« Back
Generated: Jan 15, 2021 1:43 PM
Post last updated: Dec 21, 2020 1:51 PM
every imperfection is a lie
mid-Angband Kib lands on Leareth
Permalink Mark Unread

There's a snake monster again. How orig okay. No reason to provoke a chase scene. Kib lets it eat him.

Elsewhere, a naked young man, battered, malnourished, and desperately underslept, tumbles to the floor, settles there, falls asleep.

Starts screaming, like he's on fire, without waking up.

Permalink Mark Unread

The room he's in is otherwise quiet and dark, low-ceilinged and underground and full of shelves of boxes of books and papers.

Elsewhere, it is not quiet at all. The alarm for one of the wards is going off. 

"- Berta, hey!" The young sentry watching for alarms scrambles up. "Sector seventeen, we've got - I've never even seen that one before - where is that, anyway..." 

     Berta, the senior mage on night duty, is currently napping, but she's up a few seconds later. "What." 

"Just come look at this -"

     Shuffling footsteps. "Dunno which one that is, they're randomized, Leareth has the keys– bloody hells, that's an inner perimeter alarm, something in there." 

"How?" 

     "I don't have the faintest idea. It's underground." She rubs her eyes and glares at the crystal focus. "I guess we'd better send word to wake him up."

Gulp. "Do we hav–"

    "I'll do it. He doesn't bite, you know." 

Permalink Mark Unread

Ten minutes later, roused from a sound sleep, Leareth is scrying his records room, after looking up the notes on which numbered ward-focuses correspond to where. This one is five hundred miles away, near Rethwellan, and no one else would be able to scry it but he put the magical protections on it himself and can slip around them just as easily. 

What's there? 

Permalink Mark Unread

Screaming naked asleep battered boy!

Permalink Mark Unread

What the fuck

His first instinct is to Gate right there and his second thought is that this is obviously stupid. The situation demands a response, though, and he's the only one who can Gate there, for the usual security reasons no one else has ever even seen it. 

He vacillates for five seconds on the question of whether to pull in Nayoki, and decides to hold off, she gets very cranky when he interrupts her sleep. 

"Get a team ready," he says calmly to the mage who woke him. "I want a Healer, a strong Thoughtsenser, and someone who knows how to check for Gifts." 

Permalink Mark Unread

This is done within three minutes and the requested people plus additional mages as guards are lined up ready to receive their orders. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am going to send you in there. I am not going to leave the Gate up for the obvious reasons." In case this is some kind of convoluted assassination plot, mainly. "I want you to find out who he is, how he got there, and - what is wrong with him - and stay in communication until I give you my approval to transport him elsewhere." 

Permalink Mark Unread

There are nods of agreement. Deep breaths are taken. 

Permalink Mark Unread

A glowing doorway to somewhere else snaps up on the wall of the underground room and five people spill through and then the Gate is down again. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Someone makes a mage-light near the ceiling. 

"Helga, what is wrong with him?" 

    "Give me a minute here," the Healer says, snappishly - she hates operations in the middle of the night - and cautiously kneels, watching the boy closely for any reaction before she reaches out to touch his forehead. She's got a shield-talisman but this is still making her nervous. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't notice her. He's still screaming and his eyes are still closed.

He is injured - it's about what you'd expect if he'd fallen down five or six flights of very angry stairs that were somewhat on fire and sharp in a few places, every day for the last week, except he doesn't seem to have hit his head at all. He hasn't been eating enough or drinking enough and he really hasn't been sleeping enough. Even though a lot of the injuries are days old none of them are infected, at least so far.

Permalink Mark Unread

"He's is really terrible shape," Helga says, "can we get him out of here soon?" 

     "Is he going to deteriorate more if we take half a candlemark to figure out what's going on?" 

"...I guess not. I can't see him being a spy, though, he's in no condition to stand up let alone sneak around stealing information or sabotaging things, he's not even conscious." 

    "Can you make him stop goddamned screaming?" the Thoughtsenser mutters. "I can't hear myself think." 

"I'm not an Empath," Helga snaps back. "Let me see..." She pushes with her Healing-Gift, trying to nudge the injured boy into a deeper sleep. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh, he's very deeply asleep already! He's so asleep! He's just having a VERY BAD NIGHTMARE and he's going to SCREAM ABOUT IT.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Nope, sorry, if you'd wanted not-screaming you should've dragged someone out of bed who has Empathy too." 

One of the mages casts a sound-barrier over him. Everyone relaxes a little. 

"I'm kind of doubting this'll be useful or informative in any way," the Thoughtsenser says ruefully, "but - here goes, I guess." He unshields, reaches, and tries to read the boy's mind, diving in a bit deeper than just surface thoughts. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He is having an - extremely vivid and detailed nightmare. All the pieces of a full genuine waking experience are there. He doesn't know he's dreaming. He is dreaming about being on fire!

Permalink Mark Unread

"Gah," he says quietly, thinking that this is inevitably going to give him nightmares now. "- Maybe we should try to wake him up? Leareth's going to be paranoid and not let us take him anywhere until we have some goddamned explanation for why he's here." 

     "Suit yourself," Helga says. "Don't figure he'll be much more coherent awake, though, he's in terrible shape. Can't you just deep-scan him in his sleep?" 

"'Just', you say, like it's not incredibly distracting that all of his surface thoughts are about being on fire - I can give it a try." He closes his eyes and dives in deeper, chasing down the threads of recent memories. Where was the boy before this, what does he know about how and why he ended up here? 

Permalink Mark Unread

Before this he was in his usual cell, forced awake by occasional prods with an orc's spear while they presumably had an artistic argunope he refused to speculate, and then there was a snake monster, which he definitely declined to have any sarcastic opinions about, and then he was somewhere else, and not actively being stabbed, so he fell asleep.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay what he isn't any less confused and he is so much more concerned than he was a moment ago! What even is that - species? - in the memory, where was this, also he can't at all make the connection between the snake-monster and the boy now being here, or whether it means that the ??orcs?? might be able to follow. 

He relays what he's picked up, in a flat voice. 

Two of the mages look at each other for a moment. 

    "You on it?"

"One second." And the man reaches for Leareth with the usual communication spell.

<You're not going to like this, sorry.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth already doesn't like this, so the comment is uninformative. <Go on.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

<Good news, I don't think he's a spy or assassin - bad news, seems he was in some sort of prison before this. Being tortured. We can't make sense of how he got here, it definitely wasn't deliberate on his part. Unclear whether it was trackable but I think we should move him immediately just in case.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

<Noted. Is he Gifted?> 

Permalink Mark Unread

<...Just a second, I didn't, er, check yet, he's having a nightmare or something and won't quit screaming.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

<Please check now.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

Ughhhh this is going to be awful. The mage kneels by the sleeping-and-screaming boy and touches his forehead, reaching past his shields to look at the place where Gifts would be, inevitably picking up some nightmare-backwash as well. 

Permalink Mark Unread

NIGHTMARE NIGHTMARE FIRE FIRE no gifts FIRE NIGHTMARE.

Permalink Mark Unread

The mage stands up and takes a deep shaky breath. <No Gifts also you maybe want a Mindhealer for this.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

<Is he injured.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

<- Er, yes, Helga says he's in bad shape, she wanted to get him out of here right away.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

<I see.> There's a ten-second pause while Leareth tries to tally up the considerations here. On the one hand it doesn't seem like there's a particular reason to think the boy is dangerous; on the other hand, nothing about this makes any sense and Leareth is instinctively alarmed by situations not making sense. 

<Bring him to the Healers' station at the third backup staging-point.> That facility is small, underground, and not currently in use for anything highly sensitive. <Focus on treating his injuries for now. Keep me updated if anything changes, otherwise I will come in the morning.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

<Er, all right, thank you.> 

The mage looks helplessly at his colleague. "Third backup staging-point, which one is that again?" 

    "It's the one on the east side. I've been - are we Gating there?" 

"Sounds like it." Shortly later there's another Gate, and a very confused night sentry on the other side of it.

     "What–"

"It's complicated. We need the Healers' station." He glances over his shoulder. "Helga, you need help carrying him." 

     "I could use a hand." He doesn't look that heavy but she's a small woman. 

They haul the sleeping boy through the Gate, which involves being uncomfortably close to the SCREAMING, and then the other mage replaces the sound barrier and they leave him on the floor and wait until the Healers from on site, rudely awakened less than two minutes ago but handling it with reasonable grace, bring a stretcher to carry him to the station. They ease him from there onto a bed and then look at him. 

     "He's pretty dehydrated," Helga says, "we should get some fluids into him." She isn't expecting much cooperation with this, but starts trying to gently poke the boy awake. 

Permalink Mark Unread

She can get a flicker of consciousness, but he's really far too tired to stay awake for anything short of an actual stab with a sharp implement. His eyelids flutter and he goes back to sleep and SCREAMING.

Permalink Mark Unread

They are not going to stab him with sharp implements. They try propping him up and nudging him just awake enough to swallow spoonfuls of water. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Once they actually get some water in his mouth he will wake up enough to blearily spot the nearest cupful, grab it, chug it, and fall back asleep.

This time he doesn't immediately start screaming again.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's a relief. They'll let him sleep for a while, he desperately needs it, and get to work on Healing his injuries. Though they'll be able to make more progress once they've gotten him to eat too, Healing takes energy from the patient as well as the Healer and he really hasn't been eating enough before this. Some soup is obtained to be on standby for whenever he wakes up spontaneously. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He sleeps for 14 hours. There are a couple more periods of screaming and times when he just murmurs foreign words in his sleep. He wakes up.

Permalink Mark Unread

He's in a comfortable bed, the worst of his injuries have been healed, and a lanky red-haired man is sitting at his bedside. He smiles reassuringly. "Do you speak Valdemaran?" he asks. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't answer the question (because he doesn't speak Valdemaran). He looks faintly repulsed by the presence of the lanky red-haired man.

Permalink Mark Unread

He tries a few other languages with less and less expectation that any will be understood, and then shrugs and points at himself. "Landry." He points at the boy and makes a questioning face. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Eyeroll.

Permalink Mark Unread

The Healer shrugs and, rather than pursuing this further, offers him a bowl of soup and a spoon. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He will eat the soup. He is not happy about it but he gets through it pretty fast.

Permalink Mark Unread

He can have a cup of water too, the jug is here within reach on the bedside table. Landry the Healer attempts to convey, by miming, that he can ask for more soup if he wants it by miming that; he's not at all sure he succeeds and it's unclear the boy is even trying to understand him. 

He gets up and opens the door and calls out to someone else, and shortly later a dark-haired woman comes in. 

:Can you understand me?: she says in Mindspeech; she's a strong enough Mindspeaker to manage it with un-Gifted people. She's also reading all of his surface thoughts to gauge his reaction. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He is not especially repulsed by there being a dark-haired woman around. It transpires that actually he has a firmly ingrained habit of separating every thought he thinks into two categories, one intended for sharing and one not; he thinks of the sharing-thoughts as being bright, made of little dots of moving colored light, and the private-thoughts as being made of shadows. He replies Yes in the first idiom. In the second he is thinking that they haven't tried this before except he wouldn't remember would he and he should stop thinking about it because that can't possibly help.

Permalink Mark Unread

The red-haired Healer leaves. 

:My name is Tarla: the woman says. :I'm a Healer. So, you seem to have spontaneously teleported somehow to a - secret facility, nearish here, which set off some alarms so we went and picked you up last night. We're trying to understand how you got here, and - where you got here from, and whether we should be worrying about, er, pursuit from that quarter. It's fine if you're not up for answering some questions just yet, but we're very confused and it'd be helpful to know more context: 

She will grab as much of said context as she can from his thoughts regardless of whether he answers. 

Permalink Mark Unread

:There was a snake monster: he tells her with a sort of idleness that suggests he only answered because restraining the comment would have been harder. Again, he's thinking. He has no idea where this is pretending to be and that is how he wants it. He is not planning to compose an explanation of snake monsters.

Permalink Mark Unread

:Er, is it usual for snake monsters to result in you being teleported somewhere random? I've never heard of the concept: 

Permalink Mark Unread

He does not dignify that with a response. They already know all this, they're just trying to make him engage with the scenario.

Permalink Mark Unread

This is baffling and concerning and it's starting to seem like getting answers to their ever-building pile of questions is going to be even harder than she thought. 

She sighs. :I'll let you rest. May I do a bit more Healing now?:

Permalink Mark Unread

:You can do whatever you want: he says. Statement of fact, but it'll double as permission if - he forces down the train of thought.

Permalink Mark Unread

Wow this is really disturbing, why did she have to get mindreading duty. :Thank you: she says, and rests her hand on his shoulder. 

Healing doesn't hurt, at least not when it's done skillfully, but it does feel like something; there's a sort of tingling, the sensation of warm-then-cold delicately touching various bits of his insides, soothing away the remaining aches and pains one at a time. If he's paying enough attention, he'll be able to notice the remaining minor cuts and bruises that weren't dealt with earlier now changing colour and fading. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He is not paying attention at all. He is closing his eyes and lying there and focusing on not having any thoughts. Sometimes he counts to very high numbers in his head.

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, it's better than the screaming. She does more Healing until she's tired, and then settles in to watch him. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth is in the records room. It's late afternoon now and he's been there most of the day, trying to analyze the signature of the ward-alarm that alerted them. 

He's not any closer to making sense of what led to this bizarre and disconcerting situation and he's running out of ideas for things to check. He's relieved by the interruption, when a mage at the backup facility contacts him with an update; the young man is awake, eating, and very uncooperative not just with answering questions but even with thinking the answers. Also he seems really concerningly traumatized??? The request for a Mindhealer has been seconded and thirded. His staff are feeling pretty disturbed about the whole thing. 

He sighs and Gates back to the main facility, and finds Nayoki. 

Permalink Mark Unread

She is annoyed to be interrupted. "Is it urgent." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"I feel very short on the information needed to assess the urgency. I think it is important." 

Permalink Mark Unread

She scowls. "Is this about the mysterious visitor - you are going to make me read his mind too. Can I not? I heard it was very bad." 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth says nothing and just waits, his expression level. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Sigh. "I was expecting you would ask me. All right. I cannot promise I will have better luck than the others did, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth nods, curtly. "Wait here." 

He contacts the mage at the Healers' station again.  <I am sending Nayoki over to help you learn more from him; it may be time sensitive, if pursuit from his captors is a possibility. I do not wish to risk her safety, though, so I would like you to put a compulsion on him first, not to harm anyone.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

<All right.> 

The mage gets up and heads over to the occupied room at the Healers' station, and peeks in to see if the young man is awake or not. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Drowsy, but still conscious.

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, he's not as skilled as Leareth is at placing compulsions undetectably, especially not the explicit action-blocking kind, but he'll do it with as light a touch as he can manage. 

Permalink Mark Unread

This gets him to yell! Not like he's on fire, but he's swearing at the top of his lungs, flopping gracelessly out of bed onto the floor, looking frantically in all directions.

Permalink Mark Unread

Tarla is restraining her own swearwords and glaring at the mage, it'd be polite of him to warn her if he's about to pull some kind of crap. :What did you do: 

     :Compulsion:

:Oh. Boss asked for it?: 

     :You got it. He's sending Nayoki: 

:Good. You can go away now, you scared him: And she cautiously approaches the young man, crouching on the floor next to him. :Hey. I'm going to help you get back in bed, all right - can you tell me what's wrong...?:

Permalink Mark Unread

He flinches away from her, curls up in a ball on the floor. He hates everything and wants to go have a third childhood about it but he CAN'T, NOW, CAN HE.

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh, what's that about a third childhood, she's clearly missing some piece of context here. And isn't very hopeful about learning it. Maybe Nayoki will manage better. She can't really blame Leareth for being extra-cautious about her safety, Nayoki is irreplaceable, but she's still a bit ticked off about the compulsion. 

:Sorry: She sighs, gets up, and summons another Healer - not Landry - to help lift him back into bed. 

About ten minutes later there's another Gate, a room over. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Someone new comes in.

:He understands Mindspeech but not the language, yes?: Nayoki clarifies first with Tarla, before trading with her for the chair and addressing the young man. 

:My name is Nayoki. I work for the man whose building you teleported into. He sent me here to learn more about the place where you were before, because he is concerned that whoever was keeping you prisoner might be a threat to his operations here, if they try to follow you. Also the Healers who were treating you requested a Mindhealer because you seemed very traumatized, so I am here to try to help, if you want that: 

She feels kind of self-conscious about offering, since she's basically never done that kind of Mindhealing practice, she's primarily a researcher. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He REFUSES to become invested in this character. :Melkor had me: he says vaguely. He almost has a thought about how everyone should have kept calling him that but squishes it.

Permalink Mark Unread

:Er, who is Melkor?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Evil god:, he clarifies slightly. This is annoying and he is annoyed.

Permalink Mark Unread

:I apologize for bothering you, but we have no context on any of this: Also Leareth is going to want to know this and he's going to make such a face, she can just picture it already. She should try to get more for him first, though. :Where was this, geographically speaking, do you know?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

SURE they don't. :Northern Beleriand:

Permalink Mark Unread

Wow she's never heard of anywhere called that. :Is Beleriand a kingdom, or a continent, or something else?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Continent:

Permalink Mark Unread

At some point he's going to outright lose patience with answering her questions. Which he seems to think are some sort of cruel game being played with him? Nayoki is not by nature an especially patient person, and is trying hard not to get frustrated, or at least not to let it show. 

:How did you end up being Melkor's prisoner?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

Didn't kill himself when he had the chance. :Thauron grabbed me:

Permalink Mark Unread

Nayoki is CONCERNED, which at least competes with the impatience. :...Who is Thauron and why was he, er, grabbing people?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Melkor's right hand man. They're evil:

Permalink Mark Unread

Nayoki doesn't personally feel that 'they're evil' is a contentful explanation for anything, and she's feeling impatient again, but pushes it down. :I see: She's not at all sure that she does, actually; she's leaning toward thinking she doesn't see it at all, because none of it is making sense yet. :Er, how long have they been doing that for?:

Permalink Mark Unread

Being evil? Being openly evil in this war? If she's not going to be specific he'd have to think about it to answer so he doesn't.

Permalink Mark Unread

:Were they at war with your people? If so, how long ago did that start: 

Permalink Mark Unread

Couldn't you give your hallucination characters slightly more - he doesn't finish the thought.

Permalink Mark Unread

It seems unlikely to be productive for her to argue with his inexplicable belief that she's a hallucination - it feels like she should have enough context to make sense of it but it's not quite coming together - and also gah this is such an inefficient way of trying to learn things... 

:...Does Melkor give his prisoners hallucinations?: she finally thinks to ask. 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Yes:

Permalink Mark Unread

:I see: 

There's a long pause. 

:I will leave you alone now: she says finally, and gets up and ducks out, calling Tarla back in to keep an eye on him. 

<Leareth?>

Permalink Mark Unread

<Yes.>

Permalink Mark Unread

<I think you should come over here.> 

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't answer for ten or fifteen seconds, then - 

<All right.>

And another ten seconds after that he's stepping through a Gate built on thin air. "What is it." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"I do not think he is dangerous but his enemies are. He was taken prisoner by an - evil god, known as Melkor."

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth goes very still. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"He mentioned Melkor having a right hand man, Thauron. This was somewhere on a continent he referred to as Beleriand. They - tortured him - he was thinking that he should have killed himself rather than be captured - also apparently Melkor gives his prisoners hallucinations sometimes. He thinks we are hallucinations and that he is still there, which I think explains much of why he is uncooperative, the rest being just that he is exhausted and extremely traumatized." 

Permalink Mark Unread

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am sorry, that is all I was able to learn. He tries to avoid even having thoughts, perhaps he assumes Melkor is reading them. - Oh, he did react quite badly when the compulsion you requested was being placed, so maybe avoid that." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"....You think I ought speak with him myself." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. I think– I immediately thought you would want to know everything about this god, and - I was not succeeding at asking the right questions, or using the right approach, or something. It is not his fault but he is very frustrating to engage in conversation with." 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth nods slowly. "Thank you for alerting me to this. I suppose I will give it a try." 

He stands just outside the door to the Healers' station for a long time, though, trying to gather his thoughts. 

Number one: he's confused. He's so confused. He can't understand how he could have gone for centuries without hearing the slightest rumour of an evil god capturing and torturing people - which isn't the standard way gods operate at all - maybe the 'continent' is what he would call a medium sized island, and Melkor is one of the more intelligent summonable demons or something, rather than the kind of entity he would refer to as a god... But that doesn't quite hang together either. 

Two: if it's true then this is the most alarming thing he's learned since he realized who his true enemies were in Velgarth, and it should reasonably shift all of his current priorities. 

Three: it's bizarre and makes no sense, which means that the default hypothesis is that he's being fucked with by the gods again. Except it's too bizarre and surreal for that, almost, and he's not sure how They would arrange something like this, let alone why.

He eventually decides that he's not going to make any more progress on orienting until he has more information to orient to. He opens the door and goes in. :Tarla, is he awake?:

Permalink Mark Unread

Tarla jumps slightly and sets down the book she was reading. She checks with Thoughtsensing. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He's awake and sipping water. Counting in his head again.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth sits down. Looks at the boy for a long moment. Gods, he looks awful, even after all the Healing and rest. 

"My name is Leareth," he says levelly. "I am aware that you are assuming we are all hallucinations, and rather tedious ones at that. It would be both pointless and rude for me to argue with you about that, so I am not going to. Considering the hypothetical where I am not a hallucination, though: if that were true, I would gain a great deal from learning some extremely basic facts about Melkor's activities, which I could then use to locate him and intervene in this war. Whereas Melkor would obtain little of value from the answers to questions about himself. On that premise, I would like to know how long ago the current hostilities began, and under what circumstances." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Dunno. Twentyish short years." Melkor does time dilation on Angband, Maitimo didn't know how long it had been - Kib might be able to figure it out but only if he thought about it, which he won't - why do they keep introducing themselves, he's not going to remember their names - would remembering their names make it more likely that - nope don't think about it. "Kidnapped some babies, killed the Trees, we chased him."

Permalink Mark Unread

This god can change the passage of time? That - should be impossible - maybe he just means the subjective experience of it, that he's heard reports of. What a thing to use it for. 

"Can you explain what you mean by he 'killed the Trees'?" Leareth says carefully. "I am guessing you are not referring to ordinary trees - was it some sort of sacred location or monument...?" 

Permalink Mark Unread

"They were big and they glowed. They didn't have a sun back then."

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth holds up a hand. :- Wait, I am sorry, I think that I need to back up several steps. Who is 'they', and...where is this place that lacked a sun, was it - underground before, or something?:

Permalink Mark Unread

"Elves. Arda. No, it just didn't have a sun. And it's flat." He has not managed to fail to notice that this is supposed to be some THIRD world, though he doesn't know whether it'll be flat or not. Probably they have a sun. STOP THINKING YOU IDIOT five hundred and seventy SIX five hundred and seventy SEVEN.

Permalink Mark Unread

:But you came from somewhere else, before that? How did you end up on this Arda?:

Permalink Mark Unread

"Stork" is what he named it. "Snake monster." Which you just copied, you unimaginative, vile - five hundred and seventy eight.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth does not argue the fact that he was not personally responsible for the snake monster. "What are Elves?" 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Tall pretty people. Pointy ears. They sing." He misses his boyfriends and hopes like hell they don't show up, he hates it when that happens.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I see. Why did Melkor kidnap babies." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Wanted servantmakers."

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth isn't really following that but he lets it slide. :I see. Do you know anything about whether Melkor has the ability to travel between worlds:

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe." The other Valar can but it might take a few of them - they thought it through, when they were deciding to pursue the war instead of retreating to Stork for pleasanter humanitarian work -

Permalink Mark Unread

:What was your involvement in the war before you were captured by Melkor: 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Servantmaking."

Permalink Mark Unread

Blink. :The same thing that Melkor wanted the babies for? I...think there is a meaning here I am not aware of. Is 'servantmaking' a skill, a craft - a type of magic -: 

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's magic."

Permalink Mark Unread

:Could you please give me the two-sentence explanation for what it does?:

Permalink Mark Unread

Why does Melkor or Sauron or Thuringwethil or Creative Director Orc #58901 think that he's going to compose nice tidy sentences on demand? Fuck you, Creative Director Orc #58901.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth's feeling is that he's gotten a lot more cooperation than he expected with this strategy and he's not going to push it, and honestly it seems very reasonable on this young man's part to be extremely fed up with him right now. 

:What was the status of the war when you were captured - were the Elves winning, losing, in a stalemate?:

Permalink Mark Unread

"Overall holding our own."

Permalink Mark Unread

:I want to ask how strategically important you, personally, were to the war effort, so I can get a better estimate of how urgently I would need to - find this other world, and intervene. I understand if this is not a question you would wish to answer on the assumption that I am Melkor, though: 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, he knows." The Elves only have him and Lári and Aydanci (Aydanci, he must - nononodon'tthink) who can servantmake. And Kib's never going to be good for servantmaking again.

Permalink Mark Unread

:Can Melkor force people to do servantmaking: Leareth still really wishes he could get an explanation of what that is

Permalink Mark Unread

:I don't know: It's not like he'd necessarily remember!

Permalink Mark Unread

:Do you have an estimate of how many prisoners Melkor had already when you were captured: 

Permalink Mark Unread

Kib refuses to philosophize about whether orcs count.

Permalink Mark Unread

:What are Melkor's resources and allies: 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Orcs. The babies've grown and can servantmake. Some Maiar."

Permalink Mark Unread

:...What are orcs. And Maiar:

Permalink Mark Unread

"Species Melkor made out of Elves he captured. Mini Valar."

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth sighs heavily. 

:I think that answers all my most pressing questions: This is not entirely true, but his head is already spinning from the sheer amount of new information; he feels almost dizzy from it, like gravity is no longer behaving consistently. :I will stop bothering you now: 

And go take about fifty pages of notes, and start trying to figure out where this other world could possibly be - he got a good record of the magic, whatever it was, from the wards and his night sentries' observations; maybe knowing that it corresponds to "teleported from another world, possibly via being eaten by a snake monster" will help him make any sense of it at all... 

He stands up and turns to leave. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Kib tries to fall asleep.

Permalink Mark Unread

No one interferes with this plan. Tarla refills his water jug for him and then sits and props her feet up and keeps reading her book. 

Permalink Mark Unread

This time he sleeps for a much more normal nine hours, then wakes up. Takes some water.

Permalink Mark Unread

There's a different woman sitting and watching him. She's politely quiet for a couple of minutes, then clears her throat. :I'm going to get you breakfast: 

She is also a Thoughtsenser and is absolutely reading his mind even though Tarla warned her it would be horrible. 

Permalink Mark Unread

One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen (take notes about - do NOT do that! -) fourteen fifteen sixteen...

Permalink Mark Unread

She brings him a bowl of oat porridge and a hard-boiled egg. Nearly all his injuries are nicely Healed, now, she had lots of boring time overnight to work on that, but he's still very malnourished. :Eat, please: she tells him. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't make a fuss about this, he eats the porridge. He's annoyed about having to peel the egg but he does it.

Permalink Mark Unread

Next time she'll peel his eggs for him, the Healer decides. She smiles at him. :I'm Mara. You're in Velgarth, which as I understand it is a different world from where you are before. I'm sorry no one here speaks your language. We're making sure everyone taking care of you is a Mindspeaker so we can communicate. If you have any questions I can answer them: 

Tarla warned her last night about the nightmares and the screaming, and also told her that he probably wouldn't have questions and would also be certain she was a hallucination, which is pretty disturbing all by itself. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't have any questions. He does think she's a hallucination. Thirty thirty-one thirty-two thirty-three. He had a dream about a book Aly read once. That's probably safe - ish - he will reherarse the plot of the book in his head.

Permalink Mark Unread

She wishes she could give him a book to read, he must be so bored, but of course he won't be able to read anything written in a local language. She watches him sit in bed and count in his head. 

Within ten minutes she's incredibly bored again, and she's tired of the numbers-puzzle she was amusing herself with before, and out of problems she can treat with Healing. She starts singing to herself, quietly; if his thoughts indicate that he finds it irritating she'll stop. 

Permalink Mark Unread

No, that's - nice, as nice as anything ever is. He can listen to the singing and not think about anything and be a little less bored.

Permalink Mark Unread

She's nowhere near as good as a mediocre Elf, but she has a decent voice and ear and she can spend the entire rest of her shift singing. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He does notice she's not as good as an Elf, but oh well.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth is up later than he generally prefers that night, doing magic. It was a short enough interval that he could still just barely cast the exhausting past-watching scry spell with mage-sight, and get more data on whatever landed the young man here and maybe what 'direction' it came from. 

He updates his notes and then collapses into bed. 

With utterly predictable and yet greatly inconvenient timing, he finds himself in an icy expanse, snow blowing in his face, staring across fifty yards of snowbank at a ragged white-clad figure. 

Sigh. "Herald Vanyel." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Leareth," Vanyel says tonelessly. He always looks the same amount of worn-down, in terms of his dream appearance, but today his eyes and manner hold a lot more tiredness than they used to. He stands there for a moment, as though debating whether he has the energy to move, and then starts walking. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"You look tired. The war is treating you unkindly." Leareth casts a heat-spell between them. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Vanyel rolls his eyes. "It's a war. I think it's treating a lot more people a lot worse than me." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"The fact that others are suffering as well does not mean you are not." Leareth takes a slow breath, lets it out. "I - have significant news." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh." Some interest comes into Vanyel's face. He leans forward, looking at Leareth with curiosity, as though all of a sudden actually seeing him. "- You...look like you've - not seen a ghost, that's not right, but something." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"That sounds approximately correct," Leareth says dryly. "Note that I do not expect you to take my word on this, and I am not sure how much I believe it myself, it is rather implausible and there are many points I wish to confirm." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"- All right, can you not pick right now to do the thing where you stare at me and don't say anything for thirty seconds." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am thinking how to order it, hmm... I received evidence that other worlds exist, at least two of them, with different gods and different magic from ours." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Wait, what?" 

Permalink Mark Unread

"A person inexplicably appeared in a secure location, which should have been impossible for anyone to enter with our world's magic. He was in poor condition and thus we have limited explanations from him, but he claims to have been teleported here from another world." Maybe he'll skip over the snake monster bit for now, it just adds another layer of absurdist comedy to the whole thing. "In that world, according to his telling there is currently a war happening between an alien species he called Elves, and an evil god and his allies, including a species he created." 

Permalink Mark Unread

Permalink Mark Unread

"He was a prisoner of this god and - was tortured in various ways. He thinks everyone he interacts with here is a hallucination that this god is using to amuse himself and torture him further." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Eeep." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"I realize this is very implausible, and am not expecting you to believe me, but - I will be taking every step I can to confirm or falsify it, and if it is true, then it changes my priorities substantially." He looks Vanyel in the eye. "I am even tempted to say our priorities." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"What do you mean." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"You know the values I claim to hold. We both know that words are cheap and cannot by themselves prove my true intentions, but - in fact, I am trying to save everyone, and...I would consider that to include those in other worlds. Especially people who are currently being horrifically tortured by an evil god, who if he wins this war will do it to all of them - and he knows that other worlds exist, now, because the young man he took prisoner was from yet a third world... I will go to great lengths to stop this. And if I do that, I would ask your help." 

Permalink Mark Unread

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth waits. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"I - um..." Blink blink. "If you haven't noticed, now isn't a great time to go help other kingdoms, or worlds or whatever, we kind of have a war to deal with." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Obviously I would try to help you end it, if I were asking your aid; I would not demand that you turn your back on your country, Herald Vanyel." 

Permalink Mark Unread

Vanyel feels like if Leareth says one more word then his BRAIN is going to fall out of his EARS. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Sigh. "I understand. I think you feel much the way I did when I first heard, and we both need time to absorb it." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"I - thank you for telling me, I guess." Vanyel swallows hard. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth inclines his head slightly. "- You ought get more rest, Herald Vanyel. I worry that this war is very hard on you." 

Permalink Mark Unread

Vanyel rolls his eyes. 

Permalink Mark Unread

The dream ends, and Leareth wakes up, groans, rolls over and grabs for his paper, and takes some hasty shorthand notes before falling asleep again. 

He sleeps quite late, checks in with the Healers and confirms that there's been no real change with their rescued prisoner, and immediately dives into the thorny problem of trying to locate other worlds. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Mara swaps off with another Healer in the late morning, and then Tarla is back that evening, bringing supper for him. It's chunky stew with meat, and buttered bread, and some cut-up fruit. 

:Hey: she says, in a friendly tone, and sits down with her book, not planning to interact further unless he initiates it.  

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't. He isn't thrilled about the meat - he recalls, though he does not elaborate on, the fact that Maitimo became a vegetarian - but he'll eat it. He looks at the title of her book but can't read it and flops back into bed after he's put away all the food.

Permalink Mark Unread

She manages not to roll her eyes; Leareth would probably also be un-thrilled about the meat, but her professional opinion as a Healer is that extremely malnourished recently-tortured-prisoners need varied nutrition and lots of protein, and she would be very irritated if someone tried to feed her six boiled eggs a day. 

:I could read you a book in Mindspeech: she offers, a while later, when he's flopped but clearly still awake. :If you're bored: 

Permalink Mark Unread

He does not evince an opinion. It's probably a ploy to get him to have thoughts but even just letting all the words smooth away into noise is better than literally nothing and he can probably do that.

Permalink Mark Unread

So she starts her book again at the beginning and recite it to him in Mindspeech. It's a book of various medium-length historical ballads about bizarre events which may or may not be at all accurate and involve a lot of magic; they're all written in blank verse, which gives the reading a soothing rhythmic quality. 

Permalink Mark Unread

That is as nice as things get. He attempts to relax and not have any expectations.

Permalink Mark Unread

Aww, that's something. Tarla will settle for giving him another shift worth of things being as nice as they get, and hope it helps in the long run. Maybe he'll get better? She's not really sure how...getting better...from something like this even works. 

At the end of her shift she goes and finds Leareth and asks him what the plan is. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"The plan for what?" Leareth says absently. "I am trying to find this other world. Once I can confirm whether or not it exists, we can plan our next steps from there." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, I mean, the plan for what to do with your horribly traumatized rescued prisoner. Well, rescued from Melkor, he's arguably just your prisoner now." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"We are keeping him safe and feeding him and treating his injuries, right?" 

Permalink Mark Unread

"I - just - can Nayoki fix it?" 

Permalink Mark Unread

Sigh. "Nayoki said that talking to him for five minutes made her want to tear her hair out, and - she is not actually very experienced with the kind of Mindhealing that helps traumatized people, and is not comfortable attempting that when he is unwilling to engage with the premise that Mindhealers exist or that we want to help him, rather than all of this being a hallucination. She thought that giving him a very safe predictable environment for a while might help, and that arguing with him about our realness is almost certainly not going to help, and other than that she will wait and see. In the meantime, I am going to focus on the problem of finding this Arda and helping his friends not lose the war."

Permalink Mark Unread

She sighs and nods, unhappy but resigned. 

...

Kib's environment continues to be very predictable and routine. The three Healer-Thoughtsensers trade off at eight-candlemark intervals. They bring him meals, and tell him again at the start of each shift where he is, and sing or Mindspeech-read to him. His sleep cycle is normalizing and he ends up on a schedule where he's mostly asleep for the third, less chatty Healer's shift, and then Mara covers mornings and Tarla does afternoon-evening. 

Three days in, Mara starts asking him at the start of her shift what he wants for breakfast, giving him options of toast or scrambled eggs or porridge or bacon. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Toast," he says, vaguely wondering what the point of this exercise is and fully planning to refuse to read into it if she brings him a plate of spiders.

Permalink Mark Unread

She does not bring him a plate of spiders! She brings him perfectly ordinary toast, with jam on the side, and then sings. She's learned some new songs just so she can stop repeating them at him. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He listens to the singing. He puts the jam on the toast and eats the toast.

Permalink Mark Unread

That is probably enough novelty for the day, she decides. Maybe tomorrow she'll ask if he wants paper to draw or something. 

Permalink Mark Unread

That evening, Nayoki comes back. Stands in the corner. :Leareth convinced me to have a proper look with Mindhealing Sight: she says. She does not appear to be looking forward to it at all. :You can keep reading to him. I...think it is not productive to ask him about it first, given how unwilling he is to consider whether this is real: 

Peek with Mindhealing Sight? 

Permalink Mark Unread

Wow this guy's loaf of bread is FUCKED UP.

For one thing, he has been tortured a lot over the past subjective while, but on top of that he has had a lot of memories erased, and sometimes put back, some of them over and over. A few memories are painfully conspicuous repetitions of the same scene over and over with light variations. Some clumsily inserted parts are whole-cloth fabrications. Even not accounting for all the time dilation, he's older than he looks, well past forty at least. And then as though that weren't enough he has an entire extra lifetime's worth of memories that has spent some time gradually slotting into place, piecewise, in his mental history, before his actual birth. That part is still gappy, only about half the total area filled in with crumb, distributed randomly over the negative space implied. Furthermore, all this trying not to think is really bad for him; he's unimaginably bored, a vibrant bright mind used to chewing on a dozen interesting problems at once flattened into a worthless waste of consciousness to deny the Enemy the use of him.

The saving grace is that all of this is remarkably organized, temporally speaking - the fake memories are off being the square roots of negative numbers by comparison to the crisp number line of his history, even if some of that number line is crowded with time dilation and hurried, sketched-in experiences that don't have as much space allowed them as they pretend to require.

Also there is a totally unfamiliar mental action he is shaped to be able to take but he is REALLY DEFINITELY NOT going to take it.

Permalink Mark Unread

She can see it a lot clearer this time! She wasn't focusing on it this deeply before, when she was trying to dig up the content of his thoughts. 

It's one of the most interesting things she's ever seen! Also incredibly horrifying! Nayoki is so incredibly torn between wanting to stare at it for the next day straight and wanting to flee the room! 

Poor man. She isn't at all sure that she can help him. Maybe she could help him clean up some of that layered-pastry-like mess of buried and glued-on and entirely fake memories, if he were cooperative with the process, but...she has a feeling that's going to take a while. Trying to muck around in there with Mindhealing when he's not actively cooperative is just going to make even more of a mess. 

She finds herself thinking that he seems like someone Leareth would get along with and respect a lot, if he were, well, willing to have thoughts.

Eventually she slips out. 

Permalink Mark Unread

The next morning, after the routine of Mara asking what breakfast he wants, Leareth comes back. Sits at Kib's bedside, waits for a few seconds to see if Kib will acknowledge him in any way. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Kib does look at him eventually.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I have done further analysis on our magical readings from your arrival," Leareth says, very calmly. "At this point it seems more likely than not that, in fact, you were coming from another world, one quite far away. I have completed some preliminary research on finding a way there with our magic, and I think it is possible in theory, but - there is a very large 'space' to search, and I need to narrow it down to make this at all tractable." He pauses, impassive, gathering his thoughts. 

"It would help to know as much as possible about Arda's properties, especially physical laws and how magic works locally, if it does. Obviously if I were in fact Melkor you would not wish to help me travel between worlds, but also giving Melkor detailed descriptions of the world he himself lives it would not be of any value to him, whereas in the hypothetical where you are in another world now, it - is what might allow me to reach Arda and offer the Elves my help with winning the war." 

Permalink Mark Unread

Kib is not going to evaluate this argument as it would require thought but as it happens he has already concluded that he can state things the Enemy already knows. "The singing's magic. They make magic objects sometimes too. And Maiar and Valar do some other sort of magic, I don't know how. It's flat there." He hadn't noticed any other obvious differences in the laws of physics beyond the flatness.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Is the singing itself magic or is it an innate talent - could you have learned to do the singing magic, despite being from elsewhere?" 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes." He didn't get far with it though. That's how Aydanci died - he might never have come back - Kib still can't sing well enough for reliable effects - Aydanci can this time, though, raised by Elves -

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth makes a mental note of that thought but doesn't ask about it. "Ah. Can you do it at all, even very badly - it would be a great help for me if I can observe the magic myself, it does not even need to work it would just need to be noticeably something." 

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not doing magic for you - murderous mindraping bastard -" It's not a very creative insult but he can't recall any very good ones he's invented in the past and he is not going to THINK about things just to creatively insult Melkor or Thauron or whoever. "If you want me to sing you a song you fucking know how, you - fuck you -"

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth ducks his head, is silent for a long moment. He's - honestly sort of impressed. Also this is the most engaged he's seen the man to date, even if it's coming in the form of swearing furiously at him. It feels like a hopeful sign, if not exactly a good sign? 

He does in fact know how to make the young man do things for him, and he isn't going to push it; judging by his reaction to the last time, using compulsions will destroy all the fragile cooperation he's managed to elicit, and he needs that - and also it just seems like a especially costly tradeoff, causing even more mental damage to someone who's already been through enough. He'll do his best to work from the description alone. 

"What sorts of things do the magic items do?" he goes on, his tone very neutral. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Fuck you," repeats Kib, though he is in fact thinking of assorted magic items, the brilliantly shining gems Fëanáro made and his anti-aging necklace and all his protective gifts his boyfriends heaped on him when they were first gearing up for war -

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth sits quietly for a while, taking that in - it's very useful, actually, and also huh he's having so many more thoughts right now, Leareth isn't sure what set that off. 

"You said they have a sun now, I think - do you know anything about how that was made?" 

Permalink Mark Unread

"No." The Valar took a short decade to get it aloft, after the Trees died. They started the war in the dark.

Permalink Mark Unread

It tells him enough, Leareth thinks; the Valar did it, with their - god-magic, however that works, he's inferring that Melkor's ability to alter time and mess around in people's memories is a god-magic thing too, probably there are other examples and the young man might even know some, but Leareth has pushed him pretty far already. 

"Would you prefer if I left now rather than ask more questions," he says quietly. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Kib would prefer he spontaneously combust. He doesn't bother answering the question.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth leaves. He tells Mara on the way out that she should maybe give him some space and keep an eye on him from outside the room for a bit.

So Kib is left alone in the quiet peaceful hospital-feeling room. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He sits up fuming about how awful Melkor is for a bit and then takes a nap.

Permalink Mark Unread

When he wakes up, Mara is there again and singing softly.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay. Whatever.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth goes back to his research. Tries to draw up some theoretical models for the sort of world where inherently-magical music and a necklace that prevents aging would be in the top ten most salient uses of magic; a world which is flat, somehow, that could be lit by glowing trees, and then later a sun that the gods constructed in just a decade - or a 'short decade', whatever that means... 

There are about a hundred steps of guesswork and inference between that and what such a world would look like from the limited interplanar view he can get via the Void. And also it's probably just too far to Gate, and there are a dozen unsolved research problems in the way of getting around that. But he's starting to map out a sense of what the open problems are at least, it might still be the work of a year or a decade but at least he has traction on it at all. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Kib's routine continues on, exactly the same. Mara persuades Leareth to import a minstrel from Rethwellan who's sometimes been an agent for him, so she can learn all the songs he knows and have more variety; Leareth signs off on it absently without a moment's hesitation, he seems willing to throw a lot of resources at this. Tarla digs up more books of ballads in verse, he seems to find those preferable. They otherwise don't initiate interactions with him. 

Permalink Mark Unread

By slow degrees it becomes obvious-enough-not-to-require-thought to Kib that Melkor's trying to wait him out. As long as he keeps getting his dreams on time he isn't going to try to change this situation - he couldn't even if the dreams stopped somehow -

Permalink Mark Unread

The night-shift Healer kind of hates her job right now; she's a Receptive Empath, and Nayoki asked her to document all of her patient's dreams and note what fraction are nightmares and their approximate content, so Nayoki can figure out if they're decreasing over time.

Tarla notes to her at shift change once that he seemed to be thinking about some other dream he has, at some point, that he expects to get at certain intervals, maybe she can suss out what's going on with that? She wouldn't have thought anything of it, just, she mentioned it to Leareth and he went very still like he does sometimes and then said that could be important, so maybe it is? 

Permalink Mark Unread

The fraction of his dreams which are nightmares has not changed. It's less than half of them, they're just very striking. His other dreams are equally vivid - brewing tea for an older-looking man in a place so bright the light seems to seep through the walls, watching a little boy playing with a little girl from a careful distance. A surprising number of his dreams involve him being a girl, always the same one but at different ages - she goes grocery shopping, she works on assembling birds out of canvas and wood, she writes notes to herself -

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh. She's not sure what to make of it and neither is Nayoki, and anyway she feels pretty weird about snooping on someone else's dreams, so she goes back to just noting the general valence. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth gives him a fortnight. 

During that time, he makes at least half of one research breakthrough, pulling on the thread of some Gate work he was doing and set aside, related to traceability and routing through additional planes. He's not sure the original premise holds, but he does prove that by cutting through the Elemental Plane of Air with a modified search-pointer, he can end up at a point in the Void much further than he ought be able to reach. 

One morning, he comes back in just after Kib's breakfast. Again, he waits for ten seconds for any acknowledgement of his presence. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Kib is not looking forward to the plot but trying very intently not to form expectations about what the plot is.

Permalink Mark Unread

"You refuse to engage with any of this because you wish to deny your enemy the chance to use you - your mind, your intelligence and your magic," Leareth says. "I understand that. It is - the strategic thing to do, from your point of view, and it would be pointless for me to argue with you, since Melkor could do that just as easily, it is not evidence that points to one world or another. However, in the hypothetical where I am not Melkor and this is truly another world, there - are perhaps some kinds of evidence I could offer. We have magic that I am fairly sure Melkor does not. If, at any point, that is something you wish to engage with, you need only ask." 

He doesn't wait around. He gets up and nods to Kib and leaves. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Mara is kind of expecting some sort of explosion of angry swearing. She stays quiet in the corner. Reads his mind. 

Permalink Mark Unread

notthinkingaboutitnotthinkingaboutitnotthinkingaboutit and also, even if he were, Melkor can do fully immersive sensoria, so he can fake anything he wants and there's nothing TO think about, is there, if they start a scenario with Findekáno on a pterodactyl he's very pliant and cuddly till they start hurting him because one of the times it happened to Maitimo it was real but they aren't even doing that so there's nothing to think about.

Permalink Mark Unread

He's spectacularly impressive at the whole not-thinking thing, Leareth muses, as he sits down in his workshop and stares tiredly at a wall covered in diagrams. Leareth isn't sure he would even be capable of that. 

He's pretty thoroughly convinced, at this point, that some incredibly powerful alien force has mistreated the young man very badly. Nayoki described the memory modification to him. Said that she doesn't think it could be done by a Mindhealer even in theory.

He's...correspondingly unsure how much of the information he thinks he has is even true. Arbitrary memory modification is terrifying. It still seems probably true that whichever Power did this to the young man couldn't have known to plan specifically to confuse Leareth, but - maybe not, if the snake monster was a fabrication too, it could be that this Power which might or might not be named Melkor did figure out how to travel to other worlds, and is trying to trick Leareth, specifically, into following some course of action that will end up serving his aims... 

As usual, trying to outscheme gods is the sort of thing that makes one feel as though they're going insane, and alien gods is even worse. 

He'll do one more week of research on the premise that the young man's pre-capture memories are unaltered, he decides, and after that - especially if he's not making much progress - he'll take more extreme action. 

Permalink Mark Unread

From Kib's perspective, his routine continue with very few changes.

Mara starts suggesting that he get out of bed and walk around; now that it's been a few weeks of regular meals, it'll help more than hurt his physical condition. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He will go on little walks without much fuss.

Permalink Mark Unread

After a few days of that, can Tarla coax him into taking a bath? 

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't want to get in hot water. If it's tepid he will get in the bath and go through the motions, though he's accustomed to different sorts of soap and whatnot. Vaguely recalls it's been a while since he shaved, and from there wistfully remembers Maitimo cutting his hair and this being very kinky for Elf reasons.

Permalink Mark Unread

Tarla sets him up with a him a tepid bath and soap, and is moderately confused about the hair-cutting thing and also embarrassed because it's a...sex thing...? She doesn't show this in any way, and is very quiet during his bathtime. Gives him clean clothes after, a local-style tunic and trews, not especially well-fitted because they haven't measured him or anything. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He can get the clothes on, with pauses while instead of trying to think about how they go on he stares at them and waits for it to become obvious solely on the strength of background processing.

Permalink Mark Unread

They're pretty simple as clothes go. 

Mara has figured out by now that he prefers not to eat meat, and stops giving it to him. They feed him a lot of eggs, cooked in various ways. 

Mara sings songs about a place called Valdemar, founded by a brave and wise king, and something about - magic horses called 'Companions' appearing as a miracle...? It would be pretty high context even to someone actively paying attention and trying to understand it. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He is definitely not doing that.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth gives it two and a half weeks rather than one, in the end. He's making some progress, albeit slowly, and mostly he's not at the point where having precisely accurate information on which world he's looking for is important, since he's still establishing the basic principles of how to extend his maximum possible search-distance by cutting through other planes. He can measure the magical signature when he does so and note it for later comparison to what his wards picked up, though he has no idea if otherworldly teleportation, which may or may not be magic-snake-monster-enabled, is at all comparable to Gate signatures. 

Eventually, though, he's made all the progress that he's going to on that avenue. He has a theoretical model for planar navigation, which may or may not stand up at all in practice, and he has an equally theoretical and untested method for measuring the properties of whatever plane lies adjacent to the Void at a given point. 

He finds Nayoki. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Nayoki is not happy at all and there is an argument. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth hasn't lost one of their arguments yet, and this doesn't break his streak. 

They walk into Kib's room together. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh great, it's the plot fairies. One two three four five six -

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth sits. 

"I cannot, of course, force you to listen to me; in fact, I have great admiration for your ability to not listen and not have thoughts, I do not think I could do it. However. Consider the hypothetical where I am a powerful mage and leader of an army in another world, and I am horrified by Melkor's actions and wish to stop him. I have made some progress on the problem of interworld travel using our local magic, but now I am stuck on the fact that...well, even if you have honestly reported your beliefs to us, since you think there is no point concealing from your enemy things that you already knows, we have secondary confirmation that he has substantially altered your memories, and - this could mean that our information on Arda is faulty." 

Pause. 

"...Nayoki is a Mindhealer, as she may have mentioned to you before. She has an idea on how to retrieve the memories that Melkor erased. I - would far prefer to attempt this with your consent and cooperation, but given your epistemic position I cannot expect that, and - the situation may be time sensitive, I have no way of knowing from here if Melkor is close to winning and weeks or months would make it too late. And - I can do math. I am fully aware that it will cause you further trauma to do this, but - many other lives are at stake, worlds may be at stake, and you are one person. So Nayoki is going to do her best to undo the memory erasure, so that we can determine if the memories of Arda you have drawn on to answer our questions are themselves fabricated." 

His lips twitch. It's not a humorous expression at all. "I understand entirely if you think I am Melkor or Thauron, and therefore doing this...because I am evil and it entertains me, I suppose..." 

He nods to Nayoki. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Kib will NOT consider that hypothetical NO THANK YOU.

He's pretty sure the dreams are all right and Aly's memories are safe - he isn't going to do elaborate reasoning about that, but he's pretty sure. Melkor is obviously at liberty to fuck with everything else there is in here but - until she died horribly Aly was happy and loved and accomplished - and - don't think about it - Kib is pretty sure Aly's memories are safe.

Permalink Mark Unread

Nayoki is really angry with Leareth right now! But, in fact, he has the right to ask this of her. 

She sits down and concentrates, zooming in on the first block of majorly altered memories in the metaphorical number line of their patient/prisoner's life. There are places filled in with crumb from a different kind of bread entirely, and places where the native structure of his mind has been folded over itself over and over, as though someone turned the bread back into dough and then cut it with butter like a pastry and then re-baked it again. 

She pushes with her Gift, softening the structure of his mind and the baked-in-place connections holding the memory-blocking stuck in place, and she starts unfolding it and spreading it out. It's definitely more of a mess rather than less, but at least it's where she can see it. 

To Kib it's going to feel like the walls of the room are suddenly melting and flashing with random colour, and his senses are blending together a bit so that he's hearing the texture of the bedsheets and seeing the sound of Leareth's pacing footsteps, and also random flickers of memory - many of them memories of BEING TORTURED - are rising to the surface. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Kib is not at all relieved by this reveal about how they're going to torture him this time. His breakfast winds up all over the sheets, he loses bladder control, he screams and screams and screams, sobbing, into his arms and the pillowcase depending on how he happens to be thrashing moment to moment.

Permalink Mark Unread

:Leareth, should I keep going: 

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't like it any more than she does, Leareth is thinking. :Yes: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:I cannot work safely when his - emotional state, is this agitated: 

Permalink Mark Unread

There is a longish pause. 

 

 

 

 

 

:...Can you keep him unconscious and then deep-scan him like that.: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:I can try:

Nayoki steps forward and seizes the young man's flailing hand and shoves. 

:SLEEP:

And from Kib's perspective, over a period of several seconds everything goes washed-out and then stops cohering into sensation and all and then is nothing. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He starts having one of those dreams, almost immediately - she's planning her wedding, filling out the guest list and debating whether she should sew her own dress -

Permalink Mark Unread

Nayoki tries not to focus on that. She softens and stretches and unfolds more memories, builds a scaffolding under them, tries to figure out how to squeeze the whole messy unfolded structure onto the young man's neat memory timeline. 

(Finds herself imagining the version where it was Leareth, with his perfectly organized mind entirely under his control... That's far too disturbing to think about but she can't quite not think about it...) 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth is a Thoughtsenser too.

He opens his Gifts fully and ignores the dream-content in their rescuee / prisoner's surface thoughts, focusing instead on the content of each erased memory as Nayoki does her best to unfold them. It's probably going to be horrible, but he doesn't bother bracing himself. He's seen enough, over the centuries and millennia. 

Permalink Mark Unread

In this one Kib is being raped by people he can't identify, wearing the faces of his husband and his boyfriends and people he barely even knows - in this one he's probably hallucinating, there'd be no way to put him back together again after all that, and indeed the damage keeps reversing itself just in time to reoccur - in this one they've torn off his eyelids and nailed his ear to the wall so he can't not watch while they mutilate some Elf, a stranger, and shove bits of her down his throat - in this one he's drowning and a voice coos that one little shine can't hurt anything, and it'll stop as soon as Kib agrees, he swears -

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth's mind wants to feel some sort of emotion about this, and he folds that away for later and instead feels zero emotions right now. 

He takes notes on the content. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Their sort-of-rescued-prisoner's mind is really weird. 

There are lots of fake shoved-in memories, including some that were faked and shoved in and then hidden again, which are easy to identify as not-real. She shoves those into a box-scaffolding to be dealt with LATER. 

There are memories that were erased and buried, and then put back, in the right place in his mental number line. Sometimes the erasure and restoration happened multiple times. 

There are memories from earlier than his capture where the worst mess mess starts, which were folded and hidden and buried, and which she can now stick back and unfold for Leareth's perusal. 

...There's whatever in all hells is going on with the spotty crumbs of memory inserted before the point on the timeline where he was even born. Those seem un-messed-with. 

It takes the entire rest of the day, and she's pretty sloppy about it at times and has to go back and tidy up her earlier work, but Nayoki eventually gets all of the memories unfolded and scaffolded in her best guess at their actual chronological order and then spread out for perusal. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Do any of them contain anything more informative on Melkor's magical capabilities and resources, the Elves' magic, or other relevant strategic facts? 

Leareth focuses particularly on the block that Nayoki found erased from pre-capture and has now shoved back into the right place. 

Permalink Mark Unread

The trustworthy pre-capture (post-birth) memories suggest that the Elves can make magical artifacts - a laborious, delicate process requiring the Elves' native telepathy. One of the boyfriends, Maitimo, the King, has a dad and a brother who are both brilliant at this. They can also do magic music, which humans can also do; there's also a brother in that family who is a genius at this, though the baseline talent is pretty high in the Elf population generally. Kib, his husband Aydanci, and Maitimo's adopted little sister Lári are all from another world, where there are humans, who are not born but spring into existence as babies in the wilderness, and the humans can servantmake, a craft which takes several forms - rendering animals willing and able to respond to verbal commands, puppetting any articulated object that has the right sort of moving parts, detaching spots of light or shadow on surfaces and rendering those movable manually or programmatically, programming automata that take the same action over and over again, programming golems which can move even if they're sculpted of solid wood or stone or metal with no hinges or joints built in and which can take sensory input and use that to follow their algorithm. Kib invented a line of them that can speak, before he was captured.

Melkor is a Vala, the varietal of gods found in Arda; the other fourteen are not (particularly) evil. Valar can do more or less whatever they want with some not very intuitive limits, but they are stronger in their home territories with time to build up investment in the land. When there used to be a portal between the two worlds (the work of the non-evil Valar), Melkor exploited it to steal some babies. They are presumed to have grown up in Angband and been taught servantmaking out of books. Maiar are like Valar but weaker.

Permalink Mark Unread

This is pretty informative. 

Leareth stays for the full length of time, and personally skims through all of the uncovered memories, even the horrifying ones. 

Once Nayoki is done, he leaves. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Nayoki observes that the memories she's un-hiding and attempting to put back at the correct place in the numerical-timeline seem to...snap into place? Like the young man's mind knows exactly where they're supposed to go??? 

She has no idea how this is working at all. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth can't get much further on a guess, but he's mainly focused on the strategically-relevant content anyway. 

Permalink Mark Unread

The first thing he notices is that all his dreams were Aly dreams. They weren't all pleasant - Aly died of a protracted and agonizing illness - but they were all hers, like they used to be before Angband. That's not impossible, but -

- he's not missing any time, from this lifetime.

That's probably not a good si- he has no expectations about what that means.

Permalink Mark Unread

The night shift Healer gets a report from Tarla, and is upset and disconcerted, but she uses her Gift to keep their patient asleep. 

Mara, when she takes over on morning shift, makes sure the room is exactly like the way her patient is used to it being.

None of his recent memories are any different, but before a few weeks ago, his past erased memories are no longer erased at all. Rather they are pulled loose and sprawled out across what turns out to be a shockingly long time in Angband. 

There are SO MANY torture memories. 

Also if he checks, there are some memories in the before-capture time that have, not exactly an altered or wrong feeling, but the same sort of lingering trace of melting-sensation-magic as the other un-hidden torture memories. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He does not eat the next meal they offer.

Permalink Mark Unread

Mara ducks out and asks someone to call Leareth over, and she Mindspeaks with him for a bit. 

She glares at him. Rubs a hand over her face. "Goddamnit, boss, why'd you have to–"

Permalink Mark Unread

His expression quells her protests. 

Permalink Mark Unread

The Healers watching Kib are told to give it an entire forty-eight hours. They stay in the corner, not interacting with him at all; they leave water and food at his bedside. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He is very upset and won't eat or drink anything the entire first day.

He sleeps, has more Aly dreams.

The next morning he'll sip water.

Permalink Mark Unread

They ask Leareth for further instructions. Tell him the patient is in decent physical condition, at this point, he had a whole month of eating regularly. Leareth tells them that as long as he's drinking water, they should wait another few days. 

They do. They keep leaving easy-to-eat food at his bedside; all the eggs are pre-peeled. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Nayoki is keyed to the room-shields. She sits outside, a few times a day, and reads his mind while also watching with Mindhealing-Sight for any further changes to his extremely messy and fucked-up metaphorical loaf of bread. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He feels, if not less nauseated, at least more acclimated to the nausea by dinnertime the second day. He'll nibble bread, picking it up and allowing himself to take bites whenever his body happens to complete that action without him having to think about it. He's doing better than usual at not thinking things - thinking hurts, thinking isn't safe.

Permalink Mark Unread

Aaaaaaaaaaa she hates this and she's so angry with Leareth. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth got what he came for. 

He continues his research. He can triangulate his search much better, now, since he has a lot more data on the world where Kib - is from, or grew up in, it's not clear but it doesn't seem like he was born the usual human way. In fact, the Healers have mentioned to him that he...doesn't have a belly button?

He's confused, but his confusion about the world that Kib called 'Stork' isn't the highest priority here. Their 'servantmaking' magic is strategically relevant but mostly he needs to find a way to travel to Arda at all, before it's too late. 

Leareth is still baffled about the whole memory insertion dreams thing, but loath to re-enter his traumatized prisoner's room to learn more.

He's making faster progress, though. At this point it's almost certainly a project of months or years, not decades. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Sometimes Kib pokes the wrong-gross-melty feeling, he can't help it, but eventually it fades away and he stops skipping meals about it.

Permalink Mark Unread

The Healers are really upset with Leareth at first! They can understand that the boss has more information than they do, and has to make unpleasant tradeoffs sometimes, but still. 

They bring meals to him, and sing or read, and try to nudge him into taking walks and bathing. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He resumes his prior habits in those departments.

Permalink Mark Unread

The information from their memory-deep-scan gets Leareth a few more pieces of his incomplete theoretical model, but it's still not fully fleshed out, and doubts that torturing their semi-rescued-prisoner will get him anything worth that price. 

He approaches the rest with trial and error. After a few weeks he can estimate that he has in the vicinity of a year's work ahead, assuming he's neither very lucky nor very unlucky. 

Permalink Mark Unread

About three weeks after her session of non-consensually Mindhealing the young man, Nayoki stands just outside the room and casts her Sight over him, checking for any changes. 

Permalink Mark Unread

His dreams have been more restful lately. (The pox isn't fun but he doesn't have one of those every night, or even most nights, and it's not as inventive as Melkor.) He's BORED BORED BORED BORED BORED BORED BORED. He is daydreaming about one of his boyfriends - Findekáno gives good massages -

Permalink Mark Unread

Nayoki really wishes she could do something about his excruciating boredom, it's clearly really terrible for him! 

She doesn't have a lot of options here, though, he doesn't trust them and thinks they're all hallucinations and just about any action she can take will traumatize him even more. 

Permalink Mark Unread

From Kib's perspective, his boring repetitive routine continues exactly the same, except that the people babysitting him ask more regularly if he wants anything. (They do not, at this point, ever expect an answer, and are untroubled by the lack of one.) 

Permalink Mark Unread

A couple of times he answers sort of reflexively - a blanket, a refill of his water. Once he says very sarcastically that he wants the eternal flourishing of all sapient beings.

Permalink Mark Unread

Mara is the one on shift, and she ducks her head and doesn't answer for a long time. When she does, her voice is oddly tight, and earnest. 

"- Huh. You know, maybe you've got a thing or two in common with Leareth." 

She doesn't say anything more about it, though, just brings him his breakfast and then sings quietly. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He is NOT TOUCHING THAT ASSERTION, nope, what assertion, he didn't hear anything.

Permalink Mark Unread

Shrug. She doesn't bring it up again. Maybe it was too late from the very beginning for him to be okay again. Either way it's - probably worth it, right, to have hurt him a little bit more so that Leareth can find the evil god and win this goddamned war? Maybe? 

(Mara is so angry with Melkor. She would like to throw him off a CLIFF. And then cut him into pieces. And set the pieces on FIRE.) 

...

Tarla runs out of ballads to read on her shifts. She grabs a stack of books at random from the library. Starts reading Kib a textbook on the Fetching Gift. 

Permalink Mark Unread

It's not as good and sometimes it seems like it's trying to tempt him to parse it but it beats silence.

Permalink Mark Unread

Tarla is torn on whether tempting him to have thoughts is helpful or mean. 

She ends up deciding to find him the most tedious history textbook she can find, the kind that's mostly a lot of dates and names and genealogies and stuff. It's long, and there are enough other books in the same genre that she can keep going on that for a while. 

Mara learns more songs. Focuses on picking up very innocuous songs, love ballads and nursery lullabies and such. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Insofar as he appreciates things he appreciates this.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth searches for other worlds. 

He has some roughly-sketched theoretical models for what both 'Stork' and 'Arda' might look like from the point of view of the Void. He figures out a search-algorithm, routing his multiple-layers-of-modified Gate search spell through the various planes in different orders, scanning through the endless depths. 

Leareth spends almost all of his waking hours soaring through the Void on mental wings, scanning for any hint of a pattern that's even close to the ones he expects. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Like this one?

Permalink Mark Unread

- oh, interesting. Maybe like that one? 

Leareth studies the area in more detail, giving over a full day to that, and then he plans his approach for an actual physical Gate. He gets a good night's sleep. Checks over all of his shielding and his extra shield-talismans. 

He considers informing Kib that he's found something, and concludes that there's almost certainly no point. 

With Nayoki watching from a safe distance and multiple other people on standby if anything goes wrong, he attempts the Gate. 

Permalink Mark Unread

He lands in a town. It's foreign, of course, with stone architecture and everybody speaking one of the languages Kib speaks, but mostly it's a town. Apart from all the golems and automata running around, anyway. There's no shortage of those, little low ones scuttling down the street, big lumbering ones carrying heavy loads. There's correspondingly fewer horses than he'd expect in a Velgarth city this otherwise prosperous-looking.

The inhabitants are mostly human, absolutely nobody seems to have expected a man to walk out of a door to nowhere, and there is an Elf crossing the street up ahead.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth steps through and gestures for a couple of his mages to follow and then dismantles the Gate behind him; he knows the way back and there's no point in exhausting himself by holding it longer. 

He recognizes the Elf's species from Kib's memories. 

:Hello?: he says in Mindspeech.

Permalink Mark Unread

Some of the nearby humans are very concerned about this man who walked through a doorway from nowhere and are asking him questions!

:Can I help you?: replies the Elf, who is walking away briskly from the site of the Gate.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth walks after him. (His mages nod and try to smile reassuringly to the concerned humans.)

:My name is Leareth and I am from another world: Leareth says. :- Is there any chance that you know of a person named Kib: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Of course - have the Valar opened the portal again, or - I suppose someone else who was attacked by the snake monster wouldn't know who Kib was -:

Permalink Mark Unread

:I have not personally met any of the Valar. My current belief is that Kib was attacked by a second snake monster and transported from Arda to my world, which is called Velgarth. ....Before that, he was captured by Melkor and imprisoned in the place called Angband. I am not sure if you were aware. Anyway. I am here because I wish to help with the war against Melkor: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:We haven't heard anything since the portal closed,: apologizes the Elf. :Some of us stayed on this side to help with the babies - is Kib with you? I've never tried to look after someone who'd been a prisoner of the Enemy before but I have the general idea, it can be difficult:

Permalink Mark Unread

:He is with my people in Velgarth. And - yes, it has been somewhat difficult. Do you have anyone here who does have such experience? We - would appreciate help. Also did you pass through the portal you are describing? If so I want your help in figuring out how to reach Arda with my world's magic: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:I could ask around. And yes, that's how I got here. Er, where are you - I'm on my way back to Little Valinor, it's prettier there:

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth's confusion about that remark is so minor that he slides right past it. He jogs to catch up with the Elf. :I can accompany you there: 

Permalink Mark Unread

The Elf spots him as he approaches and she slows down to accommodate his stride. :Do you suppose you could swear out loud that you don't work for the Enemy, it's only someone's bound to insist eventually and if I can tell them you've already done it that will save some anxiety. Or are you using osanwë because we don't share a language - it'd be such a foolish thing to do if you don't know the words, only, you look like a human, and they can't swear at all as I understand it, you see:

Permalink Mark Unread

This seems like context that Leareth has managed to completely miss so far! 

:I am using Mindspeech, which is a Gift that exists in my world. I - can swear an oath, if you wish, but I suspect you mean something that in fact humans cannot do including me: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Well, that's why it would be safe for you even if you don't know the language: explains the Elf. :Whereas if you could swear oaths it would be very unwise to take a phrase I told you and repeat it back. If you'd just repeat -: The Elf speaks a sentence aloud in her own language.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth is still sufficiently confused about why this helps and what the Elf is testing that he is just going to read her surface thoughts about it. 

Permalink Mark Unread

The Elf does the same thing Kib does, where some thoughts are mentally designated as private, but most of her thoughts right now are actually marked public anyway and other Elves in the distance are commenting on them, looking through her eyes, suggesting she ask him if he has a navel and complimenting her on the wording of the oath and rustling up somebody whose mother's friend used to be imprisoned in Utumno many years ago. (The oath means "I swear that I do not and have never worked for Melkor or his servants.") She wonders if snake monsters just think Kib is very delicious for some reason?? Maybe all those other people who got eaten by it when Kib first was can be found now that someone has a method independent of the Valar for going here and there...

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth will repeat the words in their language, since he is not in fact working or has ever worked for Melkor-or-servants. 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Very good, thank you! Little Valinor's just this way. I'm Hendaurë:

As they walk she starts singing; the rest of the chorus of Elves comes gradually into human earshot.

Permalink Mark Unread

...Wow. Leareth is not himself an incredibly musical person, not like Vanyel is, but he can tell that their singing is very good. Vanyel would appreciate it, he muses. 

He follows the Elf, looking around at everything. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Little Valinor is clearly distinguishable from the surrounding human city by being ridiculously beautiful. They're using mostly the same materials, local stone and wood plus generous helpings of glass and metal, but they're much better at lovingly crafting it into painfully adorable cottages and breathtakingly lovely buildings. They've built for tall inhabitants. There aren't any Elf children around, though one Elf is carrying a human baby. They are all singing. Some of them congregate around Leareth and Hendaurë. :Welcome!: thinks an Elf. :Hendaurë says - that Kib was captured by the Enemy, and then another snake monster ate him and sent him to you?:

Permalink Mark Unread

:That is my impression, yes. A couple of months ago now. I have been trying to find Arda, since I am unclear on how the war is going and - whether the Elves there are at risk of losing the war, and whether aid I could offer might make the difference. But I suppose your world is closer to mine, or something, and I found it first.: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:If Kib was captured by the Enemy that's very bad,: says Hendaurë seriously. :You could bring him here and we could look after him, if you aren't equipped for it:

Permalink Mark Unread

:...I do not feel very equipped for it: Leareth admits. :It seems very bad. We did figure out how to restore the memories that Melkor erased, using local magic, but I am not sure that actually helped him, in the short run - I mostly felt it was necessary to obtain more information on Arda, since making progress on finding it seemed rather time-sensitive. But now that I have found you here, I have better sources to answer those questions, and - I would prefer that he have whatever is best for him. ...Do people recover from being imprisoned by the Enemy, eventually?:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Sometimes: says the other Elf. :If they have a very long time, and nothing - happens. But often they prefer to stay dead - I suppose I don't know that Kib wouldn't, but I wish his, ah, his husband were here to ask -:

Permalink Mark Unread

:His husband is in Arda?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:I assume so - I shouldn't assume, actually, his husband was a baby last time I saw him, perhaps things have changed and he'd no longer wish to be regarded as Kib's husband. But on the assumption that he would ideally he'd be the person consulted... it isn't as though Kib has parents... well, maybe he'll tell us himself, if he'd rather we kill him:

Permalink Mark Unread

:...Maybe: Leareth has been skimming various surface thoughts, and it seems like the Elves are being truthful and very earnestly well-intentioned. :I can transport him here, and then continue my research to find Arda: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:It might be better,: says the second Elf, :if there were some - discontinuity - if you could sing him to sleep, or something like that, for the trip across. So as to let him compartmentalize the locations, so we don't borrow too much implausibility from you. We won't lie to him, but, well, he probably won't ask...:

Permalink Mark Unread

:We can do that, if it is your recommendation - we do not have singing magic but we have a different kind. I would like to rest here for a time before I attempt the Gate again, it is an especially tiring spell, but I can do it in a few candlemarks: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Oh, of course, you can come over here -: They have a very pretty restaurant which distributes food apparently for free to random humans coming in through an entrance on the other side. They get him a table and present him with a plate of fruit and bread and a bowl of lentils. :There you go, you'll let us know if you need anything, won't you?:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Of course. Thank you: He bows his head briefly, smiling, and takes a bite of fruit. His accompanying mages settle in to watch the room. 

Permalink Mark Unread

The mages get offered food too. The Elves sing, and distribute food, and the Elf with a human baby paces tirelessly back and forth down the lane, and if Leareth listens for thoughts he can spy on Elves in a workshop two doors down assembling golems and setting them aside for a human helper to wake later, and balancing a collective Elf budget with concert proceeds and donations and servant production as inputs, maintenance expenses and donations to various local institutions as outputs.

Permalink Mark Unread

Now that he has an avenue to learn more about this servantmaking magic, Leareth is very curious, but - not right now, he's tired from the Gate and the urgent conversation was enough to push through. 

After he's eaten, he looks around for the nearest Elf to Mindspeak, and asks politely if he could have a place to take a nap. 

Permalink Mark Unread

The nearest Elf ushers him upstairs to what is apparently that Elf's own bedroom above the restaurant and tells him to make himself at home.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth thanks him for his generosity, and carefully doesn't touch anything. He lies down on the bed and closes his eyes, but Mindspeaks a bit with his mages and puts some wards around the building before falling asleep. 

Permalink Mark Unread

The Elves go about their business and their singing, but being Elves can also converse.

I'll put Kib in my house, I have the spare room and it's quiet.

The war must be going awfully - if the Enemy got Kib -

Don't let's get too excited about hearing from home, mind, we mustn't push him and we can't affect anything from here. We knew that when we came:

What do you all make of this visitor - did we get his name?

I'll ask one of his friends - apparently he's called Leareth -

Hendaurë, you're sharp.

Oh, sorry.

Anyway, we have his oath, which means he either doesn't work for the Enemy or he's a human, but he could be a human who works for the Enemy. Did any of you get a look at whether he has a navel? The humans we know the Enemy has wouldn't.

No. But a human can't get up to all that much from my bedroom, can he? Even a servantmaker.

And if he's from another world like he says, odds are he wouldn't like the Enemy any more than we do.

I'll ask one of his friends if he has a navel.

Permalink Mark Unread

This is a baffling question and the mage looks very startled, but confirms that Leareth does have a navel and so does he - do humans here not have them, that's so odd...

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, no, of course they don't, they're not born.

Permalink Mark Unread

This is presumably something that Leareth already knew from reading Kib's mind, and just didn't brief them on? They nod as though this makes perfect sense. 

Permalink Mark Unread

But you look otherwise just like them - have you noticed any other differences? says Hendaurë.

Permalink Mark Unread

:I think we have different magic? In our world we have mages, and Mindspeakers, and other Gifts, although only a small fraction of people have those. But people from here can do 'servantmaking' - is that the construct-creatures we saw around?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:That's right. We can't do the magic part, but we can make the chassis and write programs if we learn how, that part isn't magic. Instead we sing, and some people make artifacts:

Permalink Mark Unread

:- Programs?: the mage says blankly. :What does that mean?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:The instructions that tell the servants what to do:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Huh. Leareth is going to be so curious about that: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Well, there are plenty of books about it, though I suppose that won't help till he's picked up the language:

Permalink Mark Unread

:I'm sure he'll be very motivated!: 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth sleeps for a couple of hours and isn't delighted to get up at the end of it, but he's rested enough to Gate. He gets up and stretches and heads back down to inform the Elves that he can do another Gate now, if they're ready for his people to bring Kib over. 

Permalink Mark Unread

They have set up a nice boring quiet room for him! They would like to know whatever Leareth can tell them about his condition.

Permalink Mark Unread

Maybe he can get an update from the Healers who've been watching him? Leareth hasn't tried to interact with him in a while - Kib unsurprisingly seems to associate it with 'plot', since most of his conversations with Kib were trying to coax him into answering questions about his world and Arda, which Kib found both stressful and annoying. In general Kib was more helpful with this than Leareth was expecting; he feels a lot of respect and gratitude for that. The Healers report that Kib seems to appreciate being sung songs and read books, which they have to do in Mindspeech due to the language barrier, and is confused about being asked his preferences for things like meals but goes along with it, and is quiet and non-interactive most of the time. 

...Also Leareth should admit upfront that he's read Kib's mind quite a lot, in order to get all the information he ended up needing to devise a search-algorithm that could recognize Stork from the Void, and they ended up using Mindhealing to put back all his erased and altered memories, which is something one would normally want consent for but this was impossible to obtain when he thought they were all Melkor or Thauron. At some point if he's ever convinced this is real, Kib is owed an apology for this, and would be within his rights to be very angry with Leareth about it. 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Oh dear - you know, I think most people wouldn't object considering, but it was all over Tirion when he first arrived that nobody should try to read him while he was still working on private thoughts: Hendaurë says. :I can tell him if he asks that you apologized but we are sort of hoping he will think of this as being a separate hallucination, one with less going on, so it probably won't come up for many years:

Permalink Mark Unread

:- I had suspected something like that, he seems to find the Mindhealing extremely distressing; we kept him unconscious for most of it so I am not sure what he thought of it after the fact. I agree it seems not worth bringing up the topic unless he asks: 

And whenever they're ready, he can do the Gate. At least one of the Healers will need to come across anyway to keep Kib asleep with their Gift, so they can get a further report from them. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Kib is not very hard to put to sleep.

Permalink Mark Unread

For simplicity, Leareth did the Gate from just outside his room in the northern facility straight to the bedroom set up for him, so the Healers can carry him across and get him settled in bed without Leareth needing to hold the Gate very long at all.

Leareth passes a Mindspeech update to Nayoki, that he's succeeded, but stays on the Stork side of the Gate when he takes it down. He still has a lot to learn, here. He leaves Kib's room immediately, though. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Then Kib will be able to wake up later to the singing of an Elf.

The Elves remain friendly and solicitous of their guests.

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth is even more tired after the second Gate. He asks if he could get a place to stay the night and sleep, without evicting anyone from their own bed; if there aren't any rooms available he can camp outside with a weather-barrier, he doesn't want to overstrain their capacities here. 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Oh, it's okay, you can sleep in my bed, I don't sleep every night: the Elf who lives above the restaurant assures him.

Permalink Mark Unread

:If you are sure you do not mind, then I am grateful: 

Leareth requests a meal and forces himself to eat it even though using a lot of magic always leaves him without much appetite, and then heads back and flops down on the bed and is asleep within seconds. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Mara and Tarla both came through the Gate. They heard that maybe the Elves wanted to know more about how Kib is doing? They're so grateful for their willingness to take him in; it's been stressful, trying to guess what will help or at least not harm him further. 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Oh, yes, it's complicated and I'm not really an expert but I'm the closest we have, I suppose, and he'll probably be much better in another hundred years or so. How has he been so far?: says Rainë, who has volunteered to take him.

Permalink Mark Unread

:- A hundred years?!: Mara exclaims. Both of them look aghast. :I, uh, humans don't - generally live that long, is that different here?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:- oh, no, humans barely live to be sixty or so, but Kib had his aging slowed down - I suppose the Enemy could have changed that, but he probably didn't, he doesn't like to let people in his custody die -:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Oh, uh, humans live longer than sixty on our world, usually. If they can afford Healers when they're sick and things. Umm, anyway - he was in really bad shape when we got him, exhausted and malnourished and injured, we Healed him and he's mostly just gone along with it when we bring him food or try to get him out of bed and walking around, so he's fine physically by now. He - has a lot of nightmares. We were documenting how often and it hasn't changed much, it's a few most nights. He seems...constantly incredibly bored, to be honest, but he's very disciplined about not thinking much, since he doesn't want Melkor to - be able to use him...: Shudder. 

:We think he's the least miserable when we're singing to him or reading obscure poems in verse, it occupies his attention a bit, books about magic were more stressful because he felt like it was tempting him into having thoughts... Uh, we figured out some of this by reading his mind, which he'd probably be upset about is my impression, but it's incredibly hard to figure out his preferences otherwise. He doesn't like eating meat, not sure why, was he vegetarian before?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:The humans here don't have magic healing, though they're quite inventive without it and we let them come where we're singing healing songs, round the clock. I didn't hear anything about him being a vegetarian but I might not have, we weren't well acquainted:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Well, figured I should give you a head's up since he's unlikely to say anything. He's also freaked out by - red-haired men, for some reason? We have no idea, but he was scared by one of the Healers we had on initially, so we switched it up: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:- well, all of the Noldor here are dark haired: she says, fretful, :so that shouldn't be a problem:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Mmm: Mara nods. :Well, we'll be sticking around until Leareth does a Gate back, so I guess we're here if you end up having more questions: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:When should we expect him to wake up?:

Permalink Mark Unread

:...Honestly I'm not sure, his sleep schedule is pretty variable and we put him into a deeper-than-normal sleep in order to get him through the Gate without him noticing. Probably a couple of hours but he might just sleep a whole night's worth now: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:All right, I'll just stay up and see if I can't sync with him. If you get to Arda you must of course tell the King of the Noldor - whoever's King by now, it was a bit up in the air by the time the portal closed - where he's to be found:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Er, of course, I'll...pass that on to Leareth...: Mara ducks her head. :Good luck. I - hope he gets better, someday: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:I hope so too. Sometimes they do:

Permalink Mark Unread

Mara nods and sighs and asks if there are any accommodations available for the two Healers and the two mages who're staying overnight too. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Sure, plenty of Elves don't sleep on a nightly basis, or don't have to, and can put them up.

Permalink Mark Unread

It's much appreciated! Also the food is amazing and the city is gorgeous and they get so many compliments on all of it. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth sleeps for ten hours, interworld Gates are a lot. In the morning he gets up, seeks out breakfast, and then Mindspeaks the nearest of the Elves and says that he has questions about Arda. 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Sure, what do you want to know?:

Permalink Mark Unread

:As much as you can tell me about the physical laws of Arda - how it works if the world is flat, is there an edge, can you go underneath - how the Valar built the sun. Also as much as your people know about the underlying structure of magic and how it interacts with other physical laws, and it would help greatly to see demonstrations of your singing magic and to examine some of your artifacts: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:The Valar made the world flat, though I don't know if they had to do anything more special than making a world at all for it to turn out all right. We aren't supposed to go close to the edges, but I suppose that rule existing means edges exist. By the same token we don't go underneath. I wasn't actually aware the Valar had built a sun - it's, ah, it's possible they didn't, if you heard that from Kib - at any rate they hadn't done it before the portal closed. I have a necklace that glows when it's near my wife's necklace and vice-versa, and there's always someone singing healing for humans, they get hurt so easily and they know to come to us if it happens in Wrebb:

Permalink Mark Unread

:The Mindhealer thought she could distinguish memories that were altered or faked from the real pre-capture ones, but I will keep in mind that she could be wrong. May I examine your necklaces?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

The necklaces are produced! They glow if they are about as close together as "in the same house" and don't if they're farther away. :When Elves get married we get new senses for appreciating each other: the wife explains, smiling at her husband. :But we didn't get especially good ones, if you ask me, so I had these made, so I can see when he's near:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Fascinating! How does that work? ...I am not certain if this is relevant to physical laws but it might be, I have never heard of humans having that. Even when they are Gifted, or lifebonded: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Well, humans sometimes say they get married, but what they mean is they have a ceremony, like a wedding party, and humans also sometimes have sex - often even without the party! Sometimes with several people!: explains Elfwife, :but for us they're exactly the same thing, and also like an oath sworn to Eru, and last forever and come with the little perks like the better osanwë range, and - oh, ours are silly, what are some good ones -:

:A lot of people can hear their spouse singing from any distance: her husband offers. :My parents can do shared motor planning, it helps them dance... I have a friend who can always tell what her husband wants to eat when he hasn't even noticed he's hungry:

Permalink Mark Unread

:That does sound like it could come in handy! How interesting. ...My colleague who is a Mindhealer would be very curious to study this, but that is definitely not a strategic priority:

Leareth thinks for a moment, getting his uncertainties lined up. 

:Can you tell me more about these oaths? They work for both Elves and Maiar, and are - sworn to Eru? Who or what is Eru?: He got fragments on it from Kib's memories but, of course, he has to hold some uncertainty on all of that, and he's still confused. 

Permalink Mark Unread

:You can also swear them to Valar, and then the Vala you swore to can release you. Eru doesn't do that: explains Elf-husband. :I've heard of people swearing by Maiar too but I'm not actually sure if that works... and just saying 'I swear' without specifying anyone does work, so I hope nobody's counting on a Maia to release them. You have to speak aloud and just saying you promise doesn't do it, but you can't swear falsely, that's why we're sure you aren't a Maia of the Enemy's. Eru is the creator of the Valar and gave them the instructions they use to make decisions:

Permalink Mark Unread

:......Including the instructions that Melkor uses to make decisions?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Oh, no, he rebelled against Eru's plan, that's why he's like that:

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth winces. :I mean no offence, but - it sounds as though Eru is not very competent at making gods: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:They say that somehow or other all will eventually come to its fulness in a way that further magnifies the glory of Eru, although I admit I am not sure how Melkor will factor in there myself, but, well, I'm not Eru:

Permalink Mark Unread

Leareth restrains himself from saying out loud that in that case he suspects he disagrees strongly with Eru on what glory ought to look like. 

:I see. Can Valar also swear them?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Yes, and Maiar:

Permalink Mark Unread

Nod. :What other kinds of magic do the Valar have?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:They have visions of the future, though it turns out they aren't reliable around humans, Kib was messing with things... they can sing like we can, but better. They have territories, mostly Valinor but I think Ulmo has the whole sea? And there they can do pretty much whatever - well, whatever they're the sort of Vala to do, they have specialties:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Mmm. What does Ulmo do with the sea - are they responsible for managing the ecosystem and water salinity, the sort of thing that purely physical laws would take care of in my world...?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:I don't know if he has to specifically manage the salinity or if he delegates it to a Maia of his or if it happens without help. He probably does manage the ecosystem and the tides and so on. I lived in Tirion, it's not by the coast...:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Oh, that is the sort of thing that could in theory be delegated to a Maia? Fascinating. What other things do Maiar do?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Oh, all different things, they're such funny people - some of them are almost like us, but some of them only care about things like looking after a specific pond or making sure that there is a number of atoms in a rock that has a particular mathematical property. I knew one of those, the mathematicians all went and checked with her whenever they thought they'd found a new one:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Fascinating: Leareth is currently being seized by a sudden powerful desire to find Arda right now just so he can track down this particular Maia and find out how their math knowledge works. :That - probably does tell me something about what an Arda would look like from the outside. Hmm. Are there any other properties of Arda that are different from Stork, that you remarked on when you came here?: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Stork has a sun and a moon and it's round, the humans aren't born, there's servantmaking which we can't do... things rot here, we don't like that much, but I think not rotting is just Valinor actually, not all Arda...:

Permalink Mark Unread

:- Things do not rot? I - am very confused how it would be possible to prevent that magically while still allowing the biological processes that living organisms need to stay alive! ...I wonder if Elves look different to Healing-Sight than humans: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Well, if you want to look at us, here we are. I think the Valar just slow down all the things that normally do decay everywhere we wouldn't want it:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Thank you, I will tell my Healers. So they can - selectively slow some kinds of process and not others, on that level of precision? Incredible: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:It's very nice, you can make a big batch of sandwiches and they'll be there whenever you want lunch for years - we wound up building all our kitchens small here, partly because the space trades off against other things we mean to be doing with our time in this world but partly just because it reminds us not to do that:

Permalink Mark Unread

:Oh, dear, that would be an unpleasant surprise if you went looking for your sandwiches a month later in a place where rot happens: Leareth shakes his head. :Hmm, all right, I think that is most of my questions on that thread for now. I would like to go observe the Healing songs, and I will suggest that the Healers have a look at some Elves. - Do Elves fall ill with the same general sorts of illnesses as humans do, now that you are not in Valinor? I suppose here you might not since none of the local diseases would be adapted to infect Elves as a species: 

Permalink Mark Unread

:Sometimes we catch a little something but we have very good control over our bodies and can stop it from getting out of hand. The Healing building is down the street, it's blue and yellow: