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Generated: Jul 06, 2022 7:19 AM
Post last updated: Jul 06, 2022 5:31 AM
cognoscenti
Mabel in Delena
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This particular patch of forest is relatively unremarkable save for the path - wide enough for a good-sized wagon, though not smooth enough for the wheels of one - running through it; a skunk browses on low-hanging raspberries planted alongside the path while songbirds flit from branch to branch overhead, and there's the sound of underbrush being cut away somewhere in the middle distance.

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Mabel can't see much beyond the chemical in her eyes and the pain in her face, and barely has the ability to string enough thoughts together to process what just happened. She focuses on the important bits: she's chemically burned her face, and it hurts more than anything she's ever felt before, she hasn't been eaten by whatever just hit her, and she is in the woods. Not in the library, or a place that's not her tower, or Anja's farm, but solidly in the woods.

She doesn't think her heart can beat much faster than it already is, but it makes a valiant effort.

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The skunk looks up, considers the concerningly sneaky humanoid for a moment, and opts to lumber off into the undergrowth.

A crow flies overhead, loops back to get another look at her, and hurries off toward the underbrush-cutting sounds.

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Okay, animals are here -- she has no idea whether or not that means water is nearby or not. Either way, she's not sure she can find a stream by touch alone, even if her immediate thought, drilled into her from years of lab safety lectures, is to find flowing water.

Cutting noises is probably people, and if it's not people and is, she doesn't know, a bear, she guesses she'll die faster. She's going to hold her hands out in front of her, take very small shuffling steps, and try her best not to fall as she heads towards the noise.

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The cutting noise stops after another couple of seconds, and a tall thin medium-dark skinned man in grey and creme shorts with red trim comes hurrying up the path with a crow on his shoulder and a red walking stick in his hand. He's weirdly easy to see, or something like that; almost before she can differentiate him from the trees she has a clear sense that he's there, and worried about her. His alarm grows as he gets close enough to get a good look at her, and he pulls a few inches of material off of the top of his walking stick and looks at it for a moment before handing it to her with the clear intention for her to use it to wipe off her face.

The object he's given her is soft, barely firm enough to hold its shape at all, and not at all suitable for making a walking stick out of.

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Wow, nonverbal spells! He must be skilled at magic. She can't discern his species, so she doesn't know whether or not to be surprised.

She takes the object and begins to wipe down her face immediately. She'll probably kick herself for this later, but she's desperate and his alarm feels very real. 

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It crumbles and falls away, taking the acid with it only a little less efficiently than water would. He'll keep offering chunks of the substance until she's satisfied; he thinks she's also definitely going to need to see the medic and she'll probably want him to do something for the pain before they go, that chemical burn really does look nasty. These thoughts of his are somehow obvious even when she's too busy cleaning her face to be looking at him at all.

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When she's less panicked about getting the substance off, she realizes this is probably some sort of empathy or wordless telepathy magic. It's rare; she doesn't think she's met anyone who can use it well before. 

She hopes he's either not deaf or can read her mind in return.

"Painkillers would be great," she says, in case he can hear her. Hopefully he can understand her under the way her voice cracks. 

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The noise startles him, just slightly, and he doesn't know why she's making it; it does confirm for him that she's in pain, though. If she's too stressed to communicate normally she can touch his hand, or try to, to give him permission to painkiller her; he's holding it right here in front of her.

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That was weird, but she can't get her thoughts together enough to figure out what it means.

She'll take whatever's offered, though. She reaches out to find his hand and try to grab whatever pill or potion he's offering.

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There's no pill to be found, but as she finds his hand with her own the pain recedes significantly anyway, and a moment later a couple of the most painful remaining spots go numb, as well.

Is there anything else she needs first aid for before he takes her to the medic?

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She mostly just needs guidance, and someone to grab her if she falls. She's really worried about falling; she's not the most athletic or coordinated at the best of times and she really doesn't want to trip over things she can't see. 

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He keeps an eye on her as he sets out, and when she has trouble following he passes her his walking stick - she can ride in the cart when they get to it, it's not far.

There's a child of about six sitting in the cart when they get there; he sends him and the crow to go find the medic and tell her that they're on their way, and guides her onto the cart in his place, carefully avoiding touching her as he does so and offering her a seatbelt once she's settled into place. That done, he takes the walking stick back, grabs the handle sticking out from the front of the cart, and sets off at a much faster pace, up the side trail and back onto the main path. The cart moves oddly, and it doesn't take her long to conclude from the way it rocks that it seems to have a gait, and be walking rather than rolling; it's also rather larger than a single person should be able to pull at the speed he's going, so it must be self-propelled in some way. He doesn't explain any of this, though, or 'talk' to her further, just hurries down the path.

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She thinks that probably she should be making plans -- how to get home, what to do if this goes bad -- but she's still trying very hard not to panic. The rocking of the cart is making her nauseated, anyway; best to try not to think too much about it.

She's been crying ever since the accident. If she's maybe crying from more than just pain and the natural reflex to flush the acid out of her eye, nobody has to know that.

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They come to a wider, smoother path after a few minutes, and her mysterious benefactor starts properly running, which fortunately spurs the cart into a somewhat smoother gait. Ten minutes later, he turns onto another side path, slowing again, but it's not long after that that they stop altogether, at what seems to be a large signboard. He hands her a pair of headphones from a nook on the side of it - she needs to put them on so he can trigger the alarm without damaging her hearing - and puts a second pair on himself.

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She does this! She's not quite sure what they are, and also seem to not be designed for elves' ear lengths, but that's fine. They also press kind of painfully on her burned face and ears, especially on her left side.

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They're noise-dampening, and quite good at it, though the poor fit over her ears makes them not quite as good as they'd normally be: she hears the drumming sound, though not at a painful volume, when he sets the alarm off. He only leaves it running for a few seconds before turning it back off and offering to take the headphones back.

A few minutes later, a ...person... comes up the path toward them; she's roughly human shaped, and moves like a human, but she's a peachy orange color, perhaps furred - Mabel's vision is too bad right now to be sure that she's not wearing clothes, but she doesn't appear to be - and she has a pair of tentacles sprouting from behind her shoulders, in addition to the somewhat more familiar backswept antlers on top of her head. She winces at the burn, and brings one of her tentacles up near Mabel's face, checking what the chemical is with the scenting pad on the underside of it - there'll be time for pleasantries when she's sure she hasn't been poisoned or anything in addition to the obvious damage.

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Oh, good -- she may not be an elf but she's visibly not like Mabel's new forest friend -- sometimes medicine works differently in different species and Mabel is more confident than before that she'll know what's best for her.

She says "Hello," because she's still hoping maybe they'll speak the same language, and also she figures she should be polite.

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Okay that seems to just be acid, good, and.... um, what?

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No response... but they can clearly both hear her. Strange. At least she doesn't have to worry about saying the wrong thing?

She tries very hard to project "don't worry about it" at the healer, mostly by thinking it very hard, but isn't sure she succeeds. She's an artificer, okay, this is not her type of magic.

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...she will worry about the medical relevance of that if it happens again or Mabel asks her to. For now, she'd like to get that chemical burn cleared up and make sure there's no long-term damage to her eyes; she requests permission to touch her for that.

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Go ahead, it's definitely necessary. Mabel tries to show her appreciation for being asked first and again isn't sure if that comes across.

She'd also really like to go inside, which she also tries to think very loudly. She'd point but she doesn't know where she'd be pointing to. She makes a little hut with one hand and walks her other fingers into it just to see if that works.

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...what.

Okay, if something's happening where she can't communicate normally she probably should stay with the medic until they figure it out.

If she wants to go to the guest house first... no, that might be a result of the communication problem. The medic takes a moment to recolor the ends of her tentacles, one yellow, one blue, positions them where they'll be easy to point to, and suggests that she point to the one that corresponds to what what would she like to do: blue for 'get her face healed now', yellow for 'go to the medic's guest house now', ground for 'do something else now'.

 

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Her physical needs are still very pressing, Mabel admits, but her brain is screaming very loudly at her. She'll point to yellow.

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All right. The medic asks the tall man if he can bring her to the guest house, and offers to print up some books for him in exchange when he proves to be reluctant; that settled, they set off down the path again. They pass a set of tall, wide plant-filled cages in a clearing beside the path after a few minutes, then make a turn and come to an open area with a sprawling lumpy pastel-rainbow-splattered peach-colored building at the end of it and a row of similarly colored cottage-sized buildings set a bit back from the path leading up to it. The medic guides them to the second of these and offers Mabel her hand to help her down from the cart, while the tall man undoes the seatbelt holding her there.

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She takes her hand. Without as much adrenaline from pain she's very shaky and wobbly, but she's able to climb down from the cart herself with some help. 

She can't really see the buildings but she knows they're there, and she feels a lot more calm at the prospect. It's not going to be as soothing as her own tower, but it's better than this wide open space.

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The medic leads her in - there's a shallow step up onto the porch, but it's otherwise flat, with wide enough doorways that she doesn't need to worry much about navigating them. The inside of the house is entirely done up an incredibly bland grey, to the point where it's hard to distinguish any of its features, and the medic half-apologizes for that; she'll fix it up in a minute, but she wants to fix Mabel's face first. Or she can do it now, if it's really bothering her (and there's a sense that she'd only be a bit surprised at that); she offers her tentacles to be pointed at again for this choice once she's guided Mabel to sit on the curved couch by the door.

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Mabel cannot see anything really so it doesn't matter if this room is gray! If the medic doesn't understand her need to be inside, that's fine, most people don't.

Mabel will gesture that she wants her face fixed, please. She's not really sure how fixed it can get, but she would like less uncertainty.

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Oh thank goodness. Hold still, please.

The pain and numbness disappear practically immediately; it takes another few seconds for her eyesight to return, good as new or possibly better. The first thing she can see is the medic, who is indeed a naked but heavily furred peach-colored lady. Or, no, hermaphrodite? Something like that. The house, if she looks around, is narrow, grey and extremely boring; the part she can see from where she's sitting is just a countertop-based workstation running along the other side of the room.

The medic watches her for another moment and then, satisfied with her work, goes to fix the house up; this involves going around and touching things, changing the colors and textures to match Mabel's outfit: the countertops and ceiling take on the darker grey and gentle heathering of her jacket; the walls become white like her shirt, with a band of blue trim around the top to match her tie; the doors of the cabinets below the countertops come to match the argyle of her socks; and the floor gains a similar color and sheen to her black leather shoes. This only takes a few minutes, and the medic ends with the couch she's sitting on, darkening and heathering it, and then asks if that looks all right.

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Wow that was... shockingly quick and easy? She would never have expected this and not recognizing the magic is becoming more pressing.

She's barely going to register the redecorating -- it's lovely! But she's mostly distracted by not knowing which species is in front of her, and the strange magic.

She still wants to be polite, though, so she nods.

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...blue for 'that means yes', yellow for 'that means no'?

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Worth a shot. She really needs to figure out how to use their telepathy.

Blue for yes!

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Good, that'll be more convenient than pointing all the time - does she have a no sign? ...also, is she right to guess that this means Mabel's inability to communicate isn't new?

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For the first question Mabel points at yes and shakes her head to demonstrate no.

For the second she both nods and points to "Yes."

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....okay. This might be out of her wheelhouse; she's only heard of people being unable to communicate for medical reasons when they have brain problems, and Mabel doesn't. She can send a few messages, though, and see if anyone has heard of it happening in any other circumstances.

Can Mabel craft?

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Mabel can't craft, but she can do magic and make things. She's got a few levels in wizard and a lot in artificing.

She's not sure how similar this magic is to Crafting, though. It feels and behaves totally differently.

So... maybe? If she only has yes and no, though, she's going to pick "no."

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All right. Well, this is as good a place to be as any if she's not able to live on her own, at least for now; in the long run one of them may want to figure something else out, but there's no huge rush. The next priority is probably establishing better communication of some sort; does Mabel know how to write?

 

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Yes! She nods and points. So they do have language? That makes things easier, hopefully.

She wants to ask for paper and pen right away, but gesturing got a strange response last time.

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The medic goes to make her something like that, actually! She opens one of the cupboards and takes a moment to recolor the lump of claylike material in it to a darker grey before pulling off a lump of it to reshape into a stiff black leather-like board with a squishy claylike grey writing surface on one side and a smaller lump to shape into a pointed blue writing implement, both of which she turns over to Mabel.

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Mabel takes the clay and implement and considers them. This looks very hard to write in like she's used to writing, which maybe she should have expected.

Still, she manages to write, very shallowly, "Hello, my name is Mabel" in Common on the clay.

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Aaaand that's not in the writing system she knows. She does know someone who might recognize it, at least, if she can make a copy to send to them? And she can print out a dictionary in the local style and read it to her, hm, starting tomorrow probably, she's got chores she needs to do today.

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That would be great and Mabel would be very grateful. She's better at learning to write than learning to speak, anyway.

Chores are understandable! Mabel honestly just wants to sleep so tomorrow is better for understandable. 

She points to "yes" twice, even if these were not technically questions.

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Sounds good. The amenities here are pretty standard but she can give Mabel a quick tour if she thinks she might not recognize them; also there's a call bell over here on the wall, this button for emergencies and this one for non-emergencies, and she'll bring food by in a bit, and kitchenwares if Mabel thinks she'll be all right with them after whatever happened with the acid.Tour, yes/no; oven and stovetop and knives and things, yes/no?

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Yes to both! Things are looking very different than she's used to.

The call bell is a good idea and she's curious how it works, but she's not going to press any just to try it out, that seems rude.

She's not good at cooking but she's also not going to say that, that also seems rude.

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She'll show her the house, then. First, there's the controls for the overhead lights and the worklights over the counter and in the cabinets below it. In the bathroom, there's a walk-in bathtub with a button to make it watertight and more to control the water temperature and pressure, and a button to mirror-ify and un-mirror-ify the wall over the sink and a section of the back wall. Back in the main area, what looked like an enclosed cabinet turns out to be an enclosed bed, with a bank of at least a dozen buttons inside to do everything from adjusting the mattress firmness to making a portion of the ceiling transparent to dispensing water into a cup to locking the sliding door; it also comes with a set of blankets in three different thicknesses plus a weighted one. And back at the couch, she shows her the drawers built into the bottom of it that hold more pillows and blankets for cozying up there. All of the buttons are marked with unfamiliar glyphs made mostly of simple shapes; there's enough of a logic to them that the medic can describe what Mabel is meant to be seeing in each one, to help her remember what they do.

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Well this is nothing like anything she's ever seen. This is not surprising but it's still kind of upsetting. She still has no idea where she is and she's increasingly suspecting it's very far -- another plane, far. 

She's still going to try all the buttons she's shown, though. Tomorrow she'll probably explore some more but for now she's too overwhelmed.

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The medic will leave her to it, if there's nothing else she needs - is there?

Also her daughter might bring lunch and dinner, if she's too busy to handle it - that's the younger woman in the green and gold argyle; Mabel will probably be seeing a fair amount of her and of the medic's other household member, who's got a black and bright blue aesthetic.

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She doesn't need anything else, thank you!

She shakes her head in answer to the first question and nods to the second. "Yes" is not quite "Thank you," but it's close enough.

Mabel is going to sleep for a bit now!

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She can make the bed quite cozy with all the features it has.

There's a knock at her door after about an hour.

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She's a little disoriented when she wakes up and calls "Come in!", but pretty quickly she realizes she's going to have to go over there and open the door herself.

She does this. Whoever's on the other side (presumably the healer's daughter) will see she's got a crease from the pillow on her cheek, and her hair is tangled around her antlers. Otherwise she's a sleepy looking humanoid dressed mostly in professional, academic-looking grays which are somewhat at odds with her bright pink hair.

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The young woman on the other side of the door looks surprisingly human, especially given the clear family resemblance to the medic in her facial structure; the only things that suggest she might not be just straightforwardly human are the tentacles sprouting from either side of each of her wrists, and perhaps the vine tattoos extending up from them to twine around her arms. She's wearing the promised green-and-gold argyle, though, and has a tray with a meal on it: chickpea tenders and potato wedges with sweetened mustard and spiced mayonnaise for dipping sauces, herbed peas, and an apple-cinnamon tart.

Her mom couldn't tell her what Mabel would like, for obvious reasons, but if any of this doesn't work for her she can bring more of whatever does.

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Mabel is updating in favor of whatever this species is being prone to body mods.

This is fine; Mabel generally prefers bland food but she'd really rather not go through the trouble of trying to communicate this, and she remains worried about being rude.

No way to communicate thank you; she takes the tray and tries to smile extra big to convey thanks.

Does the medic's daughter want to come in? Mabel is going to move to the side to and make space for her to pass through the door; she's as always not quite sure the etiquette here.

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Uh, sure.

She pauses noticeably at the door, but manages to step through after a second, and looks around to see if there's any sign of what Mabel might need from her.

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Oh no! She wasn't expecting to come inside! This has made the interaction harder!

Mabel is going to try nodding to show that she's alright and hope that the healer has communicated what these gestures mean.

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That's the yes gesture, probably, but she didn't ask anything? She doesn't share this confusion, though. And everything looks all right at least at first glance. Can Mabel show her what she needs?

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Oh no! Oh no! She can't!

Mabel is going to shake her head and maybe try opening the door again and gesturing towards it.

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She will thusly be shooed!

The food turns out to be quite tasty, anyway.

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And not too long after she's done eating, the medic stops by to drop off some unprepared food - almost entirely plants, but also half a dozen eggs - and ask if she's doing all right.

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Plants and eggs she can work with!

She is doing alright! She nods.

She really wants to ask if she can teach or make up new gestures for communication right now, but that's unfortunately really hard to do when she's not able to communicate. She's hopeful that if she can be taught to read she can read whatever books they have on how to do telepathy magic, that would make things so much easier.

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All right. She shouldn't hesitate to use the call bell if she has any problems.

The medic is planning to go ask around a bit this afternoon and see if she can find out where Mabel came from - she's guessing there's a traveling household visiting the community right now that she hasn't heard about or something. Her household has been told not to let any strangers in and she has no intention of making Mabel go with anyone if she doesn't want to, she just wants to figure out what's going on here. Is that okay?

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That's... not remotely at all what happened and it seems like a lot of assumptions are being made here, but any attempts to communicate this will probably just cause more confusion.

It is okay, even if it won't be useful. Mabel nods.

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(There are definitely some assumptions being made, but it seems wise to make at least a few, given the situation - the burns could have been an accident rather than an assault, but how would someone who can't craft get acid like that?)

All right, good. Her daughter has the call bell, and they've shuffled the chores around a bit so someone might have time to start on the dictionary with her before dinner, but no promises about that.

She leaves her alone again, and Mabel has a couple more hours to herself before she hears someone moving around on the porch (or maybe doesn't, if she's in bed with the soundproofing on). There's a window there, if she wants to check what's going on.

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Mabel has mostly been poking around the house, pressing all the buttons except the call bells. A few times she spends five minutes turning the mirror or wall transparency on and off. 
She will go over to the window and look out!

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Yep, there's someone out there. He doesn't move like a human - his legs are short and tilted forward, giving him a more gorilla-like gait, complete with knuckle-walking. He has tentacles, longer and thinner than the medic's, that he touches everything around him with, and a pair of bushy mothlike antennae, and his general aesthetic is black with bright blue highlights at the tips of things - the ends of his hair, the last few inches of his tentacles, his antennae. After a moment she catches a glimpse of his eyes, and they're a solid shiny blue; the way he's touching everything makes a little more sense if she considers that he might be blind. If so, it isn't slowing him down much; he has a small bug-legged platform piled with mottled grey objects that he's unloading onto the porch.

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More people to struggle to talk too! Also, whatever race this is really has staggering biodiversity, Mabel is very impressed. She wouldn't be surprised if she has actually heard of them before but in the sense that someone saw one or two people and generalized incorrectly from all of them.

She is going to go open the door again, but she's not going to try to invite him in this time.

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He notices immediately, and pauses to greet her: This stuff is the kitchenwares that peaches said she needed, and honeysuckle will be by when she's finished doing garden maintenance to fix it up with Mabel's aesthetic and bring it inside. Or she can take it now if there's something she needs, but he knows he can't do a very good public-use grey, so. She can touch the tentacle he offers her if she wants him to go over what everything is, but she does have to touch it, he can't see gestures at all. Or, uh, make noise, he guesses, he's heard she does that.

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Most of this is vaguely familiar but she'll touch his tentacle anyway, she'd like to avoid any mistakes and assumptions.

She doesn't really care about things matching her aesthetic but it seems to be important to everyone, so she'll wait until honeysuckle comes back to take the things, she doesn't need anything just yet.

 

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Most of the stuff is boxes of plates and cups and utensils and cooking tools, but there's also a mini fridge and mini freezer, a countertop-sized oven, and a set of self-heating pots and pans to cook in.

Actually since he's got her attention anyway he'll ask if she wants a stool for her kitchen area, too, while he's got the crafting material out.

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Wow, these are some fancy iceboxes! And self-heating pots and pans... when she can write she's definitely going to ask how they made these and try to replicate it at home.

She would love a stool, thank you!

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All right, he'll take care of that as soon as he's done unloading this stuff. (It's going to be a bit, he doesn't move very fast with his hands full.)

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She doesn't mind! She is going to hover awkwardly in the door for a bit and then sit on the ground and watch.

She braids her hair while she waits, for something to do.

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He doesn't seem inclined to chat while he works, and more or less ignores her - the only obvious adjustment he makes to account for her is that he's careful not to get his tentacles too close when he's passing by. He does pause after unloading the last box, though: he expects that she's going to have a really rough time communicating with him, what with the blindness, but if there's something else she needs and she wants to try to tell him, she's got his attention.

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Not chatting is fine; this way she doesn't have to panic about finding a way to respond. She just watches him and does her hair.

She doesn't need anything else! Really, what she needs is to learn to write, and will just wait for those lessons to start before asking for other things. She doesn't know how to communicate this so she just stays silent and keeps her hands to herself.

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He heads back to the main building after giving her a few seconds to respond and telling her he'll be right back with the crafting material and stool models; he uses a tentacle to grab a handle on the platform, and it walks behind him as he goes, following him inside. A few minutes later he's back with a pile of cubes and a small box full of miniature chairs that he offers to her; on examination four or five of the miniatures are indeed perfectly proportioned stools.

Do any of those look good to her as is, or does she want tools to modify one or make something from scratch?

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She cannot make anything from scratch either with their magic or her own culture's woodworking! She's not good with her hands.

She is going to pick a stool option mostly at random. Whichever has four legs instead of three, probably; she does want whichever looks the most stable.

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He takes the model she offers him, steps over to the pile of blocks, and transforms it into a perfect human-sized replica of the miniature, with a couple of blocks left over; the new stool can go on the porch with the rest of the things, and the miniature can go back into the box to get put away.

Honeysuckle should be by soon; he just needs to put this stuff away and he can go help her finish up with the gardens.

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Great! She wishes she could say "Thank you" and "goodbye," this is honestly the hardest part of this. What if she is being rude and now they all hate her.

She's going back in the house and is going to watch her stuff out the window. Probably nobody will steal it because nobody has seemed worried about things being stolen. But it's worth being careful.

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Nobody steals it; in fact, nobody walks by at all, though at one point a crow lands on the porch railing and looks at her curiously for a few seconds before flitting off again.

Eventually presumably-honeysuckle and the black-and-blue themed man turn up, leading a larger walking platform piled with weeds past her to the main building; a few minutes later honeysuckle comes back out with a stack of books, half green-and-gold and half white-and-grey, and heads for Mabel's cottage.

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Oh, books! Literacy! She is very excited about this and opens the door before honeysuckle gets there.

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Cute!

The green and yellow stack is for her to read from, and Mabel can follow along in the white-and-grey stack, which she's crafted up to take marks from an implement. (The implement doesn't have a pen- or pencil-like tip and doesn't leave marks anywhere else, but does indeed allow her to take notes in the books.) Presumably they should start with the basic vocabulary and grammar volume, but there's also ones on crafting, crafters and crafter society, tools and objects, plants and animals (which includes talking animals, in this case, she notes), and natural phenomena including terrain and weather; they can do those in whatever order Mabel prefers - she suspects they'll have time for the basic vocabulary volume and one more before dinnertime. Or she can get the kitchen set up first if Mabel wants to be sure that gets done tonight; she doesn't expect to get distracted from it but that is possible.

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Basic vocabulary and grammar sounds good, and she's also interested in the one on crafters and crafter society, mostly because she thinks most of her pressing questions are going to be about this.

Mabel doesn't really care about the kitchen that much; reading lessons!

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Sure thing!

The language is, thankfully, fairly straightforward, with each word getting its own glyph made up of simple shapes, and the glyphs themselves having a sort of internal grammar of how they're constructed that makes it relatively easy to remember their meanings and guess what new ones mean; it also has a set of general-purpose modifiers that take the form of drawing a circle or oval around one or more glyphs and adding markings to it.

The book on crafters starts with general relationship categories like friends, neighbors, parents, children, and romantic partners; they also have terms for households, heads-of-households (the people who claim the territories that households are in and are ultimately responsible for keeping them running), and household-members (animals or people other than the head-of-household who live in a particular territory and are the head-of-household's responsibility). There's also a concept of guests; being in a household's territory as a guest is like a much less intense version of being a member of that household, where the household is responsible for your well-being while you're there, mostly in the form of helping with freezing-instinct problems but also including things like offering food and other amenities during longer visits.

With inter-crafter relationships covered, the book switches to giving vocabulary related to the freezing instinct; from the explanations she can gather that crafters have a real problem with interacting with things they perceive as owned by another person without that person's direct permission, including not being able to enter each other's territories or move around within them without an escort. This explains the focus on making the things they're giving her match her clothing: a person's color scheme is used to indicate which things are theirs, or are intended to be used by them, and without that indication they wouldn't expect her to be able to use them. It also covers public-use objects, which honeysuckle explains are done up in plain grey around here, and group-owned ones (the marking scheme for those varies, mostly by how the group is arranged), and abandoned ones.

Next it talks about things people do, without particularly distinguishing between productive work and hobbies and without mentioning money or careers at all; things like hunting, building robots, breeding animals, and maintaining public utilities like pebbleclinkers (primitive computers, based on the description) are listed alongside producing various kinds of art, participation in recreational groups for things like writing or playing games, and going on journeys to do things like picking up skills, answering questions, or collecting things. Farming isn't mentioned, though breeding and crafting plants and animals specifically to change their traits and breeding animals for food are; constructing buildings is only mentioned in the context of making robotic walking ones; government, law enforcement, and retail shops aren't mentioned at all.

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This is all very interesting and also really helpful for helping her figure out what's going on here! It's also really far outside of her experience; although she can definitely relate to feeling really uncomfortable in spaces or interacting with objects that aren't hers, the root of that feels different than it does with these people.

She's also specifically interested in robots -- she's never actually met a Coldsteel, and as far as she knows the only people who know how to make them are other Coldsteels, even if logically someone had to have made the first. Maybe these people?

Do they have a way of saying thank you?

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They do! The language is intended for letters and books rather than casual conversation, though, so the closest thing to 'goodbye' is more of a valediction.

When she seems interested in robots, honeysuckle adds that there's a roboticist living relatively nearby - about a day's travel, but close enough to ask the crows to carry messages and to potentially invite them over or have something brought over from them.

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Excellent! Mabel is going to write "thank you" and add the emphasis marker. They've really done a lot for her. She tends to speak formally, so the lack of slang or most other casual conversation markers isn't going to phase her, but she does struggle a little with not having stock phrases for leaving/greeting/etc. 

She would love to speak to the roboticist! Or, communicate in writing with, as the case goes.

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They can ask the crows to carry a letter for her as soon as she has one to send! They don't actually know the roboticist, so they can't really do introductions, but they have a notice up on the noticeboard, so sending messages is fine.

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That's fine! She's excited; she's definitely going to practice writing a lot anyway because it's just practical, but the robots can be a little bonus motivator. She probably won't actually make any once she gets home, as she has a feeling that's probably frowned on, but it would be nice to know.

Does honeysuckle have a map? Mabel would like to try to find out where she is and how far away from home she might be.

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There's one back in the main building, sure. She can check on dinner while she's there.

 

She's back shortly with quiche, toasted acorn-flour bread with jam, baked apples, and a map. It's a map of Earth, clearly enough, though some of the coastlines are different; it's fairly subtle in most places, but the area around England is land rather than ocean and there's a strip of land joining Alaska to the corner of Russia, too.

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She recognizes... none of this. The continents are totally different, there are no marked cities, much less a marked Chabe. She figured that they probably wouldn't have maps exactly the same as she was used to but this is completely unrecognizable.

Is this the whole world? She asks this question in writing but it's pretty stilted and she's sure the grammar is wrong, but hopefully it will get across what she needs to.

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That's everything, yeah. Well, except for some minor islands. They're here, a bit north of the place where North America starts to narrow down.

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Mabel does not know how to write "world" or "planet"; instead she writes "This is not my territory" and adds emphasis to "territory."

After thinking a little bit she adds "I do not see my territory on the map."

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Map is actually written like this, she clarifies, and planet and continent are like so.

If Mabel's home isn't on this map she's not sure they'll be able to get her there... they don't have space flight, nobody's cracked the problem where if you go up too high you stop being able to breathe.

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Mabel's planet doesn't either, and even if it did she wouldn't know how to get there. It seems very obviously a magical mishap to her, just not her type of magic. 

She writes that that's okay. She is... pretty bummed out anyway, but she's still worried about seeming rude, so she's going to use her knew knowledge of how to say "Planet" and add that the crafters' one is very nice.

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It doesn't sound like it's okay really, honeysuckle is sure she'd be pretty shaken up about it if she unexpectedly wound up on a different planet, but it is pretty nice here and hopefully she'll settle in okay.

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Yeah, that's true. She is shaken up!

Mabel writes "Yes" and "thank you" again, and fidgets with the books.

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Anyway, it's getting late, she should probably set Mabel's kitchen up and get going. ...she bets her mom just kind of guessed at how Mabel likes her aesthetic arranged; did it turn out okay or would she like some things changed around?

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Maybe more pink? Mabel likes pink. She writes "pink" and, as always, "thank you."

The kitchen setup would be great! Can honeysuckle maybe walk her through how everything works again? Mabel is going to try to figure out how to phrase that with her limited vocabulary and hope the message gets across.

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She can add some pink, certainly, wherever Mabel wants, and bring the kitchen things in and recolor them and show her how to use them - the glyphs on the buttons and sliders are mostly ones she's seen before, but some of the safety features on the cookware do need a little more of an explanation. She also offers to make a shelved cabinet to sit on the countertop and hold all these trays of utensils, since it'll be pretty inconvenient to store them in the cabinets under the counter, and to make a smellproof box to put dirty things in until they can craft them clean.

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All of this sounds great! Mabel is visibly excited by all the kitchenware, and also by the pink. A shelved cabinet and a smellproof box would also be great -- Mabel is honestly pretty dirty.

She does have no other clothes -- she's a little anxious about asking for more things but everyone's been so nice lately, and it seems to be culturally expected.

She doesn't know the glyph for clothes so she just draws a shirt and pants.

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Hm - there's kind of a lot of clothing miniatures, they were saving that collection to show her tomorrow when she's fresh; does she want to see it tonight anyway or just get something temporary?

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Something temporary, please! She's just... very dirty and feels grimy.

She intends to take a bath later and wants clean clothes for that, but doesn't have the vocabulary to express it. She'll just say that the temporary clothes are fine. 

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All right. She's not great at eyeballing clothes for fit, so - knee-length grey skirt and loose white shirt okay?

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Sounds good! That's pretty close to her casual clothes anyway. Thank you again!

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She makes those, flattening the remaining crafting material out and folding it into quarters so she can cut a circle skirt out of it, which she adds a stretchy waistband with a partial drawstring to, and then flattening it again and folding it in half so she can 'cut' a simple shirt and a couple sizes of undershorts out of it - hopefully one of the pairs of shorts will fit well enough. There's not much crafting material left when she's done; she'll have to remember to bring more over in the morning.

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These are great! Thank you. This remains super interesting -- the way these people use magic is just so different than she's used to.

Can she ask to see the crafting material itself instead of just the clothes? Or is honeysuckle wanting to go home?

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She's not in a rush; here's the rest of the crafting material. Its current form won't tell her much, though, that's completely changeable.

(It looks and feels like a bundle of ordinary cloth scraps, right now, though if she finds where the shirt and shorts were freed from it she'll see that the layers of fabric are fused to each other there.)

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Neat! She inspects it for a little bit and then hands it back. If it's not something inherent about the material that does track with what she's observed but she's glad to somewhat verify it.

She is not going to ask honeysuckle to leave, because that would be rude, but she is going to kind of hover awkwardly and maybe start messing with the buttons around the house again, which honeysuckle can join her in if she wants.

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Honeysuckle heads out as soon as it seems like Mabel is done with her, saying that she'll be back in the morning with the clothing miniatures.

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Sounds good! Mabel nods and smiles.

She takes a bath and then puts on her new clean clothes, and then she's going to sleep again.

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Honeysuckle turns up again at midmorning, with a plate of apple-cinnamon french toast; hopefully she didn't leave Mabel waiting, she didn't want to wake her if she'd decided to sleep in.

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Mabel does generally sleep in! She lets honeysuckle in and shakes her head no to indicate that she wasn't waiting long. The toast smells very good -- cinnamon is something she's familiar with but it is still somewhat of a luxury in her world, so she is going to eat that.

Are they going to learn more words now? She picks up her stack of dictionaries and tries to hold them inquisitively.

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Sure! She does also have the clothing miniatures - she left the boxes on the porch, they're really going to want to add a table out there - but that can wait until they want a break.

Crafting, tools and objects, plants and animals, or natural phenomena next?

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Tools and objects is probably going to be most useful for her, she'd like to try that dictionary. She doesn't need new clothes yet.

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Tools and objects it is, then. The general tech level implied by the dictionary is... odd, mostly, compared to places with less ubiquitous or less flexible magic: on one hand, they don't seem to have infrastructure or nonmagical crafting, no electricity or engines or even metalworking, but on the other hand, 'self-propelled', 'robotic', and 'adjustable' are all traits that things can have - including self-propelled vehicles, robotic book-printers, and adjustable heaters, if the example sentences are to be believed. It's a bit hard to get a sense of what they do and don't have, beyond that; they seem to tend not to name specific inventions, but just have lots of options for describing what a particular instance of a general type of object, like houses or boats, is built to be able to do.

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Mabel is probably not going to find these as immediately practical as the other dictionaries, but she's also definitely going to want to talk about these! Everything is so different. She wants to read all the books and ask all the questions, especially if descriptions are so vague.

Honeysuckle answers whatever questions Mabel manages to formulate without seeming annoyed! And she explains very well, Mabel can follow it all. She's, amazingly, having a good time.

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Cute! She has a few questions of her own, when Mabel's questions offer hints of the world she's from - what is it like there? Or does she not have enough vocabulary to say, yet?

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It's hard to describe with the vocabulary she has, but she gives it a try.

She explains cities, where many people live in the same territory even if they're not related. She tries to explain different species but she doesn't really have the vocabulary beyond "many types of crafters," and she's not good at drawing. Lots of vehicles run on water and heat -- she doesn't know the word for "steam" or "coal." People (crafters) can't make robots; they make themselves.

It's sweet that honeysuckle is so interested!

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Cities sound interesting; most crafters would hate them but if they have... multiple different species about as smart as crafters? she'd write that like so... anyway if they have those then it wouldn't be too surprising that they all had different instincts and things. Steam she recognizes (and would write like so); coal she doesn't. Robots that can self-replicate sound neat but surely someone has to have made the first one? And, like, knows how they operate and everything so they can make modifications and stuff?

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Cities can be a lot for sure! "Species" is a useful word to have -- some species live in cities and some species live alone.

Someone probably made the first coldsteel but nobody knows who for certain.  She tells honeysuckle that the robots believe a powerful person with strong crafting ability made the first robot, and they have stories about it and give her lots of gifts, but she is not known for crafting and has not said that it was her. Now the robots only craft each other. She also doesn't know how to say that they're violent, so she tries to write that coldsteels have strong territory instincts. Now that she knows "species" she can say that in her world robots are a species -- it's not quite what she wants to say but it's close enough. She gets the feeling that robots here are not a species?

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They are not! Robots as crafters make them aren't alive in any sense or smart in any but the most abstract sense, even the dumbest of bugs is smarter than they are.

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Huh! So... like clockwork, kind of? People have made some interesting clockwork machines that are not people.

She doesn't know how to say this so she draws gears.

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She's never seen gears before, so she's not sure! Crafted robots have parts that react to different things - touch, or sometimes light levels, or more rarely other stimuli - by doing things like moving or reshaping themselves, which can set off chain reactions in useful ways. The fan in Mabel's bed nook is robotic, for example, and the lights in her house only aren't because they don't have any moving parts - some robots are much more complicated, you really want to copy an expert's design for a cart or a self-propelled house or something like that, but plenty of robots are just simple things that move a little.

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Oh, that makes sense! Definitely more similar to -- she doodles gears again -- instead of people-robots.

The self moving cart was very interesting and not something Mabel is used to -- she knows as soon as they read through the animals dictionary she'll probably know how to write "horse," but for now she'll draw a horse-drawn carriage. 

If honeysuckle doesn't know much about robots is there something she usually prefers to make?  

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She's not particularly specialized and just does a little bit of everything, but her favorites are animal traps, which are often a bit robotic, and large housewares, like furniture and things - she's been wanting to get into house design, too, but hasn't had an opportunity to make anything full-sized yet.

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Oh, neat! Sometimes it's useful to do everything. A lot of the furniture here is different from what Mabel is used to, which she wouldn't have expected; it's cool!

House design sounds interesting too; Mabel writes that she hopes honeysuckle can design one someday. 

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It'll happen. Maybe not soon, though; her mom is pretty good with having people in her space, but there's a difference between that and letting someone build in it, and honeysuckle doesn't want to move out alone - the plan right now, if nothing else comes up, is that she'll take over the territory when her mom gets too old to want to run it anymore, but probably something will turn up before then.

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That makes sense! How does one go about moving out? Are there lots of unclaimed territories out there? Or do you have to wait until someone is too old to run it?

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There's usually a pretty good amount of unclaimed space; the really good territories get snatched up as soon as the markers around them decay enough to allow it but if you're not that picky there's usually options, and then it's just a matter of setting up your own territory-markers and camping out there until your instincts are satisfied that the place is yours. Formally handing over a territory while the old claimant is still around like she and her mom have been talking about is pretty unusual, though, usually it's more, uh... people keep their territories their whole lives... or they just abandon them when they can't live alone anymore.

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Mabel has so many questions, but in a good way. Honeysuckle has seemed very willing to answer them, though, which makes her happy.

What exactly is a territory marker? How long does it take them to decay?

Also, when people are too old to manage their own territory, where do they go? Do they live with their children? What if they don't have children?

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Territory markers are how crafters know when they're at the edge of someone's territory! They're usually waist- to chest-high pillars in the territory owner's aesthetic, usually in an interesting shape and sometimes with writing on them, placed wherever there's a path into the territory. They're crafted, so how fast they decay is determined by whoever makes them; usually they're set up to need to be refreshed every couple years, but some less-social crafters who don't leave their territories very often set them up to last longer than that. Every once in a while someone will set one up not to decay at all, and if that seems to have happened usually someone will eventually notice and take on the project of figuring out if there's still someone living there - the crows usually know, or covering the territory markers and seeing if the coverings get removed can work, or if nobody remembers the person anymore that's usually a pretty good clue.

Most people really do live in their territories their whole lives! Crafting makes it easy enough to do basic survival stuff that people can get by even if they're very frail. Some people don't prefer to live that way, or are worried about dementia or similar things, and they'll move in with their kids, or with younger friends, or with someone like her mother who's pretty free about taking new household members - they actually have someone elderly like that living in the next-door cottage right now, though Mabel probably won't see much of them.

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Ah, okay! Mabel probably passed some when she couldn't see.

In Mabel's world people don't mark territories all the time, but sometimes they make fences that act similarly to markers. But places where many people live together often don't have defined borders. Likewise some people live in the same place their whole lives (usually with other people, though) but some people move around a lot.

Can crafters communicate with crows?

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That's, hm, kind of the wrong question? Communicative crafting works on any creature, up to the limits of their ability to understand it; crafters can communicate with dogs just fine, it's just that dogs have no way but body language and noises of communicating back. And crows are smart enough to learn communicative crafting - it's easy enough that a bunch of types of animals can pick it up; just crows and mastodons locally but there's like half a dozen or a dozen other sorts of animals that also can - so they can communicate back the same way crafters do.

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Oh, okay! It's similar in Mabel's world -- generally, only people can do complex magic, but some animals can do simple spells or are magic themselves -- she just writes they are "made from crafting" and hopes that's intelligible.

If crows can learn communicative crafting, is it teachable? She wants to continue with the dictionaries but she'd love to be able to communicate more normally.

She realizes that she's been asking a lot of questions very excitedly, and has just asked something that may be a significant commitment. She adds another "thank you."

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She wouldn't mind teaching it if it worked that way, definitely, but it doesn't - babies learn it the same way they learn to walk, she has no idea how someone would go about teaching an adult. On the other hand people who've had strokes sometimes learn to walk again, or people who grew up not being able to walk and only got fleshcrafting for it later in life, so it's not impossible that Mabel will be able to figure it out eventually just by trying.

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Oh, that's too bad. Mabel tries not to be too disappointed. So more like a warlock or sorcerer power than a wizard-style magic? She can't convey any of this, both because her vocabulary is too small and also crafters don't seem to have anything approaching the concept, so she'll just nod and write that that's okay.

Kind of a bummer to have the communicative capacity of a dog, though! She'll keep trying. She doesn't write this, though.

Does honeysuckle have time to go back to working in the dictionaries?

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Sure, of course. And just in case it wasn't obvious, she does think Mabel will be fine once she gets fluent at writing - plenty of crafters almost never interact with other crafters in person and do everything via letters, that's not a barrier to making friends or anything.

They still have the volumes on crafting, plants and animals, and natural phenomena to do; what does she want to see next?

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That's good to hear!

Crafting, please? It's probably the next most useful for her, even if she can't craft.

Actually, come to think of it... one second, honeysuckle, she'll be back.

Mabel put her tinker's tools next to her bed when she showered and changed her clothes yesterday, and she hasn't tried them out here yet. If she's on a different world, she doesn't know if they'll work at all.

She brings them back to the table where honeysuckle is and successfully casts a simple light cantrip on her writing implement! Then she removes the light, because it was kind of hurting her eyes to try and write with. 

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Oh, neat! She's guessing that was the thing Mabel's been calling crafting that's from her world and different?

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Yes! She's glad it works here -- she can make a lot of useful things this way, she just needs materials. 

Actually, this was how she hurt her face -- Mabel doesn't know the exact word for "acid" yet, but maybe she'll learn if they go through this dictionary.

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They will, as it turns out! The majority of the dictionary is terms for various traits one can give to crafting material, and 'acidic' is one of them; it's actually a pretty comprehensive listing of physical traits that matter can have in general, though some of them are poorly understood. Some of them will be new to her, too, like the dangerous invisible light that objects can emit, or the way two objects can be linked so they react to things that affect each other over any distance. This book also covers anatomical vocabulary, in the fleshcrafting section, and terminology for mental conditions and heredity-related concepts, in the genecrafting section, plus a bit of jargon, like the term for a creature that's had genecrafting used on it to make it express lost ancestral traits.

Genecrafting can do most of the same things fleshcrafting can, honeysuckle explains at the end, with the disadvantage that it's more difficult and can't directly change the way a creature is already shaped, but with the advantage that genecrafted modifications can, with a bit of extra work on the genecrafter's part, be set up to be passed on to a genecrated creature's offspring. Plus it can have mental effects, even immediate ones, which fleshcrafting is clumsy enough at that nobody tries to use it for that.

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This is really exciting; she knows vaguely that people resemble their parents, but had no idea about genes or that they could be modified. Does everything have genes? Or just animals?

Fleshcrafting is how the healer fixed her face, right? It's definitely a lot more powerful than even healing spells at home. Also, what kind of mental effects? Making people happier, or smarter, or something like that?

Things she doesn't write out but has thoughts on include anatomical vocabulary -- Mabel has some concerns she's not quite ready to talk about yet but would be nice to deal with at some point.

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Anything alive has genes - plants too, and fungi are actually a separate kind of thing, and bacteria (which are extremely tiny and sometimes cause diseases), but not rocks or dirt or water or anything like that.

Fleshcrafting is how honeysuckle's mom fixed her face, yes; it's complicated to learn on that level - bodies are incredibly complex - but very powerful, definitely. It's also how they get most of their food; making a plant just grow what it'd normally grow but very quickly and right when you want it is much easier.

Mind-genecrafting is risky and people mostly aren't that interested in having experiments done to themselves with it if there isn't something wrong, so most of what mind-genecrafters know how to do is fixing problems, not making people who are basically all right better, but they can help with happiness and intelligence at least some of the time. It's better for improving livestock and food plants, though, in terms of practical uses.

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Oh, Mabel knows about bacteria! You can see them with curved glass machines (she doesn't know how to write "microscope"); they were discovered 50 years ago or so. She knows someone who's very passionate about them.

And the extra information about genecrafting makes sense, if it's an extension of healing magic. In Mabel's world they make a distinction between crafting objects (this she would call "transmutation," if she was speaking, but she's not so she doesn't try to write it), crafting plants (nature magic), and crafting people (healing), but she supposes that's similar to specializing in fleshcrafting or genecrafting.

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The type of lens-based viewer they use to see bacteria is written the same way as other lens-based viewers, but with this intensifier, usually.

Healing isn't really a natural category when it comes to crafting - her mother might be a little better at genecrafting than a random person who didn't have any fleshcrafting training, but only because she knows so much about bodies and wouldn't make the kinds of mistakes that come from not knowing about them; the actual crafting is an entirely separate skill. Plus if you're trying to divide it up that way you run into the fact that communicative crafting is technically crafting people and has nothing to do with healing at all.

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Ah, okay! That makes sense too. Communicative crafting is also separate in her world, but it's a relatively unusual skill and usually they just make noise.

She'll have to update her categorization system.

Oh, speaking of noise, do crafters... (Here she sings a little song, she doesn't know how to write "music" and hopefully this is understandable to also mean music made by instruments.)

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Sometimes! It's a bit of a niche hobby but very pretty when you get a group singing together, there's a club that puts on concerts at one of the slightly-farther-away meeting places every once in a while.

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Oh good! Talking (she writes "noise communication") is not particularly important to Mabel but music kind of is, or at least is something she really enjoys.

Does honeysuckle have other hobbies?

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She likes to swim, and there's a game group at the nearby meeting place that she goes to pretty often, and she reads a lot - helps the traveler edit his books, sometimes, too, he's a friend of the household... actually he'll be super interested in talking to Mabel sometime, if she's okay with that and doesn't mind him maybe wanting to write a book about her.

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Swimming is fun! Mabel does not do it much, but she does like to read a lot, too. 

Talking to the traveler sounds fine! She doesn't mind helping him, although she's not sure how accurate his book will be because she never really left her house much.

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He'll be fine with writing about whatever she wants to tell him, really; he's written books on very narrow topics before, and they're just as good as the other ones - or better, in her opinion, there's so much more room for details when he's not trying to fit too much into one volume. Anyway, she doesn't want to pressure Mabel at all, but if she wants to talk to him, once she's had a chance to settle in and everything, honeysuckle or her mom can set that up, they have a link to send him messages with. Just, uh, warn them if she's not up for having him decide that means he wants to visit, because it's pretty likely that he'll want to, and honeysuckle's mom is always looking for an excuse to get him to stop by. (They're very cute together.)

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Aww, that's sweet!

She's willing to meet him in person, that's fine! She does want to get better at reading and writing first but she's not opposed to meeting new people, especially since it looks like she might be here for a while.

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Sounds good! He's also a good one to talk to if she decides she doesn't like the area and wants to live somewhere else - he knows people all over and often gives people advice on where they might like to try living.

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She'll keep that in mind, thank you!

Has honeysuckle ever traveled? Is there anywhere she particularly likes? Mabel honestly never traveled much at all in her home world so she's not that familiar with different places and what makes one preferable to another.

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She hasn't gone very far but she did spend a couple of summers at the beach, that was pretty neat - the climate is different and there are different animals, plus of course she didn't know the people, which was strange but not in a bad way or anything. She got to talk to a dolphin once.

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That sounds both scary and interesting! Mabel's still really fascinated at the idea that people here can just communicate with animals, that's pretty neat.

In Mabel's world there are people who look a lot like a type of animal -- like cats or birds -- but there's still usually a pretty clear visual and everything else difference between people who you can talk to and animals who you can't, unless you have special crafting.

(Mabel is thinking about druids; she doesn't think crafters probably have this concept so she's not going to try and explain enough to see if she can get the word.)

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Yeah, that does sound like it'd be a change. She doesn't think of it as hard to know who can talk and who can't - there's like half a dozen families of species that can, plus a couple of surprises here and there - but of course she grew up with the idea.

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That makes sense! Mabel usually knows intuitively who is a person and who is not, although of course there are some edge cases or groups they only realized were people later, like the robots... but she also grew up with that.

Actually, speaking of people, edge cases, and robots, do they have... "death crafting?" One group of people in her world is, well, dead people from all the other groups. Her friend who is very interested in bacteria is one of these; he used to be in a group of people without horns or fur and now he is a skeleton.

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...no, nothing like that. Skeletons are just regular matter as far as crafters are concerned.

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That makes sense! Not a lot of people do death crafting, except specific very powerful people, and a lot of other people are generally against it. It makes them uncomfortable.

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Yeah, it's intuitively kind of creepy. Probably good to be able to keep functionally-living, though.

The idea of people being more powerful than others at crafting is a little weird, too, but that might just be the word she's choosing for it, usually they say that people are more or less skilled than each other.

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Yeah, the thing Mabel is calling "crafting" is not really crafting? It's just the closest word for it and she doesn't have another. There are certain parts of the thing she's talking about that are almost exactly the same as crafting but a lot of parts that are very different. Mabel uses her tools to craft-like-activity, for example, but not everyone does or has to. 

People who are more powerful than others at crafting... there are variations in skill for sure, but there's also certain individuals who are more powerful, don't die, and don't spend time with normal people. They often provide normal people with the ability to craft-like-activity, even. The person who brought her friend back is one of these people.

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Huh. She'd caught that Mabel was talking about something different, but she wasn't expecting it to be that different.

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Yeah! That's kind of why she said at first that she couldn't craft, although she doesn't know if honeysuckle's mom would have told her that -- Mabel was thinking crafting was referring to one of the types of "crafting like things" in her own world, which does have its own name when you want to specify. She guesses technically crafting does still refer to this specific thing only, but she still needs a way to talk about the broader concept so she's probably going to continue to call it all crafting. 

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Yeah, she'll want to be clearer when she's writing to other people, at least at first - 'the superset of crafting' does what she wants - but honeysuckle gets it.

Anyway. Honeysuckle's starting to want lunch; does Mabel have any requests now that she's got some taste- and texture-related words to work with?

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Thank you! That will be helpful. There's definitely a lot of things that will need some explaining, probably. She will do her best to be more precise when writing new people.

She likes soup, and fruit, and bread -- any or all of these sound good, if they're available?

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Good soup takes a while, or at least she's not aware of a trick to speed it up without sacrificing flavor. Bread and fruit she can do, though, and she can ask blue-streak to put a pot on for dinner if he's not busy.

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That sounds great, thank you!

Probably honeysuckle's not going to do any cooking or crafting the plants to grow faster now, but Mabel's interested enough in how things work here that she's going to watch her and see if she does anything interesting. You never know!

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Mabel can totally come watch her if she wants; does she?

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Yes! Will it involve leaving the house? Mabel Will leave the house if so but she will probably have to do a few deep breaths about it.

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It will; honeysuckle doesn't seem to think there's anything odd about this taking some effort, and offers her a hand over the threshold.

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That's very sweet! Mabel will take it and follow her out. She's unsure if the handholding is only for the threshold, so she's going to keep holding it and watch honeysuckle to see what she wants to do about continued physical contact, which as a bonus distracts her from being outside.

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She doesn't comment or pull away, just leads the way down the path to the main building - peach themed with a rainbow pastel splatter overlaid - and helps her inside. It's put together in the same physical style as the cottage; the bulk of the interior is one large room, with different areas set up for different purposes. Closest to the door is a pastel-rainbow-themed workspace, with a long table flanked by seating and storage; behind that are freestanding island countertops and lower worktables and chairs themed for the three crafters she's met in the household, with various storage along the wall behind them. Off to the side, there's lounge space - a recessed seating area with an elaborate chandelier hanging over it and some cozy-looking rounded couches behind it. On the far wall there are four bed-cabinets like the one in the cottage, one in each theme including the rainbow pastel.

Honeysuckle guides her past the worktable and to a cabinet by the islands; it turns out to be refrigerated inside, and she takes a container of dough from it over to her island to craft up a pan to bake it on and a countertop-sized oven to bake it in.

How's Mabel doing? Honeysuckle is going to go craft up some fruit from the gardens next; it's not far, but she can drop her back off at the cottage if she's having trouble.

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Mabel's okay! She's interested enough in what's going on still that she's less anxious than she'd usually be, or at least is not considerably more anxious than she was at her house.

Everything is so lovely and different. She nods to indicate that she's okay with going to the garden.

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All right!

The path between the main building and the cottages continues past them out of the clearing, turning a bit not long after it enters the forest surrounding them, and a few minutes' walk past that they come to another clearing off to one side of the path with five huge, cage-topped platforms sitting in it, each with half a dozen insect-style legs tucked in close to it. Four of the platforms, including the closest, are full of plants, while the fourth houses a tree, a small internal building, and some two dozen chickens, who stop their pecking and gather to watch the pair approach. Honeysuckle broadcasts that she'll get them a melon on her way out, and leads Mabel to where the nearest platform has steps leading up to a door in its side, where the peach theme of its bars is interrupted by stripes of green and gold and black and blue around the doorframe. She helps Mabel across the threshold again, and takes a basket from the stack just inside the door.

They can get things to freshen up the food supply at the cottage while they're here, if she'd like? Or there's always the option of coming back another time for that, if it's too much for today. Anyway, all the stuff in here is good to eat; she'll identify the plants as they walk through if Mabel doesn't recognize them, and grow out whatever she wants.

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Mabel has essentially never seen a farm; she's seen gardens and parks, but mostly the fancy curated ones full of flowers meant to be beautiful and not useful.

So: identification, please! She's glad she thought to bring her writing pad -- she writes that they can get a variety of foods now, she likes most foods. And then another "thank you"!

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A variety it is, then! The garden is about half and half fruit to vegetables, generally only with a plant or two of each though occasionally with a cluster of different varieties of the same species, like the four kinds of strawberries and seven kinds of potato that honeysuckle explains are better in different recipes or according to different members of the household, or the five kinds of corn they keep to cater to the preferences of guests. There are a few trees in the back of the garden, espaliered almost to unrecognizability but still producing quite tasty apples, peaches, plums, pecans, and chestnuts on demand; nearby, trellised vines offer squashes and melons.

There are a couple of plants that honeysuckle warns her away from - the grapes, avocado, onions, and garlic - explaining that since they aren't sure of her species' food tolerances they don't recommend she eat anything that can make non-crafter animals sick, or that she at least stick to very small quantities at first.

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She's familiar with a lot of these foods, actually! She doesn't have a lot of preferences and can't identify plants but at least she recognizes the food parts. But she's familiar with grapes and both the alliums, and she'll write this. Avocados not so much and she agrees to avoid them.

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She'd still recommend sticking to small quantities to start with in case there's a difference in the specific varieties, but she'll include the grapes and alliums in the basket if Mabel wants them.

When they're done, brings the chickens the extra melon she crafted for them, transmuting a bit of material from the end of her sleeve into a knife to halve it with; would Mabel like to be the one to give it to them?

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No thank you! That's a bit too much newness.

They are very cute though.

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They are, especially when they run to get the melon after she tosses it in.

She offers Mabel her hand again to lead her back to the cottage.

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Mabel will take it! She's definitely done with the outdoors for the day and will focus mostly on honeysuckle's hand and her own feet as they head back.

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Thankfully it's not far.

Does Mabel feel up to portioning out some fruit for the two of them while she goes to get the bread? It's fine if not.

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That's fine! She has a knife as part of her toolkit and it's spelled to stay very sharp; she's not going to write this but honeysuckle might note that's it's faster for her.

She'll set some out for both of them and put the rest aside!

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And honeysuckle returns with the bread; it's fresh out of the oven and smells wonderful, and she's brought a little decanter of oil to dip it in, as well.

Once they've settled in to eat, she asks: how's Mabel doing? Does she feel like she's getting used to the new world all right, is there anything they ought to be doing differently for her?

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Bread!! Bread! Mabel has maybe not been eating as much or as consistently as she should these past few weeks, which in retrospect might have contributed to her accident. She is very excited by the bread.

She writes that mostly everything's fine! She's a little confused still, and everything is still uncomfortably new, but there's not really anything to do about that. Probably the best thing is just for her to keep having conversations and learning new words and maybe getting grammar corrections, because she's sure she's making a lot of mistakes.

There are only two things that maybe could be improved -- one, there's no scrap metal around she can tinker with, could she maybe have some steel or iron sheets or something? And... she has no idea how to phrase this, it's not something she often talks about -- she could use some synthetic estrogen and a testosterone blocker, she usually makes her own but doesn't have materials right now.

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They can make her sheets of something if she can describe the traits she wants it to have, sure! And... she's not sure if her mom knows how to separate out estrogen from, presumably, blood, or if she knows a trick for blocking testosterone instead of just arranging for it not to be produced, but she can ask, that's the kind of esoterica she might have picked up somewhere, she specializes in reproductive stuff. Or - uh, did Mabel want those for herself? It'd be much easier to just fleshcraft her about it, if she wants that.

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For herself, yes. That's fleshcraftable? That makes sense, actually, Mabel just didn't think through it. She'd like that, thank you!

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It's totally fleshcraftable, yeah, with or without any anatomical changes she might be interested in. Honeysuckle's mom should be back around dinnertime, she can ask her to come over afterward if Mabel wants, either to talk through the options or to just go ahead with it.

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That sounds wonderful! She'd like that a lot.

She also got distracted from the sheets -- she can try to describe their properties, they're both often used to construct things? Shiny, hard, gray, magnetic-- probably any hard, durable material will do, it doesn't have to be shiny or gray. It shouldn't be brittle, and it shouldn't wear down fast.

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Sure - presumably she wants it somewhat bendable, and... cutable, if she's not going to be able to craft it into shape? How does she intend to work with the stuff?

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Bendable...not really? It's quite stiff. Usually she cuts it with heat... if it gets hot enough it melts.

She pulls out her tools -- she has a soldering iron, and a little saw she can make larger and heat up.

She's willing to try with something that's easy to cut but she's not sure that will work with what she's thinking of.

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She can do something that reacts like that to heat, sure, hold on a sec...

She crafts up a bar of material, in a gradient from black to white with markings every few inches, and offers it to Mabel to figure out which section is about the right degree of meltable.

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Mabel's going to grab some water and then do a little experiment -- she's going to pick both a material that melts at a relatively low temperature and one that melts at a relatively high temperature.

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Sure, honeysuckle can do both kinds. And... not bendable unless it's hot, not brittle, doesn't wear down or decompose - should it decompose, eventually? it's kind of bad form to make things permanent that don't need to be, she can make it take decades to start - magnetic, presumably the normal comfortable-to-handle density... texture? color? luster?

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It doesn't decompose back home but Mabel's okay with it decomposing in a few decades here. It's also pretty dense at home but it doesn't have to be here.

It's smooth, usually cool to the touch, at home it's gray and shiny but it doesn't have to be here?

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Cool to the touch implies it conducts heat easily, does Mabel actually want that trait? It'll change how it melts if it doesn't, but not necessarily in a bad way.

She can do grey and shiny, she can do something else, it's all down to what Mabel wants.

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Conducting heat easily... actually it would probably be more convenient if it didn't, come to think of it!

Could honeysuckle maybe make it pink? It would be pretty cool if it was pink.

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Sure thing. (Craft craft craft, with a powder-pink hand-sized square tile as the result.) How's that?

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She pokes at it a little with her tools.

It looks good! Thank you. Can she have maybe... nine of these, or so? She'll probably ask for more later but this is a good start.

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She crafts up a dozen, and another dozen with the other melting point with a gentle bevel around the edges to differentiate them, and notes that it'll be easier to make more with a sample to work from, so best if Mabel doesn't use them all up before asking.

They do have two more dictionaries to get through but if Mabel wants the rest of the afternoon to herself that's perfectly fine.

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Thank you! She'll keep that in mind.

She'd like to keep going through the dictionaries if possible? She'd really like more words, communication is definitely her top priority right now.

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Sure thing. Plants and animals, or natural phenomena, terrain and weather?

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Plants and animals first? It seems like they do have some overlap between here and Mabel's world, which should be interesting, and also she thinks that it'll likely be useful to her for food reasons.

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The plants and animals dictionary covers all sorts of plants and animals, in overview: most wild animals are only described to the level of general family, though, with various descriptive words provided to allow for referring to specific species, and only domesticated animals and talking animals seem to have standard descriptors. Almost all of the domesticated animals are small, and apparently kept for meat or eggs, with the exceptions being dogs, which are common everywhere, goats, which are a relatively niche species kept in one part of the world, and cattle, which are occasionally kept by nomads and only somewhat domesticated as a species. Talking animals include a wide variety of parrots and corvids, apes and some monkeys, dolphins and most whales, elephants and mastodons, and a couple of specific species of boar and rodent and similar outliers.

This volume also covers animal anatomy, filling in a few gaps in the vocabulary of the fleshcrafting section earlier, and basic plant anatomy, family names, and the specific names of various interesting species (mostly crops, but a few poisonous or otherwise notable wild ones); it's nearly dinnertime by the time they're done with it.

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Mabel recognizes some of these categories but not all; similarly there are a few big gaps but less than she might have expected. A lot of the ones she does recognize she's never seen except in books! And there seems to be some difference in what is domesticated and what remains wild.

And it's still strange that they have only one type of person. She can't quite get a handle on that -- she keeps thinking talking animals might be close to people but it does seem everyone's convinced they're pretty clearly different. 

Dinner! Mabel will start cutting up fruit again if honeysuckle wants to finish up the soup making process?

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Sounds good to her! Should she ask if her mom wants to join them for dinner?

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Sure! It's probably good to get more practice in conversation with someone else, and Mabel wants to thank her again anyway. She'll make three portions of fruit.

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They really aren't doing anything she needs to thank them so much for, but sure. Blue-streak too, if they're not going to talk shop over the meal?

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Thanking people is polite when they're doing things for you! It's a small thing to say and really honeysuckle and her family have done a lot for Mabel.

(She doesn't know how to say "resentment" or even really "kick me out" but she considers trying to circumlocute the concepts before discarding this as too honest)

Blue-streak too, sure! Can he read with his tentacles or will someone translate for him?

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He can read with his hands, but they'll translate, they wouldn't make her hand over her writing surface like that.

Do people really thank each other for everything, where she's from? That's kind of weird.

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How to explain...

It depends on your relationship with someone? Most people thank strangers more than family. Especially strangers who have done a lot for you. Most people in Mabel's world wouldn't have helped her like this -- maybe they would take her to a doctor, but she'd have to... give them things in return. Same for a place to stay, or food. If they didn't ask for things they would expect thanks and might be upset if they didn't get them.

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Huh. Most people here wouldn't help her this much either, but that's because the logistics would get in the way - most people aren't comfortable with having strangers in their territory, or with being away from home for as long as it would take to help her without inviting her home; it mostly wouldn't be for lack of wanting to. And... if honeysuckle and her mom and blue-streak didn't want to be helping Mabel out like this, they just wouldn't?

It feels like there's a disconnect here, and she pauses to think about it.

So it looks to her like.... the people where Mabel is from are somehow made to do things they don't want to, pretty often, probably? Since Mabel is expecting that there's some need to manage peoples' emotions about that. And that's really not how things are here; this is honeysuckle's mom's territory and nobody can come in and make her mom do anything she doesn't want to do; honeysuckle's mom could maybe make honeysuckle do a little bit of stuff she didn't want to - to be clear, she hasn't, but it's more possible than it'd usually be - but honeysuckle could just move out and then nobody could make her do anything, either. And when Mabel tries to manage honeysuckle's emotions about it anyway - it's confusing, mostly, but it's kind of making things worse for Mabel if it's doing anything; it feels like Mabel's saying 'I know you don't want this', and it's hard not to start wondering if she shouldn't want it if she's being told that all the time.

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That makes sense. It's really common where Mabel comes from -- her parents used to make her do things she didn't want to do all the time, and so she left, but... now other people make her do things she doesn't want to, and she can't talk to her parents anymore at all because they could move into Mabel's territory and make her do things again, or make her move back into theirs.

She can stop saying thank you to honeysuckle if she would like! She is genuinely grateful but definitely is also doing a lot of emotion managing, but also it's kind of habit at this point. It's hard to talk about because Mabel's not used to talking about it.

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The situation with her parents sounds horrifying, and it shouldn't be hard at all to avoid having something like that happen here - she'll probably need to live with somebody, since she can't craft, but people know better than to try to get people to do things they don't want to, that mostly just doesn't even work on crafters. Plus she can always leave if the person she picks to live with turns out bad that way.

Anyway - trying to manage peoples' emotions is kind of rude, here, past a point, so it'd be better to break the habit if she can. Now that they've talked about it honeysuckle should be fine going forward, though, and she can explain the situation to the others.

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Sounds good! She doesn't mind living with someone especially if there are cultural ideas about not making them do things -- she's mentioned before that generally people in her world live with other people, either in the same building or in nearby buildings because basically nobody has all the skills needed to feed and clothe and everything themself totally alone. Mabel makes nonpeople robots and things and other people give her food and clothes about it -- she's not saying thank you about being given things, she's saying thank you about not giving them things in return, if that makes sense?

But she'll stop! She may be rude in other ways in the future; honeysuckle can always tell her if she is, she'd like to know. People in her world often don't tell people when they're being rude which is confusing even when you're from a culture that expects that! She's getting the sense that's not the case here but she thought she should say it.

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People here don't always explain it either, but if they choose not to mention that there's a problem then it's their problem if it continues. Most people will be willing to explain if she asks, too, if she notices that something seems wrong, as long as they aren't actively mad at her or trying to get away or something - if someone tells her not to interact with them she should of course respect that, but aside from that it should be fine, basically. And honeysuckle will try to err on the side of pointing out if she's being rude - the thanking thing has been the only thing so far.

- it might help Mabel to keep in mind that crafters mostly don't trade with each other? Crafting makes it easy to have everything you need, and to have enough free time that people who like making or gathering things will end up with way too much of whatever they're making or gathering for their own use; if a crafter likes to hunt, and has three deer's worth of meat in the freezer and expects to take another one next week, their neighbor is almost doing them a favor by asking for some of that meat, it means they can go that much longer before they have to figure out where to build another freezer. The neighbor might offer something to have the meat delivered, if the hunter didn't particularly want to do that, or the hunter might want something in exchange for meat they were planning on eating themselves during a bad run of luck, or if there weren't enough hunters and were too many people who liked deer meat the hunter might see if anyone had anything interesting to offer and give them first pick instead of going with whoever they liked best, but usually there's no need to trade, the hunter will be happy to just give their extra away.

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That makes sense! She's... well, she's not really good at doing what people ask her to all the time but she is good at respecting "please don't."

She'll remember the thing about trading too -- that's a big thing in her world. Or, a concept-like-trading -- there's an intermediary step but Mabel absolutely does not have the vocabulary to explain the intermediary step, but it's a significant part of life and people can and do die if they can't trade, so that's where she's coming from.

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Goodness. Well, they might have some issues if they get ten more like her all of a sudden, but she should have no problem getting enough help just on the basis of it being the right thing to do, and she's definitely not going to die of a lack of trade. If she's in that much trouble she can walk into anyone's territory and ask for help; they won't be happy but they'll understand.

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Good to know! (She almost wrote "thank you" here and stopped herself.) Mabel doesn't know how she got here so she doesn't know the likelihood of more people like her showing up, unfortunately. Obviously she's the first and only they know about but she doesn't know if other people have ended up other places in the world.

She's gotten distracted from the fruit by this conversation -- she's tentatively going to pick that up again but keep her writing surface handy?

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In that case honeysuckle will go see about the soup and whether the others will be joining them.

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Which they do!

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Mabel will pass out the fruit! Also she will say hello with her writing board; she's probably noticably a little more awkward and not sure what to say now that it's not just her and honeysuckle.

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Hi!

So, (she says, when everyone's settled in with their soup,) she hears that Mabel is from another world, that's pretty interesting.

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Yeah! Mabel... didn't know there were other worlds than hers, so she thinks it's interesting to be here! Also, a little confusing. But she does like it here so far!

Did they know about other worlds before or is this new to them too? She's gotten the sense that it is but never actually asked.

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It is new! People are going to be very excited about it. And the teleporting - that's new too, and if it's possible at all there should be some way to do it with crafting.

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That would be cool! Mabel unfortunately has no idea how she did this -- she has a vague idea something attacked her, or... ate her, or something similar, it wasn't as far as she knows something she did. But also she was in a lot of pain and couldn't see, so she's not sure if this is accurate.

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It still sounds like a clue, at least - probably people will appreciate it if she writes down what she remembers soon while it's fresh in her mind, even if there's not much of it.

Anyway - she's curious what's confusing her, if that seems like it'd make good dinner conversation.

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There's not really one specific thing, everything's just very different! Hm, what did honeysuckle find most unusual...

People in Mabel's world communicate mostly with noise is the big one. Also, generally people in her world live in the same place with many other people -- fifty to a hundred at the smallest, thousands at the largest, which seems unthinkable here? They also have a thing which is like crafting but meaningfully different, and everyone spends a lot of time doing a thing that is like trading but is meaningfully different.

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That's very different, definitely; she has no idea how you'd have a place with that many people.

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They are mostly... Like the collection of buildings here, but over a much larger area? People's... territories in Mabel's world are much smaller, basically only their building? Sometimes multiple people or families live in the same building because they can't thing-like-trading enough to get their own but this is generally considered undesirable.

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That's imaginable, she guesses, except for the part where they'd have no room to grow food and no place to get materials... Mabel doesn't need to explain it right now, though, she's just wondering.

She hears Mabel is interested in robotics?

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Robotics! Yes. Mabel makes a lot of things-like-robots at home but she suspects it's really meaningfully different here and she'd love to learn how things work here. She's especially interested because the main material she uses doesn't seem to be something people here have.

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She can explain the basics! Most of it is fairly similar to mundane engineering, though the ability to make pieces that change shape when nudged instead of just moving certainly opens up some new possibilities, and being able to make parts as durable and frictionless or friction-full as they want is very convenient.

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Oh, you do have mundane engineering here! Neat. Those definitely sound convenient -- if she doesn't mind Mabel will take notes on all this in her own writing system, on the free space in her dictionaries.

(She wants to say thank you at the end of the explanation, too, but stops herself.)

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It'd be a bit silly to make Mabel mark up her dictionaries with unrelated notes when she can just make her more paper, so she does that.

Unfortunately she really does only know the basics, but there's a roboticist not too far away who'll know more, did her daughter mention?

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Yeah! Honeysuckle has been really helpful with helping Mabel learn things and find places to learn things -- Mabel hopes to write the roboticist later when she's not actively being taught most of the words she wants to use. She'd love to try and make some robots here -- her crafting-but-different does seem to still work, which is good!

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That is good! Probably Mabel's not comfortable enough with the writing system to try to explain her crafting-type thing yet, but she's curious about it when she's ready. In the meantime does Mabel have any questions about crafting for them? Or about anything, really.

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Hmmm... honestly, it seems like most of her basic questions have been answered? She seems to have reached the edge of things she doesn't know she doesn't know.

Maybe... how long do crafters usually live? When are they considered adults? This varies pretty significantly in Mabel's world, because there are so many different types of people. She's not sure which crafters are most like.

She knows the ability to craft isn't really taught, but at what age do people usually begin?

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They usually live about 70-100 years, though fleshcafting can add an extra decade or so if it's used intensively enough. They go through puberty between ages 12 and 18, about, and usually start feeling like adults to other crafters' territory instincts in the middle of that but don't claim their own territories until close to the end.

Baby crafters start being able to communicate in their second year (so, between their first and second birthdays) but they don't start doing the more complex kind of crafting until they're five or six, usually around the same time they start being able to write sentences.

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Ah, okay! She doesn't know if their years are the same length, but their days seem to be, so... maybe? Mabel's species lives to maybe... 700 of their years, and becomes an adult at around 100, but a number of groups are closer to crafters in lifespan. She's 112 years old herself and considered young still -- around the same age as a 20 year old or so in those other species. 

(She thinks, but doesn't write, because she doesn't have the vocabulary, that crafters sound like humans or maybe half-elves in her own world.)

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...wow. She'd like to take a closer look at her and see if she can figure out anything about how she's doing that, sometime, if she doesn't mind.

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That's okay! Maybe she'll be able to find something out about it -- scientists in her world have looked into it too but mostly haven't had many good theories.


Honestly, she's been saying "species" for ease much like a lot of things. Technically people like Mabel and people with lifespans like crafters can have fertile children with smaller horns, in-between ears, and an in-between lifespan, and this can happen with another few species too. She's going to doodle what all these types of people look like, for clarity -- people she would call humans, half elves, and elves. She's also going to draw a four-armed person with no horns and a smaller four-armed person with smaller horns and put their relative ages (400, 650 ish) there too. 

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Huh, neat! The closest living species to crafters are apes, and she's pretty sure they can't hybridize - she can print up a drawing later if Mabel wants to see what they're like but they're pretty different from crafters.

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That would be great! There are people like that (well, maybe not like apes, but unable to hybridize and very physically different) in Mabel's world too, so she's definitely familiar with the concept.

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After dinner, then; they can get books, too, if she wants.

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(Didn't the traveler write one on apes?)

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(He did! That was a while ago now, though, probably she wants something newer to start with.)

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She doesn't mind old stuff, but anything is good! She'd really appreciate books. It will help with both vocabulary and just understanding everything that's going on here.

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Sure! They have a connection to the big library, they can get pretty much any kind of book she wants - they have recommendation lists if she doesn't have a firm idea of where she wants to start, too, though probably not one exactly aimed at her situation; she might want to write to the librarians for a personalized suggestion.

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Yes! She'd love that -- if she writes a letter could someone make sure it's at least comprehensible? Possibly she might benefit from books meant for children, or something similar, but if anyone has recommendations that would also be great. She read a lot at home and enjoys it.

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One of them can read over her letter, sure; she seems to be doing reasonably well, though. And they can print her up a kids' book collection overnight - does she want to start with little kids' books or something a little more challenging with a little more to it?

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A little more challenging is fine -- in her world they had educational books for younger people, is that an option?

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Definitely; it'll be easier to find them than to avoid them, even.

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Great! Those were always her favorite as a kid, she had a three-volume history of crafting-like-thing that she read until it fell apart. (She also wrote a few as a kid, but those were never very good.)