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Dec 12, 2019 4:15 PM
Browns and Midnights in Arabek
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It's late afternoon, in the no-god's-land leading up to her destination of the moment, and Tava has mostly tuned out her charge's voice - argument 5b on why gods can't exist: they're just the norms of their communities; she's heard it twice this week and no fewer than a dozen times overall - and is examining something odd.

"'Raavi?" she strokes the vial of trail dust on its cord around her neck; not strictly necessary, but comforting.

"Yes?"

"This road isn't, say, seasonal, right?"

There's a pause. "Not that I know of, but I haven't had a cartographer out this way recently. Is something wrong?"

"Dunno; it's just been a while since we've seen anyone, and I'm sensing maybe a third the traffic I'd expect."

"That is odd. Keep me updated."

"Mmhmm." She turns her attention to her traveling companion.

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Zero tilts his head. 

"I don't see what the state of the road has to do with the price of grain. Do try to stay engaged: it's no wonder I've had to go through this a half dozen times already."

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"If people are avoiding it, there's a reason for that. But go ahead."

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"Perhaps the locals don't like to be disturbed by non-immigrants. 'Liandrasivia' seems to have a more bureaucratic domain than most, from what I've heard."

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"Could be. You don't get a good big road like this without the traffic to justify it, though; this was a major route at some point."

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Zero shrugs. "Perhaps policy changed once the kingdom was properly set up."

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"Maybe. We'll find out, I guess."

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"Sooner rather than later, if I don't mistake that god-border there?"

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"Nope." She doesn't even look. "I'll let you know when we're coming up to it."

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He sighs. 

"One of these days I'll understand how you do it."

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"Maybe you will," she chuckles, and continues on.

The road stays half-deserted; just before lunch the next day Tava reports that the border is coming up. "We'd reach it a few hours before nightfall, at this pace; we should camp out on this side of it and make the approach when we're fresh."

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Zero nods. "Seems sensible."

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"There's a nice spot up ahead, we can stop for a late lunch."

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"And you can tell me more about your, mmm, deity."

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"Sure."

After an hour, the road crosses the stream coming from the bottom of a waterfall, and the area around the pond at the base of the fall is flat and nicely grassy. Tava sets about preparing lunch - a couple of fish from the pond, seasoned with the herbs she's gathered from their surroundings over the course of the trip. That done, she asks, "Is there something about 'Raavi you're curious about, or should I just give you the general pitch?"

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Zero takes a seat and shrugs. "Whatever seems appropriate. It's all quite fascinating to me."

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"Sure. So, you know Kiraavi is a god of roads and travel; he's a lot more interested in people for what they're doing than where they live or who they are, and there isn't really a culture of Kiraavi-worshipers like you'd see with most gods. He has his devout - messengers and merchants, mostly, anybody who travels a lot - but in between, they have their own communities, and most of them worship other gods, too. Which is fine; the one thing he really values is new experiences and perspectives, and hearing about new gods counts; that's something they bring to their fellow travelers on the road."

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"Certainly explains why I've been given a warmer reception than usual. Go on?"

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"Yeah, you certainly are an experience." She stops short of chuckling, but only just. "Anyway, a lot of what we do, his acolytes, is making it safe and easy to travel; he coordinates that, makes sure we're spread out enough to keep an eye on things and sends us where we need to go when there's something that needs to be taken care of, whether that's rebuilding an inn or talking a god into letting people come and go from their domain or escorting a group of travelers."

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"Certainly better than many deities I've had the displeasure of brushing up against."

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"Yeah, there're some real jerks out there. 'Raavi couldn't get away with that even if he wanted to - in a way all roads are his, but it's mostly us doing the hands-on work, and we're spread pretty thin in most places; if he started being more trouble than he was worth people would just ignore him, and that's no good for a god. He's a sweetheart anyway, though."

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"Glad to hear it. An awful lot of them give you no time of day whatsoever if you seem committed to ignore them."

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"Well, sure, why would they?"

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"That was a euphemism." 

Zero flips up one of his shirt cuffs, showing a dark band of scarring around his wrist. 

"Of the fifty-seven domains I've been in, twenty-four tried to convert me with words, nineteen of them treated me like I was a particularly mobile rock, and eight of them tried to compel me to worship. Only five offered help to a traveller without asking for worship in exchange." 

He tugs the cuff back down. "The gods rely on me, but I do not rely on them. You would expect it to be the other way around."

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"Which one gave you that, if you don't mind me asking?"

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"I've quite deliberately forgotten."

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