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World #291 has scattered archipelagos with lovely white sand and winged, clawed humanoids who hatch on the beaches in springtime. The locals haven't invented writing yet; they've got stone tools, which they use to pry clams off the beach. Volcanic island topsoil is not especially suited to agriculture and they have not invented it. As usual it takes a few hours of asking to get a complete account of the magic system: you can sacrifice knowledge in singing rituals to marginally alter your flight speed or the weather. Their language is entirely lyrical.

<What if you sacrifice a lot of knowledge, can you do more than that?> he asks, and is told you can't sacrifice more knowledge than you can sing about. If you sing really fast you could get a larger small rainstorm? 

They drop a Charp and an auditorium somewhere nestled into the hillside of every populated island. The auditoriums are spacious and simple and elegant to the Elven eye (Matirin finds them too stone-y). The Charp can teach flat Arda healing and literacy and mathematics and germ theory and engineering and agriculture and give these people a shot even though there are too many worlds to give them all individual attention.

World #292 just had a nuclear war. Fuck. He puts out an advisory. He verifies there's no local magic. Space volunteers to find some angels and come up with some excuse for not summoning them on-site and send them out (in a lightleaper, that'll invisibly leap dimensions a couple times) to help with healing and radiation and clouds of debris. 

Demons too, he says, they're starving and we might as well put entirely new infrastructure down -

- and touch-heals until the daeva arrive, and then heads out because the daeva are not supposed to know about blue centaur aliens. 

World #293 is ice-bound and the sapients are cephalopods who live well underwater. Charps will rust, so he pops back to #292 and has Cam laminate them. He has no idea how to adapt the 'auditorium' concept to underwater, so he drops them off swimming and starts running the standard set of tests.

World 291 has too invented writing.



There is an extra angel on this planet now.

She finds herself staring at a very large stretch of land that looks like it was rather recently on fire. There are other winged people flying around; if you look closely, the ash is turning to air. If she'd landed here a few hours ago this place would have been dangerous. 

A winged person lands near her, does not spare her a second glance, wrinkles her forehead at the ground. It stops looking scorched, starts looking like ordinary soil.



Tirehbel gets in the air and attempts subtle recon. And chews her claws down to size.

About a dozen flying winged people, spread out over several miles - there might be more of them beyond her vision. Some of them appear to be turning the poisoned air and ground into clean air and ground; some of them appear to be making strange things made out of lots of walls which are touching each other, or laying down new kinds of ground on top of the ground.

She tries to do that and, unsurprisingly, can't. She can look busy, though.

No one notices. They creep slowly forward across the scorched parts of the land. At one point someone peels off from the group and flies off to go ask a question of a not-winged person on the ground. Then they come back and continue raising weird walls everywhere. 

(The latest Arda healing songs can handle radiation poisoning. They put speakers every few yards on the street and once there's a power plant set them to blaring the best healing song yet composed. It is now technically safe for locals to return home, not that the locals are trusting them on that.)

When all the scorched ground has been unscorched and all the poisoned air unpoisoned the winged people start flying all in the same direction.

Yep, all of them!

"Thanks so much," says the nonwinged person on the ground, in a language that she probably does not speak. "I can dismiss you from here or it's a five-day trip to Endorë."

"I'll go home," someone says, and nonwinged frowns at him until he abruptly vanishes.

Most of them aren't saying anything though, so she doesn't either, lest this nonwinged person make her disappear.

"I'll travel back to Ambaróna but not with the demons."

"Can I get a summons back here - you have my name -"

"Can we meet the aliens - I mostly did this for the aliens and we haven't even seen them -"

"Look like this, see -" and now this person is holding up a little model of some bizarre alien, made in some material she's never seen before -

"I asked to meet them, not to gawk at them -"

"We won't even speak the language -"

"Why haven't the aliens summoned anyone -"

"We don't think they knew about it," the nonwinged person says, "we'll teach them but possibly only after we determine what led to the nuclear war and if the lesson's been thoroughly learned -"

"Can I take a cutting of one of the local plants -"

Someone makes that person one. She glares at him. "A real one, not a demonic one -"

" - it's the same fucking thing -"

...partway through this, some writing on the little sheaf of tree bark tucked under the extra angel's arm vanishes. She still does not find it expedient to say anything.

The nonwinged person is still smiling, but a little tiredly. "We have two lightleapers, no one need travel with companions they find objectionable. I'm going with the demons so if I'm your summoner you can write me if you want to be dismissed in the next five days, Luinil's going with the angels and I don't think summoned any demons. We do appreciate your help -" and a careless handwave, and two things like floating shiny oddly symmetric icebergs drop out of the sky, and people, still grumbling, head off towards one or the other.

Tireh goes with the group that includes demons.

Someone seems to debate saying something rude and then gets over it. The interior of the shiny iceberg is pretty, tasteful and elegant and evidently made to the same design sensibilities as the auditorium dropped on her island in #291 a few months ago.

 

The floor shakes. 

An announcement warns everyone to be strapped in for takeoff. Most of the people ignore this entirely. The person she's following flops on a couch and makes himself a brightly colored drink.

...she copies the person who doesn't ignore the warning, straps in.

The floor shakes more. The people who aren't strapped in slide abruptly against the nearest wall. There's a sense of being pulled very sharply sideways. Then it stops. 

 

The person with the brightly colored drink drinks it. 



She writes on her sheaf of tree bark.

This gets a raised eyebrow. "Do you want, like, a computer?"

"- oh, no thank you."

He rolls his eyes, makes a metal stick-thing, and immerses himself in the little lights that it projects. The other strapped-in person unstraps and says disappointedly "I really did want to meet the aliens. Told them I'd do it for free."

"Yeah," someone else says, stretching their wings. "Though less 'wanted to meet the aliens', more, like, 'a nuclear war, fuck - they're so fragile - and the dead ones just - gone -"

"Their own fault, though."

"Dunno."

"How many made it -"

Someone makes lots of tiny alien figurines rain to the ground - "Plenty, looks like - that's just ones who've moved back into their pretty fixed-up cities already - angel, will you poof 'em, there's a disposal chute but it'd be a hassle to pick them all up -"

Write write pretending not to be aware he's addressing her.

"Angel! There was a whole ship for 'I'm too good to talk to you' featherbutts."

"- sorry, I'm distracted, it's all the death -"

Shrug. "I should've made them metal or something so I could get 'em with a magnet."

"I always do ice," someone else offers. 

Looking very convincingly sad about all the death. Writing writing.

And not poofing the little figurines which would take her like half a second. He rolls his eyes and pulls out a computer of his own. "Anyone got recs on alien music -"

"Yeah, I signed on for that - before the nuclear war they had a weekly top ten list called Lexisstarble, you can pull them from that and the date - war was f162-185, last publication c162-185 -"


Now everyone is looking at little lights.

She can cope with this guy not being her best friend; she isn't sure how much it'd take to disappear the figurines.

He thinks she's pretty self-absorbed but, then, angel. Definitely no point in asking if she'll change the coloring on his wings.

 

(The ship is teleported back over to Space).



It turns out to be very convenient for her that the demons think nothing of offering an angel lunch, over the next five days.

And then they land! Four people have long-term residency here - "though next long summons I think I will just suggest they dismiss me and resummon me there, save the travel time -"

"Hey, it's billable -"

"I did that once and it took them a week to get their act together and grab me back, I'd rather kill time on a project than in Hell -"

"I don't know that I would, I haven't been there in a while -"

- and a few more people are being paid in events here - "I wanted to meet Macalaurë -"

"Said they'd summon a friend who's a fairy -"

"There's a show I want to see live -"

"I just like going to elementary schools and making them toys and shit -"

And they all scatter.

She scatters too.

Lurks. Listens. Writes.

Information is very easily acquired here! Food, less so, at least not as easily as it was acquired on the spaceship. The wings don't raise eyebrows. Chewing the claws down was a good idea.

There are more people on the street at any time than the population of her whole world. Elves, tall and always with hair braided and ears pointy and usually singing; humans, shorter and occasionally winged (and, when winged, called demons or angels or fairies), orcs, with sort of squashed faces and bizarre skin pigmentation and no hair, Dwarves, child-sized and very very hairy indeed (they, too, are occasionally winged and when winged identified as demons or angels or fairies). 

Eventually she finds a library. A sign in the window advertises free classes in summoning, electrical engineering, and functional programming. 

She has a very good 'why are you talking to me' face, but when she doesn't see somebody approaching she says the claws are for feather-grooming.

Gosh golly, free classes in things. She copies some library contents onto her sheaf and that's enough to get her through a class on summoning if it doesn't take too terribly long.

The teacher of the class on summoning seems confused that she is taking it. 

"I'm just weird. Is it okay?"

"I mean, you know you can't do it, right? You're welcome to learn anything you'd like."

"I understand."

Summoning! Here's how it works, here's how to do it safely -

 

- a student interrupts to ask about the demon that destroyed Valinor, were they bound -

"No, that was an unbound demon - most unbound demons won't destroy an entire world, though, I think it's unhealthy to focus too much on extreme circumstances -"

She avoids completing any worked examples and listens more than she talks and writes and writes and never seems to run out of paper.

On one occasion it looks like she changes a sheet blank! That's one way to not run out of paper. The class concludes and the teacher distributes links to further information.

Yay, further information.



She has to fly a ways away to get out of everyone's sight to summon a neatly bound demon.

And then she has a demon. ...who is confused to have been summoned by someone who looks like an angel! "...summoner?" he says suspiciously.

"Hi. I have some information I am pretty sure no daeva know about, and I've never written it, either, but I need a pretty open-ended deal."

...the language is unfamiliar, too. "Go on."

She's been living sort of rough and needs stuff to address that - mercifully people assume that if an angel looks disheveled and like they haven't eaten much in a few days this is because the angel is going for some kind of homeless-chic look - and a detailed forensic conjuration that might take a while to complete - and she will pay up when she knows what she needs to know. She has a list.

"Food I'll do, clothes I'll do, spying on people - eh, maybe? Can I see the list?"

"I didn't write it down, it involves the secret I want to pay with."

Raised eyebrow. 

"Where're you from?"

"Do we have a deal or not?"

"The way you phrased your secret it could be 'the name of my cat as a kid'. The language is new. We might have a deal. But I want more up front."

"It's not trivial like that."

"Food and clothes and you tell me where you got the wings, spy stuff stays a maybe until then."



"That and all the other non-spying materials for where I got my wings."

"Deal. What d'you want - and where -"

This she did write down and she wants it over there.

Food! Clothes! Non-chiplocked computer, paper, soap and so forth!

"I've had wings my whole life."

"And you're not an angel. So you're, like, a winged person? ...from that planet that had a nuclear war? No, I saw a picture, those weren't winged -"

"You wanted to know where my wings were from and now you do. You want the rest?"

"Yep. Still not super interested in spying on people, not if it's, like, personal stuff -"

"I can't guarantee I won't run into anything personal but it's not what I'm actually interested in."

"All right, deal."

The demon can probably piece together most of the secret over the course of the forensic conjuration.

There was this metal thing back home. It's magic; the demon can't make one that works. They can conjure for the architect of the amphitheater, though, and their surroundings and their past surroundings, and the designer of the metal thing, and where he's from, and written works where they're not chiplocked. And received correspondence, too - the architect has been talking to this person has been talking to that person has been issuing announcements about "Vanda Nossëo" which is a planet and the demon can conjure it -

He does. "...so, you want a spaceship? No - wait - no spaceships have been to your world -"

"They haven't," agrees Tireh. "I don't know how they got there, but I know how I got out, and now I know where to go."

"And what are you going to do?"

"That's not part of the deal," she smiles. "Besides, it depends what happens when I get there."

"The magic metal thing they left - did it hurt anyone? Is your home world okay?"

"Nah, it didn't hurt anybody, it was very friendly really."

"That's good. Because - no one from any of those worlds is in Limbo, or Hell, or anywhere else - just checked -"

"Didn't think so."

"You can send me home, I have to show some people this. You were right, good secret."

"There might be a reason nobody knew. Can I get you to wait a few days for word from me in case I find anything about that?"

"Yeah, okay, I can spend a couple days just finding all the places these people have been."

"Thanks!"

Dismiss dismiss.

Demon gone.

The computer has a printer peripheral.

So convenient.

She gets cleaned up and fed, she packs stuff so she can carry it along, she prints stuff.

The letters flare into lines of fire and vanish, leaving clean paper, and she disappears.

And now she's standing outside another city, one where her wings are dramatically more unusual.

Yeah, she's been really lucky on that front so far, but wings do not directly impair her ability to pretend she knows exactly where she's going.

Then she won't be stopped, though a couple people do quietly ask at the palace, bouncing the image - who's that -

 

But there are a lot of Vanda Nossëo protectorates and members and allies, and the only person who keeps them all straight is in a meeting.

Well, they're not asking her.

Are there signs on the magic items? Those look promisingly like signs on the magic items.

Yep! Weird signs. This one says 'birth control - humanoids - current production 14000/day - next distribution in #240' - and the name of a project manager.

This one says 'vision - species w/binocular vision - current production 500/day - for sale in Edda' - and the name of a project manager. 

Grace.

Temperature.

Underwater breathing.

Birth control (mammalian nonhumanoids). 

FTL communication (prototype; in-universe only). 

Eidetic memory.

Retroactive eidetic memory.

Working memory.

Birth control (reptilian nonhumanoids). 

Immortality. ( - humanoids - current production 12000/day - next distribution in #116)

Performance.

Osanwë (for non-elves; prototype; talk to project manager).

She takes an immortality when nobody's looking. Tries a retroactive eidetic memory. Keeps it even though it doesn't solve her specific use case.

"Excuse me," someone says politely. "Welcome to Vanda Nossëo, can I help you?"

"I'm fine, thanks!"

"This building isn't actually for tourists, why don't you come to the palace and we can get you situated?"

...she might be able to deflect this person but she probably can't deflect this person and make off with this box of immortality.

She grabs the box of immortality and disappears.

- crystal ball network - Teleporter, unknown species, just left - someone get Loki or Joy-

 

- missing inventory -

 

- all the immortality necklaces, doing inventory on the rest -

That took two tries and she isn't sure why, the first try didn't even burn the words, but now she is back in her little camp in Space where she summoned the demon with a box of immortality. She starts the printer going again.

All the immortality and one retroactive eidetic memory necklace is missing. Species isn't familiar, teleport is at least extraplanetary.

Reading the words as fast as she can -


There had better be an actual problem or Loki's re-adjusting the interruption threshold for mid-coitus from "high" to "have to confirm with Swift or somebody like that that it's really that important".

Looks like someone has an interdimensional teleport and wasn't given one and showed up in Vanda Nossëo and stole a bunch of stuff, is that important enough?

Yeah, that counts.

She didn't get out of range; she's in Space; and now she is back on Vanda Nossëo.


Shit.

(They complete the inventory and verify it's only the retroactive eidetic memory and the whole set of immortalities.)

Loki could attempt to interrogate this random thief herself but it's not her comparative advantage; her comparative advantage is "while she is paying personal attention she's not going anywhere". Swift available? (Medium-urgent; this is probably more interesting than whatever he's doing but it's no longer more urgent.)

His interrupt threshold's set higher than that but the meeting's scheduled to break up for lunch in half an hour or so.

"You want to tell me why you stole a box of immortality necklaces?"


"They were labeled 'immortality'."
"You realize you're not going anywhere." (The necklaces are; they go back where they came from.)

Meeting ends. Where are you keeping her -

Bounce.

Pop. "Hi."

"Oh, I should've gotten her name for you - what's your name -"


"Tireh."

"I'm Maitimo. This was going to be my lunch break, can I offer you a sandwich?"

"I've eaten, thanks."

"Where were the necklaces going?"

"Mortal people."

"That's where we send them. I'm sorry there aren't enough for everyone in the whole multiverse yet. How'd you get an interdimensional teleport?"

"I didn't steal it, if that's what you're asking."

"If I'd said 'did you steal it' then I'd have been asking that. Where'd you get it?"

"I forget," she says.

"It seems like you have more reasons to be in a hurry here than I do, and we're not going to let you go until we have a pretty thorough understanding of what's going on. Are you delaying on purpose, or are you just annoyed with us?"



"I figure 'slightly annoying' probably tells me what my incentives look like without getting me killed."

"I want to figure out how your magic can be used to accomplish things like making and distributing those necklaces faster. We sell them, in Edda, and I'd ordinarily be happy to trade for them but not at a significant informational disadvantage with someone whose first resort was to steal them."

"Well, you weren't offering them for sale where I was. We haven't invented currency, is that the problem?"

"Where're you from? My home world hadn't figured out currency either. We're still not very good at it - thus the necklaces just sitting there, I'm going to have to order some proper security now -"

"I don't know what you call the world."

"If it's next to the world you were in when Loki brought you back here, it's not one we've discovered."

"You discovered it, it has those metal things."

"Charps?" Illusion -

"Yeah, it introduced itself but I can't pronounce it."

"One of Matirin's, I'll ask him." and he directs someone to message Matirin, winged clawed humanoids also how did they get to Space - "Did the Charps teach you enough to figure out interdimensional teleportation?"

"Oh, were they not supposed to do that, I had no idea."

"They were only placed around four months ago. All known forms of interdimensional teleportation take much, much longer than that to develop."

"How about that."

"I'm impressed. How'd you pull it off?"

"Maybe I'm just really smart."

Matirin says it's #291, someone tells him. Local magic system lets you sacrifice information for minor magic effects, by singing them, example is forgetting the song and getting a light rainstorm. Having more information doesn't help because you can only sing so much, other tests pending because non-locals can't do it at all. Found three years ago, checked for alts at the time; checked for Bell parents in the last pass for that a month ago; off Shadow. 

 

He bounces this to Loki. "I am sure you are brilliant. Do you want a place in the multiverse hall of fame? Fastest to interdimensional transit. Epic'll be so annoyed."

"Does it come with immortality?"

"No way to do it with the local magic system that got an interdimensional teleport in the space of months?"

"Not fast."

"We found your world, it's seventh on the priority list for necklace distribution. And we might find a better method, we're working on a song the Charps could teach."

"Oh, you found it, did you name it something?"

"291. If you want to suggest a name you can."



"291."

 

Blink. 

"Call it Beach. I think it may be unusual in its proportion of beaches."

"- okay. I'll have someone bring you a necklace, how did you get off planet with a sing-things-and-forget-them magic system -"

"Suppose I can't recall."

"Were you on your planet three Earth years ago?"

"If the metal thing bothered to mention how long an Earth year is then that I definitely did forget."

"I'll look up your world's year length, sorry -" how long's a year on 291 - "four of yours -"

 

"I'm three and a bit."

He bursts into laughter. And then suppresses it - "Loki - remember how indignant you were at my Space alts, Six Seven Eight -"

"...what does that have to do with anything?"

"She's a you, and we missed her because she wasn't born yet -"

"Hatched and what are you talking about -"


"You're sure?"

"Honestly even when I was assuming we'd checked and it couldn't be I was thinking you'd get on splendidly if not mad at each other - and who else finds a Charp and gets an interdimensional teleport in several months and goes straight for the immortality necklaces -"

"It did occur so me that if I weren't so annoyed I'd appreciate the sense of humor."
"I still don't know what you're talking about."

"Worlds sometimes have - the same people in them. We don't know why. There're types, one of them is Bells. Hate mindreading and all causes of mortality, like magic, journal a lot, clumsy, will take over the world if it's being run poorly -"

"Would most people actually not go for the immortality necklaces?"

"My species is immortal by default but most mortal ones are distinctly unbothered about it. Anyway, the sarcasm, that's a Bell thing, and the indignation at your world being #291, and whatever you did but I will resign myself to learning that later, your alts are going to want to meet you."

"You didn't actually forget it, did you, were you that desperate -"
"Nnnno but are there really no other sarcastic people anywhere -"

"I'm sure, but I realize you don't have any reason to take my word for it. Want to meet them all and decide what you think?"

"Does the meet and greet come with immortality?"
"Is somebody dying?"
"Just everybody."
"Quickly?"
"...I do not know why this does not seem like an emergency."

"If everyone's going to be dead by the end of the month we ask Sibyl, who is a precog, if it's safe to move your whole world to Wish, where Gem can end death on your planet. If it's just humans getting older, we're making the necklaces as fast as we can -"

"How fast is that, what does seventh priority mean."

"If you want the necklaces you can have them, that's what 'you're a Bell' means, but the criteria are usually whether the people are resurrectible, how disruptive distribution is going to be - you can share them, but some places if there aren't enough you won't get sharing you'll get a war -"

"How. Fast. Is. Seventh. Priority."

"Six to nine years if we don't invent anything better by then."

"Well I'm glad I got out I would have been dead."

"We're glad you got out too."



"...just, low life expectancy, or -"
"Why, how long do you live?"
"My species? Tens of thousands of years, but I'm on the high end for species that do old age at all."
"We get about ten."

 

"Yikes."

"Is this not part of how you decide priority."

"I don't think it is."

"Does being a Bell also mean I can tell you to fix that."

"Means we'll probably agree if we talk it over for ten minutes. Every necklace we give out saves a life, I'm not sure it makes sense to go off life expectancy pre-intervention, why aside from that we nearly lost a Bell do you think we should -"

"We don't have any time! The whole population of the planet could have turned over in the gap between dropping the metal thing and anybody living to be eleven! You left a huge amphitheater for it to give lectures in and four days of five I was the only person there because it didn't look to most people like it'd pay off in a month!"

"Okay, fair. We should factor that in. Ten years -"

"Leaving could've killed me but I was fine betting six against whatever else there was where that thing came from. Ten. Years."

"Couple of the places ahead of you have people we can't resurrect. But - yeah, we'll figure out how to get there faster -"

"How long do most people live if the answer isn't 'forever' or 'thousands of years' -"
"Humans are common, they get somewhere between sixty and twice that depending on healthcare."
"If you make them wait six to nine they will be resurrected in - in context -"

"We don't have resurrection at scale either, not yet -"

"Why not."

"Do you just want to read the files? Resurrection takes demon time and we've only got two demons who can be trusted to help with it, it also takes wishes which are one-off."

"Oh, it's all written up somewhere - of course it is - okay."

"I'll have someone bring a computer and check whether your species manages chip-locked ones okay."

"Has that been checked already or should we ask Sibyl?"

"Sibyl."



Yep, works fine.

"Loki, is Cam around -"

"He was interrupted when I was and presumably has since picked up his to-do list..." She pings him.
"Who's that and what does he need to be around for?"

"Chip-locked computer installation needs a demon. Most of the important stuff is on chip-locked computers because daeva with interdimensional travel would pose a lot of challenges."



"So I should probably tell the demon I summoned not to tell anybody, huh."

"Yes, you probably should - how'd you even get to Space, you're off Shadow -"

"Not sure what that means."

Illusion map - "worlds are next to each other. You were here, if you tried jumping you should only have been able to jump to here, and from there you can get here and we're next to Space - which is where you'd have needed to be to summon a demon -"

"I was on a ship in between. Passed for an angel."

"...huh. We really need better security, don't we. Though - how did you get interdimensional transit out of a sing-and-forget magic system -"

"It's not a sing-and-forget system, it's a represent-and-erase system."

"...ah. So once you had writing -"

"I was already messing with that when the metal thing showed up and then it was happy to tell me lots of things I didn't particularly need to remember."

"We're glad you made it." Someone brings a non-chiplocked computer. "Loki'll have to unlock the Bell-only stuff for you."



"Three questions," Loki prompts Tireh.
Tireh recites them.
"All right, welcome to the peal."
"What, didn't believe him?"
"I'm not used to being that annoyed with my alts!"

"You scared us pretty badly. Some other people stole Loki's teleport recently and it was narrowly not a catastrophe."

"Would not have been my first choice, just, you know, dying."

"Oh, I'm not remotely astonished that if you give a Bell a ten-year lifespan they take some chances. Maybe we should have the Charps equipped to explain how people can call for interdimensional help if they need it."

"That would have been great yep."
"Sorry."
"If the Bells thing is to be believed you must have a great excuse."

"As far as we can tell it's an infinite multiverse. There're always going to be a lot of people we could have helped if we'd happened to have enough attention to spare - the Charps are sort of our effort to balance that, give at least a fighting chance to places we're spread too thin to give everything else -"

"Most places find 'em more useful?"

"We weren't actually expecting results this fast, Matirin only started about eight months - uh, one of your years ago."

"They're mostly a curiosity on Beach, at least the islands I checked. They might have all the content necessary to go from where we are to the sort of thing I saw on my way here without my hack but not accessibly given our constraints."

"If you want to take over the project and figure out a better way, it'd do a lot of good."

Nod.
Here's Cam! "Winged Bell, yo."
"Hi."

"It turns out the answer to 'what kind of person steals a box of immortality necklaces' is 'you, you are the kind of person who does that."

"...fair cop. Chiplocked computer?"
"Yes please."
"Here you go. Anything else?"
"What else are you for?"
"That and terraforming mostly."

"And asking demons questions without letting 'em know about the multiverse."

"How big a problem is that?"
"Kind of a big one but one we did not really expect to put off indefinitely."

"The problem is that there's a nonmagic method they could stumble on."

"What would they need to know to do that?"

"Depends how creative they are."

"Mine wasn't very and seemed like a decent guy. I did get him to agree to wait a few days for a letter in case I turned up a good reason."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

"Should we let you read for a bit?"

"Seems probably the most efficient thing?"
"What's your translation solution?"
"My magic does it. You seem to have something too, though, and I'm low on inscriptions."
"Yeah, we can get you Allspeak."

Someone brings a wand!

And Cam and Loki go off to do other things.
And Tireh settles in to read.

"Let me know if you need anything, okay?"

"How do I get ahold of you?"

" - it's in the files, along with instructions on how to block it, I guarantee that no one's been reading your mind but my entire species is telepathic, you can just think at me -" like this - "and I'll hear you."



"Uh, okay."

"There're also instructions to set up your computer on the network if you prefer that. I'm Swift, there."

"Why Swift?"

"I'm from - a set of worlds that are all identical. We usually take disambiguating nicknames off the things that happened after we made interdimensional contact, and my world made contact with Loki, and she had a spell to turn people into birds which she used to rescue me and then teach me to fly." Bird. Unbird. 

"Oh, I'll stop feeling sorry for you not being able to fly, then."

"Flying is pretty great!"

Flap. "- I should just read and not occupy you but I'm not actually used to reading, I personally wrote almost everything there is to read on my planet and have only been off it for a little while."

"Oh, it's fine, another thing my people are not yet wholly sold on is 'scheduling meetings and having them at the time you scheduled them for' and I will not be missed and we don't find alts every day. If you'd rather get an illusion slideshow of the whole thing I would be delighted to provide."

"Ooh!"

Illusion map! "How much science and technology did you pick up on the way to finding us, what should I fill in-"

"I listened a lot, but anything that didn't seem like it would be important was fair game for doing magic with and I had to do a lot of translation magic and a few teleports..."

"Okay! The very short summary: this is Materia, a collection of worlds distinguished by the fact they all hate science and we can't operate there because our stuff will break, we're evacuating people instead. Your alt there, Boots, got into a magic accident and landed adjacent here, called Telperion - it's shaded like that because it's an Arda, one of the set of worlds like the one I'm from -"  all the Ardas light up - "In Telperion Boots met an alt of my father, adopted him, and got rescued by him when she got kicked out of the dimension by the Valar, the resident annoying deities in Ardas. They landed in Warp, where they ran into T'Mir, another alt of yours, who had been flying around sneaking planets in her dimension enough information to get them above the threshold for membership in this post-scarcity galactic civilization -"

And so on, the worlds lighting up to note dimensional neighborhoods - wizardry here, eclipse magic here, Tesseract here, wishing here, summoning here, morph here - and categories - "Earths have different magic every time, and so far always have a Bell, usually born in a particular time but not always, T'Mir was later - Ardas are with a few twists exactly the same until a Bell lands on them, which Bells inexplicably do with some regularity -"

And demographics - "Most dimensions are almost all vacuum with stars and planets, your dimension's like that." All such dimensions light up on the map. "All the ones we've found so far have had people but that might be an artifact of our finding procedure; about 70% have one inhabited planet, most of the rest have one species that's spread out a bit, and then a couple worlds are really dense - hundreds perhaps thousands of species, lots and lots of inhabited worlds. Edda's the worst offender there, Warp's up there, Cube's up there-"

"- I have only inklings of what you might be expecting me to get out of the 'alt of your father' part and 'adopted', my world's different -"

"Oh - Stork doesn't have parenting either -" another world flashes - "in most species children are made, in many cases deliberately, by two adults who decide they want to raise a child together, and this is the basis of most social institutions. Your alt Kib will commiserate with you over how silly this seems to societies that don't have it."

"We have families, but people don't lay eggs till very late in life and typically don't see them hatch so we're brought up by other relatives - and I'm not sure how much nurturing other kinds of people need but we can get along with almost none if we have to -"

"Humans and Elves both need a fair bit. Elves in Valinor take almost seven hundred of your years to reach developmental maturity."



"You've got to be kidding me."

"Loki's even slower than that!"

"How old is she?"

"Twelve hundred of your years, give or take. She's the oldest Bell. The oldest person actively involved in the running of the multiverse is the Millennia - " this world! - "version of my father, he's fourteen thousand your-years though he was dead for more than half of them. - he never actually grows up, it's a little frustrating."

"That is ridiculous, no wonder you were so slow about getting all the worlds you found enough of those necklaces..."

"Immortality necklaces take about 1400 person-hours each to write. We have people wish for the ability to do it faster but even with that it's about an hour and it doesn't go unless you happen to feel really strongly about being able to spend all your time as a magic stamp. About five thousand people have that wished on, about a thousand do immortality in particular, they average thirteen a day. Elves're slow but we're not slacking."

"Why does it take that long to make them? Why can't you do more at once?"

"Arda magic works by using our telepathy to encode really long detailed instructions in metal. You have to do it one - thought that creates the proper echo - at a time. The set of instructions that makes someone immortal is really long - we've got engineers who work on trimming it down, it's about half what it was when the Shine Fëanor first invented it - and wishes vary a little bit but a thousandfold speedup is about as good as you're going to get. There're people trying to invent a way to automate it, I know Kib spent a while trying to figure out if there was any way to Charp it or wish it onto a Charp, but nothing's panned out so far."

"And you don't have another way to do the same thing?"

"Dwarves don't have osanwë but their method's even slower and just as resistant to automation so far, though if we ever do figure it out they'll be how."

"You can turn into a bird but not just plain make people immortal."

"In Cube and Wish's neighborhoods we can and Matirin's gone and dropped Charpitoriums with morph cubes on every single one of his neighbors. But everywhere else, yeah."

Sigh.

"I'm sorry. You are welcome to look at what we've got and figure out a way to do it."

"I will."

"You can do a lot with wizardry but nothing for aging in particular and you need a Maia if you're not adjacent - they're in the middle of figuring out how to give that out at scale - we debated teleporting worlds over to Revelation so at least anyone born in there from then forward would have Limbo to catch them, but daeva information security and also we don't actually know if teleporting worlds is safe - though now we've got Sibyl, could check -"

"What's Sibyl's deal?"

"This neighborhood's called Eclipse, it's an astronomical phenomenon in some places with moons, and it gives one person in a thousand magic powers. Your alt got them. There're mages and psions - stuff that affects the world and stuff that affects minds or information or senses, very roughly - and she's a psion with - as much time as we've been talking - of precognition, she can see what will happen. Only works locally but it works on hearing about things from farther off. So we ask her "if we teleport this planet to Revelation does everything go smoothly" and she says "in half an hour you report to me that it went fine". Or that it didn't. Everyone's supposed to give Sibyl as much work as they can, it helps with her relationship problems."

"...her relationship problems."

"All in the files. Anyway, we haven't started stealing planets yet but if you think we should be doing it we could."

"I mean, is there any compelling reason not to?"

"Might break local magic systems - not even necessarily in a way Sibyl'd see, lots of them run on where you were born or conceived."

"Does mine?"

"Matirin couldn't get it to work, so probably."



"Need to know more about Limbo before calling the tradeoff, I guess. But that's for places with magic, are you not even stealing places that don't have it? Some of them don't, right?"

"Until three months - um, eighty of your days - ago we didn't have Sibyl. Limbo by default kind of sucks - you are indestructible and get one thing, supposedly the thing your afterlife would be most incomplete without, and land near people but not necessarily anyone you knew when you were alive. But we can improve on it a lot - we haven't found a way for people to stop existing if they want to but Elspeth's got something close enough, and we put down infrastructure and plants and things."

"...but that isn't necessarily any more efficient than going around putting infrastructure on the planets people already have."

"Well, in Limbo they won't die while we're getting to it. But yeah."

"All right, maybe you're doing a very nearly reasonable job with everything except for the metal things not being able to pass back messages and not taking life expectancy into account."

"I'm glad you think so. We can go around telling the Charps to tell people how to get in touch with us."

"How will they do that, does your telepathy reach like that?"

"Nope. They'll just have to tell everyone to write letters with the right header and then we'll have whoever's on messenger demon duty in Space conjure them and some of my people in Space read them and figure out who ought to see them."

"Might be a large volume, can your people in Space handle it? And how are you going to deal with places like my planet where I literally invented writing last year and have only convinced three people to sit still to learn how."

"The Charps are equipped to teach literacy but I don't actually know how to incentivize it. Maybe Kib and Aydanci can work something up so Charps can write messages for people. And Space'd be the ones handling it because there're a couple million of them."

"...how would it teach literacy in a language where writing wasn't invented?"

"They know a simple-enough phonetic alphabet, they can teach people how to use it to spell things in their own language. Don't know what to do for peoples who don't speak aloud or things like that."

"...I don't think it'd even work for our language, unless phonetic includes pitch..."

"Might not. Kib's the person to ask about new Charp capabilities, you might be able to just teach them or it might require building an improved variant somehow."

Nod.

"I'm sorry it's not enough."

"I guess you're working under more constraints than seemed implied by casually dropping a metal thing that teaches math on every island in the world."

"We can bring a pretty overwhelming show of force to any particular problem we see but we are not even locally omnipotent and adjacency is super annoying."

"...in principle my system might be able to affect that..."

"That'd be really really big."

"I'm getting that. But it'd be - even by your standards of investment I'd need to learn and burn a huge amount of information. Might not even work."

"What happens if you try to do something your magic system can't do?"

"Depends on the kind of can't-do. In this case nothing but I'll have to learn a ton of stuff I don't mind losing to even check."

"I wonder if you can get anywhere with Elspeth - she can transmit information really fast."

"Maybe. I do also need it written if it's too big to sing."

"Well. Information won't be the bottleneck. We can also keep looking for new worlds. Maybe someone's got something that solves it."

Nod.

"Do you eat the same things as Elves, should I have someone bring us lunch while we go through the rest -"

"I didn't get poisoned in Space when there were free samples and such but I'm used to a higher proportion of seafood by a lot."

"I can do seafood." More world-explanations -

Worlds are interesting!

They really are! And there are a lot of them by now! The seafood arrives.

Yum.

The lecture concludes!

"Thank you."

"My pleasure. Let me know if you need anything else."

"Do you know if Elspeth is around, for the spells?"

Hey, Elspeth?

Nope.

"Looks like no. I'll tell her to get in touch with you, though. Do you still want to take the necklaces home?"



"I want nineteen including mine for now."

"No problem. Friends? Family?"

"People from my beach aged eight and up and a friend from the next one over."

"All yours. ...we should check for alts there again, I guess -"

"Another reason to know lifespans and aging rates before moving on."

"Yes, go catch up with Matirin and scold him and design better procedures, if he doesn't get a lecture about how much of a mess it almost was he's going to be unbearably smug about the part where it worked."

"Worked to let me out?"

"He originally phrased it 'if there's anyone who can get anywhere with it, we want to meet them'. So, worked to find someone who could get somewhere with it and meet them."

"Heh."

"So congratulations. But do help us make it better, we don't want the bar for getting to meet us to be that high and we don't want people who do make it to be super annoyed with us when they do."

"Mm-hm."

"Does your magic not do invisibility? I guess in Space 'walking around like you're supposed to be here' works fine -"

"It does transportation and weather and translation. If there are other concepts a spell can be built around nobody's found them yet."

"Huh. Well, it's probably really good that we found you in Edda and with only medium reasons to be terrified."

"What would've happened otherwise?"

"Probably had a bunch of people try to wish for some sort of teleporter containment power."

"Those poor people would've felt so ripped off."

"I mean, it'd be a useful thing to have and they'd get much higher reads for it in the middle of a crisis, but, yeah, much better to not do that."

"If I hadn't been a Bell in particular but did the same things what would've happened?"

"I'd have talked to you for longer and tried to figure out what you wanted them for? 'you're a Bell' just means we can skip the step where we worry about your motives and how competent you'll be at ruling your world if we accidentally hand you enough leverage to do that."

"I might've already had it if I hadn't had priorities other than 'rule Beach for a few years'."

"If anyone takes over the world using Charp knowledge and is terrible then we'll have to rethink our approach. This mostly vindicates it. I think."

"I'm not sure being well-intentioned is necessary for inventing writing and figuring out the exploit. The thing wasn't strictly necessary but it helped."

"Not well-intentioned necessarily but - with incentive to be less terrible than most preindustrial societies sort of default to being."

"Are they mostly terrible in ways not direct consequences of being preindustrial?"

"Most terrible consequences of a bad ruler competent enough to take over the world with things learned from Charp are less terrible than terrible from being a preindustrial society, and most people given a glimpse of where technology can take them want to pursue it, and all the things a Charp can teach you are much much easier to use to make the world better than to make it worse."

"What kinds of things did you leave out of them?"

"Some easy ways to make medium-sized explosions, some physics which sufficiently clever and motivated people will notice can, with a lot of resources, let you make very very big explosions - the aftermath of one of those is what those demons and angels you hitched a ride with were cleaning up -"

"It looked very exploded."

"Yeah. We're looking back on that one to figure out if we could've seen it coming, and - they had a standoff ongoing about whether they'd blow each other up, but a terrifyingly high share of worlds go through that stage, and usually they never take the leap. Maybe we should just confiscate everyone's nukes - the big explosion sources - but that could under some circumstances be more destabilizing -"

"People threaten to do that a lot? Why?"

"They threaten to do it if the other people do it. Which is all fine and well until someone's computers mistakenly report the other people did it, or someone very careless comes to power, or some nation is losing a conventional war and decides they have nothing to lose..."



"I wonder if dying at age ten makes people more docile or if we're just temperamentally like that."

"There is some variance. Elves're more prosocial than humans, on the population level. If Beach tribes don't routinely raid each other then you're doing better than Stone Age humans as well."

"Sometimes the egg swapping gets less friendly?"

"How's egg swapping go -"

"When somebody dies if they have eggs on the beach at the time their friends sometimes put one or two of their eggs on another beach and then take back different eggs."

"For population diversity, or -"

"...Maybe? Not explicitly. Anyway, sometimes you land on a beach with an egg and the people there don't want to swap and then there's sometimes fights."

"That does in fact sound significantly more restrained than human stone age societies."

"There's such a thing as war, there's a word for it, but it doesn't happen much."

"Elves can be pretty awful too if you set the dominos right. Baseline population rates of violence are interesting but they're not super predictive."

"...my species does have a name but it's just tones without syllables so I'm not sure most people could pronounce it."

"That sounds tricky, yeah. Want to pick one with syllables?"

"Probably should. I mean, it can be superimposed on syllables but there's not a standard..."

"You shall have to set one, if this species wants to meet the multiverse!"

"There's 'singers' or 'airborne'..."

"LIttle bit of competition for both titles. Less for 'airborne' -"

"Who's the competition?"

"Edda species we trade with a lot but don't run into much goes by The Song, to the amusement of Quendi because our native world's fate was written with song at the beginning of time and it's a pretty dreadful song."

"Huh. Well, can't have redundancy. Shorefolk?"

"No overlap."

"Cool. And I don't need to rename myself."

"You don't! I am assuming your name has 'bel' in it somewhere, they all do."

"Uh, it does, but people should definitely not use my full name, it's a thing. Tireh's all-purpose, Ti for casual, the whole name would be more of an intimacy signal."

"That will have to be in the notes."

"I will put it there. Allspeak is very nice, it would probably take a long time to teach the computer my writing system."

"I suspect it would." And he leaves her to read and add to the notes.

She reads. There is so much to read; it's overwhelming in the best way.

She writes up her own section. She is calling her world Beach and her species shorefolk; shorefolk speak various pitched languages that work fine even without the syllables or without specific syllables, but most of them do also use phonemes; people should not address her by full name. Shorefolk technically have parents but most parents die before their children hatch, or at most a year later, since they're not sexually mature till they're nine years old and live to be ten tops; so they grow up in clannish structures.

She's got magic that scouts to the planet were not able to make work for themselves, it's called "songburning" but her version is more like "writingburning". The standard version is: you know some fact. You sing it while thinking of a translation/weather/transportation effect you want. You forget the fact and get the effect, the strength and duration of which depend on how much fact you can sing over a few seconds; "how much" is both in terms of singing speed and in terms of how "interesting" the fact is. You can then relearn the fact if you want and have some way to be reexposed to it or rederive it. Tireh invented writing and was planning to use this as an easy way to be reexposed to singable facts (most people just do songburning in groups and remind each other of what they just sang) but when she tried it her writing disappeared before she'd gotten more than a note into the song. She doesn't know an upper limit of how much writing she can vanish in one go, but it does very nice things for her power level as long as she has enough prepped information.

Then somebody dropped lots of information on Beach!

Then she escaped.

The peal is pleased to meet her!

Yeah, imagine if they hadn't been doing Charpitoriums.

<You presumably didn't actually say that?>

<That is the best part; it would be unnecessary to actually say it.>

<Going to go drop more of them?>

<Yes, I think I will.>

And now she is going to go visit the guy who dropped the metal things!

He can be found on Cube and would love to meet her!

"Hey."

<Hello! Glad you made it out.>

"Thank you but I think in the future it should be possible to call for a lift."

<Yes, that makes sense. I can stop by all the extant Charps and teach them to have an answer to that. What do they say now if you ask them who made them or how to contact us?>

"That we can't make things like them and they don't have a way to do that."

<I'll tell them that now they do. Thank you.>

"And you should check life expectancy before you mark a world boring and forget about it."

<Did you get a chance to look at the standard questions on contact, should be editable ->

"Yes, I'm just still annoyed about it."

<I am sorry.>

"Well, at least the thing indicated there was somewhere to escape to."

<And now future would-be escapees will have it easier, though outside my neighborhood and Gem's we do not in fact have aging solved.>

"Would've been a waste if you'd only found out songburning could be useful years later."

<There is obviously an exploration/exploitation tradeoff there. We should probably have dedicated research teams to figure out magic systems.>

"Who'd you even talk to, what'd you tell them?"

<Three or four people on the first island where we landed, two on a second one. I told them we'd come from the stars and wanted to leave them instructions on how to do that themselves, and heal sick people, asked what they thought would happen if I put in the auditoriums, asked what peoples' biggest problems were, asked about religions, asked about things they had learned how to do, watched a few of the sing-and-forget rituals, tried one, asked what would happen if you knew lots of very weighty things ->

"Suppose the lifespan wouldn't make some people's lists of problems."

<Yeah, someone had an infection from stepping on one of those scorpion-y things, there was a quarrel over who was allowed to get clams from a certain area, they wondered if we had anything for eggs failing to hatch...>

"People," she sighs.

<My brother's the one who got a nothlit workaround so morphing could end death. I - wouldn't have thought of it, honestly.>

"I can imagine it seeming less urgent to species that last longer."

<Well, that and the existence of Yeerks.>

"I don't think I follow."

<They were around being rather attention-grabbing and making death seem like far from the worst of possible outcomes.>

"I mean, that explains why you'd deal with them first, but then having done so why wouldn't you think of death next?"

<We actually had death cured before they'd been fully dealt with. Once they were offplanet we were mostly trying to cure all the cancer.>

"Oh, congratulations then."

<I will pass it on to the people responsible. Thank you.>

"You're welcome."

<Our existing question procedures aren't actually that great for learning about a magic system - people often think lots of things are magic which aren't, or there's magic they don't know about - we'd have missed summoning if we landed in Revelation in the 90s, for example - so it'd be useful to have your advice on better ones.>

"Well, songburning really works and everybody uses it on Beach all the time so I have no particular insight into either problem but off the top of my head 'assume Earths are magic unless proven otherwise and check that one house Golden and Cam both found things in'? Warp has psi, I'm not sure why that's not considered magic there..."

<Morph is not magical. But yes.>

"Did you check the house, though?"

<We haven't, actually. I will go check.>

She laughs.

<Want to go right now?>

"Why not."

Pop!

...the house is unremarkable and empty.

<I would expect someone to have noticed if Cube had magic.>

"Maybe the house only has magic in it in uncrowded worlds."

<That would be consistent with the data so far, at least, if Eclipse is crowded, has anyone checked?>

...she gets out her computer. Lo and behold she has a message from Sibyl. Eclipse has lots of life but no other sapients - anymore, anyway, checking for lost civilizations is on the to-do list but might be hazardous to do anything with the information so we're delaying, but we're pretty likely to have had extinction events considering.

<And does she happen to have checked the house ->



"...it's sort of weird how her messages show up so neatly timed when she's looking -"

Yeah, I checked it, mine burned down in a small eclipse mishap decades ago.

<Huh. Though magic was hardly a secret, on Eclipse.>

"Yeah. Worth keeping an eye on the pattern but I guess it's not telling us anything new today. Anyway that's all I was going to do here except to acquire Butterfly and vice-versa in case I ever need to pass for human in the neighborhood. I'm gonna go to Shadow, anything I might not have read that I should know before I do that?"

<My understanding is that it is all in the files. What are you doing there?>

"It has Flat Elves and they are not making immortality doodads and I do not think it is because nobody asked them."

<By all means ask.>

"Will do."

She goes and acquires Butterfly and then goes to Shadow and would like to make an appointment with whoever's handling their interdimensional stuff, she can come back if this isn't a good time.

It's a perfectly good time; she's free in an hour.

...so Tireh will be back in an hour, then? (slooow peeeople)

Sounds good!

She is back in an hour!

"Hi! How can I help you?"

"Hi! There are some people using the sort of artifact creation magic you have here to turn out immortality necklaces and I want it done faster. What is the best way to make that happen here?"

"Uh...convince Gem to let people here wish on capabilities, probably."

"Has she been asked before?"

"They're only doing it for people who'll contribute to their projects, at the moment."

"The immortality necklaces are."

"You give them to the peal and never see them again. My coworkers, my neighbors, my daughter-in-law is human. We'd want to keep them."

"How would you feel about splitting them?"

"...it's better than not having them at all? You have to be really enthusiastic about it to get the power at all, the way I understand it."

"Yeah. My species has no telepaths and a ten year life expectancy is the thing, I could try to get it fixed up so humans here would be all set but I'm trying to solve my problem first."

"And the peal suggested you come here?"

"Coming here was my idea."

She pauses as if consulting with someone. "If Gem will be persuaded to let us wish on the accelerator I'm sure people'd be happy to make necklaces for your planet. They haven't given anyone here wishes; they come in a little non-standard, depending how the wisher imagined it, and they let you make any necklace, not just immortality, and our expectation is that the peal will be opposed to giving us the means to make more eidetic memory necklaces in particular. But if they're willing some people who are sufficiently excited about the compromise could probably be found. What do they want if in their opinion our people are failing to repay the investment fast enough -"

"Seems to me the thing to do is find a way to make it a good enough investment prospectively that they can agree to write it off if it's not."

"....I think you're assuming they trust us a lot more than, uh, they could possibly be persuaded to."

"If they think you're gonna do something awful with artifact stamping powers you're not going to solve that by making quota, so the problem isn't 'what do we do if we don't make quota', it's 'how do you make it clear your motive here is your daughter-in-law being mortal, scaled up for the whole society'."

"Until a couple years ago our human societies had pre-industrial standard infant mortality rates and we're in range of Materia and there is a healing spell that would have ended that and they wouldn't teach us. That changed when the King stopped the Yeerk invasion, but I do not know if it reflected a broader change in their willingness to give us resources or just a pragmatic one."

"Yeah, they're not handling things low on the priority list well even given how thin they're spread."

"I'll suggest that someone with a dying mortal spouse send them an impassioned plea for the wish for it."

"I can get them to listen to me, I just need to know what to say."

"I can set up an appointment for you to talk to the King, you can figure something out?"

"Sure, when's good?"

"I can probably move some of this afternoon's appointments around, let me check -"

Waiting waiting Elves are slow...

"Yep, looks like I can get you one this evening."

"Okay, when?"

"Eighteen local work?"

"Okay."



And she is back then.

"Hello! Thank you for stopping by here. I'm Midnight."

"I'm Tireh!"

"And you want to convince the peal to let some of our people have the wished on accelerated magic item making so that we can give them necklaces?"

"Yep."

"I think we should go through the objections I expect them to have and see if we can figure out a way to reassure them. We can use the power to do lots of other stuff; in particular, there are mind-controlling magic items."

"So basically you need a way for them to catch you if you're doing that, or convince them you won't. You have some artifact-making capacity already; is there anything you could do with a lot of it that you wouldn't be doing a scaled-down version of already?"

"Immortality's the big one. Widespread distribution of the touch healing spell but I haven't been doing that for the obvious reasons. Everything else, scale matters a lot less - though the wished-on power also accelerates new magic development. As far as I know there's no way to tell what a necklace does."

"Yeah, if they were really concerned about mind control items they'd be concerned at pretty low numbers, observe how they are not."

"And I assume they are concerned about giving out the touch healing but they haven't actually expressed concern there."

"They're concerned about giving out the alphabet; if you could do the one without the other they'd be happy to share that one around very liberally."

"As far as I understand it they go together. The point is, the fact they haven't said anything to me about it is not enough to conclude they're not very stressed by the prospect, so I can't just stay on their good side by avoiding anything they've asked me not to do."

"As I understand it you also don't ask them if stuff would bother them?"

"...once I had the means to do something about human diseases and child mortality I was going to do it whether they approved or not, asking for permission and then ignoring that it was declined seemed worse than not asking."

"Yeah, okay, so asking would be fraught. I do think they'd descend upon you in force if they thought mind-control was happening, though."

"I half-expected them to over the necklace, I very pointedly didn't go home for awhile once I had it so they wouldn't tear things up trying to figure out if I'd given it to anyone."

"Mind control'd be worse than that. At any rate, getting the powers wished on at all definitely involves talking to Gem, no way around that, so you and them'll have to be on the same page about what you'll do with it and whether and how they'll spy on you about it etcetera."

"How'd you get involved in this?"

"They thought my world was 'boring'," she says. "It wasn't; I got out."

"And now they aren't interested in helping you stop your people from dying because there are higher priorities?"

"I got us bumped up the priority list and got them to do something less stupid with boring worlds but I want it done faster we die of old age in ten years."

"I'm sorry. And they said the bottleneck is number of necklaces? Have you tried asking a Vala, they can do it with a touch, they are hard to persuade of things but if you could convince one -"

"They let me keep the necklace I stole," she says dryly, "or I'd run off and do that for myself right now. I might see about borrowing a Vala to pat everybody on my planet on the head, it's not the silliest idea."

"Or giving your planet the Valinor delayed aging effect, I don't know if they're persuadable on that either but they might be."

"Doesn't that require letting one build up power invested in the planet over decades?"

"My Valar are unusually terrible, I haven't actually spoken to them. If that's what the peal heard then probably."

"Worth asking anyway. And it might have to be yours, we're neighbors."

"In that case they could at minimum do a portal and people who want to live ten times longer could come hang out in Valinor, they're apparently pretty persuadable on portals - don't do it if people are going to murder each other and so on, the Valar panicked over that and started mindcontrolling everyone to be virtuous."

"Beach is very nice for a stone age planet but not flawless."

"And Elspeth improves the Valar tremendously but they're still not perfect. I can find you someone sympathetic to go plead with Gem, but I wouldn't count on it."

"I was imagining talking to her myself."

"Then you are authorized to make whatever promises you like on our behalf."

"...uh, would they be true if I made them?"

"Yes, of course - my people are dying -"

"How many people want to be artifact stamps?"

"Haven't asked, and it depends how many of the artifacts we get to keep for our own people, but probably ten thousand if we get to keep most of them, a thousand if the peal gets most of them, if we don't get to keep them but we can, say, give them to you instead of giving them to the peal that'll help -"

...heh. "I'm assuming that's scalar, if my world's the offplanet priority until and unless everybody there who wants one has one and they only overflow to Vanda Nossëo after that what's the inflection point that gets the most total exports?"

"Are we allowed to look for neighbors on our own and give the necklaces to them?"

"...teleport doesn't do unknown destinations, how would you do that?"

"Wizardry one does."

"Let's say yes but the peal inevitably finds all the worlds you find when you find 'em."

"I think giving away any necklaces while our own people are dying is going to be a hard sell, possible in the case of places like Beach where you're dying faster than we are. I think once our own people aren't dying we can give away all of the necklaces, but probably not to Vanda Nossëo; handing them out to our own neighbors would be a perfectly adequate thing to do with them."

"Can you slot into their distribution protocol or would you want to handle that separately?"

"If their distribution protocol isn't stupid and if it doesn't come with pealish strings attached that'd be fine."

"Pealish strings?"

"...dismantle your government so we can execute you if we decide we feel like it? Boyfriend-kidnapping?"

"Let us assume that no such things will attach to funneling necklaces into peal distribution protocols."

"I mean 'are they likely to make that a criteria for necklace distribution, explicitly or implicitly by kicking worlds down the priority list' -"

"- oh, I'd misunderstood - They usually don't investigate worlds very closely if they're 'boring', certainly not on the level of caring who people's boyfriends are, and already checked your neighborhood for 'interesting'; if something's bothering them it'll kick a world up the priority list, possibly including governmental dismantling though."

"Then once our people stop dying they can have the necklaces for existing projects."

"I think I can talk Gem into it."

"I would appreciate it tremendously."

Happy wingflap. "Anything else we should talk about before I pop off?"

"I will confess myself terribly curious how you escaped."

"Turns out the invention of writing hacks Beach magic like crazy."

"Oh, nice. My father invented writing, you should go teach him your language and share writing-invention stories."



"I've been advised not to talk to your father."

"They're not letting him have visitors?"

"That's not it, they just think we wouldn't get along."

"...my father doesn't get along with the peal because they reembodied him conditional on constant supervision and haven't given him the healing spell or a means to leave. You didn't do that, so unless you're planning on explaining to him how that was totally the right thing to do you'd get along fine with him."

"No, I would totally rather talk about inventing writing. Maybe the advice wasn't very good."

"In my experience the peal has fairly mediocre judgment."

...giggle.

"...possible it's not the fault of the template, I haven't seen any of them acquit themselves well but I am sure it is at least conceivable."

Flap flap.

"And inventing writing is pretty impressive."

"Thank you."

"You'll get along with my father fine if you can hold yourself back from explaining to him how making getting out of Mandos conditional on being their obedient captive was the right thing to do. You don't have to help him leave or anything, just don't defend it."

"Okay."

"When should I expect to hear from you on the necklaces?"

"Tomorrow probably."

"I'll look forward to it."

"See you then!"

"See you tomorrow!"

And off she pops.

And he sets to trying to find a phrasing of his misgivings that doesn't leave his people too unenthusiastic to successfully wish.



She sends a crystal ball note when she has talked to Gem with a schedule of when people can make their wishes and how they'll batch depending on readings.

Thanks. Should I bring them over or does the peal prefer to come fetch them?

You can bring them. Pictures of path stops to and from. I can run interference if you want.

I am capable of being indefinitely courteous to powerful people who have no business being so; I survived Valinor. But thanks for the offer.

 

And at the appointed time here are a lot of Elves who really really want the power to stop their human friends and colleagues from dying.

Gem's got a wording for this. She takes readings and grants wishes and doesn't require much interaction or courtesy from Midnight about it.

"I assume someone has tried wishing for the ability to stop peoples' aging by touching them? Or slow it down?"

"Goes through, on average is less power-efficient than the basement dweller resurrection power and doesn't last indefinitely on the subject."

"How long does it last?"

"Weeks, sometimes months with a good read on it. If somebody needs de-aging it's legitimately less hassle to get an eclipsed to do it. - Those are new, I don't know how often you read the executive summary files."

"I saw, yeah. I invited my alt-sisters to drop by and they are planning to once things're less hectic at home - eight kids, I'm afraid that when Epic grows up he's going to decide he's got to aim for nine -"

"If Fëanárë's alts decide to compete with her I'm a little more worried about the part where she made four Silmarils."

"Excluding the worlds where people're still sworn to commit murder over them, are there any drawbacks to having more Silmarils?"

"Not as such but they make me nervous."

"I'm not sure five is even possible but if it is I bet you could kill a Vala with them. And they're portable."

"Might work."

"Honestly wouldn't surprise me if you could do it with four, we got close with three, but I'm very sure Fëanáre has already thought of that and is working fanatically at it so it's probably a bad idea to bother her about whether it can be done."

"Sibyl might know."

"I haven't spoken with her. It seemed like it might be a bit delicate."

"And as far as I know she hasn't spoken with you either."

He bursts into giggles. "Wouldn't that at least require my visiting the neighborhood?"

"It would require you at least counterfactually doing that."

"If I could think of anything she might need I'd offer to counterfactually drop by but I'm straining to think of anything she'd possibly need me for. We're probably going to put in portals with Beach, we are interested in whether mana 'leaks' such that it becomes available in Beach once they're linked up with us but not urgently enough so to call a precog on it."

"Hasn't leaked into Eclipse from Ithil."

"That's too bad - it'd be convenient if we could share wizardry at will - but not surprising. Even less reason to bother Sibyl."

 

And is that all the batches -

Yup there goes the last wish.

"Thanks so much." And home.

Tireh is willing to wait until particularly acute needs in Shadow have been met but would like to be informed when she can pick up necklaces to hand out on Beach.

There are eight thousand people who read high enough. It only takes them a couple weeks to get necklaces for everyone at imminent risk of death of old age, and then they switch over to making ones for Beach and he sends her a note telling her she can pick them up.

Here she is!

"Hey! Sixty thousand - do you have a plan for distribution or are you doing it all alone -"

"The peal dropped these metal things on my world a while ago - can't pronounce the model name - people are used to them now, they'll hand them out."

"...any way we could trade you for a metal thing? Not the immortality necklaces, those're yours, but anything else you might want..."

"What do you want with it? Can't reverse-engineer 'em, you have to be from Stork."

"For them to teach our engineers everything we need to develop modern technology?"

"They're Kib's, but I could maybe talk him into it."

"Presumably the ones he dropped on your planet are yours?"

"They're sorta loaners and Kib - or his husband - would have to revise the instructions for me."

"Isn't 'teaching societies up to modernity' their current job?"

"You need perfect pitch to understand any language spoken on my world, among other localizations."

"And the language is hard-coded in, they don't learn new ones? When you send instructions you should suggest they learn the language they're spoken to, or is that not possible?"

"They can learn languages but it would be faster for me to get you one that speaks Quenya already."

"Thanks so much."

"Here I was starting to suspect it would be more valuable to you if I took it without asking."

"I think having them remain peal property is going to be a bad idea down the road but if that's the standing policy I wouldn't dream of interfering."

"Why's it a bad idea?"

"I'm imagining some society that builds up a religion about Charps, and some other societies that treat them as valuable resources and make treaties about access and land use, and then they learn all the things the Charps can teach and get to the stars and want to, say, drop the Charps on aliens they find who we didn't visit yet, and the peal's going to go "oh we never mentioned it and it sure looked like a gift but it was a loan and no sharing'?"

"...if the one on my island told me key components of traveling to the stars I must've burned it to get out of Beach but you have a point. The things do say if asked that they have owners from elsewhere though, it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone who'd asked."

"Oh, good, that mitigates it a little. And I'm pretty sure they do teach you enough to get spaceflight, but it's probably more than you could learn in two months."

"More relevantly it's more than I could've acted on in six years so I bet on getting out of the world instead."

"Good bet. I'm - astonished they didn't think of 'a way to contact them' as a thing the Charps' need -"

"Oh yeah they've fixed that now."

"Awesome. Anyway, it'd be really valuable if their owners could spare one."

"I'm sure they can, they're really easy to make with the R&D out of the way and demons around."

"Thank you! At sixty thousand a week how long until your world's covered?"

"Couple months! There are not that many of us! But more every spring."

"Oh good! Anyone else out there with a horribly short lifespan?"

"They went and rechecked all the 'boring', next worst is somebody in Edda they can't touch right now for political reasons anyway and they live to be fifty. Unless you count species where personal continuity isn't even a thing, some individuals of those are very short-lived but they don't care at all."

"Well if they don't care I don't think we should. What're you doing once your world's all set?"

"Experimenting with interactions with songburning!"

"Cool! We'll all eagerly await the results on that."

"I'm excited." Flap.

"The wings are adorable. More people should have wings, I would point it out to Eru as a design flaw but I don't really want to get his attention."

"They're great! I learned to turn people into birds in case I meet anybody who's sad about not being able to fly, it's nice to have and I can burn the spell in an emergency."

"Do you have to have it written down for that?"

"Yes but I can have it written very small."

"I am very excited to see how this turns out."

Flap. "I'll see about getting you a metal thing! Bye!"

"Bye!"

She is back the next day with a Charp!

"Thank you so much!" 

"You're welcome!"

"What's the experiments plan with songburning?"

"Computer and etherscaped written formats, seeing if Elspeth-derived information burns differently in any way, seeing what happens if my weather stuff and an eclipsed's weather stuff get in a fight, songburning in non-shorefolk languages especially if there are some with higher information density that work, checking if there are any domains where my translation has Allspeak beat, a few people are lined up to have their wishes used in magical experiment attempts and I need to figure out the most efficient way to use those not sure yet..."

"Oooooh. Wishing for songburning to work for them - I think wishes like that don't usually go through - wishing for information you burned back -"

"Yep, those are on the list, but the eidetic memory necklace doesn't get back burned information, I have to actually hear it or read it or observe it or whatever again, so I'm not optimistic that's doable in a straightforward way at all."

"Can Cam grab it?"

"...good question. I'd assume so but maybe not."

"I'd assume so too, he can get nearly anything. What does forgetting feel like - does it just leave a blank space in your memory, or do you remember sitting down in the library reading it but not what you read -"

"Well, I've never actually visited a library per se, but - it usually has to be the kind of fact that could have been otherwise with a lot of the experience otherwise being the same and it blurs out the part where it was the way it was. I don't lose time, just facts."

"So you couldn't forget, like, the length of a day, or the color of the sky -"

"I could but it is both more unpleasant and less useful, there's a measure of fact 'interestingness' that affects power and those facts are not 'interesting', sensory experiences and very simple pervasive information usually isn't."

"Oh, huh. What sorts of facts are most interesting -"

"Math is really good for it, that's most of what I got the metal thing to tell me for getting out. You'll be horrified but people's names work. A pair of small coordinated groups can sustain a translated conversation with a small initial investment trading off who sings away what the last foreign utterance turned out to mean - almost anything where you could write it up in two columns with each row being a correspondence of some kind works."

"So forgetting a language'd work well?"

"It'd be harder to express the grammar compactly, but forgetting vocabulary, sure."

"What's the targeting like on the interdimensional transit?"

"Worked on following the metal thing where it had come from, but that only got me one hop, it respects adjacency - and I pretended to be an angel and stowed away on a ship that was in fact a lightleaper but used to disguise a hop back to Space - you and Beach are a triangle with that world - then I audited a summoning class and got a demon and forensic-conjured my way to a visual on Vanda Nossëo and hopped there. It doesn't parameterize per se but it does trace, so different from Joy and works in I think any case where Loki's spell will - and I can add safeties, I landed on a planet and not in vacuum, although I think the radiation would have gotten me if I'd been a little earlier."

Shudder. "They really screwed that one up."

"Apparently most planets in that situation do not actually explode. Didn't stop that one though."

"Yeah, but apparently some do and I don't think we find worlds that drove themselves extinct."

"Not so far no. They do have stats from Warp and Edda and Cube where there's not the sampling problem though."

"Oh, that is reassuring - what share of civilizations get into a nuclear war in those -"

"Of civilizations that invent nukes, nuke-equivalents, or worse, about one percent completely or nearly annihilate themselves and about twenty percent kill a big chunk of the population but don't approach extinction and more than that kill, like, a few cities."

 

"Do they have a plan to, uh, manage planets they land on in that position?"

"Which position, 'has invented nukes and isn't fully stable about it'?"

"Yeah. If that's the one from which there's a 1% chance of extinguishing yourselves and a 20% chance of a serious blowout."

"They're working on an improvement to the existing inadequate strategy."

"That seems to be where they are with a lot of things. Well, it's something."

"Yep. Why, any ideas?"

"Are there identifiable differences among the sort of worlds that do this -"

"Not that I saw skimming the data but maybe. Warp's got lots of theorists with variously supported ideas."

"Once we have resurrection I want to interview all of the people involved in the decision processes that did it."

"It takes a demon and a magic rock but it's doable for most species now."

"I know. I'm excited."

"What would you ask them?"

"Hard to say without actually meeting them."

Nod.

"On a different note, Beach ready to start having trade relations and so forth?"

"Do you want inefficient quantities of crudely hewn nacre jewelry, because we don't have much tradeable around at this point."

"It's the principle. You could do concerts?"

"We could but I'm told Elves are snobs."

"True! But we'll be fascinated by a singing language."

"All right. I can get you a poet to sing to you."

"And people could fly around and send the view, Elves'll like that."

"Especially if we have those nice goggles, I assume."

"Yes, you should get those, they're great."

"I have them but they're invisible."

"We couldn't figure out how to make them pretty?"

"They're pretty but I don't like them being conspicuous."

"Fair. Anything Beach is looking to import?"

"Short term metal tools, writing materials, fabric - stuff usable without massive lifestyle changes, I don't think we're up to soap being broadly welcome yet let alone electricity."

"Like Tirion when I was born, yeah. Can do."

"How long ago was that?"

"Three thousand, three hundred local years, I don't know the length of yours -"

"They're shorter. Wow, everybody I meet these days is so old..."

"Have you met the tiny version of my father? ...he's still older than you but he's not developmentally mature."

"Haven't run into him yet. Ridiculously old children are weirder!"

"Hmmmm. In that case I do not know of a single person around your age who isn't still a toddler. I am terribly sorry."

"It's okay. Eventually I too will be ridiculously old, like, eleven."

"I would offer to have all my youngest advisors meet with you but I don't think any are under forty."

"I'm getting used to rampant ridiculous oldness, it's really all right."

"How quickly does your species grow up -"

"Uh, we're as tall as we ever get after a year but I have noticed that some species benchmark on sexual maturity and that's not till our tenth spring."

"...right before you die? Huh."

"We hatch in the spring too, so tenth spring we're nine not ten, some people do get to see their eggs hatch and stuff."

"What do you think you'd have done if we'd found your world a few decades later -"

"...been dead?"

"With your life, I mean."

"Without knowing there were other worlds to go to and even without the convenient source of math lessons and scribing help I'd have been able to teleport around my planet making sure everybody had writing and the corresponding burning capacity, so there's that, would've taken a while to make sure all the islands had it. And then if species regularities are any indication I would've woken up one day having any idea what's so great about laying eggs and done that and then died and continued to be dead till somebody brought me back eventually."

"The dying isn't related to the egg-laying -"

"I don't think so but our statistics are very Stone Age. Some people live long enough to lay two batches and males have the same lifespan range and people who don't wind up finding mates do too, so, not directly, at any rate."

"Space has good xenobiology teams who've been in ecstasy every since the multiverse was discovered, they'll probably have interesting stuff for you after a while."

"I'm hoping they get somewhere, yeah."

"Where'd be a good place to convince the Valar to set up a portal to -"

"What's the traffic going to look like - how much, who'll come through -"

"That, too, is pretty much up to you."

"All right, who would want to come visit Beach."

"Lots of people! Pretty much no one here's ever been offplanet."

"So tourists? ...Elf tourists, it will have to have nice scenery..."

"We have humans and Dwarves too, but yes, pretty always helps."

"Will they want to do much besides look around and hear poetry?"

"Meet people? Try the seafood? Draw pictures?"

"Okay. I guess for simplicity's sake it could go on my island. Would it be a problem if it was up a mountain? There's a nice mountain, I think it might bother people to have a portal opening directly onto a beach."

"That doesn't sound like a problem at all."

"What do you need to set the portal up?"

"A cooperative Vala! They don't get along with me but I know some people who can talk to them."

"Okay, does that person just need a picture of the mountain or what?"

"Yep, that'd do it."

"Looks like this -" Verdant volcanic slope.

"Perfect, thanks. There'll be a portal as soon as the Valar are persuadable."

"Ballpark time estimate?"

"Hard to say with Valar, a month or three?"

"Okay. I'll let my island know."

"Where do you want the other end, do you know?"

"I don't have a strong opinion on that as long as there's enough checks on who comes through that it's not troublemakers."

"That shouldn't be a problem."

"Good, random shorefolk would be pretty defenseless."

"The first humans here were, too, and I think we did right by them. As much as we could."

"It is very weird how Erus drop species places."

"Yes, it is."

"Anyway I should go tell my island to expect aliens eventually." Flap.

Also the Fëanors would like to learn the lyrical language and talk about her writing system for it, please.

Sure. (All of them? Should they book a lecture hall?)

No, just one, they'll pass the notes on to the rest, they're all very busy trying to figure out if you can kill a Vala with four Silmarils and developing portals and working on rings of power and so on.

All right, well, whichever Fëanor can come meet her in Beach then.

He will do that!!

And here is Beach! It has shorefolk in it. They look up when he appears and then ignore him with an air of "oh, Tireh is doing more weird stuff".

"Hi!" says Tireh.

He echoes the sound she just made! 

"You got perfect pitch somehow, right?"

"Hexed it on. Makarial'd already charted it, years ago. ...he didn't even need it, he was annoyed by other peoples' singing."

She giggles. "I've never tried to teach a language before, how do you want to do it?"

"I'll turn Allspeak off, you say things, I say them back with variants and you correct me if I'm getting it wrong -"

"You don't want me to explain any of it first?"

"You can if you'd like!"

"I'm just not sure how easy it'd be to pick up the singing and syllables distinction starting from a language that doesn't have it - the language can be completely sung or hummed without losing any meaning, but it's faster if there are syllables, and most words have syllable versions, because they allow compounds. Like, 'person' is -" chirp! "- but you can turn it into a phrase if you sing the same notes - 'singer' is what we usually call ourselves -" She sings that.

"Idiolects vary a lot, there aren't any like that but there are distinctions no other language has - 'person', 'singer'?"

"Mmhm!"

And she starts singing random information.

He bounces gleefully. "Oh, it's beautiful - to be fair I say that about every language - oh it is beautiful? to be balance I say that again and again a language? -"

She laughs at him and corrects his translations and flaps her wings with amusement.

"Wings are lovely! Beach is lovely! Shorefolk are lovely? On the lovely beach are lovely shorefolk?"

"Those are all right."

"On the lovely shorefolk are lovely beaches? On the lovely waters are lovely trees? The shorefolk put the water on the trees, the shorefolk put the trees on the water..."

Some of the nearby other shorefolk overhear this and laugh. Tireh corrects him about the portability of beaches and the state of local agricultural tree-cultivation and boat-building (nil).

"The shorefolk with the loveliest beaches are happiest? The beaches with the loveliest shorefolk are sandiest? The singers sang, the waves waved..."

"The correlations are spurious but the grammar is right."

"The correlations are spurious! The sands are spurious, the beaches are spurious - what a pretty word! The grammar is loveliest!"

"Sand cannot be spurious! Beaches can't either!"

"Sand cannot be spurious! Trees cannot be singing! Waters cannot be flying!"

"Those are true but the grammar is wrong!" And she corrects it.

And after about an hour of this he is so so delighted with her language and wants to wander around talking to shorefolk, do they mind?

They do not mind! There are some over there prying shellfish open with their claws and some over there grooming each other's feathers and a not quite grown one over there making a sandcastle and some spearfishing with sharpened sticks.

He bounds around introducing himself and asking questions about these activities and picking up new vocabulary and confusing them with strings of sentences - "the shorefolk are saving the shells? The shells are saving the shorepeople? The singing is helping the fishing?"

"We save the pretty shells," says a shorefolk, helpfully spacing out the phrases of the song. "Shells can't do anything. Singing doesn't help fishing usually except to make us fly faster."

"Can you make the fish fly to you? Can you make something other than you move with singing?"

"Not with singing."

"Tireh can do it with her invention."

"Tireh is very clever! Writing is a good invention, for magic and other things."

"It seems complicated, but it's useful for songburners."

"With practice it gets less complicated! And there are more things to do with it!"

"More things?"

"People write down all their favorite stories, and then if you know how to read it you can share the stories all across the world, and learn everyone else's stories. And you can use it to give instructions to things like the metal things."

"The metal thing takes sung instructions very nicely."

"There are other things like it that you need writing to give instructions to."

"We don't have any of those."

"I noticed. You might want to make some, someday."

The shorefolk twitter skeptically.

"You can go to places that have them and see if any of them look like things you want."

"Tireh says there's going to be a portal in a while and people might come through wanting to listen to poetry or something and that we could go through there and look at their things too."

"Yep! Then you can make up your minds about literacy."

"A couple of people learned the thing. They seem to like it okay."

"I should ask my alts how they convinced Elves to adopt it."

"I'd like to know that too," Tireh remarks. "Can't have been the usefulness for songburning."

"Might've just been 'a new art form why not' - and might have taken a century, Elves're - very Elves - but I do think I'll have them send you a summary."

"Thanks."

"Thank you for teaching me the language! It's beautiful! And so unique!"

Flap. "I'm glad you like it."

He beams at her and heads home.

 

An hour later she gets a crystal ball note from the Luster Fëanor - I put labels on everything. Made a couple thousand of them, stuck them everywhere I could, so people noticed them even if they didn't bother reading them. Whenever one got damaged I made a new one and eventually some people were willing to help me with that.

That would probably work better if we had such a thing as an indoors.

Probably. I couldn't laminate them but you could laminate them.

I'll think about it but it's probably not going to get attention fast enough to suit shorefolk.

Attention's not really the point, just accustomedness, but they're your people.

I think it might be the opposite of progress if they got used to ignoring writing...

You don't think they'd even recognize it?

My beach would, maybe.

I expect it'll take hold over time anyway, if that's any reassurance.

Sure. Just really slow.

That's sometimes how things go. The language is very pretty.

Thanks.

Midnight thinks his dad would like me fine, what do you think?

He'll like the language! I expect he's upset that he has to be chaperoned to go visit his family, and he regards the peal as fundamentally selfish and malevolent for that and other reasons, but I doubt it'll come up if you don't bring it up.

I am not totally sure Midnight noticed I'm a Bell. I think he did eventually but he didn't say.

Usually the dislike there is mutual. Did you get along with him?

Yeah.

 

I'm glad.

It seems like everyone's sort of willing to acknowledge that they're being totally disproportionate but I'm the only one who can actually go 'and also this all happened before I even hatched and he's not going to do it again so I barely care' so I might as well use that and make friends.

I don't think they're being totally disproportionate? If you hurt someone for three hundred fifty years it seems reasonable for people to hold it against you that long. But I can see why that wouldn't be very compelling when you're three.

There you go.

I also think he would do it again if it happened to be possible.

It doesn't.

We still killed the space Melkor and Thauron.

Did they have redeeming qualities?

None come to mind. ...the Thauron was very good at biological engineering, maybe he could have cured aging.

Could have is not so much a feature.

Does Midnight have redeeming qualities aside from a capacity to be likable?

Yeah.

All right, then.

Tireh sends Shadow Fëanor a note indicating that his son thought they'd get along and that he'd like her language, would it be okay if she visited.

He'd love that! 

So she drops by!

"Hi!! How are my children doing -"

"Maitimo's the only one I spoke to but he's all right - I got a bunch of his people the fast artifact thing and he was very happy about his human subjects not having to die anymore."

"Oh good - we've been trying to get there with science, and some species are surprisingly easy, but not humans."

"Once there's surplus it'll funnel to my world, we're a one-off so there's no research on us and we have a ten year natural lifespan."

"That'd - be a nightmare for a me. A you, too?"

"Yep, I broke out and tried to steal a box of necklaces from Vanda Nossëo."

"How'd that go?"

"Got caught, got fewer necklaces than that for my trouble but also got some other goodies, they are now asking about life expectancy when they classify new worlds and giving people on them ways to contact them."

"Could've gone worse."

"Yup."

"They're smart, and like thinking they're good. It's enough to get by with. How'd you meet Nelyafinwë?"

"Dropped in to find out why there existed Flat Elves who were not being invited to help with the immortality necklaces getting rolled out faster. My world was far down enough on the priority list that I probably would've been dead if I hadn't gotten out."

"They don't trust us. Did you find a way around that?"

"They've improved their surveillance options since they last visited the question, but mostly I just aggressively questioned their priorities-that-would-have-let-me-die until they stopped arguing with me."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." Flap.

"I will confess I already looked at my alts' notes on the language but it would still delight me to speak it with you."

"Do you have perfect pitch set up?"

"Yep!"

Allspeak off. "It's odd that there are species that can't tell pitches. It's weirder than colorblindness but apparently more common!"

Can you send while you speak so I pick up vocabulary faster -

"Sure." She repeats herself.

"It's odd that there are species! It's odd that there are pitches!"

Teaching Fëanors languages is fun. "Is it even conceptually possible to have sounds without pitches?"

"I cannot conceptual how but lots of not possible things are possible lately."

"Conceive of how. Yeah, it was a lot to take in when I got out of my world and there was suddenly so much everything."

"Did you guess what things were for? Were you right? What things wanted most -"

"What things did I want most. I guessed some of them and other stuff was completely bewildering - buildings were obvious when I saw them, currency took me a while especially since most of it isn't visible in Space, all on the chips, but as soon as I got the idea it was brilliant - water fountains were weird, it seemed like a sad way to compensate for not being near the sea - I'm lucky people thought I was an angel and assumed all features of my appearance were deliberate because I showed up in sealskin and barefoot, shoes were confusing, shorefolk don't walk a lot - I wanted everything to be written down, I've only taught a handful of people at home."

"It's mostly on computers here. You might have done better landing in a flat Arda - except the wings -"

"I would've gotten noticed a lot sooner if I hadn't landed somewhere there were angels."

"Your magic can't do concealment?"

"It does transportation and translation and weather. I could've done fog, but that would've been pretty conspicuous too."

"That's an interesting limit."

"I'm hoping it can do other things, but I haven't found any other concepts I can anchor a spell on."

"What's the process for anchoring a spell -"

"You have to simultaneously concentrate on the concept as a whole and the specific effect you want, but just for a moment, it doesn't take long. And it's a little hard to do that while singing about whatever you're burning to power the spell, writing makes it easier as well as more powerful."

"Does it feel like something if you're trying for something that isn't a category?"

"No. It doesn't feel like anything to successfully cast, either, apart from the forgetting, it just happens."

"Huh. And can you move worlds -"

"Don't know yet but I'm saving up stuff I can forget to try it in case it just takes a lot."

He likes the word for 'forget'; he repeats it a dozen times. "What else are you doing?"

"Nicening up Beach, being friendly to Shadow, learning things I would prefer not to forget..."

"Going to add buildings and currency?"

"I'm not actually sure buildings will catch on seeing as we can control the weather."

"Do people never disagree on it?"

"Sometimes, but I don't see how buildings solve that."

"People who don't want to be rained on can go inside?"

"People who don't want to be rained on can go somewhere nobody wants it to be raining, it's only a problem if people disagree about a specific place and they could still do that if it had a building."

"I did not realize the control was that precise. Fair enough."

"The effects if you're only singing are very small, which amounts to the same thing."

"Awww. 

 

...could you take me by Shadow so I can see my family?"

"How long do you need?"

"A day?"

"Yeah, I can do that. Now?"

Bounce bounce. "I'd like that."

Pop, pop!

He races off towards the palace.

Tireh drops a note on the network and follows more sedately.

Then she will find Fëanor hugging his son.

She doesn't interrupt.

Thanks, he says after a couple minutes. Are you supposed to be supervising or something -

If anybody sends me a panicked message in the next hour I don't want to have left in that time, after that I'll figure it's fine and let you be.

Okay.

 

There are gardens. They go for a walk. They are very pretty gardens, though Tirehbel will find the water fountains rather silly.

She doesn't walk; she flies overhead unobtrusively, could be mistaken for a bird.

Nobody sends her a panicked message. She leaves.

When she comes back the next day the whole family is assembled practicing her language.

"Hi." Flap.

"Hi! Thank you for the ride."

"You're welcome. Did you wind up learning how to teleport while you were here or should I hop you back?"

He gestures at his collar, which does not have a necklace. "I think Vanda Nossëo would be less amused if I were stealing their things. Going back can wait if you're busy, though."

"Nope, if I were busy I would've gotten here later." She waves at his sons, and then pop, pop.

"Thanks so much!"

"You're welcome!" Flap.

"If they've all got necklaces now I suppose it doesn't matter but I'll poke one of my alts who's doing aging about your species."

"Well, the population's going to boom if we stop dying and if we had a non-necklace solution instead then the necklaces could be used elsewhere."

"We'll take a look!"

Flap flap. "Thanks!"

He likes the word for thanks; he repeats it gleefully.

She giggles and goes home.