The Tinfoil Compass

‘What did you think of good old Maclaf?’ Dry. Wordy. Boring.’ And there weren’t any pictures either, but that’s beside the point.

‘His theories about perception as an active force were interesting, but he writes as though he’s afraid someone might actually understand him.

In my workshop of the mind all sorts of strange things occur, and putting them down on paper is a bloody hard thing to do!. It’s a lot like Love… ‘If one [poet] could pin it to the paper all complete, the others would lay down their pens, but it can’t be done.’ However there is no denying facts and the answer is always either right or wrong, and if it’s right, then all the wrong answers are immaterial, so why waste energy trying to justify them? Wasting energy is not of the Lethani. The best way to get this theory across is probably by using numbers and if the answer you come up with is Forty-Two, then all the other answers are wrong and so you should ignore them. But we aren’t really in Adams’ world, you are sort of in Pat’s world, yes, but most importantly, You are in Mine.


So, we have some numbers that are marked apart as being ‘Lucky’. Namely Seven and Three. Seven is the greater of this pair and Trapis tells us that it is special because ‘on the Seventh day…the Seventh city was saved. That is why Seven is a lucky number, and why we celebrate on Caenin (Chaen).’ However! It is also fair to say that Seven also has a more secret reason for being infamous, The7 is the Faen name for the chandrian, The Cthaeh is most insistent about this point and Felurian will Not allow any tiny part of the7 to be even hinted at within her realms boundaries meaning that to the fae it would appear that Seven is a most unlucky name and number to even contemplate naming, but numbering things is still slightly less dangerous than naming them.

Three is a lesser number, although more things here are grouped in three’s, not least the silence of three parts. From an unlucky perspective there are the classic ‘three things that all wise men fear’, a quote attributed to Teccam (Selitos) himself who is only really concerned about the actions of The7, and therefore only really fears one thing, the chandrian, who themselves only fear three things, namely Amyr, singers and Sithe. It all spins around and a round and there is definitely some pattern of 3&7 emerging here, we just need to work out how it all works together.

These numbers are both lucky and fearful at the same time to all the important people in these worlds, those who know the truth behind the hystery of such things, those who understand the shape of the world. My personal favourite example of the number three’s importance universally is the three parts that make up any persons longname, although there could well be a connection to Tehlu striking people with his iron hammer precisely three times to factor in here too. Threpe asks Kvothe all about the lucky numbers and we get our confirmation of this pairs perceived luckiness-level above all other numbers in the land of Temerant confirmed from that conversation…Oh! And Trip Rolls Sevens too! That might also be important.

When working out how much denner-resin would be needed to kill a draccus, Kvothe reaches twenty units, an acceptabl7 round number, using a system of basic mathematics and applied logic, but then he illogically adds ‘one more for luck’, abandoning any accepted mathematical reasoning to do so, but thereby raising the grand total to twenty-one units, which he says is a good number, three sevens. Funnily enough this number is then doubled by Denna’s insistance and we then progress to Douglas Adams preferred answer to all things of 42. (aka 7x(3+3)). This was estimated at being about 1/3 of the total denner Denna found…. (there’s that three again, and it =2/3 left in the bag) but still unconvinced they double this total once more (for luck?) and finally call that enough to do the deed and still have enough left over to buy a pony. But in fact this still wasn’t enough to do the job, it eventually took everything they had and then some, all 3/3 of the whole and a whack on the head with a big lump of iron to tip the vaevin level of our scaly monster over the end of the Stangle scale and pinning it firmly in place a bit like some crazy lepidopterist might pin down a butterfly… but who breaks a butterfly on a wheel? a pin-wheel made of good red iron, Of course there is a parallel here to the wheel that Tehlu used to finally pin down Encanis. Only Tehlu’s wheel was forged of Black iron, not Red.

Wheels Within Wheels

You may be curious as to what a TinFoil Compass actually looks like. Well, it sort of resembles a gyroscope, or one of those cages ostentatious folk use to keep large globes in (Ball and Cup!) or maybe somewhat more like an atom, perhaps… the descriptions and limits which I have defined for it so far are represented by three interlocking rounds representing three intersecting planes and therefore three seperate pointers to triangulate our three-part answers. So far we have a couple of pairs of scales to incorporate into it, Stangle & Vaevin circling like a clock reads, with back-to-back continuity on one of the planes, and the colours Red & Black on a second, intersecting plane. These extermities are like the indicators and lights of the device, but they are pretty vague things to work with, (how dark is this rusty brown?, can you define less or more nearly dead?) and so we need to read the needles more clearly to know where we are standing in the scales of such things, and so we need some kind of numbers to better see the proposed readings. Numbers are very fun-de-mental things…and mainly unnescesary. Numbers are just a special kind of letter, or rather rune, and as far as this tinfoil guide to maths is concerned you only ever really need to understand the answer, not the working out, or even the question for that matter. If the correct answer is given, the incorrect answers were all wrong anyway, and so there is not much point observing them that closely. Leave that to Anisat at the Crucible. Accept and acknowledge that all answers do have a place in the world and focus instead on the outer Limits of things,

The lucky numbers we are going to use for our TFC calculations have been revealed as Three and Seven, but we need all of the other common numbers to compute with and to give us scope as to an idea of the minimum and maximum settings available to respect all answers correctly. If the answer was given as Nine, for example, that alone would be useless as it would mean nothing without context. Nine out of ten is a lot, nine out of a hundred is not so much. Master Mandrag is on the right lines when he said to Auri…

‘Nine tenths of alchemy was chemistry. And nine tenths of chemistry was waiting.

The Other piece? That slender tenth part of a tenth?

This slender part is therefore ‘not waiting.’ but more about that later.

Few would complain if the dials on our TFC went up to ten, Base10 is a number we are naturally comfortable with, it’s easy to think in, but if you think that the answer might be not be unqualified nine, but rather a more exact Forty-two, then we are going to need a finer scale to display such fine-dings. The accuracy of a hundred point scale would be perfect, as it also allows us to think in percentages, but that would unfortunately require a third digit counter to be installed and this device is imperfect and has only two. Such is the way of the world. That means that we live in an imperfect world and we can only read up to Ninety-nine, not a hundred, which leads to inexact answers and approximations for percentages, but that is no real problem as all the important numbers in the universe are infinite approximates anyway, numbers like Pi for example. The argument over the need for accuracy is so close as to make little difference at this point in construction in the same way that fifty-nine minutes is virtually an hour, and quite like the phase before a true full moon may appear close enough to full for a man to make a mistake (it should be noted, however, that this does not work at the other end of the lunar scale. One slender sliver is still enough to prove existence).

The Tehlin church calendar encounters similar problems when it needs to exactly balance days and months into years. It uses a vague approach of it’s own workings to apply exactness after the proper years official passing and before the next year begins as it is only after the event that such accuracy becomes that important, until that time they have an accepted discordance as to why the shape of the world is not perfect, and so do I. That is why our TLC is equally imperfect.

This minute adjustment in the fine tuning of answers for perfectly percentaged findings fluctuates as a fraction depending on where and how it appears in the given answer. A record playing at 33 1/3 requires use of this random fraction phenomonum and so we need to give it a collective name of it’s own for our own ease of thinking, and the name of these fractions is to be henceforth allotted the letter L in our equations. On our LP record example, L would appear as the nice exact imperial measurement of 1/3 (and with metric imprecision adjustment translating gives us the ungainly sum of L = 0.333 recurring!)

With one empty space at the end of the scale we can introduce a slightly limited base10 counting tool into our thinking to visualise things just like the cealdish money lenders do with their abacii, the fact that their counting devices also only go up to a short finish ninety-nine makes for a similar display in a TFC. The machine can be treated as an abacus is to count tallies and correllations between drabs and/or jots and/or talents and thus they too would not require a third tally column or digit counter either. Adding another level would require the use of gold in the construction, but that is for-getting into Aleph level readings territory, Gold Mark level. The study of Tinfoil is not that exact a science, Iron Drabs, Silver Talens and Copper Jots should be easily enough to represent the sums we need to divine for ourselves for now and we should just always remember that we still need to apply L to the final results for perfect accuracy.

The cealdish use this base10 system in currency conversions, making it universally accepted.


One use of the TFC in action would be for it to point out and triangulate your fortune, a bit like a crystal ball does. If you want an example of the scales in action, imagine that it has three needles, iron, copper and silver, and while one arrow is sometimes trained on Temerant, and another hand may gesture towards the ever moving moon, the third indicator may very well be pointing off towards the fae, wherever that may be today. Note: Unsubstantiated reports of fluctuations in readings may occur due to the devices proximity to greystones, drawstones and waystones.

Kvothe sums up the elemental difference between fae and mortal with a statement of assured fact by comparing the two like a chemist would compare water to alcohol, and he is 99% correct when he says that ‘one will burn and the other will not.’ But then Kvothe knows nothing about alchemy.

‘If it mixes with alcohol it will turn acidic. If it mixes with a little water, like your sweat, that’s fine. But if it mixes with a lot of water, say a hundred parts to one, it will turn flammable.’

‘Nothing becomes flammable when you mix it with water…’

Kvothe knows nothing about alchemy. Say it

Good old Simmon is using Mandrags pointer on the scale here to show us not only the Vaevin end and the Stangle end of the scale but also the exact flashpoint that marks the difference between them which in this case tells us that a balance of 100-1 makes things go bang, meaning for tinfoil purposes 99 is as far as you should ever safely go searching, anything more can be dangerful… especially when it comes to correct action, which is dictated by the Lethani, which swings one of our arrows around to point at the tale of Aethe and Rethe.

Before she died, Rethe dictated, and Aethe recorded, the nine-and-ninety stories which gives us a very lovely and neat numbering system to use on this scale since it meant that she spoke at exactly thirty-three stories per day during her final three day long Vaevin to Stangle cycle. These stories became the root of all Ademre and the beginning of understanding of the Lethani. Since three is also a lucky number and the sum breaks down to (3×33) it’s presence in this sphere is reassuring to see. Rethe’s own personal life arrow has also transcended from being that of the pupil to become that of the teacher, and Aethe’s arrow has appropriately regressed in the other direction as he now holds himself to be a student to her wisdom. Somewhere about the 50% mark they cross, about half way through day two would be the point where this shift in the balance actually occurred. However, at the end of the third day we have reached the limits of our scale and after story Ninety-nine, Rethe tells us that…

‘There is one final story, more important than all the rest , and that one shall be known when I awake.’ Then Rethe closed her eyes and slept. And sleeping, she died.’

Because our dials only count up to 99, or nine talents and nine Jots (or nine jots and nine drabs) we have no way to actually record this last golden story of hers. Each story is marked with it’s own notch on the Vaevin scale until the Stangle end of the scale has been reached, and as Rethe shows, and as Auri knows, this secret slender tenth part of a tenth of things is the most important. This is where things go bang. This is a place one step beyond our scale, our scope and our understanding. Time has no real meaning here in this final destination, it is a point between places, made up of all the assorted Lfractions put together. It lies deep within the hidden heart of things and at the same time somewhere over the end of the rainbows arc. It marks the first step onto the other side of things, it is also a crossroads between these lines of division where our third silver plane comes into play, a line which visually mirrors the phases of the moon and more physically mirrors the line drawn in the road by Tehlu where all must choose which side of the line they walk upon.

‘Where does the road go? Death. All lives end in death, saving one, such is the way of things.’

So after 99 on this scale comes only the black void left by a moonless night, the lands of the dead, the long name of shadow itself and (maybe, perhaps,) the sound of distant drums… which may in turn indicate the start of the long ring road back around again, along this third scale’s back side which must be followed before one reaches the mid-point of no return and the start of the slender cresent that indicates the moons long journey back towards full Vaevin which can again begin. This is where you go to beg favours from the moon, and your continued presence and existence here will all depend on which way your own personal arrow is facing at the time, either grimward or grinning as the saying goes, and only time will reveal which is which, if time has any real meaning in such places as this that is.

Seven Strikes Again

So adjusting this device to the flip side of the scale, to the scale of our earthcolor spectrum, and still marking the ends of the scale at One and Ninety-Nine would make one side Red and the other side Black, the midbrown colour of the Cealdish drab would mark the midway point as you officially cross from one half to the other, A pretty good number, 49 and an L. This crossover can also quite coincidentally, give or take an L, be regarded as (7×7) which sounds very lucky indeed, or perhaps extremely unlucky, depending on which side of the line you are on at the time.

Of course, Seven is the most important number in all these books, and three is doubly so for KKC and TFC purposes both. Seven’s prominence stems from time of Perial and therefore from the time of Tehlu’s iron wheel, which funnily enough, is roughly the same shape and design as the three wheels in a TFC. Now! That wheel represented the total combined power of everything Tehlu commanded, That wheel contained the power of all names, both twin parts of them both working together as one, and when it comes to Aleph, he knew the lot. All the names in the world went into it’s construction and

‘the sound of it’s name was terrible and none could speak it’s name.’

It is a work of artifice and any similar serious work in the artifishery would involve the artificer knowing his runes. The correct term for this alphabet is sygaldry and it’s form and function is well described by Kvothe in chapter fifty-one, (L+L/L?) which Pat called Tar and Tin. The important information we need to know from it is that there are a grand total of 197 different runes in this alphabet, one for each part of the function needed and intended to make your chosen pieces fit together more perfectly. This binding process is like the invisible string that pulls to a distant bell, it is very important towards making the correct action happen, and thus to the pulling or pushing of the needles on our device.

But there is a catch, One-Hundred-and-ninety-seven is a pretty horrible number to work with, it’s a prime for a start, making long division painful. But that only means that any reading is then divisible into wholes and fractions, like suggesting that our 49L , is half of 99L, is half of 197L. Proving that L is an essential component of tinfoil science.

Sygaldry incorporates all the pieces necessary to create bindings. Bindings that act as the glue between two individual 1/2’s and turning them into a whole and so Sygaldry would appear to be the perfect language to inscribe our TFC with, both inside and out, as it has almost the correct amount of scope to cover both sides of the dial at once and thus hold 99 twin bindings back to back in perpetuity. Assuming that L=1 that is.

This is easier to imagine in reverse, and to imagine that all things intrinsically share some individual attributes like those more readily displayed by observing both Iron and Loden. Imagining this process in negative would line up our ninety-eight pairs , and have each naturallly attracting to each others other 1/2, and our original Iron/Loden twins would reciprocally lose their current binding in return, reversing the scale between all things from strong to weak and swapping over the polarities in the whole device. Thinking this way we can also imagine similar results on the other two wheels, and reciprocal movements on the other two needles.

As far as the Iron needle is concerned we can now imagine our red and black scale to be engraved with sygaldry on both sides for it to indicate our answers. The bindings necessary to hold all the cherry red of the fire-side to the almost pitch black of the iron-side are now nearly perfect, Aleph designed them himself to do his will, the 99 on the red side one match up to the 98+L on the black side two, making L the only broken binding in the whole universe. Of course, on the flip side, you could say that without a break in perfection everything would be perfect, and perfection doesn’t exist anymore than infinity does.


In summary,then, The Tin Foil Compass is thus a navigation device of three interlocking wheels, One of Iron, One of Copper and One of Silver. Each wheel has a sliding pointer of a similar metal and the lowest setting of these is found on the iron wheel and points at two twin~runes selected from the possible total comprising a grand total of 197 runes to choose from (where L=0/0). Similar pointers of copper and silver adorn the other two wheels and point to alternative bindings as all three needles move to triangulated points of orbit depending on their proximity to the other two at any given time. The Iron wheel represents Mortal, The Copper wheel represents Fae and the Silver wheel, as far as I can tell, represents the ever-moving-Moon.

Depending on the phase of the moon, or the proximity of the nearest drawstone, or by the amount of danger you are currently in, individual bindings can be deduced by dividing the iron wheel totals by 7 , which will show one coordinate. Whereas dividing by 3 will offer you another direction in which to run and hide. Some folk swear by dividing by both! (3×7=21) and giving a far more triangular answer but always remember All coordinates still need an L-adjustment to correctly identify the proper direction you need to rune to. The final triangulation experiment is to make L=1/1 and turn all the needles up to breaking point, the test of destruction. All three coordinates are then to be anti-triangulated to break apart it’s three part name and so the question should be divided by three once more, which gives us an answer to our question of…


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