"Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters."
— Isaac Bashevis Singer
"The doubter is a true man of science; he doubts only himself and his interpretations, but he believes in science."
— Claude Bernard
While Miles Edgeworth is becoming a familiar face at the Korranberg Archive, the novelty of the "atheist cleric" shows no sign of wearing off. The prosecutor finds himself occasionally having to shoo away attention even as he continues his academic studies and somatic practice. On top of his assigned reading, Althea finally brings in the material about quori she promised days ago as well, which he makes a point to give a look.
Regardless of the distractions, however, today has been a fruitful one for Edgeworth. Now that he's begun the slow process of shedding some major emotional baggage, he's finding his studies easier to digest — enough to pique Dil's curiosity. Unfortunately, Edgeworth's focused state makes him all the less inclined to speak of personal matters, even if led to them in a roundabout manner, so the cleric of the Traveler soon resigns himself to needing to obtain secondhand knowledge...
Dil reaches up with a feather duster in hand in order to dust off a few of the lesser-used books on one of the shelves of the first basement. The room is emptier than usual this evening.
Althea emerges from the stairway leading to the ground level, nodding to Dil.
Dil turns and grins gently. "Good evening, Althea."
Dil: How are your projects going?
Althea: Everything's proceeding apace. More quickly than I had anticipated, on some fronts.
Dil smirks. "It sounds like you had a good day too, then. Ours was so good that I wonder what happened, actually..."
Dil looks thoughtful even as he moves on to dusting a lantern.
Althea: I had hit something of a roadblock yesterday, and ended up unsettling him enough that he needed to break from his studies.
Dil nods. "I remember you relaying that much."
Althea: However, after the both of us spent the evening at a chess meet, I happened to witness another nightmare.
Dil stops dusting as his face falls somewhat. He looks to Althea with concern.
Althea: In this one he was in a padded cell of unusual dimensions, wearing a straitjacket.
Althea: This cell had two doors on opposite ends.
Althea: From one end, an inevitable criticized his evaluation and possible acceptance of magic, questioning his motives in even considering using it to discern truth...
Althea: From the other, an undead of some sort accused him of refusing to acknowledge and face the truth he already knew about magic and what he'd seen happen in his world.
Althea: Both also claimed the door they were at was the only door.
Althea: After some exploration of the situation, I basically got an idea and ran with it...
Althea frowns. "Though honestly, I probably ought to back up a bit; there's some important context from earlier..."
Dil seats himself at one of the human-scaled tables, looking as intrigued as he is worried.
Althea takes a seat as well.
Althea: After I showed him the sketch, which he did have a very strong reaction to, I proceeded to discuss the details of my vision with him.
Althea: At the end of the explanation, I confronted him on the question of the connection between magic and the dead in his world.
Dil: Is that what led to him being unsettled?
Althea: Eventually, yes. I managed to establish over his objections that there was evidence from his nightmare and his own actions here that he was clearly denying not merely magic, but specifically magic to summon the dead.
Althea: I further tried to establish that this was tied to personal trauma, but was ultimately caught up on a lack of sufficient evidence as to any sort of timeline of events.
Althea: A divination revealed that the evidence needed could not be obtained both quickly and safely by any means I had at my disposal.
Dil: Still, that is a suspiciously specific thing to deny, isn't it?
Althea: Mm. I definitely got the sense that I'd made progress there. Just not enough to get at the source of the conflict.
Althea: The nightmare, on the other hand, seems to have been centered on that very matter.
Dil shrugs. "If it bothered him that much, that's not surprising..."
Althea: Anyway, I eventually decided to run with an idea, once examination of the environs showed no sign of additional elements beyond what was clearly present.
Althea: Specifically, that both the inevitable and the undead were in fact correct that theirs was the only door.
Althea: Each in their way seemed to be trying to represent the truth. The incompleteness and resulting apparent conflict mirrored the way aspects of himself that should be aiding him in finding the truth seemed to be turned around into suppressing it on this subject.
Althea: I asserted that there was only one door and that it was himself that was insisting on trying to see them as separate.
Althea: And that he had placed himself in this situation to run away from 'both sides', casting his own sanity into doubt in order to excuse not reconciling the 'impossibility' he'd established between them.
Althea: After that point, with his reluctant consent, we returned to the matter of trauma.
Dil's eyes widen. "In the middle of a nightmare?!"
Althea: ...yes. It was admittedly not the safest circumstance imaginable, but his situation at that point was remarkably stable. No one else was in the cell, and it was quite sturdy; even when quori swarmed and tried to attack, they could not penetrate it.
Althea: Indeed, it would seem the cell itself was representative of the barriers guarding his deepest secret on the matter.
Dil looks uncomfortable. "It seems like your gamble paid off, at least..."
Althea nods. "I... had a feeling I'd reached a point where backing off was riskier than pressing forward..."
Althea: I established that seventeen years ago, a woman represented by the lich in the first nightmare influenced a case he was involved in... by summoning the victim of a murder to provide a lead for the watch.
Althea: The victim was also part of that nightmare: the shade who apologized to him. That apology... was for lying to the watch about the circumstances of his death...
Dil tries to puzzle this out silently...
Althea: The victim was his father, and he himself was one of the possible suspects.
Althea: His father lied to protect him. This was something so at odds with his vision of the man that he couldn't accept the possibility.
Dil: So that's the trick to it...
Althea: The woman in question was herself the victim of a murder much later on.
Althea: The killer was found, his guilt established, but his motive, or apparent lack thereof, represented a problem.
Althea: Apparently, in a fight over succession among those who summon the dead, a conspiracy was hatched to use one of their number as a patsy to summon a hostile ghost to murder the heir.
Althea: Both the victim and her killer were among those acting to try to thwart this conspiracy.
Dil looks confused, but doesn't interrupt...
Althea: Another woman who was a suspect in the murder acted as an accomplice to cover it up. She was apparently also the living twin of the summoned ghost. It would seem that those who summon the dead in his world make their own bodies vessels for those summoned, transforming themselves into the summoned being's likeness in the process...
Althea: This ended up in a strange situation wherein the accomplice was witnessed in two places at once, and the heir disappeared from a place with no possible escape, and then reappeared under unusual circumstances.
Althea: The practical upshot being that the case was scarcely possible to explain any other way than to fully acknowledge the reality of their magic.
Dil nods. "I thought that was where this was going..."
Dil: But it's still hard to imagine it being that easy to deny if spells that powerful exist.
Althea: Thus was born the great contradiction... The woman who impugned his father's honesty with her legerdemain, dying under circumstances that relied on her and others actually summoning the dead...
Althea: I do note that he seemed willing enough to discount my demonstrating psionic powers to him. It was using the helmet for himself that finally got through in the first place...
Dil: But if that kind of thing was normal there, denying it wouldn't make any more sense than denying trees or rocks, and he would have already known about things like scrolls and wands, wouldn't he?
Althea: If it was, yes. I hardly think his denial was that extreme.
Althea: I'm inclined to believe him when he says that the law does not recognize the existence of such magic, and that the watch availed themselves of it only out of desperation.
Althea: I got the distinct sense there was a specific religious order that was capable of this.
Dil: Or maybe some kind of dragonmarked dynasty.
Althea: And that summoning the dead was very much a defining part of what they were about.
Althea: Though apparently much of the consideration he gave in this case stems from his receiving a magical item to aid him in his investigation...
Althea: I'm not clear on the origins of it, but it may be connected to them somehow. It seems to possess the power to make people's secrets visible in the form of locks.
Dil stares. "That would be inconvenient, wouldn't it..."
Althea: I can't deny I'm relieved he didn't bring that with him...
Althea: Actually, I wonder if it isn't something like a little of both... I really don't have a lot of detail, but he did refer to these people as a 'clan', as well as implying religious connotations, not to mention superstition, something he strongly associates with religion in his world.
Althea: Perhaps part of the reason their abilities are not better known is that they behave more like, say, some of the druidic sects, and don't have strong ties to most of society?
Dil: Hmm. So in his world, the dragonmarked or people like them didn't turn their abilities to purely secular and practical uses, but decided they were divine gifts and set up cults off by themselves?
Althea: Quite possibly.
Dil grins. "If that was the only kind of magic around, it would explain a lot."
Dil: It would also make it more likely that the, ah, item you mentioned would be connected to them.
Althea: Mm, though I get the feeling he didn't get it directly from them. If anything, I think it came from someone who's been mentioned from time to time, a "Phoenix Wright"...
Althea: Who seems to be someone Edgeworth has a lot of respect for and trust in. I think he may be a defense attorney...
Dil grins again. "That would explain why he didn't just throw it away, if you're right."
Dil then frowns in confusion. "But wait... why would a defense attorney have something like that in a world like his?"
Althea: That I don't know, though he does describe the ideal talents of a defense attorney from his world in terms that seem very similar to what would make for a good divine caster as well as inquisitive...
Dil scratches his head, then shrugs. "I guess as long as he's making as much progress as he is, it's not important to pry."
Dil: Something changed overnight, that was clear. He was doing better than normal with all the motions; he wasn't even falling any further behind with the necromantic ones, though he didn't catch up either.
Althea: Mm. I think he's been subject to enough intense scrutiny for a while. To get this far... I had to rob him of something very precious, and I haven't even gotten to the bottom of all the trauma he's suffered. It sounds like he's lived something of a strangely cursed existence in that other world...
Dil: There are enough other tricks to figure out right now anyway — like what that is that he's trying to trace instead of the motions for necromantic fear if he doesn't watch himself...
Dil shakes his head. "And I still don't know how he's supposed to pray for spells..."
Althea: It... wouldn't surprise me if it has something to do with earthquakes... I got some hints there might be some kind of connection there with one or more of the traumas...
Dil: Hm. Maybe I should look up obscure earth runes, then...
Althea: Worth a try.
Dil grins. "But thank you for clearing something else up."
Dil: It wasn't as obvious with the weaker ones, but the higher we go, the more uneasy he is with earth-related motions.
Dil pauses for a moment, then hmms. "Earlier, you said the inevitable in last night's nightmare questioned his motives?..."
Althea: Yes. Specifically, that learning subjective, unverifiable methods would cripple his ability to prove things to others, unless he was planning on using them to actually become a law unto himself.
Althea: And also, that he might be indulging in self-delusion on the basis of what he would rather see as true.
Dil frowns in confusion.
Althea: It also questioned who he thought would oppose him, were he to use methods the law doesn't recognize.
Dil: It doesn't sound like he trusts himself very much, does it?
Althea: No. Nor many others. It sounds like his respect for this "Phoenix Wright" is itself somewhat unusual. I think it would be very difficult for either of us to truly win his trust...
Dil smiles sadly at that.
After falling asleep that night, Althea finds herself sitting on a bench within a small jail cell, looking wearily up at a glowering Edgeworth just outside the cell. Other friends, relatives and colleagues stand at various positions further away from the cell, watching her with expressions ranging from sad to accusatory.
Althea: Why are you doing this? I'd think after all this time you'd know me well enough to have some faith in my integrity...
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head. "How can you expect me to simply take your word when you've been hiding things from me since the moment we met? Furthermore, this isn't about what I think you would or wouldn't do — it's about finding the truth."
Althea: The truth is that the accusation makes no sense. I don't have any possible use for the stolen items.
Edgeworth smirks smugly. "Perhaps not — at least, not as they were at the time of theft."
Althea shakes her head. "Psionic items involving Siberys shards are too specialized a matter for a psion of my experience and situation. That's more the purview of kalashtar."
Edgeworth: OBJECTION! Your accomplice's area of expertise doesn't even lie in the manufacture of psionic items to begin with!
Edgeworth reaches into his pocket, then withdraws it with something concealed in his balled fist.
Althea's eyes widen and her face goes a little pale. "...don't. Not here, not like this."
Edgeworth merely glares into those widened eyes. "Confess of your own free will, and it will prove unnecessary."
Edgeworth crosses his arms, appearing still more smug. "As I suspected."
Althea: This won't solve anything...
Edgeworth: Perhaps not, from your point of view. Now, to begin with, I assert that you're acquainted with a certain Cannith excoriate — one who shares in that very viewpoint.
Edgeworth takes out a dossier and places it on a low table just outside the cell.
Althea grabs the dossier and gives it a brief once-over before returning it to the table, shaking her head. "I'm afraid I don't get out to Khyber's Gate that much."
Edgeworth: Heh... perhaps "Althea Tamochi d'Jorasco" doesn't, but I can easily name someone who does! TAKE THAT!
Edgeworth slams another profile onto the table, this one describing someone named "Sibel".
Althea takes the dossier... and stares at it a few moments. Without setting it down, she asks, "Where precisely are you going with this?"
Edgeworth: You know full well where I'm going with it, but for the sake of our audience...
Edgeworth makes a sweeping gesture towards the bewildered watching relatives before bringing out a pair of timetables — one detailing witness accounts of Althea's comings and goings, another of Sibel's.
Edgeworth: It shouldn't take a great deal of scrutiny for anyone to notice that not only are the gaps in people's knowledge of the whereabouts of both "Althea" and "Sibel" complementary, but there are additionally time gaps unaccounted for in either!
Edgeworth glares at Althea. "Ergo, I assert that this 'Sibel' is merely an alias of yours — and, in all likelihood, not the only one!"
As a familiar ethereal shattering sound rings out, the chainmail shirt Althea wears as armor suddenly seems to dissolve and fade away.
Edgeworth's eyes reflect a dark glint of satisfaction at that. "Now, as for your activities under that particular alias..."
Althea manages to squeak out with a tinge of despair to her words, "...she still doesn't know him..."
Edgeworth: Yet it would certainly be in character for her to, and she has the contacts necessary to make such a meeting possible. Do you not reserve that alias for your most questionable activities?
Edgeworth points at the timeline for Sibel. "For example, more than a few people have seen 'Sibel' come in and out of a certain shrine to the Shadow, tended by a known information broker."
There are some distinct disapproving murmurs among those gathered at this.
Edgeworth smirks cruelly. "And under your true identity, you're in a position to obtain quite a bit of valuable 'currency'."
Althea: Ob— j-jection... the research I do... isn't secret...
Edgeworth: But you disapprove of anyone else pursuing secret research, do you not? What better means by which to undermine such aims than to ensure that such secrets find their way onto the black market?!
Edgeworth: Furthermore, who would be in a better position to be responsible for these leaks traced back as far as the shrine?! TAKE THAT!
Edgeworth slaps down a fairly thick file of medical research leaks.
Althea recoils from this accusation, and this time the shattering sound is accompanied by her pants and shoes disappearing as her armor did previously, leaving her in only a light shirt and underwear.
Some of those present look away, disturbed, while a few continue to watch with either curiousity or looks of condemnation.
Edgeworth: This is the true Althea d'Jorasco — a vigilante out to undermine what control your society has.
Edgeworth: Of course, I'm hardly done. I've yet to establish precisely what you were doing with those stolen goods, after all, and how you could have helped to accomplish that end.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head with his arms outspread, though he keeps the item in his fist concealed. "I believe we're all aware that there is but a single category of item that the typical artificer could create with Siberys dragonshards."
Althea: ...isn't that a problem?
Edgeworth puts a finger to his temple with a smirk. "It would be, if you weren't concealing far more than what I've already revealed."
Althea: ...you can't be serious...
Edgeworth: Am I ever not?
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "The general assumption is, of course, that you lack a dragonmark due to the failure of the Test of Siberys. While not entirely decisive, such methods exist due to being more reliable than not."
Althea: The Test of Siberys is designed to bring about precisely the sort of conditions that would cause a mark to appear. If it isn't enough to draw out a mark, not much else is.
Edgeworth smirks darkly. "Of course, that depends on the test being untainted."
Althea: ...I would think some of those present now could attest to how the test was arranged and carried out...
Edgeworth: And do these arrangements account for little-known and poorly-understood foreign capabilities?
Althea: I trained as a seer after the test, not before.
Edgeworth: Even if we can take your word for that, why train as a seer to begin with? One would think it to be a far simpler matter to become a diviner under normal circumstances.
Althea: The opportunity availed itself and I took it. I'm not exactly one to stick only to the beaten path...
Edgeworth glares. "Kalashtar and their allies make a point of hiding themselves and their true motives, and are slow to trust anyone new. Ergo, I find it hard to believe that this was a matter of mere happenstance!"
Edgeworth: Either you had reason to seek them out, or they to seek you out, if not both.
Althea: And what precisely do you propose would serve as such a motive...
Edgeworth: Massive, uncontrolled talent — enough to run the risk of drawing attention.
Edgeworth: Whether you thought you were in need of their aid, or they thought you would be of use, the result would be the same.
Althea: And do you have anything beyond rampant speculation about my motives or those of my mentor?
Edgeworth smirks with an outright evil glint before placing a pair of papers clipped together onto the table. "What better than your own mentor's testimony? Granted, it was necessary to go to... rather extraordinary lengths to obtain it."
Edgeworth opens his fist to reveal a 9-shaped, translucent green stone that glows softly from within. "Fortunately, this isn't the only tool at my disposal."
Althea picks up the paper, perusing the details. "Nice touch with the blood. You come up with all this yourself?" There's a touch of nervousness to her voice, but her demeanor has changed somewhat since the topic began shifting in this direction.
Edgeworth glowers. "Hardly; what sort of man do you take me for?" He then looks to a door out of the room the cell is in and calls out, "Franziska?"
A stern-looking, short-haired woman in a short dress with a whip at her side comes through the door, wheeling in a brown-haired man chained to a table, looking weak and ill-fed but breathing. Aside from a white T-shirt and shorts, all he's wearing are cold iron cuffs with bands of crystal which aren't connected to any of the chains.
Althea gasps and turns pale, choking off a verbal outburst with visible effort.
Edgeworth: Now, with the point of the abilities you already possessed established, we now know that you could have ensured that you were sufficiently forewarned and informed for any attempt at a Test of Siberys to be ineffective — and you personally have already testified as to your motivation to do so!
Edgeworth points at Althea accusingly.
Althea shudders, and the shattering sound is accompanied this time by the disappearance of her shirt, leaving her in only her undergarments.
Edgeworth: Furthermore! When you testified to that effect, it was in the process of dodging of the very question that presents itself next — do you, or do you not, possess a mark now?!
Edgeworth: You've already explained how convenient it would be if you didn't — as well as revealing to me your deep discomfort with House policy. If, in fact, you had one, you would have every reason to conceal it, and if you lacked one, would it not have been in your interests to say as much directly?!
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "Thus do we reach the heart of the matter. Few Jorascos would dare bring the wrath of their own house upon themselves by participating in a scheme to create items that would even marginally decouple the Mark of Healing's abilities from direct House control."
Edgeworth: Ergo, it would only have been worth even making the attempt if a person not only had motivation as strong as your own... but a mark of their own as well.
Edgeworth glares. "Can you, in all honesty, claim not to be that person?!"
And with that, a final shattering sound accompanies the disappearance of Althea's undergarments, leaving the halfling completely naked in her cell. She reflexively moves her hand to conceal her left hip, but it is obvious to observers that a least mark of healing sits there. The murmurs of the assembled crowd grow louder, particularly from members of House Jorasco.
Althea trembles for several moments, looking defeated and vulnerable, before finally looking back at Edgeworth with an expression of resolve, albeit somewhat fragile. "Yes, I can. I may be marked. I may lead a double life. I may be deceitful and opportunistic, and I may be pained to watch suffering maintained for profit. But I am not so reckless as to walk into a scenario this stupidly risky, and I am certainly not dim-witted enough not to see through your transparent maneuvering. This is no interrogation. This is theatre!"
Althea: You may have crafted your lie well enough to draw out my secrets, but a lie it still is!
Edgeworth repockets the stone, looking confident despite the defiance. "And what exactly do you mean by that?"
Althea: There was never any theft, and most certainly no collecting evidence, from any source other than my own mind at least.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head with outspread arms. "You underestimate me. Do you really believe yourself to have been the only source?"
Althea: ...no, you clearly picked some things up from the one whose countenance you mimic. Just apparently not enough to be convincing!
Edgeworth clutches his head and shakes it, then smirks. With a demonic voice rather than the one he's been using, he retorts, "Hmph. Is that all?"
Edgeworth: It's too late in any case. The real damage has been done.
Edgeworth: You've already realized the truth, haven't you? We aren't alone.
Althea: You may wear the face of a man of truth, but you lack any credibility to speak of it.
Edgeworth grits his teeth suddenly, then glowers. "Fine, then."
A force attempts to aggravate the seer's memories...
Althea shrieks, holding her head.
Althea staggers backward onto the bench, then looks back up at Edgeworth defiantly, though blood trickles from her nose.
Edgeworth: Doubt my words if you like, but it won't matter in the end.
Althea mutters something under her breath.
Althea silently concentrates rather than throwing out another retort.
Edgeworth shudders, this psychic attack having been slightly stronger than Althea's last two. "Gah!"
Edgeworth shakes it off, then casually bends a bar of the cell before taking on his natural form and slithering into the small space.
Althea jumps up onto the bench, her gaze remaining fixed on the quori.
Tsucora shudders and hisses in a far more serpentine manner, focusing several of its eyes on the little seer once it regains its focus.
Tsucora closes several of its other eyes briefly, attempting to stop some of the bleeding from its pores with only limited success.
Althea: I'd suggest you abandon this futile endeavor before you really get hurt.
Althea capitalizes on the momentary hesitation and puts everything she can muster into her next psychic blow.
Tsucora shrieks and shrinks back as psychosomatic pincer wounds appear where its torso-head meets its snakelike body...
Tsucora turns and flees through the passage it made and then the door out of the room, assuming Althea to not be worth further risk.
Althea leans against the wall and sinks down into a sitting position on the bench, panting, and watches, warily and wearily, to make sure nothing else tries to come her way.
The "audience" fades, then so too does the rest of the scene...
Althea jolts upright, looking around the small dormitory room nervously. Tikra sits at the small table, unphased by the sudden move.
Tikra: I don't envy you such visions, seer. They do seem to be distressingly...incessant.
Althea simply huddles her bedsheets around her and shivers, looking frightened.
Althea doesn't respond.
Tikra: ...are you unwell?
The lack of any further response prompts Tikra to stand and head for the door. "Hold on, I will return with help." Althea watches the kobold as she departs, looking almost like she's trying to say something, but no sound comes.
It is nearly half an hour later when Tikra returns with Illyvalen in tow, the young gnome out of breath from the trip. By this point, Althea is more responsive, though it's clear she's been crying.
Illyvalen: Althea? What's wrong?
Althea: I... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to worry you. I'll be all right.
Illyvalen: What happened?
Althea: A nightmare... one of my own rather than another's witnessed, this time. There were some... very disturbing things going on. And, unsurprisingly, a quori.
Illyvalen: You were attacked?!
Althea: I... managed to scare it off... though it was a very close call.
Illyvalen stares wide-eyed at Althea.
Tikra: Impressive. That's no small feat.
Illyvalen: So what happened, do you want to talk about it?
Althea: I... I'm sorry, I can't. It's too personal...
Tikra: Enough. Some things are best left unsaid. It is enough to know she has our support, is it not?
Illyvalen: Yeah, I guess... Anyway, it'll be okay, you're safe now, and we're here for you if you need anything.
Illyvalen pulls Althea into a hug, which the halfling seer returns.
After a bit more small talk and many reassurances that Althea is in fact okay, Illyvalen takes her leave, and the others begin preparing for their morning meeting.
Tikra looks back to Althea once the door is fully closed. "I see you too are haunted by your own demons, seer..."
Althea: I... I'm sorry I worried you... I just couldn't—
Tikra: Do not apologize. Your distress was genuine. ...and nothing to be ashamed of.
After a rather brief discussion of the current state of research and various sentiments of concern and support offered, Althea arranges to take care of some needed research of the Archive's documents. Mostly to calm Illyvalen's worries, Tikra accompanies her as far as the Archive's storefront, the two parting ways at the entrance.
As Althea opens the door, however, she overhears Nopplebin sounding terribly concerned: "What can I do? Would any of the scrolls help you? Should I get the others?"
Althea looks over the room critically as she steps inside.
Edgeworth and Nopplebin are near the door into the back room; the former is fatigued-looking, yet rubs his forehead in irritation. "I said that I'll be all right! Did I misspeak?"
Edgeworth grits his teeth and hisses, rubbing the back of his neck.
Nopplebin: You look like you're in pain to me...
Althea: Is something the matter?
Edgeworth starts at that voice, turning to face Althea with a look that's at once disturbed, critical, and conflicted.
Nopplebin: He doesn't seem well. I'm just trying to help, but...
Althea hesitates in the doorway as Edgeworth's gaze falls upon her.
Nopplebin looks between Althea and Edgeworth with confusion. "...Um, did something... happen?"
Edgeworth: It's a private matter.
Althea: ...I... came here to do some research today.
Althea sounds nervous and a bit disturbed.
Edgeworth crosses his arms, thinks for a moment, then huffs in frustration and reverts to English. "For my own part, I don't intend to allow nightmares to interfere with my own studies."
Althea: ...you too, huh...?
Nopplebin simply blinks owlishly.
Edgeworth looks away uneasily. "...Indeed, along with proof of one of your assertions concerning them."
Edgeworth shudders, then rubs his lower back.
Althea: ...perhaps we should head downstairs, then...
Edgeworth: ...Very well.
Althea steps fully inside the storefront and closes the door.
It takes a small amount of effort for Edgeworth to keep his balance between his fatigue and the minor pain down his entire spine, but he and Althea do make their way down into the first basement. When they arrive, they find an unusually serious-looking Dil...
Dil: ...so don't jump up to help yourselves.
Some of those present nod to Dil, others look at him with various expressions, and still others seem to be paying more attention to the arrival of the prosecutor and the scholar.
Dil turns to Althea and Edgeworth. "I'll meet you in the break room." Without explaining further, he heads for the stairs down...
Edgeworth stares after Dil's retreating form. His demeanor has shifted dramatically...
Althea nods and heads in the direction of the break room.
Edgeworth follows Althea, as bewildered as he is groggy.
On the second floor, the two of them pass a gnome on the way out of the break room, as well as a human who looks mildly irritated for some reason. When Edgeworth and Althea themselves enter, they find it empty and the kettle already running.
Edgeworth seats himself, though this causes him to wince.
Althea grabs one of the tins with a weaker variety of tea and brings it with her to the table.
Edgeworth meanwhile investigates the three tins already set out on the table.
Edgeworth: They all smell rather strong... Did Dil choose these for my own sake?
Edgeworth sets two of the tins aside and spoons some tea from the third into one of the teacups on the table.
Althea spoons some of her selected tea into another teacup.
Edgeworth looks to Althea awkwardly, then to the kettle.
Edgeworth: ...It... entailed watching helplessly as I fell to corruption. Once... "I" had finished verbally crushing the, er, suspect...
Edgeworth shudders. "I experienced what I can only assume was the final blow."
Althea nods slowly...
Edgeworth: At which point I passed out from the shock, only to awake ill-rested and in sufficient pain to stave off further rest.
Edgeworth rubs his eyes with one hand.
Althea: I was fortunate enough to frighten off the quori attempting to feed on me. But not before a very disturbing series of events had played out...
Edgeworth: More fortunate than you realize; I never saw the face of my own assailant. Indeed, I had no awareness of anything but the scene I was forced to witness, until...
Edgeworth clenches his teeth and squeezes his eyes shut.
Edgeworth looks aside awkwardly. "For what it's worth, the accusations I saw 'myself' level had no connection whatsoever with any observations I've made in the waking world, save one."
Althea: The suspect was someone with whom you are acquainted?
Edgeworth looks back to Althea with an uneasy frown. "Indeed."
The kettle whistles.
Edgeworth stands, retrieves it, then pours boiling water into his own teacup.
Edgeworth sets the kettle aside in Althea's reach before gingerly reseating himself.
Althea stares at the kettle for the moment, not responding any further yet.
Edgeworth watches his tea begin to steep in awkward silence for a moment, then observes, "Dil's behavior this morning seems unusual for him."
Althea: He... has reason to take quori attacks seriously...
Edgeworth nods. "Understood."
Althea sighs after about a minute of further staring at the kettle. "...what little you've described... is disturbingly... familiar."
Edgeworth's eyes widen slightly in unpleasant surprise. "Do you mean to imply that once more, our dreams were one and the same?"
Althea closes her eyes. "...the crime was a theft involving Siberys dragonshards...?"
Edgeworth's expression hardens. "Indeed."
Althea shudders, and there is unmistakable dread in her eyes as she looks back toward Edgeworth. "...you witnessed... my nightmare, yes..."
Edgeworth can't help but glare back at that expression. Apparently, there is something of the truth in what played out...
Althea winces and averts her gaze.
Edgeworth: Have you, in fact, committed any crime?
Althea: ...there have been times and situations in my life where I have put my own sense of morality and fair play above the letter of the law. I am not one who takes great risks to undermine those things I don't believe in, but neither am I content to simply play by the rules and maintain the status quo...
Althea: The theft for which I was accused was a fabrication... but it was a fabrication carefully chosen for its ability to... drag certain secrets out of me...
Edgeworth's eyes flicker with an odd struggle between calculating evaluation of Althea's words, confident certainty, and troubled confusion.
Althea shivers a bit while under Edgeworth's scrutiny, and after a moment reaches for the kettle and pours water into her cup, but returns to making eye contact after setting the kettle down.
Edgeworth quickly shifts his gaze to his teacup, swirling the tea lightly.
Edgeworth shakes his head. My mind must be playing tricks on me in my fatigued state.
Edgeworth takes a sip of tea, pinky extended and eyes closed.
Edgeworth sets the teacup down, shakes his head again more firmly, and then finally lapses into thought.
Althea waits suitably long for her tea to steep, then takes a sip herself.
Edgeworth speaks slowly yet firmly. "...The path you walk reminds me of that followed by a certain group whose identities came to light shortly before my arrival here. It isn't one I would wish to walk myself, nor do I believe it the best one, but neither can I regard it with complete disdain."
Edgeworth: I wonder what's become of Kay in my absence. I can only hope that the allure of their methods won't continue to outweigh the ideals that must be kept firmly in mind.
Althea sets down her cup. "I hope you understand that you are now privy to things that, save whatever risk might exist that others were drawn into witnessing that nightmare, are in their entire collection known to no others here..."
Althea: ...details that, depending on how they are used, could do me great injury...
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "I'm fully aware of the truth's value as a weapon."
Althea shudders slightly at the phrasing and delivery, and nods. "Weapon would be an appropriate term..."
Edgeworth pauses at that reaction. "...As things stand, I have no reason to turn a weapon against you."
Althea nods slowly and takes another sip.
Edgeworth uncrosses his arms and sips more tea himself.
After a long moment of silence, there's a knock at the door.
Edgeworth looks to the door, then to Althea, teacup in hand...
Dil opens the door and steps in, looking slightly more casual than before. In his hand is the Archive's enchanted helmet, and sticking out of a pocket is a runed stick. He sets each of these on the table in turn.
Edgeworth puts down his tea in order to put the helmet on, then extends a hand for Dil to touch in the process of casting his own spell of comprehension.
Dil: Now for the bright side of what's happened here — your being hurt should help motivate you to succeed at this.
Edgeworth looks down and over at the other object Dil set on the table. "Am I to understand that this is a... real wand, then?"
Dil grins, though the usual touch of mischief in it is missing in favor of a touch of melancholy. "Right. The spell is called Cure Light Wounds, and you should know the motions for it already. Get it right, and it should remove most, maybe even all of the pain."
Dil: But to do that, you'll need to get past the hard part.
Edgeworth reaches for the wand with a quizzical expression, then he finally pulls a memory out of his drowsy haze and nods.
Edgeworth: Now that you mention it, I do recall you saying that touching on the technical aspects alone entailed a simplification.
Dil: Right — that doesn't even get into the metaphysical side of it.
Edgeworth can't hold back a quirk of irritation in his lips.
Althea: Walking this path requires developing an appreciation of such things...
Edgeworth sighs as he pulls out from the table, then carefully stands. "It's merely an appreciation that will be difficult to cultivate."
Althea: Indeed, but I suspect you will be pleased with the rewards in time.
Dil: Anyway, from the outside using a wand looks the same no matter who's using one, but inwardly one of the big differences between arcane and divine casters is happening.
Edgeworth peers at Dil, but only raises the wand into position as he listens.
Dil: It's all about how different kinds of magical potential are tapped. Arcanists draw primarily on understanding the workings of the spell to various degrees, whether through study or intuitively.
Dil: While for us, the emphasis is on meaning — strongly so for clerics.
Althea continues to sip her tea, leaving the explanations largely to Dil.
Edgeworth rubs his forehead and groans. "And what precisely is that supposed to mean?"
Dil: What does the ability to heal an ordinary wound mean for you? Where does it fit into the tapestry of your faith? Don't try to rush an answer — consider it until... well, until you know what the truth is.
Edgeworth holds his head in his free hand. I can't believe I have to listen to this.
Althea: This is not something we can help you with in any detailed sense; your understanding will be your own, particularly given the... unique situation you are in.
Dil nods. "I'd even go so far as to say that trying to look at anyone else's ideas would just get in the way for now."
Dil: But you figure things out fast, and you have a strong sense of your own beliefs, right? If you can't figure it out before you just sleep your injury off, I'd be surprised.
Dil grins. "Just don't waste charges on anything shallow, all right? These do cost money."
Edgeworth sighs, his free hand hanging by his side by now. "Very well."
Dil steps over to Edgeworth and whispers something into his ear, prompting the prosecutor to nod.
Dil then heads for the door out with a wave. "Go anywhere in the Archive you're allowed if it'll help. I don't want to get in your way, so good luck."
Althea finishes her tea and stands. "I shall take my leave now as well. I have some research to conduct while I'm here."
Edgeworth stares at the wand in his hand with an uneasy frown. "Er, right..."
Edgeworth's gaze wanders the length of the wand. So another moment of truth has come — the day that I'm expected to wield this... magic actively, if not entirely directly, in any sophisticated form.
Edgeworth silently traces the three-dimensional sigil appropriate to the spell in the air with the wand — slowly to remind himself at first, then as quickly as he can manage. He shakes his head, then traces it quickly again with greater accuracy.
Edgeworth: That and the nonsense syllables Dil relayed constitute the "easy part", apparently.
Edgeworth half-frowns and lightly glares at the wand in mild irritation. As for this "hard part" — somehow accessing my own potential through ascribing a "deep meaning" to the spell contained within this...
Edgeworth sighs. It would seem like nonsense, if not for what I've already experienced and accomplished since my arrival.
Edgeworth: After all, given that belief alone apparently dictates the flow of divine magic in a general sense, it makes at least some form of logical sense that creating specific effects would require specialized convictions.
Edgeworth: Dil and Althea leave no room to doubt that the mere practical applications of a basic healing spell are insufficient, yet I'm not sure where else to begin...
Edgeworth: Victims of assault would, of course, benefit from this. Then again, would that not make the wounds more difficult to match with the weapons, thereby tampering with the evidence?
Edgeworth: Ergo, to use this too frivolously could undermine the very cause I pursue...
Edgeworth puts a finger to his temple. Is there a time when that would not be the case — a situation where this spell would instead aid in bringing the truth to light?
Edgeworth is struck by a flash of memory — Franziska being hauled kicking and screaming into an ambulance with a bullet wound in her shoulder.
Edgeworth: Had I not been there and sufficiently prepared to take her place, what would have become of the case?
Edgeworth: Though glory clearly continues to outweigh the truth in her heart, she isn't without a sense of justice. I cannot say the same is necessarily true of every prosecutor...
Edgeworth closes his eyes and holds these thoughts in his mind while waving the wand experimentally, then mutters something and traces the three-dimensional rune he's been making practice traces of as quickly as he's able. Unfortunately, all he manages to accomplish is to create a small burst of yellow-green sparks that quickly fades.
Edgeworth opens his eyes to look at the results... then glowers.
Edgeworth: That should have worked...
Edgeworth frowns. ...shouldn't it have? The truth still... feels just out of reach.
Edgeworth huffs and shakes his head. I still can't believe I'm thinking in such terms as that.
Edgeworth: Unfortunately, it seems as though I've found myself on a path where I must, whether I like the idea or not.
Edgeworth regards the wand again.
Edgeworth: I seem to have missed the mark, yet what else would call for this capability in the context of my work?...
Edgeworth: Perhaps more importantly, why is that application not the one that applies here?
Edgeworth shifts positions a bit as he considers this, as he's starting to feel stiff.
Edgeworth: ...Dil described this spell as being sufficient to heal "light" or "ordinary" wounds. Given that I've seen no sign that guns exist in this world, and what few weapons I've taken note of seem almost anachronistically archaic for the apparent level of technology, perhaps Franziska's wound exceeds that description.
Edgeworth: To heal sufficiently for prosecution would perhaps call for a stronger spell...
Edgeworth: Under what conditions, then, would this suffice?
Edgeworth shakes his head after a moment. Perhaps I should retreat to the reality of my current situation for the moment. I've seemingly become the victim of a quori attack, and this spell has been implied by both Althea and Dil as typically sufficient to counteract the most common results of such an attack.
Edgeworth shudders at the memory of what being 'struck' was actually like — a stinging pain throughout his being accompanied by the sensation of being entombed deep within earth that was roaring and shaking far worse than he'd ever experienced...
Edgeworth whimpers as he shakes his head again. Don't dwell on it, Miles!
Edgeworth: Anyway, in the wake of that, when I came to, my spine was aching lightly — though even the slightest injury to that part of the body is distracting at best.
Edgeworth: Althea described typical symptoms as not only including aches and pains as I'm having to contend with, but becoming briefly comatose as well. Perhaps, at times, the pain and injury are sufficient to require victims to lose consciousness if they're to have any chance of survival.
Edgeworth pauses to consider this for a moment.
Edgeworth: Certainly no one can participate in court while unconscious; that much is so obvious that it seems almost too basic to consider.
Edgeworth: Nevertheless, logic leads to that very consideration...
Edgeworth: If aiding Franziska would have called for a stronger spell than one that's merely enough to render someone conscious, then who would only require that level of aid to participate?
Edgeworth: The prosecution and the defense must both be in fighting shape. Even the judge must be sufficiently focused to keep them in check and give due consideration to what the truth really is.
Edgeworth blinks in realization. Which leaves... the witnesses. A witness in no condition to share what they know cannot participate, but their condition need not necessarily be any better than that. This spell could restore health to someone sufficiently to allow them to testify...
Edgeworth recoils suddenly and drops the wand as though it had bitten him; it clatters to the floor.
Edgeworth: What the hell was...?!
Edgeworth stares down at the wand as it rolls to a stop, wide-eyed. Is that... it?
Edgeworth bends down with a wince to pick the wand back up. To realize a spell's primary purpose in my rightful place, to which all other uses are at best secondary...
Edgeworth: The way it could be used to expand upon the greater machine of the world of justice... Is that the "meaning" I needed to find?
Edgeworth stands, raises the wand back into position, closes his eyes, and focuses on the concept of healing a witness enough to allow them to say their piece...
Edgeworth once more utters the necessary word to activate the device and traces the sigil needed, this time not creating a burst but leaving a tight yet dim and sparse trail of yellow-green sparks hanging in the wake of the wand's movements.
Edgeworth opens his eyes to find a dim yellow-green glow hanging along the wand's length.
Edgeworth: I... I did it. I'm actually responsible for this...
Edgeworth frowns. Though I feel no better. I seem to have only lit the wand with something akin to foxfire.
Edgeworth thinks for a moment. Perhaps it's like the spell Dil uses when he needs to communicate with me, and a touch is required to complete it?
Edgeworth reaches back with the wand, tapping his back with it as centrally as he's able.
The light discharges from the wand into his back; half of it travels up his spine from that point in a split-second, the other half down at an equal speed.
Edgeworth breathes in sharply, then brings the wand back into his field of vision and looks down at it with a new appreciation.
Edgeworth seats himself again, feeling no pain at all in the process, then sets the wand down on the table before him and continues sipping at his tea, staring at the enchanted item...
After allowing the moment to sink in and process and finishing his tea, Edgeworth takes the wand and begins searching for Dil, not knowing who else to turn to as far as getting the item put back in its proper place. After exhausting the accessable parts of the second basement and quickly looking into the wide-open third, Edgeworth heads upstairs into the libraryesque first basement. While Dil doesn't seem to be here either, another familiar face is...
Althea sits at one of the tables surrounded by several open books, scribbling notes onto sheets of paper.
Edgeworth gives the room another once-over, giving one staring half-elf a warning glare in the process, before finally approaching the familiar halfling.
Edgeworth: Excuse me.
Althea looks up. "Ah, done already? Or did you need something else?"
Edgeworth holds the wand out to Althea, not managing to conceal the lingering wonder in his eyes as he looks down at it. "Indeed. I should return this."
Althea frowns slightly. "You should give it to Dil. I'll let him know you're finished."
Edgeworth: I've been trying to find him...
Althea closes her eyes for a moment, then shakes her head. "It would seem he's gone out."
Althea: At any rate, probably better that you hang onto it for now, unless you're afraid you might activate it by accident.
Edgeworth frowns, then heads over to browse the shelves. "Er, is that all right?" He pauses to consider how to phrase what he has to say next, then gives up and reverts to English: "It seems inappropriate to casually carry around an object of some expense that I neither own nor am legally authorized to handle, and most certainly to leave the premises with such an object."
Althea: No less for me than you, though if you need to leave...
Edgeworth shakes his head. "Not necessarily."
Althea: Even if it comes only with the assistance of an expensive item thus far, you've done something I not merely can't, but dare never do...
Edgeworth looks over his shoulder at Althea grimly, in full realization of the significance of her words.
Edgeworth looks back to the shelves. "It was... an intriguing experience to make use of the wand."
Althea: There are greater challenges to come.
Edgeworth sidesteps to look over more of the titles. "I assumed as much, given that this was more difficult than the last two and we've yet to even begin discussion of my, er, casting... spells under my own power."
Edgeworth: Will I need to give such consideration to every possible effect within my reach?
Althea nods. "I suspect you've probably noticed as well, but while spells is an appropriate general term for such things, when it comes to divine magic, they are also commonly called prayers..."
Edgeworth can't completely suppress a wince. "Indeed."
Edgeworth: Though I rather disapprove of the idea of undermining the concept of objective truth with such language!
Althea sighs and looks down at the table in front of her as her tone becomes hesitant and almost apologetic. "That... may also be something you will have to get over. You needn't use such language yourself, but you will need to grapple with the inherent similarities..."
Althea: Clerics... prepare for the use of magic by praying to their god or other related concept for the spells they intend to use during the day...
Edgeworth shifts in a way that even from the back projects a note of disgust.
Althea: You... will need to find some analogue that... makes sense for your beliefs...
Edgeworth sighs loudly. "Why is this happening?! Who saw fit to banish me to this purgatory to begin with?!"
Edgeworth takes hold of his elbow.
Althea: ...is that the situation you were worrying yourself over a few days ago?
Edgeworth: ...The thought did occur to me on account of my early studies, yes. At the least, the situation doesn't seem to fit a conjuration scenario. While I realize the rules as they're understood here fail to properly fit that possibility as well, such a discrepancy would make more sense if the force responsible originated at my world's end.
Edgeworth: Furthermore, if one assumes such a method to exist in my world, the... opportunity did present itself.
Althea: That seems a somewhat dubious prospect, but I don't know your world's magic so I suppose I can't really say. After this long, most traces of any such spell would have dissipated beyond the point where most casters could detect it...
Edgeworth turns and shakes his head. "I'm certainly not the man to ask. As far as I'm aware, the Fey clan is the lone exception to the general rule."
Althea: And thus far you only have evidence of them possessing divinatory and necromantic powers...
Edgeworth: To say nothing of the question of opportunity for those who would have the motivation.
Edgeworth glances aside. "The, er, specific window of time that someone could have taken advantage of was not one that lent itself to premeditation."
Althea nods... "Sorry to bring it up..."
Edgeworth looks mildly puzzled, but nods.
Edgeworth's expression firms. "You mentioned there being a way to seek out traces of spells, and of greater difficulty the longer one waits?"
Althea: Yes. There's a fairly simple divination that can detect such traces, but it's limited in how faint a trace it can detect; I suspect you will learn it before too long.
Althea: A more powerful variation exists that can detect fainter traces, as well as revealing more detail about such traces; with the right skill and circumstances it may be possible to determine who cast it.
Althea: Whether that one will become available to you eventually is harder to be certain of, but if you have as much potential as you seem, it is entirely possible.
Edgeworth: ...I see...
Edgeworth: That does constitute a compelling reason to come to understand what this so-called "praying" truly entails...
Edgeworth: After all, some details I've observed appear to support claims I've read that clerics have quite a lot in common regardless of beliefs.
Edgeworth: Presumably, there is an underlying process at work — merely one so strongly intertwined with primitive thought that it may prove difficult to disentangle and reconstruct.
Edgeworth: So long as I can remain logical myself, that truth will inevitably show itself to me. But for now, a different truth requires my attention.
Edgeworth: Would it be possible to have someone else cast that more powerful variation for the sake of learning how I arrived?
Althea frowns in thought. "It's been... six days now? I suppose it might be possible to find someone powerful enough to do so, though it's a somewhat expensive prospect. If this had happened some place less major than Korranberg it might effectively be too late already."
Althea: It's not enough to merely find someone who can cast it; we'd need someone advanced enough to be even more sensitive to the remaining traces than most capable casters would be...
Edgeworth's brow furrows. "A significant limit indeed."
Althea: The longer we wait, the less likely we can succeed at any price, so if we're going to...
Edgeworth nods firmly. "Though I feel uncomfortable leaving with the wand, quite frankly I haven't been told how or where one might put it away, and I presume I too would need to be examined. Ergo, we may have no other choice."
Althea: Probably best to check out the local House Medani enclave; they should have magewrights capable of such a task.
Edgeworth: Very well.
Given that Edgeworth still hopes to return the wand as soon as he can, Althea makes the arrangements alone while the prosecutor waits at the Archive for anyone who can help. Korranberg's House Medani enclave is oddly small for such a curious people, even considering that the House is itself small. Nevertheless, they do have someone on hand who can do the job.
Althea leads the half-elf in question to the exterior of the Archive so she can notify Edgeworth via missive to meet them outside. The three of them then start making their way towards the alley where Edgeworth awoke as the Medani scion peers at him curiously...
Edgeworth meets the half-elf's staring with a glare, though one relatively lacking in judgement or malice.
Mari hrms and scribbles something on a paper on her clipboard.
Edgeworth: Am I such a well-known curiosity now that even people outside the Archive see fit to take notes concerning my every action?
Edgeworth sighs and rubs his forehead.
Edgeworth shakes his head, then puts his finger to his temple as he considers how to phrase what he's wondering.
Edgeworth: Is there anything I must know about this... er, how would one say "procedure"?... in order for it to work best?
Mari recites tiredly and rapidly even as she continues to scribble, "I have seven minutes to work with so don't feel as though you have to stand in the way, that wouldn't be for the best even if I weren't this good at just one thing, I can't identify the signatures of people I've never seen the magic of before even with my skill, you don't get a refund if I don't find anything..."
Edgeworth winces slightly, finding it hard to make sense of speech quite that rapid. "Gnngh." Perhaps I'm not yet ready to ask such open-ended questions of just anyone...
Althea glances at Edgeworth, then back at Mari. "I'm... not sure your client is quite fluent enough for that pace of speech..."
Mari sighs. "Oh. I suppose that makes sense. At least this is adding a little color to the routine."
Mari begins repeating herself in proper sentences at a slower pace.
Edgeworth's irritation recedes, and he nods slowly.
Edgeworth: Unfortunately, she comes across as far too weary to put up with more in-depth questioning.
Before too long, the three arrive at the same alleyway Edgeworth woke up in six days prior.
Edgeworth points at a spot not far in. "That is where I woke up, yet not where I fell. Not anywhere near where I fell unconscious, in fact."
Althea: Indeed not... er, did you want to make that clear, or...?
Edgeworth: I would have said as much in Common given the skill to do so, but I know too little about this... er, forensic procedure to know if it would be of use to her.
Edgeworth steps aside as the half-elf begins to chant and gesture.
Althea: Probably best to let her see what she can find without too much bias. There should be sufficient time to clarify any ambiguity.
Edgeworth nods firmly. "Point taken."
Mari stares into the alley for about twenty seconds, then turns her gaze upward for a few, steps forward into the alley, and otherwise makes a show of trying to get a quick read of nearby areas.
Mari: ...I hate to say it, but the area's clean of any sign of intentional aetheric manipulations. If something anomalous happened here, it would've been a transient manifest zone or other planar influence, not actively employed magic.
Edgeworth recoils. "That wasn't the only possibility?!"
Althea shakes her head. "I wouldn't even have thought it the most likely, myself..."
Edgeworth glares at Althea. "I'd appreciate some further explanation once we're done here."
Althea nods. "Of course."
Mari: Come on, enough talking behind my back and come over here. It's your turn now.
Edgeworth action looks up and over, resolute. "Very well."
Edgeworth heads over into the mouth of the alleyway himself, as that was confirmed to be clean of the influences sought.
Mari: ...Well, there's a weak conjuration trace on you but that looks far too weak to have moved you any meaningful distance, and it looks like you're carrying some minor conjuration-based item, and... wait, hold on...!
Mari's face lights up. "Sir, have you had issues with nightmares?"
Edgeworth: Er, what? Well, yes, but —
Mari seems to suddenly be a bundle of nervous energy, half scared and half excited. "I've found a clairsentient trace on you! It would have to be psychoportive to explain your movement of course, that doesn't explain what happened here, but that's not important!"
Edgeworth looks baffled and flustered. "Er, what? Ma'am, if you could please slow down —"
Mari: I might actually be able to report something useful for once! Finally!
Althea looks at Mari, then back at Edgeworth, looking a bit worried.
Edgeworth's expression hardens. "I beg your pardon, but how is what we hired you for not —"
Mari grins. "The Watcher of the Conspiracy of Dal Quor will be so pleased!"
Althea pales slightly.
Edgeworth recoils again. "What does Dal Quor have to do with anything?!"
Althea: ...You think the quori—
Mari seems to realize Edgeworth's there again at that instant. "Oh, oh! Right, of course you wouldn't know. I forget sometimes because they don't let me out much except for the grunt work..."
Mari: But yes, the quori!
Edgeworth's eyes widen. How could she possibly —
Mari: We're still only getting started with identifying the contours of the conspiracy, but —
Althea puts a hand to her forehead. "Wait, wait, wait, wait... Wait. You think the quori left a clairsentient trace of some kind in order to help target him...?"
Edgeworth blinks and looks to Althea.
Mari: Well, a trace shouldn't be enough, it should at least be a faint active aura, except I'm having a hard time looking away from him, so maybe there's more to how this works than I understand?
Althea glances at Edgeworth and her eyes widen a bit further, then she winces.
Edgeworth appears unsettled at the idea of it being hard to look away from him.
Althea: Ah... there... um... is only the one trace on him?
Mari: Well, that's the only psionic trace, why?
Althea rubs her forehead. "...yeah. Ah, that one is my fault. I placed a psychic beacon on him shortly after he arrived..."
Edgeworth frowns at Althea. "Was that the chime that rang in my head?"
Mari's face falls. "Your... fault?"
Althea: Yes. I didn't suppress the manifestation effects. I was kind of hoping you'd take notice, given the... difficulty we had over the subject.
Althea: My foremost motivation, however, was to check back to make sure you hadn't gotten into trouble; you're familiar with some of the difficulties the locale presents at this point.
Althea: The effects only last for twenty-four hours, but given we were asking her to check for minute traces to begin with...
Edgeworth nods slowly and grimly. "I suppose I cannot fault you for such an action."
Mari, meanwhile, looks to be on the verge of tears.
Althea: Yes, it's something we're already aware— are you all right?
Edgeworth blinks and looks back to Mari at Althea's question.
Mari forces herself to tear her gaze away from Edgeworth, the tears in her eyes joined by bitterness. "Oh, of course the boring tool over here is all right. Why wouldn't I be? I did my job, why should I be useful for anything else?"
Edgeworth's eyes widen. What just happened?!
Althea takes a step backward, looking somewhat flustered. What have I done...?
Mari begins to sob.
Edgeworth draws back in horror. I cannot simply stand by in the face of this, but what can I do?!...
Edgeworth stands straight and takes a deep breath, attempting to force himself to calm down and focus.
Edgeworth: The truth may sometimes bring pain, and we may fail to find the evidence we need, but we must not stop searching because of that.
Althea blinks, looking at Edgeworth, then back to Mari.
Edgeworth: However, you must do the searching. It is... um, I'm not certain how to say it's an active endeavor.
Althea takes a moment to respond with the customary translation, apparently a bit distracted.
Althea: ...is it the same? I don't really know enough to be certain... yet, if it might be, I can't ignore...
Mari manages to choke out, "But... b-but I'm not good at that, I'm nothing compared to the rest except in detecting magic, I'm not even marked, I..."
Edgeworth looks worriedly from Mari to Althea and back to Mari, not having been able to make out speech quite that garbled.
Althea: ...Perhaps you need to look beyond your role within your House... Some things one must find for oneself...
Althea's eyes widen as it occurs to her how her words might possibly be misconstrued. "N-n-not that the Dreaming Dark would in any way fall into th-that latter category!"
Edgeworth looks to Althea, baffled.
Mari runs off sobbing harder.
Althea winces. "What have I gotten us into...?"
Edgeworth: What do you mean?...
Althea takes off after Mari. "No time to explain. Come on."
Edgeworth strides quickly after Althea, looking rather irritated. "This seems rather unlike you."
Althea: ...I panicked. You remember how I said you should stay away from the Path of Inspiration and the Path of Light?
Edgeworth: Indeed. So this is somehow related...
Althea: ...House Medani would know something of the Dreaming Dark. Enough to appreciate they are dangerous, certainly. But whether the scion we hired fully appreciates just how dangerous they are, I don't know. And I may have just motivated her to prove herself by way of discovering more on her own...
Edgeworth: If this organization, or whatever it may be, is really so dangerous, then must some risk not be taken to find the information necessary to protect others?
Edgeworth glowers disapprovingly even as he jogs after the halfling.
Althea glances at Edgeworth, startled, her pace faltering for a moment before she responds.
Althea: I... don't dispute that House Medani has every reason to investigate... but...
Althea: ...It's an entirely different matter if I've encouraged someone to behave recklessly despite knowing the dangers better than they...
Edgeworth: Do not misconstrue what must be done to make amends. If things are as you make them seem, then your duty is not to somehow protect her from the truth, but merely from herself.
Althea: ...right. There are... limits to how much I can say without betraying the trust that was placed in me, but... if it's the best way forward, I can tell her some of what I know...
Edgeworth: So that is the barrier in play here...
Althea turns her attention to an alleyway across the street, where the faint sounds of sobbing and gasping for breath can be heard.
Edgeworth looks up and over at Althea's reaction, taking note of the sounds himself at the prompt, then nods and slows down. He takes a moment to check traffic before starting to head across.
Althea nods and follows Edgeworth.
In the alleyway in question, the half-elf is huddled against a wall, trying to simultaneously catch her breath and gather her emotions.
Althea takes a deep breath herself. "I apologize for my outburst. In retrospect I realize it must have seemed rather patronizing... However, there are not many people in a position to appreciate just how dangerous the Dreaming Dark truly are..."
Edgeworth crosses his arms and remains silent, focusing on trying to understand the conversation as best he can and keeping an eye on Althea.
Mari looks up at Althea, at first surprised and then skeptical. "And you've changed your mind about whether I need to be kept in my place?"
Althea puts a hand to her forehead. "I just don't want to be responsible for sending you charging recklessly into danger on your own... Especially given what I know..."
Mari frowns and tilts her head, then takes her clipboard back out, still red-eyed.
Althea sighs slightly, and looks around the alley before sitting on the ground near a wall. "I... can't tell you everything I know, but I can offer some explanation."
Althea: Dal Quor is a plane of malleable reality, and dreamers shape its outer edges as they project to it while dreaming...
Althea: Most of its structure is shaped from within, however, by a tremendous force the quori call Quor Tarai, or the spirit of the age.
Mari nods and writes...
Althea: The current Quor Tarai is a nightmarish force of darkness known as il-Lashtavar, meaning Darkness that Dreams or Dreaming Dark.
Althea: Sometime after the quori attempted to invade Eberron and were driven out by the giants, a cataclysmic event occurred that changed the nature of the Quor Tarai, reshaping all of Dal Quor and remaking all of the quori. No quori who now lives possesses clear memory of Dal Quor as it was before this event.
Edgeworth: If what I understand of her words is accurate, it seems that the books that she brought me before quite literally only scratched the surface of things...
Edgeworth: Though certainly I'll need to ask the meaning of certain words later.
Mari: This sounds more like some sort of strange myth than anything...
Mari does sound less suspicious now, however.
Althea: There are those among the quori who believe that the nature of the Quor Tarai, and thus of Dal Quor itself, is cyclical, and that eventually il-Lashtavar will be replaced by il-Yannah, a force of great light rather than darkness.
Althea: Some few quori respect this as the natural order... but they are a persecuted minority. The vast majority of quori cannot accept the loss of self such a cataclysm would inevitably bring... and so they seek to prevent the age from ever turning again.
Althea: The prevailing belief among those who seek to stop the cycle is that the dreamers of Eberron are the key to their efforts, for we each shape Dal Quor in various ways. If we can all be made to dream the same dream, it could have a powerful stabilizing effect on Dal Quor's reality.
Althea: All it requires is depriving us of the inconvenience of free thought.
Mari frowns even as she continues to take notes. "...Are quori even capable of that level of higher thought? If they are, it would help explain there being any patterns other than predation at all, but without proof..."
Edgeworth's brow furrows deeply with the effort of even following the conversation.
Althea: That they are merely instinct-driven predators is a common presumption, and one they have little reason to willfully displace. It does make things rather difficult for the Dreaming Dark's enemies, since attempting to explain the threat to most inhabitants of Eberron is somewhat akin to claiming that mosquitoes are trying to take over the world...
Mari pauses in her writing briefly, tapping the back of her pen on her notes. "The ability to think in any terms but manipulation of dreams and understand what past and future are other than resources for making nightmares is certainly a different theory..."
Mari continues to write.
Althea: Not only are they intelligent beings with their own agenda, and effectively immortal so long as the age does not turn... but time flows differently in Dal Quor; a full ten hours would pass there for every one here. This affords them ample opportunity to plan carefully.
Mari hrms. "I'll need to verify that, but if you're right..."
Edgeworth grits his teeth in irritation, having less and less basis for making sense of such a complex conversation as it wears on.
Althea: They do not have the ability to reach Eberron physically, but they are able to influence people to act on their behalf...
Mari: But all of this depends on your being right about the root premise that they're sapient. Establishing that is... not something I can do, but the Watcher of the Conspiracy of Dal Quor could direct such an effort if he thought it was an angle worth pursuing...
Mari looks nervous about the prospect even as she writes a bit more.
Althea nods. "I'm not sure if I can say much more without betraying confidences... but it should give you something to work with."
Mari: Even eliminating a possibility would be progress, I guess.
Mari takes a breath and stands back up, eyes still weary from earlier.
Althea: In any event... it is probably wise to be wary when psionics are at play; loathe as I may be to invite prejudice, there are not many of us in Khorvaire who have the ability, and far fewer still who are... uninvolved in the matter to which I've alluded.
Mari frowns down at Althea. "I know, I know. The Watcher reminds us of this at every major meeting."
Althea nods, her expression controlled. Though it's not exactly unexpected, it is disconcerting to be sternly reminded that I'm a suspicious person just by dint of ability...
Althea: ...right. In any event, I think we've settled the official business as best as is possible under the circumstances. Unless you had any further questions beyond explanation of planar mechanics?
Althea looks to Edgeworth.
Edgeworth looks lost and frustrated. "Gkkkmmnngh..."
Althea: ...about the magic reading, or anything only she could elaborate on surrounding it; we can catch up on everything else later...
Edgeworth sighs, looking mollified and mentally reviewing what question Althea asked before her English elaboration.
Edgeworth: Is a... transient manifest zone the only possible explanation for a lack of a magical trace where I came in or a, er, relevant magical trace on myself?
Mari: As far as I know.
Althea frowns in thought. "It's not completely inconceivable that very large scale magic could have side effects in distant locations... but I don't actually know of any that could do something like this as a side effect..."
Althea: ...There is also the thought that something along the lines of a Teleportation Circle could move you without leaving traces on you or your destination... but that's an extremely powerful spell. I don't know whether there are still people living on Khorvaire who could cast it, and it would have to have been cast in your world...
Mari stares at Althea. "That spell actually exists?"
Althea looks to Mari. "There are records of it." She inclines her head in the direction of the Library district.
Edgeworth looks troubled. It would seem that whatever the explanation for my presence here, it would have to be extraordinary indeed...
Mari frowns. "Too bad I'd probably just get a headache if I detected something that amazing."
Althea: That's about all the speculation I can offer on alternatives.
Edgeworth: I should reiterate that there are no manifest zones where I'm from. Certainly someone would have noticed if they did exist, however dubious the source.
Althea: There are also no manifest zones in Dal Quor, nor any here that correspond to its energies. Perhaps your plane had no orbit, but was recently attracted to Eberron and became briefly coterminous for the first time in either of our histories?
Edgeworth looks disturbed at the notion. If I understand what she's proposing correctly, that would bode ill for any prospect of my return.
Althea: Also, our knowledge is limited. It's entirely conceivable that we simply don't know about whatever means brought you here.
Althea: Even our studies of the nearby Ethereal and Shadow planes are mostly limited to their applicability to certain types of magic.
Edgeworth is slightly calmer, but still frowning. "I see."
Althea: The Shadow plane in particular poses difficulties to exploration given its highly ephemeral nature. While the Material plane influences its contents, it is not a true mirror of the Material plane, but a dark and distorted mockery. One will find only approximations of landmarks, the details of which will change in a week.
Althea: Those who venture beyond those areas they know risk becoming completely and hopelessly lost.
Althea: Its nature is also toxic, though it fortunately takes years of exposure for that nature to inflict permanent harm.
Edgeworth: I beg your pardon, but aren't we getting off topic?
Althea sighs slightly. "My point is, we haven't really had the means, opportunity and apparent need to explore these planes as fully as the Astral plane or the accessible Outer planes. While we might conjecture further based on observation about the possible limits of the Ethereal plane, the tenuous nature of the connection between the Material and Shadow planes prevents even that..."
Edgeworth raises his finger to his temple. In other words, she believes that to be a potential line of investigation.
Mari begins to look uncomfortable and conflicted.
Althea glances at Mari, then looks back to Edgeworth. "Any other questions?"
Edgeworth nods, then looks to Mari firmly. "Actually, yes. I know little about the spell you used. Is there more one should know about it?"
Edgeworth: Even if I knew how to say it in Common, to say that I'm woefully underinformed would be an understatement.
Mari looks genuinely surprised. Slowly, she replies, "It's the same one any inquisitive needs access to. Aside from being able to detect traces that are days old, it's possible to make out the magical signatures of specific people with it or determine the last spell someone cast. It's not foolproof, but at least I have some use with it."
Mari: Most spellcasters powerful enough can cast it or learn how to. Detecting magic has to be the most boring magical talent there is. Why do you look like you want to capture something?
Edgeworth appears confused at that last question, looking from Mari to Althea.
Althea blinks, looking at Mari and then Edgeworth. "Ah..."
Althea: You will almost certainly learn that spell eventually if your studies are successful.
Edgeworth smirks with resolve. "So I understood correctly."
Mari looks slightly uncomfortable as she takes further notes, muttering something under her breath. "Is he always this scary?"
Edgeworth makes a sweeping bow. "For now, I appreciate your help."
Mari sighs. "It's not like I'm not used to being outgrown."
Edgeworth winces. "I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean —"
Althea sighs. "Please keep in mind your client is not as fluent in Common as he may sometimes appear."
Mari: ...Oh, right.
Mari shakes her head.
Edgeworth gathers himself again quickly once the situation appears defused, then pauses to figure out phrasing before speaking again. "Perhaps we will need your help again before we leave Korranberg."
Althea nods. "We needn't take up any more of your time at present. Thank you for your assistance."
Mari nods, then turns to head back towards the Medani enclave. "Goodbye, then. And, er, thank you too, I guess."
Edgeworth looks to Althea. "I believe we have some matters to discuss further at the hotel."
Althea nods, waiting until Mari is well out of sight before rubbing her forehead and sighing. "I really hope I don't end up getting caught between House Medani and the Inspired..."
Edgeworth frowns, half concerned and half vexed. I cannot say I fully understand the nature of her concerns given my lack of skill in Common.
Edgeworth lifts his finger to his temple, then after a moment heads in what he thinks is the direction to the inn from their current location.
Althea follows Edgeworth.
The Ghallanda inn where Edgeworth is spending his nights is relatively quiet at this time of day. The only obvious sounds at all come from the direction of the kitchen downstairs. As such, the prosecutor and the scholar neither notice or are noticed by anyone there as they enter his room.
Edgeworth seats himself in one of the larger chairs and crosses his arms, frowning. "I hate to admit this, but I was lost throughout most of your explanation to the Medani heir we hired. I do grasp that it involved some sort of further explanation of quori and Dal Quor which she took to be what you believed, but not necessarily the truth."
Althea nods. "The high-level summary would be that Dal Quor resets itself periodically, all quori are remade into new beings in that process, most quori don't want to be and believe they can hold it back by controlling our dreams."
Edgeworth looks uneasy. Mere days ago that would not have seemed remotely within the realm of possibility, and yet...
Edgeworth: What does this have to do with the religions you mentioned?
Althea hesitates, starts to speak, and stops, looking conflicted. After a minute, she responds. "...Far too much for it to be safe to discuss under the circumstances..."
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "What differs between my own circumstances and those of the, er, half-elf we hired?"
Althea: Conspiracies like this are House Medani's business. I can afford to point them vaguely in the right direction. Even so, I did not mention the P— er, the most relevant religion. I can't afford to have that major a breakthrough in their efforts become traceable to myself...
Edgeworth frowns in thought for a moment, then asks, "How precisely are conspiracies House Medani's business?"
Althea: I should say more precisely that they are the business of the Warning Guild. A large part of their organization is about amassing intelligence on potential threats of various kinds.
Althea: House Deneith and House Tharashk can provide the muscle to defend against an immediate attack. Medani's services are more geared toward ensuring that such a threat to their clients never materializes.
Edgeworth: Thus does the difference between the "inquisitives", as it's apparently said here, of Tharashk and Medani grow clearer.
Edgeworth: In short, saying anything at all in this case involved reporting what you thought you could to, if not a proper authority, at least a relevant non-governmental organization.
Althea nods. "House Medani will need to know much, in time. But..." She trails off, looking conflicted again.
Edgeworth taps his finger on his arm. "But you are constrained both by fear of what this foreign religion could do, and a promise made, presumably to a member of the other religion you refuse to discuss."
Althea winces and nods.
Edgeworth: Given your phrasing when you first mentioned them, I presume that the Path of Inspiration is the former religion and the Path of Light the latter. Your mention of wishing not to be caught between House Medani and "the Inspired" would seem from phrasing alone to corroborate this.
Althea can't help glancing around nervously as Edgeworth names them in this context, but neither says nor indicates anything to contradict him.
Edgeworth begins to smirk, but this quickly melts into a more sober expression as he uncrosses his arms. "...Althea. Presumably, you would not come here if the Trust you describe as spying on the people of this country for their own sake posed a threat to you, whether through apparent connection to this foreign religion or some other reason. Ergo, your fear being quite this immediate must have some other root."
Althea sighs. "If it were the Trust who I feared hearing this, I have a power that could have helped to thwart their observation for a time... but such an ability would merely attract the attention of those who pose the true threat..."
Edgeworth: So this conspiracy you speak of already has a presence on this continent?
Althea: It has some presence in most of Khorvaire's nations by now...
Edgeworth: The book I read concerning religious perspectives on magic did not mention the Path of Inspiration. As such, I presume that this presence is a recent development. Furthermore, it seems highly probable that the Path of Inspiration is far older than its presence here if it poses any sort of threat at all.
Edgeworth: Furthermore, the lack of any mention of the Path of Inspiration goes beyond that book — I've yet to overhear any mention of it at all at the Archive. As such, I believe we can eliminate evangelization as the nature of that presence. A people as curious as the Zil associated with the Archival Foundation would be looking into a newly-arrived religion.
Edgeworth: All that having been said, is the nature of this "Dreaming Dark" you mentioned some form of spy organization?
Althea: ...not precisely, no...
Althea: The Dreaming Dark... are the quori who seek to prevent the turning of the age.
Edgeworth grits his teeth and winces. "Er, right, of course. Hence why the discussion you were having was primarily about Dal Quor and quori."
Edgeworth: I really must seek more resources on Common!
Edgeworth pauses to regather his thoughts.
Edgeworth: You were speaking of a center to Dal Quor unmentioned in the books you lent me before, were you not?
Althea: The Quor Tarai - the spirit of the age. A powerful force shaping most of Dal Quor. The current Quor Tarai is a powerful force of darkness known as il-Lashtavar... literally "Darkness that Dreams" or "Dreaming Dark"
Edgeworth: Presumably, to adopt the same name they must consider themselves to be its direct servants.
Althea: The last turning of the age happened shortly after the quori invasion of Eberron was repelled by the giants. No quori who lives now knows anything of the Dal Quor that was before the cataclysmic change.
Edgeworth: And yet, to see stopping it from happening again as a goal worth pursuing, they must know it to be possible, presumably through evidence of it happening before.
Althea nods. "Aside from the turning of the age, the quori are effectively immortal. The quori that exist today know of the quori of the invasion from us, but only by that means; essentially their entire identities were remade when it happened."
Edgeworth: Two things strike me about this. Firstly, all of this implies a sapience to quori that was not implied in my own reading. Second, if they wish only to save themselves yet aren't being straightforward about it, this seems to imply that for some reason they would not expect anyone's willing cooperation.
Althea: Would you be inclined to help preserve those who prey on your deepest fears for sustenance?
Edgeworth: Hmph. Point taken.
Edgeworth: She seems more willing to discuss matters from this angle — and given her prior comments, she clearly believes it all to be interconnected. How much can I learn along this path?...
Edgeworth: Concerning the matter of sapience, if what you say about the current inaccessibility of Dal Quor other than through dreams is accurate, then it must be extraordinarily difficult to properly study quori. Even in my own world, the smartest of animals were not recognized as such for some time; I can scarcely imagine the difficulty in this case.
Althea nods. "Hence the general belief that the quori are merely predators, and dangerous on that level only."
Edgeworth: And yet, you speak confidently in terms of them being sapient. The only means by which I can imagine that to happen under the circumstances you describe would be direct testimony. Even a vision would leave a great deal of room for doubt without some such context.
Edgeworth: Furthermore, this could not have happened in a mere dream, or else it would have been suspect.
Edgeworth: Ergo, some workaround has allegedly been devised by them and you have met someone claiming to be one in some form, have you not?
Althea: It would as easily suffice for one in whom I had sufficient trust to have obtained such testimony.
Edgeworth spreads his arms, shrugs, and shakes his head. "Given that you claim to study the planes, such a secondhand account would beg personal verification. After all, someone less knowledgable than you could more easily be taken in, could they not?"
Althea glares warningly at Edgeworth. "If I had any reason to presume they were less knowledgable, perhaps."
Edgeworth: Even if they knew as much or more, extraordinary claims must require extraordinary evidence and conclusions must be put to the test even here.
Edgeworth stands and points down at Althea. "Or do you claim, even after having demonstrated your own ability to drag the truth kicking and screaming from its shell, that you would leave such a claim well enough alone?!"
Althea glares at Edgeworth and responds in a Missive. You've already seen the truth in my dream; must you truly wrest it from my lips in circumstances such as these?
Edgeworth's eyes pop wide at receiving a thought that isn't his own outside of the context of a dream, then his expression transitions from surprise to realization.
Edgeworth: The mentor my doppelganger tortured...
Edgeworth stops pointing in favor of raising his finger to his temple. Her implication is clear — her mentor claims such a connection. What she claims to know of this conspiracy, she must primarily have been told by him. Presumably she has gone to some lengths to verify as much as she can from there without needlessly endangering herself.
Edgeworth winces. And... loathe as I am to admit it, her own visions must have been of some aid in realizing this as well.
Edgeworth: If there is any truth to the notion that quori have the intellect, motive, and means to conspire in any way... then Althea would pose some form of threat to any action of theirs she disagreed with. In turn, the dream I bore witness to might well have been intended as...
Edgeworth: ...My apologies, Althea. It would seem that there is one more motive for you to fear spreading the truth as you know it than I realized — one quite recent, at that.
Althea sighs. "The less that is discussed, the better, I fear..."
Edgeworth nods. "While I cannot accept that secrets of the nature we were more openly discussing should be kept for long after proof is obtained, I can at least appreciate a need to exercise caution in proceeding towards that moment lest the truth be lost entirely."
Althea appears to be about to say something, but apparently thinks better of it and remains silent.
Edgeworth seats himself again. "What of Dil? You mentioned previously that he has reason to take quori attacks seriously. Does that have anything to do with these matters?"
Althea shakes her head. "His brother, Mik, is plagued by nightmares of the Last War... and is thus an attractive target for tsucora and du'ulora quori. There's nothing more to it than that, to my knowledge."
Edgeworth nods. "I see..." In short, be wary of jumping to conclusions concerning such things.
Edgeworth: Unfortunately, I believe I've pushed Althea as far as I reasonably can for the time being. Still, I believe there is one more potential connection that could be drawn from what we've already discussed, even if it would appear I cannot ask her for verification.
Edgeworth: If there is any reality to this conspiracy theory, clues would be scant. I do, however, believe that by now Althea has earned enough benefit of the doubt for me to remain open to the possibility.
Edgeworth: ...Do you have any advice or other further remarks on this matter?
Althea considers for several seconds before answering. "If you must pursue this truth, tread lightly and avoid haste."
Althea: You have yet to truly begin harnessing the capabilities your faith provides you; you may need to master your potential to survive upon the road you now contemplate taking...
Althea: ...I should also point out that this is far from the only fading ward threatening Eberron. If I did not think it unwise, I could name several more, and I strongly doubt I know of all of them...
Edgeworth crosses his arms, seeming unimpressed with that refusal to speak further but not actually pressing the seer further.
Edgeworth: She speaks as though she finds me to be a threat now.
Edgeworth: Anyway, we ought to head back to the Archive. It is true that I need to continue my studies, and while at the moment I feel further study of Common would benefit me most, I also need to take the first opportunity I can get to return the wand.
Althea nods and stands.
Edgeworth stands as well and heads for the door out of the hotel room.
Edgeworth and Althea return to the Archive, the latter resuming her earlier reading while the former dons the helmet and restarts his effort at selecting his own next reading.
Just as Edgeworth has selected a book, however, a middle-aged gnome with teal green eyes, pale mocha skin, flyaway dove-grey hair, and a short beard featuring swirls of random pastel sea green, aqua, and sky blue enters from the staircase to ground level, looking worn out. Some of those present look impressed or intimidated as they glance over at the gnomish man, while others simply nod in acknowledgement.
Belgiwig sighs, then mutters under his breath, "If all of Siberys's remains are consumed by the time we have another meeting like that, it'll be too soon..."
Althea looks up from her research, all traces of her earlier distress gone. "House politics trying as usual, or perhaps an extra measure today? At any rate, good morning, Belgiwig."
Edgeworth looks over to Althea at hearing her speak up, then to the newcomer with a critical eye.
Belgiwig: Something to test endurance rather than strength this time — at least Aureon's rather than Dol Dorn's...
Belgiwig smiles. "But good morning, Althea."
Althea smiles and nods sympathetically. "I was wondering whether you might happen by while our new guest was present." She glances briefly in Edgeworth's direction.
Belgiwig looks to Edgeworth himself. "So this is the one who may teach us all an important new language..."
Edgeworth blinks. "I beg your pardon?"
Althea: This is Belgiwig Santor d'Sivis, the founder of this Archive. I believe you've read some of his work? Belgiwig, Miles Edgeworth.
Edgeworth smirks in a way bordering on a half-smile as he puts back the book he had selected, turns, and makes a sweeping bow.
Althea: I'm afraid he's still coming to terms with some aspects of relating to the divine, so I'm not entirely certain he'll catch your meaning in some regards.
Belgiwig displays a slight limp as he makes his way to the table Edgeworth was sitting at. "Of course; clearly even the literal languages here are still causing him trouble if he's still crowned with Aureon's blessing."
Althea: He is, nonetheless, making rapid progress on both fronts.
Edgeworth rubs his forehead. This may be a rather trying conversation.
Althea: On the latter, he is largely focusing on Common for the time being, for obvious reasons.
Belgiwig: Oh, understood, understood!
Edgeworth then crosses his arms. "'Literal languages' as opposed to what?"
Belgiwig looks up at Edgeworth. "Religions are languages in their own right — languages of symbols and metaphor, whose prose speaks of things not easily said and whose poems touch reality in ways ordinary magic can't always match."
Edgeworth glares. "The language I would most appreciate at the moment is plain Common!"
Althea looks back and forth a couple times, trying to keep her smile more one of pleasant friendliness than amusement. "You can see my point."
Belgiwig shrugs and shakes his head. "Sorry, sorry. I'm more used to that sort of language by now. It can be taxing to speak plainly..."
Edgeworth taps his finger on his arm. "Given that I'm not of this world, that effort will be rather necessary."
Belgiwig raises an eyebrow. "Someone thinks he's already one with the Divinity Within..."
Althea: While I've given him a very brief overview of those common here, he is not very familiar with the religions of Eberron.
Edgeworth furrows his brow. "I hardly subscribe to the concept of 'divinity' at all."
Belgiwig grins. "And that's why your language could be so enlightening."
Edgeworth huffs in frustration, then stops to try to make sense of the conversation so far.
Edgeworth: Thus does another limitation of this helmet grow clear.
Althea: Stripping away divinity from the divine, and discovering what remains? It certainly provides a most unique perspective.
Belgiwig looks to Althea. "It's a purer form of what we do in some ways, but I never thought it would be a cleric who would do it."
Althea nods. "I've been accused of attracting unusual circumstances by some; I'm certainly starting to appreciate why."
Edgeworth glances aside disdainfully. "I'm merely trying to make the best of a bad situation."
Belgiwig glances back up at Edgeworth in surprise. "I never expected to hear that from a cleric either. That begs the question, why is a blessing a curse?"
Edgeworth rubs his temple. "'Blessings' don't exist. This world just has different physics."
Belgiwig: Don't you mean metaphysics?
Edgeworth: They're the exact same thing!
Belgiwig shakes his head. "But they do different things..."
Edgeworth recrosses his arms. "Then what's the difference?"
Althea can't help giggling a little at this exchange.
Belgiwig: Common physics don't depend on someone's education or state of mind or heredity to be manipulated...
Edgeworth: I fail to see how that makes it a distinction worth drawing.
Edgeworth: If anything, it seems a purely cultural one.
Belgiwig shrugs. "It's a view worth thinking about, I guess. We archivists can't get far by being narrow-minded."
Edgeworth grins triumphantly.
Belgiwig: On the other hand, neither can you...
Edgeworth winces and glowers.
Edgeworth finally notices Althea's expression and give her a glare as well.
Althea shakes her head. "I think you may eventually find your ideas are separated more by words than meaning. And there is still much for us all to learn."
Belgiwig clears his throat. "Oh, absolutely, absolutely! Aureon's work was left half-done, and it's the harder half we're trying to do here."
Edgeworth looks puzzled.
Belgiwig: Sorry, sorry. Maybe I should unveil that one's meaning; you might hear it a lot with us...
Belgiwig: Aureon is said to have been the source of mortals' knowledge of arcane magic. Of course that's not literal — even Vassals see the Host as more ephemeral than that, usually anyway. But anyway, that still leaves a big gap in our knowledge...
Althea: Namely, the incompletely tapped mysteries of divine magic.
Edgeworth taps his finger as he hears this out. I do seem to recall reading something of the sort in his book on religious perspectives on magic.
Belgiwig shrugs. "Even if we've found a way to collect poems from many languages of those mysteries, we still have a long way to go."
Belgiwig: What drives a rare few to the way of the paladin and lets them actually follow it? Why are certain rare spells selective? What secrets keep druidic magic relatively contained even when talented rangers can draw out some of the same answers?
Belgiwig looks up at Edgeworth with determination. "And what are the boundaries of 'faith'?"
Althea: Hopefully your experiences and insights may provide critical evidence.
Edgeworth smirks, though he pauses before saying, "I'm certainly willing to provide any evidence I can, particularly if it will lead you out of an age of darkness."
Belgiwig smiles and claps his hands. "Music to my ears."
Edgeworth takes the wand from earlier out of an inner blazer pocket. "Since you're the head of the Archive, I presume you can put this back where it belongs."
Belgiwig reaches up to take it, looking surprised. "Have you unlocked this door already?"
Althea: Rather sooner than expected, I should think. You were only in there for what, half an hour or so at most?
Belgiwig raises his eyebrows as he pockets the wand. "Really? He must be especially fluent in his native tongue to conceive of the right metaphor so quickly."
Belgiwig frowns in concern. "But why the metaphor for this in particular?"
Edgeworth: It's nothing you need to concern yourself with.
Althea: Suffice to say an opportunity arose.
Belgiwig: Hmmm... So! For the sake of our records, how many times did you try?
Edgeworth: Only twice, given the situation.
Belgiwig stares up at Edgeworth.
Althea: Only twice, he says. Don't beat yourself up too much over wasting a whole charge on the way to enlightenment.
Edgeworth shrugs smugly with a shake of his head. "I've already learned that perfection is a lie."
This earns Edgeworth a brief stare from one human.
Belgiwig tsks and shakes his head. "Not a lie, but a myth. There's a difference."
Edgeworth crosses his arms again, appearing impatient. "Either way, it's something we can't truly achieve."
Belgiwig: The Silver Flame would disagree, just to warn you.
Althea: It is, however, something we can conceive, and contemplate the contours of. Relate our experiences and observations to... I think that at the very least makes it useful.
Edgeworth grins. "With that, I most certainly agree."
Belgiwig smiles. "Well, well! Maybe we'll be speaking the same language sooner than I thought!"
Belgiwig: Speaking of that, have you written down any of your experiences yet?
Edgeworth shakes his head. "No, I've been too busy. Or rather, preoccupied."
Althea: Preoccupied. At any rate, I've been taking notes on some of the observations you've brought up so far. I suspect Dil's probably taken note of his own observations as well.
Edgeworth smirks and taps his temple. "Then it would seem that I need to take the time to present my own case thus far."
Edgeworth: Though words in Common may still fail me at times.
Belgiwig shakes his head. "Don't worry about it — the literal language used isn't important for now."
Edgeworth nods. "Understood."
Althea: There are means for others to extract meaning from your writing, and the important thing is keeping a record of your impressions and understandings as you come to them, before they have a chance to be muddled, reinterpreted, or reimagined.
Althea: One can miss one's own insights sometimes if one is not careful.
Edgeworth: Indeed, I'm entirely familiar with that need from my work.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head. "Though we often pull the truth from such accounts regardless. You're simply not in a position to do the same."
Belgiwig points at a cabinet. "Trees' gift to civilization can be found there. Do you have a pen?"
Edgeworth frowns in confusion briefly, but then nods. "Of course." Was there any point whatsoever to waxing poetic just then?
Edgeworth takes some paper, seats himself, and starts writing down his thoughts. Meanwhile, Belgiwig heads downstairs with Althea in tow, puts the wand back in the locked walk-in closet Dil retrieved it from, then heads further down the hall to stick a key seemingly through a part of the wall and open an unseen door. The head of the Archive subtly beckons the scholar to follow him past the illusion, where a long, narrow, and dimly-lit staircase leads two and a half stories down to a metal door with a different key. Past that is a far better-lit room — an office of entirely gnomish scale, apart from the ceiling's height and two of the chairs in the corner.
Althea follows Belgiwig into the office and takes a seat in front of the desk.
Belgiwig seats himself behind it. "So what is there to know about this twofold mystery man aside from him being an arrogant genius?"
Althea: I haven't been digging too deeply as yet, but a lot of things have come up already regardless.
Althea: His world seems to be one in which machinery and artifice has advanced more substantially than magic, to such an extreme that few in his world apparently know that magic truly even exists there.
Althea: Indeed, it took quite some doing to even get him to admit to what he knows of its existence, for reasons that ultimately turned out to be somewhat personal.
Belgiwig blinks. "How is that possible? Are there no magical beasts in his world either? Or manifest zones?"
Althea: He claims not, though it's difficult to say whether his knowledge on the matter would be complete. At the very least, such things would have to be more subtle there. Ultimately, I've encountered only clear accounts of two types of magic thus far, though it is quite possible there is much more he is not himself aware of...
Belgiwig raises an eyebrow in interest.
Althea: Most prominently, there appear to be a group of people with the ability to summon the dead into their own bodies, transforming into the likeness of the one thus summoned.
Belgiwig stares. "I wonder if the children of Vol could have done anything like that..."
Althea: Beyond that, there is also word of a relic that can wrest secrets from a person being questioned...
Belgiwig looks thoughtful. "I'm surprised that they know how to make Onatar and Aureon speak as one at all in a plane like that."
Althea: It's not entirely clear who "they" are, though the impression is something along the lines of a cross between a dragonmarked House and a druidic sect...
Belgiwig grabs a pen and paper and begins to take notes.
Althea: His relationship to magic in his world has been a deeply troubled one, due to magic being responsible for a rather traumatic revelation about his father; it was far easier to see the resulting conundrum as a consequence of a charlatan's act than a consequence of a violation of principle committed after death...
Belgiwig: Well, well! That explains why he's reluctant, doesn't it?
Althea: It does explain much of it; he's only recently started to come to terms with it, and he's been making much more progress since that point. It's clearly not the only source of trauma in his life, however, and I suspect other obstacles will reveal themselves in the future.
Belgiwig grins. "It also tells us something about the nature of divine magic itself. That he didn't want to believe it didn't matter — it responded to the beliefs he has anyway."
Althea: An interesting point. Perhaps no one else could have provided such an insight.
Belgiwig looks thoughtful as he scribbles further. "Though the words traveling the wind don't say much about those beliefs — only that he's an 'atheist cleric'. That ingredient has spawned a dozen recipes already."
Althea: His faith is intrinsically tied up in his choice of occupation.
Althea: Indeed, it seems that what here serves as the holy symbol of his faith, is a mere badge of office in his world.
Belgiwig raises an eyebrow.
Althea: I believe Dil provoked him into articulating the essence of his faith as being in "justice, the truth on which justice depends, and the rationality that allows us to uncover the truth."
Althea: ...it's striking just how perfectly attuned to our purposes he seems to be in some ways...
Belgiwig: Incredibly, but I haven't exactly been performing any calling rituals for someone like him.
Belgiwig shrugs with his free arm.
Althea: Actually, the matter of the means by which he came here was brought up earlier, and ultimately we decided to enlist the assistance of a Medani scion to try to determine what we could; there was no sign of magic or psionics on him or the place he appeared that would have explained how he arrived. Given that, I suspect we can rule out the possibility of his being called here by magic directly.
Althea: He had already dismissed that idea on his own, based on his preliminary research into magic.
Althea: ...rather, his first thought was that he may have been the victim of an act of abjuration rather than conjuration...
Belgiwig stops writing for a moment and looks up from his notes. "Even if that's possible, how many enemies would he need to have to seriously consider that happening in a world where spellcasting is unheard of?"
Althea: I gather he's had something of a cursed existence in his own world; he seems scarred emotionally on more levels than I can really identify.
Althea: That said, even if he might have been sent away by magic, that it left no trace upon him would seem to reduce significantly the number of possible means that are even conceivable...
Althea frowns. "Assuming, that is, that the magic of his world is even detectable to those of ours..."
Belgiwig frowns as well, then continues to write...
Belgiwig then grins. "Though since power visits him here, not only do we know how a blessing is a curse, we know how a curse is a blessing too."
Althea: If there's any truth to his conjecture on the point, and assuming the new risks he finds here do not outweigh the opportunities. I... don't suppose you've heard this either, but the opportunity for him to use that wand today... is due to a successful quori attack. In his third nightmare since arriving; I was able to witness and assist him twice, but was occupied with my own difficulties this time...
Belgiwig's eyes widen. "That many in a week?"
Althea: I hope only that many, there remains the chance of a fourth or even fifth for that record...
Belgiwig: The balance of favors might have to shift for his sake...
Althea: I... would retain responsibility for such favors myself if possible, for the time being...
Althea: Thus far I have had some amount of involvement with each nightmare, and I suspect there is a reason which goes beyond my academic interests. Until such time as it is clear I cannot provide sufficient aid...
Belgiwig half-frowns. "If you're sure of that."
Belgiwig writes some more. "Back on the topic of his beliefs, do you know anything else about them? They must be a very solid foundation if divine power began building upon them so easily."
Althea: I know that it is in many ways because of his faith that he considers himself a man of science. He... has an unfortunate tendency to see science and religion as diametrically opposed, due apparently to many of his world's religions standing in opposition to it. Apparently it is a much younger discipline in his world than ours.
Belgiwig looks terribly confused.
Althea: I can only guess no true analogue to Aureon can be found in any mainstream pantheon there...
Althea: For that matter, as I understand it, belief in some pantheons has disappeared over the ages, leaving behind only symbols of some purely historical connection to aspects they presumably once presided over.
Belgiwig: Teachers outliving their teachings? My, my...
Althea: Or at least becoming dissociated from them.
Althea: After all, has one necessarily lost sight of the truth if one comes to know it in a different way or under a different name?
Belgiwig grins. "Of course not — but it sounds like something stranger than that is happening in his world if science was forced to be a warrior from birth."
Althea shrugs. "It's difficult to say what the true state of this is with only one witness's account..."
Belgiwig shakes his head, then scrawls some more. "So he believes in justice, truth, rationality, and science... but just holding a few virtues dear usually isn't enough. The fog is still too thick..."
Althea: I haven't really pressed him on such details yet; I'm hoping to give him more time to accommodate his current circumstances. Eventually, I'll try to find time to dig deeper; I suspect there is still much of his knowledge I've yet to scratch the surface of, even leaving aside the difficult, trauma-filled bits.
Althea: I do gather that he not only believes fervently in those values, but that in properly doing his job, he is fighting for them.
Althea: There is much about his manner in regards to his profession that reminds me of the Silver Flame.
Belgiwig: Really now?
Althea: I asked him to elaborate on a comment he made when Dil and I were speculating about his having the Knowledge domain in addition to Truth; Dil had mentioned he seemed like more of a thinker than a fighter, and he responded, "It would be more appropriate to say that I prefer to fight with my words."
Althea: In the ensuing discussion, he described his profession thusly:
Althea: "I fight injustice, and to prevent the truth from being lost or incompletely understood. I challenge the defense to rise to the same standard, though I've known rather few who are good at meeting that challenge. It could also be said that I fight for the stability of civilization itself. If criminals never suffered for their crimes, what precisely would prevent the world from spiraling into chaos under the burden of mankind's sinful heart?"
Belgiwig nods with a spark of interest in his eyes, then writes for a minute before responding. "I see what you mean... though if words are his weapons, it's possible that a third domain may touch his soul."
Althea nods. "Very possible."
Althea: "Lawyers of every kind must put the truth before themselves or their clients. Persistence and strength of will are necessary on both sides as well if the truth is to be unearthed in its entirety. A case presented weakly, shared incompletely, or insufficiently challenged will leave some aspect unexplored, and that very aspect could change how we understand the situation completely."
Belgiwig nods... "That's a familiar song, especially from heirs who turn their backs on Zilargo... but strength of will is a new verse."
Althea: There can be little question to his own strength of will. Aside from that which can be readily observed from how he behaves and how stubborn he can be, there is also the fact that, counting a couple of botched attempts, I've seen him perform turning six times in a single day, and it is clear the last time required pushing his limits...
Althea: Given that he is only just starting to develop such abilities...
Belgiwig: That isn't quite the stuff of legends, even if it is especially good. On the other hand, the rumors said that he didn't even speak Common, but...
Althea: He spoke not a word of it five days ago. He began studying it only four days ago.
Belgiwig stares. "Now that is amazing. If his words weren't slow or his accent wasn't obviously unheard of..."
Althea: That may improve with time as well. Actually, someone I know from the Library was planning on tutoring him a bit as they each have time.
Althea: I don't know if you've heard of Illyvalen Mirilas Forlin?
Belgiwig grins. "Ah, yes, we do know of her at the Ninth College."
Althea: The allure to her of one who speaks otherworldly languages is quite obvious.
Belgiwig: Yes, yes, indeed!
Althea: Anyway, one aspect he has that is sadly rare among followers of the Flame... As arrogant as he is, he clearly has some measure of humility, which he has folded up into his understanding of his role and his faith.
Belgiwig: Mm, he would be a heretic among them...
Althea: He speaks of the path to Khyber being "paved with good intentions."
Althea: "I'm under no illusions of being infallible, or of that even being possible."
Althea: Though it seems much of his idea of balancing out his imperfections involves "fighting" an adversary with equal capability, equal commitment to the truth, and complementary strengths.
Belgiwig: So one cannot be perfect, but the right two can be more perfect than one...
Belgiwig: I wonder if he's ever sought someone to share his life with.
Althea chuckles slightly. "It does sound almost like a romantic sentiment, though I imagine he'd take offense to such a characterization."
Althea: He's a very private sort of person, when it comes to matters not related to his beliefs or his work. I haven't pried into personal matters beyond those which seem to be causing him problems now, but I suspect he'd be fairly reticent on the subject.
Althea: He... doesn't seem to be the type to forge strong emotional bonds easily. There are only a couple of people from his world he's even talked about thus far, though I'm vaguely aware of a few more due to a vision.
Belgiwig nods... "So married to his faith, then?"
Althea: Probably a fair enough assessment, at least for now.
Belgiwig: I wonder how intimate that relationship has grown...
Belgiwig: If the children of prayer have shown themselves yet, I'd be shocked, though.
Althea: Prayer may represent something of an obstacle as well. I've only recently broached the subject of praying for spells... Suffice to say such terminology and the concepts it evokes for him are not an obvious fit for his faith. I anticipate this being one of his more trying struggles...
Althea: Many of the usual trappings of faith are eschewed in his beliefs. Even the revelation of truth he feels duty-bound to struggle for is something he refuses to see as "miraculous".
Belgiwig lapses into thought after writing down a few more notes.
Belgiwig: Even if not, the truth is something he seems to believe in more than himself, and that's saying something.
Belgiwig: A full understanding of that piece of the puzzle-box might be necessary to open it...
Althea: And such will not come easily... I have picked up that he has been betrayed by those feigning altruism in the past, but any more detail than that is probably somewhere he won't go unless he has to...
Althea: He has explicitly rejected the idea of any sort of higher power. Apparently the truth does not qualify to his mind, despite his devotion...
Belgiwig frowns in confusion as he looks to the ceiling. "I wonder how many of his thoughts the paper has absorbed so far... If that isn't it, it would be nice to know what is."
Althea: Despite his objections, I suspect it is the closest analogue. Most probably, the very concept of a higher power is something he has become closed and hostile to due to his experiences...
Belgiwig: If science and religion are sworn enemies where he's from, just being on one side might make him ready to attack the other, too.
Althea: I don't think it can be quite that simple; it seems clear he has allies among this "Fey Clan" if nothing else. He also claims not to have known war himself, even if it is clear he has enemies.
Belgiwig: It sounds like it's only the kind with swords and spells he's never been part of.
Althea: True enough.
Belgiwig: I can't help but imagine that Aureon's drafted him into yet another.
Althea: Perhaps more than one.
When Althea returns from downstairs, she finds Edgeworth still working hard on writing down his thoughts in English; he's even set the helm aside for the moment. She returns to her own research rather than disturbing the prosecutor. Hours go by with lunch eaten in the middle, but Edgeworth still isn't quite finished by the time Nopplebin peeks in through the door to the stairs to the surface...
Nopplebin: Um, excuse me...
Althea looks up.
Edgeworth glances over his shoulder.
Nopplebin: An "Illyvalen Mirilas Forlin" has come asking to visit without an escort. Is that OK with everyone?
Althea: Ah, I thought she might show up. It's all right, I can escort her.
Nopplebin waits for any protests, then nods with a smile. "All right, follow me."
Althea stands, sets down her pen and makes her way over.
Edgeworth hmms, but returns his attention to writing for the moment.
The two ascend to the upper level. A couple minutes later, Althea returns along with Illyvalen, who's already talking energetically, if a bit subdued compared to normal.
Illyvalen: ...sure you don't want to talk about it. You do look a lot better, anyway.
Althea nods. "I'll be okay, you don't need to worry. Anyway, things are coming along reasonably well so far. I don't know how long he'll be busy, but if it'll be a while I'm sure I could make use of a little assistance in the interim."
Althea leads Illyvalen over toward Edgeworth's table.
Edgeworth looks over from his composition to the approaching pair and nods, albeit with a half-frown.
Illyvalen looks down at the unfamiliar script adorning the paper before Edgeworth. "Is that English?"
Edgeworth nods. "Indeed so. Latin and Deutsch use essentially the same alphabet, however."
Illyvalen nods, then looks back and forth between the page and Althea, seeming conflicted.
Edgeworth simply glares at Illyvalen.
Illyvalen recoils slightly, and stammers, "Um, uh, I-I-I'll... just be over helping Althea."
Edgeworth nods and coolly replies, "Very well." He then returns his attention to the paper before him.
Illyvalen retreats a bit hastily, Althea shaking her head slightly and leading her over to the table she's working at.
After about twenty minutes, Edgeworth straightens the small stack of paper that's been building up over the last few hours.
Edgeworth: I find myself missing word processors already.
Edgeworth puts the helm back on since others' conversations would be less of a distraction now, stands, and begins looking for an envelope. He looks over to Althea and Illyvalen as he passes them.
Althea looks up briefly while Illyvalen stays buried in a book.
Edgeworth fetches an envelope from a cabinet, then comments as he passes back by, "You may look now that I'm not busy."
Illyvalen looks up a bit at that, still nervous, but after a bit of prodding from Althea, stands and makes her way over to the general vicinity of Edgeworth's table.
Edgeworth pauses to consider his words before settling for, "So you're aware, I prefer to be left alone while at work."
Edgeworth does, however, lay out a few of the pages from the stack for Illyvalen to examine. Given the crossing-outs and corrections, it's clearly a first draft.
Illyvalen: Uh... I... was wondering if... sometime today... might be good to, um... work on languages...
Edgeworth: It would. ...Er, is something wrong?
Edgeworth: Is she still intimidated even now?
Illyvalen nods nervously and takes a seat at the table.
Edgeworth reseats himself as well while pointing out, "You aren't interrupting now."
Illyvalen: Um, so... Where did you want to begin?
Edgeworth frowns in concern. "Er, we could begin by indulging your own curiosity."
Illyvalen gingerly reaches for the pages set aside, and starts looking over the unfamiliar script.
Edgeworth smirks and shakes his head. "I assure you that the writing is entirely nonmagical."
Illyvalen: From the length, organization and repetitions of certain glyphs... I'm guessing these symbols are phonographic rather than ideographic or pictographic?
Edgeworth nods with a grin. "Indeed. The consonants and vowels are seperate as well; written Nihongo differs in that respect."
Edgeworth appears mildly frustrated briefly. A pity that I still lack the vocabulary with which to elaborate.
Illyvalen: I notice you tend to use a different set of glyphs at the beginning of some groupings...?
Edgeworth: Indeed, sentences and names begin with them in English, while all nouns begin with them in Deutsch.
Edgeworth begins pointing out some of the letters. "Five of the glyphs are always vowels, while 'y' has the er, strange status of representing both kinds of sounds. In English, the difference must be... er, deduced through context, while certain marks show the difference in Deutsch and some other languages."
Edgeworth: Conveying concepts even of this level of complexity remains a struggle...
Illyvalen: So there are six distinct vowel sounds in those languages?
Edgeworth shakes his head. "No, there are several more. Each of these represents a few alone."
Illyvalen: A pretty highly context-sensitive form of script, then.
Edgeworth: Indeed, though the additional marks used in some languages help somewhat.
Edgeworth reaches over to grab an unused piece of paper, then pulls his pen back out.
Edgeworth writes out the alphabet in slightly larger letters than his usual, first capitals and then lowercase on a pair of lines each, then reproduces each vowel with various diacritics below that.
Illyvalen takes pen to paper and slowly and carefully reproduces the glyphs Edgeworth has written out.
Edgeworth: "A" in particular mainly represents three sounds in English...
Edgeworth spends the next few hours going over the different sounds associated with the letters of the Latin alphabet in English, German, and Latin, including going over various combinations of letters. While he sometimes has to ask Althea to translate words for him in order to fill gaps in his still-limited understanding of Common, he still makes a rather heroic effort of getting his point across.
Illyvalen takes copious notes throughout all this.
Edgeworth looks thoughtful for a moment. "I can think of nothing else to say on the subject of the Latin alphabet as applied to these languages."
Illyvalen nods. "If there's anything more, it'll probably be more obvious after getting further with one of the languages. ...maybe before that, though, we should go over the Common alphabet?"
Edgeworth: Indeed. ...Perhaps I should try removing this for that discussion, given that we've discussed a similar subject for some time now. I believe I've managed to memorize some relevant vocabulary in the process.
Edgeworth indicates the helmet.
Illyvalen: Not only Common but also the Halfling and Gnoll languages use the Common alphabet, probably due to the written form originating with human scholars recording them at a time when they were purely oral... The language and alphabet have ancestry going back to the first human settlers arriving on Khorvaire from Sarlona, though it has developed differently enough here to present a language barrier with modern Sarlonans.
Edgeworth: Er, if I'm to follow you after I remove the helmet, you may need to speak more slowly than that.
Edgeworth proceeds to take the enchanted item off and set it aside.
Illyvalen proceeds to go through the Common alphabet and the variations in usage between Common and Halfling, making sure to speak slowly and keep her vocabulary choices simple. Edgeworth takes notes on the locally-available paper as she lectures, not wanting to risk his organizer in this place, as well as practicing the vowels and a few of the other sounds more for himself. Compared to his studies of religion and divine magic, Edgeworth has appeared more at ease with the subject of language.
Illyvalen reaches a natural stopping point, and after a moment queries, "Is there anything unclear or that you would like me to elaborate on?"
Edgeworth is actually close to smiling for once. "Not at this time."
Edgeworth: I suspect that many of my questions will be answered in due time.
Althea: Before you two start off on another subject, I would point out that much time has already passed, and it might be about time to start considering food, if not rest.
Edgeworth looks over to Althea. "I'm far from tired, though I am hungry."
Illyvalen: I guess it is getting kinda late... heh, usually you're the one who has to be reminded.
Edgeworth puts a finger to his temple. "I don't know the word for it in Common, but is any form of shellfish available locally?"
Edgeworth: Or any sort of mollusk, for that matter.
Althea: Several varieties are available, depending on the level of expense and whether you're talking local or imported...
Edgeworth frowns. "Given the emphasis on debt in this culture, it might be best not to maximize expense."
Althea: As far as local seafood, there's a seafood restaurant out near the docks, there should be adequate selection there.
Edgeworth grins. "Excellent. It would be simplest for you to make the suggestion in Common."
Althea: I think we're considering the seafood place out near the docks, are you interested?
Illyvalen: Oh, sure, I guess.
Edgeworth stands. "Shall we be off, then?"
After a quick supper based on a form of periwinkle common on the coast shortly down the river, everyone parts ways to go to their respective sleeping accomodations. Edgeworth goes to bed satisfied, and this time it isn't even undercut by a nightmare.
The following morning, Edgeworth wakes up feeling refreshed and more ready to tackle the greater challenge before him than he was when first confronted with it. Upon his return to the Korranberg Archive, the prosecutor begins browsing the shelves of the first basement again, though rather than actually taking any books, he simply takes note of promising titles while glancing over his shoulder for signs of a certain other face...
Dil comes through the door to the stairs up, then speaks with a couple of others briefly before approaching Edgeworth.
Dil: You're not reading already? There must be a story behind that.
Edgeworth turns. "Ah, good morning, Dil. As it happens, I was waiting for your advice; a, er, rather... unpleasant assertion was made concerning what lies ahead on this path."
Edgeworth: A pity that I don't yet know the word for "disconcerting".
Dil raises an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Edgeworth turns his head away and grips his elbow. In a somewhat lower tone, he explains with an expression of disgust, "Althea claims that... that prayer is involved in a cleric's acquisition of spells."
Dil smirks and shakes his head. "So she did take the blunt route on her own."
Dil: I thought it sounded like she might, but I couldn't think of a way to trick you into your own understanding...
Edgeworth looks part of the way back to Dil with a dour expression. "So that was indeed the truth?" The unvarnished truth, at that.
Dil shrugs apologetically. "I did warn you that you probably wouldn't like the life of a cleric... though that isn't the only way to look at what has to be done, either. Just the most popular."
Edgeworth side-eyes Dil. "As I recall, you said that in the process of tricking me into turning again."
Dil smirks. "That doesn't mean it wasn't true..."
Edgeworth crosses his arms and hrmphs.
Dil: Althea was getting ahead of things by saying that before you had a chance to figure out what your current potential means to you, though.
Edgeworth taps his finger on his arm. So my suspicions were correct...
Edgeworth: On that subject, at your leader's suggestion, I took the time yesterday to finally write down my experiences thus far.
Dil grins. "And here I thought you were just afraid of what you were learning at first..."
Edgeworth glowers at Dil.
Dil: But if you need more time set aside for writing, that's fine. Actually, it's probably an especially good idea for this stage of your training — you'll have a lot of thoughts to gather.
Edgeworth: If my presumptions are correct, those thoughts will concern effects I could potentially... reproduce in the short term?
Dil looks amused. "You're starting to make me wonder if you even need my help."
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "Did I not say I was awaiting it? I don't know so much that I can deduce all the rest."
Dil shrugs. "Given where your talents lie, can I really be sure about that?"
Edgeworth glares at Dil.
Dil looks to the ground. "OK, OK... I'm sorry. There are only a handful of orisons, so it shouldn't take long for me to tell you about them. Some are self-contained enough to be easy to cast, while some others rely on the skill and power of the caster and lend themselves to practice."
Dil smirks. "Though one of those that normally falls into that category, you should be able to master almost instantly."
Edgeworth: The one that allows one to seek magical traces that Althea mentioned?
Dil: It lets one perceive active magical effects and stable enchantments as well — actually, that's what it's normally used for, since the remains of auras usually become undetectable by it very quickly.
Edgeworth frowns. "I see..." It will be trying to be limited to only a makeshift forensic procedure for a time.
Dil: As you might expect, it's simply known as Detect Magic. There's also an orison for copying existing nonmagical text without the need for ink...
Over the next several minutes, Dil describes more than a dozen other basic spells...
Dil: ...but it isn't potent enough to be reliable, and since the same magic is used in protective cloaks and vests, there are times when it won't help at all. Kind of like trying to bind a wound that's already bandaged.
Edgeworth: Given that he earlier described a spell that can stanch bleeding, I'm left to wonder how the Archival Foundation's work will ultimately impact the very need for bandages.
Edgeworth frowns. Will Althea find herself caught in the midst of a struggle for control of the organization? Perhaps that is another of the "fading wards" she mentioned...
Dil frowns himself at Edgeworth's expression. "Something about Resistance didn't bother you, did it?"
Edgeworth shakes his head and quickly reins in his concerns. "No, your phrasing simply provoked thought on another matter."
Dil: Hmmm... Well, if you don't want to talk about that, I might as well move on. Not many people succeed at it quickly, but most beginning clerics learn to draw on the simplest spells of their domains long before they can cast other spells of the same power.
Dil glances aside. "Which, if we're right, should mean Detect Secret Doors or Detect Thoughts in your case."
Edgeworth: The latter name gives form to one of the impressions that previous discussion of these "domains" has stirred up in the past...
Edgeworth: If it does what I suspect it might, it could be highly useful indeed — though also possible to misuse. I wonder what laws govern such capabilities.
Edgeworth suddenly looks uneasy. For that matter, does the Trust have access to such a thing?
Dil waves a hand in front of Edgeworth's face. "Cross-planar sending from Eberron..."
Edgeworth steps backward and waves the hand away, then glares at Dil again. "Will you stop that?!"
Dil: Sorry... I just wanted to know if I should explain those yet.
Edgeworth shakes his head. "That will be unnecessary. I'd rather have time to think and, perhaps, to write now."
Edgeworth: To say nothing of one being self-explanatory in context and the explanation of the other having already imposed itself on me unbidden.
Dil nods. "Then I'll get you some paper."
Edgeworth seats himself, accepts the paper, and proceeds to write down basic information and preliminary thoughts about each spell Dil claimed ought to be within his immediate reach. Rather than further troubling the apparently-uncomfortable prosecutor, Dil simply begins giving some of the books on the shelves quick looks inside and taking notes.
Edgeworth: It's still strange to contemplate that I've found myself in a world so upside-down that such capabilities as these are within my reach, and are so simply because I've pinned down the ideals I can resolutely follow.
Edgeworth shakes his head. Granted, a few of these sound so dubious that I can't help but wonder if they're placebos, but the effects of others should be far more apparent.
Edgeworth shuffles through the notes he's taken, then stops to consider one. Some of them are, of course, relatively simple to place. If the ability to heal wounds sufficiently to rouse someone is also sufficient to obscure or erase the evidence, then a spell that merely stanches the bleeding is the tool necessary to preserve both life and the evidence.
Edgeworth brings another page to the front. Likewise, a spell that specifically mends only objects with a single break in them could be used to supply further proof that any two given parts form a single piece of evidence.
Edgeworth sighs and shakes his head. Listen to me; I sound like some sort of fantasy author.
Edgeworth: Is this really the path to the truth?...
Edgeworth shuffles through the papers further, bringing the one with his notes about Detect Magic on the front — far more notes than about most of the other orisons.
Edgeworth: Barring the existence of chemicals that would react to such things — which would likely also be enchanted in this blasted place — I fail to see another.
Edgeworth: And as implausible as it may seem, I've seen evidence that I'm capable of more here than I am back in the world where I belong.
Edgeworth huffs in amusement and smirks. The "gods' favor", so many here would believe? There are no "gods" to favor me to begin with — merely forces that react in peculiar ways to certain kinds of thoughts.
Edgeworth looks back down at the paper with a grin. That is the truth of this world — that energies exist that can be manipulated by mortals. Whether the people here regard it that way for every kind of magic or not is irrelevant. My world, too, once clung to ideas that seemed true at the time, only to discard them when theories that better fit the evidence emerged.
Edgeworth sets the stack of paper down and pulls out his badge, cupping the lapel pin in his hand. But one thing is fundamentally and demonstrably true: we — I — can make use of these forces. They exist.
Edgeworth: That spell would allow me to glimpse further evidence of that truth...
Edgeworth balls his fist around his badge, looking resolute. And so, forward I march.
With renewed confidence, Edgeworth continues to write and to think, occupying himself for hours until noon finally arrives...
At the usual hour, Althea arrives with a packed lunch for Edgeworth. After the usual brief pleasantries, Edgeworth heads off to a break room with his meal, while Althea seeks out Dil.
Dil is easily found double-checking a series of reading lists he's been working on.
Althea: Any new developments of note? I know Belgiwig got a chance to talk to him briefly the other day, and got him started writing down some of his impressions.
Dil looks up from his work and over. "Ah, hello. I'm just trying to adapt to the circumstances you introduced. As for him, he's written some interesting things..."
Dil smirks in amusement. "It might be necessary to find him some law books just so he can write things like that in Common later."
Althea: Not just for that reason; he has expressed interest in learning things like the Galifar Code of Justice, and certainly even if his people's laws are like ours, he'll still have little to draw on for laws concerning the use of magic.
Althea: Sorry if I've unduly complicated things for you. I do get the sense that confronting these things directly may be better for him in the long run, but I may well be wrong.
Dil shrugs. "Not so much for me as for him, maybe. In a way you saved me some trouble..."
Althea nods. "It's hard to say, but he does seem to do better when confronting the truth proactively rather than trying to come to terms with it once made undeniable."
Althea: At any rate, a colleague of mine is tutoring him in Common as well; I suspect she'll probably be by sometime this afternoon again.
Dil grins. "So that's why his accent was less thick today..."
Althea: Both of them are quite talented with languages, I would imagine it will improve quite a bit in time.
Althea: Though I don't think Illyvalen will derive as much utility from learning English as he does from Common...
Dil smirks, then reaches for an envelope nearby and offers it to Althea. "Here's my translation of what he wrote yesterday. What's going through his mind when he turns is harsh, but not surprising... and I don't think anyone else would have found that view on Cure Light Wounds meaningful enough to cast from."
Dil: What's really interesting is that he never mentions anything about the soul. It's like he's confused whenever it would come up, and tries to describe things in terms of thoughts or emotions.
Althea takes the envelope and nods. "Probably something similar to his argument with Belgiwig over metaphysics."
Dil raises an eyebrow. "Too bad I missed that one!"
Althea: Suffice to say he believes all that implies should be adequately covered by physics.
Althea: I suspect that disagreement is more perception than substance, anyway.
Dil: Or disagreement about perception.
Dil: Anyway, he's still as sharp as ever — he even guessed right as I was about to bring it up that the next thing I wanted him to do was contemplate the meanings of the orisons.
Althea: Given that he had to engage in that once already, it probably seemed natural.
Dil: I haven't had time to look at those thoughts yet, but something that occurred to him seemed to fire him up.
Althea: Detect Magic?
Dil shrugs. "I was busy working here, so I couldn't say."
Althea: It would make sense; he's particularly concerned with provability, and magic is a possible foreign element for him that could complicate an investigation if he doesn't have the right tools to deal with it.
Dil: Or even complicate his own ability to judge evidence others have found, now that you mention it...
Althea excuses herself, makes her way to one of the tables, and begins studying Dil's translation of Edgeworth's notes. It's not long after that that Edgeworth returns from his lunch downstairs. He nods to Dil and Althea in turn before returning to his previous seat.
Dil glances up from his own work long enough to nod back before returning to writing.
Althea looks up briefly and nods, then returns to the translated notes. She continues to pour over these for a good half an hour, occasionally nodding or shaking her head at something written, and in one case choking back a reaction that seems somewhere in between a laugh and a sob. This provokes glances from Edgeworth and Dil, but she simply continues on with her reading. Eventually, finishing with the notes, she makes her way over to Edgeworth's table.
Edgeworth looks over from his work, half-frowning in puzzlement given the seer's earlier minor outburst.
Althea: You might wish to give these a look yourself for the sake of your language studies; Dil translated some of your notes about your experiences so far.
Edgeworth: Really? I wonder how accurately, given how quickly he did so. To understand is only half the work, after all.
Edgeworth accepts the translated notes and begins to look them over.
Edgeworth: I presume this is what you were reading earlier?
Althea shrugs. "It is. I certainly cannot speak to every detail, but it made enough sense to me. Especially the part where you communed with the wand; that was beautiful."
Dil chuckles upon overhearing that.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head. "I suppose that's one way to look at it." The beauty of functional architecture, perhaps.
Althea: Given how... forceful, independent, and... focused toward the mundane you tend to be, I was kind of surprised to see you speak so openly of being reached out to in that way, over so forthright and straightforward a plea.
Edgeworth blinks partway through Althea's sentence, but glowers at the end. "I'd hardly call it 'pleading'."
Althea: Certainly not in the sense of begging... moreso the purity of straightforward and heartfelt yearning. In the moment, you wished only to see someone able to share their truth with the world, and the magic responded and reached out to help you achieve your desire.
Althea: That... is a very beautiful image. At least I think so.
Edgeworth peers at Althea. "I believe you're overstating the case, but I suppose I understand your point."
Althea shrugs. "Some things are worth overstating, sometimes."
Any further interpretive debate is forestalled by Nopplebin's arrival in the first basement, again inquiring on behalf of Illyvalen.
Althea: Huh. A little bit earlier than I'd have expected. Anyway, I'll go see to that.
Althea heads upstairs with Nopplebin and returns shortly with Illyvalen.
Althea: ...sure it's nothing more than what he said it was. I did mention he can be kind of temperamental and closed off...
Edgeworth frowns in confusion and concern as he looks over his shoulder. Did a simple glare affect her so deeply?
Illyvalen nods slowly.
Edgeworth stands and bows. "Good afternoon."
Illyvalen: Good afternoon. Um, would this be an, er, appropriate time to consider working on languages?
Edgeworth grins. "This moment would, in fact, be ideal. Dil spent some time this morning translating some of my notes to Common with the help of a spell, though I have little idea how accurate his word choices are."
Edgeworth: Am I already this comfortable with Common?
Illyvalen: Maybe we should examine the connotations and those of possible synonyms?
Edgeworth's grin grows to a near-smile as he puts a finger to his temple. "My thoughts exactly."
Working together, the two go through and clean up the language of the Common translation, even occasionally trading off the helmet so that Illyvalen can try to get a better feel for the intended presentation of the original. While showing some interest in the content as well as the language, she ultimately doesn't comment all that much on the experiences presented beyond clarifying meaning.
Edgeworth seems pleased as he straightens out the stack of papers that constitute the revised translation.
Illyvalen: I'm not all that familiar with the Truth domain, really.
Edgeworth looks over and raises an eyebrow. "And why is that?"
Illyvalen: Not a lot of clerics have that domain. Mostly I've heard of a few Silver Flame clerics possessing it on occasion.
Edgeworth half-frowns. "What little I've heard and read of them makes me cautious."
Edgeworth: Though they clearly mean nothing but the best, perfection is a dangerous thing to believe attainable even on a personal level.
Edgeworth: That any of them possess such a respect for the truth suggests that we'll rarely truly be at odds, however.
Illyvalen: I can understand people thinking of the Silver Flame as dangerous, but what do you mean by 'even on a personal level'?
Edgeworth turns his head aside with a firm expression. "I'd rather not discuss it."
Illyvalen winces slightly. "Right, sorry..."
Edgeworth: Is something the matter?
Illyvalen: I upset you again...
Edgeworth looks genuinely confused. "Have you never known someone for whom the past was an unpleasant topic?"
Illyvalen: Of... of course. I just...
Illyvalen: Well... she doesn't get upset quite so easily...
Illyvalen: I mean, maybe, I guess, when we first met... but I kinda learned to understand her maybe a little, and...
Illyvalen: ...well, I don't feel like I really can tell when something's going to offend you...
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "I hope you aren't expecting me to lay my suffering bare."
Illyvalen: N-n-no, of c-course not. I-I... I mean, I don't really know you all that well, and we're in a kinda public place besides and I'm not trying to pester you or be mean or anything, really!
Edgeworth recoils himself. Don't tell me she's going to cry!
Althea looks over toward the pair, frowning slightly.
Edgeworth: Er, um, I didn't mean — that is, er...
After several more seconds of stammering on Edgeworth's part, Althea shakes her head, stands, and moves over to Edgeworth's table.
Althea: Now, now, I don't think Edgeworth is really that upset... why don't you two go back to talking about languages rather than experiences, okay?
Althea gives Edgeworth a warning glance.
Edgeworth looks awkward, even arguably nervous. "Er, right..."
Illyvalen: I-if you're sure...
Edgeworth looks back to Illyvalen uneasily. "It is, er, a highly preferable topic."
Illyvalen: Er, right, of course...
The two move on to more detailed discussions, working particularly on words with subtle distinctions in meaning, until the hour starts to become late; Illyvalen recovers to more or less her usual cheerful self once buried deeply in the discussion of a well-understood subject.
Edgeworth yawns loudly.
Illyvalen: Ah, heh, it's getting late, isn't it...
Edgeworth checks his watch and blinks. "Indeed so."
Althea looks up from her studies and nods. "I was wondering if I'd have to remind you two."
Illyvalen: Oh, um, I kinda forgot before, but, the Korranberg Symphony Orchestra is going to be performing a concert in a few days...
Edgeworth looks to Illyvalen, interest apparent even through his fatigue.
Illyvalen: They're going to be performing symphonies by an Aereni composer, um, Allairyn Serias.
Edgeworth: Those names mean little to me, but I suppose I'll simply have to learn.
Illyvalen: So I guess I was wondering if you two wanted to come?
Althea winces slightly.
Edgeworth looks to Althea questioningly at that.
Illyvalen looks over to Althea in response to Edgeworth doing so.
Althea sighs. "I suppose I should have anticipated something like this..."
Edgeworth: What do you mean?
Illyvalen: Uh, if you don't want to go, that's fine...
Althea: Nathaniel asked me to go with him.
Illyvalen: Oh, sure, if you want to go with him, we—
Althea: I turned him down.
Illyvalen just looks kind of confused at this point.
Edgeworth just looks back and forth, trying to piece together what's going on himself.
Illyvalen: Um, so, you do or don't want to go?
Edgeworth: Er, for my own part, I'm interested.
Althea rests her forehead in her hands and her elbows on the table. "...of course I want to go. Serias is a great composer and the Korranberg Symphony Orchestra is one of the more renowned orchestras on Khorvaire."
Illyvalen: Then, uh, why'd you say no?
Althea: Because it'd be awkward going there with him.
Edgeworth appears to realize something, frowns to himself in annoyance, then looks to Althea. "I see."
Illyvalen: You don't like him?
Althea sighs. "It's not that simple..."
Edgeworth now looks puzzled. "What do you mean?"
Illyvalen looks confused as well.
Illyvalen: He obviously likes you and wants to spend time with you... if you like him you should go with him; if you don't like him, you should tell him so.
Illyvalen: If you don't know if you like him... shouldn't you try and find out?
Althea lets go of her head and lightly bangs it on the table a couple of times.
Illyvalen just watches, looking concerned.
Edgeworth: Are you simply concerned that you may be spotted if you go without him?
Althea: Kinda... I did say I didn't think I'd have time...
Illyvalen: I... guess I don't see what the big deal is. I think you should probably just go with him, but if you come with us... just say you decided to come with us. It's not that big a deal, is it?
Illyvalen: Maybe I could invite Nathaniel to come with us. I could invite Berdmol and David too.
Edgeworth: Er, Miss Illyvalen, I believe she's attempting to avoid Nathaniel.
Althea sighs. "I dunno, maybe that would be for the best... Why don't you let me think about it for a bit, Illyvalen, and I'll let you know."
Illyvalen: Um, okay. Just don't wait too long.
Edgeworth nods. "If concerts here are much like those in my own world, tickets will most likely sell out quickly."
Althea: I know. I'll let you know after the meeting tomorrow.
Illyvalen: I'd better get going, then. See you tomorrow.
Edgeworth stands and bows. "Take care."
Althea: Good night, Illyvalen.
Illyvalen heads back up the stairs to the storefront.
Althea sighs again after Illyvalen leaves. "Well, this is awkward..."
Edgeworth frowns. "I would imagine."
Edgeworth glances to the side. "I know the agony of unwanted admirers myself."
Althea: At least I imagine you can tell them what you think, whether or not they happen to be receptive to it...
Althea: Illyvalen makes the whole thing sound so childishly simple...
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "It sounds to me as though she can't comprehend disinterest in someone's romantic advances, nor the idea that someone might refuse to take no for an answer."
Althea: I don't think it's that bad. Though I'll admit that she doesn't always seem like she appreciates some of the differences between platonic and romantic relationships...
Althea: But maybe she's right, in a way. Maybe I'm just making this more complicated than it needs to be...
Edgeworth: Her understanding of interpersonal relationships does seem unusually... er, binary.
Edgeworth frowns. "After all, she reacts to the slightest push away as though it were an expression of rage and hatred."
Althea: She can be a bit sensitive, though I don't think your mannerisms are subtle enough to call that a 'slightest push.'
Edgeworth winces at that.
Althea: And it's not like I've exactly been avoiding Nathaniel, we see each other every day; kind of hard to avoid one's own teammates on a research project.
Althea: But yeah, if I told him in no uncertain terms that I'm just plain not interested and want him to stop... that probably would be the end of it, really.
Edgeworth: In that case, why haven't you? Would it be more harmful to your professional relationship than his continued advances?
Edgeworth: I dread to think what might happen if she joined the police force...
Edgeworth shudders at the thought.
Althea sighs. "Pragmatically speaking, there is almost no good reason for me not to have. I normally try to just ignore such things, but this has gone on long enough to warrant actual reaction and all..."
Althea: It's not fair to him either, I suppose.
Althea: Just that... had circumstances been different, maybe it would have been interesting to see where things might have gone...
Edgeworth looks bewildered at that.
Althea looks up at Edgeworth and laughs sadly. "Is it really so strange a thing to contemplate?"
Edgeworth: ...Honestly, yes.
Althea shakes her head. "The truth is, I don't really know how I feel about him. But it doesn't really matter how I feel; I can't afford to have someone trying to get that close to me..."
Edgeworth: Indeed, I would think it to be rather inconvenient.
Althea: That's... putting it mildly...
Edgeworth frowns. "I suppose your specific situation does make it considerably more so."
Althea: It doesn't help that he's Zil; the culture here makes me more paranoid than usual. But even if he weren't...
Althea sighs. "There are some things I just can't afford to share with anyone..."
Edgeworth: I see...
Althea: ...sorry, I really shouldn't be burdening you with this. Just that, at the moment, you really are the only other person who can understand... the nature of this dilemma...
Edgeworth's expression firms. "Do you expect him to attempt to force the issue?"
Althea: Honestly, I think he'd lose interest once I went back home. That was basically my plan, more or less, to just kind of pretend not to be fully aware of his interest and run out the clock...
Althea: But Illyvalen's sort of right... in a sense... I've basically decided I can't entertain the notion of such interest, so I really should make that explicit rather than let him chase me in vain. It hardly makes for convincing cover if I feign unawareness in one context and admit it in another...
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "Agreed."
Althea sighs. "Though even this means lying to him anyway..."
Edgeworth shakes his head. "I'm not equipped to provide counterarguments in this particular debate."
Althea shakes her head. "It's really an inevitability no matter what approach I take. I just regret the necessity, is all. I can't keep my secrets to myself without misleading him about something. It just... would have been a lot simpler if I really didn't like him."
Edgeworth blinks in surprised realization. "Come again?..."
Althea looks over to Edgeworth and shakes her head slightly. "I thought I'd made it clear... I'm not rejecting him because I necessarily want to... I'm rejecting him because I have to..."
Edgeworth: ...I'm sorry to hear that, though I admit that I find it difficult to relate.
Althea: ...can't say I'm surprised to hear that. Kind of funny, actually, Belgiwig had an interpretation of your view on the proper roles of prosecution and defense that made him wonder if you had a significant other. I really didn't figure you for that type, though...
Edgeworth rubs his temple. Do I even dare ask what sort of logic led to such a question?
Edgeworth: Your supposition is correct.
Althea nods. "I... don't want to pry into the painful parts of your past needlessly, so my awareness is limited, but it does strike me that you are someone who doesn't make emotional connections with people very easily."
Althea: Though this "Phoenix Wright" you've mentioned on occasion does sound like something approaching an exception to that rule, perhaps...
Edgeworth glances aside. "That was no simple matter either."
Althea: We're not the type for simple matters generally, it would seem.
Althea: But he is someone you respect, and I would even dare to suggest trust. Especially in the "proper role of the defense."
Edgeworth looks back to Althea and nods. "Indeed; there's no one I'd rather stand across from."
Edgeworth then frowns...
Althea: ...he was not brought up in that context specifically. But yes, Belgiwig's interpretation was that you saw everyone as being imperfect, but the right two people together being capable of achieving a greater perfection.
Edgeworth: That isn't far from the truth, though it ultimately takes more than the efforts of two people alone if humans... er, sorry, sapient beings are to approach perfection.
Althea: Fair enough. The prosecution and defense do seem to be extremely central figures in how you talk about the pursuit of justice and truth, but obviously there is a lot more to a functioning justice system.
Althea: Still, I suspect you can at least appreciate how the impression would have occurred. Abstracting to the greatest possible degree, two people together being more than the sum of what they are apart is a sentiment which people do tend to apply to... other types of unions...
Edgeworth recoils. "That's the last thing I would ask of anyone!"
Althea: I think I impressed that point on him sufficiently, though I think he interpreted your disinterest more like that of an ascetic.
Edgeworth peers at Althea. "It's hardly a matter of denial, though I would imagine such pursuits to be at odds with my work."
Althea: I wouldn't think so. You don't need to hide what you do from a potential partner, and most people manage to have some kind of life outside their chosen vocation.
Althea: Just because it's not something you want to pursue, doesn't mean you couldn't make it work if you were motivated to try.
Edgeworth hmphs. "Those in the Prosecutor's Office who are so attached typically spend time maintaining such attachments that I would frankly rather continue to spend on my job."
Edgeworth yawns and rubs his eyes...
Althea: ...that's pretty much the sense he had, that it was ultimately a question of devotion to your faith.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head. "Perhaps it would be, if I ever felt such an attraction to begin with."
Althea shrugs. "I don't know whether to consider you lucky or unlucky on that front. Though I suppose there is little question that it's a blessing to be at peace with who and what you are."
Edgeworth's eye quirks in annoyance at that word choice, but then the overall sentiment causes him to lapse into thought with a grim expression.
Edgeworth: ...As you may have already deduced, that peace was in some respects hard-earned — and now, it's been thrown into turmoil in an entirely new way.
Althea nods. "Even so, I think you will come to terms with the change, and surprisingly quickly, if your progress thus far is any indication."
Edgeworth: For as long as I can remember, I've yearned to take my place in a courtroom. My understanding of that place has changed wildly over time, but that basic fact remained.
Edgeworth looks down at his hand. "This seemed, at first, to be completely different — a mockery of all that I stand for."
Edgeworth half-frowns. "I certainly would never have freely chosen a pursuit of this sort."
Edgeworth lowers his hand and looks back to Althea, resolute. "But aside from needing control of my own situation, I need to know the truth, and to help others understand it as well."
Althea nods. "Most certainly a suitably worthy calling for one of your faith."
Edgeworth hmphs, looking mildly amused.
Edgeworth: "Calling", huh... I would have characterized prosecution as that. Certainly, I fervently wish to return to that particular pursuit, more so than I wish to go home in any literal sense — even considering that Wright is there.
Edgeworth: I find strength in that position in a way I do nowhere else; there's no role I'd rather play in pursuit of the truth.
Edgeworth: I never imagined that I might one day play the role of evidence by my very existence...
Edgeworth's smirk becomes that of a confident challenger. But to remain that alone isn't enough. Though it would be foolhardy to simply declare war on the established society of this place, once I'm certain of what I'm doing, I should be able to contribute to the erosion of the ignorance and superstition that surrounds this force that responds to me.
Edgeworth: Should I be proven wrong in my beliefs, I'm certain that it would be because the truth turns out to be beyond what either side imagined.
Edgeworth taps his temple. Either way, their guilt will be established.