Selivu has gotten to the point in a hivemind's life where they're always doing many things at once. Right now, one of the things they're doing is sending a small expedition caving out in the frontier. They're well-equipped and taking it slow - bodies are in short supply out here, so it's more important than ever to be careful. They're descending a slope, and lamplight reveals this section of the cave ends in a shallow pond. A body steps into the water to take a closer look -
The lights are, perhaps, very very slightly warm, but it's hard to tell. They seem entirely harmless, no more or less than light. A bee will buzz with annoyance, when the stick gets too close to it.
Interesting. They’ll give the clearing another once-over in case they missed anything, they continue on their journey.
There is a spring, burbling up from the deep, which is what feeds the stream, and perhaps provides more esoteric forms of power for the plants as well, from somewhere deep below, but no. This field is rather heterogenous in it's makeup - the flowers vary in colour, but they're clearly all of the same kind.
After a few more days, they grow near to the place they are trying to reach, and start to see it in the memories of the animals they take control over, particularly the little birds which flit everywhere without a care, full of a kilogram of ego in fifty grams of bird. The home appears to be an old-fashioned log cabin, of the sort which has been seen throughout history, with a sod roof that's currently still covered in snow, and dirt and firewood piled up on every side but the front for insulation. It's inhabited by an old woman who appears to live alone, tending to a small garden and hunting game, and more importantly, doing magic. Her cauldron often emits strange scents and colours and all of the animals know not to go near the pit where she dumps it's contents, out the back, carefully isolated from the outhouse and the compost piles. Animals have seen her cut down trees with a gesture and then telekinetically drag away the logs, or conjure fire to drive off wolves, or on one particularly dramatic occasion, put down a blizzard with an hour's entreaty to some outside force. She is clearly quite old, and quite powerful, but she lives alone, far from any other humans.
Humanity! Of a sort. They’ll try to make a good first impression. Hermits have a reputation for being crotchety, and being an immensely powerful hermit probably doesn’t make you less crotchety. It’s good to know the magic of this place can be harnessed. They’d like information from this women, and if that information included how to learn to do what she knows how to do, all the better.
When they eventually get within visual range of her territory, they’ll change formation such that most of the animals are hang back, the human body leads, the drakes and corvid follow at a distance. They don’t want to appear too threatening. They’re not sure what the best approach would be, so they’ll wait near the edge of what the animals here think of as her territory, and see how long it takes to be acknowledged.
There is a raven, with a mind which is entirely closed off (perhaps the barrier is not strong, but how do you determine the strength of a strange barrier without pushing on it?) watching them, after a while. It will wait, and see what she does.
Hm. They’ll - smile and wave? They’re unsure what the best way to communicate is in this situation. They might not have a common language.
“Hello there. I am very lost and am seeking information”, they say, first in German, then Latin, then Polish, then Macedonian, fifteen more languages after that, pausing each time to see how the raven acknowledges it. They’ll also try to have the corvid signal friendliness and needing-something to the raven, maybe corvids have compatible body language.
On the Polish, the raven cocks its head, and flies off. A few minutes later, the old woman comes stalking out of the woods, leaning heavily on her cane.
"You know, I've never heard an accent like that before in my life. Where the world are you from, girl?" Her own accent is similarly strange, but it's comprehensible Polish.
(They really weren’t expecting that one to work, of all languages. They’re pretty sure they’re not in Poland… but only pretty sure.)
“I think I am from somewhere very far away. Where I come from, the stars are in a different pattern, and there are no birds that throw metal or flowers that produce light. This place has much more magic than I knew existed. What is the name of this place?”
"This little place of mine has no particular name, but I suspect you're asking on a grander scale than that. We are in the land of no nation, but the nearest nation is Eldemar. The continent is Altazia, and the planet is Eretsu. Those names are common everywhere the Ikosans went, and they were like bloody rats. Unless you're from Hsan?"
They considered themself to be from and of themselves, sovereign from any nation. But that’s a complicated conversation and they don’t want to start out this conversation with “I’m a hivemind”, that usually requires a gentle approach.
“I’m originally from the nation of Prussia, in the continent of Europe, on the planet Earth”, they say. It’s arguably completely true, part of them is originally from Prussia. “I was caving with a crew in the Americas, another continent, when I suddenly found myself in the wilderness near here. I have… a natural gift with animals, and I’m used to surviving in nature, so I’ve fared well so far. I’ve never heard of any of those places.”
"A natural gift, eh? I know what the minds of those drakes can be like, your family must be quite something. Why don't you come in, and we can have a nice civilized chat by the fire."
Ah, maybe psionics are a known thing here. The family comment implies it may be more of a heritable ability here than a learned skill.
They’re a little bit suspicious of the woman’s hospitality, but maybe it’s the culture here.
“I would appreciate that, thank you.”
The they will return to the wooden hut. Naturally, all of the animals need to be left outside; it's a small enough building for a person, let alone a drake. Inside, there is a bed, a bookshelf with a sparse selection of books and the rest of the space filled with potion-bottles in a myriad of shapes and colours. The rafters are strung with herbs and animal-parts of all sorts, and in one corner there's a box overflowing with strange minerals. The warded crow (the witch herself is similarly warded, a clear surface standing between her mind and everything else) from before sits on a perch besides a little reading-desk, and there is a hearth, made of stone that appears to have been fused together into one mass suitable to contain a fire, with a great cauldron sitting in it, which is currently half-full of stew. The witch sits on a rocking-chair by the fire, and invites Seliun to sit on the less-comfortable desk chair. She sets a teapot to boil on the fire.
"So. I'm Esme Napurzy. What's your name, then, girl?"
Family names are a thing here. They’ll use one, then. “Seliun Selivu.” They look around. “You have a nice home”, they smile.
"Thank you. All the work of my own hands. So, what can you tell me about this situation you find yourself in?"
“Not much more than what I already said, really. I don’t understand how I got here, I’ve never heard of magic moving people to new locations, let alone to what sounds to be another world.”
"Dimensionalism is an obscure and difficult branch of Ikosan spellcraft, with few specialists and fewer masters. Teleportation, the use of magical to move instantly from one place to another, is one of it's most famous techniques. Moving to another world is beyond what any documented master of the art can do, but not so far beyond plausibility that people do not make up rumours."
All of the magical terminology is loanwords, from a language which is most definitely not Polish. Probably, it's related to whatever influences produce that accent of hers.
"Ikosan spellcraft... can you explain who the Ikosans were? And just, how magic works? Understanding magic seems important to understanding how to navigate this world."
"Also, what language are you speaking? To me this is a language called Polish from the nation of Poland. It seems extremely odd that we would have a language nearly in common. I suppose it's possible one of our worlds got the language from the other, somehow..."
"To my understanding, the Khusky in this region have spoken this language since time immemorial. The magic that brought you here can't have been that random, since the universe is mostly empty space, so it's not entirely surprising that whatever did it put you somewhere you can speak the language."
"The Ikosans were a bloody great empire who conquered everywhere there's humans except Hsan, and who invented magic so bloody useful that even I use it, in blatant defiance of my foremothers and whatever virtue is left in these old bones." She clearly does not like the Ikosans. "The current Great Alliance thinks of themselves as the heirs to the Ikosans, and that's not too much of a lie, by the standards of the empire, but it's us Khusky who've lived on this land for all of history and they should fuck right off. That's why I'm out here in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, is that I don't want to deal with them."
"There are a number of ways to do magic. The three which I use are potion-making, where you combine various magical reagents in a cauldron to produce a potion which can do all sorts of useful things, the right and proper spellcasting of the witches, which I will admit I mostly know for old time's sake, and the Ikosan system of spellcasting, which has eaten every other magic system worth using, and involves using gestures and words to narrow the possibility-space of a spell down to a narrow aspect of possibility space while channelling mana, to allow even very complex spells to be cast without requiring you to embed their nature into your very soul. There are also bloodline magics, like your mind-magic trick, but I don't happen to have one of those. I'm sure the lizards and the dragons and the humans in Hsan all have their own ways to do magic, but I don't know the first thing about them."
They nod attentively. They noticed that the details of "the right and proper spellcasting of witches" were skipped over entirely, but that was probably on purpose on her part. They won't pry. Also, that sounded like confirmation of psionics being a heritable ability here. She also seemed to imply that "the lizards" and "the dragons" are intelligent enough creatures to have their own systems of magic, which is... hard to think about.
The witch doesn't know that they already know some of her capabilities, so...
"What are the things that magic can do? And, how long does it take to learn Ikosan spellcasting? Are there any reasons I *shouldn't* learn magic, if I am able?"
"Ikosan spellcasting can do damn near anything, if you have the right training and spells. The easiest things are light, heat, and force, and there are some mages who spend their entire lives doing those. Some also move onto controlling and protecting more esoteric energies and forces. Negation magic, or metamagic more broadly, is considered an essential skill for any mage, or otherwise you could be faced with your own spells running riot."
"Beyond that, there are numerous interesting fields of magic - animation, conjuration, divination, alteration, warding, transformation, dimensionalism, each deep enough to permit a lifetime of study. And that's disregarding all the magical forms of crafting, spell formulas and potions and such."
"... and then there's mind magic, soul magic, blood magic. All very illegal, of course," She says with the tone of one who has been doing illegal things for her entire life and doesn't plan to stop now.
"Some things are beyond the power of any mage, and others the domain of the damned dead gods alone, like power over time or raising the dead. But magic is pretty damn versatile."
"Training a mage, to the basic levels of skill expected of any mage, takes five to ten years, if it's possible at all. That's mostly spent teaching memorisation skills, meditation, introspection, and the other mundane skills and magical theories, as well as the basic magical skills every mage should have, like assimilation of external mana and a few basic spells and shaping skills. Most mages have to study thier specialisation for another five years after that to be considered capable at thier master's profession."
"You shouldn't be asking why you should become a mage, but rather who is going to teach you. Mages are important people, you know, we don't all have time to take in foundlings, even foundlings with such impressive bloodlines." She ponders for a moment, on that.
This is a lot of information to take in. Part of their mind is whirling with the possibilities. What if any of their bodies could create even small amounts of light, heat, and force? They'd be incredibly capable.
Five to ten years is longer than they hoped, but hopefully already having considerable mental skills accelerates that.
"I'd think my natural talents could serve as payment for services somehow, perhaps indirectly, but if 'mind magic' is illegal I can see how that might not work. I wouldn't presume that anyone would do it for free."
"...dead gods? Where I come from, we only have... myths and stories of gods, and they're supposed to be awfully hard to kill. Is that a word that didn't translate well, maybe?"
"The gods made the world, and had a great deal of opinions, and then they all fucked off and nobody has heard from them in a thousand years, not even the church or angels."
"Magic training isn't available for money. It's available for status, or connections, or other things which convince people to share their hard-won secrets with you specifically. Mages are too busy getting rich using magic to need to get rich teaching."
Absentee gods-or-godlike things, religion and apparently angels still present, got it. They make a note to look into angels later. Esme seems like she maybe doesn’t love this topic.
They nod. The time and knowledge of a mage is too valuable to be worth mere money - they had a similar attitude in the early days of their cult, only inducting people with compatible mindsets, only sharing secrets with those who would eventually join the mind. As of recent decades they haven’t needed to share secrets at all, but that might change now.
“Being from another world hopefully provides me with some information others might be willing to trade for, if trading secrets is a common practice here.”
They don’t want to outright say they’d teach psionics, because they may need to keep that information close to their chest. The occult rituals they know likely won’t work here, either. But that still leaves the sciences, and all the improvements to life they can bring.