« Back
Generated: Jun 18, 2022 11:38 PM
Post last updated: May 21, 2022 7:35 PM
each of them one more reason to wonder
Vanda Nossëo meets Har
Permalink Mark Unread

In a world with lots of magic, there is a planet. Within a rounding error of 1g, sea level atmospheric partial pressure of oxygen about 160 millimeters of mercury, orbiting a G-type star.

The planet at a glance seems to have three continents. One is tropical, overrun with jungle, showing few signs of habitation; a second is half-sunken beneath the southern ice cap, with a small strip of northern coast where it thaws all the way each summer and old-growth forest grows right up to the cliffs overlooking the fjords; and finally, a temperate continent, or perhaps just a large island, dotted with cities.

Some of the cities are bright at night in the manner of human cities, but up north they tend to be dimmer, and shadowed even during the day. The majority of the countryside has been given over to agriculture, a notably small fraction of which is for cereals. Dotting the inhabited continent and parts of the ocean are countless areas that resist scrying; some but not all of them can be seen normally by eye or camera, like the strings of color-changing coins and the things that are not exactly computer screens playing things that are not exactly TV shows. The continent is ringed by islands shrouded in impenetrable mist and shadow; the cities are full of buildings whose windows are always dark no matter that they're otherwise in good repair and dozens of people seem to live in them. Those dozens of people may be predators, possible to mistake at a glance for big cats; they may be hummingbirds; they may be... not quendi, very slightly too short and with eyes set a little too wide and teeth that were never meant for meat. Or they might be four-legged creatures with big eyes in babyish faces and big fluffy tails. Or other things besides those, even, rarely, human.

There are ruins in the solar system. Beneath the ocean of the inhabited planet there are shallows that might once have been continents, things that might once have been cities, and places no one can see into. On the moon there are desiccated bodies, and no sign of any craft that might have brought them there.

Within an hour of any alien craft appearing anywhere in the universe, of course, the imperial government is already trying to scry it.

Permalink Mark Unread

The envoy crafts don't resist scrying much for the same reason that every team has someone on it who is willing to be mindread if necessary. The computers don't appear, but the imperial government can see people - mostly human or very humanlike, plus or minus wings or colorful hair or extra height and symmetry, but some that definitely aren't, such as a couple of bird-people and one who is straight up a capybara and a big ol' quadrupedal bug alien.

The ship is very lovely and clean and richly appointed and none of it is illusions.

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, that's weirdly normal for aliens. How disappointing, they're not even silicon-based sacks of gas. The imperial knowledge mages get to work trying to identify what kinds of magic the aliens have and figure out whether it's an artistic statement or a materials limitation that they put that much effort into wholly nonmagical decor. One of them starts cataloguing every interaction they can observe between anyone on the ship and the Mysterious Things That Aren't Scryable to narrow down what they might be.

The imperial government considers possible announcements for the public and reconsiders them and alerts its police and the state-level entities that maintain wards important to the empire's hypothetical anti-alien defense strategy. Nothing else visibly happens on their end until an illusion mage takes a quick flight and then the tops of some clouds read HELLO, ALIENS - YOU MAY IDENTIFY YOURSELVES.

Permalink Mark Unread

At least some of the aliens seem to be able to make new nonmagical things out of nothing. The Mysterious Things That Aren't Scryable seem to serve the purpose of - books? Maybe illusion video things? People look at them, and some of them don't have to do anything else but their eyes flick around the missing space, and other people have to poke theirs (including everybody with colorful hair, the capybara, some short people with beards, and a ten foot tall blue guy).

The tops of the clouds presently read, under that message, We are peaceful visitors from Vanda Nossëo, a federation of many peoples from many stars!

Permalink Mark Unread

The tops of the clouds next read:

THERE IS NO LIFE AROUND OTHER STARS. WE CHECKED.

hi aliens im hanu

THIS IS NOT OUR PREFERRED MEDIUM FOR LONG EXCHANGES DUE TO THE POSSIBILITY OF VANDALISM. CAN YOU ACCEPT DELIVERY OF A PHONE OR SEND ONE YOURSELVES?

Permalink Mark Unread
Hi hanu!

We can send phones! Where would be good places to put them?
Permalink Mark Unread

Conflicting maps appear pointing them to a spot in the imperial capital and a spot near Hanu's house and yet another spot somewhere on the west coast...

Permalink Mark Unread

They have no shortage of phones. Little drones spill out of the shuttlebay and head to all the suggested locations.

Permalink Mark Unread

People meet the drones and try to figure out how the alien phones work and whether they'll work from inside illusions that block all light and sound from leaving an area, although that's not terribly urgent since the other end isn't private.

Permalink Mark Unread

The drones drop off boxes with phones in them and fly back up to the ship. The phones have pictorial instructions for how to turn them on. They will work in illusions that block light and sound!

Permalink Mark Unread

A representative of the imperial government gets their phone working and lets them know that the Hari Empire is interested in peaceful trade and coexistence and has gone to great lengths to ensure that the biologically, culturally and linguistically diverse people of this world could have that with each other.

Hanu wants to trade information about Har for information about other worlds and also wants to know specifically whether the Solar Lord is right about the conspiracy to hide nineteen extra types of magic and - someone interrupts to say that there is basically no chance they work for the Solar Lord and actually they should be trading science facts because this is a science phone -

Someone representing an astronomy hobbyist group would like to know what they might trade for an explanation of how it is that they could miss Vanda Nossëo's current existence and entire evolutionary history.

Someone wants to know if the aliens would like to do an interview for South Coast News And Weather.

Permalink Mark Unread

There are different people on the other end of each phone.

"We're interested in peaceful trade and coexistence too! We'd like to extend an invitation to join Vanda Nossëo, but even if that won't work for you, we're happy to facilitate free trade and free migration and cultural exchange between Har and hundreds of other worlds."

"We don't actually know how many types of magic your world has! Or who the Solar Lord is."

"The stars we're from are in other universes, which are places that can't be reached by traversing intervening space."

They'd love to do an interview for the South Coast News And Weather.

Permalink Mark Unread

"The Hari Empire has historically extended such invitations to many polities. It has historically been our way, to have many states within the empire whose laws and customs vary, as long as they allow their people to leave, and to vote, and accept a minimal set of laws we insist on to keep the peace - that they must not do things to other people's bodies or possessions without permission, that they must keep their word, a full list can be provided to you and we can compare ours to yours. Har has always sought the stability of political union, but not at the cost of our people's freedom and independence."

"Well, what'll you tell us if we tell you?"

"...Excuse me, are you telling me we could be invaded by arbitrary aliens at any time?"

They should consider sending someone to this place at this time for an interview, if it works out that they can come visit, or else they can work something else out over the phone.

Permalink Mark Unread

"That sounds pretty similar to our situation! Membership in Vanda Nossëo requires free emigration policy, laws against rape, torture, and murder, and a vote of a majority of the entire population in favor. Local polities almost invariably add more requirements but the details vary. We also have some neighbor states who either couldn't implement those minima or prefer to operate separately for bureaucratic reasons, and we still trade with them and allow their people to move to Vanda Nossëo."

"I don't know what you want to know! That's one of the thing we're here for! How about you tell us what you want to know - besides those things that I already said we don't know - and in exchange for that I'll answer the ones I can?"

"In principle, that's not impossible, but if there were a polity of scale comparable to ours running around invading people we'd probably have a problem with them sooner or later even if they didn't attack Vanda Nossëo members."

They would be happy to send somebody down then! Any requests on what kind of somebody?

Permalink Mark Unread

"Your people may visit as soon as they've read our laws, and our people may leave if you'll have them and they want to go. I can read our imperial laws to you over this phone if that's the most convenient way to arrange for your people to know them."

"We want to know how you make phones!" "And what other worlds are like and what you want and what it's like to be aliens. We have twelve kinds of magic, unless the Solar Lord is right and it's thirty one, but nobody else believes that. And the Solar Lord says he's king of the sun and moon and I think he's probably allowed to be as long as he pays taxes but he doesn't live there because nobody lives there."

"Well, that's good. And nothing I've seen so far has made me think we couldn't win a war if one happened. - I notice you skipped straight to answering my question and I'm not sure if the implication was that we're going question for question or what."

They'd like somebody who can understand and pronounce Ilan and ideally also someone who looks alien in a way that'd be hard to do by layering illusions over a caralendar actor. ...And they have to have read or heard Anavel Sani's state laws and be willing to follow them while they're there.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can you tell us where we could find a copy of your laws written in physical form? Illusions are also fine but we'd have to send a drone to pick it up."

"These phones were made by an onboard object-conjuration team member but their design and non-magical manufacture are really complicated and honestly I don't know much about it personally! I'm going to send you some pictures of other worlds, you can poke through them if you touch the blue part of the phone's screen - there you go -" There are pictures of planets from the sky, cities from the air, people partying and traveling and hawking various goods in a dozen settings. "We found some bodies on the moon but nobody alive, that's for sure."

"I'm in the habit of answering questions in situations like this, it's part of my job. Do you want me to ask you more questions?"

"All our people are using translation magic that will make them sound like they're speaking Ilan to people whose native language is Ilan. I'm not sure how easy it is for you to do illusions that would add, say, wings...? We're working on getting a copy of the imperial laws, where can we find the state laws?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sure, they're normally free at any government building but I can get a copy and set it someplace outdoors if that's easier for the drone. They should also be scryable," and the imperial representative can explain where to scry them.

Regardless of how they get them, the imperial laws read, in Hari:

The Hari Empire commands all free people who live within Har's borders and partake in Har's society, to

pay taxes which are explained in the Appendix of Current Imperial Taxes,

not change, touch, or put magic on the body of any free person unless that person allows it,

not kill any free person unless that person allows it,

not take away any free person's possession unless that person allows it,

not change or put magic on the possession of any free person unless that person allows it,

not release and make free any slave, unless a reasonable person could expect that slave to understand and follow these laws,

keep all contracts which they chose to make at a time when they were not being threatened with battery, murder, or something these laws forbid,

stay out of areas owned by any free person unless that person allows it,

not lie to a judge or police officer while in court for the purpose of determining any person's guilt or innocence in any criminal case,

not prevent any free person from entering any public place whose owner has not chosen to restrict entry into it,

not force any free person to leave any place whose owner consents for that person to be there.

Additional exceptions may exist for some law enforcement officers; for more information on this, see the Appendix on Law Enforcement. For more information on property, ownership, and state and municipal laws, see the Appendix on Property and Possession, and the Official List of States of the Hari Empire. For sentencing guidelines, see the Appendix on Sentencing. For more information on the Hari Empire and who can speak for it, see the Appendix on Elections. For information on the benefits of society, see the Official List of Current Imperial Public Works. For more information about opting out, see So You Never Want To See Another Person Again: A Guide To Private Island Life. Remember to also read the laws of the state and city you live in!

"Oh, cool - I know a story about the bodies on the moon - wait, what do you mean about conjuration, we can totally make things with magic..."

"Yeah! Why is that your job? Who's paying you to do it? Is physics different in any worlds you know of?"

"...Uh, what happens if someone whose native language isn't Ilan tries to capture an illusion of exactly what one of your representatives said?"

Permalink Mark Unread

They're gonna read all the appendices to see if they need to pay taxes, how their posessions will be adjudicated, and also all the other things just out of curiosity.

"I don't know if your magic could make phones or not! Our kind used the design of the phone, once it had been invented, to make real phones."

"Vanda Nossëo pays me to do envoy tasks and part of that is making ourselves clear and easy to understand for anyone who's curious about us! There are some worlds with different physics, like a couple where the world is flat and goes on forever instead of there being stars and planets. What are all you guys's names? What were you doing before we showed up today?"

"The illusion will probably also have the Allspeak property but we haven't tested that interaction since your magic system is new to us. We have some people who can learn languages very quickly but not in time for the proposed interview schedule unless we call in someone who isn't assigned to this ship, and those people aren't necessarily going to be interested. Alternately, we could borrow someone who speaks Ilan, and take them to a different universe with some useful magic, and have them do some of the magic to let one of our people know all the languages they speak, as well as they speak them."

Permalink Mark Unread

Depending on where they set up shop they could end up owing state sales tax. The states they'd realistically operate in have strict truth-in-advertising laws, not all the same, and laws against replacing matter with vacuum. There's a bunch of interesting precedent on what kinds of things can be considered property, and whether they are by default thus considered. (The states they're at all likely to want to operate in are Har, Erhau, Meiu, Westgarden, East Anemone Bay, South Anemone Bay, Ethornak, Ehima, Rasa, Cloudbreak, and Anavel Sani. That's not even half the states in existence but, for example, I Don't Like The Other States, population: one, full text of state laws: stay away or I will hurt you until you wish you were never born, probably doesn't want to entertain a diplomatic delegation.)

Hanu et al and the astronomy club will all keep talking at length with Vanda Nossëo's representatives.

South Coast News and Weather can put out an ad for people who want to get involved in an alien magic experiment to teach people languages by magic. This might go better with more detailed information on the specific magic in question.

Permalink Mark Unread

The way it works is that there's some species that can be summoned from a couple of specific worlds from their homes, so they'd dismiss one back to their home, and then have a Hari citizen go to one of those worlds and summon them, and then dismiss them right back (the first thing involves pressing a button, the second thing involves concentrating for about a minute).

One thing they often do in new places is set up stores where they will exchange goods of theirs for stories, anecdotes, songs, and similar cultural trivia. How would sales tax apply in those cases?

Permalink Mark Unread

South Coast News and Weather puts up their ad. There are some people interested in going to another world and pushing a button, sure.

There are several different precedents for how barter relates to taxes in different areas. Each of them individually makes sense.

Permalink Mark Unread

Cool. They don't mind paying taxes when they operate in those states.

They would like to send someone down to collect a button-pusher, okay?

Permalink Mark Unread

They can do that. Would-be button-pusher is some kind of hummingbird but generally handles heavy loads with magic and does not expect to be impaired in pushing even a very large button.

Permalink Mark Unread

Some kind of hummingbird is informed that it is typically the case that people born outside worlds where summoning occurs are not affected by performing a summon, but their species and world have not been tested, and the thing that happens to summoners from the relevant worlds is that they become a summonable being upon their death, is that okay?

Permalink Mark Unread

"What kind of summonable being?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"A demon, an angel, or a fairy; which seems to depend on your personality. All three are indestructible; demons can conjure material objects, angels can change them, and fairies can move them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You mean like how a structure mage can take plain air and turn it into sugar?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Angels can do that, sure, or vice-versa, or water into rock, or whatever."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Does the conjuring make things out of nothing?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes it does."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Okay, that's going to be a big deal economically - do you also have the ability to get rid of the things, one of my other selves can do that and it's not exactly useful here..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Angels can get rid of the things by turning them into smaller volumes or different things or both. Other selves?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You know, I'm part of a thwilit. There are other birds that are also part of the same thwilit. Together we're one legal person."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. Do you all need to come along to still be able to talk and stuff, when we bring you to do the summoning? I'm not sure it will work if you aren't individually sapient. And if you are I'm curious why you're one legal person."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can talk on my own. Just, if I were trapped alone, I would rather be dead, and couldn't have kids, and wouldn't really know how to take care of myself in the longer term, and if one part of us touches another part of us without asking it's not any of the empire's business."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. That's really neat. Ready to go to the world where summoning works?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah!"

Permalink Mark Unread

There are a series of environmental discontinuities and then they're standing in a nice office and the thwillit-member is offered a button.

Permalink Mark Unread

They push the button. And now a daeva speaks Thwilit and Ilan and a few words of Hari.

Permalink Mark Unread

Cool. And dismissal goes fine?

Permalink Mark Unread

Seems to, or at any rate, the bird in question doesn't have any trouble wanting it for a minute.

Permalink Mark Unread

And gone is the fairy. (And then back is the fairy, as the escort resummons her.) And then they can all pop back to Har!

Permalink Mark Unread

They can do that. And the fairy can be interviewed about Vanda Nossëo and its species and laws and intentions toward Har and its take on linguistic diversity and democracy and lifespan differences and whether Vanda Nossëo knows useful things about science and technology and what kinds of magic people have in other universes...

Permalink Mark Unread

The fairy has pretty good screen presence, insofar as that translates when the camera isn't a camera!

Species: lots. Mostly humans by population, but the Amentans and orcs both have much higher birth rates and whether they catch up or not probably depends on what they find with further exploration (Amentans seem to be a one-off, orcs aren't). There are also Elves and Dwarves, who have pretty low birth rates but also keep being discovered in new worlds, and demons and fairies and angels, who don't reproduce at all but members of many other species can turn into them if they're born in the right world so they've put lots of the Amentans' colony planets in those worlds specifically hoping to increase the supply. There are dozens of other species that you are less likely to run into if you're bopping around the multiverse; the fairy gives examples but tries not to get too into the weeds about all the weird nonhuman humanoids you can find one or two planets of in Warp or Edda or Cube (those being the most crowded-with-various-aliens worlds).

Laws! The minimum requirement to join Vanda Nossëo is freedom of emigration and laws against murder, torture, and rape, plus a majority vote in favor; that gets you defensive support and a universal basic income. These may not sound very controversial but on some planets they turn out to be real sticking points because the locals were underestimating how many people they apply to (it's all of them, all the people, yes children, yes slaves, yes crazy people, etc., many places limit immigration such that you can't enter if you're a murderer or something but you still have to let them leave, and you also have to let them vote). Basically everywhere in Vanda Nossëo has more laws than that, though.

Vanda Nossëo has mass-produced wands that, with a tap from a trained installer, give you Allspeak, the ability to be heard as though speaking all your listeners' languages, to write in any language, to read and understand any language. (Reading and writing only work if you're literate.) This substantially accelerates linguistic diversity development - anyone who needs to talk to lots of people who don't live in their neighborhood gets an Allspeak installation and will barely even notice if their idiolect drifts out of mutual intelligibility with another dialect's. This is very controversial among linguists as to whether it's good or bad but it sure seems to be happening.

Democracy: varies! Humans and Amentans often like it in one form or another, Dwarves are anarchocapitalists, Elves like monarchies, orcs do a bunch of different stuff, other species do a bunch of different stuff.

Lifespan differences: it is the considered position of Vanda Nossëo that nobody should have to die if they don't feel like it. Immortality and resurrections are both still bottlenecked, but they're working hard on that; resurrection doesn't work on everybody, specifically people who have nonreductionist souls and whose souls can't be conveniently located and coaxed back into a replacement body, so people meeting that description are prioritized for immortality, as are people who don't live very long.

Vanda Nossëo knows lots of great stuff about science and technology, like various ways to travel faster than light and information technology that lets you find the exact passage you have in mind in a book out of a library of text and recordings and suchlike you have on a device yea big.

Some of the most common magic types are magic songs (they have to be composed in specific universes but can be sung anywhere), wizardry (the world it's from is super not safe to visit, but there are refugees, and anyone can learn it), being a magic rock (more common in Mîr, the polity oriented around the universe neighborhood in which magic rocks can be made) which have a useful suite of utility powers and also varying other abilities depending on their personal details, and the alphabet spells (a suite of several spells that only one person can invent more of and that very slowly, but that anyone can learn, but that are so ridiculously powerful that you need to pass even more screening for them than for being a wizard).

Permalink Mark Unread

They have a lot of detailed questions about Dwarves and the screening for the ridiculously powerful magic and how they can get access to the technological information. And what "rape" is, until they ascertain that it's a subset of something already illegal in Har.

The interviewer asks about whether they require consent for resurrection or for that matter whether they can just make their own copies of people who they want to do things to, and about the types of magical beings that people can become when they die - do they keep the magic they had before? What exactly can demons conjure?

Permalink Mark Unread

They don't require consent for resurrection except in the sense that if someone has requested that they not be resurrected they won't be; the presumption for people who never had the opportunity to do that is that they may as well give it a go, since most people would rather be alive. It is possible to copy some kinds of people but illegal without that person's consent. Screening filters out people who want to use the magic antisocially in some way, and if there's really limited spots in a class it'll be filtered further. Some kinds of magic are retained upon becoming a daeva but not all. Demons can conjure any material object provided they have enough information to specify it.

Permalink Mark Unread

The interviewer goes very still.

"Can demons conjure material objects that are magically hidden?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not always - there's a magic system that can erase written information sufficient to prevent a demon from getting a copy, if the copies are all erased - but, uh, probably."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can we check that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, I can ask one of my demon colleagues to check something if you'll tell me what."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The grocery list I wrote this morning and haven't taken anywhere yet?"

Permalink Mark Unread

The fairy looks at his computer and then turns the display so the interviewer can see. There's the grocery list.

Permalink Mark Unread

He freezes for a solid ten seconds.

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's possible to get a brain implant that demon-proofs information you use it to record," says the fairy earnestly. "I can tell this is really important to you and we can get the research fast-tracked for local brain anatomy."

Permalink Mark Unread

"But you can get - anything - people naked - everything anyone wrote before you came - the ways people decorate their bedrooms - right?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"- they can but it's not that likely that they will, for any given person."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I do not consent to resurrection," he says, and freezes his heart.

Permalink Mark Unread

The fairy is pretty freaked out about that.

Permalink Mark Unread

The way they do filming in Har doesn't require that someone be right there in the room behind a camera. There do happen to be an illusion mage and knowledge mage in the next room toying with what might be called camera angles, or more accurately at this point, staring vaguely at the metal they were testing angles on and not particularly toying with anything.

The illusion mage recovers first and walks in. Possibly someone should have some manner of interaction with the fairy about this. ...She does not have any ideas for what kind of interaction it should be.

Permalink Mark Unread

The fairy is sobbing into his scarf!

Permalink Mark Unread

The illusion mage is so at a loss and honestly sobbing sounds like a very relatable response right now. She's not doing it, but, super relatable. She liked that guy. Also every time she has ever gotten off is now basically public. Also she would prefer the fairy not be sad, which seems basically unachievable but slightly less unachievable than anything else.

"...Hi. Um. I totally saw that that wasn't murder and I will let people know if it comes up."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Um... th-thank you?" whimpers the fairy.

Permalink Mark Unread

Seems like an odd response but it's at least sensical. "Do you want to go be in the same room as me and Malar who was also watching?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...okay." The fairy floats along after her.

Permalink Mark Unread

When they get there the illusion mage curls up clutching the illusion blank they were using to her chest as if she desperately needs a hug from something that isn't metallic and doesn't imagine either of the other people in the room are valid sources of hugs. "So I guess we don't have to go outside to let anyone know, huh," she says.

Malar looks up and shivers and seems to snap out of it.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm sorry," sobs the fairy. "Are - are a lot of people going to do that -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, probably some? I like being alive but I like it less now," says the illusion mage. She does not attempt to charge because it would make her feel slightly less bad if the fairy felt slightly less bad so she's going to give him free stuff about it. "I don't think you have to be sorry about it? The demons should be sorry, the demons should stop existing, everything would be fine if we could make every demon stop being conscious forever and destroy anything they already conjured about us."

Permalink Mark Unread

The fairy finds this bewildering enough as a thing to say that he stops crying and looks puzzled at her.

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Because then the thing that upset everyone here wouldn't be true? Probably if that happened Aisan wouldn't even want to be dead. I guess you might feel like that was worse if you have demon friends but I don't have any of those. At any rate if anyone's going to try to appease us it should be the people who caused the problems in the first place and not you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There's... billions of them. And they're important. And they don't even care how you decorate your bedroom. I don't understand why you'd want them all dead?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Because sometimes I like to have privacy for things. It's - I mean - it's - maybe it's not something fairies care about, I don't know, all the humans I know care, and all the caralendri I know care, and obviously agerah care even more than we do a lot of the time. I'm not really seeing how there being billions of them would make it any better."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It... makes it worse to kill them all, since it would be billions of murders and not just a few? And they - have better things to do? Than invade your privacy. I guess there's probably a few who do that kind of thing but it's so, so so unlikely they'd pick you, there's so many people, it's probably likelier that your privacy mage defrauded you in the first place."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am my privacy mage! I didn't defraud myself! I admit that billions of murders would be intensely disruptive and counter to the rule of law and also the demons would be against it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay but for any given person who isn't their own privacy mage it is probably likelier that their privacy mage defrauded them than that a demon super cares what they look like naked or how they decorate their bedroom. ...demons do have kind of a reputation of really wanting to organize all the writing that has ever been written so I guess that might be more of a concern. Would it help if we tried to avoid making this world known to the general demon population? I worry that would make it more interesting, not less, if they figured out there was a secret world..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know! The government could figure it out, but if you tell them then maybe they'll kill themselves instead! This is not my job and I don't want it to be my job but I'd rather it be my job than live in an anarchy because we can't have a government and two of the imperial ministers are agerah. I don't know. I could be wrong. Maybe they'll be really chill. Maybe if you lead with 'we're trying to figure out how to fix this' before you explain what the problem is."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe." The fairy has his face in his scarf again. "Possibly someone who is not me should try to do that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, you can just... be in the same room with someone who also feels kind of upset and freaked out, if you want, I feel like that makes things slightly better."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think I'm going to go up to the ship again now actually," mumbles the fairy. "Since my interviewer is dead." And he vanishes.

Permalink Mark Unread

Welp. The illusion mage stays put and tries to think whether it'd improve on this situation to go get hugs from her actual loved ones. On the one hand, yes, it would. On the other hand, she's not going to go tell them and watch them react.

Malar also leaves to go let some people know what's happening.

Permalink Mark Unread

The representative talking to the government says that they have discovered something that appears to be locally infohazardous, is there a local policy on that?

Permalink Mark Unread

Infohazards have historically usually turned out to be hoaxes or bad news or excessively bright lights. But they're learning a lot of new things today. "We could arrange a more private communication channel and you could speak to a member of a different species than the one it's known to be hazardous to."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The only species we know it to not normally be infohazardous to is humans, because all the other species here are new to us, and it seems likely that humans here are more vulnerable than most, maybe for cultural reasons. We have reason to believe it may be especially dangerous to agerah but the person who killed themself on exposure was a caralendar."

Permalink Mark Unread

The imperial representative thinks about those species and what they have in common. "Maybe a belul or an erel would be a good choice, then. Several of both work for the imperial government."

Permalink Mark Unread

"No humans? We'd really like to avoid more casualties, we don't think this is something people ought reasonably be killing themselves over or at least haven't yet been brought to an understanding of why it would be. We can explain to a volunteer belul or erel if that seems best from your perspective."

Permalink Mark Unread

"My reasoning is - if it varies between our humans and yours, it's likely culturally influenced; caralendri are one of the more social species, so that also makes me think it's culturally influenced; agerah really aren't, to the extent that the agerah that you meet are selected very heavily for being unusually social, so anyone's idea of what they're like will skew social; humans, caralendri and agerah are all large, all mammals, all specifically form long-term relationships with the same individuals. The non-mammals are essi, who won't have good enough models of other people's concerns to help, ereli, who might, and thwilit, who are more social than any other species; beluli don't usually prefer to form stable long-term relationships, and if you're concerned what you have to say is alarming, there are some who won't be alarmed by anything at all."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. Difficult to alarm sounds good. Though if I had to bet on it I'd think thwilit might actually be fine."

Permalink Mark Unread

"All right. If you want to send someone down we can offer you privacy and a fearless belul in the employ of the imperial government; I'm not sure how to get privacy over this phone, but we could also send you one of ours."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We'll send someone down."

The someone is a demon herself, this time, in case demos are required.

Permalink Mark Unread

The belul is smaller than a human and fluffy with a babyish face. She carries herself as if totally unaware of these facts. She looks like she's wearing a spiked collar and part of a skull for a hat. She perches up where she can be vaguely around eye level for most humanoids, and makes herself comfortable, ignoring the ostensible spikes clipping through her.

"Hey there. What rends the minds of other beings?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Anti-scrying wards don't work on every possible spying attempt," she says. "We think it's vanishingly unlikely that any given person would be spied on, but it's possible. There may be a way to prevent it going forward but probably not retroactively except for written material that all copies of ever made still exist."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Yep, people'll kill themselves. Not sure what I can say about that besides 'cool, being part of a peaceful global empire was kinda boring.' What's the vulnerability?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"My species can conjure arbitrary material objects, including to specifications like how things were at a particular place at a time, or around a particular person. It does have to be material, we can't copy illusions. There's a way to record information such that we can't retrieve it and the author can still access it, but it requires a brain implant, and we don't have them figured out for all the kinds of brains here."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...And, also, you were telling us about nonreductionist souls, but we don't have those, so you can copy the brain itself."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We actually can't do that in a way that wakes up; if we try we get a biologically alive but not sensate or responsive copy. Good for medical research but not for kidnapping. Resurrecting people without nonreductionist souls requires that and then also a second step from a different magic system."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not thrilled that you can get every piece of information it's possible to have about me even if, if you want to actually kidnap me, you have to get another kind of mage to help."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- I can't, the other kind of mage can only wake up an empty body if there's not an extant version of the person around."

Permalink Mark Unread

"So you have to murder me first. That's another tricky step but it's not impossible. It's not what people are going to kill themselves over, though, that's the part where they have no privacy and never did."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right. So, one thing we could try to do is get the planet and everything and everyone on it to be sufficiently magical that we can't conjure it. We could try to classify the existence of this planet, so the only demons who'd know about it are the ones on this crew - me and there's two others - and it'd be much easier to enforce rules against us spying on you than against all the demons in the multiverse doing so. We could move the entire planet to Mîr, a world where one of Vanda Nossëo's friends and allies has the ability to grant wishes, and have some people wish everyone and their stuff unconjurable; we could then put the planet back or leave it in Mîr as you preferred. We could move the planet to a new world, that demons don't know to quantify over when they're looking for things, and handle all communications by multi-hop crystal ball relay, which could be limited to one non-demon knowing how to emplace everything - could be someone who'd forget it after the installation was performed, although then maintenance would be impossible. None of these plans is perfect but the Mîr one is probably the best if you want my recommendation. Or there might be things we haven't thought of yet."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Mîr sounds like a fine plan to me, I guess if you don't want everyone to die you should lead with that. But if it's not retroactive some people are still going to hate it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Might be able to get it retroactive with enough wishes. Mîr wishes run on strength of emotion, so the fact that people here feel so strongly about it is an asset if we can keep them from committing suicide about it long enough to make the wish. Uh, one complication is that if things are unconjurable retroactively then we can't resurrect even people who would like to be alive again, lacking the ability to conjure a body for them. So ideally there'd be an exception for that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think we're going to crack immortality in a few more decades, maybe a century. Maybe we could get it faster with alien biology information."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sure, but that doesn't help your great great great grandparents."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. Well, but you care what they want, and it's not impossible that a structure mage could someday rebuild someone - maybe it will be impossible if we make a wish, but no one knew that might happen - and people in the past went around hiding their brains too. Admittedly they wouldn't've been picturing a peaceful empire that cared about them getting to be alive and happy, when they pictured people who might bring them back."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, we're a peaceful federation and we care about them getting to be alive and happy."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Is there a manageable number to do today - you won't be able to find a lot of people who would have strong feelings about them getting to be alive and happy, you could find, like, historians who want to spy on them and I don't think that's what you want here."

Permalink Mark Unread

"A manageable number of - what, resurrections? Uh, let me get a ballpark estimate how many people have died on this planet." One water molecule per and a scale, whaddawegot.

Permalink Mark Unread

Lots. Not as many as most Earths, but still, lots.

Permalink Mark Unread

"- yeah, this would be an absolutely massive undertaking just to resurrect, let alone the logistics to rehome and bring back up to speed," says the demon, shaking her head. "We don't need strong feelings for standard resurrections, strong feelings are for wishes and resurrections we can do in large amounts, but we can't do it all this week."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Then they're going to stay dead."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- maybe we could conjure the bodies in advance, and then keep them in stasis till we're ready to complete the resurrections," suggests the demon. "Since only the conjuration will be blocked by the protective wish."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That might work! We can keep things in stasis pretty easily."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I was imagining covering it with another wish and leaving them in Mîr but it's possible your solution is better, how does it scale and how reversible is it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Off the top of my head I don't have specifics but it's worked in the past sometimes and in the past it's also resulted in a lot of statues we don't know what to do with that can no longer be restored - unless we resurrect a particular person who could bring them back - and which we also can't destroy. Probably doing it over a shorter timescale would be fine."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I think probably we'll go with the wish in that case. I hope we can figure out something to do with your statues but it sounds like they'll keep." Deep breath. "Okay. Do you need to consult anyone else about going ahead with prepping for the Mîr plan?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, that's the kind of thing that's... probably Minister Seihra's job to sign off on, I think, although it might end up needing everyone because it's going to make so much more work for the judiciary rounding up records of which people were executed on purpose."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We don't need those records now, we aren't going to complete any resurrections today, we're just going to conjure bodies to maintain option value."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. And, uh, is this going to involve us needing to store a lot of frozen bodies, is it going to involve telling a bunch of demons about us before we can prevent them conjuring everything we've ever made..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We can store them, and we can keep it to just the demons on the crew till the wish is made."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sounds good to me. Run it by Minister Seihra, who'll be the one rounding up people with strong feelings about privacy and explaining the situation to the public anyway. Come with me, there are phones for the ministers' secretaries in another room."

Permalink Mark Unread

The demon follows.

Permalink Mark Unread

The thing that is translating as "phones" is actually a type of paired illusion-and-scrying device. The fearless and slightly edgelordy belul gets hold of the minister's secretary, explains the urgency, gets hold of the minister, and explains the situation.

"Yes, we'll do that," the minister answers. "While we're working on transit and finding people with strong emotions, someone who knows how Mîr's magic works should speak with a spell designer about what exactly we want - maybe Exav, a belul force mage who does command design for the empire and shouldn't be doing anything urgent today. Make that happen. And are there requirements beyond strong emotions? I expect we can filter for something else at very little cost."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'll call in a liaison from Mîr. The strong emotion needs to be related to the subject of the wish, but it can be positive or negative - both is even better - and they need to be trustworthy to make only the agreed-on wish. Plus they'll be going to Mîr, but all of you will be going to Mîr, so -

- oh, hm. Some magic systems are by planet but some are by world. If any babies are being born, or conceived, or hatched, or whatever the critical point in your magic system is, it's possible being in Mîr would interfere with them getting magic."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can have the person placed under a temporary command not to make any unapproved wish - finding someone who'll accept may still not narrow it down to a manageable number of candidates. I'll announce the other potential problem in case any soon-to-be mothers hear about it and want to have a defense mage freeze them for the trip, and it sounds like if anyone does miss the announcement we have several options for fixing any problems that might result."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay, that sounds good. Uh, let's see, anything else... there's a species that requires a particular kind of solar radiation but we're bringing your sun with you... getting to Mîr from here via known worlds requires going through a world where gravity works differently, possibly we should do a test planet or go on a quick shortcut-hunt to make sure being there for a fraction of a second won't be an issue... you'll also be passing through some planets with inborn magic features of their own, which should be mentioned to soon-to-be-mothers too..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There are many uninhabited planets in this universe that you may use for your test. I can include information about other worlds' magics in the announcement. Do you have a list of them?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"The ones en route are Hex, Stork, and Dreamward - Dreamward being the one with the different gravity situation. Hex everyone gets an immaterial perceptible-only-to-them animal companion and then you can either instantiate them physically or not; in the first case they eventually go to sleep and stay that way and memories about them fade and in the second case you can cast spells but if they die you're in very serious trouble. Stork has servantmaking, being able to animate and control a few kinds of thing collectively called servants. Also they spontaneously appear as babies without reproducing at any point so it doesn't seem that likely to be contagious to passersby but it bears mentioning. Dreamward has a thing called troportation where you can exchange properties between objects you're touching. Also they have immaterial souls there."

Permalink Mark Unread

Seihra can go put together that announcement.

Exav can talk spell design with whoever they send. It was Exav's day off but this is urgent.

Permalink Mark Unread

They're sorry about having appeared on Exav's day off.

They've gotten ahold of Mîr's wish design department and have some wordings rendered and checked in Hari to vet, for the unconjurability of the people, possessions, and inhabited places belonging to the people of Har (available in "entirely" or "just the things that are also unscryable", they recommend the latter because demon forensics is pretty useful but it's up to them), stasis on the conjured bodies of the dead of the past, and a precautionary wish protecting the magical development of any babies conceived or born at an inconvenient moment.

Permalink Mark Unread

Exav wants to know if demonic conjuration is unprecedented or if it'd make more sense to wish for immunity to divination more broadly, and whether they can make use of any of the established ways of excepting specific people's spells to allow illusion mages to, say, specify a whitelist of demons if they have some reason to want to.

Permalink Mark Unread

Demonic conjuration is pretty special but a broader immunity might work. No-conjuring-except-under-these-conditions might also work, the question is mostly whether someone can muster strong enough feelings about it when it has more caveats.

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, maybe if Exav ranks wish designs by how well they'd achieve what the people of Har most want to get out of this, they can go through the list in order and find out if any of their candidates can wish for them intensely enough. Is there a direct relationship between number of caveats and required strength of emotion...?

Permalink Mark Unread

Often people who are making a wish like this find it much easier to feel strongly about a simple, clear principle than about a complicated legalistic document but it's by no means universal.

Permalink Mark Unread

Meanwhile the imperial minister commandeers the imperial news and also the imperial live public executions channel to make an emergency announcement about the proposed solution, and then about the problem, and then about the special considerations for pregnant people.

They're swamped with volunteers for the wish. Well, for the privacy wish. A comparatively manageable number of people feel strongly about putting dead bodies in stasis or having a backup plan for babies.

Permalink Mark Unread

They can bring a bunch and see who makes the Empress's wish-granter go ding the loudest? They're already moving this entire damn planet to Mîr.

(The test planet has made it there and back unscathed, seismic readings nominal, atmosphere intact, sun not behaving weirdly. It helped that they went WAY WAY WAY above the surface of the flat in Dreamward.)

Permalink Mark Unread

They can do that. Some of them make the wish-granter go ding quite loudly indeed.

Permalink Mark Unread

The winners for each wish can be the ones to make it, then.

Permalink Mark Unread

Winners make wishes, then. They manage to work in a reasonable amount of caveats to the privacy one. The imperial news gives a terse summary of the whole thing afterward.

South Coast News and Weather edits the interview and cuts the death and immediate leadup thereto in favor of having Malar summarize things.

Permalink Mark Unread

The Vanda Nossëo folks tentatively attempt to pick up where they left off before, uh, that.

Permalink Mark Unread

Minister Seihra lets them know that Har has chosen to take it as a sign of good faith and an overture of friendship that they granted this wish, and invites them to send someone to the imperial audience chamber to address the three people to whom all the rest of the imperial government answers.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay! Here's an Elf who introduces herself as Alassë.

Permalink Mark Unread

Someone will then show Alassë down a mazelike hallway whose walls are not where they look like they are, to a dimly lit room where three people appear to perch on daises. There are two agerah - Seihra, Imperial Minister of Public Works, and Haria, Imperial Chief Justice - and one caralendar woman, Saran Sorota, Imperial Minister of Revenue.

"Your people's coming has been intensely disruptive," says Saran, "but so are all interactions of societies with one another, and this one less than many. Is it true, then, that you have come because you care for the wellbeing of others, wherever they may be found?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, that's right," says Alassë.

Permalink Mark Unread

"We are pleased to have met you. Can you think of anything else that might alarm us if handled indelicately - I would very much like to be sure we're done with that phase of things and move on, I expect you understand."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We weren't expecting this first wave of alarm, but brainstorming attempts haven't come up with anything else obvious. Uh, more common sources of tension are that Vanda Nossëo opposes slavery, takes a fairly strong position on children's rights and freedom of emigration, doesn't endorse the death penalty, and opposes mind control and mindreading."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, children's rights and slavery might indeed be sources of tension, but that's not nearly so alarming as the existence of mind control - we'd like to arrange tests of our magic against that and mindreading, and, ah, backup plans in case those tests turn out alarmingly."

Permalink Mark Unread

"All right, we can call in a range of people with mental powers for testing. Some people, like my species, just have communicative telepathy, but there are more powerful ones. We do have our own solution, based on Mîr wishes like the ones we just arranged, for that, which most of our envoy staff are equipped with. It works against most things. - there are also precognitive powers in a particular world-neighborhood that our defense does not work on."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can you tell us more about these precognitive powers, and can we avoid them if we stay in our own universe?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"The precognitive powers only work in a particular neighborhood and Har isn't in it. Information about other worlds that enters that neighborhood can be precognitively learned. They work by allowing the precog to get advance information about things that they in particular will experience while remaining in their neighborhood in the counterfactual that they did not use precognition. We use that for disaster anticipation - we probably would have gotten a warning from a precog about the privacy thing if it hadn't specifically concerned privacy and make bringing more eyes onto the situation fraught - but nothing local to Har that doesn't make the interdimensional news will be apparent to them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, that might be fine. I am sure some people will be annoyed that all their shows will be spoiled if they get popular on other worlds, and there are probably other problems I'm not thinking of immediately... I expect it will be fine. So, I don't think we're likely to join Vanda Nossëo - trying to end slavery really wouldn't be popular, probably not even among slaves - but I hope we can nonetheless make you glad you came."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can I ask why ending slavery wouldn't be popular among slaves?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Many of them like being alive or have hope that they will like being alive in the future."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- to be clear, when we're addressing slavery we do not do it by killing anyone. We try to find ways to free the slaves."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, then you have the additional concern that many of them like that their families are alive and the planet exists! I am imagining that, say, a serial murderer would go on to commit more murders once no longer restrained from doing so, or that someone with poor impulse control would be angry that a town was laid out confusingly and try to rearrange it and get frustrated if that didn't work and do something big and destructive about it, or that a child would like the bath they were taking and not want to stop and freeze the entire room so that nothing within it could ever change in any way again."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- is that the main problem that you're using slavery to address?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. Of extremely secondary importance are uses like medical research and the fact that some people enjoy owning other people."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Would you be willing to work with us on ending slavery if we had some kind of non-slavery-related antimagic that sufficed for safety purposes like that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can't immediately rule it out. I'm not convinced you'd like the effects it'd have and I'm concerned that incorrigible criminals would still be able to do something objectionable, and there are lesser concerns like the unpopularity of such a policy with people who just want to hurt others."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Vanda Nossëo has," sigh, "prisons, for people who can't be safely released into the general population, but most people prefer them to slavery."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Why do most people prefer them and for which species is that true?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Prisoners have guaranteed rights - which don't include leaving the prison system but do include lots of other things - and they're generally maintained to a high standard of comfort and include opportunities to learn skills that will be useful upon release. As far as I know every species in Vanda Nossëo and our allied neighbors Mîr and Elendil with... hm... three exceptions, nigh-universally prefers prison to slavery in typical conditions, and the individuals in other species who choose not to exit slavery conditions usually have a specific reason like having close personal relationships with people they wouldn't be able to see if they left."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't believe we'll want to interfere if you want to buy some and take them to very comfortable prisons to teach them things."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Buying slaves on an ongoing basis has a tendency to incentivize people to enslave more people. We'd be happy to buy every single one of them as a one time thing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can understand your concern, but we have all the incentive we need to keep doing that indefinitely."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I understand that your current rate of enslavement is incentivized quite sufficiently," Alassë assures them. "The issue would be if, say, people chose to have more children knowing that Vanda Nossëo would buy them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Are you hoping to increase our infanticide rate or are you hoping we'll institute wildly unpopular laws about that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...we also distribute contraception."

Permalink Mark Unread

"For what species?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Any. We have nonmagical methods that work for humans but the magical ones will work for arbitrary species."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I suppose that and the ability to check in advance whether the baby would be a void mage would bring the rate down."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What exactly is the issue with void mages?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"As a practical matter, it's been historically true that we haven't had the ability to create matter, only to destroy it, so we haven't permitted the destruction of matter, for obvious reasons. On an emotional level, their magic is useful only for destruction; it feels uncanny. I expect with demons around they'll be more popular again up north."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh. Yes, there's not a scarcity of matter, multiversally speaking, and actually one of the things angels are in demand for is garbage disposal. There's an entire magic system from a planet that did in fact destroy too much of its matter and is now gone, which is also destruction-oriented, but different in details."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I wonder if void mages will turn out to be cheaper than angels, for that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Quite likely! Angels have a lot of other things they're good for. We can't employ slave labor, though, which brings us back around to the slavery question. With universal contraceptive access, something to ensure the safety of incompetents with dangerous magic, and an economic niche for void mages, can you envision Har transitioning to a no-slavery model?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can we envision it, well, it depends on what you mean. If you have the legal right to confiscate the products of someone's own body, and have the surveillance state necessary to ensure no one can reproduce in secret, in what sense do you lack slavery?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Our legal apparatus considers everyone to own themselves, with that ownership in many respects held in trust until they can make meaningful decisions with it but that trust revoked in cases of maltreatment," Alassë says. "It might be a useful model if you imagine, say, people already existing before they are born and then being transported into the world of the living upon conception - that's not in fact what's going on except in cases of reincarnation, which as far as I know you don't have, but it might get at some of the concepts I have in mind better? And we want to recognize and enforce the rights of all the people involved with our best guess of what they would and would not have assented to had they been in a position to make a free agreement in advance."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That makes sense as a political philosophy. Do you have any expectation that it's enforceable?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"We did just dismantle a key arm of our enforcement protocol here," she acknowledges, "but it's important to us and if it makes the difference between Har having slavery and Har not having slavery, we'll put a lot of effort into figuring out how to enforce it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You have, I imagine, decided to broach this matter with us because it is the imperial government alone which could repeal the law against releasing those slaves who cannot follow the law."

"Which," Haria interrupts, "we will need to discuss altering to explicitly state within the territory of the Hari Empire, as we hardly claim jurisdiction over what you do in your own worlds."

"Yes, quite," says Saran. "And that law is an imperial law, exceptionless and universal. We can make laws like that - simple laws, laws that require nothing of those who would rather forget there are people other than themselves. Most people live in larger states that people can leave any time they want - often for some other large state - and which may therefore require much more burdensome things of, for example, parents. If you speak of this instead to the Governor of Anavel Sani, you do so with my blessing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"So you expect it won't be possible on an imperial level but may be on a state level?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Something you'd like better than the current system might be possible in some states, and is not possible for us right now. I note, also, that the legal precedents have not held, for instance, that it is criminally negligent to leave a knowledge mage free of any command magic in itself if the slave is not also in a position to do nonmagical sabotage of any kind. I may have garbled that, a bit, Haria?"

"Close enough. There's no legal requirement to use command magic and no legal requirement not to give a slave away for free to mysterious mages from the stars, nor any legal requirement to make that decision without consulting the slave."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right, we're really expecting the sticking point to be slaves whose owners do not want to stop having slaves," acknowledges Alassë.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, the fact that you're proposing we enforce something objectionable to many people, intruding on the solitude of those who have retreated from society and forcing medical and chemical synthesis research to be rebuilt from the ground up, insisting that there is no way to avoid our commands and that we must be omnipresent in every life and relationship, is a sticking point," says Haria. "Would I be wrong if I guessed that a typical Vanda Nossëo member polity at the time of initial contact knew the number of its own people, and was composed entirely of those who would make substantial compromises to avoid being cut off from society?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's true of typical member polities, yes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's not true of us. It's substantially closer to true of the eleven largest states, and especially Anavel Sani and Cloudbreak, and we have no objections to you speaking with their governments after this. Are there perhaps any other goals you have that might be more tractable?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm getting the sense that you aren't liable to object to free trade or networked exchange of information."

Permalink Mark Unread

"In general I don't think we will object to that, and if you have any logistical difficulties in implementing any of it, we can see if we can help. We would object to visitors or immigrants who would not follow our laws, including those now awaiting resurrection who haven't followed our laws. For those who have done us no harm, we would ask no more than that they be asked to summarize our laws and state their intent to follow them, unless and until it becomes clear that this does not suffice to keep their crime rate at or below the level we currently experience from our own people. Individual states may also object to the dissemination of advertisements that fail to comply with their truth-in-advertising laws. I don't expect any of this to be a substantial impediment to trade or the exchange of information."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We can make the test on the Hari laws a condition of entry, yes. Do you object if we resurrect people who have not followed your laws in the past, settle them within Vanda Nossëo, and allow them on transit to Har if they pass that test?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Those people have been given their chance already, generally multiple chances, and we will likely only want to allow them if there is some very clear reason to believe they are more capable than they were in the past, such as a disease that affected their judgment and has been entirely cured. I will point out to you, also, that I had expected you to ask us if we couldn't favor clean executions more often, as opposed to death by torture, and if you do want to ask for that in the future, resurrecting our criminals will make that a harder sell."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I didn't actually know that you tended to go for death by torture. We'd be happy to take them off your hands if that would be satisfactory, but if you prefer to sentence them yourselves, we would much prefer clean executions. We aren't in a specific hurry to resurrect any of your criminals and won't be unless, say, their bereaved immigrate to Vanda Nossëo and put in a request for them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If the end result of execution is being welcomed into a great and prosperous empire as its free citizens, we will not go out of our way to make the process pleasant. As long as it is unpleasant to experience and removes people from our universe, that suffices for our purposes, no matter if or when you resurrect them. Any who find it too terrible to live with the possibility that they could end up subject to our justice are free to leave first and commit all their crimes on your planets if you'll have them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What if someone commits a crime in Har and then leaves before they're arrested?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, that, perhaps, ought to depend on whether we can come to an agreement on whether you'll return them to us, and what you'd do to them if you didn't, and what you'd want us to do if one of your people did that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It would be a pretty hard sell to repatriate an escaped criminal to be tortured. Easier if it's a quick death, but that is related to the expectation that we'd eventually get around to resurrecting them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What would you want, if someone... owned a slave in Vanda Nossëo, and then came to Har?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...almost no one does that. Stipulating that this is one of the situations where they do?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"If you can think of a more likely crime, you're welcome to suggest another example, but otherwise, yes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, you mean if someone were keeping a slave against their will, not that this was, say, one of the species that likes slavery, or an oddball of another species. I think we'd be inclined to treat that as we would any other kidnapping case."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And how do you intend to treat other kidnapping cases that wind up in our territory?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"We would want the kidnapping victim returned to their home, being that we by default perceive them as a sovereign person with rights over themself."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And the kidnapper?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Would be refused entry into Vanda Nossëo unless they were entering our justice system, but actually we wouldn't object to you harboring them if you wished to."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Then perhaps we will decide likewise. And in general I expect that if those kidnapped are able to follow our laws and not considered slaves in the polity they came from, we can simply treat them like any other people, all of whom have a right to freely access public spaces. However, for those kidnapping victims who don't know our laws, is there any way you'd find it objectionable if we treated them as your stolen property to be returned to you, ideally undamaged, and prevented from causing problems in the mean time?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hm - prevented how? Off the top of my head, my species spontaneously dies of being confined."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Normally, we would use magic to prevent them from taking unauthorized actions."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What actions are typically authorized or unauthorized in the normal case?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It varies and I don't personally write procedures for it but it would not surprise me to hear that someone in that situation was prevented from using magic, prevented from doing violence, prevented from leaving an area which could feasibly be large and partly outdoors, or prevented from leaving such an area without an escort, or watched."

Permalink Mark Unread

"All right. I think we can work out an arrangement where a kidnap victim here is kept according to your safety needs till we can pick them up."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Good. What other common problems have you run into already when you've met new societies?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Religious objections to various things such as birth control are common. Sometimes we land in the middle of a war, or a - more population-level oppressed class than slaves where the central case is minor children. Sometimes there's a non-war ongoing crisis, a disease or disaster we have to deal with. On a smaller scale sometimes people try to attack our representatives or scam each other about how to access the services we have to offer but I don't expect that to happen often here. - I have a question about enslaved children. What tends to underly the decision to free them if it's never obligatory?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Different people have different reasons. Slaves don't vote and free people often vote like their parents - candidates tend to appeal to specific species or industries or linguistic minorities, and in two of those cases the correlation is nearly absolute. Slaves are not responsible for their own behavior - if one finds a way to get revenge, that's legal, unless it causes collateral damage to someone other than the owner, in which case it is the owner who is tried for vandalism or battery. Some slaves will work harder if promised freedom, and if the owner went back on such a promise, that would not be illegal, but it would be the kind of thing that anyone dealing with them in the future might bear in mind. Some species commonly exhibit substantial parental investment in offspring and members of these species will sometimes free people out of a personal preference that they be free. Caralendri, ah... Saran?"

"For the dignity of the clan and so they can join other households and perhaps become heads of household themselves someday," says Saran. "And for personal fondness, and because competent slaves with very valuable skills aren't necessarily easier to get what you want from than free people that you pay."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh," says Alassë. "- it currently does not seem likely that you will want to take an Empire-wide vote on joining Vanda Nossëo but if you do it will be necessary to allow the slaves an opportunity to submit their opinions."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That would be... impossible in some cases and a substantial logistical undertaking in others."

Permalink Mark Unread

"In what cases would it be impossible?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Those who could understand the question but not answer, or answer the question but not understand that it was being asked - it is possible that telepathy would solve some of those problems, but to solve them that way would compromise ballot secrecy - or those who have been taken away to hidden islands and may or may not even be alive."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If they're not alive we can check for them among the stasised dead," Alassë points out. "And we allow proxy vote registration as long as the proxy can testify that they didn't pressure or misrepresent the vote."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Then perhaps it would be possible, if it ends up seeming like a good idea. And, regardless, the empire and Vanda Nossëo will likely - if clearly not immediately - both be better off for having met, do you agree?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I do!" says Alassë. "We're big believers in positive sum trade. I don't see any reason to think we can't accomplish that much here."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Likewise. If you want a business tip, which is worth less than the rest of what I have to say because I'm no businessperson, I think healing will sell well."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It usually does," agrees Alassë.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I find that easy to believe," says Haria.

"What if the kidnapping of some incompetent person were the other way around?" asks Seihra. "Would you return them to us?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"By default, yes, though if they wanted to stay we'd be inclined to harbor them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And so we might have a situation where one of your people steals one of ours and you might be reluctant - I assume because of internal political pressure about handing people over to be slaves? - to return the stolen property."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. For many possible applications of slave labor we could replace it, we have nonsapient constructs that can do a lot of things, but it won't work if the slaves are seeing, for example, sexual use, or if their individual identities are a factor for the owner."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There might be some way for us all to get more of what we want than this but my first thought is that you'll need to pick your favorite two of 'Vanda Nossëo doesn't return stolen slaves', 'Vanda Nossëo doesn't turn criminals over to Hari justice', and 'there is free trade and travel between Vanda Nossëo and Har.'"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I appreciate that even if we aren't coming from the same underlying values we at least have plenty of clarity on what's realistic, that's surprisingly rare," says Alassë. "I anticipate picking the first and third, with the border control situation informed by having to give up the second, if there's no way to avoid compromise there."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm curious what you've dealt with before, that's rather odd to me, but at any rate I think we can make that work. You might also want to get in contact with someone who runs a mutual assistance association, since that's the closest thing to a group dedicated to improving lives as we have here unless you count governments."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Where can we find those?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Run ads, which you can do by contacting the people who run noticeboards if you don't want to do it by standing around and talking. Don't happen to feel like telling us about the aliens with less clarity?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, usually we run into people who have a lot of very deeply buried assumptions about how things are and make it very hard to get through to them about how we're coming from a different place there. I particularly appreciated in your case how the thing I said about imagining people already existed before being born made sense."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh! Well, we haven't done alien diplomacy before, but we have done interspecies diplomacy and maybe that helps. By the way, if you don't want to answer to one of the states, can I interest you in state-level sovereignty for your bus stop?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh, that sounds like potentially a good idea, though you cover enough area that we might want several of them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We do cover a lot of area! But only one planet is likely to have much demand for a bus stop and we can arrange a force transit route between the bus stop and Mar Geru if that ends up making sense."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- one planet? I didn't think you'd settled others."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We haven't, that's why only one of them would have much demand for a bus stop. We do claim all of the spatially contiguous universe as the territory of the Hari Empire, whether we are yet using it or not."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's... hm. Why?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Because no one else is using it and if someone declared another planet their own sovereign nation and set it moving toward us, or claimed dominion over the sun and hid it, or all sorts of things like that, we would object."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Your magic system is very useful and it seems likely some people would want to move here so that their children would have it, but I suppose it's possible we could operate a state of Har to everyone's satisfaction," Alassë says uncertainly.

Permalink Mark Unread

"We would welcome peaceful immigrants who wanted to abide by our laws and we would charge very reasonably for state-level sovereignty in some unused area. It seems unlikely anywhere can abide by both your laws and ours while having children present, but there is no law forbidding your people from having a state in which they treat all people kindly and somehow incentivize whatever treatment of slaves you like. You could make it a condition of entry that everyone agree to regularly take their slaves to an area with an antimagic effect, take all commands off of them, and offer them the chance to move to Vanda Nossëo."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Perhaps something like that will work. It might depend on the details of how the command magic you use to make children safe works."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It prevents unauthorized actions and does not prevent unauthorized thoughts. People can be under commands they don't know they're under. People can sometimes be confirmed to be or not be free of such magic. Are those the sort of details that are useful to you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. Sometimes? When?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not when the answer is hidden from knowledge magic."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Ah, I see. We'll need to put up a noticeboard asking for volunteers to test various antimagic effect options... What will we need to know to have statehood for the bus stop, though, in the shorter term?"

Permalink Mark Unread

Seihra recommends some useful background reading, some of which they've already read, but as a bare minimum, they'll just need to pick a location that isn't already claimed (here, have a map to consult) and work out a price and a plan for how imperial justice will be enforced. (The plan is allowed to be "fuck off it's just me and my property here" but in this case that clearly isn't what anyone involved wants.)

Permalink Mark Unread

Their main priority locationwise is that it be very easy to travel to; other than that they can put things up or remove landscape features pretty easily.

Permalink Mark Unread

The continent is pretty well spoken for unless they want to negotiate with a state government, but arbitrary islands including ones that don't yet exist can become convenient to travel to if they have an airport suitable for imperial flights to land at and take off from. (Here's a scroll containing some notes about airport specs.) It'll be a little faster to get there from Mar Geru, the capital and main transit hub, if it's to the northeast since Mar Geru's not in the center of the continent.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay, they will plan an island to be placed... hereish? How's that sound?

Permalink Mark Unread

Sounds good! They'll get people on extending flight service as soon as the island exists and has an airport.

Permalink Mark Unread

Great. Anything else that should be covered at this meeting?

Permalink Mark Unread

Not that comes immediately to mind.

Permalink Mark Unread

All right then.

They need someone to test the antimagic field, so they put up ads about that; and they will send state-level envoys to all the states that aren't just about guaranteed to reject such overtures, to see if they can buy out all the slaves on a state level.

Permalink Mark Unread

People are interested in testing the antimagic field.

States that control parts of Anemone Bay confer and jointly suggest to Vanda Nossëo that they might be willing to sell off all of their anemones, specifically, for the right price. The anemones are people but they've never had much success integrating them into society given the massive difference in sensory perception and the inability of most anemones to speak vocal or visual languages. Maybe telepaths will have more success.

Cloudbreak assigns one of the people who usually interface with Anavel Sani, a caralendar in his sixties, to talk to Vanda Nossëo's emissaries. He takes the suggestion of fair dealings with the unborn well and asks how that's usually implemented in practice in other polities.

Meiu and Har (the state, not the empire) are both trying fairly hard to hold onto a lot of residents right on the border of willing to interface with society and want to know if Vanda Nossëo has a privacy-respecting solution to enforcement.

Anavel Sani, Rasa and Ehima's governments won't even consider it without effective, convenient, free contraception for essi (the snake people) and clarity on how eggs would count and what would happen if someone stopped being able to raise a child after having one.

The person they speak to from the state the empire knows as Eserag, and who makes a point of repeatedly pronouncing the name as Ethornak, mostly just wants to hear more, in general.

Erhau and Westgarden want to send representatives to observe relevant legal proceedings in Vanda Nossëo if any are public.

Permalink Mark Unread

Some telepaths will go try talking to anemones!

Sometimes Vanda Nossëo has computers look at evidence, or have conclusions sent to precogs so that only the conclusion makes it into the real timeline. Do they have specific use cases in mind?

If the essi need their contraceptives free a bunch of Elves will go to work overtime on that till they can deliver. They don't have a strong position on how essi eggs should count but can deploy some telepaths to peek at eggs at various stages of development to ballpark it. Normally if someone has a child and then stops being able to parent the child they hire help or, if they really can't handle it even with help, adopt the child out to someone who can. There are people in Vanda Nossëo who are willing to adopt children and some of them would probably be happy to adopt specifically snake children if that became an option.

Plenty of Vanda Nossëo's trials are public, are there more specific desiderata to be had?

Permalink Mark Unread

Some anemones will try talking back to telepaths.

Precogs seem like they'd help some, in addition to being creepy and driving some marginal people into seclusion. Computers, depending on how smart they are, might be able to find out more from less data and guess the presence of secret slaves in hidden areas... but there's already a bit of an arms race there, as people figure out more tricks for getting information out of unscryable areas and then other people figure out more tricks for hiding the evidence that lets those tricks work.

Essi hatch able to move around and use magic and do explicit logical reasoning, and in theory that relies on gradual brain development in the shell, but they turn out to rarely be conscious and almost never have preferences before hatching. Essi are not that popular among Hari people who buy babies to enjoy their company and have fun teaching them to function in society; they're initially easily provoked, and the temperature necessary to make them cuddly isn't good for them, and their behavior at hatching is more like that of a disoriented adult, and they don't have big eyes, and they don't love people.

They'd like to see trials that involve people who would've been slaves in Har. Custody disputes or something, maybe? Or things that involve people who have committed several crimes?

Permalink Mark Unread

What do anemones have to say?

There are some daeva who enjoy teaching disoriented adults how to be people, because daeva start spontaneously existing as adults, but it's good to know that essi do not love people and interested parties would need to not have a loving filial relationship in mind. They tentatively don't have a strong opinion on killing essi eggs that aren't going to hatch real soon though they will still be getting right on free birth control for the essi adults.

Scheduled for today are trials including a noncustodial parent who tried to take his daughter and sons into a remote part of Dreamward, an infinite flat plane, on the hopes that he would be impossible to conjure for usefully there; a serial shoplifter; an aggravated assault case; a guy who trapped his morphed friend in a cat carrier, leaving her a raccoon for several days before finally calling in the authorities to set her right; a person who's been talking Beach natives into sex despite the fact that they're in a weird legal pickle with regard to the age of consent; a serial scammer who defrauded people out of their basic income; a vampire who ate a guy; a woman who misrepresented her relationship to a dead person to get the dead person resurrected and then behaved badly once the person was alive; and an arsonist.

Permalink Mark Unread

This one has an out of date take on politics from a couple decades and a fork ago based on recollections of its knowledge mage predecessor. This other one wants the water one degree warmer and isn't near a heat mage. This other one wants the water one degree cooler and also isn't near a heat mage. This one wants to renegotiate its current agreement, it no longer feels it's getting a good deal on all this chemical synthesis but isn't a knowledge or illusion mage. This other one wants to know what the fuck is going on.

There are enough people interested in observing legal proceedings to go observe all of those trials.

Permalink Mark Unread

Vanda Nossëo will ask the anemones if they would like to be purchased and freed (possibly with some kind of antimagic situation for safety) and collectively hire a telepath to make sure they can all communicate.

Permalink Mark Unread

Relatively few anemones have opinions about surface-dwellers' legal systems, relatively few anemones have a good understanding of surface-dwellers' legal systems, and the overlap between these groups is incomplete. One of them is against anything that involves more restrictions on magic use. One of them thinks it's about time they managed better communication and more useful trade. One of them wants to know if they can all have knowledge magic. Several anemones want to know how this proposal would affect the pH, KH, salinity, and temperature. Someone wants to know how much telepathy access they'd get out of this plan and is only in favor if it lets them and their forks coordinate better. Someone wants to know if this means moving to a different spot. A handful of anemones want to know how this would affect these dozen water quality indicators not popularly studied on the surface. Someone is concerned that if they change their current arrangement, which involves getting fed, then they will not get fed, and then they will die. Someone is in favor of freedom in general. Someone is in favor of being able to buy their preferred weather. Someone else is in favor of being able to buy their different and entirely incompatible favorite weather. Some of them struggle with the idea that non-anemones are people and capable of communication and possibly going to take their preferences into account and also have some kind of complicated... cooperative situation... about holding objects... and some of the objects are people...?

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, the telepath is an Elf and very patient, and can try to explain everything to all the anemones.

Permalink Mark Unread

Eventually more than half of them have any idea what's going on, and more are in favor of being bought by Vanda Nossëo than are against it.

Permalink Mark Unread

Are the ones against it objecting for any addressable reason?

Permalink Mark Unread

Reasons include general conservatism, the fact that their likely circumstances if they stay just improved because other people can also hire telepaths to communicate with them, mistrust of Vanda Nossëo, and the fact that they like where they're living now and would have to move if they were bought by people who don't own the bay.

Permalink Mark Unread

 

What are the prospects for buying the bay?

Permalink Mark Unread

It's right near an inhabited area. It's useful for shipping. It's useful for fishing. It's popular for playing in. It's lucrative to sell it off a tiny bit at a time to people who want to live in seclusion. Selling all of it now would require rearranging a lot of things. It's big. As an off-the-cuff order-of-magnitude guess before the involved states actually talk it over, maybe something in the vicinity of 5,159,780,352 imperial rings (number chosen for its roundness), which is... somewhere in the vague ballpark of 644,972,544 pounds of apples.

Permalink Mark Unread

Presumably apples decrease in marginal value well before you drop nearly six hundred and forty four million pounds of them on the market ex nihilo, but understood. They will maybe buy the anemones and just not remove all of them at this time. Could the anemones be allowed to continue to live where they are if they are purchased and the bay is not? Perhaps they could pay rent out of their Vanda Nossëo basic income?

Permalink Mark Unread

Rent can be arranged. For less than six hundred million pounds of apples, even.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay. Would the anemones who prefer to stay in the bay like this arrangement?

Permalink Mark Unread

For the most part, yes.

Permalink Mark Unread

The Elves sent to talk to anemones will attempt very patiently to make sure every anemone is satisfied with the arrangement and that the anemones that want to move are aware that moving will mean their descendants and possibly also their forks won't have Hari magic and so on.

Permalink Mark Unread

A majority of them think it's unacceptable for their descendants and forks to not have magic. ...Several people, including an anemone, suggest that most coastal areas are not right off the coast of the biggest city on the planet, and might be cheaper, although there might be a bit of a bubble starting now that it looks like the planet's getting immigrants...

Permalink Mark Unread

Hm, how much water rights does the island-state come with?

Permalink Mark Unread

Not enough, and it gets too deep too fast, and the area gets too cold. All of which things are fixable for less than the cost of six hundred million pounds of apples.

Permalink Mark Unread

Yeah, they can DIY that. They will put the anemones who want to move near their island, heated to various temperatures so they can all have the one they like.

Permalink Mark Unread

The imperial government, since so much of its attention is on the aliens anyway, checks that the extra heating is properly contained and not going to fuck things up come winter. If it looks like there might possibly be any problems they can send the aliens literature on best practices.

Permalink Mark Unread

The terraforming department is happy to swap information with them about that!

Permalink Mark Unread
"Mr. Casares, we're not relitigating the custody decision today. Your preferred lawyer being on parental leave means you might have to hire another lawyer for your appeal, not that you can preempt the appeal entirely by escaping to Dreamward. Moving on, three counts child endangerment - Mr. Casares, are you aware of the entities known as 'klaonso' that occupy Dreamward -"

"Yes, but I was too far out for any to be near!"

"On what basis did you come to that conclusion?"

"Objection - Mr. Casares was in fact correct, and many people are justifiably confident in things they can't firmly back with episodic memory of specific evidentiary matter -"

"Sustained."


"I see here that your social worker Azut Convinced-A-Spree-Killer-To-Take-Up-Lovingkindness-Meditation referred you to a subtle artist for treatment for your kleptomania?"

"He kept rescheduling on me - I tried a different one but they were so expensive..."

"Mm, there is a pretty serious shortage of subtle artists. Did you contact Azut, or anyone else, for help with that?"

"No."


"And then he said 'I'll eat your eyes, I'll eat all your eyes'."

"Would you care to explain that, Skutshati?"

"I heard somebody say it back when - you know, back when, and it seemed really badass. I wasn't literally going to eat anyone's eyes."


"And what was your response to Maria's thoughtspeak attempts to convince you to call for help?"

"She mostly didn't try convincing, mostly she yelled! I couldn't think straight! She wouldn't shut up!"

"What did you try to solve that problem?"

"Eventually I managed to hike out far enough that I couldn't hear her but it took me a few tries, the first time I didn't bring enough water."

"And did Maria have water during -"

"One topic at a time, please."


"I just don't know how to interpret it if somebody with a set of tits and legs for days snuggles up to me and says they've got no idea what the big whoop is about orgasms and they can't figure it out! They don't look four when they're doing that! And, and it's all right to bang angels, even if they're four, if they've got tits - I just don't get it, man!"

"Thank you, Mr. Berezin. I think six months will do the trick with an emphasis on, ah, applied developmental psychology, and reparations paid out of basic amortized over the next, let's see, three years."


"Miss Mirzah, can you explain why you haven't availed yourself of the thirst-dampening effect now commonly available to vampires?"

"Yeah, so, like, the unique heritage of vampires includes our unique foodways, and just like some places still let Inuit club baby seals and eat them, and there's still ultra-orthodox kosher butchers who slaughter animals, my coven feels that vampires' special culinary culture is worthy of honoring and preserving. There's really no substitute for the holistic experience and we think it shouldn't be lost forever, especially now that it's easy to restore our meals to life."

"...I see. And were you aware at the time that you bit Mr. Shah that this was murder?"

"Well, I know most people see it that way, but people sometimes say meat is murder too, you know, and also I would personally have been fine with the outcome where the guy turned into a vampire instead of dying, which is a traditionally attested outcome even if it's not typical."


"Next case, a Mr. - ......Turkafinwë? As an aside, why did you change your name to Turkafinwë, given that you are a colugo and have never been an Elf?"

"Is that relevant -"

"I just like the name."

"...Mr. Turkafinwë, are you aware that you're under a truth effect?"

"Ah, damn, it didn't work. I heard it had an exception for Fëanorians. Can I change my name back as long as I'm here?"

"Yes... all right, Mr. Sugartoast, can you describe the circumstances under which you began doing business as 'Sugar Maple LLC'...?"


"Had you at any point registered nonconsent to resurrection?"

"No, I was fine with being resurrected, but not by him! The system's set up on his planet so you get a while in seclusion after you come back, for - do you already know this -"

"We'll take as read the resurrection setup on New Zidia. And you didn't have a way to contact other people?"

"No. I died before any of us knew about demons or anything, so it was just him and me."


"Were you aware that there were people inside the building?"

"No."

"Are you aware that you are under a truth effect?"

"No."

"You are under a truth effect. It will reveal statements you make but do not believe."

"No."

"...Counsel, I'm going to call a recess while you try to explain the matter to your client. You have half an hour."
Permalink Mark Unread

The Dreamward case seems like a normal thing that a father who was having a fight with his partner might do, given access to an infinite dimension, and the handling of it seems reassuringly sensical.

The representative watching the kleptomania case takes lots of notes the upshot of which is that yeah okay if you mind control people into not wanting to commit crimes you probably don't have to enslave them but who'd prefer that to slavery. This person, apparently. What does that say about the cultural norms out here in the wider multiverse...

The representative watching the Beach case, who came of age at four, completely lacks all of the context necessary to have any idea what the fuck is going on. Is there someone they can ask for an explanation?

The representative watching the vampire case feels that actually none of this is surprising or unpredictable and would rather go do some tourism now.

The representative watching the resurrection case starts idly drafting resurrection setups that aren't like that.

Permalink Mark Unread

The person escorting them to the Beach case explains that Beach natives in a state of nature are cognitively adults when they're only a couple years old but reach specifically sexual maturity when they're nine, and the consensus among them is that you should probably not have sex with them before they're nine. Angels, who are sometimes dead humans but are other times spontaneously generated adults, have different rules; you're allowed to have sex with an interested angel who is not both of dead and juvenile as long as they have learned at least one language. This guy apparently likes winged people?

Permalink Mark Unread

...Why are there... rules about who people can have sex with? Is this related to how Vanda Nossëo only has three imperial laws and one of them is about sex?

Permalink Mark Unread

Yeah, having sex with children of most species is incredibly disproportionately bad for them, or at least risks being incredibly disproportionately bad for them, and they are presumed not to to be ready for that level of dignity of risk even if you can get them to say they're up for it, so it's illegal.

Permalink Mark Unread

...So is there some sort of requirement for people to wear convenient signs explaining that they are or are not competent to do whatever? Because it sounds like there's mental overhead where people are required to remember what hurts other people, even if the people are saying otherwise. Are there other things like this?

Permalink Mark Unread

People don't wear signs; if you want to have sex with someone it's on you to know if they're a child and if they're a species where "child" might have an unconventional meaning, and also to be certain they want to have the sex you intend. Some people solve this by only having sex with people they know, or only hooking up via specific apps or in particular venues that do filtering for them. There's lots of rules protecting children, actually, though it's one of the things substates of Vanda Nossëo vary on.

Permalink Mark Unread

...What other rules are there. Are there rules protecting subsets of adults. Are there rules protecting everyone in some way.

...Important though it is to figure out how Vanda Nossëo's legal systems work, this person is just going to tip everyone off that some unclear fraction of all consensual transactions are illegal for a variety of reasons and then go home immediately. Their escort is welcome to come along if they want to continue the conversation somewhere safe.

Permalink Mark Unread

...the escort comes along. "It's very rare for a Vanda Nossëo state to have only the minimum laws. Some do - Dwarves in particular often do, because they like to handle more things monetarily and with insurance and instruments like that rather than outright illegality, and there's others - but human populations and similar tend not to thrive on very bare-bones regulatory systems. You folks might get on reasonably well with Dwarves, though, as a group."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We don't usually live with just the imperial laws either but we don't have unmarked people who look exactly like other people who'll ask you to do something for them that's normally legal who it's illegal to do that for. All of the people like that are clearly marked."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can see why that would be an adjustment. If you guys want to - ban child tourists, or Beach tourists, or something, you can do that, Har gets control of who enters."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Are you also expecting that if they come to Har that will make us subject to your laws?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's the sort of thing we'd need to figure out before any tourists visited Har, and it might be there's no solution that satisfies everyone besides banning large swathes of potential tourists. That's not a big deal, there's a bunch of worlds nobody's allowed to do tourism in at all because they break causal regularity and you certainly don't have that problem."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Because they what?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"There's this whole neighborhood of worlds, the central one is adjacent to Warp and Shadow and Telperion and then there are some accessory worlds, but we can't use it as a shortcut because the worlds, themselves, or possibly as a single collective entity, are opinionated, and those opinions make it impossible to do science or achieve certain levels of reliable influence and power, and as a result tend to break important technology and magic and sometimes kill people who enter if anything from outside swings through. It's got a great magic system, though, and among its uses is that it can be used to evacuate people who are in that universe-neighborhood from outside of it, so eventually nobody'll be there who'd rather be somewhere that reality works consistently."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Wow, okay. Uh. So you said we might get along with Dwarves?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yup. Dwarves are anarchocapitalists, when they can be - at lower tech levels they try other things but at the Vanda Nossëo general standard of living they converge on anarchocapitalism. That's a system where instead of having many laws they have insurance companies; you sign on to a dispute resolution service, and pay them a rate they figure out based on your expected propensity to cost them money, and then they handle it for you if someone complains about you. You can sign up for whatever company you like, they have lots of competing ones with different details. Most people in Vanda Nossëo have at least a low-grade subscription to a service like that even if we're not Dwarves, just in case, and people use your premium rates or which company you're signed on with as a proxy measure for some immigration screens. I'm sure some Dwarf insurers would be willing to operate here."

Permalink Mark Unread

That's alien but the understandable kind of alien that makes sense as an alternate way to do things.

"They should send emissaries, I expect we can work something out. Maybe their states will even turn out to be safe places to travel to, uh, if they can be said to have states, I guess."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There are - Dwarf places? Places where no non-Dwarf rules apply, except that they sign on to the Vanda Nossëo minimum rules - implemented in their own fashion - because of the benefits to trade."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It sort of doesn't sound like they have rules at all but I'm certainly missing a lot of details here."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Usually the idea is that if you can't pay for dispute resolution insurance then you just don't have the protection of being able to make your own complaints. In practice anywhere you go you need to know what will and won't be complained about - for example most people from outside Har would be really startled and confused that it's against the law to tap a stranger on the shoulder to get their attention here. Maybe about as startled and confused as you are that you have to have an idea of somebody's maturity before having sex with them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, those people shouldn't come here until they've read all our laws. - Confused about it, really? I know historically some societies have been different but it feels very conceptually simple to me."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's not that the law is itself hard to understand, it's that having that law instead of a different one is weird. Most of our laws are about preventing harm to people, and hardly anyone's harmed by being tapped on the shoulder. Whereas your laws are about specifically ensuring the - noninterference with free people, I suppose? So they're very broad about anything that could possibly interfere with a free person and have nothing for preventing harm to slaves."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That sounds right to me. It seems a lot harder to me to learn - I mean, I don't even know what hurts all eight of our species, let alone as many as you have, and even if I wanted to know I don't know anyone who'd want to publish a handy guide to how to hurt them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You have a lot of species diversity packed into one planet, and with the magic complicating matters it makes sense this is what you'd tend to converge on."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess so. I really should've gone through all your state laws before visiting, I skimmed but I kind of thought - you know, you can usually step over the border to get lunch and you'd be at fault if you managed to fuck it up but you won't actually usually fuck it up. Here, anyway."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's true with us too! I think even if you followed the Hari laws and didn't specifically try to have sex with anyone that would cover you most places for short jaunts. It's just that since we don't forbid casual touch, and don't have people legally understood as property, and are focused on preventing harm, sex is a particularly weird collection of issues."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Makes sense. What's the legal definition of sex in Vanda Nossëo?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Varies - has to, for Elves petting each other's hair is sex and for humans it's completely normal to pet a kid's hair - but it's generally going to be something like, stimulation or witnessing of stimulation of an erogenous zone on oneself or another with the intent or understood effect to create, sustain, or relieve arousal in either party? You'll probably want to have really wide margins around this, though, till you have more extensional familiarity."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Witnessing. I think I understand that definition, though. Hm. Well, I'm not qualified to figure out how this should affect immigration policy, I'm just supposed to write up a report on how alternatives to slavery work in practice, and I think I've learned a lot about that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What'd you learn?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"That it involves extra cognitive overhead for everyone else. That it can involve giving people different parts of what we consider freedom piecemeal. That it makes things less standardized. That it relies on deeper knowledge of other people than our system."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That all seems true."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Glad we're on the same page about it, I guess. Think I left anything important out, or is it just... those things in exchange for the happiness of people who would in Har be slaves?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not sure I'd put it as specifically 'happiness', but basically, yeah. I do think the cognitive overhead isn't much for most people who are native to the system or spend long enough acclimating. It becomes second nature."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How long does it take to acclimate?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Depends on a lot of things - including original culture and species, so I don't even have a good ballpark guess for you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, I guess that also makes sense."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Elves are slow because they're slow at everything but they have a few specific recurring points of tension that we can mostly address in a formulaic way, humans who are actually trying to integrate seldom need more than a few years, shorefolk - that's the Beach people - they adapt in a couple weeks, that's probably to do with how fast they grow..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That makes sense. I'm curious about the recurring points of tension."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Elves tend to feel very strongly that people should not have sex except with a monogamous heterosexual spouse, that virtually everything is of lesser importance than children occurring exclusively when desired by parents in a marriage like that who are prepared to spend the next fifty years with no competing obligations, that it's reasonable for it to take a few years to make a major decision even if people are waiting on you..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"They might get along with agerah. I think. 'Marriage' is an awkward translation of something, is it one word of jargon for you or something?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's a popular social institution among many species where it's customary to arrange sex and romance and primary companionship and coparenting and cohabitation and merged finances and certain legal responsibilities to each other in a long term committed package deal, usually pairwise. Not everybody does it - Dwarves for example don't routinely get all those things in the same place."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, like caralendri, except not in pairs. And a little like agerah, too."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What are agerah like?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Introverted. Grouchy about people. They hate spending time around people they aren't close to and like not being completely alone - except when they'd rather be completely alone - so their ideal is to stay friends with their mothers, find one mate, stay with that mate and not have to filter any new partners, and maybe stay friends with their children when they're grown."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. Elves aren't particularly introverted like that, just very monogamous."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And social like humans, and not social like thwilit, am I right?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"More or less, yes. Plus being telepathic."

Permalink Mark Unread

All around the not-too-introverted states of Har, various mostly-Dwarves - carefully read up on local law and exquisitely thorough with their compliance and documentation thereof - move to rent storefront space in highly trafficked areas, where they set up currency exchange and bank branches (rings, unlike most currencies, are actually uncounterfeitable, and Har has some unique magic, so the rings retain some value next to multiversal fiat), and, often right next to or on top of the financial side, travel and job agencies to help anyone who is interested in exploring the multiverse find things to do there for a reasonable price. They sell bus passes, too, and have a side business in the sorts of things that envoy shops normally do but are not on this particular planet.

Permalink Mark Unread

One of these is in the city of Thelm Ret, right where Hari-speaking and Lexori-speaking populations border each other, and at first they see mostly beluli and agerah and thwilit.

Then a pair of humans come in, one of them wearing slave bracelets and the other holding his hand and slightly levitating. Between them they're wearing every ring they own.

"I heard you have healing magic," she says.

Permalink Mark Unread

"On hand we've got a recording of the healing song," says the Dwarf who is dwarfing the place, "one listen is free of charge to get people in the door, but if you need something heavier duty than that I can call someone in with the stronger spells for seventy rings."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'd like my free listen and then I'll know if I need something else."

Permalink Mark Unread

The Dwarf puts on the song. It's very beautiful!

Permalink Mark Unread

She thinks maybe she can notice a slight difference, or maybe she's imagining it just because she's distracted by something nice.

"I think I need something else," she says afterward.

Permalink Mark Unread

"That'll be seventy rings," says the Dwarf. "Or the equivalent if you have offworld money -" He points at a price sheet on the wall.

Permalink Mark Unread

She doesn't catch that but her son does and reads it to her.

"What," she says, "you don't haggle here? That why you write it all down?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"If you have a specific reason you think justifies a discount, you can tell me," says the Dwarf, "but we don't haggle by default, no."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How streamlined. Well, seventy rings is fine."

Isava counts out the rings for her and hands them over.

Permalink Mark Unread

The Dwarf accepts the rings and summons another Dwarf who explains that he has the heavy duty healing spell and can cast it but only at touch range, and offers his hand.

Permalink Mark Unread

It takes her a moment to find his hand but when she does she touches it.

Permalink Mark Unread

Boop!

Permalink Mark Unread

She gasps and laughs and turns to Isava and hugs him.

"It worked?" he asks.

"It worked," she says.

He's silent for a moment, holding her tighter, as if he were afraid now instead of at any point when they were actually in danger. And then after several seconds, "So do I get to shop now?"

"Keep it under a gross of rings."

He lets go so he can examine the price sheet again. "Hmmm."

Permalink Mark Unread

They have Vanda Nossëo mainline currency and a few other kinds; they have various investment and loan instruments on offer; the shop upstairs has a range of fabric and electronics and books and foods and stuff.

Permalink Mark Unread

Isava examines the upstairs items. Fabric is boring although the prices are important - oh, wow, the prices on that fabric, that's going to screw up Echan's job and that's not great - but what about the electronics and books and is there anything fun around here?

Permalink Mark Unread

The electronics include fun things like simple drones and music players and video games (low-text ones that were quick to relocalize into Hari for the handful of words that appear; you can add your name to a list if you want to receive a message when new games are localized). The books are mostly hard copies, though there's also an e-reader you can buy; they are, again, the ones that didn't require a lot of non-machine labor to translate, so they're things like coffee table volumes full of pretty landscape or wildlife photography, kids' books, and pictorial instructions for crafts like origami. There are also novels and short story collections and comic books, but those aren't localized at all; the shopkeeper can do Allspeak installations for 55 rings apiece.

Permalink Mark Unread

Drones are conceptually cool but redundant for Isava. Music, though. How much music from human-originated traditions written by humans for an intended audience of humans do the music players come with?

...Origami is the kind of thing that would only make sense with a bunch of spare paper but maybe if enough people use e-readers that's what happens.

Isava's priority ordering here is getting a bunch of catchy human music with a strong beat, getting a game to try, and getting a book of landscapes because Echan would like that. He'll get however much of that he can fit into 144 rings.

Permalink Mark Unread

The music players come with 900 hours of music, though only about half of it is specifically human music; the rest is predominantly Elf and there are samples of other things. All these objects are cheaper than calling in a teleporting healer to boop you, and Isava can get a music player and a game tablet with fifty low-text games and a book of landscapes for 120 rings.

Permalink Mark Unread

Isava bounces about this and buys all of those things and skips out the store to meet up with Echan, with the objects floating along beside him.

Not long after another human shows up at the same store and asks if questions are free.

Permalink Mark Unread

"You can ask things at no charge but will be deprioritized if a paying customer enters," replies the Dwarf.

Permalink Mark Unread

"If I wanted to visit a majority-human polity, what's the closest one from here and how would I do that?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"The most easily accessible majority human polity is Midgard. You'd buy a bus token from me or one of the other branches or our competitors, and go to the Vanda Nossëo island state, and board any outgoing bus to reach Station One in Edda, and from there you'd take the intraworld line Edda Seven, one stop outbound, and disembark. That'd put you in Sunvalley, a Midgard city. Note that the humans native to Midgard are not modal humans; the info booths at the Sunvalley station can explain the etiquette. If you want modal humans, you need to take Edda Four three stops and get off at Icefalls on Everhome."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. Where can I find copies of the complete sets of laws that apply in Sunvalley and Icefalls and the intervening bus stations?" There's been a reminder that aliens are alien and will have alien laws displayed prominently on the noticeboard for days now.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can sell you a hard copy for ten rings per location or electronic copies with the purchase of an e-reader for one ring apiece."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What exactly does an e-reader do, is it just a thing for reading multiple books that's not as big as multiple books?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yep, that's why an e-copy is cheaper, it doesn't require storing and packing and filing work."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And I can buy more books for it for that price later?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"The price may change without notice, for example if our tax burden changes, a subsidy begins to apply, or any input to the process changes in cost, but I don't expect it to get more expensive for the foreseeable future."

Permalink Mark Unread

He'll get an e-reader and all of the laws that apply to all of the relevant places and go home to read them, then. Shouldn't take too long, right? Right?

Permalink Mark Unread

The places actually have a lot of laws, way more than Har. Many of the laws are just definitions, and many of them only apply if you have certain magical abilities or a restraining order against you or are driving a delivery truck or something.

Permalink Mark Unread

He diligently takes notes on unlikely conditions that would cause more laws to apply to him, and narrows down the set that actually probably will apply to him if he visits Icefalls, and reads that set.

There are so many laws and some of them are so weirdly specific. Why did it need to be illegal to commit battery with a weapon and illegal to commit battery with a vehicle and illegal to commit battery in a sexual way and illegal to commit battery by genetically engineering a pathogen? Is it legal to commit battery with a formerly frozen and thawed dead fish between midnight and noon?

Eventually, he goes back to ask about bus tickets and foreign currency.

Permalink Mark Unread

He can get a bus pass good for the next twelve days anywhere in Vanda Nossëo for sixty rings, or he can just get a ticket that will get him to the specific destinations of his choice and back home again over any period of time for twenty-eight.

Permalink Mark Unread

He'll get the cheaper one. And he'd like to trade 288 rings for a currency that's accepted in the wider multiverse and specifically Icefalls.

Permalink Mark Unread

Here's some of that at today's rate.

Permalink Mark Unread

And he books himself a flight to the new island and tries to figure out how to take the bus to Icefalls.

Permalink Mark Unread

They're trying real hard to make that clear. He can get someone to write out the whole route for him if he wants, with little map drawings of the stations.

Permalink Mark Unread

They're so convenient. And only a really reasonable amount of utterly terrifying and possibly dishonest.

He goes to Icefalls.

Permalink Mark Unread

Icefalls, Everhome is built around a lovely waterfall; the oldest architecture, mostly houses, is rustic and has been supplemented and joined since its assembly by modern additions. The station's exit spits him onto a set of broad curved avenues all going parallel from the base of the falls to an imposing stone building. There are signs in six languages, and kids playing some elaborate sport with a lot of running and brightly colored flags on a big lawn between a pair of the avenues, and another pair of avenues contains an open-air bazaar, and the next has an art installation with lots of huge squares of fabric propped up to billow colorfully in the wind, forming a bit of a maze all together. There are taller buildings, ones that go all the way from the bottom of the falls to the top and have bridges from their roofs out onto the higher portion of the city around the top of the falls, made almost entirely of glass windowpanes. Somebody's going over the waterfall in a weird boat and splashing down with a whoop. Somebody else is paragliding off the cliff, a bit farther away. There are too many buildings for him to see very far, but a hill comes up over to his left and it's got a rice terrace on it.

Permalink Mark Unread

It seems nice, much nicer than anywhere he's ever been, and some of that is that he's not particularly well-off and has been saving up as much as he can but... he's always thought a human-majority society would be better for humans and he was right to think so.

He doesn't know these people and he doesn't know how to know these people.

He wanders the bazaar a bit, because at least it's familiar.

Permalink Mark Unread

Cheese on a stick! Toys! Jewelry! Fireworks! Shirts! Sherbet! Fake fuzzy cat ears on headbands! Shoes! Weird juice blends! Facepainting! Comic books! Perfume! Preserved butterflies in paperweights! Art glass! Deep fried goosemeat! First aid booth! Sidewalk chalk!

Permalink Mark Unread

...Humans can eat things he's never seen before. Cool.

He would like to get his face painted in an authentic human style! How much is it?

Permalink Mark Unread

There's a price sheet over here with the patterns! He can get a butterfly across his whole face or look like a deer or get imitation warpaint or do tiger stripes or abstract swirls in his favorite color. It's not that expensive but the complicated ones are moreso. (Most people he sees with painted faces are children but nobody's going to stop him.)

Permalink Mark Unread

Possibly he should figure out if this is a signal of something - but if it were an important signal to always get right this person would do house calls, right? He's definitely not blending in, anyway, and definitely not trying to.

On the gripping hand, a butterfly! He'll take that one! He asks the painter how they came to do these patterns as opposed to some other patterns.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I learned to do this one off a website, and kept doing it for my daughter, and she got bored of it," says the painter, beginning the butterfly, "and so I looked up some more to do, and then she grew out of it and I kind of missed it, so I rented a mall stall, and here we are!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cool! Do people usually grow out of it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Mostly kiddos like it, but you're not the first adult I've had today. Lady wanted the deer look."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh, I can imagine wanting that. By the way, I noticed people around here ask each other questions like this and I didn't notice them paying but money's weird here, I just want to check - I can pay if I got that wrong."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- I'm not going to charge you to make conversation. Though you might need to stop talking when I'm painting your cheeks."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Right, I can do that." He shuts up.

Permalink Mark Unread

Paint paint paint paint. "There you go!" She's got a mirror.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I like it! What's the usual custom about how long you wear it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, it isn't very durable so you probably want to scrub it off before you go to bed tonight, it won't look nice in the morning," she replies.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hmm." He can probably magic it more durable. ...Is it appropriate to thank her? He normally would for a question answered for free but that seems to just be the done thing here. "I'll tell my planet I like your facepaint," he says instead.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Ha, the whole planet? I'm just one lady at the bazaar," she laughs. "Have a good day!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You too!"

He wanders off in the direction of the interesting-smelling weird meat thing, idly casting a spell on the facepaint to make it last.

Permalink Mark Unread

The interesting-smelling meat thing is covered in breadcrumbs and fried golden brown and served in paper cones. Would he like one?

Permalink Mark Unread

He'd love one! Also what are breadcrumbs.

Permalink Mark Unread

Crumbs... from bread? That place over there has bread! He's not gluten-intolerant, is he?

Permalink Mark Unread

"I suppose I'm about to find out if I am or not."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, first aid tent's over there if you react to something!" Paper cone of food.

Permalink Mark Unread

He tries it. It's a better way to have meat than some other ways he's tried. ...Actually, it's a better way to have meat than all other ways he's tried.

He hangs around in the vicinity of the first aid tent to finish it but doesn't turn out to have needed to.

And there was glass art. He goes and checks if there still is.

Permalink Mark Unread

There is! The person sells suncatchers and vases and colorful glass tables and lamps and beads.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hi! Those are nice, how durable are they?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, they're glass, so they might break if you drop them. The beads you'd probably have to step on, though, since they're little."

Permalink Mark Unread

"My empire found out about Vanda Nossëo recently and where I come from it's normal to have magic that could make them shatterproof. You interested?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh! Sure, I guess so. Would it make them angel-proof if somebody got rid of one, I could see that being annoying."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Even if not by default maybe if I'm aiming for that - what exactly would an angel do?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Turn it into air, usually."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I can leave a backdoor for that. If I do and the angel gets halfway through and drops it what's left wouldn't be shatterproof, but I'm guessing that's fine?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Presumably! I usually don't think that much about end-of-life arrangements for my glass, honestly."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Makes sense. Anyway, I have useful magic, want to make me an offer?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hm - you're from that new place Har? I can probably mark up some of this, let's see, twenty percent if it won't break..." He does some figuring on his phone and comes up with a number.

Permalink Mark Unread

Ooh, a good number. "Can I take part of it in kind? I just think those look really cool," he says, gesturing at the suncatchers.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sure, just deduct its price tag."

Permalink Mark Unread

He wards all the glass and picks out one of the suncatchers and asks if the glass vendor happens to know how people make friends around here.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Like if you're new in town, you mean?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, I was thinking about whether I want to keep living in a city where no one is at all like me or move someplace like this and maybe make human friends."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, sometimes people bring stuff to new people who move in next door, and you can join clubs or take classes or meet people online."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Huh. Where's online?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's not a place, it's sort of like writing very fast letters?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Is this your world's version of the thing where if you're not too worried about privacy you can talk to anyone anywhere any time?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think it covers most worlds but yeah."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Convenient." And probably something to ask the people whose job it is to handle first contact about rather than a random glass vendor. "Have a good day," he says, since that's apparently an authentic human conversation-ender.

Permalink Mark Unread

"You too!"

Permalink Mark Unread

He heads back to Thelm Ret and the shop he knows to be staffed by people who've familiarized themselves with the inferential distance they're closing and waits for a few other people to be done asking about immortality and terraforming and space travel before asking if there's a guide to the internet.

Permalink Mark Unread

"There is a very brief localized one, twenty rings, initial reviews suggest it is not especially helpful and a second edition is expected in response to feedback in the next few weeks. If you want an Allspeak installation there's more of a selection and the guides are cheaper, though the installation itself is 55 rings."

Permalink Mark Unread

...If the one written for his background doesn't cut it the others probably won't either but he'll go ahead and read a cheap one with Allspeak just in case.

Permalink Mark Unread

The cheap ones are written from the assumption that your society has not invented the computer, which is at least true. It doesn't make allusions to anything Har does have but it starts at an appropriately elementary level.

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, okay, he can... sort of work with that.

So next he needs a computer. How much for the chip kind?

Permalink Mark Unread

160 rings.

Permalink Mark Unread

He can cover that! Even having recently been fired he can cover that, if only because he's counting on there being ten million or so people in the multiverse for every defense mage.

He sits in a tree in a publicly visible park with his computer and goes through the tutorial and then checks if they've got internet here or if he needs to go visit another planet for that.

Permalink Mark Unread

There is internet, but it's pay as you go (there's an explanation in the popup asking for a code input that in most places it's provided as a public good but locally it seems that there's a lot of interruption to nonmagical wifi, so they're having to supplement with a lot of crystal ball repeaters and those aren't trivial).

Permalink Mark Unread

If he's going to end up doing a lot of this it's not worth doing it here.

He goes shopping for a tent - they're selling on clearance now, with fabric suddenly absurdly cheap - and asks an illusion mage to enchant his shirt to hide him from scrying and spends an unexpectedly long time haggling over how many rings that should be -

(It turns out the ring is suddenly very unstable. It was threatening to deflate dangerously when it became clear there were suddenly orders of magnitude more people who might ever want to use imperial rings, and then the imperial government started offering approximately-zero-interest loans with extremely lenient penalties for default and now it's inflating, maybe, except no one's particularly sure because it's not clear anymore how to measure it because low-skill magic has always been one of those things, like the price of peaches, that people can treat as having basically unchanging value over time, and now instead of about one in twelve each type of mage is about one in 429,981,696 or something but not quite, even, because force magic's not any more valuable lately and void magic suddenly has value at all...)

- and he ends up trading magic work for it, because defense and illusion are still worth about the same relative to each other. And... he got fired recently so no need to quit, he doesn't especially want to talk to anyone from Anavel Sani again, he doesn't have friends in Thelm Ret...

He changes shirts and spends some time standing outside the alien shop muttering scryably that he should've realized the e-reader would be redundant with the computer and is annoyed about that, and then goes in and trades the rest of his rings for something else and buys more law codes and a pass to go anywhere in Vanda Nossëo and asks how to go about immigrating.

Permalink Mark Unread

"It depends where you want to immigrate to. Do you plan to have a permanent residence or be an itinerant?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know yet. I like Icefalls but I wasn't there very long. I was planning to be there for a while and look up information about other places online and try to make friends and maybe move near them if that worked out, or stay in Icefalls if I like it and they like me. Might also depend on where they have the most work for me."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do you want a referral to a job counseling office?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I might, depending on how much that costs."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The referral is free - we have a deal with them - and they charge a small portion of your future earnings if they successfully connect you to a job."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'll pass."

Permalink Mark Unread

He can immigrate as an itinerant and then settle in Icefalls if he winds up wanting to stay in it. He can go to this office just down the block from Edda Station 1 and they'll set him up with a UBI account and unique identification.

Permalink Mark Unread

Shortly thereafter he wanders into this office just down the block from Edda Station 1 carrying all his worldly goods.

Permalink Mark Unread

A human bureaucrat is happy to sign him on as an itinerant individual-immigrant! Here's a bunch of demographic information he might want to have on file with them, it's all optional except the centrally assigned ID number but usually you at least like a name and world of origin attached.

Permalink Mark Unread

He's Valanda, human defense mage, from Anavel Sani City in Anavel Sani in the Hari Empire... what do they want to know? He'll answer most of it just to get to find out what they think is important enough to ask about.

Permalink Mark Unread

All that stuff is good, and they also like to know gender, religious and philosophical leanings, next of kin-or-kith, age, ethnic background, medical history, contact information, employment status, household membership, insurance status, and a picture.

Permalink Mark Unread

He makes a face at them asking about gender and skips that question. His philosophical leaning is that he supports the faction in Hari politics that conceives of the state as a thing for avoiding friction between individuals, but Vanda Nossëo's thing where states are for avoiding harm to people is cool too. He's not in touch with his parents anymore and neither are they in touch with any of their relatives but he remembers their names and the kinds of magic they have. He is going to be eighteen in a couple days. He has never heard of humans having ethnic backgrounds before and speculates that he might not have one. He is a genetic chimera and can rattle off details about his personal genetic codes and has had a couple of colds as a kid and malaria once and none of the checkups he got over the past few years turned up anything terrible or interesting. He doesn't really have contact information right now but eventually he might get an email address. He's a working mage and doesn't belong to a household or have insurance yet. They can have a picture but he'll charge if they want him to strip for it.

Permalink Mark Unread

In his clothes is conventional although not required!

Permalink Mark Unread

They can have a clothed picture, then.

Once he has an ID number he will immediately attempt to memorize it if it's a remotely sane number of digits for that.

Permalink Mark Unread

It is an 18 digit number (in base ten).

Permalink Mark Unread

He can memorize that, if not instantly.

And when he's done there he can go back to Icefalls and look for an out of the way place to set up a tent.

Permalink Mark Unread

He can find one of those; there's forest and scrubland in hiking distance that nobody seems to be using.

Permalink Mark Unread

Great! He sets up his tent, leaves most of his worldly goods inside it, casts some magic to make it hard to rob, and finds an alien tree with line of sight to it to sit in and finally access the internet. For free this time. Right?

Permalink Mark Unread

Yup! There is free satellite internet to be had here.

Permalink Mark Unread

Finally. And now he can try out the cool technological search engine. 

...The first thing he searches for is "Icefalls crime rate" because he should really double check that before moving here.

Permalink Mark Unread

Apparently six Icefalls residents have stood trial in the last year.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's pretty good. ...Unless a bunch of crimes are going unreported or a bunch of nonresidents are coming in and doing things. It's probably pretty good, in such a big city.

Okay, next search: jobs in Vanda Nossëo.

Permalink Mark Unread

Vanda Nossëo's jobs page says it is hiring on a continuous rolling basis for roles such as:

- R&D
- department of integration
- float healing
- float miscellaneous support
- envoy positions (first contact, shipboard support and backup, retail)
- federal-level and federal-state-interface-level logistics and records management
- justice system positions
- social support roles
- infrastructure department
- internal accounting
- personnel resources
- failure analysis
- security and precautionary roles
- office assistants
- reception
- transit
- translation and localization services

Permalink Mark Unread

He facepalms. In hindsight of course it didn't just list every job that exists in Vanda Nossëo.

...Some of those sound maybe interesting, though. He could at least consider applying. What do they look for in failure analysts and security people and translators and envoys?

Permalink Mark Unread

Failure analysts should be able to elicit and interpret forensic data and witness reports, come up with concrete policy amendments that would retrodictably avert problems, work in teams, etc.

Security people may have a wide variety of individual abilities; there are many things that need securing and many ways to secure them. They need to be trustworthy, resistant to social engineering, willing to participate in pentesting exercises with or without warning, creative and lateral thinkers, etc.

Translators should be good at learning languages such that they can function in the absence of Allspeak and have solid grasp of register, idiom, subtext, nuance, and stuff like that so they can patch any issues Allspeak has and also provide materials in various languages for people who have not received Allspeak installations. Ideal candidates would be able to work well with instances of the Fëanáro template.

Envoys need to be calm, nonjudgmental, compassionate, steady, good at working in teams, trustworthy, and committed to the goal of universal flourishing and amenable to the methods Vanda Nossëo has at this time iterated towards. They actively look for diversity, especially visible diversity, in new-contact-facing roles, and it also helps to have magic of some kind though not all envoys must or do. The desiderata list, and the training schedule, for retail-only is more abbreviated than the one for being an ambassador.

Permalink Mark Unread

He's getting the impression failure analysis draws on the same abilities as spell design, but relatively more social... so, something like command design, which is the most competitive profession in the world. It sounds fun and simple but it's probably the kind of thing where the top twelve people in all of Vanda Nossëo do it professionally. Probably a waste of everyone's time to apply.

Participating in pentesting exercises without warning sounds stressful, he'll circle back to that if all of the less stressful jobs in all of the universes are taken.

He has never met a Fëanáro and has no idea what counts as good at learning languages but he does speak four that are all from a newly contacted world so he might as well apply.

He's good at pretending to be calm and nonjudgmental, he's the most compassionate person he's ever met, he doesn't know how to cause other people to know he's trustworthy but he is, universal flourishing sounds really awesome, and he belongs to the rarest species he knows about so he's probably diverse enough. He applies to work retail in case that turns out to be fun.

Permalink Mark Unread

He is invited to choose a preliminary interview appointment slot!

Permalink Mark Unread

He has this conveniently wide open schedule and can see them approximately whenever.

Permalink Mark Unread

In that case he can come in in an hour and a half; their office is on the Vanda Nossëo central planet in Edda, so he can get there by an intraworld bus route.

Permalink Mark Unread

Wow, that's fast. Well, then he can take the intraworld bus route and stop by their office. He's early; that seems safer than being late.

Permalink Mark Unread

The lobby is very pretty, with potted plants and mosaics on the walls and intricate patterns on the upholstery. There's another human waiting there, scrolling through something on her chiplock and humming.

Permalink Mark Unread

Nice place!

The polite custom in Har is that if he doesn't have something important to say he should ignore the other human, and he doesn't yet know how to be polite according to any other customs. While he waits he googles himself to find out how public the information he told them on moving here is.

Permalink Mark Unread

It isn't; he doesn't get any results about himself.

Permalink Mark Unread

Cool. He'll just wait here till they're ready.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hey, do you have a toothpick on you by any chance? I can't get this bit of peach out of my teeth," says the other human after a bit.

Permalink Mark Unread

"No but I could make one, hang on..." Valanda plucks what appears to be an invisible toothpick out of thin air and offers to sell it for probably a sensible amount.

Permalink Mark Unread

"... Huh. I don't know if I want to, you know, buy one. I don't have cash on me and Cashify is a bit of a hassle for a toothpick."

Permalink Mark Unread

"In that case I will trade it to you for an explanation of gift-giving customs in Vanda Nossëo."

Permalink Mark Unread

"... Sure. If you're giving somebody a gift because you like them or something then you go a bit higher budget than a toothpick unless it's a joke, and if you're giving a stranger a tampon or a toothpick or the time or a hair tie or something, you don't charge for it, it's just, like, part of living in a world where you can get those things if you need them unexpectedly."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I like that." He hands over the toothpick.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Thanks." Pick pick. "What kinda magic is this?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Defense magic from the Hari Empire. Mostly useful for warding buildings. If you want an angel to get rid of your toothpick at some point they'll need to do something other than turn it into air, by the way."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. I would not have thought of a toothpick as a defensive sort of thing. What'll happen if an angel runs into it in the landfill?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Probably literally nothing - I can get rid of it now if you want, I just didn't want to snatch it away if you were going to have more use for it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm done with it, thank you."

Permalink Mark Unread

It ceases to be a toothpick.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Nifty. What kind of job are you interviewing for?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It turns out they have this entire bureaucratic apparatus about foreign relations and I thought it seemed kind of interesting. How about you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm your interviewer. Come on in." She gets up and opens the door to the next room for him. "Valanda, right?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah. I assume you also have a name?" He steps through the door.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Marjani, pleasure to make your acquaintance." The next room is a hallway; she shows him into an office and sits behind the desk in it. "The sitting in the waiting room isn't standard practice but I like to have a feel for people's reactions to ordinary people. Pricing toothpicks customary in Har?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"There aren't really things it's not customary to price - I picked up that there was something going on with free questions from talking to people in Icefalls - also if that's going to happen a lot I should stock up on wooden ones, that'll be a lot cheaper, except it seems like it might actually be sixty different things because if it were just toothpicks you'd have them yourself, so do you happen to have a list of things that are commonly given away for free like that and if you do is the list itself such a thing?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I wouldn't call it a list, more like, commonplace inexpensive disposable things such that even if you normally carry them on you, you might run out. If questions aren't free, how do you figure out how much they cost? Just announce you'll pay thus and such for being told the answer?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, a lot of questions go 'a ring if you'll tell me...' or you visibly get out a specific amount of cash as you ask, but you can haggle - usually questions like 'what does the thing you're trying to sell me right now cost?' are free, and sometimes people trade question for question, and you'd have a bulk rate if, say, you were hiring someone to spend three hours a week teaching you math for the next two years, or you talk it over if you're asking a question where the answer would be eight pages long or extremely hard to learn any other way. But questions where everyone knows the answer and it's a short answer go down to the smallest possible coin because if you don't go for it the next person will. - And some things are free because someone cares about other people knowing them, so you don't pay to read the imperial laws - I was really surprised that I had to pay to read the laws for Icefalls - and you don't pay to get advertised to."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- you had to pay to read the laws for Icefalls?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes? They were offering hard copies for ten rings or electronic ones for one ring back in Har, maybe it's free in Icefalls but even if that were the case I'd've had to go to Icefalls not knowing the law to take advantage of it..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, I see, I think it's mostly Dwarf companies operating in Har, it was outside the core competency of the envoys. I can tell the suggestion box that if we subsidize that down to free it won't be culturally weird." She glances at her chiplock.

Permalink Mark Unread

He waits a second while she does that. "Cool! - Is this useful to you or have we gotten sidetracked?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's useful! Doesn't tell me how good you'll be at envoying to non-Har cultures, but it's useful. How'd you pick the envoy option?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, the way I picked it as opposed to failure analysis is that failure analysis is probably adversarial and therefore probably a lot more competitive, and the way I picked it as opposed to accounting is that accounting sounds boring, and the way I picked it as opposed to going to the last glass vendor I worked for and asking if they wanted me to ward all their glass forever is because I wanted to consider something more stimulating, and the way I picked it as opposed to putting an ad online offering to ward random stuff is that I was going to try that next, and the way I picked it as opposed to just living off the UBI is that I expected to get bored quickly and start inventing things for myself to do so I might as well make someone else invent things for me to do and then pay me for them, and the reason I was picking something at all is because I was fired from my previous job in senescence research at about the time when aliens contacted us and informed us that immortality and resurrection were for sale now. Although maybe I would have been fired anyway, who knows."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Ooh, senescence research - that's still useful, incidentally, immortality magic doesn't scale very well and not everyone can be resurrected straightforwardly with the state of the art and not everyone can travel to the Cube neighborhood and morph off a few years, so if that's what you most wanted to be doing with your life..."

Permalink Mark Unread

Shrug. "It's a good thing to do but I'm not great at it and it's not especially fun and universal flourishing is also a nice goal."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay! What do you know about how we currently have the ambassadorial department structured?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You teleport people to a new universe in an airtight container designed to orbit a world for a while. Then they wait a while and gather information before saying hi, unless the society they'd be contacting notices them immediately and changes the schedule. They feel out the possibility of - something like conquest but less bloody than ours ever got even at the end - where instead of violence there's a vote on whether to become part of Vanda Nossëo. If people are poor and illiterate, they start stores that solicit payment in kind, specifically in stories, and have a diverse staff of various kinds of aliens. Otherwise they still start stores, but they send Dwarves and solicit payment in cash. The goods are basic quality-of-life things, like fabric and minor heat enchantments, and things that'll get people connected to the multiverse, like bus tickets. All of the goods for sale are supposed to take at least six seconds of thought to figure out how to use them to kill someone, and they're mostly worse for it than Hari magic but I assume there's a tradeoff involved on other planets where someone could be meaningfully made more deadly by handing them a knife. Regardless of any of those details, people answer questions for free and are aggressive about making it possible to ask them questions, including by delivering technological phones to random kids who happen to interrupt them to ask. Contact is supposed to be peaceful, and not make people worse off if possible, or at least that's the impression I got."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's a pretty good rundown! Do you have an idea where in that process you'd want to be?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think it'd be cool to talk to random people and hear stories but maybe I'm wrong about what that'd be like in practice. Stories makes me think of social species like caralendri and maybe if it's a parade of 1728 essi saying 'I ate an alien rat last week' it would get tedious, but probably not more tedious than some things I've done. I - hm. When I do mage work, a thing that makes it nice for me is that there are different people with different goals, and I get this tiny picture of their lives, and I help them figure out how to turn my abilities into a solution to their problems, and afterward I know there's this concrete way the world is different. I suspect selling people things might be the same kind of thing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Great! Okay, you sound like a good temperamental fit. If you're up for it I'd like to ask a battery of screening questions under a truth effect, retail-level envoying doesn't involve a lot of dangerous clearances but it's good to have answers on the books anyway and since we don't yet have lots of experience with Hari expats it might turn up surprise cultural quibbles."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sure!"

Permalink Mark Unread

She puts on some nice Elf music on softly in the background, asks some test questions like his name and world of origin and favorite color, asks him to make up a fake ID number, asks him to lie outright about his hair color, and once she's confirmed that it's working as it should, proceeds. Lots of extremely thoroughly-redundantly-worded questions about what he thinks he'd do in various situations and whether he has done bad things ever and how difficult it would be to coerce or social engineer him into doing bad things in the future.

Permalink Mark Unread

He has previously gone behind his owner's back to solicit tips from clients and has used trickery to make it look like he did what he was ordered to while not actually doing that. He does not anticipate behaving like this in a job he is enthusiastic about when he could just quit instead. He has previously threatened to kill someone, but that was not a crime at the time and he backed off as soon as it became illegal; he can go into more detail about it if it's important.

He has not previously been in a position to need to check someone's credentials, or be racist against other humans; he holds a vaguely negative opinion of essi, which has ever led him to go so far as to answer that he doesn't particularly like them if asked about it straight out and paid for his answer. He'd never deal with them unfairly, though, and he doesn't even mind void mages - you know, those people whose magic is for destruction, he honestly doesn't mind them that much and mostly thinks it sucks to be them - it's not true that they're nobodies, they do have magic -

Permalink Mark Unread

"Nobodies?" inquires Maranji.

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's a rude thing that people call void mages, because their magic's historically been less useful which is sort of like not being mages at all."

Permalink Mark Unread

"And what's your opinion on people who are not mages at all?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...What do you mean by that phrase?"

Permalink Mark Unread

 

"Oh dear," says Maranji. "It's actually very unusual for there to be a planet where every member of all sapient species present has magic, were you aware?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's horrible - I assume that's one of the things you fix, I mean, with the wishes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...many people do choose to learn magic or have it wished on but it's not mandatory."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I, uh, I mean, I guess if for some reason they want to go on being animals I'm not going to stop them? I intend to follow Vanda Nossëo's laws as long as I'm here and if those laws mean that, uh, that they count as people, then I have no intention of kidnapping them or doing oddly gerrymandered subsets of battery to them. How are they people, did you definitely check that - that - that they know other people have thoughts, that they have thoughts?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, nonmagical people register normally to telepaths and are capable of understanding theory of mind."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That must be awful for them - maybe I'm not imagining it right but I'm imagining that they don't know anything but what they can smell and they're never sure if they have privacy and they get sick constantly and can't be around each other and their teeth rot out of their heads and if they want to fly they have to flap their wings the whole time."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How would being a void mage solve any of those problems?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I did just say people don't like them because their magic's not as useful. Although apparently now it's useful. That - I mean, maybe if a species only had void magic they'd never become people? But it's random, at least where I come from, their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and so on all had to model the world and make decisions and so on, so they model the world and make decisions and so on."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How would being nonmagical result in not having to model the world and make decisions?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, magic is where you have a model of the world, and then you think about how you want it to be different, and then you make it different."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Okay. That's not the model anyone elsewhere in the multiverse I've ever heard of uses for determining personhood. And since most worlds aren't like Har, it would be very likely that if you were an envoy you would mostly encounter people who were not magical."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It doesn't seem like avoiding that situation would improve it from anyone's point of view, at least not on net, because they presumably mostly want to get magic and stop living like animals, and I am suddenly much more emotionally invested in universal flourishing now that it's been made clear that that's the alternative."

Permalink Mark Unread

 

"...I don't think I can recommend you for a public-facing role, but if you'd like to be considered for shipboard roles or referred to Infrastructure or something I can do that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I guess, if you think that'd be a good idea. You're not actually implying that you run all this on people not having negative emotions about newly contacted peoples, are you?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"A lot of negative emotions can be managed practically! People manage more distance about preindustrial hygiene if they can keep themselves clean, that one comes up a lot, and are better at coping with some risk of violence if they have lots of options to protect themselves without fighting back. But ultimately whatever attitude you bring to the situation is going to come through if you meet someone perceptive enough, and we really don't want to be projecting a vibe of barely concealed contempt. Thinking they're basically animals and expecting all their faculties to rely on magic they don't have and might not want and might even feel negatively about, that I doubt can be smoothed over well with a good customer service voice."

Permalink Mark Unread

...He had kind of thought for no particular reason that they felt the same way about slavery but in hindsight no one ever actually said that it wasn't just mildly annoying to them.

"I suppose," he says, even though he does not in fact suppose. "Although in that case I don't think I ought to take another role, because even if you could pass things I did off as nonmagical to sufficiently uneducated people it seems dishonest to do that if they feel negatively about magic."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Envoy teams go down by default with magic; it's practical," Maranji says. "We don't know in advance what we're going to find, so we make calls about what exposes everyone to the least risk. The thing I'm more worried about would be if you met people who did not themselves want magic."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...Okay." That does not remotely make the slightest shred of sense. "I suppose we're done here then?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, I'm also qualified to interview for shipboard but if that doesn't interest you, yeah. You can try again later."

Permalink Mark Unread

...He is not going to try again later, there is not going to be a time by which he'll have stopped being viscerally horrified that there are people out there with probably no material culture and terrible sanitation, getting sick all the time and never knowing why, never knowing anything other than, perhaps, their neighbors' private business...

"Doesn't particularly seem any better than any other options."

...and probably they eat each other - he's just going to spend the whole trip back to Icefalls dwelling on that, actually, that they probably eat each other because why wouldn't they, it's not like people in Har never eat each other and Har is extremely civilized...

Permalink Mark Unread

Icefalls continues to be itself. There's kids flying kites not too far from where he's pitched his tent.

Permalink Mark Unread

There are probably kids somewhere else who can't fly kites because they have no fabric because they don't have anyone on their planet with hands or force magic. ...This is ceasing to be a productive thing to dwell on, if it ever was.

He could ward the kites if anyone was particularly attached. There are probably kids somewhere who can't have anyone ward the kites they don't even have because - anyway, moving on.

The kites are nice. He picks a spot where he can watch them while reading the internet and tries looking up how to put an ad on the internet.

Permalink Mark Unread

If he runs a search for it he will get an ad for an ad-serving company!

Permalink Mark Unread

How meta. And demonstrably capable of showing ads to people who are looking for the products they advertise! Can he get an ad saying that anyone who wants to contact him should - 

- he needs an email address, doesn't he, does the first email provider he can find have "valanda_human_defense_mage" available? (It's shorter in Hari.)

Permalink Mark Unread

He can have valanda_human_defense_mage! In Hari, even, the alphabet's supported now (it's technically an alias of a longass number in a universal character encoding).

Permalink Mark Unread

Great!

So, an ad saying anyone who wants to contact him should email him there, and that he... they won't've heard of defense magic, he's never studied architecture, toothpicks are not an efficient use of it... that he makes things shatterproof or rip-proof or immune to fire. Which they should try to advertise to... what would be most efficient? Probably people who sell glass and fabric, maybe. He'll pay to run it for a little while, not very long because if it takes very long to connect him and his suddenly extraordinarily rare magic with any of the 35831808s of people in the multiverse with material possessions then something has gone wrong. How much for that?

Permalink Mark Unread

They charge by the thousand impressions and assert that they will try as hard as possible to make ads relevant because that makes fewer people block them. He can get a thousand impressions for not very much.

Permalink Mark Unread

A thousand is more than a gross and less than 1728, and that's the range he's mentally anchored on as probably reasonable, so he'll take it. ...Oh, hey, it's ten to the third, isn't it, that's cool.

He googles the Hari Empire next. Maybe he should have done that first, it'll tell him what they find notable and that'll tell him something important about them.

Permalink Mark Unread
The Hari Empire is a political unit claiming jurisdiction over the entirety of the world of Har. Contact was made in [click here to set your time display preferences]. Notable distinguishing features of the Empire (as opposed to the world) are:

- presumption of enslavement from birth
- collective legal personhood of groups of Thwilit
- minimal imperial-level code of laws supplemented by state-level laws
- multiple states with a population of 1
- a democratic political system characterized by "naked coalitional self-interest"[1]

Demographic statistics:
Permalink Mark Unread

...They named the universe Har? Who decided the Hars should be nested four deep - that's completely unsurprising but he's judging them anyway.

Okay, one obvious way to get a point of comparison is to check what this site says about Everhome. And wherever that [1] leads is probably worth glancing at, if nothing else maybe he can figure out what the alternative to naked coalitional self-interest is.

He can check both of these things. Everhome first, what's this site say about it?

Permalink Mark Unread
Everhome is a colony planet settled principally by the humans from Elentári, who spent their second Arda War semi-itinerant between various residences under the protection of better-equipped groups local to Elentári. Loki located and edited Everhome with the use of the Tesseract and brought the humans who wished to settle their own planet there (compare Urukheim), with the first colonists arriving in [click here to set your time display preferences]. The capital of Everhome is Icefalls. Everhome is notable for having the largest population of spontaneous adult humans of anywhere in Vanda Nossëo.
Permalink Mark Unread

Oh, that sounds awesome, being a spontaneous adult would be such a good way to start existing! He opens whatever "spontaneous adult" links to and then considers that he probably also wants to know about the second Arda War and opens that in a new tab too and then goes and reads the citation from the other article.

Permalink Mark Unread
^ "A First Look at Har", International Dateline


"Honestly," said Reyes, "in a way it was refreshing, all these people totting up how many of them would benefit from this or that use of tax money and pulling together to screw over the other folks. Not a speck of rationalizing about how their way is good for everyone, just naked coalitional self-interest. I also didn't see any attack ads. It left me sort of optimistic about how they'll evolve over time with less scarcity - I mean, the slavery thing they don't have any internal mechanism to fix, but everything else that's bothering them should more or less clear up as it becomes possible for more people to get what they want more compatibly."


A spontaneous adult is a person who began to exist without a childhood. Importantly distinct from forks in e.g. Space Elves and spontaneous appearance as in e.g. Stork natives. Spontaneous adults occur routinely in Ardas, forming the first generations of humans, Elves, and Dwarves. Naturally occurring daeva (but not ex-summoner daeva) are spontaneous adults.


The Second Arda War is the period of warfare that typically occurs in an Arda after the Valar parole Melkor, following the Melkor's imprisonment at the conclusion of the First Arda War. In standard timelines it is staged principally on Beleriand between the Noldorin Elves and their allies against Melkor, Sauron [this word is locked - why?], others of Melkor's Maiar, and the enslaved orcs they command (see Participants in the Second Arda War for more detail). See also Angband. A majority of discovered Ardas have been interrupted by an interdimensional visitor during or before the Second Arda War, but Millennia was not.
Permalink Mark Unread

Why did he move to a place where people try to do politics by blatantly lying and pretending they're going to help people they aren't going to help.

Huh, he clicks some relevant links to get a feel for what kinds of wars they've dealt with - OH NO, those are some bad wars, those wars have more torture than any of Har's wars have ever had. Should he kill himself now in case something like that comes along? No, no point in it, he's ever existed in public already and they could bring him back, and also, Vanda Nossëo might be able to handle the next thing like that. If there is a next thing like that. They'd probably protect him because of universal flourishing. Unless the universal flourishing is a lie they came up with to scam voters.

(How does it even work to scam voters, don't they just vote you out of office when they discover that you lied? ...Not if they've never heard of you before because they're immigrants, maybe it works fine if you're very expansionist.)

On the other hand, given the art and the sports and the falls and the extreme friendliness, it... doesn't seem like the flourishing is a lie.

New search term: fun clubs in Icefalls.

Permalink Mark Unread

He can find a hiking club, a knitting club, a profusion of book clubs, a painting club, an ice hockey club, a language learning club, a board game club, a bunch of nightclubs and dance clubs, a bunch of clubs that are basically just low-key classes, and a cooking club.

Permalink Mark Unread

Hiking sounds okay, he should really read more books and he can probably afford to now, languages sound okay - it might be a problem that he's using Allspeak and doesn't speak whatever the local language is, doesn't even actually know what the local language is - he'd have to learn the local board games and dances and he would really like to learn about cooking - is there any overlap in the schedules for those? Do any of them charge? How about the classes, his education was... very specialized and technical and not remotely well-rounded.

Permalink Mark Unread

Some of the book clubs are on top of other things but if he chooses which one judiciously he can fit in whatever he wants. There are classes in lots of things, if he would like to learn to do his own electrical work or listen to a rotation of history buffs give presentations on their favorite topics or go to one of the book clubs that is only doing philosophy texts or view online botany lectures or audit Introduction to Agricultural Science at the Icefalls community college.

Permalink Mark Unread

...Actually, he would love to view online botany lectures and audit Introduction to Agricultural Science... wait but what is electricity? What would he do if he knew how to use it? He googles that.

Permalink Mark Unread

The internet is happy to explain him electricity.

Permalink Mark Unread

That's really cool!

There aren't magic in any of those steps, so all you'd need is a handful of heat mages or some basically similar kind of magic to forge the metal in the first place - possibly? Maybe you need structure magic for mining. Do you? Well, there's approximately zero marginal cost to googling more questions.

Permalink Mark Unread

Apparently electricity can and has been developed on planets with no magic at all.

Permalink Mark Unread

...How?

...Maybe the kids on those planets have kites.

...And possibly also neighbors who torture large numbers of people for hundreds of years and deliberately damage their ability to tell reality from fiction.

...Would he know if he were currently in the custody of -

anyway, cool about the electricity! That's probably really good! Why, when he specifically said he was envisioning nonmagical people having a standard of living inconsistent with this, did Marjani not say anything. Probably she was secretly actually not testing him on his attitudes at all, and instead testing him on whether he proactively googled details about planets Vanda Nossëo has contacted in the past.

Anyway, he'd love to study that too but possibly not immediately, there being only so many hours in a day. He'll study botany and join a hiking club and a book club that isn't solely focused on philosophy, and at least feel out the cooking club and language club and a dance club in case those are fun.

Permalink Mark Unread

Meanwhile, R&D has fetched a variety of psychic type people over to see if Hari magic can block them.

Permalink Mark Unread

And an assortment of Hari mages try spells of various kinds. Illusion magic that prevents knowledge magic and maybe other forms of magic from gaining information about anything inside someone's skull; defense magic that prevents a person from having other spells cast on them; defense magic that prevents new spells from being cast within an area; defense magic that prevents enchanted objects or people with active divinations from entering an area. What vulnerabilities are still left after all that?

Permalink Mark Unread

Betazoids are not, strictly speaking, magic, and can still read people with all this going on. In an even stricter sense, subtle artistry isn't "magic" either.

Permalink Mark Unread

They can block some aspects of subtle arts, and eventually conclude that what they can't block isn't fundamentally different from the theoretical ability of a structure mage to make an explosive out of thin air. If they have to, imperial police can figure out how to arrest subtle artists from a distance - now they want to check that command magic works normally on subtle artists and confirm that they can be killed normally.

Several states individually want to ban betazoids but don't control enough territory for that to help. An imperial representative inquires about Vanda Nossëo's protections.

Permalink Mark Unread

Betazoids mostly live in Elendil, and many places do require them to wear range-limiters or psi-suppression gadgets to enter; this one is just on loan for testing. Har can make their solar system one of those places if they like.

Permalink Mark Unread

They like, yes.

...What if one of them decides to live on a hidden private island and then take the gadget off? Perhaps they should also be required to submit to command magic about that. What an unaesthetic carveout, isn't there an area effect they could use instead that wouldn't place obligations on people? After all, if two betazoids had a child, this could require them or the child to take actions, and that would be at odds with what the imperial laws are intended to be.

Permalink Mark Unread

They don't have precedent about someone living on a hidden prior island while a powerful telepath in a place unused to that possibility, so they can't help them there.

Permalink Mark Unread

They'll have an unaesthetic law that (gasp) imposes unconditional positive obligations in place while they think of something better. They put a small bounty out for a more elegant solution.

Permalink Mark Unread

Also, speaking of Hari law, they've recently noticed inklings that possibly individuals without magic are not considered "people" here? Does that affect their obligations and protections under the law?

Permalink Mark Unread

The imperial representative they ask this of is confused. Yes, the definition of "mage" implies having magic. Does Vanda Nossëo have... crows as citizens, or something?

Permalink Mark Unread

Not crows - though some places do protect crows just on animal welfare grounds - but people of species that could learn magic and instead do not, since a lot of Vanda Nossëo magic is learned instead of inborn.

Permalink Mark Unread

Lots of people aren't working mages, they go to law school and never use magic more complicated or interesting than turning book pages. What exactly is the distinction they're making here between learned and inborn magic?

Permalink Mark Unread

In the same way that someone can be unable to speak Hari, due to being a baby or having grown up a monolingual speaker of something else, a person can be unable to do magic, but then learn how. As far as they know everyone currently counted as a citizen is theoretically able to learn at least some kind of magic at some stage in their life cycle, but they don't actually have that as a citizenship requirement.

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, yes, many Hari people aren't born able to do magic, either, and take up to a couple of years to pick it up. In some kind of absurd hypothetical where a species evolved without magic to be able to understand and follow laws, it might make sense to treat that species as if they were people, legally. After all, they treat void mages the same as other people.

Permalink Mark Unread

A lot of people in Vanda Nossëo evolved (or were created) without the ability to do magic and went on that way, understanding and following laws for the most part, till contact opened up the option to learn magic.

Permalink Mark Unread

In some sense all people descend from animals, so this particular imperial representative just thinks it's very neat that Vanda Nossëo is uplifting particularly smart animals. Is there some reason they'd need or want different laws for uplifts?

Permalink Mark Unread

No? It's -

Okay, there are magical animals that are not people, some places. Like unicorns, and other stuff from Hazel. How would Hari law tend to handle those?

Permalink Mark Unread

...So instead of just species which are both of able to understand and follow laws and able to do magic, and species which are neither, they have species that are just one of those? Well, it's the being able to understand and follow laws that matters to being a free citizen, and Har has dealt with individuals who can do magic but not follow laws and can treat releasing them in Har the same way as releasing any dangerous mage like that in Har.

...Incidentally, standard evolutionary theories predict this should be a really unstable situation and the Hazel creatures should swiftly either wipe themselves out or become more intelligent.

Permalink Mark Unread

The evolutionary biologists of Vanda Nossëo do not appear to think so. It helps that they don't have the same array of magical powers as folks in Har, unicorns for example purify water and stuff like that, not really the kind of thing you can get yourself killed with.

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh, that'd do it. And the entities that understand and follow laws but don't do magic, why is that not insanely expensive to maintain for basically no benefit?

Permalink Mark Unread

What would be expensive about it? They can still do jobs that don't happen to involve magic, like many Hari people do.

Permalink Mark Unread

Having brains that support minds like that is very calorically expensive and, yes, useful in other ways in a society which has the infrastructure to make use of it but, for example, a judge doesn't have to use magic at all but the court needs a knowledge mage and without that there's no point in having a judge, a writer doesn't need magic but copying their books by hand would be so slow and laborious - and this is assuming they do in fact have the cognitive abilities of someone who received an education (because magic makes farms productive enough that people can spend time on other things like learning) and isn't too ill to think (because they have death mages around to stop epidemics), and it's also assuming they're alive at all and not, say, dead in a hurricane. Do other worlds just not have those kinds of problems?

Permalink Mark Unread

Nonmagical worlds with people on them - let's take Cube's Earth as an example - do lose population to hunger and illness and hurricanes, but by and large that doesn't wipe everyone out, and intelligence does help at all with being one of the survivors. They take a while to get past the stage of books needing to be copied by hand, but have books at all before that, and then copy books nonmagically.

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh, cool. Is there a documentary or something about how smart animals build civilizations?

Permalink Mark Unread

They can have history documentaries, though that's a little broad! Most Earths have magic but it's actually not instrumental in hardly any of their civilization-building; it's usually secret minorities who have it. Eclipse didn't have secrecy but also its magic users are so dangerous when they activate that for most of history it was typical to just murder them. Still, just to remove the confounding factor, they can source their documentaries from Cube. (Warp is more borderline; vanishingly few humans from Warp's Earth have psi potential but it's not none.)

Permalink Mark Unread

Cool! This person will go enjoy some documentaries about weird aliens, then, after reiterating that this seems legally simple and warning them that the people who have feelings about void mages will probably also have feelings about, uh, entities that are ambiguously mages.

Permalink Mark Unread

As long as they have normal legal rights that's - well, not "fine", but strictly lower priority than the slavery thing, since people who don't want feelings had about them like that could just not come to Har. Should there be any announcement about that since it won't have come up before?

Permalink Mark Unread

They can do that if they want. The imperial government can go ahead and mention this in the news if it seems important.

Permalink Mark Unread

Seems maybe important, some of the Dwarves don't have magic, so yes please.

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh. Some knowledge mage somewhere almost definitely already knows that but apparently hasn't shared yet.

The announcement doesn't result in hate crimes but does result in a couple of customers walking into shops and asking the staff if they're animals.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Nope. Dwarves were created out of rocks by the Vala Aulë. We're not actually related to any other species at all. But for most everyday purposes we have animal-ish biology."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do you sell blueprints for making more dwarves?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Nope."

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh, well.

Slightly more of the people visiting the shops ask for information about alien civilizations and alien magic but it's not like people weren't already doing that anyway.

Permalink Mark Unread

Har does not get as many tourists as some places, but it gets a few. Here is a photographer with green hair who wants to take pictures of things. Anything he can take pictures of is fair game, right, the things around here people don't want depicted are warded magically?

Permalink Mark Unread

Technically not all of their wards will stop a camera but they have ever encountered plein air painters before and the people who would be annoyed by them for the most part either aren't around in crowded areas or are cloaked in the sorts of illusions that will fool a camera. For instance, this purple agerah constantly attended by shifting dark clouds does not mind their shifting dark clouds and purple dye job getting photographed at all.

...Actually, some slaves don't have all the illusions they want, but if their owners were going to complain about them being photographed they'd've purchased more illusions.

Permalink Mark Unread

The slaves are distinguishable by the bracelets, right?

Permalink Mark Unread

Sometimes anklets or belts or something, if someone's anatomy doesn't allow for bracelets, but all the slave jewelry is extremely stylistically similar and there is no other reason that anyone wears circular gold jewelry. Some local bookstores are now selling collections of pictures of jewelry with explanations of what they mean.

Permalink Mark Unread

The photographer will buy a book like that. And take pictures of people and places and things. Is it legal to leave the book strategically open in the foreground when taking a picture of a cute child wearing slave jewelry or is there a copyright issue?

Permalink Mark Unread

The books shows even some very obscure slave jewelry styles, as well as the styles used for people who are under arrest but not slaves, and the ways people wear their rings, and the use of the mage symbols as advertisements, and some examples of jewelry whose design isn't intended to communicate anything other than the wearer's aesthetics (but which is usually enchanted anyway because it's cheap).

It is legal, although a cursory attempt was made to design it to photograph badly and they'll want to work in lighting where they don't need a flash, which coincidentally narrows down which species they're likely to want to use. Would they like to get a picture of this small belul climbing a tree, who looks slightly springpetish? Would they like to get a picture of these half dozen caralendri of varying ages making something best glossed as a sandcastle? Would they like to get a picture of this surly caralendar child selling illusions in the market?

Permalink Mark Unread

The baby belul is ADORABLE and will get photographed with and without the book open. The sandcastling caralendri get photographed too. The surly one gets pictures mostly with the book in frame rather than without. Do they have a written price sheet?

Permalink Mark Unread

There's no price sheet. The surly illusion mage asks if they want something.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm curious what services you sell."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Illusions. I can change the color of your shirt or your hair or protect you from scrying or write on you or whatever."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How long do they last?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"As long as the anchor lasts and I don't cancel it myself, which I would probably not do. So, like, if I had a shirt," as opposed to an assortment of floating triangles, which is what he's wearing now, "and it was beige but I made it look blue, then if it got ripped in half the pieces would turn beige again."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm curious about what happens to the money after that but don't have practice with paying for questions yet."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What money, you mean what I do with it after people pay me? I will answer that for one ring."

Permalink Mark Unread

One ring. "Yeah, that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I usually buy a salad or something and whatever's left over usually I take home to the family and Mom usually decides what to do with it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Are you likely to be freed soon?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Probably when I'm twelve."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Why then?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Because then I'll be an adult. I'd rather know why you want to know than have another ring."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm from Vanda Nossëo and we don't have slavery."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do you want book recs? I'll swap you for recs from Vanda Nossëo."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know what books they're selling here but if that doesn't matter to you, sure."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Some people like Freedom and Slavery Through History, but I looked at it in a library once and it was dry. Everyone knows anyone who knows anything about history knows about Seihra-Gara and my favorite book about Seihra-Gara is The True Ruby. Uh, and then there's The Justice System Made Simple... and I guess there's Sasai Is Faster Than Me but it's kind of for kids?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Eh, I have kids," says the visitor, writing these down. "I liked Out Of Living Memory, Kanuka Toaki, and In Spite of a Nail, Jemma Tompkins, and House Elf Psychology Case Studies, John William Chapman."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hey, I gave you four recs and you gave me three and you didn't even tell me anything about them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, I haven't read that many books specifically about slavery, but I guess there's Red Retrospective, Nuna Saktu, hits some of the same notes, that one's about an oppressed caste from my planet. House elves are a species that prefers to be enslaved, Out of Living Memory's about the last few people who were ever enslaved on my planet, In Spite of a Nail is about how all the Earths had a similar history including the slave trade and its end."

Permalink Mark Unread

"See, there we go, that's fair."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Glad that's sorted." And he moves on to take more photos and maybe check out a bookshop.

Permalink Mark Unread

There's some forest to take photos of, not untouched wilderness but not specifically put to any particular current use. There are some lovely atolls and mangroves but they're not at all on the way to any bookshop. The fashion here is unconstrained by physical possibility and they could get a picture of someone in a dress like a starry night, or someone in a veil that appears to be a window onto a forest that itself stays put even as the veil through which it can be seen flutters and changes position.

And there's a bookstore. Most of it is in Ilan, with smaller sections in Devin and Hari. The Hari section is tucked away behind the Devin section and looks small, although in fact it's mostly just compact.

Permalink Mark Unread

Are there posted rules about how much of a book you're allowed to look at before you have to buy it or put it back?

Permalink Mark Unread

Most of the codices have some pages stuck together, usually most of the book; scrolls continue to not have entirely fallen out of use, and the scrolls generally only unroll part of the way. There isn't a sign about it.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay, cool. He'll look through things that look interesting and keep an eye out for the recommended books.

Permalink Mark Unread

There's a hastily-put-together display of things aliens are expected to potentially find informative, including a recent issue of an almanac, a very high-level history summary in the form of 288 silly poems about historical events or people, an illustrated children's book about the different species, and more copies of the same guide to jewelry he already has.

Freedom and Slavery Through History can be found shelved in between A History of History on the one side and Bans and Regulations on the Use of Magic on the other, on the shelf above Near Antiquity: An Overview and The Second Sinking. A couple shelves further down are thinner volumes in simpler language, including The True Ruby and a couple of slightly repetitive fiction series about caralendar boys of about the same age as would find the writing readable and engaging living through different historical periods. The other recs are nowhere to be found, at least at the moment.

There aren't books about magic in the Ilan section, at least not exactly. In the next bookcase over from the one with all the history there's a book about construction that goes into detail on ward specs; there are fully two dozen different books about genetics; there's a book about command design as a career and a book about how illusion shows are made and a book about the tradeoffs and difficulties of enchanted clothing; there are three books about public health and all of them mention magic; there are children's books about people who make mistakes that cost them their jobs or get them killed or just humiliate them, and most of the mistakes they make involve magic in some way. But it's only over in the Hari section that there's a book of tips for every kind of magic, between a history book called Milocri and Seihra-Gara: Eyewitnesses of the Middle Warring States Period, 144 - 90 Before Unification and a book on Anavel Sani's wildlife. (The Hari books don't seem to be sorted other than by language.)

Permalink Mark Unread

The green will buy actually kind of a lot of books, some for him and some for his friends, and ask if he can have them held at the shop until he's done taking photos and ready to pack up and go home.

Permalink Mark Unread

Sure! There's an extra charge for that but it's small. Would he like them packed up in some way, too?

Permalink Mark Unread

That would be great, they're going to need to go in this backpack here.

Permalink Mark Unread

As long as the backpack will fit them that works.

Permalink Mark Unread

It will provided they are not packaged in an inconvenient aspect ratio!

On he goes to take more pictures.

Permalink Mark Unread

Mangroves? Atolls? Airport? People who could pass for really short elves, if their aesthetics weren't obviously in conversation with a specific artistic tradition that isn't any of the elven ones? Maybe this rustic treehouse over here outside of town, or this orchard surrounded by a fence with a floral motif? He'll have to stop by some other city if he wants to get pictures of any blood sports or see more agerah-focused architecture.

Permalink Mark Unread

This city's fine! He will take pictures and collect his books and go home and sell the pictures to the Associated Press.