Jun 28, 2022 5:45 PM
vanda nosseo in velgarth shortly after the Cataclysm
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"We have cows and horses and rats! I don't actually know if we'll be able to fix the problem where your kind of magic isn't safe to use here any more, so it might be you'd all rather move somewhere else, but some people get along without much magic and in particular most people get along without the kind you have here, so if you want to stay right here we can get you set up comfortably. What are you going to build your castle out of?"

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"I wasn't gonna build it out of magic! Lionstar said the sort of magic you need to make buildings work if they wouldn't stand up otherwise is realllly hard and fiddly and it probably won't work right again for a hundred years -"

     "Which is so many!" his little sister jumps in. "I counted to a hundred once! Have you ever counted to a hundred? It's soooooooo many!" 

"- Shush, I was talking!" her brother interrupts. "I was gonna make my castle out of reeds and willow-branches with clay on top. Like how some of the houses here are made. Except I was gonna be smarter and ask Parshat 'cause he knows all the math of how you make big tall houses of stone that last a thousand years! ...I can't make my castle out of stone 'cause magic doesn't work right so you can't use it to dig quarries, and I'm too little to cut stone with an axe." (He has no idea whether an axe is what you would use to cut stone, but it seems plausible, and he tried to lift his pa's axe once and couldn't.) "Anyway I bet it doesn't matter, if you know the math you can just figure out how it'd work with willow-branches and clay instead of stone." 

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"Clay can last a thousand years, though I don't know if willow branches can," says Natsuko agreeably.

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"Do you know the math of how you making a building that lasts a thousand years?" a different girl asks, nudging the others aside. She looks about eight or nine years old. "Just - Lionstar said he couldn't save the books he found on it, and he's not sure he remembered all the math right, so he told us we should check it." 

     "With experiments!" another little boy adds. "Does your world do experiments? They're really cool!" 

"Obviously they do! Dunno how else you could make machines that look at tiny tiny blobs inside you -"

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"We do experiments! And I'm sure someone knows all that math, though not me personally."

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The kids continue to have so many questions! 

 

- Tsashi interrupts, stepping forward (and everyone else falls silent before she even says anything.) 

"I still don't what we'd need to do to join Vanda Nossëo? Do - all of us have to pass a test, or something? ...Just, I think I should go tell Lionstar what it is. Because it seems like the most important thing. Probably." 

And Lionstar ran away, (and Tsashi isn't blind, she absolutely noticed.) She knows it's because he's scared. She can even sort of guess why - some of it, at least, she knows that she doesn't know all of the why. But if there's some sort of test that they can pass, to join the aliens in their universe-spanning civilization, then it's not even slightly a question whether Lionstar would want to know about it. 

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"A group - usually a state, but under the circumstances it can just be this village, that's fine - all has to vote, and if enough of the people want to be part of Vanda Nossëo, they can," says Natsuko. "They have to agree that they're going to have and enforce rules against murder, rape, and torture, and that they'll let anyone who wants to leave go without any fuss. Everything else can vary depending on what a place needs."

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Well, obviously they'll agree to rules against rape and torture! Neither of those accomplishes anything!

The problem is whether using bandits' executions as fuel for the weather-magic that lets them have crops next year is allowed. Tsashi knows a lot about that. Parshat might be the one who's been learning how to make towers ten storeys high, for someday in the future when mages can cut and lift the stone for it, but she's the one who's sat with Lionstar late at night by candlelight and helped him copy tables of figures.

It's not complicated math that you need, for that, it's really just basic arithmetic, addition and subtraction and multiplication and division. Math that Tsashi mastered when she was six. Lionstar says that the hard part is looking at your tables of numbers and always remembering that they mean lives. The bandit they killed this morning could have been her father. (Almost certainly isn't, her father was a horse-tribe-person and they don't roam alone, but could have been.) The babies starving in winter could include her baby brother - 

 

She can do math. It's not complicated math. Their goal all along was to build a world where no one would have to go hungry, or be sick, or be raped by bandits. Where no one would have to die. And...she's pretty sure she knows what Lionstar, given a choice to have that world right now, would choose. It's worth it. 

Even if they decide he's a criminal and so he goes to some faraway prison and she never sees him again. He would think it was worth that cost. It's not a difficult choice.

Or it shouldn't be, at least. 

 

"....And if we all vote that we want to be part of Vanda Nossëo, then that's it?" she asks, her voice shaking even though it's not a hard choice. "Then we can - then anyone here can decide to go to another world, or learn other kinds of magic from you -?"

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"Yup!" says Natsuko.

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"I'm going to go tell Lionstar!" And she runs off. 

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Lionstar is still pacing the outskirts of the town. 

A few minutes ago, Corben came over to ask him what he thought of the alien visitors. Lionstar said he wasn't sure, yet, but Corben was authorized to try reading their minds. Passively, only, not the sort of probe that would attract attention. 

He's still waiting to hear back. 

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Corben is not sure how much range he has for passive scanning and so he's now sidling up to the new house, extending his Othersenses. Are there any unshielded minds there?

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Nelen, Natsuko, Zanro, and Cassiel are all totally opaque, like they aren't even there.

Tarwë isn't! Tarwë is explaining things about plants and animals to the kids. He's propped up his chiplock computer and is showing them pictures of things relevant to their questions.

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Corben was not authorized to do any kind of active probe and so he doesn't. 

:Lionstar? Most of them are shielded. Really good shields, better than yours. One of them isn't but he's just talking to the littles and showing them pictures on his - something? The thing that isn't magic but has pictures?: 

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Computer, Lionstar thinks loudly back. I am not sure how they work either. ...Wait a moment, I probably have other questions. 

And he tries to think, which isn't easy right now. 

 

 

 

- Mindspeak one of the children. Tsashi would probably do it best. Tell her to go to that person specifically, and -

And what, exactly?

 

- and ask what the people of other worlds, who have joined their polity, later said was difficult or confusing or not something they wanted. 

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A pause. 

 

:Sorry. Tsashi just asked a lot of questions and now she's looking for you. ...I told her where you are, hope that's all right: 

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He's so tired. 

:Of course that's all right. Tell Parshat to ask, then: 

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Parshat is shy and has been desperately wanting to ask the clever aliens with their amazing technology about - a lot of things, math and building but also so much more. 

...He isn't all that enthused to be asking about something boring instead but apparently Lionstar thinks it's important? 

He steps forward to interrupt the group of littler children clamoring to look at pictures on Tarwë's computer. "I wanna know about other worlds that joined Vanda Nossëo before! Were they happy about it after? Was there anything they weren't happy about?"

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"Some people are unhappy," says Tarwë. "We're very firmly against mind control, institutionally speaking, so it's pretty hard to please everybody. Often people experience a kind of - cultural shift, as they get more integrated, where their kids want to do things differently from the way their parents are used to. We have some measures to try to make sure cultural knowledge isn't just lost totally, but studying something isn't the same as never knowing anything else. Sometimes if Vanda Nossëo comes in during a war we wind up making people angry trying to cool it down and come up with a postwar compromise. There's one planet that we didn't handle well at all because it's a copy planet except in a few ways and that threw everybody off balance and then the king there did a bunch of propaganda about the visitors' mistakes. Things like that."

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The kids are all leaning in and listening sooooooo intently! And impressed with Parshat for asking such a good question, probably it shouldn't be surprising because they know he's clever but it's still impressive. 

"I don't think my parents would mind if I did things differently from them once I'm a grownup!" one little girl announces. "Lionstar said that's what we've been trying to do this whole time, is making it so when I'm grown up the world will be better and I can do even better things than my parents." 

     "What's cultural knowledge? Is it like all the things we don't know anymore 'cause the books got burned in the Cataclysm?"

"- not all the books! Lionstar saved some of them!"

     "What are wars like on other planets? Are they all as bad as the Mage Wars or are some of them less bad?"

"Or more bad! Maybe they could blow up the whole planet and kill everyone!" 

     "- Shut up, Tori, no one wants to hear that -"

"Okay but what does it mean for a whole entire planet to be a copy of a whole entire other planet except not exactly -"

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"Natsuko's from one that's like that. They're called Earths. There are lots of Earths in different worlds. Oddly, they all have different magic systems - or non-magic systems, in the case of a couple. And some other differences. But they have the same continents and mutually intelligible languages depending on when they are in the Earth timeline and the same species and lots of the same people. I'm from one that's sort of like that; I'm from an 'Arda', most of which are exactly alike except for timeline position till someone finds them, but mine's one of the different ones. There are more Natsukos from other Earths, but the other Ardas never had a Tarwë born on them, because one difference between my Arda and a regular one is that mine has more people and I'm one of the more people. Cultural knowledge is things like... if you asked Cassiel to make you a doll, she'd make it with magic. She doesn't know how to sew. It can be pretty weird for people to go over the course of a few years from a place where basically everyone knows how to sew to a place where only old people and a few hobbyists know how to sew."

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What is Corben picking up via Thoughtsensing while passively listening to this conversation? 

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Well.

The part about blowing up a whole planet and killing everyone got a memory about the time that happened (more or less) to his home planet.

They have a replacement now, but Tarwë hasn't been by. Maybe once his family's had a century or so to cool down.

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(Corben relays this to Lionstar.) 

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....It's pretty hard to get anything from it except for the part about the delegate's home planet apparently being entirely destroyed???

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