Griffie is checking on the Winterbite Mint, harvesting shears out.
"Not by default, no. Tell me more about what's going on?"
"It lasted about ten minutes before petering out, but during that time it seemed to… learn. Initially it was doing only the simplest of repairs, but it got… not advanced, but more advanced. Would you like to see the sample? Your remove disease was more predictable, but also… it targeted a lot of the genetic template, removing things. You said… your intelligence is made of this stuff, didn't you?"
"I do want you to remember that the brain plays a significant role in enhancing intelligence … right, you only run on brains, apparently. Probably means you're less likely to make that genre of mistake. Yes, the core of my intelligence is made of positive energy. That's an interesting result you describe. I'd be happy to look at the samples again."
Cornelia brings the samples back.
Griffie has a look at the samples.
"The higher dose of untargeted positive energy appears to have recognized this chamomile plant as 'ready to be alive'? The plant now appears alive to me."
"Its lifeforce isn't even what I would call a nature spirit, much less a soul. It's not generating significant quintessence, and is not more of a moral patient than it would be previously. For comparison references … I have a spell to create a body with no soul, typically for purposes of implanting souls of the dead. That spell uses far more positive energy than this plant contains. The amount of positive energy required to merely keep an uninhabited body breathing and circulating blood is still higher than the amount in this plant. So please don't worry too much about some God of Chamomile taking over the universe? This plant could live a century … well, it doesn't actually look like it could live a century, but if it somehow did, it would still over its lifetime produce far less quintessence than I produce in an hour. And even if it did, I don't know of any evil deities of domesticated crops not domesticated specifically for evil or used for significant evil purposes. The rice goddess is much beloved, though admittedly followed less in deserts. The wolf goddess is also fairly popular. Including some goodness in what you're doing isn't that hard a problem, especially in such a non-adversarial environment."
"If I may speculate as to the cause of this phenomenon: This plant is not more welcoming to positive energy than plants from my world. Plants from my world form very positive-energy-welcoming bodies, with a lot of the same low-level structures I see in your plants. What's distinguishing about this plant is that it was somehow grown with no positive energy at all. In my world, it would be rapidly outcompeted, since it still couldn't call a nature spirit. It looks life-friendly, sorry, positive-energy-friendly enough that it would get something from the positive energy plane, but not much? Actually, I'm not sure it would be outcompeted, it is fully functional without positive energy. But it would definitely lose ground to a chamomile plant with all the same tricks that could also call a nature spirit."
Cornelia thinks for a long while.
"Not urgent, but: Arithnu seemed to want to be more co-located with me at some point. And now I'm on the same ship as him, so he can get right up near this barrier if he wants. Could someone let him know?"
Cornelia nods distractedly "I'll get to that in a bit."
"Like I said, it's not urgent."
"It is… probably at least as close to alive as mitochondria. Which… I guess makes it an endosymbiont, of a sort. A… highly and rapidly adaptable endosymbiont that… has such a knack for intelligence that the entire core brain-analog is made of it, rather than other forms of life ever developing to do more than help it along. The elemental fire… wasn't like that, it didn't recognize that objects were flammable to oxidation fire, but this… can recognize life. Wait. No. Griffith, could you try that on something decidedly not alive but still made of our matter? I'll get you something sterile."
"I'm willing to try the same dose I used on the plant, but I don't expect much result. Occasionally, inert objects in my world will be granted souls by the Positive Energy Plane, but that process involves more power and more structure to the positive energy than I'll be using."
"I'll want to hear more about this, but first I want to check to make sure we aren't only checking positive examples."
Cornelia supplies a very sterile uniform metal sphere.
Griffie casts Cure Light Wounds.
The positive energy does not find the sterile uniform metal sphere appealing, and simply unravels over time due to the lack of a Positive Energy Plane in range.
Griffie reports this.
"All right. Now, can you please tell me about how life and souls work where you come from?"
"So. Life and souls use positive energy, which is associated with the Positive Energy Plane in a way similar to how fire, uh, sorry, elemental fire is associated with the Elemental Plane of Fire. All spirits, a broad category which includes souls as a subcategory, of ordinary living creatures are made of positive energy at their core. If you are a researcher with a vulnerable spirit, and you put a lot of work into your research, you can deconstruct it until it appears to all tests to be an ordinary blob of positive energy, like an undirected-positive-energy spell calls."
"As to non-ordinary creatures: Souls of undead creatures involve a special balance of positive and negative energy. The Sceaduinar have soul-like phenomena composed entirely of negative energy."
"Again barring Sceaduinar, all spirits come from the Positive Energy Plane. As far as we know, only the residents of the Positive Energy Plane know how to build spirits from positive energy. Undead souls still originally came from the Positive Energy Plane, but were subsequently modified with negative energy."
"The Positive Energy Plane could be characterized as extremely willing to distribute spirits. Rocks, flames, breezes, currents: at the equilibrium almost all of them have at least simple spirits. A few even are granted souls, causing them to become elementals. I can mimic the form of an elemental if you're curious sometime."
"Most developed forms of life have natural spirit-calling rituals, used during reproduction, to grant spirits to their offspring. If a lifeform is rendered incapable of this ritual, the body of their offpring begins to grow, but it never animates and is stillborn. If a lifeform is rendered incapable of this ritual, but a researcher carefully applies mostly unstructured positive energy at the relevant stages, they get inert lifeforms, which typically die quickly."
"It is possible to purposely call new spirits. This is used for creating lively constructs, intelligent items, purposely creating new elementals, et cetera. However, while the shape of a brain shapes the spirit, and various rituals can call various sorts of spirits, these rituals all depend on the 'willingness' of the Positive Energy Plane to grant you one, and it will send the spirit almost entirely pre-assembled. The residents of the Positive Energy Plane bar all outsiders from observing the assembly process."
"So if the plants here ended up within range of this, you believe they would also wind up with spirits?"
"That seems overwhelmingly likely to me, though the spirits likely wouldn't be quite as useful to the plant as those my world's plants get by purposely calling a spirit."
"And what would these spirits do if there was already a mind in place?"
"That's a very good question."
"What about just the positive energy you applied here? What would that do to a creature already possessing a mind?"
"If the creature had a pre-existing mind running on positive energy, undirected positive energy would just incorporate itself into the existing structures."
"And if that mind was, say, running on our style brain rather than positive energy?"
"I don't know. One possibility would be that unstructured energy, or perhaps even a soul, would take a shape suitable for supporting the existing mind, but I can absolutely see why you wouldn't want to count on that."