"But for my two cents, religion in Eberron is about faith. You can have a cleric without a god, but she still has to believe in SOMETHING, and passionately so." — Keith Baker, The Ask Keith Baker FAQ
Thanks to the Zil willingness to accommodate the needs of human-sized people, the buildings and towers of Korranberg aren't unusually compact as one might expect of one of the great cities of the gnomish homeland of Zilargo. The streets, however, are filled with enough gnomes, ponies, riding dogs, and dire rodents for it to be obvious what the predominant size of the population really is... and the storm-grey-haired, burgundy-suited man unconscious in an alley off of one of the side streets clearly doesn't match. The man isn't very deep in the alley, so is peered at or prodded by the occasional curious passerby, and in at least one case a mother pulls her child away from similar behavior. Eventually, though, he begins to stir...
Edgeworth grunts and twitches, then pulls himself to a crouching position, shakes his head, and checks his watch.
Edgeworth: Half an hour...
Edgeworth stands and looks out at the street... then sighs and rubs his forehead.
Edgeworth: Then again, perhaps I should disregard that. Measurements taken within a dream are rarely accurate.
Edgeworth: Aside from that, the shadows are far too short for it to be late afternoon.
Edgeworth: At least this dream appears to be elaborate enough to investigate. I suppose the mental exercise couldn't hurt.
Edgeworth steps out onto the sidewalk and attempts to get the attention of various passersby. "Excuse me... If I might have a word... Hello?"
Edgeworth blinks as one of the gnomes responds in a way he doesn't understand aside from the confused tone.
Edgeworth clenches his teeth in irritation. Naturally they wouldn't speak a language from a family I recognize. For once I fear my own mind might in fact be too logical for my own good...
A young female halfling with straight shoulder-length black hair and brown eyes, wearing glasses and a backpack and carrying a small sack, approaches from the direction opposite the library district.
Edgeworth switches languages for the next passerby. "Entschuldigen Sie..."
Althea blinks as she overhears an unfamiliar language being spoken.
Edgeworth: Können Sie helfen?
Edgeworth growls as he still fails to get responses in languages he can even identify the origins of, let alone understand.
Althea clears her throat and asks in clearly-enunciated Elven, "Can I help you?"
Edgeworth looks over at this smaller-nosed munchkin, frowning. "I'm sorry, I don't understand..."
Althea repeats herself, this time in Goblin.
Edgeworth repeats his statement of confusion in German.
Althea hesitates for a moment, then repeats her question in Kythric.
Edgeworth stares before asking in Japanese, "何を聞きますか？言語ですか。"
Althea sighs and shakes her head before invoking a bit of her power. "Nevermind, I guess we skip to the direct way."
Edgeworth glares down at Althea. "I don't care for being toyed with! Why didn't you speak English in the first place?!"
Althea: Because it's a lot easier to converse in a language I actually know.
Edgeworth: OBJECTION! You're contradicting yourself just by saying that in this language!
Edgeworth points down at Althea accusingly.
Althea: Heh, not really. You know the language, so I'm basically cheating and using your knowledge. Sort of.
Edgeworth sighs in frustration, crossing his arms. "I suppose for a denizen of a dream that might be possible."
Althea: Dream? ...I'm afraid this is a long way from Dal Quor, sorry.
Edgeworth blinks in confusion even as he begins tapping his finger on his arm. "I'm sorry — 'Dal Quor'?"
Althea: The Region of Dreams. It no longer orbits this plane, and hasn't for a very long time.
Edgeworth: What on Earth are you talking about?
Althea mulls over this. "If I'm guessing the intended meaning correctly, then I'm not talking about anything on 'Earth' most likely."
Althea: It seems that that translates to Eberron, but since it's also a proper name, I'd presume it refers to whatever plane you're from...
Edgeworth peers down at Althea dubiously. "You mean to suggest that this is not, in fact, some sort of elaborate dream, but rather that I've somehow found myself whisked away to another planet entirely over the course of a mere half-hour?"
Althea frowns and seems deep in thought for half a minute. "An Eberron-like body moving through the material plane as well? Hrm..."
Althea: I'm afraid any such knowledge is beyond my expertise; I've mostly studied the orbital planes.
Edgeworth: I suspect that if I ask about these "planes", she'll spout some sort of nonsense about mystical higher realms, so I'd best remain closer to what passes for reality.
Edgeworth: I presume that "Eberron" is the name of this... place.
Althea: Yes, it is the name of this "planet" as you say. Eberron lies in the midst of the material plane, which contains the ethereal plane and the shadow plane. It lies at the center of astral plane, or as much of it as is known. The other planes orbit the material plane within the astral plane.
Althea: Though I think it translates a little differently than your language's 'earth'.
Althea: For one, I don't get any sense of a reference to anything like The Dragon Between.
Edgeworth rubs his forehead with his fingers. "You can't be serious."
Althea: It's not all exactly common knowledge, but that's basically the structure of known existence...
Edgeworth appears impatient. "Can you prove even a shred of anything you've claimed since we began this discussion?"
Althea shrugs. "The library is not far from here if you wanted to do your own research. ...except you probably can't read Gnomish. Hrm..."
Edgeworth: Aside from this discussion of... "planes"... you've also made rather brazen claims concerning how we're able to converse at all.
Althea: Oh, that? I'm a seer, it comes with the territory.
Edgeworth huffs and rolls his eyes, then turns and starts down the sidewalk.
Althea follows at a little bit of a distance.
It isn't long before Edgeworth finds that he's made his way from surroundings reminiscent of a Renaissance-era city to those reminiscent of a very old college. Streets have partially given way to paths, alleys entirely to lawns, and much of the apparent variety of purpose to a focus on seeming students.
Edgeworth looks around wonderingly. Is this the so-called "library" she mentioned? It reminds me of descriptions I've heard of Oxford...
Althea: ...I suppose you could inquire with House Orien, I understand some of their heirs can travel through the astral plane. Though I would imagine such a service to be quite expensive.
Edgeworth jumps slightly at being addressed again, then spins and glares daggers at Althea. "Why are you following me?!"
Althea: For one thing, you're going where I needed to. For another... I don't know how far you expect to get without knowing any languages used here. Most people don't know the right spell or power to communicate in... foreign languages.
Edgeworth appears much more irritated at the words 'spell or power'.
Edgeworth: I'd much rather know the truth behind this charade of yours than continue to indulge it!
Althea: Exactly what is it you object to here, again?
Edgeworth: That I'm supposed to accept the sort of unscientific nonsense you've been spouting from the first word as true without any sort of proof!
Edgeworth crosses his arms again, glowering angrily even as his finger taps impatiently.
Althea: ...if I'm not making sense to you I suppose it could be that this particular power is partially failing somehow, but it seemed to me like we're conversing at least semi-coherently...
Edgeworth: The words themselves are clear. I merely doubt the message.
Althea: Am I to understand then that you have some particular basis to believe that every single thing I have said to you this whole time has been a lie?
Edgeworth smirks, unfolds his arms with a shrug, and shakes his head. "Most if not all of your claims lie outside the realm of possibility as I know it to various degrees. In the absence of proof, I would consider that basis enough."
Althea ponders this for a bit. "I suppose if you are indeed from somewhere outside all known existence, then all known existence would be outside the realm of your own known existence... Nevertheless, you are in fact here, regardless of whether from your perspective here should even be..."
Althea: Or does the nature of existence in your plane allow for the possibility that you are not actually here even when material evidence suggests that you are?
Edgeworth taps his temple. "Dreams as I know them don't involve any different plane of existence — merely immersion in what the dreamer's mind generates. In other words, a delusion."
Althea: ...now that's quite a conundrum. How does one prove to someone that they are not merely hallucinating everything they see, hear, or otherwise experience?
Althea: Drawing on the tenuous connection this plane has at all to Dal Quor would be problematic for a wide variety of reasons, so I do not think I can demonstrate anything about the nature of dreaming...
Althea: But perhaps we should be more basic. After all, you did claim everything I was saying was untrue. What would you have me attempt to prove?
Edgeworth: Were I to extend the benefit of the doubt to the idea that this is, in fact, happening — which, given its consistency thus far, is an acceptable concession — the truth of your claims concerning the language barrier, how you're supposedly circumventing it, and how some others may also be able to use some "spell or power" to do the same begs to be proven.
Althea: Hmm. Unfortunately, the power I'm using is limited to affecting the user's own understanding, though there is a spell from the Divination school which can be imbued upon another, should a sufficiently knowledgeable or prepared caster be found...
Althea: I take it such a spell hasn't been developed yet in your own plane?
Edgeworth scoffs. "You speak of 'developing a spell' as though it were some sort of computer program."
Althea looks a bit confused at that response. "...no, mathematics is an entirely different field of study."
Edgeworth looks confused himself briefly, but then shakes his head. "I'm sorry, I suppose the apparent level of technology here isn't sufficient for that to have made sense. A computer is a type of machine that can be programmed to serve a wide variety of generally nonphysical tasks. Most people simply obtain copies of programs that already exist for their needs, however."
Althea: I suppose it might be somewhat analogous. Most arcane casters learn spells that are the results of others' arcane research. And wizards at least tend to keep their spells written in spellbooks.
Edgeworth stares in disbelief at Althea. Is... she actually serious in her claim?
Althea: Even divine magic is probed for an understanding of its secrets by some, though more than a few consider such efforts borderline sacrilege...
Edgeworth winces and rubs his forehead as a headache begins to build. "'Divine magic'."
Althea: I take it these broad distinctions in types of magic don't correspond to how things work in your plane?
Edgeworth: Magic itself isn't how things work in my "plane", as you put it.
Althea frowns and looks a bit confused at this. After a moment, she responds, "Then why does your language have a word for it?"
Edgeworth glares down at Althea witheringly. "Because the concepts of magic and gods were how people explained the world around them before humanity conceived of the scientific method."
Althea: ...fascinating. That probably deserves some further exploration at some point. At any rate, I am no caster, so I cannot prove much of how magic works. I do have a small number of enchanted items, but mostly I rely on psionic powers rather than magic...
Edgeworth sighs in frustration. "And that's merely the terminology used to give magical concepts a seemingly scientific veneer."
Edgeworth: Ergo, you sound like nothing more than a charlatan!
Althea: Hmm, it's true that there are some noteworthy similarities between magic and psionics, despite their significant differences... If you would have evidence of one serve as proxy for another...
Edgeworth merely folds his arms and taps his finger once more. The 'Well?' is reflected in his steely eyes rather than spoken.
The sunlight gradually starts to increase in intensity.
Edgeworth shields his eyes. "Wh-what the..."
Althea: It's of more general utility in somewhat more dark locations, but you get the idea.
Edgeworth looks around for any sign of a more mundane source of the increased brightness as best he can under these conditions.
Edgeworth: We do have technology that can safely replace fire for such purposes. Even if I see no additional light sources nearby that appear active...
The light level abruptly drops to normal, but continues to dim a bit, until the sky looks closer to early sunset than near noon.
Edgeworth blinks, and unease flickers through his eyes. This doesn't appear to be any sort of smoke...
An annoyed student yells out the window in Common: "Hey, stop playing with the light, some of us are trying to get work done!"
Althea looks up sheepishly as the light returns to normal. "Sorry."
Edgeworth looks away from Althea in a vain attempt to conceal the vulnerability in his eyes.
Althea: The psionic disciplines are somewhat rare on Khorvaire, they're pretty much a cultural import from Sarlona. I just happened to have had the chance to study under someone sufficiently experienced in it.
Althea: Magic is far more common around here.
Edgeworth regathers himself quickly, firming his expression. "...Another sense of 'magic' in my world is the art of illusion and misdirection — making the impossible appear to have happened."
Althea: Well, that gets back into the first conundrum: how can anything prove it's not a potential illusion or delusion if one holds everything to be potentially either...
Edgeworth: When things aren't as they appear, the trick is to uncover evidence to that effect.
Althea: But if everything is presumed delusion, isn't any such evidence also potentially false?
Althea: I personally don't see any way to disprove such a sweeping generalization as "nothing is real".
Edgeworth: I did say that I would concede the point of this being reality for the sake of useful argument, did I not?
Edgeworth: That merely doesn't preclude the possibility of deception within that reality.
Althea: Well, then, you witnessed me alter the ambient light levels, and you haven't offered any evidence that either I did not actually do so or that I did not do so by the means I claimed to. You merely suggested it could be 'illusion'. So what, in such a context, do you hold illusion to mean?
Edgeworth: Essentially, the art of concealing evidence for purposes of entertainment.
Althea: Whose entertainment, yours or mine?
Althea shakes her head.
Edgeworth side-eyes Althea. "It certainly isn't my own."
Althea: So, because you could not discover evidence of my falsehood, you accuse me of simply concealing it in some unspecified way.
Althea: I am starting to get a certain sense of futility about all this...
Edgeworth: If you aren't willing to present your case further, then I'll be on my way.
Edgeworth turns, about to head deeper into the library district...
Althea: As you wish. Take care not to get into trouble, this isn't the most forgiving of locales.
A flash of rainbow light briefly covers Althea, and Edgeworth's brisk walk away slows as an unfamiliar chime rings once in his head.
Edgeworth looks around for the source of the "sound" even as he holds his head briefly, then he shakes his head and continues at his previous pace.
Althea sighs, shrugs, and moves on toward one of the buildings.
Within an hour, the displaced prosecutor manages to find the nearest building on the Library of Korranberg campus that is a literal library, but a quick browse of the titles seems to only further confirm that his "shadow" was right — no language or even script he's familiar with can be found there. If nothing else, however, it does provide Edgeworth with a quiet place to sit and reflect...
Edgeworth: Given that there do seem to be consistent written forms here, none of which I recognize, this appears even less like a vivid dream. My concession to that young lady may have to become more than hypothetical...
Edgeworth sighs. A pity that I'm essentially illiterate here.
Edgeworth puts a finger to his temple in thought. This appears to be a prominent college campus... If the "wizardry" she described does indeed exist, surely there's evidence of —
Edgeworth shakes his head violently. What are you thinking, Miles?! Are you so easily convinced to seek evidence of something like... like that?
Edgeworth stares downward uneasily. And yet... would it really be the first time?
Eventually, a familiar halfling comes through and begins browsing the shelves.
Edgeworth looks over at the rather small young lady and frowns. Is her presence a coincidence, or did she merely decide to be less obvious in her attempts to follow me?
Althea assembles a stack of about six books and heads for a table.
Edgeworth: In either case, I'd best not disrupt her.
Edgeworth crosses his arms and closes his eyes in consideration. ...If no such evidence exists, yet I seek it out, what harm would be done save to my dignity with regard to this one lady? What am I afraid of?
Edgeworth: If it is as she claims... that this is a different "plane"... that would seem to corroborate...
Edgeworth: Furthermore, if magic is a science here, it becomes harder to deny that things were as they seemed that time. It may be, as she implies, that it's something we haven't taken the time to understand, perhaps due to the apparent rarity.
Edgeworth gulps, then shakes his head, then audibly chokes back a sob before turning his head away from Althea and grabbing one elbow with the opposite hand.
Edgeworth is silent for a few minutes before finally tensing up. If I can't bring myself to face the truth, am I any better than whoever it was that truly lied that time? Does it matter whose lie it really was if I'm too cowardly to surpass either?
Edgeworth lets his elbow go and stands, glaring into the distance. Haven't I already decided that the truth stands above even the law? To face it is the only proper course!
Edgeworth: I'll banish this weakness within me and any lies without!
A pale sky blue flash, faint but still noticable in indoor lighting, suddenly bursts out from Edgeworth.
Edgeworth recoils. "Wh-what the hell was that?!"
A number of readers nearby shush Edgeworth with varying levels of irritation.
Althea sets aside the book she's studying and approaches Edgeworth, speaking quietly. "I thought you said you didn't have magic where you come from."
Edgeworth: Gkk — I — but — I don't! I-I mean —
Althea: Keep it down. This is a library.
Edgeworth glares daggers at Althea's eyes and hisses back, "I know that!"
Edgeworth: But I don't have any idea what just happened!
Althea: Unless I've missed my guess, that was divine magic, or an attempt at such at least. Were you trying to banish something?
Edgeworth's eyes widen. "I-I beg your pardon?!"
Althea: I'm a scholar, I may not practice divine magic but I have studied it.
Edgeworth tries to hide his fear behind another glare. "Do you expect me to believe that some... some higher power has given me magical powers?"
Althea: The traditional view would hold that you exercised a power granted to you by some particular god, presumably the one you worship. The truth as I understand it is a little less clear cut; your own personal religious convictions are what sustains such abilities.
Edgeworth: OBJECTION! I'm not religious!
Even louder irate shushing is provoked by Edgeworth's outburst, and a few Common and Gnomish mutters for good measure.
Althea: If you can't control such outbursts, we should really not be discussing this here.
Edgeworth balls his fists and grits his teeth. "Nrrrgh..."
Edgeworth starts for the door.
Edgeworth heads for the side of the building so as to not get in the way of foot traffic. "Now, if you'll explain how you're so certain that I spontaneously developed a power that supposedly stems from religious beliefs when I have none..."
Althea: Simply put, you clearly do, whether or not they are rooted in something that normally falls under the purview of whatever you consider to be 'religious'.
Althea: In a sense it's exactly as you put it before; you believe in someone or something as a higher power, and that gives you magic.
Althea: ...in all likelihood you're also carrying something on your person that could in some sense represent a holy symbol in the context of whatever that belief is...
Edgeworth facepalms. "This is the most preposterous thing I've ever heard."
Althea: If you were inclined to try to learn more, and assuming you're being honest at all to me in your denials, I'd suggest the Archival Foundation would be a better resource to you than any of the religious organizations...
Edgeworth: I have no motive to lie concerning this, miss. ...What is this "Archival Foundation"?
Althea: The Archival Foundation is a society dedicated to studying divine magic as an academic discipline rather than a matter of religious faith.
Edgeworth puts a finger to his temple. "The ones you mentioned previously as controversial, correct?"
Althea: Indeed. They've made some significant strides in understanding many of the underpinnings of divine magic, and are responsible for much of why I can tell you something other than the 'traditional view' I mentioned.
Edgeworth: I see...
Edgeworth pauses to take a deep breath. "...In that case, the path to the truth is clear."
Edgeworth: And unsettling as it may be, what choice do I have but to walk it even now?
Althea: I have some contacts with the Foundation, as I've helped with some research at times. Though I'm not sure how you would go about solving the lack of a common language. There is divine magic that can help with that, similar to the power I'm using, but it's advanced enough it would probably take a long time to learn.
Althea: Though there is a more easily grasped spell which could at least let you listen to and read unfamiliar languages.
Edgeworth crosses his arms.
Edgeworth: Then if these people are all that you say they are, surely something can be figured out. Furthermore, I do have a good head for languages; if I'm to remain here for very long, I'll simply learn.
Althea: I'd definitely prioritize learning Common, then, it's spoken pretty much everywhere. Were you to remain in Zilargo, Gnomish might also be useful, but if you'd end up far afield others might serve better...
Edgeworth bows. "I apologize for my earlier behavior. My name is Miles Edgeworth."
Althea: Althea d'Jorasco.
Edgeworth nods solemnly. I wish I could say it's a pleasure, but the circumstances are far too uncomfortable for that to be the case.
Althea leads Edgeworth out of the library quarter and through the streets of Korranberg. Eventually, at the edge of the divide between more organized streets and an open-air market, the two of them arrive at a squarish two-story building. The sign over the door is a well-weathered picture of an open tome, but nailed to the door at about gnomish eye level is a far newer-looking sign — a bald, green-skinned angel facing left with its wings extended behind it, a book under his or her arm, and a yardstick along its wing.
Edgeworth looks between the two rather obviously differently-aged signs thoughtfully.
Althea nods. "Suffice to say they've become more open about their aims since the end of the Last War."
Edgeworth: "Last War"?
Edgeworth pulls the door open, tripping a bell. Several shelves of books fill what seems to be the front half of the building's first floor. At the far end of the large room is a counter, behind which is a cheerful-looking gnomish girl and a glass case that's newer than the other furniture, filled with rolled-up and tied sheets of parchment.
Althea: That's something of an involved topic. Suffice to say this continent has been embroiled in conflict up until about two years ago.
Edgeworth nods grimly. Perhaps as involved as our World Wars...
Nopplebin looks up curiously at Althea's apparent new companion. In Gnomish, she mutters, "I wonder how he makes his hair do that..."
Edgeworth grins. I appear to have made some form of impression.
Althea waves. "Hey, Nopplebin."
Nopplebin looks down from Edgeworth to the more familiar halfling and waves. "Althea! Who's this human with you? ...Er, he is a human, right?"
Althea: ...to be honest, I'm not entirely sure. He mostly seems it.
Edgeworth glances at the bookshelves with a melancholy expression.
Althea: Fair warning, he's an unusual case. There's... something of a language barrier in play. He doesn't even know Common, and what he does know I've never even heard of before...
Nopplebin scratches her head. "Huh. Well, if you haven't I definitely haven't. Is this about a Comprehend Languages scroll, then?"
Althea: Eventually, perhaps, but I imagine that a bit of training may be in order first. More particularly, he's shown some definite affinity for divine magic, despite claiming to follow no religion, god or other higher power. I figured this would be the best place to try to get something like that sorted out.
Edgeworth simply observes the conversation for now.
Nopplebin blinks. "That is so weird, but I guess you've got a point..."
Nopplebin reaches under the counter and takes out a keyring, then heads to a door in the back and unlocks it.
Althea: I suspect it's not as weird as it sounds. He... probably just has a narrow idea of what qualifies as one of those, would be my guess...
Nopplebin shakes her head. "I think if I tried to make sense of that I'd just make my head hurt..."
Edgeworth walks over to the door, though doesn't open it, realizing he's the guest here.
Althea heads for the door.
The back area of the store has a few extra shelves of books, but the main features are a small printing press, bookbinding equipment, and a pair of desks for scribing. A flight of stairs at the far end of the room leads upward.
Edgeworth glances approvingly at the press before heading for... the bare wall under the staircase?
Althea: Not bad. Few would catch that at a glance.
Edgeworth turns, shrugs, and shakes his head with a smirk. "You claimed that this store's association with the Archival Foundation was a secret until recently. The sign over the door appeared roughly as old as the building itself, and to have the local association be upstairs would be too obvious — to say nothing of the fact that if this store is built like many old-fashioned sorts in my own world, upstairs would be the owners' residence."
Edgeworth smirks more smugly still as he puts a finger to the side of his head. "Furthermore, to not have a closet here would be a waste of space unless that space were being put to use in some other way."
Edgeworth scrutinizes the area, trying to figure out just how to open the secret door that must be there...
Althea: Indeed. Are you by chance some sort of inquisitive?
Althea hangs back a little, curious to see if Edgeworth manages on his own.
Edgeworth seems mildly puzzled by that word choice, but only briefly. "I moonlight as such, primarily to compensate for the often questionable efforts of the local police, but I'm technically a prosecutor by trade."
Edgeworth kneels down, examining some of the stonework at gnomish eye level in more detail.
Edgeworth fiddles with a loose stone; when that doesn't prove to be enough, he does so while pushing on where he thinks the door is.
Sure enough, operating the release while applying pressure to the door itself causes it to open inward, revealing a narrow staircase downward parallel to the one above it, lit by everburning torches.
Althea: After you.
Edgeworth stands and bows. "Thank you."
Edgeworth heads down the stairs...
Edgeworth looks up at the everburning torches hanging above them on the way down. "Curious. I feel no heat from those..."
Althea: It's a light evocation, not a flame proper.
Althea: I presume the only reason it's flame-like is for familiarity's sake. Or perhaps it's also symbolic...
Edgeworth shrugs noncommittally before opening a door at the right of the staircase's bottom.
This room is considerably more open than those upstairs; it seems to have the same area as the front and back rooms on the ground floor combined, without tall shelves to obstruct the view. Two of the walls are nothing but built-in bookshelves, and there's a cross-shaped human-thigh-high bookcase in the center of the room that seems to informally divide the room into quarters, but tables, desks, and chairs of varying heights are the primary furniture apparent.
This room is considerably busier than the others as well, looking akin to a university library in that reading, writing, and quiet discussion seem to be the primary activities taking place amongst the roughly ten people here. This doesn't even seem to be the full extent of the complex, either; a guard rail walls off a staircase at the far end of the room that leads even further down.
Aside from books and scrolls, a number of pendants, brooches, and charms are scattered about. The only symbol that seems to be a fixture of the room itself, however, is a far larger representation of the angel with the book and the measured wing, which hangs on the wall next to the stairs down.
Edgeworth steps further forward, clearly impressed, to make room for Althea to get by. "This is...!"
Althea heads over to one of the tables and addresses an apparent half-elf. "I've run into something of a conundrum you might find interesting, Dil."
Dil doesn't look up from whatever he's writing, but does acknowledge being addressed with a "Hm?"
Althea: Self-professed atheist with an affinity for divine magic.
Dil: And he doesn't follow a religion that doesn't necessarily rely on gods?
Althea: He claims to be entirely non-religious. Found the idea that he could possibly be calling on a higher power ridiculous.
Althea: But I saw him botch a turn attempt apparently entirely by accident.
Edgeworth takes a step towards the incomprehensible-to-him conversation, trying to at least figure out what the articles and prepositions and such are.
Dil sets his pen down. "Now that is interesting... whether as a case study or a prank."
Althea: I can't swear it's not the latter, but he does seem sincere.
Dil: It's only fair to give him a chance. Fortunately, this isn't a magical scroll, so it can wait.
Dil looks over at Edgeworth. In Common, he says, "Hello, good sir, and welcome to our Archive."
Edgeworth simply frowns in confusion.
Althea: ...he also has a bit of a language difficulty. I haven't been able to work out to my satisfaction exactly where he's from, but we don't have any common languages known, despite us both knowing several. I had to rely on my powers in that regard.
Dil: Then I count myself blessed to be ready to deal with that, at least for a few minutes.
Dil stands, then begins to mumble something while gesturing...
Edgeworth peers dubiously at the thin, pointy-eared man.
Dil steps towards Edgeworth and reaches for his hand.
Edgeworth backpedals, pulling the hand away while staring in shock at Dil.
Althea: He needs to touch you in order to complete the spell.
Althea: I did mention there are some differences between magic and psionics.
Edgeworth appears dubious for a moment, but then sighs. "Very well."
Edgeworth extends the hand Dil was reaching for.
Dil shakes it.
Dil lets go and steps back with a weak smile. "I would help with both sides, but at least what little I can do halves your work, Althea."
Edgeworth glowers. I didn't understand that...
Althea nods. "He can understand you now, though I'll still have to translate for him."
Edgeworth: ...I see. That is consistent with the description of the weaker spell she described.
Dil looks relieved.
Althea: I've mentioned some basics about magic and psionics, but apparently both are relatively unknown where he comes from.
Edgeworth crosses his arms, noting that Althea is now addressing Dil in English as well. "Indeed. Furthermore, I have no idea why I'm here or how I supposedly wielded this so-called 'divine magic'. I'm only entertaining the idea at all because I felt it an instant before I saw it, and the faint flash of light in question did come from me."
Dil looks intrigued and thoughtful. "Hmm... He really must be from someplace different if even the idea of divine magic makes him skeptical. You said it was a turn attempt?"
Althea: That's certainly what it seemed like, yes.
Dil: It does sound like one...
Dil pulls out a strangely-shaped, palm-sized bone object with purple stripes painted onto it.
Dil speaks up over his shoulder. "It won't disrupt what anyone's doing if I channel some energy here, will it?"
There are a few murmurs in the negative.
Edgeworth: What is he doing?...
Dil: All right, thank you.
Dil holds the symbol up, closes his eyes, and firms his expression. He shimmers lavender for a split-second before light of the same color shines consistently from the symbol for a few seconds.
Edgeworth half-frowns as he narrows his eyes. "Is that supposed to be a demonstration of what I seemingly did, only properly?"
Dil points to his own symbol, then looks at Edgeworth questioningly.
Edgeworth: I don't believe I have anything quite like that.
Althea shrugs. "I suspect he merely doesn't recognize it for what, in this context, it is, but how that can be the case is another curious matter."
Dil: Well, if he's "not religious", of course he wouldn't have a "religious" symbol. But what other symbols does he have?
Althea: Are you carrying anything symbolic? Perhaps pertaining to something important to you?
Edgeworth thinks for a moment. There are two things that would qualify. Of the two, the cravat is perhaps too specific in its current meaning...
Edgeworth: Which only leaves...
Edgeworth huffs and shakes his head while digging through his pants pocket. I can't believe I'm even considering this.
Edgeworth pulls out a gold lapel pin half an inch across that features a red gem in the center and four white "arms" something like tiny folded fans radiating out from it.
Edgeworth looks miffed as he explains, "It's a badge of my office. It merely identifies me as a prosecutor..."
Edgeworth: It isn't as though I worship my job.
Althea: It's a place to start.
Dil grins. "But if you did, it would explain why that would work."
Althea repeats Dil's comment before commenting herself: "It is important to you, no? Moreso than just to keep busy and earn a living."
Edgeworth recoils. "E-even if that's the case, that's not even close to a religion!"
Althea: We're not trying to invent a religion to convert you to, we're just trying to piece things together.
Dil puts a finger to his lip. "I don't know... to some Sovereign Host followers, working is worship of the matching god."
Edgeworth sighs and holds his head with his free hand.
Althea adds in a quiet aside, "I still haven't worked out why he's quite that sensitive about the issue."
Althea repeats Dil's observation in English.
Edgeworth harumphs and looks away. "The only goddesses associated with that job are just convenient symbols now. No one literally believes in them, and certainly not myself."
Dil: But some religions don't have gods, just philosophies.
Althea repeats Dil's comment.
Edgeworth glares at Dil. "Philosophies which are still based on irrational things that are impossible to prove or disprove! Don't insult me by implying I'm such a man!"
Dil looks to the ground. "I'm sorry, sir. If you don't like that idea, you probably won't like the life of a cleric, even if it does mean that you can learn divine magic. But there is a way out..."
Althea repeats before adding another aside: "He made rather a big deal about proof earlier, we went around in circles a bit about proving how I could even understand him."
Edgeworth: Then tell me! I never asked to have this... this "magic" imposed on me!
Dil: ...Abandon your most cherished beliefs, and the magic won't come to you anymore.
Althea staggers slightly, but repeats the line faithfully after a moment's hesitation.
Edgeworth points straight at Dil. "OBJECTION!"
Edgeworth: You would have me abandon justice, the truth on which justice depends, and the rationality that allows us to uncover the truth?! Perish the thought!
A pale blue wave travels over Edgeworth and to the lapel pin grasped in the hand he's not pointing with, which flashes the same color.
Dil smiles. "Oh, thank the Traveler. It did work."
Edgeworth blinks and lowers his pointing hand while raising the one holding his badge.
Edgeworth opens his fist to look at the pin in bewilderment...
Althea nods. "That was quicker than I had expected things to go."
Dil shrugs. "I did only have twenty minutes..."
Dil looks back to Edgeworth. "Now, do you need time to think, or do you want to try again now?"
Althea repeats Dil's query.
Edgeworth: I... I'll need some time for consideration, yes.
Edgeworth appears almost numb with shock as he keeps staring at his badge.
Dil nods and turns back to his seat. "I'll go back to writing, then. Good luck."
Althea bows slightly and heads back near the staircase.
Edgeworth seems not to notice...
Edgeworth takes a couple of minutes to recover sufficiently to stagger to an unused human-scaled table, pull out a chair there, and collapse into it. He sets his badge on the table, by now looking at least as contemplative as stunned.
Edgeworth: It makes no sense... How could that count as a religion? Aren't such things precisely the opposite of the sort of thinking that causes people to retreat to systems of irrational belief?
Edgeworth: Does that mean that somehow, it's irrational to think such things here? ...No, that can't be the case. Otherwise, why would such a place as this exist and have apparently achieved any results?
Edgeworth: ...I understand too little of this world. I've barely explored the city and seen how it operates. I don't believe I can grasp the truth without a clear understanding of the local context.
Edgeworth stands, takes his badge, and repockets it before tracking down Althea.
Althea remains waiting near the staircase.
Edgeworth clears his throat and tries to look composed. "I need to see what everyday life is like in this place."
Althea nods quietly and gestures toward the stairs.
Edgeworth begins to climb.
Althea follows Edgeworth.
Althea leads Edgeworth out of the building that holds the Korranberg Archive and into a busy open-air market it borders. The stalls almost exclusively seem to sell various paper products, primarily books, maps, and scrolls.
Edgeworth's gaze roams the area, though curiosity seems to have given way to an uneasy businesslike scrutiny.
Althea heads past a couple stalls and pauses briefly near one of the vendors, this one selling sturdy-looking books.
Edgeworth stops when Althea does. "Those appear to have no titles..."
Althea: Most of the books you'll see here have paper which was made specially for retaining scribed spells. The paper has to be of good quality, and there are certain rituals used in the production and preparation.
Althea: While typical divine casters don't rely on writing or collecting spells, some of the folks you'll encounter at the Archive do make use of these for scribing prayers as well.
Althea: They're handy enough for purely non-magical writing as well.
Edgeworth frowns. "Does nothing smaller exist for the latter purpose?"
Althea: I believe there are some smaller bound notebooks that tend to be favored by inquisitives and the like. There are also clipboards and cases for storing loose sheets, and you could always cut a hole through a small stack of paper and run a cord through it, assuming the paper's thick enough not to tear easily.
Edgeworth: How much smaller are these notebooks?
Althea: About half a foot wide and three quarters tall, and about an inch thick.
Edgeworth: If those measurements are similar to the American ones, that's still a far cry from anything pocket-sized.
Edgeworth: Then it's fortunate that this is refillable, given suitable paper. It may take effort to have it cut and punched properly, however.
Edgeworth pulls his organizer out of an inside blazer pocket and opens it.
This seems to catch the eye of the spellbook peddler.
Althea: Hmm, that looks fairly well-made. And probably rather expensive, but I get the impression those can be reproduced more easily where you're from...
Edgeworth: Indeed. We've developed means of mass production through the use of machinery.
Althea: Hmm... that metal adornment at the bottom of the center binding is part of some kind of mechanism, I'm guessing?
Edgeworth grins. "Indeed, that will open the rings to release the pages."
Althea: I would imagine there might be a few artificers who might enjoy a chance to examine the design of something like that.
Edgeworth closes and repockets his organizer.
Edgeworth: Under the circumstances, I'd rather guard this carefully.
Edgeworth: A pity; I had hoped that I could take notes more freely.
Althea: Understandable. Though you still might want to give some consideration to the various forms of value it might have; if you end up here for a long while, you may have to... consider monetary necessities.
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "I would hope that my skills would be of more use for earning money."
Edgeworth: I would simply need to overcome the language barrier, would I not?
Edgeworth seems to find this prospect strangely undaunting even for the circumstances.
Althea: In some places I'm sure they might be quite valuable. Zilargo's not much of a place for prosecutors, though.
Edgeworth: And why is that?
Althea: For one thing, there aren't any criminal courts.
Edgeworth looks stunned. "What?!"
Althea: The Zil have their own ideas about appropriate societal behavior and how to enforce it. I did mention this could be a somewhat unforgiving locale...
Althea: There's very little crime here, due in part to the fact that typical gnomish proclivities toward intrigue aren't crimes at all here in the first place. The rest... is dealt with by the Trust.
Edgeworth tries to hide his creeping dread under a glare. "What is this 'Trust'?"
Althea: Zilargo's peace-enforcement organization. They were created to put down feuds between the former nation-states after Zilargo was formed. Their membership is secret, and they're accountable only to the Triumvirate.
Edgeworth quivers slightly, though whether from deep offense or fear is impossible to tell. "I see..."
Edgeworth: In that case, I don't believe I wish to remain here for longer than is necessary.
Althea: I'm here on a research project at the moment, but it's fair to say I'll be a bit more comfortable upon returning to Breland.
Edgeworth nods slowly.
Althea: We're pretty deep in Zilargo right now. Fastest way out is east to Darguun, but that'd pretty much be out of the kitchen and into the fire. It's a pretty violent place, and the only place on Khorvaire where slavery is tolerated. Not to mention there's no roads heading east and a wetland to cross to get anywhere.
Edgeworth: Then I hope the situation isn't so dire that I must flee immediately.
Althea: Otherwise, best bet is straight north on the lightning rail at least as far as Sterngate, in Breland. There are also roads leading west to Sharn.
Althea: Not much will beat the lightning rail for a quick exit, though.
Edgeworth: I'm sorry — "lightning rail"?
Althea: I was planning on showing you later, but this might be an opportune time to head to the station.
Edgeworth uncrosses his arms. "Very well."
Althea starts heading toward the northwest part of Korranberg.
Edgeworth follows Althea. "To return to the previous topic, my skills as a prosecutor aren't all that I have. As you observed, I can operate as an, er, 'inquisitive', as you put it."
Althea: Mm, there's certainly plenty of call for that in some cities, even if House Medani and House Tharashk have most of that market cornered between them.
Edgeworth half-frowns. "You've mentioned quite a few of these 'Houses' by now."
Althea: ...oh, right, of course you wouldn't know.
Althea: Oh, my, where to begin. I... suspect you'd not be all that interested in the Draconic Prophecy...
Edgeworth peers down dubiously at Althea.
Althea: The practical gist, is that symbols called dragonmarks began to appear within certain family lines millennia ago. These symbols enable certain magic powers in the bearer, the nature of which is specific to the mark.
Althea: The Dragonmarked Houses built up substantial economic power based upon leveraging their exclusive access to the abilities of each mark.
Edgeworth: I fail to see what this has to do with any "prophecy", but the end result she describes is remarkably plausible...
Althea: House Ghallanda is a halfling House that bears the Mark of Hospitality. They run the Hostelers Guild.
Althea: Houses Phiarlan and Thuranni bear the Mark of Shadow. Phiarlan runs the Entertainers and Artisans Guilds. Thuranni is often in similar business, but has some darker associations...
Edgeworth raises an eyebrow.
Althea: House Thuranni split off from Phiarlan during the war.
Althea: Elven Houses, by the way.
Edgeworth: What sort of place have I found myself in?
Althea: House Jorasco is the other halfling House, bearing the Mark of Healing. They run the Healers Guild.
Althea: House Sivis is Gnomish, and their main enclave is here in Korranberg. They bear the Mark of Scribing and run the Speakers and Notaries Guilds.
Edgeworth hrms at the description of Sivis.
Althea: House Deneith is a human House and bears the Mark of Sentinel. They run the Defenders and Blademarks Guilds.
Althea: House Cannith is a human House that bears the Mark of Making and runs the Tinkers and Fabricators Guilds.
Edgeworth: Presumably, they employ the "artificers" you mentioned earlier?
Althea: House Kundarak is a dwarven House that bears the Mark of Warding and runs the Banking and Warding Guilds.
Edgeworth blinks. "Warding"?
Althea: House Lyrandar is a half-elven House bearing the Mark of Storm. They run the Raincallers and Windwrights Guilds.
Edgeworth: If you might explain those?
Althea: They do weather support; the Raincallers for agriculture, the Windwrights for travel.
Edgeworth: If that's the case, then it would seem that this world is not only less advanced in some ways, but also more so in others... I'll need to take note of how her various claims compare to the observations I make.
Althea: House Orien is a human House with the Mark of Passage, I mentioned them earlier. They run the Couriers and Transportation Guilds.
Edgeworth puts a finger to his temple. "And you believe they, if anyone, may be able to send me home for the right price?"
Althea: It's conceivable, if we could figure out where it is you're actually from...
Althea: House Vadalis is a human House bearing the Mark of Handling. They run the Handlers Guild.
Edgeworth: Handling of what, exactly?
Althea: Animals. Primarily mounts and livestock, but they breed for various other purposes as well.
Althea: House Medani is a half-elven House bearing the Mark of Detection. They run the Warning Guild.
Edgeworth: Presumably meaning that they work to prevent things in addition to the detective work mentioned...
Althea: House Tharashk is a human, orc and half-orc House. They have the unusual distinction of bearing a mark across two different races; humans and half-orcs can bear the Mark of Finding, but none of the full orcs manifest marks.
Althea: They run the Finders Guild.
Althea: They also have a significant presence in mining and control the Eberron dragonshard trade.
Edgeworth blinks in confusion again. How many unfamiliar terms will I encounter before we reach this "lightning rail"?
Edgeworth puts on a cooler expression. "What precisely is a dragonshard?"
Althea: Fragments of the... Erm, translucent crystal fragments with colored veins inside them that resemble dragonmarks. There are three distinct varieties, the most common being Eberron dragonshards.
Althea: They're often used in the creating of magic items, but have other uses as well.
Edgeworth: There seems to be no end to the strange tales she tells. At least I have some idea of what to look for now...
Althea: Eberron shards, found inside geodes throughout Khorvaire and Aerenal, are the most versatile, and are useful for most kinds of permanent magic item. They are also useful for holding psionic powers for later use, similarly to spell scrolls for arcane and divine magic.
Althea: Siberys shards, found in equatorial and southern tropical regions, are primarily useful for enhancing the powers of dragonmarks, though they have some obscure psionic uses as well.
Edgeworth: So in a sense, they're a form of wealth akin to fossil fuels?
Edgeworth: I wonder if this world, too, will suffer a resource crisis in time...
Althea: Khyber shards, found underground in volcanic areas, are primarily used for the binding of spirits or souls. They also have some other, obscure uses, I believe.
Edgeworth appears skeptical at the description of Khyber dragonshards in particular.
Edgeworth: To return to the topic of these "dragonmarked houses", I couldn't help but notice that you bear the name of one of them. You may also be a halfling, though I'm not certain enough of that point to state it.
Althea: Yes, it's traditional for members of the House to identify themselves with the House name. A more specific family name is optional.
Edgeworth: Does this mean that you bear one of these "dragonmarks", then?
Althea: ...dragonmarks aren't that common. Even if both parents are marked, it's even odds whether a child will be. And a marked individual is valuable to the House; one wouldn't likely be allowed to shirk traditional duties and go flitting across the continent on various research projects.
Edgeworth smirks in an almost cruelly knowing manner. That doesn't answer my question. Of course, under the circumstances, I suppose I owe it to her not to openly point out this fact for the time being.
Althea: House Jorasco is more strict than most, I'll note. Every House member in good standing, marked or not, has to contribute to the Healers Guild in some way. I'm just fortunate I at least have enough aptitude for medical research to have come to an accommodation...
Edgeworth: Does this relate to why you associate with the Archival Foundation as well?
Althea: Honestly, my primary reason for involvement with the Foundation is more interest in what they represent. I'm something of a scholar of religion as well as many other topics, and they represent something that both transcends all religion and stands apart from it as well.
Althea: Their work is frankly fascinating.
Edgeworth grins — almost a smile, really. "An entirely understandable fascination."
Althea: Some in the Foundation belong to various religions, others none at all.
Althea: The man you spoke with earlier was a cleric of the Traveler.
Edgeworth: Do realize that I'm not familiar with the religions that you know.
Althea: Right. And there are quite a few, it would require some time to even scratch the surface of each...
Edgeworth: I've never seen any point to studying them in depth, but then, in my own world there isn't any practical purpose to such systems of belief.
Edgeworth hmphs to himself, glancing aside disdainfully.
Althea: I'd think it rather unlikely even in your world for studying such matters to lack practical value. Understanding religions is part of understanding people...
Edgeworth: It's enough to know that at times, people take irrational actions that stem from delusion.
Althea: You speak as if the religious are possessed of some madness that robs them of thought, or at least prevents their actions from being understood...
Althea: I'd think a prosecutor and inquisitive might find some value in insight to the workings of others' thoughts and beliefs...
Edgeworth: If the specifics matter, that will grow clear as the case progresses, and from there they can be uncovered.
Althea: ...I suppose if the aim is only to solve crimes and not to prevent them...
Edgeworth: I've never found myself in a position to prevent such things. I'm either assigned a case once a crime has already been committed, or find myself in the midst of one.
Edgeworth: ...Is something the matter?
Althea: I suppose your view is not all that different from how some of the religions may view each other.
Althea: After all, why would one bother trying to understand the perspective of people who are obviously wrong.
Althea: ...arrogance like that terrifies me. There are some parts of life about which I'm quite sure of what I believe. There are some I'm still trying to figure out what I believe. But there are astoundingly many things I do not know, and I try never to lose sight of that.
Edgeworth looks down his nose at Althea. "One must understand that where I'm from, the religious find themselves proven wrong time and again about the basic truths of the world, and each time sorrow results from their struggle against reality itself."
Edgeworth: By and large, it's the religious who believe themselves to have all the answers, and scientists who acknowledge that we do not and thus continue to question even their own conclusions.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head, arms outspread, even as he walks. "Men of faith see that, and merely assume that men of science must be lying since they keep 'changing their story'."
Althea shakes her head after a few moments. "I don't think religions in Eberron can be painted with such a broad brush. Even among the Church of the Silver Flame, there are those who fully embrace radical interpretations of doctrine and those who are more restrained and concerned about outcomes and consequences..."
Edgeworth looks grim. "Unfortunately, it's the former who more often sway the masses where I'm from."
Althea: Arrogance can masquerade as confidence, and confidence can be very reassuring to the uncertain...
Edgeworth: I'm well aware of that.
Edgeworth: After all, I was at once taught that and a victim thereof...
Edgeworth touches the pocket containing his badge briefly as he continues forward with a darkened expression.
After a few minutes of awkward silence, Althea and Edgeworth arrive at a building that looks quite similar to any major train station on Earth. However, details that stand out include prominent displays of a unicorn crest, the fact that humans are more commonly seen here than gnomes, and that the "tracks" aren't rails connected with wood, but lines of small blue runed pyramids. At the moment, the station isn't particularly busy; apparently the lightning rail isn't due to come anytime soon.
Edgeworth raises an eyebrow as he stares at the strange "track".
Althea: Doesn't look like there's a train due soon. At any rate, this is part of one of the pieces of vital travel infrastructure controlled, maintained and operated by House Orien.
Edgeworth puts a finger to his temple.
Edgeworth: This bears superficial similarity to a railroad station in my own world.
Edgeworth: The, er... what I assume to be the track is remarkably different, however.
Althea: I suppose at a guess the tracks you're familiar with are probably meant to accommodate some kind of purely mechanical process?
Edgeworth looks over at Althea with a mildly pleased smirk. "Indeed so."
Edgeworth: The specifics have varied with time, but the general idea is a series of wheeled cars attached to one another that are pulled by a single, powerful engine.
Althea: Lightning rail trains are a type of bound elemental vessel.
Edgeworth's look is questioning enough.
Althea: The rail line contains magical artifacts called conductor stones, which House Cannith makes for House Orien, situated at regular intervals. The storm elemental bound to the train can essentially 'jump' from one of these to the next.
Edgeworth frowns in confusion, looking to the conductor stones and then back to Althea. "Er... forgive my ignorance, but I fail to see how smooth travel would be possible by such a method."
Althea: Er, it doesn't really literally jump. Moreso kinda pushes and pulls them via lightning energy...
Edgeworth points at the stones. "Something is clearly missing from your description, however. I see no ruts where wheels might have passed."
Althea: There aren't any wheels. The elemental holds the train up.
Edgeworth is silent for a beat as this processes. "It hovers? Huh... I'll have to see the evidence for myself when the time comes."
Althea: Note that, particularly for something as sophisticated as this, maintaining control of the elemental is going to be critical. That's a large part of why House Orien has exclusive province here.
Althea: Doing without that control would be a bit like trying to pull a wagon with an untamed horse.
Althea: Anyway, there's a train coming in about four hours, but I assume you might want to see a few other places in the mean time.
Edgeworth glances down at his stomach as it growls. "Er, um... I suppose one destination presents itself. I was on my way home to prepare supper for myself when... er, when I lost consciousness."
Althea nods. "There are certainly a number of places to get a meal. There's a Ghallanda establishment not far from the station, and there are gnomish restaurants all over."
Althea: Any preference? It's largely a question of whether you'd rather sample the local cuisine or have access to a more global menu.
Edgeworth taps his temple and grins. "I've traveled much of my own world, and have found there to be truth to the assertions that a country's cuisine is best sampled within its own borders. It would be a pity to waste an opportunity that ideally won't come again."
Edgeworth: It seems rather unlikely that the question of how I'm here at all will be answered quickly, after all.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head.
Edgeworth: Ergo, I should have sufficient time and opportunity to sample other sorts of food at a later date.
Althea nods. "I know a good place out near the library district, if you don't mind the backtracking."
Edgeworth grins. "Not at all."
Edgeworth makes a sweeping bow. "Please continue to lead the way."
The pair of them make their away back through the city quietly. Once they're most of the way back to the library district, however, Edgeworth notices a mechanical humanoid-shaped creature that looks like it's primarily made of metal across the street from them.
Edgeworth's eyes pop wide as he audibly chokes back any especially undignified reactions.
Edgeworth: What the hell?! Just as the fantasy theme appeared to have grown entirely consistent, I notice what appears at first glance to be a robot?!
Althea doesn't seem to take much notice.
Edgeworth: Um... excuse me, but what, er, precisely is that?
Edgeworth points across the street at the 'robot'.
Althea: Huh? Oh, that's a warforged.
Edgeworth: I beg your pardon?
Althea: They're constructs originally created by House Cannith as soldiers during the Last War. The Treaty of Thronehold recognizes them as free sentients, so most of them integrate into society as best they can now...
Edgeworth continues to stare as they pass, by now looking over his shoulder to do so and appearing mildly awed. "I see... Though we fancy making similar beings, several obstacles stand in the way."
Edgeworth: Not the least of which is that we haven't devised any way to simulate sapient intelligence via the computers I mentioned earlier.
Althea: Don't know that I could advise it, really. Purpose-made soldiers don't necessarily fit a world without war very well...
Althea: It's a bit too easy in times of war to overlook the needs of any other time.
Edgeworth turns his head to look back down at Althea again. "'The old samurai, too, struggled for a sense of purpose in times of peace. Being built for the role changed less than you presume.'"
Althea shrugs, oblivious to the reference. "Perhaps. Did these 'samurai' have anyone equivalent to the Lord of Blades, though, I wonder...?"
Edgeworth: If you could explain this "Lord of Blades"?
Althea: He's a warforged, and leader of a warforged sort-of religion or cult, also by the same name. Disaffected warforged who feel abandoned by their creators have gathered around him. They generally seek to destroy or enslave all other races...
Althea: Fortunately, you're not too likely to run into his followers outside the Mournland.
Edgeworth: Er, no. That sounds more akin to what one might hear in the more pessimistic sorts of speculative fiction.
Althea: Of course, I can very well appreciate needing to set aside a purpose that's been handed to you and seek out a contrary calling... and I have a lot of respect for those who can integrate well given such origins...
Althea: But it really seems... kind of beyond unfair to give someone one and only one 'proper' purpose, when that purpose itself can become obsolete...
Edgeworth looks to the ground ahead of him. "Or, for that matter, if that purpose is inappropriate to begin with."
Althea: ...war pretty much feeds itself; either everyone stops or no one can stop... Unless of course the goal simply is to wipe some group out, and you actually succeed...
Edgeworth: To say nothing of the fact that it can reduce people to either monsters or traumatized shells of their former selves.
Althea: ...just that, for all the unmitigated costs, once you're caught up in it all, it certainly seems like there's not all that much of a choice...
Althea: Peace is very much a collective obligation; just about everyone needs to value it or no one will end up having it...
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "I count myself fortunate for never having to directly deal with situations of such a scale."
Edgeworth: Perhaps she hasn't been so fortunate herself...
The two continue their journey to the restaurant Althea chose in awkward silence. Upon their arrival, they find the crowds relatively thin, given that it's too late for lunch but too early for supper. The majority of the tables here are round, gnome-sized ones on raised stages, though some human-sized ones line the middle of the dining area. Most of the wait staff is gnomish, though one elf stands out.
Edgeworth looks between the different sizes of table in mild confusion. In a whisper, he asks, "Er, what's the etiquette in a situation such as ours? There aren't any diminutive humanoid species in my world."
Althea: Technically it'd be my call, but I don't really care that much, so whatever you're more comfortable with.
Edgeworth bows. "Then I'll yield to your own dignity, ma'am." He them makes his way up to one of the stages.
Althea nods and follows Edgeworth.
Edgeworth kneels down at one of the small tables and pulls out a chair for Althea without skipping a beat.
Althea: They should have some seating mats available...
Edgeworth looks over to a set of mats hanging from the wall. "Ah, is that what those are for? They're rather exquisitely patterned."
Althea: Mm, those are from the Talenta Plains.
Althea sits in the proffered chair.
Edgeworth slides the chair in, then stands to fetch a mat for himself.
Edgeworth: What else can you tell me about these "Talenta Plains"?
Edgeworth pulls a chair out from the place across from Althea, sets it aside, slides the mat into its place, and seats himself atop said mat.
Althea: It's the center of halfling culture, at least for those halflings who can be said to have their own culture.
Edgeworth nods and begins to reach for a menu — only to stop halfway and frown as he remembers he'd be unable to read it.
Althea: It's populated by various nomadic tribes, though they've become more united as a consequence of being dragged into the war.
Edgeworth: I see.
Althea: Mostly they try to stay out of the affairs of the Five Nations. They live off the land, they don't bother with things they don't need to survive or maintain their way of life.
Edgeworth: As is typical of nomads.
Althea: Most halflings you'll find in cities don't have any real connection to the tribes or their culture.
Althea: The tribes largely hunt and herd cattle. They also believe in a spiritual connection with both the spirits of their ancestors, and with their mounts.
Edgeworth crosses his arms and taps his finger. This seems to be par for the course thus far...
Althea: They have something of an interesting reputation in part due to the unique relationship with a fairly unique mount.
Edgeworth raises an eyebrow. "Of what sort?"
Althea: For the most part, Talenta dinosaurs haven't proven to make good tamed mounts, so the tribes are primarily the only ones to make any effective use of them.
Edgeworth: I — wait, what?!
Edgeworth recoils, accidentally bumping the table from underneath with his knees in the process.
Althea: ...let me guess, another thing that supposedly doesn't exist yet you miraculously have a word for it anyway?
Waiter looks over at the noise and chuckles a bit at the face of Althea's apparent guest.
Edgeworth: Er, no. Rather, they were long extinct by the time humans came to exist. We only know of them through fossilized remains...
Althea: Well, both dinosaurs and halflings were around here before humans, but both still thrive in the plains, I assure you.
Edgeworth looks awkward. "It's, er... a rather bizarre mental image to picture them serving as mounts for humanoids regardless..."
Waiter: Heh, taunting your new Sarlonan friend, Althea?
Waiter has approached the table by now.
Althea shrugs. "As I noted, they don't serve well as mounts for most needs. Even the ones House Vadalis tried taming have only been any use to a handful of adventurers."
Althea: Not exactly, Rimmiyacha. Bit of a long story.
Rimmiyacha: Oh really? There's always time for those...
Rimmiyacha leans in a bit closer to the table.
Althea: Perhaps later, once I've finished working it all out.
Rimmiyacha: Oh, come on, a good cliffhanger's always fun!
Althea: Yeah, but in this case I haven't yet worked out the beginning.
Edgeworth blinks, looking between Althea and Rimmiyacha.
Rimmiyacha: In media res, is it?
Althea: Very much so.
Rimmiyacha: I don't suppose it's worth a discount on feeding a human appetite to you, is it?
Althea: Seems our friend has taken an interest in your story.
Edgeworth frowns. "Shouldn't he be concentrating on his work?"
Althea: Zil culture has its own priorities. I'm not sure precisely how much I can advise you, but he has offered some compensation if you're interested in sharing.
Edgeworth recrosses his arms. "Of what sort?"
Althea: Discounting your meal. I've got you covered so you don't need to feel obligated.
Edgeworth uncrosses his arms and puts a finger to his temple. Is it worth allowing rumors to circulate?
Edgeworth: What do you suppose are the chances that our visit to the Archival Foundation has already spurred the rumor mill?
Althea: I'd say about 97.2%. Plus or minus three.
Edgeworth spreads his arms and shrugs. "Heh... then I suppose we have nothing to lose."
Rimmiyacha paces a bit.
Althea: He's still getting used to Zilargo, I kinda figured I owe it to him to run it by him at the least. Seems you're in luck, anyway.
Rimmiyacha: Well, then! I think I might have discounted your meal either way, so you are too!
Althea: So, you want me to translate for you, or just cover this myself? I'd imagine the former might make things easier in terms of trying to learn a language.
Edgeworth responds with a near-smile. "Indeed, the former would be most appreciated."
Althea: You've been hearing us in Gnomish so far, but perhaps we should switch to Common?
Edgeworth: If that would be no hardship on him, it would be most appreciated.
Althea: If you don't mind, let's switch to Common for his benefit; he's trying to learn it.
Rimmiyacha: Sure thing!
Althea: Might as well start with as much of a beginning as we have, even if that's more about unknowns than anything...
Edgeworth: Very well. Apparently, my home world of Earth lies beyond the known boundaries of existence, or so Althea claims. Certainly, reality as she describes it bears no resemblance to anything I'm familiar with.
Althea repeats Edgeworth's statements, taking care to keep sentences in order and to keep rephrasing to the absolute minimum required to avoid being overly literal or confusing.
Rimmiyacha: That's a pretty fantastic tale...
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "Admittedly, I was rather skeptical myself. If not for the consistency of my experience thus far and the fact that each of us knows several languages the other can't so much as identify the origins of, I wouldn't so much as consider the possibility."
Rimmiyacha: So if that's the case, how did you get so far from home?
Edgeworth looks grim. "That, unfortunately, is a question for which we have no answer. All I know is that I awoke at the mouth of an alley after having been unconscious for half an hour."
Edgeworth: I attempted to ask for help, but Althea was the only one who demonstrated any ability to understand me...
Edgeworth frowns. "...attributing that capability to using 'psionics' to 'borrow my knowledge'. This eventually led to us arguing past each other based on reality as each of us understood it."
Rimmiyacha hmms and nods...
Edgeworth: I might perhaps have been abandoned to my fate if my situation hadn't grown stranger still. I still don't entirely understand what happened; it's outside my experience, though apparently not outside Althea's.
Rimmiyacha: Oh yeah? It must have been pretty big!
Edgeworth rubs his forehead in frustration. "In a moment of resolve, a faint... sensation passed through me and caused a dim flash of light. She insisted it was 'divine magic', despite my insistence that I lack any religious convictions."
Rimmiyacha looks skeptical...
Rimmiyacha: I don't know, this tale's getting pretty tall...
Althea points to herself before adding: "It does seem as though he has some potential as a cleric, despite all the reasons that would seem unlikely. I witnessed him spontaneously botch a turn attempt."
Althea repeats herself in English while still pointing.
Rimmiyacha: If you were so sure, I'm guessing you brought him to that Archival Foundation you like so much, right?
Edgeworth nods as well after Althea repeats Rimmiyacha's question. "Indeed she did. There, she introduced me to a gaunt, pointy-eared man who tricked me into repeating my earlier deed..." He balls his fists and glares. "...by claiming I could rid myself of this apparent power by abandoning my convictions."
Rimmiyacha: Which obviously just made you angry.
Althea: Cleric of the Traveler, that's the kind of approach he tends to find most suited.
Rimmiyacha: Hmph. Leave it to them, I guess...
Edgeworth: That this led to a second so-called "botched turn attempt" seemed to serve as evidence that their claims that my secular beliefs are somehow "religious" enough to allow this to happen had merit — yet this runs entirely counter to the division as I understand it.
Edgeworth looks away and grips his arm. "I need to be sure that I haven't found myself in a world where belief in rational truth is itself irrational, hence why I've asked Althea to show me around."
Rimmiyacha scratches his head... "Now this has turned from unbelievable to just confusing..."
Althea shrugs a bit. "I gather it's something along the lines of only just having considered the possibility his own values and convictions might be no less a matter of blind faith than any religious conviction could be..."
Althea holds off on repeating that one for Edgeworth just yet.
Rimmiyacha: But that's kind of a paradox, isn't it?
Althea: Yeah, I just don't get the sense he was ready to see such basic things as... let's see, how did he put it... "justice, the truth on which justice depends, and the rationality that allows us to uncover the truth" as anything less than an inherent given of existence...
Althea: I think he's coping with that in part by thinking that maybe, it's just not an inherent given here.
Althea sighs. "Mind, there's an undercurrent there that suggests maybe he thinks the only way something can be a religious conviction is if it's wrong..."
Edgeworth has yet to 'unwrap' himself, still glowering away from Althea and the waiter.
Rimmiyacha scratches his head again...
Althea: I'm not sure if it's just his experiences or the differing situations where he's from, but he tends to have a dim view of religion generally. Talked about the religious in his world going to great lengths to deny reality when it went against their prejudices, with disastrous consequences.
Althea: Seems to view religion and science as diametrically opposed rather than having any possibility of being complementary...
Althea: You can understand why I'd think the Foundation might be the only ones to help sort him out...
Rimmiyacha frowns... "It sounds like something's gonna give otherwise."
Althea looks over toward Edgeworth, hesitates a moment, then starts catching up on translation, pointing to indicate the speaker.
Edgeworth looks halfway over as the translation resumes, gritting his teeth at times early in the continuation. While the later parts don't appear to hurt as much, his grip on his elbow is still tighter by the end, and he looks back away, trembling just slightly.
Edgeworth: ...You have the right of it. I fail to see how this does anything but prove my inability to be objective.
Edgeworth: It's one thing to be wrong, and quite another to be incapable of being right save by sheer accident.
Althea: I certainly don't know of any way to prove that proof itself exists, or even that existence itself isn't some kind of elaborate ruse of pretending to be consistent just to misdirect us or somesuch...
Althea: But I can offer this thought...
Althea: The fact that you believe in something does nothing to diminish any reality it may have.
Althea: Divine magic is a phenomenon of this world. It accrues to believers. That's just a fact of this reality, as far as we know it. It may or may not have any bearing on the underlying truth of those beliefs...
Althea: ...I happen to think it's healthy to consider the possibility that one may be wrong, even about the things one is most sure of, at least briefly. But for things so basic and unexaminable, to yield to such fears is useless.
Althea: Inevitably all one can do is set them aside and simply hope that reality cannot be quite that cruel.
Althea repeats Edgeworth's comments and her own in Common after a moment's pause.
Rimmiyacha appears all but lost at this point.
Edgeworth: Does the truth, then, lie not in religion as she put it before, but in faith itself?
Edgeworth can't help but smirk after a moment.
Edgeworth turns to look at Althea again, releasing his elbow in order to fully cross his arms again. "Althea d'Jorasco... for someone who's supposedly been borrowing my knowledge of the language, you've made quite a few errors or simply peculiar word choices, haven't you?"
Althea: ...as I noted, even such methods as these can have their flaws and limitations. Languages and their use are quite complex matters.
Edgeworth taps his finger. "It shouldn't have taken quite this long for it to become clear that 'religion' was far too specific for what you were attempting to refer to."
Althea: ...I did mention that I didn't think you were viewing that term as broadly as we were.
Althea keeps up the translation.
Edgeworth sighs and lifts one of his hands in order to rest his forehead in it. "While it's understandable that you would choose that word in the beginning if my linguistic knowledge were all that you had available, did it not occur to you to make sure words with less negative connotations might exist in my vocabulary once that concern grew clear?"
Althea: ...I'm not sure I follow.
Edgeworth: I mean, ma'am, that if your abilities are what you claim them to be, at some point you ought to have stopped attempting to explain the mechanics of divine magic in terms of "religion" and started doing so in the less specific and loaded terms of "faith"!
Althea: Hmmm.... I suppose that does seem like a somewhat more concise term, at least in some contexts...
Edgeworth: Are you prepared to present some form of evidence that would help to distinguish between deceit and mere incompetence?
Althea: ...are we really doing this again?
Edgeworth just taps a finger impatiently rather than dignifying that with an answer.
Althea: Setting aside whether your expectations otherwise are reasonable or warrant insults... why don't you learn to figure out that distinction yourself? If "truth" is such an area of significance for you, then you should develop abilities suitable for detecting or averting falsehoods.
Edgeworth: ...Why and how does that itself ring true?
Edgeworth: ...Very well. Clearly this... ability is something I need to learn to control anyway, lest I flash with light whenever my convictions and the desire to see something gone intersect.
Althea catches back up on translation before adding: "Definitely not a straightforward matter at all, but hopefully you found something worth your while in all that."
Rimmiyacha: The less straightforward information often is the most valuable later. As much of a feast as it's been, I'll do everything I can to lower the cost of your order — even if I owe the owner or the chef even more myself.
Althea nods. "We appreciate it."
Althea orders meals for both herself and Edgeworth. Between cooking and eating, the two of them spend an hour in the restaurant. Edgeworth finds that he has to savor gnomish cuisine to make out the spices and flavors in it. An hour after the conclusion of their "negotiation" for a bargain, the prosecutor and the scholar exit the restaurant, having paid only half price for their meal thanks to Rimmiyacha's willingness to repay them for the information.
Edgeworth seems somewhat ill at ease as he steps out.
Althea: You really shouldn't worry about it. You went to the trouble of telling most of that story yourself, anyway, and frankly, you might need the money.
Edgeworth: I'm well aware of the latter point, hence why I accepted the difference in my own meal at all.
Edgeworth shakes his head, then looks thoughtful. "If that was typical of Zil cuisine, it must be among the subtlest I've ever experienced."
Althea: That was a bit richer than what might best be called typical fare, but overall gnomish cuisine is subtle. They tend to have stronger senses of taste and smell than most races.
Edgeworth: Huh. Your friend said the, er, "maleko" was likewise stronger than was traditional, did he not?
Althea: Prestidigitation can be quite useful for providing subtle flavor.
Althea: Pretty much any aspiring gnomish chef is going to have to be able to at least cast that.
Edgeworth: I see...
Edgeworth: It's remarkably strange to think that enchanted water would become a part of everyday cuisine. If I hadn't been invited to sip the water first, I would never have believed it...
Edgeworth: Is there a reason why that's peculiar to gnomish cuisine in particular?
Althea: Gnomes tend to be particularly adept at that spell in particular; many of them learn it regardless of whether they seriously study magic otherwise.
Edgeworth: Anyway, where do you believe we ought to go next?
Althea: Well, it's going to be a while still before the next train comes... You up for another brief visit to the Foundation in the mean time?
Althea: Could at least get started on some of the basics.
Edgeworth takes a deep breath. "Indeed."
Before long, the two have crossed the quarter and descended the once-secret staircase into the small library and study room that serves as the Korranberg Archive's first level...
Althea: So, probably the most useful places to start would be either going over basic magical theory, or turning practice. The former is pretty much core to everything, but the latter would probably help you keep a lid on the power you've already shown.
Althea: So whichever you think is best worth prioritizing.
Edgeworth: You've described what I've already done as "turning" several times by now, but you've yet to explain what it is.
Althea: "Turning" refers to the channeling of energy, either positive or negative depending on the nature of the cleric. To be more precise, one could say channeling the energies inherent to the planes of Irian and Mabar...
Edgeworth can't contain a wince and an awkward glance away at the word 'channeling'.
Althea: The term derives from the phrase "turn undead" which refers to the most basic practice of using such positive energy: to drive away, destroy, or otherwise de-animate undead creatures.
Althea: In the case of those who use negative energy, it's more a matter of exerting direct control over undead, and may be referred to as "rebuking".
Althea: It would seem most likely that you channel positive energy, which would seem also to be in line with the nature of your 'faith'.
Edgeworth: Er... how so?
Althea: The light of Irian takes many forms. The "light of truth and knowledge" would I believe be among them.
Althea smirks slightly.
Edgeworth looks slightly less awkward at that and nods slowly.
Edgeworth: Many of the themes covered in her description remind me of...
Edgeworth: But I can't afford to shy away from this. From the moment this power began answering to me, hasn't it challenged me to face the implications of what was proven about the events on that mountain?
Edgeworth glares ahead. "Though I admit curiosity about basic theory, it would be in my best interests to learn to control what I already possess."
Althea: We should probably check in with Dil first, then.
Althea: Oh, actually, let me take care of something else first, it shouldn't take long.
Edgeworth half-frowns. "Very well..."
After disappearing off into the lower level for several minutes, Althea eventually returns carrying some sort of headgear, and heads over toward the table Dil is sitting at, waving at Edgeworth to follow.
Edgeworth examines the helmet, turning it over in his hands in various directions, as he makes his way over to the two.
Althea: A good meal, a little perspective, and a bit of debate over terminology seems to have settled our new friend here enough to explore his abilities a bit further. Would this be a good time to go over turning in a bit more depth?
Althea gestures for Edgeworth to put the helmet on.
Edgeworth does so with care, trying not to disturb his bangs in the process.
Dil looks up from his writing. "I'm almost done... I'd like the last minute or two I'll need first."
Althea: Of course.
Edgeworth: Why can I understand this simply from donning a helmet? Perhaps she was more prepared to present evidence than it seemed after all...
Althea turns to Edgeworth. "That helmet is permanently enchanted with two different spells, the first of which matches what Dil used earlier. Unfortunately, it does not leave the premises, but it should be of help while you're here."
Edgeworth looks down at Althea, wide-eyed with awe. "I... I see..."
Edgeworth: Er... I suppose that under the circumstances, I owe you an apology.
Edgeworth: The matter of circumvention of language barriers.
Althea: Well, I guess I managed to finally prove something at all, then. I was starting to wonder if I even could.
Edgeworth smiles smugly, shrugs, and shakes his head. "True dedication to the truth precludes an inability to be persuaded of it."
Althea: The other spell's usefulness we might not get to in this visit, but it will probably be helpful eventually; it will allow you to read magical writing, which includes scribed scrolls and prayers.
Edgeworth: Huh. Are such things normally unreadable?
Althea: Not precisely. Magical writing tends to be unique to the writer, and very complicated; deciphering it effectively without magical help requires a good deal of skill and effort.
Edgeworth: I wonder if it will grow necessary for me to pick up such skills if I remain here for long...
Dil sets his pen down, holds down the page he was writing on with one hand, and fans it with the other. "There."
Dil adds the page to the bottom of a stack, straightens the stack, and files them into a large manila envelope.
Althea nods to Dil. "Probably best to stick with Common, since he's working on picking that up first."
Dil stands, taking the envelope under his arm, and looks to Althea. "As you will, then."
Dil's gaze turns up to Edgeworth. "Please follow me. The third basement has an open area for things like this."
Edgeworth follows Dil to the staircase at the far side of the room.
Althea follows Edgeworth.
The next floor down is more closed in. Edgeworth only manages to take note of a hall that leads right, further into the floor, with occasional doors along it on their way from the staircase they just came down to the one beneath it.
The third basement seems constructed with an eye towards holding the other two up. While open, it's slightly smaller than the first basement, and arches and buttresses shape and define the room. The floors, walls, and ceiling are constructed of eerily continuous stone that's only just rough enough to allow for easy walking.
Edgeworth's gaze wanders the room with interest.
Dil: This is probably excessive for our purposes, but it is out of the way...
Edgeworth looks to Dil, coolly expectant.
Dil pulls a scroll out of a case hanging at his side, unrolls it, and recites the spell on it while gesturing with one hand. The words fade as he does so, and when it's blank, the scroll crumbles in a dim glow that also encompasses Dil.
Dil extends his hand to Edgeworth again.
Edgeworth: Strange; why was a scroll involved this time when it wasn't before?
Edgeworth touches Dil's hand. "If this is what I assume it to be, I notice the procedure was different this time."
Dil frowns in confusion. "Aren't there any scrolls where you're from?..."
Edgeworth: So it is... Not of this or any other magical sort.
Dil stares. "Where are you from?..."
Althea: We had a fair bit of discussion about this earlier. Apparently magic is more about superstition and trickery where he's from...
Althea: As to where exactly that is, so far there's not a whole lot of common knowledge to even base guessing around.
Edgeworth: Althea suggests that I'm from another "plane of existence". Certainly, this planet is not my own; I'm from one called Earth rather than Eberron.
Dil frowns in puzzlement at the word 'planet'.
Dil shakes his head. "If it's really that far behind magically, then I'll need to start with the basics..."
Dil: Normally, the energy for spells or a connection to it is stored in the mind or soul of a spellcaster, though the exact details vary a lot depending on what kind of spellcasting you know.
Edgeworth frowns at the word 'soul', but doesn't interrupt.
Dil: I'm trained as both a cleric and an archivist, but both of those traditions require preparing specific spells in advance — just in different ways.
Edgeworth raises his finger to his temple. "In other words, one can't simply wave one's hands and recite a spell and expect results from that alone."
Dil smiles. "Right. A magical scroll has more than just the instructions for either an arcane or a divine version of a spell — it stores the energy you need to cast it, too."
Dil: But it's draining to scribe them, and the right materials for them are costly.
Edgeworth taps his temple and grins. "Thus, if I understand correctly, you weren't prepared to cast the spell you used before again unaided, hence the need to use an alternative method?"
Dil smiles a bit wider. "That's right. You catch on fast when you're not fighting."
Edgeworth glares at Dil.
Dil only frowns in response to the steel glare. "But we're off-topic, aren't we? This will only last for a few minutes."
Edgeworth huffs and crosses his arms. "Indeed; I wish to gain control of my apparent ability to, er, 'turn'."
Dil nods. "You'll need your holy symbol for that."
Edgeworth: OBJECTION! It isn't a —
Edgeworth groans in frustration, rubbing the bridge of his nose with one hand while fishing through his pants pocket with the other. "Never mind..."
Althea: It is a symbol of your faith, whatever else it may also be.
Edgeworth takes out his badge. "More properly, it's a symbol of the job I find to be most rewarding and suited to my talents, which one can only pursue in a healthy manner with such beliefs."
Dil: Well, that makes it easy, doesn't it?
Edgeworth: I beg your pardon?
Dil: You already express your talents and your beliefs through your job, right? This is just a more symbolic way to do it.
Edgeworth peers at Dil dubiously.
Althea: Symbolism tends to be a core part of divine magic.
Dil: Exactly. A lot of the Archival Foundation's work involves deciphering what little formula there is to it and how to help individuals build symbolism on top of it.
Dil grins. "You seem like you'd be more comfortable as an arcanist, but you believe in the kinds of things it calls for so much that you've received these gifts instead. Funny, isn't it?"
Edgeworth looks at Dil disapprovingly. There are certainly ways in which this does remind me of a cruel joke...
Althea: A form of humor perhaps you and I can appreciate more readily than he...
Althea: Still, nothing precludes you from following other paths simply because you have some talent here.
Dil: Some people learn to nearly master both, but it calls for a single-minded dedication to magic.
Edgeworth: I'd rather not leave more mundane solutions to problems by the wayside, particularly given the limitations you described earlier.
Dil smirks. "So why aren't you trying what you came for yet?"
Edgeworth looks down at the badge in his open palm. Perhaps I should review what I already know. On the two occasions that I 'turned', as they put it, I was both resolute in my basic convictions and thinking of banishing something. Althea claims that the process involves... channeling a force she calls 'positive energy', which she associates with light in every sense, and I did have the sensation of something passing through me for a brief instant prior to each flash.
Edgeworth: Apparently physical symbols, assumed to be holy by most here, are used to focus such efforts, and the typical use of this particular technique is to drive off...
Edgeworth shifts awkwardly.
Edgeworth shakes his head. Nevertheless, one would assume it to be suited to driving something away if that particular thought is one of the keys. Conviction clearly is another. Their arguments and my observations, when taken as a whole, seem to suggest that I somehow attract this 'positive energy', which must flow through me to my badge and out from there to manifest properly.
Edgeworth: Dil suggests, and Althea agrees, that my badge's very status as a symbol is important — that indeed, symbolic associations are something I should expect to need to work with heavily as I continue down this path. More specifically, supposedly I must draw a parallel between the act of turning and the way my job, my strengths, and my... faith interrelate.
Edgeworth hesitates for a long moment, then raises the hand his badge is cradled in. ...Every error, every paradox, and each and every lie must be burnt away. Court is a vehicle through which this can happen, and my place is as part of a courtroom. And yet, only so long as I dedicate myself to the just, the true, and the rational do I have a right to be there.
Edgeworth: Through reason, the truth grows clear. Through truth, justice becomes possible. Through justice, we drive away barbarism!
Edgeworth gleams a pale blue for a split-second before light of the same color radiates from his pin to fill the room. It's not entirely even; 'clouds' of white or pastel blue briefly fade in and out of existence at seemingly random locations during the few seconds in which the light persists.
Edgeworth staggers as the energy fades, barely closing his hand in time to not drop his badge as his arm falls.
Althea nods slightly. "You may find that making such attempts becomes somewhat more taxing as you continue; you're only going to be able to manage so many times without rest, though it's difficult to know just how many at this point."
Dil: Limits can be pushed if they have to be, though.
Althea: Not that I'd recommend it just for practice.
Edgeworth has regained his balance by now, and is wearing a smirk that's a mix of satisfied and uneasy. "Understood."
Edgeworth: Concerning that, there's no time like the present to learn.
Edgeworth raises his pin again. He closes his eyes for several seconds, then they snap open to reveal a steely glare ahead as the room is filled with pale blue light and ethereal 'clouds' once more.
Edgeworth stays firm even as the light fades this time, though takes a deep breath afterward.
Althea raises an eyebrow.
Edgeworth: I believe it best to understand my limits immediately.
Dil shrugs again. "The way you've talked, I guess that's understandable. Most of us feel like we'd be exploiting our gods by just using what we've been given for no reason, but if you don't think there's anything to exploit... heh."
Althea: On the contrary, I'd think discovery is every bit sufficient justification for his faith.
Edgeworth smirks. "Quite."
Edgeworth closes his eyes once more. It takes a bit longer, and he furrows his brow shortly before it happens, but the blue-tinged positive energy does erupt from his badge once more. This time, however, he raises his free hand to his heart and pants with exertion when the light passes, and there are a few beads of sweat on his forehead.
Edgeworth: I can't help but be reminded of what an error felt like that time...
Dil: So are you done?
Edgeworth: I'm... not sure. I'm unused to sensations such as these...
Edgeworth takes a moment to catch his breath and let his heartbeat slow, then closes his eyes again...
Edgeworth is breathing hard with a furrowed brow and gritted teeth by the time this particular turning begins. It flickers out a second sooner than the last few, at which point the prosecutor collapses to his hands and knees with a weak grunt, inadvertently letting his badge clatter to the floor in the process.
Edgeworth: Nngh... I... shouldn't... h-have... d-done that.
Edgeworth: Not only was the previous sensation magnified, but I have the strangest sense of painful awareness of my prior indiscretions...
Althea: Mm, I suspect you may have pushed yourself a bit far. It'll take more than rest to make up for something like that...
Dil kneels down with a concerned look.
Edgeworth nods weakly, then looks around for his pin.
Edgeworth spots it and picks it up. He repockets it while rising unsteadily to his feet.
Althea: I think it's safe to say we're done with that aspect of exploring your abilities for today.
Edgeworth pulls out a handkerchief to pat down his face. "Verily."
Edgeworth: Is... there anywhere I could go to relax with a cup of tea?
Althea: There's a break lounge just up from here.
Dil: I'll leave this to you. This spell's going to wear off any minute now...
Dil smiles humbly. "I'll be going to look for the materials for replacing it." He then waves and heads for the stairs up.
Edgeworth looks to Althea. "Lead the way."
Althea nods and heads for the stairs.
Edgeworth keeps pace, the physical signs of his distress having largely passed.
The break room is at the far end of the long hall that divides the second basement in two, on the left. It stands out for having a sign that states in both Common and Gnomish that books, scrolls, and other paper items are not allowed. Within, a counter that spans two walls features a number of ceramic cups, marked tins, a sink, a tea set, an old-fashioned coffee pot, and a runed kettle. In the room's center are tables and chairs.
Althea drops her backpack under a table and heads to the counter.
Edgeworth raises an eyebrow at the kettle as he seats himself at the same table. Is that mere decoration, or are even such everyday things accomplished by different means here?
Althea: So, what kind of tea are you looking for? Under the circumstances, I don't think I'd recommend something strong.
Edgeworth: Certainly not. I would request green tea if I were certain that it even exists here.
Edgeworth: Under the circumstances, however, the best course of action to come to mind is to allow me to smell a few of your recommendations.
Althea gathers up a few tins of weaker teas and a couple of herbal teas, and places them on the table.
Edgeworth carefully uncaps and slowly sniffs at each, pausing several seconds in between each sample, then lapses into consideration...
Edgeworth: I suppose the specific plant I'm used to either doesn't exist here or has never been used for tea. A pity...
Edgeworth picks up a centrally-located tin. "This one appeals the most for this purpose."
Althea nods and picks up each of the remaining tins.
Edgeworth stares at the table while Althea does this. Matters seem to have taken a more unpleasant turn. First I overextend myself in alien ways such that my sins begin to ache, and now I learn that tea as I know it may be unavailable in this place...
After returning the tins to their places on the counter, Althea puts enough water for two full cups into the kettle. At the end, she places a hand briefly on the kettle surface while uttering an unfamiliar word.
Edgeworth glances up at the water-filling, and "hmm"s softly at the kettle's activation.
Althea carries the tea set over to the table.
Edgeworth nods in appreciation, though there's still a twinge of melancholy in his eyes.
Althea: Nothing suitable for late-night cramming, but definitely one of the better varieties commonly available here.
Edgeworth manages a satisfied smirk at that, then removes the lid again and spoons a moderate amount of leaves into one of the teacups before passing the tin to Althea.
Althea spoons out a similar portion before replacing the lid.
Althea: So, I take it you have a better feel for your limits now?
Althea: It's commonly believed that overreaching like that offends one's god... Presumably you have some appreciation for how such a belief could come about?
Edgeworth shifts uncomfortably. "Indeed. It's as though that last attempt wore through me sufficiently to..."
Edgeworth glances away.
Althea: ...I would imagine that, as someone who professes no belief in a god, your own impressions of the experience might well be of much interest to a great many Foundation members.
Edgeworth closes his eyes briefly before looking more resolute. "Point taken. It felt as though my second-to-last attempt was vaguely painful in a way similar to the emotional sort. As for the last, it felt far more like that, and additionally felt as though it had breached some barrier between it and my memories."
Edgeworth shakes his head. "Not all of which were compatible with its nature."
Althea blinks. "...you 'turned' your own memories...?"
Althea sounds both fascinated and concerned.
Edgeworth: Those so affected didn't flee or fade; on the contrary, they're more apparent due to... what I can only think to describe as them being in pain.
Althea: ...I suppose so long as they were 'true' it wouldn't do to destroy or hide them, certainly...
Edgeworth glances away again, looking somewhat ashamed despite himself. "Indeed not."
Althea nods to herself after a moment.
Althea: At any rate, rest will help with most of it, but pushing your limits like that is an act not as readily repeated.
Althea: I'm a little surprised you'd mustered the effort for it this early in your endeavors...
Edgeworth smirks. "This isn't the first time I've gone beyond the assumed limits of possibility."
Althea stands and heads to the counter to retrieve the kettle.
Edgeworth: That being said, I'm far from eager to repeat that experience. At least it should be apparent when to stop.
The two soon drink the mild tea Edgeworth picked out without incident. While the relative unfamiliarity of the flavor to Edgeworth somewhat undercuts its use in calming him down, he still finds it soothing and enjoyable enough not to have been a waste of time. Edgeworth finds himself needing several minutes to himself before he's haunted little enough by his own past to feel comfortable continuing to make sense of his situation, however. By the time he seeks out Althea again, it's early evening...
Edgeworth walks up the steps to the first basement only to find that instead of people being scattered around absorbed in work or study, there's over a dozen people crowded into a quarter of the room.
Althea: ...said it felt as though a barrier between the light he was channeling and his memories had been breached.
"His memories?" "Fascinating." "Why?" "I'm not sure I understand..."
Edgeworth grits his teeth. I can't say that I wasn't aware this was coming.
Althea: If I had to guess— ah, here he is now. I think we'll have to pick this up another time.
"What, really?!" "Awww..." "There he is! He's a human, right?"
Edgeworth crosses his arms and looks to Althea with suspicion. "Is there any particular reason why my presence here would warrant suspension of testimony?"
Althea: You mean aside from the fact that we'll miss the train coming in if we don't leave soon?
Edgeworth taps a finger on his arm. "Yes — if that were the primary concern, you would have come to find me."
Althea: Okay, how about feeling it slightly more polite to not engage in group mass speculation about the nature of your recent experiences in front of you, at least before you've had a chance to fully contemplate it yourself?
Althea: But if you want, I can probably keep going for another ten minutes without hurting our schedule.
Much of Althea's audience has meanwhile started staring at Edgeworth instead. "Wow, I don't recognize that language either..." "He sure seems pompous enough to be a cleric —" "Hey!" "Nothing magical on him except our helm, all right..." "The 'atheist cleric', huh... wow."
Edgeworth removes the helmet and sets it on a nearby table, then rubs his forehead. "This is a larger degree of attention than I'm comfortable with dealing with quite this directly."
Edgeworth: Perhaps leaving for the time being is for the best after all.
Althea shrugs. "Up to you."
Edgeworth storms to the door out, waving off anyone who gets too near as he does so.
Althea shakes her head and follows Edgeworth out.
Edgeworth starts in the direction of the open-air market they passed through before on the way to the train station, though not so quickly as to prevent the smaller Althea from correcting their course.
Edgeworth: I hadn't counted on my possession of this power attracting quite this much attention. If I'm to come to a full understanding, however, I suppose I'll have to learn to live with that as well...
Edgeworth: It hadn't been my intention to be disruptive.
Althea: Of course not. That was why you didn't shout 'objection', was it not?
Edgeworth eyes Althea. "Nothing particularly wrong was said that could be objected to, but you are still partially correct in that I would have shouted had I been aiming to interrupt."
Althea shrugs. "Cultural assimilation doesn't exactly happen overnight, and I only have one member to observe as it is; it will doubtless take me a while to properly understand the ways of your people."
Edgeworth: I'm well aware, having spent significant time abroad in my own world. I must say that this is the first time I've encountered a culture in which both secret police and a thirst and respect for knowledge are present, however.
Edgeworth: Typically in Earth's history, if the former comes to exist in any given country, it's due in large part to the government finding the latter to be threatening.
Althea: While there may be little that can be done about the matter under the circumstances either way, I suppose I may as well ask. Have I wronged or harmed you socially by placing you in my debt?
Edgeworth hesitates. "You have not. However, I can't say it's an entirely comfortable position to be in from a personal standpoint."
Althea nods. "Is a certain level of hostility and suspicion part of a social ritual to balance that out, and would it be of any assistance were I to reciprocate?"
Edgeworth: I-I beg your pardon?!
Althea: I apologize for being blunt about what seems like probably a difficult subject, but I'm not having the best of luck second-guessing these kinds of things with you...
Edgeworth rubs his temple in irritation. "With all due respect, ma'am, I've found myself in an alien world, suddenly possessed of powers I've never so much as conceived of before, where not just life but physics apparently break from the norms I'm used to, and this is only what's grown clear in several hours' time."
Edgeworth: Furthermore, I do my job and live my life based on being able to count on certain basic norms. I lack the frame of reference necessary to even begin to pursue the rather different truth here, and I rather fear that I lack the tools as well.
Edgeworth glares at Althea.
Edgeworth: I can still scarcely believe what's happening at all! Is it so strange to be outraged when one's life is upended?!
Althea: If I have given the impression that I do not comprehend the enormity of the difficulties that your situation presents you, I apologize. I had gotten the sense that overt displays of sympathy might make you even more uncomfortable. I'm neither asking for nor expecting you to set aside your frustrations nor meet some unfamiliar cultural expectation.
Althea: However, thus far, despite the obvious fact that I may be the only one available here who can provide a level of assistance your situation clearly requires, I can find few other ways to interpret your reactions to me than that such assistance is deeply unwelcome or problematic, to the point you fervently wish to reject it, should but such an option become realistic.
Althea: Even if I could in good conscience abandon you to your circumstances, I think that would do either of us little good. I may be far more in my element than you are, at this moment, but I'm not that much better equipped to sort out our differences. Clearly, I'm not meeting some need of yours, and I don't know what it is you expect from me.
Edgeworth: As far as meeting my needs, my lack of a frame of reference for this world seems to have made it more difficult to present evidence that I can easily accept as such than you seem to be able to appreciate.
Edgeworth looks away before adding bitterly, "Beyond that... it is enough to say that not everyone who has assisted me in the past has done so out of the kindness of their hearts."
Althea: If anything, it may be less difficult than what I had come to expect; it was only recently established that I can do so at all.
Althea: As for the latter, I'm not Zil, I won't demand such favors be repaid... unless you would prefer me to, anyway.
Althea: My own reasons to be involved are myriad, and not all are matters I'm comfortable discussing in present circumstances.
Althea: First and foremost, though, one could say that I am troubled when I see someone subject to an injustice, even if it's brought about by no apparent will but a mere cruelty of circumstance...
Edgeworth: How my appearance here could possibly be an accident is a question that comes to mind, but I'd best not derail the topic for the moment.
Althea: Additionally, whether you hail from an unknown part of the Material Plane, some unknown other plane, or even somewhere so far outside the bounds of how we understand existence that it is not even part of any plane as we understand the term, you do represent a glimpse at the otherwise unknowable, a glaring hole in our knowledge and understanding of the possibilities of existence.
Edgeworth nods slowly at that.
Althea: It may be somewhat selfish, but I do wish to know things that perhaps only you can elucidate. Then again, perhaps a selfish motive would be of more comfort.
Edgeworth glances aside with a frown. "I've been nominally 'helped' for far more selfish reasons than that."
Edgeworth: If I really can fear nothing worse from you, I'll be content once I feel confident that it's the truth.
Althea: I can suggest little more than time for that, myself.
Edgeworth opens his mouth to speak, then looks puzzled for a moment.
Edgeworth: Why am I suddenly reminded of her earlier statement concerning what abilities ought to be within my reach?
Edgeworth shakes his head and hmphs. Don't allow yourself such flights of fancy, Miles!
Edgeworth: I, er, suppose you have a point.
The lightning rail station is much busier at this point in time. Instead of the earlier human dominance, there's a wide variety of races here, leaning towards gnomes but not as strongly as Korranberg generally does.
Edgeworth looks to Althea. "I presume that the research you came here for to begin with is not yet complete."
Althea: No. In fact, I'll have to check in with some of my colleagues at some point, though I'm somewhat known for getting sidetracked by various things, so the day's absence will be no matter of more than minor consternation.
Edgeworth: Heh... I do wonder where I'll sleep for the night, however. I have my doubts that mere pocket change will cover lodging.
Althea: Not unless you're willing to sleep on the floor, certainly.
Edgeworth recoils. "Most certainly not!"
Althea: My own arrangements for accommodations are unfortunately not easily shared.
Althea: There's simply nothing for it, then; I'll have to burden you further with my altruism. A few nights at an inn is no strain on my finances, anyway.
Althea: I'd imagine you'll be wanting a change of clothes as well, for that matter.
Edgeworth makes a sweeping bow. "Indeed. I hope that what you learn proves to be worth the investment."
Althea chuckles slightly. "Though I do have to wonder what would be made of my trying to sneak you into my dormitory room."
Edgeworth only looks confused.
Althea shakes her head. "Nevermind."
Althea looks critically at Edgeworth's attire. "Mind, it might take a bit of time, and some expense, to reproduce such an elaborate... outfit."
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "It's rather expensive in my own world as well, so I would expect no less."
Althea rubs her forehead slightly with two fingers. "Yes, of course. At least it's only mundane materials..."
Edgeworth: She must have an unusual definition of "mundane", not that I'm entirely surprised in this context.
There's a slight shift in the crowd's positioning and demeanor, including a few excited cries by children.
Althea: Looks like it's time.
Edgeworth looks up and over to the track...
Sure enough, a very train-like vehicle flies along the track at a speed reminiscent of a car at city speeds, only to slow to a stop as it pulls into the station. Notable differences include the semicircle of lightning that arcs over the top half of the apparent engine and the smaller conductor-stone-like inverted pyramids on the bottom of the hovering vehicle. When the lightning rail finally halts, the rhythmic snapping of lightning arcs jumping from stone to stone gives way to a cracking hum. Where a whistle might have been expected, the arc above the train emits a loud, melodic buzz.
Edgeworth stares in rather obvious shock.
Althea turns to Edgeworth once passengers start to disembark from the train. "It certainly is something to behold."
Edgeworth: I'm not sure whether I'm more stunned by the differences or the similarities...
Edgeworth takes a breath, regathering his composure. "While we've found means by which to harness electricity, it's nothing like this."
Althea: So I gathered. Indeed, it's not exactly trivial harnessing it like this; I noted the reasons for a natural House monopoly here.
Edgeworth nods. "That you did."
Althea: Not to mention Zilargo's about the only place you're liable to find anyone who can bind elementals in the first place.
Althea: I am of course curious about the methods used in your world, but questions like that can wait until you've acclimated.
Edgeworth puts a finger to his temple. "This 'binding' is accomplished with... Khyber dragonshards, I believe you called them?"
Althea nods. "Hence the rather significant interest in finding ready supplies."
Edgeworth grins. "I look forward to the moment when I get to have the full experience."
Edgeworth: While they still exist, trains have been largely displaced by personal vehicles where I'm from.
Althea: Oh? It sounds like you come from quite the affluent society overall.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head. "A car is a major purchase, but as our engines don't rely on specific rare components to be built in the first place, they're still relatively common."
Althea nods. "Fair enough. Lack of scarcity does drive down the value of even those things once considered decadent."
Edgeworth: The primary limiting factor lies in maintenance, primarily refueling. They must be regularly "fed", in a sense.
Edgeworth: That sense is more akin to maintaining a supply of wood for a fire than feeding a horse, however.
Althea nods. "I would presume they also represent some amount of storage burden, and need to be looked after in other ways..."
Edgeworth nods. "Indeed. They prove particularly difficult to store in older cities that date to before their invention."
Althea: More personal forms of transport do exist here, beyond mounts, but I would venture to guess that purely mechanical solutions could not easily be as compact as some of the options here.
Edgeworth: Attempts exist, but they come with significant safety tradeoffs and thus aren't favored by most.
Althea nods. "It's mostly adventurers who are likely to favor such things. I actually have a flying broom myself, though that's not really much for comfort. Having some way of flying is kind of important back in Sharn, at any rate."
Edgeworth peers at Althea, then rubs his forehead. Next she'll be saying that there are flying carpets as well, or pegasi perhaps.
Althea shrugs. "It's not that difficult once you get the hang of it. ...even if that did take rather a while..."
Althea: It's actually pretty handy having something that general, anyway; an item that relied on the connection to Syrania wouldn't do me much good outside Sharn.
Althea: There are of course other options, but most people rely on the skycoaches to fly around Sharn.
Edgeworth: Er, is flight such a commonplace thing there?
Althea: Oh, quite; the entire city is manifest to Syrania.
Edgeworth stares blankly at Althea.
Althea: ...right, we still haven't really covered all that much basic planar cosmology yet...
Althea: Firstly, at the most basic level... I mentioned that there are a number of other planes of existence that orbit the Material Plane within the Astral Plane, right?
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "You did."
Althea: Right. Firstly, 'distance' is not quite the same conceptually in the Astral Plane as it is within the Material Plane.
Edgeworth raises an eyebrow.
Althea: As the planes orbit the Material Plane, they become variously 'closer to' or 'further from' the Material Plane as a whole. When they are 'closest' we say that they are coterminous, and when they are 'furthest' we say that they are remote. Both those conditions have noticeable effects on the Material Plane.
Althea: However, separate from this 'distance' from the Material Plane as a whole, some planes are also inherently 'closer' to certain specific locations within the Material Plane.
Edgeworth: How does that make any sort of logical sense?
Althea: We call locations with a particular 'closeness' to another plane manifest zones.
Althea: Such locations take on some mixture of the properties of the Material Plane and the plane to which the location is manifest. The exact nature of that mixture depends on the zone itself and sometimes on the 'distance' of the plane to the Material Plane overall.
Althea: Sharn itself is manifest to Syrania, the Azure Sky, which is a plane of endless skies, full of floating cities, and inhabited by angels. Its energies are compatible with good and antithetical to evil.
Edgeworth does his best to maintain his patience, given the circumstances.
Althea: Sharn's zone mostly benefits from the unusual air properties of the plane, which allows greater ease in flight, as well as enabling architecture which would be difficult to maintain anywhere else.
Althea: Sharn is known as the City of Towers for good reason. Some of the towers are nearly a mile in height, and some of the city floats above the towers. Towers are also built atop each other, due to the unusual way in which the spells keeping them afloat reinforce each other.
Edgeworth glances aside, uncomfortable. "I see..."
Edgeworth: I would imagine there to be a large number of elevators as well...
Edgeworth: I wonder if I'll have the chance to visit one of these so-called "manifest zones" for myself... though preferably not this "Sharn" she speaks of.
Althea: The city is divided into several sections vertically.
Althea: I tend to spend most of my time in Upper, specifically Upper Menthis, as that's where the university is located.
Edgeworth: Ah. Er, is that the part that floats?
Althea: No, that'd be the Skyway, just above Upper. Just under is Middle, then Lower, then the Cogs.
Edgeworth nods uneasily. The vertical aspect of the city must indeed be rather significant to call for such categorization...
Edgeworth: What are these "Cogs"?
Althea: The Cogs are the underground portions of the city. A couple industrial districts are down there, and a goblin residential district in the middle called Khyber's Gate. And the city sewers are beneath those.
Edgeworth: Magically-assisted or not, they must be very architecturally confident and skilled to either build atop a cavern complex or dig one beneath a city.
Althea: I'm sure it'd come as little surprise that the affluence of the districts scales with the altitude.
Edgeworth winces somewhat. "Not particularly, no."
Edgeworth shakes his head, then looks to an elevated analog clock nearby. He then takes out his organizer and pen, compares the time on the clock to that on his similarly-analog watch, then writes something down.
Althea frowns. "It occurs to me to wonder whether our forms of measuring time are compatible. You seem to have analogous terms, but I suppose you and perhaps your timepiece would best judge whether they are truly equivalent."
Edgeworth repockets his organizer and pen, then begins using a tiny dial on the side of his watch to adjust it to match. "Given the speed at which each timepiece is progressing as well as the way outdoor shadows have shifted over time, that appears to be the case, at least up to the daily scale."
Edgeworth: I suppose in this one respect, I'm fortunate.
Althea: I don't know, it seems to me like there are a remarkable number of similarities between what you're accustomed to and what occurs here. Certainly enough to provide considerable common ground for discussing the differences.
Althea: Your own realm of existence, whatever its full nature may be, sounds far more similar to Eberron and the Material Plane as we know it than any of the orbiting planes, certainly.
Edgeworth: One would think that the rotational speed of your planet — or the velocity of your sun, should that be how matters work here — isn't something that would necessarily match.
Althea: We don't really know for sure whether the sun orbits Eberron or not... Many scholars are inclined to believe it does not, though the reason has less to do with our understanding of physics, and more to do with the interconnecting influences of the energies of the planes...
Althea: There is a continuous reoccurrence throughout existence as we know it, of a particular number, or perhaps pairing of numbers: Twelve and One.
Althea: Or perhaps more appropriately in many cases, Thirteen Less One...
Edgeworth appears dubious.
Althea: There are thirteen planes which orbit the Material Plane within the Astral, save one: Dal Quor, whose orbit has been severed. Manifest zones exist for all such planes except that one.
Althea: There have been, over the course of history, thirteen true dragonmarks appearing within family lines.
Althea: The Mark of Death no longer exists. It was borne by an elven house, House Vol, which was completely wiped out twenty-six hundred years ago by the combined forces of Aerenal and Argonnessen after a half-breed with a functioning mark appeared within it.
Althea: Twelve moons circle Eberron within the Material Plane. There is some historical evidence that in ancient times, there might have been a thirteenth.
Althea: Moreover, each moon is believed to have ties to the energies of one of the other planes, with Dal Quor conspicuously missing.
Althea shrugs. "The sun could be a different kind of orbiting body, but it seems unlikely for it to be connected to Dal Quor, and an additional moon existing as well would seem to break the pattern."
Althea: ...then again, the existence of some single 'exception' set apart from the rest might also be something of a pattern as well, I suppose... Perhaps wherever it is you are from is also some kind of 'extra' plane or plane-like occurrence in a similar pattern... Though if the sun is to be viewed as an exception, it wouldn't necessarily follow which would orbit the other; being reversed could make as much sense that way.
Edgeworth: This world seems to be one with more questions than answers...
Edgeworth: I suppose that if you've never heard of planets prior to my arrival, that suggests that you lack any reference points from which to deduce the difference in the same way we did.
Edgeworth shrugs. "It is because Earth is not alone in the solar system that we were able to discover that it and the other planets nearby revolve around the Sun — though since this contradicted the assertions made by a powerful religion, that discovery led to one of the more famous examples of conflict between science and religion."
Althea: I figured it might be something like that, since you had a ready and familiar word to categorically distinguish places like Eberron from each other, yet no knowledge or appreciation of other planes...
Edgeworth half-frowns and glances aside. "It is true that Earth is more like Eberron than like the other planets in the solar system, however. None of the others possess life as we know it or the capacity to support it."
Althea: Hmm. I'm somewhat curious as to how precisely you came about such knowledge, but again, such matters can wait.
Edgeworth: Unfortunately, I only know so much about astronomy.
Althea: ...ah. I suppose I should have considered that as well. A member of a society may well be imparted much of its general knowledge without being aware of the full measure of its basis or discovery...
Althea sounds slightly disappointed.
Edgeworth: I do know that it began with simply pointing telescopes at the skies and expanded from there to more powerful instruments capable of interpreting more forms of energy than visible light, as well as sending probes into space and putting especially powerful telescopes into orbit around the Earth. That, however, is the extent of my understanding of the methods used.
Edgeworth: My own focus is far more local in scope.
Althea: I see. So it's as simple a matter for one of your machines to traverse the realm beyond the skies as to simply fly beyond them? At the least, it sounds like you would know of no other way to traverse such distances than the most direct means...
Althea looks puzzled suddenly.
Edgeworth: I wouldn't characterize escaping the Earth's gravity to the extent necessary as "simple", but that is the basic idea, yes. ...Is something the matter?
Althea: Just that earlier, you seemed rather skeptical about our having means of flight...
The lightning rail begins to move again, slowly making its way through a wide loop in the track.
Edgeworth looks up at the train. "Apparently, we've achieved very different sorts of flight than you through our starkly divergent resources and methods."
Edgeworth: We couldn't cause a broom to fly, of all things, but we've come to an understanding of how birds accomplish it, as well as ways to propel objects so high that they escape the gravity well of a planet or moon.
Althea: Gravity... 'well'...?
Edgeworth: I don't understand the mechanics behind it, but gravity can only reach so far depending on the mass of an object.
Edgeworth watches the lightning rail as it makes its way towards the main track.
Althea: So if you fly high enough, you simply won't fall anymore?
Edgeworth: Precisely — though by then, one has left air itself behind.
Althea: I see. That would preclude people traversing such a boundary. Except warforged, I suppose.
Althea: An elemental vessel might in theory be able to traverse it, but who could possibly control it while doing so...?
Edgeworth: Where I'm from, it's been done with specialized vehicles, though it's an extraordinarily impractical endeavor. Mankind has gone no farther than the moon and back.
Althea: Which m— ah, right, of course. Hmm... curious.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head. "I imagine that manned space exploration will reach no further until such time as we devise better methods."
Althea: You did say the other 'planets' don't support life, but what of this moon?
Edgeworth: It, too, is little more than a lifeless stone.
Edgeworth: The men who walked upon it were clad in airtight suits with tanks of air to breathe attached.
By now, the lightning rail is gradually vanishing from sight at its full speed.
Althea: I see. So you adapt your equipment to provide for the needs your environment does not. That's not an entirely unknown matter here, though I would imagine the means differ greatly.
Althea: Certainly, people may require some amount of assistance to be able to survive for long in some planes, for instance.
Edgeworth: Anyway, the other planets also have different rotational speeds and orbit the sun at differing rates, hence my finding time up to the daily scale to match between our worlds to be extraordinarily convenient.
Althea: Hmm. That is a noteworthy coincidence, assuming it's not in fact directly connected in any way to both our worlds supporting life and having such substantial similarities between them in terms of what has come to exist...
Edgeworth looks thoughtful. "I have my doubts that it would need to be exact."
Edgeworth: A difference of an hour or two in either direction would probably cause minimal change.
Althea shrugs. "Difficult to know without more points of reference."
Edgeworth grins. "Indeed."
Edgeworth looks back the way they came. "We've tarried here for quite some time. Shall we see about my accommodations?"
Althea nods. "That may be best."
The two of them make their way to a tailor shop. Though Edgeworth's eyes roam the store, ultimately they stick to business and have him measured and his blazer and vest examined more closely. Once the tailor has identified fabrics both similar to those in his suit and acceptable to Edgeworth, the gnome sets to work; the pair of them then make their way not directly to an inn, but back to the campus of the Library of Korranberg...
Edgeworth looks over to Althea with a half-frown. "I thought you'd said that I would need a room at an inn."
Althea: Indeed. But there are still some things you should probably observe for yourself, and this is the most opportune time for one of them.
Edgeworth raises an eyebrow. "Do tell."
Althea: It's probably best to see it first. I'll explain the details afterward.
Edgeworth: Something that must be seen to be believed, perhaps?
Edgeworth shrugs and follows Althea.
After a small amount of searching, Althea finds a halfling in the process of setting up a platform taller than himself next to what looks like some sort of unlit streetlight.
Edgeworth touches the side of his head as he observes this. "Is it his intent to light that?"
Althea: That would be correct.
The halfling unfolds a stepladder and sets it up in order to climb up onto the platform.
Edgeworth frowns. It seems terribly inconvenient to design streetlights such that those in charge of igniting them would need to use ladders.
Edgeworth: For what reason were these not designed to be possible to activate from a lower altitude?
Althea: This is the oldest part of the city, so these lanterns have been around a long time. The resources of the time served to limit options.
Edgeworth: I see...
The halfling pulls out a pouch and begins placing what seem to be small dead winged insects in a circle around him on the platform.
Edgeworth stares in bewilderment.
The halfling begins sprinkling what looks to be bright greenish moldy bark along the same circle outlined by the insects. He then spends over a minute sprinking more of the mold in odd patterns just inside the circle, before beginning to inspect his work.
Edgeworth: Given the patterns so far, I have all too clear a hunch concerning where this is going...
The halfling eventually appears satisfied; he pours a bit more of the mold into the palm of his right hand, places another insect on top, and begins to chant while making elaborate gestures with his free hand. It takes an entire minute for this spell to be cast in full, but when it is, all the insects and mold set up and held by the halfling evaporate suddenly in a green glimmer, which coalesces around his right hand. At this point, he steps forward and stands on tiptoe in order to touch the tiny pinkish gem with red swirls inside that's sitting where a light bulb might be in an Earth streetlight. Quite suddenly, it blossoms with white light.
Edgeworth grits his teeth briefly, then sighs with frustration and helplessness.
Althea: I believe you've now witnessed your first full ritual casting of arcane magic.
Althea: Atop these lampposts is what is known as an everbright lantern. The enchantment carried by both the Eberron dragonshard and its surrounding material amplifies simple light magic, extending it significantly in both potency and duration.
Edgeworth: ...I see. Does arcane magic normally require such an elaborate procedure?
Edgeworth's question is clearly hesitant.
Althea: That depends on the nature of the caster and their situation. Arcane magic can be used without such a ritual, based either on prior preparation or the expenditure of one's own reserves of magical power.
Edgeworth considers this with a serious expression. Dil also spoke of the need for preparation.
Althea: At some point if we're to discuss arcane magic in detail, we'll need to cover the difference between the major approaches to it; predominantly, the distinction between wizards and sorcerers.
Edgeworth: I, er, suppose it's unsurprising that those would be specific technical terms in a place such as this.
The halfling takes down the platform and stepladder and moves on to another lantern.
Althea: A wizard practices a more breadth-oriented approach to arcane magic. They learn a great many spells, but to be able to perform them without a full ritual like you just witnessed, they need to prepare each spell ahead of time from their spellbook as part of a daily ritual.
Althea: A sorcerer takes a more specialized approach, sacrificing variety for spontaneity; they focus on learning fewer spells, but those they master are at their disposal for as long as they still have enough magical reserves to cast them.
Edgeworth: I must admit, that sounds like a closer match to them than these "wizards"...
Edgeworth looks disgusted with himself. Why am I even considering this?
Althea: Those who light the lanterns here are known as magewrights; people who have mastered the fundamentals of arcanism, but haven't set down either of the major paths of study. Some of them are students aspiring to one or the other, while others may lack either the talents or the aspiration to pursue those disciplines, but wish to avail themselves of the still significant utility afforded by the basic arcane arts.
Edgeworth: Fiction normally refers to such individuals as apprentices, I thought. Of course, if that sort of expertise isn't necessarily regarded as incomplete, it's understandable that the terminology would differ.
Althea: Both scrolls and rituals serve as means to either extend the capabilities of the more advanced arcanists, or to enable those less capable.
Althea: Ritual magic has a great number of disadvantages in being a time-consuming, material-consuming and delicate process, as well as potentially risky for spells you aren't ready to cast by other means in the first place.
Edgeworth: So it appeared.
Althea: It does have the primary advantages of not requiring expending your own personal magical resources, and of being a repeatable, consistent process.
Althea: Scrolls are a lot more convenient, being quick to cast and requiring only basic understanding of how to cast spells of that type and difficulty generally.
Althea: They are, however, more expensive to produce than rituals are to fuel, and are single-use.
Edgeworth: Indeed, it was hard not to notice that last point when Dil used one.
Althea: Divine magic does have ritual magic possibilities, but ironically it's seen as more advanced and much less common than the more typical forms of prepared spellcasting.
Edgeworth raises an eyebrow.
Althea: It's also usually steeped in the lore of the practitioner's religion, so I'm not sure I could recommend such an approach for you.
Edgeworth frowns. "Most likely not."
Edgeworth: I imagine that setting up a ritual casting such as that would disturb a crime scene as well...
Althea: Scrolls are a definite option, though, and the Foundation sells a number of scrolls of useful divine spells.
Althea: Oh, incidentally, those at a more fundamental level in divine casting practice are usually called adepts. Though you've already shown capabilities that extend beyond what is typically mastered by adepts.
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "Is that why my mere presence garnered such an uncomfortable amount of direct attention?"
Althea: That is a part of it. Clerics are not rare per se, but neither are they at all a common occurrence even among the devout of a faith. That you should stumble by accident upon such a calling as someone who denounces religion altogether... I believe that makes you a rare case indeed.
Edgeworth taps his finger, frowning. "It certainly exudes irony."
Althea: Mm. Part of why I felt Dil would appreciate talking with you. I... still haven't explained the Traveler, have I? It... might be best to at least go over the basics so you know something of how religions are regarded here...
Edgeworth hesitates, then sighs in frustration and raises one hand to his forehead to rub it. "Under the circumstances, I can't see that I have any choice but to hear an overview."
Althea nods. "To begin with, the majority religion for Khorvaire is belief in the Sovereign Host, a pantheon of nine deities. While some people favor one of the deities over the others, doctrine emphasizes the importance of all of them."
Althea: Arawai is associated with fertility, flora, and abundance. Aureon with lore, magic, and law. Balinor with hunting and fauna. Boldrei with community and family. Dol Arrah with combat, self-sacrifice and sunlight. Dol Dorn with strength and martial arts. Kol Korran with trade and currency. Olladra with luck and plenty. Onatar with crafts, industry and fire.
Edgeworth shakes his head at the mention of Aureon. Does that mean I'll often have to contend with religious fanatics in my work?
Althea: There are some followers of Aureon among the Foundation; not all Vassals consider such endeavors troubling.
Edgeworth looks slightly relieved at that. "I see."
Althea: Connected with said pantheon are a number of other deities referred to as the Dark Six.
Edgeworth: The antagonists of those myths, perhaps?
Althea: Just as most in Khorvaire revere the Host, most have a dim view of the Six and their followers. Also, reverence of only a single deity is far more common among followers of the Six.
Althea: The Devourer is associated with the destructive force of nature; the Fury with extremes of passion approaching madness; the Keeper with death and decay; the Mockery with treachery; the Shadow with dark magic and corruption; the Traveler with deception and cunning.
Edgeworth's expression darkens at the summation of the Traveler.
Althea: Of those, the Traveler is something of an odd one out; he has no real connection with the others, and is the only one not considered to be outright evil.
Althea: He's probably the only really particularly nuanced member of the Six. He's referred to as the Sovereign of Chaos and Change, and is credited with both creation and destruction.
Althea: He's also the only deity of either pantheon actually believed to have walked the face of Eberron, albeit always in one of countless disguises.
Althea: He's sometimes called the Giver of Gifts, but you can expect any boon from him to be double-edged in some way...
Edgeworth: I cannot say that any of this makes him sound like a particularly trustworthy character or his followers seem likely to be better.
Althea: He tends to be favored primarily by shifters and changelings.
Althea: The next most common religion you'd likely encounter is the Church of the Silver Flame.
Althea: It has some origins with the followers of Dol Arrah, precisely how much or little a matter of contention, but suffice to say it is best regarded as an entirely separate entity.
Althea: The focus of the Church of the Silver Flame is the eradication of evil.
Edgeworth: A crusading religion, then?
Althea: Yes. They even refer to themselves as "purified"...
Althea: ...Frankly, sometimes some of them scare me more than some of the followers of the actually-evil members of the Six...
Althea shakes her head.
Althea: The Church governs the country of Thrane.
Edgeworth glowers. "I can't help but be reminded of some of my own world's more destructively prominent religions already."
Althea: Another religion that may well come up at the Foundation is the Blood of Vol. It's one of the more obscure faiths, at least outside Karrnath, and is hard to get a lot of solid info about, but it's basically centered on escaping death through becoming divine oneself.
Althea: Most followers, if they believe in other gods at all, see them as oppressors.
Edgeworth puts a finger to his temple. "One can easily see why the Archival Foundation's work might appeal to people like them."
Althea: The Cults of the Dragon Below may come up from time to time. My understanding is that they variously commune with or seek to unseal powers sealed within Eberron; that is to say, underground, in what's considered to be the realm of Khyber.
Althea: Some of those are fiends from an ancient war long ago, when Xoriat, the Realm of Madness, became coterminous with Eberron, and inhabitants of that plane attempted to invade.
Edgeworth peers at Althea. She speaks as though that were mere history.
Althea: They were bound within Khyber by an Orcish druidic sect known as the Gatekeepers.
Althea: They're dedicated to protecting Eberron from aberrations and outsiders.
Edgeworth appears puzzled. If not for one of her previous statements, I would assume that to be mere prejudice...
Althea: Druidic magic is significantly different from typical divine magic, and the practitioners are fairly secretive, so even the Foundation has little insight on it.
Althea: Other major druidic sects include the Wardens of the Wood, the Ashbound, the Children of Winter and the Greensingers...
Althea: Of those, the Ashbound are known for being fairly extremist in their protection of nature...
Althea: They tend to see magic, both divine and arcane, as an affront to nature, and have been known to attack farms and ranches. They generally avoid going so far as killing, though.
Edgeworth: OBJECTION! Did you not just define druids as a sort of spellcaster themselves?!
Althea chuckles slightly while shaking her head. "Suffice to say they don't see it that way. There are significant differences between druidic magic and even divine magic, and legend has it the Gatekeepers themselves were taught such skills by a black dragon in order to defend our world from the prophesied invasion. So they perceive no contradiction there."
Edgeworth: I suppose that without a deeper understanding of druidic magic, one can't know how hypocritical they truly are...
Althea: The Children of Winter believe that it is proper and natural for only the strong to survive, and seek to cleanse the world through blight, disease and cold...
Edgeworth: I can't help but be reminded of a certain informal philosophy inspired by a particular scientist's work.
Althea: The Greensingers celebrate the wild and capricious nature of the fey. They're an interesting if relatively harmless bunch.
Althea: The Wardens of the Wood are the largest and best known sect today. They mostly protect significant natural spaces, primarily the plains and forests of the Eldeen Reaches.
Edgeworth: Where are these "Eldeen Reaches"?
Althea: To the north of here. In particular, west of Aundair and north of Droaam.
Althea: Breland shares a small border with it as well, out near Lake Galifar.
Edgeworth: I suppose I ought to study a map of the continent or the world at some point.
Althea takes off her backpack and rummages through it. "I've got one here, though I'll need it back."
Althea pulls out and hands over a folded map of Khorvaire.
Edgeworth grins, bows, and finally accepts and unfolds the map. He half-frowns at the still-unfamiliar script, then kneels down so that Althea can point things out.
Althea: Korranberg's down here in the southeast corner of Zilargo. Sharn's over here, just past the southwestern border. This whole area up and around is Breland, then Thrane to the northeast and Aundair to the north. The Eldeen Reaches are across the lake here, the Demon Wastes up past them to the northwest. Out west from Breland is Droaam, and west of that the Shadow Marches. I mentioned Darguun to the east of Zilargo; the Mournland stretches up north of that, cutting the continent mostly in half.
Althea: East of the Mournland you have the Talenta Plains in the center, Karrnath up north and northwest, the Mror Holds to the northeast, Q'Barra to the southeast, and Valenar to the south. Way out in the furthest east stretch the Lhazaar Principalities.
Althea: I don't have any maps covering the rest of the continents on me, though.
Edgeworth: I would be rather surprised if I had the opportunity to roam that far prior to learning of a way home...
Althea: Let's see... you'll probably also encounter some mention of the Undying Court within the Foundation. That's pretty much an elven thing, centered in Aerenal; rather than gods, the Undying Court is made up of "deathless" elves.
Althea: Deathless are a sort of opposite of the undead, animated by positive energy.
Edgeworth looks up from the map, bewildered.
Althea: Turning abilities even work on them, exactly reversed as to which effects positive and negative versions have, incidentally.
Althea: At any rate, modern descendants may seek counsel or petition favor from their ancestors among the Court.
Althea: There's also the Path of Light and Path of Inspiration, both of Sarlonan origin. They're pretty obscure so you aren't too likely to run into them. Probably not something you want to get involved with even if you do, honestly, for reasons that are a bit complicated.
Althea: Best not to get into the details, but just trust me, you want to stay away from the Path of Inspiration altogether. The Path of Light's more of a problem due to its enemies.
Edgeworth frowns at that. What truth could be quite that dangerous?
Althea: Anyway, there are others, but those are the most significant.
Althea: Though getting back to the point that prompted this run-down in the first place, you did note the irony inherent in the situation.
Edgeworth hands Althea her map back and stands. "Indeed."
Althea: That's the kind of thing a follower of the Traveler will appreciate very well.
Althea: In some ways, I'd say he represents the god of contradiction.
Edgeworth rubs his temple. "Is that so..."
Althea: There's a good deal of wisdom to be gleaned from the ways of his followers, I've found. Through trickery and misdirection, they challenge one to be more honest with oneself.
Althea: At least, that's how I see it.
Edgeworth: I suppose I can't say that I don't understand such an approach.
Althea: You may in time learn a lot from Dil, even if you don't always enjoy the lessons.
Edgeworth: Are we not leaving as soon as your research here is complete?
Althea: That will still require at least three weeks, possibly closer to a month. I think you should avail yourself of what training opportunities you can in that time.
Edgeworth looks mildly awkward. "That would seem to be the best course." Whether I find that course comfortable or not.
Althea: ...It's pretty late. We should see about getting you a room.
Edgeworth nods. "Indeed."
Althea: I will have matters to attend to in the morning, but I'll be along to find you before noon.
Edgeworth: Very well. Do you have an inn near the Archival Foundation in mind?
Althea: Probably best to refer to the location here as the Korranberg Archive, specifically. And it would be best to stick to a Ghallanda Inn, they'll be best equipped to accommodate non-gnomish visitors.
Edgeworth nods. "Very well."
Althea: I believe there's one not far from the Paper Market.
Edgeworth grins. "Very well, then. Shall we be off?"
Althea nods and turns back along the path.
Edgeworth follows Althea.
The two of them make their way through the now-lantern-lit streets as the sky grows dark enough for the Ring of Siberys to be highly prominent and moons at various lunar phases to dot the sky. The lanterns outside of the library quarter are slightly dimmer than everbright lanterns and feature occasional flickers of indigo or wine-red, but they still do the job well, and there's a distinct lack of the unease Edgeworth is used to seeing in people wandering the streets at night.
Eventually, Althea's guidance leads to a building with a canine crest hanging out front. The halflings within pleasantly accept Althea's coin and explanation of the situation and lead Edgeworth to his room for the night.
A cluster of three full moons — Lharvion, Barrakas, and Rhaan — rises above Korranberg's skyline, shedding their light silently...