Kalvan

Fan Fiction: Remnant of the Cosmere: Life Before Death (Stormlight Archive/RWBY)

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I am posting this work here in this forum first, before I post it at Spacebattles.  I would like some feedback, not on spelling, punctuation, or grammar (I have other proofreaders for that), but rather potential Cosmere related characterization and lore issues, and general plot, setting, and description.  (I plan to deviate from certain explicit cosmological elements as revealed in Rhythm of War, but only because I started defining the details of the crossover shortly before the publication of Oathbringer, and the deviations from canon now are what make the crossover work.  Nevertheless I wish to avoid inadvertent deviations from cosmological canon.)

This is, as said, a crossover with RWBY.  If you are lost as to the other side of this crossover, you can look here and here to fortify your understanding.

So, without further ado, here is the first chapter

Disclaimer:

The Stormlight Archive, the greater Cosmere multiverse, and all related persons, places, creatures, and concepts, are the creation of Brandon Sanderson and Copyright him and Tor Books. RWBY, and all related persons, places, creatures, and concepts, are the creation of Monty Oum and copyright his legal estate, heirs, and Rooster Teeth, Limited Liability Company. The use of these copyrights in this work is not to be construed as a challenge to them, and no financial remuneration relating to this work is or shall ever be sought by the author.

 

Life Before Death

Chapter One


“And these are the new and improved Dust enhancement processors. The patent came through last week! They can handle anything from standard Size Three crystals to thirty-micron grade clear powder!” The designated tour guide was positively gushing, pointing at the conveyor belt bringing in raw material: crystals and powder clear as pure water segregated by grades in discrete lanes. These things went into something that looked a little like a sandwich oven, but with analog pressure gauges, wheel actuated safety valves, and steam whistles, while colored crystals and powder on a Conveyor belt came out from it, to be packaged and packed elsewhere for wholesale and retail distribution.

They were on the newest production floor of the facility, filled with the latest production model Dust refinement and enhancement equipment the SDC could get its hands on. Pipes, hoppers, conveyer belts, and industrial machines unidentifiable to the nonprofessional where everywhere, as were keypads and touchscreens at every workstation. Yet, the layout on the floor was by no means chaotic. To be sure, most of this equipment came from other Schnee Dust Company factories with dedicated production lines. Due in part to the wish of General Ironwood’s faction on the Atlas Council to maintain at least the fiction of a competitive business atmosphere, and also in part because of principles of general good diplomacy, the remainder came from electronics and machine tool companies based in Vale and Mistral. While this production floor showed far less corrosion, grime, and general wear and tear than the rest of the edifice, astute observers could speculate that its relative cleanliness was just the product of its comparative novelty.

Refined, powdered Dust came in through special containers removed from trucks and container ships via crane and placed on special tap receptacles in the courtyard the factory surrounded on three sides. The Schnee Dust Company preferred to work with powdered, uncharged Dust whenever possible, as accidents involving it demanded fewer and less expensive countermeasures. Besides, this gave the Schnee Dust Company latitude to tailor its signature product to any emerging trends of usage. Unfortunately, some varieties of Dust resisted the enhancement process, while other types of Dust charges were difficult or even impossible to replicate as enhancements, so, elsewhere in the plant, nuggets of unrefined Dust ore had to be refined in a long, expensive, and often dangerous process.

“I notice that the third and fourth lanes from the far end are empty,” observed the oldest-looking person in the group, with snow-white scalp hair and a salt and pepper mustache, “what happened with the Gravity Dust enhancement?”

“The process itself works fine;” explained the tour guide, “it’s just that trying to make it work outside of hard vacuum conditions causes all the spare grime and process residue to clog the accumulators completely. Just papering over the problem with filters means changing them every fifteen minutes. And to do that, we’d need to shut down the entire processor and Conveyor belts, replace the filters, and cold start them all again, each quarter hour!”

“I see, so, it looks like we’re going to have to stick to refining gravity Dust ore.” The old-looking man sighed, as the thirteen-year-old girl beside him with a sheathed smallsword, at the belt of her snow white and ice blue knee dress, a purse at her shoulder, and a clear family resemblance to him looked on, an expression of resigned boredom on her face as she munched on a soft pretzel. Standing between those two were four men in identical business suits, sunglasses with wires attached to what looked like hearing aids in their left ears, and pistols concealed in their inner jacket pockets.

Why am I here? Weiss Schnee asked of herself, as the lead engineer of the project gave her, her father, and their bodyguards the eight-lien tour of the newest wing of the factory.

It was arguably a valid question. This trip to the Schnee Dust Company’s largest production facility took her away from her fencing and music lessons, not to mention her self-directed studies into Dust Sorcery and her impromptu Saturday afternoon explorations with her sister Winter into their shared hereditary Semblance via scroll telepresence. Weiss suspected it was because her elder sister was at Atlas Academy, and her younger brother Whitley was only eight years old.

Weiss sighed at the memory she had just accidently dredged up. She had been in the music room with her teacher, tuning her vowels and practicing her key scales. The argument in the room over on the third floor of the Schnee Mansion had started slowly, muffled. When she started rehearsal on the first lines of “Echoes in the Cave Spring,” the volume began increasing, but Weiss could only discern about one word per sentence. By the time she and her teacher had moved on to Weiss’ first original composition, “Mirror, Mirror,” it had been getting difficult for either one in the music room to hear each other, or for that matter, her respective self, think. The argument in the adjoining room ended with the sound of the door in the neighboring room opening and slamming closed, and then Weiss and Winter’s mutual father Jacques Schnee, née Gelée coming into the music room, visibly forcing himself to calm down, and dismissing Weiss’ teacher from the session for that day. Weiss never asked either her father or her elder sister what had happened that day and she wasn’t certain she would have actually wanted to know the answer.

“Moving on to the next room, Mr. Schnee,” the tour guide ushering the two and their retinue of bodyguards out of that room and two doors down the facility hallway to a much smaller, more intimate space that looked more laboratory than production area, “this is something I’m sure you’ll love.”

“What is it?” Asked Mr. Schnee, the tone of his voice suggesting suspicion.

Four men in black pants and ties and white button-down shirts were monitoring keyboards and cathode ray tube screens on a large console. Behind that console was a large window to a lit room slightly smaller than the room the tour guide and his small crowd had entered, with no obvious ingress or egress.

“Well, you know how certain huntsmen’s and huntress’ Semblances grant them the ability to create portals to travel between two places without crossing the intervening space?” The tour guide’s smile widened and deepened with every word.

Mr. Schnee’s eyes widened almost cartoonishly. “You mean you’ve managed to replicate the ability? How?” His question almost dripped awe.

“It’s technical, and releasing the full report outside the working group will require the standard retinal, thumbprint, voice, and blood scans, but in pertinent part, the reaction involves sufficient quantities and proper proportions of Gravity and Lightning Dust.” The tour guide’s face shone with pride. “Insufficient Dust quantities for the size of the portal results in a gateway to somewhere weird, like a twilight desert of uncharged, inert Dust. You know, like what happens when you try to send Dust into outer space. Too much gravity Dust in the mix, meanwhile, causes an attractive reaction that draws things towards and through the portal, wherever it goes.”

Jacques Schnee whistled in astonishment, and even his daughter nearly choked on the last of her soft pretzel. Assuming the dust quantities involved weren’t absolutely prohibitive, it could completely tip the balance of power in favor of the SDC and the Kingdom of Atlas as a whole. However, there had to be a catch.

“I assume there are other drawbacks.” Jacques Schnee’s comment was a leading one.

“Yes…”

Just as the tour guide was about to explain whatever caveats where inherent in the system, the lights dimmed red and the alarm klaxon sounded.

“Oh, &^($,” said one of the people at the consoles, causing Weiss to blanch even whiter than her usual skin color.

“Not in front of my daughter,” Jacques Schnee barked. “That’s no pay for you today!”

Suddenly, all monitors in the room activated, showing a bull Faunus in a Grimm half-mask covering his eyes and the bridge of his nose, and with fire-red hair and hornlets.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the Schnee Dust Company, using those terms in the loosest sense possible,” the Faunus’ voice rang out, “For the crime of daring to speak out on behalf of his people, the Schnee Dust Company Security placed the leader of the White Fang under arrest despite having broken no laws of the Kingdom of Atlas or any other. But for my intervention and that of my band of heroes, he would have experienced martyrdom in a gas chamber.

“As no reasonable being could construe Ghira Belladonna’s capture and treatment as an act of law, it can only be an act of war.” As the Faunus continued speaking, a numerical countdown began. “So, to mark a shift in the methods of the White Fang, here is the official second act of this war. Have a nice day. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Schnee Dust Company...” the audio and video of the production was looping before someone managed to cut the former, but the countdown continued. It was already at the one minute and thirty second mark.

“Everyone, evacuate! This is a Class Five Emergency! Go to your designated exits in an orderly fashion. Everyone, evacuate! This is a Class Five Emergency! Go to your designated exits in an orderly fashion.” As the emergency warning continued over the intercom, three of the bodyguards whisked the senior Schnee out of the door, while the fourth tried to wade upstream against the crowd of evacuees to reach Weiss, and failed. Having been standing the farthest away of anyone from the only door in and out of this experiment room, Weiss was deeply regretting having worn high heels on this excursion, despite both of her parents’ request that she put on something semi-formal. She was only three steps to the door when something, probably a loose nut, caused her to trip on her pumps, making her fall. By the time she got up, the door had slammed shut, and the locking mechanism chunked home.

“Let me out! Let me out!” Weiss slammed her purse on the door, making thumping noises but otherwise achieving nothing of substance. She toyed with drawing Myrtenaster and using burst Dust to blast her way out, but realized there were too many variables to work out. With the timer on all the monitors running down to thirty seconds, Weiss Schnee inhaled, exhaled, and centered herself. Somehow, she would find a way to live and face that masked Faunus.

1098, Decision made, Weiss Schnee flared her Aura. 54, 321, and everything went white!

I will post Chapter Two tomorrow, but for now, I'd really like some feedback.

Edited by Kalvan
Spelling Correction
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Chapter Two

A cool, wet breeze passed over her as Weiss Schnee stirred. She didn’t know how long she had been unconscious, but however long it was, she had cricks in her back, neck, shoulders, elbows, and knees.

As she stretched her kinks out, she began noticing her surroundings. It was night, overcast, and while rather on the chilly side for anyone not wearing a coat, still far milder than the endless tundra of Solitas. The ground was solid stone rather than sand or dirt or even mud, though slightly uneven and flowing, with a few loose pebbles strewn here and there, mostly in the shallow, narrow grooves. If it wasn’t for the wind, which was steadily picking up, and raising a few of the smaller pebbles, it would have felt more like a cave floor than actual surface-level ground.

Where Am I? Weiss wondered. Given how barren her surroundings were, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that that R&D project her father that unwittingly signed off on and that the White Fang had somehow deliberately sabotaged had sent her to the fabled Land of Darkness, where the Creatures of Grimm lived and nothing truly natural could survive.

Yet, she felt lighter, stronger than she ever had before, as if she could almost fly even without using her hereditary Glyph Semblance for aerial stepping-stones. The air was somehow thicker, pushing at her despite the still slow wind. Even the rocks now rising were starting to be quite large for a breeze that couldn’t top three kilometers per hour.

Turning this way and that, she searched for some shelter from the rocks, which were as smoothed as if they had come from a creek bed. There, about three hundred meters away, and a little left of the eye of the wind, was a natural channel in the, well, rock floor, formed from three grooves converging to form a deeper one. It was a little deeper than her head height, at the convergence, and roughly one and four-fifths meters wide. Based on the cloud cover, it looked like a cloudburst would quickly turn it into a rapid stream carrying her off to who knew where, and probably drowning her, bashing her brains in on the floor and/or banks, giving her fatal hyperthermia, or some combination of those three. Unfortunately, it was the closest thing to a shelter she could find.

Once she reached the shelter of this relatively dry stone gully, Weiss sighed, unshouldered her purse, and drew Myrtenaster. While she preferred to leave its general maintenance to professionals, she insisted on learning as much as she could about its care and feeding, in secret anticipation of having to one day tend it out in the field, as a Huntress. All six revolving cylinder chambers were full, and the revolving mechanism was in working order, so if she needed to do some hunting, as she probably would, she wouldn’t have to kill wild game with the point of her weapon alone.

Sheathing her multi-action Dust rapier, she opened her purse, for a full inventory. She had roughly 1,500 lien in fillable cards, plus her bankcard with an extra 4,500 or so in her checking account, her solar-powered scroll, two combs, two packages of cheesy crackers, her deodorant, a slightly used lipstick, an equally slightly used compact with powder puff and eyebrush, a 100-ml. bottle of mild disinfectant, and her menstrual cups. Being thirteen years old, her period was still a little erratic.

Mentally praising Oum and the Brothers that her Scroll still worked, and had an auto-dimming backlight, Weiss pressed the Sync virtual key. After three repetitions of “synchronizing” appeared on screen, “No Signal” flickered in a quarter-second-pace and the burp noise associated with I/O and transmission error messages sounded. Two subsequent repetitions of the attempt to establish synchronization with a Cross-Continental Transmission tower produced identical “No Signal” messages and belches.

As she was returning her belongings to her purse, Weiss looked up at the sky again. The clouds were shifting at a glacial pace, but nonetheless, the moon was coming out. That’s odd, Weiss thought, the moon is not supposed to be in about-face for at least another week. How long was I unconscious? She felt her armpits. As both her parents, possibly in a very rare show of caring, had forbidden her from electrolysis, hot wax, depilatory cream, or gelatic depilation treatments before her fifteenth birthday, she had had to resort to razors to maintain fashionable levels for body grooming. Her underarms were still clean even of stubble, which suggested a period of unconsciousness of less than two days. There was another marker of time Weiss could use, once she was ready to void her bladder, but it didn’t feel particularly full, yet.

Speaking of which, how and what was she going to drink? Presently, the closest things she had to drinking vessels were her menstrual cups, which she couldn’t both drink from and keep clean and sanitary for their proper use at the same time. What was worse, the moment she felt a raindrop or much more of a cold snap, she would have to leave her current shelter and find another, something with better protection from the elements.

As her eyes returned to the night sky, Weiss Schnee saw something else rise over the horizon. Her jaw dropped as the clouds further cleared, offering despair and final proof that she was nowhere on Remnant. It was a second moon, purple in color. This new celestial body was in a sharp crescent phase, moving slightly but noticeably faster than the larger one!

* * *

Weiss was not certain how long she stood in that channel of convergence. She wasn’t sure how long she stared at those two moons as the smaller, purple moon inched closer to the larger, white one in their chase across the clearing night sky. She hadn’t dared to check the clock function of her scroll for fear of running down the battery with no source of light to recharge it. Fear and despair had worn her so deeply that she didn’t realize she had fallen into sleep when she had. If she had had any dreams through that night, she would never recall them that morning, or any day thereafter. She woke with a start to a drop of water on her head. Another drop followed, roughly seven seconds later, that caused her to scramble to her feet, from the sprawled sitting position at the near wall of the convergence. Without thinking, Weiss grabbed her purse, formed two snowflake glyphs, and hopped back to the “shore” of the gully.

It was daylight. The air was still as thick as she remembered. She still felt as light and strong as she remembered. Yet, the air smelled different, richer, as if she had just walked out of a well-ventilated, well-filtered, clean smelling building In Atlas city, and into a meadow. Weiss looked around.

The morning sun was just cresting the horizon, but it was still cool enough that it would be quite some time before it burned off the dew, if it even would that day. The surface of the ground, which had seemed so cave-like the night before, looked even more so now, displaying fissures and obvious porous zones ranging from ten to twenty centimeters across. As the sun rose, tendrils of cave lichen were blooming. They started at the fissures and zones, but then the rest of the flat stone ground sported green, too. This living green carpet did not reach too high, no more than four centimeters at its highest. Still, at least on what looked like the west side of the channel she had just departed, Weiss could see it sprout even there.

Nor was this lichen the only plant life of this remarkable stone plain. What first resembled rounded rocks the size the color of the stone ground and in sizes ranging from those of lemons to grapefruits all the way to pumeloes and coconuts, began opening, slightly, releasing green shoots anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five centimeters upward, topped with tulip shaped and sized blooms. Well, sort of: Weiss would later note several detail differences between these blossoms and actual tulips.

As she was about to reach into her purse for her scroll, Weiss realized her bladder was full, and so were her bowels. There, twenty meters away, was what looked to be an open sinkhole just slightly wider than perfect for her purposes. She kicked off her pump boots, pulled off her socks, and made her way to that sinkhole as fast as she could with a cross-legged gait, where she pulled off her undies, hiked up her skirt, and did her business. Afterward, she very scrupulously made use of the retractable lichen as toilet tissue, despite some misgivings about any phytochemicals they could be producing, and then made some use of her disinfectant. Potential allergens, volatiles, and other toxic compounds were always possibilities, but the consequences of taking unnecessary chances with personal hygiene, especially down there, were certainties.

Weiss gave herself and her clothing a visual inspection. Thanks to her awakened Aura, her clothing was still in a decent state of repair, although it was starting to pick up a little grime, particularly on the seat of her skirt. Her socks and undies were still clean, or at least clean enough to pass a fifteen-millimeter inspection and sniff test, for which she thanked Oum the Sage. After making sure everything she had was again in working order and replacing them back on her person, scroll in hand, she noticed something new.

Correction: she noticed quite a bit new. By now, the sun had cleared the horizon, and it looked like animals had started coming out. There were little crabs and crayfish crawling up from holes Weiss had not noticed before, holes she had a hard time believing they could fit into, let alone fit out of. On the horizon, what looked like dragonflies between ten and eighteen millimeters long, with wingspans even wider, began to descend on the, well, Weiss decided to call them stone tulips. Meanwhile, gray beetles with too many legs were starting to crawl over them, some poking proboscises into their stems like tooth straws into oranges.

As Weiss was eating her rather salty cheesy crackers, and wishing for puddles of dew deep enough to drink from without the possibility of tasting the local dirt, she noticed a formation of birds coming in from what looked like the south. She stood up, stuffed the empty foil-lined plastic bags back into her purse and held up her scroll’s camera. As she zoomed in and pressed the virtual button to snap the photo, her eyes widened.

They weren’t birds; they were flying fish! She was looking at a formation of flying fish each about the size of a large songbird with long, broad pectoral fins, shimmering scales the color and pattern of Mistrali clownfish, tubular bodies, and tailfins like jet aircraft. As a breeze picked up, this one milder than the one the previous night, Weiss looked down and saw what had to be little, translucent fairies with insect wings dancing amid the fronds. One of them looked up from what looked like the action of drinking nectar from a stone tulip, smiled at her, and deconstructed into smoke or fog, like a dustbunny meeting a broom or the business end of the vacuum cleaner of the Schnee family butler, Klein Sieben!

Weiss gasped and blinked. Am I dreaming? She wondered. She shook her head. No, she couldn’t be. She had never been in a dream where she had been hungry, thirsty, or had ever figuratively gone to the bathroom. She hadn’t even wet her bed since she four!

Regardless, Weiss couldn’t stay here, wherever “here” was. Though the ground and air seemed too moist for her to be in a desert, the small size and seeming hardihood of the local flora despite the lack of large herbivores making snacks of them suggested regular bouts of some sort of extreme weather. At the very least, she needed to find some source of fresh water to drink, or she’d die of thirst in a few days despite the seeming mildness of the weather and availability of moisture. Still, as far as she knew, she wasn’t allergic to arthropods, so, so long as they had no poisonous or septic bite, sting, claws, or pincers, she could collect them and cook them with the fire Dust in Myrtenaster, for as long as it lasted. There would also be the issue of mouthwash and/or toothpaste substitute and some form of toothbrush, not to mention the possibility in the future of the issues of unwashed hair, but for now, she thought, one thing at a time.

Because, as far as she could see, any direction was as good as another, Weiss turned to face away from that weird school of air breathing flying fish, and strode away from them.

When the sun was at almost midday position, despite it feeling far too soon for that, another moon started peeking over the horizon, which clearly indicated that direction to be the east. A few minutes later, she heard shouts, loud percussive sounds like someone using a pile driver, complete with microquakes beneath her feet, and a terrible noise like grinding metal over concrete.

Weiss turned her head. There was this huge Grimm, like a giant turtle mixed with a hermit crab, and it was menacing this caravan of covered wagons! Weiss unsheathed Myrtenaster, glyphs forming on the ground to smooth her path, as all those skating lessons suddenly gained new and urgent value. She was no Huntress; she wouldn't even be eligible to attend any of the academies for another four years at least. These people, however, whatever they could have done, though, didn't and couldn't deserve to be eaten!

 

So, what do you think of Weiss' first impressions of Roshar?
 

Edited by Kalvan
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Here is a briefing on Remnant and its system by Khriss:


The Remnant System:

The Remnant System is almost as empty as the Scadrian System, consisting of its nameless sun, a Spectral Type G5, the main planet in its system, and its famous, permanently crescented moon. Remnant, the main planet in the system, is still recovering from an ecological cataclysm that occurred long before recorded history, much like Ashyn in the Roshar system. Unlike what happened on Ashyn, it doesn’t appear that that this disaster produced any waves of refugees fleeing to other systems, unless the Ire/Iriali originated on Remnant, as has sometimes been hypothesized.

Travel to Remnant from the Cognitive Realm is difficult at best. Of the two Perpendicularities this world possesses, one of them is only bidirectionally functional for a few months every few decades at unpredictable intervals, while the other is even more hazardous to use than Preservation's Shardpool on Scadrial, until shortly before the Catecindre. That is not even factoring in all the numerous Cognitive Shadows of Destruction that manifest from that Shardpool on either side of that Perpendicularity. Thus, typically, only large parties commanding powerful transit Investiture travel to Remnant, such as faculties and departments of various institutes of higher education and larger corporations of Silverlight.

Nor does travel on Remnant get much easier once the Veil is breached and transited. Those Cognitive Shadows stalk the land, almost as densely numerous as natural animals in some areas, and unlike the Wraiths of Threnody or the Voidspren of Roshar, are almost all completely non-sentient and non-sapient. They can’t be reasoned with or placated, and they enforce no rules whatsoever except maybe the Law of the Jungle; the strong eat and the weak are their meat. They range in size from nuisances the size of a medium sized bird, to huge titans rivaling anything seen on Roshar. While they exist only to consume natural life, they much prefer to feast on sapient beings and destroy their works whenever they can. The inhabitants of Remnant call these Cognitive Shadows the “Creatures of Grimm,” and at no time in myth or legend has their existence ever been absent.

There are only five true refuges of civilization on the entire face of the planet relatively safe from the depredations these monsters, united by a common culture of cooperation, albeit with the same sorts of cracks found in any sapient culture. On four of those refuges, there stand the headquarters of institutions dedicated to the training and assignment of professionals to hunt and fight the Grimm. These professionals are placed on an idiomatic pedestal by this culture, almost as much as the Knights Radiant of old on Roshar were. The people of those refuges (and anywhere else the sapients of Remnant dare attempt to settle) expect these professionals to kill these Creatures of Grimm wherever they can find them, with gun and melee weapon, Investiture, and sometimes even their bare fists.

Speaking of Investiture, as might be expected of a world that at least one time was the home of multiple Shardholders, Remnant is home to multiple forms of it. The most widespread is Dust. A mineral one Arcanist colleague has must succinctly described to me as “almost pure concentrated Investiture,” Dust forms the energetic basis for almost all of Remnant’s higher technology. Lightning Dust fuels electric batteries powering everything from consumer electronics to almost unfathomably powerful electric blast furnaces. Burn Dust powers internal combustion engines driving suimotive carriages and two-wheeled contrivances. Dust even forms the basis for most firearms ammunition propellant, as only the cheapest, weakest civilian-grade ammunition uses nitrocellulose powder or fulminating primers.

In fact, before the development of firearms, the people of Remnant employed Dust in an even more hands-on manner, by infusing it into clothing and/or foci so as to wield it as if it were more powerful or direct forms of Investiture. Some of my other colleagues insist that this is the basis for rumors and legends of so-called “True or High Magic,” which allegedly one could likin in analogy to be to Dust Usage as the true Surgebinding of the Knights Radiant of Roshar was to what modern Fabrial usage is today. Considering some very recent discoveries by research parties in Kholinar City and Kharbranth on Roshar, I am choosing to withhold judgement on the matter.

Two other, closely linked (to each other) forms of Investiture found on Remnant are Aura and Semblances. Aura seems to be closely linked to the concept of Biochromatic Breath on Nalthis, as both appear to the manifestation of the Investiture of Life Force itself. Allegedly, Aura is present in almost every living thing on Remnant (and presumably the Physical Realms of other worlds, too), though not Cognitive Shadows or constructs purely of the Spiritual Realm. Aura can be awakened either by a strict, specific regimen of physical exercise and forced meditation, or in can be deliberately awakened by someone else who has already awakened his or hers. Aura can either be used for self-healing (similar to the legendary recuperative powers of the Knights Radiant, but on a much less spectacular level), as a limited form of supernatural armor, or as one means to fuel a Semblance.

A Semblance is a unique Investiture talent, one that can only manifest in someone with an awakened Aura. Some resemble tricks from Allomancy on Scadrial, or even Awakening on Nalthis or Surgebinding on Roshar in some form, save to being powered by Aura and possibly Dust instead of Breaths or Stormlight. While there’s some overlap, there are literally thousands of different known Semblances documented on Remnant. These range from the ability to accelerate in a literal burst of lightning to fire causing someone to increase in strength fivefold, to the ability to project glyphs in the air and on surfaces that mimic the Surge of Gravitation, and some, possibly many of these abilities could be hereditary.

One final thing of note about Remnant is the Faunus, the other known sapient species besides humans on Remnant. They resemble humans with one, or possibly two animal traits on them. Until less than a century ago, they were legally slaves, and social discrimination against them persists to this day, causing much social and political friction. Kuo Kuana, on the Southern Hemisphere continent of Menagerie, was established as a safe haven by Faunus fleeing this discrimination. It is highly recommended that anyone traveling there from another world have some means of illusory disguise, such as a very late Heightening or the Surge of Illumination.

As always, feedback about the subject matter is welcome and encouraged.

Edited by Kalvan
A solicited correction.
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Slight correction: Preservation’s Perpendicularity was dangerous, as it housed Ruin’s prison. Ruin’s Perpendicularity was perfectly safe and was well used until Kelsier destroyed it.

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Chapter Three


“Help! Almighty and the Heralds save us!” For perhaps the first time, Rysn seemed to be regretting her merchant apprenticeship to her Babsk.

“Calm down, Employer, we are protecting you two as well as we can.” The Azish Certified Mercenary Officer, Hauka, chided surprisingly mildly, despite being locked into battle with the greatshell alongside her two subordinates. When the Prince of Teshikk, on orders from the Prime of Azir, had launched a flotilla of Emuli ships on a show the-flag-cruise through the Southern Depths, Tarat Sea, and Longbrow’s Strait, neither authority figure took into account how powerful highstorms could get in the Eastern Lands. And of course, when over water, those highstorms replenished their strength, even in these frigid southern seas. It was a miracle of the Gods’ own doing that Squadmaster Hauka managed to make it with two of her men to a lifeboat with looted sea charts and a sack of garnet and topaz marks the highstorm had so generously charged to light their way.

Rysn and her Babsk Vstim had met them at the docks of Kharbranth, where the three waterlogged Makabaki ship guards had called in a barely seaworthy open-decked outrigger life galley five days after that fateful storm. One of them had been recovering in one of King Taravangian’s world-famous hospitals. As much as Hauka wanted to return home to the Empire of Azir as soon as possible, that bag of spheres she recovered was not quite enough to buy passage back west, let alone allow them to trade up to something capable of bringing them back to Emul. Or, at least it wasn’t enough on any ship she trusted. The body language, tone of voice, and choice of words of one Veden ship captain suggested that he planned to sell her and her men passage, and then sell them to bridge crew press gangs for the Alethi war effort at the next port of call to make up the difference.

Because she was lawfully in charge of the squad, and because she was a foreigner, a Darkeyes, and a woman, Hauka had little bargaining leverage in this most mercenary of city-states in the Frostlands. She had been about to despair of ever returning home when she met the two Thaylen merchants. As they were only three, and led by a Darkeyes woman, Hauka and her group had to settle for three tenths the prevailing wage in a job as caravan guards for the venture the senior merchant, Vstim was putting together. They planned to trade Veden made weapons, shovels, and mauls from Bavland to the Alethi war camps on the Shattered Plain for surplus gemhearts and chasmfiend shell pieces, as soon as Hauka’s other soldier recovered enough to leave the hospital. Still, that resultant pay quote would be more than sufficient to purchase comfortable berths on an honorable ship back to Sesemalex Dar.

The trip to the Shattered Plain had been bitterly cold, but there had been only one attempt to rob the caravan. Hauka and crew had made quick work of the brigands, putting their heads up on spare spearheads. Naturally, there had had to have been a downside to the unusually long warm spell and no sign of highstorms coming back, and it looked like Tashi could not, or would not be too generous with his luck.

“Taln’s nails, you’re slow as a chull, Adur. Yezaan, I want you to stab that leg joint right there.” Hauka was presently directing her men in their fight with the greatshell, which gave a shriek and punched Adur with a blunt forearm, sending him flying.

Suddenly, Hauka heard a wet, sliding sound. The sound was like someone using a slicker fabrial on the bottom of a skidder, like those drawn by lesser horses or specially bred axehounds that Alethi, Herdazian, and Veden couriers used to deliver parchment post when spanereed was either too expensive or simply unavailable. Apparently, everyone, including the Greatshell heard it, too. Said colossus made a surprisingly rapid quarter turn to face source of the sound.

It was a girl. It was a little slip of a girl, of apparently Natan ancestry in a little white slip of a dress, her pure white hair worn up in a topknot. She was wielding an in impractically short, fanciful-looking sword that more closely resembled a fire poker, and had a small fashion bag on her shoulder. She looked like she was in some sort of skipping gait, yet Hauka never saw the girl leave the ground. As she reached the fight, the girl stopped, assumed some sort of weird dance pose, before spinning around on her back foot, sword extended.

A wave of ice spikes somehow radiated at the greatshell, and Hauka and Yezaan had to throw themselves backward, almost to the wagons, in order to avoid this frozen tide. The greatshell ground in pain as the icicles dug into what would have been its ribcage if it had the skeleton of a mammal or chicken. The sound was like the tone of a songling, but infinitely louder and lower pitched, and felt even more than heard. The greatshell punched at the girl, but she leaped impossibly high, then some glyph appeared in the air beneath her feet. She seemed to land on it and jump even higher and forward, towards the greatshell. The girl then landed on the beast at would have been the nape of its neck, stabbing her sword into a gap between plates, where that glyph appeared at the site of the wound inflicted as she withdrew her weapon.

No, it wasn’t the same symbol. It had the same shape, but it was red rather than blue. As the girl was flipping backward in the tuck position, the glyph exploded, producing a metaphorical rain of carapace and purple, malodorous gore. It seemed that the that explosion caught the girl in it, too, as she suddenly changed direction in an uncontrolled matter and landed on the stretchturf on her rear end, tumbled backwards head over heel twice and came to a sliding stop. A sudden flash came over the girl’s body, as she lay, unmoving except for some deep panting. The greatshell tumbled over, gave a mighty twitch, and went even more still, the lifespren departing its corpse through its mouth.

“How indecent! She uses a sword in her safehand, and doesn’t even bother to wear a safeglove like a proper, modest Vorin woman! Her parents must have disowned her.” The younger merchant, Rysn, was furious at what she saw as the girl’s lapse of decorum and religious etiquette.

Hauka stayed silent, and her expression was more one of judicious discernment, but she agreed with the conclusion of her younger client, if not the evidence she presented. The girl’s skirt did not go down much below her knees, and she as she somersaulted in the air facing the greatshell, she showed her smallclothes for everyone in the caravan to see. It was a good thing that both of her men were already married, senior trader Vstim had been so old, and the Parshmen porters seemed to have absolutely no concept of sex.

“Perhaps, but there could have been a different reason for her disinheritance than her lack of feminine modesty alone.” Vstim’s voice sounded shrewd.

“What do you mean?” Hauka asked as she turned to her senior employer.

“You saw her” Vstim explained, “She is a Lighteyes, better trained in the arts of combat than any child her age of either sex should be, and she clearly used Surges to defeat the greatshell. I believe we could be on the cusp of something incredible.”

“New Knights Radiant are being called again?” Rysn whispered questioningly, her mouth narrowing and rounding while her eyes widened in shock.

“Father Tashi, Binder of the World, what does this mean?” The words were out of Hauka’s mouth before she realized she said them.
 

* * *


This time, the smell of food was what opened Weiss’ eyes. Her stomach felt painfully empty as she stood up. She was on some scratchy animal skin rug, looking up to darkness. As Weiss felt around, she realized she was in a covered wagon, of the sort her tutors and textbooks once taught her were in use by the more well to do nomadic tribes of Vacuo, the ones that didn’t have to rely entirely on packsaddles and crude backpacks. Sitting straight, the frame of the wagon she was in felt like wood up to her mid-ribcage, and further up was a fine, dense, heavy fabric supported by ribs of some ceramic material. Maybe it was merely painted by some sort of ceramic paint, instead. Weiss wasn’t certain and it didn’t matter at the moment, either.

The smell of food came from somewhere forward of where she was sitting, at the open end of the wagon she presumed was the back. Weiss crawled over and peered out the rear of the wagon. The night sky was clear, this time, and the stars were brighter than she had ever seen them in Atlas, or even at night out on the tundra! She supposed that was because there was neither light pollution from the any cities around, nor polar light phenomena to drown out the starlight. The air was as chilly as the previous night, but still bearable.

Climbing down and out of the wagon with great care, as her Aura was not quite back up to full yet from her battle from that crab-turtle Grimm, Weiss turned her head to the source of the delicious smell. There, suspended over a healthy campfire by four large rocks, was a large pot stew of some sort. Weiss smelled pork, crustaceans, and herbs and vegetables she couldn’t identify.

Flanking the campfire were three men and two women. Two of the men, and one of the women were dark skinned, with curly black hair and almond eyes, much like people living in southern and southwestern Anima, wearing long robes in eyepoking, almost psychedelic color patterns. The remaining man and woman were somehow gray in complexion, like dirty snow or when clouds blocked out the sun when it was only mildly threatening rain. Their eyebrows were white, shaggy, and tucked behind their ears! The woman was wearing a stylized corset over some sort of white halter or blouse and an olive-green skirt down to her shins. Weiss noticed the skirt’s pleats were horizontal. The man wore a loose jacket with tie-strings instead of buttons or a zipper, and pants he tucked into riding boots. He seemed to hold his leggings up with suspenders. All of them were partaking of the stew from stone or ceramic bowls, using large metal sporks.

Weiss looked further around, and saw a group of crab or lobster Faunus, except, they didn’t look like Faunus. Or rather, they looked too much like them, as imagined by people who had never seen a group of them in his or her life! They had human faces, hands, hair, and feet, but chitin covered the rest of their bodies! Those plates were mostly pink to purple, but she also saw elements of blue, orange, and black as well.

“Kdaa!” The gray-skinned man greeted, holding filling a bowl of the stew and offering it to Weiss. “Yezd yip ahp vstym. Ptevlo zdrak!”

And it’s just my luck I don’t understand a word of what he’s saying, Weiss thought as she wordlessly accepted the bowl. The stew was delicious. It was the perfect combination of flavors. She tasted sweet and tart from lychees and something like sugar pine nuts, herby and peppery from seasonings she hadn’t tasted before, salty from whatever crustaceans they had put in it, and rich from the pork. It was all melt-in-her-mouth, especially the root vegetables, yet none of it was mushy.

As she ate, Weiss took another look around the campfire and the caravan she found herself in. The three wagons were a mix of covered Conestoga wagons and stagecoaches, with the stage seating for the driver and one or two passengers up front, with the cloth canopy behind not rising above the shoulder of the stage. At the side of each wagon, or at least the side facing the fire, were slide-out shelves. These shelves were actually tables, with folding legs at the outer corners, if Weiss interpreted the hinges correctly. The wheels had black spokes, and the red rims glistened in the starlight and the light of the large white moon in the sky that was coming up on the horizon. Looking closer, she saw not horses, mules, or even oxen were drawing these vehicles, but giant crabs, the front attachments drilled straight into their shells!

Her eyes wandered over to the “Faunus,” who stood straight and tall, but whose eyes and expressions were blank and emotionless. Weiss’ closer inspection revealed to her that their clothes were far closer to a mix of harness and adult-sized diaper, like what a couple of her father’s family friends dressed their pet monkey from far Southwest Anima in.

The darker skinned woman looked at the two men with her same skin tone, and nodded. All three stood up, picked up crude helmets by their chinstraps, and dunked them into the stewpot. The three walked over to the “Faunus” and hooked the “chinstraps” over their ears. The “Faunus” brought their hands up to support the bowls, and the way their jaws started moving suggested they were eating the stew, as well. Those weren’t chinstraps and those things attached to them weren’t helmets; they were feeding bowls! It was like when her family had visited that horse farm in Mistral, and she watched the handlers tend to their charges at feeding time!

Turning her eyes back to the center wagon, Weiss concluded she wasn’t any sort of prisoner; her purse and Myrtenaster, with corresponding scabbard and swordbelt, were front and center on the foldout table for all to see. As she was about to get up and get her things, she spied the younger gray woman pick up a brush and pull out a jug. This image tugged at her.

All of her life, she had had everything handed to her on at least an idiomatic silver platter. Oh, she concentrated and tried as hard as she could with her tutors, and virtually lapped up her fencing lessons, but, Weiss grudgingly realized, someone calling her a spoiled brat just from family appearances would not be completely wrong. Her favorite lessons, though, had been given for free, at least as father saw it. Klein Sieben, her family’s live-in butler, light maintenance man, and supervising cook, had taken Weiss under his metaphorical wing in the kitchen, teaching her everything from stir-fries to beef ragouts to risotto. For Klein’s birthday, when Jacques Schnee was at a social function with Weiss’ mother Willow and big sister Winter, Weiss baked Klein an excellent chocolate caramel cake after her little brother Whitley’s bedtime, bringing out Mr. Sieben’s brightest smile.

Now, here she was. She was a stranger in a foreign camp in the middle of nowhere. Even if these people didn’t mind, she could not take advantage of their hospitality without giving something in return, not and still be able to look at herself in the mirror. Her grandfather had made it a point of honor to work for everything he gained in life, until health issues forced him to retire. For Weiss to live solely on the kindness of strangers, offering nothing in return but the implied promise of recompense at an uncertain later date, would insult the dignity of both her maternal grandfather, and the man who had become more of a father to her than the one who had contributed his sperm to her conception.

She strode up to the young gray woman, cleared her throat, and once she got that woman’s attention, she pointed at the brush, then at the pot, and then held out her hand. The woman with the long, white eyebrows stared shocked at her, then handed her the brush, the jug, and a giant, off-white soap bar of some sort. The rest of the human members of this caravan, who had settled into some conversation, stopped and stared at Weiss as she began scrubbing the inside of the pot with a businesslike face.

Her choice and actions attracted more than human attention. As Weiss continued scrubbing away, a set of concentric black circles, three inches wide tilted up from where it lay on the stone ground about twenty-five meters away. It turned on its outer rim to face her, its center glowing like an incandescent blue-white bullseye. Weiss may or may not have felt something resembling approval from beyond the wagons, but if she did, she didn’t see her more distant spectator, and she didn’t let any feeling she might have had distract her from that moment’s work.

 

So Weiss has just met her first Rosharans.  Have I gotten them right so far?

Edited by Kalvan
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16 hours ago, Kingsdaughter613 said:

Slight correction: Preservation’s Perpendicularity was dangerous, as it housed Ruin’s prison. Ruin’s Perpendicularity was perfectly safe and was well used until Kelsier destroyed it.

Thank you.  I changed it.

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1 minute ago, Kalvan said:

Thank you.  I changed it.

Your welcome!

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Here's a little more for you.  As always, comments and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated.

Chapter Four


The days passed much more quickly than Weiss expected. She and the rest of the crew of this caravan woke around sunrise, when the three darker skinned humans would make a rather bland, mushy porridge from some grain called tallew that looked like naturally yellow and orange rice. After a bowl or two of that porridge and some sort of herbal tea, the darker skinned humans would extinguish the fire and everyone would break camp. The caravan would then be on the move. Toward the end of the day, or earlier if it came to a favored landmark, the caravan would stop. Everybody would pull out the tables, the darker skinned humans would pick up spears like the ones they had defended themselves from that Grimm, and proceed to hunt for food to supplement the dried and pickled herbs and vegetables from the caravan’s stores from the middle wagon.

Weiss pitched in where she could. In the mornings, she stashed equipment inside the wagons as pointed by the two gray-skinned people, washed the big crabs, named chullūv, singularly chull, then, alongside the Faunus, pardon, the Parshdlpf, she carried the profoundly unsanitary chamber pots to the nearest, well, divots or gullies in the stone ground to empty out. After that, she washed again, and was offered some blue mouthwash, or at least, that was what the others seemed to be using it for. Weiss swished it for one and a half minutes, using the stopwatch function of her scroll, then spat it out and rinsed her hands in it too, just to be safe.

Weiss would spend most of the day, alongside the dark-skinned people, pacing the caravan while off to its side, keeping a lookout for trouble, unless they stopped early, in which case, the gray-skinned woman came by with a book. This book was written in two different languages. Or rather, the odd pages were in a script of angular runes, and the other resembled the printout of some sound chip format.

To say that having to learn two different languages, both with completely different writing systems from her own and each other, in order to communicate with more than just base concepts through gestures and pointing was a challenge understated matters greatly. Nonetheless, Weiss persevered. Four days into her shared voyage with this caravan, she experienced a breakthrough. The pronunciations, especially of the angularly written tongue, did not get any easier. Understanding and meanings, however, suddenly became clearer. First, the words themselves, and then grammars, word order, and inflections of each speech started making sense. It was baffling to Weiss, and to her hosts, as well.

The writing systems in their own ways helped. There were no digraphs save for diphthongs and triphthongs, and few redundant letters. The more angularly written language even had no written vowels. That said, the more musical language, Alethi, Rsyn called it, had a maddening habit of turning any stop consonant into an aspirant, with seemingly no rule of context. This most often happened with the religious names and titles of clergy.

The substance of the book Rysn was using to teach Weiss was fascinating, at least in the Mistrali sense. It was a holy book, purporting to outline the proper social order, declared that everyone must find their calling or vocation, or at least that was how Weiss interpreted that word, and live up to it. Those who live their vocations with ultimate excellence get to go to Heaven, literally the “Peaceful Halls.” Those whose lives fall short of this demanded excellence reincarnate to try again. Finally, those who do terrible things according to the book go to Hell, or at least, that was what Weiss thought that word meant. The problem was what the book, and its presumed author, considered the best and most honorable callings.

Weiss had nothing but admiration for Huntsmen and Huntresses, who put themselves between helpless civilians, especially outside the Kingdoms, and the Grimm, bandits, and even regular natural disasters like floods and wildfires. As an Atlasian, she could even understand how more organized service, such as in the military, especially if a particular wave of Grimm was more numerous or organized than Huntsman teams were trained or equipped to handle. However, the four kingdoms had been at peace since the Great War, almost eighty years ago. Fighting simply because your ruler demanded it, to expand your nation at the expense of another nation of people, rather than just the Grimm, only served to invite the last to snack on everybody else. What was worse, the way the author worded it in both languages suggested that professional sport duelists and competitive martial artists were absolute moral equivalents.

Then there was the way the book separated vocations by gender. While not all of the separations mentioned were stupid, Weiss didn’t understand why only men could become warriors. There were too many famous Huntresses, not to mention warrior heroines from the Age of Kings and Queens. Off the top of Weiss’ head, she could recall the legendary “Grimm Reaper,” a short woman who’d favored revolver sickles, and whose brief career was the second most prolific in hunting Grimm in history. Then, there was Seu-Nak, the Mistrali soldier woman who climbed the ranks to general to repel tribal raids and a Grimm invasion from the south to help carve out the Empire of Anima, and then win the hand of its newly crowned emperor. This was before the advent of breechloading firearms, and all accounts and legends agree Seu-Nak never awakened her Aura during her time in the field, yet this book would have called for her exile or even possible ritual execution! Even more stupid, it demanded that men couldn’t learn to read beyond some elaborate system of glyphs used to convey religious concepts and heraldry!

In the evenings, after the pitch of camp, Weiss would take turns with the rest of the humans tending the stew pot, or ministering to skewers of freshly killed wild pork, while using hammer and chisel to open up wild-harvested stone plants, to get at their soft, growing, green parts, before pitching in with the cleaning up. Sometimes, just before bed, Rysn would pull out something like a cross between a flute and slide whistle, and one of the darker men in robes would pick up some sort of bowed harp. Each would play about four or five tunes before time for bed. Odd, translucent, ribbonlike creatures would come and dance around them as they played, dazzling Weiss almost as much as the melodies themselves.

The sixth night of their journey, this impromptu nightly concert moved her to action, or rather to song. While the rest of the camp, save the Parshdlpf were applauding a performance, Weiss stood up, quietly hummed a few arpeggios to warm up, inhaled, and closed her eyes. Though she didn’t see it, most eyes turned to her, in expectation.
 

* * *

Mirror, tell me something,

Tell me who's the loneliest of all?


Rysm and Vstim’s heads tilted in consideration. They had no inkling of what the lyrics meant, but there was something to their delivery. Something beautiful yet tragic.
 

Mirror, tell me something,

Tell me who's the loneliest of all?

Fear of what's inside of me;

Tell me can a heart be turned to stone?


Hauka, Adur, and Yezaan each felt his or her breath hitch, as the musicspren danced all around this girl, her ice-white hair glowing as if lit by stormlight. Then the song’s key changed, and the Parshmen started beating on the plates of their natural armor.
 

Mirror, mirror, what's behind you?

Save me from the things I see!

I can keep it from the world,

Why won't you let me hide from me?


Where usually musicspren were merely the width of scroll ribbons, these were more the size of cummerbunds. Despite the monophony of the girl’s singular voice, they blazed with ever-shifting rainbows, as the song rose to its climax.
 

Mirror, mirror, tell me something,

Who's the loneliest of all?

I'm the loneliest of all!


The applause was thunderous as the girl opened her eyes again. Everyone clapped except the Parshmen, where musicspren exited out their mouths, causing the Parshmen to slump over, dead asleep.

While the girl was unbuckling her swordbelt and climbing up into the wagon for bed, Hauka saw Rysn and Vstim turn to each other.

“That was no more Natanan that girl sang it than it was Thaylen or Alethi.,” said Rysn.

“Well, Weiss Schnee didn’t sound like a Natanan name to begin with.” Her senior’s response was glib.

“You know what this means, don’t you?” Rysn worded it like a question, but the tone suggested otherwise.

“Yes, I do,” sighed her Babsk. “I am a hard man and a hard bargainer, but she is a Lighteyes. If she didn’t come from New Natann, then she must be from the Unclaimed Hills beyond the lands of the Parshendi, or else from an island or continent east beyond the Source of Storms or north of the Reshi Isles and Steamwater Ocean. She intervened to save this caravan, which to her was filled with total strangers. She then did every chore we pointed out for her without our asking, and without complaint, not that she could have understood our questions, or we could have understood her complaints.”

“So,” queried Rysn, “how much will we give her? A full share? The going rate for foreign mercenaries? Will we be giving her the Apprenticeship Garnish?”

“Half share,” Vstim confirmed. “This is the trip back, not the trip out. Still, she is a Lighteyes after all, and she did spend who knows how long on the Frostlands. It’s the Almighty’s own miracle she didn’t freeze to death or a highstorm not turn her inside-out, Knight Radiant or no. Besides, one apprentice at a time is quite enough.”

***

That night, Weiss dreamed. Technically, she, like most people from Remnant, dreamed almost every night, but this time, it was special. It was the first dream Weiss had in this strange new world that she would remember in the morning.

She was standing on a landscape of gloomy twilight over a plain of flattened glass beads. Dancing over these beads were flames of all shapes and sizes and most colors. Some, particularly farther out, were in erratic motion, while others, especially the larger ones close by, were stationary. Weiss counted fifteen of them.

She looked up, and saw glowing clouds. Well, they were white and glowing, but she wasn’t certain she could call them clouds. They looked flat, like wide noodles or even dumpling and egg roll or spring roll wrappers. In one part of the sky, they looked knotted together, like a giant gift bow, or set of waterpark slides without the ladders and supports.

“Ah, it’s good to finally meet you.”

Weiss’ eyes widened, and she turned this way and that, in search of the source of the sound. “Who are you,” she called.

“Do not fret. You are no intruder, and I mean you no harm.”

Emerging from the glass beads beneath her feet was, well, a small target. It consisted of three concentric black circles, and a glowing sphere in the middle.

“My name is an alphanumeric designation in what is now a dead language, written in a script not one of you humans, singers, or watchers use for day-to-day correspondence and communication anymore. I am a lawspren.”

“Honored, I suppose. I am…”

“Weiss Schnee, yes. But you are not at my service, or at least not yet, any more than I am at your service right now. But I hope that that can change.”

“What do you mean?” Weiss sounded a little suspicious. The way she worded it sounded like something from the fairy tales her big sister Winter used to read to her, back when she was Whitley’s age.

“There are many reasons why,” The seeming living target elaborated, “for example, I don’t know what that stuff is in the cylinders of the guard of your sword, but I do know that if you keep using it, it cannot last forever. If you die now, it would be such an utter shame.”

“What’s in it for you?” Weiss folded her arms and narrowed her eyes.

“Oh several things,” answered the living target. “A terrible force that has railed against its imprisonment for thousands of years is about to break free, or rather, the living barrier that keeps it imprisoned is about to break. Of the other reasons, unfortunately, you are not ready to learn them. We are not ready, in fact. As I said, I am a lawspren. Just because I disagree with the direction of my people’s leadership does not mean I can disregard our fundamental nature. There are statutes to uphold. Simply contacting you is in violation of the spirit of multiple regulations, if not their actual words, yet I have no choice.”

“Wait,” Weiss pointed at accusingly, “are you the one who brought me here?”

“No.” The creature’s reply was firm. “If by ‘here’ you mean this world, Roshar, definitely not. I possess neither the ability, nor the authority, nor the potency to reach through the Expanses to pull other people from other worlds over to this one. I don’t even know which other world you are from. Even if I did, I’m not certain even this emergency would have been enough for me to bring you here in the first place. No one tries to hide by hanging up freshly charged spheres by his or her door at night.”

“So if you didn’t bring me over, who did?” Weiss’s was beginning to get impatient.

“I don’t know that either. All I know is that is that there was this explosion here Shadesmar, and then your flame appeared. If I were to have brought someone here, I would have picked a stronger partner, but I don’t think I could have easily picked a worthier partner.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Once upon a time,” The target explained, “there was a thing that tied solid people like you to spren like me. The Immortal Words, we called them. But they were more than words. They couldn’t just be spoken, they had to be lived. Life Before Death, Strength Before Weakness, Journey Before Destination!

“You’ve lived them. Life Before Death: you didn’t hesitate to face that greatshell to save that caravan from an uncertain fate. Strength Before Weakness: Only three people in that caravan could have defended themselves from that Greatshell in the first place, and they had their hands full already. Journey Before Destination: you could have taken full advantage of any privileges from saving those people that they were willing to give. You could have easily started down a path of fraud, or at least self-indulgence demanding things you weren’t ready for and not quite worthy of. You didn’t. You volunteered and helped wherever you could, however you could, shouldering responsibility and not complaining. You chose restraint and restriction, not laxity.”

Weiss blinked, processing this information before opening her mouth again. “Well, it wasn’t like I had a real choice either. Listen, you want to help me because I won’t be finding any new Dust crystals for Myrtenaster in the future, well, I don’t know if I’m really in any position to say ‘no,’ but the string attached is that I help fight some terrible evil?”

The lawspren flipped a full 360 degrees, before responding, “one of the strings, anyway. Listen, I realize you’re just arrived on this world, and you’re just a kid, but I don’t think you’re the type who would stand by and shrug as this world, or any world, went to Damnation. Besides, I don’t think I’m the only spren of any type doing this sort of thing, so, I don’t believe you’re going to do this completely alone. Still, I’m not any sort of knowledgespren, and I’ve definitely been mistaken before.”

“If I agree to do this, will it help me find a way home?” Weiss felt compelled to ask, and it seemed that there would never be a better time to do so.

The lawspren’s tone fell. “Sorry, I just don’t know. I do promise that when we aren’t looking for a way for you to stay fed, clean, and sheltered within the bounds of the law, or doing our part to save the world, I will help you look, but otherwise I just can’t promise anything.”

Weiss sighed. “I see. Well, what do I have to do?”

“Well, first, you have to play by the rules.” The lawspren was visibly vibrating. “Then, you have to play by some rules. There’s more to it than that, of course, but Journey Before Destination. Of course, have to play by the rules, too. But don’t you worry about that. You’re going to have plenty to worry about before too long.”

Weiss sighed. “Sounds simple enough. I guess I’m going to take you up on your offer.”

The lawspren doubled in diameter and its center glowed golden. “Great. I promise to be the best partner I can. I don’t know exactly when, but I’ll see you soon.”

Suddenly, Weiss Schnee felt a terrible pain.

Then, she woke up.

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