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Jul 03, 2020 4:21 PM
cam meets some fastfairies and the thread authors take no position on the presence of an adorable romance arc
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"Yes."

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"I will not regret this unless you literally murder me."

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"I can't figure out definitively if faeries have an afterlife so I'm not sure you'd regret if it I literally murdered you either. But the various people entangled with you might not like it."

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"Languages," he says pleadingly.

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"I have taught your son several alphabets and a surprising amount of Latin, you could start with him and see if that nets certificates?"

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Such a sad sad fairy.

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"I just don't want to hurt anyone if I slip up, talking like this is really hard."

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"Sorry."

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He goes off to find his son.

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Cam goes looking for Corendi. "Your dad was all set to go into really steep debt."

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"Oh, yeah, I bet."

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"I didn't let him but he was so bummed about it. However, I think the Bittorrent model might let him and your brother fund a lot of stuff they want just off the surplus they generate teaching each other, that can't reasonably be the going rate on how much value people get out of learning Latin."

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"Not at all! They get punished for being obsessed, it's very unfair."

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"Well, now they can get certificates out of it. Hopefully enough of them."

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"Yep!" Kiss.

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Cam works on the screen flicker problem, determines it will be time-consuming, and in the meanwhile sets up an e-ink grid across his wall, where each of a few dozen screens can display something different and he can do things in massive parallel, or just queue up the first forty pages of a book and have the first one advanced from page 1 to 41 by the time he finishes reading the last. There is a curtain he can draw over the screens to prevent stray faery eyes from gathering debt.

He teaches his boyfriend's dad, and the son thereof, languages on the Bittorrent model. They can mostly sustain the hobby with their own surplus value once they have a good head of steam going and can entertain each other with the languages they're working on.

He fills orders. Fast bugs, conveniently small and normally behaved; things made of metal, of plastic, of anything the faeries like; writing with dead authors including the posthumous works of various Limboites; and of course food. Food food food. Apple tarts and malted Scotch and sushi rolls and rabbit hearts and butterscotch and donut holes, all arriving by pedestrian courier as far away as Aragon still as fresh as if they were made half an hour ago since in fact they were. Faeries sure like food.

 

Cam considers the ecology. Faery courts are small; faeries are small. They don't need food, just dew, and not much dew. They reproduce seldom... as they count time. Their burden on the food web should be light.

But they do like food. They do want food. And even without Cam they can get it. They have to police their borders for anyone trying to take anything. Not just mushrooms and nuts and berries - firewood, medicinal herbs, pretty rocks. They have obstacles to hunting but nothing actually stops them from throwing a net around a bird in flight and dropping a rock on it to suffocate it, even if they can't shoot it. They can't smoke a beehive but they don't have to, they can walk in, tiny and too fast to see, carrying buckets. They can go to an orchard full of pears and over the course of a leisurely several years from their perspective pluck and eat every single one before a human eye, let alone hand, catches it at being ripe.

They have not yet driven bees extinct. Enough human staples require more cooking than they're capable of that they probably haven't made a big dent in the human food supply even if they've destroyed some orchards that happen to be convenient to courts. But in Cam's future there is such a thing as a wild blackberry, people plant plum groves, unattended nestboxes aren't ransacked for their potential meringues, and all this is true even in Ireland, which is supposed to be absolutely lousy with faeries. Is it just careful land management?

Careful land management by a people who even where literate do not have records of the time when currently old humans were children? By a people whose understanding of theft is mediated entirely by their sense of debt, which understands a slow human's field of vegetables as, maybe not prime real estate - too highly trafficked for paths and therefore for residences - but certainly fair game for what might generously be called gleaning. By a people who would see the consequences of their consumption in a thousand years, if at all.

By a people who number some twenty billion.

 

Cam remarks to his boyfriend's father, "Your estimate is twenty billion faeries in the world, right? - how long have there been twenty billion faeries?"

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" - well, presumably there are more fairies now than there were at any previous point."

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"Yyyyyes but - how fast is the population growing -"

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" - I think I read an estimate of the population twenty winters ago, somewhere." He goes looking for it. "Ah hah, yes I did. Twenty-two winters ago someone estimated there were between seven and ten billion of us."

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"Okay, so - something close to doubling every twenty sidereal years. Which would seem very modest from the faery perspective but - I don't think it can keep going, not and have things turn out how they do when I'm from. I'm not even sure it can go on another twenty sidereal years."

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" - huh, why's that?"

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"Uh, in principle, a whole heck of a lot of faeries would fit on the planet just fine, maybe as many as there's enough dew for but it's possible there are bugs or something that rely on dew so maybe not that many. You get real little, you don't need to eat anything else. But you don't - live in the way that would let you grow that far. You hold territory and you have to defend it and its contents. You like food and you can get it, even out of human-cultivated places if you want - right? It's only artificial things you can't interact with, you can walk right into a field and take all the non-artificial growing things you want. You have to go about it in a weird way to hunt but it's not impossible. And faeries might eat a million times less than humans, but everything you do, you do about a thousand times faster. Uh, imagine being a human walking around in the Misty Isles, after every place that isn't trafficked daily by humans is a faery court. This human sees - no wild berries, no edible mushrooms, no birds' eggs, no flowers, no honey in the beehives. Right? You don't know when you see a human coming toward a flower whether they're going to pick it or just sniff it. You have to get it out of the way to be safe if it might be the first thing. But if every wild square foot of the island belongs to a court, and the humans start, say, trying to forage a little more because somebody - it wouldn't take many faeries - if somebody went after their fruits and vegetables and grains, maybe even their chickens if a coop was left open or something, in order to throw a party every week -

- then a human would see all this nothing, and maybe history can absorb some humans dying of hunger because there's nothing in the forest or walking into faery circles about it, but the ecology can't absorb faeries collecting everything every year. If you pick all the flowers and berries they can't reseed the plants - planting them yourselves just opens a vulnerability. If you take all the honey the bees don't have any left and if you take the eggs then no new birds hatch and every year there are fewer and fewer bees and birds. Anything that eats those starves. And solving coordination problems about how to manage your environment is hard - maybe easier if you can't lie and everybody answers to a court leader so they can negotiate directly, but if there are forty billion of you? Eighty billion? A hundred and sixty billion? Three hundred and twenty - you presumably see where I'm going with this -"

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" - yes. There's a thousand years before the history you remember and by long before then every bit of land that's worth having as territory will be."

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