Sampling Bias

The fresh breeze hit Forwin like an old memory as he stepped outside, a welcome change to the musty ambience of the tavern. He stood blinking for a moment in the late afternoon light and then set off for the stables, hoping he wasn’t too late. The sounds and smells of the village market drifted through the air, the ancient public square sprinkled with soldiers, village folk and travelers like himself looking for bargains. A horse cart was departing, iron-rimmed wheels rumbling on cobblestone, a hooded figure holding the reins. The cart turned onto a main dirt road and slowed as Forwin ran to intercept it.

The back of the cart was packed with supply sacks bulging with provisions, bronze alchemical cookware and mattress rolls. A stack of scrolls peeked out from under a leather tarp. A young woman lay curled up on what little free space was available, chest rising and falling in regular breathing and eyes closed with a peacefulness that had eluded her waking moments.

“Will she be alright?” Forwin addressed the hooded driver after pausing to catch his breath.

“I have administered a sleeping draught to help her recuperate from her ordeal,” the Wizard’s face was hidden in the shadow of his hood, but his voice held a note of impatience, “But surely you didn’t accost me to inquire after her health?”

“You knew I was being set up,” Forwin jerked a thumb at the tavern.

“Perhaps,” the Wizard’s tone was noncommittal.

“And yet you allowed me to walk into the trap,” Forwin sounded more accusing than he had intended.

“You have a problem with that?” the Wizard chuckled.

“Teach me,” Forwin swallowed.

“What?” the Wizard straightened in surprise.

“Unless you witnessed that particular con before,” Forwin ventured,  gathering his courage,”you must have a way to figure things out. To see… more deeply than the rest of us. Do I need to become your apprentice? Swear fealty?”

Apprentice?” the Wizard laughed without malice, “I didn’t know you possessed the gift of magic, lad.”

“Not magic,” Forwin shook his head, “You didn’t use magic in the tavern. Teach me wisdom. Teach me how to think like you do. My father thinks I’m too naive to be entrusted with the family business. I’m tired of being the mark.”

The Wizard didn’t respond for long moments, and when he did his voice held wonder laced with regret, “I thought I had seen it all. Lesser wizards who coveted my power. Kings who sought my counsel. People pestering me for all manner of spells. Yet in all my decades, none have asked me to make them wiser. None showed awareness of the one thing they lacked the most, you see. Still… I can ill afford the time for an apprentice. If our paths should cross again… who knows. But you could worse than follow this advice. Always ask what you are not seeing. And this above all else, ask yourself how likely is what you see if your supposition was true, compared to if your supposition wasn’t true.”

“Wait,” Forwin looked confused, “What.”

But the Wizard had flicked the reins, the horse and cart already moving up the road and picking up speed. Forwin stood there for a moment, watching the cart until it disappeared in the distance, and then sighed. Time for him to hit the road too. There was an enormous tree stump  in the middle of the market square serving as an improvised  fruit stand. Forwin found an empty spot between strawberry baskets and sat down to pull out a map from his satchel. Unfolding the yellowed paper across his lap, he started to trace the shortest route to his next stop, through the spaghetti scrawl of twisting roads that linked the capital to the provinces.

“What the…” Forwin squinted at the map.

A shadow fell across the map, causing Forwin to look up and do a double take. A hulking form towered over him. The man stood nearly eight feet tall,  clothed in an odd combination of hide armor and bronze mail, a bushy green beard covering his face that was topped by a domed leather helmet. He didn’t look like a freakishly tall human, but proportioned like a human prizefighter. Which made him even more massive, with each arm as thick as a normal human thigh. A longbow as tall as the giant was slung across his back along with a quiver of arrows. Forwin’s panic subsided as he realized the giant wasn’t threatening him.

“Are you headed south, perchance, good sir?” rumbled the giant amicably.

“If you must know,” Forwin tapped the nearest town on the map, “I am headed for Domir, no thanks to this confounded map.”

“Indeed?” the giant looked interested.

“There’s only a thin dotted line marking the road to Domir,” Forwin muttered almost to himself, “You can hardly see it.”

“Ah,” the giant nodded, “the road through Lichenfield moor isn’t used by dwar… humans anymore. Not in decades. Hardly more than a trail now.”

“Not in use?” protested Forwin in dismay, “but that’s the shortest path to Domir. The only other route is twice as long.” On the other hand, it wasn’t uncommon for roads to fall into disuse and decay, in the far corners of the realm.

“Is the road treacherous?” Forwin looked up at the giant, “Are there bandits?”

“Bandits on the Lichenfield?” the giant seemed surprised, “None that I’ve seen.”

That wasn’t saying much, mused Forwin. Not many bandits would attack a party of giants. Giants were formidable in combat. Besides giants didn’t carry much in the way of fungible loot.

“In any case,” Forwin sighed, “I doubt I’ll find a horse cart willing to take me through, if the road is as unused as you say.”

“You can ride with us,” offered the giant, “we will drop you off Domir and be on our way.”

“Huh?” Forwin looked up startled, his eyes narrowing in suspicion, “what’s in it for you? Why all the interest in my travel plan?” It occurred to Forwin that perhaps the giant was a bandit himself.

“It’s my daughter, Bestla,” the giant sighed, “born with the gift of premonition, she is. Random flashes of dread afflict her at times. Some nameless peril lies in wait on the journey home, if her latest feeling is to be believed.”

The giant stepped aside, pointing to two other imposing figures standing a few feet away. The boy looked like a younger clone of the giant but the girl was shorter with a thick violet braid running down a bare shoulder and a slightly smaller longbow on her back. Forwin estimated her to be nearly seven feet tall, rather short for a giant.  He suddenly realized she wasn’t older than himself. A sari of coarse wool cloaked her down to her knees, supplemented by a vest of bronze mail similar to the ones on the menfolk. Strips of leather circled her calves, serving as sheaths for daggers and other tools. She appraised Forwin coolly. Her expression was as clear as day, Try anything with me and I’ll gut you.

“My son, Kal,” pride crept into the older giant’s voice, “and my daughter, Bestla. I am Bali, by the way.”

“Charmed,”  Forwin muttered, “but I don’t see what this has got to do with me.

“Are you a Seer?” demanded the girl suddenly.

“What? Um… No,” Forwin blinked surprise.

Bestla looked disappointed, as Bali continued, “Her premonition of dread abated when you showed up. We thought perhaps, if you agreed to accompany us then my daughter’s concern would be put to rest.”

“We’ve been hanging around here long enough,” interjected Kal angrily, “trying to humor our budding little Seer. It’s time we got back home.” He turned to point at a snow capped peak of the Iceblades seen thrusting up into the sky beyond the rooftops. His sister scowled at him.

“You think I can protect you?” Forwin gaped, “Is this a joke? Am I supposed to believe she is a Seer?”

“I don’t understand it,” Bestla bit her lip, “the doom that I sense fades a bit when I stare at you. It’s still there, but not as much.”

“Her premonitions don’t always pan out ,” Bali admitted, looking embarrassed, “but enough of them have come true over the years, that I can’t simply ignore it. There was this one time with the Chieftain’s wife, when Bestla was a little girl…”

“Sorry,” Forwin shook his head, “but no deal. Even if she really has a touch of the Seer’s Gift, there is no good reason for me to join you. It’s your route home, not mine.”

“You wanted the short road to Domir, a moment ago,” Bali pointed out mildly, “and this is almost certainly a false premonition. You said it yourself. What can you do to defend us, that we cannot do ourselves? If your presence is pointless, so is her vision.”

Kal flexed his biceps in agreement. He carried no bow, but a twin-bladed battleaxe was slung on his back.  The iron weapon was so enormous that Forwin doubted he himself could lift it.

Giant has a point, Forwin admitted to himself, I really could use the short cut. The other route was clogged with military foot traffic and detoured too close to the front lines for comfort. Why risk that because of a jittery girl with delusions of being a Seer? One could ask for no better bodyguards than a trio of giants.

How likely is what you see if your supposition was true, compared to if your supposition wasn’t true. The wizard’s parting advice echoed in Forwin’s mind, even if it wasn’t obvious how he was supposed to weigh one likehood against another.

“Very well, I accept,” nodded Forwin slowly, “but if this is all some ludicrous story to rob me on the way, I have nothing but promissory notes in my satchel here. No use to you. Just saying…”

Forwin’s reply petered off as Bestla’s face flushed in anger, and Kal stepped forward with a growl, “You dare slander the honor of…”

“Peace, my children,” Bali interrupted quickly, “this young man has no reason to trust us and his concern quite natural. No insult intended, I’m sure. Come, let us adjourn to the stables and be on our way.”

#

Riding a mastodon’s back wasn’t as unsettling as Forwin had expected. The compact pachyderms – named Bluebell and Wildflower – had settled into a rocking rhythm that Forwin found soothing. He held onto strips cut into the large leather mat roped around Wildflower’s torso. He sat facing sideways, behind Bali, his legs dangling down the mastodon’s side giving him a better view of the landscape.  Much better than staring at a giant’s huge backside for the duration. Kal and Bestla rode beside them on Bluebell’s back.

The heather was in bloom across the Lichenfield, carpeting the moor in purple hues as far as the eye could see. Not far away the peaks of the Iceblades loomed, snowy summits scintillating  like serrated teeth in the bright blue sky. It was a beautiful day. They had left the cultivated lands behind, and the road had petered out as Bali had described. The cobblestone had disintegrated into rubble, with bracken encroaching and dislodging the few intact stones. No horse cart would have navigated it, though the mastodons glided effortlessly through the scrub.

“What were you doing at the village,” Forwin wondered conversationally, “if you don’t mind me asking? Wouldn’t Domir be a better place to trade?”

“Eh?” Bali grunted, “We weren’t trading at the village… just stopped there to grab a drink. We were hunting deer in the Whispering Woods. Or trying to.” There was frustration in Bali’s voice.

“Slim pickings?” Forwin asked in surprise.

“You can say that,” Kal answered instead, patting a small bag stuffed with  animal skin, “all we found was one measly whitetail. Barely enough meat for the three of us. Nothing to take home. Our trip was for nothing.”

“The past winter was harsh in these parts,” Bali explained, “and the deer haven’t recovered yet.”

“Huh,” Forwin mused awkwardly, “Well… I hope your herds will tide you through.”

Forwin remembered that the tribes of giants made their home on the lower slopes of the Iceblades, making a living grazing their yak herds, supplemented by bartering cheese and wool for human crafted luxuries.

“Oh,” Bestla explained, “the meat was meant for our dogs, not for us. Mostly. Though try telling that to Sir Lord Glutton here.” She jabbed her brother with her elbow and Kal yelped.

“Oh, you breed dogs for pets?” Forwin smiled.

“That’s what we call the dire wolf pups,” Bestla laughed, an endearingly girlish sound for one so big, “We’ve been training them to guard our yak herds.”

“Dire wolves?” Forwin gulped, “Um… aren’t those dangerous?”

“Not as dangerous as what they guard against,” Bali answered grimly, “though we may have to let the bigger ones loose if we don’t find venison for them. Lest they prey on the yak themselves.”

“What are they guarding the herds from?” Forwin frowned.

“Sabre cats for one,” replied Kal lightly, “the mountains have their fair share of those. The occasional mountain troll, though those are rare. And then there are the snow drakes.”

“Snow drakes?” Forwin blurted, “Are you telling me you have seen dragons? I thought they were all gone since…”

“…the Draconoid War of twenty years past,” finished Bali quietly, “Aye. My son exaggerates a bit. We haven’t seen any in years, on Gandarva Peak. Though, old Vidmar of the Blue Mountain lost some of his herd recently to a snow drake. Draconoid numbers must be growing again since the War. And the Whispering Woods are lean in game this year. A hungry snow drake might turn elsewhere for food.”

Forwin turned to stare at the giant’s back, “And you didn’t think to tell me this little detail before?”

“For what?” Bali sounded puzzled, “If you are referring to Bestla premonition, that can’t possibly be about a snow drake since I don’t see how you would be any good fighting such a creature. No, I only need to worry about snow drakes up on the mountain. And we have the dogs to deal with that.”

“Are you telling me that your dogs… dire wolves have any chance against a snow drake?” Forwin sounded incredulous.

“If there’s one thing a snow drake fears,” Bali answered patiently, “it’s a dire wolf pack that can clamber on to its back and tear its wings to shreds. A snow drake is vulnerable when its on the ground struggling with heavy prey like a yak. As big as they are, they aren’t fire breathing dragons of legend. Just over sized flying predators. Still… if I never see one again that’ll be too soon for me.  My unit fought one of those in the War, and that was quite enough for me.”

“You fought in the Draconoid War?” Forwin sounded awed. The Draconoid War as it was called had been more pest control than traditional combat. But the cost in lives had been so terrible that it had passed into legend.

“Aye,” Bali’s tone was brooding, “I left to fight when my wife was carrying Bestla in her womb. And  I lost many a brother that day…”

“Tell the story, Pa,” Bestla’s eyes were shinning. She turned to Forwin, “I never tire of hearing it.”

#

Two decades ago the snow drakes had descended from their aeries high up on the Iceblades onto the lands of Men. No longer willing to confine their foraging to ancient hunting grounds in the Whispering Woods, they had spilled out into farmland, preying on livestock and people alike. Travelling beyond fortified towns grew dangerous and routes abandoned. The human kingdoms had finally united to face the threat, despite having ignored the warnings from the giants for years.

“There were those of my people who felt slighted at our counsel being ignored,” Bali continued, “who argued that we shouldn’t aid the humans. But cooler heads prevailed. The snow drakes were an even bigger threat to us, after all.”

There had been hundreds of snow drakes in the sky that day, over the battle in the Lichenfield. And the largest formation of archers ever seen in Ordossia. The snow drakes had ploughed through the human host like a scythe through wheat, chewing up and spitting out bodies. But the cost in lives had been paid and the snow drakes vanquished. Almost all the snow drakes had fled by the time Bali’s archer unit had entered the fray.

“There was only one snow drake left to fight when we reached the battle,” Bali continued, “but it might as well have been the entire flock for all the trouble it gave us. The Warded Heart we named it.”

“Why… why did you call it so?” Forwin asked enthralled.

“It wouldn’t die,” swore Bali, “wouldn’t be brought down. We knew from our own lore that snow drakes were resistant to arrows. But no one imagined they could absorb so many hits. It was almost entirely covered in arrows when I laid eyes on it, its body and wings darkened by hundreds of arrow shafts,  but it just ignored them and kept flying. And in the center of its chest was an irregular patch untouched by any arrow.”

“Its chest?” interrupted Forwin, “Where its heart would be?”

“Its one weak spot,” nodded Bali, “We reckoned that snow drakes could generate a ward around their heart to deflect arrows.”

“I didn’t know snow drakes could do that,” Forwin frowned. It wasn’t unheard of for some creatures to naturally generate magic or be immune to it. Blood elves, for instance, were immune to magical attack.

“Neither did we,” admitted  Bali, “it was a bit of a shock. But luckily for us, the creature finally collapsed. Probably because it lost so much blood from its wounds.”

#

That evening they dismounted to hunt. That is, the giants dismounted while Forwin watched from atop Wildflower. Consistent with the giants, the arrows were the size of mini spears. Bestla brought down a couple of red grouse, her aim unerring as her arrows found their targets over large distances. Stunned at her archery prowess, Forwin found himself unable to take his eyes off her as she moved through the grass with the grace of a warrior princess, her lips gleaming like red petals against the setting sun.

They set up camp as dusk fell, and Kal roasted the grouse over a cracking fire. The smell of cooked fowl was mouth watering, but Forwin politely declined the offered pieces. He had packed his own rations, and didn’t feel justified  partaking from their  dinner. There was little enough for the giants.

“Are you a wizard?” asked Bestla suddenly.

“No, I am not Wizard or a Seer,” Forwin smiled, “Why would you think that?”

“I saw the Wizard speak to you,” muttered Bestla, “the one with the horse cart. When he finished speaking, my premonition of dread eased up. A lot. And it almost went away when you agreed to accompany us. Did the Wizard give you a spell?”

“That’s bloody odd,” Forwin stared at her, “No spell though… How likely is what you see if your supposition was true, compared to if your supposition wasn’t true.”

“What?” Bestla looked surprised.

“Nothing,” Forwin muttered, “just something the Wizard said.”

The gibbous moon floated over the moorland, and the twinkling stars brilliant in their multitude. The mountain peaks gleamed like white bones in the moonlight, above the horizon. The giants were chatty, but alert. If danger was to strike, it seemed reasonable that it would do so at night.

“Why do you keep staring at me and then turn away when I turn to talk ?” demanded Bestla, “I can see out of the corner of my eyes, you know.”

Forwin gave a start, “I… I wasn’t…”

Kal gave a snort of supressed laughter, “Steady there, bro. You better not be ogling my sister.”

“It’s my chest, isn’t it,” demanded Bestla disgustedly, “You know… for once I thought I could have a normal conversation with a man. Without being stared at. But you are just as bad as the boys in my village.”

She got up and stormed off toward the grazing mastodons. Forwin grimaced, red faced.

“She’ll be alright,” muttered Bali, “but be warned, young man. My daughter is a tad self conscious.”

#

They resumed their journey at dawn, riding in awkward silence.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” Bestla muttered suddenly.

“Um?” Forwin gave a start, “No… no…”

“It’s not your fault,” Bestla continued, “you are male. You can’t help yourself.”

Kal turned with an amused grin. Forwin stared nonplussed, unsure whether to take it as an insult. He was spared from replying by a flicker of motion he sensed high up, to his right. He looked up, unsure for a second of what he was seeing. An enormous pair of bat wings flapping lazily, extending from a reptilian body the color of dirty snow. Bony wedge shaped head. A mouthful of nightmare teeth. The creatures – two of them – were thrice as long as a man from head to tail and their wings spans even wider.

“Look out,” Forwin screamed twisting desperately to avoid the swooping talons. His frenzied motion unbalanced him from Wildflower’s back, and he toppled hitting the ground with a wet thud. Luckily he hit heather instead of the detritus of the old road, the spongy soil absorbing his impact without imparting broken ribs. But still, the side of his body hurt. He groaned.

The snow drake had missed Forwin, but its leg slammed into Bali’s back, its talons scrabbing the giant’s shoulder and finding purchase on his bronze mail. Bali bellowed in startled rage, but reacted quickly to slip out of his armor vest as the snow drake began to rise up with its prey. The giant hit the ground with more impact than Forwin had, but managed to land on his feet. Kal and Bestla had jumped down as soon as Bali had been attacked, the second drake which was farther behind descending only to clutch empty air.

The mastodons trumpeted their rage and fear, their tusks raised in defiance, huddling and circling in a defensive pair. The snow drakes reached the peak of their climb and circled back for another attack. Their screeching roar filled the sky, now that the element of surprise was gone, the sound freezing Forwin in terror. Bali and Bestla had snatched their longbows strapped to the saddles, grabbing a quiver of arrows as they crouched besides the circling mastodons. Forwin was already under the bellies of Wildflower and Bluebell, curling into fetal position to avoid getting crushed by massive feet. Kal squatted beside him, his axe unslung and ready.

Bali and Bestla notched arrows, not even pausing to take aim, the missiles singing out in rapid succession to find their marks. Forwin spotted a snow drake as it glided toward them close to ground, repitilian  eyes glinting with malevolence, tracking its puny prey as they huddled in the shelter of their tusked mounts. Pale bat wings flared out, a tracery of grey veins marking the surface. The snow drake hissed as each arrow shaft sank into its body or wings, but otherwise gave no indication of discomfiture. It rose up into the air moments before its trajectory collided with the mastodons, cruel talons raking Bluebell’s hide. The poor mammal roared in pain, but did not break formation.

Forwin moaned in terror and with pain registered from his fall. A fatalistic lassitude settled over him. They were all going to die. He could see it. The giants had far too few arrows to stand any chance of bringing down a snow drake, let alone two of the creatures. The snow drakes weren’t interested in prey they couldn’t carry away, so they sought to rout the terrified mastodons in order to reach the sheltering prey beneath. At least Bestla’s premonition had been right. Perhaps the girl had some measure of the Seer’s Sight, after all. Huh. But she had also claimed that Forwin might help them. Had she been mistaken about that? No, it was simpler to assume that if she had correctly foreseen danger, then she was right about the other part too. Snippets from last night’s conversation floated into Forwin’s thoughts… specifically the implication about whatever the Wizard had imparted to him outside the tavern.

Always ask what you are not seeing… ask yourself how likely is what you see if your supposition was true, compared to if your supposition wasn’t true. Forwin growled in frustration. If he was going to die, at least he wanted to solve this stupid riddle. What wasn’t he seeing?

Item One… snow drakes hunted people. Item Two… they were tough to the point of invincibility. No, wait, he didn’t know that. They were immune to arrows. But how about fire? If he could light a fire… The second snow drake made its diving run, swiping at Wildflower’s trunk. The frightened animal emptied its bowels, showering Forwin with a layer of dung …never mind, he would never get a fire started in time. Kal patted Wildflower’s belly, shouting soothing words to calm the animal. Forwin wiped away bits of animal feces from his eyes. There was something ignominious about dying caked in mastodon shit.

Item Three… snow drakes magically warded their one vulnerable organ, their heart to deflect arrows. No. He hadn’t actually seen that. He had only Bali’s word for it. Still, why would Bali lie about something so oddly specific? It wasn’t as if he needed to make that up to prove his valor. OK, let’s assume that snow drakes ward their hearts against attackWhat wasn’t he seeing… Wait, Bali himself hadn’t actually encountered that many snow drakes in the Draconoid conflict. Only one, in fact. Did all snow drakes ward their hearts?

Forwin turned as Bali cursed under his breath. The giant’s quiver had run out, his finger reaching in vain for the next arrow. Bestla still had a dozen left in her quiver. Not that it would do them much good, thought Forwin. The snow drakes might as well have been pin cushions for all the effect the arrows had on them. Forwin closed weary eyes to make his peace with his approaching end.

Ask yourself how likely is what you see if your supposition was true, compared to if your supposition wasn’t true. But, which supposition? That snow drakes were resistant to arrows? That was patently obvious, even to Forwin. That they warded their one weak spot… what if that wasn’t true? But that contradicted what Bali had seen, didn’t it? Was it possible that Bali was mistaken about what he had seen, even if his recollection was accurate? How likely was that?

He  imagined the Draconoid War in his mind’s eye, as he had done so many times in his childhood play, hundreds of snow drakes swooping down from the sky onto the archers below, the air thick with the hail of flying arrows. If his supposition was wrong then snow drakes couldn’t ward their vulnerable organs anymore than any other creature could. The arrows would predominantly find non-vulnerable spots that the snow drakes could apparently just ignore. But with so many arrows flying, one of them would hit a vital organ and bring the snow drakes down or at least send them fleeing. So, where were the arrows that were missing from the snow drake that Bali had fought, the one he had named Warded Heart in grudging respect? The missing arrows were in the missing drakes that had fled battle. The ones that Bali hadn’t seen. Every once in a while, by pure chance, a snow drake would get lucky and avoid taking an arrow to its heart even as it soaked up arrows over the rest of its body. Such a one might keep fighting long after its fellow dragons had abandoned the battle, giving rise to the legend of the Warded Heart…

Forwin’s eyes snapped open. Bestla had nearly run out of arrows.

“You fought well, sister,” Kal placed an arm on Bestla’s shoulder, his axe ready as he crawled out from under Wildflower’s belly, “but its my turn now.”

“Bestla, aim for the drake’s heart,” yelled Forwin, “Now.”

“What good will that do, idiot?” Bestla gritted her teeth, “That’ll just waste arrows.”

“How many do you have left?” Forwin demanded.

“Three,” Bestla looked back grimacing.

“Then what do you have to lose?” Forwin shouted. Bestla stared at him.

“Do it, daughter,” Bali spoke quietly.

Bestla nodded and turned to notch an arrow, sighting it with care this time. The snow drakes screamed in triumph as they descended yet again on their diving pass. Perhaps they sensed their prey had almost run out of ammo. Bestla’s arrow found its target, in the dragon’s heart. The first drake’s scream of triumph turned into a screech of pain. It rose flapping its wings unsteadily and then plunged to the ground. Bestla did not wait, her final arrow already on its carefully aimed path. The second drake roared in pain, as the arrow bit its heart, rising up as it abandoned its attack to fly away.

They waited a while, until they were sure the second snow drake wasn’t coming back, before they emerged from under the mastodons. The fallen snow drake was still alive, but barely, which Kal took care by severing its leathery neck with his war axe. Forwin felt a stab of sorrow at seeing such a magnificent beast dismembered, impractical though such a sentiment might be as he chided himself. Bestla and Bali dressed the wounds on Bluebell and Wildflower, using poultices from their travel packs. Forwin walked unsteadily, to rub Wildflower’s trunk in gratitude.

#

Forwin sighed in relief when the fortified walls of Domir came into view. It was time to part from his newfound companions.

“I knew it,” Bestla had exclaimed, her eyes shining, “I knew you were a Seer.”

“No, I’m not,” Forwin said wearily.

“Then how did you divine the true nature of the snow drakes?” asked Bali somberely, “Many a life I could have saved long ago, had I but realized that snow drakes weren’t warded after all.”

“It was the Wizard from the tavern,” Forwin explained after a while, “he suggested a different way of looking at the world. One based on likehoods of possible causes. Though I am not sure how useful it is in every situation.”

“He taught you to be a Seer?” Bestla whispered in awe, “Tell me everything… from the beginning.”

THE END

Notes: This story was inspired by the work of Abraham Wald and the Statistical Research Group as described in How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

References:

  1. Survivorship Bias
  2. How Bayes’ Rule Can Make You A Better Thinker
  3. An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes’ Theorem