Clarisse found herself staring at Heimr. She had seen maps. Compilations from many sources both divine and mortal. The most accurate depictions did not come close to what she was witnessing. Clarisse and her colleagues had been captured by well spoken creatures that looked like Ogres who were wielding the most advanced primordial magic she had ever seen. They flew her - without divine magic - into a space above the clouds but beneath the stars, sun and moon. When they turned around to face where she had stood just a while ago, she saw it. Heimr. And it was upside down.
Her thoughts were racing. She knew the facts. The world was round and you did not fall off when you were on the other side, so logically speaking there was no correct way to orient world maps. Some of the maps used as compilation material had to be oriented to a standard before integration. She got the theory. But still. She had stared at the standard orientation for so long that the true image in front of her looked all wrong.
"Why are you facing Heimr in this way? How did you choose which way is up?" One of her captures stared at her for a while before answering. "I haven't heard that one before. First questions after the shock tend to be about gods, food, travel or other worlds. I actually don't know the answer." Clarisse did not take her eyes of the world to face the Ogre answering her. She felt her eyes welling up but pushed back the tears.
"No wait. I think I actually do know. It just depends on how we arrived. We came from another world, like I said, and took the first available orbit. Later we adjusted course somewhat to prepare to better scout the main continent. So it's mostly arbitrary. I suppose we will reorient again before the final push. So you know. No reason. Arbitrary."
This actually helped Clarisse snap out of her trance somewhat. The Ogre had already explained to her that there were different "worlds" like the one she was staring at. All filled with intelligent life. This ship came from one of those worlds. She understood most of what the Ogre had just said to her too. Orbit. This bigger "flying boat" called a "space craft" was "orbiting around" the world. But could adjust course. Like a boat. This made the current orientation arbitrary. It clicked in her mind, but did not banish the uneasy feeling she had while staring at her home.
"Why are you here?" she asked next. "It depends a bit on who you ask lady. I, me, am here because I get paid. You pay each other with metal coins right? We have something similar. This is just a job for me. But for others..." She stared at the Ogre in front of her. The words arrived at her ears but they did not quite fit the mouth. The mouth spoke and she faintly heard sounds coming from it, but then she heard other sounds coming to her ears, ever slightly too late. The mouth had stopped speaking altogether but the last word was still arriving.
"Does sound work different... up here?" The Ogre was startled a bit by her interruption. He seemed to think for a few seconds and then started moving his mouth again. Less than a blink of her eyes later the words arrived "Ah no. It's the translation software. Eh... Translation machine. It's one of the earlier versions, you see. It's still learning some nuances of your languages and has trouble with accents and some obscure regions and less common languages. It also still has trouble translating in real time. That is probably why you didn't recognize my accent and why the sounds don't feel "instant" yet. You see me speak and then you hear me speak. You will also fail to understand some words because your language doesn't have the words for it. The software tries to invent new words for you using a formula I don't understand and keep things consistent for you. Learning your languages is one of the main reasons we are here. Not I. I get paid as I said. But we."
Machines that learn languages. Machines that learn. Could she learn the language of this Ogre? Help in the translation. So many questions bubbled up, but she scolded herself for this mental rabbit-hole and refocused on the important questions again. Their motive.
"One of the reasons? What are the others. Are you going to invade?" The Ogre smiled and seemed to pet his weapon. She recognized it as a weapon. Just by the manner the ogre handled it. It looked magical. Just like all of the Ogre's gear. "We could. But we won't. The nearby factions would be very pissed. The nearby factions are your neighbors. We are going to sell your world to one of them. Or sorry, we are going to sell the knowledge of your existence to them. Which is basically the same thing. Along with everything else they need for smooth and quick integration of your world into their society. Your languages. Maps of the political landscape. Disease inoculation for both sides. Stuff like that. Floating hells, they didn't even know you existed yet and would have probably not found you for several more generations."
Suddenly Clarisse felt like a diplomat. She remembered the legends of the fifteen races meeting for the first time. These Ogres could just as well have been a sixteenth race. Many of these first contacts led to war or at least conflict of some kind. She caught herself quickly and stuck to knowledge gathering, but not before asking another question. "Do we get a choice?" The Ogre looked amused. "Heh. That's not up to me."
A loud clacking noise of metal against metal assaulted her ear. It sounded like an attack. A violent and brutal one. "Ah. We docked. Come, let our doctor get a look at you. Make sure we didn't miss any diseases so far. For the both of us. That plague of yours looks nasty.".