Nov 20, 2019 3:05 AM
Malak in Galatea
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The job did not start as a particularly interesting one. One minor noble craving status wants a particular painting; another noble doesn't want to sell said painting. The former asks around in seedy taverns after the infamous Owl of Sternhill, offers to pay a modest sum to arrange for the transfer of property. There are guards, but not terribly bright ones. There are traps, but not terribly dangerous ones. There's a celestial lion - that's novel, at least, but still not much of an inconvenience. And then there's the private art gallery, every piece bedecked with alarm spells. Not even very good alarm spells, none of them trigger when dispelled.

So, there they were, bag of holding filled to the brim with jewelry and idols (no reason to take only the contracted item, and when security is this bad why not?) eyeing the item they came in for - a painting of some overgrown forested ruins that no reasonable person would pay even a third of Malak's commission for, contemplating whether to try to fit the whole frame into the bag, or take it out and roll it up. Taking it out would involve either putting the frame back up, empty, or leaving it on the floor, empty, which would be sloppy and kind of unaesthetic. Buut the bag is kind of full, and the frame was not all that nice.

They give it a last look-over for traps, find none. They take the frame down, open up the back. They put on gloves, because snooty nobles don't like their expensive artwork being touched, and grab the canvas to start rolling it up.

It is about half a second and one awful sucking sensation later that they realize they really should have done another check for magical traps after they'd opened up the frame. Now they're stuck, by the looks of their surroundings, inside a painting that was actually possibly worth a little more than they thought.

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If they're inside a painting, it sure is one hell of a well-made inner design. One might wonder why go through the trouble of putting so much detail into something that's ultimately a glorified prison, but whatever the reason, there seems to be a lot of space to explore. The overgrown ruins look like they could plausibly have been part of a small town, a few hundred years ago, if small town buildings were built mostly of carved stone. The last of the afternoon sun filters through the canopy, and the place's the kind of warm that suggests it won't get much colder in the night.

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Gosh, this place is big. Or maybe it just teleported them to the middle of nowhere, that would probably be an equally effective way of dealing with most art thieves. Kind of expensive, though, since they still have their bag of holding full of all of Sir Whats-his-name's other display pieces.

(They check. It's still full of display pieces.)

They will climb a tree to see exactly how big this demiplane is/in the middle of nowhere they are.

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They are rather in the middle of nowhere! It is getting dark fast, but they can see: trees, trees, more trees, lots of trees, and perhaps those are mountains in the distance?

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Conveniently, darkness is absolutely no obstacle. Ah, the joys of dubious parentage.

Well, they could stand around here, or they could wander around exploring. Mountains are, if nothing else, a change of pace. They will head mountainward.

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The mountains are: really, really, really far away. On the way, there are more trees. The ruins extend... perhaps farther than they might have expected, some of it no longer obscured by More Trees now that they're walking.

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If the ruins extend this far, they're probably the sort of ruins that are riddled with traps and dangerous beasts. And treasure. They don't really have much space in their bag for more treasure, but if there's anything magical it's probably worth more by weight than a lot of the art, and being eaten by a dangerous beast is never pleasant. Neither, for that matter, is starvation. They keep their eyes peeled for creatures that look either dangerous or edible and start poking around some of the buildings.

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The buildings look mostly just like very old places where people used to live. Lots of stone aesthetics, and nothing really of value - things have either been looted or just consumed by nature. The few creatures they see are - animals. A couple of squirrels, some birds, perhaps a snake over there slithering away from them.

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Squirrels are probably edible. Snakes are venomous, and they can't remember if that means they're also poisonous or not. Birds are probably edible, but that would be weird - Birds are, however, a useful information source. They will call out to some.

"Excuse me - yes, I'm talking to you - have you seen any other humanoids around here?"

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The bird flies off.

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Rude. No, that's uncharitable, it is probably just not used to people. Or being talked to. It took a long time before the Sternhill pigeons were willing to tell Malak anything useful. And they don't even know which berries are suitable bribes and which are poisonous.

Towns generally have centers. Malak will try to find the center of this one, maybe there's an old temple or government office which might have some treasure worth taking. (Malak's other interest - people worth helping - seems likely to be absent here.)

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It's very organised and structured, it won't be easy for them to find something like a town centre.

...and there's light coming from the largest building there.

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Well, that's different.

Malak walks up to the building, turns invisible, and looks in.

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...it looks like a library. It has the basic layout of a library.

But it doesn't have any books. The shelves have titles on them and sorta book-shaped stone things in them and there are chairs and desks and tables and a little reception...

...the light is coming from way out back, its source hidden by the shelves.

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That is a little bit weird. They'll grab a book-shaped stone thing off a shelf (at random, it's not like they can read the titles. Which is a little weird, considering how many languages they speak.) and give it a closer look.

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It's lighter it looks, and looks like it's based on a book, aesthetically. If it was ever colourful, though, the paint has long since peeled off.

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So, either someone made a bunch of stone book replicas or all the books in the library were turned to stone. Either one seems like a tremendous waste of time and resources, unless the latter was the byproduct of something else.

They put the stone book back and head towards the light.

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There's a boy there. He's sitting in front of one of the stone books, and it's projecting a hologram in front of him. He looks entranced.

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What is the content of the hologram?

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Diagrams, pictures, letters, there's some sound... It looks like it's an extremely multimedia version of a book.

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Oooh. Probably best to introduce oneself then. Malak will step silently around some shelves before becoming visible again - don't want to scare the boy, after all - actually if they're going for non-scary the mask is maybe a bit much. And the armor. They make a gesture like brushing dust off their shoulders, and the chain links shimmer and takes on the appearance of dark grey cloth. They reach up as if to adjust their mask, and it fuses with their skin, giving them a more human face. (The kid looked human, and it's not like this is a very cosmopolitan area, he's probably never seen a tiefling before)

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They step back around the shelves, knocking on the last one as if it were a doorway.

"Hello?" (They try Imperial Common first.)

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The boy is entertained enough he probably wouldn't have noticed Malak even had they been visible, and he jumps when he hears them. He says something that's possibly a greeting in some other language.

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...not a familiar one. Where are they?

In case he's multilingual, Malak asks, "Do you understand this?" in every language they speak. When none of those work, they sigh and point to themself. "Malak."

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Self. "Kaede." Universal gesture for waiting.

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Whatever that gesture was it didn't look very threatening, so it probably wasn't a threat. Not that this boy looks particularly threatening. Headtilt.

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