Aug 01, 2021 9:47 PM
I didn't think anthropics worked like that
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It's...fairly effortful to eat; it feels tough and dried-out and the taste is pungent and quite salty; but it should still taste edible, it's not spoiled. 

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:- Sorry, I did say I'd teach you shielding, but I think I'm too tired: 

Vanyel unrolls and shakes out a wool blanket, and stretches out on the floor of the tent. 

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:If I - throw my thoughts at Yfandes? and imagine them missing you? - can she and I talk without that keeping you awake?  'No' is fine, I'm mostly expecting 'no', and it's also fine if Yfandes needs to rest.:

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Yfandes is the one who answers.

:Probably that’ll work? I should rest too at some point, but I need less sleep than humans do:

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:This is a test of whether I can direct my thoughts to Yfandes only.:

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No answer. (Vanyel's shields are fully up; he's especially unlikely to pick up any leakage right now.) 

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:I can hear you. I don't think Van did: 

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:I have many many questions, but...:  So many that even among the meta-questions, it's hard to figure out which to ask first.  :You should please let me know if you're as tired as Vanyel, but I can't tell through Mindspeech because we're not the same species, for example?  More generally, some of my questions are how you're different from a human.  But the most urgent questions of that kind are probably - if there's any way I should speak with you differently than I would with a human, to avoid hurting you or hurting your feelings, or make my thoughts easier to understand.  And I ask for your understanding and forebearance, if I make a mistake anyways.  Meta-issues, communications protocols, those should probably come first.:

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There's a long pause. 

:We don't usually talk to anyone except our Chosen and the other Companions: Yfandes sends eventually. :Obviously nothing about this is usual, though. I...can't think of any particular advice we give human Herald-trainees on how to talk to their Companions, so I'm not sure what to say there? And I haven't got any experience introducing people from other worlds to this one, but I'm sure you can guess that already: 

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:Is your kind - at least as mentally resilient, or more resilient, than a human?  If Van had seemed less tired I would have been asking him for forebearance, just from expecting friction between different cultures; but by the time I was less - mentally busy - on my side, I'd noticed he was tired to the point of not seeming to want a lot of communication-protocol overhead.  But I'm worried... no, it seems very likely that at some point I'll say something that hurts or offends him or you, without my having wished at all to do that.  If you don't know any better than I do how to avoid that, that's... the best we can do, I guess, but it seems good to say explicitly before going on.  If you'd rather not deal with so much meta, I can skip to one of my object-level questions.:

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:- No, no, that's very proactive of you, wanting to sort out cultural differences first! Hmm. I - think Companions are more mentally resilient than humans in general, yes. And you're not wrong that Van is very tired. Curious too, and he may have more questions once he's a little caught up on rest, but...: 

Yfandes trails off, and pauses. Again, there's the sense that she's holding something back. 

:...Most things you could bring up about romantic relationships will cause Vanyel pain. This isn't a general thing, to be clear, it's just a Vanyel thing. But it's something you should know: 

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:Understood.  Or at least, I hope I understand, and I'll try to be conservative about how widely I avoid the topic...:

:I really have way too many questions.  Pick one, if you like?  Either 'Am I right that Companions are native to this planet and evolved alongside the humans here, rather than being travelers from elsewhere?' or 'If Vanyel is a world-class professional in a key profession that tends to reduce appetite and make it difficult to eat, why isn't he buying or being issued much more palatable food?'  Right now I have very little idea how much of the apparent insanity of this world I should chalk up to facts I don't know and reasoning I haven't worked out, versus how much insanity is because people haven't worked out what a utility function is or how to get more utility.:

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:- Wow, having some kind of system to get Vanyel better food would be SUCH a good idea! I don't - I'm not sure why no one thought of that - well, Vanyel wouldn't ever want to mention it, obviously, he hates feeling like he's demanding special treatment... Using node-magic burns a lot of energy but we know it also suppresses appetite in the short run, it's unfortunate: 

A pause. 

:On your question about Companions: neither? I don't have firsthand knowledge, it was eight centuries ago, but the histories say that King Valdemar, the founder of our country, prayed to all the gods he knew for a miracle to help hold his new kingdom stable, and then we - the Companions - turned up: 

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They have publicly known history from eight centuries ago with people's names in it and everything?  Thellim wishes she knew exactly what the Past Infohazard was in her own world - well, not really, but same energy - so she could figure out if this is deadly insanity or a perfectly normal response to different circumstances.

:Can you expand on 'prayed', 'gods', 'miracle', and 'kingdom'?:

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Yfandes feels decidedly nonplussed by these questions! 

:Hmm. Kingdom seems easiest - do you have countries where you're from? A country is, er, a certain land area with fixed borders, controlled by a particular state government, and a 'kingdom' in particular means it's ruled by a king - or sometimes it's a queen - usually monarchies are hereditary, though Valdemar is a little more elaborate than that: 

She pauses, thinking. 

:Gods are - very large, very powerful beings, who exist mostly outside of the material plane but have some investment in the mortal world and mortal lives. People worship Them, and often that involves prayer, which is basically just...trying to communicate with Them? Though, honestly, I'm not sure how often They're listening. A miracle is an act of magic that the gods provide, one which should be impossible based on the way things normally work. Does that help?: 

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:It helps somewhat?  It raises an endless series of other questions that I should set aside for now, because breadth-first search seems wiser than depth-first in this situation.:

If this was a story, the bizarre way that everything here (down to the cheese issued Vanyel) is so far down from the Pareto boundary would be... well, on a Doylist level, it would be a moral homily about the importance of paying coordination costs or just plain checking for better ways.  But on a Watsonian level... one of the factors present in this world, and absent from her home, would be secretly responsible for why things are so much worse here.  Some consequence of Mindspeech, Companions, Vanyel being able to make a glowing light, the existence of gods and prayer, or the peculiar sourness of the cheese, which would be destroying their ability to coordinate as easily as just-humans do under just-physics.  The destructive factor wouldn't necessarily have to be introduced in this first chapter because that rule would make the puzzle too easy, but the key factor would have to be introduced early on.  And the book's literary merit would increase monotonically with how hard the reader kicked herself afterwards for not seeing the consequences right away.

If this is some form of generalized book, obeying standard book-patterns, her Story is going to be About cleverly deducing the factor that prevents this world's civilization from developing the way regular humans do without interference, and reduces it to weird warring kingdoms instead.

If this is generalized reality then that kind of thinking will not work at all. She would have put a higher probability on that before Vanyel turned out to be the top professional mage.  Sure, there could be a reason for that, but books have rationalizations too.  That plot development fits a pattern, is the thing.

She's just going to have to try to extrapolate it both ways, and keep track of the difference.

She isn't going to say all this to Yfandes, yet, though, because the Companions are one of the differing factors that got introduced in metaphorical chapter one.  Gosh, she hopes she doesn't start leaking all this stuff through the psionic transmissions.  Which reminds her.

:Do you also know how to teach me shielding?  Or can you tell me things now, so that Vanyel doesn't have to tell me them after he's rested?  He seemed to think it was urgent, if I can learn it now; and even if my practicing has to wait on him, saving him explanatory effort later seems good.:

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:I'm not as experienced a teacher but I'm happy to give it a try! Van was mainly worried because Mindspeech can be detectable, that'll be less of an issue once we're back in the main camp tomorrow, but I might as well walk you through how to center and ground and see if you can pick up shielding tonight: 

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If this was a story, she wouldn't be as good at psionics as the natives despite her initial enthusiasm; and the homily would be that your extraneous weird powers don't define you, how well the inner you thinks determines whether you win or lose.

But those, on reflection, are all stories written for the benefit of readers who are never going to get actual psychic powers in real life.

In this generalized story, or generalized reality, whichever it is?

She is totally going to see whether she can be the Even More Powerful Psion and blow away all the natives using her knowledge of linear algebra, which will turn out to be super useful for psionics.  Like, she'll be fine if she can't, but she's sure going to try.

School mode on.  Psionic Mistress Thellim is go.

:I accept you as my teacher.  Let's do this.:

:Wait.  I mean, I, Thellim, accept you as my teacher.  Because my name is Thellim.  Have I actually forgotten to say that this whole time?  Anyway, I'm Thellim and I accept you as my teacher.:

She's going to be so much smoother the next time she dies and finds herself in another world.

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:- Well, Thellim, it's nice to meet you: Yfandes' mindvoice is fond and amused. :All right. To start, you need to focus on your breathing, feel it in your body, and try to find the place inside you that holds steady and doesn't move with your breath...: 

And Yfandes tries to talk her through the basic trainee exercises for Mindspeech shielding. 

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There will be a number of inevitable initial questions along the lines of "Do you mean that I should look for a biological part of my body that doesn't move when I breathe, or do you mean that I should look inside my kinesthetic sense for an extrabiological sensation that remains still while I breathe?" but Thellim will do her best to do whatever the answers indicate she should do.

Is she shaping up to be the Most Powerful Psion Ever or what?

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She's doing somewhat above average for a student with newly-awakened Mindspeech! Yfandes praises her accordingly. Maybe she's picking it up faster because she's a little older? Most trainees get their Gifts around age twelve or thirteen. 

(She's vastly easier to teach than Vanyel was, but Yfandes does not say this.) 

Yfandes still gives a moderate amount of polite correction, and suggests some exercises for her to keep practicing until she gets it down on an instinctive level. 

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That's fine.  Thellim didn't have her heart set on being the Most Powerful Psion, she just thought it'd be stupid not to check.

Thellim will do some exercises, have a surprising amount of trouble recalling her infinite questions list in anything that seems like a reasonable priority, and realize this means she should perhaps try to actually sleep.

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Yfandes arranges herself next to the mouth of the tent. :Goodnight!:

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Vanyel is already asleep, but he's smushed himself right up against the wall of the tent and left some trailing blanket for her to slip under. 

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:Oh, sorry, one last thing.  Yfandes, your recommedation between the two bad options 'Wear my wet clothes under the blanket and risk getting the blanket wet' versus 'Take off clothing to underwear level, risk triggering romance-related issues' versus 'Obvious solution silly outworlder didn't think of?':

If Vanyel is a world-class professional in his field, Thellim probably doesn't need to worry about being pretty enough that Vanyel's future mates will be compared unfavorably to the sight of her form unconcealed.  Rules like that are for less drastic situations anyways.

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