They Get it Wrong and Right
Precognitive fighting gets touched so rarely, but the fairly mainstream Star Wars took a stab. I think that might catch the martial art reading, reacting model. That might be what it looks like to those who can’t see all the moves unmade. Parrying bolts of plasma, or what have you. You see it coming first, but you aren’t yet in position. Change. Counter change. Instinct vs instinct. A series of moves made, that not everyone sees. I think the matrix gets it more right, but step aside from just slowing time, rewind it, make the experience fragmentary. At the highest end you start to see it, not just feel it. Like an onion skin of possible variants, and overlay of every move, in every possibility.
At least, that’s what Katrisha does here. It lets me do a lot of things, the entertainment of action, sure. I’ve imagined, in some unlikely world where this world gets an adaptation, how action would start off, very, direct, simple. Human. Training as a form of discipline, and then as a necessary one. Gradually you start to see these glimpses. First it almost comes off as continuity errors. The errors, the things all slightly out of place, represent indeterminate nature of things on the periphery. Changing because they weren’t noticed. Because someone cheated, consciously or otherwise, made a move. Then it escalates to the first time you see a double take that plays out different. A rewind, a double image. Bullet time in fractal possibilities. The first time we see storm monks going at it. Carmine flirting, angling, teasing, being just right. Again, seeming continuity errors become a story onto themselves.
Yet on the other side here, there is also the horror of violence, taken to its near infinite conclusion. If you see all the possible outcomes of a confrontation, with someone intent to kill you, and the only conclusion you have is to kill them. It also owns, in that intricate visual of time running back, and forth, of consequences reaching their conclusion. It owns the horribleness, and the hatred that comes from another forcing your hand to end their life. Plainly destroy them. An escalation of grace, repetition, practice, failure. Focusing on her, on her face, as much as her actions, until she snaps.
I’ve always had this vision of Katrisha’s truth. Cringing between this force of incredible destruction that she is oh so capable of being, and her desire just to defend, to save, to care, to protect. Understanding it though has taken time. We’ll hear more about this. We’ve heard it before. That struggle between the necessity of protecting the innocent, and becoming an avatar of war.
This section continues to drag out. What once was one unfinished chapter is becoming three. The original opening poem first, this new one meant once to refer more to the wolf, has instead become more directly its internal parable. The idea of the ram. A mirror of our own shepherd based metaphors. To speak of being like a sheep to an Osyraen does not speak of a harmless follower. To speak of a lamb not merely as an innocent, but growing into something proud, and powerful.
This ties well into the harshness of the reality Katrisha finds herself placed in. Playing with forces she barely understands, seeing the consequences of violence, becoming a killer because she sees no alternative, when her enemy is determined to force her hand. Instincts first passed up, to strike with absolute indifference, to kill by absolute intent, become manifest. Then the shock of what she has done hits her, in one horrified face.
I wanted to own the ugliness of it all, as surely as the idea of heroism dismantled, and yet necessary. To return to those questions that haunt us. Where are the lines, when crossed, we will cross our own. What does it take to make a killer out of an innocent. Then the lingering shadow of Wren’s reaction to the staff intrudes, as Kiannae’s secrets are laid bare.
We glimpse some of how Etore’s powers work. Leveraging distorted observations she can be one place, and appear another, the shadow of her importance, more important than her. Battle magic that foils the awareness of others. A distraction, deja vu, a certainty one thing happened, when another did. She’s hard to hit, and hard to block. The more imposing weapon a foil, her real attacks coming from the lighter blade, that is all the more capable of quick defense. She forces attention onto the larger right handed blade, but shows more skill with the left.
For those who read the introduction extra, this is the final result of that training, and her first instinct. Misdirection. She’s only fought a few other opponents nearly as capable, and none to challenge her, and others at the same time like this. I’m gonna put some further thoughts in a footnote, because they are very mildly spoilery for near future content. So read after the divider at your own risk.
The cat, or Temyn (true-skin Sylvan) has been on my mind for a while, a long while. Not even sure how long. He raises all kinds of questions doesn’t he. His powers showing the terrifying might of weavers. As my heroes graduate from problems that could have made them seem great, to see the real extent of the forces in the world. It has been centuries since the dragon war. The practices of war in the shadows have only grown. What the Council demands, and teaches bureaucratically out of date.
In some ways the wind lashes are an allusion to druids in WoW, but rather than shape shifting which more than one way exceeds my intentions for the mutability of this world. One way, ascension, is dangerous, and rare, and mostly only seen with dragons. In some respects this attack is a nod to my years of FX work, with blade trails, and games themselves, extrapolated into something that makes some sense. Gesture, forming a basis for pattern, and follow through.
Originally I had intended Kiannae to have been toying with this for a while, maybe that could still be the case, but I think she more picked it up in the fight. Then put back together, she becomes lost between her memories, her current life feeling like the false shadow. Her dyed hair burned away, revealing the hidden truth alluded to before. She is horrified by the depths to which she now feels both lives, trying to reconcile herself with two pasts. What her sister has done, terrifying in scope. The sheer realness gnawing at her bones.
I guess if we glance back at my years of playing MMO’s, resurrection is always an unsettling prospect. What is it? Pure order? Should it be a priestly thing, or a magely one? The arcane complexity of uncertainty principle, or the mystical idea of a soul. Material, or spiritual. Perhaps if any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then any sufficiently advanced logic, is I distinguishable from mysticism.
Mild spoilers about the psychology of Cadith. He’s a disturbing entity, so bare that in mind as well.
Cadith, is a psychopath. Not just in a pejorative sense. I imagine him to have a brain literally formed differently. He doesn’t just have a lack of empathy, his concept of consequences, and reality are distorted by his deep perception of precognitive effects. The anti-Carmine I suppose, who I tried to portray as rooted in his empathy for others. Cadith sees life almost as a puzzle in need of solving, and others as fools constantly passing up the direct, simple answer. That people are easily cowed by an example, and while he’s at it he might as well experiment. Learn. Figure out how his enemies tick.
The only thing that really entertains him is a challenge, even if he has to set rules to have one. He was actually toying with the caravan still, experimenting, feeling out a prey he was fairly certain wouldn’t challenge him, but who were much closer than he was used to. He did underestimate the situation, more specifically Etore than Katrisha, though he was interested to notice his mistake on the later point.
Cadith learned one thing from his dread father the Mad King. One thing at least he considers of value. People fear aberrant behavior, and that fear is powerful. He also enjoys it. The reactions to how absently cruel he can be to make a point. Showing them how he does not feel what they feel. Yet this vice is novelty, not need. He’s a bit terrifying to try to understand. Inured, indoctrinated evil is easier, you see where it breaks, the damage it is made up of. The self hatred it is structured around. Cadith is in some ways a caricature of evil, because he plays a villain in the grand stage farce he sees life as. There is no self hatred, no doubt in him, maybe not even fear as we understand it. If his mask is disturbing, what lies beneath, that thing described as “pure purposeful evil,” is almost surely more unnerving.
I could see him very easily being underestimated for a lack of grasping what he is. Pure self interest, with only the thinest concepts of value, and amusement. I’m not even sure he actually experiences anger, only annoyance. Which he meats out vengeance for one-hundred fold, so that he does not get annoyed again. He makes examples. He likes teaching lessons. One person who gets it, is better than a dozen that needed to suffer or die to make that point. The more that understand, the better, of course. Minions who can get the job done are useful.
I’ll risk revealing, there have been some epic battles between him and King Vharen. For reasons I won’t go into, but just that pure opportunistic side of Cadith is key. The stone masons have been paid very well in the Osyraen capitol for decades. They are certainly the most powerful non-royals in the nation, and maybe more powerful than most royals. Restoring everything after the civil war. Staying quiet about damage to the palace. Fixing it quickly, and as subtly as possible. Damage out of place the night of the royal wing fire. So many things, they have kept quiet on.
Builders know. If you want work, let there be war. They stayed far away, but threw parties to learn The Wolf was free again. In his childhood he couldn’t go a week without wrecking some stonework in a fit. Influential as the stone masons were, they could ask assurances the wild prince would be far from any work site. A deference they were granted readily, to also keep quiet the prince’s ‘tantrums.’
I imagine Cadith shows such disdain for Etore primarily because he doesn’t understand her power. It aggravates him to encounter something so obtuse, that he can’t just swat away. Again, speaking clinically, a true narcissist, someone who is the absolute center of their universe, and demands that all know it. How could they ask to disappear, to be unimportant, bellow notice? ‘How is…this power?’ He just can’t get it, but I think he starts to enjoy it a little. Because he feels empowered to be so capable, that even this enigma can’t defeat him alone. The challenge takes over there a moment. That is I think Cadith’s one fundamental weakness. Not arrogance per se, but hubris. If that distinction makes any sense. He actually wants a challenge, to feel the danger, the thrill of maybe loosing, but he certainly isn’t so arrogant as to let himself loose. He doesn’t engage a situation he is not confident, and within reason knows his limits. Yet he wants to push them. Pure ambition. Growth, disturbing as that is to ponder.
Ok deeper spoilers on the world background, but places I can’t imagine finding the time to visit properly. Much as The Blood of Kings is an already named installment that covers the period of time between King John’s childhood, and through the Osyraen civil war, and perhaps a bit after. As prequel as you can get, but there is a lot of not bad material in there, for those who like to explore a world. Any way, not the point, just continue on from the above paragraph.
He is also deeply self-aware, though not able to fully comprehend some of the concepts. His tutors made a terrible mistake trying to teach him about morals, ethics, and psychology. To train him. To fix him. It was like having your adversary tell you their entire inventory of weakness, and helping you devise ways of dismantling them.
He killed at least one of those instructors, and critiqued the anatomy text book with the corpse. He demanded the others remain, just to understand how well their models predicted their own behavior. He learned a great deal from that experiment. The exact point a desperate animal that should bow in fear understands it is cattle, and will fight any way, sealing its doom. That literally, he could get away with murder, so long as he made the other person attack him, or could claim it. That the King, would praise the act, maybe even find it funny. Cadith was right. He became the hand of his father, second only to the King, who would likely put himself in a position to be replaced.
He helped that along.
His insane father listened to his assertion that without absolute fear, there would be revolution. Yet Cadith already knew it would cause that revolution. He predicted almost everything major that followed, except that his nephew would turn on him. He expected to be the one to put his unstable father down, after all other heirs were out of the way. Instead he wound up in chains for years, and even now, beholden to the one person who seems able to beat him in a fight unscathed.
He has played Vharen’s lackey only under protest. Violent protest. Yet he has obeyed for reasons one can only guess.