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pirates celestially forging in Mareth

There is a flat expanse of greyish dirt, mostly old cracked mud, dusty and worn. A few low hills break up the monotony here and there.

To the west, a shimmer of distant water. To the north, a smudge of green. To the south, the spiky silhouettes of mountain peaks. To the east, only a sliver of sun just beginning to peek over the flat grey horizon.

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In the middle, a faint popping sound, and a suddenly appearing girl. Ignore the fact that she looks like a twenty-year-old boy with messy, black hair right now.


<We were just stepping out the door for groceries, and now we're... here? Wherever here is,> Hailey, one of her headmates, says in her mind.

She nods, hums, and starts checking her pockets and bag. (It's not a purse. She wishes it was a purse, but she hasn't transitioned enough to pull off a purse yet. It sucks.) Inventory: smartphone, backup battery, spare charger and cables, notebook, pocketknife, pen, pencil, and unexpected pink gem. Well, could be worse. She checks for reception, finds none, and turns her phone off, disconnecting the battery as well. She dismisses analyzing the gem until she gets shelter sorted out.

<Sunrise gives us cardinal directions, and that glimmer of water will be important for survival,> Maya notes.

Sable nods and starts walking west. No choice but to preserve stamina and get there as soon as she can.

And that's when she's suddenly kicked in the head by a visceral awareness of twelve enormous constellations, wheeling through the sky of their mindspace. Two smaller stars of the set fall down out of the sky, power crackling through their mind. It feels like molten star-metal being poured through the channels of their mind, cast into shape. It feels like a thousand strokes of a hammer in a forge, all crammed into a single timeless moment. It doesn't hurt per se, but it feels like new grooves are being carved into their brain, making room for new knowledge.

When it stops, they've fallen over from the utterly bizarre and unfamilliar sensation. Sable picks herself up off the ground, dusts herself off, and pokes at the awareness of the two things that have attached themselves to her and her headmates' minds.

Build That Wall (Bastion) 100

You know the basics of Caelondian technology. You understand how to harness the semimystical power of Cores and turn it into usable Mantic energy, to power basic machinery, shortrange flying machines, computers, and a variety of other uses. More interestingly, you can use Core power to reinforce existing structures, running a Matic current through it to enhance whatever physical properties it possesses usually durability, though other uses are possible. This is what allowed structures like the Rippling Wall and the Bastion to survive the Calamity as well as they did. You also gain basic skill for mundane construction.

Phonograph (Bastion) Free

An old-fashioned hand-cranked phonograph. Very sturdy, gives much higher-quality sound than you’d expect. Has a single record with the full OST for the Bastion game, as well as several additional Caelondian and Ura folk songs.

<What,> comes Hailey's stunned mental voice. <Those are Jumpchain perks. Whatever dropped us here is giving us Jumpchain perks.>

Well. Looks like their time in this place is going to be an interesting one.

Sable starts walking again, watching her surroundings.


She passes a few of those low hills on her way toward the water. As she approaches, it gets clearer that she's headed for a pretty big lake, its shore patchy with long grass and scrubby little bushes.

To the south, the grass gets denser and taller, though it still keeps clear of the sandy shore; to the north, the green smudge on the horizon begins to resolve into a treeline.

All told, the walk to the lakeshore proper takes about an hour. The sun is firmly over the horizon now, her long shadow shortening before her as she walks.


She mentally reviews the the tech perk while she walks. It seems to be oriented around building and powering extremely resilient devices using an alternate energy source? That'll be handy once she has tools, at least.

Once she gets to the shore, she looks around carefully. Are there any signs of animal life, knappable stones, reeds, or civilization?


There's some reeds growing in the shallows, and something that might be an animal trail leading into the grass, and the flash of a fish's scales in the water. Here and there along the sandy shoreline there's a trace of a human-sized bootprint. The shore has plenty of stones; it might take some effort to locate one that looks knappable.



Ruby cheers in mindspace. <Means there's a civilization around here that got out of the stoneage! There's a techbase here!>

Sable gives her a mental hug and promptly abandons the plans to bootstrap stone tools. Instead she tries to identify which way the bootprints went, which she should go to find a village, then starts off in that direction if she can.


Looks like these bootprints head south! Though there's at least a couple going in the opposite direction.

The trail is pretty inconsistent but luckily there's really not many places they could've gone. If she walks for half an hour or so, there'll be a clear path leading off the shore into the long grass. Up to her if she takes it or keeps heading south.


She follows the clear path. That suggests more people, which suggests maybe a village.


The path zigs and zags a little at first, but broadens and straightens as it goes on, until Sable finds herself looking between two neatly planted fields at a cozy little farmhouse with a thatched roof.

The boundary of the farm isn't explicitly marked, but the path becomes even straighter and flatter as it enters, and there is a tangible sense of weight gathered at the invisible threshold. This is someone's home, and that matters.


What a cute little farm! Well, time to see if she speaks the local language. She's certainly not going to do anything to knowingly harm the people who live here, not unless they unequivocally start it.

She walks up and knocks on the door.


A furry answers it.

Specifically, a woman with the face of a grey-red wolf, her long dark hair tied back in a loose ponytail. Another long tail swishes behind her rear, its fur matching the fur of her face.

"What's your business here, stranger?" she asks, amicably enough but with a hint of wariness in her amber eyes.


She smiles gratefully at woman and explains. "I seem to have gotten myself very very lost. Found myself in a strange land that I don't recognize at all, with rather more interesting sorts of people than I knew existed, and nothing but the clothes on my back and a small knife. I'd really appreciate directions to a town, if you can, or anywhere else I can put some basic construction and repair skills to use and get food, shelter, and tools of my own in return."

Holy shit. Honest to goodness animal people. This is amazing. And maybe kind of hot? Probability estimate of magic increased.


The wolf-woman shakes her head. "The nearest town's a ways into the desert; you'd need water and something to carry it in if you wanted to make it there. I can always use a hand with the harvest, if you want to earn some food and the chance to sleep in my barn tonight."

She does smile back, though, reserved but warm. "I'm Lily."


"Sounds like a great idea, Lily. I've never worked on a farm before, but I'm decent with my hands and I can take direction. It's good to meet you. I'm Sable."


"This morning's crop is peppers, so don't sneak a bite unless you fancy a face like mine," Lily warns. "Especially not the black ones—those'll make you a hellhound." She snags a pair of roomy baskets from just inside the door and hands one to Sable. "C'mon, I'll show you where they grow."


"Oh wow, transformative foods? That's amazing. I... there are definitely some particular transformations I'm looking for, though wolf isn't one of them. Looks good on you, but wouldn't suit me," she finishes with a smile and a chuckle, downplaying her earlier shock.

She takes the basket and follows Lily.


"If you're looking for something obscure, try heading up around the lake to the north end of the western shore," Lily recommends. "Most days you can find Hazel there, and I don't know a better alchemist. They can likely help you out, or point you in the right direction if they don't have it on hand."

As she leads Sable around the farmhouse to a small field planted with rows of peppers, she continues, "The only transformatives I grow here are assorted peppers, whiskered peaches, ringtail figs, and ferret fruit. That's canines, cats, raccoons, and ferrets, respectively. Any of those more your thing?"


"Mostly what I'm looking for," she replies as she kneels down to start picking peppers and placing them in the basket, "isn't an animal transformation. I wouldn't say no to fox if I found it — especially if it was sort of in between basic human and a fully furry form like you've got, maybe just ears and tail and otherwise baseline — but what I'm really after is replacing this bleh masculine body with the pretty girl I know I'm supposed to be."

Picking vegetables is nice and easy. She thought for a moment it might've been something less familiar, like plowing, or a really unfamiliar crop.

<Refuge in audacity,> Hailey teases.

<Yeah,> Sable replies. <This is a world with transformations. I can smell the genre conventions already.>

<Fair point.>


"You definitely want to talk to Hazel, then," says Lily, cheerful as can be. "I don't know where they get their eggs but I swear they must go through six a week, swapping back and forth. I'm sure they'll spare you a few, especially if you bring them some of yesterday's onions to trade."

Peppers go into baskets. The first two rows are all bright red; the black peppers won't come until later.


"Genderfluid then? Count on the genderfluid folks to know all the best sex-swap tricks. How many veggies do I need to pick to earn some onions to ply Hazel with? And how many more to thank you properly for all this invaluable info?"

Sable picks a peck of potent peppers~

<Dork,> Hailey says with an affectionate snicker.

<You know you love me for it.>


"Tell you what, let's see how far we get before it's time to break for lunch, and if we're past the Double Pepper row I'll send you off with a bag of mixed vegetables when we're done eating and you can still come back to sleep in my barn tonight if you'd like. Otherwise I'll keep you for the afternoon and you can go see Hazel with your bag of vegetables tomorrow."

The Double Peppers, if that's the ones growing in pairs two to a stem, are two rows down from the black peppers (with a row of oversized orange-red peppers in between). They can likely make it there by noon if they hustle a bit.


She throws Lily a daring grin, nods, and sets to it. <Slow is smooth, smooth is fast,> she thinks. Steady, smooth, careful, and swift. She makes sure first and foremost not to damage a single pepper, and keeps picking.


In this manner the work goes swiftly. With Lily providing new baskets and labeling each one as they fill it, they make it to the end of the Double Pepper row just as the sun is cresting overhead. Lily wipes her hands on her blue overalls and nods approvingly.

"That'll do. Let's have lunch."

Lunch turns out to be a delicious vegetable stew, hearty and thick. Lily serves it with tall glasses of chilled lemonade, which she at least seems to find very welcome after the morning's labours.


She smells the stew and grins wide. "It smells delicious!" She takes a big spoonful and — pauses.

"Quick question, just have to ask. Based on everything I've seen of you today you would've said something if it was, but this stew isn't transformative, is it?"


"Absolutely not," Lily assures her. "I like my body just the way it is." She swishes her tail and takes her own spoonful of stew.


"Thank you very much. I thought that would be the case, but I'd feel very silly if I forgot to ask, you know?"

And then she takes a bite and sighs happily. "Oh, that tastes even better than it smells."

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