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The awakened bird body shakes itself. "This body is very alert now, but was unusually disoriented for a moment when it woke up. I will report how it develops." It vanishes. "It is still alert after going into storage and emerging in my home territory."


"I will collect samples of metals that might be Lume! What is your budget and deadline? Do you know any places on Scope that are known for making Lume, and what kind of land they have or what other metals or rocks they have?"


"I think two hundred for now? I'm not in a hurry. I've heard that Kelos, Remii, Titan Crossing, Sky Lake, Old Faron, and the... The place where there were like ten wars... All have Lume, so it can't be that rare. It might be an alloy. Kelos has lots of white cliffs. Remii is a desert... A drybright except not, its rocks are yellow. Titan Crossing had rocks a lot like the ones here. I don't know about the other two."


"Hmm. I'm not sure if that narrows it down... I'll make inquiries."


Spy human man attempted kidnapping of target. Executed before I could question him. Fast thorough healing of unknown source. Plan let target relax contact again later. Target new friend catfolk j-a-k-e f-u-z-z-e-r s-t-i-r-l-i-n-g and tengu. Frogold town revealed in aqueduct.

Catfolk known loyal Kef. Await information tengu. Investigate frogold loyalty. Receive delivery on the 3rd of Calligrapher at point 3 miles towards plover H. Receive instructions.

Request delivery animals with known and unknown human breeding results. Purpose contact target.



The original question was what happens when you put a catflame in a glass ball filled with air, exhalation, water vapor, buoyancy-of-rock, sewer miasma, or whatever else that Nico could learn to separate. And the answer was that it looks exactly the same.

But the light from each of these catflames is differently spiky when you spread it with a prism!

A strong glass ball can be truly empty, and then a catflame makes no light or heat at all. As you reduce the amount of air, the flame gets bigger and dimmer but its color spikes don't change. So the obvious question is what happens if you put more air in the ball - does the flame get smaller and brighter? A little bit, yes, but Lin can't force air into the ball very hard - even if she seals her lips with her fingers, the soft parts of her nose and throat can't hold much pressure.

And still, the total amount of light and heat produced by the catflame doesn't change.


Maybe you can use different patterns of spikiness in light to figure out what things are made of. It doesn't seem especially practical, though, since it's hard to get fine detail and a powerful light and large dark room aren't exactly easy to carry around. Maybe you could use this method to tell real gold and silver from fakes and alloys? Or tell if things are contaminated by comparing what they're supposed to look like to how they actually look?

More air in a single space makes catfire a little bit denser, but not brighter... Is it how much air is there that does it? How heavy it is? (It's probably not how heavy it is, if exhalation looks exactly the same.) Tanno says burning things produces exhalation, so what happens if they put a little bit of plant fiber in a jar with catfire at the top, and then seal it and let the catfire burn the fiber? Is there more air in the sealed jar, exhalation combined with regular air, and that makes it brighter? He learns about how air works under pressure from experiments with Larian and then brainstorms ways ways to create high pressure with everyone- A little turbine, a steel one-way valve with a spring and a bellows, a tall water column with a hollow inside that bubbles can float up into, an attempt at an air pump as opposed to a water pump. It'll probably be somewhat expensive to actually try to build (or pay people to try to build) these, and to acquire a thick, tough glass jar to put catfire in and see if much more air makes it much denser, but it's interesting, so it's worth it.

Nico slowly starts coming out of his shell again, though he still mostly keeps to himself. He's still doing something almost all the time, even if 'something' is occasionally exercising a concerning amount and insisting that he's fine. The dancing practice, the weaving practice, reading and writing practice, he spends less and less time on any individual thing. He also remains suspicious and wary of people he doesn't already know at least passingly.

It's been months since he first appeared in Kef, and a few weeks now since he was attacked.


Or if they had some Lume they could figure out what it's made out of!

It might be the weight of the air, actually - the flames aren't exactly the same size at the same pressure if you measure them carefully. And buoyancy of rock gives a much bigger more diffuse flame than the other kinds.

When the catfire burns the fiber, that actually makes the flame get bigger/dimmer.


A werewolf they've not met finds Merta and Calsa's house and stands a polite ten feet from the door. "Approaching! Is Mr. Nico available?" He's wearing a red vest, a blue kilt, and a seven-pointed blue hat. "My lord Abilanedi of Embal would like to meet with him, either as a guest of Embal or in a location of his choosing in Kef."


The high level of fanciness reminds Nico of stories about Baron Maxim. He saw the guy give a speech once, at a festival... He thinks. It's a vague and blurry memory. All that actually adds up to is 'very magistrate-y and leaning into it'.


"Is Embal interesting?" is the question he asks eventually. "If I go there I want to bring- Escort. If we meet here, we can use the rainbow room to talk. Also, what is this about?"


"Embal is the premier drydark settlement - the deepest one ever, and the only one taking on the challenge of mining ice! The thrill of the frontier meets the rustic comfort of Archer's Tabard, and the most insightful thought-leaders of Sota gather here to stake their claim in the future metropolis!

My lord Abilanedi desires your most fascinating company! Hearing tales of your wondrous dancing with light, he is intrigued by your potential."


That's a market stall voice. It's kind of funny.

...What else would be kind of funny, is to act a little magistrate-y right now.

"...I owe the beauty of the dancing to my teachers and assistants, but I'm glad to add curiosity to people! I will be happy to speak to Magistrate Abilandeni in the rainbow room. I'll ask Jake Fuzzer to schedule it, okay?"


"Very well, sir."

(He doesn't know who that is.)


Fortunately, Fuzzer is well-known in Kef and easy to find; always at home, work, or with Nico.


And at the appointed time, Magistrate Abilanedi approaches with his entourage, dressed similarly but with thirteen points on his hat instead of seven. "It's an honor to meet you, Mr. Nico. My condolences that you couldn't safely visit Embal - woe upon the vermin that accosted you. In my pride I brought some delicacies for you so that I might at least be able to treat you with a whisshopper's mockery of the honor you deserve."

His staff bring out plates and warm them:

  • meat (some kind of bug) with mellow herbs
  • spicy rice mush
  • fried pickled vegetable sticks with minty leaves shredded on top
  • flatbread with cheese and coagulated blood
  • sweet grass and raisins
  • large eyeballs in an earthy vegetable sauce

"I am told you have quite a talent with your lights, Mr. Nico. What wonder will you be exhibiting next?"


(He has made sure at least one of Lin, Calsa, or Mr. Fuzzer stays with him. (He's just not that close with Merta in comparison.) He hasn't bothered to dress up, though he did make sure to clean his cottons (which are steadily getting a bit more faded and worn out) specifically for this.)

(This whole thing feels pretty fake and - awkward? Risky somehow? He decided on a couple rules first:
He might reveal that he can heal since there's already rumors about a mysterious healer (and will probably start doing light special effects when he does heal, from now on, to sell the connection), but definitely not that he can also do yet more other magic.
He won't agree to anything ongoing right away, no matter how much of a good idea it sounds like.
He won't mention that he's from another world.)

"Mr. Abilanedi, this looks really delicious. Thank you. I- It's good to eat new kinds of things!"

He almost said he misses cheese, which would have been a mistake.

"But, I don't really want to be fancy and use a lot of words when few will do. After all, I have a lot to learn and being fancy just to be fancy feels silly. I know I'm special, I want to be special for ideas not just magic. And, I am doing a lot of things. Some of them are secret, and most of them aren't ready. The rainbow room is a good place to show one of them, though!"

He investigates all the food, and goes for the spicy rice mush first, taking a small portion. (He's not sure if whoever is with him for the meeting should have some too, whether it would be polite or not, so he gives them a questioning look.)


Calsa and Fuzzer take food after Nico and dig in. The tengu stays in the background.


"Of course, you're a busy kaleid. I like that!

I'll lift my cup, then. I want to introduce you to the artistic elite of Sota. I know you don't want to travel far, but actually that works perfectly, since now I have an excuse to tempt them to Embal! Benefit for both of us, how about that?"


"I don't want to travel far, for now. That sounds like it could be a good idea. I do like showing off the results of practice, and I think Calsa does too." 

Spicy rice! Cheese! Fried things! He attempts to eat with decorum.


He succeeds at eating with a similar level of decorum as the other guests. Abilanedi samples every dish with a long spoon and controlled movements, but doesn't eat more than that.

" ...a whisshopper theater, with capybara guards...

...saw the Imperial fire ballet, and even the third-hand memory was astonishing. Of course one doesn't talk about politics, but I hope someday to visit Lei myself, when that's possible again...

...attract our scientific focus to their magic, so that we ignore the non-magically super-human eyes right in front of us, of the tengu! There is a jeweler in Loneroof who has analyzed their shape and made a device out of glass that reveals all nine moons of Lacrimos to every passer-by...

...ever considered the architecture of museums? ...

...have talked long enough and must sooth your strained patience, my friend. What did you, in your talented calculations, choose to demonstrate for this occasion?"


This magistrate likes to talk even more than he does. He tries to think of it as a lesson on talking to important people, instead of 'boring'. He tries to interject a couple of times but quickly gives up and just enjoys the food.

-Ooh, it's over! He can show off the rainbow!

"Why, the reason I call this place the rainbow room! Jake, are the samples still ready?"

Of course they are. There's a teensy bit of catfire in half a dozen pre prepared jars. He'll ask Jake to make them brighter, one by one, and shuts the extra thick shutters and pulls the cloth covers over them and then asks Jake to shine the jars through the narrow prism.

"Prisms spread light out into a line by color. So it seems clear enough that color comes in something like amounts, like water in a cup. And now we know, as you can see if you look closely, not all air shines the same! This spot right here remains darker than the rest- A color that catfire does not shine in! Or at least, that catfire in ordinary air does not shine in! It's different if you use exhalation-" Swap. "With different materials, the precise colors that fail to shine vary. We could use discoveries like this to measure colors, opening them to scientific inquiry, to find out more about what catfire and light truly are, and even to identify different materials when no other test is practical!"


"Marvelous! And what do you say light really is? You will inspire such a debate among the intellectuals of Embal.

No better person to investigate light than a kaleid. And yet you are not even using your own light for this project! What colors do you shine?"


"Uh... Blue used to be my favorite color, and I never liked red much. But I like green better lately, too. We don't know what light is, all we can do is more experiments to try and understand- Experiments do get expensive though."


"Hah, funny artistic kaleid!"


At the appointed time, Neffie slips out, keeping to a line through the dark between the courthouse beacon and the star plover H.

She plods along.The instructions just said 3 miles, no location more precise, so that if she gets caught, it's harder to apprehend the agent meeting her.

There's a rustle, and movement, and she sees a person with smooth shiny skin in the gloom. A butter-apple.

"May the stars light your steps, traveler!"

    "And may yours land firmly. I won't ask what brings you here; the drydark keeps many secrets."

Aha! "Hiii!" Hug! "Are you from the jungle? Are there new publications?"

    They flicker away from her, then stiffly allow the hug. "I'm from a bit darkward of the jungle, near Pethera. There's a new Freedom and lots of process papers - there's a list being kept for your return."

"How's the water in Pethera?" She sighs. "I love our country."

    Nod. "The water's holding out." They give her a bag of dice and a game board. "Soaked in hot water, the dice leach a flavorless poison. Use it only if Lei is about to secure a decisive victory. The top of the board slides - feel the pegs here? - and if you push sideways like this and keep sliding, there are insect eggs. One of them makes a wroth, three don't do anything, one isn't viable, and the others are unknown."

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