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Generated: Apr 26, 2018 9:01 PM
Post last updated: Mar 10, 2017 4:03 PM
you took your time with the call
At the End of All Things Elves in Revelation
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For three months after Revelation he ignores his father's calls.

 

Yes. It should be possible to summon a demon and, depending how their powers work, either get a Silmaril from them or get the location of the patch of ground closest to the Silmaril from them or at worst do binary search over conjured models of parts of the planet to find the Silmarils. Yes, it should be possible to summon an angel to then dig the thing out of bedrock. And then they won't live life walking against the currents of fading, they will be whole again, they can summon some more for spaceship plans and head away from Earth much sooner, and much more powerful, than they imagined.

 

Also, the curious demon might go back to Hell and conjure some more Silmarils, if their powers happen to shake out that way, and might start handing out Silmarils to anyone on Earth who wants one, because why not, and the oath might still be in force, the risk is unimaginable - 

 

- they can of course get a Silmaril and then, if it turns out they can be conjured, not let the demon go home, that is merely incredibly rude and might strand someone a dimension away from their family for centuries. It at least does not risk unleashing the oath on this innocent world that has, at last, left the scars of the last time that happened beyond the reach of living memory.

 

For three months after Revelation he ignores his father's calls because he is childishly frightened, because his well-polished coping skills are fraying, because if he feels the tug of that oath on him again it will be too late to kill himself and therefore he wants, very badly, to do it now. For three months he wavers.

 

And then he answers the calls, and takes some vacation, and goes home for a Fëanorian planning session. He doesn't remember what loving them felt like but he remembers that he loved them, that it was once very important to him, and he knows he would do this for someone he loved. They plan and they read and they learn and they practice - without summoning, because daeva get the languages you speak when you summon them and so the first daeva they summon will know, if observant enough, they're not of this society - 

- he gets two weeks vacation a year, they plan very very slowly - 

 

- and six years after Revelation they have a binding and a few possible options for payment and a plan for the case where Silmarils turn out to be trivially conjurable and conjurable ones oath-relevant. Maedhros is terrified, and miserable, but no one can tell. He prides himself on that. 

 

Curufin doesn't want to do it because he speaks Khuzdul and the Dwarves who taught him it in confidence did not give him permission to share it. (They did give him permission, when it came up one optimistic night, to share it with his father should his father ever return to life, and so Fëanor speaks Khuzdul too.) Maglor's pretending to be a currently-dead pop star and that invites its own host of complications. 

Maedhros does not speak Khuzdul. He speaks the Black Speech in addition to a few human languages and Thindarin and Quenya, but the language won't scare daeva in itself (if they get his exact vocabulary, they might be frightened.) Maedhros picks a place in the castle in Canada that could be a room in an unusually wealthy human's house, unremarkable, and he painstakingly copies all but one bit of the circle they decided on together, and he calls in everyone to look and make sure he did it right, and he dismisses them all - one Elf alone is not obviously inhuman, two or more together raises suspicions -

- and he completes the circle.

 

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Here is a demon. Dark blue wings, looks like a shirtless white guy in blue jeans apart from that.

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Here is a man of carefully indeterminate age - greying, but if you ignored that he could be in his early twenties, surreally pretty, wearing a suit. His ears are not pointy; he got cosmetic surgery fifty years earlier. "Hello," he says in English, which is not one of the six or seven languages the demon just learned from him. "I'm Matthew."

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"Hello, what can I do for you?" These are interesting languages, what the heck language family - English isn't new, the dialect is weird though, kind of all over the place - just wants one phone call -

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"Forensics, might be a bit complicated. I'm looking for something. I want to know if you can make it and if you can't, I want to know where the extant ones are."

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"What is it?" He is not going to make nukes for a chance to call his dad, that would just be impressively bad priorities.

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"They're called Silmarils." He gestures. "About this big, sparkly, my father made them, I don't know what you need to go off." Call his dad -

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"Are they for anything, or...?" He's pretty sure nukes don't get cute trademark names but bioweapons or something might, due diligence, this would be really frustrating if he were gagged like the last few times, he'd just have to turn the guy down.

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He's a very good liar. "Sentimental. My father died a long time ago."

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"I will try making one for you for one phone call and track down the extant for two." Renée's not really responsible enough to be guaranteed to have a way to write down his instructions handy or keep a message on the answering machine but if he can get a second call it's not like she wouldn't appreciate hearing from him instead of from Charlie. Awkward if he gets Phil on the phone though. Hi Phil it's your dead stepson...

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"Deal."

Humans were supposed to have an afterlife but this is entirely the wrong style.

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"Can't make one."

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"Okay. There are three. Can you go for their surroundings, figure out where they are-"

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"Mm-hm -" Conjure conjure conjure.

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Rock, rock, and rock.

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Zooming out...

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Underwater rock. Under land rock. Under highly sulfuric rock.

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"Ow -" He stops conjuring them in his bare hands. More surroundings.

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The 'ow' one is on Venus. The other two are on Earth. Under North Dakota and under the Baltic Sea respectively.

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"Apparently a fairy fucked off with one of them to Venus. Is this precise enough or do you need larger models?"

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"That's precise enough. Thank you. There's a phone." Gesture.

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"Thanks!" Dude had better not stiff him and cut him off before he can tell Charlie anything, should've thought of that, should've said he needed at least a couple minutes. Oh well, seems like a nice enough guy, doesn't call him 'hellspawn' or anything. He goes over to the phone and dials from memory.

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He is not cut off at all. Have scale models of the locations, he tells everyone else. Also apparently humans can become daeva when they die, don't know why that part hasn't gotten out yet. Our demon is calling his father. I intend to ask him the second question afterwards.

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He gets an answering machine. Charlie's probably at work.

"This is not a prank, it's me, I need you to write a summoning circle for a demon with my full name in it," he says, "there's instructions how to do it the complicated way in my notes," or, like, the revelation book, same difference, "but you can also just write I summon the demon insert name around most of a circle with enough room for me to stand in it, then finish the circle. On the floor. Tell Renée please, I'm going to call her too but in case she, uh, Renées it. Leave the circle for a bit in case I get held up somehow, okay?"

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He still hasn't said his name. It's very annoying. 

 

Also. 

- or, like, the revelation book, same difference -

 

He looks very bored.

He is not very bored.

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Well, he expects the call recipients to recognize his voice. "I'm gonna call Renée now. See you soon."

Deep breath. Hang up. Dial a new number.

Man's voice: "Hello?"

"- hello, can I speak to Renée Dwyer?"

"She can't come to the phone right now, can I take a message?"

Jesus Christ Phil. He has nothing against Phil per se but right now he is in the way and he doesn't know how to handle him the way he can handle his parents. "It's a little delicate, are you sure she's not available?" He glances at his summoner, doesn't look impatient - "I can wait." She should be home by now. Could be out with friends but "can't come to the phone" is more likely to be "in the bathroom" or something.

"Delicate?"

"It's about her son."

"Lemme put you on hold."

"That's fine, thank you."

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Summoner, being thirty four thousand years old, continues not to look impatient. 

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Cam waits. And then his mom picks up. "Hello?"

"Hi, don't freak out, it's me -"

"Cam?!"

"- it's me. I'm okay -"

"How, how are - oh my baby -"

"I called Charlie first, you can corroborate with him, I'm a demon -"

"Oh my God!"

"- it's okay, it's okay, it's nice there -" Tacky as hell - heh heh - but nice. "I'm fine. I'm hoping for you or Charlie to summon me though. I got his answering machine. I won't be able to answer till I'm back from the summons I'm on now though."

"I, okay, I don't know the first thing about - I'm sorry I never took an interest -"

"It's fine, it wasn't your thing." She would've been all over it if he'd been teaching comparative literature or something but summoning, nah. "It's not hard, it's only complicated if you're getting a random person. I think Charlie still has my notes if you want to just let him do it but the simple version is 'I summon the demon' insert name, around a circle you don't finish till you've written in all the words, then you finish the circle. Needs to have enough room for me."

"I - all right - I can move the car out of the garage and - okay - how -"

"You have nearly as much information as I do now but I'll see you soon, okay? I shouldn't tie up the line forever."

"Okay - I love you -"

"You too."

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HIs summoner still looks pretty blandly disinterested. "Everybody, or are you special?"

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"Most people aren't daeva. There's an unsummonable sort of person they turn into instead, without the magic powers besides indestructibility. I'm not sure why I'm a demon."

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"Sell your soul?"

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"I didn't, and if I had I'd be recommending it, being a demon's a better deal than going to Limbo." He is like 99% sure the souls thing is bullshit but he hasn't been a demon long enough to be positive there isn't some obscure soul-handling mechanism that he or some fraction of demons has that he just hasn't figured out yet. Probably bullshit though.

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"That was the other thing I was going to ask about."

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"I do not know how to collect a soul. I have never tried, but I think nobody can actually do that."

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"And there are not lots of people in eternal torment in Hell, so far as you know?"

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"There are lakes of fire but they're for garbage disposal. I haven't seen any humans."

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Nod. "How about the people trapped beneath the Pelóri, are they a myth too?"

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"Trapped where?"

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"Where I'm from there's a myth that when God collapsed the world he trapped the army of Ar-Pharazôn beneath the mountains of Valinor, and he made them immortal so they would be awake and encased in stone forever."

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"I have not heard this myth. It's depressing."

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"Is it true, though."

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"I could conjure for it but nobody's ever managed to conjure an inherently magical thing and immortal people might be that."

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"Surroundings? Like with the Silmarils?"

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Come to think of it it's weird he can't make Silmarils. Maybe they're... made of angel feathers? He hasn't happened to try making angel feathers, maybe they still count as magic. That or Silmarils're AIs, that would be exciting. Though wouldn't he just get basement dweller hardware... "I can't make extraneous things under this binding, so if you want me to try with the mountains we have to renegotiate."

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"I know some very lovely music that has never been recorded and I will sing you some if you check whether there are immortal people encased in stone beneath the mountains."

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"Deal."

He checks. No mountains.

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"The Pelóri don't exist."

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"Or I can't make them for some reason - what's the deal with Silmarils?"

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"Presumably that they're magic. Out of curiosity, can you make me?"

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"Can't make minds. I could make your body, sometimes people have demons do that for transplants."

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"I see. Thank you. Have a lovely reunion with your parents."

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That obvious, huh. Well, nothing was riding on it being a private matter. "Thank you."

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He leans back, closes his eyes, and sings. It's stunning, and also for some reason desperately sad. It's in one of the other languages; the lyrics are about little children playing by a brook. 

 

When he's done without comment he sends Cam home.

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Demon has his reunion with his parents!

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He is probably too distracted to pick over those languages or that weird series of questions for quite some time! But probably not forever. Probably before extraction begins, even; he's not an Elf.

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For one thing, his parents sleep, and he, instead, drinks coffee.

Pick pick pick.

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Languages: five in which he is fluent, two in the same language family and two in a different language family and one related to none of the others, none of them related to any spoken on Earth. Two more in which he is conversant, not counting English, which came with some very weird turns of phrase and vocabulary. Those two are unfamiliar to everything else also. 

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His laptop does not have an input method for the alphabets, Wikipedia's list of languages doesn't have them...

...the heck?

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Conjuring for the complete works written in them gets only a handful of texts, for most, and none at all, for some, and entire libraries for Thindarin. 

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Well. He will read the handsful, first, then start rummaging through Thindarin.

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Nothing in particular seems to distinguish the handful; they're mostly notes. Some mention unfamiliar names and titles. Maybe Matthew was really into conlanging in his youth.

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Yeah no.

 

Can he make a Matthew.

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Nope.

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What the fuck.

 

Further digging reveals that Matthew's father did... die a long time ago... and has produced a lot of "posthumous" work. That there was a whole Thindarin-speaking civilization nobody knows about. That he can produce irregular, frustrating bits of stuff related to the places and things Matthew mentioned.

He can't make Matthew but he can make his cellphone and find out what its number is and call it.

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"Matthew Carter, how can I help you?"

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"Hi, this is the demon you summoned a few weeks ago, is this a good time?"

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"Hell has cell service now? It's not, especially. I'm at work."

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"I can call back later."

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"Thank you. I plan to retire in ten years." Click.

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...Cam was thinking like "later that day". He calls back a few hours later.

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"Matthew Carter, how can I help you?"

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"Are you off work yet?"

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"No, I told you, I'm working until I'm sixty. It's the best pension plan."

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"I suppose literally never leaving work has an advantage commutewise, but seriously."

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He switches to Quenya. "Not a good conversation to conduct over the phone and did you check where I work. Call my brother -" and he gives another number.

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"Didn't check, sorry." He hangs up. He calls the other number.

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He picks up. "Hello?" he says in English.

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"Hi, Matthew said I should call you instead of him with my stack of questions about all the everything? I'm the demon he summoned the other week."

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"Yes, he said to expect you. He works for the NSA, they listen to weird calls he gets at work."

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"Gotcha. Should've checked, didn't occur to me. Is he going to be in trouble for consorting with demons or anything?"

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"I don't know what NSA policies on summoning are but possibly. It's okay, he can retire early."

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"Okay. Do you want me to present my questions as they precipitated out of bewildered forensic conjuration and have to correct my context six times a minute or do you just want to start from the beginning?"

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"I am not necessarily planning on answering your questions, honestly."

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"Why not?"

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"I have a lot of demands on my time."

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"Look, I understand you have no strong reason to be interested in resolving the confusion a random demon your brother summoned is experiencing but I am capable of making positive sum trades even when I am not standing in a circle, you can probably think of some way I could save you some time."

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"I expect you've noticed by now that we're very old and not in much of a hurry."

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Sigh. "So, you're not necessarily planning on answering my questions, but you might?"

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"That sounds like about the only stance it would be reasonable to take on the information you've given me so far."

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"What do you wanna know?"

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"How likely you are to go on a righteous crusade of vengeance on behalf of people thirty thousand years dead, honestly."

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"That sounds very unlike me."

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"Fine. I'm an undergrad at MIT, if you want to stop by we can chat. But only because taking summoning public was a really great thing to do."

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"Beg pardon?"

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"My brother doesn't actually work at the NSA for the pension plan, he just says that because he thinks it's cute."

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"Am I supposed to believe the NSA identified me?"

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"I am very sure Matthew hasn't let anyone else notice. He wouldn't do that. Presuming you had a reason to do it this way in the first place, and all."

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"I did but it didn't work."

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"Why don't you come up to Boston and we can spare him the work of making sure he's the only person listening in."

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"Sure. Be there soon. How do I find you once I show up?"

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He gives an address.

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"See you."

And Cam tells his parents he's going on a road trip, call him if they need anything or just want to confirm he is still okay, and he hops on a motorcycle and heads over. His wings are already off; he doesn't attract attention.

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In Boston it's icy and he gets skeptical stares for being helmetless on his motorcycle.

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Helmetless? Who, him?

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Never mind! 

 

Aricin's address is a dorm on the MIT campus.

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Cam parks outside of it and calls.

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Goes to voicemail.

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"Hey, I'm here but it's freezing out, I'm going to find the library and wait there."

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The library is findable; you have to have a student pass to get in.

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Like this one?

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Yep! 

 

 

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A little while later an astonishingly pretty person walks in, glances around, heads towards Cam.

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Cam waves.

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"Hi," he says. "We're not supposed to speak in here, want to go for a walk?"

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"Sure."

Cam follows him out, slips on ice, sighs and gets up again, finds his path mysteriously salted.

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He's very graceful. "So. Questions?"

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"Why does your brother speak languages where every word has a spelling and there are no conjurable written works or only a handful? Why doesn't anybody know about the civilization that spoke Thindarin, since it has loads of conjurable written works? Why can't I make even a basement dweller of him? How did your dad write posthumously for hundreds of years without being in Limbo or any daeva realm? What, in general, the fuck?"

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"At a guess, most of the written works count as magic for some reason, Eru, magic, resurrected, and good question."

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"Eru?"

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"- there're gods. Or, at least, there used to be, I don't know what they're up to these days and this -" gesture at Cam - "isn't their style. One comes to recognize it. Eru is the god who destroyed the civilization with Thindarin works - had the whole continent swallowed by the sea, moved the continents, cut Valinor off - and I don't know why nobody knows - especially not in Hell - but he's omnipotent or was so the likeliest explanation is that he wanted them forgotten, it suited the narrative he was going for."

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"And the fossil record and whatnot?"

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"Dinosaurs are more recent than that - well, in Valinor. Maybe in Endorë they really did die out sixty five million years ago. There was a war among the gods that lasted two billion, a meteor to mess up someone's delightfully vibrant ecosystem wouldn't be inexplicable."

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"...okay. How's resurrection work?"

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"When we die our god can collect our souls and give us new bodies for them. They only do that if they approve of us; it took my father thirty thousand years to get reembodied, and being disembodied is deeply unpleasant, so it sounds like humans have it better."

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"Who's we?"

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"We call ourselves the Quendi. I think 'Elves' caught on in the vernacular."

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Cam glances at his ears.

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"Used to be pointy, we got plastic surgery. There's enough unusual without giving people extra hints."

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"Okay. What are the Silmarils?"

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"Quendi are - dependent on background magic in the universe. There's less and less of it over time. We - fade away, if we're not careful, we lose the capacity to affect the world around us. As a result we're all supposed to leave the world and go live in the paradise of the gods. But we have some - theological disagreements - with our gods, so my father found a way to capture and preserve the magic so we could set up an independent Elven kingdom outside Valinor. Then they were stolen."

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"By Venusian fairies, or is that later?"

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"I don't think there was a fairy involved, actually, I think that was Eru. By a lot of people. They were very desirable prizes."

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"Just for being bottled magic?"

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"Bottled magic is really useful."

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"It sounds it, but besides being ambiently magical you haven't said what it's useful for."

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"Given enough time we could have killed the gods. Not that we were planning to do that, most of them are just hapless. There's one who needed to die. We could've used it for heat and light and power while setting up a civilization on some distant star - we are going to do that - they make other magic effects more powerful - eventually we'll become gods, and the Silmarils won't do that in themselves but it'd be hard to achieve without them."

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"And you're planning to improve on previous divine examples, I hope."

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"Won't be hard. Why are you wandering around, aren't people supposed to be careful with demons?"

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"Who, me, I don't have wings, can't be a demon."

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"I see. Have I answered your questions?"

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"I mean, yes, but not in a way that makes me eager to go away."

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"If you would like to help us found a civilization on a distant star and restore magic to the world and become gods you're quite welcome."

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"It sounds more interesting than continuing to teach myself the violin and making pipe dream plans to terraform Mars!"

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"You could terraform Mars for practice? We're not leaving for a couple decades, we need people."

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Heh. "Oh, and I'll want to commute by summon, unless you break lightspeed with magic."

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"Doubt it. I can't summon you but Matthew probably won't mind doing it regularly."

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"Awesome. ...So what's your name? I'm Cam."

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"Aricin. How'd you learn about summoning?"

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"Found a book on it in an abandoned house."

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"How'd you end up dead?"

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"Guy walked into my classroom and shot me in the head."

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"Uh, why?"

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"I think a daeva I'd spoken to identified me as Revelation and he objected for economic reasons."

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"Openly committing murder seems unlikely to be to someone's economic advantage."

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"I don't think he was a hit man, I think he wanted revenge on me for making summoning less of an edge."

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"My condolences."

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"Thanks."

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"So, uh, before we leave this star system far behind us, it would be nice to find a way to smuggle information about summoning to Valinor, if it even works there. People are traditionally not allowed to leave, and I would be entertained by having an opening to change that. You wouldn't happen to have any ideas -"

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"I haven't been able to conjure anything of or pertaining to Valinor. Where is it, how does it work...?"

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"It used to be a continent that could be found by sailing west of here. Then Eru intervened and now I have no idea. Nothing? You can't conjure Elves but can you conjure, say, plastic scale models of what Elves look like..."

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"I can only do materials substitutions if I know what I'm substituting for what else, are you made of water and protein and stuff?"

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"Yes."

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Cam thinks about it for a while and then tries for a plastic model.

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That is a small plastic Elf. 

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"Okay..." If he tries for a model of Valinor with all of its bits replaced with appropriately colored glass?

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There are a lot of holes in the thing that comes through but something comes through. It does in fact look like a continent ringed by unfriendly tall mountains.

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"Okay, so I can do material replacement models of magic things, with exceptions..." He pokes a hole. "Do you happen to have a guess what might be supposed to go in the gaps?"

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"That's where Lórien should be - it's probably just too magic -"

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"Material replacement conjurations of mildly magical things."

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"Things that have a consistent shape and appearance, maybe."

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"What's Lórien and why doesn't it have that?"

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"Forest, and it takes whatever form - within constraints, but pretty broad constraints, I've gotten it to have different gravities - the people in it will find most restful and soothing."

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"That sounds nice."

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"It's not the worst thing a Vala has ever done."

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"Anyway, so here's a model of Valinor, let's see if I can get surroundings -" Likewise in glass, out and out -

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Valinor appears to be floating in empty space except for this very narrow patch of the Atlantic Ocean.

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What does the narrow Atlantic Ocean attach to on the other end?

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It sort of meanders, a couple thousand miles, taking weird twists and turns. It's literally about a sailboat wide. 

 

Then it reaches England.

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Cam looks at the weird glass thing in his hand.

"I should probably have thought this through before I made it while on a walk."

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"Can't help you there, sorry. You could take it back to my room but I think my roommate hates me."

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He breaks it up and puts it in a paper grocery bag. "I'll chuck it when we pass a trash can."

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"Does Hell have very full landfills?"

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"Yes. And lakes of fire."

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"Cute. I wonder if it's - some kind of emergent consequence of something about humans, it's not Eru's style at all."

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"Couldn't tell you."

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"You don't get anywhere by conjuring demonic history?"

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"I haven't read the whole library of Hell but things are murky before writing."

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"My father invented writing."

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"That's very cool but what I meant was the introduction of writing to Hell."

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"That I can't help you with." They're back at his dorm. "You don't need sleep, right?"

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"I do not." He chucks the glass path to Valinor.

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"Elves need sleep but way less often than humans. This is among the reasons my roommate hates me. The other one - you should see it, actually -" In they go!

 

His room has been very illegally remodelled; it looks like a very expensive apartment, with fancy wood panelling and a fountain with a little creek that meanders (under glass) around the room. There are bookcases full of leather-bound old books lining the walls, and a ridiculously nice computer desk setup. 

 

And a human teenager. "Oh, hi, Aricin," he says, rolling his eyes. 

"I wanted to show Cam how I'd set up my place."

       "He was fucking nuts about it. Refused to summon anyone, did it all by hand, slept outside until it was done. Nice to meet you, I'm Will."

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"Nice to meet you too. Wow, this must have taken forever and your RA probably hates you too."

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"I bribed him with homework help."

       "Yeah, he also already knows everything, I don't even know why the fuck he's in college."

"I taught here in the 70s," Aricin says complacently, sitting down at his desk and pulling up some kind of modeling program, into which he inputs the ocean path to Valinor.

       His roommate ignores this; apparently it is not an unusually weird thing to say.

Permalink Eye

"Cool. I taught at U Dub for a bit."

Permalink Eye

"Oh? What'd you teach?"

Permalink Eye

"Summoning."

Permalink Eye

"I wanted to take that as an elective but it didn't fit my schedule. Want to go flying."

Permalink Eye

"Bit chilly, no thanks, but have fun."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, not now, I mean that's why I'd want to learn, so I could try it. Should I leave you two -"

Permalink Eye

"Oh," said Aricin, "no, sorry - no, I just needed to get this into my computer before I forgot."

      "What is it?"

"Magic route to a lost mythological paradise."

    "D&D game or something?"

"Or something," he agrees, completing the route. "I'm going to be out of town all next week, family reunion in North Dakota."

    "Uh, okay."

"Sorry."

    "You're not actually even the weirdest person on our floor, dude, just weird in more of a could-stab-you-in-your-sleep way."

"I promise I wouldn't do that," Aricin says solemnly. 

    "Did you get through the 8 pset -"

"Yes," he says, his mood suddenly improved, and he turns the computer off and animatedly talks his roommate through it. 

Permalink Eye

"Should I go?"

Permalink Eye

"If you wanna get yourself a snack or something there's stuff in the mini-fridge, I'll be done with this in a bit."

Permalink Eye

Cam peers into the minifridge.

Permalink Eye

It is empty.

Permalink Eye

Cam pulls out an apple anyway.

Permalink Eye

Aricin is entertained for some reason. And soon the homework is straightened out. "Thought of any other questions?" he asks Cam.

Permalink Eye

"Nothing desperately urgent, but you may assume I remain curious till further notice."

Permalink Eye

"Up for a late night run to New York City to meet another brother of mine?"

Permalink Eye

"Sounds good."

Permalink Eye

So off they go. He sings in Quenya.

Permalink Eye

"You wanna sit in back of the motorcycle till I'm unwitnessed enough for a sidecar?"

Permalink Eye

"Sure. Are you not planning to go public about returning from the dead ever, or just until you learn why you?"

Permalink Eye

"Second thing. I mean, I'm considering pretending that I was not as dead as I looked, it was recent enough that I think I can pull that off, but until I know how to predict whether somebody'll be a daeva or a Limboite I'd rather not tell one and all. Daeva ex-humans are really uncommon, most demons I talked to had never heard of it."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "What was it like -"

Permalink Eye

"It was quick, one moment I had the worst headache of all time, next I was in perfect health in downtown Dite. Stark naked."

Permalink Eye

"Does making stuff take time to learn or is it intuitive?"

Permalink Eye

"Like a few seconds to get the hang of doing it at all, complicated stuff like interpolation takes a little practice."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Your parents summoned you here?"

Permalink Eye

"Yup."

Permalink Eye

"Binding, or..."

Permalink Eye

"My dad summoned me under a binding, was convinced I was myself, sent me back, my mom summoned me unbound and I'm still on that one."

Permalink Eye

"Good gig if you can get it."

Permalink Eye

"It is!"

Permalink Eye

"So there are eight of us. Moryo's in New York City, he makes money for miscellaneous projects of ours. Matthew you met, he's in DC, Cáno is currently dead but he does runs as pop musicians, Tyelcormo wanders, everyone else is in Canada."

Permalink Eye

"I can definitely see the musician thing working out if you're all that good at singing."

Permalink Eye

"Cáno was the best in the world, once upon a time. Elves're better than humans at - most things. Stronger, faster, prettier, much better vision, that kind of thing."

Permalink Eye

"Sounds like a good deal."

Permalink Eye

"I would trade you in a heartbeat, if you get an afterlife. Elves are - scripted. There were prophecies thirty thousand years ago about what would happen, and no matter what we choose they always come true."

Permalink Eye

"...uh, how does that work?"

Permalink Eye

"Prophecies only come to light under conditions such that nothing anyone will do in response to them disrupts them. Like, sometimes it's 'the prophecy isn't believed' and sometimes it's 'everyone who learns of it wants it to happen' and sometimes it's 'people try to avoid it but it happens anyway' and sometimes it's just straight-up railroading, but it always happens."

Permalink Eye

"But this doesn't work on humans?"

Permalink Eye

"Nope. You can springboard off them - and we have tried it - but it usually doesn't work as well as it should. The Enemy tried having minor decisions all made by random humans, it didn't change anything large-stream."

Permalink Eye

"Didn't try having large decisions made by nonrandom humans?"

Permalink Eye

"Attempted by both sides of the war under some circumstances but since humans die so young and the war took five hundred years it was hard to get them equipped to be making major strategic decisions and then have any kind of continuity of strategic objectives."

Permalink Eye

"...if you say so."

Permalink Eye

"Humans live longer now, this was before anyone'd invented germ theory and so on. They had like fifty years and their teeth were falling out by twenty-five."

Permalink Eye

"So you need robust organizational continuity, but it doesn't sound insoluble..."

Permalink Eye

"Probably was not insoluble. Did not get solved in time."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, okay."

Permalink Eye

"We lost. Everyone died."

Permalink Eye

"And you got resurrected."

Permalink Eye

"Thirty thousand years later, yeah."

Permalink Eye

"That's a hell of a turnaround time."

Permalink Eye

"They modify people to not have - theological disagreements - with them before reembodiment. You can decline modification but then no new body. We declined. Eventually they got sick of us."

Permalink Eye

"Long time to wait them out, congratulations."

Permalink Eye

"It was hardly a choice, but thanks. I wish we'd arrived sooner."

Permalink Eye

"Have other people been resurrected?"

Permalink Eye

"I think all of the Elves who died are now back alive. I think orcs the gods intend to keep dead forever - they're in a bit of a bind on that, admittedly, but only a bit of a bind..."

Permalink Eye

"Orcs?"

Permalink Eye

"So the Enemy's first bright idea to get around the fate thing was to breed a new race of sapients. Elves have - pretty fine direct control over our bodies, we mostly look the way we want to look and our hair and fingernails grow only up to the length we want them and so on. And so the Enemy's idea was that if you selectively bred Elves and tortured the children from birth, could you get something else? You can. You get orcs. There were millions of them. And all of them in constant pain, because that's how he got them to - not be Elves."

Permalink Eye

"Holy fuck."

Permalink Eye

"I mentioned that he needed to be dead? That's - not even the primary reason. But. Yeah. Sufficient."

Permalink Eye

"What was the primary reason?"

Permalink Eye

"It's related. So Elves - related to the being scripted - can make binding promises about our future actions. If we swear to do something, we do it, there's no changing your mind, there's no space for error. I swore a long time ago to stop Melkor and now even if I learned that stopping him somehow destroyed the whole world I would be stuck. - worth it, because he can do mind control and if I found myself in the position of believing I shouldn't stop Melkor it was much likelier to be mind control - but still, it's terrifyingly powerful. And it can be used for mind control. You can swear to believe something, you can swear to hate someone. You can swear to trust and obey Melkor and pursue his goals your whole life. And all orcs did, as soon as they were old enough to talk."

Permalink Eye

"What a horrorshow."

Permalink Eye

"You can see why we want to get the magic and go somewhere without these people in charge."

Permalink Eye

"If you can't beat 'em run the fuck away to Alpha Centauri, yep."

Permalink Eye

"And then become gods and then get a rematch. But yeah. We tried fighting, and we lost, and a fight today would be more destructive but not any better fated, I don't think."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"The continent crumbled, during the war. And even if we didn't have to worry about collateral damage - I'm pretty sure nukes wouldn't kill him. I wouldn't want to test daeva indestructibility."

Permalink Eye

"Holds up to black holes and other daeva but yeah."

Permalink Eye

"Black holes? What about the time dilation -"

Permalink Eye

"It just sort of acts Newtonian relative to us."

Permalink Eye

"That's convenient. Wait, though, wouldn't you still be stuck?"

Permalink Eye

"We can add parts to ourselves and accordingly to the indestructibility."

Permalink Eye

" - huh. Can you add other people that way -"

Permalink Eye

"No, but I could encase one."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Elves, should it ever come up, can't handle being imprisoned."

Permalink Eye

"I was not planning to encase anybody, let alone an Elf, I don't really want to drag people around by my toenail."

Permalink Eye

"I wasn't worried per se but it would be a shame for you to think you were doing something mildly upsetting to someone to prevent a fight or shield them or whatever and then it turns out you were doing something lethal."

Permalink Eye

"Lethal amounts of can't handle? That's... okay, what counts and how fast?"

Permalink Eye

"Constraints on where we can go, full generality. How fast depends on a bunch of things but mostly how pretty the surrounding environment is, how generally distressing the situation is, how much space we have and how, uh, hostile the barrier - snowed in in a cabin would take longer to become a problem than locked into the cabin - more than a week in something like a prison cell would be very hard to survive. We stay out of trouble with the law."

Permalink Eye

"These are locked-in problems, not locked-out problems, it's not an issue that people lock their homes or can't get into Fairyland?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, that's not a problem. Unless, like, all territory in the world was privately owned and you didn't have permission to go there except a house-sized space."

Permalink Eye

"How in the world does this actually kill you?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, starts with decreased capacity to maintain volitional control over our heartrate and blood pressure and so on, and then waves and waves of intense adrenaline spikes, getting steadily worse over time until something gives out."

Permalink Eye

"Yeesh."

Permalink Eye

"Enemy had a way to keep prisoners alive."

Permalink Eye

"Eugh."

Permalink Eye

"Matthew got captured. For, well, fifty years objective time, Enemy can also do time dilation."

Permalink Eye

"This just keeps getting more and more charming of a story, doesn't it."

Permalink Eye

"Not too late to decide you want nothing to do with it."

Permalink Eye

"The last time I poked my nose into interesting magic and shit I got literally murdered yet here I am."

Permalink Eye

"You can't get literally murdered again! And maybe time dilation wouldn't work on you, since the black holes don't. And the Enemy is currently imprisoned by his colleagues."

Permalink Eye

"Colleagues."

Permalink Eye

"The other gods have not made enough effort at stopping him for me to characterize them as his opponents in any respect, but they are not quite as bad themselves."

Permalink Eye

"Gotcha. Should I know more about this cast of colorful characters?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, there're fifteen, Melkor's the bad one, Mandos is the one who holds, adjusts, and reembodies the dead, Irmo runs Lórien which I told you about, Ulmo is the god of the seas and notable for occasionally being actually helpful, once upon a time my family got along with Aulë and Oromë, the rest are not notable."

Permalink Eye

"What form does occasional helpfulness take?"

Permalink Eye

"During the war he shielded a civilian city so the Enemy couldn't find it except by treason of the inhabitants. He used to be occasionally accessible for consultation. He's not anymore but he probably can't be, what with magic mostly not working."

Permalink Eye

"How mostly is mostly?"

Permalink Eye

"My brother used to be able to alter the landscape over a space of a hundred miles by singing at it - magic songs, they take decades to compose, it's not at all a spontaneous thing, but still. Now he can give the effect that the environment is swimming, and that's about it. He finds it very annoying. Used to be there were magic artifacts that would make you near to a Vala. My father's been trying to reconstruct them but I doubt they'd be a fraction as powerful."

Permalink Eye

"Is there some relatively mechanistic explanation? Like does magic run on a finite fuel source or something."

Permalink Eye

"If so it was not known to us back when we had the time to study those things. My guess would be that magic tapers because Eru wants it to. The Silmarils should help."

Permalink Eye

"Eru won't want them to fail at that?"

Permalink Eye

"Wrong - kind of thing - he's not actually an interventionist god, the one time aside, he just put in starting conditions he liked, like 'evil god and incompetent good ones' and 'oaths' and 'the fading of the Elves'."

Permalink Eye

"Do oaths have less force now?"

Permalink Eye

"Don't think so. Haven't tested."

Permalink Eye

"Why not?"

Permalink Eye

"It is as a general rule a bad idea to toy around with oaths."

Permalink Eye

"I guess I could see that turning out to be a reasonable heuristic."

Permalink Eye

"We weren't paranoid enough, growing up, because Valinor was very peaceful. No scarcity, Elves are very - well-behaved..."

Permalink Eye

"Well-behaved like...?"

Permalink Eye

"The first person ever murdered in Valinor was the King when Melkor was paroled and then murdered him. Elves had at that point been living in Valinor more than three thousand years."

Permalink Eye

"Wow."

Permalink Eye

"So then we decided to leave Valinor and pursue Melkor to - the rest of the world - warn people, help with evacuation, fight him if we could, we didn't know at the time how overmatched we were. There's no way out of Valinor. There were Elves who had boats. They said we should give ourselves a century to think about it, we could get killed, it was silly to leave. We tried to steal the boats. No one had ever tried that before, we didn't know - they opened fire on the boats, more people got drawn in - 

- before that day no Elf had ever committed a murder and by the end of the day ten thousand people were dead."

Permalink Eye

"Jesus Christ.

...A century?"

Permalink Eye

"Elves are really slow. Not my family, but as a species -

 - when we got there there were civilian cities penned in and we freed them, there were cities running out of supplies and we supplied them, we took back the continent, the fighting lasted twelve days and we held the line for the next four hundred years."

Permalink Eye

"Dang. Did you go in with some overwhelming advantage...?"

Permalink Eye

"We had a serious technological edge but in hindsight - 

- by serious technological edge I mean 'really good longbows and enchanted swords and armor', there's no way the Enemy couldn't have equipped orcs to overmatch us if he'd wanted -"

Permalink Eye

"Why didn't he want?"

Permalink Eye

"Damned if I know." Bitter laugh. "That's not a very good expression, I am in fact damned. After the fight over the boats the Valar got really angry and cursed us and all our descendants."

Permalink Eye

"I am pretty sure Hell doesn't contain any Elf war veterans. What is the upshot of you being damned."

Permalink Eye

"Uh -" he switches to Quenya - "Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever."

Permalink Eye

"So hypothetically if somebody sailed that wonky route to Valinor and climbed a mountain and yelled 'fuck you all' in a way causally entangled with your lamentations, that would disprove the prophecy?"

Permalink Eye

He laughs. "Might. It's also one of the reasons I want the Silmarils back so badly, because the prophecy says we won't get them."

Permalink Eye

"Snatching away the very treasures? Why did you swear about that, incidentally, your explanation about swearing to oppose the Enemy made some sense but..."

Permalink Eye

"We swore to fight the Enemy and anyone else who might try to deprive us of them. Because we really wanted to found a society outside the reach of the gods and we knew they were tempting to everyone and we thought if people knew we'd go to war over them then they wouldn't try it in the first place."

Permalink Eye

 

"Did that work?"

Permalink Eye

"It did not."

Permalink Eye

"Ah-huh."

Permalink Eye

"Predictable in hindsight."

Permalink Eye

"How bad was it?"

Permalink Eye

"Very bad. We were - allowed to drop it if they'd just give the damn things back. No one ever would."

Permalink Eye

"Did they know that was how it worked?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"Wow."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah." Sigh.

Permalink Eye

"...so how much of a disaster is it if the Silmarils are on private property or something."

Permalink Eye

"We buy it. If we can't buy it we steal them. The problem would arise if someone claimed them and refused to transfer them for any amount of money and we couldn't steal it from that person."

Permalink Eye

 

"What would've happened if I'd made one."

Permalink Eye

"Then we would have checked whether the oath thought it applied to demon-made Silmarils, and if it did we would try to convince you not to make any more, and if you were unconvinceable on that point we wouldn't have sent you home."

Permalink Eye

"Whether the oath thought it applied?"

Permalink Eye

"It's - not totally a matter of whether we think it applies, though sometimes our beliefs can tug it."

Permalink Eye

"I think the terms of my binding would have continued to find making Silmarils task-relevant for a few after the first if I'd felt like getting on your nerves about it."

Permalink Eye

"We weren't imagining it'd be a mutually satisfactory solution. We'd have felt horrible about it, even knowing daeva don't have the Elf thing about imprisonment. But if we're bound to go after all of them, we have an obligation not to make sure they're just out there, more all the time..."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, no, I mean I could've made them in highly inconvenient places."

Permalink Eye

"What's your range?"

Permalink Eye

"I would have given you loads of warning before putting one in the sun."

Permalink Eye

Laugh. "That would oblige us to try to kill you, not to go get it. But it would be a very upsetting thing to be magically bound into."

Permalink Eye

"Would you be allowed to stop trying when it didn't work?"

Permalink Eye

"Nope. It was badly phrased. And once we were gods it might work." Shiver.

Permalink Eye

"Well. Fortunately it did not come to that."

Permalink Eye

"You're really not someone I'd want as an enemy."

Permalink Eye

"Shall I take that as a compliment?"

Permalink Eye

"It was meant as one. I did not so enjoy my stay in Mandos that I would lob insults at unbound demons while riding on the back of their motorcycles, and you mentioned noticing the languages."

Permalink Eye

"I wouldn't attack you for insults. The languages were obvious."

Permalink Eye

"Most people are weirdly incurious about languages. Maybe daeva aren't."

Permalink Eye

"I wouldn't have found it remarkable if he'd had high school French. Or Finnish as a second language! Buncha things I never heard of though..."

Permalink Eye

"Should be Quenya, our native tongue, Thindarin, which the Elves of Beleriand spoke, Taliska and Sechwar, which were early human ones..."

Permalink Eye

"Yup."

Permalink Eye

"The reason I can't summon is because Dwarves held their language in confidence, and taught it only to people they trusted, and they entrusted me with it."

Permalink Eye

"Dwarves too? Crowded history. Where'd they go?"

Permalink Eye

"Don't know. Hopefully safe somewhere."

Permalink Eye

"I could check."

Permalink Eye

"While we're on a motorcycle?"

Permalink Eye

"No! When we get there!"

Permalink Eye

"Sure, go ahead and check when we get there. They might be magic too, though."

Permalink Eye

"What could they do?"

Permalink Eye

"They were immune to all mind-affecting magic and could do magic artifact-y stuff."

Permalink Eye

"How's the artifacty stuff work?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, you draw it out in advance - they're a little like computer programs? Really long detailed instructions about whatever you're trying to do, things like 'for each occasion when an object meeting the description in the preceding section enters the range of this artifact' - and then you break it down from there, 'for each' is a series of tones in the language we have for magic metalworking - and then you think the tones at the metal, so they'll leave the right impressions in it, and when you're done you've got a magic artifact. They can take decades to design and years to manufacture even once you have a design."

Permalink Eye

"Dang."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. Your magic's nicer."

Permalink Eye

"I like it! But it can't do magic items."

Permalink Eye

"Which is a good thing because it means we are here instead of having terse negotiations over potential Silmarils in the Sun."

Permalink Eye

"There is that!"

Permalink Eye

"Matthew might've come up with a better solution, he's good at that. But still. I am glad demons can't make Silmarils.

 

Do you mind if I sing?"

Permalink Eye

"Be my guest."

Permalink Eye

He sings! Elves are really great at that.

Permalink Eye

They are! It is nice.

Permalink Eye

New York City is snowy.

Permalink Eye

"I may want to abandon this in favor of a car in this much snow," Cam says.

Permalink Eye

"I can have my brother send a car if you don't want to make one."

Permalink Eye

"I can make one but it'd be a pain to get rid of. I mean, so's the motorcycle, but slightly less so."

Permalink Eye

"If you just leave it on the side of the road with the keys in it'll get stolen, probably. Moryo's sending a car."

Permalink Eye

"Hooray for vehicle theft. Er, how does he know to do that?"

Permalink Eye

"I just told him to. We're telepathic."

Permalink Eye

"Gosh, what a fully featured species of magical elves you are."

Permalink Eye

"Humans were kinda disappointing when we met them."

Permalink Eye

"They have many drawbacks!"

Permalink Eye

"But the power at least in principle to overcome them. That's something."

Permalink Eye

"Mm-hm. Although I hope if we invent telepathy we invent really polite telepathy, otherwise I will have to become a hermit."

Permalink Eye

"Oh?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I don't know how much speculative fiction you read but I get the impression some people think that if mindreading were a thing it'd just be no big deal, whatever, read people's minds for fun and profit and continue to be the protagonist? And other people acknowledge it would be a big deal but only because you might get the details of someone's sex life, which really is not my complaint."

Permalink Eye

"I can't say I've been following speculative fiction. Elven societies vary in how much it's courteous to make public, some of them it's pretty much everything and they seem to get along all right."

Permalink Eye

"I'm sure it's possible to run cultures on this hardware but I would have to go be a hermit."

Permalink Eye

"I doubt humans'll sprout telepathy any time soon. Are daeva ahead, technologically? Since you can make things as much as you want..."

Permalink Eye

"I think so, but unfortunately this also removes a lot of our physicists' incentives to collaborate. Maybe somebody has solved physics off in deep void and hasn't told anybody."

Permalink Eye

"That would be very cruel. Maybe someone should summon every single demon to ask them."

Permalink Eye

"We don't have to answer summonses."

Permalink Eye

"It'd be kind of horrible otherwise. But maybe the physicist in the void would."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe. You'd need to specify them, though, I can't think of a way to specify a void physicist."

Permalink Eye

"There's no list of names somewhere?"

Permalink Eye

"Of everyone's? No."

Permalink Eye

"How many demons are there?"

Permalink Eye

"Hard to keep a very good census but like a couple billion."

Permalink Eye

"Is it coincidence that's near the human population?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm not sure."

Permalink Eye

A sleek black car arrives; the driver is human, and waves them in, and has warm drinks in thermoses in a minibar inside.

Permalink Eye

"Classy."

Permalink Eye

"We've been debating whether we should give more to charity or something but it'd be a full time job just figuring out where it'd do any good."

Permalink Eye

"Any good is a low bar. The Make A Wish Foundation does any good."

Permalink Eye

"Hot drinks in the car do any good."

Permalink Eye

"This is true."

Permalink Eye

They're tasty. They pull up to a skyscraper and head inside and take the elevator up to - of course - a stunningly pretty penthouse.

Permalink Eye

"Do you have some sort of architecture compulsion as a species."

Permalink Eye

"Oh - yes, actually. If things aren't pretty enough we die."

Permalink Eye

"It usually doesn't come to that," another person says, walking in. "I don't think I've heard of anyone actually dying of insufficient pretty. Does make us miserable, though. Like grinding loud background noise."

Permalink Eye

"How pretty is sufficiently?"

Permalink Eye

"Nature's pretty enough. Human cities mostly aren't but unusually pretty human buildings are."

Permalink Eye

"What, arbitrary nature? Slugs? Bogs? Corpse flowers?"

Permalink Eye

"Well, no, but - if we're away from civilization we are very unlikely to be nagged by the prettiness thing, it really mostly only comes up in human cities."

Permalink Eye

"And human suburbs. Ewww. So what's the deal here, are you just along because magic is exciting - did Curvo mention we're the bad guys -"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, not in those words. The badly worded oath thing sounds ugly and I'm very glad it didn't turn out you had to try to kidnap me though."

Permalink Eye

"Us too. We, uh, weren't expecting the formerly-human thing."

Permalink Eye

"...would that have made a difference in your interest in kidnapping me?"

Permalink Eye

" - yes? We were assuming the average daeva was thirty thousand years old like we were and would be annoyed but not meaningfully - impacted - by being stuck for a hundred years until we came up with something better. You're in your twenties."

Permalink Eye

"Ah. Uh, even the naturally occurring daeva are mostly not that old, you could have gotten somebody who appeared a week ago and was taking a summon because it's easier than learning a first language the long way."

Permalink Eye

They both wince. "That's good to know."

Permalink Eye

"Also I think the really old daeva take summons less often, there may be an uptick now that they're easier to get but it does kind of require arranging your life so you can drop everything for indeterminate amounts of time on short notice."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "I couldn't - what if you got trapped -"

Permalink Eye

"Well, I wouldn't die of it. Were you going to keep me in the circle or did I have a wider radius? And would I have found this out before I took my phone calls?"

Permalink Eye

"No, we had it set up so you could go a hundred miles any direction, but the castle's in the middle of nowhere. And yes."

Permalink Eye

"It'd depend on exact wording - I did not actually read the binding, since everything was perfectly friendly - but if I didn't take my phone calls that might have counted as you failing to pay me and that would've shredded my binding and I could have just flipped you off and gone to see my parents the long way."

Permalink Eye

"I mean, as long as you weren't making Silmarils that'd be pretty much an acceptable outcome."

Permalink Eye

"But how would you know I wasn't dropping them everywhere? I guess you could have summoned another demon for forensics..."

Permalink Eye

"Uh, no. We'd follow you."

Permalink Eye

"...I can fly. Well, not right now, I wanted to go out in public without having to wear a snazzy leather coat everywhere, but at the time, I could fly."

Permalink Eye

"One of my brothers went in on the fading thing and is now mostly immaterial and can hoverboard."

Permalink Eye

"...being immaterial does not fully explain the, uh, hoverboard -"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, it just turns out that hoverboard is an easy engineering challenge once you only weigh twenty pounds."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Does it actually go fast enough to chase me across a continent at fifty miles an hour?"

Permalink Eye

"I think it gets up to faster than fifty. Elves need to sleep once a week or so, though."

Permalink Eye

"I do not miss needing to sleep at all. I had to develop a taste for coffee though."

Permalink Eye

"Tea won't do it?"

Permalink Eye

"I experimented with tea but coffee's easier to jazz up with add-ins, I eased my way into it with mochas. I also tried caffeine pills but the thing where I can nope a drug reaction is all or nothing and I really hate having taken too much to the point where I didn't want to futz around with figuring out my dose, coffee I can just keep drinking it till I'm done."

Permalink Eye

"Are there, like, guides to all this in Hell?"

Permalink Eye

"To - what, coffee beverages?"

Permalink Eye

"Stuff you can do, the fact that caffeine fixes tiredness, is there something similar for fatigue from exertion..."

Permalink Eye

"Exertion fatigue just heals. Caffeine I knew before I died, a fairy wanted Starbucks."

Permalink Eye

"How long were you summoning before Revelation -"

Permalink Eye

"Couple years. I knew I wanted to do it but I wanted anonymity and simultaneity and believability, needed to abridge and annotate the book and learn more about daeva."

Permalink Eye

"Do you know why no one ever -"

Permalink Eye

"...beat me to it? The number of summoners was tiny and it would have probably been prohibitively difficult to publicize worldwide in times of lower literacy rates. Plus it just got a lot harder to monopolize commodities markets by secretly trading demons the URLs of obscure fanfiction sites."

Permalink Eye

"Now that you're indestructible do you plan to go public about having done it?"

Permalink Eye

"I guess I could, but I'm not sure why I would?"

Permalink Eye

"Fifteen minutes of fame and a platform?" 

Permalink Eye

"Maybe if I think of a really good use of a platform that I definitely want to spend my fifteen minutes on."

Permalink Eye

"Makes sense. So, we are currently retrieving all the Silmarils and once we've done that and we know how much magic they restore, we'll have a more detailed plan on where to go from there. Also now that it's possible to get to Valinor we might want to try to sneak a note in or something."

Permalink Eye

"It is not technically impossible that given information about where it is even for a frankly bizarre definition of 'where' I could appear notes directly above it to rain down on the population."

Permalink Eye

"That would be significantly less risky than trying to visit."

Permalink Eye

"I'd imagine. What do you even want to say? 'Come to Earth, we have tacos'?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, probably I'd write it in an old military code that only a few trustworthy people know, tell them how to do summoning and get out."

Permalink Eye

"You think summoning would work normally there?"

Permalink Eye

"I bet the Valar could break it but it might work until they did, and they're a little slow-moving."

Permalink Eye

"Would this get out everyone who needs out?"

Permalink Eye

"Probably not. There are lots of people who need out who wouldn't trust us. But I can't think of a better option."

Permalink Eye

"What's the advantage of the military code thing anyway if you're betting on the Valar being too slow to react?"

Permalink Eye

"Some people'd read it and take it to the Valar; the code would only be readable by people who wouldn't do that."

Permalink Eye

"So they'd be slow to react to things that were mysterious but would react faster if they knew what the thing said?"

Permalink Eye

"Mystery notes aren't worth reacting to, tons of petitioners on your mountain going 'are we allowed to do this? is it safe?' are hard not to react to. If it's a select few they definitely won't do anything until the first daeva actually appear, which lets those people make plans first."

Permalink Eye

"You could screen some individual demon, give instructions on how to summon them, and have two-way correspondence."

Permalink Eye

"That'd help. Know anyone?"

Permalink Eye

"I know demons who I would trust not to hurt anybody and who'd do the correspondence gig but if you were hoping to keep the existence of Valinor secret or something then no."

Permalink Eye

"I can't think of a single reason I'd want to keep Valinor secret."

Permalink Eye

"Eru."

Permalink Eye

" - okay, yes, it is slightly possible that ruining the quiet loss of Valinor from the world would upset Eru. But it's honestly hard to predict what upsets Eru, and he seems to like plot, so it's also possible not doing that would upset him. And he hasn't intervened in twenty-eight thousand years."

Permalink Eye

"I can write some people in Hell, then, might take a while for them to decide to check their mail if they're busy though."

Permalink Eye

"Elves are notoriously never in a hurry."

Permalink Eye

"That explains why you thought it might mildly irk someone to be stuck for a hundred years while you thought of something better. I don't think that's just a factor of age."

Permalink Eye

"We figured we'd discover whether it was an innate difference or an age thing once we figured out how to make humans immortal, but I guess if they are immortal after all you're positioned to say."

Permalink Eye

"Well, I've never been to Limbo and Limbo is annoying to be in for unrelated reasons."

Permalink Eye

"Can probably cure aging with the Silmarils, at least eventually."

Permalink Eye

"Nice. I'm sure some people would rather be in Limbo with their previously deceased loved ones but it's not very nice by itself. Unless your number one priority is never having bugs in your kitchen, or something."

Permalink Eye

"What's wrong with it?"

Permalink Eye

"Limbo is an infinite flat plane of nutrient-bare dirt with a day cycle, and air. That's... it. When people die, they get one thing, not a person or anything like 'Internet access' that implicitly requires people but maybe their favorite dog or a popcorn machine or something, something they'd like to have at least if they were asked without knowing what Limbo's like. The things are indestructible in almost the way daeva and Limboites are, so the popcorn machine will continue supplying popcorn at a normal popcorn machine rate forever, but this is not a recipe for a wide variety of consumer goods or people having any privacy or anything like that. As of a few hundred years ago someone's thing was an ocean, so now they can do saltwater irrigation and make mud bricks, but..."

Permalink Eye

" - wow. That seems - poorly planned."

Permalink Eye

"It is not how I would design an afterlife."

Permalink Eye

"Better than the Halls of Mandos but that's really not saying much."

Permalink Eye

"What are the Halls like besides short on popcorn?" Cam makes some popcorn, eats a handful.

Permalink Eye

"Being disembodied is - trying to focus on motion or follow things that are happening in the incarnate world is really really hard. The Halls are just - big, and empty, and neutral, so they're not exhausting to focus on, but they also have no particular features. You can interact with other disembodied people but it's painfully intimate and you can't quite do words. So you just - exist."

Permalink Eye

"...painfully intimate?"

Permalink Eye

"You can't just say hello, you just kind of - blur into them a little bit, they get more than you intended..."

Permalink Eye

"Eugh."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, Limbo is nicer and gets better whenever new people and stuff appear. Plus they get care packages from daeva."

Permalink Eye

"Awww. Demons probably send the best care packages."

Permalink Eye

"We do, but we can't do it at arbitrary times, so the angels and fairies chip in."

Permalink Eye

"When can you do it?"

Permalink Eye

"There's things called concordances where specified parts of two daeva realms, or one daeva realm and Limbo, overlap. They come on a regular schedule and there's trade during all of them except Hell/Heaven, during which there is instead a tiny stupid war."

Permalink Eye

" - why -"

Permalink Eye

"Racism! And probably lack of trade incentives or something. We can trade with Heaven through Fairyland."

Permalink Eye

"What do demons trade?"

Permalink Eye

"We don't need to be physically sent stuff - well, animals, but that's a narrow enough use case that all our concordance trains are outgoing. But we commission art and stuff."

Permalink Eye

"Elves would be really good at paying demons if the Valar didn't disable summoning. But I bet they will. They really really hate risk."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah if you let people take risks you might wind up with an evil god on the loose or something."

Permalink Eye

"One of their justifications for not paroling us for thirty thousand years was 'paroling Melkor went really badly!' Which - I mean, they rarely learn from their mistakes, so in a way it was commendable?"

Permalink Eye

"...wait, they paroled him? I was joking."

Permalink Eye

"They paroled him."

Permalink Eye

"The fuck."

Permalink Eye

"Yuuup. They also didn't tell us the details of his crimes in the first place, so no one knew if the parole was for some hidden good reasons or just sheer incompetence."

Permalink Eye

"Who put these people in ch- no, don't answer that."

Permalink Eye

"I bet you can put it together. Anyway, one of the crimes for which we are currently paroled is rebelling against the just authority of the gods, and that one I don't regret in the slightest."

Permalink Eye

"Fuck the authority of the gods, frankly."

Permalink Eye

"Manwë was giving us a lecture on disobedience while we were trying to find our way out of Valinor, and he said 'I am the lord of all of Arda' - so, like, we wouldn't escape his jurisdiction by going anywhere else. And then we watched man walk on the Moon and thought 'okay, lord of all of Arda, we're out."

Permalink Eye

"Arda doesn't include the moon?"

Permalink Eye

"Arda includes the moon. Arda doesn't include Alpha Centauri."

Permalink Eye

"Gotcha."

Permalink Eye

"And it looks like one of the biggest challenges, a spaceship big enough Elves won't feel imprisoned on it, is now tractable."

Permalink Eye

"...right, that hadn't occurred to me as an implication but I guess your standard issue rockets are kinda cramped."

Permalink Eye

"Wouldn't work at all, not for that length of a trip. Now - rockets, who needs rockets..."

Permalink Eye

"I did not test this myself but I have heard that somebody got a fairy to take them into space and tried summoning there, did not work - Lunar gravity's enough, floating in space is not - so unless the hoverboard decomposes into an artificial gravity solution you won't be able to replace daeva who bail on you mid-trip, or summon one for course corrections or decel if you just get a fairy to fling you real hard in the right direction."

Permalink Eye

"In that case we will probably just get a fairy to fling us in the right direction and then have rockets for decel on entry, you've said daeva consider a century a really long time so it doesn't sound like any'll want to come along. Daeva also half-solve the population problem."

Permalink Eye

"Half? I suppose if you want a reproducing population, yes."

Permalink Eye

"We'd planned on one. It's not an essential element, but new people seem important to lots of things about how societies function. Elves don't have children in wartime so you can really measure the effect on - social shifts, liberalism, new ideas, all that stuff."

Permalink Eye

"Seems like wartime might be a confounding factor."

Permalink Eye

"Didn't affect every place the same - we were on the front lines but not everyone was. But yes."

Permalink Eye

"Who do you expect to vacate Valinor on your say-so?"

Permalink Eye

"Not sure. Depends a lot on conditions there and we don't have a way to check that."

Permalink Eye

"It's possible things like the material replacement trick could let us spy on them."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "I could hazard some guesses and Matthew could hazard some better guesses but people change a fair bit over thirty thousand years."

Permalink Eye

"I suppose it would be creepy if they didn't."

Permalink Eye

"Do daeva?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, they drift between hobbies and pick up traits from people they meet? I obviously haven't known any of them for thousands of years on a personal level."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"Do you, like, have in mind a role in project Alpha-Centauri-or-maybe-farther, Cam, or are you mostly just curious -"

Permalink Eye

"Demonic assistance and prophecy-immune consultation? I haven't designed the business cards."

Permalink Eye

"And what do you want? We're mostly doing it out of spite but you have less to be spiteful about."

Permalink Eye

"Uh, space colonies are awesome?"

Permalink Eye

He laughs. "I like him, Curvo."

Permalink Eye

"Me too. Okay. We're getting the one in North Dakota first, it was easiest to buy the land rights."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, it's hard to imagine owners of random bits of North Dakota jealously guarding it."

Permalink Eye

"They wanted a lot of money. I have a lot of money. We're planning to have an angel dig it up."

Permalink Eye

"Angels won't want money but I can pay one for you."

Permalink Eye

"That would be useful. What will angels want -"

Permalink Eye

"Media, things too complicated to transmute, maybe plants or animals."

Permalink Eye

"We can do those. I'm probably flying out there night after tomorrow, if that works for you."

Permalink Eye

"I have nothing else scheduled. Are you getting me a plane ticket?"

Permalink Eye

"For sure, unless you're going to set off the x-ray machines or something."

Permalink Eye

"I shouldn't, no. I'd pass a patdown, anyway, the wings came off entire."

Permalink Eye

"Do you get wings when you wake up in Hell or did you add 'em?"

Permalink Eye

"Naturally occurings come with 'em, I picked mine out of a catalog."

Permalink Eye

"And then you can just cut them off?"

Permalink Eye

"Made them without nerves in the joints. In case I got sick of them. Or this happened."

Permalink Eye

Two plane tickets to Fargo are booked! Aricin goes back to school.

Permalink Eye

The economy has not totally figured out how to deal with demons existing yet but people are now pretty strict about signatures to go with credit card payments. Signatures that they actually watch you write out. Can Cam crash here or get money for a hotel, or should he go hang out in a 24-hour someplaceorother?

Permalink Eye

Cam is entirely welcome to crash here; there's even a bed if he happens to want it. 

Permalink Eye

"I'll stay up all night reading miscellaneous Thindarin stuff, probably, but might as well be warm while I do it."

Permalink Eye

"I wonder why that comes through but not Quenya."

Permalink Eye

"I dunno, is Quenya inherently magical?"

Permalink Eye

"No. At least, I really doubt it - I could check -" he writes something on a napkin. "Can you get that?"

Permalink Eye

"- yep."

Permalink Eye

"So the language isn't magic - the paper might be?"

Permalink Eye

"Why would the paper be magic?"

Permalink Eye

"In Valinor things don't deteriorate. Well, unless they're supposed to, effectively. You could leave out a sandwich for a decade and it'd be fresh and tasty. When we left Valinor decay was a nasty surprise. We came up with songs for it - magic songs, I mean - sing them while producing the paper and it'd last a lot longer -"

Permalink Eye

"...huh. Can you get that song to work if I make some paper, see if that obstructs me?"

Permalink Eye

"I can try - magic songs are so hard to get anything out of these days -"

 

And he starts singing. It's a complicated intricate melody with some serious range, and he looks annoyed. 

Permalink Eye

Piece of paper...

Permalink Eye

Is a normal piece of paper.

Permalink Eye

"That probably doesn't count as paper manufacture, because it's instantaneous?"

Permalink Eye

"I can make it more piecemeal..." Paper a little at a time.

Permalink Eye

"Think that might have taken? It felt closer."

Permalink Eye

"You can feel the results?" Cam writes test paper A on it and tries to copy it.

Permalink Eye

No go.

"You can write magic songs without a feedback mechanism but if it's boring routine work you usually write in a feedback mechanism, so people don't get careless and not even notice it's not working anymore."

Permalink Eye

"Well, it worked enough that I can't copy the paper now. Let's see if I can get fancy or something." Can he copy the text if he thinks very carefully about that and not about the paper it's on? He's format converting to post-it note anyway, right, totally different -

Permalink Eye

Yep that counts.

Permalink Eye

"Cool, I can get around the paper problem."

Permalink Eye

"Can you get all our old works that way? That'd be lovely."

Permalink Eye

"Sure, what format d'you want yours in?"

Permalink Eye

"USB drive?"

Permalink Eye

USB drive! He makes it in a pretty lapis lazuli casing.

Permalink Eye

That's thoughtful. "When he sacked Valinor and killed the King and ran for it Melkor destroyed our family library. There was plenty else to hate him for but - still. Nice to have it back."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, that sucks. I would've been really annoyed if I'd been an angel or a fairy and couldn't just remake all my notes after I died. Although I guess it would've been quicker to find a summoner who'd let me make phone calls."

Permalink Eye

"That was a hard sell?"

Permalink Eye

"Nobody let me try to sell it, all my previous summoners gagged me."

Permalink Eye

"Wow. - see, this is a thing that I find upsetting about people, the only acceptable response to holding the belief demons can steal your soul seriously enough to gag demons is coming up with a plan to save all the souls in Hell."

Permalink Eye

"Nobody tried using me as part of an attempt to do that, either."

Permalink Eye

"I am not at all surprised but I do find it upsetting that I'm not at all surprised. We were gonna trade you all kinds of powerful magic items for souls, if souls were really a problem."

Permalink Eye

"Why would you want someone who stole souls to have powerful magic items?"

Permalink Eye

"I would want them not to have souls. We wouldn't give out stuff that'd let someone slip a binding or whatever, though. Matthew used to have, like, necklaces that enhance your memory and attention and reflexes -"

Permalink Eye

"That would make it easier to find holes in a binding, or talk people into stupid trades. Like, I get not wanting evil demons to have people's souls but the priority should probably be preventing more from being collected, first."

Permalink Eye

"Elves didn't even think humans had souls."

Permalink Eye

"My sole evidence for anything of the kind existing is having woken up in Hell after I died and left a body."

Permalink Eye

"I mean, that's pretty decent evidence - I wonder if humans we knew from way back are in Limbo."

Permalink Eye

"I'm pretty sure I would have heard of all these lost civilizations if they had representatives in Limbo. At least in some mangled form. Like, there's Babylonians in there."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Also Eru wouldn't have wanted them to have, like, a nice afterlife - even an okay afterlife - disrupts the narrative -"

Permalink Eye

"What?"

Permalink Eye

"Eru. Is an asshole. And crafted lots of tragic love stories between Elves and mortals in which they either die together or are separated forever by the death of the mortal, it wouldn't be his style for the mortals to still be right there..."

Permalink Eye

"Right there but neither summonable nor visitable."

Permalink Eye

" - I guess could be his style."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

Sigh. He looks at spaceship models and sings, quietly; in the morning he makes pancakes.

Permalink Eye

Cam sticks his head out the door when he smells pancakes. "I would've made breakfast."

Permalink Eye

"Didn't want to interrupt you. You are welcome to preempt my pancakes."

Permalink Eye

"They smell great though."

Permalink Eye

"Modernity is great at food."

Permalink Eye

"Global economy yay."

Permalink Eye

"I am so excited about the global economy," he squeals like someone who is not thirty thousand years old.

Permalink Eye

...hee. "It's pretty great!"

Permalink Eye

"You have no idea. Valinor didn't have currency - gift economy - it worked in the sense that no one starved and that if you didn't care about speed you could eventually get most things which people were willing to produce in exchange for other things but it was so blindingly maddeningly inefficient and no one cared!!!! When we came to Endorë we met Dwarves and they were like 'that's dumb' and I was like 'you don't fucking say' - Dwarves were brilliant, by far the best people I've ever known -"

- and so on -

Permalink Eye

This is a fascinating monologue.

Permalink Eye

That's good because he seems very willing to keep at it for as long as Cam wants to hear about trade relations between long-dead primitive civilizations. 

Permalink Eye

Cam took econ on purpose, this is fun.

Permalink Eye

" - which was just a disguised tariff, if you think about it, but taxes to maintain the roads really were important so we came up with a different scheme for it," he concludes. "I really hope Dwarves are still alive somewhere."

Permalink Eye

"Well, I can try conjuring for recent works of theirs now I know to go for text specifically."

Permalink Eye

"Please!!!"

Permalink Eye

Works of Dwarven civilization this year?

Permalink Eye

Lots of them!!!

Permalink Eye

"There are totally still Dwarves!"

Permalink Eye

"Are there - do they have an afterlife, are there posthumous works of Dwarves -"

Permalink Eye

"- yep!"

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

...now Cam is holding a ball. "Planet!"

Permalink Eye

 

 

"The trade delegate from Tumunzahar I mentioned in that last story - I married her - we had children -"

Permalink Eye

...he puts down the planet and his hands are full of USB drives. "...three of them?"

Permalink Eye

...nod.

Permalink Eye

Cam hands him the drive. "Published works last hundred years wife and kids."

Permalink Eye

He breaks down crying.

Permalink Eye

"I can get you the rest I just didn't know how voluminous it'll be it's been a long time."

Permalink Eye

"Thirty-one thousand years," he whispers. "Where - where's the afterlife -"

Permalink Eye

The planet appears as a pinhead in glass surrounded by clear glass vacuum and -

Permalink Eye

Valinor, if he zooms out enough.

Permalink Eye

 

"...so it's in space as seen from Valinor, but - not far per se."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "I take back sixty percent of the nasty things I said about Aulë," he says hoarsely after a minute.

Permalink Eye

"Aulë being -?"

Permalink Eye

"Vala who designed the Dwarves. And that - place - presumably -"

Permalink Eye

"Seems like it'd follow."

Permalink Eye

"The other forty percent totally stand," he says after a moment. "Could've fought the Enemy himself or, like, taught us what to do." He puts the drives in his computer. "If you'll excuse me a bit -"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah of course."

Permalink Eye

Crying. Reading. The pancakes sizzle forlornly.

Permalink Eye

Cam rescues them. ...and eats them.

Permalink Eye

They taste fine. 

 

He'll kind of be at this a while.

Permalink Eye

Cam is fine to fend for himself until it's probably time to leave for the airport.

Permalink Eye

Yeah. He takes his laptop. He's called them a car.

Permalink Eye

"Lemme know if you need my spare battery," says Cam, who left the apartment with a backpack to pull objects from at need.

Permalink Eye

"Thanks."

Permalink Eye

"No problem."

Permalink Eye

Security at the airport totally fails to notice that the demon is a demon. They sit on the runway awhile; Caranthir asks for the spare battery. 

Permalink Eye

Here is the spare battery.

Permalink Eye

And here is Fargo, North Dakota.

Permalink Eye

"I was going to rent a car," he says distractedly.

Permalink Eye

"What a silly thing to do. ...Where did I park, do you think."

Permalink Eye

He laughs. He - "uh if you were an Elf I'd send you feeling utterly delighted, but you're not supposed to send humans emotions without warning them lest they get confused and think they're experiencing them -" 

- and then, warm relief and delight and amusement -

Permalink Eye

"...your telepathy thing isn't Elf-only?"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, no? I'm not reading you, I'm not an asshole, but it's everyone except Dwarves, that's what 'immunity to mind-affecting magic' - I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you -"

Permalink Eye

"It's fine, reading's what I was worried about, a little added color to your expressions of delight is fine, just, spooked."

Permalink Eye

"I think Matthew checked whether you were telling the truth about the souls thing. But - I realize it's a horrible thing to just be doing, I wouldn't."

Permalink Eye

"He - ugh."

Permalink Eye

"I'm sorry."

Permalink Eye

"If it won't happen again I can write it off."

Permalink Eye

"Won't." He clutches the USB drives.

Permalink Eye

 

"...So where is a good place to appear a car do you suppose."

Permalink Eye

"The parking lot a mile that way's mostly empty and no humans within human vision range."

Permalink Eye

"Cool. That is, uh, wow, do you just do telescopic or can you also see everybody's individual skin cells."

Permalink Eye

"Could do that, mostly don't because it makes people really unpretty."

Permalink Eye

"Ah yes, that thing."

Permalink Eye

"If there were a very pretty car in that parking lot we could head over to the Silmaril."

Permalink Eye

"I don't know enough about cars to design one that works, can you name a model or something."

Permalink Eye

He can name a car model. It's very sleek and pretty.

Permalink Eye

And Cam walks towards that parking lot till he can see it well enough to aim a car's existence at a space. Voilà, viridian green car.

Permalink Eye

It's also very fast. Off towards the Silmaril they go.

Permalink Eye

If he wants Cam to drive so he can read Cam can drive.

Permalink Eye

That would be great. 

Permalink Eye

So Cam gets directions and follows the speed limit except on very open highway.

Permalink Eye

The location of the ancient magic rock over which terrible wars were fought is muddy. There's one tree, off in the distance a bit. Caranthir finds the spot and paces. "I suppose there's nothing we're waiting for, is there -"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know if your brothers want to be here or anything."

Permalink Eye

"I mean, yes, but they also want it as soon as possible - how long'll it take an angel, do you think -"

Permalink Eye

"Not long. They can make themselves a ladder and go down at climbing pace. Or go a little slower to descend comfortably elevator style."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "We'll wait. May I have another battery -"

Permalink Eye

'Nother battery. Finer-grained forensics and a flag in the spot. ...Fried chicken. Chomp.

Permalink Eye

The next person to arrive isn't in a car; he's just running, at a sprint but as if he's been doing it a while. He and Caranthir do not acknowledge each other, or perhaps they did it telepathically as soon as they came within telepathy range. "Hi," he says to Cam.

Permalink Eye

"Hi, pleased to meet you, I'm Cam. I think it's customary to bring water when you run marathons can I get you anything."

Permalink Eye

"Water would be great."

Permalink Eye

Water!

Permalink Eye

He drinks. He looks around. He sits down next to his brother and leans into him; Caranthir leans back. "Tyelcormo. Uh, or Connor, these days."

Permalink Eye

"Which do you prefer?"

Permalink Eye

"I think all of us but Matthew prefer our real names. Possibly not Aricin but that's because he picks such self-indulgent aliases..."

Permalink Eye

"What's self-indulgent about it?"

Permalink Eye

"It's - I forget what language -"

"Swedish," Caranthir interjects absently -

"- yeah - for 'son of the King'. The succession was, uh, disputed. He is making a political point thirty-two thousand years out of date."

Permalink Eye

"Pfft."

Permalink Eye

"We were supposed to have unremarkable names. Matthew glared at him but not very much."

Permalink Eye

"Matthew's birth name is a political point about the succession."

Permalink Eye

"This is true. - did you get everybody's names when you got languages from Matthew or does it not work that way."

Permalink Eye

"I don't even have an identical vocabulary, let alone names."

Permalink Eye

"That makes sense, it'd probably be really weird to suddenly have three hundred thousand names -"

Permalink Eye

"Three hundred thousand?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, it's Matthew, he knows everyone he's every spoken to and he spent three thousand years running countries."

Permalink Eye

"D'you guys also have much better than human memories?"

Permalink Eye

"Not, like, 'will retain more of a book we just read', I don't think - we used to but humans used to be malnourished and shit - but we remember our lives fine no matter how long they are."

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"Including an avalanche of names, okay."

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"That's just Matthew."

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"I shall take your word for it."

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Another car, another Elf. Caranthir puts his laptop away. "All right, let's go."

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"Not waiting for the whole family? Okay." He makes most of a random angel circle. "Who wants to do the honors, and do you know how to do negotiations or should I?"

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"Matthew's got work and Curvo's got class and the twins are, like, transparent, and my father will derail everything for three weeks while he learns every language spoken in Heaven. We read up on how to do this properly but if your experience has been that even most people who think they can do it properly don't then I'll defer to that."

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"I had to flunk some people," Cam says. "Plus if you have the luxury it can be safer to have a nonsummoner do the talking so there isn't accidental agreement anyway." He lays out the circle.

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He finishes it.

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Angel! "Hi," she says, rustling green feathers, "what can I do for you?"

"Dig up buried treasure!" says Cam. "Under that flag a really excessive ways down is a shiny. While you're down we can get a demon to make whatever you want, give us a list?"

"You're sure of your demon?"

"Oh yeah, we have an arrangement."

"Uh, okay, complete discography of Freddie Mercury and a lotta little potted succulents with care tabs in the pots for resale?"

"Sounds good to me..." He nods at Caranthir.

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"Deal. Thank you."

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The angel goes over to the flag and starts "digging".

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"Is there any chance she could accidentally change the Silmaril -"

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"It doesn't look like a regular rock, right?"

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"Not at all."

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"Then it shouldn't be a problem."

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Elves wait nervously.

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By the time the angel has come up Cam has made a lot of trays of little potted succulents, assorted, colorful, and the complete discography of Freddie Mercury. She is holding a shiny.

"This is the shiniest fuckin' shiny!" she exclaims. "Is it too late to tell your demon I want one?"

"You just missed the window, sorry," says Cam.

"Drat. Well, here you go." She tosses it to him. He misses.

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The Elves all breathe in sharply at the sight of it but for some reason make no move to go pick it up. "Thank you," he says, and sends her home.

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"One down," says Cam. "Uh, is the idea to just leave it on the ground?"

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"The Valar, ah, blessed the Silmarils to repel evil. They'll burn through our hands if we touch them. If you could do gloves or something -"

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"...evil?"

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" - yes?"

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"Defined how? Should I be having second thoughts about contributing to this project?"

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"Defined by the Valar, we don't have the exact parameters. I guess we could go hand them around to people and try to get a feel for it? The project is not secretly evil in any way unless one regards rebellion against the gods as inherently so."

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"Not particularly, no, especially not if they're as unfit to be gods as they sound." Pause. Sigh. Gloves for all.

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He picks it up, cradles it. 

 

They all start singing. 

 

Macalaure is really really fantastic at singing.

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Holy shit. Cam sits down and listens.

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After a while he raises his arms and starts singing the rock into a castle. Cam could do it instantly, a fairy could do it much faster, but it's still kind of cool to watch, and he looks utterly gleeful about it.

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Very neat. Cam doesn't interrupt.

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The song is pretty in addition to assembling castles. It takes most of the night; the Silmaril adjusts its radiance for the sunset and then for the darkness. Tyelcormo doesn't stop cradling it; neither of his brothers ask for it. 

 

The castle would look pretty cool even if it didn't have a magic lighting system seemingly designed to bring out all the best angles on it.

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Cam drinks coffee and eventually makes a chair and watches the show. He claps when it's over.

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"Thank you. That was testing how much we got back, if you were wondering. Artifacts'd be slower to test. We should take it to my father now. He's trying to find a workaround for being unable to touch them."

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"Would touching them be more useful or just less inconvenient?"

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"More useful for some of the detail work he wants to do with them. The - restoring what faded - they seem to be doing already at full force."

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"So the days of hoverboarding are over?"

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"We'll have to see! Maybe Telvo'll just get the ability to decide how physically instantiated he is at will, that'd be convenient."

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"Sounds it!"

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"You wouldn't happen to know how to fly a plane?"

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"Fraid not."

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"Then it's about fourteen hours' drive from here to Canada."

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"All right, everybody in the car, I guess. Anybody wanna drive or shall I?"

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"I don't know how, Moryo's all distracted, and Cáno is legally dead right now so it's all yours."

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"Condolences," Cam says to the legally deceased, and he gets behind the wheel.

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"He's also legally dead," Macalaurë points out, getting in the car. 

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"I imagine you'd have to cycle identities a lot and the dead ones would have more freedom of movement, yes. Are you guys providing the role of car tunes or should I put something on?"

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"I'll sing."

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"If you ever want to really annoy him you can put on imperfectly recorded music."

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"I asked my father to invent higher-fidelity recordings but he thought immortality was more urgent. - to be clear I'm not just obsessed with music at the expense of human lives, there's a genuine tradeoff, because I could probably do a song for immortality and broadcast it if the technology were good enough -"

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"Well, immortality is less urgent than previously expected but Limbo's still a bummer."

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"Also no one knows about it, I don't think. Is there a reason the daeva don't say -"

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"Demons it's because people don't let us talk. I think lots of people may just not actually know, concordances are sort of a niche interest and Limbo doesn't send things out."

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"And if the thing that happened to you is pretty much unheard of there aren't many people who'd even know what humans do and don't know..."

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"Eh, demons are obsessive curators, but we're also the ones nobody lets talk."

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"Seems kind of suboptimal, that, is it a good idea to ask Matthew to change peoples' minds on it -"

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"I'm hoping it'll fall out of fashion on its own but if he has an angle maybe."

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"I do not know of an angle that he has but in general asking him for things like that is a fairly reliable way to make them happen."

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"Anything in his track record I'd have heard of?"

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"We were not involved in human affairs early enough to claim any credit for ending slavery or anything, no."

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"Pity, I'd have been real impressed."

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"And maybe the magic rocks'd get over themselves."

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"They work by net effect?"

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"We don't know. I doubt it - I think we're probably still in the black, if they did, all of us, for the five hundred years of peace - but that doesn't mean there are no actions which are in principle sufficiently redemptive."

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"Well, you didn't actually try poking it."

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"I have in the past held them and they burned me."

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"Ah."

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He sings the rest of the way.

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It's gorgeous. Cam will distribute car food to anyone who wants and drive straight through, pausing only once to identify the location of the gas tank.

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Elves will have food. 

Their place in Canada is a stunning ancient castle.

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"It's going to get redundant if I just keep remarking on how pretty all your belongings are."

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"Moryo built this when we first got released. We mostly didn't remember how to - exist -"

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"...yeah."

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"Really wish we'd gotten it together faster, but - it'd been such a long time - breathing was painful -"

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"This seems like... not a logically necessary side effect..."

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"I don't think Mandos is very good at his job."

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"I get that impression."

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"He's in good company. Melkor was by far the most competent Vala and the thing he decided to be competent at was torture."

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"Interesting priority."

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"I regrettably never had the chance to ask him why. Maybe Matthew did."

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"I think I might not ask him. Is this where he summoned me?"

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"Yes. We had a room retrofitted to be not obviously the work of ancient aliens."

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"Wouldn't've stopped me if I'd thought to conjure up the whole place."

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"I mean, someone sufficiently curious was hard to stop from getting to 'ancient aliens' and had no real avenue to get farther than that, or so we thought assuming you would, like, be back in Hell."

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"I mean, asking you things is faster but not necessarily the only way I could've learned things."

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"Oh?" 

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"I can do stuff-at-times, might've figured out how to get around stuff being magic on my own, I could've just read a lot of Thindarin..."

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"I bet we're mentioned in some Thindarin history books. Probably not very kindly."

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"I'd expect so."

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"if you have questions about things you can ask anyone except Matthew, don't bring it up with him unless actually necessary."

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"Noted."

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They go inside. The architecture is of course astonishing; a man who looks a great deal like Aricin rushes up to his sons, takes the Silmaril barehanded despite the sizzling sound that results, sets it on his lap and asks Cam "so what languages do they speak in Hell?"

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"Do you want gloves!"

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"It'll heal," he says distractedly. "I died of burns, first time round, they were much worse than I'd get even if I dropped it down my robes -"

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"Do you maybe want gloves anyway!"

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"Well apparently it's distracting from the languages so yes!"

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Gloves. "There are some human languages spoken, more in recent years, but where I landed the usual language is Lagalann and I'm like almost fluent in it now but I'm told my accent is awful."

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"Tyelcormo can summon me people to practice, if we're not worried about ensuring daeva don't find out about us. Do daeva start out as adults not knowing any languages - that sounds hard -"

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"They do, yeah, if they're not ex humans, and it does seem hard - most demon languages seem like they'd be relatively easy to teach someone primarily by demo, simple grammar and so on."

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"Oooooooohh. - sorry, the only thing more interesting than new languages is new languages with different constraints on their development - what is Hell like -"

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"Tacky!"

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"Elves would not be happy demons!"

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"Elf demons could go off somewhere and make pretty castles, but population centers bear the burden of a lot of conflicting design aesthetics held by people who can make whatever they want as soon as they think of it."

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"Say that in Lagalann."

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"...hang on, I need a dictionary to say things that complicated -" He gets a dictionary and looks up enough words to triangulate 'aesthetics', then says it.

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He echoes him delightedly. "Elf castles could go off somewhere and make pretty demons? Elf population centers could make whatever they want as soon as they think of it?"

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"...what do you want me to do with these sentences?"

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"Correct the syntax, if it's bad."

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"The syntax is fine."

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"You don't need to worry about my logic. The castles made by people who can make whatever they want? The people can make whatever they want? The Elves can make people?"

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"First one is an incomplete sentence. I think. Sometimes people who are better at Lagalann than me speak in incomplete sentences but I get laughed at if I try."

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"Say that in Lagalann?"

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He does.

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And he starts delightedly playing with the words, occasionally petting his Silmaril with a gloved hand.

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Cam wonders vaguely if it's soft or something. He continues correcting syntax and supplying vocabulary. He can teach him the alphabet too.

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He'd like that! "I invented Quenya's alphabet."

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"I heard you invented writing outright, which is very impressive."

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"Well, someone had to. The Valar had lots of genuinely useful advanced science and math for us but they didn't have writing and didn't see the need, I think their memories are perfect? And they can all talk to each other instantaneously."

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"I imagine that would obviate most of the usefulness, yes."

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He has more language questions!

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Cam can answer most of them. If he speaks English he can have Cam's language learning notes?

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He speaks English! He's been picking up one Earth language a year since the Internet was developed, it's so useful not having to travel for them.

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How in the world do they have internet out here.

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Does he want to see the setup it took Fëanáro ages. 

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"I don't think I have the engineering background to appreciate it. Elaborate DIY is about the level of complexity I was looking for."

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"Then yes, that."

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Anyway here are Cam's notes on Lagalann, exquisitely tidy and well-organized if a bit limited in intended audience.

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He is appreciative! "There're guest rooms," he says, waving distractedly, "and the computers have tengwar keyboards but you can fix that if you want to access the internet and write in English."

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"I do like the Internet."

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"It's such a good idea," he agrees, and switches to Lagalann - "it's emphasis a good concept?"

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Cam corrects him.

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And eventually he wants to get back to work. "I need the other two," he calls at his children as he leaves. They smile at him fondly.

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"The other two Silmarils?"

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"Yeah, lots of the stuff you can do with them you need all three for."

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"Just clarifying, could have been something else."

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"Do you need anything? Besides internet?"

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"Internet should do me!"

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He has internet! If he wants to check how evil the people who want to found a space colony and become gods are, he will not be interrupted.

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