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Generated: Jun 29, 2020 9:27 PM
Post last updated: Jun 29, 2020 5:58 PM
you gave me nothing at all
cam meets some fastfairies and the thread authors take no position on the presence of an adorable romance arc
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They observe some humans summoning a magical spirit one day. 

It's hard to tell all the details when you have to watch in shifts over the course of several weeks and when you can't hear anything they're saying, but the overall picture seems clear. First, their barn burned down. Then, they stood outside watching it sadly for a while. Then a woman went away into the forest, and wrote some things on the ground, lots and lots of detailed human words. Then a magical spirit appeared. Then the magical spirit walked back with her and replaced the barn and filled up the new barn with food. Then she had sex with the magical spirit. Then the magical spirit disappeared.

 

It makes sense, in the way human things often don't make sense. It seems like the kind of thing you could perhaps try yourself.

 

They carefully copy the human words onto the ground in a fairy circle. They carefully draw a circle in the dirt around the words.

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"- hello? - you know, summoning in languages you don't know isn't a best practice."

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There are three people watching him from the edge of the circle; all three of them jump delightedly to their feet. They're wearing really weird clothes -- blue and silky and shimmery and loose -- and sandals which might be made from leaves. 

"It worked!"

    "I told you it would."

"Hello!"

One of them steps into the circle to touch the wings. 

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The demon permits this with only mild surprise. "Leave the tail alone, please. You realize you can look up in any responsible source what media are known to be valid for circle-drawing and 'in the dirt' is not nearly as creative as people have gotten."

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"Oh, I can't read," the person who finished the circle assures him. He too steps in to touch the wings. "So I don't know where I could have looked it up, really. We were just copying some mortals."

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"- okay I'm not sure being outright illiterate makes it worse than just summoning in a language you don't know, but, uh, wow. What do you mean, mortals."

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They glance at each other. One of them nods.

"Mortals," the one who finished his circle says seriously, "are the slow people who live in towns and on farms and keep animals and cut down trees and die."

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"I don't feel very enlightened over here."

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"If you would like I could show you some mortals, as a favor."

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"I'm not sure that would be enlightening either. What are you supposed to be?"

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"We're faeries. Some people thought you'd be a faery, since you make trades and can contact the mortal world in circles, but you aren't, I don't think."

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"I'm a demon."

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For some reason this seems to slightly annoy the faery, but he nods. "Welcome."

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"I confess I'm not, uh, familiar with faeries?"

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"We'd noticed."

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"...did you, uh, want something, or is this just an experiment, or..."

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"I want to take you back to my court and show people! And you could make us a feast. Can you do that? Make feasts?"

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"I can, yeah. Your court?"

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"Faeries live in courts. Most of us do, anyway. If someone doesn't have a court then they'll run into trouble eventually and there'll be no one who really minds."

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"...you're not very good at explaining things."

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"Well, maybe when you meet my court you will understand what courts are."

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"Sure, let's try it."

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"Can you see the paths from here?"

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Cam looks around.

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The forest looks like a normal forest.

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"Nothing's obvious from here. I mean, I guess there's a fairly clear way in that direction for a while." Gesture.

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"Huh, okay. - mortals can't see them either but faeries can. I think if you eat our food you'll be able to, because that works for mortals. Want a berry?"

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"...this is setting off some alarm bells," Cam remarks.

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For some reason this statement seems to absolutely horrify the faery. He steps into the summoning ring and punches Cam in the face.

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Cam falls to the ground. "- excuse me?"

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The faery seems distressed in some way still, and kicks him. 

"There were not any alarm bells," he says indignantly after a minute.

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"Ow, cut it out - it's just an expression!"

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"You shouldn't say things that are not true."

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Cam can't read his binding, but manages to materialize a little bell and ring it. "Does this help."

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"...if you want to say that there are bells ringing and you ring the bell and then say there are bells ringing that'd be fine, yes."

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"So you'll stop kicking me now?"

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"When we're even. I don't think I'm hurting you very much or we would be already."

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"When we're what the fuck now?"

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The faery stops kicking him. "Even. For lying to me. I could've enslaved you."

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"I can't read this binding and neither can you."

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"Well if you can't read either then I don't know why you're lecturing me about it."

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"I can read, I just can't read this language. Neither of us knows what I'm stuck with, here, I made the bell just fine."

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"It's a very nice bell but you didn't give it to me so it doesn't actually help you at all here."

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"- here, do you want a fucking bell!"

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" - sure, all right."

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Cam gives the faery the bell.

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The faery takes it and takes a step back. "We still can't take you along the paths if you can't see them, I don't think. - maybe we could carry you?"

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"I'm not super sure I want to go anywhere with you since you just kicked me a bunch for translating an idiom."

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"Go back to the court and tell them about the demon," he instructs one of his friends.

The friend runs off. He - literally gets smaller as he runs, until he's weaving among sprouts of grass. The other faeries seem to find this unremarkable. 

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"- did he just shrink?"

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"Yes," the faery says, as if demons must be very dense.

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"I'm unfamiliar with this phenomenon."

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"Well, if you come to court, you'll get to be very small and maybe someone there will explain it to you."

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"How exciting."

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"When you can see paths, you can walk along them, and if they get very small, then you get very small."

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"What happens if someone tries to walk in the correct direction without being able to see the path, either because they do not have this magical ability or because they have been blindfolded?"

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"I mean, mortals walk around all the time and just stay big. I don't think a blindfold would be different but I haven't tried blindfolding a mortal. - there's a mortal back at court, I guess someone could try blindfolding her and walking her off the paths?"

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"How'd she get there?"

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"Well, we enslaved her after she came to this faery ring. Running away from a marriage she didn't like, I think, though I haven't talked to her."

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"Marriages are a thing mortals do. They give the girl mortals to the boy mortals and then they both promise not to run off with other mortals. Or with faeries."

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"That wasn't the thing at all."

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The faery shrugs.

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"Lot of slavery going on or is that just interspecies?"

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"Almost all mortal slaves are enslaved by other mortals, if that's what you mean? Most courts can't afford even one."

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"Yes, the economics of every mortal trying to afford a mortal slave would be awkward. But in fact that is not what I meant, I wanted to know about your, ah, court's slavekeeping practices."

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"Well, we're rich enough to afford a mortal overnight so we'll pick one up when they come here. That's not very often, though, maybe twice in a year? They don't live more than a couple of nights usually, a dozen if they're very stubborn, so you're kind of lucky that there's one here now."

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"I assume that if I say I feel indescribably fortunate you'll start kicking me again."

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"I'm not going to kick you if you lie again."

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"Why, do you need lots of bells?"

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"I'll cut out your tongue."

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"Does it count as lying if I say 'good luck' while confident you won't have it and not appreciative of the incredibly remote possibility?"

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"...if you said "I wish you good luck" I think you'd have a problem but if you said 'good luck' all by itself I don't think you would."

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"Good luck!" chirps Cam.

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The faery glares at him.

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"Why would you even bother cutting out my tongue? You can't reasonably think you're getting your feast at that point. It's a testament to my many personal qualities that I'm still up for that after all the kicking."

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"You have a lot of nerve, lying to me and then acting put upon that I tried to get even."

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"That's one of my personal qualities! But also you're incredibly confusing!"

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"I find you confusing, too! Who lies about bells?"

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"You have humans! Rumors of human idiom could conceivably have reached your ears even if you consider them exotic pets!"

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"Mortals lie a lot until you teach them to stop. It's not less bad because it's familiar."

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"I have had plenty of opportunities to observe that you're not deaf. I was obviously not trying to deceive you into believing there were bells."

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"I take it that's the only reason you can think of why it might be bad to lie to someone."

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"...assuming you are, in fact, clear on the fact that I was obviously not trying to deceive you into believing there were bells, yes, pretty much, how are you doing on reasons it might be bad to physically batter people?"

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"Violence against people you're indebted to is wrong."

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"How many bells before I qualify for basic rights?"

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"I want the feast."

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"Then do I get to talk without getting kicked?"

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"I won't kick you."

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"That's very specific."

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"It's what you asked."

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"I should probably stop relying on anything to do with your grasp of conversational implicature."

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"It's not my decision what to do with you anyway, not at this point. It's my court's."

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"Oh?"

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"I don't think they expected this to work or I'd have had instructions in the first place."

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"Oh?"

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"With mortals everything's planned out and there are people who know how to do it smoothly. I've only ever watched. They get them every time."

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"How?"

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"That's secret. ...I guess you could ask the one we've got now."

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"Maybe I will."

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"You still have to eat something so you can see the paths."

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"This wouldn't be part of the slavery process, would it?"

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"I mean, not more than everything else about this conversation, except the kicking you, which was helpful and yet you objected."

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"Fancy that."

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"And the bell," he adds thoughtfully. "I just took the bell because it seemed neat."

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"Enjoy."

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"That doesn't make it worth more, but okay."

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"Or don't, whatever."

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The other faeries come back. They have a cage. "We can take him to court in this," one of them says cheerfully. "If he doesn't want to eat anything."

"I'd rather you ate something," his summoner says earnestly. "It's kind of heavy and a pain to carry."

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"Should I assume that unless I unlock a hidden secret faery ettiquette code we are going to find out how thoroughly this circle prevents me from preventing you guys from sticking me in the cage?"

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It seems to take him a couple seconds to puzzle through that. "You can't fight us," he says when he has. "We already talked about this, hurting people you're indebted to is wrong."

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"I mean, that wouldn't be the first thing I'd try but I can't read this binding and you can't either."

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"Look, I thought you wanted to come see our court and meet our mortal."

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"It sounds interesting! I'd prefer to skip the slavery."

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"And your strategy to do that is to threaten to attack us?"

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"Do you have a substitute idea?"

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"Come back to court. Don't tell lies. Make them a feast. Then offer to make them more nice things in exchange for safe passage home."

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"Are there any more charming rules I should know about besides the lying one?"

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"Don't lie. Don't hurt anyone. Don't break any agreements. Don't - swear to things falsely? I really think this is pretty obvious."

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"Why the actual fuck do you think that?"

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"They're just very obvious."

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"Wow. Is there someone less stupid I can talk to about the options here? It'd be really great if they could read the circle but I'll settle for a three digit IQ."

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"Yep! At court."

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"- isn't that technically a lie since my question included the word 'here'?"

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"Oh, I thought you were referring to "my options here", like your options in this situation. Of the people here, I don't think they're supposed to talk to you. It makes the debts less manageable. They're here to get you in the cage if you can't be persuaded to work with us here."

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"Well, maybe you could go get someone who is prepared to talk to me, and I will... make bells or whatever... if that is called for? Or whatever turns out to make sense after someone who isn't you has explained matters to me."

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"We're supposed to bring you back to court."

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"Is someone gonna kick you if you don't?"

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"No, that's not one of the preferred methods of discipline when it's not an emergency because it's hard to be consistent about how much damage you're doing."

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"Your culture is fascinating. I think that given certain assumptions about the consistency of information density across languages and the number of characters in this circle? Your best bet at fulfilling your instructions is to go get someone who is any good at explaining anything."

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He can't actually follow that but it's not a lie. He sends one of the other people bounding off into the forest.

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"Anyway, I'm Cam, who're -"

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This prompts the remaining people to materialize sticks and attempt to club him with them while trying to drag him into the cage. 

For some reason.

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"Ow - hey - what the hell -" Being hit with sticks hurts, if not very much, and a bunch of people wrestling him is enough to make line of sight complicated.

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They start also attempting to gag him.

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"You know you mrf could have just traditionally done mgrrh!" he says.

- okay. What's the deal with this circle. Interpolation's a no. Fire's a no...

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Cage!

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He cannot interpolate the cage either. He starts trying exotic physics experiments irritably.

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They pick up the cage and start carrying it. They get smaller.

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Cam decides to stop short of trying drugging anybody just yet, since he's not sure how he'd get out of the cage if they all fell unconscious.

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In that case they'll make it uneventfully to - a rabbit hole. 

Inside the rabbit hole there's a city carved out, with bright lights, and music, and it doesn't smell that much either like dirt or like rabbits.

There are a lot of faeries. They peer at him curiously. Then they lever the chain up in the air so it floats and everyone can see him better.

Then they have a lengthy debate about what to do about him. The bell is thrown around and yelled about a lot.

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Yelled about how?

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Some people think the bell is really exciting and his eccentricities should be tolerated in order to get more things like it. Some people think the bell is very nice and all but he's clearly a menace to society and not worth the effort. Some people think the bell means that he will be worth more when they trade him to somewhere very far away. Some people think that they should give him as a present to their worst enemies and stand back and watch the fireworks. 

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Well, this is at least more interesting than his original plans for the day.

Can he make a violin?

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Yep.

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He will play, softly, keeping an ear on the conversation trying to figure out what's up.

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The violin is immediately the central topic of conversation. 

He's clearly too valuable to give up. He's clearly too dangerous not to. He's clearly trying to ENTRAP THEM WITH HIS EVIL VIOLIN PLAYING STOP HIM AT ONCE

The chain is lowered and people attempt to smash the violin through the bars, with spears.

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It's not an especially durable violin. "Mmmf mngh mg mff mgh mvvvf mn." He starts picking at the gag with his hands once he is no longer holding a violin.

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Well then they will have to open the cage and attempt to chain him up such that he can't do that!

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Can they possibly be wearing their own - not chains, ropes? He will stick to ropes.

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Doesn't work. They chain his hands to the walls of the cage and close the cage again.

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Cam sits in tail-lashing annoyance in the cage among the splinters of his violin.

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They have a more heated more panicked conversation about what to do with him. Eventually someone in charge says he'll be sent to some other court, by way of yet some other court, because the first court would be suspicious to get him directly but won't be suspicious at all to get him from an ally. They can throw in the human, too, for that matter; claim they got too many today and can't feed them all all night. 

 

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What, no feast?

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They lower the cage again and put a blanket over it.

There's some muffled yelling.

They open the cage and shove a naked human woman into it too. It's really not big enough for both of them.

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- can't make clothes for her. Poor lady. Blanket, can he do a blanket.

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She blinks bewilderedly at him. 

 

The cage starts moving.

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Come on, why can he do a bell and not a blanket - no, brain, it's clearly not about objects starting with the letter B, that's wrong on so many levels - is this an anti-interpolation protection, can he only make stuff midair? - there, blanket.

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She still looks bewildered but maybe now it's gratefully bewildered? She pulls the blanket close around her. 

"I don't - speak much faery -"

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"Mrrgf," acknowledges Cam.

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"They'll be angry if I take it off. -- could take it off and put it back when we stop, if we're fast."

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Nod nod!

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She attempts this. It is not very hard since it was put on in a hurry. 

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"Thanks," he whispers. "- what do you speak besides faery?"

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She says something that he might or might not recognize as tenth-century German.

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He can guess what it is but not really speak it. "I think your faery is better than my that," he apologizes.

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"You didn't look local."

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"I'm not. Language thing is a magic shortcut. What do I need to know about faeries?"

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Unhappy laugh. "They live in faery rings. You shouldn't go to them unless you're desperate. You mustn't lie to them, or tell them your name, and if you eat their food or ask them questions you will never get to leave."

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"- well, I avoided the food but asked lots of questions. Why can't we leave?"

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"Faeries track who owes who. If you owe them, then by their laws you belong to them. And even if you escape, the rest of the world will be slow. - to faeries the mortal world is slow. It takes a very long time for it to be night. Feels like months and months. And if you look at other humans, it's like they're standing still."

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"And that can't be fixed?"

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"No. Not while you owe them."

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"Do you know why they flipped out when I played violin?"

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"No. But I don't know all the rules. - also don't know what a violin is."

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"Musical instrument."

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"I think music does something. They play me music, sometimes. Don't know what, though."

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"What do they want with people?"

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"I don't think they're all the same. But the ones who don't want much from slaves just don't bother, because we're expensive to keep.

I don't know what they'd want from a man."

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"...ah. Why are we expensive?"

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"Faeries don't need to eat and we do."

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"Oh. I don't."

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"Oh. That's probably good for you I guess. If they say they'll stop feeding you if you keep crying you can just tell them that's fine."

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"- Do they not like it when you cry because it's... loud, or what?"

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"And annoying, yeah. And makes my face ugly. They thought it was interesting at first. I don't think faeries cry very much."

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"I'd believe that."

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"Do you know where they're taking us?"

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"They're giving us to another court because I freak them out and they want me off their hands, I think they're throwing you in as a bonus or you constitute a less suspicious explanation of why they're giving me away or something."

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"Oh. 

 

 

Okay."

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"Sorry, I have no reason to believe this will constitute an improvement for you."

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"When you're new it's hard because everyone's curious."

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"I guess that tracks. I'm not sure how much wherewithal I'll have to help you, I've got a different thing going on constraining my behavior."

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"It's okay. It's nice just to talk to - someone who's not a faery. 

And who's chained up. No offense."

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"None taken."

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She doesn't immediately have anything else to say.

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"You have a name? Or a nickname or whatever?"

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"They call me 'Mortal'. I don't - I don't even know if it's a good idea to remember the name I had before that, honestly."

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"Yeah, that seems reasonable, but, like, if there's another mortal around or anything."

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"I hope there's not. No one can feed two, supposedly.

You can call me Auda. It's my sister's name but she's dead so it should be safe enough."

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"If they have any sense they'll have me feeding you. I'm just... not sure they have any sense.

Call me, uh -" The German's old but not that old, the Bible's around, so not Revelation. Doesn't know if middle names count. "- Apsel for now, I guess."

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"Apsel," she says. "What'd you do to end up among faeries?"

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"Apsels - that's my species - can be summoned. A faery summoned me."

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"Oh. 

Well if you scared them probably they won't do it again, so that's good."

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"I suppose it is."

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She pulls the blanket more tightly around her and watches the ground pass underneath them.

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"Do you have a guess how far courts are from each other?"

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"Some border each other. But if they want to be rid of you they might want you to go to one that doesn't. I bet it won't be more than three or four days because I bet they won't have bothered to bring food and I bet they don't want to hand us off in terrible shape."

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"- hold out your hands and I can drop some food in them probably, I currently think I might have to make things in midair but I seem to be able to make some things."

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She holds out her hands.

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Roast beef sandwich.

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She eats it and stares at him wonderingly. 

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"Do you want more stuff, or anything specific -? You probably have at least five kinds of malnutrition but I don't have any of what I'd need to diagnose it specifically."

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"I don't - I don't know that I should eat more right now. The faeries have feasts sometimes but if I eat as much as I want I get sick. 

I could maybe drink something?"

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"- oh, yeah, don't wanna give you refeeding syndrome. Heck, what are the supplements for refeeding syndrome - phosphate and... I think multivitamins in general - yeah okay - do they give you enough to drink?"

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"Yeah. Water's free, and wine's not but sometimes they want you in more debt so they'll give it to you anyway, and they have these tasty sugar things sometimes. I don't think they wanted me to die. They said it was as likely as not in the night even if they fed me but I didn't die all night and they seemed pleased."

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"Okay, so don't have to go too hard on the electrolytes... catch." Bottle of apple juice with a bunch of vitamins in it, capped enough to not spill but not sealed.

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She opens it and makes herself drink it slowly and then gives the bottle itself a nervous frown.

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"- is that going to be a problem?"

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"They'll probably wonder? I don't know if they'll be mad. It's hard to predict what'll make them mad."

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"You can put it on my lap when we get wherever we're going, if you want, and I can refill it - probably, anyway, still working out the edges here - on the way as necessary."

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"That just means they'll be mad at you instead, and you've been so nice."

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"Yeah, but there's only so much they can hurt me, I'm indestructible."

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Hiccup. "That sounds nice."

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"It is, yeah. So pin whatever we accumulate on me if that seems like it'll help."

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Nod.

 

"Do you want anything? 's not much I can do here, but I could try - if there's anything -"

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"No, no, I don't need anything from you, I'm not a faery, let's not do faery bullshit, okay?"

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...smile. 

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Smile.

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After a while the cage stops moving. She gags him again. Someone pulls off the blanket. They're next to a big leaf heavy with dew.

They open the cage and let her get out and drink some and wash herself. 

"Are you going to attack anyone or talk or otherwise make us regret it if we take the gag off so you can drink?" someone demands of him.

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He has no idea how their lying thing interacts with being mistaken about a statement about his future actions; the fact that they didn't phrase the question to be about his intentions suggests that it's within tolerances, but these people do unfortunately appear to be stupid and evil, so. He doesn't need the drink. He nods irrepressibly at them.

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Well then they won't take the gag off. 

They notice the bottle and argue about it a little and then decide to keep moving as quickly as possible.

They reblanket them.

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Cam internally debates making his computer. He leans in Auda's direction to be degagged.

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She does that. 

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"Thanks."

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"There'll be a feast when we get there, probably. I was going to say you'll want to be cooperative for that because it's the best you'll eat for ages but I guess you can just make yourself things any time so maybe you can keep being scary then."

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"I'm not actually sure to what extent it'll be to my advantage to be scary, it'll depend on their - attitude, I guess."

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Shrug. "I've been to other courts a couple times and their feasts seemed mostly the same but I'm not - I haven't got wings, they know what I am."

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"Yeah, exactly." He tilts his head back and makes popcorn fall into his mouth.

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Giggle.

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"You can try some if you want."

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"Maybe one? They look so funny."

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One popcorn!

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It is crunchy and interesting.

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"If I'm right about where we are, that's made from a grain that grows all the way across the ocean west of here."

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"I never left the village I grew up in until I - ran away."

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"Say," he says, "do you happen to know what year it is?"

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"It's the year of our lord one thousand and thirty two. - that's since the birth of Christ."

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"One thousand thirty two, wow. Thank you."

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"He's been gone for a while. He was supposed to come back."

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"- I don't have any updates on that, sorry."

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"It's okay. I'm not going to live to winter anyway, even if I live old enough to have been a grandmother if I'd had any children. Because of how faeries are fast."

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Cam nods. "- do you think faeries can't get you pregnant, or that maybe you haven't been eating enough to get pregnant, or are they being careful on their end, or?"

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"Can't get pregnant fast. - and if you are, you lose the baby, which is - they told me about that in advance, it wasn't an accident or anything." She kind of cringes against the side of the cage.

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"- having to make things in midair really limits my options here, but I can give you some little things where if you swallow one as soon as you wake up or first thing before you go to sleep, every time, they will prevent you from getting pregnant in the first place - I'm just not sure they'd let you hold on to them and they stop working if you stop taking them -"

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"It's been more than a year that I've been here. I think they're right that you can't get pregnant when you're sped up like them, and I know they're right that if you speed up when you're already pregnant you lose the baby.

That's - neat, though."

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"It's pretty keen, yeah. I don't know, if they decide to let you go or it turns out I can buy you free with popcorn or something maybe stop and ask me for some of those before you go."

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Sad laugh. "Okay."

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"And a sack of gold. Or whatever."

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"A fancy dress. Men'll pay more if you have a fancy dress. Gold they'll just think I stole it."

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"- if that's what you want. I don't know a lot about current fashion though."

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"I can tell you. If it ever comes up."

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Nod nod. "I don't know a ton about your options if you get loose, I'm just assuming it's better than being a faery prisoner even if I'm available to feed you."

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"I hadn't really thought about whether it would be or not because it didn't matter much but I think if there was a way not to get pregnant then it would be. I could have friends, and a place of my own, and it wouldn't be dark for months at a time."

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"If I can buy you out with popcorn at all maybe I can get enough leeway or someone who can read the circle or something to figure out how to give you a more stable option than the pills - if you lose them or they get wet or anything that's it, but there's stuff you can have as an implant that just hangs out indefinitely."

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"It's a nice idea but I would be pretty surprised if they liked popcorn more than a slave. I guess I could act like I was sick and close to dying anyway."

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"Yeah, I have no idea what exchange rate I'm working with here."

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"Faeries don't make a lot of sense."

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"And they seem completely oblivious to it, too!"

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"I think to them we're making lots of obvious missteps which give them more latitude, and that's funny, and not really something to be prevented. I think they could explain themselves if they wanted to."

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"I kind of don't think that because they could have warned me not to give my name when I asked if there were rules I should know about. They didn't seem pleased to have it."

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"Huh. Maybe they're just stupid."

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"That's my theory. I mean, perhaps they vary."

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"Would it be any better if they gave us to smart ones?"

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"Depends how evil they are."

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She nods and stares at the blanket.

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"I can make you actual clothes, I just couldn't make them on you so I went with the blanket," he mentions.

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"They'd just take them off. At the feast. I think it's probably better if I don't seem - new. But thank you."

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"You're welcome."

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She closes her eyes. The cage trundles on. Eventually she falls asleep. And some time after that slumps over to sleep in his lap. 

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...he can't make a pillow between them and can't place one manually with his hands tied so he will just sit there, he guesses.

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When she wakes up she's briefly disoriented and then apologetically gets out of his way. "Do you not sleep?"

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"I can, but I don't have to, and this isn't very comfortable for it."

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Nod. 

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"I can make you a pillow next time but I couldn't put one under your head once you flopped over, sorry."

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"I didn't mean to inconvenience you. I don't usually share a sleeping space with anyone unless they want - anything."

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"I'm fine," he assures her.

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"You're very nice but I don't want to take advantage."

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"Making stuff doesn't cost me anything and it's mildly more interesting than watching leaf litter go by underfoot."

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"I guess I'd like something to eat, then."

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"Any requests?"

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"Not really. I'm supposed to eat as much fruit as I can, so I live longer?"

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"That sounds like the sort of thing faeries would conclude about human nutrition if they didn't start knowing enough about it to keep people from dying of scurvy." But here is a pear.

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"They were better than other courts at keeping humans alive. They bragged about it a lot. - I don't really know what that means about other courts."

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"Well, I suppose it could mean they're even worse at it and their humans succumb to marasmus first, or it could mean other courts kill them on purpose, who knows."

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Nod.

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When she's finished her pear he gives her some highly fortified cheesy bread.

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It's delicious.

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And in this way they may pass the time till they get to their destination.

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It's a couple more days. They actually get handed off to one group of faeries which gets instructed to deliver them as a gift to a second group of faeries. The cage gets swapped for another cage. They get worried about Cam not drinking anything and soak his gag with water a few times. They collect the suspicious materialized items.

 

And then finally they are delivered into another faery court. The blanket is taken off. This court is inside a hollowed fallen tree, but otherwise rather similar. 

The new faeries graciously accept these presents from the old faeries in repayment of the debt between their courts. 

Someone opens the cage, pulls Auda out, takes a look at the chains, decides not to pull Cam out too. 

The table is covered in food. There's music playing. 

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Cam makes a stereo.

It appears, but isn't playing, possibly because it's tiny, possibly because they're accelerated.

He makes headphones, not quite touching his head but with a sproingy enough headband that they snap onto his ears once they appear.

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This is noticed and causes some consternation. 

Someone tries to say something to him.

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Well, he can't hear them. And can't take the headphones off by himself either since his hands are chained up.

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They don't reach into the cage to remove them. 

People crowd around Auda, petting her or feeling her hair or trying to feed her food. 

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Suppose he drops a cage around anyone who gets close to her. He doesn't start by making them too heavy.

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That works fine!

It also causes some panic!

 

People will attempt to drag his cage away from the feast.

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He can put some heavy things in the cage to make that hard! Enjoy your collection of colorful iridium-cored bowling balls!

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That will sure make the cage hard to move. 

They, instead, toss the blanket over it and try to run.

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Heavy things with velcro on them can be appeared in such a way that most of them stick to the blanket and pull it down.

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Then he can see these intensely bewildered fairies trying to flee their feast. Some of them are trying to drag Auda away too.

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Cages for Auda-draggers!

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Auda ends up with both arms held by people who are now in cages and mad about it. She goes still. If she says anything, Cam can't hear it.

The fairies who are capable of fleeing do that.

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Well. Holding her arms isn't bad enough for him to do anything too drastic about it.

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There's quiet while everyone waits to see if any more cages will fall from the sky.

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Well, he's keeping an eye on things, but has not decided to cage people just for existing.

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After a moment someone walks into view. He looks around at everything and then looks at Auda. 

He says something. The faeries let go of her. He says some more things. 

 

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Cam still can't take off his headphones by himself.

He can place something sharp facing inward from the bars of his cage and slice this stupid gag off, though!

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Then he won't be able to follow any of this conversation. 

 

After a while Auda walks across the room towards the faery.

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"Hey, I can't hear what you're saying to get her to go over to you right now but I'm gonna be pissed off if she disappears never to be seen again or to have a haunted look on her face or anything like that!"

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She jumps.

He nods.

They talk some more. Then someone walks her into one of the little doors on the sides of the tree trunk.

He walks over to Cam.

He pulls the headphones off. 

"If no one has explained to you how faeries work, I'd really appreciate it if you'd let me do that before you say anything. It might have unexpected effects. If you say something dangerous the human girl will get hurt and I can't protect her from that."

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Cam is listening attentively!

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"Don't tell me your name. This is most important for the first name your parents gave you, or for the first name you got some other way if your parents didn't name you, but it goes for all names to a lesser degree. Don't say things that aren't true, even illustrative stories. There's a way to do that safely but for now just don't do it. Don't break promises. If you have made any promises you should probably tell me that, first."

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"I don't believe I have made any promises since encountering faeries but I'm a hundred and seventy two years old and have in that time ever said I promised something."

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"I have never heard of mortals having problems that had to do with promises they met before they met faeries. 

For faeries, and people entangled with faeries, the universe punishes misconduct. Lying, breaking promises, violence against people you're indebted to. The punishment is usually immediate, but not always, and usually not lethal, unless the incident was unusually bad. It affects you and everyone who is in your debt, or vice versa, or who knows your name, or vice versa. I assume you knew some of that because you only caged the people you were angry with. But had you attacked them, everyone here would have been hit very hard, including the human girl."

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"You know, if the first faery had explained things that well we would have gotten along so much better. But you're mistaken - while I did know some of that, mostly from her, I wouldn't go around dropping cages on people who were behaving fine regardless? Because why would I do that? That has nothing to do with technical debt, since I don't know enough about where it's accrued."

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"Caging people you're indebted to is - well it causes a lot of problems but the universe does not parse it as an attack and so it did not cause the universe to smite us all. I'm grateful for that, even if it was entirely luck. Do you mind if I get them out now?"

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"My earlier statement about being pissed off if I can't verify the human's at least loosely adequate treatment stands, otherwise I don't mind."

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Some more people come in to effect this. 

"I'm hoping if you're not gagged this can get cleared up before anyone gets a cage dropped on them?"

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"Probably! Talking does keep having unexpected consequences but maybe this time you've been thorough enough!"

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Nod. "I'm curious who sent you here. I don't think they meant us well. But it wasn't the people who brought you in, I'd have noticed."

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"Yeah, they sent us through a different court so you wouldn't be suspicious. I don't know how to identify them to you."

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"Huh. How long did you travel?"

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"She fell asleep four times."

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"And you?"

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"Don't have to sleep."

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"That's convenient. Supposing I wanted to keep you here what sort of place would you want to be kept in."

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"I don't feel like I have enough information to answer that question in a way that won't turn out to have been misleading."

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Nod. "If the human has travelled for four days it's not safe to put her back in a cage to go lob off on someone else, even if I wanted to do that. So it would be useful to figure out how you both can stay here without this routinely endangering or terrifying my people. I don't have any idea what you're capable of or what'll provoke you."

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"I have a roughly human psychology but am unusually scrupulous among the category and even if you've met a human who has explained humans to you in the past I'm from a very different cultural background. Unsafe how?"

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"Good odds of dying of something along the way or shortly after she arrives."

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"Why?"

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"I think a contributing factor is that humans need to eat quite frequently. But we've never had one, so I don't know for sure, I just know the advice not to keep them in a cage for more than five or six days."

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"I was feeding her, but it will in fact be bad for her health in other ways if you keep her in a cage, yes."

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"So I can't just find some people I hate and ship you off to give them a headache. Which is fine, but it means I need to figure out what I can safely do instead."

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"Personally, I think I'm very easy to get a good deal out of, but it being easy might rely on my trading partner not being a moral abomination or whatever is going on. I suppose it's possible I'd be just as appalled by a bunch of humans around here if I wandered off and met some."

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"Strong language for touching a human we didn't even know you wanted."

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"The kind of logic you just employed is precisely the nature of the moral abomination, actually."

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"I'm afraid you're going to have to explain more."

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"I perceive her to be in her own right as an individual entitled to certain basic treatment such as not being groped by people she has not expressly invited out of her own intrinsic motivation to so grope her, and further consider this entitlement inalienable such that nothing you've finagled about playing music or receiving her as chattel or whatever the hell infringes on it, and neither does anything she's construed to have done. I also consider her to have additional rights beyond those by default that in theory she could be dangerous enough to warrant infringing on, which maybe the whole misfortune business constitutes, if - can I use non-literal figures of speech if I preface them with 'metaphorically'?"

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"Meaning you're making some kind of analogy? Yes, you can do that."

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"If I metaphorically squint."

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"You consider it very important that nobody gropes anybody ever, if they didn't specifically ask for it?"

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"Groping is the salient example, not the only thing in the category, but, uh, approximately. There are non-'specifically-asking-for-it' ways to invite it, like, I don't get on people's cases if they have long-term consenting partners and their relationship therewith involves occasional unannounced ass-grabbing."

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"Have you got a list of all of the things in the category?"

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"Not handy, but if you really want I can attempt to get some written references and try to turn them into something like a comprehensive list."

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"I would really want that, yes."

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"This might take me some doing because this thing didn't work and that has some implications," he kicks his speaker where it is slightly dented among the bowling balls, "and would be easier if my hands were free."

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"I have some hesitations about freeing you before I have the slightest idea what's liable to anger you."

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"Well, I suppose you could attach my feet to something before letting my hands go, if for some reason you think my threat potential is located in my ability to move around the room."

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"Right now our worst case scenario is that the survivors head out to another court that I have reason to think will take them. If you can move, it gets worse."

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Cam waves a foot in his direction.

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He gestures at someone to his side. "Tie him up." And to someone else, more quietly, "tell everyone that my recommendation is that they go to their rooms alone and not do anything or touch anything and certainly don't interact with each other."

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"I'd love to tell you that's ov- metaphorical overkill but maybe the very first kind of all that that someone would think was definitely okay would in fact qualify as a war crime under the Geneva Convention."

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"The thing you objected to is something I have never heard of anyone objecting to. It does not strike me as obviously in a different category than talking, or than looking at people, or than touching something that belongs to someone else, and I don't know what you think of any of those things, and it's honestly frightening to admit that they occur here because maybe you will get very mad."

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"Then I guess it's not metaphorical overkill."

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Nod.

 

They chain up his legs.

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He tolerates this patiently.

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And free his arms.

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"The Geneva Convention is in fact mostly about warfare, which isn't exactly applicable but if I mix it up with rules for treatment of criminals might do." He conjures some papers and starts leafing through them. "I'm also going to have to translate everything, I hope there isn't some intractable language gap..."

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"I hope not."

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"Wow is the Geneva Convention ever not set up to have useful definitions for morally abominable faeries, it's probably not going to be useful at all if I tell you that civilians are entitled not to be subjected to 'cruel treatment', is it."

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"I could tell you what my guess about that would be?"

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"Might usefully triangulate."

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"If I heard that some court took a prisoner for - inadvertently stealing from them, say, and then they beat the prisoner nearly to death and fed him while he healed so that by the time he'd recovered he was in enough debt they could beat him nearly to death again, then I would say that they were being cruel."

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"It might be useful to consider that these rules were developed by and for humans, for whom food is not optional and debt is not magical."

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"I don't have much of any idea about what humans consider cruel. We meant to feed this one and give her to someone who wants to learn mortal languages and make sure she knew the rules and not punish her as long as she followed them."

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"That doesn't obviously sound like a problem depending on the rules but doesn't explain the groping."

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"Well, we don't think that's wrong, so people will do it if they want to. I - she didn't even object, I'm not sure what rule we could've been using to conclude we could feed her if we didn't touch her."

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"Well, you can put food near her and tell her she may have some, and it's much harder to do that with putting your hands on somebody. Her experiences among faeries include people thinking it was fascinating when she cried so if I were her I'd certainly have learned not to visibly object to things as fast as possible!"

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"So is the human definition of cruel treatment something like - 'any interaction they don't invite' -"

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"There are things humans can ethically spring on one another. There are even lots of them! Your oversimplification will not give you too many false positives eeeexcept then we might have to define 'invite' in unfortunate amounts of detail since it matters what consequences they can expect from inviting or not inviting things."

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"That occurred to me but I don't see how to insulate humans from the consequences of any choices they make without, like, making it pretty hard for humans to have any effects on the world or any interpersonal relationships."

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"It has occurred to me that I could probably make enough food or whatever to buy her off you and get her sent home if that's a thing you can do. It seems real likely that people who need to eat should just not live here."

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"We can send her home. If she invites that. Without anyone having suggested that anything would be affected in any way."

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"Offering to do things for people is usually fine and in this case is probably the best you can do. How much food or whatever are we talking about here."

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He gestures at the feast. "Around this much? Preferably not in this form, we'd want something we could store for when we want it."

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"That's doable. I'd offer to tell her the good news myself but I am chained to a cage which someone has filled with bowling balls."

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"If she agrees when someone asks her then they can also ask her if she'd like to come back here."

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"I was going to send her off with some presents if I managed to get her out."

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"They can also ask her whether she would like any presents."

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"They should probably specify that they are from me and not someone whose presents are evil faery crap."

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"We're not evil. But I'll tell her where the presents are from."

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"Preeeetty sure her last court raped her a bunch."

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He takes a second to figure out that his face should look disapproving but then it looks disapproving. 

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"That's one of those things that humans list right next to murder when listing bad things."

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"Having sex with people?"

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"That both parties do not want. We also had a really long and heated cultural argument about whether it counts as wanting it enough if you're getting paid!"

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"I was not being too conservative about what to tell everyone."

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"I did come to that conclusion, yes. The cultural argument eventually came down on the side of voluntary transactions being fine, incidentally, but that was after no one really needed the money to eat."

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"I think faeries might be importantly different from humans in some ways."

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"I have not actually gone on a rampage about any faery-on-faery treatment."

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"Wasn't sure if that was just because you hadn't seen any. Okay. Having sex with humans when they don't want it is very wrong as humans think about wrongness. - is the touching thing related to that?"

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"Yup. It's okay to like, tap people on the shoulder to get their attention, but being all over somebody like that is basically Rape Lite. To be clear I'm sure there are ways faeries can treat each other that I also hate but I'd be way less quick to jump to conclusions about it."

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"There are kinds of sexual interactions that faeries consider unethical but it's not 'most of them'."

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"If the sexual interactions faeries are having where at least one party does not like that it is happening is 'most of them' that seems like it sucks for a lot of people a lot of the time but maybe for you it is the equivalent of someone taking your parking space or asking if you have a moment to discuss the environment."

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"I don't know what a parking space is but I think I would be very distressed if I had one and someone took it, considerably more distressed than I can imagine being if they had sex with me. The environment seems like a fine topic of conversation."

Permalink Mark Unread

"A parking space is a location in which one stores a vehicle; taking it is pretty impermanent since the offending vehicle will eventually leave even if you don't get into a confrontation about it. The people who ask others if they have a moment to discuss the environment are not making conversation, they're rallying support behind their favored policy proposals. I am using references you will not get as a replacement for sarcasm."

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"Sex settles a lot of debt. I think probably people have more sex to settle debt or in the context of a relationship with debt than they have sex with people they were previously even with, with the intent of staying at even, and it sounds like with humans not even all of the latter category would be all right but it's the only kind that might be."

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"I don't actually think your concept of being even maps usefully onto anything humans do, even though it can make use of some vocabulary humans use to talk about finances and revenge and stuff. Maybe lots of sex in the context of a relationship with debt is fine, because debt is not the thing I'm gating on, the thing I'm gating on is a mental state of interest or disinterest. Maybe even a lot of the first kind is fine, it just relies somewhat more heavily on you being psychologically inhuman."

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- nod. "Well, I think it's fine? If we get another human we'll be careful with them, now that we know."

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"I'd recommend seriously considering just getting them all sent home earliest feasible, since apparently they're still going to be in trouble for having nonmagical metabolisms if they stick around."

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"Most humans know what faery rings are. They usually only show up if things are pretty bad at home. There's a war and the winning army's slaughtering all the men taller than this, say -" he gestures around chest height - "or they're dying of some sickness or they're to be hanged for poaching or their husband killed one of the children and they're scared for the others..."

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"- do you have reason to believe it's really height and not that they're sparing little children? But yes, there are certainly also very bad situations humans can be in among humans. It would probably be hard for you to unambiguously improve on them especially the one where they show up with their remaining children all of whom also have nonmagical metabolisms but maybe you can figure it out."

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Nod. "I realize there's still a lot here I don't understand but - it seems odd, if someone comes to us because they'll otherwise die, to turn them away because without sex they can't manage the debt for food. Instead of asking them."

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"I mean, if you talked to the sort of human I'm accustomed to and you were like 'this gig involves the following sexual services on thus and such a schedule', that'd probably turn out okay - I expect people around here to be more fragile in ways they don't know as much about, but it could maybe still work."

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He frowns. "That makes sense. I think."

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"Hm?"

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"There's kind of a lot to figure out here and one of those things is how someone could be wrong about whether they want to have sex regularly rather than die in a war, but I can think of some ways they might."

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"There are various ways."

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"They can have not tried it before and not know what it's like or be one of those people who gets morose at night and finds it harder to make themself do things or they could have been unimaginative about what people'd want or they could actually like dying and just not have realized that they would."

Permalink Mark Unread

"By the way, some of the people who get morose at night are probably deficient in a vitamin which can be acquired in the diet by eating egg yolks, fish, and certain fungi. I do not think the liking dying one is a major factor."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh! We can look into that. Mostly fungi, it's hard to interact with slow animals."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't remember which fungi and am currently impaired at looking things up since electricity seemingly doesn't work while I'm fast or while I'm tiny, one or the other. Or both."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know what electricity is so I can't help you there."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Like lightning but made to do useful work."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Lightning affects fast things." He frowns. "Usually I'd refer you to our scientist but he's slow doing an experiment right now."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm optimistic that I can stick around since you're so receptive to explanations and vice-versa, so maybe I will still be here when he's done."

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Someone comes up to them. "The human accepts an invitation to be slowed back down and an invitation to talk with him first."

"Oh good! Bring her in."

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Tailswish.

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They found clothes for her; odd shimmery obviously magical fairy clothes. She looks anxious. The faeries step out of her way. 

"You wanted to talk to me?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm gonna make them a bunch of food and have them send you off, if that's okay with you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh. Uh, yes. I think so. I guess if it's worse I can always come back."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess! I have been explaining to this faery here how to be not so evil and he seems not to be one of the stupid ones, so that seems like a more viable plan than it would otherwise. That dress is very fancy but possibly not the kind of fancy dress you had in mind?" He turns to Not Stupid Faery and says, "Do you have anyone handy who can read what I'm hoping is local writing?"

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"I'm literate in our language but not the mortal one. Get my father's son," he tells one of the nearby faeries, and they scurry off.

Permalink Mark Unread

Cam makes a copy of his circle. "This will hopefully tell me whether I can do better than the pills I mentioned," he tells the human.

Permalink Mark Unread

"What do you need."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I need you to read the mortal language."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There's an impediment to that."

Permalink Mark Unread

Sigh.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can read your language but I only have guesses about how it's spoken," he says to the human. "I want you to teach me. Then I'll be better-equipped to translate this."

Permalink Mark Unread

The human looks like she has not the slightest idea how to navigate this.

Permalink Mark Unread

"The thing I actually need is to know what it means," Cam says.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I really really want to know how the mortal language is spoken. I've wanted this for thousands of years. And there is a mortal right here who speaks it and you could send her home in three days and at that point I'll gladly help you."

Permalink Mark Unread

Sigh. "Are you picky about it being this mortal language?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well this one would have a lot of advantages if we meet any mortals but I guess other ones would also be interesting?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I know lots of mortal languages."

Permalink Mark Unread

Sigh. "Okay."

He looks at the binding.

"It says that the demon shall not, except in the context of a negotiated deal, make a weapon, a poison, a fire, anything that touches a person or intersects a person or an object, or anything smaller than an ant or bigger than a dog. It says the demon cannot move except to remain within ten feet of the summoner. It says the demon cannot make something harmful to a nearby person. It describes how deals work."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- okay. I think that probably does actually let me perform surgery but not to create surgical instruments. Awkward. Also I don't have my reference materials and have not practiced actually performing surgery by hand. Also that part about not moving is real inconvenient."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What surgery is this?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"She would like to go back without getting pregnant. Do you think you can keep the pills safe?" Cam asks her.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Probably for a while. Probably not for ...ten years? Fifteen?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"How old are you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know how long I've been here but I was seventeen when I arrived."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Then it might be way longer than ten or fifteen years before you can't get pregnant at all. Maybe you can leave a cache of them somewhere and come get more occasionally?"

Permalink Mark Unread

She nods.

Permalink Mark Unread

"If you can feed her it's not at all obvious to me that she shouldn't just stay here? If this is a pressing concern, I mean."

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"Do you have a preference?" Cam asks her.

Permalink Mark Unread

She seems to find it kind of hard to speak with this many faeries around. 

 

"I want - 

- I want to be slow but with a way to support myself and I've only the one and I don't want to get pregnant and it wouldn't be so bad being fast if I didn't have to do anything but I think people will get very tired of that and I shouldn't overstay my welcome."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- what way would you like to support yourself if you could have any such way?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"If I were a man, you mean?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I may be underestimating the extent to which you can't expect to go set up with a spinning wheel turning wool into yarn on your own?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know what that is. I could join a nunnery but I think they mostly don't take whores."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not clear on their membership policies. Has the spinning wheel not even -" Sigh. "Is there even anything in it for you besides the ability to use her as a language tutor, to keeping her around?" he asks the faeries.

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's kind of a prestige thing, having a mortal?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do you prefer being their prestige thing who they are now I think clear on not having sex with, and relying on me for food, and teaching this guy... German? Is this German?... in exchange for any bonus stuff you happen to want that what I make does not cover for you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess? If I change my mind will you slow me down, later?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I do not personally have this expertise but I can make lots of food." He looks faeryward.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I expect we can do that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And that you will?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I also expect we will do that if we can."

Permalink Mark Unread

Cam looks at the human.

Permalink Mark Unread

The human seems to clearly think that these decisions are supposed to be made by more important people. "I guess I'll stay."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cool. Please let me know if you need anything or if faeries do faery bullshit to you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can set you up with adjoining rooms. If you don't prefer to stay out here, which I guess you might since you can't move."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can't move! It's exc- it's annoying! I can probably make myself a wheelchair but somebody's gonna have to plop me in it and wheel me around. It may make sense to track down my summoner and convince them in some way to assign me a task that includes moving around."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I certainly intend to find the people who sent you here to me."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That sounded really ominous!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I mean, yes? They expected you to try to attack us, which could have killed everyone here."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'd like to register my disapproval for starting wars in general, and also more particularly, if you kill my summoner, I will disappear home, where I will probably resume my sarcastic ways even if I try for a while not to do that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't start wars. - and that's good to know. Thank you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, I also register my disapproval of construing wars to have been started when you could choose not to do that and not have a war instead."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Among humans when someone tries to murder a lot of people what do they do with the person who tried that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Where I'm from they typically lock the human up. As an individual. I think that your whole - shtick - makes it really hard to treat people as individuals, which I expect to mean that responding that way even to murder attempts results in outright war."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not responding to murder attempts results in more murder attempts, and eventually one of them will succeed."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Is there some reason why someone may have attempted to murder you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I have guesses but none seem likely. We don't have any declared enemies."

Permalink Mark Unread

"This wasn't a competent murder attempt. They didn't take any steps to stop us from spilling the beans about the intermediate court, they didn't assess my actual inclination to attack people with anything resembling due diligence..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, I agree with that assessment. A panicked spur-of-the-moment murder attempt which still could've killed us all."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Which was prompted by finding themselves in possession of a me they didn't know how to handle and not by a premeditated desire to get you dead."

Permalink Mark Unread

"They chose me. They must have expected I wouldn't retaliate. That's not a reputation I can afford to have, much less afford to reinforce."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And your magical debt system doesn't let you go 'ah, one murder attempt, that will be five thousand hamburgers please'?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't want to be entangled with people that stupid for one second longer than I need to and I doubt they have the resources on hand to pay me off. There'd still be reputation concerns but if they can actually afford it - I'd consider it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can I pay for them if they can handle the appropriate reassurances on how likely they are to repeat the attempt?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"If you want them in your debt, I guess."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- god but this is stupid. Can I then assign arbitrary value to something stupid so they can get out of that after the ten seconds it will take for me to stop enjoying the role reversal."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not really, no. I'm confused about why you object to us settling this among ourselves."

Permalink Mark Unread

"They are stupid! They are assholes! I do not think people should die for being stupid assholes and you've really failed to reassure me that actually you aren't going to kill them just make them do an embarrassing dance of shame or something!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Mortal, you said you were with them for more than a year, subjectively?"

            She jumps at being addressed. "Yes, sir."


"That's pretty long. They must have had mortals before."

           "Yes, sir."

"Did they say how often they got them?"

          "I don't know. There'd been another one in the winter who didn't live long, I think. Sir."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah I'm not convinced that's actually exceptional misbehavior for a faery court."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's not. But if we stopped them then it'd stop."

Permalink Mark Unread

"This would be a pleasant side effect of your extremely unspecified revenge plan."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I would need to know more about what exactly happened and the structure of their court but I think probably I would execute about three people and keep another dozen in the dungeons for a while and slow a dozen more to weave some things for us until they'd paid their debts and trade out or reassign everyone else."

Permalink Mark Unread

"God. What distinguishes dungeon crowd from weaving crowd?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Which arrangement seems like less of a liability and whether I might need to have them around to make a point."

Permalink Mark Unread

"To make a point? You give a lot of dungeon tours?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Apparently not enough of them or they'd have sent you somewhere else."

Permalink Mark Unread

Sigh.

Permalink Mark Unread

"This is the course of action I'd have chosen if you weren't here, and it's far more generous than the typical response to a court attacking you unprovoked."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What's typical?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Lots of courts have a policy not to spare anyone if they win a war unless the member in question communicated their intent to sit it out before it starts."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can they do that? Declare intent to sit it out?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. Of course, then you're betting pretty hard on the other side, because yours won't be pleased with you if they win."

Permalink Mark Unread

"God." Cam thwacks his speaker. "Wish electronics worked. I could - show you things. Haven't had a war in a long time."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We haven't either."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I mean the entire civilization."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's impressive."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The humans you have had available as examples are not exactly paragons but it gets better than that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I want that. I really do. A world without war sounds like a wonderful thing to me and if I saw a path towards it I'd walk it. 

If I predictably ignore assassination attempts I will be dead before the mortals have had ten more winters to get better."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I have ever read anything about game theory. Just. At some point for all the wars to stop somebody has to go to bed all grumpy feeling like they could really have used the last word. Against some stupid assholes who did something they really shouldn't have."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not grumpy that they tried to murder my family I'm terrified. 

 

I haven't been to war in seven thousand years, I can swallow my pride when that's the problem."

Permalink Mark Unread

Sigh.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I won't do anything this day, all right? Let's get you and Mortal set up somewhere comfortably and then we can discuss this more later."

Permalink Mark Unread

"All right."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Should we carry you or did you have a kind of chair you wanted to make -"

Permalink Mark Unread

Cam produces a wheelchair. On the floor, since apparently it's not "in midair" it's "touching people". "There are some I might, depending on how this binding snugs up, be able to pilot independently, but unfortunately they're all electronic."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We can assign someone to it. Or Mortal might want to do it, she feels safer around you anyway."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I suppose I don't actually know if this thing isn't working or if it merely isn't producing appropriately magically fast sound."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, a similarly slow wheelchair doesn't sound that useful either."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It sort of depends on how it plays out! I will have to try more things. I suppose I should switch this off in case it's just blasting demonic music into the woods." He turns it off.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Would you like us to lift you into it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes please."

Permalink Mark Unread

So they do that. And then while the design of the interior of this hollow log is not actually ADA-compliant they can steer him to a little door where there are two bedrooms and a room with a bathtub. "And you two can have a little bit of a break, since this must've been a lot."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, thank you."

Permalink Mark Unread

He closes the door.

Permalink Mark Unread

"You want any stuff for your room? Something to eat?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh. I, uh, yeah, I should eat. Since we didn't have the feast."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We did not!" He offers her a sandwich with many vitamins snuck into the bread - he is not yet clear on the dishes situation here - and some berries on the nearest surface that will do given the unknown dish situation.

Permalink Mark Unread

Smile. "I didn't - I wasn't expecting you to get into a fight with them. I'm glad it worked out."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- would you have preferred I just let it slide?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, no, I'm really glad you did it! I - 

I guess I just put all my thought into how to get through it better than last time and then it was really surprising when suddenly instead -

- but I am very grateful."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cool, I wouldn't have wanted to be like, taking untoward risks on your behalf if you were actually hoping to play it really conservatively or something. You wanna get some sleep in a real bed? It's been a long day."

Permalink Mark Unread

" - yeah. Thank you. Sleep well."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not unless you think you can pick me up, I haven't the hang of sleeping in chairs, but it's all right, I usually don't at all."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, of course, I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking." She attempts this. She isn't actually physically strong enough to pull it off.

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's okay. I'll drink coffee and experiment with electronics and stuff."

Permalink Mark Unread

"All right. Of course wake me if you need anything."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Mm-hm!"

Once she has had her food and gone to bed Cam tries his computer.

Permalink Mark Unread

It works. If he's very patient. See, it is a thousand times slower than him.

Permalink Mark Unread

...well. Lots of useful operations take only a fraction of a second. He might wind up wanting to put several of them up on his wall so he can conduct searches in parallel but nailing things to the wall is at the moment beyond him given his binding, so for the time being he'll do with one.

Ugh, there's screen flicker at this speed. Probably he will mostly use it to search for things to then make in hard copy.

Still. He looks up his notes on refeeding and comes up with a meal plan for Auda and sticks a coffee thermos in his cupholder to sip from.

Permalink Mark Unread

At some point someone knocks on the door and slides a note halfway under it.

Permalink Mark Unread

...Cam makes one of those extensible grabby stick things and grabs the note.

Permalink Mark Unread

It's a note! He can't read it.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can't read this yet," Cam calls through the door.

Permalink Mark Unread

Someone opens the door. "Oh! I'm sorry to bother you. The note was just to let you know how to get in touch with us, should you want to. Can you make things appear on our side of the door?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, though my aim won't be great."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's fine. If there's something there we'll take it as a sign to come on in. Is everything okay right now?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Think so. Though if it won't fuck too much with whatever mess of a debt situation I'm in at the moment I would like someone to teach me the alphabet, I can probably go from there without too much trouble."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh! Yeah, sure, I can do that, it's very simple -"

It is phonetic. There are also clever correspondences between the letter shape and where in your mouth the sound is made but very few people find that helpful in learning it.

Permalink Mark Unread

It might be useful during one very specific stage of acquiring fluency but mostly nah. "Cool, do you have book recommendations?"

Permalink Mark Unread

There's mostly the science books written by the head of their court.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I suppose you would have a little trouble inventing the novel. Thank you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Of course." He leaves.

Permalink Mark Unread

Cam reads science books.

Permalink Mark Unread

This is a long and admittedly speculative argument that the Earth goes round the sun. This is an examination of the properties of gravity at different sizes. This is about the surface tension of water. This is a very speculative attempt to characterize how human societies might work. This is an incredibly precise, detailed and remarkably accurate account of how human languages around the world developed and are presently spoken.

Permalink Mark Unread

This will keep Cam occupied for a fairly long time.

Permalink Mark Unread

Then eventually the human will wake up. She looks around hurriedly to see if there's anything she needs to do.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Good morning! I have found my notes on how to deal with you recovering from malnourishment. - but I still don't know how dishes get washed around here. I will, uh, summon a faery to ask about that, I guess." They didn't specify what should be a sign to come in so he hooks a light over the top of the door, which will respond to his chip on only about two seconds' delay when he wishes to toggle it. On it goes.

Permalink Mark Unread

They come by a little while later.

"Can I help you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hey! I can make things but cannot disappear things. This has implications for dishes, which I've so far been avoiding by mostly making things that do not require dishes, but that's annoying. What's the state of the art around here on getting dishes washed, would the court like to gradually accumulate any particular sort of dish, etcetera?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh! Uh, some people wash them as their chore, it won't be much trouble to add more, if you do something pretty and foreign in interesting materials that'd be great."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cool, where should we leave them to get picked up and if there begin to be too many where should we pick up preexisting ones to put food on?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You can leave them at the door and we can bring clean ones there. Is the door hard for you to reach? We could come in and put them on a table but we'd usually try not to when your room is in use."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am unable to travel even very short distances under my own power at this time. You could knock?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"All right!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Thanks!"

And he makes Auda her fortified breakfast porridge in a sparkly blue bowl, which is made of plastic, because it is too eleventh century for plastic to be tacky.

Permalink Mark Unread

She is quietly delighted about her porridge and her bowl.

Permalink Mark Unread

"What is the debt nightmare situation at the moment?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"- do you mean, how much debt are you two in? A lot, but the ability to make things is very helpful for that. Objects we couldn't make ourselves are very valuable."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I mean, yes, a lot, but could you denominate it in bowls or sandwiches or something?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's not linear in bowls or sandwiches. If you made us a hundred of those bowls you'd be even, probably."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Marginal value of bowls and sandwiches goes down?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uniqueness matters to how valuable something is, and so does how much it's needed, and so does how much we can learn from it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Does somebody have a wishlist? - Is everyone here on the same sleep schedule?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, that'd make the place feel twice as crowded. I can get you a list of things we'd want."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sounds good."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You want it to include enough to buy out the girl as well?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Might as well. Do I need to do some formal thing to specify what objects are toward what?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"The person who owns her debt currently will have to come by and say they'll accept the objects in exchange for it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And who's that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know if he gave you a name but you spoke with him earlier. Red hair."

Permalink Mark Unread

"He didn't give me a name, I've been thinking of him as Not A Stupid Asshole."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I regret that that's distinguishing. He can bring the list, once we have it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I mean I'm sure several of you manage it but he's the first one to stand out in the category."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am sure he'll be delighted to speak with you further."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cool."

Permalink Mark Unread

He heads off.

Permalink Mark Unread

Cam practices reading the language.

Permalink Mark Unread

And a while later he comes in with a list. They'd like:

- magical lights and magical crystals of these eight kinds, if he can do them

- food healthy for humans that will last a long time, ideally at least a winter

- medicines worth trying if humans get sick

- a precise miniature replica of the court of the Queen of Faeries, if he can do that sort of thing

- something sharp enough to cut those bowling balls without losing its edge

- (if he can't do the magic things) a book he recommends written by humans about science, in six different languages

- (also if he can't do the magic things) a book he recommends written by humans about history, in six different languages

- (also if he can't do the magic things) musical instruments from his people

Permalink Mark Unread

Cam cannot do magical lights and crystals. "Do you know if food that's hanging out with accelerated people decays according to real time or accelerated time? Also the replica might not go through completely what with all the magic, but some of it might, is that still worthwhile?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Meat takes a couple sunsets to go off, if you don't do anything to preserve it. Plants take maybe ten, fifteen sunsets. I don't know how long they last for mortals. A partial replica would still be interesting."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sounds like real-time decay, which is good, because I know preservation techniques that will last for decades of real time but not for thousands of decades. Should I assume animal pests are a non-concern because anyone wandering by your granary can see a mouse coming while it still has subjective days to go?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. We mostly direct animals off in some other direction when they come by. - or cage them if we want to study them. Is that objectionable."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's complicated and not a priority compared to people stuff but if 'study' happens to mean 'vivisect' I can probably just straightforwardly replace whatever information y'all are getting out of that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You can't affect slow things except with extremely rare magical equipment. I'd be very interested in what animals are like inside but it won't replace anything because we don't hurt them as is."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Then yeah putting mice and stuff in cages isn't a big deal, I don't think there are any of the really smart animal species in random German forests."

Permalink Mark Unread

Nod.

Permalink Mark Unread

Here is a little diorama of the court they wanted, missing chunks.

"About cutting the bowling balls, that's actually really hard. I don't think they're individually too big to be impossible to pick up or at least roll around though?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"They're not but it'd be really nice to be able to do something with them other than - put them in corners as decorations, I guess."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess if you do really well at the not being evil thing maybe I will teach you to summon an angel."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What's an angel?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm one of three kinds of thing that have powers. Angels can get rid of stuff, as a subset of changing stuff generally."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What does the third kind do?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"They move things."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That sounds much less useful."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It matters a little more when they're generating electricity and supporting interplanetary transit."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess those wouldn't be things I could appreciate."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe you can give the bowling balls to other courts as exotic presents or something."

Permalink Mark Unread

"No one can lift them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Would you like little carts for them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not as much as the other things on the list but if we have more to settle later, maybe."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. Sorry, I would have done something else to avoid being dragged off but at the time I was under the impression that everything had to be midair."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm just grateful that no one got hurt."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That would have required both more creativity and more ruthlessness than it turned out I needed to deploy."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am confused about why they would have written the constraints that they did, if they wanted you to attempt to hurt us and thereby destroy our court."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think they copied the circle from some humans and had no idea what it was for, originally."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That seems ill-advised."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, yes, a very bad idea, though I don't know what circumstantial information they may have possessed, maybe they saw a human make a deal with some demon."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can let you know when we find out."

Permalink Mark Unread

"For whatever it's worth I didn't hurt anybody there, either, they didn't have some kind of firsthand knowledge of my willingness to draw blood or anything."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If they were genuinely just being idiots and didn't want anyone to get hurt then that'll matter. I - still don't super want them around making simllarly idiotic choices but I don't want to hurt people who weren't trying to kill my family."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh good."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Anything else we should know?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Electronics do work, they just work in real time. Since electronics can do things very fast, this means I will find them mildly annoying and you will probably be super impressed unless screen flicker bothers you a whole lot." He brandishes his computer. "This has more books in it than you have probably seen in your life. I was going to go for some more emphatic statement of how many books it is but I couldn't come up with anything both literally true and appropriately grandiose. It's a lot of books."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That sounds really really cool. - I'm not sure we could afford it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"See, this is the kind of problem people who do not have to track debt constantly do not have."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's true but also, at least here, they routinely slaughter each other for no reason. I admit your society seems to have managed the best of both worlds there."

Permalink Mark Unread

"They have reasons. Different reasons, but reasons."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess that's not surprising but the accounts that make it to us are notably reason-free. Nothing that would've caused any debt had happened."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You seem weirdly convinced that this metaphysical fact about your species tracks something that is, separately from its consequent effect on your risk management policies, interesting or important in any way."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's hard to imagine what would happen if the universe stopped punishing entangled people but I think debt would still characterize most of what's important to us."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I suppose it makes sense that your underlying psychology would have evolved to reflect it. Assuming you evolved, which I guess I don't know."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The term's familiar but not applied in that way."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- you can't really breed animals, can you - do you cultivate plants on purpose at all -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"There are a very few plants that grow fast enough to be worth the effort but there are a few, yes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do you preferentially grow seeds or cuttings from the ones that are the best for whatever you're doing with them?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah. Fastest-growing or tastiest."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay! And then they have relatively fast-growing or tasty baby plants, and you can keep doing that, over and over, and while I'm not sure about faeries because you're weird, this is actually how ever other single living thing on the entire planet has come to be how it is in every particular except that instead of agricultural faeries it's whatever the heck they find themselves near and instead of fast-growing or tasty in particular it's 'literally anything that makes them more viable and more capable of producing offspring', and sometimes this is normal stuff like a bear that can catch a lot of salmon getting really fat and lasting through the winter more effectively and sometimes this is weird stuff like human intelligence running away at maximum acceleration to track social games and cultural knowledge and shit. Metaphorically running. Does that make sense?"

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He considers it for a second. "You'd have to start with something that could have varied offspring."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. Guy who really wants to learn German is your brother, right? He doesn't look like you and you don't seem to really want to learn German. Living things are all like that - some a lot, because they reproduce sexually and mix up traits every generation in fun combinations, and some just a little, like bacteria, which I don't know come to think of it if you know they exist because maybe being teeny lets you see them with fairly primitive lenses? Anyway those sort of try to reproduce exactly but sometimes they make mistakes and sometimes the mistakes are good."

Permalink Mark Unread

He seems to spend another moment thinking it over. "Okay. 

There are faeries who claim to be the first faery but none very credibly I think, and lots of origin stories that seem likely to have been distorted in the retelling."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You might have evolved but you have no obvious relatives. I mean, you look a lot like humans but you have all this extra stuff tacked on that does not appear even in attenuated form as human variation as far as I know."

Permalink Mark Unread

"But even without it explaining everything about us, it would make sense for faeries who have natural inclinations in line with the debt system to be successful and have more children."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, exactly, since otherwise you experience potentially fatal health problems. Might also explain your hypothesized lack of trauma reaction to all the sex stuff I was complaining about? There's a psychological phenomenon humans can get that's probably an adaptive to response to 'oh no, I have been captured by an enemy tribe' - it might make some sense from a third party perspective for this to just be game over but evolution isn't metaphorically cool with there being a game over so instead human psychology goes 'okay I'm in this tribe now that's fine I can still have a bunch of kids'.
Maybe you have a mini version of that kicking in whenever you're in debt and somebody's like 'let's solve this by having sex', since if you were like 'no' this would make you seem disagreeable, or something."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I observe that human slaves are also broadly pretty cooperative and yet your analysis there is that we're still hurting them quite badly?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yup! This psychological quirk is best construed as a trauma reaction!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"That - doesn't feel to me like an accurate description of the thing that's going on when faeries are ordered to have sex. I don't have much in the way of non-faery examples to work from, but something doesn't fit."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I mean, yeah, I'm just speculating."

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Nodnod. "There've got to be other things, too, that by rights ought to be upsetting but that actually it's rare to be upset about? Are there humans who have trauma about needing to excrete waste?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, maybe, but it'd be a really obscure psychological problem."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Because it's common enough that it'd be really, really maladaptive to get all upset about it, even if in the abstract it's kind of unpleasant and even if, described to aliens, they might assume one would hate it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I... guess you could draw that analogy? It does feel salient to me here that nobody is going around inserting waste into people so they have to excrete it, there's no agent involved - humans can get trauma about things that don't involve other agents but it's way rarer."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's interesting."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe it helps that the magic debt thing is itself conspicuously not an agent? That's conspicuous to you, I mean, you have some direct sense of it, humans don't, they just see faeries doing stuff to them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe. With sex in particular there's that - it's one of the fastest ways to reduce debt that doesn't require exceptional levels of ability in something. The only thing that's faster is violence. So generally, telling someone you want sex is friendly in that it's... the likeliest result of considering their time valuable and not wanting to hurt them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That makes sense as a signaling thing, yeah."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Though it's also rare for faeries to be traumatized by violence, if I'm understanding traumatizedness right."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Humans get traumatized by violence pretty routinely. Also unwanted sex and violence are correlated."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If you tell someone to have sex with you and they say no and then you hit them until they cannot object and have sex with them you have done something rude, by our standards."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, I guess 'rude' is something."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There are a lot of details that'd be relevant to how people evaluated it but - that's not a normal sort of behavior, when I say we're all breaking this rule of yours all the time I don't mean that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh good."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Anyway unless we had a lot more mortals who wanted to cooperate with testing I doubt we'd nail down exactly the ways we're different but we do seem to be, and the debt system feels - pretty much reasonable to me. Not exactly the way I'd design it but not irrelevant the way it is to you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It has... obvious exploits, which I think would stop me from taking it seriously as a grounding for right behavior, even if I considered its archetypical use cases reasonable."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It does have those. It feels to me like it's basically shaped around the right things but then you can use it to do horrible things if you're clever enough."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think a credible metaphysical instantiation of morality wouldn't have that, so my suspicion is that faeries are molded around the system and not that the system has anything of general interest to say about the nature of ethics. Sort of like... sugar tastes good, but in humans that means that anything in the ancestral environment they found with sugar in it was probably a good source of calories and vitamins. It doesn't mean that sugar fundamentally is tasty. Cats can't taste it at all and that doesn't make cats wrong."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess I'm not sure there's a general nature of ethics any more than there's a general nature of tastiness."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think there's - such a thing as moral progress, and even if that doesn't imply a single coherent destination, it implies that some directions are better than others."

Permalink Mark Unread

Nod. "Do you want to be kept up to date on our plans for the court that sent you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes please."

Permalink Mark Unread

"All right. Anything else I can do for you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not sure what the intended scope of the medicine idea is. There are some simple things that if the administering party can follow a basic dosing instruction are pretty safe to try and see what happens, like vitamin pills and rehydration stuff, but anything more sophisticated and you need at least a stab at the diagnosis."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I haven't actually had a human before and don't know what sort of things often come up."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I mostly just need to know if medicine with instructions like 'administer for pain and fever and not just randomly whenever under the weather, don't give more than X over Y period of time or Z over N period of time, discontinue if any of these four things' are too complicated."

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, that'd be fine."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cool, I can get you some first line stuff of about that complexity. Is this for trading or for if I am not personally available to doctor here at some point in the future, medicines expire eventually like food does."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I was assuming you might not indefinitely be around to doctor. How long do they take to expire?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It depends. Years, for most of the stuff I'd be giving you, it's probably not time to try to figure out vaccines for this population's pathogens."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. And is actively dangerous once it's too late, or just less likely to work?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can stick to the latter without limiting the selection much."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That sounds good."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How much food do you want?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can show you how much space we have to store it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That works. For complicated reasons I'm dubious about the history book, can I swap in an extra science book?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It seems less useful for the things you wanted us to learn but I'm sure it will be appreciated just as much, so sure."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The complicated reasons are mostly orthogonal to your level of moral abominability."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I see."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How many musical instruments you want?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Let's do the food first and then see how close we are."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay! Should I be assuming it has to be ready to eat or that stuff you have to boil or roast is fine?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"We can cook things that require heat. We can't cook things that require anything more complicated than heat, if it needs to sit over a fire or be dropped in boiling water those don't work."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You... have heat but not boiling water?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's right. I know of the existence of boiling water from experiments my father did while he was slow."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I might need to look at your heat thing to guess what kinds of cooking it can do. Like, most food has water in it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sure!" 


They detour by there on their way to look at storage. They have a series of magic crystals that are very very hot to the touch. They might just not actually be hot enough to boil water.

Permalink Mark Unread

Cam puts a drop of water that is a bit bigger than an ant on one.

Permalink Mark Unread

That is some water sitting there.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, maybe at this pressure water doesn't boil at this temperature. This can probably make toast but I don't think it will let me do any food that actually needs cooking. These don't come any hotter?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"They don't. They can cook meat, though, we use them for that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...that must take a really long time."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You start preparing for the sunrise feast as soon as the sunset feast is over, in some months."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. Well, most meat that will be good left lying around indefinitely is packaged precooked. So I still should make the assumption that I shouldn't include anything that needs heating."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That makes sense." And he shows him the storage rooms.

Permalink Mark Unread

Cam does some scratchwork - on paper, the screen flicker's too annoying - about nutrient ratios, and then fills up the rooms with cans and plastic sacks and foil pouches. The cans have pulltabs.

Permalink Mark Unread

The faeries are delighted.

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Wag wag! "I have come up with a couple science books which I think have been translated enough, where do you want them?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I will go bring them to my brother right away."

Permalink Mark Unread

Books appear, one by one.

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He glances through them and then hands them off to -

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- him; he arrives in a hurry.

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Giggle.

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"Hello," he says cheerfully and runs off with his books.

Permalink Mark Unread

"How many instruments are we looking at and does it count any which way if I hang on to one that I play and play it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"That puts listeners in your debt, if you're good, but as long as you're willing to let them pay you back that's fine. And - I think four, or three if they're all very distinct sorts of thing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Assuming I'm not in the market for sexual favors from random strangers who - do they even have to like my music or is there some objective standard of being good at it? - what kind of repayment are we looking at there?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It just matters if you're good at it, not if they like it. They could run errands for you, or answer questions for you. They could bring you things, except you can make things you want anyway. If you want sexual favors from some people but not all of them you could transfer the debts and then just accept payment from whoever you actually liked, and leave them to settle things internally."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not actually asexual but it's a whole metaphorical can of worms for the time being. One popular instrument is in non-electric form kind of annoying to tune, is that a problem?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not at all."

Permalink Mark Unread

Baby grand piano! And a flute and a hang and on his own lap a violin.

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"Thank you! In exchange for the gifts which you have given us, I offer you the debts of my human, holding back only enough that she'll remain entangled with us, and with the understanding that you can request I transfer those to you as well at some future date."

Permalink Mark Unread

"She needs to stay entangled to - not slow down, is the idea?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. I accept? Do I need to do something specific to accept?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"No. Three-way trades are complicated and people need to hold and refer to identifying crystals but two-way it just needs to be clear you agree."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There are crystals involved? Wow."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You kind of need a lot of crystals to have a tolerable court. Next to the need to patrol your borders it's one of the biggest barriers to people starting new ones."

Permalink Mark Unread

"For three way debt and slow-cooking meat and what else?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Slowing people down, if they want to do magic or have children, and lighting, which is particularly important at night."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Why do you need to patrol your borders?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It is otherwise easy for people to trespass and incur debt without you noticing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Humans? Or do other faeries do that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Other faeries do it rarely but that's because people patrol. Humans aren't much of a concern for us, we don't have a faery ring."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What would the faery motive be? They're entangled too after they do that, right?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Our court has good fortune. Being entangled with us is beneficial. Or if you wanted to change that, a good way to start would be getting someone to run up debt we didn't know about, and then forcing them into mistakes or misconduct."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And this isn't prohibitively difficult to get someone trapped into?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You could use a human. Or do it with ten people and not force any of them to do anything actually likely to kill them, though the logistics for that would be very nearly insurmountable."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Ah-huh. Anybody use traps instead of patrols?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"That'd almost certainly be disproportionate. Maybe someone somewhere has designed ones that wouldn't be."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess to avoid it being disproportionate you'd have to go have someone check them a lot anyway."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Technically if someone is in a cage you put them in, and you do nothing further to bother them, you don't incur any more debt. Until they starve, but you wouldn't have to check very often to avoid that. But most ways of caging someone would run a significant risk of hurting them, and that would count, and people'd come looking for lost loved ones and you'd end up with a mess. I'd expect."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Makes sense."

Permalink Mark Unread

"One of the things my father's working on is remote viewing crystals, and that'll cut down on patrol times quite dramatically."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There's such a thing as electronic video cameras too."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh! Well, consider me very sincerely hopeful you'll find something we can do for you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah that thing there is really cramping my style."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can imagine."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I have a brother who is a musician and it is really easy to imagine that were he human his life would be an extraordinarily joyful one."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Wow, yeah, that must be a bummer."

Permalink Mark Unread

"When he was about this tall -" he gestures around his knees - "we had to take his toy flute away because he'd gotten too good at it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh no."

Permalink Mark Unread

"He'll like the instruments, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I hope so. I probably do not have the musical talent of someone who was notably good at the flute knee-high but naively duets would ameliorate the problem?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, as long as there's no one else around. You can listen to him and then make him some trinkets, if you want to."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I might do that!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You can also play the human music if you want, debt does not appear to track between the two of you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I didn't think it did. How soundproof are the rooms?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"My brother's is but otherwise it's not particularly a problem we were expecting."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know if I'm any good by faery standards what with you being immortal and it being weird that there's an impersonal measure of that in the first place, how long does it take to tell?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's immediate."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- from the first note, seriously?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think so? I haven't actually tested it. From the first six notes, definitely."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well. Can I check, how expensive are six notes if I'm good."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not that much and I've just answered a bunch of questions. Go ahead."

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