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With devils and demons at home, letting a genie out of its box might be an improvement
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Gord has been running for hours and now he's out of lesser restorations and the crusaders have horses and they are catching up.

It means they didn't find the soldier-slaves he freed and helped hide, which is good. It also means he has to fight them, which is less good, because his babau allies split some time ago and he's worried they're trying to circle around and get to the ex-slaves while he's busy.

He makes it to the next village and runs into the biggest house he can see; they'll have to to dismount and they probably won't burn it down around him. It's a tavern, which is even better. Weirdly empty inside, though. Close and bar the door -

This door has no bar, not even fittings where one would slide in. It doesn't seem to have a lock, either. It's probably magical, then, no time to figure it out; he drags a table across the door.

Can he see the crusaders approach through the window?

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Not unless the crusaders happen to look like a panorama of exploding stars.

There's a tall red hat with a pompom taped to the glass such that if you were somewhat shorter it might look like one of the exploding stars was wearing it.


Life on the Worldwound borders is full of surprises! They're almost always nasty ones, though. Maybe this isn't the best place to stage his valiant last stand after all.

Who'd make an illusion of exploding stars? A cultist of a demon lord with a grudge against Desna? There's that nursery tale about all the demon lords uniting in a war against the gods...

Focus. He needs eyes on the crusaders. Maybe there's a normal window on the second floor?


As he turns to go up the stairs, he might notice that the room is empty, apart from himself and the furniture. A long polished wooden bar runs the length of the far side of the room. Someone has placed a red hat on it as well, and put up garlands of mistletoe around the border of the room.

There are two doors labeled "Security" and "Infirmary" flanking the open stairwell.

The stairs seem to go much further up than the building he saw from the outside would suggest. And when he steps out into the carpeted hallway of the second floor, it stretches ahead of him for at least half a kilometer before turning a corner. There are no visible windows.


What an obvious illusion! There can't actually be a third of a mile of corridor here, so if he goes forward he'll eventually reach a wall, and that will let him break it.

Or he'll hit the trap he expects twenty feet in, that would also do it. He's not going to mess with the local wizard (cleric? demon?) who disguised his tower as a bar, left the front door unlocked, and taught the locals not to wander in.

He's going to go back down and try slip away. If the crusaders are already at the door he'll make them chase him into the house until they spring a trap or summon an angry wizard, and then he'll run away in the confusion.

This feels like a better plan already. He moves the table a little bit away from the door and cautiously opens it a crack.


Everyone is exactly where they were before he closed the door. The locals stop to stare at him, presumably because he went into the forbidden wizard's bar and came out alive.

The crusaders are just coming into view. They are exactly where he saw them five minutes ago. Gord knows he doesn't understand what's going on, but he has no choice: they've seen him now, and are shouting and pointing and urging their horses to a gallop.

Plan B it is, then. He'll draw them into the spooky house and when the time is right he'll cast invisibility and run.

Gord closes the door again, leaving a narrow space for them to file into by the table-barricade, and stands with his sword at the ready.


The door opens to reveal a tall, slender woman with dark brown hair wearing a long silver dress and carrying a cube of light.

"Pine, I ..." she starts to say, before frowning in confusion.

(In the background, half of her self-tree is pulled out of whatever they were doing to pore over the sensor returns from Milliways)

She blinks the notifications out of her HUD and focuses on Gord.

"Hello, I don't think we've met."


She sees a very well-built man. This fact stands out about him, because he is wearing the pants half of a chainmail suit, but no shirt. 

It probably won't distract her from noticing that he's also swinging a sword towards her with deadly intent.

He stops the swing at the last moment, though, holding the sword threateningly against her throat. (Ingrained reaction: not-visibly-armed, not-hostile, maybe-civilian.)

Then he realizes this must be the local magic-user. Split-second decision: he won't kill her unprovoked and if he keeps threatening her he'll turn her against him. He lowers his sword.

"No, I don't believe we have," he says apologetically, "I'm terribly sorry for intruding on you like this and I promise my only purpose is to leave here unharmed. There are three riders right behind you who are after me and I thought to take shelter in your tower. I'll pay you in coin or service if you help me fend them off."


She blinks.

"I have no idea what you're talking about. I think something very strange has happened. This door normally leads to my girlfriend's bedroom, but it appears as though this time it leads to ..." she makes a show of squinting past him. "A bar in a pocket dimension of some kind?"

She leans to the side, gesturing out at the large sunlit living room behind her, furnished with silver clothing to match her dress and decorated with purple and gold highlights.

"And as you can see, there are no riders in my living room."


As she stands there, four microscopic wormholes connected to her fixity device drift into the room and spread themselves out around the bar area. She doesn't manifest anyone to talk to the two people in the rooms off the main bar area, or to talk to the bar itself yet, because everyone watching through her eyes right now is still very confused.

In the background, prediction markets spin up trying to infer what has happened here and who this man is. The physicists are very excited by the various exotic things around his person. There's a bag with a very small pocket dimension anchored inside it using a novel technique, and a sword that has some kind of very intricate braid of exotic particles wrapped around it.


Thaaaat's a more powerful spellcaster than he assumed! Or more illusions. Or both, why not both? Gord will be polite to this clearly magically powerful person.

"My name is Gord. I entered what I thought was an ordinary house in a village about fourteen miles south of Kenabres along the Sellen, and found myself here. The riders I mentioned are also there. Is that somewhere your door opens to?"


"It's a pleasure to meet you, Gord!" she says, apparently sincerely. "My name is Weeping Cherry. I have never heard of Kenabres or the Sellen, and this door has never opened anywhere other than the bedroom since I had this house built."

Her eyes saccade, reading some text off of her HUD.

"If I'm not mistaken, though, that bar is alive. If they live in this pocket dimension, they might know more about what's going on here."


Gord expects to encounter pocket dimensions and people who have never heard of Kenabres about equally often, which is to say never. Illusions and lies are a much simpler explanation, and almost always the correct one. The room he sees behind her could also be an illusion.

But he's being polite, and cautious, and he doesn't want to antagonize an unknown spellcaster when he's pretty sure the riders are still out there looking for him, so he'll humor her for now.

"Kenabres is a city in Mendev on the eastern border of the Worldwound."

"I have never been in a pocket dimension or met a living bar. You don't seem to be very surprised; is it a more ordinary occurrence, where you live?"


Well, he hasn't exactly moved to unblock the door. The fixity devices are reading several light-seconds of corridor up that stairwell, with no end in sight, but only four life-signs in the whole place. So talking to the others, while important, is not necessarily urgent enough that she should force the door or teleport past him.

(In the background, some physicists start looking at the cosmic microwave background inside the bar and making excited noises at each other. Other physicists are examining the exotic particles that look like they're twisted up in complex patterns inside his brain.)

"Not at all! This is probably the strangest thing that has ever happened to me," she reassures him. "It's just that being calm and polite is usually a good default strategy when you are incredibly confused. I did start sharing my eyes with the rest of my self-tree as soon as something strange happened -- it's their job to figure out what's going on, and my job to be the point-person dedicated to finding out more and managing interactions with aliens."

She dismisses her cube of light and replaces it with a not-to-scale model of the solar system.

"I've never heard of Mendev or the Worldwound either. I'm from Earth -- the third planet around our sun," she says, pointing to it. "Although right now my house is actually on a planetoid in orbit around Jupiter." She points again.


He belatedly moves back to let her come in. An overturned table is unlikely to stop a wizard and it's impolite (and may come across as unfriendly) to keep her out at this point.

"I don't know what you mean by a self-tree." And now that he's focusing on her face, he can see her lips aren't moving in sync with her voice. "Your translation spell rendered it as - you being a big woody plant?"

"We call the planet Golarion, in the language I'm speaking, which is Hallit. Third from the sun sounds right. I'm not sure about the other planets, I'm not a Desnan." He's heard you can get anywhere with a couple of plane shifts and a teleport. A summer house on another planets sounds wild but who knows what really powerful spellcasters do with their time?

"The Worldwound is the big planar tear into the Abyss that opened about a century ago in Sarkoris-that-was, and demons come through it." That should get through no matter what language she really speaks beneath the Tongues.


That gives her so many additional questions.


She moves past him to take a seat at the bar.

"I don't know what you mean by translation spell," she asserts. "I noticed your lips moving in discordance with what I was hearing, but just thought that was more pocket dimension strangeness to investigate."


A note appears on a bar napkin at her elbow.

What can I get you? First drink's free.


"Oh, the bar is a person!" she exclaims. "I thought they looked too complex not too be. They say the first drink is free," she relays.

"I want to ask more about the planar rift, though. That sounds bad. Here, let me ..."

She closes her eyes for a moment and then there are two of her, one seated facing the bar and starting up a silent napkin-based conversation and the other one facing him.

"As for what a self-tree is -- it's that. Everybody who was me before I split myself in two," she explains. "It's called that because if you draw it out, it makes a tree shape. I am happy to answer more questions, but it sounds like plausibly the demon situation is urgent? Can you say more about that?"


Gord has no idea what spells or senses she's using to decide the bar is a person; even he can probably make a napkin appear, and he's only three circles of a cleric.

She can clone herself and he has no idea what circle that is but it must be pretty damn high. Unless it's another illusion? But if it is, and he walks out her illusioned door, he'll be facing those slavers with an angry wizard at his back, so he'd best keep humoring her.

There's an old Sarkorian saying that goes, questions anger wizards, so you won't like their answers, and there's probably a kernel of truth inside the good old prejudice. So he'll tell her more things everyone already knows, and not ask too many questions, and see how she reacts. 


"The demon situation isn't very urgent. It's been there for a century, the borders have been stable for most of that time, and there's no crusade at the moment. Local propaganda aside, it's far from the biggest problem in the world, I just happen to live there. And even I find greater evils to fight than the demons." He flashes a grin. "I mentioned it as a landmark. If you show me an illusion of the continents of the third planet, I can pick mine out."

"The translation spell is whatever magic is letting us understand each other despite speaking in different languages! It's very strange that pocket dimension translated correctly but translation spell didn't."

"Perhaps we should check for other translation mistakes? The Abyss is the ontologically Chaotic Evil afterlife plane. Chaos is freely doing what you want, and Law is binding yourself" (and others) "to definitely do something. Evil is benefitting yourself at the expense of others, and its opposite Good is helping others at your own expense. Did all that sound right?"


She is momentarily taken aback. Idly, she conjures a globe of Earth and sets it floating to the side of their conversation.

"So there are several things about what you just said that I find confusing," she begins. "For one, I have never before today encountered anything that I would call 'magic' -- the concept is entirely fictional -- so that makes me suspect that when you say magic either it means something else, one of us has been tricked in some way, or the translation spell is failing. Likewise, I have never heard of The Abyss, and have never seen anything I would call an afterlife per se. I think good and evil came through right, although the words 'law' and 'chaos' in my language don't quite mean what you said Law and Chaos do."

She takes a moment to consult with her self-tree.

"My best guess right now is that we're from different worlds -- that is, no matter how far you traveled from your planet, you would never reach mine, no matter what direction you went in, unless you detoured through a pocket dimension like this one. And that probably our worlds run on different rules -- you have something coiled up inside your brain that is made out of a kind of matter that isn't present in my world, for example."

She brings the globe over and holds it out to him.

"I would expect to know about a planar tear anywhere on Earth -- can you indicate where you think your continent is?"


"This looks a little different from the maps I've seen, but not entirely different. If this is Golarion, then this continent is definitely Avistan, north of the Inner Sea, and the Worldwound is close to its northern edge."

"Why do you know the word magic if you think it's fictional? Why does the translation spell, which is clearly working, translate as something fictional? Maybe the translation magic is more broken than I thought." He considers. "I can ask Gorum - my god - for a minor translation spell of my own. It would let you speak my language without translation, if you're willing to let me cast a spell on you."

"The rest of what you said seems simpler. We call places which can't be reached by moving far enough different planes - did that translate? - and we know some of them operate on different rules. The Abyss is a plane. There are more than ten known planes, maybe many more." Nine afterlives, and uh... fire, earth, probably some other elements? 

"An afterlife is anywhere your soul goes after you die. It's commonly said there are nine of them, for the nine permutations of Good and Evil, Law and Chaos, with a Neutral position on each. Not all planes are afterlives." 


If gods are the source of magic, that gives her a few hypotheses about what is happening in his world, although it's too soon to jump to conclusions. She sets aside the afterlives comment to be examined in a moment, when she stops being so surprised by everything he says.

"To take that a little bit out of order -- planes also translated, but it came through as using a word that usually has fictional connotations when used in this way. I think my new guess is that the translation spell is just finding the closest literal mapping between our languages, without caring about aligning connotation, and that probably I should just ignore the 'sounds fictional' parts of what you're saying and assume that I'll eventually figure out the right words. Does that sound reasonable?"

"That aside, I would be very interested in seeing you cast a spell, because then I can look at it and see what its made of and possibly figure out if it corresponds to something I already know about. Do you know how your spell would let me speak your language? Does it modify the way my senses work, the way that the existing spell seems to, or does it modify me directly to understand your language? Would you be willing to cast a spell that doesn't affect me, so that I can watch it and see what it does?"


"This particular spell would let you understand and speak my language, for a short amount of time. It doesn't affect your senses, in the sense that someone who shares your senses wouldn't be affected, and you would hear the sounds I'm really making."

"Here's a very simple spell: create water." He waves his hand and water rains down. "I can make a lot more, if there's somewhere to put it."


Oh, that is amazingly cool! She watches the sensor replay in slow motion, and then absently makes the visualization visible to him too. His brain does something that she's not looking at for privacy reasons, and then a tight coil of strange particles uncoils down his arm and then does ... something, and water precipitates out of the air. The spell folds back up and returns to whence it came.

(In the background, someone decides that staying here is too risky, and transparently pulls Weeping Cherry's brain out of her skull and into simulation in a computer buried under the crust of Pluto)

"That is wonderful!" she exclaims, clapping her hands in delight. "Wow. I've never seen anything which works like that. I use specialized crystals to do things like that, but they're made of the same baryons as everything else, and don't operate on such small scales."

Maybe this is what it looks like when a society figures out femptoscale engineering?

She starts trying to figure out how to synthesize some of the components of that 'spell' before reminding herself that other people will be working on that and that she should focus on diplomacy.

"I think if I see a few more of those I can probably reverse engineer them," she tells him. He mentioned using money earlier, so he probably comes from a context where she should offer to pay him for the information. There's some gold in his pouch, so he probably would be willing to trade for that? "I would be willing to pay you to demonstrate any other spells you can use, although I don't have whatever currency you use. I can pay you in refined gold instead?"


If this is a charade, he has no idea what the point could possibly be. She's either an extraplanar being... unfamiliar with the simplest most common bit of magic... or she's pretending to be one. While carrying a cube of light that very much looks magical (but he can't detect magic today) and knowing about planes and pocket dimensions. She's certainly selling the alien bit... While looking perfectly human.

"I will gladly take payment in gold, but these minor spells are usually free, because I can cast them as often as I want and they only take a few seconds. I have four like that, another being to create some light" - he demonstrates - "one that repairs broken objects, but takes ten minutes to cast. And one that makes rotten or poisoned food safe to eat, which I can demonstrate if you find me some spoiled milk or the like."

"Other spells can only be used a few times a day, and those are the ones that normally cost money."

"I don't mind showing you magic, but first I would like to understand whether I'm now stuck on your plane," and have to kill people until Gorum grants me plane shift, but he'd better not say that out loud, "or whether I can go home, and how?"


She glances at the summary that pops up in her HUD.

"Bar -- that's the bar's name -- says that if you open the door, it should return you to your home plane," she says.


Her selftree holds a brief poll on whether to go through the door if he opens it. On the one hand, there is an entire planet of people that she has the chance to reach out and help. On the other hand, time will be stopped there until they get a wormhole through to synchronize the worlds, so it's not as much of a screaming moral emergency as it would normally be. And they have 'afterlives', so plausibly whoever designed the femptomachines already has mortality fixed. On the gripping hand, she has no access to his world without his help -- so she should try to treat him like the valuable trading partner that he is, because that's how she would want someone to treat her in the analogous circumstance.


"Bar also says that time is paused in your world so long as the door is closed and nothing else is forcing the worlds to be synchronized, so if you have urgent tasks waiting at home, you don't need to rush back," she continues. "That said, I would quite like to visit your world -- both so that I can see an alien world, and because if there are still things that are scarce, like those spells you mentioned, I can probably help give people more resources."


On the one hand, this is a ridiculous setup that he has no reason to believe in, and he's politely playing along hoping the point of it all will become clear eventually. And if she (or the supposed intelligent bar) is saying he can have some gold and go home, he should just take it and go.

On the other hand, if he's pretending to take her at her word, then he shouldn't give her access to Golarion without knowing what she (and potentially the rest of her world!) will do with it. It's probably irresponsible to import aliens without even checking if they're Evil or Lawful or anything.

Not that he has a way to check. He can wait for tomorrow morning and prepare a lot of detect spells and hope she doesn't beat them and doesn't take offense and has a detectable alignment which is at all predictive of everyone else from her world who she might bring over or who might follow her, up to and including whole new gods she might pray to... yeah, no.

On the gripping hand, which is Gorum's, if she needs him to open the door for her, she can just force him to do it. He doesn't have a quick suicide prepared and he can't fight a whole world of people who ostensibly have no magic but can clone themselves. For all he knows, that cube of light she was carrying is a dangerous weapon.

Maybe the door can only be opened willingly and they have no magic to control minds, but he'd be taking her word for it, so - better not to test it.

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