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Generated: Apr 26, 2018 9:48 PM
Post last updated: Jan 26, 2017 10:24 PM
no one deserves a lovely narrative arc
Ambela in Thedas
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She's on her way home from Taniquetil, sitting on the train reading a logic paper, singing idly along with the tune a kid three rows down started up, when there's suddenly a creature in her train car and it lunges at her.

She and her bench and her newsreader are abruptly all elsewhere.

 

 

At least she and Rúmil waited on children?

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It's snowing. There are pine trees.

Directly in front of her is the shore of a frozen pond, the ice dusted with windswept snow; off to her left, between the trees, she can glimpse a village that, to put it delicately, was not built by Elves. Past the village, the ground slopes upward into a rocky mountainside, dotted with more pines and partially obscured by more snow.

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Wow that village sure was not built by Elves. Orcs possibly, it doesn't look Dwarven. Maybe she's been teleported to Endorë and whoever lives there can point her to the ocean so she can yell at Ulmo's nearest Maia and tell him what's going on. She heads villageward.

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The tallest building in the village actually isn't bad; it looks like it was designed by an architect rather than thrown together haphazardly by someone who wanted four walls and a roof and didn't much care about the details. The stone is rough and worn, but the intent is pleasingly symmetrical even if the implementation isn't quite.

As she nears the village, a person emerges from the rough wooden gate in its rough wooden walls. They're so bundled up in poorly-made clothing that it's difficult to tell their species. Too tall for a Dwarf, too badly dressed for an Elf, but orc doesn't seem quite right either...

Whoever and whatever they are, they spot Mirelótë and yell something at her in an unfamiliar language.

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Huh, if only Fëanáro were here, she thought she had at least a cursory knowledge of everything in common use even though she's been to Endorë just once since she was little but that didn't sound recognizable. "Do you speak Quenya? Or anything else -?"

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The villager does not speak Quenya! The villager speaks his unfamiliar language again, louder and more angrily.

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"I'm sorry, I don't speak whatever you're speaking - were you in the middle of something here, I'm sorry to interrupt -"

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The villager waves his arms and shouts again and then goes back inside and yanks the gate shut behind him. Snow and small fragments of wood shake loose with the impact.

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Okay, what happens if she hikes up that mountain and looks around for alternative civilization?

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Well, if she heads toward the taller of the nearby peaks, skirting the village along the way—

—a handful of villagers pop up on the village wall with bows and crossbows, and they start sending arrows in her direction.

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What. Why would somebody do that.

They're terrible shots - but it's not like there's game around her, and they're not so bad she can imagine they meant to get the rabbit over there -

She picks up the pace and seeks tree cover.

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The villagers leave off their archery practice after she's put a few trees between herself and them.

A larger group of villagers starts climbing the mountain after her. They seem to be as bad at tracking as their friends were at archery, but she probably still doesn't want to hang around waiting for them to catch up.

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Yeah, not really. Alternative civilization to book it towards?

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The blowing snow reveals an occasional glimpse of another big building some distance up the mountain, partly built on the stone and partly carved into it. It's much nicer than anything in the village, but also considerably older and more weather-worn. Might or might not be affiliated with them. Might or might not be abandoned entirely.

...also, a huge scaly creature with wings resembling a bat's just took off from somewhere in the middle of said building. That is one intimidatingly large animal. This mountain just isn't very hospitable, is it.

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This'd be a great time to spontaneously run into Tyelcormo!

...No? Damn.

She avoids scalycreaturetown and tries to find the most sheltered path out of the valley so she can see farther.

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Up and around and over, and now with the mountains out of the way, she can see...

A badly maintained road, barely more than a trail, leads down through the mountains toward the long lake that lies at their feet. She is about midway between the two ends of the lake. To her left, the lake narrows into a long pointed tail, and amid a scattering of islands there is one close to the end of the tail on which there stands a round stone tower. To her right, the shape of the lake is broader, and along the curve of the rightmost end there sits a stone castle, presiding over a small town which is definitely the largest settlement in the immediate vicinity, although past the lake and nearing the horizon there are larger towns and even a few distant cities.

Overall, the architectural aesthetic is generally similar to that of the inhospitable village, although most of the buildings clearly visible from this vantage are better-made than the huts and cabins she saw past the village wall. Nowhere is there a single sign that the locals have heard of electricity, and running water doesn't look too likely either.

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Okay, maybe Eru thought it would be funny to hide a third inhabited planet as a practical joke of some kind. Ha ha very funny Eru.

"It's not actually funny, Eru," she says aloud.

No answer.

Considering the dispositions of the locals she should probably give a care to escape routes. If she heads for the castle and people decide they don't want her to leave, they want her to be a pincushion, does she have a path out?

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Yes, there are several roads leading away from the castle and its town, and the terrain in between is passable enough that she could flee overland if absolutely necessary.

There's not much traffic out on the roads - like, astonishingly little even for the apparent tech level - but there seems to be a party of travellers coming up the road from the castle, headed either toward the inhospitable village or up around the lake to parts unknown; they haven't yet reached the turnoff.

As she watches, the group emerges from behind a low hill. There are seven. One of them is... not an Elf, but more like an Elf than like anything else she's heard of; three are shorter and rounder of ear than he, but not quite as short and nowhere near as hairy as Dwarves; one is wearing a suit of steel plate armour that glows from within, a blue-white light so fierce that it calls into question whether there is anything but light in there at all; and the remaining two are... made... of stone...? The stone ones are also glowing, from their eyes and from unfamiliar symbols carved into their rough-cut stone bodies.

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Well, she doesn't know how to say "be careful over there, they shoot at people" in any local language, but she heads tentatively in their direction, not on but parallel to the road so she can flee behind plant cover if this proves necessary with these folks too.

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It's the quasi-Elf in the lead who notices her first; his head comes up and he squints in her direction (his eyesight must be terrible) and then turns to say something to his companions.

After a brief discussion, the rest of the party keeps to their fairly sedate pace and the quasi-Elf jogs ahead a little, looking in her direction with an expression of friendly curiosity. He is armed and armoured, but doesn't draw his enormous sword as he approaches; and of the three definitely-not-Elves, the one with a bow on her back does not move to string it.

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Okay! Maybe not everyone on this planet shoots strangers! ...She takes her hands out of her pockets in case there was any risk that she would be mistaken for the sort of person who shoots strangers. Waves a little.

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He waves back.

When he is well within earshot - the implied state of his hearing is not quite as bad as his eyes, but it's pretty bad - he slows down a little and calls something that, from context, might in fact be a friendly greeting. Insofar as she can judge from such a small sample, it seems to be the same language spoken by the villagers. It definitely isn't otherwise recognizable.

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"...Hello," she says, spreading her hands helplessly. And then she points at herself and says "Mirelótë Ambela."

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He points at himself and says, "Tev Rasna." A pause, a slight shrug - "Tev."

Then he glances back at the rest of his group, still trailing up the road, and inclines his head in their direction. The intent of the gesture seems to be something like 'want to come meet my friends?', or perhaps 'want to come see if any of my friends speaks your language, because I sure don't?'

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Sure why not they have not shot at her.

She follows him back to his group.

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Tev says something to the rest of them in a generally upbeat tone. Perhaps 'hey, she seems friendly, she didn't shoot at me or anything!'

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The party slows to a halt as she approaches.

Currently in the lead is a definitely-not-Elf of about Mirelótë's height, armoured and wearing a more reasonably-sized sword. She smiles, says a variant on Tev's friendly greeting, and introduces herself as, "Elissa Cousland."

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"Mirelótë Ambela," Ambela repeats.

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She says something else, intoned as a question, and then - repeats herself in a different local language, maybe? It's equally incomprehensible.

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Headshake. She tries Quenya again and the other languages she has any bits of.

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Elissa shakes her head and looks around at her companions, who all also shake their heads. No shared languages are in evidence, apparently.

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One of the stone people nudges the suit of armour's shoulder; the suit of armour turns and asks something that almost has to be 'what? Why me?', but then shrugs and turns forward again and lifts his steel faceplate to reveal a smiling face, glowing faintly blue-white from his eyes and the veins under his skin. (How does he see like that...?)

Stepping forward to stand beside Elissa, he points up the mountain the way Ambela came and asks a question.

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She points up the mountain too. "They shot at me," she says indignantly.

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He says something in a sympathetic tone, thinks for a moment, then kneels down and draws a crude map on the ground, scratched in the frozen earth with a steel-gauntleted fingertip. It depicts approximately the road leading up into the mountains, with a dot at approximately the location of the inhospitable village. He points at the dot and asks another question.

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"That is where they shot at me."

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Thoughtful nod.

"Stalas Aeducan," he says, pointing at himself, as he straightens up. This cues a general round of missing introductions.

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"Ambrose," says the second definitely-not-Elf.

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"Clare," says the third, the one with the bow on her back.

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"Kador," says one of the two stone people, the one who nudged Stalas earlier; "Hesta," says the other.

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Stalas points at the dot on his little map and names it clearly, "Haven." Then he gestures around at his group, sweeps his hand along the road in their direction of travel, points at his map again and traces the road from their current position all the way to the village where they shoot at people, and says something which is presumably along the lines of, 'We're going to Haven.'

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"I don't recommend that! They shoot at people!"

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He shrugs, smiles wryly, and glances around at his companions.

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Tev has some comment or other!

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Elissa nods thoughtfully and responds in a tone of mild concern.

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Stalas makes a suggestion, and then glances at Ambela and repeats himself with added gestures to make his meaning clear: he and Tev are going to stay here with her, and the other five are going to continue on to Haven.

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"That doesn't seem like a safety improvement and I don't think Mandos even knows about you people let alone has you backed up."

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Stalas shrugs and says something incomprehensible. The party splits along the described lines; Hesta looks back and waves as the five travelers depart.

Now! Does Ambela want to play Name That Object?

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Sure. Seems more sensible for her to learn what they speak here than the other way around, since she's outnumbered and loaded up on memory blessings. Plus her newsreader can take notes; she pulls it out of her pocket.

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Stalas blinks in mild fascination at the newsreader, but moves on fairly quickly to language lessons. Nouns: tree (trees), rock (rocks), dirt (dirt), map (maps); verbs: speak, see, hear, draw, write, walk, run; assorted species, with reference to absent persons by name: Stalas is a dwarf, Tev is an elf, the other three biological beings in the party are humans (as are the inhabitants of Haven), and Hesta and Kador are golems.

Once he has enough vocabulary to ask the question, the first thing he wants to know is: "Where did you come from?"

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"Valinor."

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"...Tev, do you have a map—"

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"Yeah."

Tev produces a map. It shows one continent with surrounding islands, and is of course labelled entirely in an alphabet she cannot yet read. He waves his hand vaguely at it, then around it. "Uh... what direction? North, south, east, west?" He indicates all these both on the map and in the world around them. North is toward the pointy end of the lake; south is toward the round end; east is toward the far shore, and west is toward Haven.

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"...No." She gets a rock and draws four circles and draws a hemisphere on each one, lined up so they can see the overlap. Boxes all the circles. "Valinor."

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...Tev stares at her maps in bafflement.

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Stalas stares at her maps in fascination.

He kneels in the road next to the four boxed maps, takes off his gauntlets, traces the lines with his bare fingers, and then seems to visualize a sphere in the air over the four circles, making gestures as though picking them up and wrapping them around it.

(Part of his right hand glows blue-white in a way that would indicate a really nasty bruise if, as seems to be the case, 'glowing blue-white' is the colour of his blood. He pays it no mind.)

When he's satisfied himself that the topology checks out, he puts his gauntlets back on and draws a circle, in which he sketches the shape of the continent from Tev's map. Then he boxes that single circle. The continent he names 'Thedas', and 'continent', with reference to continents depicted on Ambela's four-part map of Valinor to define the term; then he defines the category encompassing the two boxes as "...world?"

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Nod nod. "Valinor is a world."

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"Wow," he murmurs.

A moment to collect his thoughts, and - "How did you get here?"

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She draws the creature, which she did get a good look at first.

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...Stalas is pretty clearly baffled by the creature.

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"Valinor does not have those," she adds.

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"Thedas does not have those either," he assures her. "Or at least I've never seen one."

He stares meditatively at the drawing of the baffling creature.

Then: "...What happened in Haven, exactly? What did you do, what did they do?"

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"I was -" Point to where she landed. "There. Walked to Haven. A human said -" She can reproduce the phonemes, pretty well, and tone and volume. "I went here," point, "and humans, uh -" Mime shooting.

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(Tev makes... a face... at part of what the human said.)

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Stalas lets out a little sigh.

And then he starts explaining what the human said. He names the country they're in (Ferelden) and the neighbouring country on the opposite side of these mountains (Orlais), and explains further that the human mistook her for an elf, and subsequently mistook her for an Orlesian elf, which is probably why the shooting. (By his tone he doesn't think this excuses the shooting, just explains it.)

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"Ah."

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"...do you want to explain 'knife-ear', or should I," he asks Tev.

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"No, go ahead, you're better at this languages thing than I am."

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So here are the meanings of the individual parts of the compound word, and together they make a nasty way to refer to elves, the sort of thing one might say if one were the sort of person who shoots at strange elves for no good reason.

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...that's a weird convention to have. Uh, what if she crosses these braids differently, tucks her ears under them?

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Then she looks more like a human and less like an elf and will probably receive better treatment in this and neighbouring countries.

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Okay then. She'll leave her hair like that.

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"But if something happens to your hair and people can see your ears all of a sudden, it'll be bad," Tev contributes. "I get a little of that because I'm so tall; elves are usually," he gestures a range of heights well below his own, "between this tall and that tall, so people look at me and don't think I'm an elf and then they see the ears and they think I was trying to fool them."

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...this is dumb. She puts her hair back.

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Tev shrugs.

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"Okay, so what happened after they shot at you?"

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She traces her path, pauses to draw the winged scaly thing and indicate where it came from, traces the rest of her path, "then Tev said hello."

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"...dragon," says Stalas. "That's a dragon. Tev, is it just me or does the mysterious building up the mountain sound a whole lot like it might be the Temple of Sacred Ashes?"

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"It's not just you," says Tev. "Should we catch up with the others and tell them there is a dragon in the Temple of Sacred Ashes."

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"We should definitely do that," says Stalas. "Mirelótë, can you draw me a better map to the building with the dragon in it - I don't think we can see as well as you can, but I don't want to ask you to go back there and lead us to it, dragons are dangerous and so are people who shoot at people..."

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Sure, she can do that. Draw draw draw.

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He stares at the map for a minute, nods, and looks at Tev.

"This doesn't need both of us, and I'm kind of worried that if we leave Mirelótë by herself she'll run into darkspawn or something. Also I'm about three times as fast as you on these roads when I'm trying. You stay here, I go deliver the warning? And... admittedly if they're going to have to fight a dragon there is no reasonable way I should be back here teaching languages..."

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"Go, fight a dragon, I'll be fine. We can head back to Redcliffe, tell them help is on the way."

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"Okay." He glances at Ambela. "Did you catch all that?"

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"No."

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"I'm going to go catch up to the rest of the group and tell them about the dragon and show them where the building is, because I think the building with the dragon in it is exactly the place we're all looking for. The dragon might attack us, so I should be there to help in case that happens. We're looking for the building to find something in it that will help someone who lives in the town on the south end of the lake. The town on the south end of the lake is called Redcliffe. Tev wants to go back to Redcliffe, and he wants you to go with him, because it's not safe around here and he can protect you if something bad happens."

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"...Okay."

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He nods. "Goodbye," he says, and closes his faceplate and takes off up the road at a truly impressive run.

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"...I'm hungry," says Tev, "are you hungry?"

He extracts a cloth-wrapped bundle from the pack he's carrying, opens it to reveal bread and cheese, and offers her some.

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She had been going to have dinner with Rúmil when she got home. Sigh. "Yes." Takes a little, nibbles on it.

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To start, there is half a loaf of bread and a fairly sizeable wedge of cheese. When Tev is done eating there's nothing but crumbs. But, considerately, he pauses several times along the way to offer her more of both things. The bread is bland but adequate; the cheese is unfamiliar but not unpleasant.

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He's clearly hungrier than her; she doesn't take more after the first portion.

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And then he scuffs at the various things drawn in the road until they're mostly obscured, and sets off back the way he came, toward the south end of the lake.

"I can try to teach you the language some more while we travel," he offers. "I'm not as good at it as Stalas, but I'll do my best."

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"Yes please."

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"Okay, uh... how about time and distance, that seems useful... that's the sun," he points at a brighter spot in the overcast sky above the mountains, "...I guess you'll have to take my word for it, or maybe you can see it right now, I know I can't... the sun rises in the morning, and then it's daytime, and the sun sets in the evening and then it's nighttime, and between one sunrise and the next sunrise is a day. It took us eight days to walk here from Redcliffe - I can't remember if we've done numbers already - " he counts demonstratively on his fingers, "one two three four five six seven eight."

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Now that the immediate practicalities are out of the way she should really be trying to learn this language the way Fëanaro would, seeing as he'd be better at it than her. "Maybe the sun can set in the morning? Maybe two suns rise in the morning?"

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...he laughs. "No, those things don't happen."

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"Valinor has two suns," she informs him. "It is the next sunrise? It is nighttime?"

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"...two suns...?"

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"One sun?" she confirms, pointing up at the sun. "Valinor has two suns. Have two suns?"

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"Yeah, that's one sun over there - you'd say 'has', Valinor has two suns... the thing that's confusing me here is how Valinor has two suns..."

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...she doesn't have anywhere near an orbital mechanics amount of vocabulary. "Valinor suns Telperion, Laurelin."

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"...okay, I guess that makes sense, you have two, you'd name them different things. We only have one, so it's just 'the sun'. ...we have a moon, does Valinor have a moon? It comes up at night, usually."

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"Valinor have a moon, Araman."

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"Has, again, it has a moon. Okay. Our moon doesn't have a name either. I guess we just don't name things as much as you do? ...What species are you, what species live on Valinor?"

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"Valinor has one species, Quendi. Endorë is a world, Endorë has Quendi, orcs, Dwarves."

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"Endorë? Another world? There's more?"

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"...two is more one?" she inquires.

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"Yeah. Two is more than one, three is more than two."

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"Yes, Valinor and Endorë and here. Maybe more than."

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"We haven't named our sun, we haven't named our moon, we haven't named our world... wow, we're really behind. But, wait - if the thing that brought you here isn't something you've ever seen before - how do you know about Endorë? Have you been there? How would you get there?"

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"...Endorë then Valinor."

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"You went to Valinor from Endorë? Okay, same question, how?"

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"Oromë is... uh," hand-wiggle, uncertainty, "Valar a species, Oromë a Vala. Oromë find Quendi in Endorë."

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"Valar are... maybe a species but you're not sure?" he guesses. "And they can go between worlds and take people along?"

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"Valar can go between worlds and take people along! Valar are... not maybe a species, if I get 'maybe', they..." She spreads her hands, she doesn't have words. "Oh, and Maiar, like Valar, but -" Hand gestures to suggest that Maiar are small Valar.

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"You should tell all this to Stalas next time we see him, I'm sure he'll make better sense of it than I am," Tev predicts.

And then a thought occurs to him.

"Uh. ...In Valinor, nobody shoots at anybody - people don't shoot at people? Ever?"

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...she has no way to explain special effects, so she hesitates thoughtfully but then says "People don't shoot at people."

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"Are there... other dangerous things? Dragons? Things more dangerous than dragons?"

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"...uh." More gestures to indicate that bigger than Valar is "Eru, on Araman, but - he was dangerous thing but then not dangerous thing." Pause. "I think." She looks around her in annoyance. "And a dangerous Vala named Melkor, and dangerous Maiar, but Valar - eight and six not-dangerous Valar - not-dangerous Melkor and Melkor-Maiar."

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"...eight and six is, uh, fourteen - eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen - is Eru a god, is that what Valar are that's not quite a species - they made Melkor not dangerous? Melkor was dangerous and now isn't dangerous because of something the other Valar did? —'not dangerous' is 'safe'..."

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"Yes, Melkor was dangerous, the other Valar something did and now Valinor is safe and Endorë is safe."

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"Thedas is. Not safe," he says. "...'did something', is how you would say that, the other Valar did something - Thedas has dangerous things, we're trying to make Thedas safe, but - could the Valar just, bring everyone from Thedas to Valinor - the elves and dwarves and humans and golems and qunari, all of us—? Some - I guess some of the people might still be dangerous. The people in Haven are a little dangerous. But darkspawn are more dangerous, people should get to live somewhere with no darkspawn, even if they're dangerous people."

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"...Go from Endorë to Valinor, um - numbers -"

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"Numbers...? One two three four five six seven eight nine ten, eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen seventeen eighteen nineteen twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty...?"

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"Two sixes twelve, twelve twelves -"

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"Twelve twelves...? Uh - ten tens is a hundred, twelve twelves is..." he puzzles over it for a second or two, counting on his fingers, and then says, "...a hundred and forty-four? Four tens is forty. A hundred and forty-four of what?"

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"Two thirties?" she asks.

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"Two thirties is sixty...?"

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"Endorë to Valinor is sixty-three a hundred and forty fours days. Endorë days - thirty-one a hundred and forty fours Valinor days."

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"...and you don't know how much time between Thedas and either of those places, because you got here by creature, not by Vala... the Valar can't go fast like the creature did? And - sixty-three one hundred and forty-fours, that's - uh - a year is three hundred and sixty days, that's... more than twenty years? If Endorë days and Thedas days are the same? If Thedas days are more like Valinor days that's... still more than ten years... how many people can the Valar carry at once? One trip, from Endorë to Valinor, how many people?"

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"I was with... three a hundred forty four a hundred forty four a hundred forty fours."

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"...I'm not that good with numbers, but - ten hundreds is a thousand... a thousand thousands is a million... I think that's more than a million?"

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"- oh, tens. Yes, more than a million. Not more than nine million."

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"...I think there's less than nine million people in the world... uh, have we done 'less' - one is less than two, two is less than three... I don't know, I could be wrong, maybe there's more than that. Maybe Elissa or Stalas or Ambrose knows."

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"The Valar don't know I am here."

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"How do you know?"

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"They don't know here is."

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"...fair enough," he acknowledges. "Uh. ...it would be nice if they found out. I... want the people of Thedas to be safe and it sounds like the Valar are good at making people safe."

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"They are. They maybe find it from me, maybe now, maybe - uh - someone shoot me I go to Valinor, but can't find here..."

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"...what?"

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"Quendi have..." ...she delves into loanword. "Chips. Chips tell a Vala, Mandos, who a Quendi is. If someone shoot me, Mandos make more -" she gestures at herself.

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"...so when you die, Mandos makes you alive again? Yeah, it definitely sounds like the Valar are some kind of gods. Uh. How do I explain gods. I wish Stalas was here."

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...she points at a weed. "Alive," picks it, "die?"

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"...yes. The plant was alive, then you killed it, it died, now it's dead."

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She nods and resumes messing around with grammar inquisitively.

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Tev issues both factual and grammatical corrections, and distinguishes between them. Ambela's vocabulary expands. The sun sinks below the mountains.

They're not travelling nearly as fast as Ambela did coming down from Haven; at this rate it might in fact take them about eight Endorë-sized days to reach the castle, at least if they mainly travel during daylight. And indeed, when the sun is firmly out of sight, Tev calls a halt and starts setting up a little camp.

"If Hesta and Kador were here they could carry us all night," he remarks. "Golems don't sleep. But it's not very comfortable, so we only do that when there's a big hurry."

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"I could carry you," Ambela says. "But there's not a hurry."

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Blink. "You could carry me?"

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She looks at him assessingly. "I think so."

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He is only a few inches taller than she, but considerably more heavily muscled.

"...okay, I believe you," he says. "Quendi must be pretty strong."

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"We are stronger than orcs. I don't know about here."

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"Elves usually aren't very strong. I'm different. Humans are stronger than elves, dwarves are stronger than humans, qunari are stronger than dwarves. Usually. And golems are the strongest. I wonder where Quendi fit in that lineup..."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not a very strong Quendi."

Permalink Eye

"If you're not very strong and you can carry me, then probably somewhere between qunari and golems. I'd be very surprised if Quendi were usually stronger than golems."

Permalink Eye

"What are golems - they aren't - warm -"

Permalink Eye

"...uh? No, they're not warm. They're made of stone. I don't know how exactly. There was a dwarf a thousand years ago, his name was Caridin, he figured out how to turn dwarves into golems, and then something happened, I'm not too clear on the details, and he got turned into a golem himself and spent a thousand years hiding in a cave and then Stalas found him and brought him to Orzammar, the dwarf city. Hesta and Kador are Caridin's friends, they were in the cave with him."

Permalink Eye

"...huh. How do dwarves turn into golems?"

Permalink Eye

Tev shrugs. "Hesta and Kador probably know. Stalas might know. Caridin definitely knows. I don't."

Permalink Eye

Okay, she can wait to confirm her guess that dwarves have chips-or-something that can magically operate stone. "Why are you a different elf?"

Permalink Eye

"...oh, I have completely failed to explain mages," he realizes. "This is going to be fun, if you don't have anything like them... okay. Uh, the short version is, some people were trying to find out if they could make golems or things like golems out of people other than dwarves, and they tried something with me, and now I'm taller and stronger and sturdier than I used to be. ...Do you have lyrium where you're from? It's a kind of rock, it glows like Stalas and the golems glow. There's lyrium in golems and lyrium in Stalas and a little bit of lyrium in me."

Permalink Eye

"...we have glowing rocks but not in daytime -"

Permalink Eye

"Not in daytime...?"

Permalink Eye

"They only glow at - night -" Handwave handwave help her out.

Permalink Eye

"...in the dark?" he tries. "Earlier it was day so it was light, now it's night so it's dark, but I made a fire, and the fire makes light, so it's less dark - am I on the right track here?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes, we have rocks that glow in the dark."

Permalink Eye

"Lyrium glows most of the time. And usually that colour, lyrium-blue. And it's magic. But I'm not a mage or an enchanter and I don't know how magic works. Clare is a mage, you can ask her about magic, and Stalas knows Caridin, you can ask him about lyrium. I can try to explain in the meantime but it might not make much sense."

Permalink Eye

"What is magic?"

Permalink Eye

"Um... it does... things? Clare can turn into animals, or make animals do things, or make ice or fire. And it has something to do with the Fade, which... do Quendi sleep? Do you dream? Dreams are... you go to sleep at night and you think things are happening but then you wake up in the morning and they didn't happen. Dreams are that."

Permalink Eye

"Quendi sleep and dream, but not every night."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Well, the Fade is where dreams happen. When a person dreams, their spirit - their mind, the part of them that thinks - goes to the Fade, and does things in the Fade, and then when they wake up their spirit comes back out of the Fade and into their body. Or maybe it was in their body all along but in the Fade at the same time. I don't know. I don't really understand it."

Permalink Eye

Skeptical Quendi is skeptical.

Permalink Eye

"And mages can go to the Fade when they're not asleep, and do things there. And there's lyrium there or something? And spirits, ones without any bodies of their own. And demons. Demons are - bad, dangerous. They're like Fade spirits, they don't have bodies outside the Fade, but they wait for mages to come into the Fade and then they convince the mage to bring them out into the mage's body and then the demon uses the mage's body to do things and they're usually bad dangerous things."

Permalink Eye

...skeptical Quendi is still skeptical but nods seriously at the warning.

Permalink Eye

"I'm really bad at explaining this, you can ask Clare later and hopefully she'll be better."

Permalink Eye

"Okay."

Permalink Eye

"I'm going to sleep now. Goodnight."

He sleeps for eight hours, and wakes up in the morning and has breakfast (offering Ambela some again) and cleans up the campsite and gets back on the road.

Permalink Eye

Ambela stays up. She sorts through her notes on the language in her newsreader, assembles them into hypotheses and inferences - she doesn't want to waste its charge. She sings, tentatively, when she thinks he's deeply enough asleep that it won't wake him. She picks a little at breakfast and observes the cleanup to become acquainted with the procedures.

Permalink Eye

Once they've been walking for ten minutes or so, Tev seems to wake up a little further; he resumes language lessons, and attempts to describe some geography. These are the Frostback Mountains, and that's Lake Calenhad; Orzammar is under the Frostbacks, and its front gate is north of here, in a place called Gherlen's Pass. This country is Ferelden, and on the other side of the Frostbacks is Orlais, and then he has to get out his map of the continent to continue - there's the Free Marches, there's Nevarra, there's Antiva, there's Rivain, there's Par Vollen where the qunari live, there's Tevinter, and over there are the Anderfels, which used to be a country but was mostly destroyed by darkspawn...

Permalink Eye

"What are darkspawn?"

Permalink Eye

"Darkspawn are... they look a little bit like people, and act a little bit like people, but they're not really people, I don't think they have minds. They came from somewhere underground, thousands of years ago or something, and started trying to kill everyone, and they've been trying to kill everyone ever since then. But most of the time they're not any good at it. Sometimes, a kind of... darkspawn-dragon... called an Archdemon shows up, and they have minds and they can make the darkspawn do what they want, so for a while the darkspawn are much better at trying to kill everyone, and when that happens it's called a Blight. There's a Blight in Ferelden right now. We're trying to stop it."

Permalink Eye

"Is that why they went to the dragon? Will they kill it?"

Permalink Eye

"The dragon on the mountain was just a regular dragon. If it was an Archdemon, there would've been a thousand darkspawn around it. No, they went up the mountain looking for the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Ambrose's friend Eamon, who lives in Redcliffe, is very sick - he was poisoned, he - ate or drank something dangerous? And he might die, and that would be bad, so we've been looking for a way to cure him, and we think there might be one in the Temple of Sacred Ashes, which is a - legendary place, a place there are stories about, that's been lost for a while, nobody knew where to find it. Except for that dragon apparently."

Permalink Eye

"Why was the dragon there?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know. Regular dragons don't have minds, they're just... big animals. Big flying fire-breathing animals. So maybe it was nesting in the ruins or something."

Permalink Eye

"How long will they be behind us?"

Permalink Eye

"Depends how long they take getting up the mountain and looking for the ashes, and whether or not they hurry coming down. If they hurry a lot they might catch up to us before we reach Redcliffe."

Permalink Eye

"What will we do in Redcliffe?"

Permalink Eye

"We can stay in the town, it's safe there. Or in the castle. They were having problems there before - a mage child got possessed by a demon and it was very dangerous for a while - but we got rid of the demon and the kid is fine and things are okay there now, except for Eamon being sick."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

Geography! Vocabulary! Oh, literacy, would Ambela like to learn to read and write in Thedas Common?

Permalink Eye

Yes. This is funny for some reason.

Permalink Eye

"...why is that funny?"

Permalink Eye

"It - hm - who thought of writing first here?"

Permalink Eye

"...I have no idea, it was thousands and thousands of years ago."

Permalink Eye

"...no one remembers that?"

Permalink Eye

"...no? Everyone who was alive back then is dead?"

Permalink Eye

"- why, what happened -"

Permalink Eye

"Lots... of things...? People don't live for thousands of years unless they're golems or something. They live for about a hundred years and then they die. Do Quendi and so on not do that?"

Permalink Eye

"Wh- no! We live until - something happens - then Quendi or orcs Mandos or another Vala can make alive again - Dwarves don't have chips but they live until something happens -"

Permalink Eye

"Well. Lucky you. People here, if something doesn't happen - and something usually does happen before then - they live about a hundred years and then they get old and sick and they die and nobody makes them alive again, they just stay dead. Some people say that dead people's spirits pass into the Fade, but if they do, they go somewhere no mage can find them."

Permalink Eye

 

"That's stupid."

Permalink Eye

"What are you going to do, complain to the Maker? There's a story that says that's how we got darkspawn..."

Permalink Eye

"Complain to Eru maybe. Get the Valar to find you somehow - could try dying but it hasn't been much time yet, I should wait longer -"

Permalink Eye

"...I know it's probably normal to you but I can't help feeling like you probably shouldn't try dying, just in case something goes wrong with the being-made-alive-again part."

Permalink Eye

"It shouldn't - but here is strange - my, my -" Vocabulary. "My Rúmil is allowed to tell Mandos to make a me, at least from when I left if it isn't saving me from here..."

Permalink Eye

"...They can make more of you even when you haven't died? Or...?"

Permalink Eye

"They can. They ask first but my Rúmil is allowed to say yes."

Permalink Eye

"...who is your Rúmil...?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't have the word."

Permalink Eye

"Um, okay... words for people you might say 'my' about..."

Here's a quick lesson on family structures! Father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, cousin, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, husband, wife?

Permalink Eye

"Husband, he's my husband."

Permalink Eye

"Okay."

Permalink Eye

Sigh.

Permalink Eye

"...so, I was going to teach you the alphabet," he recalls.

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

He'll do that, then.

Permalink Eye

She's a quick study.

Permalink Eye

Huh.

"You're learning this faster than I did."

Permalink Eye

"Chips can have - things - and mine has things for learning."

Permalink Eye

"...huh. Okay."

Well, here is an alphabet and now she can write in it and he's sorry about spelling. Spelling in Thedas Common is worth being sorry about.

Permalink Eye

It's probably not his fault if writing is thousands of years old and people die for no reason here!

Permalink Eye

It is indeed not his fault. But he's sorry about it anyway.

The day goes by. He teaches her as many words as he can think of. Around noon he stops and eats again, and a little while after dusk he stops and makes camp. Days here seem to be very close to the same length as days on Endorë.

Permalink Eye

She mentions that - "Days here are the same length as Endorë days."

Permalink Eye

"...is that weird? Should different worlds all have different days? I don't know how worlds work."

Permalink Eye

"It's probably a little different but it's close. It's only a bit weird."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Oh, I haven't explained time yet—"

Times of day: she knows day, night, morning, and evening, but there's also dawn, dusk, noon, midnight, and afternoon. The day is divided into twenty-four hours, which are each divided into sixty minutes, which are each further divided into sixty seconds, and a second is approximately this long but only people with very expensive clocks can say for sure.

The calendar: there are twelve months in a year, of thirty days each! Their names are Wintermarch, Guardian, Drakonis, Cloudreach, Bloomingide, Justinian, Solace, August, Kingsway, Harvestmere, Firstfall, and Haring. It's currently a few days into Firstfall, which is the first month of winter.

Permalink Eye

"Why is time in sixes but your other numbers in tens?"

Permalink Eye

"I have no idea!"

Permalink Eye

Ambela continues to be a Noldo learning a new language. Some of the exotic vocabulary is waiting for Stalas, but she's got a startlingly good command of the grammar and what vocabulary Tev knows how to define for her a few days in.

Permalink Eye

 

 

Speaking of Stalas, that sounds a whole lot like him running along the road in the middle of the night. The sound of Stalas running in his armour is... distinctive.

Permalink Eye

She has slept once since she got here but this is not that time.

"Stalas?"

Permalink Eye

He slows, turns off the road, finds the campsite.

"Mirelótë! Hi! We found the thing, I'm taking it back to Redcliffe, but I can spare a minute to talk. How have the language lessons been going?"

Permalink Eye

"Very well! Some of the vocabulary Tev thinks you'll do better at explaining."

Permalink Eye

"Any of it you remember offhand and think I can cover in less than five minutes?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know, how complicated are 'gods' and 'magic'?"

Permalink Eye

"...well, let's find out. So, gods: the humans call theirs the Maker and say that he made the world and everything in it and about a thousand years ago he fell in love with a human woman named Andraste and that's why he likes humans best. They also say that the reason there are darkspawn is that a bunch of mages once went into the Fade to look for the Maker, and when they reached the Golden City where he lives it turned dark and horrible and became the Black City and they came out of the Fade as the first darkspawn. Elves used to have gods of their own, and before the Maker there were different ones for humans, and the qunari as far as I can tell just worship their own governmental structure. The dwarves of Orzammar don't go in for any of that nonsense; we say that when we die we return to the Stone, and whether or not you believe it's full of dead dwarves watching over their descendants, at least there's no doubt that it exists."

Permalink Eye

"...I have more questions now but shouldn't make you wait."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. I'll come back and meet you on the road again once I've made the delivery."

Off he zooms.

Permalink Eye

Gosh, he's fast.

Ambela goes back to singing and stargazing and contemplating grammar.

Permalink Eye

The stars around here are reasonably pretty. Unfamiliar, of course.

Tev wakes up in the morning and goes through his standard breakfast-and-cleanup routine. When he notices the footprints in the snow, he says, "Did Stalas come by?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. He's very fast."

Permalink Eye

"Yes he is. In his armour, anyway. Out of the armour he's slower than I am."

Permalink Eye

"How does the armor help?"

Permalink Eye

"It makes him... kind of like a golem? There's lyrium involved somehow. You'd have to ask him for the details."

Permalink Eye

So glowing-rock-powered mech suit, okay. "All right."

Permalink Eye

"Caridin made it for him," he adds. "...it's kind of strange sometimes, travelling with someone who's friends with the most famous smith who ever lived."

Permalink Eye

...that is really really funny for some reason.

Permalink Eye

"What?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm friends with famous people too."

Permalink Eye

"Well, I've never heard of any of them, so it's less weird than Stalas. And he's a prince, and Ambrose is going to be King of Ferelden - oh, that's right, I haven't explained nobility yet, have I..."

Vocabulary lesson! Kings and queens are hereditary rulers of countries. Princes and princesses are their children. In Ferelden there are also three different ranks of nobility, who rule subsections of the country, administering to their own lands and then answering in turn to the king: a teyrn rules a teyrnir, which is very big; an arl rules an arling, which is of medium size; a bann rules a bannorn, which is relatively small. Ambrose's friend Eamon who they are trying to save from being poisoned is in fact the Arl of Redcliffe, which is why it's so important to save him, because he has political influence which he can use to help them save the world from the Blight but only if he is alive to do so.

Permalink Eye

"...why do you need to do politics about the Blight?"

Permalink Eye

He sighs.

"...Because someone's being stupid," he summarizes. "When the Blight started, King Cailan took the army down to where a lot of darkspawn were gathering, and he tried to fight them. But there were a hundred times more darkspawn than anybody thought, and Cailan and most of the army died in the fighting. His wife's father, Loghain, was there, leading part of the army; when Loghain saw the king about to be overrun by thousands of darkspawn, he took his part of the army and ran away. Now Loghain is the Regent - that's like a temporary king, for when the king dies and there isn't an heir or they can't find the heir right away or the heir is a child and needs to grow up before they can start ruling the country. And Loghain is being very stupid about the Blight."

Permalink Eye

"Why?"

Permalink Eye

"Well, I don't know. I know what he's doing but not why he's doing it. He left Cailan to die, and then he blamed it on the Grey Wardens - I'm a Grey Warden, so is Elissa, so is Ambrose; the Grey Wardens are a group of people dedicated to fighting darkspawn and ending Blights, and we're the only people who can kill an Archdemon, and Loghain lied to everyone and said the Grey Wardens got Cailan killed on purpose, and he outlawed Grey Wardens - meaning he announced that any Grey Wardens in Ferelden should leave and if we don't leave he'll have us killed."

Permalink Eye

 

 

"Why are you the only people who can kill an Archdemon?"

Permalink Eye

"...When an Archdemon dies, its spirit moves to the nearest darkspawn, and that darkspawn turns into the Archdemon. The Grey Wardens figured out a way to have the Archdemon's spirit move into a Grey Warden instead, which kills the Archdemon for good. But you need a Grey Warden very very close to the Archdemon for that to work. And the Warden who takes the Archdemon's spirit also dies."

Permalink Eye

 

"I really did think the Valar had talked Eru out of this sort of thing."

Permalink Eye

"...what?"

Permalink Eye

"Stalas explained gods, sort of - the Valar are gods, I suppose, but Eru is a bigger god, and he really shouldn't be, because he doesn't - he likes sad stories. He used to set up his sad stories with people and the Valar mean well and didn't know about it and when they learned more they convinced him to get smaller until he could just read books like a normal person and now Quendi write very sad music and terribly tragic poetry and Eru lives on Araman and judges contests - but we didn't know about here, and this is very much to his taste."

Permalink Eye

...he isn't sure what to do with that.

Permalink Eye

"It is very annoying if he was hiding a world that needed Valar on it a thousand years ago and instead has been struggling along with people who die. For. No. Reason."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, we've had people who die for no reason for much longer than that. It's the darkspawn that are new. Well. Last-thousand-years-or-so new."

Permalink Eye

"That makes it worse, not better."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

 

"I suppose it's also possible that this is not actually a world Eru made, and I'm too far away to be saved to Mandos from here."

Permalink Eye

"...Is that better or worse?"

Permalink Eye

"Worse for me, if anything happens to me. Maybe better for you, if my disappearing lets the Valar find the world because Eru was never hiding it in the first place."

Permalink Eye

"...I'd feel bad for you if anything happened to you but I think Thedas is better off if we're not made by Eru."

Permalink Eye

"Well, the worst that can happen to me is apparently not as bad as the worst that can happen to people here."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Maybe our spirits do wander some distant corner of the Fade after we die, I don't know, but then do dwarves' spirits go to the Stone or do they just... not?"

Permalink Eye

"At home it's only people with chips who can come back but even people without only die if they have some kind of accident. Which kills them before they can get to help."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Your home sounds like a really nice place."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"Well. We can find somewhere safe for you to stay while we go save the world."

Permalink Eye

"I appreciate that, although if there's a way I can help save the world that seems better than not."

Permalink Eye

"If you want to help out, we can probably find something for you to do. You can ask Elissa."

Permalink Eye

"All right."

Permalink Eye

Vocabulary lessons. Approaching Redcliffe.

Permalink Eye

"Human towns are ugly."

Permalink Eye

 

"...I guess?"

Permalink Eye

"I might not be able to stay indoors very long if they're like that there too."

Permalink Eye

"Why not?"

Permalink Eye

"Quendi need things to be pretty."

Permalink Eye

"...okay. We'll see what we can do, I guess."

Permalink Eye

"I suppose I could sing more..."

Permalink Eye

"The singing is... very pretty."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not that good for a Quendi."

Permalink Eye

"...really?"

Permalink Eye

"Really! I'm not bad either but there are much better singers than me. I'm a family friend of the best on the planet."

Permalink Eye

"Wow."

Permalink Eye

She doesn't remark aloud on the implications for local music quality. "And the stars are nice and the trees are too, I can make do..."

Permalink Eye

"Okay."

Permalink Eye

 

 

The following afternoon, Stalas can be seen (and heard) running back up the road toward them.

Permalink Eye

She waves.

Permalink Eye

He waves back.

When he's within local-species earshot: "Eamon's feeling better and looking forward to talking to everyone when they get there! So, we were talking about gods?"

Permalink Eye

"We were. We're hoping the main god from home didn't make this place."

Permalink Eye

"...was that a possible thing?"

Permalink Eye

"Still is, it's the sort of thing he might do."

Permalink Eye

"And he's the sort of god who shouldn't go around making places?"

Permalink Eye

"He likes sad stories, and if he only made the worlds I knew about he has been convinced to only use fiction."

Permalink Eye

 

 

"...ah."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. He'd love this place with people dying for no reason and making noble sacrifices to kill Archdemons and things."

Permalink Eye

"...There are kind of a lot of things about my life that could plausibly be the result of a god who likes sad stories," says Stalas, "and if any significant fraction of them are, then I think I've found my next project for after we end the Blight."

Permalink Eye

"He did make a very convincing show of agreeing to read miserable poetry instead. Valinor and Endorë are just nice, now."

Permalink Eye

"And if all the while he had Thedas in his back pocket, that is a problem in need of solving."

Permalink Eye

"Yep. The Valar are actually nice and once did not know enough to be good at it but now do, though."

Permalink Eye

"That sounds promising."

Permalink Eye

"It could also be that Eru didn't make Thedas and we're farther away than I thought, which might be inconvenient for me but means if the Valar make it here they won't have any obstacles to helping."

Permalink Eye

"Inconvenient for you...?"

Permalink Eye

"Quendi have chips in our heads that - send information to the Valar, and the Valar can use that information to copy us or bring us back if we die. If I'm too far for my chip to send that information then if something happens to me I don't wake up safe at home. It's not a complete disaster because my husband is authorized to let the Valar copy me if I'm not around to make decisions - and he wouldn't do it for Years and Years, and maybe not even then - but that would only work to the time of the last message the Valar got from my chip."

Permalink Eye

"...huh," says Stalas contemplatively.

Permalink Eye

"Even if we're somewhere Eru made it could take a very, very long time for anyone to travel here even if they knew exactly where it was. It takes twenty-five Thedan years to get between Valinor and Endorë."

Permalink Eye

"...and yet, you got here instantly when that creature attacked you..."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, that part I don't know. Information can go that fast, between Valar and the smaller gods the Maiar, but not stuff, not any way we know of yet. One of my friends was working on it. It was not going to be in the form of sudden monsters."

Permalink Eye

"I would be a little worried about your friend if it was!"

Permalink Eye

"Eru could do a faster than light stuff-moving monster but it's not really his style, it doesn't have a - story shape to it."

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. So there's at least one thing in this picture that isn't explained by Eru, and it's the thing that brought you here... that suggests this place isn't Eru's fault."

Permalink Eye

"The place is his style, though, and the monster appeared in Valinor to begin with."

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. I can't comment on what is or isn't Eru's style without knowing more about him, I don't think."

Permalink Eye

"I don't have a way to act on it being him or not him anyway except that the usefulness of killing myself to get a message to Valinor depends on whether I'm being backed up."

Permalink Eye

"...I'm going to recommend against killing yourself to get a message to Valinor, at least for now and maybe ever depending how things turn out."

Permalink Eye

"I was thinking of maybe asking them to evacuate the continent," says Tev.

Permalink Eye

"That's a good idea but it's the kind of thing we should think through and be sure about before trying it."

Permalink Eye

"It'd almost certainly take longer to get here than anyone alive in this world has before you die for no reason even if the Valar could tell exactly where Thedas is by what the stars look like from here."

Permalink Eye

"Unless they learn the secrets of the creature first."

Permalink Eye

"That's possible. It still might take them a long time; they're slow by nature and this is new."

Permalink Eye

He nods acknowledgment.

Permalink Eye

"Did the thing for the poison work?"

Permalink Eye

"Yep!"

Permalink Eye

"Oh good."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Do I need to explain the political situation? Elissa does a better job, but I'm not bad."

Permalink Eye

"It sounded complicated and stupid and I did not follow it all."

Permalink Eye

"It's a bit complicated and many parts of it are stupid. How much did you catch? Do you want me to have a go at explaining the rest?"

Permalink Eye

"There was a fight with more darkspawn than could be reasonably fought, some of the army ran away, the person who led them away is now being hostile to Grey Wardens."

Permalink Eye

"That's a fairly reasonable summary."

Permalink Eye

"I'm unclear on why."

Permalink Eye

"Why the Regent is hostile to Grey Wardens?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes, I can think of various reasons to run from darkspawn."

Permalink Eye

"...A few decades ago there was a war between Ferelden and Orlais. Loghain fought in that war. Now he doesn't trust anything foreign and especially not if it has anything to do with Orlais. Grey Wardens as an organization don't belong to any one country, and the nearest other Grey Wardens outside of Ferelden are in Orlais because it's the closest other country around. So the Grey Wardens say 'we want to bring in reinforcements from Orlais' and he hears 'we're working with those horrible people who did horrible things to you and your country'... it's not reasonable but it's understandable."

Permalink Eye

"Is that why those people were angry when they thought I was an Orlesian elf? What was the war about?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes, that's why those people were angry when they thought you were an Orlesian elf. The war was because - if I said Orlais briefly conquered Ferelden, would I have to explain 'conquer', somehow I suspect it's not a concept that comes up a lot in your daily life -"

Permalink Eye

"There was war up to around when I was born and my husband writes history books so I might have the concept, but I don't have that word yet."

Permalink Eye

"The rulers of Orlais decided that they wanted to also rule Ferelden and the people of Ferelden decided that they did not want that and they fought and Orlais won. The war Loghain fought was when the king of Ferelden reclaimed his kingdom from the Orlesians."

Permalink Eye

"- why'd he do that, why have another war over the same thing -"

Permalink Eye

"...What do you mean?"

Permalink Eye

"Were the Orlesians very bad at ruling...? I mean, they did decide to kill a lot of people, but that doesn't seem very unusual here, was the king of Ferelden a lot better."

Permalink Eye

"...there's a piece you're missing here and I'm trying to figure out what it is and how to explain it... it's not that the Orlesians were bad at ruling in general, they seem to do an adequate job with Orlais, but when one country conquers another, the conquerors usually do not prioritize the comfort of the conquered. And losing one war about it did not make the people of Ferelden any less upset about being ruled by Orlesians."

Permalink Eye

"...why did Orlais want to rule Ferelden?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, if you were imagining they had anything resembling a good reason, that might explain it. They didn't. It would be more or less accurate to summarize their reasons as 'they just kind of felt like it'."

Permalink Eye

"...that's - not even stupid, that's -"

Permalink Eye

"I'm not sure exactly what word you're looking for there but I think you've got the right idea," says Stalas. "Wars of conquest are bad."

Permalink Eye

"There's one bad Vala. The other ones stopped him but before that he liked to get people to have wars. But they didn't just conquer each other because they felt like it, he had to try!"

Permalink Eye

"People can be - stupid, thoughtless, selfish - sometimes they do things that hurt other people to benefit themselves; sometimes they hurt other people a lot to benefit themselves only a little - that's just how things are," says Stalas. "But a lot of the time they can be talked out of it. I like doing that."

Permalink Eye

"Orcs used to - sort of be like that, but that's because they had a..." Vocab-failure handwave. "Chip problem, and the Valar fixed it, and now they're better. Dwarves are different but not like that."

Permalink Eye

He shrugs. "So maybe people in your world are all naturally virtuous."

Permalink Eye

"Not all of them - maybe it's just the numbers -"

Permalink Eye

"The numbers?"

Permalink Eye

"How many naturally virtuous people there are?"

Permalink Eye

"So people in your world are naturally virtuous much more often?"

Permalink Eye

"Maybe. So there's fourteen good Valar and one bad one, and same with Maiar, and only a handful of bad Quendi - who don't meet each other and don't set each other off - orcs are a little worse but mostly very sweet, Dwarves too..."

Permalink Eye

"And people in Thedas are mostly - not outright evil, but not very good either - and so they can't trust each other as much, which makes things worse, and everyone thinks of being not-very-good as normal, which also makes things worse..."

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah that seems very plausible."

Permalink Eye

"Well, that will make this place harder to fix, although it would still probably be improved if you all stopped dying for no reason - you're all so young -"

Permalink Eye

"I'll put it on the list for after we end the Blight."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"Anyway, if I have to individually speak to every person in this world and convince them all to be nicer to each other, I'll do it," he says.

Permalink Eye

"...how many people is that?"

Permalink Eye

"Not sure. I know there are about three hundred thousand dwarves in Orzammar... I'd guess maybe five or ten million people in the world? Nobody but the qunari knows how many qunari there are, and I can only guess vaguely about the other surface nations. Elissa might have better estimates of surface populations outside Par Vollen."

Permalink Eye

"Well, then that will take a very long time and the dying for no reason will have to be fixed first."

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"There might be a way to fix it without the Valar helping - they didn't even know Quendi were there yet till Oromë found us. So it wasn't them making it so we live till something happens and maybe we could figure it out even if the Valar never find this place. It might have been Eru making us like that, though."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, who needs gods," says Stalas. "They sound like more trouble than they're worth, on the whole. We'll figure it out ourselves."

Permalink Eye

"The Valar took some work but they're very useful and I'm fond of them!"

Permalink Eye

"Oh? What kind of work?"

Permalink Eye

"They don't work like - people with species - and needed things explained to them, like time and mixed feelings and communication the way people do it... but they're very good now and have always meant well."

Permalink Eye

"Am I correctly picking up on the implication that you did a lot of that work yourself?"

Permalink Eye

"It's been my project for most of my life but part of it was enabling them to make use of advice and input from people who hadn't spent that long studying them."

Permalink Eye

"Sensible," he says, nodding.

Permalink Eye

"Valar can pay attention to about a hundred times as much stuff as a Quendi, even a Quendi with all the - chip things - for attention, so it was more useful that way."

Permalink Eye

"That and different people have different perspectives - I can imagine that if I had to teach a god how people work, I'd want them to hear from as many reasonable people as I could find, as soon as they understood enough to be able to usefully learn from that..."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, that too."

Permalink Eye

"I still think we aren't going to need them to figure out death, though," he says. "Golems already exist, and there's drawbacks but they're still a way to get there - for all I know my golem armour might make me the same way, at least while I'm in it, I do know I don't need to eat or sleep with it on..."

Permalink Eye

"At all?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Can't sleep, actually. And then I have awful dreams, the first night after I take it off - dwarves don't normally dream at all, but I guess there's something about the lyrium that does it."

Permalink Eye

"You don't normally dream? Why?"

Permalink Eye

"Same reason we're never mages - we don't have the same connection to the Fade as everyone else."

Permalink Eye

"I think we don't have the Fade. But we dream."

Permalink Eye

"That's interesting - I wonder if it's really the same thing or if it just sounds similar, I wonder what the explanation for your dreams is..."

Permalink Eye

"Minds doing random things to organize themselves."

Permalink Eye

"...Really? How'd you find that out?"

Permalink Eye

"...it's complicated. But one of the Valar's... things... is dreams."

Permalink Eye

"Really? Seems like a strange thing to be a god of if it's just your mind talking to itself..."

Permalink Eye

"I've heard that said about our dreams, actually - that it's your mind telling itself stories using the Fade as a theater."

Permalink Eye

"Some of the Valar are gods of silly things. They can do things they aren't specifically gods of though."

Permalink Eye

"What kinds of silly things?"

Permalink Eye

"Nessa's thing is dancing."

Permalink Eye

"That's pretty silly!"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. But by and large their powers are alike, they just differ in what they've put the time into."

Permalink Eye

"Is there a reason why that one went for dance?"

Permalink Eye

"The Valar like beautiful things almost the way we do, and she does dance very beautifully."

Permalink Eye

"Aha."

Permalink Eye

"The gods here are less talkative?"

Permalink Eye

"To the point where the ones whose existence is least in doubt are the ones that died or went to sleep or something and left their bodies underground for the darkspawn to come along and turn into Archdemons."

Permalink Eye

"Well, I suppose sometimes gods are irresponsible."

Permalink Eye

"From what I hear, these ones weren't particularly benign even before the darkspawn got to them. Anyway, and then there's the elven gods that nobody's heard from in thousands of years, and the Maker who's supposedly off in the Fade somewhere having a sulk because mortals broke into his house and murdered his girlfriend. Or something. I'm not an expert in surface theology."

Permalink Eye

"You're from underground, right?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"The Dwarves on Endorë live underground and are about your height but not otherwise a lot like you."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. Odd coincidence."

Permalink Eye

"Several of them, if I look like an elf."

Permalink Eye

"You don't look all that much like an elf," says Tev. "You're too tall, and your ears aren't even the same shape, they're just also pointed - qunari have pointed ears too, I bet the only reason they didn't mistake you for a qunari is that you're not grey and you don't have horns -"

Permalink Eye

"Orcs are sort of grey, and have ears like mine, but no horns."

Permalink Eye

"So we've got a bunch of species that sound vaguely like each other but aren't really all that similar," Stalas concludes.

Permalink Eye

"Seems like it."

Permalink Eye

"A little bit of a coincidence but not a lot of one, I guess."

Permalink Eye

"Assuming the two arms two legs one head part is a given, anyway."

Permalink Eye

"Well, we don't have anyone who departs from that plan; do you?"

Permalink Eye

"Maiar and Valar can look however they want. A friend of mine has a Maia who prefers to be a dog as a pet. But that's not quite the same thing."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Spirits can do something similar, I think."

Permalink Eye

"Ainur - Maiar and Valar collectively - have to do all the being alive on purpose. Some of the Maiar just don't."

Permalink Eye

"Spirits don't exactly do being alive at all, I don't think. You'd have to talk to a mage to get the details. Clare might know."

Permalink Eye

"I think we don't have magic - well, Ainur do but we don't."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, if you don't have lyrium or the Fade you certainly don't have the kind of magic we get around here."

Permalink Eye

"It sounds interesting!"

Permalink Eye

"It is that! Oh, I know who you should talk to if you want it properly explained - my friend Dagna, she's another Orzammar dwarf and she's gone to study magical theory at the Circle - when all this is settled we can go visit her and she can tell you all about it."

Permalink Eye

"When what is all settled?"

Permalink Eye

"Saving the world. I mean, if you want to go learn about magic before that, I won't stop you, but I also won't be able to spare an escort to the Circle tower unless teaching you about magic looks like it's going to help with the world-saving."

Permalink Eye

"...it seems like I probably can't do magic. But I know a lot of things about how the world works when magic isn't there, so it might be that I could come up with a way to use magic to do something useful."

Permalink Eye

"Hmm... if this was a month ago, I might've taken you up on that, but most of what we have left to do right now is politics and killing the Archdemon, and I'm not sure how much to expect useful tricks with magic to apply to those."

Permalink Eye

"Probably not. I'd be more useful trying to raise the level of - things that have been thought of, don't have the word -"

Permalink Eye

"Things that have been thought of as in general knowledge, or...?"

Permalink Eye

"...how to make things that do stuff?" she tries.

Permalink Eye

"Engineering, the sort of thing Caridin does?"

Permalink Eye

"Well, not magic things, but yes."

Permalink Eye

"Most things that do stuff around here are magic one way or another. I wonder if you'd like Caridin."

Permalink Eye

"I might!"

Permalink Eye

"We can find out."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you for helping me - settle in here."

Permalink Eye

"It seemed the thing to do. Honestly I'd want to find you somewhere safe to stay even if you weren't such an obviously useful person, because it's not your fault you ended up here and nobody deserves to be eaten by darkspawn in the wilderness, but you are in fact obviously useful and I expect good things to come of it if I introduce you to Dagna and/or Caridin once the Blight's over."

Permalink Eye

"How long will that take?"

Permalink Eye

"Hard to say. Shouldn't be too long. I'll start worrying if it takes more than two months. Which is ridiculously short for a Blight, previous Blights have tended to last one or two centuries, but the Grey Wardens have been getting more efficient over time."

Permalink Eye

"How long are your months?"

Permalink Eye

"Thirty days each."

Permalink Eye

Note note. "It's good that they aren't lasting as long!"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, agreed. Although there are dwarves in Orzammar who'd argue that. Blights draw darkspawn to the surface, which means there aren't as many of them around to wander into our tunnels and kill us."

Permalink Eye

"Can't find where they come from -?"

Permalink Eye

"...There used to be hundreds of dwarven cities underground. Then the darkspawn showed up. Now there are two. If I had a map of the Deep Roads with me I could show you lots of places that are no doubt full of darkspawn because they moved in after they killed the people who built them. Unless you meant something else by 'where they come from'...?"

Permalink Eye

"I mean how there begin to be more darkspawn."

Permalink Eye

"...I do know the answer to that question, it's the sort of thing that people who dream have nightmares about, and it's not particularly useful information for the purpose of getting rid of them because all the things it suggests doing are already good ideas for other reasons."

Permalink Eye

"I didn't have nightmares about orcs."

Permalink Eye

"How do there begin to be more orcs?"

Permalink Eye

"Well, now, orcs just have children. But first, Melkor made them. They're what happens if you - hurt Quendi, a lot, and force them to have children, and hurt the children and force them to have children."

Permalink Eye

"...Darkspawn are... sort of similar, except that there's no god involved. I have actually given people nightmares by going into too much detail, but it's a thing that can happen to women taken prisoner by darkspawn and it's... substantially more horrifying than one would expect from that description alone."

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"- I can die without having to do anything specific, if I want, at what point if I meet darkspawn -"

Permalink Eye

"...I'm not sure whether or not they can do it to you, it depends on how much of what I heard was... decoration... and how much was actually necessary, but even if they can't do that they can do other horrible things - the flesh and blood of darkspawn is poison, and when it doesn't kill people it turns them into ghouls, which are - sort of like the people they were before, but they have trouble moving and thinking and the darkspawn have some way of making them do things that seems to work much too well to be ordinary coercion. So... if you're taken prisoner by darkspawn and they try to make you eat or drink anything, that's very worrying but not necessarily hopeless; if they succeed, none of the ways that can possibly turn out are good."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"I have seen a ghoul survive on his own, but he was a very very unhappy person and running a constant risk of being enslaved by darkspawn if they ever found him. And not running a risk of being turned into a darkspawn broodmother."

Permalink Eye

"If anything happens to me I would be much obliged if someone could retrieve my chip and keep it somewhere sufficiently plain that it will eventually turn up if the Valar find this place in a few thousand years. My husband is allowed to ask for a fork of me but - he won't, he'd just. He'd wait."

Permalink Eye

"I'll do my best," he promises.

Permalink Eye

"And Stalas's best is pretty impressive," Tev contributes.

Permalink Eye

"Thank you."

Permalink Eye

"You're welcome."

Permalink Eye

"I should think about how best to teach you all to make stuff - it will depend on what materials I can get -"

Permalink Eye

"What kinds of materials would you need?"

Permalink Eye

"Many different kinds of metal, especially - uh, metals that go towards each other, do you have those -"

Permalink Eye

"You can talk to Caridin about them, he'd know. I don't remember anything like that but I might just not have heard of it."

Permalink Eye

"And - well, I'm not sure what else will be most important here, I'll have to look around more."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. We can show you around Redcliffe while Elissa and Ambrose are talking politics with Eamon."

Permalink Eye

"...but not for too long all at once because I can see it from here and it is not pretty enough."

Permalink Eye

"...If you're going to have trouble just being in or near it, that's a problem, because Redcliffe is one of the few places that's safe from darkspawn and will let you live there just because we ask them nicely... we could try to get you set up with a clan of Dalish elves, they're nomadic, less architecture to be upset about, but it would mean going a fairly significant distance out of our way and I'd have to think pretty hard to find a way to pull it off that's minimally disruptive to the world-saving project - I wonder if you'd do any better in Orzammar, the nicer parts of Orzammar anyway, we pay a lot more attention to construction and maintenance because we can sense the shape of the stone directly, it's more noticeable..."

Permalink Eye

"I could maybe make it work with a lot of pretty things in wherever I was staying and singing a lot and windows with a view of the woods..."

Permalink Eye

"I'll see what I can do - and there are places in the town that are prettier than others, I don't think the back of the chantry is visible from here unless you can see around corners but they have some fairly amazing stained glass windows..."

Permalink Eye

"Not around corners, no."

Permalink Eye

"You can see a lot better than we can, though. I wonder what set of colours you have - dwarves can see heat, humans can't, I can't remember about elves -"

Permalink Eye

"We can see in the dark better than humans, but that's not how."

Permalink Eye

"I can see heat. - Orcs can't see, uh - purple - and we can - if you don't see it you wouldn't have named it purple though."

Permalink Eye

"...Why is purple specifically the colour that might or might not be the one you're talking about?"

Permalink Eye

"It's at least next to purple."

Permalink Eye

"The word for the colour of heat is 'kerid'," Stalas supplies. "What do you mean by next to?"

Permalink Eye

"Kerid is next to red is next to orange is next to yellow is next to green is next to blue is next to purple is next to -" gesture.

Permalink Eye

"Aha. Yeah, I don't know of anyone who claims to see a neighbour of purple, but that's not quite how people think of colours anyway - I think artists talk about them going in a circle, with purple next to red, dwarves don't paint much so I don't know if dwarven painters would join up the circle at kerid or just sort of leave it sitting awkwardly off to the side..."

Permalink Eye

"I don't paint much either. There are different ways of arranging colors."

Permalink Eye

"At some point you can talk to an artist about it, if you're curious."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe, yes."

Permalink Eye

"Not that I have any idea where to find an artist, but if there isn't one in Redcliffe we can look around after we're done saving the world."

Permalink Eye

"And then I can look at all their art, if it's nice!"

Permalink Eye

"I'm sure you manage better when there's an entire civilization of you, but needing to be around pretty things sounds really inconvenient," he comments.

Permalink Eye

"So does needing to sleep every night."

Permalink Eye

"Sleeping isn't a complicated skill; creating beauty is."

Permalink Eye

"Nature is beautiful. If we couldn't do at least that well we would just live outside. Quendi are beautiful too. And singing."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah - I guess I'm just imagining if you'd landed in one of the badly maintained parts of the Deep Roads, even if you'd kept away from the darkspawn I think you would have had a very bad time..."

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"Although some of the places I passed through while I was down there were among the most beautiful places I've ever seen, even in ruins. But in between there were a whole lot of grimy old half-collapsed tunnels full of giant spiders and worm-faced lizards."

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

"I've seen the lizards in question and I could happily go the rest of my life without seeing one again," says Tev.

Permalink Eye

"Fortunately they are not here."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"How does money work here?"

Permalink Eye

"...Can you ask a more specific question? With just that to go on it's a little hard to know where to start."

Permalink Eye

"Where do people get it to start out?"

Permalink Eye

"...That's actually a fascinating question to think about - in many senses the answer is 'from their families' but I'm sure there are details I'm not thinking of..."

Permalink Eye

"...my family isn't here."

Permalink Eye

"Well, you happen to have landed in the company of the people who are going to save the world, so if the question is where are you going to get money, the answer is that a lot of the things you might need money for can be drawn from our bank of favours without depleting it particularly. If you set yourself up in Redcliffe, Eamon will be happy to provide for you; if you visit Orzammar and tolerate the architecture well enough to make friends with Caridin, he'll do the same."

Permalink Eye

"I appreciate that but depending on how much things cost I might need an investment to be self-providing. And an art budget."

Permalink Eye

"I'll manage it one way or another. Might need to wait until after the world is saved, though. If everything goes catastrophically wrong somehow and I'm no longer alive to solve all your problems for you, ask Eamon for an escort to Orzammar and tell the gate guards that I sent you to talk to Caridin and he'll almost certainly come up with everything you need."

Permalink Eye

"All right. Thank you."

Permalink Eye

"But I will try to avoid making that necessary."

Permalink Eye

"I appreciate that."

Permalink Eye

He grins.

Permalink Eye

They continue along the road. Tev gratefully cedes the position of language tutor to Stalas, who is much better at it.

Redcliffe, when they get there, is more or less exactly what it appeared to be from farther away - although Stalas was right about the back of the chantry. That is some legitimately lovely stained glass. There are also some pleasing architectural features on the castle. Pity about the entire rest of the town.

At least it's surrounded by nice hills and a lake - there aren't many places you can stand where no direction offers a good view.

Permalink Eye

"Well, I won't die of ugly," sighs Ambela.

Permalink Eye

"And hopefully we can improve on that baseline. Do you think you'd be all right staying in the castle for a few months if I found you the room with the best available view - I'm pretty sure I know which one that is, I hate it in there, looking at the sky makes me feel like I'm falling, but I bet it's really nice for people without that problem..."

Permalink Eye

"I can manage. Why do you feel like you're falling?"

Permalink Eye

"I grew up underground. The first time I set foot under the open sky was a month ago and I have not yet fully adjusted. For the first few days I felt like I was falling all the time, because I couldn't feel the Stone above me - the sensation isn't exactly like falling but it's the closest comparison I can make - but now it's just when I look up for too long."

Permalink Eye

"That sounds very uncomfortable."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, it is that."

Permalink Eye

"How does Stonesense work - how far does it go, do you know what you sense it with, what counts as stone -"

Permalink Eye

"If we were underground right now I could sense about as far as that hill," he says, pointing at a hilltop somewhat less than half a mile away. "It's harder aboveground, although I don't think I'm as badly affected as most dwarves. Some people say that Stonesense is hearing the song of lyrium, but I don't think that can be the whole story because most kinds of stone don't have any lyrium in them - at least not that I know of - and we can still sense them just fine. It is true that lyrium is much, much more obvious to Stonesense than anything else. It's like it's... brighter, or louder, to put it in terms of other senses. Although if I had to pick another sense that Stonesense was most like, I'd go with touch. Touch combined with the thing where you know where all the parts of your own body are without looking."

Permalink Eye

"Do you have a word for that thing? Quenya does."

Permalink Eye

"I don't think we do! I know a lot of words and I don't know of one for that!"

Permalink Eye

"Quenya calls it proprioception."

Permalink Eye

"Quenya is a very pretty language. I suppose that shouldn't come as a surprise."

Permalink Eye

"Of course. We make it that way."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, I imagine you would. Anyway, regarding your other questions - I'm not sure how to describe what counts as stone, and I'm not sure what it would mean to know what we were sensing it with."

Permalink Eye

"You see with your eyes and hear with your ears..."

Permalink Eye

"Well, we don't have any extra parts that humans and elves and qunari don't, or at least if we do no one's found them yet. Maybe we sense it with our souls, which must be distinct from the other three kinds because they aren't naturally connected to the Fade...? And in fact are said to be connected to the Stone instead, somehow. Or maybe to lyrium."

Permalink Eye

"It sounds interesting. I wonder if there's a way to make a chip blessing for it, but probably not..."

Permalink Eye

"From my extremely limited understanding of how chips work at all, it seems like there wouldn't be... you'd need something to serve whatever function a dwarf's soul-or-whatever is serving in actually perceiving the stone around them, right? And it would be very hard to come up with something like that when we have no idea how Stonesense works in the first place."

Permalink Eye

"Not something to work exactly like yours, but something to sense stone - or maybe material in general - around us. Blessings can do some odd things - there's one that my friend Tyelcormo has that lets him talk to animals, although that took a lot of practice."

Permalink Eye

"...how does that work? I wouldn't have thought animals were the sort of thing that could talk - it'd seem like you'd need to do something to the animal, more than to the person trying to talk to them, to change that..."

Permalink Eye

"He doesn't talk to them in words. It took a lot of practice but he can get across some concepts by building up to them from basic things animals understand."

Permalink Eye

"So he sort of... thinks to animals?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes, almost how we think to each other."

Permalink Eye

"You think to each other?"

Permalink Eye

"The chips do it, it won't work with anyone here."

Permalink Eye

"That's a pity, I think I'd like being able to think to people."

Permalink Eye

"It's useful but Dwarves think it's overrated - I'm not sure what orcs think of it, it doesn't work for them."

Permalink Eye

"It just seems like it would make communication so much more efficient - imagine how much quicker I could've taught you the language..."

Permalink Eye

"It is very useful for translating. And sense impressions and memories and all kinds of things. It's called osanwë."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I could just show you what Stonesense is like... oh well. Maybe someday someone will figure something out. Actually, I can think of a few experiments but they're kind of roundabout and probably not worth it for day-to-day communication - there's a dwarven archival method called Shaping, where we imprint our memories directly into lyrium-infused stone, and then any other dwarf who accesses it can experience the memory themselves. But it's a specialized skill which I do not currently possess. And I have no idea whether the Memories are accessible to non-dwarves, or to people-not-from-this-world."

Permalink Eye

"Maiar and Valar can osanwë to orcs, whose chips don't have the feature - although not to Dwarves, they're outright immune - so they could bounce it, but there aren't any here. "

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. And if there were I think they'd be a little too busy to serve as mental messengers for a while."

Permalink Eye

"Some Maiar don't... really do things, or don't do major things. Some just sing all the time or are a dog."

Permalink Eye

"I could find a use for a dog, depending on the dog."

Permalink Eye

"He's taken."

Permalink Eye

"...hmm?"

Permalink Eye

"The Maia who is a dog belongs to my friend who talks to animals."

Permalink Eye

"Well, that seems like a very logical arrangement."

Permalink Eye

"It is!"

Permalink Eye

"Anyway. Want to go evaluate the room with the best view in the castle?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

He grins, and leads her to the castle. The guards exchange friendly nods with him on the way in.

The interior of the castle is... not great. Humans just don't seem to care enough about the aesthetics of their surroundings.

But the best available view is actually good. Right over the scattered rooftops of Redcliffe and past the rocky red hills to the mountains in the west, and the lake stretching out beside them like a gleaming ribbon. Very few manmade structures in sight. Stalas angles his face so he can't easily see out the window and asks, "Will this do?"

Permalink Eye

"I think so. I might want to replace the furniture if I can do that. Maybe paint the walls? Can I paint the walls? I am not a very good painter but - for a Quendi."

Permalink Eye

"You can replace the furniture, and I'm not sure about painting the walls but you could hang fabric and paint that?"

Permalink Eye

"That would be almost as good."

Permalink Eye

"All right, I can arrange that."

He goes off to arrange that.

Permalink Eye

She leans out the window and sings.

Permalink Eye

Stalas is back half an hour later, fully out of his golem armour for once, looking like someone with a funny story to tell.

Permalink Eye

"Hi!"

Permalink Eye

"Hi! So, you're welcome to stay here as long as you like, there'll be no problem about replacing the furniture, hanging fabric on the walls and painting it is okay too, and I have learned an interesting fact about the Andrastian faith, which is that apparently the prophet Andraste won the love of the Maker by singing so beautifully he was drawn back into the world to listen."

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"That's an interesting story."

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"I've had to tell five people you're not secretly Andraste and I'm not sure they all believed me."

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"What, er, what should I expect from people thinking I'm secretly Andraste?"

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"I'm not totally sure! At a guess I'd say they will probably be very polite and helpful because they think you can convince the Maker to do miracles for them if you like them? And they might expect you to have memorized the Chant of Light, or at least to know a lot about Andraste's life. I won't be much help there; I barely know the highlights. I suggest being very clear about the fact that you're not Andraste if it comes up in conversation."

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"All right. What is the Chant of Light?"

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"It's a very long song about Andraste and the Maker and so on. Apparently it takes something like a month to sing straight through. They probably have a written copy in the village chantry if you want to read it."

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"I won't know how to read your musical notation without help. Is it pretty?"

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"I've neither read nor heard it, but I assume it must have something going for it considering the premises of the religion."

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Nod.

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"Anyway. Now you have somewhere safe and tolerable to stay while we save the world. And I can't think of an immediate use for you in the business of world-saving, but I'm definitely going to want to introduce you to Caridin at the first available opportunity, and I think making that introduction will do nearly another world-saving's worth of good."

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"How should I go about getting food and fabric and things?"

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"As a general solution to that class of problem, you can ask me if I'm around or a castle servant if I'm not, and assume that they will be able to either find the thing you want or tell you it's not available. I already know where to get food around here, and I can show you; for fabric and assorted other materials, I'd have to look around the village, and you can come with me while I do that if you're interested in learning how to buy things even though you don't currently have any money. Not having any money is a solvable problem too."

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"I would like to come along."

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"Sure."

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"How should I solve the money problem? I'm only marginally competent at most things, I mostly don't have a separate income at home - the way it works there is everyone gets some money, and it's enough to live on, and if you want more than that you need to earn it and lots of people have jobs to pass the time anyway, but all the more than that I might want I tend to get as presents and I pass the time in ways that don't happen to earn money."

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"People will happily pay money to hear you sing," he says. "If you agree to sing on request for as long as you stay here, Eamon will pay you just to hang around and be available for that."

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"Oh! That's easy. I couldn't make money singing on Valinor, not good enough."

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"Yes, well, welcome to Thedas."

And here are the castle kitchens, where food may be requested outside normal dining hours, and there is the castle dining hall, where meals are served according to thus-and-such a schedule, and these are the various uniforms of castle servants and what specialties go with what outfit...

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All useful to know.

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And then they can go wander the village looking for various materials! Fabric, things to paint fabric with, anything else?

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Furniture - she doesn't actually like any of these bedframes, can she just carve up the one in the room a bit? But that's a nice chair. She likes that mirror. That's a decent rug. The glass things there would be nice hung in the window. Her taste is substantially but not perfectly correlated with expensiveness.

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Stalas promises to look into acquiring permission to carve up the bedframe in the room; he expects she'll be allowed if he asks, but that it is still a good idea to ask.

He talks some of the vendors into lowering their prices, but leaves others alone. There is no obvious pattern to which are which, but perhaps he knows things about them that aren't obvious. He doesn't complain about the amount of money they're spending, but he does convert all the prices to approximate lengths of time Ambela would have to spend staying with Eamon and singing on request to earn that much - a day, a few days, a week, a month, half a year.

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She appreciates the currency conversions. The half-a-year object is not that pretty, she can serve its function with six of those inexpensive things and some of the paint instead.

Eventually she thinks she will be able to assemble what she's got into a serviceable enough place to live!

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That is good! Stalas is glad. He leaves her in her room with her objects and goes off to secure bed-carving permission.

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And she arranges things and hangs fabric and starts painting, singing to herself.

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Half an hour later: "You may carve up your bed as you see fit, I've found somewhere to haul that rejected chair to, and I have convinced two more people that you're not Andraste."

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"I don't know that I like what this implies about local musical talent."

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"I think you won't be impressed with local music of average quality but might be pleasantly surprised by the good stuff."

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"Does the good stuff also prompt being mistaken for gods."

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"Well, not when it doesn't come with the context of being a beautiful woman of mysterious origins who is hanging around with the people who are going to save the world. ...also, the thing we found that cured Eamon's poisoning was supposed to have been Andraste's ashes, that's probably also relevant."

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"I could, theoretically, have left ashes in the past and be fine now, but as it happens I have not died before."

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"Well, Andraste very famously died and left ashes, and according to legend her ashes have miraculous healing powers, and we found something that seemed like it might be her ashes and did turn out to have miraculous healing powers. And the rumour mill thinks you're connected to all this somehow."

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"Is there any reason I should tell anything other than the truth about how utterly incidental I am and where I am from instead?"

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"Most people will probably have trouble understanding the full explanation, or believing it, or both. Which doesn't mean you have to lie to them but does mean you might have better things to do than keep explaining until they accept it."

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"All right."

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"Anyway. I'm glad we managed to make the room work. Let me know if there's anything else I can help with."

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"Should I meet Eamon?"

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"Sure."

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"If nothing else apparently I need to know his taste in music."

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"True. All right, I'll introduce you."

Here is Eamon! He is grey-haired and somewhat age-wrinkled, but very healthful for a man who was dying of poison mere days ago.

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Old age is weird but she saw some of it on the shopping trip and is too polite to say anything. "Hello, Arl Eamon, I'm Mirelótë Ambela."

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"I hear I have you to thank, at least in part, for the timely delivery of the Ashes," says Eamon, smiling. "You have my gratitude, and my hospitality for as long as you care to accept it."

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"I appreciate that very much! I'm told you'd like me to sing for you sometimes. I know a lot of songs but most of them are very sad, at least if one knows what the lyrics mean, so I might need a little notice if you want a long program of happier music so I can call enough titles to mind."

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The arl blinks. "Is this a matter of personal taste, or...?"

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"No, I like happy music, but it's been the fashion for some time now to attempt to outdo each other's epic tragedies."

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"Well, then, perhaps it would be better to have happier music, especially in times like these."

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"Then I'll make a point of it."

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"Thank you," says Eamon. "I might ask you to sing tomorrow evening, if we haven't left for Denerim by then and if that's enough time for you to think of a few uplifting songs."

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"Plenty of time, yes. How long will you want music for?"

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"An hour or two, if that's reasonable?"

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"That's easy," she assures him.

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He smiles. "Good. I assume Stalas has been seeing to all of your needs?"

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"Yes, he's been very helpful."

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"He generally is."

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Stalas laughs.

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"I get that impression."

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"It's my favourite pastime, being helpful!"

"No wonder you're so good at it," says Eamon, amused.

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"I appreciate it very much."

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"Good. Shows I'm doing a good job."

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"I should probably get started on carving the bed if I want it all prettied up before I have to sleep."

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"Enjoy!" says Stalas.

Eamon looks like he doesn't fully understand what's going on here, but he smiles agreeably and nods.

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And she goes and carves spirals and knotwork into it, and sets up all her other pretty things, and the room is acceptably pretty when she is done.

She shows up to sing and can easily produce two hours of cheerful music. More, if they like.