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First, a history lesson. Don't worry. We won't be here long.
Ah - no questions. Not yet. I'll tell you when you can ask, just be patient.

So. Twenty years ago. Two thousand, year of someone's lord. World is, more or less, as you know it. Mundane. Kept that way - powerful NGO with lots of ties, and lots of fingers in lots of pies, kills and imprisons magical beings for the good of man. Questionable if it did them any good. Probably got a lot of magical beings angry, mostly kept them scared, hidden, or dead. These monsters that killed monsters, they were the Blackguard. I'm sure some of you listening - hell, maybe most - might agree with them. History does not.

Fifteen years ago. Two thousand five. Blackguard are rooted out. Made public. Sides are drawn. Some countries are taken over, some brutally. "For the good of man-", they said, often. "A needed sacrifice." Other countries, give in without a fight. Still others side with the magical creatures. This is the Blackguard War. Heroes rise from all over, join together. Alisa Zolner. Rostislav. Isaac the Ward. The war - fueled by magic on both sides alongside military tech - is long, bloody, and damaging. To the world, and to its people. The Blackguard falter.

Ten years ago. Two thousand ten. The war ended three years ago. The world is now standing in a battlefield with theaters all over that has introduced them to a new minority: Thaumics. Magical beings of all sorts, builds, abilities, hungers, lifespans. These years are marked by turbulence that still, in some flavor, lasts today. No one can agree on anything, it seems. Division is rife in all walks of life, fear and hate present in seemingly any conversation. Thaumics pull away from heavily populated cities, some of them taking significant money and workforces with them. Unmasked celebs slip away from public life. Humanity finds itself oddly alone again, as the wonderous creatures they saved and harbored slink away in fear again.

Five years ago. Two thousand fifteen.
Almost in silence, almost without another word, cities sprout from the American Midwest, in the Russian wilderness, in all sorts of barely-populated places. The power of magic and the educated Thaumics comes together to rise cities, modern cities full of the half-implemented conveniences present in others. Various governments work together to give land over, making various deals with the Thaumics to hand them their own proto-nation that is spread across the planet. City One, in America, and the other four, scattered around the world, represent the Thaumic Nation. A loose, newborn experiment. These cities are, technically, part of the government of their "parent nations", but are working towards a peaceful independence over time.

We've talked about the past.

Now. Let's talk about you...
>>
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Three people.

Three people walk through City One, or towards it. Their narratives will move whether you watch them or are them, whether you follow them or help them. Our choice here - an important choice, even so - is who we influence. Choices must be made, the future must be molded, and the world will roll along just the same but perhaps in a new road.

Our first choice is a young scholar. Joseph Smith has always faded into the background, a nobody clerk, a face in a thousand hundred million crowds. He is not gifted with Thaumic blood or talent, a quiet young man who doesn't understand the importance of his place in the City. He came here to help with the sorting of tomes coming to City One - magical tomes and magical-related ones, all flowing from all parts of America to the University Of Thaumic Studies.

We will follow him on a path of discovery - perhaps of himself, perhaps of the world, perhaps of the past.
>>
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Our second choice is a dockworker - a man of labor and simple thoughts. He has lost his position at the coast in the east, and seeks simple work in the rapid expansion and manic development in City One. It seems like such a simple thing, but from simple lives stem those that can bring change.

Hate and fear and desire...
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With civilization comes laws. With laws comes enforcement. WhiteWatch was built with a mind towards this, but with a knowledge and fear of police and their many issues elsewhere in America. One such officer has stumbled across yet another body, yet another murder, what might be the first serial killer in City One. He must ask questions that no one wants to ask, investigate places and things that no one wants eyes upon.

What will the Officer find?
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>>5410139
This guy
>>
>>5410142
That guy
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>>5410139
this one
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>>5410144
>the Officer
He's going to find a cool murder mystery with magical elements?
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>>5410134
Gondolin was such a beautiful, wondrous place.
So much wonder was lost to Morgoth and his misbegotten successor.
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>>5410144
This land needs a law men.
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Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>5411312
>>5410863
1

>>5410176
>>5410798
2
>>
Joseph is not a confident man, but he is a fast one, when he wants to be.

He moves with the practiced trot of the eternally-late academic, the economic way of moving between people while muttering a constant stream of apology. His upper body turns and twists as he speeds along the sidewalk, surprisingly sure steps somehow slipping between other feet and avoiding tails. He is strapped and almost overloaded with bags, but he manages them well, nothing flying out to hit others as he reaches out for a bus and swings on with a single fluid motion from the sidewalk.

A quick flash of a pass and the goblin - the same one as yesterday, Joseph notes, one off the ears notched in a familiar way - nods him on. Bright gold eyes like plundered gold glance at him as he passes, grasping at one of the poles in the bus like it's a lifeline. He's not athletic, he's just very experienced at this sort of run. He adjusts his glasses as he catches his breath at last.
He is surrounded by a mishmash of people who all slightly shy from him - several beastfolk, an orc, and a gaggle of tin-lings, colonies of palm-sized creatures that share a constructed body. A dozen red eyes blink out at him from the chinks in a suit of stylized armor. Joseph still isn't used to the scrutiny he's under as a mundane in City One. He feels like an intruder, still, but he doesn't resent it. It's not like anyone had said or done anything, anyway.

It's not long before his stop, and he thanks the driver as he exits, shouldering his bags again and trotting up the steps of the huge, yet squat building: The Library. The University looms beyond it, but this building is the only one he visits on campus in any case. It's squat because most of the building is underground, constructed with care towards preserving books and parchment and a dozen other writing mediums. His footsteps feel loud in the musty aisles as he makes his way to the back, unloading his bags at last at his workstation - where he marks and sorts and reviews his workload, which is today a set of scrolls recovered from an old Blackguard storage bunker. They're heavy, and he rotates his shoulders with a sigh.
>>
>>5411971

"Finally joining us." says a voice at his hip. Stonetooth Gunderson, his immediate superior - a dwarf. Short and wide, with flesh that looks like living rock, eyes like burning coals. He's long since gotten used to his appearance. "I'm guessing it's the bus, again?"

"No-sir." Joseph says with a sigh. "Had a hunch at home and sort of, well, fell into my work, sir."

Gunderson pinches the bridge of his nose with a wry chuckle.
"My boy, you need to be more careful with your time." he says. "But you've performed admirably enough." he waves off the concern of tardiness without much thought. "It's been, what, a month, I think, since you joined us, and I'd like to have a chat with you, if you don't mind?"

One thing Joseph has learned in his time in City One is that dwarves don't actually ask 'polite questions' or pose hypotheticals often. If they ask a question, it's an honest one - and so he is asking if you'd like to talk now, or later.

"Well, sir..."

>I'd like to get a bit more situated, sir, if that's alright. Be with you in a moment.
>Sure, right away. Not a problem.
>Can we talk later? I'd like to get these scrolls sorted while I have the hunch in my head...
>>
>>5411974
>>Sure, right away. Not a problem.
>>
>>5411974
>>Sure, right away. Not a problem.
>>
>>5411974
>Sure, right away. Not a problem.
>>
So sorry for the long waits, fellas. Work is a shit, once-a-day might be the norm for a while.

"Oh, right away, sir." a quick note to keep things at the front of his mind, and he follows the dwarf through the stacks towards the back of the building. There's a whispering in the rows and rows of even this floor. Libraries and bookstores have a feeling to them, an immense weight of their words. A sense of strange power in the sheer amount of... text. Add a little magic to that - even spells and cantrips as simple as, say, moving something across a room, or making heavy things neutrally bouyant for a time - and suddenly it feels like walking through slightly denser air. It's not something he'd ever get used to, as a mundane, he was told. It would always be a sense of wrongness or strangeness.


"What is it you needed to talk about?" he asks, as they finally reach the Dwarf's office. The dwarf puts on a pair of shaded spectacles as he selects some paperwork from a pile.
"I need you for a specific retrieval." he says, "I've come to trust your instincts on matters regarding our texts. You understand well their connections and associations, you've taken to preservation fairly well. For a mundane, you have legitimate talent, and I'd like to explore that potential a little more with a task to collect a set of tomes that recently came to the city but, unfortunately, haven't been placed within our capable hands. We've sent requests and strongly-worded letters - they don't understand the legalities of the matter. So now were sending you and your new assistant." the law of the matter that the dwarf refers to is that tomes of certain levels of power must be stored in a specific kind of vault - ones that only the University owns.

"Wait. Wait, my new assistant?"

"Yes. Well, partner, really. An equal, not a subordinate." black specs are pushed up a rocky nose absently. "She's shown a lot of promise for such a young woman. At any rate..." the dwarf hands the young man a folder. "Here's the details. You can get started immediately. Your partner is in the deep stacks, as I remember, working with the animus." the dwarf turns to his desk. "So, ah, if you're heading that way, don't forget your PPE." he nods to himself. "Off you go, now."

>Review the files, first.
>Return to your desk and sort out the day's work, first.
>Meet this new partner, first.
>Something else...
>>
>>5412913
>Review the files, first.
Let’s see what we have.
>>
>>5412913
>Meet this new partner, first.
>>
>>5412913
>>Meet this new partner, first.
>>
>>5412913
>Meet this new partner, first.
>>
>>5412913
>>Meet this new partner, fist.
>>
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>>5413926
>>5413922
>>5413362
Joseph doesn't like the prospect of the deep stacks, where stronger tomes are kept, and especially doesn't like the prospect of entering the animus. The animus is a special section of the deep stacks, where books of such active magic are chained and contained with literal, actual chains. These are dangerous books not just because of their knowledge but because they are actively hostile, shaking and shivering in their shelves. Occasionally, a few escape, flitting about the stacks with the rustle of paper. It's one of the jobs of the Archivists to capture and corral them again.

For this task, Joseph gears up before riding the elevator down. The small room for this is a series of cupboards and shelves. A long double-breasted black leather coat over some black waders that strap over his shoulders. Thick gloves that nonetheless still have a fair bit of grip and dexterity. A hood of thick leather. Black goggles that are lightly enchanted to enhance light sources. And the only weapon afforded an Archivist. It's folded, like a stapler, sort of - the kind you'd find at any office desk. But when you grip the bottom half and flick out the top, a long rod unfolds with a hard clicking sound, humming softly. This is a thaumic baton, and it introduces a charge of random mana into what it strikes. On people, this usually is just especially painful, but on animus, it often shorts the circuits of mana that keep them animated and stuns them into submission. The mana charge in the rod also allows it to bat away some spells and disrupt certain enchantments. You can't take them out of the stacks, but they're very useful.

Thus armed, Joseph walks - feeling fairly heavy - into the elevator further down.

A deep breath as he steps off, feeling like he's walking through water that he can breathe. The magic swarms about him, pins-and-needles all over even through the protective gear. Without it, he knows he'd feel deep nausea and see hallucinations almost immediately. As it is, at middle range his vision swims and further out it's like smoke that shifts and twitches like a living thing. Distantly, the sound of rustling paper and clattering covers just barely prevents total silence.

Joseph hates the Deep Stacks.
>>
Deeper in, deeper, he walks, feeling the tingling of mana and magic at his wrists and neck and face, and when he breathes, along his nose and sinuses. Mana is not quite like radiation, these feelings will pass as soon as he's out of it. But it's unsettling alongside the low light of the deeper stacks, where brighter lights would threaten fires and preservation issues.

Standing more or less in the middle of the Stacks, Joseph listens and can hear animus all over. There's been a minor breakout - it's probably why this partner of his is down here. There's a large pack of them he can hear in the middle distance, but in the opposite direction, a few loners. Maybe they're picking them off one by one, or perhaps they've decided the more dangerous option of hunting the whole swarm at once. Either way could lead to its own dangers, its own reasons for being right. Joseph drums his fingers on his baton handle nervously. This isn't where he wants to stay. The magic tickles at his ear, then pins play along his inner ear, a wholly intrusive, unwelcome itch he cannot scratch.

>Move towards the bigger swarm, risking an overwhelming encounter.
>Move towards the lesser, spread out animus, leading to a possible ambush.
>Run away. This isn't like you. You shouldn't be here, Mundane. Go home.
>>
>>5414341
>Move towards the bigger swarm, risking an overwhelming encounter.
Should be easier to run away if it's just one thing
>>
>>5414346
>>Move towards the bigger swarm, risking an overwhelming encounter.
>>
>>5414346
>Move towards the lesser, spread out animus, leading to a possible ambush.
>>
>>5414346
>>Run away. This isn't like you. You shouldn't be here, Mundane. Go home.



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