Wealth and immortality were easy enough to acquire, once Savali understood the nature of his magic. Even love was trivial, in the end; hormones were simple to manipulate once you knew the trick.
"There'll be a war soon, if the council doesn't agree to let the breeders have their way," his wife said at dinner. "Are you sure you want to keep going with your project?"
He told her the truth. "Avateine, I'm a lot more afraid of ennui than the council."
It wasn't until later that night, when he found himself talking to a particularly stubborn rooster, that he realized that even if he defeated every enemy and answered every question, he would never run out of goals.
There would always be some new absurdity to dream up, he was suddenly sure.
"Ain't that grand?" he asked the rooster, laughing with delight.
The rooster, sarcastic to its bony core, clacked its beak in the pattern that meant, "Sure, boss. I'm thrilled to hear you're happy. You're happy I don't want to climb into a blood-stained box and go visit your friend the allegedly-very-nice mindmage. All so that she can teach you how to turn me into a brand new species of magical monstrosity."
"Come on," he said, tapping the box again. "It'll be fun."
The rooster disagreed, but Savali took it as a challenge. Practicing his diplomacy was nowhere near as boring as forcing things, and he wasn't in a hurry, not yet at least.
It would be years before the council nerved itself up to try and stop his experiments, no matter what rumors Avateine overheard.
I've written stories about the downsides of immortality before, but not since I’ve read some of the new research coming out on that front. While I don’t personally identify as a rationalist (a trait I’ll admit I’m told is common to rationalists 😅), I read Scott Alexander‘s newsletter Astral Codex Ten pretty regularly and a book review he wrote last year for Lifespan has been sticking in my mind. The author, David Sinclair, thinks that aging will be "remarkably easy" to tackle.
Yet philosophers, alchemists and scientists have been seeking the secrets of eternal life for a long time, and storytellers have been warning about the side effects for what I assume is just as long. The one that always springs to my mind when the subject comes up is the Greek story of the goddess who asked for her husband to have eternal life, and wound up married to a grasshopper. She forgot to ask that he have eternal youth, which would make immortality kind of suck.
If you haven't read it yet, The Offer (my other immortality story) deals with a guy who isn’t really enthusiastic the whole "living forever" thing. I thought it might be fun to write about Savali, since he’s very intellectually driven — essentially the opposite of The Offer’s protagonist, who is driven only by a son’s love for his mother and willing to sacrifice his happiness to keep her from suffering.
This post is for paying subscribers only
Sign up now to read this article and get access to all premium posts.
Already have an account? Sign In