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Jan 27, 2023 1:05 PM
leareth gets dropped on arda
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"The obvious ones would involve helping you with magic." Leareth doesn't want to do this - it would be very reasonable on Maitimo's part to never forgive him - but from where he is, some moves are reachable and some are not, and if there's still a path to victory from where he's standing then he is absolutely going to take it. "A...single Gate, perhaps. Or set of shield-stones. You know your needs better than I. Requesting that before taking the oath for Fëanáro is understandable, I suppose. However, I would want the oaths for the others first." 

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Nod. 

"Leareth, I swear to you that I will not harm, or arrange for my servants to harm, your friends Vanyel and Yfandes, or the Prince Nelyafinwë of the Noldor, for as long as you have not returned to open war against me, or otherwise unambiguously acted to repudiate this attempted alliance."

 

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With his Othersenses on alert, Leareth can see the oath ripple through Melkor's mind. He is pretty sure that can't be faked. Could there be other tricks...? 

"Thank you," he says, calmly, levelly. "I would like you to add a few additional clauses - to avoid loopholes, you understand, this is necessary among people who are only at the first beginnings of trust. I wish you to also swear that you have not, in the past, already set plans in motion that could be reasonably anticipated to result in them coming to harm. And that you will not in future use any plans where, even though the primary intent is not to harm them, it is a plausible result."

That probably doesn't cover everything, he's on the spot, but Leareth thinks it should cover the obvious holes. 

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"I swear to you that I have not already set in motion plans that will bring them to harm. I swear that I will not proceed with any plans where grave harm to them is a likely result."

These ripple through his form differently; the first one is a temporary rearrangement, while the second one, like the original oath, leaves its mark on his magic. It is impossible to look at a Vala who has taken an oath that ongoingly affects them and not see the oath.

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Is he convinced? No. 

But he doesn't see that Melkor could be lying about this specific thing - no, paranoia, just because Leareth can't see it doesn't mean he isn't - but it still doesn't seem that likely. And one Gate isn't going to turn the course of the entire war unless it's especially well timed and placed, in which case Leareth will refuse, say it's too large an offer of good faith fort this first step. 

He has very little bargaining power right now. But he has someThere's a path forward, however slim, and–

–and if he realizes he's wrong then he needs to be willing to lose, willing to give up, rather than pour anything more into what could be the biggest mistake he's ever made. 

And yet. In every negotiation, he remembers saying to Vanyel a year ago, there comes a time where a leap of faith is needed to move forwards, and I believe perhaps it is my time for that.

"Thank you," he says. "What do you wish me to do for you?" 

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I want you to open a Gate to Valinor. - I'd really like four, but that's more than we agreed on. I want to send orcs there. It will advance my interests in three ways; first, it will force the Valar to either declare outright that they will kill innocent people in their paradise for being ugly, or to forcibly round them up and ship them out, or to set a path by which people they consider imperfect can exist in paradise. I think they're reasonably likely to do one of the first two but I'm not confident, and I've been surprised a few times by how far they'll go for peace and quiet in their paradise, and so it might be the third, which would be - a significant step towards some sort of negotiated peace. The orcs are volunteers, and aware the Elf-gods will plausibly just kill them.

Secondly, this will distract them for some time no matter what they choose, and buy us more time before they invade Beleriand again. This is a critical priority; the last war sunk a continent and this continent has a lot of people on it right now. 

Thirdly, it will delay your friends in preparing their offensive against us. I do not see any plausible mechanism by which it could endanger them. But they have declared their intent to sell the libraries of Valinor to the Dwarves for weaponry and they will be delayed if the Valar close free Gating in and out of Valinor, which I expect they will in response. 

 

The reason I'd like four instead of one is because if the orcs are scattered across the continent it will take the Valar much, much longer to respond.

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All of that is very reasonable and none of the reasonableness means he can trust it. Reasonable explanations just need a person to be smart, which it's been obvious since the beginning that Melkor is. 

"One Gate," he says. "Then, if you are pleased, you take the oath for Fëanáro as well. Then perhaps I would consider doing another three. I will likely need to rest in between anyway, if you want to move a significant number of orcs that distance." There is no point anymore of hiding his strengths and weaknesses, here. 

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Thank you. This way. 

 

And he stands up and leads him out of the room.

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Leareth follows. Still thinking, trying to trace down if he's making any blatant mistakes in his reasoning. 

( - feeling of wrongness - ) 

Well, a lot of things are wrong with the world. That doesn't mean that the best response is to lie down and die. Maybe he'll still conclude that but he isn't ready to give up. 

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The orcs are gathered in clusters of about eighty. 

 

You can use me as a source of magic, yes? says Melkor.

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"I would prefer to use a Maia if you have one available." Slightly lower chance they can just straight-up get into his mind that way. Not safe, but...safer, maybe. 

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Of course. 

 

 

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A Maia steps forward, offers his hand. 

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Leareth does not actually need to touch the Maia to draw on it. "Where to?"

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Lórien. Melkor sends a sense-memory. It's a peaceful, quiet place. If they are not attacked, they can live there comfortably.

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That probably isn't going to happen. Leareth...wishes he could believe it will. But even in the world where Melkor is telling the truth, this isn't likely to end in anything other than violence. 

–He skims some of the orcs' surface thoughts. Are they, in fact, intending to settle peacefully unless provoked? 

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They're totally expecting to be provoked. They are going to be MARTYRS who will PROVE TO EVERYONE that the Elf gods are EVIL. But yeah they're not supposed to attack anyone first and they're only allowed to burn down, like, a reasonable amount of forest for charcoal and farmland.

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Maybe orcs are just like that. Leareth can't blame them. Someday, he promises silently. Someday we will win this and your lives will not have to be this way any longer. 

Point of no return. (For this, at least, he still puts a solid probability that he's going to spot something he missed now and back out later.) Leareth knows it's a gamble. He's made gambles before; he's been wrong before. This is very far from the most significant damage he's caused in the name of a long-term plan. 

He raises the Gate. 

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The orcs walk through. Melkor watches solemnly. 

 

"I swear to you, Leareth, that I will not harm Curufinwë Fëanáro, or order my servants to harm him, or proceed with plans where grave harm to him is a likely result, and that I have not set any such plans in motion already."

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Vanyel is practicing. 

Showing off, even. It feels wonderful to have his Gifts effortlessly at his command again, and he's gone through Gates - which seem to no longer hurt him at all, at this point - and some offensive spells fired harmlessly into the air, and various fancy shields, and complex illusions of scenes back home. He doesn't know whether or not Maitimo is impressed, probably Leareth was more impressive, but still. 

(Maitimo is very attractive and he finds this fact a lot more distracting than he should.) 

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Maitimo is so impressed! Maybe Leareth showed off less or maybe Maitimo just considers being impressed with people a core part of his job description. 

"All right, I think our next stop is going to be Tirion, because we owe the Dwarves a lot of libraries. And then - figure out where in the world is the best hideout for some long-term research projects? It's probably somewhere in Valinor, honestly, I know Melkor's struck here once but I think it's at least harder for him. I wish you could've seen Tirion before all this, it was gorgeous."

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"I know. I wish I had too. ...Maybe you can show me some of your memories at some point?" 

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"I will certainly have to. So the place you can Gate us to is the school of biology, it looked like this -" and he sends it. 

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Also that over there not within their eyesight but easily within Vanyel's mage senses is a Gate.

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Vanyel no longer reacts badly to Gates but he's still startled by them, and it catches up in about a tenth of a second that he and Leareth are the only people in this entire world who can Gate - and for a second he's relieved maybe it means Leareth escaped–

–It almost certainly does not mean that. 

Still less than a second in, he considers sprinting toward it – because Leareth is on the other side of that Gate and maybe Vanyel can do something, grab him and yank him through, attack whoever's with him, he isn't sure – but that's stupid and suicidal and he'll get Maitimo killed as well as himself if he screws up so he can't

:Maitimo there's a Gate I think it's Leareth: he sends, ramming the Mindspeech through as fast as he can which is considerably faster than speaking. :Melkor must've tricked Leareth into it–: Not turned him fully. Vanyel is not yet ready to believe that. 

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