There is a small room, originally intended to be a supply closet of some kind, currently serving as the apartment of last resort for this human teenager. There's no furniture; all his possessions are sitting either on or beneath the folded quilt on the floor. In one corner is a pile of necklaces of coins whose colors change constantly by magic. The one tall, narrow window looks out on a city of mostly four- and five-story buildings painted to look vaguely reminiscent of a forest.
To know more about your world and your technology and mathematics, in case you've discovered anything we haven't.
He doesn't say, but can't keep himself from thinking, that none of the things he knew existed last week were the opportunity he wants, so all that's left is to investigate something new.
I want somebody to read me this script. Trade you some questions for that?
He can set up an illusion for privacy anywhere there's space. He was sort of hoping to have the conversation on the beach but anywhere works.
The beach is good! The ocean is pretty.
It sure is. He finds them a nice spot.
You know I'm not planning to cheat you, he thinks, bringing to mind his understanding of the value of trustworthiness in iterated games, and I don't know the same about you so you should answer my questions first. Right?
...I guess, okay.
Are there any valuable tools or inventions you know of that you haven't seen since coming here?
Magic songs, apart from the one I sold to the hospital. Also I guess I haven't seen anyone going around with swords and bows and stuff but I figured maybe that was not being at war.
He has seen blades, but not swords, and not bows. They seem sort of unimpressive compared to magic. And you use those for war? How?
I wasn't personally in the army but you stab or slash people with swords and use bows to shoot arrows into people.
He can see how that would be useful, although not game-changing next to what Har has already. What about other fields, like... farming, ocean husbandry, weather control, or anything that makes your homes more comfortable?
I think Elves have farming songs! There weren't any farms where I lived so I don't know any. I could maybe write one if I knew more about farming. Or husbanding the ocean. Or weather. We didn't have that where I lived either.
Didn't have weather, or didn't have weather control?
Farming songs might be useful but not especially useful to him in particular. But maybe if she can write songs for arbitrary magic...? He's not sure if he can pay for songwriting, though.
Didn't have weather. Most of the fortress was underground. It takes a really long time to write a song, I don't want to work on something I don't even care about for a real long time and not have money before that.
Well, this isn't great so far. Still possible she'll know something useful about math but that'll be harder for him to turn into rings.
What about mathematics? Do you have, say, a really precise idea of the ratio of a circle's circumference to its radius?
I don't think I ever really thought about circles very much.
They're actually very interesting and sometimes I work as a math tutor but anyway how do I read you the script? Do I just read it and you read my mind?
Yeah! Out loud please, I need to pronounce it.
He reads. He tries not to get distracted thinking about the scientific plausibility of the planets, but some of them aren't very plausible and he finds this pretty noticeable.
By local standards the plot is dark and brutal, which means as many as five of the characters are implied to have ever been tortured. One of the alien races is notable for not dying of old age, unlike real people.
Huh! She doesn't comment on this but makes thoughtful faces. She repeats the lines, concentrating on which bits it makes sense to emphasize for the feel of the line she's going for.