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Ahmose in Worm
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Aaaah monstrous vermin!! He squeezes his nose closed with one hand and frantically bats them away from his face with the other. This stops him from casting the laundry spell, but he doubts making his face taste bad would make them go away, these vermin are clearly hostile.

There are more bugs incoming, a whole cloud of them. Ahmose abandons all stealth and steps through a portal to the top of the tallest building he can see. If he can find a pool, or even the river, he'll risk going underwater and hope that makes the bugs on him leave him be.

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As soon as he closes the portal to where he previously was, the insects stop acting with hostile intent, and disperse on the breeze.

From the top of this building, he can see that he is in a truly enormous city. The distance is fogged by rain, so he can't be entirely sure whether it ever ends, or whether it simply keeps going.

He can see the ocean from here, gray and forbidding. There's some kind of metallic castle built in it with a pearlescent dome visible where it interferes with the rain.

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Wow.

He'll still portal a few more times. Just in case. Try to find some - abandoned street or park or something, to get his breath back and try to calm down after the everything.

But, wow. Is that what Aktun is like? He knows he's not in Axis, because Axis doesn't have monster attacks, but - Sothis isn't that big! Could he be in Absalom? It's nowhere near his village, not enough for a Plane Shift error, but... maybe his portals are different?

Ahmose tries to approach a random person on the street (who did not see him portal anywhere) and ask where he is.

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The man he approaches -- a tall man dressed in long blue pants with unpatched holes and a simple shirt -- stares at him for a moment.

He replies in an unknown language, but probably the same one people were shouting in.

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Taldane? Kelish? Vudrani? Necril - that's not a real language, it was just a children's adventure book...

Aren't the names of countries and cities are the same in most languages? Has this man heard of Sothis? Osirion? ...Absalom?

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He has not.

When Ahmose doesn't understand him, he tries repeating himself more loudly and slowly.

When that doesn't work, the man waves a hand with one outstretched finger at him and walks away.

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Where in the world could he have landed? Shouldn't people anywhere in Garund or Avistan understand at least one of his languages?

Even if he somehow ended up in Tian Xia, he can make his way home as long as he knows which way that is. There's probably a way to do it without knowing where he's starting from - go north until he finds the Crown of the World, avoid freezing somehow, figure out which of two ways is Avistan, go south again - but he's a bit over-adventured for the day. 

(If he could only figure out how to open portals at an angle to each other, he could look through portal-chains until he saw a familiar-looking continent. He thinks he can maybe get somewhere by alternating which side of a portal he looks through? An experiment for another day.)

He'll try to find the richest-looking part of the city and look for any familiar temples, occasionally checking if people in the street can understand him. Everywhere has an Abadar's, right?

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This city doesn't appear to.

The nicest part of the city is probably the densely-built area by the sea-side. Despite the rain, there are still crowds of people flocking between shops there, buying many different goods. Set back a bit from the water are more of the tall buildings, with people coming and going.

Large metal carts travel the streets apparently autonomously. There are larger carts that carry groups of people all at once. There are red and green signal lights that control the passage of the carts.

None of the buildings along the waterfront are a temple to any god he recognizes, although there is a nice white building with what might be holy symbols worked into its decorative windows.

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Ahmose doesn't understand much of what he sees. He doesn't let that bother him; he's a poorly educated provincial and the world is vast and varied. He just needs to find out where he is, and which way home is, and then he can come back here sometime he's better prepared.

No-one here understands any language he speaks. They don't seem to understand when he asks for the major gods by name. He doesn't know that the gods all have the same name on other continents as they do around the Inner Sea, but it's still weird.

Also, he hasn't seen anyone but humans (and those monsters). It took him a while to realize, but Sothis always had the occasional half-orc or gnome or oread or gods-what-is-that-person. This place seems to just have humans. Maybe the other races live in separate quarters? He might not have seen anything like a representative sample, this city is so enormous. (There are no horses either, or any working animals really. A mystery for another day.)

All the women are - he's not sure what word to use - they're clearly not Osirian women. He hopes they're happier that way. It's a distant ache that he doesn't want to think about. He wants to get back home and rest and not think about any of this again until next week.

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After the tenth person who can't understand him he gives up trying. Someone in this city presumably has a translation spell but he can't find them and he can't make the locals guide him there.

Time to find out what his spell is really worth, then. He finds a secluded spot where he thinks no-one can see him, and concentrates.

 

Ahmose can open a portal anywhere he can see within a mile; the other side opens in hand's reach. But once a portal is open, he can look through it to open another one, to a place that is two miles away but only one through the first portal.

If he opens small portals, just big enough to look through, and closes each one after opening the next one, he can move his viewpoint by a mile every few seconds. Not in the city, where sightlines are limited; he aims his first portal above the rooftops, and goes horizontally from there.

The portals are always parallel to each other. He can only open a new portal at an eighty degree angle or so before he can no longer see through it. But once he has, he can move around his end of the portal, reorient, and go on. This means he can turn around in less than ten seconds, with some undignified scurrying around. (He dreams of having a big crystal ball, to put the view-portals in, so nothing coming out of the portal can hurt him, and going around that... not the time.)

 

He moves his view-portal along the shoreline, towards what seems to be either north or south, and looks for a quiet place where he can sit and work a few hours without any people or animals interrupting him.

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The city does eventually peter out, becoming less dense as he goes. He passes a cluster of hulking metal buildings, mostly empty, and then a final crossroad before the land turns to a scrubby forest, blasted by the wind off the sea.

Further on, he can see it break up into beaches and low-lying wetland. But the strip of forest grows over more rocky ground, and looks quiet enough that he's unlikely to be disturbed. With a bit of looking, he can spot a low butte that seems likely to keep him out of the questing jaws of any wildlife.

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He'll choose a spot that'll let him see anything approaching, ideally one that's hard to get to on foot. And then he opens a bigger portal, and leaves the unnamed city behind him.

 

Now he has time to explore properly. First, he makes a chain of portals several miles up, and looks back down. What does this area look like?

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Currently, overcast. But if he looks from below the clouds, he can see a good ways around. The area is mostly low-lying coastal marshes, steep hills, and forests. The absurdly large city has a number of smaller settlements ringing it. A large road is visible from even this height paralleling the coast.

There are many differences between the landscape which surrounds him and Osirion. Some are easy to notice, such as the damp. Others are harder to see immediately, but once seen can't be unseen.

And one big difference is how densely populated the area is. Even in the places where there are not actual clusters of buildings, there are still houses tucked into the woods. It's rare to find any spot which is more than a mile from a house.

Another is the lights. Everywhere is lit up -- not only inside the houses, but the streets are lit up. Walkways are lit up. The carts that travel the roads bring lanterns with them. And all that light reflects off the clouds, and serves to paint everything a pale, undifferentiated grey.

 

The city is built on a bay. A river runs down from the hills, past one side of the city, and empties out into the ocean. The ocean itself is huge, and home only to a few tiny boats and endless rolling waves. It's somewhat disconcerting, how flat the ocean appears compared to the rumpled landscape which borders it.

There are beaches. A large one, in the bay with the city, but also small ones scattered along the edge of the water. Some are well maintained and full of even white sands. The majority are small and muddy, or are instead gravel beaches, the rocks not yet worn away to sand.

The woods are alive. Even in the rain, birds call to each other in the trees, and the trees shift, sending spatters of raindrops pouring between their outstretched leaves. Beyond and behind that, the carts on the omnipresent streets make a faint and distant sound, entirely unlike anything he has heard, except perhaps the roaring of a great river.

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It's really like nothing he'd ever imagined. Why is everything lit in daylight? How many wizards must live here, to keep this civilization going? He'd heard that Tian Xia uses ritual magic to run their civilization and this might just be what that looks like. But he can't take the time to linger, because some of the things he might have to do will take a long time and eventually he'll grow tired and hungry.

The cloud cover is annoying. He wants to find a break in the clouds and make a chain of portals far far up, until the horizon curves and he can see whole continents and figure out where he is from that. (Opening a portal that far up generates a strong wind; it surprised him the first time he did it, but he knows to watch out for it now. If he makes only a small portal to look through, and braces himself and doesn't try to do something silly like stick his head through, he should be fine.)

It would take him hours to get that high up, though, so first he'll spend a little time looking for other cities, in case there's something useful. People probably don't speak other languages a few hundred miles from here, but maybe he can find a temple he can identify, or - something. 

If he spends a little time making a portal-chain along the coast, looking for other cities, what can he find?

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If he continues for a few minutes in the direction he initially went, he will reach both the end of the clouds and the outskirts of an even larger city.

This one is visible from a long way away, the settlements becoming increasingly dense until they merge into the outskirts of the city proper. The large road goes through this city, too. But it also splits off to encircle the city at a distance, making it look a bit as though the city is the center of a bullseye.

The sea seems to almost cut the pattern in half, the uninterrupted emptiness of the ocean a stark contrast to the packed streets of the city.

The densest part of the city is full of more tall buildings, but still nothing that he recognizes as a church. There is a large building with white marble columns and many people streaming in and out, but no visible holy symbol.

Eventually, he puts up a portal a few hundred feet away from some kind of adventurer in skintight leather armor, hanging from a pair of mechanical wings. The adventurer looks over in surprise, and starts circling over a thermal off the blackened ground below to get a closer look.

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Wait no he didn't mean to be noticed!! He closes the portal hurriedly. Stupid of him, not to look more carefully for fliers. Portals can be seen through both ways; he must have stood out against the background of the sky.

He has to spend a few minutes building the portal-chain again, more carefully to avoid any flying people this time. What is he hoping to find, anyway? Should he try going to that big building, or any other large building? Maybe he was too quick to give up on talking to people. But getting back into a city without anyone seeing his portals would take too much time. If he can't find anything useful in the next twenty minutes, he'll spend the time to look at the whole continent. He isn't sure if he can identify Tian Xia, but he can recognize all the other continents and that's just as good.

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He can find a lot of interesting things in the city in the course of twenty minutes! Whether they are useful is perhaps less clear. There is a tall building with a picture that could be a holy symbol, but not one he recognizes. There's a running fight between a group of people who have decorated their armor with bones, and a set of people in bright colors. There's a large park in the center of the city, with a pond in it. There's a large building with a huge window through which he can see a dragon's skeleton.

If none of those capture his attention, and he goes through the process of building a tower of portals high enough to see the continent, he can see that it isn't any continent he recognizes.

It's shaped something like a chair, with a high back, coming down to a seat and then forming a point. Below the bulk of the continent are two small legs. He is situated about a quarter of the way down the edge of the chair.

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What is it with Evil-looking adventurers fighting people in cities?! This is seriously concerning! Seeing two fights in the space of two hours suggests they are happening pretty much all the time!!

Ahmose is pretty sure Sothis wasn't like that, or at least if it was the authorities hid the fact very successfully. It makes him want to talk to people even less. What if he talks to the wrong people. What if they treat strangers with magic the way you would if there was a magical fight every hour in your main square.

 

So: he is on the eastern side of the chair-continent. It might be eastern Casmaron, or eastern Tian Xia. Not eastern Arcadia, there's a bunch of islands there. Eastern Garund, in the far south? Could they have huge cities where no-one speaks the common languages of the Inner Sea? It sounds improbable, but... And wasn't there another continent? He feels like he's forgetting something.

If this is Tian Xia, going north and over the Crown of the World should get him to Avistan, and then he can at least talk to people.

How long would that take? The world is twenty-five thousand miles around and he needs to go half that. A mile every two or three seconds means... uh... ten hours? He'd have to sleep halfway through, or at least rest.

He could go east or west instead of north. He'd see all the continents eventually that way. But if he goes in the wrong direction, it could take twice as long. Also, if he is in the far south of Garund, going north will take him home, and if he's in Casmaron, going north will lead to a sea and then he'll know to head west.

He'd best get started, then, and keep thinking once he's settled into enough of a rhythm.

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Going north will take him to a cold and bitter ocean, with visible chunks of ice floating in it. Heading west along the coast leads him around the curve of a great bay, and then further north into areas permanently covered with ice.

The land looks no more familiar.

How far will he press on before resting for the night?

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For a few hours, at least! The permanent ice looks promising and he shouldn't lose daylight.

But first, he'll pause to look for better shelter. This place is cold and he'd rather not stay here until dark. Can he find somewhere warm and sheltered to spend the night?

He's willing to go back to the city, but he isn't sure how that would actually help. He can't ask people for shelter for the night because he can't talk to them. He can't even ask for alms, becayse he hasn't found a temple he recognizes.

In Sothis there were homeless men and beggars and the thought of trying to figure out how they live is - intensely distressing. He sometimes dreamed of helping them stop living that way. Funny how it didn't turn out like that.

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The area near him is not rife with comfortable outdoor shelters. There are trees with drooping branches that offer some protection from the wind, but they are more-or-less soaked from the day-long drizzle. Luckily, the rain has petered off but the clouds have not, promising a warm night.

With a bit of searching he is eventually able to find a shack in the middle of the woods -- set at the end of a long dirt road, partially overgrown with grass -- which appears to be abandoned. The inside is dusty, although it does contain a simple mattress, and there are no lights or signs of anyone's presence.

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He's willing to trespass if it looks disused and he's not harming anyone and he can convince himself no-one should care if he used the mattress for a night.

He'll keep moving north until it gets dark - or until he gets too tired, in case it never gets dark that far north - and then he'll make his portals really really small and unnoticeable if you don't know where to look, and try to get some sleep. It may be a long time coming, with everything that's on his mind.

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The forest is not quiet at night. The sounds of animals moving around in the brush, the mating calls of birds, and the (individually) quiet peeping of frogs keep him company as he tries to fall asleep.

Once he does, he is awakened a few hours later by the distant sound of an engine. He doesn't quite fall back asleep before hearing the sound of boots squelching lightly in the mud near the front of the shack.

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He makes a handsign to Larry, and gently approaches the door, keys in hand. He inserts them into the lock quietly, and then unlocks it with the minimum amount of noise.

He takes a step back, and then eases open the door to see if the guy the security system picked up is still there.

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Damn it, this shack really looked disused! There were weeks of dust on that mattress! 

Ahmose had already decided to avoid contact, and he certainly doesn't want to talk to strangers whose shack he - didn't quite break into, but trespassed on, while groggy with sleep in the middle of the night. When the sound of boots wakes him up he glances through the portal showing him the path leading to the door, and when he sees men walking up it he opens a portal back to the sad lonely rock he came from.

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