Sing fixes all of velgarth's problems. Leareth finds out after the fact.
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A flying thing knocks on the window.


Oh wonderful an excuse to flee the awkward conversation ...Also maybe they're following up on his question from before? Which has a hope of making the conversation way less awkward? Or way more awkward, Vanyel is genuinely not sure which. 

He'll go open the window to check if the flying thing is in fact here to talk to him or if it wants to talk to the King or all the Heralds or something. If it's here to talk to him, he'd like to duck out at least into the hall rather than having a conversation in front of everyone. 


"Is this a bad time?" it asks him. "I've spoken to Leareth."


"- No, this is a good time." Half a candlemark ago might have been even better, but the delay is presumably on Leareth's end and entirely not Sing's fault. "I, um. How did that...go?" 


"He invited one of my selves to his place. He invited me to tell you my assessment of his trustworthiness."


"Oh. That's - I'm glad. ...And, um. What is your assessment of his trustworthiness?" The fact that the flying thing didn't just say 'and he's trustworthy' (or 'and he's evil actually') maybe implies that it's somehow complicated? 


"He has done many terrible things over the course of his lifetimes. He did not do them out of cruelty or carelessness, though, and I do not expect him to be interested in doing more in the future as I have now obviated the need for humans to undertake risky and fraught projects. I do not believe he has lied to you, nor that he will harm you if you choose to meet him to talk more."


Well, it would be pretty bizarre if Sing's assessment was that Leareth hadn't done terrible things. Leareth has spent the past decade being very upfront with Vanyel about the fact that he does a lot of terrible things! 

"How sure are you? You're saying you don't believe he's lied to me, but is that - more like you're ninety-nine of a hundred odds that he's never lied to me, or are you more sure than that?

- and, er, I don't know if this is something where you would want his permission to tell me, and I guess it doesn't matter that much, but - do you think he's happy, that you're here and, um, obviated the need for humans to do risky projects? I'm sure he would avoid doing more terrible things either way, since he's not stupid, but - I guess I don't know if he would've preferred not being interfered with." 


"I am 99.86% confident that he has not lied to you, excluding the possibility that he has mad errors of some kind. I believe he endorses my presence overall but it is a difficult adjustment for him."


"That makes sense. I - the main thing is whether he was...pretending to be a different kind of person than he really is, the whole time. And it sounds like he probably wasn't."

And a version of Leareth who had been lying about who he was as a person the whole time would have - probably not told Sing it was okay to talk to Vanyel now? He's not sure of that but it seems likely.

...It should feel more significant, he thinks dully. Maybe he just needs longer for it to sink in, while he's not having a stressful interaction with a flying thing from another world. Somehow, right now, it doesn't really feel like new information at all. 


He wonders if they'll still have the dream tonight. Maybe he should have asked the Shadow-Lover's god what exactly was going on with that, while he had the chance, but it wasn't the top thing on his mind at the time. 

"Thank you," Vanyel says, a little stiffly. "That's all I wanted to know." Which is COMPLETELY FALSE but he's not going to ask Sing to unpack what exactly it means by "a difficult adjustment" and probably get told off for being nosy and asking about things that are none of his business unless Leareth wants to share them himself. 


The flying thing bobs and flies back out the window, though it doesn't go far.


Leareth is grateful to Karal for making sure things are handled without needing his input, and separately grateful that Karal is thinking about what he needs emotionally. 

He's tired, though not in the way where he wants a nap. Just to be in a quiet dark room with nothing else going on, maybe. He's pretty sure there are emotions he's going to start having whenever he decides that "having emotions" is the next thing, but he isn't yet sure what any of them are


And Karal in turn is grateful to Nayoki for actually handling most of the things, and very glad she isn't having weird complicated feelings in all directions!  Nayoki is great.  But from a larger view, Leareth created a large and competent enough organization that of course someone in it would be capable of doing everything that needs doing right now. 

And so the two of them can, yes, go sit in a quiet dark room with nothing else going on.  That sounds great.


That conversation was... more exhausting than he expected?  Or, maybe not than he expected, if someone had asked him how exhausting he expected it to be he would have probably said somewhat, it's just that he was absolutely not thinking about it.  (If someone had asked him if he wanted to do it he would have... utterly failed to answer, he thinks.  Which, he supposes, is a lot like Leareth's state of knowing that he's going to have some sorts of emotions but not what they are.)

He goes quiet for a moment, tries to focus further out, not on the particular conversation, which was not that important in the end, but on everything that's changing.


That earlier spike of Leareth's pain, that he wanted to respond to but couldn't let himself think about it properly--  Sing didn't come sooner, for what is apparently entirely stupid accidental reasons, and Karal too finds it frustrating to think about how the entire fate of the world turned out to depend on something nobody could have done anything about.  But even if those two thousand years cannot be taken back, they can be - fixed, in some sense - if Sing can resurrect people, if everyone can be all right in the end... 

He cannot imagine it, not yet, he can't even have any comprehensible emotions about it, but... he does think it will happen.


For some reason - probably related to the particular order in which they read over his notes, and the associations he formed this time in particular - the part that feels salient to Leareth right now is - 



- it’s not precisely “all the people to whom he owes apologies” but there’s something there. There are a lot of people he…used, he supposes is the right word, in ways that went against many of their interests and certainly weren’t good for them, and whether or not they would have agreed it was justified if presented with the dilemma abstractly, he wasn’t asking permission.

And it feels deeply important, now - and maybe always - that this is a way he deliberately and knowingly wronged people. That there would be an accounting for it, someday, in the future where he had won - that it would be witnessed (by who isn’t entirely clear) that however justified he was in those tradeoffs, it wasn’t okay.

Leareth isn’t sure if, for example, Bastran, if he were brought back to life now, would actually be angry with Altarrin for how he was steered, but - if he’s not, then in a sense it’s because Altarrin was good at steering, not - not because he doesn’t have a right to be.


Leareth suspects he’s thinking about this messily and is probably confused in some way, but - there’s an analogy there, right, to the ways that the gods tried to steer him. And he’s not sure if he’s justified in thinking this, but it feels like Sing does prioritize people not bring used in that way? 


Karal is very, very lucky, that he's been with Leareth for so short a time that he himself has not yet wronged anyone that way.

But he would have done it.  And that matters more, or at least says more about him, than the accident of timing.


And of course he has, in his earlier life, but that... was so much less of a true choice, it doesn't feel like it should count the same way.  It was - he digs into his instincts about it, not so much because he himself needs to as because he wants Leareth to have some human context, to have more than his own singular case to consider - he did choose it, knowingly and deliberately.  It cannot be argued that he didn't.  But the people on the other side had made the same choices as him, and had as few other options - he thinks if he could sit down with most of the people he'd killed, they'd understand.  They might hate him, and have every right to, but they'd agree on some level that... this was the sort of thing people did.  That they were all trapped together in a world which worked that particular way, and so on some level it was hard to blame anyone for it.

And Leareth played by different rules entirely.  Nobody realized they were sharing a world with someone who did the things that he did.  He decided to make the world that way, where it wasn't before - and it was the right decision, but it's impossible to deny the costs (especially now, when they did not even buy anything), and how squarely they fall on him (and on those who opposed him, but people find it hard to blame the gods - and perhaps the gods can't really be blamed, because They didn't and maybe couldn't understand what They were damaging) instead of on just how things were.


But Karal wonders what people in Sing's perfect world would think.  What Velgarth's own people might think, hundreds of years from now, when they've had the time to live and think and grow.  Whether they would agree with Leareth, that they were all trapped together in a world that was fundamentally wrong, that trying to fix it was the sort of thing someone obviously would have done, or should have, even if they didn't and wouldn't have agreed to the harm done them.

It's, again, that Leareth thinks himself alone and uniquely responsible, but there's an angle Karal can only faintly imagine from which that isn't true.


…All right, fine, Leareth does think of himself as unique and uniquely responsible for his own actions. He - needs more convincing that that’s wrong, if Karal in fact means to argue that it’s an incorrect or unhelpful frame.

Well, obviously a lot of people are going to have a reckoning with their past choices and regrets, now. Leareth isn’t alone in that. A lot of people are - shaped to fit in the world as it was, and will need to look at that shape and decide which aspects of it they wish were different, now that everything else is different. Certainly a huge number of people have wronged others, who have a right to be angry about it.


Probably people will think differently about it in a few centuries when they’ve had time to unfold into less constrained-by-adversity forms, or if they were born in Sing’s future and never shaped by anything else.

- probably Leareth will feel differently about it in - he doubts it will even take centuries, though it will probably take months and he can’t skip ahead to the final state and doesn’t think he should try.

He’s still not really sure what Karal is arguing for, if Karal is in fact disagreeing with him on how he’s thinking about it, which to be honest Leareth also isn’t sure of.


Karal doesn't have an argument so much as a vague glimpse of a world in which people think about the question differently. 

Leareth is right that they cannot skip to living in that world, and neither can anybody else, and in any case perhaps Karal is wrong about what it will be like.  But when Leareth thinks of the far-future accounting and Karal tries to-- not think through it logically, he cannot do that, but to come up with some coherent vision of what the people involved might be like and how they might feel about everything-- he can imagine anger and distress and incomprehension, but cannot really imagine them blaming Leareth for what he'd done to them.  It doesn't fit, with what the world should be like.  And it's not just because he cares about Leareth and doesn't want anyone to cause him pain - it wouldn't be good for those people either, to feel that way.  It wouldn't be right, in that new world, for everyone to genuinely feel that someone else should bear the responsibility for everything.  People can grow more than that, surely.


But he supposes that in the end his point is just that... they will have to wait, to see it. 

It's true, of course, that it's important how much Leareth wronged people.  But what matters is how those people will feel about it, and they cannot know that, and it... feels like Leareth is making the unique responsibility error again from a different angle, when he tries to decide on his own who has a right to be angry with him for what...

Or maybe Karal is entirely confused about how being responsible for anything works.  He might be.  His instinct suddenly feels much less clear and grounded, when he doesn't need it to make important decisions because nothing seriously wrong will ever happen again. 

... Maybe it's that he's trying to skip ahead to living in the future world, and he should stop doing that, but he's... not sure what to do instead?  Which is fine, he doesn't need to be sure, he just apparently isn't going to be much good at coherent arguments for a while.


(He wonders what Vanyel will think.)


Leareth agrees that there’s probably something - on the other side? - of people he wronged being angry and blaming him for it. And that the future he always wanted to exist someday is, in general, one where more rather than fewer people have room to imagine the sort of ambition that could take responsibility for world-scale events, even if there are no screaming emergencies demanding it. He - didn’t want to build a future where people were shaped to be smaller.

It’s…maybe more that it feels like it would be skipping an important step of reckoning with the past, if everyone he wronged didn’t at least spend a while considering whether they were angry with him about it.


Oh.  Yes, that much is certainly true, and Karal was skipping ahead too far. It will be important - for all these people, so that they can stop feeling like the world was some incomprehensible mess and start seeing that it was shaped by someone, at least sometimes, and could have been shaped differently. And for Leareth, now that he can finally take the time to see the full price of everything he had done - Karal knows he never looked away, but there wasn't time to ever see it all, there were too many wrongs and too much at stake - before letting the past rest.  He's right, that it would be wrong to just... pretend it never happened, or didn't matter, or didn't change him.


(Karal wonders, for a moment, whether he will ever feel the need to consider Leareth's question. Maybe, someday? But not any time soon, and not for very long.)


Leareth definitely feels like what he did to Karal was in expectation very badly wronging him, and they - got lucky, more than anything - actually, huh, he could probably learn the answer now to what in the world Vkandis had been playing at, even if it’s moot now… He finds himself oddly at peace about it, though - it doesn’t feel like it would necessarily be skipping over some key piece of his accounting for his actions, if Karal considers it and decides he isn’t angry and doesn’t feel wronged.


- that’s also interesting, actually, that - clearly on some level this is something Leareth feels like he needs before he can, what, move forward with his life? Before he can start reshaping himself yet again, this time into someone who can - “belong in Sing’s future” isn’t quite right, he thinks Sing would make space for him either way, but - someone who can just be a human being there, needing normal human things to be happy….

(It feels like a very distant thing, and still painful and disorienting to think about, but it doesn’t feel impossible to glimpse.)


They did get lucky.  And... Karal can't promise he won't have difficult emotions about it at some far future point, and he thinks he'd be doing that version of himself a disservice if he tried to settle the question fully right now, but he is quite sure about the eventual outcome.

(And if Leareth wants him to go to Vkandis and ask, he adds with some amusement, he will, but he would like a few days to recover first.)



Yes, exactly that.  It's distant and unclear and it will take time and change, but there is a path there, and they will find it.  They will be all right, eventually.


(Leareth is also in no hurry to get answers from Vkandis; they could also just wait for Sing to have better communication with Vkandis and ask it.)

Anyway, it seems like a reasonable time to have another meal - Leareth kind of doesn’t want to leave the room for it, and is inclined to just have someone bring food over to the bedroom - and then sleep.


At which point, perhaps unsurprisingly, they find themselves in an icy northern wasteland, before a frozen pass.

….Everything is different. It almost doesn’t feel real, being back here.

Vanyel walks forward, slowly. Maybe by the time he reaches them he’ll have thought of something to say?


Karal walks toward him, after checking that Leareth still doesn't want to make most decisions. 

... Vanyel doesn't look much like he wants to make decisions either, so Karal doesn't wait and make him start the conversation, and refrains from asking complicated questions like how he's dealing with everything.

He does smile at him, only a little tiredly.  "I've been wondering all evening what Sing ended up telling you.  Do you mind sharing?  I'm still trying to wrap my head around how it thinks about things and why."


“Er, it came to knock on a window and asked if it was a good time, and said it had talked to you and had your permission to share if you - um, well, Leareth specifically,” because he’s very clearly talking to Karal right now, “were trustworthy. I asked what it thought and it said…” 

Vanyel pauses to think, briefly closing his eyes.


“It said Leareth had done a lot of terrible things - which, obviously, I wouldn’t have believed it if he said Leareth hadn’t done that - but not by being careless or because he wanted to be cruel? It thought he would stop now. It was - a really precise amount of sure Leareth hadn’t lied to me, more than ninety-nine of a hundred odds? And thought he wouldn’t harm me if we met in person to talk.”

He hesitates, but he’s talking to Karal, which does make it feel less weird to say, and he is very curious and wonders if Karal will volunteer anything.

“…I asked if it thought Leareth was happy about it arriving, or - was going to cooperate now that it was happening but would have preferred not having that interference.” Shrug. “I wasn’t sure if Sing would think it was my business but - I guess it felt important. It said - something like, it thought he endorsed its presence overall but was having a hard time adjusting?”

It’s fairly obvious from Vanyel’s manner that he’s having a hard time imagining Leareth struggling to adjust to anything.

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