May 18, 2021 4:24 AM
I didn't think anthropics worked like that
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...lower tech level.  Right.  And they're not doing anything obviously stupid given their tech level, and there isn't anything that jumps out at her that her own emergency training says she's supposed to do without tools.

:Yfandes, do your people already know that diseases are carried by tiny organisms, bacteria and virii, which can be killed by boiling water?  The implication is that bandages need to be washed in boiling water before their re-use, in order to avoid transmitting infections between wounds and patients.  Assuming that's still true in this world and not just my world.  It seems like the sort of thing that might still be true.  Is there - do you know - if there's somebody at this Healers' compound to whom I should be saying that?  Or do your people know it already?:

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:- They know that. Healers can See quite a lot, and their Collegium in Haven does some of the most advanced research I'm aware of anywhere: A brief burst of pride. :I hope you get the chance to meet Shavri, later. She's one of Van's closest friends, and lifebonded to King Randale; she's also the best and cleverest Healer I've ever met, I'm sure she would love to ask you all about what your world knows: 

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An adult Healer in darker green robes nudges aside the curtain hung at the end of the hallway, looks around questioningly. 

The trainee points at Thellim. :You can go back: she says a moment later. :Melody can talk to you now: 

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Thellim attempts to 'go back'.  Is there a unique obvious 'Melody' visible at the end of this operation?

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There's a bigger room with more doors leading off from it; there are multiple people in green robes, but most of them are clearly busy, examining patients or hurrying toward one of the other destination rooms. 

One red-haired woman is standing next to an iron woodstove, which is providing an actually-quite-reasonable quantity of heat to the room, and pouring water from a kettle heated on top of it into a ceramic teapot. She looks about forty, and also reasonably well-fed; she might even have been stout before the war, and is still solidly built.

Teapot filled, she sets it down on a nearby sideboard and then glances around, tapping her fingers against her thigh and fidgeting at her collar with her other hand. Her eyes land on Thellim, and she blinks owlishly. :You the one looking for me?: 

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(to Yfandes) :Yfandes, I'll try echoing this conversation to you.  Feel free to correct me, give me things to add, or jump in directly.:

(to the red-haired woman) :If you're Melody, the Mindhealer, I am.  Have you seen General Lissa's note?  Vanyel has frozen up and it seemed like a good and urgent time to call in a professional.  I'm not fully acquainted with the details, but I'm Mindspeaking to Yfandes the Companion and can relay questions and answers with her.:

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:- His Companion is willing to talk to you directly? Huh, must really be exceptional circumstances. I did see the note, it was quite forceful: 

Melody's mindvoice is fast and feels very clean, somehow, with minimal emotional leakage. She seems to fidget nonstop, shifting her weight from one foot to the other even while standing still, adjusting her hair or smoothing her robe or tugging her sleeve straight. 

:'Frozen up' isn't very specific and neither was the note. Understandable, but - do you have anything to go on other than that, for why you thought this was particularly serious and time-sensitive?: 

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:Vanyel is - was - in the middle of doing time-sensitive work.  I - I also have the sense - that Vanyel has been severely neglecting self-care for a long time, in a way that strikes me as strange, but I don't know how much that's - my being raised with a different viewpoint, I'm using Mindspeech because I'm not from Valdemar and don't speak this language.  I don't have the expectation that a 'Herald' will starve themselves nearly to death for no obvious reason, while trying to do vital work that the whole faction of Valdemar is depending on, instead of requisitioning better food to make up for the effect of mage-work on appetite - there are things that Yfandes and Lissa aren't telling me, something about this time of year, and I don't know whether it's a security secret or a privacy secret, but Lissa is with Vanyel, and you could ask Lissa so Yfandes doesn't have to relay secrets through me - Yfandes also said something about, I think, Vanyel's previous Mindhealer having died, and Vanyel having not seen anyone since, despite Yfandes wanting him to -:  Stop.  Pause.  Recollect yourself, Thellim.  It can be a disadvantage, in a way, that Mindspeech lets you babble at top speed indefinitely and never stop to breathe.  :I'm sorry for babbling.  I have no idea whether Vanyel needs you urgently or not.  From our standpoint he's just frozen.  If Mindhealing lets you take a look at him and assess for yourself how much trouble he's in, I think, given the relative magnitude of his importance to Valdemar and that Vanyel's work is urgent, it's worth your time to run over and do that assessment, unless the second most powerful mage in Valdemar is here and in much worse trouble.:

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Melody absorbs all of this patiently, though she spends the entire time pacing in a tight circle. 

:...Well. That certainly does sound concerning. It'd be uncharacteristic for any Herald I've ever met to just - drop urgent work like that unless somewhere were very badly wrong. I think I'd better come have a look. Just need another minute for my tea to finish steeping. You could tell me about where you're from? General Lissa mentioned in the note you weren't from Valdemar but didn't say more and I confess you've gotten my curiosity piqued: 

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If it's only going to be a minute, then Thellim is going to assume, hope, and pretend that this tea is vital to this person's professional function, instead of checking this delay-decision for Valdemarian Deranged Lack Of Optimization Syndrome.

:I haven't been told of my security classification status as yet, but I'm from far enough away that I know many things that are not known here, and fail to know much that is common knowledge here.  I suspect I will prove to know an unusual amount about how brains and minds work, and should work, and some of that may be useful for a Mindhealer; but I wouldn't know where to start explaining - it's a rather huge edifice of mathematical and scientific knowledge.  Ah, Mindhealers are rarer still, where I'm from, and I doubt that anybody from my city has ever seen one.:

Oops, did she send any unfortunate connotations when she thought the word 'city', such as said city containing roughly twenty times the population Yfandes ascribed to Valdemar?  Oh, well, too late now.

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Melody's eyebrows make interesting motions at various points during this, but if she notices the 'city' connotation, she doesn't ask. 

:Well, I would love to discuss that, later when we're not so time-pressed: She's pouring herself some tea into a sturdy ceramic mug with a wider bottom than top. :Anyway, let's go: 

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Yfandes is waiting for both of them outside, also pacing. The sky is definitely threatening more rain.

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Thellim will stride forth with great alacrity, in order to set a good example.

(Yfandes only.)  :Yfandes, any objection if I ask Melody how somebody can tell if they have the Mindhealing Gift?  And if I don't have it - arguendo, Mindspeech must transfer the content of thought as loaded by words, not just the words themselves, since it works across language barriers and conceptual barriers.  With more practice, better methods, or just trying harder, can I telepathically link with Melody in order to get a look at the sensorimotor input-output of Mindhealing?  Obviously we'd want her to try conventional methods on Vanyel first, but part of me is thinking ahead to the possibility that I was dropped on your vicinity specifically because Vanyel was about to crash and my knowledge would prove necessary to restart him - it's a wild guess, but there's too much going on that can't be coincidence, I just don't know which noncoincidence it all is, so I'm guessing in all directions.:

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:...Maybe: Yfandes seems unconvinced, or dubious - or maybe like she's no longer looking around for reasons because she already knows something that she isn't saying...? It's hard to read too much fine detail into the exact emotional overtones around her Mindspeech, though. 

:Anyway, sharing Gift senses is definitely a thing you can do, it's called concert-Sight. It's trickier, takes most people a lot of training, but you're a fast learner. And, of course I don't object if you ask Melody that. Probably neither will she, I think she's terribly curious about you:

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(To Melody, echoing to Yfandes.)  :By the way - though, feel free to tell me to take this up again later, if it's a long question - how does somebody tell if they have the Mindhealing talent?  I should probably check that off-chance before I start trying to learn concert-Sight to investigate Mindhealing.:

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:Hmm. I don't mind checking, but usually you'd know by now if you were: Melody sips her tea without once either breaking her stride or spilling any of it. :And it takes some time, and concentration for me, so I'd rather save it for not-an-emergency: 

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:Acknowledged.:  That's all Thellim can think of that requires her to bother Melody or Yfandes right away, so she'll spend the rest of the stride to the General's tent thinking.

From the perspective of fictional patterns, it's surprising she was handed any unearned power that's rare to this world's natives, above and beyond her possession of her homeworld's knowledge.  It subverts any moral arc of the story about winning by thinking, and makes the lessons less useful in real life... which is to say, a 'real life' she's never going back to, so maybe that literary pattern shouldn't apply?  Or, again, this situation may not obey any fictional patterns - maybe after you die in a vehicular crash, you appear in another world able to use all local extraordinary powers; that could just be the way reality is, instead of it being like fiction.  Or her being able to use multiple Gifts could be the starting premise of a more unusual literary mystery, in which she needs to figure out which Gifts actually matter, if she has other Gifts to act as potential distractions.

Alternatively, some optimizing power could have given her exactly the Gifts she'll need in the future, and no others - which would be a very overt development for a story plot, but much more to be expected from real life where some agent is properly optimizing for an objective.  Arguendo, if concert-Sight lets her operate all the other Gifts secondhand, that would be a clear rationale for a resource-constrained optimizer to give her only Mindspeech, if it could give her Gifts but doing so was costly.  It's hard to see why something that could bring her here from dath ilan, couldn't just give her all this world's Gifts?  But if the intervener isn't limited in some way, it could have constructed a fully optimized avatar instead of her, or acted on this world directly instead of by proxy.

She can pick up this thread of thought again after she learns which Gifts she has; but it is good practice to think through in advance the conditional predictions of alternative theories, before seeing the data.  Anti-hindsight-bias training is powerful, but not perfect, and making advance predictions just works.

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They reach the tent just before the rain starts in earnest. Melody, rather than knocking - since there's not exactly a door to knock on - just clears her throat and then calls out. "May we come in?"

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"Yes, of course!" 

Lissa is still sitting with her stool next to Vanyel, who's holding himself curled-up and tense. 

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When he hears them, he straightens up a little; his eyes aren't really focusing on them. :- What? I'm fine: 

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Lissa gives him the MOST DUBIOUS of looks. 

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"I object to your statement on the grounds that it is false," Thellim does not say to him, because she has no reason to believe that causing Vanyel to cultivate a self-image of being not-fine is the correct move for him right now even if self-image-accuracy is generally to be pursued.

"You weren't talking or moving," Thellim does not say to him, because to defend the wisdom of her choices would be to argue with him, and arguing could be interpreted as punishment, and she does not want to punish him for moving and Mindspeaking.  She's starting to construct a preliminary Theory of Vanyel Ashkevron, based on cues like the food he eats and Lissa trying to order him into taking a vacation and Vanyel not being enthusiastic about that.  It looks like somebody who's seen too much violence and death, who thinks he should be able to deal with that, who thinks he shouldn't need nice food when children will starve in winter, who thinks he shouldn't need a vacation when children will starve in winter, who is not actually strong enough to get away with treating himself like that; which means that his work is painful and taking better care of himself would be painful and taking a vacation would be painful; which means that all strategies lead into punishment shocks; and finally the subverbal animal underneath his deliberations tries to retreat from the outer environment entirely, emerging only to try to deflect the threat of being forced to face it again.

Thellim doesn't say any of that, because it's a wild guess based on the scantiest of evidence and one day's acquaintance, and there's too much she doesn't know about Vanyel that others do know, like why it matters what time of year this is.  He's from a very alien culture, and possibly might not be exactly what she thinks of as biologically human.  Somewhere around the age of twelve Thellim was cautioned against believing Theories of People that sound like interesting stories, when the reality often looks much less dramatic and human-sense-making, and more like 'somebody's brain started underproducing D2 dopamine receptors in the left ventral striatum'.  You don't want to be that awful person who starts sensemaking at some poor soul whose brain started underproducing D2 dopamine receptors in the left ventral striatum, just because you'd rather live in a world that makes sense.  There is a cruelty to telling somebody with damaged kidneys that they would be healthy if only they thought differently.

Thellim doesn't say any of that either, because if somebody actually does have problems caused by thinking, it is not helpful to suggest to them that they have incurably damaged kidneys.  People with a deficit of dopamine receptors can use cognitive mitigation strategies even if the problem's original cause wasn't cognitive.  What's most valuable is relatively fast and easy tests that somebody can perform to figure out which mitigations will work; tryable solutions are only one kind of test, and 'solving the original problem' is only one kind of potential mitigation.  It's a warning sign when all of your tests look like 'try this solution that undoes what I think was your original problem'.  Only a comedian claims that, when you fall off a ladder and break a leg, the priority treatment is putting on less slippery shoes.

Thellim doesn't say anything, of course.  There's an actual psychiatrist right next to her, and Thellim understands the concept of professional specialization.  :awaiting instruction; default inaction: she tightbeams to Melody and otherwise remains silent.

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:Acknowledged: Melody answers, her mindvoice just as tidy and level and before. 

She turns back to Vanyel. :May I have a seat? My feet do get tired, at my age: 

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A long pause. 

:- Er, yes, right, of course: He gestures vaguely at the stool previously occupied by Thellim. 

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