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Jan 20, 2022 10:06 AM
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There's no, like, really, REALLY old writing, which is flat?

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"Try the college, in general they're the ones who'll have anything more useful for historical research than copies of the first chronicles with modernized spellings."

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"Okay! How do I get there?"

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"There's a station near it, last one on that line. It's north northeast of here."

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"Okay, thank you!"

Tarinda will go that way.

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There's about a half hour wait at the station this time, but her ticket from earlier is still good, at least.

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Cool. And at the university how hard is it to get at the library and find flat writing?

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The hardest part is probably avoiding being distracted by any of the people who want to interview her. The librarian is perfectly willing to show her a page with all the old-style writing collected on it. The biggest individual sample is from when someone tried for three sentences to keep a diary; it's in code but it's in the kind of code a person can invent and use without a computer helping.

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Oh. She thought there would be more of it.

"This is all?"

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"That's it," says the librarian. "At least, that we have in Sathend."

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"Why did people stop doing flat writing?"

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"Have you heard about the magic yet?"

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"Only a little."

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The librarian sighs.

"A world had ended and those who survived found a space not at all like what you've seen of this world. You've seen a world big enough to wander out of earshot of all but the loudest noises, a world where the view is broken up by mountains and trees. You've seen a world where you can get away from the magic.

"The existence of such a world is sustained by that magic, and the sacrifice demanded of the mages - and the number of mages needed - scales with the size of the world so maintained, not the size of the population. A smaller world has never been viable; the air and water take more maintenance the less of them there are.

"There was a time when not one person could have read this style of writing - not such a long time that knowledge of it died out, but long enough for people to be used to something else. Then there was a longer time when writing in this style would have been automatically secret from a majority of people, and so not used for anything public - and so it was a less important form of literacy to pass on."

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"A secret? Why?"

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He startles visibly and then laughs wryly at himself for underestimating the size of the inferential gap with someone from another universe. "You can't risk seeing the magic. Anyone interacting with it regularly - it would have been daily, at that point - would be blind. And at least for people from this world it's difficult to make out the arrangement of ink or graphite by touch. Does that answer your question?"

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"- no, that explains why they could not read flat writing but not why it would be a secret."

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"If you're the first person to retire from magic, there's nothing you'd write in the old style but your own diary. And similarly for slightly larger numbers of people... writing that's only fit to be read by a small audience is only useful when you want to write things only that small audience should read."

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"...I'm still not sure I understand, but it is what it is."

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"I suppose it is. Well, we have other books, some of which might have better answers to your questions than I can offer off the top of my head. Don't take them out of the library until you're cleared for that but you can read most anything any time."

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"I don't think knot writing will be as useful as flat writing would have because I can't read it extra fast."

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"I suppose it would be hard to get used to a new way of writing."

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"It isn't that. I have a thing in my head that can see what I see and hear what I hear. It can feel a little of what I feel, but not all of it, and it can't read knots I'm touching. And it is hard to look at a lot of knots at once, but I could look at a whole page of flat writing at once, for the thing in my head, and it could read that."

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"Hm. You can lay them out flat but that takes time and regardless they're just bigger than flat writing has to be. Still. Maybe try the articles they hang up on the walls - the closest would be through that door and to your left..."

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"Thank you."

She will go skim articles on walls.

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