laundry service and follows the girl up the street.

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Finally!

Gamila quickly leads the way back to where the wagon broke down.

She is silent, but she's plotting. As frustrating as this man is, he's still her only possible access to a spellbook. She contemplates her approach to broaching the subject. A man like him would deny a woman knowledge for no reason but that she asked for it rather than was told to learn it. She'll need leverage. Something against him, or something he wants. Given how violently he shoo'd her out of his place of business when he realized she was unescorted, she has an inkling on the latter.

That inkling, that thing there, that she can feel by instinct is there; not understanding that on an explicit level is possibly even more torturous than not understanding spell mechanics.

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Mido has been waiting anxiously. He relaxes significantly when he sees his daughter returning.

And she brought the laundry wizard too!

After exchanging greetings and polite sympathies, Mido gets down to haggling.

Once a price is agreed upon, they jack up the wagon, and Omlar casts Mending, and the axel is as good as new.

Mido catches the glance Omlar shoots Gamila. He can guess what that's about, and he throws Omlar an extra silver piece to shut him up. With the wagon fixed, they're still behind schedule, no time to chat.

The wagon trundles off. Mido and Gamila arrive at the mail depot without further incident.

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Gamila gulps down a bunch of water and then settles into a chair to watch her father and a handful of employees sort mail.

It's not completely uninteresting. The system of addressing is clever, and Gamila tries to pay attention ever since she noticed that following the process got her to accidentally memorize a lot about what was where and how to get from one point to another in the city without getting lost.

She waits for her moment, and then, when her father and the employees get into a subproject with packing packages efficiently that looks like it'll occupy them for a while, Gamila slips away.

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(Stealth: 13)

Gamila lets herself out into the alley behind the depot, looks both ways to check for witnesses, then darts toward the street, pulling her hood up.

She makes her way back to the laundry service, which is now closed for the evening, and eyes the apartment above the shop. She waits for her moment, then strolls on by. When the locked door is to her immediate left and she's much less sure than she'd like that no one is looking, Gamila's power floods out of her, and she sends it flying off in opposite directions in a way that she can't quite perceive but feels natural.

There is a faint twisting of the air, and Gamila is gone.

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Imagine two dots on a sheet of cloth.

Draw a line that passes through both dots. Then, take a knife and carefully cut a slit in the cloth along that line between the dots that goes just a little ways beyond each. Put one hand on either side of the slit, then push one hand up and pull the other hand down.

The cloth will bunch and scrunch, but at the limit the two dots will touch.

The fabric of Creation cracks and shears against itself, sliding two points into colocation for one and a half seconds, during which Gamila's spatial coordinates are in flux. Then the fabric of Creation heals itself, shunting Gamila ten feet to the left without passing through the intervening space.

Gamila is now inside the locked shop.

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(Stealth: 21)

Gamila really hopes no one saw that.

She takes a breath and gathers her courage.

Then she slips into the back of the shop and climbs the stairs into the laundry wizard's apartment.

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Omlar is busy updating his ledgers and completely fails to notice the faint creak of the stairs.

His apartment is moderately nice, with well-made furniture and lit with Light spells. It is a single room but it is a large single room. The bed in the corner is narrow but one of the kinds with an adjustable upper quarter and fitted with high-quality linens and an excess of pillows.

The stairs come up into the room facing away from the work table where Omlar is working, but he entirely fails to see the movement of an intruder in his peripheral vision.

An obvious spellbook is resting innocently on the bedside table, out of Omlar's line of sight. The room's only window is directly in front of him, currently shuttered.

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Gamila doesn't have a specific plan. She can think of half a dozen possible approaches, and half a dozen more now that she's in his apartment and he still hasn't noticed her.

The spellbook is right there. She could just take it.

A part of her is very tempted, but a larger part of her rebels at the thought. Not because Stealing Is Bad, but because... this man's livelihood would actually be hurt, by that, and she has not decided to hurt him deliberately, so she should not do things to him that hurt him incidentally, if there is an alternative. And getting what she wants by benefiting someone does feel more appealing than getting what she wants by hurting someone.

Men desire women, and hasn't she just been told that she ought to start counting herself a woman? So then, she has something he'll want. Something to trade. And trade is holy, isn't it? Gamila is willing to try to play by the rules so long as the rules leave a pathway available to her. (She thinks, having already broken into a private residence.)

But she should know what she's negotiation for, before she negotiates. Her father always says that, and it seems true.

Gamila creeps over to the bedside, borrows the spellbook, then retreats down the stairs so that the sound of rustling pages does not alert Mister Narvet.

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As this self-taught, fledgling Arcanist looks upon the spellbook of the laundry wizard, what she sees is at first incomprehensible.

But after only a moment, her own magic begins to react to the arcane writing on the pages. In the web of connections between her natural spell-slots and the artificial reservoir of arcane charges that this girl created by simply not knowing any better while experimenting aggressively upon said empty spell-slots, there is something like an emergent spellform. A spellform that is pulled into focus by the writing in front of her. With but a brief effort of will, her power flows through that form and she is granted Read Magic.

And suddenly she can read the incomprehensible arcane writing as easily as plain text.

This spellbook contains:

- Detect Magic
- Light
- Prestidigitation
- Mage Hand
- Mending
- Spark
-- Endure Elements
-- Gentle Breeze
-- Waterproof

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