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The Way of the Blue [Lantern OC]

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by AverusBlack, May 2, 2021.

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  1. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 01
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I'm going to say coming out the gate that I am not the best with consistent updates, but will do my best if I suspect people are actually enjoying the story. I don't do particularly well with motivation because blue is very much not my color.

    I sat up and gasped, waking up like I'd just come back from the dead. That's how it felt anyways, like that first lungful was the first. I sat on the ground for a moment panting as my heart thumped in my chest. I felt wired, like I was just in the middle of the most intense fight of my life.

    The problem with that is that I was sitting in a small crater and glowing blue.

    The other problem is that I wasn't entirely sure how I got there. I stood up slowly, checking myself over. No, feeling pretty good. Why does that feel so alien? I don't remember.

    I don't remember anything. What?

    Who am I?

    User has neither stated or thought their preferred self-designation.

    That was a voice in my head. I'm pretty confused but I have a definite surety that I'm not supposed to have voices in my head. That's one of the things they put you away for.

    Wait, who's 'they'? Put away where?

    I stopped for a moment to consider, since I didn't seem to be going anywhere. As I did, I began climbing up the crater incline. Turns out I'm in the middle of a grassy field with half-melted snow. Feels a bit like home.

    Ugh, okay, that's jarring. Like... mental links are broken? Something's wrong with my mind? Oh, that... the blue glow cut out for a second there and suddenly I could feel how chilly it is where I am. What? No, I don't... think I'm crazy. Granted, none of them ever do, but that's beside the point. I don't feel unstable, I'm able to reason things out, not in immediate danger. Except why am I warm in what's clearly a cold environment, why could I feel that for a moment?

    User is currently protected by an environmental shield. An emotional component temporarily interfered with this rings function by disrupting the user's hopes with a pulse of fear.

    Ring?

    I look down at my right hand, curling it into a fist in front of me.

    [​IMG]

    Oh. That ring. Why do I feel like I know that symbol? It feels... hopeful. Which is bizarre, or... it feels off? I think? Ugh, that sensation of dissonance is really uncomfortable. I'm not going to figure anything out standing in a field, though. Okay, I have a magical ring that-

    This ring is not based on arcane principles.

    -likes to talk to me. It's responding to my thoughts, so... ring, what are you, then?

    This ring is a highly advanced xenotechnological tool designed to allow the user to operate at a higher level than mortals are usually capable of.

    ...That... No, ignore the confusion. If you stop to try and work it out you're going to be standing in this field twelve hours from now wondering where to find a kitchen. Immediate priorities first. Ring, if you're so special, how do I use you?

    User is capable of expressing their hopes by focusing on the emotion of hope. The more strongly the user is experiencing the emotion, the stronger the user's constructs and control of the blue light. This ring is capable of recharging on ambient hope as a basic function of the blue light. The environmental shield provides the ability to survive in a wide variety of areas which would usually be hazardous or lethal to the user as well as providing flight and atmosphere. Its integrity is dependent on hope.

    Flight
    ?

    And then I'm flying. I should be terrified but this is AMAZING! I don't feel in any way out of control of my movement, the flight almost intuitive as I move, tearing out over the fields and passing over a treeline. I'm going faster, the trees becoming a blur beneath me and arcing up over a rise in the land to crest over a ridgeandtheresmoretreesandstop.

    I stop, flickering blue for a moment as my momentum just decides it's had enough and is going to pack up and go on vacation to nowhere. I didn't slow down, I just stopped dead in the-

    BOOM

    -air. Whoa. Okay, just... whoa. I broke the sound barrier. Holy crap. This thing doesn't screw around.

    Ring, state current charge.

    Current charge sits at 98%

    Fuck yeah. Okay, I need... people. Civilization. Housing, culture, all that good stuff. Find me somebody in this place worth talking to so I can find out why I'm here. There has to be some answers out there.

    Location found.

    I can... not see it exactly, but I know where it is. Like a beacon in my head and the worst part is that it's not even the weirdest feeling I've had so far. Okay, lets move. Ring, explain to me what the hell you meant by constructs?

    User is capable of creating technological, working or solid objects using the blue light as a focus.

    Okay. That burns power though and I'm... not sure how to find 'ambient hope' to recharge from. Something to work on, I suppose.

    I wonder if these people will be nice?
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2021
  2. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 02
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    The people here are not friendly.

    Okay, that's... not really fair. I'm not sure where I am and having guards around the town walls seems sensible, but those gates are firmly closed and the people manning the walls don't look all that friendly. Nobody has approached those gates the entire time I've been hanging out here but I'm not entirely sure if they're always like that, or if I've accidentally spooked them by flying above the sound barrier. I suppose if I felt obliged to build walls to protect the town there's probably a reason for needing them. I mean, it's just a wooden palisade but they're trying.

    Nothing for it, really. Time to face the music.

    I drop down out of the tree I've been sitting in and rise up into the air, making myself visible. Lowering down to the packed dirt road - wow, talk about primitive, not even stones - I begin walking to the gates. Ring, if these people decide to attack first and ask questions later, what defensive options have I-? No, stupid question. Constructs. It said I could just make armor.

    Construct armor plates form around me, resembling... I can't place the name. Mecha-armor? Iron armor? No, that's... power armor. That. Wait, I just remembered that. The armor snaps into being, opaque and glowing brightly as I realize I might be able to remember given enough time. Need to focus on the here-and-now for now, though. "Hello up there! I don't suppose you'd be willing to give some directions, would you?"

    The guards look at each other, seemingly uneasy about answering me at first. There's some hesitation there. "Who are you? What are you?"

    "Good questions I really don't have answers to. I woke up in a field somewhere in-" I take a second to think about it, then point. "-that direction. I went looking for the nearest place with people and... you're it."

    "Why... what do you want from us?" The guards don't give me a chance to answer, getting pulled out of the way as the person I presume to be their commander interrupts them and shoves his way through.

    "Get out of the way, you lackwits! Move!" The guards seemed to just have a motley of gear on, like they strapped whatever they could find or scavenge but this guy seems to have an actual uniform of some kind. That implies a government, or... at least, something like it. He looks older, grizzled. I'd guess mid-fifties. Bit of gray in the hair, there. "You! Stranger! Are you responsible for that sound earlier?"

    "Aah... maybe?" I shrug helplessly. "It'd be bad form to start this off by lying and it wasn't intentional. I've been like this for less than a day and still finding out what I can do. I can't tell you what I am because I honestly don't know, I'm just looking for... anything, really. A place to stop and put my feet up and mull this over where I'm not sleeping in a tree."

    He appears to be giving it some thought. "I watched you fly to the road. You could have simply entered the town if you'd wanted, wall or no wall."

    "Yes, that's true. I felt it'd be a bit rude."

    "In that case, if you give your word that you will conduct yourself peacefully, you may enter. That is not an invitation to stay indefinitely, however."

    "Yes, I understand." I rise up off the ground, the construct armor flaking away as I do it. I come to face level with the man, hovering over the side of the parapet he's standing on. "What is this place?"

    "This town is Durjak. You look human. Are you?"

    I nod. "I like to think so, anyways."

    "I've never seen anyone as fat as you who wasn't a noble."

    Ouch. Well, not like I haven't been hearing jabs about that my whole life. "I'm not a noble, no." I can see where he's coming from. I'm... well, it's obvious whoever I am, I haven't been taking care of myself. "But I'm pretty sure that's not going to last much long-"

    EEEEAAAGGGGHHH!!

    I drop out of the air, hitting the ground as my everything hurts what the hell I really hope this stops soon oh thank fuck. The soul-searing level of pain I was just experiencing quickly gets replaced by a static tingling sensation like when your leg falls asleep. I lay on the ground panting, staring up at the parapet the commander is leaning over to look down at me. "...Are you dead?"

    I take a breath to answer him but I can't seem to tense my abdomen the way I would to raise my voice. It comes out as a hoarse whisper instead, weak. "Nope, not dead." The sensation's worn off and I try lifting my head, looking down at myself, then dropping it back. Ring, what the fuck.

    User's hopes about body modification prompted this ring to alter the user's body to closer match the user's mental image of what you should be like.

    Why was that agonizing?

    You didn't hope it wouldn't be.

    Right. Thanks for that. I push myself up slowly, expecting it to hurt but it doesn't. Rising off the ground I look down at myself. Huh, not... I don't look like a model or anything but I actually look like something close to fit for once in my life. That feels like cheating.

    Rising back up to the parapet, the commander is still watching me with a mix of curiosity and horror at how I changed myself. "Are you some kind of shapeshifter?"

    "I have literally no idea. Can you please just... point me to an inn or... at least somebody who I can trade a favor to for a place to stay or some-"

    He points to the street. "Follow it until you see the house with the red bricks. You'll know it, it's hard to miss." I nod to him and press on, passing over the wall and lowering myself in front of the gate as the townspeople try to press on with their business without staring at me too much. Their clothes look rough. Homespun? Maybe. Pretty plain looking, anyways. The only ones wearing leathers I've seen so far are the guards. The men and women don't seem to be dressing too differently, trouser's and tunics seem to be the order of the day. Or perhaps the century. These people don't look to be the bleeding edge of technology.

    At least nobody is bothering me, but... on the other hand, nobody is bothering with me either. I'm not sure what to make of this place. I need information but I don't even know what these people use for money. Ring, can we make money?

    This ring is capable of transmutation, but requires large amounts of power to achieve.

    Ah. Well, that's a bummer. But if I need ambient hope to recharge, I need to find a way to get these people to feel it. I'm... not sure how to go about doing that. I don't know anything about them. Oh, there's red brick.

    The building in question is only a single story deal but it's larger than the others and the chimney is far larger than the houses. Not much surprise, I guess. It has windows all along the street but they're tinted yellow-orange, or... no, the lights inside are some kind of lantern with a glowing point of light inside, flickering like.... no, that's fire. They have fireballs in lanterns as light sources.

    What.

    I think it's time I got some answers. Jogging up towards the inn - Wow, that's a lot easier to do than it was half an hour ago, holy crap - I stop in front of it and grip the door, pullng it open.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
  3. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 03
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I... don't know what I expected but somehow this doesn't surprise me.

    The furniture is actually pretty decent quality woodworking. Bare rafters with a space above them where the roof supports are. Looks like they have some kind of loft or storage space up there. There's only a few people inside with it being the middle of the day and all but the moment I step in I'm instantly the focus of everyone's attention. Guess that's what I get for glowing.

    Making my way through the room I give a couple awkward nods to people who all look like they have no idea what to make of me. By the time I reach the bar the bartender is staring at me too. Nobody objects as I sit down. "Hello, I'm... a bit new to the area. Let's start with the basics. What do you use for money around here?"

    "Uh... silver and gold. Platinum, if we can get it. Everyone's got different stuff so the only real value's the purity, y'see." I nod to that. "There a reason you're glowing blue, mate?"

    "Seems to be my color today. Okay, while I don't have any precious metals on me-" I can see his face sour slightly. "-I do apparently have one of the most powerful tools ever, so let's trade. I need information and a place to stay for the night while I plan my next move. You?"

    The bartender is giving me the most curious stare, but looks away as a couple of people enter the bar behind me. I glance behind me and... yep, they're staring at me too. I wave a little. "Hiya, fellas. Don't mind me."

    "Did you really fly over the wall? Make an armor suit outta nothin'?" The speaker is one of the men who just entered. It's one of the guards, his helmet in one hand and his other hand resting on the pommel of a genuine, actual sword. Wow.

    "Yeah, but... apparently I have a pool to work out of, limited power. That stuff burns power so I've been leaning towards not using it much until I figure out how to renew it. With that said... I'm broke, so I'm looking to trade favors for information and some hospitality. Whats up?"

    The men look a little confused for a moment, the guard shrugging. "The... moon?" I blink, then make a 'go on' motion with one hand. "We can probably help you blue man, but we have problems too. We've been getting raided. Not every traveler coming into town, but enough of them that folks are getting itchy about trying to come here. We need that trade to survive. Our scouts find nothing or just don't return. We stopped sending them out." He shakes his head. "If you can find out what it is, you could just fly away and escape. You can obviously protect yourself long enough for that, at least. Help us find the raiders and get rid of them and you'll have whatever help you want."

    I take a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "You mean right now?"

    "...No?" He looks confused, a few of the others chuckling. The guard sighs. "My names Zack. What's yours?"

    "No idea!" I say it cheerfully, smiling. "I plan to think on it tonight. You on duty?"

    "Nope."

    "Come sit with me then, and let's talk."
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2021
  4. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 04
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I'm pretty sure this is supposed to be wine. It tastes a bit weak, but I'm not really complaining since I don't think I particularly like the taste of alcohol. It took me about ten seconds of thinking about it when I realized it's probably a water purity thing, a little alcohol keeps it from getting undrinkable when stored. Or at least that's what I figure, since this practically tastes like it.

    "You're really that new?"

    "Yep. I woke up about five hours ago in a small crater. No idea who I am, where I was, nothing." I take a sip. "I mean, now I know I'm in Durjak but that doesn't really help if I don't know where Durjak is."

    He nods slowly. "It's... complicated. Six months ago we were a small town in a peaceful country called Dak. There came a night... We woke up and went about our day like any other, but strange travelers came to the town. Not humans. Beast-people in strange paints. They weren't hostile, but we'd never seen anything like them. Short and shaped like animals, but they stood like men." He holds his hand at around the level of his stomach.

    "None of us spoke their language. When we all realized there was no talk to be had they moved on. We never had guards before that." Ah, that would explain the haphazard way the guards dress. They really did just cobble together whatever they had or hunted. "It took us nearly a month to build the wall. We never saw the beast people again. We got other visitors, though. Sometimes human, sometimes... other things. I've seen things twice the size of a man with green skin wearing a bear pelt his traveling band swore he killed himself. As in, by himself. People with strangely shaped ears and strong magic, wizards, people with amazing devices... mostly merchants and whatever weird guards they hire."

    "Nobody in town panicked when they saw me and I wasn't sure why. I mean, I glow blue."

    "Not even in the top ten, blue man." He shakes his head. "You sure you don't got a name?"

    "I'm not even sure if tomorrow I'm going to be a man. If I can reshape myself however I want, it's completely new to me and how I look isn't my considered opinion."

    He's giving me an odd look. "...Okay, Blue it is for now, then." I nod, then take a sip while I listen to him. "Anyways, it's not just the visitors. Hunting in this area has gotten far more dangerous since then. Stuff we've never seen before... there's things out in the woods now that nobody remembers, in no book, nothing."

    "You have a library?"

    "No, no." Damn. "Just books for useful things, herblore and records and such. But even the plants have changed. It's as though Durjak and everything around it were scooped out of the world and put into another. Everyone who travels here is the same, strangers to this place. All we have in common is finding ourselves here without explanation, like you." ... "None of us forget our names though."

    "Yeah, it's a bit odd, can't deny it." I sigh a little. "I'd really hoped you guys were just a small town in a wider government. It would've been nice to be able to get a handle on this easily."

    "Yeah, probably. We're just trying to get by, really. Captain Mason has some maps of the area, I could probably convince him to let you take a look at them if we're going to find the raider camp."

    "We? You planning to come with me?"

    "Ah..." He frowns. "I'm not really... I was a merchant before this, heh. Not if I can help it."

    "Alright." I go quiet for a moment, looking down into the cup. "Okay. I'm in. I asked for information and you've thrown in your end of the bargain so it's only fair, I suppose." Finishing the wine, I put the cup down. "Ring, can you get me a map of this area? Lets say, fifty kilometer range."

    A construct map appears above my ring hand on the bar and I lean back a little while Zack rears back slightly. The town is clearly marked, as is my little crater. "Any of this look familiar to you, Zack?"

    He nods, leaning in to look more closely at it. "Yeah, actually. That ring of yours is why you're like that?"

    "Yeah."

    "Magic artifact?"

    "Not according to it."

    "Caaareful with those." He's giving me a serious look. "The town has a rule when dealing with travelers - don't fuck with magic. We don't understand it and it's incredibly dangerous. Even stuff like these..." He gestures at the fireball lamps. "Specialist pieces, nothing we made. If you don't understand it, it's dangerous."

    I nod slowly. "That's... probably good advice. I've only had it a day but I'll have to keep that in mind while trying to learn how to use it."

    "Yeah, don't blow up the town or anything if you mess with it tonight." He knocks back the rest of his glass and stands up. "I'm gonna go talk to the captain and let him know you're gonna help."

    "I'll see you first thing in the morning, then." He waves to me without turning around, headed out the door. When I look down I find the bartender, sly bastard that he is, has refilled my cup.

    Who am I?

    Whoever I want to be.

    While that's technically true, it's... all the things that make me me is an amalgamation of my past experiences and the ways they shaped me. How much of me is me when that's removed and why can't I remember?

    When I think of my own self-identity I don't really have anything definite. I'm clearly male but if I can make myself into anything, do I want to stay that way? No, no. That's... probably the wrong way to be thinking about this. The ring is something that runs on hope, right? So I need to try and think of this from a hopeful angle.

    Ambient hope. What will help me cause that?

    This place is strange and dangerous. I don't know much about myself but I do know that people perceive men and women in different ways, whether they intend to or not. I'm going to become a creature of hope and that job will get easier if people are willing to trust me. Oh, I'm being a bit daft. Ring, state remaining charge.

    89% charge remaining.

    What? Oh, the... reshaping me must have eaten up a bit of power. How much, exactly?

    Complete refabrication of the users body draws between 5%-10% power.

    Whoo. Bit expensive. Okay, so if I'm going to do that then it's in my interest to just choose something once and then stick with it for a bit until I can find something I can use to charge the ring. Maybe there's some kind of artifact that collects hope?

    I'm almost startled out of my chair when the air next to me unfolds and... what the hell am I looking at?

    It's vaguely shaped like a lamp, or maybe lantern but the metal is a dull blue with bright blue lines flowing across the casing. It's shaped vaguely like the sigil on my ring with a pair of fan-like handles on either side. The center of it is a bright core of light that... that...

    I wipe the moisture from my eyes. It's beautiful.

    Seriously, what am I looking at?

    User hoped that the personal battery of this ring be unsealed from it's subspace pocket.

    I can recharge?

    You can recharge.

    Hooow?

    User need simply hold the ring up and state a recharge. A short oath to reaffirm ones commitment to their light is a traditional accompaniment.

    I see.

    ...

    I hold the ring up to it, ignoring the looks I'm getting, and close my eyes. A verse.

    "In darkest day, with dauntless might,
    Face down despair, continue to fight
    Stand tall against the blackest night
    You will not fall, for hope burns bright.
    "

    Ring at 100% charge.

    That's what I like to hear.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2021
  5. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 05
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Slowly drifting up out of being asleep, I go from dreaming about... something about spaceflight... approaching a star? It's already slipping away from me as I feel my mind coming into focus and sleep drops away. I'm not awake but I'm becoming aware of my surroundings, disinclined to get up just yet while my mind slowly recalls the weirdness of yesterday.

    Then something brushes my face and I am awake.

    I snap up in bed and open my eyes only to startle what looks like small animal roughly the size of a raccoon and kind of shaped like one. "EAGH!"

    "AAGH!"

    There's a moment of hesitation where both of us freeze, staring at each other. It's got brown fur, the same color as the wood around it with a very thick tail - good gods that tail just goes on for days, it must be the length of its whole body - and an elongated body. The markings form a sort of mask around its face but it's not the same as a raccoon's markings and...

    I'm remembering what a raccoon is. The pulse of blue causes both of us to relax, the animal eyeballing me but apparently deciding I'm not going to eat it immediately. "Oookay, you... scared me. No idea what you are but you do you and I'll leave you alone."

    It relaxes immediately. Maybe it's sophont? It understood me, anyways. I sit down on the bed and rub my face a bit as it wiggles its way over to sniff at me, then go about exploring the room. "How'd you even...? Oh. I guess there wouldn't be window screens here, would there?" It doesn't seem inclined to have a conversation about it. Maybe it can't?

    Whatever. No harm, no foul. I stand up and approach the window, then rise and fly out of it instead of bothering with going down the stairs and bothering the innkeeper, who I recall being very pleased when I transmuted a small chunk of gold for him. Technically I could leave now since I basically have what I wanted but I gave my word I'd help these people. When I leave, this place will be better for it and whatever happens, they were the first to help me.

    As I approach the gates it appears Captain Mason is there. No sign of that Zack fellow but I suppose it is a bit early, still. He watches me approach and land but when I hold my arm out to shake his hand he grabs my wrist instead, surprising me for a moment.

    "Zack told me you intend to do something about the raiders who've been disappearing my townspeople."

    "That's the plan, yeah."

    "Alright. I'm happy to take a chance on a friendly stranger if it means not seeing more lives fall apart over that kind of grief. I heard you ended up paying our innkeeper after all... somehow. I won't ask, stranger's secrets are theirs to keep." He makes a dismissive gesture. "But if you're still willing to do this regardless, you have my thanks."

    "I'll return and let you know what happened." Up into the air and commence with the zoom. There's a thump sound behind me as I snap from 'standing still' to 'getting the fuck out now' and move upwards until I'm about half a kilometer into the sky. Let's see what this baby can do.

    Ring, scan the area. Yesterday you gave me the highest concentration of people. Now I want to find every group of people in this area. Mark them out for me so I can save Durjak.

    A blue HUD appears laid over my vision. Ohhh, I could get used to this. Suddenly I can... not see, but I have a much better sense of how the area is laid out. Waypoints appear over my vision, laid across the forest. There's almost two dozen of them, that's kind of surprising. Okay, remove every group that doesn't have weapons.

    None of the marks disappear.

    Okay, that's... not helping, I guess. I suppose I can understand the need for self-defense if people around here are getting ambushed, but for all I know these groups are the raiders and it's not a single unified group as much as a bunch of opportunistic nomads passing through the area. If that's the case, a strike isn't going to stop this problem.

    Still, that's just supposition on my part. I need to know more, so lets remove every marker with less than three people since a group that small is unlikely to successfully ambush a trading party. That leaves only four groups, actually. Nice. That's a lot easier to deal with.

    Let's go talk to some of them.

    I zoom down, my fall turning into an arc as I approach the first group. I really need to be able to assess these people. Ring, how well do you work with other peoples hopes?

    This ring is capable of augmenting the user with additional sensory perception allowing them to assess the hopes of others. A strong source of ambient hope is capable of adding additional charge to this ring. Additionally, the user is constantly emitting a low-effect fortification of the hopes of everyone around them within a 200 meter radius with a variable to that radius depending on the strength of the user's hopes at any given time.

    Okay, so... mind reading, but also not. As I approach the first group I slow in the air. Show me.

    Looks like they hope for... security, shelter, a place to belong and home. They're lost too. If they're still here when I'm done I'll return and see what I can do to help them. They may not know about Durjak and I'm not seeing anything malicious here.

    Time to move on. A flicker and... wait, what was that? Ring?

    User performed an FTL transition to the designated group co-ordinates.

    FTL-? I can do that? No, no, task at hand. I have a town to save. I look at their hopes... They're trying to reach a land far east of here where they hear there's a large kingdom. That's something to bear in mind for later. Not the ones I'm looking for though, they're just passing through here and don't even know about the danger. When I'm done, they never will either.

    Moving on.

    Another transition and I'm above the third group. Let's see...

    Ah.

    Hoping to find somebody in particular in a caravan.

    I fooouuuuund yoooouuuuuuu.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2021
  6. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 06
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    My first instinct is to jump in and just fly down there and talk to them. On about three seconds of self-reflection that seemed like a really bad idea. I took to heart what Zack said, magic is a thing here and it's dangerous enough that there's a cultural taboo over it that developed in the short time they've found themselves here. So magic is Dangerous with a capital D.

    Note to self, try and learn magic. Whatever it really is.

    I got sidetracked while thinking on appearances last night but at least I came by it honestly. Now I have to consider it seriously though. How do I want to approach this? It's entirely possible that they have some good reason for doing this so I can't justify coming down like some kind of hammer and I don't think that's what hope should be all about anyways. You don't inspire hope by being a justicar. You do it by being a keeper of the peace, an arbitrator.

    So how do you convey to people that you're a savior instead of a soldier? When you're as powerful as I seem to have become it's difficult to walk the line between amazing and terrifying. It's not just that either, I have to consider the consequences of the approach I take. If I lean into the priest or monk approach, I risk developing a following. Is that something I want to do? These things have a way of getting out of hand of the people who started them and the last thing I want is to accidentally inspire a jihad 500 years from now after I'm dead and gone. Hope was Jesus Christ's thing too and look how that went in the long run.

    Urgh. Getting things like that... without context is jarring. Like remembering a reference you saw once when you were six years old and you remember that but not what you were doing or who you were with or anything else. So frustrating but if strong emotions interrupt the ring I can't focus on that too much.

    Do I want a following? It might be easier to organize people into helping each other if they believe there's some divine intervention going on and emphasizing that would cause my presence to spread that hope like a wake behind a boat wherever I go.

    Okay. So we're going for the priestly angle, then? No, no. Chanting and such isn't... isn't my thing. Why not a blend, then? Something like a Buddhist monk, perhaps. Just without the Buddhism.

    My clothes - the jeans, sweater and boots I was wearing - vanish as the ring transmutes the air around me into winding robes that fit loosely. Blue with a black trim and a stripe of white running along one side. The jeans change to baggy pants. Something a martial artist might use, perhaps. The shoes change to sandals and the blue sigil that's been glowing at my chest splits, a pair of them placing themselves to either sides of my shoulders instead.

    Yes, this is good. I'll take the time to work out what kind of body I want later, that's not so important right now.

    I lower myself down from the sky, placing my hands together in front of my chest, palms in contact with one another. I generate a large blue sigil to glow just behind my head and another just in front of my forehead. The camp below me is beginning to take notice, shouts of alarm ringing out as they spot me and half the camp scatters to try and find weapons.

    Yeah, I can see that this is going to be a trial if I want to do it diplomatically.

    I hover just above the ground without touching it, watching them as the now-armed fighters begin to rush me. They're a mix of humans, at least three of the beast-men that Zack described - I think they're some kind of cat? - and the rest are what I swear are...

    ...There's no way.

    Seriously?

    What I can only describe as cat-boys in armor are now trying to swing swords at me.

    I was not prepared to deal with today. I mean, I'm prepared to deal with attackers but I feel like it's difficult to take this seriously when I'm dealing with...

    Okay, kinda done with this now but I don't want to hurt them. Ring, we can store stuff, right? Is there anything stopping me from taking their weapons?

    Several dozen threads of light fan out around me as the swords, axes, cleavers, machetes and spears vanish almost simultaneously.

    Nothing is stopping you from taking their weapons.

    The attackers all switch from rushing me to stumbling over each other in confusion as they try to work out where all their stuff went. Now if they don't run away first, they might listen. "Attacking me is unnecessary. Even if it had worked, I'm not convinced you'd actually succeed. Does this camp have a leader? Someone to speak for you?"

    "NOW!"

    Wha-ARGHBLEGHBLEGHBLE

    I'm being hit with some kind of lightning and it's gone right through the environmental shield, knocking me flying out of the sky. I transition to the side by hoping not to get hit by a followup and form construct armor, a tower shield and a mace. Paladin style construct armor, because today's asswhooping is brought to you by our sponsor, the school of 'this is what happens when you hurt people and they want you to stop'. I have the ring control my movement and ping-pong my way through the crowd, smacking them with the shield and mace in equal measure, mostly knocking them flying or stunning them rather than trying to seriously break them.

    THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP.

    A few seconds later, a dozen of them are on the ground groaning and the others are hesitating. "Please stop. I don't want to fight you." Transition just as another bolt of lightning strikes where I was. Ring, was that you?

    Control of personal agility is still being handled by this ring.

    Oh, I suppose I did tell you to do that, didn't I? Nice to know you can do more than follow only literal instructions. I need to deal with whoever is throwing those lightning bolts, though. Ah, there you are.

    It's a human woman dressed in black leathers. There's runes or glyphs glowing in the air in front of her. Ring, record those and stop the fighting. She's probably the leader.

    I bring the tower shield around as she strikes one more time, cables of blue light whipping out at her at the same time. They form clamps on her hands as she tries to sidestep them but no, we'll not be continuing this, thank you. Dismissing the shield I pull her up into the air and over to me. "Seriously, all I want to do is talk to-"

    "DIE, INVADER!" The ring moves me just as I realize her eyes are beginning to glow, the suicide blast meant to envelop me instead only destroying her camp and... shit.

    That's a lot of injuries. I don't want these people to die, not without knowing why they did it. They could be coerced but even if they're not, they need to face justice and this isn't it. If the ring can heal me, maybe I can heal others.

    I'm already flying back to where I was a few seconds ago. I don't want these people to die! Heal and restrain!

    Blue threads fan out around me and touch the humans, beast-men, cat-people and I swear that thing is a fish man but I'm not willing to testify to it. Restore with the scan we took earlier. Restore. Restore. Restore. Restore. Restore. Restore. Restore. Restore. Restore. Restore. Restore.

    Done.

    I have the ring bring them together, using constructs to restrain their wrists and legs. I'm getting a lot of glares but nobody is talking.

    "Okay, can we have a conversation now?"
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2021
  7. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 07
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "Don't kill us!"

    Several of the panicked beast-man's associates turn their heads to look at him. "Khumu, if he was going to do that, he'd have just let us die when Navra blew herself up." His tone is entirely that of an adult explaining to a child that toast is, in fact, re-cooked bread. Khumu, who upon closer inspection looks suspiciously like a leopard or jaguar, pins his ears back and bares his teeth in... embarrassment, apparently. Pretty angry looking but I guess non-humans just roll that way.

    "I told her. I told her a hundred hundred fucking times but that dumb bitch never listened." I walk around the edge of the group until the one who said that is in sight. Oh, it's one of the cat boys. He spots me and shakes his head. "I told her that she shouldn't try that spell but she always thought she was so goddamned smart. Look at her now. Except you can't because she's a crater."

    "Yeah I'm... not entirely sure that would've worked even if I hadn't just moved away from her. But since you're the most talkative one so far, you get elected to speak for them over this."

    "Hey!" "He's not in command!" "He doesn't spe-"

    I put them on mute. I'd like to get this done today, not stand around debating the merits of bandit command structures. "Alright. Mind giving me a short summary of why you've been raiding travelers?"

    "We weren't raiding them. At least, that's not how it started." He looks sour, slightly hunched over like a child who's been caught red-handed and isn't very happy about it. "Navra hired us to recover some books at first. You know, magic stuff. Fancied herself a mage, only the dumb bitch had no knack for it. That and an arrogant streak a mile wide. We've been running all over the countryside for months looking for mages but mostly all we've found is traders. Sometimes they have stuff, but... no teachers? Good luck with that."

    "Obviously you can't pay mercenaries that way so after a couple months, we started knocking over their gold chests too. Without that it was sometimes valuable stuff we could trade. Frankly, living in the woods like this is shit but how do you walk away from a job when the one who hired you has an obsession with frying people with lightning?"

    "Tie them up first."

    "Easy to say when you're... whatever the fuck you are." He looks away from me, frowning. "Look, I'm not going to pretend most of us are sorry for what's been going on. They aren't. But I'm smart enough to know when somebody is just trying to help and... you could have just let us die and called it day. Thank you for not doing that."

    I don't say anything, watching him for a moment and letting him shuffle uncomfortably. "You've been strangling a nearby town's trade. Trade they need to survive. I don't have a prison to stick you in, I'm not going to just cut you loose... So here's what we're going to do. I'm going to take a walk around this camp now and gather up anything which looks valuable. Then, one by one, I'm going to let you retrieve anything personally important to you and then the whole lot of us are going to go to Durjak, where the guard captain can decide what to do with you. If he just says 'kill the lot of them' I'm not going to let him do that but at the very least you're going to pay back your debt to that town, even if it's just manual labor for a year or two. Something. You took from others, it's now time to give back."

    The others are being surprisingly calm about this. One or two are fighting against the restraints but not getting anywhere all they're really doing is annoying their associates next to them. The cat-man sighs. "That... is probably fairer than this group expected to get. Just... not all of us wanted to do this. I'm not saying we're innocent, we're not, but it's hard to tell your boss no when she can set you on fire with some gestures and words."

    "Noted. Please sit back down." He rejoins the group and the restraints envelop him again. "Alright, campers. Sit tight while I go have a look about."




    Actually, it's kind of surprising how much stuff they had there. It wasn't just chests of money, though there were two of those. There were books on magic, random stories from other cultures, scrolls, a few gems, jewellery, some pretty high quality melee weapons and lots of arrows, bows, even a few guns.

    And a plasma gun.

    It's not functional. There's no power source, according to the ring. But what the fuck is a plasma gun doing here? I had the ring scan it so... now I can make plasma guns, I guess, but when I tried forming a construct of one it turns out they're really power intensive so I think I'd rather not. Something to keep in my back pocket, I guess. I might be able to trade it to somebody for other technology.

    As we approach Durjak the giant glowing blue cube I'm holding the group in is drawing some alarm, but since most of them have seen me already or word of me has gotten around there isn't any real outright panic. Mason is on the wall watching me land and starts his way down when I drop the construct and deposit the group on the cobblestones.

    "Blue man, you're back. With new friends too, no less. This the group?"

    "Yeah. They were being led by some crazy mage woman who I'm pretty sure was trying to use fire on me, but blew herself up instead. They claim at least some of them were under duress."

    That gets a snort from one of the gua- oh, that's Zack. Yes, I can see why he'd find that funny. Mason doesn't laugh but he does smile in a vicious sort of way. "Serves her right, then. As for them, I don't really give a shit why they did it. I have dead friends because of them." He glares at the group. "I suppose I can assume you won't let me just get rid of them, will you? Or they wouldn't be here alive right now."

    "Yeah, lets not. What they can do is help the town. Your wall needs reinforcing and now you have some free laborers for getting that done. Same with farming, repairs, clean up... I imagine a few years of that might drum some humility into them. This-"

    I deposit the chests, weapons gems and jewelry around me onto the street. That gets some definite gasps but Mason only looks surprised. "-is what I collected from their camp. It will pay for materials and the extra food needed to support new additions to the town. Also I noticed your guards gear is kind of crap and figured the weapons would come in handy."

    "They most certainly will. I find myself surprised by the lengths you're going to." He looks over at the group, turning his head. "You think a couple years of living with us is going to change them? We'll have to guard them non-stop, you know."

    "I think that if you show them empathy and teach them that they can succeed in a community without killing anything then yeah, maybe. I can't control how you handle any of that once I leave, but... I'm powered by hope. Helping others is... what I do now. It's what I'm for.

    "I won't forget that Durjak was the first place to welcome me here, but there's others out there. If the whole world is like this, then there are people out there right now who need saving. So it's time to get to work."

    "I'll drink to that." "AYE!" Mason's guards back him up and he nods as they speak up. "Durjak will always be open to you, blue man. Gods go with you."

    "You too, Captain."
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2021
  8. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 08
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I recall a small group of people who didn't know where they were or how they got here when I began this, this morning. Heh, it's not even lunchtime yet. Not sure what I'll do for food but I suppose there isn't anything stopping me from dropping into Durjak with the awesome FTL transition thing this ring does. Part of me wants to go exploring but priorities.

    I have the ring transition me to the edge of the camp I first scanned when I began searching, finding myself facing more animal people. These ones are different from Khumu. Where Khumu was only about as tall as my stomach these guys are all human sized and I can recognize the animals they're supposed to be. That's not what marks them out to me, though. Their body armor vaguely resembles what I came up with as a generic power armor construct. Get a scan of that, I think. The boots they're wearing are heavy looking and the plates covering them are connected with a flexible mesh that puts me in mind of backpack straps for half a second. It's clear that the armor is meant to enhance their strength but the ring only seems to think it's about twice the regular strength of a fit human male, not super strength or something. That'd be very unnerving to come across this early but frankly the stuff I've seen just in the last day or so has convinced me that I could walk into a cave one day and find it full of clone troopers and a very confused Jedi. I don't think I'd even be surprised by it now.

    Randomly remembering cultural references without remembering anything about the actual culture is starting to make me wonder what the hell happened to me, because that's a very specific kind of amnesia. It kind of implies all the memories and knowledge is there but the connections are broken somehow and every time I reconnect one it's my mind moving sideways from something I'm thinking about to this other thing that was only vaguely related to it as a metaphor. It's like remembering the name of a thing you spent hours thinking about but recall the next day without any issue at all.

    Thankfully, these folks don't seem to be the 'shoot first' types. They're a little tense and one of them is muttering quietly so they're probably reporting that I'm here but they're not pointing the strange looking - scan - rifles they have directly at me. Oh, that's disappointing. It's basically a conventional gun, just designed better. Still, maybe I can make use of that somehow. I hold my hands up, showing they're empty. "Hello there. I'm not a threat or anything, I'd just like to have a talk, if that's alright?"

    The two guards - one of them a bear, the other some kind of canine - wave me over. "Who are you and how did you just appear like that? We should've detected you approaching the camp."

    "Yes, sorry about that. I'm a bit new to this and still learning the finer points of how to meet people in this place, if you take my meaning." That gets an understanding nod from the canine. "Have you got a leader or captain I can have a chat with?"

    "Yes, but we'll be waiting for her to come here before allowing you into the camp." I nod. "Also, you didn't tell us your name."

    "I haven't chosen one. I don't know." I shrug helplessly. "Everyone has been calling me Blue or blue man. This is my second day doing this so I just don't have a lot of answers for you, sorry."

    "So why are you here?"

    "I'm powered by hope. Earlier today I was looking for a group of raiders-" I'm not an expert on furry people body language but that's not a happy facial expression. I think I can guess where the plasma gun came from. "-and while I was doing that, I came across your group. You weren't who I was looking for so I moved on, but resolved to come visit you after I had dealt with them to see if you need any help."

    I'm pretty sure that's their commander approaching. She's twice the size of everybody else but I'm not sure if it's the armor she's wearing - swiggedy swooty, your blueprints are my booty - or if she really is almost 7' tall. I tilt my head to look up at her as she approaches.

    I've never wondered what a grizzly bear would look like as a seven foot tall juggernaut of a woman but today I am learning very, very quickly.

    She stops in front of me so that I have to tilt my head almost backwards to look up at her. Instead I rise up off the ground, hovering to compensate for the height disparity.

    "Pretty ballsy to just show up like that. I heard what you were saying over the comms." She rumbles while mulling it over. "I'm Colonel Ren of the Zerosi Mobile Infantry. You're right, we don't know how we got here. I'm very interested to find out how you found that out. What happened to the raiders?"

    "Kicked their asses and dragged them back to a nearby town they'd been raiding."

    "They stole some equipment from us. A mounted weapon is the most -" I subspace the plasma gun on the ground next to us. "-pressing... Ah. There were other things, but it was provisions, food and water." She waves it off.

    "If it's any consolation, Durjak will be putting them to some pretty intensive labor fixing the town up."

    "We weren't aware there were any nearby settlements." Not surprised, they're not exactly close to town. "Can you guide us there? We have wounded and need to resupply soon."

    "I can help with your wounded and yes, I can probably take you there. But I like those people and with all due respect, I just met you and you're pretty heavily armed. I'd like to spend a few hours getting to know you if you're not in a rush."

    "If my soldiers are taken care of I have no objection to this. Are you a doctor?"

    I gesture to the camp while the two guards go about beginning to collect the plasma gun. "No, just ridiculously well equipped. Please take me to them, we can talk after I've restored your people."

    Colonel Ren snaps her fingers, pointing to a random girl passing by us. "Elise, take this man to the medical tent and stick to him. Answer any questions he might have within reason, keep an eye on him and tell me your assessment of his personality when I come find you. Whatever else you were doing, I'll find someone else to do it."

    "Yes ma'am." Elise nods to her and only relaxes after Ren is ambling away. Elise herself appears to be a ferret, or something very much like one, anyways. She makes a quiet phew noise. "She's really scary. Hi, nice to meet you. What's your name?"

    "I don't have one."

    She blinks. "Well, that's no good. C'mon, I'll take you over and help you decide on one after you work your healing magic." She manages to sound chipper, almost skipping as she heads off towards one of the tents on the other side of camp.

    If she tries to suggest anything sparkly, this is gonna get awkward because she really, really seems the type.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2021
  9. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 09
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    My concerns were entirely justified. Elise is so bubbly I'm having trouble keeping a straight face as we enter the medical tent.

    "Here we are! Hi everyone!" There's a general groan of acknowledgement in her direction and a few of the wounded wave lazily at her. "I've brought help. Ta-daaa~!" She's actually making jazz hands at me when I walk into the tent behind her and I can't help but smile a little. Absolutely irrepressible.

    "Just relax folks, I'll get you patched up." I hold a hand up to Elise and touch my fingertip to my lips in a gesture of 'quiet please', then close my eyes. Sight is distracting and I need to turn my focus inwards now.

    Healing that group during the fight this morning felt easy. They were in immediate danger, it happened right in front of me and I was partially responsible for their injuries. Maybe. I didn't even really give it much thought, there was just a strong sense of the idea of them dying being wrong because I'm the anti-thesis of a bad ending.

    This is a little more difficult. These people aren't comfortable but they're not raving in agony either. I didn't see them being hurt and they've already been tended to by a medic so there isn't the same kind of pressing need to save them all at once in order to save the day.

    That doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter. I don't have memories to draw on to make myself feel certain ways, I need to hype myself up. When I spoke the oath before it came naturally, almost like something I'd forgotten and was remembering again for the first time. A difficult sensation to describe.

    "In darkest day, with dauntless might."

    No matter how bad things get, no matter the odds, everything I've seen so far suggests I've got the potential to enact great change here as a force of good. Magic is dangerous but the power of hope is stronger, I proved that today.

    "Face down despair, continue to fight."

    You don't just give up when you have hope. To quit is to let the suffering continue, to let the lost stay lost, to let people I could have saved die. That isn't acceptable. I don't know a lot about myself but I know that the idea of giving up when I don't have to isn't something I'm okay with.

    "Stand tall against the blackest night."

    Because the bad guys do not get to win. This is who I am now. This is what I'm for.

    "You will not fall, for hope burns bright!"

    I open my eyes and raise my hands in front of me as the threads of light fan out, touching the injured. Pain vanishes. Flesh knits itself together. Behind me Elise gasps as a thread touches her too, fixing scars and an old injury in one ankle she probably broke as a child. Lost limbs are regrown, the bandages dissolving in blue light.

    Ambient hope detected. Ring charge at 37%.

    I raise my hand as my battery occludes out of the subspace pocket, holding my fist up to it and muttering the oath quietly to myself while the men and women I just healed begin to stir and realize they're not suffering anymore. Elise is walking around me in a circle, staring at me as the recharge finishes.

    "Recharge complete. Power reserve at 100%."

    "What are you?" She says it with a mix of curiosity and awe. I lower my hands and flex my fingers a couple times, looking at them.

    "I'm a beacon of hope." I chuckle a little. "I have a super tool that is powered by hope. Spreading it, feeling it, using it... I have to focus on it constantly to use it. I think it's altering the way I think." But I'm quickly getting used to it and as far as external influences go, I'm finding it hard to deny that hope is a good one. "But I don't have a lot of memories. I've only been at this for about a day. All I'm really doing is trying to make myself feel the emotion and then focusing it on whatever I'm trying to achieve."

    She makes a hmmm sound to herself, swaying her upper body side to side as she thinks it over. "Well, you did say you'd help our people and so you have." She's waving off the formerly injured soldiers who are trying to get out of their beds. "No, no, stay here. Let the medics double-check you." A few nods and they're back to bed, one or two more resigned than anything else.

    "I don't really want to impose but considering I just did that, do you have a mess tent?"

    "You're hungry?"

    "I don't have any hidden supplies or anything right now, haven't been doing this long enough. It's on the list but I've been doing the heroic savior thing for all of about five hours in total and I skipped breakfast."

    She actually grabs my hand and almost pulls me out of the tent physically, forcing me to keep up with her. "Well that's no good! We're gonna get you some grub mister, stat. What kind of thing do blue clerics with weird powers eat, anyways?"

    I click my tongue quietly. "Probably the same things as you, considering you're all partially human."

    That gets me a sly look and a slight smile over her shoulder. "Spotted that, did you? We're all genetically engineered. That's how it began, anyways. Now we're out in the wild and operating on our own, back home we have a whole country and everything."

    "Seriously? What's the story there?"

    "Really long. Humans made us, turns out that was super illegal, there was a big thing over it. In the end we founded our own small country and now we're completely independent."

    She's slowing a little to walk next to me rather than ahead of me, but still hasn't let me reclaim my hand. Oh well, it's not hurting anyone. "Your brain structure is mostly the same. Not quite, though. Anyways... I'm..." I kind of trail off a little, tilting my head.

    Elise stops, turning to look at me. "Hey, you okay, blue guy?"

    "Uh, yeah. I was about to say, 'I'm from...' but when I actually began to say it, the name slipped away from me again."

    "You don't know?"

    "I don't know. I'm basically rebuilding my entire identity around this ring. I have no idea what kind of person I was before I got it."

    She smiles at me and walks backwards a few steps. "Someone who heals strangers because he can. You didn't even ask for anything in return, so the least we can do is feed you. Let's go talk to the chef at the mess tent, I'll get him to make you something really good and theeeeen if you don't pick a name I'm gonna give you a nickname and you'll be stuck with it forever and ever and eveerrrrrrr."

    I can't help but smile. It's like dealing with a happy-go-lucky child pretending to be a responsible adult. "Okay, you've convinced me. Lead the way, fuzzbutt."

    "Hey! It's fluffy, not fuzzy."
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
  10. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 10
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I was honestly expecting the food to be bland or possibly awful but surprisingly, it wasn't. Despite the fact that we were eating what Elise called MRI's they were actually pretty good. I have absolutely no idea what the hell shawarma is, but if I ever find somebody cooking it, I think I'll get right on top of that.

    Sitting just outside the mess hall on a large stack of crates, my legs are crossed in the lotus position. Elise is just to my right and I think I'm starting to get a handle on her body language. A lot of it is very human but she seems to wear her moods on her sleeve. Or rather, her tail, which is active or inactive according entirely to her enthusiasm for whatever she's talking about. At first I found it hard to read her face since it's mostly ferret-ish but the ring is actually translating that for me now and with that going, reading her is easy. I don't think her friends are like that, they seem far more serious than her. I'm finding it endearing despite myself but I keep having to remind myself that she's a person and not a particularly talkative, large ferret.

    After the third time I caught myself having the urge to pet her I began hoping for the ring to suppress that impulse. It's sort of working. Mostly.

    Laid out in front of us is a construct interactive display which I'm using to make a body. A 1/8 sized model of 'me' is being displayed at the center with sliders for modifying the various attributes of the body. Shoulder width, height, average weight, hair, facial details, all that good stuff. When I began thinking about this it occurred to me that it's a bit like creating a character in a story, which led Elise to the idea of making one in a game. With her help we've selected out every possible detail variable and have been playing with it.

    "You sure you wanna stay a guy? You'd be adorable as a girl, I bet." Yep, there goes the tail.

    "It's what I know. Besides, I'm not stuck with the choice. There's nothing stopping me from doing this any time I have a few hours to kill. I can have the ring save the choices I make and employ them as I see fit." I smile faintly. "If I meet a matriarchal culture, I can simply change genders or vice versa."

    "That's surprising to hear from a human." She's blinking like she's having trouble trying to grok that. "Most of you never try to change gender roles. Some do, it's the same with us, but you're clearly comfortable with being male. The idea that you can so easily let go of that is a little foreign to me." She tilts her head, one ear flopping as she thinks about it. "I don't think I'd know what to do with myself if I woke up tomorrow as a boy."

    "Probably the same thing you usually do, just walking funny." She gives me a light shove in the shoulder and grins. "I suppose I still need a name, but something unisex would probably be less confusing. I don't really have any ideas."

    "Can't just go around calling you 'hey you' all the time, yeah." She hmms. "Well, if you're gonna be all hero-y you need a title. You said most of the people you saw were kinda primitive?"

    "Not really how I'd word it, but yeah. They had indoor plumbing, though."

    "Okay, so not savages, then. But still enough that they probably forge things, so instead of a blacksmith... you're a Lightsmith."

    "A lightsmith?"

    "Yeah! You forge things out of light. The ultimate toolmaker, armorer and weaponer all in one. You're a Lightsmith." She nods with a kind of finality. "I have spoken."

    "Well, far be it from me to argue with such a clear decree." I shake my head a little. "I still need a name though."

    "Hmm. Well, I already came up with your grand work title." She grins. "Guess you'll have to work that one out yourself, Mister Lightsmith."

    "Ahh, abandoned in my hour of need. Oof." She raspberries at me, but then gets all serious-face because Colonel Ren has just materialized out of thin air-

    Subject approached from behind and to the left.

    -okay not thin air, but somebody that big has NO RIGHT to be that sneaky.

    "Lieutenant. Report." Sitting up on the crates like we are we don't have to look up too much to look Ren in the eye.

    "I'm happy to report this guy is A-okay, Colonel." She slaps me on the back, making me lurch forward a little. "Healed our guys right up and all he wanted in return was some lunch. Never looked at us funny even once and when I flirted with him he didn't get offended at all." ... "Didn't work, though."

    "You... what?" Okay, missed that. "You were testing me?"

    "Yeah, I kind of glossed over how crappy our relations with humans are back home, sorry. Bigotry is kind of an ongoing issue for us. It's cool though, most humans only dig humans and I was mostly just trying to needle you a little. Sorry."

    "Ah... it's okay." I guess? I mean, she's cute, but it's in a 'oh my god I want to pet the ears' kind of way, not like... that.

    "Good shit, glad to hear it. Whaddya think, blue guy? We pass your test?"

    Elise makes a little sound in her throat like she wants to correct Ren but her hind brain stepped on the impulse at the last moment. "I think so, yeah. How soon do you think your people can break camp?"

    "Oh, I'd say two, maybe three hours. How far is this town of yours?"

    I generate a construct map of the area, a copy of the one I made for Zack but with additional markers for the places I've been. "We're here. Durjak is over here, on the upper side of that ridge. It'd be a pain in the ass to get to on foot from this side of the ridge but that's not a problem because I'm the Lightsmith." Ah, Elise's tail is wagging. I thought that might activate it.

    "Whatever that means. If Elise says you're not dangerous to us though, you're probably not. That and you helped my boys, which counts for a lot with us. You scratch our back, we scratch yours, that's our way."

    "Fair enough but I don't really have a need for five dozen soldiers. On the other hand, Durjak's guards are dressed in leathers, using second-hand weapons and are basically just regular townspeople. They also have a small group of prisoners I believe you have an issue with."

    "Oh you better believe it, buddy."

    "You don't have anywhere to go, they need the expertise. If they don't have a problem with you being non-humans, I think it'd be a good fit. I'll even stick around for a few days and help build some extra houses using the wood from the crap wall they have, then build them a decent one. You train the townspeople in how to fight, help hold the town and help keep those prisoners on-track for their labor and in return your people get a place to put down roots without having to watch their back all the time."

    Ren nods. "This sounds good, but it depends entirely on this town of yours being cool with it. With our boys healed we're just fine sitting tight here for at least one more day before we start running low on food, so why don't you go ahead of us and see what they think?"

    I nod. "Okay, but I'm bringing Elise with me."

    "You are?" / "You are?"

    Ren sounds amused. Elise just sounds confused.

    "I am. She's disarming enough that I think she'd give the best first impression possible, while... Please don't take this the wrong way Ren, but you're terrifying."

    Ren smiles slowly, all teeth. "Lightsmith, that's the nicest thing any human has ever said to me."
     
  11. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - 11
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    [BOOM double chapter because I can't sleep]



    I'm watching Elise play tag with a small crowd of children who turned out to see the preternaturally energetic ferret-girl. I'm not entirely sure if she's It or if the entire crowd of kids is It because they seem to randomly and without warning change who is chasing who, but the whole lot of them seem to be having a great time and it's doing wonders for putting the townsfolk of Durjak at ease.

    I'm sitting on the lawn of the inn, making some last minute changes to my body model. 6' even, because I like nice round numbers. Caucasian, so no change there. I went more for a barbarian-warrior muscular build rather than something a bodybuilder might go for, an even spread of strength and durability. With the scans I took from Elise, Ren and the rest of the Genkits I healed I had the ring identify improvements they made on their brain structure and worked out which ones I could apply to myself. The new body has the same buddhist-monk style robes I have now in my color scheme but instead of sandals, the new uniform has proper boots and when I have the opportunity and materials to build my own armor based on the scans I got I've probably got to do that. Something for tomorrow, I suppose. Dark brown hair in a sort of top knot, don't bother with facial hair at all.

    Ring, apply the changes.

    A wave of blue light passes over me, the revisions I've made in the last hour taking hold. I don't feel any different but the ring is monitoring me for any major shifts in the way I think for the next day or two since I plan to spend it here breaking down the palisade into building materials and helping the prisoners with their construction work. I could do it all myself, but it's good to keep them busy. It also gives Colonel Ren time to design the defensive wall. She insisted. Since I wasn't keen to start a fight over it I just nodded and let it go. She'll feel better for having done it herself in the long run, I think.

    Ren herself is currently sitting inside the inn with Mason and the two of them appear to be competing to see which one can get more drunk. After meeting Elise I think Mason was expecting the whole group to be like her. When he met Ren he took it as a diplomatic challenge and the two of them are pretty much alike in the way that career soldiers can be, so that went off without a hitch. Despite the fact that the genkits seriously outgun them, it doesn't seem to bother Mason and the others too much. I'm pretty sure I'm the reason why.

    Since I've arrived I've done nothing but enact positive change here. I can do this. I can make this my life. A days worth of work and I was able to bring dangerous people to justice and give them a chance to earn a place in a real community, then upgun that community to protect them from what is clearly an absolutely insane place. A day ago I was effectively homeless with no aim, no name, no purpose, no place. Today, I have all those things and the life of everybody I encountered has been, in one way or another, improved.

    Words can't describe how incredibly good that makes me feel. My environmental shield is actually rippling everytime I think on it, a wave passing up my arm and across my body.

    "Planning your next big adventure, then?"

    I look up at the voice. "Hello again, Zack. What do you think of the genkits?"

    "I think I like 'em. They're good people, we can tell. So can you." He inclines his head slightly. "Or you wouldn't have brought 'em here, I don't think. You don't do things by half measures, do you? We all figured when you took off this morning that would be the last we saw of you."

    I shake my head slowly. "No. I suppose I don't. I saw the synergy of what the situation could be and just arranged things a little. Do you think food will be a problem in the short term?"

    "No, probably not. We'll need more farmland to support this many people but there's a fair amount of land around the town that's decent soil and a well, so we'll be okay for water in the short term. Probably have to build an aqueduct to support the farming but that'll be something to keep our guests busy with after the houses are done."

    "Good. Wouldn't want them to sit too idle. It'll be good for them to learn the skills, too."

    "Aye. Folk'll have to interact with them on a regular basis too, which will help them stop being enemies and start being that guy you see around town every third day. That's subtle. No prison, can't execute 'em... You sure it'll work?"

    "No. Not entirely sure. But that's what the genkits are here for. They'll teach your folks how to defend themselves and their leader was pretty forceful about designing the defenses I'm going to build so you won't be seeing half measures there, either."

    "I don't get it, I thought they were named the Zerosi?"

    "They are. That's their countries name. Their species name is genkit."

    "Huh. Well, okay." He shrugs. "You gonna build yourself a house here in town too?"

    Now there's an idea. I could do that, couldn't I? "I hadn't really thought about it before but I am now. Yeah, probably. You put the idea in my head, heh."

    "I can't speak for the whole town but after seeing what you did just today? Good. I'm glad you're sticking around."

    "Only in the sense of having a place I can hang my hat. I plan to travel far and wide looking for things to do. Can't save everyone just hanging out here all day."

    "Wouldn't dream of it, mate." He leans against the wall, watching Elise and the kids. "I think we'll be okay if every day is as good as today. You decide on a name?"

    "Yeah. Yeah, I think I did."

    Elise swerves ahead of us and zooms her way over, stopping just next to us and doing a pirouette as the kids sweep past and around her to swarm for a moment before they continue chasing each other as she shoo's them off, leaning on her knees. "Go on, go on." Standing up, she dusts her hands off. "These ears aren't just for show. So, what do we call you? Also, hi there!" She waves cheerfully at Zack, who just chuckles and waves back with about 1/4 the energy.

    "Call me Lightsmith Ainsley."
     
  12. Threadmarks: Blue's Just My Color Today - Interlude (Khumu)
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Crouching perched on a tree limb he's tensed, waiting to strike. The boar is also seeking food but he's out of its scent range and instinctively he knows that if he misses he'll instantly be in danger from the boars tusks.

    Patience now, patience.

    Then he strikes and his claws sink into the boars sides as his teeth sink into what he thinks is its neck, or at least close enough to its face it can't leverage its one weapon against him. Holding tight he kicks with his back feet hard, letting his claws shred it.

    Within a few minutes the boar is dead. He stands up without letting go with his mouth, leaving his hands free to wield the claws against any who might try to challenge him for his kill. There are none. Not today.

    The journey back home is slow and indirect to throw off trackers and avoid others. When he finally reaches the small treehouse he finds he's the only one there, but this is common. Mother returns less often than she once did. He's near to the age of adulthood. When he's old enough she'll simply go hunting one day and not return.

    That is the way and he is at peace with it.


    Then he is not the only one there. The shaman hits the wooden platform outside the door and he whips around, claws out to face this would-be intruder. Then he sees the paints, the bones, the headdress. The claws go away and he drops to the floor, his nose almost touching it. "This one apologizes for baring weapons to you, O shaman."

    "You did not. Once you recognized me, you immediately put them away. Do not bow in shame, hunter. Rise and speak."

    He stands slowly, only allowing his eyes to come to the shamans stomach lest his look be taken as a challenge. "Why do you honor me with your presence here?"

    "The threads of fate touch you. You are not meant to spend your life in Skal."

    "If not here, then where? Our way is not to wander and my range is firmly established. To leave for even a week would see me lose hunting grounds. Am I to be banished?"

    "No! You are not being chastised." The shaman rumbles. He is not a leopard and not of the Folk but he is a shaman and this makes him immune to all borders, affiliations, loyalties and wars.


    He would never attack a shaman but he is confused and does not understand. The urge to argue, to defend his claim is warring with his natural understanding of the order of things. He cannot argue with a shaman, no matter how right he is. The spirits walk with them. They do not walk with him.

    "I do not understand. Please help me, it feels like a banishment. Skal is all that I know."

    "I do not understand either." Those five words send a chill down his spine that he has never felt before. Fear is foreign to a hunter. "I know only that your fate lies west, beyond the borders of the ancient domains. When you return you will be something more and your coming will herald great change. This is all I know. The spirits whisper your name, Khumu."

    "Then I will turn my ear to listen."

    A thump wakes him, eyes snapping open in the darkness and refocusing instantly to allow him to see. Even now the dream-memory slips away from him as he turns his focus towards the room, recalling where he is, how he got here.


    He has failed.


    He slumps a little, shuffling back to lean against the wall. It was Horad, the Tovari man who convinced the blue human to spare them. He thumped the floor with his boot while talking to the others. Trying to keep his irritation in check he stands up and walks along the shadows towards the group, not moving in a straight line by staying in the spots where light is weak without even thinking about it.


    Horad is trying to be quiet, not that he's paying attention. His voice is being kept low, at any rate. "I did warn her, though. She was trying to make a dual fireball non-verbally. Her ability to shape her magic was simply not good enough for that and she should have known it. I could only teach her so much."


    "You still kind of threw her into it there, though. It wasn't us who suggested fire."


    "No, but it was her who was threatening to burn people when she didn't get her way. She didn't start out like that, Kel. At the beginning she was less crazy, more polite. She turned into a fucking tyrant and even worse, she was one who could actually use magic. Tovalons magic traditions aren't the same as the rest of the world here, we bind elementals instead of using ambient mana. But to Navra it was all the same."


    One of the people at the edges of the room, a woman stands up and puts a hand on Horad's shoulder. "You sure you weren't just trying to sweeten up the cute blue man?" It gets her a playful jab in the stomach from Horad's elbow.


    "I don't hit on guys who almost kill us. Gods, Jufad, I have some taste."


    "Based on what I've seen the last two weeks, nooooot really."


    "You weren't here at the start." Horad looks down, staring at the table. "She was sweet in the beginning. I think... I think she pushed herself too hard. Or maybe tried tapping into things she shouldn't have, I never read all the books we recovered. There's so many ways magic can go wrong." He sighs. "I should have done a better job of protecting her from all that."


    "Don't beat yourself up over it, Horad."

    "Why?" Khumu couldn't help but ask. Of course Horad's going to feel bad, she was his mate! Now he'll have to find another mate to bear his heirs and Navra never gave him any to begin with. It was four months wasted effort on his part.

    "Because the blue man already beat the crap out of us, just because he healed us after doesn't mean it doesn't count."

    Khumu is confused but the rest of the group is laughing. He doesn't understand. Why would that make any of the other reasons untrue?

    "Ah, don't feel bad, Khumu." Jufad is hugging him. He likes Jufad. She always smells nice, even when she doesn't bathe. "Our sense of humor is just different. Horad will be fine and he's right, by the way." She's gone from speaking to Khumu to the rest of the group. "At the end of things she was kind of a bitch. I'm not happy about being a prisoner but we're not sleeping in tents and... guys, look at this place. It's an actual town, not a tent city."

    "But how will we hunt if we're not allowed into the forests?"

    Jufad is petting the top of his head. It does feel nice, he can't argue that. "Khumu, come sit with me. I'll give you a quick explanation of how towns work."

    He probably won't understand, but if their circumstances are better by being prisoners then perhaps he hasn't failed after all. In any case, Jufad is nice to him so he'll sit and listen and try to understand. If she can convince him, he may not even escape the first time they open the door to this longhouse again.

    It's what the shaman would have wanted.
     
  13. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 01
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I'm watching the sun rise from my new house and it's glorious. It's interesting how the morning light seems so different to the evening. I'm drinking a juice made out of a local fruit that made me think of apples. I didn't miss apples before I thought of that but this stuff is close enough that it's almost just as good. Needs sugar, though. I have no idea how to find sugar right now.

    Something to put on the list, I guess. Right alongside coffee, cocoa and a suitable farm animal. Pretty much the only thing these folks have are chickens. The eggs are useful but they obviously don't want to just kill them for meat so they've been hunting afield and bush meat is not the safest. When Zack told me that I started doing scans and most of the townsfolk here had parasites or novel, asymptomatic infections which were actually starting work on the genkits and now they're not.

    Like I'm going to found a city and not make sure every person in it is as fit as they can be.

    I'm going to need building material to get this place going. Lots of it. Not just wood either but raw crap I can transmute into useful things. While I'm watching the sun rise the ring is compensating for the glare as I look directly at it and it occurs to me that the sun is a place and I could theoretically go there. Not that I have a need for that but it's not just the sun I can go to.

    I look up.

    I've been sticking to low-level flight because I don't like heights. But outside of the atmosphere is... what?

    What's up there?

    Shit. There's only one way I'm going to find out. If I trust in the ring, it won't let me down. But that's my thinking brain telling my animal brain to shut the hell up when my animal brain has been doing this for a couple million years and is pretty damned sure it knows what it's on about. It seems strongly disinclined to shut the hell up about this.

    I take a deep breath and finish my juice, then vanish the cup into the ring for later. If I focus on anything too hard like I did a moment ago, this could go very badly. The moment I can make a space suit of some kind I really need to. Maybe I can combine that with the armor somehow. Yeah.

    Yeah not procrastinating this at all. Ah fuck it.

    I rise up off the roof of my house and then launch myself upwards. Ring, don't breach the sound barrier until we're far enough away that it won't terrorize the town.

    Instructions confirmed.

    Okay, seriously, can I do anything about your personality?

    Affirmative. This rings AI model is currently using the default schema. However it is possible to model the probable responses, syntax and tone of any individual that the user knows or has known.

    Right, but I don't really know anyone except the people of Durjak because I can't remember anything. Guess I'll have to put a bookmark on that for now. Besides, I'm reaching the edges of the atmosphere and okay enough guessing. Ring, gimme a HUD with a speedometer and start marking probable target destinations for getting various metals for building materials.

    Blue markers appear on my vision as well as a co-ordinates system, a speed meter and progressively generated labels to show me what's where. Copper over there, silica there, plutonium, platinum, gold, iron, silver. Ring, shrink down those markers and then mark out planetary bodies in this star system.

    Hm. Seems familiar, but off. Nine major planets, one dwarf planet and while there's plenty of asteroids they're all either at crazy angles to the orbital plane or out in the edges of the system. Three habitable planets, one barren rocky world, a bunch of gas giants and a lot of rocky or ice moons. But right now I need building materials so lets see what we turn up. Closest candidate for gold concentrations is there so transition.

    Whoa.

    The asteroid is caught in the gravity of the planet between... what do I call the one I just left? It's not Earth. Terra? Like Earth, but not. This one's between Terra and the rocky world between here and the really big gas giant. Looks kind of nice down there actually, but not here for sight seeing. Ring, do the thing.

    Cables of blue light lance out and begin tearing through the asteroid, separating out the various metals and subspacing them. Traveling doesn't seem to be too much of an issue but being a tourist is no good, I need to actually help people. I'm doing that right now by getting this stuff but the gold is a means to an end. Durjak will prosper because of full coffers and the merchants who visit it will spread the wealth and word of a rich trading hub.

    I'm very tempted to explore the other habitable worlds but I think I should focus on stabilizing things on Terra before I do that. I'm still only one person and I have to prioritize. Once I've explored Terra a bit and dealt with the most obvious issues, the low-hanging fruit of things, then I can focus on exploring a wider range but for now I need to eat what's in front of me before I start mulling over dessert.

    ...

    Asteroid mining is surprisingly boring. This HUD is showing me the weight of materials I'm gathering in kilograms and it's nice to see it wasn't just gold. I'm getting iron, copper, tin, aluminum and some platinum out of this as well. Nothing amazing and not in crushing amounts but it'll be enough to supply the town and still leave enough to trade.

    Ugh finally, done. Transition back to orbit above Durjak. Looks like the town is on the south-western end of the largest continent. It looks weird. Like somebody stitched it together using mountain ranges as borders and wanted to cut the southern half off from the north intentionally. South of the mountains is all forest and greenary but north is just desert. It looks boring and empty and that makes me rather curious about what's out there. The south-east looks a little more promising. I can see urban centers from this height but nothing like EM signals so they're not using radios or anything. I'll have to drop in there later.

    Ring, transition me to Durjak. I don't think I want to experience planetfall just yet.

    I appear in the town square, hovering just above the stones. There's small market stalls built in a wide circle around the edges of the courtyard but most of them weren't really being used when I showed up. I'll fix that soon enough. Purifying the metals I form them into ingots with the blue sigil stamped on them, stacking them up by element in the center of town for when the metal workers wake up.

    The most successful tourist of the day, hah.

    I could get used to this.
     
  14. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 02
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I'm cruising east over the treeline while the ring is marking out roads for me. I'll have a nice trade map when I return to town. I've been going just under the sound barrier, making the ring handle my course corrections because I don't really trust myself to not mess it up and slam into a ridge or something. That'd mess up my day pretty bad, I have no idea how much force I can take in an impact like this and I'm not keen to find out the hard way.

    Still, it doesn't take long before the treeline breaks and I come out above the road in front of plains. Quite pretty, actually. The snow's all melted here and everything's coming to life with the spring, wildflowers everywhere. The plains are dotted with every color I can think of as the flowers compete with each other for ground space. The road even thins out a little, like the traders who passed through here felt it was a shame to trample more of this than they absolutely had to.

    I can't say I disagree.

    I fly a bit lower to the ground, perhaps four meters above the road, cruising lazily and taking a moment to enjoy the sight. Then I spot a mound just off the side of the road, concealed slightly behind a large rock. It'd be easy to miss from the ground but in the air I can see it clearly. I wonder what that is?

    Lowering down in front of it, I kneel slightly after landing. It's a little artificial hut with a brazier inside it, long dead. There's an effigy carved in the sides but it's so worn I can't really make it out anymore and there's moss and something like ivy covering it. It's old and whatever was lit there hasn't burned in a long time.

    Entirely on impulse I take a piece of wood out of subspace and use a construct to split it up into chips into the brazier. A touch from a thread of blue light and the chips are set alight, catching and burning merrily.

    "Who is it that seeks me?"

    The voice... Ring, is that sound?

    Voice is projected through physical sound but the source of the vibrations creating it are unclear.

    So, magic then. "I am Ainsley, the blue lightsmith. I did not know it was a shrine but greetings, nonetheless."

    "You are not of this land, but pay homage to it anyways. Speak and be heard, Ainsley the Blue."

    "I know nothing of this place, but I've come to learn. Is there danger I should know of?"

    "Tovalon is ancient and powerful. Its elements walk with its people. Show respect as you have and they will give it in turn. Beware if you walk to the eastern lands. Elements of pain, death, sacrifice, glory, fire and blood reside there. We do not know its people."

    "I will remember. Thank you."

    "Go with the elements."

    I stand up, rising from the ground and hovering above the fields, turning my head east. When I was in orbit, that was where I detected the urban centers, but now I'm a bit less excited than I was. From what I've seen so far, any modern city dropped here would be in big trouble, since modern cities don't bother with walls due to the ability of their countries force projection mobility. They don't need standing armies when the military can move fast enough to afford to have dedicated sites outside of those cities.

    Which means any dropped here was probably overrun very, very quickly by the first malevolent force that wandered into it.

    That's disappointing but roughly in line with my expectations. When I'm a little more ready to venture into something that sounds as fun as that I'll see if there's anything left I can scan, anyone I can help.

    Ring, find me the nearest settlement.

    Groups light up in my head with rough head counts, but nothing like a towns population level. I'm not seeing any group larger than four hundred people. Okay, lets go check out the nearest one, then. Transition.

    I don't appear in the middle of the camp because that almost didn't work out when I did it to the Zerosi and I'd rather not repeat that mistake. Instead I appear at ground level about thirty meters away in the treeline, land and walk out of the bush like I'd just wandered out of the wilds. Headed towards the road I jog lightly and turn towards the camp.

    It's interesting, I had trouble taking that cat boy I met in the raider camp seriously at first but after having spent time with the genkits, this doesn't feel so strange. The people here look mostly human with all the wide range of ethnicities we have, but those ethnicities are accompanied by species-specific animal traits. I'm seeing dogs, cats, that's definitely a raccoon tail. I'm seeing men and women with oxen horns, at least one guy with pig ears, another that looks like a humanized version of a rhesus monkey and notably, one very pretty girl with bird feathers instead of hair which is the most vibrant yellow I've ever seen.

    None of them seem especially alarmed by me but one of the dog-trait women stops to address me. She's an older lady, gray in her hair and the tips of her ears. Her hair is tied by and she's leaning on a cane but I suspect she needs it a little less than she seems to because she's not leaning her weight on it. "You look a bit lost, young man. Are you alright? You seem a bit blue."

    I snort. "I am, thank you. I'm just visiting. I don't really know anything about this place."

    "Oh! An adventurer! It's been awhile since we ran into one of your lot. You come with old Saan and she'll tell you what you need to know. You seem like a bright boy."

    Is this old lady just using me to score puns?

    ...Yes, probably, but she seems nice so I suppose I can live with it.

    "When I was traveling here I found a small shrine. Are those common?"

    "Ooh. Did you light the brazier?"

    "I did. Something spoke to me. It gave me advice."

    "Good! That was a proper thing to do." She nods approvingly. She doesn't seem to be in a great hurry to shuffle back into what looks like camp, but I'm not either. I do like their architecture, though. It's clearly meant to be torn down and the ring says that the walls are canvas of some kind with heavy cloth hangings inside.

    An entire small town that can pack up and move. These people are nomads but are clearly comfortable living this way and don't appear to be struggling with personal hygiene.

    "I'd like to think so. Do your people have restaurants?"

    "No, but that does sound like a fancy word. What is it?"

    "A place where you can pay somebody to make you food."

    "Ah. No, but we do keep a tent for travelers to rest and buy supplies."

    "Well then, if you're not too busy, in return for your advice, let me make us a meal. I'm hungry as well and in no rush to be anyplace."

    "That is also good." Saan nods. "And a fair offer, as well. I'm happy to accept, young man."

    "Please, call me Ainsley."
     
  15. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 03
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    As far as hospitality rituals go, this isn't so bad, really. I'm using the ring as a mobile kitchen but I mean, sure, why not? Superpowers can be used for boring things, too.

    I'm not sure what animal this meat is. I think it's the local beef-equivalent but the animal in question is about six feet long, six legged and is shaggy like an ox but shaped like a giant lizard despite clearly being a mammal of some kind. This place is goddamned weird. Still, I can't complain too much because it smells pretty good. Saan is sitting next to the fire pit just across from me while I fry the meat sitting midair without anything to support me.

    "Oh, we've been keeping jorka for as long as I can recall. They're good beasts if you handle them right. Absolutely useless for farm work though." She shakes her head. "Before the change, we had large birds we called Pans that we used as mounts or for farm work, but I haven't seen a pan bird for... years, really."

    I'm shredding a local leaf as a spice and throwing it in, smells a bit... I dunno. Reminds me of garlic bread, almost.

    "How long has it been since that happened?"

    "Since what happened?"

    "The 'change', whatever that is."

    "Hmm, you're rather green, aren't you?"

    "No, I'm blue."

    "Hah! I mean you're fresh, boy. New." She nods. "Asking your elders something you don't know is good and proper. It has been two winters since Tovalon found itself in this world."

    "The entire region? Most places I've seen have been small groups, little pockets." Stir the mix, throw in some vegetables and leaves. "Tovalon arriving here almost as a whole country is a pretty big anomaly compared to that."

    "Oh, I'm not so sure about that. Skal is a whole region that way too, though nobody sane ever goes there. But it's a richly spiritual place where their gods are never further than behind the nearest tree and Tovalon has the elements. Both places are... charged, in ways other places aren't."

    "So it's reasonable to assume that whatever force is responsible for arrivals in this place is sensitive to magic somehow?"

    "My dear boy, it may well be the magic itself doing it. None of us know. Oh here, take that off the fire." She gestures at the construct and I move it away from the flames to the pan she's holding up. "Good, good. Just drop it all in here." She's throwing in something that looks like rice - it may well be rice - and adding water to it.

    Objects are not 'rice' as matched by the partially corrupted memory of the user. However, it does bear a similarity and may be an evolutionary offshoot of the grass.

    Little bit of familiarity, then. "I'm hoping to change that. Part of why I'm here is to build trade partners for the town I've been staying in."

    "Ooh, good for you! Usually when towns and cities arrive they get raided or overrun and the population scatters. Or they get worn down. Where is this town of yours, Ainsley?"

    "Far west of here, past the heavy forests."

    "Those forests are the Skal region. How did you pass through them and arrive whole? Without knowing about the danger?"

    "I flew above it."

    "Hahahahaha!" She seems to tickle her. Her tail is sweeping the ground behind her madly. "Of course! It's so obvious now. You didn't come out of the woods, you landed in them and walked into camp!" She's shaking her head at herself. "This old dog will never learn to fly, but if you can, you have a better chance than most. There are traveling routes through Skal but they're bought with guides. I expect that if you can work something out about that you'll see more trade than you have so far."

    "Damn." I sigh a little. "What about eastern Tovalon? The elements I spoke to, they warned me about the place."

    "As well they should." She nods. "Its people are heartless, they allow themselves to feel nothing. A life devoid of emotion, of passion. Save for weapons." She doesn't sound like she approves, scowling a little. "They're a martial culture despite also being Tovari. Everything is a struggle with them, all conflict. It's not a nice place and the people are... questionable. If you're thinking of going there, don't."

    Damn. "I'll probably have to eventually, but I'll bear that in mind."

    "So where will you go once you leave me to get back to adventure, hmm?"

    "I suppose I should have a go at finding whoever is leading this country." Quick scan of the pan and... yep, that's about done. "Oh good, the food is ready." Oh, she's already beaten me to the bowls. Handing me one, she opens the pan and starts filling it.

    "Well, good luck with that. King Noah also moves throughout the year along a route. This time of year I'm not sure where he'll be exactly but I'm fair certain he'll be around the southern end of Tovalon on the steppe someplace. The royal family visits the compass points year 'round, spending the solstices at them."

    This is actually really good. I really need to look into getting Darjuk some of the jorka animals for husbandry. Not to mention some of these spices, whatever they are. I take a moment before answering with my mouth full like some kind of savage. "That's good information and I thank you for it."

    "Oh, enough." She's smiling, waving me off. "I don't do much cooking for myself, these days. Too much work for my old back and too much risk of me hurting myself handling the fire. The meal is a nice gesture, information's the least I can do to repay it."

    I reach over and pat her shoulder. When I do I heal her osteoperosis, repair the muscles in her back, fix her eyesight and remove the benign tumor on her left ovary. "Still, it'll probably save me getting ambushed the moment I walk into Skal."

    She sits up slowly, looking at me and blinking hard. "Did you just...?"

    I smile at her and make the same dismissive gesture she did a moment ago. "A little, yes. Once I pass on, if you meet any adventurers, let them know about Durjak? It's west past Skal in the light forests bordering the northern mountain range."

    She nods firmly. "I will do that. But you may wish to know that I've heard rumors of another like you."

    I tilt my head at her. "What do you mean?"

    "They were not blue, but I've heard tales of another adventurer who glowed and could forge things out of light."

    "Do you know what they look like?"

    "No, no, those sort of details never survive word of mouth. But I do know what color they were."

    "What was it?"

    "Yellow."
     
  16. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 04
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    It's night time and I've elected not to head back to Durjak for this evening. It occurred to me while talking to Saan that if I want to find camps, flying around during the daylight or at night makes basically no difference to me with the ring. But I want to know where we are exactly and the first night I got here all I could think about was coping. The second night I had my hands full with Elise, who I nearly had to push out of my room to get any sleep.

    Tonight I want to see the sky from the ground. Flying in space isn't the same as the night sky, really.

    Although I located several groups of people none of them appear to be anything like the huge royal procession that apparently follows Noah around. I'm not in any hurry, though I do want to talk to the fellow, if only to introduce myself instead of reaching him by rumor of some crazy blue savior flitting about his country. Not to mention that he can probably direct me to the more pressing issues at hand.

    Sitting cross legged in a field of flowers the entire plain is stretched out in front of me and lit by moonlight. Everything is traced out in silver shadows and the ring is enhancing my vision just enough that I can see clearly in the low light. A river is cutting back and forth across the plain as it heads towards the ocean to the south and I can see the flicker of firelight where a couple of groups are making camp. It's interesting to see the wildlife that's active at night. Bird analogues - or maybe bats? - are flocking high above us, feasting on insects that started becoming active as the sun began to set. A few of them are bio luminescent, giving the faint impression of ghost lights that sometimes show up near the grass or in the air, flickering in and out.

    Ring, talk to me about the yellow light.

    The yellow light is the light of fear. Its use is refined and controlled through the introspection of its user's fears and its construct strength is dependent on the level of fear the user inspires in the people around them.

    So it's probably somebody... totalitarian? What would the mind of a person like that look like? They'd be a brute, a thug writ large. I have no idea how to find somebody like that. Ring, can you detect the yellow light?

    Affirmative.

    Well go on then, find it.

    Only trace amounts of the yellow light can be detected on this planet. Analysis suggests that the yellow lightsmith has been here, but did not dwell for a specific period of time or roam widely.

    Shit. That means whoever it is could be on one of the other two planets in this system. If I try really hard I can just about remember the major planets of the Sol system and this place has an extra. There's no asteroid belt, there's a whole planet there that looks a lot like Mars but where Mars should be there's a different planet in comparable size to Terra and 'Venus'. So not only do I have two worlds to search but I don't even have a rough idea of what one of them is like. For all I know they could be just as complicated as Terra is proving to be, so hunting this other lightsmith down is probably not happening today.

    But that's alright because I have things to focus on, don't I?

    I look up as a light catches my eye. Ah, meteors. Just one or two but picking up in intensity until, for several seconds, the sky is sparkling. Then a flare of light as something a bit larger than my head hits the atmosphere.

    Ah, damn. So much for a peaceful night, I guess.

    I take off from the ground with a thump as my flight path arcs to intercept the fireball before it hits the ground or explodes in the air. It's roughly the size of a wagon but probably enough to ruin somebodies day or cause a fire if I just ignore it.

    Alert. Friction instability is about to trigger an extreme exothermic reaction.

    Fancy way of saying it's going to blow up, isn't it? I create a construct cone underneath the meteorite and fly backwards ahead of it. The air is beginning to heat up on me too but a construct shield helps ease that off a little.

    Detonation in three seconds.

    What? That's an absolutely useless amount of t-

    THA-KOOM

    And then I'm flying backwards and everything is spinning and I've completely lost track oh there we go. Oh, look at that, I'm on fire and flying on a ballistic course towards the gr- ARHGHBLEHGBLEHGBLE.

    Okay, note to self. Physics is still a thing. I had just enough time to remember who Isaac Newton was as the ring corrected my being stunned midair before I hit the ground. This is my second crater in the last couple days, I really need to stop meeting you like this, dirt. Ring, unfuck me.

    Health reset to baseline standard.

    Oh, wow. Okay, THAT hurts a lot less. I push myself up out of the crater just in time for some Tovari to climb the lip of it and peer down at me, one of them shining a hand lantern. "Hey, it's a person."

    "Told you."

    "No you didn't, you said it'd be sky iron!"

    "No, I said it'd be valuable."

    "You can't sell a person."

    "Not all value is money, idiot." Then the... girl? Yes, girl. The girl hops the furrow I've cut into the ground and starts walking towards me. "Hey, blue guy! You alright there?"

    "Yes, I am now. Are you?"

    "Sure, but that was a pretty light show you put on. You a god or spirit or something?"

    "No, just a guy with a savior fixation. Let me guess, you lost your cat up a tree?"

    "No, he's right there." She sounds puzzled, pointing behind her to the boy who came with her but seemed reluctant to approach. I can see him facepalming. "We could use some help, though. We're getting visitors in about two days and frankly, we don't have the food to spare. We were out hunting when we saw you."

    "I'm... not a trader per se but I can probably help with that. How many people are you getting? What happens if you don't have enough?"

    "Several hundred. I don't know. They'd be displeased."

    "Hm."

    "You can see the problem."

    "Why do you have several hundred people descending on your camp?"

    "The king is coming to visit. Noah himself isn't so bad, it's the courtiers and generals and officers and all the hangers-on."

    I blink hard, letting myself sway side to side a little. "...Yes, I think I can spare some time to help with that. My schedule just cleared up a bit."
     
  17. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 05
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I don't really like repeating mistakes. The thing with the meteorite? Was me being stupid. What I should have done is broken it up with an offensive attack of some kind at range. I tried to treat it like a ball to be caught when it was more like a grenade.

    That's why I'm giving myself lots of time to solve this food issue. I could go hunting for Noah and probably find him now that I have a good idea of where he might be, but that won't solve the problem here and if his procession is eating the countryside as they go then I might need to do something about that.

    Since it'll be a couple days until that problem arrives, instead of hunting the area clean I've decided to go running about buying up whatever the various camps are willing to sell me. Live animals are a bit tricky since I can't stick them in the ring but having it work out a sedation mixture and then towing them in flight seems to work okay.

    Yelin and Uter, the boy and girl from my unfortunate impact, had a bit of a start when I flew over with several jorka for them to butcher later. Credit to them though, they flew into action rousing the camp and now they have the whole lot of them sorting through the supplies I've been bringing back. It's been educational too, learning the local spices and food animals and the things that the Tovari value. It's not always gold. Sometimes they want to trade for the things I see reflected in their hopes, which is helpful for keeping down the inflation by spreading around gold I got from space rocks. Don't want to make too much of an impact on the local economy here, however the hell it's supposed to work.

    I yearn for electronic records to use, but so far the only computers I've seen are the ones the Zerosi have.

    Still, a bit of hope there. Being able to extrapolate new designs from the components of their equipment won't be easy but-

    I stop mid-flight, jerking to a standstill in the air.

    No. No way.

    I'm a little reluctant to believe what I'm seeing. It's an elemental, it's clearly an elemental but it's got to be half the size of Durjak. I can see houses on top of it. It's stone and vaguely humanoid but it has no face, just a faint impression of a head. It's slow and methodical and I can see it making an actual effort to be as gentle as possible when it moves. It's walking on its knuckles at a ponderously slow rate, making its way east towards the mountains separating Tovalon from Eastern Tovalon.

    That's pretty amazing.

    But not the reason I'm out here. I drop down towards the border between Skal and Tovalon, a break in the mountains which is dominated mostly by swamp. I am immediately glad that the ring is protecting me from the swarms of insects because it's almost a cloud of them over the water and reeds here. The water itself is a sickly green-yellow color but the trees are vibrantly, violently green and the vines hanging from them are dotted with bright purple and yellow flowers. The lichen and moss growing on the tree trunks is glowing softly. A chorus of croaks, buzzing and chirps. I land where the mud road stops being road and starts being the rough boardwalk some poor bastard had to hang out in this area to build. They really wanted to know what was west of here.

    Works out for me, though. I start zooming along the boardwalk at a hover, moving fast enough to make a good clip through the swam - with a construct screen in front of me because bugs, thank you - and see how long it takes for somebody to approach me about being a guide.

    I spend almost thirty minutes cruising through the swamp before the boardwalk stops suddenly and comes into a clearing. As I enter it the ceaseless insects cease and I'm not sure exactly what's doing it, so I'd have to guess magic. I'm beginning to dislike that word. It applies to too many things which can be boiled down to just not knowing a thing.

    The clearing itself filled with simple huts on raised stakes, a ladder leading down to the ground from each. In them are people very much like Khumu in stature, only they're not cats. They're a bit like frogs, if frogs were drawn by somebody who wanted to make them as cute as possible. Not just them either, it's a mixed population. A few more of those fish-people like that one fellow who was with the raiders.

    As I approach they all stop to look at me in unison. It's a bit creepy actually.

    "Hello. My name is Ainsley and I am a lightsmith. I'm wondering if you'd like to trade?"

    "AAAAAIIIIIIIII!!" The frog people scatter in a panic and the fish people take that as their queue a moment later, after several seconds of initial confusion. It takes less than a minute before I'm left alone on the ground between the huts. Powers above, half of them didn't even climb the ladders, they just jumped and leapt the intervening space in a single bound. If it wasn't for the unnecessary panic, I'd be impressed.

    As it stands I'm not sure what to do about that, until one of the huts opens and a frog-woman steps out. This one has war paints and a collection of jewelry made of local bits of wood and bone and reeds. Hm.

    The woman hops down from her hut, apparently having no trouble with the landing. I start walking towards her but she speaks up first.

    "When strangers come to this village, they come speaking Tovari or other languages. Never our own. How do you know our words? We do not teach outsiders our language, we seek to learn theirs instead."

    "I have a powerful artifact which lets me talk to others. I'm a little surprised no ones mentioned it before now."

    "Often others use spells to do this. Outsider magic has no power here. By passing through the swamp, you've entered Skal. To go further is dangerous, even deadly."

    "I've passed over this area flying before, but I've come looking for trade partners. My... base, I suppose, is west of here on the other side of Skal."

    "That is far. Guides are difficult. Barter must be made with the clans whose lands you must pass through to reach the other side of the region. There is no road, no path."

    "Then I suppose I'll have to do that but in the short term, I'd like to trade for food. I have metals and a thing for helping people. Tell me what you hope for and I'll do my best to trade it to you for whatever food surplus you may spare."

    "Come to my hut, Ainsley. This may be for the shamans to decide if it spans further than a single territory. Only they can convince the clans to allow safe passage on a permanent basis, but it will cost you. Let us speak with the spirits and see what they say."
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2021
  18. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 06
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    The frog-shaman's hut is littered with hanging herbs, racks of them along the walls and the beams holding up the ceiling. The hut itself probably smells all kinds of strange but with the ring filtering my air, all I'm getting is a neutral sort of non-smell, like being in your own house. The floor has roughshod carpets laid over each other, thick enough that it's soft like a cushion, a hammock hung at the back and a small brazier in the middle of the hut on the floor. By the time I get into the hut she's already sitting on the other side of it, rubbing herbs between her hands into the fire.

    When I sit down she doesn't react at first, humming to herself. I can't afford to wait forever since I'm on a clock but I can afford to be patient. When she stops she looks at me, blinking hard. "You must remove your ring."

    "I'm sorry, what?"

    "The glow prevents me from touching you. You must remove your ring. It's touch is woven throughout your mind."

    I frown as I find myself almost upset at the idea. That's not something I want to do under any circumstance. The ring keeps me safe.

    But...

    When I stop and think about the basic nature of hope it's not too different from faith. I have no use for religion or gods or... whatever, really. I haven't met anything yet I felt like I couldn't handle if it came down to a fight. But can I master a ring of hope without being about to bring myself to have the hope that I can regain the ring if I remove it?

    ...

    Damn it.

    I reach up with my left hand and pluck the ring from the middle finger of my right hand, tucking it into my belt. I was right, the smell in the hut is almost overpoweringly powerful. It's like air freshener almost, only it smells green.

    As soon as I've tucked the ring into my belt she reaches up across the brazier and touches my forehead before I can react and then things get strange.

    I can still sense the hut but my awareness has expanded beyond it and suddenly I'm able to get a sense of the entire region, though only in approximate terms. It's like seeing in your minds eye a map you've just been studying, only you've never actually seen it. I can sense the tension and conflict between different areas, the struggle of life and the shadow of-


    **Turn your gaze aside before it burns your mind. Not even we look too deeply there.**

    I can sense the frog woman - no, the shaman - as a flame of light which isn't light at all because what I'm experiencing right now doesn't involve my eyes in any way. I try to respond but just thinking at her doesn't seem to be enough. No time to mull it over however because we're being pulled-

    What does direction mean when everywhere is always where you are if you want to be there? Really fucking confusing, that's what.

    I can't get a good sense of the physical location our awareness has been pulled to but I can sense others like her. Other shamans, presumably. I'm not hearing anything but they feel like they're... resonating? It's hard to really even frame my awareness of them, let alone try to listen in.

    **Seven clans must be negotiated with to clear a passage through Skal for outsiders. Many things lie in Skal which are dangerous and deadly, many things we do not have. What can you offer in balance to the disruption of seven ways of life?**

    It's not the frog-woman's voice. This one is deeper, growly. Almost impatient. Instead of thinking I try to imagine projecting the thoughts instead-

    **The ring makes me strong. Powerful. I can offer healing, resolutions, trade. I might be able to help with the worst of Skal's problems.**


    **Skal exists as it has always existed. Struggle and blood shaped this land. Mysticism and magic shaped its people. We do not rely on outsiders.**

    **In time, I can offer answers about this world that nobody has. I'm trying to build a web spanning this continent. Trade, travel, support.**


    **Can you aid and remove those Lost who end up in our domain?**

    **Yes. I can arrange - not immediately, but soon - for places to take them.**


    **Their lives do not last here. They are not of this place and disrupt our peoples with strange ideas and soft-hearted madness.**

    **Arrange for a route for them and traders passing through the area can take them. A single road through the region is a point of contact to the rest of the world.**


    **Agreed.**


    When I open my eyes the frog woman is breathing deeply, seemingly asleep. The brazier has burned down low and...

    And the ring is rotating slowly in front of me, glowing.

    "We have work to do, you and I." I say it quietly, holding my hand up as the ring fits itself onto my finger again where it belongs.

    "We do not have food." The shaman hasn't opened her eyes. "Not to spare. But go south to the coastline of Skal and you will find clans there who may trade you for such. Outsiders often take boats to pass this region and the Starry Night and Diving Eyes clans are the ones outsiders deal with most. Others do not trade or gather supplies in that way." She holds a hand up. "Now go. I have a village to assuage."

    I nod to her and stand up, drifting out of the door of the hut and rising up into the sky. Turning south and thump as the ring tears me through the air towards the coastline. Diving Eyes and Starry Nights... what kind of animals will they be, I wonder? It's hard to tell from the names.

    Maybe I should ask if they've seen any pan birds.
     
  19. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 07
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    As I fly in lower towards the coastal town, I can hear drums. Not marching drums but the kind of deep, bone-thumping drums where you know the thing is the size of a car. Probably more than one because they're putting out a proper beat to something.

    As I get closer, I can hear the song. It reminds me of something... at the edge of my mind that I can't quite place. Frustrating. It's primal, thumping and from the sounds of it, basically everyone in the village is participating.

    I swoop in over the town, making a wide circle and lowering down out over the water, giving them plenty of time to see me. I know they can because I can see them pointing but the song mostly continues on, coming to a crescendo as I approach their docks and a scream as I come in to land, all of them yelling at once and then falling silent. Really silent.

    Why does this place keep trying to creep me out?

    From the looks of it, the Starry Nights are skunks. They're about Khumu-sized like the frogs, only about as tall as my stomach. I can tell just by looking at them that they'd be comfortable walking about on all-fours but none of them are doing that, they're all standing bipedal. Some have colors dyed into their fur, others have jewelry, some wear clothes but mostly as a status symbol.

    I'm really glad I'm not finding any of them attractive because it'd be really awkward and I would be seriously questioning myself. Not a single bra or loincloth to be found. Thank the blue light for shaggy fur.

    "Welcome, Lightsmith Ainsley." The crowd parts for their shaman, a surprisingly young looking girl. I expected an old woman like Saan or the frog, but nope. This one has flowers in her hair. "We've been expecting you."

    "Well that's news to me because I wasn't sure exactly whether or not I would come here first. But, you know me, I don't know you, so you're...?"

    "My name is Kurishalia. Kuri-shal-ia." She enunciates it for me. "Outsiders struggle with it and inevitably call me Kuri, so I won't be offended when you do the same."

    "Okay. So, how did you know to expect me?"

    "I was there when you spoke to the others."

    I tilt my head, hming at that. Some kind of shared telepathic thing? Instructions unclear, I'd like a refund please. "Well, I assume you know why I'm here then?"

    "Yes, you want to trade for food. We can do that." She makes a gesture at the others and the villagers begin to disperse, going back to their daily stuff. The ones who pass by me all find an excuse to pat my arm. One enterprising child hugs the side of my leg and does a chirping sound before running off that I'm pretty sure would make my head explode from cute if the ring wasn't helping me out.

    Probability of the users head spontaneously detonating are-

    Yes, thank you, you have no sense of humor, glad we cleared that up.

    I take a few steps towards Kuri, who seems to be studying me rather than watching me. "You don't like to fight. Good." She gestures and starts walking. "Come with me."

    "You shamans do like to be mysterious, don't you?"

    That gets me what I think is a smile. "It's one of the perks of the position. Skal all feel obliged to take you seriously, even when you're not being serious. You eventually end up in the habit of just being hard to read all the time so the others don't misinterpret you somehow."

    "You hold a lot of authority here, then? You're the clan leader?"

    "In a sense. It's the hunters who make the big decisions, but it's the shamans who guide those decisions. No clan does anything in Skal without the approval of the local spirits."

    "What was that back in the other village?"

    She's leading me to a longhouse, ducking into the door. I'm not crawling on my hands and knees to get inside so I crouch down and have the ring transition me into it. Heavy cloths hung along the walls, a stone lined firepit in the middle of the room with a small open flame. Bedrolls, a few of the other Starry Nights resting or talking quietly.

    One bedroll away from the others that she's leading me towards.

    I move carefully so I don't hit or knock anything over, sitting down beside the lone sleeper. Ring, gimme the low-down.

    Subject is currently suffering from a metastasized tumor of the liver.

    Oh. Well, that's no good. I reach over towards the sleeper-

    "He is my creche brother. You said you could heal. If you-"

    -and I'm already repairing his body and erasing the malfunctioning cells.

    "-heal him, you will have my clan as an ally for as long as I live."

    "I would have done it regardless." I put my hand on the top of the boys head, using my thumb to rub behind one of his ears. "The food isn't for me. I'm trying to help somebody else so that I can get access to somebody else that I want to speak to."

    The boy is stirring, Kuri sitting next to him. "Rest now, Sama."

    "Mmnnn." The boy tucks his eyes against her hip and curls up on himself, hugging his own tail.

    "You want to make allies." She says it quietly, stroking the top of her brothers head. "You made one today. I've hated seeing him suffer. Thank you."

    "You can thank me with provisions." I chuckle without humor. "I'm trying to put a king in a good mood."

    "That is no easy task to do." She nods. "My people can provide, at least in some ways. We fish, collect herbs and fruits. More the latter than the former but we trade with the Diving Eyes."

    "They're next on my list, actually. I intend to visit them as well."

    "How many are you intending to feed?"

    "A whole royal gang of nomads. It's really their king I want to talk to, but that'll be easier if his camp is fat and happy."

    She nods slowly. "Sounds important. I'll come with you."

    "What?" I blink at her.

    "I'll come with you. You can take me, I'm not very heavy. You want to build allies, don't you?" She nods again. "The clan is used to me taking off for long periods of time on shaman business, I won't be missed too hard for a month or two. Time enough to travel."

    "Okay, but I should warn you about Elise..."
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2021
  20. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 08
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    The Diving Eyes turned out to be otters who, unsurprisingly, had a large stock of fish. A little more surprising was finding that they'd learned basic water elementalism from some Tovari travelers and had been using it to make stockpiles of frozen fish specifically for trading with the Starry Nights for land vegetables and meat, as well as passing ships that come through the area. It didn't take long to negotiate a settlement since they were quite happy to take metals as currency, with a curious mix of gold, platinum and silver. They didn't want just one, but several different kinds. Maybe they plan to smelt them for themselves somehow?

    I'm sitting with Kuri in the grass between the campers yurts where Yelin has Uter helping her set up a large cooking area. They're lining a fire pit with stones, working with some of their friends to build what will probably amount to a very large wood fire barbecue. For her part, Kurishalia seems to be relishing the chance to... well, not boss people around, but she sort of mom's people. She stuck around camp here after negotiating with the Diving Eyes for me and is pretty much the reason most of these people are fed, watered and bathed all at the same time right now.

    It's funny, I wasn't all that surprised by the amount of pull that she had in Skal as a shaman, given her description of their role in Skal culture as both heirophants and grand tribal council. I find I'm very surprised by the amount she has even here in Tovalon. Despite how small she is, the Tovari take her seriously and treat her with respect. She's been nothing but warm to everyone she meets so maybe that's part of it, but it makes me wonder just what Skal shamanism can do that it's earned that kind of reverence from a people who aren't even politically engaged with them.

    Right now she's chowing down on some meat jerky she brought some home and hitting me with her tail every three seconds or so as she waves it side to side next to me. I wondered if she was trying to bug me at first but now I suspect she's barely aware of it doing its own thing.

    Alert. A large group of people has entered the proximity detection range specified.

    Oh good, they're finally here-ish. I hop up off the grass, making Kuri blink. "Looks like they're here. You want to stay here, or come with me while I plow my way through red tape to the king?"

    "Will it involve violence?"

    "Not on my end. I plan to just ignore everything they throw at me and go talk to Noah."

    "Why?"

    "I don't want to get stuck talking to some junior nobody for days while they work out whether or not they think I'm important enough. I have too many things to do to waste time like that."

    "You're being ridiculous." I raise my eyebrows at her. "I'll come with you, if only to keep you from making an ass of yourself. They'll take you seriously if I'm with you." She pops the last of the jerky in her mouth and gestures at me like she's waiting on me.

    It was really hard not to treat her like a little furry kid at first but it's getting a lot easier the longer I spend time with her.

    I pick both of us up and rise about two meters off the ground, moving forward towards the incoming nomads. Kuri's doing a little dashing pose and enjoying herself far too much to let it show on the surface. I suspect half the reason she wanted to come with me is that she just plain enjoys flying around next to me.

    When the groups vanguard spots us there are calls to halt but I basically just ignore them, swooping above them and heading for the center of the caravan. It's not hard to make out where Noah probably is. There's a large floating platform made of wood and metal bracing being pulled by what I can only describe as a car-sized armadillo thing. A yurt is set up on the platform itself, presumably Noah's. I bring us down to land in front of the animals, soldiers trying to work their way up from the vanguard to give us hell but too many others in the way for it to be effective. Once the caravan has stopped I lift us back up, floating us towards the platform where a Tovari with goat horns and a really big axe is standing in front of Noah's tent. He looks to be spoiling for a fight but then he spots Kurishalia and just looks confused.

    "Sorry about the alarm, I wanted to come straight to the point so I can get back to my work. I need to speak to King Noah."

    "Not just him." Kuri pipes up, tail doing this weird... wavey thing behind her with my flight aura. It's kind of neat, actually. "I'm a shaman of Skal. This matter concerns both of our regions."

    The goat man doesn't look happy about this. "Amadeus, you catch that?" He's speaking behind him despite the fact he's keeping his eyes on us. A rumble comes from inside the yurt.

    "Let them inside. If they wanted to attack, they'd be attacking."

    The goat bites back a protest and huffs, gripping the axe a little tighter. But he steps aside, eyeballing me like he wants to change his mind. I bring us both down to land on the platform and release Kuri from my flight aura, keeping the environmental shield on her for the sake of the translation effect.

    The inside of the royal yurt is pretty much like every other yurt I've seen so far, but with better quality stuff. The wall hangings are tapestries, clearly telling stories. Ring, scan those for me, would you? I want to study them in detail later.

    Confirmed.

    Instead of a fire pit in the middle of the yurt there's an actual oven. There's lights too, strings hung up on the beams of the yurt with small bulbs of a warm, yellow-white. I'm not sure how they're powering it but there's probably something around here somewhere.

    A small antimatter battery is housed directly beneath the platform. It is currently powering the repulsors holding the lift up as well.

    No kidding. Ring, you know what to do.

    Scan completed.

    Good, good. Kleptomania never felt so applicable.

    The man himself is sitting on a small raised 'throne' at the back of the yurt, but it's really more of a couch in truth. Noah himself is a youngish man with tattoos down his arms that I strongly suspect have some kind of magical property. Intricate symbols lining his upper arms, shoulders and chest. He's clean shaven, the first Tovari male I've seen do that. His animal trait appears to be canine but I couldn't say what kind. His wife appears to be a feline, slender. Both of them are wearing what might be taken as adventurer's costumes save for the lack of dirt, grime and washed out blood.

    Noah appears content to watch us for the moment and it's his wife who speaks up first. "Hello. It's very unusual for a shaman to leave Skal."

    "More unusual for a human to fly, heal with a touch and deal fairly with us." I blink, looking over at Kuri. "He didn't ask for anything when he healed my brother. He simply did it because he could."

    "I'm Saxali and this is Noah. What are your names?"

    "I'm Lightsmith Ainsley."

    "Kurishalia."

    Noah nods and sits up, gesturing to us. "Come sit with us while Amadeus gets the caravan moving again." Amadeus himself seems to appear out of nowhere to our right. Ah, he's the goat-mans brother. I think.

    I've never broken bread with a king before. This should be interesting.
     
  21. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 09
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    "Believe it or not, we've already had word of you." Noah is rolling a local herb into a cigarette as he speaks. Saxali is off in one corner talking to Kuri. I think the two of them are comparing home-life stories between each other, the differences between Tovalon and the Starry Night clan. "Our people don't have high levels of technology. We never tried to develop it the way the easterners did. Preferring to live as agriculture-based nomads doesn't make us wholly ignorant, though."

    "The anti-matter battery powering this platform suggests that, yes."

    "Oh you know of it? Are you familiar with the technology?"

    "Only in the sense of recognizing it. I know what anti-matter is and how dangerous it is, but my memory is..." I make a motion at the side of my head with my hand, grimacing.

    "Something's damaged your mind?"

    "I can't even recall my home life. Only bits and pieces of it. I know I came from a technological society, that it was human and that science was a big deal to us, but so much context is missing that I'm really just making educated guesses. I don't truly know."

    "That's disheartening. I'm sorry to hear it." He lights his smoke - Oh, it's cannabis. Interesting that it managed to make the journey here. "We heard of you from a small camp to the west. They sent a messenger to another, larger camp that was one of the ones which held a radio."

    "So, what did they tell you?"

    "That a blue, glowing human wants to build a trade network with us and started their introduction by healing an old woman. Not because she asked, but just because." He shrugs. "Then Kuri shows up and mentions you doing the same for her. Are you a healer?"

    "Yes and no." I pick up one of the cushions, leaning sideways on it. Surprisingly good quality, actually. I think it may have been hand-stitched. "I'm capable of healing, sure. But I'm empowered by hope, both inspiring it and having it. Healing people, mentally or physically just feels... right. Building trade between Skal, Tovalon and Durjak feels right. I've only been in this world for a few days and I can already see so much potential..."

    "Such as?"

    "That battery of yours, for example. I've already scanned it and now that I have, my ring could probably fabricate more."

    Noah goes still. So does his tail, for the first time since I've met him. When he does that Saxali sits up a little, suddenly paying us a bit more attention. "You can copy high technology?"

    "Yes. More than that, the ring can analyze it. Extrapolate from it. It's a super tool, not a weapon or a medical device. It just does those things too. I want to build a trade network so that we can gain access to these things, make life easier for everybody."

    "There are sometimes devices we do not understand, ones which are dangerous. Would you be willing to take these as well?"

    "Devices like what?"

    "Machines which eat people and turn them into more machines. Stones and devices which cause those who go near them to wither and die in horrible ways. Substances which... the effects can be horrifying. Especially with alchemical substances."

    "That first one I would need to see for myself, I think. The second one sounds like radiation, which I should be able to deal with. The third... probably." I nod. "But I would need more information. Which is also part of trade. Do you have a library, King Noah?"

    "What is a library?"

    "See? That's exactly the kind of thing I mean. A library is a central location for gathering knowledge, books, scrolls, poetry, literature in general. I know the Skal don't have one, five minutes of talking to Kuri made that obvious. But we could. Imagine young Tovari who want to learn magic or engineering being able to travel to Durjak and become students. A city not at the center of civilization on this continent, but a linchpin holding the machinations of society together so that something more, something better can be built on it."

    He's leaning back and giving it serious thought. "You're right, we don't have places like that. We've been carrying on with our way of life ever since Tovalon was pulled into this world. Aside from the ongoing conflict with the easterners, not much has changed in our daily lives."

    "Has anyone ever told you about evolution?"

    "No, what is this?"

    "Evolution is the process by which all the various life comes about. Or at least, that's how it worked at home. Probably the case here too, but..." I shake my head, trailing off a little. "Anyways, it works like this. In any given population you have members trying to reproduce. Predation, accidents, bad luck and stupidity get eliminated from the gene pool by dying, which means that only the most successful survive to reproduce. Given a long enough time, it produces very refined forms of life. Complex animals. But that basic premise of 'adapt or die', it's central to the whole thing."

    "When I arrived here and started to learn a bit about this world, I realized instantly that the ones who end up on Terra -"

    "Terra?"

    "No one's given me a name for this world, so I'm calling it Terra."

    "An odd name."

    "At least I'm not calling it holy." He looks confused. "Long story. Anyways, from what I understand, others keep ending up here like me. New arrivals, no idea where they are or whats going on. And that's a problem for me."

    "Why?"

    "I'm a living agent of hope. It's simply not acceptable to me that people be so helpless or endangered. A trade network across the southern end of this continent would create a web of interconnected resources to help situate people safely. Tovalon is strong, sure. But with allies, it could be better."

    "You know of our ongoing conflict with the east?"

    "Yes. They were my next stop but I might hold off a little until I've scanned enough technology and had time to fabricate something properly protective besides my ring."

    "You don't trust it?"

    "Oh, I have faith the ring will protect me. But it'd be kind of stupid to assume that would be the case forever. I've seen too many different things here to think that there might not be some way to disable it or me. I'm no fool, I know I have weaknesses. I just need to identify them and close them."

    "I'm having trouble seeing a reason not to agree provisionally. But as you said there is no centralization in Tovari society. It may be some time before word of this spreads."

    "Noah, come with us." He blinks. "To Durjak. I could transport your whole caravan if you needed it. There's enough food here to feed all of you, I made sure of that. You won't be an imposition on Durjak and I'm pretty sure the nomads here would rather your court move on. They like you, but not your nobles."

    "Understandable. They've rather got their collective heads up their asses sometimes. Very well, if you're willing to transport us, we'll visit this town of yours."

    "Excellent."
     
  22. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 10
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    This is going so well. Beyond even my own expectations.

    I'm sitting on the roof of one of the houses, sort of lounging as I watch the Tovari wander through Durjak. Colonel Ren and Commander Mason seem to have taken to running the show together in my absence, which is fine by me. The two of them are a good team. Not all of the Tovari are being allowed into town all at once and that created a little resentment in the court until Noah publicly announced it to be a good idea, at which point the overt grumbling stopped.

    The Tovari 'nobles' actually turned out to be something closer to a vizier or regional governor. Each of them has a region they hang out in at a small permanent farming settlement, the kind they use to resupply their nomadic groups. They're only riding with Noah because they intend to be at the southern elemental shrine in a few days but that won't be a problem with me moving them back to Tovalon. Might even attend it myself to see what that's all about.

    The sun is starting to set and it's right in my eyes but the ring is compensating for the glare so I'm actually finding it quite pleasant to sprawl out in the sunset like this. Durjak as a cleared treeline and the whole space between the walls and the forest is filled with Tovari campers which are beginning to light their nightly campfires and stoves. The smell of woodsmoke is heavy in the air here but the only reason I can smell it at all is that I specifically asked the ring to do that. It doesn't seem like a good idea to just completely ignore one of my senses if I'm in a place where I don't feel like I need armor anyways.

    Using a construct I'm designing myself armor, using the genkit design as a template. There isn't much I can really do to make it better at the moment besides upgrading the power source but I'm a little reluctant to put antimatter anything into a combat suit, even if the battery is powerful. My design upgrades are little things like transmutation of the material itself. Why settle for layered ablative armor when I can make the outer layer pure diamond and reflective? Ren pointed out to me earlier that a blue laser would just walk right through my environmental shield. She's right, too. So long as I'm not too banged up that trick won't work so well with this suit.

    Instead, I'm powering the armor directly with the ring. If something takes the ring out of play, I still have the augmented muscle enhancements and the mobility of the suit itself, as well as its original power source. Those big, lunky boots of theirs turned out to be big and lunky because they have a system to somehow reduce the friction between the ground and their feet, or raise it accordingly. Same thing on their gauntlets. The result is that they can scale walls like a gecko or skate around on pretty much any surface so long as it's sort of solid. Learning to use that will be a comedic act but it is what it is, I suppose.

    The color scheme for it wasn't too hard to work out.

    Rise off the roof and transition to the smiths courtyard. This is where the majority of the ingots I left ended up. Blue filaments fan out, subspacing ingots I'll need and with the silica left over from mining all this stuff in the first place... Ring, fabricate me some armor.

    Fabrication in progress. Fabrication successful.

    A blue wave of light creeps out from the sigils at my shoulders, covering me in a construct armor version of the suit I designed. The construct brights, shimmering like light in water for a moment before dropping away and leaving me wearing the armor. Link the ring to the power systems and activate.

    A HUD appears around my face, digitally displaying the environment around me instead of forcing me to rely on direct line of sight. An overhead map in my peripheral vision, proximity sensors, suit diagnostics... All good.

    Excellent.

    I activate the boots, sliding forward and having the ring correct my movement when I lean too far one way or another, for now. I have it displaying how I should be moving in one corner of my HUD but it'll clearly take some practice. That's alright, I'm sure some of the genkits will be happy to have a laugh at my expense while they teach me. I don't mind that too much, I'd probably find it funny too.

    Sliding up next to Ren, Mason and Elise I give a thumbs up, then subspace the suits helmet. "I like the armor. I'll probably modify it about a million times as we find new stuff, but it's a good start."

    Ren is chuckling. "You made it reflective."

    "Yep."

    Mason doesn't seem to have much to say but Elise is circling me and looking it over. "Oooh, it's like our suits but made out of something else. Why does it have glowing lines along the seams of the armor, though?"

    "No idea, the ring just kind of did that on its own."

    "It looks really cool." She play punches my shoulder, then shakes her hand out. "Ow, that hurt."

    "Not bad for a first attempt, blue. You got the hang of the friction skids?"

    "Pffft no, I just cheated and had the ring control my movement for me on the way here."

    "Looks like you get to join my morning drills then. Won't that be fun?" Ren is grinning at me in a predatory kind of way. "I can already tell you've never been a fighter but boy, I'm gonna turn you into one."

    "Yay. I can barely contain my excitement." I say it in a complete monotone, making Elise giggle until Ren looks at her sideways. She gets as serious-face as she can but is only partially successful.

    "Enthusiasm like that's gonna get you double laps, Ainsley." Ren thumps my shoulder and it actually makes me sway. It's like having a tiny giant tap you. "You just wait until tomorrow. It's gonna be an interesting day."

    "What, this place has other kinds?"
     
  23. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 11
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    [Dreamscape]

    The conceptualization/dreamspace begins with the blue sigil. I know with the dream-logic that it's a platform in space. I don't see any stars but it doesn't matter very much.

    When I look up I find I'm sitting on a ridge above a valley despite the lack of seam between the change. It doesn't look familiar but I know there's something there I should see.

    Something important.

    The impetus to move forward results in me flying in the dream, the trees blurring together. When I stop I'm above a clearing, lowering down into it. I walk into the trees and
    **I see you.**
    something changes but it's not important because I'm in a hallway. I recognize this place. I know it's a house I grew up in, walking from the stairs down the short hallway into the living room. It's an L shape, sharing the space with the dining room and the kitchen in walled off space. It's to my left but that's not the focus.

    Kuri is sitting on the couch. "You're not familiar with this, are you?"

    "I know this place."

    "Yes. You called us here. Some place you felt safe in instinctually. What is it?"

    "A house. I lived here as a child." Where dreams tend to flow from one thing into another, her being here is stabilizing this, somehow. I've become aware that I'm dreaming, something that's never happened to me before. Despite that, I don't feel like I really control anything. Powerless.

    "Not entirely. Dreams are shaped by magic which is shaped by dreams. Both of them are shaped by minds. You feel weak in magic, your presence is barely there. Wispy, like a child's. But your mind is strong."

    "So what does that mean?"

    "Your dreams can effect your mind and vice versa. Have you ever had a nightmare and woken up feeling shaken?"


    "You know my memory is a scattered mess."

    "Not in this place, it isn't. Look around you. Your mind is filling in the details of the room the longer we stay here."

    The television against the kitchen wall, the couch she's sitting on... the rocking chair. That belonged to my great-grandmother and was kept by my mother. So was the cabinet in the dining room. The oval table next to it, the stereo...

    She's right. In the time I've been here, I've never thought of these things.

    "How do I recover my memories?"

    "I don't know. Your spirit is shaped in a way that I would expect to see in somebody who had been attacked nearly to death by magic or madness. You're clearly neither dying or mad."

    "But the key is my dreams."

    "Yes." She stands up, running a finger along the coffee tables glass. "Such opulance. What is this? Some kind of crystal?"

    "No, just glass. It's made from melted sand."

    "It would be useful to us."

    "Yeah. And I never thought of how to try making it before this." Hm. "Is it you doing this? Making me aware of this?"

    "Only partially. I'm asleep too. Part of what makes me a shaman is mastery of this place. I'm not actually doing anything to you, you're just benefiting from the stability around me."

    "How do I learn to do this on my own?"

    "You're already taking the first steps. What's outside?"

    I turn around, walking back down the hallway to the front door. Opening it feels almost like reflex. Then we're outside, standing next to the crab-apple tree I always hated on our lawn.

    "Oh." Kuri is looking back at the townhouse. "They're all connected. All built together?"

    "Yes. Blocks and blocks of houses divided by roads for those." I point at the burgundy Reliant my mom used to drive when I was a child. "It's like a wagon but moves without being pulled."

    "How?"

    "I never really studied it. That was my dads thing. Not mine."

    "I felt that. A strong emotional resonance."

    "This place is in a city far larger than anything you've seen. I know that but the truth is I don't think... I ever really traveled outside it. Not in person."

    "Limiting. Strong emotional memories are better. That one you just had was strong but it felt very negative."

    "I don't think there's good associations there."

    We've changed locations, going from standing on the grass in front of the house to standing in a field. Hay bales are lined up against a fence with a treeline along it. A large driveway divides the field from a white farmhouse with a large garage and a smaller structure behind them at the trees. All of the buildings look old.

    "This looks more familiar to me."

    "Does it? I think of this place as The Farm when I look at it, but..."

    "No crops, yes. Animals, though." She points to the hay bales. "And a barn. You're not entirely off the mark."

    "No, I suppose not."

    "Why is this place important to you?"

    "I don't know. Links without context, that's how it's been since I arrived. I don't know how to force it, how to do it consciously."

    "Give it time, Ainsley. There will be other nights." She drops down to sit in the grass, plucking at it and chewing thoughtfully. "Your clothes are different. The quality is impressive. Not just of your clothes, but all of what I saw. You lived like a tiny prince and I thought you might be rich until we stepped out and saw so many other houses just like yours."

    "No, not rich. What you saw was just stuff my mom had accumulated."

    "Your society must be very prosperous."

    "Compared to Skal? Yeah. We had stuff to make stuff that..." I shake my head. "We'll have it in Durjak too. Someday."

    "You wish to attract artisans and have them develop ways to teach others their craft."

    "Yeah. I do. I want everyone to be able to have that, or at least something like that. Security, comfort, peace."

    "When you awaken, I will find you. We will discuss how to prepare you for this tomorrow night. One piece at a time we'll recover what is locked away here. Also, I think I like this grass."

    "How? You've never tasted it for real."

    "It's the enthusiasm which counts, you know."
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2021
  24. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 12
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    I've been doing some light reading. 'Light' because the ring doesn't have a lot of information in it. Asking the AI what it knows wasn't very helpful until I made a computer screen construct and started browsing through it in a text-based format. Every time I found something interesting I'd have the ring focus on that thing and work its mojo on my brain to download it into my head or whatever the hell it's doing.

    That's how I got the instructions to make more rings. But doing that requires the person doing it to focus really hard on their hopes while doing the work, which is why I'm building my workshop inside a mountainside. I need a workspace I can secure and it's pretty hard to break into a mountain face. I'm using the ring to tear out rock, subspacing the slag material for later use. Maybe I'll combine it with the asteroid slag and build somebody an island or something.

    The rock face I'm working on has quite the view, actually. It's on the border between Durjak's lands - I really need to think of a region name for this area - and Skal, on the western side of the range. I can just about see Durjak if I use the ring to enhance my vision so I'm not too far, but high up enough to limit access and still give a beautiful view of the valley below stretching out to the horizon. Not all of the trees are the same uniform green either. Some are darker, some lighter, some with various kinds of purple leaves and some with bright gold ones. Some of the trees have flowers in them ranging from blue to purple to bright yellow. The area is gorgeous, really.

    "Wooooooow, you're just really tearing through that, huh?" Elise is here with me, sitting up on a jutting rock above the space I'm excavating. "Are you like, half badger or something?"

    "No, I just really need this workspace. Doing this is going to be a long-term thing at best, even if I began the work today it would still take months, maybe years to build a copy of my ring. I don't even have the tools or anything yet. The ring can make construct tools for this but having stationary work spaces for manipulating the blue light will help me conceptualize what I'm doing better. I can understand forges."

    "So who you gonna give it to?"

    "I haven't made that decision. It won't be a pressing one either, having a second ring supposedly gives me a bigger charge pool to work with. Even if I don't have anybody in mind right away, the effort still helps."

    "Sure but look at all the amazing stuff you can do. You're eating a mountainside. That's pretty awesome, y'know."

    "I'm cutting out foundations. Speaking of which, you're going to have to move from there soon. Can you come down to this spot I've already cut out?"

    "Shu-werrrrr." She hops up, shifting her weight to her hands and leaning forward and the rock, balancing her center of weight on her wrists while moving her legs behind her so she can kneel and stretch while standing up. She kind of eyeballs me when she realizes I'm not looking and hops down off the rock, sliding down on her feet and walking over to me. "So this is gonna be your secret hideout, huh? You gonna make the mountain into a skull? You should totally do that, it'd look so cool."

    "Wh-? No." I side-eye her, giving her a funny look. "I'm not an evil overlord or something, Elise. I'm trying to inspire people, not menace them."

    "Why not both?" She shrugs extravagantly, doing a little bounce in her step while she says it. "Oh come ooooon. So what are you gonna build, then?"

    "A castle."

    "Whaaaat? Okay I take it back, that's a great idea. What kind of castle?"

    "The kind I can live in comfortably with a small retinue, probably. Durjak is still just one town and this region is pretty big. It'll become a center of trade for this area soon and a castle overlooking the area is a statement. Not to mention I want a comfortable, defensible home. With it up on a high ledge like this the only way to get up here will be through a portal or lift or something, which is a choke point easily defended. Portcullises can be broken, but what do you do when they just remove the door?"

    "Make a catapult!" She grins at that, wagging her tail.

    "What, not a trebuchet? You monster."

    "I know. I'm branching out into new forms of evil, the classical ones get boring after awhile." She's halfassedly pacing around while I tear out huge sections of the mountainside, digging a rectangle shaped cut into the rock face. Then I begin building the foundation, a heavy wave of blue light forming the shape in a construct before the light-through-water shimmer follows, solidifying the rock into the shape I want. Adding a mix of asteroid slag is changing the color of it so that the resulting brickwork is actually slightly more blue-ish gray than the rest of the rock, making it stand out a little. "Ooh, it's theme-colored too. Niiiiice."

    "I didn't actually plan that, interesting. I wonder if I can find some marble or basalt to work into the design here?"

    "Yes! You should totally make the castle in your colors. Oh! If you go to a volcano can I come with you? I wannaseeavolcanosobad."

    "Well... I'm not sure where to find marble but I can probably get quartz instead if I burrow deep enough. As for basalt, you get that from volcanos, so yeah. But only if you make us lunch when we get back."

    She grins and grabs my arm, leaning into me. "Deal! Now c'mon, I wanna see lava go all FWOOOOSH!"
     
  25. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - 13
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Basalt acquired. Elise did a little tribal whooping dance at the craters rim while I collected lava samples next to her. The only reason we could get so close was the environmental shield but she really had a blast even though all we did was kind of stand there while I used constructs. I thought it would be hard to find a volcano with an open, exposed lava lake like that but it turns out a number of the mountains along the northern ridge are volcanically active or at least sort of active. Something I'll probably have to keep an eye on the future.

    A number of trees randomly taken from around the valley will be providing the wood I need for supports and finishings. I'm floating with Elise in the middle of the construction site as the rings use constructs to move materials around and do the actual work of building.

    "So how are you building all of this, anyways? You got castle plans in your head or something?" She keeps doing kicks and her tail in midair to spin herself around, watching the constructs at work. Kick, tail, kick, kick, tail.

    "No, just a rough idea of what I want. The ring is doing most of the work for me. I know I need supports for upper floors and stuff like that but it's the ring AI working out the best placement for them, how to fit it together, all that."

    "Coooooool. Hey, you got a pool?"

    "No, I don't have a filter pump designed yet. But this isn't much more than an elaborate house right now. Adding on new sections as I need them is something I figured I'd probably have to do at some point but I can fly, so building them slightly apart from each other and linking them isn't so much of a problem."

    She stops, folding her arms under her breasts and frowning. "Well, not everyone can. You're gonna have people living here with you, right?"

    "That's the plan."

    "Who, though?" She leans in really close to me, almost face to face. "Hmmmmm?"

    I don't answer right away, giving it some thought. "I guess... the people working with me, people I take in or give work. A castle needs staff but nobody in town needs jobs except for the prisoners and there's plenty of work to go around for them."

    "Gonna fill your place with cute, scantily clad girls, huh?"

    "If I find any who want to stick around, sure, why not." I make a flippant gesture.

    "Hah. Boys." She looks kind of amused to me. "Genkits don't have a nudity taboo like humans, but even we don't tend to do that. It's a non-issue instead. You're planning to build a team of people, though?"

    "Kind of. I can't do it all alone, after all. Kuri is already helping me and I strongly suspect if I asked her to run the place she'd leap at the chance. She likes doing new things and looking after people. I'll need people who know magic. People who can research technologies or reverse engineer things. All kinds of talent, really."

    She's nodding along to my explanation, looking thoughtful as a room is built around us in flashes and flickers of blue light. "What would it take to convince you to train me with the ring you're going to make?"

    I blink, looking at her. "You'd probably make a good fit for hope." ... "I got news that there is another like me. Someone of a different color. Yellow rings run on fear and -"

    "Ren."

    "-Ren would-. Yeah. Exactly. But that's only if they turn out to be somebody I can't work with. If they're brutalizing people... I have to stop them."

    "Well... I'm interested. Obviously. But I got to looking around town and it's just, we come from an underground city. Living up in houses? It's kind of weird. Different."

    "Really? Underground?"

    "Yeah. After the Purity War, one of our stipulations was getting territory. No one wanted to give any up, so we took Antarctica. Obviously they all thought we were crazy but nope. City Zero is built under Mt. Erebus, wrapped around the magma chamber. We use geothermal power for everything and the mountain on top of us ensures that no one will ever take us out with a nuclear strike again."

    ...

    "Again?"

    "Yeah. Anyways, the point is, a lot of us aren't super comfortable living above ground. If you built barracks here... your castle would have a billet."

    "Hmm. That would mean building a road to Durjak, but... yes, I could do that easily enough. It's still a six kilometer run to town, though."

    "Woohoo!" She throws her arms up, rifle overhead, almost hitting the newly made ceiling above us. I've been finishing the interior of the place with classical, ornate styles, like victorian-era churches. "Maybe we can find a mage who can design a pool?"

    "If you can find somebody and convince them, have at it. I'll even help you build it."

    "Challenge. Accepted." She's rubbing her hands together, Mr. Burns style. "So, you'll be inviting Kuri here, then us, does that mean I get my own room?"

    "Sure, if you want it."

    "Ooh, good. Good. I haven't had one of those in ages. I'll have to find a double bed for it."

    "Why? You like to sprawl out?"

    "No, duh. I plan to share it with somebody. Does it look to you like we're going home?" She shrugs. "I'll miss Zero, don't get me wrong. Ren wants to try and find a way back some day but I'm kinda wishy-washy about it. I mean, look at this place! I hope she succeeds anyways, though."

    "Why is that?"

    "Zero is named that because it's our springboard, our origin point, our fortress. But ideally we want to expand. We always figured it would be offworld but, you know, above the sky offworld. Another universe is more sideways but this is a whole world we could settle. We get along with plenty of humans now but if you were in our situation..."

    "Yes, I can see the appeal. But in the meantime, you plan to build a life here? You want to stay?"

    She nods firmly. "Yeah. I do. This place is interesting. You're way cooler than anyone I left back home." She thumps her tail on the floor behind her. "No, I wouldn't go back."

    "Good. Then you can help me pick out the furniture for this place."

    She turns her head slowly to look at me, staring.

    What?

    "What?"

    "It's really weird that the first person who gets me is a glowing blue human. Yesssssss. Lets go find some gothic furniture for your doom castle."

    "For the last time, not going for the evil overlord theme here, Elise."

    "Not with that attitude, you're not."
     
  26. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - Interlude (Elise) Pt. I
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Hurry up and wait, that's how it usually goes.

    There weren't even any chairs. The administration district was pretty in its own way, but the lack of chairs. It made her seriously question the merits of their interior designers. She couldn't blame the architects. The whole district was all large halls of black and white stone with faux-gold finishing and indirect lighting so that the acoustics would ring for days and days and you felt like you were walking in the hall of some great dwarven king, which wasn't actually too far from the truth. The whole thing was still basically a massive, ornate office space though. When you were down there on official business, it wasn't to admire the workmanship of the place.

    "Lieutenant?" She turned to look at the adjutant calling her attention. Shit, he's cute. Why doesn't anyone ever warn me about the cute ones? A cloud leopard, to her the boys markings made him look exotic, different. Keeping her opinion firmly to herself, she raised her eyebrows to him a little, tilting her head slightly as she faced him. "The General is ready to receive you."

    Nodding but not speaking she followed him down the hall, trying not to stare at his butt on the way. Eyes firmly ahead, that's the ticket. With mild relief he stepped into the room ahead of her and held the door open, stepping back out once she'd entered the room and leaving her with The General.

    AKA Dad.

    "Hiya, da'. Was this all you?"

    "Yes and no. Come and sit down, I'm not grilling you. You want a drink?"

    "Nah, that stuff's kinda ick." Relaxing, she dropped into one of the armchairs in front of his desk, not bothering with decorum at all and sitting sideways in it with her legs over the armrest. "Besides, you didn't call me alllll the way from New Delhi just to have a drink with you. I'd probably be a little less annoyed if you hadn't made me wait for half an hour with no chairs. Your staff are buttheads."

    "It's true, they are. But they're also useful and talented so despite the fact some of them have... personality issues it's something we learn to look past to get the job done. They make the effort, we make the effort and you know how we get about working together."

    "You're not answering me~" She singsonged it, tilting her head back. "Must be serious if you're trying this hard to beat around the bush."

    He rumbled, pouring himself a glass of scotch. "You've been chosen for a small team being sent through an experimental gateway to explore the other side."

    She sat up suddenly. "Holy shit, they actually finished that thing?"

    "They did." He sips the drink, looking somber. "They're sending you for a couple reasons. For one, you're the only one Ren listens to and they're sending her. You two are kind of a package deal as far as the brass are concerned. You were there during the negotiations for the New Delhi military base, how much attention were you paying to the diplomats?"

    "About as much as anything else."

    "What did you take away from that whole thing?"

    "Instead of negotiating like it was a business deal, the way they set it up gave them better odds. Most political negotiations happen between state heads or diplomats in closed room sessions. Taking all of them to a park and having families there playing while they talked changed the whole thing from a big serious affair to an informal meeting between equals and friends. Inviting them to bring their families and having a bunch of genkit kids there was what made it work, though. A bunch of people they didn't know and it would've just looked like we weren't taking it seriously."

    "Yes. Just so. When we asked that question to the diplomatic corps they gave us a big splooge of fuck all about how our political reputation made it all possible and the good will they've built up and blah blah blah." He waved it off, sitting back down at his desk. "It's a bunch of horseshit. The trick to it was basic psychology. You have a degree in psychology and Ren's balls in your purse so you get the job."

    "Kiiiind of an exaggeration, there. I mean, she listens to me, but it's only 'cuz the whole squad listens to me and she never has to yell at them. You remember Lieutenant Dingher?"

    "I remember the court martial. And the cat jokes. Who the fuck is Schrödinger, anyways?"

    "Exactly. She just needs the right kind of personality to maximize her usefulness and I happen to fit the bill." She shrugged. "I don't run her or anything. Oh and he's a human physicist from the 1950's."

    "I don't want you to go."

    She turned and sat up properly in the seat, really looking at him for the first time. The tinges of gray at his ears and nose, the way he kept staring at the desk. This was a man she'd seen actually fighting, covered in crap, shooting at assholes in underdeveloped backwaters and having the time of his life doing it. Now here he was, refusing to look her in the eye.

    "What's the catch you're not telling me, here?" ... "It's one way, isn't it?"

    "We don't have another gate on the other side. You're being sent to both assess the place and to try and build one. We're sending everything you'll need with you, but..."

    "But you're worried something will happen and we'll get stuck there."

    He nodded.

    Leaning back in the chair, she oofed slightly, thinking that over. "How many are being sent?"

    "Four groups. You're all being sent to the same area and you'll be in group A. The idea is for you to drop in, clear the zone and then help situate the next group that arrives. Once you've secured a perimeter, the engineers will build the new gateway and attune it to ours."

    "Do you know what's over there?"

    "We know it's habitable. You'll all be going in full environmental protection armor. It's not space, but fuck knows what's floating around the air there."

    "Well... okay. What about the Ark Program?"

    "It's still on. Colonization isn't something we can afford to just... there's more than one way to attack a problem."

    "Why is Tychorus so worried about this?"

    "They're worried because all our eggs are in one basket, here."

    "That's not true? There's genkits living in 23 different countries around the world, now. A single massive strike doesn't risk taking us all out anymore. They had one chance at the bio-domes and they failed, now we're entrenched and they'll never be rid of us."

    "That's not what I mean, Elise. We're all on one planet. A massive asteroid strike, a large enough volcanic event... if we ever have something like the Siberian Traps again, that's it for us as a species. We need to get off this fucking rock. That's something the humans don't seem too worried about, but nobody made them stare down the Darwinian fucking barrel, did they?"

    "No, I guess not. This is really important to you, isn't it?"

    "Important enough to send my daughter and not pull rank to get her reassigned, yes."

    "Then I won't disappoint you, dad."

    "You never have, Elise. You never have."
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2021
  27. Threadmarks: Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around - Interlude (Elise) Pt. II
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    It was the wildest ride she'd ever been on. The moment they stepped through the gate the phase shields protecting their carrier were nearly overloaded, the power systems going into critical as they struggled with herculean effort to try and compensate for the sudden drain on the shields as whatever existed between worlds ate and chewed and tore at them. When they got through to the other side the vehicle just quit, rolling three feet before stopping.

    Then the combat began.

    An explosion rocked the carrier and Ren hit the manual release, all of them filing out of it doubletime as more explosions went off around them, like somebody unloading mortar rounds at them. Something their combat doctrine could deal with. The first out of the carrier activated their skids and began sliding out, fanning around the apparent source of the artillery as fighters came screaming out of the treeline around them. The first to meet their fighters fell pretty quickly, the others drawing back as people hurling fireballs and some kind of cold beam advanced on the genkits forming a defensive line around the carriers.

    Elise was one of the ones moving to the left, hitting the trees and getting into them. Dense clusters of objects made it impossible to use the skids to full effectiveness but that just meant that going up gave her an advantage. She could climb easily due to the gloves and boots where their enemies seemed to be ground based fighters. Since ground based fighters rarely look up, she got herself up high in a tree and started to take aim.

    On her side of the battle, things were going well. The advantage of using the higher ground provided by the trees was helping the genkits tear them up but on the other side they were losing ground due to open spaces dependent on formed firing ranks. They were cutting their enemies down something fierce until a cluster of explosions tore into the genkits line.

    No. This is all wrong.

    Jumping out of the trees she dropped, activating the skids and hitting another tree, then sliding down it. Kicking off that she hit the ground running, sprinting back to their line as fast as she could. Enemy fighters were grabbing things and running off with them, clearly intending a shock-and-awe ambush to somebody just arriving. She had no idea how they knew the genkits would arrive here exactly, but it was something to worry on later.

    "Keep pushing! Send them running home to momma!" She could hear Ren screaming from across the battlefield but she seemed to have things in hand so she didn't pay her Colonel any mind for now. Instead she pulled out her hand scanner, pointing it at a wounded genkit. Safe to move? Good show. Picking them up as best she could she started rolling towards the medical carrier as fast as she could.

    It had avoided getting hit, unlike the other carriers. One of them was flipped over on its roof. As soon as she dropped off her casualty she was back out to find another person. The genkits too injured to move, she tagged instead so the medical teams could come to them. Where she found dead raiders she took pictures with her helmet to study later.

    It wasn't until nearly an hour later that they realized the carrier with the parts for the gate had been destroyed.

    They were stranded.




    "You think they'll send the other groups?"

    She was sitting with Ren, eating an MRE with her. Ren was having two but bears tended to be much larger than other genkits, so it wasn't that odd for her. Elise was sitting with her legs against her chest, picking at a salad when she asked the question.

    "Without an all-clear signal from us? No. Getting here is one thing. They'll want to know what happened to us and might send something but the whole reason we went in blind was that they couldn't get any telemetry back. Tychorus will be reluctant to continue spending assets and lives on something without knowing whether or not they were getting returns. And then there's the other problem."

    "Ma'am?"

    "They didn't have a lot of the exotic matter needed to make the connection. If they try to send the parts for another gate, we get one more try, tops. They were really clear about that. If those fuckers had taken out any other carrier it'd be fine but they hit our one soft target."

    "We're not getting backup?"

    "Maybe." She says it quietly, glancing around. "There's nothing stopping Zero from sending more aside from the fact that from their end, it probably looks like we all died."

    She took that in, suddenly finding the salad not so appetizing anymore. "What's our next move, ma'am?"

    "We set up a base camp here. If they decide to say screw it and send the other groups anyways, it'll probably show up here. Same with any supplies or anything else. The gate wasn't big enough to send a mech through but maybe somebody in Liara will feel spicy enough to give it a shot anyways. It's all maybes so we gotta monitor this area."

    "Well, most of our MRE's are gone. They got the water purifier too, so we're down to bottle filters now. They somehow got one of the plasma cannons off a carrier and took off with it."

    "You fucking kidding me? What'd we get hit by?"

    "Well, you saw the pictures as much as I did. We're not dead either, everyone whose suit breached is still just fine. Half our analytics are fucked but the engineers are confident they can get at least two of the five carriers working if we gut the other three for parts."

    "Fuck. Alright. People means civilization, so I want scouts getting out there and finding it for us. In the meantime I want you to do an inventory of everything we have and get a couple people to shoot something local that looks like it might be edible if we stick it into a fire long enough. We'll have the testers check it out and see if we can eat it safely."

    "Yes, ma'am." She got up, taking her salad with her. She couldn't conscience wasting food right now, no matter how she felt about the situation.

    Dad's going to flip his shit when he finds out.

    One problem at a time.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2021
  28. Threadmarks: Not All That Chitters Is Gold - 01
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    One Week Later


    If every day is like this, I could live like this forever.

    I'm standing on what has become the garden veranda of the residential part of my stronghold, reflecting on how besotted I am with it. The residential wing itself has quarters for everyone who could possibly want to live here but I dedicated an entire tower to myself and extended this veranda out from the side of it into the cliff face above the rest of the castle so that when I look down, the whole stronghold is spread out before me looking out into the valley below, the castle framing the old growth forest surrounding Durjak. The whole view faces south with the trees stretching out east to west like a sheet of green, violets, blues, purple and gold as the various trees compete with each other for their place in the sun. Right now that sun is sitting firmly on my left, morning light spilling out across the valley and giving everything that early glow that morning light seems to have but sunset somehow lacks. I have the environmental shield allowing scents so I take a deep breath and revel in how fresh the air smells, the green tinge to it.

    The veranda itself is a work of art as well, though everything growing in it is still new enough that it doesn't look very green yet. A pair of crescent shapes with the outer edges sloping up to a small terrace leading into the tower, it has garden beds lining the outer edges all the way to the bottom. That was Kuri's suggestion, almost an insistence that I have as many houseplants in the tower as possible. I'm not really clear why, but she was vehement enough about it she actually offered to bring her brother here to help tend to all of it because he's supposedly her assistant for herb gathering. Since she isn't planning to return to Skal she mostly just wanted an excuse to have him here, I think. He seems like a nice kid at least.

    Rising up I float my way to the terrace and walk in through the open balcony doors. I didn't bother dressing when I got up but apparently nudity bothers neither the Skal nor Genkits and after the third or fourth time I passed somebody naked in a hallway I shrugged to myself and decided I didn't care either. But I'm still human and clothes are something ingrained into us from the literal moment we're born. I won't be traveling around the world nude, but in my own place - my own castle - I can be comfortably casual about it. It also seems to put the others at ease but I won't be taking walks around Durjak without pants any time soon.

    Either way I should probably costume myself for the day. Fabricating a blue armless tunic with an accentuated hanging front over baggy pants and a sash. Black, blue, white and silver are my chosen colors so the whole ensemble fits that theme. No hat now, or any time soon, probably. Elise keeps making jokes about needing a crown and I don't want to put that image in anybodies head. I'm a guardian, not a king.

    That's Noah's thing, not mine.

    Walking out through the living space the balcony connects to, I wave to Samazurasha, who's currently hanging plant pots on the balcony of the loft above my living room. It's a large, open air design without internal walls, the whole thing about the size of a large cabin. Everything I'd want for myself, really. Kitchen, washroom, bedroom, living room, veranda and den. The rest of the tower is just empty right now but I'm sure I'll find uses for it eventually.

    "Hi Ainsley!" He waves with one hand, almost dropping the pot. "Oh sh-! Sorry. Sorry. Kuri said you'd woken up so I thought I'd start early."

    "It's fine, Sam. What're you planning to grow in those?"

    "It's a vine! A really pretty one. We use it for food when the leaves are dried out so it'll make the room smell nice and you can pick off it for cooking, too. It even has little flowers, but they're just white, not anything colorful."

    "It sounds good. I'm guessing you have plans to put a lot of these in here?"

    "Yeah! It'll be nice and green in here. It'll smell right too, right now it just smells like woody death and sap."

    I frown a little. "What do you mean?"

    "You can't smell that?" He looks puzzled, tail twitching behind him. "Like this really sweet smell overlaid on the smell of cut wood." I shake my head at him. "Huh. Is something wrong with your nose?"

    I smile and shake my head at him. "No, something is right with yours. You see how your face is shaped differently from mine?"

    "...No? I know what you mean but I can't ever see my own face. I'd have to pull my eyes -"

    "Remind me to introduce you to a mirror someday when I find one. Anyways, the length of your nose gives more room for your ability to smell. I never really thought of that until now. No wonder the genkits are so enthusiastic about personal grooming."

    "Ooh. That's neat." He gives a big wide grin. "You must miss a lot like that. I feel kind of bad for you. Maybe you should try being a genkit one day? Elise said you just reshape yourself when I asked about you."

    "Oh she did, did she?" I chuckle. "Maybe. Probably not though, I'm still on the fence just trying a different body as a human, never mind somebody with acute senses and a completely different body shape. Maybe one day but I got a lot on my plate as it is."

    "What's a plate?"

    I pat Sammy on the shoulder. "The little disks that we've been eating off of."

    "Oooooh. I'm still trying to learn their languages, you're pretty much the only person I understand, here."

    "You're doing pretty well, so don't sweat it." And he is, actually. Both him and Kuri are picking up the language at a frankly astonishing pace. Ren assigned a couple of grunts to give them the basics and according to those two, him and Kuri rarely need to be told twice about anything. I strongly suspect their memory is eidetic but I've just had too many interesting things to do and see to really spend time focusing on it right now. Soon, though. I want to know as much as I can about them and the Skal. Tovalon as well and... whatever this region is.

    "Oh don't worry, Skal don't really sweat. That's why we're next to the ocean, it's nice to go swimming and fish don't usually try to eat you back when you stick to the shore."

    I shake my head a little and leave him to it, heading down the tower steps and smiling to myself.

    This is the life.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2021
  29. Threadmarks: Not All That Chitters Is Gold - 02
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Although Durjak has plenty of metals to work with now, including a few they'd never had access to before, I've been thinking about long term solutions. The town doesn't have a mine but we do have a surplus of population at the moment and founding one is a little difficult when nobody here except me knows how to find veins of ore. More to the point, the area is kind of poor for that. There's plenty of iron and copper to be found if you know where to look but most of the value in this particular region where the town is lies in the rich soil, easy water access and the loose stone all over the foot of the cliffs leading up to the ridge where my stronghold is. It's great for cobblestones.

    So, we've got to outsourcing. Scouts for the town have been spreading word of our existence here and traders have begun to trickle in. It's fascinating seeing the different kinds of people who show up. I've seen at least one orc, a couple elves, something that looks like a tree person which I'm tentatively calling a dryad, pink girls with curved horns and black scelera and notably, tovari with elementals. Their particular brand of magic is fascinatingly relevant to me because it relies less on precise knowledge of magic and more on building a partnership and bond with your elemental, which grants you abilities while the elemental in turn gets perspective on what mortal life is like for a time. Tactile sensations are a big thing for them, apparently.

    The result is that as I walk through town with my arms folded behind my back, the whole impression I'm getting of the place is vigorous, prosperous life. The genkits and whatever Skal pass through town have been wild for setting up greenery anywhere they can, proplifting plant cuttings and using clones to create flowerbeds. I think the tree-person might have helped too but I never got the chance to talk to her.

    When I step into the inn I'm hit with a wall of noise. There's a group in the corner singing loudly and drinking beer - the ones I'm here to see, I suspect - and a few folks eating or drinking. The innkeeper, Bradley, sits up a bit when he sees me and waves. "Ho there, Lord Ainsley. What can I do for you today?"

    "I'm no lord, Bradley. You know that. It's only been a week and a half since you first met me."

    He gets a somber look on his face. "Ainsley, my dear boy, you live in a castle overlooking the town and are singlehandedly responsible for our current state of prosperity. If you don't think of yourself as a lord, that's fine, but word of advice from a friend." He gestures at me to come close so I move to sit down at the bar, tilting my head at him.

    "Lad, folks need someone to look up to. Every community has a leader. Now, before you got here, that was Mason and Mason's a good man. Competent man. I've not a word to say against him. But he never wanted the job and was pretty relieved to offload some of it onto Ren, who loves leading people. You know -" He gestures between the two of us. "- And I know that she's a blunt force instrument, so you should probably get used to people around here calling you Lord because you have far more sway in town than Ren does. Folk do what Ren says because she knows what she's about, can make a fast decision and gives a shit about people. She's also a fighter and loves to throw down. Let people treat you like you're her counterbalance and folk will be much reassured that she can't do something assinine like pick a fight with another community."

    "Hmm." Something to that, I think. "I suppose I'm just not particularly comfortable being thought of in that way. It's not something I was aiming for or particularly wanted."

    "The best leader a people can have is somebody who isn't ambitious for the position, but will take the mantle and do the best that they can when it's thrust on them. I know you can be that person." He nods at me. "So, what brings you to my bar today, anyways? Besides putting up with my bullshit philosophical moments, I mean."

    "Taking a look about town. And them." I point to my right at the drinking group and Bradley nods, turning around to grab a pint and filling it for me. "They're a rowdy lot but they've been treating folk here well."

    "Thanks, Bradley. Cheers." I raise the mug to him a little when he hands it over and get back up, wandering over to the group in the corner. "Hey there, lads. Mind if I grab a seat?"

    "Haha! Hullo, blue man! Heard about you, we surely did. Come and drink with us, then!" I've never met dwarves before. This lot look to average around five feet tall and are built like gorillas. If they told me they could bend steel barehanded I would still ask them to test it, but if I didn't have any steel on hand, I'd be willing to take their word for it too. "How's life up in the fancy sapphire castle of yours, eh?"

    "Did you really build it in a single day?" The one speaking to me has a black beard with bits of dull gray metal -

    Substance is platinum.

    -in his beard. Oh, interesting. A bit more opulent than gold but nobody would know the difference unless they knew their metals.

    "I did. The artifact which makes me glow can do all sorts of things." I take a sip and have the ring nullify the taste for me. Ethanol isn't very good. "Like mine, for example. But that's sort of the problem. See, I'm trying to set this town up for the long term and these folks need ore of their own, they can't go relying on me forever. Nobody here knows fuck all about mining, but..."

    "But we're dwarves so you figured we'd know, eh?"

    "Those platinum rings in your beard suggests you got them somewhere."

    "Hmm." My questioner leans back in his chair, looking thoughtful. "You've a good eye there, son. Aye, dwarves mine, but none of us are miners. We're merchants, lad! Now, that doesn't mean we can't help you." He grins a little, revealing a gold tooth. "It just means we'll be happy to take a finders fee for setting you up with our contacts."

    "I can live with that. Gold or platinum?"

    "Oh, either one is fine, lad... depending on the purity. How pure?"

    "One hundred percent." I take a gold coin with the blue sigil out of subspace and deposit it on the table.

    "Fuck off." He picks it up and bites it, then stops and looks at it in wonder. "It's pure. Completely pure. Insvald, check it too."

    The one who greeted me picks it up and also bites it, then throws it on the table and slaps it down flat with his hand.

    "Miners? Aye, we'll get you miners. A fair sight else as well if you can get more this pure."

    "Oh, I think I can arrange that." I can't help but smile.
     
  30. Threadmarks: Not All That Chitters Is Gold - 03
    AverusBlack

    AverusBlack AKA Sky

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    Turns out dwarves really, really don't like flying. When we worked out on the maps where their main city was I offered to fly us there and they all thought it was a great idea right up until we actually got up into the air. Flying on construct wyverns didn't agree with them at all and we were in the air for all of five minutes before Valsrad threw up and the others tapped out. Poor guy felt right as rain as soon as we were on the ground and I'd given him a bit of water.

    Unfortunately getting around on the ground is just too slow and not very practical since, being dwarves, their city is in a damned mountain. I mean, of course it is. But they ended up being on the western side of the same ridge as a city of Skal underground builders and apparently since the two cities have merged its now a way into Skal from the other side of the mountains, which is great since the Skal side is basically just old growth forest outside the gate and all of it really, really doesn't like you.

    No, it doesn't know anything about you. But it doesn't like you anyways.

    When I created a construct ship I came up with from somewhere they handled it much better. Credit to them, they were willing to give it a try after Insvald said he was fair game and they collectively decided they weren't going to be outshone by him. Or wanted to walk back, for that matter. But it turns out that being in an enclosed space just makes it into a room with magic windows to them so the rest of the trip was happily vomit-free.

    The front gate of their city was clearly a recent effort, probably done in the time that they've been here. They've carved a space about eight stories tall into a giant bearded face and then tore out a massive trench in front of it so that they could hang a drawbridge. It would seem that they're of a mind that if they decide you're not coming in, you're not coming in.

    Given the way the rule of law seems to end at the settlements walls in this world, I can't say I really blame them for the sentiment.

    Landing in front of the bridge wasn't an issue, since they made a large terrace on the other side of their large face because they just really dig stonework, I guess. Aaah, alas for Saan not being here. She'd have liked that one. Getting into the city wasn't either with the lads talking me up. Like true capitalists money is the boss in this town and since I have plenty of that I'm currently sitting in an inn waiting for the local miners guild representative.

    The inside of the city was a thing to behold. Looking out the inns doors I can see the massive hall behind the face. They divided each level to a function and just spread out their digging up or down. Most of the merchants and traders are on the bottom level since that's the first part of the city most people can access and the inn is no exception. Most of the Skal here are actually meerkats, since its their town on the other side of the mountain but there's a small mix of them here.

    A burly dwarf almost as tall as I am is making his way in and steering towards me. When he sits down he snaps his fingers in the air at the nearest barmaid, then turns sideways and puts his legs up on the chair next to him, leaning back against the beam next to the table I'm sitting at across from me. When I open my mouth he holds up a hand and ah's at me, then holds up his finger. Well, okay. I can wait a moment.

    When the barmaid brings him a tankard he knocks it back, chugging the entire thing down with an impressive amount of enthusiasm, then slamming the tankard on the table and growling his appreciation. "Aye, first beer after the days done is the best. Sorry lad, needed to wet me throat a bit before we begin." The barmaid is already bringing him another. "Names Helgar. Insvald says you're lookin' for someone to teach your folk how to tell their arse from a hole in the ground behind 'em. You their mayor or somethin'?"

    "Something. I don't have an official position and I live just outside of town but I've sort of adopted the place and I'm seeing to it that they prosper since I've decided to make my home there."

    "Hm. Bit more like a merchant prince or summat, then?"

    "No. I'm a lightsmith." I generate a construct of a hammer, hefting it. "I'm perfectly capable of finding ore and bringing them whatever they need. That's the problem. I don't want them to depend on me because if I go missing or something happens to me, I want them to be able to continue on without me."

    "Hmmmm. Well, don' see that everyday." He's taking his time with tankard number two, sipping at it while he thinks. "Awright. Yer golds apparently good and Insvald says yeh got platinum, so let's see then."

    I subspace an ingot of platinum onto the table, making him sit up a little and shuffle in surprise as he takes that in. "I can break it up into smaller denominations if you need me to."

    "How the feck did you get so much?"

    "Trade secrets." He nods to that easily enough. "I can pay, is the point. We just need to work out the price."

    "Lad, for an ingot like that, yeh could buy half the fucking city. Put that away before someone notices it." I put it away before somebody notices it. "Terms?"

    "Your people come out to the city. I'd offer to build houses but you don't seem the houses sort."

    "Nah, can't defend a house worth a tin shit, really. Longhouses are better but underground is best."

    "Good news for you then, I have a castle." He gives me a you fucking what kind of look but I continue on. "Your folks can live underground, you'll get along with the genkits on that score." More what from him. "You get paid in cash, teach the townspeople how to prospect and mine safely. Maybe get some trades people in to help them with their forging and stuff. It can be an ongoing thing."

    I think I'm blowing his mind a little. He's not answering right away, sipping his drink and not saying anything. It takes almost a full minute before he speaks. "If yeh pay that much in pure platinum yeh'll fuck up our economy. Can yeh do a spread?"

    "Yes. Gold, platinum, silver, whatever."

    "Whatever? What about mithril? Orichalcum? Jovium? Adamantite?"

    "No, just whatever's out in the asteroids I've been mining."

    "What the flyin' blue feck is an asteroid?" ... "No, y'know what, I won't ask. Okay. If yeh've never even heard of these, then plainly we folk o' the underground have a thing or two to teach yeh. You say you can mine yourself?"

    "Yes. Getting ore out of rock at complete purity is barely even difficult. I've been daydreaming while I do it, I just have to hope hard enough."

    "Getting arcane metals is part of why we mine so hard. Gold, platinum? It's rare and good, useful, but ultimately it takes enchantments like shite and there's nothing we can do to change that. Arcane metals, that's the ticket. Now, we've got a nice, fat vein of mithril pretty far down we've been trying to get to but there's certain... mmm, problems in working it."

    "What problems would those be?"

    "Let's just say that when yeh get down deep enough, yeh run into all manner of critters and not all of 'em are inclined to go running off when they see you."

    Oh boy, here we go.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2021
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