The Power of Ten: Sama Rantha Chapter 439: Far Future Ch. 149 – Mark Your Answer Down...
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"You have a way in and out of the Gloom," he pressed, and I nodded.
"I could open a Portal into and out of the Gloom right here," I stated calmly, alarming them all. "Actually, I think that would be marvelous. We could trade back and forth relatively easy with this place as an anchor point. It would only last for a minute or two at a time, but a significant number of people and objects can be transferred in that time."
He turned to look at the elders, who looked very thoughtful, indeed.
"What manner of things would you offer in trade?"
"What do you need?" I replied easily enough.
"Food. Weapons. Clothing," he ticked off instantly.
"You probably won't like the food, but it'll be edible. Weapons, easily done. Clothing, simplicity. Manufactured goods, easy enough. But really, that's not an appropriate swap if you are guiding us to Portal points. Knowledge should be swapped for knowledge."
"That... is true."
"Do you have any products other than the shadowfire that you can trade? I will say that Shadow-imbued ores or plants can fetch a fine price in trade, and you can literally list out what you are looking for."
There was definitely eagerness in their eyes. "There are some things that you might be interested in," Shadowknife murmured. "What manner of knowledge?"
"Pretty much all of it."
He blinked. "What?"
I tapped the Marks on my waist. "Gaining a Mark gets you telepathic access to all other people tied to a Mark, if a Hag relays it. In short, you can talk with hundreds of thousands of others, and if they don't mind, see through their eyes. You can potentially learn anything and everything they are willing to let you.
"Psionic techniques, disciplines.
"Void Brother studies and awareness.
"Mental and physical disciplines, skills, fighting tricks.
"Skills of all kinds, from crafting to conceptual.
"Pretty much anything and everything you might want to learn, it's all there ready and waiting for you."
They were kind of staring at me. They could just reach out and talk to... anyone? Of course, the key catch...
"But we would have to be Marked." He eyed the subliminally glowing and very powerful to his touch Marks around my waist.
"There are extremely subtle and powerful energies upon those Marks."
"There most definitely is," I agreed. "Being able to speak with someone else at any distance and even across planes is not at all a weak effect."
"And we could speak this way with one another?"
"YES," all four of us said together, and we all winked at him. The hyn all flinched. "It is extremely useful in combat," I went on. "Furthermore, everyone gains access to The Map."
"The Map..." he repeated.
"A record of where everyone with a Mark has been; visual, material, personal. I can go anywhere any of my daughters or our followers have been with perfect confidence, as it is all laid out in The Map."
He blinked at me again, at the Marks. "And... these Marks provide a benefit on top of this?" He was amazed.
"Yes. If your people can Level up, they can tolerate more Marks. You are restricted to one, unfortunately... but the Void Brothers get other benefits, so it's hardly a loss on your end."
There was a period of silence. "This offer sounds too good to be true." He couldn't simply put down his suspicions and paranoia in this place.
"Well, it's true, and it's too good, so I disagree and agree at the same time. In all honesty, you can't pay us what it is worth. But then, nobody can, and we've been giving it to a lot of people, and in return, they all have made it as awesome as it is." I shrugged. "I'm not going to force it upon you. But I will say that we have found no downsides to having a Mark... except those people that think having a Mark is a Very Bad Thing, largely because they don't have one of their own."
"How much control would we have over this... Mark?" he had to ask.
"You mean the telepathy? Well, only the Hag bound to your Mark can talk to you if your mental door is closed. You can only talk to someone else if your Hag lets you do so, and they are willing to talk. Kindly note that we are not psions, mentalists, psychics, warp sorcerers, or anything like that, so mind control is not something we can do.
"On the flip side, we all have considerable mental presence. Much bigger than our physical ones, relatively speaking. You might be quite intimidated by us."
"I can tell that you are extremely dangerous..." he assessed us warily.
"We're more impressive mentally," I advised him kindly, and he pursed his lips again. "Yes, you don't believe it, that's fine. I'm warning you, you'll see it, and you'll curse like everyone else and remember that I warned you. It's all fine." I waved it away, unconcerned. "If you are wondering about removing the Mark, a Void Brother can neutralize it in seconds and wipe it away in seconds more. Anyone can scar and disrupt them if they wish. A psion can break the link if they know what they are doing, or wipe it away. A standard Ward can interrupt the telepathy." I ticked off all those things, which startled him. "Like I said, I'm not going to force a Mark on you. You can accept it, or not. If you really want knowledge in return for knowledge, you'll take one."
"Sensei Sama," he replied after a minute, "you are asking us to extend a great deal of trust to you."
"Mmm." I inclined my head back and forth. "You're afraid of us, what we might portend, and the rampant xenophobia of this place doesn't help. It's fine. Like I said, I'm not going to force you.
"If you want your kids to keep living in this murderous shithole of a shadow world, where every color wants to be grey, I'm not going to force you.
"If you want to keep living at a standard of living where you are clawing for your survival every day, living in fear of stronger things coming along and taking what you have, I'm not going to stop you.
"If you want to be dumb, not know how to defend yourself, Level up, and gods help you, actually fight back against the shit that's grinding you under their heel... okay, that's your choice, I respect it, go live in fear and skulk in the shadows. It's not my life, it's not how I'd do it, but I'm not you.
"But, you know, I'm a Rantha Hag. I fight things, it's what I am. I don't let elvar, umbvar, or drow decide my destiny, my fate, or my place in the world. I butcher demons, slaughter xenos, massacre the aberrant, kill the unnatural, lay the undead low, and treat the axiomatic with the disdain they deserve.
"Right now, your people have no choice. They live in the holes and the shadows because they are weak. Without strength, you have no choices, and you will always be this way.
"You are the hyn, and you are supposed to be living lives underneath a golden sun on a world of green and flowers. You are supposed to be surrounded by life and light and love, not skulking, shadows, and silence. You are supposed to be free to laugh and cry in joy, not whimper and scream in fear.
"I cannot live the life you are living. I could not condemn my children to live that life. But if that's your life, I will respect that choice and leave you to it.
"I have shown you what we can offer you. In truth, it costs us nothing to do so. We and everyone who follows us only profit by having more people with us. I do not need slave labor, I do not need your possessions... the only thing you have that I want is access to the fane beyond to anoint the weapons of my sons and daughters, and the location of Portals I can exploit to move around the mortal realm through here.
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"That's it. My offer to you of the Marks is goodwill. I know that is hard for you to believe, but again, you don't have anything I want or need. If you are thinking about enslaving minds and bodies and souls, just... get serious. You're far too weak to be useful for any of that, we'd be more likely to grab the elvar who are actually vigorous and would be better at the zombie slave thing than you, if that were true.
"So, if you want to be suspicious of us, that's fine, it's a survival trait. But I'm hoping you'll think about it and realize it really is too good an offer for anything you might pay us, you just aren't worth it, so the reason I'm offering it to you really should be just plain old goodwill.
"After all, from your perspective, you've got loads to gain. From my perspective, it is literally a couple minutes of my time per person, that's it. I'm fully aware of the value of it. But my cost... our cost is miniscule. Everything we gain, we gain long term."
He was still hesitant. "So... what do you gain? From us?"
"People willing to fight," I replied instantly. "There is nothing more valuable than loyal people bound to a common cause and willing to fight for it. The numbers of our enemies are beyond counting. We need more people, and they need to be better people, more skilled, more focused, more ready for the shit that is going to get thrown at them, until we don't have to put up with all the heels coming down trying to stomp on us.
"I am perfectly aware of just how dangerous fully-trained, ready, focused, and committed hyn can be," I stated unequivocally. "You are naturally talented to become some of the best scouts and throat-cutters there are. At the same time, your people have a talent for agriculture and cooking that's probably manifesting even here, if that soup you're cooking out of the stuff you're growing that I smell is any indication.
"I can change your present, and I can change your future. I can't do anything about your past, and if you going to keep living in your past, best of luck to you. At some point something bigger than you are is going to get irritated and your tribe is going to wiped on a lark, because that's what the drow and umbvar do here, and you don't have the tools to defend yourself."
"And you can offer us those tools."
"I am offering you those tools, there's no 'can' about it."
"In return for knowledge."
"Knowledge given, knowledge received," I agreed. "I think we both know who stands to benefit more... but it is because of all those who are also Marked that it IS such a benefit."
"May I be allowed to test it?" he finally asked.
"And I can remove it as I wish?"
"You can remove the first one as a test if you like, I will scribe it again."
He took a deep breath. "Let me see what this is like for my people."
I gestured him forwards as I pulled my inks out of my Masspack with my hair. He stepped forwards to receive the Mark under a whole lot of watching eyes... and if he shouted out when he was Awakened and Opened at the same time, the results were worth it.
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