Jun 21, 2021 12:07 PM
imrainai in Silmaril
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#780 has one inhabited planet, an Earth, in 1032, and already diverging from the standard timeline. Historians are fascinated; that's the earliest an Earth has gone notably off-track, not counting the ones still roamed by dinosaurs or the one ruled by cephalopods. The administrator responsible for this planet gets a stack of seventy thousand applications to do field work on the new Earth. She asks for an increase in personnel.

Her team approves sixty-four thousand of those, puts in a request for Cam to terraform the local Mars, and publishes bus routes from Mars to Earth and across Earth's politically unusual surface. A week after #780 rose to the top of the priority queue, they visit it. 

 

 

A group of six humans walks into a temple in a small town in Sweden. Similar groups of six humans are walking into temples elsewhere. Three of them are men and three of them are women; they are of six different races; they are dressed conservatively by the local norms, and their clothing is unreasonably well-made and well-dyed. 

 

This religion isn't known to any of them; its prominence is one of the main divergences between this timeline and the standard ones. They stop uncertainly once they enter, and bow. 

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The temple is mostly staffed by women, though there are male guards at the door. They are greeted by a teenage girl who is somewhat braver than her friends. "Hello. We've not been told to expect any important visitors today. From where do you hail?"

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"Hello! I'm Mark, and I'm from very far away - a place called Texas, originally. These are Sfara, from Essier, and Caroline, from Australia, and Xekede, from Saluci II, and Ennet and Araw, from Bassada. I'm terribly sorry we didn't announce ourselves in advance. We are visiting from very far away; we have goods to trade and gifts for anyone here who might desire them."

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The girl shares a look with one of her friends. "Gydja Thora commands the temple of Örebro. Do you have specific business here?"

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"We'd love to meet with them, and if they'd prefer that we offer healing to the people of this town from this temple, rather than independently, we can do that."

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"Healing?"

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Mark pulls out his other hand, which has a nasty, bleeding gash; he shows it to her and touches it with his good hand. It heals instantly. "Is there anyone here who is injured? It's much easier to demonstrate in that fashion."

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The girls stare in amazement.

" - Nanna, get the gydja."

"She'll be busy preparing for the ceremony."

"They're magicians, Nanna."

Nanna is actually already leaving, apparently disinterested in defending her point.

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Mark wipes dried blood off his healed arm with a handkerchief of truly remarkable make. "What ceremony is she preparing for?"

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"The Chief of Nerike has died; there's to be a funeral and a sacrifice."

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"I am terribly sorry to hear it."

"How do sacrifices work?" asks Araw.

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"The sacrifice is performed to expedite the deceased's passing to the land of the dead," says the girl, frowning a little, as if she's only just realized that there are heathens in her shrine. "What faith do they practice in - Texas?"

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"I was raised Episcopalian," says Mark. "These days I consider myself agnostic - not sure what the answers are. This religion isn't widely known where I'm from."

"But you'll have the chance to present it to people," says Sfara, "there's actually a popular TV show where people present their religions to the audience. You can reach billions of people."

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"What's a - " starts the girl, and then can't decide whether to ask about Episcopalians or TV. "I don't think there are billions of people."

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"I suspect you're right, about your world," says Mark. "And about Texas, for that matter; Texas doesn't have billions of people. But Saluci II does, and Bassada. They are very tightly packed -" and he steps back and creates a three-dimensional visual image in the air at his feet, of a city of towering glass and steel spires, with winding bridges between them, going on and on in all directions. "Saluci II is, I think, the state with the most people out of all of the ones we know of."

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The girl takes a half a step in the direction she'd need to go to run, then remembers that her friend has already gone to get the gydja and that she probably can't outrun a bunch of powerful magicians if she wants to escape, and it won't do to piss a bunch of powerful magicians off. Some of the other people in the temple don't make it all the way through this thought process; several of them do leave, though a few of them crowd closer.

"You are obviously very powerful," says the girl.

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He dismisses the illusion, and holds out his hands apologetically. "Yes. Texas is a place of abundance. I have been very much favored by fortune."

 

 

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"You will want to speak to the Emperor," she says, as evenly as she can, eyeing the doors to see if anyone remotely qualified to deal with the insanely powerful magician is going to arrive and distract him long enough to cover her escape.

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"There are other people speaking to the Emperor. We came here because people might want healing, or gifts, or to trade with us, here as well as in the city of your Emperor."

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Oh they've already advanced on the Emperor, this is the forward arm of an invasion by some kind of - advanced Chinese magician army, that one there looks like what she imagines Chinese people might look like, of course the empire has finally grown large enough to piss off Chinese magician armies, holy shit holy shit holy shit - 

"Oh," she says, lamely. "Well then I should go tell the Gydja."

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He does not point out that she already sent someone to do that, because she's clearly looking for an excuse to leave. "Thank you so much! Should we wait in here or outside for the Gydja?"

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"Here is fine!" If they're inside then at least they're contained, maybe if they burn them alive inside the temple or something - no, they'll be expecting that - maybe if they pray to the gods - but she's never heard of the gods granting this sort of power to someone - "I'm so sorry we didn't know you were coming in advance!"

She runs off to find the Gydja so that she can warn her about the incredibly powerful magicians before leaving to find her mother and hopefully waiting out the changing powers someplace very unimportant.

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The extremely powerful wizards stand around admiring the local architecture as sincerely as they can manage. They do not do any more magic, or make sudden movements, though they vary in how approachable they're managing to look.

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By the time she reaches her temple, Gydja Thora has been warned of the magicians three times, which seems to her a very appropriate number. The first time she was told that they were noble and wealthy guests from lands unknown, and she ignored them. The second time, she was told that they were magicians, capable of healing grievous injuries on demand, and she abandoned her preparations to go meet with them. The third time, she was accosted by a girl nearly in tears, who reported that the magicians were part of a large force of similarly powerful people who claimed to already be in contact with the Emperor, and that they would not say what they had come for, and would the gods forgive her cowardice if she ran to her mother's household to warn her?

The gydja herself is pushing seventy, and could not be less impressed with implicit threats of death.

"Hello," she says to her guests, when she arrives. "I am sorry to have kept you waiting."

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"Not at all!" and they introduce themselves. "We've come to trade with the people here, and learn more about one another."

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"This is not the place for sweeping trade negotiations. Have you spoken to the King of Sweden?"

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