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Generated: Dec 14, 2019 10:10 PM
Post last updated: Dec 04, 2019 9:15 PM
raises some questions for gary gygax
osirians
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Plane shift can drop you up to five hundred miles from your intended destination.

This time they land in some woods, at sunset, near a remarkably flat and smooth path that looks like a lava flow or something.

 

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" - probably somewhere in Taldor? Or Absalom." He takes off into the air. "There's a town that way, maybe a mile."

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He steps onto the black stone path. "They pave this well a mile out? I might've met the first Taldoran duke I actually like."

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"I think this is natural."

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"Even if it is, they'd have to maintain it."

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After a little bit of waiting a big metal cart on wheels can be seen coming down the road, heading right for them.

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They get well out of the way of the big metal cart on wheels.

 

" - how is it safe for it to go that fast?"

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"That's faster than the carpet! 

- they don't have those in Taldor. Or Absalom."

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"I think if they had those anywhere nearby we'd have heard of them."

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"Could be a new experimental sort of thing."

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" - maybe."

 

They keep walking.

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A big metal cart on wheels comes down the road maybe once a minute.

If they follow the road they will eventually come out of the forest and into an area that's mostly houses with fenced-in yards. There are smaller paved paths on either side of the big black path.

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What animals would you want lots of this size for? Maybe chickens? He doesn't see any chickens or in fact any animals on the lots at all but it's dusk, they're probably in their coops.

 

Is there a temple?

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There's a big fancyish building with some stained glass windows and a steeple with a cross shape coming out of it, if they walk a ways.

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That seems about right. They head in. Mahdi casts Tongues.

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There's an entrance hall and then a large decorated room full of pews. Apart from an old man sweeping the floor, the place is deserted.

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He heads over to the old man sweeping the floor. 

"Excuse me," he says. "We landed here accidentally. What city is this, and to which gods is this temple dedicated?"

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The old man squints at them suspiciously. 

"This's a Methodist Church."

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"And the city?"

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"You're in Sunnydale. Where're you from?"

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"Sothis, in Osirion."

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"Where's Osirion?"

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" - it's on the Inner Sea, in the north of Garund."

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"Never heard of it."

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"South of Avistan? West of Casmaron?  - this may be a different planet, or a different plane."

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"...you fellas feeling okay?"

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"We're fine," he says reassuringly. "We're just looking for a place to spend the night, and if you don't much want foreign visitors here we'll be on our way right after that."

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"Oh, well. I'm afraid you're gonna have to find another place for that. I think there's a motel down Elm Street a ways."

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"Thank you so much."

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He nods. He keeps frowning at them.

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They venture out again. 

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It's getting darker. There's nobody obviously out on the streets, though there are still occasional metal carts. They're only a little slower in town.

 

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Seems hazardous but maybe everyone knows their routine or something. 

 

Are there any signs about which Comprehend Languages would reveal to read Elm Street?

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Yep! There's one that says that two cross-streets down.

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Then they can go off down Elm Street! Preferably staying off the paths that the metal carts use.

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The metal carts only ever use the big paths. That building over there says "Motel 6" on it, maybe that's what they're looking for.

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They walk in to the Motel 6. It looks relentlessly expensive. Plate glass everywhere and a carpet with a lot of fine detailing and glossy surfaces made of something unfamiliar. Mahdi quietly cleans off their shoes before they step on the carpet, even though it looks like some other guests have recently been less cautious.

 

"Hello," he says to the proprietor. "We'd like a room for the night." And he puts several large unfamiliar gold coins on the counter.

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"...we use dollars, here," says the guy at the counter.

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"We don't have any," he says apologetically, and puts another large unfamiliar gold coin on the counter. "For your trouble."

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"...I'm, uh, sorry, I have no idea what these things are. I'm pretty sure you have to pay in dollars."

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"Is there a moneychanger near here?"

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"There's, like, a bank? They can probably exchange foreign stuff? Uh, like a mile that way."

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"Are they open at this hour?"

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"Oh. Uh, probably not. Sorry."

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"Is it legal to camp outside within the city limits?"

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"Uh. I don't really know. You guys don't have a car or anything?"

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"We don't. We just arrived here. You don't know if it's legal to camp outside? Do people do it?"

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"I mean, there are homeless people? Not a lot of them."

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"And are they permitted to camp within the city limits?"

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"I don't know? I guess if you're homeless the law might not be your biggest problem?"

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Sigh. "Thank you."

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"Yeah. Sorry."

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So they head outside. 

"I don't think I care to get on the wrong side of the authorities when we don't know how to get home. How're you on spells -"

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"Should be fine assuming we're not doing a dungeon tomorrow."

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"Let's find that bank and then wait until it opens, if we don't see any inns that are more flexible along the way."

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So they head off.

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At some point a group starts following them. A man and two women. 

There aren't any buildings that have the word 'bank' on them.

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That's inconvenient. They'll just - wander around for a while, then?

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One of the women peels off from the other two people behind them. 

"You look lost."

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"We're looking for the bank, though I take it it's not open at this hour. Or for an inn."

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"Oh, you need a place to stay? I can show you one."

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"Thank you."

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She leads them down the street a ways and then onto a smaller street and into an alley. 

The other two are still following behind them.

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They glance at each other with raised eyebrows. 

 

"Detect Evil," says Fazil quietly.

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She is super evil. Inhuman amounts of evil.

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Ah huh. Hand signal. Mahdi and Hagan reach out to touch him. 

"Protection from Evil."

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When her friends have blocked them inside the alley, she stops.

"So you're not from around here?"

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"We aren't."

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"Then I guess nobody'll  miss you."

Her face shifts to something a little more monstrous, with fangs. In the same instant she lunges for Mahdi.

The other two vampires attack from behind.

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"Fire Shield."

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"Consecrate."

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Stab stab stab.

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These vampires were super not expecting this level of stabbiness! They appear to be in some amount of pain. They are, however, not going down to blows that would seriously injure or kill a human.

They decide to focus on pummelling Hagan.

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You know who else doesn't go down to blows that would seriously injure or kill a human?

These guys!

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He holds up his holy symbol and fills the whole area with bright light. 

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- and all of the vampires scream and crumble into dust.

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A teenage girl rounds the corner as the vampires are in the middle of screaming and crumbling into dust.

She - stares.

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"Detect Evil," he says grumpily.

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Not evil!

"Uh," says the girl. "Are you guys okay?"

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"We're fine," he says, putting his holy symbol away and tapping his friend on the shoulder. "Unless there's a lot more of them, in which case it'd be good to know if it's permitted to put up a house within city limits."

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"Nnnno. No there are not a lot more of them and no you cannot erect a house without a permit. What did you do?"

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- if she's never seen the effects of Channel Energy on undead before and yet isn't surprised at all about the undead then conceivably they're in some place where good clerics are not allowed, or otherwise subject to some unfriendly selection. "They ambushed us," he says cautiously.

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"No, no, I got that, I meant the part where you made them all go poof. All at once."

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"I have a spell. It doesn't always work quite that dramatically."

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"I see. Uh. Who are you guys?"

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"I'm Fazil. This is Mahdi, and this is Hagan. We're from Osirion, but the man we spoke to at the Methodist temple didn't know where that was."

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She puzzles over this for a few seconds.

" - how did you get here."

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"We paid for a plane shift home from the elemental plane of Earth. It's possible that something went wrong by accident, or that we were deliberately sent to the wrong place."

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" - so you guys are from, like, a different dimension?"

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"That's our best guess."

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"That's so cool! - sorry. Uh, d'you think you could wait here for a few minutes while my friend drives over?"

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This is kinda suspicious. 

 

 

They glance at each other. 

"Why're you out at night? Seems like this city has a bit of an undead problem."

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"Yes. Yes it does. I am patrolling for vampires. - well actually technically I was going home from school, but now I'm patrolling for vampires."

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"This city has women patrol for vampires? Alone?"

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"Um. I guess empirically yes? Although I don't really work for the city or anything."

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"Who do you work for?"

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She considers this.

"...me, I guess?"

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" - I see."

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"I realize that probably sounds very silly if you don't know what a vampire slayer is. Or even if you do. Um. I work in tandem with the Council of Watchers and the US Government, but neither of them, like, pays me, or anything? But I think you should stay until my friend gets here, we might be able to get you home or something."

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"Alarm," he says quietly.

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"All right, we'll stay."

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"Okay! Thank you. Fazil, right?"

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"That's right. Are you expecting any more enemies before your friend arrives?"

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"Nah, he's like five minutes away. And there aren't that many active vampires left in the city. Probably. They'd have to be pretty sneaky."

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In his experience vampires are almost always sneaky! He doesn't say this.  In his experience vampires are also not fought by little girls. 

 

She still hasn't seen very much of what they're capable of, and was impressed with what she did see. They can probably fight their way out if the friend turns out to actually be an enemy, maybe even if the friend turns out to actually be a lot of enemies.

And there's no good way to ask about whether clerics of good gods are frowned upon here, or to convincingly establish that his isn't if they don't follow Abadar here - no, wait, there is. 

"Is that a holy symbol?" he asks her, gesturing at the symbol that matches the one atop the Methodist temple.

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"Oh. Yeah, it's a cross. Symbol of Christianity and convenient low-grade vampire repellent."

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"Christianity?"

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"Dominant religion hereabouts? 'We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen?' I guess you probably wouldn't have it in the same specific form wherever you're from."

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"We tell stories of the gods that created the universe but in our stories there are two, and neither of them appoint clerics, these days, not in our world. - in our telling one was lawful and good, and the other lawless and evil, I'm curious how that goes in a story with only one of them -"

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"We, uh, just have the good one. Like, there's also evil, it's just not god-tier evil."

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"Huh. The spell I used to destroy those vampires, Channel Energy, is very common among clerics of good gods and good clerics of neutral gods, in our world. I was surprised you hadn't seen it."

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"Oh. Magic is sort of... not widely known about, here. Or at least it's not widely known that it's real. I am not a magic expert. Not yet, anyway."

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"- huh. Is it illegal to sell or provide healing or spell services?"

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" - hm. I was going to say it couldn't be, because most of the government doesn't know magic is real, but actually if it works I'm not sure if it counts as unlicensed medical practice, and I think that's illegal?"

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They glance at each other. 

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"And let me guess, he can't get a license because your government doesn't think magic is real?"

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"Uh, he could go to medical school, but it's probably way more trouble than it's worth? Probably magic is just not regulated, but I'm not sure whether this is legally true or just, like, de facto true."

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A car pulls up behind them.

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"Hey."

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She waves. "Hi Alex! This is Fazil, Mahdi, and Hagan. They dusted three vampires and claim to be from another dimension."

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"I heard!"

If they're lying they also know how to fool osanwë. That seems like a distinct possibility, though, with powerful magic users. 

"I also hear you guys are looking for somewhere to spend the night."

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"We tried to get a room but we don't have local money. Can you recommend somewhere?"

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"I have local money, yeah." Don't super want to show them our place.

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Makes sense. "Do we just wanna set them up in a motel?"

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"Probably makes the most sense for now. Do you guys have any ideas about how to get back to your world?"

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" - we could bother someone and ask them to summon us but that'll be expensive and we're not presently in that much hurry to return? If we can find a way to support ourselves here I think we might just stay until I can do a plane shift myself."

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"You can do a, uh, plane shift yourself?"

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"No," he says patiently, "but someday I will likely be able to, and we could go home then."

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"You don't have, like, jobs? Or family at home or whatever?"

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"...this is our job. And none of us are married or we wouldn't really be going around hopping planes."

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"....okay. Well, I expect with magical powers you could find some way to support yourself. Why don't you hop on in."

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"...the metal cart?"

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"It's called a car."

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They eye it suspiciously.

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"... It doesn't bite? I mean technically it's the number one cause of fatalities in certain age brackets, but that's if you have worse reflexes than Alex does."

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"...Premonition," say Hagan and Fazil simultaneously.

 

Then they will get into the car. 

They all crowd into the back. 

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She gets in the front passenger seat. This is definitely way more educational than trig homework.

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He's so confused about who the girl's parents are and who is letting her wander around with a strange man - they're obviously not related - maybe he's her husband? she looks young for it but some places -

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He hisses under his breath for no reason.

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Fy hisses back at him.

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Anything wrong?

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No.

 

He turns on the radio, loudly. His passengers flinch. , 

It's playing Barbie Girl. 

 

 

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This is terrifying and confusing and it's not at all clear whether they're prisoners!

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....are you sure nothing's wrong?

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They were just thinking about you and I couldn't very well tell them to cut it out without admitting I'm reading their minds. Now, they are not! So problem solved.

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Oh.

Okay. I guess.

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He pulls up to the Motel 6.

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She turns the radio off, gets out, and opens a door for them.

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They hurriedly get out of the car.

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"Okay. Do we wanna just hand them some money, or should Alex handle the renting a room process for you...?"

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“Is it complicated in some respect?”

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"Not really? But you don't know what cars are, so I'm trying not to make assumptions about your ability to interface with society."

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“I’ll go in with them. Do you want three rooms?”

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“-no? We want one.”

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“Okay then.” And he goes up to the counter and tries to get them a room.

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It's the same guy at the counter. He is happy to give them a key card in exchange for normal American dollars.

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He is in possession of normal American dollars!

Fazil passes him two gold coins.

”- are these solid gold?”

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“Ninety percent. That’s the standard where we’re from, so they’re not so soft; I haven’t adulterated them.”

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“Then you’re way overpaying me.”

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The man - elf? Probably at least half elf - gets several points for volunteering this information.

 

”Well you can give us more local currency if you want.”

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“Sure.” He hands him some twenties. “It has written on them how much they’re worth.”

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“Thank you.”

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“Sure thing. Try not to wander off, especially at night.”

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“I think we intend to sleep.”

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“Great.”

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She's waiting outside by the car. 

"They're all settled?"

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“Yep. Gave me these.” He hands her the gold coins.

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"Huh. Real gold?"

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“He claims ninety percent. I figure I’ll check.”

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Nod. "Do they have any way of contacting us if they need anything?"

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“No. I might just loiter here and wait until they leave.

What do you think of them?”

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"Suspicious of us. Weirdly sexist, except maybe not 'weirdly' because I guess most societies are probably more sexist than this one. Religious, at least fairly serious about it. Not up on state of the art vampire containment methods. Kind of confused.

"I don't think we have any reasons to believe they're bad, though. Just - way stronger than us and kind of culture shocked."

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"I guess there really haven't been human societies without cars that aren't sexist."

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"Some kinds of hunter gatherers do really well on this front! But yeah, the space between the invention of agriculture and somewhere after cars is kind of like that."

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"Is there a reason you didn't tell them that we don't kill vampires around here?"

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" - I was going to but then it seemed - I dunno. I should've. I wasn't sure I wouldn't come off as a super ridiculous person to be telling them."

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Nod. "We don't want them killing all our vampires though."

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Nodnod. "You think I should go tell them now?"

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" - up to you. But I think they should get used to listening to you about things if they want to stay in Sunnydale."

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Sigh. "Okay. I guess I don't want anyone else to die because I was embarrassed about telling people stuff."

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"And if they take it badly that seems good to know."

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"That's true." 

She heads up and knocks on the door to their motel room.

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He opens the door.

What is the girl doing at their motel room. Did he misinterpret something.

"Can I help you?"

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"Hi! I'm sorry, I'll let you go in a second. I just wanted to say that if you run into any more vampires, could you please, like, hit them in the head really hard until they pass out, instead of dusting them? We're trying to see if there's any way of fixing them, and they can get over radical head trauma, but we can't get them back if they're dusted."

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" - there's not any way of fixing them."

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"Not with that attitude."

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"There's nothing to fix. Their souls have departed, the person's gone."

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"I am aware of this. We think there might be a way to bring the souls back, and even if we can't, they're still a different kind of people, and they want to live, and if there's a way to let them live without hurting anyone else then I want to make sure they get it."

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"All right. What do we do with them once they're down?"

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"Get them to Alex. We have a containment facility. I guess we'll eventually want to make sure you can contact us about stuff like this."

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"I can contact you."

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"Oh. Cool. That works then."

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Nod. " - you have a way to get home safely?"

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"Yep! I'll be fine. See you later."

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"See you later."

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She heads back down to Alex. 

"There was the usual defeatist there's-no-saving-vampires-so-we-should-murder-them, but I don't feel like it was overly disrespectful murder apologism?"

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"I don't like them. - not especially because of that though."

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" - like, in a 'they're secretly evil' way or in a 'I don't like their faces' way or somewhere in the middle?"

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"- more like a don't like their faces way, i guess.

They're scandalized that I'm driving you home."

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".....why."

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"Some Saudi Arabia shit, you need your dad to keep you on a leash. I don't even know the details, it was so obvious to them that they didn't bother finishing the thought out."

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"Weird. Unfortunately for them I'm fresh out of dads."

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"I don't know if it'll improve things if you tell them that." He drives her home.

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"Maybe not. We have any sort of plan of action, besides waiting and seeing what they do?"

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"Kinda want them to teach us the magic, though I don't know if they'll go for it."

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Nod. "I don't think I want to learn any magic that comes from weird interdimensional polytheist gods. Probably interferes with cleric sp - 

" - he said the spell was common among clerics, right, that was the word he used?"

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"Yeah."

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"That's weird. Like, it's not a common word for the thing it means. Except in D&D."

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" - honestly it's kind of weird that they speak English at all, presumably they had a translation spell? Might it have been borrowing concepts from you?"

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"Yeah. Probably."

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"Might be worth asking them more about it, though?"

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"Yeah, maybe. It'd be super weird if it meant anything, though. Unless all of the Evangelicals are right and Gary Gygax is actually a warlock, which I guess would in fact fall short of being the weirdest thing that's ever happened."

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"I'm gonna need more context."

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"Oh, sorry. Gary Gygax is the guy who created Dungeons and Dragons in the seventies, and because the games feature magic there are a bunch of people who think that they're a gateway to witchcraft and Satanism or whatever, even though the magic in them is mostly just, like, 'my magic user casts fireball' or whatever? And Dennis and me just used the AD&D classes for differentiating between magic types because they were, like, handy memnonics, or whatever, not because we thought it was actually referring to anything real, but given everything else we know about the world it is I guess not literally impossible that Gary Gygax knows something we don't."

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"Maybe in the morning we can see if people who are astonished at cars and at women are also astonished at IHOP and then you can ask them some questions."

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"I do still have to go to school, so it'll have to be pretty early. But if they're good with early IHOP then that sounds great."

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"Cool! Meet you there."

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"See you tomorrow!"

And she can head inside and make something in the way of an attempt at trig homework.

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He spies on their guests.

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Their guests are marvelling at the plumbing.

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They do hot water! Any temperature you want between hot and cold, actually! There are very few places in Osirion where one can enjoy that luxury, and not for two gold pieces.

 

They shower. They fool around in the shower. They sit on the floor of the shower laughing and talking. 

 

They accidentally turn on the television. They are so impressed with the television. 

 

They sleep in shifts.

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By the morning he likes them a little better. In the morning he listens to Fazil prepare his spells. It's not exactly like he's talking to somebody but there is another presence, enough of one to make him stop listening lest he annoy it.

 

An hour later he's there to meet them when they walk out. "Hey. Karen and I thought we'd buy you breakfast and ask some questions. Is that all right?"

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"Of course," he says.

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"Great."

 

They get in his car. 

 

They go to IHOP.

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She's sitting at a table at IHOP taking her traditional second stab at doing math homework. 

She waves when she sees them.

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They sit down. 

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He passes them menus. 

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"We actually can't read these, this translation spell doesn't do writing."

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"Ah. Well, Karen can order for all of us, I'm sure she'll have good recommendations. Any vegetarians?"

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" - I have never heard of that. No."

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So she gets a bunch of fruit pancakes and french toast and crepes and juice and milk and soda and sausage patties and scrambled eggs and bacon and hash browns and some milkshakes and tells everybody to grab whatever looks good. 

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Their guests are in fact fairly awed by IHOP. 

 

By daylight they look stranger and more obviously out of place; Hagan is wearing leather armor, and Fazil is wearing very finely made chainmail and all three of them are wearing hand-stitched clothes and elaborate foreign jewelry. They eat a lot of food, very contentedly.

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Well, they do sort of look like D&D characters, even if she tells herself that this is a really dumb hypothesis.

"So. Fazil. You said the spell you used to dust the vampires is mostly used by clerics where you come from?"

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"Yes. And paladins."

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And the D&D stuff just keeps coming. "Could you elaborate on what those categories are?"

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"Clerics are chosen by their god because he sees in them either the habit or the potential to act in a way that advances the god's goals in the world. For my god, that's people who deal justly with others and work hard at valuable things and serve their country; for another one it might be people who spread the god's teachings aggressively, or people who help the desperate and needy, or people who fight evil, or there are evil gods who want their clerics to spread evil and give them power for doing that. 

Paladins are somewhat similar, but they largely advance the interests of their god through fighting their god's enemies, and they must commit themselves to a code of conduct stricter than those typically implied just by following a god. All paladins are lawful, but you could be a lawless cleric of a lawless god."

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"What does that - mean, when you say 'lawful' like that."

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" - I don't know what it is translating as, if you don't have the concept. Where do people from this plane go when they die?"

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"This is a hotly debated question among people from this plane."

Permalink Eye

"Oh. Well almost everyone on our plane who dies goes to one of nine afterlives. They're sorted based on the characteristics they displayed and nurtured in life. Lawfulness is the habit of following the rules; not necessarily the laws of your country, though it's really helpful for your lawfulness to follow the laws of your country, but also the code of your religion, the terms of your agreements, your word, when you give it, and so on. And then goodness is about the willingness to serve others and protect the vulnerable. The good afterlives are mostly nice places to live, and the lawful neutral afterlife is a good place to live - arguably better than the good ones, since it's meant to be home to far more people - and then the other afterlives are mostly bad. So people care a great deal about where they're headed."

Permalink Eye

"Huh."

Gary Gygax is so a warlock.

Permalink Eye

Huh. This all fits?

Permalink Eye

Parts of it are not exact? But an alignment system that sorts people on good and evil and law and chaos, that's a concept that's in Dungeons and Dragons and as far as I know nowhere else?

"So these, like, alignments, you sort everyone into good and evil and lawful and chaotic and then refer to individual people as, like, lawful good, or chaotic evil, or whatever?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

" - this is so bizarre."

Permalink Eye

"How so?"

Permalink Eye

Sigh. "We have a moderately popular, like, tabletop game that involves a world that uses a lot of rules like the ones you're describing. It's supposed to be fictional but I'm kind of suspecting the creators of somehow gaining knowledge of other dimensions. Which isn't even that weird, it's just, like - I don't have any recognizable fictional franchises to communicate the appropriate level of surreality to you."

Permalink Eye

"You'd heard stories from Golarion but thought they were myths?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't think we call it Golarion? And like, not myths, I take myths pretty seriously, myths implies that I thought someone thought they were true at some point. I thought that some accountant made a bunch of stuff up for people's amusement like twenty years ago."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. So your world has no clerics, no concept of alignments, no knowledge of your afterlife - does scrying not work -"

Permalink Eye

"I literally only know what scrying is because of this game."

Permalink Eye

"Wow. Would you like us to check up on your afterlife situation."

Permalink Eye

"Um -

" - sure, what the heck. Do you just need me to specify a dead person?"

Permalink Eye

"Ideally one who wouldn't try to resist the scrying or one you have a direct physical connection to so it's likely to succeed despite their objections."

Permalink Eye

"What counts as a direct physical connection?"

Permalink Eye

"A body, a lock of hair, a relative, a toenail. We can also work with a portrait or a possession or in principle just a name but it'll take longer to get results."

Permalink Eye

"Does it work if I just ask you to check on my mom?"

Permalink Eye

"We can do that. - not all afterlives are nice. Just so you know."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. I'm aware."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Takes an hour. Now?"

Permalink Eye

"Nah, I have to go to school in not that long. Maybe this afternoon?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure. In the meantime, is there stuff for us to do here?"

Permalink Eye

"In terms of stuff that would help us, or stuff that would interest you?"

Permalink Eye

"Either, though if you want us to help you you should tell us more about what your goals are."

Permalink Eye

"We'd mostly like a much more comprehensive explanation of how your magic works, where it comes from, how you use it, and what it does. I can - I guess bring Dennis over this afternoon to ask more questions? He is sort of arguably the closest thing we have to an expert on this specific strain of weird stuff. As far as what would interest you, uh... do they have movies where you come from?"

Permalink Eye

"No."

Permalink Eye

"You should possibly check out some movies. Like, probably you also want to eventually do some more useful stuff in line with whatever your goals are for your time here, but movies are cool."

Permalink Eye

"All right. Is the only problem in this city the thing we encountered with the undead you called vampires?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, no, there's like a bajillion others, I just don't really want to throw you at any of them until you have more context on this dimension and we have a better sense of your abilities. I guess maybe we should put together some kind of crash course on important things to know about Sunnydale and Earth as a whole."

Permalink Eye

"That sounds useful."

 

Maybe they can only slightly understate their abilities and get pointed at the right monsters without advertising too much.

Permalink Eye

"Okay! I'll see if I can get some basics written up before three." She checks the time. "Do you you guys need to be dropped off anywhere until then?"

Permalink Eye

"I would not expect so. Can you apprise us quickly of the local laws so we don't break any?"

Permalink Eye

" - well. There are sort of a lot? Um - don't attack anyone and don't - just don't touch anybody without permission, say, and don't walk in the streets until somebody's shown you how to cross them safely, and don't steal anything from anyone, and if some guys with blue uniforms and gold or silver badges come by just, uh, do what they say and we'll sort whatever it was out later? And probably err on the side of not doing any magic at people for now, since I don't know what magic stuff to warn you not to do." She looks at Alex. "Am I forgetting anything obvious?"

Permalink Eye

"Don't make an enormous fuss about the existence of women, that's not a law but it'll make you stand out and might get you into trouble. Even with permission don't do extended touching of people in public. Wear clothes. Don't flash the gold or any weapons - again, not a law, but it'll attract trouble."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, all good advice. Does that all make sense?"

Permalink Eye

"It does. Thank you. - I don't know what we've done that prompted the warning about women, so I don't know how to avoid doing it?"

Permalink Eye

"Just treat everyone like people and don't go 'there's a girl fighting vampires'."

Permalink Eye

"I apologize," he says to Karen. "I didn't mean to offer an insult."

Permalink Eye

"S'not a big deal. Just - seemed indicative of something potentially off, and we don't want you guys to go getting in trouble before you have a better sense of local norms."

Permalink Eye

- nod.

Permalink Eye

"Cool. And then if you guys are good I will go ahead and pay your bill and let you eat however much more you're gonna eat, and then I guess we'll see you guys this afternoon. Don't spend the entire day in here, and you don't need to clean up the table or anything when you're done, the waiter'll take care of it."

Permalink Eye

"We'll see you later. Thank you."

Permalink Eye

"Mhmm!"

You driving me to school? Also when I say that I am paying I mean that you are paying, because you are the part of this party that has money and a job.

Permalink Eye

We could have stuck them with the bill, they have money. But he pays it. I'll drive you to school and we can go over what we know now.

Permalink Eye

It's very impolite to invite someone somewhere and then make them pay without any warning. And yeah, sounds good.

Permalink Eye

You're not wrong, I just don't mind being impolite to them.

They get in the car. 

Fazil does all their talking because in his world being chosen by your god gives you credibility, other people will mostly trust you and expect you're playing fairly and so on. I don't think he's in charge, exactly. Their going theory is that you're - some kind of nobility? That there's some kind of title of vampire slayer and accompanying magic, which you might be concealing or might just be in line to inherit or whatever - and I'm deferring to you for that reason and the local government will too. Not wildly far off, considering how little they have to go on. They spent a bizarre amount of time thinking about how you might magically bind your bodyguards to not - they're really really hung up on the gender thing -

They need more power to go home and they think fighting things will let them get it. I'm not sure how. 

Permalink Eye

That is so weird. I guess I can see parts of where they're coming from? But man.

If Gary Gygax is a warlock, and if we assume he's accurately reporting on how things are in some other dimension - in D&D you gain experience by fighting things. This isn't unique to D&D, lots of video games use a system where defeating enemies gives you a certain amount of experience points and after a certain amount of experience points you level up and gain new abilities. Pokemon is like this too. I assume it's an abstraction of something realer that makes more sense, but it's possible that they do need to get into fights to gain access to more spells, somehow.

Permalink Eye

Huh. They want to take our stuff back to their world and sell it but that seemed pretty harmless. Last night they briefly had a conversation about whether they could just stay here  - they were really enthusiastic about hot water - but they concluded they couldn't because of the women. 

They're planning to lie to us about what they're capable of but only by a little bit. Understate it so that if we try to kill them it's harder than we expect.

Permalink Eye

I guess that's fair of them. What about women makes it impossible to stay here??

Permalink Eye

I'm not entirely sure? - summarizing uncharitably they were generalizing from you and some foreign countries on their own planet to conclude that no one here is worth marrying or can be trusted to have their husband's children? But it was really just a throwaway couple of minutes of conversation, I could be missing something.

Permalink Eye

Oh, I guess if you definitely wanna marry someone someday you'd probably wanna do it with someone who had the same cultural norms and stuff as you.

- I am morbidly curious what I did that means that all women here are unmarriageable but this actually doesn't matter at all and I should stop thinking about it.

Permalink Eye

Yep. I'm gonna stop reading their minds since they're not evil or anything and they can take their stupid opinions back to the Middle Ages when they leave.

Permalink Eye

I suppose this is the right thing to do.

Should we be looping anyone else in on the presence of our new guests? Faith, Angel, did you tell your brother -

Permalink Eye

I told my brother. He is sad that yalls god doesn't give out undead-fighting superpowers. Probably we should catch up Faith and Angel.

Permalink Eye

I mean, He does give out the holy water, but I guess that's less dramatic. Hopefully Faith doesn't give them a heart attack or anything.

Permalink Eye

Serve them right.

Permalink Eye

Maybe so.

 

Y'know the last time we were rude to someone who was trying to help they got turned into a vampire.

Permalink Eye

 

I guess that is what happened. - I don't think we've been rude to these people.

Permalink Eye

Yeah. I guess I just kinda wanna keep not being rude. But this hardly calls for keeping them from discovering the existence of Faith.

Permalink Eye

I'll catch her and Angel up while you're at school. 

Permalink Eye

Cool, thanks. And I can let Dennis know what's up. And then we can figure out most of what they're capable of.

Permalink Eye

Sounds like a plan.

Permalink Eye

They leave the IHOP and stand at the edge of the street watching cars. 

"It seems like it'd be tragic living in this society unable to afford one."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe everyone can at least rent the use of one."

Permalink Eye

"I'm going to put it on the list of questions to ask. How much is a car, how much is the use of a car."

Permalink Eye

"Are we gonna just stand here in the meantime?"

Permalink Eye

"Well, we were asked not to cross the street."

Permalink Eye

"Until shown how to do so safely. So we can just ask someone."

 

He waits until there's a man going by alone. "Excuse me? Can you show us how to safely cross the street?"

Permalink Eye

The man looks at them and looks at their armor and frowns and - "Uh, you look both ways first to make sure there aren't any cars."

Permalink Eye

" - okay. Thank you."

Permalink Eye

The man leaves to go do whatever he was doing before.

Permalink Eye

"If it's that straightforward I don't see why she didn't just tell us herself."

Permalink Eye

"It does kind of seem like it'd be that straightforward though. Like, they can't hit you if there aren't any on the road."

Permalink Eye

"I would like to visit one of the local temples in the daytime and ask more questions."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, see, I think we should go for it."

 

They wait until there are not any cars coming in either direction. They madly dash across the street.

Permalink Eye

The street they're crossing is really larger than the ones you're supposed to cross this way. In any case, they don't get hit. They do get some concerned stares.

Permalink Eye

Are there any local temples to be found on this block?

Permalink Eye

Nothing obvious, no.

Permalink Eye

Anything else of interest?

Permalink Eye

Well, the thing immediately in front of them is a grocery store.

Permalink Eye

- oooh. 

They go into the grocery store.

Permalink Eye

The grocery store is a kind of enormous building with rows and rows of shelves. Most of the shelves have boxes on them with text, but a lot of the boxes also have pictures - this is cereal, this is tea - and the produce area is straightforward enough. There's also a frozen foods isle with pizzas and corn dogs and TV dinners and ice cream.

Permalink Eye

Is there anyone to ask about how much things cost?

Permalink Eye

There are cashiers at the front, lots of other people putting things in wheeled carts, and the occasional person putting boxes on the shelves and wearing the same uniform as the cashiers.

Permalink Eye

In that case they can watch and see how other people do it.

Permalink Eye

Other people mostly fill their carts with things, then go up to the front and hand over cash or slide little plastic cards into machines.

Permalink Eye

Do they negotiate how much to pay?

Permalink Eye

Nope! The cashier tells them and then they pay it.

Permalink Eye

But then how do you shop if you have a limited amount of money? 

...oh well. They don't need food right now anyway. They will just admire all the stuff that's for sale and then leave.

Permalink Eye

No one stops them. 

Permalink Eye

They don't want to have trouble finding their way back to the IHOP so they don't wander too much further. Is there a temple?

Permalink Eye

Still nothing obvious, no.

Permalink Eye

The metal carts probably let cities be way more spread out. He's not convinced this is a good thing on the whole. 

 

 

They go back to the IHOP and talk about what to do next. 

"I take it we can't buy a plane shift."

Permalink Eye

"I got that sense too. So we're here until you have one."

Permalink Eye

"Could be a couple of years."

Permalink Eye

"There're worse places to be stuck. Unless the vampire slayer's people are going to betray us."

Permalink Eye

"She pings good. Didn't check him."

Permalink Eye

"Doesn't mean that much, especially if they don't know if it affects their afterlife at all."

Permalink Eye

"No, but it's something. If this country doesn't work out we can hop one over, anyway, no reason to think we landed in the best place to be stuck for a couple of years. - we should ask who's in charge of it and so on."

Permalink Eye

"We should, though they didn't seem to think it was notable."

Permalink Eye

"They have a weird concept of what's notable. No one mentioned that the city has a serious undead problem, either."

Permalink Eye

"They said lots of people don't know about magic. Maybe that includes not knowing about the undead?"

Permalink Eye

"They'd still notice if it's very rare to go outside at night and survive!"

Permalink Eye

"I'd expect any competent government to make it illegal to go out at night if people were mysteriously being murdered whenever they did and we couldn't solve the murders."

Permalink Eye

"Not illegal for adventurers, surely."

Permalink Eye

"We weren't making it obvious that we could handle ourselves. - and if someone had said vampires, I wouldn't have been confident we could, vampires are generally tougher than whatever we encountered last night."

Permalink Eye

"Have you run into one?"

Permalink Eye

"No. But I've heard you don't want to fight one, even as a group at our level, without preparation."

Permalink Eye

"I think that's because they have the magic drain and Dominate Person and that can turn sour for a party very fast if they're not prepared, rather than because the vampires we've heard of are necessarily different than the things we fought. We had Protection from Evil up, they aren't accustomed to clerics, we got a little lucky."

Permalink Eye

"They got several hits in and didn't take second-level spells off me."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. Maybe they are different. If there are very few magic users here I guess it wouldn't make sense for them to have an ability that's only useful against magic users."

Permalink Eye

"What're we trying to figure out here -"

Permalink Eye

"Whether to expect them all to go down as easily, I guess. - I guess they won't, because now we have to do nonlethal damage."

Permalink Eye

"I don't think she would've asked it of us if she was thinking of it as a significant risk to our lives. Maybe with no magic it's as easy to deal nonlethal damage as lethal."

Permalink Eye

" - as the one who mostly murders things without magic, no?"

Permalink Eye

"They might have special weapons for it, I mean."

Permalink Eye

"Oh. I guess. 

 

- we should get our stories straight for the conversation about our capabilities."

Permalink Eye

"We can give them like they were for the raid out of Ipeq. I had had third level spells for a while but not fourth, Mahdi just had fourth. Can imply Plane Shift is fourth-level."

Permalink Eye

He pulls a journal out of his purse. "We had healing potions, scroll of Sending, enchanted weapons and armor but not the upgraded ones..."

Permalink Eye

And by the time they have this all straightened out it's nearly 3.

Permalink Eye

She can pick up Dennis and Faith. 

Where've our guests gotten to?

Permalink Eye

Still at the IHOP. They wandered around a couple of blocks but didn't get into any trouble. Then they spent the afternoon debating whether their universe's vampires are the same and getting their lies straight.

Permalink Eye

I see. I guess you can't drive all of us and them anywhere at once. You could drive them to somewhere near the school while we pick up Dennis's books, I guess?

Permalink Eye

I was thinking you could hang out with them while you do the scry and I can get everyone else in the meantime. Since it might be...private.

Permalink Eye

Oh, right, I forgot about that. Sure. I guess if it'll take an hour that's plenty of time to pick stuff up from Dennis's house.

Permalink Eye

Yeah. Do you want them to do the scry at yours? So if it's - good to see - your sister could?

Permalink Eye

- oh, yeah. I guess that'd be good for her. They'll be terribly concerned about our family structure but I guess that's fine.

Permalink Eye

Sucks to be them. 

 

And he picks the strangers up from the IHOP to drive them to Karen's house. "How was your day?"

Permalink Eye

"Uneventful. This translation spell isn't very long-lasting and we can't do it repeatedly, for how long this afternoon will we be discussing things?"

Permalink Eye

"Dunno. Ideally most of the evening but we can compress it if we need to. How long do you have?"

Permalink Eye

"Just over an hour, but it's just me, and then we can do a different spell that has to be cast on both parties but achieves the same result."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. I'll try to get everyone in one place after the scry so you can meet them all at once and get your primer on Earth."

Permalink Eye

"Is that the plane? The planet? The country?"

Permalink Eye

"The planet. Do you have planets?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes, though I haven't been to any of the other ones personally."

Permalink Eye

"Huh, have some people?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure, if they have business on one of the other planets and a teleport with the range or access to a portal  - or a couple of plane shifts, though that sounds like an awfully bad idea if you ask me."

Permalink Eye

"Why's that?"

Permalink Eye

"It's not very accurate about targeting on your destination plane, and lots of planets aren't very safe."

Permalink Eye

"Around here they mostly don't have air."

Permalink Eye

"Lots of them don't! Or too hot, or too cold, or made of gas, but there's spells for all that. Landing really far off your destination could be really dangerous even if you're prepared for all that."

Permalink Eye

"Huh."

Permalink Eye

"Where are we going now?"

Permalink Eye

"Karen's. So you can do that scry."

Permalink Eye

"Is there anything we should know, meeting her family?"

Permalink Eye

"She lives with her sister and her sister's kid. Her parents are dead."

Permalink Eye

Sister's kid's father - he shouldn't ask. 

"My condolences."

Permalink Eye

"Just mind your own business and don't be a dick."

Permalink Eye

....is he warning them not to pick her up? Where've they given the impression - "of course."

Permalink Eye

 

 

He drives the rest of the way in silence.

Permalink Eye

Her sister answers the door.

"Hi Alex. Hi weird interdimensional visitor people. They speak English?"

Permalink Eye

"I do, temporarily," he says. "They don't but they can understand it. Nice to meet you."

Permalink Eye

"Cool. Azalea Teller, nice to meet you too."

She offers her hand for a handshake.

Permalink Eye

They look confused and do not touch her.

Permalink Eye

She looks amused. "Is their dimension devoid of handshakes?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm afraid so. People touch each other to introduce yourself?"

Permalink Eye

"Maybe one shade friendlier than waving hello. I guess I don't know if you people wave, either."

Permalink Eye

He waves, a little awkwardly. "It's nice to meet you."

Permalink Eye

She stands aside and holds the door for them without specifically waving them in.

Permalink Eye

Sensible thing to do if there are vampires about. Not being vampires, they enter.

Permalink Eye

Karen descends the stairs.

"Oh! Hi. Let's see - I'm me, Azalea's my sister, Connor's my nephew in the next room, and that's Wishbone. He's a person and a magic expert, be polite."

Permalink Eye

He barks from his place on the couch, where he's reading a book.

Permalink Eye

She offers Fazil a picture. "You said a picture might help with the scry?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. There's some failure chance either way but it'll be smaller."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Do you need anything else for it? You can use the dining room for it."

Permalink Eye

"Mahdi has the other supplies. - Mahdi'll be casting it, it's easier for him than for me."

Permalink Eye

"Sounds good. Uh - Faith and Dennis'll be over later, I guess maybe while Mahdi's working I should try to get a list of your spells? Unless - have you guys eaten?"

Permalink Eye

"We ate together earlier, at the IHOP."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, good. I'll get a notebook and we can talk about your spells?"

Permalink Eye

"Sounds good!"

Permalink Eye

Then she can get a notebook and start taking notes on Fazil's spell list. Also note that she's sorry she doesn't have anything for Hagan to do right now, hopefully he isn't super bored. 

Permalink Eye

He says to Fazil, who passes this along, that he is not bored at all and understands that the magic-users are much more exciting.

Permalink Eye

He has magic too and is pretending he doesn't. Lot less of it, though.

Permalink Eye

Huh. Ranger, then? Or doing a multiclass thing - oh, sorry, this doesn't mean anything to you, does it -

"What class is he? I guess I don't know if you actually explicitly differentiate between all of the classes, uh, what does he do when you're adventuring?"

Permalink Eye

"He mostly uses a bow."

Permalink Eye

"If I say 'is he a ranger' is that, like, a question you can even interpret - "

Permalink Eye

" - yes. He is. People don't always categorize in those terms but if they did I'd know what they were talking about."

Permalink Eye

"This is so weird," she says to herself, though she sounds delighted about it. "Do you guys have the same races back home, are there, like, elves and dwarves and halflings - "

Permalink Eye

"Are there not, here? There are lots of intelligence races but elves and dwarves and halflings are among them."

Permalink Eye

"None here as far as I know. Humans and lots of different kinds of planar aliens that pretend to be humans, mostly."

Permalink Eye

"Elves are aliens. Not planer aliens just the kind from another planet. It's possible that dwarves and halflings are also, more distantly aliens, I'm not sure how I'd know."

Permalink Eye

"Weeeird. I don't remember that but I'm not actually like a lore expert or anything. - anyway, spells."

Permalink Eye

"Yes. Every morning I decide which ones to prepare, do you want the ones I actually prepare or all the ones I could, in principle?"

Permalink Eye

"All the ones you could, but we can start with the ones you actually do, that's presumably easier?"

Permalink Eye

"Some spells don't require much and can be cast at will. For those I prepare Guidance, Detect Magic, Stabilize, and Virtue when we're out exploring - do those mean anything to you or do I need to explain -"

Permalink Eye

"I know what detect magic is. I kind of assume any spells I do know have been gamified, though, it'd be good to get their actual scope and limitations where you come from - "

Permalink Eye

"Detect Magic lasts a bit more than five minutes, and lets me see magic things within sixty feet. At first you just notice they're magic, the way you might notice something is a light source; when you study it you can pick up more than that, like how powerfully magic it is, whether it has multiple enchantments on it, and what schools of magic they are. People with a lot of experience looking at magic can sometimes identify the specific spell."

Permalink Eye

She takes notes on this and then on Fazil's other spells until either the scry is ready or Alex shows up, whatever happens first.

Permalink Eye

He shows up first, with Dennis and a lot of books. "Gonna go get Faith, too, and Angel if the sun's down by the time I get her."

Permalink Eye

"Oh cool! Thanks Alex!"

Permalink Eye

" - wow, they look like D&D characters."

Permalink Eye

"I know, isn't it weird?"

Permalink Eye

"Do they literally have classes. Do they literally have class levels. - uh, do you, sorry for talking like you're not here or something - "

Permalink Eye

"Nice to meet you. People specialize in learning different kinds of magic, or different nonmagical schools of combat. People get better at arcane magic over time, and while getting better at magic is pretty linear, people talk about reaching the level where you get good enough to cast more advanced spells, so that you can compare one wizard to another."

Permalink Eye

"This is so weird."

Permalink Eye

"I know, right? They're like a video game or something."

Permalink Eye

He starts unpacking his books and notebooks. "What do you have so far - do you know if you can teach your magic stuff to anyone, does it have to be someone from your plane or anything - "

Permalink Eye

"We haven't tried teaching it to people here but Abadar can reach me here so I can't think why he wouldn't pick clerics here, if he had worshippers here, and Mahdi's spells work fine so one imagines they'd work for anyone else with the aptitude too."

Permalink Eye

"How do you tell if someone has the aptitude, is that like a specific thing or is it just, like, raw intelligence - you're probably not even going to be here long enough but if any of this is real we could learn so much - "

Permalink Eye

"I think it's very rare for people who test smart enough to be a wizard to have a hard time learning any magic, though some can never learn more than a couple easy spells."

Permalink Eye

"Even that would be super cool! And useful! Okay - you guys are going over what their spells are, right, we should finish taking notes on that - "

Permalink Eye

The highest level of spell he can cast is third, and he usually prepares Channel Vigor, Bestow Curse, Prayer and in his domain slot Protection from Energy. Sometimes instead of Prayer he'll get Locate Object or Daylight depending what they're expecting to run into. He explains all of these.

Permalink Eye

They take lots of notes. Occasionally one or the other of them flips through one of the books and says 'that's so weird' and then the other one agrees that it is very weird.

Permalink Eye

"What's weird?"

Permalink Eye

"The spell lists have overlap, but a bunch of things have been changed in ways that don't even especially make it a better game or make it more plausible with existing narratives? But they're close enough that it's clear it's talking about the same spell? They're just - really puzzling changes, sometimes."

Permalink Eye

"We should see if the other stuff about the world matches. Like - oh, Hagan, could you draw us, like, a map or something? Regional or world or whatever you can do, if you know how anything's shaped - "

Permalink Eye

He can sketch a world map and then a more detailed map of the region he's from!

Permalink Eye

Cool! They can examine these.

"It's not Greyhawk."

Permalink Eye

"No. It's like he took a bunch of mechanics and organizational stuff that their world uses, and then, like, transplanted it onto a different world and then radically reworked the spells for some reason?"

Permalink Eye

" - that's not that weird, we do that with D&D all the time. Like, we don't rework the spells, but kind of because it'd be effort to balance the game if we did."

Permalink Eye

 

"I guess this is technically true."

Permalink Eye

"It's also possible he visited or had information from a different world in the same plane. One assumes there are lots."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, yeah, I guess, if you have a bunch of planets. It would be kind of weird if they had basically the same spread of races and classes and stuff, but I guess - weirder things have happened, right?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I think at least a few weirder things have happened."

Permalink Eye

"Yes," he agrees solemnly. 

Permalink Eye

Mahdi finishes the scry. He says something to Fazil in Osirian, quietly. 

Permalink Eye

- he nods. 

Permalink Eye

"Is it ready?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. It's - you don't have to look, if you don't want to."

Permalink Eye

" - I'm gonna look."

Permalink Eye

"Okay." 

Permalink Eye

He thinks she's in what they call Hell.

Permalink Eye

I gathered that. I'm gonna look.

Permalink Eye

Mahdi steps a bit out of her way.

Permalink Eye

She looks.

Her mother's in a dark but not pitch-black cell, with dirty stone walls and a dirtier stone floor. She's chained to a wall. There are rats nipping at her bare feet. Her feet have chunks of flesh taken out of them.

 

 

"Hey Zales," she calls, "Mom's in hell, you wanna see for yourself?"

Permalink Eye

"Is she really in hell, or are they just giving you a magic light show?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know, do you wanna see or not?"

Permalink Eye

She comes over. She looks. She doesn't say anything for a while.

Permalink Eye

They think the scry spell works, right?

Permalink Eye

Yes. 

Permalink Eye

Well that sucks. - and it's confusing, right, the crosses and holy water repel vampires, you wouldn't expect the salvation story to be a lot of nonsense. I guess I dunno whether any specific person believes -

Permalink Eye

But she was as far as you knew Christian?

Permalink Eye

Yeah. Not Catholic. Very Protestant, I didn't want to tell her I'd converted. But - valid baptism, very concerned about Christian morality, and stuff. Got us all to do neighborhood volunteering. I'd figured she was in heaven.

Permalink Eye

God's an enormous dick and should be violently shredded into nonexistence, because even the most evil entity in the universe doesn't deserve the kinds of fates he inflicts on everyone else. This is not the time to say that.

I'm sorry.

Permalink Eye

Yeah. Thanks, I guess.

Permalink Eye

 

"Can you check where anyone is? Any dead person?"

Permalink Eye

"Any person, dead or living. I only prepared it once today and can only prepare it a maximum of twice in a day. It fails around thirty percent of the time for a caster like me in a world like mine, and could fail more or less here. It's less likely to fail if they're in a bad afterlife, because when it fails it's because of their subconscious will and people in bad afterlives have...less of that."

Permalink Eye

"Could you check where another person is for us?"

Permalink Eye

"Zales, it's a lot of work, and stuff - "

Permalink Eye

"I'm not holding a gun to his head. I'm asking a question."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe. First, you should know that this one's going to go in a couple of minutes and that if you'd like we could try to message her before it does. This fails more often than not, but I thought I ought to at least mention it."

Permalink Eye

" - yeah. We should do that. I wouldn't know what to - but we should try."

Permalink Eye

"Hell might cut us off so you should probably not count on a full conversation. You have to decide what you want to say before I can send it."

Permalink Eye

" - tell her I'm alive. And that dad's dead, I guess, I think she doesn't know. And I'm living with Azalea and we're okay."

Permalink Eye

Message, he says, and then whispers, conveying from your daughter Karen that she is alive, that your husband is dead, and that she's living with Azalea and okay.

 

The woman doesn't react.

He repeats himself. 

"I'm sorry. It usually doesn't work."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Thanks anyway."

Permalink Eye

The scry fades.

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

 

"Can we compensate you for the effort of casting anther one tomorrow, is there anything you guys particularly need - "

Permalink Eye

"At home I'd sell scrys, I'm happy to do that here. - at home they're pretty expensive."

Permalink Eye

"Like how expensive."

Permalink Eye

"320 gold. 300 with a temple discount."

Permalink Eye

" - I have no idea how much that is."

Permalink Eye

"Gimme a second - "

She gets a computer and a piece of paper and a scale and looks up the price of gold and asks to weigh their coins and does some math and - 

"Twenty one thousand dollars."

Permalink Eye

" - no."

Permalink Eye

"It is very specialized labor."

Permalink Eye

"No one makes twenty one thousand dollars a day. Nobody who works for a living, anyway."

Permalink Eye

Tell him we'll give him five hundred.

Permalink Eye

Five hundred what, dollars?

Permalink Eye

Yes! Seems like a fair exchange rate to me, whatever the price of gold.

Permalink Eye

I know, just checking!

"We can give you five hundred dollars? That's, like, probably at least a week and a half at the inn?"

Permalink Eye

"Karen - "

Permalink Eye

"I can cover it. Does that sound okay?"

Permalink Eye

"If I advertise what do you think I'd get offered?"

Permalink Eye

"Not more than fifty. This comes with the people mostly not believing in magic."

Permalink Eye

Hand signal for 'don't buy that' and 'let's not pick a fight'.

Permalink Eye

"All right."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. We can get you five hundred tomorrow. Still wanna get this conversion working sensibly, though."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe their world just has way more gold than ours."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe? - how many gold pieces for, like, a shirt, where you come from?"

Permalink Eye

"About six. How many dollars for the meal at IHOP? For passage across the world? For treatment for an illness? For a house in a city? For a slave? For one of those cars?"

Permalink Eye

"We paid like seventy bucks for IHOP, sit-down restaurants are kind of pricey. I - don't know how to measure passage across the world but I guess between two hundred and five hundred to fly to China, depending on how you time it? Treatment of an illness depends, some stuff that used to be deadly we can now prevent forever for a couple dollars, and some things we spend hundreds of thousands treating and sometimes the patients still die. House in a city super depends on the city and the house, I think anywhere from, like, a hundred thousand dollars to a million or more? We don't, uh, do slavery, that is not a thing. A new car is like twenty thousand, maybe?"

She starts doing more math on her paper.

Permalink Eye

He does this also.

Permalink Eye

"Okay, if we count in terms of how many shirts you can buy with it and not how much gold, one of your gold pieces is like three and a half dollars, as opposed to the sixty-five dollars it is if you count in gold. - you should probably sell some of your gold if you're gonna be here for a while. Like, I can't tell you how to live your life, but people like gold."

Permalink Eye

"We will probably do that, thank you. Also scrying and healing."

Permalink Eye

"Those things are objectively super valuable and we would be happy to pay you for them, but if you just advertise in the paper or whatever you will get a pittance. Let us talk to our government buddies and see what they're willing to offer for it, at least?"

Permalink Eye

"That sounds great, thank you."

Permalink Eye

"Cool." Alex can you talk to your government friends or whoever about how to make good use of generalized healing spells? And I guess how much to pay these guys for the service.

Permalink Eye

Yeah, I'll talk with them. I guess we don't want them just breaking the masquerade and opening up a scrying and magic healing store that quickly gets a reputation for actually working.

Permalink Eye

I mean, I dunno that it's the wrong call? But your government friends said no on that, right, so I feel. like we should give them a heads up first. And this does seem like a kind of volatile way to break it, even if I'm sure the hellmouth and the - whatever makes it hard for people to process the supernatural would dampen the effect somewhat. It's not like there isn't a magic shop in town already.

Permalink Eye

I'm sure the Defense Department can pay to keep them quiet and occupied. And we can get another scry done in the meantime. Your dad?

Permalink Eye

I'm guessing Azalea wants her husband, actually.

Permalink Eye

Ah. 

Permalink Eye

Possibly it's insensitive to not do Dad too? But it's like - we couldn't actually do anything for him, you know? At least I don't think so. Maybe if I looked at the spell lists more.

Permalink Eye

Gotta figure out how, someday, to have the world not be like this. But - not short term, yeah.

Permalink Eye

Yeah.

You guys almost here?

Permalink Eye

Yeah. Waited until sundown so Angel could come too.

Permalink Eye

Ah, makes sense.

Permalink Eye

They talk among themselves about getting a house here. 

Permalink Eye

"No."

Permalink Eye

"Who could have guessed that you of all people would say that. - I think that I should probably set up a temple here."

Permalink Eye

"That doesn't seem very necessary."

Permalink Eye

"They haven't heard of Abadar, and I can change that, and so I ought to."

Permalink Eye

" - you technically can just open a temple but I'm not sure you'd get very many people interested. I guess I can sympathize with the impulse."

Permalink Eye

"If Abadar thinks it's important for it to get a lot of interest right away then he'll presumably give me some flashy spells for that purpose and if he doesn't then they'll gradually come for the loans and the healing."

Permalink Eye

"I think you cannot give out loans without a lot of permits. I am not sure what the legal limitations on magical healing are but several churches claim to do it and people around here mostly don't believe them. - actually that might not be true in this town specifically but in general California is a moderately godless place."

Permalink Eye

"Only the white people."

Permalink Eye

" - whatever. You can try it if you want. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, so I guess neither will I."

Permalink Eye

"I don't think it's my core skillset but it seems like people here are going to Hell and the afterlife for followers of Abadar is a good one."

Permalink Eye

"I - don't think everyone here goes to hell, and I also don't think that worshipping a specific god besides God gets you into not-hell, but I guess I don't have any evidence of this that I expect to be immediately convincing to you."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

They arrive!

Permalink Eye

She walks in without announcing herself. 

"Hey! So this is Karen's house, huh. I heard we had company."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Faith, this is Fazil, Mahdi, and Hagan, Fazil, Mahdi, Hagan, this is Faith. Also a vampire slayer."

Permalink Eye

"Hello. We're honored to meet you all."

Permalink Eye

"Wow, they're very proper."

Permalink Eye

"They're from, like, the fourteenth century with more magic. Please don't give them any heart attacks."

Permalink Eye

He's still standing outside the door. 

"Uh, can someone - "

Permalink Eye

" - oh! Sorry." I assume we're good with inviting Angel inside?

Permalink Eye

You should know how to revoke it, just in case, but yes, I think so.

Permalink Eye

Okay. You'll have to show me later.

"Come in, Angel."

Permalink Eye

He and Alex come in too.

Permalink Eye

"Oh! Hi Father Michael, I didn't know you were coming. This is Angel and this is Father Michael; these are Fazil, Mahdi, and Hagan," she says, pointing.

...she does not really know where to take this meeting from here so hopefully someone else says something.

Permalink Eye

"You were going to give us a bit of a primer on Earth? And of course it's a delight to meet your team."

Permalink Eye

"Oh! Right." She flips to a different page in her notebook. "So Earth is the planet you're on. The country you're in is called America, and it's about the richest nation on the planet and likes to think itself one of the freest, although I guess that's a matter of opinion. The state you're in is called California, and the town you're in is called Sunnydale. Sunnydale was built on a portal to hell, and as a result it pulls a bunch of weird nonsense to itself on a routine basis, including vampires, magical disturbances, possessing spirits, zombies, and probably a bunch of other weird stuff we don't know about. Should I stop for questions on that."

Permalink Eye

"If Hell invades are we obliged to remain and fight?"

Permalink Eye

"...no? Like, we would appreciate all the help we can get, but honestly probably if the hellmouth literally opens we should just all run?"

Permalink Eye

Fervent nod.

Permalink Eye

"Anyway, I don't think it's been an active portal for a really long time. It's, like, dormant. Like a volcano. 

I guess it's probably important to explain how to interface with society but I'm kind of unclear on which things I should assume you know already. Are there any specific things about interfacing with society that you'd like to know."

Permalink Eye

"So you have all those problems but you don't have adventurers here?"

Permalink Eye

" - do you guys literally call yourselves 'adventurers'."

Permalink Eye

" - yes?"

Permalink Eye

 

"We do not have people who we call adventurers. We have the people in this room and also some government people who are more organized but less individually powerful."

Permalink Eye

"What do the people in this room....do?"

Permalink Eye

"We keep tabs on weird stuff, and if necessary we make it stop disrupting life as we know it. Me and Faith are vampire slayers, Wishbone is a fifteen hundred year old expert on most things magical and mystical, Father Michael is a priest, Alex is... more experienced with weird stuff than I am and training me to get better at handling it. Angel is a vampire who's had his soul restored. Dennis is actually just a random high school student, sorry Dennis."

Permalink Eye

"A Christian priest?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"We encountered a Christian church, I think, when we first got here. They were very helpful."

Permalink Eye

"I'm - glad."

Permalink Eye

"Fazil's a cleric. Of some god named Abadar. He was thinking of setting up a temple."

Permalink Eye

"Do his rituals work against evil?"

Permalink Eye

"Of course."

Permalink Eye

"Then that seems like a good thing to have. - Christianity holds that other gods are just - very powerful people."

Permalink Eye

"In the sense that very powerful people sometimes become gods?"

Permalink Eye

"Do they? No, just that the Christian god isn't the same sort of thing as Abadar is."

Permalink Eye

"From what I've heard of him he doesn't sound like it."

Permalink Eye

"Any other specific questions?"

Permalink Eye

"A vampire who got his soul restored?"

Permalink Eye

"Yep. We're working on seeing whether the effect can be replicated."

Permalink Eye

 

"I'm sort of curious how that reads for alignment."

Permalink Eye

"You can try it. If you get evil and you attack him I will punch you, you should not assume whatever you get is relevant to his current conduct."

Permalink Eye

" - I don't just go around attacking evil people."

Permalink Eye

"Well that's good."

Permalink Eye

So he casts the spell. Looks around the room, blinks rapidly. His hands move at his side a bit. He does not attack anyone. "Huh. Thank you."

Permalink Eye

" - woah, can you read everyone's alignment? Just like that?"

Permalink Eye

"It's an area effect, yes."

Permalink Eye

"What's it think we are?"

Permalink Eye

"..." He points at Faith. "Chaotic neutral." Alex. "Chaotic neutral." Father Michael. "Lawful evil." Angel. "Chaotic evil." Karen. "Neutral good... are you, uh, confident in the company you're keeping -"

Permalink Eye

She considers this.

"...yeah, pretty much."

Permalink Eye

"Okay." He nods at Dennis. "I can't read him, or your dog, but that's normal, people who don't have a lot of magical power are typically hard to detect."

Permalink Eye

"I guess that makes sense."

Permalink Eye

"Do we know what this system judges people on? I don't know if I speak this much nerd."

Permalink Eye

"Lawfulness is about your willingness to hold yourself to rules - your society's rules, or your god's rules, or the code of an organization you've committed yourself to. Goodness is about your willingness to make sacrifices to help other people, mostly, though there are some details that are important."

Permalink Eye

"Well, fine, I'll take chaotic neutral, then. - why do you ping evil? The priest, I mean, it's pretty obvious why Angel pings evil."

Permalink Eye

"That's a bit of a long story."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, okay. Aren't they all. Guess we shouldn't keep these guys waiting through it."

Permalink Eye

"A long time ago I made a magically binding commitment the execution of which ended up requiring murdering a lot of people."

Permalink Eye

"That'll do it. Your god's not evil?"

Permalink Eye

"No," he says at the same time as Alex says "Yes."

Permalink Eye

" - I mean, I dunno if he'd ping evil. But we have just determined that he sends a lot of people to Hell, so."

Permalink Eye

"That is not actually evil. - sending good people to Hell is evil, but sending bad people to Hell is neutral."

Permalink Eye

"I disagree!"

Permalink Eye

"Hagan gets on that horse sometimes too. But - the idea of the evil afterlives is that they run off the principles you lived by. I think one ought to do better than that for people. But - it doesn't ping as evil."

Permalink Eye

" - look, there's not actually any reason to expect that our people are going to your set of afterlives, I feel like someone would have noticed that, even if we don't have reliable access to dead people. We'd have to do more scrys to be sure of anything. There's also no reason to hold ourselves to detect alignment's moral sensibilities; we didn't do it before and we don't have any particular reason to believe that whatever their universe wants people to be is precisely the thing that we ought to be, even if there's overlap in concepts."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I agree."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. So long as we're clear. Anything else about where you are - "

Permalink Eye

"Is there a good way to get around without a car?"

Permalink Eye

"There are buses. Unfortunately Sunnydale is not the most walkable town ever. Did you figure out how to cross streets - "

Permalink Eye

"Someone told us you just look whether there are cars coming but this cannot possibly be the way people traverse the whole city on foot."

Permalink Eye

She looks slightly pained. " - I should have explained before. Okay. You follow the sidewalks until you get to the points where the streets intersect, and then you cross one street at a time, not going across diagonally. And yeah, at small streets you look both ways. At big streets, the ones that have lights, you wait when there's an orange hand light and cross when there's a white light that looks like a person walking. This doesn't make it possible to easily walk from one end of the town to the other, but it does mean you can ever get anywhere safely. For longer trips I think we'll have to teach you how to use the bus system."

Permalink Eye

"Can we fly?"

Permalink Eye

"That - sounds like it'll attract a lot of attention?"

Permalink Eye

"...so, no?"

Permalink Eye

"We could illusion the carpet to look like a car?"

Permalink Eye

"That sounds plausibly okay, assuming we're talking about a flying carpet, but we'd have to teach you to obey traffic rules and those are somewhat more complicated than walking rules. I - have no idea what the legality of flying a carpet that looks like a car on the roads without a permit is but I expect it's kind of sketchy."

Permalink Eye

They look disappointed. "All right."

Permalink Eye

"Sorry, I realize it's very hard to get around without one. I wanna talk to people who know more about - stuff. And - I'm not sure you guys have fully processed what it means that people mostly don't believe in magic, or at least believe that no one else does? It means that right now, the vampires, the demons, they have to operate covertly to maintain their element of surprise. And that limits what they can do, a lot. If you start doing things that mess with that presupposition - and to be clear it would take kind of a lot, we think there might be mind-affecting magic capable of keeping people from recognizing the truth - but it's possible that the masquerade could shatter, and it's possible that that leads to open warfare, and maybe we win, but maybe we don't. So if it's gonna happen we want it to happen strategically, not because you guys did something random to save thirty minutes of walking."

Permalink Eye

- nod.

Permalink Eye

"I do feel like we we it to you to help you navigate the city until you have the hang of it. Unfortunately everyone here either works or goes to school. Or is a vampire. Or is a dog. Except Faith."

Permalink Eye

"Hey, I don't mind babysitting duty."

Permalink Eye

"We'd appreciate a guide."

Permalink Eye

Karen looks mildly dubious about this. "Then I guess Faith can show you what's in town tomorrow."

Permalink Eye

"Sure. I'll show 'em the sights. They're from the middle ages?"

Permalink Eye

"They have never seen a movie."

Permalink Eye

"You poor deprived souls."

Permalink Eye

"If we're to ever get home we will need to fight some stuff - unless Abadar's very supportive of the temple project. But I guess we can start with the movies."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, we can fight stuff. Might have to travel a little, K's got the town pretty well cleared out."

Permalink Eye

"Obviously not well enough."

Permalink Eye

"We'd be happy to travel."

Permalink Eye

" - do we know if that's safe? Anything in LA that's badder than disorganized vampires?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes," he says curtly. "They should probably stay out of LA and certainly not draw attention there."

Permalink Eye

Thumbs up. "Stick to movies for now. We'll figure out later if there's anything around worth fighting. Besides Lurconis the baby-eater, that seems like a very rude thing to sic you on."

Permalink Eye

"Why?"

Permalink Eye

"You would die."

Permalink Eye

"Are we likely to run into him? How would we recognize him?"

Permalink Eye

"Nah, he's off in some hell dimension, we just happen to know where a passage to him is. He's a big snake thing with a nigh indestructible skeleton."

Permalink Eye

Nod. 

Permalink Eye

"You guys have any more questions, or should I let Dennis go back to getting a comprehensive spell list?"

Permalink Eye

"He should probably get back to that, we don't have that much translation left."

Permalink Eye

"Cool. Anyone want pizza?"

Permalink Eye

"I want pizza! - have they not experienced pizza yet."

Permalink Eye

"They have not."

Permalink Eye

"I'll order some pizza."

Permalink Eye

"Cool."

Dennis is flipping through the notebooks again.

 

 

"Can you guys raise the dead?"

Permalink Eye

"Not yet."

Permalink Eye

"But you could, if you got stronger?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. Or buy a resurrection, if we were at home and richer."

Permalink Eye

"What's the difference?"

Permalink Eye

"I can only do it myself once I can cast fifth-level spells, and even then I can only raise people who died recently. If I wanted to resurrect someone who has been dead longer, I'd need seventh level spells, which very few people have. But at home I could purchase their services."

Permalink Eye

"Makes sense."

Permalink Eye

"The pharaoh's guard in Osirion is made of resurrected soldiers."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. How many people?"

Permalink Eye

"They don't advertise their numbers but hundreds, maybe a thousand."

Permalink Eye

"Huh."

Permalink Eye

"Not in the game?"

Permalink Eye

"Osirion's not in the game. I don't have the raise dead rules memorized, none of my characters have reached high enough level for a rez to make sense."

Permalink Eye

Nod. And they can go through the rest of Mahdi's spells too, at least until Tongues cuts out.

Permalink Eye

Sounds good to him.

Permalink Eye

I guess resurrection's on the map now, if it wasn't before. Not sure if anything else game-changing is. They can probably heal a bunch of stuff we can't.

Permalink Eye

The scrying's - probably not impossible with our magic but more accurate and straightforward than anything we knew how to do.

Permalink Eye

Yeah. One hour of effort.

It's possible that Dennis could learn some of this stuff. We'd probably have to pay them for the instruction.

Permalink Eye

Paying them isn't actually a problem. I don't want to just give them huge sums of money on their sayso but we're not short of it.

Permalink Eye

Yeah. I guess if it can actually be taught we should possibly rope in, like, actual responsible people. But it's high-effort, it's supposed to take years of study to get to first level. I imagine it doesn't take that long to be able to cast any spells at all.

Permalink Eye

I'm honestly really curious how his temple will work out, whether people will start getting spells that way.

Permalink Eye

Well, we can't stop him. It's a free country.

Permalink Eye

You don't think it's a good thing?

Permalink Eye

Wary of the worship of strange deities on principle. I admit to being curious what happens.

Permalink Eye

I guess I'll drive them home.

Permalink Eye

Sounds good. On for normal training again tomorrow?

Permalink Eye

Definitely.

 

He drives them back to their motel.

Permalink Eye

"Well, that sure is a lot of terrible people hanging around the vampire slayer. We should have asked what a vampire slayer is exactly."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe we can ask Faith tomorrow."

Permalink Eye

"I'm really worried for all of them! Maybe after a few more scrys they'll take their futures at all seriously."

Permalink Eye

"Might be kind of hard to. If your religion teaches something different."

Permalink Eye

"I guess."

Permalink Eye

She shows up to the motel bright and early and knocks on the door.

Permalink Eye

They are a bit slow in opening it because they are getting dressed.

Permalink Eye

Well, no big. Not like she has anywhere better to be.

Permalink Eye

Eventually they come to the door! "Good morning."

Permalink Eye

"Hey guys! Movie first, or do you guys, like, need help buying groceries."

Permalink Eye

"We carry enough food we're not in immediate need of lessons on buying it."

Permalink Eye

"Suit yourself." 

And she takes them to the movies and examines the posters.

"You want aliens, historical romance, kids' movies, I think that one's horror? Or attempt at social commentary on science and society and shit."

Permalink Eye

They discuss this. 

"...aliens?"

Permalink Eye

"I can respect that. You guys have cash?"

Permalink Eye

"We do!"

Permalink Eye

"Solid." She talks to the lady at the counter. "Four tickets for Men in Black."

She also wants them to buy popcorn and candy. She is insistent that this is important for the full moviegoing experience, even though movie theater popcorn is objectively overpriced.

Permalink Eye

They can buy popcorn and candy. 

Permalink Eye

Then they can watch Men in Black.

She honestly considers it disappointingly low on the scandal meter. No sex scenes at all. But hey, it's a movie, and it's fun, and there are aliens and massive government conspiracies, and she is in theory supposed to be wowing these people with the wonders of modern technology.

Permalink Eye

They seem suitably impressed with modern technology and it actually makes a lot more sense no one knows about magic if government officials all carry around wands of Mass Modify Memory, why didn't anyone mention that? Pricy and a weird priority but there are weirder places.

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I think that part's fake? Pretty sure real coverups are mostly lower tech than that. Mostly the police write up a lot of reports about gangs on PCP. I hear there is something messing with people's memories, just not the government so much."

Permalink Eye

Huh. Back to being sort of puzzled about how magic could be a secret, then. 

Permalink Eye

"Dunno. Maybe most people aren't as good at it as you are."

Permalink Eye

Maybe they could do that grocery store before they do another scry for Karen and Azalea?

Permalink Eye

Sure! Do they know what groceries they want or should she just fill their cart with good stuff. Also does their motel have a refrigerator.

Permalink Eye

They don't know what they want, don't know if their motel has a refrigerator, and don't know how to get an amount of food corresponding to the amount of money they have.

Permalink Eye

" - well, I can help you with that last one. These things? These are numbers. Numbers before the period are how many dollars it is. I guess I need to teach you how to count?"

Permalink Eye

"How to read digits, at least."

Permalink Eye

"Sure." And she can find all the digits and point them out and say what numbers they are. Also put some fruit and cereal and donuts and bread and chunky peanut butter in this cart of theirs.

Permalink Eye

Cool!