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Self imposed isekai
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"You mean, why is the war happening? They think they're right about what kind of country is better to live in and they think the other people are a threat. So, 'hate'... Most of them probably don't hate the others, but some do, if they've heard enough stories of people getting hurt in the other system.

The war is very far away, don't worry! Almost on the other side of the world."


"Oh good. But I meant um... Some wars are just bandits and boat bandits, and some are cities burning."


"I think mostly bandits?" Oh wow if kaleids keep getting stronger there might well be people who can destroy a city by themselves. "I've heard that the Freedom Democracy has a way to make all the elves in the world sick, but they haven't used it. It might not be true."


"That's horrible! People are so terrible sometimes..."



People can be nice too. I think that's way more important that what the highest levels of government get up to."


"But they tell everyone else what to do... So it's important to know."



"They don't actually tell people what to do that much? Hm, I guess maybe Meikalani 'told' me to use money-of-Kef and pay her a land tax, but I don't know, that just sort of happened. It's not even relevant to me that she's an elph, since no other elves have ever been in this area. I agree it's important to know what kind of person she is and be ready to rebel if we need to..."



"Have you heard of the Fusil-Tabby expedition?

So, this crank Fusil figured, there's another storm band in the very center of the drybright, and so he put together a group of boarks and catfolk to go find it. Boarks can take anything, and no amount of heat can hurt a catfolk, right? They never came back.

I'm wondering, maybe their waterskins exploded? Or maybe they did find the storm and it steamed and killed the catfolk. What happened to the boarks, though..."


"Maybe even boarks can only take so much, or they got lost and went crazy. Boarks can still get sick, right?"


"Yeah, boarks can get sick."


A farmer spots a group of werewolves walking from the water part of town to the iron part, sneaking way out around the fields through the dark.




Some of the catfolk from the fire crew have gone missing.


Nico is subdued for the rest of the day and goes even quieter when he hears this rumor.

Siki thought it wasn't their fault. And he's right. Stupid designs, things breaking and not getting checked. Is the sluice gate person going to get beaten up and killed. Or anyone else who might really be at fault? No. Is Merta going to get killed in revenge for the missing people? He's heard scary tales of fueds and revenge from the woodsmen.

He runs away. Just a little bit. Magic can do almost anything. Just not very well until you practice. Walking away from the square and then acting boring until nobody is looking, and you can walk out of the gate while seeming very boring and normal with white magic, and then to the edge of the fields. He just wants to be all alone for a while...

(He leaves a note asking Calsa to feed his mice for a cycle or two)


That's, well, it's better that he's planning to come back, but Calsa worries about him freezing alone in the cold. He seemed to understand that the drydark is dangerous, but does he understand exactly how dangerous and is he ready and able to do the math to make sure he has enough color magic to survive?

She's mad at herself for not realizing that he obviously has a tendency to run away by himself when upset, and not preparing better to make sure he stays safe when doing it. What else has she been missing...


Greetings of the sweetgrass of Tengoria to my dear brother Abilanedi,

This is a standard diplomatic greeting in High Elvish. Graduates from the same academy (here: the one in Argolake) usually address each other as siblings.

'Tengoria' is a general term for the area of Ansaf facing forward as the planet orbits, where clusters of shooting stars can be observed. The many points appearing to approach from a single distant source are thought to resemble an attacking Tengu spawning bodies as it dives. Here, it specifically means the more-Tengorian part of the greenstone steppes, where elves are thought to originate.

Your compliments astute,
balm lavender of sight:
this virgin desert's plight
and elders' clash are moot.

'balm lavender' - when the legendary hero Mortikesh traveled for three years collecting memories from shrines in the drybright and returned home, she was spurned. But after demonstrating the value of her new knowledge, her cracked feet were anointed with lavender.

Kef, my treasured land,
my most delicious tree.
In the stacked oaths' lee,
the river-bottom's planned.

The 'stacked oaths' are a tradition where elves leave memories of promises they have made, and the efforts they take to keep them, in important shrines. Swearing on the stacked oaths means that you will report your words to such a shrine no matter the outcome. This may be enforced or may be left up to the speaker's honor. The oaths that we have records of were almost always kept.

Zlatlan’s hubris tries
yet Torig’s dance ensures.
My people’s flow endures
when steadfast law applies.

'Zlatlan's hubris' - breaking with tradition, especially alone, far enough that you can't use memories of your predecessors for guidance.

'Torig's dance' - the principle that elves with similar jobs should be interchangeable.

Steel and water meet,
and unknown waiting twigs.
Kef, united, digs,
supporting one elph’s seat.

'unknown waiting twigs' - 'twig' is a common metaphor for a hypothetical path of conversation between an elph and their mental model of another. Here, Meikalani is using this meaning as a metaphor for areas of exploration in the real world.

'supporting one elph's seat' - splitting Kef into two towns, each ruled by one Magistrate, would be technically legal in Sota, but would be noticed as violating the spirit of the law.

A fire-spear arcs up
above my waiting hand.
Factions flinch and band
to fill my balanced cup.

'fire-spear' and 'cup' - props for a circus performance, a situation in which it's hard for one performer to smoothly take the place of another.

'factions flinch' - reference to a poem about the sudden development of animosity between the lieflings and kappas of the town of Picklebog, in North Mitan, specifically about suddenly seeing danger where you didn't see it before.

Come attend my shrine
or seek the darker ice.
Favored crews entice
and with my brother dine.

'darker' - deeper into the drydark.

'attend my shrine or' - 'either we can cooperate fully, or we can deal with each other honestly-but-not-forthrightly and must keep distance from each other.'

Power and vast wealth
await but claw and ear.
The merchants prosper here
and so does all our health.

'claw' and 'ear' - werewolves and catfolk.

Uniquely composed and expressed for the esteemed Abilanedi by his sister Meikalani.

Standard end of a diplomatic letter.

'expressed' - through ornate calligraphy, using a brush to apply glue, followed by multiple colors of fine sand.


Neffie meets the group of human women and their guards on the road to Archer's Tabard, far enough from the storms that there's no longer any wind, no leeward side of the equarter path to shelter under. The builders didn't bother to leave gateways to pass from one side to the other, so they're all still on one side of the massive square wall. Although she can tell from the stars that she's going in the right direction, her night vision isn't sharp enough to avoid tripping if she were to drift away from the path, so she's glad to meet a group of travelers with a catfolk lighting the way. She relaxes her hand from trailing along the side of the path.

She's even gladder when she realizes that they're also coming to answer the invitation of the Magistrate of Kef, and shows genuine delight (and feigned naivete) at accepting the 'protection' of the guards. What's in Kef? She doesn't know, but the Allheart cowards aren't going to keep it for themselves.


Strife in Kef, is the rumor. Inter-species strife.

His reputation in Argolake is ruined, his back stopped seeping blood but still twinges, and the incessant presence of his missing finger keeps him up at night. Time for a new leaf.* A fight between species is an opportunity for a diplomat who can't hurt you because he doesn't have any magic at all.

He shambles along the 'back side' of the equartier path, conserving his energy. He huddles under his heavy cloak, made from the complete pelt of a catfolk (minus the face, hands, and feet) which embraces him from behind, the rest of the span filled in with anonymous scraps. The person he stole it from must have been very close the deceased kitty.

[*a figure of speech referring to a liefling, not a book.]


The ground past the fields is rough and uneven. There are deep holes in the stone a foot across, surrounded by rubble, and once, a pit twenty feet across with an actual railing. Air rushes down it and faint firelight shines up.

The stars are intense away from the lights of Kef. Viridios shines teal, an extra jeweled pin in the The Tailor's cloth.


He's not really expecting to spend a long time out here. He just... Needs to get away. 

It's cold. It's dark. It's lonely. It's peaceful. Beautiful.

...The tunnels probably extend out to here, and further. Huh. That's cool.

He brought the coat and two whole fireplates. It's cold, but if he walks slowly so he doesn't sweat he can last a while. He builds a teeny wall out of bits of rubble, to try and keep some heat in, and stop what little wind there is. They're not sticks and leaves like Dad taught him to work with, but he can at least make a tiny wall.

The noise of Kef is audible in the distance.


He stares at the stars for a while. So big and empty.


...He hasn't spoken Fedic in a while, barely even sneaking in words for things he doesn't know. Because he really wanted to learn the local language.


He prays to the colors out loud. The ones he's mostly memorized. The words come to him haltingly, he has to stop and start over a lot.

Red's contribution to base survival, strength and power. Blue's ability to change and adapt, using the world around you. Green's affinity for healing and growing, to tend yourself. White's alignment with knowledge and communication, to speak to another. Black's foundation of solid permanency, to build things that last.

There are whole stanzas for each, listing the great things for society such magic makes possible. He recites them and thinks about his old home. There's things he misses. Mom, a bit. Even some of the woodsmen kids. Some of them were alright. Lenora was so annoyingly boisterous, but actually kind. Gerund would volunteer to watch him and then just let him be, or chat about things in town. And the town itself, when he got to visit. All the stores, the park... His old room that overlooked the garden. The sun and trees and songbird sounds... The sight of great sailing ships in the bay... Not having to hide his magic...

Where was he? Oh, the five colors of life...


Defy. Adapt. Tend. Learn. Build.



It really is pretty cold out here. He uses some of his lone red point to warm himself up, huddles close to the fireplates for a bit, and then carefully gets more rubble to try and make an arched roof.


It doesn't really work... He could use black magic to help with stoneshaping, but he's unpracticed at it. And it's secret. And people might find this place and assume some werewolf did it, or they might suspect him.

He ends up sleeping curled around the fireplates with his coat and one of the blankets. 

Eventually he wakes up shivering. The fireplates are empty and cold. Time to go back.

He uses the rest of his red to warm up, and eats the food he brought along and drinks from his canteen, and then troops back to the gate. It's probably been about two thirds of a cycle.


The farmers keep a wary eye on him as he passes. A pair of eyes glint red by the gate, revealed to belong to a huge black bird. It too watches him silently.

No sounds of partying. No unaccompanied children. Mournful singing in the distance.



He goes back to Calsa's house. He'll heal Merta if she's there. And just kind of flop down otherwise.


Merta is still in the huddlebed. Lin is in her pool on top of it.

Calsa puts down a jar and sits next to him. "Hey kiddo. I'm glad you're safe." She takes a copper rod the length of her forearm out of her skirt pocket. "This is worth about 34 money-of-Kef, and will be accepted anywhere... will that help you feel less trapped?"


"...I'm scared. I thought Kef was nice. But people are hurting each other anyway. It's a [feud], just like back home. Are you and Merta going to die?"

He gently pokes Merta and applies what little healing he can.

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