Something to Swear By

A topic onto itself – beyond Audience Appropriateness, and my persnicketiness about other aspects of language – are the expletives, and I suppose to a lesser extent the pejoratives and accolades of the world of Thaea.  Much as there will be no “railroading” or other culturally inappropriate terminology, certain mythological constructs are not there, and others are.

Lets start with the big G, God:

While there are gods (lower case) in the form of mythology (mostly faded,) and while some might ascribe to a favored idea, the very notion of gods is a bit different for the people of Thaea.  Gifted were once far more common than they are now, a great age of reason swept the world, and while God may be a scientifically untestable principle to us mortals of Earth, for the gifted beings of Thaea it approaches testable.

Approaches I say because while they can be little more certain of the existence of a God or gods, they can be much more certain of the nature of these beings.  When one with any significant gift mediates, when they reach outward, rather than inward, there are forces out there, things with will, but not clearly thought as we understand it.  Certainly not on scales we understand it.  For Thaeans the split would not really be between God and gods, but between Gods and gods.

The elements, the forces of nature, and nature itself feel to the gifted more like Gods.  They are real, tangible things.  They exist, express will, and can be channeled, these are testable things, repeatable, though persnickety.  It is not prayer for they will not understand their words, nor answer their questions.  It is meditation, and attunement, a negotiation between the inclination of the forces around oneself, and the way in which one would like to shape those forces.

The lower case gods are the myths, the things that existed long ago that might seem more like a greek pantheon.  They are stories, and ideas that have lingered in the culture.  That scholars argue about the existence of.  Clearly these things are gone now, or never were, or are not quite as the stories say.  They are again often things tied with the forces of nature.  The moon (Laune) the sun (Rhan), something ancestral or animalistic such as Yaune (the first mortal) the lynx god (Fela) or the wolf god (Lycus).

On to the Fates:

Out of all this faded (defunct) mythology cursing God isn’t really a thing.  But an outlier stands up to be a pain in everyone’s collective backsides (asses is such an awkward plural, a 3:2 s ration, so hissy) the Fates.  The Fates occupy a very odd place in Thaean culture.  A defunct, almost lost mysticism, but some knowledge of these beings is still maintained by dedicated seers, and within the popular nomenclature cursing the Fates, swearing by them, or blaming them for misfortune remains quite popular.  More so even than simply “curse my lucky.”

Thaeans as a people tend to personify luck (abstractly) more that even we do.  Prophecy is real, but also painfully misleading.  Precognitive glimpses are common, and dangerous because you cannot (or at least few can reliably) tell the difference between spiraling towards an event, or away from it.

Now on the other side the Devil:

The word Hell does not exist in the world of O&E, and for that matter neither does the devil as a personified being. Demons and angels go out with the bathwater.  As much as struggling with ones demons may be a thing, and angel is a delightful diminutive the words have no place in O&E, they do not belong.  If you ever see either word in cannon smack me please.

That said there is an analogue to the devil AND hell in O&E but they are not separate concepts.  The Abyss is more a place than a being, but it is a force of nature within their mysticism believed to exist “bellow” the nether.  It gets some of the personification of a deity like many forces of nature, but it is not really considered to think, feel, emote, just devour.  The notion of the Abyss is very analogous to a blackhole, though more singular and all consuming as the ultimate doom of all things.  It is often even associated with the concept of Entropy, but there is argument over this.

Of course everything has an opposite, and where there is darkness there is Light:

Much as the Abyss is a vague analogue to the devil and hell, the Light is an equally vague (if not more so) analogue for a God or heaven, but also incredibly muddled.  The Light is often two things conflated – the Aether and living (particularly human) energy.  There are only fine distinctions between human energies and the energies of Thaea (yes the world, but also the living world, and a God capital g) but they exist.  Human life (generally) feels warmer, more delicate, and also often shallow.  It’s the same thing almost in the way that crude oil and gasoline are, but that analogy might miss.

I imagine, and will probably canonize some time in Book 2 (now that I think of it) that there is an almost mathematical quality to it as a factor of: life span, current age, consciousness, and scale.  A mouse then might feel like a vaguely warm raindrop, and a tree like a deep cold river.  That however starts to touch on the synesthesia gifted experience that I want to touch on at some point, but not here.

Not really something to swear about, but as long as we’ve hit G and D, lets hit E:

Evolution is taken somewhat for granted in Thaean culture.  The idea is very old, to the point no origin can be identified.  To ask a native who thought it up might seem as obtuse as to ask us who thought up the idea of gods. The mechanism however is more in debate.

Most Thaeans consider evolution as much a guided process as a random one.  Whether this is attributed to nature, gods, or intrinsic gift however is fuzzier.  Thaeans do have to contend with after all the origin of dragons, mutating nature of dire beasts, and other things shaped (literally) by magic.  They have a somewhat mixed knowledge of genetics, inheritance, and how it all works, but they come at it a bit more from the side of “patterns” than “chemistry.”  Skilled Shapers can observe the genetic behaviors of an organism, alter them, but not necessarily understand the chemistry of the underlying genetics.  I would liken it to not being able to see the trees for the forest.

What is more to say that magic is in the blood, or even accurately genes, is a bit short.  I will suffice to say it runs almost deeper than that.  Still rather than getting too technical/technobabble on how I imagine certain aspects of the gift work that might border on spoilers, I’ll leave you to wonder.

The Age of Myths:

Here is just a brief example of one version of an ancestral Thaean creation myth, which most modern Thaeans wouldn’t know to piece together half of, but the scholars have:

In the beginning there was not but the frozen sea, and the burning heavens.  From the fires of creation came Rhan the sun, and from him was split a twin.  Where Rhan possessed great radiant power, endless light, and thought, the other was filled with darkness, and mindless hunger.  Rhan was young, and could not understand this other as his opposite, only a brother, and tried to save him as he sank into the endless depths of the frozen sea, which melted, and churned in Rahn’s futile struggle.

Rhan was left alone in his burning heavens.  He looked upon the deep ocean, and the lands which had risen in his flailing.   He watched as the Abyss tried to consume the world born of his struggles, saw finally that it was hunger without meaning.

He made a new one from the sea, and the stone.  She was his mate, and soul companion, though they could meet only at the edges of creation.  While Rhan watched the day, Laeune guarded the night from his brother’s seething hunger beneath the waves.

Many tales go on to speak of other figures, children of these two primordial gods.  Vael the Light Barer, who became his weary father’s keeper.  Rhaea his daughter, and her fiery end.  The Lynx, the Wolf, and the Moon, which also tells vaguely of the coming of the first man, or woman, Yaune.  And why man reigns in all the livable world.

(Edit 2019) Estae was always intended, as she is referenced in the months, but she is a very complex character, as those who read far enough in will come to learn. There is also conflation between Rhan and Vael which is intentional.

Then there are the fates, numbered as three, of whom Yaune is one, though others call her Elise.  The fate of Stars, that which is fixed, which beyond mortal influence shall carry on undeterred.  The fate of Mortals (Elise/Yaune,) that of temporal permanence, shapable with great will for a time, but bound inevitably to change.  The fate of Elements, ever shifting, easily shaped for an instant, but so volatile as to be unsustainable.

And now on to Vulgarities:

Language is art, and art is a mater of aesthetics.  I won’t deny cultural norms of our world do play a role at times in influencing my choice, but far more it is a question of using an “ugly” word when “ugly” is the point.  It is not a mater of pulling punches, but landing the ones that mater.  Further the word needs to make sense for the speaker, and the context.  The characters we are dealing with now are (with the exception of children) all quite refined, living in regal context.  They do not throw around crass lowborn swears lightly.

Further sometimes I won’t use a word just because it doesn’t sound right.  Ass is really quite light, but as I said above asses is such a hissy word, really assholes is much better, but then you are going farther into the vulgar.  If someone is knocked on their ass, it has a very different feel more angry and expletive, than if they are knocked on their rear.  Context maters, and there might come a point where that context feels more on target.

I also like to play with language, and how we use it.  Not a part of O&E, but in another story world I have a standing scene where a crass pilot is swearing up a storm at a young prodigy and says, “No fucking way.”  The child’s intentionally dense response is, “What does copulation have to do with it.”

More appropriately in “The Red Book” (working title) which is a part of O&E there is a journal entry in which cunt, cunny, and a father’s favorite pejorative for those who displease him are discussed with some fuming ire.  Goodness I love writing in the voice of Sylvia Grey, she is so delightfully subversive, angry, and yet kind and playful.

Lastly lets talk about the gay:

The euphemism gay never happened in the world of Thaea, and I debate if even the older context of happy will appear, but I think not.  I then never became a pejorative, and with none of this history it was never then reclaimed.  Further there is no Greece, there are consequently no Greek islands, and there is no island of Lesvos.  Consequently there are no lesbians, as that word was also never appropriated or re-appropriated.

Now as already established (by as early as Chapter 2) there are women who love, or otherwise dally with other women.  There are also bisexuals.  Further though not clearly established in that chapter, of course there are men who lie with men.  I choose those words quite intentionally to bring along all the associated frightful cultural connotations that come when living in a world that is largely (painfully) sexually conservative.  It is going to be a problem.

This topic of language is also a specific thing will come up again in another aside (some day.)  I will drop a quote however (that belongs to Emperor Corinth,) and which while it may not seem related, I assure you, it very much is:

It was the women that gave the command to stand down, and yet still the Imperator did not understand.  It was not just wrong, it was not just an order I could not follow or abide, it would not work.  It was a crime – something worse than a crime – all for nothing.  If I hesitated at all to do what was right – however wrong even that was – it forced my hand that innocent blood would be spilled in ignorance, for nothing.  I try to believe those that died by my hand, at least died for something.  It is not always so easy to believe.”

In short, I’ve said before this world isn’t G rated, but here is some more perspective on what to expect in terms of language.

Edit: Made a small correction to properly state the history of euphemism -> pejorative -> reclaimed.  A minor thing, but I care about such details.

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