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Generated: Apr 26, 2018 11:47 PM
Post last updated: Nov 23, 2017 4:31 PM
agannalo buroda nenud
Dragon May in Numenor
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May falls asleep in the auditorium watching various school awards be distributed to their recipients, backpack on and head lolling.

Which means she has no idea how she wound up here and is extremely startled when she wakes up due to sudden lack of chair.

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Here being a largish courtyard, featuring a tiled fountain and rather a lot of convoluted stonework. A middle-aged man is sitting by the fountain and reading; he hasn't noticed her. 

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...well, that... suggests it isn't his fault, which rules out one possibility from a dizzying void of hypotheses. She can't identify the architectural style, which doesn't say much. Words on the book cover?

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The script will be swoopy and unfamiliar! It does make excessive use of diacritics, if that's any help. 

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Not a bit!

What's he wearing? Are there any signs up with helpfully international symbols like arrows or logos?

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Dark grey robes, with black embroidery at the hems in the same swoopy script. No signs, but the tiles on the fountain are illustrated with what appear to be pictures of a large naval battle. The water's pouring out of a wound in the side of a large ceramic dragon. The stonework is possibly iconographic, but bewilderingly abstract. 

 

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Exits?

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Several! The courtyard is surrounded by a peristyle with doors at regular intervals. Some of them are open. (The man is pretty absorbed in his book). 

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She gets up quietly and goes to see what is past the doors.

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Classrooms and offices. And a stairway down to another courtyard. 

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...no signs?

...no, uh, electric lights???

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If she looks closely, she'll see some carving on the walls in that swoopy script. No electric lights, but there are gas lamps. 

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She is pretty sure that even low-tech places these days don't use gas lamps.

She's increasingly confident she's never seen this alphabet before.

Anybody seen her yet?

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The man by the fountain may have noticed her at this point. He looks up and says something in an unfamiliar language. 

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"Do you speak English?" she asks hopefully.

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He shakes his head. "Kibithim Adûnaiyâ?" 

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"Sorry, I don't understand. Uh. I'm from Canada. - American embassy would be fine too. Or British. Or a phone." She mimes a phone, looking dubiously at the gaslamps.

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About ten seconds in, his eyes start to light up. He gestures, then points at her mouth and gestures again. It looks like he wants her to keep talking. 

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"This should not reasonably be the first English you have heard considering the cultural dominion of Hollywood. But you seem to have gas lighting. Which is. Weird. Aesthetic though, I guess. I suppose as long as I'm postulating magical transit I don't have to assume I'm on Earth. Maybe I'm not."

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He'll start speaking extremely quickly, stop, look apologetic, and do his best to indicate that she should follow him to one of the offices. 

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Yes, all right.

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This office is occupied by an elderly woman, several hundred books, and a cage containing two birds of unknown origin. The woman points to herself. "Aglaril." 

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May points at herself. "May."

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"Mâi?" (The man scurries off). 

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"May. Uh, Mabel."

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Aglaril nods. "Mabel." She pulls out one of the books and makes the same gesture to keep talking. 

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"...Mabel Mariko Swan. But I go by May. If you haven't recognized English by now you aren't likely to but perhaps I'm just academically interesting."

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Aglaril flips to various pages in the book and starts jotting down notes. Eventually, she starts pointing at objects, naming them, and looking at May expectantly. 

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"...book. Chair. Window."

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More notes! When this has been going on for about ten minutes, another man walks into the room. He flips through the papers, then points to himself, then at her. "îbalhîn Indilzar. You are?" 

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"...I'm May. You speak English?"

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He holds up Aglaril's notes, then points back at her. "Mabel. May. You?" 

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"Yes."

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"You are May. I" - points back at himself - "are Indilzar?" 

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"You are, I am. Uh, we are they are he or she is. But I am."

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"You are May, am Indilzar. Aglaril he? she?" 

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"Aglaril is a she. Presumably."

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"She is Aglaril." (Aglaril is furiously taking notes). "A is she? May is she? Indilzar is we? he? they?" 

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"I'm a she, too. Gendered third person singular pronouns. I think you're a he."

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"A she? A he? A book? Book is he? she? Aglaril and I are we?" 

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"Books are 'it', I didn't mention 'it'. You can call you and Aglaril 'we', yes."

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"Aglaril and I are we. Book is it. Aglaril and May are they? I think Aglaril and May are they? I think Aglaril is May? May think Aglaril is Indilzar?" 

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"You can call me and Algaril 'they'. Or 'you'. I'm not sure what you want me to do with the rest of the sentences. Are you just trying to - teach yourself English from scratch -"

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"Me is you? Me is I? English is? I am want English?" 

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"- me is I, sorry. Me is the, uh, object form, or something. You sure do seem to want English. And it is. A language. Is what it is."

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"Indilzar want English, Aglaril want English, Indilzar and Aglaril want language. I want language? You think me want English?"

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"English is a language. One of many. French is also a language."

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"Adûnaiyâ is a language. Quenya is a language. Kuzdul is a language. I teach language. May teach English?" 

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"I'm trying. But I'm not actually qualified to do so. Uh..." She pulls out a pen, reaches for paper.

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Then she will have some. "May try? I am qualified, Aglaril is qualified." Aglaril is consulting more reference works. There may be a small crowd assembling in the peristyle. 

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She writes out the alphabet, upper and lower case. Writes "May" and makes a little pronoun chart like the ones from French class and fills in the chart with present tense forms of "to be". Narrates as she does so; lapses slightly into singsong with the alphabet part.

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Indilzar and Aglaril will be absolutely fascinated. Aglaril wants May to name more things; occasionally she'll have her stop until she can replicate her pronunciation to her satisfaction. 

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...okay then.

If this is a dream it's a kind of tedious one but oh well.

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Indilzar is starting to look very concerned. "Quenya and Sindarin are - like, yes? Adûnaiyâ and Taliska are like? English is not like." 

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"...English is not related to any languages you know?"

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"English is not related to any languages I know." Aglaril mutters something incomprehensible. "May, where is Canada?" 

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She sketches a little map of the Americas, approximates the US-Canada border. Writes "CANADA".

"I think very far away," she says.

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There is a map somewhere in Aglaril's office, and eventually they'll even manage to find it. It looks like this. 

Indilzar points to the little island at the bottom left. "Here. Númenorë. Anadûnê." 

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She draws in Europe and Asia and Africa and Australia and associated islands she happens to recall and labels things she can remember.

"Not there," she says, pointing at the map.

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"...I think the King will want to talk to you." 

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"...okay."

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"Not now, if you don't want, the King is very busy, and you are - hungry, tired? yes?" 

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"I'm a little hungry and tired, yes."

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"There is, how do you say, a large room with food? For students? And rooms for students sleeping, also." 

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"Cafeteria and dormitory."

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"Cafeteria, then dormitory?" It's already evening. 

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"Sounds good."

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The cafeteria has a limited number of dining options at this hour, but most of them seem appetizing. Indilzar isn't eating, but he pours himself a cup of coffee so thick his spoon practically stand up in it. "You must have questions." 

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"I don't know how I got here but I don't think you do either."

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"I meant, about here." 

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Mmmm food. "What's the world called? Mine is called Earth."

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"Abatta. Ardhon in Sindarin, Arda in Quenya." 

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"Do people appear suddenly often?"

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"Not to my knowledge. It's not unheard of, but those people usually turn out to be Maiar." 

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"What's a Maiar?"

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"Maia, singular. They are - powers? Small powers. I'm not sure I have the words for this." 

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"Power to do - what?"

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"The powers - Avalôi - created the world. They rule over the sea and the sky and the stars and death and growing things. And dancing, for some reason. So we're told. The Maiar  are powers too, but smaller, lesser. I've never seen one myself, almost all of them live in Amân, the continent west of here, but my great-grandfather swears there's one used to live in a cave system in the Azûlthâni and make sure the volume of water in two different rock pools remained exactly identical." 

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"...why."

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"The Powers were ostensibly created by another, higher being, though we've only their word for it. I find myself forced to believe that he ran out of ideas." 

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"Uh-huh. - your great-grandfather is alive?"

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"No, he died last year. Is that unusual?" 

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"...some people on Earth know their great-grandfathers but usually people who are younger than you look."

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"I'm 130 years old." 

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"...and that never happens on Earth. Unless your years are shorter."

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"...never? Our seconds are about this - " he pauses " - long, there are 7,200 of them in an hour, twelve hours in a day, 365 days in a year, and two extra on leap years. How long do your people usually live?" 

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"Ours are like that too. People usually make it to more like eighty, sometimes less. I think anyone has ever lived to a hundred twenty."

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"...I'm so sorry." 

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"It's not great."

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"It's a tragedy. Living to 250 is a tragedy, but 80 years, that's even less than the men of middle-earth." (He looks stricken). 

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"We might be different species. Although you do look like humans."

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"We're human. When the powers raised our island from the sea, they blessed us with longevity. In those days, a lifespan of five or six centuries was hardly unusual. They've been declining for the past millenium or so." 

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"- do you know why?"

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He's quiet for  a very long time. "There are ...differences of opinion." 

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"...so not for sure but you've got guesses?"

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"At one time, it was customary for our monarchs to abdicate the throne and will themselves to die before they became physically or mentally infirm. We know it started with the first king who refused to do so. Also the first to question, publicly, the Powers' claim that death is a gift. More than a thousand years ago, now." 

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"...a gift?"

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"Oh, of course, I haven't mentioned, - are humans the only sapient species in your world?" 

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"- yes." At least publicly.

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"In addition to the Powers, who don't rightly count, and the races which are more properly accounted sub-species of humans, we have Khazad and Nimîr. There probably aren't words for them in your language. It's only the Nimîr who are relevant here, they're immortal. The ancient ancestors of the Adûnaim - that's us, the people of Anadûnê - were very, very young, several of the great houses of one of the tribes of the Nimîr took them into their service and, ah, civilized them. We were taught that they were the firstborn of êru, the creator, as we are the secondborn, and that while their particular gift is to remain eternally bound to Abatta, ours -" he raises an eyebrow "- is to leave it."  

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"...are you sure you're translating 'gift' right?"

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"...a thing given for our benefit?" 

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"...dying?"

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"There's a reason this doctrine is currently politically unpopular." 

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"Is it 'cause it's dumb?"

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"I don't like to think what it says about our civilization that it took fifteen hundred years for most people to accept the fact that dying is suboptimal." 

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"Earth actually has this problem too but mostly because people believe in an afterlife."

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"Some of our traditionalists do. There's a strain of orthodox theology which holds that we shall have a place in the remaking of the world after its destruction in the final battle. Then again, these are the same people who insist that the sun is a glowing golden fruit." 

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"...ours is an enormous distant ball of fire."

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"Ours might be one of the greater Maiar, we're not entirely sure.  One gets the sense that the whole thing was rather haphazard." 

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"I mean, from the sound of it, if a Maia really wanted to be a fruit too..."

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He laughs. "The more powerful ones tend to make more sense, if the tales can be believed." 

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"Huh, why would that be?"

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"I'm not sure. We might be doing too much work with the word "power," the quality in question seems to be a combination of ability to influence the world and - scope, I suppose, or breadth. The Avaloi are constrained by their natures, the lesser as well as the greater, and the ones whose natures encompass more and more sophisticated goals more greatly resemble us. That's one theory, at least." 

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"Interesting."

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"It would explain why they've historically had so much trouble with concepts like incentives or contingent circumstances. A Vala is the being which can carry out the set of actions defined by its nature, there's no conditionality there." 

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"...if they don't do all of the things they can ever do at all times constantly there's some circumstance at work."

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"They probably don't perceive time as linear." 

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"And certainly don't have free will." 

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"What do you mean by that?"

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"There's a divine plan. They can't act outside it. Uh, everything I'm saying here assumes that our primary accounts of their origin and subsequent actions are not fictional, which is admittedly somewhat tenuous, but it's not like scholars have anything else to go off of." 

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"I understand. Are there supposed to be ways for anyone to act outside of a divine plan? Seems like that would make it less planny."

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"Mortals can, ostensibly, but if everyone else is supposed to be following a specific track that doesn't really make sense." 

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"Yes, you'd walk up to one and say, 'how are you?' and they'd say 'yes'."

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"It might mean that they can only respond in one particular way to any given set of circumstances? But it's not clear how that'd be different from ordinary causality." 

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"Yeah."

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"We used to have visitors from the western lands, and their accounts were generally internally consistent - and consistent with historical records - but none of it makes any sense. And no one's doing any real work on the problem, the whole thing's so politicized it's impossible to publish." 

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"That sucks. There's fields like that on Earth too."

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"Oh?" 

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"Uh, whether the climate of the planet is changing in ways that are our fault, research into how smart various groups of people are... that's what I've got off the top of my head but I think there's more."

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"....second thing makes sense, I'm struggling to reconstruct the politics that would make the first controversial." 

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"I would really want to look this up to be confident but reconstructing it from what I remember it's some combination of religious opinion that the Earth happens to be perfectly fine-tuned for human habitation and reluctance to believe that we might have to stop doing any of the things that might be causing it since they're so convenient in other ways."

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"Ah. We also have people like that." 

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"They're everywhere."

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She finishes up her food. "Uh, is there a place for me to stay here? Since I wouldn't have the first idea how to get home."

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"We have - dormitories, you said the word was? houses where many students live together? People are in and out all the time, I'm sure someone can find a bed at short notice." 

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"That should be fine, thank you. Do I need to worry about finding some way to earn money?"

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"Nonsense, you're a research subject! I'm sure the linguistics department can find funds for you somewhere." 

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Giggle. "Okay."

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And he will direct her to a dormitory. 

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She checks it for reasonable facsimiles of necessary amenities.

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The rooms are small, but with high ceilings and plenty of natural light. There's running water. The first floor has a common area and a smaller refectory, she can ask for a lamp if she needs one. 

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A lamp might be handy. "Thank you."

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"I hope you find everything to your liking! Ask Gimlith if you need anything, she's just at the end of the hall. I'll stop by tomorrow morning after my first lecture, but you can send for me before then." 

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"Okay. Is there an itinerary I should know about?"

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"I'd like to introduce you to some of my colleagues in the applied sciences, see if your world has any technical achievements we can reverse-engineer. The King will want to speak with you at some point, once he's been made aware of your existence, but possibly not until we have a better idea of the mechanics of inter-world travel. And Aglaril and I are co-authoring a paper on English syntax. But none of this is time-sensitive, you can settle in as you like." 

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"Okay, cool. I'm not a technical sort but I can probably ramble vaguely about electricity such that someone better at these things could get somewhere."

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"I have full faith in their abilities, little as I'm qualified to evaluate them." 

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"I'm certainly even less so."