A Wild New World 5:
Magic and Flight

by Fur and Fantasy
PG-13
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Kyasah, one of the very few field-team qualified mages in the Alliance looked down from the skimmer that was transporting him to the Builder city of Aecra's Bluff to join up with FCT1 as their new linguist. As much as he was looking forward to his first field mission in years, he was unsettled by the reason he was going. The land below him was largely grassland, with scattered stands of thick trees. Its magical aura was strong enough to be good for magic, but not so strong that it was likely to be common.

What frustrated him, to a large extent, was what he'd read about spirits. According to his briefing, the place should have been crawling with them. While he was sure there were many out there, he couldn't sense nearly enough to explain what they talked about.

And if they were wrong about the 'spirits,' then what else were they wrong about, magically? And how well could he discuss the issue without causing a diplomatic incident?

He'd just have to wait and see. It could be as simple as a lingual confusion, or as difficult as something he couldn't sense despite all his training.

The city coming into view actually qualified as such in his mind, though it was very small, probably 30,000 or 40,000 people, and powered by coal, or something equally dirty.

"We're almost there, sir," the pilot called back to him as they began to descend.

"Thank you," he nodded. He was grateful that as a Hawk he didn't have much of a sense of smell... he couldn't even imagine what it must be like for the canines, felines and bears, used to it or not. He was sure they weren't used to it yet either. Not with only four days there.

He could see the crowd gathering as they came in for a VTOL touchdown. Near the front were Carmidin, Jaysa and a local female. Probably their new playmate/guide, Selia.

She was shielding her eyes from the sun as they touched down, and waited for Carmidin and Jaysa to greet him... though he could tell she was fascinated by a bird-person as he started off of the skimmer.

"Good to see you, Kyasah," Jaysa said, stepping forward to shake his hand. "This is Selia, in case you hadn't guessed. Selia, Kyasah, our new linguist."

"Hello, Selia," he smiled and offered his taloned, three-fingered hand to her. "You seemed to have made quite the impression on the team leaders."

"Thank you," she smiled, shaking his hand carefully. "They've made quite the impression of their own, all of them. Do you know how Tanya is doing?" She asked him politely.

"Physically, she's in for a few surgeries to put her face back together. Emotionally, not as well as I expect she hopes folks will believe. Bears are notorious for their pride in having nothing bother them," he explained.

"Just like any other warrior," Selia nodded slightly. "If any of you talk to her again, let her know that everybody who knows what happened has nothing but respect for her, just for living through it," she said seriously. "Most of the Knucklers' victims are never seen again."

"We will pass it along," Jaysa promised. "He's a Red Tailed Hawk, by the way. And a skilled mage by our standards."

"The Elders will be interested in meeting you," she smiled. "Is your ship going to be leaving right away?" She asked.

"As soon as of things are off and we clear the field," he nodded. "A mage travels with a bit more than most officers," he added with a smile of thanks to Sandy Milika, a female Brown Bear with security who was helping unload his three seabags.

"She understands," Jaysa chuckled. "She's just asking on the behalf of two of the other locals. Some of their inventors have been eagerly waiting for a chance to test a new machine, and for some reason they insist on having the skies clear... given the pressures in most steam-boilers, I figured it was best to humor them on the point."

"It's always best to humor the Engineers," Selia giggled. "When it's not part of keeping on their good side, it's usually part of not getting blown up."

"Sounds like every gifted inventor I know," Kyasah chuckled, clicking his tongue in amusement.

"And pretty much every mage," Carmidin winked. "Come on, let's clear the field so the skimmer can go home."

"You prefer a room in the MAQ's, or the Inn? Anything above ground-level seems pretty safe," Jaysa offered.

"It is," Selia confirmed. "Knucklers don't like going higher than that unless they're desperate."

"A MAQ," the Hawk decided as they began to move to one of the two heavily armored, squarish hovercraft that housed living quarters for several of the team. "There's less packing involved when we move on."

"Understandable," the Maned Wolf nodded, helping them to load the bags. "Heh ... certainly brought enough gear with you," he chuckled.

"And here I was trying to travel light," the Hawk ducked his head. "Lady Greenway kept fussing that I'd left too much behind."

"Well, we'll be around long enough that if you did miss anything, we can call back for it," Carmidin chuckled. "It won't take long for a skimmer to make it out with any emergency supplies."

"True enough," he agreed. "Where are Xyanre and his new playmate?"

"She's working on a project for a wealthy local... he's probably either watching her, or watching somebody else," Jaysa said easily, glancing around to see if he could spot him.

"I brought a gift for her," Kyasah clicked. "It will wait."

"Good," Jaysa grinned at him and accepted a small package from the Hawk as the skimmer took off.

"So how poor an idea would it be for me to fly around a bit?" Kyasah asked, her large, piecing golden eyes on Selia.

"Stay above the city, and you should be fine," she explained. "Firing a weapon into the air inside the town is very, very much frowned on - you can't be sure where it'll come down."

"Not a problem," he assured her. "Jaysa can call me if someone wants to speak to me," he said before spreading the wings attached to his arms and making a leaping flight to the roof of the MAQ, then into the air, slowly circling on thermals to high above the city.

"That must feel incredible," Selia murmured.

"He won't be in Rama and Roma's way, will he?" Jaysa asked.

"I doubt it... though it might be good to ask him to come down when they're ready, if you can."

"Easily done," he nodded. "He brought a few things for others as well," he smiled shyly and offered her the simple box about the size of his palm. "A little something from Carmidin and me."

"Oh! I... hadn't been expecting anything," she admitted, blushing as she took the box. "Should I look at it now?" She asked.

"Sure," Carmidin joined them and licked her cheek. "We just thought it would look pretty in your hair."

"Thank you," she murmured, opening the box and taking out the circle of brightly colored and metallic feathers meant to attach to her hair, with several small feathers dangling down in fine golden threads. "It's lovely," she smiled a little uneasily, putting it into her hair carefully. "I don't have anything for the two of you though," she pointed out. She wasn't sure what it was worth in their land, but here she was wearing a small fortune in her hair.

"You don't need to," Carmidin assured her with an affectionate kiss as he looked at their gift in her dark, strait hair. "It looks good in your hair."

"I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable," Jaysa cupped her face gently. "We simply enjoy indulging our lovers when we can."

"It's just normal for us to offer a gift of our own as well," Selia explained, turning to kiss Jaysa lightly. "It's lovely... if you don't mind my asking, do you know how much this would be worth here?"

It was Jaysa's turn to look uncomfortable as he cursed himself for not thinking ahead. He knew better than this. "Probably half a year's lodging."

"That's probably about right," she nodded slightly. "Would you mind if I just didn't wear it in public much, at least until I can offer you something?" She asked, taking it out of her hair. "I do love it," she reassured them.

"I'm sorry, and no, we don't mind," he kissed her gently. "We really did not mean to put you in this position. I just wanted to give you something pretty to wear, to show off that you're more than a fun night for us."

"I understand," she smiled, putting it back in the box. "I know that gifts are more common for other people, we just do them as an exchange most of the time. I know you didn't mean anything by it."

"So it's a bad idea to give Reina some fancy feathers?" he asked, ready to head off that gift before it was given.

"For her it's different; they're work materials for her," she explained. "She'd probably just ask what they wanted in exchange, and she certainly has enough to trade with," she said.

"Okay," he nodded, kissing her on the cheek. "I'll warn Xyanre what to expect."

"Oh, from him? That wouldn't be a problem at all," Selia grinned. "Just might want to give her a week or so."

"Noted," he nodded as they walked back to the inn. "Would it be appropriate if you gave us something about the value we paid for the trinket?"

"It would probably be quicker," she giggled. "I'll work something out though. It won't be as fancy as what Reina's cooking up; I'm not that good with jewelry, but I'm not too bad, I'll just need to find the right materials."

"Oh?" Jaysa raised an eyebrow. "What does she have going? And where we get them, your gift is worth about what a good, meat-heavy meal is here."

"We'll find a middle-point then, unless you'd rather have a good home-cooked meal instead of a new set of earrings," she smiled. "And don't let Xyanre know, but she's working on a tapestry that features he and Tealia."

"Ooo, promise, we won't tell him," Jaysa grinned, his natural delight at gossiping coming clearly to the fore. "Do you know what the scene is?"

"From what I've seen, it's the two of them being very snuggly after a night together," Selia smiled. "I'm guessing she imagined most of it, but those long, fluffy tails are good for wrapping around each other."

"Aw, that is going to be so cute," Jaysa actually giggled, his tail and delightedly amused body language gaining interest from several of his teammates. "I'm sure once Tealia's done trading knowledge with the Hag, Reina'll have plenty of opportunity to see them together."

"Probably, but I imagine she'll be done with it before then... she'd be done in a day or two except for her paid work," she smiled. "Her sketches are very sweet."

"It'll be great advertising too," Jaysa snickered. "Most folks there do think Fort Maric is a bit chilly, even though it's well heated. Something about it being eighty below freezing outside at high noon gets to folks."

"She's clever about that sort of thing," Selia smiled. "Her gifts are almost always good advertising for her work. I'm sure that if anybody wants to get something for themselves, she'd be happy to give them quotes. So, do you think she and Xyanre are serious at all?"

"As serious as it can be without her being willing to travel with us," Jaysa nodded and slid an arm around her waist. "Which means I doubt they're that serious, but who knows. And I think I'd like the earrings, if you have something in mind," he kissed her cheek.

"Mmm ... I'll have to see what I can find for pieces, but give me a day or two," Selia smiled, kissing his cheek back. "Any jewelry Carmidin would like?"

"Mister Killer? Anything that could double as a weapon," Jaysa snickered. "Seriously, he has a real thing for tail rings. I can get you one of them to see what they look like."

"Be careful how serious you are, I could probably find somebody who'd help me arrange it," she giggled. "Never underestimate the Engineers... speaking of whom, I think they're almost ready - want to call your friend down?" She asked, looking out at the town square at the small show that was going on as Rama and Roma hurried about and put pieces in place.

"Of course," he nodded and began walking towards the commotion. He tapped a concealed radio comm in his shoulder. "Kyasah, this is Jaysa, time to come down and watch the walkers fly. Over," he said cheerfully.

"Acknowledged," a squawk replied from his shoulder a moment later. "I'll be by the inn shortly. Over."

Selia nodded to him with a smile when he landed, then looked back out at the Engineers working. They were assembling some sort of large ship, mostly made of wood but with metal plates on the outside. A huge shroud that looked to be made of stitched-together hides was hooked to the top of it.

"It doesn't look that different from a normal balloon," Selia murmured, cocking her head slightly and wondering what the new touch was.

"I'm sure it'll be obvious at some point what they did," Carmidin assured her, curious himself. It wasn't 'just' a hot air balloon to him; it had vents and fans attached to the outside to direct it.

They had to actually jack it up to get the biggest blades attached. He had to wonder at the complexity of the gearing to let them steer it with the four fans... they couldn't just run around and attach belts whenever they needed to move, could they?

"Get the gas going!" Rama called out as she hurried beneath it to double-check some of the rivets holding the metal in place. They heard an engine start, and the balloon started to fill with some sort of gas.

"A steam-powered balloon?" Kyasah asked incredulously.

"Lift-gas," Selia corrected. "They pump steam through a special burning water we extract from the ground, and with a special metal they have it makes lift-gas."

"You do realize that 'lift-gas', we call it hydrogen, is highly explosive?" Vince Rango, a richly golden furred Coyote looked at Selia with mild alarm.

"If they don't, I'd be surprised," Carmidin began to regard to vehicle with a much more calculating eye. "Just be ready to keep the fireball from killing us if it does go bad."

"They're producing hydrogen for a steam-powered vehicle?" Kyasah asked incredulously as he landed with several sharp downward flaps of his wing-arms.

"Yes sir," the Hawk nodded and walked towards the two Engineers. "I'll see if they mind me flying around when they go up."

When he walked up, one of the warriors moved to stop him.

"Let 'im through!" Rama called out. The Engineer walked out, looking up at the Hawk as she wiped her hands off on her skirt. "Got any questions?" She asked him cheerfully.

"Many," he clicked in amusement. "I would most love to be permitted to fly on my own wings while you are testing it. I am a mage of some skill. If something goes badly, I can help with fires or falls that are not intended."

"Oh, that'd be fine... just be sure you don't get your feathers singed," she grinned. "You shouldn't have to worry about that - we make the gas down here, and then seal off the balloon separately from the other engines. We don't let the lift gas mix with the engine room... that happened once in the next town, and we heard the explosion out here."

"We were wondering if you knew it was explosive," he admitted. "I am Kyasah," he offered a taloned hand to the big-eyed, big-headed, extra-short human. "Thank you for letting me fly with you."

"Rama," she smiled, taking his hand and shaking it. "We know it is, and we're careful with it... it's one of the reasons we had a hard time convincing anybody to let us do this," she admitted, looking up at the balloon to see how well it was filling. "Especially since we're going to need to have an engine running while this one's in the air."

"Yes, it does seem quite dangerous. How can you be so you the gas will not leak out and reach the engine?" he asked, cocking his head far further around than most people could. "If you let Vince at it when it's in a workshop, you might like some of his suggestions," Kyasah motioned to the male Coyote. "He enjoys playing with equipment like this."

"After we've had a chance to try getting it ourselves, we'll open it up for improvements," she promised. "As for how... the gas goes up when it's in the air, and the fire from the boilers doesn't get outside. The exhaust pipes for the smoke go out, but they're a long way from the balloon," she said, indicating the long pipes that were being fitted to the outside. "Most importantly is how we make the balloon - under the hides, we've got a layer of rubber. The hides are armor against Amza arrows and other tears - the rubber is what holds the gas in."

"You have thought this out very well," Kyasah said with honest respect. "I am looking forward to seeing it fly."

"So are we," she grinned. "If you'll excuse me, I've got to go work on the final checks. Our insurance policy still needs to be mounted." She nodded towards what looked for all the world like an old-fashioned Gatling gun with a series of pipes in the back leading to one central fitting. She hurried over to the warriors, mounting the device onto a plate in the bottom of a viewport, then disappeared through a heavy door as the balloon finished filling.

"This is going to be interesting," Kyasah murmured to himself and politely watched without getting in the way. "Vince will have a field day if they let him."

He began to see the true dimensions of the balloon they were using ... it was huge, but it would have to be to float the armored gondola beneath it!

"I don't suppose you think they'd be interested in helium, do you?" He asked Jaysa over his communicator. "Be a good trade option, and less prone to explosions."

"Maybe," he replied. "It's worth asking at least. It's easy enough to make."

The Hawk nodded, then watched as the ship began to float up into the air.

"Cut the tethers!" A voice inside called out. The warriors did as they were told, and it began to rise up into the air to much applause and fanfare from the other locals. Especially when the fans began to spin, maneuvering the ship around the city.

Kyasah launched himself into the air, startling several people around him as he gained altitude and circled the armored dirigible, checking it out from every angle in a way only a flyer can. Steam started to be pumped out of the vents, aiding the maneuvering fans... then they cut the fans entirely, using pure vectored steam power for thrust. He could hear them shouting excitedly inside, even over the racket of the engines, and the ship began to level out, maneuvering away from the town walls.

As he looked off to see where they were heading, his keen eyes picked up mounted riders visible along the distant tree line... all women, he thought, though it was hard to tell unaided. Did the Engineers see them too? It was entirely possible they had some sort of telescope available... and entirely possible that they didn't know about them at all.

He flew around to a view port and knocked with his taloned foot. It was only a moment before a warrior's face appeared. "You see them?" he shouted, motioned towards the line of riders in the distance.

The warrior looked over, then called inside. There was a bit more back and forth, then he nodded and moved over to the weapon they'd loaded.

"Warn the town; they look like Amza," he told Kyasah. "We'll see if we can scare them off!"

The Hawk nodded and flipped over, flying to the main gates at full speed even as he clicked his com on to a general broadcast. "Assault incoming north. Over."

He took the last stretch at a low-angle dive before he flipped his wings wide and beat them to hover by the guards. "A line of riders is coming from the north. They are believed to be Azma."

The guards hurried to large horns, blowing an alarm before taking their posts on the walls. In a matter of moments, they were climbing up with their weapons, ready for battle.

Unfortunately, now that they knew they'd been spotted, the Amza were moving - there had to be well over a hundred of them that had come out of the treeline, rushing across the plains towards the town at a full gallop.

They hadn't been expecting the flying machine though - or the hail of arrows that flew from it, a cloud of steam behind the long darts that rained down onto the Amza. They fired back, but their arrows struck the metal and fell from it. A few found the huge balloon, but they looked to be caught in the hide shield over it.

Kyasah beat his wings, gaining enough altitude to give him a good view and focused on the power around him, drawing it into his taloned feet and unleashed it in an explosion of crackling, flashing light that rained down on the charging army. It did exactly what he designed it to do too; every equus on the field panicked, rearing and thrashing in terror to throw their riders and flee.

A volley of arrows flew up at him in retaliation, but he managed to avoid them as the Amza began to fall back, trailed by arrows from the flying machine as well as from the city.

Several of the raiders were taken down from over sixty paces by warriors from the city, shot neatly in the back or head as they fled. A handful were taken down by shots to the leg; they would typically turn and keep firing from the ground, trying to ignore the pain as they fought to avoid being captured by the Builders who were starting out of the gates.

Kyasah wrapped a cloak of invisibility spell around himself and took off after the retreating survivors, keeping his altitude as high as he dared, which put him well beyond the visible range of an unaided human. "Kyasah to Carmidin. I am perusing the survivors, cloaked. Over."

"Ignore them, Kyasah," the Puma replied. "We know where they are from. Try to gather the equus."

"Their mounts? Over."

"Yes, the mounts," Carmidin confirmed quickly.

"Understood. I'll send as many as I can to you. Over," Kyasah replied easily as he turned his efforts to finding and charming every horse he could find into taking itself to the city gates.


Back in the town the warriors were winding down from the brief battle.

"That was your friend with the lightning?" Selia asked Jaysa, impressed by the display of raw power.

"Yes, that's our mage," he nodded with a slight smile. "He's not the most powerful in the Alliance, but Hawks are inherently more combat and hunting oriented than many of the more magically-oriented races. I think that was a panic spell mixed with light and sound effects though."

"It was still very impressive... most of our mages aren't nearly that powerful. When will he be back?" She asked, as the warriors started to come back with one or two prisoners of the dozen or more they'd only wounded. Most of them had either had to be killed, or killed themselves rather than be taken captive. Jaysa noticed that the ones who had been captured had obviously had both their arms wounded as well as their legs.

"Not for many hours," Carmidin said, his tail lashing a bit to have been kept out of the battle by its swift resolution. "He's tracking the equus he frightened. They should start walking up to the main gate soon."

"Why would the equus come here?" Selia frowned.

"He has spells that will cause all but the most well-trained or wild animals to follow a simple command," Carmidin explained. "He'll use in on each mount he finds, and tell it to come here, to us."

"Wow," her eyes went wide. "If you were not rich already, so many equus would make you very rich. We have almost none left in the entire city."

"You will have quite a few now," Jaysa smiled. "I'm sure we will trade them all."

"I'll go tell the guards what to expect," Teli said and walked off, her thick, bright red tail with it's white tip flicking as she walked.

"She actually loves animals," Carmidin chuckled. "It'll be a job stopping her from keeping a couple of those beasts."

"What will be done with the captives?" Jaysa asked with some agitation.

"It depends on how much trouble they are to heal, and how much trouble they are to keep around. We'll see if they can tell us anything, what sort of skills they have, and if we can convince them to change sides. They'll never be warriors again, but they might be able to earn their keep in other ways. If they're too much trouble, or if they can't be convinced, they'll be executed in a few days unless somebody wants to take the trouble of forcing them to live. Mages can be a little creepy that way sometimes, and there are a couple of traders who make a point of it, when they're coming through."

"Any of them among those expected to arrive soon?" Carmidin asked as he considered the group. "Who do I need to ask to have some time with the prisoners to try and get intel myself?"

"I'm not sure, on either front ... Keldina would know," she offered. "She helps with the interrogations, since they had her for a while ... you'll want to talk to her before the interrogations start though, it leaves her in a bad mood for days."

"I will," Carmidin nodded and scanned the crowd, grateful that he was a couple heads taller than just about all of them, and moved towards Keldina with a purposeful stride.

"It'll probably leave him in a bad mood for days too," Jaysa sighed. "Probably for the same reason."

"He doesn't like having to hurt people to get the information either?" Selia guessed. "I'd be surprised if he did, really... he's not the right type of person. The slavers, they like it... they're a little scary, that way."

"Slavers, slave-owners, are a mindset I honestly don't get," Jaysa admitted. "I've been places where it's common, and places where having a slave is a death penalty crime. It's not legal in most of the Alliance. And no, Carmidin doesn't enjoy hurting people for any reason. He'll do it to protect, or because his mission calls for it, but even his food kills are preferred to be quick and clean."

"Any good hunter prefers a kill like that," she nodded. "There's no good reason to let an animal suffer. Not all the slavers are like the ones I mentioned, for what it's worth... it's just that some of them really like getting their hands on the Amza. It's not just business for them, it's personal... a matter of pride, I suppose, but even that wouldn't explain it all. As for the owners... most people who have a slave or two around here aren't so bad. It's a practical thing, honestly... Keldina and Joran would probably have a couple if they could afford them, and didn't have me around."

"I've met plenty of good folks who owned slaves," he smiled reassuringly at her as they walked back to the inn. "It's just not part of the economy or culture where I'm from. What slaves do, we pay people to do, or create machines to do it. The Alliance was built on the principle that everyone has the right to decide their own destiny. I'll grant that's an ideal that isn't always true, but it's a mindset that doesn't mesh with slavery very well. For the Alliance and the Builders, that means that we won't ever provide slaves for sale, and will very rarely be interested in buying one."

"So how do you deal with people you capture in wars, or thieves who can't return or repay what they've stolen?" She asked with a slight frown, trying to figure out what they would do. "We don't believe in forcing people into it for no reason either, but it won't be cheap to help the Amza recover, or to keep them around until they're ready to start earning their own keep."

"We have prisons for that," he explained, sitting down with her and motioning for drinks. "Places with very limited freedoms. Different crimes have different lengths of time in prison, and we have different grades of prisons, depending on how dangerous they are to society. Some crimes we still execute for, and prisoners of war are prisoners until the war is over, or they are traded for our own people captured by the other side. It is expensive, not that many earn their keep, but it's what our society has decided is best for us."

"It seems like a waste to me," she admitted. "They can't do anything, you're putting all your most dangerous people in one place, and by the time you let them out they've had all that time to learn more and more ways to not get caught if they go back to crime, instead of time to learn a skill they can use when they're done. Not to mention that the victim of their crimes don't get any compensation out of it. Does it actually work for stopping the crime, beyond when they're locked up?"

"That depends on the facility, but most train in a skill they can find work in when they get out and most do work when they are locked up. It just doesn't usually pay their full keep," he tried to explain as a server girl brought them two large mugs. "Many crimes do also come with a fine ... money the criminal has to pay instead of or in addition to doing time. As for reducing crimes ... that's an argument as old as the idea of incarceration ... and slavery for criminals ... itself. Like most systems, it seems to depend on how it is carried out, rather than the system itself. The compensation, beyond fines ... we've had the prison system in place for a solid millennia, with and without slavery in addition to it. Most people feel that prison time is compensation, that it's justice. It's been part of our culture for so long. Do you have any circumstances you can think of where compensation isn't actual money or goods?"

"Justice doesn't help if the only hunter in the family was hurt or killed," she pointed out. "Or if you've just lost everything you've had saved and can't get it back. Family can help, but why should they be the ones doing it instead of the person who caused the hardship?"

"We don't need to hunt anymore, as for the rest, that's where fines come into play," Jaysa said as he relaxed on the bench seat by the huge fireplace. "If they can't pay it back when they are captured, they keep paying until they have paid it back. The reality is that many people never do get their money back, but that was true with slavery as well."

"No, but at least you weren't making all the good people pay to keep the bad ones fed and housed for free...." She shrugged a bit. "It's how you handle it; it might not make sense to me, but apparently it works for you. What about people and families that can't afford to support themselves? If people agree to it, is it still against your laws?"

It took him a moment to place what she was referring to. "That's more complicated, but the short answer is that no, it is still not legal. There are three ways that generally works out for us. We have government-funded programs to help those who find themselves in need. Some help pay for advanced education so the person can earn a better living. Others are for short-term needs, like if the money-earner is injured or sick and can't work for a few months. Those who are fit or smart frequently go into the military for an education and pay.

"The closest thing to slavery that we still have is called an indentured servant. It has been steadily falling out of favor in the general population for generations, but a few very rich still have them. The contracts are scrutinized heavily, and they have many more rights than slaves do, but the normal day is fairly similar. They agree to do their master tells them to for a stated number of years in exchange for either an up-front payment or other compensation. Generally there are several other conditions about what kind of work is done in the contract as well."

"What kind of rights did slaves have, when you stopped using them?" She asked, realizing that they might have been talking across different definitions. "That sounds more like what we do, in most cases."

Jaysa had to think about that, correlating the information from dozens of worlds and thousands of cultures. "That varies widely by region, but on average, little to none. Most places if you were a slave, so were your children, and it would go on forever. You are property, not a person. It was not a crime to kill, beat, maim, rape or starve a slave."

"We generally treat our animals better than that," she pointed out. "That's not how it works here, at least not most of the time. We've got some people who mistreat their slaves, but that's not as common as it sounds like yours used to be... of course, the exact rules depend on how you ended up a slave, but that's to be expected."

"Why don't you tell me about them?" Jaysa smiled. "It would save a lot of grief later if I can put the right translations in now."

"Probably," she chuckled over a sip of her drink. "Well, if you end up selling yourself, it depends entirely on what you agree to with your new owner. Your family might make the arrangements instead, but you've got the choice to turn it down regardless - Keldina couldn't have sold me, for example, without my agreeing to it, even if she'd wanted to. Neither could my parents; they could have disowned me, given me to another family when I was very young, but then I'd be a part of the new family.

"As for punishment, it depends on what you did. If you stole and can't replace what you took, you're bound to your victim until you can repay what you stole. You might be hunting for them, you might be keeping their home, but you can't be beaten or raped unless you did so in the course of the theft... but then you're probably enslaved for more than just the stealing. The general rule of thumb is that your victim can't do anything to you that's worse than what you did to them. A murderer's life is forfeit - the victim's family could go just as far as you talked about, but it's because they killed somebody, not because they're a slave."

"That sounds like a more personalized form of the punishment we have," Jaysa mused. "How do you keep people from just leaving, if they aren't in a prison?"

"If they're sent out to hunt, they've always got somebody with them. If they're just escaping...." She shrugged slightly. "The odds of making it to the next village without weapons or supplies are very, very slim. Not even most of our hunters would want to try it. If you're trying to leave inside the village, somebody's going to send you back. If you try to sneak out with a caravan, somebody's going to notice you on the way out, unless you hide yourself very well."

"Ah, and there is a key difference," Jaysa nodded. "Travel for us is much safer, much easier. If you can get out of the immediate control of someone, getting somewhere that no one would know you is easily done."

"It would be more of an issue if the city were too much larger," she nodded. "But even then, in the biggest cities there are usually mages who can keep a person from leaving. That's what the slavers who come through usually do, with the ones they take with them."

He hummed thoughtfully and sipped his drink. It was starting to wander outside his limited knowledge of the penal system but she had made some interesting suggestions to stick in his report. "How do you deal with mages and the like who commit crimes?"

"Generally speaking? The punishments are more extreme if we can't block their powers. If we can't, and they're not willing to make restitution with the influence of the other mages... if it's a serious crime, they're more likely to be executed if they can't be kept from running roughshod over everybody," she admitted. "We haven't had that problem in a long time though... most mages know that they've got a pretty thin margin between respect and fear, and they don't want to cross the line."

"Likely the other mages help keep them in place too, between peer pressure and their own power," he nodded to himself. "We usually only see it go really bad when there's only one mage in an area. There's no one who really can hold them accountable."

"Exactly," she nodded. "Of course, a city with a lot of Engineers always has a good line of defense against that. Ours have some metals that magic won't always work through, for example. And if their magic isn't stopped by it, the Engineers are usually pretty good about being able to put together something that'll stop them, even if it might take out the rest of the building with it."

"Sounds like our SWAT teams," he chuckled. "Special Weapons and Tactics. They get called on to deal with the things that the regular police, those who enforce the law, can't handle for whatever reason. Though SWAT is basically military, and your Engineers aren't."

"No, they definitely aren't," she nodded. "Some of the warriors are more along those lines. The Engineers put together the weapons, they use them, assuming anybody else can figure out how to use them. There've been a couple times we couldn't," she giggled.

"I bet, given what we just saw," he chuckled lightly. "What title do you have?"

"Title?" She asked, taking a moment to think of what he meant. "Ah, sorry. I'd be the keeper of Keldina's house, but it's not really something I think about."

"Ah, not one that goes with a special set of skills," he nodded. "Have you ever been inclined to learn one of those skills?"

"Not too much, honestly," she admitted. "I'd be interested to learn a bit more about hunting, but not in becoming a hunter. Just enough that I'm not in as much trouble if I ever get lost in the wilderness."

"I'm sure you'll have opportunity with us," Jaysa smiled slightly. "So what terms do you put on prisoners taken in battle?"

"It depends on the prisoner," she admitted. "Most of them are never allowed to become warriors again, we can't take the chance that they'll turn on us. The biggest question is how long they've been a warrior, how much harm they've managed to cause, especially with the Amza. If they've got skills, or can learn them, that make them particularly useful even unarmed, they're more like servants. Most who don't, don't end up becoming prisoners for very long. The ones who go with the slavers... I don't really know," she admitted. "It's much more common for an Amza slave to be abused, by her owner or by others in the town, and not everybody is as worried about reported abuses. But, then, most any Amza warrior we capture has probably killed before, probably stolen some of our people before, and quite possibly killed them. It's... touchy."

"And doesn't hurt their inclination towards suicide over capture, I'm sure," he murmured. "Are they slaves for life?"

"Again, it depends on the slave, and on the owner," Selia explained. "Some of them are, some of them aren't... some of them are until their owner decides to release them. The rules there are very tricky. For what it's worth, they're not supposed to be beaten, raped, or abused... it's just harder to make most people care." She didn't sound happy about it, or even as matter-of-fact as she was about the rest of the conversation.

He had to wonder how much of that was because of Keldina. She had to have mixed feelings about the issue... she hated the Amza, yes, but at the same time she'd been raised with them for a time.

"Sounds nearly as complicated as our legal system," Jaysa chuckled a bit and took a long drink. "What do you know of the Azma?"

"Not nearly as much as my sister, but she was raised with them for a while," she reminded him. "I know most of what everybody knows; they hate men, but nobody really knows why. They're some of the best warriors on the continent... it's really a pity we can't make some sort of real alliance with them, because they'd be great allies if they wouldn't be so vicious towards us. We could really help bring together a lot of the different tribes and nations to the south."

"You may well get that anyway, with us," Jaysa pointed with a bit of a smile. "We have something of a talent at unifying territories, at least to the level where there isn't much fighting."

"If you could do that, it'd be wonderful," Selia smiled. "It's not that we don't want to be able to share our technology and advancements, it's that they're the only way we can keep from being crushed, so we need to keep them all to ourselves. I know the Engineers would love to be able to spread it out."

"Most inventors do," he nodded. "Sometimes it takes a generation or three to set in. Peace is rarely quick," he warned her. "It is, however, extremely good for business. Thus our interest in it."

"It makes sense," she nodded. "And getting better transportation between places would be good for you too, so I can certainly understand it."

"That too," Jaysa said. "War can be good for innovation, but peace is good for infrastructure, and infrastructure is good for business. So how well did this battle go, compared to others you've seen?"

"Incredibly well - I'm sure they were forced to act before they wanted to," Selia chuckled lowly. "Between the flying machine and your mage, we didn't actually lose anybody to the battle - you can't ask for better than that. If they'd attacked at night, like they usually do, it would have been a lot messier."

"I expect it would have been, though I expect the fighters on my team would have been happier," Jaysa couldn't help but laugh. "Some of them are still miffed about being left out of the fun, as they put it."

"They have a very strange idea of fun," Selia chuckled, shaking her head. "I'm sure they'll have other chances, as time goes by."

"Of that I have no doubt," Jaysa agreed.


"Thank you for letting us have a turn at one of the prisoners," Carmidin said. "Do you have time to tell me what you already know before the interrogations start?"

"Of course," Keldina nodded. "We already know where the village is, so we're not worried about that. What we're trying to figure out is if this was just a typical raid, or preparation for a bigger assault to come. We haven't had any luck with that yet... most of them have been willing to brag about how many warriors they had, but anything we could find out about their supplies or planned strategy would be good to find out as well." She glanced back at the interrogation room they'd been working in, then looked back at him. "We also need to try and find out if this group is the same batch that conducted the last few raids," she said quietly. "I don't know that I can trust what I got from the last one," she admitted.

"We have a few methods you don't seem to have access to that will be worth trying," he said. "What about rank structure, in the village and beyond it?"

"If you can get us descriptions, that would help, but we already know how it works," she said, shaking her head. "The Queen, Queen-Father if they have one, the priests, the generals and village leaders, then skilled warriors and raid-leaders."

"Do you know of any distinctive way the various ranks or classes mark themselves or their clothing?" he asked. "For us, the insignias on our collar lapels indicate rank, unit and specialty," he indicated the three matte black pens he wore on each side.

"When they're dressed formally, or when they're in the field? In the field they usually don't bother, unless it's a mass battle," she explained. "On a raid, everybody knows who's in charge of a given group, and wearing full regalia makes you a target. In an army, you want to shoot at whoever has the most feathers first, and if you're trying to pick out the person in a city or village to take out, go after whoever's wearing the most metal and jewelry, or the oldest. Only exception is if you get a shot at the Queen-Father; if you can capture hir, you've got them on their knees real fast, most of the time. The problem is that by the time they're at that rank, they usually aren't in battle often, unless you're attacking a village while shi's visiting, or you spot hir entourage."

Carmidin leaned back slightly and let a small smile play across his mouth. "What kind of traveling does shi do?"

"It's hard to be the 'father of all' if you don't travel from one village to the next to set up shop and satisfy the local women," Keldina chuckled lowly. "Unfortunately, if there's another one on the way up, it doesn't help as much, and I've got no clue if there's another 'candidate' out there right now. Odds are good there is, but shi could be anywhere from an infant to a warrior of some skill by now."

"It's far more than a title then," the Puma blinked in a bit of surprise. "Does shi sire all their children, or just do many of them?"

"Oh, it's much more than a title," Keldina nodded. "And not all, but the majority of them who are born to skilled warriors. The Queen-Father is male and female, and Amza legend says that the Spirits blessed them with such a child who was a skilled warrior to keep them from needing men. All the same, male prisoners sometimes end up siring children before they're killed, and people born male and female who aren't warrior-material are usually popular with the women who want children but can't impress the Queen-Father enough to have hir sire them for them."

"That sounds familiar," he shook his head. "It seems like some social conventions keep happening independently. How difficult is it for them to replace their Queen?"

"If they had to, they could manage it in the space of a decade," she explained. "Probably much less, that's if they had one who was only a toddler. You know another culture like theirs?"

"The part about making due with a lesser mate when you can't get the attention of the one you want," he explained. "What makes the Queen their Queen, and what does she do for them?"

"Ah... that's pretty much standard, I think," Keldina chuckled. "Not everybody's as lucky as I was," she smiled fondly. "The Queen is usually the daughter of the last queen, and if it isn't, it's always a close relative. The question is if she'd be old enough to undergo the Challenge of Royalty. The Queen's main duty is to lead the Amza in a time of war, and to resolve their disputes. She also chooses the Queen-Father, when there's more than one candidate for the position."

"Do you have a feel for how much chaos it would cause if she was captured or killed?"

"I don't know enough about it all," Keldina admitted. "And I doubt any of our prisoners would. The question would be how popular the Queen is, how popular her successor would be, how loyal the generals and priests are... how much hold the Priests have... a lot of different issues at hand."

"So at a minimum, a few weeks of relative chaos while formalities get sorted out, at most, a decade or so bordering on civil war?" he asked.

"And probably closer to the former than the latter," she nodded. "It's also very simply possible that one or more of the Generals would simply take over Amza lands by force, splintering the entire empire. If General Quila were one of them, it'd make the world much easier for us," she sighed. "But she's too faithful about that sort of thing."

"It will be interesting to see how they deal with us, when we're more than a single exploratory team," Carmidin mused. "How large a territory to the Azma control?"

"They control the entire basin around the Great River, more or less. The outlying areas aren't as firmly controlled, and it's more common for other groups to try building settlements there. Our borders aren't as settled as they were supposed to be before the Fall."

"Understandably," he nodded. "You said you know where 'the village' is; how many other Azma settlements do you know the location of, and how independent are the settlements?"

"The village I meant was the one this group came from," she explained. "I know roughly where the capitol is, though not really how to get there, and two or three other major settlements, none as big as ours here. They're pretty independent though; they don't have the resources to keep really tight control from the capitol."

"So it's an empire based on a common culture, more than that of the central city's army?" he checked, just to be sure.

"Mostly," she nodded. "There's also a certain amount of mutual defense ... we don't give them much trouble, but there's another group to the southwest that occasionally does, and their army is mostly occupied against them."

"Great," Carmidin groaned. "It seems like the further south we go, the more militant the people get. It's usually the other way around. Anyway, is there anything else you know about that I should before I go in?"

"For what it's worth, I never actually met the people to the south," Keldina chuckled. "And no, but I would like to go in with you. I may be able to help translate a few concepts for you."

"You'd be welcome, and to ask any questions you have of her," he assured her. "Interrogations are part of my job, and if I can get a feel for how to handle an Azma warrior before I'm on my own, I want to. I don't particularly care which one I work over, but I would like to have Kyasah back before I start. We usually do this as a team, each of the five of us bringing something to the interrogation that improves what we get out of it."

"Any idea when he will be back?" She asked him, considering what was probably going on above-ground, outside the facility they were keeping the prisoners in.

"If I call him now, one to three hours, depending on how spread out the animals got," Carmidin said. "If there will be any left, doing it in the morning would work for me. I have a lot of sweet talking to do to get Jaysa in there."

"He doesn't like having to get rough?" She guessed from what she knew about the Maned Wolf. "I can't really blame him. You should probably call him back now then; it'll be easier than letting him get even further away before you make the call."

"He hates it," the Puma nodded grimily and clicked his shoulder comm. "Carmidin to Kyasah, over."

"Kyasah here, over," came the quick reply.

"Return home, unless you have something extremely interesting to follow."

"Coming around now, Carmidin," he said. "ETA two hours, over."

"Acknowledged. See you at the party. Over and out," Carmidin said and clicked off the com.

"This might sound like an awkward time for it, but are you going to be up for the celebration tonight?" She asked him. "With the fight going so easily, it's going to be a big one, and I'd appreciate you and your people being there... especially your mage, he'll be very popular tonight."

"It is something our cultures have in common," he smiled at her. "A good battle is as good an excuse for a party as any, and I'm sure Kyasah will enjoy being the center of attention."

"Good," she smiled, putting a hand on his shoulder. "I wasn't sure if the prospects of tomorrow would have your spirits down. I'd hate for Selia to have to deal with you and Jaysa being grumpy tonight," she teased lightly. "Should we head up then?"

"It sounds good, and I'll try to have her deal with as little as possible," he promised as they headed upstairs to the audibly boisterous party already in full swing. "I may not enjoy hurting and terrorizing people, but it's been a long time since it bothered me much. I try to view it like battle and hunting; an unpleasant necessity so others less suited for it don't have to."

"I try to do the same thing," she nodded, following him up and closing the door behind them. "You go find your friends; I'll let you know when we spot Kyasah."

"Thank you," he smiled with a nod and moved off through the crowd, homing in on his taller teammates easily.

"Up already?" Selia asked him curiously as he walked towards Jaysa.

"We're actually going to do the interrogation tomorrow," Carmidin said, earning a pathetic look from Jaysa as the Maned Wolf drooped his ears and whined. "Sorry love, but we need your head in there."

"They're being trouble?" Selia asked quietly, glancing between them. "How is Jaysa going to help?" She asked as gently as she could.

"I haven't even tried, I just want the full interrogation team in on this one, so we all know what to expect from an Azma when we have to question one on our own," Carmidin explained. "Jaysa's psi abilities are extremely useful in it."

"Remember when I said I was a psi?" Jaysa looked at her.

"Yes," she nodded. "You've got abilities that help with an interrogation?" She guessed. "Like how the Elders sometimes know what you're thinking?"

"Very much like it," Jaysa nodded. "I use it to help with language and to minimize cultural issues we might encounter, though as you saw, it's not perfect," he gave her a weak smile. "But I can learn a lot from even an unwilling mind, especially with contact."

"Does it mean you don't have to actually hurt them?" She asked hopefully.

"Not often enough," Jaysa made an unhappy face. "And I still don't get to leave when my part's done. I can tell when they're lying, so I have to stay the entire time."

"I'm sorry," she murmured, squeezing his shoulder lightly. "Anything I can do to help make it easier? For both of you?" She asked, looking between them again.

"Make sure we enjoy the party," Carmidin kissed her cheek. "And be prepared for grumpy lovers for a few days, him longer than me."

"Mmm ... well, why don't we start with the first part of that?" She smiled. "Or do you need to go talk to the others first? It looks like a few of them are doing a pretty good job of enjoying themselves," she winked, nodding towards the Silvercrests near one of the bonfires.

"I'll catch them in the morning," the Puma grinned.

"Of course, you only had to spoil my evening," Jaysa snorted, only to find himself pulled into a heated embrace and kiss until he melted against his mate. "Mmm, you owe me."

"I know," Carmidin rumbled deeply. "Now let's get drunk and have some fun."


It was well past dark when Kyasah's strong wings brought him back to the builder city of Aecra's Bluff. The city was blazing with torchlight and bonfires, and alive with the celebration he wasn't at all surprised to see.

He could smell roasting meet and fruit, hear songs and see dances around the fires. He was pretty sure he could see the Silvercrest sisters enjoying themselves, showing off for the people watching them, and half a dozen other young men and women. As he circled the main fire, he heard Thomas roar.

He hoped no one ended up married after tonight. He had no idea how divorce worked around here.

With an easy time from the thermals he circled down to make an easy, relatively obvious approach. He was sure Carmidin would have told the guards to expect him back around now. As expected, he had no problems coming down, and was greeted with a chorus of cheers from the nearest group. One of the young woman came over with a large mug of something he was sure was very alcoholic, and probably not healthy in the long run.

Still, it was a party and he wasn't about to cause bad feelings as he accepted he with a click and thank you, checking her out briefly before he began to wonder, exploring the city in a celebratory mood after an incredibly hectic first day here.

After a few minutes of exploring, sipping at his drink slowly and enjoying a skewer of roasted meat he was offered at another fire, he felt a mental presence trying to contact him. After a startled, reflexive block of the unknown mind, he reached out and let the mind talk.

"*Are you the new mage?*" The elderly mental voice asked him.

"*Yes,*" he focused his thoughts to reply, trying to do what Jaysa had taught him about dealing with a 'path.

"*Would you be willing to see us? We are at the Inn, enjoying an excellent roast, and are quite willing to share.*"

"*I would be pleased to,*" he said honestly, grateful that he had a good memory for locations as he headed for the inn. He had only seen it briefly when he had come in.

When he got there, he found it remarkably empty; most everybody was outside, except for a table with the town Elders waiting for them. They were enjoying the roast they'd mentioned, and there was a free seat for him.

"Are you entirely a carnivore, or do you eat vegetables as well?" One of the Elders asked him, the one he'd heard in his mind. "I am Elder Reclin."

"I am Kyasah," he said and sat down, his manner polite with who he was sure were important people. "I enjoy meat more, but I do eat a bit of everything. Telepathy is a most unusual spell where I come from. Very difficult to master."

"As calling down lightning and thunder are here," Reclin chuckled and carved a slice of roast for the Hawk. "We have roasted carrots and maize as well," he said, indicating a covered tray.

"Thank you," Kyasah clicked his thick, triangular tongue against the roof of his hook-shaped beak and selected a reasonable portion of each. "It is true, different breeds have an affinity for different magics. My kind have a talent for air magic; weather, light, illusions and the like."

"A potent array of abilities," Reclin nodded. "Different bloodlines tend to have different talents, here; my family has had psychics or mages skilled in mentalism for several generations, so it comes more easily. It's quite useful in my position," he chuckled slightly. "Are you the first mage in your line?"

"Ah, no," Kyasah shook his head. "My clan have been strong air mages for longer than our recorded history. While not everyone can call storms, everyone has some level talent. Most can at least conceal themselves from their pray."

"How are you as a teacher?" Reclin asked him easily, working on his own roast, cutting off a bite, dipping it in his spiced wine, and chewing slowly.

"I'm not the best, but I have traded spells with Lady Greenway and I've had how to explain our magical theory drilled into my head as part of the field officer training," he explained, and tried dipping a bite of meat into the wine. While not bad, he decided he like it better plain. "I'd be uneasy taking on an appetence by myself, but I should be able to teach another mage well enough."

"That's what I'd been hoping to hear," Reclin chuckled. "And don't worry, that's a personal quirk of mine; I forget sometimes that most people aren't used to it from outside the Bluffs. It's easier to chew that way though. So, would you be interested in an exchange of spells some time?"

"Quite interested," Kyasah quirked the inside corners of his sharp beak upwards in a grin. "Do you have a tradition of written spells?"

"For apprentices," Reclin smiled. "We don't write down our more powerful spells, generally, but I could make an exception. The main issue is that books are much easier to have the wrong people get hold of... and if you're the only person who knows a spell somebody wants, they've got a good reason to want you alive. Kidnappings are easier to survive than robberies."

"Quite true," Kyasah nodded with a click of his tongue. "We have not have such issues in many generations, though I'm sure the most powerful and dangerous of spells are unlikely to have been recorded. That level is still beyond my abilities so I don't have much experience with how they are handled. We generally write them down because it makes it easier to pass the knowledge to others. A new spell can be worth a great deal to the magic schools. I've been able to trade one new spell for three well-known ones."

"While we don't have enough mages to make magic schools really worthwhile," he nodded. "We have heard of some places that have magic schools, though the legends about them are more than a little disturbing. From what I've been able to gather, this world has seen very little good come of magical tomes... most legends of the books imply that they're more a gateway to madness than to power."

That raised a ridge of feathers in curiosity. "A very different set of legends than my people have, though we have encountered places with such legends before. The tomes are usual those of unusual power, or put together for a specific dark purpose. Not the books of general spells we usually deal with."

"Well, by our legends there was very little magic before the Fall; it had been relegated to the realm of legends and superstition. Most of the spellbooks whose names have come down to us were crafted for dark purposes, or by dark mages. The Necronomicon, the Book of Eibon, the Pnakotic Manuscript, the Calderatic Codex... the Codex is rumored to still exist, but nobody knows where, for sure. With any luck the Knucklers have it - the beasts can't read, so they can't do any harm with it. The Malleus Maleficarum drove an entire continent mad, and nearly the entire world before it was finally destroyed. There was the Long Lost Friend, but it is well named."

"How did the Malleus Maleficarum drive so many mad?" Kyasah asked with wide-eyed curiosity.

"The legends say that it gave people a view of the world that they weren't able to handle," he explained. "It filled their minds with visions of dark mages who worshipped demons, and convinced them that all their ills would be fixed if they could hunt down and destroy these mages. It had many methods for hunting them down, that turned out in the end to be nothing more than ways to identify the enemies of its authors.

"In the end, the book and those who believed in it killed hundreds of thousands, and drove people into a paranoid frenzy." He took a sip of his wine. "Whether the book itself was magical or not, we don't know. It's another reason we tend to look on books of magic with a little suspicion... what's packaged with the spells can be more destructive than the technology of the Ancients, especially if it's done by a cunning mage."

"Sounds like a politician wrote it," Kyasah clicked in open disapproval and more than a little anger that fluffed his soft brown feathers. "I can understand suspicion when that is the kind of thing you hear about books of magic. It is not the way we write our books. Such a creation is usually a crime in the Alliance, whether it is magical or not. Not the writing itself, but an author can be held responsible if their actions are directly responsible for the crimes of another."

"So if you control someone's mind to commit a crime, you are both responsible?" a female Elder asked him.

"Depending on the circumstances and the crime, it is typical for only the mage or psi to actually be held responsible," Kyasah told her. "After all, if you are under mind control, you do not have the free will to commit a crime or not. The mind-controlled subject generally is treated as a victim or trained animal, depending on how long they have been controlled and how complete their conditioning is. Either way, they are very rarely punished for the actions they were forced to do."

"I would hope they were treated more like a victim, most of the time," she observed. "A trained animal might be put down. Or do you have gentler methods for dealing with animals as well?"

"Between the 'paths and mind-mages, we can almost always wipe their mind clean so they can be retrained with relative ease," he explained. "Some victims have been so indoctrinated that anything short of starting them over wouldn't work."

"At least they have a chance to start over," she nodded.

"We have that option as well, though I prefer not to use it," Reclin said. "Will you be involved in the interrogation tomorrow?"

"Ku?" his head-feathers fluffed a bit as he cocked his head. "Not that I know of. Why?"

"Your leader, Carmidin, arranged to handle one of them," Reclin explained. "Since I've just told you that we have the ability to erase a mind and let somebody start over, I wanted to let you know that it is not our typical approach to the Amza. We could wipe their minds, but we generally don't, for various reasons."

"Understood," Kyasah nodded. "If he's handling one, I expect he'll ask me to be there. I haven't talked to him since I got back."

"I understand," he nodded. "Just don't tell them we have that particular ability... it's difficult to explain to people who don't know how the Amza are received in our lands. With their memories intact, they know what to expect, and can prepare themselves. Without them, it's unfair to treat them like former enemies... but most people can't change how they respond."

"I can see that," he nodded again. "I doubt it would occur to anyone on our team to wipe their memories. Prisoners of war are treated differently than criminals. The Azma are definitely prisoners of war. What do you do with them once they've been interrogated?"

"They're usually either executed, or given to somebody willing to take them in. We certainly can't release them to fight us again, and it would be cruel given their injuries."

"A reasonable solution," Kyasah said. "So, back to magic. What specialties do you have in Aecra's Bluff?"

"My line specializes in mental magic, as you may have guessed; I have a few grandchildren with talent who are learning, but they're not much beyond mindspeech... after speaking with your leader, I suspect one of them might be psychic, rather than a mage, and I'd like the chance to speak with you about the difference later. The two other lines of mages in town with any power worth mentioning are the Doranga and Calvados; they specialize in earth magic and... well, it's hard to be sure with the Calvados," he admitted. "They're a family of Engineers, and it's hard to tell where the line between their technology ends and their magic begins."

"We call such talent technomagic or cyberwizardry, depending on their specialty and who you are speaking too," Kyasah offered. "Some groups use the terms interchangeably, others consider them two very different fields."

"While we're still telling the difference between technology and magic," he chuckled lightly. "They may be the type you're talking about though. The things they can accomplish are astounding, though practically impossible to reproduce."

"That sounds like a technomage to me," Kyasah nodded his head, his head-feathers fluffing slightly. "Their work may be based in the laws of physics that most of us live under, but they tend to go outside them without realizing it."

"That sounds about right. Of course, when you're dealing with the Engineers it can be hard to tell exactly when they know they're doing it and when they don't... that does raise one question though. Is there any way for us to tell if something isn't magic? It's difficult for any of the mages here to detect its use."

"We have spells that should make anything with magic glow, either visibly or only to mage-sight," he said. "The strength of the glow will tell you how strong the magic is, and a separate spell can tell you what the magic does."

"That could be quite helpful," he nodded. "Were you able to tell if the Amza brought any magic with them?"

"There were a couple minor magic items, but very little," Kyasah said.

"Were you able to take out any more of them on your way back?"

"My orders were to gather intel only," he said with a hint of annoyance. "Carmidin would have had a fit if I'd even been seen, much less attacked."

"Nobody was sure what your orders were," one of the women pointed out. "If you were just supposed to gather information, we understand entirely. What were you able to discover?"

"Where several of their camps are, that they are very uneasy about going threw an area of thick vegetation south of here and the raid leader is being challenge by her second in command," he ran off the basic list.

"This could leave several of their remaining warriors in rough shape in the next few days," another of the men mused. "Especially if it turns into a rank challenge or skirmish. Did they go through, or around, the area in question?"

"They went threw it," he inclined his head to the elder woman.

"We have to discuss strategy, in private," Reclin explained. "Perhaps some time, we can meet in private to talk magic further? With the rest of the mages here, rather than the town Elders," she chuckled.

"I would like that, ma'am," he said politely, turning to finish his food as they slowly got up and moved off to more private quarters.

A Wild New World 5: Magic and Flight

PG-13
Het Level is Low
Slash Level is
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

69 KB, Story is Complete, Series is in Progress
Written January 3, 2009 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Ayrth, Gre'and Alliance

Primary Races: Avian, Human, Maned Wolf, Puma

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). All Original Characters, Crossover, Magic, Relationship (Cross Species), Relationship (Established), Sci-Fi, Slavery (Legal), Steamtech, Violence

Pairings: Carmidin Sul/Jaysa Tumrin/Selia (M Puma/M Maned Wolf/F Human)

Blurb: A local threat, the Azma, pick a particularly bad day to commit a raid.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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