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<< Revenant Faith and Foreign Pilgrimage

“If you’re non-sentient, then you don’t have to worry about dynamism in the world or the lack thereof. If you’re sentient, then you not only need to worry on such matters for your own sake, but for the sake of others. We safeguard any experimented-upon facets we observe around the gem against our own ignorance, as best we can. Do those intrafacetary peoples have to worry about a temporal savepoint’s k-word constructor losing its regularity, about getting locked into some probability branch where an overseer has failed in their duty and condemned the residents to opportunistic poverty? NO. So we must worry on their behalf. That isn’t an imperative, that’s a fact.”

-The Weeper of the Court of the thirteenth age’s first Jon of Rhaagm

Eihks Richard stalked across the redmetal street and moved down the sidewalk, coming to the scheduled debriefing spot just in time.

He looked up at the bottom of the immediately-above tier of city, and at the sun which shone through who knew how many layers of otherwise opaque construction upon a tiny insignificant human.

On one side of the street there was an open field, a nice little span of high-rise-bracketed farmland, covered in swaths of synthwood and greenware briars. On the other side, a very different view awaited.

Approaching the border of the tuning field that bounded a graft, Eihks was stopped short by an official of some kind. The creature, whatever it was, had an orblike shape and hovered a meter up easily. It wore a kind of veil crosshatched with various kinds of circuitry over its top; the sort of garb a disseminator would wear, noted the human.

“Please halt,” the official said, with a liquid intonation performed entirely via cerv-mesh.

Eihks waited as the person glided over.

“Please provide your identification.”

Eihks did. Personal data, professional data, public key.

“Please declare your purpose in paying visit to these premises.”

The person indicated the holojector back near the crosswalk, which discouraged people from unwarily following the path Eihks had taken.

“I am here as an advocate for Rehabilitation Project Stub-nine-nine-seven-three-two-eight-two,” Eihks said, a bit puzzled. Considering the scope of the operation, the fact that the interaction hadn’t been a simple case of checking his information against listings of volunteers, then approval or denial based on findings, was a bit troubling.

No, of course not; it’s not troubling, not even worrying to employ civilians as middle management who don’t even know how to consult unclassified internal data about volunteer participants in a macroscopic pursuit of such delicacy. It’s not like the entire exercise was the result of a previous screw-up in procedure.

Exhibiting either good intuition or ludicrously specific talent for prophecy, the official gave a small soundless bob and rattled off a sighing, frustrated mutter.

“Apologies, Mr. Richard. It is a matter of observing protocol. Everybody gets asked, or licenses start getting pulled. Now, I have for you an informational package. Please accept.”

The subsequent digital transaction proved that the individual was, in fact, a disseminator – at least in acting terms. The size of the proffered data it extended in Eihks’s direction wouldn’t have been easily distributable unless one had highly parallel processing and a virtual output bus the size of the Tower of Rhaagm. Glowing veins skittering across the official’s veil served as a cosmetic indication of said really big bus at work. The effect made for an aesthetic that was either faintly pretty or faintly irritating.

Eihks opened up the package his cerv-mesh now held, and found inside a dossier of everything known about the people of interest, and their home. He uncompressed the attached kernel containing the local linguistics libraries and integrated it.

Very curious, how similar the people were to humans. In the grand scheme, at least. They were obviously a phenotype of karkshesh, after a fashion. Mostly matching emotional reflexes and comparable motivation structure. A notable exception in how anger and fear (or at least fear of everything that wasn’t known to be insurmountable) apparently tended to produce flight and fight responses, respectively. However, one example of dissimilarity does not an unrelatable or hostile personality make.

No, they’d have other reasons for resenting and resisting cooperation with Rhaagm.

“You have been provided with an identifier, corresponding with an indigenous person. Please see to the needs and, as you can, accommodation of the specified individual. When such a time comes as they are deemed sufficiently integrated, you will be given the city’s gratitude and your responsibilities retracted.”

I will, please. Don’t worry, please. There shall be no worrying on my part, please.

Eihks, with supreme dignity, managed to merely raise one eyebrow at the official.

“Do you have any questions?” the official asked him.

“Are there any particulars to be observed or avoided during my caring for this individual?” Eihks eventually returned.

“Only those which are detailed in your material, as regards to your charge’s actual registration and associated incidentals. Do note, please, that law enforcement shall be expedited in the context of interactions with these individuals. Make sure to observe Rhaagmini law at all times, and keep up with the district’s overriding local legal code.”

A slantwise indication highlighted the presence of a policing auditor, not too far to one side. The Bequast-born Rhaagmini had noticed the woman, but not wanted to say anything. If he were the sort to worry about the city’s auditors’ superb surveillance capabilities, it would have been an ideal time to hit the panic button. But, for reasons of their own – for which he was mystified and thankful – the auditors of Rhaagm had kept their traps shut about his… irregularities.

Of course, they might settle for using their evidence as leverage against him in the future. On the other hand, he doubted there was much he could do for their purposes which they could not do themselves or through proxy.

“Consider it noted,” he muttered without looking directly at the woman.

“Very well. Now, if you have anything to declare, please let it be announced here and now; your belongings will be returned to you after you exit the grafted area.”

Eihks’s face failed to show the official absolutely any change.

“… Declare?”

“Any weapons, tools, implements, artifacts, or other objects – possessed, loaned, or otherwise – which might cause harm to those not protected by a skein or other tuning measure.”

The look became a stare.

“Is that a joke?

Eihks stopped himself, holding up a hand before the other person could take offense or the auditor could readjust the interconnectedness of his parts.

“Forgive me, that was in bad taste. Are you asking whether I have a cerv-mesh? Because just by way of folding, I could sliver an unmeshed civilian in far too little time for someone to save them.”

The official gave Eihks a “look” in return. Without any distinguishing organs whatsoever, it managed to convey something in the neighborhood of weary acceptance, or maybe slim-faced humor.

“I am aware of the many insufficiencies with this dictate,” a very different tone of voice told the explorer. “Believe you me, it would simplify things on every imaginable level to avoid screening our participants like so. Once again, though, a matter of observing protocol.”

The official brought a hamper out of storage, putting it on the sidewalk. Along its side, “Dangerous Object Containment” was written in twelve languages, including expanded Rhaagmini. “We want your fluids!” was doodled up near the mouth of the hamper by some aspiring comedian, along with a set of comically oversized suction cups and incisors. The fact that the graffito remained served as fairly strong proof that the official didn’t count reflected electromagnetic radiation detection among its senses.

Eihks almost pouted, sighed, and down-signed in acquiescing disapproval, before he flipped his jacket back.

“This might take a few minutes. Bear with me.”

He extracted the folding blades he kept strapped to his wrists, and deposited them.

Hands dug through his boots and withdrew a thin Bowie knife from each.

A foray into the jacket’s back-located holster array yielded a neat baker’s dozen additional knives, from daggers to stilettos.

“A-ah,” the official stated, and the auditor made a small sound of clothing fabrics moving against themselves.

“I assume you don’t need me to uncompress everything that I have stored safely away, correct?” Eihks asked, pausing as he placed a carved-bone khopesh in the hamper.

“That will not be necessary,” came the marginally curious and uncertain response.

“Alright. Good.”

Another blade came out, this one something akin to a short macuahuitl.

“I’d hate to make this take longer than necessary,” he added, reaching under his shirt for a place that was uncomfortable in more than one sense of the term. A bare hilt – meant to project a destabilizer construct when powered – followed its many cousins into containment.

“Now, this is a bit of a touchy one,” precluded the appearance of the seven-fold staff of Lusendrad. Eihks tapped the rope-tied shape, looking straight at the center of the official’s volume with gravitas.

“Lusendrad. Most certainly falls into the ‘possibly dangerous artifact or relic’ category.”

A pause at the sudden tensing of the auditor, and Eihks quickly added, “It doesn’t fall under the purview of any Caladhbolg-class restrictions. Weirdly dangerous, not existentially dangerous.”

He rattled off the identifier assigned to the item’s stored pattern, and the official evidently consulted the records of the various controlling organizations whose jobs involved the tracking and limitation of such arcane devisings, the Compendiate among them.

“A copy, one presumes?”

A little start, as the auditor spoke up right behind him. He hadn’t expected her to just chime in like that.

“N… well, yes, but the prime copy,” Eihks replied, carefully putting his long-travelled companion in the hamper along with all his other tools of violence.

“Oh!” he added, as he stopped himself in reaching for the last member of his eccentric cast of potentially-lethal paraphernalia. His head cocked, he sighed in anticipation, and his eyelids drooped in the direction of the orbish person.

“Are all these going to get compressed for storage?” he said in something approximating an unhappy sigh.

“Wherever possible, of course,” the person responded, still curiously glancing into the hamper at the folded-and-bound joints of its newest addition.


Eihks drew out White Essay, and held it at arm’s length. He made sure to grasp it along its dull side, in a style that clearly left little room for actually wielding it as a bladed weapon.

“Then I respectfully request you don’t do that with this one. Also an artifact, but one that the good people of the Esoteric Compendiate haven’t yet fully documented or quantified. Can’t say for sure that it’d cause problems. In the interests of erring with caution, I’d like to avoid compressing the thing for now. Not a huge chance that compression might play clevers with its Hiek machines and whatnot, I don’t think, but still. They want to finish studying the thing, and it’s due for another examination sometime. Two or three years at the earliest, and they’d like another chance to rack it into their systems and do a comprehensive analysis.”

He gave a little sideways-thumb-swipe of the forehead when his addressee transferred attention from the first artifact to the second.

“What is it?” the creature asked.

“It’s a…” Eihks huffed, stepping carefully through a bog of words for the RIGHT word. He tripped, fell into the mire of pedantry, started drowning, and gave up.

“It’s a special cutting implement with literary ambitions,” he said.

“Oh,” replied the official. “Auditor, could you take please charge of this one?”

“Most certainly.”

The woman came forth, picked up the clip-pointed cleaver, and turned it over in her hands.

“I’ll get these back, right?” Eihks pressed, pointedly looking away from where White Essay was catching the light in its holder’s grip.

“Most certainly.”


“You have a lot of knives,” the official eventually said, not quite criticizing, after compressing the hamper and its contents.

“I like knives,” Eihks responded.


Because my grandfather is an absolute lunatic, and lunacy is conditionally genetic.

“Because you can use knives for just about anything.”

“That has some merit, even if only as a jest.”

There was a brief and very pronounced silence.

“Is there anything else that I need to present, prove, or process?” Eihks asked.

“No, Mr. Richard. Please, go right through the barrier. Any further instructions would be superfluous, so long as you observe and comply with the documentation you have been provided.”

“Then I thank you,” the explorer said, making sure to make his sincerity apparent. “You have other duties, I’m sure; I’ll leave you in relative peace.”

Farewells extended into that place humans identified as between good manners and discomfort. Then, the human turned to the transparent shell of the tuning field. He glanced over the naked-eye Monolith readout aligned with the barrier’s side, which educated him in the salient areas. Gravity: close to normal extrafacetary settings; acceleration a bit above fourteen meters per second squared. Air: nitrox slurry with various traces, a bit off from what humans historically found ideal but still livable. Magic: very limited thaumaturgy, mostly expressing as naturally-occurring phenomena and deific processes.

People: in trouble.

Well, this is exactly the reason I signed on. This is why I’m not out there in the gem right now, seeking more things to find, pioneering more untamed facets. The chance to Do Good.

A step, and then he was on the other side of the tuning field, on the edge of a wooded meadow, with a townish kind of place straddling the near distance. The little scrap of planet was beyond his ability to touch, or smell, or taste. His mind conjured qualia to fill the void even so: the scent of slow-roasting game, bright air brushing his tongue with metal mint, grass ineffectually scratching shoe-soles.

However, he didn’t have to imagine the appearance of a face tiled across the sky. As he watched, an auditor’s facsimile spoke down from on high, addressing the natives. The message content vaguely resembled “we come in peace,” as Rhaagm or Bequast were wont to occasionally do when contacting facetary civilizations.

Hoping to the Way that he was about to take part in something that would improve the quality of life of the subjects, Eihks lengthened his stride.

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