When Vanyel is ready for the mad science tour, he shows him the monkeys. "They're monkeys," she feels it necessary to clarify. "I know they look very human at this point, because the whole point of them is that I'm going to move into one if I ever die, but they're not people, and I have forbidden the staff to name them. I could move into one now if I had to but I'd like to get one actually looking like me in particular first, and I want to stick more Gifts into them, I got Fetching out of some Changesquirrels but further work is needed." She shows him the mice, too. "Do you suppose Jisa'd like a winged mouse? What's her favorite color?" She shows him all her microbiology eggs. "That's a flu sample from the recent plague! I remembered to take one. Those there are other flus. The white eggs have more-alive microbes and the brown eggs have less-alive kinds - there's a cold one of the staff mages had a few months ago, there's food poisoning, there's the most common kind from healthy intestines - you could get your Sight this fine, you know, I don't do heavy Healing-Gift use apart from Sight for this work."
Vanyel is so impressed! Jisa's favourite colour right now is blue but she changes her mind on that every so often at this age.
"Do you think it'd be useful for me to learn to use my Sight on the microbes?" he asks her. "It's interesting, I can see the life-force, for the more-alive ones I mean, I just can't get in close enough to see the individual ones."
Belrun will send Vanyel back with a purplish-blue one, then, she separates it out into a portable cage. The boy ones have to be held separately anyway, it won't be any lonelier. "It's useful for knowing what they are - you can know when you've got a cold or a flu, that tells you how much to throw at it and how aggressively to isolate. That stuff," she points at the food poisoning, "is out of a person after about a day, and people are relieved to know that even if they're very unhappy while they've got it. Plus you can check your food for it if you're suspicious, even a little bit can get you if you're vulnerable for any reason and a little doesn't stay that way, if I keep feeding those as much as they can eat they'll each divide in half every ten minutes."
"Wow! I almost feel like they should count as more alive than me, by some definitions."
"No, no, you're a whole lot bigger - you are trillions of times bigger, actually, each cell of you that's actually you and not a microbe along for the ride is way bigger than a microbe, and they're so small, and I multiplied it out once with the volume of a person and you have probably thirty-something trillion cells plus all your microbial passengers."
"Whoa. That's incredible." Vanyel looks awed.
- then his expression dims a little. "Guess that's why blood-magic is so powerful. Though it's not just about the number of living cells, you can get some from animals but it's orders of magnitude less..."
"How many orders of magnitude."
"- Gods, I don't remember exactly, Leareth mentioned it offhand once. Think it depends on the animal, size and also intelligence, and it drops off really steeply with intelligence, Leareth thought the number of, say, chickens you'd have to kill to match one human would be both logistically infeasible and also actually morally worse, their lives are still worth something even if they're - less people - than humans are. I think there's a book somewhere with tables, from tests he did..."
"If I boil that egg right now," she says, pointing at one, "will you tell me if you can get anything off it."
"What, off the microbes in it? Um, sure, I can try - I don't know if it'll work, though, it's very faint and they don't have minds at all."
"Three, two, one." Egg in the water.
Vanyel concentrates hard. "I think I–" He makes a face. "Sorry, I thought - it seemed like maybe there was something there to get, but I couldn't aim close enough where it was, my Sight isn't very accurate on that, er, scale. It might help if..." Sigh. "You don't do concert-Sight, do you."
"Just with Leareth." :Leareth can you come here for a minute:
:I will be right there - what is it?: He's picking up on the urgency in her mindvoice, though it doesn't sound like she's distressed, exactly.
:I want to test something, Van tried but it might want concert-Sight:
Leareth arrives. He parts his shields just enough to mesh his Othersenses with hers, without brushing her thoughts at all. :All right, what is it?:
:I'm going to kill an eggful of microbes. See if you can get any blood-magic off them:
And she sacrifices a second egg.
Leareth's control over his mage-gift is much finer than Vanyel's, and sharing Belrun's Sight, he can reach in with mental 'hands' to exactly where a very large number of very tiny microbes are dying.
:- Not nothing: he reports, after a few seconds. :I think. It is - a negligible amount, just barely at what my channels can feel at all, but - I think it was not nothing:
His eyes are alight with amazement, and hope.
"That kind of microbe can double every ten minutes," she says. "I don't let the eggs get very full because if I do they release a lot of gas and break the shells but if you had open vats you could kill them by the quadrillion and they'd bounce back in ten minutes."
Leareth's eyes are very focused, calculating. "How many were in that egg - order of magnitude - how many in total could you fit in an area of vats within, oh, a fifty-yard radius - could possibly train mages to aim their Sight at that range - what do they eat, how much of it..."
"They'll eat almost anything - they grow especially well on meat but you can find them on any food you leave standing around long enough - that egg had about fifty million of 'em. There might be a better kind, gut bacteria are slower but only by a factor of two and don't make the egg-exploding gas, there are so many kinds, we can find one that works for whatever constraints if we look hard enough -"
Leareth is motionless for another few seconds, and then turns and picks Belrun up and swings her around, kissing her. :This is incredible! You are incredible! Eighteen hundred years and I never had any idea...:
She's cackling madly as she's swung, beaming.
Cackling madly is completely appropriate!
Vanyel smirks at them. "Adorable. You're both adorable. I did not ever think I would apply that word to Leareth, and yet."
"What we are is brilliant and we can blow up the moon!!!"